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How to Support Your Author Friends!

Of Fire and Stars will finally be out tomorrow. Eep! People often ask, “what can I do to help you as an author?” Here are a few ways to help, many of which won’t even cost you anything.

Buy the book! You can even go one step further and purchase it from your local independent bookstore. Here are some retailers where you can purchase Of Fire and Stars:

Purchase copies of the book to give as gifts (or to donate to your local library).

Request the book from your local library & talk to your librarian about it.

Leave a nice review on a retail site like Amazon. It can even just be one sentence. Quantity matters when it comes to reviews!

Recommend the book to your friends or book club. Word of mouth is everything.

Read your friend’s book in a public place.

Discourage people from pirating books (and please don’t do it yourself). Request the book at your library instead. Pirating books means that authors don’t get paid. Every sale really does matter.

Please be kind and resist the urge to rearrange shelves at bookstores. Booksellers work hard to keep everything organized. Instead, strike up a conversation with a bookseller and tell them about your friend’s book!

Friends, family, and readers have made my journey to publication possible. Thank you all so much for your support. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

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The Book Deal!

Yesterday it was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace that my debut young adult fantasy novel, OF FIRE AND STARS, sold to Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a two-book deal. Not even horse gifs can communicate my excitement about this, nor can they express enough gratitude to those who helped me along the way. My amazing agent, my devoted and ruthless critique partners, my incredible friends, and the teachers and mentors I had over the years are truly the ones who made this possible.

In OF FIRE AND STARS, a princess with a forbidden magical gift falls in love with the rogueish, horse-training sister of the prince she’s supposed to marry.

It is a challenging world for those of us who write books with LGBTQ protagonists, but not an impossible one. My first hope is that this deal means my book will fall into the hands of the teenagers who need it most. My second and equal hope is that it will encourage anyone whose voice gets pushed to the edges, marginalized, and routinely stomped on to keep writing. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in ourselves and our stories, but they matter—maybe to someone we haven’t even met who will read them one day.

If you use Goodreads and would like to add OF FIRE AND STARS to your want-to-read list, you can find it here.

In the next week or so I’ll be doing a fun giveaway of several books to celebrate the deal, so come on in and make yourselves comfortable!

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Holy Road Apples, I’m an Agented Writer

Everyone has to start their journey from writing to publication somewhere.

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I wrote a book. Then I wrote four more. Yet still I didn’t consider myself a real writer, and the manuscripts got dumped in a drawer. But for some reason, the third of the five manuscripts wouldn’t let me go. The story needed to be told.

So I revised like a person possessed. I found critique partners and beta readers. I attended the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging Writers and had the privilege of studying with Malinda Lo. I entered Pitch Wars and ended up with amazing mentor Elizabeth Briggs. And as a result of the feedback, support, and constructive criticism I received, my book evolved and changed into something better and stronger.

Finally, when I felt I could do no more to improve the manuscript, I sent out some queries, attempting to follow the conventional wisdom and guidelines.

horseinstreet

I waited.

horseinsnow

I got rejected.

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And then one day, just as I was thinking about trunking the manuscript and moving on to the next book, a different kind of email hit my inbox.

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An agent said she loved the manuscript and wanted to talk to me.

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We scheduled the call for the next day.

We talked about the manuscript and my writing career and got a feel for one another’s style.

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And came to this conclusion.

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But then there was another offer!

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So I had to think things through. After some panic, due diligence, and deliberation, I realized that while both agents were great choices, there was only one I couldn’t live without. She’s brilliant, passionate, and most importantly, understands the very heart of my book.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m now represented by Alexandra Machinist of ICM Partners.

To all you other writers writing, dreaming, querying, and feeling uncertain that things will ever pan out for you–don’t ever give up. Keep working to be the best writer you can be.

One day you’ll get there.

gallopinghorse

Disclaimer: none of these gifs are owned/were made by me. Thanks to the talented people of Tumblr!

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Interview and YA Fantasy Book Giveaway!

The lovely writers behind DiversifYA interviewed me this week! I talked about my manuscript, my first kiss, and what it was like to grow up liking girls. Check out my interview and enter below to win a free AUTOGRAPHED paperback of one of the following books (your choice):

Ash by Malinda Lo

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

The Selection by Kiera Cass

 

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Of Riding, Fear, and Bravery

I am not fearless.

Even after training two horses from the ground up, some dark fantasy strikes me every time I swing into the saddle. I picture myself tangled in barbed wire, impaled on a jump standard, or lying in the sand with a broken neck. My memory is happy to call up the times I’ve been stepped on, thrown into jumps, smashed into walls, and bucked off onto cement. And my body reminds me of all those incidents with a collection of aches that only worsen with time.

Even as a kid I was risk-averse. I was the one afraid to canter, terrified to trail ride, too fearful to take the big jump, and would collapse in on myself when an instructor pushed too hard. But the drive for perfection kept me going, and I continued to learn, read, and ride, even with fear digging its claws into my back.

Suddenly it’s been twenty years.

Now for every one of those moments where fear ruled me exist a hundred that were the opposite: keeping my seat through a spook and realizing it was no big deal, being the first on the back of a horse I trained myself, swimming beside my horse at the lake, or galloping through an open field with my arms spread like wings.

But even now—I am afraid.

I eventually grew restless after the sale of my mare last fall and started taking jumping lessons. Halfway through my first lesson as the instructor put up the jumps, it was time to come clean.

“I’m nervous,” I said. It was my first jumping lesson in more than fifteen years. Every time I approached a fence the lizard part of my brain wanted to grab mane, shut my eyes, and cross myself until it was over—because that’s the only kind of courage I know. Hang on, get through it, and eventually the fear will retreat.

But the instructor didn’t respond the way I expected.

“You aren’t riding like you’re nervous,” she said.

Either my riding was better than I thought, or I’d become a master of lies told with my body.

By my third lesson, just last week, I found myself on a big, scopey Thoroughbred borrowed from the barn owner for the second time, trying not to piss myself every time I pointed him at a jump. He was forward and game, but soft in my hands and seat even when he rushed or got a little goofy with his head. Still, every tiny crossrail felt like a mess. My release wasn’t in a consistent place, and my nervousness and anticipation often drove me ahead of the motion. Even as I grew more confident my equitation still seemed sloppy. The voices in my head asked why I bothered to try.

I’ve done this with my writing too. Crippling self-doubt makes me work to be better, but it also once caused me to quit for years. And at the root of it is always fear—the fear of not being good enough, particularly when I’ve done my best. It’s disguised in a certain level of pragmatism. There will always be someone better than me, and less fearful than me, because that’s how the world works.

One of our last times over the tiny crossrail, one of the other riding students snapped a photo. She caught us right at the peak of the jump, in the moment where nervous anticipation had ended and my vicious cycle of self-criticism had yet to begin.

When I saw that photo, everything changed.

My head is up, my heels are down, and the horse has a proper release. We’re flying and it’s beautiful, even if it wasn’t perfect, even if I was scared. And because I was so afraid of making mistakes, of not doing everything right, I missed the magic of those few airborne seconds even though it’s right there in the picture.

Being brave isn’t closing my eyes, tossing away the reins, and hanging on for dear life and praying I make it. It’s certainly not quitting before I can fail or succeed. It’s trotting to the jump with my head up.  Breathing. Finding stillness. Keeping my eyes open. Seeking improvement, not perfection. Knowing that the next jump will be better.

From now on I will be brave—and imperfect.

It’s enough.

Jumping

 

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December 2013: Contest Wins and Personal Losses

There were two reasons for my lack of posts in December.

  1. Wonderful things happened.
  2. Horrible things happened.

The Wonderful
In late November I submitted to the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction through the MSFV blog and was selected as a winner, which put me among sixty authors whose loglines and first pages were put up for bidding by agents in early December. Through that contest I received some great feedback and also a couple of agent bids. Shortly after that, I also won my way into Pitch Wars, which is a contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake. For more details on what the contest is, check out the Pitch Wars page on her blog.

The Pitch Wars mentor who selected me is Elizabeth Briggs. Her comments on my manuscript are insightful and detailed, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be working with her. The agent round for Pitch Wars happens at the end of January, so by then I should have an even more polished manuscript ready to go. Through Pitch Wars I’ve met many new writing friends, and have enjoyed giving and receiving feedback and watching as other writers hone their work. The online writing community is filled with lovely, supportive people.

The Horrible
While 2013 was good to me as a writer, it was a year of great loss for my friends and family. A lot of people died, many of them young. December wrapped up with three deaths in the space of a week. A heaviness rests in my bones that I’m not sure when I will be able to shake. There is no upside to the tragic loss of people you love, or of recognizing how little you can do in the face of someone else’s grief. It is humbling. May 2014 be kind to us all.

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The Vote of a Dollar: Supporting Diversity in Literature

In light of the US government shutdown, it’s a good time to talk about votes that count. This shutdown points to a truth about living in a capitalist world: your dollar is often the most powerful vote you have—apparently sometimes even more powerful than the government. I’m pretty confident that with enough money behind it, presidential candidates could be forced to wear rubber unicorn masks during debates. Even my apolitical TV-averse butt would be on the couch for that…but I digress.

In the land of books, some readers bemoan their underrepresentation in fiction, or in the genre they want to read. Personally, I’ve always hungered for more fantasy books with queer female leads, particularly those in which the sexuality of the lead character is a non-issue. I can only name a handful of those books, and I’ve made a point of seeking them out for years. Unfortunately, even when they do get published, they often don’t sell well. Malinda Lo has some interesting statistics gathered about diversity in the YA bestsellers of 2012.

So how do we as readers change that? The answer is simple: buy books, and make sure that they aren’t all by or about straight white people. Until the dollars are where our mouths are, there’s still only going to be one slot for a LGBTQ book on a publisher’s roster in any given season. Ultimately, voting with your dollar will help any author whose work you love. The best way to make sure that author keeps writing what you love to read is to ensure they’re getting paid to do it. Now, I understand that not everyone has the capital to indulge the kind of sick hardback book hoarding that I indulge in. That’s okay! You’re less powerless than you think. Ebooks are less expensive, and better yet, libraries are FREE.

Ways you can keep authors employed and support a more diverse literary world:

Now go forth and make change!

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The Turd Polishing is Over! Now What?

Big news: I finally polished the last flakes of crust off the turd better known as my manuscript! Although it’s going through one more quick beta round, this version feels ready to query.

So here’s what I’m up to while I gnaw my nails down to the quicks waiting on my beta readers:

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Keeping the Balance: Professional Life and Writing (and cow shit)

Please try not to weep bitter tears of woe, but there won’t be a Leveraging Misutilized Words post this week. I’m deep in the throes of quarter end hell at work, which means that I work a lot of 10-hour days. Right now the only thing I want to do with a computer after I leave the office is smash it with a baseball bat. In addition, we got our pre-work for the Lambda Literary Foundation retreat, and I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a club newsletter that I do every two months. In case you can’t tell, I tend to overcommit, which means this is a good time to talk about work/writing balance.

Writing novels while working full-time is similar to simultaneously balancing a plate full of wet cow shit on top of one’s head and dancing the masochism tango with an enraged jellyfish. The cow shit is a day job, or maybe school—something that isn’t always very fun, but helps give you survival skills for the world in which we live. Balancing that plate is awfully important though, because having zero income is no fun (much like winding up covered in cow shit). The jellyfish is writing—that thing that fills you with doubt and self-loathing on occasion, and throttles you with the stinging tentacles of guilt if you don’t work on it, but is also bioluminescent and beautiful and feeds the soul you spend forty hours per week denying that you have.

Here are a few tips for any writers trying to balance a professional life with a creative one:

Say no, sometimes even to things that sound like fun projects. This is one of the hardest things for me, but the truth is that it is impossible to do it all no matter how overachieving you are and how little you need to sleep.

Make time. It is hard to get in a writing frame of mind in just one hour at lunch, but it can be done. Even if you only eke out 100 words, it’s still forward progress.

Seek a day job you enjoy. Everyone slaves through some unfortunate jobs in the course of a lifetime, but once you’ve worked your way up the ladder to something you like, it is amazing how much more positive energy you will have to devote to something you love—like writing.

Get support. Surround yourself with friends and family who support and motivate you to keep writing, both through encouragement and by giving you the time and space you need. I am constantly overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends and family.

Take a break. Every once in a while it is necessary to have a break from everything. Writing is hard work just like a day job. It’s okay to vegetate in front of the television or go out and have fun with friends. In fact, those things can sometimes be the only lifeline back to sanity.

There are a lot of ways to succeed as a writer, and many of them don’t involve being a working professional. But if you do have a day job, keep these things in mind…and don’t lose your shit.

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