The One Where I Get A Book Deal

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

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

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.”

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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.

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ANTICIPATING…

Good news!

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WISHING…

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

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MAKING ME HAPPY…

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

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Ten Things About My 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

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.

 

Book Soundtracks – Writing with Music

A lot of writers I know have particular songs they associate with their projects. Famous authors such as Rainbow Rowell keep playlists for books they write and then share them with their fans. I think this is a really cool idea: sharing your book music with others. It helps both the writer and the reader envision the story better.

So, what sort of music should you be looking for? That’s entirely up to you. For me, when I hear a certain song and the lyrics and/or tone fit perfectly with a character, or theme, or even just one particular scene, my brain floods with images of my story. It even pumps me up for writing and editing later on.

If anyone is interested, I compiled my Timekeeper soundtrack here: https://play.spotify.com/user/tssim53/playlist/2kQ7JKXm7OIg0U03QqkHD9

What sort of music best fits your book?

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I’ve been nominated to do a Very Inspiring Blogger Award post by the awesome Emily Skrutskie, former literary team member and the Captain America to my Iron Man, whose debut novel THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US will be out in 2016! For the post, I’m supposed to list seven things about myself and then nominate others to take part. So let’s go!

1. I’m mixed-race, but don’t look it. My mother is Indian and immigrated to America when she was young, and met my American father in San Francisco. I’m the confusing result. TA-DA.

2. Actually, related to #1, I don’t look like either of my parents–I look the most like my late aunt on my father’s side. At a family reunion a few years ago, everyone told me how much I look exactly like her. Which is awesome, because I bonded with her a lot when I was little.

3. Before writing, singing was my first love. I dreamed of being a professional singer or going on Broadway all the time, but I am very bad at auditioning due to stage fright, which meant I never got good roles in high school. Strangely, I never got stage fright when I was actually performing. Just during auditions. But in college I had a lot of solos, got a scholarship for being accepted into a special choir, and even sang opera.

4. Between 2012 and 2013, I wrote 1,000,000 words. I’m not sure how that happened.

5. I got a tattoo on my back senior year of college with my writing symbol. It was the same day the seniors were going to the movies. I sat through Jane Eyre perched on the edge of my seat so that I didn’t disturb the new tattoo. Very uncomfortable. I also plan to get more tattoos of different book projects if I get them published (and not before going to the movies).

6. I have a sweet tooth with cravings that border on worrisome. Seriously, all I want right now is a big chocolate cake.

7. I always loved fantasy growing up, but it was reading The Lord of the Rings when I was twelve that changed my life forever. The books moved me in a way that was scary and euphoric and sad all at once. After I finished the trilogy I was in a depressed funk for about a month afterwards, and I refused to read anything for a long time. But then I started writing more. And more. And more. (See #4)

Now to nominate some awesome people! And they are:

Olivia Berrier – Bestie, critique partner, Hollins alum.

K Kazul Wolf – Online pal, fantasy writer, Pitch Wars alum.

Tabitha Martin – Twitter friend, Sims aficionado, literary agency alum.