Shopping carts, flying, snow, Surge and adding a particular kind of awesome to your YA manuscript

Here she comes to save the day...!

Well, not really. All of my flying was via standard-issue aircraft, and to the best of my knowledge, there were no capes flapping behind that Boeing 767. Am I a fan of the flying? Not really. But I was on the only flight (for that airline) that seems to have made it from SFO to JFK yesterday, so--even if I got home at three am (yes, today is an excellent day for coffee), I'm pleased to be back.

And, should you be wondering--as I was--whether the reports of snow in NYC are exaggerated--well, they're not. Not only did people get stuck on the A train for nine hours (yikes!) and also on New Jersey Transit (double yikes!) but the snow, once plowed, is waist-high. Granted, I'm short. But as the cabbie tossed my luggage over these mini-mountains between street and sidewalk, I had some climbing to do. Happily, I was wearing practical boots. Yes, I think heels will be shelved for awhile yet.

I picked up two excellent books featuring, of all things, meat--Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bordain (though rather amusing, this is not a food/chef's memoir you can give your grandmother) and Going Bovine, which I actually purchased just minutes before going to a steakhouse with my family. With this little tome about mad cow in my bag, the sole veggie option was somewhat less disappointing.

Now. I've only read about half of it so far, but--I do believe I need to name a new subgenre in YA literature.

I confess, operating on about five hours of sleep, I'm in no position to come up with a clever title.

But--if you've ever, er, "borrowed" shopping carts at Kmart for the express purpose of racing through the parking lot,* pushing your friends in them--likely by moonlight, perhaps under the influence of several ill-advised cans of Surge** (yes, we were dorky enough to think caffeine in large quantities was exciting; yes, the carts were returned safely)--all while deliriously in lurve with some cutie at your school, who'd just, that day, shown interest--then you know how it feels to read these works.


There are three works like this that come to mind, with a feel similar to this (and, if you can think of more, please let me know):

Paper Towns. For serious. Go out and get it. This is the best of the best in this category. I spent about 85 percent of my time reading this grinning like an idiot.

I Love You, Beth Cooper. Don't be fooled by the stupid-looking movie version--this his hilarious, witty, smart and obviously written by someone who has an inside view of teen geek life. Very amusing.

And of course, now, Going Bovine.

There are some elements of this in other works, of course, but these are the purest examples I've found.

Now, what do they have in common?
  1. Male protagonists in love (or crushing on) young women who seem, at first, quite inappropriate for them--out of their social league, usually. 
    1. People often say that YA fiction (and most books) are for (young) women. That said, being female, it's incredibly fun to watch teen love from a male perspective. So, if you're writing from this male perspective, not to worry.
    2. A male perspective is not necessary for this sort of excitement, but it does make things easier--it strikes a very different chord for males, rather than females, to be crude and/or engaging in gross-out/amusingly destructive/lustful behavior--so there's a bit more freedom to be outrageous without having to explain it. Unfortunate but true. Imagine GK as a guy. It'd probably be really different. I'd be sure to have excellent ties.***
  2. Adventure, usually involving driving (or other travel), mild law-breaking, mischief, and--rather improbably--not getting caught. I busted out laughing when I read the description of Beth Cooper's driving habits. I'm sure my seat mates thought me rather strange. 
  3. A journey seeking something at the end. For Paper Towns and Going Bovine, the protagonist is looking for a particular person (Margo Roth Spiegelman and Dr. X, respectively). Beth Cooper's protagonist is following, well, Beth Cooper--and hoping for her approval. And love. Aww.
  4. The element of a teen fantasy. Are these totally impossible? Yes. Are they taking off from what many teenagers wish they could do? Why, yes--they are. 
As always, one would do well to think of what we wished had been possible at that time in our lives--and then taking it a step further. Whether it's a scene or a whole work (which is very difficult to sustain, of course), this element of pure teen excitement can bring your work into a whole new level of awesome.

With that, I'm off to get more coffee and cold medicine.

Hope you're well and had a wonderful holiday.

__________________________________________
* It was a small town. Don't judge.There was very little to do.
** See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surge_(soft_drink)
*** Cravats, and ruffles in general, are underrated.
Check out my interview on the EbyssWriter blog.

And yes, I really do eat Nutella with a spoon.

Edgar Allan Poe received only $15 for writing The Raven.


Why thank you, in-flight magazine: here is proof, just in time for the holidays (and relatives' questions), that even if you have financial trouble, you may still be quite successful.*

Remember how, months ago, I took that survey about how you supported your writing lifestyles? A large percentage wrote in to say that help from family/a spouse is essential.

But, now that it's the holidays and prying questions are more likely than ever--how do you convince your relatives/significant others that it's a legitimate way to make a living (or try to)? 

Really. I'm curious. I know there must be  technique. Given that it can take well over a year (or more!) to write a novel and seek an agent, what do you do in the meantime? Do you give deadlines (make this much in advance/royalties by this date)? Set goals? Budget? Agree that you'll clip coupons while thinking of the perfect line of dialog? Please use the comments section to share ideas. 

Well. I am needed in the kitchen. I'm making tiny rice krispie sushis. Recipe to follow, if you  like. They require dark chocolate, rice krispies, patience, and a package of those Dots candies.

Hope this finds you well.



_________________________________________
* Yes, this also mean that, even if you're successful, you may still have trouble--but let's keep it upbeat, people! Eggnog and candy canes! 

The Polar Express

So. One of the many advantages of living in NYC is having lovely book events to help thaw us, perhaps with peppermint lattes, between work, errands, shopping, holiday parties and other tasks that make up our holiday season. It's currently 25 degrees, but the office heat is cranked and I have plenty of hot coffee at my disposal.

Last week, Chris Van Allsburg came to the Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side, answered questions and signed books for the parents and children in attendance.


His work was projected up on a large screen while one of the staff members read. When she got to the line, "...the first gift of Christmas," a two-year-old girl stood up on her chair and yelled, "Yayyyy, Christmas!"--which had the entire room laughing.

You know how I mentioned that, as an author, you're also a character during your readings?

One child asked how he knew what the trains in the story should look like, and he replied (naturally, I'm paraphrasing from what I remember; I didn't have a recording device), "Well, they were drawn from memory. The train came for me when I was eight. But after that, I went looking for a toy train to use as a model, one that looked like the real train, and drew from that, only made it look much, much bigger."

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about lying to children--if my (future, theoretical) kids end up celebrating these holidays, I'm going to have some difficulty saying, "Oh yes, and there's a man who comes down the chimney/a very large rabbit that comes with a basket/a fairy that takes teeth and leaves money"--but all of the children and parents thoroughly enjoyed the event.

I couldn't help but ask if he had an object, like the bell in his story--something that, for him, meant childhood.

"Well, I have the bell, of course," he said, his tone a little nudge-nudge for the adults--the kids weren't really listening at that point, since B&N had just announced that there was a "special treat"--which turned out to be bells on specially printed ribbons--if the children behaved themselves a little longer.

"It's so hard to keep things after all these moves," he said, "But I do have a lion puppet, Leo, from when I was a kid. It says 'Leo' on his tag. And he goes on the top of my Christmas tree every year."

The next book down the line will be about the first person ever to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel--who, it turns out, was a woman in her sixties who used to teach at a charm school.

Here's a picture snapped from my phone. And, yes, he's wearing a red vest and green tie:

Hope this finds you well and warm. 

The McNuggetini

This is the best video I've seen in a long time.



Many thanks to Gwen Hayes, of The Fictionistas and GwenHayes.com, for sending  me this video.
If GK were to give stock tips, this would be the most recent one: invest in coffee. Why?

Because I'll be drinking enough of it over the next few weeks to raise its value considerably.

Yes. Things are very busy at the House of GK (kind of like the House of Gaga, but with fewer meat dresses and better books). I'm good busy--amazing things are in the works--but busy.

So. If it takes me longer than usual to get back to you, it's not because I'm ignoring you. I'm just crazed.

Here's a recipe for espresso brownies--though, personally, I'd add more espresso powder.
If you're not reading Tor.com, you should be.

Check out this great post, Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing December Releases in Young Adult Paranormal. One great quote:
Okay, girls, here’s the deal. If there’s a new boy in school, and he’s moody and totally hot and seems drawn to you despite your utter lack of social skills and dating history, just figure he’s a werewolf and go with it. After all, the full moon only comes once a month.
There are also wonderful short stories. This one went straight to GK's little heart. So sad. Even though I never particularly cared for ponies.

And there's even a leaked dance number from Craig Ferguson’s Doctor Who special.



So, in a word: awesome.

One of my friends is a Tor author--he writes steampunk novels--and, yesterday, he brought them candy made with a recipe from 1879. He's calling them The HMS Lollipop, and jokes that there are functional candy airships in every bite. Here's a picture. Note that it's not okay to bring candy/sweets/edibles/things that can contain poison or dangerous materials unless you officially work with a house/agent. He still got stopped by security, and had to leave the basket downstairs.

Not to worry. The sweets arrived safely.