Posted in Uncategorized

Sassy Summer Book Party!

A few days ago I was a guest on the Dragon Blog, which is hosted by the Sassy Sisters Melissa A. Petreshock (author of NA fantasy romance Fire of Stars and Dragons) and writer Jennifer Streck. Today I can tell you about their:

Sassy Summer Book Party!

The Cosmic Cloud Called Orion Nebula

I’m one of SIXTY-ONE authors who’s partying in the digital realm and donating a book. Whether you love YA, NA or adult/erotica, there’s a prize pack (or two or four) for you!

Since NOBODY’S GODDESS isn’t out yet, I donated (what else? ^^) THE SIGHT SEER, book one in the Silver Moon Saga, by Melissa Giorgio.

Win that and seven other books in this pack.

Stop by now through August 17th and tell your friends! Enter to win so many books or an Amazon gift card! 🙂

Posted in News

Throwback Thursday: Labyrinth

 “Where Everything Seems Possible and Nothing Is What it Seems”: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and a YA Fantasy Author

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“I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”

I was only a toddler when Jim Henson’s Labyrinth first hit theaters, so I know I wasn’t anywhere near the first person to become enamored with the movie. Based on its box-office-failure-turned-cult-hit status, I don’t think a lot of people who call themselves fans were. I know my sister liked it and showed it to me on VHS, and I was definitely a fan by 6th grade because I remember goofing off with a friend before and after a class (okay, and maybe just a bit during…), whispering quotes from the film—“‘Ello! Come inside and have a cup of tea!”—to one another while drawing doodles of the characters from the film. (No, the drawings below are not from that time. My art skills have not at all improved.)

I remember my sister and I liked blasting the soundtrack on a boom box on hot summer days while playing outside—the (mostly David Bowie) music is part of the appeal, and I (seriously) try to listen to the soundtrack at least once a day even now.

So why the obsession with a decades-old movie, one that even those involved with the production admit wound up a bit of a mishmash of several different visions for the project, never quite pinpointing its theme between “an adolescent girl grows up,” “life’s not fair” and “let’s watch goblin Muppets get funky”? The answer to that would be this guy:

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(From when I had way too much on my hands time a few years ago.)

Or more accurately, this guy:

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Jareth the Goblin King (played by David Bowie in a rad ‘80s wig very few could pull off). The antagonist of Labyrinth. Or the love interest. Or something… It was hard on a pre-pubescent girl to really figure him out.  After maybe Aladdin and Michelangelo from TMNT (don’t ask), Jareth was my first fictional crush. And if you’ve seen the movie, you might feel the same—or know that’s not necessarily a good thing.

My Film Recap for Those Unfamiliar with the Movie

Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), a gorgeous 15-year-old girl, is having difficulty coming to grips with growing up. She adores the fantastical and has an incredible imagination. And like her absent professional actress mother, she lives for the theater. Sarah’s “stage” is just a park, her “audience” her dog, but that doesn’t matter. Sarah’s lost in her own world, a fact that her stepmother is only too anxious to point out when she implies that Sarah has no friends and no interest in boys.

One evening, Sarah has an especially childish meltdown when her father and stepmother force her to babysit her baby half-brother, Toby. Her irritation is magnified when the crying baby won’t shut up. (Sarah did just steal a teddy bear from his crib, but her excuse was that it was hers and he didn’t have permission to play with it… Even if he’s only one year old.) Quoting what we presume is lines from her favorite play (*wink wink, it’s called Labyrinth*), she makes a grand speech asking for a “goblin king” to take her brother away so she can have some peace. She doesn’t seem to notice that actual Muppet goblins show up and listen closely, ready to snatch the baby if only they hear “the right words.” Well, much to their disappointment, they don’t. At least not when Sarah’s quoting play lines. When she does accidentally utter, “I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away. Right now,” the spell is cast and with a flourish, an owl enters the nursery and transforms into a handsome man named Jareth.

From then on, the film is a competition between Jareth and Sarah for possession of Toby. (Because, duh, Sarah regrets her words as soon as she says them.) Sarah must beat the clock and make her way to Jareth’s castle at the center of an elaborate labyrinth. Oh, and Jareth cheats and the other creatures living in his kingdom don’t seem to know the meaning of the word “fair.” Of course, it doesn’t help that stubborn Sarah taunts Jareth at every turn, making him even more eager to play dirty. (Uh, that’s not intended as a double entendre, but it’s not that far off the mark even so.) Jareth’s interest in Toby—he does intend to adopt him as an heir at first and seems to think he’s a cute little kid, but maybe he just plans to turn him into an ugly goblin for all we know—is secondary to his strange obsession with Sarah. As the movie progresses, he lets out more and more of his true intention, an odd juxtaposition of the desire to rule over Sarah’s heart and to break free of the enslavement he feels she has over him.

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She was like 14 and he was in his 30s when they filmed this, by the way…

Jareth’s Byronic Nature

Let me take a time out here to say that my best friend is absolutely tired of me mentioning the term “Byronic hero.” But I’m a little obsessed with that fictional trope. (Although if I knew a guy who acted like that in real life, I’d want to slug him. So score 1 for my real life taste in men being healthier than my fictional taste at least.) And it’s all thanks to Jareth.

Seriously. I did an informal poll among my friends and every single one who gravitates toward the three-dimensional villain as her favorite character loved Labyrinth growing up. And my other friends who think we’re all bizarre for our taste in fictional men didn’t even see the movie. So who are some of my favorite characters from other franchises? Magneto. Snape. Darth Vader. Loki. All bad guys/jerks who whine and have maybe a little *smidgen* of good in them. Oh, Jim Henson, did you know you were going to form some strangely unhealthy habits in young women? (He wasn’t the first. “Byronic” heroes get that name from Lord Byron, and I’d go on to love Darcy, Mr. Rochester and a whole score of classic fictional figures with the same personality. But I wasn’t reading those stories when I was in elementary school.)

So back to the quote at the beginning: “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.” Wow. That makes no sense. Yet somehow it’s incredibly sexy. When Jareth claims that he’s been generous to Sarah and she asks him how on earth he’s been generous (remember she just fought her way through a crazy unfair labyrinth to get there), he replies:

“Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that child be taken, I took him. You cowered before me and I was frightening. I have reordered time, I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn’t that generous?”

That actually… kind of makes sense. But only because Jareth has a very twisted “I’m doing the right thing in my eyes” point of view, like any good villain.

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I think Sarah liked him more in these images than she did in the movie…

It’s no surprise that Sarah doesn’t take Jareth up on his offer to stay with him and be his ruler/slave, much to the disappointment of many fans who insist that they would never be so stupid as to turn down Jareth themselves. But the movie’s supposed to be about Sarah learning to balance creativity and child-like imagination with growing up and responsibility. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence, particularly if you read the recently-back-in-print official novel adaptation of the movie, that Jareth and all the world of the labyrinth is entirely Sarah’s fantasy. Consider the lyrics of “Within You.” Or the fact that the novel explains that Sarah’s mother ran off with a fellow actor named Jeremy. And look at Sarah’s room in the beginning of the movie. There are pictures of Sarah’s mother with a handsome, clean-cut… David Bowie. That’s Jeremy, explains the book. Perhaps Sarah had a bit of a crush on her mother’s lover and created Jareth based on him. So Sarah can’t really hook up with her imagination, can she? But the line between Sarah’s fantasy and the power of that fantasy to break through to the real world is nevertheless blurred.

If the film were about a 15-year-old throwing herself at a hunky immortal (?) despot just because he loves her so, so much—and let’s not forget Jareth doesn’t quite understand that love isn’t about ruling one another, but co-existing—I have a feeling the parents who took their kids to see the dancing Muppets in the movie would leave the theater with their mouths gaping open.

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Even stick-figure Jareth needs a stick-figure Sarah

These days, the film has reached cult status and is more popular with adults than children, mostly because of Jareth (and perhaps the infamous “bulge”), so “what the parents think” is largely moot. But still, even in the sequel, Sarah is her own person and not just the throw-yourself-at-Jareth-already Mary Sue fans want her to be. But I love her for that. I admit I liked Twilight, but I love the ladies who fight back against their Byronic heroes (à la Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice or more recently in YA, Alina vs. the Darkling in the Grisha series) and can function well even when apart from their lovers much more than the ones who immediately become as obsessed with their Byronic men as they are with them.

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She’s just not that into you…
A Few Words About the Sequel:

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There’s a sequel in which Sarah still pushes Jareth away? Yes, now-defunct American manga publisher TokyoPop published a four-volume OEL (original English language) manga called Return to Labyrinth from 2006 to 2010. The series was supposed to be three volumes, but high demand and good sales extended the series to four, much to the fans’ delight. Luckily, the entire tale was told before TokyoPop went under. Volumes are out-of-print, though.

The covers, which feature artwork from Japanese mangaka Shurei Kouyu, are gorgeous. The inside artwork, by otherwise talented North American (?) artist Chris Lie… Not so much. At least at first. (An over-the-top screentone job by another artist in the beginning doesn’t help either.) Lie actually always demonstrates a remarkable talent for drawing the Henson goblin creations and the world of the labyrinth. But his jarring take on the “manga style” for human characters leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, Lie listened to feedback and his manga style improves over subsequent volumes. It seems he becomes less boxed in by “manga style” (complete with blocky mouths and sweatdrops) and just draws people with slightly larger eyes than the typical art style requires—and it works, for the most part. (I still wish they could have afforded to have Shurei draw the art inside, though!)

Writer Jake T. Forbes originally intended his series to focus largely on now-teenage Toby’s literal return to the labyrinth—and that shows in the first volume. Perhaps because Labyrinth has a different sort of appeal to a (straight) man, I imagine it didn’t really occur to him what the majority of Labyrinth fans would be looking for in the sequel. But those fans let him know after reading the first Toby-centric volume: More Jareth! Way more Jareth! Way, way, way more Jareth, please! And focus on his relationship with me, er, I mean, Sarah!

So Forbes delivered and somehow merged his intentions with Toby and his original additions to the story into a series with a heavier focus on Jareth and Sarah as well quite admirably. As far as THE ONLY EXTRA LABYRINTH we fans seem poised to get, it works. (Archaia Entertainment has the rights now to all Labyrinth comics and releases short issues featuring only the Henson puppet characters most Free Comic Book Days, but they’ve yet to produce a promised Jareth-centric graphic novel—possibly due to likeness licensing issues. They re-released the novelization, though.)

What’s the Point of All This Again?

So why did I just write a dissertation (*slight* exaggeration) about a movie from 1986? Why did I embarrassingly let my (bad) taste in fictional men come to the forefront? Because it influenced so much about me, especially my writing career.

When I sat down to write Nobody’s Goddess (Patchwork Press), I wanted to write my own Byronic hero—and a heroine who could stand toe-to-toe with him. I wanted to show the strange sexiness of obsession and juxtapose it with the very “ick” feeling that kind of obsession should give a smart, free-thinking young woman. Jareth’s influence shines through in many subtle ways when it comes to the village lord in my novel. But even when I stop focusing so much on romance in my writing, I’m still fascinated by villainy, and villains who aren’t boring stereotypes.

So here’s to the Goblin King, my first ever Byronic hero!

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Posted in News

The Veiled Man’s Goddess New Title Reveal

I’d be the first to admit that titles aren’t my strong suit. Or at least I never stumble upon the title for a project and think wholeheartedly “This is the perfect title!” like some writers do. (See The Sight Seer and the whole Silver Moon Saga for one such example.) I didn’t come up with a title for my Month9Books debut until after I wrote and edited the first draft. I think I was going for something akin to The French Lieutenant’s Woman (in that the woman/”goddess” is supposed to be focus, but you’re still also drawing attention to the man to whom she “belongs” in a way). And I liked the idea of a veiled man (he features prominently in the book) since when you think of veiled people, you usually think of veiled women, right?

Still, I knew something was off about it. It worked in a way, but it didn’t fit with YA titles I’ve seen before. Who’s this man (not even a “boy”) and what’s he doing in my YA book? And then there’s the slightly erotic overtones of a man + his goddess that I didn’t mean to convey. There’s plenty of romantic tension (and just plain tension) between the two, but they never stray into erotic territory in the draft.

When my agent took on the book, he warned the title would probably need to be changed if it sold, and he was right. So after quite a while of back and forth, with Jason and Month9Books publisher/editor Georgia McBride and I all tossing out many (many!) solid, lovely ideas that still didn’t quite fit, and even after Georgia asked her colleagues for feedback on a few of our top ideas, we decided to step back and re-think. Then Georgia came back with a suggestion from my new editor Lindsay Leggett from a line in my novel and it clicked. Georgia’s suggestion for the series title after that just fell into place. (And yes, I still have to come up with titles for books 2 and 3–I have titles, but they probably won’t stick, either–but that’s for another day!)

So what sold as The Veiled Man’s Goddess will now be known as:

Nobody’s Goddess

Book 1 in The Never Veil Series

What do you think? It makes a lot of sense (well, once you’ve read the book! She’s both “the veiled man’s” and “nobody’s” goddess in a way), and I think it’s better suited to YA. I got stuck because I was determined to fit “veil” in there somewhere (it’s such a lovely word), but we got it in the series name, so I’m happy!

And I just got my first round of edits! I’m excited about the suggestions and looking forward to shaping Nobody’s Goddess into the book I hope you all eventually read.

Posted in News

My Book and Profile Are on Goodreads!

Some of you may have missed the news, but you can already add THE VEILED MAN’S GODDESS to your to-read list on Goodreads.

Just today I finished updating my Goodreads Author Page. Become a “fan” to follow my updates, although I understand if you feel you can’t because you haven’t read my book yet!

Since a more detailed summary of THE VEILED MAN’S GODDESS is available on Goodreads, I’ll share it here:

In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

Posted in Writing

WIPMarathon Check-In # 8 (4)

I held off on updating because I hoped I could add some more words today, but it just doesn’t look like that will be the case. Work won’t let up this month, and my stress in general has been through the roof! Still, it’s fun to work on the WIP when I can. Which was only twice this week…

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount (+ scene count if you’re revising): 21,839 words and eight and a half chapters

Current WC + CC (or SC): 22,821 words and eight and a half chapters (still working on that same chapter, lol)

WIP Issues this week: I’m entering a little uncertain ground in the WIP. This is still that “writing a few chapters off of only two sentences in the synopsis” bit, and so far it has gone well, but it’s starting to maybe drift a bit. I think I’m still on the right track, though.

What I learned this week in writing: So my progress this month hasn’t been as much as I’d like it to have been. Considering how busy and stressed I’ve been, the fact that I’ve gotten as much done as I have is pretty awesome.

What distracted me this week while writing: Work, my boyfriend’s car troubles (he wound up having to get a new/used one!), coming down with a cold and…

My big news! I think most of you saw my post earlier this week, but I can now share the fact that I’m going to debut with a YA fantasy in 2015 with Month9Books. Please add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads if you have an account.

And now that that’s posted, I can share a more detailed summary of the story:

In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

Last 200 words: Can’t because it’s the sequel to my book releasing next year. ^^

Posted in News, Writing

My Big News Post!

I’ve been sitting on happy news for a few months while the details got ironed out, kind of wondering if I was dreaming, but I can finally share with everyone and make it more real: my debut novel, a YA romantic fantasy, is going to be published by Month9Books in 2015! Not only that, but Month9 is on board for the second and third books in the trilogy, too, with number two scheduled for 2016 and number three for 2017!

The announcement sent to Publishers Marketplace:

THE VEILED MAN’S GODDESS trilogy by Amy McNulty is a twisted young adult fantasy romance where one girl fights to save the boy she loves from a spell that forces all men to wear masks and only ever love one woman, each their “goddess,” only to discover that she herself is bound to the mysterious lord of the village, whose very life might be the source of the curse. Georgia McBride acquired World English rights to publish via Month9Books beginning in 2015 from Jason Yarn at Paradigm.

(The title of the book is almost certainly going to change, so keep an eye out for updates!)

Month9Books is a speculative fiction YA and MG imprint (related to YA, NA and adult romance imprint SwoonRomance). Founded by Georgia McBride, also the YALitChat.org founder, in 2011, Month9 launched with their first title in late 2012, and they’ve been making some pretty impressive waves in the YA genre ever since.  When my agent and I discussed what independent publishers I wanted to send my manuscript to, Month9 jumped to the top of my wish list.

I’ve been floored by the enthusiasm Ms. McBride has shown for the manuscript, and I’m looking forward to working with her and her team on getting this series out there into the hands of readers. Ever since this story took hold of me, I’ve been hoping I could share its characters with you. And have an excuse to write the rest of their story! It would have broken my heart to shelve them and never finish the full tale.

This is the manuscript that landed me my agent, Jason Yarn, in May of 2012. The one I wrote the first (rough) draft of in only nine days in February of that year. (Well, I pinched some scenes and names from an old mess of a manuscript that’s permanently retired, and I’d been working on that on and off for nine years in one form or another.) We weren’t on submission the whole time—we tackled multiple rewrites—but it still has been somewhat of an uphill climb, sometimes getting to what felt like “almost but not quite” at various places, many of which offered kind and encouraging thoughts. Thanks to Jason’s never-waning enthusiasm for the project and his brilliant editorial insights, we finally got the manuscript where it needed to be to find a home.

I’ll be blogging with news as I get it over the next year+. I hope you’ll check it out in 2015!