Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stranded on a Desert Island: a Poll

Quick news: Graceling has a Korean publisher, Moonhak Soochup. Also, Hörbuch Hamburg will be producing a German audio version, to be released in Fall 2009, which is, I believe, also when the German print version will be released. yAt!

Also: I've been getting some questions about ARCs for Fire. No, the Fire ARCs are not out yet. What's out now are reduced bound manuscripts in a very limited circulation. (I don't even have one.) I believe the ARCs will be distributed in March or April. (To explain what I'm talking about to anyone not familiar with the lingo: ARCs -- advanced reading copies -- are produced in a limited quantity by publishers as part of their marketing plans. They're meant to generate buzz and sales, and they're distributed by the publishers, usually at conferences such as BEA and ALA as well as to review magazines.)

Also, since so many people were raving about the Megan Whalen Turner books in my recent book meme post, I wanted to report back that I read The Thief and LOVED it. I've now ordered it and the next two books. WHY HAVEN'T THEY ARRIVED YET WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG WHAT WILL I DO IN THE MEANTIME.

And now, I have a burning question. Please express your opinion by casting a vote! (If you're reading this post somewhere other than on my actual site and want to vote in this extremely relevant poll, please click here.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Where Thou art -- that -- is Home"

(Thus spake Emily Dickinson.)

So, moving is not one of my favorite activities. And finding a home in a place that is 1,158 miles from my current home, well, that's stressful, because, you know, I'm down here, not up there, and I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to get up there, so really, couldn't some person up there who lives in the perfect place call me and say, "Here you go, it's yours for free, and I'll send my Learjet tonight to pick you up so you can come take a quick look. Also, I'm cooking you beef stroganoff."

Why can't that happen?

(I love beef stroganoff.)

In the meantime, it comforts me to mull over the home I want some day, maybe in a few years -- maybe the next move after this one, or the move after that. There's no rush. But once I make that "final" move, I'll spend years growing into that home and making it mine. Here are some of the things I dream of:
  • Wind chimes. The big ones with deep voices.
  • A cat.
  • An excellent paint job in an excellent color, like navy blue, eggplant purple, or forest green. I love forest green houses.
  • Light.
  • Quiet.
  • Built-in bookshelves.
  • A good kitchen for cooking and bread-making.
  • A room with no phone or computer, with the comfiest writing chair the world has ever known and a window through which I can't see much other than trees and sky.
Does where you live now feel like home? If not, what's the home you imagine?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Books in Threes

The To Be Read pile on my bedside table is the size of Mount Vesuvius -- an apt metaphor, as I believe it may be about to blow. It is 33 books high. I need to find a better way to stack it before I get brained in the night.

Here's my own variation on a meme I saw at The Longstockings the other day:


THREE BOOKS I RECENTLY FINISHED READING



1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Loved it and could not put it down. I'm a Katniss fangirl.

2. A Dictionary of the English Language, by Samuel Johnson (published in 1755). Okay, if my claim here makes you a little skeptical, I can't blame you. No, I didn't read the entire dictionary. I don't even have access to one at the moment. But I did read the Preface and then take a concentrated look at a few different modern compilations. I did this for work reasons, btw, not because I'm crazy, and the truth is, it was very unsatisfying. What I need are his definitions of ordinary words, like light and bread, but what the compilers tend to focus on are the weird, obsolete words, like ponk and ninnyhammer. Curses! Why, oh why, has no one published an affordable modern version of the entire dictionary with tiny print and tissue paper pages?

3. Dairy Queen; The Off Season; and Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Yes, my third book is technically three books. :o) This is the D.J. Schwenk trilogy, the first two books of which I mentioned the other day. The difference is that since then, I've gotten to take a sneak peak at the third book, Front and Center, and am now in a position to tell you that it's wonderful, hysterical, an inspiring and satisfying conclusion to the D.J. saga! (D.J., in case you haven't met her, is a high school gal who'd much rather spend Friday night playing linebacker than painting her toenails and going to a dance.) F&C comes out in the fall.


THREE BOOKS I'M CURRENTLY READING


1. Gone to Soldiers, by Marge Piercy. 800-page-long World War II epic with ten alternating protagonists. Magnificent, but not for the faint of heart. This book has somewhat taken over my life. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with myself when I get to the end. There will be no reason to keep living.

2. Elephant House: or, the Home of Edward Gorey, photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. A week after artist Edward Gorey's sudden death at the age of 75, his friend Kevin McDermott photographed his house on Cape Cod, memorializing the living space of a strange and gentle genius. First I went through this book, looking at all the pictures. Now I'm going through again and reading the words. He loved cats and all other animals; he had an incomparable imagination; I would go crazy living in the clutter he lived in, but I have to admit, he did good things with his clutter. It is oddly beautiful clutter. :o) I love this chance to peek into his world.

3. Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. First a friend told me, "You would adore this book," and I was like, "Eh, whatever. Have you seen my volcanic TBR pile?" Then another friend told me, "I'm reading this book and it keeps bringing you to mind," and I was like, "Huh. Creepy." Then a third friend told me, "Have you heard of this book? It's made of light!" and finally I was like, "Fine! I'll read the freaking book!" It's a memoir about one woman's pilgrimage to Italy, India, and Indonesia following a devastating divorce. So far, my friends are right. I love it and am always either laughing or sniffling. Gilbert has just gotten to Rome, and I'm so happy, because Rome is my favorite place in the world. (I have not been everywhere in the world, but still, I know in my soul that this is true.)


THREE BOOKS NEXT IN LINE



1. The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner
2. The Smile, by Donna Jo Napoli
3. I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak

Now your turn!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Explaining Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue, prequels, sequels, companion books, and all the others ways I'm confusing people :o)

Starting with newsy bits of newsy news:
  • Graceling is on the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18). What an awesome list to be on. Thank you!
  • It's also on the Locus Magazine 2008 Recommended Reading List, in the First Novels category.
  • In case you're interested, the February issue of the magazine SFX contains a profile of me and a super-nice review. It's the issue with Wolverine on the cover. :o)
  • I'll be a guest of honor, along with Tamora Pierce and Sherwood Smith, at Sirens, a conference about women in fantasy literature taking place in Vail, Colorado next October. I'll put up more info about this soon.
  • Graceling is on the Long List for the brand new David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. Your votes decide who makes the Short List, so, if you care to vote for, ahem, anyone in particular, please go here. :o)
  • Congrats to all the Cybils winners!
Moving on, I'm still working on my FAQ Project. Here are a few questions I get a lot. Spoiler status: The following FAQS are spoiler free.

1. You talk about Graceling, which is out now; Fire, coming out in the fall; and Bitterblue, which you're currently writing. How do they fit together? Are they prequels, sequels, etc.?
They are loosely connected. Fire takes place about 35 years before Graceling in a nearby land. Bitterblue takes places six years after Graceling, in the seven kingdoms. I'm going to refer you to my My Books page, which answers the question more fully (and which does contain some minor spoilers, along the lines of what you'd find on a book jacket).

2. Why did you decide to write the books that way?
When I began Graceling, I never had any intention of writing another book in that universe. But then, at some point, a character in Graceling mentions an imaginary land he's heard about in a story, and I found myself thinking about that land. I asked myself, what if it were real? Where is it, and how does it connect to Graceling? An idea for a new book came to me (Fire), and I had to write it. The same thing happened with Bitterblue. While writing Fire, I never intended to write a third book in this universe. Then, one day, a loved one said out of the blue, "Hmm, what about Bitterblue?" It was kind of a revelation. An idea began to latch onto my mind, and I realized I had to write it.

3. Will there be more books that take place in this universe?
I don't know. If a fourth book starts growing in my mind and demands to be written, then yes. If not, then no. Sometimes, writers aren't as in control of what they'll write next as you might think! I'll have to go with what feels right.

4. When is Bitterblue coming out?
I don't know. Sometime after I'm done writing it. :o)

5. Is Graceling going to be made into a movie?
No one has optioned Graceling at this point. If and when anyone does, I'll explain more about how it all works. (Getting optioned does not mean it will necessarily ever be made into a movie.)

That's all, folks! Happy Monday ^_^

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 14: Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day

So, there are a lot of things I don't like about Valentine's Day. For example, where our roses and diamonds come from. But less urgent, and closer to home, here's something else I don't like about Valentine's Day: it tries to divide people up into two neat categories. (1) People who are madly in love and happy. (2) People who are single, sad, and pathetic.

C'mon! That's so reductive! There are a bajillion kinds of people; there are a bajillion ways to live; there isn't one good, happy way to be and one bad, sad way to be -- COME ON!

This is why I'm renaming February 14th Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day. Here are some identities in which there is NO SHAME on that day (or on any other day!):
  1. A person who is thinking about getting a divorce but isn't sure.
  2. A person who has decided to have a cat and begonias instead of a husband and kids even though it will disappoint her mother.
  3. A person who has decided to move to Massachusetts and marry his boyfriend even though it will anger his father.
  4. A person who is holding the hand of her lover who is about to have sex reassignment surgery.
  5. A person who is in the 53rd year of a relationship that has been totally worth the commitment.
  6. A person who is in the 53rd year of a relationship that has NOT been worth the commitment. (This may be the same person as person #1, I'm not sure.)
  7. A person who is in love with the art of canned food sculpture.
  8. A person with a broken heart who is sobbing.
  9. A person who feels that just because a relationship ended, that doesn't mean it failed.
  10. A person who is simply too tired to care about Valentine's Day because her twin toddlers are sticking macaroni up their noses AGAIN.
  11. A person who loves Valentine's Day, wears pink, has heart socks, loves being in love, and sends everyone valentines. (Ahem. Cordelia.)
  12. A person who doesn't know what she wants or how she feels, and possibly never will.
  13. A person who's in love with more than one person.
  14. A person who thinks he'll never find anyone who understands him.
  15. A single parent who is contentedly spending Valentine's Day with his children.
  16. A person who's stunned to realize she's fallen back in love with that bozo. Maybe he isn't a bozo after all. The jury's still out.
  17. A person who is both naughty and nice.
  18. A person who lives on the International Space Station, where the very idea of romance pales in comparison to being able to look out the window at the entire earth.
  19. An alien crossing the galaxy in her spaceship in pursuit of her one true love who has been kidnapped by her archenemy, Kryzxsdf9i5555++++++ (loose transliteration).
  20. Me.
  21. You.
Who did I miss?

Here's a short video, all about love. Watch with tissues on hand. (Props to my friend and fellow writer, Tui Sutherland, who blogged it first! Thanks, Tui!)


Here's where you can sign a letter to the state Supreme Court of California, asking them to invalidate Proposition 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and allow loving, committed couples to marry. Please note that you must do so by February 14 for your signature to count! [EDIT 2/13/09: The deadline has now been extended to March 2!]

Here's a link to Fairly Traded flowers.

Here's one with tips for how to avoid conflict diamonds.

(Here's me hoping I'm not being too preachy today.)

Happy Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day, everyone! :o)

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Palamino Poem for Winter

I subscribed recently to NPR's Writer's Almanac, and have been enjoying reading one poem a day. I haven't posted a poem in a while, so here's a recent favorite:

by Alden Nowlan

Though the barn is so warm
that the oats in his manger,
the straw in his bed
seem to give off smoke —

though the wind is so cold,
the snow in the pasture
so deep he'd fall down
and freeze in an hour —

the eleven-month-old
palomino stallion
has gone almost crazy
fighting and pleading
to be let out.

******
Have a poem to share? Go for it :o)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stuff; a Cover; and, a Question about Writing and Fear

First, a friendly reminder to anyone reading my blog on LiveJournal or at Amazon or, really, anywhere other than at my actual blogger blog: I won't see your comments unless you come to my Blog Actual to leave them. Sorry for the confusion. Syndication complicates the world!

La la la. Next up, behold my cover for the German edition of Graceling!


♥. And I don't just love the image; I love the title. Die Beschenkte basically means "One Who Has Been Given a Gift," more or less, except all in one awesome word. Or so I'm told. What do you think?

Moving on, a great question (with no spoilers) came to my inbox the other day from an aspiring writer:

I love to write, I need to write... but at the same time, I am afraid of publishers and editors and agents. Not so much about rejection letters or working with them, but sending my work to them. I know it must sound weird, or maybe not. How did you cope with it when you sent Graceling away? Was it really hard to let your creation out of your hands?

My dear aspiring writer: I am leaning out of my computer and giving you a hug.

I think I understand what you're saying on a visceral level. And I mean literally on a visceral level, because shortly after I signed with my agent, right about the time she started sending my manuscript out to editors, I developed heart palpitations -- weird, fluttery, uneven heartbeats -- that sent me to a cardiologist because I was scared that I must be dying! I wasn't dying. In fact, it turns out that all I was was scared -- so scared, in fact, that my anxiety chemicals were playing around with my heartbeats.

It was crazy hard to let Graceling out of my hands. And fear has played a starring role in my life since I did so. Along with all of the other emotions -- joy when I got a deal, pride with every completed round of revisions, excitement at seeing my book cover for the first time or reading a good review or holding Graceling in book form in my hands -- fear has always been present.

It comes from a lot of places. Some of it simply comes from your life changing. Change is hard and scary, even "good" change, the kind that looks to outsiders as if it should be easy and feel great. "Your book is doing well? Wow, you must be so happy!" When actually, sometimes, I can't tell if I'm happy, because everything's spinning so fast that I feel like I'm about to whirl right off the earth.

Fear also comes from realizing that you are not in control, and I think that might be, partly, at least, where your question is coming from. When you let go of your manuscript and send it out into the world, it's no longer completely yours anymore, and you're not in control of what happens to it. It's vulnerable, away from its parent, fending for itself. The thing is, your manuscript contains a little bit of your soul, and when you send it out away from yourself, it kind of feels like you're throwing your soul to the wolves! Once your book is out there meeting people, people will criticize it and interpret it however they like. IT STOPS BEING YOURS.

Except that the thing is, it never actually stops being yours. It will always be yours, first and last, yours. It's just that it will be other people's, too, but in completely unexpected ways, ways you never imagined. People who are the last people you ever pictured reading your book will tell you that your book affected them. And one of the most amazing things for me about Graceling being in the world is having people see things in it that I never even meant to put in it. They say it like, "Oh, it's neat how you connected Theme X with Theme Y in this scene! Good work!" And I'm like, "I did? Oh my God, you're right! I did! Look at that! How did that happen?" ;o)

The work of writing is very, very different from the work of getting and being published. They are two separate jobs completely. I'm only at the beginning of learning how to add the job of letting my books go to the job of writing the books in the first place. It's been quite a whirlwind, it's been one of the most terrifying things I've ever done, it's sent me to cardiologists. In the beginning, I floundered a lot, and sometimes coped badly. But you know what? I'm still writing. And I'm alive! Letting my books go hasn't killed me! Not only that, but I've done some serious adjusting. Some things that freaked me out a year ago barely faze me now (thank goodness, because it sure is exhausting to freak out on an hourly basis). And I hardly ever get weird fluttery heart palpitations now! (Maybe now and then, like when I get asked to make speeches AND have been drinking too much tea. ^_^)

Have I answered the question you asked? Letting my manuscript go was, and continues to be, hard. But for me, at least, what it led to was a better manuscript, from all the feedback. It led to experiences from which I have learned exponentially -- about myself, about business, about readers, about the world. And it also led to the ride of my life. :o)

One thing I want to add, though: I'm not saying you have to let your manuscript go NOW, or even SOON. I waited until I felt like I was ready; until I was ready to take the risk. I can't say what "ready" feels like -- I expect it feels different for different people -- and it DEFINITELY doesn't feel like success is assured. "Ready" always contains a little bit of "OMG I AM SO NOT READY." But it also contains enough "I am ready" for you to be ready.

Oh, good lord. That paragraph was meant to be helpful, I swear. Here, read this poem by Anaïs Nin:

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

:o)

If I somehow managed, in my blathering way, to sidestep what you were really asking, please tell me!

And if anyone has comments or questions to add, please do so!

Finally, because this post isn't long enough yet, I forgot to mention before that Graceling was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults -- yAt! Also, thanks to Emily Mitchell of Emily Reads, who brought a big smile to my face with her haiku review. :o)

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Monday, February 2, 2009

And Now, from the Department of Randutiae

Behold the final cover for the French edition of Graceling!


Whaddya think? Quite a departure from the others, huh? I get a real kick out of it myself and would love to hear what you think :o)

Also, want to listen to me talk about my name? (I can just hear the screams of excitement out there.) You can do so here, and then, after that, you can go listen to other people talk about their names. Really! It's fun!

So, I'm in the midst of a Project: I'm trying to put together an official FAQ page. I'm organizing and consolidating the questions I've answered so far; looking over ones I want to answer soon; trying to decide how to present everything so it's user-friendly; etc. And, while bumbling through my list of questions-not-yet-answered, I found myself wanting to answer this one. (For the spoiler-cautious: no spoilers!)

I'm a bit of a packrat when it comes to books. You couldn't pry them from my cold, dead hands. Do you get rid of your books once you've read them, or do you hoard them like a little squirrel hoards nuts for the winter?

Well, my squirrel friend, I don't read books. Ha! Just kidding. Truth is, I read an absurd number of books, BUT, I also seem to have anti-packrat genes. I don't mean that I hate packrats, just that I definitely am not one myself. ^_^ I tend to only keep books that I love madly and/or books that have sentimental value. Of course, that still leaves me with a ton of books. But let's just say I've got hundreds of books, rather than the tens of thousands of books I would have if I kept everything. Actually, I tend to do most of my reading from the library. Then, when I stumble across a book that I ♥♥♥, I put it on my purchase list so that I can own it and have it forever.

Some books I recently purchased after reading them from the library: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (which I loved so much that I bought several copies, to spread around); Dead Man's Ransom by Ellis Peters (my favorite so far in the Brother Cadfael mystery series); Alchemy by Margaret Mahy (I am steadily building my collection of Mahy books; one day I will OWN THEM ALL!). Some books I've recently read, loved, put on my list, and will purchase soon: Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller (DO READ IT! With tissues in hand!) and Dairy Queen and The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (have you met D.J. Schwenk yet? You should).

I've started getting a lot of free books, too, now that I'm going to trade shows and so on. I keep the ones I love passionately and pass the others on.

Do you have a book policy? I love mine, because it allows me to spend lots of time in libraries (♥) and it allows me to minimize my belongings, which is good for a person who moves a lot, and also makes each possession that much more precious...