Sunday, June 19, 2011

Those People Aren't My Family

You may or may not have read the fun piece by Strawberry Saroyan in the New York Times Magazine today. (If you haven't, and you'd like to, here's a link: Amanda Hocking, Storyseller.) I thought it was a very nice piece, and Strawberry was super cool to hang out with and talk to.

The interview was actually very serendipitous. An editor from the NY Times emailed me about doing a story on me sometime in February (after I posted the blog on the amazing William Fichtner, because he talked about Fichtner in the emails). Eventually, Strawberry called me, and we set up a time to meet. She just happened to pick March 24th, which just happened to be the day St. Martin's Press announced the book deal for the Watersong series. I had no idea those two events would occur on the same day, but they did.

The one bad thing about it is that both events happened on Eric's birthday (March 24th), which made me feel really guilty because I pretty much hijacked his birthday, since the day ended up being quite a few phone calls and press about the book deal. And I still feel bad about that. Sorry for stealing your birthday, Eric.

If you read the NY Times, you may have noticed the picture of me that accompanied it. In case you missed it, here's the pic:

(Side note: The guy who took the picture - Ben Innes - is the first person to photograph me using an actual camera that uses real film instead of digital. Also, he told me this great joke: What do you call a wharf next to a pier? A paradox. Get? Cause they're a pair of docks? Anyway. It's a great joke, and he was a nice guy.)

Anyway. Back to the picture. I don't know how many have you noticed something odd about the picture. But check out the picture frames in the picture:

Yep. Those people aren't my family. They are the pictures that came with the frame. In fact, two of the frames have the same picture, and two of them are upside down.

There's a reason for this. I put them up the day before the pictures were taken. Strawberry interviewed me way back in March, but Ben took the picture a few weeks ago, and I haven't lived in my house that long. So I hadn't finished putting things up and decorating.

But I knew people were coming to take the picture, and the music room is like the coolest looking room in the house, so I wanted to have it semi-finished. (The music room is where the picture was taken. It has a piano in it and a giant picture of the Beatles. Hence the name).

For some reason, I assumed that the frames wouldn't really be in the picture so you wouldn't be able to tell that there's random strangers in them. But then if the frames wouldn't really be in the picture, then why did I hang them? I don't know. I didn't really think it through, I guess.

Also - here's something my mom wanted me to clarify. Well, she didn't want me to clarify, but she was upset by it. In the article, it says this:

My mom doesn't think I'm better than anyone. She loves me a lot and thinks I'm neat, but she doesn't think anyone is better than anyone else. Honest. If she ever thought I was acting like I was better than anyone else or that I even thought it, she would smack me upside the head. Literally.

So. That's that.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Series of Things That Matter to Me

My poor neglected blog. It's been over a week since I last posted. I don't know where my head's at. I guess I like to save up days so when I blog, I feel like I have a lot to talk about (even though I don't. Not really).

First up on things I'm talking about today - my friend/fantastic author J. L. Bryan just posted a great blog and included some insanely cute pics of his brand new baby boy.

Here's just one snapshot of the adorable Bryan Jr:

Jeff also has these words to share with you all: Here's how you can help with the baby: 60-70% of each book I sell goes directly to providing for him.  This would be a great time to try Jenny Pox or any of my other books, conveniently available on your favorite e-reader platform (or Smashwords if you really want a good deal--you get all ebook formats, so that's handy if you decide to change e-readers in the future).

He talks about more stuff in his blog, including some hints on the third book in the Jenny Pox series. So you should check it out, if you like checking out awesome things. 

Things you may not know about me news: I am crazy about my birthday. I am more excited for this upcoming birthday than I have been since my sixteen birthday. I don't know why, exactly, since I'm turning 27 and that isn't too exciting. But I am excited. 

So today I ordered my birthday cake, and it's fantazamazing. That's right. It's new word awesome.

I ordered it from Daube's in Rochester, because it's a well-known fact that they make some of the best cakes in the area. My dad used to get stuff from them all the time when I was younger. This was my first time ordering anything from them myself, and my assistant Eric was looking up reviews on Daube's, and everybody was saying that their food was amazing but the staff was super rude. So I was a little afraid to go there.

This turned out to be entirely false. The guy helping us at Daube's was incredibly nice, even though I basically just ordered a cake with a picture on my cell phone. The place was pretty busy, but the staff was very nice and courteous to both me and Eric. They were the opposite of rude, and my cake is going to be the opposite of terrible. So a big shout out to Daube's for being rad!

I actually had a super fun day today. I didn't do anything too exciting. But I got to have lunch with my friend Pete, and today is her birthday. (Happy birthday, Baby Pete, even though you're getting to be less and less of a baby). And that was fun seeing her.

The worst thing about being adult: You never see enough of your friends. I watched Super 8 the other day, and it was a really good movie. But all the kids running around, being silly and doing kid stuff, that made me realize that's what's bugging me about growing up. I miss just being an idiot with my friends. I mean, I still am, but growing up is silly.

Also, the score for Super 8 was phenomenal. I assumed it was John Williams (because Spielberg produced), but it was actually Michael Giacchino. He's very quickly become a composer to watch. He stuff is very sweet with a bit whimsy, but he can also do the grandiose. He's sorta like if John Williams and Danny Elfman had a baby, and it was a savant composer baby, that was also magic since two men conceived it.

Anyway - enough of that bit of a ramble. Onto the next tangent: For those of you who enjoy reading my tweets and blogs, I have sad news for you. For 10 days towards the end of June, I will be renting a houseboat, and I will most likely have little to no internet access. This means no tweets or blogs.

But for those of you who like reading books I write, this is good news. I'm getting away to work on some writing (as well as relax and clear my head a bit).

I'll be finishing up the first book in the Watersong series (a lot of the book revolves around boats and water, so I thought a houseboat would be the perfect place to finish it up). But I'll also be working on some fun little treats for fans of the Trylle series. You'll have to wait a while (like... six months to check it out), but I think it'll definitely be enjoyable for you guys.

My friend Fifi (her name's really Tiffany, but we call her Fifi, even though I think she hates it) is going to be housesitting for me when I'm gone. This is really good news, because Eric and my dog Elroy are going on the houseboat with me, but my beloved cats and fish will be home. I have this insane, obsessive fear that something will happen to both the cats and fish every second that I'm not home, so I'll feel better knowing Fi is here to protect and watch over them.

The more stuff I wanted to say, but I feel like I've rambled on long enough, and I've forgotten what it was. The point is: You folks rock, and I love you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More News!!!

I've been sitting on some mighty exciting news that I've been dying to share. Like literally dying. My internal organs were combusting with my attempts to keep this a secret. (Combusting organs is a new disorder that is so rare, I'm the only person that's ever had it).

I'm going to be on a YA panel at Comic-Con in San Diego in July. The Comic-Con I have been pouting about being unable to attend and sulking over as I watch G4 the past several years. I will be there. On a panel. With lots of other super rad YA authors.

Who are these other authors, you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy and the upcoming Supernaturally
Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade and the upcoming Wolfsbane
Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and the upcoming Lola and the Boy Next Door
Laini Taylor, author of Lips Touch: Three Times and the upcoming Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Tahereh Mafi, author of the upcoming Shatter Me

The panel will be moderated by Nathan Bransford, former literary agent/current author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Kapow. He also has one of the (if not the) most informative blogs on writing and business of writing. So if you haven't checked that out, you totally should:

Other than being a little (incredibly) intimidated by all the talent on the panel, I'm pretty stoked. I don't personally know any of the other authors, but it'll be great fun to talk with them and interact with readers in person. This will be the first speaking-type engagement I've done, and it will be at Comic-con - the happiest place on Earth!

I am crazy excited/honored/humbled/amazed at this opportunity. And I once again have to thank all of you guys for making this happen. Without all the incredible support from all of you, I'd never have sold a book or been asked to be on a panel. Every single day, you guys make my dreams come true. And I love you for it.

In smaller but still fun news: The 2011 Book Blogger's Cookbook is available now. It was compiled by Christy Dorrity, and includes a forward from yours truly. It's a fun idea that pairs recipes with books. It even has a recipe "I Hate Chocolate Cake" to go along with my book, Switched.

Also, if you're in the Southern Minnesota area on Friday, I will be at my mom's house signing copies of my books at her garage sale. She lives in Adams, MN, and all the proceeds from book sales are going to help get Adams a new pool.

And to end the blog, check out how rad my dog Elroy looks in his new life-vest:

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mighty Outline

Questions I get from people a lot are "Do you outline?" and "How do you outline?" I was trying to think of ways to show people, but I didn't know how to use books I published or planned to publish because I didn't want to give away spoilers in the outline.

But I finally figured out a way to do it. I'm using an unfinished book I wrote called Reckless Abandon. It's not very good, and it's insanely long. I was a little over half-way through with it when I quit, and it was 114,000 words. (In comparison, Switched is just under 80,000 words). I also realized it was boring and nothing happened.

I did quite enjoy the writing of it, though, and it was a good exercise. According to my notes, I started writing it back in 2008, before I wrote My Blood Approves or any of the Trylle Trilogy. I'm scanned my outline and the notes I made, and I'm going to show you the first couple pages of the book, too, so you get an idea of how translates.

You'll have to click on the pictures to see them at full size, because I didn't want this blog to be ridiculously long.

Without further ado, here begins my notes for Reckless Abandon.

These are the very first notes I had on the book, with my general brainstorming ideas. I date everything, because I'm neurotic, and I apparently started this on 11/9/08.

My original title for this was "Can't Keep From Falling Asleep," which clearly is too long and cumbersome. This is where I begin to get a more cohesive idea of what the book will be about with major plot points and general ideas.
Here's what I call a "Cheat Sheet." It has my cast list and all important info that I might need to know for continuity purposes. I keep it on the top of my outline to refer to as a I write. I always "cast" my books with real people. I've blacked them out now, because that's how I roll. Except for Patrick Fugit, because he's awesome.
This is the first page of the outline. Whenever I finish writing a chapter, I strike through it so I know it's done. The scribbled out lines are things I've decided not to use. I cut stuff from the outline stage a lot, too.

This is second page of the outline. Not too exciting. At the top, I've written down songs I was listening to while I was working on it. Why? I don't know. It's something I do, though.
Here's a close up of the numbers in the left margin of the outline. The purple one is the day the story takes place, meaning that chapter is supposed to is set on November 12th. The blue number is the chapter, so that's chapter 12.
Here's the numbers in the right margin. The pink one is the day I finished writing it, in this case, it was November 18th, 2008. The gray number below it is my word count at the end of finishing that chapter. By the end of that chapter, I was at 32,030 words.
This is page five of the outline. As you can see, I change stuff a lot, cutting things and moving stuff around. I think outlines need to be fluid and adjust as the story goes on. The last two chapters on the page I haven't written, which is why they don't have lines through them.
Here's a page of notes I did for the book. I had to do some research for some things that take happen in it, and here's the pertinent information I wrote down.  Some books have more notes than other. My Blood Approves has like 8 pages of notes. Reckless Abandon only had the one.

That all brings us to the book itself. I'm only posting the first two pages, because I think that gives you a general idea of how the first chapter outline turned into the book. I was going to post the entire first chapter, but it felt too long and boring, so I skipped it. 

Obviously, outlines vary person to person.This is the way I outline, but there really is no wrong way or right way. I started outlining this way because it works for me, and this is pretty much the exact same way I've written the four My Blood Approves books, the Trylle Trilogy, Hollowland, and Virtue. I have an outline just like this one for Hollowmen and Wake.

Also, no need to point out issues with Reckless Abandon. It hasn't been edited at all, other than a cursory read through I did before posting it now. I didn't really want to go over in-depth, because I know the book sucks. It's slow and boring, and I'm pretty sure that nothing happens. The love interest doesn't even show up until the seventh chapter.

So... there. I hope this answers people's questions and is helpful in some way.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Some Random Things From Two Years Ago

I'm reading old blogs from previous blog incarnations of mine (namely, myspace.) And I'm making myself laugh. As a result, I've decided to clip and paste some of my favorite parts. This is really best I had to say from 2009. There's some stuff about me writing books, too. Which is fun.

"I do really hard things every day. I'm like a super hero. I know they're really hard things because nobody else can do them. For example, there was ketchup spilled on the counter, but it was so hard to get off, that people had to leave it there so it would dry and get hard and then I could clean it off at 11:30 at night. That's how hard it was. Good thing I'm such a super hero. Otherwise that ketchup might have been there until the end of time."

*          *          *

"Here's the thing: CGI is just like Keanu Reeves: it looks good, it's useful in moderation in action movies, but there's no substance. And puppetry is like Meryl Streep: no matter how you use it, or how small the part, it always carries the film."

*          *          *

"I am listening to Taylor Hanson and liking it. I feel I've won."

*          *          *

"Ponyboy Curtis. Worst name EVER."

*          *          *

"Being me sure is an unnecessary adventure. And by adventure, I mean not an adventure."

*          *          *

"Good thing I didn't have that new Verizon hub. How does that even work as a house phone anyway? And do you really need to text from you home phone? Eventually people will just stop speaking entirely. George Orwell is like Nostradamus."

*          *          *

"Jim Henson makes you cool. It's a well-known fact. Find a cool person, ask them if they dig Jim Henson. If they don't, then they're not really cool. It's all an act."

*          *          *

"From a blog posted on March 27, 2009: I'm working harder than I've ever worked before. And I don't know what more to do. I mean, I'm not gonna stop trying. Ever.

But I would like to try a different approach, since this one doesn't seem to be working, and doing the same thing I always do will get me the same things I've always gotten. So if anyone has any ideas, I'll take them all. If I ever want my books to get published, I've got to do something to make it happen, but I'm not entirely sure what that it is."

*          *          *

"I stand by the Chuck Palahniuk quote I posted the other day. The one where we're all sheep. Insectile. Thinking the same thought. One memory. All that jazz. But today, instead of thinking it's sad and wrong, I enjoy it. I have no social life. But I sure do feel connected, knowing that at least 20,000 other people watched Jimmy Fallon and did the exact same thing as me. Never underestimate the power of the masses."

*          *          *

"By the time I read the end of 1984, I was thinking that communism was a good idea. Big Brother totally turned me around to his way of thinking. I've never understood if that was the intention of the book or not. Like Animal Farm scared me, and I think it might be why pigs scare me now. But after 1984, I was like, 'Man, I'm jealous. It seems like Big Brother has life figured out.' Cause he totally did."

*          *          *

"From a blog posted March 11, 2009: Once, I watched this movie with Albert Brooks  in it, and he was a writer. I used to be really into him for awhile. I was like 12, and I was like, 'Yeah, I totally relate to you 40-year-old Jewish neurotic.'

Anyway - in the movie Albert Brooks is trying to figure out why his mom hates him, so he stays with her. When he's cleaning out her sowing room, he finds all these short stories on the top shelf of her closet. She wrote this really great one about Amelia Earhardt that he just loved, but they were all dated a long time ago, like before Albert Brooks was born.

So Albert Brooks takes this stories to his mom, and he's says, 'These are good. Why didn't you get these published? I never knew you wrote. Why didn't you tell me you wrote? Do you still write?' And she talks about being a woman in the 50's or whatever, and having kids, and how that just went on the back burner, and blah blah. There's a really neat moral to the story, but if you want to see you have to watch the film. (It's called Mother and it also stars Debbie Reynolds. So it's pretty good).

My point is: Sometimes I wonder if that'll be me someday. Like when I'm dead or old and crazy, and somebody's cleaning out my house, and they'll be all, 'What? I never knew she wrote. Huh.' If that's what the culmination of my life's work will be. Manuscripts in the closet of a spare room."

*          *          *

"For what it’s worth, Marilyn Manson is one of the few consistently awesome musicians out there. I always enjoy his music. Well, everything after 'Portrait of an American Family.' I wish he would drop the whole 'oh look at me I'm dark and mysterious and evil or something' schtick. Nobody thinks he's hardcore. His music is better than he is, but it's like goth pop. Metallic new wave. It's about as hardcore as lima beans. I love his always. But seriously? You're 40. Grow up."

*          *          *

"For true, this is like one of the proudest stories of my life. The very first time I saw The Sixth Sense without knowing anything about it, I went to see it with Tiffany Newman in the old Sterling Three Theater. And right away, after Bruce Willis got shot, I said, 'I bet he's dead.' And I won"

*          *          *

"I was like the lamest kid. But I'm not lame now. I'm super cool. I'm the third coolest person you've ever met. So there. I was like an ugly duckling that turned into a fancy loon. That's right. No swans here. Swans are dicks."
*          *          *

"If I were a magic 8 ball, I would say, 'Reply hazy, try again.' And then when you tried again, 'Outlook not so good.' That's what I would say. But there's 1 in 20 chance that if you asked me if I liked Batman, I would say, 'My sources say no.' So as a magic 8 ball, I wouldn't be completely accurate."

*          *          *

"I've been saying 'Take it!' a lot really aggressively when things happen contrary to the way other people want it too. I'm starting to feel like a rapist as a result. And not in a good way."

*          *          *

"You guys, Evan Almighty is a really good movie. I don't care what you think. I have issues with impatience, and I know that I need to learn better. And I always think of Evan when Morgran Freeman was all, 'When you ask for patience, does God just give you patience or does he give an opportunity to be patient?' And for some reason, that makes me feel better. Even though I don't believe in Morgan Freeman."

*          *          *

"Forever is a long time. Time is a wicked, wicked fiend that always seems to speed up when it should slow down, and slow down when it should speed up. It never ever gets the pace just right."

*          *          *

"Okay. The thing is that writing really excites me, and it’s like five in the morning. I mean, this is what I live for. For true. Heroin addicts have heroin, terrorists have terror, and I have book comas. I know that would've had better symmetry if I was like a book comaist, but that's not a word."

*          *          *

"I sure do like people that I don't actually have to interact with... like celebrities and fictional characters and old home movies. Someday, I'll probably be a hermit. I require a very small amount of human interaction."

*          *          *

"Dear Savage Garden: There's a reason that you’re not still famous, but you're prolly the best thing to happen to Cherry Cola."

*          *          *

"I was downstairs, watching this "film" entitled Watchers from 1988. I missed the first five minutes, but there's lab experiments gone awry! There's something with big hairy arms killing people. The police think it's a sasquatch. Boy, are they in for a surprise. And then there's a Golden Retriever. And get this! He's smarter than Corey Haim! Will the wackiness ever end?

If I had a time machine, and it could only take me one place in time, I would not have it take me to five minutes before Heath Ledger took those pills or to November 1963 to tell JFK to maybe not drive around in a convertible that day.

No, no. It would be to somewhere in 1987, to the pitch meeting for Watchers. To hear an agent and screen writer and Corey Haim pitching this idea to someone, to see them nod their heads in approval... that would all be worth it to me."