Tyme’s new home base

Hello, everyone! Thanks for stopping by the new site. I’m so happy with it, and so grateful to the people who helped me get my digital life together. Thank goodness for cool people who know how to do all the things I don’t.

I needed music for my book trailer, but I couldn’t find what I wanted in the wilds of the Internet. Cue my friend and colleague Christy Bowman-White, telling me that her husband, Donny Audrell, is a musician who can totally handle the project. He wrote such a wonderful theme for the trailer – I could not have asked for anything more fitting. (If you’re an author looking for great trailer music, I will gladly put you in touch with him!)

Then I needed a web designer, but wow, there are a lot of them, and I had no idea how to sort through the options. Along came my agency sibling, Christine Hayes, who shared the name of the amazing designer she’d found: Jenny at Websy Daisy, who has done tons of fantastic author sites. I got in touch with her, and she was friendly and clear and super-duper easy to work with – and wicked, wicked fast. Once she started working on this site, she was done inside of a week. Gotta love a focused and skilled professional.

Finally, I needed illustrations for my site, so I reached out to my old friend Polly Beam, Weasley lookalike and fellow Harry-Potter superfan, who also happens to be a talented illustrator whose artistic sensibility is beautiful and whimsical and perfectly suits Tyme. She drew up a bevy of towers and spot illustrations, and in the end developed the background and navigation buttons you see here. Isn’t she fabulous? Yes she is.

So thank you, Donny and Jenny and Polly, for creating the music, web design, and art that will help me launch GROUNDED online – and thank you, Christy and Christine and J.K. Rowling, for bringing those fine people and their talents into my life.

T-minus two months and four days, people! Not that I’m counting.

Welcome to the part where I hide and pretend it’s not happening.

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, then you know I have a deal with myself: I have to post something here at least once every two weeks. I’ve only missed my self-imposed deadline twice, both times by one day, both times because I forgot. This time, I missed the deadline by a full week. Completely on purpose. I told myself it was because I have nothing to write about, but that’s never true. No, I’ve been avoiding this blog – and everything to do with writing, really – because I’m afraid.

GROUNDED will be published in two and a half months. After two and a half years of talking about it and blogging about it and building it up, we have apparently reached the big moment where I crawl under the covers and pretend it’s not happening. I have barely touched Tyme since Christmas. I’ve been hanging out with my family, teaching my classes, reading, playing video games, and deliberately ignoring the fact that the launch of my debut novel is almost upon me. When I’ve had to address book-related issues, I’ve done so quickly and distantly, and then immediately fled once more into the mists of denial.

Today, the fog started to lift. I think it’s because a very talented web designer, Jenny Medford at Websy Daisy, sent me a mock-up of what my new web site will look like, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Looking at the site design, it struck me anew that this IS happening, and I CAN’T hide from it, and even though all the scary parts are right around the corner, I’ve skidded well past the point of no return. And I’m glad. Because I worked hard. And I want this. And it’s going to be wicked cool.

So I’m not really sure why I’ve gone into retreat. My husband thinks it’s because I worked so hard, nonstop, for so long, that my brain finally decided to click off, to protect itself from breakdown. And I think he’s right to some extent, but I’m sure it’s also my brain’s way of coping with fear of the unknown. I can’t predict what’s coming. And I guess that’s always true, but there’s a certain predictability to the usual routine, and this whole debut novel thing is most profoundly not the usual routine.

Okay. I’ve written a post. Now forgive me while I run and hide again, while I still can. I’ll be back in a week or two, when I launch the new site.

Starred Review from Kirkus for GROUNDED!

I’m so excited, honored, and proud to share that Kirkus Reviews has given GROUNDED a starred review! Pardon me while I die a little. Here are some of the things they said:

“The novel does not miss a beat in creating Tyme, a beautifully described world with a seamless fusion of magical and nonmagical beings, scenery and objects.”

“Although there are dark, suspenseful moments and some acts of violence, there is also plenty of humor…”

“The characters are refreshingly three-dimensional, helping readers empathize with Rapunzel as she wrestles with universal feelings of love and betrayal…”


I have been absolutely terrified about this part of the process, so it’s a huge thrill – and an equally huge relief – to get a review like this from a trusted name in the publishing industry.

It’s one thing when your family and friends tell you that they like your book. It’s quite another when Kirkus does it.

Debut Year

It’s finally 2015.

I’ve been looking forward to this year for so long that its arrival is almost anticlimactic. It doesn’t feel real.

But it’s plenty real. I have all kinds of proof. Things are starting to take shape in ways that make this whole “published author” thing almost tangible. I’ve got my final cover art, I’ve submitted the final edits, I’ve filled out the publicity questionnaire. I’ve made a Facebook author page. I’ve started setting up library and bookstore events in April and May, as well as blog stops for a mini-blog tour around launch time. GROUNDED is listed on Amazon, Goodreads, Indie Bound, and Barnes and Noble. It even popped up on a cool teen reader’s blog.

Scholastic also asked me to supply an author photo. Author photo… yikes. Posing for photographs is definitely not an area where I am filled with vast personal confidence, so I did my research and ended up going to Studio B Portraits. The whole experience was relaxed and fun, and I very much enjoyed Brooke and the atmosphere that she created in her studio (I’m very happy with the photo, too).

A brand-new website is also in the works. It’ll be up sometime in February, and I’ll be importing this blog to that space at that time. More on that soon.

As for the new year, my resolution from September still holds: to be grateful for this wonderful opportunity, no matter what glitches there might be. So far so good with that one.

Two days before Christmas, I turned in the revision of Book 2 in the Tyme series, and then I stopped writing for a couple of weeks. I needed a solid break, mentally and creatively. So I turned my attention to my family, and the holiday break was fantastic – lots of toys, books, movies, and frosty cold walks outside with my husband and son, and lots of Dragon Age Inquisition for me (BioWare RPGs are so wonderful – I love their storytelling and have happily submerged in it).

On Monday, I’ll get back to work.

Happy New Year!

Into the Great Wide Open

I just sent back my responses to the final proofreading queries about GROUNDED.

That’s final. Final final. After revising and revising and revising, after line edits and copyedits, after the 1st-pass proof and the 2nd-pass proof, this 3rd pass was IT. Like, really it.

It doesn’t feel real. I’ve been nudging sentences to behave themselves and licking commas off this thing for years. And now, more than a decade after beginning the first draft of this story, it’s done. Done done.

Dun dun DUN.

It’s scary.

But it’s not too scary. Cheryl Klein is work ethic personified; this is an exhaustive, exacting process, and she is repeatedly meticulous. The production editor, copyeditor, and proofreader were also extremely particular. Thanks to their suggestions, I’ve made thousands of changes, ranging from the mountainous to the microscopic.

When I got my galleys in the mail, I went to put them away out of reach where my four-year-old son could not sticky them up. As I was standing there in the closet, I opened up a galley and started to read from a random point, and although this is a book that I can practically recite in my sleep, I was absorbed by it. I stood there and read fifty pages before I realized what I was doing – mostly because it was so smooth. And trust me, this isn’t me patting myself on the back for my smooth, uncluttered writing. It’s not like it was born that way. It took much guidance and many rounds of careful application to weed out all the stumbling stones.

And now it’s done. It’s not perfect, because nothing is, but it’s perfect for me.

I need a Kleenex. I didn’t realize that writing “Stet” and then “Yes” five times was going to be so emotional. But goodness, this is bittersweet.

Goodbye, Rapunzel. Be good out there, and have lots of adventures. I love you.

BOOK COVER!

I’m over the moon about this! I can’t believe that the first book in the Tyme series looks this fantastic. I can’t believe that the fantasy world Ruth and I have been building for so long is going to be public so soon. Just a little over four months until it’s in readers’ hands, where it belongs. My heart is glowing. I’m ecstatic. Here’s what I just posted over on EMU’s Debuts!

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I. Love. This. Cover.
Technically, this isn’t a “reveal.” I’ve already posted this sucker all over the place. I couldn’t not. I can’t stop staring at it. It is awesome. It is GREEN. It is VIVID. It’s graphic and bold and fairy-tale gorgeous, and I am forever grateful to artist Iacopo Bruno and to the team at Arthur A. Levine Books and Scholastic for sending GROUNDED out into the world looking this spectacular.
grounded_cover
Hilariously, some of my students have asked me if I drew this myself.
Uh, no, kids. No, I did not. But I’m glad you think I’m made of magic. Now go and do your homework, while I sit here and stare at this cover.

The Despair-Free Guide to Planning Your Book Launch

I’m going to go ahead and cross-post my EMU’s Debuts post here this week!

The Despair-Free Guide to Planning Your Book Launch
Originally posted on EMU’s Debuts

So you’ve written a book, and the launch of your darling debut approacheth with increasing speed. Congratulations! And welcome to hell.
If you’re like me, you innocently went searching for helpful self-marketing checklists and guides that might assist you in preparing for the big day. And then you skimmed through those checklists and choked. I’m supposed to do what now? In how long? With whose cash and time and energy? After that, you sent off a panicky, tearful e-mail to your friend and fellow author Laurie Thompson, who herself recently launched her own spectacular debut, and who promptly met you at Panera for a three-hour, no-frills, no-lies marketing session.
I’m going to pass along the fruits of our conversation, because in three hours, Laurie turned me from a hyperventilating asylum candidate into a serene debut author with a reasonable to-do list. And maybe you, like me, are mortal and get tired. Maybe you have another career. Maybe you have kids. Maybe marketing your book cannot be your full-time, or even your part-time job. And maybe the idea of going into the world and promoting yourself makes you want to die a little. So maybe you need a little soothing, a la Laurie. Here it is.
Prepare – But Don’t Despair.

You don’t have to do everything.
You don’t even have to sell your book. To anyone. As an author, your job is to write a book. Once the book is released, your job is to write another one. Your secondary job is to raise visibility, which means letting people know your book exists. You’re probably already doing that in lots and lots of ways.
When you see a list of things you could be doing, think of them as exactly that. Things you could be doing. Not things you should be doing. Pick out the ones that make sense to you and that you feel capable of tackling. Do those.
Laurie and I went through her super-maxi-extreme-ultra checklist of doom, and together we identified some things that I want to keep on my personal, sane-person list, such as:
  • Create the story around your book – your one-or-two-sentence Why – and be ready to share it. This isn’t an elevator pitch; it’s an answer to the question “Why did you write this?” or “What was your inspiration for this book?” or “What does this book mean to you?” It’s the story behind your story, and it will provide your publisher’s publicity department, as well as librarians, teachers, and booksellers, with a handy hook for generating interest in your book.
  • Make postcards and bookmarks, because they’re useful for all sorts of things. Send them to stores and libraries, or drop some off at local places. (Honestly, the mailing-list thing? I dread it. Researching to build the lists and finding the time to write hundreds of notes and print labels and apply postage… That’s all extremely daunting to me, so it’s one of those things that I’m going to do as I can, when I can. A few notes a week. I’ll target the stores I care about, and the libraries within driving distance that I might actually be able to visit.) Remember, once your book is out, it’ll be out for a while. Not everyone has to buy it on the actual launch date.
  • Make some fun swag for giveaways and launch events, if you’re doing those things. People like free stuff. Keep it cheap and thematic. Tap into your circle of talented friends and family. My brother knows how to make chainmail, so he’s creating some really neat giveaway bookmarks for me. People also like food, so cupcakes will make them happy, but swag is nice because it might rattle around in a purse or a coat pocket for a while and remind people of you.
  • Do you have an online presence? Good for you. Social media can be overwhelming, but again, you don’t have to do everything. Pick one or two things and manage them as you will. Maybe a blog and a Twitter feed. Maybe a Facebook page and your web site. Maybe just one of those things. Update at your own speed. Yes, it’s fun to be able to find authors online and see cool new fresh content on their super nifty pages, but you know what? An author’s lack of (or lackluster) media presence has never yet stopped me from buying a book I’ve heard great things about.
  • Shake your trees. Even if they are small trees and seem insignificant and not terribly fruity, go ahead and give them a shake. Your experiences and connections matter. Make a list of anyone in your life, past or present, who might support you (e.g. send a postcard to the current librarian of your old elementary school and tell them Hi, I used to go there, and I would be so thrilled to think of my book sitting on the very same shelves where I used to hide from all the other kids and cry my way through recess… Or maybe don’t do that, because that’s oversharing).
  • Make a little press kit that’s easy to give people. Quick and dirty. Your bio, your book synopsis, your contact info (and your agent’s). Get fancy with it, if you want. Or don’t.
  • Do the things you’re good at, in which you can take pleasure, and in which your genuine joy and excitement about your book will shine through. People don’t like pushy, saccharine nonsense; but they will like you. So do what’s authentic for you. I personally love using iMovie, so I had fun making my book trailer. And I love my students, so my “launch party” will actually be a library event, held within walking distance of my school, so that all my kids (who are middle-schoolers and can’t drive) can be there.
And then, once you’ve figured out the few things that matter most to you, let the rest of it go.
Now, it’s true that most publishers do expect varying amounts of self-promotion from their authors, so certain responsibilities may be handed to you, and as a professional, you’ll have to sort that out. Stuff will come up that you need to do. Stuff will fall into your lap that you ought to try to say yes to, for the sake of visibility. And some stuff – maybe even some really neat-o stuff – will come your way, if your book gets a lick of positive attention from the right source, so have your ducks in a row. All I’m saying is that if you don’t suddenly transform into a highly experienced publicist and throw over the rest of your life in order to haunt Twitter for the next six months, that’s okay.
Because you know what? The bottom line here – and it’s not exactly cheerful, but I think it’s freeing – is this: No matter how hard you throw yourself at self-marketing and promotion, it’s very hard to tell which of the checklist items will actually translate into sales. Even if you do ALL THE THINGS, you should prepare yourself for the fact that, after your launch, there may be very little fanfare. Just do what feels right. Do what you can. And make sure to enjoy it, because this is your baby, and you earned this joy. Don’t let some well-meant but soul-sucking checklist take this moment away from you.
Finally, remember that while the launch date feels enormous, it’s actually only a big deal to you and your loved ones. It’s a big splash followed by a long, leisurely, less attention-getting swim. Books take a long time to grow into their full, true readership, and that part can’t be forced (if it could, then every giant advance that a publisher gambles on would turn out to be a bestseller success). Your authentic audience will build organically over a long period of time as readers pass your book from hand to hand and give it the ultimate praise: “You have to read this.”
And then maybe, just maybe, they’ll search for you on Twitter. And maybe, if you feel like it, you’ll be there waiting.
This post was made possible by the gifted and generous Laurie Thompson.

GALLEYS!

I’ve always loved Christmas. As a kid, of course, I was all wound up about it. I remember that one time, to keep myself awake waiting for Santa, I finger-spelled every song in The Sound of Music. Alas, I eventually grew up, and though like C.S. Lewis I have no fear of childishness, I can’t make myself a child again. The night-before-Christmas anticipation that I used to experience has long since faded. Now I just enjoy the general merriment and sing-songery that lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

So last night, when proper Christmas-Eve jitters seized me for the first time in decades, I barely knew what to do with myself.

“My galleys are coming,” I told my husband. “Tomorrow. They’re coming tomorrow. The UPS update says that they’re coming between 9 and 11:30.”

I had a hard time getting to sleep, and this morning, I woke up at 5. Like a kid on Christmas morning. Only Santa doesn’t have a sleigh, kids, he has a fleet of brown planes and trucks, and according to Santa’s super fancy web site, as of 5:51am, my present is already scanned and out for delivery.

It’s 6:39am as I write this.

WOE BETIDE the UPS truck if it gets here after 11:30.

I am going for a walk.

I went for a walk with my family. It was rainy. We came home. My son and I have built every Lego. Every train track. I’ve worked out some anticipation on the treadmill. It is 9:12. YOU HAVE TWO HOURS AND 18 MINUTES, TRUCK.

I know I sound crazy. But after ten years of work, and whole lot of patience, to know that there is now a very short and finite period of time before I’m holding, not quite my book, but a pretty close approximation in my own hands?

I SOUND CRAZY BECAUSE I FEEL CRAZY.

9:44am: HAPPINESS:

I love the team at Scholastic. They are amazing. 

Cheryl Klein, Sharismar Rodriguez, Elizabeth Starr Baer, Elizabeth B. Parisi, and Shannon Rice are amazing. Iacopo Bruno – also amazing. I know I am leaving out a lot of people whom I have not met or heard of yet and who had a hand in this, and they are all AMAZING. 

All I can do right now is look at this beautiful book, and page through it, and realize that it’s real.  THANK YOU, EVERYBODY.  YOU ARE AWESOME. 

*KISSES THE WORLD*

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s very easy to get caught up in the idea that there’s not enough time and I’m not doing enough. I let myself get derailed by that idea almost every day. Either I’m coming up short as a mom, a wife, a teacher, or a writer – whatever the category, there’s always room for panic. Just yesterday, I was trying to organize some book marketing stuff and was sucked into a black hole of terror and self criticism.

But at the start of this school year, I made myself a promise. I’m going to be grateful for the awesome year ahead of me, no matter what.  That doesn’t mean I’ll never worry, but it does mean that when I start to spiral, I have to notice how awesome my worries are and how lucky I am to have them. I have to slow down, breathe, and be grateful.

Thanksgiving seems like a really good day to do that.

I’m so thankful that my four-year-old is healthy and happy. He loves to build, and sing, and read, and make puzzles, and kiss, and hug, and show us what he’s doing. He knows all the words to Good King Wenceslas, and when he sings “Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither!” it never fails to slay me.

I’m thankful that my husband constantly fights the good fight against entropy, carving a tunnel through the housework and sundry adult responsibilities so that I can write. I’m thankful that whenever I start to doubt my powers, he’s there like a good second, handing me sharp swords so I can duel the inner critic.

I’m thankful for students who trust me with their ideas and experiences. I’m thankful for the former student who come back to see me the other day to return a book he borrowed last year, and who tucked a heartfelt, tear-jerker of a thank-you note into that book.

I’m thankful that the galleys for GROUNDED look gorgeous, and that I’ll receive them in the mail tomorrow – I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t WAIT to hold them. I’ll probably kiss them. I’m thankful for author friends who are there to reach out and steady me when I feel like there’s no way I can possibly organize my life.

Finally, I’m thankful that today is a big family day and that I get to spend it with my kiddo and husband, my mom and dad, and my siblings and their spouses (and my sister’s brand new, beautiful baby girl!).

In fact, it’s time to go and peel some apples and sweet potatoes, and to be grateful for the fact that when I want apples and sweet potatoes, I can go to the store and get them.

Oh, who am I kidding? My husband went to the store.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It’s All Happening

I got on a magical ride back in 2003 with my friend and the co-creator of Tyme, Ruth Virkus.  The ride was called Let’s Write A Fairy-Tale Series.

The first nine years of the ride were slow. Sometimes surprising. Often delightful. Usually difficult. But always

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l

o

w.

In 2012, the ride got faster. Acquisitions. Revisions. Line edits. Copy edits. First pass pages.

And then the little car rounded a bend and started to climb a steep, clickety track. I’m sitting in it now, pitched back, staring up, listening to the  click click click click click

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GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL moved up from being a Summer 2015 title to being a Spring 2015 title. What I thought would be a July (or something) release date is now April 28. APRIL 28.

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My editor, the indefatigable Cheryl Klein, sent me the beautiful jacket copy that she wrote for the book (the text that will appear on the cover, the inside flaps, and the back of the book jacket). Suddenly I was able to see lots of small pieces all together in one place: her words, other authors’ encouraging blurbs, the ISBN, my bio, and little shocking realities like $17.99 US / $20.99 CAN, reminding me that oh, yes, this has all been fun and games, hasn’t it, but the idea here is that now this book needs to sell.

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Also listed on the jacket copy is the name of the artist who is illustrating the cover of GROUNDED: Iacopo Bruno.  The cover is not final yet, but as soon as I saw Iacopo Bruno’s name, any lingering cover-anxiety I might have had vanished forever. Because, in case you’re not familiar with this man’s work, his jackets are total show-stoppers.

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My friend Melissa Anelli sent me a Google Hangout chat with a link in it. Unsuspecting, I followed the link. Oh God.  GROUNDED is on Amazon.  I called my mother. She preordered a copy. Sale #1.

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The Scholastic Spring 2015 Online Preview went live yesterday.  In Middle Grade, at 11:59, Cheryl speaks about GROUNDED with the love and confidence that she has shown throughout this entire process. Even since way back in 2004, when she gave my very early first draft some tough love and told me she wanted to see it when it was rewritten. (Also, in this preview, you can catch a very quick glimpse of the not-yet-final book cover. It’s sensational.)

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I don’t know. I can never predict what the next surprise will be. But for the next five months, I know the surprises will just keep coming, making everything realer and realer, closer and closer, and then – and THEN –

click. 

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