Thursday, November 8, 2012

I was just reading through my old posts on my other blog, from when I was in Iraq, and found a poem I wrote.

It's strange, dipping into the past. I had forgotten half of what I was writing about (although it came back). Now, some memories are so clear, I can almost taste them. Or hear them. Or smell them.

Here's the poem:

Next year will be better, she said, 
kicking the gravel across the road 
Next year couldn't be any worse 
that's for sure. 
She fell over and died. 
Next year couldn't come now, 
and she was fine with it. 
Those that found her body 
couldn't see the scarring 
or understand why her 
soul ran out. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writing with Children

Everyone loves stories, but not everyone realizes what stories can do for us. They aren't there only to entertain (although that is certainly enough!). Sometimes, a story can bring a child out into the world.

Today, for instance, I spent the morning at my son's preschool. I was there to read a story and then talk to the children (ages 3-5) about making their own stories. We went over how stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. For most of the children, this was all they could grasp at this point. (And some still had a hard time with it, which is fine. Even grownups have a hard time with this.) After we had our little lesson, I sat down with each kid one at a time and wrote down their stories. (This was at a child-sized table, I might add, with a child-sized chair.)

Each child was adorable and brilliant, but it was one particular girl who blew me away. Flora hovered around the table, waiting for her turn, and then ran to the chair as soon as another child left it. The teachers were surprised she was so eager to tell me a story. She barely spoke to the teachers, and she had been there for two years. It's not that she cannot talk--it's that English is her second language, and she is hesitant to use it yet. (I felt the same way when I was in Japanese school.)

I got my pen ready and asked her to start. She smiled, opened her mouth, and poured this out:

(I hope you can read it.)

The teachers were in tears. This girl had finally spoken, and her story was amazing!

My son, on the other hand, gave me two sentences before running off to play with cars. He had a great beginning, and that's all I can ask for.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Editorial Letter, or, I Have a Job!

Yesterday was a big mail day. Probably the biggest mail moment in my writing life, because I got my editorial letter and my marked-up manuscript. I knew already that the revisions would entail a lot of work, but that didn't matter. I love working on my book. I love making it better. And, I can finally say, I really do love this story. (But you might want to ask me about it in three months!)

Anyway, I'm sure that those of you who are working toward this moment or who have gone through it will understand how excited I was. (Even if I don't look it.) 

Me, on a tiny bench, with my package:

Pulling it out of the envelope:

I had another picture of me holding it up, but it has lots of addresses on it, so I'm not posting that. I am, however, going to show you what happened next. For the past year, I've been saying that I wanted to buy a certain bottle of whiskey whenever I sold my book. Yesterday, I finally did it! My critique partner (Emma Kress) and I celebrated in style while we read over the comments my editor made. And I must add, this is fine whiskey. Just don't drink it all at once. ;-)

Me, with a bottle of Redbreast Irish Whiskey:

And our toast:

Aren't those the cutest little cups?

And now? I must get to work. I've got until December to add a bunch of scenes (I underwrite, as I've said before). Oh, and I have to get that sequel going, too! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


At last, I can write the blog post I've been dreaming of for years and years:

Yesterday, I got a basket for my bike!!! Yes! It's something I've always wanted. It makes my back happier, and it's cute.

Oh, that's not what you wanted to hear? Ok... How about:


Before I go any further, here's the blurb from Publisher's Marketplace:

Amber Lough's THE FIRE WISH, in which an unwilling princess betrothed to
the caliph's son captures a jinn and makes a wish to go home, but is instead
transported to the fiery realm of the jinn, while the young jinn who granted
her wish is magically bound to take her place in the royal court of Baghdad,
to Diane Landolf at Random House Children's, in a two-book deal, for publication
in Fall 2014, by Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Laura did a great job with the blurb! And I'm getting published! By Random House!
I can't stop the exclamation marks! I get my Editorial Letter TODAY!
I have to write a sequel before August 1, 2013! My book comes out in two years! 

Ok. I'm done.

No, wait. No I'm not. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are longer books better books? Deeper books?

It doesn't take drinking an entire ocean to know it holds a lot of water, right? You can pretty much figure that out with your eyes. You can tell it's deep by the hue. By the animals it holds. Actually, that's a better way anyway--wouldn't want you drinking salt water. But more to the point: is something better because it's bigger?

Of course not. Duh. Things--be they oceans or diamonds, love or ideas--hold value because of what they are, not because they're big. And books are the same. A heavier, longer book is not necessarily better than a shorter one. It isn't better-crafted because it's bigger. It isn't more interesting because there are more words. I like the idea that books should be exactly as long as they need to be, and no longer. Frankly, we all have piles of books we want to get through. We don't have time for books that are full of unnecessary fluff.

I'm saying all this for two reasons. One, there's a thoughtful article from Salon about this issue, and two, because I tend to under-write so this makes me feel better. I write too concisely and am always adding scenes or backstory with each draft. Naturally, I blame this on my English teacher, Mr. Kaple, who introduced me to Hemingway. I also blame it on a certain Army Captain, who taught me how to write Intelligence Assessments when we were in Baghdad. Both of these men taught me to rein in the prose, which is hard to do when you're naturally wordy. I can't thank them enough! But now, as I am gearing up to do another revision on book one and quick-draft book two, I have to balance the scales a bit.

As a writer, I want to give you time to ease into the story a bit, feeling your way around my world, and savoring the characters and their inevitably bad choices. Otherwise, you won't want to stay to see them grow.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hi! I actually have a free moment while the kids are preoccupied to write something, so here I am. I am bursting to tell you something, but I can't, so I will tell you the next best thing:

There's an amazing new book out, if you like dragons, strong-minded girls, and complexity:

SERAPHINA, by Rachel Hartman, is the best book I've read all summer. It's for older teens (or at least more sophisticated ones), but great for adults too. In fact, I don't know why they don't make it a crossover. Seraphina is...well, you'll have to check it out.

I can't post a picture of what I'm reading now, because it's my critique partner's novel, which doesn't have a cover yet. But it will.

Plans for the week: Spend lots of time with the kids. My daughter has suddenly become re-interested in her violin like never before, and my son is....well, he's a full-fledged terror in a cute package. We've been swimming, riding bikes, playing with play dough, reading, and we've been to Niagara Falls. Next up is our annual trip to Camp Gorham, a family camp in the Adirondacks that is pretty close to heaven. For New York State.

When September comes, I'll be writing a WHOLE LOT more. The kids will be in school and I will be in my new office--I've rented a room in a house filled with other serious writers. I'm so excited about this I can hardly stand it. My own desk! No more driving to the bookstore, buying a drink, and trying to find a table near an outlet. No more sharing my writing area in the house with the art supplies and visiting guests. And best of all, I will be joining a small community of writers. Oh! And the first floor of the house is a full-fledged audiobook company, which is awesome. I will have to restrain myself from bothering them, for sure. Another piece in my dream-come-true puzzle is coming together.

Ok. Go get your hands on SERAPHINA and read it. Then come back and tell me what you thought. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

1. And the book on my mind this week is...

I know, I know. It took me this long to get to it. And believe it or not, that's a good thing. I think I'm finally ready for it. I might have been ready for it fifteen years ago, too, but some things (like emotional stability) move in cycles, and I'm in a state right now that allows for deep, insane, brilliant books like FEED. I am almost done.

If you haven't read it yet, please check it out. M.T. Anderson is undeniably a genius. Delve into his worlds. (I've read his Octavian books and they changed everything for me, even the way I look at empty houses. And they are nothing like FEED. I love how he can be so varied.)

2. My goals for the week are to get ready for a trip to Denver, finish framing my new novel, and go for a run.

3. Earlier this spring I was in the hospital for a mysterious abdominal pain, and it pretty much put a stop to all of my exercise plans. The pain hasn't gone away (or been diagnosed), but I need to get back into shape regardless. Therefore, I will call upon the Master of Pain Banishers, a.k.a. Motrin, and use up some of my willpower and resolve.

4. My daughter's last day of Kindergarten is Thursday. She has learned so much. I don't know if I completely agree with the way the schools are pushing kids to learn, but I am pleased that she can now read and do simple math problems. I just wish it was more child-led learning instead of federal-mandated accomplishments.

This morning, when it was still dark and not time to get up yet, I was laying with my son and he surprised me by saying, "Mommy and Daddy, Wibeff and Henry, that's two and two, which makes four!" I was half asleep, but awake enough to marvel at how he came to that all by himself. Then he added, "Two twos make four." It's amazing what kids will come up with when they realize things on their own, when they are ready. If I'd tried teaching him this, it would have gone in one ear and out the other. This is what I mean when I say I am concerned about my daughter not being in a child-led learning environment. She may burn out, she may dislike school. Or she may roll with the punches and do just fine.