Want to win a copy of GIFTCHILD ahead of release? Enter this giveaway through Goodreads, ending next Monday!
Want to win a copy of GIFTCHILD ahead of release? Enter this giveaway through Goodreads, ending next Monday!
Today I’m happy to present to you the cover of GIFTCHILD, my new contemporary YA novel, which will be out, possibly as soon as next week:
Release dates with indie books are a little rough–as I don’t control when the online store will actually post the book. But it’ll be out for sure by December 1st, and probably sooner. Stay tuned!
What’s it about? Nice of you to ask!
Penny adores her best friend Rodney. He’s always there for her, and she knows they’d be the perfect couple—except that they’re still in high school, and she’s watched too many friends go through painful breakups. Besides, Penny has bigger things to worry about—like her mother, who desperately wants to have more children.
After an endless string of miscarriages and failed adoptions, Penny’s mother is ready to give up hope. But Penny has the perfect plan: if she gets pregnant, she can give her mother the baby she’s always wanted. Penny’s sure this is the right thing to do, but only after she sets her plan in motion does she realize that sex will change her relationship with Rodney—in ways that she never expected. And the more she tries to fix things for her mother, the more she risks losing everything she wants for herself.
All Penny wants is for the people she loves to be happy. So why isn’t anything going the way that she planned?
Today I received the copy edit for my next novel, GIFTCHILD. This means we’re just weeks away from the book finally being available. The cover is nearly complete, and the back copy is in final revisions, and I’m so excited to share. Of all the books I’ve written (and there are many), this one is my absolute favorite. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
With indie publishing release dates are a bit sketchy, but I’m expecting to release the book near the first week of December. But if you want to be sure not to miss it, please sign up for my newsletter. I promise not to spam you, but you might also get the first look at the cover, before it’s released to the public.
If you like mysteries, check out Maryanne Snell’s Mystery’s End, which is out today.
It’s a parlor room type mystery set in the 1920s in a fictional house very much like the Winchester Mystery House. If you’ve never been there, you should go. But read the book first, because it’s delightful. This should be no surprise, as Maryanne is one of the coolest people ever. Don’t believe me? She talks about her own book (among other things) here.
Congrats on the debut, Maryanne!
A while ago a friend and I were talking about the upcoming Kingdom Death: Monster. I had criticized that game’s portrayal of women–in particular the extreme sexism and objectification of the self-described “pinup” minis. My friend asked what I thought was a sensitive question. “So,” he said. “Does that mean when it comes out you won’t play it with us?”
“No,” I said. It absolutely did not mean that. Why? Because as a table top gamer, I have two options. I can play games that objectify and sexualize women, or I can choose not to play miniatures games.
My friend dearly wanted to argue with me on that point. Sure, Kingdom Death was obviously sexualized. But surely not every game was like that. So (politely! Because my friends are awesome), he tried to think of a counter example–a game that did not sexualize women. But for every Constance Blaise, who is actually quite well-armored for a female fig, I could name a Deneghra, made by the same company.
In the end, my friend conceded that I was right. Those, in fact, were my choices.
And I reiterated my personal choice. I choose to play.
Because I love to play.
That Deneghra mini? I own it. (Though, ouch. Old paint job.) Cryx is my first love, and I own all their sexy undead women. I bought Deneghra. I love to play her because she kicks butt and totally demoralizes the opposing army FTW. She’s my favorite ever. And though I’m not a huge fan of that mini, I am a huge fan of the Pirate Queen Skarre mini, which, lets face it, have all the same sexualization problems.
I like a lot of minis that sexualize women.
But that doesn’t mean I like the sexualization of women. I hate it. And I am totally on board with some people choosing to handle their disdain for objectification by choosing not to play these games, by choosing not to give money to these companies, by choosing to not be table top gamers. Totally on board. I get why one would do that. I support that choice entirely.
But I choose to play, and to give money to these companies, and to bring these minis into my home and to love them and play with them.
Why? Because of conversations like that one with my friend. Because as we talked about sexualization, he got it. He looked at all of the games he played and he saw that not a single one did a decent job of portraying women’s bodies realistically or respectfully. And once he saw it, he couldn’t un-see it.
That’s awareness. Awareness is important.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where most people were already aware of these things, but we don’t. Outside feminist circles, most people don’t get it. And gamers don’t want to listen to voices from outside telling them that what they love is wrong. No one wants to hear that they aren’t allowed to like the things that they like. And gamers hear this from everyone, all the time. We shouldn’t like games because they are time wasters (never mind that gaming is a social experience–even more so than watching sports or television or movies thankyouverymuch). We shouldn’t like games because they are violent (as if there’s much adult entertainment inAmerica that isn’t violent. Or entertainment for children for that matter. Seriously.)
And so, when someone says that games objectify women (which is an observable fact), gamers rush to defend their games. Why?
Because, man. I love that game! How can you say it’s bad?
Are gamers wrong to be defensive like that? Yes. Dead wrong. Even wronger when they then lash out at the person delivering the message. Guess what? Nearly every piece of American culture objectifies women. Games are no exception. It’s a huge problem. The defense of the indefensible makes the problem even worse, and often reperpetrates the problem by victimizing the very person who is trying to point out the victimization. Some gamers have a tendency to go all RawrHulkSmash on women who are critical of the games they like. This is an atrocity.
Here’s an important fact to remember when you’re faced with such criticism: no one gets to tell you what you’re allowed to like. And, in American culture, it’s really hard to like anything without liking something that is legitimately, demonstrably racist or sexist (or, usually, both.)
It’s okay. Next time someone says that a game, or a movie, or a book, or anything you like is racially problematic, or objectifies women, take a deep breath. Say to yourself, I’m still allowed to like it. And then try to see the problems with it anyway. Practice saying, this thing I like isn’t perfect. This thing I like is also part of a harmful cultural trend. This thing I like can be both harmful and awesome at the same time.
Because it can. Most entertainment is, and always has been.
Back to awareness. Once you are aware of sexualization and the inherent problems, you will see it everywhere. That’s okay. You can like what you like and still admit that no piece of art is perfect, that all art is a product of the culture from which it stems, and that most art could use improvement. You can say, I don’t like this cultural trend, but I still play this game because other things about it are freaking awesome and Iloveitsomuch. That’s okay.
There’s totally a place for shunning work that doesn’t meet your personal standards. It’s totally okay to boycott problematic things. But it’s also okay not to boycott, and still participate in the conversation. The more people are respectfully aware of the problem, the more the conversation of the art will change. And with that change will come better games, which we can all also love.
Because that’s what gamers do. We love games. Sometimes we love problematic games. Sometimes we love progressive games. Sometimes we love games that are violent and sexist and can I tell you about the three hundred hours I’ve poured into the Borderlands video games I love them so much they’re my favorite and holy crap the sexism and objectification and violence against women. WOW. It’s truly appalling.
I still love them, though, because the game design is awesome. Both things can be true. I can play them and love them and still see and discuss the problems. Would I love them even more if they weren’t so problematic? Yes. So it’s only up from here.
That’s how I personally choose to deal with the sexism in gaming. Everyone gets to make their own choice about how they deal with it. But making the choice to attack others for pointing out the sexy-sexy elephant in the room?
Not cool. Never cool.
So make your own media consumption choices. But let’s all just admit that our culture is full of harmful portrayals of women, many of them in things that are otherwise the Best. Thing. Ever.
Those are the conditions of our existence.
And until we see real, positive change, we’re all going to have to choose how we navigate that.
I get asked a lot about what advice I have for beginning writers. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot: there are so many ways to answer it. There are so many things to say.
But lately, I’ve decided that I think one thing is more important than all the others. This is my one piece of advice, the thing I think everyone going into the arts needs to do:
Learn to fail.
That sounds stupid, right? Any idiot can fail. And that’s true: any idiot can do work that yields bad results. But to fail and keep trying–to fail and learn and grow–is a skill. If you want to be a writer, or any kind of artist, or maybe any kind of person, I would suggest that it’s a skill you should learn.
People get really uncomfortable when I talk about my failures. I can’t use that word without watching people squirm. Then come the excuses. You’re not a failure! they exclaim. Don’t say that! It makes me angry, actually. I don’t like it when people try to take my failures from me. I worked hard for those.
Let me tell you fact: if you can only be happy when you are rewarded by resounding success, you are not going to be very happy as an artist. No artist I know–not even the biggest, most successful, most lucky artist–succeeds all the time. If you have to succeed all the time to be happy, don’t go into the arts. In fact, you might not want to go into this life thing, because life is full of failure.
It’s okay not to win. It’s okay not to do well. It’s okay not to get what you want. It’s simply not true that you can have succeed at everything all the time. That’s not the way it works. There’s no shame in working hard for things that never come to fruition. There’s no shame in saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, messing up everything.
You don’t have to be perfect. Successful people are the ones who aren’t so afraid of failing that they don’t try. Successful people are the ones who fail, and after they have failed, they figure out what went wrong and try again, doing things differently this time. And sometimes they fail that time, too, but they keep going.
Happy people aren’t people who don’t fail. They’re people who know that their own failure is not reflective of their worth, of their goodness or value as a person. They are people who know that everyone makes mistakes, that performing badly at first is a part of learning. Happy people know that we’re all always learning. Happy people are people who allow themselves to fail, but don’t let that failure haunt them or define who they are. Because they’re allowed to fail, they aren’t afraid to try again.
Don’t try take my failures away from me. I won’t let you have them. I value them more than I value my successes. I don’t get to decide most of what happens to me. Really, everything I control about my life comes down to one thing: I get to decide what I will try. That’s it. The results are, for the most part, out of my hands.
Do results matter? Yes. They matter. They matter for lots of things–feeding your family, maintaining relationships, contributing to your community. Does effort matter? Of course it does. Results are about other people, but effort is about you. You matter. Your development matters. You will get better at things you practice. At first you will fail. Later, you will fail some more. You will finally succeed, only to fail again. And it’s only when you turn around and look back that you will discover that the failures taught you as much or more than the successes. And with what you’ve become you can turn around and deliver results–maybe not the ones you tried and failed at, but good, meaningful ones that will be beneficial to other people. Results and effort are not a binary. They have a reciprocal relationship, and always, always, they dance with failure.
Learn to let yourself fail. Fail at that. Try again. When you’ve mastered it, learn to let yourself fail and be happy. Fail at that. Try again. Finally achieve it. Then, learn to let yourself fail and be as happy as if you had succeeded.
And on that day, you’ll be the bravest artist who ever lived.
I’ve been mired in fixing the ending of a book for a while now. This makes me feel like I’m accomplishing nothing, because it’s a whole lot of brainstorm/write/cut/write/rinse/repeat. Not my favorite.
Today I was bemoaning that I haven’t accomplished anything in months. MONTHS I tell you.
Then I thought to myself: is the true? Or have I just been sucked into the Vortex of Time Dilation aka Revision?
So I counted.
In the last seven months I have:
1) Heavily rewritten EVERYTHING’S FINE.
2) Gone through four editorial passes (developmental 1, developmental 2, copy edit, galley) on EVERYTHING’S FINE
3) Formatted, published, and marketed EVERYTHING’S FINE
4) Heavily rewritten another contemporary novel (aka, cut every word and rewrote them all)
5) Endured critiques as my (brilliant!) writing group deconstructed that novel
6) Heavily revised that contemporary novel based on that feedback
7) Sent that novel to my agent
8 ) Entered into a collaboration with a writer friend and collaboratively outlined a complete novel
9) Collaboratively written 7k+ of said novel
10) Learned new things about beat mechanics and fixed all the beats in EVERYTHING’S FINE
11) Done two arduous passes to fix all the beats in one of my YA science fiction novels
12) (Almost) Rewrote the last 15k of said novel, from scratch. Twice.
Um. That’s a little bit of work. Take that Revision Time Dilation! I am too accomplishing things!
Day to day, man. So little gets done at any given time. I feel like I accomplish nothing. Sometimes I need to step back and look at the big picture.
I guess showing up to work every day really does pay off.
I’m a little behind on the linkage here, so today’s post is something of a buffet.
The most recent first: Michelle over at Book Briefs wrote a stellar review of Everything’s Fine. Squee! One of my favorite things about releasing a book is getting to hear what other people think about it. Check out what she has to say.
She’s also hosting a giveaway (US only) of a paperback copy of the book. Head over and enter!
My friend Sandra Tayler wrote a very kind review as well.
I was interviewed for this article about writing contests following my post over at Cynsations. And I was also interviewed by S. E. Page over at Forty Gallons of Sap about what parts of Everything’s Fine I drew from my life. (Spoiler: it’s not a lot. Mostly small details.)
I wrote a guest post for Michelle D. Argyle about sustaining an idea over ten years. (That’s how long it took me to reach the final draft of Everything’s Fine. )
Also, you may have heard of Amazon’s new subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. Everything’s Fine is available right now through that service, and if you borrow it and read it, Amazon pays me just like they do if you borrow the book through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. So if you have Prime, or are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can check out the book for free and I still get paid for it. Bonus!
Phew! That was a lot. Note to self: remember you have a blog and parse these out!
Thanks so much to everyone who’s read the book, and also those who’ve left a review. Especially with an independent project like this, it helps SO much when you spread the word. THANK YOU. You all ROCK.
In late-to-the-party news, I believe that I never showed off the pretty cover for the German edition of Chasing the Skip. There was some confusion around the German release, and this got lost in the shuffle. But there is in fact a German edition, and here it is. Better late than never, I guess.
When I heard the premise of Michelle’s new book, If I Forget You, I have to admit to jealousy. This is one of those books that makes me wish I’d thought of it. Here’s the blurb:
Avery Hollister is a little more than absentminded. She has trouble remembering faces, names, and dates without her piles of lists and Post-it notes. When she heads off to college it takes her a week to realize the guy she’s crushing on is, in fact, three different guys. With a faulty memory and three men who have no idea she’s mixed them up, Avery doesn’t know how to fix the mess she’s made. But she knows she has to try, even if it means losing a love not even she could forget.
See what I mean? But really, no one could have written it the way Michelle did. I’m happy to welcome her today to tell us about it.
Janci: The thing I loved the most about IF I FORGET YOU was your depiction of Avery’s loneliness. As a person who constantly forgets, she is constantly hurting other people by forgetting them, or things that are important to them. But ultimately she’s the one who hurts the most, because she’s unable to forge real connections with others. That loneliness and pain is what made her most sympathetic and compelling to me as a character. The situation is at once totally unique and touchingly universal–which to me is the goal of all fiction.
How did you go about creating that lonely mood? Why did you decide to write the character that way? You’ve said that this book is the most auto-biographical of all of your novels. Is this aspect of Avery’s character pulling from your life? What is it about loneliness that is so compelling on the page?
Michelle: In all honesty, it was never my goal to set about creating a lonely mood for IF I FORGET YOU. I always begin with character and let the character set the mood. With Avery, her loneliness came from a space deep inside of me. Since I was writing from that space and pulling from my own experiences, my own loneliness seeped into Avery’s character — developed from her own similar, albeit fictional, experiences.
I think humans, in general, are lonely creatures, which is why Avery’s loneliness is most likely something readers will connect with. We all want to be understood and liked and respected, but when a person in our life challenges that understanding and respect, it can create some pretty deep rifts. I have some of my own rifts, which is where Avery’s story came from. I’ve had friends challenge my forgetfulness, treat it lightly, tell me it’s nothing but an excuse. That has given me a sort of complex — one I’ve explored inside and out in IF I FORGET YOU. My forgetfulness is not as bad as Avery’s, but it has come close at times. I thought writing the book would “cure” me of this complex, but it hasn’t. It has, however, helped me understand the other side of the coin, so to speak.
Tam, one of the antagonists in the book, is a character I’ve based on several experiences of mine. She represents a lot of Avery’s negativity and loneliness. She is a selfish, angry character with good intentions that go wrong. She’s far from black or white, which I did on purpose because at some point, Avery has to realize that Tam is not always wrong in her accusations. That has been something I’ve had to face — that my loneliness, my faults, etc., are not something I can blame on anyone else, no matter how horribly others might treat me. It’s a tough lesson to learn, and quite a blow to Avery’s ego, as well as mine.
Avery is not me, but she has a lot of me in her. I hope her experiences can touch other readers, even if they might seem far-fetched. There are people as forgetful as Avery, and even more people who are just as lonely. It’s what we do with those problems that matters. Avery learns that eventually, through an interesting set of twists and turns I’m glad I never had to go through!
Thanks, Michelle! If you want to read more about Michelle’s other work, check out her website.
I have a post up over at Bryce Moore’s blog about how writing is hard work, no matter how you do it. Bryce read many early drafts of EVERYTHING’S FINE, so it feels pretty full-circle to have a post up of his. If you haven’t read his novel Vodnik, you really should.
I take all the pictures here with my Canon PowerShot S3. It's not the best camera on the market, but I love it.