Real Talk: How This Whole Charity Anthology Business* Became A Thing

one of the mini-buttons you can get when you back the kcickstarter campaign!

one of the mini-buttons you can get when you back the kcickstarter campaign!

(*By “business” I mean “activity or concern,” not industry!)

So, 2017 has had many of us feeling pretty powerless–especially if you’re not in a swing state, and/or don’t have enough disposable income to donate to reputable charities every month. The world is a hot mess sundae, and the US is a steaming pile of cherries on top. What is there to do?

Like many of you, I don’t have much extra income to donate to charity, but I do have a skill set. I can donate my time and effort to creating a product that will produce sales, and I can donate sales from that product to the charities that speak to my heart, and hopefully yours as well. That is how I decided to embark upon this Halloween anthology project. For this anthology, (which is hopefully the first of many charity anthologies I’ll be editing over the next few years) I’ll be donating 50% of the proceeds to Girls Not Brides, a global charity working to put an end to child marriages, something that affects over 15 million girls every year.

I’ve decided to publish this anthology not just because I enjoy the process of publishing, and not just because it’s fun to work together with other authors on a creative project, but because I see this as an opportunity for a group of us to make a little bit of a difference in the world, starting with one of the most vulnerable, but potentially powerful, demographics: young girls.

But I’m not doing this alone. The authors writing their stories and submitting their work are contributing. The amazingly talented illustrator is contributing. All of the friends helping me spread the word are contributing.

Can you help us reach our goal by backing this Kickstarter campaign, or sharing the link? Every dollar and every share is deeply appreciated.

And if you are a YA author, would you consider submitting to the anthology?

Thanks!

Announcement: Unknown Press’s First Anthology

So I’m doing a thing, because I work well under pressure, and I have a Critical Thesis to write this semester and not enough pressure to cook with apparently!

This summer and fall I’m using my expertise in indie publishing to put together an anthology of Halloween-themed short stories written by YA authors. Why? Because Halloween (the most important holiday of the year) deserves to be celebrated in all possible ways, and reading a collection of Halloween-themed stories is a pretty great place to start! After all, what goes better with your October mood than a cozy Halloween story?

Even better: 50% of the proceeds from this publication will be donated to Girls Not Brides, a “global partnership of more than 700 civil society organisations from over 90 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential.”

Because I’m just poor confused millennial lass, I don’t have the funds up front to pay the authors for their hard work. BUT AUTHORS DESERVE TO GET PAID, so I’ve put together a Kickstarter campaign where you can, if you so choose, support the anthology with a few dollars, a pre-order, or just spreading the word. When you support the campaign, you can receive:

  • Our undying thanks!
  • A free Halloween costume suggestion
  • 1 of 4 (or all 4) original “I Support Halloween” mini buttons
  • A pre-ordered eBook copy
  • A pre-ordered print copy
  • Or even YOUR NAME forever emblazoned in the Acknowledgements section of the book!

I hope you’ll take the time to check out the campaign! And now, I leave you with my favorite Halloween .gif (from “Over the Garden Wall”):

 

Burning Bright in a Garbage Fire World

I recently attended and returned from my second residency at VCFA (and my first winter residency). It was in many ways even better than the first residency, and in some ways it was less, but it was incredible to be surrounded by so many creative, insightful, inspiring people, especially after the year we’ve all had.

snidelyUpon returning from VCFA, I crash landed back into reality with severe withdrawal from the community there, compounded by the horrific garbage fire political state of the US. There’s so much evil in the world, so much evil on our own home soil, and I have no idea where to begin. As an artist, I feel alternately useless, misplaced, and occasionally hopeful. I want to create stories that make a difference, but it feels too late, doesn’t it? We have so many good stories that already make a difference…but they didn’t make enough of a difference. Fuck, we even have straight up historical facts that are being ignored in favor of these “alternative facts,” gaslighting to the extreme. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I cannot ignore the way Muslims are being vilified, refugees being denied entry, and so many people buying into the disgusting hate and fear mongering tactics being employed by the real terrorists: the GOP and DJ Tr*mp.

But I don’t want to talk politics. I want to talk solutions. I want to talk passion and art and unstoppability.

And yet it’s hard to create when people are dying, or going to die. It’s hard to write stories when the story you’re living makes no sense whatsoever.

But I keep trying, like my fellow students and fellow writers and artists. We keep trying, keep thinking, keep writing and creating, even if it’s crap. Even if it goes nowhere. Even if it fails. Because merely trying to create is an act of defiance in the world today. Following your vocation is an act of rebellion. Refusing to buy into the idea that art is not important is an act of resistance.

Burning bright enough to outshine the garbage fires all over this country and this world is an act of heroism.

So on the mornings when I don’t feel like waking up early to write before work, I think of Princess Leia and Anne Frank and my favorite novelists, and I haul my ass out of bed to create something, even if it’s going to suck. In the evenings when I’m worn out from a long day at the office and being inundated with bad news from the world, I buckle down and get to work on my reading, finding new and different inspiration wherever I can get it, lapping up the dregs even from weak-ass Wikipedia articles or a single line of text in an otherwise useless essay. And when I can brain no more, I take care of myself by letting myself play. I knit, small simple projects that remind me I am capable, I can finish things, I deserve that little burst of dopamine at the crossing of the finish line.

And I reach out to my people when it feels like too much, like dopamine is not enough, like creating is a selfish, useless act. I reach out to friends and colleagues, even when it’s scary, even when I’m ashamed. Because human connection is essential, even for us introverts. Belonging is essential, even to us anxious, socially awkward outsiders. Community is essential, especially in these harrowing times when reality feels like a Snidely Wiplash cartoon, too comically villainous to possibly be real. Someone needs to ground us, and we need to ground each other, when the going gets bat-shit insane.

I don’t really know what this blog entry is about, only that I’m scared and anxious and also trying to be brave, and I think a lot of you are, too. Take care of yourself, and reach out, and reach back when people reach out. Find the thing that makes you burn a little brighter than the garbage fires in this world. Create because it’s your mother fucking right, not to prove your worth to anyone. Defy, resist, rebel. Be the change. Love more fiercely than ever before. Dare something worthy. Dare greatly. Be the man in the arena. Be the still small voice. Fight back. Take time to heal. Make yourself heard. Uplift the voices of others. Care for yourself. Rinse, repeat.

Just don’t give up, no matter what you’re fighting for. Don’t give up.

We have a lot of work to do.

Thoughts from the Inside of an Egg

(Yeah yeah I haven’t updated in ages. 2016 sucked, end of story.)

Kinder SURPRISE

No, not that kind of egg. (I wish!)

Of all the slang to come about in the last decade, “no chill” has bee the best phrase to apply to my general state of existence. I’ve always been an excitable, overly anxious person, over-thinking, over-processing, to the point of wild emotional instability. I hide it well, I think. People tell me that I seem really laid back, but they don’t see the cartoonish gears spinning out of control inside my head.

Thankfully, over the last few months, I’ve developed some chill (thanks, modern medicine!). I feel like I’m on the brink of being able to actually navigate the sheer terror I feel every time I think about certain things. It’s nice.

Unsurprisingly, I can spin this into something negative if I look at it too closely. Having no chill seems to have been what made me passionate and daring; having no chill pushed me to try insane creative tactics, to self publish, to put my writing before everything that held no value to me. And by that, I mean my anxiety made me passionate and brave. My anxiety fueled me. Most of the progress I’ve made as a human being has been urged on by anxiety and the existential dread that initiated it–the unsolvable problem of being.

Did my anxiety help me? Sure.

Do I want my anxiety back? Lord no.

I’m in a liminal place (“liminal” is one of my favorite words, by the way). I’m no longer what I was, and not yet what I am becoming. If we’re gonna talk phoenix cycle again (one of my favorite metaphors!), I’m an egg. Out of the ashes, thank god, into the egg. I’m a goopy substance swirling inside my shell, coalescing into an embryonic state. It’s cozy here, even if it is a fragile state of being.

And I do feel the fragility at my edges, that eggshell wall holding me together, threatening to spill me out. But inside, at my core, I’m a sunshine yellow glob of delicious possibilities. What’s interesting about this whole “having some chill” thing, is that I can now experience the idea of that eggshell cracking, maybe even leaking, and I’m not entirely afraid. I can sit with that discomfort, and know I will survive.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, like last night, I think about how hard it’s been for me to write this past year (2016 was a creative failure for me) and the shell caves in around me, threatening to spill every drop of pre-embryonic me out into the frying pan of existence. I think about showing up to residency tomorrow feeling like a total fraud, like a total failure, like someone who has lied to themselves their whole life and is just now realizing they do not have what it takes to make their dreams come true–someone who maybe doesn’t even know what their dreams are any more.

And that’s actually true. I’m a millennial, after all. We were taught from infancy to shoot for the moon and, at worst, we would land among the stars. No one prepared us for the sub-zero vacuum of the light years between.

But I am still a sunshine yellow glob of possibilities. I’m probably benefiting even more from my education than I would be if I were in a solid state. Maybe that’s the secret to finding your chill: try not to be so solid all the time. Experiment with being pre-embryonic. Entertain the possibility that you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.

Anyway…just some thoughts from the egg.

I’m off to VCFA tomorrow for my second residency/the beginning of my second semester…wish me luck and a stellar immune system!

VCFA: No Voldemort Here

I’m trying to wrap my brain around the residency before it all fades away, but frankly I’m still exhausted from the whole experience (plus a mostly unrelated health issue on my first day back to work :P) so I’d better write down what I remember, now, before it’s gone.

VCFA is magical. They call it “Brigadoon” because it feels like a place that only exists while you’re there (once a semester) and maybe vanishes when you go home. It’s a place out of place, for a time out of time, full of words and stories and craft. But really, it’s basically Hogwarts: there is a magical sorting process for finding your advisor for the semester, an advisor that, much like a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, changes every term (that observation credit goes to my classmate, Adam Vandergac). During your hours off, you may take a trip down the hill into “downtown” Montpelier/Hogsmeade, where you can get beer (though not butter beer) at the Three Penny Taproom, or used books signed by their authors at the Bear Pond Book Store. You can get gelato in crazy flavors, though nothing like ear wax (chevre and fig was my personal favorite), and if you’re lucky, some chocolate frogs.

But the magic in the halls of the VCFA buildings, in the chapels and galleries where lectures are held, and in the classrooms where workshops take place, is pure and bright and palpable. The traditions make you feel like a part of a family–larger than some, but small enough to feel real, to feel close, to feel true. And as one poet said during the reading of one of those traditions, “VCFA is better than Hogwarts, because Voldemort is not here.”

But there is real magic, and there is dancing, and naming ceremonies, and welcoming ceremonies, and sorting, and laughing, and supporting, and brilliance–everywhere, brilliant words and thoughts and humanity.

Never have I felt so much like I belonged. That’s the thing. That’s the biggest thing of all. I feel certain these are my people. I feel certain this is where I am meant to be in my life right now. And that alone is worth the price of admission.

My advisor for this semester is Tim Wynne-Jones, author of many, many books (and good friends with Philip Pullman!!!!). I don’t know what to expect from the months ahead besides hard work and a lot of reading, but I am so excited to be a part of this school of storycraft, honing my skills as a writer and finding my community in something that is generally such a solitaire art.

(Also, did I mention I have access to the WorldCat library?! :D)

That’s it for now…I have a lot of work to do!

The Timing of Things

84Hello all! It’s been a while!

Life has been life, shall we say? And let it go at that.

But some exciting things have happened while I’ve been absent from this blog! I finally decided to take the plunge and apply for a few low-residence MFA programs in creative writing, specifically programs geared towards writing for children and young adults. And you know what? I GOT IN! I got in to my top choice, even!!! And this July I will be starting my MFA journey with the Vermont College of Fine Arts. *swoons*

What does this mean for my writing, other than my dream-come-true of working one-on-one with established authors to hone my skills? I’m not sure! And I feel bad about that. I know I promised the third book in the Arcana Series by fall of ’16, but now I’m not so certain. What I can promise is that I am working on it. Seriously. And I will not give up on it! I am a Taurus, so when I commit to something I am determined as HELL to get it done (see also: stubborn, bull-headed, etc.). But I also want to do the story justice, so it might take a bit longer to get it right.

Or, who knows?! Maybe I’ll be so revitalized by my MFA experience that I’ll be more inspired and energized than ever before and I’ll get it done even sooner than I thought! Maybe?

But speaking of Arcana Series news, two things! One: we are *this close* to wrapping on the audiobook for The Hierophant! Once again, Maria Marquis has narrated her way into my heart and shattered it into a thousand pieces (in the good way, like some stories are supposed to). I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and downright giddy about starting production on The Tower (omg Pax and his poetry! omg Nikolai’s storytime dinner hour [that’s what I call those scenes in my head…]! yass queen yaaaass!!!). And two: both books are now available in Kindle Unlimited! The Hierophant has been in the KU catalogue for a while now, so if that’s where you first read it and you’ve been waiting patiently for The Tower to join its predecessor, today is the day! Enjoy! :D

That’s all I have for now. I will be trying to update here more often (she says for the kajillionth time along with all the other absentee bloggers who pop in every few months to apologize for their radio silence :p :p :p)! But if you’d like to connect elsewhere in a more reliable and regular fashion, check out my Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook page :) (I’m especially fond of Instagram these days.)

<3!

I’m floating in a most peculiar way.

image courtesy of bowiesongs.wordpress.com

(This is not a memorial post or an obituary. There are hundreds, thousands of those published by now. This is a personal reflection on what David Bowie meant to me, individually. Your mileage may have varied.)

It took me a while to get my thoughts around David Bowie’s passing. See, he was an unusual important figure in my life–not unusually important, but important in an unusual way. A hero of mine? Maybe a little. A favorite musician? Among several. But his influence and importance did not begin there.

I didn’t relate to Sarah. I related to the Goblin King–strange, outcast, scheming. Always wanting what he cannot have. Desperate for a certain kind of love. And yet, so undefined, so ready to absorb all of our projections onto his character. Vague, but limitless. Dreamlike. Sure, a character created by Terry Jones and Dennis Lee, but brought to life by the man himself.

And when I was older and I had the world of music at my fingertips, it was not his rock ‘n’ roll suicide that captured my attention, it was the words of an artist, plunging deep into my unconscious mind. Don’t think you knew you were in this song, and this is your shadow on my wall, and

Cold winter bleeds on the girders of Babel
This stone boy watching the crawling land
Rings of flesh and the towers of iron
The steaming caves and the rocks and the sand.

But it wasn’t like with other music. It wasn’t like listening to the Flaming Lips or Beck or Weezer or whoever I was into back in the day. It always felt like there was a message there, scraps of messages, maybe, trapped beneath the surface of every verse in every song. Not messages to me, per se, but to the world.

One of my friends once told me they couldn’t “get into” David Bowie because his songs and his lyrics just seemed “so random.” And I get that. I really do. But to me, nothing in any of his work was either random or obtusely deliberate. It seemed, to me, that he always captured the essence of what he was going for…it was just never the thing you expected, or necessarily felt completely comfortable with. It’s easy to write an album of love songs, but it takes passion and guts to write and album about “the Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle,” that “centers on the characters of a dystopian world on the eve of the 21st century.”

If ever there was a modern vessel for the muses, David Bowie was it. Even knowing he was facing death, David Bowie turned his fear and his thoughts into art, and made his death a part of it in a tasteful, impressive way. I cannot think of a more badass–or more comforting–way to leave this world. In many ways, David Bowie’s way of approaching, planning, and experiencing death may be one of the most inspiring things he’s done.

Death and I have an agreement. I do not hate death. I do not fear death. I do not pretend to like it or that I do not grieve when the ones I care about pass away, but I do not blame death for my grief, because grief comes from loving, not from loss. So I am not devastated by David Bowie’s passing, even though he was hugely influential in my inner creative live and during my formative years. Rather, I am happy to celebrate his life, and his acceptance of his own death, by taking up the gifts he gave us–his music, his videos, his films–and letting them remind me of my work and re-fuel me as an artist.

Rest in Peace, David Bowie. The world is better for having known you.

2015 Year In Review!

2015! What a Year! Let’s take a look.

As 2015 dawned, I was working full-steam ahead on a little sequel that would be known TOWER-smallas The TowerWhile that took up most of my creative attention for the first few months, come spring I found out I was among the ten incredible writers selected to attend Nova Ren Suma’s Young Adult Novel Writing Workshop at Djerassi! Basically my head exploded and I rode that high until halfway through summer. <3

In the meantime, I was finishing up edits on The Tower AND working with the incredible Maria Marquis on the audiobook version of GHOST CITY. I also started work on the novel that I brought with me to the workshop, (working title:) SAVAGE CASTLE, which I discovered was Too Fast, Too Furious a pace for me to continue with that precious gem. I know myself, I know my stories have a longer gestation period than some, and I conceived the idea and churned out the first 75 pages way too quickly (as much as I am still in love with the words I’ve written and the idea of the book) without letting all of it take firm root in my head and my heart. (Soon, though. Soon.)

ghost city audiobook imageOver summer, I attended Nova Ren Suma’s Djerassi workshop where I got to meet not only the author of my favorite YA novel to date (who is also an amazingly lovely person! Er, Nova is, not her book. That would be weird, if her book was also a person. Although…*jots down story idea*), but also nine other incredible and talented lady authors whose books I can’t wait to read when they are published! I had the thrilling, if harrowing, experience of doing my first reading (public speaking, blech), and the invaluable experience of talking about craft and industry with other authors from around the world.

Then BAM–the Ghost City audiobook was released!

BAM–The Hierophant read-along! 15 poorly planned days of insanity wherein I revealed read-along-rounded2little known facts and insights about The Hierophant, and even somehow got over my fear of being on video and posted a few vlogs where I got to read from the book and ramble about what I liked about writing it.

BAM–The Tower – Book II in the Arcana Series was released! Finally, after two years of writing and revising and editing until my brains fell out, my very first sequel was set loose upon the world.

AND THEN…rest. Lots of rest. Because it turns out I can’t keep up with the pace I was setting for myself in writing/publishing, in addition to working a full-time job.

And then…some sadness, too, because I made the mistake of comparing myself and my process and my speed of writing to that of other writers, faster writers, more accomplished writers.

And then…some writer’s block, as well, because what I want my books and my writing to be does not fit into the molds that others have shown me, and when I ignore the wild, outrageous ideas that inspire me to write, I end up listless, lost, disconnected from the story (and ignoring wild, outrageous me is specifically why I haven’t been able to work on SAVAGE CASTLE, something that’s only obvious to me now as I type this).

In short, 2015 was a very busy year that started with a bang and ended with a much-needed nap. But I’m slowly getting back on track, I think, reminding myself to trust the story, to trust the little inspirations that come along the way, and stop thinking about what one “can” and “can’t” do when writing a novel, or a sequel, or within the nebulously defined category of “young adult.”

So what am I working on, now that the bleak fog of writer’s block has finally lifted? As promised, finishing up the first draft of Book III in the Arcana Series is my main focus for the time being (when I’m satisfied with it, I will announce the title! Oooh what tarot card could it be??!!). I don’t want to be a mean author and make people wait years for another sequel. But after that, SAVAGE CASTLE has my full attention. I have…*strong feelings* about that book and, without putting too much pressure on myself, I know I need to get that novel written, for myself, as much as for my career.

It’s true, those novels are two utterly different creatures, but they both possess a different part of my heart. And I dare to hope that, someday, they might touch the hearts of a few other people, too.

So that’s it for 2015! Happy New Year everyone! May 2016 be a year of incredible stories for all of us. :)

 

November Update – Goods and Services

Hello! It’s been a while.

October rushed by in a haze of colorful foliage and fun-sized candy bars, and by fun-sized I mean full-sized, and by candy-bars I mean expensive dark chocolate and cheap red wine. (What can I say? Being 30 is thrilling and delicious.) While the wheel of the year has turned from the Autumn Equinox to the Witches’ New Year, and now to the month of NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving, a lot has been going on in the world and in my life.

What do I have to report back to you? Oh, you know. A little of this, a little of that.

First off, if you’ve ever wanted to purchase signed paperback copies of any of my books, you can now do so directly through my website! Simply click on over to the Books page, click “Add to cart” on any of the books you’d like, and checkout through PayPal! (You don’t need a PayPal account to checkout.) All the orders go straight to me so if you have any special messages or instructions, let me know!

Also, since I have been formatting books for friends and family now for ages, I am pleased to announce that I have decided to start offering my services professionally. I have over 5 years experience in the self publishing world for both digital and print novels, and my own catalogue of professionally formatted books to prove it. So if you have zero desire to learn about formatting and every desire to publish your novel, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free quote. (Also, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month and you decide you would like a paperback copy of your novel once you’re done with it, mention that it’s a NaNo-Novel and I’ll take 25% off the price of your basic print interior layout!)

In book news: I continue to hammer away at Untitled Arcana Book 3! I will post more as that develops.

I hope everyone has had a lovely autumn so far!

 

 

Happy New Year

It’s still the beginning of the academic year for lots of people. It’s the beginning of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. It is the end of the Days of Awe–the stretch of days between Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur. To me, it feels like new beginnings.

Maybe it’s because these past ten days were the holiest days of the year for my ancestors. Maybe it’s because I am winding down from the riot of spring and summer, into the magic and quiet of autumn and winter. Perhaps I have not quite begun the actual descent into Hades, but I am on my way through the wilderness, to the entrance to the world below. I feel like I am on a pilgrimage, but with only a vague idea of my destination.

~*~

I’ve taken September off from writing. It felt like the right thing to do, when certain projects had obviously become too fraught with anxiety–when my creative self could not hear itself speaking through the clamor of outside voices. This is what happens, every time, when I worry too much about the “rules” of writing and publishing, or what other people say I can and cannot do. I have a bad habit of always believing other people know better than I do, and while it is excellent to be open to new ideas, it is never a good idea to let outside influence undermine your internal guidance.

I’ve lost the thread of too many good projects that way. Now, I am taking September to clear out those instructive voices, to reconnect with that part of myself that remembers why I write stories in the first place. I am taking the time to read books and cook good food, to explore new ideas and opportunities, and to reestablish a place for spirituality in my life. Writing will always be my most sacred act, but sometimes it loses its sacredness when it is tied up in earnings and reviews and the expectations of others. There must be other places for spirituality to shine through, safe spaces that have nothing to do with birthing stories into the world.

But what I have re-learned this month, as I have re-learned again and again in my life, is that some stories–the best stories, even–are for yourself. And some of those stories you need to keep to yourself–at least for a little while. For any kind of magic (and writing novels is the greatest kind of magic I know), there is power in containment, in holding a secret in your heart and your hands, feeling it take on shape and form. The stronger your knowing of the soul of that story before you bring it into the world, the easier it will be to feel your way through the telling of it. The stronger your knowing of the soul of the story, the easier it will be to know good advice when you hear it, too.

~*~

So what is the (writing) plan, now?

I flatter myself to think that some of you may be interested in knowing something about when you can expect Book 3 in the Arcana Series. ;) I can’t say anything definitive at this point other than it is coming. Unofficially, the plan is to have it out around this time next year. But a lot can happen in a year, and in fact I am expecting quite a bit to happen in the coming year (some of it writing-related, some of it life-related), so I won’t make any promises I can’t keep.

What I can promise is that I love this series, and I love you guys, and my pen will not rest until the entire story is told!

~*~

Happy new year, peeps. I know it’s a few months early for most of you, but I just love a chance for new beginnings, don’t you?