Monday, March 30, 2015

Original 1st chapter: DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS

Hi there! Want to read the original first chapter of DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS? Well you can! You just have to jump through one of three very simple hoops!

Original first chapter? What's that mean? 

The hardest part of writing a book for me is getting started. I can't move forward into the meat of the story until I get the beginning right, and so I usually I spend a ridiculously long time trying out openings. The first chapter is the first big hurdle, but I don't really feel like things pick up speed for me until I've written the entire first act.

In the case of DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS, after a lot of brainstorming, I thought I had figured out my opening, my way into the story. See, it's the reader's way in, but mine too. I can't write the book till I find the right door that lets me inside. I thought this was it, and I really enjoyed writing this chapter. I won't say anything specific about it, you can read it, but you can begin to sense from it a couple of things.

It would have taken the story in quite a different direction from the get go, and it starts in a different time and place. See, I was trying to pick up the story where DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT leaves off. After the epilogue, that is, which is basically: the eve of battle, with the combined forces of the Misbegotten and the chimaera about to return to Earth to take on Jael. I had devised a plan involving Karou and another character to get them to Jael, but there was a problem.

When I tried to write it, I found I was having to backfill all that had happened between the last chapter of DAYS and the epilogue. Basically: the combining of the two armies in the Kirin caves. That was a pretty big damn deal, and I was trying to SKIP IT. What I realized is that I had to back the book up and overlap the ending of DAYS to show how it had gone down, because it was hugely important. 

Then, later, the new character, Eliza, took on a much greater role in the story than I'd originally planned, so the first chapter ended up being hers.

Some writers are able to continue through a draft even if they have a niggling feeling they haven't nailed the opening yet, but I can't. So I'm like some kind of madwoman in the early days, trying out a bunch of different things and tossing them out.

Anyway, if you want to see the original first chapter of DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS, which helped lead me to the epiphanies about what the opening actually needed to be (it seems that it's only through discovering a number of wrong ways that I find my path to the right way), go HERE:

There are three different ways you can "unlock" the chapter and get a password to read it. Let me know what you think! I'm curious. 

(I'm especially fond of the last line :-)

Oh, and look! More AMAZING FAN ART!!!

This one is from Katherine Soldevilla, an artist in LA who is available for hire (info below; portfolio here). SO UNIQUE & WONDERFUL! I've never seen a Brimstone like this one before. I love them all!

And these are some more pieces from @LesyaBlackBird in Moldova, who I also featured in the last post. Crazy talent! I LOVE these images!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Some recent awesome fan art!

Fan art is one of my favorite things! Thank you so much to everyone who applies their creativity to my characters. I LOVE IT!

These first three from BlackBirdInk in Moldova!


Hurray, a tattoo! Thank you!!!! :-) :-)

These are pieces I can't credit with links; they're originals that were given to me at events. On the left,  by Marla Rios, on the right, by CassT:

This Ziri by (I think) "Siddob" in "the place with the kangaroos" :-)

by Tris Kelsey:

Photo by Effy. So cool:

Kitties say hi! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Event on Tuesday with Lauren Oliver!

Hey guys! What are you doing Tuesday? Join me and Lauren Oliver at Barnes & Noble to celebrate the release of Lauren's new novel: VANISHING GIRLS!!

Here's the jacket copy:

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before--before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident left Dara's beautiful face scarred. Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren't speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back. 

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished too--nine-year-old Madeline Snow--and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked. 

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

Cool, huh? I'm reading it now and it's awesome!

Tuesday Lauren and I will be talking about writing and asking each other questions and stuff, and then signing books. It'll be really fun. Come hang out! Here's the info:

Tuesday, March 10th @ 6PM
Barnes & Noble, Tigard, Oregon (Bridgeport Village Mall)

What's that? Can't make it? Don't live in Portland? Want to win a copy of VANISHING GIRLS? I happen to have an extra copy! And guess what. I'll throw in the UK paperback of DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS that I just received in the mail. Look!

Here's the complete set in UK paperback. So cool!

Okay, so to win* (1) hardcover copy of Lauren Oliver's VANISHING GIRLS = (1) paperback copy of UK edition DREAMS OF GODS & How am I going to do this? Okay. Be the first one to comment. Simple! 

BUT. To make it a *smidge* more challenging, you have to answer a trivia question. Or how about TWO questions? What should they be? 

*pondering ponder face* 

Okay. Here they are. Be the first to correctly answer these in comments and YOU WIN!

1) What is it that has been eradicated/banned by the government in Lauren's DELIRIUM trilogy?

2) Name the three species that make up a Kirin chimaera.

Okay. GO!

*Limited to US only. sorry :-(


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beach Writing Retreat

blurry sunset in Manzanita


Last weekend I did my first writing retreat in over a year. Well, there was this one a year ago but I was still in recovery mode from finishing DREAMS and didn't do *much* writing. (Though I did write pitches for the next two books I wanted to write, one of which is underway now, more on that soooooooon :-)

But the last real writing intensive was when I was finishing DREAMS. There were two, actually, a week at the beach where I almost finished the book but not quite, and then a few follow-up days at a hotel in town when I did--at the end of a 22-hour stretch of writing the likes of which I have never done before. 

Retreats are amazing. To be able to immerse your whole self in the world of your story all day for days in a row? To not have to emerge and handle the usual matters of life? It makes a huge difference to me. Sometimes my brain really needs these long stretches. I think part of the reason for this is that I don't have a naturally puzzle-solving brain. I've always hated Rubik's Cubes and given up on them instantly. Yet, I love plots that are puzzles. I love the moment when you twist the cube the final few times and the colors all come up. (Which has never happened to me with an actual Rubik's Cube. But speaking metaphorically.) Magic.

It's the ultimate satisfaction. When strands of story that have been entwined for several hundred pages suddenly form a beautiful pattern. Love it. 

But these plots don't come easily. This is usually how it goes: I'll have a character and a situation. Say, an art student raised by monsters. That's how it started with DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE. A day of freewriting for much-needed fun yielded these characters Karou and Brimstone and they were crazy alive and real and I loved them BUT. But I didn't know any more than Karou did. She didn't know why she was raised by monsters? Neither did I. She didn't know why she couldn't touch the wishbone? Neither did I. She didn't know what Brimstone did with all the teeth? Neither did I! 

And I didn't come up with the answers overnight. I basically wrestled a Rubik's Cube for many demoralizing weeks trying to come up with answers that had the potential to form an intricate plot pattern that could come together and feel like magic. I discarded barrels full of ideas.

And then finally, the right ideas collided and made that perfect sound -- SNICK!! -- and it all fell into place. But this was still just the premise, not even an outline. I still had to write it and, damn, that Rubik's Cube would turn out to have a thousand sides to solve before the end. 

Anyway. Last weekend I went on retreat to the gorgeous Oregon Coast. I love it out there so much. I swear I step onto the shore and feel my shoulders go down like three inches and my breath fills me more deeply and I'm just BETTER. 

It blows me away how minute to minute it changes. Well. There are the boring blue sky days, even in Oregon, but thankfully not too many of them. Give me a crazy cloud show any day.

It'll be like the above looking in one direction and the below when you turn your head, then the one after that when you turn your head the other way. Literally, these three pics are taken: straight ahead, to the left, to the right within seconds. Like three different worlds in one.

 And the show just goes on and on.


Oh, but it's fine to the right.

And like this seconds later.

I want one of these houses. Not asking much. Just a big one with huge windows. 
And a hot tub.

 Look. Blue sky. Nobody around.

I made a friend. Hyuk hyuk. "Made" a friend. Get it? ;-)

Here's my room. Went for an ocean view this time.

Here's the hotel from the sand dunes.

Manzanita from above:

Just around the point:

So how did the retreat GO? Well, it went well but wasn't as insanely productive as most of my others, because mostly I go at the final stretch, and that's the easiest part of the book for me. I'm in this phase where I've written a lot but there are still things that don't feel right, things I haven't figured out. And Saturday was a horrible day of realizing a big chunk of several chapters (which I loved) were just the wrong direction and had to be removed. So it was a bleak day of darling-killing and diminishing word count. 

But then. THEN. What usually happens when I've cleared out something that isn't "snicking" (when it doesn't feel like the perfect meant-to-be fit)...I've opened the way for the right thing to finally, finally settle into place. And it did. Late late late Saturday night. Finally one stray thought led to another to another and I started to sit up straighter and I'm sure my face started to look less mopey and dire, and then I was writing stuff down and getting more and more excited...

And Sunday I wrote more words than I'd deleted and they were THE RIGHT WORDS and my enthusiasm was back times a thousand and I'm more excited than ever about the book. Hurray!! 

I often think how a book is a product of the moments you spend writing it, and how it would be a different book if you wrote it in different moments. What would this book end up being without that Saturday night at the beach that turned from awful to wonderful due to pure bull-headedness? I can think back to every single book I've written, how there's always this moment when I've fully committed, but I've lost the spark of initial enthusiasm, and things I thought were so cool and fresh when I began just aren't anymore, and I can't feel the shape of my story, and nothing is right, and it's a miserable time. 

These miserable times only pass if you make them pass. If you keep stirring things around in your brain until you come up with something that excites you again and makes things start to click. If you give up and start a new project, the same thing will happen with that one. It's almost guaranteed. Writing a novel requires total commitment. 

It doesn't require writing retreats, but MAN do they help!

the very last drip of sun
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