Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three Years Later PSA

This is a post that I do every year, because it is something that is, for obvious reasons, very important to me to educate and inform people about. Since posting about my experience with an ectopic pregnancy and talking about it, I have had two women who told me that knowing the symptoms was what got them to the hospital in time. Please read it. Please tell other women about it.

First and foremost, I'm glad I'm not dead.

Seriously. I'm really, really glad I'm not dead. That would have sucked. And, thanks to the fact that I recognized warning symptoms and had some emergency surgery three years ago today, I get to be alive to appreciate being alive. I'm a big fan.

So in honor of my not-dying anniversary, I'm doing a PSA about ectopic pregnancy. Even if you never plan on having children, these are important symptoms to know because you could very well save the life of someone you love. Or your own. (Unless you are a guy, in which case your risk of ectopic pregnancy = non-existent. Still, you like women, right?)

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This is a bad thing. Usually the egg implants in the fallopian tube; occasionally it implants other places. 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic. That's 1 in 50. Certain factors increase your risks--tubal scarring, abdominal surgery, endometriosis, fertility treatments, IUDs--but it can happen to anyone. I had no real risk factors.

An even scarier statistic than the one-in-fifty? Ectopic pregnancies are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death. Part of the problem is that many women with ectopic pregnancies don't even know they're pregnant. Because your body doesn't produce as many hormones, you might continue having periods like normal, ignore the sudden pain, go to bed because you're feeling tired and dizzy, and never wake up.

I know that sounds terrible and scary. It is. It happens. So even if you don't think you're pregnant, or if you think you are just having a standard miscarriage (which was what I thought), always, ALWAYS call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomen. When you press down on it, it will be a stabbing pain that you will feel reflected in the other side, but one side will be more tender. Once your tube actually bursts the pain will lessen considerably--DO NOT IGNORE THAT. All it means is that you are now bleeding internally.
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded when you aren't lying down. This would be because of the internal bleeding. Also, difficulty and discomfort breathing.
  • And finally, the key symptom: when you lie down, you have a sharp, stabbing pain in your shoulder. This is called referred pain, and is caused by the blood filling up your abdomen and pushing on your lungs. (This is also a symptom of a burst appendix and often happens after abdominal surgery, in case you were interested.) If you EVER have abdominal pain that is reflected in your shoulder when you lie down, go to the hospital immediately. And have someone else drive you.
Like I said, you may not think you are pregnant, but if there is any chance whatsoever you could be and you have these symptoms, have someone drive you to the hospital immediately or call 911. If I had ignored my symptoms and let my husband go to work that day, I probably would have fallen asleep on the couch and never woken up again. I was in surgery within two or three hours of the pain starting, and at that point I had lost so much blood I nearly needed a transfusion.

But, because I am obsessive and had researched every pregnancy-related topic under the sun, I knew something was wrong. And I'm not dead. And that's a good thing.

Here's hoping you never have to recognize the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. But now you can, and that's the important thing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Beauty

I didn't want to be unhappy with my body when I was a teenager. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be positive, and not care about what other people thought of me. I wanted to think I was beautiful.

But.

I was short. Short legs. Short torso. Short everything.

And my thighs always seemed too thick.

And even though I was a size zero, my stomach wasn't perfectly flat. And my arms weren't as slender as I thought they should be.

AND MY THIGHS. MY STUPID THIGHS. The way they spread out when I sat down!

Then there was my face. My nose was just a little bit bigger than my ideal image of what a girl's nose should be. My lips a little bit smaller. My eyes a little bit too close together. My ears too low. (My ears too low?? Yes. My ears too low. I decided my ears were too low.) My neck not long enough.

My hands and my eye color I was happy with. Those could remain as is.

So in my head I developed this elaborate fantasy. I didn't want to want to change the way I looked, but in this fantasy some sort of magic person (misguided! maybe a bit evil!) decided they were in love with me and, without my permission, magically changed my looks to perfect every little flaw. I was horrified! How terrible!

But...I was perfect. So when I got away from the crazed and misguided magical plastic surgeon, darnit, I had to take all that perfection with me.

Fast forward several years. Hot Stuff and I, fairly newly married, are watching a reality TV program called The Swan. The premise was that "ugly" women were taken, given extensive plastic surgery and intense personal training, and were then revealed to their families and loved ones as New and Improved! Which, from the get-go, is kind of a twisted concept.

But I remember one woman, the oldest contestant (in her mid-forties), getting ready to go under the knife. She had a distinctive nose with a rather large bump in the middle that they were going to shave off to give her idealized, "perfected" features.

She said no. The reason she said no? Because her two teenage daughters had her same nose. And when she looked at them, she saw beauty and perfection, and she could see the same in herself using them as her mirrors. So she kept her nose, and she lost the competition aspect of the program.

But she kept herself, both for herself and for her daughters.

My grandmother was a beautiful woman. Elegant--always wearing jewel-toned suits, her hair well-set, her makeup in place as she played the piano better than anyone I knew. I loved her and she held an important part in my life. She died when I was seventeen, and for months afterward I'd dream of her and wake up crying. My mother got some of my grandmother's things, including a picture.


I still can't walk by it without doing a double-take, thinking it's a photo of me.

That's the face--the history--the me I would have wished away. The me my parents loved and raised. The me my future husband would fall in love with. The me that would cradle my own children and feel their tiny hands on my face.

I don't wish it away anymore. I'm happy with the quirks and details of my face, with the way I can see my grandmothers and my parents in me, the way that I can see tiny details of myself in my children (who, as it happens, look exactly like my husband's side of the family, except maybe in the set of their eyes--the same set of their eyes I wanted to change in myself but now find utterly and completely lovely).

Being generically perfect isn't beautiful. Thighs and necks and skin and (heaven forbid) ears have nothing to do with beauty. Beauty is in the stories of our faces, the people who have loved us, the people we have loved and do love and will love. Beauty is what we have survived and what we will create. Beauty is stamped into the way our eyes shift when we smile, the things our hands do, the kindness that comes out of our mouths. Beauty is not how the world sees us, but what we take of ourselves and give to the world.

Today when you look in the mirror, don't wish yourself away. Trace the lines of your face, the you that you are. Because you are beautiful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Linky Dinks

(Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? Where you cut out the plastic whatever, in my childhood's case usually a  unicorn or something, and then you put it in the oven and it gets...smaller? WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THAT?)

Ahem.

The next IPCA dossier has been leaked! Visit Pure Imagination to find out more about those loose-lipped watery menaces, fossegrims. (Have you guessed the artist yet? Judging by my last post, you are probably safe in assuming it was not me.)

In charitable news, Read for Relief is auctioning items to benefit the Red Cross with an emphasis on storm relief. (Come on Irene, oh, you know you've been mean...) I donated an item which is up for bid today through Wednesday. I should mention that I only auction something like this once every year or two...so if you thought, "Hmmm, Mind Games sounds like an awesome book and how cool would it be for my name to show up in it?" Well, you might be in luck.

In non-charitable news, it's Monday. Did you notice? I did. I just image searched "sad pictures" trying to find something appropriate to convey my mood, but the sad sad pictures and the sad sad poetry made me laugh. I guess Monday and I can be friends, after all, since it appears we both revel in others misery?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh, The Internet

The internet does funny things to us sometimes. Well, fine, we do funny things to ourselves by spending too much time on the internet. One of the greatest things about the internet is that it can make the world feel like a much smaller place. But this also happens to be one of the worst things about it. As much as it can lead us to broaden our horizons and connect with others in ways we couldn't otherwise, it can also narrow our focus and feed our tendencies toward obsession in very negative ways.

(Oh, internet. Remember back in the day when you were nothing but AOL chatrooms filled with pre-teens giving each other @--8 and pretending like they sort of kind of looked like roses?)

I've been thinking lately about my online activity and how it impacts me. I went ahead and illustrated my worst tendencies for you, because I'm honest like that.

THE ENVIES

Why did that person get that deal/attention/publicity/article/praise/baby/agent/blurb?
I WANT THAT. I SHOULD HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I HATE THEM. I DON'T KNOW THEM, BUT I HATE THEM. WANT WANT WANT WANT WANT WANT!

Usually followed by:

EMBARRASSMENT
Oh. I guess I'm doing just fine, actually. In fact, I'd bet a lot of people would do pretty much anything to get what I have. Wow. I'm kind of a jerk.

Next, we have:

PRIDE

HA HA HA! LOOK AT THIS! THE INTERNET LOVES MY NEWEST BLOG POST/WITTY TWEET! I AM SO POPULAR! I AM SMART AND FUNNY AND WONDERFUL AND THE WHOLE INTERNET WANTS TO BE MY FRIEND!

Followed quickly by:

PANIC AND STRESS
But how do I top that? Now they have such high expectations! I haven't posted ANYTHING funny this week! They're all going to stop following me! THE INTERNET IS GOING TO ABANDON ME I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING I HAVE TO WIN THEM BACK INTERNET DON'T LEAVE ME PLEASE I NEED YOU!

Then there is the one I'm most ashamed of:

INDIGNANT RAGE
I don't know these people, and this issue has never impacted me personally, and is probably a misunderstanding/miscommunication/thoughtless mistake BUT I AM SO OUTRAGED! WE CAN ALL BE OUTRAGED TOGETHER! THE WHOLE INTERNET SHOULD BE OUTRAGED WITH ME! ATTACK!!!

Always followed by:

Umm, Whoops

Maybe I should have gotten the whole story. But the whole story doesn't even matter, because it never does anyone any good to put more negativity into the world. Besides which, who's to say that the poor idiot who wrote the wrong thing won't be me someday? CRAP CRAP CRAP please let that never be me that my little corner of the internet turns on, I'm sorry, I'll never indignantly rage again! IT IS ALL SPARKLES FROM NOW ON.

So, I guess where I hope to be (and I trip up a lot, but I'm working on it) is past the thing I do where I am constantly

WORRYING ABOUT THINGS

and to the part where I am actively

CARING ABOUT PEOPLE

Because in the end, that's the best thing we can do with the internet. (Besides Bejeweled Blitz, of course.) So, my goal is this:

HAPPINESS AND COMPASSION
Oh, hi there, internet! I remember that you are all people behind your icons and computer screens, and I'll try my best to make your life a little happier if I can. And I'll definitely remember that the world doesn't start and end on this dumb screen, and that you don't actually need me for anything other than the occasional smile. So here. Have a unicorn!

Dark Days and Trolls

A legitimate post coming soon (unlike this post, whose parentage I still have yet to determine), but I wanted to let you know that the next leaked IPCA file is on Stiletto Storytime now, all about trolls. (Have you guessed who the special guest artist is yet?) And I also have a guest post over at Girls in the Stacks (I have a t-shirt of theirs; you can guess what types of jokes my sisters make when I wear it, and you can also guess that I wear it anyway) about Dark Days in literature to celebrate my upcoming group tour.

Speaking of which, Natalie Whipple may or may not have gotten a panicked message today that read something along the lines of "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DRESS MYSELF." My friends are so lucky.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Someone's Going to Get Tased for This

The International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA) has a leak--someone's released top secret information on paranormal creatures. Ever wondered what vampires' weaknesses really are? (Hint: no glitter involved.) Wonder no more! With special artist rendering of what Evie sees under glamours.

Click here for the first stop on the TOP SECRET INFORMATION tour!

Just don't tell them I told you about it. Getting tased would totally ruin my day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NEW! BOOKS! Or, Writing Is Never a Waste

(First, thank you. Thank you so very very much for being excited with me! It means the world to me that you are here, reading, and that you'll keep reading. You rock.)

So. Umm. Yeah.

The books.

It's weird, because in Isadora's case I've spent so long NOT telling anyone what it's about. And in MIND GAME'S case, well, it hasn't been around for very long.

(Yeah, this is the funny part of the deal: I sold the book I've spent the most time working on [eighteen months? Two years? Four different times of throwing out 50 or 100 pages and starting over] and the book I've spent the least amount of time working on. Because yes, for those who have been asking, MIND GAMES is my nine-day novel. But that's totally misleading, and I'll tell you why. As soon as I can get out of this parenthetical statement.)

(I GOT OUT!)

(Wait.)

(Moving on.)

Those of you who have been around for a while might be thinking--a book using Egyptian mythology, and a book using psychics and mind-readers? Those sound just like KEEPING KING TUT (the first novel I ever wrote) and FLASH (the second novel I ever wrote, the first YA I ever wrote, and the book that got me Marvelous Michelle). (Also similar to the third novel I ever wrote, which was a companion to FLASH, which I abandoned when FLASH didn't sell.)

To which I would respond: Well, yes. And no. Because here is where I am going to tell you that no book is ever a waste. MIND GAMES and FLOOD AND STONE are not those early books. But they wouldn't exist without them.

I spent a ton of time researching Egyptian mythology and history for my disastrously boring middle grade novel. So when I needed something new to write and my friend Natalie suggested I do something with Egyptian mythology since I had already put in all of that time, Isadora was born.

It was a very long, painful, gruesome birth. The kind of birth story that makes you not want to have kids, ever. (I mean, makes you not want to write books, ever.) I got to 100 pages and realized something was not working. I set it aside. Usually this is the kiss of death for books, but Isadora's voice wouldn't leave me alone. I started again. It still wasn't working. I set it aside.

Rinse. Repeat.

But in the end, Isadora, the teenage daughter of Ancient Egyptian gods, knew she wanted her story told, and also knew how she wanted it told. When I finally gave up trying to make it what I thought it should be, lo and behold it became exactly what it needed to be. It's about family. It's about that terrible time when, as a young teenager, you realize your parents aren't perfect. (Made even worse when your imperfect mother is the freaking goddess of motherhood.) It's about being too stubborn to accept love when it is given if it isn't given in the exact way you think you need it.

Also museums and slushies and first kisses and carne asada french fries and scarab beetles and blue eyes and interior design and snakes and skeezy relatives.

MIND GAMES was a bit different. Because yes, I wrote the book as it is now in nine days. And it wasn't a rewrite of those other books. It has different characters, an entirely new setting, an entirely different plot. But. But. It is the brainchild of two complete manuscripts and ten years (no, seriously, TEN YEARS) of daydreaming and worldbuilding and imagining and trying to figure out how to tell a story with these elements that I found so fascinating.

So yes. A nine day draft, informed by two complete manuscripts and ten years of dreaming. And, honestly, if it weren't for those two failed books, and for every book that has happened since, I wouldn't have been able to write MIND GAMES. I took the kernels of the ideas that I loved, and happily I am finally to a place in my writing where I was able to capture the type of story that I wanted to tell with those ideas. It's dark. It's a bit disturbing. It's a complicated format (non-linear, two POVs). It's about two sisters, and love, and impossible choices. It's about trying to do the right thing when everything around you is always wrong.

Oh, yeah, and it's about people who can read minds and see the future and hang out with devastatingly handsome (and probably very bad for you) boys.

In the end, these are two entirely new books. But they are two entirely new books that would be impossible without all of the books that came before them. So if you are a writer, and you're sad that you might have to leave an early manuscript behind, please know that it's never a waste. You learned. You grew as a writer. You wrote what you could when you could, and what you write in the future will always, always benefit from what you wrote in the past.

(See, if you were a psychic you'd already know this.)

(You'd probably also be in my book. And that would be a bad thing. So be glad you aren't a psychic, and instead have to learn these things through trial and error. Or reading my blog. Which hopefully is neither a trial nor an error.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Which I Am Exploding With News and Happiness

When I sold Paranormalcy as a trilogy, I didn't sleep for a week. It felt like all the things inside of me were buzzing, like I couldn't contain myself, like I was going to vibrate right out of my skin to reveal new Author Me. It was going to happen. I was going to be an author.

The fear set in later.

Because once you're in this industry, once you are friends with other authors and you see behind the scenes, you realize that selling one book or one series or even being a bestseller does not guarantee you will have a career as an author. Sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes future books don't sell. Sometimes things crash and burn, and sometimes they just fizzle. Sometimes sometimes sometimes.

Sometimes.

Sometimes is a scary thing. Because as much as I love the Paranormalcy trilogy, my love of writing extends beyond that one storyline. I wanted to have those books published, yes, but more than that I wanted a career as an author. I wanted to be able to write and make books forever.

I'm going to cry. (Or, as my sister put it when I called her with the news, "So THAT'S why you're giggling all creepy." It's either crying or creepy giggling. No middle ground.)

My first book deal was all giddy disbelief and joy. This new book deal? Pure happiness, tempered with a healthy dose of relief and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude to my readers--for buying my books, for reading them, for telling others about them, for setting the foundation that the rest of my career will build on. Thank you. Gratitude to those who help me in my writing life--for putting up with my crazy (husband), for helping me (crit partners), for encouraging me (family and friends both real-world and online), for selling my books (Michelle Wolfson, I'm looking at you, you tiny spitfire agent of awesome). And especially gratitude to HarperTeen--for continuing to believe in me and my writing, for giving my books such an incredible home, for giving me Erica Sussman, and for buying my next four books.

MIND GAMES will come out winter of 2013
FLOOD AND STONE will come out fall of 2013
MIND GAMES 2 will come out winter of 2014
An unnamed standalone will come out fall of 2014

And that's the part I still can't quite believe, either. Because in another massive, incredible show of support, HarperTeen is going to publish two books a year from me.

Okay, remember how I was all calm and grateful and thoughtful about this book deal?

JUST KIDDING I AM TOTALLY FREAKING OUT AGAIN.

I WAS GOING TO BE CALM IN THIS PARAGRAPH BUT I CAN'T TURN OFF CAPS LOCK BECAUSE I AM STILL TOTALLY FREAKING OUT. TWO A YEAR!

Ahem. Sometimes I worry that I am bludgeoning people with my constant good news. Please know that I recognize how fortunate I am. Lucky, even. Yes, I work very hard, but a lot of people work very hard and never get the success they deserve. I know professionally I'm fortunate beyond what I very realistically hoped for, and I'm so, so grateful that I have all of you to share this with.

More to come Monday, including details about the books. (For those of you who have been around a while, FLOOD AND STONE is the title of Isadora's book. And MIND GAMES...well, we won't mention which book that is.) But for now, AWKWARD HUGS AND CREEPY GIGGLING FOR EVERYONE.