Saturday, March 31, 2012

Website Hacked

Please do NOT go to my main it appears to have been hacked. It redirects to unsavory sites or has a scam pop-up.

I'm working on this and will let you know as soon as the site itself is fixed.

Edit: This doesn't seem to affect any page but the main one (, not this blog, not the other pages in the website. But if you do have any trouble, please let me know ASAP.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Top Three Things You've Learned

As many of you know, I'm a member of the debut novelist group The Elevensies. But we're no longer in the year 2011...and we're no longer debuts. Surely we've learned something in that time. I recently asked the group to list out the top three things they've learned in their debut years. If you're currently a debut--or if you want to be a debut one day--I hope these mini-lists of advice help you out!

First, my advice:
1. It's not the kind of swag you get, but how you use it.
2. New goal: never do another event by myself (more authors = more fun & less stress!)
3. Sometimes it's easier to rewrite the book than revise it.

Here's what the rest of the Elevensies had to say:

Julia Karr
1. Don't be stressed, you're doing this because you love to write. 
2. A good editor is worth their weight in gold.
3. Keep writing the stories you want to tell.

Helen Landalf
1. The revisions you do before the sale are only the beginning.
2. Promoting is just another phase of the writing process - embrace it!
3. Always write the book that challenges you.

Tessa Gratton
1. The Internet is not God.
2. I can't control what people say about my book, what marketing it does or doesn't get, or gravity, but I CAN control my reactions to everything.
3. Save all your receipts. ALL OF THEM.

Sara Bennett Wealer
1. Dedicate a BIG chunk of your advance for promo (more than you think you'll need).
2. There will be disappointments--sometimes big ones; have tissues and a shoulder to cry on handy. 
3. Always be working on something new!

Angie Smibert
1. Invest in a good office chair. You'll be spending a lot of time in it.
2. Don't get caught up in marketing. No one really knows what works.
3. Always be writing.

Tommy Greenwald
1. Editors are slow but wonderful.
2. Try not to obsess over things beyond your control.
3. When you do obsess over things beyond your control, have chocolate handy.

Kiki Hamilton
1. Write for the love of the story only you can tell.
2. Embrace book bloggers - they are AWESOME.
3. Believe in yourself. Never waver. If you want it bad enough - you can find a way to make it happen.

Terry Lynn Johnson
1. Patience! The waiting. Never. Ends.
2. Write your next book while you're waiting.
3. Did I mention the waiting?

Dawn Metcalf
1. Thou shalt not stress about things over which you have no control, be it cover art, marketing, sales numbers, promo, the migration of editors and agents, or other mysteries of the publishing universe.
2. Meet lots of people, online and in-person, and keep in touch! These wonderful human beings are your lifelines to sanity.
3. Write the next book that inspires you.

Kristi Cook
1. A book is never really "done" until the editor pries it from your hot little hands
2. Writing an 80K word book is easier than writing a 5 page synopsis
3. Worrying about all the stuff you *can't* control will drive you nuts. Instead, focus on what you *can* control--writing a really good book!

Lisa Desrochers
1. There is nothing more valuable than a honest critique partner who gets your writing.
2. Don't stress about the stuff that's out of your control. (Like covers.)
3. Find some awesome writerly friends who will hug you when you need it.

Clete Barrett Smith
1. Librarians, teachers and children's booksellers--in addition to being the best people in the world--are largely responsible for getting your book into the hands of kids. Treat them accordingly.
2. Learn to enjoy the public speaking that goes along with book promotion.
3. Your (possibly lifelong) goal of being a published author has been accomplished. Congrats! Now it's time to set new writing goals.

Elana Johnson
1. It's never too early to start the next book, series or no series.
2. Spend more time writing than promoting.
3. Learn to say no.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Art of Words

So I was talking recently with my friend Elana Johnson (her book, btw, is totally on sale now, you should buy it) about how writing can be an art. I say "can be" because I'm not sure it's always an art--although that's a debate for a different day.

But our conversation really got me thinking--about words, about art in general, and about how we are influenced by the things we like. I wonder: does the art that you like influence the way you express your own art?

I happen to be a huge fan of painting--specifically Pre-Raphaelite paintings. (I blogged about this before, but it's been a few years. Still, if you'd like to see my original thoughts on the subject, as well as my favorite piece of art, click here.)

I suppose you could look at artistic movements like genres of written works. My favorite genre is YA, my favorite artistic movement is Pre-Raphaelite. I don't really appreciate adult literary titles, but then again, Dadaism is lost on me. While I can look at a piece of Dadaist art and recognize that (a) it is art and (b) it has value, it has no emotional resonance within me.

That said, I don't think it's really as simple as that. Because even within my own beloved YA genre, there are different styles. And so I think it comes down to this: we are each of us an artist, and our art is reflective of the things we like within art, not necessarily the artistic style.

When I think about why I like Pre-Raphaelite art, I come up with this list:

  • Beautiful execution. The paintings are vivid and realistic and beautiful to look at. Some art is meant to disturb; this art is meant to be beautiful (although there is disturbing themes--the painting of Ophelia to the left is supposed to show her at the moment of her death).
  • Fantastic subjects. I mean fantastic in the literal sense--the settings and subjects of the paintings are often derived from mythology or Shakespearean lore.
  • Attention to detail. In the painting of Ophelia, even the selection of flowers held in her hands hold symbolic meaning. I cannot name a single Pre-Raphaelite painting that doesn't include significant symbolism in the images.
These are also the same things that I love about my favorite YA novels:
  • Beautiful execution. I say this all the time, but Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH changed the way I looked at YA books specifically because they were so beautifully written. Yes, they're about zombies. But they're beautiful
  • Fantastic subjects. I like my books to have fantasy or sci fi in them. I want the impossible to happen. I don't need to hold onto realism--I want magic and stars.
  • Attention to detail. One of my very favorite literary devices is foreshadow. I want a complicated story, yes, but I want the end to surprise me. Foreshadow is the key to this. Show me all the clues in the story, and then show me how they solve the plot. Think of JK Rowling--you see polyjuice potion in Book 2, but then the plot of Book 4 hinges on it. That is brilliant. That is the detail that wins the books. 
If a piece of art can be beautiful--yet thought-provoking--dealing with a subject matter that's not mundane while also showing a high level of detail that casts significance on even the smallest part of the painting--then I will love that painting. 

If a book can sling around beautiful words and phrases--and yet have a deeper meaning to the text--while also taking place in a fantasy or sci fi world and using a high level of detail (such as through foreshadowing)--then I will love that book.

This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why I loved Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES (the fact that the first story is based on a poem by a Pre-Raphaelite artist notwithstanding). It combines significant beautiful art (by the equally brilliant Jim DiBartolo) with beautiful words to create a complete story that incorporates all the ingredients to a book I love: beauty, fantasy, and depth.

I find this kind of comparison between visual art and literature fascinating. Would someone who prefers Dadaism, for example, also like the same books that I like? And if so--would that person like those books for very different reasons from the reasons why I like them? 

In the end, there is no wrong way to look at art--or books--and there's no wrong reason for liking or disliking any artistic book. The very things I love about Pre-Raphaeliteism are also often a source of criticism. I love the readily apparent symbolism; critics say it is too heavy-handed. I love the beauty; critics say the art does not lie in the beauty. Likewise, some of my favorite books are criticized for the very things I love about them. My favorite childhood book is The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis because they were the first books that I read and realized that there was such a thing as symbolism and that a story could go far deeper than just the words on the page. This is probably the very thing that makes these books reviled by some--too evident symbolism. 

I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject. What art do you like, and does your artistic taste reflect your literary taste? What qualities in art--visual or literary--do you appreciate the most?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Story is a Story

Audible currently has a sale going on where a lot of popular titles are only about $5. As I scrolled through, I realized that there were several books I wanted, and ended up purchasing four (after spending my credit on READY PLAYER ONE, at Marie Lu and Andrea Cremer's suggestion, and it is AMAZING).

And then I came to THE LITTLE PRINCE. I actually quite love this title--it's a beautiful book, with beautiful illustrations (and readers of A MILLION SUNS will know that I like this book so much that I made it a part of that book, too). But it's not one of the books I bought. Despite the fact that it was $5, I just did not care to own it in audiobook format.

This got me thinking: I actually have some big preferences on how I consume books. This has only happened recently--about a year after owning an ereader and subscribing to audible. I've developed a hierarchy of what format I want books in.

If it's a book with a particularly beautiful cover, a book that I know I will want to read over and over again, a book by a friend, or a book I could get signed, I want the hardback.

If it's a very long book (GAME OF THRONES, I'm looking at you), a book that I consider a "throw-away" read (such as a trashy romance novel), or a book that I already love and know I want to read again easily (i.e. on the road), I will buy an ebook. In some cases, I will buy an ebook of a book I already own, just for the portability. In my house, we have all of George RR Martin's books in both formats--my husband likes the paperbacks, my hand doesn't want to break under the weight and prefers the ebook. I also have signed hardbacks I don't want to damage, so I have the ebook, too.

If it's a book I'm only so-so excited about, but feel I should read anyway, I will get it in audiobook. There are a few titles that it feels as if EVERYONE has read, but I just can't get through--so I get it in audiobook. I listen to audiobooks while on a long road trip or while cleaning the house, which means that I somehow get over the issues that I have trouble with in the print books. These are books that seem to have a slow start, or perhaps a premise that I'm not over the moon about. I've found so many new books this way--audiobooks somehow make me get over my presumption of books that I have trouble with.

I also like audiobooks when there's a great narrator--I read Harry Potter in Jim Dale's voice now, and Wil Wheaton is definitely the voice for READY PLAYER ONE. And sometimes it's just nice to put on a well-loved story and listen away.

In short, my point is this: there's a lot of debate over ebooks or no ebooks, and formatting and everything else. But for me, there's no argument. I like all the formats for different books, and I'm just happy that I get to live in a world where they're all available.

What about you? What formats do you prefer...and why?

We are all of us stardust

This universe, this world, this life: it's all pretty astounding. There is, quite literally, a star within you. Let it shine.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You Don't Want to Miss These...

There are a few things happening online right now (or soon!) and I want to make sure everyone knows about them. Forgive me if this is a repeat from Facebook or Twitter :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Breathless Reads Tour 2012

Whew! You know what time it is? It's time for a picture post!

I'm still gobsmacked at how awesome the Breathless Tour was this year, and I can't wait to share some pics with everyone. Also, if you're in the picture-looking mood, I just did a massive update to Facebook as well, including pictures from the launch a year ago, the first Breathless Tour, the most elaborate cake I've ever seen, and more.

Now--without further ado!--a photo essay of Breathless Reads 2012!

The crowd in Naperville, near Chicago, at Anderson's Bookstore.
I reallllly wish I could have explored more of downtown Chicago, but this was a fantastic way to kick off the tour. We were in good hands from the start :)

(PS: Recognize Amanda from the front row? In the purple shirt--she's the one who made me the fantastically amazing quilt for the Creative Contest!)

In Washington, DC, we were interviewed by Sirius XM radio for the BookTalk station.
I discovered that truckers like to call in requesting the audiobook of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (I <3 you, truckers) and we all had fun with the interview. And afterwards, I got to go see...

Flash, at the 60s on 6 station! My father loves this station (and so do I--what else would you expect from a girl who names her books after a Beatles's song?!)

In NYC, our hotel looked like a spaceship.
There were portholes for windows, the curtains were silver, and everything was high tech.

Books of Wonder in NYC. I seriously get a little thrill every time I come here.

The audience at Books of Wonder! We were truly blessed on this tour--every single stop was standing room only, and we sold out of books at some events! Our fans = THE BEST.

The window display at Collegeville, in the Towne Center Bookshop.
Aren't our books pretty together? :)

At Blue Willow Books in Houston, TX, we got to sign the wall!
I take no credit for the cute horse, but I did add three stars around my name, 
one for each of my space books.

The crowd at Blue Willow!

This is Michaela. She did another entry for the Creative Contest. Her artwork is a koi fish in a sea of stars (*sigh* Such lovely imagery!) and she created it with a method called stippling--making the picture one tiny dot at a time! I was blown away by this artwork when I saw in online, but in person it was EVEN MORE AMAZING.

In Dallas, TX, the Barnes and Noble hosting us creating amazing custom drinks for each person. 
Mine is a Cryogenically Blue Frozen Frap and it was so good that I had TWO.

See! Here I am posing with the menu of custom drinks. 
Seriously awesome stuff!!

The whole time on tour, Andrea was working on her next book. Here she is, typing up the name of a character that Jessica, Marie, and I helped to name after a brief brainstorming session! I call dibs on being the writing-godmother!

For the first time this year, we did school visits. This is one of the displays in California, but honestly? Every single school was wonderful. It was amazing to see and talk to kids who are avid readers and eager to learn more about writing. 

At the inaugural Passion and Prose event in Long Beach, CA, I got to meet Bonnie--and see her seriously cool and wonderful t-shirt! What the frex indeed!!

The back is even more beautiful--my favorite phrase from A MILLION SUNS.

And if all that isn't amazing enough, after the events, I had a chance to hang out with none other than...
For those of you who haven't heard me rave about Molly, this actress is one of the stars on the hit ABC show, CASTLE, and is also the person who I used as a visual reference when writing Amy. I often get asked who I would cast for Amy and Elder if I had a chance to do so. I never know who would be a good Elder (I change my mind constantly on this point) but I'm all for Molly playing Amy! (Keeping in mind, though, that authors never really have a say in this...)

All in all, this was an amazing tour. I cannot express enough how grateful I am that Penguin sent me out again, giving me the chance to meet awesome people, hang with super-cool authors, and revel in bookstores across the nation. 

I am one lucky girl.

And after the tour of awesome? 
I got to go on a retreat of awesome.

Shenanigans were had:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Winner + Music = WHOA

Who's the winner of all seven books on the Breathless Reads tour? Plus a signed poster? Plus a badge from the tour? Who's the winner who gets all this awesome?

Stephanie B., that's who!

I've just contact Stephanie, and the prize will be in the mail soon. And I did snag some extra prizes along the way...but I'm saving those for later! (By which I mean...more contests coming soon!)

And meanwhile: I just got something awesome in my Twitter feed. Emily, who is absolutely charming and wonderful, met me at my NYC tour stop. And then--guys! And then! SHE WROTE A SONG ABOUT ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

I KNOW RIGHT?! This is basically AWESOME SQUARED. I cannot even express how cool this is. 

Want proof? Check the song out here for yourself! Emily wrote and performed the song herself. And it's (very) appropriately named "Little Fish!"