Happy Monday, friends! This past week was filled with lots of bookish things. Preorders for The Mutant Mushroom Takeover went live, I signed my contract with Simon & Schuster (publishing contracts can take longer than people might expect) and I got my first pass pages, which are the book’s copyedited pages laid out for the first time in the format they’ll be printed. I also ordered some super-cute mushroom-themed goodies for upcoming giveaways. 🍄😁 All in all, a good week!
Sometimes people ask where the idea for The Mutant Mushroom Takeover came from. A couple things got me started. One was an idea my son had for a pirate named Root Beard whose beard was made of living tree roots. I started imagining what a character who was part human, part something else might be like, which eventually inspired the creation of an important character in the book.
The other was an old documentary the kids and I watched (homeschool fun!) called Fungi The Rotten World About Us. It had all sorts of creepy, fascinating facts about fungi and was a starting point for more research and imagining.
Check it out if you want to know more about the spooky stuff mushrooms get up to when you’re not looking! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCz36LfN3uI
I recently did an interview for the podcast Shaped by Stories, which explores the relationship between us and the books we loved as children. Diane and I talk about the 1986 Newbery Honor book, Hatchet, and the ways that survival stories can inspire us in tough times. We also talk about my book, The Mutant Mushroom Takeover!
My debut now has a release date, Sept. 22, 2020, and is available for pre-order!!
Stranger Things meets The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl in this lightly spooky debut about Maggie, an aspiring young naturalist, and her YouTuber best friend, Nate, who use their smarts and science to solve the mystery behind a mutant fungus that’s threatening the town.
A lot has happened in the past year! Last fall, I entered and was selected as a mentee for Pitch Wars.* My humorous, sci-fi Middle Grade novel then received feedback from a pair of amazing mentors (shout out to Team KrakenBee!) which helped me strengthen and refine my manuscript.
At the beginning of 2019, I attended the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators annual conference in New York where I had a blast meeting one of my PW mentors in person. That same week, the PW agent showcase went live. I received several agent requests, plus sent out a batch of queries to other agents. Two weeks later, I had agent offers! I was ecstatic and could hardly believe it was all happening!
After phone calls with the interested agents, talking with writer friends and family, and researching on Publisher’s Marketplace/Twitter/Blogs/etc. I signed with literary agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin at the beginning of March. After some more revisions, we went on submission at the end of May. Three weeks later, I found out we had interest from publishing houses! It was such an exciting and surreal time.
At the beginning of July 2019, I officially accepted an offer from Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers. Since then, I’ve revised my manuscript more and started drafting a sequel. I’ve even gotten to see sneak peaks of my book’s future cover (and I love it!) Stay tuned for pics!
It’s hard to believe that in less than a year my book will be in libraries and book stores and that people I’ve never met will meet my characters and read my words. It’s so exciting and such a blessing to have this opportunity.
* Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase.
It’s been awhile since I updated the blog on my book progress. So here’s a little catching up.
I began my current manuscript in August of 2016, after about nine months of starting projects that ultimately didn’t turn into novels. Over the months, the story has grown a lot through revisions, critiques, and sometimes going back to the drawing board.
A quick synopsis – Tapestry is a contemporary retelling of the Fates from Greek mythology. It’s set at a New England boarding school and follows three girls who have been brought to the school under false pretenses. Each of them can weave a different aspect of fate – vitality, fortune, and passions. The main character, Willow, can heal, and through a stranger she saves, discovers dangerous people know about her ability and plan to seize control of it. When one of the other Fates disappears, Willow works to bring down the shadowy organization that’s taken her. If she fails, all three girls will vanish, forced to weave fate for the people hunting them.
And some visual inspiration for Tapestry:
Tapestry is currently with a handful of beta readers. I’ve heard back from a few already and gotten a good response and some helpful suggestions as well. After the rest of the revisions are made, I plan to start querying agents. Squeeee!
For me, finding a quiet spot to write is hard to come by. With three kids, my house is usually somewhere between raucous and ear-splitting. I’ve tried writing after the kids go to bed, but by that point, I’m exhausted and my creativity is zapped.
What’s worked better for me is getting up before the rest of the house.* But if I breathe too loud, I’ll have a houseful of short people wanting chocolate milk and waffles. That means no sudden movements and no grinding coffee beans.
So, if I forget to grind my beans the night before, this is what I’m stuck with. Instant coffee.
Nescafe may only marginally meet the definition of coffee, but it does contain caffeine, an important food group for a writer’s brain.
Other tricks I use to try to keep moving forward on my manuscript are using apps like voice to text and Google Docs. This allows me to add in ideas on the go.
On the low-tech side, I try to keep a pen and paper handy. The other day I was on the rolling table at the chiropractor when I had an idea for some dialogue for a couple of my characters. I whipped out my index cards and jotted down the words before they evaporated. Caveat: this behavior may be frowned upon by your chiropractor.
One final thing that has helped me lately, is having all my major plot points written on a set of note cards. This gives me a fast visual on key scenes without having to dive into my 30+ page planning document every time.
Before laying things out on the cards, I was getting too caught up in the minutia and wasting time editing details that might not make the final cut. Thank you awesome, strategic husband for the idea.
What’s your writing happy place? What tools help you write?
*I wrote this post a year and a half ago but never posted it. I found it today in my drafts folder and decided to release it from purgatory. Waking up early didn’t last (but writing did). I guess I’m just too set in my night owl ways. That and instant coffee is evil.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! The House of the Scorpion is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is such a rich story that tackles all sorts of social issues.
Matt is a clone of El Patron, one of the most powerful drug cartel leaders in Opium, the land that lies between America and Mexico. Matt struggles with his identity, finding acceptance, and knowing who he can trust.
Opium is populated with corrupt politicians, drug lords, border guards, and eejits – zombified crop laborers with chips implanted in their heads.
Woven throughout is the history of how Opium came to be. El Patron tells Matt of his impoverished boyhood and his eventual rise to power. El Patron is a fascinating character, for one thing he is 146 years old but still ruling his drug empire through intimidation. Even his own children fear him, but he loves and is loved by Matt – a living representation of his own youth. However, their relationship is complex and ultimately the choices Matt makes about El Patron determine both their futures.
Matt develops a tender relationship with Tam Lim, one of El Patron’s bodyguards. Through their friendship, Matt is challenged to defy others’ expectations and create his own identity.
Nancy Farmer has done a stellar job creating a morally-complex dystopian world. I look forward to reading the sequel.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In a world of red blooded commoners and silver blooded elites, Mare Barrow is an anomaly. When an accident at the Royal Court reveals that Mare has an ability of her own, she is thrown into the dangerous world of the Silvers. To survive, she must forge alliances with her most hated enemies and hide her true identity.
Mare’s hometown, an oppressed village called The Stilts, as well as the fight scene in the colosseum at the beginning reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games. The wide-array of powers that the Silvers possess was a Miss Peregrine’s/Grisha trilogy mash-up. But the strongest resemblance was to Kiera Cass’s Selection series, oddly enough. The overall feel of the palace, the fancy dresses and make-up, the guards, and Mare’s relationship with the king and the princes – all reminded me a lot of The Selection. Despite that, all together the story still felt pretty original.
My favorite part was Mare’s relationship between the two brothers. The sibling rivalry and developing love triangle kept me turning pages. Though I would have liked a little more time with the oldest brother, Cal. But, I imagine in future books we get to know him more.
I had a pretty good idea of the ending early on, but it was still enjoyable reading.
Remember when I started a blog about writing a book? Yeah, I kind of forgot too. About the blog not the book. The book writing has continued on – sometimes making me a little crazy with all the restarts and writers block and ‘what the heck am I doing?’ moments. But still I wrote on.
When I got the wild and crazy idea to write a novel, I did the math. If I wrote XYZ amount of words a day, I’d be done on XX date. It seemed so logical. How could it go wrong? For starters, I didn’t anticipate starting no less than 5 novels – outlining, naming characters and places, getting approximately 10,000 to 15,000 words in and deciding I didn’t have a story. But still I wrote on.
But somewhere in the last six weeks, things finally seemed to start clicking on one particular story.
I’m about 30,000 words into my current work in progress. It is still YA fantasy, but much different than the novel I originally envisioned. I won’t say more about it just yet as I still have a ways to go before I finish the rough draft, but I am happy with where I’m headed so far.
What’s different this time? Maybe it was the writers conference I attended in Ft. Worth. Or the critique group I joined in April. Or the writer friends I’ve connected with over last couple months. Or maybe it’s that if you just keep going with something, by your 6th try, things are a little less cloudy.
My current goal is to have a rough draft completed by the end of the summer. I’m signed up for a revising workshop in August through SCBWI (The Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) and would love to have a full manuscript completed to work on there.
The best laid plans of mice and men…
As for the blog, I’ve been reading some great YA books and books on writing lately and I plan to post some reviews here in the near future.