Countdown to the Release of Bluecrowne

BluecrowneCoverWrongSizeSuddenly it’s June, and I really don’t know where May went. But this weekend I’ve been running QA on the Bluecrowne ebooks, and within the next week we’ll go to press with the paperbacks (which clocked in at 279 pages long!), so I wanted to leave a quick note here for those who are wondering how to get their hands on the book.

The ebook should launch by the end of this week, available in all formats (DRM-free) including PDF, and retailing for $5.99. The paperback should (crossing my fingers that what I say is true, but I do believe that it is) be available and shipping by the end of next week. It will retail for $16.99*, although, as with The Kairos Mechanism, I will have a bundled book+PDF+media rate shipping package available as well.

So, how do you get your copy?


At special early-bird prices, you can pre-order the PDF here and the paperback+PDF+domestic media rate shipping here. Fancier/international shipping are also available at cost–just drop me an email and let me know where you are and how fast you’d like your book to arrive. The pre-order prices will last through July 3.

The ebook will be available through all the major channels, but for extra points I encourage you to purchase through Vook, because it’s a better deal for me as the author (you still get your choice of DRM-free formats for iBooks, Nook, Kindle, or Kobo). The PDF will remain available through Gumroad. I’ll add relevant links as soon as they’re live.

The paperback will be available either through me (bundled with PDF, domestic media-rate shipping included) or through McNally Jackson Books (book only, shipping according to store policy). Again, links forthcoming.


I have a very limited supply of books from the print run paid for by Kickstarter that I can make available to you for use in your schools, libraries, and student book clubs, but when the first printing runs out, sadly, that’s the end of that. Retailers, same thing goes.

*You may be thinking, that looks a lot more like the price for an adult paperback than for a juvenile paperback, and you’re right. The higher cost is due to the higher cost of printing on McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine, which I chose to do for two reasons: 1) It’s a way I can support my favorite independent bookstore; and 2) It prints far more beautiful books than most POD services do. I don’t make much money on the deal, but you get a really gorgeous book and we both get to support a really wonderful and (I think) important store. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

This Saturday: The Phantom Tollbooth Reader’s Theatre at McNally Jackson!

Cancel your plans. I’m not kidding.

This Saturday, May 17th at McNally Jackson Books at 4pm, in honor of the inaugural Indies First Storytime Day, twelve intrepid bookish folks invite you to join Milo, Tock, and the Humbug as they embark on an epic quest to bring Rhyme and Reason back to the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Join our heroes as they navigate a perilous royal banquet in Dictionopolis! Cheer as they realize that they, and they alone, can restore the semblance of order to a world gone crazy! Thrill at the theatrical stylings of writers who haven’t rehearsed but whose scripts contain stage directions anyway! And, of course, rediscover the magic of a book you have loved since forever. Extra points if you bring a friend who, through some massive childhood reading fail, has never experienced the magic of The Phantom Tollbooth.

Featuring  Sophie BlackallMatthew CodyAdam GidwitzClaire LegrandKekla MagoonMichael NorthropJeffrey SalaneCourtney SheinmelNatalie StandifordMary G. Thompson, and yours truly, our performance will be followed by a Q&A moderated by Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, and a book signing. 

All ages are welcome. Hope to see you there!

Who: You and all your friends
Where: McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince Street, between Mulberry and Lafayette)
When: Saturday, May 17th at 4pm

Protected: The River (Bonus Story for Bluecrowne Backers)

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Preorder Bluecrowne Here.

This is the place, kids. Preorder your fresh-off-the-press copy of Bluecrowne (plus PDF) here. Payments are processed securely by Gumroad. We expect to ship on or about May 15th, and media rate shipping is included.


It’s Bluecrowne’s Last Night on Kickstarter!

You know what to do! Already a backer? Get out the confetti! Not a backer yet, but thinking about it? What are you waiting for? Reviews of the book? No problem. Read here, and here.

Still waiting? WHAT FOR??

Me to post the link?

Oh. OK.

Click here.

The Final Week of Bluecrowne on Kickstarter Begins Today!

Hurry, hurry, hurry! There’s still time, but Bluecrowne is counting on you. Yes, you! If you’ve been thinking about contributing to the campaign, now’s the time. Read on for a reminder of what you have to look forward to as a backer of Bluecrowne, or click here if you don’t need convincing and just need to know where to go to join the fun.

1) The Illustrated Bluecrowne. This is the big reason for the campaign. This is why it can’t be done without you. We are hiring a group of young artists to illustrate the book, each in the style of his or her choosing. They will be paid for their work. There will be around 15 artists creating about 20 pieces of art for The Illustrated Bluecrowne, and their edition will be free or pay-what-you-like, so that their friends and family can share their accomplishments without having to pay to do it.

2) New reading material right away. Backers have already gotten their first bonus short story, The Lock, as a celebration of hitting 50%. The next one comes at 75% ($6000), which is only $1350 away at the time of this writing.

3) Great rewards! The art is going fast, but there’s still one signed Greenglass House print by Jaime Zollars, and I’ve just added four signed prints by Andrea Offermann.

4) Oh, and yeah! A new, full-length, stand-alone novel of historical fantasy. You can read the entire first chapter here.

The campaign ends at 11am on Friday, April 25th. Find more info here, including links to The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism, a video of one of the artists at work, and rewards, rewards, rewards. You know you wanna!

Protected: The Lock (Bonus story for Bluecrowne Backers)

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Novellablog: Final Cover Time!

Without further ado:


Isn’t it beautiful? As she did with The Kairos Mechanism, Andrea Offermann used hand-cut paper for the silhouetted “ironwork.” Miwako Feuer hand-drafted the title. I sat back and watched them work, because I am useless when it comes to visual arts and design. Thanks to historian and author David Antscherl for making sure we had the correct type, size, and rigging for the cutter in the center image.

Time’s running out for Bluecrowne, though. Only 10 days are left as of this writing (Monday), and we’re only at 50%. Remember that the bulk of the budget goes to hiring young reader artists to create art for the illustrated digital edition. Without the success of the Kickstarter campaign, that won’t happen. So if you’re a fan of fantasy or a fan of kids participating in storytelling, get on over to the Bluecrowne Kickstarter page and do what you can!


On Focus and Finishing Things

My kid is about to wake up. I just know it. He’s been out for an hour already. I almost couldn’t bring myself to start this post because I just know he’s going to wake up before I get anywhere. I used to have the whole day for getting things done. Now I have two hours, maybe three, during the day if I’m lucky and Griffin deigns to nap for any length of time, and a couple hours at night if he goes to bed and I decide to give up my run and let Nathan handle dinner (by ordering another takeout meal that I shouldn’t so much as look at, let alone eat, especially if I skip the run).

There’s so little time in the day. It’s been suggested to me that a new baby is a perfectly ok reason to take some time off. The problem is, I don’t want to take time off. If I’m not writing, I turn into a perfectly unpleasant human being. I’m unhappy and stressed and nobody wants to be around me, not even myself. So how to manage what time remains so that some actual writing gets done?

I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. But here are some things I tell myself that I’m finding really helpful:

1) Be realistic about what you can get done with different amounts of time, and use them accordingly. Save big chunks of time for what takes longest: getting actual words on the page. Don’t use it for knocking items off your to-do list unless your writing for the day is already done. It takes willpower to keep from thinking, this email only requires a quick couple of lines. I can do that first and still have plenty of time afterward to get some writing done. Nope. Avoid the temptation. It never works out like that. What if, God forbid, whoever you’re emailing responds right away? Then you’ve got to reply to the reply, and maybe that takes more than thirty seconds and two sentences, and all of a sudden your time’s up. 

2) By the same token, don’t set yourself up for failure and frustration by trying to squeeze writing time out of every spare second. I can’t write while Griffin’s awake. I just can’t. There’s no point trying. Spend some time in figuring out how your brain works–how well you context-switch, how much time you need to get yourself in the zone (assuming you actually close Twitter and Facebook and try to get yourself in the zone). If you have less than that amount of time, don’t try and force words into it. Do something else. Nullify a potential procrastination thingy or two that might trip you up later, perhaps. Send one email. Wash a few dishes. Get the clutter off your desk so you can focus when you do sit down to write.

3) Allow yourself some time to fritter away. Writing is like anything–if you try to blunt-force your way through things and deny yourself any relief, your brain will rebel at some point. Rewards are good. Breaks are good. Losing an hour to an episode of (fill in your preferred guilty pleasure TV show here) is good–assuming you earned that down time.

SO, assuming you’ve protected a good hour and a half or so in which to get some work done, how do you actually make writing happen before that time’s up? Because the bottom line is, what’s important is adding words–hopefully good ones–to the work in progress. 

1) Hold yourself accountable for your writing the way you hold yourself accountable for whatever else in your life you consider to be your jobWriting may not be your full-time job, but if it’s in any way your job, and especially if it’s something you want in any way to be your career, you have to treat it that way.

2) Set reasonable goals for everyday and stick to them. I can clock 1000 words in an hour if I’m really on my game. Back in the days when I could put a whole eight hours a day into writing, generally I completed about 3000 words a day when I was writing to meet a deadline. On non-deadline writing days, I still expected 1500 words from myself, which I know I can do in two hours if I really focus my energy and attention. Nowadays, I figure on non-babysitter/non-husband days, even if I only manage to sit down and write in the evenings, I should still be able to do 500-1000 words, and that’s what I hold myself accountable for. On babysitting days, I try for a full workday of 3000 words, but I don’t settle for less than 2000. So: know what you can reasonably do and hold yourself accountable.

3) Don’t edit while you write. Don’t read the previous day’s work before you start. Make that a reward for finishing today’s words. Basically, when it’s time to sit down and write, just sit down and write. Check the clock. Jot down the time. Check your starting word count. Jot that down, too. Write for an hour. Write like crazy. Expect to get a thousand words before the hour’s up.

There are tools that can help. Mac Freedom will shut off the internet for the length of time of your choosing. Spadefish lets you track productivity and share it. It also shows you how much time you’re spending on different things, in case you’re like me and tend to be working on more than one thing at once. Even Twitter and Facebook can be helpful, if you can find a few folks to do writing sprints with you. Check in with each other before you start, then check in and report your success at the end of your hour.

These are things I tell myself and tools I use to keep myself from turning into the unpleasant person I become when I don’t get any writing done. What about you? Any tips and tricks and tools to share?

Novellablog: On Swearing in Middle Grade and the Need for It (or Not)

I read three things this week that made me think this might be a post worth writing. One was Patrick Ness’s post in this year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, in which he had to decide whether Far Far Away or Boxers and Saints would proceed to the next round. Full disclosure: I have not read either of these books, so I can’t comment on whether I agree or disagree on the points he made as they relate to these specific titles, but something he said that resonated with me was this: “I found the book false in the most objectionable way: the teenagers aren’t allowed to be real people.”

Fast forward to yesterday, when I finished reading Aaron Starmer’s The Riverman. Two points of full disclosure here: I consider Aaron a friend and the book’s very much about storytelling and its consequences, so I was probably somewhat predisposed to like the book. Not surprisingly, I loved it. But I also appreciated the fact that the characters who peopled it were painfully real, and full of the flaws and bizarre contradictions and oddball tensions and perceived inadequacies and irrational behaviors that kids aged 12, 13, and 14 are knit from. It so completely brought back the constant fear and tension and uncertainty that I remember acutely from those days, even now at age 37. These kids say things and do things that make me cringe, and that’s before the actual primary (and terrifying) plot gets going. That’s just life for these kids. And it feels true. The stakes feel high before anything even happens. But I’ll tell you what: this is a book that will put some people’s backs up, if they happen to pick it up thinking something like, “Oh, this looks like a nice creepy middle-grade romp.” And by some people, I mean some adults.

I don’t actually remember whether there was any particular use of salty language in The Riverman. There must have been; if not actual swearing, then certainly there were at least occasional discussions of the sorts of untoward subjects that almost-teenaged boys talk about. But let’s go back to Patrick Ness, who definitely called out the use of “zounds” rather than something harsher in Far Far Away as pulling him out of the story. Now, again, while Far Far Away is definitely on my TBR pile, I haven’t gotten to it yet, so I have no opinions on the author’s choice of expletive; this post is not about critiquing Mr. McNeal’s choices. (I am still really, really looking forward to finally reading Far Far Away.) And this is not to argue that every book for kids or teens needs to have heavy cursing, or even cursing at all, in it. Not every book does, which should hopefully be obvious. But when I read Mr. Ness’s comments, I thought immediately of an email I’d gotten from a teacher I’d asked to read a late draft of Bluecrowne when I needed fresh eyes, in which he’d more or less called me out for not letting my protagonist be a real person in a couple moments where I’d reined her in.

On Twitter I said that he’d told me Lucy Bluecrowne didn’t swear enough, but that’s not entirely true (that was my paraphrasing for amusement value). What he did was to point out a couple instances in which I’d pulled my punches when writing Lucy’s responses to things. This is a girl, he pointed out, who would know how to swear. (And boy, is that ever true.) I’d written a couple places where the idea that she wouldn’t have reacted with at least one sharp word was kind of unbelievable. He was kind enough not to put it that way, but he was right.

The challenge, I think, is this: write real kids. It can be put that simply, but it isn’t simple at all, and of course language is just one part of the elusive formula. For many writers who also happen to be adults, it’s easy to err on the side of writing kids either as we see them through our own (not always accurate and not always relevant) memories, or as we want to believe they are. Or, worst of all, we write gentler versions of our young characters because we’re afraid we’ll put people’s backs up if we don’t. 

Some stories are gentle, and this post is irrelevant to those books. Some books are about or for younger kids, and generally this post is irrelevant to those books, too. I’m not suggesting Charlotte’s Web would’ve been improved by some saltier language, I promise you; I’m pretty sure I left the hard stuff out of Greenglass House, for instance, because it just wasn’t called for. And softer language choices are only one way in which we, as writers, sometimes pull our punches. But when writing MG it’s important to challenge ourselves to write real kids, because we’re writing for real kids. It does get tricky sometimes when writing older MG, which sometimes walks the MG/YA line as if it were a tightrope and which sometimes makes adults uncomfortable in the same way kids of that age sometimes make adults uncomfortable. But it’s a challenge worth taking up.

Thoughts for a Thursday. Discuss?


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