Gina Damico's Blog
March 14, 2014
The most delightful statistic that my blog offers me is that of search engine terms, a.k.a. the anonymous words and phrases that people google to find this here blog. Most of them are pertinent, some are a little annoying (if you are looking to read my books for free, might I suggest a library?), and some are riddled with spelling errors, but the best are the ones that can double as killer band names, and it is those that I will be sharing with you lucky folks today.
So here’s the lineup for the Search Engine Music Festival, coming soon to muddy field near you:
DESPERATE 12-YEAR-OLD BOYS
BUNG HOLE CAPS
PHIL AND BANANA PUDDING
HAMSTER WEARING A SOMBRERO
IS PERFECT POLLY THE SICKEST BIRD
“THE CHEESE COSTUME”
YUO ARE A REALLY GREAT AUNT
ALPACA HANGINGS AND WALL BLANKETS BY PERV
with special guest:
March 11, 2014
As I’ve written about before, I am a big fan of making my manuscripts as visual as possible, and I like to do so by any means necessary, including index cards, calendars, highlighters, and a variety of other techniques and office supplies. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of performing my books via the magic of puppet theater, but at the rate I’m going it’ll soon be on the horizon. I better start saving socks.
I urge you, in your own visualizing pursuits, to use any and all resources that are at your disposal. Do you have a wall? Tape notes on it. Do you have a floor? Tile it with your outline. Do you have a cat? Crumple up your plot points and have him bat them around, then put them into the order he sees fit. Alternatively, you may fold the plot points into a sailor cat hat and make him wear it, but this would be more for your own amusement than for any actual writing benefit.
Furniture is a big help too. Namely, big dining room tables. When I was working on the draft of Hellhole, I needed a way to visualize the entire–and I mean entire–story, because I had to figure out where the chapter breaks needed to go. (This is because I needed a very specific number of chapters, which admittedly is an odd thing to need. You’ll see why when you read it.) So I printed up the whole manuscript in a tiny, tiny font (I think it was size 4) and removed all page breaks, leaving only a couple of hard returns between each scene and highlighting those blank spaces to make them easier to see. This left me with one big, continuous story, which I spread out across my dining room table like a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast.
Sans gravy. No gravy boats near the manuscript, please.
You know what happens next, right? Say it with me: time to break out the board game pieces!
Okay, that may not have been your next logical step. But as anyone who knows me or has read the Croak books can surmise (ahem, Ferbusopoly), I have a ton of board games. So I grabbed a bunch of tokens out of whichever one was closest and began strategically placing them at the proper intervals. In this way I was able to play around with various pacing choices and cliffhanger moments without all that pesky cutting and pasting and ripping of the hair out of the head when Word decides to do whatever it damn well feels like.
And there you have it – evenly paced chapters (roughly speaking), and exactly the number I wanted. Your needs will vary, of course, but the beauty of this technique is that it’s infinitely adaptable, and without all the frustration and eye strain involved in staring at a screen.
Not that staring at a screen is a bad thing. It’s what I do 95% of the time. (And before anyone suggests I abandon Word for Scrivener, I did try that once. It wasn’t for me. But if you are one of the many people who love it, go you.) There is something exciting, however, about standing up, moving around, and physically manhandling your work. Papercuts aside, I always get something positive out of this endeavor. Maybe I had no idea that one scene was droning on and on until I saw it side-by-side with another scene, one that’s younger and hipper and more succinct. Or I suddenly noticed that a certain character hadn’t shown up since way back at the upper left hand corner of the table. Those sorts of things.
Once you’ve got all your chapter ducks in a row, mark everything up and transfer it back into your old glowing screen buddy. Then simply add a dog, and you’re done!
March 7, 2014
First off, congratulations to the winner of last month’s giveaway, a Valentine’s Day edition of ROGUE: Shaun V.!
What we’ve gathered by now is that I enjoy defacing my books and giving them to people as if doodled nonsense is something they might actually desire, so let’s get a little crazier this time. In honor of March 14th, which we all know is Pi Day, I will be giving away a special pie-tastic edition of ROGUE. On pages 3, 14, 159, 265, 35, 89, and so on until I get bored, I will replace a word with “pie”. The result will look a little something like this:
Good God, no!
To enter to win this one-of-a-kind volume of math and deliciousness, fill out the form below. Good luck pie!
Contest closes at noon EST on March 28, 2014. Winner will be chosen at random. Open to US addresses only (here’s why). One entry per person, please. Your email address will be used solely for purposes of this giveaway; you will not be added to any mailing lists. Thanks for entering!
February 27, 2014
Here it is, folks: the cover of HELLHOLE, followed by the summary:
Meet the houseguest from hell!
Geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore only has one dirty habit: digging for fossils. One day, to his horror, his shovel strikes not upon a dinosaur bone, but a pit to hell—and out of it comes a devil. Specifically, the kind of devil who eats a lot of junk food, watches a lot of reality television, plays a lot of video games, and refuses to leave Max’s basement. But evil is still evil, no matter what form it takes. And Max has to find a way to comply with the demands of the big red menace, lest he lay waste to everyone and everything Max cares about.
With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max goes in search of a new abode for his unwanted guest. Finding a place where he can reside in luciferian luxury isn’t easy, but Max has strong motivation: his mother, whose terminal illness the devil promises to cure if Max gives him what he wants. Lore has her doubts about making a deal with the devil, but Max will stop at nothing to save his mom. And pretty soon, he’s doing things the good kid he once was would never dream of doing. Clearly, hanging around with a devil is a bad influence. But how can Max get rid of the guy without incurring the wrath of hell?
Coming January 6, 2015, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
And if you’d like the chance to win a signed ARC, head on over to the always-fabulous YA Books Central, where they are graciously hosting a cover reveal and running a giveaway. Good luck!
February 26, 2014
When the winter finally thaws, I will be emerging from my ice cave to make a few public appearances. You should attend, if only to make sure that it’s really me and not some horrible snow monster. OR WILL I BE BOTH?
NYC Teen Author Festival
This runs from March 17-23 (check out their website for the full schedule) but I will only be there during the weekend. Free and open to the public!
•Literary Matchmaking panel
What this is, exactly, will be a surprise – you’ll have to come see it to enjoy the hilarity.
Saturday, March 22
42nd St. New York Public Library, Berger Forum
•No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder
Wherein I and a billion other authors will sign copies of books for you.
Sunday, March 23
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th St.
CNY Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference
I will be speaking at the opening of the conference, and then running a breakout session later in the day. Visit the website for the full schedule.
Saturday, April 5
$50 for SCBWI members, $60 for non-members
Christ Community Church
3474 Stiles Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13209
Teen Author Festival
Meet all of your favorite or soon-to-be-favorite authors, attend author presentations and a special autographing session, hang out with your friends and other teens who like reading, and buy TBF merchandise on sale throughout the day. For the full schedule, visit the website.
Saturday, May 17
8:45am – 5:00pm
Nazareth College, Shults Center
4245 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618
Free and open to the public
February 18, 2014
Good question, nameless Romanian fan. The short answer is: it’s not because I hate you.
I frequently get this question from readers around the world who are cranky and hurt that they are not eligible to win prizes when I run contests and giveaway, as there will usually be a caveat that the giveaway is open to US residents only. And guys, I feel your pain. It hurts me too, especially if it makes you feel insulted or alienated or blown off.
So know this: the whole shipping decision is based purely on logistics, and nothing more. It does not stem from some wild loathing of international readers. I love international readers. Every time I get a piece of fan mail from across the pond (or from Canada, via mail goose), it warms my worldly heart. I even stage a little ceremony wherein I put the mail on a pedestal and raise that country’s flag in the background while humming its national anthem.
….It’s possible I’m confusing my sad free time with the Olympics. But I’m going somewhere with this, so let us proceed.
I would love to be able to ship giveaway prizes to Canada and Brazil and the moon, but monetarily speaking, I can’t. It’s damn expensive to ship internationally. You may think that authors write their books from atop a pile of money, but I can assure you that that is not the case (which is a good thing, because coins are slippery and I have an unreliable sense of balance). A small amount of my writerly income is set aside for promotional efforts, and since it has to be budgeted and used wisely, the result is that there’s not always enough left over for exorbitant shipping costs.
However! You’ll notice that in the above sentences I have used words like “not always” and “usually”. This is because I sometimes do ship internationally, like in the giveaway I ran last month. So I basically aim for a mix. 75% of the time I ship only US, so that I don’t go broke, and the other 25% I ship everywhere, so that no one gets left out completely. Does that sound fair? Are we cool now?
Good. Let me hum your national anthem whilst we embrace.
February 14, 2014
Here’s my only good Valentine’s Day story.
I met my husband during my freshman year of college. (He was a senior. Scandal!) For our first Valentine’s Day together, we decided to go out for dinner in the North End, which is Boston’s equivalent of Little Italy. Since I can basically be placed in front of a trough of Italian food and not stop eating until someone tears me away, and since I also did not care if my new boyfriend of three months saw me in such a state because hey, better get the ugly stuff out of the way early–I was excited.
I was also, however, battling a sore throat at the time. Not that I was about to let a little strep get in between me and my chicken parm, but it hurt enough that I decided to go to the infirmary to get some meds. This was my first mistake.
I’m allergic to penicillin, which means that the doctors who are unfortunate enough to have me as a patient are forced to get creative if they ever want me to leave their office. This leads to prescriptions that are often handed off with a “Well, let’s, uh…see how this works!” Luckily, I handle most drugs pretty well, but every once in a while I get one that decides to go all Pat Sajak on me and play a round of Wheel of Side Effects. (WHEEL! OF! SIDE EFFECTS!) This leads to such fun encounters as the one involving a panicked me, a strange toad-skin-like rash, and a flummoxed, horrified doctor saying, “Okay…you wait right here and don’t touch anything. I need to go check the book.” But that’s another story for another time.
(Side note, though: what book did she consult? The Unabridged Encyclopedia Of Horrible Skin Rashes? The Big Book of Illustrated Plagues?)
So I got some meds from the infirmary, ignoring the suspicious fact that they were in a stapled-shut paper envelope, and there were like fifty of them. (Maybe what I thought was the infirmary was in fact some sketchy kid’s dorm room?) I took the prescribed dosage and went about my day.
Cut to that evening. I had become quite, quite nauseated. But then again…was I? You ever get that feeling where you’re pretty sure you’re about ten seconds away from throwing up…but then again, it might just be that you’re starving? I couldn’t tell. But with a potential metric ton of mozzarella danging over my head, I decided to be starving, and off to the North End we went. This was my second mistake.
As expected, I ate everything the restaurant had to offer. (I think Will enjoyed himself too, but I did not take much notice of him. The meatballs alone required my undivided attention.) Happy, full, and no longer feeling barfy, we left the restaurant and walked to the car.
We got in the car.
We drove about ten feet.
I said something that must have sounded enough like “Pull over” to actually get Will to pull over.
I opened the car door.
And as fluffy snow drifted all around us and happy couples walked arm-in-arm down the sidewalk, happy in their Valentine’s Day bliss, I puked up every bit of that delicious Italian dinner into the gutter.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
February 10, 2014
It’s that time again. I’ve spent the past few days going over copyedits for Hellhole, and with them came the style sheet, which is a list of words that I’ve put in the manuscript that are either unusual, slang, weird proper nouns, or words that aren’t quite words but are word-like enough that they have been allowed entrance into the book. These lists function not only as a nice window into my brain hole, but also as a teaser for my readers, so that they may catch a glimpse of what kind of shenanigans the characters will be getting into, and what wacky new swear words they will be inventing. Enjoy!
Secret Project #17
February 4, 2014
First off – congrats to Mina G., winner of last month’s giveaway of the Polish edition of Croak! Gratulacje!
This time around, I’ll be giving away a copy of Rogue. But first, I will deface it with doodles. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I will be drawing little hearts around every instance of the word “love” in the book, like this:
What’s that? You’re not a fan of Valentine’s Day, or of love, or of any sort of peace and goodwill toward your fellow man at all? Well, then I’ll also draw EVIL EYEBROWS over every instance of the word “hate”, like this:
To enter to win this one-of-a-kind, mood-swing-filled, doodled nonsense, fill out the form below. Good luck!
Giveaway closes at 11:59pm EST on March 3, 2014. Open to US residents only. One entry per person, please. Email entered will be used solely for contest purposes; you will not be added to any mailing lists. Thanks for entering and good luck!
January 31, 2014
If you are a loyal reader of this blog (hello to both of you!), you may have noticed that the Sharky Awards have taken a bit of a vacation. (For the uninitiated, the Sharky Awards are a series of pointless awards that I give out to the books I read.) There was no real reason for their departure, but rather the combination of a few whiny thoughts I’d been starting to have about them, namely: a) I found it hard to assign awards to books that I wasn’t that passionate about, b) I got insanely busy for a while there and read only one or two books a month, as opposed to several, c) some books, such as books I was reading for research, wouldn’t have fit in with the typical fiction that I read, and d) I got lazy. Because sometimes I get lazy.
But I think I’ve figured out a way to bring them back without coming up against any of these problems (except for the lazy one, which let’s be honest, will always exist). So from now on, instead of being reserved for books I’ve read over the past month, Sharkys will be awarded to any sort of art I’ve consumed over the past month — books, television, movies, music, theater, Puppy Bowls, etc. –that I have in some way enjoyed and want to share. They’ll be more fun for me to write, and they’ll be more fun for you to read, if “fun” is how you would describe reading about some author’s pop culture life choices.
Since I haven’t given out a Sharky since last March I was tempted to pick things that I’d experienced over the past year, but due to sheer volume I think I’ll just stick to this January. Consider April 2013 through December 2013 THE LOST MONTHS. (Here’s a summary: I watched the last season of Breaking Bad, a lot of Rifftrax, and read Anna Karenina, which took damn near a month.)
So here we go!
Most Ingenious Method of Hiding A Secret Code Via Fiber Arts
The embroidery cipher in Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
I don’t know why Bitterblue sat on my shelf for so long – I read Graceling ages ago and loved it, but I sometimes have this problem where when I own a book, I’m less likely to read it than one that I’ve gotten from the library, because PRESSURE! DUE DATES! But joke’s on me, because this book had codes and hidden messages and mazes, which are all things that I like very much. So you can imagine my delight when two of my favorite things–ciphers and crafts–came together at last, in a coded message that Bitterblue finds hidden in embroidered symbols on a set of bedsheets. Ingenious. And impossible for me to ever duplicate–any embroidery I attempt always turns out looking like a spool of thread threw up all over itself.
Best Host of Anything, Ever
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I’m just gonna say it. If I got selected as a tribute and won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Capitol, I’d blow off all my training (because we all know I’d bite it about five seconds after the starting horn no matter how many laser-people I nicked at the archery station) and do nothing but eat those crazy fancy desserts and watch Caesar Flickerman ALL DAMN DAY LONG. Those teeth. That hair. The callous disregard for human life. Simply breathtaking. The man is pure genius, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for Stanley Tucci to come move into my house and narrate my life from now on, do you?
Cheftestant I Most Want To Befriend
Stephanie Cmar, from Top Chef
It seems that every season on Top Chef, I make a new imaginary BFF. This season, it’s Stephanie, an awkward, lovable weirdo who says things like “my sweet Emeril” and is alarmingly obsessed with Chef John Besh’s hair. AND she lives in Boston, which means that at any time we could conceivably run into each other (literally–it seems we’re both the kind of people who stumble through life without looking where we’re going), strike up a charming conversation about Tom Colicchio’s shiny bald head wax, and then she decides to give me free fancy chef food for life because we are the bestest of pals now.
Best Thing To Put In My Mouth
Snyder’s of Hanover Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips
Yeah, I know snacks don’t really count as art, but to me they kind of are so let’s just go with it. Will went away last weekend on his annual “guy friends get together to play video games and talk about fantasy sports and stuff” trip (I suspect there were a fair amount of pillow fights as well) and he came back with a bag of these, intimidatingly called “The Pounder”. I normally eschew Snyder’s of Hanover because I don’t like pretzels (that’s right, I don’t like pretzels. What of it?) but man, these things are tasty. I plan on eating all of them during the Professional Butt-Patting Competition this Sunday.
Best Office-Supply-Related Gift
A pencil, hand-sharpened by David Rees
My sister, knowing well that I am a dorkface, got me an awesome gift to celebrate the release of Rogue (ain’t that nice?) and one that I really got way more excited about than any person of sound mind should: a sharpened pencil. Ahhhh! David Rees wrote this book, see, How To Sharpen Pencils, which is an impressive compendium on everything might ever need to know about, uh, sharpening pencils. It’s one of those delightfully ambiguous things that starts out very serious and gets more absurd and hilarious as you go, which I just eat up like chocolate cake. I mean, there is an entire chapter detailing how to break into someone’s house and demolish their electric pencil sharpener. I’ve learned so much.
And David Rees does, in fact, practice what he preaches–for a small fee he will sharpen a pencil for you, and even include a signed and dated certificate to commemorate the occasion. This is what my sister got me, and if you’ve never seen a grown woman going ballistic over receiving a writing utensil, well, I’m sorry I didn’t film it for you.