Editing and Consulting

I love working with other writers on their stories.

I’ve participated in my own critique group for about ten years. I’ve done mentorships and manuscript critiques through online programs. I’ve taught numerous intensive workshops. I love creative collaboration, and talking story, and problem-solving. I enjoy it so much that I’d like to try something, namely taking on a few select clients to work on their fiction with them. If you have a novel you’re working on, and you think I might be able to help you with it, send me an email (address on the contact page in the sidebar). From there we can talk about the scope of your project and payment rates.

Let’s work together on your book.

 

On Sexual Harassment in the World of Children’s Literature

Though mostly silent on social media these days, I am aware of the earthquake taking place in the kidlit world. That’s the most accurate metaphor I can think of to describe this long overdue upending of the status quo. It’s the kind of event that leaves everyone shaken, and makes you question things you had assumed to be foundational, or self-evident. Perhaps some of us were unaware of the underlying fault line that has ruptured, or the depths to which it reached. In the interest of owning my own part in this, I’m the latter. I’ve been peripherally aware of these issues, but I haven’t ever undertaken the kind of examination that would have revealed the full reach of this problem. Because yes, this industry that I cherish has a problem. A very big and deeply ingrained problem. I wish I had been more fully aware of it before now, and I’m sorry that it took this earthquake for me to see it. My heart breaks for the women who have been harassed, devalued, and victimized. If that is you, then I want you to know that I believe you.

The fault line revealed by this earthquake needs to be addressed, urgently, and I want to do my part. I fear that this chasm, which has always been there, but only now opened wide enough at the surface for everyone to see, has the potential to divide our community of writers, and it already seems to be doing just that. Some people are actively taking sides and rejecting the claims of the other. To some degree, that is expected. It’s human nature to reject information that makes us feel uncomfortable. After all, belief seeks the path of least resistance; if we are passive in our beliefs, we go through life avoiding dissonance and hard truths the way a river avoids certain terrain on its way to the sea.

We might say to ourselves, “I know the accused, and they would never do that.” But that is the easier path. That is simply another way of saying that we don’t want to re-examine our assumptions and biases, which is evidenced by the speed at which people have already decamped into their corners, where they seem to be digging in for a lengthy siege before the facts are known. That some of the accusations are anonymous seems adequate justification for rejection, by some, even though the accused may not have even denied the claims. The harder path in all of this, the active path, is to allow for the possibility that we might have been wrong about someone. We might have been wrong about lots of people, or even an entire industry.

I am trying to take the harder path. I am trying to hear and consider things that make me uncomfortable. I’m trying to examine my own biases and assumptions, because this fault line will not be healed by refusing to acknowledge it or blaming the other side for its inevitable rupture. It will only be healed if we stick our heads together like Lego Batman minifigs, and clench our Batman abs, to pull together.

Right now, there are women who need our support, and none of us have the right to judge the validity of their experiences, or the validity of their responses to those experiences. If you ever find yourself deciding for someone else how they should think and feel about something, well, speaking as a psychologist, you’re engaging in a form of psychological abuse. If you’re doing it to a victim, you’re victimizing them all over again.

Just stop it.

Now.

And listen.

Ursula K. Le Guin

“Only for a moment did the spirit glimmer there. Then the sallow oval between Ged’s arms grew bright. It widened and spread, a rent in the darkness of the earth and night, a ripping open of the fabric of the world. Through it blazed a terrible brightness. And through that bright misshapen breach clambered something like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous…”

As a twelve-soon-to-turn-thirteen-year-old boy, that moment in A Wizard of Earthsea stopped me. I’d been given what was at that time the Earthsea trilogy of books for Christmas, and I remember blinking at the page when I first read that scene and those words. I was aware even then, in a slow and plodding, newly awakening kind of way that something powerful was happening. I went back and reread that scene, those sentences. Then I read them again, and again, and again, until my inner ear heard them not as words in a book to be read, but for what they were: an incantation, an enchantment, a spell.

I realized then that Ged, in all his flawed and relatable anger and fear, was not the Wizard of Earthsea that I had assumed him to be. The real wizard of Earthsea could not actually be found within the story, and yet was present on every page, because the author was the wizard. Ursula K. Le Guin was the wizard.

I realized then that not a single word in that passage could be changed without breaking the spell she had cast over me. I knew the shadow could be nothing else but a clot, or it would be something entirely different than what it was. I knew with certainty that Le Guin had chosen every word with intent and with care. I sensed a kind of exhilarating power in that, and freedom, as though someone had just placed a wand in my hand.

I realized then that I wanted to be a writer, and now, nearly thirty years later, that moment with Le Guin has shaped the writer that I am more than any other experience or influence, and she has continued to teach me during these nearly-thirty years. I learned from every book of hers that I read, whether science fiction, fantasy, contemporary realism, or her essays and nonfiction. The lessons were not only related to the craft of writing, but also to the living of life. In her work I have always found wisdom, and truth, and grace.

When I wrote to her seven years ago and sent her a copy of my first novel, I didn’t express enough of that. I felt insecure, and I didn’t want to bother her. But I did tell her that I was a writer because of her, and a couple of weeks later, much to my surprise, she wrote me back.

My hands trembled a bit as I opened the envelope, and I cried as I read the note in which she complimented and encouraged me with enthusiasm and sincerity. She spoke not to the me who had just sold his first novel, but directly to the twelve-year-old inside me who had a dream, and it’s hard to describe that kind of validation. Then, when she graciously offered a quote for the cover of my second novel, I felt that I had come to the completion or fulfillment of something profound, which of course means the beginning of something else.

A few years ago, I encountered another Le Guin quote:

“Socrates said, ‘The misuse of language induces evil in the soul…’  A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”

If my work as a writer were to ever have a mission statement, that would be it. Richard Peck has said that as authors, we write by the light of every book we have ever read, and in the constellation of my literary inspirations and heroes, Le Guin shines brightest. She may have passed away today, but her light has not gone out, and her magic has not faded. Her spells and enchantments remain, full of truth.

WARNING: This Post Contains My High School Art

My, my, my. It has been a long time since I posted anything here, which is how I think 99.89 percent of blog entries begin nowadays. But on a whim I think I’ll post something today.

I’ve been feeling the urge to draw lately. Well, I’ve been feeling it for the past couple of years, actually. Art used to be a big part of my life, when I was younger. I drew and painted all through high-school, with dreams of going into comics or illustration, and the only thing that stopped me from committing to that path completely was my colorblindness. I found it incredibly frustrating to not see what everyone else would see when they looked at my work. I got tired of having to ask a friend, “Does this shade of green work for maple leaves?” as I mixed colors. So I focused on writing instead, because I could communicate my ideas so much more clearly with words than color. But sometimes I miss making visual art.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve drawn a couple of maps recently, one for a fantasy series roiling at the back of my head, and one that will probably appear at the front of the third book in my Assassin’s Creed series, Last Descendants. In drawing both maps, I realized it felt good to have pencil and pen in my hand again. So I went out and bought some supplies, and I plan to start making visual art again, just for me. I also pulled out some of my old junior-high and high-school work to look at. I’ll post some of it below, just for fun. Don’t be too hard on it. I was just a kid.

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Thoughts from a Book Tour

I’ve been traveling quite a bit, off and on, over the last month or so. I visited several cities, a few amazing bookstores, and numerous schools. The people I meet often wonder what a book tour is like. Some people assume it’s glamorous, and on occasion it does kind of feel that way. Some people assume it’s exhausting, and it can be. Some people figure it’s probably not all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s true, too. It’s all of those things, and I love it. But here is the important thing to remember: I am very, very lucky to be given the opportunity.

There are a lot of authors whose publishers don’t support them or their work in that way. Marketing budgets are limited, choices are made, and it is not always fair. I’ve been on both sides of those decisions. I’ve toured for some of my books, and I’ve had little to no publisher support for others, so I feel very fortunate and grateful when I’m given the opportunity to get out there and meet fans and readers. I try very hard not to take that for granted, because who knows when I’ll have that opportunity again. I try very hard to remember the times I didn’t travel anywhere, and I think about the writers I admire who should probably be out there on the road instead of me. When I visit bookstores on tour, I make a point to mention the books I love by other writers to the booksellers and readers. If I have room in my luggage, I buy books by other writers from those bookstores. I talk to kids about other writers and other books, because in the end, it’s all about turning young readers into life-long readers. It’s about making better humans, and books are perfect tools for that. If my being in a school, a library, or a bookstore can help build that excitement in young readers, then I’m honored to be given that chance, and I will always do my best.

P.S. A book tour wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of an amazing publicist. They work tirelessly behind the scenes (and after-hours) to make sure book tours are as successful as they can possibly be. I’ve been so lucky to work with Lauren Felsenstein Bonifacius and Emma Brockway. Now I work with Monica Palenzuela, and if you ever get the chance to make candles with her, don’t pass it up.

A Taste for Monsters Launch Event

taste-for-monsters-coverTwo weeks from today, I’ll be at the Provo Library to launch my newest YA novel!

A Taste for Monsters is a Victorian ghost story set in the London Hospital during the Ripper murders. If this sounds like your kind of book, then I hope to see you at the event.

The details:

When: Tuesday, September 27th at 7:00 PM

Where: The Provo Library (ballroom) – 550 North University Avenue in Provo, Utah

 

Last Descendants Launch Party!

In just a few weeks, the first of my YA Assassin’s Creed novels will be released into the wild. Last Descendants comes out on August 30th, and I’ll be having a launch party to celebrate. If you live in the Salt Lake City area, I’d love to see you. If you live elsewhere, I’ll be posting tour dates as they’re confirmed. I hope to host similar events in additional cities if I can make it work. Now, the details:

AC launch poster

 

 

 

 

 

Last Descendants giveaway!

AC_cover_412v3I’ve got a couple of signings coming up this Saturday, and I thought it might be cool to make them part of a giveaway. So come by either bookstore, say hi, and enter yourself for a chance to win an advance reader copy of Last Descendants, my Assassin’s Creed novel coming out this fall. Both events are on the same day – Saturday, June 11th – at different times and locations, so take your pick.

The first event:

3:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Layton Market Center

1780 North Woodland Park Drive

Layton, UT

The second event:

7:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Gateway Crossing

340 South 500 West

Bountiful, UT

Hope to see lots of you there!

Final Cover! Assassin’s Creed – Last Descendants

The final cover for Last Descendants, my Assassin’s Creed series, is here, and I think it looks really, really cool. I’ve also seen the interior layout and design, and I am so thrilled with how this book is turning out. I hope you’ll all enjoy it. It’s available for pre-order most everywhere now, including iBooks. August 28th can’t come soon enough!

AC_cover_412v3

Last Descendants release date!

AC_1_CoverIt looks like Last Descendants is now available for pre-order as both an ebook and a physical book, with a release date of August 30th!

Feel free to consult with your preferred purveyor. Or click the links below.

Indiebound | Amazon