Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Launch Party Alert!

I am super excited to announce that details of my book launch party have been firmed up.

Sooooo...if you happen to be in or near NYC on Saturday, April 28th, please consider coming down to:

163 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY

The party starts at 7 PM and will include: cupcakes! A chance to ask me questions! Me signing things! And, most likely, the opportunity to see me nervously stammer some form of greeting/feelings of gratitude in front of a group of people. A splendid time is guaranteed for all! Or, at least, cupcakes are.

Here is the official Facebook invite.

And in other exciting book news, the official The Mapmaker and the Ghost trailer will be released this Friday. Here is a still from it. (I know, I'm such a tease).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Apropos of Nothing: My Favorite Fashions from the 2012 Oscars

I know what the title of this blog post says, but I'll be the first to tell you that I really have no business talking about fashion. My younger sister is the fashion maven of our family: she looks spectacular about 99.9% of the time. I don't look like a scrub about 2% of the time.

That being said, I loooooove the Oscars. (And I love watching them at home, in my pajamas, with a tub of ice cream. Don't judge). And, like most Oscar viewers, I love seeing the fashions.

So, for no reason at all, here are my top three favorite "looks" of the evening.

#3: Kristen Wiig
I love the color, the shape, and the combination of ruffles at the bottom and gorgeous pleating at the top. I also thought her understated make-up really made the look: elegant and dreamy.

#2: Viola Davis
This is one of those occasions where I probably wouldn't love the dress on its own, but on her it was beyond stunning -- especially when paired with her fantastic hair and makeup. A showstopper.

#1: Michelle Williams

My absolute favorite look of the night. The color and shape are indescribably pretty. But I think it's that little vintage brooch on her hip that totally makes it for me. (I may not be a fashionista...but accessorizing is a whole other matter, especially when it comes to jewelry). I also adored her simple but stunning necklace.

And, as far as the men were concerned, this was amazing:

Christopher Plummer has had my heart ever since he blew that silly whistle at a certain nun turned governess. Really, could he look more dapper? (I thoroughly dropped hints at my fiance about this look for the wedding).

What were your favorite looks of the night? And what was your ice cream flavor? (Naturally, I assume everyone has the exact same traditions as me.) Mine was Haagen-Dazs Caramel Cone. It was yummy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

About the New Cover

As you might have seen on The Story Siren earlier this week, The Mapmaker and the Ghost has a finalized jacket. It also has a new cover.

I first found out the cover was changing at the very end of December. There were various reasons for this, the main one being that booksellers and the marketing team were worried that the old cover was too crowded.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember that I did a rather giddy weeklong series of posts when my cover was first revealed, detailing the whole process from initial sketches to final art. (You can find the sketches here, an interview with the illustrator here, an interview with the designer here, and my initial reveal here.)

So...I have to be completely honest. When I first found out that my cover was changing, I was reeling. I think it’s a little bit akin to having a baby, doting on how perfect that baby looks for six months, and then, one day, having the baby’s face completely change on you (I smell a prequel to Face-Off...). It’s jarring to say the least. This is what I was used to seeing:

And what arrived in my inbox in December was a mock-up of this:

From ten characters down to three. I missed the other seven so much that, emotionally, it was hard for me to come to terms with the change.

But, here's the thing. I genuinely believe that all the wonderful people at Walker know how to package and sell a book infinitely more than I do. They have sold many, many books. I have sold none.

And the other truth is, I probably never should have become so attached to my original cover to begin with. Covers change, especially if I'm lucky enough to have the book go into reprints and stick around for a while. It's what's inside that really counts (sound familiar?) and it's what's inside that I can ultimately control.

All that being said, the new cover has gotten tons of positive responses (see what I mean about Walker knowing what they're doing) and I've been able to see the silver lining, too. I still adore the illustrations and I'm SO GLAD that did not change. I'm also infinitely relieved that they found room for the rest of my characters on the back. And I'm madly in love with the back cover copy. It's quirky and adorable and (I think) captures the voice of the book so well.

I hope my book's facelift compels even more kids to pick it up! And, more importantly, I hope they love the adventure they find inside.

Monday, February 20, 2012

'The Mapmaker and the Ghost' Jacket Reveal!

Last week, I arrived to a slim envelope in my vestibule. When I opened it, it contained the final, printed jacket to The Mapmaker and the Ghost.

This jacket has:

1) The most amazingly fun back cover copy, courtesy of uber-editor, Ms. Stacy Cantor Abrams.

2) All my main characters lovingly illustrated by the fantastically talented Mr. GĂ©rald Guerlais.

3) And...a surprise too.

Wanna see it?! The lovely Kristi of The Story Siren is hosting the exclusive reveal on her blog right now! Check it out right here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The One with the Blog Ennui

You guyyyyyyyys....I am, like, totally running out of things to blog about.

Why is this, you might ask? Well, I will now share a deep, dark industry secret with you. The life of a writer is generally not as glamorous and star-studded as it may at first appear.

I know, I know. Calm yourself. Breathe. It'll be okay.

Look, I'm sure some writers do have exciting daily things to share. Robert Pattinson stops by. Or Daniel Radcliffe stops by. Or your wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley stops by.

Sometimes I have mail stop by. Like Con Ed bills. And ModCloth dresses that I buy and invariably return. Is this something you need me to tell you in great detail? Do you find this information fascinating?! (Please say yes.)

If the answer to the above is no then...er...well, how are you doing anyway? What's new with you? Please do let me know in the comments section over this cup of virtual tea!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

5 Things I've Reluctantly Learned While Trying to Outline a Mystery

1. Agatha Christie was a GENIUS. I've always, always loved her and her books but I don't think I ever fully appreciated how in command of her craft she was until now.

2. Red herrings are very difficult to properly plant. However, beggars can't be choosers. I will settle for a herring of any color at this point (I'm open-minded).

3. I thought being an outliner at heart would help me in this endeavor. But being a messy outliner at heart...yeah, not so much.

4. Hey, the ending will be totally unpredictable if I don't plant any clues about it! And that's what we want, right?

5. I think I might die by outline. Ooooh...I wonder if I can use that as a plot twist.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Reading Your Reviews as an Author


Oh, my, is that a scary, loaded word. I have to admit that from the moment I found out my book was going to get published, I might even say from the moment I dreamed about that even happening, there was a small, nagging voice worried about reading less than favorable things about my work--which is, of course, deeply personal to me.

This is purely an emotional feeling, not a logical one. And it's something I had to get over once I went to film school and had to show my work to my classmates and get feedback. Something I had to swallow down once I was sending queries and partials and fulls. It's something I know I'll survive over the next few months too.

But is there still anxiety and fear? Definitely. The thing is I have never before had something of mine out in such a public way. In some ways, it's beyond terrifying.

On Twitter yesterday, I asked a few authors whether they read their own reviews. I was actually met with quite a few affirmatives.

Jill Hathaway (Slide) told me that she reads her reviews but doesn't respond. She also said, "When I see bad reviews, I try to just be thankful that they thought enough of the book to read and review it. The great reviews make it all worth it! Just hearing a person enjoyed my book is enough to brighten my week."

Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked) agreed, tweeting, "I read them. I'm just so grateful that people are reading the book -- I want to know what they think!" She also said, "There are some commonalities of what people love/struggle with. I've learned a bit from that, & try to ignore the outliers."

And my release date twin Elizabeth Norris (Unraveling) added, "I'm in that place where I have to read them. It's so exciting anyone is reading the book that I have to know what they think."

Editor Mary Kate Castellani elaborated further. She wrote: "I know that reviews can be quite terrifying for authors (they are for editors too sometimes) and it’s certainly no fun to receive a less than complimentary one, but I always try to see them as an opportunity to hear someone else’s take on the story. If more than one person points out a specific element, it’s often like a light clicking on in my head, followed closely by a 'duh, why didn’t I see that?' Often we read the manuscript so many times that we lose track of the story, and so having that outsider’s take can be a helpful learning experience."

She offered this as an example, "One time in particular, reviews pointed out that the antagonist in the story was too one-dimensional. It was so clear to the author and me why that character behaved the way she did, but we must not have gotten enough of that reasoning onto the page. For that author’s next book we took special care to make sure the antagonist’s motivations were clear and I think that story was more well-rounded in the end. So while it’s tough to read those critical and sometimes painful reviews, once the dust settles it’s good to go back and see if you can glean anything from them for your future work."

I do agree with everything these pros say (and, for the record, I also think they are very brave). If you look at it logically, if you are able to divorce your emotions enough, there are absolutely valuable lessons to be learned when it comes to the craft. It will make you a better and stronger writer to listen to the constructive criticism.

That being said, I went to a reading by a well-known YA author last year who got asked the same question. And she emphatically said that she does not read her reviews. "It hurts my feelings," she said. "So why should I?"

And I know quite a few authors who have blocked Goodreads altogether.

The thing is, I understand that too. Writing is definitely a craft, but it is also the opposite of a sterile skill. It is emotional. Writers are emotional. And taking yourself out of something that, by necessity, has pieces of you in it...well, that is very, very difficult.

Where do you stand? Do you (or do you think you would) read your own reviews?

Monday, February 6, 2012

MG Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Interview with Anne Nesbet

I'm beyond delighted to speak with author Anne Nesbet this month. Anne's magical, wonderful debut MG novel The Cabinet of Earths just got released a month ago. It's filled with gorgeous Parisian locales, dark secrets, and a finely woven mystery. What's not to love?

Read on after the interview to find out how to win a copy of The Cabinet of Earths!

All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 12-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high.

To borrow (and modify) a question from James Lipton, what’s your favorite middle-grade appropriate “curse word” or insult?
Anne Nesbet: I lean toward Surprised Exclamations rather than insults (perhaps because 
my feeble brain can't come up with sharp edges fast enough): "good 
heavens! good grief! golly gee! heavens to Betsy!" I know, I know, I
 know. Ever since preschool, the adjective that clings to Anne has been

What's one game you played a lot as a child (could be a board game, a
 made-up game, or anything)?

AN: My mother presented my sister and me with "Teacher's Kits" when we were
 much too tiny to be in any school, and we loved to squiggle out some 
homework or to make the teddy bears and long-suffering dolls sit in a row
 and behave. Later on we played the most murderous games of Monopoly: 
they went on for days and ended in (figurative) bloodshed and (very real) 
tears. Plus there was a game called "The Emperor of China" that fulfilled 
a kid's natural longing for world domination. And it was important to 
climb the pine-tree behind the back fence from time to time, just to see
 what the world looked like from up there.

There’s a very important, ornate building at the center of your book and I was surprised to read in your author’s note that it really exists! 
How did you come across it and did it inspire your whole story or just a 
part of it?
AN: Actually, the first part of the story to appear in my head was poor,
 drained, unreadable Cousin Louise, and when she first popped into my mind,
 I had no idea she was French. But then we moved to Paris, and I really
 did walk by the Salamander House (not its official name in real life)
 every day when taking the kids to school. You look at that front door and
 you KNOW strange things must be happening inside! The exterior of the 
building may be real, but fiction takes over once the story goes in
 through the gate: I made up all the indoor rooms, and I warped space in a
 very reckless manner to allow there to be all those twisty-turny passages 
leading to the Alchemical Theater.

Paris is the City of Lights! What are three other words you think
 could replace ‘lights’?

AN: Paris is the City of Very Old Stone, of Tucked-Away Magics, and (most
 especially) of Warm Chocolate Croissants.

What are two MG books you'd recommend and why?

AN: Oh, but I'm always the person who fails the
"quick-what-book-goes-with-you-to-the-desert-island" quiz! I can't
 choose. I love too many, and the ones I love most change from minute to
 minute.  Right this very moment I might say Tove Jansson's Finn Family Moomintroll, because its combination of magic and strangeness and loss and
 charming domesticity; and The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall, because
 when I read this book I rejoiced rejoiced rejoiced that such a story
 (family! humor! summer!) could still be written, even in this new century; 
and The Story of the Amulet, by E. Nesbit, because who can forget the London children's
 shocked reaction to the blue sky and clean air of the Past; and Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, because of the lunchbox tree.  Oops, you said two?

Thank you so much, Anne! And now on to the giveaway!

Entering is simple (this time I mean it!) Just follow the instructions in the rafflecopter form below. You'll get +1 entry for leaving a comment on this post; +2 entries each for tweeting (up to once per day) or Facebooking about this giveaway; and +3 entries for blogging about it. The giveaway is open internationally and will run until Friday, February 10th at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Debut Books I Love: Something Like Normal, Chained & The Vicious Deep

2011 and 2012 have become the years of the ARC for me (luckyyyyy) as I've gotten to preview some of this year's most anticipated debuts.

And I thought I'd share some of my very favorites in case you too want to be tapping your toes and waiting anxiously for something extraordinary to read. (Here is part 1 of my series, by the way, two of which are already out!)

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Heartbreaking, beautiful and food for thought. This book made me really think about the sacrifices and bravery involved in becoming a Marine. Its voice and story are going to stay with me for a very long time.
You'll love this book if you love: deeply layered contemporary stories.

Chained by Lynne Kelly
I'm about 99.9% certain this book is going to be on 2013 Newbery lists. It's emotional, gorgeously written and involves a completely unforgettable friendship between a young, determined boy and a fantastically nuanced elephant.
You'll love this book if you love: sheer beauty, really. But also emotional friendship stories.

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
And now for something completely different...I so appreciated the quirky, funny voice of this fun and fantastic adventure story about a teenaged Brooklyn merman prince, the sea witch out to get him and the human girl he loves.
You'll love this book if you love: quirky, unique stories. And mermaids, obviously.

Have you read any of these fantastic books? And, if not, think you'll be picking any of them up?