Monday, January 30, 2017


Well, it's been a wild and crazy week in more ways than one. Aside from things going on in the world (which I'm sure I don't need to tell you about), I've been hard at work writing. I finished a round of edits, which means it's time to...edit a different book. Just keep remembering, you asked for this, Allison. You wanted this job.

I did. I do. I enjoy it. But it means I'm spending hours at the computer, getting a headache and wondering how on earth I can be so hungry when I haven't done anything all day.

Seriously, how does writing for hours make me so ravenous? I'm sitting in a chair and occasionally dancing when I write something well. I'm not dancing that wildly. It's just like this:

Anyway, I do like writing. I love the feeling of discovering a whodunnit plot, and learning more about a character so I can understand why he or she is acting a certain way. I love the research about weird science or criminal activity. Speaking of which, I may have to have a post about the science of sleep, because I have found out some bonkers things about sleep and dreams!

But my favorite thing may be the writerly empathy.

Writers need empathy to write; if we couldn't develop it in some way, all our characters would look just like us, think like us, act like us. In order to write a variety of characters, writers need to slip into the shoes of someone else and figure out what it's like to be that person. What's it like to be a 12-year-old retrieval specialist? A detective? A scientist? A stay at home mother? A stay at home father? An Irish immigrant in the early 1900s? A space alien discovering humans for the first time?

I'm not any of these things. If I want to write about them, I need to think and feel as they do, if only in part. That takes research, and it takes empathy.

The nice thing is that humans are all pretty much the same wherever you go. Customs change, traditions differ, and languages are diverse, but humans as a whole feel joy, sadness, anger, all the Pixar emotions:

And you can pretty much count on a human from any place to act like a human from any other place when faced with trauma (which is pretty much all stories are): some flee, some fight, some harden, some turn into a puddle, and some become wiser. This makes empathy easier for writers.

Knowing the individual works well for me, also, in developing empathy. For example, when I wrote Jeremy's character, I didn't think first of what an average 12-year-old boy would do in his circumstances. Some boys might never dream of stealing things (or retrieving them, depending on who you ask), but Jeremy does. He's unique, and while understanding the human preteen was helpful, it was thinking about Jeremy as an individual and learning about him, even loving the character, that helped me find his voice. Now, I can slip into Jeremy's mind easily because he seems real to me.

I hope that means he'll seem real to readers, too. That way they can empathize with him, since it's not just writers who need to empathize. Readers do, too. How else can they connect with and root for a character? If we didn't empathize with Harry Potter, why would we care about how the Dursleys treated him? Why would we want him to win against Voldemort?

Yes, empathy is a good thing. It's the key to mindreading, in my opinion, since it opens the door to the emotions and thoughts of another person, and after experiencing that, how can any of us go back to the way we were before? It's like magic, so yes, I think it's one of my favorite parts of writing. I enjoy feeling magical.

Speaking of magic, I've been thinking about fairies lately. Not the sweet, musical Victorian kind - the violent old-school kind. A story may grow out of it; I don't know. But you might be able to look forward to a blog post about it.

Here are this week's debuts:

Young Adult:
Stephanie Garber - Caraval (1/31)
Laurie Devore - How to Break a Boy (1/31)
Caroline Leech - Wait For Me (1/31)
Rebecca Denton - This Beats Perfect (2/2)

Monday, January 23, 2017

In the Deeps of Winter Writing

Hello, everyone!

I hope you've all had a great week. I did, but unfortunately, I didn't do anything too interesting. I did get some good news, though! I got a good review from Kirkus!

But other than that, not much to report. It's winter, it's cold, and I've been working hard on both a set of edits for a new Jeremy Wilderson book and on my work in progress, a YA thriller.

I finished the work in progress, or at least, the first draft. Then I woke up the next morning and realized I hated my ending. So now I'm working hard on finishing the edits on the Wilderson book so I can send those back to my editor, and I'm working hard on the work in progress (the YA thriller, not Wilderson) so I can get it back to my writing group for critique notes. Then I guess I'll revise it.

I'm a writer. I write. That has never been as true as it is now.

So, deep in the midst of writing my YA thriller work in progress, I've had to make some hard choices. Namely, whether I should kill off a character who I rather like.

I was drawing up a revision plan and one character was giving me trouble. He needed to be present at the end, but if he was, he'd wreck the whole ending. So the little devil in my head said, "Kill him."

And I hate to admit it, but it solved all my problems to do it. I feel like a mob boss.

I still don't want to off this character if I can help it. I haven't killed a character before (the Jeremy Wilderson books are very much not those kind of stories).

I also don't like killing characters willy-nilly; I feel like there has to be a reason. But I can't avoid how well it works in the story, which is too good a reason to ignore. So I'm starting down the road to becoming that writer. You know the one.

Okay, so I'm not that bad. It's just one character. For now.

Here are the debuts this week (there are a lot of them!):

Middle Grade:
Ali Standish - The Ethan I Was Before (1/24)
Sally J. Pla - Someday Birds (1/24)

Young Adult:
Shalia Patel - Soulmated (1/24)
Kate Hart - After the Fall (1/24)
Tiffany Jackson - Allegedly (1/24)
E.S. Wesley - The Outs (1/24)
Natalie C. Anderson - City of Saints and Thieves (1/24)
Vic James - Gilded Cage (1/26)
Jeff Giles - The Edge of Everything (1/27)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Hello, all, and happy Martin Luther King Day!

I hope you're having a good day off from work or school, and if you aren't, I hope you're still having a good day. I got to see a friend this morning who I haven't seen in a while, so I've had a good morning.

For me, MLK day is typically a day where I can relax somewhat and see friends. I'm not alone in this; I know a lot of my friends take the day the same way. I don't think there's anything wrong with this. In fact, I think it can be very much in keeping in honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory.

One thing about the world that bugs me is how quick we are to divide and ridicule those who we see as on the other side of the divide. I won't get into this too much today; I'm sure it's a long blog post for a future day. But today I'll just say that approaching this holiday remembering the man it's named for and also seeking to befriend and show compassion, regardless of race and also gender, religion, etc., instead of ridicule and hate is a good way, I think, to celebrate it.

It's a good message to remember as divisions seem to grow and enemies seem to multiply. Granted, I don't know enough about Martin Luther King to really say much about the "true meaning" of the holiday, but I like to at least try to make it about more than just having a day off, even if I get it a little wrong.

Final note, somewhat related to MLK Day: has anyone seen Hidden Figures yet? I was going to see it today but too many things that I needed to do popped up and I couldn't. I'll have to see it tomorrow or later this week.

Is it good? Should I see it? I'd like to. I hear good things, but even if I didn't, I probably would because the movie is:

- About space travel.
- About women of color.
- About BRILLIANT women of color (I like movies about smart people).
- An Oscar-bait movie that is RATED PG! Not PG-13 or R!

I'd go for the last one alone, honestly, but all the rest together really intrigues me. Sooner or later I'll have to do a post about Oscar movies, since I think there's some fun things to be said there.

Here's a list of authors debuting this week:

Middle Grade:
Jennifer Torres - Stef Soto, Taco Queen (1/17)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fairy Tale Retellings: The Space Between Spells

Can I just say how much I love fairy tale retellings?

This comes about because I just read Beauty by Robin McKinley for about the eightieth time on my flight back to Utah. As I read it and enjoyed the story I've read many, many times (it's a favorite travel book, and I love to travel), I started thinking about retellings, fractured and otherwise, and how they allow writers to explore some of the weirdness and empty spaces left in folktales.

I also reread Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, which kept that train of thought going.

If you've never read the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, please do. They're entertaining and very clever, and Wrede uses fairy tales well.

I love fairy tales, and one of the things I love about them is how spare they are. We don't get any more than the bare bones of the story; Cinderella goes to the ball, but why did she want to go? Where did this fairy godmother come from? What happens to the animals after being other creatures for a night?

Retellings are fun because even though I know these tales well, I can see how different writers interpret the same tale. With "Cinderella," we get books like Ella Enchanted that answer questions about how Ella knows the prince and why Ella would wait on her horrible stepmother and stepsisters anyway.

Some tales, like "Rumpelstiltskin," are really problematic and draw writers to them. Why would Rumpelstiltskin even offer to help the miller's daughter? Why does he want a baby? Who's the real villain (Rumpelstiltskin honored his deal, after all)?

Can I just stop and say how annoying it is to type "Rumpelstiltskin" over and over? Sheesh.

I also love fractured fairy tales, like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, because they point out these questions and weird things and write a new tale that might make more sense.

I think this is why fairy tales survive. They're spare, so readers and tellers can reinterpret them for a new audience. They're a form of living story, not pinned down. In a class on fairy tales and folklore, I learned that it's just about impossible to pin down an "original" tale because even before the Grimm brothers and Perrault and other tellers wrote these stories down, people had been telling them and altering them for their listeners.

Retellings of these tales just keeps the story alive and changing. As long as the stories are told well, changes and additions and all, I see myself continuing to enjoy the tales from whoever tells them.

I gotta say, Disney's certainly working hard at adapting fairy tales. It's practically their thing.

There are a bunch of writers debuting this week, all young adult writers. See the list below, and if you're intrigued, go check it out on Goodreads (The Bear and the Nightingale is even a fairy tale retelling!).

Young Adult:
Jamie Mayer - Painless (1/10)
Kristen Orlando - You Don't Know My Name (1/10)
Breeana Shields - Poison's Kiss (1/10)
Katherine Arden - The Bear and the Nightingale (1/10)
Robin Roe - A List of Cages (1/10)
Ellie Blake - Frostblood (1/12)

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017, Here I Come!

Happy New Year!

This is going to be a great year.

I know a lot of people are angry with 2016 and blame the year for a lot. To which I say, it's a year, a measurement of time, not an entity with malevolent purposes. That said, I have a hard time not assigning smiling happy feelings to 2017.

New years always give me a new hope for the future. It's hard not to get swept up in the hype of "new year, new you" and the feelings that whatever may have come before, the new year is a blank page, full of potential. And this year feels extra special to me.



This is 2017, the year my first book comes out. (If you want to find out more about Under Locker and Key, you can check it out at Amazon or Goodreads.)

This is the year I become a published author. I feel the same thrill and sense of anticipation I feel at the start of a vacation or when an exciting ride at an amusement park starts. One of the good ones, not one of the ones I think might kill me.

It's hard to believe that I'm almost there, almost at the moment when I'll see Under Locker and Key finally released. I don't know if it will feel real when it happens. I'm less than 4 months out; wow, where did the time go?

I'm sure the other 2017 debut writers are feeling the same way. Here are some of the ones who are now and in this week celebrating their publication:

Middle Grade:
Kiersi Burkhart - Quartz Creek Ranch (1/1)
Dana Langer - Siren Sisters (1/3)

Young Adult:
Chelsea Sedoti - The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (1/3)
Just so you know, I'm probably going to make a habit of putting a list like this at the end of my blog posts for the coming year, and I may even interview some of the other writers. If you're interested in any of these books, please check them out on Amazon or Goodreads. I'm sure the writers would love it!

I'm starting 2017 out right as an almost-published writer. I have a school visit at Lionville Elementary School (in PA) on Wednesday. I like school visits; I love interacting with kids and I love talking about writing, so it's a win-win.

I also just received edits for my second book, so I am working on that, as well. I'm also going to be working on my other project (remember the three pictures I posted recently?) and finishing that for my writing group. 2017 is going to see me doing a LOT of writing and writing-related activities.

But I guess that's to be expected, as I grow into the writing career. 2017, here I come!