Posts in Friday Five
The One Rolling Down Highway 41

It's been a REALLY long time since I've done a Friday Five, hasn't it? Do people still do Friday Fives? Am I dating myself here, internet dinosaur that I am? This weekend has to be dedicated to revising the first half of Sequel and straightening out what I need to do to finish the book. I keep telling everyone I'm only halfway done, but actually... I don't know if that's true. Right now it feels like I'm closer to being 3/4ths of the way done plot-wise, but character-wise and worldbuilding-wise, it feels like less than that. With everything that's happened since February, I haven't been able to really sit down and pound out the full rough draft by May 1st like I had originally wanted. I did, however, do a revision outline for myself so I would know what to do when I finally found myself in NYC with my laptop for a full weekend. My new goal is to have the first rough draft finished by May 31st, and to get a draft to my editor by June 15th. So, um, wish me luck on that.

Because I have Sequel and, therefore, The Darkest Minds on the brain, I thought I would dedicate this Friday Five to telling you a little more about it. BUT FIRST! The winner of the galley is...

Rebecca! (rebecca191(at)aol.com)

I'll be emailing you tonight to get your address :)

1. Where to begin, where to begin... oh, here's an interesting factoid: you may have read in the book's description that the camp Ruby is placed it (and escapes from) is called Thurmond. Thurmond is an actual place in West Virginia; when I was trying to plan out where all of these camps would be located, I used a list of towns with very, very small populations. Thurmond, at present, only has five residents. The other camp named in the book is in Ohio, and is in a city that presently has 600 residents. In the book, most of these residents have bailed and it's just the camp and the soldiers that staff it. The bulk of this book takes place in West Virginia and Virginia.

2. Liam tells Ruby at one point--half-kidding--that this song is his theme song. It is semi-biographical (but you'll have to figure out which part):

3. Speaking of classic rock, there are a number of references to songs and song titles throughout. You can see it mostly in the nicknames that show up (especially if Liam is the one giving them): Slip Kid, Lady Jane, Ruby Tuesday, Black Betty, etc. This is mostly for my own personal amusement, but also for another reason I will get around to explaining after, you know, you guys read the book.

4. A quick scene I am fond of, mostly because it shows the early Ruby/Liam/Chubs friendship dynamic:

“Ruby?” I heard Liam’s voice call. “You okay?”

I took a deep breath and reached back, hand feeling through the air for the faucet. The water overhead faded to a mere drizzle, and then a drip, and then nothing at all.

“Can you—uh—open the door? Just for a sec?” He sounded nervous enough to make me nervous. For one terrifying split second I thought something had happened. I reached for the towel and wrapped it around myself. My fingers flicked the lock over and were turning the doorknob before my brain caught up. A blast of icy air was the first thing to hit me. Liam’s wide eyes were the second. The pair of big white socks in his hand, the third.

He glanced around the bathroom over my shoulder, his mouth pressed in a grim line. The motel room was darker than it had been when I first walked in; we must have been well into night now. So I couldn’t be sure, not in any real way, but I thought I caught a hint of color flooding the tips of his ears.

“Is everything all right?” I whispered. He stared at me, letting the warm fog from the bathroom wash over him. “Liam?”

The socks were thrust in my direction. I looked down at them and then up at him, hoping I didn’t look as flabbergasted as I felt.

“Just wanted to . . . give you these,” he said, giving them a little shake. He thrust them again in my direction. “You know, for you.”

“Don’t you need them?” I asked.

“I have a couple extra pairs, and you have none, right?” He looked like he was in some kind of pain now. “Seriously. Please. Just take them. Chubs says your extremities or whatever are the first things to get cold, so you need them, and—”

“Oh my God, Green,” I heard Chubs say from somewhere in the room. “Just take the damn socks and put the kid out of his misery.”

Liam didn’t wait for me to hold out a hand. He reached past me and deposited them on the counter, right next to the sink.

“Um . . . thanks?” I said.

“Great—I mean, no problem,” Liam turned to walk away, only to turn back again, as if thinking of something else. “Okay. Great. Cool—well, so you—”

“Use your words, Lee,” Chubs called. “Some of us are trying to get some sleep.”

“Oh, right. Sleep.” Liam made a vague motion toward the room’s bed. “You and Zu are going to share. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not,” I said.

“Okay, great!” He put an abnormally bright smile on his face. I wondered what he was waiting for me to do or say—if this was one of those moments that being trapped in a cabin with dozens of girls for six years had failed to prepare me for. It was like we were speaking in two different languages.

“Yeah, um, great,” I repeated, more confused now than ever.

That seemed to do the trick, though. Liam turned and walked away without another word.

I picked up my new socks from the counter, examining them. Just before I shut the door, I heard Chubs’s voice, tinged with his usual told-you-so.

“—hope you’re pleased with yourself,” he was saying. “You should have just left her alone. She was fine.”

But I hadn’t been, and somehow Liam had known.

5. The book Watership Down plays a pretty big role in this one...

Thank you clever tagline, for explaining why that is.

Okay, that's in from me. Thank you again for all of your FANTASTIC reading suggestions! I just started a Finnikin of the Rock and am loving it something fierce. What are you guys up to this weekend?

The One About Disneyland

My Dad is a big Star Wars collector. I think I've established this a few million times on this blog, so I won't dwell on it, except to say that when he saw this commercial, he immediately decided to take his wife of nearly 30 years and his three young adult children to Disneyland:

So cute, right? Darth Vader on the tea cups slays me.

We were originally going to go this past summer, but decided to wait until December because we all wanted to see how the park gets decked out for the holidays. Here are a few things we didn't factor into this decision:

1) Children on winter break 2) The fact that everyone wants to see what Disneyland looks like decorated for Christmas

I have been to Disneyland three or four times in my life and I don't think I've ever seen it so crowded before. One of the ride operators told us that the park was "filled to capacity," which is rumored to be between 75,000-85,000 people. 85,000 PEOPLE!! We had to wait over an hour to get into the Haunted Mansion, and another hour to get on Pirates of the Caribbean. Those two lines were so long that they actually crossed one another's path in the New Orleans section at one point. I still have cuts around my ankles from getting nicked by deadly stroller edges.

So in honor of today being Friday, and the fact I haven't done one in a reeeeaaallly long time:

Friday Five Things I Learned About My Family At Disneyland

1. We get our money's worth: I think some part of me always knew this, at least since this one time we went to this restaurant called Islands and noticed they had increased the price of their drinks from $1.00 to something ridiculous like $2.50. At the time my Mom issued the challenge to "get our money's worth," which we all maybe took a step too far (in typical Bracken fashion) by getting about eight refills each to justify the expense. Well, let's just say that we refused to leave the park until we went on every single ride we wanted to go on at least once, sometimes twice, and maaaybe didn't leave until it was close to closing.

2. We have to be fed in order to avoid meltdowns: Let's be honest, I already knew this about myself. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of my coworkers know this about me, too, considering the last time we were at a conference I actually turned to my boss and said "YOU HAVE TO FEED ME NOW" and people maybe think I joke about being hungry enough to eat my hand when I am maybe not joking. But, yes. This is a family trait that we all have, save for my mother, who is a perfect angel on earth.

3. We sometimes cut lines and aren't sorry about it: My mom and I were the worst about this (she's still a perfect angel on earth, though). It might partially be because the lines were already so out of whack, or the fact that we have sneaky tendencies, or that we just like to seize opportunities as they appear, but one of these happenings almost resulted in a what's-what situation in the line for It's a Small World. To be fair, Mom and I both thought the line we were in was for moms parking strollers--there was a huge gap between the start of that section of the line, and the entrance to the actual ride. I think I'm also just used to the New York City mentality of "Coming through, coming through, get out of my way if you have no idea what you're doing, you snooze you lose the right to squeeze yourself into that subway car," too. Anyway, this woman in line behind us totally went off and started sassing us in a super passive aggressive way, so we stopped and waited for my brother, sister, and dad, who were so freaking embarrassed to have to admit they were related to Mom and I that they refused to talk to us for a few minutes. They eventually split the line into two separate ones, and we ended up getting the best vindictive pleasure when we ended up getting on the ride before the woman who had yelled at us. I think Mom might have even waved at her still in line as we bobbed by on our little boat.

4. We get fixated on things: Case in point--once I realized how many damn mountains there were at Disneyland (Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, the Matterhorn...) I could not shut up about it. Or my sister, who absolutely HAD TO RIDE THE PETER PAN RIDE which resulted in us waiting for 70 minutes to get on a line that lasted 1 minute 45 seconds, if even. At least we got to see Travis Barker from Blink 182?

5. We take ride posing very seriously.

Happy weekend!

Friday Five, LifeAlex Comment
The One on a Break

First, just a reminder: I'm signing at BEA and I would love to see you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 10:00AM – 10:30AM Location: Table 20

Friday Five Reasons Why I Haven't Been Posting:

1. Work, and traveling for work--I was in Texas two weeks ago, and was in Florida for about five days. It's nice to get out of the office and see authors, educators, and librarians, but it's exhausting stuff + having to come back and catch up on everything in the office.

2. Revisions, and a fast-approaching deadline--My computer's battery bloated right on up and caused all sorts of problems with the casing and the trackpad, which has prevented me from getting much revision work done (+ the aforementioned busybusybusy work stuff). My deadline is in July and between now and then I have ALA Annual, which is arguably the biggest conference we attend. I hope you understand why I'd rather be using my little free time to revise rather than to blog.

3. Nothing much to say about anything--Really, my life is super boring. The most excitement I had outside of traveling was going to see Thor in a theater full of squealing fanboys and fangirls.

4. Really feeling burnt-out on blogging/tweeting/etc. and wishing I didn't have to do it at all--Basically, I am turning into a 90-year-old woman. I don't know if it's because I've been blogging in one form or another since I was 13, but it's losing a bit of luster for me, and the older I get, the more I want some kind of privacy. The best thing about blogging and tweeting is that I get to stay in touch with all of you--but I don't want to be one of those people who have 50,000 tweets about eating, revising, the sads, etc. and I'm not sure you'd want that from me anyway. Of all of the networking sites, I'm probably the most active on Tumblr, and mostly because the reblogging function appeals to my laziness.

5. Life in general

My revisions are due at the beginning of July, and while I might post once in a while between now and then, they'll probably be few and far between. Sorry! Back in a few weeks, hopefully...

The One Looking Back

So! To those that celebrate it, did you have a nice Christmas? I'm still at home in Arizona, but I'll be leaving on the 5th for ALA Midwinter. I won't be back in NYC until the 12th! Good thing I got out before the the blizzard... though, honestly, it sounds like it would have been SO MUCH FUN to wander around in the snow with the city mostly shut down. I have my fingers crossed I'm going to miss most of the not-so-fun aspects of snow in the city--namely, the gross slush that melts into pools of freezing cold, dirty water on the street corners. (They're always deeper than they look!) It hasn't been all fun and sunshine here, though. It was pretty cold today (in the 30s and 40s) and the people here are just not equipped to deal with that... mentally, or clothing-wise. I know I've been pretty quiet here on the blog recently. In the process of changing jobs and trying to finish/revise BLACK IS THE COLOR, I've been trying to keep a low profile. Keep my head down and type, type, type in what free time I dug up. One of my resolutions is to blog at least twice a week next year (and also exercise. And maybe stop guzzling so much Mountain Dew. And to try to stop saying bad things about the following: cats, New York City, GLEE, and the color taupe.) So, um, watch for that, I guess?

Since it's the 31st and a Friday and I'm supposedly to be all ~reflective~ about the year and I have approximately fifteen minutes before I get to go nom nom nom my Pei Wei dinner, I thought I'd do a Friday Five: Special Edition.

Namely, five things I learned in my debut year.

1. Book bloggers are awesome. I feel that this one speaks for itself, but I can't even tell you how wonderful it's been to meet and befriend you all. I don't know if you realize this, but you tend to be the bright, dazzling stars (yes, you DO dazzle us) in what often be a dark, angst journey to publication. So high-fives all around and keep fighting the good fight!! Brilliant, the whole lot of you!

2. TO STAY OFF GOODREADS. Oh, 209809 people have added my book? OOOHHH? I have a new review? OMG, SOMEONE GAVE ME ONE STAR! But, OMG!!! ANOTHER FIVE STAR REVIEW. WHY DID THIS REVIEWER ONLY GIVE ME FOUR STARS IF SHE WROTE SUCH A NICE REVIEW?! SWEET JESUS IN THE MANGER, TWO STARS?

Basically, Goodreads is where happiness goes to die. 2011 and 2012 debut authors, if there's one piece of advice I could give you, it would be to stop reading your reviews before you start. Honestly, not a whole lot of good will come of it. You get a good review, and it's like crack. You need another hit. And another. And another. I know authors are like Tinkerbell and generally need applause to survive, but it's a slippery slope. Just remember that you are never as good as your best reviews, but you are certainly NEVER as horrible as your worst ones.

3. People have no idea how the publishing industry actually works. They don't understand advances in royalties, agents, how few books get on the NYT list, how many books a year are published--really, they don't. It's such a strange little world, and yet I'm still surprised when I have to explain that it's normal for a book to be published in hardcover one year and paperback the next.

4. There is such a thing as over-promotion. In some cases, it's just as bad as under-promotion, because it's a huge turn-off. There's no need to retweet every single review you get, send out ten thousand GoodReads invites, or mass invite your Facebook friends to Become a Fan of your book. If you're at all curious, the things I felt helped buzz around BRIGHTLY WOVEN were: ARC tours, printing bookmarks, blog contests, showing my face on twitter now and then, and actually taking the time to get to know bloggers. The rest was luck and circumstance, to be honest.

5. Understanding that everyone has different journeys, and each of those trips have different emotional baggage. I felt like I wasted a lot of energy on jealousy this year--I was jealous of the people who didn't have to work full-time jobs, jealous of huge advances, jealous of marketing plans, jealous of editor/author relationships, you name it. And not just my own personal feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, but everyone else's, too. Dealing with the people who could not put a lid on bragging (and those who, apparently, just do not realize how they come off sounding) and those who were upset and frustrated by publishing things that were completely out of their control. In the end, I think that played a big role in me cutting back the time I spent online. I'm not on twitter nearly as much and I barely blog when you compare Now Me to Me Two Years Ago. I really just needed to disconnect if I was ever going to be in the right mental state to write a good book again. Because that's what's important to me now, not how many people are talking about my book on Twitter.

Debut year took me on a rocky, wild ride of super-highs and crushing lows, but it taught me a lot about myself and what my actual goals are. I know what kind of author I want to be now, and it's a very different one than I thought I wanted to be in 2009.

Happy New Year to you and yours! May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows.

The One That's Freezing Her Butt Off

1. HOLY CRIPES, IT IS COLD OUTSIDE! This is not one of those, "Save it, Desert Child. It's not THAT cold!" moments. It is legit freezing outside. 30 and 40 degrees? Can handle that. 15-29 degrees? Not a fan. One of the buildings near my new office has a digital display on the outside that shows the time and temperature, so I can feel stressed about BOTH how late I'm running and how cold I am. Last night, while I was running around the Times Square area with two of my friends, one of them--Tyler--goes, "Are you okay??" because my eyes had been watering for five minutes but I couldn't feel it as my FACE WAS COMPLETELY NUMB. Baaaaaah! Hate winter. 2. We were out running around Times Square, by the way, because they were taking me to an advanced screening of The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader--because, let me tell you friends, I avoid Times Square at all costs. It is the fifth circle of Hell. I would more willingly approach an active volcano than Times Square during rush hour. But, unfortunately, that's where the theater was. We had to find some place to eat dinner nearby and settled on Five Napkin Burger. Five Napkin Burger is SO DAMN GOOD. It is also extremely heavy and filling. And we only had about fifteen minutes to eat, which turned into six by the time the food came out. I'm pretty grateful I didn't end up puking after woofing it down, running several blocks to the theater, and being forced to sit all the way up front. AND AND AND, the movie was in 3D. Yikes!

I liked the movie a lot, mostly because of Ben Barnes (Or, as the fine folk at ONTD like to call him "Bin Bons"). He dropped his crazy awful accent from Prince Caspian, thank goodness. The kid that plays Eustace was pretty damn perfect and the movie has a lot of heart. I'll admit that I'm really not the biggest Narnia fan in the world. It occurred to me, when all of the crazy green mist started happening, that I actually never got around to reading this book. Or any of the ones that followed it, aside from skipping ahead to the last chapter of the last one to see how it all ended. Once I found out that Susan didn't get to go to Narnia Heaven (ALSO, THE REST OF THEM DIE IN A HORRIBLE TRAIN CRASH. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT, C.S.), I was like, "What's the point?" From a very young age I understood that C.S. was peddling Jesus, and I just wasn't sure that I wanted it. Gosh, and the coversation that Aslan has with Lucy at the end of this movie actually made me face-palm:

Lucy: Will you visit me in our world? Aslan: I'm already there, honey child. You just have a different name for me. Lucy: O_o Aslan: You had to come to Allegoryland, Narnia so that you could learn to know and love me better there. Lucy: .... o_O? Audience: PLEASE GET THERE FASTER.

ALSO! Roommate Jules and I have been on the William Mosely-for-Peeta train from the beginning. He just had this sweet, innocent look to him that we thought fit Peeta. Not to mention that adorable hair:

mose

I am sad to report that, after seeing his present-day appearance, we bailed hard and fast off that track:

mose2

3. Slightly less awesome: While I was walking home from the train last night (and, of course, talking to Mama Bracken on the phone), I witnessed a delivery man on a bicycle get runover by a taxi. First, it was horrible both to hear AND see. Second, you would not believe the average New Yorker's response to this kind of situation. I let out a startled, "Oh my God!" and froze, but two women on the other side of the street ran through traffic to get to the guy and were telling him he was going to be okay and that they were calling 9-1-1 for him. Another woman, also on the other side of the street, ran up to the taxi and started banging on the driver's side window screaming, "Turn off your [bleeping] car, [bleep]er! That's right, TURN-IT-OFF!" And, weirdly enough, there was a cop car less than a hundred feet away and the officers pulled right up. Figures that average New Yorkers beat them to the punch.

4. Did you guys hear about Katie Goldman? This adorable little girl is a huge Star Wars fan and was teased by kids at her school for carrying a Star Wars water bottle as the series is, apparently, for boys. Naturally, the Star Wars fan community--which, by the way, is awesome and welcoming and takes care of its kind--rallied around her after her distressed mom blogged about the incident. I really can't stress how lovely the community is; in addition to being extremely loyal to their fandom and friendly beyond imagination, they're also very service-minded. You can read a little bit about the charities the famous 501st costumers work with here.

5. I finished writing up the synopses for for BLACK IS THE COLOR sequels! Anna, once again, came through and helped me work through them. I just HATE WRITING SYNOPSES. Hate them. The synopsis for the second book is much longer and more detailed than the first, both because I've put more thought to it AND because I don't want to reveal the ending of the third book. I realize that defeats the purpose of writing a synopsis, but I am guarding the final revelations with my LIFE. I'm trying to argue to my agent that, due to the sharey-share-share nature of the industry, I'd rather not risk of having any clues leak out. She'll probably shoot me down and tell me to put my butt back in the chair and rework the synopsis for book 3, but I hope not!

Have a great weekend!

The One You Should Remember (on the Fifth of November)

1. Ummmmmm, I would make excuses about why I haven't been blogging, but it essentially boils down to me being a combination of busy, sick, and kind of exhausted. So, uh, I haven't exactly started NaNoWriMo yet, even though I'm supposed to be, what, 10,000 words in? Ask me if I even have a plot for the story yet! Or, you know, don't, because you probably already know the answer... Anna and I have been talking recently about how important it is to take a break after finishing a project. The natural temptation for both of us is to immediately dive right into the next project and keep writing, but the truth is (for me, at least), I need some time to recharge my batteries. BLACK IS THE COLOR is very long and it was emotionally exhausting for me to write (translation: poor Ruby) AND it took me... eight months to write? Nine months?

So, I think instead of doing NaNo, I'm going to try to use this month to really plot out the MG Fantasy I'm thinking about--and to try to work on synopses for BitC's other books. BUT! I still want to hear about how NaNo is going for you guys! How's it hanging? What's your current word count?

2. In other news, my sister and mom are still dressing my poor little Fluffy McNugget up:

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Don't be fooled by his happy expression. This dog already thinks it's a cat and spends most of his days walking along the back of the couch and jumping onto the kitchen counters. He's going to go through yet another identity crisis and think he's a squirrel for the next six months. Teagie was not safe either, though:

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3. One of my roommates recently started as an Editorial Assistant on the adult side of the biz and sent me this essay on the evolution of rejection letters through the ages. It's an interesting read, but let me be frank here: editors do NOT have the time to sit down and write out in-depth critiques of books they have no desire to work on. The point Ed Breslin makes about how rejection letters used to be educational is true, but being an editor today is entirely different than it was even five years ago. There are so many new responsibilities, tasks, and, let's not forget, a great deal more submissions.

"The electronic burps I’m getting today are, for the most part, shallow, cursory and absolutely useless to me as a writer. Sad but true, the rejection letter, like so many things in book publishing, is a shadow of what it used to be."

I've written a number of rejection letters since I started at my Place of Employment and, trust me, it sucks. But there are a number of reasons why editors use short, polite, often generic responses:

1) To ensure they don't damage any professional relationships 2) Because no one likes killing the souls of writers/hurting their feelings 3) There's simply not enough time in the day to write out what basically amounts to an editorial letter 4) I hate to say it, but Publishing houses really don't owe anything to authors they don't publish

4. So even though I'm not participating in NaNo, I still have LOVED reading the articles and pep talks coming out of it. Mercedes Lackey's pep talk really resonated with me in particular, as it champions writing fanfiction and I'm someone that used to write fanfiction seriously and consistently from the time I was 12 and right on through college. I can't praise that experience enough. It's like riding a bike with training wheels--by playing with characters and/or worlds that are already developed, you have a lot of freedom to develop your own style and learn about plotting and characterization. Actually, as that flighty temptress Fate would have it, I just started working on a short piece of fanfiction last night! You will likely never read it (and, if you do, you'll have no idea that I wrote it), but gosh, I have so much fun with fanfic. (The last one I wrote was in 2007, so it's been a while!)

5. Are you guys fans of horoscopes? I'm embarassingly obsessed with them, to be quite honest. I think it stems from my hatred of surprises and the absurd joy I get from being able to plan ahead. AstrologyZone is my absolute favorite. I wait for the first of every month like Christmas morning!! Guess what, guys? November is supposed to be great for pretty much everyone. I'm already seeing the benefits--I hope you guys are, too!

xx A