Thursday, March 16, 2017

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, and Other Scary Things!

My second book, WARREN THE 13TH AND THE WHISPERING WOODS comes out in FIVE days, which, in addition to giving me the exciting and nerve-wracking feelings that come with an impending release, also reminds me that I'm long overdue for a blog post.


I mean, waaaay overdue. I didn't even write a post in 2016. Sorry... I'm just a really bad blogger. 

But a lot has been going on in the past year... such as writing the aforementioned book. 

I assumed that writing a sequel would be easier than writing the first book... but it was actually a lot more challenging. I had to find a way to reintroduce the characters and background in a way that would catch new readers up to speed, but not bore readers of the first book.

Also, the initial draft clocked in at 70k words, and it needed a LOT of revising. Like, a lot a lot. Several plot lines were eliminated, characters were merged, and the entire finale was changed drastically. However, after the dust settled, I felt that the end result was a tighter, and hopefully better manuscript at half the length.

Despite the challenges, this one was a lot of fun to write. There's more adventure in Book 2, as well as a whole new setting for Warren to explore. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'm excited for you all to read it when it comes out on March 21st! (EEEEK!)


After finishing WHISPERING WOODS, I went through a bit of a writing slump where I struggled to write anything at all for several months. I vaguely recall this happening after Book 1 too, but it's scary every time it happens: I'll find myself wondering if I'll ever get my inspiration back, or if this is it... The Last Thing I'll Ever Write. The Last of My Creative Juice. The Death of My Muse (and other dramatic fears).

I'm happy to say that I'm now writing again, and I've been chipping away at not one, but two new MG projects. Ok, they're not quite going as fast as I'd hoped, but every day I aim to write at least 500 words. (Which is harder than it sounds, especially since I have a full-time day job).

I've started keeping track of my progress using Victoria Schwab's awesome calendar and star reward system. There's nothing that brings you back to kindergarden-level pride like earning a star for a small achievement. Even if that small achievement is only 500 words. Baby steps, people. One word at a time.


Other highlights from last year were getting to take part on a San Diego Comic Con panel with some authors I really admire. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really on the panel and not sitting in the audience dreaming about being on the panel, like I have for so many years.


Another cool thing was that Will Staehle and I got to go on our first book tour in October. We spent a week visiting schools in several states and got to meet a lot of awesome kids.






Speaking of book tours, we're about to head out again - this time for TWO weeks! I've got the pre-tour jitters. I'm not sure why, because it will be great, just like the first one. Honestly, I think I'm more scared about having to fly in so many airplanes than anything. I used to have a severe phobia of flying. Over the years, I've managed to overcome the worst of it... but there's still a part of me that threatens to have a panic attack every time I fly.

I feel bad even mentioning it, because I'm so lucky to even get to go on a book tour. But I always appreciate it when other authors talk about their anxiety, because it makes me feel less like a crazy person. So hopefully someone reading this can relate to my fear of flying, and feel the virtual fist bump of solidarity that I'm offering.


Anyway, I do intend to blog more once I get back from the tour, and I actually want to start creating some useful content that will help or inspire aspring writers. So if there's anything specific you'd like to see me write about, let me know!

In the meantime, here are my methods for coping with plane anxiety.

1. Listen to music

I always start listening to music as soon as I get on the plane. I used to do this surreptitiously even back in the day when you weren't supposed to have your phone on at all during taxiing and takeoff. (I wrestled with my need for calming music and my fear that having a phone turned on would interfere with the plane's controls and make it crash). Now I'm glad you're allowed to have your phone on at all times, as long as it's in airplane mode. I made a special playlist of my favorite music that calms me and gives me happy feels. Also, I figure if the plane goes down, at least I'll be listening to my favorite music in my last moments. (Too morbid??)

2. BREATHE.

In addition to calming music, I practice slow and steady breathing. Especially during takeoff when my heart is racing like a drum. I learned to breathe deeply and mindfully by taking yoga classes, and it really does work to calm the mind and body. I also do this during turbulence, and try my best to unclench my muscles, and sort of let my body "jiggle" with the bumps. Also, during turbulence, I close my eyes and pretend I'm riding a city bus. Suddenly the bumps don't feel so big.

3. Educate yourself

I don't just mean about the physics of flight. (Because I have done that, and I'm still convinced it's some kind of dark magic that allows a giant metal tube to climb into the air and stay there). I'm talking about the little things... like how the wings are supposed to shake like they're about to snap off, and that turbulence is a "comfort issue not a safety issue" (a mantra I once heard somewhere). Also, learn about all the little sounds you hear and what they all mean. THIS SITE explains them really well.

I hope that helps some of you. I'll be using all of these tips while on my tour. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 Recap and Looking Forward!

It's a new year and time for a new post!

The end of 2015 was so crazy I didn't have a chance to write about everything that was going on, so here's my official recap. It's going to be an honest post, and I'm going to reveal a glimpse at my writer-neuroses that I think most writers will relate to.

So, the biggest thing to happen was that WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE was released on November 24th, right before Thanksgiving.



It was such a whirlwind - and pretty surreal. I think I was walking around in a haze for the first week after its release. Actually seeing it in stores for the first time felt like a dream. Like, How did this get here?




We got some amazing recognition: Amazon featured it as one of their Best Books of November, and it was the #5 pick on the Top Ten Kids' Indie Next List for Winter 2015.


Despite these accolades, realizing that the book was finally out there for people to buy and read was more than a little intimidating. Many authors have warned against the perils of reading reviews because it's a slippery slope - you read some good ones that boost your ego and make you feel great... and then comes your first negative review. And suddenly it doesn't matter how many awesome reviews you have. All you can think about is that one awful review where some random stranger ripped apart your work.

It's almost laughable how easy it is to read one bad review and make the leap to feeling like you're the worst writer to ever walk the planet. I felt myself going down that rabbit hole, so I did my very best to avoid reading reviews after a few initial peeks after the book was released. I really do appreciate readers sharing their opinions the book, and I'm thrilled that so many people have given it good ratings on Goodreads and Amazon... but I've learned my lesson about opening that Pandora's box!

I'll still read professional reviews posted by certain places, such as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times (all who gave positive reviews to the book! AHHHHH!!). Not only that, but WARREN has just received a STARRED review from the School Library Journal!!

The main thing is, the book is out there. It can't be changed. People will either love it or not and I can't control it either way. There is a serenity that comes with letting go of the outcome... but that's easier said than done.

I also had an amazing launch party with Will Staehle at Vroman's book store in Pasadena on November 30th. We set up a snack table with a Warren the 13th standee cut-out and had a Keynote presentation and live reading planned, as well as a raffle with lots of prizes.



The event started at 6pm on a Monday which, as anyone familiar with Los Angeles traffic will tell you, is the WORST time to have an event. Not to mention that Pasadena is pretty far east for a lot of people living in L.A. Needless to say, at 6pm the room was virtually empty. I've heard many a horror story about authors showing up to book events where no one was in attendance, and I began to fear this might be the case. We waited until about 6:20, but only a few people had trickled in by then.



We had to get started anyway, so we did. We went through our slide show introducing the book concept and the characters and then I began reading a section from the book with the assistance of my actor friend, Mat Lageman (who provided some hilarious character voices!).



And something amazing happened. As soon as I finished the reading, I glanced up to realize that the room was completely full! In fact, all the seats were filled and some people were even forced to stand in the back!

Will followed with a funny look at the torturous process of designing the cover, and then we had a Q&A with some great questions from the audience.



Afterwards, we began the signing and raffle. And guess what? We sold out of all 50 copies of the book that Vroman's had ordered. The signing line stretched to the back of the room. It was incredible - especially since I got to see so many old friends who showed up to show their support.



I never felt so much warm, glowing gratitude as I did that night. I felt like the luckiest person alive, supported by friends and strangers alike to celebrate the result of a dream that I've harbored for years - to write a novel and have it published and widely available.

I was still riding my high as the holidays approached in rapid succession - Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Year's Eve. And with it, traveling to see family while also trying to finish revisions on Book 2 (which is currently almost twice as long as the first book!).

And now here I am on the other side of 2016. Things have died down a bit. My book's been out for a little over a month. My second book revisions are with my editor, awaiting notes.

 ...And I think I'm fighting a case of the post-publication blues.

I know. I know. How is that even a thing? Before I was published, I would read accounts from other authors going through this very thing, and I remember thinking, "I WISH I had that problem. At least they HAVE a book on shelves, which is more than most people ever get."

And it's true... it's a very first-world problem. One that I honestly didn't think I would allow to affect me.

Shortly before my book's release, I went to an event where I mingled with some local authors. One of them kindly told me to enjoy it, but warned me not to get my hopes up too much. She said that a book release is like a wedding where you're marrying yourself. There's all this anticipation and buildup leading up to the big day where YOU'RE the star... and then... it's over. The book is out. New books will be out the following week. And more books the week after that. She said it was easy to pin too much onto your book and feel adrift with despair when the buzz dies down and your book doesn't do as well as you'd hoped.

I listened to her advice and thanked her for it... but I admit, it didn't really sink in. Because I was still in the anticipatory stage of my pre-release, that magic time where anything was still possible. There have been so many people, both strangers and friends alike, who have said, "this could be big" in relation to WARREN that I really believed it.

In fact, I still do.

Because I do believe in what Will and I have created. I'm incredibly proud of it. I think it IS special and still holds a lot of potential.

The thing is... how do we reach all the people who have yet to discover it? One of the struggles that we've had is in reaching our intended audience: middle school kids. They're simply not online as much as older kids are, in part due to the strict COPA laws that exist to protect kids on the internet.

I'm not sure I know the solution, other than Will and I trying to set up school and library visits where we might be able to interact with kids one-on-one. On the plus side, I have been having fun chatting with young readers on the COPA-compliant site, DOGObooks, which is a start!

So, yes, my buzz has worn off. I'm realizing the book isn't an instant best-seller the way I envisioned it might be. New books are coming out and everyone's looking forward to what's next for 2016. (On that note, I'm anticipating the release of my friend Paul Krueger's wonderful book, LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE, which comes out in June!)

So... how to fight through this self-manufactured doubt? The main piece of advice I've heard repeated is to KEEP WRITING. No matter what.

Querying a project that's not going anywhere?

Keep writing.

On submission for months on end?

Keep writing.

Awaiting notes from an agent or editor?

Keep writing.

Book's out on shelves?

Keep writing and writing and writing.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm writing new stuff. I have a couple projects I've started recently... one is a YA fantasy that's been percolating in my mind for some time and I feel like it needs to come out. Another is a MG adventure for girls that I've been excited to write too. I'm also wrapping up a horror short that's pretty weird, but a fun departure from what I normally do.

I'll share more about all these as I get further along, and I'll update you with anything new regarding the Warren series.

In the meantime... I'm going to keep doing the only thing I can do:

Keep writing.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

End of Summer Update

Things have been quite busy since my last post, and I'm long overdue for an update!

I had a fun and productive summer overall. In fact, it went by so fast, I can't believe it's already almost October! (Seriously, what happened?)

In June I went to the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, which happens to be one of my favorite cities to visit.

I was also pretty stoked about the very official looking badge I got to wear.



Being a veteran of comic conventions, it was weird going to a conference where almost no-one was cosplaying, but it was also a really pleasant experience because everyone was polite, orderly, and, dare I say it, smelled nice (remember -good hygiene is important at cons, people!)

Have you ever seen so many librarians in one place before?



And because it was a book convention, practically every booth on the exhibit floor had free ARCs to hand out. I was in heaven! This is pretty much how I looked walking down the aisles.



I tried to contain myself because I only had one carry-on bag, not to mention a huge TBR pile already waiting for me at home. So... how did I do?


But, back to Warren the 13th, which is the whole reason I was there in the first place. Check out this sweet ad that Quirk put in the daily ALA program. Woo hoo!



During my time at the conference, I had the opportunity to speak on a gender and diversity panel as well as meet with dozens of librarians during an "author speed dating" event where I went from table to table pitching my book.

Much like real speed-dating, it was a little awkward and nerve-wracking at first, but everyone seemed to really like the concept and by my 10th table or so, I had my elevator pitch down pat. Here's a pic of me in action taken by Quirk publicity/marketing extraordinaire, Nicole.


Can I just say again how much I love librarians? Sometimes I feel down when I read depressing articles about how print is dying, or how no-one reads anymore. But being surrounded by so many passionate people who care so much about books and their readers really made my week. As long as we have people like that around, I don't think our society will ever abandon books. Librarians truly are the stewards of literacy. (And they're all really nice too).

After the conference I even had a little time to do some sight-seeing and enjoy some oysters on the wharf! Yummm.


In July I went to San Diego Comic Con where I got to meet up with Quirk publisher Jason and president Brett as well as a group from Penguin Random House for a terrifying night of escaping zombies at The Walking Dead Escape at Petco Park.

I have to say I was doing pretty well until a clown zombie jumped out at me. I AM NOT OKAY WITH CLOWNS.

I was too busy running for my life to grab a pic during the action, but here's a great photo of everyone at the end of the run. We survived!


During my time at SDCC I also got to see my Archie family, including Bill Galvan who illustrated Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty, which I wrote last year. Here we are, along with Bill's daughter, who is also a big fan of our book and an aspiring writer, herself!


And just because, here is a rad biker dog that I spotted outside the convention center. Every year I see at least one amazing dog in costume, and this was one my my favorite sightings yet.


In August it was back to work. After completing an outline for the 2nd book in the Warren series (the name of which I can't yet reveal!), I moved onto the fun part - actually writing it! 

I was also very busy packing and getting ready to move. For the last 8 years I've lived in Venice Beach, but it was time for a change of scenery (and my landlords were selling my place, so I had to leave my cozy nest one way or another). 

I am now a resident of Pasadena, California! It's only about 45 minutes away from Venice (without traffic... which, let's face it, is almost never), but it feels like a whole new city. The sad thing is being so far away from Dunkin' Donuts. If you need to know one thing about me, it's that I am a Dunkin' Donuts fanatic. 

Don't believe me? I was selected as Dunkin's September fan of the month. BEHOLD!


I waited patiently for years for Dunkin' to open in L.A, and when it finally did, I waited patiently for hours to get my first coffee there. It's become a daily habit for me, getting a medium hot coffee with cream and sugar to help me face the world.

Of course I would be awarded fan of the month ON THE DAY that I move away from Dunkin' Donuts. It's tragic. 

But, on the plus side, Pasadena has a lot of other great things to offer and I've been having fun exploring my new neighborhood. The BEST part about being in Pasadena is living near two of my favorite places. The first is one of the best indie booksellers in LA, Vroman's! The other is the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens where I love to go and write.

So, if you need to find me, that's where I'll be.

Speaking of - If you're local to Los Angeles, mark the date November 30th for my Warren the 13th launch party! I'll post more details as we get closer to the date. 

You can also sign up for my new newsletter which will go directly to your inbox once a month with news, giveaways and other fun goodies. 

Now it's back to work for me... I've got a book to finish!



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cover Reveal for Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye!

It's here! The final cover for WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE is finally out in the open! Will designed a ton of fantastic cover possibilities over the last couple months (as he does), but this is the one that everyone loved best. I think it's beautiful - it captures both the elegant Victorian aesthetic as well as the creepy, fun, and adventurous side of the book. It will look even better in person - word on the street is that there will be foil on the cover! Click the image for a larger view.


I also got a chance to see all the final art for the interior and Will did a knockout job on everything! With every step this book feels more more real...and more surreal. Check out this sample spread:


It reminds me of a tarot card. Hmm... Warren the 13th tarot... there's an idea! Seriously though, Will and I keep brainstorming all kinds of crazy and fun things to promote Warren with. Hopefully we'll be able to make some of them a reality.

In other news, I'm getting ready to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this weekend. I'll be participating on a GraphicCon diversity panel on gender and comics (Friday at 12:15 at the Moscone Convention Center 3010 W), so if you're at the conference, I hope to see you there!

I'll also be taking part in an author speed-dating event where I'll be pitching Warren to a bunch of librarians. I wanted to come up with something special to leave behind with each librarian I speak to (and woo them with), so I've been constructing little "invitations" to the Warren Hotel, complete with a room key, hotel newsletter, and bookmarks.  I even bought a "W" wax seal to seal the envelopes with. I'm not gonna lie, I've always wanted a wax seal, I just never had a real reason to own one. But now I do and I can get all Game of Thrones up in here!



Well, that's it for now. I'll post an update after the conference and let you all know how it went! :)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Fantabulous Philly Visit!

A couple weeks ago I went to the beautiful city of Philadelphia to attend Wizard World and visit my family. But the best part about being in Philly was getting to visit the Quirk headquarters for an afternoon. It's very serendipitous that my trip brought me to the city where my publisher is, so naturally I was excited to see it for myself and meet all the awesome people who work there.

I was fresh off a red-eye flight (a turbulent red eye flight, so I wasn't able to sleep for gripping my armrests so hard), and I may have appeared slightly zombiefied. Luckily Quirk books is no stranger to zombies, so I think things went well, overall!

Me in front of the Quirk Building
I got to meet my editor and publisher, Jason Rekulak, and he gave me a tour of the place, introducing me to everyone as he led me through the labyrinthine Quirk Books building (so many stairs!-including a vertigo-inducing spiral staircase - not for the faint of heart. Incidentally, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Warren hotel with all its narrow, twisting corridors!)

It made me really happy how excited everyone seemed to be about Warren the 13th - it feels so good knowing that everyone at Quirk is a fan and is supporting it 100%. It was also really nice to meet the marketing team in person, especially after so many faceless emails exchanged back and forth over the last few months.

I then had an excellent lunch with Jason, Rick (another editor at Quirk), and Nicole (associate director of marketing), followed by a meeting with Jason and Rick to discuss Warren Book 2 (and beyond??). We brainstormed some great ideas, and I'm now working on a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the next book. I'm really looking forward to writing this one - I wish I could give you a hint about what it's about, but the first book isn't even out yet, so you'll just have to wait! ;)

Anyway, my entire trip to the east coast was worth it just for getting to visit Quirk alone. I left there feeling so invigorated and excited about Warren (even more so, if that's possible).

OH! And the BEST thing was that I got a copy of the Warren the 13th ARC! Look at it! It's gorgeous!  I wish I had more than just one, because I'd totally host a giveaway, but I think they're saving most of the ARCs for Book Expo America, which is coming up this weekend. (So if you want one, stop by the Quirk booth! I believe there will be a little game you can play to earn one.)

My preciousssss

After my Quirk visit, I headed over to my table at Wizard World where I handed out Warren bookmarks to the kids. I was pleased to see how many people seemed curious and intrigued by the project! 


 But I realized later that the bookmarks have a tiny typo. Can you spot it? (Hint: it's on the front).



How annoying! Well, I also forgot to put the ISBN on the bookmarks so maybe this is a sign I just need to have new ones printed...

But in happier news the Warren the 13th website is now live if you want to take a peek! 

Anyway, that's all the news for now. I should be having more updates soon about my upcoming appearances to promote the book, so check back!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Six Months to Go!

It's May! Which means that there's only six months left until Warren the 13th comes out. It's not long now before promotion officially kicks in. As I write this, ARCs have been printed and are in Quirk's hands in time to be handed out at BEA at the end of the month. I can't wait to get my hands on one! (Luckily, I don't have to wait long - I'm flying to Philadelphia tonight and am going to visit the Quirk headquarters tomorrow!)

Here's a look at the ARC pre-printing, marked with all my notes and changes. Mostly minor stuff, luckily!



I'm so excited people to see what Will and I have been working on, but I'm also a little nervous to have our beloved project in the hands of early readers and critics. Granted, it's just an ARC and not the final book, but not all of Will's art is completed yet, so more pressure falls upon my writing. Fortunately, I think it holds up, even though I didn't add as much visual description as I normally would (due to the fact that Will's art will be supplementing the text).

In fact, of all the projects I've completed in the past (both published and otherwise), I feel the most confident about this one. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by such a supportive team - between my editor and the folks at Quirk, and Will lending his creative vision, I've felt so buoyed all throughout this journey. I DO feel like we've created something special, and I'm confident that we have something that people will love.

In fact, my main "problem" with Warren so far has been convincing myself that this is actually happening. I've been dreaming of a project like this for so long that I don't think my brain has yet caught on to the fact that it's REAL. I remember after the initial offer was made for Warren I was so careful not to get my hopes up because a part of me was certain that they'd call up and say "Oh, psyche!* It's not YOUR project we want, it's another one!"

*my imagination is stuck in the 90s apparently

I told myself that once the contract was signed I could rest assured that this was, indeed, real. But even after the paperwork was finalized, I was still pinching myself and fearing that someone would say it was all a big mistake.

Even now, just six months from publication, a part of me is waiting for the the curtain to be raised, revealing that this is all part of an elaborate prank show, You Thought You Had a Book Deal! (That would be a cruel show).

Honestly, I think this will only become really real once people start reading Warren the 13th. Because stories gain power the more they are told, the more people hear them. Before books are released into the open, they exist in some nebulous ether, like a dream. That's why I'm so eager to hear what people think of Warren (those that are fortunate enough to get an ARC in their hands!)

And despite all the self-doubt that pops up now and again (a writer's curse), I actually kind of hope this feeling of wonder doesn't go away because I don't ever want to take it this for granted. I don't want to become complacent or forget what it feels like to manifest something I've been striving towards for so long.

Well, I must be off to finish packing. I'm on a red-eye tonight and have a long convention weekend ahead of me. If you're attending Wizard World Philadelphia by chance, stop by my table B5 in Artist's Alley for a Warren the 13th bookmark!







Thursday, March 19, 2015

Title Reveal and Synopsis!!!

Woo hoo! I can finally reveal the title of the book I've written for Quirk, as well as the synopsis! I've been bursting at the seams for what feels like forever to share this - especially since Will Staehle and I first conceived of this project over 10 years ago!


Without further ado...

The title is...

WARREN THE 13TH and The All-Seeing Eye

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

The final cover is still being designed and illustrated by Will, but it's looking awesome so far and I look forward to sharing that as soon as I can! Oh, and mark your calendars because the book is set to be released on November 24th!