Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Favorite Time of the Year

This time of year is so beautiful.  I love driving down the road and seeing all of the bright, unusual colors, the sides of the street lined in red, and yellow, and blue.

Wait--did you think I was talking about leaves changing color?  Oh, no.  I live in San Diego.  We don't really do that.

No, I'm talking about all of the people running for office who put their signs everywhere!  I can't think of a more effective way to communicate your position on critical matters than a sign that says merely your name and the office you are running for.  "Oh, Shirley McFoose is running for Treasurer??  She has MY vote!  But only because she has stars on her sign, and her opponent doesn't."

I know some people will say that the signs are pointless, and nobody votes for someone just because of an information-free sign on the side of the road, but those people are WRONG.  In fact, you know how I pick who to vote for?

I count.

Yup.  Every single sign as we drive through our city and county.  I keep a running tab and whoever has the most signs by voting day WINS!  Frankly, it's kind of exhausting and I can't wait until voting season is over and I can go back to just enjoying the scenery instead of making furious tick marks in columns in the name of doing my civic duty.

Ah, politics.  Few things make more sense in our country.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teen! Drama!

Teen! Drama!
An original television series
by Kiersten White
Season 2, Episode 3: Productive Placement

Announcer Guy
Previously on Teen! Drama!, lots of stuff happened that was awesome and awesomely acted by our obscenely beautiful cast of twenty-something teenagers
Montage of intense staring, startling revelations, kissing in rather less clothing than is normally worn, and more intense staring.
Int. Car scene, with CARA and PLAIN FRIEND driving down a dark country road.
I just can't believe that Sirena is back.  Things were going so well between Hot Guy and me.
I don't get why you can get over the fact that he's half kraken and shoots ink sometimes when he gets overexcited, but you can't deal with the fact that in the two-hundred-plus years he's been alive he's had a few relationships.
I don't want to talk about it.  But don't you love this song?  It's the new one from RADIO FRIENDLY PSUEDO INDIE!
Oh, yeah!  Look, my car stereo has a special button where we can find out the band and the song!
Camera zoom on dashboard console of car.
Where are we driving, again?
Nowhere, we just really like spending in my all new 2011 Dodge BRAND 4-wheel-drive compact car.
And it gets great gas mileage, which is a good thing because there's no other reason for us to be driving around right now.
Especially since I seem to have lost my job at Cool Teen Hangout Place, at least for this episode.  Or it's like school, and we only use it when the setting is convenient and we don't need to advertise my freaking hot car.
Ext. closeup on the back of the car, focusing on BRAND, before it drives off into the night along with that particular pointless plot deviation.
Int. sleek, modern apartment of HOT GUY and SMOKING HOT COUSIN. A huge fish tank features prominently across the length of an entire wall. HOT GUY and SMOKING HOT COUSIN are both in swim trunks, lounging in the hot tub in the middle of the family room.
Why did we have to talk in here, again?
I think better when my abs are showing.
Oh, yeah.  Me, too.
So, what are you going to do about Sirena?  She keeps calling sunken ghost ships out of the deep to attack the town since you won't date her.  It's really gotta stop.
I know, but she's so much more powerful than we are.  Do you think we should try to kill her?
Of course not!  Then we would lose all of the delicious drama of both of us being in love with her at the same time even though you try to deny it, and we need that to last for at least the rest of this season.  I just want to know if you're going to pick Sirena or Cara, so I can start making out with someone on a regular basis.
Wait, you mean the girl I don't pick?
SMOKING HOT COUSIN delivers intense stare with patented smirk.  HOT GUY sighs.
At least call Cara on your new Nokiasung Internet Phone, with 4G wireless and built-in GPS.
I'm not ready to talk to her yet.  I don't know how to make this better.
I'll text her.  Thanks to our Nokiasung family, friends, and long-lost-vengeful-lovers plan, it's free!  It's the least I can do to help out my favorite cousin.
SMOKING HOT COUSIN pulls out his own phone, a sleek model that earns a close-up.  He texts:
Another text bubble pops up.
SMOKING HOT COUSIN smirks his smirk of smoking hot smirkitude and puts his phone away.  
She'll meet you tonight, in the alley outside of Cool Teenage Hangout Place.
Thank you!  I owe you one, cuz.
HOT GUY fails to notice that SMOKING HOT COUSIN also takes HOT GUY's phone, which earns its own closeup.
Int. Scene Cool Teen Hangout Place, CARA, PLAIN FRIEND, TOKEN BLONDE, and WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX are sitting around a table.  CARA's usually perfect posture is slumped, effectively communicating how devastated she is to be fighting with HOT GUY.
Can I get y'all something?
I'll have a DIET COKE.
I'll have a COKE ZERO.
I'll have a CHERRY COKE.
I'll have a Dr Pe--I mean, COKE.
Great!  I'll get that DIET COKE, COKE ZERO, CHERRY COKE, and COKE right out to you.
WAITRESS THAT IS PRETTIER THAN ANYONE YOU KNOW IN REAL LIFE BUT STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ANYTHING BUT A THROWAWAY PART STUPID HOLLYWOOD WHAT DOES SHE HAVE TO DO TO CATCH A BREAK ARGH attempts to give an intense stare to demonstrate that she belongs on the show, but the camera cuts too fast and instead she goes out to the extra's trailer to binge eat with MOM actress and then call her agent and demand a better part before she has to show up for her shift as an actual waitress.
I'm just saying, if a guy treated me like that I'd be outta there faster than a Dodge BRAND, which does zero to sixty in eight seconds flat.
I'd be outta there faster than my 4G Nokiasung phone can download streaming video of RADIO FRIENDLY PSUEDO INDIE's new music video.
I love that song!
Me, too.  But guys, HOT GUY swears he isn't seeing Sirena.  And I love him more than life itself.  I even love those kraken-sucker hickies he always gives me.  Oh, a text!
CARA pulls out her sleek silver phone, and the camera zooms in on its tiny, pop-out keyboard before showing the text.
CARA beams, and we know that the two of them will work it out because they are MEANT TO BE.
I've got to go to him!
EXT Dark alley.  HOT GUY comes, carrying flowers.  A woman is standing in the shadows, and he smiles and walks up to her.
I'm so sorry!
SIRENA, stepping dramatically into the light
Not as sorry as you're going to be!
SIRENA whips out her tentacles and pulls HOT GUY into an embrace, just as CARA bursts out of the door.
CARA, tears brimming in her perfectly-lined and -lashed eyes
HOT GUY, spinning around
Cara!  This isn't what it looks like!
Oh, it's exactly what it looks like.
SIRENA gives an intense, seductive smile as CARA runs away before HOT GUY can stop her.
Ext. CARA's home, with a wrap-around porch that we've never seen before but is conveniently there and romantically lit tonight.  CARA runs up the walk, crying, although her eye makeup remains pristine.
SMOKING HOT COUSIN steps out from the shadows.
Hey, I was just--Cara, what's wrong?  You're crying.
I know.  I don't want to talk about it, or talk about how fabulous my Maybelash Boyfriend-Breaking-Your-Heart-Proof Mascara is.
You mean, HOT GUY and SIRENA?  I'm so sorry.  I tried to warn you.
I know, I feel like such an idiot.
SMOKING HOT COUSIN, giving an intense stare, pulls her into a hug and runs his hands through her hair as women across the country swoon and/or cheer because they are totally Team Smoking Hot Cousin.
He's the idiot.  If I had someone like you, I'd do anything to keep you.
CARA nods into his shoulder, still crying, and he pulls her closer, looking out into the night with his trademark intense, smoldering smirk as the producers wonder if they can trademark his blue eyes and make money every time he does "the look" at appearances.


Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Monday

It's Monday.  I woke up with a headache.  It's been raining and overcast for going on two weeks now.  You know what I want?  A big mug of hot chocolate, a window seat with lots of cushions, and a warm, fuzzy blanket.  Oh, and a book.  Or, like, twelve of them.

Sadly, the only things on my docket today revolve around running errands and going to the Post Office.  (Cue sobbing and the ripping out of hair.)  (Also, doesn't docket sound much cooler than to do list?  Docket rhymes with rocket, but to do rhymes with...ahem, moving on.)  But there's no reason YOU can't curl up with a good book.  To that end, taa-daa!  Suggestions.  And, in honor of Halloween, they are all supernatural and/or filled with Things You Could Dress Up As.  Some are almost as scary as Lady Gaga, even.

Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins.  Witches! Vampires! Demons! Snarky, sarcastic narrator! Sophie and Evie would totally sit at the same table at lunch.

The Mermaid's Mirror, by L.K. Madigan.  Umm, MERMAIDS.  Pretty, haunting mermaids, with a fascinating mythology and an examination of what family means and how we are tied to those around us.  Also, kissing.

Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer.  Although I've never been too into werewolves, Andrea creates an entirely new mythology.  The pack dynamics as translated to high school cliques was especially intriguing and well done.  Plus, you know, a strong heroine and two hot guys.  What's not to like?

Zombies Vs Unicorns, by a whole bunch of people.  I really enjoy short stories but find most anthologies to be hit and miss.  The short story form is very hard to get right.  I'm nearly done with this one and every single author got it right.  Meg Cabot's in particular made me laugh out loud, but I always love some creepy Carrie Ryan and quirky Maureen Johnson, too.

(Umm, I'm not saying Carrie Ryan herself is creepy.  She's freaking awesome and one of my favorites.)

Speaking of, I also recommend The Forest of Hands and Teeth and its sequel, The Dead Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan.  Apparently she has nightmares that she's back at her old job doing lawyerly things.  I'm so glad she's writing instead, giving the rest of us zombie horde nightmares.

The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff.  I loved her interpretation of the fey, and this moody, melancholy book.  You could almost feel the gray days and the dripping, seeping, soaking water through the pages.

And finally, White Cat, by Holly Black.  Magic noir, complete with crime families who can change you with a single touch.  What gangster story wouldn't be better with a touch of magic?

So, there you go.  Enjoy.  And if any of you have a creamy yellow room with dark wood bookshelves and a well-cushioned window seat overlooking a rainy, foggy, green-filled landscape, please for the love call me and let me borrow it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The More Things Change

Paranormalcy has been out for just under two months now.  Four phenomenal authors loved it enough to blurb it.  It got great reviews from Kirkus and SLJ and a starred review from Publisher's Weekly.  It's either for sale or will be in eleven other languages/countries. I went on a national book tour and got to meet some of the coolest readers ever.

And yet, when Gayle Forman visited my blog yesterday, I got all embarrassed.  "Oh my gosh!  A New York Times bestselling author came to my blog and saw what I wrote about her book!  I probably looked like a huge dork.  She probably thinks I'm a weirdo."

Then I thought, wait a second.  I'm a New York Times bestselling author.  She probably didn't mind what I wrote.

Which left me wondering when I will feel like I'm there.  When I will feel legit.  Maybe it's a throwback to high school, where I was just barely cool enough for the cool kids to acknowledge my existence* but not cool enough for them to actually care that I existed.

I still don't feel like a cool kid.  Most of the time I feel like a huge dork, like all of the publishing stuff has happened to someone else and I'm the same lonely mom with a computer and a weird brain.  I still worry about my next book, whether or not my publisher will like it and want to buy it.  I worry about how readers will react to Supernaturally, and I flat out panic about writing the third book and finishing my journey with Evie.

I'll tell you right now, all the stuff that comes with publishing and happens or doesn't happen and seems like it would make all the difference in the world?  It's great.  Really!  I get all weird giddy when I think about the amazing things that have happened for me and this book I love.

But in the end, you're still the same person.  You still write by yourself and laugh out loud at your own jokes, and get down in the dumps when you feel like it's not working or when you haven't had enough time or creative energy to do anything new.  You still alternate between feeling like a freaking genius and wondering why on earth you think you have anything worthwhile to say.

In the end, there isn't enough validation in the world to making writing worthwhile if you don't love doing it.  There is no magical point where suddenly you've made it and you're one of the cool kids and you don't have to worry about anything ever again.  Or at least if there is, the cool kids haven't told me about it yet.**  In fact, I suspect that the cool kids don't even exist, or, if they do, they don't realize they are the cool kids.

Me?  I'm okay being a slightly neurotic dork who tells stories to herself and writes them down.  People seem to like my stories a lot, which is enough for me.  And besides which, I may be a dork but I'm a New York Times Bestselling Dork.

Now there's a title for my business cards...

*When there was no one cooler in the room or when they needed help with English homework.
**Probably because they no longer have homework they need help with.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Always Impossible

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

Every time I start a book--or even think about starting a book--it feels impossible.

How on earth am I ever going to take this character, this idea, and make it an entire book?

How on earth am I going to generate enough content?

How on earth am I going to capture all of these ephemeral, fickle threads and weave them together into a narrative that makes sense?

How on earth is this blank Word document ever going to turn into something with weight and substance, something that is real?

How on earth have I done this six times before, because writing books?

It's impossible.

Until I start.

And then we get to the stage I'm in--with a completed manuscript.  A hugely flawed, messy manuscript.  I know what I want it to be, what it should be.  I even know most of what needs to happen to get it there.  But sitting in front of this document of sixty-three-thousand-words, sixty-three-thousand-RUINED-AND-AWFUL-AND-TOTALLY-FLAWED-words, it feels impossible.

How will I ever pull it apart and stitch it back together?

How will I ever get this maddening story to be what I feel it is, what I know it can be?

How will I ever find the time to dig into it, to let it come alive in my brain again, to recreate those parts that need to be recreated and to save those parts that are worth saving, and to know the difference?

How will I ever make this pile of words into a book?

It's impossible.

Until I start.

Everything about writing feels impossible to me, all the time, until I am actually doing it.  I suppose that's part of the magic and miracle of books.  They're completely impossible, except for when they aren't.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Emails and Feline Fans

Oh, hi!  I like you.  I missed you.  My husband does not like blogging, but we all like it when he blogs.  Still, it's nice to be back.

Some people have asked how my life has changed in the six or so weeks since Paranormalcy came out.  There are a lot of little things that have changed.  For instance, people never used to ask me to write stuff in the front of their books, no matter how often I offered.  Now, however, I always have a sharpie in my purse which makes me feel slightly dorky, until someone at random says, "Can you sign my book??" and I say, "Yes, yes I can and I even have a pen!"  And then I feel deliciously dorkily awesome.

Another thing that has changed is that I get a lot of email.  Like, a lot.  Most of it is pretty awesome, but sometimes I get stuff like this from 13-year-old Ellie that makes my heart explode with happiness: "i have onley read 4 books all the way through. cause im dislexic its harder. but for some strange reason it was so easy to read this and i loved it!"

And sometimes I get stuff like this, from who-knows-how-old-Bob, that makes me scratch my head: "I liked Paranormalcy and will look forward to the next book.  My cat liked it too."

Which, of course, led me to the following email exchange:

Subject: Paranormalcy?

Dear Kiki,
I know we've had our differences over the years.  Sure, the time you got up with me at 4 AM (when I had to go to my job unloading trucks) and you were slyly trying to drink out of the toilet and then you fell in?  I may have laughed more than was polite.  A lot more than was polite.  For days and days.  But still, you get your revenge every time my eyes water and my nose itches.  And I'm nice enough to you, right?  I warn you to run and hide when my kids are feeling particularly affectionate during our visits, and I set out nice boxes for you to play in.

But I'll admit I'm hurt.  At first I chalked up your failure to read my book to the fact that you are a cat.  "She's just a feline!  They don't read YA urban fantasy novels!"  Then I got an email from a fan who told me that HIS cat liked the book.  Which meant that other cats have no problem reading it.  Which means that, for whatever reason, you have simply chosen not to read it.

Which hurts.

A lot.

I happen to know there are more than twelve copies scattered around my parents' house.  The least you could have done is read a review and pretended like you read it.  Chloe, my pug, may she rest in peace, may have been wall-eyed and snored twenty-four-hours-a-day, but she would have read my book.


Subject: Re: Paranormalcy?

Dear Kiersten,
I didn't want to have to have this conversation.  First of all, typing without opposable thumbs, or even fingers, or even claws for that matter is no easy task, and this energy could be much better put to use finding new hiding spots for the next time your kids visit.  However, since you brought it up, I feel I must answer your criticism.

I did, in fact, read your book.  (And I disagree that Chloe would have.  But don't think I didn't notice her cameo as a gremlin and my utter lack of fictional representation.)  Although, as you say, we have had our differences, I, like the rest of the family, was proud of you for getting published and wanted to be a part of everything.  But I will admit I was disappointed--nay, horrified--with your writing and story, and so feigned feline ignorance so as to spare your feelings.  I believe the following picture conveys everything I want to say.

And the fact that never once did Evie swat at Lish and try to pull her out of the tank to see what she tasted like simply drove me crazy.  Utterly unrealistic character motivations.

Cattily yours,

Ah well.  Guess you can't please everyone.  Especially not when it comes to cats.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Farwell, Hot Stuff

Goodbye me! Until next time.  Kiersten will be back on Monday.

I'll work on getting the zombie shirts into the mainstream. You never know, those old T&C Surf T-shirts were pretty wacky. . .

I'm going to get back to my real life now.  Activities like bugging Kiersten to tell me her plotlines, and suggesting she kills more main characters.  Those are the scenes that are really memorable.  Who could forget when Gatsby ran over Marilla Cuthbert?

In closing, I'll dispense some writing advice.
1.  Never edit or revise.  It shows a lack of confidence in your writing.
2.  Don't use spellcheck; it takes away from the naturalness of the language.
3.  Try to completely change plotlines and/or characters halfway through the book to throw the reader off.
4.  Try to use stock characters like in movies--the tough-talking New Yorker, the Southern Gentlemen.  Using the same characters is a great method.
5.  If you run out of things to say, just use dialog from Charles Dickens, because it's in the public domain.  If you're not famous, no one's going to sue you, but if you are famous, you'll get sued no matter what.

And that's it for Hot Stuff.  In fact, blogging was such a strain this post was actually dictated by Hot Stuff to Kiersten after blogger ate the whole thing.  Turns out blogging isn't for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, Hot Stuff?  Is hot.  So he can pretty much do whatever he wants.

He didn't dictate that last part.

But he should have.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hot Stuff Zombie/Halloween Tribute

Another post from Hot Stuff

Zombie on the flowery shore, near sunset.

Zombie at the market, shopping for her favorite cereal.

Corporate Zombie.

Zombie's last move . . .

Zombie Halloween.

Michelle, as for the name "Hot Stuff," I'm not sure where it came from. I don't think it started until Kiersten founded this blog. I have mixed feelings about the word "stuff" myself, but it is a great filler word.

Tomorrow will be my last post for a while, so if anyone has any requests, let me know now . . .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some Answers and Some Card Reading

From Hot Stuff.

Here are the answers to some of the questions left in the comments yesterday:

1) Eleven Eleven: No, there is not a large Arabic speaking population in Romania. However, all of the Shoarma stands were run by Lebanese families so there was some Arabic presence. I studied Arabic in school for several years but unfortunately was unable to study abroad due to 9/11. I keep the languages up by reading, speaking, and writing whenever possible. Speaking is the hardest because neither Romanian nor Arabic have a large population of speakers in San Diego. The Internet is great for keeping languages up though.

2) Whirlochre/Marsha: The restaurant was called the "Bella Muzica." We actually stayed in the hotel attached to the restaurant. The food was great, but it did feel strange having tortilla soup in a 700 year-old cellar in Transylvania.

3) Suze: The fortified churches popped up during the Mongol invasions. Like Kiersten said, villagers would gather together and hide in them until the invading army left. All of the fortified churches in the photos I put up were built by Transylvanian Saxons (a German people).

Okay. Feel free to ask any other questions in the comments. I know you are all dying to know what an author's husband feels on any given subject!

And, to round out the post, I will end with an attempt at Cartomancy (as gleaned from the Harry Potter books) using Austrian playing cards:

Hmmm . . . well, it looks like you will all happily talking with your boyfriend/girlfriend when a bunch of soldiers will appear to arrest you. Don't worry though, they will be so impressed by your tambourine skills and your huge dress/tight checkered pants that they'll let you go.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Romania: A Photo Essay by Hot Stuff

Since my taking over of Kiersten's blog yesterday was pretty weak, today I am putting up something more substantial. Here are a few pictures from our trip to Romania last summer that I don't think have been posted yet. I love this country (I am biased of course, having lived there for two-ish years) and hope that more people get a chance to visit the area. We spent most of our time in Transylvania, an area that covers about one-third of Romania. Strangely, Transylvania is also home to a fantastic Mexican restaurant. Anyway, back to the pictures.

Bucuresti, the capital of Romania, in Piata Unirii (the city center):

Peles Castle, former residence of the Kings and Queens of Romania:

Alley along the old city walls behind our hotel in Brasov:

Inside the courtyard of Bran Castle (the fake "Dracula" castle):


A fortified church in Biertan:

A fortified church near a graveyard in Viscri:

Hunedoara Castle, lovingly wrapped in rotting plastic:

An amazing Wallachian Orthodox Christian church:

And finally, the amazing Transylvanian countryside, near Deva:

Romania is one of those places you could spend years in and still not have enough time to see anything. More importantly, you can also buy good Orange Fanta and crepes with chocolate and bananas! Those two things alone are well worth the airfare from the US. And the Shoarma is AMAZING!!!