Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Greatest Lesson I Learned in Writing This Year

In terms of writing, this year has been one of change and challenge for me. 

I published my first contemporary novel, a twisty story that was dark and hit close to home. It was a challenge to write, and it was a challenge to share with the world, and I'm still not entirely comfortable with it. 

I wrote a novel for Star Wars that will come out May 2nd of next year. It's a novelization set around the story of Rogue One, which is now my favorite Star Wars movie. If you've not seen it, go. You won't regret it. Bring tissues. 

But writing my Rogue One novel was a different sort of challenge. I was telling a story that required a lot of cooks in the kitchen, a lot of strings to tie up and not get tangled in. It was difficult, not the least because of the time constraints, but I reveled in that difficulty and loved the challenge before me. 

In between these projects, I've also been working on a fantasy novel that should come out in 2018 from Penguin/Razorbill. And this book has been the very definition of challenge to me. I've solidly written about a half million words just to find the right path for this book. 

I love the idea of it. It's about loss and love and moving on. Set in a fantasy world where people can raise the dead. 

It was the execution that tried to kill me. (Pun not intended, but so hilarious that I'm leaving it.)

First, I wrote it in first person present tense, from the boy's point of view. A key scene happened at the end of chapter three. That didn't work--too much had happened prior to that, so I needed to retell the story. And the voice was off. So I rewrote it with flashback chapters alternating scenes to fill in the past but keep the momentum of the present. It ended up being a confusing mess with little cohesion--I could see the strings tying the story together, but it was impossible for anyone else to. 

So I took a deep breath and rewrote it again. This time in third person, alternating chapters between the boy and girl POV. That worked well for Across the Universe; I tried to replicate it. It flopped. That was the wrong way to tell this story, and it felt heartless. 

Then I rewrote it again. And keep in mind--all these edits are before I've even turned the book in to my publisher! This is all stuff I'm stumbling through on my own, because I know it's not working yet and I can't turn it in until it's at least operable. 

In this rewrite, I went back--way back. All those flashback scenes were now written in the moment. Something that took a paragraph for a character to describe that had happened in the past was now about a quarter of the book, unfolding on the page. 

For lack of a better way to say it, I really went there. I didn't hold back. I challenged myself to write the scenes that I'd clearly been avoiding. I dug my fingers into the wounds. Any time I felt myself shying away from how I said something, I forced myself to rewrite it with as much graphic detail as possible. 

I had just finished this fourth draft when I had to put it away and start work on the Rogue One novel again. And during that interim, I realized that one final thing was wrong about my book--I had written in a subplot on race that wasn't my story to tell and I hadn't done it in an authentic way. Knowing this hung like a cloud over my head as I worked on the SW novel, and it lingered for months as I turned it over and over again in my brain on what to do, how to fix that subplot. The solution was to excise it, so as soon as I got the Rogue One novel turned in, I turned back to this book--this book I'd already written four times--and started again from page one, carefully plucking out the subplot that didn't work and stitching the story back together again. 

I'm nearing the end--I hope. In the new year, I turn this book in to my editor, and I start really getting to work on it. But as I read through it one last time, I know that the biggest lesson I've learned in writing--from all three of the projects I've worked on this year--has been simple this:

Challenge yourself.

Don't hold back. Whatever your best idea is, put it on the page now. Don't wait. If you're hesitant to write something because you're not sure you can, write it. Write it now and without reserve. Constantly challenge yourself to something newer, something bigger, something better. And then rise to meet that challenge.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Holiday Surprise--a New Cover for A WORLD WITHOUT YOU!

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you've already seen this! And if you don't subscribe, click here to remedy that :) 

As many of you know, the original, hardback cover of A World Without You looks like this:

And I love it! The strings are perfect for Bo, who believes he can travel through time using something similar to strings. (I particularly love the bright red string, which is the one he believes connects him to Sofía, the girl he loves.)

However, there's something new coming at you...

A new cover for the book.
A new face, if you will.
For the book about Bo.
A new face of Bo, am I right Whovians?! 

I'll see myself out.


New cover, exclusively for the upcoming paperback release!


Isn't it dreamy?

I love that there's still an element of the timestream with the swirly lines.

And I love that the person isn't clear. It could be Sofía reaching out for Bo. Or it could be Bo reaching out for you.

I love the simplicity of it.

I love the slightly creepy edge--because this book is slightly creepy.

I hope you guys love it too! You'll be able to get this cover from all major retailers soon, when the paperback releases next year.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Announcing My Next a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

There were two movies that I wore out on my parents' VCR as a kid. The first was The Princess Bride, which I kept renting from the off-brand video-rental because there was no image on the cover and I kept thinking it was about fairy tales and then getting delighted by all the murder and pirates.

The second was Return of the Jedi.

I was a little over a year old when the movie hit theaters (and not even a twinkle in my parents' eyes when the first was out), so my first experience with the movies was on VHS. Not the fancy tape you buy--no, my parents taped it off the television. It was complete with commercial breaks and the fuzzy bits when they were adjusting the antenna. We also had A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but they were not my favorite. I loved Return of the Jedi. I loved everything about it, from Princess Leia's slave outfit to the Ewoks, the dire battles and the epic fights.

Star Wars became a part of my childhood. My brother's name was Luke. I had hair long enough to wind into double braids around my ears. (Really.) We had a lightsaber--just one, red, but it made real whooshing sounds and we'd take turns slashing it through the basement (Death Star grey) or the field by our house (Endor green).

I found the Young Jedi Academy novels. I didn't know the movies existed past the film. I didn't know the adventures could continue. I went to the library to find the other books, and I did--and more on top of that.

Star Wars wasn't exactly cool when I was in school, but I didn't care. Fortunately, my best friend from high school, Jennifer, loved Star Wars as well. When the prequels came out, we stayed up all night watching the originals at her house, one film after the other until our eyes were watering. At lunch during high school, we were allowed to drive off-campus; I went every day to Taco Bell until I had the whole collection of toys from the movie. (Although let's be honest, all I really wanted was the cool Queen Amidala ship that appeared to be floating.)

I know George Lucas was heavily influenced by Carl Jung and the monomyth, but before I knew philosophical interpretations of literature, I knew Star Wars. I recognized Luke in Gilgamesh, not the other way around. I saw the the symbolism of the mask hiding one's identity by looking at Vader. I understood the hero's journey because of A New Hope. When I got my bachelors and then my masters in literature, I did it with the lens of Star Wars.

I started writing in college, but as many of you know, I had years of unpublished failure. It wasn't until I wrote a sci fi--Across the Universe--that my life changed and I became a novelist. That book--a murder mystery set in space--exists in part because when I was five, I would wind my hair up in double buns over my ears.

So when I say that Star Wars influenced a fundamental way that I saw the world, I really mean it. Star Wars became the omnipresent story of my childhood, the folklore of my youth, the inspiration of my art.

And I say all this now because the book I've been working on takes place in the Star Wars universe.

*cue internal screaming*

Guys, this is the only time I've ever truly lost my cool when speaking to my agent. When she asked if I'd be interested in the project, my reply was one sentence long, including more than one curse word (sorry Mom), and approximately 56 exclamation marks.

Going in, I didn't know much. It was a book about Rogue One, the first of the new Star Wars anthology stories. I would be writing a YA about the main character, Jyn. I wasn't allowed to know much more than that.

My answer was, of course, yes. In less than a week, I was on a plane heading to San Francisco.

So people who know my story know that when I get very very happy, I just throw up everywhere. This is what happened when I got my first book deal (see also: hospitalization for stress-induced gastroenteritis), so I solved this problem by just not eating while I travelled across the nation for my literal dreams to come true oh my gad you guys how is this my actual life what.

The offices are in the Presidio National Park, and they are, quite simply, gorgeous. The trees towering above, the smell of the water nearby...perfection. 

The directions my editor gave me included "turn left at the statue of Yoda" YOU GUYS

I absolutely took a photo of the front desk because I am that kind of nerd. 

Zero shame for posing with Darth in the lobby. Zero. Shame. 

I found my happy place. 

The view from one of the rooms where we discussed the story. Famous landmark chilling right there. nbd

This was just casually sitting displayed in a sitting area near one of the conference rooms where we worked. Just a normal table, nothing to see here.

Passed this display...I'm not sure where, honestly the building was a labyrinth! But everyone in the group stopped when we saw this. The Force Awakens was still very fresh in all our minds. These were life-sized and just...just perfect.

So, amidst all my freaking out about where I was, I also got to freak out rather a lot about why I was there. I was surrounded by some of my biggest writing idols (auuuugh still freaking out). And I was going to get to write a book within the universe (AUUUUGH HOW IS THIS MY LIFE). 

I just. I cannot express to you what this means to me. This book. It's not my heart, it's my soul. Being a part of the galaxy...I just. Hold on. I need a moment.

Since then, I've been hard at work (a) writing the book, and also (b) rewriting the book, and finally (c) keeping the book a secret. THIS WAS SO HARD TO DO. I mean, all the points were hard BUT ALSO KEEPING IT SECRET. 

I'm still not sure how much I'm allowed to say. But at least the biggest secret--that I get to work on a dream project in a dream universe working with dream people auuuuuuughhhhh--is now out in the open. 

My editor told me that I should prepare for an influx of new readers, so just in case you're still wondering who the heck I am, here's some of my past work:
  • The Across the Universe series, my debut works, are sci fi novels, and my most Star-Wars-like books. (PS: They're on sale at Amazon, where you can buy all three books for less than $20.)
    • Across the Universe, a murder mystery in space aboard a generational space ship
    • A Million Suns, a conspiracy mystery where they discover just how jacked up the ship is
    • Shades of Earth, a survival mystery where they land on a planet that wants to kill them
  • The Body Electric is a stand-alone novel, partially inspired by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and is about what's happening on Earth while my characters in AtU are in space. It questions a lot about what's real or not, and where our memories come from.
  • A World Without You is my latest novel, and it's not technically sci fi, but it's super weird. It's about a boy who believes he has the power to go back in time, but the school for superheroes he thinks he's attending is actually a school for mentally disturbed youth. 
  • And if you're into nonfiction, I have a series of books about making books. Volume 1 is on writing, Volume 2 is on publishing, and Volume 3 is on marketing.
If you want to keep up with all my future events and other book info, subscribe to my newsletter.

And now my bobble-headed Jyn is shaking her head at me...reminding me that I still have work, glorious, glorious work to do.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Day in the Life

One of the fun questions I get a lot is what is an average day in the life for me, as a writer? I usually give a glib answer: at home, no pants, laptop on the couch. And it's true--but really, a "day in the life" is much more difficult.

And when I really think about this question, it usually comes from people who aren't published yet, who want to know what it's like. But the thing is--it's different for everyone. And it's different based on where you are in the process. So I thought I'd give you several different days in the lives of me as a writer.

I'm a college sophomore at this point, and an RA, living by myself. I'm not much into partying and I'm pretty introverted. I'm considering taking a creative writing class, but I know they do a lot of short stories, and I don't really write short stories so I try one. It turns into my first novel.

Typical day:

  • Morning: sleep in, catch breakfast just before it closes at the dining hall, because breakfast at the dining hall is amazing
  • Midday: most classes. Write notes about my story during boring classes in the margins of my notebook.
  • Afternoon: hang out in the grassy field quad at campus between classes, think of new plot turns
  • Evening: before bed, after television and hanging out with friends, write for an hour or two. I never had a schedule--this was all for fun, and eventually, I had a whole book

I'm in grad school now, and I've been writing a book a year since the first one. It's still fun, but I've started thinking about publishing. I sent the other books out for potential publication, but nothing came of it, and I wasn't too disheartened (and I didn't try that hard either). But I was starting to really, really want publication. I already had my BA in English education and my teaching certification, but I also wasn't really sure I wanted to be a teacher forever. I had dreams of landing a pub deal and never having to "work" a day in my life. These dreams were huge, because I had only inflatable furniture and ate a lot of Hamburger Helper (sometimes minus the hamburger) and ramen.

Typical day:

  • Morning-afternoon: go to library or read for my master's thesis. I was doing a two-year program in one year because I could only afford one year. So I did all my classes plus my master's defense simultaneously.
  • Evening: I was also too poor for television. So instead of watching TV, I switched from writing my thesis to writing my novel. It was a lot of words, but it was also the book of my heart, and I loved it, and I believed in it. This is the one, I would whisper to myself, when I finally collapsed into bed, usually around 3am.
Spoiler alert: it wasn't the one. And neither was the one after it. And my dreams of being the next JK Rowling and living in a castle while I casually wrote didn't come true. I was still writing a book a year, but my writing was starting to feel futile. Instead, I got a job. I liked the job--some days I even loved it--but it was also really, really hard. 

Typical day, Monday-Friday:
  • 5am: Wake up and get ready for work. Go over lesson plans--as a new teacher, I was still struggling to know what worked and didn't, what would fill a day or leave me with 30 bored 16-year-olds on my hands.
  • 6:30am-4:30pm: I was on. I was a very active teacher, and I didn't do anything during this time but teach. On days when I ran a club or grades were due, I wouldn't leave the school until an extra hour had passed. And while, yes, I had a planning period, I also never really got much planning done. I usually had to grade or attend training sessions or pull together resources or wait for copying machine or a myriad of other things.
  • 6:30pm: I was almost always back home by this point--and exhausted. I'd scrape together a meal and allow myself about an hour of "dead" time.
  • 7:00-11:00pm: This time was spent typically grading papers or planning the next day's work. If I had a rare time when I didn't need to do this, sometimes I would just stare at the wall and think about the good ol' days when I didn't have to work to exhaustion. 
Typical day, Weekends or Vacation:
  • One of the fantastic things about teaching is the summers off. And there are periodic breaks around holidays that are quite well planned. I'd usually take at least one day to detox, but then:
  • Write 5-10k per day while I could. I would write until my fingers ached. I would write until I could barely see straight. I literally typed the letters off my keyboard and had to replace it. 
  • In between writing, I was researching. Sometimes for the book--but more often on agents and publishers, the ins and outs of publishing. I read every agent blog, I joined social networks specifically to connect with pros, and I enmeshed myself in the world.
  • I also joined critique groups and found critique partners. The books before were written for me but with the magical belief that I would have to do no work to become rich and famous. I was now focused on the work side of publishing. I knew that this would be about more than just good stories; there was a business side, and I needed to really revise and get better at writing. Some of the partnerships with critique readers I made then are still maintained today.
  • Important note: At this point in time, I'm still too poor to afford television, and internet is pretty crappy. If I had had great television and Netflix then, would I have found the time to work? I don't know. Writing was my entertainment, in part because I enjoyed it, and in part because I had nothing else.
When I started my job teaching, I expected to be there only a year. It's been five years now. I'm married now. I have a mortgage now. I know enough about the business to know that even if I break out, I'll likely still have to work. But as my new husband and I are trying to evaluate a budget and a savings account, I'm starting to realize just how much time and money has passed, how I really have nothing to show for it. I've still written a book a year in this time--although my typical day of writing has changed, my work production hasn't. It's just now I'm not sure it's worth it. 

But I had one more story to tell. And that story was Across the Universe. 

Typical day, Monday-Friday:
  • 5:00am: I'm getting far, far better at this teaching gig thing, but my hours are still crazy as I now live further away from the school and have a longer drive. So I still wake up crazy early, but I spend the forty-five minute drive to work thinking about what I need to write.
  • 7:00-8:15am: I also have first period planning, which is a blessing, Sweet Jesus. So I spend my morning jotting down the notes of what I thought about while driving. This process--thinking for a long time before I actually write--has become ingrained in me and made me a better writer, and it started with this schedule.
  • 8:15am-4:00pm: Teaching. I am focused in my job and only occasionally give the kids a movie day to distract them while I write.
  • 7pm-midnight: Write. As discouraged as I am, I love this story, and I foresake television and time with the husband to work on it. 
Book deal! I got my agent at the end of 2009 and my deal at the beginning of 2010 (Across the Universe was published in the beginning of 2011), and it was amazing. I still remember sitting in the parking lot of the school, taking notes with a notepad on my steering wheel, fielding calls in my car because I knew with my long drive, I wouldn't get home before 5, and I couldn't take a call on the road because there's no cell signal. Crazy. 

But then edits came. 

And it quickly became apparent that there was simply not enough time in the day to do everything. By this point, I actually enjoyed teaching and I loved the kids, but the big edits for my manuscript of Across the Universe were due the same day student grades--and their ten page essay evaluations--were due. Before, I could write on my schedule, and it wasn't a big deal if I took May off--I could make up for it in June. Now? Now I had another schedule to work with, and they clashed. Horribly.

  • 4:30am: wake up, drive to work, sometimes speaking notes into my phone because I knew I couldn't waste time
  • 5:30am: I'm often the first to school and unlock the big outer doors to get in. I turn on the lights and rush to make sure I have everything I need for the day, then open up my word file and write/edit as much as I can.
  • 7:00-8:15am: Morning planning period. I typed furiously. Most of my coworkers assumed I was a lesson-plan fiend. I wasn't.
  • 8:15-4:00pm: Luckily, I also taught yearbook during this time. The kids knew I had a book deal. I would get calls from my agent or editor in the middle of the day, and all the kids would shout Shh! Shh! Mrs. Revis has to talk on the phone! and I'd crouch at my desk and try to juggle a pen and paper and an eye on the door in case the principal came in.
  • 5:30pm-whenever: Get home. Maybe see husband? Lock self away and work. And work. Collapse. 
By that time, it was obvious I could no longer continue working both jobs, so I quit teaching. Which meant I now had to worry about things like privatized health care and self employed IRAs and hiring a tax guy because I had no idea what I was doing. 

But also, suddenly, school was out (forever!) and my first book was done. This was when I normally would be writing, since it was summer break, but I was no longer a teacher, so summer break was no longer a thing. Also I'd just finished a book, was I really supposed to immediately jump into another one? The answer was yes (although I admit to slacking off rather a lot that summer because freedom). Since that first free summer, my daily life depends entirely on what stage of writing I'm in:


  • I don't actually get many ideas for novels--at least not many that stick. When I do get an idea, I tend to sit on it and think a lot. I casually research--casual, because I'm just curious about the subject. This casual (but constant) research turns into obsession which eventually turns into a book. This stage can last for months. 
  • This means all that time I sit around reading Wikipedia and Cracked and Reddit is crucial to the process. Really.
  • First: I don't write every day. Some people do. I am not one of those people. I write in bursts, probably because I learned to write while I had a day job that didn't allow me to write every day. So while drafting, I may write a big chunk one day, and then take two days off. Or three. Maybe four if something good is on Netflix. I don't stress about it. At the end of the month, I have the same amount of words by writing sporadically as I would if I was writing daily.
  • I tend to write the most on the edges of the day: morning and late at night. I write the happiest at the start of the book--the first 30,000 or so words is easiest. I'll brew coffee and then forget about it because I'm so wrapped up in the words.
    • At this stage--early in the writing--I likely have a book that's recently wrapped (the project before this one). So a part of my writing time, especially in these early days, will be used for promo. I spend mornings online, working on social media, updating things, etc. 
    • This also tends to be the time when I'm booked for travel and promo. So all of this flies out the window when I have to go do events or festivals--which I love, but travel eats at writing time. One day of travel = three days of not writing (one day to pack/plan, one day to travel, one day to recoup from travel). Minimum.
  • The next 30,000 is not the easiest. I write more into the middle of the day. I definitely drink the coffee. I start making charts on paper, or brainstorming. I find excuses to not work. The yard needs to be mowed. The car's oil needs changing. Better schedule a dental cleaning. 
  • The last 30,000 are a mix of sudden inspiration--write all day! 10,000 words in one day!--followed by crashing-and-burning. I'll write a huge chunk one day and nothing else for the rest of the week, during which I will lament and cry and think I'm a failure. I blow through the coffee until my heart starts doing a weird rhythm. If there's also a deadline--and now, there usually is--I force myself to not get distracted, but I am also on an internal panic pretty much 24/7. 

  • Revising for me usually means rewriting. Which is not fun. And it usually means ~month deadline, as I'm working with editors, not critique partners. So revising/rewriting process starts with getting an edit letter. After reading the edit letter, I usually get mad (she didn't think the book was perfect as it is!) and then I usually switch from coffee to beer. 
  • I like to work with lists. I immediately cross out all the positive compliments in the edit letter and highlight everything that needs to be changed because who doesn't love depression. I then list the changes I agree with (90%) on one side of a paper, and brainstorm ideas of how to change things to make those edits happen on the other side.
  • This is focus-time. I'm like a bulldog during revision. Nose to the grindstone. This is all work, no play. I open Scrivener and use the split screen function. Old draft on top, new draft on bottom. I cut and paste what I can, rewrite what I have to, following the plan of attack I made with the edit letter. 
  • During this time, my husband usually has to remind me to eat and bathe. When I'm forced to go out, I hiss at the sunlight. I usually try to avoid all travel during this time, which is usually about a month, but if I have to travel, I do so grumpily and half-distracted.
Minor Edits:
  • After the big rewrite (if I'm lucky and don't need another big rewrite), it's time for what I consider the minor edits--line edits and copy edits. How crucial they are, and how much time I'm given to do them, varies, but I find this part of the process easiest. It's usually all done in Word, with track changes, and I just make sure to set aside some time and get them done as quickly as possible. 
  • But also during this time, I've restarted the process. I've learned that I can't take breaks. So, while I'm wrapping up edits on Project A, I've definitely started the pre-drafting casual research process for Project B...and these days, I've actually layered my days so that my schedule looks more like this:
    • Minor edits for Project A
    • Drafting new Project B (especially if it's in the early stages--later stages take more focus)
    • Pre-drafting research/idea building for Project C
  • And also during this time--which is getting closer to release date--I'm really focused on marketing. So a big chunk of daily "writing" time is actually spent:
    • Brainstorming new ideas to market this book. During the final edits, the book is freshest and "finalest" in my mind, and I do my best ideas for marketing then.
    • I plot out a three month plan--the month before, during, and after publication. This is mostly when I plot out how to do things online for promo, such as blog giveaways, Facebook campaigns, Twitter giveaways, etc. This is when I shop for giveaway ideas and design swag and online promo (like quotes for Instagram). 
    • This is also when I start looking at what kind of in-person promo I need to do, and start setting that up. Launch parties at Malaprops, joining with other authors to do driving book tours, reaching out to festivals near that time.
    • And, while I'm doing all this, so is my publicist. She's booking me guest spots on online and print venues, speaking gigs, and book festivals as well--so my calendar rapidly gets full during this time. This is the time when I say "yes!" to everything in a panic that I need to do it all for the upcoming book release...and then I'll grumpily say "no!" to everything when I get burnt out. It's a never-ending cycle. 
The only time I focus entirely on one project is when I'm revising/rewriting. That step takes such single-minded focus that I can't do anything (including eating/bathing) during that time. 

But wait! I have a baby now! How has my schedule changed?

...not that much. I write more in the mornings and less in the evening than I used to (because I go to bed earlier). I travel less. I'm on social media less. But beyond that, my schedule hasn't changed. The books are the most important thing, and I'm working on those as much, if not more, than before. 

Writing is my job. Just because I do it at home (where there is now also a baby) doesn't make it less my job. No one would question me taking eight hours a day to go to a school and teach, or do some other job. No one should question me taking eight hours a day to stay home and do this job.

During the "easy" phases of early drafting or when I'm just working on marketing materials, I allow myself to get baby-distracted easily. I go on walks with the stroller or play with the baby or take day trips. The advantage of working at home. But when I'm in the "hard" phases of revision/rewriting or I'm up against a deadline, I let the husband or my mom take care of the baby, and I do my job.

And some days...I don't. Some days, the baby screamed all day and all night and is still screaming and now also throwing food at me and pooping everywhere and the dogs are being jerks and the husband's as burnt out as I am. Some days, when the baby naps, so do I. Some days, I don't even open my laptop. And that's okay.

Because the next day, I'm going to kick ass.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A WORLD WITHOUT YOU Book Tour, Days 7-10: Dangerous Ladies!! Featuring NASA and Awesome Bookstores

I loved taking the train into Washington, DC, to get to my next tour stops. Why isn't train travel more prevalent?! I'm so sick of planes...give me a good train any day of the week.

Also, aren't train stations beautiful? So classy.
And the first thing I saw when I stepped out of Union Station was this beauty.

For the last half of my tour, I hooked up with the Dangerous Ladies book tour. This group of amazing ladies made this tour so. Much. Fun.

Five cheers for the five Dangerous Ladies on tour!

From left to right: Me, author of A World Without You; Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn; Megan Shepherd, author of The Cage; Gwenda Bond, author of Lois Lane: Fall Out; Megan Miranda, author of The Safest Lies.

Our first stop was at Hooray for Books! Everything about this store made me smile, from the beautiful book display on that cute table... the adorable frog prince on the sign...

...and especially the delicious cookie they gave us! 

 The next day, I roped some of the girls on tour with me into heading out to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center! HUGE shout-out of gratitude to Janine K Spendlove for introducing me to Maggie--make sure you check both their work out in anthologies by Silence in the Library Press!

Maggie was gracious enough to take me, Renee, and Megan M on a tour of the campus, and it was amazing.

Right now, the project at NASA Goddard Center that I was most interested in was the James Webb Space Telescope. This beaut is being launched in 2018, and will be a hundred times more powerful than Hubble. Hubble, you know, the beautiful telescope that got us all the amazing images of our universe? A hundred times more powerful than that.

Selfie with Hubble pics
I'll admit to not knowing that much about the James Webb Space Telescope before this trip. Fortunately, we had a Nobel prize-winning scientist, John Mather, standing by to explain all the amazing things this telescope can do. 

You guys, I don't even know my life. Sometimes I look at myself and think, How? How did I get so lucky that I got to go on a tour of a NASA facility with a Nobel-prize winning scientist answering my dumb questions?! 

Also? I have to point out that the mirrors on the James Webb Space Telescope are golden and look like a honeycomb, and all I could think about every time I saw it was The Body Electric! And! And! Nobel-prize-winning-scientist John Mather said that the telescope was so strong it could see a bumblebee on the moon, and my brain said Ella! Ella and the Body Electric and beeeeeesssss!!!!

Okay, serious time. What you're looking at here is one of the world's largest clean rooms. An entire wall is made of air filters, and everyone in the room has to wear full-body suits after taking an air bath. They even duct tape their gloves to their suits. 

The telescope is under that silver rectangle thing in the above photo--the scientists on the ground floor are working on it. We didn't get that great of a view of the actual telescope, but you can see it at all angles on these videos.

No big deal, just watching scientists shoot lasers at mirrors to test for a space telescope, you know, a regular Tuesday. 

So the telescope is made of mirrors like the one above (telescope mirror selfie for the win!). The actual metal of the mirrors is beryllium, plated in gold. Unrelatedly, they told me I couldn't touch the telescope because (a) beryllium is poisonous and also (b) touching the mirrors would mess everything up and lol they're too smart to let me into the clean room with the real telescope. 

Here's a small mock-up of what the mirror will look like (the painted hive on the wall is lifesize). Don't the gold mirrors look like a honeycomb? 

And the silver surfboards below--these are heat shields. The bottom of the telescope will face the sun (always), but the top of the telescope must be cold so as not to mess up the mirrors. The solution? These heat shields. 

The material was amazing. Thinner than tin foil, but basically unrippable. 

Renee had to test it to make sure. NASA and Renee-approved. 

Of course, once the telescope is complete, it's going to have to go through some tests. See that behemoth above? It's big enough to hold the telescope in a sterile environment.

And this thing? Basically a shaker table. Put the telescope and shake, shake, shake...and hope it doesn't break apart. But they have to make sure it'll survive the trip up into space. (Once in orbit, the telescope will be pretty's getting there that's the dangerous part.)

And this giant room? Well, check out those huge speakers and subwoofers built in the wall, designed to blast the telescope and make sure it can't be sound-damaged.

The Goddard Center is about more than just the James Webb Telescope (although, I must admit some partiality towards that beauty). There's a giant centrifuge room big enough to spin cars at such a high force it would kill a person.

I know. I asked if I could ride in it. Between this and beryllium, seems like I don't have good NASA survival instincts.

 There are also these very cool (ha! pun!) thermal vacuum chambers that can test smaller telescopes and satellites. (You can see the blue top of one here.)

After checking out the telescopes, we got to explore the robotic branch of Goddard.

It was fascinating, particularly the Asteroid Redirect Mission.

In the picture above, the big black thing is a boulder from an asteroid. A potentially Earth-killing asteroid (think: dinosaur extinction). The Asteroid Redirect Mission will spot these giant asteroid 20-30 years before they reach Earth, and then send this giant robot out to the asteroid. It'll pluck a boulder from the asteroid, then start orbiting the asteroid to redirect its path. Crazy cool, right?! More info here.

Another project this group is working on is retrofitting current satellites to be refueled. A lot of the space telescopes that were sent out before were never meant to be refueled because, frankly, we didn't know how refuel them.

They're perfectly good telescopes, but they're running out of fuel. This mission is to send a giant robotic arm that will service the telescope and retrofit it to be able to take fuel. It's basically a gas can and a robotic arm and that's awesome.

After exploring all of NASA's cool missions at the Goddard Center, Renee, Megan, Maggie, and I went over to the jamboree that was being held, showcasing more of NASA's missions. The one that particularly grabbed me was the cryogenics branch--because of Amy and Elder in Across the Universe, obviously--but also because they were offering cryogenic ice cream! :)

There was also a scavenger hunt going on--which Megan, Renee, and I were of absolutely no use--but it led us to this cool little stop...

John's Nobel Prize for Physics! I've never seen one in real life before--that was super cool! Also, fun FYI, the Nobel Prize is the only Pokestop on campus, which means I got to get a Pokestop that only NASA employees can get...

It's the little things in life. (Also, note that the NASA crew are apparently Team Instinct?)

Afterwards, we checked out the Visitor's Center, where we took a selfie in front of Saturn...

Checked out a piece of the moon that was recovered as part of the Apollo 14 mission...

 ...and I got trapped in the Gemini Command Module.

 They also had a cool room that showcased the sun, and I stood in front of it and claimed myself queen of the solar system.

All in all, an amazing day! I loved getting to discover all the missions, from the robotic arms to the telescope that is surely going to blow our minds in just a few short years. 

The only Star Wars vending machine at NASA (very appropriate). On NASA days, Renee and I wear Star Wars shirts (we mocked Megan soundly for not having one with her). 

Of course, that's not the only thing we had to do that day! After all the science that NASA could stuff in our brains, we had to dash off for our next event, this one at the wonderful One More Page Books!

 This happened to be the only stop where all five of the Dangerous Ladies could meet up, so it was extra special. Also new bestie Rae was there.

After a fantastic event, we went out to eat and then begged Renee, who is queen of beauty, to give us make overs! I told her to "go crazy" with my look, no holds barred :)  


The next day, we drove down to Richmond, VA, to go to The Fountain Bookstore. I've been aching to go here forever; this is one of those bookstores I've heard about in an almost legendary way.

And the stop was amazing.

Not only did we have a standing-room-only, almost-to-the-street turn out, but we sold out of A World Without You! And the people were so graciously kind. Our host even made a fantastic card game for us to play--the YA literary version of Cards Against Humanity. It was hilarious! 

I also got to meet fellow Razorbill author Sarah Marsh! We're both writing about necromancers, whee! 

We tried to stop by the Poe house to show our respects to the "Nevermore" author, but alas, time was too short, and this was as close as we got on our way to Chapel Hill! 

Flyleaf Books hosted us, and we had a blast--they're always so wonderful! And in the back room, they had copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child...but they didn't let me steal a box at all! 

Don't worry--I've got my copy and will be reading it this the Read Up Greenville Book Festival! Hope to see you all there! 

Remember! It's not too late to enter my giveaway--check out my last post for more details!