Meet BookYArd member, Rin Chupeco!

2014 is set to be an amazing ear for most of us BookYArd authors. There’s a first of everything set to happen this year – first book being published, first experiences with interacting with readers, first steps toward fulfilling our dreams of becoming writers.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 14 firsts I’d like to share. With my first book, The Girl from the Well, due out in August, most of these are going to be – yup – rather ghost-centric.

First Book: The Ghost in the Cupboard

This was the first book I remember reading, and might have probably also influenced my love for horror books later on. Surprisingly, this wasn’t scary at all – it was about a young ghost who was living in a cupboard and decided one day to leave and explore the world, and who couldn’t understand why people were so frightened of him. (And now that I think about it, this book had more influence on the book I would eventually write than I first thought, because of my protagonist’s perception of herself as more than just a frightening ghost, though she looks the part.)

First Favorite Novel: Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

My first foray into the world of horror novels started out completely as an accident. I was six years old who’d been reading for a couple of years by then, but I was slowly growing tired of all the “kiddie-ish” books I’d been given so far. I was addicted to fairy tales at that stage however, and I suspected that the books lining the bookshelves in my parents’ room was my Mecca for all things potion-y and draconic.

In the end, I singled out a book with the picture of an odd-looking cat on the cover. The graveyard shown behind said cat had no impact on me – I figured it would be a nice story about a pet cat, because I recognized what ‘Pet’ meant, but not what ‘Sematary’ meant.

I’m not going to say I understood everything I read then, but I knew enough to recognize that this was a ghost story, and I was thrilled. Ghost Stories were still a grey area in the list of reading material I was allowed access to, and my childish mind delighted at reading what was to my way of thinking, a ‘banned book’. As I grew older, and learned to appreciate more of King’s nuances, I began reading more and more and more: Cujo, Carrie, The Stand, It, Christie. I was hooked.

 

First Favorite Horror Movie: Monster Squad

I will be completely honest here: I didn’t have as much experience with true horror movies back in my childhood the way I had with books. Asian horror wasn’t something that anyone had been able to introduce me to back then, since there was no one I knew then who loved it the way I loved horror books. As a result , I was treated to a lot of American-based horror movies, which I enjoyed but found lacking in some way: Jaws, Gremlins, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, It and almost every movie based on a Stephen King book, for obvious reasons. They had a lot of the gore, but not much on the scare.

Nevertheless, I came across this gem of a movie:

It isn’t exactly a true horror movie. In fact, it’s listed as a horror / comedy though I didn’t know it then. But I LOVED it. It was about a group of kids ganging up to defeat Dracula, the Werewolf, and a host of other undead to save the world. How can this not appeal to kids like me then, the ones who’d read so many books and watched so many things and wanted to be a heroine of her own? I must have watched this about fifty times.

 

First Favorite Actual Horror Movie: Ju-On

In 2002, this movie came out, and I fell in love.

Sure, Ringu had been making the rounds before it, but I wasn’t impressed. There were some good scenes, but nothing made me jump out of my seat – not even the climactic climb-out-of-the-television scene could assuage the borefest that came before it.

But Ju-On. Oh, lordy – Ju-On! You think she can’t get you while you’re hiding under your covers? You’re wrong. Think you’ll be safe by staying with a crowd? NOPE. Maybe they’re just a figment of your imagination? Half the time the characters don’t even see the ghost when they appear, but Kayako sure as hell makes sure the viewers do. Ju-On takes all the standard this-will-make-you-feel-safe tropes and tricks and then crap all over it. And the kicker? There is no cure for her. There is no hero to come save the day, no final girl. She will come at you until you die, and that is it. Here, my love for Asian horror began.

 

Favorite Ghost Story Book: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I love these books so much as a kid, and they’re still the treasures of my collection – and have you seen the illustrations? If it’s scary enough that someone’s tried to ban it countless times, you know it’s a good book.

 

Favorite Ghost Story Legend: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

I think it appealed to me as a kid because the alleged photo of the Brown Lady is the first documented picture I know where no one has been able to prove that it was a forgery. This idea was such a compelling one – I don’t do ghost hunting myself, but I do enjoy shows featuring them and I like the idea of superstitious beliefs meeting technology that attempts to explain them (I am guilty of watching Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Encounters, among many others).

Eight Other Things About Me, In the Hopes You Won’t Think I’m Just a Creepy Horror-loving Kid:

1. The first career I really wanted to have was as an archeologist. I LOVE dinosaurs. I could pronounce Tyrannosaurus Rex and Archaeopteryx at four years old, but it took me years to learn to say ‘parrot’ and ‘barbell’ correctly. I wanted to have a velociraptor for a pet back before it was cool to say you wanted a velociraptor for a pet.

I still love them, years later. Jurassic Park has and always will be my favorite movie – even if technically, some of the dinosaurs featured didn’t live during the Jurassic period.

2. On a similar note, I had an odd lisp as a kid, and couldn’t say my rr’s correctly. (I still have difficulty rolling the rr’s). It doesn’t help that my full name is Erin, which meant I constantly referred to myself as “Eween” without meaning to. (On the plus side, ‘Eween’ eventually became my user handle during my college Counterstrike FPS-playing days.)

3. Also related to the Counterstrike mention: I’m a self-professed girl gamer. I have played so many RPGs (the only reason I didn’t play Warcraft was because I couldn’t afford the subscription fees) and I have done Ultima Online, Ragnarok, Eve, Diablo, Guild Wars, and so many other things most of you have probably never heard of. Small anecdote: I was playing God of War during a Sony marketing event once, and a crowd had gathered to watch. I failed to notice a group of kids up front watching me play until I had…. violently beheaded (read: ripped the head off the body of) the sun god, Helios. The teachers were NOT happy with me, but everyone else thought it was hilarious. You can say I am not much of an Angry Birds fan.

I also love survival horror (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame) which can be pretty good inspirations for the squick.

waaah NOP

Also: comic book geek, specializing in Marvel.

4. I have been mistaken as a ghost several times, all through no fault of my own. My younger sister refuses to sleep in the same room as me because she claimed I literally slept (looking) like the dead, and I have scared a lot of people working in old office buildings where I also am at, especially because I pulled in a lot of overtimes and usually left after most of the lights were out. (I earned the nickname ‘Sadako’ this way.)

5. Unlike what some people might think, especially given the first half of this post, I actually don’t believe in ghosts. I was also never a goth kind of girl, although I’m pretty sure I looked the part. I acknowledge that ghosts could exist, but until enough evidence presents itself I’m not convinced. I like the idea of ghosts as a means we can use to explain the inexplicable, but I also understand human perception of their environment can sometimes play tricks on our brains. (People like Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are some of my personal heroes, which could explain a few things).

6. I identify myself as Chinese-Filipino (Chinese by ethnicity, and Filipino by birth and citizenship) but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I have some Spanish on my paternal grandmother’s side, some Thai and/or Malay on my maternal grandmother’s, but I’ve never really known the true ratio. My grandfather left China for the Philippines to escape the Cultural Revolution, and my paternal grandparents were never actually married. (My grandfather was actually married to someone else, and my grandmother was his mistress / concubine. I never really knew about the rest of his family, because he’d broken off all contact) My family history had always been murky (and reads like a convoluted Chinese period soap opera), though I’d always hoped to one day find out more about it.

7. I am also a big crime junkie. I love CSI shows (even when they’re not entirely accurate) and documentaries like Forensic Files, and almost everything in Crime and Investigation channel. I have books about murders and serial killers and criminal forensics – I think it’s mostly because I want to know how the criminal mind works, and I was very interested for a long time with criminal profiling. I think the idea of reading about these killers and learning about all the steps that led to capturing them and bringing them to justice had the most appeal to me. (I love Agatha Christie – I have all her 80 books – and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books too, so this might be another influence)

8. I was born and have spent pretty much all my life in the Philippines. It’s not as violent and as scary a place to live in as you might think, although I have been witness to a bus bombing and a couple of mall explosions. Driving is still a major cause of injury here, mostly because everyone treats the (sometimes contradicting) traffic laws as suggestions rather than actual rules. Manila is probably one of the ugliest, traffic-congested cities in Asia, but many other places outside of the city are so astonishingly beautiful – OUR BEACHES, GUYS.

Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

(image originally from here)

Panglao Island, Philippines

(image originally from here)

And my personal favorite: White Beach, BoracayIsland, Philippines during the off-season.

 

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Resetting My Writing Self: a Day in the Life of My Fishing Self

I have limited time to blog at the moment (you’ll soon find out why), so I’m re-posting this from my personal  website blog. But to freshen up the post, I’ll frame it with a new question:

What do you do to reset yourself?

I find that, as a writer, I need to do something different every once in a while to clear the clutter/excess words out of my brain. After I do this, the words come back stronger than ever.

Luckily, every year during the months of June and July, I get the chance to reset myself in the form of commercial fishing. If you didn’t know this already about me… yes, I commercial fish in remote Alaska, in Bristol Bay. I’m about to head out again on my yearly adventure. (I have some blog posts scheduled while I’m gone, but if I don’t respond to your comments, this is why.)

So, in case you ever wondered what goes on out there, here’s a “day-in-the-life-of” post for my fishing self, while my writing self is taking a break. See you in late July, recharged!

Going Fishing: A Day in the Life of a Fisherwoman

Pre-season (~June 1st-June 15th):

Hanging net in the fishermen's warehouse
Hanging net in the fishermen’s warehouse

This is the time we get our boat and nets and other miscellaneous odds and ends (like ourselves) ready to fish. It usually involves twelve hour work days, with activities such as boat painting, fiberglass work, engine maintenance, and net hanging. This is when my out-of-shape body whines a lot as I lift heavy things and bash it around all day.

Early season (June 15th-July 1st):

Fishing is pretty mellow at this time. The fishery managers/biologists start us out on one tide per day, usually around low tide and only lasting for about four to six hours. Sometimes we even skip days entirely. I’ll still probably be doing some work around the dock and hanging nets when we’re not fishing. And if we’re lucky, the weather will be lovely (it’s usually 40 degrees, blowing and raining), and we’ll throw a giant bonfire party on the beach that lasts throughout the night like the midnight sun.

Mending net on the boat
Mending net on the boat

Fishing itself involves unspooling our 900-foot drift net from the reel in the center of our boat out over the roller on the stern. We lay it out depending on the tide, wind, sandbars, where the fish are running, and where the fishing boundaries are. (You don’t want to cross those. The fishery is sustainably managed, and the managers take their job seriously. You drift over the line, and it’s a $3-6K ticket, plus a court date—that you have to fly to in the middle of the season in order to make.)

At this point, we catch anywhere from a couple hundred pounds to a couple thousand pounds on a good opener (though we had a freakish first day last year where we caught 13,000 pounds). And usually our openers are during the daylight hours, because the fish aren’t moving much at night (or moving much at all), so it’s pretty calm, fun fishing.

Beach bonfire!
Beach bonfire! It’s about 11 pm.

Peak of the season (July 2nd-July 15th):

Picking fish
Picking fish

This is where it gets a little crazy. The fish start pushing—hard—in huge balls or bands. The biologists freak out because they’re getting too many fish upriver (which could potentially crash the fishery), and suddenly we’re fishing two tides per day, which usually means eight hours at a time with only four hour breaks in between—at best. In those four hours, we often have to deliver our fish (which can take two hours on a busy opener), cook, eat, mend a giant hole torn in our net by who-knows-what, and sleep. Doesn’t leave much room for sleep.

Reeling in the fish
Reeling in the fish

And when it gets REALLY busy, there can be eighteen-hour-long openers, or the fishery can even be thrown wide open to 24/7 openers. And we’re usually not just twiddling our thumbs. There are so many fish in the water that we’re constantly picking them out of our net, resetting the net, and trying to squeeze in deliveries when our boat gets packed. Last year, we caught 16,000 pounds in a single net in two hours. That’s a hellofalotta fish to process—it took hours to get it all in the holds, and then our gunwales were only a few inches above the water. Then we had to deliver, which took three hours, during which time we ate a Cup of Noodles and a Snickers bar a piece (yes, healthy, I know—but there’s not always time for healthy)… and then we went right back at it for another eighteen hours. And then sixteen hours. And then twenty-four hours. I only had an hour-long nap per day for about five days, and you can get pretty darn crazy. Which for me usually means laughing maniacally or crying at the drop of a fish.

Going a little crazy. My deck mate is pretending he's Gollum and I'm... kissing a fish head?
Going a little crazy. My deck mate is pretending he’s Gollum and I’m… kissing a fish head?

My fingers also get so swollen I can hardly bend them, I have to slather them in Bag Balm to keep my skin from cracking, I get so coated in fish slime and scales that some even get stuck on my face for upwards of a week, my hair gets so gross I just tuck it under a hat and try to forget it exists…

…and yet I keep doing this every summer. Because I love it, for some insane reason. There’s just nothing like having your entire universe boiled down to catching your living, eating when you are starving, sleeping when you’re about to fall over from exhaustion. It resets my priorities like nothing else can. I feel so refreshed after a fishing season that I have my most productive months of writing (by far) afterwards. And there’s just nothing like standing on the deck of a boat at eleven at night with the sun still sparkling on the water, eagles soaring overhead, grizzlies stalking along the beach, seals cruising around the boat, and the occasional pods of belugas rolling in the surf off our stern. Nothing like it.

Sunset beauty

adriannestricklandAdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

The Science of Writing

My little brother just participated in the fifth-grade science fair. His topic was something about evolution. I’d give you more details, but I was slightly distracted by the fact that he used a photograph of me as part of his illustrated progression from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens. And that picture was NOT on the far right of the scale.

In high dudgeon, I turned to inspect the other fifth-graders’ projects. Humanity’s age-old questions were answered here, guys. “Why Are Volcanos Deadly?” one girl asked. “What Type of Steel Is Best for Bridges?” queried another.  A bespectacled boy presented a board entitled “Is There Dark Matter?”

My fifth-grade science fair experiment was called “Do Plants Grow Better with Water or with Coke?”

Given the obvious intellectual gap between us, I hope some of these scientists can be persuaded to take on my burning questions.

Are Writers More Productive in Sweatpants, or No Pants?

I would like to see a controlled experiment that would take into account quality, quantity, and number of panicky moments when the UPS guy unexpectedly arrives.

How Many Wikipedia Pages Can One Read Before One Realizes One’s Not Researching, Just Wasting Time?

I expect it’s a very high number, as I myself have not hit it.

How Many Awkward Constructions with “One” Can One Embrace Before One Just Uses “You” Already?

Hypothesis: many.

Does the Cactus on My Desk Grow Better with Water or No Water?

As I write, I often ponder this problem. Though not often enough to be shamed into trying the “water” option.

How Many Words a Minute Is It Possible to Type with Six Fingers?

Is anyone else cursed with this fate? I somehow learned to type properly with my left hand and chicken-peckingly with my right hand. Now I can’t change.

In Emails to One’s Agent, What is the Ideal Ratio of Exclamation Points to Periods?

If it’s not approximately 5:1, I’m doing something very, very wrong.

Why Does My Brother Think I’m a Neanderthal?

This question, I suspect, has no satisfactory answer.

Find Me at BEA!

This is a short post, but man, it is sweet. In just over one week (9 days to be exact) ARCs of my book baby will be out into the world!

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I’m really excited about this!! Neely and FMTD have been part of my life since 2010, and I can’t believe I finally get to share it with the world!

So, if you come to BEA, then find me.  My signing is Friday, 10am at the Spencer Hill Press Booth (Booth 2567). I’ll be the one smiling and sitting next to A.R. Kahler and his baby, MARTYR — which I want a copy of like whoa.

 

The Parent Trap

*Originally, this was a blog post I wrote in 2010. I think it’s still relevant today.

YA lit has a big problem with parents. For years, we’ve been told that YA readers don’t want to have parents in their books, but I never found that to be true as a reader or writer. Parents are a huge part in teenagers’ lives. They should be given a chance to mill around with the other characters in books. While giving a parent MC status probably wouldn’t be the best choice for a YA audience, they can certainly fill a second-tier character slot.

But it seems like when authors do try to tackle parents in YA, they fall into a few traps.

* parent are totally absent or just sort of “there” (either dead, otherwise undone, or simply off-camera)

*parents are bad (drugs, abuse, neglect, etc)

*parents are so insanely good and perfect it’s sickening and unrealistic (“Who wants milk & cookies?“)

When it comes to orphaning characters, some writers do it either as a way to deepen their MCs backstory or simply to get the MC on his/her own. And, let’s face it, a lot of kids don’t have their parents. I’m not one to argue much with the dead/absent parent(s) in YA because that was my experience as a teenager. I lost my dad at 17, my mom at 23. From the time I was very young, my mom worked three jobs, so I didn’t see her a whole lot and was forced into self-sufficiency. I had several friends who had lost their parents to death, divorce, or work during formative years, and, really, it was comforting in a way when we came across absent parents in the books we read. It let us know that there were kids like us, fending for ourselves–be it physically or emotionally.

I’ve seen publishing folks gripe, “OMG, stop orphaning your YA MCs!” But sometimes I think they forget the YA audience might take comfort in seeing someone like themselves, going through the same situation of loss. The emotions of loss don’t really get much sharper or alienating.

As far as bad parents are concerned, there’s nothing wrong with writing a girl who has an abusive stepfather or a mother who’s dangerous to be near. Parents can be crappy people. My mom had an open door policy at our house–no matter what time of night, if one of my friends was in trouble, they had a warm bed at our place without any questions asked. Sadly, that bed was occupied more than once.

And good parents don’t fare much better. Betty Crocker doesn’t live in most kids’ homes and seeing a character on page who has Betty Crocker in her house tends to get an automatic eyeroll. None of us had perfect parents. Our characters shouldn’t either.

So does where this lead us? Do we avoid parents? No, that’s that the answer. Kids usually have their parents around in some capacity. Parents can serve a story without being a cause of melodrama or a plot device that goes nowhere.

Rather than fall into the trap that parents have to be absent, good, or bad, however big or little their role is in your book, they should be fully developed. You have to remember that kids really are an extension of their parents–appearance, attitudes, quirks, etc. Sometimes kids rebel against the ways in which their parents are set, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Creating a well-rounded background, including parents, for your teenage MC will ultimately bring them to a more developed life.

Parents aren’t one dimensional. They have tempers. They screw up, sometimes a lot. They get sick. They die. They make cookies. They worry. They punish. They let their kids go off with their friends. They pray their kids make the right decisions. They’re unreasonable. They bail. They protect. They care in the best way they can. They explain a bit of where the MCs come from.

Most of all when writing parents, write them the same as you would any other character: with honesty.

~Sarah Bromley

Getting An Agent To Go To Prom With You

Finding the right agent is like scoring a date to prom. Let’s face it. It’s the event of the year. It’s the event of your writing LIFE. So let’s get it right.

1. Don’t settle. You can’t go with just anyone. You are finding your match. Any date (agent) isn’t better than no date (agent).

2. Avoid Matchy -matchy. Sometimes we look for someone who is like us. I’m nice, they’re nice. I’m in pink, they should be in a pink shirt. But contrasting is sexy. If I’m nice, maybe they’re tenacious. I’m in heels, they wear converse.

3. Courting is a long process. Give them time to consider your offer. And take time to consider theirs. This is the start of something long-term beautiful. Not a one-off.

4. Rejection is not about you, it’s about the match. You are smoking hot, but they are just not feeling it. Hold out for that meant-to-be feeling.

5. Take every opportunity to meet potential dates. Conferences, SCBWI mixers, pitch sessions, and online webinars (PLUG: I found my prom date/agent Barbara Poelle through a WritersDigest Online Webinar!)

Have fun at the prom!

Monica Ropal

WHEN YOU LEAVE will be published by Running Press in Spring 2015