Monday, December 30, 2013

All The Advice In The World

I wanted to do some thoughtful post about my debut year and maybe list some advice for those who will debut in the future. That sounds like the right kind of post for a day so close to the end of 2013. But as I've been trying to think about what to say, it was all coming off false for me.

Because when it comes to debuting, the thing is you will read a TON of advice…

…and you will ignore most of it.

Every author will tell you to avoid reading reviews, and you will still look at reviews. Every author will tell you not to check your Amazon rank, and you will still take a look. Every author will tell you to write the next book, and you will still struggle to do it because there is a new kind of pressure you have to deal with.

You'll be warned about how crazy you'll get two months prior to release, how every person you know will ask "how's your book doing?", how submissions will still be terrifying, how it'll be hard not to compare yourself to every other author who's getting more or less than you—and you probably won't quite get it or believe it until it happens. And even if you do believe it, you'll experience it in an entirely personal way.

It's like any big life change. You can study and prepare and plan to your heart's content, but that's not the same as actually experiencing it. There are some things you can't predict, and one of those is how you'll react to it all. You just have to go through it, plain and simple.

So I guess today I don't want to offer advice to those debuting in 2014 or even after that. What I want to offer you is a big hug, a few cupcakes, and a very sincere "Yes, I know it's hard, but you'll be okay."

Because it's scary. It's new. It's wonderful. All rolled into one.

You are allowed to feel how you feel, and only you will be able to work through all the ups and downs that come with debuting. There will be days when you get burned and days where jealousy will rule and days when you feel like you can fly it's so wonderful. So hang in there, and remember your dream is coming true, even if it sometimes doesn't look so much like a dream. That's just what it is, only it's become a reality now.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You Never Know...

Life is a fascinating thing. Looking back at myself eight years ago, when I was just out of college and working on my first book, I could have never guessed how this publishing journey of mine would have turned out.

I especially never would have dreamed of meeting so many amazing people along the way.

And this is what I want to talk about today—the people thing. The thing is, you never know how things will be in the future. You never know if the person you're talking to will someday cross your path again in a new way. Publishing is a small world, so this is something you really have to think about. I want to give you a few examples.

Person #1
My best friend started querying about the same time as I did, and we clicked and bonded over our similar circumstances and writing processes. We knew no one in publishing save a few other aspiring writers. We were, by all counts and measures, on equal ground. Then my friend got an agent about a year before I did, she sold at auction, and her first book hit the bestseller list before I even sold. By the time my first book came out, her fourth was on shelves.

There was no way we could have seen that coming, and it was exciting (and sometimes jealousy inducing) to watch. I didn't make friends with her because I could see the future and knew there would be success—I just liked her and I still do.

Person #2
There was an agent I always thought was cool, but I never thought I was cool enough to be her client. If that makes sense. I would pretty much query every other agent at her agency, but never her because I was scared she'd say no and that was something I wasn't sure I could handle from her. Because she was cool and honest and if she didn't like it then it probably really did suck.

I ended up signing with an agent at her agency. And when my agent left the business, I was lucky enough to sign with yet another agent at that agency. That agent sold my first book and it was awesome. And THEN my agent left yet again, and the Cool Honest Agent I'd always eyed asked to take me on.

I almost died. I couldn't believe it. But I'm so happy to have been at this agency that has taken such good care of me through all the changes. I would have never imagined working with this agent I admire so much, and yet here I am.

Person #3
Thanks to a contest I won, I met a guy who wrote pirate fantasy in contrast to my ninja paranormal. This joke turned into a bit of a friendship, and we read a few things for each other and have been supporting each other ever since. While I've gone on to publish, he has yet to (but it WILL happen!).

I knew this guy used to write video games, but I never would have imagined I'd get an opportunity to work with him on one because of that. He's now kind of my boss, and it's awesome to see him rocking this project. It's also awesome to be part of it—once again, it's something I never would have seen coming.

**

I could list a bunch more examples, but I think I'll stop there because the point has been made. Basically, you just never know what will happen not only to you, but to the people you meet along the way. You never know who you will meet, interact with, go on tour with, sit on a panel with, etc. Chances are, you will cross paths that both make you smile and make you cringe based on past behavior.

So this is the part where I put out a general BE NICE statement. Don't be nice because it could get you somewhere, but because you will always feel better about it. Truth is, writers gossip. A lot. I will admit to doing it and feeling AWFUL about it after, and that awfulness carries to when I've ultimately met some of those people and had this pit in my stomach as I realize they know people I know and did word get to them about what I said? And worse—those authors are always lovely people who didn't deserve a word of what I said or what I'd heard from others.

I can't take stuff back now, but I hope I can be forgiven and I try to stay away from that impulse we all have to be envious and say things we shouldn't because we don't actually know that person. It's so easy to be ugly when competition is tough in this business, but I've learned both the good way and hard way that being nice is just…better.

Because you never know. You never know if that aspiring author "below you" will actually be hugely successful one day. You never know if that bestselling novelist will be your tour buddy in the future. You never know if that editor that scares you will be the person who shapes your book into something amazing. You never know if that self-published writer will become the person you rely on to help you self-publish your own stuff.

Publishing is oddly poetic like that. Stuff comes back around. People remember you. It's both terrifying and good. Opportunities can arise out of nowhere from it…but the opposite is also true.

So don't forget, even if you can't see what the future holds, chances are the people you know, the things you talk about, the place you aspire to be will all get wonderfully mixed up down the road. I hope it surprises you in as many good ways as possible.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

There Are 33 Ninjas On This Cover . . .

I have decided to give you an early Christmas present. Or maybe I'm giving myself an early present because I can't stand to sit on this kick butt cover any longer. So, without further chit chat:



So. Pretty awesome, right?

I have to admit I'm more nervous to show off this cover than ever before, because for the first time I had an integral role in the design. While of course I hired the fabulous Michelle Argyle (design alias is Melissa Williams Cover Design), she took her direction from me. That is a freaky place to be!

When she first asked me what I wanted, I honestly didn't have any big ideas because I was used to not thinking about it. I mean, in traditional publishing, it's just better not to get married to a cover design you imagine for your book because it WILL NOT turn out like that ever. So Michelle had to squeeze descriptors out of me, and we searched image-leasing sites, and we scoured the internet for fonts, and this is what happened.

I'm pretty proud of it.

I didn't want a cover plastered with ninja clich├ęs, but I wanted to have a ninja feel. I wanted it to be simple, but not boring. I wanted it to be hard, urban, and yet hint at some playfulness and paranormal as well. I wanted it be look plain cool, to hopefully appeal to its intended audience. Michelle did an amazing job of translating my desires into an image I'm so excited to have on the cover of my novel.

I hope you're excited, too, because I've decided this book will be coming out June 3, 2014! It works a little differently with self-pubbing—getting the novel uploaded to all the many sellers—but it will definitely be available by then at the latest.

And if you're curious as to what's inside, I have cover copy for you! So many presents!

A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did. 
When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer's identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined. 
As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

Whew. I need to take a deep breath here. I'm actually shaking as I write up this post, because I can't believe I'm really doing this. RELAX, I'M A NINJA will be a book after five years of writing, editing, failed subs, and then a long stint in the book vault—that's totally crazy to me. Even if I'm doing it on my own, without publisher "validation," this means the world to me. I have always wanted to share this story, and I hope it finds people who love it despite it being a little different.

Thanks to everyone who has been excited about this with me. No joke, you are the reason I have the courage to do this—I would have never gotten past all the publishing hurdles without you guys cheering me on.

So go forth! Share this baby all you want. It's been dying to meet the world for a long time now.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Where Can I Find Your Books?"

UPDATE: BLINSIDED is officially available on IndieBound now! Yay!

When you publish a book, there is a standard canon of questions you will now be asked constantly. I'm not sure how it happens, but I have a theory the post office sends out a pamphlet to all your contacts informing them of these questions.

There's the ever-loaded "How's your book doing?" or the even worse "Is your book doing well?" At events there's the dreaded "Where do you get your inspiration?" My favorite and most inappropriate question has been "Are you going to move?" As if I am now magically drowning in money.

But there's a more practical question that I get a lot:

"Where can I find your books?"

For the most part, I really appreciate this question because I HOPE it will lead to a sale at some point in the future. I like sales! Sales, in all practicality, make it so I can keep writing. At least I hope so. But now that BLINDSIDED is upon us, I've seen how this question can be used as yet another mark of "judgment" upon your standing as an author.

See, with TRANSPARENT I was blessed to be able to say with some confidence, "You can get my book almost anywhere that sells books, except like Walmart, Target, and Costco." It was at every major online retailer. It was featured on the Kids' Indie Next list, so it was even in many independent stores across the country.

Well, BLINDSIDED is a little different. Since it's coming from across the pond, we haven't yet gotten it into Barnes & Noble—not even online. It's also not on IndieBound, which makes me sad because I love the indies. It will likely not be on very many American shelves (much different story in UK territories, don't you fret, my UK friends!), and when I tell people that there's this face they get.

It's kinda like the pity face, but also mixed with a "Oh, this book must not be that important" face, too. Which has gotten me thinking a lot about how it might be for indie authors who say their book is only available online or, "even worse," just in ebook form. People must get this look like, "Oh, so you're not like a real author." I am prepping for this with RELAX, I'M A NINJA.

But see, the reality is that you can be with a big publisher and not make it into Barnes & Noble. You can be with a big publisher and only really have online sales to rely on. You can be with a big publisher overseas and it looks "unimportant" in your country of origin. This actually happens all the time. Like, ALL THE TIME. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. So if you are a debut stressing about this or an aspiring writer worried that no shelf placement means the end of the world, it's just not true. Especially now in the digital age.

And yet a little piece of me is still like, "Aw, poor BLINDSIDED. People won't find it as easily as TRANSPARENT." There's a bit of insecurity that I didn't expect, and that I'm honestly glad I'm facing with my second published book because I'm mostly over the debut angst.

Honestly, I'm just so glad to have BLINDSIDED out there at all (24 days! Wee!), because for years I'd tried to accept that I'd never get to write the rest of Fiona's story. The fact that it's a real book (that I wrote this year!) is kind of a miracle to me. I get to share it, even if it's not "everywhere." My gratitude to Hot Key for this chance is infinitesimal.

So with that in mind, I want to make sure you all know where you CAN buy BLINDSIDED.

You can buy it on Amazon and Book Depository (Which has free shipping! And you can also purchase the UK TRANSPARENT if you like matching sets!), if you want to purchase it online. 

If you want a SIGNED copy, please pre-order it from The King's English, which is my local awesome indie store. They are hosting my launch party (Jan 2nd @ 7PM), so if you call them (phone #: 801-484-9100) and pre-order/order I can sign that copy at my signing and they will mail it to you wherever you may live. Note that this may be one of the few ways to get a signed copy, as I will only be doing two signings for BLINDSIDED (the other is at the Oceanside B&N on Jan 23 @ 6PM). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

OUT OF TUNE!

Can that cover be more gorgeous?
I think not. And Michelle designed it herself!
Michelle and I met winter 2008, when both of out first paragraphs were finalists in Nathan Bransford's legendary 1st Paragraph Contest. Little did we know then that we not only lived very close to each other, but that we'd be come such good friends on top of it.

I've always admired Michelle's courage—she experimented with self-publishing and small press long before I decided it might be a good direction for RELAX, I'M A NINJA. Truth be told, I've always been watching her, wondering if I could put myself out there like she does, stand by my work without the "validation" of a publisher.

Her example was ultimately a big part in what gave me the push to try self-publishing, and she has been my veritable sensei as I've taken each step on that path thus far.

So of course I'm excited about her newest novel released today—OUT OF TUNE is about "tone deaf" Maggie Roads, daughter of two country stars, and her journey to find her own place in the industry she loves so much. There are hot guys and heartbreaking situations and plenty of country flair (I am not a country fan but still loved it, so don't let that stop you, either.).

If you love country or are interested in exploring a New Adult book that is more focused on character growth than the sex (though there is some sex), I highly recommend buying OUT OF TUNE. You can find more info about it here, as well as purchasing information.