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Showing posts from 2012

letter from morocco

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Greetings from Essaouira, Morocco. Over the past two months, I have mentally composed so many little missives to post here, but somehow they all grew worn and stale before making it online, like letters that seem to wilt the longer they ride around on your car dashboard, waiting for the day you finally stop by the post office to send them. I am at work on Novel 2 and almost completely disconnected from Internet Reality (which is to say from Publishing News Reality, Writing Advice Reality, Author Blog Reality, and yes, Funny Cat Video Reality) but I can feel things collecting in my brain for future sharing here, piling up like snow.
A typical day for me right now goes something like this:
Wake up. Coffee/Breakfast Write until afternoon. Walk around public gardens while groundskeepers in bright orange vests blow whistles and gesticulate madly for no apparent reason. Develop fever. Hurry home to toss and turn in strangely pleasant delirium. Nip around the corner in search of medicinal oranges; r…

giveaway winners!

Hello everybody! Hilary here. Lao Tzu has given me the following list of winners for Monday's giveaway, which he came up with by consulting oracular chickens à la Lloyd Alexander. If you are one of the lucky winners, e-mail me at internspills[at]gmail[dot]com to claim your prize. Winners can choose either a query critique or a handwritten, personal, very special letter from Morocco, and if you don't actually want either of those things please feel free to give the prize to someone else. If you would like a letter, please provide your address.

The Winners
1. Tom Franklin 2. Miss Sharp 3. Mel 4. Taryn 5. NN 6. Hazel 7. Khanada 8. Schietree 9. Mirka Breen 10. tracyworld 11. Maine Character 12. sllynn 13. Priya Sridhar

I would also like to take the liberty of reposting the following note from a certain gentleman astrologer who was kind enough to supplement Lao Tzu's mystical analysis of WILD AWAKE's May 28 pub date with the following:
"The cool thing is, May 28 actual…

WILD AWAKE cover reveal & mystical revelations

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Greetings! It is I, Lao Tzu, ancient poet born from a shooting star, here to analyze the mystical significance of this Cover Reveal. Hilary tells me most modern people no longer bother to consult a sage about the details of their book launches; this is a very big mistake! Most supremely unwise! Most contrary to the Way! Without the wisdom of sages, how will you know the true meaning of anything? Lucky for Hilary, I came back from outer space just in time to drop some wisdom on WILD AWAKE. See for yourself...
Cover:


Mystical Significance of Cover:
Aaaah. I see that she is becoming one with the Suchness, as represented by the transparency of her body against the cityscape. But is she achieving mystical union…or losing herself?
Furthermore, I note the prominence of the color orange—a revealing color indeed. Is it sunset or sunrise? The beginning or the end? Or have such distinctions fallen away in the divine chaos of ultimate transcendence? What is truth? Who can say? LAO TZU GETTING AGITATE…

update: cover reveal details!

As mentioned yesterday, the folks at Harper have given me the green light to share the cover for WILD AWAKE as of this Monday, October 8th. Hurray!

I am writing this from a public computer with one of those freaky countdown timer things that log you off after twenty minutes, ten of which I have already spent re-writing the previous sentence several dozen times and five of which I have spent staring at the countdown timer and feeling rushed, so I will keep this short, BUT:

In celebration of said cover reveal, I will be offering THREE lucky winners a query critique and TEN lucky winners a handwritten, personal, very special letter from somewhere in Morocco. I am an exuberant letter-writer (ask any of my penpals) and will endeavor to use only the prettiest Moroccan stamps.

If you would like to win a query critique or a handwritten, personal, very special letter from Morocco, all you have to do is leave a comment on Monday's cover reveal post. You don't even need to say anything …

twenty-six (or, space-weasels, aloe, and the deeply confusing blackberry patch of the mind)

Things are a little nuts here in real actual Hilary-land, because Techie Boyfriend and I have just decided to go to Morocco for the winter and possibly forever. Naturally, we have allotted ourselves approximately four and a half minutes in which to move out of our mountain cabin, renew our passports, and find a new home for our long-suffering Norfolk pine, because lots of panicked last-minute scrambling is just how we roll. If you live in Northern California and would like a Norfolk pine, as well as an aloe plant and several rain sticks (don’t ask) please get in touch.
This last year has been an interesting one, if by interesting you mean challenging, and if by challenging you mean “characterized by a constant parade of self-imposed crises.” I’ve never been an agonizer. I chose my university based on a glance at a pretty photograph. I moved in with Techie Boyfriend a few days after meeting him on a hitchhiking trip to San Francisco. I started writing the INTERN blog fifteen minutes a…

how not to be awkward at book festivals, part 2: the awkward book panel

Last weekend, I went to a rather awkward book festival. On Tuesday, we discussed the Awkward Book Booth (check the comments for some brilliant reader suggestions). Today, some observations on the Awkward Book Panel.
There is nothing like an awkward panel to make book festival goers wish they had gone on a brewery tour instead. There you are, trapped in your rickety folding chair while three authors you’ve vaguely heard of say a whole lot of nothing for forty-five minutes, followed by a fifteen-minute question period in which even more nothing gets said. When the panel’s over, you can’t remember a single thing anyone said—you can’t even remember what the panel was supposed to be about. Why are you even here? Why did you think you would find this stimulating? Can we go home now?
If you are a panel-bound author, here are some ways to make things less awkward for your audience:
Know thy panel-mates
There is nothing more awkward than a panel where three authors who have obviously never hear…

how not to be awkward at book festivals, part 1: the awkward book booth

This weekend, I went to a medium-sized book festival with a mission: to observe which authors were successfully selling books, and why.
Like all situations where you are meeting face-to-face with the producer of an item you may or may not want to buy, book festivals can be sort of awkward. This particular festival was especially awkward, as many of the booths consisted of lesser-known, debut, or self-published authors who were selling their books “cold” with no name recognition to ride on. As a person who will herself claim the illustrious title of Lesser-Known Debut Author in about eight months from now, I am very curious to find out how other LKDA’s were making it work (or failing to make it work).
To begin with, some pointers to authors who are selling their books at booths or tables:
Team up with other authors
I found myself shying away from booths where an author was sitting with stacks and stacks of a single title. Why? Because it’s already awkward enough to walk away from someo…

gas in the trunk: why your conflict isn’t working (and how to fix it)

One of the most cited reasons agents and editors give for declining manuscripts is “there wasn’t enough conflict” or “the stakes weren’t high enough.” For this reason, writers have learned to pile on conflict—checking for internal and external tensions in every scene, giving each character a backstory wound, defining clear and compelling story goals, etc.
But while these strategies can and do lead to stronger story telling, they can also backfire in confusing ways. Over the past six months, the freelance editor version of myself has noticed a peculiar phenomenon: manuscripts with loads of conflict that are nevertheless deadly boring.
“What’s going on here?” I found myself thinking again and again. “There’s so much drama, but I don’t give a tinker’s damn.” (No damns at all! Not a one!)
It turns out these writers had misplaced their conflict in various ways. It’s like keeping gasoline in the trunk of your car instead of putting it in the tank. Sure, you have gas, but it’s not doing y…

gas in the trunk: why your conflict isn’t working (and how to fix it)

One of the most cited reasons agents and editors give for declining manuscripts is “there wasn’t enough conflict” or “the stakes weren’t high enough.” For this reason, writers have learned to pile on conflict—checking for internal and external tensions in every scene, giving each character a backstory wound, defining clear and compelling story goals, etc.
But while these strategies can and do lead to stronger story telling, they can also backfire in confusing ways. Over the past six months, the freelance editor version of myself has noticed a peculiar phenomenon: manuscripts with loads of conflict that are nevertheless deadly boring.
“What’s going on here?” I found myself thinking again and again. “There’s so much drama, but I don’t give a tinker’s damn.” (No damns at all! Not a one!)
It turns out these writers had misplaced their conflict in various ways. It’s like keeping gasoline in the trunk of your car instead of putting it in the tank. Sure, you have gas, but it’s not doing y…

shelfspy #1

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I love inspecting other people's bookshelves. They occupy this funny space between something private and something on display. It almost feels like spying—but is it?
I took this picture of my current bookshelves this morning, with the intention of posting it here. I thought it would be easy—take a picture, post it, done—but I found myself wavering, wanting to edit it for the camera, remove some books and display others more prominently, show off some aspects of my reading life while downplaying others. 
Finally, I just took the picture without changing anything. This is what's on my shelf. More books cycle in and out of my house than I can keep track of, but these are the ones that have earned at least a temporary stay of execution from the used book store where most of my reading material ends up.
So spy away. And if you post a photo of your own unedited bookshelf on your own blog, leave link in the comments—I'd love to see it.


lasagna for fifty: why writing with a book deal is a whole different game

One thing I did not expect when WILD AWAKE sold is that writing when you have a book deal is very different from just writing. It’s the difference between cooking a meal for yourself at home and cooking for a restaurant full of people: sure, it’s still lasagna, but there are all sorts of new demands and constraints and variables and pressures for you to deal with in your shiny new professional kitchen.
Suddenly, the lasagna needs to be ready at a certain time, and the seasoning needs to please dozens of people, and it can’t be burnt on the outside but frozen on the inside, the way you sometimes eat it at home.
“Why am I so stressed out all of a sudden?” you wonder. “I friggin’ love making lasagna!”
Here, dear writer, is why.
Deadlines are real.
When you have a novel under contract, there are going to be times when you get your manuscript back from your editor with a note like this:
Hey author! Not to freak you out, but if you don’t have this revision back to me in two weeks, we’ll hav…