^^ Not really. Though that would be cool.
Ella Kepler was created in Astronomy class, hence the space reference here and throughout Whitewashed. Her name was stolen from my favorite childhood book, Ella Enchanted. (Let's not talk about the movie. No really, don't bring it up. I will get depressed.)
The name "Ella" was a filler at first, because I had no idea what else to call her. The last name came from the fact that, when I started writing, we were discussing Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Which I still don't really understand, but I think Kepler is a cool name. As the story progressed, the name Ella started to fit her character, and I realized that she was officially Ella Jane Kepler.
So, tomorrow The Trace will officially release. Books won't plop on doorsteps at 12:01 a.m., but eBooks will unlock, and, later this week, paperback "Hey-these-are-real!" books will start arriving. Which leaves me over here a bit like this:
That's right. Sure, I've got a little bit of this,
but I'm mainly a puddle of self-doubt and terror. Why am I like this? Well, because I'm a human being, not a bastion of assurance and repose.
It's a dangerous business, going out your front—wait, what am I doing? What I meant was: it's a scary concept to me, this idea of faceless readers thumbing through my book, dog-earring the pages (don't you dare), tossing it aside as they dig through their bags, absorbing my sentences into their brain. How does one emotionally prepare for such a thing? Not that I want to complain, because, again, I'm excited! See giddy Frodo above? That's me! That is, until I remember that not every reader will regard my book with the same affection as me.
I've had months to prepare for this, but I'm still quaky. It's humbling for me to admit that I'm not a cool cucumber at the moment, especially because everyone keeps asking me how I feel, and I keep putting up the "I'm all eagerness and no terror!" facade. The truth is that I am quite afraid. This is a leap for me, a plunge into the utter unknown, because I cannot predict how hundreds of individual brains will react to The Trace. Love it? Hate it? Feel indifferent?
Here's where I start telling myself this, in very bold and giant letters: STOP WORRYING SO MUCH.
There. I feel relieved. People may love it, people may hate it—but, in the end, my brain was overrun with a story, and now that story is out. I've done it. And that's something to celebrate.
Wanna celebrate with me? Shoot me a message, a comment, whatever you like! Tell me about a time you were nervous to share your work but did it anyway. I'll pat you on the back and ask you how you did it. Then we'll watch LotR together.
Le Book Cover
Once upon a time, I had an idea for The Trace's book cover. I penned a letter to [Facebook messaged] a girl I used to play with when I was a wee youngster, someone who grew into a very talented artist. (I'm talking about her, not me.) I asked her, "Hey, can you draw half of a normal face and half of a creepy, zombie-like monstrosity? K thanks." Years later, I met another talented artist via an interview for an article. I kept her on my talented friends back burner and eventually approached her with a request: Can you take this sketch and turn it into a book cover? K thanks.
This is the result.
This cover exceeds all my expectations. And trust me, they were pretty high. The odd thing is, I didn't technically decide what Ella looks like. My two artists did. That thrills me, especially because my brain is no good with visual effects, so I honestly found it hard to picture Ella as anything other than a blob with hair. I gave the sketch artist some photos to model after and let her use her own imagination. When the graphic artist added the coloring, I gave her my preferences, but ultimately she created the perfect hair, skin, and eye colors. Ella herself became a collaborative effort between three people. And now I finally know what Ella looks like! My readers can, too. If you want to picture Ella while reading, just jump to the front cover. Or come up with your own image. I won't be offended. My good friend who's read the book a few times is still convinced Ella has brown hair. She's half right, at least.
The back cover is also beautiful, but that's not quite finished yet. I'm excited to reveal it to you when it's done! What do you think will be on it?
So...What's your book about?
You have no idea how stressful this question is. It's a common question, obviously.
"What do you do?"
"Oh, I'm a writer."
"Oh, cool! Have you written a book?"
"Yeah, I have!"
"Awesome! What's it about?"
".........Uh, a girl...yeah, a girl. She, uh...yeah."
You'd think I'd know how to answer this question. I've had five years of practice. Besides, I wrote the dang book! I can quote passages verbatim. But I couldn't tell ya what it's about.
Initially when people asked what my book was about, I'd compare it to Hunger Games, X-Men, and the Percy Jackson books. HG for the female-heroine-must-fight-for-justice theme; X-Men for the whole academy of superhumans plot; and I honestly have no recollection for why I used Percy Jackson. But there you have it. If you like all of those stories, you might like mine.
The first confusion is the genre confusion. The Trace fits trickily into a couple genres. I can tell you that it's YA, but once I say "sci-fi," people think aliens and space battles. If I say "light sci-fi," people think it's quasi-scientific. "Urban sci-fi" evokes lightsaber street-fighting; "fantasy" evokes dragons; "fiction" is too vague. So I skip the genre question when people ask me and go straight to the synopsis.
I've had to write synopses for query letters, my website, and my book cover. Each time, I start fresh and try a new approach, and it always sounds like either the most boring or most epic book of all time.
"Ella Kepler had weird things happen to her. Then she realized she was special and she did stuff."
"The world isn't as it seems, and Ella Kepler is about to have the truth thrust upon her, a truth that will define her as she's never been before."
I don't even know what either of those two hooks are saying. And I wrote them.
Writing a synopsis is harder than writing a book. True story. Thankfully, I have an editor who has worked his magic. We've come up with a first-person synopsis that I'm much more comfortable with. This is from Ella's POV, instead of from this omniscient narrator who sounds detached. Omniscient narrator doesn't know how to tell Ella's story – only she does.
So, here is what my book is about. I'm letting you read it with no pressure, no expectations, and without me awkwardly fumbling for an explanation. Henceforth, when people ask what my book is about, I'm just gonna say, "Go to AdelaideThorne.com" and walk away.
('Cause that's not awkward at all.)
For centuries, the Metahuman Training Academy has protected unaware civilians from the Grifters, creatures whose humanity is as deformed as their craggy faces. I spent eighteen years ignorant of either group and their endless war. Then, the Grifters found me.
The MTA whisked me away to safety while the danger passed. Only it didn’t. The Grifters, too stupid to know or too cruel to care that I’d left, kidnapped my best friend instead. It won’t take them long to figure out their mistake, but I’m not going to give them the opportunity.
Finding Kara means grueling training at the academy—a sequestered hub of classified operations, psychic powers, and fighting creatures that should only exist in nightmares. Grifters are stronger, but we’ve got the weapons, the technology, the brains. Who cares if the Grifters can’t feel pain? We can, and Grifters are the perfect outlet.
The Trace is the first book in a young-adult trilogy following Ella Kepler, a nascent metahuman whose strength and speed is matched only by the enemies set against her.
The day that came
I have exciting news for you. The post I've dreamed about writing is finally being written, right now, by me. The purpose of this post is to share those four magical words:
I found a publisher.
Yes, you read correctly. My book is being published. Not just The Trace, but the series. Whitewashed is going to enter the real world. And you're going to ride along with me.
For those following my blog (I know you exist), you'll have seen my woes over query letters, literary agents, publishing houses, etc. You'll have seen my gradual lean toward the autonomy and freedom that self-publishing provides. Well, take traditional publishing and self-publishing, add them together, and you'll wind up with Evolved Publishing.
So, what happens now? Well, it's all a bit new and uncertain, so I can't give you every detail. But I can say this: it's going to be an adventure, and if you stick around, we'll unravel it together. The Trace is getting published. Ella Kepler will enter the real world. And you, dear reader, will finally get the story I've been wanting to give you.
The Protag Problem
Lurking behind (in front of, more accurately) every great story is the problem of the pesky protagonist. It's an unavoidable conundrum, like 5:00 traffic and colds and popsicles that drip all over the side of your hand. Writers are given the impossible task of creating a protagonist who is well-liked (or, dare I say it, well-loved) by all readers. I say impossible, because it's literally IMPOSSIBLE. I have been struggling with this problem ever since I started writing Whitewashed. “Will readers like Ella? Will they think she's annoying? Whiny? Weak? Stupid? Useless? Boring?” and pretty much every other antonym to character virtue.
What does this mean? Do you want to know what this means? It means that, since spring of 2011, I have dreamed of this day. I have imagined what I would say when it finally came. IT HAS FINALLY COME.
I'll admit: This post is a belated one, which means that you, dear reader, do not get to receive the full fervor of my reaction. That is probably a good thing. But I will say that my immediate reaction was one of confusion. Surely...surely I'm not done. Well, good news: I wasn't. And I'm still (sort of) not.
When I finished the edits I'd wanted to do for The Cost, I had to pull in some readers. Naturally. 3 people read that draft. They gave me their feedback, and I made the suggested changes. Now, one person is reading this third draft, and she's a first-timer--as in, this is the first time she's read any draft of TC. (She also happens to be my cashier at Publix. After building rapport and learning that I wrote a trilogy, she asked if she could read Whitewashed. Well, of course I shrugged her off. But after many Publix trips in which this request was repeated, I finally gave in. And guess what? Now, I not only have another fan, but a super cool new friend. Moral of the story: Talk to the people who ring up your groceries.) The strange thing is, this is only my third draft of TC, and...I sorta feel like it's THE draft. The story feels done. Now, I'm sure once my editor takes a look at it, more changes will occur. It's a pretty long book, at around 138,000 words, so I bet stuff needs to be taken out--I just can't see what. That's what editors are for.
Anyway, I finally reached a point of satisfaction with TC. That meant it was time to comb through Trace and Integer for continuity's sake (boy, am I glad these books did NOT get published before I'd finished the third! Otherwise, I'd be retconning a crap ton). I've done that, which means I'm sitting on 3 semi-done books that are just floating in the awkward space of "Now what?" Now, I wait to hear back from 2 agents. If those are no's, I reach out to that editor. She edits, I fix, and then I pursue self-publishing. So I'm not really done, not at all, because self-publishing requires a lot of work. On an exciting note, I've hired someone to work on a book cover for Trace! I shall keep you abreast, reader.
So, I'm bewildered and amazed that I've finished these books. My heart is sad, and I honestly get excited when I comb through the books and find a random typo, because it means I still get to write in this universe. I've actually started a new book, an idea that was inconveniently cooking while I was trying to settle the conclusion of Ella's life. This book is third-person perspective, and also switches between a male and female perspective. It's totally new for me, and it's totally exciting, though part of me feels that I'm cheating on Ella. With this book, I'm exploring a different writing style, and I'm also venturing into the world of adult books. I would say this book is definitely not for young adults. It has mature themes and deals with controversial issues that I'm attempting to expound upon. I'll be posting a lot about this book in the future as I leave the Whitewashed world and enter the [insert title] world. Right now, I'm just calling it "Post Apoc." Here's a sneak peak of the first paragraph of this very, very rough draft!
"The end of the world turned Ty into a cat lady. She figured it was better than being a rat lady, or one of those old saps who prune their wondrously fake garden all so some squirrel or bird can scuttle into their yard with a lingering hope that organic matter still remains. Thousands of years of existence hasn’t made Earth’s rodents any smarter.
Ty didn’t know the last time she’d seen a bird."
But enough of this stupid new book--I just want to talk about Whitewashed. Wahhhh. I WILL NEVER FINISH THESE. I will intentionally not make the edits that I need to, and the books will forever remain unfinished, and no one can stop me. Ha.
Actually, who am I kidding? How many times have I said that I was finished with Trace or Integer? I will tell you: A LOT OF TIMES. Here I am, pining over the end, when I'm most likely at the beginning. You're not done with me yet, Whitewashed. You will never be done... *smiles maniacally*
Don't worry, I'll keep you posted.
1) Book 3 has a name, and it is "The Cost." The title was harassing me while I wrote, cropping up repeatedly until I finally went, "Oh, I see--you're trying to tell me your name. Fine, calm down, already."
2) First draft of The Cost= completed. I finished it yesterday. I wrote the last sentence, changed around a word or two, and then didn't feel anything else coming afterward. My brain went, Wait, is this it? and my mouth hung open a little. Then I clicked Save and proceeded to run around my house shouting with glee. My cats gawked at me with giant pupils, but I screamed nonetheless.
So what happens now? Well, you know the drill. I went straight to OfficeMax and printed all 418 pages (how in the world did it get so long?). The stack of paper is sitting on the floor beside my desk, calling for me to dive into it, but I'm resisting. Resistance is futile. I've already combed through the first couple of pages and found 1 error. And I did that in the parking lot of OfficeMax. I'm being stern with myself now, however. I won't touch it for a week or two, allowing my mind to digest and refresh. Then it's back to my favorite grind of editing. This is the roughest first draft yet, complete with pages of straight dialogue without any mention of tags; brackets that say ["X" happens here]; and a whole escape from a prison where I have yet to figure out how exactly the escape occurs. I did the whole [she escapes] thing, and then proceeded to what happens afterward. Needless to say, I'm a bit frightened to begin approaching this book. I'm also ecstatic, of course.
The end is near, folks. I'll finish The Cost, and then comb through Trace and Integer for any discontinuity. And then...Whitewashed will be done.
Let's not talk about that quite yet.
*Anamnesis has since been changed to Whitewashed, but I wanted to keep this post to remind all readers (mainly myself) that stories change and grow and develop, and that's not a bad thing.*
First, it is a real word. Merriam-Webster says it is a "recalling to mind." It is a memorial, a remembrance.
Second, it is the official title of my collective trilogy. The Trace, The Integer, and The Cost now belong to Anamnesis. How possessive of you, Anamnesis.
Initially, I thought that Integer was going to be called The Anamnesis, but then I decided that the word was too grandiose to belong to a single book. With all the depth and meaning attached to the word "anamnesis" (which IS a word, computer, so stop doing the squiggly red underline!), how could it fit a single book? It couldn't, so I stole the word and gave it to the whole trilogy, formerly called Evolution. In the end, Evolution was too small, and didn't quite apply any longer. Once I got to the final book, I realized what I was trying to accomplish with this trilogy, and so Evolution lost its meaning and Anamnesis took over.
I am super excited about this, although my tongue gets tied every time I try to tell people about Anamnesis. "So I'm writing this trilogy called Anam-eh-nem-e-sis." Then, when I do pronounce it correctly, people are still confused, because no one has heard of this word. Why doesn't anyone know this word?! It's so cool! It deserves to be known. I don't really have a right to judge, because I didn't know what it was, either, but now that I know, it has become my mission to ensure that everyone knows this word. Therefore, I shall now direct you to Wikipedia for a more thorough explanation. The word also happens to have a religious meaning that I find very cool.
So, why is this trilogy called Anamnesis? All I can say is...spoilers.
Those Voices In Your Head
I've been going through a voice funk lately, and by that I mean I've been trying to answer to the different styles pulling me in multiple directions. It's been overwhelming trying to sort out blog voice from work voice from Ella voice. I've found Ella speaking in a journalistic style, and my food column diving into some confused, eighteen-year-old girl introspection. How do I compartmentalize those voices in my head? Well, when I figure it out, I'll let you know. In the meantime...
I'm really only slightly joking here. I haven't figured it out completely, but I do think it helps to switch up writing mediums, and of course to get in the right zone prior to writing. I've decided to assign particular mediums to whatever it is that I'm writing, so my laptop, tablet, and various journals serve different purposes. Since I did that, getting in the right mood has gotten so much easier.
I've been writing in the Anamnesis voice for about five years, so I have no idea what sort of writer I'll be once this trilogy is complete. As I'm sensing an actual completion date in 2016, I've been wondering about who I am as a writer more and more lately. What will happen when I start something new, with a fresh POV? My books are in first person, from Ella's perspective, which I originally thought would make writing easier. As it turns out, it's immensely difficult, and I won't be writing first person for awhile after this! There are pros, but the cons have started outnumbering them. While I'm writing these books, I can't know anything that she doesn't know, and (duh) everything that happens is from her perspective. As the plot gets more complex, it's gotten harder for me to figure out how she can learn things in an interesting way, or how the reader can suspect something without Ella suspecting it. I guess that's why they say writing isn't easy, right? On top of this complicated dynamic, writing as Ella actually started affecting my mood, which hadn't really happened before. She's depressed for half of the third book (spoiler?), and I was finding myself down and morose. It was only once Ella started perking up that I noticed that I was starting to cheer up, and I had a "Wait a minute!" moment and was glad to be over that unhappy hump.
Have I digressed? Probably. I think I can reel it back in. This post is about voices, right? So, Ella's voice has affected me both as a writer and as a person. I'll probably finish these books and realize that I hate oranges and love spiders.
Have you ever struggled to separate your writing voices? If so, do tell me how you overcame the hurdle.
Whitewashed Book I