Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Expert Writing Tip: Perfecting the Cliffhanger

In general I try to avoid giving specific writing tips. What works for me might not work for you, nor should it. It's the same reason I don't worry about people stealing my ideas. I could have told another author that I was writing a book about a girl working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and I guarantee you our books would have looked nothing alike.

Come to think of it, someday I want to try that--start from the exact same prompt with another author and write a book and see what we come up with. I'm thinking something involving androids, class warfare, and Pop Rocks.

Because why not.

Today, though, I am going to be bold. I am going to say I know a groundbreaking trick to writing that, when used correctly, will make your book unputdownable. If you've read the Paranormalcy series you've probably noticed I have a fondness (and, dare I say, flair) for cliffhanger chapter endings. Those horrible/awesome last few sentences that end you swinging up into the next chapter rather than quietly setting you down from the current one. I like doing it. I think that, for this series at least, they are very effective and fun.



I have been doing it wrong. Entirely. From start to finish, WRONG. Because all this time I've been wasting my good you absolutely must turn the page now material on the end of chapters, when really it belongs at the beginning. Observe the genius that is my daughter:

Chapter 3
The cool plants. On Saturday night, Jo Jo and Lena went to a movey...called the cool plants. Find out what will happen. What will happen? Something will be cool in this chapter!

HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THIS? All that time I wasted on clever chapter titles, when really I should have just been saying: Look, guys? This chapter? SOMETHING COOL WILL HAPPEN! How could you possibly put down a chapter with a promise like that? But of course it doesn't stop there. Because if you've already had cool, you have to shake things up a bit.

Capter 5. 
Something crazy just happened. Read this chapter. Something even crazier will happen!

Not only did she employ a cliffhanger chapter ending, she employed a cliffhanger chapter title, too! Look at that forward momentum! You thought the last chapter was crazy?? YOU HAVEN'T SEEN CHAPTER FIVE YET. This book is like crack! Or some other illegal addictive substance I've never tried but still make stupid metaphors about that are even more inappropriate considering the material in question was written by my seven-year-old. Regardless, again, she demonstrates a mind-blowing mastery of pacing and foreshadowing, all on the chapter title page.

I think we've learned something here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go edit Endlessly's chapter titles. Starting with Chapter One: Crazy things happened in the first two books. Now some EVEN CRAZIER things are about to happen in THIS book! Read it!! and continuing on to chapters like Chapter Five: That last chapter was funny. But Reth comes in this one, and he's scary funny! What will happen? Something will be awesome in this chapter!

With the level of success I anticipate from my new writing technique, pretty much they should just dedicate an entire section of the NYT bestseller list to me right now. What will happen if you write like this? IT WILL BE THE BEST. And you'll be almost as adorable as my daughter.


Monday, October 24, 2011


I didn't mean to take all last week off. I had very good intentions about blogging and telling you about the rest of my tour stops, funny stories from tour, etc*. But somehow those blog posts never happened. I...cleaned my house. And my room. It was all very weird and out-of-character. Usually I use blogging as a way to avoid being responsible, not the other way around. Here is the confessional part:

I hate talking about myself.

I KNOW. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED? I mean, obviously in a way I love talking about myself, because we have years of blogging and tweeting as evidence. But I get bored out of my mind when the blog turns into, "And then I did THIS! And please go read THIS! And look at THIS! And support me by voting for THIS!" I feel like I am following you around, tugging on the hem of your shirt, begging for your attention.

And I hate it.

This blog was never about self-promotion. It was and always has been about one thing and one thing only: Entertaining myself.

Yup. I'm just self-absorbed like that. I don't want to talk about myself and the things I did and already wrote, because I'm not entertained by it. And if I'm not entertained by it, how can I possibly expect my readers to be?

There is no point to this post. Just something I've been thinking about. I hope hope hope to return this blog to its regularly scheduled silliness as soon as possible. Book promotion is by far the hardest thing for me as an author, and the hardest balance to find. Because I want you to know about the things that are going on, and the interviews I've done, and the guest posts I've written, and I hope that if you like my writing you'll care, but at the same time...

GAH I JUST GET SO BORED GUYS. I better go write a new book. Or clean my closet.

Book it is.

*For example, The Tattered Cover in Highland's Ranch? OH MY GOSH I WANT TO LIVE IN THAT STORE. It's gorgeous, guys! And the signing was so fun. I got to meet Jocelyn Davies, who is adorable [and I envy her hair something fierce], and Brenna Yovanoff and Sarah Ockler came, and I got to meet Stephanie Perkins' awesome agent Kate Testerman. And it was a phenomenal audience, with several long time blog/twitter friends in attendance, which is always super fun. Then the next morning my dinner and my stomach had a violent confrontation [of which I was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire], which was not awesome, but I still made it to the Boulder signing, and I was so glad because it, too, was awesome. Then another quick flight to Chicago, and the last signing of the tour: ANDERSON'S. ANDERSON'S gets ALL CAPS because I LOVE THAT STORE SO MUCH, GUYS. This might have been the most awesome of all of the incredibly awesome stops. Several people drove hours to be there, and that bookstore just freaking rocks my socks off, and I got fan art and baked goods and best of all the opportunity to meet so many of you that I wouldn't get to otherwise.

SO. IT WAS AWESOME. This is where I would put pictures if I had them but I never do. But I have something even better! Bloggers who filmed and chronicled the stops! And one of them might have me reading from a certain book that hasn't come out yet...

Also, favorite moment of tour: Driving in the car with Claudia Gray in a suburb of Chicago, I said, "I know they are scary and mean, but I love geese." Claudia: "What??" Me: "They're so pretty!" Claudia: "You think geeks are scary and mean?" Me: "GEESE. GEESE." Though geeks are also scary and mean but pretty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Overwhelmed with Awesome

I'm home. Tour was fast, furious, and ridiculously fun. More on it tomorrow.

Today I wanted to let you know about two incredible things that happened in the last few days.

The first: on Saturday, I won the Utah Book Award for Paranormalcy! (Found out via tweet from fellow-finalist-and-all-around-super-cool-lady Jessica Day George.) I'm incredibly honored and grateful. I'm not sure whether or not they read my acceptance paragraph (one of these days I'll win an award that I can actually attend the awards ceremony for!), but here it is:

I miss the mountains. Blasphemous for someone living in San Diego, but there it is. I miss knowing the contours of my horizon and filling it with my dreams. I miss being cradled against a history I can claim. I miss driving for a few minutes to wander canyon paths beneath aspen trees and be alone. There is not a lot of alone to be had in Southern California. Utah nourished me both as a person and a storyteller; I carry it as home with me everywhere. I wouldn’t be here without the mountains and the soul and the people of Utah. Thank you so much.

(DON'T TELL SAN DIEGO I WAS DISSING IT. SAN DIEGO IS ALSO AWESOME. I don't want to get banned from carne asada french fries or something.)

And then, as if the Utah Book Award wasn't enough awesome to be attached to all of the other awesome already attached to Paranormalcy, THIS happened:

OH MY GOSH! Thank you SO MUCH to all of my amazing teen readers who voted for Paranormalcy and made it a YALSA Teen Top Ten book! I'm still floored. I love, love, love this award, because unlike most awards, the books are selected and then voted on by teens--the audience I actually wrote the book for. I can't quite believe I'm on this list with so many authors whose work I love.

I'm happy and floaty and incredibly humbled and grateful today, from both of these amazing awards and from everyone who made it to the Dark Days tour stops. I have the best. freaking. job. EVER.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Signed Books and Broken Hearts

First and foremost, thanks to everyone who came to the Seattle and Huntington Beach events! They were wonderful. It was so much fun to see people I've known online, or met before, or didn't know before but certainly should have because they were so awesome of course they needed to exist in my world! The scariest moment for an author is walking out to see whether or not anyone showed for a signing. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.

And! Tonight we will be in Highland Ranch, Colorado, at the fabulous indie The Tattered Cover. If you can't come, did you know you can order signed books through them? If you get the order in today before we show up, you can specify to have it personalized! If you don't get the order in on time, you can still get a signed copy, which is also awesome.

(Also, any bookstore that, when pulling author photos for an event, chooses to use not my official pretty one but rather the one of me drinking a Slurpee? WINS FOREVER.)

I thought I'd show you a few photo highlights of the tour so far:

They talked long into the night, about life and love and the relative shininess of scales. But alas, theirs was a star-crossed fate.

 When he found out that the goldfish could not come in the carry-on bag, I couldn't even get him to leave the bed he was so depressed. Ah, thwarted dreams.

Also things happened on the tour that had nothing to do with my horned lizard puppet or the goldfish. Like, cool authors!

Anna Carey (EVE), some creeper, Amy Garvey (COLD KISS), and Claudia Gray (FATEFUL). Looking forward to meeting Jocelyn Davies (A BEAUTIFUL DARK) tomorrow! 

I love the next picture because a) YES I AM SIGNING SOMEONE'S ARM, AND NO I AM NOT A  ROCKSTAR BUT WE CAN PRETEND (also how cute is she?? SO CUTE) and b) poor Anthony in the background who didn't even know he'd make the photo. Anthony was one of the very first people to start reading this blog, way way way back when I had no idea what I was doing. Which is very similar to how things are now, only there are a few more readers to notice I have no idea what I'm doing.

 Also aren't her glasses cute?

Then, hanging out in the Seattle airport (which is a totally hip and happening place, in case you were wondering), I picked up a copy of Entertainment Weekly, which has an ad for the tour and our books! So fun to get to see that while I was with the other authors. PLUS PLUS PLUS the issue also includes a Princess Bride movie reunion photo (as you wish!), AND info on new Arrested Development episodes, AND a review of Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE which is one of my favorite books of the year. How much awesome? SO MUCH.

Did my wallet need to be shoved under my arm? Yes, it did. Claudia kept trying to steal it. Just look at those big innocent blue eyes. DON'T LET THEM FOOL YOU.

And then, in the realm of Awesome Things I Have No Pictures Of, tonight's signing was capped by the lovely Ava-of-the-Amazing-Hair bringing me a Hogwarts acceptance letter, complete with wax seal, King's Cross ticket, and a supplies list.

I am not even kidding.

The only thing I'm worried about is how my fellow tour authors will react now that I am no longer a muggle and they still are. I'll probably have to use a confundus charm so they don't remember; otherwise they'll feel too bad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I am in Seattle! Please come see me tonight at the Lynwood Barnes and Noble at 7 PM.

Nobody told me the flight today was the Retired Couples Returning from Cruises flight. There were twenty-three (TWENTY-THREE) wheelchairs on the jetway when we landed. It was the most peaceful flight ever.

At one point there were clouds and blue sky above us and a solid layer of clouds beneath us as we cut through the sky and I marveled what a genuine miracle flight is.

Then I had to turn off my iPod and it was less miraculous and more let's-just-land-this-dang-thing-already.

BUT. BUT. I am pretty sure I am staying in the cutest hotel room in the history of hotel rooms. Evidence?

THERE IS A GOLDFISH IN MY ROOM, GUYS. A REAL ONE. Also I suck at fishy faces, apparently. But my fish doesn't. HE MAKES THE BEST FISHY FACES EVER.

Ahem. While I am away, Hot Stuff is home with the kids. I think he's getting bored, because he's been telling me lots of ideas for YA books that he is going to write.

"How about Death stops being Death and decides to go to high school? So one girl is like, 'My boyfriend's a vampire!' and then the other girl says, 'Oh, that's nice. My boyfriend's DEATH.' The ultimate bad boy! Everyone would love it, right?"

Yes. Yes they would. Gosh I miss him. Good thing I have the fish for company.

More later. Come see me if you can. I promise not to make fishy faces if you do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

And the Winner Is + Links

The Winner of Lola and the Daughter of Smoke and Books Next Door contest is...

Katy! Who bought both, and so also gets a signed copy of Anna and the French Kiss in addition to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Paranormalcy, and Supernaturally!

That is going to be a heavy package...

Congratulations, Katy! And congratulations to EVERYONE who entered, because by buying one or both books you are already a freaking awesome winner. Thank you so much for supporting books and authors. I love being able to share my favorite books with you, and it makes me so happy when awesome people love the same awesome books I do!

I wanted to also make sure everyone remembers about the Livestream chat event on Thursday. I'll be chatting from 4-4:15 Eastern; you can come ask questions and see me answer them live! I'll be followed by Amy Garvey, Jocelyn Davies, Anna Carey, and Claudia Gray! Bonus, I talk SO FREAKING FAST I'll be able to pack in twice as many answers as a normal person. And if it turns out well and enough people are interested, maybe I'll look in to doing monthly Livestream chats or something.

Also, a few more IPCA files have been leaked. Have you learned about gnomes, faeries, and dryads yet?

And now I'm off to pack, and look forward to my all-night flight to Orlando. SO. MUCH. FUN?