Saturday, December 31, 2011

I told a friend that maybe 2012 would be the year that I didn't push myself to keep going until I stumbled down dead from exhaustion, as I feel like I've been doing for the past two years. I felt it particularly the past few days while I admitted defeat at the hands of a cold.

It's New Year's Eve. It's my first New Year's Eve in Toronto. But I'm staying in and forgoing celebrations because I'm not well enough, and I'm starting on the whole not pushing myself to exhaustion resolution a little early. Little sad because I had plans—and I've not had Plans for years—but it's an arbitrary declaration date. (A widely accepted one.) We'll save the celebrations for the lunar new year and let 2011 tiptoe out quiet as it came in.

I went home for Christmas, and it was strange. It had only been about four and half months, but it felt like a lifetime had passed. (To be fair, it feels like I've lived and died several lives this year.) Maybe it's Toronto. Maybe EST just has more space for cramming things into it than PST does. I don't know. Maybe it's the growing and stretching and bone-breaking to heal properly that big changes bring.


I was sitting in the airport on the twenty-third, waiting to board the flight to Vancouver, when I received news that I'd officially have a job until April 1st. Which is good, because I feel like I'm starting to get a grasp on what I do while I know there's still so much more I can learn. Been around long enough to know an opportunity when it's presented, and I have a fine one here that I am very grateful for.

The way that I had dealt with the move was to call it temporary. It was less frightening if I didn't have to think of it as long-term. And that's a bad habit that I've developed over the past few years—not treating things like they're temporary, but treating things like they don't deserve the chance to be long-term. Like they're time-passing placeholders until my life starts again.

Because I did a lot of time-passing. A lot of waiting. The thing about optimism is that we forget it doesn't mean sitting on our hands waiting for good things, it means going out and finding them. We find what we seek, and I've decided that I sought stories of discontentment for long enough.

I think life started back in August, when I stumbled into Toronto with two suitcases and a countdown in my head of how long until I left. I don't know who that countdown was really for, because I like it here. I like my job. I like the people I work with, and I like that there are people to spend time with and things to do and I can get to where I need to go on my own... and if I'm staying in, I like that it's because I've chosen to stay in.

There are things I don't like, and things that aren't perfect, but that's everywhere. The good outweighs the bad. Tonight, I hover at that halfway mark between begun and completed, halfway out of the dark with the daylight growing, and it's ok that there are so many, many things to do because there's a whole new year to do them... and they can wait until tomorrow.

Tonight there is quiet, and tea, and the blissful glorious doing of nothing more than healing and regrouping. Thanks, 2011; I think it best we part here, amicably as we can, and go our separate ways.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Today—well, yesterday—no, I guess today since I'm meant to go turn the clocks back at 2 am—I wrote nothing. Let me state that proudly: I wrote nothing.

I went out and met with a room full of ladies who blog, and we talked about books and there were prizes and it was welcoming and inclusive. My tribe is also found in places other than conventions held in compounds befitting a YA dystopian novel.

Then I met other friends and we kicked about the city, all east of University/King—which is not very East but always seems so far away to me—and ended up at Spadina/Bloor then at Bay/Bloor. We did not walk the entire way, but enough that my mood had improved significantly by the time we were done.

Our adventures weren't really successful, as we found the coffee place after it had closed. But sometimes the looking is more important.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Counting

I was going to talk about World Fantasy Con, but I haven't finished processing it. You can go read this interview I did with Marissa Meyer about authors and cons.

I've been thinking about moments and memory. Neil Gaiman read this story at WFC called "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury," and I can't get it out of my head. The concept was what if one person had the responsibility of keeping an entire thing alive—what if that person forgot say, Ray Bradbury, and as a result everyone forgot.

The story unnerves me, because I don't think one person should have that kind of responsibility. There's a difference between calling something back because one person remembers it, and declaring it's the responsibility of that one person to do so. Can it even be their responsibility if no one else is aware such a responsibility could exist?

Here's another scenario: What if you met someone and you forgot you met them, because you meet a lot of people and you can't be expected to hold all of those people in your head. Does the meeting cease to have happened? Because I remember, and it still means something to me. I'm not Amy Pond-ing here—others witnessed this meeting and I know at least one of them remember, too.

Although, there are times when I do feel forgotten. But I haven't given into to the notion that I don't exist yet.

This entire post may not be making any sense because it was all half-composed in my head like three hours ago, when I thought it was important and worth sharing. Now I'm not so sure, so maybe whoever was supposed to be in charge of remembering the importance of meeting people you admire has forgotten it and all of reality has been rewritten as a result.

*

Throughout October I warmed to the idea of NaNo, of documenting and metrics and public check-ins. Accountability, thought I. That's what I'm missing. Then I went to WFC and I looked around and I reconsidered the whole idea of NaNo.

I think NaNo has something to it. Something good, but it gets lost in this more prevalent idea that words written during one month are somehow more important than words written during 11 other months.

I'm tired of feeling resentful that I don't write (fiction) all day and post to Twitter how many words I've written. I'm tired of feeling like I should be entitled to write (fiction) all day and post to Twitter how many words I've written. This prickly under my skin feeling has been all week long, and it was today that I realized the cause. November is when publishing and I break up for the holidays, because publishing has more than enough writers waving their wordcounts around the internet.

*

I don't know how it's November, when I can't remember September passing. Yet, I feel like September was three lifetimes ago and this November is an alien one fallen through time and belonging to a distant year.

There are still leaves on the trees and sun slanting between the buildings downtown to paint the sidewalks. I've been walking from the office to the halfway point of my commute then climbing on the streetcar. The walking is doing wonders for me—not crushed in a streetcar with more people than seats and space, not standing at a stop waiting for a streetcar with more space than people to arrive. I walk and I listen to music and I see things. I hope the weather holds so I can keep at this.

Because I missed the walking and the mountains and the ocean nearest to me being the right side of the continent—which is actually the left side if you're looking at a map. I had all that and stars in San Diego. I missed it enough to wonder about moving back to California, even with the US in its present condition.

Still, I think about staying long-term in Toronto. Catch myself making plans—I'd like to be walking all the way home by spring—and wondering what the place will look like in six months, a year, or two.

Maybe that's how roots set. Maybe it occurs in increments, in little ideas that allow the possibility in. Other days, home feels a long far journey from here—a discovery that hasn't happened yet.

*

You know how the Doctor and Amy laugh? The mad, joyful laughter shared between friends of not believing what just happened even though you were there and it happened?

I laughed like that with a friend at WFC. Laughed and laughed at the sheer impossibility of how a situation mirrored a previous situation. Laughed like we were in on the joke this time. Laughed like it didn't matter if the whole world heard us.

Laughter. It'll save the world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not-writing

I am who I am
made by all that came before this
sights from the side of the highway and my life in different cities I've lived.
—Tanya Davis, "Made in Canada"

I'm not-writing a book about Toronto in that way of sneaking up on the idea when it isn't looking and pinning it to the page. Maybe it's presumptuous having only been here for two months. But I like the romance of discovering a city for the purpose of capturing a sense of it, wrapping it up in ideas, and turning it into something mythic.

For the past two, nearly three months, I've been making a collection of ideas about Toronto. I thought, surely if I keep stuffing them into a jar—don't worry, it's got air holes—they have to mingle and become something. For the longest time, I could feel the ghost of it haunting my peripheral vision. If I waited, if I was still and then turned quickly enough, I'd grab hold of what it was.

I have many, many fragments of what it is not. What it was. What it won't be any longer. I think it's a fable, a strange surreal folk tale wrapped in allegory and wanting to say something about community, about seeing the world in that magic-shrouded way the young can see places.

I think it also just wants to be weird and wonderful and not shackled to reality, not forced to give way to what is in lieu of what would be cooler if it was.

It'll probably get away on me; I'm going to let it.

Here's a paragraph of what it wasn't—not quite, but close:


Someone told me once that every city you live in will always get compared to the first city you called home. It’s inevitable, because cities want to mark you as their own. They want in your head and your blood—that’s the reason why different people fall in love with different places. Cities are an endangered species—there aren’t many of the giant sprawling omnivores left. Now it’s all communities, boroughs, neighborhoods. They say it’s because there isn’t anyone strong enough to channel all of that—to hold the entirety of a metropolis inside their heart.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanks given

It's late and I'm writing the post of thanks. It was the kind of slow-moving, unseasonably warm day that needs gratitude. Not because it was bad, but because the way you hold the telescope determines whether things are near or far. All things felt both near and far today, like the telescope pivoted because I was sharing it with someone unseen.

I'm not always certain I appreciate slow, sunny days—days without work, days with time to ponder and question—because they give me too much time to think. I feel like I should be doing something, even when I'm determined to practice the art of doing nothing.

Today the sun was bright and the air hot, and those curling leaves on the ground were still mostly green. But it is October, and soon enough it'll be another October gone. I don't know where the years are going; I'm starting to question how I spent the years that have passed.

Today, I was thinking about killing dreams, about letting go, and the permissions we seek to do so. I was thinking a little of how the passing of people like Jack Layton or Steve Jobs makes me question what I'm doing, and if it makes a difference. If I stopped doing it, would anyone notice? And should it matter if they did?

Also, I was thinking of gratitude, not just for the things in my life but the gratitude I express to others for the things they do for me.

I don't think I've ever been the type of person who finds it easy to ask for help. Some times the little gestures mean so much because they're an expression of kindness that hasn't been asked for. And I don't think courtesy is an empty gesture. We choose to be polite, even if we were simply raised to believe it's the right way to behave.

It's not easy for me to ask for help, because I want to prove that I can do it on my own. Even when I can't, I still want to try first. So today, I'm feeling grateful for people who offer without being asked. I'm grateful for those who reach out when I'm feeling too tired to initiate contact. For those who gently guide the conversation when I'm not feeling comfortable enough to direct it.

Mostly, I'm grateful for the time to be still enough to recognize and acknowledge those moments of kindness are what save the world. Because it's the good days, and the clarity they bring, that we have to hang on to. When our stomachs and glasses are full, and there's a sense of celebration, and we feel like what we've done—even those smallest of gestures—matters.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

2 months

I feel like I'm dating this city, and the first month was us feeling our way around each other. The let's get to know you, and maybe we both tried a little too hard to be impressive. For this second month, Toronto was incredibly thoughtful and gave me and 1000 of my demigod friends a Rick Riordan signing.


Of course, now I worry that it's on me to provide the awesome for our third month anniversary. It's not exactly easy to top meeting one of your writing heroes. On that note, never meet Neil Gaiman in person unless you want all other meetings of your writing heroes to pale in comparison. I'm kidding. He's awesome—and so is Rick Riordan.

Not so sure it's awesome, but definitely an interesting thing to note... I learned at the Rick Riordan event that apparently there are those who refer to me by title alone. As in "Oh, you know, Indigo Teen Blog." Like I'm the Doctor and my name is a great and terrible secret that will cause silence to fall. Ok, not really. Apparently, "Indigo Teen Blog" is just easier to pronounce. (Which I'm sure is also the Doctor's reason for going by the Doctor.)

It's good that Toronto and I had such a nice evening on Thursday, because this weekend the internet gave me this:

It's small, so you can click it if you need to. But according to the Chapters Indigo website, The Wild Hunt is now sold out. As in no longer available to purchase new from Canada's largest book retailer. The book is also no longer available through Canada's largest independent store.

Behold my hipster street cred: I am officially an obscure author! You can now tell your friends you enjoyed reading The Wild Hunt with the smug satisfaction that they can't just go out and buy their own copy.

To make them doubly envious of your refined totally-not-mainstream tastes in Korean comic tie-in novels written in English, I'll sign your copy. Better yet: I'll personalize it with a great message about some secret fun adventure we had. Or at least compliment you on your excellent taste in plaid.

You probably think I'm joking. I'm not. I personalize every copy of The Wild Hunt I sign. (Except for that one that got left at Anticipation and is on a shelf somewhere in the home of someone whose first language is French. I read enough French to glean that said person enjoyed the story.)

Of course, being an obscure author means I'm difficult to find, so you'll have to make an effort to get your book signed. I recommend trying World Fantasy 2011. I hear a rumor that I may be there, but then again, it may just be Indigo Teen Blog who's going.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

When I am a proper grown-up...

One day, I will have a coffee table.

It will be in a living room, because I will have a room that is separate for sleeping and living, and it will also have a couch. But not a white couch, because it's ridiculous to have a white couch. I mean, all the dirt in the WORLD finds a white couch. Especially if it's a new white couch that belongs to your roommate and you're really worried that your dark denim jeans are going to leave a faint inky impression after you're gone.

So no white couch. But not black, either, because then it shows dog hair and I have decided I will definitely also have a dog so I can walk him down the street and be like "oh dear, my adorable dog is peeing on a bus stop bench. Isn't he adorable? I'm so embarrassed by his dog-like behaviour." His name will be Jackson. I promise not to dress him in sweaters, but I may have to give him a brightly-colored plaid neckerchief, because it'll distract people from how he's peeing on a bus stop bench instead of in a park like nature intended.

In the living room, there will be a TV and my friends will come and we will drink wine—as grown-ups do—and watch Doctor Who (because it will never go off the air, ever). I look forward to the day when I have a TV and a PVR thing and all my digital recorded media that I watch at my convenience is considered legal and morally upstanding. Currently if I want to legitimately purchase media from iTunes, the files are so damn large that trying to catch up on The Vampire Diaries causes me to use up all my internet bandwidth.

It's ok, because in this future lovely time I'll either not be in Toronto or Ontario will cease to have a Second World internet system because the monopoly of a certain cable company that starts with an R will have been crushed well and proper. The future, it's glorious.

Right. Friends. Actual TV. Couch that isn't white. No one trying to get Jackson the Dog drunk on wine.

And at some point, one of my dear friends will look at the coffee table and see this book:


My dear friend will say "Why, Chandra, that looks like a highly sophisticated book combining your love of subways and a specific sans serif font made popular by Apple. How charming—and so perfect for your lovely coffee table."

And I shall smile and say "yes, I know."

I'm going to start with the book. The rest will come in time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Night Circus Party

The problem with Toronto is that I keep finding things to do.

Or someone at work finds an invitation to an author party for a book she remembers that I loved and passes said invitation along and I hastily RVSP at 1:30 pm for something at 5:30 pm.


That's how I ended up at a Random House Canada party earlier this evening for Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. Well, ok, it was a little more complicated than that as going to the party involved find a reveur  at a specified location and then being led with some other people on a mysterious adventure through closed streets and around corners and then down darkened stairs to meet Erin.

Where we were didn't matter. (Or if you're certain that it does: a bar called Trevor, and it was apparently on Wellington.) Location is secondary to the world of the Night Circus, because the circus is its own world. People came dressed all in black—ok, it's King West, they were in all in black anyway—with a touch of red and there. A pocket square. A scarf. A group gathered together and not quite sure what to expect, but eager for it.

The whole event, for me, captured the experience of reading The Night Circus. Being handed an invitation, then adventuring off to locate a fellow reveur, and then traveling together to unknown locale to meet Erin Morgenstern. It was mysterious and wonderful, a well-designed and executed experience.


Also we were served cotton candy and that is now the height of awesome to which all other book events must aspire.

The problem with "events" is that some times they fail to be events. They don't leave you with a lingering awe and the feeling of attending something you couldn't have put together on your own. I can tweet Erin. I imagine that at some point through mutual acquaintances and sheer force of will, I could've managed to meet her in person. But it wouldn't have been like this. It would've been less—and the story wouldn't have been nearly as good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toronto, among other things

Somehow it became Autumn, a blur of weeks and weeks with little time to catch my breath and only stopping to realize I had turned thirty. I don't mean to suggest I gave no thought to turning thirty; I gave it perhaps too much thought.

You see, I—like everyone else—had an idea of what my life would look like at this age. A vow made when I had turned twenty-six and thought I had the world all worked out. It was the closest I've ever come to making a five-year-plan, and I had a hard time accepting that what I had so planned for was beyond my control. We get these numbers stuck in our heads, these self-imposed deadlines created with no understanding of the process or the factors that have to align it make them happen. Maybe that's what it really means to grow-up, to understand shifting timelines and compromise.

All in all, September 19th was a good day to turn thirty, a day on par with turning twenty-five—filled with surprises and time spent with people of my choosing. It passed quickly for an event spread out over three days so that I could spend moments of it with different people, allowing for it become various experiences instead of just one forced to hold all of those expectations.

There's not much to say about work—or rather, there's an awful lot but it wouldn't be professional and even if it was professional, much of what I'd have to say would be dead boring to anyone who didn't do my job. The job's not boring, mind, you just won't have the context of the little frustrations and victories. Some times not pulling aside the curtain, exposing the wires and mechanism that make the trick work, is more beneficial. Let's just say, if you go to the facebook page and follow the twitter account... you see maybe 30% of what actually occurs day to day. The other 70% involves me helping to move the mirrors around. (While trying not to drop them, for they are numerous and heavier than you think.)

As for everything else... At a point, all of what you have to say, all of what you could talk about, becomes so much and so lengthy that you say nothing at all. I think what I do for 40 hours a week, how public that 30% of it is, has made me hold on to things that are personal and keep them private. I'd rather share them where they don't gain the permanence of becoming how I appear to feel whenever someone reads a blog entry. Time is strange on the internet; I don't feel constantly the way I'd be prone to express feeling if I blogged every day.

Also, the time it would take to blog every day is better spent drafting or out in the city or sleeping.

I miss the mountains, which may seem a strange thing to miss but they're the place-thing so immediately and undeniably not here. I don't love Toronto. Occasionally, I'm fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with a friend who does love it and the feeling's contagious.

That said, I haven't ruled out the possibility of loving Toronto. It's a slow romance, and not the immediate infatuation I felt for the other places I've lived. And I wonder if everyone who moves somewhere for a job, and not for the love of the place they're moving, feels this. Is it circumstance or city that gets in the way?

Some days I catch myself counting down until my contract ends, not with relief, but like it's a vacation and ticking away is that reminder that my time in Toronto is limited and it's best to do all I can while I'm still here to do it. Other days, I think I could stay; I think I could call this place home. I think that I could want to.

So that's why I don't blog much, because these are the kind of thoughts that come across as melancholic and make people worry—and it's not my intention to make people worry. Just to express that not-loving a place is valid and different from hating it. It's hard to go anywhere from something as definite as hate. Uncertainty has options.

I'll leave you with three images. One is text: In my search for familiarity, the subway in Toronto becomes the one in Kyoto—the Bloor backbone of this city momentarily somewhere else; the above inconsequential because of misremembered similarities of below.

 
 

A stone guardian sits atop the High Park Garage.

The Distillery district, whose bricks helped inspired what I'm drafting.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy [Pon Pon Pon] News

Dude, I am having a good day. Like a really good day.

First of all: I got to blog about The Amazing Spider-Man trailer for work. Yeah, that was my job. It's right up there with when I got to blog about Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode.

And speaking of jobs... if you've spoken to me in the past couple weeks I've been extra-neurotic because I applied in early July for a social media internship position with Indigo Books & Music.

This afternoon I was offered the 6 month contract. Which means I'll be working in Head Office for six months as a corporate webslinger. Or something. I'm going to say corporate webslinger because it fits the ongoing Spider-Man metaphor and I'm totally all about extending metaphors. (In fact, nothing would please me more than if I had business cards that said "Chandra Rooney, Corporate Webslinger." I may have to just settle for putting it in my twitter profile.)

Anyway, I have to move to Toronto in two weeks.

Which is kind of terrifying—although I promise it's the best kind of terrifying, but it's still terrifying nonetheless and I'm not going to bs about it and pretend that it isn't. But there are some pretty cool people in Toronto already and now there will be 3 more amazing people joining them, as two of my coworkers are starting university/college in the fall on Toronto campuses.

And in celebration... here is the scariest Japanese music video ever for your viewing pleasure:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Take that tongue out of your cheek...

Take that tongue out of your cheek until you learn how to keep from tripping over your own snark.

I had this whole plan to write a funny and thoughtful post about a not-so-funny-but-really-wanted-to-be article on Slate yesterday, but most of my points are in Malinda Lo's response. (I'm all out of sorts this week and have retreated to arguing with a plot outline in order to have something half-finished on my harddrive be all-finished so I can begin something else with a clear conscience.)

Timing. That's what I'm going to add. Timing. It means know when it's appropriate to make a joke and when it's just going to be hurtful. It means knowing your audience, and anyone with Twitter could tell you that it's still too soon to make jokes about how frivolous the YA genre is.

If we're being honest, someone is always going to find it too soon to joke about any genre being frivolous. No one likes being told what they do doesn't matter. It's hurtful and rude and it's not going to win you readers or friends. Well, ok, maybe it will but they aren't the type of people I want to be friends with.

There is great power in comedy. I remarked to a group of high school students that when the world looks at you and thinks you're irrelevant and dismissive, you'd be amazed what it allows you to say in return. The look of shock on someone's face when you prove that you have some thoughtful observations about the world is very satisfying.

But as Stan Lee taught us: With great power, comes great responsibility. I guess not everyone can be Spider-Man. Not everyone should even aspire to be Spider-Man. But at least learn how to time your jokes.

Also, Diana Wynne Jones was frequently told that her books were too complicated by adults and she wrote middle grade. This helped me develop my hypothesis that we get dumber as we get older and let's just say the internet often proves me right. (Except when I'm wrong and then it's more than happy to tell me so.)

You can use humor to be snarky and mean and put others down in order to make yourself seem oh-so-clever. Or you can use humor to make a point that raises others up. If you're really good, you can get away with doing both. (That article was not.)

That is, of course, my opinion based on my efforts to try and make a world that is less mean and more wonderful. Cuz like Spider-Man, I just keep suiting up despite the jerks who get paid to talk crap about what I love to do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upon the release of the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods

Dear Neil,

Your American Gods is ten years old this month. Aside from how that possibly makes both of us feel significantly older than we usually feel on a day to day basis, I would be doing you a disservice by neglecting to acknowledge this milestone.

American Gods isn't my favorite book. However, it's undoubtedly, for me,  the most important of your books. It's the book I read four times, always hoping that each would be the read where the story unfolded and revealed its secrets and became the masterwork that others claimed it was. I always felt like it was just this close to clicking with me, but something kept getting in the way.

Ten years later, I still hope that when I read the 10th Anniversary Edition it will be the time that everything falls into place.

Maybe it will, as I realized that this book and I did click. We clicked that first time I read my brand new hardcover—the first adult hardcover novel I'd bought on the basis that the author wouldn't disappoint me—ten years ago.

Because I couldn't written any story I've written since without having read this one of yours; it was American Gods that taught me we carry our gods around with us and we bump elbows with other people's gods as we pass them on the sidewalk.

It was American Gods that taught me what we focus on gives it power, and that we should choose what we give power over us with a little more care than we often do.

It was American Gods that taught me the world is a strange, funny, beautiful, wonderful, horrifying place; that we often get tangled up in battles that we don't think are ours, and that we can run and hide but eventually the world will find us.

And I thank you, as those are all important things to know. I don't know that they're what you intended to say, but I hope that's at least part of it. I'm happy to keep rereading until I find the rest.

Congratulations upon the release of your 10th Anniversary Edition. May the next ten years bring you even more stories.


Sincerely,
Chandra

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Being a Straight Ally

This post is part of GayYa.org's Gay in YA blogathon.


If you had asked teen me to name LGBTQ characters and canon pairings in YA lit, most of them would’ve come from Asian comics. The novels I remember reading as a teen—LJ Smith, Christopher Pike, RL Stine—were all hetro couples; manga was where to find the variety.

It was probably Cardcaptor Sakura that I most connected with; CLAMP had written a story reflecting the relationships already existing in the world around me: Boys liked boys; girls liked girls; some characters liked both. (One of my best guy friends came out to me on my seventeenth birthday—try topping that present—and I had a bisexual classmate.)

This was over ten years ago. While gay characters are hardly common in contemporary YA, at least they have more of a presence than they did. Bisexuality, however, still tends to be accepted even less than being gay. Usually if someone says they’re bi, it’s concluded that they’re “confused.” But if you talk to people in the LGBTQ community, you’ll learn that a bisexual is someone who loves individuals regardless of their gender.

A couple years ago I wrote a tie-in novel for TOKYOPOP based on a Korean comic series. The plot isn’t really important, but there was a romance conflict that involved a young woman being engaged to a guy who it’s suggested may have cheated on her with another man.

I raised the issue to my editor that we should perhaps give some indication that the dude was bisexual, because why would a sane woman worry about her heterosexual fiancé fooling around with another guy? My editor agreed.

Except the problem was that we weren’t allowed to explicitly state the character was bisexual. By the rules of the shonen ai genre, this character had to be seduced by an older ‘experienced’ male. We couldn’t imply that the character being seduced was also experienced.

It bothered me, because it left a logic flaw in the character behavior. But it bothered me more because it might support an underlying implication that people can be “turned gay” or that the seduction had “confused” this character.

I don’t believe people turn gay; I don’t believe people who are bisexual are confused. I certainly don’t want to propagate either misconception to readers.

So we found another way. We were subtle instead of loud. We never explicitly state the character is bisexual, but I think there’s enough there that a reader can guess. While I would’ve preferred to state that the character had had previous same-sex relationships, being a professional writer is about compromising—and choosing which battles you want to fight.

The challenging part of being a straight ally to the LGBTQ community is similar to the challenge of writing ethnic minorities: Some times we who are not worry that we’ll offend those who are by getting something “wrong.”

I’ve been outlining a new project—and getting nowhere with it until I realized that the main character is gay. Is there a huge commercial demand for stories where boys fall in love and pilot battle robots? Maybe not; it could just be one more factor that makes this difficult to sell. But I’m not going to worry about that before I’ve even written a first draft.

Authors have to be true to their characters regardless of gender, race or sexuality; the story will tell you what it needs. Whether it sells or not, wouldn’t you rather spend the time writing something you believe in?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

So you want to write a review blog

Fantastic. First thing you should know about a review blog is that the purpose of a review is to help sell books.

Publishers don't give out advance reader copies because they're impressed by your eagerness to read. If you are given an ARC and you proceed to write a review where you imply that the book is a colossal failure that shouldn't be read by anyone, it's a bit like spitting in your host's food during a dinner party. Your poor behavior is unlikely to get you at the top of the list of people who will be invited back.

You don't have to like every ARC you receive, but you should understand that publishers hand them out to help create buzz and positive publicity so that the actual book has a better chance of selling enough to pay out the expense that has gone into its production.


Review blogs are becoming increasingly bigger players in marketing plans. Thus, the sooner you make peace with being a part of that process, the better off you're going to be.


The value of a review to a publisher is that the review inspires as many people who are going to like the book as possible to read it. Those people are then going to say positive things about the book, which increases the chance of selling additional copies.

The value of a review to a reader is that after reading the review, she knows whether or not she's one of people who are going to like the book. Review blogs that unconditionally praise books are as useless as review blogs that criticize for the sake of criticizing.

If you want to be a successful book reviewer, it's not enough to love everything you read. You have to understand why books work for you or why they don't—and you have to be able to communicate that in a way that helps other readers make a decision about whether or not a book is right for them.

Badmouthing a book, even one you purchased, has repercussions. It's unlikely a publisher or an author is going to sue you for slander, but you aren't telling a friend that you think the author is a no talent hack. You're putting it in writing and placing it in the public domain. With the internet, something you wrote will always be happening now for the people who read it. Doesn't matter if you wrote it five years ago after a fight with your friend and you were taking it out on that character who reminded you of her.

Furthermore, the purpose of a review isn't to discuss how you would have written a novel differently; you didn't write the novel you're reviewing. If you're using reviews to only point out how authors are writing things wrong (in your 'expert' opinion,) you may be better off to put that time and energy into your own writing.

The only one with the right to determine what should happen in a story is the author (with guidance from her editorial team.) This doesn't mean you can't be dissatisfied with the author's work, only that you need to recognize you are the source of the dissatisfaction. To quote Neil Gaiman: "George R R Martin is not your bitch."

There is a long discussion I'm omitting here about the process and the investement that goes into the actual production of every book on the shelf. It's an ordeal that you can't fully appreciate unless you've been through it or know someone who has, because that experience changes the way you view publishing.

When you crap on a book—consciously or subconsciously—it doesn't make you look like you're smarter or more talented or better than the author. It makes you look like a jerk.

Now, you might not be a jerk. You might just be someone who doesn't think about how what she writes can affect those who read it. You might have forgotten that each name on a book represents a person. So a reminder: Each name on a book represents a person, and most of those people know other people who are published. Authors talk to one another.

This is not meant to threaten or stifle you. There is no secret society who put your name on the list of People Who Will Never Get Published. There isn't even a list. But if you get a reputation of being a jerk, it's possible people aren't going to want to do you any favors. That's not out of malice; it's because people feel less motivated to help jerks.

Also, try not to assume you know what an author personally believes. You can only speculate on what the text is telling you. An author is not her text; a text is not its author. A review can only express your opinion, and your opinion is only one of millions of opinions.

Here's the secret—the great contradiction at the heart of marketing—not every book is going to be for every reader. We are all individuals with individual preferences and preconceptions. That's what makes books like Harry Potter so magical, because the same book connects with an astounding number of different people.

Remember, your dislike for a book doesn't render it incapable of being enjoyed by anyone else. If you can't think of anyone who would want to read the book... don't review it. There are so many review blogs out there that someone else probably did like it. Let her spend the time blogging about it. Go read something you will love. Overcome any need you have to finish reading novels you aren't enjoying. There are too many good ones out there—no matter what your personal good is—to read ones that disappoint or bore or aggravate you.

I realize this is a lot more than you were expecting. I certainly didn't consider all of these factors when I wrote my first review, and I know that I felt the same flutter of panic over the suggestion that my opinion about a published novel could affect the possibility of me getting help later. If you are genuine and thoughtful and you express your opinions with an open disclosure that you understand they are only your opinions, people will respond. You can disagree with someone without being a jerk about it.

If you take nothing else from my entry, let it be this: Be passionate—but more importantly, be kind.

Good luck.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On the matter of paths and how we spend our time walking them

I haven't been reading a lot of blogs, although I've been reading more lately. For all of last week, each time I clicked on a link I read exactly what I needed to hear that day.

A few of them are writing/author blogs that have been passed around Twitter, but the one I keep coming back to isn't. It's Tiny Buddha, which is a positive general blog that posts about everything from how to be a true friend to how to discover your super powers. The post about super powers was the one I read today, and it made stop and stare at the screen.

There's a quote that begins it from the Buddha: “Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”

That's really at the core of why I write and what I write about. I don't think I could write a book that was purely meant to scare the pants off readers or solve the question of whether a character chooses Boy A or Boy B. Stories are the way we teach the next generation what to value and what beliefs to uphold.

That's why I think young adult fiction is the most important fiction being written today, because we're writing for not just the writers of tomorrow but the leaders, healers, teachers, and innovators. We're passing on what we know to the people who will solve the problems the generations before them are creating. It's why I advocate teen literacy, it's why I advocate that people who aren't teens give teen literature a chance and remind themselves of what it felt like when the world was huge and worth fighting for.

The article from Tiny Buddha also contained this passage: "Still, what I’ve learned these past couple of years is that a joyful journey leading toward an uncertain destination is far more fulfilling than a meaningless journey headed toward something clear and specific."

I did some soul searching this past week (in between writing 12,000 words, cleaning my room, refilling my closet and baking a lot of cookies.) Talking with a friend over coffee brought to my attention that she and I are in an environment that is starting to echo a similar environment at a previous workplace. Contagious discontentment and apathy ultimately drove me from that workplace. Thankfully, it was to a company better-suited to my interests. I knew when I gave notice that I was making the right decision for me.

20 months after that move, burnt out and exhausted, I found myself needing to make another change. Now, it's not reasonable for me to seek full-time writing. Not at this point in my life, because I would be choosing unemployment over a dependable paycheque. But it's also unreasonable for me to abandon writing—not just because of how far along the path I am, but because storytelling is at the core of who I am.

I have a role now that I love, but I've been having to fit it in around my around tasks. This isn't right or reasonable. Why have I allowed something fulfilling to become my "homework"? How can what is currently a stable but smaller role grow into a larger one if I don't make the time and room for it in my life?

During the TNRD Tour, I told teens that writing is a job that no one else will take seriously if you don't treat it like one. But it's also important not to let the limitations of those around you restrict what you can achieve. Does it take more energy to be positive and continually affirm that the future will be a better place than today is? Yes, at first it does. But like every other habit, it comes with effort and practice.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I thought the first blog of the new year should be something impressive.

But I've got nothing really for you to see here, because what I've got has to go into my rough draft or the Indigo Teen Blog.

I took a week out of the store to decompress and get some things done. Also, I'm getting more sleep than I've gotten since October and my room is cleaner than it's been in six months. Which doesn't mean words on the page, but I had a 4000 word day yesterday so I'm working at a more relaxed pace today.

Oh, and I came up with a really great pen name. But in case I may need to actually use it, I am not going to put it online anywhere. Just know it's awesome and it's not Emily Mochaccino, although that is also a very good fake name.

My friend, Karen Mahoney, has a novel out now. It released this week, which has me thinking a lot about the place I was in those years ago when she first wrote The Iron Witch and I first read it. Then I think that it's probably best I don't think about that unless it's to plan about how to reach a place like it again.

Mostly I feel really proud of her and hopeful for her success and grateful that we're still friends.

If you're in Logan Lake on February 5th or you know how to get to Logan Lake, you should come visit the library. I'm going to talk and since it's a return trip and some of those amazing teens might be there again, I'll have to come up with something other than Supernatural to chat about.