Walking while writing…(or I just sold a picture book)

Short Version:
I just sold a picture book that I wrote for Kaden while pacing the hospital.

Longer Version:
When Kaden & I were in the hospital, there were days I thought I might be bordering on madness. I marked my days by the changing of the nurses’ shifts. My big excitement was which nurse we had that next shift. They were what stood between me and sobbing incoherency. Aside from social media & occasional phone calls if Kaden was having a particularly good spell, our beloved nurses were my entire source of adult conversation. Newborns, incidentally, aren’t great conversationalists. I talked to Kaden nonetheless.

One day, our doctor (Dr. Mark Brown, head of pediatrics at Eastern Maine Medical Center & all around amazing doctor) noted, “Kaden calms the more you talk. Are you singing or reading to him?” I have exactly zero ability to sing though, so I bought some songs* and only sang along with them in my room. I didn’t have picturebooks there, so I went online* & found three of my favourite poems to read kids: “The Adventures of Isabel” (Nash), “Jabberwocky” (Carroll), and “Instructions” (Gaiman). Both reading & singing were activities for in our room. Lots of nights & days we’d need to pace though. So I wrote a book (on my phone*) for Kaden while we walked.

I love all the things I’ve written in different ways, but this one (BUNNY ROO) is special. It’s the story I wrote and revised as I paced the pediatrics ward. Eventually, I typed it out on my iPhone and emailed it to my agent.

From: M
To: Merrilee
Subject: “Would you think I was crazy…”
Message Body: . . . if I told you I wrote a draft of a picture book over the past month? Give a read. Let me know your thoughts.

From: Merrilee
Message Body: No. I would think you were Melissa. (And then she added some revision notes.)

This is a top sign of a good agent, my dears: she knows you & doesn’t suggest you are crazy. I knew I was sleep deprived and emotional, though, so I wasn’t sure if this was her being kind or not. I knew she wouldn’t sell it if it was dreck, but I also knew she wasn’t as likely to say that when I was teetering near madness.

However, after I got home, Merrilee had started a submission list. It was wise and good, and I liked her choices. However, along with my two existing editors at my US houses (HarperCollins and Little, Brown--who are both awesome publishers, BTW) I asked her to send it on an exclusive to a specific editor who felt like the right fit for this. (See footnote**)

She sent it to my top pick editor for the book (Nancy Paulsen) who replied almost instantly: “I love this! Can I call you tomorrow?”

When Merrilee told me what Nancy said, we hit another of those moments that prove why we should have agents. As I did with Wicked Lovely 7 years ago, I immediately said, “I accept!”

Merrilee: “Let me find out what she’s offering & then—”

Me: “I accept!”

Merrilee: *long patient sigh*

So, yeah, she did her agenty thing and then called to tell me some details like what the actual offer was . . . at which point I said, “Tell her I accept!”

Merrilee: “I already told her, dear.”

So, there’s the news that I’ve been bursting to share: I wrote a book aloud while walking in the hospital, and my agent sold it to my number one editorial pick for it. This means I’ve now written books for all three of my kids: Wicked Lovely was for Asia, The Blackwell Page trilogy is for Dylan, & Bunny Roo is for Kaden.


* Smart phone tops my list of Essential Items For Long Hospital Stays: download heartbeat app, keep notes so you can remember all the nurses names, read poetry to the baby, create playlist for baby, set alarms for meds, take pictures of baby, check Twitter when you realize that the only person other than the nurse & Dr that you’ve spoken to today is only days old…also sometimes works to do that old-fashioned “phone” thing.

**I keep lists of editors & agents. It’s something I’ve done since before I sold my first book. It’s been useful in giving notes to friends, as well as in my own career. I knew which agent I wanted when I left my first agent, where I wanted to sell a middle-grade, which editor I wanted when my original YA editor left Harper, & now which editor I wanted for this book. 

Baby Kaden update

As anyone who follows me online anywhere knows, my spouse & I have spent the past year working toward adopting.

Our son Kaden was born 12/14 at 6:26am in Maine. He was 7lb 11ounces at birth. We are now awaiting adoption paperwork, a wait that hasn't seemed as long as I anticipated because my attention has been consumed by my son's health. 

At birth, I am told that they needed to breath for him. We arrived late the day he was born,  & as of the next morning when we received temporary custody (awaiting the next step, adoption consent), Loch or I have been at his side. For the first two days of his life, Kaden was on oxygen, morphine, verset, & supplemental nutrition via an IV. During the first 5 days of his life we went from NICU to continuing care--and on the 5th day, all of that was removed. Then my husband returned to Virginia to be with Asia & Dylan, and Kaden & I moved to pediatrics, where we now live.

Kaden has NAS Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) and is receiving methadone that is slowing being weaned. In addition, he is on clonazepam & phenonbarbital & prevacid. The doctors tell me that this is one of the worst cases of withdrawal that they've seen in years. He started on a very high dose of methadone which had to be increased twice & augmented with other meds to stabilize him, and the weaning has been very slow. Eventually, we'll get through this, but for now, we anticipate living in the hospital at least another 3-5 weeks (on top of the 17 days so far). NAS comes with all sorts of  unpleasantness 

Blotchy skin coloring (mottling)
Excessive crying or high-pitched crying
Excessive sucking
Hyperactive reflexes
Increased muscle tone
Poor feeding
Rapid breathing
Sleep problems
Slow weight gain
Stuffy nose, sneezing
Trembling (tremors)

He hasn't had any seizures, & his weight gain is not currently an issue. He lost 12ounces (dropping to 6lb 15oz), but has regained them & added more still (up to 8lb 3oz as of yesterday). The rest of those symptoms he is experiencing. For me, the tremors & crying are the hardest to deal with. He shakes so hard that I can't put him down in the crib bc he shakes himself awake. The crying is . . . well, you know how it is when someone you love hurts & you can't "fix it." It's a lousy feeling to be powerless. 

Fortunately, he is strong, and even more fortunately, we aren't anticipating any long term physical or developmental limitations as a result of this. Unfortunately, all of this means that I am living in a hospital in Maine, far from my family for the time being. My daughter has been away at college--finished her first semester with a 3.75 (!), so I'd been looking forward to having all three children together.  Dylan & Asia text, Skype, & play Words With Friends with me though so they are keeping in great touch even from this distance. Have I mentioned that I love being a mom? They are why.  

The nurses and doctors here have been amazing.  I truly couldn't ask for better care. They are experienced professional who have enormous hearts. I'm quite certain I'd be ill myself if not for them.  With very rare exception, Kaden doesn't cope well unless he's being held. I spend 18 hours a day almost every day holding him. I can't go on no sleep though, so I am grateful that many of the nurses offer to hold him for a few hours so I can get a precious 4-6 hours of sleep each day. 

So that's the update. I've posted bits & pieces on Twitter, but today is the best day he's had so far so I broke out the laptop to type up an update in response to the questions sent via msg & email from friends, family, & readers.  We'll be ok, but it's been a rough few weeks & will continue to be so for several more weeks, probably a month more, but possibly up to 2 more months at worst.

That said, every minute of this is worth it for me. I feel grateful that the Universe has allowed me to be Kaden's mother & already love him as I do my eldest two kids. We bonded quickly, & I'm honoured & thrilled to be his mom. Some of you have commented that I am doing a good thing. I'm not really. I'm doing the same thing I did when I became a mother the first 2 times: I'm filling my arms with a wonderful little human. This isn't about changing the world. It's about the fact that I love motherhood above all else. Being a mom is, without a doubt, the most satisfying, coolest thing I've ever done--and it's just as awesome the third time.  The first time, I had surgery, bed rest, & hellish labour.  The second involved years of court battles & working an extra job to pay legal bills. This time, it's a few months in the hospital. It's worth it. Motherhood is wonderful.

Much love to all of you who have sent your messages of support & your prayers in your various faiths. We appreciate every one of those.  

Desert Man

In June, I was in the desert with family & friends. Our friends hadn't seen the desert yet, but they trusted me enough to agree to go (even though it was a little hotter than perhaps I'd mentioned). Luckily, they loved it :) We had fairly normal goals (hike, rock climbing for spouse & kids, & general unwinding) and a checklist of Want To See (sheep, coyote, rock art, roadrunner).
  • Day 2, 6am, on the trailhead: We meet a very friendly man who stops & says "you might still be able to catch the sheep."
  • Day 3, 5am, trailhead: Sheep!!! Coyote!!! Friendly Man. He is washing rocks along the trail to help remove the taint of careless visitors. We christen him "Desert Man." I think it may be a little odd to crush on a man almost twice my age, but I have a historical weakness for Senior Citizens. Seriously, if someone is over 65, I forgive 99% of anything. Cut me off? Call me "sugar buns" (no joke, when I was bartending) or "Wench"? It's ok. Be terribly rude? Still ok.
  • Day 4, 5am: No sheep. No Desert Man. I am sad. Still, we hiked to an oasis that was pretty awesome.
  • Day 5, 5:30am: Desert Man is tucked into a nook between rocks. I am inordinately excited to see his skinny legs and long grey hair. He invites me to a nearby rock, & we sit in the sun watching the world, talking about life and coyotes while my family members clamber over small cliffs with a speed that make me unable to watch. I ask for his address to send him a thank you for the sheep tips. Desert Man tells me he's decided he approves of me and offers a secret.
DM: "Have you ever seen petroglyphs?"
M: Only twice.
DM: "There is a secret cave here."
M: Nearby? *gets maps from backpack*
DM: Oh, it's not on maps. There is no marked trail. We unmarked it. *he laughs* A few times.
M: Oh.
DM: I will trust you though. *gives directions that include climbing through things & scrabbling up a edge*
M: *Calls over friend. Gets repeat of directions.*

The 2 families started on the not-trail exchanging suspicious thoughts on Desert Man being Coyote Himself  . . . or possibly a serial killer's accomplice--but rock art? Incentive enough to risk it. A few scratches, scrapes, & does-someone-know-the-way-back exchanges later we were at the site. The ledge was higher than I liked, and I had a few moments of no-rattlers-please concern when I had to stretch out on my back to see the art, but DAMN, it was the highlight of the trip for me and my archaeology majoring daughter. 

I've since sent Desert Man my book, & he's replied a couple times now with actual handwritten letters AND desert photos. I am now trying to come up with an interesting gift for him. 

So, umm, I'm sitting here smiling over the joy of that handwritten letter & those sheep photos and I have to say that trusting my instincts that I wasn't chatting with Coyote (or an accomplice to some sort of killer akin to the Pied Piper of Tucson) has resulted in all sorts of joy. I'm not sure if my Desert Man experience has a Moral Of The Story, but it's been such a joy to get the latest letter today that I had to share. Strangers in the desert can be kinda awesome . . . and I'm still a little hopeful that he might at least KNOW Coyote.

Talking about Blackwell (& sharing the cover of LOKI'S WOLVES)

In 2005, I started writing a book for my then-12-year-old daughter, Asia (who is now freshman at university!). That book sprung from a short story ("The Sleeping Girl & The Summer King") I wrote in 2004 (which is now published in my Faery Tales & Nightmares collection). The story became a novel (Wicked Lovely) & then a book series & then had short stories and a manga series and a film option.  

My son Dylan isn't much for "kissing stories," so when he turned 12 (two years ago) he wanted to know where HIS book was. He wanted "more monsters, less kissing."
At the time I'd been talking to my friend Kelley Armstrong about our plan to co-author.

Kelly has boys of the same age, and she also had written a YA series for her daughter. 

My husband's family is from South Dakota. 

My husband's last name and his family mythology are Norwegian. I spent far too much time learning Norse myth bc of my panic that our kids would only get MY family myth heritage. 

So . . . Kelley and I decided to co-author a trilogy about 12-13 year old kids dealing with the Norse end-of-times story, Ragnarok.  My son & his friends came up with a list of titles: Loki's Wolves, Odin's Ravens, & Thor's Serpent. Kelley's kids & my kids gave us critique notes. Kelley's agent & my agent sold the books.  It's been very much a case of friends & family during the creation process. 

The first book in The Blackwell Pages goes on sale in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Aus, & NZ in May 2013.  Today, we get to share our US cover with you. On the cover are Matt (whose pov Kelley writes) and Laurie (whose pov I write). Geekily, we had the shield designed according to researched symbology, and extra-geekily, we had actual shields made in the traditional Viking way. 


We love the cover. (Thank you, dear team at Little, Brown!)

Right now, the second book is written, & the third/final book will be started next month when we are on retreat. We actually write the books when we are in the same building. It's an odd process in which she writes when the sun is in the sky, & I write when the moon is out.  She writes Matt, and I write the others' (Laurie & Fen in Book 1). Our process works well, but more importantly, our sons are pleased :)

The series will also be available in these places at some point after May 2013:
  • Brazilian Portuguese / Publisher: Rocco
  • French / Publisher: Milan
  • Russian / Publisher: Exmo
  • Vietnamese / Publisher: Le Chi
  • Thai / Publisher: Amarin
  • Romanian / Publisher: SC Leda
  • Polish / Publisher: Wilga
  • Complex Chinese / Publisher: Sharp Point
AND . . . Kelley has a contest for an advanced copy of the book (note that advanced reader copies are without the interior art in place!) over her webpage. 

Carnival trailer & some notes on the process

Now that the EW exclusive has expired, I can embed the book trailer here:

The trailer was great fun. I met the lead actress (Kaat) at FaerieWorlds in 2011, and through her I got to know the fight choreographer (Youval) who is the male lead. He works with other fight choreographers as part of company in The Netherlands called Orde der Noorderwind. The whole project was filmed on site at a Dutch castle. The glass ball artist was friends with the actress, so the whole thing was this very interactive connection between artists I knew & artists they knew. 

The song--which inspired the book--was lent to us by the band (Five Finger Death Punch) when they heard they'd inspired the book... & then EW wanted to reveal it. It's been very fun. I consulted with the team on everything from script edits (they had a full script with camera angles outlined) to costume design to picking the set location to second-by-second edits.

Of course, in addition to the awesomeness of the project, it was surreal to see my world brought to life by talented people. They captured so much of the feel of my book perfectly.

I'm sending much much love to the dozens of people involved, especially Youval Kuipers (Belias & fight coordinator), Ticho Welschen (director), Kaat Geevers (Aya), Gregal Vissers (Kaleb), & Rourke Pouw (Sol). You all exceeded my hopes. XOXO.


Travel (or hints for finding me)

If you are looking to say hello, I'll be out & about from Philly to Alaska in September. Aside from the events that month, my only other event for 2012 is in November. [NOTE: No, I am not adding anything else in 2012.] Below is my travel overview. Below THAT is my release schedule as of now.

If you want a personalized copy of one of my books, I know you can pre-order from Mysterious Galaxy.  That event will also be posted live online as it happens. You may be able to order signed copies at most of the stores, but check with them about shipping.

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BOOK RELEASES (US/Canada/UK/Aus dates)
4 September 2012: Carnival (YA novel)
Jan 2013: Desert Tales (ebook only; Wicked Lovely world; novelization of the manga; US/Canada only as of now)
19 Feb 2013: Shards & Ashes (post-apocalyptic anthology, co-edited with Kelley Armstrong)
May 2013: Loki's Wolves co-authored with Kelley Armstrong (middle-grade; first in The Blackwell Pages series)
July 2013: The Arrivals (adult; fantasy novel)
Fall 2013: Rags & Bones (fantasy/literary anthology, co-edited with Tim Pratt)

Yeah, it all sort of ended up releasing in 2013 despite the fact that it certainly wasn't all WRITTEN at once.

I'm happy to answer questions or hear from you. Post your questions or comments if you have 'em. I will read all of them. I always do. (NOTE: All replies are sent to be invisible to everyone but me for your privacy.)

BEA, ALA, cacti, & panic

For 7 years now, I've been pretty much an open to readers and fellow authors, so I'm seeing no reason to change that :)

Short Version: Things have been a little crazy in my corner of the world.  Some of the crazy was good (my little girl graduated high school!), and some has been significantly less good (pending baby adoption fell apart because of the birth mother's drug usage AND strange drama with my daughter's bio-mother).  Some was just normal (travel for work). Either way, the end result was a return to panic attacks.

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RT 2013 YA Track information

To those interested in the YA Track for the RT Booklovers Convention 2013--

RT 2012 was a huge success. The convention saw record attendance (more than 2500 people!), and the YA events were overflowing. This year, I am again steering the YA events at the convention. In 2011, Jennifer Lynn Barnes co-captained; in 2012, Melissa de la Cruz co-captained; and for 2013, Kelley Armstrong will be co-captaining.  Due to the growth, there are several additional volunteers this year: David Macinnis Gill, Rachel Vincent, Rosemary Clement-Moore, and Mari Mancusi. 

Panels really are at a premium on the YA track. For 2012, we had 71 YA authors, and for 2013—a full calendar year away at the writing of this message—we already have 28 authors  43 authors signed up. We’ve doubled our participating author attendees between 2011 & 2012, and I am already seeing a huge number of signups for 2013. In other words, no promises on panels! The objective when I’ve built the panels the past two years was to a) build around the attending authors, & b) build with those best suited to each panel. To fit as many people as I could in this year, I ended up being a speaker on only ONE panel.

That said, the big Teen Day party, the YA Alley at the Giant Signing, the YA bookseller party, and the opportunity to donate books to the teens on Teen Day are open to all members of the YA track. There are a lot of benefits to participation above and beyond being on a panel : )

Due to the number of contact issues that were in play this year with 15 panels, two social events, 71 authors, and almost 4000 books donated, I had to send a lot of email. I don’t expect 2013 to be less chaotic, so all RT attendees interested in the YA track need to be in direct contract with me. If anyone is interested in participation, s/he needs to email my assistant (donna @ to be added to the database. What I have required the past two years is contact address, YA release data for existing and current YA books (the adult data is unnecessary), and brief book synopsis. Please note that you should only contact me if you are committing to attending. In fairness to all of the authors, I don’t want to hear from “maybes” or those whose attendance is conditional on being assigned a panel.

With regards,

To see RT 2012 photos, go here.

To read a few readers' opinions of the 2012 YA events:

a scare that leads to a Reminder (Not Writing)

A few weeks ago I went in for my mammogram.  I turn 40 in a few months, and this has been on my to-do list for my 40th since my 20s when I went through a series of surgeries.  Back then my ovaries, breast, & cervix all decided to grow unnecessary growths (bad cells, cysts, & a tumor). I've been surgery-free since 1998 though!  Still, my grandmother had breast cancer & I had that unnecessary lump (and surgery to remove it), so it's something I need to be vigilant about . . . and I THOUGHT I was. My doctor, however, gently chastized me with a "you should've started going at 36."  Still, she didn't find anything in the exam, so I expected the mammogram to be non-eventful.

I was wrong.  They called the next day, but I wasn't freaked out.  Because there was nothing in self-exam or doctor exam I though it was a mistake.  Still, better safe & all that, so I had a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. Those revealed a tumor.

We needed to see if it was malignant. . . except that I needed not to have any meds that were blood thinners for a week before they could check. I waited 6 days, & then they harpooned me & took their samples.

. . .and then I waited 4 more days to learn the results.  

Last Monday, I learned that the tumor is NOT cancer. I'm fine. (And a week and a half AFTER the harpooning, the incision is mostly healed and the bruising is almost gone!)

So why am I telling you?  
Because they only found it because I had a mammogram. I KNOW (especially after the number of them I've had in the past 3 weeks!) that they suck. They're uncomfortable. Seriously? Round object squished into square box? Totally NOT comfortable. However, they can find things our self-exams can't. The first time I needed surgery for an alien growth was because of a doctor's exam, so yeah, they CAN be found that way.  Do your self-exams & doctor exams too. Just don't overlook the mammogram either.
Things that are related
In one of those weird timing things, I had signed the papers for life insurance the morning of my mammogram. Last year, I tackled will & estate planning paperwork. I'd had a basic will for years--the result of being married to Marine was that we both had that--but it didn't cover my book stuff.  I'd also had life insurance until 3 years ago, but that was also via Loch's job.

So here's the footnote . . . I've had all of that stuff for years because my daughter isn't mine biologically. That means that I had to put it in writing that I INTEND her to be to treated as if I were her biological mother. Motherhood isn't only biological. She & I find the term "step-mother" offensive, and we have never used it. If I'm the one who cares for her daily needs, who RAISES her, the fact that there were 9 months when she wasn't growing inside me is truly unessential data. The law isn't quite so reasonable though, so I needed to have paperwork that clarified that my children are equal even though only one has my DNA. Knowing that my kids financial needs would be met via life insurance & will made those couple weeks a lot easier. 

We all hope we don't need that stuff any time soon, & luckily, this tumor (which my son named "Howard") is benign. Still, waiting until you might need it isn't an ideal plan. 

So therein ends my sorta mothering reminders. Get your mammograms, women, and men/women, be sure your paperwork is in order BEFORE you need it bc if you run up against the possibility that you will need it, having it already squared away really does decrease the burden of things to worry about.