Tag Archives: made of awesome

in which the reviews come in

The reviews for THIS MONSTROUS THING are starting to come in.

And guys, they’re awesome!

Kirkus Reviews says it’s “More than just a Gothic romance novel; the settings give a nice international feel. The old and new…are woven together in language and theme creating a solid tale that explores what it means to be human. Part homage to a sci-fi original, part re-imagining, plenty of teen torment and trouble—an absorbing read.”

Publisher’s Weekly calls it an “accomplished first novel” (a phrase I’m probably going to get tattooed on my forehead) and describes the characters as “suitably tormented, in accordance with Romantic tradition.” Meaning that now I have a new life goal, which is to live every day like a suitably tormented Romantic hero.

Pop the champagne, don’t forget to enter to win a copy here, and read the full reviews here and here!

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in which I am raised as a Jedi

On this occasion of my favorite holiday, Star Wars day, aka May the Fourth, let me tell you about how I was raised in the Jedi order.

Not by my parents—everyone knows that Jedi are taken from their parents at a young age. Though they were always tolerant to supportive of my Star Wars obsession, they were not the people who raised me as a Jedi. My parents weren’t even the first people to show me Star Wars1.

I was raised in the Jedi order by the neighbors’ kids.

When I was in fifth grade, a new family moved not quite into our neighborhood, but neighborhood adjacent. There was a boy my age, and a girl my sister’s age2. Our friendship was unlikely—I was right at the age where Boys and Girls Can’t Be Friends Because that Means You Have  Crush on Him and That’s Gross. And all four of us were just a very unlikely combination. They were from the south, abrasively polite, and said “Yes ma’am” and “no sir” to the adults, while I called all my friends’ parents by their first names and had a smart ass streak. They were not Mormons, like most people in my Utah community. They thought the mountains that I had grown up with were the most amazing things they had ever seen. I thought those mountains were pretty average. They had a hyperactive Labrador and an above ground trampoline, while we had a borderline comatose malamute and parents with a fear of dangerous fun.

But they also loved Star Wars as much as the MT and I did.

And so Star Wars became the first common language of our friendship.

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Look at the tiny jedi! And get a load of MT in those Yoda ears.

For the better part of two years, the MT and I saw them most days, tumbling through an elaborate universe that was partly George Lucas’s, partly of our own making. We bought lightsabers and coordinated Halloween costumes and Legos and action figures. While our parents hiked behind us or walked through an amusement park or a convention centers, we ran ahead, just a little too old to be playing pretend this aggressively in public. We even wrote a brilliant musical parody, The Sound of Blasters, which ran for one magnificent night in their backyard4.

I spent two years living as a Jedi knight with this family and the boy I will always think of as my first best friend.

And then the next year, they moved away. As quickly and mysteriously as they came.

It was a delirious, wildly happy two year period for me, and when I look back on my younger self, I can point to this time with them as one of the many reasons I write books for young people. Because I spent those two years more in love than I ever have been since, both with Star Wars and with these neighbors next door. I loved Star Wars like I couldn’t love anything anymore because at some point in your growing up, you get told you can’t love things *that* much anymore, and I loved those kids like I can’t anymore because even the most vanilla life will give you some well-earned trust issues. But when you’re a kid and a teen, no one tells you not to love things that much.

And that’s why I love young people, and why I love writing for them. Because they love things. I think of the way I loved Star Wars. And the way I loved those neighbors who lived in Star Wars with me. I want to write for people who are that open and willing to love.

  1. Though I have a distinct memory of going to Media Play, back when people bought music at stores, and sitting at one of the tables with my dad and watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time.
  2. And then they also had a middle son who fell awkwardly in between us.
  3. If you would like to talk about magnificent parents who never forced gender norms on their kids, when I said I want to be Queen Amidala one year and then Anakin Skywalker the next, they never batted an eyelid at either of these things. I have excellent parentals.
  4. And included the legendary YMCA parody, YODA, of which the first line was “YODA! Been living eight hundred years, I say YODA, he’s got them big old green ears.”
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in which This Monstrous Thing gets blurbs

*doesn’t blog in long time*

*then blogs twice in one week*

*Mackenzi makes no sense*

Except I have some news! It is small news, but it is exciting news, so that makes it feel big.

As you well know, because I went on about it at length, advanced copies of THIS MONSTROUS THING are out in the world. Which means people are reading my book! That remains a strange and extraordinary thing.

And an even better thing…some people who are reading it are liking it! Including some very cool authors that I admire very much.

And even better than that? Some of those very cool authors have agreed to say nice things about it publicly, which we can then print on the book to trick people who like their books into read mine! Huzzah!

So THIS MONSTROUS THING officially has some very cool blurbs from extraordinarily cool authors! My head is still exploding a little. So if I have not convinced you to read my book, perhaps one of them can…

“A compelling and brave retelling of the original science fiction novel. A secret history, a love story, something both old and new.”

-Scott Westerfeld, author of Zeroes, Uglies, and Leviathan

“Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing is simply beautiful.  It pulses with electricity, mystery, and heart and brings to life one of my all-time favorite tales with an unexpected twist.”

-Danielle Paige, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die and The Wicked Will Rise

“A richly imagined tale of two brothers and a dark science that twists everything I thought I knew about FRANKENSTEIN. A monstrously good read!”

-Megan Shepherd, author of The Madman’s Daughter series

So if I hadn’t already convinced you to buy yourself a copy of THIS MONSTROUS THING, perhaps Scott, Danielle, and Megan have. (Shameless plug–you can preorder it from Porter Square Books! And I will sign it! And probably draw you a picture or write you a secret coded note in it!)

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in which I recommend some books

So I have not been great at blogging lately….

….is a gross understatement.

I’d rather not talk about life things right now. Honestly I’d rather not talk about writing things either.

So let’s talk about book things!

Because over these past few months, some totally brilliant books that I love with all my heart have come out. And I want to tell you about them. And then I’m going to give one of them away. So stay tuned.

  1. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

I refuse to shut up about this book. Because it is about zero gravity boxing on the moon1. And if that doesn’t make you want to drop everything and run to your local independent bookstore to get a copy, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

  1. Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

On an ordinary night a few months ago, I sat down on the couch while dinner was in the oven2 and had the following conversation with myself:

Me: I will read one chapter of Bones and All while I make dinner.
Me: Well that was the most disturbing first chapter ever and now I have completely lost my appetite and will probably have to read another chapter.
Me: Oh look at that, I’ve read half of this book.
Me: My legs are starting to cramp because I have been on the couch for so long and because I keep curling them up to me the more horrified I get.
Me: Oh, it’s midnight and I finished this book in one sitting without even meaning to.
Me: AND I LOVED IT.

If you are a fan of Stephen King but with a little more emotion and a lot more feminism, this is a book for you.

  1. My Near-Death Adventures (99% True) by Alison DeCamp

If you like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this book is for you.

If you don’t like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this book is also for you. Because it’s way funnier than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And also set in an 1800s lumber camp3.

  1. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

So basically I wept my way through this book. Which was bad news, because I mostly read this book on public transit. The writing reads like jazz and the characters feel like people and this book is as pretty as its cover. It’s a thing you should read if you have good taste.

  1. Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

So I’m cheating because this book isn’t out for a few weeks but GUH THIS BOOK.

Here is a dramatic reenactment of me reading this book in Switzerland:

Marx: Um, Mackenzi, why are you being so gloomy and sad today? And why are you curled up on the floor, wailing, with your eReader clutched to your chest?
Me: THIS BOOK! THESE FEELINGS! MAKE IT STOP, IT HURTS.

In honor of these excellent, excellent books that I love with all of my big, stupid heart, I am giving away a signed copy of BONES & ALL! It can be yours! All you gots to do is fill out the little rafflecoptery thing below and then cross your fingers. Because trust me, you want this book in your life.

Click this thing! This is how you enter!

  1. It is also about sports and marketing and celebrity and racism and honesty and one of my all-time favorite young male protagonists.
  2. Okay fine it was in the microwave.
  3. If you want to know more about how I feel about this book, I made it my staff pick at Porter Square Books! Also this book is aggressively read aloudable, mostly because there is so much grown up appeal and ten-year-old appeal living side by side in it.
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in which Mackenzi Lee holds her first copy of her first book in her hot little hands

So I already fessed up to how excited I was when I got my first ARC of my book.

Turns out the dorkiness was not out of my system. Which is how the following video came to be.

So if you’ve ever wondered what authors do when they get their first arc of their first book…this is about what it looks like.

You’re welcome.

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in which my parents market my book

Something you should know about my dad: he’s a quiet guy. He generally keeps himself to himself, never raises his voice about anything, whether in excitement or outrage, and just stays generally in the background. My mom has a bit of a reputation for striking up conversations with strangers, but my dad sort of has to be lured with peanut M&Ms into having a conversation.

Smash cut to…

The other night my parents are at the opera. At intermission, they are standing in the lobby, milling through the crowd of other opera goers, all of whom are minding their own business, reading their playbills, speaking in low, sophisticated voices. Probably someone was wearing a monocle.

Then, with no warning, my dad announces, to no one in particular but also everyone around him, “I’m reading the best book right now.”

A few people glance at him. Including my mother, who is surprised, because my dad never talks to strangers. Let alone announces himself to a crowded room of strangers.

“It’s called THIS MONSTROUS THING,” he says, even louder. “I can’t put it down. It’s the best book I’ve ever read.”

It should be noted, he has yet to actually read said novel.

“It’s by new up and coming author Mackenzi Lee,” he continues. Then, just for good measure, throws in, “I hear she’s Harper Lee’s granddaughter.”

That lie apparently got a few people interested. Other opera goers were starting to peer at him through their monocles.

“Harper Lee didn’t have children,” my mom says.

“Oh,” my dad says.

Then my mom adds, “So this Mackenzi Lee must be Harper Lee’s grandniece1.”

My parents, ladies and gentlemen. Guerrilla marketers2.

 

  1. Just to be clear, since there’s been a lot of legal talk surrounding Harper Lee lately, this is not true and I don’t make this claim. My parents are bold-faced liars.
  2. My mom also made her own Pinterest board for my book. Hoping to get some exposure. To all her ten followers. It’s a great compliment to her gourd board. She’s very much enamored with gourds3.
  3. I also feel the need to note that last night on Skype, my mom asked me how many pages are in my novel YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Why didn’t I think of that title?
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The Road Thus Far: ARCs!

I had very noble intentions yesterday to clean my apartment. Every piece of clothing I own needs to be washed, our floors are crusted with salt and mud after weeks of tracking in snow, and all the plants in the window have gone to plant heaven. And since I have been so steadfastly avoiding writing my current manuscript, cleaning seemed the perfect way to spend a Tuesday night.

But then a thing showed up in my mailbox. It was book-shaped and had my name on it. And all my plans went out the window.

Guys, my first ARC1 came! It is not a finished book, but it is cut and bound and has my cover and a spine and my words inside of it and my picture outside of it and it smells like a book and pages turn and GUH BOOK.

So instead of doing anything I meant to, I spent the entire night snuggling my ARC, and flipping through it, and giggling with happiness, and clutching it to my heart, and moving it around the apartment and flailing over the way it looked in different places.

My apartment did not get cleaned. But my book and I had many adventures together.

We practiced sitting on a shelf, which will one day be its full time occupation.

photo(6)It met some of the neighbors2.

photo(7)“These are going to be your new best friends, book,” I told it.

photo(5)Look at this beautiful book sandwich!

photo(4)Seriously I just carried it everywhere with me, even to completely nonsensical places where there was clearly no application for it.

photo(3)I actually did do a load of laundry, and, without meaning to, carried the ARC into the laundry room with me. I didn’t realize I had done it until I was trying to figure out how to juggle an armful of sheets and the most precious thing in my possession over a tub of water.

Yeah, my book and I did laundry together.

photo(2)And then, because excessive joy is thoroughly exhausting, book and I went to sleep. And I woke to discover it was not just a beautiful dream3.

photo(1)Guys, I am a super weirdo. If that wasn’t already clear, stuffed Appa in that bottom picture probably cemented it.

But my book is almost a real book. It is now a real thing that I can hold in my hands and I refuse to be cool or normal or coy about that fact or pretend this ARC is not the most amazing thing ever or that it is not overwhelming and staggering and humbling to watch your dreams come true. There is a peculiar sort of magic in seeing something I created in the same form as other things that have had such a tremendous and powerful impact on me.

photo

I am excruciatingly bad at taking selfies but also too shy to ask my roommate to take a picture of me with my book.

My book is a real book. Who’d have thought it?

 

  1. An Advanced Reader’s Copy, for those of you who don’t know that term. Advanced reader’s copies are NOT finished books—they are cheap, flimsy paperbacks, often still with errors and another round of edits before the finished book is printed—but they are what gets handed out to reviewers, bloggers, bookstores, librarians, etc. to get people excited about your book before it comes out. They are not sold. This is not a finished copy of the book. No, your finished copy won’t be in paperback like this one or have that “Uncorrected Proof” red stamp in the corner and on the spine. No, you can’t have one. No, your preorder won’t arrive tomorrow. No, it isn’t fair. LIFE ISN’T FAIR.
  2. And I squeed because MY BOOK is as real of a book as Frankenstein!
  3. But don’t worry—I’ve only had an actual book in my possession for twelve hours and I’ve already had a stress dream about holding a book signing that no one came to.
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in which my book cover is revealed

Yesterday, my book cover and synopsis were released into the world slash internet. So as you can imagine I can think of little else.

The cover looks like this: ThisMonstrousThing hc c. finalJPG Pardon me while I make a high-pitched keening sound of joy.

Because really, isn’t it just great? I could go on for days about it, but for now, let me tell you the top ten things I love about my book cover:

  1. Dat clock tower. *shivers of happy*
  2. I love that it could conceivably be a cover for Frankenstein. If you changed the title and author obviously. The tagline can stay.
  3. I love how it’s a little black and white and that lightning is a nice callback to the classic Boris Karloff Frankenstein. You know, the version most people think of when they think of Frankenstein. Unless you are thinking of this Frankenstein.
  4. So this is a book about two brothers. BUT WHICH BROTHER IS THAT ON THE COVER!? Is it the doctor brother, or the creature brother? AND WHICH OF THEM IS THE MONSTROUS THING? Ambiguity FTW.
  5. I freaking love the tagline and how it’s placed between the title, even though my mom keeps being a pest and calling it “This Alive Monstrous Dead Thing Alive Again” like it is one whole title. Moms. Sheesh.
  6. IT HAS MY NAME ON IT OMG A BOOK IS GOING TO HAVE MY NAME ON IT
  7. It’s so spooky and rainy and atmospheric and Gothic and this book is all of those things.
  8. The European architecture in the back! Did I mention this book takes place in Switzerland? Because that looks like Switzerland to me.
  9. That red sky is loooovely.
  10. IT IS THE COVER OF MY BOOK *faints*

With the cover was also released the official synopsis and it is truly excellent and I am so excited to share with people more than just “steampunk Frankenstein”. BUT I know it’s a lot of words. I don’t blame you if you don’t read it. If you found yourself thinking, “I’d really like to know what this book is about, but don’t want to go to the trouble of actually reading all those words about it!”

Don’t worry–I saw you coming, and did an illustrated version just for you. Fair warning, I am embarrassingly bad artist. Maybe that will entice you even more to check out my illustrated synopsis.

So click here to see the illustrated synopsis of This Monstrous Thing! It is pretty excellent, if I do say so myself. And also the result of a lot of boredom during a lot of snow days.

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the road thus far: on pass pages and preorders

Things are starting happen that are making me aware of the fact that my Book will soon be a real Book. For example, today I got pages in the mail.

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AND THEY LOOK LIKE REAL BOOK PAGES. Not a Word Doc–REAL BOOK PAGES.

They have CHAPTER HEADINGS. AND PAGE NUMBERS. And there is an AUTHOR’S NOTE. And I wrote it! Because I AM AN AUTHOR. Or something.

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Whoa.

Second of all, THIS MONSTROUS THING is starting to show up for preorder on all the major online retailers. Which is fantastic news, and means you can pay a small sum now and in approximately nine months, a delightful surprise you forgot you ordered will show up on your doorstep, and you will think to yourself, “Thanks for that delightful surprise I forgot I ordered, past self.” Seriously, preordering books is the best because you will always forget you ordered them and it will always be a surprise.

Now, if you would like to preorder a copy of my book, first of all, allow me to present you an otter of my happiness:

flattered otter

Really. Thank you.

Now let met suggest where you do it: NOT AMAZON.

Okay fine, if you want to order through Amazon, I get it, and honestly, I really don’t care where you buy because I’m just so flattered you’re buying it at all.

But wouldn’t you rather be supporting local economy, creating jobs, fostering community spirit, promoting literacy, and not selling a small piece of your soul to the devil, all while buying yourself a kick ass book that you will probably love? And on top of that, wouldn’t you rather have your preordered copy of that kick ass book signed by the selfsame author who wrote its author’s note!?

If the answer to those questions is “Yes, of course,” then you should order your copy from Porter Square Books, my favorite local independent bookstore. And if you don’t live in Boston, don’t worry! They will happily ship it to you!

And on top of that, like you needed more incentive to buy from such a fantastic institution, I will sign every single copy that is preordered through Porter! Not only sign then, I will probably draw weird cartoons in some of them. Maybe you will be the lucky recipient of a copy of THIS MONSTROUS THING with an illustrated rendering of the plot by daleks scribbled in the front cover. Maybe I will write you a secret message on page 232. Maybe I will leave Frankenstein related graffiti underneath the dust jacket1.

Whatever the case, all Porter Square preorders WILL BE SIGNED2. So if that sounds like something you would like, go forth and preorder your copy through Porter3!

And end shameless self promotion.

  1. I got a set of calligraphy pens for Christmas and I have been practicing. It no longer looks like I sneezed in the middle of every other letter, and hopefully it will be even better by September.
  2. For a little extra money, not by me.
  3. You can also preorder through IndieBound, HarperCollins, and Barnes and Noble. Take your pick.
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in which I take photos

So I’ll just say right off the bat—I don’t really like getting my picture taken.

I used to be a big ham when I was a kid. I loved getting photographed and was always striking a pose when a camera came around. But at some point something changed and I got camera shy. Aggressively camera shy. I hate photos. The idea of taking a selfie gives me a panic attack. I try to move as far to the back of group shots as possible. For a long time, my picture on Twitter and this blog had half my face covered1 because I just don’t like looking at pictures of myself.

I’m really not a photo person.

So you will not be at all surprised to hear that when told I had to take a headshot/author photo that would go on the back flap of my book, I was, to put it generously, not excited.

I put it off for a long time. Griped about it on Twitter, then felt bad for griping about such a lucky problem to have. Went through all the photos on my computer hoping I would miraculously find some professional but not horrible looking photo of me. Prayed someone would randomly snap a candid of me that would work.

But, at last, with the deadline looming, I had to admit defeat. Fine, I said. I will take an author photo for the book. I will do it…but I will not enjoy it.

Being in possession of a rather fine camera, Marx agreed to take the photos for me so I didn’t have to stare into the lens of a stranger, which would make the whole thing exponentially more uncomfortable. Together, we began to scour the interwebs trying to find somewhere cool to take the photos, my hope being that a great background might distract from….well, me. All the standard Boston engagement photos locations were too conventional. A blank wall was too boring. We needed somewhere cool. Unique. Subtly steampunk. I know, it was a lot to ask. After a time, we started to think it was maybe impossible.

And then we found the Boston Metropolitan Waterworks Museum.

And everything changed.

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YOU GUYS. The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is AMAZING. Like, my new favorite place in Boston2 . It’s the old pumping station near the reservoir that used to supply the city of Boston with its water. It’s no longer functioning, but is now a museum, dedicated to the preservation and display of these massive, beautiful, industrial engines which I don’t understand, but I love love love looking at because they are just so gorgeous. Also, the museum is free, and the management is incredibly kind, and basically let us run amok in the place. We even got to climb on top of the giant engines3.

Marx took many great pictures of the waterworks.

max more water

Less great pictures of me.

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The half face strikes again!

After a few excruciating hours of me grimacing into the camera and Marx doing a valiant impression of not being annoyed by this fact, we deemed we had enough great pictures to work with.

They were all of the engines. But that’s beside the point.

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If you would like to visit the amazing Waterworks Museum, which I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re ever in Boston, please visit this website here4.

Oh, also, I should probably mention here, I now have a proper website, which features these beautiful photos. Visit here, if you’re interested.

  1. I tried to send that particular photo to my agent when she needed a picture of me for something sales related. She then showed it to one of her colleagues, who asked, “Why does she have her collar up like that? Is there something wrong with her face?” No, just my brain.
  2. Rivaled only by my first great love, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  3. This is also where I learned—a mere week before we went to Switzerland, which is basically comprised of high places—that Marx is desperately afraid of heights.
  4. One more waterworks photo. For good measure. (All photo credit to Marx!) 10672183_858089884202569_6797749548370404008_n
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