I have a thriller coming in December…

…and now you can see the front cover. Hello to The Good Girls, a project I’ve been working on with Glasstown Entertainment for the past couple of years.

My agent first wrote to me about working on a YA contemporary thriller in 2018. I was in a final round of edits for We Rule the Night, having breakdowns like clockwork and running on low sleep and high caffeine. I was giving walking tours, editing WRTN, ghost writing a book for another client, and the last thing I needed was another novel-length project on my plate.

So naturally, when my agent asked if I was interested, I said yes.

I blame Glasstown entirely. They sent a few sample materials and asked for my interpretation of the novel. As soon as I saw the audition pages, I knew I had to try my hand at it. Writing them felt raw, angry, fierce. I hope we’ve given that tone to the whole book.

A special thanks to Deeba Zargarpur and Lexa Hillyer of Glasstown, Entertainment for working on this story with me. I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to try out a thriller otherwise.

The incredible artist whose work you see here is Kaethe Butcher, and Diana Sousa took that art and brought in a host of other stunning elements to make the completed cover.

We Don’t Know How to Talk About These Things

This is the brief history of my miscarriage. Please look after yourself, and don’t read it if you think it will interfere with your mental health.

It is Sunday, September 22nd, 2019. I’m 12 weeks pregnant. Things have been going fine and normal, so my husband and I are cautiously optimistic. We’ve told our families but not friends, as we have our first scan scheduled for Friday and besides, we’re a little embarrassed. We don’t know how to talk about these things. The whole family is ecstatic. Each interaction begins with, “How are you? How’s the baby?” I’m getting ready to announce it at work.

I’ve had back pain since Wednesday, so intense that I can’t sit down. I spend most of my day standing or walking, and collapse gratefully in bed at night. My mom and sister-in-law remind me that the body does change a lot during pregnancy. I wonder if my hips are already starting to shift.

It’s Tuesday evening, September 25. I have been pregnant for 13 weeks exactly. I started bleeding and having mild cramps in the morning. Light bleeding isn’t abnormal during pregnancy, my husband and a thousand internet sites remind me. But the bleeding doesn’t stay light. I start to worry, but I take two meetings anyway. “How are you?” my friends ask. I tell them I have terrible back pain. They ask what caused it and I say I don’t know. Because what else would I say? It may be those terrible thirties. Or maybe I’m having a miscarriage in your living room, haha. I don’t know how to talk about these things.

The bleeding increases and I call a colleague on the way home from my second meeting. “I may be having a medical emergency,” I say.

Of course she’s ready to cover for me. “What’s wrong?” she says.

I tell her I might be going to the hospital. I keep things vague; I’ll cry if I say the actual words I think I’m having a miscarriage.

I get home. The cats are happy to see me. The husband’s happy to see me. His face fills with worry as I tell him about the blood, and he convinces me to call Denmark’s non-emergency medical hotline. “Hi,” I say when they pick up. “I’m pregnant and I think I might be having a miscarriage.”

“You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.”

“Congratulations!”

Um, thanks? The telephone operator clearly does not know how to talk about these things.

The kind-but-misguided operator consults with my hospital. Yes, they think I’m having a miscarriage. I need to come in tomorrow morning. I verify with my colleague that she’ll cover my shift, and I go to bed. I call my mom and cry while my husband holds my hand. Chances of miscarriage this far along in pregnancy are so low. I was just getting used to this.

It’s Wednesday, September 26, 10:30 am. The Gynaecological ward is empty so I’m seen right away. Everyone is wonderfully kind. I get a pelvic exam and an ultrasound. “Do you want to see the screen?” asks my gynaecologist. I nod. She turns the screen toward me. She indicates the curve of my womb, white on gray, and points out the black blot in the middle. It looks like a long spill of ink. The placenta should be round in a healthy pregnancy, she explains. It looks as though this one has punctured and begun the process of spontaneous abortion. The fetus hasn’t developed beyond week nine.

That’s friggin great, I think. I’ve been a zombie incubator for four weeks.

I have two options: I can wait for the rest of the placenta to come out naturally, or I can have a surgical procedure. The doctor recommends the surgical procedure; it takes ten minutes, it can be done this afternoon, and going home and waiting might result in a hospital visit later for the same procedure anyway. I haven’t eaten since last night so there’s nothing to keep me from getting the operation now.

I get a bed in a mostly empty room to wait. The hospital bed is stuck in a half-sitting position and my back decides to punish me. I write back and forth with my sister, who’s obviously been talking to Mom, and I compose emails for each side of the family. I can’t do it without crying. The nurses who come in and out ask me if I’m in pain. It’s not pain they can alleviate. I make plans with my husband so that he’s here for the surgery. I brought a book, in case I had a long time in the waiting room. It’s ironic, really. A few days ago I was complaining on twitter that I had to work instead of reading. Now I have all the time to read, and I’d give almost anything to be at my desk.

The first few hours are boring. I read, I sleep. My back reminds me that it hates me so I get up and walk around a few times. A nurse gives me two pills to shove up my intimate parts and begin the process of loosening my placenta. She can do it for me, she offers, but I’m definitely in the ‘do it myself’ camp. I lie down so the pills can do their work, and I read some more. My husband arrives and I tell him of this new-fangled way of taking pills. We chat, and we read, and we chat. I finish my book. People come in from surgery. The afternoon comes; I start to think I should be soon. I haven’t eaten since 5:30 the previous day.

The cramping starts. Little spears of pain that make me scrunch up one side of my face in a way that my husband thinks is terribly cute, as sorry as he is. We talk about what to make for dinner. Maybe we’ll order out. The nurse drops by and says I’m next on the list, they’re doing a c-section now. Do I need any painkillers? Have I started to bleed? No, I say to both. Painkillers don’t always help with my cramps, and soon I’ll get the operation, so what’s the point?

I do not get the operation soon.

The cramps get worse. I progress from funny faces to sucking in my breath, squeezing my husband’s hand, trying not to cry. Soon they’re the worst cramps I’ve had since coming to Denmark. Soon they’re the worst cramps I’ve ever had in my life. I start to bleed – more blood than I’ve ever bled during a menstruation. I ring for the nurse and ask for painkillers. She gives me some with a tiny bit of water – I’m not allowed water two hours before surgery. The afternoon is closing, it’s been twenty hours since I ate. Nineteen hours since I last drank. I tell the nurse I’ve started bleeding and she says it’s normal. To let her know if it gets too heavy.

The painkillers are totally useless. My back fucking hates me. I have to stand up, I can’t take it anymore – but now I’m bleeding everywhere, and my vision dots black, and my hearing goes fuzzy, and if I don’t get back in bed I’ll faint. Three hours on I ask for more painkillers and clean clothes. She says I’m next in line, as soon as a hole opens up in surgery. I don’t have much optimism. I try to curb my annoyance by reminding myself: I’m still here because other people have it worse. Ectopic pregnancies, emergency c-sections, dangerous cysts. And then I forget to be annoyed because it hurts, it fucking hurts, and I squeeze my husband’s hand like I’m trying to break his fingers.

Around 7:30 someone new comes to see me. It’s finally time. We say final goodbyes to the baby that was not to be. I’m crying again, and I cry all the way down to the operating room where about a million nurses wait to hold my hand and wipe my eyes and give me the play-by-play as they put me on a drip and start the anesthesia.

I wake up happy.

The pain is gone and everything feels fine. After ten hours it’s a relief for my body to feel normal, and the general anesthetic is making me high. Even getting stuck in the elevator for twenty minutes when it breaks down is no big deal (Though not to my porter. My porter is furious on my behalf). I get a very Danish dinner of rye bread sandwiches and my husband takes a photo to update the family.

We talk about what we want to say. We decide that we may not know how to talk about these things, but we want to try. We want to be open about it. It hurts and it’s heartbreaking and it happens to a lot of people: more than you would think, if you haven’t spoken about it.

I’m looking forward to another baby, hopefully one I will carry to term. I’m glad I haven’t wallowed in sorrow over this, but I’ve found solace in the stories of my friends. Many have miscarried. So let’s not pretend these things don’t happen. They can be awkward, they can be hard to discuss. (You should have seen my friends’ faces: “What, not pregnant yet, har har?” “No, but I was.”) But talking about it always made it better, for me at least.

Thank you to all my friends, who showed me that I can talk to you about these things even if I don’t know how. I hope I can be that person for others.

The Winter Duke

Today the cover of The Winter Duke was revealed over on The Novl, along with the first chapter of the book. The cover is absolutely stunning and I’m so excited to share it with you all.

I worked very intensely on The Winter Duke from October 2018 to May 2019, and it was challenging and fun and I kind of forgot what the novel was about until I had the chance to read it again for copy edits. I hope you enjoy my sarcastic disaster duke, as I call her, and all the trouble she gets herself into.

If you’re a Goodreads person, you can add the book here.

Three Giveaways

Good evening from Copenhagen! My work today is fun and exciting, because there are a lot of giveaways going on for We Rule the Night! If you haven’t read about girls flying planes and kicking ass and fighting lots of things, but mostly each other, and you’d like to, you have the chance to win an advance reader copy not once, not twice, but THREE times.

Goodreads Giveaway

goodreads giveaway photo

 

Head over to Goodreads and enter the giveaway by February 21st to win one of ten copies! Unfortunately only eligible to those who live in the United States.

NOVL Giveaway

EDIT: This giveaway is now closed. Check out the other two!

twitter booksquad promo

If you’re the reviewing type, Little, Brown’s YA blog division, NOVL, is looking for reviewers as well. I’m not sure when the window closes, so head over now and fill out your info! (I don’t know whether this one is US only or not. Why not give it a go, my international friends?)

Newsletter Giveaway

It has come to my attention that I miiiight have an extra Advance Reader Copy or two lying around, just waiting for a loving home. Who should I give it to?

If your answer was, me, me! then you should definitely sign up for my newsletter. I’ll pick a winner by the end of February.

 

In other news, April is just around the corner and I’m panicking. So I hope you’re well, but I’d better get back to writing.

WE RULE THE NIGHT gets a starred review from Kirkus!

kirkus review screengrab

 

F&$# yeah.

 

 

 

Okay, this is coming in later than I intended. LIKE SO MANY OTHER THINGS IN MY LIFE. However, I’m just as excited as I was on the 18th of December, when the review went live.

You can read the review in full here.

I particularly loved this quote:

The richly textured world, painted in snow and fire, filled with disparate, diverse people who all want to win the war, is background to a powerful, slow burning story that develops Linné and Revna’s reluctant friendship, their growing understanding of the world, and their emerging identities as soldiers who may not entirely trust the country they are willing to die for.

As I was doing my research, I was struck by the number of women who showed unflinching loyalty to the USSR despite the fact that it had (or would) destroy their families or their lives. I couldn’t help thinking about my own relationship to my home country, to a United States that I love and miss but can’t trust with my life. In this day and age, a lot of people are being betrayed by the countries they call home. It doesn’t make you less of a citizen to call your country out, my loves. We can love and fight for our countries, and still criticize them for their wrongdoing. It can be both, and for as long as we’ve had the concept of nations, it has been both.

I can’t wait for We Rule the Night to be on shelves. Sometimes it’s a little too easy to forget how proud I am of the story I made. So thank you, Kirkus, for making me feel like there’s something to be proud of.

New Cover, New Name, New Excerpt

While attempting to gather my wits after a triple shift on the day job, I realized that I’d missed out on a big bit of news for the blog – I have a cover, a new name for my debut, and you can even read part of the first chapter over on NOVL.

To keep a long story short, Our Realm is the Night has been changed to We Rule the Night, and the incredible studio of Billelis has designed my cover. I love the strength of the firebird, and the ruined city behind it really brings out the dieselpunk atmosphere of We Rule the Night.

Best of all, if you want that gorgeous cover on yourself, you can preorder We Rule the Night from Amazon, Indiebound or B&N.

What do you think of my amazing cover?

We Rule The Night
The cover of my book, We Rule the Night

No, the YA Ballroom Trope Isn’t Bad

Twitter can be a magical place, full of people who expand my horizons and teach me new things about the world and my craft.

THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing - Coming this September! - See more @HarperTeen cover reveals on EpicReads.com!
The cover of The Jewel, by Amy Ewing

It is also full of what some people might call hot takes. Personally, I think most of them are lukewarm at best.

Examples of hot takes gone wrong abound on twitter, but what got me thinking about tropes and their value was a take on the ballroom Scene that can be found in numerous YAs. I’m not going to link to the debate, but some people seem to think that the YA ballroom scene is Over.

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The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

People smarter than me were quick to jump in, first and foremost to say that for many marginalized identities, the ballroom scene hasn’t happened yet – or maybe it’s happened once, and is that really too much? Declaring it over ignores what some people need in terms of representation. But, like I said, smarter people than me have weighed in on that. I want to weigh in on the value of a trope, and what it can do for us.

Some tropes are damaging, like Bury Your Gays. Some tropes are irritating, like romantic problems that can be solved by simple explanation, but Plot dictates that the romantic characters fail to have a real conversation. And it’s fine to be irritated by a trope. You don’t even need a reason not to like a specific trope. But I argue that the Ballroom Scene is a good trope, objectively.

 

The Ballroom Scene is versatile. It can take place in any setting – historical, dystopian, high fantasy, space opera. But it’s versatile in what it can do, too. The ballroom scene fits at almost any part of a book. Your assassin can have a high stakes pursuit of her target at a ball. Your lovers can meet at a ball. You can have mistaken identity, court intrigue, an attempt on someone’s life – or all of those, all at once. People can get together or break up at a ball. And maybe that’s why the trope is used so much. There are so many ways that writers can use it.

So is the trope really over? Is it fair to declare a trope over for no other reason than you’ve read it more than you’d like? I think the Ballroom Scene has a place in YA literature – and beyond – for a long while yet.

An Interview with Ashley Hansen

Ashley Hansen: writer, geologist, mother, tamer of the Utah Wilderness

 

 

Like the last post, this is an interview with a fellow member of #51writers, the twitter hashtag for and about strong female protagonists. I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Ashley Hansen, and if you want to learn more about her amazing YA project, read further!

Welcome, Ashley. Tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for doing this interview! I am a full time mom, a part time geologist, and a writer in between. I’ve been making up stories since I was a small kid, but I didn’t start writing them until high school. I wasn’t brave enough to show anyone until I turned 30, and thought, what do I have to lose? I live in Utah with my husband, three kids, and two cats, and when I’m not writing I like to knit, run, hike, and bake.

It sounds like you like all the things I do! Except running, haha. I cycle out of necessity but that’s basically all the exercise I can stand. On to the next question: what do you like to write?

My first novel is with beta readers right now. It’s a young adult fantasy/fairy tale retelling about a girl who wanted to be a chemist before she found out she was a princess. While I wait for feedback I’m working on the sequel. I tend to stick to young adult, but I’d like to write more than just fantasy. I have an idea and some scenes written for a YA contemporary, that I want to get back to at some point.

Ooh. What fairy tale are you telling?

Sleeping Beauty. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a kid, but as an adult I want to know about the actual princess a little more. So I decided to write about it.

What do you like to read, but not write?

That’s a great question! I love reading books that have humor, but I cannot write it. I also like reading adult books, even though I focus on young adult for my writing. And I do read non-fiction too, but I think it takes a really unique and talented person to take a bunch of facts and weave them into an interesting story. I’m not sure I have the patience for that.

we were brought together by , which aims to give love to strong female characters. Who’s your favorite strong female character right now?

There are so many great female characters, it’s hard to choose. Right now I think my favorite female character is Sang Ly from The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Sang Ly is a woman who lives in a dump in Cambodia and has a baby that is sick. What I love about her is that she takes action to make her life better. She has to go completely out on a limb, and she has to have help, but she persists, and improves her life and that of her family. I love that she uses both her traditions and a new education to do so. While I love heroines that save the whole world because they are so fun to read, my favorites tend to be the ones that make a difference in smaller but no less heroic ways.

That book sounds amazing. I have two more questions: First, how do you keep yourself from getting distracted in this age of distractions with work, kids, pets, Netflix and so on?

I try to set aside some time for writing activities everyday. For me, it’s while my kids are at school, and the baby naps. Writing activities can include writing, but also include editing, beta reading, researching, or anything else that gets me closer to my goals. I also set aside time to relax, so that I don’t get overwhelmed by everything.

And lastly: what is one piece of advice you know now that you wish you’d heard back when you were getting started?

My advice would be to connect with other writers. This was one thing that seemed really daunting to me when I first started, but I’ve found that there are so many people who can help you grow and support you. It will make you a better writer and make writing more enjoyable. Whether that means you join a local writer’s group, attend writing conferences, or engage with writers using social media, get out there and meet other writers.

 

That is a great piece of advice. And that’s the interview for today! Thank you to Ashley for joining me and discussing her process and preferences.

Ashley blogs at confidentialchronicles.wordpress.com, and if you want a sample of her style head over there for some free, beautiful short fiction and creative nonfiction. She can also be found on twitter as @ashleydhansen12.

An Interview With ThisIsHowIWasteTime

Today we have an author interview! This is ThisIsHowIWasteTime, who has graciously agreed that I may call her Jen. Both Jen and I are part of #51writers on twitter, which has brought us together for this lovely conversation. Jen tweets and blogs and today she talks to me!

1. Welcome, Jen. Tell me a little about yourself:

Let’s see, I’m almost 28. I’m a CNA by day and have been for twelve years. I’ve told stories all my life but really got into writing at the age of nine, my first “book” being a Goosebumps style story about a rose that killed people who moved into the house it belonged to (horrible I know, haha)

I strayed away from writing in high school when I started my career and hadn’t picked it up other than writing random story ideas that I never stuck with until my current project.

I have a soon-to-be 8 year old boy, 2 cats, and one very weird pup. In my spare time, I am a hobbyist and have many many creative projects going aside from my book. Crochet, sketching, dabbled in jewelry making, and many more that I want to try.

2. Fantastic. And what do you write now? What is your WIP about?

Ever since I could read I’ve chosen Fantasy, I tried other genres but it was a struggle not to abandon them. I always had a pull towards the worlds and creatures you could find in Fantasy novels/series/art! Actually I always turned to Fantasy books to escape stress/emotional moments. Still do!

My novel is a New Adult Fantasy novel, kind of a mix between Astral Projection/family magic/spirit world. With innocent souls, horrid demons, and a rogue team member. Grace comes back home from college when her mom goes into a mysterious coma, only to find out that her family has special gifts passed down through generations. Along with six other families, they’ve been tasked with protecting innocent souls (living or dead) in the Veil. However the circle broke years ago and went into hiding when the Gatekeeper went rogue. Now he’s back and coming after the rest of the circle. Grace and the others have to find a way to take him out and save her mom and all of the other souls before catches all of them.

3. What genres do you like to read, but NOT write?

Hm, I like to read SOME mystery/romance books. Or New Adult dystopian. Not many others can keep my attention and you could say horror but I have considered dabbling in horror for future projects- not fully set on that.

4. And another reading question! We met via #51writers, a hash tag for and about strong female characters. Who’s your favorite strong female character?

I might have to think about this question, there are so many options. I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to decide. How about you?

Right now, Wonder Woman! Alanna made a big impact on my teenhood, too.

Always Wonder Woman! Or Hermione Granger, I don’t think Harry would have gotten very far without her.

So true.

I was never a fan of the whole damsel in distress scenarios so most of the books I’ve read had stronger female characters.

5. Okay, second to last question. What do you do to keep yourself writing?

I read or do something creative, when I get stuck or when I’m having trouble getting motivated. Just to get the creative juices flowing.

6.  And the final question: if you could give younger you one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self “Don’t stop!!!” I shied away from writing and I would probably be a lot farther had I kept going. Now, coming back into writing with all of the technology that it entails, I’m trying to remember everything I learned about writing and trying to learn all of the new information. It’s tough, and a little degrading at times.

Jen, aka ThisIsHowIWasteTime, thank you so much for joining me. I hope that we have a lot of fun on the #51writers hashtag. For everyone else, you can find Jen at her blog, or on twitter. Read her fantasy and enjoy!