A Place Off the Beaten Path

Hey Friends!

I hope 2019 has been everything you hoped it would be and more so far. On my end, life’s been a little chaotic, but in a great way. It’s all chaos that I asked and prepared for, so I’m rolling with it! On the surface of it all, I recently traveled to Chicago and got an incredible fill of the famous Bean, deep dish style pizza, time with a great friend, and I discovered a random place to have amazing strawberry-lemon pancakes for lunch. I think that will be my mission every time I travel from now on… not necessarily the pancakes, but to find at least one great place off the beaten path that people don’t tell me to go to. Then I can tell YOU about it, and if you ever end up at Eggy’s Diner in Illinois, think of me. 🙂

As fate would have it, ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN is a bit of a love letter to people who have ever wanted to venture off the beaten path before. Speaking of which, I’m MOVING! Last night I let one of my new roommates peek at my upcoming book. I really hope he keeps the juicy spoilers to himself… I think I can trust him.

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But until then, I can show you that ROSES is just about done with interior formatting now, and Melissa Stevens worked some real magic! Get a look at the chapter header for the first page of the book:

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The only thing left is to do is put a killer cover on all this, and I believe that will happen next week so . . . YEET! (Did I use this word correctly? It felt natural…)

By the way, everyone who is reading from Tucson should come see me at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday! I’ll be in the YA Indie Pavilion from 2:30-4:30, and I’ll have ROSES trading cards ready to give away! If you want a set, purchase any book at my table, or if you already have ’em all, just come up to me and whisper the pass phrase: LADY FORTUNE.

Until then, happy reading!

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Of Wind and Thunder

Dear Friends,

The days are long, but the years are short! What can I say about 2018? It’s been a year of growth and excitement, from releasing THE HUMMINGBIRD to rebranding a series, not to mention the wonderful festivals and cons I got to take part in from Tucson to Kentucky!

The whole time, something else was in the works, and as I look ahead to 2019, this is honestly what I’m most excited about.

I want to confess that ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN was the first time I wrote a book and had a “wind and thunder” moment. Did you ever see The Man Who Invented Christmas? Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens in the time when he was struggling to write A Christmas Carol. In one of the coolest parts of the movie, he sits there spewing nonsense syllables and trying to come up with a name for his main character.

Just when he’s about to give up, his eyes light up and he breathes, “Scrooge.”

And it’s an event. Wind and thunder. The curtains flutter, the door bangs open, and there’s Mr. Scrooge, ready to engage. But it’s not until Dickens can actually name him that Scrooge takes on a life of his own and plants roots in Dickens’s mind. It’s a movie moment that gives me chills, and that was exactly what happened when I created the Rosas family: Charlie, Karina, and Uncle Diego. Finally landing on the right title was another event. The story started to sing. It took me a long time to settle on one, and the characters, voice, and even the POV changed many times over the past 2.5 years.

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But once I discovered the Rosas family, they were everywhere. Diego would speak to me from the passenger seat of a rental car when I would drive through the mountains of Dragoon. “Get a look at that! Let me tell you about some of the places I’ve been.”

I would imagine Charlie running through soccer fields and Karina sitting pretzel-style in the middle of the YA aisles at the bookstore, chin in her hands and completely lost in a book she hadn’t even taken to the register yet. And I had to tell the story of what happened when their daily routines were interrupted by something so much bigger than them.

And where did the inspiration come from? The flu. I was sick in bed watching Man Vs. Wild, and at one point I said, “I want to see a situation where Bear DOESN’T know what to do. Like what would happen if a freaking dragon showed up on camera right now?” I still don’t really know the answer to that, but I DO know what Diego Rosas would do, and that’s what I get to share with you this coming spring.

So are you ready for a preview? The manuscript is in final proofreading stages, so it’s coming to you very soon! Be sure to sign up for my official newsletter (which actually isn’t what you’re reading right now 🙂 this is only my blog! Sign up here!) as the first three chapters will be exclusive to subscribers until release day.

If you’re a creative type, I hope 2019 is filled with imaginative wind and thunder for you. And to all of you, I wish you love and inspiration, good health, and plenty of Oreos to go around.

Merry Christmas!

 

Taming the Dragon (Or: The Art of Revision)

Happy December!

In Jacob news, I saw Coco recently and I wanted to recommend it to anybody who’s down to cry. I have this theory that Pixar uses our tears to water their gardens and that’s why Disneyland is so green and beautiful. But we love them for it, right?

In all seriousness, it’s a beautiful movie. The story, the themes and messaging, the graphics, and the representation of the Latino culture made me happy even if I walked out a little red-eyed! I couldn’t help but wonder about the writers and the process they took to develop the story. How many times did they go back to the storyboard? Did they write somebody out? Did those twists come to them naturally? How many lines were deleted and added after the initial draft?

We have to remember that writing is a fluid and ongoing process and not a one-and-done deal. Recently, we talked about Stephen King and how he nearly destroyed the original manuscript for Carrie. But what happened between the time his wife dug it out of the trash and the first time it was bound into a book? I can’t profess to know much time passed for him, but I can imagine there was quite a bit of work in between, just as the screenplay for Coco probably had to undergo its own share of narrative revisions.

I love when people ask me what my own revision process looks like, because it’s honestly my favorite part of the cycle. Everybody does it differently. Some swear by a three-draft method where it should only take three major revisions to get your manuscript market-ready. I’ve seen a checklist that goes through somewhere around 30 passes. I see merit in both, because you have to use what works for you! For what it’s worth, here’s what do:

  • After I type “THE END”, I put the manuscript into a different font than what I wrote in and then format it to my own liking, usually double-space and Garamond or Times New Roman. Then I save a PDF and pay to have it printed, spiral-bound, and shipped to me. Seeing it bound and spanning a thick stack of paper gives me that happy boost–a tangible sense that I’ve accomplished a major step already. Plus, I really recommend paper as opposed to the machine for that first revision (call me a Luddite if you must!) There’s something almost cathartic and valuable in taking an actual red pen, post-its, highlighters, and marking that bad boy up!
  • The first pass is just me reading for glaring big-picture issues: plot holes, continuity errors, major lapses in characterization, and pace issues. When I see something that needs a change, I slap a post-it on the page. In fact, I slapped one on page one of my current WIP: “rewrite in 1st person POV.” Naturally, this means the first revision takes the longest and requires the biggest changes!
  • Once I make these major changes, I feel ready to show it to betas who can help me assess the big picture. It’s crucial to get outside feedback. Have you ever played Cranium, where it asks you to do something like sing a simple and well-known song using only the syllable “doo”, and suddenly you’re frustrated that your buddy can’t tell you’re “dooing” Happy Birthday? “How can you not know this?” you ask. Of course he’s heard the song a million times, but he’s hearing it in a brand new context and all the info you need is at the forefront of your mind. When you reread your own work, you’re listening to yourself “dooing” Happy Birthday, so of course it makes sense. But other people have to understand you, too. So you ask for feedback. I usually get a couple friends I trust, plus an equal amount of people I’ve never met before, like a professional beta reader who is not invested in my emotional well-being or obligated to be nice to me. When the feedback comes in, I start taking notes and figure out where it all converges. That’s where my attention needs to go in the next draft. I always have to remember to take it with a grain of salt, because it’s not going to come back perfect! 🙂

  • You may have to do this a couple times or find somebody who’s willing to reread your changes, but over time, you’ll start to close all those big gaps. Your manuscript only gets better! Once all those gaps close, the next drafts are about sentence fluency and the flow of the book. I recommend reading aloud. It’ll take a long time, but it’s the best way to catch those places where somebody else might stumble! The sand castle can stand on its own now, but you want it smooth, right? Take your shovel, pat it down, shave off those lumps, and make the words sing.
  • Crutch word time! I run the whole manuscript through a word analyzer and figure out what I’m saying too often. It’s usually a lot of just, so, very, suddenly, was, and even. Find your crutch words, cut them out, and that will usually bring your word count to a submittable length.
  • After this, I close my eyes and hit send. This is right about where I was when I submitted THE CARVER, THE UNSEEN, and THE HUMMINGBIRD. Of course, once the publishers get involved, that kicks off another couple rounds of work, but if you land somebody great, they’ll help you and tell you exactly what they’re looking for while also keeping true to your vision.

Again, none of this is set in stone. It’s different for everybody. While this process has worked well for me, I definitely wonder what kind of work goes into Coco or my own favorite books!

Does your process look any different? Let me know in the comments if you have a revision ritual you want to share!