Friday, August 31, 2012

Anxiety: Yes, I am a "crazy" person.

I can't remember if it was my fourth or fifth birthday, but I vividly recall everyone at my party circling around our kitchen table to sing happy birthday to me. This distinct sense of terror came over me as all eyes locked on me. My face started to heat up. My heart began to pound. As everyone started to sing, I began to cry.

I didn't know why, but all that attention was scary and I didn't want it and I began to scream, "Stop singing to me! Stop singing to me!" Well, I was a little kid, so everyone just laughed at how silly I was being. Inside, those laughs made it all worse. I was so, so embarrassed and upset. I wanted to run away from all those eyes, all that attention.

Looking back, I know that was anxiety.

For a long time I didn't have the right words for what I've experienced my whole life. Or maybe I just didn't want to admit that I had a problem because that would have made me a "crazy" person. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, that people who seek treatment often feel guilty or ashamed or both. I know I did for a very long time.

So instead of treating my anxiety, I let it rule my life. I just didn't do things that triggered my anxiety. As a teenager and college student, that meant I didn't date much because I was afraid to touch people or afraid that they would touch me. I didn't go to dances, because the thought of moving my body in public and people seeing that? Yeah, I'm getting anxious just thinking about it, even now. When people invited me to go skiing or boating or something as simple as going to a foreign house, I would find excuses to stay home so I wouldn't have to get nervous about doing something new. And anything that even resembled a competition? No way. Losing, failing, coming in second...the anxiety of competition, of losing, was way too much to handle. I'm still a really sore loser.

Basically, I didn't really live my life how I wished to live it. I lived it avoiding all the things that scared me. And I had a nice quiet life, dreaming instead of doing.

Then I saw this quote by Henry David Thoreau while, curiously enough, buying books at Barnes & Noble. It simply said: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Yes, exclamation mark. And those words struck me to the core—I had so very many dreams, and I'd never really chased any of them. Oh, I wanted to, but I was always too scared to.

That's when I decided to change things.

The anxiety never went away, but I started doing things anyway. I did start dating (and got married). I did start writing. I did start exercising and moving in public. I fought to do things I wanted, and you know what? The anxiety got worse.

Maybe you thought this would be a happy story. It is and it isn't. The truth is, the more I have gone for my dreams, the more anxious I've become. I've had to get out there in ways that leave me panicked and crying and gasping for breath—it all came to a head in 2010, when I was having panic attacks every day for months just for trying to live my life and DO things "normal" people find simple.

I went on anxiety medication for the first time in my life. And it felt like giving up, admitting I was weak and lesser and incapable. At least until the medication began to work, and I saw for the first time how it must be to be "normal." I realized just how anxious I'd become, just how dysfunctional. And I also realized that people who think I'm weak are the crazy ones, because I had to fight three times as hard just to live my life without totally losing it. I learned that my brain really was sick, and I didn't have to keep it that way.

I mean, do people look down on diabetics for taking insulin? Do they say, "Suck it up, you don't need meds—just deal."? No, because a diabetic can't function without insulin. Sure there are types of sugar issues that can be dealt with sans insulin. I'm hypoglycemic, for example. I control my sugar through diet. Right now, I'm lucky I can still do this. I've had diabetes while pregnant, and in all likelihood I will at some point develop Type 2 diabetes when I get older. If I eventually have to take insulin, I really hope people out there won't shake their heads and think, "She copped out. Sad."

Well, anxiety is much the same. There is a level of anxiety that can be controlled without medication. But there is also a line where medication does become necessary, where your brain is just not working right and you can't fix it no matter how hard you try.

This is where I am again, after having had my baby. I have a good life. I am generally happy and things are going well for me in general. So why do I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart racing with panic so crushing I can't breathe and sleep becomes totally impossible? Why do I go through my day on the verge of crying because everything seems so hard and overwhelming? Well, it's because my brain is letting off the panic signal when it shouldn't, and for no reason that I can tell. It's incredibly frustrating to feel this, to tell yourself you have absolutely nothing to be afraid about, and not be able to turn off that panic signal. I know I'm be irrational, and I try to stop and can't. It's a helpless feeling.

So yeah, I just jumped back on medication. And I'm talking about this because I'm not ashamed anymore and I don't want others who struggle with mental stuff to feel like they have to hide or "tough it out." You have every right to get help, to live your life like "normal" people do. Every day doesn't have to be a battle—it can be a joy. Don't let "shame" or "guilt" take that away from you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All Day Q&A!

It's time once again for my one regular feature! Today I answer your questions! I will answer them as soon as I can after you post them, and all questions asked before midnight Mountain Time will be answered. You may ask anything you'd like—I will give you my best possible answer in comments. ALSO, you may ask as many questions as you want. Some people in the past have felt bad for asking more than one. Don't! Today is YOUR day.

Monday, August 20, 2012


So it turns out this is the point where it starts to feel kind of real for me. There's something about that little HarperTeen graphic at the bottom of the page that makes me go, "Oh for SERIOUS? This is like actually happening and not just being imagined in my brain?"

For those of you who may not know, first pass pages are actually like the LAST time you have a chance to make changes to your book. I know, confusing name, but this is IT, guys. I am one read away from my book being done.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Post-Draft Summary: Soulthief

I just showered for the first time since...Monday. Yup, this is what happens when you decide to finish a draft in a week. People always ask how I write with kids, and that is my answer: live in squalor. My house is post-apocalyptal, I'm disgusting, my kids have been living on Pop Tarts and Netflix. Mom of the year right here!

But I finished writing a book! It's been like 15 months since I last did that—far too long. I am smiling like a fool, even if the book is a wild mess of a draft. It's written, which means it can only get better from this point on.

So, as is kind of my tradition, I present you with post-draft stats!

Working Title: Soulthief

Horrible Summary: After being murdered at sixteen, Sonnie Martinez reaps souls for Death, which is a dangerous job when Paladins lead a crusade to "purify" any spirit they find. But dangerous becomes downright deadly when a mysterious new threat descends upon the living realm. Sonnie must use her budding powers to form a shaky alliance between the Reapers and Paladins, but even that might not save her from a destiny Fate himself can't change. Or something.

# of Chapters: 37

# of Pages: 238

# of Words: 62, 805 (Yay short! Room to grow!)

Started: October 2011

Finished: August 2012 (About 4-5 months of work, several other months of being afraid of it)

Most prominent food item: Pizza

Favorite Character: Cedric, mmm, Cedric

Favorite Scene: Like I'd ruin it for you, but it's TWISTY.

And that's about it! On to the next project in my 6-week work marathon! Once it shows up in the mail, at least.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Excuse Me While I Go Fall Off The Face Of The Earth

I'm gonna keep this short because I really don't have time to blather on. Time? Precious commodity up in here. Because I have six weeks—SIX WEEKS—to do the following things:

• Finish my WIP
• Write TRANSPARENT dedication and acknowledgments
• Edit first pass pages (layout pages) of TRANSPARENT
• Edit HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW based on Editor Erica's lovely letter

Imagine me laugh-crying, because that's what I'm doing this Monday morning.

BUT, before I go, I have a little bit of Super Awesome News I am able to share! It's kind of random and also bittersweet, but I'm so excited to finally be able to say that Ginger Clark is now my agent! Anna, because of really good things happening in her life, has had to leave Curtis Brown. I am so thankful to her and will miss her, being the agent who sold my first novel, but I'm also freaking lucky to be in Ginger's very capable hands. She is awesome and I'm still a little star struck and super grateful she's taken me on. Curtis Brown has taken such good care of me!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have A LOT of work to get done. The blogging will be sparse. Unless, of course, I'm looking for ways to procrastinate.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Are You Tired Of Me Yet?"

Back when my husband and I started dating, I was rather surprised about how well it went. I was seriously bad at dating—awkward, shy, average-looking, and, honestly, a little scared of the whole going-out-with-a-boy thing. It was difficult for me to believe anyone would want to spend time with me of their own free will.

This sounds rather sad, I know. But then I met Nick, and everything was easy and wonderful and as the months passed I just couldn't believe he still wanted to be with me.

I would constantly ask him, "Aren't you tired of me?" Or "You're not tired of me yet?" And even "I just cannot believe you're not sick of me yet."

One night, we took a walk around the local park. It was still warm from the hot summer day, and gnats swarmed us every time we walked under a lamp post. But this didn't seem to deter us, since giving into the bugs meant going home and going home meant not being together until the next day. Ah, love.

I don't remember what we were talking about, but, as had become my habit, I ended up asking some version of "Are you tired of me yet?"

My husband isn't easily ruffled. He's probably one of the calmest people I know and rarely ever gets upset with me. This was the first time in our relationship that I actually saw a little bit of frustration in him, and he said, "Will you quit asking me that? I'm not, and I don't plan on being tired of you anytime soon."

*pauses to swoon*

Isn't he the best?

Well, I stopped asking. But eight years later, sometimes I still can't believe he's not tired of me yet! My husband taught me a really important lesson that night: I was letting my insecurity get in the way of something wonderful. And I hate to admit that I still do that sometimes, especially in my writing.

Sometimes I still have that urge to ask my crit partners, my agent, my editor, "Are you tired of me yet?" I still have this fear that my book deal was some kind of fluke, that I've not lived up to expectation, and that, worst of all, people just don't like me but won't own up to it. How sad is that? And rude, too, since if I really believe that I'm essentially accusing all the people I know of being big fat liars. Which they aren't. And I shouldn't project my issues on them.

I've learned not to believe these lies my brain tells me, but at times this insecurity still impacts the way I act and work. It makes me reluctant to write. It makes me question the merit of my work. And it stops me from having fun, which is probably the worst tragedy. Writing can be so fun—I hate when I make it an ordeal.

I guess I'm mostly writing this post for myself, as a reminder to stop with the "Are you tired of me yet?" and to just enjoy my work. Doubt can be so crippling in a creative profession, and I really don't have time to cripple myself and angst. I have a book to finish. And edits to do. I'm determined to approach both with confidence.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Impending Edits Checklist

I cannot believe it's already time for the HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW editorial letter! Seriously, where has the time gone? (Oh yeah, Dread Pirate Baby ate it all. And he's still hungry.) No matter how many editorial letters I get—whether from crit partners, agent, or editor—I still have the same reaction. It goes a little bit like this:

1. Complete and utter panic.
2. Crying. (YES. I cry. Every time. Even when it's not that bad.)
3. Frantic planning.
4. Frantic emails to editor for clarification and approval of plans.
5. More panic over starting.
6. Eventual acceptance that it's not so bad.
7. Much enjoyment of smiley faces throughout MS.

Since I know that I can't seem to change my reaction to edits, this time I've decided just to prepare for what I know I'll do. This is the list I created for your entertainment:

❑ Get dark chocolate. Lots of it.

❑ Warn husband that I will be a weepy mess for at least two days, poor guy.

❑ Buy new iPod game for Dino Boy and Ninja Girl, so they can be distracted while I obsess.

❑ Finish TAKEN by Erin Bowman because it's awesome and I can't read while I edit because I compare too much.

❑ Acquire Diet Mt. Dew Code Red for impending long nights with MS.

❑ Notify everyone in my life that I will be a cranky sleep-deprived hermit for a month and it's not their fault. I still love them.

❑ Beg family and friends for extra babysitting time.

❑ Swear off watching Korean Dramas in obsessive, week-long marathons (Oh man, that's gonna be really hard.)

❑ Stock kitchen with easy-to-make food so I don't have to waste time cooking. Also, make a giant pot of curry to feed husband for at least a week.

❑ Stake out my favorite desk at the library, why yes, it's the secluded one in the corner of the YA section DO NOT TOUCH IT OR YOU DIE.

❑ Say goodbye to the WIP. (Sniff, I'll miss you, ugly little first draft.)

❑ Find awesome scented highlighters Mom bought me in New Zealand (She totally knows how to pick good gifts, guys.).

❑ Clean whole house so it won't be so bad after I'm done (Oh, who am I kidding? So not happening.).

Well, guys, I better get to work prepping.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Publishing Pipeline

One thing I didn't really know much about before I sold my book was the actual timeline TRANSPARENT would follow post-book deal. And I think not understanding that process can make it way more stressful than it needs to be, so today I wanted to share a little bit about what it's like to go through the Publishing Pipeline, as I now affectionately call it.

(Extra disclaimer: Every publishing house is different. Like, for reals. I give some information here that may not be the same for every author—they are examples from my own experience at HarperTeen.)

1. Get In Line
When you first sell, there's usually a big GAP of time wherein you're just...waiting. Yup, the waiting never goes away. This isn't because your publisher/editor doesn't care about your book—they just have a queue, essentially. That queue is based on the season in which a book comes out, so the new sales get put in line.

For example, TRANSPARENT was slotted as a Summer 2013 novel, but it sold in May of 2011. That means there were like five seasons of books before mine debuted (now we're down to two, ack), and all those other books have to come before mine.

I say this because it's easy, while in the process, to feel like you are being neglected or that maybe you aren't important when that is absolutely not true. If you are on a regular publishing schedule (18 months to 2 years out from sale), there is just a little bit of lag time is all. It's completely normal. It gives you and your editor plenty of time to edit and prepare for debut.

2. Understanding The Order Of Work
Publishers don't just start designing your cover the second you sell. There is an order to things. And guess what it starts with? Yup, edits. Depending on your debut season, your edits could come within a few weeks or a few months (mine was about 3 months from sale). The first Editorial Letter will likely be a lot of substantial changes. You might be rewriting scenes, cutting, adding new stuff, changing characters/plots, etc. The next edit is what they call a Line Edit, which is more on a sentence level, making sure the prose is tight and everything makes sense. Then there is Copy Edit, which is focused on grammar and punctuation. It's also your last real chance to make bigger changes.

Once you finish Copy Edits, the book is "approved" for layout. This is when it usually goes to design as well (sometimes sooner depending on how you're meeting your deadlines). Only after all that editing do you start to see the exciting stuff like cover comps (early mockups).

3. Knowing Your Seasons
Every publisher has their own seasons. For HarperCollins, they work in three seasons: Winter (mid-December to mid-April), Summer (mid-April to mid-August), and Fall (mid-August to mid-December). Pretty much everything revolves around this schedule—when you get edits, when you see a cover comp, when you ask for blurbs, when you can reveal your cover, when you get galleys, etc.

So if you're a Summer 2013 like me, it's really silly to get jealous over Fall 2012 cover reveals, for example. They all go in cycles, and if you pay attention, you'll notice that a large group of authors always reveal stuff at the same time because they are all in the same season. (This is good to know if you are sensitive to news online, because certain things always happen around the same time of year.)

4. The Catalogue
Much revolves around The Catalogue. I don't know a ton about The Catalogue yet, except that is where a publisher showcases all their novels for a season. I believe it goes out to book buyers and is majorly important because of that. The Catalogue comes out in, you guessed it, seasons! One catalogue for each. The Catalogue also goes out about two seasons in advance—so the Summer 2013 catalogue will be out this Fall 2012. The Winter 2013 catalogue just came out this Summer 2012.

The Catalogue marks all the fun, shiny marketing type things in a book's life. Just before The Catalogue comes out is usually when authors are allowed to reveal covers (usually a week before), for example. It's also when ARCs start being sent out (just after The Catalogue goes out). It's often when blurbs are acquired. This is also when reviews start coming in, and authors might get nervous and panicky and hide in holes from the online world. Also, contests start, and bigger promotion pushes begin in general.

5. Other Random, Useful Info
• Authors get ARCs first. People tend to think when authors get their ARCs that the publisher is sending ARCs everywhere, but that isn't the case. There is some lag time usually, an order that they send them out (which likely differs a little for each publisher).

• Blurbing attempts happen at two separate times—pre-ARC in attempts to get blurbs for the ARC, and also post-ARC in hopes to get more for the novel. So if you don't get any pre-ARC isn't not over.

• Publishers often release more ARCs closer to a novel's release date because if reviews and buzz are too far out, people often forget about the book by release date. So if you see early ARCs they usually come from trade shows or a very small, early mailing.

• Release dates are tentative for a long time. Authors aren't trying to be cryptic—they just really don't have official information for a long time. Usually not until The Catalogue and sometimes after that.

• Authors only get a set amount of ARCs or published copies of their novel. They cannot request as many as they want, and the amount varies based on publisher. I've seen anywhere from one copy to fifteen.

That's about all I can think of now, but if any other published authors want to offer up extra info in comments, feel free! Now that I'm more comfortable with the Publishing Pipeline, it's taken a lot of the stress out of the process. And it's helped me stay calmer online when the deluge of announcements happens each season. It's easier to keep myself from comparing when I remember that every author has to wait for their season, and it's not everyone else "beating me to it."