Thursday, March 31, 2011

On the Eve of April Fools...

I love this holiday.  What?  April 1st isn't a real holiday?  Well it is for me.  I think humor is one of the best parts of being human, so a day that's all about the funny?  Love it!

My family loves some April foolin' too.  One year my mom put plastic wrap on the toilet.  Do you know what happens when you put plastic wrap over the toilet?  That's right, you end up peeing all over yourself.  Hilarious.  Disgusting, but hilarious.  I thought it was so funny that I brought the plastic wrap to school and covered those toilets too!

In fifth grade, I convinced my teacher to write me a suspension notice saying I pulled the fire alarm.  My mom didn't believe it for a second.

When my sister was about twenty, she called my mom and told her she was pregnant, and oh my God, she couldn't handle it and won't my mom raise her baby?  When my mom said no, she even started crying.  April Fools!

I love pulling pranks on my students, too.  I've gotten them good with the fake high stakes district test that I forgot to warn them about.  I've even passed out tests and watched them struggle through it for a few minutes.

Last year, two female students really got me.  They started bickering and it escalated until they were cussing and then jumped at each other as if to fight.  I ran between them, shouting, red in the face, and the whole class erupted in laughter.

I also love all the shenanigans on the internet on April 1st.  Absolute Write is always a fun place on April Fool's Day.  The best part of the online foolery is the people who haven't quite caught on and leave confused or even angry comments on foolish forums.

Really, the key to a good April Fool's joke is to get 'em early.  Because most people, once they're fooled once, will not be fooled twice--at least not in the same day.  I won't believe anything anyone tells me tomorrow.  Last year a friend emailed saying he was engaged. I just thought, what a weird April Fool's Day joke.  It wasn't.

I was thinking about pranks and April Fool's Day in terms of this whole writing game.  Agents and editors hold so many dreams in their hands.  I wonder if any of them are tempted to play a prank or two? OK, if my agent called and said "You have a mega 3-book deal!....April Fools!"  I'd be devastated, that would be totally cruel.  But the other way around?  "Sorry, I just can't sell your book....except I just did!"  Might be kind of cool.....Ok, just kidding.  I'm way too fragile when it comes to this publishing dream to be toyed around with.  I bet most writers feel the same way.

What about you?  Any good April Fools Day pranks?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just keep writing...(or why manuscripts are like ex-boyfriends)

One of the best pieces of advice you'll find on this whole journey towards publication is: write another book.  Now this advice can be either incredibly helpful or incredibly depressing, depending on where you are in the writing process.

Once upon a time, I wrote a middle grade adventure/fantasy.  There was a secret magic school and sinister bad guys who forced the students to eat avocados!  I made a lot of classic mistakes in the manuscript and in the querying process.  I queried way too early.  I'd do a little research, send a batch of queries, refresh my email, more research, refresh email, get rejections, revise the manuscript, do a little research, send another batch of queries, refresh my email....on and on and on.

About six months passed between when I sent my first query and my last.  My manuscript changed dramatically during this time and my body of knowledge about the publishing industry grew exponentially.
A month or so into this process, I read some statistic, or maybe it was just anecdotal evidence, on an agent's blog (either Janet Reid's or Kristin Nelson's--both are INCREDIBLY helpful for queriers), but basically she said that writers hardly ever--like never--sell their first book.  I was devastated.  I was working so hard!  How could this be?  Digging around on author's blogs, you'll find almost all of them have at least one (if not five) books they've written and are "trunked"  or "shelved."

I called my mom with this horrible news.
Me:  "Mom!  I just read that, like, no one gets their first book published!"
Mom: "So, write another book."
Me: "But it's my baby!"

At the time I was pissed off and horrified.  How could she just tell me to write another book?  She just said it in her cheery tone like it was nothing!  I've just spent almost two years of my life on this and she says write another book!  

I honestly felt like my child had died and my own mother was telling me, it's ok just have another one.

Well, guess what happened?  I wrote another book.  Because in this whole writing game, there's an awful lot of waiting.  Just to keep myself from refreshing my email too many times, I started something new.

So I wrote while I waited and eventually this rebound story started getting exciting.  I saw how much BETTER it could be than my first book.  So by the time my last partial rejection came in, I was so wrapped up in this new story that it didn't hurt quite so much.  It was ok.

Now, I don't think of that first book as a lost child.  I think of that book like I think of my 8th grade boyfriend.  Sure it hurt A LOT when we parted ways when I was 13.  But now?  Do I think of him as the one-who-got-away?  Do I fantasize how things would be different if things had worked out with us? NO, definitely not.  I learned a lot from that first relationship and I might have looked him up on facebook, just once, but that's it.

Giving up on or shelving a manuscript is a lot like a break up.  It hurts like hell at the time.  But as long as you keep putting yourself out there, you'll find someone new.  And after a while, this new person is so great, you can't even remember what you saw in that last story.

So now that I'm back at another waiting stage in this whole process, I have a little song I like to sing to myself.  You know Dory, from Finding Nemo?  She sings "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." Well, whenever I'm tempted to drive myself crazy refreshing, I sing to myself "Just keep writing, just keep writing."

Monday, March 21, 2011

I love Donia in DARKEST MERCY by Melissa Marr

So, it's like really hard to talk about the last book in a series without spoiling the preceding books.  So, if you haven't read them yet, go read the first four Wicked Lovely books by Melissa Marr, like now.  Of course I won't spoil Darkest Mercy, because that would be sick and wrong.

Now, Donia was one of my favorite characters from Wicked Lovely, so I was super excited to see her on the cover of Darkest Mercy.  I have to admit, though, I was a little nervous to read the last book in this awesome series, because I knew war was brewing and I feared a blood-bath.

Also, when I read Radiant Shadows many moons ago, I screamed at the last line of the epilogue.  Devlin tells Seth, "Try not to die, brother." Ahh!

I love Seth!  And really, he is near and dear to so many faeries that he's the perfect target for Bananach to start some trouble.  So yes, I was worried, but once I started reading, of course I couldn't stop.

Melissa Marr blew me away once again with her brilliant prose.  What I loved about this final book, was its sense of humor.  We know these characters so well now and Marr slipped in all these inside jokes and great one-liners.  And Niall--oh how I love Niall--even when he's on the brink of madness and overwhelmed with grief, is pretty darn funny.

Marr uses so many point of views, I lost count.  But because we know almost all the characters so well, it was never dizzying.  We are introduced to two new faeries, Far Dorcha and Ankou.  And in the way only Marr knows how to craft characters, they are both dark and frightening, yet likable.

Darkest Mercy focuses a lot on forgiveness.  And as a reader I felt like I had to forgive some characters, for their actions in the previous books and for their trespasses in the course of this final installment.

I loved this book.  Donia was as strong as ever and Seth continued to serve as the moral compass for the faerie courts.  But there were some devastating parts.  The senseless death of war was deeply felt.  There were bloody battles and grief.

But Marr also has a marvelous knack for bringing her characters to the brink of doom and then getting them out of it in a way that feels natural.  Darkest Mercy is dark and bloody, but it's also the most hopeful of all five books.  I love the emotional ride of Darkest Mercy.  Read it!