Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Couple of Characters

Whenever I see a strong, complex female protagonist--be it in a movie, book, TV show, video game, etc.--I get really excited. Sadly, they're still much rarer than their male counterparts.

One of my all-time favorite kick-butt female protagonists is teen super-sleuth Veronica Mars (from the criminally canceled TV show---wait for it--Veronica Mars). Veronica is:

- super smart
- super sarcastic
- has an unusual job that puts her in the way of adventure and danger
- still deals with some very real teen issues like unpopularity, ostracism and much, much more

I. love. her. And the lovely, talented Kristen Bell plays her to perfection.

My other very favorite thing about Veronica Mars is Veronica's opposite: the popular, snooty, polarizing Logan Echolls. In terms of depth of character, I think Logan is a paragon. In terms of nuanced acting, I think Jason Dohring (who plays Logan) is vastly, vastly underrated and should be acting in many more things.

I often think of Veronica and Logan when I'm trying to give my characters life and depth (and a certain sassy quality I greatly admire). Interestingly enough, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas (no, not the one who is lonely at 3 AM) was a YA author before becoming a TV show creator. His novel Rats Saw God is on my to-read list. I'm really excited to see what kind of character work he's done in prose.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's a Helluva Day at Sea, Sir!

Everyone has them: movies you love that don't seem to get the credit you feel they deserve. The underrated gems. The cult classics or even the should-be-cult classics.

Here is one of mine: Overboard. This 1987 romantic comedy paired Hollywood dream couple (they are STILL together, people) Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Playing against type, Hawn is a rich not-nice-person-that-rhymes-with-witch who hires a "sweaty carpenter" to build a closet on her yacht. She ends up insulting the carpenter and then promptly falls off her boat and gets amnesia, and he ends up tricking her into thinking she's his hicktown wife and mother to this four hellraiser boys.

It was the 80s. Plots could be like this. In other words, weird, original, and hilarious.

First of all, Overboard is FUNNY. I could, and sometimes do, quote lines from it all day long ("I think I [hack] just swallowed a bug," "I was short AND fat?" "Normally, you look real pretty. You just don't now."). Second of all, the chemistry between Hawn and Russell is undeniably sizzling. Also, Kurt Russell manages to look dreamy donning a mullet and overalls. A cinematic feat if there ever was one.

If you haven't seen this fabulous comedy, I highly recommend it. And if you have seen it, then I need to ask: "No Boom Boom?"

What are some of your favorite underrated films?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Having Faith

J.K. Rowling is one of my all-time heroes. Not only do I LOVE the Harry Potter books and think they are timeless, brilliant masterpieces but I also find her extremely compelling as a person. To me, she represents so many things I hold dear: perseverance, determination, grace under pressure, and generosity to name just a few.

I've had the immense privilege of seeing her in-person twice. The second time is probably the most exciting (and I will go into that in a different post) but I wanted to write about the first time, well, first.

It was 2006. I had been out of college for three years and was working a pretty intense office job. I'd been struggling to finish writing a novel that, by that point, I had pretty much given up on since there just wasn't enough creative juice left in me by the end of my work days. I heard about a benefit at Radio City Music Hall that involved three writers: Stephen King, John Irving and J.K. Rowling. Of course, I decided that I must go.

I very much wanted to go with my best friend, Katie (also a huge Jo fan), but she wasn't able to at the time. So I went alone. Because I was getting a single ticket, I got a pretty nice aisle seat in the front orchestra.

The benefit was extraordinarily set up. Each author had their own "set" that reflected their style. Each read a chapter from one of their books and answered some pre-selected questions. Both John Irving and Stephen King were entertaining and delightful.

J.K. Rowling was the last one out. Her "set" involved a gold and red velvet throne-like chair. She wore gold heels that had glittering snakes for straps. She read a chapter from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the one where we see young Tom Riddle in the orphanage). And--you know what--she seemed just a tad nervous and even a little shy. In other words, she was human and she was just lovely.

Seeing those three writers at that point in my life was vastly important to me. When I got home, this is what I wrote on the back of my ticket:

In case you can't read my prescription pad handwriting, that says: I am a writer. I will never not be one. I just need to keep on having faith.

Within a year, I had quit my intense office job for another less-intense one and I had started working on the novel I'm about to get published. Once I realized that I couldn't stop myself from writing down stories, no matter whether anyone ever read them or not; and once I realized how much those stories made me fulfilled and happy, making sure I kept writing them became one of my top priorities.

Three authors that kept me going as a writer, when I wasn't sure I would be able to, and now there are actually four authors among us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Proof of Life

So I got the proofs of my author photos last week. Looking at them wasn't as painful as I expected. However, no one should really look at 167 pictures of themselves in a row. It is, as predicted, weird.

Also, showing your mom 167 pictures of yourself and NOT expecting her to ask you for copies of all of them is totally unrealistic. Equally unrealistic: her expecting you to actually follow through with that. Because no one needs 167 pictures of me. Not even my mom.

In related news, however, I should have new facebook profile photos for ages.

My lovely photographer, Corinne Ray, is going to do some photoshop work and return the finalized copies to me very soon but I didn't want to keep you in suspense any longer. I mean, my god, it must be killing you to find out what these photos look like, right? So, without further ado, here are the watermarked proofs of two of my favorite shots.

I call this: Brooklyn Author.

I call this: Me in a Window. Titles are my specialty, clearly. 

Hopefully, you'll be seeing photoshopped versions of these soon in a browser near you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

David Lynch Fiction Prompt

I love David Lynch's work. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on it or anything--or even that I've seen everything he's ever done--but I greatly respect the man because I feel like he's someone who has true vision, style, and an incredibly unique point of view. Sometimes, this means I have no idea what on God's green earth is going on in his movies. But, like I said, I respect that.

Yesterday, I saw this tweet from him:
You must be able to get to NYC on your own to win.
I scrolled down a bit and realized that he was tweeting about a contest. However, for some reason, that tweet on its own really struck me as what could be a great beginning to a very Lynchian short story.

So I thought, why not make it one? This is where you come in, too! Use Mr. Lynch's tweet as the first line of a short story or poem, 150 words or less. See if you can embody some of Lynch's unique surreal/horror/dark comedy point-of-view in your work. And then post what you come up with in the comments below! I'll post mine too a bit later on in the day.

Show me what you got, you crazy, cool, creative people.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writer's Retreat

retreat n.
    : a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director
    2  : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable

I wish that this blog post was about the former definition and that I was on my way to a rambling country estate where I could write all day and then banter with other writers while we play croquet. Alas, it is not.

Somewhere in my latest WIP, I took a wrong turn--I suspect it's about 15 pages back--and now I'm stuck. Suddenly, I don't know why my characters are doing what they're doing (at the moment, wandering around a desert aimlessly). They ostensibly have a goal, but in my heart of hearts the goal doesn't entirely make sense. It's because I've somehow lost a grasp of who my characters even are.

Usually, I like to bang out a first draft--no matter how awful it is--and then go back and revise, revise, revise. If I'm stuck, outlining is often the life preserver I turn to. But for some reason, I just don't think that's going to work with this one, because, at the end of the day, how can I outline the plot if I don't know where my characters are going at all.

I've always been a very character-driven writer. And even when I started making my stories more plot-driven (hence the adventurous Middle Grade books), the turn of events always came from the characters themselves. What they want and what they do to achieve that is what drives everything.

So I need a change of plans and a fresh perspective. I asked some of my fellow Apocalypsies what they do when they get stuck and I got some awesome responses. I think my next steps will be to do a more in-depth character sketch for each of my three main characters. And then write some of the scenes that I do see clearly in my mind, even if they'll be out of order. I'm hoping that somewhere along the way, I'll get back on track.

If you're a writer, what are some tricks you use when the story just isn't going your way?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Which Synopsis Tickles Your Fancy?

Yesterday, my manservant Google and I were having a fine chat in the drawing room. Through our profound conversation, I discovered that The Mapmaker and the Ghost is listed in Bloomsbury's rights catalogue that they will be presenting at the Bologna Book Fair at the end of this month. The Bologna Book Fair is pretty renowned in the publishing industry and is where a lot of foreign rights are bought and sold.

1) Foreign rights mean my book could be bought in multiple languages, with kids all over the world reading it. That is...let's go with exciting. Yup, I'm excited. That's a benign enough word, right? You're not scared? Okay, good.

2) I found out the month in which my book is--as of now--slated to come out. It's April 2012 (which is still part of Bloomsbury/Walker's Winter season).

3) I found the book synopsis that I think my editor must have written. And it's awesome. It's also really strange that someone else wrote a synopsis of my work. And also, awesome. You know why? I've never been very good at shortening down the gist of my story into a few sentences (nor a few words, apparently, hence the neverending title debacle).

I have a synopsis on my website that I wrote and now I have this one, too. My question is, which one makes you want to pick the book up more? I'm asking because I'm thinking about replacing mine with the "official" house version.

Here's the site version:

Eleven-year-old Goldenrod is starting her summer vacation grounded. Not only that but her best friend, and usual partner-in-exploration, has moved away and left her to deal with the upcoming ordeal of middle school all by herself. Determined to persevere in the face of such tragic adversity—and become a Legendary Adventurer like her heroes Lewis and Clark—Goldenrod sets out to make the most accurate map her town has ever seen. What she doesn't bargain for is a true blue adventure involving a gang of brilliant troublemakers, a mysterious and very ugly old lady, and an exceedingly unexpected questmaster.

Here is Bloomsbury/Walker's version:

Goldenrod Moram loves adventure, especially when it comes in the form of mapmaking. An avid fan of the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark, she decides to start her own exploring team, the Legendary Adventurers, and to spend her summer vacation discovering the unmapped forest right behind her home. This simple task is complicated by a series of unique events--a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another, more unfortunate, encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag bunch of nicknamed ruffians. Throw in the trapped spirit of Meriwether Lewis himself and her well-meaning but nuisance of a little brother, and Goldenrod Moram is in for the quest of a lifetime...

What do you think? Vote in the poll below and feel free to let me know your reasoning in the comments!

Which synopsis makes you want to read the book more?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing Dirty

I'm about 15,000 words into my latest project. That's 65 pages in Word. In book terms, it's not very long at all.

I cannot express strongly enough how much I hate first drafts. There's often an initial excitement when creating a story (obviously, because why else would you go to the trouble of writing it down?). I can usually see certain characters very clearly. Certain scenes come to me, too--often the beginning and the end. But then there's that dreaded middle part. You know, the part with obstacles and secondary characters and subplots? The part that's supposed to make the story sing, make the plot resonate, make your characters unforgettable?

My first draft of that part is usually terrible. No matter how much I try to make it otherwise. No matter how glittering it feels in my head. Even when I have moments where I feel like the words are pouring out of me like poetry, I'll then make the mistake of going back and reading it days later. It's dirt-water, people. Muddy, disgusting, common dirt-water.

I will make it to 16,000 words and beyond, though. I'll do it by reminding myself that there's nothing quite as elating as finishing a first draft. At least for a day or two.

Before you get to...revising.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seasons of...Boooooooooks

It's really hard to get all those 'Seasons of Love' trills and arpeggios across in writing.


If you look around at some debut author's sites, Twitter feeds, etc., you might notice that instead of a release date for their books, they will have listed a season. Mine for example says Winter 2012.

For the most part, actual release dates don't come into play until pretty late in the process. But, usually, an author will know what season they're being published in.

To add just a bit more confusion, publishing seasons don't exactly follow calendar seasons AND the dates do vary from publishing house to publishing house. Here's a list of some the seasons at a few publishing houses as I understand them to be. (Most information sourced from

Bloomsbury (mine)
Winter: January - April
Spring: May - August
Fall: September - December

Harper Collins
Winter: January - April
Summer: May - August
Fall: September - December

Random House
Spring: December - March
Fall: September - November
Summer: April - August

Simon & Schuster
Spring: February - May
Summer: June - September
Fall: October - January

Spring: February - July
Fall: August - January

Spring/Summer: April - August
Fall/Winter: September - March

Houghton Mifflin
Spring: April - August
Fall: September - March

Winter: January - April
Summer: May - August
Fall: September - December

Winter: January - April
Spring: May - August
Fall: September - December

Winter: January - April
Summer: May - August
Fall: September - December

Spring: March - July
Fall: August - February

Are you an author/editor with a different publishing season than the ones listed above? Chime in!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Strike a Pose, There's Nothing to It

Madonna--I'm pretty sure you're not used to hearing this but I have to say--I think you're wrong.

I spent part of my weekend getting professional author photos taken. I spent the other part of my weekend stressing out about it.

I have never been an in-front-of-the camera-girl. (I dare you, for instance, to try and find any photos of me between the ages of twelve and seventeen.) For a short while, I thought I might be a behind-the-camera girl before quickly realizing I was actually a behind-the-laptop, pajama-pants-wearing, hair-up-in-a-ponytail girl. Even though that's what I look like 90% of the time (well, minus the pajama pants when I'm at my day job), I didn't think that's exactly the "pro" look I should be going for.

So I enlisted the help of one of my good friends, who happens to have spent years as a successful model. She gave me some fun hints about posing for photos, like the fact that I wanted to convey certain emotions: openness, allure, intrigue were ones that came to her mind. I then explained that I was aiming much lower than that: namely, that I would take any look that couldn't be described as tired.

The photo shoot itself was far less painful than I thought it would be. Mostly cause my friend was there to help me with make up and to distract me, my boyfriend put The Beatles' White Album on, and the photographer ended up being really cool.

But never again will I scorn shows like America's Next Top Model. Being in front of a camera and striking a socially acceptable pose (i.e. one where I don't look like a scary carved wooden doll) is a lot harder than it looks.

It was a fun experience but I am oh-so-happy to be back behind my laptop. Hair in ponytail, probably making weird faces that no lens is around to capture for all posterity.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Reader for Life

Here is a non-surprising fact about me: when I was a kid, I spent about 90% of the time with my nose in a book. Excellent for my imagination. Not so great for my social skills.

Moving on.

I sometimes get asked why I choose to write fiction for kids and my answer is pretty simple. As much as I adore many, many books as an adult, I don't think I will ever forget some of the first books I read as a kid and the world of sheer wonder that they presented to me. Those books are in the fabric of who I am. And the thought that maybe I could be a part of that as an author gives me goosebumps.

Recently, I was thinking about those early books and the authors who wrote them. It didn't take me long to figure out the three main ones who made me a reader for life. And they are:

Beverly Cleary
Her books are the first novel-length ones I ever remember reading. My second grade teacher read a couple to us in class and--because one of my favorite things to play at was teacher--I made my mom buy those same exact books at home so that my stuffed animals would get as top-notch an education as me. And then I made her buy me more. And more. Ramona, Beezus, Henry, Otis, Ellen, Ribsy, I love you forever. And thanks, Ms. Becker, wherever you are!

Roald Dahl
This is a big one for me. The slightly twisted humor. The deliciously clueless adults. Quentin Blake's drawings. Dahl continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. He died when I was nine, and I distinctly remember hearing about it and being extremely sad because that meant that there would only be a finite number of his books I could ever read. I so carefully rationed them out to myself at the library over the following two years. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me was my last one. I'll never forget that.

Ann M. Martin
I sincerely challenge you to find an American girl around my age who did not read The Baby-Sitter's Club. These books were the first taste I ever had of devouring pages. Sometimes I would finish them before we had left the bookstore, but insist on buying them anyway because I wanted them for my library. That pastel shelf in my library still makes me wistful. There was something incredibly comforting (and somehow page-turning) about being a part of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, et. al's world and I consider them some of my first fiction BFFs.

What about you? Who are the children's authors that turned you on to reading?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Books to Movies: What Adaptations Have Gotten Under Your Skin?

Yesterday, I got in trouble by saying that I hated Joe Wright's version of Pride and Prejudice (that's the one with Keira Knightley).

I have a screenwriting background and I'm now a novelist. From a technical perspective, I completely understand the difficulties and challenges of adapting anything from the page to the screen. There's basically no way to do it without cutting things or changing things around to suit the visual medium. But as a general lover of stories, I have very, very rarely found myself able to compare the book to the movie and NOT come to the conclusion that "the book was better." And Pride and Prejudice just happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.

I know there are people who not only disagree with me about this movie, but who love it. It was even a critically-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film. But I'm just going to go ahead and point out why I feel the way I do, even if it means that the wrath of the Internet shall hail upon me:

- Keira Knightley is not Elizabeth Bennett. Elizabeth Bennett is a girl who is not known as a "great beauty" (like her sister, Jane), and who in fact gets Mr. Darcy's scorn for her looks in the beginning. She is, instead, a girl who becomes infinitely more beautiful once you know her spirit. Keira Knightley has never been anything but drop-dead gorgeous right off the bat. The thought of anyone scorning her looks just comes across as laughable.

- Oymygod that first proposal in the rain scene. That scene makes me cringe. The way Elizabeth looks at Darcy with such longing...just no, no, no. As a character, Elizabeth truly hates Darcy at that point. Loathes him. And I just don't feel like this comes across at all with the way the scene was done which, in turn, makes the story's conclusion that much less satisfying.

- This is totally personal and has nothing to do with the film's production at all but I just cannot see anyone being as perfect a Mr. Darcy as Colin Firth. Sorry, Matthew Macfadyen.

That being said, I have to admit that the movie was beautifully shot.

What books-to-movie adaptations have gotten under your skin?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

PB, MG, YA...What Does It All Mean?

When I tell friends that I've written a children's book, but that it's novel-length, they sometimes look confused. But once I mention Roald Dahl, they instantly get it.

Of course, almost everyone knows what a picture book is and I think, at this point, YA (Young Adult) has made enough of a splash that most people know what it is, too. But there are books that fall in between that are called terms most people don't hear every day. For example, I am a Middle Grade (often abbreviated as MG) writer.

Here is a handy cheat sheet breakdown of the five levels of children's books:

Board Books
Age Range: 0-2
The Skinny: These books are made to chew on as well as to read. They often involve bright primary colors, very few words, and sometimes even textures.
Examples: Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt; Where is Baby's Belly Button by Karen Katz

Picture Books (PB)
Age Range: 0-5
The Skinny: Pretty self-explanatory. These books are usually under 1000 words, filled with full-color illustrations, and are read to kids because they are too young to read on their own. The illustrations are often equally as important as the text.
Examples: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss; The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle; Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Chapter Books
Age Range: 5-8
The Skinny: These are often the first books that kids are reading by themselves and focus on teaching kids how to read as well as telling a story. They involve short chapters and, often, larger type. They also usually have quite a bit of interior illustrations though not as many as picture books.
Examples: Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel; Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish; Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

Middle Grade (MG)
Age Range: 8-12
The Skinny: These books are usually children's first introduction to full-length novels. They often involve faster-paced plots and more in-depth characters than either picture books or chapter books and focus primarily on story development.
Examples: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Young Adult (YA)
Age Range: 12 and up
The Skinny: These books almost always involve teenagers as protagonists and can deal with a lot heavier and more adult issues than the other levels of children's books.
Examples: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Now you can use in-the-know acronyms like PB, MG and YA, too. So go forth and talk children's books!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Author Journeys: Diana Gabaldon

UPDATE: Ms. Gabaldon herself (!!) clarified some points for me and I have updated some inaccuracies I had in my original post.

I first got introduced to author Diana Gabaldon when I was going on a trip to Italy and made a book recommendation request on Facebook with the following criteria: looking for a longish page-turner that will keep me entertained on a variety of flights, ferries, etc.

A very well-read friend came through for me by recommending Gabaldon's Outlander series. One ten-day trip later, I was hooked.

Outlander is a unique blend of romance, historical fiction, and time travel. It starts in the 1940s and centers around a British nurse named Claire who gets sucked through some mysterious standing stones (think Stonehenge) and ends up going back to late 1700s Scotland where she meets some tough (and, yes, hunky) Highlanders.

There are currently seven books in the series with plans for more. And they are LONG. The series stands at a whopping 6600 pages so far. The books are immersive and intense and wholly wonderful for being so. I'm currently on book five.

Here are some fun facts about the frighteningly prolific Diana Gabaldon:

- I feel like she can be described as one of the first author adopters of digital media. She shared some of her first Outlander novel and met her agent through a Compuserv writing community back in 1988! She thanks this community in the acknowledgments of every single one of her books.
- Her novels are incredibly well-researched, ranging on a variety of topics from Scottish history, to Caribbean pirates, to the American Revolutionary War (Claire is very well-traveled). It takes Gabaldon 2-3 years to write each one. Gabaldon has a PhD in quantitative behavioral ecology (nope, I have no idea what that means but it sounds smart) so perhaps that's why research comes so easily to her.
- Gabaldon is American, but her main character, Claire, is British and her leading man, Jamie Fraser, is a Scotsman. She does a remarkable job in writing in these voices, most especially the way she writes the lilting Scottish accents. (Though I confess, it took me three-quarters of the way through book one to realize that "ken" means "know.")

Diana Gabaldon has hinted that the eighth Outlander book might be out sometime in 2012. In the meantime, the series has already been adapted into a graphic novel and a musical.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Editing on Spec

As I've talked about a little before, my now-editor, Stacy, was first introduced to me via another manuscript and my blog. When I submitted what eventually became The Mapmaker and the Ghost, it was only about 28,000 words (125 pages in Word) and did not have a ghost anywhere in it.

I was very lucky that Stacy was able to see the spark of something in that early draft. She decided to do something which I think is rather unusual. She told my agent and me that the manuscript was not publishable as it was. For one thing, it was entirely too short. But she thought it had potential and was willing to try editing it on spec with me.

What this meant was that I received three pages of single-spaced notes from her. I didn't realize at the time that this was what is known as an edit letter, which is what you get from your editor once the manuscript has been accepted and you are working on revising it together. Since Stacy hadn't acquired my manuscript yet, she was doing the work of being my editor, but without the guarantee that she would eventually purchase the book.

I was aware that I was being afforded a pretty rare and huge opportunity and my mantra soon became something like, "Good God, Sarv, don't blow it." I worked pretty extensively on my revisions for about three months, adding around 60 pages, and a ghost, of course, amongst other things. I think I can honestly say that I'd never written anything with such a singular focus up until that point.

It took another four months for the offer to officially come through (the publishing world is not exactly known for its speed)—but, more importantly, it did eventually come through.

Since then I've had two more edit letters and written about 30 additional pages, including a completely different ending. It's become a little easier to understand and cope with the changes each time. For one thing, I know for a fact that the story is A LOT stronger than it ever was when it was just a lonely mapmaker sans ghost.

I'll always cherish that spec edit letter, my very first one, because it was the key that opened a mysterious, heavy door for me; one whose keyhole I'd been peeking through longingly for years.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wanna Read the Opening Paragraphs of My Book?

Oftentimes, the advice you're given as a writer is to work on your opening more than you work on any other part of your book. This makes sense since, obviously, this is the first impression a reader will get of your work (and definitely the first impression a prospective agent or editor will get too). And if they're not hooked by page five or so, there's a good chance you've lost them.

My opening paragraphs of THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST have changed a bit from what I wrote in September of 2007, when I first sat down with this character on my brain. But bizarrely enough, as many drafts and revisions and titles as there were of this manuscript (see here and here), my very first sentence hasn't changed at all. And the actual setting/plot of my first scene hasn't either.

It's been an exciting week for me book news-wise, so I'd like to cap it off by sharing the first two paragraphs of THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST. It'll be the first-ever "public" excerpt of my book. Ready?

Goldenrod Moram had a first name that sounded like it belonged in the middle of a fairy tale, where she would be the dazzling princess in need of rescuing. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, fairy-tale princesses probably didn't get in trouble practically every day of the fifth grade. (Then again, they probably didn't talk back much either.) For another, fairy-tale princesses probably had more than one friend in the whole entire world. (And, if they didn’t, they at least had servants or courtiers or some such other fan base that could pass for friends.)

But Goldenrod had only been named Goldenrod because her mother was an avid gardener and her father had lost the coin toss on the day of her birth. Had her father won, she might have been named after one of his hobbies, which included cooking and amateur house repair. When daydreaming, Goldenrod often thought about all the other things she could have been called and how they would all have been preferable: Oregano Moram, Staple Gun Moram, Brisket Moram, Spark Plug…

There it is, world! I hope it's compelling enough to make you want to read about a year.

Speaking of which, THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST is now on Goodreads! You can take a look/add it to your shelves/squee with me here. I've been a member/avid proponent of Goodreads since 2008 (that's like 27 years in Internet years), but I just became a Goodreads author this week (8 months in I.y.)!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Social Media and the Writer

As a writer, I have certain personality traits that I think are common to most of us. I'm innately shy. I have a very tight-knit and close group of friends, but it can be hard for me to let new people in. I can be socially awkward. I show my writing to a very, very select and trusted group of people.

Once I get published, I know that last bit is definitely going to change. People I've never met will likely pick up my book, read it, discuss it, rate it, and write whatever they'd like about it; it comes with the territory. But what I've started to realize is that some of those other traits are likely to change a bit too.

Because although writing is a very solitary activity, promoting yourself as an author is not. The truth is that I always thought that this part of the journey, the before-publication, get-out-and-market-yourself-part, would be truly torturous for someone like me. To my great surprise, I've actually discovered that this part has been a lot fun. And social media has a lot to do with that.

It's because I've started to discover and interact with loads of other people, and especially authors, on Twitter. Because I joined Apocalypsies and we email each other constantly with debut questions and updates. Because I suddenly feel a part of a real community, with colleagues who genuinely support and encourage me—whom I genuinely support and encourage in turn—and who love reading and writing as much as I do. And genuine is the key word in all of that. Not once have I felt like I've had to be anything but be myself and be honest. I feel like I've made real-life friends, even if they're across cable lines and IP addresses and I sometimes only know the 73x73 pixel version of what they look like.

You know the best part of social media for someone like me? Most of it is in writing. Obviously, that is where I have always felt most confident.

I'm not sure how I'd feel as a debut author in, say, 1975, but I have a strong feeling I wouldn't be enjoying this part of things as much as I am. So for everyone who's been reading, commenting, tweeting, emailing, and facebooking with me—old and new friends alike—thank you from the bottom of my socially awkward heart.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I've spent the last week working on my official website and I'm proud to reveal that... is now officially up and running! Check it out:

I am a ."com" Which I think is a good thing? Since some of my heroes—including J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman—are also .coms, I'm going to go with a yes.

At my day job, I work with a team who creates websites all the time (I write the copy/editorial for it), but I've never been fully responsible for designing my own. I plunged into it the way I've basically plunged into anything regarding this project, with my main character Goldenrod's voice in my ear. She's much braver than I am.

I definitely had a vision for the site, but I couldn't have done it without the enormous artistic talents of Graig Kreindler, who very graciously provided the illustrations. To poorly repay the favor, I will now provide him with a well-deserved plug: if you have any interest in baseball, art, or any of the above, please check out his site: . You won't be sorry; I swear on my future book sales.

Anyway, I would LOVE to know what you think of the site, so please do comment and let me know. And just to keep you on your toes, I do plan on adding some fun little site "easter eggs" very soon.

I know. I am SO good at keeping you on your toes.