Losing Sleep

Hey everyone!

I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night. Now this could be because, y’know, I’m not thinking all that clearly right now. Still, I suspect it was…last week? The week before that?

My incredibly patient housemates could probably tell me. They’ve grown accustomed to seeing me emerge from my bedroom around 8pm with a serious case of bed-head and a chipper, “Good morning!”

So why am I not sleeping?

Well…I don’t really know. It’s not like I’ve decided to boycott one of my very favorite things.

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Trust me, I would really like to be able to keep normal people hours. It’s just that every time I close my eyes at night, anxiety washes over me. I start thrashing around in bed, overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, all the goals I haven’t met, all the people I totally meant to email.

After an hour or two of this, I decide I might as well try to get some writing done. Because no matter how crappy my words are at 3am, it has to make me feel better than this. 

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I briefly debate trying to email my fans but realize that I’m not entirely coherent and it’s entirely possible that my grammar will be so bad that all my friends will send this Weird Al song to me!

This song is so great!

So instead of emailing/tweeting my lovely fans, I hide out at Starbucks. I write as my skin grows increasingly clammy and my heart feels like it is pounding in my throat. That’s when I force myself to pack up my things and go home. I’ve covered my window with a thick blanket, but the sun still insists on pestering me.

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At this point, I pretty much pass out. It’s around 9pm when I wake up…just in time to spend another sleepless night attempting to decorate my dresser.

Rinse. Rise. Repeat.

I’m not entirely sure how to break the cycle, although I will be going to a pharmacy today. Sleep aids have always been my very last resort. Unfortunately, I’m there. I walked to Starbucks with two different shoes on my feet. I’m scared that if I try to cook the results will look like this…

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Anyhow, if you are waiting for a response from me, please be patient. It’s not that I don’t care. I just need to get some sleep first!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Writing Process Blog Hop!

Hey everyone!

So the ridiculously awesome Clara Kensie and Stacey Kade invited me to join this writing blog hop! You can read their posts right here (Clara and Stacey) because, well…yeah, I’m not kidding about the awesome.

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This is my expression when I see them at a conference.

Okay, it’s question time!

1. What am I working on right now?

I’m writing the second book in a series that has only just gone on submission. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it. So please forgive my vagueness. I can tell you that my heroine Emmy Danvers gets into a boatload of danger that involves contract killers, an elite prep school, and a boy with more than a few secrets of his own. Oh, and I absolutely love writing it! I’ve wanted to write this story for the past four years, so it’s a huge relief to finally put it on the page.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Oh. I’m not quite sure how to answer this.

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I write humorous contemporary YA. If you’re thinking, “That doesn’t answer the question, Marni. A whole lot of other people write that too,” than I obviously need to distract you. Penguins are adorable. They are the fanciest and I love them.

There is also a penguin named Nils Olav who was knighted in Norway. Making him (by far) the cutest knight in all of history. It’s not even a competition.

Now you know what I bring to the table: penguins and non sequiturs. But mostly penguins.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love it. Pure and simple. I could not talk myself into writing 70,000 words (or more!) on a topic unless I was absolutely, positively, and undeniably hooked! I write the book that I most want to read at that particular moment. I think I continue on through the holy-crap-writing-so-freaking-hard times because I genuinely care about my characters and I can’t leave their stories untold without being plagued by guilt.

That’s also why I feel incredibly lucky that Kensington Teen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my Smith High School characters with AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER. It would have been a whole lot harder for me to move on without that closure.

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4. How does my writing process work?

Well, it usually starts out something like this:

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It starts with a question that I find interesting. Like, what would you do if you became an overnight internet sensation? Or what if someone asked you to fake a very public relationship?

Then I write the beginning and I feel great! Everything is new and shiny and sparkly!

Until it’s really not.

That’s when I pull out my journal and start doodling. (Don’t look at the doodles if you can’t handle spoilers!)

Here is what I made for AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER:

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I’ve noticed that often just doodling names or general topics can unlock the next section of plot for me.

Sometimes my doodles involve photos of famous people, like this one for DECKED WITH HOLLY.

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My doodle for my current work in progress looks like this…

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Intentionally blurred because it reveals plot for Book Two. And because it is my Secret Project of Secret.

Creating these doodles has become an integral part of my process, but there really is no magic short-cut to writing a novel. I have to sit down, take a deep breath (and an even bigger sip of coffee), and keep writing until I reach the end. And when I get to the editing stage, I ask my barista for a triple shot. ;)

And yes, I create impossible word count schedules for myself. I bribe myself with the promise of Thai food. Sometimes I take three or four days off and do nothing but listen to audiobooks. If you see me doing book promotion, it’s a fairly safe bet that the words aren’t flowing too smoothly.

The whole process can be maddening at times, but I still wake up every day feeling incredibly grateful that I get to do it!

The blog hop continues with Celeste EastonLydia Kang, and Kim Meyer! So there’s a whole lot more awesomeness to be read!

And on that note…

*slinks back to the writing cave*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Don’t Quote Me On This… (AKA How Authors Get Cover Quotes)

Hey everyone,

Truly, one of the most awkward parts of publishing is getting a quote for your manuscript. It’s kind of like asking your high school teacher to write a college letter of recommendation except a billion times worse.

Because these are either….

A. Your friends.

B. Your writing heros.

C. Authors you stalk on Twitter and therefore are convinced that you could TOTALLY be besties if you ever actually met…

And you’re essentially asking them to craft a compliment exclusively for you.

There are a few different techniques that authors tend to employ.

The humorous approach.

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Feel free to put it in writing. For me. Thanks, homie!

The honest approach.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-22066-1399906332-49Compliment me, dammit!

The who-are-we-kidding-I’m-really-desperate-here approach.

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This doesn’t tend to work with writers. Most of us don’t feel like successful adults. What’s your point?

And the….well, whatever the hell this is approach.

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Hey guys! It’s Mustachio Marni! Don’t you want to say something nice now….?!?

Anyhow, I’m testing out the last approach. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.

I’ll let you guys know if it works!

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Anecdote Monday: Pop-u-lar!

Hey guys!

So something pretty hilarious happened at Barnes & Noble recently. I wandered throughout the store, grinning like a fool every time I spotted a familiar book. After half an hour of frolicking, I forced myself to stand in line at the checkout counter. That’s when the cashier asked if I wanted to donate a book to a child in foster care.

Me: Absolutely! Can I pick the book?

B&N Guy: Sure.

Me: Okay! I’d like to donate ‘Awkward’ by Marni Bates.

B&N Guy:  Barney…Barney…

Me: *tries not to flinch at elementary school nickname* Uh, no. Marni. Marrr-knee Bates.

B&N Guy: I’m sorry, I’m not seeing his books.
Me: Um, her books, actually. Are you sure?
B&N Guy: Yeah, I can’t find her.
Me: Did you try searching for ‘Awkward’?
B&N Guy: Yeah, I just checked. A-K-W-A–
Me: No. Awkward. As in…awkward. A-W-K-W-A-R-D.
B&N Guy: Uh, okay. I see it. Now I just need your name to complete the purchase.
Me: Um…Marni Bates.
LOOOOONG PAUSE.
B&N Guy: Oh. Well. This is awkward.
(Picture it like this)
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I laughed my whole way home.
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Happy Monday!
Awkwardly yours,
Marni

Marni Advice Monday: Cat’s Got My Tongue.

Hey everyone,

My housemate’s cat passed away a few days ago and…I miss him. Hamlet was a devoted feline companion with a low rumbling purr and a weakness for belly rubs. I didn’t live with him long, only a handful of months–but he made an impression.

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And not just because he drooled on everything in my room.

Hamlet loved everyone. He was an incredible listener with a fondness for lazy afternoon snoozes and quiet evenings spent curled up on the sofa. He wasn’t crazy about my taste in music, or my tendency to dance around the room when he least expected it. Still, he accepted me as another one of his loyal human subjects with only a handful of reproachful meows.

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Worship me, Human! Earn your keep!

So here is my advice for today: Pet a cat. Hug a dog. Snuggle with a parakeet.

If you’ve got a snake…um, GET RID OF IT!

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They are the worst.

Nothing beats unconditional love. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found that with Hamlet, even if it didn’t last nearly long enough. I hope you have some of that in your life, too! Oh, and I still recommend those lazy afternoon naps…

*Crawls back under the covers*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Advice Monday: What You SHOULDN’T Ask An Author

Hey everyone,

Author protocol is a scary thing! I say this as someone who has, um…committed more than her share of social faux pas, both online and in person.

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Um…whoops?

That’s why I thought I’d take some of those experiences to compile this list!

Here goes:

1. Respect personal boundaries.

This is a whole lot harder than it might sound.

I definitely wish it always worked like this…

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Even online friendships take time. Tweeting fifteen, “follow me, please!” messages isn’t really the way you want to get someone’s attention. Trust me on this. You want your favorite author to follow you because they want to chat, not because they feel guilty. The best way to make this happen is to have conversations with them, not at them.

2. Accept that personal safety trumps EVERYTHING.

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*Marni quakes with fear*

I’m not going to tell you where I live. I pay for a P.O box. for that very reason. Most of my author friends are parents who take both their personal safety and that of their childrens’ very seriously. Everyone sets their limits differently. I personally have reached the point where I’m just not comfortable Facebook friending my readers. It’s not because I don’t love you all (I do! I totally do!) but if you’d like to interact with me on FB, I sincerely hope you will “like” my author page.

I enjoy being accessible to my fans. That doesn’t mean I forfeit the right to personal space.

3. Don’t ask questions that sound identity theft-y.

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It’s not uncommon for authors to hear from teenagers who have been assigned a list of questions. Now while I think that it’s great that teachers are encouraging their students to engage with the literary world…some of these questions are inappropriate.

You don’t need to know my mother’s maiden name. Details about my first pet, my first job, my high school mascot…

(Teachers: Please revise this questionnaire!)

These questions put authors in a really awkward situation. We don’t want to come across as rude or standoffish, but if we give out that information to the wrong person–even once–our bank accounts could be emptied.

Which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

So here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think somebody could make trouble with the answer, don’t ask the question.

Oh, and please check out the author’s blog/Frequently Asked Questions tab. Usually you can find what you want to know right there!

4. NEVER quote a bad review at an author!

Not even when you want to know what they think about that really nasty one-star review someone left on Goodreads.

Resist. The. Urge.

Why?

Welll….

a) Bad things happen when authors respond to reviews. In fact, some careers have very publicly imploded this way. Even when an author doesn’t publicly get in trouble, they are often privately reprimanded by their agent, editor, friends, colleagues, etc., who say something similar to this…

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Or at least you shouldn’t share those feelings. Go back to discussing stickers and stop-motion animation book trailers!

b)

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My feedback doesn’t matter. At best, I’ll look defensive. At worst, condescending, snide, rude, arrogant, over-entitled…yeah, not good. The solution to this might seem easy: Don’t be a jerk about it, Marni! But it’s always hard to hear mean things about yourself. No matter how well-intentioned the bearer of bad news, that information hurts.

That also leads me to the biggest reason why you should NEVER quote a bad review at an author…

5. Remember that you have NO IDEA how they are doing.

You don’t. Even if their Twitter feed is all happiness and hedgehogs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with crippling self-doubt/depression/anxiety, etc.

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This is very true for writers.

Someone very important to me is bipolar and she can’t openly discuss it because of the stigma attached. She is horribly, gut-wrenchingly afraid that if anyone discovers it, her career will go up in flames. Nobody would suspect that anything was wrong just by scrolling through her Facebook feed. Myself included.

So, I repeat: You can’t draw conclusions about someone’s mental health from their online presence.

That’s why I highly recommend airing on the side of compassion and kindness. And leaving bad reviews where they belong–buried deep in the bowels of Goodreads.

That’s my advice for the week!

Stay awesome, friends!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Advice Monday: Humble-bragging and Jealousy

Hey everyone!

People seem to like it when I give advice. And well…I’ve never exactly suffered from a shortage of opinions. Just ask my (long-suffering) family members.

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Elementary School Marni considers what advice to give…

So feel free to ask questions! About writing. About life. About anything you want to discuss.

Today I thought I’d tackle professional jealousy.

This topic has been on my mind a lot recently. See, this post about writers on social media started making the rounds on my Facebook feed. I read it, laughed, then stared a bit guiltily at the keyboard.

Because I’ve definitely humble-bragged about meeting my favorite authors before!

In fact, I’ve not-so-humble bragged about meeting people!

Case in point:

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Marni plus Laurie Halse Anderson.

Oh and…

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Marni plus Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

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Marni plus Nora Roberts.

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Marni plus Ally Carter.

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Marni plus Jay Asher.

And my personal favorite…

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Marni plus Ellen DeGeneres!

Are you getting the picture? I’ve posted ALL of these online. Why?

Because. I. Totally. Geeked. Out.

And, yes, because it feels really good to look all smart and professional and…fancy online. These pictures were taken during some of the most wonderful moments of my life. But they are snapshots in time. They don’t tell the real story.

The real story is never as glamorous. The real story is that after a night of dancing with authors at the RWA in Atlanta, I spent the next six hours vomiting in a toilet. My friends think it must have been an allergic reaction to my TWO SIPS of Long Island Iced Tea.

I kid you not. Two sips.

Did I share that with the world? Um, no. I didn’t.

I conveniently left that part out.

So should I feel guilty about my not-so-humble bragging? Am one of those authors that people want to punch in the face(book)?!

Here’s what my friend and fellow KTeen author, Brigid Kemmerer, has to say:

I hate articles that seem to imply that we should shut up about our successes because we might make other people feel bad. It’s ridiculous. There’s no need to police social media to protect anyone’s feelings. Yes, non-stop promotion gets tiresomeBut so does non-stop complaining or non-stop anything.

If people are allowing social media to make them feel inferior, then they need to step away from the computer and get back in the real world. What people post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is such a narrow slice of their world — and it’s only what they WANT you to see. Further, if someone IS offended or overwhelmed by what one person is posting, then they can block that person or hide them from their feed. There are a few people I’ve unfollowed on Twitter because all they tweet are promo feeds for themselves and others. That’s IT. Who wants to read a non-stop stream of that? I like social media for one reason: the social aspect.

That’s when it kind of hit me. It’s not the bragging that bothers most people. I mean, yes, sometimes it can be grating, but that’s not at the heart of this issue. I suspect that the real problem is that the publishing world is a really murky place. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to look at a book deal and say, “Oh okay. This is standard.”

I have a friend whose debut YA advance was 5x more than mine. Another friend was paid 40x less. It was only after a three-hour long conversation that any of us were brave enough to broach the subject of advances, even though we all depend on them to keep the bills paid.

It’s impossible to know if I should commit to using Instagram/Tumblr/Goodreads, etc., or even if these social media platforms translate into book sales! Do blog tours actually help reach new readers? Or would that time be better spent, y’know…writing?

These are all unavoidable questions for everyone within the industry and the fact that NOBODY appears to have the answers makes it even harder to reach any satisfying kind of conclusion. In the wake of all that uncertainty, we all seem to scrutinize each other’s Facebook feeds to see if we’ve been left in the dust.

This is where the real professional jealousy kicks in.

So how do we fight it?

I think Brigid’s advice is spot on. Step away from the laptop. Stop comparing yourself to others. Do not check out someone’s Wikipedia page to determine if they were younger than you when they got their first book published. Guess what? It’s not a competition!

But let’s say that isn’t working for you. Let’s say you’re feeling jealous and petty and irrational, oh, and annoyed because even though you know you’re being irrational you can’t seem to logic your way out of the situation.

Maybe…give yourself a little room to be bad?

Not terrible. It’s not like you’re going to say and/or do anything mean. Are we clear? That’s not going to happen, because you are not a bully.

But sometimes it feels really good to read terrible reviews of famous books. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with a book of quotations called, Writers on Writing. My favorite section was the one where all these iconic authors trash-talked each other. There was something oddly liberating about watching them trip over the pedestal my English teachers had reserved for them. The Germans have a word for this: Schadenfreude. It means, “happiness at the misfortune of others.” I like to look at it a slightly different way though…

Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you’re not the only flawed person around.

So that’s my Marni Advice for the week!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni