What I Did at Bookcon 2018

Happy Friday, everyone!

So this month I had the chance to go to Bookcon in NYC. Frankly, this is a con I wanted to attend for the past five years, but I never had anyone to go with and I’m kind of terrified of the city and public transportation (you know, things I didn’t grow up with, since I spent my childhood in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania). But this year was different. I finally have an author friend, Ann Dayleview, to do these events with, and she is so much braver (and more city-saavy!) than I am!

Ann and I taking selfies surrounded by books. Heaven!

She is a wonderful, wonderful person who just got her agent (!), and you should definitely check her out on her website, Ann’s View (don’t mind the wonky look right now… she is in the process of updating). She has so many helpful tools there!

But I digress.

So Ann arrived at my house late Friday night, we looked up the train schedule, and then we woke up super early (all the sleepies) to make it to the train station in Jersey early. And then drove to the next one farther north, since parking was a mess in Trenton.

And so the adventure began. And I really should have taken more pictures.

So we caught the train and made it to a few blocks away from the Javitts Center. And we started to see the people. Our people! Book people! They were everywhere! It was glorious and exciting. What an adventure! We stopped on our way for delicious, delicious toasted bagels and coffee (hint: if you go to NYC, avoid the touristy places… the small corner stores are where it’s AT!), and then checked in at the Con to get our badges and enjoy everything they had to offer.

And wow, was there a lot!

We spent tons of time meeting people, like Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian (who had a photo opp and ice cream on the main show floor… they were so happy and so pleasant!):

Oh. My. Word.

We went to a ton of panels, such as this one with Holly Black, Neal Shusterman, and Charlaine Harris, dealing with dangerous characters and dangerous themes in fantasy:

Oh the power names. Also Charlaine Harris is such a sweetheart. And now I really want to read Neal’s book Dry.

And we got a special sneak peak of the new The Darkest Minds movie in a panel with Alex Bracken herself (who I got to meet later on the show floor) and Amandla Stenberg:

Be still my heart.

And so. Much. Swag. Seriously, I went home with a bunch of books, samplers, book-themed items like jewelry and totes, and all the pins. Most of that was free!

We spent two days going to the panels, playing games, meeting people, and exploring the booths on the show floor. And let me tell you: it was one of the best cons of my life. I’m so glad I faced my fear (I almost declined the invitation because of the city and number of people) and went to this event. I have finally kicked Bookcon off my bucket list, and I’m sure I’ll be back.

Did any of you go to Bookcon this year? Tell me your favorite part! For those of you who couldn’t attend, do you think you ever will? Do you even want to? Talk to me in the comments!

What I’m Reading: Mid-2018 Update

This year, my reading goal was simply to read one book per week. As of June 8, I am 9 books ahead of that schedule at 31 books read since January. So I think it’s time to review my top and bottom picks! A note: I didn’t hate anything I read so far this year. A few I didn’t enjoy as much as others, but most of the books I really had fun reading!

Currently Reading (some more than others):

Favorite book of the year so far: The Fireman by Joe Hill

Okay, so I read a lot of really good books so far. But I was so fantastically impressed with this post-apocalyptic-feeling sci-fi that I actually shared it with my sister only a few chapters in! Imagine a world where anyone can be infected by a fungus that makes you burst into flames spontaneously. What an exciting and unique premise! And it’s so well done (no pun intended, but HA) I couldn’t put it down.

Least favorite: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Again, most of the books I read this year I really enjoyed. But this one, though it was well done, I just couldn’t get into. I found it a little dull. It just wasn’t for me. But I did learn a bunch from it, which is the beauty of reading non-fiction sometimes. And I did really also like Devil in the White City by the same author, so it was probably just the subject matter.

Honorable Mentions (in order of reading): the books I also really really enjoyed!

  • One Salt Sea (October Daye #5) by Seanan McGuire (I love her)
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Oh my goodness, adorable!)
  • Hushed by Joanne Macgregor (Gorgeous cover, fun fluffy read!)
  • Born of Aether (Elemental Origins #4) by A. L. Knorr (such an awesome series!)
  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (the audiobook was fantastic!)
  • Transcendent (The Kacy Chronicles #4) by A. L. Knorr (love this author)
  • How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather (spooky and gripping… would have been good for Halloween!)
  • Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by a bunch of authors (beautiful art, intriguing world)
  • Etched in Bone (The Others #5) by Anne Bishop (one of my all-time fav series)
  • Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (so good)
  • The Elementals (Technically #6 in the Elemental Origins) by A. L. Knorr (told you I loved this author)

Other books I read this year:

So that’s that! What have you been reading? What are your favorite and least favorite reads this year? Tell me below!

Thoughts on #cockygate and Internet Mentality

As writers, there are things we know we shouldn’t do. Don’t comment on reviews. Don’t even read reviews. Don’t engage with the haters. But did you ever think “don’t trademark a common word in your genre and threaten other authors with it” would be on that list?

I hesitated before writing this post. I never want to be political or controversial here (unless it relates to my feelings of a particular book… and even then, I don’t do author/book bashing). But there have been some things happening, and I think it may be time to say a few words about it. So here it is. #cockygate: a Cautionary Tale.

For those of you not on Twitter or following along in the romance publishing industry (an industry a bit outside my current ideal genres for both reading and writing… hey, I’m a fantasy girl!), there is a bit of a scandal going on regarding the filing of a trademark. This isn’t anything secret or new; in fact it’s up all over the internet, so I will give you a rundown: romance author Faleena Hopkins filed a trademark of the work “cocky” at the beginning of May, and a crapstorm of crazy followed. There were cease & desist letters sent to authors with the word “cocky” in their titles, furious tweets and rants about the logistics and legality of the trademark, and every possible kind of reaction you could expect. If you want to see the gore, the hashtags I’ve noticed are #cockygate and #byefaleena. But brace yourselves.

I’ll be the first to admit, when I heard about it, my initial reaction was 1) incredulity and 2) outrage. I mean, how can one author be that “cocky” (I’m sorry for the pun, but it’s right there!) to think she can own a word like that, to take it away from anyone else who wants to use it? Beyond that, I was seeing tweets about how reviewers’ reviews were being deleted for using the word “cocky.” And I was a little offended when she actually said that she was building a brand while other authors had one book… um, what does she think being an author is??? (PS: your NAME is your brand, and everything you publish builds it) But I wanted to know what was really going on. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know the motivation. Was it really as bad as I was hearing? What was going on? Who was this person? So, I went hunting for information. First, a Vox article summed it up (albeit in a pretty biased manner), a few people sent me articles, I found a video summary, then I looked to Faleena Hopkins on her blog and in a video she herself posted (if you really want to watch her almost-two-hour rant, I’m sure you can find it).

Here’s what I found (as unbiased as I can make it sound): C&D letters were sent to indie authors who had to rebrand and replace a bunch of their promotional book materials; the trademark was filed because Faleena believed people were using her “cocky” titles to copycat her work (thus boosting their own sales and confusing readers); Faleena felt that trademarking was how she had to protect her books/readers; it might be an overreaching of trademark, and many authors feel offended and attacked; Faleena now has a ton of hate and bad publicity (like, she basically destroyed her author brand); she made things a million times worse every time she tried to respond to the response she was getting; there are a lot of hurt feelings.

So here’s the thing. I don’t know what the truth is. I don’t know if she truly felt she was protecting her readers or if she is just trying to calm the crapstorm now. Personally, I don’t agree with filing the trademark, and I believe she did irreparable harm to herself and fellow authors. And personally, even though she sounds like maybe she regrets it, I think that may only be because she destroyed her career. I mean, her video kind of says a lot (too much for her own good), and even in her blog post “to her past self,” she is still pointing fingers and naming names for people she believes are at fault more than she is. She is trying to call herself a victim for circumstances she created.

We are never going to know the truth for sure. But I think there is still an important lesson to be learned in all of this. First and foremost, as an author, we must pay attention to our public presences. We are professionals, and it is critical that we act like it. That includes not alienating our peers and potential partners in this business. We need allies. We are allies. And I think this is why so many people were offended… she crossed the line of solidarity. When we spend so much of our time alone, we need partners who understand, who are sympathetic, who can build us up and make us better. In my experience, authors and writers are some of the most helpful people I’ve ever met. Some of the most supportive. So when something like this happens, it is personally insulting.

And if you’re a writer thinking of doing something huge and drastic and career-altering, take some time (and maybe talk to a few people) to think through what the fallout may be. Not all publicity is good publicity, and it’s so easy these days, in the age of the internet, to do irreparable harm to your reputation (if you want to read about how this #cockygate thing is bad branding, read this article a friend sent me). The internet mentality, that idea that if we’re behind a screen we’re safe from the consequences of our actions, can mean we do stupid things.

And when we do screw up? I think people would be a lot more lenient if we just apologize and let it go. The internet is a harsh mistress. We need to be willing to not only stand up for ourselves but also (and this is more difficult) admit when we’re wrong and do what we can to make amends.

So before you hit “publish” on that scathing blog post, before you respond to that one-star review, before you publish a two-hour video showing you to be an arrogant, hateful person (even if that isn’t true), just stop. Set it aside. Look at it later. Better yet, have a trusted friend read it and help you decide if it’s really a good idea. Don’t engage with the bad reviews. Don’t respond to hate. Don’t publish anything or talk publicly when you’re worked up, angry, or upset. That only leads to heartache and regret. Make yourself someone worthy of your audience’s respect. How you present your public face can sink your career… or make it rise to the top.

I’m not going to tell you what to believe here. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about it. I will kindly ask, however, that as authors, we do everything we can to stay professional and stay allies. We should all be in this together.


Don’t Stop Dreaming.

The writer life can be hard.

“Duh, Selina. We’re writers. We know.”

Okay, I know you know. And I’ve definitely talked about it a bit before in a post all about discouragement as a writer. But let’s forget all that for a minute and talk again.

Last year, I called it quits on querying my now-on-Wattpad novel This Cursed Flame. It was a really hard decision, but ultimately, I made it for a lot of reasons. The time wasn’t right to find an agent for that book. And in the time since then, I’ve poured my energy and the time I had into my next book, Foxfire, which is finally in draft 3 and in the hands of a critique partner and beta readers. This is the next book I can’t wait to query.

But in the meantime, it feels like my writing career is stagnant. I feel like my dream is impossible. I feel like I will never accomplish my writing goals. I feel like I should give up, I feel unfulfilled in my day job, I feel like a failure. All because I’m not querying right now.

How silly is that? My first book wasn’t right for the current market, and I don’t have anything else ready, so obviously that means I’m a failure as a writer.

It is so easy to fall into these traps, especially in the early days, when the writing and publishing industry still haven’t accepted you into their ranks as a Published Author. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember that you’re doing everything you can, that you haven’t given up, that you are creating something great and making it the best version of itself that you can make it.

So shove that little failure demon back in his hole. You’re not failing. I’m not failing. We’re not failing. And in the meantime, don’t let this feeling keep you from dreaming.

Your turn: Can you relate? Do you have other big writing demons on your back? Tell me about them! How do you deal with it?