Tag Archives: Shadow Boys

in which my book gets a new title

When I was a kid, my family got a dog, a big, broad-shouldered Alaskan malamute who came to us from the shelter with the name Dozer.

“Dozer?” we all said.

“Yes,” they told us. “Because he’s built like a boulder and enjoys barreling into people’s legs with the force of a Medieval battering ram.”

“We’ll take him,” we said.

And take him we did. But the name Dozer had to go. As nutburgers as this dog was, he was not a Dozer. It just didn’t feel right.

So we decided to call him Babe. That lasted approximately twenty minutes, at which point he decimated my mother’s garden with unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm. “Not Babe,” we said.

Then we called him Yoda, because he had a wrinkly forehead, and because the MT and I were both in the throws of what we now call The Star Wars Years1. But this dog, we soon discovered, was not wise in a Yoda-esque sense. Instead, his intelligence was more of the Anakin Skywalker variety—keen and cunning and often involved working the system and operating outside the law. Rising bread dough left on a counter that we assumed was far out of his reach? Reachable. Lunch left overnight in a zipped backpack? Unzipped. Rat poison cleverly hidden in the back garden? Found2.

Then he ate my Queen Amidala action figure, a final gesture of defiance against his namesake. “Not Yoda,” we all said.

So we decided to call him Max. I don’t remember why. Max. Max. We said it a lot and called him a lot and got used to the sound of that name on our tongues.

“Max,” we said and somehow it just fit.

Like dogs, all books need a name. A good name, a name that is representational of the story within them and just feels right. And like dogs, sometimes you have to go through a few names for a book before you land on the perfect one.

The original title of my novel, THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, was not quite right. It was cool sounding, but not quite right for this book and how my publisher wants to position it. I know, I know, it’s hard to say goodbye to an old, familiar title3 but I think we have a newer, sleeker, sexier title that I am really excited about.

Which is the main point of writing this—my book has a new title! And I get to share it with you now! The book, formerly known as THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, will now be called….

THIS MONSTROUS THING

Creepy, right? It sounds very Gothic and dark and a little chilling, which is about how I would describe my book. I’m still turning it around in my mouth and my brain and trying to get used to it, but I’m excited. Damn that’s gonna look good on a cover.

And much like Max4, it just sort of…fits.

  1. It was also about the time that MT dressed up as Yoda for Halloween and was so dedicated to the outfit that she asked my mom to sew together the fingers on her green gloves so she’d only have three, just like Yoda. All our pictures from that Halloween have the MT flashing the perpetual Spock fingers.
  2. This happened twice. And that dog survived. He was apparently made of steel. Perhaps we should have named him Indestructible.
  3. I’m primarily mourning the loss of the companion cookbook I was going to write, THE SHAODW BOYS ARE BAKING.
  4. Rest in peace, old boy. You were a king among psychotic, manic dogs with anger management issues.
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The Road Thus Far: Turning in the Book

Hello, I’m back, and trying something new. I’ve been thinking a lot about how when I was a pre-book deal writer, I was always curious about what happens between the ‘being offered the book deal’ and the ‘seeing shiny new hardcover on bookstore shelf’. The whole process seems very secret, but really it’s not! Well some things are, but mostly I think what happens should be talked about rather than shrouded in mystery. So this is a start of a new series I’m calling The Road Thus Far, in which I will chronicle with as much honesty and transparency as I am able the process of getting a debut novel published by a large house. Feel free to ask questions in comments, and I will do my best to answer them!

So, first and foremost in today’s publishing-related news, I turned in my book1!

It has happened! After editing like mad since my book sold in June, the final manuscript is sitting in my editor’s inbox! And while the journey is far from over, the manuscript itself is now basically out of my hands2 and will soon be off to people who will make it more book-shaped and do things with it that I couldn’t do by myself, like inserting commas in the right places and spelling laboratory correctly3.

Don’t worry: I’ve already thought of at least five things I should have done differently. And it’s only been a few hours since I turned it in. 

This was essentially my last chance to change anything with the manuscript. Okay, sure, there will be copy editing changes because I’m a nightmare of a grammarian who did not realize until a few months ago that suit and soot are two different words, and as I’m reading over those, I will probably find some sentence I just can’t stand and beg them to let me rewrite it, but really the big stuff is now solid and fixed. And after tinkering with this book for basically a year and a half, this is terrifying.

Because what if I’m wrong? What if there were better choices for the characters, or more realistic turns for the plot? What if my world-building just makes no sense and I never realized it? What if my writing is interchangeable with that of a third grader? Or what if my writing is actually worse, because most third graders know the difference between soot and suit, don’t they? And I know you have to trust your editor, trust your agent, trust your critique partners who would have told you long ago if these things sucked. But those voices are so quiet compared to the ones in my head that tell me I have done everything wrong and will probably regret letting other people read this weird thing I wrote. It is so hard to trust myself, and almost harder now that I know people are going to be reading it at the end of all this.

Because really, books are never done, are they? We could all keep tinkering with our manuscripts for the rest of our lives4. So is this version I’ve ended up with really the one that I want to put out into the world?

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Some celebratory coloring after I turned in the book.

For a long time, I told myself the lie that as soon as I got a book deal, I would feel like a Real Writer. Maybe even (gasp!) an author. All my anxiety would go away and I would feel confident in my skills and the choices I made for my book. Spoiler alert—that didn’t happen. In fact, sometimes I feel like more of a fraud now because I have tricked everyone into thinking I’m good enough to be published when I’m really not. As a writer, I don’t feel any different than I did the night before I got my book deal, or the week, or even the month. I don’t feel competent or qualified. Writing is still hard, and still makes me anxious, except now I think about other people reading this thing that is hard and anxious for me. And then I want to throw up.

But something sort of remarkable also happened during this process of sweating out my final draft. Somewhere, in the delirious Diet Coke-fueled haze that comes with doing final edits on your debut novel, I started to feel okay about what I’ve written, and started to remember why I’d written it in the first place. I started to love my characters again, and thinking things like, “If people don’t like these choices I made, who cares? I like them!” There were a few places I actually felt good about what I had written. And even one moment when I thought, “Hot damn, some genius wrote this!” Though admittedly, when I thought that, I was reading the Frankenstein quotations that appear in the manuscript rather than something I had actually written. But still.

And then these stupid little things keep happening that send me into fits of delirious joy, things like my editor sending me the flap copy that will go on the inside of the book jacket, and asking me to write my bio, and giving me the name of the person who will be designing my book. These little things that didn’t happen when writing was just me, my computer, and my anxiety. And as frightened as I am to release this monstrous thing I have created into the world, it is infinitely more exciting, and I am trying not to run from it and instead let myself enjoy it.

Have questions about my road to publication thus far, or what happens to a debut novel after it sells? Leave them in the comments! Just please don’t ask a question that requires me to answer with the words suit, soot, or laboratory.

  1. I feel like I need to admit that I am actually writing this days before I turn in said book, though by the time it hits the blog, it will have actually happened. But I do sort of feel like I’m taunting myself by writing those words without actually having accomplished them yet.
  2. Unless something went horribly wrong and my editor hates all the changes I made.
  3. Which, in spite of the fact that I’ve been writing a Frankenstein book for a year and a half, I still can’t do.
  4. And some of us do. I’m looking at you, Tolkien.
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in which I sign off for a time

Hello friends and mortal enemies alike.

First of all, can we talk about the new blog banner? I’m kind of in love with it. It was done by my lovely sister, the MT, and if you like it and/or want one of your own, you can like her page on the Facebook. She really captured my essence, don’t you think? Thoughtful with a hint of conniving. She even gave me Azula eyebrows. Love.

Anyways, to business. Things have been rather grand at Chateau de Lee lately. Grand, but busy, and not conducive to blogging. Some happenings of late:

My friend Rose Tyler and I stayed a week in a lighthouse on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine1. Marx and I bought not-so-spontaneous airline tickets to Switzerland for October. My new trivia team, Kiss Me Hardy, did moderately well last Monday. I found out I will be teaching a fiction workshop in the fall. Been reading lots, both in and out of work. Trying to maybe whip the tulip novel into something book shaped. Eating a lot of frozen yogurt now that the frozen yogurt shop across the street from me has reopened. Got new glasses. And a new coat. Which I can’t wear yet, because summer.

And then yesterday in the mail, I got a lovely package from my editor at HarperCollins containing my red-lined manuscript and essentially my last chance to make any big changes to my book before it is out of my hands. It makes me want to scream and cry and laugh all at the same time. Scraugh?

So from now until September second, my life belongs to this book and not to this blog, so don’t count on me being around much. Project: Bookshelf will continue as scheduled. In the meantime, you should visit the Fearless Fifteeners, my debut group of YA and MG authors with first novels coming out in 2015, and enter the super awesome end of summer giveaway we are hosting. You might just win a copy of Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein and a piece of steampunk jewelry from me. Or you know, other less awesome things.

Until we meet again.

  1. And did not get murdered, as much as this sounds like the start of every horror movie ever.
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in which a giveaway winner is selected, and my book appears on goodreads

So first and foremost, THE GIVEAWAY! We had one last week, and I didn’t get a chance to pick the winner on Friday like I promised because I was on an uninhabited island seven miles off the coast of Maine1 where wifi was a fallacy. And when I did have wifi at the lighthouse2, I used it up staring dreamily at Goodreads.

Why was I staring dreamily at Goodreads, you might ask? That’s because in a few seconds of spotty wifi on Thursday, I got a Tweet from my friend McKelle:

WHAT!?

Race to Goodreads. Wait five minutes for it to load. Get error message. Run to other part of the island and thrust phone in air searching for bars. Find tiny amount of service. Type title into the Goodreads search bar with trembling fingers. Wait. Wait. Wait. Curse slow wifi with everything in me.

And then…what’s that?

goodreads 2  Is it?! It sort of looks like it is….

goodreads 3IT IS! My book is on Goodreads!

GoodreadsYou might be surprised to hear that after signing a book deal, almost nothing feels different. You still struggle through revision and self doubt and anxiety and plot quagmires and feel like throwing your laptop across the room most days. You still don’t feel like a Real Writer, let alone one with a Real Book Deal. But every once in a while, you get a few glorious moments of feeling like you’ve made it. Like this is actually happening, and your writing is more than just you and your keyboard and the voices in your head. Someone else is going to read this thing you wrote.

Seeing the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement was the first of these moments for me. The Goodreads page was the second. And man was it exciting to see3.

So all of my wifi this week was used up by me petting the Goodreads page for my book.

But here we are now, and so the giveaway!

The winner of Something Strange and Deadly and Heir of Fire is….

ARIEL T!

Congratulations! I hope you love them both, and I will be contacting you soon with more information.

More Project: Bookshelf is coming at you on Friday, as well as another giveaway. Stay tuned.

  1. All of these things are true.
  2. Yes, really, lighthouse. We stayed in a lighthouse.
  3. Slash also terrified because I am terrified of Goodreads. Once actual copies of my book are in the world, I am never again going anywhere near it. I’m going to have to hire someone (probably 14) to manage my Goodreads. And by manage, I mean copy and paste all the positive reviews into an email and send it to me.
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in which your book deal questions are answered

It has now been two weeks since my book sold. One week since I announced it to the wide world. In that week since, I have been reminded that I have both the best people in my life and am part of the best community. So thank you to all you friends and strangers who were excited for me and made my big news impossibly bigger.

In the last week, I’ve discovered that people have a lot of the same questions after you tell them you just sold a book. So I decided to compile my answers all in one convenient place. A book deal FAQ, as it were.

Hopefully all your questions are answered here, and if not, leave them in comments!

 

What’s your book called?

Apparently a lot of people missed this. It’s called THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING. This title is subject to change, as all titles are, but for now, this is it’s name.

 

Can I buy it now?

I know, I want it right now too! But alas—it doesn’t come out until next fall (as in 2015).

 

Ugh why does it take so long?!

Funnily enough, my book is actually coming out really fast in terms of a typical publishing timeline. Right now at my publishing job, we are working on books that won’t come out until 2017. Publishing takes a long time. Books are made up of a lot of pieces and it takes a lot of time for all those pieces to come together.

 

Speaking of your day job, are you going to quit it?

Aw that’s cute. In spite of Suzanne Collins and JK Rowling setting examples otherwise, not all children’s authors are rolling in the dough. Someday I would love to quit my day job and write full time, but today is not that day, because Boston is expensive and student loans are building at my back and I have to support my Diet Coke habit. So no, I’m not quitting my job, both for monetary reasons and because I really like my job. Jobs. Both of them.

 

What’s the cover going to look like?

I have no idea! Authors really don’t have control over that. But all of Katherine Tegen’s books have such lovely covers, I can’t imagine it will be anything less than extraordinary.

 

Um, why are you not publishing under your real name?

I’ve been a little surprised by how many people have been shocked and affronted over my decision to publish under a different name than the one that appears on my driver’s license. Turns out my last name has a lot of passionate defenders.

So here’s the deal about this—first of all, Mackenzi Lee is my real name. It is just my real name with the last bit hacked off. As previously discussed, my last name is long and intimidating, and after focus grouping it for over twenty years, I’ve discovered that most people’s initial reaction to my last name is panic. And I don’t want people panicking when they see the cover of my book. It is also very important to me as an author to be easy to find, and while many of you might think my last name is lovely and charming, try spelling it out in the nonexistent Goodreads search engine feature after only briefly glancing at it or hearing it said once in passing. I promise you will end up just banging your fist on the keyboard. That’s sometimes what I end up doing. So the dissection of my name is something I have thought long and hard about. It is not a snap decision. It was not decided by my agent or my editor or my publisher. It is not a rejection of my cultural heritage. It is instead a deliberate and well-thought out choice on my part in order to make me more easily accessible to the people who might someday read my book.

 

Wait, what happened to that other book you wrote?

What a good memory you have! So last summer, when I signed with my agent, it was not with this book. Back then, this book was only a few confused chapters saved in my file of ideas that might never get written. So yes, I did write another book before this one. It was about glass making in nineteenth-century Venice, and while I loved it dearly, and my agent loved it dearly, and even some editors loved it, it did not get published, and after sending it out to publishers for quite a while, it became time to, in the words of Elsa, let it go. There are so many factors that go into what books get published—it’s not always just which books are best—and for various reasons, this book did not get picked up. Maybe someday I’ll dig it back out and try again, but for now, it’s being left behind. Am I sad about this? Yeah, I guess, a little, but I also couldn’t have written SHADOW BOYS without writing that other book first.

 

So what’s book two going to be about?

It amuses and amazes me how many people have asked this. I’m too excited about book one (which is already written) to even think about book two (which is not). I don’t know what book two will be about. While I am definitely anxious about writing it, because I am a writer and thus plagued by irrational anxiety that I will never have another good idea again, I was calmed by wise words of encouragement from my agent: writing book two is like that scene in Harry Potter 3, where Harry knows he can conjure the patronus because he’s already done it before. So I am trying to be confident in my ability to conjure another patronus!

 

Is the whole world different now that you have a book deal?

You know, it really isn’t. True, I’ve been doing a lot of out-of-context grinning and some spontaneous dancing over the past two weeks, and probably will keep doing that for the next year and a half, but my life isn’t really that different than it was pre-book deal. It’s funny how things can change and still stay the same.

Have any other book deal questions? Leave them in comments! 

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