Friday, June 20, 2014

Goodbye to Strange Chemistry


Today was a crummy day. Yesterday was a crummy day, too, because I was privy to some information that didn't hit the airwaves until this morning:

Strange Chemistry is shutting its doors.

Yep, you read that right. Effective immediately, my imprint will no longer be in the publishing business. (In case you missed the press release, you can read it here.)

To say I am saddened by this news would be an understatement. I feel absolutely deflated, and my heart goes out to every single person--author and staff member--who was affected by this decision.

ESSENCE--which slipped out of the gates barely two weeks ago--will be the last novel Strange Chemistry ever publishes.

I have to admit I am not 100% surprised by this news. Four weeks before my debut, my team broke the news to me that my sequel had been cancelled and ESSENCE would only be available as an eBook. I didn't realize the enormity of the issue at the time (and naturally took the news personally), but today, every other outstanding Strange Chemistry sequel or trilogy has been cancelled, and the rest of the summer and fall debut authors will no longer see their work in print (under the Strange Chemistry name, anyway).

Why? This is a tough damn business, and it seems like Strange Chemistry was unable to carve out a niche in the young adult market.

This is NOT because Strange Chemistry doesn't care about its authors.

I have read some truly mean comments on Twitter today, and--while I appreciate everyone's outrage over our displacement--I do want to say publicly that my heart goes out to all the staff members who have worked so hard on my behalf. They have believed in me from Day One, and I know they are just as shocked and saddened and hurt by this as the rest of us.

Sometimes, life just slaps you in the face. And I know we are all feeling the burn of this today.

In some ways, I am one of the lucky ones. I was able to grieve about the loss of my sequel last month, and my first book was published two weeks ago. (It will continue to be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) And although I have been working on my sequel for the past year or so, I never really intended ESSENCE to be part of a series, so I am comfortable with the way my story now ends.

Most of all, I have decided I will not let this setback define me.

Sure, I got angry and upset when I heard the news. And I felt cheated. I cried and sank to the floor and wondered if my steadfast determination to become an author was quickly turning into a delusion. I thought about the disappointments and failures I have experienced leading up to this moment, and I wondered what the point of this whole thing was anyway.

Publishing is a dying industry, right? And no matter what you write, people are going to say terrible things about it (and you) on Amazon and Goodreads. Why pour your guts into something if all it brings you is heartbreak?

But then I remembered something. (Actually, I didn't remember it. My amazing agent Hannah Bowman did. Have I mentioned how much I love her lately?)

I didn't get into writing because I wanted to get something from it. I got into writing because it's part of my heart, and I can't imagine my life without it.

So... In spite of all the setbacks, in spite of the uncertainty, and in spite of the fact that I'm not entirely certain what's going to happen to ESSENCE next... I'm not quitting.

I will continue to write, and I will continue to spin stories that make my soul come alive. I pray my family of Strange Chemistry authors does the same, because I truly believe the world needs to hear our stories. And selfishly, I want all of us to rise from these ashes like goddamn phoenixes. (Sorry for the curse word. Think it's justified.)

I will write an ESSENCE novella if my heart requires it, and I will move on to another project that may or may not be read by a single other human being. And you know what? I will be so damn proud of that book, regardless of its final outcome.

Just like I'm proud of ESSENCE, and just like I'm proud and thankful for the time I got to spend with my Strange Chemistry team. Caroline Lambe is one of the most amazing people I have encountered in a very, very long time, and Michael Underwood and Jonathan Richardson brighten my day every time I interact with them. When Amanda Rutter believed in me enough to offer me a contract and called ESSENCE "simply superb," it made my entire summer. And when Lee Harris went to bat for me and my cover art, I could have hugged him.

Today is a crummy day.

But it's not the last day.

You can count on that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ESSENCE Book Nerd Tour Schedule!


It has been so much fun celebrating the release of ESSENCE that we're extending the party until the end of the month! Thanks to the lovely folks at Book Nerd Tours, we have ten full days of additional ESSENCE tour stops for you!

Here is our full list of dates and topics:
Thanks so much to the lovely bloggers who are hosting me, and don't forget to enter our giveaway for your chance to win some ESSENCE swag. One grand-prize winner will receive:

An e-copy of ESSENCE...

... a vintage Yosemite map pendant and two collectible buttons...

... and a metal cuff similar to the ones worn by almost every character in ESSENCE!
Thanks in advance for your support, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reflections on ESSENCE's Debut

Wow, the past few weeks have certainly been a whirlwind! I can't believe ESSENCE is out in the world, and I am so appreciative of all the bloggers, readers and supporters who have made my debut release such an amazing experience!

Here are a few pics from my Launch Party at Inkwood Books in Tampa last week. Thank you SOOO much to everyone who attended! (I can't believe it, but I kinda look like a real-life author in these! ;))








Thanks again to everyone who attended the party; I still feel like I am walking on air from all the excitement!

In case you missed any of the stops on my ESSENCE Pre-Release Tour, here is a full list of my posts and topics. A HUGE thank you to all of the bloggers who hosted me... You guys are the best!

WEEK ONE

WEEK TWO

WEEK THREE

More information about my Book Nerd post-release tour will be available very soon. Please join me this Friday (June 13th) for a full list of new tour stops and topics!

Thanks again to everyone for your support. I am very, very lucky to know you!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

"Path to Publication" Recap

Photo Courtesy of mendhak
Wow, I can't believe my debut novel ESSENCE is out in the world! I also can't believe I have successfully completed my nine-part "Path to Publication" series. I hope you have enjoyed it; it has certainly been a (cathartic) pleasure to write.

In case you missed any of my posts, here is the full list of links and topics. Hopefully they will help convince you to likewise never give up on your dreams.

As Anais Nin once said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Essence Blog Tour, Day Fifteen!



Strange Chemistry released my debut novel Essence on June 3rd. (!!!) To celebrate, I will be blog touring from May 19th through June 20th.

Here are my tour stops today (Friday, June 6th):
Special thanks to the amazing bloggers who are hosting me, and thanks in advance for checking out my posts. Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Essence Blog Tour, Day Fourteen!


Strange Chemistry released my debut novel Essence on June 3rd. (!!!) To celebrate, I will be blog touring from May 19th through June 20th.

Here are my tour stops today (Thursday, June 5th):
Special thanks to the amazing bloggers who are hosting me, and thanks in advance for checking out my posts. Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Essence Blog Tour, Day Thirteen!



Strange Chemistry released my debut novel Essence on June 3rd. (!!!) To celebrate, I will be blog touring from May 19th through June 20th.

Here is my tour stop today (Wednesday, June 4th):
Special thanks to the amazing bloggers who are hosting me, and thanks in advance for checking out my post. Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ESSENCE's Release Day!!!

Photo Courtesy of OakleyOriginals
Today is ESSENCE's Release Day!!! Here are today's blog tour stops:

I truly can't believe this day is finally here. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be an author before I knew how to read a word, or write a sentence, or turn on a computer, and I worked steadily at this dream for most of my childhood and nearly all of my twenties. 

I failed more times than is reasonably necessary, but I finally found success last summer when Strange Chemistry acquired my debut novel ESSENCE. Today, almost exactly one year later, ESSENCE is being released into the world. 

Wow. This is really happening.

As of today, perfect strangers can now purchase ESSENCE on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They can read the words I have written, and they can be transported to a world that--up until this point--has mostly only existed in my head.

Wow. This is kind of a big deal, isn't it?

I'm not sure how I expected to feel today. Giddy, I think. Dancing on air. And to an extent, I am. I have a wonderful book signing planned at Inkwood Books in Tampa tonight, and I may even bust out a new dress and do a reading of some sort--all the while surrounded by family, friends and even some perfect strangers.

I'm elated. I really am. But what's interesting is that instead of feeling like I won the lottery, I really feel like I earned this. And that sense of accomplishment is accompanied by a bone-tired weariness that borders on exhaustion.

GETTING A BOOK PUBLISHED WAS SO MUCH HARDER THAN I EXPECTED.

I'm not talking about the obvious hardships--writing the book, finding the literary agent, finding the publisher... Those pursuits were incredibly challenging, and they are certainly worth a mention, but I am more talking about the hardships I didn't expect: the sacrifices, the struggles for validation, the doubts and the second-guessing and the fears and the heartbreaks.

This sounds dramatic, but trust me, it's not. Because the thing about book-writing is, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. When you chose to dedicate yourself to it, you must make sacrifices in other areas of your life.

As many of you already know, I got divorced during the course of this journey. My book certainly wasn't the reason my ex-husband and I decided our lives weren't headed in the same direction, but I would be lying if I told you it wasn't a contributing factor at all.

I wasn't actively writing when my ex-husband met me, and then suddenly I was. It was all I wanted to do sometimes, and he didn't understand nor appreciate how intrinsically connected it was to my soul. He just wondered why I didn't want to spend as much time with him anymore, and his bewilderment over my strange new hobby highlighted a fact that neither of us wanted to admit: we were growing up now, and the fabric of our shared life was slowly unraveling.

My dedication to my writing--and to the travels and adventures that inspire it--has affected me in other ways as well. I have never owned a house or lived in one town longer than three and a half years, post-college. I have never painted a wall or planted a garden, and I have left soulmate friends scattered in every corner of the world. 

I have sacrificed all these things in the pursuit of something I couldn't quite explain, and that something is what has led me to this moment.

It is ESSENCE's Release Day. 

I published a book.

I accomplished that thing I said I was going to accomplish, and if I play my cards right, I may get another Release Day with another project some time in my future. 

But I may not. No matter how much I want to publish another novel, this may just not be in the cards for me. 

So... It's funny to sit here and hold ESSENCE in my hands. It's proof that I have reached my goal, but it's also so much less and so much more than that.

It's just a book. A book you can read in a few days and then go on with your life.

But it's also a love story. To adventure, to independence, to my adolescence, and to people I know and don't know. To that summer in Yosemite that changed nearly everything.

It's a dream. A pledge. A promise I made with myself. 

It's a blood contract and a shackle. The end of one life and the start of a new one. 

It's a heartbreak. A prayer. A song in my head and a light on the horizon.

It's the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.

It's time to set it free. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Never Giving Up

The Path to Publication, Part Nine

Photo Courtesy of Robert S. Digby
Thank you for tuning in to the ninth (and FINAL) installment of my running series, “The Path to Publication.” (Did you miss my earlier posts? Scroll to the bottom for links to check them out!) Also, today is a VERY exciting day, because it's Day Eleven of my ESSENCE release tour! Here are today's tour stops:
In The Path to Publication, Parts One through Nine, I recounted my (often unsuccessful) attempts to land a literary agent and make the transition from an aspiring writer into a real-life author. These included writing my first book, getting turned down by a number of literary agents, signing with the wrong agent, watching that book crash and burn, and then getting dropped as that agent's client within the first four and a half months of our contract. I then wrote a new book and made the scary decision to abandon my first book in favor of the second one. This resulted in crippling anxiety, renewed energy, and a very scary email to the agent of my dreams to see if she would be interested in representing my new novel ESSENCE.

Well... Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates is thankfully not a glutton for pain. Just one week after I sent her my manuscript, she sent me this email:

Hi Lisa,

I just wanted to let you know that I finished ESSENCE yesterday on the plane and I loved it... I really loved the voice and the whole creepiness of the failed utopia.

Shall we talk next Thursday when I'm back from my trip?

... Since it's really not a secret that I want to sign you--shall I go ahead and send an agency agreement on so we can discuss it on Thursday? Or do you have other questions and do you want to talk to me on Thursday first?

Looking forward to it!


Best,
Hannah


It would be the understatement of the year to say Hannah's email made my day. So did the agency agreement and our phone call that following Thursday. By June 24, 2012, I was officially Hannah's client. And there was no greater feeling in the entire world.

Photo Courtesy of United States Navy
Of course, the signing of Hannah's and my contract was only the beginning of our hard work. But this time, I was more than happy to "do things right" and spend as much time as possible editing and prepping ESSENCE before we began our submissions to potential publishers.

We worked our asses off, actually, and every moment I spent working with Hannah showed me just how off-the-mark my first literary agent had actually been. Hannah was approachable and enthusiastic, and she cared so much about my success and my growth as a writer that she poured everything she had into ESSENCE, too. She encouraged me to work through the book's cult elements time and time again, and she questioned so many aspects of my communities' customs and traditions that I felt the backstories of both groups really come alive under her guidance. 

Most importantly, though, she never prodded, and she never pushed. Instead, she simply inspired me to become a better writer, and she stood beside me and believed in me when I wasn't even sure I believed in myself. For this, I will be eternally, eternally grateful.

Now... This would be a great time to wrap this story and say, "and then they lived happily ever after," but unfortunately, life is not usually like that. And ESSENCE still faced an uphill battle, because even after Hannah and I poured our hearts into edits, we still needed to get a publisher to buy it. And, as we soon learned, this wasn't going to be easy.

We went on submission during the fall/winter of 2012/2013, right in the wake of some huge dystopian hits like THE HUNGER GAMES, DELIRIUM, DIVERGENT, and MATCHED. Publishers were either beginning to tire of the trend, or they were hoping to top it with one last mega-dystopian.

Unfortunately, ESSENCE was neither of these things. It definitely wasn’t fantasy, it wasn’t very speculative… It read more like a YA contemporary than anything else, but it also possessed those dystopian-like, cult qualities. Oh, and it took place in the near-future. Science fiction, maybe?

Hannah understood what I was trying to say, but many of the publishers we initially submitted ESSENCE to didn’t. And the ones who rejected us typically came back and said ESSENCE was either “too dystopian” or it “wasn’t dystopian enough.” Others said they loved it, but they just didn’t know where in the market they should place it.

I was heartbroken. Hannah and I tried finessing the cult elements in one direction or the other, but every time we tried to make significant changes, we found they never sat right with us.

ESSENCE was a story about cults. And it needed to stay a story about cults, even if that meant we could never find a home for it.   

Of course, we did find a home for ESSENCE--an incredible home, to be exact. The fabulous folks at Strange Chemistry are known for pushing boundaries and shaking up the publishing industry with high-quality young adult fiction, and they welcomed us with open arms even when ESSENCE didn’t neatly fit into any of their usual genres.

I still have Hannah's voicemail with the good news saved on my cell phone. And as soon as I read this quote about Strange Chemistry, I knew we had found a perfect fit:

Strange Chemistry is the new kid on the block... From the people behind the award-winning science fiction & fantasy imprint, Angry Robot, we are a fresh, modern imprint bringing quality Young Adult fiction to the marketplace.

So what makes us different? It’s all in the name – Strange Chemistry. Books that feel timeless, bringing you a mix of old and new. Traditional with a twist. Identifiable stories and genres that have been blended together to create something utterly special. Books for readers who are jaded of the same-old, same-old, and ready for something that will challenge them to enter new worlds.

Wow. Strange Chemistry believed in me. And they believed in ESSENCE.

And now... Here I stand--one day before ESSENCE is released in the world--and I look back on this long and crazy journey and realize maybe everything actually does happen for a reason. 

My path to publication hasn't been perfect--or straight-forward, or even clean--but it has been one hell of a journey. And through it all, I have been true to myself. I have told the story I have wanted to tell, and I have aligned myself with people who value me just the way I am.

My journey isn't finished, of course. It never will be. As soon as ESSENCE is released, I will need to brace myself for the inevitability that some readers are going to hate it. They are going to hate me, they are going to hate my flawed and imperfect characters, and they are going to say terrible things about me on Goodreads and Amazon. (These things will probably make me cry, even though I will wish they couldn't.) These strangers aren't going to value or understand me, and they aren't going to know or appreciate everything I have poured into this journey--all the blood and sweat and tears and setbacks and heartbreaks I have survived to even get to this moment.

(I got divorced along the way. Did I mention that? Also quit my job and moved halfway across the country to start my life over again. Lisa v 2.0 is still a work in progress.)

But you know what? That's life. Those readers don't owe me anything, not even their respect. And if they hate ESSENCE--or me--that's beyond my control. I have tried and failed enough in this life to know that you can't please everyone. Instead, you just have to keep your chin up, and you have to keep moving forward. 

And above all else--above everything, everything else--you have to believe in yourself. 

If you don't, who will??


I sincerely hope you have enjoyed my "Path to Publication" series. Thank you so much for spending your Mondays with me these past nine weeks, and I wish you the best of luck in your journeys--wherever they may lead you.

In case you missed any of my earlier posts, here they are for you: