Little Things To Keep You Going

Taking a break from all the fun and squeeing over my book that sold, I wanted to talk about something a little less fun.

How to keep yourself moving forward creatively when the state of the world (or your personal life) make you want to curl up in a ball and never leave your bed?

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I wish I had an easy answer. I certainly do not.

First of all, whatever’s got you feeling this low, your feelings are valid. Secondly, please don’t be afraid to seek help, or at least reach out to a friend or family.

But maybe it’s not depression. Maybe it’s just the mean reds, as made famous in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

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Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Sound about right? Somehow, for me as a writer, I run into these mean reds often. I read an amazing book, and it throws me into a deep sulk that I’ll never be as good of a writer as that one is. Or I’ll get feedback that I don’t know how to handle, and I’ll feel like a fake writer.

Or, you know, there will be an election, and the whole world will catch on fire. That too.

Regardless of what’s got you feeling like crap, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite small things to cheer up:

  • Look at old photos of good times.(also BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS. ahem.)
  • Have a cup of tea. I’m not sure what it is about tea that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but it works every time.
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  • Go for a walk. I was amazed to realize my saddest days are also my lowest step count days.
  • Write something fun. Like fanfic.
  • Treat yourself to a fancy pastry. If it’s got a French name, I bet it’s super fancy and very yummy.
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  • Watch a movie. I just watched LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP and found it absolutely adorable.
  • Call a friend/family member/someone you’d like to be friends with.

Binge a series. May I suggest YURI ON ICE? Cutest show EVER.c596942844b963666866f1c4c3d216a7

So, tell me, what helps you get out of a creative bout of the mean reds?

I SOLD A BOOK! (#BroodyBook)

This is the blog post every writer dreams of writing. I SOLD A BOOK! Follow this blog, and Broody’s Twitter, for more news.This book is a loving parody of the YA genre, narrated by the BroodingYAhero himself. There will be quizzes, games, and a wonderfully Broody storyline.

And add it on Goodreads here! LINK

A quick story:
I was presenting at YALSA, which was an incredible conference, in which I met many incredible authors and librarians!  I spoke on social media on that Friday, and had the time of my life. Saturday, I got an email from my agent.

We had an offer on BROODING YA HERO’S GUIDE TO ACHIEVING MAIN CHARACTER STATUS from Skpony Press.

I celebrated, cheered…
And then the election happened.
It was very strange to feel both overwhelming joy and hope, and utter, heart-crushing grief. (Hence the long delay on writing this blog post.)  But,  I do think it’s important to celebrate small good things, even in the dark days.

So, now it’s time to celebrate. In the comments, I’d love to hear about a small good thing you’re celebrating!

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Here’s the part where I get a little bit motivational. If you told me when I was young, or even a year ago, that my first book would be a YA parody, I would have… been very confused. I learned two things.

First of all, it’s very hard to claim that you’re funny. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, turn to the person nearest you, and say “I’m very funny.”

They will almost always reply, “well, say something funny then. Make me laugh.”

Haaaa. Good. Not like there’s any pressure now, right? But hey, once you get used to being considered at least slightly funny, it’s not all bad. (If my friends don’t laugh at my jokes, I can now say 37,000 people on the internet find me funny)

Secondly, I was quite sure, for the longest time, that I was born to take up the mantle of Tolkien and write sweeping fantasy epics.

I had no idea I’d write a YA parody for my first novel instead.

So, my tiny little motivational speech is to… be open to new ideas. Don’t assume you know what your first published book will be. Don’t be afraid of trying new ideas.

And above all, always be Broody.

Or at least, a main character 😉

Vote for a New Face for BroodingYAHero

So, as many of you know, Brooding YA Hero (found here) is getting a book deal! Woooooo!!!!
And… he’s also getting a makeover!
I’m thrilled to reveal that I’ve been working with the very talented Linnea (check out her site here!) on designing four possibilities that capture Broody in all his gemstone-eyed, swoony jawlined, feeling-avoiding, majesty.
And you, dear reader, get to vote on the winner.

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The winning image will have extra detail added to it, and will be the new face found on his Twitter account.

But it’s not just about giving Broody a makeover. He’s the generous sort of book boyfriend, and wants to give you a chance to win an exciting prize! Vote on your favorite Broody, and you’ll be entered to win a fabulous prize package!

You see, Broody might not admit it, but he’s a big fan of books. And so, to celebrate his new look, we’ve set up a fun giveaway, where you get to vote on your favorite face, and get extra points for other things.

Two Broody Bundles will be given away! Click on the titles for more info on these awesome books!

Ready to vote/enter to win? CLICK THE RED LINK BELOW

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The First, for fans located in the USA, contains new copies of:

OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey  Coulthurst

NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown

A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by Jess Cluess

SWORDSPOINT by Ellen Kushner

IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo

And the second, for international fans, is an ebook bundle of….

SONG OF SUMMER by Laura Lee Anderson

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber (this is a preorder)

TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim

Plus an exclusive, hand-written, mailed-to-you love letter by Broody himself.

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Review: ReMade, a Serial Novel

So, do you remember the good ol’ days of fanfic? Of the thrill of rushing to your school’s computer lab to see if a certain now-mega-famous author uploaded a new episode of her fanfic? Or do you still catch yourself checking those incomplete fics that may never be finished?

Well, have I got an app for you! It’s called Serial Box, and it delivers serialized fiction right to your phone, or your computer. In other words, you get an “episode” of a book, once a week. These episodes are more than just a chapter. Like a TV show, they tell a complete tale, building to a season finale. Plus, you get a free audio file with each episode! Here’s the link

Subscribing is super easy, and cheaper than buying each episode. It totally makes my Wednesday when I know I have something new to read–its that same buzz as when a fanfic updates with a new chapter, except these stories are 1. professionally edited! and 2. guaranteed to never leave you hanging for an ending that never comes.

As this is a YA blog, I decided to review their YA serial, called ReMade.

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Every minute, 108 people die. This fall, in one of those minutes, twenty-three of those deaths will be teenagers. Now they are humanity’s last hope for survival. Awakened in a post-apocalyptic world and hunted by mechanical horrors, these teens search for answers amidst the ruins of civilization. Fate, love, and loyalty face off in this adrenaline-pumping YA adventure.

One of the first things I noticed is that ReMade has some seriously amazing writers. I mean, Gwenda Bond AND Kiersten White? Cue fangirl screams from me

The series itself is super fun. It combines dramatic, contemporary elements with a sci-fi/dystopian storyline. It’s also worth noting this is a WAY more diverse cast, both racially and sexuality-wise than any other dystopian out there. It’s like the 100, except way less problematic! Each episode revolves around one (or two!) characters, so it’s worth trying more than one if a character doesn’t strike your fancy.

Have you read a serial novel before? Do you think you’ll give Serial Box a try?

Vacations, Best Laid Plans, and Other Thoughts

This post may actually be shorter than the title of it. I’ve returned, and recovered, and am reliving in my dreams, from a lovely, lovely vacation to the UK. I’ve been planning the trip for months, analyzing, studying, and learning everything I could.

Turns out there’s still mysteries, confusion, and unexpectedly wonderful occurrences, even when you think you planned the perfect trip.

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For example, I went into the trip way, way more stressed than expected. My cat, Skunk, had a mild cold that didn’t seem to be going away, so on my last day before leaving, I took him to the vet, assuming I’d get the usual “You’re being an over-worried cat mom, he’s fine”… I didn’t. He had a condition with a 50% chance he might not pull through. I had to decide then and there if I wanted to cancel my trip of a life time to spend the (possible) last days with my best buddy of five years. Thankfully, he turned out okay, and is currently trying to chew on my laptop. So, all’s well there. But, I didn’t know until about the third day of the trip that he’d pull through. I’m so grateful to have a loyal and trusted friend who watched him.

On the plus side of the unexpected were… billions of things. The amount of amazing live music I heard. Meeting total strangers that ended up becoming fun friends. Getting lost but finding incredible pastries (and falling in love with handbaked Empire Biscuits forever and ever) In general, it seemed as long as I kept a positive attitude, happy surprises could be found everywhere. Like this view, below. We came by it on a total chance, because we’d detoured so I could see where Robert Carlyle filmed Hamish MacBeth. (Because who WOULDNT WANT TO WALK IN HIS SEXY FOOTPRINTS?)

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I also got to meet up with internet friends in person for the first time, which was so, so awesome. (Waves to them–they know who they are) and got to see so many sites I’d only ever read about. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. (And yes, there will be blog posts detailing the adventures)

Weirdly enough, I would have never gone on this trip if it wasn’t for the writing community.

We tend to think of the writing community as a network for…well, writing. But it opened so many doors that led me to the trip. I had met friends, through happenstance and happy accidents, who not only answered billions of my questions before traveling, gave me advice and guidance once I got to the UK!

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However, no one warned me pancakes are cold and jam filled. WHY?

Even the whole process of writing a book, from draft to finished product, made it seem so much more possible for me to travel across the ocean alone.

There are certainly low points in the life of a creative person. Rejection, disillusionment, loss of that elusive “muse,” can all make it seem like the process isn’t worthwhile. But the next time you’re feeling down, or that you’ve “wasted” time on a manuscript, try to look beyond the page, to what goodness and connections that manuscript has helped you make in the real world.

And above all, believe that good things will happen. Perhaps not the good thing you wanted, or set out to achieve, but a good thing all the same.

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Book Review: Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard

Confession: I don’t read much middle-grade. I was one of those kids who jumped straight from classics like Little Women and the Narnia books, into the realm of YA. However, as an adult, I have read a little more middle-grade, and some of them are real gems.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier is the type of middle-grade novel that makes me wish for a time machine to give the book to my younger self. The characters are so dynamic, and the writing is so lush and vivid, that I read the whole book in one sitting.  I, admittedly, didn’t read the first book in this series before, but had no problem catching up. Sophie is brave and bold, and the quest to find the books “Where, What, and When” made me smile long after I closed the book. If you have any young readers in your life, buy this today!

SOPHIE QUIRE AND THE LAST STORYGUARD by Jonathan Auxier

for purchase at  AmazonIndiebound

Official blurb: It’s been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far in wide in search of adventure. Now Peter and Sir Tode have been summoned by Professor Cake for a new mission: find a 12-year-old bookmender named Sophie Quire. 

Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father’s bookshop, where she repairs old books and dreams of escaping the confines of her dull life. But when a strange boy and his talking cat/horse companion show up with a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.
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The Bright Side of Subjectivity

For as long as I’ve been a writer, there’s a term I’ve struggled to grasp: subjectivity.

It always seems to be used negatively, paired with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry that person didn’t like your work. It’s just subjective, you know?”

But I didn’t know. I came from a educational and professional background where (besides, like, Bernie Madoff ) there was a right, and a wrong. A clear cut answer. A way to plug numbers into a formula and receive the correct answer. Subjectivity was a strange, dark cloud, hanging over everything I attempted. Why couldn’t I write something everyone would love? What was I doing wrong?

I thought, hmm. Maybe I should just become better! Then, I shall be able to vanquish subjectivity! But, even after spending a year studying craft books, working with freelance editors, and pushing myself, I still got negative feedback that was… subjective.

Someone suggested that I read one-star reviews of my favorite books. This technique, they suggested, would make me realize even this amazing authors got subjective, negative reviews of their books. Instead, because I am made of fiery passion and undying loyalty, I wanted to fight every deluded fool who couldn’t see the obvious talent of my favorites.

Meanwhile, I was also getting positive feedback. People liked my work, adored certain characters, laughed at my jokes. It didn’t matter to me. I was more concerned with fighting the big-bad subjectivity monster. Surely, there had to be some formula I could apply to make it go away, and have everyone equally love my work.

Spoiler: there’s no way to ever do that. I’m going to skip over the months I spent bashing my head against a wall, and instead tell you about what finally made me realize what subjectivity truly is.

What happened was… I read a book.

Of course, I’d read plenty of books during my battles with the smoggy subjectivity monster, but this book I LOVED. It was one of those books that turned me into a book evangelist, pushing the book at everyone I knew. Shockingly, some of my friends didn’t like the book. Or they did, but they didn’t like the same things I did. I had no real reason for why I loved the book, aside from a fuzzy feeling of it hitting me in just the right brain spots, like the way a cold glass of water quenches more on a hot day. I couldn’t point to any narrative craft, any technique the author used to specifically make me adore the book. I just knew that my world was a better place with the book in it.

I loved the book, subjectively.

That’s the bright side of the mysterious subjectivity-monster we forget sometimes. The same inexplicable force that causes some people to dislike our works (or not love it enough to accept it) also allows people to adore  our work. Subjectivity fuels book deals, creates fanart, causes readers to squee in 5 star reviews. So the next time you get mad at that subjective rejection, remember there’s someone out there who will subjectively love your work.

Don’t give up, darlings!

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Read Your Book

Hi Writer-Friend,

It’s been a while. You may not remember me. Or maybe you do, but you recall me with anger and hurt. Or perhaps, you too are a simmering kettle of apologies and regret, wishing things could be different.

I’m sorry I never sent you beta feedback. My life got hectic, and by the time I remembered to read yours, I was afraid of asking for more time.

I’m sorry for reaching out for blog post info, for an interview, for a possible critique partner relationship, only to disappear. My attention span flutters as much as a caffeinated butterfly, and my forgetfulness comes from that, not from a place of disrespect.

I’m sorry I disappeared from our friendship. I was battling anxiety/jealousy/insecurity, and knew I would only hurt you if we kept talking.

I’m sorry I never responded to your request for a blog tour. I barely blog as it is, and wasn’t sure how to tell you that. Would you think I was less of a writer if I told you I didn’t blog on a schedule?

I’m sorry I forgot your release date. My own life got hectic with family/school/work, and then when I checked Twitter, it seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t know how to help.

I’m sorry I never wrote a Goodreads review. I’m afraid that if I did one, all my friends would expect me to read their book.

I’m sorry that I review books on Amazon under a fake name to hide from their silly deletion policies, so you’ll never know I reviewed it.

I’m sorry we got into a huge argument, and now the expanse of the anonymous internet separates us, isolating us from ever finding a way of speaking to each other again. My apology hangs in empty air, like a dead link to a vanished site.

BUT

I’m not sorry for the hours I stayed up, reading your book. It was incredible, and I loved every page-turning moment.

I’m not sorry I keep my fingers crossed for your book to get published soon, and I talk about it to everyone I know.

I’m not sorry I retweet and reblog other’s release day posts for you, trying as hard as I can with my limited time, to show you that your words matter, that your book touched me.

I’m not sorry that I mention your artwork/editing services/skills to anyone in need of that, hoping to send you the customers you so very much deserve.

I’m not sorry I bought two copies of your book, one for me and one for a friend. I wait, ninja-style, for people to ask for book recommendations, so that I may push yours, like a dealer with the enthusiasm of a toddler.

I’m not sorry I still follow you on our social media sites, celebrating in secret for your successes, and mourning your losses. This tiny, dusty window into our former friendship is just enough for me to remember all the good times we had, and learn from the bad.

I’m not sorry we exist in this world together, and I’m so grateful that our paths crossed, no matter how short a time.

May all good things come to you, and may your future be filled with joy.

From the shadows and the silence, I am sincerely yours,

Carrie

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When the Magic Goes Away

Scene: First day of second grade. Kids running around, showing off new backpacks, new shoes, same uniforms though. 

The teacher clears her throat and announces, “Let’s write a journal entry about what we did over summer vacation.”

Tiny-Carrie, with pigtails and an already messy desk, glances around at her classmates. They’re talking as they write. Disneyworld, Disneyworld, Disneyland, France, a cruise in the Caribbean (with Disney Characters.)

Tiny-Carrie’s summer had been fun, but, not like her classmates. She’d hung out with her Grandmas, learned to make cookies, played  make-believe in her backyard and loved every minute of it. Until her classmates started talking about the Disney princesses they’d met. A bit of fear crept into her brain, whispering that her summer had been stupid, that she was lame and a loser.

But, Carrie never liked being told what to do. Not by a teacher, and definitely not by some dumb, negative voice.

So, Carrie put pencil to paper, and began to write. She might not have traveled, but she had read. A book called THE BOGGART by Susan Cooper had launched an all-summer quest to learn everything about Loch Ness, its mythical monster and the magical-seeming land of Scotland. She’d even worked her way through “grownup” books explaining just how a monster might exist in the loch, and cookbooks about how to make “oatcakes.”

She wrote a story about going to Scotland, and all the things she’d experienced there. And as she wrote, it felt real to her. It felt just as fun, as exciting as her classmates “true” stories about Disneyland. Tiny-Carrie may not have traveled, but she had read. Now, in writing what she read, it was like real magic, making something out of thin air.

That’s what writing has always been to me. Over the years, I wrote my way out of countless bad feelings, out of fear about a surgery, or heartbreak over a person who didn’t like me back. My stories, although they were fictional and full of fantastic events, were woven with real truths, and real emotions.  Re-reading them is re-reading a diary, even if it’s set in a magical land, and the main character is a red-headed warrior-princess sneaking into royal balls, instead of an awkward fourteen-year-old Carrie dreaming about attending prom.

Nothing I write is autobiographical, but it’s all true to my heart. Be cause of that, perhaps, I’d been reluctant to share my words with others. These stories were part of my very DNA. I couldn’t let random people examine them for flaws any more then I could appear naked on a subway stop and shout “JUDGE MY BODY!”

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Not a Clone, Not Alone

I have a friend who got into a special program at a major company right after college. She, along with ten others, had the exact same job description, and the exact same salary. They were all the exact same age, and lived in the same company-owned housing area. They even had the same company cars. In many ways, they were clones, trained to perform the exact same role with little variability,

I bring this up because… the writing world is NOTHING like this.

Some writers work full-time at a day job, and have extra cash, but no extra time. Some write full-time, but budget carefully.

Some are parents. Some live with their parents.

Some are older, some are younger.

Some have sold ten books. Some haven’t finished their first.

Some are city-folk. Some are small-town people.

All of us are writers. We all dream wonderful dreams and spin incredible stories. We have more in common than we do differences, if we dig down deep enough.

This beautifully multi-faceted community is part of what makes our literature so unique and interesting. If we were all clones, we’d all write the same books, over and over again. Instead, we each write from our own personal truths, sharing and growing along the way.

However, sometimes, in the stew of peoples making up the writing community, it can feel like you’re the only one who’s different. The only carrot among potatoes. Maybe you’re the youngest one in your writing group, or the only one without a significant other. Maybe you had a kid and you’re suddenly in a different time in your life than you’ve been, and it seems like every other writer has plenty of freedom. Maybe you feel lonely, because you live hundreds of miles from any other writer.

Maybe it just seems like there’s a “popular club” and you’re not part of it. It’s not true. You belong here. You’re as much a writer, as much part of the community as anyone else.

Social media can be cruel. We all share the best parts of our lives, buffing and photo-shopping away countless imperfections. We humble-brag and white-lie our way to perceived happiness, all the while battling self-doubt and insecurity.

The independent writer might secretly be as lonely as the remote one.

The writer with an adorable-on-paper significant other might be contemplating a divorce.

We compare our worst days to other’s bests, and we beat ourselves up because of it. We judge and critique others who are not like ourselves, instead of seeing each person as a main character in their own story.

 

Let’s stop. Let’s be kind to each other. When you feel excluded or alone, please know, you are never alone. Someone out there cares about you, even if you’ve never met them. Together, let’s write a new story. Of belonging and acceptance, of building each other up and respecting our differences.

Let’s bond over what we have in common. Our story-telling talents.

I’m going to try harder to do this in the new year, and I invite you all to do the same.