Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tease Tease Tease Tease

THE ANIMALS WERE GONE. Lio and Craig are eating lunch outside during the D.C. sniper shootings. Lio's POV.


He says, “Can I tell you something about September 11th? It's something I figured out the other day, and I guess I thought you might have something interesting to say about it. Or not say, you know, whatever.”

I squeeze my fingernails into my palms. Now I remember. “Because I'm from New York?”

“Yeah. So here's what I'm thinking. I heard so much about how New York City really came together as a city after September 11th. You know, you guys rebuilt and rejuvenated and there was this new sense of...of humanity? I keep reading that, is that true? You experienced this new togetherness?”

“I guess.” There were a lot of candle and rallies, and people held hands and cried. Three days after we were walking too close to Ground Zero and my sister started crying. I started to hold her and someone held her from the other side and then someone put his arms around both of us. And someone put her arms around him and all of us were there, but my sister was the only one who cried. That part didn't change. It's Rachel, she's always the one to cry. She couldn't go back to school for awhile because she was just messed up. And she was miles away from the towers when they fell, though I know I shouldn't use that to pass judgment. She was in the city. That counts. She was part of the togetherness.

I crumple my empty raisin box in my hand.

He says, “I don't think that ever happened in D.C. We never bonded over September 11th. We swept up and pretended there was never a mess, y'know, and isn't that really depressing?”


“We never came together. It was almost like...like we didn't even talk about what happened, because we were so wrapped up in what happened in New York. The Pentagon seemed like such...small potatoes.”

I have no idea what small potatoes means, and that pisses me off. It's probably some Southern thing.

He says, “So maybe this wouldn't be so scary if the wound weren't still raw from 9/11. Though this isn't really happening in D.C, I guess...”

“None of it really happened in D.C,” I mumble.

He looks at me. “What?”

I don't look at him. “You guys didn't come together after September 11th because September 11th wasn't yours.”

Now it's Craig who isn't saying anything. I hazard a glance at him, and he looks a lot like I probably did when he was talking, hands clenched, nostrils twitching. The difference is, I notice that he's upset and he didn't notice I was, and the similarity is, neither one of us gives a shit.

“A hundred and twenty-five people died,” he says eventually. “A hundred and twenty five...”

“Over three thousand in New York. The pentagon wasn't the towers.”

“You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, Lio.”

“I don't know...? A hundred twenty five to three thousand is exactly the same as comparing these shootings to 9/11.”

He makes his eyes smaller. “No, it isn't.”

“Why not?”

“Because it's not all about the numbers. It's not...God, dead people isn't just counting. I know it sounded like I was saying that in class, but...”

I pick at my jeans. “I disagree.” That was the only time he was on the right track.

He takes his apple out of his lunch box and squeezes it. “The whole country cared about New York City. No one gave a shit about us. Half the newspapers outside of the U.S. didn't even mention us, all they cared about was New York. I went into the city afterwards and it was like...”

The fact that he has to specify that he went into D.C. makes it all the more clear that he is a fucking Marylander, for God's sake. Soon the Virginians are going to be encroaching on our fucking grief. Then what, Louisiana? Fuck this shit.

I say, “The newspapers cared about us because we got owned. And Washington D.C. was the only city in the entire fucking country who didn't give New York any bit of sympathy.” My throat hurts. I don't want to do this shit anymore.

Craig throws his apple in the dirt. “Fuck off, we had our own problems.”

“You had a fucking inferiority complex.”

He crosses his arms and now neither of us is looking at the other.

But he doesn't know. And it's awful of him to even pretend like he knows, and it's disrespectful to those 3,000 people. He shouldn't be using them as a fucking learning opportunity when he wasn't there. He didn't suffer. What does he even know about dying? He's been so alive his whole life it makes me want to throw up.

And to talk about 9/11 as this inspiring experience for us, what the fuck is that? It was not inspiring, and even if it was, it is not his place to make that call. 9/11 was numbers and death and fire. It wasn't a city giving itself a group hug. Fuck this.

I stand up in time to see that Craig's crying.

This takes some of the air out of me, even though it's hardly the first time I've seen him cry. The boy broke down during a History Channel segment on the Civil War in American Civ a few weeks ago, for God's sake.

“A hundred and twenty-five people, you know?” I say, quietly. “It's just not the same.”

“You don't know,” he whispers.

It's a miracle; I'm so angry, my air came back. “I don't know? What did 9/11 mean to you? What does it mean to anyone who didn't see the towers fall?”

His eyes are cat-narrowed. “My boyfriend's fucking father didn't die in the fucking towers, jackass!” He stands up after he says this, instead of before.

I swallow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writer Survey

Yes, yes, I know, the vlog the vlog. But my lovely friend Sage did this over at her blog (http://sagelikethespice.wordpress.com/) and I wanted to play too.

1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote (and finished) is a YA about two boys getting together (the easy part) and staying together (not quite so easy) over the course of October 2002 sniper shootings in the suburbs of Washington D.C. This is my favorite book I've written, and it's basically my baby. The sniper attacks are, with good reason, I think, very close to me--like the MCs in the story, I was a teenager (though a young one) in Montgomery County, MD during the shootings.

I never really let the shootings go--sometimes I'd torture myself by researching details, if I was having a bad day--but John Allen Muhammad's execution this fall made them very raw in my head. I knew I had a book in me about them, and writing it was a pretty amazing experience to me. It was, without a doubt, the easiest book I've ever written, and I think the most honest in a lot of ways. It's called THE ANIMALS WERE GONE, after a song by Damien Rice. I'm working on revising it for my agent right now.

The first thing I ever wrote is a little harder to pin down. My first "book"--about 150 pages--I wrote when I was in 6th grade. It was about a girl named Augusta Margo Elizabeth Talia Clara (hellz to the yeah) who has to go live with her mom after her brother died in a plane crash. She JUST HAPPENS to be looking out her window one day and JUST HAPPENS to see a boy get hit by a car, and this boy JUST HAPPENS to be her half-brother. I. Know. It's called YOU JUST DON'T GET IT, it's all in a fluorescent green composition notebook, and I have no idea where that notebook is.

2. Poetry?

Hahahahaha no.

3. Angsty poetry?

Not since I was twelve...

4. Favorite genre of writing?

Young adult! Contemporary, gritty, angsty young adult. But it has to be funny.

5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created?

Bianca in ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING makes me want to put her head through a wall. Every. Chapter.

6. Best plot you’ve ever created?

I'm pretty into the plot of my adult book, APD. It's pretty wild and twisted.

7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

Haha, now it's deeeefinitely APD. Heehee. Although INVINCIBLE SUMMER's climax, too...hmmm.

8. How often do you get writer’s block?

Fuck writer's block, that stuff is bullshit. Shut up and write a book.

9. Write fan fiction?

A lady never tells. (So...yeah.)

10. Do you type or write by hand?

I type. I used to write by hand a lot more (in high school, really, so I could write in class) but not anymore.

11. Do you save everything you write?


12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you abandon it? it

Rarely. I have a few plot points I've tried to work into several different books, so far unsuccessfully. Still trying to figure out where they belong.

13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?


14. What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve ever written?

INVINCIBLE SUMMER, unless you're a muser, in which case it's THESE HUMANS ALL SUCK.

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Dude, my career depends on angsty teen drama. Romance? Eh, sometimes it's in there.

16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters?


17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

I have a YA rolling around in my head, I'm working on the first draft of an MG, I'm editing THE ANIMALS WERE GONE and waiting for my editorial letter for INVINCIBLE SUMMER (any day now!)

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

I won you guys, obv.

Oh and BREAK was an ALA Popular Paperback for Teens of 2009.

19. What are your five favorite words?

Epiphany, lucid, silhouette, maybe, cameo.

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Probably Bianca. No wonder she's so goddamn annoying.

21. Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

I don't really get ideas for characters. I think of a situation, then I just the characters up as I go along. They develop with the story. I don't go in there thinking "Jonah's going to stubborn and honest and introspective and..." he just talks.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Once. It was weird.

23. Do you favor happy endings?

Yes. Yes yes yes yes. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has heard my opinions on this. A good ending means you satisfy your reader. And satisfying your reader usually means that if you make them root for a character, or a relationship, or an anything, you make that part work out. Characters should get what they deserve. Seriously, I'm sick of authors teaching me some lesson about how life is meaningless and unsatisfying by giving me a meaningless and unsatisfying book. Yeah, I see what you're saying. I'm in on the joke. Now I'm throwing your book against a wall and crying into my pillow.

I read fiction because I want things to work out. If I wanted a disappointment to come and smack me in the face out of nowhere, I have my own life.

(And yes, I recognize the irony that I'M the one lecturing about how to end a book. Sorry about BREAK btw. Buy it anyway, I need money for food and internet.)

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Of course.

25. Does music help you write?

Yep. I always write either to music or in front of the TV. I make playlists for all my books.

26. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.

I'm not sure if this is the exact wording, but...
Camus and Melinda were right: "one always finds one's burden again."--Invincible Summer

Friday, February 19, 2010


I am sick and look DISGUSTING. (name that movie in the comments)

HERE'S AN EXCERPT. this is the first page of my WIP.

I only invented Zombie Tag three weeks ago, and we’ve already lost seven spatulas. For awhile, I stole my Mom’s, but now she’s out. I make my friends bring them now. Once our mothers find out where all their spatulas are going, they’re going to be so mad. They’re going to team up and form some kind of army against us, I swear. But we’d be totally prepared. Mothers can never be as scary as zombies.

I guess we could play Zombie Tag without the spatulas, but that doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun.

Today is Anthony’s birthday, so we should be sleeping over at his house. The problem is, Anthony has an awful house for Zombie Tag. His place is like a museum. There’s all this great stuff, but you can’t touch any of it. And there’s nowhere to sit.

But because it’s his birthday, we let him be Zombie God. That means he’s the one who writes the words on the post-it notes--BARRICADE, BARRICADE, BARRICADE, BARRICADE, ZOMBIE. It’s pitch black, so he’s using his cell phone. The air conditioning is on too high because my dad is always hot. It’s coldest here in the basement. We’re all jumping up and down and shivering while Anthony folds and shuffles the post-it notes.

Eben comes thumping down the stairs. “Dude, shut up,” I say. “My parents are sleeping.”

“All the lights are off,” he says. He’s panting from running through the entire house. He volunteered to do it. He should man up and stop acting like he just ran a marathon or something.

Anthony clears his throat dramatically. “Okay,“ he says, holding the post-it notes above his head.

“No trading, no showing, no sharing.” He passes them out. We peek at them and stuff the evidence into our pockets.

I can’t believe it. I’m Zombie. In our millions of games of Zombie Tag, this is my first time being the zombie. It’s like it’s my birthday.

But no one would know from my face. I am the world’s coolest cucumber right now.

“Okay, eyes closed,” our Zombie God orders. We snap our eyes closed, and I slowly open mine to make sure the other guys aren’t peeking. They have their fingers stuffed into their ears, just like they’re supposed to. I feel kind of proud that they’re following my rules so well. It’s not every guy who has a bunch of friends who really understand how sacred a thing like Zombie Tag is, you know?

Time to fulfill my first duty as Zombie. I walk away from the circle as quietly as I can. I put all my weight on my heels before I lean onto each toe. When I was a kid, my brother told me that hunters used to walk like this so they didn’t get eaten by tigers. I totally believed him and put it in early settlers history paper a few weeks ago, and Ms. Hoole gave me a C and wrote THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN THE UNITED STATES. And that wasn’t even the point. I hate when teachers don’t pay attention.

So I keep my tiger-sneak walk up until I’m well out of the circle, then I run to the table and pick up the dinosaur. It’s this plastic coin bank my dad got be as a souvenir when he went to Russia a few months ago. He was checking up how they’re doing on the development of Time-Based Travel. I think they’re beating us, because Dad was really depressed when he got home, and he had this whole stack of papers to work through and all these reports to file. I asked him if he was a spy, and he said “Quiet, Wil,” and gave me this bank. And, it’s like, I’m not six, Dad, but at least it comes in useful for Zombie Tag.

It’s our Key. The other guys need to find the Key, or else they’re stuck in the house forever, and I’ll eat their brains.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I know I know I know

I've been hiding from this blog. It's been a crazy few weeks. BUT SOON I'M GOING TO VLOG FOR YOU.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It might sell.
--EVEN IF the book isn't perfect.
--EVEN IF it's not your favorite thing you've ever written.
--EVEN IF you don't feel schizophrenic when you're writing it and you heard that's supposed to happen?
--EVEN IF you started your query with a rhetorical question or your manuscript with your main character waking up.

You might make a shitload of money.
--EVEN IF...well...I don't know anything about making a shitload of money, so I'll shut up on this point. But I hear it's possible!

And mo matter what happens:
--You might be happy.
--EVEN IF...
--Yeah. Even if.

But A Quick Note...

Lately...I've been noticing an influx of over-confident writers.

I feel sometimes like the world is split between raincloud I WILL NEVER SELL writers and writers who are convinced they are J.K. Rowling. If you are of the first camp, please drink some tea and enjoy this blog post but realize it is not for you.

For the rest of you...

Here are some things you should maybe consider/deal with.

--The manuscript you are writing and pouring your life into and dreaming about and crying over? It might not sell.
--EVEN IF your characters are really hot.
--EVEN IF you have a great query letter.
--EVEN IF it truly is a very, very good manuscript.
--EVEN IF you can see a place for it in the current market.
--EVEN IF your best friend is Jodi Piccoult.
--EVEN IF you already have an agent.
--Even if your agent loves it.
--Even if you've sold fifteen fucking books before.
--Even if "but it's me and I sold"--no no no, EVEN YOU.

--If you are loudly overconfident, you will piss people off.
--EVEN IF you are attractive.
--EVEN IF (and maybe especially if) you turn out to be correct.

--If your book sells, it likely will not be for a lot of money.
--EVEN IF someone else sold a book for a lot of money.
--Even if every writer you know sold for SO MUCH MONEY.
--They didn't.

Don't get depressed. Accept it and deal with it and consider shutting your mouth next time you tell someone how sure you are going to sell.


--I got an agent.
--That book I got an agent with? It was not the first book we put on sub.
--I sold a book.
--That book that I got the agent with? It didn't sell.
--Even after I'd sold BREAK. Didn't matter.
--I left my agent, and got a shiiiiiitload of rejects looking for a new one.
--Even though I'd sold BREAK
--Even though I'm really hot.

In conclusion, there are exactly three things it is ALWAYS safe to be.

Just something to think about.

Bad News Bears

Because the electronic world just hates me, my laptop is ker-fucked. At least my netbook is back in working order--hence I'm talking to you lovelies right now.

However, netbook has no webcam, so there will sadly be no vlogging in the considerable future.

Sooooo I'm going to do a regular post (boooo) for the rest of your questions. I'm disappointed, but vlogging was fucking awesome and I will definitely do it again in the near future.

I'm going to try to answer all your questions, tonight. If you want to sneak some more questions into that post down there titled "ASK ME ANYTHING," I promise not to tell anyone.

Hope everything is awesome for everyone. Send me some good vibes this week, kay?

Monday, February 1, 2010


Answering the first half of your questions:

Isn't this freeze-frame attractive? THANKS BLOGGER.