4) Bank fees
5) Time Warner Cable internet service
4) Bank fees
5) Time Warner Cable internet service
Every author likes to imagine her reader reaching the last page of a book and wondering how life will possibly go on now that the story has ended.
Or, at least, that’s one of my favorite fantasies (mine, truthfully, are more elaborate, involving tears, negotiations with God, and a slow descent into madness). When I reached the last page of The Goldfinch, I stared at my Kindle for a good half hour wondering how on earth I could continue on with affairs not knowing what becomes of Boris. This is not a new phenomenon. As a teenage I cried for an entire weekend at the end of Tiger Eyes.
My fantasy has sort of become a reality, because I hurriedly posted the last chapter of the interim sequel to Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board that I’ve been writing for the Wattpad community on Sunday, and madness ensued.
Here, for your enjoyment, are some of the comments.
My paranormal romance for teens, Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, was published just about a year ago, and to switch things up, we changed the cover last week. I think readers approve, because it’s suddenly #1 on the Amazon free teen paranormal romance and horror lists. Exciting!
Here are a few things that I’ve noticed from readers’ comments that I never would have guessed as a novice YA writer. Use them to either avoid pitfalls, or capitalize on what I’ve learned!
1) if the prose of your book contains the words “one” and “direction,” whether you were intentionally trying to reference the boy band or not, female readers will find those two words together and freak out instantly.
2) if you develop a cute, emo teen boy love interest, threatening his life or killing him off will provoke a greater reaction from your readers than anything else that might happen in your story, including having your heroine die, commit terrible sins, or experience dire hardship (John Greene co-signs this point, with Augustus as evidence).
3) teen girls actually really like feisty, strong-willed female characters. In writing this book, I didn’t think too much about the sharp-witted, pint-sized character Mischa, but because she’s the most outspoken character in the book, she’s by far the readers’ favorite. There’s an abundance of wishy-washy female characters in YA, and this generation of teen readers doesn’t identify with them.
4) Female readers will discover and invent references to pop culture influences in their own lives whether you want them to or not. There’s no need to load your book up with mentions of Austin Mahone, the Beebs, Harry Styles, or whatever style sneakers kids happen to be wearing today. Mahone fans will find context in your work even if you try to avoid it. How can you possibly memorize every single lyric? You can’t. You don’t have to, your readers have already done it.
Last night I had a terrible dream about Oculus, that super scary movie about a haunted mirror. I haven’t even seen this movie. I don’t even have the balls to watch the whole trailer when I’m home alone and yet it’s already messing with my head.
When I woke up this morning I realized that a project I’ve been working on for little kid readers about magical realism actually makes much more sense as a really scary story targeted at grown-ups. There’s a very, very fine line separating magic from horror. I actually find the topic of old-timey magicians during the age of vaudeville to be kind of terrifying. Most of the famous guys, Houdini’s competitors, were grifters and tricksters in addition to illusionists, like the super shady Alexander C. who was rumored to have married over 14 ladies, some of them at the same time (wasn’t life grand before computers prevented us from breaking laws)?
These fathers of conjuring and optical tricks have always fascinated me, and their legacy lives on today in our fascination with reality TV mediums.
Said Joseph Dunninger, famous illusionist and friend of Harry Houdini, “There is one primary rule in the fakery of spirit mediumship. That is to concentrate upon persons who have suffered a bereavement.”
I spent this past weekend in Chicago visiting my family before the big rush of holiday airport traffic, which gives me severe agita. My family is blessed to have my three-year-old nephew Declan, the most charming rascal you’ll ever meet, with a glint the size of Texas in his eye. “Thanks,” is how he replies when he’s told that he’s cute. “I know,” is how he replies when he’s told that he’s funny.
Declan and I settled down on the couch to read his holiday favorite, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I got through the whole book, performing goofy voices for him at his insistence, and then I came to a line that I just couldn’t get out without my voice cracking:
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
The reason why this line in a children’s book makes me stop cold has little to do with the Grinch, himself. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing at the corner of 29th and Fifth Avenue, surrounded by co-workers. I’d gotten up late for work that day and was not only annoyed with myself, but annoyed with whatever craziness was going on in the city as I trudged, head down, toward my office near the Empire State Building. In 20o1 I didn’t own a cell phone yet, and hadn’t bothered turning on my television set that morning in my haste to get to work. I heard sirens and saw people rushing around, some standing on corners, pointing and gawking, but I had no idea that the World Trade Center had been attacked. After a summer of consistent tenement fires in my neighborhood and construction accidents across the city, I just assumed that the usual urban nonsense was to blame.
I didn’t have the slightest clue what was happening until my walk from the East Village brought me to the top of Madison Square Park, where the National Guard had cut off access to anyone trying to go further north on Fifth Avenue. Several of my co-workers, banished from our office building, were lingering there, not sure whether to walk home or stick around. Cabs had pulled over on both sides of the street, and cabbies leaned out of the open doors of their vehicles blasting news radio. It was then that I finally turned downtown and saw smoke billowing from the towers. My co-workers informed me of what had happened, or at least what little they had been able to piece together. A plane had hit. No one knew what was going on. Everyone was making sarcastic assumptions about how dang long it would take to fix the building, how subway service would be messed up. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that there had been casualties.
And then, much to the horror of the thousands of people who’d been ambling around at the little intersection where we’d been collecting, the first tower fell as we helplessly watched.
Three months after that horrible day (three months that were filled, in New York, with the inescapable stench of burning jet fuel, tattered photographs of the lost taped to buildings by loved ones, and in my own personal case, a dangerous case of strep throat that had resulted in a brief stay at the hospital), I was really not in the Christmas spirit. I was daily waffling through a full range of emotions, as I think a lot of city dwellers were that year. On a walk past the holiday windows at Lord & Taylor, my attention was caught by robotic models in a diorama spinning to the tune of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and I burst into such a violent torrent of misery for families that had lost someone in the tragedy that I gave up on my errand (I’d been on my way to buy tickets to see Cynthia Nixon in The Women on Broadway) and walked home for the afternoon to sit alone in the dark.
And that year, my wonderful friend Paul, a talented artist who had made a habit of sending hand-illustrated Christmas cards every year, sent a simple card with that line from the Grinch:
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
Despite the fact that no one in the city was feeling festive, the holiday arrived. Despite all that had happened, it came just the same. And that year, Christmas gave us a reason to be especially thankful for our lives, our safety, our families, our jobs. As a city, in the months between September and December, we had pulled together. We had witnessed something unspeakably awful in each other’s company. We had hugged strangers in the street. We had shed tears over people we’d never met. We’d donated blood for survivors who never arrived in emergency rooms. We shook the hands of the men and women in the National Guard who arrived in tanks to protect our neighborhoods, who gave us a sense of security that we desperately needed even if the actual danger had passed. Paul’s card had been an emphatic reminder that even though we weren’t ready for Christmas, there was no avoiding it. It was time to start healing.
Even now, twelve years later, the simple line of that children’s book for me carries with it a profundity that surpasses a statement on materialism. Christmas comes once a year as a gentle reminder to look around, be grateful for our lives, and to take the time to enjoy them. I may never again read all the way through The Grinch without my throat closing up, and I’m not sure that I’d ever want to, because Christmas for me is a time of peaceful remembrance. If you have a three-year-old in your life this holiday season, spend half an hour with him or her and read a book together. The time you spend with him or her is worth far more than any gift you could buy.
If you love Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, here’s your chance to WIN this holiday season!
The junior class at Weeping Willow High School is playing a game of Secret Santa.* If you’d like to play, leave a comment on Facebook, and I’ll assign you the SECRET student from Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board for whom you have to get a holiday gift. You don’t REALLY have to buy a gift, just pick something out online that costs less than $50, and post the gift you’ve chosen in the comments on the contest post on Facebook (if you want to post a picture, Facebook is easier than here). You can mention the gift by name, post a link to it online, or post a picture. With your post, mention the name of the student you were assigned, and why you thought the gift was perfect for them.
From all of the entries received, ONE lucky winner from in between Wattpad and Facebook will be chosen at random and win:
1) a new pair of Sleepover Cotton Pajamas from Victoria’s Secret
2) a selection of TEN holiday nail polishes by Formula X for Sephora
TWO runners up will be chosen at random and win 3 bottles of Formula X each.
Winners will be chosen on January 1, 2014.
Let’s get this holiday party started!!
For Facebook entries: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Light-as-a-Feather-Stiff-as-a-Board/475835895814438
*If you’re unfamiliar with this game, it’s when everyone puts their name on a piece of paper into a box (or a Santa hat!) and draws one. You’re the “secret Santa” for the person whose name you’ve drawn, and on Christmas, you give them a special gift based on their personality. Usually there’s a cash limit on the prizes so that people don’t go too wild with spending.
** If you live outside the USA & Canada and are chosen as a winner, we may have to substitute your prize as it might not be possible to ship nail polish and we don’t want you to have to pay duties on your prize.
It’s snowing in Brooklyn and it’s almost Christmas, which means two things:
1) Christmas tree “farms” have popped up on sidewalks all over my neighborhood (see below)
2) I’m rockin’ my gnome socks, a snow day tradition (also see below w/cameo by Silvio the cat). If this street looks a little familiar, it’s because it’s the street where the scene from Season 1 of Damages was shot where the crazy cop-turned-bad chases David’s sister, Katie, intending to kill her to keep her silent about what she saw in Miami, but then she turns around and confronts him and he chickens out.
I know, I watch too much TV. But this street’s 2 blocks away from my house, and I think about Arthur Frobisher every time I walk past it.
This is it, guys. I mean it this time. For real and realsies.
Today’s the last day you can get a free copy of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board for Kindle. It doesn’t matter what country you live in, as long as your country has Amazon. What are you waiting for?
McKenna Brady thinks her junior year of high school is going to be the best ever when she’s welcomed into the elite group of popular girls at Weeping Willow High School led by blond, gorgeous Olivia Richmond. Prior to junior year, McKenna was known in her small town as the girl whose twin sister died in a tragic house fire, and she’s overjoyed at the prospect of redefining her identity. She has a date to the Homecoming dance with Olivia’s handsome older brother, and a good chance of being elected to student council. For the first time since McKenna’s parents divorced, things are looking up.
But everything changes the night of Olivia’s Sweet Sixteen sleepover birthday party. Violet, the shy, mysterious new girl in town, suggests that the girls play a scary game called Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, during which Violet makes up elaborate stories about the future ways in which beautiful Olivia, brassy Candace, and athletic Mischa will die. The game unsettles McKenna because she’s already escaped death once in her life, but she doesn’t want to ruin her friends’ fun. It’s only a game, she reminds herself.
But it doesn’t seem like a harmless game a week later when Olivia dies unexpectedly in a violent car crash, exactly as Violet predicted. And something begins haunting McKenna’s bedroom at night, leaving her clues that all seem to point to Violet. McKenna enlists the help of her cute next-door neighbor Trey in finding out exactly what kind of curse Violet has put on all of the popular girls in the junior class. As Violet rises to popularity and seemingly steps into the life Olivia left unfinished, McKenna and Trey know they only have a limited amount of time to bring an end to Violet’s game before more lives are lost.
Readers of this book can follow @VioletSimmonsWW on Twitter to continue the story, hear about what’s going on in Weeping Willow, and learn about contests.
For readers ages 13+.
Sometimes, I love Wattpad so much. There are many days and nights when I know there are more pressing matters in my life that I should be attending to instead of writing, but my readers on Wattpad force me to prioritize my creativity above everything else.
Oddly, life isn’t much different than before, when I wasn’t on the Amazon Bestseller List.
But seeing that people are interested in my book is pretty exciting, I’ve got to admit. And surpassing Twilight Book 1 in the paranormal teen romance list was very gratifying, even if it only lasted a few hours!