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Monday, April 30, 2012

How Am I Doing Now?

As I was self-publishing, I was always very transparent about what was happening, and I've tried to maintain that even with going with traditional publishing. I don't want to talk about more industry stuff all the time, because I think it can get boring and redundant and readers don't necessarily care about sales.

But it's been awhile since I talked about things, and I've had time to work with my publisher and see how things are and get an idea of how things are going. So I thought I'd give you an update.

Before I say that, I want to clarify one thing that some people still get confused on: I have two separate deals with St. Martin's. The one that happened first was for a brand new four-book deal (the Watersong series), and the deal that came a little bit later was a three-book deal to re-publish the previously self-published Trylle Trilogy. (To read older blogs about the Watersong deal: read here, and the Trylle deal, please read: here and here.)

As part of the deal with St. Martin's, I unpublished all three Trylle books last summer. That gave them time to be edited and build up proper steam for the re-release starting in January 2012. But by the time I un-published them, I'd already sold nearly a million copies of the trilogy.

So, when going forward with the deal, both my publisher and I knew that we'd already sold to a large part of our readers. Many people who would want to read the books already had, and while some of them might re-buy, a lot of them wouldn't. We both know that, and we both understood.

Still, we geared up for the release like they would any other books. In terms of the actual book, I've had input on every aspect of design - from the cover to editing to pricing to marketing. I've loved working with my editor, publicists, and every member of the team I've been in contact with St. Martin's. I've never accepted part of the process that I didn't like. I've still been able to be hands-on when I want to and need to, but without all the stress I've had before.

My publisher sent out an insane of amount ARCs to create early buzz. They worked with major retailers, like Wal-mart and Barnes & Noble to get placement, including many adds in important trade and book buying publications. There were also more ads aimed at readers, like a full page in the Hunger Games special edition of People magazine and commercials on MTV. They also set up a website for me and added some cool content there (www.worldofamandahocking.com)

Those were just things happening in the US. Overseas, Pan Macmillan has been doing a tremendous push with the English versions of my books as well. In the UK, they had posters for Switched set up in train stations all over. I know that in particular, Australia has run a very large campaign for my books, including giving out a copy of Switched with an edition of Dolly magazine (which I understand to be something like Teen magazine here in the US). But across the board, the promotion in the UK, Asia, India, South Africa, and Australia has been phenomenal.

To gear up for the publication of Switched in January, I did a small press tour. In the US, that meant appearing on Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show Anderson and on Erin Burnett's show on CNN, as well as several interviews for newspapers, radio, and blogs. They also got reviews from major review publications, like Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and the New York Times. My publisher set up a very cool meet and greet with local bloggers, and I did a book signing and reading.

After Switched came out, I went over to the UK and did press there, including a short interview on the BBC and a piece in The Guardian. I actually did a huge amount of press while I was there, for the UK, India, Asia, and Australia. I also got to do a couple book signings and talked at a school.



I'm not saying that I couldn't have gotten some or all of that press without my publisher - I'm sure that I would've been able to get some of that attention on my own as a self-publisher. But my publisher certainly did get me more than I would've gotten or at least would've thought to get on my own, and they organized it all for me. And the foreign press - I would've been completely lost with a publicist to help me navigate.

But in the end, as pleased I've been with my publisher, as much as I've enjoyed working with them, and as much marketing and publicity they've done, none of it really matters if the books aren't doing well.

So how are the books doing? I don't the exact sales on anything because it's harder to tally with paperbacks and through a publisher, but here's what I do know:

Switched came out January 3, 2012 with an initial print run of  about 200,000 books in the US, and it's in its fifth printing. Torn came out February 28, 2012, and I'm actually not sure of its initial print run, but it's in its third printing. In a recent email from editor, she said that books in series tend to lose momentum as the series goes on with sequels doing slightly worse than the original, but she said that has not been the case with my books. Torn was outselling Switched and doing really well. Ascend came out last week, and my editor told me that my first week sales are already double that of Torn.

Switched was on the New York Times Children's Paperback Books list for a total of 13 weeks, and Torn has been on for a total of 5 weeks. With Ascend out now, there are three books in a series, so none of the books will be eligible for the main Children's Paperback list and will instead be vying for a spot on the Children's Series list. Whether or not it will make, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

So far, my publisher is very happy and very excited about how the books are doing. As far as I can tell, they're doing about as well as they'd expected and hoped. The same goes for me. I wasn't really completely sure how well the books would do considering they'd already been self-published and already sold so many copies before, but I'm very pleased to with it.


Some people have been speculating that I'm not doing so well based on my Amazon rankings - which aren't terrible, but none of my books are in the Top 100 right now. They think this means that I'm not selling and the books must be doing poorly.

But one of the biggest reasons I went with a publisher is because I wanted to expand outside of the pool of Amazon readership. I know ebooks are continuing to grow, and I know that right now Amazon controls the largest share of ebook sales (they account for roughly 60% of my self-published ebook sales, with Barnes & Noble covering the vast majority of the other 40%).

And you cannot discount the fact that I sold nearly a million books copies of the Trylle books before I went with a publisher, and a large portion of those were through Amazon. I thought I'd already mostly tapped out the Amazon audience, so the fact that my books are doing as well as they are (Switched is ranked in the #1,000s of the Kindle store at the time of this writing, and Ascend is ranked #325) is impressive to me.

Books can't sell exponentially well forever. Sure, Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling continue to sell really well, but they are in an entirely different stratosphere than I am. That's like comparing Coldplay to the Beatles. Or anybody to the Beatles. Just because I'm not doing as well as the Beatles does not mean I'm doing badly. They are the frickin Beatles. With exception of books like the Bible or Charles Dickens, eventually shelf time expires for every book. And I think we can all safely agree that Switched is neither the Bible nor A Tale of Two Cities.

My books are still being stocked readily at Wal-mart, Target, and Barnes & Noble. If books aren't selling, they quit stocking them, and they still are, so that's a very good sign.

I don't have any sales number on how the books are doing in the UK, India, Asia, South Africa, or Australia, but everything I've heard from my publishers there sounds very encouraging and they seem very pleased with how the books are doing.

And most importantly - at least to me - the reviews and the response to the new editions of the Trylle books have been very positive, more so than the original versions. That's thanks in part to copy editing (no misspelled or forgotten words), but I think it's more to do with the small but strong changes made with the overall content. Especially with Ascend. Readers seem to be enjoying it much more, and that's always been important to me.

Some of the changes made to the Trylle books were mine, some were my editor's, but I think the overall collaborative experience of me being able to bounce ideas of another person made the books stronger, smoother, and over all more fun for the readers. I am more willing to take chances and to try different things because I feel like I have a safety net in the form of my editor. That makes for a better quality of work overall, plus I feel less stressed.

So in conclusion - I have been very happy with the overall editing, packaging, marketing, and sales with both St. Martin's and Pan Macmillan for all three books in the Trylle series.

If you want to really judge on how I do with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, though, the Trylle books aren't really the best ones to look to for an example. Because I'd already tapped into such a huge portion of the audience, everything is a bit skewed.

What will really be interesting is to see how the Watersong books do. St. Martin's rolled out the carpet for the Trylle books, but I know they didn't give it all they have because they knew they couldn't completely recoup it. They were taking a chance that the books might not find an audience at all because they'd been previously published at a lower price. The marketing plan they have for Watersong is larger, and it's starting out without the million book deficit that the Trylle had.

Plus, I think the Watersong books are so stronger. Don't get me wrong - I love the Trylle books, particularly Torn and Ascend. But I think that Watersong has a more original concept, stronger female leads, tons of action, and plenty of romance.

But anyway - we'll see how it goes. I can only say that so far I am happy and am pleased with my decisions.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Preview of Awesome Things to Come

Oh, oh, fun stuff! Remember the other day when I was talking about Wake a whole bunch and about how the Watersong series is so much fun to write and I love it so much and I want to marry it and have little baby bookmarks with it but I can't because I would get paper cuts? (Okay, I didn't use those exact words, but I thought some of them).

Anyway - an excerpt for Wake is up now! For you to read! Just click: here and scroll down to the bottom and then click on the part that says "Read an Excerpt." (I believe in the UK, they are frequently called an "extract," which for some reason really tickles my fancy.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Watersong, here's the deal:

It's a brand-new never-before-published four book series coming out with my publisher (St. Martin's in the US, Pan Macmillion abroad). Wake - the first book - will be out August 7, 2012 in the US (I believe August 9 elsewhere), and it will be in ebook, audio, and hardcover. This is kinda cool because I've never had a hardcover book in the US before - only paperback..

Anywhere, here's the description and beautiful, amazing cover by James Porto (my favorite photographer ever, for reals):



Beautiful. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Thea, and Lexi have caught everyone's attention, including the eye of practical Harper. But it's her sister, Gemma, they've chosen to be part of their group.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma seems to have it all - carefree, pretty, and falling in love with the boy next door. But her greatest passion has always been the water. She craves late night swims under the stars, where she can be alone yet belong to the sea. Lately she's had company. Penn, Thea, and Lexi spend their nights dancing, singing, and partying on the cove--and one night Gemma joins them. When she wakes up groggy on the beach the next morning, she knows something has changed.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. As she uncovers the truth about her new mythical powers, Gemma is forced to choose between staying with those she loves or entering a dark world brimming with unimaginable secrets.

For an added bonus, you can click here to check out the soundtrack I made for Wake. I make soundtracks for all my books, because I'm OCD like that. And you can listen to Florence + the Machine "Never Let Me Go" right here, because no song has ever fit a book more than this song with this book. (For added fun, you could listen to that song and read the excerpt.)



I've gotten a couple fun pictures of Ascend, but I'm waiting until more of the UK/Aussie/South Africa/Asia people can way in. Ascend comes out there today, and I hope you all like it! I've heard form a few people in the UK and Australia that they've already snatched up copies, so that's fun.

And here's the brand new book trailer for Ascend, if you want to check that out:


I also heard from publisher that people are grabbing up Ascend like hotcakes, so I want to thank all of you again for being so amazingly supportive and dedicated and just all around awesome. It's because of you that I get to spend my nights playing make believe with a laptop. Thank you!!!!!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ascend has... Ascended!

If you live North America, you'll notice that Ascend has arrived today! (For UK, Australia, South Africa, India, and Asia - it'll be out on the 26th, sorry for the wait, but it'll be there soon!) The trilogy is wrapped up.

So far, the early reviews I've gotten from the St. Martin's edition of Ascend have been really positive. And I am so stoked that you guys finally get to read it. Ever since Switched came out, I've really been like, "I can't wait for people to read this. Hurry up, April!" And here it is!
So it's an awesome sandwich all around.

It's early yet, so the good people at St. Martin's who unroll stuff aren't at work unrolling things yet, but I believe they do have some things lined up at the Facebook pages today. From what I understand, there should be new trailers, and also some talk about Wake.

I don't know. I don't currently have that much that's exciting to say. Other than, you know, yay! I've been up all night writing, so  I'll probably be going to bed here soon.

It's sorta nuts, if I'm being honest with you, because I am really excited about Ascend, and I really can't wait to hear what you guys think of it, especially the bonus short story, "Ever After." I really want to talk about that and the Trylle.

But on the other hand, I've been in a pretty intense writing binge working on Tidal, the third book in the Watersong series, and it's going AMAZINGLY. I haven't been this in love with writing a book in a while. Probably, Ascend, actually, was the last book that I loved writing this much. It's all ... smooth and awesome, and I can't wait to get to the last book, which is going to blow the socks of everything I've ever written before. I don't say that about every book, because I don't think every book is the greatest book I've ever written. But Elegy will be. Mark my words.

So part of me really, really wants to talk about Ascend. Which is probably my favorite book I've written up until this point. Honestly. I LOVE Ascend. The other part of me really, really, really wants to talk about Tidal, but I can't, because none of the things I would say about it would make sense since you haven't read the first book. But you guys, try to remember this for later: The stuff going down with Daniel is INSANE.

But back to the book that's actually out today. If you buy Ascend today, either in paperback or ebook or even audio book, and you take an fun/interesting/unique photo of yourself and/or the book, I will post them in a blog. I might even give away some autographed books.

(Side note: I've been listening to more audio books lately, and I'm totally giving my characters more accents because they make audio books so much fun.)

I'd love to hear reviews and NON-SPOILER comments. I can't emphasize that enough. People can't unread things, folks. Feel free to speak your mind as long as nothing is given away or at least  include *SPOILER ALERT* in the comments. I will delete spoiler-y comments, even if they're nice, out of respect for people that don't want to read spoilers.

I've used a lot of caps in this post. So I should probably go to bed.

Oh, also feel free to tweet me pics or post them on the Facebooks. (There's a couple now: www.facebook.com/amandahockingtrylle and www.facebook.com/worldofamandahocking) Both of them have new content and trivia and all sorts of fun things going on. And there should be new stuff for Wake rolling out soon. And don't forget to check my website: www.worldofamandahocking.com because there might be stuff there, too.

And if you have reviews or any other fun stuff going with Ascend or any of the Trylle books, tweet me, email me (hockingbooks@hotmail.com), Facebook it, comment it, whatever. I'll be RTing and posting fun stuff about the book.

Know why? Because it's out today! I really loved writing this book, and I loved editing it, and I loved doing the bonus stories. If you guys enjoy it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then we're golden.

Have fun today, folks! It's a good day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

something about a train ride, Germany, & a missing ring

Ascend is coming out on Tuesday, and I should probably be talking about that. But I'll talk about it more on Tuesday, because that makes sense. I should also have some other fun news regarding Wake on Tuesday.

Instead I am going to talk about the fact that I have the most awesome dreams ever. And I know, people always think they're dreams are awesome, but they're wrong, because my dreams hold that title.

They can be annoying, too. Like a few weeks ago I had this really bizarre, really vivid dream that I was riding on a train with Ryan Gosling (I'm pretty sure it was in Chicago), and we got in a really big fight because I wouldn't stop talking about Drive, and now every time I see Ryan Gosling I feel vaguely afraid of him, like I'm a battered spouse and he actually beat the crap out of me.

Sometimes I can't tell the difference between my dreams and real life, which is obnoxious. This is also amplified by the fact that I sleep a lot. So if you added it all up, my life is probably equal amounts being awake and equal amounts dreaming. Or close to it, since I'm not dreaming every second I'm asleep.

But despite the fact that my dreams are completely awesome, I've never used one as the basis for a novel. (However, often times, the dreams I write into books are ones I've had in real life.) I know some authors say that they do. They say ideas came to them in a dream. That's never happened to me.

Last night, I had a dream that was vivid and long and somewhat elaborate. I don't remember all of it anymore. But it had something to do with a train ride (think more Harry Potter, less L-train), and Charlie Hunnam, and Germany, and a really pretty cottage in the snow, and a missing ring. Look, it doesn't sound that great when I just list things that were in it, but I enjoyed it. And that's what counts.

So today, I woke up with the determination to somehow turn it into a novel. So when people ask, "Where did you get your ideas?" or "What's the inspiration for the novel?" I can be all, "It came to me in a dream!"

I actually can break it down to where it came from, though. I watched Daniel Radcliffe on SNL, which had me thinking about Harry Potter. I watched an episode of X-Files where they spoke Norwegian, and I was thinking about how I wanted to learn German. I forgot to wear my Batman ring yesterday. It was cold in my room, which had me thinking of snow and winter. And I think that Charlie Hunnam is the most attractive person that has ever lived (not so much in Sons of Anarchy or Cold Mountain, but in Undeclared and Abandon).

So those would really be my inspirations for this alleged novel I'm working on. But I don't care. I'm going to somehow turn these fragmented ideas into a novel. You'll see. Maybe.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Blog In Which I Express Theories on Val Kilmer

One of my very favorite movies as a small child was the hit film Willow.

(Other favorites include Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Legend, Ewoks: Caravan of Courage, and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. And in my defense of the Ewok movies - it's not my fault my grandma showed me Ewoks before she showed me Star Wars. I didn't see Star Wars until I was seven. And Ewoks are awesome.) (Okay, yes I get that Ewoks sorta ruin Return of the Jedi by basically saying that cannibalistic teddy bears are more powerful than the Force. But they're also really cute.) (And again, let me remind you, that I was a three-year-old girl when I first got into Ewoks). (And I love Warwick Davis).

Parenthetical asides aside, this is a blog about Val Kilmer and my mild obsession with him. It all began when I was a small child and saw Madmartigan, and I was like, "Hey, that dude is pretty."

So, I put a lot of thought into it, and I figured out why Val Kilmer got fat. And I'm not saying less hot, although I would classify him as "differently hot" now, but he's still got that Iceman oddly toothy smile that I feel like could totally bite of Tom Cruise's nose.

Okay, first of all, Val Kilmer plays by his own rules. And I don't mean in a "he's a rebel without a cause" kinda way. I mean in an An Artist Formerly Known as Prince kinda why, where when he says stuff like "I want to live in a house made of bubbles," he doesn't understand why that's not possible when you try to explain it to him.

Val Kilmer is clearly more in touch with reality than Prince (but hey, most people are). But still, he's a little bit of that, "Oh, what?" at times. But what makes Val Kilmer super awesome is that has that "I'm only kinda here" quality mixed with a wicked fast wit and he's crazy smart. So he can only be half there, and still be really condescending and put you down. It's the most awesome thing ever.

Anyway, Val Kilmer does not care what you think. Any of you. He really doesn't. So all these years when he's been working out and had washboard, rock hard abs, that was not for you. He did that because he loves acting and wanted good roles. But he did not give one smelly poop about being a sex symbol.

Then, in the early 90s, Val Kilmer worked on a film called The Doors with Oliver Stone. I'm only piecing this information together from interviews of Val Kilmer, so I don't have the exact details, but from what I understand is that Val Kilmer really, really dug the story of Alexander the Great.

So he says to Oliver Stone, "You need to make a movie about Alexander the Great. I could be Alexander. It would be awesome." And Oliver's like, "Nah." So for years and years, Val Kilmer keeps coming back to him and saying, "You should do this movie."

So finally, after like 15 years of nagging, Oliver Stone finally says, "Alright, I'll do it." And Val's like, "Yay!" And then Oliver says, "But you're too old. The studio wants some younger with a bigger name."

In steps Colin Farrell to play the role that Val Kilmer has been lobbying fifteen years for. (Colin Farrell is 17 years younger than Val Kilmer, so if Oliver Stone had made the movie way back when Val Kilmer would've been the right age).

But on the plus side, Val Kilmer gets to play Alexander's lame father, Philip. And Alexander goes on to be a box office failure.

The very next movie that Val Kilmer is in (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - one of my favorite movies ever), he's put on a good ... amount of weight. I don't know how much. I don't care. But he's clearly heftier.

So that's pretty much my theory. He'd basically been staying in shape to land roles, and when he realized that it didn't matter if he was in shape because he was now too old to land the roles he'd been fighting his whole career for, he was like, "Meh. I'm gonna eat some tacos."

And now, I see him in things, like Macgruber, and I'm like, "I have never loved you more. I know you don't care about anything except what you think. And that is so awesome."


Yep. I put too much thought into everything and everyone. And now I want to go watch something with Val Kilmer. If you wanted a selected filmography of my favorite things he's done, here it is:
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  • Willow
  • Real Genius
  • Top Gun
  • Wonderland
  • MacGruber
  • The Doors (which gets bonus points for starring Michael Wincott!)
  • Salton Sea
  • True Romance
  • Tombstone 
  • Heat
  • The Real McCoy
  • Red Planet
 I do also feel compelled to recommend The Island of Dr. Moraeu but go into it knowing you might really hate it. I also cannot recommend Batman Forever. As much as I love Val Kilmer, he's like cardboard. You could literally put a cardboard cutout of Batman in every scene, and it would be better than him. Since he's given solid performances elsewhere, I tend to blame the script, the director, and the over the top performances of Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones.


And seriously, if you don't watch Willow, and go, "Oh, my. That is a pretty man," then there's something wrong with you. I don't care if you're a man or woman, gay or straight. If you have eyes and you can see him, you know. He's a pretty man. And he probably hates you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things I've Done Today That Weren't Writing

  • Slept.
  • Changed the light bulbs in my bathroom.
  • Used Shazam to discover what that song is that I really like on that commercial (Alex Clare - "Too Close").

  • Opened boxes from agent and found foreign books, so I tried to translate Switched back into English from Portuguese (Trocada), even though I already know what the book said because I wrote it (the English version, anyway).
  • Pre-ordered Motion City Soundtrack's new album Go on vinyl.
  • Watched Judge Judy.
  • Decided that even though I believe that Pearl Jam's album Ten is one of the greatest albums of all time, my favorite song performed by Eddie Vedder is "Hard Sun."
  • Told my cat she was my favorite thing ever.
  • Told my cat she was my least favorite thing ever a few minutes later when she refused to sit with my anymore.
  • Looked at pictures of Angelina Jolie's ring on the internet and thought it sounded really silly to me that they were calling her "newly engaged." I know she is, but she's been with the father of her six children for seven years. It's actually not that big of a deal to anyone but them and their family.
  • Added more staples to my stapler.
  • Went on Wikipedia to see who invented the stapler. (Wikipedia says that George McGill was the first to patent it, but apparently, somebody made one for King Louis XV in the 18th century.)
  • Ate Taco Johns for supper after being shorted a burrito. 
  • Tried to find out what The Jim Henson Company owns since they don't own the Muppets or Seasame Street anymore. (According to henson.com, they work on a number of original children's programming, including my favorites Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train, as well as some new "adult" themed programming under Henson Alternative, and they have the Creature Shop, which makes creatures and special effects for movies and television. They also still own the rights to Fraggles, Labyrinth, and Dark Crystal.)
  • Practiced my puppetering skills trying to make my muppet, Lemmy, talk to my dog. My dog tried to shake with him, so I'm counting it as a semi-success.  
    Lemmy
  • Spent a great deal of time trying to figure out if the slippers I put on my feet are in fact my slippers or my friend Valerie's who is staying with me. Eventually, I decided that they're probably mine, and even if they're not, Val probably won't want them back after my feet have been in them.
  • Googled "how to get my Twitter account verified."
  • Thought about how I need to file my nails but did not actually file my nails.
  • Tried to make the lights in my office stop flickering and failed horribly. I am beginning to believe that my office is haunted.
  • Wrote this list of things I did instead of writing.

Now I'm going to unplug the internet and hopefully get to working. And that's how I write a book.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Happened When I Made the List

Before I was a professional author, I used to imagine what my life might be like if I ever became an author or what life must be like for successful authors. I didn't imagine a lot of glamorous things, because I figured that authors spent more time writing than they did at parties in Hollywood. Some of them probably spend more time authors, but I imagine that not that meant authors spend much hobnobbing with celebrities.

I'd always imagined this moment in my life. It was a big party, with all my friends and family, and there would be things hors d'oeuvres and champagne in flutes. This party would take place after something fabulous happened, like when I got a big book deal or made the NY Times Bestsellers list.

Here's what actually happened the first time I made the NY Times Bestsellers list:

It was roughly 4:30 in the afternoon (Minnesota time), and I was sleeping. I do usually sleep quite late, but I actually wasn't feeling good that day at all. I think I may have thrown up that morning (not related to the Bestseller list - I just wasn't feeling well). My editor Rose called and woke me up. Here's how the conversation unfolded:

Rose (very excited) : "You made the bestseller list! Switched is number (something. I can't remember what number. Let's say... eight.) Congratulations!"

Me (sleepy and not as excited): "Really? That's cool."

Rose (somewhat baffled my lack of excitement): "Yeah! How are you feeling? Are you excited? Everyone here is excited. Switched is doing so well."

Me (trying to sound more excited): "Yeah. It's great. I'm excited. (pause) I'll probably be more excited later."

Rose: "Okay. Good. Well, I'm going to have a drink to celebrate for you, and you should have one too!"

Me: "Okay. (bad fake laughter) I will. Thanks."

Rose: "Congratulations, again!"

(Side note, Rose probably is the nicest person ever).

I remember lying in bed thinking I should've been more excited. And then I became worried I wasn't excited, like I'd become too jaded and numb, and I was slowly going to morph into a Patrick Bateman-esque psychopath who has to kill hookers to feel anything real. I was not happy about that prospect because I don't like blood, and I don't even know where to find hookers.

This wasn't anything new, either. In the beginning, like in 2010, when sales were beginning to take off, I'd been very excited and anxious and on a constant emotional roller coaster. But at some point, I'd just stopped reacting.

I could tell it was disappointing, or at least confusing to the people in my life, like my agent, my editor, my mother, my assistant. All these people were like, "Hey, something super awesome happened to you! Aren't you excited?"

And I'd be like, "I guess. I mean, it is awesome, and I'm grateful for it."

Then I would lapse into the same fear that I'd become jaded and lost the ability to feel.

But that wasn't it either.  Because when I talked about Batman or Archer or really anything that wasn't my career, I was very excitable. What I'd actually lost was the ability to get excited about myself.

I have this weird thing. Everything seems impossible or awesome until I do it. Then, the simple fact of me doing it leads me to believe that it must not be that hard or that neat. So even though it had been my goal most of my life to be on the NY Times Bestsellers list, when it happened, I was like, "Meh."

It took me three days to tell anyone that it had happened. And then it was only Eric and my mom. And I was like, "Oh, hey, Rose said I made the NY Times list."

Mom: "Really? Congratulations! That's so great! I'm so proud of you honey."

Me: "Yeah. I guess. I'm way back on the kid's list on the last page, so nobody really sees it anyway."

Mom: "Still, that's quite the achievement."

Me: "I don't know. I mean, the list isn't even compiled by total sales. There's this whole weird secret process on how they make the list. There could be books way out selling mine that didn't even make it."

I didn't say anything publicly about making the list for awhile, like on my Twitter or blog or even my personal Facebook. On one hand, I kinda wanted to, because I wanted to validate my decisions and my career and to show people that thought I would fail (or at least hoped I would) that I hadn't (not yet anyway).

On the hand, I still couldn't reconcile my own feelings about making the list (or my lack of feelings, as it were). And I didn't want to sound like I was bragging. I thought talking about it would make sound all haughty, and people would be like, "Ooo, you think you're hotshit now because you got some stupid list to validate you? Whatever. You're a sell out, and your books suck."

(It should be noted that my internal monologue is a complete asshole. That guy can never say anything nice). 

I eventually did start talking about it because I thought it be weird not to. And I feel this strange mixture of pride, shame, and apathy whenever I do. None of those emotions go together, so I don't even know how it happens, but somehow it does.

I love writing. I still get very excited about projects. And there's plenty of things in life that I'm passionate about and that I enjoy very much talking about. Just most of those things aren't myself or my career. (If we're at a party, and you try to talk to me about my books, I change the subject as quickly as humanly possible.)

I feel defective for not getting more excited about things the way people think I should, the way other people would. I always want to apologize to my agent and my publishers.

"What you're doing is very good and other clients, I'm sure, would be jumping up and down. But I'm just going to sit here blankly and awkwardly until you stop looking at me, and then I'll go back to working out the idea for my next book in my head or planning the design for a new tattoo. Thanks, though. Great work, guys."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Australia 2.0

My gosh I love Australia. I probably love it more than any other place I've never been. In my mind, it is a magical land with insanely gorgeous reefs, unnaturally attractive people, and the most bizarre, awesome animals.

Did you know that the platypus is venomous? And something like 8 out of 10 of the world's most deadly spiders or ants or snakes live in Australia? (I watched a show on Animal Planet once where I learned this fact, and it was something that was poisonous, but I can't remember what anymore). If I recall correctly, there are a lot of poisonous animals in Australia though. And I think that's awesome.

I think that's what did it. Everything in Australia is clearly trying to kill everyone there. So it's some kind natural selection where only the truly awesome people can survive it. It's like a pressure cooker of amazingness.

Name one person from Australia that isn't awesome. Do it. I dare you. You can't. (Okay, there is that serial guy that I just watched a movie about, and some other douches I'm sure. No country is perfect. But I'm saying their "awesome" to "not awesome" ratio is staggering.)

That's why Australians always marry Australians. Even when they move to the United States (i.e. Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman). Americans can't live up to their awesomeness. It's a well known fact that's why Nicole Kidman's and Tom Cruise's marriage didn't work. People blame it on the Scientology, but it's really the Australian thing.

And in Australia, Daniel Johns is like a real celebrity, right? Not like here, where I go, "Hey, Daniel Johns is the neatest. Have you guys listened to Young Modern?" And then people have no idea what I'm talking about, and I get sad and go in my room to cuddle Young Modern and Diorama

(Related note - any word on his solo album? I'm stalking the internet for information, but last I'd heard he was working on. But that's it).

I'm following this guy on instagram now, and he's been taking all these stunning pictures of the Australian coast. I believe he's in Perth, but don't quote me on this. Anyway, it's insanely gorgeous. I look at his pictures every day, salivating over the magical splendor of it.

Plus, if that wasn't enough, the good folks in Australia have been doing a bananas job of promoting my books, and Australian readers have been incredibly welcoming. I really do need to thank all the people working in Australia to get my books out there, especially Dolly mag that was literally getting hundreds and hundreds of copies of Switched out there.

But there's really just icing on the cake. Even if you guys all hated my book, I would still love you.

I've blogged of my Australia love in the past, and apparently it was around this time last year. There must be something in the air that gets me in an Australia frenzy.

I saw Cabin in the Woods tonight (fairly awesome, made me laugh, had a couple jumps, and it had the single greatest scene with a unicorn I've ever seen). The film starred Chris Hemsworh. Yeah, I know he was in Thor, but somehow that long hair threw me off and made me not realize he was attractive.

(I think it was cause it reminded me of that one guy I don't like. But I don't know know who that one guy is right now. I want to say Sean Bean, but I like Sean Bean, and he usually doesn't have long hair. So basically I have no idea what I'm talking about.)

So then I found out that Chris Hemsworth was from Australia, and I was like, "Duh. Everybody is awesome from Australia." Hence, this blog.

I should probably stop being a freak and go back to writing. In fact, I will do that now. But I just wanted to to say, "Hey, Australia, how you doin'?" and follow it up with a Joey Tribbiani smile.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Lack of Pixie Dust

Some writers like to pretend that words come from some magical place inside of them, and when a muse hits them, these wonderful words splatter all over the page and make novels like pixie dust makes flight. I say "pretend" because this has never happened for me, but I could be wrong and other writers may actually spew words in a flurry of rainbows and starlight.

I, however, am not one of those writers. I love writing, more than I love about 99% of things on Earth. But I also really love my dog (he falls into the 1% of things that I truly love), and there are times that he does things that make me curse not only his existence but my own, since I'm the one that brought him into my life.

Writing is a lot like that. But when I made a decision that I wanted writing to be my career and that I wanted to treat it like a career, I moved the box labeled "Writing" to a different part of my brain.

That's important, or at least it was to me. For most of my life, "Writing" had lived in the part of my brain that harbored such things as unicorns, Peter Pan, and wedding pictures of me and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. It's the part of the brain that I labeled "Happy Fun Time" and most other people would probably categorize as "Fantasy."

That meant that I wrote when I felt like it. When I was consumed by some kind of fantasy that I wanted to get out on paper. I don't like the word "fantasy" in this context very much, because to me, when you say "I was fantasizing" about anything, it immediately sounds dirty. So let me assure you that when I say was fantasizing about things, most of the time it is lame and completely nonsexual.

I have a thing called "pressured speech." I wasn't really "diagnosed" with it, because it's not a condition so much as a symptom of one. I do have real conditions, though. Like "major depressive disorder." And "anxiety disorder" coupled with "social anxiety." I may also be "bipolar" but the mania and the depressive episodes seem to have leveled out, so who the hell knows anymore? Not me, that's fore sure.

Anyway, pressured speech (as defined by Wikipedia) is a tendency to speak rapidly and frenziedly, as if motivated by an urgency not apparent to the listener. That means that I often talk very, very quickly, and I can also be hard to understand. (Both my mom and Eric say I've gotten much better about this in recent years. My mom thinks that doing interviews has it made it a lot better, because I learned to speak more slowly and deliberately).

If I had to define myself by one single quality, it would be pressured speech. I have always been filled with someone unknown, unreasonable urgency to get ideas out. When I speak, when I write, it all comes from the same manic, insistent place inside of me.

But I'd been told most of my life that that's the way it is. When you hear of great writers, they're always tormented by demons and write when the muse hits. So I thought, this is the way it is. My life will constantly be filled by manic highs, low lows, and I can only write when I feel like it. You cannot control the muse!

When I made one simple realization - that I could control the way I wrote, that I was in charge of the muse and not the other way around - everything in my life changed. I moved the "Writing" box to a different part of my brain, and then I began shuffling around all the boxes. I realized I'd just left them where I found them and had never bothered to organize the clutter of my mind (and there is a lot of clutter. There's nothing I love more than useless facts and trivia).

I have at times suffered debilitating depression that had nothing to do with anything going on in my life. (This right here is the single most accurate description of depression I've ever read in my entire life.) It's not a matter of choosing to be sad over happy, although I do think that is a small part of it.

But for me, I make choices every day that have kept my mood relatively stable for the past five years, and I've been able to write more often with more follow-through than ever before. I hardly ever start projects I don't finish anymore. I make deadlines, and with few exceptions, I keep them.

I still tend to write in a way that is similar to "pressured speech." I'm in more control of it than I was before. I don't think I'll ever be able to be a person that does things in moderation. But I am controlling my levels of excess. I may write thousands of words in a night, but I do it because I decide to, and if I have to do something tomorrow instead of writing, I don't freak out that I'm being taken away from it. I know it'll be there when I get back, and I know I can make myself write again when it's time to.

So what happened when I moved the "Writing" box inside my brain? I realized that I was in control. I decide when I am going to write, and I make myself write, even if I don't want to. There is nothing magical about writing. It is wonderful, wonderful, difficult, mind-numbing work.

I don't know why I decided to blog about this tonight. I wrote tonight on accident. I meant to just work on the outline a bit more, and I ended up writing two chapters. That almost never happens to me. It's usually the other way around, where I sit down to right, and just end up tweaking the outline and screwing around on the internet. (The internet is literally the cause of and solution to all my problems).

So I was just feeling good about writing and life in general. Writing does always put me in a better mood, and it's nice when things just ... work. Sometimes it's like Sisyphus pushing the same boulder up the hill every day, and other days it just flows.

But no matter what, it's always work, it's always a choice, and nobody ever sprinkles fairy dust on my laptop.

Friday, April 6, 2012

En for orgelet, en for me

That means "One for the organ, one for me," which is about getting drunk. I think. It's lyrics from a band called Kaizers Orchestera, which I've been on and off listening to for while, but I'm obsessed with them now. Their song "En for Orgelet, En For Me" is currently stuck in my head. But the song "Hjerteknuser"(which translates to "Heartbreaker") is prettier.

I downloaded "Hjerteknuser" a few months ago on the recommendation of something. I listened to it and I liked it, and I tried to guess what language it was. My first thought was French, which I immediately dismissed. Then I thought German, and I stayed with that one for awhile, but I realized that wasn't right either. I don't really know much German, but it didn't sound Germanic enough for me.

So finally, I looked up. And I discovered that Kaizers Orchestra is Norwegian, which makes me love them about a hundred times more than I already did love them. According to Wikipedia, "Kaizers Orchestra are notable for being among the first non-black metal Norwegian bands or artists singing in their native language to become popular beyond Scandinavia." But  a citation is needed for that, so who knows if it's true or not.

Anyway, I love Scandinavia. The mythology for the Trylle books is based on Scandinavian folklore, and many of the words and names I use in the series are Scandinavian or are derived from Scandinavians words. (If you want to see a video of me pronouncing the words from the Trylle books, here's a blog with a vlog that I did: here.)

This is partially because I just liked the folklore I found, and I thought that since the idea came from Scandinavia the actual heritage of the Trylle should come from there too.

The rest is because I grew up in Southern Minnesota. I don't know about all of Minnesota, because it's a big state and I haven't lived in all of it, but where I'm from there are a LOT of people from Norway and Sweden. It's definitely a part of the culture around here.

My dad grew up in Northern Minnesota along the iron range, and there were many people from Finland there that worked in the mines. (Side note: This book Seven Iron Men is about my family. My dad's mother is a Merritt.) When I was a kid, he taught me some Finnish words, like bathroom, a few phrases, and I'm pretty sure some swear words. I've forgotten almost of all it, because language is one of those things that you lose if you don't use it, and I didn't have a lot of use for a few random Finnish words.

What I do remember is "suurenmoinen poika" and "suurenmoinen tyttö." My dad told me that meant "good boy" and "good girl." I looked up the correct spelling using Google translate, and that is not at all how I thought "tyttö" would be spelled. It's pronounced more like "too - tuh."

(I recommend you go to Google translate and put it in and listen to them say it, cause it sounds cool. But according to Google translate, that's not a literal translation of  "good boy" or "good girl." I finally found "suurenmoinen" under one of the alternate words for "great." Or just click: here.)

But now, thanks to Kaizers Orchestra, I can learn some Norwegian. Which is fun.

Now for your enjoyment is the song "Hjerteknuser" with optional English subtitles. You have to click on the box to turn them on, but you should cause it's fun and the song is pretty. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

it's not the way that I want it - it's just the way that I need it day after day

I have a somewhat distinct memory from when I was about seven or eight. I'm sitting in the library at my elementary school, and there's a TV on in front of us with an author talking about writing. I am 98% that the author talking was Gary Paulson, because I remember that we had to read Hatchet and I didn't really care for it, but I think he had another book that I did like.

Anyway, what I remember the most is Gary Paulson talking about his writing process. He mentioned something about outlining and taking notes, to which I went, "Pfft. I'll never outline or take notes. Those only slow me down." He also talked about how much he originally loathed the computer, but how he'd come to love using it and it made his writing and editing so much easier, to which I went, "Pfft. I'll never use computers. Those things are awful."

I actually remember having a conversation with another student about how stupid computers were and how I refused to ever own one. We had Macs in the computer lab in school, and I was required to taking computer classes a couple times a week, but I hated it. With the exception of Carmen Sandiego and Number Munchers.

(Side note: I had Keyboarding from like Kindergarten until sixth grade. I hated it so much. Now I love typing, and I'm grateful for the school for forcing me to do it. Way to be on top of things Blooming Prairie Elementary School).

Back to my main story: I was basically an idiot when I was seven or eight. I was so wrong about things, and Gary Paulson was so right.

I didn't really start outlining and taking notes until I was about nineteen or twenty. I was working on a story, and I didn't think I could write fast enough to come up with all the ideas, so I started outlining out of necessity. It ended up being the second novel I'd ever finished. The first novel was roughly 70-80K words and took me nine months to write. The second novel, the one I outlined, was over 100K words and took me about 6 days. (I'm pretty sure that I wrote that book in some kind of manic episode, but that's a story for another day.)

So from then on, I was hooked on outlining and taking notes. The way I outlined hasn't changed much over time. I've discussed it in a previous post where I showed an example from an unfinished novel that I have no intention of finishing. (You can check that post out: here.)

The way I take notes has changed. The Watersong series is the newest series I'm working on, and the notes on it are so ridiculously intense. I have pages and pages of handwritten notes (I hand write all my notes and outlines). Then I scan them into the computer so I can't lose them. I have physical files full of notebook pages. I had do research for the book, so I even printed off the articles I used from the internet or photocopied pages from the books, so I know exactly where I got my information so I can double check it.

And that's made my life so much easier.

I'm working on something right now, a little fun something, and I want to go back and check notes from a previous project, but unfortunately, my notes weren't always so great. So I'm having troubles trying to figure something out, and that's really impeded what should be a very quick, little project.

So here's a tip: Before you start writing a book, name everything. Every character, every city, every street. Anything you think might possibly come up. Even make up extra names on the off chance you might need a minor character somewhere in the book to say a few lines. Get their first, middle, last name, date of birth, physical appearance, fun facts, etc, and write it all down.

Because nothing sucks worse than being in the middle of groove, the words are flowing and everything's going good, and then you have to stop and go, "Wait. What's their name?" And then you spend the next three hours trying to pick out a name or find a name or an eye color or birth date, and then the whole mood is lost and you just give up and go upstairs to watch reruns of Chopped on the Food Network.

P. S. I'm still working on ideas from yesterday's post. I should have a concrete idea of what I'm going to do and how you can participate by Monday next week. Thanks for all the ideas!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

21 Days

Holy cow, it's only three weeks until Ascend comes out. Time flies when you're having fun and all that. Since Ascend is the final book in the Trylle trilogy, I'm trying to think of some fun things that I can do to celebrate. I have a couple ideas, but they're still in the idea stage.

Oh, and I have fun news for fans of the Trylle books and people excited about the new Watersong series. But I can't tell you yet. It's a bit too soon. But trust me when I tell you that it's fun.

I started writing this blog like eights hours, but get distracted by life. Oh, life, how tricky you are.

Oh, hey, while I've got you here - what are some fun things you guys would like me to do for the promotion of Ascend?

Before you ask, here are some things I won't (or can't) do:
  • change the ending of any book
  • do a book signing in your city (At least not right now. I'm not doing any touring for this book, because I'm busy working on other books right now.)
  • make the movie come out any faster (For more info on the movie, please check: here, but nothing new has happened on it)

I am considering doing a charity auction on eBay. That I would really like to do, actually. But I haven't figured out how to set one up, what charity I would want the proceeds to go to, or what all I'd auction off. When I come up with more, I'll let you know.

But otherwise I am open to ideas!

The first four chapters of Ascend are up: here for you check it out, if you're interested. (Scroll down the page and click Read the Excerpt. I can't link directly to it.)

Anyway. That's all for now. Have a wonderful day and a pleasant tomorrow!