You know how sometimes you hit a reading lull, where no book that you pick up manages to hold your interest and everything you read feels just…. BLAH. But then, other times, you find yourself on a reading streak, falling in love with every book you pick up and wondering what could possibly top it, only to fall in love again with the next book, and the next.
Well, this last quarter was definitely the latter. SO MANY great books. AMAZING books. Many have already become perennial favorites.
But as I have to choose my #1 favorite read of the year so far, I think I have to go with the very first book that I read, which even three months later is hanging around me:
PLUS ONE by Elizabeth Fama
When I heard that Elizabeth had a new book coming out, I instantly begged my editor for an advance copy (we share a publisher), as I loved her last book, MONSTRUOUS BEAUTY, so very much.
The ARC came.
I started reading that day, and couldn’t put it down.
The next day I emailed my editor again and asked if she could ask Elizabeth’s editor if I could maybe possibly blurb it, because I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
This was the first blurb I’d written in over a year.
So I’ll just paste here what I wrote for that blurb, because it pretty much sums up my feelings:
PLUS ONE enthralled me from the first sentence as gutsy, quick-witted Sol Le Coeur launched herself into an adventure filled with political intrigue, family dramas, and a romance that gives a whole new meaning to “star-crossed.” The finale left me in the best sort of book daze. This book spares no emotion, and Sol’s story will linger long after the last page is turned.
Okay. Enough gushing. *deep breaths*
Plus One will be out in THIS TUESDAY, and you should all go buy it. That’s all I wanted to say.
I also wrote a blurb for WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand last quarter, a book that is a dark and haunting retelling of “The Nutcracker Ballet,” so I wanted to share that one too. This one doesn’t come out until September, but you should definitely add it to your GoodReads list now. I think Lunar Chronicles fans are really going to love this one.
What a mesmerizing whirlwind of a story! I was simultaneously horrified and enchanted by the land of Cane, with all its passion and mysteries, magic and mechaniks. Claire Legrand’s writing has the grace of a ballet, but this is definitely not your grandmother’s Nutcracker tale.
And… and…. I really want to just rave about every YA book that I read in the last three months, because they were all just brilliant. There isn’t one on this list that I wouldn’t recommend. So if you’re in need of recs, go forth!!
My full reading list follows:
1. Plus One, by Elizabeth Fama
2. The Connected Child, by Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
3. Fool, by Christopher Moore
4. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
5. Winterspell, by Claire Legrand
6. Star Cursed, by Jessica Spotswood
7. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
8. Splintered, by A.G. Howard
9. Revolutions for Fun and Profit, by Ryan Shattuck
10. Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
11. Through the Ever Night, by Veronica Rossi
12. Into the Still Blue, by Veronica Rossi
13. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
14. My Life as an Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs
15. Passionate Persuasion, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
16. Also Known As, by Robin Benway
17. Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel, by Daniel Cooney
18. Baby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles, by Arne Bellstorf (graphic novel)
19. Zahra’s Paradise, by Amir & Khalil (graphic novel)
20. Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige
21. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
What have YOU read and loved so far this year?
I’d meant to do a “Day in the Life” post from when I was on the Cress book tour but kept forgetting about it, so I’ll try to remember to do one later this fall, because tour days really have no comparison. They are fun and hectic and exhausting and rewarding and this totally bizarre mix of both my favorite and least favorite parts about being an author, all rolled into one whirlwind week (or, in the case of the Cress tour, 3.5 weeks).
In the meantime, here is a Day in the Life from one of the greatest job perks there is: Writing Retreats! Starring my Pacific Northwest writing buds – Gennifer Albin, Martha Brockenbrough, and Lish McBride – as we trekked up to the lovely seaside town of Port Townsend for some productivity and fun.
A Day in the Life
7:30: Wake up sans alarm clock (blissful!) and spend some time marveling over the gorgeous antique-inspired quilt in this adorable Victorian hotel. I make a note to go quilt shopping one of these days… and narrowly resist hunting for one on Etsy. This is a writing retreat! Must not get distracted!
7:47: Make some coffee, eat a protein bar, send my husband a “coffee isn’t the same without you” text (because we’re gross like that), and start checking my emails.
8:06: The Fierce Reads authors have been announced! Share on Facebook and Twitter.
8:32: Time to take stock of my epic writing retreat to-do list and make a plan for the day. This is the first full day of the retreat, and I have big ambitions!
– Answer emails for at least 90 minutes (I’m still not caught up from when I was on tour, and I’ve been home for a month!!)
– Get though all my revision notes on [Secret Project redacted]
– Transfer my Heartless manuscript into Scrivener
– Make progress on the profile book my husband and I have to complete for our adoption
– Read one graphic novel (for research, I swear!)
– Write this blog post
8:40: Start on my second cup of coffee and proceed to answer some of those emails.
9:20: Time for breakfast! I meet Lish and Martha in the hotel lobby and we head out to find some grub.
11:10: Breakfast took a lot longer than expected… I’m feeling a bit like a retreat slacker. But we’re back at the hotel now, chilling in one of the parlors. Time to get some work done! I open up [Secret Project redacted] and start pouring over my revision notes. Genn arrives and we all chat bookish stuff for a while.
1:42: Sweet! There were fewer revision notes than I thought, and I knock them out in record time. Bam. Tomorrow I’ll conduct one more full read-through and ship it off to my editor, but for now, it’s time to answer some more emails…
2:26: Made good progress on the inbox, and scheduled about a gazillion upcoming Skype visits. The decision is made to move to the café down the street. Pack, pack, shuffle, shuffle.
2:42: Iced hazelnut latte in hand, time to work on Heartless!
5:19: Heartless is in Scrivener and all my preliminary revision notes are compiled. I’m feeling much better about this work day, and spend the next hour working on the family profile book for our adoption agency.
6:27: We head back to the hotel for a home-cooked meal of slow cooker chili and Martha’s delectable cornbread.
7:50: More emails!
9:17: Good heavens. I’ve cut the total number of emails in half today. *fist bumps self* Time to go sit in bed and read that graphic novel: Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf, which tells the story of Stuart Sutcliffe, the “lost Beatle.” It’s enticing and beautiful and sad.
11:00: Happy to go to sleep after a very productive day of writing-retreat. Dreamy sigh.
This is going to be a short post compared to those on Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, because so many of the items included in Winter’s black folder contain spoilers! and I don’t trust you guys not to zoom in on them, haha.
But here are a few of the things that I’ve deemed safe to share…
Inside Winter’s Black Folder
In the first draft of Winter there were a handful of flashback scenes showing Winter as a child, and I was super excited when I came across this photo in a magazine one day. This little girl looks just how I envisioned the young princess.
This article, found in Sunset magazine, theorized some technologies we might be using for our food-growing in the distant (and not-so-distant) future. It was one of the first inspirations I had for how food production – and society in general – might work on Luna.
When I tried to outline my initial ideas for Winter (back before I’d even started writing Cinder!), all the ideas I had came to a grand total of three hand-written pages. Well, when I tried again a couple years later—after Cinder and Scarlet were completed—this was what that three-page outline turned into. Sixty typed pages! And that’s the outline! *gulp* This is by far the most extensive and detailed outline I’ve ever written, which I made using the method in First Draft in Thirty Days by Karen Wiesner. I didn’t really enjoy the method and probably won’t use it again, but it certainly gave me something to work with!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into some of the first inspirations for the Lunar Chronicles. Word of advice for writers: Never throw anything away… you just never know when you’ll want to write a blog post about it!
Today, we’re peering into the black folder for Scarlet . . .
WARNING: THE REST OF THIS POST INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR CINDER AND SCARLET.
Inside Scarlet’s Black Folder
Once you get into the second book of a series, you’re faced with a constant balancing act. You have to quickly engage your reader and keep the story moving forward, while also reminding them (in a natural, non-intrusive way) about what happened in the previous book so they’re not confused. Here I made my list of the major points I needed to remind readers about as soon as possible. (Note also the brief summary of the book and my early concept of the book’s major themes. Though these things often change during revisions, I like to have at least a tentative idea of them from the beginning so I can try to keep the “big picture” in mind while I’m outlining and writing.)
This is a map I printed out showing the main agricultural areas in France. This first helped me determine what sorts of crops Scarlet and her grandmother would grow on their farm, and it also gave me some ideas for the path Wolf and Scarlet would take to get to Paris (since I knew I wanted them to end up in a forest).
My black folders are full of research notes. Here are the notes I took while watching the episode of Dirty Jobs in which Mike Rowe has to trudge through a sewer system, so I could apply the most gruesome and realistic details to the scene in which Cinder and Thorne do the same.
An article from Sunset magazine theorizing some accommodations we may have to look forward to in our train travel. Not many of these ideas made it into the book, but it did get me to start thinking beyond my own limited knowledge of train travel.
I mentioned in my post on Cinder’s black folder that I’m always trying different plotting techniques. Here I was trying to build my plot using the “Quest Decided > Action > Quest Thwarted > Reaction > New Quest Decided” method. I *think* I heard about this method from Victoria Schmidt’s writing guide Book in a Month, but I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s a pretty basic way to build your story and figure out the overall progression of your novel.
An article from South Sound magazine talking about local wildlife protection groups. I think this is where I first heard about Wolf Haven in Olympia, WA, which I did eventually visit for my research on wolves and wolf packs. (If you’re ever in western Washington, I highly recommend giving them a visit. It’s so fascinating, and the wolves are gorgeous!)
Three folders down, one to go! One Friday I’ll be giving a sneak (non-spoilery) peek at some of my early inspirations for Winter.
Last month I wrote a blog post for “A Week of Rapunzel” hosted by Bonnie at A Backwards Story. In the post, I revealed for the first time the contents of one of my black folders—the folders where I’ve been collecting bits of ideas, research, and inspiration for the past six years, ever since I started working on a little book about a teenage cyborg.
In that post I discussed some of the things I’d collected for Cress. This week I’m opening up the folders for Cinder, Scarlet, and even Winter for some behind-the-scenes info on where, when, and how The Lunar Chronicles have evolved . . .
WARNING: THE REST OF THIS POST INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR CINDER.
Inside Cinder’s Black Folder
Some magazine pages I pulled of fancy wedding dresses and ball gowns to start visualizing what Pearl and Peony might wear to the annual ball.
This propaganda pamphlet is 100% responsible for the ID chips that my characters use for their payment and identity tracking, and it was a total fluke that I came across it. When I was writing Cinder, I had an hour bus commute to and from work each day. One day as I sat down on the bus, I saw this pamphlet on the seat. I picked it up and started to read all about how the government is going to be embedding chips into our wrists, which will be the sign of Satan’s return or something something… I dunno. Whatever the writer of this pamphlet was trying to achieve, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the “AHA!” moment that I had when I read it. “ID chips embedded in our wrists—friggin’ brilliant! My futuristic society must have that!” And now they do.
When I was first creating the world of the Lunar Chronicles, it was difficult for me to keep track of all the different terminology I was using (and, in many cases, making up), so I made reference sheets like this one to keep handy. Here, I’ve listed some tech terminology (such as the difference between netscreens and portscreens), plus the honorifics used in the Eastern Commonwealth. Note that on this page there are sixteen honorifics. I’ve since shortened it down to just five that are used in Cinder’s society.
Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress all began life as NaNoWriMo novels. Wanting to document every step of the process, I made sure to keep the postcards that I received that year after making a donation to NaNo’s cause.
When I get stuck, I frequently resort to brainstorming longhand, and sometimes a good old-fashioned spiderweb cluster is still the best method. (Anyone else remember doing those in school?) Originally I’d thought that Cinder was immune to the plague because she was cyborg, but that wasn’t working for the plot, so I started to brainstorm other ideas. This cluster is where I figured out that she’s actually immune because she’s Lunar.
I’m sort of obsessive when it comes to plot structure, and whenever I hear about a new “theory” or “system” for how great stories are structured, I always test it with my books to see if they hold up. Here I applied Cinder’s plot points to the classic “myth structure” (right), plus one other plot system (left)… though I’m not sure where that one is from.
More insider info is coming! Check back on Wednesday for a look into Scarlet‘s black folder…
Are you ready to Join the Resistance and unlock great sweepstakes prizes? Well here’s some added motivation!
I’m giving away TEN LUNAR CHRONICLES GRAB BAGS to ten Lunartics!
Grab Bags might include such goodies as: signed books, bookbags, hairbands, postcards, buttons, temporary tattoos, and more!
There are lots of different ways you can participate and earn points toward winning. PLUS, this giveaway is open internationally!
Ends March 31.
By some technological magic, every like, share, tweet, tumble, and download is currently being monitored and tracked (by satellite-imprisoned hackers, perhaps?) – and every time we reach a benchmark, a new sweepstakes will be unveiled! Prizes include signed books, an Iko USB drive, and even a CRESS-branded MacBook Air!
How can YOU join the resistance? Start by:
And why stop there? Here are some more ideas for the true revolutionaries:
– Encourage your friends to Like the Lunar Chronicles fanpage.
– Share the CRESS book trailer on your blog or Facebook.
– Follow The Lunar Chronicles on Tumblr.
– Leave a review for Cinder, Scarlet, or Cress on Amazon, GoodReads, or BN.com – then tweet your review using the #SaveCRESS hashtag.
– Share your fanart or gifs on Tumblr using #SaveCRESS.
– Read “The Little Android” on WattPad – then Tweet your reaction using #SaveCRESS.
– If you’re a blogger, you can also help by encouraging your followers to Join the Resistance too!
We’ve already unlocked two sweepstakes by achieving over 50,000 interactions! Download the Rampion schematics and enter to win the nail decals here: http://thelunarchronicles.net/
(Sorry, but sweepstakes prizes are open to the US only, although I think anyone can download the schematics…)
How will YOU be joining the Lunar Chronicles resistance? Let us know in the comments!
It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! Cress hits shelves today and I am so excited to share it all with you. FINALLY.
If you pre-ordered your copy: Enjoy!!
If you haven’t ordered it yet, then head out to your local bookstore and pick it up, or check out the purchasing links on the Cress book page. Or go put your name on your library hold list, if you’re one of those patient types.
And don’t forget to check out the book tour schedule and come see me if I’m heading your way!
And last but NOT least, be sure to tune in TONIGHT at 10:00 EST / 7:00 PST for the Livestreamed Launch Party!
Tweet your questions to #SaveCRESS during the event and I might answer them during the event. You could even win a Lunar Chronicles VIP prize!
I hope to see many of you on tour, but no matter where you are, THANK YOU SO MUCH for supporting these books. I really, really hope you will all love CRESS!