More than a year without a vlog? For shame.
But behold, the elusive V in her native habitat.
“How will you find the time?”
This has become the most asked question in my life. In exactly six months, I will move to the UK for a year, to do a Masters Program at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a crazy and terrifying and totally surreal thing to think about, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity.
But it’s got me thinking a lot about time, and the making of it (notice I don’t say ‘finding’ — I hate that phrase, ‘finding time’). Again and again and again I field a version of the question, “Why? Things are going so well for you! Why would you interrupt it? Why would you make your life more complicated? And how will you find the time?”
I don’t mind the question, exactly. But here’s my answer:
I’m a really strong believer that you expand to fill the time you have. You learn this the hard way: when you wake up fifteen minutes before a class, you discover that you can actually don clothes and sprint across campus in fourteen and a half. When you only have two hours a day to write, as I did in school–or as many do, stealing hours of time before their children wake or after they go to sleep–you discover just how focused you can be.
I have had the immense luxury for the last few years of being a full-time author. But so many people have writing careers without that luxury, some by necessity and some by choice. I believe there is room in life for writing, and room in life for more than writing. I actually believe it’s essential to make room in life for more than writing.
Imagine you can hold your work time in your hands (and let’s for the sake of argument assume you have two of them).
Now imagine that in one hand, you hold writing. In the other, you hold a job, or school, or both. Now let’s say you have the luxury to become a full-time writer, and you empty that non-writing hand. I don’t believe you should put writing in that second hand as well. In fact, for the vast majority of creative people, I don’t think you can. Or if you try, I don’t think you’ll end up with two hands’ worth of work to show for it. We have a creative capacity, and while that’s different for each person, I think it’s fairly constant for that person. A ceiling of efficiency, if you will. For me, personally, my creative capacity is roughly 3,000 words/day. I don’t enjoy writing more than that. My focus falls off, and so does my quality, and I know that about myself.
When I was in college, and stealing two hours in a coffee shop each night to write THE NEAR WITCH, I reached my creative capacity. These days, as a full-time writer, with 18 hours at my disposal instead of 2, I usually hit the same point. Yes, I get to fill the rest of the time doing a myriad of other authorly things, but the simple creative math of it is that my writing sits in one of my two hands, even when the other is free.
And even if someone can stretch themselves, push themselves, take up 8 or 10 or 18 hours of their day with writing, I don’t necessarily think they should. Even if burnout weren’t a factor, I believe that part of being a writer is finding things to write about, getting out in the world and absorbing new information and experiences.
So really, for the last few years, that’s what I’ve filled my other hand with. Movies and travel and books and research and chance and adventure and risk and wrong turns. Those are my true luxuries as a full-time author. For me, being a full-time author has allowed me neither stability nor comfort, but the ability to risk the second hand. Writing is one of the most important things in my life. It is woven into the fabric of who I am. But it cannot be the only thing. It shouldn’t be the only thing. I would not be a good writer if it were the only thing.
So “why would I complicate my life?”
Because life is for complicating.
It’s for living. It’s for taking wrong turns–and hopefully a few right ones. It’s for going on adventures, and learning new things, so that if the Archive turns out to be real, your History will be interesting enough to read ;)
And “how will I find time?”
I won’t. I’ll make it.
Wow. What a year. I’m doing this post as much as a reminder to myself as an update for my readers.
This has been an absolute roller coaster of a year.
–My second book, THE ARCHIVED, hit shelves.
–I traveled and promoted, and got to panel with Veronica Roth, Lissa Price, and Lauren Oliver at LA Times Festival of Books, which was an absolute highlight of my promo year.
–I lost two dogs very close together. I’d had Mitzi since I was 8 years old, and the absence of her was devastating. Sam I’d had since I was 16. Needless to say, both left holes in my heart.
–I spent more than a month in Europe, including two weeks in Scotland that reaffirmed my decision to live there, and two weeks traveling through Europe doing research for a future book.
–I felt abandoned.
–I wrote PIRATES, THIEVES, AND SADIST KINGS (not real title).
–I got to announce my middle grade series with Scholastic.
–I filmed a video advertisement for Scholastic.
–I wrote the second book in the middle grade series, Everyday Angel.
–I felt lost.
–I got to sign ARCs of VICIOUS at BEA to a group that started lining up two hours in advance. And I got to do it with my incredible editor at my side.
–I wrote my first ever short story, “Warm Up,” and had it published on Tor.com.
–I got to sign both VICIOUS and THE ARCHIVED at New York Comic Con.
–I got to write a series of essays about one of my favorite books (STARDUST) by one of my favorite authors (Neil Gaiman), and he read them.
–I felt frustrated.
–I learned to play tennis.
–I watched all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in less than a month.
–VICIOUS hit shelves.
–VICIOUS racked up a humbling array of “Best of” lists as well as a PW star.
–VICIOUS sold movie rights to an incredible team of producers.
–I felt hopeful.
–I sold books.
–I had books rejected.
–I made some incredible new friends, both within the publishing sphere and without.
–I got accepted to graduate school in Scotland.
–I said yes to the offer.
This has been a strange, wonderful, heartbreaking, surreal year. I don’t know what 2014 holds, but I hope there is balance and hope, and a bit of magic.
And of course, I hope there is adventure.
Hey hey, kids.
So tomorrow marks the first of November (what the actual f*ck?) and as many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month.
Now, I’m not formally participating in that, in part because I “NaNo” roughly six months out of the year, and in part because I have two manuscripts to revise before the holidays, the first of them due at the end of this month (hence National Revise 2 Manuscripts Month, or NaRev2ManMo).
I also have two projects I desperately want to start making concrete progress on.
I really like the accountability that comes with NaNo. It’s like a community version of the personal calendar.
For that reason–and because I think seeing an author’s real-time progress can make the act of writing books seem, well, less like a miracle and more like a day-by-day achievement–I am going to do a weekly update here on the blog measuring my own progress with my handy dandy calendar.
My own rules are simple (and simply daunting). I want to earn metallic silver/gold stars for revision AND/OR colorful hearts for new book words every single day this month. Ideally I would earn both, lending me an end-of-month total of a fully revised MG *and* 25-30k of a new book.
But that’s what November is for. A month of focused energy. And honestly, the more work I get done before Thanksgiving, the more I can actually ENJOY my holiday. I had no less than THREE books due right after Christmas last year, and that was the literal version of Hell. I’d love to have a better grasp of my workload before the holidays descend.
Like the blank page, the blank calendar is full of promise and potential.
Grab your stickers and your pens, your laptops and your ideas, and let’s do this.
So. PSA time.
Every single day I get messages–tweets, fbs, emails, etc–from people letting me know their store doesn’t have my books. Or at least, not all of them.
Sometimes it’s because my book isn’t being published in their country, and then I can apologize (not in my control) and direct them to an awesome site like Book Depository (which ships to dozens of countries for free).
But often it’s that their US store–be it their chain store or their indie–doesn’t carry my books. Or doesn’t carry whichever one of my books they were looking for. Chain stores especially have a time frame during which they carry a new title. It depends on a variety of factors, but one of the biggest is shelf space. YA has a huge turnover, a vast number of new books coming out, and that means they have to make room. Sometimes a new hardcover gets a year on the shelf, sometimes 6 months, sometimes 2-3.
I feel like I’ve been lucky. Each of my books has gotten better bookstore placement. When THE NEAR WITCH first came out, Barnes and Noble only took an average of 2 copies. When THE ARCHIVED came out, it averaged 5-6. When VICIOUS hit shelves a week and a half ago, it had absolutely awesome placement.
But store size is also a huge factor. Even VICIOUS, which has New Arrival placement in big Barnes and Nobles, and New Science Fiction and Fantasy placement in medium stores, is not being shelved in EVERY Barnes and Noble. THE ARCHIVED has lasted 9 months, but is fading from shelves at a rapid rate as the stores make sure to clear their stock before the paperback hits shelves in January.
And indie bookstores are a whole different beast. Since indies place their orders independently–where chain store stock decisions are made in blankets–there’s just no way to guarantee that an author of book gets onto the radar of every indie bookstore. Trust me, if there were a way, I would have found it (so would everyone else in the industry).
Every time I get one of these notes, telling me a store didn’t stock my book(s), it’s like a little punch in the chest. Not just because I WISH that every store had all my books, but because many times people say they bought something else instead, or simply left, instead of requesting it.
Here’s the PSA part:
Authors have NO control over which stores do–or don’t–carry their books.
But YOU, as a reader and a book-buyer, DO have control.
You can ask the store to order it.
If enough people do, a store will often start carrying a couple in stock.
Same goes for libraries. If enough requests and holds get put on a book, they will usually order more copies.
YOU are the way to ensure that the books you want by the authors you want get shelved in stores.
So please, when you want a book from a store, ask the store to order it. They will be happy to. And you’ll put a few years back on my life because every time I get that note, it strips a few days off.
Hi there, lovelies.
Only a few days into September, and it’s already proving to be a month of immense highs and lows.
Lows first. We lost our beloved golden, Sammy, yesterday. This came after losing Mitzi only a short number of weeks ago. Sammy was 13. Mitzi was 18. They defined my childhood, and their absence is immense. It’s heartbreaking, going to the vet with a dog, and coming back with only a collar, and I’m trying to hold on to the good instead of the sad in this summer of loss.
But there is a lot of good to hold on to.
VICIOUS comes out in 18 days. I don’t even know how to mentally handle that. To be measuring in days instead of weeks or months makes my heart ache in a totally different way.
Four years ago–almost exactly–I sold my first book. Today, I got to take this picture:
Because today, I got to hold VICIOUS in its finished form. I don’t have the words (I suppose they are all in these books) to explain.
The entire back cover of VICIOUS is blurbs.
And Tor, which has been so amazing and supportive from the start, is running a giveaway on their website for TEN galleys of the book, each with trading cards, and if you’d like in, you only need comment HERE.
Another spot of good to hold on to: this week, VICIOUS was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Again, speechless. Totally speechless.
More cool/exciting/terrifying things are happening, but of course, I cannot talk about them yet. Of course. It is a tease, I know. I cannot tell you who I’ll be paneling with a NY Comic Con, though it’s insane. I cannot show you new covers, though I’ve seen them. I cannot talk about new book deals, though they exist. I cannot share awesome opportunities just yet. Not yet. Stick with me awhile. <3
In the meantime, I have a book due Monday, and should probably get back to writing it, but as always, lovelies, I adore you. Thank you for riding the roller coaster with me.
Passing through to give a quick life update.
If I’ve been quiet online lately, it’s because things are busy busy busy in my little corner of the universe, and I’m just trying to keep my head on my shoulders and my feet on the ground.
I’ve had a bit of a hard time finding my focus/flow ever since I got back from Scotland, and I swear it feels like I spend more energy each day trying not to panic than actually getting books written. But I’m working on it.
Day by day.
Bird by bird.
Brick by brick.
In addition to working on two different books this summer (one is the second book in the EVERYDAY ANGEL series, the other is a big fat secret), I also have the incredible (and incredibly surreal) opportunity to write a series of short essay posts for Tor.com! And if that’s not cool enough, the essays are on Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST.
Which is reason #5672 this was so cool:
But when you add the three essays to the two books to the pre-pub work for VICIOUS–two months you guys, TWO MONTHS AND THREE DAYS I CAN’T EVEN–and the fact I’m considering applying to grad school this fall, AND trying to have a life/stay sane, it adds up.
I’m beginning to think my brain isn’t stretchy enough to wrap around so many things.
But I’m trying!
And I just want to say, the early reviews for VICIOUS, the pre-orders, the kind words about the sample on Netgalley, and the MG title reveal, and the reviews still streaming in for THE ARCHIVED…it all helps. A lot. Your daily check-ins and tweets and FB messages cheering me on are the thread holding me together <3
In a few days, I’ll be back on the blog to give away another ARC of VICIOUS, but in the meantime, love and hugs and kindness, lovelies.
Some bad things happened recently.
The kind of bad that made me sit down on the floor and sob and wonder questions like why do I and is it worth it and will the road ever run smoother. The bad happened in amid a spot of good, and I don’t know if the good saved me, or if it made it worse for letting me believe a spot of good could be a world of it.
I went away for a little break. Away from writing. Away from the life connected with it, and all the weight. I drove into the countryside with two amazing friends, stretched in the backseat and listened to music and watched stars through the moon roof and pieced my hope back together.
And now I’m back. Back and still struggling to find myself amid the lingering malaise–frustration, fatigue, anger. I am trying to find my focus. Trying to use that spot of good as a raft.
(So much good lovelies. An ocean of it. Why does a spot bad have the power to pollute it?)
I need that focus. I haven’t found it yet, but I need it more than ever. I hope I’ve not–and fear I have–spooked it away with all my needing. At some point I’m going to have to climb out of myself and all these heavy thoughts and into other selves and find their thoughts instead and it feels like I’ve forgotten how to do that, but I know it’s just the spot of bad, holding on, dragging me down.
I’m writing this post to myself as much as you, to tell myself it’s time to let go.
Bad things happen.
But good things can be made. From them. In spite of them.
And it’s time to make good things.
This summer I will write two books. Aim for a third if I’m feeling ambitious (hard to believe in my current state, but writing this is finding words and right now I’ll take them, whatever their shape). This summer I will drag my eyes away from the recent past and refocus on the near future. On a season of writing. Creating. Building new roads, and rafts, and whatever else I need to stay afloat.
It’s time to stand up again.
It’s time to start.
So I’m saying this to you now. If you’re feeling lost, bone-sad or heartbroken or hopeless or astray, get up. We cannot move forward until we stand up.
Let’s stand up.
I’m back from BEA and all its BEA-shaped shenanigans, and thought I’d do a quick post and try to sum up my feelings, which are myriad and mostly come in squeeees.
It was an absolute whirlwind of a trip. I flew out of Nashville on Thursday at an obscene hour and arrived in NYC around 9AM, dropped my bags at the hotel and hurried over to Javits so as to optimize the time for shenanigans.
I was on the show floor for all of three minutes before I was recognized for the first time! A persistently surreal and wonderful feeling. By fifteen minutes in I had hugged half a dozen bloggers and authors. I barely had time to take it in before dashing off to a lunch meeting with my wonderful Scholastic editor, Aimee.
After tasty treats and a discourse on Scotland, angels and devils, adventure and world domination, I hurried back to BEA and met my Disney*Hyperion editor, Lisa, at the booth, and we took a turn about the floor and it was utterly delightful.
That night I had the pleasure of going to a rooftop party, where I got to fangirl about Cat Valente with Holly Black, clink glasses Gretchen McNeill, Veronica Rossi, Kami Garcia, Zoraida Cordova and dozens of other new and old friends.
Friday was my Actual Author Day.
I roamed the floor with my Tor editor, Miriam, stalking books like MARIE ANTIONETTE SERIAL KILLER and COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN, trying to distract myself from how nervous I was about my 2pm signing.
And then, around 12:30, I started getting tweets. Tweets telling me that people we showing up:
LOTS of tweets:
My fear began to shift into excitement. People were actually coming.
By the time I took my seat, the line was huge. So big it had to be split into several parts around the autograph hall. Tor had send 120 ARCs. It wasn’t nearly enough.
I couldn’t stop smiling.
When people reached the table, they would ask me how I was doing, and it took all my will power not to say I AM DOING F*CKING FABULOUS because the truth is, BEA signings, signings like this, with so much people and so much energy, are my favorite thing in the whole wide world. There are no words. There really aren’t.
As soon as the signing was over I hurried over to one of the BEA Live tents and had a video interview. I’m pretty sure I smiled the entire time. At one point, the interviewer (a very professional gentleman in a suit) leaned forward and said, “You just seem to be having a really, really good time.”
And I said, “I am. I am having a BLAST.”
One of the strangest things is the difference between last year and this one. I pay a lot of attention to personal progress and professional evolution (see my blog post about the Moment I had signing with Carrie and Beth in TX). This year at BEA, so many more people recognized me. So many more knew who I was, what I’d written, was writing. It was extraordinarily cool and humbling and surreal <–that's really the theme of my BEA.
One of the coolest moments came on Friday AFTER my events, when Tyler Nevins, the amazing designer behind the ARCHIVED covers…
…tracked me down, and gave me THIS:
In case you can’t tell, that is the ACTUAL FREAKING RING from the cover of THE UNBOUND.
SIZED TO FIT.
Which means I now have the key from the first book and the ring from the second, and it is incredibly cool and I have no words and lots of smiles.
[Speaking of THE UNBOUND, a fair number of people both at my events and on the floor asked me it–mostly whether there were ARCs–and the short answer is no, not right now! I’m not even through copyedits yet, but I promise to keep you posted as we get a bit nearer to release (Jan 2014).]
After being an Actual Author all day I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with old and new friends, which was perfect and restorative. I got to hug Julie Kagawa, see my ex-housemates, chat with my beta, tell the Neil Gaiman hug saga to a fellow fan, talk theology with Annie Gaughen, listen to Gretchen McNeill sing opera, tell a short story to Jeffrey and Jeremy West and Tiffany Schmidt, recount the origins of a wonderful friendship with Laura Whitaker…it goes on. An absolutely perfect end to a perfect day.
Saturday I got to sit in the front row at Neil Gaiman’s talk, and then eat pastries with my Tor editor and toast to a successful time at BEA, but also to the adventure ahead.
VICIOUS is now just 3.5 months from release, and it’s shaping up to be a wild ride.
Thanks for being on it with me :)
A month abroad goes something like this:
Home → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → Oslo, Norway
Oslo, Norway → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → London, England
London, England → Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic → Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria → Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany → Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France → Dover, England
Dover, England → York, England
York, England → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → Home
In photos, it looks something like this:
In words…well, I don’t have any.
There are no words for how I felt standing by the bonfire on Calton Hill during the Beltane Festival in Edinburgh.
No words for walking a character’s steps in London.
No words for the view of Prague from the top of the palace steps, or Vienna’s museum quarter with its majestic architecture.
No words for the cozy streets of Heidelberg, tucked into the hills, or the trains gliding through familiar France, or the strange stillness of the grey English channel.
There are no words for those things. Or if there are, I haven’t found them. I haven’t wanted to, just yet.
But in the months leading up to the trip, and during the month abroad, I’ve been asked one question more than any other: WHY. Why did I do this? Surely there’s a reason. In truth, there are three.
And since I’ve only given little snippets of an answer, I thought I would take the time to try and explain.
If you’ve followed the blog for more than a month or two, you know I have wings tattooed behind my anklebones, both as a nod to Hermes and a reference to my persistent wanderlust. I have a very, very hard time sitting still. It makes me feel static and small in the worst way. Moving, experiencing, making wrong turns and right turns and seeing the world, it makes me happy. Much happier than buying clothes or shoes or a house or whatever else people use money for. I’m lucky in that right now I only have to worry about supporting myself, so I have the freedom to (scrimp and save and budget and plan to use) my resources for travel. Besides, I subscribe to the adage that you can’t write about life if you spend life writing. Yes, I spend a vast, vast amount of time writing, but I would rather do it on a boat or a train or tucked in the corner of a foreign cafe than sitting at my kitchen counter (though incidentally, after a month abroad, I am sooooo looking forward to my counter).
I’ve been thinking about moving to Scotland. Yes, really. One of the best things about my job—one day I will do an honest post about the pros and cons because both are manifold but today is not that day—is the geographic freedom it affords. I don’t have to live in a specific place in order to write books. Two years ago I moved to England for three months and lived in a shed in someone’s back yard (it was all I could afford) while writing THE ARCHIVED simply because I wanted a change of scenery. As a full-time author (a title I hold onto by writing multiple books a year, and one I don’t anticipate to last forever), and one without a husband/S.O/children, I can truly take advantage of the lack of locational confines. So I do. I first visited Scotland a couple years ago, and fell instantly in love. I wanted to confirm that I still felt that love, and I do.
The first two weeks of the trip, which were spent in Scotland with an author friend, were purely for fun (though I wrote a short story, a proposal, and more than 10k of a book, so, I mean, productive fun), the entire second half of the month abroad was actually a research trip for a new book. It took a great deal of careful planning and budgeting, and I’ll likely be spending the rest of the summer eating ramen, but it’s been totally worth it. As for the project itself, the only thing I’ve said about it, and the only thing I will say until it’s written, is that it’s about a twisted love affair between a French girl and the devil. It’s set largely in present-day Brooklyn, but the story is spread over three centuries in Europe, so…yeah.
That’s why I went to Europe.
I wanted to see things.
I wanted to try things.
I wanted to breathe and eat and drink and feel inspired.
I wanted to live in the future and look at the past and I wanted to jot notes on every scrap of paper I could find and feel breathless and remember that I love what I do.
And in two days, this weary little traveler will return home to her kitchen counter feeling all of those things and more.
And ready to write.