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A Book and A Dream Episode 59


Megan: [00:00:00] When we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?

A Book and A Dream Episode 59


Megan: [00:00:00] When we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:26] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 59 of A Book and A Dream. Have you been making bread, shearing your own sheep, learning a new language on an app? What has your pandemic activity been?


Megan: [00:00:43] You see, the way I see it, we've all sort of been crammed into little cocoons by the pandemic. We are all shoved into these little boxes. And whether we like it or not, we are transforming. This has taken too long. There's no way we're coming out on the other side of this the exact same person we want in. So how do we look at our cocoons? And you know what? If you're listening to this and you're like, "I haven't made bread, I haven't learned another language, I have barely maintained my sanity or maybe not maintained my sanity and stayed alive." You know what? That is also winning.


Megan: [00:01:19] If you're...if your cocoon is just, like, survival land, you're still doing a great job. Don't let anyone tell you anything different.


Megan: [00:01:26] So, the reason I started thinking about this is because I was lucky enough to get my first dose of the COVID vaccine, which is sort of the first time I've been able to see that there will be a world after all this. I will be coming out on the other side of this. So that's great. But it made me realize that I'm not going to be who I was when I went into this going out of it. And it also just so happened to line up with some fun news from my literary agent. So that's cool.


Megan: [00:01:55] So, I made a list of how things are going to be different for me. And these are, like, the overall general things, not deep-seated, me as a human being, contributing to world and society like glossary things. So since I dove into isolation in March, I've released six books. It's a lot of books. I mean, I have twenty-one books out. But when you look at like percentages, six is a lot to add.


Megan: [00:02:24] I got two cats, I've had blue hair, and as of the day that I'm recording this, I now have a book on submission to some really big literary houses with my agent.


Megan: [00:02:37] So that's super exciting. It's basically like auditioning for Broadway, but I'm not actually needed to be there. So, I'm auditioning for Broadway, but I'm wrapped in like a TARDIS blanket in my living room, hanging out, which, in one way, is super weird, because it doesn't feel like something that big should be happening when I'm not, like, actively participating. But on the other hand, it's great because no one's expecting me to wear heels. So that's a super fun experience.


Megan: [00:03:09] And I hadn't really done this kind of submission thing with my agent before this. So this is the first time that I'm, like, out there with the big kids. And I have more books in my catalog. And I have two cats that like to bite my feet and my microphone while I'm recording podcasts. So things are very different for me, even just on the cursory level.


Megan: [00:03:28] And then you look at how the world is going to be different, and there are like the big, deep, dark ways that the world's going to be different because we're never really going to be able to go back to the way things were. It's like Ragtime: we can never go back to before. But again, on just, like, the surface of the little things that are going to be different, in the submissions that my agent is putting out for me, one of the places he's submitting is Simon and Schuster.


Megan: [00:03:56] Well, Simon and Schuster was just acquired by Penguin Random House. So they're merging. So since the pandemic began, all of those agents, all of those writers, all of those editors, and, like, cover designers and secretaries, and, like, all these other people...their whole literary world is merging and changing because that's huge.


Megan: [00:04:19] That's, like, massive.


Megan: [00:04:21] That's a publishing giant. It's like the blob. It's just eating everything. And that's going to reshape the world of indie publishing, because a lot of authors who have normally stayed with traditional publishing only are going to start exploring indie options because there's only a few big players left in the publishing game. And so people are going to branch out into indie because there's not going to be as many choices for submissions.


Megan: [00:04:48] And books are going to come out slower because why would publishers want to compete with their own titles? So it's going to be a really different world soon because of this merger that happened while we were all hidden away. And on the other side of my life, on the theater side of my life, which, you know, has been the industry has been completely torn apart...everything's going to be different.


Megan: [00:05:09] Broadway's not going to be able to do the huge kind of musicals that they're used to. They're going to have to do things that aren't going to take full houses in order to recoup the costs. Some things are never going to reopen. A lot of theaters, like regional theaters, have already gone belly up. One turned into a warehouse already, Blue Man Group in Orlando have already announced that they are not reopening. Some of their other sites will, but not Orlando. A lot of regional theaters will close down forever.


Megan: [00:05:36] A lot of actors who are pushed out of their careers are not going to go back. Maybe because they feel like there's not room for them, because with fewer theaters, the competition is going to be fiercer, or because they found a normal job that makes them happy and they've decided that security is where they want to be, which that is a totally legitimate choice. And if you're retiring from theater, don't let anyone tell you that you're giving up your dream. And "how could you abandon what you've wanted your whole life?" Priorities can change. If you want health insurance and a nine-to-five where you know how much you're getting paid all year. Good for you. There is absolutely no shame in that.


Megan: [00:06:10] It can be a bitter pill to swallow that the artistic industries―publishing, theater...basically, everything with the arts, because underfunding is a massive issue, but anyway―it can be a bitter pill to swallow that we're not going to get to step back into our lives as they were. And that doesn't just go for the arts. A lot of other industries have tightened their belts. Work from home is probably going to stay in place for a lot of people. Kids are going to have ongoing weird issues because they're going to think that people should stay six feet away at all times. Everything's going to be weird, everything's going to be different.


Megan: [00:06:43] But once we take that and accept it, there are some choices we have to make. Like, who do we want to emerge from our cocoon as? What do we want to bring back into this changed world?


Megan: [00:06:55] Now, once again, staying on the fluffy level―not going into: appreciating every day and not turning down invitations because we don't like to see people, we should take advantage of actually being able to be in the same room as people, even though we're really introverts, even though everyone thinks we're extroverts and really we just want to hide with the pets in the corner―like, not getting into that. Like staying on the fluffy level. Who do we want to be when we go back into that world? And again, if you just want to be alive and have kept your miniature humans alive, that is absolutely legitimate. Being like, "I dragged two kids into this. I'm draggin' two kids out of it." Good for you. Anyone with miniature humans, you're winning at life. If everyone is, like, fed and clean―maybe not even completely clean, just like not too stinky―you are doing such a good job.


Megan: [00:07:48] So what do I want to bring back out into the world with me? I mean, for one, I want to keep publishing. I have sort of slowed down my schedule to a less manic publishing schedule. I did six books in a year's time instead of, you know, ten, which...six still sounds insane, but I slept. I did the sleeping thing. So improvement. Good for me.


Megan: [00:08:15] I want to keep pushing for bigger publishing contracts because I love being an indie. I love the freedom. But there are certain audiences that it's really hard to reach if you don't have the support of a major, traditional publisher. There's...there's just so much that I can do on my own. And there are things that if you have a team, teams can accomplish because teams are fancy. So I want to start looking more into that now that I have my baseline of, like, all of my backlist is out. I have these complete series. I have audio. I want to start going more in that direction just because I feel like I'm at the point that I could be an indie and still pursue trad(itional publishing), where before I was just barely keeping my head above water with getting my books out. So that's nice.


Megan: [00:09:03] I also know that I was super lucky to get to perform in two different shows during the pandemic. It was handled in a very safe way. Great pandemic safety things. It was...they changed the air conditioning to do things with germs, I don't know, but it was very scientific and fancy. Who's to say? But I do know that I want to be a part of theater's reopening, even though things are not going to be what they were. Salaries won't be what they were. It's not going to be as fancy. There are going to be budget cuts while people try to recoup, and smaller casts and la-dee-la. I know that I want to be a part of it, even though it is going to be hard trying to get everything going again. I, I do know that I love theater and I will take the hardship in order to make sure that things come back. So I definitely want to be a part of that.


Megan: [00:09:52] I also know that I want to prioritize things like sleep and, you know, not dying, and sleep. So there are things that I know I want to do. And again, going and hanging out with friends and not just talking to their pet in the corner, because I should savor human interaction 'cause friends are nice and I like them.


Megan: [00:10:15] So there are things that I definitely want to do and I would encourage you now, which we are not, we are not out of this. We are not out of this. But the end is coming closer to being within sight. There's like a sign that says "light in three hundred yards." So, you know, eventually we're going to get to see the light in the distance. So keep keep hanging on.


Megan: [00:10:37] But take a moment and think of what do you want to bring back out into the world with you when we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?


Megan: [00:10:58] Because this is...a horrible opportunity we've been granted where we have been forced to step back and have perspective that hopefully we will never, ever have again. Never. Precedented times only from now on. Never unprecedented. I want thoroughly precedented. So hopefully we'll never have this opportunity again, so we might as well use it.


Megan: [00:11:23] What do you want to contribute to your industry, to your family? Who do you want to be? Have you always been a fashionista and you've realized that you don't actually need to do makeup to be happy? Or have you realized that doing makeup every day really brings you joy? Are you going to start tutoring? Are you going to sing more? Are you going to, I don't know, do picnics every week because you've decided that joy in nature is necessary even if you're not trapped inside or in a park six feet away from each other because, you know, there are no other choices in the world.


Megan: [00:11:54] What is it that you want to bring out? Because the world's going to be different. And if we're going to be forced to be different, too, we can at least choose some of the changes that are being inflicted upon us, because there is no bright side to this. There's never going to be a bright side to this, but at least we can pick the little handholds that are available to us to drag ourselves back out of this darkness.


Megan: [00:12:26] So, choose what you want to bring with you, put them in your backpack, and then when we finally find the light at the end of this tunnel, then you will know what you want to carry with you and what you can shove back under the couch with all the candy wrappers you've been hiding.


Megan: [00:12:44] In the meantime, I will see you again next week. Stay safe. Buh-bye.

A Book and A Dream Episode 58


Megan: [00:00:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gotten strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a whole lot about me as a person.

A Book and A Dream Episode 58


Megan: [00:00:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gotten strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a whole lot about me as a person.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 58 of A Book and A Dream. What do Fantasy, fashion, swearing, and TikTok have in common? It turns out, quite a bit. I've had a very interesting week on social media with thousands of views on some very random videos.


Megan: [00:00:47] But yeah, I'm going to save that story for just a minute because first, I wanted to talk to you about the fact that it is the Heart of Smoke book release week. Now, this is the first book in a brand new dystopian series. I am really excited about sharing it with the world. And it also has to do with the TikTok story. So first, here's a little blurb from Heart of Smoke.


Megan: [00:01:09] One will betray her, one will save her, one will destroy her world.


Megan: [00:01:13] Ooh.


Megan: [00:01:14] Do the work, steal the goods, keep her sister alive. A simple plan Lanni has been clinging to. With the city burning around her and vampires hiding in the shadows, makin it...making it until morning is the best she can hope for. But order in the city is crumbling, and the thin safety that's kept Lanni alive won't be enough to protect her family. The people who live in the glittering glass domes, lording over the city, safe from the dangers of the outside world, have grown tired of the factory filth marring their perfect apocalypse.


Megan: [00:01:45] With a new...when a new reign of chaos threatens her sister, Lanni faces a horrible choice: accept the fate she was born to or join the enemy she's sworn to destroy.


Megan: [00:01:56] [Melodramatically Sung] Bwah-bwah-bwah-nah!


Megan: [00:01:58] So that is the blurb for Heart of Smoke. You can kind of tell from the blurb it's going to be a dark world. It's dystopian, it's going to be gritty. It's not like some happy, fluffy story. That leads us into the TikTok story.


Megan: [00:02:11] So, because Heart of Smoke is a dystopian book, it is aimed at Upper YA. There is some cursing in the book because people are dying, bad things are happening. Sometimes, it's appropriate to say words like [bleep] or [bleep] when, you know, death comes. I posted it in an author group that I'm a part of being like, "Where is the line between, like, cursing and too much cursing?" expecting people to be like, Well, it's situational." Or, you know, "You have to put, like, a disclaimer on the bottom" or something like that.


Megan: [00:02:44] And I did get some of that. I got some people being like, "It's a dystopian. Put in what you want" or "Teens are going to say way worse than you could ever think to write in a book" or "Just look at, you know, About Alaska. As long as you're not doing that, you're doing OK." And I did get mostly that.


Megan: [00:02:59] But there were some people who were so mad that I'd even consider swearing in a YA book, not a middle grade book, not a kids' book, a young adult novel which is aimed at teens, who like...go to high school, most of whom can drive, they're dating, they're watching TV, they have access to the Internet. It's not like I'm stealing someone's innocence here. Like, they've heard worse. They've read worse on the bathroom walls at school. Come on now, people.


Megan: [00:03:37] But there was so much anger about how it was, like, destroying YA books by making them too mature and how dare I? And so I've been on TikTok for a while. I've been starting to, like, be a good author and use it regularly. And so I made a series of videos about the lessons that I learned from getting yelled at by all these authors about daring to put cursing in my novels. And one of the videos gained 15,000-some views.


Megan: [00:04:09] Now, in terms of like "viral," that's not a thing. Like, that is nowhere near viral. That's just, like, an odd number of views on a video, especially when you consider with platforms like Instagram and Facebook, it's really "pay to play" if you're a business account on either of those things, I can only reach, like, maybe a 20th of my audience at the ti--at a time, because they cap you, and they want you to pay for reach. So, if I actually want all of my Facebook followers on Facebook to see something, I have to give Facebook dollars or they won't let me do it. It's the same thing with Instagram. They will cap you.


Megan: [00:04:44] TikTok doesn't do it. So you have organic reach. And if people comment and like your videos, it can go as far as it wants to go, and they don't mind. So 15,000 for zero dollars is like...clutch in the author world. Like, that does not happen on other platforms. You just can't do it because they will stop you from doing it deliberately. Yeah, I know. Not really cool, but that's how it works.


Megan: [00:05:09] So we got like 15,000-some views. Cool. So here is the video/the audio from that TikTok that got some attention.


Megan: [00:05:20] [TikTok Audio] Lesson number four: violence and harassment are way more acceptable than any form of cursing in books. Let's take something like Hunger Games. Now, you can kill other teens. Just don't swear at them. Because swearing is bad. Rip out somebody's eyeballs, tear out their lungs, murder some people. I don't know, shove a girl into a corner, kiss her against her will. Those are all fine. Just don't you dare curse at anyone while you kill them. [End of TikTok Audio]


Megan: [00:05:49] Who'd have thunk? Now, I do stand by my decision to use cursing in Heart of Smoke. There's also, you know, some sex workers involved. Nothing graphic. I will not. That's where I draw the line. I will not put super graphic sexual content in YA novels.


Megan: [00:06:04] I also try to, like, not have entrails, even though you'd be way better off having sex in a book than entrails because most people will have sex at some point in their life. Hopefully, the vast majority of us will never encounter entrails that have been removed from the body. So really, if you're talking about which one's worse, violence is way worse than sex. Because hopefully we can all avoid violence, and the human race would stop if we all avoided sex.


Megan: [00:06:33] So pick your poison


Megan: [00:06:37] Anyway. So that happened. And I was like, well, this is fun. Look at all these notifications I'm getting. Weird. And so I made another set of videos just being me on TikTok, and I was talking about things in fantasy wardrobes that bother me. And there are quite a few things that bother me about fantasy costuming. The...the biggest thing that bothers me about fantasy costuming, my number one pet peeve, is that heroines always have perfect hair. They're at a ball. They have been dancing. It's glorious. They go back to their room. It's romantic. They pull a singular hairpin from their hair, perfect curls fall down their back...and that's it. That's like the whole getting their hair out of ballroom-state. It's one singular pin, and it comes out perfectly. As someone who wears pin-curls for theater on a regular basis, I come out looking like an electrocuted sheep.


Megan: [00:07:34] It's not cute. And granted, pin-curls are, like, way more heavy duty than you would necessarily need to do. But anyone who's ever worn a for serious updo, it's not one pin, and it's not necessarily going to come out cute.


Megan: [00:07:48] There are some people who are really lucky, and it tumbles down in curls, but even they don't just have one hairpin.


Megan: [00:07:52] It takes lots of hairpins to do things like that.


Megan: [00:07:56] It also really bothers me when authors write women in corsets and not like a sensible, like, bodice, but like a real corset. Like we're cinching your waist deliberately. We are pulling it in to give you a specific figure. They write women being strapped into these corsets tight, it's like a plot point that it's tight, and then they have women running away.


Megan: [00:08:22] And not passing out.


Megan: [00:08:25] As someone who has done a fairly extensive amount of living history, a lot of which involved wearing a corset that was pulled in to be cinched for a certain period look...if you're actually cinching your waist to be period appropriate, you're not going to run very far. It does, in fact, affect how well you can breathe once you're trying to get that shape. And so if you make a plot point of them cinching the waste and then you have her booking it from an evil villain, she's going to pass out. There is oxygen deprivation involved. You can't fill your lungs all the way to the bottom, you're going down, which is also my problem with heels in fantasy novels.


Megan: [00:09:04] We have women wearing stilettos. Oh, it's in Hollywood, too. They do it in Hollywood, too, where they have women wearing these four-inch heels and then they're like, "Ah! Bad Guy!" And they're running away in the four-inch heels.


Megan: [00:09:16] You're going to break an ankle, you're going to fall, you're going to die. Kick off the shoes, then run for your life. That was one of my favorite things in Black Panther when she took off her shoes before the car chase. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. There are lots of exciting things, but watch. She takes off her shoes. It's brilliant, because that's what a real woman should do, hopefully. If not, she's probably going to die because running in four-inch heels is not really a thing unless it's your superpower.


Megan: [00:09:45] So all of those things went in videos on TikTok. And then I recorded one more, which is one of my bigger pet peeves, but you run into it less often in YA, which is usually where I'm reading. We don't usually describe bras that often in YA because usually there's like some kind of covering, or we're, like, being discreet about the fact that there's no covering. So we don't really talk like how much bosom coverage there is at all times.


Megan: [00:10:12] But sometimes, sometimes you'll see a woman who is described as having an ample bosom. You'll see her in a little shift with nothing under it and you'll see her running.


Megan: [00:10:25] These things do not logically track. It is just not possible.


Megan: [00:10:29] So this is the video about women's bosoms and running in fantasy that got a lot of views.


Megan: [00:10:38] [TikTok Audio] Book fashion, pet peeve. If you are going to describe the characters having an ample bosom, and then she's going to be in a negligee with nothing underneath, barely anything to cover her...she can't just run away. You can't. You can't run away with no bra on if you have an ample bosom, it doesn't work. Even in fantasy realms. [End of TikTok Audio]


Megan: [00:11:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gone strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a lot about me as a person and where my niche might be as far as social media. So that's interesting. But it's also been very cool to explore the book and reading community on TikTok. So I have found in, you know, trying to find readers and other book lovers, because I'm also a huge fiction junkie, obviously. Otherwise I couldn't really write books, because why would I do that if I hated it? But anyway... So, in doing those things, there are very different niches on Instagram and on Facebook.


Megan: [00:11:47] And one thing that I will say about TikTok is that they're a lot more likely to laugh, and they're a lot more likely to communicate. Even if the communicating is a like or an emoji in the comments or something like that, they are very eager to reach out to agree to say different things on your videos. So that is very cool. And I'm not a huge, huge TikTok fan as, like, a user. I get sensory overload when I open the app because it starts making noises at me.


Megan: [00:12:17] So I have to, like, turn the volume of my phone way down so that it's not too loud so that I can handle all the sounds. But is a very cool book community, and I would encourage you to explore it because there's a lot of authors. Authors are flocking to TikTok right now. It's kind of crazy. Some authors you can't even get on Twitter are going to TikTok because they've realized they don't cap your growth there. So it's's a big opportunity, but it's also so many readers. And they're not just posting, like, pretty pictures like on Instagram being like, "Here's this book with a pinecone." They're like, "Here's this book. And what it made me feel. Here are these books that make me sob. Here are these books that make me angry." And so it's a lot of people's reaction to fiction, whether that reaction is "Why is this person not saying [bleep] when they're running from something," or "No, breasts don't work like that. If you're above a B Cup, you're not running for your life unless you're holding them up, because that's going to be painful. How are, you need something. You need something there."


Megan: [00:13:22] And so it''s very cool to find that community that craves that interaction, that craves that reaction to what they're reading. Not just pretty pictures or nice comments about, like, "Oh, yeah, I loved your book. Great."


Megan: [00:13:36] So I would encourage you to explore it. Even if just to, like, hop on, maybe never post videos, but check out some of your favorite authors. They are on there. It is very fun. It's also entertaining to see what's getting lots and lots of views for random reader...for random reasons. So, if you are a reader and you do like social media and you're not a social media fast for the next few days, then check out TikTok. I will put the link to my TikTok below, as well as the link to Heart of Smoke, because that book release is coming up this week.


Megan: [00:14:09] Yeah, I even put a little note when I was reaching out to reviewers being like, "P.S., this book has adult language." And the first review I got was like, "Great book. Has adult language." So...proof that even reviewers don't read the whole blurb.


Megan: [00:14:24] What are you going to do?


Megan: [00:14:26] Maybe reach out on TikTok and ask some people to read the book and review for me people who are comfortable with me saying things like [bleep] in a book.


Megan: [00:14:35] But yeah. So there you go. You have my fantasy fashion pet peeves. You have a great story about why TikTok is actually really fun for building a book community, and news about a book release coming up this week.


Megan: [00:14:52] Now, if you have strong opinions on cursing in books, please share it in the comments or send me a message on one of my social media sites. If you have strong opinions on fantasy fashion and you have other pet peeves you would like to share, please tell me. I want to know them all. What are your fantasy fashion pet peeves? My favorite fantasy fashion thing is when women actually get pockets that they can put things in. I think that's a great time. And I will see you next week after the Heart of Smoke book release have a great week.

A Book and A Dream Episode 57


Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea.

A Book and A Dream Episode 57


Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 57 of A Book and A Dream. I want to tell you a little love story. It's a love triangle between Amazon categories, authors, and readers.


Megan: [00:00:41] Now, if you're a reader and you have no idea what an Amazon category is, bear with me for a minute. Trust me, by the end of this, you will understand how very important these categories are.


Megan: [00:00:52] So, an Amazon category is basically the little niche that you're trying to get your book into. So, you're an author, you've written a book, you have survived writing the blurb and edits and a synopsis. You have barreled through it all. It is time to upload your beauty and then you get to the little tab on your author page where it says, "What category do you want to put your book in?" And then you have a nervous breakdown, or maybe you don't because you haven't realized why you should.


Megan: [00:01:22] So, Amazon categories are very difficult. It looks like you can only have two. You can actually have 10. You have to send them an email or like call a dude. It's a very strange process. I don't know. It's weird. There are hidden categories. You can buy a program to help you find the hidden categories. There is an entire industry built around finding hidden Amazon categories, and for very good reason. So, if you decide to delve into the world of Amazon categories as an author, you will soon realize why stabbing an icepick in your own eye would be less painful than this, because if you look on the Amazon page, it looks like there are some very basic choices and it should be obvious, like young adult, young adult sci-fi and fantasy, young adult sci-fi and fantasy dystopian.


Megan: [00:02:07] It's not that easy because there is a huge difference between post-apocalyptic and dystopian, and making the wrong choice in those categories can tank your book.


Megan: [00:02:18] There are also some categories that you wouldn't think of existing, like young adult, young adult literature and fiction, young adult literature and fiction divorce. I mean, I don't know a lot of teenagers who are getting divorced. I guess teenagers with divorced parents, but that seems like a tiny niche, which it really is. So when you're choosing your categories as an author, not only do you have to consider where your book is going to fit, but where your book can rank, because you see, Amazon has this lovely top 100 program for each of its categories that actually has books in it. There are some categories that only have like four books in them, which is crazy because it's Amazon and there's millions of books, but they exist.


Megan: [00:02:58] So when you're choosing your categories, you know, young adult literature and fiction, self-esteem and self-reliance, whatever it is you're going for, you want to make sure that you're choosing a category that is big enough to have competition. So you don't want to be in that category that only has the two books in it, because that is often like the nether realms of the interweb where no one goes. No one goes to that corner of the digital store. So you don't really want to shelve your book there because nobody is going to see it. Nobody's going to click there. It does you no good other than sometimes getting a cool little orange tag that you are in the top seller in your category of not really helpful. So you want to be in one where you can rank in the top 100, but you have to compete for it.


Megan: [00:03:42] So if you're kind of lazy and you just, as an author, choose young adult sci-fi fantasy, fantasy, unless you're Harry Potter or The Selection, you're not going to rank well ever. So you have to dive deeper and do young adult fantasy, fantasy, paranormal romance. But then there's also paranormal, not romance. But then you can't really rank in romance. And so it becomes this huge tangled web of trying to figure out how you want to go. And even when you figure out, "OK, like this is where my book fits, I did lots of math," which most authors hate math. Not all authors. Some authors love figuring out mathematical things.


Megan: [00:04:22] Some authors make their husbands do all the calculating to figure out how many book sales a day you would need to rank in a certain category and how many categories you want to have easy and how many categories you want to work hard for. And that's why I love my husband. He's great. I'll keep him.


Megan: [00:04:39] But you figured it all out. But then even once you think you know where you want to be, you have to really look at the other books in the category. Aside from the numbers and the algorithms, because let's say you're like, OK, I really fit in post-apocalyptic instead of dystopian. Have you looked at the post-apocalyptic versus dystopian covers? You want to blend into the category that you are there for, so you want to make sure that you fit with the reader's expectations, but you want to stand out so that they notice you, but you really have to fit in or they'll be like "you don't belong here," but don't blend in too much or they won't notice you, but stick out, but not... It''ll drive you crazy in some cases like post-apocalyptic versus dystopian. If you want to click over there on Amazon just for fun, it's easy to tell which category you should be in.


Megan: [00:05:30] Post-apocalyptic covers are generally, like, some girl with a machine gun. Dystopian covers are more Hunger Games-style with, like, a symbol or even [The] Selection where it's like a girl in a fluffy dress, which doesn't seem dystopian. And you're like, "Irony. I like it. It's the end of the world. Great." And so maybe you want to be like dystopian romance because you have a pretty girl on your cover. It's all so many judgment calls and so much stress. And then Amazon will kick you out of the categories you wanted anyway.


Megan: [00:05:57] And hopefully, hopefully you've chosen good categories. You've asked the Amazon elves to make it work for you. You've landed in the top one hundred in your categories. Things should go well. Now there are road bumps that can come up. Sometimes the Amazon elves get it wrong. Bryant Adams - How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' Days was in "teen counseling."


Megan: [00:06:21] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea. And so you have to go and fix it.


Megan: [00:06:35] Or sometimes, I don't know, things go really, really, really badly because Animal Farm is in the category for children's pig books. So read Animal Farm to your children at night, folks. It'll be a joy for the whole family. Yeah. So we all get there, we hope we're in the right place, and that's when it comes to the readers who hopefully will know enough to not read Animal Farm to their four-year-old. Otherwise, you're going to need one of those teen counseling books, and don't count on How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' Days to fix your teen's emotional problems. Bring them joy, sure. Fix emotional problems? Probably not.


Megan: [00:07:17] So as a reader, how do these categories affect you? The answer is way more than you'd think, kind of a creepy amount if you get down to it.


Megan: [00:07:28] So, good ways that these categories can affect you. Let's say you just finished your new favorite book, and you are dying to read more books like it. Maybe it's The Selection. Maybe it's Ember and Stone. Whatever your jam is, you want more books like that? Cool. So, if you are a Kindle person or an Amazon shopper, all you have to do is go to that book's page on Amazon.


Megan: [00:07:50] You scroll down, scroll down, scroll down. And in product description, it'll have its ranking in the whole store and then it'll have its ranking in usually three categories. That could change with the next two hours...within the next two hours. Amazon really likes to do that to us. So, if you click on those categories, if everything went well, you can find books that are just like your favorite books in the top 100. So, lots of people have bought them and liked them, and there's this whole list of one hundred books in the same category as your same favorite. It's amazing. All the shopping opportunities. Go Amazon! Way the...way to do product placement well.


Megan: [00:08:24] Now, you do have to be a little careful because there are some books like Red Queen, which is randomly in mysteries and thrillers, which is weird because it's like a dystopian fantasy romance, but it's in mysteries and thrillers. So do your due diligence. It's fine. Victoria Aveyard can put her books whenever she....wherever she wants. Obviously, she's doing well, but look through it, read the blurbs, make sure it's what you think you're getting and you can buy that. You can also, on the lefthand side of your Amazon screen, I'm not going to walk you through doing it because it's different on all the devices, there is a way to click down through categories without going to a book. So, you can, like, tick boxes to be like "young adult fantasy, witches and wizards" and it'll probably all just take you to Harry Potter, but that's fine. From there you can find other things.


Megan: [00:09:07] So if you're an Amazon shopper, it influences you because you can get to books that you choose by clicking on buttons. It also influences you because if you type in something like "fantasy romance with paranormal," I don't know why you'd type that in. That's a horrible search term phrase. But it'll pull from those categories. There's also keywords, but that's a whole different thing. So, it uses that information to display books to you. It is handing you a platter of books based on what authors have inputted in those categories, which is why as an author, it's so stressful because you want to make sure you're getting on the right serving trays so that you can be one of the popular hors d'oeuvres instead of one of the sad hors d'oeuvres that gets put in the trash.


Megan: [00:09:48] So, people who buy books tend to want to talk about books, whether it's emailing their great aunt, posting a review on Goodreads, posting about it on Twitter, on Bookstagram, whatever it is, word of mouth sells a lot of books. And so many readers buy books through Kindle and through the Amazon store that you're going to get a lot of books that are recommended based on Amazon purchases even if you're not buying off of Amazon. Amazon numbers of ratings can also affect things like what promos books are available for, so if you've ever bought a book off a BookBub promo, BookBub looks at those Amazon reviews. So, getting a proper category placement on Amazon reffect, err, affects reviews on Amazon, which affects promo opportunities for books.


Megan: [00:10:35] It's also a thing where Google will place books higher. If they're pinging really well on Amazon, that's getting lots and lots of traffic. If you Google a book, it's going to rate higher. And because all of those things affect how buyers buy books, that translates into other stores. So, if people are hearing about all these great books that were purchased on Amazon and they're in the Kobo store, things are going to rank differently on Kobo because people are buying them based off what they heard from Amazon shoppers. So that all trickles down into the other bookstores.


Megan: [00:11:07] It even trickles down into your local bookstore, because once buzz starts about a book, that's how local bookstores purchase things, because they've heard good things about the books, which start with Amazon purchases. Why? Because it's taken over the world. We all know it. It's just taken over everything.


Megan: [00:11:28] Now, there are other ways to do categories on other sites. It's a little bit less stressful in most cases. For things like Kobo, you get three categories on iBooks (Apple Books) you get two categories, on Draft2Digital, which is an aggregator service, you get, like, five categories, but there is no, like, secret back door shifty categories buying a program to find them from a dude who like kind of knows because he has backed the program. And yeah, there's like an entire market for authors to figure out these categories. It's absolutely absurd. But it's because it makes such a huge difference in how people buy books. And those decisions come down to how authors choose to place them.


Megan: [00:12:11] Now, hopefully, eventually, things will level out. And it won't just be Amazon being the big player, and there will be other methods for people to tell you what their book is and for them to get placement. There are still, like, library things and stuff like that, but that comes down to a lot of different categories. And that's a different story that we're not going to get into on this podcast/video 'cause trust me, you don't want to go there. It'll make your eyes bleed. And not from an icepick. They'll just bleed naturally. But those categories and key words are going to affect everything. So, yeah. It matters so much.


Megan: [00:12:47] So, if you are an Amazon person, next time you're clicking around trying to find a book, check out that product details, the categories, see what else you can find. See what authors got it super right and got their books in a great place. See if you can find any more animal Animal Farm-type situations where, you know, just causing childhood trauma, one misplaced category at a time, and appreciate the work that authors put into pulling their hair out trying to get their books into the right place.


Megan: [00:13:17] If you're an author...just keep going, man. You're going to figure out those categories eventually. And don't forget to put those greater than less than symbols in when you email 'em to Amazon or they'll reject everything. It's amazing how little things like those decisions can affect what goes viral, what we read, how we read. But in a digital world where authors are having more and more control over how they place and market their books, it's become a free-for-all where those tiny little stepping stones are what can lead an author to success. So, think about the categories of your favorite books. Don't be afraid to dive into those categories to see what your new favorite read might be.


Megan: [00:13:55] And, uh, yeah. Bezos rules the world, man. He rules the world.


Megan: [00:14:05] So I will see you next time. And, uh, good luck. And...may the Amazon be ever in your favor.

A Book and A Dream Episode 56


Megan: [00:00:00] But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community perhaps, then don't be [bleep]. Take it out of your book. It's not that hard.

A Book and A Dream Episode 56


Megan: [00:00:00] But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community perhaps, then don't be [bleep]. Take it out of your book. It's not that hard.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell and Authors', adventure and writing, reading and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:26] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 56 of A Book and A Dream. When you write a book, there is this feeling that you''re pouring your whole  heart and soul into this creation. And, you know, some people, I'm sure, get everything completely right. And it's great. And it's perfect. And there is this artistic masterpiece that no one would ever dare tamper with.


Megan: [00:00:53] But for us mere mortals, you get to the end of the writing process and it's time to edit, which is great. Edits and rewrites and drafts and all those fancy things are great. That's how a book goes from something that you have hidden on your computer to something that you want other people to see. But it can be hard because in that process, sometimes you have to cut some of those things that you poured your whole heart and soul into. Now, hopefully you are very lucky and it's like some lines, some words on the page, maybe some unnecessary dialogue in a scene or the last couple lines in a chapter to make the ending stronger.


Megan: [00:01:35] But sometimes it's bigger things that you have to cut, like side plots, scenes, characters, themes, all kinds of things that you may have to cut. So how do you know when you should cut these things and when it is time to stand your ground?


Megan: [00:01:52] Well, here is my list of advice on how to decide whether you should dig in your heels or just murder those darlings so your book can go out into the world.


Megan: [00:02:01] First of all, who is this advice coming from? Who's telling you to take things out of your book? Is it a beta reader? Is it a paid beta reader, or is it a beta reader that is a highly successful published author who has been around for 20 years? Is it an editor? Is it your agent, or is it someone who is offering you a Hollywood deal? If someone is telling you to change things about your story, you have to consider not only their experience level and how much they know about the industry, your genre, how much financial risk you're willing to take by publishing something that may not fit in the market. You kind of have to consider all of that and then also consider what the potential gains are.


Megan: [00:02:43] For example, if you are just working with a beta reader and they're like, "I don't like this"... It's your book, they're your beta, they're there for advice. And a lot of times, you should take it. But if you don't agree, there are basically no stakes. If it's your agent telling you to cut something, are they not going to submit the book or are they not going to send it out to these editors at these publishing houses?


Megan: [00:03:04] Is it someone from Hollywood who's like, "Hey, if you're willing to cut these three characters from your book, I'll make it into a Netflix series"? There's a lot of different levels of consideration. If someone's offering you two-hundred thousand dollars to cut three characters from your book, you're probably a lot more likely to do it than if your beta reader tells you to.


Megan: [00:03:26] You also have to consider if it fits in your book.


Megan: [00:03:29] Now, there could be some brilliant content that you came up with and no one's ever done it before. It's completely unique, which never really happens. But it is. You finally managed it. But do zombie unicorns really fit in your cozy mystery? Like sure, that could be a great and brilliant concept, but if it's really about a small town detective who's trying to work their way back into society after trauma, do zombie real...unicorns really work with that? So sometimes you have to separate the concepts.


Megan: [00:04:00] Maybe you've tried to put too many things into this book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you take it out. Leaving it in would probably a bad thing, a bad thing, but you do you. Like, there could be a niche for that. There's, like, a whole bunch of weird niches out there. So maybe that is your calling. But if you do take it out, it's not a failure. It is not a loss because you can use zombie unicorns in a different book. So cut them out of your cozy mystery. And then once that cozy mystery is written, become the zombie unicorn-writing king or queen or whoever you want to be and grab that.


Megan: [00:04:36] And now you have two books that you have in your back pocket that you can write. That's a pretty big win.


Megan: [00:04:43] Is there a good reason that you need this in the book now? It may not be evident to your beta, your editor or agent, the movie people, but is there a reason that you put it in there? Maybe you have a scene in the book about this woman's shoes. Shoes are always fun, and it's this woman's obsession with stilettos and how she refuses to never wear stilettos. Like, she...she must do it all the time. It is her theme, and you have, like, a three-page scene about her shoes.


Megan: [00:05:13] And people are like, "Cut the shoe bit. We don't need it in there. Get rid of it." But in the back of your head, you're like, "No. I need this a little bit because in the next book she's going to die because she wouldn't take off her stilettos, and someone killed her because she was not fast at running." Like, it could be that. So you really need that in your next book. And, you know, if you're working with an editor, an agent, a Hollywood producer, then tell them. Be like, "I really need this scene, because she is going to die terribly, and people are going to be like, 'wait a second. I never knew that she was that attached to her footwear' if you don't have this in book one."


Megan: [00:05:49] So, know what seeds you've planted so you can grow something for your readers later, because you can't just toss some things in at the last minute. You have to plant the seeds before it seems logical. So know what is a seed that you're going to grow and what is some random side thing that you can slash out because readers lose interest and a lot of people never finish the books they pick up.


Megan: [00:06:12] So if you don't need that scene about the stilettos, cut it out. If you need the stilettos so that you can kill her later, keep it in.


Megan: [00:06:20] Another important thing to consider in the short run is do the readers need the information in order to move on in that immediate scene? So let's say that you have built this entire government, and there's like chancellors and then there's elected people and then there's the soldiers.


Megan: [00:06:40] But the soldiers are elected, which would be really bad for soldiers because then what if they're bad at soldiering, but maybe in your world it works, whatever. But you have this whole series of things about how the military works, and we're about to go into the military compound and meet these people for the first time. So, it can be really tempting to create an info dump. And what that means is you have a three-page scene. I keep going back to three pages. I don't know why. Let's call it a twelve-page scene. Let's up the stakes.


Megan: [00:07:07] There's a twelve page scene where you go through the entire military system and how people are given their positions and how they rank under one another. And what happens if someone in the military does something wrong?


Megan: [00:07:19] Yeah, that's great that you have that whole system. But do they need to know all that information right now?


Megan: [00:07:25] You could, instead of having a twelve-page scene about the entire system, let's say they do elect soldiers, which again, would probably be a really bad idea, but someone on the way into the complex is like, "Yes, and he won the election and he is a terrible soldier and we may all die."


Megan: [00:07:42] That's really all you need in that moment. So sometimes when people are telling you to cut out information, it's not that they want to cut it out of their world. It's just that you don't need it all right there. So you can say, "Oh, yes, elected soldier bad." And then when you meet the elected soldier, be like, "Yes, but he wants to be the chancellor because once you've been an elected soldier, the head one is the chancellor." And then you move on and they're like, "Don't do that bad thing. If you soldier do that bad thing, you will have grave punishment," and you can spread it out throughout the book.


Megan: [00:08:10] So sometimes when people are saying cut information, they're not saying cut it. They're saying redistribute it. Because if you give it all to me right now, first of all, it's a boring info dump and nobody likes that. But second of all, I don't need that information right now. I'm probably not going to remember it in 200 pages when it becomes important. So sometimes redistribution is all you need.


Megan: [00:08:33] Another thing to consider, which is very hard when you're on, like, the bad end of that one, is are you being accidentally offensive?


Megan: [00:08:41] Have you put something into your book that is hurtful to a certain section of our general world community, and that hopefully, if this happens, it's by accident? You didn't mean to use a word, a phrase, a concept that is damaging to a certain section of our world community and it can be hard to keep up with it. The world is changing. The world is evolving. If you're talking about people of color or the LGBTQ+ community, the...the terms that people want to be called and what is offensive, they do evolve over time. So if you read some books that were written by very enlightened and, you know, community-oriented people fifteen years ago, you read it now and you're like, "Woah! You should not be using that word. That is horrible." Because things have changed.


Megan: [00:09:28] So if someone comes to you and they say, "Hey, this is super offensive," don't take it out right away. Honestly, do some research. You can do research online. You can go to other members of that community and say, "Hey, did I do something wrong here?" For instance, there was recently a whole kerfuffle where there was one reader who told fantasy authors that they could no longer have fairies in their book because having fairies in their books was offensive to the LGBT community.


Megan: [00:09:59] And I'm not talking, like, anything like LGBT-oriented, like actual magical wings, wands, Tinkerbell, that kind of thing, fairies. And after talking to members of the community and doing research, that author figured out that, no, that's not actually offensive. There was just one person who was unhappy with that. And it sucks that that person was unhappy with it. But it's not actually an offensive thing. It's probably personal trauma. She probably was called bad, nasty things. And so to her, that word hurts, and that's awful.


Megan: [00:10:33] But it can't change the entire fantasy genre. So don't automatically just go through with a red pen and be like, "I did bad things! I did bad things!" Do a little bit of research. But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community, perhaps then don't be a [bleep].


Megan: [00:10:53] Take it out of your book. It's not that hard. Just take whatever word, phrase, take it out of your book, because that is the way to start moving forward and making sure that we are a more inclusive and responsible profession as authors.


Megan: [00:11:10] So just cut it out. Edit. Republish. It's not that hard. And, you know, if you really piss people off, just say, I'm sorry, I was trying to be an ally, and I got it wrong. Make a nice tweet. Say you're genuinely sorry.  Do better in the future. But don't be a [bleep]. Take it out.


Megan: [00:11:28] And finally, most importantly, aside from don't be [bleep], because rule number one in life is don't be a [bleep], you'll get pretty far, is what I like to call the Eragon conundrum.


Megan: [00:11:40] So, let's say you've written this epic coming of age adventure. It's all about learning and growing and discovering who you are while you're doing harrowing things. And then someone offers you a contract for a Hollywood movie. They are going to make your coming of age book into this feature film and cut out all the coming of age aspects. There is literally going to be a flash of light in the sky, and then it's going to be "all grown up" time, let's go on an adventure. So it's not really your book anymore. Also, it makes no sense. Also, it's bad.


Megan: [00:12:15] So what do you really need for the heart of your story, for the core? What message are you trying to give? What are those little tiny bits at the center of it all that without it you're like, "This is not my book anymore"?


Megan: [00:12:29] Is it the romance? Is it the bond between the heroes? Is it the struggle to survive? What is that one little core piece that, without it, everything else falls apart? Is it that your hero's learning? Is it that they are becoming a hero out of their villainous past? What is it? What is that one centerpiece, the keystone of it all that if you don't have it, audience members sit in the movie theater and go, "Oh, no. Oh, no, oh, no, no"?


Megan: [00:13:07] So don't do that. Don't let agents, editors, beta readers, your mother, try and pull that keystone out of your story, because once it's gone, the whole thing's going to fall apart tragically, or, depending on how much money they're offering you, maybe let them pull it out. Because the Eragon movie was bad, but Christopher Palani took that check to the bank where he got to comfort himself with a lot of money.


Megan: [00:13:39] So, you know, maybe it is worth letting them destroy everything if you get lots of money and the fame of you having lots of money keeps you on Barnes and Noble shelves for years. That's a personal judgment call. Maybe judge, like, the paycheck with how much you want to preserve the integrity of your story because, you know, millions of dollars, integrity. Billions of dollars, integrity.


Megan: [00:14:03] It would be a personal choice at that point. But make sure you know what you can't lose without losing what your book is supposed to be.


Megan: [00:14:12] Now, there are lots of other problems that you're going to come across with people asking you to take things out of your book.


Megan: [00:14:17] Maybe they're saying you can't have any LGBTQ+ characters in your book. Maybe they're saying you can't use any "isms." Maybe they're saying absolutely no adverbs or any other words that end in "ly" even if they're not an adverb, who knows? It could be that they don't want characters to ever do anything dirty, even behind closed doors, and you thought you were writing erotica. Who knows what they could be asking you to cut? But understand that you as the author do have control. It is your book.


Megan: [00:14:51] Now, when you sign on with an agent and you sign in with an editor, you are giving away bits of that control as you go. So when you get a contract, that is something to think about. That's one of the perks of being an indie author. At the end, you control it all. Win, lose, whatever, it's all on your shoulders. So giving that up, you do have to sort of bend to your agent's and editor's and whatever as well.


Megan: [00:15:16] But know where you want to take a stand. If they say that no girls can wear pink in the whole book, does it matter? Can you cut the pink? If they say that girls are never allowed to be in a powerful position, then probably walk away and tweet about it and make sure that no one ever works with them ever again. But you have to know where the lines are drawn. So, consider that.


Megan: [00:15:43] And understand that writing a story is such a powerful thing and that you have power in your characters, you have power in the world that you have created, and it is a great and mighty treasure. And when someone asks you to gift them a little bit of that treasure, you are not begging them to take it from you. They are kindly requesting, and you can choose to grant the request or not at your own will, because you are in charge, and you are the artist, and artists are powerful.


Megan: [00:16:13] Until next time, may we all have a placid and uneventful week. Yep. I'll see you all next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 55


Megan: [00:00:00] I'm going to have a glass of wine.


Chris: [00:00:02] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:00:02] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry-


Chris: [00:00:05] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:00:05] -that is socially acceptable.


Chris: [00:00:07] This isn't like 2020 "I'm having a glass of wine because it's 2020."


Megan: [00:00:11] No, it's twenty 2021.


Chris: [00:00:13] Yes.


Megan: [00:00:13] We now try and be socially acceptable.

A Book and A Dream Episode 55


Megan: [00:00:00] I'm going to have a glass of wine.


Chris: [00:00:02] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:00:02] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry-


Chris: [00:00:05] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:00:05] -that is socially acceptable.


Chris: [00:00:07] This isn't like 2020 "I'm having a glass of wine because it's 2020."


Megan: [00:00:11] No, it's twenty 2021.


Chris: [00:00:13] Yes.


Megan: [00:00:13] We now try and be socially acceptable.


[00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 55 of A Book and A Dream.


Megan: [00:00:33] Now, today I have a very special guest, live and in person, my very own husband, Christopher Russell. Now, he's not just here because he can't escape me. He's actually here because he's going to be very useful for this episode. So, Chris, other than being my loving husband, who makes sure that I have food because I don't know how to feed myself, it's not something capable of.


Chris: [00:00:59] She's not actually allowed in the kitchen.


Megan: [00:01:02] No, there's a lot of fires when that happens, actually.


Chris: [00:01:04] She started a kitchen fire by boiling water.


Megan: [00:01:07] I don't need your sass.


Chris: [00:01:09] [Laughs.] You shouldn't have brought me on.


Megan: [00:01:11] But it's true. So other than that and mocking me, he's actually, uh, the, sort of, front line editor for all my books. So he reads them before anyone else reads them, not only to make me feel like I'm not crazy, but also to put commas where they're supposed to go, so my agent thinks I'm smart. True story like the burning things by boiling water.


Megan: [00:01:34] He also helps with taking pictures for all my social media. He usually edits the podcast for me. Today, he's going to be on the podcast/video and edit it for me. So yay for me. Umm, he also does, like, my website things. He wrote the music for this podcast. So he does lots of things with my literary business. And he also has been around since my very first book was being written.


Chris: [00:02:00] Since before that.


Megan: [00:02:01] Since before that. I figured out when I was upstairs putting on, like, mascara so I could feel good about myself being on camera, that we have been together since we were minors. So everything that happened once we were legally adults, you've been there.


Chris: [00:02:19] Oh, I see. I was like, "We were eighteen." But yeah.


Megan: [00:02:21] Yeah, but you've been there. Like, if I am legally culpable as an adult for it...


Chris: [00:02:27] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:02:27] You've been there for it! So that's that's overwhelming. But nothing to do with this episode.


Chris: [00:02:31] This year, actually, we will have been together for half our lives. [Pause.] Ok, that was supposed to be a happy "yay!"


Megan: [00:02:41] It's OK, we have wine. Anyway...


Chris: [00:02:43] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:02:44] So the reason that he's here is because I... Last week, I took a week off for Christmas? I don't remember anymore. The week between Christmas and New Year's has no meaning. So who's to say?


Chris: [00:02:54] I don't think any of the dates from March like 15th of 2020 on really had...


Megan: [00:02:59] We're just on March 627.


Chris: [00:03:01] [Sigh.]


Megan: [00:03:01] So I have no idea. But last time, uh, I was talking about, you know what...what I had gotten done in 2020 and planning and moving ahead. And I am unrealistic in my expectations of myself and of the world. It is, it is a thing that I do. And so I wanted Chris to be here with me for this because I wanted to talk today about my plans for 2021 and how I want to move forward in books and in audio and all those things. And it felt unfair to do that without anyone calling me on when my plans are utter B.S. that are not going to happen because-


Chris: [00:03:40] They're just overly optimistic, that's all.


Megan: [00:03:42] Yeah, 'cause I made them...I put things in my planner in pen. Like, I already did that. I already was like, "I'm going to get this many words done this week. And I color coded things and if 2020 taught me anything, which I already talked to you about. I said it on camera. There was like a microphone involved. Don't write things in your planner in pen unless it's going to get you killed if you don't do it. And I went ahead and did it. I just was like, no, I can handle it. And that's a lie.


Megan: [00:04:08] So that's why Chris is here, to keep me from lying to you. And I have a clipboard. So clearly, clearly, I am on top of my life.


Chris: [00:04:14] Very official. Yep...


Megan: [00:04:16] I'm trying. I have a clipboard. OK, so way back in the day when I wrote The Tethering, it took me forever, months and months to write. I also wrote it out by hand.


Chris: [00:04:31] MmmHmm.


Megan: [00:04:32] And he transcribed it for me and it wasn't in order, so he had to help me put the scenes back in order.


Chris: [00:04:40] Oh, no, I forgot about that.


Megan: [00:04:42] Yeah, I love you.


Chris: [00:04:44] I love you, too.


Megan: [00:04:45] So I don't do that anymore. Which is good 'cause it's probably helped the fact that we're still married. But that was a nightmare because I handwrote everything into a notebook and then I was like, yeah. And then Chris was like, it should be a book. And I was like, I can't. It's on paper, and he was like, "*Sigh* ok, I'll type it out." Thankfully, he's good at typing, so that one took forever, and we've sort of advanced since then at the turnaround time significantly.


Chris: [00:05:09] Well, what, 20 some odd books later? I...I hope so.


Megan: [00:05:13] Yeah, that would be really sad. Uh, so, we have advanced significantly on how we manage our time frame. So in, keep in mind, 2020 was a big old mother effer. Am I allowed to say it and then you can just bleep it out?


Chris: [00:05:29] Well, I think effer's fine.


Megan: [00:05:32] But can I say it for real?


Chris: [00:05:34] Now if you had said [bleep], then we would have been in...


Megan: [00:05:35] It was a big ol mother [bleep].


Chris: [00:05:38] Now I'm going to have to bleep it out.


Megan: [00:05:39] Well, you said it already. So you're going have to bleep twice.


Chris: [00:05:43] [Sigh] All right.


Megan: [00:05:43] [Bleep] It's fine.


Chris: [00:05:44] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:05:45] Just a whole series of bleeps. So it was not great. But in 2020, if you count everything that I got done, there were because I had three Ena of Ilbrea books released, one Guilds of Ilbrea book released, two Bryant Adams books released.


Chris: [00:06:07] Yep.


Megan: [00:06:07] 8.5 audiobooks released because Chris refuses to count Wrath and Wing as a full audiobook.


Chris: [00:06:13] It's like twenty thousand words.


Megan: [00:06:15] It's a novella. It's a novella.


Chris: [00:06:15] Yeah, I mean, it's still, it was an undertaking. It was an undertaking.


Megan: [00:06:18] But it counts as point five (.5).


Chris: [00:06:20] Davinder, if you listen to this or watch this, thank you. You're amazing.


Megan: [00:06:22] Our audio engineer is amazing. So that's six books, and eight point five audio books in one year. Now, considering the fact that it was 2020. So emotional turmoil for everyone.


Chris: [00:06:35] Yeah.


Megan: [00:06:35] And two sick cats and, you know, my own little medical dramas, that made me kind of incoherent for a couple of weeks. Fun times.


Chris: [00:06:43] Yeah.


Megan: [00:06:44] Yeah.


Chris: [00:06:44] Yeah.


Megan: [00:06:44] Yeah. Don't worry, everything's fine. But it took a lot of time. So I feel like six books and eight point five audiobooks is actually a pretty good ratio.


Chris: [00:06:56] Yeah, it is not what you were planning you.


Megan: [00:06:59] No, but we don't want to talk about what I was planning.


Chris: [00:07:01] No. Well...but honestly, yeah. No, I think that it ended up being maybe a little bit better than we were anticipating because we were going to do the full Ena of Ilbrea on audio. But then we realized we...that was too much to do. And so we did the we farmed out the other books.


Megan: [00:07:21] Yeah. But I was supposed to have three other written books release.


Chris: [00:07:24] Oh yeah.


Megan: [00:07:25] So that didn't happen.


Chris: [00:07:26] Yeah, that's true.


Megan: [00:07:27] But that's still like a good amount.


Chris: [00:07:29] Yeah.


Megan: [00:07:29] Like, a good amount happened. For 2020, I'm impressed with us.


Chris: [00:07:32] Yes.


Megan: [00:07:32] Go team. High five. [High five] OK, umm...


Chris: [00:07:34] Soft high five for the mic.


Megan: [00:07:36] Yeah. Don't want to pop the mic. So goals for 2021.


Chris: [00:07:41] Sure...


Megan: [00:07:41] I love you.


Chris: [00:07:43] [Sigh]


Megan: [00:07:43] And you're stuck with me forever. It's all community property, so you can't leave me.


Chris: [00:07:50] [Frantic breathing]


Megan: [00:07:50] [Laughs] OK, so first goal...writer goal for 2021.


Chris: [00:07:55] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:07:55] And we're just talking publisher goals.


Chris: [00:07:56] OK.


Megan: [00:07:57] We're not talking like business...


Chris: [00:08:02] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:08:02] Advertising.


Chris: [00:08:02] Right, right right.


Megan: [00:08:02] That kind of thing goals. We're just talking about just just publishing. Just publishing.


Chris: [00:08:07] I understand. Write...writing the book and getting the book out there.


Megan: [00:08:08] Yes.


Chris: [00:08:09] Got it, ok.


Megan: [00:08:09] Well, and audio.


Chris: [00:08:12] [Pause] Right.


Megan: [00:08:12] Yes. OK. Don't cry. I love you. OK, so my first goal for 2021, and this is already going really well. So the first book in the Heart of Smoke series, which is Lanni's series, is coming out at the end of this month.


Megan: [00:08:28] It is already like with editors. I have a cover, I have a blurb. It is up for preorder on Amazon and a bunch of other sites.


Chris: [00:08:38] Kobo, Barnes & Noble.


Megan: [00:08:40] Agh, maybe not Kobo.


Chris: [00:08:42] Yeah, it's on Kobo.


Megan: [00:08:44] It is?!


Chris: [00:08:44] Yeah, it's up for preorder on Kobo.


Megan: [00:08:45] Glad I did that.


Chris: [00:08:46] Yeah.


Megan: [00:08:47] So that's great.


Chris: [00:08:49] Don't...don't hate me if I'm wrong. I'm pretty sure that's right.


Megan: [00:08:51] Well, it's up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Chris: [00:08:52] You keep talking. I'm gonna check [thump]...


Megan: [00:08:53] Oop. Dropping things. So...


Chris: [00:08:57] Everything's fine.


Megan: [00:08:57] That's good. That book is like, we got that. So then I want to finish the other three books in Lanni's series. So there will be four books. Oh, it is up for preorder on Kobo. Good to know. Good to know. that's good. I feel like we got that one


Chris: [00:09:15] Yeah, it's going well


Megan: [00:09:16] knock on weird IKEA wood in the bag. So I want to finish the other three books in her series, Heart of Smoke.


Chris: [00:09:22] Wait, it's not's not going to be a trilogy?


Megan: [00:09:24] I don't need your sass. I did originally book the cover artist for a trilogy. I have already accepted that I am incapable of writing a trilogy and it will be a four-book series. So...and Lanni is...her series is based in the same world of Girl of Glass, but it is, umm, a completely different place, it is different characters. So the...the revisiting the world building while expanding the world building while not leaving audience...readers. Audience members? I...I'm a theater person. Umm, out of the knowledge if they haven't read the Girl of Glass series has been quite a delicate and time consuming process.


Megan: [00:10:03] But now that book one is finished, it's going to be a lot faster because that's sort of where you need to give the info about, like, vampires are chemically induced and you know, you have to give them an injection in the heart. Also, the Incorporation: Bad. People die. So, you know, once you get those sorts of things established, that' can sort of move on with that particular story and not have to worry about finding ways to bring people up to speed without being like, "And here's a five-page rant about the history of the domes and why they're the bad guys. World's ending, kids." So after that, that should go fairly smoothly. So I definitely want that whole series released.


Chris: [00:10:44] Yes, I think that yeah, I. Don't hold me to this, I feel like we can aim for


Megan: [00:10:50] Summer.


Chris: [00:10:50] Summer.


Megan: [00:10:51] I feel like we can do it?


Chris: [00:10:51] I think it'll be fine. I think it'll be fine.


Megan: [00:10:53] I was hoping you'd say that.


Chris: [00:10:54] And with how you write and like, once you really get into a groove.


Megan: [00:10:56] Yeah.


Chris: [00:10:57] Yeah.


Megan: [00:10:57] Yeah.


Chris: [00:10:58] Yeah.


Megan: [00:10:58] I feel like that'll happen.


Chris: [00:11:00] Yeah.


Megan: [00:11:00] OK, so we are both in agreement. If it doesn't happen, this one agreed with me that the full Heart of Smoke series should be released by the end of summer and that is a realistic goal. I am not crazy here.


Chris: [00:11:13] No, I think it's realistic.


Megan: [00:11:15] Obviously, this summer, book two in the Guilds of Ilbrea series has to be released.


Chris: [00:11:19] Yes.


Megan: [00:11:20] But I'm already working on it.


Chris: [00:11:21] No, I know. Yeah.


Megan: [00:11:21] It's already happening.


Chris: [00:11:23] It''s intense.


Megan: [00:11:24] It is an intense series.


Chris: [00:11:25] That world is intense.


Megan: [00:11:25] It is. Every single thing has to be chosen so carefully because it's such a big world and an expansive series in a...


Chris: [00:11:34] It''s my favorite.


Megan: [00:11:35] Aww, thanks, babe.


Chris: [00:11:35] I know you're not supposed to play favorites with your kids, which I feel like your books are like our children, but


Megan: [00:11:41] Yeah. Them and the cats, that's what we have.


Chris: [00:11:43] Them and the cats, but yeah. That's my favorite. Ena's, like, my favorite character ever. And Finn. I love Finn.


Megan: [00:11:47] Oh, thanks.


Chris: [00:11:49] Yeah.


Megan: [00:11:49] I'm glad you like them.


Chris: [00:11:51] Yeah.


Megan: [00:11:51] But, so Myth and Storm has to come out this summer.


Chris: [00:11:54] Yes.


Megan: [00:11:55] Because the preorder's up.


Chris: [00:11:57] Yes.


Megan: [00:11:57] And the cover is designed.


Chris: [00:11:58] Love the cover.


Megan: [00:11:58] So that's obviously happening.


Chris: [00:12:02] Yeah. [Pause]. Yes.


Megan: [00:12:02] So this is when, so that's yes.


Chris: [00:12:04] Yes, that is a yes.


Megan: [00:12:04] Five books have gotten a yes.


Chris: [00:12:06] Yes, and remember we...we did six last year, so we're to summer and have five. So now go go on.


Megan: [00:12:14] I feel like we can do it while you do it. OK, so do you want me to skip over to audio or do you want me to keep with books?


Chris: [00:12:21] There're. Yeah. There are more books?


Megan: [00:12:23] Yeah there are more.


Chris: [00:12:25] OK.


Megan: [00:12:26] Ok, so books or audio, you pick.


Chris: [00:12:28] I... Let's switch it up, let's go to audio.


Megan: [00:12:30] OK, so for audio...for audio, clearly we have to finish the Ena of Ilbrea.


Chris: [00:12:37] Yes, yes.


Megan: [00:12:39] Which is really cool for me because it's visiting Ena's story in a different sort of way and it's reaching a different audience. And I, I also love Ena's series and I am very particular about how I want her story to be told.


Chris: [00:12:55] Yes.


Megan: [00:12:55] So recording it myself keeps me from being an actor's nightmare.


Chris: [00:12:59] Yes.


Megan: [00:12:59] So...but it is such a time-consuming process.


Chris: [00:13:02] Yes.


Megan: [00:13:03] To narrate and splice and send to audio engineer and proof and rerecord and proof. And those books are long.


Chris: [00:13:13] Yes.


Megan: [00:13:13] They are lengthy.


Megan: [00:13:14] They are. So that is an undertaking.


Chris: [00:13:18] They're not as long as the Guilds of Ilbrea series.


Megan: [00:13:20] It is not.


Chris: [00:13:20] So, at least we're not we're not doing that.


Megan: [00:13:22] No. That will be hired out.


Chris: [00:13:23] Thank you, whoever you are who ends up reading that, if you're watching this in the future.


Megan: [00:13:27] It's...yep. That one's being hired out.


Chris: [00:13:29] It's a lot. It's amazing, but it's a lot.


Megan: [00:13:31] I look forward to auditioning narrators for it. And by "look forward to" I mean, that's a very stressful process because people are emailing you and they're like, "You're so fancy, won't you hire me to act for you?" And I'm like, ooh, the imposter syndrome is strong, but we're not going to do that. We're not doing next year.


Chris: [00:13:46] No, no, no, no. That is that's going to be down the road.


Megan: [00:13:51] Yes. Because one of the things about hiring narrators is that you really want to stick with the same narrator throughout the entire series, and since Guilds of Ilbrea will be a long series. I don't want to take the chance of hiring a narrator and have them stop narrating and then having to switch it up and then maybe having to switch it up again because narrators keep coming in and out of the business. And I, I don't really want to count on anyone making a long term career decision to be an audiobook narrator during the middle of the mess that is the world. I think that it's unfair to be like, hey, you're auditioning for me. Are you going to be available for the next four to five years as an audio book narrator. And like no one knows where they're going to be four months from now. So that's not a fair thing to ask.


Chris: [00:14:28] Well, especially because the two narrators that we had are stage actors like like us. That's that's yeah. I was about to say, that's our other gig. But that's that's...


Megan: [00:14:39] That's our gig.


Chris: [00:14:39] That's our gig. Yeah.


Megan: [00:14:42] OK, so we agree and it's getting done.


Chris: [00:14:44] Yes. Ena is getting done.


Megan: [00:14:46] OK, so that is for that is five books and four audio books we've agreed on. OK.


Chris: [00:14:52] Uh-huh.


Megan: [00:14:52] OK. It's going to be fine. I'm going to five and four: I got a tally. So also because The Tale of Bryant Adams, he's starting to panic. You can see it, he's turning a little red.


Chris: [00:15:03] Nah, it's fine.


Megan: [00:15:04] So The Tale of Bryant Adams is...I love Bryant. He's fun. He's like...


Chris: [00:15:10] Yeah.


Megan: [00:15:10] He's one of my most popular series and he needs audiobooks.


Chris: [00:15:14] Yes.


Megan: [00:15:15] So, are we going to are we going to get through Bryant this year?


Chris: [00:15:20] Y-y-yes? Yeah.


Megan: [00:15:21] Yeah?


Chris: [00:15:22] Yeah.


Megan: [00:15:22] Yeah. So that is...


Chris: [00:15:23] Yeah, that's eight.


Megan: [00:15:24] That's eight


Chris: [00:15:25] Audiobooks.


Megan: [00:15:25] So we're up to...five books and eight audio books. That leaves us one book and point five audio books below our 2020 total. Just breathe. It's better if you breathe. Don't panic. Don't let the panic set in. I'll give you wine. It's OK. But that's not all the books that we need to do. Also, I kind of am thinking of maybe putting Lanni's series into audio.


Chris: [00:15:50] I think that's a good idea, yeah.


Megan: [00:15:52] So we're going to put those four books as a maybe. So eight, possibly twelve audio books.


Chris: [00:15:56] We're...'Cause we're not doing Lanni's series.


Megan: [00:15:58] Probably twelve. No, I'm not narrating it. I don't have time.


Chris: [00:16:00] No, no.


Megan: [00:16:01] We'll hire that out. So that's probably twelve audiobooks.


Chris: [00:16:03] Well, because that'll probably in the summer and theater...theoretically, we'll be back on stage.


Megan: [00:16:06] Yeah, I'm going to be a vase.


Chris: [00:16:09] [Laughter]


Megan: [00:16:09] In Beauty and the Beast. It's real. I'll put some pictures up on social media that happened. So then.


Chris: [00:16:17] It was built specifically for her so that if she fell over, it wouldn't hurt too bad, right? Am I saying that right?


Megan: [00:16:25] Sometimes I fall down and go boom. So then there are two other projects that I could start out in the fall for writing.


Chris: [00:16:37] Full proj...? Oh, yeah. No, I know one of them is.


Megan: [00:16:40] So, it could be either the Sorcerers of Ilbrea series.


Chris: [00:16:44] Yes.


Megan: [00:16:46] Which would be starting a whole new Ilbrean spoke of the wheel, which is...that's a big one.


Chris: [00:16:51] Which, we'll put the, umm, there's a page on her website that I'll make sure gets into the notes where you can see the whole wheel.


Megan: [00:16:59] Yeah!


Chris: [00:16:59] It's's six series surrounding the Guilds of Ilbrea series. So it's going to be a total of seven series is what she has planned, because my wife is insane.


Megan: [00:17:07] But you love me, and you can't leave me because I'd starve to death.


Chris: [00:17:07] But I love her so much because I...I know. It is my responsibility to keep her alive.


Megan: [00:17:13] Yeah. That's what wedding vows mean. And so then it could either be the Sorcerers of Ilbrea series, or we could co-write


Chris: [00:17:22] Oh.


Megan: [00:17:22] the series that we've been planning.


Chris: [00:17:23] I was like, wait, what? Oh yes. Yes that's right. We talked about that.


Megan: [00:17:26] Yeah, umm, so we've been discussing co-writing a series.


Chris: [00:17:30] Yeah.


Megan: [00:17:30] Because Chris is a great idea man.


Chris: [00:17:32] I'm a good idea man. I'll hold that. We don't know about the writer part, but we'll find out.


Megan: [00:17:37] Well, I don't...and I feel like this this should be another...another chat some other time where


Chris: [00:17:44] Ok.


Megan: [00:17:45] because you have been with me through creating all of these series, I don't know if that's going you, because there's...there's like the old thing of like your first book should never be published, which honestly I did write really...Wait, we already have bleeps in this episode, right?


Chris: [00:18:06] We do. Yeah.


Megan: [00:18:06] I wrote a really [long bleep] book before The Tethering.


Chris: [00:18:10] It wasn't [bleep].


Megan: [00:18:10] Yes, it was.


Chris: [00:18:10] You were like, what, sixteen?


Megan: [00:18:12] Yeah, so that was where I sort of got like my first book thing out. That was never really a book.


Chris: [00:18:16] I mean, it wasn't Eragon, no offense. Christopher Paolini did kind of put out a really awesome book, but.


Megan: [00:18:23] Yeah, well, prodigies.


Chris: [00:18:23] It was was still good, though.


Megan: [00:18:24] Yeah.


Chris: [00:18:25] It was good.


Megan: [00:18:26] I mean, not good enough, so I don't really consider that my first book because it was never really a book.


Chris: [00:18:31] We should revisit it though.


Megan: [00:18:33] Hahaha no.


Chris: [00:18:34] Ok, never mind.


Megan: [00:18:34] Yeah. We'll put that on the schedule. I have a clipboard, it'll be fine.


Chris: [00:18:38] 2023. [Pause] (Twenty-twenty)Four? [Pause] Just go on.


Megan: [00:18:39] Someday, my estate will sell it and people can laugh at me. Yeah, so that was sort of where I did like my first book, "Oh, this is badness." So I don't know if because you've been with me through all the books either it's going to you're going to have the standard first book, "Oh no!"


Chris: [00:19:03] Right.


Megan: [00:19:04] Or else you're going to have gotten through that already because you've been through it with me.


Chris: [00:19:08] Well, I think it's going to be hard to gauge because we're coauthoring it. So wherever I fail, you'll be able to, theoretically, come in and pick up. But I do fully plan on helping plot it more than I've helped you with other series at the very least. And I do want to try writing, but we'll we'll see. So wish me luck.


Megan: [00:19:30] So we will...we will see how the coauthoring goes.


Chris: [00:19:33] Yeah.


Megan: [00:19:33] It'll be an experiment. Like, do you just plot chapters and I write it, or do you write it and I jooj it?


Chris: [00:19:40] Yeah.


Megan: [00:19:40] Or, do we...


Chris: [00:19:43] I don't know.


Megan: [00:19:44] I don't know. Do you sleep on the couch? I don't...we'll see how it goes.


Chris: [00:19:46] I mean, we've written two musicals together, I feel like...


Megan: [00:19:49] I feel like it'll be OK.


Chris: [00:19:49] We'll figure it out.


Megan: [00:19:50] So maybe that will happen in the fall. Maybe I'll be writing about sorcerers, err, sorcerers of Ilbrea. So at this point we are up to nine books.


Chris: [00:19:59] Yeah. Oh, real quick. I don't know if I'm allowed to share this, so I'll cut it out if I'm not, uh, but the Sorcerers of Ilbrea when we get there, those of you who have read Wrath and Wing, you've already met the main character. Am I allowed to say that?


Megan: [00:20:13] Sure.


Chris: [00:20:13] Yeah.


Megan: [00:20:14] [Melodramatic music] Bwuh-nuh-nuh-nuh.


Chris: [00:20:14] I'm...I'm excited. He or she [pause]. I won't give that much away. awesome. I'm excited.


Megan: [00:20:22] Ok, so I love planting people in random places. It brings me joy. So that is nine books, eight-to-twelve audio books. That you've agreed to.


Chris: [00:20:37] ...yeah.


Megan: [00:20:37] You think that this is realistic.


Chris: [00:20:40] Yes.


Megan: [00:20:41] OK, now here's where we get a little sketchy. If travel is allowed. So if I can figure out where I want to stage it.


Chris: [00:20:47] Yeah.


Megan: [00:20:47] Maggie Trent.


Chris: [00:20:49] Well, I... That one to me, if we are allowed to travel just because you do have like... Honestly, it's... So, Maggie is a really fun book that takes place, uh, in a world that is seen in The Tethering series, uh, and your fan base for that one love that series. I feel like we owe it to them to get that out soon. But we do have to be able to travel.


Megan: [00:21:13] Yeah, sorry.


Chris: [00:21:14] Because it comes out of our, our actual travels in real life. The worlds that she visits. So yeah, we...


Megan: [00:21:20] Yeah.


Chris: [00:21:20] We have to travel.


Megan: [00:21:21] Right now, she could go to the kitchen.


Chris: [00:21:24] And the grocery store, maybe?


Megan: [00:21:27] The vet's clinic.


Chris: [00:21:29] The vet's clinic.


Megan: [00:21:31] Oh I'm going to the optometrist. Maggie could go to the optometrist. What a thrilling time.


Chris: [00:21:36] And that, that's dangerous.


Megan: [00:21:37] Yeah.


Chris: [00:21:38] Yeah.


Megan: [00:21:38] She could go get her nose swabbed.


Chris: [00:21:40] Yeah, I, oof.


Megan: [00:21:40] Maggie and the Nose-Swabbing Adventure. Umm, anyway... So that's about, we're looking at about ten books this year.


Chris: [00:21:49] OK, yeah. Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:21:52] He's just thinking. He's just sinking down in his chair.


Chris: [00:21:55] No, i-i-it's fine, it's just once we get to the end of May, if things progress the way they should...


Megan: [00:22:03] Shh. It'll be OK.


Chris: [00:22:04] It's fine.


Megan: [00:22:04] It'll be ok.


Chris: [00:22:04] I get wine, right?


Megan: [00:22:05] And ice cream?


Chris: [00:22:07] I'm out of ice cream.


Megan: [00:22:08] I'll buy you more.


Chris: [00:22:09] OK.


Megan: [00:22:10] It'll be fine. Umm, there's like some service that can drop them off, I think. Uh, OK, so that's ten books, eight-to-twelve audio books that you have agreed to.


Chris: [00:22:21] Hey, four of those twelve audio books I will have almost nothing to do with.


Megan: [00:22:24] That's true. That's true. So really, you're agreeing to ten books, eight audio books and listening to a bunch of auditions with me and dealing with me having a nervous breakdown 'cause people think I'm fancy and are begging to audition for my books.


Chris: [00:22:35] Yes.


Megan: [00:22:37] Cool.


Chris: [00:22:37] Imposter syndrome.


Megan: [00:22:39] It's so... Oh, God, it burns so hard.


Chris: [00:22:42] I don't. I don't get it. She's amazing. I don't understand.


Megan: [00:22:43] Aww thanks. I like you. And you're also agreeing to coauthor a book with me.


Chris: [00:22:49] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:22:51] A series.


Chris: [00:22:53] [Pause] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:22:54] So that's great.


Chris: [00:22:55] Yeah.


Megan: [00:22:56] So this...let this serve as a record for when we get to the end of 2121, and maybe we'll do some check-ins.


Chris: [00:23:04] [Laughs] You just said 2121.


Megan: [00:23:05] 2021? [Laughs] It'll be done by 2121, people. I mean, that's what it feels like sometimes. But let this serve as a record...


Chris: [00:23:14] Last year was a decade long.


Megan: [00:23:15] Argh, it was like twelve decades long. It's been eighty-four years. Or is it eighty-seven? Anyway, back to the topic at hand. So you have agreed that this is a mostly realistic schedule that you think we can stick to, and I'm not a crazy person.


Chris: [00:23:34] ...y-yes?


Megan: [00:23:35] So, this is coming from someone who is not me that this should happen.


Chris: [00:23:39] Yeah. [Sigh] Again, once we hit the summer, it's gonna... Up until then, we should... [Sigh] Yeah, no, you know what? Yeah. Yeah, it's gonna happen. It's gonna happen.


Megan: [00:23:53] OK. So we'll check in again later with when book releases are scheduled and how audiobooks are going and how coauthoring is going. It's going to be a really great project. I'm very excited about it.


Chris: [00:24:05] Yeah, I am too.


Megan: [00:24:05] The concept is on point.


Chris: [00:24:06] It's great.


Megan: [00:24:06] And we'll see if, ya know, my agent needs anything from me.


Chris: [00:24:10] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:24:12] That could throw things off.


Chris: [00:24:12] Yes.


Megan: [00:24:12] But... So that is my, not really a resolution, but that is my goals sheet. And I don't I don't ever want to promise any of my readers that any books will come out before I post the preorder. Like, once the preorder is there, Amazon has said it must happen, so therefore it will happen. So I don't want to be like, yes, I swear to you, there will be a Sorcerers of Ilbrea series or yep, by the end of June, all four Lanni books will be out in the world. I don't want to promise that because I wrote it in pen, but 2020 has taught me that it doesn't matter. But this is...this is my plan that has been certified by a mostly sane human who understands my process and is in on the behind the scenes things.


Chris: [00:24:57] Yes.


Megan: [00:24:58] So this is my my goals and resolutions for 2020[sic] of what's going to happen.


Chris: [00:25:05] Yeah. I like it. I feel good about it.


Megan: [00:25:09] I feel...I mean, I feel...


Chris: [00:25:11] I do. It's...slightly overwhelming.


Megan: [00:25:12] I don't know if there is enough coffee in the world to make it happen, but.


Chris: [00:25:17] Yeah. Lots of coffee.


Megan: [00:25:18] Yeah. Yeah. So there you go. And this is my plan. And I love you. And thank you for...


Chris: [00:25:27] Yeah.


Megan: [00:25:28] Bringing me cappucinos.


Chris: [00:25:29] got it.


Megan: [00:25:30] And, you know, managing my website and reading all my books and putting commas in so that people think I'm smart.


Chris: [00:25:35] Thank you for being a good writer. If I had to sit through almost 30 bad novels, I'd be very upset.


Megan: [00:25:42] I love you.


Chris: [00:25:43] I love you, too.


Megan: [00:25:45] Yeah, so next time I do a video or a podcast, depending on what your medium is, I want to talk a little bit about when it is worth fighting for scenes, characters, concepts within your books and when it's better to just be like, you know what, it's fine. It's not necessary. And talking about figuring out how to maintain the integrity of the tale while giving some concessions to agents, editors, readers, society at large, you know, whatever it is that you have to change in order to, you know, make your story, be out there and reach a large enough audience to be worth it. Umm, yeah, we are in for a very exciting and productive year.


Chris: [00:26:30] Yeah.


Megan: [00:26:31] So I'm going to have a glass of wine.


Chris: [00:26:34] Mmmhmm.


Megan: [00:26:35] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry.


Chris: [00:26:37] [Laughs.]


Megan: [00:26:37] That is socially acceptable.


Chris: [00:26:39] This isn't like 2020, "I'm having a glass of wine because it's...2020.


Megan: [00:26:43] No, it's 2021.


Chris: [00:26:45] Yes.


Megan: [00:26:46] We now try and be socially acceptable.


Chris: [00:26:48] We do.


Megan: [00:26:48] We are preparing ourselves to reenter society.


Chris: [00:26:51] Yes.


Megan: [00:26:52] Uh, so yeah. That thanks for thanks for coming on, babe.


Chris: [00:26:55] Yeah. You're welcome. Usually I'm over there.


Megan: [00:26:59] Yeah.


Chris: [00:26:59] With headphones on.


Megan: [00:26:59] Doin' a little sound thing.


Chris: [00:27:01] Yeah, it's true.


Megan: [00:27:01] So, uh, I will see you all next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 54

Megan: [00:00:00] So, my whole planner for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things, so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive.

A Book and A Dream Episode 54

Megan: [00:00:00] So, my whole planner for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things, so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-four of A Book and A Dream. 2020 is not the year that any of us thought we were going to have going into it, not by a long shot. So since it has been a year of adapting and learning how to figure things out on the fly, I wanted to share with you the top five lessons that I learned from, as an author, from the dumpster fire that has been twenty twenty.


Megan: [00:01:00] Lesson number one: never write it in pen, specifically in your planner, specifically anything that's not going to get anyone killed if it doesn't happen. As I look back at what I thought I was going to get done as an author, as my writing goals at the end of 2019 vs. what actually happened, there are two very different pictures.


Megan: [00:01:23] There were going to be other books and more books and a lot less audio was supposed to get done, but all of that kind of went flying out the window. And some of that is because of amazing opportunities that happened, like hiring awesome actors to narrate two of my series. And some of that is just because...dumpster fire. Dumpster fires happen.


Megan: [00:01:48] So my whole plan are for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive. Everything else, write lightly in pencil so that you can erase it really easily and there's not going to be, like, rage whiteout all over the place because rage whiteout just makes it even worse when you finally flip to that page three months later and you're like, all right, there is no book release day today because that book never got written.


Megan: [00:02:22] Number two: be flexible and be willing to adapt. Now, this comes in a lot of forms for me. A lot of it came with audio. In my head...originally, the entire Ena of Ilbrea series was going to be released on audio by the end of the year. Obviously, that didn't happen. Hopefully, Ember and Stone will be available soon. Wrath and Wing is already out there, but there are three more books in the series that have yet to be finished, even in the recording booth. So there's a lot more work left to be done on that. And a lot of that is simple things. Like, sometimes you're living in a condo where the AC unit is just too noisy so you can't record. And you have to be flexible and put that on hold and, you know, hire narrators to do things for you. A lot of that is also being flexible with my writing time once I had found the narrators, because proofing audio books takes way, way longer than you think it would if you want to actually proof what you're paying someone to record for you.


Megan: [00:03:26] That's actually super time-consuming. That takes, like, four times longer than I thought it would when I was, like, making out my writing plans. No, no, it takes forever. Proofing audio takes forever. I now understand why you can hire people to do it on Fivver. Not that I would ever do that because I don't want to sell a product to my readers/listeners that I've never heard for myself because that feels super skeezy and wrong to ask you to invest your time and dollars into. But I understand why some people are like, no, I'm not proofing this audio. I'm paying someone to do it for me.


Megan: [00:04:00] And some of it is also not, you know, being flexible with our schedules, it's learning to adapt to change. It's learning to adapt to not being in the theater for nine shows a week. It's learning to adapt to being back out of the theater. It's learning to adapt to new technologies that suddenly become super popular. Hello, Zoom meetings for everything. Or in my case. TikTok. TikTok has so many options. It gives me menu anxiety and you open the app and it starts playing music at you, which is very overwhelming for me. But you know what? It's where the youths are. So I'm going to learn to use and love TikTok because that is one of the adaptations 2020 has asked me to make.


Megan: [00:04:42] And, you know, you don't want to have to be super flexible and give up your entire schedule. You don't want to have to adapt to a social media platform that plays songs at you and it's a new song every 15 seconds and it makes you panic inside. But sometimes that's what the dumpster fire requires you to do, and you have to accept it and move on so you can grow and be prosperous when the world reopens into its new and reimagined form.


Megan: [00:05:14] Number three: take chances and don't be afraid to gamble. So, just because people tell you that something can't be done, it doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be done. It means they haven't figured out a way to make it happen. So that could be something like, I don't know, having a bunch of interlocking series in Ilbrea where you can choose to start with the Ena of Ilbrea series or choose to start with Inker and Crown and you won't actually be missing a lot.


Megan: [00:05:41] A lot of people said that it couldn't be done. And you know what? It took a lot of charting, but it happened, people. It happened. Now, there are some times when people tell you things aren't possible and maybe they were right, like, I don't know, hiring out having to run Facebook ads. That one did not end so well.


Megan: [00:06:02] So, you should be willing to take chances and go against other people's advice because maybe you can really make it work for you. But the addendum to this lesson from 2020: don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose, because if those Facebook ads go badly, you need to be able to walk away with a smile and just like have a glass of wine on your way out and not freak out about losing the money. So, if you can't afford to get editors and covers and everything for Inker and Crown, when people are saying that it'll never work after the Ena of Ilbrea series, then maybe wait and gamble later. But if you can afford the covers and you can afford the editors, try it because you are creating your own art, whether it is books or theater or music or a new meal for your family or whatever it is, try things, take chances, keep an eye on your budget so you don't have to panic if things blow up in your face.


Megan: [00:06:56] Number four: don't chase trends. This can be with anything. It is particularly, particularly important to authors. And I think a huge chunk of the author community learned that this year. And there is this whole ecosystem within the author world where there is like the people who write their art and it's what's in their heart. And then the people who are like, no, you have to write to market. You have to write things that people want to read. So if you want to write a thriller, you have to have a guy with, like, a vague past and some alcoholism issues. And don't forget to blow things up, or nobody's going to want to buy it. It's not necessarily selling out. It's just picking what tropes are popular and then writing to that niche so that you have a ready-made audience instead of having to, you know, mine through Moria in order to find your audience. It does make sense. However, some people take that a little too far, and they start chasing trends.


Megan: [00:07:52] So, you know, let's say you were wanting to write a dystopian novel and in late 2019 viral, pandemic dystopian novels were the big seller. So if you had decided to hop on that train when it was already pretty far out of the station, you'd be a very sad author right now, because not many people want to read about a pandemic at the moment, so you've got to balance it.


Megan: [00:08:19] You want to be like in the now and writing things that are relevant and that have an audience, but don't chase every trend, because that virus that leads to the end of the world is not going to be a topseller in 2021.


Megan: [00:08:38] And last but definitely not least, number five: kindness and compassion starts with yourself. So, everybody's been put through the ringer this year. Even people like me who are really super fortunate considering the dumpster fire. Like, came out with some scorch marks on my hair and like maybe I'm missing half an eyebrow and maybe I have, like, a little limp as I run away, but like, really pretty fortunate...the whole thing considered. But even people who haven't had their entire lives lost, err, turned upside down, who haven't lost loved ones, ended up at the hospital, all those horrible things. It's still not been a great year. There's stress and there's panic and there's unknowns. And there's Zoom meetings and people are home schooling children, even though they never planned on homeschooling children, but they had children, but they didn't want to spend time with them necessarily all the time. I don't know. This is why I have two cats. I have no idea.


Megan: [00:09:36] So there's been a lot of hardship for everyone, and there's been a lot of change. And as an author, you can control a lot of your environment. You can control what you're writing on the page, what your characters do, all those things. You are the director, the choreographer, the actors. You have your little world, and you can make it go how you want. And so it often feels like you should be able to to do more, to write more words...there's nothing stopping you but you. But you also need to look at that word count that's not quite happening. That book that didn't get finished, that schedule where you were going to write three more books than you accomplished, with kindness for yourself. We all have to understand that we have been through a hell of a year.


Megan: [00:10:21] It's been awful. And you know what? If you didn't manage to write anything, that's OK.


Megan: [00:10:30] If you managed to write something, and it's not very good, that's OK. If you wrote seven books and you never want to look at them again and you're not going to edit them, you're going to put them in a drawer for the next 20 years. Cool. Whatever you have to do. We all need to dig deep right now and find compassion for the people around us. Everyone is stressed, everyone is off their schedule. Everyone is basically a three-year-old that hasn't had a nap in days. And if we're trying so hard to find that compassion for the people around us, whether it's friends or families or strangers who are not being good all...then we have to find that same compassion for ourselves. We have to give ourselves that same leeway to work through all of this, however we can manage it. And if that means reading 12 books in a day, do it. If that means bingeing Netflix or wearing your new Pluto cardigan to record a video, then you know what? Live your life and find that joy and peace in accepting that, even if you are on the struggle bus, you are still doing the best that you can and that is OK.


Megan: [00:11:37] And if that is the only lesson that we come out of 2020 with other than your nose is attached to your lungs and handwashing is important at all times, then allowing ourselves grace in times of stress and trauma is the lesson that I would love for us to all come out with. Because we need that. We all need that. We've been so caught up in productivity and, you know, making things happen, and it all has to be now because technology will overtake us and...yeah. Capitalism, man, it's hard, but you've got to give yourself a chance to breathe or the dumpster fire will get you, it'll get you.


Megan: [00:12:20] So, take a moment as we approach the new year and give yourself some grace as you write down your New Year's resolutions. You know? Don't...don't hate yourself for those five pounds you gained, or 50, you know, whatever. Live your life. And we are going to come out of this on the other side, scorched, singed, limping, but it's going to be OK. So I'll see you in the new year.

A Book and A Dream Episode 53

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good.

A Book and A Dream Episode 53

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 53 of A Book and A Dream. Sometimes, it's better to accept defeat. I know, that sounds awful and unexpected from me, but sometimes it is. I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good. I don't really do writer's block. If I am ever confused about a story, then a nice long walk through the woods where I come out with my legs aching and probably mud somewhere on my face usually takes care of it.


Megan: [00:01:08] For me, it's just not something that I've ever had to, like, hold up on working on a story because I don't know what to do with my life. Maybe that comes from spending my entire life on stage and in the theater where the show must go on and you push through no matter what. Or maybe that's just not how my brain works. Either way you cut it, I'm just not used to being like, oh, I can't write this. It just won't come to me. It's not a thing that I do. Now is sort of the time when I've had to look at things and be like, hmm, maybe it would be better to just not actually write that right now. And this is really all about Maggie Trent, so The Chronicles of Maggie Trent, book one of which is The Girl Without Magic. I had promised readers that the fourth book in the series would be coming out in late '20 early 2021.


Megan: [00:02:01] And I really thought it was going to happen. And all through this year, I've been like Maggie's book's gonna happen. Maggie's book's gonna happen. And I've had some readers asking like, where's the preordering, where is the book? And I finally had to start admitting that, no, Maggie is not going to have a fourth book in the next little bit of time. And it's not that, you know, I don't love Maggie and I don't love Bertrand or anything dire like that. It's just...I don't have anything to give them right now. Maggie is built around adventure.


Megan: [00:02:36] So, if you haven't read the series yet, book one, The Girl Without Magic, as of December 2020 is currently free on all major ebook retailer platforms. So go check it out. But they're all about jumping through other worlds. So think of it as like Chronicles of Narnia meets Doctor Who. Every book, they travel to a new world. They have this grand adventure, and they travel out of the Siren's Realm. The Siren's Realm itself has bits of Venice in it and beautiful beaches and wonderful tent cities. The fancy kind, not the really sad "we should help poor people more" kind. And all of that is very fanciful, and then in each book, they go to a secondary location. In the first's really based on Thailand, and the second book, there's a lot of Ireland in it in a steampunk kind of way. And the third book, there's a lot of Savannah, Georgia, in a ghostly, soul-eating everyone might die kind of way, but you know what I mean? Like, they're not really set there, but it is all inspired by those locations.


Megan: [00:03:36] And I thought I was going to be able to choose another location for their last book. But then 2020 happened, and there was no travel. There was no chance to go on a grand adventure to find inspiration for a grand adventure for Bertrand and Maggie. If I were to write them a fourth book right now, the options would be like them traveling to the kitchen, then adopting two kittens who turn out to be little demons, which, you know, could be interesting. It could be fun to lock them in a house and be like, now escape. Get out, get out. That could be entertaining, but that's not Maggie and Bertrand's story. They deserve more than that. My readers deserve more than that.


Megan: [00:04:19] And right now, I can't provide that. So, I have made the decision to not meet that deadline that I gave my readers, I'm so sorry, umm, and wait until the world goes back to normal, and adventures outside of your kitchen are possible again so that I can give them the best fourth book that I can write. Umm, and that's not to say that I'm putting off all of my books. I mean, yes, Myth and Storm is in the world of Ilbrea. There is, because it is a Guilds of Ilbrea book, there are lots of different settings. And there's adventure and there's mountains and ice caves and regular caves and sea travel and like all kinds of amazing, fantastical locations.


Megan: [00:05:04] And it's super fun to write. I love writing that, but feels different somehow. Even though there are a lot of fantasy settings, those fantasy settings are different than the way I construct Maggie and Bertrand's settings for them. The world that they visit is like 20 characters' worth of being in the book. It's the same with, you know, the Heart of Smoke series. Book one of that is coming out in January. The books are ready to go. It's, you know, been written during the year that has been 2020. And there has been a lot of worldbuilding in that because it takes place in the same world as Girl of Glass, but from the other end of the spectrum. So twisting everything on its head has taken a lot more worldbuilding than you'd think would go into writing something else in a world that you already wrote. But that's fine. It's fine.


Megan: [00:05:54] So, those things are still happening, and there's still audio coming. And I have another series planned, and there are lots of things going on. But Maggie and do them justice...are just going to have to wait. In terms of what exciting things I do have coming up, because I swear I am not just giving up on publishing things, like things are happening, just not that. The Siren's Realm audio is now available on all retail platforms, which is amazing. I have a cat trying to destroy things right next to me, which feels so standard for my life because I really did adopt two demons by accident.


Megan: [00:06:28] One of their front legs has stopped growing on one of the kittens. It's great. She has this weird little limp. It's so 2020, it's perfect. It's so on brand. We're just going to go with it. I do have the Heart of Smoke series, book one is coming out in January. The other books will be rolling out soon after. Myth and Storm is underway. The final book in the Girl of Glass series Audio is going to be out as soon as Audible and ACX release it, which I've been promised by the representatives will be very soon. So there is all sorts of content to explore.


Megan: [00:06:59] And as I said, as of December 2020, the first book in the Maggie Trent series, The Girl Without Magic, is free. There's lots of excitement coming, lots of adventure that does not involve my kitchen or cats, but for now that is going to be on hold. So here's to 2021, where hopefully we will be able to have adventures and travel and do all sorts of wonderful things again. But in the meantime, I am going to leave Maggie and Bertrand hunkered down in the Siren's Realm until it is safe for them to go on adventures again. I'm really sorry if you've been waiting for the fourth book, I know a lot of people are going to be mad about this, but I appreciate you all. Thank you so much for reading.


Megan: [00:07:46] And stay safe. Stay inside, and I will see you next time. Bye bye.

A Book and A Dream Episode 52

Megan: [00:00:02] How does the government...


Mo the Cat: [00:00:03] *Mewing and Meowing*


Megan: [00:00:10] Should I take it from the beginning of that?

A Book and A Dream Episode 52

Megan: [00:00:02] How does the government...


Mo the Cat: [00:00:03] *Mewing and Meowing*


Megan: [00:00:10] Should I take it from the beginning of that?


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-two of A Book and A Dream. For those of you who are super observant, you might have noticed that there was no recording released last week.


Megan: [00:00:40] I could lie and say I was really busy with edits for my agent for something he wants to submit and also proofing the audiobook for The Dragon Unbound, which is now available on all non-Amazon/Audible retailers. Or that I'm working on a new project, and all of those things would actually, technically be true.


Megan: [00:00:59] But the honest truth as to why there was no recording out last week is because I had bronchitis that turned into a 10-day long asthma attack because there had to be COVID tests. And I'm fine now. But honestly, it got to the time when I should record a podcast and video for last week. And my husband was like, are you going to do that?


Megan: [00:01:16] And I was like, no.


Megan: [00:01:19] No, I'm actually not, because sometimes self-care looks like saying no, and I try to be honest with you all, and it would be really wrong of me to be like, "and I was really fancy and important." No, I wasn't. No, I wasn't. I was refusing to put on real clothes because I didn't feel good. And honestly, even today, I almost recorded this lying on the floor. In fact, if we had been able to figure out how to place a mic in such a way that wouldn't have risked chipping my teeth if it fell, I would have. I would have just laid on the floor to record this. But I didn't want to risk chipping my teeth, so here I am.


Megan: [00:01:55] And the truth is, I have been super busy and very productive. And it's 2020, and if you are still breathing, you're doing a great job. Like, to anyone out there who's like, "I'm a failure. I accomplished nothing in 2020." No, if you're surviving, that's like every other year's equivalent of thriving. Like that's, that's the bar, that's the standard right now. But I have gotten some things done, a lot of things done. Many muchin things have been done. I've been working on the first book in a new series, the series currently called Heart of Smoke, and I ended up changing the series title. But the first book is definitely called Heart of Smoke. It's actually already available for preorder on most major retailers. Kobo won't let me do that sort of thing. But it's there.


Megan: [00:02:39] And I'm really excited about this new series because it is very challenging and it takes place in the world of Girl of Glass. And I know, like most authors, you like write one book in the world and then you move on.


Megan: [00:02:53] But I don't want to do that. I'm also terrified of becoming like the Family Guy version of that Star Wars band where they're like "Play that same song again. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo." But I don't want to do that.


Megan: [00:03:05] I don't want my readers to be like, "And you're writing another book in the same world. Good for you." And the whole point of building the world of Ilbrea was to create a lot of different series that fleshed out this whole massive world. So it's this huge thing. By the end, when I wrote Girl of Glass, I was not intending on ever writing another series in the same world.


Megan: [00:03:26] I created that series because I specifically wanted to look at a dystopian environment from the point of view of the upper one percent who has been chosen to survive. And that's great. And I love the Girl of Glass series. I'm very proud of it.


Megan: [00:03:39] But it got to the point where I really wanted to explore another point of view in that world. It may be the actor in me. When you're an ensemble member, you see everything from, like, six points of view per show. So I can see like, "oh, hey, you're a good guy in this scene and oh, hey, I'm going to murder you in the scene." You know, it' want to explore things from different angles because that's what I've done for my entire adult acting career. So that's how it feels normal to me. And sometimes it doesn't feel worth it.


Megan: [00:04:12] I'm like, I don't need to do this. Like in my head, it's cool, but not worth writing a whole book about.


Megan: [00:04:18] But with Girl of Class, it seemed like it was worth it because it is a big world. And there is so much to explore and we haven't really seen the apocalypse happening from the point of view of someone who's hungry. Who is thirsty, who is dying because, you know, lots of people are trying to stab them because, you know, evil men try to kill people, it's just like a thing.


Megan: [00:04:45] So I decided that I really wanted to write another series in the world of Girl of Glass, which is where Heart of Smoke comes into play. And it does not interfere with the Girl of Glass series. There are many different sets of domes within that world. It was established that they existed early on in the Girl of Glass series before I ever really thought I'd write another set of books in that world. But it''s separate. It's not going to mess with the Girl of Glass canon. I've been very careful about that, but I wanted to see the end of the world from a different part of the world. And that is where one story comes into play.


Megan: [00:05:21] Now, there are some really great things about going back into a world that you already know so well because the world is built, and when you're writing a new series, a lot of the time that comes into writing that book one is just building the rules of the world.


Megan: [00:05:39] It's is there a government?


Megan: [00:05:42] How does the government...


Mo the Cat: [00:05:43] *Mewing and Meowing*


Megan: [00:05:50] Should I take it from the beginning of that?


Megan: [00:05:54] Let's try that again. One of the really great things about revisiting a place that you've already been in a book is that the world is already there.


Megan: [00:06:02] The world has been built. A lot of the time that goes into writing a book, one when it's not like a contemporary fantasy where, you know, we know how the government here works and then you kinda twist it a little.


Megan: [00:06:14] But if it's in a...a different world, then building the rules of that world. So how does the government work? Like how do they enforce their laws? What weapons do they have to enforce their laws? How does their class system work? All of those things take a lot of time. So when you're revisiting worlds, all of that work is really done for you. All of that governmental, structural building is there. The other nice thing is that you already have some readers in place. There are people who already read Girl of Glass who have been actively asking me for another series. So there is sort of that comforting nature of, oh, I'm writing a book with a built in audience. That's a great idea I've had.


Megan: [00:06:59] There are some...drawbacks to writing another book in the same world that you've already finished a series in. One of the biggest problems is to not screw with the canon of what you've already done. You can't be like, "oh, and the people in the old series didn't know that the people in the new series had already killed all the bad guys. And there was really no problem the whole time." Like, well, I mean, you could. You could do that. It would kind of suck for you to do it, but you could. So really you have to be very careful about not messing with the things you've already done.


Megan: [00:07:39] You also have to be very careful about introducing information. So the Heart of Smoke series is different from the Girl of Glass series. You should not have had to read Girl of Glass to read Heart of Smoke. Cool. In concept, that's very easy. It''s easy to be like, oh yeah, two different things. However, introducing information has to happen in a very specific way. So if you'd never read the Girl of Glass series, which for those of you haven't, it takes place...well, it starts in a set of domes, which think like biodome, greenhouses. That's where they live. They're built as like an ark to protect people at the end of the world. So people who have read the Girl of Glass series, if I was like, yeah, the people who live behind glass in Heart of Smoke would be like, "Oh, she means the domers."


Megan: [00:08:31] But if I just say the people who live behind glass in Heart of Smoke, they're going to be like, wait a second, there are terrariums? No, no, it's like an isolation ward. Wait a second. Those people have really big windows in their houses? Hmm.


Megan: [00:08:46] It's not going to be clear, but I also can't be like, "oh, and here's how this entire system works to make sure you are entirely caught up in one scene. So here is these five pages for the sixth time about the rules of Quidditch."


Megan: [00:09:04] Yeah, nobody wants to read that, so you have to pepper things in, and it's really hard to make sure that you're getting all of the information that people need to the people as they need it. It is a very tricky thing that will make you go, "...I may, in fact, record this podcast from the floor today."


Megan: [00:09:23] And while you're maintaining the framework of the world and making sure that the new readers actually understand the world, you have to figure out how to fit a new story into that existing framework. So we know how the government works. We know how the bad guys can be defeated. We know how the good guys all end up dead. We know how this goes. So how do you write a new story that fits into that frame? How can you paint a completely different picture with a cat chewing on your microphone as you record...that is going to be interesting to readers? Because you can't just be like, "OK, well, in this world, I know that these things will kill the bad guys. So we're going to have somebody do this thing again."


Megan: [00:10:11] Well, yes, we've proven that if you do this thing, these people die. We know that. But you have to come up with a new concept that fits within the world you have built. It has to fit on the map, in the frame, in sort of the box. I mean, I hate boxes. Nobody wants to write inside the box, but you know what I mean. It has to fit the packaging that the world will allow. But at the same time, it also has to be worthy of your readers' time.


Megan: [00:10:39] You don't want to rehash the same story. You don't want it to be the same old thing but I gave them different names and hair colors so that I can sell another book. No, it has to be a different story. It has to create a different experience that is worth your readers' investment of their time and money.


Megan: [00:10:55] And so that can be really difficult because when you've built things so that there is a battle and the only way to end the battle is this, and these are the sacrifices we must make. Well, you can't use that again. If you use that again, why why would people want to read that same book? It's the same book.


Megan: [00:11:15] So it takes a lot of work to build a new plot line that will allow new loopholes for your characters to exploit so that they can be triumphant or at least die in a hopefully meaningful way. And a final lesson out there that's really only applicable to authors, for readers who are just trying to like, look at their authors, their favorite author's series and be like, "wait a second, you've used this trope in every book." I'm really sorry if I've ruined anything for you. I'm really sorry, because there are some people who will reuse the same world and the same trope. And once you know it's the same world and the same trope, you know who's going to end up married and who's going to end up dead within the first 10 pages.


Megan: [00:12:00] But, you know, sometimes we need comfort, so that's totally legit.


Megan: [00:12:04] And if that's that author's brand, go with it. That's not how I do things.


Megan: [00:12:07] But something that is only specifically for the authors: if you have a series and you're writing a new series and you pick out the perfect way to title your series, you check through Amazon, you make sure no one has those titles, you check through Goodreads, you make sure no one has the titles, you check all the Amazon or all the Google CEO and you make sure that it is going to fit well and work. And it's on Brand. Post all the preorders right away.


Megan: [00:12:36] Because if you don't, you're going to get halfway through the process of working for...with your cover designer on book one and realize that someone's posted a preorder for another series with your title for book two.


Megan: [00:12:49] So you have to go back and rename everything. Which is another reason you want to record a podcast from the floor. So just, you know, like snag that right away, just grab it, grab that title before anyone else can get it, because they named their series that, too, so you really can't use it because that would be a bad, mean thing to do to a new author who doesn't have very many reviews. And you'd screw them over by doing it. And you're a good person.


Megan: [00:13:20] You are. You're a good person, and you're not going to do that to them, so, yeah, that's really where I am right now. Halfway to the floor. Most of a book written, some edits for my agent, some more audiobooks, lots of exciting things to come.


Megan: [00:13:38] And some, uh, wiggling in a pre-built world to create a new and magnificent story for you all so that you can enjoy Lanni's journey through the world of the domes with an entirely different take on the world and the Incorporation and the domes and how the vampires in her world work and all of those different things so that it is a new escape for all of you when we all need something new and fantastical to distract us this year.


Megan: [00:14:09] So thank you for sticking with me when I did not record last week. I will be back next week, barring disaster.


Megan: [00:14:17] Yeah, I'm going to be back next week with another video for you or podcast, whichever way you are absorbing this content. And yes, stay safe. If you have a moment to read a good book, take it. Take a breath. This time of year is stressful for everyone in the best of years. And love yourself. Be kind.


Megan: [00:14:37] And if what you need to do is lay on the floor and just not for a while, go with it, because if you're surviving, you are thriving.


Megan: [00:14:47] Happy 2020, y'all.

A Book and A Dream Episode 51

Megan: [00:00:02] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff. I guess I've accomplished something with my life. I don't know, like it, it feels weird to feel accomplished.

A Book and A Dream Episode 51

Megan: [00:00:02] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff. I guess I've accomplished something with my life. I don't know, like it, it feels weird to feel accomplished.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-one of A Book and a Dream. And no, I'm not changing the normal day of A Book and a Dream back to Thursday, but I wanted to save the episode this week for today because it is release day for Five Spellbinding Laws for International Larceny, which is the fourth and final book in The Tale of Bryant Adams series. Yay!


Megan: [00:00:50] I am super excited to have this fourth and final installment out in the world. It's been a crazy ride trying to get everything done in time with, you know, the world being what it is. But I'm really happy with the final book in the series, and it's kind of crazy because there's something super bittersweet about ending any series. This one is more on the sweet side than the bitter side. There are some series where you end them and you're like, I hope people don't hate me, but this is how the story goes. And then there are some series like Bryant where you're like, oh, I'm going to miss playing with him.


Megan: [00:01:26] He's my friend. But yay, here's these last little laughs with him that I get to put out in the world.


Megan: [00:01:31] I mean, it's very much one of those, but I'm going to miss working on Bryant because there...there's something super fun about the way that his series is structured and working in his world because Bryant is a first person. A little bit tongue in cheek, not really snarky, but very modern, very humorous, does not take everything that's happening super seriously even when there are life and death consequences. So, you know, very much like me.


Megan: [00:02:02] And so there's not a lot of series where I have the flexibility to do things like make musical theater references or Dungeons and Dragons references or have random demon cats and Jello prisons. Like, you can't do that in every series. It's just not going to work. But because of the world building and the way that Bryant's series has evolved, I did have the ability to sort of do whatever I wanted. There weren't a lot of rules I couldn't break other than no on-page naughty time and keep the cursing to a minimum. Like that...those were the rules I set for myself. Everything else was fair game.


Megan: [00:02:39] So, yeah, I'm going to miss having that freedom and that ability bleed into the modern world. But I'm so happy to have his last book out there. It's also crazy because the release of Five Spellbinding Laws is also marking my 20th book release as an indie author. And that's...that's pretty huge. That's kind of monumental. Umm, for the authors out there, there's that whole, like 20 books to 50k thing where you're like, as soon as I hit 20, I'm going to be big and important, and I don't feel big and important. I think I could have 100 books out. I'm fairly certain I could have a theme park based after one of my books, and I still wouldn't feel big and important. I don't think I'm capable of it, but it is kind of cool to know that I, I have 20 books out there now. Eventually I'm going to have to like take a picture of me with all my 20 books. Probably not this week, but I'm going to do it. It's going to happen.


Megan: [00:03:38] Umm, yeah. It also is my fourth full series now because I have The Tethering series, which is complete, the Girl of Glass series, which is complete, the Ena of Ilbrea series is complete, and now The Tale of Bryant Adams is complete. So that's crazy. And other exciting things that are happening right now is Ena of Ilbrea is getting a complete collection, or a four book saga. Nice little one-volume set. So that's super exciting. I'll make sure that there are links with the video and the podcast to go with that. So that's kind of another crazy, huge deal. Which, funny story about that. Did you know that if you're an indie author and you print with Amazon, they have a very specific page count, and if you write a series as long as Ena of Ilbrea, getting that to fit under Amazon guidelines is pretty tough.


Megan: [00:04:35] So there is something super gratifying about trying to get a project put into one volume, and Amazon's like, I don't think it can fit. So that's really cool. That's another like little author accomplishment. I wrote so many words Amazon's like, are you sure about that? So, go me that's a lot of words.


Megan: [00:04:58] Umm, I also just proved the the audio for the Son of Sun audiobook, so that means I'm going to have a complete collection of audio for Girl of Glass. So that's wrapping up a big project, too. So it's it's sort of been a crazy few weeks of like putting little bows on all these things like hmm, Bryant Adams series, doop, shove that under the Christmas tree. Ena of Ilbrea of the Four Book Saga, boop. Look at that pretty cover art. Girl of Glass finishing that audio off big old checkmark, shove her under the Christmas tree. It's just been kind of crazy and, as like a business woman, I'm like, look at me checking off all these boxes and as a human, I'm like.


Megan: [00:05:41] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff.


Megan: [00:05:45] I guess I've accomplished something with my life, I don't know, like feels weird to feel accomplished, but I think what I'm supposed to be feeling at this point is accomplished.


Megan: [00:05:57] And next week, I'll do a really great podcast that I'll have like bulleted points about. Here are the top seven lessons I learned in publishing my first 20 indie books because preorder's going up on the first book in a new series like tomorrow.


Megan: [00:06:14] So we're not done with 20.


Megan: [00:06:16] Like I said, it's been kind of a crazy week. I don't sleep anymore. I just believe in coffee and wine. That's all I have. And cats, that helps. But it's insane that there are so many books.


Megan: [00:06:33] And I think...I think maybe this...maybe this emotion is shell shock, maybe I feel shell shocked, like looking at the actual tally of what I've done. But I'm going to formulate a lot of super useful information like why Vellum saved my marriage, and lessons I've learned from working with a cover artist for 20 different projects and, you know, tropes that are going to get you panned by reviewers every time.


Megan: [00:07:02] And how to answer angry Facebook messages for people who are really pissed you killed off that character. But right now, I think the only thing that I can offer is that writing 20 books seems like a really absurd thing from halfway through book one. But from this side of it, it sort of feels like...but was it really that special that I accomplished it? So it is totally doable. And it takes a lot of work, and you're probably going to cry a few times. And you may get an ulcer from drinking so much coffee, but like, whatever, there's medicine for that. But it's totally doable. The...the community, the author community, especially on Facebook, probably also has an ulcer from drinking too much coffee, so when you're like, I can't do this anymore and I there are too many words and I will never be able to edit them, I am lost in the words, and there is no way out there...there are other authors that will be like, aha, you're in the editing soup. Don't worry, here's a lifeline. I'll pull you out. Do you have any wine on hand? So there are people there to help you.


Megan: [00:08:17] And it is an adventure and I think if you start looking at writing as purely a formula and I'm going to get to 20 books and then I'm going to feel fancy, it's going to be harder to do it, but if you take it into one book, one storyline, finishing one character arc at a time, it is easier to get there. So if you are at the beginning of your journey, just look at it as one little rainbow of a character arc. Get over that next arc, finish that next story. And it is very much an accomplishment.


Megan: [00:08:56] I guess I don't feel accomplished, but I'm going to tell you you're accomplished when you do it. And if you are a reader who's like, wow, people write books, that's fancy, take a moment and leave an author a review on Amazon or Goodreads or comment on their Instagram or their Twitter because, even 20 books in, it still feels like maybe I'm lying and I haven't even written a book. I know it's weird, it's weird, so like console your favorite author or congratulate, one or the other, and be like, hey, I read your book and I'm a human and good job on you for staring at words for long periods of time while creating characters. Look at you go. Because there are a lot of us who get a little lost in oh, yeah, 20 books is a lot, so, you know, tell 'em good job, because that's helpful.


Megan: [00:09:58] Yeah, so, yeah, check out Five Spellbinding Laws of International Larceny, check out the link that has the gorgeous cover for the Ena of Ilbrega...the Ena of Ilbrea. I wrote the series. I know how to say the title clearly, Four Book...Four Book Saga.... Twenty books is so much. And yeah, Son of Sun audio will be posted soon, and then there will be like a Girl of Glass audio complete collection. So that's a lot of pressure.


Megan: [00:10:27] But, yeah, reach out to an author, tell them that you've read their words and that writing words is good and important. And if you're an author, hang in there and remember, eat, like, some bread with your coffee. Nutritionism is important. Nutrition? Nutrition.


Chris (At Recording Booth): [00:10:45] Nutritishishish.


Megan: [00:10:48] I don't know anymore, man. Nutrition is important. I did it.


Chris (At Recording Booth): [00:10:59] Is that how we're ending it?


Megan: [00:11:04] Sure...(laughter) I have nothing left in my brain.

A Book and A Dream Episode 50

Megan: [00:00:01] Because as an author, you don't know, ever, when something, one statement, one quote, one paragraph, a character, is going to become so important to a reader that they are going to start interpreting the events in their life through that lens.

A Book and A Dream Episode 50


Megan: [00:00:01] Because as an author, you don't know, ever, when something, one statement, one quote, one paragraph, a character, is going to become so important to a reader that they are going to start interpreting the events in their life through that lens.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 50 of A Book and a Dream. Now, first of all, thank you for sticking around for 50 episodes. A lot of podcasts don't even make it to 20. So look at us go. Woop woop. Here's to the next 50 episodes. I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about politics.


Megan: [00:00:48] I know we haven't had enough of it, right?


Megan: [00:00:52] No, but seriously, there is so much political content within YA books that we don't even notice or that we notice and we try to interpret it. Maybe we're like super off. But who's to say? Most authors will never tell you. But I think it's something that's really important to touch on, because as we are in this current political climate and as we're talking about YA books, it's really sort of an unavoidable topic. And I didn't want to talk about it before the election because that was just too much. But now that we're sort of on the calmer side of things, I do think it's a very important thing to touch on.


Megan: [00:01:27] Now, I try not to be super political in my books. If you know me on a personal level, you know that I'm a very political person, but I try and temper that a little bit in my books. Part of it is because I'm not some super important political-constitutional scholar, so I don't know why people would base their political beliefs on what I have to say. Also, because if you were to name it, like, instead of just Girl of Glass, Girl of Glass: Because when the world ends, the rich are going to last longer because they've been hoarding all the supplies that the rest of us need to survive, a lot of parents would never buy that book for their kids. So you just kind of have to put your beliefs into your characters and then let it go. And hopefully if people choose to interpret it as a political statement, they're going to interpret it the way that you meant it.


Megan: [00:02:22] Sometimes it's not going to happen. We'll get to that. But you really can't push it farther than that, especially in the YA genre, because even though a huge amount of the YA audience is adults, there are enough teens and younger kids, sometimes too young to be reading the books they are, that you do have to be conscious of keeping things that their parents will allow them to read. So you can't be blatant about it.


Megan: [00:02:49] Now, unfortunately, to start this conversation, we we do have to bring up the book that dare not be named, because before J.K. Rowling sort of, for lack of a better phrase, screwed the pooch, the Harry Potter books were a very important political statement to an entire generation of readers. And there have actually been some really interesting studies based on how many times people read through the Harry Potter series and what their trust of politicians were, what their trust of mainstream media was. And if you really look at Harry Potter, there are some very important, very blatant political statements. The easiest one to pick out, honestly, is Dolores Umbridge: that the government should not interfere with education, that teachers should be in charge of teaching, and that when we start using schools as a way of indoctrination, that it's not going to work out so well, that they need to be separate and we need to let our students learn.


Megan: [00:03:46] It also has things like, you know, oppressing people is wrong and that you can't just sort of shunt a group off to the side because you decide that they're not as good as you. It also very blatantly teaches us that youth is important, that just because you're young doesn't mean you don't have anything to say politically. That some of the youngest voices are the ones that are the people we need to listen to. Because even though the adults are the ones who are creating the systems, the problem that they create within those systems are going to be inherited by the youth. So, if we really screw up, it's not going to be us who deals with the consequences. It's going to be the next generation. So we...we have to allow that generation to become involved.


Megan: [00:04:31] We have to have our Harrys and our Hermiones because they're going to be the ones who have to deal with the consequences. They're going to be the ones who live with the fallout. And it is very tragic how badly things went with Rowling because there were so many people who felt like they were a part of that young political movement who learned to be socially involved from Harry Potter, who felt like outcasts and found a community within Harry Potter. And Rowling did an incredible amount of damage to a very vulnerable community. And I hate mentioning the books now because everyone needs to sort of deal with the ramifications of her statements in their own way.


Megan: [00:05:14] But if you're going to have a political conversation about YA, you kind of have to put Harry Potter in. So, I'm very sorry, and know, anyone who was hurt by her statements, you are loved and you are important and you are valuable as you are. And you are members of society, and we all believe you when you say who you are. Well, not all of us, because Rowling's a jerk, but the good people believe you. And that's the important thing. We'll take care of the jerks together.


Megan: [00:05:38] So moving on, because we don't want to linger on her. You can even see political statements in more current contemporary novels. And it's easier to see in dystopian just because, you know, when the government falls and the world ends, you kind of get a lot of government in your books, so you can look at something like the Red Queen. There is a huge amount of political content in that book, and a lot of it is fairly blatant. Now, this does get into the territory of our readers misinterpreting the author's intent. So I'm going to do this as spoiler-free as I can.


Megan: [00:06:16] For those of you who haven't read the books, there are the silver bloods who are like the royal ruling class. They're basically mutants and very important. And then there are the red bloods, and they are the poor, plebeian class. And no one cares about them and they shall punish them and use them to fight in their wars and they can all die.


Megan: [00:06:33] You're right, a fascist class system. Not political. Cool, whatever. And then, like some people become more important and then they have powers, then it's like, "No, you can't have powers. We're going to stay in charge forever. We're going to lie about your value because no one but the upper class can be important."


Megan: [00:06:50] And then they're like, "Screw you guys. We're going to have an uprising."


Megan: [00:06:54] And if you look at that, it's sort of like, oh, we if we decide that only old white men should ever have a voice because they're the only ones who should ever be in charge, there's going to be a political uprising. It's going to happen.


Megan: [00:07:07] And so looking at that book, and looking at the...the people who are backing the establishment, the people who are saying, "No, this is the way the system has always been. No, we should keep it just upper class. No, we can't have faces in here that don't look like other faces we've ever had." It gets super reminiscent of current politics. And so there is the statement of it is the voices who haven't been heard that are going to rise the loudest in the end because they are the ones who are the strongest, have from...having come up from these horrible places. So Red Queen, super important things.


Megan: [00:07:41] You can even get some that are, like, maybe not as political as Red Queen, but in the dystopian field, they still have political statements to be made. You can look at The Lunar Chronicles because, you know, there's the young king who's really trying hard to save his people, and then there's all the people around him, more like, :"ou could just like let them die instead. Like, you don't have to save everybody." And so in that, looking at what it takes to be a good king, what the obligations are of a ruler to protect his vulnerable people, what is worth risking in order to protect those people?


Megan: [00:08:18] What to do when you have, I don't know, some other government coming in and threatening everyone and you're just trying to appease them. So what do you sacrifice? Those things are very political statements. Not quite as blatantly applicable to the current vibe, but you can't read it in a nonpolitical way.


Megan: [00:08:38] And then sort of the the biggest. The, the one that you can't deny. The one that you can't have a conversation about, "Oh, no. This might start a revolution." Hunger Games. Oooof. And this is where part of me as an author gets even more hesitant about, like being blatantly political in my books, because Hunger Games is actually interpreted a few very different ways, which is odd to me. But, you know, sometimes the curtains are green just because they are, and sometimes the curtains are green because they represent life, and sometimes the curtains are green because they represent envy, and unless you're going to put Cliff Notes and be like, "This is based on this uprising in 1950," then you're not you're not going to ever make sure that everyone's interpreting it correctly.


Megan: [00:09:29] And it would be horrible if an author's, like, legacy was a misinterpreted political statement that led people in the wrong direction, especially youth, because they are the next generation. So we sort of have to count on them. But within the Hunger Games...I'm assuming pretty much everyone is at least a little bit familiar with The Hunger Games. Basically, it's an authoritarian, fascist regime. The rich people live in the Capitol and they have all the money and all the wealth, and then they make the poor little working class people in the districts work really hard for nothing. So there you go, that's a good starting off point. And so they reward the poor people when they take their children away and make them fight to the death as payment for past political crimes.


Megan: [00:10:20] And by past political crimes, they mean having an uprising. Because the Capitol kept all the money and let people starve, and the starving people said, "We don't want to starve anymore." Which doesn't seem like a bad uprising to have really, when you think about it. Hungry people being, like...feed us, but whatever. Anyway.


Megan: [00:10:42] So then Katniss comes and she's like, "No, we're going to have a rebellion." And there really isn't, in my opinion, there really isn't a way to look at the Capitol and say, "Oh, this is justifiable."


Megan: [00:10:58] And I think that is one of the coolest things that she did, is there are individual characters within the Capitol, like Snow, who can sit there and say, you know, I'm just trying to protect my people. This horrible system is in place to protect my people, but there's no way to actually defend the Capitol as a whole. There's no way to look at this class of people who have hoarded so much wealth--everyone else is starving--and see them as the good guys or the victims or anything else. The only person who can sort of sympathize with out of these oppressive oppressors is Snow.


Megan: [00:11:34] And then whether you interpret the uprising from Katniss and everyone else as, you know, a political reckoning against big government, or if you look at it as a class war and an uprising against a fascist regime like it can be interpreted different ways.


Megan: [00:11:52] But really, you can't say, "Oh, the Capitol is made of good people who are just trying to hold on to what they have."


Megan: [00:12:00] No.


Megan: [00:12:02] It is a, er, a political state with a government with a multitude of interpretations, but what makes it more important and more fascinating to really look at is that she doubled down recently.


Megan: [00:12:17] This year, she released The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Now, I was a little hesitant. I'm not a huge like I'm going to go back in and just like pop out this origin story, which I know was really funny coming from me, but generally speaking, once I have a character's full arc, I don't need to go back. And there were some things that I didn't necessarily enjoy about Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I was not super fond of how much, umm, ittle origin nuggets she was placing, so like, "This is how this began, and this is how this began, and all that" thing. "Here it is!" Like, there was a little bit too much of that for me, even as a Hunger Games fan. So...but what I really appreciated was that she doubled down on her theory of class problems, really.


Megan: [00:13:10] So the book takes place pretty soon after the war that began The Hunger Games. It's focused on Snow, which you can tell from the back cover. So that's not a spoiler. And it looks at the early Hunger Games and the pain of the Capitol.


Megan: [00:13:24] And even then, there really isn't a way to justify what they're doing from the beginning. There really isn't a way to say, "Oh, and these random kids should totally die because of this. Oh, it's our right to watch their suffering." Like, there is no moment in the book where you're like, "Oh, yeah, those kids should totally die. Yeah. We should punish younger generations for the crimes of the past. That's a great idea." There never is that moment, and it really goes down with the interpretation do we look at the people who have so much who are abusing the people who have so little, and do we get to continue the abuse of the people who are literally asking for food? For the ability to care for their children, for their right to live a peaceful life, do we get to punish them because we don't like how they're asking for it?


Megan: [00:14:28] And it's really amazing, the complete and utter definitive "no" that she gives. No, we do not get to oppress people because it's convenient for us. No, you don't get to decide that you want to hurt people because you don't like the fact that they want their kids to survive. No, you don't get to decide that some people don't deserve human rights because they don't act or look like you. It's so definitive. And I've never gotten to have a conversation with Suzanne Collins. She's very fancy, and I'm sure she's very important and busy.


Megan: [00:15:02] But it's amazing that there is this whole trilogy with four movies that some people are like, "No, it means this. "No, it means this." And then there's just this book slapped on the table that's like, "No, it means being an authoritarian that kills kids is wrong. And there is no origin story that can justify it. It's just wrong. And they're psychopaths and they're murderers. Have some Tea." And I think that that is so admirable, especially in the YA genre. And honestly, I think a lot of authors could not have gotten away with that as The Hunger Games had not been so successful.


Megan: [00:15:40] Well, first of all, it wouldn't have had so many conflicting interpretations. And, you know, there wouldn't have been young kids walking around with guns being like, "But it's like The Hunger Games. I'm going to go out and defend myself," and people being like, "Actually, no, that's illegal. You don't you don't get to do that."


Megan: [00:15:56] But anyway, because it got so important, she had the ability to say, "This is the statement." Otherwise, people wouldn't have been listening. But because she had a four-movie franchise and, you know, she's Suzanne Collins, she can smack that book on the table and say, like, "Oppression is wrong, authoritarian regimes are wrong, fascism is wrong, and there is no correct interpretation where fascism is correct. No, it's always bad," and just slide that book across the table, and I think that that's amazing and I think it's great and a little weird that so many people look at all these YA books from Harry Potter to Hunger Games to Red Queen, you can even look at Narnia and there are political statements hidden in each of those books.


Megan: [00:16:47] And yes, sometimes they are tiny, and sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are just like, "Is the cost of war worth it?" Or sometimes they are massive, like, "Just because someone's a figurehead, if they're are talking mouthpiece and have no brain behind it, that doesn't make them a ruler." So, it depends on how big the author's willing to go. But my challenge to you, and this is a dangerous one, is to think through your favorite YA books and see what what statement could the author be making. And it is dangerous, because it can be misinterpreted. As someone who has gotten messages from people, and I'm like, "No-wha-what? How did you get that? That's not what I meant. But thank you for reading my book and I need to go now." It's happened to me several times, in fact, and it's a little scary because I'm like, "I don't want to. Oh, that is not the legacy I want to leave. But thank you for reading."


Megan: [00:17:41] But go back and look at those books and look at what you believe the author's interpretation was. If you want extra credit, Google it, see what other people have thought and find where art is trying to make the casual political statement, the subtle political statement, the statement that really focuses more on what is our place as humans within this system as not politicians, not freedom fighters, as human beings who are trying to survive in this world and hopefully leave it a better, kinder, more livable place for those poor kids who are coming after us, who have no control over what we're doing right now, but are going to have to clean up our mess.


Megan: [00:18:25] What is the author saying to you about that? What can you take from the text that will create a better, kinder world going forward? And for the authors out there, what legacy are you leaving? What statements are you making? Because, yes, YA, a lot of our readers are adults, but for those kids, when they are going to have a moment in time when