Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Signed books for the holidays!

Hey y'all!  With the holidays fast approaching I wanted to remind you that I've partnered with my wonderful local indie, Park Road Books, to make signed books available!  They have all of my books, including the anthologies I've participated in, and I can sign, personalize, etc.  They even gift wrap!  Just give them a call at 704-525-9239 and let them know what you'd like to order (and make sure to tell them who you want the book made out to, how to spell the name, and if you want a specific message included).  I'll be stopping by once a week to sign everything before they ship it out to you!  Super easy!

To make sure the books arrive on time they'll be shipping everything Priority Mail so be aware that might add a bit to the cost (the cost will depend on how many books you order).  I'll be signing my last batch of books on Monday, December 17th so make sure to get your order in before then!

There are a lot of authors who partner with their local bookstores to provide signed books so check out your favorite authors' websites if you're interested!

Another small note: I've finally received my bookplates (they'd been backordered and then backordered again) and I'll be sending those out ASAP.  I'm so very very sorry for the delay and I thank you sincerely for your patience!

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Charlotte signing November 19th!

So I know I usually list all my appearances on a separate page, but since this is the very first time I'll be signing at a bookstore in Charlotte, I wanted to make sure to get the news out!!!  Seriously, I can't believe I haven't ever had a signing in my own city!  Here are the details:

When: Monday, November 19th at 7:00 PM
Where: Park Road Books, Charlotte NC (4139 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28209 Tel: 704-525-9239)
What: The signing is officially in honor of the release of My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop but I'll also be signing anything else I've written (books, short stories, etc).  I typically like to chat for a bit and then take Q&A so if the store is amenable, I'll be starting that at 7:00 and signing directly after (I'll make a note here if that plan changes).  If you can't make it but would still like signed and/or personalized books, you can also contact the store and pre-order one and I'll sign it that night.  Actually, you can always order signed and/or personalized books of mine from Park Road Books at any time (info here) --  they've always been incredibly supportive and gracious in facilitating that!
More Details here!

A note: I don't know what Park Road Books' policy is on bringing outside books or limits and as soon as I find out I'll update this post.  If you have questions before I can update, you can contact them directly. However, I would really love it if you would purchase a book (or more!) from Park Road while you're there (even if it's not one of mine).  Park Road Books is a really fantastic indie bookstore and they put their heart and soul into what they do -- we as a community need to support them!

On a more personal note, Park Road Books has supported me from day one and I feel incredibly lucky to live so close to such a wonderful store and honored that they chose me to represent them in the book My Bookstore.  I'm awed to be in the company of so many other amazing authors and am thrilled we could all come together to celebrate Independent Bookstores!

Oh... and a final note that signed books make for excellent holiday gifts... :)

I'll hopefully see you soon!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Infinity Ring: Divide and Conquer out today!

On Sale November 6th!
I have a book out today!!  Divide and Conquer is a middle grade novel and is the second in Scholastic’s new multi-author, multi-platform series, Infinity Ring (series website and game portal here).  What does that mean?  Well, if you’re familiar with 39 Clues, you get the drift.  Infinity Ring is a series of books interspersed with video games and it follows the story of three kids: history obsessed Dak, science geek Sera, and language prodigy Rik as they travel through time trying to fix history.  

The first book, A Mutiny in Time written by James Dashner, finds Dak, Sera, and Rik going back in time to the Santa Maria to stop a mutiny against Christopher Columbus.  The video game that follows takes place in Paris during the Revolutionary War and leads right into my book, Divide and Conquer which is about the Viking siege of Paris.  In fact, here’s the flap copy for my book:

Dak, Sera, and Riq might be in over their heads when they attempt to stop a Viking invasion!
Hundreds of ships carrying thousands of warriors are laying siege to medieval Paris. The Parisians are holding their own, but the stalemate can only last so long. And that's bad news -- especially since Dak has been captured, forced to work alongside the Vikings while Sera and Riq defend Paris from within. No matter which side wins, the kids lose!

And if you're interested in learning more or buying a copy, here are the links: Scholastic | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | Target | Walmart | Autographed Copy.  There are seven books total in the series -- the next is The Trap Door by Lisa McMann out February 5, 2013 to be followed by books written by Matt de la Pena, Jennifer Nielsen, and Matthew Kirby.

Why did I choose the Viking siege of Paris?  Back when I started pondering ideas for this book I asked my nephews, who are the target age for this series, what they’d most like to read about.  They said knights and Vikings.  It just so happens that a few days later my husband emailed me an article about some of the craziest sieges in history and one of them was the Viking siege of Paris.  

And this was indeed a crazy siege — an eye witness reported that 30,000 Vikings traveled up the Seine River in over 700 ships to attack Paris which was defended by a few hundred people and which at that time was mostly concentrated on the Isle de la Cite — the island in the middle of the Seine that now holds Notre Dame.  And get this — the Parisians won!  Mostly.

(It feels strange to put in a spoiler alert here when the book itself is based in history which means all this information is out there... but if you don't want to know anything about the underlying background of my book, don't read what comes next until after you've read Divide and Conquer!)

Basically, the Vikings had some pretty advanced boat technology that enabled them to travel up rivers so that they could attack pretty far inland.  Because of this, cities along the Seine were required to build low, fortified bridges that would block the ships.  So when the Vikings reached the bridges at Paris, they were stuck.  They attacked the city walls hard the first day and that night not only did Paris not surrender, they actually built an extra story on one of the defensive towers to show their strength.

The Vikings tried to fill in the shallows around the towers with debris to gain a better strategic advantage — that didn’t work.  They set fire to their own ships and sent them down the Seine hoping they’d strike the bridges and catch them on fire.  That didn’t work.  They tried to tunnel under the fortifications.  That didn’t work.  And eventually they settled in for a very long siege.  At the end of the day, massive rains came and all the debris and burned ships the Vikings had thrown in the Seine clogged against the bridges, eventually weakening one of them and taking it out.  Even then, the Vikings were basically paid to leave Paris alone and they ended up dragging their ships overland to bypass Paris as they went on their way to Burgundy.  

So on its own, I think that’s a pretty cool story with a lot of action and craziness.  Plus, it’s part of a time period I don’t think we spend a lot of time studying so I was excited to dig into the research and find a way to make learning more about the Vikings fun and entertaining.  

from Wikipedia: Rollo on the Six Dukes statue
in Falaise town square.
And in that research I found one other detail that pretty much locked in my fascination with this whole event.  It has to do with a Viking named Rollo who was one of the chieftains at the siege of Paris.  There really aren’t a lot of records from the Vikings (most everything we know comes from the people they defeated which, as you can imagine, is why Vikings get a pretty bad rap in history) and the records about Rollo vary a bit.  But the basic story is this:

Later in life, Rollo tried to siege Paris again and failed.  He ended up sieging Chartes instead and he was eventually defeated.  By this time, France had been pretty much continually under attack by the Vikings and the main access point for them was the River Seine.  So the King of France (King Charles the Simple) made a deal with Rollo: he would grant Rollo the land around the mouth of the Seine if, in return, Rollo would defend it against the Vikings and he would pledge feudal alliance to the king.  Rollo agreed.

That land he was given was therefore called Normandy —  the land settled by the Norman or North Men, i.e. the Norse.  This alone fascinated me… but there’s more!  Rollo is the great-great-great grandfather of William the Conqueror and thus Rollo is the ancestor of every current European monarch.

So you have this one guy — this one Viking — who has had an enormous impact on history (think of the role Normandy has played in history!  Think of the role of William the Conqueror!!) and yet I’d never heard of him before.  Once I learned all of this, I knew I had to write about it!

There are two other details that made writing about Rollo and the Viking siege of Paris really fun.  The first is that when Rollo pledged fealty to the King, he refused to bend his knee and kiss the king’s foot as required and for a moment it looked as though the treaty would fall through.  Eventually Rollo ordered someone else do it in his place but that Viking also refused to bend his knee so he simply raised the King’s foot all the way up to his mouth, topping the King over.  I have to admit, I found this pretty hilarious.

The final detail that made me fall in love with Rollo’s story… my husband is also one of his descendants.  It’s a small world after all!  

Friday, November 02, 2012

On NaNoWriMo

I'm not sure I'd have ever written The Forest of Hands and Teeth if it weren't for NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and it takes place during November every year.  Essentially, it's a time where individuals pledge to write a novel (defined as 50k words) in a month.  There's a huge community built up around it full of support and encouragement and there are many authors who credit NaNoWriMo as a jumping off point for their novels (Erin Morganstern, Diana PeterfreundMarissa Meyer, ) and many many others — there’s a whole list here.

Back at the start of 2006 I decided that I wanted more than anything else to be an author and I gave myself 10 years to achieve that goal.  Essentially I figured that if could write/revise/submit a book a year, then if after 10 books I hadn't made it I could re-evaluate.  But until then, it was "head down, keep writing, don't let rejections turn you from your course."

So throughout 2006 I wrote.  I started a contemporary romance, a teen vampire chick-lit, a teen paranormal, and a teen contemporary.  On all of these projects I wrote a fair amount of words, but I’d finished nothing.  I took a class on writing YA in the fall and started a book that I was enjoying, but the teacher was a bit delayed in getting pages back to us and so I was a bit stuck — not wanting to write more until I’d gotten feedback on what I’d already written.

Then, in October, I learned about NaNoWriMo.  This sounded like a great idea to me — a way to really motivate and get pages done — and so I decided to sign up.  The only problem?  One of the rules is that you have to start word 1 on day 1 — you can’t start in the middle of an already written project.  I’m a stickler for rules and so I decided I needed a new idea.

I couldn’t come up with one.  I asked my husband, “What should I write?”  He said, “Write what you love.”  I said, “That would be the zombie apocalypse but NO ONE wants to read about that.”  He gave me that “you know I’m right” look.

He was right.  On Thursday, November 2, 2006 I was walking home from work and a line popped into my head that I liked.  So I emailed it to myself myself.  The email is time stamped 6:38PM and has the subject “meh” and says: “My mother used to tell me about the ocean.  She said there was a place where there was nothing but water”

If you’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, you’ll recognize that as the first line and start of the second.  I got home from work that night and I started writing.  I wrote throughout November.  I didn’t “win” NaNo (meaning I didn’t reach 50k words).  But that was okay.  

Here’s why NaNo matters so much to me: First, I never expected The Forest of Hands and Teeth to sell.  I was convinced no one would ever be interested.  I’d spent so much of 2006 trying to write a book that might sell and I don’t know if I ever would have “wasted” time on a project I didn’t think would go anywhere.  Except that NaNo had given me this freedom to just take a month and write.  On a project that probably wouldn’t sell.  And using a brand new voice.  

If I lost one month out of the year on a project that would never sell — so what?  I *loved* writing Forest and in November I got to indulge in that.  I got to experiment on a new voice and story without feeling like I was diverting from the course I’d set for myself.

Second, NaNo is about community as well as words.  There’s a website with forums and message boards and they’re full of people who are indulging in the same passion you are.  It can be difficult in our daily lives to find someone who understands when you talk about trying to figure out how to get to the inciting incident, how to balance writing with life, etc.  NaNo is an easier way to meet those people and make friends.  In fact, I became friends with Diana Peterfreund — now one of my critique partners and closest friends — during NaNo in 2006 (other than my husband, she was the first person to read pages on Forest and her enthusiasm was HUGELY instrumental in me continuing with the project past November).  

Third, while “winning” NaNo means writing 50k, to me the real “win” is that for a month you put writing first.  That November, I came home every day after work and I wrote (well, almost every day).  Because I expected it of myself, because I enjoyed watching my word meter tick up, and because I had other people watching that word meter tick up too.  Like I said, I loved writing Forest and NaNo gave me a reason to indulge in that love.

I get asked all the time what advice I have for writers and it is this: write.  It’s so easy to talk about writing, think about writing, plan to write, and so easy to somehow just not end up writing.  It’s easy to find other things to fill that time: work, cleaning, reading, the internet, balancing the checkbook, friends, family.  I’m not saying these things aren’t important — they very much are.  But I know so many writers who put writing at the bottom of the “to-do list” and never at the top.

NaNoWriMo is an excuse to put writing at the top.  It’s a month where your goal is to indulge in writing.  You can allow your house to get a little messier, you’re allowed to microwave dinner, you’re allowed to turn off the TV and tell friends that maybe you’ll take a raincheck on that movie.  

You’re allowed to put writing first.  

I’ve learned that I’m not good at word count challenges.  I’m too competitive and I’ll sacrifice quality for quantity.  And while there’s a balance to be had, I know myself well enough to know that sometimes I have to slow down my writing to make sure the story is still on track.  Too many times I’ve barreled headlong in the wrong direction in the name of more words.  Clearly NaNo isn’t for everyone and I’ve actually talked authors down from NaNo — letting them know that it’s okay to not hit that 50k word goal in a month.  Because it *is* okay.  

There are those who are anti-NaNo because it inevitably leads to people sending off shoddy, unrevised drafts to agents come December first and that’s a legitimate concern and it’s not the way to get published.  I didn’t finish writing Forest until April and then I revised it over and over and over and over before querying agents in August 2007.  Erin Morgenstern got the idea for The Night Circus during NaNo 2005 and drafted it during NaNo 2006 and 2007 (link here).  Marissa Meyer wrote Cinder during NaNo 2008 but revised it before querying agents in 2010 (Link here).  Diana Peterfreund began Rampant during NaNo 2006 and worked on it through the rest of the year. 

The point is — what you write in NaNo is a draft and often a very very rough draft at that.  Some people will put that draft in a trunk, brush their hands and be happy with the bragging rights that they wrote a novel (and they did! Good for them!) and some will trash what they’ve written because it’s not what they want it to be and they want to head in a different direction (which is fine!) and some will start the long process of revising the draft into something they can move forward with (also great!).

For me, NaNo isn’t about writing a perfect draft you can turn around and sell.  It’s about putting writing first, giving yourself permission to experiment, and, if you’re interested and it won’t detract from your writing time, participating in a supportive and vibrant community of like-minded folk.  

In November 2006 I wrote 20,000 words of The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I didn’t win NaNo, but I did achieve much larger goals.  I finished that book, revised it, and sold it.  Maybe I would have done it anyway, but I’m not really sure I would have given myself the time to experiment with an “unsellable” idea and an experimental new voice.  It turns out, what I really needed was permission to indulge in what I really wanted to write in the way I really wanted to write it.  I used NaNo to give myself that permission.

Good luck to all the NaNo participants out there: write boldly, write with passion, put your writing first but be kind and gentle with yourself if you don’t hit that 50k word mark by the end of the month.  Sometimes, something like NaNo is a tool to help you reach that bigger win.