Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Fat Smiley Face

My friends are usually nice about my books, but today one told me that she was still thinking about SIDEKICK. She finished it over a week ago, and she's still thinking about it.

*insert big goofy smile*

It's one thing to write a book people like, and it's another to feel like you made an impression on someone. Even if it is just her forever, I will take it. That is exactly what I hoped for SIDEKICK, and here I've already hit that goal, published or not.

Today is a good day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Have You Seen My Confidence Lately? It Ran Off. Didn't Even Leave A Note.

I feel like the suckiest writer ever born.

Notice I said "feel" and not "am." I don't want this post to turn into a complain-fest, but I've been thinking a lot about this disconnect between where our writing actually is and how we feel about it. Because, for the most part, it seems like it doesn't matter how great a writer is—they go through these phases where their self-esteem is in the gutter, and it feels like every word is rubbish.

I mean, I remember once reading about Sarah Dessen's struggles to write a book, and it was both mind-blowing and comforting that she at times felt like she sucked, too. SARAH DESSEN. She's freaking amazing. She has ten novels out. She is a bestseller. She is smart and beautiful, and when I met her earlier this year she was the most gracious and graceful person. (If it's not clear yet, I kind of idolize her.) How could she think her writing was anything but incredible?

I'm not sure I have the answer to that question. Personally, I have less confidence in my writing now than I did when I first started. Shouldn't it be the opposite? Why does it work that way? When I truly did suck, I thought I was awesome. But even though I know I've improved over the years, I feel like my words are...stupid. My ideas are stupid. Everything is stupid. It's completely and utterly frustrating, because I know I shouldn't feel like that but I often do.

Maybe it's all the rejections? After almost 200 query rejections and a couple dozen editor rejections, I have garnered a certain brand of humility. You figure out that how you feel about your writing doesn't necessarily reflect its merit, and that is a tough lesson. It leaves you floating, relying on others to tell you if your work is good enough. I mean, I thought every novel I wrote was good enough—and I was wrong...11 times. How can I trust my own judgment after all that?

But, well, relying on others' judgments isn't the funnest thing either. It feels GREAT when someone tells you your book is good...for about five minutes. And then the doubts creep in again, and you have to search out a new reader, a new hit. Praise becomes nothing but a shallow, counterfeit form of self-esteem. Which, of course, means that criticism becomes something far worse than it is. Instead of being helpful to improvement, it's this monster of darkness that confirms every terrible thing you think about yourself. Not. Good.

Or maybe it's my own improvement that's to blame. It's kind of a double-edged sword—becoming skilled in something—because the more you learn, the more you see how far you have to go. It's like in Hikaru no Go (Freaking AWESOME show). Hikaru has no idea just how good his friend Sai is at Go (a Japanese strategy game) because he's a complete novice, and as Hikaru grows in skill he realizes just how unskilled he is in comparison to master Sai.

I feel like that all the time these days. I have so far to go. While I must admit that I have improved a ton since I first started writing, it sometimes feels like I'm still that noob because I am only just seeing how much more road lies ahead, how much learning and growing and...failing I will be facing. Stupid failing, why does it have to be so integral to the learning process?

This insecurity rut has to be broken. I have yet to find a fool proof way of breaking it (If you have one, please let me know.), but I will take it as a good thing that now I can at least recognize it when I'm in it. I am aware that the way I'm feeling doesn't necessarily mean I'm a sucky writer. This awareness does help me press on, even if I'm not having the most fun ever.

It goes in waves. I do know that, having been through it practically every year for the last five. At least I know it will end. I just wish it would hurry up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Writers: Lime Cupcakes For Everyone!

This is my new favorite cupcake: The Lime Cupcake. A little slice of heaven, I'm telling you.

So I'm often passing out virtual cupcakes at our Happy Writers meetings, but today I thought I'd actually pass out a recipe for this lovely, perfect, and surprisingly simple cupcake. And with it I want to give some good writing advice: Have other hobbies.

Seriously. There's a lot of waiting to be had in the publishing world, and you have to fill it with something. You could fill it with angst and staring at your email inbox (guilty). Or you could spend it making cupcakes and watching Downton Abbey (also guilty). Which one is more fun? Well, I'm gonna have to go with the cupcakes. Cupcakes make EVERYTHING better.

Doing life. Just as important as writing life. If not more.

On to the recipe!

Natalie's Lime Cupcakes:


For Cupcakes:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup 2% milk (I've used 1%, too, and it's come out fine. Not sure about fat free.)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites (large eggs)
1-2 limes (or 4-8 key limes [those babies are small])
2 drops yellow food coloring
4 drops green food coloring

For Topping:
3 ounces Cream Cheese
2 ounces soft butter
2 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1 lime
Crushed graham cracker OR toasted coconut (depending on your preferences)


For Cupcakes:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners (supposed to make 24, but I usually get like 21).

• In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. In a large bowl, put in shortening, then pour in the milk and vanilla. Do NOT mix, as the milk will go everywhere.

• Add half the dry flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix, add the rest until well blended.

• Zest one whole lime into the mixture (Or two, if you want it really limey, but I like mine more I can eat more. [Plus the frosting has lime, too.]), and then cut lime and squeeze the juice into the mixture. Add the food coloring. Blend.

• Add four egg whites, beat mixture until it's fluffy with slight peaks (makes for an equally fluffy cupcake).

• Fill cupcakes 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (always 20 minutes for me, but I'm at high altitude so it could be different). Cool 10 minutes in pan, then take out to cool completely.

For Topping:
• Beat cream cheese and butter together until blended.

• Zest lime and squeeze in juice. Blend.

• One cup at a time, add the powdered sugar and blend. If it seems too runny, add more sugar until firm. Put in fridge to cook while cupcakes do.

• Crush graham crackers or toast coconut, depending on your preference.

• When cupcakes have cooled, frost them generously, then dab the cupcake in graham cracker or coconut. (If I had extra limes, I would also cut slices to put on top as decoration, if I were getting super fancy.)

And there you have it! I hope you like them if you try them, and if you don't...don't tell me! Ha. I think I'm just as nervous about sharing a recipe as I am about sharing a book! What if you don't like it? What if it's just me? IT COULD BE THE WORST CUPCAKE EVER.

But it's not. It's amazing.

I hope. *deep breath*

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monarch & Michelle

At the end of 2008, I won a contest over at the great Nathan Bransford's blog. While I am totally aware that it was just a fun, online contest, it changed my life in so many ways. It opened up the pathway that led to where I'm at now, because getting that crit from Nathan made my writing better. So much better—I knew I needed help, and NB Bootcamp (as I refer to it, which he probably doesn't know [sorry, Nathan!]) was long and hard and yet perpetually rewarding. I am so grateful for that, but I'm getting off track.

I also met a lot of people through this contest. I met Sara Raasch, one of my CPs and dearest friends, who I dragged out to Utah from Ohio I liked her so much. I met Adam Heine, whose love of airships might actually best my own (And let's not forget the ninjas! Ninjas forever.).

And I met Michelle (aka: Lady Glamis). Michelle was a finalist in the contest, and as we closely watched the voting we got to know each other and just how much we had in common. Heck, we lived TEN MINUTES away from each other! What were the chances?

It's funny how I've found more friends through the internet than I have in my entire life. Michelle and I hang out. Our kids play together. We cook together and moon over cheese and dark chocolate. She is a kindred spirit, an incredible photographer (She took my picture there on the left. She always makes me look so pretty!), and an amazing writer.

And her novel, MONARCH, is officially out this week!

Don't you love the cover? I think it's brilliant, perfect for the book.

This novel has a special place in my heart, because it was the first paragraph that brought me and Michelle together. It is SO exciting to know that paragraph is now in print for anyone to read! So if you are looking for a different kind of thriller, check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


At a family/church function:

Family Member (FM): I heard about your book deal! Congratulations!

Me: Thank you. I'm excited.

FM: You're the next Harry Potter lady.

Me: You mean J.K. Rowling? (I say this while thinking, "If you can't remember her name how in the world do you think I will be THAT famous?)

FM: Yeah! Or that one Mormon mom who wrote Twilight.

Me: Stephenie Meyer.

FM: That's the one. So when is the movie coming out?

Me: *blank stare* *bursts out laughing*

I seriously thought the ridiculous comparisons to famous writers was just a joke, but apparently not. It's strange, these moments, to remember how the average person views what I have spent so much time immersed in. Most non-publishing people think I am now rich and poised to be some international success, and when I ask them to name ten YA authors they draw a blank after two or three. I guess I could get offended, but it's just so dang funny to me. It reminds me not to take stuff too seriously.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing When You're NOT A Reader

When it comes to writing advice, you will most always hear that writers are readers, lifelong readers, even. They are the kids who spent their hours in libraries and staying up in bed with a flashlight and a book. They are people who read the classics for fun and always have a book in their bag just in case. Writers are readers—it is a relationship everyone believes in.

I am not a reader.

This is a hard thing for me to admit, honestly. As a writer who is surrounded by so many who DO read ravenously, I feel like this aspect of myself hampers my ability. I feel like maybe I will never be a good writer because I'm not that person who grew up on a mountain of books, and I still don't read as often as I think writers are expected to.

That's not to say I didn't read as a child. I enjoyed most of the assigned reading I got in school. I had a few favorites of my own—The Chronicles Of Narnia, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, The Babysitter's Club, Dune, Kon Tiki (yes, for reals I was obsessed with that book in 9th grade). But I didn't read very much, honestly. I was a picky reader. I tried many novels and gave up on them because they didn't catch my interest. I remember specifically how people kept telling me to read The Hobbit, so I picked it up and started. I didn't get past the first chapter because I was all, "I don't care about this round door with the round knob in the exact center of the door!" (Interesting, though, that I still remember that description!)

So yes, there were years where the only reading I did was for school, which seems SHAMEFUL as a writer. But it's true. I was into a lot of different things growing up—language (Japanese and French), drama (Techies rule!), music (the flute), swimming, art and more art, video games, daydreaming, and hanging out with friends—books often fell to the bottom of the list.

And yet I always loved to write. The second I learned to make words I was writing stories. I wrote a story in Kindergarten that won a county award. When I learned the 5-paragraph essay in third grade, I was so in love with the idea that I would practice writing them just for fun. I would pick a topic, write my intro, my thesis, my three paragraphs, and my conclusion. It was AWESOME. Yes, I loved writing essays! That was even my job in college. I spent junior high writing books about the characters I drew. As a child, I played outside for hours making up wild stories, scripting plays and adventures for my friends. And let's not forget the angsty teen poetry. Good. Times.

My lessons in story came from different things. It came from Anime. It came from RPGs (Final Fantasy forever!). It came from movies and TV and comics. It came from reading scripture. It came from journaling my own life, from listening to my father tell me his life stories. Because storytelling is everywhere; there is something to learn from at every turn. You have to take advantage of all sources, especially if you aren't a natural reader.

But here's where I confess that reading IS important. As much as I wish I could say you don't have to read to be a writer, I can't. When I first started seriously writing (As in with the goal to be published and not just as a hobby), I started reading more than I had in a while. It helped my writing, plain and simple. It helped me learn about my genre and its expectations. It improved my prose and taught me what my voice was because I'd heard other voices. It taught me about building strong characters and solid plots in writing as opposed to screen or drawings. So if you don't read at all, don't take this post as an excuse to continue ignoring that TBR stack. While I don't read as much as other writers, I try. I always try. Try, try, try.

I guess this post is mostly for myself, because I feel better getting this out there. It's always something I feel like I've had to hide, not being a fanatic reader. But I'm starting to think it's okay, and that I can still be a writer even if I only read like one book a month...or sometimes less. And you can still be a writer, too. You just have to take story lessons from wherever you can get them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Writers: The Power of Words

Claire Dawn blogs at Points of Claire-ification. She's a YA writer who's easily distracted by—oh, pretty butterfly!—um, where were we again? Oh yeah, Claire is currently busy compiling a list of 100 Books Every Writer Should Read. Stop by and find out how to submit your lists. (Also, I feel compelled to add that Claire lives in Japan, which makes her infinitely cooler.)

The Power of Words.

Once in Bible Study, my friends and I wondered why it is that we pray out loud. I mean, if God knows all the desires of your heart, he doesn't need for you to say them, does he?

The conclusion I reached? Humans need words!

When we are born, we have only thoughts.

"I'm hungry."
"If I bite this, it's hard."
"If I bite this, it's soft."

And then we learn to speak and our thoughts become more complex. It's a bit of a chicken and egg argument for me.

Would our thoughts be this complex if we didn't have words to express them?
Would we need words if we didn't have complex thoughts?

Whatever the arrangement, at the end of it all, we depend on words. Even when there's noone around, we solidify our thoughts with words, maybe out loud, maybe in our head. We often think in words. Only when a thought is completely sensory (the beauty of a painting, the nostalgia of the smell of homecooked tomato sauce) that we seem able to avoid words.

Isn't that ridiculous? We take the pure ideas of our thoughts and confine them into restrictive words within our own minds! And somehow this restriction makes us MORE expressive.

Words bring order to our thoughts.

And words can do other things for us.

They can help us reason. When we're trying to make important decisions, we make lists in our heads or on paper of pros and cons. The situation hasn't changed at the end of our list, but we can understand the best path more clearly.

They can comfort us. When something's wrong, it often helps to talk it out. At the end of the conversation, the sky is still falling, but we feel like we've got an umbrella now.

They can change us. When I started my blog, I started it to encompass everything I do and everything I'm interested in: Japan, music, fitness, foreign languages, travel, and writing. When I started out I was a girl who wrote. Thanks to the blog and the people I've met as a result, I am now a writer! (Thanks Marsha, Jon Paul, Natalie, Jen, Julia, Erin for inspiring me in so many ways!)

Words can give us an immense amount of power.

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!"

Really? What delusional soul told you that? Of course words can hurt!

But they can also heal. And they can convince people of an opinion, or make them doubt the ones they were raised with. They can create beautiful new worlds or expose the flaws in the current one. They can exalt or they can devastate.

Isn't cool that the tools of our trade are so amazing?

You are the wordsmith. You have the power. Word?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Setting Goals and Making Schedules

Yesterday Jessica asked if I would talk more about how I go about goals and schedules in my writing, and I thought it was a question definitely worth a whole post.

Knowing Your Personality
Before you set goals or schedules, you have to be honest with yourself about how you work. You are not going to change your skill set overnight. Your personality and strengths are likely to remain the same throughout your life, actually. So it's important to work WITH yourself, not against yourself.

Are you daunted by daily tasks or do they spur you on? Do you like BIG end goals or focusing on the little steps? Do you push yourself or are you more laid back?

Whatever way you work—it's not wrong. Just takes some figuring out.

Making Goals
I'm the type of person who can be easily overwhelmed by a BIG project. Some people can say "I will write a book in a year" and just set about doing it without much more. For me, that doesn't work. I'm a small bites kind of person, a day by day worker. If the goal is too big and too far out, I end up procrastinating and not finishing, maybe even giving up.

Especially when I'm working to get out of a slump, I set very small, accomplishable goals. They're always something I know I can meet even in the busiest of times. Right now that goal is one page each workday. I like small goals like these because when I meet them—and often surpass them—it builds my confidence. It's much better to meet a small goal than to keep missing a big one and feeling guilty about it.

When I'm in a more serious writing mood, my goal can be something like write a chapter each workday (I always take weekends off to regroup). When I'm editing, my goal is often three chapters a day. If have deadlines, I do the math and divide the work evenly for each day. I'm easily burned out if I work too much, so even if I feel like I can do more work I try to stick with my goals and not go over.

Making A Schedule
The hardest thing for me, I think, is finding time to write. But no matter the amount of time I have, I've learned that the only way to get it done is to make it a priority. Sometimes you have to save that TV show for later, or stay up an extra hour, or get up early, or whatever. There is time. There is always time if you make it.

My schedule has been crazy this summer, but for the first half when I was writing I would squeeze in time during the afternoons. Yes, I would turn on the TV for my kids, plug in my headphones, and try to get in an hour. It wasn't the most productive, but I managed...until I got all summer lazy at least.

For me, finding time to write revolves a lot around my kids. When they're in school, I try to make that my writing time. Before that, it was during nap time. When I was in school and working, it was in the evenings.

Most of the time when I sit down for writing time, I don't want to write. I want to check out blogs or WoW or whatnot. But I try to tell myself after—after I finish my goal. I always have some kind of small reward, be it watching some Hulu or having a scoop of ice cream. It's silly, but true. It gives me something to look forward to when I finish my work for the day, and it helps me keep my schedule because good things happen when I do. Positive reinforcement, I respond to it.


That's my basic method of keeping goals and schedules. I know it probably doesn't seem very complex or really all that organized, but it's simple and that's what I like. It's served me well over the years. One day at a time, I've written over a dozen books. It's crazy to think that each day, while small, has already amounted to so much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


First, I'm not even sure why I'm blogging during WriteOnCon, since it's basically the most awesome, online, FREE writers' conference out there. If you are looking for a great place to learn more about publishing and writing, I highly recommend it. And the writers who work tirelessly to put it on are amazing, amazing, AMAZING people. So go spend your time there. I promise I won't be offended if you don't visit this week. (Okay, I'm honestly NEVER offended if you don't read. But still. WriteOnCon is awesome.)

I have to talk about slumps today.

I am in a serious writing slump. Yes, I get into slumps. I think my reputation is that of the fast writer who can whip out a book in a couple weeks and never struggles with getting words on paper. But while I certainly can write quickly at times, there are other times that I stare at the screen wondering how I'll ever finish the book.

Right now I consider myself lucky if I can manage a 5-page chapter in a week. That's...not even a page a day. This is very far off my usual pace. It's frustrating, especially because it's not really the book's fault. I know what is supposed to happen in the next chapter. The block has nothing to do with the plot or characters, etc. I have things planned. I even know the book has merit and that I'm not "ruining it." I know it's not gone terribly off track and that the conflict is solid.

So what is it?

Honestly, it's a lot of lame excuses. It's feelings of doubt in myself as a writer. Not the book, but myself—like, even if it's good why would anyone read my stuff anyway? Yes, I still feel like that fairly often. Like I'm not special and there's not a place for me out there in Published Author Land. As I've said before, it's funny how some things don't change even after that book deal, and your opinion of yourself is one of those things.

And then there's the "My schedule is all messed up!" excuse that I've been milking all summer. My kids being home all day. My husband working evenings now. Summer movies. Sickness. Vacations. Have there been times I could fit in writing? Certainly. Have I used them? No. I've parked myself in front of the TV or computer games instead, and I know I have no one to blame but myself.

To add to this, I'm letting myself off the hook in general. I haven't set goals for this book. I haven't seen the need, since it's basically #4 in my queue, behind TRANSPARENT, SIDEKICK, and HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW. Not like I have to get it done anytime soon, but it's funny how I actually become a very cranky writer when I don't have deadlines and goals to hit (I'm currently waiting at various stages with the other three). Here I should just be enjoying it and taking my time, and instead I am losing passion and doubting myself because it feels pointless, even when it isn't.

There's only one way to get out of a slump—you have to pick your lazy butt up and get to freaking work. Oh, how I wish there was an easier solution, one that involved more sitting on the couch eating dark chocolate raisins and watching anime. But there isn't.

Because a slump isn't like being stuck when writing. When you get stuck with a story it's often good to step back and think for a second. A slump is not that. A slump is of your own making, and the way back is self-discipline.

So I guess I'd better make myself a schedule, write out a love list, look over my notes, and get back into good habits.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Counting Down

My sister just returned home from New Zealand. She also went to Japan while she was over there, and she brought me back cute things and candy and pretty chopsticks and funny stationery. One set has a cute bear on it and says, "This is a story about bears." It also comes with stickers that say "The bear is under the tree" and "It is so peaceful in the forest."


Anyway, right now is kind of the calm before the storm at my house. Not that this summer has been quiet, because it's seriously been one of the busiest times of my life, but so many things are about to happen. I can feel it, that shift in the air as a new phase begins and another ends.

Dino Boy is starting kindergarten next week. I'm so excited! I'm really interested to see if I cry or not. I didn't cry for preschool, and I keep hearing about moms crying and feel like maybe I'm doing this mothering thing wrong. But either way, he's excited and I'm excited.

Ninja Girl is starting preschool, too. She is beyond ready—she trucks her new backpack everywhere and keeps saying, "I want to go to school NOW!" Me, too, Ninja Girl. She is my social butterfly that I don't quite know how to handle, and she will be so much happier to have an outlet other than her anti-social mom.

And to add to this, I'm awaiting the fabled editorial letter! It's getting close, and I'm not quite sure if I'm nervous or excited or what. I mean, it's kind of scary because I haven't looked at the book since like February, but at the same time I'm so ready to get back into it and do that whole official "Edits for my EDITOR" thing. I still forget sometimes that I HAVE AN EDITOR. Weird. You'd think it would all be real by now, but nope.

So the counting down is basically all I can think about right now. A week until kindergarten. Two and a half until preschool. My editorial letter somewhere in the mix of that.

Fall, here we come. Hurry on up, will you? I want to wear these awesome gray boots I just bought, and edit my book while my kids are at school. *squee*

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Writers: Walking Through Ghost Walls

It's easy to view publishing like a caste system. You have the best sellers, the published, the soon-to-be, the agented, and the unagented. You have the rock star agents, the solid agents, the newbie agents. The Big Six, the small publishers, the self-publishers. If you wanted, you could view this all as rank. You could decide to put someone on the bottom and someone on the top. You could decide to treat them that way, too.

Sometimes it feels like there are insurmountable walls, made of thick brick and covered in "No Trespassing" signs, built around these groups. It can feel like you're not allowed to talk to the other groups until you, in fact, are permitted to enter the next wall.

But here's the thing—those walls aren't really there. They might look real, but if you tilt your head a little to the left you'll see that they're holograms made from assumptions. Assumptions that you don't belong, that you aren't good enough, and that the people on the "other side" think that, too. Those walls are nothing but the ghosts of insecurity, and the only thing they're really doing is holding you back.

Published authors? They are busy folk, but they were once unpublished, too. They are the people they've always been. As I've gone through this journey, I'm always surprised by how...the same I am. Unfortunately, I have not morphed into a more exalted creature every time I've made it past another milestone. I still handle things the way I've always handled them—with a lot of hard work, thought, and panic. And the other writers I've seen "ahead" and "behind" me stay themselves as well.

I know it might sound crazy, but there is no real difference between you and a best-selling author, save the fact that they happened to write a book that reached a large audience. We are all writers. We're at different stages, sure, but that doesn't mean we can't reach out to each other, in both directions. I absolutely LOVE hearing from writers, and this year alone I've made several writer friends from all stages in the process.

Now, I want to make this clear, I'm not giving you a pass to send John Green or Maureen Johnson or Sarah Dessen emails of family pictures and proclamations that you should be their best friend. I'm just saying that they, and every other writer, are people (generally extremely nice people, too, despite how busy they are). Yes, writers have "established" friends, but that doesn't mean you are unwelcome. Yes, they tend to hole up around deadline, but that doesn't mean they are shutting you out (It means they are shutting EVERYONE out, maybe even their spouse.). Yes, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but the only wall between the published and unpublished is the one you make. So why not make it a pretty white picket fence with a gate that swings both ways?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Confessions Of A Writer With A Book Deal

Before I get into the post, I want to point you to a new website that I'm pretty excited about. It's called Ladies Who Critique. It's a site dedicated to finding crit partners! And you all know how I feel about crit partners. I'm so glad to see something like this on the web, and I wish the creators the best of luck. Go check it out. Also, I did an interview for them on crit partners, if you're interested.

Okay, onto this slightly nerve-wracking, but necessary post...

(Warning, it will be LONG.)

It's probably no surprise that stuff changes after you finally get that book deal. No matter how big or small, no matter what form of publishing, having sold a book changes your life. There are a lot of good things, of course. But there are a lot of weird things, too. It's a very strange dichotomy, and today I am going to attempt to give you a taste of what it's like.

Now, I am extremely aware that there are tons of writers out there who want to sell very badly, and that maybe my saying anything "negative" about selling a book will make me sound like a stuck up brat. So I want to make it clear that my intention is not to say "selling a book sucks," because it's definitely still awesome, but like with any Big Event in life it comes with...adjustments. I hope this post can prepare people for the experience when it comes (May it be sooner rather than later!).

Confession #1: The Freak Out
Some people scream for joy. Others sob in relief. There are the dancers. My "OMG I JUST SOLD A BOOK" freak out turned out to be kind of this dazed, awed, shock. Now, granted, I was literally driving to the dentist when I learned, so dancing was out of the question, but picture me in my car, wide-eyed, giggling every few minutes because I ACTUALLY GOT AN OFFER. It was unbelievable, amazing, surreal.

On the way home from the dentist I still was pretty dazed, and as I was stopped at a light this one little thought came to me, "Holy crap, I will actually get to write an acknowledgements page."

Which is when I burst into tears. The gratitude and joy was overwhelming, because books don't get written and published without those people who helped and pushed and taught and loved you along the way. I felt so lucky and blessed and undeserving.

...And then things took a weird turn. The pendulum swung, you could say. As utterly joyful as I was, part of me started to panic. What if the deal fell through? What if Harper changed their minds? What if I can't make back the advance? What if they get to publication in two years and decide, eh, it's not that great after all? What if people read it and go, "This is IT? Well that was a waste of time"? What if? What if? What if?

The catastrophizing got crazy out of control. It was like being in a death spiral, my joy being sucked out with each ridiculous thing my brain chose to panic about. It was almost like I'd been so used to bad news—rejections and revisions and near misses and setbacks—that I literally could not process the reality of good news! There had to be a catch. There had to be something bad in there because good things just don't happen in my publishing life.

This all sounds so pathetic when I read it typed out like this, but it's the truth. As high as my joy was, there was also pain. A dichotomy. Luckily, the pain part passes. The freak out ends, and I'm feeling pretty dang good now.

Confession #2: The Announcement Conundrum
Of course you want to tell people you sold. Of course. After so long, I was excited to let the world know that my years of hard work did mean something, and hoped that maybe it would help others believe that their long journey could end well, too.

But then there's the other side—the very real understanding of how devastating reading about a book deal can be. I know all too well how painful seeing someone sell is, and the thought of doing that to someone else terrified me. The last thing I ever want to do is make another writer suffer. While I was on sub, there would be days that reading a book deal or seeing a beautiful cover announcement or someone's pub date moved up sent me into a pit of bawling, pity party despair.

I knew people would be happy for me, too, but I was honestly concerned about those writers who were struggling and would stumble on my announcement and have their day ruined. But in the end, you have to share. Because, yes, talking about the hard times is honest, but only when it's balanced out with the good times. Life is always both.

Confession #3: The Terrifying Reality of People's Opinions
There's a moment when you realize in a way you never have before that, for better or worse, people are going to read your book now. Which is, of course, what you always wanted, right? The whole reason we are trying to get published is to share our stories with a bigger audience. We want people to love them as much as we do. I personally dream of that fist honest to goodness fan letter from a complete stranger, saying they loved my book more than anything they've ever read.

Lofty, I know, but true. And it is EXCITING to think that in two years my book will be out there for anyone to read. I was starting to think it'd never happen, and I'm so grateful it is.

But...oh, the but. I'm sure you can guess where this is going. What if people don't like it? More than ever, reviews are real now. Like, pre-book deal, they were this hypothetical thing that seemed pretty cool. Like, dang, won't it be awesome someday if I actually have reviews like a real live writer? Now? A wee bit terrifying.

I mean, TRANSPARENT is two years out (maybe a little less than that now, depending on what month I release in Summer 2013), and I already have a four-star rating on Goodreads from someone I don't know at all. I find interesting. I never expected my work to be judged so soon, but it's already started and of course it'll continue. That's the thing about putting your work out there—people will say stuff about it. Go figure.

I really thought I was prepared for that, but I guess it's like going off to college. Never quite what you imagined. Not horrible. Just not what you expected.

Confession #4: Shifting Relationships
Way back in 2004, I announced to my friends that I was engaged! There was some squealing and celebrating, but something...weird happened, too. One of my friends became distant, even a little snippy, with me. She rolled her eyes every time I mentioned my fiancé. She complained about him being around so much. And if I ever expressed frustration with anything? Her reply would be along the lines of, "Well, you're getting married, so stop being such a whiner."

That sort of thing happens sometimes when you announce a book deal, too. And it's heartbreaking on so many levels. First, because you know how much it hurts when you're not selling and it seems like everyone else is, so you get it. Secondly, because there's really nothing you can do to stop other peoples' feelings of jealousy or sadness or whatever it is that causes this phenomena. And finally, because in the long run, you are still the same person, but suddenly people view you differently and it's an adjustment trying to figure out how to deal with it.

And it's not just the people who seem slightly unhappy about your success (or maybe it's more that they want it, too, and it's hard to watch others get there first, which I totally get). There are the...I'm not sure how to say it, so maybe I'll use another example:

In school I was never popular or even close. I was bullied a lot. I was kind of a lone wolf, but I tried to be friendly when others talked to me. Well, in 10th grade I was paired with a popular girl for a class project, and she was really nice to me. Genuinely nice, and I could tell. We became friends, to the point that she'd wave to me in the hall and stuff like that. And because she waved to me, some of her friends waved to me, too.

That's when it started to feel weird, you know? Like, I hadn't changed at all, but one popular person's approval had all those other girls thinking I wasn't so bad. Sometimes that happens when you get a book deal, too. And I'm not even talking within in the writing community—I mean friends and family and stuff. People view you differently, for better or worse. They sometimes put up these walls to separate you into a new category different from them (or equal to them, depending on the situation), even if to you there isn't a wall at all.


Well, I think that's about all on the confession front today. I hope that this comes off right, and if not I swear I didn't mean to offend. I just always find it so interesting to compare "The Dream" I have of publishing to the reality, because coming to terms with those truths has always helped me be happier and more grateful for my own journey, as rocky as it has been. But right now, the path is pretty smooth, honestly, and I plan to enjoy it for as along as it lasts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

All Day Q&A

The floor is yours today, guys. If you have a question—about pretty much anything—I will answer it for you asap. Also, if Blogger isn't working for you, I will take questions on Twitter as well. Answers will appear on the blog:)

Note: I do not guarantee quality of answers, just that there will be one. You've been warned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Sequel? Or Not To Sequel?

Oh, the sequel. Everything seems to have a sequel these days. And, trust me, I enjoy a good sequel, but I have a clarification to make:

My book, TRANSPARENT, doesn't have a sequel currently.

I have noticed a few instances where my book has been referred to as a series because I happened to sell two books. But that's not the case. The second book HarperTeen bought from me is an "option." It could be a sequel to TRANSPARENT, but it might not be one, too. It might be something totally different. And guess what?

I'm okay with that.

I wrote the book to be a complete story. Of course there could be more story after, just as there could be more story before. That's the thing about stories—they never really end. You pick a good starting spot and a good ending spot, but if your characters are solid there will always be more to tell.

So where do you stop on the sequel train? Or do you even get on in the first place? I don't really know. You see, I'm not completely against writing a sequel either. It could go either way in my mind. It's not as if this is my only idea for a novel. I, uh, tend to have a wealth of ideas, so maybe I am the ideal writer to go the "Killer Standalone" route. But at the same time, there is definitely more to explore in TRANSPARENT's world, more for Fiona to learn and discover. I guess I'm lucky my publisher will just tell me if I'm writing one or not, heh.

But overall, I think sometimes we get attached to the idea of writing a series (At least I know I was violently attached to it at one point). We want to stay with the characters we love and know just as much as we hope readers will. Though sometimes it's better to leave a reader wanting just a little more than you gave, instead of giving more than they ever wanted.

I don't know, I'm kind of digging the standalones these days. I think YA could use a few more. I wouldn't mind being in that category.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Sketchy Sketch

I whipped out the colored pencils today, since it had been awhile. Boy, were my kids entranced! It was so cute see them watching so intently, especially my daughter. I'm not gonna lie, I hope a little bit that she'll be an artist (Though totally fine if she isn't!). She likes to color so much already, and she thinks my drawing tablet is about the coolest thing ever.

Anyway, this is Daphne from SIDEKICK. I've drawn her before, but this picture is a different side of her. She's one of my favorite imaginary people, the kind of girl anyone would be lucky to have as a friend. Also, black belt in Judo.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Writers: 5 Things Writer's Edition

You've played 5 Things I'm Loving, right? No? Okay, it's something I totally lifted from Stephanie Perkins. But it's fun and easy and holy crap it's already past two and I'm just barely sitting down to blog. Get it together, Nat.

1. People Who Get It
I sent SIDEKICK off to a friend for a read I like to call the "Tell Me I Am Not Crazy For Thinking This Is Good" Read. You would be surprised how many of these reads I need. Actually, maybe you wouldn't. I'm pretty insecure about my writing, but my contemporary stuff specifically sends me into fits of "I will NEVER be good enough."

So she read it. And she SO got it. I love her and the gushing email she sent. Also, I love this feeling of relief that has set in. I finally have this book to the point where it's doing what it's supposed to do, and that is AMAZING. A miracle.

2. Writing Contemporary
I decided to try my hand at one of my contemporary ideas about two years ago (This became SIDEKICK). It was terrifying, and yet exhilarating. The truth? I'm kind of a closet contemporary writer. Okay, see how I'm hedging that? It's so hard for me to admit that I LOVE to write contemporary YA. Most of my favorite books are contemporary, and I've always regarded that genre with the deepest respect. I don't see myself as deep enough or talented enough to write it, which probably sounds crazy stupid, but it's true.

But, well, I love it. I really do. I love digging into characters and exploring every aspect of what makes them tick. Don't get me wrong, I adore writing paranormal and all those others, too (heck, I wrote a witch book earlier this year), but right now I'm in contemporary mode. Very happy to be here.

3. Spotify
Guys...seriously, you need Spotify. It's basically like Pandora and iTunes got together and had a baby—a baby full of free music and customizable playlists. It's my writing's new best friend. I have always wanted specific playlists for my books, but been too poor to buy each and every song. If you like to listen to music while you work, you will LOVE this. Love. (FYI: There are ads like on free Pandora, but if you pay up you can get rid of them.)

4. My Desk
Who knew having an actual desk was so cool? If I'd known how much I'd use it—rarely used my card table because it was confining—I might have gotten it sooner. And bonus, it doesn't wobble every time I touch it!

5. My dear MC, Trent Parker
I am so crushing on my main character. Yes, instead of writing a boy secondary character for a girl MC to fall in love with, I go straight to the boy at times. I mean, he's the one I want to hang out with all the time anyway! I'm selfish like that.

Trent is funny and thoughtful, with a heavy helping of bitter and maybe an itty bitty taste for revenge. Or justice, depending how you look at it. He's constantly surprising me, and even if I stress over writing I'm also happy I decided to explore his story. Still not sure exactly where it'll end up, but at least Trent and I will have fun on the way.

Alrighty, those are my 5 Things. Feel free to share yours in comments!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

That Green-Eyed Thing

Today I'm going into the Personal Zone. I've been getting a certain question as of late that has really bothered me, and I want to put it to rest now (and have a blog post to refer people to so I don't have to repeat myself). The question is along the lines of this:

Aren't you jealous of her?

The "her" in this case is usually one of my best friends, Kiersten White, who many know as the amazing, witty, talented NYT bestseller. Sometimes the question refers to some of my other incredibly gifted and successful friends, but today I'll mostly be talking in reference to Kiersten because I have her permission. Take this as a blanket statement for all authors, nonetheless.

Now, I can see why people would ask this of me. It's a natural thing to wonder about, looking from the outside in. I mean, Kiersten and I (and our dear friend Renee Collins, too) started this journey at almost the exact same time. We met over three years ago now, at which point we were all noob queriers just trying to learn the business. We were equals.

Then Kiersten got an agent almost a full year before I did.

She sold in an amazing three-book deal before I had an agent.

She's sold in countries all over the world, basically pwning Authorial Risk™.

Her first book came out right around the time my book on sub had been out there getting rejected for a year.

And then she hit the bestseller list.

I finally sell a book, while her second one is about to come out.

That one hits the list, too.

And by the time my book comes out, yes, I'm very well aware that she will likely have four books out, while I'm just barely getting started.

But guess what? We are still equals.

I can honestly say that I am not jealous of her success. It's really hard to be jealous of someone when you know the whole story, when you've seen all the struggles that other people don't.

Do I sometimes wish my own journey would have been shorter? Sure, of course, but I have never wanted Kiersten's path or anyone else's. I am HAPPY to see her reach her goals and dreams, and she is just as excited when I succeed as well. I was there when her dreams were just as implausible as my own, and it honestly pisses me off when people suppose that I would be anything but excited for her, because she means so much more to me than some professional connection or whatever. She is my friend, one of my best friends, and that happened long before any of this other stuff.

Jealousy is a strange thing. I'm certainly not immune, because I have felt it towards other people, but rarely those closest to me. There were times when I was on sub that it seemed like EVERYONE was selling books except me, and that they even had an easy time doing it. But I know that's not true—I just didn't know the whole story.

I think jealousy comes from focusing only on the success while refusing to see someone else's struggles and imperfections. It's an excuse to fuel your insecurity, to play the victim. It's ugly and pointless and something we have to fight. For me, the fastest way to overcome those twinges of jealousy is to remember that everyone struggles independently of their success. And not only that, but their success does not diminish mine. We're all playing on the same team, here. Every writer out there deserves compassion. We're all walking the same road, and it's a much easier journey when you make friends of your fellow travelers, not competitors, or worse, enemies.

Especially now, there is enough room for everyone. So come along, but don't you dare ask if I'm jealous ever again;P

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Good Stuff

I keep being busy. I guess that's what I get for complaining that I'm bored, because I'm certainly not that very often anymore. Which is great! I've been making over my living room and traveling and writing and having lunch with one my favorite people. I've been doing yoga and playing soccer mom and cooking and going to book signings. It's been an amazing summer full of amazing stuff.

I just need a nap is all.

For my usual "inspirational" mumbo jumbo (I like to call it thinly veiled whining, hehe), please head on over to Adventures In Children's Publishing today. I talk about my dreams and how bringing them to fruition didn't exactly go as planned, but it turned out well in the end anyway.

Also, I'm a little late to this thanks to that 1k posts thing, but you MUST go congratulate my dear friend Jenn Johansson on selling her first novel in GERMANY. She has great stuff to say about selling foreign first and what, exactly, a literary scout can do for you. I am so very excited that INSOMNIA will be published—YA psychological horror/thriller FTW!

And finally, I just got my hands on Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. I absolutely adored LIPS TOUCH, and I can't wait to dig into this baby. If you don't know of Laini, you should. Her blog is one of my favorites, because she always posts the prettiest, most inspirational pictures. If I could steal someone's life, it might just be hers (Which is kind of creepy, sorry, Laini!).

That's about it from me. It's stormy, and I can't help but snuggle up in bed with a book. It must be done.