Paperback Publication and Giveaway!

The False Princess is out in paperback today!

And to celebrate, I'm giving away two signed and personalized copies of the new paperback! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here on the blog. (And yes, you can leave a comment even if you don't have a Livejournal account, through Twitter, Facebook, and others. You can also comment anonymously--just make sure to leave your name if you do so that I can let you know if you're a winner). And to get two bonus entries (thereby tripling your chances of winning a copy!), leave me a conspiracy theory.

What? you ask. A conspiracy theory? Ever since the publication of TFP, I've been amused to get a surprisingly large number of emails from readers who have concocted a whole host of theories about unexplained parts of the books. One of the big ones is that Melaina is actually Sinda's mother, but I've also been asked if Philantha is her grandmother, if certain people are actually-truly-really dead, and quite a few other inventive questions as well. I love getting these emails--a lot of them raise questions that I never even thought of while writing the book, but that tie events and people together in ways that are fun and intriguing. Also, they fit right in with the many actual conspiracies that take place in the book.

So, for two bonus entries, give me your best, silliest, or most outrageous conspiracy theory involving the book. What might I have been hiding or hinting at, for only the readers who can read between the lines?

The small print:

The giveaway will run until 11:59 PM CST on Saturday, October 13th. To enter, leave a comment on this blog entry. To get two bonus entries, leave your conspiracy theory as well. The giveaway is open internationally.

Writing Wednesday: Writing Workshop

When I’m not writing, I work at Nimrod International Journal at The University of Tulsa. Nimrod is a literary journal—we publish short fiction and poetry—but we also do various writing-related programming through the year in the Tulsa area. Our biggest event of the year is coming up, and I wanted to give it a shout-out here on Writing Wednesday.

On October 27th, Nimrod will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers. This is an all-day writing workshop with classes on fiction, poetry, steampunk, memoir, historical fiction, and finding a literary agent. There are also one-on-one editing sessions, where you get to send your work in ahead of time and then meet with an editor to discuss it, and readings and panel discussions. Key guests this year are U. S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine, novelists Pam Houston and Gish Jen, steampunk writer Gail Carriger, memoirist Mira Bartók, and poet Kate Kingston.

So that’s the basic info. What I didn’t mention above is that this writing workshop is FUN. (Okay, so I may be slightly biased, on account of how I run it, but tons of people who have attended over the years have told me it’s a blast, so I don’t think I’m exaggerating.) We have writers of all ages attend—from high school students to senior citizens—and writers of all genres and experience levels. So it’s a great place to meet people who love books and writing as much as you do. And unlike a lot of writing conferences, Nimrod’s is a casual, personal experience. The writers aren’t just behind podiums—you get to have lunch with them and talk to them in the halls and after classes. And our one-on-one editing sessions are a unique feature to conferences in this area, and one that attendees routinely tell us were really, really helpful to them.

This year, the class I’m most exciting about is Gail Carriger’s class on steampunk. Gail is one of the sharpest, funniest writers around (I adore her Parasol Protectorate series, which combines steampunk with vampires and werewolves, and she’s coming out with a YA series next), and she’s also one of the most interesting speakers I’ve seen. (I had the good fortune to see her at FenCon last year in Dallas.)

I’ll be mainly running the conference, but I’ll take a little break to moderate a panel on editing and publishing. And (cough, cough) the new False Princess paperbacks will be available at the conference, and I could easily be persuaded to sign a copy for anyone who happens to purchase one . . .

So if you’re a writer in Oklahoma (or even in the surrounding states, because we have people drive in from Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas . . .), consider coming to the workshop. The cost is $50, but we also have scholarships available that lower the cost to $10. Feel free to ask any questions about the conference—I’m happy to answer them. And check out the schedule here, and join us!

Writing Wednesday: Harper Voyager Accepting Unagented Submissions

Today I want to draw your attention to an opportunity for unagented writers. Starting on Monday, Harper Voyager will be accepting unagented manuscripts for a two week period for consideration for digital publication. They're looking for YA and adult fantasy, sci-fi, horror, dystopian--basically any subset of the fantasy and sci-fi genres (they don't specify steampunk, but it seems like it would fit into the list). Their Call for Submissions page reads:

Yes, it’s true! We are delighted to announce an exciting joint venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join our global science fiction and fantasy imprint.

The submission portal,, will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia.  Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.

Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at

The submissions and digital publications are a joint, global effort by Harper Voyager, spearheaded by Deputy Publishing Director Emma Coode in the United Kingdom, Associate Publisher Deonie Fiford in Australia, and Executive Editor Diana Gill in the United States. The three editors note that: “No other publishing company has done a coordinated submission period for unagented authors across three continents, and all of us at Harper Voyager and at HarperCollins Publishers are absolutely thrilled to be launching this huge opportunity. We look forward to discovering and digitally publishing many new exciting voices globally at Harper Voyager.”

Their FAQ also mentions that books accepted for digital publication may also be considered for print publication, and that work that has been self-published will be considered. The one thing they don't mention are specific royalty rates, or if advances will be offered for the accepted books. Still, if you're an unagented writer, this should be worth checking out.

Writing Wednesday: Getting Rid of Writer’s Block: Strategy #1

Writer’s block. It is, in a word, awful. There’s little that’s more frustrating that knowing that you’ve managed to get the time to write—which can be a huge trial in and of itself—and that, now that you have it, all you’re doing is staring at a computer screen. And, even more frustratingly, sometimes it seems like more that you try to push through writer’s block, the more entrenched it becomes.

So what to do with writer’s block hits? I’ve got a few go-to methods that I try if I’m stuck, and I thought I’d share the first one today. And that is . . . to do something else.

Wait, what? Did I really just tell you to abandon the writing you’re trying so desperately to get flowing? Yes, and no.

Here’s the thing. We know that different parts of our brains engage when we do different activities. And sometimes, sparking a different part of your brain can give you an idea that you wouldn’t have had while glaring at the computer. Sitting in the same place, feeling the full weight of anxiety that your writing isn’t going well, you can get caught in mental loops that don’t let anything else in. If you can break out of those loops, you open yourself up to new ideas.

So go do something that keeps you busy, but doesn't require all your attention. I’m not recommending that you work on homework here, or start an intensive project for work. Clean your house or your room. Garden. Do some easy knitting. Play with the dog. Or, my favorite, go for a walk. Just pick something that will let your mind cut loose for a while. You can ruminate on your story or novel a little, but also just let your mind stray. You’ll be surprised at how often that straying actually leads you to someplace that you want to go—to an idea that will move your writing forward.

What do you do to get rid of writer’s block?

Writing Wednesday: English Surnames

First off, a mea culpa since I wasn't able to post last week's Writnig Wednesay. I have a good excuse in the form of minor surgery that put me out for most of that day and the next, but I had intended to post early last Tuesday. Sadly, life intervened, and between some non-writnig work stuff and benig nervious about the procedure, I just didn't get around to it. (And yes, the surgery went fine and they didn't find anything wrong, so that's good.)

In any case, . . . I present this week's Writing Wednesday!

Recently, I found myself needing a slew of English-sounding surnames. (The setting I was working in isn’t actually England, but it has a definite Regency feel to it.) So I started tooling around on the internet, looking for lists of English names, and I found a fun and helpful resource: the website for Burke’s Peerage.

Founded in 1826, Burke’s Peerage is the “definitive guide to the genealogical history of the Royal families of Europe, and the aristocratic and historical families of the British Isles.” And they have a very handy A-Z listing of the names of the peerage and landed gentry of the U.K. Since I had an idea of the sound of some of the names I wanted, I browsed the list to make note of interesting sounding names, and ended up with some names I liked. Some I tweaked a little, but some I liked just as they were. (They also have a listing of various houses and castles occupied by members of the peerage, so that was fun to explore, too.)

One of the things I liked best about this list, as opposed to some others I’ve found online, is that it isn’t a “most common names” list. What I needed were names that had an English flavor, but weren’t boring, and the variety of names on this site was especially helpful.

What odd sites have you found recently that helped you with ideas or research?

Writing Wednesday: But I Don’t Want To!

We all have those days. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been writing for six months or six years—or sixty years, I assume (I’ll let you know for sure when I get there)—but we all have days where we just don’t want to write. We’re tired. We’re cranky. We’re distracted by important things going on in the other parts of our lives, or by unimportant but entertaining things, like nice weather or a new video game. We’re just not in the right head space.

Whatever the cause, we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced the days when we have the time to write, when we know that we should write, but we just can’t seem to force ourselves to actually do it. (Which often leads to some really productive days of organizing cabinets, cleaning under the fridge, or de-pilling sweaters, because those things can seem really fun when you’re doing your best not to write.)

But what to do about those days, aside from mammoth cleaning binges that still aren’t addressing the actual problem? (Note: I’m distinguishing these unmotivated days from days when you’re legitimately blocked. Those often require other tactics, though you could also try this one.)

One of my techniques for the days where I’ve been staring idly at the computer for forty minutes is to, in essence, trick myself. I’ll tell myself that I just have to write one page. Just one. None of this writing for two or three hours thing. Just one little page. And if it’s crap, I can throw it out. Usually, this bribe to myself will manage to get me onto the computer. And then one of two things usually happens.

1) I write one page. Though not the best outcome, it’s a good one. After all, it’s one page that I didn’t have, and one page that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t made myself write. But more often this happens:

2) I write one page and then keep going. As I work, I get over whatever unmotivated, cranky feelings were keeping me from writing. I get into whatever I’m working on—I think up a cool line, or get involved in the scene more deeply than I had thought I would. And so I keep going, and actually end up putting in something close to my normal writing time.

The weird thing is, I’ve done this enough that I know I’m tricking myself. I sort of think that Cranky Me should know better than to fall for that “one page” line. But I also think it’s partially that I’ve given myself an out, the knowledge that I could quit after one page without feeling guilty, that keeps me going.  I don’t feel pressured to write when I don’t feel like it, and that frees me up to actually begin to feel like it.

What do you do to get yourself writing when you don’t want to?

Thoughts and Observations from Disney World

I present to you a recounting of some Thoughts and Observations from my recent trip to Disney World.

I don't care that I've seen actual castles and that this one is made of plastic. I still like it.

1) Space Mountain rocks. I mean, seriously, I see how people get addicted to it.

2) Speaking of being addicted, our ride-addiction was Star Tours at Hollywood Studios. This ride was great when I first ride it in the '90s, but the addition of 3D and multiple scenes makes it really cool. I understand that they have up to 50 different scenarios, though it appears that they pick a handful for each day and recycle those. We rode 4 times, until things started repeating and we got sick of the underwater gungan episode (not that it wasn’t well done, we just hate gungans).

AT-AT in front of Star Tours

Droid inside waiting line for Star Tours. Sadly, my pictures of C-3PO and R2 turned out a bit dark. But this guy is cute.

3) I would live in the Haunted Mansion. Really, the building is just pretty. I wouldn’t even mind the ghosts.  

Haunted Mansion

Oh no! A haunted bookshelf!

4) Going to Disney World without any children makes you an oddball. Seriously, we saw maybe twenty couples without noticeable children the whole time we were there. But it also means that you get to cut ahead in line. I can’t tell you how many times we were waiting and one of the ride operators would start looking for a group of two to fill in the last seats on a ride. We got so that we had ninja reflexes for shooting our hands into the air and could even anticipate when the operator would start asking for twos. And getting to waltz onto a ride ahead of thirty people feels awesome.

5) But watch out for strollers. I was attacked by one within an hour of arriving—as in, broken-skin-on-my-heel attacked. Luckily, guest services is quite prepared to hand out Bandaids and Polysporin.

6) Epcot is way more awesome as an adult. I went to Disney World when I was about sixteen, and I recall being bored about half the time I was at Epcot.  As an adult, I found it much more enjoyable, especially the ride through the greenhouses in “Living with the Land.” Though I would have loved some of the new rides they have at any age—Mission: Space and Soarin’ were total fun. The revival of Captain Eo, though, which stars Michael Jackson in his prime is just, um, well . . . there are few words to describe it. (“On crack” might work, though that would also work for a lot dance videos from the '80s.)

Chocolate! A cocoa plant inside Living With the Land.

I'm not sure what I thought bananas looked like while growing, but they didn't have a tail.

7) Speaking of Epcot, I want a jumping fountain like this one. I want it now, in my yard. (But if I get one, I probably won’t do any work ever again, because I’ll be too busy watching the fountain all day. So, fair warning.)

Jumping fountain. Seriously, this thing is so awesome! I could have watched it all day.

8) Speaking of things I want for my yard, here’s another from outside the Lego store in Downtown Disney.

Lego Maleficent. And Prince Charming, but who cares about him? (Wonder how much that kit would cost . . .)

9) Dumbo is fun at any age.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant--ah nostalgia!

10) Best overheard sentence. I leaving a ride behind a woman and her seven-year-old boy, and this beautiful bird was hanging out nearby. As we passed it, I heard her say, in a very serious tone that indicated this had been a problem for this child before, “Don’t you touch that bird’s butt!”  (Which lead me to lots of questions re this child and bird-butt-touching, but I felt it would be rude to ask them.)

Non-butt-touched bird

11) For someone like me, who knows literally almost every Disney song backwards and forwards, and can even tell you when various instrumental songs are played during the movies, Disney World is so very, very sweet and very, very dangerous all at the same time. Sweet because I love those songs and dangerous because I want to start singing along.

12) And, finally, a shout-out to the guidebook and websites we used. As my husband can attest, I am A Planner when it comes to vacations.  I like to know exactly what we’re doing each day, the restaurants we want to try, etc., so we don’t waste valuable vacation time figuring out what to do each morning. To that end, I bought Mini Mickey: The Pocket-Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Ritchey Halphen, and used the handy Touring Plan guides for each park we visited: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. They tell you what rides to ride in what in order, and they were phenomenal in terms of keeping us ahead of the crowds (though I’ll also say we’re really fast walkers). In any case, we didn’t wait more than 30 minutes for any ride, and most of the time the wait was shorter. Also AllEars was hugely helpful in terms of picking out a Disney resort (we chose Port Orleans Riverside and were pleased with it) and knowing where to find food we’d like in the parks.

In short, it was a great trip. And a here few more pics, just cause.

In Epcot by the scientific advances plaques. My favorite is, of course, the printing press.

I don't care that the Mad Tea Party is basically a cute version of a regular fair ride. I love it.

Oh noes! I've been jailed with Evil Emperor Zurg!

Writing Wednesday: Publishing Road Map

The folks at YA Highway recently put together a great resource for writers. Their Publishing Road Map is a round-up of all sorts of articles by tons of writers, agents, publishers, and writing groups, and it’s all divided up into categories that are both easy to use and cute. There are some major “land masses” (The Writer’s Realm, Industry Island, Reader Region, Book Blogger Beach, and the Province of Self-Publishing) that are then divided into different regions centered around various topics. (Note: the pic below is just a picture. Actually click on the link above to access the various articles.)

Want to investigate articles about agents? Head over to “Agent Acres.” Working on making the most of the time you have to write? Stop by “Time Management Manor.” Wondering about the ins and outs of book deals? “Book Deal Delta” can help you.

I love how many diverse viewpoints they’ve managed to wrangle into one spot, and how easy they’ve made it to browse through them. Definitely worth checking out.

Writing Wednesday: The Book of Names

Names are important. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re talking about names for people or places, names in a fantasy setting or in a contemporary book with no fantasy elements, names for your main character or an only-seen-once convenience store worker. Names come with connotations, so that you’ll get a different initial mental image or association depending on the name. Take a look at these two sentences and see what pops into your head:

Ted Smith walked into the room, his head held high.

Ronan Blackwater walked into the room, his head held high.

With the first sentence, I see someone who could be your accountant—brownish-blond hair, thin frame, glasses. With the second, I’m getting pitch black hair, cheekbones that could cut rock, and a cape. I don’t know anything about these people, but that’s where my mind goes just based on their names. So the point is when we’re reading books, names matter, especially because a name is often one of the first things we learn about a character.  And, at least for me, the right name can intrigue me and make me want to know more about a character, whereas the wrong name can quickly turn me off. (And yes, I have actually put down books in part because the main character’s name bugged me too much. Usually there are other reasons, but I can point to several books where that was a large factor.)

Sometimes names are easy—a character appears in your head with a name and it’s perfect. Sometimes, though, finding the right name can feel like climbing Mount Everest. One trick I’ve found to make it easier, however, is to buy a baby name book.

This is actually the first purchase I ever made for myself as a writer. When I was about sixteen, I went to Novel Idea in Tulsa (still sad that they’re all gone) and looked through all the baby name books before selecting this one: A World of Baby Names by Teresa Norman. I liked that one because it was huge at 572 pages, because it divided the names up by country of origin, and because it gave lots of alternate spellings and even nicknames for most of the names. (What I didn’t like was the look the woman gave me when I bought it, which seemed to indict me for being a pregnant teenager and which, at the age of 16, absolutely mortified me.)

In any case, I’ve had that book for sixteen years now, and it’s helped me immensely. Whenever I’m stuck for a name, I pick it up and browse. Sometimes I pull names out of it exactly as they are; other times, a name won’t be exactly right, but something about the sound of it will lead me in the right direction. Either way,  I wouldn't be without it—and I actually purchased a second copy at a garage sale recently to prepare for the (sadly nearing) day when my original falls apart.

What do you do to figure out your characters’ names?

Writing Wednesday: The Idea Notebook

When I was 16, Walter Dean Myers came to Tulsa as the winner of our local library’s Anne V. Zarrow Award for young people's literature, and he gave a talk to a group of young, aspiring writers, which included me. One of the things he talked about this tiny notebook he carried around with him everywhere. He was never without it, because an idea might strike him anywhere, and he wanted to always be able to jot ideas down.

This struck me as the most marvelous and practical idea I had ever heard, and I immediately went home and picked out a notebook to be my idea notebook. I haven’t been without one since, and I highly recommend them. In fact, I recommend having several and putting them in strategic places, because of the one unyielding truth that I have learned to my own heartache:

When you have a cool idea, you always think you’ll remember it. But, especially depending on what you’re doing when you get the idea, there’s a huge possibility--nay, probability--that YOU WILL NOT.

Seriously, I know I’ve lost some really fabulous ideas because I thought, I’ll remember that when I get up, when I get home, when I get out of the movie. And I didn’t. (What’s even worse when you remember that you had an idea, but you can’t actually recall it. That’s the double-whammy of disappointment.)

To combat this problem, I keep my main idea notebook on my bedside table. But I also have a tiny one in my purse at all times. My husband even bought me a voice recorder for when I’m in the car and have an idea but can’t stop driving to write.  If I’m ever without my notebook for some reason, I force myself to dig through drawers for paper, or ask bewildered store clerks if I can borrow a pen. Then I take those scraps of paper home and copy them into my idea notebook.  I’ve even been known to call and leave myself a phone message or send myself an email with the idea in it.

Even with all these precautions, there are still times that I tell myself I’ll remember something, don’t take the time to write it down, and then forget it. But they’re far, far fewer than they would be without my notebooks. So, if you don’t have an idea notebook, I’d recommend getting one.

How do you keep track of your ideas?