Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars, Or Why I Finally Read a Book About Cancer (And Am So Glad I Did.)

Bon nuit, Mes Anges! Ooh, mixing it UP! That's because for once, I am actually blogging at night. And there are few things that can make me open my computer for Things That Are Not Twitter And/Or Celebrity Gossip Related.

Britney's conservatorship is up any day now, y'all. SHE COULD BE SHAVING HER HEAD AS WE SPEAK!

But today I finished reading John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and I wanted to talk about it, and hey, what is my blog if not a place to talk about anything that strikes my fancy? First off, let me say this: I do not read books about cancer. It's something of a rule of mine. No matter how brilliant said books may be, or how moving, I want nothing to do with them.

I SAID "brilliant" and "moving." SIT DOWN, SPARKS.

As I've talked about on the blog before, cancer killed my dad when I was 17. (Specifically, skin cancer so, for the love of Pete, kids, WEAR YOUR SUNBLOCK.) This, I think, makes cancer the Count Rugen to my Inigo Montoya.

Does this even really NEED the caption?

And as much as I'd love to slash cancer in the face and then stab it a whole bunch, it's a disease, not a person, so I can't. And when you live with cancer, have had it go off like a nuclear blast in the middle of your family, have had it steal someone you loved so very, very much, you have- I think understandably- Feelings RE: Cancer that are both strong and weird.

And I think my aversion to Books About Cancer is all tied up in those strong, weird feelings. Part of that is because when my dad died, lovely, well-meaning people gave me journals, knowing that I loved to write. And time and time again, they said, "One day, you'll write about this."

Sadly, none of the journals looked like this. Because that would've cheered me right on up, lemme tell you.

Even then, I flinched pretty hard at that. I knew what they meant, and I knew it was said with all the love in the world, but the idea of taking the experience of my dad's illness and death- something so devastating, but still weirdly joyous, something so complicated with every emotion under the sun- and then... I don't know, turning it into something for public just wasn't something I could ever- or will ever- do.

And, I mean, my dad got sick the summer before I started high school. He died the summer before my senior year of high school. The dates were 3 years and 2 weeks apart, which is why July remains something of a cursed month for my family. If I wrote that in a book, I'm sure an editor would be all, "UM, HEAVY-HANDED WITH THE SYMBOLISM MUCH, HAWKINS?"

But that's the thing. It wasn't a book, it was my life. And unlike a book, there's no easy answer, no magical moment when I looked up and saw a rainbow and thought, "Oh yes, my dad died, and that is sad, but life goes on, and so shall I." It was, and remains, a strange, twisty thing too complicated to sort out. Would I have still become a writer if my dad were still around? is that what pushed me into this ten years down the line? I know it made me a different person, but how?

I think, too, there's that weirdly possessive attitude we get when terrible things happen to us. Like, "How dare you write a book about cancer/a car accident/a national tragedy/a random bear attack/a Surprise!Mudslide if you didn't actually EXPERIENCE those things?"

Death By Surprise!Mudslide: An Actual Thing That Happens In This Movie.

And so when I see a book about cancer that seems particularly exploitative, or manipulative or whatever, I get even more, "Grrrr, CANCER BOOKS SMASH!" about the whole thing. Anyway, that's where I'm coming from as far as Books About Cancer are concerned. A lot of the time, they strike me as kind of cynical, the way certain movies can seem "Oscar Bait-y."

But even when I heard the premise of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, I still wanted to read it, canceriness aside, because I loved John Green's stuff, and I thought, "If ANYONE can make me read a book about f***ing CANCER and NOT make me want to throw/maim things, it is John Green."

So this week, I bought it. I read it in a day. And I'm so, so glad I did.

I think part of the reason I could do this particular book was because there was some distance for me. This wasn't about a kid dealing with a sick parent, but rather, two sick kids dealing with the truly sh*t hand fate had dealt them. And while I could go on and on about how much Augustus and Hazel touched me as characters (because they did. Seriously, I loved those kids so hard), the biggest thing that struck me was how much John Green got it. What it's really like to live with terminal illness every day.

Sure, it's an unwanted house guest, and you wish it would hurry up and GTFO every single day, but that doesn't mean there aren't beautiful things hidden away in its suitcase. It doesn't mean you don't still laugh and find joy in stuff.

That was the thing The Mama and I used to talk about with Daddy: it was like everyone thought we were living these sad, tragic lives in a House of Death or something, and yes, there were days when it was very hard to be us. But there were still jokes and memories that I wouldn't trade anything for.

(Which actually brings me to another Cancer PSA/Aside: We had a lot of people who were more wonderful than I can ever express when Daddy was sick. And we also had people who stopped coming by because it was, "too sad." Mes Anges, if someone you love is living with someone dying of can I put this delicately? Sack the eff up. I know it might make you sad. But let me guarantee you it is making THOSE PEOPLE DEALING WITH ACTUAL CANCER IN THEIR ACTUAL HOUSE a metric buttload sadder sometimes, and they might need you. Also, it'll be good for you. See below.)

The amazing thing is, there were still way more joyful days than sad ones. And I don't mean in the schmaltzy, Sparksian ways. We didn't, like, go on magical boat rides where we put wishes into bottles or whatever it is they do in those type of Cancer Books.

"What did you wish for, my love?"
"I...I...*sniff* I wished for more time."
"Seriously? Because I wished for a pony. But, um, a CANCER KILLING PONY."

Just the regular kind of happy days. Days like when my dad, who was in a wheelchair and had very slurred speech due to an aneurysm, had to show a photo ID for something. When the clerk said, eyebrows raised, "You have a driver's license?" Daddy looked him square in the face and drawled, "Yup. Scary, isn't it?"

Days when we made fun of The Waltons, which my dad watched obsessively. Days when we were just a regular family with a sadly not that irregular thing happening to us.

All this rambling is just to say that TFiOS captured that, and still managed to get across how grossly unfair cancer is. When Steve Jobs died, I said on Twitter that when cancer has taken someone you loved, you feel like everyone it takes was someone you loved. And look, I'm sure cancer has killed some real a-holes in its day, but doesn't it ALWAYS seem like it takes the best and brightest, the most loving and amazing of us?

And to take an experience that, for me, is something I'm still sorting out and processing 15 years later, and have me, the girl who will break out in hives at the THOUGHT of Cancer Books, tap the pages a think, "Yes. This is it. This is exactly what it's like"...well, that's something.

Of course, it also helps that the book is hilarious, and I probably laughed more than I cried, and at one point actually laughed WHILE crying, which was gross, but 100% worth it.

Which is why you should all read it.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that John Green is SO PSYCHED about my endorsement.

"Why, yes, I know that my book is popular. It just spent 2 weeks at #1 on the NYT list, but...who? Who said people should read it? Rachel Hawkins? not know who that is. Oh wait, is that the girl who writes Bulgarian pornography?"

Yes. Yes it is, John Green.

Until next time! XOXO!

Friday, January 20, 2012

In Which Our Heroine Finds Herself In a Compromising Position In The Cellar. Again.

Bonjour, Mes Anges!

So a few months back, the lovely YA Sisterhood had a HEROINE TOURNEY wherein people got to pick their favorite heroines from several YA books, and lo, an excellent time was had by all. What was especially lovely was how classy people kept things. I was a wee bit afraid it would turn into, "THIS GIRL IS BETTER THAN THAT GIRL BECAUSE THAT GIRL SUCKS AND HERE ARE ALL THE REASONS THAT IS SO!"

And that would've made me sad, as I am a Big Fan of Girls and all the ways in which they are awesome, and the last thing we need is more Girl-On-Girl Hate.


BUT. Everyone in the Heroine Tourney was THE BESTEST, and all the entries were about CELEBRATING the various fictional girls in the tourney as opposed to bashing them as the "competition."

In all, it was a lovely experience, and I'm so glad Mah Gurl Sophie got as far as she did!

Sophie was first up against LUNA LOVEGOOD who is only my FAVORITE LADY IN ALL OF HARRY POTTER, so I thought, "Well, that's it. I shall not get past the first round."

Which I was okay with since these two? My OTP. I don't care what the books say, they TOTALLY got married, and then they opened LOVEGOOD AND LONGBOTTOM, MAGICAL DETECTIVES, and BE HONEST, YOU WOULD READ THE HELL OUTTA THAT, WOULDN'T YOU?

So to keep it from being a total slaughter, I made PROMISES. Promises that I knew J.K. Rowling COULD NOT HERSELF MAKE.

J.K. Rowling is not even the littlest bit bothered by this.

Namely, I promised to write not one, but TWO extra scenes if Sophie won her round: One scene would be Sophie/Archer, and the other would be Sophie/Cal. I am Equal Opportunity in my shamelessness.

So today, I'm VERY pleased to bring you the FIRST of those promised scenes. This is Sophie/Archer, but Cal Fangirls, do not fret! He gets his turn next week.

Because I didn't want to give away any spoilers, this is a scene that takes place during HEX HALL. I figured those two had so much time in the cellar, there must be SOME extra story in there. And lo, there was. :)

Please to enjoy! And if you want to share, please link to this post as opposed to copy/pasting. Thanks!!

"In Which Our Heroine Finds Herself In a Compromising Position in the Cellar. Again."

“Well, this is...awkward.”

I glared at Archer as I once again tried to yank my hand free from his. “ 'Hey, Mercer! Let's try on these enchanted rings! I'm sure putting pieces of magical jewelery on is nothing less than a totally stellar idea! After all,-'” I broke off to blow a hunk of hair out of my eyes, “it's never ended badly for anyone before!”

Now it was Archer's turn to scowl. “Okay, I would like the record to show that that was a truly terrible impression of me. And secondly-,'” he made an attempt at wiggling his fingers, but they stayed laced in mine- “you didn't have to put one on. There was no peer pressure happening here.”

Sighing, I braced my foot on one of the lower shelves and tried once again to untangle my fingers from Archer's. Our hands stayed fixed together, but Archer stumbled forward, practically falling on top of me. Flustered, I pushed him back with my other hand even as he grinned.

“You know, Mercer-”

“Shut up.”

“You don't know what I was going to say.”

“Something snarky that's also vaguely suggestive?”

Archer mulled that over for a bit. “Actually...yeah. Nice one.”

I rolled my eyes. “Awesome. Does your brain have other uses besides crafting the perfect comeback? Anything in there about these rings or how me might break the spell?”

Rubbing his chin with his free hand, Archer said, “Nothing in my brain, but maybe something on the papers?”

Ah, yes. The papers.

We were supposed to be doing inventory in the cellar, so both of us had clipboards listing all the magical junk down here. Mine was on the shelf nearest the cellar steps, while Archer's was wedged between two glass jars on a shelf a few feet away. I was pretty sure I'd seen something about rings on my clipboard, so I moved toward the steps.

Unfortunately, Archer chose the same moment to go for his clipboard in the totally opposite direction.

Our magically joined hands pulled us up short, and once again, we stumbled into each other.

As my cheek collided with Archer's surprisingly solid chest, I got a whiff of laundry detergent. It was the same soap I used to wash my uniforms- Mrs. Casnoff was big on us not using magic for menial stuff, so we all had to do laundry like regular people- but somehow, on him, it smelled....different. Better.

“Whoa,” Archer said, catching my shoulder to steady me. For a moment, his hand lingered there and our eyes met. Archer's were so brown they could look black, and right now, his gaze seemed especially dark.

Clearing my throat, I stepped back as far as our hands would let me and nodded toward my clipboard. “I think I saw something about rings on my list.”

He was still watching me. “Hmm?”

I knew my cheeks were red, and his hand felt very hot in mine as I lifted it, waving our clasped hands together. “Rings? The ones we need to get off right now?” I looked away, like I was studying the silver bands really intently as I added, “Not sure how your girlfriend would feel about us being joined together for all eternity.”

I felt a little jolt go through Archer's arm. “Elodie,” he said, like he'd just remembered she existed.

“That's her name,” I agreed. I held out my free hand. “About this tall? Red hair, gorgeous? Evil in human form?”

Archer shot me a wry look and batted down my hand. “Okay, okay. So we'll go for your list.”

Together, we walked over to the shelf and Archer held the clipboard while I flipped through pages, scanning the inventory. “Rings, rings, rings...Fangs, no. Necklaces, close but not quite...ooh, apparently there are some bracelets in here that will make you the owner's prisoner for life, so the next time you go on a jewelery trying-on kick, let's try to avoid those...aha! Wedding rings, Matthew and Isabella Foster, witch and warlock, early 17th century.”

I looked up at Archer. We were wearing wedding rings. The thought filled me with a weird mix of conflicting emotions. Embarrassment, for sure. Somehow, the fact that these rings were wedding bands made this whole thing more awkward. But I also felt kind of...giddy.

They are rings, you moron, I told myself. Cold little pieces of metal that belonged to other people and have absolutely nothing to do with you and Archer. Please to get a grip.

“What kind of freaks would wear wedding rings that permanently joined their hands?” I asked, trying one last time to free my left hand from his. “I mean, I get that marriage is a binding thing, but this is just stupid.”

But Archer had his eyes closed, frowning in concentration. “No, I read something about those two. They're famous for...something.”

“Maybe for being co-dependent freaks?”

Archer didn't open his eyes, but his lips quirked. “That's probably part of it, but...right!” He snapped his fingers. “They were the ones who first introduced the whole betrothal thing.”

All witches and warlocks were betrothed sometime in their teenage years. The person your family picked for you was usually based on things like complimentary powers, but you didn't necessarily have to go through with a betrothal. Or at least that's what I was hoping, seeing as how Archer was pretty sure I was betrothed to someone, and I wasn't all that sold on the idea of marrying a stranger.

“So these rings...,” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“Weren't their wedding rings. They were used to help the Fosters make matches.”

I glanced down at our hands, still tangled up together, fingers laced. I had no idea what to say except, “Oh.”

I thought I felt Archer's grip tighten a little. “Apparently, the rings think we would be a good match.”

The words hung there in the air, joining us as surely as the little bands of silver. Finally, Archer made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh. “Which just goes to prove that these things have clearly broken.”

I laughed, too, both out of nervousness and relief. “Right. Apparently sitting on a shelf for three hundred years screwed up their magical matching mojo.”

Archer's fingers twitched in mine as he smiled at me. “God, can you imagine? Me and you, all...,” He waved his free hand, “coupled up?”

“Totally ridiculous,” I muttered, shaking my head.

“Insane,” he added, dropping his gaze to the rings. To our hands.

“The worst idea in all of Bad Idea Town.”

Archer's shoulders lifted a little, but he didn't laugh. Neither did I.

Just when I thought the silence might actually break me, Archer kind of shook himself and said, “Anyway, now that we know what they are, they should probably be pretty easy to get off.”

He raised our hands, pulling them close to his mouth. For a second, I thought he was going to kiss my hand, and I went a little dizzy. But instead, he spoke directly to the rings, his breath warm on my knuckles. “Um...hey, little guys? While we appreciate your efforts at matchmaking, this fair lady and I have no desire to be paired up. I am grateful you picked a girl who matches me in sarcasm,so nice job on that front. And I know she appreciates you finding her an incredibly hot stud such as my- ow!”

Rubbing the spot on his chest where I'd shoved him, Archer scowled at me and continued, “Anyway, Rings, thanks but no thanks. So if you could un-stick us now, that would be great.”

There was a barely audible hiss and the silver heated up. Archer's sucked in a breath through his teeth and I winced as the rings glowed hot. And then, just like that, our hands dropped free.

Archer shook his wrist while I cradled my hand to my chest, flexing my fingers.

“Well,” he said at last, flashing me a grin. “Yet another adventure to add to our long list of Weird Things That Have Happened To Us In The Cellar.”

There was a loud click from above us as The Vandy unlocked the door, signaling the end of Cellar Duty for tonight. I grabbed my clipboard with my left hand, hoping that might erase the feeling of Archer's palm still pressed against mine.

“That was the last one,” I told him as we headed up the stairs. “After that and the thing with the gloves, and that time you killed a pixie-,”

“It was already dead!” he insisted, but I ignored him.

“I am done having adventures in the cellar. The rest of the semester is going to be adventure-free.”

We were at the top of the stairs now, pausing in the doorway. Archer turned to me. He was still grinning, but there was something different in it now. Something that made my knees feel a little watery.

“Now that would be a disappointment,” he murmured.

And with that, he was gone.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Bonjour, Mes Anges!

As you can probably tell from the title, we are TWO MONTHS EXACTLY from SPELL BOUND coming out in stores! I am so excited! Are YOU excited? I hope so!

And if you've been with me from the beginning, then you know January is when things tend to start firing up RE: Sophie and Co. Soon I'll have tour dates to announce, and there may be another few fun surprise here and there. And I'LL be around here a lot more often, especially now that I have turned in BOTH BOOKS THAT WERE HANGING OVER MY HEAD.

This was how that felt.

As we get closer to Release Day, I'll be talking more about the book (and hey! If you get the DEMONGLASS paperback on February 7th, you can read the first chapter! Woo hoo!)

Today, though, while we ARE getting closer, we're still a ways out, so I am going be a TEASE. Instead of talking about the book, I'm going to give you some pictures. All of these pics are saved in my "Spell Bound Inspiration Folder," and each and every one plays SOME part in the plot. Happy speculating! ;)