At this time last year, I was worn out. I'd just finished substantive edits on my latest book and was cautiously pleased with how it had come together, but creatively I was exhausted. I’d written nine novels in eight years, and by the fall of 2015 I felt like all my mental energy and every scrap of pleasure I’d ever taken in the writing process had dried up and crumbled away.

None of this should have come as a surprise. Even before I got published I knew I wasn’t a book-a-year writer, but more of a book-every-eighteen-months-to-two-years writer. I needed significant chunks of fallow time in between projects, and sometimes between drafts as well, to feel good about the story I was writing, let alone come up with an idea for the next one.

Still, when you’re writing for children, and especially when you’re writing a series, there’s a fear that if you don’t keep the books coming at least a year apart, your audience will age out of the books before you can publish the next one. Publishing is not known for its patience with children's authors who haven't hit the NYT bestseller list or won at least one major award, and sometimes the only thing that keeps your career going is being able to deliver the goods on time.

But fear is a terrible motivation to write, especially when it’s the only motivation you’ve got. Fear can keep you hurling yourself at the wall day after day until you manage to scramble over it and make your deadline, but the wall will still be there when you think about writing the next thing. And when I realized that my desire to write had withered to the point where I actively dreaded the act of putting words on paper -- not just for publication, I mean any words -- I knew I couldn’t deny it any longer. This was the career I’d dreamed of having since I was four years old, the career I’d worked toward for nearly twenty years before my first book was published. If it was making me miserable every time I thought about doing it, something had gone badly wrong.

So I decided to take a sabbatical for the next twelve months, and not write anything at all.

This is how it turned out... )

* * *

TL;DR: Here I am, a year after I started my sabbatical, and I can confidently say that I made the right decision. Today I wrote my first new scene of original fiction in well over twelve months... and finally, finally, I felt good about it.

Good News!

Oct. 19th, 2016 10:48 pm
rj_anderson: (Nomad - Ivy)
First, thanks to all who weighed in on my earlier post about my cat possibly having arthritis. I did call the vet to make an appointment, but the receptionist recommended that I buy a package of TheraBites (a once-a-day cat treat which contains supplements for hips and joints) and try her out on those for a while to see if there was any improvement.

Well. Not only does Snickers LOVE the treats (so no need to trick or force her into eating them), we're not even halfway through the bag and she's already moving much more comfortably. In fact, the other day she was up on the bed chasing her tail, which I hadn't seen her do since she was a kitten. Phew! Problem solved... at least, as long as I keep giving her a treat every morning for the rest of her life. Which is doable. So I am much relieved.

Second, I was surprised and delighted to discover that A Pocket Full of Murder is one of the ten Canadian middle-grade novels nominated for the Silver Birch Award this year. That means a whole bunch of 9-12 year olds will be reading my book this winter, along with at least four more other nominated titles, so they can vote for their favorite in the spring. I've always longed to be nominated for this award, and it's a big boost for the book generally, so I'm very thankful.

I'll be reading from Pocket and talking a little about the sequel this weekend, at the Local Authors reading portion of the Stratford Writers' Festival. All the other events are ticketed and this one is free, but it's also up against the #CanLitPit session where aspiring writers get to pitch directly to editors, so I'm not holding my breath too much for a big audience... still, it was nice to be asked and I hope the Festival does well.

* * *

And thirdly, speaking of Stratford and festivals, I had the pleasure of attending a matinee performance of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at the Avon Theatre with my youngest son's school group today. I'd really been hoping to see the play, especially after my fellow Narnia purist [personal profile] grav_ity  gave it her enthusiastic thumbs-up, but didn't think that I'd ever get the chance... except it turned out a few of the kids in P's class weren't able to attend, so the teacher entered all the interested parents in a draw for the remaining tickets and I was one of the winners. Which is a minor miracle, because I never win anything.

Anyway, I ended up sitting beside P and one of his friends, and we had excellent seats -- about five rows from the stage, bang in the centre. Where I proceeded to tear up halfway through Mr. Beaver's speech about Aslan in Act One and spent most of Act Two desperately wishing I'd brought tissues, because the production was fantastic. I'm so glad they stuck close to the original story, including a lot of the dialogue, instead of introducing a lot of flotsam for the sake of novelty or a false notion of drama (*side-eyes the movies of Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader*).

I'd read an early review that complained about the songs being intrusive, but I didn't find them overly long or distracting at all, and the one about coming to Aslan's table pretty much killed me (as I said on Twitter, "I was not prepared for the communion metaphors").

And tomorrow Adrienne Kress is coming for our annual tea-and-catch-up, which is always a treat, and will be an especially happy occasion this time with her new MG adventure novel The Explorers coming out in 2017. I really enjoy Adrienne's narrative voice and my boys are big fans of her writing as well, so we're looking forward to this one.
It has been pointed out to me that I fail at updating this journal, which is entirely true. I spend most of my time on Tumblr these days, primarily on my catch-all Tumblr Worlds Unseen (though I try to keep the Faery Rebels Tumblr updated semi-regularly as well, it's more series-specific and more likely to be straight reposts of fan art, images related to the books, and answers to reader questions than original content).

The other place you can catch me on a daily basis is Twitter, where I'm generally accessible even when on a deadline (though it may take me a few hours to reply). I also have a Facebook page (including a Proper Author-Type Page for posting events and signings) but I rarely use it: I'm just not fond of that particular interface.
Monday 31 January: LONDON
12:30 p.m. -- Foyle's, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London
1:30 p.m. -- Blackwell's, 100 Charing Cross Road, London

Tuesday 1 February: LEEDS
4:30 p.m. -- Waterstone's, 93-97 Albion Street, Leeds

Wednesday 2 February: NEWCASTLE
4:30 p.m. -- Waterstone's, Blackett Street, Newcastle


Getting excited now -- so close!
I am happy to announce that today is the official UK and Ireland release date of Arrow! It should now be widely available in bookstores, and I hope my readers will like it.

***

I can also now share a little more detail about my planned trip to England at the end of this month. I'm still waiting for confirmation on a few times and locations, but I'll be splitting my time between London and the North, and the general run of events will look something like this:

31 January:
Book Signings at Foyle's (Charing Cross Road) and Blackwell's (also Charing Cross Road), London (PM).

1 February:
Author Visits to Rossall Junior School, Lancs. (AM) and Benton Park High School, Leeds (PM).

2 February:
Author Visits to Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (AM) and other school TBA (PM).

3 February:
Two more school visits in London and Area (details when available).


I'll also be in London on 4 and 5 February, as my plane doesn't leave until the 6th -- so if there's anybody in the area who would like to get together on the Saturday (or can recommend a reasonably priced hotel in central London for me to stay in on Friday and Saturday night!) then I'd love to hear from you.

***

I am now wonderfully close to finishing my last major revision of Ultraviolet before it goes to the copyeditors and gets turned into galleys. I plan to get the final chapter written today, then spend the next three days reading it over and giving it one last polish before it's out of my hands.

And then, gentle readers, I shall collapse, because 2010 has been by far the busiest and most demanding creative year of my life. I guess that's what happens when you have a book coming out every six months in 2011/12. But it's been rewarding and enlightening, too.

Belated best wishes to everyone for a happy 2011!
I was interested to see Betsy Bird's comments on her Fuse #8 blog today about a new graphic novel called Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (warning: autoplay video at source). Among other things, the novel includes lots of information about Orthodox Judaism, which caused Betsy to comment:
Think about children’s fantasy novels and religion for a moment. Religion in fantasies for kids tends to skew one of three ways. You can incorporate it and make it the entire point of the novel (Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis, or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series which is technically science fiction anyway). You can make up an entirely new religion of your own (as in the novels of Frances Hardinge, Tamora Pierce, Megan Whalen Turner, etc.). Or you just sorta forget about it...
And then she goes on to talk about Hereville as something different, where the religion is very much an integral part of the book's atmosphere and sensibility but it's not the whole focus of the plot, which is more of a hero's quest story.

Which had the desired effect of really making me want to read Hereville, but also made me wonder: for those of you who've read Wayfarer, do you think it falls into the first category (religion is the entire point), or the fourth (it's part of the worldbuilding, but not the main story)? Either one is fine, I'm just curious. Since it's definitely not the second or the third...

And can you think of any other books you've read where religion is handled in a way similar to Hereville, as an integral part of the MC's background and culture but not necessarily the obvious point of the story?

***

That being said, it may take me a while to respond to your (doubtless very interesting) comments on the subject of how religion does or can fit into children's books. After my two appearances in Guelph and Waterloo this weekend, I'm heading off to the Fortress of Solitude to overcome my SHERLOCK obsession work on Arrow revisions, and won't be back online until Friday.

Don't burn down the Internet while I'm away, kids!
*steps very cautiously outside into the Big Wide World*

*sniffs*

*blinks*

Oh, look, there's a big shiny yellow thing up in the sky! *squints at it* I think it's called the sub, or something of that sort?

Well, maybe I haven't been quite that dramatically isolated in my First Draft Cave since mid-January, but it feels like it. All my usual activities went out the window when I set myself the challenge of finishing Arrow by the end of March, and then somewhere in the middle of my frenzied typing I came down with Baby's First Sinus Infection, which was a lot of No Fun At All.

However. I am here now, poking my head out of my burrow and sniffing the virtual wind, and by that you might rightly conclude that I have, in fact, succeeded. To wit, I wrote the last sentence of Arrow this past Saturday. Yay!

Of course, my work is not quite done yet; I have the month of April to revise the really rocky bits of the manuscript and give it a last polish before I turn it into The Lovely Sarah (my UK editor). But for me, the first draft is by far the hardest part of writing any book, and revision is much less stressful. So I'm giving myself a few days to relax and breathe and catch up on all the things that have gone by the wayside in the past three months (like certain household chores, and my shockingly neglected e-mail inbox), and then I'll print the whole ms. with a new font and double-column layout so I can look at it with fresh eyes, and start marking it up like crazy.

In any case, some interesting things have happened since my last post, and I look forward to telling you all about them. You may expect to hear from me a little more often in the next few days...

But in the meantime, you might check out this (now slightly outdated) video I made for Adele over at the book blog Persnickety Snark, giving a little update on what I've been doing and what's coming up in future.

2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 31

Image by Nic's events via Flickr

The good news: Since I started work on Arrow in the second week of January, I have written over 41,000 words.

The bad news: I still have to write at least another 35K, if not more, before this book is finished. And then I need to revise it at least a bit before I can send it to my editor... and all that has to be done by the end of April.

So if you've been wondering why I'm not around much in any of my usual online haunts, that would be the reason, yes.

But I leave you with a teaser! Because I am either nice that way or mean that way, depending on what you think of such things:

He was even taller than she remembered, his skin more tanned, his eyes greener. There was a smear of blood high on his forehead where something had cut him, and he was wearing the fireplace poker like a sword stuck through his belt.


See you on the other side!
First, the good stuff:

Find Out What's In The Bag And Win It Today


And now for a long-overdue heads-up on what I've been doing. Namely, working on my paranormal YA Touching Indigo every spare moment I get. I was delighted with my 12K progress for the first week -- especially since about a third of that was new material -- but this week it's slowed down considerably due to a houseful of bored kids and my participation in London Book Camp (that's London ONTARIO, FYI -- nobody has offered to fly me to the UK yet!). Still, I have hopes of catching up to my target of 20K by Monday.

To help me stay motivated without an Official Editorial Deadline, I've told myself that if I get the first draft of this book finished by the second week of October at the LATEST, I can buy myself a new laptop. Which, considering that my current laptop is an eleven-year-old refurbished Toshiba with zero Internet capability and a busted hinge, is a pretty good incentive. Now I just have to think of an extra treat I can give myself if I get it all done by the end of September...

In the meantime, I've been delighted to find three Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter reviews in the past month from major US publications. First Booklist came through with some very nice words in their July issue, and then just this past week I got the nod from School Library Journal and VOYA, both of which you can check out on the Barnes & Noble page for Spell Hunter if you're curious.

I'll be offline for the next week, doing family stuff and focusing on getting caught up with Touching Indigo, but I look forward to catching up with everyone when I get back!
I had a great time over the weekend at the women's conference in Guelph (1 hour away) and the Writers' Festival in Ottawa (6 hours away), but I was horribly ill (as in aches, nausea, chills, fever, exhaustion, sore throat, coughing up chunks) the whole time. I'm just glad I was able to get through my 2 songs, 2 seminars, 1 reading, 6 bookstore visits (nothing fancy or scheduled, I just dropped by to sign stock) and 3 school presentations without losing my voice or fainting not-so-gently onto the floor.

Between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening, I drove 1400 km. I'm glad to be home -- but my launch and release party are on Saturday, and there's lots of cleaning and preparation to be done before then (like the groceries and the laundry. Oy, the towering piles of laundry.)

And I still have to get through 140 pages of revisions before May 15th... *collapses*

I'm off

Apr. 25th, 2009 07:15 am
rj_anderson: (Author Portrait)
(All together now: "We knew that.")

I'm about to jump in my rented car and zoom off to Guelph for a women's conference, and from there I'm going straight to the Ottawa Writers' Festival to do some school visits (whee!), so I won't be around until Tuesday night or Wednesday... have a great weekend, everyone!
I have now received my second round of edits for Faery Rebels Book 2, and they are due in early May, so I have a lot of work to do between now and then! For which cause I fear that I must put my BEDA* ambitions aside and focus on making this manuscript as tight and clear and compelling a story as I can.

But as penance for abandoning my faithful readers for the next couple of weeks or so, I will share some tidbits about this second book, which goes by the working title of Faery Rebels: Wayfarer in the US (that may well change, though) and by Rebel in the UK:

The story takes place some years after the events of Spell Hunter a.k.a. Knife, and it's told from two perspectives. One is Paul's young cousin Timothy, and the other a girl named Linden whom you may remember from the first book. But even though Linden and Timothy are at the heart of this particular adventure, rest assured that the characters from Book One also play an important part (and get some of the best lines!). It's a much bigger adventure in some ways; it definitely expands our view of the world the Oakenfolk live in. Anyway, I am quite excited about it, as are my US and UK editors, and I hope that those who've read and loved the first book will enjoy this one too.

And now I must dash away and work on my book some more!

--
*Blog Every Day April, as mentioned in this post.

Mea Culpa

Mar. 24th, 2009 12:41 pm
rj_anderson: (Wayfarer - Timothy)
It has come to my attention that many good people deplore the practice of exporting one's Twitter updates to LiveJournal. I can see the justice of this, and shall desist forthwith.

And I will try to have some new actual LJ content soon. Today should be my last day of revisions on Wayfarer, Lord willing! Or at least, until my editor gets back to me with the next round of changes...
Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...Image by Zemanta via CrunchBaseSo I've found this nifty little utility called Zemanta that auto-suggests content (links, creative commons photos, etc.) when you're writing a blog post. The only downside is that you then have to compose your posts using the Blogger (or WordPress) dashboard, but I'd been thinking about doing that anyway, since I fail at inserting images into LJ.

I wonder if this will make me blog more regularly?

In general update news, I'm still slogging away on Wayfarer to the tune of 1500-2000 new words a day, although today was in the negatives because I had to delete about 1200 words I'd just written when I could see the chapter was veering off in the wrong direction. Generally, though, I'm quite pleased with the way the draft is shaping up. The meat of the book will need revising for sure, but the bones are good.

I'm also reading Kenneth Oppel's new YA alt-historical fantasy Starclimber to my eight-year-old son (who was a massive fan of the first two books in the series, and nearly died of happiness when he discovered the third had just come out). Anyway, early in the book there is a scene taking place in a park in Paris, involving a particularly absurd bit of Parisian bureaucracy which I can only think Oppel must have thrown into the book on a dare. Anyway, it was definitely not meant to be read out loud to an eight-year-old while trying to do a French accent, and I would have sharp words for Mr. Oppel if I hadn't been falling all over the sofa laughing until I could hardly breathe.

For my own reading pleasure, I've just finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is every bit as brilliant and devastating as I'd been led to believe. I actually had to put the book down in the middle to sob and wipe my eyes, which almost never happens when I'm reading anything. And here I'd thought I wasn't that heavily invested in the story...

Next up is Graceling by Kristin Cashore, another book that's been getting rave reviews. I've only read half a chapter so far so I really can't tell how much I'm going to like it, but it looks promising.
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I fail at holidays, so I have no timely New Year's post full of resolutions and thoughtful looks back at the year that was, or anything of that sort. I did, however, finish revising Chapter Eight of Knife (although it feels like a bit of a cheat, since I am splitting the original much-too-long chapter into two, so technically I'm only half finished). And that makes me happy, because it means I am still on schedule to get this puppy -- er, faery -- finished and back on my editor's desk by the end of February.

Meanwhile, I have been reading the last four Artemis Fowl books at a frightening pace, which is funny because I really didn't care at all for the premise or the execution when I read the first book, but I did develop a teeny tiny nagging litcrush on Artemis (shut up) and eventually I broke down and decided to find out what happened to him. And now I may kind of ship Artemis/Holly, in a deranged May-December way (yeah, yeah, I know, SHUT UP).

We also watched Amazing Grace on the weekend. Good film, that, and Ioan Gruffydd puts in a highly commendable performance. It even had extra bonus coolness in the form of Nicholas Farrell and Ciaran Hinds, although I was embarrassed to discover during the credits that I was incapable of telling Albert Finney and Michael Gambon apart. (At one point I actually wondered if Gambon were playing both Newton and Fox, but dismissed that as being too stupid.)

Apart from that... there isn't a whole lot else to say. Except that I do have one New Year's resolution after all: I have decided not to harsh anyone else's squee. If you think that you can therefore deduce my opinion of certain recent books, TV shows and/or movies by what I have not posted about them, you may be onto something. (Unless you were thinking about this season of House, which I have in fact been enjoying very much, so there.)

Man, I am boring these days. I apologize to all of you who were expecting actual content.

*skulks away*
I bought a laptop today from a computer liquidation outlet. I told the sales guy I basically just wanted a glorified typewriter -- no Internet capability, no bells and whistles, just a workhorse that could run MS Word and let me get my writing done.

So far, it seems to be working all right -- I only hope it continues to do so for a long, long time to come. I certainly don't plan to overtax its little brain, not when I have a perfectly good desktop in the office. But it will be nice to have the option to work on the laptop when the other computer isn't a practical option.

Of course, now that I have this lovely new tool meant to increase my writing efficiency, I am coming down with a cold and feel too cruddy to write. Meh.

On a happier note, my middle son got his cast off today. The bones have healed nicely, and to his very great relief it didn't hurt when they took out the pins in his elbow. (Poor little guy, he'd been worried about that for days beforehand, and it was all I could do to reassure him.) His arm's pretty weak right now after a month of disuse, but I'm sure that soon he'll be playing happily again -- thank the Lord.
I've just finished Chapter Five of Touching Indigo, which might not sound like much at first. But since my chapters average 17-18 pages, that brings me up to approximately 23,200 words.

I'm nearly a quarter done! Woo hoo!

*shades eyes with hand, peers hopefully at the creative horizon*

There's a city shining in the distance. I can almost read the words THE END written over the gates...
For the past nine days I've been enjoying a visit from the always-delightful [livejournal.com profile] avarill, who has stayed in my home on several occasions now, and yet for some strange reason is still willing to fly here all the way from Californ-eye-eh to experience the mayhem again. This time she even made us pulled pork, which was far above and beyond the call of visitor duty.

We also did some geocaching in nearby Mennonite country (and found three more caches on the trails behind my home), spent a day meandering around the Toronto Zoo, and watched all my favorite episodes of S3 Doctor Who, after which [livejournal.com profile] avarill heartily agreed that Martha Jones is Teh Awesome. (I think I may also have converted her to Heroes, but time will tell. I definitely made a Chad Vader fan out of her, though.)

I did not get any writing done, but I'd already decided that I would be much better to just take the week off and let my ideas compost a bit. I didn't expect the composting to yield three new ideas for an entirely different book than the one I'm working on, but they were ideas for Knife and I'll be revising that soon in any case, so that was all right.

And speaking of Knife, I got my contract from HarperCollins this week! [livejournal.com profile] avarill took pictures as I signed it -- they're on her camera and she's on a plane at the moment, but I'm looking forward to having a record of the big event. The funny thing is, even though I dutifully read through all sixteen pages to make sure I knew what I was signing, it didn't really hit me until I got to the third-last page and saw that they'd assigned me an ISBN number.

My book. Has an ISBN.

I know it's hardly a rare and precious thing. But the sight of that number just made the whole book-getting-published thing seem suddenly real in a way it hadn't before. In fact, I may even have squeed when I saw it. Just a little.

Anyway, contracts are signed and back in the mail. And next week I shall start in again on Touching Indigo and see how much progress I can make before my revisions on Knife arrive...
Otherwise known as my "hey, I'm back from camp and I feel like a zombie" post.

Why a week away from home with no cleaning duties and three delicious meals served daily should prove mentally and physically exhausting, much less feeling like I'm about to get the mother of all colds, I cannot tell you. Suffice it to say that it is so.

I was also hoping that the week away from home would persuade my brain to stop going all OOH SHINY over Touching Indigo and prudently switch gears back to Wayfarer, which is after all under contract and therefore the more needy of my attention. Unfortunately, this did not happen, though I have confidence that it will once I get to know Timothy and Linden better... which, despite all my note-taking and emotional mapping and poking about on Getty Images looking for lookalikes, is not going to happen until I start actually writing them.

Some good things happened while I was on vacation, however: I got passports for myself and three kids with zero waiting time (thank you so much, [livejournal.com profile] risti, for the suggestion about doing the online application -- I think it made all the difference), I had Bubble Tea with [livejournal.com profile] erinbow (who is probably still laughing about the O_O face I made when the first tapioca pearl came up the straw), and we successfully converted my crib-sleeping toddler to a bunk-sleeper with nary a hitch.

Also, I came back home to find that [livejournal.com profile] fuseno8 had posted about our meeting in her blog, with a nice picture of the two of us and everything. Thank you, Betsy! It was a pleasure, and if you should return to town I shall take you out for cream tea.

Well, the house is woefully a-clutter since we have been moving Oldest Child and his enormous collection of toy farm equipment into the room that used to be the baby's, plus trying to unpack several suitcases and do two loads of laundry at the same time. So I must stop trying to catch up with my F-list and get to work, which means I am about to borrow a page from [livejournal.com profile] kalquessa and make this general appeal:

If you've written (or found) anything in the past week that you think I should see, please put a link to the relevant post in the comments.

That would help enormously, thank you.

Oh! And one more thing. I re-read HP Book 7 while I was gone -- taking it slowly and carefully this time, with particular thought given to criticisms I've heard from other readers, as well as my own initial sense of dissatisfaction. And I am happy to report that this time around, I thought it was brilliant. More about that later, when I am no longer surrounded by guilt-inducing household debris.

*hurries off*
I'm not supposed to be working on Touching Indigo today, but I keep getting ideas just the same... this must be a good sign. And speaking of ideas, I'd like to acknowledge those of you who've sent me links to stuff about synaesthesia -- thanks! I really appreciate it.

I was kicking myself all day Friday for staying up so late Thursday night, especially since I'd made my word quota by just after 11 and still didn't get to bed until 12:30. However, it's a good thing I did stay up, since the [livejournal.com profile] fangs_fur_fey contest started at midnight, and they got way more entries than they'd anticipated -- so if I'd waited until morning to send my hook, I might very well not have made it in. As it was, though, my number is 92. We shall see what the judges make of it when they post their comments in a week or so. In a fit of optimism, I plan to rewrite the first five pages of Indigo this week, so they'll be ready in case I'm one of the fortunate few (well, sixteen) to make it to the next round.

In other news... uh, I got nothing. *hides*

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