Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Newsletter!

I'm really excited to announce that I am starting a newsletter! It won't be anything that's a huge deal, and I won't be sending it often, but it'll be a guaranteed way for you, my readers, to have the latest news about my books, sales, and events. Sometimes you just miss things online—I know I do.

So if you're interested, please sign up! I'm really excited to be sharing covers for TRUST ME, I'M A NINJA and FISH OUT OF WATER there first, along with teasers and sales. You'll be the first to know when my indie titles release, which is kinda cool.



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Friday, July 18, 2014

Why I Can't Read Anymore

I've been pretty open about my whole mental breakdown surrounding publishing. It's crazy to think it's been four years since then, and even crazier to realize that I'm still digging myself out of that hole in a lot of aspects. But I've come a long way, and I'm definitely in a really good mental space right now, all things considered. There's just this one thing that I'm still struggling with:

I can't read books without feeling like a terrible author, without thinking every book is better than mine, without having significant anxiety attacks about how insufficient I am. It doesn't matter the book. This is true for my friends' novels, for bestsellers, for indies, for debuts across genres and age groups.

It's really annoying.

I actually remember the exact moment this became an issue for me. It was the summer of 2011, and I was at a writer's retreat with a bunch of friends. We'd done this retreat two years prior, and in 2009 we had these story times where we'd read from our WIPs for fun. It was my favorite part in 2009…in 2011, something changed.

I don't know what it was. I mean, in 2011 I had sold my first two novels. I was going to be a published author like I had dreamed about for so long. I was recovering from the intense panic attacks of fall 2010 pretty well. Or so I thought.

But as we began story time, as I listened to my closest friends read their awesome stories…I grew horribly self-conscious. To the point that I really didn't want to read my WIP at all. Awful thoughts blossomed in my head: "Your stories aren't that good. Their stories are all better than yours. Why are you even getting published? You suck in comparison to your friends and now everyone will be able to read your book and know that. Your friends must pity you and aren't telling you how much lower and suckier you are. You're really pathetic."

My head is not a nice place to be sometimes. Lots of the time, I guess. Thank you, social anxiety.

I bought into these negative thoughts at the time, though I didn't realize it then. I let them sink in deep—I know this because three years later I STILL feel like that whenever I pick up a book to read. First, I started avoiding the books everyone said were amazing, because I knew I would be crippled in my writing for weeks if I read them (which I couldn't afford when I was on deadline). Then it spread to books by my favorite authors. While I knew I'd love them, I also knew they'd make me feel completely lacking. So I stopped reading those. After that I started to avoid almost everything—debuts, books people criticized, indies, out of genre—I would just get so worked up and full of anxiety it wasn't worth it.

It got so bad I had to stop critting for many of my friends, because I would read their work and cry and panic because it was just so good and I would never measure up. Then I began to worry that they would HATE ME for not critting for them when they always helped me so much. So now I'm in this horrible cycle of having anxiety over books to the point I can't read, but then also having anxiety about people finding out I'm an author who can't read and also worrying my friends will hate me… *sigh*

This whole not-reading-because-it-hurts thing has been like my dirty little secret. I suppose I'm writing about it today because usually the first step to healing is acknowledging a problem. So here I am. Acknowledging.

I feel like this is one of my last hurdles in my long road to getting better. My heart is racing just typing this, just thinking about trying to fix it. But I miss books. I miss being able to enjoy reading—or at least not feeling like I suck when I read other authors' books. I miss the worlds of my favorite authors, where I used to find comfort but have now avoided because of my own insecurities.

I don't really know how to fix this weird problem of mine. But more and more I am getting the feeling there's only one way: To READ. To read until I don't feel like that anymore. To face the books I know I will love but will also make me feel like I shouldn't be writing.

It's ridiculous how scared I am.

But I'm going to try. I'm starting this weekend with a HUGE book from an author I practically idolize. I'm afraid I will never write again after because I'll be a puddle of "why do I suck so much?" But I'm going to do it anyway. Because I can't keep going like this, avoiding my fears.

Wish me luck.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some Ninja Sekrits

Actual ninja sekrit: It's said they often wore a
deep blue because black was too dark and
stood out in shadow. There is conjecture that
they also had a white inner liner for their gi, in
case it snowed.
I keep telling people in person when they ask, so I figure I may as well TELL THE WHOLE INTERNET and get it over with.

RELAX, I'M A NINJA is actually the first in a trilogy.

Tosh's story was always meant to be a series from the second I started writing it, and since I'm in charge of these books in their entirety I decided why not? I'm writing the series I wanted to write. Regardless of how well they sell. Regardless of a vast or small readership. These books are MINE. For me. This is my one corner of control in an uncontrollable business.

So yeah, SEQUELS. They are happening. In fact, they are happening very soon.

The second book is in edits with my awesome editor Diane Dalton. I spent the winter and spring writing it amidst all those other books coming out. It has a cover designed by the awesome MDA Books. A cover I think tops the first (sorry I'm totally not showing you cuz I'm mean).

So when is it coming out? Well, I'm not gonna tell you an exact date. I like surprises. I'm sure YOU like surprises. It'll be like getting a birthday present on a random day. A…ninja present, you could say. And what better present is there?

Friday, June 20, 2014

"No One Will Care If You Stop Writing"

This week I got the chance to teach at Writers & Illustrators For Young Readers, and while I was there I was able to catch a pretty awesome talk given by guest agent, John M. Cusick. He said gobs of smart things, but the one that stuck with me was this:

"Truth is, no one will care if you stop writing."

He went on to explain that you, the author, will always care more than anyone else if you're writing or not writing. That's just how it is, and that's okay.

This might sound a little depressing to some people. And you know what? I've been struggling with this fear lately—that no one cares about whether or not I keep writing, that no one really cares about the stuff I have written, that my words will just fade into black as time marches on. I think I've been so afraid of it because, well, it's likely true. If I stop writing, a few people might be sad for a second, and then they will find new authors to love and life will go on.

I don't have to keep doing this. I really don't.

So why do I?

When it's hard and I make little profit and I feel silly or whatever…why do I keep writing when I don't have to and no one really cares?

As John was up there talking about this, saying these things that were so very true, an undeniable sense of freedom suddenly came over me. I'd been so afraid of these thoughts, and it was so comforting to hear someone else say them and give them context.

In that moment I realized that, while writing isn't always pretty, I must still love it. That is the only real reason I have to keep doing this thing. Because I care. I care A LOT about my own writing. I FREAKING CARE.

I've been spending a lot of time trying not to care, guys. Because writers are supposed to be tough and take criticism and treat this career like a job and gosh-stop-caring-about-those-rejections. But when I know "no one else cares as much as I care," I realize I am fine just the way I am—doing all the caring about my own work. If I don't love what I do, then there's no point, right?

So today I'm loving my work. And I'm okay with being the only one who care if I keep writing. It's liberating in a way—it takes me back to a time when I wasn't on social media and I didn't know a single writer and I'd never been to a book signing or conference and didn't even know what an agent was. Back then it was just me and the page. I thought after 8 years that had changed, but this week I figured out that the rest was all an illusion.

It's still me and the page. It always will be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Epic Summer Giveaway! All My Books + Swag!

You know you want these.
Ah, the summer. No school, all my kids home, having to run a church girls camp program, plus deadlines on FISH OUT OF WATER and some other projects looming…I sure know how to do peaceful summer, right?

Okay, not really. But I hope you guys are going to have a great summer full of relaxing pool/beach side and reading all the book you couldn't otherwise get to. Like, say, MY books, maybe.

It's been a LONG time since I've done a giveaway, so I figure I go big. See all those books of mine? Well, you could win signed copies of ALL OF THEM (plus swag like bookmarks and charms). It's a simple rafflecopter entry, so what are you waiting for? Enter! Possibly win!

If you had a yearbook, I'd totally sign it "Have a great summer!" Because how could you not after winning a prize like this? a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

FISH OUT OF WATER—A Book Thing!

I'm very, very excited to finally announce that I have sold another book! I'm sure you are all like, "Wait, didn't we just do this? Didn't you publish three books this year or something to that insanity?" Yes, yes I did. Sorry about that—I know it's difficult to keep track of what I'm doing. Hell, I can't even keep track of it all!

But here's the bit from Publisher's Marketplace:

Natalie Whipple's FISH OUT OF WATER, in which a girl's perfect summer is ruined by the appearance of her estranged grandmother with Alzheimer's, to Sara O’Connor at Hot Key Books, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown (British Commonwealth). 

*happy dance*

Now, that's not a ton of info about the book, so I will take the liberty to elaborate here. FISH is a YA contemporary novel, which is a serious love of mine genre-wise. I have always dreamed of publishing in the contemporary genre, constantly felt not good enough to do so, and yet hoped maybe I would get a chance one day. And here it is! Happening and stuff!

FISH is also maybe a little more *mature* than my paranormal novels. I only say this because I know I have some younger readers and those with sensitive moral standards (yes, I'm talking to the Mormons). While I could never get seriously graphic, I do want to say there is *gasp* sex in this novel. I feel it is in good taste and necessary to the story. Otherwise I wouldn't write it. This is the official disclaimer. Consider yourselves informed.

Also, you may have noticed in the PM announcement that the rights have been sold for the British Commonwealth. Yes, this DOES mean it has NOT sold in America. Yet. I am eternally hopeful that it will find a home in the US, but as of right now this book won't be available in my home country.

With those pieces of info out of the way, here is a longer description of FISH OUT OF WATER:

Mika Arlington was supposed to spend the summer after her junior year shadowing her marine biologist parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but when her estranged grandmother randomly shows up on the doorstep one day, those plans are derailed. Because Grandma Betty isn't here to play nice—she is cranky, intolerant of Mika's mixed-race-couple parents, and oh yeah she has Alzheimer's and is out of money.  
While Mika's family would rather not deal with Grandma Betty, they don't have much choice. And despite Mika's protests, she is roped into caring for a person that seems impossible to have compassion for. And if that wasn't hard enough, Mika must train the new guy at her pet shop job who wants to be anywhere else, and help a friend through her own family crisis. Something's gotta a give, but whichever ball Mika drops means losing someone she loves. 
Not exactly a recipe for Best Summer Ever—or is it?

I'm not gonna lie, I really love this book. It comes from many personal places, as much of my work does. I've talked about how HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW is deeply inspired by my Grandma Dorothy. Well, the truth is, FISH OUT OF WATER is strongly inspired by my other grandmother.

While she didn't have Alzheimer's, my father's mother was a person I loved, but also struggled to understand. She was the kind of person who was all honey to your face, but angry and resentful the second you left. She "didn't approve" of a lot of things, like my father converting to Mormonism and my uncle marrying outside his race. She even went so far as to make these things clear on her death bed. And that has stuck with me—that some of her last words to my father and uncle were not "I love you" or "I'm proud of you," but instead "I never, ever liked what you chose in your life."

I suppose FISH is my way of working this out for myself, in exploring the idea of family, of how you can love someone and still pretty much know they're not a great person. It's about accepting others' flaws—accepting your own.

It's also about good curry, sand sculpture, cute boys who make golf look cool, and goldfish. LOTS of goldfish.

So if you're down for a book like that, FISH OUT OF WATER is for you. And you don't even have to wait very long! It'll be released FEBRUARY 5th, 2015. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Do You Make Ideas Into A Book?

Every author knows the most-asked question at an event is: "Where do you get your ideas?"

Some people really hate this question. Others joke about it. Some just plain don't have an answer that is really helpful (it's a very hard question to answer). I'm a newbie who doesn't have the money to tour myself much, so I suppose I haven't heard it enough to be tired of it. I still find the question—and its frequency of being asked—really fascinating.

There was a time in my writing life that I believed if I just had the right idea, I could be published. I actually thought that my writing didn't even have to be very good—if I just had that idea that would make everyone fall in love with me regardless of how I put words together.

I have a feeling this way of thinking was not just my own, but many other aspiring writers as well. And our culture in general seems to put a lot of emphasis and wonder on the concept of getting "brilliant ideas," be they inventions, songs, movies, paintings, or books. That strange moment when a human being becomes almost godlike and creates something that touches others or makes their lives easier…it's as if we all wish to have that little piece of magic in our lives.

So I don't begrudge any person who asks me that question, who wants so badly to have their own piece of the wonder that is creativity. It's one of the most fulfilling things in my life.

I wish I could tell you where your Well Of Ideas resides, but today I want to answer the question I think might be even BETTER than the one that's always asked:

How Do You Make Ideas Into A Book?

I think that's what many people are really wanting to ask, but they might not yet have the thought to ask it. Because we get ideas all the time—all people do. Storytellers just train themselves to USE those ideas in a specific way. I'm really hoping I can translate it for you today. I may be wrong, because I can only speak from my experience, but this is my attempt to explain how my brain takes an idea and turns it into a story.

1. Training Your Brain To FIND Ideas
As I said before, I really believe all people have lots of ideas. But maybe not all people know how to use them or even realize they are having them. I remember when I was a teen writer—this idea generating did seem like a tough thing! I didn't know which ideas were good and which were bad (okay I still struggle with that sometimes). I didn't know what to DO when I had an idea I liked, where I was supposed to start.

Two things to train your brain: Study and Imitate

Looking back, I loved stories from an early age. It didn't matter the form for me. I took in story from animation (both American and Japanese), books, comics, movies. This is an essential part of being a storyteller—studying the greats. If you want to write, you've heard it many times before, you need to read.

And then comes imitation. All the stories I first tried to write were loosely based on other stories I loved. One was Sailor Moon-esque. Another had The Giver written all over it. Another was very femme fatale, probably a spawn of my fondness of action movies. Basically, I was imitating what I loved.

Which is a GOOD thing. Writers tend to freak out over imitation, but I truly believe it is a very important part of the creative process. In other creative pursuits, it's super super normal for imitation to take place. A piano player doesn't start out writing their own music—they learn the basics and play the songs of masters first. An artist doesn't start out executing perfect work—they copy styles and learn art history and then they begin to innovate.

Writing is the same. Don't be afraid to imitate (just don't try to publish something you know is an imitation). In imitating something you know is good, you learn. You see new things. You may even get new ideas of your very own.

My bet is you will start to get a lot of ideas, because storytellers definitely love to tell their own stories more than they like to tell others. We're selfish like that. I have always gotten more excited over my own work than that of others. (Which is also why I encourage aspiring writers not to be too afraid of their ideas being stolen—fact is, most writers won't think your ideas are better than their own.)

2. Practicing Curiosity To See MORE In An Idea
I think many people outside of storytelling, or those just dipping their toes in, envision ideas floating down to a writer from the nether fully formed. In reality, it's a lot more like this awesome tumblr graphic I saw a couple weeks ago:

Via BethanyHagen on Tumblr.
I have thought about this image since I saw it, because it is SO TRUE. Getting ideas is much more like getting a series of puzzle pieces and then being tasked with figuring out how they fit together. Sometimes it can take a long time for them all to fit, too. Or you'll get a key piece for a story, but not another for several years—and then suddenly it all clicks just when you thought that story piece was a lost cause.

You gotta turn into a relentless interrogator when it comes to getting a story out of your ideas. Those elementary school questions? Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Yes, those are super useful! I totally go back to that in a way. But then you start to learn even better questions to ask.

If you get an idea for a character: What do they want more than anything and why can't they get it? What are they most afraid of? What would break them in two? What would make them happy? (And then you ruin their life—because stories are ultimately studies in conflict.)

If you get an idea for a world: How is this place different from our world? Who lives there? What do they believe? Fight for? Run from? What would ruin this world? What would make it better?

If you get an idea for a scene: Why is it happening? What happened before? What happens after? Who will lose the most in this scene? Who will gain the most? Why does it matter to the story?

The more questions you can ask, the more story you'll start to get. That's where, for me, it gets really exciting. I love trying to solve the puzzle, even though sometimes it can be frustrating it's always interesting and rewarding. This is what keeps me coming back to writing, because there are endless puzzle pieces and they never go together the same way twice.

3. Executing Your Ideas The Way You Envision
Every writer can tell you this is actually the hardest part of writing. You can see these amazing stories in your head, and often your words on the page fall short of them (or almost all the time, alas). Writing is the art of using words to paint a picture, and it takes practice.

So study your craft, be it through reading or taking classes or surfing the net for the best advice you can find. Study, study, study. Never stop trying to execute better. Because the more you focus on how you execute your ideas, the more you will learn that is the true challenge. The ideas are wonderful and magical, but they can't shine without you putting in the work to be a good writer.

The more you learn to execute, the more you will understand how to manipulate your ideas. At that point, ideas will feel endless and you'll never really have to worry about how to get them again. Because you'll discover they were with you all along.