Monday, November 17, 2014

Giveaway: Indian Edition of CHAINED

Hey, there's a pretty stack o' books!

I got to announce last summer that there would be an Indian edition of CHAINED, and it was published by Penguin India in January. But now I have a few!

It turned out lovely--the cover is beautiful, and there's an adorable elephant footprint on the page numbers:

Although India has approximately a kajillion languages, Penguin India publishes books in British English, which is commonly used in schools. So, aside from a handful of vocabulary changes and all those extra letter "u"s running around, it's pretty much the same as the U.S. edition. The biggest difference for me is that the editor didn't care for the epigraphs, so the quotes from the fictitious elephant care manual that precede each chapter aren't in this version.

Now, on to the giveaway! I'll keep it simple-- just leave a comment below, and a week from now (11/25/14), I'll pick three commenters at random to receive a signed copy of the book. (U.S. addresses only)

You don't have to tweet or share on Facebook, but if you do you'll get some free samosas or a baby elephant or an awkward hug when I see you in person. (Okay, it'll be the hug thing.)

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Author's Wardrobe, For Real

A couple weeks ago, there was a picture making the rounds on Twitter--a page from Elle magazine showing a wardrobe for "The Novelist." Here is is if you missed it:

See the original tweet here

I couldn't stop laughing.

Here are some closer shots, in case you need to get your pen and shopping list:

I just don't know how I get anything done without that key item, the long-sleeved silk blouse.

Just for fun, let's see what all this would cost...

$7,057. Not including the pants, since those are listed as "price on request" from Lacoste. So I'm sure they're reasonable. Sometimes I see items I want to buy and can't find the price, but then someone in a red shirt and khakis scans it for me. There, price on request.

And speaking of pants, since when are pants among the "Wardrobe Musts" for a writer?

Since I don't know any writer willing to hand over that big o' chunk of her advance for an outfit, I thought it would be fun to ask some author friends to show me what they actually wear when writing. (If you want to keep up the illusion that we all dress like the Elle model, you'll want to turn away now).

First up is Kristin Rae, modeling the timeless "Lumberjack Maternity Chic:"

Behind the silk shirts in Jennifer Mathieu's closet is a wide array of t-shirts:

I'm not saying Jennifer isn't wearing pants, but I'm not saying she is, either

Most of the replies to the original tweet were along the lines of "Where are the pajama pants?" Here they are, modeled by Kari Anne Holt and Samantha Clark:

Wearing a t-shirt from high school redefines "timeless."

Deadlines call for a more formal look, so Jo Whittemore adds a blanket to the pajamas:

Shelli Cornelison reminds us not to forget the yoga pants. But if you forget to do laundry for a few weeks, feel free to raid your husband's closet for t-shirts.

Menswear offers a tailored look

Here we see a writer in her natural habitat, a coffee shop. Cory Oakes stays productive in the polar-vortex-like temperatures with her fingerless gloves.

McCormick Templeman asked that this photo of Susan Sontag in a teddy bear suit be her model stand-in, since she's pretty sure she could write the Great American Novel if only she had a teddy bear suit. I don't think any of us can argue with that logic.

Here's a glimpse of the wardrobe of a gothic Victorian novelist, courtesy of Leanna Renee Hieber. Note that the middle shelf is full of corsets.

A few more corsets that the author average of zero.

Shannon Messenger won't be caught writing without this season's must-have accessory, the house cat:

A large bathrobe and fuzzy slippers complete the ensemble

Not to be outdone are Lenore Appelhans and Emily Hainsworth, effortlessly pulling off the "Covered by cat while writing" look:

Typewriter shirt from Modcloth, priced less than one Guess sandal

And let's not forget the dogs. (Because teeth marks are never in style). Doris Fisher often writes while wearing Princess Puppy, pictured here in her wardrobe of yarn:

Here's Colleen Conrad, staying fashionably productive in a swimsuit coverup and a dog:

This is usually what happens when I try to write from the comfort of my couch, because Holly knows that looking good is more important than being able to type:

Move, human, you're ruining my selfie

I was so impressed by all the writerly wardrobe photos, but I am surprised at the lack of Snuggies. Now that's the long-sleeved must-have. You can even get the electric version.

Just one of the collection

Not pictured are coffee, chocolate, and wine stains, but those accessories can be added easily. Prices upon request at the nearest gas station.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to my Class of 2k12 sister Gina Rosati for inviting me to be part of the Writing Process Blog Tour.  Gina is a library volunteer and author of AURACLE, an awesome YA paranormal romance from Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Visit Gina's website, follow her on Twitter, and read about her writing process here.

As part of the blog tour, I've been asked to answer these four questions about my writing process:

What am I working on?
Something totally different from anything I've written before--a young adult novel called Crashing Woodstock, about a modern-day high school senior who time travels to the Woodstock festival and faces horrors such as naked hippies, paper maps, and no cell phone service.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmmm. Well, I don't know of any Woodstock time travel books, so there's that. It will start and end as a work of contemporary fiction, but the bulk of the novel will read like historical fiction. Also I think in most time travel books, the character travels back in time on purpose, and this will be accidental.

Why do I write what I do?
In everything I write, there are characters I want to follow so I can find out what happens to them. I write for children and young adults because I love those ages of discovery, when we're still figuring out who we are, who we want to be, and who we don't want to be. We can really connect to characters who are going through the same things. Plus, I love middle grade and young adult novels myself--the stories have to be compelling from start to finish to keep choosy readers hooked.

How does your writing process work?
Well, this is somewhat messy. I'm not much of a plotter; I wrote CHAINED one chapter at a time, oftenThe Hero's Journey in mind along the way, though, so I'd refer to that when trying to coming up with what should happen to the characters. It worked out in the end, but I would've had a lot less revising to do if I'd done some planning. But I enjoy discovering the story as I go, so I don't think I'll ever be a heavy outliner. Now I do some rough plotting, with at least a few turning points that will come up throughout the story. I do my best drafting when I'm freewriting with a pen and paper, then I pull some of those ideas into a list of scenes for the chapter I'm working on. I talk more about organized brainstorming and plotting for non-plotters here, and how I've met the plotting/pantsing needs in Writing Lessons From Dogs.
having no idea what was going to happen from one chapter to the next. I was keeping
Also, I'm easily distracted, so I work best if I lock myself out of the Internet for an hour at a time. I use MacFreedom so I won't be tempted to check on all my friends who live in my computer.

Here's a little about the authors I've tagged for the blog tour. Look for their writing process posts next Monday, April 14th.

Gretchen McNeil's YA horror POSSESS, about a teen exorcist, debuted with Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, and was nominated for "Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012" by Romantic Times. Gretchen's 2013 release was 3:59, and this year, Gretchen debuts her first series, Don't Get Mad. Check out Gretchen's blog, Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter.

Anne Greenwood Brown is the author of the Lies Beneath trilogy - a series about love, forgiveness, and murderous mermaids on Lake Superior. She is terrified of high places, deep places, falling from high places into deep places, and fish of all kinds. But other than that, she's up for anything. Visit Anne on her blog, Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Leanna Renee Hieber is the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. Her Strangely Beautiful saga, beginning with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards. Leanna's Magic Most Foul saga began with Darker Still, an American Bookseller's Association "Indie Next List" pick and a Scholastic Book Club "Highly Reccomended" title. Read more about Leanna on her blog, Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Elephant In the Room, Literally

Hey, guys, can I crash on your couch?
Well, wouldn't this make for an interesting day? A lost baby elephant wandered into a ranch house living room. Only ten
days old, she was hungry and dehydrated and had walked a long way--about thirty miles--before showing up in Francoise Malby-Anthony's home at the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa. See the full article and adorable photo in this article from The Telegraph.

After hanging around for a snack, the calf, called Tom by the ranch hand who found her, was reunited with her herd. Of course they were thrilled to see her, especially her mother, who'd been rescued by Francoise's husband Lawrence Anthony years ago.

That's not even the most interesting part--I knew I recognized Lawrence Anthony's name, so I did a search to find out why it was so familiar. There was a story I had in mind but had thought, "No way, that would be too weird." Yet there it was, the elephant "funeral procession" after Anthony's death in 2009.

Anthony was a conservationist was known as "The Elephant Whisperer" for his work with wild elephants in South Africa. After he died, two herds of elephants he'd worked with made an estimated twelve-hour journey to his house. They stayed around there for a couple of days before heading back to the wild. Before this event, these elephants hadn't been to the property for at least a year and a half.

There are plenty of examples of elephants mourning their dead, not only at the time the death occurs but when they come across bones of a former herd member. Making the long trek to pay respects after the passing of a human friend is even more fascinating. I mean, HOW IN THE WORLD DID THEY KNOW???

In answering that question, Rabbi Leila Gal Berner said, “A good man died suddenly, and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home. If there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous ‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving. This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart offered healing to these elephants, and now, they came to pay loving homage to their friend.”

And somehow one of their babies knew where to go when she needed help.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Chained Site: Behind the Scenes of the Story

I was reading the first post of Darcy Pattison's month-long series on author websites, and when she mentioned that one thing readers like is access to exclusive content I thought, "Hey I have that. I should put it someplace people can actually find it."

I'd added a subdomain for Chained a long time ago so I
could add more content about the book without overwhelming my author site. (If you have a website already, it doesn't cost anything to add a subdomain, and it works like another website). I hadn't made it public yet because I wanted to work on it more, but I was reminded of it whenever I spoke to a class about revisions, because I'd been meaning to add a deleted scenes page for all the cool stuff that had to be cut from the final book.

When I took a gander at it again I realized it was closer to presentable than I thought. I opened an older draft of Chained, copied some deleted scenes, and pasted them to a new page on the subdomain site. In addition to the deleted scenes page, there's more in-depth information about the setting and why I chose it, a page for the foreign editions and covers, and the activities and curriculum guide that are on the author site too.

So, hop on over to The Chained Site if you'd like to check it out. It'll be a work-in-progress that I'll add to now and then when I think of more things readers might like to see on there. I'm hoping it'll be a good resource for classrooms and a fun place for readers to get some behind-the-scenes information.

I'd love to hear what else would be good to include on the site, if you have some ideas!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

7 Fun Facts From That Time I Met Bigfoot

This is my "I kind of hate myself, but had
 to see" look. Strangely enough, it's a little
blurry, like most Bigfoot photos.
Tuesday evening I went to the Alamo Drafthouse for the tour stop of Bigfoot hunter Rick Dyer's alleged Bigfoot corpse. Dyer is not well-liked, to put it nicely, by most of the Bigfoot community, but since I have a middle grade novel manuscript about a girl with cryptozoologist parents, I pretty much had to go. You know, research. And one of the characters in the book, Jethro Muggins, wants to hunt down and kill the Lake Champlain monster, so attending a presentation by someone who claims to have killed Bigfoot (with no regrets) seemed especially appropriate.

(So, I was there as a curious writer; I'm not a bigfooter or any kind of expert on cryptids, and there are plenty of people who are knowledgeable about the field who've written about Rick Dyer and his antics, and those are easy to find through an online search if you want to learn more).

The Q&A session was quite entertaining, lively, and unintentionally funny. Here are just a few of my favorite moments from the night:

1. I knew we were in for a good night when an announcement on the screen advised us that the presentation was "...strickly for educational purpose's." [sic that to infinity]

2. The manager told us before the show that few members of Dyer's Team Tracker weren't able to attend this leg of the tour, since they're in Dallas protecting a woman's house from a Bigfoot attack. This is probably the greatest thing I've ever heard.

3. Dyer says he was wearing only boxer shorts when he shot the Bigfoot, which was running away from him after taking the rack of ribs that he'd bought as bait from Wal-Mart.

4. Dyer's new Porche and his $100,000 RV are proof that his Bigfoot is real, because why would people pay him to see something fake? I don't see how any of us can find anything wrong with that logic.

5. When asked how he moved the 800-pound corpse after killing it, he says that he carried it to a rented freezer truck with the help of "several homeless people." Since he'd claimed an investor paid him $9 million for the body, the interviewer said that maybe it would've been nice to have used a little of that money to buy a house for those homeless people. Dyer thought that was pretty funny. On another note, those are the most ripped homeless people ever.

From there the corpse was hauled to a university for DNA testing. No word on what university or when he'll reveal the results of that DNA evidence.

6. An audience member asked Dyer why anyone should believe his claims, since he's been involved in hoaxes before, like this one in 2008 in which the Bigfoot he'd captured turned out to be a costume. He said that he really did have a Bigfoot body back then, but "the government" confiscated it. Then he got caught up in the hoax-y part, purchasing a Bigfoot suit so he'd have something to show people who'd been waiting to see the body.

Oh, and if you're wondering what branch of government shows up to take your Bigfoot corpse? "They arrived in black helicopters, and they wore black suits. So, The Men In Black."

Wait, does this mean Bigfoot is an alien? I'm confused.

7. After the presentation we got to view the body in its glass case. A man in front of me asked why the
fingers of the hands seemed fused together, and the Team Tracker attendant said that it's because of the resin used in taxidermy. "You know, like when you get a deer stuffed." I admit I'm no taxidermist, and I'm no hunter, but, um, what?

I heard later that Dyer tells a different story about the unifinger: Bigfoot uses friction to start fire with his hands, and his hands are scarred from catching fire. I imagine that incident going something like this:

So there you have it, just a few of the evening's highlights. Here's a parting shot from the big guy himself:

Darn you, honey BBQ sauce

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

6 Writing Lessons From Dogs

Comparing the dogs I've had reminds me of how different we writers are. Our goal is the same—craft stories that readers love—but how we reach that goal varies wildly.

I think we all know how smart dogs are and what great examples they offer about how to live. So let's look at a few lessons we can learn from them about how to be better writers:

1. Get out and play, but don't get lost
I will not leave your sight, human.
Some writers are like my last dog, Lacey. I could walk her without a leash, because she was never going to stray from the path. (She'd been a street dog, so maybe she was over the need to wander). But, she didn't know how to play. I tried introducing her to different toys, only to be met with blank stares. If Lacey were a writer, she'd outline every detail of a novel before starting the draft, and she'd stick to that outline until “The End.” She'd also miss out on some fun discoveries she might have come across if she allowed herself to explore new paths.

I'm a writer more like my current dog, Holly. She's the same breed as Lacey, but they couldn't be more different. Holly's an escape artist, always looking for a chance to take off and run free. If I let her off the leash, I have no idea where she'd end up, and neither does she. And she sure can play.
Yes, I do need all the toys out at once

When I first took her to a dog park, I thought she'd take off like a greyhound as soon as she was off the leash. To my surprise, she wandered around the park, played in a mud puddle, then came back and sat next to me when she was ready to go. The fence provided just enough of a boundary that allowed her to explore and have fun without getting lost.
Wait, I see a puddle I missed

I also enjoy long walks
on the beach, as long as
I can see my people
Spike, the bulldog I grew up with, struck the right balance. He'd play soccer with us in the front yard, but he wasn't going to stray from home.

I'm not at all an outliner; I love seeing the story unfold as I write it. When writing CHAINED, I stumbled across some of my favorite plot points while researching or brainstorming new scenes. But, I can get lost if I have no structure. One reason the book took me so long to write is that I had no idea what was going to happen from one chapter to the next (and I'm easily distracted). Now when I write, I plan a few turning points. I still have the freedom to explore and discover the story as I go, but the stepping stones keep me from ending up lost in the wilderness.

2. Treat yourself
Find your own bacon bone
This is pretty self-explanatory, right? Anyone with a dog knows how much they enjoy their treats. It's a lot of work to get a book written, and finding ways to celebrate the small successes along the way can help us stay motivated. When you finish an especially difficult chapter, knock out a first draft, or finally hit "send" on a manuscript, treat yourself to a cupcake, a movie, or even a bone made of bacon if that's what you're into.

3. Form a pack
Dogs know the importance of traveling in packs. The wisest thing I did as a new writer was acknowledge that I couldn't succeed alone. My extended group of writer friends celebrates the successes of each member and offers support through the tough times.
As authors, we have the unique opportunity to let our readers know that they, too, are not alone. Reading is a solitary activity, yet stories make us feel less isolated. In the right story, we find our pack.

4. Do a little dance when your family comes home
Okay, maybe you don't have to dance, but at least look up from your work and say hi. I don't know what dogs are doing while we're out. For some reason Holly likes to Houdini her way into the garage as soon as I step out. For all I know she's building a flying car out there, but whether I've been at work all day or I've just stepped out to check the mail, she runs to the door to greet me and then does a few victory laps around the house when I get back. We won't be around forever, so it's nice to let our people know we're happy we're together for now.

5. Enjoy the moment
There's a lot about writing and publishing that we can't control. The story we're working on might not sell, and even if it does, some people won't like it. The only thing we can do is write the best book possible. And let's remember to enjoy the process along the way. There's a reason you started writing. Even though we have our struggles, we get some joy out of it too.
Dogs are great at living in the moment. Throw them a stick and they're not worried about what happened yesterday or what they're going to do tomorrow. They're just going to chase the stick for now. Holly had been neglected and was in pretty bad shape when she was turned in to a shelter last year, but as far as I can tell she's put that all behind her and seizes every opportunity to run around with a squeaky football.

6. After your hard work, get some rest
I know, you have more words to write today, but remember to take care of yourself. Your brain won't work as well if you're exhausted.
Stop and take breaks, and get plenty of sleep. Those squirrels aren't going to chase themselves, and you'll need your energy.

Yes, this is an acceptable mentor

Any other ideas, dog people? What else can writers learn from dogs?