Monday, November 30, 2009

"Have we met?"

Here's a moment from the first time Buffy's mother, Joyce, officially meets Buffy's vampire nemesis, Spike:

Joyce [pleasantly]: Have we met?
Spike: Um, you hit me with an axe one time.
[Joyce looks confused]
Spike: Remember? [helpfully brandishes imaginary axe] "Get the hell away from my daughter! Rawr!!!"

So, now and then I like to ask my readers to take a minute to introduce themselves. I expect I have a lot of regular readers who don't comment; I'm sure I have readers who're just passing through for the day; doubtless I have readers who got here by accident, having misspelled "Kristin Chenowith," and wish they'd never ended up here at all. :o)

Anyway, no pressure. But today I extend an invitation to all of you -- even the lurkers and the shy -- to tell me a little bit about yourself in a comment. You don't have to tell me your real name. But maybe you'd like to tell me where you are? What you do? What you feel like eating today? What TV show you like to watch? If you could be magically transported anywhere this moment, where would you choose?

Everyone is welcome! (Um, except for spammers.) Two friendly reminders. First, please be kind to other readers -- NO PLOT SPOILERS! Second, I'll only see your comment if you post it on my Blog Actual; I do not see comments posted on LJ, Amazon, etc.

The floor is yours!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A FAQ; A Holiday Question; Stuff; In Addition to Which: Things

The extremely silly gentleman to the right (click to make him bigger. Really. You want to see him bigger) is my friend and fellow writer Will Ludwigsen, who was flabbergasted to find Graceling in the dumps at his local Barnes & Noble. Check out his strange, sad, and lovely story "Remembrance is Something Like a House" in Interfictions 2: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing, just released by Small Beer Press. My sister, secret codename: Cordelia, and I had the pleasure of listening to Will read this story around the campfire a couple Halloweens ago. Cordelia was dressed up as Randolph the Orange-Nosed Reindeer and I was dressed up as a Leprechaun for Change. (This was right before the 2008 election. Beyond that, don't ask. ^_^)

So, I promised that I'd let you know if I stumbled across any gems in my reading. I have. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo, is a book about magic, love, and longing, and it is fabulous.

A FAQ.

Can you tell me when your book(s) will be released in my language/my country?
Unfortunately, probably not. If the information isn't on my Contacts, Info, and Credits page, it's because I don't know. Ask your local bookstore -- they might know better than I do. If this sounds weird to you, I understand; it was a surprise to me, too, that writers are often not in contact with their foreign publishers. I have met a few of mine, actually, but that's only because I was lucky enough to go to the Bologna Children's Book Fair last spring. Often, the only way I know a book has been released is that it arrives on my doorstep!

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And now, a question for you. Do you like December? Do you like Christmas carols? How do you feel about the holiday season? Do you celebrate a holiday? What do you do? How do you stay peaceful in what is -- let's face it -- a supremely unpeaceful time?

Anyway. The time is nigh. I tend to counteract the suffocating Christmas-carol barrage by listening to moody, atmospheric, melancholy holiday/winter/Christmas music. For example: Christ Child's Lullaby, performed by Sheena Wellington; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, performed by Loreena McKennitt; Greensleeves, performed by the King's Singers. Joni Mitchell's "River," which isn't anywhere on youtube. Some other songs that aren't about the Christmas tradition that I also can't find, argh! What about you? Do you, like some people (*cough Cordelia*), love corny holiday music and own the Elvis Christmas album? Or do you, like me, find yourself wanting to impale yourself on a fir tree (or perhaps on some other pointy object with less inherent Christian symbolism)?

*looks at the calendar* In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. :o)

Monday, November 23, 2009

8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Blast Off (Plus, Umbrellas!!)

8. Warm hellos to everyone coming to my blog from NaNoWriMo. Welcome! The comments you've written here and there in various posts have brought tears to my eyes. Thank you! I really do know what it's like, and I really do hope you'll keep writing despite how hard it is, and despite all the voices that tell you not to. (To any of my regular readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, I wrote a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month, which you can read here.) To all those writing novels/short stories/fan fic/WHATEVER this November: good luck. Don't forget to be kind to yourself and KEEP THE FAITH.

7. For those of my blog readers who are Megan Whalen Turner fans -- and I know there are a lot of you -- check out her interview last week at Hip Writer Mama.

6. Next, remember the other day when I mentioned Tu Publishing, a small, independent multicultural SFF press that needs funding to get off the ground? Well, now there's a new, fun way to help: the Kickstart Tu Publishing LiveJournal Auction. You can participate by donating and/or bidding on items. Head on over; take a look; consider bidding; consider donating.

5. At the store the other day, there were samples of mead. At first I walked right on by... but then I stopped. What self-respecting fantasy author with a tendency to tipple would turn down a taste? I asked myself, alliteratively. It was good! The mead dude told me the only ingredients were honey, water, and yeast.

4. For those of you who hoped you'd seen a merciful end to the Gallery of My Favorite Objects: BWA-HA-HA-HA! No such luck. Today I present a small selection of:

My Umbrellas.


As you can see, the taking of this picture required talent and grace.

So, I'm an umbrella junkie. Here we have my green umbrella shaped like a leaf, so that when you carry it in a rain shower, you feel like a woodland fairy; my clear dome umbrella, excellent for good visibility during a vertical downpour; and my MoMA blue sky umbrella, which is black on top, sunny underneath, and was a gift from my outlaw brother-in-law, secret codename: Joe.

3. My icon picture above is the Fall 2009 cover of The ALAN Review. Click on it to see it bigger. Isn't it fun? Can you recognize all the books represented? I'll leave it open for people to guess/identify, but if it's too small and people are stumped, I'll identify everything in the comments.

2. I know a lot of people were just at NCTE/ALAN -- hope it was a lovely weekend!

1. Finally! To those of you in the Boston area, I'll be reading from Fire, blathering, answering questions, and signing books tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24) at the Harvard Book Store (1256 Mass Ave in Harvard Square) at 7pm. Come out to say hi :o)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Hello, hello, hello, hello. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. That's all there is...."

(from Simon & Garfunkel's "Leaves That Are Green")

Goodbye to my darling Super Conquerant 80-sheet hardback spiral notebook made in Spain by Enri. For years, we've had something special, you and I... but now my trusty neighborhood stationer, Bob Slate, tells me that you've been discontinued, probably by the importer. Alas! No more will I fold you over my knee and cover you with a thousand sweet scribbles. No more will you travel with me everywhere I go, simply because I cannot bear to let you out of my sight. No more... *sniff*... will I tuck you in to sleep at night in the fireproof, waterproof safe! Oh, my darling! *weeps; rends clothing*

*.....*

So, I'm not so precious about my writing process that I'm going to try to figure out how to get my exact brand of notebook from Europe. Actually, I'm slightly that precious, but it'd be a lot healthier to just accept that the notebook is no longer available, don't you think? So this means I'm in the market for a new hardback, spiral-bound, college-ruled (those are my three priorities, from most important to least) notebook. Happily, I have 2 more of my notebooks in the supply closet, so there's plenty of time to do this search. This is something I need to do in person, not online, so if you have any recommendations for stationery stores in the greater Boston area or in New York City, please let me know! I actually had some luck with Kate's Paperie in New York last week -- found a real possibility, also made in Spain -- but I like stationers, so any excuse to poke around looking at fine paper is always welcome. :o)

Are you picky about anything the way I'm picky about my notebooks? I'm also this picky about tea, oatmeal, umbrellas, Italian pastries, and... most of my favorite things, really. ^_^

Finally, if you're enjoying the music, I'll leave you with one more Simon & Garfunkel tune, particularly suitable for a weathery day. Art, your voice is the prettiest.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"It was my candle to St. Jude"

Announcement: I ♥ librarians. Why? Because librarians love information, know how to find it, know how to use it, and know how to help other people find and use it; and because librarians love, care for, and offer us BOOKS. And school librarians, in particular, share their awesomeness with young people without condescension. Thanks so much to the New Jersey Association of School Librarians for inviting me to their fall conference this past weekend. You guys are inspiring.

Housekeeping: I got a great suggestion the other day from an audiobooker who wished she could see the maps of the kingdoms while listening. Please see my new link to the left, Maps of My Book World, which shows both the maps so far, both drawn by Jeffery C. Mathison. Click on the maps to make them bigger.

In other news, in case anyone's wondering, Spike is still beating Beethoven in the highly scientific Spike Versus Beethoven: You Decide! poll -- but Beethoven is holding his own! I'm proud. I thought old Ludwig Van was gonna get creamed.

Moving on. After my 96-book post the other day, a few people asked for some recommendations. Well, I'm always mentioning the books I'm reading, so do go back through posts and see what you find; and stay tuned, because if I trip over any gems, I'll be sure to mention them here. You could also search my blog for the tag "books" (either type "books" in the search box at the top or simply click on the tag "books" in this particular post). Also, I'm finally putting together a list of middle grade recommendations to go with the YA recommendations I posted some time ago. That should post before too long.

In the meantime, all the recent dance talk got me wanting to recommend one of my all-time favorite books: A Candle for St. Jude, by Rumer Godden. Her writing style is distinct -- you might not like it -- but I find it gorgeous and mind-opening, so much so that I've gone on to read China Court and In This House of Brede, the latter of which is a 650-page novel about nuns in an abbey, which I'll admit isn't for everyone, but I found it fascinating. Anyway. A Candle for St. Jude takes place in a dance school and is about art and power and talent and attraction, being young, being old, and growing into your own. In case this is relevant to you, there are no nuns and it's not bizarrely long :o). It's out of print; try your library; I've also bought a couple of used copies through Amazon.

While I'm at it, here are some other absolute favorites from my shelves. I'm terrible at writing reviews, so check out Amazon if you want more specific information. These were published for a range of markets: adult, young adult, middle grade. I don't have a lot of patience for the distinctions. (I would not make a very effective librarian!!) They're all really good works of art.
  • Contact, by Carl Sagan. The SF movie with Jody Foster was based on this book. This never happens, but I loved both the book and the movie, despite significant differences.
  • The Tricksters, by Margaret Mahy. Have you read this yet? My blog is named after it, and I'm going to keep blabbing about it until you do. Magical realism.
  • The Catch Trap, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. An unconventional circus tale about love and relationships. I read the whole book, finished the last page, turned back to the beginning and read the whole thing again.
  • Heat and Other Stories, by Joyce Carol Oates. If you've never read any Joyce Carol Oates, give this a try. Small Avalanches is another of my favorite story collections of hers. BTW, I say this as a person who is not a short story fan.
  • Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. Then re-read Jane Eyre, then read Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. They make a great trio! (Intertextuality!)
  • The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. You might think you don't want to read a book about wind-up mouse toys. You would be wrong.
  • My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr, who has three names, none of which I can spell without looking. A book about love, sex, friendship, and family that takes place in upper-middle-class Manhattan.
  • A Piece of Justice, by Jill Paton Walsh. A short, well-designed, and, in my opinion, LOVELY English mystery novel.
There, see? I didn't say a word about Lord Peter Wimsey, Kristin Lavransdatter, the essays of E.B. White, The Satanic Verses, or Ramona Quimby. (Age 8.)

(Also all favorites. ^_^)

What are some favorites from your shelves?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Randutiae, and Give Yourself a Treat Today

If you happened to see me at Books of Wonder on Tuesday covering my ears, singing "la la la la la la!", and seriously invading Scott Westerfeld's space, I swear, it was only because I was trying to avoid hearing the Liar spoilers happening on my other side! Justine Larbalestier was being an absolute champ trying to protect me from her conversations with her readers, but really, there's only so much an author can do! :o) Anyway, I got through unspoilered, and clearly, I need to read Liar ASAP. Oh, and the event was super. Thanks to everyone who came!

If you're a book blogger who wants to sign up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap -- basically a Secret Santa among book bloggers world-wide -- today is the last day.

I'm having a busy week of train-riding and events -- I'm home again now, but tomorrow I'm off to New Jersey. Cross your fingers for me tomorrow evening, when I'll be giving a speech at the fall conference of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians.

A question recently batted around by my friends: How is it that Connecticut can be such a pleasure to train through but such hell to drive through?

Here's an old favorite. If you have 4 minutes, 30 seconds today, give yourself a treat and watch this again -- or for the first time. (Once it starts, I recommend clicking on the little HD.) What are your favorite locations? Mine are Gurgaon, India, just 'cuz it's beautiful, and Nellis Airspace, Nevada, because, well... I love all things outerspace. :o)


Monday, November 9, 2009

My assignment was to memorize the names of the stars."

"Which stars?"

"All of them."

"You mean all the stars, in all the galaxies?"

"Yes. If he calls for one of them, someone has to know which one he means. Anyhow, they like it; there aren't many who know them all by name, and if your name isn't known, then it's a very lonely feeling."

-A conversation between Meg and Proginoskes in A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle

I wonder if my characters feel lonely until I've named them? How patient the characters must be whose names I keep changing! Sometimes I forget how much they depend on me, for everything.

Proginoskes and Meg are both Namers. Here's something else Proginoskes says: "When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That's basically a Namer's job."

Here's a FAQ about Fire. (In case you're completely spoiler-phobic: since I'm talking about the reasons for characters' names, I do refer to the general natures of some of my characters. Proceed at your own peril!)

How did you come up with the names in Fire?
Hm. Well, ever since rereading Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, I've wanted to name a tall, handsome man Archer. I think Archer may have grown from his name, actually; his name (which is a nickname) is how I realized he was so good at archery. My sister, secret codename: Cordelia, has always despised the name Nash for various reasons, but I've always kind of liked it, so I decided to reclaim it and prove to her that it was worthwhile. Nax seemed like the perfect variation for Nash's no good father. Cansrel... a dear aunt was dying of cancer around the time I started writing Fire. The similarity between the two words is not a coincidence.

Musa was a dancer on So You Think You Can Dance whose name I liked. Mila was my dear friends' dog. Larch converted well to the thing I needed it to convert to ;). Brocker, Roen, Tess, Gentian, Neel -- they just felt right. Mydogg and Murgda... well, don't they just sound unpleasant? The horses... again, the names just felt right.

Clara, Garan, Hanna, and Brigan. I loved the way these names sounded when extended to their full royal titles: Claradell, Garandell, Hannadell, Brigandell. I particularly liked the way Claradell sounded like Clarabelle, but wasn't, and the way Hannadell sounded like Annabel, but wasn't. And Brigan's name was always Brigan (just like Archer's was always Archer's), because it sounds like brigand, and that's how I thought of him in his early appearances in the book.

I don't remember thinking up Fire's name. I think I must have always known it.

Here's a question for YOU: Do you like your own name? What would you name yourself if you could choose?

(To hear me and other authors talking about our own names, go here. ^_^)

(Oh! And to see me, Suzanne Collins, Justine Larbalestier, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and Michael Grant, go to Books of Wonder tomorrow, November 10, from 6-8pm, at 18 West 18th Street in Manhattan!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reminder: I love Finland. (And SYTYCD, too!)

It's been a while since I've shown you a brand new cover for Graceling. Behold!


This is the Finnish cover. What do you think? I love it to pieces, and nothing you say will stop me from loving it to pieces, so do your worst. In particular, I love finally seeing a short-haired Katsa, and -- the mountains and castles in the background -- *flops* -- ! Maria Lyytinen, who is the translator, tells me that the back cover shows a scene of mountains at sunset/sunrise. She also explained that the word "Syntymälahja" encapsulates the idea of a gift received at birth.

Reminder: I love Finland. Dear sister, secret codename: Apocalyptica the Flimflammer: I cannot wait to give you a copy of Syntymälahja!

In other news... who saw this week's So You Think You Can Dance? How about that Bollywood number? I almost cried at the end when Mollee gives Nathan back his sword. My favorite was the Stacey Tookey "fear" dance with Kathryn and Legacy. I also enjoyed the Wade Robson Van Gogh thing. (And didn't really understand why the judges thought it was controversial. Can anyone enlighten me? Did they mean it was tacky because of Van Gogh's history of mental illness?) Cat's "I'm crying but I'm going to smile anyway" expression is so endearing. The choreographed kisses between Jakob and Ashleigh were, IMO, Fox's deliberate and stoopid attempt to create drama, since Ashleigh is married to Ryan, another contestant. Fox, stop being stoopid! Finally, could you BELIEVE it when Ellenore danced practically that entire Argentine tango with her heel stuck in the hem of her dress? Wowza. She deserved that standing O from the judges!

One more thing: thank you, choreographers, for fewer "woman=victim/loser/nutcase" dances so far this season. (It doesn't usually bother me when I look at particular cases. Dancing mirrors life; bad crap happens in life; and a beautiful dance is a beautiful dance. The creepy addict dance last season, for example, was powerful and gorgeous. But... I've said before that when I look at SYTYCD as a whole, I feel like it's uneven sometimes. And when every dance is danced by one man and one woman, and when most of the dances are about the way the man and the woman relate, there have to be just as many representations of other situations, too, including the opposing situation [in which the man plays the part of the victim/loser/nutcase], or the show starts to put out an icky message. Ya know? Hey everyone, man=strong and woman=weak. Which is a message that does NOT mirror real life -- it distorts it. Anyway. *steps off soapbox* The dances this week made me happy. ^_^)

For a taste of Stacey Tookey's choreography, check out the video she posted on her facebook of Karla and Jonathan's beautiful dance last season. (The dance starts at 2:15.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tu Publishing; Stuff and Things; and, Our Books Are Watching Us Jealously

Via Deborah: Stacy Whitman, freelance editor and Simmons Center for the Study of Children's Literature grad, is trying to start a new publishing company. Tu Publishing will be "a small, independent multicultural SFF press for children and YA." A small press devoted to multicultural fantasy/SF -- good idea! But -- it will only get off the ground if it gets enough funding. Care to help? There are benefits to pledging, and you'll only pay your pledge amount if the project actually launches. Go here for more info. You can give as little as $5, and you can do it using your Amazon account, if you have one. If Tu Publishing can raise $10,000 by December 14th, they'll start accepting manuscripts in January.

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I know that some of you will have fun trying to recognizing books without their dust jackets on the blog of Sarah Miller, author of the marvelous Miss Spitfire. (Who knew so many books had such cool undercover decorations?)

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To those who've been wondering: the Kindle edition of Fire is now available.

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Over the weekend, I found myself having a small freakout about my To Be Read pile. (Well, it used to be a pile; recently it's evolved into a series of shelves.) At first I thought it must be because the pile was full of books that I didn't actually want to read, pressuring me. "Read me, read me, even though I suck!" But then I went through all the books and realized that that wasn't it; they're all books I'm excited about; the problem is, very simply, volume. I counted them: 96. Now, everyone has different TBR methods, so I'm sure that's a perfectly normal number of unread books for some people to have sitting on their shelves, watching jealously with beady book-eyes as their humans wander around doing non-reading things like watch TV or water the plants... but for me, that's a LOT of unread books. These days, if I read one book a week, I'm doing fabulously well, and -- 96 books! HELP! That's enough books to last me until I'm 35!

*.....*

Hang on.

Guys? Suddenly I find myself seeing this from a different angle.

I have enough books to last me until I'm 35!

*is happy*

:o)

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To those embarking on National Novel Writing Month: Godspeed. Breathe. And DON'T FREAK OUT!