This seems like a good idea. Not only because I have way too many pictures of cake. I also have events. And some pretty major announcements coming up. Wouldn’t want to miss those, would you?*
This seems like a good idea. Not only because I have way too many pictures of cake. I also have events. And some pretty major announcements coming up. Wouldn’t want to miss those, would you?*
Hey there, lovelies!
I know it’s been awhile since I posted. I’ve spent the last few months buried under deadlines and finishing up coursework–so far this year I’ve gone to grad school, and written and edited THREE books, all coming out next year–and getting ready to head back to Nashville.
But in the slivers of space between, I’ve been reflecting a lot–about writing, publishing, advice–and I wanted to talk about a piece of advice that I know seems trite, but is honestly the best I can give. I’ll try to explain why.
Five years into my publishing career, I finally feel like I have my feet under me, and because of that, I’m often asked for advice.
When writers–aspiring, debut, and established–ask for insight, I always say, “Just keep writing.”
And I know that sounds like a very Dory thing to say, but the fact of the matter is, if you’ve written a book, and it doesn’t sell, and you want to keep going, you need to write another. If you’ve written a book, and it does sell, but doesn’t do well, you need to write another. If you’ve written a book, and it does well, you need to write another. All roads lead to writing.
And this is good, because when it comes to publishing, very little is in your control. But the one thing you CAN control is the book. The words you put on the page.
So when everything is going well, and when everything is falling apart, you have to keep writing. It is your tether in the storm, and your grounding when you might otherwise float away. It’s easy to lose focus, to get caught up in the successes and failures, but you must. keep. writing.
Two years ago, when The Archived first hit shelves, and my editor left, and my relationship with my then-publisher began to suffer, I felt paralyzed. It took all of my focus, but I kept writing. I finished The Unbound, but I could tell things weren’t going smoothly…I loved my series so very much. I loved my publisher, but publishing isn’t always run on love, or even sales. It was one of those times when the things out of my control were too many, and too complicated, and there was nothing I could do to stop the cracks from spreading.
It was so hard not to sit down and wait for the break.
My heart was breaking.
Instead, I kept writing. I had this pet project, Vicious, and I decided to finish that.
It sold to Tor.
The relationship with my YA publisher continued to fracture. There was nothing I could do.
I was given the chance to audition for a MG series at Scholastic. I landed the deal.
By the time my publisher officially cancelled The Archived series, I had two other houses that supported in me, believed in me. The MG series went on to sell nearly half a million copies. Vicious came out to starred reviews, a movie deal, and a growing cult following. It took me a little while, but I started another YA, and it sold to an incredible editor at an incredible house. Scholastic picked me up for another book. Tor bought a fantasy series.
Two years after my publishing path crumbled beneath my feet, I have eleven books on shelves or under contract. Three amazing publishers.
And I’m not going to lie. It still hurts, every single day. It’s not fair, and it’s not simple–publishing is rarely either–but it didn’t break me. And it could have. Looking back, it is not an exaggeration to say that my publishing career could have stalled, if not ended entirely, had I stopped writing when the cracks started, when the ground broke.
But I kept writing.
I keep writing.
Because I know that no matter what happens, I have more ideas, more books.
This is the part of the path we make. The only part we control. Do not sit down. Do not stand still.
Just. Keep. Writing.
You guys, the time has finally arrived.
A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC–my 8th novel, and the first in a brand new fantasy series with Tor–hits shelves this week.
I vividly remember pacing my front yard in the snow more than two years ago, telling my beta reader about this idea I had. It wasn’t even an idea. It was just a moment, a collision between two characters in an alley. That moment would go on to spawn four Londons, a system of magic, and a cast of strange, powerful, and ambitious deviants, and is Part V, Chapter V in the finished book.
I remember several months later, driving through Texas with Carrie Ryan and Beth Revis, telling them about this crazy idea I was working on, my first ever crack at full-on fantasy.
I remember sitting in a car in the middle of nowhere, telling my agent the project was broken, and that I didn’t know if I could fix it, let alone turn it in to my editor.
I remember my agent convincing me that it wasn’t broken, that the pitch alone still gave her chills, and that she would pry it from my fingers if she had to. I remember her telling my editor was brilliant, and that together we would make it everything it needed to be. And she was right.
I remember late-night emails with my intrepid editor, talking through everything from world-building to weapons, coats to invented languages. Last minute tweaks and changes, cover ideas and final art, and picking the knives at the top of each chapter. I remember reading the book for the final time and realizing that I was reading it as a reader, not the writer, and knowing that it was ready to go to print. I remember that shift from uncertainty to excitement.
So far, each of these moments has belonged to me, but now the book, and its future, belongs to you.
This book, as the dedication says, is for the one who dream of stranger worlds.
And I hope you enjoy it.
* * * * * * * *
If you’re looking for ways to support a book as it makes its way into the world, there are several things you can do.
–Obviously, if you’re able, you can buy it. This is the surest way to support a book, and an AUTHOR.
–Once you’ve read it, please consider leaving a review online, at B+N, Amazon, GR, etc. This is one of the easiest ways to make an impact, and it really does matter.
–Make sure your local store and library has it in! You can always ask, and you can request it.
–Talk it up to your friends, your family, your school, your workplace. Basically run through the streets shouting its name like a lost pet.
–If you love the book, check out the author’s backlist. If ADSOM if your first read of mine, check out VICIOUS, which just came out in paperback.
–If you love a book, spread the word online. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Youtube. Interest and passion are contagious.
–A fun fact: there’s this theory called the 5 Touch Rule, which basically suggests that as consumers we interact with a product 5 times before purchasing it. I’m a firm believer in this when it comes to books. If you can be one of those touches, please do.
In A Darker Shade of Magic (which comes out on February 24th!!) my heroes, Kell and Lila, flit through magical doors to visit three very different versions of London: There’s Red London, which flourishes with life and magic; Grey London, which has no magic but one very mad King; and White London, where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back.
While each of these three cities if full of its own twists, turns, and secrets—they are also full of blogs! Yes, each city is home to some very special blogs and I’ll be embarking on a whirlwind tour through all of them starting on February 17th. And since, as Kell and Lila learn, it’s dangerous to linger, I’ll only have time to answer one question at each stop (though a small cup of tea might also be imbibed—I will be in a London, after all).
Want to follow me on this mad dash? Check out the schedule below! And know this: some blogs will be giving away a prize package of a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic and a double-sided poster (signed by me!) that features the US and UK covers.
You can also track me through twitter!
February 17 — Vampire Book Club — Red London
February 18 — The Eater of Books — White London
February 19 — Icey Books — Grey London
February 20 — Effortlessly Reading — Red London
February 21 – Cuddlebuggery – White London
February 22 — JessBella Reads — Grey London
February 23 — Istyria Book Blog — Red London
February 24 — Stories and Sweeties — White London
February 25 — Please Feed the Bookworm — Grey London
February 26 — The Nerd Herd Reads — Red London
February 27 — Novel Heartbeat — White London
February 28 — The Flyleaf Review — Grey London
March 1 — Addicted 2 Novels — Red London
March 2 — Books, Bones, and Buffy — White London
March 3 — My Friends are Fiction — Grey London
March 4 — Super Space Chick — Red London
March 5 — The Midnight Garden — White London
March 6 — Amaterasu Reads — Grey London
March 7 — Fiction Freak — Red London
March 8 — The Escapist — White London
March 9 — Addicted Readers — Grey London
March 10 — Bookish Antics — Red London
March 11 — The Social Potato — White London
March 12 — Young Adult Hollywood — White London
March 13 — The Modge Podge Bookshelf — Red London
March 14 — A Dream Within A Dream — White London
March 15 — Fandom Monthly Magazine — Grey London
March 16 — The Nocturnal Library — Red London
March 17 – Reading with ABC – White London
March 18 – Moonlight Gleam Reviews – Grey London
March 19 – Book Munchies – Red London
March 20 – Poisoned Rationality – White London
March 21 – Blood Bookaholic – Grey London
March 22 – Live to Read – Red London
March 23 — There Were Books Involved — White London
March 24 — My Bookish Ways — Only time will tell…
So I’m sitting here, working on my 10th book—how did that happen?—and thinking about pacing. As someone who writes fantasy, I’m always faced with a dilemma, a push-pull problem: the need to introduce the world and its rules, without dragging down the plot. I like to think I do this—I certainly do my best—but the simple fact is that those first 100 pages can’t JUST be plot, not in fantasy.
They have to lay foundations.
They have to set up the rest of the book, so that it all makes sense and pays off and the clues add up and the twists work and the punches land and you’re left with a feeling of YES. Because here’s what I think: it’s worth it. Those opening pages, which lay that foundation—I’m not talking about info-dumping, that is nightmarish and just bad writing—and establish your world, they are worth it. They are the incline, pulling the weight like the beginning of a roller coaster so you can get the height needed to have all the heart-wrenching, stomach-dropping turns that come with the drop.
And it’s worth it.
I spent my first seven or eight books fretting about the fact that my first 100 pages are always pulling weight, always slower than the rest of my books, thinking I was failing somehow, thinking if I could just be better, there would be no incline, it would all be drop. I braced myself for all those comments at the 1/3 mark of “I hope this picks up” or “lots of build up so far” and all I could see was that pattern, but over time, I noticed another one.
People got to that hinge point, that drop, and started saying WHEEEEEE.
People got to the end of the ride, and they were exhilarated, happy, ready to go again.
The build-up was worth it.
And I’m really, really proud of that.
It’s taken me a lot of books to see that there’s no wrong way to write a book. That sometimes things that seem like failures are actually necessary parts of success. I’m still striving to get better, obviously, to crank readers up to the top faster, but I’ve decided, I’m okay with the incline. This is how I write.
So if you pick up one of my books, and find the first 100 pages a little slow, stick with me for the rest of the ride.
[To celebrate the paperback release of THE UNBOUND–out today!!!–I wrote a short story. It takes place about four hours after the end of THE UNBOUND, and it’s told from Wesley’s POV. Enjoy!]
Hospitals make horrible music.
I don’t mean the literal kind they pipe into elevators or play at background levels in waiting rooms (with the TVs and the magazines and all the other stimuli because apparently if you give people any actual quiet they’ll think about the fact they’re in a hospital). No, I mean the hum and buzz and beep, the ringing phones and squeaking stretcher wheels and distant coughs that layer together to make up a hospital’s soundtrack, the way slivers of thought and memory make up a person’s noise. It sets my teeth on edge, which sends a dull pain through my head, which reminds me of the pain flickering in my shoulder and ribs, and it’s a slippery slope from calm to pain to panic so I stop myself right there.
I hate hospitals.
I don’t even have a good reason, like I spent too much time in them as a kid because my grandma was sick (she was already dead) or my dad worked on the ER—if anyone needed medical attention it was me, and nobody noticed. I just hate the way they sound. They’re everything the Archive isn’t. Well, everything it wasn’t, when I still thought it was everything.
But I’m here, and I’m staring at the x-rays the doctor’s left tacked up on the light board. The screen’s dark now but the image is still ghosted behind my eyes. Strange thing, to see your body from the inside out. People are made of so many fragile pieces.
I tick past the trouble in my mind. A few broken ribs. A cracked shoulder. A little internal bleeding (nothing serious). And behind those things, the older scars. Hairline fractures and fused bones. Only so much you can blame on a collapsing tent in a festival fire. And yet, no burns. Because I wasn’t really trapped beneath a tent in a festival fire. I was fighting for my life. For Mackenzie’s.
But I can’t say that, of course, just like I can’t say that those old wounds came from fighting Histories—an old man with a hunting knife, a kid with sharp teeth, Owen Chris Clarke—so they bring in a social worker, to make sure I’m not being hurt at home. And for a moment I’m pretty tempted to say yeah, yeah I am being hurt, because my father’s a prick and my stepmother—shudder—is an evil money-grubbing bitch, but in the end I just shrug and say it must have been soccer because dad may be a horrible person but the marks he’s left are more absences than injuries, and Izzy is only an evil money-grubbing bitch in context. I probably wouldn’t hate her if she was gold-digging someone else’s family.
I don’t think the doctors really believed me in the end, but then Dallas showed up and said something and they let the matter drop, which I owe her for, but lying here surrounding by hospital music I’m almost wishing I’d drawn it out, let them take the fall so someone else could suffer. Maybe I’m just mad because I told them to go home and they listened. Didn’t even put up a fight. They were dressed like I’d pulled them away from some important function—that’s what they call it when you’re too rich and important for words like dinner or party. Everything becomes a function, an event, a gala.
So here I am. Alone. Which is fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, but it’s not.
An IV drips cloudy fluid into a tube running into a needle running into the back of my hand. I hate needles, almost as much as hospitals. Mac would probably make fun of me if she knew, which means I’ll probably end up telling her. That’s a form of masochism, I’m sure, but if it will make her smile, she’s worth the bruised ego. She’s worth the real bruises, too. She’s even worth the needles.
I picture telling her, and in my mind I’m still on my back but I’m no longer in this hospital bed. No, I’m lying with my head in her lap, looking up through her waves of auburn hair. It’s just getting dark, and we’re stretched on the worn stone steps of the Court at Hyde. No fire. No explosions. No Owen. Just us.
Just Mackenzie, really, and that small, hard-won smile.
“Honestly, Wes?” she’ll tease, brushing her fingers across my forehead so she can see my eyes. “Not monsters or serial killers or the dark?”
I reach up and tuck a strand of copper behind her ears. No IV. No bruises. Just my hand on her skin.
“Hey look,” I’ll say. “There are rational and irrational fears in this world, and last time I checked, it’s not irrational to be afraid of sharp, pointy things.” Especially not after being stabbed, I’ll think, but I won’t say that, because I’m not supposed to remember that day. It would be easier not to remember that day.
Mac will give me that skeptical look. “You sure have a lot of piercings for a guy with a needle phobia.”
“I am the master of my fears,” I’ll say. Even though the truth is I made Cash go with me every time, and you know he’s a good friend because he never gave me hell, never did anything but turn through the tattoo catalogs along the wall and wonder which design would piss his father off the most.
Fake/future/alternate world Mackenzie bends down and kisses my forehead. My head spins.
They’ve got me pumped full of god-knows-what, and it’s dulling the world in all the wrong places. It’s like standing at the very edge of a dream and you can’t seem to wake up but you can’t forget you’re dreaming either.
And then, just as panic starts to really dig its fingers in, my cell starts buzzing on the side table. When I reach for it, pain blossoms across my stomach, but it’s worth the trek. It’s Mac.
I left the window open, she says.
And just like that, the world pulls back into focus. I stop spinning and something in me cracks—not something literal like bones, thank god, but something just as deep—and I’m so ready for this damn night to end, but I don’t want it to end here.
I take a bracing breath, knowing this is going to hurt, then sit up, and sure enough the pain makes light dance behind my eyes. I didn’t feel it during the fight–I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even feel it after, when Mac and I were back on campus. It wasn’t until the EMTs pulled us apart that the pain hit me in a wave.
I perch on the edge of the hospital bed, waiting for the room to stop spinning. It hurts to breathe, but I have this trick, where I try and focus on the good, so I remind myself that things only hurt because I’m still alive to feel them. Silver linings, kids. I’m full of them.
Getting dressed takes a painful—and painfully long—time and I alternate between cursing and holding my breath in case a nurse chooses this moment—trying to balance with one leg in my pants—to come in.
But no one does.
I find a mirror in the cubicle of a bathroom, and my reflection stares back. I’ve looked better. My face has found a way to look pale and bruised at the same time, my eyeliner smudged into a messy shadow; my father assured the doctors it must be smoke, or face paint from the festival. Because the idea of me wearing makeup bothered him more than seeing me in a hospital bed.
I run a hand through my hair, trying to smooth away the hospital bed head, which is even worse than normal bedhead, but I give up. There’s a cut above my eyebrow held closed by two strips of white tape, and I wonder if it will leave a scar, because scars are rather dashing, and then I hear Mac in my head again.
“Get over yourself, Wes,” she says and I smile and it hurts.
It’s late, and hospital wings really do get quiet at night, so it’s easy enough to slip out. I find my key in the front pocket of my jeans, but I don’t know where the nearest Narrows door is, and the grim fact is I’m in no shape for handling Histories, so I take a cab across town.
I’ve never been so glad to see the Coronado’s creepy face, the gargoyles perched like ravens on the roof. I never told Mac but I have names for them all. Governor. Socrates. Headless. Malcolm…
I stand on the curb, staring up at the three floors that stand between me and Mac’s room. Or more accurately, I stare at the fourth floor window above Mac’s room, the one I used to climb down through her window, and realize there’s no way I can make that descent tonight.
And then, the universe takes pity on my predicament. My phone buzzes again. Another note from Mac.
I left the door open, too.
My heart skips a little as I head into the lobby, and think about taking the stairs but decide it won’t be very charming if I pass out halfway up and someone finds my body in the morning, so I take the death trap of an elevator to the third floor.
3F is waiting at the end. I could kiss it.
I press my ear to the wood, and then turn the handle as softly as I can manage and step inside. The apartment’s dark and I find my way by feel and memory through the living room and down the hall to Mackenzie’s bedroom.
Inside, it’s cloaked in moonlight and shadow. At first I think she’s asleep, but as I slide the door shut behind me, she rolls over.
“You came,” she whispers, her voice as tight as my chest.
“No place I’d rather be,” I say softly. “I wish the entrance had been grander. The door doesn’t have nearly as much style as the window and—” but I don’t get any farther because she’s on her feet, crossing the space between us, and then her mouth on mine, her noise thundering through my head where she grips me.
I gasp under her touch, and she pulls back, but that’s the last thing I want, so I pull her close again and let my body scream. She tangles her fingers with mine and leads me to the bed, and when we get there she climbs onto the covers and makes a Wesley-size space for me beside her, and suddenly the pain means nothing because this moment it perfect.
We lie there for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling instead of each other, only our hands tangled together. And then I her turn toward me, her storm eyes narrowed on my wrist.
“What’s this?” she asks, fingering the hospital bracelet. I’d forgotten all about it, and now she’s looking at it way too hard, as if it’s the most fascinating thing in the world and not an infernal piece of plastic. And then I see what she sees, and I can feel the blood drain out of my face. Can feel my stomach sink through my feet.
She squints at the writing on the bracelet, at my legal name printed on the label, and I cover it with my fingers but it’s too late. I can tell she’s read the name. My first name.
Templeton Wesley Ayers the II, also known as reason #45 why I hate my father. Because what kind of sadistic asshole passes on a name like that?
“Mac,” I start, but it’s too late. She doesn’t just smile, she starts laughing, and I want to be angry but god, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world, even better than that storm going inside her head. I would slay monsters and run through fire and jump off cliffs just to hear that sound. Which is why it takes all my strength to stifle it, and press my hand over her mouth. The laugh becomes a muffled chuckle in her chest. And then her fingers drift up to mine, and pry them gently free.
“Don’t say it,” I hiss, as her lips form the word. “Don’t mouth it. Don’t even think about it.”
“Okay,” she whispers. “…Templeton.”
I groan, but she cuts off the sound with a kiss. We’re gentler now, moving carefully over each other’s bruised and broken bodies, the crackle of pain swallowed up by the fact that Mackenzie Bishop is letting me kiss her. Mackenzie Bishop is kissing me.
“I’m glad you told me,” she says, breathlessly.
“I didn’t tell you,” I point out.
“Well I’m glad I found out.”
“Because now I won’t laugh when we become Crew.”
I go still. Not because I don’t want to hear those words. But because I do. I want them to be true.
“Do you mean it?” I ask, rolling gingerly to face her.
She mirrors me, rolling onto her side so I’m looking straight into her eyes. “Yes,” she says.
I can tell I’m smiling like an idiot. I don’t care. “I don’t suppose you have any hidden and mortifying names? Habits? Secrets?”
“And what’s that?”
“I’m in love with a boy named Templeton.”
Apparently it is now 2015?!
Realizations include HOLY CRAP A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC COMES OUT THIS YEAR (NEXT MONTH)!!! The paperbacks for VICIOUS and THE UNBOUND also come out THIS MONTH!
I tend to think about things in terms of months, not years, but aside from breaking out a brand new blank calendar…
…but my resolutions for the year include:
–Read 100 books (I managed 89 in 2014)
–Post “Leave the Windows Open” on Jan 6th
–Survive second semester of grad school
–Turn in ADSOM2
–Turn in MONSTER
–Turn in Secret Vicious Project
–Turn in Secret OTHER Project
–Meditate every day for at least 10 minutes
–Be a better pagan
–Do something I thought was impossible
I’m wishing you all an AMAZING January, and a wonderful 2015. <333
*dives back into the writing cave*
With the holidays upon us, and books a perfect present, I wanted to take a moment to share a list of the best books I read this year. Not all of them are new releases, but they’re all WONDERFUL in their own way.
For those who like their fiction dark and disturbing: HORNS by Joe Hill.
For those who love contemporaries with gorgeous writing: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson.
For those wanting a beautiful, heartfelt book: THE HUMANS by Matt Haig.
For those who want to be consumed by a story: MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson.
For lovers of psychology: THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD by Elyn R. Saks.
For the gamers and geeks: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.
For those who love the smell of old books: MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan.
For the lovers of YA magic and fantasy: THE RAVEN BOYS series by Maggie Stiefvater.
For those who want a zombie fix with a twist: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by Mr. Carey.
For those who want to find a new classic: SABRIEL by Garth Nix.
Have you read anything this year you absolutely LOVE? Let me know in the comments!!
Hi there, lovelies!
Life has been madness lately, between deadlines and grad school, but I come bearing NEWS! Of the book deal variety!
No, it’s not THE ARCHIVED, though I DO have something to share on that front in a couple months. And no, it’s not VICIOUS, though once again, irons in the fire, something in the works. What it IS, is a brand new YA deal.
So, MONSTER. I describe this project as Sin City + Romeo and Juliet + well, monsters.
It is strange and dark and existential and violent and a little bit like VICIOUS.
And wait till you meet Kate and August. The only thing I’ve ever teased about this book is that it opens with Kate burning down a church. So safe to say, this is not your standard paranormal boy-rescues-girl story.
Ahhhhhhh I’m so excited to tell you more, as we get closer to release!!! And if 2016 feels like a long time away, just remember I have more books hitting shelves before then! First up, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC in just over 4 months.
(P.S. Now you understand why I need that calendar system!!)