Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking Forward

So, as we’re nearing the end of a year (and a decade, how did that happen??) I decided to take a look back at last year’s posts, to see where I was.

Last year, my first book, TSM, was about to go back on submission after a round of revision. I was exhausted from my major, and hadn’t even begun the senior book design seminar. I was distracted, and divided, as evidenced by a teaser post in which I posted three snippets from three different projects, citing an inability to focus.

The Near Witch hadn’t even been conceived, let alone written.

My goals for 2009 were:
-to find the right home for TSM (not yet)
-to graduate WashU (accomplished!)
-to take martial arts classes (not yet)
-to finish two more books (I did that!)
-to take the GREs (bombed bc it was the day after my book deal)
-to apply for graduate school (finished!).

I feel like such a different person looking ahead to 2010, like I’ve got a new set of eyes. I never thought I’d be where I am. When we write our stories, not our books, but OUR stories, we can rarely account for things unwritten, unplanned. I’m so thrilled to have a book deal (!!) while at the same time, surprised that it’s not for TSM. I’m amazed that I wrote two more books. I’m surprised that in some ways I feel more lost than ever when it comes to life (grad school, work, etc) and more focused than ever when it comes to books.

In 2008, I signed with my agent. I experienced the roller coaster of submissions, heartbreak, challenge, and frustration.
In 2009, I got to meet my agent, I graduated, I got on and off several roller coasters, I wrote two books, one of which now has a very happy home (and hopefully the other will too).

What will 2010 bring?

I don’t dare predict. Instead I’ll do my best to embrace whatever comes my way, to open myself up to surprises as much as expected joys and challenges.

There will always be challenges and road blocks and potholes. There will always be fire swamps. That said, I wish you all a wonderful holiday, and a brilliant New Year's. I hope this year and the next have brought and will bring you all surprises of the best kind.

Thank you for sticking with me through this year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Editor Love Day!

It's Editor Love Day! (in the vein of Agent Love Day last week)

Because editors need love too. Even if you don't have one, chances are many of you have had some interactions with them, business or casual. I've had interactions with several editors, and the coolest thing I've learned: THEY'RE PEOPLE. I know, crazy right?! Yes, for writers they are people with immense power, gatekeepers for one of the last doors an author has to get through. But they're actually kind of cool. They like certain music, they do things in what little spare time they have, etc.

Anyway, onto my editor: The Incredible Abby Ranger, of Disney-Hyperion. Or as I often call her, the second member of my A-Team (since Abby and Amy both start with A).

Now, I'm writing this post from an interesting place, inside the belly of the beast of edits. This isn't one of those situations where I can look back on it and glorify the experience. I'm IN it. Edits are hard.

My editor is hard. my editor is intense. She is an Editrix, and she has earned the term. But guys, let it be known, let me shout this even in my time of distress:

My editor is Brilliant (that's right I capitalized the B because that's how brilliant she is).

If I could show you my edits, they would be an exercise in red, and yet somehow I have NOT lost hope, and I've only spent a minimal amount of time in the fetal position on my office floor. Why is that? Because my editor has the strange power to make me think that *gasp* I can do this. She just gives me a call, talks through it with me, and suddenly my fears seem kind of small, suddenly the solution seems within my grasp (now the time after I've hung up when I turn back to my word doc might be a different story). Abby makes me feel like I can do this.

And even if Editor Abby is still busily nibbling on small (and not so small) bits of my soul, even during that, I still stop now and then and mutter to myself, "Damn she's good." I still can't believe I HAVE an editor, let alone one as incredible as Abby. The things she sees! The way she sees!

Edits are HARD. My editor is HARD. But she is also BRILLIANT (oh now I've gone and capitalize the whole thing!) and WONDERFUL, and SUPPORTIVE, and FRIENDLY. And she wants to help make NEAR WITCH the absolute best it can be :) She BELIEVES in me, and in this book, and that is an amazing feeling.

I have an editor. She might still scare the s*** out of me, but mostly I just adore her, and I adore what my book is becoming with her help.

Now, I'd better get back to my edits!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

People I Love: Courtney Summers

Up next in my "People I Love" series...


(I think Edit Fairy likes Gaga's look)

How can I describe Courtney Summers?

Well, I know how I describe her BOOKS. Her books are brutal, un-put-downable, wonderful, wrenching, real, disturbing, addictive, destructive and FABULOUS. I once described her upcoming book, Some Girls Are, as "suicidal teletubbies with purple lipstick and switchblades." There is this incredible push-pull in Courtney's books, something akin to morbid curiosity. You just can't stop looking.

Describing Courtney as a person gets trickier, only because I don't have the right words. Courtney and I have had a roller coaster year, but she's been beside me every step of the way. We've cheered each other on at the fun parts, and she's given me an incredible shoulder at the really NOT fun parts, and even let me emotionally vomit on her a few times when the ride got out of hand. Essentially, she's been there. And she's become an incredibly close friend. Not only is Courtney one of the nicest, most accessible writers out there, not only is she INSANELY talented, and getting some of the praise she absolutely deserves, but I can say that she has made a profound impact on my life, and that I wouldn't be where I am if not for her.

Courtney, thank you. Thanks for filling my good days with ~*~*~ and my bad days with hugs and rants and every day with emoticons, capslock, acronyms, enthusiasm and love.

Edit Fairy Smolders, Team Sparkle, well, Sparkles.

So it turns out Edit Fairy isn't terribly gifted in the editing department, BUT he is quite good at smoldering. And boy does he smolder. And I cannot stay long, since I need to inject some *smolder* into my own book.

But first! Today's lovely recipient of the V Loves You Award is...

~*~*~Team Sparkle~*~*~

What is Team Sparkle? Well, TS is my support group. TS is:

-Courtney Summers
-Scott Tracey
-Susan Adrian
-Tiffany Schmidt
-Emily Hainsworth
-Linda Grimes

Team Sparkle is appropriately named, because boy do these guys sparkle. But it also makes me laugh, because the books that come out of TS tend to be dark/edgy/odd/other. Less like this:

And more like Edit Fairy:

Team Sparkles keeps me afloat. They fill my inbox with love, they deal with my panic attacks and minor tantrums, they cheer and bemoan and are all themselves absolutely brilliant. Over the next few days, I'll tell you just a little about that brilliance. Up first, the astounding unstoppable Courtney Summers.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Edit Fairies Awesome Australians

So, I'm in edits again. I'd give a glimpse of them, but I think it would just be easier to spread my arms wide and say I have to do thiiiiiiiiiiiis much work. My ms is currently an exercise in red. BUT. I will prevail!

This is my Edit Fairy:

Yes. I have an Edit Fairy (thanks to Nicole; I suspect he might be Jude Law, though he came from a random health and beauty site) and apparently he will either help me with my edits, or whisk me away, or both.

The problem is that during edits I really need all my brain power for, well, EDITING. So I can't seem to write much of a coherent, thoughtful post.

Still, I don't want to slack off on my blog here, so I'm doing something different.

I'm going to talk about a person I'm really thankful for each day for the next week or so, until I've satisfactorily beaten this chunk of edits back into submission.

First up,

~*~*~*~Tye Cattenach.*~*~*~

Tye is an incredibly sweet, energetic, and all-around awesome librarian in Australia, and she deserves some attention. She runs a blog called The Book Gryffin (which recently hosted The Grimm Off) and she has to be one of the nicest, most passionate women in the book world. I simply adore her. Tye has been this wonderful little shimmer of light during my edits, and her constant energy and enthusiasm make me smile and keep me afloat. Thanks, Tye :)

PS. I recently came to know two of Tye's cohorts, Sonja and Nicole, and I can say, Australia has an incredible quantity of Awesome. I suspect it might be stealing it from other places. Because, of course, Iocane comes from Australia, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals! (points for knowing where this line comes from).

Friday, December 11, 2009


Amy Tipton is my agent.

She's also my cheerleader, my inspiration, my fan, my leader, and my friend. She's the wonderful woman who ushered me onto the yellow brick road of publishing. She held my hand, she kept me pumped, she made sure I had my head on straight. I still remember the day she called.

I also remember how every time she called me after that, she would always start by saying, "Hi, it's Amy Tipton, YOUR AGENT," (as if I would ever forget) and that always makes me smile.

If you read my little series on the journey to publication, you know that my first book didn't sell. But Amy never, ever gave up on me, or my stories. Every step of the way she pushed me, or hugged me, depending on what I needed. She kept me positive, she kept me looking forward, and where some agents in that situation might have put their author on a back burner, Amy kept me at the forefront. When I began work on NW, she cheered me on. She's always cheering for me. It's been an amazing year and a half, and I look forward to having her for many more years.

Amy, thank you. Thank you for being close enough that I feel like I can send you anything, from absurd ideas about menopausal covens to random notes filled with emoticons and ~*~*~*~ to pictures of cupcakes with speech bubbles. In addition to all the work-related stuff.

Thank you for being there, and for always believing in me.

Thank you for being a badass. A rock star. A trooper. A fashionista. An inspiration.

Thank you for being one of the strongest, most passionate people I know.

And thank you for being my agent, my role model, and my friend.

**Note: This is part of Unofficial Official Agent Appreciation Day, a fabulous idea of Kody Keplinger's. Because sometimes agents get a bad rap, we wanted to join together to surprise our agents with a little love. A list of participating blogs will be available here: **

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Time for the Grimm Off!

It's time for the Grimm Off!

What is the Grimm Off? Well!

My friend and incredibly talented author, Scott Tracey (whose book, WITCH EYES debuts 2011 with Flux), was helping me one night. I was cranky because I hadn't written anything, and so he told me to write him a fairy tale. And then I asked him to write one, too, we threw in a few prompts, and here we are!

With a challenge.
And a voter's prize.
All hosted by the wonderful Tye.

Both of our stories are posted over at:

the blog of the lovely Tye Cattenach

(You should all follow her anyway, as she's lovely) and you simply go over there and have a read and vote! There's even a treat for a voter.

Sounds like fun, yes?

Please go have a look if you get a chance. I can't promise mine is any good (edits came as I started to write, and I'll use that excuse as much as I'm able) but it's such a fun idea (who doesn't love fairy tales?) and we'd both love your support!

Here's a snippet from mine:

“Easy as sneezing,” the old man said, pouring tea, and it bothered John because it wasn’t quite a rhyme. John was not given to liking things that were almost, but just shy of, what they ought to be. The old man chuckled, though, showing very sharp teeth where most old men would have only gums and a stray molar. He leaned across and stuck one long, old finger into John’s tea and swirled it for him, and went on.
“Simple as crumbs. You’ve just got to choose.”

(note: Children were harmed in the telling of this story)

Monday, December 7, 2009

The YARebels!!

So, I might have mentioned it on here (I honestly cannot remember; I am suffering from edit/life induced brain fog, please forgive) but I am part of a Vlog group! Doesn't that sound lovely?

We are the YARebels, and we're going to start doing posts in January, kicking off 2010 with style and attitude. We're six YA authors, chatting about the process, books, behind-the-scenes drama, and all sorts of yummy stuff. Leah Clifford, one of our esteemed cluster, made us a teaser trailer!

And wouldn't you know, we got a shout-out from a rock star Author! Which one? Better watch and see! And don't forget to subscribe to us so you can get all the good stuff, coming in just a few short weeks!

Alright, back into edit cave...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life, Pre-Edits, Nano-Fail, and the Journey, Part Two.

-Some days I wonder how life can be so full of waiting and so full of activity at the same time. You might think that the activity cancels out, or at least muffles, the waiting, but by some miracle I can keep them separate and intact.

-I'm going to take a couple classes in the spring. I know I am a complete and total nerd, but I miss school, and more than that I miss the structure school brings. I need that kind of structure in my life right now. I'll probably take an English course and a French one, if I can.

-Working on edits. Or rather, pre-edits. Don't ask :p But feel free to send baked goods, because I promise pre-edits will kill me before edits will.

-This is a busy time here at home. On the heels of Thanksgiving we're participating in a Christmas tour this upcoming weekend, which means that the whole house has to be decorated by then.

-Nano...Nano...yeah...that was not so successful.

-On to Part Two of my little series. Part Two: Something that looked like a book!

So, as I was saying, one of my children’s poems became an integral part of my first story, THE SHADOW MILE. Here’s the original poem (it got shortened considerably in the book):

"A Mile Outside"

I know of a place a mile outside
Where things are only as real
As the raindrops are wide
And the sun doesn't always
stay up in the sky
It drifts in the breeze,
And goes out with the tide

A place where nothing lasts
But everything stays
And a minute's as long
As a handle of days
Where nothing breaks
And everything bends
With a thousand beginnings
But no concrete ends.

Where stones are made
out of butterfly wings
And marbles dangle from clouds
On long silver strings.
Where stars wander down
like snowflakes at night
And rest in cupped hands
Before again they take flight.

Where words wind like fog
around valleys and hills
And light is like water,
it sloshes and spills
And nothing changes
but nothing sits still.

This is a place beyond
borders and doors
A world without rules,
without ceilings or floors
Where we're only as old
As we let ourselves be
A place where our minds
Are entirely free
It is here, in this world
That our hearts go to hide
Deep in our thoughts
And a mile outside.

The Shadow Mile began as a very surreal, nonsensical Alice in Wonderland-esque story about a girl who finds a door without a room behind.

I later learned that nonsense and pretty imagery do not a story make. I finished the first ever version of TSM, let it never see light, in May of 2007, and shot off a few queries. One amazing agent was super nice, and asked for the full, and had some wonderful things to say, but it was obvious I didn’t know what I was doing (I can safely say that at this point, it was 50% nonsense, 30% existentialism and 20% of the trippy metaphorical fantasy I mentioned in PART ONE. Not a recipe for success. So, I did what I needed to do. I shelved it.

Six months later, I stumbled across a dialogue contest on a literary agent’s blog, dug out TSM and entered on a whim. I also began to revise (I’d been PONDERING revising for some time).* TSM ended up getting third in the contest, which earned me a partial request from the agent. I also did a TON of research, and started querying other agents, too. I got an offer of rep from one of the agents I queried, and signed with Agent Awesome.

After a short revision, TSM went out into the world. And out. And out. It kept garnering praise, but no sale. I think there were FIVE or SIX really close calls (ed board – acq. board) and it still kills me to think about it. This project had become so special to me, and to my agent, and everyone seemed to believe in it, but it wasn’t commercial, and it wasn’t clear-cut, and it kind of had one leg in MG and one in YA, and for whatever reason it wasn’t selling.

About six months into it NOT selling, I decided to stop obsessing about my baby, and write a new one. I had this idea in the back of my head, just wandering around. I wanted to be proactive. I didn’t GIVE UP on TSM. And my agent didn’t either. But there was no way I was going to let one book’s difficulty stop me. I was terrified of writing a second one, because I wasn’t sure I COULD. But I’d always dreamed of a career, and I knew I’d have to write another book eventually. Why not now?

Up next, PART THREE: The Near Witch.

*A note on pondering: I’ve since learned that pondering is a valuable tool. I often think up a project, and then shove it into a recess of my mind to ponder now and again, and somehow the deeper corners of my brain pick at it when I’m not looking.

-Last, a poll: How do you buy your books? Amazon? In store? Other?