Friday, April 27, 2012

Kiersten and Hot Stuff in the UK: HARRY POTTER

Last night I was talking with Hot Stuff and showing him the pictures I was featuring today. "People are going to think we had the worst vacation ever," he said. 

WRONG. Because we found WANDS, guys. ACTUAL HISTORICAL MAGIC WANDS. OBSERVE:

A "Conductor's Baton"? Please. We know a wand when we see it.

As we were traveling through the countryside Hot Stuff and I both felt like we came to a deeper understanding of what Tolkien envisioned when he wrote about the Shire. And when we got to Edinburgh, suddenly Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world made so much more sense.

Oh, hey, friendly neighborhood castle! We don't have a lot of those in the US.

I know this sounds dorky, and it totally is, but wandering around Edinburgh among these old, amazing buildings, it really felt like it would be easy to see magic everywhere. (Also yes, we totally ate at the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. No pictures, because it was super crowded and I get embarrassed easily. But Hot Stuff did suggest visiting the bathrooms so I could say I used the same bathrooms JK Rowling used when she was writing Harry Potter.)

(I didn't.)

(No, seriously, I didn't.)

Me, outside of every single building: "This one must be something. What is it? IT CAN'T LOOK LIKE THIS AND JUST BE OFFICES."

We loved everywhere we went in the UK, but Edinburgh was...special. Also FREAKING COLD. But special. The architecture is amazing and everything is gray with random brilliant pops of color. We even took a ghost tour. My inner snob was like, "That's such a tourist thing!" Then my inner snob-puncher said, "YES AND GUESS WHAT YOU ARE TOURISTS." I love these old cities because you can't escape the fact that you are walking around on so much history and so many centuries of living. And the churches! It KILLS me that you can go hang out in a church that was originally built in the 1200s and people still worship there every Sunday. I look up at the soaring rafters and imagine an invisible mist of prayers and hopes, several feet thick, sent up there by generations and generations of people.

But I digress. We took the train and I got all giddy that this was the same ride from London to Edinburgh that the idea first came to JK Rowling. Except we went backwards, from Edinburgh to London. So, surprise! I came up with OPPOSITE HARRY POTTER! About a girl in the wizarding world who discovers there's a unmagical world of really boring people with no magic all around her, and that she gets to go to regular boarding school where no pets are allowed and instead of going on magical adventures they...read about them!

Ahem.

We kept wandering back to the castle to just stare at it.
I want a castle, yo.

More on castles in the next post. Because there is ALWAYS more to say about castles, right? Right. Back to the really important things: Harry Potter. Because as much as the UK pretends like it is fantasy, we know the truth. Not only did we see a witch trying desperately to pass as a muggle on the tube (no pictures, sorry, but she totally wore every piece of muggle clothing she could find, none of which matched), we also found EVEN MORE WANDS.

Do the wizards know these are here, and just laugh? Or does the government try to pull off the "hiding in plain sight" thing as far as the witch and wizard population is concerned?

One of our last days in London as we were walking along the Thames we saw even more evidence of the wizarding world. These wizards were on their way to the Wizengamot, and they forgot to try to pass as muggles:

TAKE ME TO YOUR PORTKEY.

And finally, because I wasn't kidding when I said I had a bathroom shot for every post about England, I give you: PUB BATHROOM WIZARD GRAFFITI!

Oh, Voldy. If only you knew how far your scary reputation had fallen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Becoming a Bestseller

Today I thought I'd address just what, exactly, being a New York Times bestselling author changes.

It's a little touchy of a subject to address, because the whole system is a bit...well, let's just say some books hit when other equally (or more) deserving books don't, and no one is ever quite sure why. So, please know that I am not trying to brag. Many books I consider superior to mine do not have the distinction of being official bestsellers. I don't think it makes me better than anyone else.

It DOES, however, have some impacts, and I wanted to talk about those today to sort of break through some of the myths and explore what it really means to your every day life to be a bestseller. When I found out that PARANORMALCY had hit the list, meaning I could forever have NYT Bestselling Author attached to my name on the front of books, I really couldn't sleep for about a week I was so excited and overwhelmed. I've had some distance (and another bestseller) since then. Here's what I've discovered:

Every Day Life Changes After Hitting the List
  • My hair is shinier and also grows faster
  • My immune system is so robust I actually cure viruses in others merely by proximity
  • Calories only count for half, so I can eat twice as much of what I love
  • Bills pay themselves out of deference for my creative needs
  • Sinks don't clog, tires don't go flat, dust doesn't collect on surfaces
  • Pandora Internet Radio has finally realized I don't actually like Coldplay
  • Papers no longer collect on every available surface of my counters demanding I sort through them and figure out just what exactly needs to be kept and what needs to be thrown away
  • My kids no longer wet the bed or wake me up in the middle of the night
  • Netflix always has the movies I want to watch on instant play
  • My favorite television series never get canceled
  • I always make green lights
  • Whichever line I pick at the grocery store is always the fastest, no matter what
  • Facebook, as a courtesy, automatically prevents people from sending me all of those #&$^@% game requests
And finally,
  • The first pair of pants I try on while shopping always fit perfectly, every single time
However, lest you think everything is sunshine and rainbows (which, incidentally, it only rains when I want it to now), here is how my writing life has changed:

Every Day Writing Life Changes After Hitting the List
  •  
There you have it! How life changes after earning the bestseller distinction. Hope that was helpful. If you'll excuse me, I have to go admire my shiny, shiny hair, while hoping this synopsis writes itself.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kiersten and Hot Stuff in the UK: The Sherlock Edition

Part One of Adventures in the UK: SHERLOCK

I can safely say that, as we traveled across England and Scotland, our views and opinions were heavily influenced by books, films, and television we love. To quote Hot Stuff, after we had taken a train through the English countryside and arrived in Edinburgh, "I feel like I finally understand JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling."

Yes, readers, it's obvious why I married him.

So, today's pictures revolve around Sherlock Holmes. I have a teensy eensy massive obsession with all things Sherlock Holmes. Particularly the BBC series, but I am not picky: I will take him in any form.

Naturally, every time we had a view of this thing, I had to hum the "Sherlock" theme song.

Can't you just see the opening credits flashing through your head?

As we walked around London (the entire city--SERIOUSLY WE WALKED ALL OVER THE WHOLE FREAKING CITY I HAVE THE BLACK, BRUISED TOENAILS TO PROVE IT ahem sorry) Hot Stuff would point out various landmarks or random buildings that had been featured at some point in the series.

Imagine our delight when we found this beneath a bridge, straight from the scene where Sherlock contacts a member of his homeless network!

Benedict! WHERE ARE YOU?

Hot Stuff ran up the stairs to get in the picture, then got a really sheepish grin and slunk back down. Turns out...there was an actual homeless person asleep up there. Probably waiting for Sherlock to come and ask for help!

Or just sleeping. 

The first day we were there, we took the tube to get to Hot Stuff's sister's reception. (Which was awesome.) We were doing a pretty good job of blending in--walking on the left, etc--but that was all blown when we passed a stop and I shouted, "OH MY GOSH IT'S BAKER STREET!!"

So, naturally, we set time aside to actually get off at Baker Street and visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

221B! 221B! I don't know who that dude is, though.
Also yes I am wearing flip flops with a coat and a scarf. How would Sherlock interpret me?

Inside was...a kind of delightfully kitschy museum with displays and mannequins, etc. This is Sherlock's front room. I am VERY. EXCITED. 

VERY. EXCITED.

And, of course, while wandering around a townhouse decorated as though Sherlock Holmes lives there, one must mock and imitate the statuary. 

Why so serious?
Wait. Wrong series.

The window afforded a lovely view. I can only assume this is where Sherlock and Watson go to get mani/pedis after chasing down mysteries. 

What color do you think they paint their toenails?

I participated in the pondering of Mysterious Corpses. Also I kind of look possessed. MAYBE THEY CAN SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF MY INABILITY TO LOOK NORMAL IN PHOTOS, GUYS! 

I almost bought a bowler hat. And a pipe. And I wanted to high-five the fellow tourist humming the "Sherlock" theme song in the gift shop.

They had a notebook of letters students had written to Sherlock Holmes. Most revolved around "mysteries" they needed him to solve. This was the best letter of all. 

Dear Student:
There is a difference between dead and fictional.
Also you are adorable.

And finally, in the first of a series, it's a toilet! SHERLOCK'S toilet. 

 Surprisingly floral.

Stay tuned for the next entries: CASTLES and HARRY POTTER.

Which also include toilets. Naturally.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some People Are Gay

Two things I love! Clever advertising and Harry Potter!

So, I'm a bit sleep-deprived (if you go for twenty-four hours without sleeping, you should get to sleep for twenty-four hours to make up for it, right? RIGHT?), but I felt like this was worth posting about today.

I loved this ad campaign on buses in London because it's exactly how I feel about the entire "issue." It shouldn't be an issue. Some people are gay. Get over it.

I never know whether to laugh or cry when people refer to "the gays" like they are some unified, plotting political group. It's like saying "the blondes" or "the short people." (Though, to be honest, the short people really do have a complicated and sinister master plan to subvert the entire culture of the US and take over the world. Nobody suspects the short ones.)

My feeling on it is that gay people aren't gay people. They are people. They also happen to be gay. It doesn't make them any worse (or better) than anyone else, any more than being a creative person or a short person or an American makes me better or worse than anyone else. If we could stop viewing people who are gay as "other," we could stop worrying about it and let everyone get on with their lives, gay or straight or somewhere in between. 

We always get in trouble when we view whole groups of people as a singular entity based on one identifying aspect. Haven't we learned that yet?

Here is an It Gets Better video made by a student group at my Alma Mater, a private religious university. It's taken a long time for change. There's still a lot of change that needs to happen.



The next time you are tempted to define someone by a single characteristic, remember these students, each struggling to figure out where they belong in the world. (Just like...everyone else. But with the bonus of centuries of prejudices to make life even harder! That's a really sucky bonus.) Remember that they are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors--who deserve an added measure of compassion and understanding. They are people. Who also happen to be gay.

Get over it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Congrats Executive Editor Erica!

Those of you who have been around for any amount of time at all know how much I adore my editor, Erica Sussman. Not only is she all things delightful in general, she's also a brilliant editor. I have no higher praise for her than that, after her edits, my books always feel MORE like my books than before. She sees exactly what needs to happen in order for me to hit everything I was trying to in the first place.

Also, she is the owner of Berkeley:
Who is also an excellent editor. And a dog. A ridiculously adorable editing dog. (In a bit of trivia that will mean nothing to you for several months, Berkeley has a cameo in one of my upcoming books. She's angling for her own spinoff series. Rightly so.)

I wanted to take this opportunity to gush a bit and congratulate Erica, who was just promoted to Executive Editor. As far as I have been able to determine, the editorial line goes: Editorial Assistant, Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Executive Editor, and Editorial Director.

Which of those titles grants the power to EXECUTE people? That's right. Only Erica's. She's like the 007 of publishing: a license to kill.

You can bet I never miss a deadline.

Seriously, though--it couldn't be more well deserved, and I am grateful every day that my professional life has Erica in it. She is a joy to work with and I feel incredibly fortunate to know her as an editor and friend!

Feel free to leave congrats in the comments. And please remember: she can execute you now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Teen! Drama!

Teen! Drama!
An Original Television Series
by Kiersten White

Season 3, Episode 12: Because We're the Good Guys

ANNOUNCER GUY
Previously on Teen! Drama!, everyone was in love with everyone else depending on the episode, but as usual you are only supposed to be invested in CARA and HOT GUY while also wanting CARA and SMOKING HOT COUSIN (HOT GUY's cousin, because the show isn't THAT edgy) to finally GET IT ON in something other than a dream sequence. Also it was revealed that HOT GUY and SMOKING HOT COUSIN are half-kraken, doomed to forever shoot ink out of their hands at inopportune times, and thirst after the tears of mortals, sucking them dry.

Ext. Scene: Random Alley that could be anywhere but that careful observers will recognize was used in several key exposition scenes in past seasons, because alleys are infinitely conducive to plot progression. It's in the rules.

SIRENA
Finally, I get the screen time my vampy overacting deserves!

VILLAIN DU JOUR
No no, we don't vamp on this show. We're ocean-themed paranormal creatures.

SIRENA
But all mid-twenties hotties.

VILLAIN DU JOUR
Of course. One cannot be evil without also being blisteringly hot.

SIRENA
Our show kills off more hotties in a single episode than most shows get in a whole series! Speaking of, have we captured CARA yet?

VILLAIN DU JOUR
Why do we need to capture her again? Please remind me and also the viewers who were so distracted by my perfectly sculpted hair and abs.

VILLAIN DU JOUR makes his shirt dissolve, the special power of male sirens because having sexy voices is so three centuries ago.

SIRENA
Because she has the Precious Tears of Preciousness, the mythical salt of which will forever secure the power of the ocean, rendering us impervious to harm. After all, the only point of immortality is securing even more immortality.

VILLAIN DU JOUR
Are her Precious Tears of Preciousness also why all the guys on this show fall in love with her?

SIRENA
No, that is because of her shiny, shiny hair. Her tears are just a bonus.

Int. Car scene, with CARA and PLAIN FRIEND driving down a dark road in a FORD BRAND, four-wheel drive with all the options. CARA is troubled, as is obvious by the swelling tones of emotional indie music.

CARA
I don't know what to do. I love HOT GUY, and I will always love him--

PLAIN FRIEND
Because you two were together for like three months, during which you broke up no fewer than five times?

CARA
Exactly! But it was at the beginning of the show, so it means we are The Couple. But anyway, since we had to break up after he sucked all of the tears out of my mom--

PLAIN FRIEND
Where IS your mom?

CARA
We killed her off in season two because she wouldn't stop harping on the fact that she was only two years older than me. Can we please just focus? As I was saying, after HOT GUY's crazy tear bender that killed half the population of the town, of course I had to break up with him. Even though he only went off the deep end to protect me.

PLAIN FRIEND
He tried squirting ink over your eyes so you wouldn't see him like that. Even when he is overcome with his dark Kraken side, he cares about you.

CARA
That was thoughtful of him. But also really gross. And after he left town to lure SIRENA away, SMOKING HOT COUSIN had to protect me and my crystal tears, and we've gotten really close.

PLAIN FRIEND
What IS so special about your tears, anyway?

CARA
When I cry, my mascara never runs.

CARA demonstrates by staring out the window and letting perfectly beautiful tears streak down her face, which is neither red nor puffy.

PLAIN FRIEND
You're right, that's mystical. But your life sucks. You have to choose between two super hot guys who can and will do anything to protect you. My last three boyfriends died as minor plot points. Also my mom. And my sister. And anyone who has ever been important to me. And all of the plot points that killed them swirled around you.

CARA squeezes out several more crystalline tears.

Int. sleek, modern apartment of HOT GUY and SMOKING HOT COUSIN. A huge fish tank features prominently across the length of an entire wall. SMOKING HOT COUSIN is filling his mandatory ten minutes of shirtless time as contractually obligated. HOT GUY is holding out until the end of the episode.

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
You know Sirena is planning something.

HOT GUY
Yes. I am not sure why we are having this conversation.

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
Because we need to keep CARA safe at all costs.

HOT GUY
Because you want to make out with her.

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
Because I want to have the inky depths of my soul redeemed by the purity of her tears of love.

HOT GUY
While making out with her.

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
Obviously.

HOT GUY
We should go check the alleys.

Ext. Alley of Plot Progression. WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX comes out carrying trash bags with his bulging biceps. This week he is once again working at Cool Teen Hangout, which is apparently where this alley is located.

WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX
Oh, hey SIRENA. Is some supernatural violence about to go down? Because I can take out the trash later.

SIRENA
I think you should stay.

SIRENA employs the full power of her hypnotic siren eyes. WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX is grateful to have something interesting happening to him for once, instead of having to listen to CARA talk about her dating dilemmas.

HOT GUY
Unhand that innocent teenager!

SIRENA
What do you mean, innocent?

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
We won't let you hurt him in order to get to CARA! We'd kill him before we let you use him to hurt Cara!

WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX
...wait. How is that better?

SIRENA
He has a point. Why is it bad if I hurt people to get the things that I want?

CARA and PLAIN FRIEND enter the alley and stumble upon the confrontation.

CARA
Because you are BAD!

SIRENA
Because I hurt and kill people to protect my own best interests.

CARA
Yes!

SIRENA
Please refer to the scripts from seasons one through three and count the bodies left in the wakes of your two boyfriends. Also yourself. And PLAIN FRIEND. And WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX.

CARA pulls out bundles of paper and starts flipping through them. Finally she throws them to the ground.

CARA
Look, I can't do that kind of math under this pressure. Not with everyone staring at me. But the fact remains that your violence is evil, and our violence is necessary!

SIRENA
Because why?

PLAIN FRIEND
Because she has such shiny, shiny hair.

SIRENA
Right. Although my hair IS--

TOKEN BLONDE
Nobody has better hair than I do. Why am I not the main character?

VILLAIN DU JOUR
Where did you even come from?

TOKEN BLONDE kills VILLAIN DU JOUR.

CARA
See? Necessary! She's still on Team Good, because she only kills to protect the sanctity of my tears.

SIRENA
Whatevs. I need to run away now to find some previously unmentioned UBER BAD GUY with all sorts of backstory that in the three seasons of this show has never been so much as alluded to. Perhaps he will be a shark, and we will all jump him.

SMOKING HOT COUSIN
I've got a mortgage to pay. Keep the crazy storylines coming.

WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX
You know, guys, I think she may have had a point. Why is she evil for killing people in pursuit of her goals, whereas you all get a pass for lots of killing because, at the end of the day, you love CARA?

CARA
THE HAIR, WHBTNE. LOOK AT MY HAIR.

WAY HOT BUT TOO NICE EX
Right. Sorry.

Storytelling Cheats

All I'm saying is, if we could just say, "Cut to sweeping shot of MC looking happy/devastated/quietly sobbing/staring pensively into the future while [insert evocative, swelling, appropriately trendy and indie song] plays over everything," it'd make writing a lot easier.

eBooks, I'm looking at you for this type of functionality. Get on it.

What storytelling cheats from movies and television do you wish you could employ in writing?