October 31, 2012

Halloween? What? (NaNoWriMo 2012)

It's Halloween. What with graduate school eating my brains and Hurricane Sandy eating my sanity (though it pretty much missed my area, which was a relief), the end of the month really snuck up on me. While I'd like to be the sort of person who goes crazy with the costumes (today in class we had a great Cheshire Cat paired with an excellent Alice in Zombieland), I have to admit that I'm too lazy to put together something impressive. I haven't really celebrated the holiday (except for buying deeply discounted candy the day after) in ten years or so. But Halloween is also notable for something other than sexy witches and candy corn. That's right: it's the day before NaNoWriMo.

I've posted about NaNo tons of times. This will be my sixth year participating, and this year I've decided to switch it up a little. The normal person would think that writing 50,000 words in 30 days is more than enough to pile on top of graduate school, work, soccer, sleep... The normal person would be entirely correct. But who cares about normal? This year I'm going to be a hot mess, because this year I am doing two things I've never done before.

1. I'm writing contemporary realism. I love contemporary realism (I'm a huge sucker for your typical high school chick flick, although it has to be done well), but I've always been scared off of actually writing it. Mostly it's because I don't think I can come up with a plot that hasn't been done hundreds of times already. But this year is the year I put my foot down. NaNo is the place for cliches! NaNo is the time for exceptionally hot jocks and cute nerdy girls! In short, I can do anything I want in NaNo, and this year I'm writing contemporary, damn it.

2. I'm writing two novels. This is the truly crazy part, but I'm hoping to be able to pull it off. I've written 80,000+ before in NaNo. I have a good handle on at least one of my WIPs (the decidedly NOT contemporary one), so hopefully that will help when the words refuse to come. I've decided to spent the scant hours remaining before the flag goes up sketching out at least a brief outline of where I hope these things are going. And...we'll see.

I haven't totally figured out how blogging is going to fit in to my November schedule. I'm hoping to post word count updates from time to time. Maybe I'll make my WIPs duel each other. "Operation Wish-work" versus "Pop Rocks and Candy Pops." Hopefully I'll get enough sleep to keep functioning on at least zombie level.

Gulp. Insanity commencing at midnight. Forget witches and goblins. It's the writers you really need to be worried about.

Operation Wish-Work: 0
Pop Rocks and Candy Pops: 0

October 30, 2012

Nashville

I would be lying if I didn't say that Nashville is my favorite new TV show this season. I'm trying out several (and several have already been cut from my viewing list, most brutally The Mob Doctor after only three minutes of screen-time), but Nashville is the only new show I actually look forward to every week.

What's so special about this show? How about what isn't?

Just kidding. Not everything can be perfect, but who can say no to Connie Britton? I was a late adopter of Friday Night Lights (only finished the series a few weeks ago), but I was heartbroken when I got to the end and there was no more Coach and Tami Taylor, no more Matt and Julie, no more disgustingly gorgeous Tim Riggins... I could go on, but this post is not supposed to be about Friday Night Lights. Moving on...

I'm not really into country music. Nothing against it, it's just not really my style. But damn it if I'm not over the moon about the music on this show. First off, the actors are actually singing, which is great. While not everyone is spectacular, at least they're all competent, and that goes a long way. I don't have every song, but the ones I do have play on repeat pretty much everywhere I go. I sing along and pretend that I too am a suddenly up-and-coming country music star. (For some reason I'm also finding several songs really evocative, in a "I want to write a story around this" kind of way.)

Second, the actors. Of course I'm a Connie Britton fan. I also enjoy some Hayden Panettiere once in a while too, though right now I have to say I'm most invested in Scarlett's storyline right now. (Probably because I can live vicariously through her and pretend I'm about to become a superstar.)

I don't know that I can pinpoint exactly what I love about this show. It's just so SHINY. And I'm just so INTO IT.

I've heard rumors that Nashville's future is questionable at the moment, and I will be HEARTBROKEN if it gets canceled. Nashville is the only show this season making me bouncy and impatient, so my new mission in life might be to make as many people watch it as possible. Go! Watch! Sing! Make merry! (Pretty please? For me?)

October 21, 2012

Bookselling Adventures (2): The Handsell

Last week I learned the power of the handsell.

A woman came in looking for a book suitable for a third grader who had read all of the Harry Potter books. (Needless to say, this girl was supposed to be a voracious reader.)

It turns out that voracious readers are the hardest to buy for because whatever you say, they will already have read it. I know--I'm one of them. So I was racking my brain trying to come up with something the girl would not have read...and then I spotted a brand new middle grade title on the shelf across from me. I hadn't read the book (still haven't, though it's on my list), but I knew the general plot, that it was middle grade, and (most importantly) that it was released just a few weeks ago, thus making me fairly confident that this girl had not already read the book.

I pulled it, mentioned that I'd heard good things but that I hadn't read it, and was about to suggest another few titles when the woman said, "Great, I'll take it."

Boom. Sale made. With those four words, I personally became responsible for the addition of $1.50 (or so) to that author's royalty account.

What readers don't always understand is that there are many people out in the world who aren't necessarily Readers, but who Buy for Readers. The Buyer's greatest resource is the independent bookseller (a clan I recently managed to buy my way into). They want good recommendations, and they want them now. None of this futzing about comparing this and that and the next title.

All this makes the independent bookseller an incredibly powerful person. If they like you, they will handsell the crap out of your book. If they hate you, your book will become mysteriously lost and never ever sell. So authors, be nice to your booksellers. They can be your greatest ally...or your worst enemy.

October 17, 2012

Cheating

I'm in a bit of a quandary.

I don't often talk specifics on works in progress, so I'm sure many of you won't know this, but my latest WIP is YA fantasy. My recently-completed WIP is YA fantasy. When I think of my favorite novels, my shelves are dominated by fantasy. In short, I am kind of a fantasy girl through and through.

...Except yesterday, I found myself scribbling out a sassy contemporary piece for my creative writing class and feeling pretty darn chuffed about it. I had a lot of fun with that exercise, more than I expected to. As I told a few friends, contemporary feels like the fun flirty mistress I'm cheating on fantasy with.

So now I'm not sure whether to pursue the contemporary or not. This isn't a question of whether I'm giving up on my current WIP (I'm not). It's more of an...I don't know. I read some YA contemporary, but not a lot. While I've been drawn to the genre before, I've ultimately held back because I find myself unable to think up a suitably inventive premise. Mostly when I try to come up with a fun, flirty contemporary, I get your standard dork-meets-jock/love triangle/Sarah-Dessen-spin-off. Which are fun, don't get me wrong. But different enough to grab an agent or editor's attention? I don't know about that.

Maybe that's why I spend so much time with fantasy--because I feel like anything could happen. In contemporary, I feel unoriginal and limited.

All this goes to say that while I'm not choosing one over the other, I don't know if I have enough time to work on both. Grad school is kind of kicking my butt as far as the free time goes, and when you add on work, soccer, trying to eat right... Well. Let's just say that the writing time does not spread bountifully as far as the eye can see. Plus, I've got to pick something to do for NaNoWriMo.

Any suggestions? And if you have a spare plot idea lying around for a YA contemporary, I'd love to hear it...

October 11, 2012

Bookselling Adventures (1): Amanda F. Palmer

I was nervous about going back to school and leaving my publishing job. Publishing, as many of you know, is a business where connections matter a lot. What if I was never able to get another job in publishing ever again?

As it happens, my fears were unfounded. I was hired a few weeks ago but after three days of training, I can officially announce that I now work as a bookseller at an independent bookstore. I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled to be around amazing book people, thrilled to be keeping a foot in the publishing door, thrilled to have access to more books than I could ever hope to read, and, today, thrilled to have met Amanda Fucking Palmer in the flesh.

It's true! I was going about my business, doing inventory in the classics section, when I turned around and there she was! This, of course, played out much like my recent encounter with Elizabeth Wein. I stammered out something like "I'm a fan!" and completely forgot to introduce myself (in my shiny new capacity of "bookseller" and not "totally-weird-and-possibly-creepy staring person") and couldn't think of anything at all to say. Eventually I was able to stutter out that I enjoyed her husband's books too.

Amanda herself was lovely, as I'm sure she always is. I got an autograph (now proudly adorning my refrigerator) and the assurance that I am as awkward as ever when it comes to meeting celebrities.

It's times like these that I really feel I should put together some sort of spiel for meeting famous people and rehearse it until I can shake hands and spout adulating comments without batting an eyelash. You know, since it's been sufficiently demonstrated that I am incapable of handling these things on the fly.

More bookselling adventures to come.