The One Where I Get A Book Deal

Courtesy of Gwen C. Katz

One night, October 2013, I wrote four words. It was a very simple line, but I sat back and stared at it for a while:

“Two o’clock was missing.”

“Huh,” I said.

I wrote a lot more words after those ones. Soon, I had an exceptionally rough draft of a book. This process wasn’t new to me; I had written a dozen books before this one, ever since writing my first (very long, very bad) novel at 15.

But this was different.

 

 

First, it was YA, and I was used to writing adult. Second, it was historical fantasy, not high fantasy. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I was writing about boys and clocks and depression and how it’s possible to regain lost hope—and it weaved a spell over me.

I’ve been through a lot of highs and lows with this book. I loved it. I hated it. I dreamed about it. I shoved it into a corner. I revised and revised and revised and revised.

I wrote two more books, turning it into a trilogy.

“What the hell am I doing?” I asked myself. “Why am I making this harder?”

 

Tom Hiddleston Shocked animated GIF

 

It had branded itself on me. These books, these characters, refused to let me go. I went to conferences and took notes and entered contests and rewrote my query a million times. I did everything humanly possible to understand—really, truly understand—how this game works, how this story works, how we fit into things.

Then, a miracle: an agent loved my book enough to offer representation. Since signing with the wonder that is Laura Crockett, I have traveled a million miles in just a few months. (Kind of literally, since I had a huge trip to India right in the middle of all this).

It was so crazy. Revisions, and submission, and hoping and despairing and bouncing between high and low, high and low. Caught between manic flights of euphoria and black days of wondering what the point was.

I’m going to annoy all of you and just say it: It really only does take one “yes.”

 

Doctor Who Yes animated GIF

 

Now I can finally, finally, finally say that my YA trilogy, TIMEKEEPER, is going to be published by Sky Pony Press. The first book comes out fall of 2016. Here’s the official announcement:

Timekeeper announcement

I’ve learned recently how scary and exhilarating it is to trust someone else with your story, but if that someone loves your characters and world as much as you do, like my editor Alison Weiss does, then you are gold. I’m thrilled to be in this situation, to learn more, to see where everything goes from here.

I’ve written thousands, if not millions, of words.

But I never imagined that the doorway to my dream would appear with just four.

 

Currently 6/2/15

currently

LOVING…

Disneyland. I just went to the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration and it was so magical! My favorite part, aside from the glittering castle, was the new Paint the Night parade. I grew up with the Electrical Parade, and this is like that one but on steroids. So beautiful.

READING…

THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh. Such a lovely book. I love the poetic elegance of it, and the way she twists the tale of 1001 Arabian Nights. Oh, and the food descriptions and out of this world.

WATCHING…

Gravity Falls. I’ve been seeing commercials for this one for a while, but now that I’m actually sitting down to watch it, I love it! It’s so funny and clever, not to mention creative.

LISTENING TO…

Aside from the usual (my book playlists, etc.), I’ve been listening to the Bend it Like Beckham soundtrack a lot. Growing up, I went to a lot of Indian parties with loud Indian music, and I hated it. But when I get to listen to Indian music on my own (especially Bhangra), I love it a lot more. That’s the introvert in me, I guess!

THINKING ABOUT…

All together now: Timekeeper. Always Timekeeper. Every single waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. I’ve been playing around with my Pinterest Board a lot and working on revisions for book 2.

ANTICIPATING…

The all-clear.

WISHING…

That time could go a little faster. Or that I can transport myself back to Disneyland.

MAKING ME HAPPY…

My awesome new tea mug, the giant stack of books I have to read, my friends who are getting into Harry Potter for the first time (yuss), Parks and Rec reruns.

 

Currently 5/19/15

currently

LOVING…

Cheese. All the cheese ever. Friday I worked on my night cheese with some friends while corgis frolicked in the background, and it was magical. Also: the writing community. I seriously can’t imagine life without people to complain/cry/celebrate with!

image

READING…

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir. It’s brilliant. The world is so rich and bloody, the characters so complicated and compelling, and the writing SO lovely. I’m reading this one very, very slowly so I can savor all the details.

image

WATCHING…

A lot of things, but forefront in my mind is Outlander. The season finale is this Saturday, and it deals with some really difficult topics. I’ve read all the books and I know what happens, but I’m still nervous!

image

LISTENING TO…

The new Mumford and Sons album, Wilder Mind, and the latest Imagine Dragons album, Smoke and Mirrors. I also listen to my WIP soundtracks all the time. Timekeeper’s playlist is solemn and ethereal, and Strange Duet’s playlist is like “WHOO LET’S DANCE AROUND AND BE CRAZY.”

image

THINKING ABOUT…

Timekeeper. What’s new? I’m currently revising book 2, and it’s difficult and rewarding at the same time. I get to delve into my culture and heritage while also setting the stage for an adventure that goes horribly awry (as always). I love that aspect about it. Danny and Colton are always on my mind, and have been for the greater part of (nearly) two years. My boys are everything.

image

ANTICIPATING…

Good news!

image

WISHING…

For Friday to hurry up and get here so I can reunite with my college BFF!

image

MAKING ME HAPPY…

My kickass friends, my cat, Parks and Rec reruns, and A TRIP TO DISNEYLAND IN A WEEK AND A HALF!!!

image

 

Ten Things About My Writing

writing

Inspired by my agent sister Clarissa Harwood, who posted ten random things about her writing process, I thought it would be fun to do the same. Writers can get so deep inside their own heads that we sometimes forget others have quirky, weird habits too. Without further ado, here are mine!

 

  1. I use Post-It notes. A lot of Post-It notes. I have to organize my notebooks a certain way, so if I think of an idea, need to remember a detail, or write a question that’ll need to be answered later, I slap on a sticky note.
  1. When I’m REALLY in the groove, I will not stop for anything until I finish the scene/chapter. No bathroom breaks, food, tea, etc.

  1. The music I listen to changes depending on what project I’m working on. For instance, TIMEKEEPER is a lot of Lindsey Stirling, Ellie Goulding, and the Hunger Games soundtracks. My adult fantasy series makes me turn to Keane, Imagine Dragons, and Florence and the Machine.
  1. I have a thing about green eyes. A lot of my protagonists have green eyes, but I’m getting better about that.
  1. When I’m not in the mood to write in the actual MS, I write drabbles. Lots and lots and lots of them. AU drabbles, before-story and after-story drabbles, “between scenes” drabbles, sexy drabbles, sad drabbles, “what if” drabbles, etc.

  1. Reading the opposite genre of the one I’m currently writing tends to inspire me more than reading in the same genre.
  1. When I have a “eureka!” moment I get so excited I go “OH, OH, OH” and pace around and grin maniacally. I am so glad these happen when no one else is around.
  1. My cat knows when I’m in the middle of an important scene, because she will start crawling all over me.

  1. One of my favorite (if not my favorite) writing techniques is foreshadowing. I like to write a book/series all the way through and go back to the beginning to add levels of foreshadowing. The sort of details a reader won’t actually notice until they reread it and go “OHHHH!”
  1. I like doing personality-type things for my characters. Like figuring out which Hogwarts house they would be in.

 

So, there are my ten random writing facts. What are yours?

The Importance of Worldbuilding in Contemporary Novels

globe-599486_640

If you’re an avid reader and writer of fantasy books (like yours truly), you know how important worldbuilding is. Worldbuilding is the backbone of any good fantasy story; without a unique world, you have very little to run with.

Just look at Tolkien. He wrote hundreds of pages of worldbuilding, and as a result, readers know exactly how his world functions. People made video games based on his world. They made role playing games set in his world. They made movies about his world. People get into fights all the time about small nuances in his world!

But what I think some people forget (and I’m not excluded from that generality) is the fact that all stories need worldbuilding. Whether you’re writing a fantasy or literary novel, it needs to be there, in some capacity. The only difference will be how much you need, depending on genre.

Recently I decided to embark on a journey that I never thought I’d take: writing a contemporary YA book.

I read a lot of contemporary, and what I’ve found is that you can’t just rely on quirky, fun, or meaningful characters; you also need a world to put them in. I imagine several people think, “Well, it’s the real world. That’s the world.” Trust me, I thought the same thing, once. It’s why I write so much fantasy.

BUT.

Even if it is set in our world, we need to be specific. Which country? Which state? Which town? Where do they like to eat? Are there any monuments? Are there any weird laws? What’s the society like? Are there dog parks, or are people petitioning for one? Is there a creepy guy with a rifle who sits out on his porch at night? Are there any unique festivals or customs?

The best stories, no matter the genre, draw you not only into the characters’ minds—they draw you into their world.

Example: In SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, we see unique details through Simon’s eyes, such as the sheet cakes his friend brings in whenever someone has a birthday (and the fact that no one can get a piece unless they’re wearing a party hat). We also see the preparation for homecoming and how their location in the south influences Simon’s class to choose “country music” as their theme.

These might feel like small things, but when you put them together in a book, they develop a world for your characters to explore. And through those characters, the reader can enjoy the world too.

 

India Blog: Patiala

flag

The countryside is like the fields you’d see in a Bollywood movie, rural and simple and very green. The people seemed quieter up here, and even more inclined to stare. And of course, animals. I even saw a peacock on the side of the road!

We first visited the village where my great uncle still lives on a small farm, and where my mom used to spend her summers. I saw the house where she was born, although the people who currently live there renovated it. They were very nice though, and even offered us tea if we wanted any. Indian people like to be hospitable.

village

Villagers came out onto their roofs and looked through their doors to get a peek at us, and a couple of children from next door asked me to come over for a few minutes (I assume for tea) because I looked so different. My great uncle recognized me, even though I haven’t seen him in a long time. My great aunt did too. Both of their first remarks were about how tall I’d grown (followed by my great aunt asking if I had a husband, naturally).

It’s very simple living, and the food is delicious. They made us a huge dinner with ingredients fresh from the farm, and I don’t think I’ve had better Indian food in my life. I have been spoiled forever.

I also visited the Gurudwara at the time they were blaring out the evening prayers, a small thing compared to the other ones we’d seen up until then. Cue more people staring. It was a village for sure; small community and small houses and fields surrounding it. There were cows in the street and buffalo in the courtyard. Definitely another way of living.

village 2

When we visited my great aunt at her village, musicians came into the courtyard to play and hopefully earn some money. It was strangely atmospheric.

Then we actually entered the city of Patiala, where I saw the house my mother grew up in, the Gurudwara she visited, where my grandfather worked at a bank, etc. It was great to finally see these places I’d only heard about but could never picture.

house

Of course, it was raining our last full day there. And this was the day we drove back to Delhi. Since the van didn’t have heat or a defrosting option, we had to drive with the windows cracked so that the windshield didn’t fog up, with cold air and rain assaulting us the entire time. Not fun.

But we did get back to Delhi, and my mother and I headed to London the next day. I’ve already been around the block with London, although I was happy as hell to reunite with Big Ben. This time I got to see a couple of things I wasn’t able to see when I studied abroad, like the Harry Potter Studio Tour (amazing). It was also very nice to have toilet paper again.

So that is the condensed version of my India trip. Hopefully I get to return in a few years, when I’m sure it’ll be built up even more. There’s still overwhelming poverty, with a lot of room for improvement and expansion and progression, but hopefully still staying true to the culture and not giving in to Westernization completely. I can only imagine where it goes from here.

India Blog: Amritsar

flag

The next stop was Amritsar, in the Punjab state. I feel a lot better being in Punjab, since the majority of people here are Sikh, which is what I’m most familiar with (it’s my mother’s/family’s religion and culture). The city itself is nice; not as crowded as Delhi, not as dirty as Agra. There were actually some pretty nice homes here, too.

In the morning we went to the Golden Temple, which is considered the holiest Gurudwara in the world. The actual temple part is a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but the complex as a whole is huge, and has a giant pool of holy water where people go to bathe their feet or their entire bodies.

DSCN1135

 

golden temple

We got our offering of prasad and waited in line in a long corridor leading up to the temple. The temple sits in the middle of the holy water lake, and the water reflections played on the ceiling of the corridor and on the sides of the temple. On the inside, the temple is just as golden as the outside; even the fans were golden. They even have a TV camera for broadcasting the morning prayers, and that was golden too.

After we went inside we walked around and saw how they make chapattis (by hand and by machine) and huge vats of dal to feed the people who come to the temple. All of this is free, by the way. They said they feed up to 45,000 people free per day. The system is so efficient, too. Everyone does their part to serve tea, food, clean the dishes, etc.

free food making

We passed a tree where some women were standing with their scarves outstretched. A parrot up in the branches was throwing down fruit. So my mother stood there as well and waited for the parrot to throw a husk of one of the berries down. I suppose this was another form of offering.

parrot offering

Afterwards we saw a memorial garden where hundreds of Indian people were shot to death by the British. They were having a peaceful protest in 1919, during the British occupation, and the General at that time told his men to open fire with no warnings to the protestors whatsoever. Even children were shot. You could see the bullet holes still in the brick walls, and the huge well where a lot of people jumped inside to escape bullet fire. An Indian man went to London several years later to take revenge, but ended up shooting the wrong guy who had the same last name as the General.

That evening we drove to the Indian/Pakistani border, where they have a gate between the two countries and a ceremonial changing of the guard. This is the only safe entry point between the two countries. The two sides were so different; the Indian side had a bunch of people cheering and dancing and partying and having a good time, and the Pakistani side had…nothing. Over there, the women and men had to sit separately, and there was no dancing or anything. It was hilarious.

Oh, and each side tries to drown out the other’s music by blasting it at full volume. I think we won because of the Punjabi drums/bass. Like I said: hilarious.

changing guard

The actual changing of the guard is a drawn-out ceremony with a bunch of guards kicking and marching and throwing the gate open and taking down the Indian and Pakistani flags for the night. Then, of course, they change guards. I like to imagine that the Indian and Pakistani guard just glare at each other the entire time they’re on duty.

Then we went to Chandigarh, which is much spacier/cleaner than the other places we’ve been so far, and I got some Indian suits. I’ve outgrown all my old ones, so it’ll be nice to have authentic suits again.

Next we drive to Patiala, where my mother grew up.