Dear Diary: February 2015

dear diary FEB 2015February’s a short month, it’s true, but WOW, can you pack a lot into 28 days!

I saw my galley pages and made corrections.

I started hand therapy (I have bad wrists).

I worked three out of four weekends in a row (okay, two were in January).

I had a couple rough days.

I explored the war monument near Shadow Falls in St. Paul and the mill ruins in Minneapolis in research for my WIP.

gold medal

Truest 3d jpgThe most exciting part of my month was, of course, the cover reveal of my debut novel, Truest. It’s gotten so much love, and I’m so glad you guys like it. I love it. I’m thrilled with how it turned out. Jenna Stempel, the designer, hand-lettered the title and the chapter headings. This process has been very, very real to me for some time now, but I think, for many of my friends and family members, seeing the cover has finally made it real to them.

Thank you, everyone, for caring about my life, my book, … me. I feel really blessed to have the life I have, bad wrists, bad days, and all.


Poetry 2015 Review: Stupid Hope by Jason Shinder

stupid hopeThough Jason Shinder is highly esteemed, this was the first of his work I’d ever read.

It was interesting. Very spare language. Very vulnerable.

There were four parts. In the first two parts, Shinder talks a lot about his mother’s illness. But in part three, readers learn that he also has an illness– and is dying from it. This is where the book took a turn for me. The first half I could do without, but the second half– when Shinder was facing his own mortality– had an urgency and honesty that made it special.

It was, in fact, so imbued with urgency, that I wondered if Shinder would die before part four. Then I realized that there wouldn’t be a part four without him.

It was tragic, and readers learn in the postscript that his dear friends put together the book after he died and at his request.

You should read this one, or at least the second half.

If you’re reading along with my Poetry 2015 Campaign, then make sure to track down a copy of Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair for March!

What I Want to Know about You

Your Turn Words Two Red Dice Game Competition Next MoveHumor me, please.

Leave me a comment with the following info:

1. Your name (or pseudonym).

2. Three things you’re passionate about.

3. What you’re most looking forward to in 2015.

4. A name you love (I love collecting names!).

5. Where you are right now (“Mpls,” “the library,” “far away,” & the like are all acceptable).

Days Like Today

I’m having a bad day. The worst I’ve had in a while.

I’m down. I can’t write. It makes me feel lazy and sluggish and I hate that.

Expectation vs. reality really clobbers me sometimes. I had wanted this weekend to be ultra-productive– to rip through my work in progress in two days and get scenes lined up and make them prettier, and instead I stare at one page, fumble through a little bit, then stare at another page, repeat.

I took my meds this morning. All good on that front. Just woke up with a foggy beast on top of me that I’ve been trying to outrun all day– unsuccessfully.

My nap didn’t help. My excellent lunch didn’t help. Reaching out to friends isn’t helping either.

I think that those of us who have brain disorders are just bound to have these funky days from time to time. I praise God that this is a rare occurence. It used to be expected.

So there’s my silver lining.

11 Favorite Quotes from YA Novels

jellicoe“So, like I asked, what’s with the nightie?”
“It smells like what I always think mothers smell like,” I tell him honestly, knowing I don’t have to explain.
He nods. “My mum has one just the same and you have no idea how disturbing it is that it’s turning me on.”
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

scorpio“That’s a poor match, Sean Kendrick,” says a voice at my elbow. It’s the other sister from Fathom & Sons, and she follows my gaze to Puck. “Neither of you are a housewife.”
I don’t look away from Puck. “I think you assume too much, Dory Maud.”
“You leave nothing to assumption,” Dory Maud says. “You swallow her with your eyes. I’m surprised there’s any of her left for the rest of us to see.”
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

read7“Remember how it was when we kissed? Armfuls and armfuls of light thrown right at us. A rope dropping down from the sky. How can the word love and the word life even fit in the mouth?”
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

read“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

read6“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

read4“I don’t know whether we’re kissing for five minutes or five hours and my mouth feels bruised, but I can’t let go. Because it feels so good to be held…Will’s arms tremble as they hold me and his heart beats hard against me and I know that whatever I’m feeling is mutual. For a moment I taste the alcohol on his breath, and it brings me back to reality. ‘Do that sober and I’ll be impressed,’ I say before walking away.
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

piper's son“I think he’s writing to J-Lo,” she says.
Tom looks at her. “Dad?”
She nods knowingly.
“She comes home and she’s all, ‘Any mail?’” Anabel puts on a sweet falsetto voice that sounds nothing like his mother. “And then she disappears into her room and once I walked in and she was all…” Anabel does this thing where she’s impersonating a silent coy giggle.
“Don’t be bloody ridiculous. He doesn’t do letters. And she doesn’t…” He impersonates her silent coy giggle.
Anabel sighs. It’s an Agnes of God sigh down to a T.
“I’m telling you, Tom. Those kids are writing smut to each other.”
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

sinner“I asked,”Are you going to pick up next time I call you?”
”I did this time didn’t I?”
“Say yes.”
“Yes. Conditionally yes.”
“What conditions?”
“Sometimes you do things like call me forty times a day and leave obscene voicemails and that’s why I don’t pick up.”
“Ridiculous. That doesn’t sound like me. I’d never call an even number of times.”
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

code name verity“How did you ever get here, Maddie Brodatt?”
“‘Second to the right, and then straight on till morning,'” she answered promptly-it did feel like Neverland.
“Crikey, am I so obviously Peter Pan?”
Maddie laughed. “The Lost Boys give it away.”
Jamie studied his hands. “Mother keeps the windows open in all our bedrooms while we’re gone, like Mrs. Darling, just in case we come flying home when she’s not expecting us.”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

froiAnd then she was lying there beside him.
“My feet were cold in their part of the compound,” she muttered.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” he said, warming them against his and tucking the blanket over her body.
“I heard the Avanosh aunt say, ‘She should grow her hair to hide that pointy chin and pointy nose.’”
“If I see that pointy chin and nose hidden, I’ll have to hurt someone.”
“You’re supposed to say I don’t have a pointy chin or pointy nose,” she said, somewhat dryly.
“But you do,” he said. “And you also have pointy eyes,” he added as he kissed both lids, “and a pointy mouth,” he teased, pressing his lips against hers, “and a pointy tongue.” His body covered hers as he held her face in his hands and captured her mouth, the silk warmness of her tongue matching his, stroke by stroke. Then he felt the sharp nip of her teeth as his mouth dared to leave hers, traveling toward her throat, fleetingly tracing the scars from the noose. “And a pointy, pointy heart,” he murmured, feeling the powerful beat that her enemies had tried to crush from the moment she was born.
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

and finally …

hallows[After breaking through the roof of the bank on a blind dragon]: “Well, I don’t know how to break this to you, but I think they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts.”
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

You’re welcome.


Recent Reads

I sort of binge-read Maggie Stiefvater last month. Long ago, I had read the first book of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver, but this was during the years of the Twilight fury, and I was sort of annoyed by the general idea of werewolves mixed with romance, so I didn’t finish the series. Since then, Maggie wrote a companion novel to the series as well, so I read that too.

Reviews below without spoilers.

lingerLinger by Maggie Stiefvater
Lots of lovey-dovey, ultra-sweet romance from Sam and Grace, the main characters, that almost seems out of character for the Maggie Stiefvater I have come to know through The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys series, not to mention her Tumblr. The awesome thing about this book is that we are introduced to Cole St. Clair, a suicidal rock star asshole whom I love.

foreverForever by Maggie Stiefvater
The original series conclusion– and, actually, even though there’s a companion novel, this really still stands as the conclusion. High stakes, and more lovey-dovey from Sam and Grace. More sass and awesomeness from Cole and Isabel, who interest me far more than Sam and Grace.

sinnerSinner by Maggie Stiefvater
YES. A companion novel all about Cole and Isabel!! And though it was interesting that the other books took place in Minnesota (also, so interesting to hear Stiefvater’s characters say things like, “We’re going to St. Paul,” when I feel like everyone just says, “the Cities” … and they went to Duluth while I was reading the novels in Duluth), I loved that this one was set in L.A. And here Stiefvater SHINES. This book is all the funny, clever, lyrical writing that I expect from Maggie. To me, it was clear that this book came later, after she’d grown tremendously as a writer. Not to say the other books weren’t very well done (they were), but this one just excelled. SO. GOOD.

please remain calmPlease Remain Calm by Courtney Summers
This is a companion novella to her novel This is Not a Test, which I first read (and loved) back in 2012. Courtney is such a talented writer and such a lovely person. I’m such a huge fan of who she is. The novella? Loved it too. I don’t want to reveal too much because

please remain calm2

please remain calm3

5 Secrets

we all have secrets1. I worry that people won’t like Truest— or even worse, that it will fade into obscurity within months of its release. It happens all the time.

2. I wish I was married and am envious of my friends who are. I need to move to Australia. Just about any boy with that accent will do. 😉

3. I’m a feminist. I’m only starting to say it to people.

4. A superbly written book will delight me while simultaneously plunging me into a manic state. I worry so much that I won’t measure up.

5. When I haven’t seen someone in a long time and we get together, I spend the whole time imagining they are shocked by how unhealthy I am. It makes it hard to enjoy reunions that should be special.

Your turn.

P.S. Do you know who owns this image? It’s everywhere online, and I’d love to give proper credit.

Seeking Publisher Permissions

copyrightWhen I first wrote Truest, I had lines of poetry strewn throughout its pages like seeds in a garden.

Though I’ve been focusing on fiction since 2008, I actually studied poetry in college. I love it: the mystery, the close-packed imagery, the way every word has so much weight. It was only natural that I’d include poetry in any novel I’d write.

This can create problems though.

When an author uses song lyrics or lines of poetry in her novel, she has to get permission from the original publisher to use it.

I ended up narrowing what I used down to one set of lyrics, two full poems, and three other lines of poetry. One poem was in the public domain. This includes most works first registered or published in the United States before 1923, and that means the copyright has expired, so you can use these things without seeking special permission.

For the song lyrics, I had to track down the band’s music publisher. Then I sent an email to them and was informed that, though the music was by the band, the lyrics were written by just one member, so they pointed me to another publisher. I investigated that publisher’s website, and they said their permissions were done through a different publisher, so I contacted them. Then they instructed me to seek through yet another publisher. I think I’ve landed in the right place. They just asked me for additional details about Truest. No word yet on whether they’ll say yes or no.

For one of the lines of poetry, I filled out an online form for the publisher (which, by the way– it’s not always as easy as you might think to figure out the original publisher, especially if that poet is e.e. cummings, who has poetry collections galore), and they said, “Yes. No charge.” Phew.

For the other two lines of poetry, I had to snail mail (no email accepted) a request. It was granted with stipulations– I had to pay $190 for the use for my first 10,000 copies of Truest, after which, I’d need to query again (and probably pay again too).

For the other full poem, I have heard nothing as of the writing of this blog post. It’s fair to say I’m on pins and needles over this one because the poem is pretty important to the story, and I’ll have to re-write parts of my book if I don’t get the permission here.

What’s the take-away from this?

Use things in the public domain– or write your own and attribute it to a fake poet or lyricist.

Of course there will be times when an existing line works so perfectly that you simply must use it– or else maybe it’s a famous line and the fame is part of the reason you need it. There are always exceptions. But I’m being a lot choosier about what I put in my next novel.


Broken light bulb on shiny surfaceI have a friend right now who is– after many years of avoiding– finally getting help for her OCD. It’s been a journey even to summon the courage to get a diagnosis, and I’m so terribly proud of her.

One thing my friend said to me was that she was afraid to admit to people that she was broken … and that that would be the only way they’d see her from then on.

I turned the tables on her, asking, “Is that how you see me? Forever broken?”

She said, “Of course not. Quite the opposite– I’ve always admired (and envied) your strength!”

The truth of the matter is that we’re all broken. But– in my life– every time I have ponied up and shared my vulnerabilities with others, I have been met with love. I have literally had friends tell me, after I’ve confessed my struggles, “This makes me love you even more.”

If you’re like me, you’re a bit (or more) repulsed by people who “are perfect.” How in the world can they possibly understand my life? Won’t they judge me? It has to be an act, right?

I’m drawn to the real, the genuine, the honest, broken authenticity that comes when people vulnerably acknowledge their brokenness.

My own brokenness has been met, time and time again, with grace that is more precious to me than saving face.

I hope that will be your experience too.