Sep 30, 2011

today in the coffee shop

I found this lovely piece of art tucked away in one of the community journals at my favorite local coffee shop. It's so amazingly creepy and ethereal. I adore it. I might even write a short story about it... There's an idea.

friday vlog: why it takes 18+ months to publish a book.

In this video I explain why it will be over a year and a half before my novel is released. I also kill fruit flies with my lightning ninja reflexes.

Sep 27, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1.  The past few weeks one of my extracurricular activities has been gearing up for YALLfest. I've had the privilege of being able to glimpse the inner workings of the festival and even participate in some of them myself. Let me tell you guys, if you live anywhere remotely close/driveable and you love YA books, this is an event you cannot afford to miss! All of the revealed news is on their official tumblr, but I'll be able to put up some exciting related posts soon!

2. Apparently I'm very good at finding things. My husband had a hole in his pocket last night and somewhere in the 6 block walk from our friend's apartment to the restaurant we ate at, his keys decided to make their great escape. Including the electronically programmed key to his car that costs $150 (+towing expenses) to replace. Ack! We had a minor freakout mode. He found an industrial sized flashlight (I swear if you stuck it on the side of your house it could serve as a floodlight) and retraced our path twice before giving up the keys for lost. We mourned the hit to our bank account (remember, we're starving artists here...) and hoped faintly that they might miraculously pop up. I was biking back from my preschool job this morning when I decided to give the route a good retracing in the daylight. I walked all the way to the restaurant with little success and rather strained eyes. I walked the opposite side of the street on the way back, and what did I find tucked in the grass only a block from the restaurant? Shiny, precious keys!! I snatched them up and held them incredibly tight on my way back home. I've hardly been so happy to see keys in my whole life.
Moral of the story? Don't use pockets with holes in them. And don't give up.

Music: Global Illumination by Liquid Soul (it was free on Amazon... quite catchy actually)
Fueled by: Reheated coffee from this morning and a piece of pumpkin bread I baked this weekend.
Working on: Interview questions for some super-duper awesome authors!

Sep 26, 2011

storytime!! (or, how my book found a home)

Publishing a book is no easy feat. It is, in most cases, a nail-biting, agonizing, dragged out process. First you have to write the book. Which is a feat in itself. Then you have to revise the book to perfection. Then you need to find an agent.
            Once all of these hurdles are out of the way, you revise even more and once your agent approves, your book goes out on submission.
I went out on submission on July 12th fully prepared for the average wait times that pretty much every other author I knew had experienced. Two to six months was the norm, that’s what the blog posts and the forum posts said anyway. I prepared myself for the wait.
And then, a day later, superagent wrote back telling me that one of the editors already loved the book! Of course this set my nerves on edge. I started biting my nails and checking my email every hour (at least, and that’s the dignified estimate).
Then there was silence. For ten whole days.
Oh silence. We often forget how terrible it is. It’s excruciating. I tried to distract myself, but it’s hard when you’re steaming milk and getting mocha stained embedded on your arm hair every day. It’s in those moments, between the grumpy customers and the endless chatter on the drive-through headsets, that you dream of the “what-if.”
The what-if is a cruel monster, taunting you with futures untested. I tried my best to keep it away. To stay “grounded” (whatever that means). But it was in vain. I couldn’t help but dream of deals with big publishers and what that might mean for my life.
THEN superagent sent an email saying that interested editor was bringing it before the editorial board. Commence second round of intense nail biting. This lasted only twenty-four hours before I received a second email. This one told me that the editors loved it and that the manuscript would be brought to an acquisitions meeting in just over a week.
ONE WEEK? What did they want me to do? Go insane?
And indeed, that is almost what happened. I spent the week in a constant state of nausea. I tried not to think about the impending meeting, which was impossible, and every time it did pop into my thoughts I wanted to throw up. Which was a lot. Fortunately, I never actually succeeded in vomiting, although by the end of the week poor hubby was very sick of me whining and agonizing over the approaching date.
Then the day came. I knew I would find out that day. The knowledge was terrible. I was shaky when I woke up, but determined to distract myself. I had breakfast with my dear friend, Elizabeth. Then she had to leave me for work. So I latched myself to another dear friend and went thrift-store shopping (one of my favorite ultimate pastimes). When I hadn’t heard by the end of our thrift-store extravaganza, we went to get frozen yogurt (fro-yo in dear friend’s words). I ate slowly through my cheesecake frozen yogurt with Reese’s pieces, cookie dough and Andes mints (weird combo, I know) and wondered about the state of my email inbox, which I’d left untouched for nearly three hours. Fortunately, dear friend had a smart phone, which she lent for my use.
Lo and behold, what did I find but an email from superagent.
Reading from other author’s experiences, I’d always imagined that superagent would call me with the good news. And that I would scream and cry. Neither of those things happened. Superagent had simply sent an email letting me know that an offer would soon be made. I sat and blinked at the screen for a minute before dear friend asked me if I’d heard anything.
I told her and she screamed.
Almost two months later, the news still hasn’t fully sunk in. I know, in the very abstract sense, that HarperCollins will be publishing my book, that I will get to hold the words that I wrote in a bound, published form. My life is changing slowly because of it. I left my job at Starbucks and returned to my job as a preschool teacher to make more time for writing. I am being blessed with the amazing opportunity to meet and entertain over 11 NYT bestselling authors in my hometown come November. Doors are opening that I never thought possible.
It is both intensely good and insanely terrifying.
And it makes me feel like this.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sep 23, 2011

friday vlog: me, being zen.

So, since the news is out and I can now openly discuss my life as a to-be-published author, I thought I would post a fun video my husband put together during the waiting time. It shows exactly how patient I am. :)

Sep 22, 2011

my HUGE news!!!

Okay guys, I know you've all been waiting so lovingly and patiently for this moments (just as I have), but I finally have permission to share my phenomenally awesome cool news!

So you know that book I wrote? The one about Faery Godmothers? And British royalty?
It's getting published! By HarperTeen. Ah, I can't believe I just typed those words. Yes, HarperCollins bought my book LUMINANCE HOUR (working title) and its sequel!! As of now the book is slated to come out in Summer 2013.

This is the PM announcement:

Ryan Graudin's LUMINANCE HOUR, in which a partying prince falls for a Kate Middletonesque fae, who has been protecting the royal family for centuries, and who must make an impossible choice amidst a backdrop of a palace murder and paparazzi mayhem, to Alyson Day at Harper Teen, in a very-nice deal, in a two-book deal, by Alyssa Eisner Henkin at Trident Media Group (NA).

I know this post is just a quick blip, I'll be throwing up another post soon describing exactly how the book was sold. But I'm so excited to finally talk about it and officially celebrate it with you all!

Sep 20, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. Announcement is coming as soon as possible. Even I am dying now. It's been about 6 weeks since the big, awesome thing happened. 6 weeks really isn't so long in the scheme of things is it? It just FEELS like an eternity. (Which, in the same vein, I have a really awesome video prepped for you guys this Friday. Hopefully this Friday. Cross your fingers it's this Friday.)

2. I finally found pumpkin puree. After three different, high-class grocery stores, I finally found the much sought after ingredient in a Super-Walmart. *cough* Not that I shop at a Wallyworld. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm a "starving artist." *cough* Now I just have to find the perfect day to whip up some pumpkin bread. The weather was wonderfully fally last week, but the dreaded mugginess has returned to haunt us here in Charleston. I feel like it never completely leaves until the beginning of December. There have been times when I've decorated our Christmas tree in shorts. And I assure you, even down south, that's a very odd feeling.

Music: The Vitamin String Quartet station on Pandora
Drink: Earl Grey Tea (my favorite)
Word Count: 7500 on my WIP that I started last week. It's the first thing I've written in 3rd person in quite a while.

Sep 19, 2011

monday musings: yeatsing it up.

"Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

-William Butler Yeats, Among School Children

Sep 16, 2011

this friday is brought to you by...

...the very first pumpkin spice latte of the season. Sorry, no vlog today, I feel like it would only be slightly anti-climactic, considering that the big news must be held back until "early next week." Soon, friends and readers, very soon.

Sep 15, 2011

life lessons from a toddler

Every day at preschool, the same thing happens. One of the boys grabs his Darth Vader backpack (a very treasured item) and runs to the kiddie gate by the door to look down the hall for his mother. This particular incidence occurs like clockwork. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes before his mother even arrives. Sometimes it happens almost an hour before she strides down the hall to his screams of joy.
Every time he hangs himself mournfully over the gate I try to distract him with Legos or the train-set. With the joy of play. I rarely manage to pry him from the gate with words alone. Sometimes I have to pick him up and set him down in the middle of all the toys to show him how much fun he could be having.
I think to myself Why doesn't he understand that he could be having so much fun instead of crying over by the gate? His mom will come at the same time anyway.
I caught myself thinking this today and then realized that I do the exact same thing. How often am I like him, hanging over the gate and obsessing over something that hasn't happened yet while I could be playing with Legos and coloring (ie. enjoying the moment for what it is)?
The revelation was a bit humbling. It also made me much more sympathetic to my student's predicament. Like I said before, working with kids really teaches you things/gives you a whole different perspective on life.

Also, news will be officially unveiled/revealed early next week!! Ah! I'm itching so badly to reveal it, but I must wait until the proper time.
I'm going to go build a (figurative) Lego castle now.

Sep 13, 2011

set adrift

Every once in a while, I find myself in between writing projects. It's a strange, almost unnerving place to be in. I don't have the freedom to get too involved in other projects, since I will be waiting on feedback for two different projects (for more revisions! yaaaaay!). But it could be weeks, nay, months before I receive these coveted emails in my inbox.
I can't be unproductive for that time. If there's one thing I'm not, it's unproductive. Being unproductive makes me nervous and antsy.
I've been in similar situations before, where I have set myself to working on short stories. And I find, every time, that I am not good at short stories. I am long-winded. I cannot fully explore a character or situation in a mere twenty pages. It takes me almost fifty pages to discover who a character is when I'm delving into the new world of a novel. Nor can I wrap up a conflict in such a short page-span, which always leaves me feeling guilty and terrible for plopping the characters into such sucky, hopeless situations. Without resolution that is. I'm perfectly okay with placing them into hopeless situations if I can see them through it.
So I think, perhaps, that I will write a "short story" version of a future novel idea I have rattling around in my brain. It will help me explore this world without committing a whole entire 4 months to finishing the rough draft (which is my average). Oh, and world-building for a future series I'm envisioning. That's always fun as well.

On a brighter note, I do believe that I will be allowed to have my big reveal soon. Just the thought makes me smile. So stay tuned throughout this next week. It's good news. I promise.

Sep 12, 2011

sneaky candy corn.

I found an imposter in my bag of Mellowcreme Pumpkins. Guess he was just trying to fit in...

monday musings: minor key

I'm the type of person who, when I love a song, I listen to it over and over and over again until I literally get sick of it. This has inspired the hubby to buy me headphones so I cannot torture him with my current musical obsessions.
I love all types of music (except for certain genres of country and R&B, but that's a different story entirely). I'm a sucker for good instrumental pieces as well. Anything with strings or piano in a minor key is an instant hit for me. Perhaps this stems from my love of movie soundtracks.
Anyway, here are two songs that have been on my "Replay" list lately. Enjoy!
Also, if you have any favorite instrumental songs, please tell me in the comments. I'm always looking for good music!

Sep 10, 2011

in remembrance

As the day inches closer, it is impossible to ignore. September 11th is upon us, and this year it's especially poignant.
I was fourteen years old when the twin towers fell. Like most people, I remember the moment I heard very clearly. I was homeschooled at the time, working on math problems in the kitchen when the house phone rang. My mother answered. I heard her gasp all the way from the other room and I knew something terrible had happened. She hung up the phone and told me that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. At the time, I didn't understand the magnitude of her words. I didn't even know what the World Trade Center was. But as soon as we flipped on our television, I understood.
I was fortunate enough to be somewhat distanced from these attacks. No one I knew or loved had been caught in the towers or trapped in those planes. Even though I was not personally involved, the significance of what happened that day still latched on to me. As I'm sure it did to most, if not every American.
As a nation, it changed us. It warped our views of the world, let us realize that we didn't exist in a tiny detached bubble. Terror and uncertainty, something that is a way of life for much of the world, suddenly became intimate with the American populace.
It changed the way we interacted with the rest of the world. It changed the way we traveled. It changed the way we told stories. (Come to think of it, was 9/11 the real force behind the rise of dystopian literature? Hm...)
While it introduced us to fear, it also revealed our strength and resilience as a nation. It showed us that we could meet that fear and rise above it. We could move forward with strength.
And so tomorrow, this is what I shall dwell on with confidence. I will remember the dead, but I will also learn to face my fears and move past them. The past can so easily paralyze us. But it doesn't have to control our future. That is in our hands. I think this is something we as a nation have done well. It is something I must remind myself of every day.
Here's to remembering and moving forward.

Sep 8, 2011

the most wonderful time of the year (one of them at least)

The lovely season of autumn is finally showing its face in the Lowcountry. I know this because of two things.

1. When I stepped outside my door yesterday morning I got chilly. There were goosebumps on my skin and the thermometer (on my computer, I don't own a real one) said it was in the 70s. The 70s!!! I immediately ran back inside and grabbed a scarf. Not because I actually needed it, but because it's such a novel concept here in the south.

2. I was doing one of the more mundane things in life (ie grocery shopping), when my eyes lit upon these:

What's this I see? A mallowpumpkin patch!

The best kind of garden. :)

Gold in a candy bag. Seriously. These are my kryptonite. These and those little Necco candy hearts they sell at Valentine's day. Two years ago, when I was living overseas, I specially requested that my friends in the states send me bags of Mallowcreme pumpkins. I was so desperate for these candies, that when my American co-teacher spilled the bag all over the floor, I gathered them up and stuffed them back in. Perhaps not my proudest moment ever.
My South Korean co-teachers ooed and awed about how cute these candies were. Sadly, they were too sweet for my foreign friends. And many of my generously donated Mallowpumpkins were spit back into the trash can.
But now, I can drive to the nearest grocery store and buy bags of them. *laughs evilly*

Needless to say, I am incredibly excited about fall this year. One of the reasons is that I happened to skip the season last year. How do you skip a season? By hanging out in the Southern hemisphere and around the equator for the months of September-November. Thus I am so excited to wear sweaters, carve pumpkins, watch the marsh turn to tawny gold and bake all sorts of cinnamon spiced goods. Perhaps tomorrow I'll even treat myself to a pumpkin latte!

What are you guys doing for fall? I need some festive ideas. You know, just to be festive.

Sep 7, 2011

oh to be a child once more

Although I've only been out of college for two years (feels like ages longer, sadly), I've actually held down work in the same type of job throughout most of it. Early childhood education. Much of this is complete irony, as I swore up and down that I would never EVER be a teacher (despite my pursuit of a degree in English). This is why I did not pursue the education track at my university. Husband and I decided to move to South Korea, where we could travel and earn a good deal of money. Sadly, the only jobs there we were qualified for was teaching English. I relinquished my vows of teaching chastity for the sake of seeing the world.
Little did I expect I might actually enjoy it. I taught 5 year old boys who, while crazy and wild, are also some of the most imaginative creatures you will ever meet.
I am now back in America and filling my mornings as a preschool teacher. This involves watching 2 year old boys for four hours every morning. I love it. There's something about being around children that's so freeing. You being to remember what it was like to have a boundless imagination. Something can turn into anything. The tile floor becomes and ocean or a boiling pit of lava. Chairs become full blown pirate ships and tables are islands you swim to in order to bury your treasure (plastic food cans).
And I realized this morning, while I was donning a tiny pirate jacket and pink glitter, faery wings, that I needed to be more like them. Much like these children I watch, I too have to immerse myself in a world of imagination every day. In order to write a novel with a convincing world and convincing characters, I have to trust in the power of make-believe. That's really what writing is. Grown-up make believe. With poetic turns of phrase and cool plot lines. We can't afford to lose our imaginations. I think a lot of people do. They sit and wonder why children are so fascinated with sticks and running around in circles in the mud. I like to think that I haven't lost this magic all of the way. I don't fool myself. I know my active imagination isn't quite as wild or strange as it was when I was a wee one (see example below). But I want to think that my younger imaginings were so bizarre that I carried some semblance of originality into my adulthood (which I'm still in slight denial about).
So, writers, want good ideas for stories? Hang out with kids and try to wedge your way into their imagination time. It's refreshing. And it helps you remember how much your brain can flex.

In my effort to revive my childhood imagination, I decided to read back through an essay I wrote in third grade. Do enjoy.

Sep 5, 2011

monday musings: heroes and men

"[...] I could never deem
As Payne Knight did [...]
That Homer's heroes measured twelve feet high.
They were but men: -- his Helen's hair turned grey
Like any plain Miss Smith's who wears a front;
And Hector's infant whimpered at a plume
As yours last Friday at a turkey-cock.
All actual heroes are essential men,
And all men possible heroes: every age,
Heroic in proportions, double-faced,
Looks backward and before, expects a morn
And claims an epos."

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, 1857

I have always loved this passage of poetry and the message behind it. Ms. Barrett Browning makes a good point: all of the great heroes that history idolizes--all of the wonderful, stoic figures of our past were simply men. They had lives very similar to yours and mine until something set them apart. It was a particular combination of choices and circumstance that set them in the idylls and legends of history. But all men (and women, of course!) are possible heroes. How often do we have the opportunity and choice to set ourselves apart? When do we miss it? How can we become heroes in our own lives?

Pompeii, Italy - David Strauss c2009

Sep 2, 2011

friday vlog: what waiting drives me to.

 Happy Friday, friends! Please ignore the fact that the book covers are backwards. (Oops.)

Edit: Just realized that Monday is in fact, Labor day and not "Momorial" day. They kind of blend together in my head...