Category Archives: books

Editing Process: Step Two

(A continuation of my “editing process” series for TNWSY.)

“Dee, turn it up!”

That was the first line I ever wrote in my very first variation of TNWSY. I won’t even say draft because it was merely a scene, not even a chapter. In the end, I didn’t use much from that first bit of writing, mostly just the setting (a bedroom) and the two girls talking, but even their names changed. (There is no “Dee” anymore.)

But, somehow, in all of the drafts and revisions and edits and craziness, that line remained. It’s not the first line, but it’s still in the book. Which is kind of cool, at least to me.

Because currently I’m going through my book another time. There are line edits now, corrections and suggestions in track changes for me to go through and revise. I like these kinds of edits because I know exactly what my editor is looking for. It’s not “elaborate on this theme,” It’s “elaborate on this scene.” It assures me that the rest of the book is succeeding, and that there’s still a chance to make small moments bigger, better. And after going through all of the edits and thoughts, I’m super happy to be with the editor I have because she gets it. And that’s really awesome.

In theory, this might be my last revision before copyedits, so I’m a bit nervous about making everything as perfect as possible. I suppose we’ll see.

But as I go through it and see how things have changed and evolved from that first draft, I smile whenever I find an original piece. Because it all started from a thought, a line, and now here it is. It was a simple note played once, and now it’s a full song getting ready to be heard. It’s bigger, better, louder.

Turn it up, indeed.

Color My Shelf – Part 2

Here are the results of my highly unscientific study hinted at in my previous post.

I decided to test out two things in my study: how fast multicultural books go that have said ethnic characters on the cover (face covers), and how fast multicultural books go that have no hinting at all about their ethnicity on the cover (non-face covers). The books pulled were random, I just wanted books that weren’t extremely popular at my library (such as Clockwork Prince). I had no preference to titles nor nationalities, though I did want a range of genres (fantasy, contemporary, etc.) and nationalities. Unfortunately, nationalities were hard to find. (Note: I KNOW there are a lot more than these titles, these were the ones that were in stock. As mentioned, this was not very scientific.)

First, the face books:

  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Japanese)
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (Cambodian)
  • My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Jewish/Indian)
  • Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Black)
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick (Nepali)
  • Spirit’s Princess (Princesses of Myth) by Esther Friesner (Japanese)
  • Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (Mixed race, black/white)
  • Transcendence by C.J. Omololu (Black)
  • Joseph by Shelia P. Moses (Black)
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst (Honestly, I’m not sure, but the cover is beautiful.)

Now the non-face books:

  • The Vow by Jessica Martinez (Jordonian)
  • Death Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Hispanic)
  • Good Enough by Paula Yoo (Korean)
  • The Living by Matt De La Peña (Hispanic)
  • He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (Black)

Before I discuss what happened, here’s some information about my branch library. It’s located by a university, and also surrounded by both richer and poorer developments. According to SimplyMap, and the 2010 census, the area is 39.25% Hispanic, 6.49% Asian, .53% American Indian, 12.43% Black, 69.77% White, and 6.79% other. I realize this does not add up to 100% – a large portion of our population marked two or more races on the census. Also, the general population does not reflect the library’s population, but you get it.

Anyway. The face books (of which there were more) were placed on the top of the display, with the non-face books placed below them. This was due to my theory: non-face books would check out first, so I gave priority to the others. This is what I’ve seen in the past, at least, when placing these books out on display. Once they were out, I patiently waited.

To my surprise (and delight) in the first day, the following titles were checked out: Never Fall Down and Sold. Two face books taken by two different patrons! As books were checked out, they were not replaced, I just waited for the display to empty.

The following day, the first of the non-face covers was checked out: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. That same day, Liar and My Basmati Bat Mitzvah also went. Again, more face covers!

By the end of the three days, there were three titles remaining in each category: Battle Royale, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, and Spirity Chosen from the face books, and The Vow, The Living, and Good Enough from the non-face covers. Yes, three and three, but still, the face covers were going faster.

I had the display up for a week, and by the last day the only titles remaining were Battle Royale and The Living. By the end of that day, The Living found a home. This surprised me quite a bit, because I thought both books would have gone much sooner. Sadly, I shelved Battle Royale and analyzed what happened.

Books were checked out. Books were wanted, and liked. My initial thoughts, due to previous experiences, that these face books wouldn’t go was disproved. Whatever the reason, they were wanted, and I was really pleased about that. And the fact that they went faster than the non-face covers was extremely interesting.

Clearly there is a demand for these books, if even in the smallest sense. They are checked out, they are looked at (and, as it seems, patrons seem to prefer people on their covers)!

As a follow-up, I looked back at some of the titles we weeded and found something incredibly telling – the majority of the multicultural ones were historical. Sure those books are great, too, but it seems like the majority of the popular books are contemporary or fantasy or dystopian or science fiction. Readers want multicultural characters of today. They want them in books they can relate to, not older tales. Again, not a scientific observation, but still one that’s worth mentioning.

So what does this mean for my library? The other books are still more popular, as our checkouts show, but clearly there’s a demand for these. I’ll definitely be displaying more of them each week. I’d like to do this experiment again in the future and see if the findings change. I’d like to get more titles similar to these, too, because clearly they’re appreciated. And I’d like to thank the authors for writing these characters that my patrons  want to read.

My Bucket List; Or, Celebrating SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Julie Murphy’s fantastic debut novel, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. It was terrific, to say the least, and I’m so incredibly proud of, and happy for, Julie. I highly recommend it, and to prove that, i’m joining in on her celebratory blog book launch! But first, here’s a bit about the book:

side effects coverWhat if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Sounds amazing, right? To celebrate the book’s release, I’m writing my own bucket list. Some things I’ve already accomplished. Some I have yet to embark on. And, I think, all say a little bit about me.

  • Travel to other countries. Ones i’ve already conquered: Italy, France, England, Greece. Once I’d like to conquer next: India (to see the country, of course, but also to meet S’s grandparents), Ireland (castles!), Spain, and Germany. I’d also like to go back and see England’s countryside, as we only went to London (which was awesome), and Sicily (because I only made it to Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Milan, and Capri in Italy).
  • Travel the US. Okay, foreign countries are great, but I’d actually like to see more of the country I live in. Perhaps a cross-country road trip. Or a summer in Maine (yes, i’d rather go somewhere colder than summer here in Florida). Or a trip to a Pacific Northwest, which i’ve never seen. Heck, I’d really just like to see LA.
  • Become fluent in a foreign language. Simple, right? Wrong. I’ve tried Spanish and Italian. I got by in Italy on my very limited Italian, but still. I want to be perfect. (S, on the other hand, can speak four languages. Because he’s a show-off.)
  • Ride an animal. No, I’ve never ridden a horse. Or anything. I’d really like to. I had a chance in Greece to ride a donkey, but they looked so sad, and I read they were treated horribly, so I tried to liberate them instead. (Okay, I didn’t. Instead I just took a picture by them and walked down the cliff.)
  • Participate in a murder mystery game where everyone is a character and everyone is a suspect. I just really want to dress up and pretend i’m Ms. Scarlett.

And now for things I’ve already crossed off my bucket list:

  • Get married/have kids. The married part is done. The have a baby is in the process. I mean, technically she’s a baby, but she’s still inside me, so let’s give this a month and a half before I fully cross it off.
  • Write a book. Boom. Done.
  • Buy a house. Also done. The only thing that would make my house cooler would be having a secret passageway. Perhaps something to work on in the future.

Okay, there are probably a lot more things I’d like to do/see/experience, but these are ones i’ve had on my list for a while. Who knows, perhaps i’ll start crossing them off this year? It’s really not that impossible to imagine.

—-

SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Julie Murphy will be released on March 18th. You can buy it online here, here, or here. Find Julie on Tumblr or Twitter.

Waiting Period

Hello!

As you might have noticed, I’ve been M.I.A. for a bit. It’s not because of some amazing news, or I’ve been hiding from the world or anything, I’ve just been…

  1. Experiencing pregnancy brain. I didn’t believe in this at first, figuring it was simply another pregnancy myth, but oh my. The other day, I literally said to a co-worker: “hey, can you get me…the…the um…the thing to put the books on so I can roll them around.” “A book cart?” “YES! THAT!” It was then that I became a believer.
  2. Preparing for said baby. I’ve been reading the books (they’re terrifying) and setting up the nursery with S (it’s adorable). You hear that babies need a lot of stuff, but it’s not until you see your house lined with Graco and Fisher Price boxes that you realize it’s all incredibly true. I also find myself using the word “snugapuppy” a lot. (It’s a baby swing. With a puppy on it. It’s adorable.) (Also, magically I can remember the non-word “snugapuppy” and not “book cart.”)
  3. Writing. Yes, despite the memory issues, I’m still trying to write. In fact, I want to get everything done prior to baby’s arrival. So right now a manuscript is with my beta readers (one my agent has already thankfully approved of, only now with many, many edits), and I’m writing away at another one. It’s weird and fun balancing three projects (TNWSY as well, of course), but they’re vastly different, so it’s easy separating them in my mind. And for the first time, I made a very detailed outline for a story so I can follow it when my mind does, eventually, go blank.
  4. Reading. Not just baby books! I’ve read 10 books so far this year. Some highlights… Drama High by Michael Sokolove was a fantastic non-fiction account of a high school drama department. Touching and lovely (and as someone who was part of a high school drama department, I was deeply invested). The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick was a fun, deep read that I checked out for my library’s book club. Admittedly, I saw the movie first (which I loved), but that didn’t spoil the book at all – they’re both different and lovely enough to stand on their own. September Girls by Bennett Madison. I’m usually not big on mermaid books, but this one blew me away. The writing was lyrical, the voice authentic and unforgiving. I was absorbed.
  5. Sleeping. Or attempting to sleep (it’s become quite hard). I plan my days around sleeping sometimes.

That is to say, not much is going on, but at the same time, so much is going on. My life is on the brink of changing in various ways, and I’m just about to take everything in. I’m just waiting…waiting excitedly. And, yet, also enjoying the wait.

Writing: 2013 in Review

In regards to writing, 2013 has been exciting, to say the least – most notably because TNWSY was sold, and I have an editor, and, YAY! But writing didn’t stop there. Oh no.

Actually, writing-wise, my year started out rather slow.

Project 1: I started work on a new concept early in the year, a topic very close to my heart. I learned quickly that it’s not always the easiest – or best idea – to write what you know. Every word felt forced. Writing wasn’t fun. I only accomplished about 9,000 very poorly written, really despised, words. (For comparison, TNWSY is a bit over 60,000 words.) So I put that project to sleep and immediately felt better. Will I ever go back to it? I’m not sure. I hope to one day, with a new perspective, but for now I’m happy letting go.

Project 2: I had a new, very fun idea that I was keen to work on…and work on it I did. Writing was fun again, but only for so long. At about 30,000 words I realized the story didn’t stand out at all, and it wasn’t something I wanted to tell. It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t going anywhere. I had an ending in sight, but no middle ground. I knew it wasn’t something I was proud of, and I had no ideas of ways to make it better. So, again, I gave up on it and felt better. I didn’t hate it, but I knew it wasn’t the right story for me. It just felt blah – I didn’t need to write it. Will I ever go back to it? Probably not. But it’s still saved, just in case.

Project 3: At this time, Burrow Press, a local Orlando publisher, came into the picture, Each year they put out a 15 Views of Orlando book (among other great books) where local writers contribute a different chapter. The entire book is one story, but each chapter is written by a different author, and they’re allowed to take the story in any way they want. Also, each chapter must take place at a different Orlando location. It’s really unique. Anyway, I was asked to write the final chapter, the epilogue, and jumped at the opportunity, The story was so far from anything I’d ever personally write, that the experience was wonderful. I wrote fast, and was happy with what I created. (I was also able to be in a book with my friend Jenny, which is just awesome) I loved contributing to the book, and cannot wait to see it in print. (Out in April 2014! The book is called FORGET YOU FOUND US; 15 Views of Orlando Vol. III. You can read the first chapter here.)

Project 4: Newly restored, I decided to dabble with a short story idea I had a while back, which never amounted to anything but one page. I started fresh and wrote it…in one day. Seriously. I was obsessed. It was a crazy experience; I only broke to Skype chat with a friend in the UK. So, I sent the 8,000 words to my agent, after editing it, and she liked it too (!!!), with the only suggestion to make it longer. So I did. Again, quickly, easily. Now at about 20,000 words, it’s my little novella that I love dearly. Where it goes next, we shall see…

Project 5: After that, I figured it was time to attempt another full-length manuscript. Again, I jumped on an idea that was floating around in my mind and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I never outlined it, I just kind of decided what happened as I went. And in a weird, way, it worked. I finished it! It was not very good at first – names were all mixed up, characters weren’t fully developed, the plot wasn’t fully developed, but it was finished and I was so relieved that I could do that again. So I spent a while fixing it up and making it shiny before sending it on. To my delight, agent liked it, too, so we’re editing it now and improving it in ways I never would have thought of without her. Yay!

Project 6: While waiting for agent’s reaction on Project 5, I had a dream that inspired an idea. It was small at first, a tiny flicker, but I started daydreaming about it, and started letting my fingers tap along. I wasn’t planning on writing anything, but it just happened. I’m about 20,000 words in now and still obsessed with it. It’s the first manuscript I’ve written that i’ve needed to do a bit of research for, which I am, and it’s fun. It’s very different than my other stories, but I like that about it. I don’t want to say much now, but I can feel it turning into something, and I’m so excited to see where it takes me.

Project 7: TNWSY, of course! In the midst of all of this, I’ve been editing my book (BOOK!) with my editor (EDITOR!). It’s such an exhilarating process, and I’m thrilled to continue it through the new year.

So where does that leave me now? Continuing my edits for TNWSY, figuring out Project 4, editing Project 5, writing Project 7, and perhaps starting a Project 8 after all of that is said and done. There’s an idea there…there’s always an idea. And though I’m realistic enough to know that some projects will decline and fail as they have for me in the past, I’m still thrilled to see what grows and flourishes in 2014. So, to another year of writing and inspiration and wonder.