Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Everybody's Baby, an Original E-Novella about Love, Motherhood, and Kickstarter

Last fall, I had a crazy idea for a story.

What if a young, tech-forward couple funded their in vitro fertilization on Kickstarter, and then sold perks to donors -- perks like naming the baby and cutting the cord? Technology, love, parenthood -- in a weird way the idea was right in my literary lane. I got excited.

I was deep in another novel, but I decided to try writing this Kickstarter story, to see where it went. Twenty-thousand words later, I was in love with the characters, their heir love story, and the story of how they became parents. I brought it to my agent and then to my editor.

They thought it was a great idea! We came up with a title: Everybody's Baby. We worked in some plot twists, some new scenes, new characters, and started planning how we could best deliver this book to readers.

The most interesting thing about the project is that it is so very now, a snapshot of life on the internet the way it is right this very moment -- it's about Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, even Get Off My Internets and Jezebel, and of course Kickstarter. Putting this book on the schedule for publication in 2016 or even 2015 meant that it would be less current, and possibly even completely irrelevant, by the time it came out -- a dilemma unique to our high tech world, and as it happens one that could be solved by technology as well. The wonderful people at St. Martin's Press came up with the idea to release this story as a novella, direct to e-readers, which would allow us to bring it out before my second book, which is due out in July.

I am thrilled to announce that my original e-novella, Everybody's Baby, will be published by St. Martin's Press on June 3, 2014 (in two months!) and that it will be available in every format imaginable! There are links below to pre-order. I hope you do!

Here is the catalog copy, to tell you a bit more about the plot:

Jenna and Billy are in love.  He's an app developer, a hyper-plugged-in citizen of the internet, with a big Scottish family and winning smile.  She is a yoga teacher, tuned in to the vibes of the spiritual universe, who was abandoned by her mother as an infant and orphaned by her father's recent death.  When they meet, it's electric, and it is no time before they are married and eager to start their own family.  But when they can't get pregnant, Billy devises a plan:  they would raise funds for their in vitro fertilization on Kickstarter, offering donor perks like cutting the cord, naming the baby, and catching the baby when it takes its first steps.

The good news is that they make their fundraising goal, get pregnant and have a baby! The bad news is that their marriage begins to fall apart when they have to deliver on all those perks. It’s hard enough to survive delivering a baby without a performance artist making a documentary of the cord cutting. It’s difficult enough to get baby to sit up and smile for a six month portrait without a local politician taking up half the lens. What does it mean to be owned by the internet? Everybody's Baby explores how relationships grow and fail in public and private life, the hazards of living “in the cloud,” and the nature of love online and off. 

I'm so excited about this story you might even convince me to come and tell it to you in interpretive dance, but for all of us it might be easier to if you pre-order it at one of the following retail links:

The great news is that due to the wonder of apps, you can buy this book for your Android, iPhone, or whatever, and even support local bookstores like Fountain Bookstore in Richmond or Prince Books in Norfolk by using their links to buy via Kobo. Got your own favorite indie? Use their domain.com/ebook/9781466867840 and see what that does for you.

I hope you enjoy this new story. I can't wait for you to read it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 Other Places Besides Amtrak That Should Give Writers Residencies

Inspired by Amtrak's round-trip writers residency on a train, and Sally Kilpatrick's recent adventure to Staples, where she wrote 1000 words while trying out office furniture, I present ten more places that should give residencies to writers:

1. That boxcar from Dexter. 

Photo: Håkan Dahlström - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dahlstroms/

People are turning shipping containers into all kinds of things -- energy-efficient office spaces, homes... sometimes they are even used to ship things. But I'm envisioning a residency experience where you sit in a boxcar, up to your ankles in the blood of your relatives, and the only way to get out is to finish your draft. Looking at the photo above, I'm envisioning a group writing retreat. I'll take the orange one.

2. The ISS.

Photo: nasa.gov

Sorry, children, I can't get you that thing you need from the kitchen because I AM IN SPACE. Also, I accidentally left my phone on Earth, and I'm not going to the grocery store for 6 months. Bye.


Come and work in the best organized office/pantry/closet ever. Eat many meatballs. Toss plateware of sparse design at curious shoppers.

Photo: IKEA

4. Wonderland

Photo: Reuters/David Grey
Remember that weird abandoned-before-launch amusement park in China? I know I could write a kick-ass book here. But I'll need fog. Lots of fog. I think if writers took this place over, like a pack of feral cats, with laptops and gin, we could probably revolutionize literature. I mean, if I try to write a sentence explaining how this place is a metaphor for...

5. My Bathtub

Photo: clawfoot.com

I have an old, huge, claw-foot tub. This isn't it, because that would be weird. But believe me: it's grand. When my friend Veronica saw it, she said: "That's a suicide tub." I might have already put that in a novel, but that just shows how inspiring this tub is. When I'm stuck on a plot point, I go boil myself in this tub, read 19th century fiction, and the answer comes to me. It would be a great place for a writer's residency, if I weren't such an uncharitable, self-centered person.

6. The Pit Under Jiffy Lube, Where They Do the Oil Changes

Maybe I just want to go down there. I'm pretty convinced it's a whole other world, one I will someday descend into on a greasy rope, laptop under my arm, and write 5000 novels while goblins march by on whispering missions.

Photo: Youtube user j1300
7. The Dressing Pods at Bloomingdale's Concept Store

Here white, glowing pods descend on you and your laptop from the ceiling, and cannot be lifted until you are writing-satiated. They're meant to be retractable dressing rooms that turn into lanterns, but you can pretend you're inside the brain of an insect from the future, and use the privacy to change short stories instead of pants.

Photo: Grey Crawford

8. The One Stall with a Door in the Women's Prison on Orange is the New Black

The urgency. The laser focus. You are not going to dick around on Twitter when you should be writing, if there's an angry woman outside your door yelling "PINCH OFF THAT SCENE, BITCH."

Photo: Alison Wright

9. The Waiting Room at Someone Else's Therapist's Office

Photo: http://www.wellness-centre.co.uk/
If you've ever taken someone else to their therapy appointment, you understand the sweet sanctuary of sitting in the waiting room, waiting for them to be done. You know exactly how long you have, you're responsible for absolutely nothing else during that time, and you forgot the wifi password, if there ever was one. There's a pleasant swirl of mild insanity infusing the room, giving you interesting ideas for your book. And there's also that confidence that comes with the satisfying knowledge that today you're not the crazy one, you're the driver. Fully capable of writing solid, reasonable novels that wise, sane people will find full of value and delight.

10. The Overlook Hotel

Photo: The Shining
Ok, screw being the driver. What I wouldn't give to sit down right now at that old typewriter, smoke one of those old cigarettes, and hurl my crumpled up manuscript pages at somebody's skinny wife and satanic kid. And of course the best thing about the Hotel Overlook as a gathering point for writers is not the demonic possession or the underage apparitions. It's the bar! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Books I Read in 2013

The Third Son by Julie Wu
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Don't Ever Grow Old by Daniel Friedman
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
The Hobbit (read-aloud)
A Wrinkle in Time (read-aloud)
A Wind in the Door (read-aloud)
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (read-aloud)
River of Dust by Virginia Pye
Fantay Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf
The Hive by Gill Hornby
Fuse by Julianna Baggott
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan 
Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck
Let the Water Hold Me Down by Michael Spurgeon
The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman
The Golden Age by John C. Wright
The Phoenix Exultant by John C. Wright
The Golden Transcendence by John C. Wright
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Diana Wagman
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Small Blessings by Martha Woodruff
Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Room by Emma Donoghue
The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypole White
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Fightsong by Joshua Mohr
The Art of Floating by Kristin Bair O'Keeffe
Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
A Marker To Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Alva and Irva by Edward Carey
The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken
Seven For a Secret by Lyndsay Faye
The Animals by Christian Kiefer
Run, Don't Walk by Adele Levine
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Untold Damage by Robert K. Lewis
Heap House by Edward Carey
The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
YOU by Austin Grossman
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
Golden State by Michelle Richmond
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Budapest by Jessica Keener
World War Z by Max Brooks 
An Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara
Field Guide for Lost Girls by Amy Franklin Willis
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 
Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman
A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor

Still In Progress as of December 28:
The Moment of Everything by Shelly King
Where I Am Born by Michele Young-Stone
Melville Biography by Herschel Parker
Stupid Children Lenore Zion
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Story of Britain by Rachel Frasier

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guess the Story

On Christmas Day, the Richmond Times Dispatch will publish an original short story "Right Before Christmas." This is the illustration they created to go along with the story. If you can be the first to accurately guess the plot of the scene depicted here, I'll send you your choice of prize: a signed copy of the story printed in the newspaper, or a signed paperback of Shine Shine Shine. I'll pick one winner from my Facebook page and one winner here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Girl's Eye by Sadie Netzer, Age 9

My daughter handed me this poem in an offhand manner yesterday. She'd written it with a large green marker in a sparkly notebook, in her bed with a flashlight after lights out. She's nine. I'm pretty sure I'm done as a novelist, because I don't know if I could ever match "sneeky and brave." But that's okay. 

Girl's Eye
by Sadie Netzer

From a girl's eye things
Must be pretty or perfect,
But some say okay and
Go on with their lives.

So some are princesses
And some are ninjas
And some just go on.

They all think differently but the
Eye of a girl is all the same.

The girl's eye is pretty and perfect and
Bright and so sneeky and brave.

We know what is right and
wrong, we know if something
is bad, we all see the same
and know the same.

So the girl's eye is
Amazing in so many ways,
But it never gets old.