Friday, August 30, 2013

It's Important To Celebrate The Little Things

When I got my first pass pages for TRANSPARENT, I decided  that I'd start a little—if not kinda silly—tradition. I took my title page, signed it, and then framed it. I felt like a dork, but now that I have this picture above I'm pretty happy I did something small to commemorate the completion of my published (or to-be-published) novels.

Because it's important to remember milestones like this, you know? Now that I've been published for a few months, I've started to realize that the idea is becoming "normal" for me. And when things become normal we sometimes forget how special and BIG and lifetime-goal-reached they once were.

I don't want that to happen to me.

I want to remember this feeling I have right now—as I'm looking at BLINDSIDED all designed and in layout. It's really gonna be a book soon, and that means that I'll technically have a series which is something I didn't expect to have. That's pretty awesome. I can't forget how lucky I am.

It's so easy to forget, isn't it? Once we've accomplished one thing, we so quickly turn to the next goal in sight. We don't look back and see how far we've come. But there's something to be said for looking back now and then, for acknowledging our work and being proud of the journey we've taken.

Today, if you read this, I hope you can take a moment to reflect and be proud of your own journey. No matter where you happen to be along the path.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Letter To Renee Collins On Her Debut Day

Magical! Fantasy! Western!
How could you not buy it?
Dearest Renee,

Your heart is probably racing already, and the day has hardly begun. My guess is that you are feeling things. Lots of things. Some of those emotions are probably in the fear and overwhelming category, and others are in the joy and gratitude area. And that's okay, because today is the day your first book debuts to world.

This makes me very happy, and I'm sure it makes you happy, too, though exponentially more and mixed with a lot of other complicated things. You might be freaking out a little—I wish I lived close enough to take you to lunch, because that sure helped me to have my friends surrounding me on such a big day.

Can you believe it's been over five years since we met? I know we've nostalgically talked about those times before, but it's days like today where those memories come flying back to me. Of the first times we critted each other's manuscripts. Or how exciting it was to make a real friend on the internet. And of course the first time we got to meet in person! Not to mention all those philosophical journeys we've endured together.

Okay, this is starting to sound awkwardly romantic. Let me back this train up a bit. Er, what I want to say to you today are things that our dear friends said to me on my debut day. Perhaps all writers hear this from their already-published author friends on this day—and it's okay if you don't listen because I certainly didn't. At first. I'm doing a little better now.

First, take deep breaths. It won't solve everything, but your heart is still racing, right? That'll keep it in check today. We don't want you having a heart attack. You need to make it to your Utah signing so I can see you.

Second, do something nice for yourself today. Or better yet, lots of things. I hope you are going out to lunch or dinner, and maybe even visiting your beautiful RELIC at the bookstore (and don't worry if it's not on the shelf yet—mine wasn't but they got it out for me). Buy yourself something to remember this day by. Be with the people you love. Go places that make you feel peace and joy.

Third, don't forget that this is just the beginning. Now, you know I've struggled with this one, with feeling like if I don't succeed RIGHT NOW that it will never happen and my career will be tanked before it even began. It's very easy to fall into that, to look at numbers and feel like it's not enough. But this author thing isn't a one day thing or even a one year thing—you are now published and that will be part of your life forever. That is awesome. You are awesome. Your book is awesome. Regardless of how quickly or slowly things start.

Next, some things will change and some just won't. What freaked me out most after I debuted was how the people in my life (mostly acquaintances) began treating me. Not that it was bad, but the questions change. Kinda like how before you get married everyone asks when will you, and then after you get married everyone asks when you'll have kids. It might be weird. It might take adjusting. That's okay. And of course there's the things that stay shockingly the same—mostly the writing and plain work of this job.

And finally, be proud of what you've done. You've published a book! We all know just how hard that is to do. It's so easy for us writers to diminish that accomplishment when it's what we are working for everyday, but it IS a big deal. Today is a HUGE deal! Because it's the day that all your hard work has been invested in—and it's paid off. Never feel guilty for being PROUD of that.

So, my friend, I hope this day is everything you hoped for and more. Things may never stop being crazy (they certainly haven't stopped for me), but take this momentous day to remember how far you've come. Remember how much you love this story you wrote, and have faith that many other people will love it, too.

I'll be drinking Dr. Pepper in your honor today.

Love ya,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blindsided! Cover Reveal!


Bask in its bight, beautiful goodness! Purple glasses! Gold gloves! ICE CREAM.
(Note: That is an actual scene in the book, which makes me happy.)
Isn't is awesome? I never thought I'd have a sequel cover, and I do! That's crazy to me, and it makes it so much more real. You'd think it'd be real, seeing at the book is out in like 4 months, but it's REALER. 

Now, I'm sure some of you might have a few questions. The first might be something like: Gee, Natalie, why does this cover look so different from the Transparent cover?

See? Totally matches!
Diner and everything!
Good question, imaginary person! The answer is simple: my UK publisher is the one printing this book, so the cover matches the UK Transparent. This might be a little confusing, US peoples, but THIS is the cover you will be looking for, too! Hot Key Books has World English rights to Blindsided, so the book will be in the US and Canada (previous rights my US publisher had) but will just have a slightly happier look to it. 

Imaginary person might have a follow up question like: So what is Blindsided even about?

Never fear! I have COVER COPY to share, too! Is this your lucky day or what?

What price would you pay just to look in a mirror? It's junior year of high school, and Fiona has definitely had enough of being invisible. It's pretty hard to have a normal relationship when the only photos of her and Seth show him kissing thin air. On top of that, old Arizonan gang tensions are threatening to spill over at any minute, which could put them all in serious danger. So when Fiona realizes that she and her friends know something that could change everything, she has to decide whether working with the criminal syndicates is too high a price to finally be seen.

Cool, right? Well, I think it's cool. I've wanted to share this bit of Fiona's story for so long, but I honestly never thought I'd get the chance until Hot Key asked me to write it. I'm so pumped!

And one last question for imaginary person: But WHEN do we get to read this great sequel? You've been giving vague estimates but no exact date!

I know, but I HAVE an official release date now! I can officially tell you that Blindsided will be released January 2, 2014. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

All Day Q&A!

Since I'm sick and my edits will be hindered anyway, I figured it's a good time to do another all day Q&A! It has been over a month, shame on me.

So please keep me company on my sick day—you can ask me anything you want about anything, there is no limit on questions, and I will answer anything asked on all my social media profiles (blog, FB page, twitter) TODAY before midnight Mountain Time.

*lies in bed* *sniffles* *waits*

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


WriteOnCon is an awesome, free
online writer's conference that happens in the summer, and it officially kicked off today for 2013! If you're an aspiring writer or just a writer looking for inspiration, I highly recommend checking it out. There are agents and editors and published authors giving out great advice—there are also forums and contests if you want to submit your writing.

This year I was lucky enough to be asked to participate, so if you want to check out the vlog I made about generating ideas—head on over here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sequel Mayhem

Today I want to talk about what it's like to put out a sequel in less than a year from the first book. I just recently announced that TRANSPARENT will, in fact, have a sequel called BLINDSIDED—and it will be coming out in January 2014.

That's 8 months after TRANSPARENT came out. A full 4 months earlier than the traditional 1 year between sequels. Not only that, but I didn't know I'd be writing this book until this year, when a contracted sequel is usually started soon after the sale of the first book.

I often hear people lamenting the long wait for sequels, and why can't writers write faster and why can't publishers put out books quicker? Heck, I've wished this myself quite often. A year is a long time to the average person, but I will be honest and say it sure don't feel like a long time to this author anymore!

I spent 2 years writing TRANSPARENT (and then re-writing it all). Then I spent 2 years from the time it sold to debut with lots of time to edit, and I also had time in between to work on other projects and have a baby and stuff.

With BLINDSIDED? I have had 1 year from first draft to end. ONE YEAR. (Actually, technically I have 9 months because it has to be entirely done in September). Hot Key asked me in January to write it, and I have spent my whole writing life doing this one single thing. While I count myself lucky for the opportunity, I highly underestimated just how difficult it would be to create this book in roughly 1/4 of the time I spent on TRANSPARENT. I've had to squeeze all those hours I stretched over 4 years into about 9 months, and that has been a huge challenge with 3 kids plus debuting as an author.

It's like everything an author experiences while writing a novel still happens but in a shorter period of time. That means the angst is on steroids. Every emotion out there I've felt about BLINDSIDED. The doubts. The excitement. The fear. The joy. Sometimes they all come on top of each other and I have no idea what I'm feeling. That's stressful.

After doing a sequel this fast, I wonder if I would ever write one this quickly again. I'm not sure I would. Not because it wasn't doable—I've totally met my deadlines!—but it was a huge undertaking that caused me to put so much else in my life aside. Maybe that works for some writers, but I've found a lot of enjoyment in taking my time these days. I remember when I used to dream about putting out a handful of books a year, and I laugh at myself. Just having two next year feels like SO MUCH.

While I have loved working on BLINDSIDED (well, for the most part), I'm looking forward to working on new worlds, exploring new characters. It has definitely taught me that I'm not cut out for a 7 book series or anything near that, ha.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts Over Bibimbap (Or Why Inclusion In Media Is So Important)

On Saturday I asked Twitter a question I was a little bit nervous to ask. I like to do this on Saturdays because not a lot of people are around—it's like testing the waters. If you ask on Monday you are likely to get an explosion of responses.

The question was this:
I didn't get a lot of replies, but the ones I did I found interesting. One girl said as a white person she feels like she's told she isn't allowed to write outside her race or her sexuality. Another person owned up to being scared of offending anyone, even unintentionally. Perhaps especially unintentionally. While another admitted she's even afraid to write her OWN race for fear of not getting it right to some people.

It seemed there was a consensus that no one seemed to have a problem writing a white person, regardless of race. One person even went so far as to say that because 99% of media is about white people, everyone feels comfortable writing the standard white American. Because we see it all the time.

By the time these replies had come in, I'd finished eating my cinnamon toasters and had gotten dressed. Because I was going to the mall to edit my book about a half-Japanese girl who's forced to live with and care for her racist, Alzheimer's-stricken, estranged grandmother. As one does. So instead of replying to tweets, I went about my business with all these thoughts in my head, hoping some kind of answer would surface over time.

I worked for several hours in an abandoned corner of the mall, where the tables of an out-of-business cafe still remain. I cut lots of words, as my agent told me to, all while sipping at a Code Red and wishing I didn't have to work on Saturday (which I usually take off).

Then I got hungry, since all that thinking burns calories. I wandered to the food court, but everything there looked gross and I wanted something comforting, filling, spicy, and a little bit healthy.

Bibimbap, a mixed rice dish from Korea that
makes me drool just thinking about it.
So of course I thought of bibimbap.

I got in my car and drove to one of the two Korean restaurants in my entire county (There used to be only one! We're moving up!). The place was empty when I got there, and a cute guy took my order and waited on me while I continued to edit in the pleasant silence.

I could hear the cooks speaking Korean in the back—the friendly tones of a woman and a man seeming to enjoy their work. The server would occasionally chat with them, and I sat there thinking about how many words I recognized thanks to my slight obsession with Korean dramas. When my food came, I got to mixing my rice with all the goodness, and I'm pretty sure the server gave me a surprised look when I put all the kimchi side dish in my bibimbap, too. I got the feeling this was not a common customer practice here in Utah. As I sat there enjoying the perfect mix of flavors in a Korean restaurant all by myself, something hit me:

This all felt utterly normal to me.

The truth is, I didn't know much about Korean food, culture, etc. until about two years ago. I'd always been curious, but all I'd ever heard was that kimchi was gross (so not gross!) and I saw this segment on The Amazing Race in Korea where they had to eat raw octopus that was chopped up but still moving.

I know. For reals. This was the extent of my knowledge. I'm not proud of this, of course.

Then I got pregnant. Which sounds like it has nothing to do with this story but, oh, does it. Because I got very sick, and pretty much all I could do was lay in bed and try not to throw up. I was so dizzy it was hard to even sit upright. Unable to do much of anything, I lived on Netflix and Hulu but was quickly exhausting my options for shows when I happened upon this thing called Kdrama.

I liked anime since I was a teen, so I figured hey why not? I'll probably like this. I picked Boys Over Flowers, and 30 dramas later here I am.

When I first started watching Kdrama, not everything made sense even with subtitles. Yes, it felt foreign. It took a few episodes for me to keep the names straight. It took me a couple series to figure out the different titles they called each other and why. And it took me even a little bit longer to understand the potty humor. But none of that phases me at all anymore—I've become accustomed to it because I see it all the time. Therefore it has become normal for me.

*enter disclaimer*

I'd like to pause here to emphasize that I am NOT saying I know everything about Korean culture because I watch Kdramas. Repeat: I am not saying Kdramas are a completely accurate representation of all Korea/Koreans or that I know everything about what it's like to be Korean or live in Korea. This is an example—bare with me here.

*and end disclaimer*

But this IS what I'm saying: I believe that because I watch an increased amount of media from other cultures (mostly Japanese and Korean), these cultures have become somewhat normalized for me. I am comfortable with them. I don't feel that unease some writers express about writing another race, at least not anymore, because I've deliberately exposed myself to diverse media.

This idea of being immersed in a culture through media might be a big part of why no one seems to be afraid to write a white character in America—it's just so darn prevalent and normal. I've now realized immersing myself in media from other countries has had a huge impact on how comfortable I feel reaching out and learning about another culture.

Which means inclusion of diversity in all media is that important. It IS that big a deal. If we aren't exposed to diversity, humans naturally fear the other. The arguments in media are often confusing—we can't include diversity because it makes people uncomfortable and then they won't buy but we promise we WANT to but we're also scared to do it wrong and people DO rip you to pieces for doing it wrong. It's a mess, really.

But here's the rub: No one will ever feel comfortable with diversity if we continue to avoid it in our media. People won't start getting it right until we start seeing more examples, more stories, more people stepping up.

As I stuffed myself full of bibimbap, this is what I thought about. We keep wanting the fear to go away before we include—but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way. The only way to get rid of that fear is to include now and help people learn until it's so common no one can possibly be afraid.

(For more on my feelings about diversity, see this post about my experiences with being "white-passing.")