Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speak loudly against censorship

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

Okay, this is going to be a rant entry, because I am pissed. Some cussing appears. You have been warned.

Laurie Halse Anderson's entry

For those of you who have not heard of the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (author of the equally powerful Wintergirls), it is a disturbing and heart-wrenching portrayal of one girl's choice not to speak out about her rape, and how she eventually manages to find her voice.

It's a beautiful book.

And contrary to what this Scroggins guy thinks, it is NOT SOFT-CORE PORN. (For crying out loud, he even thinks Slaughterhouse Five should be banned. I don't think he got the book's message.)

Speak should not be banned from school districts because this guy apparently finds rape to be equivalent to sexual arousal.

I like to think that I'm a fairly even-tempered, reasonable, average person. But few things make me angrier than censorship. When people like Scroggins call for the banning of books because they unveil real teen issues like rape, or when parents try to blame the failings of their children on the things their children are reading, you know what they're really saying? That they are lazy-ass parents. "If my child messes up, it must be because they read something bad, not because I'm a shitty parent." They would rather censor these forms of art altogether than take parental responsibility to talk to their children about the content and the message. They are TOO LAZY to communicate with their kids. So they choose instead to try to make certain books unavailable to ALL kids.

If seeing your child read Speak makes you uncomfortable, fine. That's your perogative. But don't enforce your own Puritan beliefs on the rest of your school district's children. Do not publicly compare rape to soft-core porn.

These are the same people who think gays should not have the right to marry because they don't want to explain it to their kids. "I don't like explaining things to my children. So stop your whole lifestyle, because I don't like talking to my kids about it." (Louis CK does a great skit on this topic.)

Scroggins, you're ignorant and you're a dick.

Ms. Laurie Halse Anderson, sing it.

And for everyone else against banning books that talk about the horrors of rape, SPEAK LOUDLY. This needs to be heard.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book 2

I've gotten about 1/4 of the way into writing Legend 2. I've definitely had fits and starts, and all those rumors about how hard it is to write the sophomore novel are true...but today it at least flowed well. Halfway through my daily words, when Day and June are having a hissy fit, I realized that there was a nice little plot twist staring me in the face and it wanted badly to go into the book. So I stopped to jot that one down in my notes, and now I am a happy squirrel.

I swear, writing Legend 2 is like being bipolar. One day, I'm all "this is going to be great. This is going to be better than Book 1 and everyone's going to love me and give me cupcakes." And then the next day, I'm all "this is horrible. This is crap. How can I call myself a writer? This is the worst drivel I've ever written and my fledgling career is over."

But today, thankfully, is a cupcake day. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dreams and Nightmares of Space

I found this breathtaking jewel of a site today.

I just had to share it somewhere. Of all the things in the world, nothing fascinates me quite so much as the glittering art of the universe beyond Earth. I'll look up every night at what few stars I can see in Los Angeles, find Cassiopeia and Orion, and hunt for Jupiter and the North Star. Every time I do this, I get completely lost in the fact that we are at this very instant rotating around a star which is rotating around a massive, massive galaxy held together by a nightmare of a black hole.

Check out that site. :) The art boggles the mind.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown

I was watching an interview with Stephenie Meyer on YouTube today, and also simultaneously reading a blog entry from another writer that essentially labeled Ms. Meyer as a, to paraphrase, poor writer who wrote a horrible book. With no further explanation on why he/she thought this was so.

I see comments all the time about Twilight along those lines, and it frustrates me more and more each time I see them. I can understand if readers are simply posting their thoughts about the book, and legitimate reasons why they didn't like it or weren't drawn into it. After all, readers are the customers. They have the right to dislike things and blow them off. But it's somehow irritating when professional writers simply flip their hand at Stephenie Meyer and brush off her success as somehow being just luck, or that she has absolutely no talent, or that her writing is 'horrible' without even giving a thought to what they find so horrible about it.

I'm not saying that Twilight is on par with, I don't know, Shakespeare, or whatever is considered literary genius. Then again, maybe it is. Who's to say. But clearly Meyer did something right with Twilight, because there have been plenty of other books that publishers have thrown tons of money behind and have just sunken like rocks to the bottom of the industry pool. You can't have the sort of success Twilight has seen without having the support of millions of readers. And those readers are not buying her books and telling their friends to buy her books because they think she's a horrible writer. Something has clicked with them inside those pages, and naysaying writers would do themselves a great service if they would just admit this and try to study how Meyer managed to capture her readers' imaginations. It may not be your cup of tea, but obviously it's the cup of tea for a lot of others, and if the tea is really that popular there must be something delicious in it.

I'll admit that I'm not a huge paranormal reader. But I do read it, especially the ones that garner critical acclaim or popularity with the public, because I want to see how they did it. For Twilight, imho, Meyer hooks you in the first 50 pages because she introduces Edward and Bella and their attraction to each other, and then withholds Edward from Bella for an agonizing amount of time. Bella's fascinated by this guy, and then he disappears for days, leaving her to ponder in growing anxiety. When will she see him again? the reader wonders. And why does he react to her in the way that he does? Even though Bella might think he hates her, we obviously know better by the subtle things he does, how he takes notice of her in an understated way (at least in the beginning). That's what kept me reading when I picked up Twilight. Meyer uses this device again in New Moon--separating the star-crossed lovers for agonizing lengths of time. And although there are parts of the books that didn't resonate with me (i.e. my connection to Bella as a character went up and down, and I am much more attracted to Jacob's earnestness than to Edward's emo-ness), I do see and respect the parts of it that have hooked so many others.

The same goes for Dan Brown. Writers, especially writers-who-want-to-make-it, don't diss Dan Brown. Look at what he did right. The man is a genius at creating fascinating conspiracy theories (possible alien microbes in Antarctica, or government secret? did Jesus have offspring? did Da Vinci really hide secrets in his paintings? etcetc) as well as chapters overloaded with active conflict. That's his strength and the drawing power of his novels. If you're a thriller writer, look at his weaknesses (i.e. oversimplified, weak characters, imho) with a thoughtful eye, then write a thriller with an equally fascinating premise and make your own characters deeper and more fully fleshed out. Draw on his strengths. Avoid his weaknesses. Don't diss him.

Yes, luck did play a role in the wild success of some of these writers. But they couldn't have gotten there from writing horrible books. Meyer and Brown write highly commercial novels. Their books are full of the things that big blockbusters have--forbidden love, conspiracy, plots that are not too hard to follow (for the most part), and conflict conflict conflict. If you're a writer who only wants to write glittering prose full of well-turned phrases, all the more power to you. But if you want to be commercially successful, don't sit there taking cheap shots at more successful writers that you secretly wish you could be standing on their podiums with. We're all writers trying to create the best entertainment we can for our readers. What's to hate?

Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. :)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Penguin/Putnam Children's is publishing my novel! A 3-book deal!

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

I've been sitting on pins and needles for a full month waiting for the green light to announce this news publicly. And today, I finally got the thumbs up from my literary agent (the amazing Kristin Nelson) that I can make it official.

My young adult novel, LEGEND, is going to be published by Penguin Group (imprint Putnam Children's) as part one of a trilogy!!!!! A three-book deal! And not only that--LEGEND is going to be Putnam Children's Lead Title for Fall 2011!! I'm going to be a published author with a major publisher. OMG OMG.

Here's the official news from Publisher's Marketplace:


Flash media and online game artist Marie Lu's debut LEGEND trilogy, set in the flooded Republic of Los Angeles 2130 A.D., about a boy who is the Republic's most wanted criminal and a girl who is the Republic's most beloved government prodigy whose paths cross when her brother is murdered and she is hired to hunt down the boy responsible -- but the truth they uncover will become legend, to Jen Besser at Putnam Children's [Penguin Group], in a major deal, at auction, for fall 2011 publication, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency (World).
UK & Foreign:


And from Publisher's Weekly:


Putnam Kids Invests in Facebook Game Designer
Jennifer Besser at G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers [Penguin Group] bought world rights, in a three-book deal, to the debut dystopian novel by Marie Lu, Legend. Lu works as an art director for a Los Angeles video game company (note: actually the company is in Austin but that's ok :) ), and the book is built around the world she created for a Facebook game, also called Legend, that currently has over 13,000 subscribers. The book is set in 2130 in a Los Angeles that has been submerged by flooding. A girl who is a prodigy being groomed for government work meets a boy who is one of the state's most-wanted criminals. The main characters' love story—she's tasked with finding his brother's killer—is based loosely on Les Misérables. Legend, which is scheduled for December 2011, is the first book in a planned trilogy; Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary brokered the deal, and Kassie Evashevski at UTA is handling film rights.


This is how it happened. After two rewrites where Agent Kristin and I hammered LEGEND into a presentable form, we sent it out on submission on July 9 (two days before I turned 26). Now, I've been on submission before. Twice. Having that experience, I was ready for the LONG haul, the 6 month wait for rejections and "I loved it, but" letters from kind-but-professional editors.

One week passed. I spent my birthday in a nervous wreck.

Then I heard from Kristin that there were two editors who had read and loved LEGEND. One of these editors was someone I'd heard a great deal about, and when Kristin said her name, I almost fainted in front of my laptop (good thing I didn't, or else I'd probably have QWERTY embedded permanently on my forehead). The other editor was the editor for one of my favorite YA books. Can we say faint x 2?

However, as aforementioned, I've been on submission before. I've been down the road of "Editors are liking it" and then "Editors decided ultimately to say no". So I toughened up as much as I could, and got ready for the inevitable rejections from both of these incredible editors.

Another week passed. Then Kristin told me she was going to be setting up an auction. 6 publishers were interested. At first I laughed at the email. Oh Kristin. Sometimes you are such a joker. Then I read it again, got tingly feelings in my fingers and toes, and ran around my apartment until I collapsed in exhaustion. Still, STILL, I felt like everything could fall through. That was what I'd gotten used to, anyway. Auction day would come and no one would show up. They've all decided that they'd rather not buy LEGEND. Back to the drawing board.

But that didn't happen. Instead, I got to talk to each of these editors on the phone. This may have been the most exciting part of the process (ok, the 2nd most exciting part). To hear industry professionals rave about your manuscript is as amazing as a cheesecake made of double rainbows. I was smiling so hard that my boyfriend thought I'd gone off the deep end.

So auction day came. I alternated every few minutes between absolute JOY and sheer abject TERROR. They all want the book! I haven't heard from Kristin in 6 minutes--something must've gone terribly wrong and everyone dropped out! They all want the book! I haven't heard from Kristin in 14 minutes--something must've gone terribly wrong and everyone dropped out! And repeat.

Several times throughout this day, Kristin would call me with updates that made me lose all feeling in my brain. (This is an extremely surreal feeling. I've never had a numb brain before.... well, not that numb.) Then, as the auction's final round started, I spent 3 hours doing nothing but rocking back and forth manically on my couch while my boyfriend tried in vain to soothe me. I stared at my phone without pause, willing it to ring. My trigger finger hovered over the "refresh" button in my email inbox. (Even though it refreshes automatically by itself.)

Silence. 3 hours of it!

Terror set in. All the editors dropped out. They must have. Kristin just doesn't want to tell me yet--she must not want to break my heart. NOTHING ELSE CAN EXPLAIN THIS SILENCE!!!

Finally, late in the afternoon, I got a call from Kristin. The Call. This is how it went down....sort of:

Kristin: You have a very hard choice to make. Are you ready for this?

Marie: Am I going to faint?

Kristin: Yes, I think you might faint.

Marie: [sits down on couch to keep from falling too hard, then listens in quiet stupor]

Kristin: *lists out the final offers*

Marie: *NUMB. This is the only word appropriate for the feeling in my entire body. NUM NUM NUMMY NUMMY NUMB.*

Kristin: Still there? Are you listening to me?

Marie: I didn't understand a word of what you said. Each deal sounds like it's made out of red velvet cupcakes.

Kristin: (thinking) Oh Marie. Thank god you're not doing this by yourself or we might all be in the papers tomorrow--and not in a good way.

Marie: *still numb*

Kristin: Do you need the night to think it over?

Marie: *babbles incoherently in a squeaky voice*

Kristin: Ok, yeah, I think you need the night. Let me know what you decide in the morning!

Marie: Okay!

[Phone call ends]

Several moments of silence. Several moments of unbridled joyful shrieking with boyfriend.

And then .... I burst into tears. I just cracked. I don't think I've ever really felt true joy in my life up until then. Sure, I've felt happiness plenty of times. There are so many things I'm happy about. But joy is different from happiness. Joy makes you cry. Joy is about achieving something you have worked so hard and so long to get. It unleashes emotions of relief, pain, rage, passion, ecstasy, fear, excitement, and fulfillment in one giant ball of glory that completely overwhelms the boundaries of your mind. It is rare. (Unless you're high on shrooms or something, I guess.) It is the most amazing feeling in the world.

And when I burst into tears after The Call with Kristin, I felt joy like I've never felt before. I have been trying to get published since I was 14. I have been rejected hundreds of times. I've written 4 unpublished manuscripts, 2 of which made it all the way to the agent+submission level only to slowly fade away into oblivion at the end of the submission cycle. I'd started to think it might never happen.

But now it's happening, really happening. Penguin is releasing the first book of my trilogy in December 2011, and my editor is none other than Jen Besser, the editor of the (drumroll) PERCY JACKSON BOOKS. (I even have a film agent now, Kassie Evashevski!) The characters living inside my head are actually going to meet the reading public.

A dream come true, after 12 years of struggling.


I am so unbelievably thankful for my agent Kristin Nelson, who stuck by my side through the good times and the bad (if you're a writer and wondering whether or not you need an agent, I am telling you right now that YES YOU DO); for the amazing and wonderful editors that each gave me a chance to fulfill my dream; and for the people in my life that always believed I could do it and that I wasn't wasting my time.

Anyway, that's the big news! My characters will actually be in a bookstore near you next fall! Boyfriend and I are celebrating with some delectable veggie food and fancy wine (although honestly, I can't tell the difference between good and bad wine....they all seem the same). And now, there are only 2 thoughts I have the strength to comprehend in my incoherent brain:

1) I really hope people buy the book when it comes out
2) Damn, I better get crackin on LEGEND 2

Friday, September 03, 2010

Printed books still trump e-books

On March 31, 2009, I conducted an unscientific poll on my deviantArt page asking whether people preferred reading printed books or e-books.

See the poll

2,529 people participated in this poll. At the time, I thought that since the dA community is relatively young, we should see a small but decent sampling in favor of e-books. After all, the younger generation should be more receptive to e-books than the generations used to printed books, right?

Nope. A whopping 90% of respondents still chose printed books. And after another poll I did asking about the ages of people on dA (in which 1,727 people participated), I found out that 82% of them are under the age of 24.

I personally have grown fond of e-books and read a lot of books on my iPhone now. However, it looks like even the younger generations still prefer printed books, so all the reports we are seeing of the "death of traditional publishing" probably still have a ways to go. This is further backed up in an article by the author of the Four Hour Work Week.

Not sure what that says in terms of whether it's good or bad, but it's just interesting for me to see in (semi) solid numbers. :)