Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THERE'S SOMETHING IN MY BELLY! (but not really in my belly.)

For my 300th post, I have a VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! I have a gummy bear in my belly! Okay, okay, it's not really a gummy bear, and it's not really in my "belly." It's in my womb (is it just me, or is that word kind of creepy?), and, though it is roughly the size of a large gummy bear, it is in actually the world's youngest genius/super-athlete/vampire slayer/musical prodigy/sorceror. That is to say, it is a baby. [Squee!] Or, is it? I mean, I guess it's not a baby yet, it's a. . . cellular squiggle of gummy bear proportions. Or, as my sister would call it, an "endo-parasite" (though she would be quick to point out that it is not technically a parasite because it shares my genetic material.)

Is this the most convoluted pregnancy announcement ever? Parasites and gummy bears??? I ask you!

I'M PREGNANT! That is to say, with kisses in Jim's direction, we are pregnant. Wheeeee!

Bows and curtsies. Yes, we did it. I mean, yeah, we did that too, but I mean, we did this. We made a gummy bear! I am only 9 weeks-ish and had my first ultrasound yesterday, and the baby did not look remotely babylike, but there was this amazing little hummingbird heartbeat in there, and that was about the coolest thing EVER. My belly has its own heartbeat! The whole gummy bear analogy thing, it is really not my fault. When I was asking the ultrasound tech how big the baby was, I asked if it was lima-bean-big, and she said it was bigger, and pointed to the side of one of her machines, where very conveniently she had taped a jumbo-size red gummy bear, with the words under it: "at nine weeks." So! That is how I know what my baby looks like -- red jelly candy, with ears.

We also met our midwife yesterday for the first time and I LOVE her and feel very happy with the midwife decision. She is a certified nurse midwife and her practice is hospital-based, not home-birth-based, which is what we want anyway. I'm sure I'll babble on lots about her as the months go by, but for now, I'm still a bit hesitant to babble too much about the whole "birth" thing, as this is only just beginning to feel real (since seeing and hearing that little maniac heartbeat) and I'm not even showing yet (except by celebrity standards, where even Angelina Jolie's jeans button counts as a "baby bump"), and the birth part feels a million years away. I guess the coming months will go by really fast -- months always do, don't they? But I think these will go by even faster because I will be walking waddling slower.

It's funny how much I'm looking forward to having that big round belly! I really really am! Maybe I'll take that back once I have it and can't find a comfortable sleeping position, or have to pee every five seconds, and all the other things I hear tell of, but right now, I just kind of want it.

So. A baby. A person! What a super-cool thing to be able to do with one's body! There's been a lot whirling around in our minds these last few weeks -- baby names, lifestyle changes, fears, excitement, all that. And, I've been EXHAUSTED. Not sick, thank goodness, but feeble and weary! And all this as I've been trying to. . . and I know you've heard me talk about this before, many months ago, but -- ULP! finish Silksinger!!!

I have, though! I really have! I haven't mentioned it for a while because I was kind of pretending like it was already done and hoping you might not notice I was still working on it. And it was so close for so long, it is really very wrong that elves did not sneak into the house to finish it for me, but they did not. The lazy good-for-nothings skittered around in the heating ducts taunting me and playing leap frog and refused to apply themselves! I had to do it myself, and here's the thing: I wrote "the end" at the end TODAY. So I guess that's a pretty big announcement too! I didn't burst into tears this time like I did with Blackbringer. I just heaved a deep sigh, caught sight of a leering elf out of the corner of my eye and flung an apple core at it. Okay, it was a pear core. Now I'm glad the little blighters didn't help. I can say I did it all myself, and I can say this too:

If I can finish a book, you can too.

Really. Especially this past month. I have been so god-awfully lazy. I have read books, watched movies, learned to crochet, and done other dithersome things I should not have been doing, because I just did not want to rewrite the climax of Silksinger yet again but I knew it needed it. And I've realized something: I need breaks when I'm writing. I don't mean a break during the day. I mean significant chunks of time away from the work. Weeks. Months would even be nice sometimes, and then coming back to it clear-eyed and open-hearted, but I wasn't able to do that this past year. I was having too much trouble with the book, and was too terrified it wouldn't "work out." I had to keep plugging away.

Here's another thing I haven't really told you about Silksinger, and it ties into the "If I can do it, so can you" premise: this book was hard. So hard, I want to dedicate it to myself. I'm so proud of me for finishing it! I mean, I thought it would be easier this time. It's my third book, my second full-length novel, I thought I'd be getting the hang of it. And yes, knowing I could do it (and that I had to do it, because I had already sold it!) did help, but the writing itself, well, nothing in this book went right the first or second or third time. Ever. I rewrote the bejeezus out of every single sentence, paragraph, and chapter of this thing. The bejeezus. I wrote thousands of pages of what if's and maybe's as I worked out plotting. I'm not even joking about that. Thousands of pages. Well, okay, maybe a thousand. But seriously, a ridiculous amount of writing that doesn't even qualifiy as "writing" in that rarified way that gets to have a "the end" at the end of it. Writing is so hard. Writing this book was so, so hard. I hope I never write a harder book! I'm so eager for the next one, whichever leaps in line first (there are a few contenders) and so hopeful that it will keep itself simple and neat, and not sprout extra heads and tails so I never know which way is up with it.

Oy oy, Silksinger, my darling, I thought you might kill me.

And when I say "finished" by the way, it doesn't really mean it is finished at all. It only means I am ready, at last, to send it to my editor who will weep at the length of it and pick up the phone and wail, "Why, Laini, why?" He will. He has begged me to not let it go long. I'm sorry Tim. I did my best, and I am counting on you to help me make it shorter. There is much work to do yet, but I can send it off now, and I think that by the time I get it back, a long, tear-streaked editorial letter, I will be out of my first trimester and maybe not so terribly weary and pathetic! That's right, mamas, isn't it? You perk up a little after that? Please? Please?

(Oh, and one reason I love my midwife is she gave me the all-clear on moderate amounts of coffee! A great WHOOP! to the skies!)

So much to say and think about -- the months ahead will be very rich, and I'll get to have my big round belly and start a new book, and then at the end of August we'll have a person. Crazy! And I'm pretty freaked out about my writing life after that, but I am determined, so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to spend some of the next six months interviewing writing mamas like Shannon Hale** about how they do it, how they get the work done, and I'm going to post those interviews here. And I know I'll get some answers from some writers who didn't write when their kids were babies, and that's cool too, because I want to know it all. I'm going to psych myself up, and never let myself believe I can't do it. I want to know details too, secrets -- like baby hypnotism, stuff like that. Yeah? Who's your baby hypnotist?

Oh, and I can't forget to mention, the weirdest thing. Jim and I are already getting postcards from the gummy bear! Seriously. Isn't that crazy? It either supports my theory that my womb carries the world's youngest genius, OR, alternatively, maybe somebody else is sending them. Hmmm. . .

**Speaking of Shannon Hale, I just read Book of a Thousand Days and I loved it. Loved it. It's tied with The Goose Girl for my favorite of hers. Love.

Oh wait, don't go away yet. First look at this. Don't think about babies at all when I say "gummy bear" this time, or it would be gross. This is a gummy bear chandelier!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Liar's Diary

Next week it will be two years since I started blogging, and one of the first blogs I discovered when I learned how to blog hop was Patry Francis's, Simply Wait. I still remember feeling a little thrill of excitement when I discovered that she and I were both anticipating the release of our first novels, and both from Penguin Books, no less. Even better: her book, The Liar's Diary, was coming out a few months before mine, so I got to read about all her experiences ahead of my own. It was like a primer on what to expect!

Besides the books, however, I just fell in love with Patry' blog. If you read it, you know she has a way of appreciating people, family, memories, and even rounding up meaningful obituaries in a way that is a celebration of life. Reading her blog, her soul just shines through and you always come away feeling as if you've been granted a glimpse beneath the veil of something that may seem ordinary at first glance, but really has a magical shimmer all its own.

It was a joy to get to throw a book party for Patry when she did a West Coast tour last year. Here's THAT POST, complete with a wonderful photo of Patry with a glass of wine in hand! Well, the time has come to celebrate Patry and The Liar's Diary again, for two big reasons.

--First and happiest: The Liar's Diary comes out in paperback today!!!

--Second, and less happy, and I'm not sure if I should mention this or not but I'm going to because I hope you will read her recent string of posts: Patry has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and is undergoing treatment, and needs the support of the whole blog and writing community.

Before the release of the book, Patry used to blog regularly; after, her posts dropped off significantly -- I believe it was because she was hard at work on another book. In any case, I checked her blog less and less frequently, growing sadly accustomed to not finding new posts. At once point, there was a post about baking your muse a blueberry pie for many months! And then in the fall, I happened to check back. I saw a whole bunch of new posts and at first I was excited! And quickly, my excitement turned to dismay, and then sadness, as I began to read them. But, as all her posts, they are just beautiful.

A group of bloggers and writing friends of Patry's decided to make a concerted effort to get the word out about The Liar's Diary today, on its release day, and lots of folks have joined in, so I wouldn't be surprised if you find more posts about it elsewhere. I even saw it mentioned on Publisher's Lunch, the publishing industry email business update! I'm so glad to see folks pulling together like this, and I send Patry all my blessings for health and happiness and book sales!

You can read more about The Liar's Diary (and perhaps purchase it) HERE.

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Introducing: Shannon Hale & Libba Bray!

They sing duets, they tell silly stories, and yes, they write books! Behold, Shannon Hale and Libba Bray, who have just completed a short book tour together. Funny thing about that -- I had assumed they must have already been friends and decided to tour together, but nay, it is in fact their publicists that are friends, and cooked up the idea at the top-secret publicist clubhouse in New York City. Well, I think it's safe to say that Shannon and Libba are friends now.

{I'd been very much looking forward to this event, but the morning preceding it did not go, ahem, smoothly. After going to the gym (I'm throwing that in there casually as if I do it every day, ha ha), Jim and I came home and got ready to go, only to discover on the way out the door that the dog's face was swollen so Jim would need to take him to the vet instead of coming with me! This necessitated going to my parent's house to borrow a second car, where we promptly got iced into their sloping hill driveway and had to salt our way out. Then I finally made it to pick up Alexandra (aka delinquent blogger) in time for a very late breakfast at Cameo (where the pancakes are as big as pizzas), and we FINALLY made it to Powell's!! I had wanted to stop and pick up cupcakes for Shannon's birthday, which was yesterday, but our waitress was very slow, and alas, we did not make it.}

So, Shannon and Libba come onstage quite without the usual "decorum" of *authors* -- there was no shuffling of papers, no clearing of throats, no. They sort of burst forth and start chattering like a couple of comedians. It was very high-energy and very amusing! They warmed themselves up with tales of the airlines stealing Shannon's cool black boots (forcing her to wear sneakers -- and kindly Libba wore sneakers too, in solidarity), and how Shannon tried to calm Libba's fear of flying by singing her a John Denver song. (You might recall how John Denver died.) Also, and this was funny, when the airline told Shannon her bag was 10 pounds overweight and she would have to take some stuff out, she started fishing in it for books to remove, and the first one was Libba's new tome, The Sweet Far Thing. Once she took that one book out, she was told that was enough! So, does Libba's book weigh 10 pounds? Maybe not, but it is massive.

It wasn't all airlines. They asked each other questions and sang songs, and there were various other antics. Here, for example, is Shannon demonstrating how one might insert a six-inch bolt into one's nose (part of an explanation of how the character Razo is like her brother):
And here is Libba, showing how she might curtsy for the Queen (during which curtsy she would certainly be wearing Hello Kitty underwear and striped stockings!):

Shannon told some really interesting facts and folklore about Mongolia, which informed the world of Book of a Thousand Days (which has been named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a teensread best book of the year, by the way) -- including how in Mongolia, people sniff each other in greeting, because a person's scent is supposed to carry a bit of their soul! How about that? And Libba said how the surest way to get 7th and 8th graders to line up to buy your books is to have their teacher or librarian announce that they are full of naughtiness and bad words. Oh, yeah, and that she is some kind of succubus who sustains herself on the tears of teenage girls (as accused by a teenage girl), and that apparently, something very shocking happens on page 791 -- I think that was the page. What could it be? I will have to wait to find out, because I need to reread her series from the beginning.

I also find it interesting that Libba wrote the first draft of her next book (called "Going Bovine" -- a dark comedy about mad cow disease!), in between her last two Gemma Doyle books. And Shannon, too, intersperses her Bayern books with other books. The Bayern books are stand-alone stories with interlocking characters, and not really a "series," but I still find this interesting, since I too have the impulse to write a non-Dreamdark book next. I may overcome that impulse and surge ahead with Dreamdark 3 (which will probably be called "Rathersting".) Right now it is impossible to say.

All in all, it was a great event, and it ended with a musical number:
You can tell how much the girls enjoyed this by the looks on their faces! By the way, I probably don't need to say this, but there was a huge turnout, and it took the ladies a long time to get all the books signed after the talk. A long time! They were rushing off to the airport, but they hung out and signed books until the last second.

I didn't bring all my books, just the hardcovers, and I bought each of their new books, so I had a bit of a stack to sign, and I might've hogged a little more than my share of time in line! I did get a photo of me with Shannon and local author Heather Vogel Frederick, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club, the Patience Goodspeed books, and the Spy Mice books! Here we are:

And one last thing unrelated to the authors. This is funny! While I was seated in the audience, a woman walked by with BRIGHT magenta hair. Even brighter than mine. And we saluted each other, of course. The thing that's funny about it is I have now seen this woman FOUR times, and each time it was in a different bookstore!!! Is that not awesome? Pink-haired chicks dig books. There was a teenage girl in the audience with a pink streak too, and she also got a salute!

Tonight, I get the great pleasure of attending a book club meeting of Blackbringer! The fabulous Jone is hosting it. Jone is a school librarian and has been a wonderful supporter of my book. Thanks, Jone!

P.S. Leroy the dog has an absessed tooth which will be pulled tomorrow, and while he is under they will also drain a squishy lump on his chest, clean his stinky teeth, and remove some growths from his old eyelids. Ah, poor old doggy. He is practically a hundred! I guess if you live that long you get lumps and growths!

Friday, January 25, 2008

author love

So, you know how I love it when people email me and tell me they read my book? (I do. I love that.) And you know how I love meeting other authors and talking shop with them? Well, I got this email the other day from someone who had just read my book and. . . that someone happened to be an author whose book I loved, and I recall that I blogged about it at the time, but -- I did not email her and tell her I loved it. I need to make it a policy to always do that, because if I love hearing from readers, chances are other authors do too!

Anyway, this author is Jessica Day George, author of the delightful Dragon Slippers, which was one of several wonderful dragon books I read last year. It was kind of a dragon book year for me, and the great thing about it is how totally different they all were! Dragon Slippers presents dragons unlike any you have ever met. They are charming, some of them even silly, and. . . they collect things. . . like shoes! But, it is not a "silly" book -- it's a dramatic, cool adventure book that I gobbled up in a day or two. It was delicious. Now, the sequel is coming out in a few months, and as if that's not enough, Jessica just had another book come out this month! All that, and she has a small child! In fact, she wrote Dragon Slippers with a tiny baby on her lap! So, I cannot wait to read her new book. I will let you know when I do.

AND, I cannot wait to meet Shannon Hale tomorrow at Powell's! Shannon is the fabulous author who wrote a blurb for the cover of my book, for which I will always be grateful. My editor told me she was rushing to finish reading it almost to the moment before she went into labor with her second child! Ha ha, I think that's an exaggeration. Anyway, some of Shannon's books are Goose Girl and Princess Academy, wonderful wonderful, and her newest Book of a Thousand Days which I will buy tomorrow at the signing.

If you're local, it's at Beaverton Powell's at 2. Can't wait! And, Libba Bray will also be there to sign her new book.

And, in audiobook news, Recorded Books sent me an audiofile of the narrator they want to use for Blackbringer, and I got to hear an actress read a chapter of my book, and it was The. Coolest. Thing. Ever. She's amazing!! Her name is Davina Porter and she's a "golden voice" -- that kind of means she's in the audiobook hall of fame. I know I've heard her read before. Her voice is exquisite. Can't wait to hear the whole thing! She's English, I think, but may have Scots heritage. Whether she does or not, she can certainly do Scots -- I mean, she narrated the Outlander books on tape!!! I wish I could link the short recording here on my blog, but I can't. Hopefully, when it's actually coming out, I'll be able to put up an audio sample. That would be cool.

Happy weekend to all. Maybe go to an author reading, even if it isn't Shannon Hale. Authors need love!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Help the doggies

I just found out about this over at Blue Poppy and donated right away, and I wanted to spread the word. To make a long story short, there is this absolutely fabulous woman in Tennessee who rescues dogs and cats from high-kill shelters, gets them healthy and clean, and passes them along to no-kill Humane Societies in other parts of the country. Her nonprofit is called A Place to Bark (and Meow), and you can check out her blog with lots of lovely photos and videos of the sweet doggies she helps, or click on the video heading on the icon above. Well, she does this work with donations and out of her own pocket, and right now, as part of America's Giving Challenge, she has a chance to win $50,000 to support her work. The charity with the most individual donations (not the largest total sum donated), wins. It's easy to donate, just go to the icon above. There are prizes you can read about on her blog, but honestly, just seeing those smiling canine (and feline) faces, is reward enough. Does it not amaze you that there are people like this, who devote their life to helping others -- be they human or animal -- to have decent lives?

The contest is only on until January 31st, so hurry up and help flood some much needed support into the lives of these dogs and cats!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

terrible terrible news

I am stunned and so sad. 28 years old. So talented. I can't believe it.

Hot Men of Austen

I just found this link via Amber, and it is too funny. HERE you can vote on your favorite "Austen man;" there is even a curriculum vitae for each one, including their income in today's dollars! And after you vote, you can see the current rankings. Too funny.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In praise of coffee

This is my coffee butler. Ha ha. At least, that is what I tell students when I do school visits and show them my silly slide show about the writer's life. And I tell them this quote:

"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."
-Flash Rosenburg

Ah, coffee! I praise thee! I have in recent weeks cut out coffee. Cold turkey. Like a silly fool. But last week I gave in (that was when I turned into a zombie at the antique mall) and this morning, too. And miraculously my eyes peeled open and my brain started to function. I love coffee. I love the smell, the taste, the feel of my brain coming to life. So, I am unquitting. I am, however, not going to use the big white cup that the coffee butler above is holding. You need to understand, that cup is so big that, overturned, I could wear it as a hat. I shall indulge in the occasional wee cup of coffee magic instead.

(Jim tells me that it was not until now that he discovered that my personality is "90% coffee." ha ha!)

Some more quotes in praise of coffee:

"This Satan's drink is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it."**
- unknown, 16th century

"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move. . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffiee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."
-Honore de Balzac

"Coffee is a great power in my life."
-Balzac again (that dude was a coffee lover!)

"The voodoo priest and all his powders were nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions in the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself."
-Mark Helprin (the first half of this quote graces one of my favorite Laini's Ladies, incidentally. And that -- in her hands -- that is exactly the same coffee cup as the one on the coffee butler's tray!)

Off that subject, who has been having Jane Austen Sundays? I quite liked Northanger Abbey last night. It's a sweet, simple book. I had never realized that, though it was the first novel she wrote and sold, it was never published in her lifetime. Huh. I thought the end was rushed, but it overall was not as abridged-feeling as Persuasion, being a less complex and emotional story. I liked the earnestness of Catherine Moreland, and I really liked the actor who played Henry. Incidentally, I discovered by IMDB'ing him (another 21st century verb, that), that there has been a television adaptation of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart novels -- The Ruby in the Smoke, and The Shadow in the North. Brit-pop star Billie Piper (who also plays Fanny Price in next week's Mansfield Park -- how incestuous is British television!?) stars as Sally. I have put them to the top of our Netflix queue, which is generally ruled by Jim with an iron fist -- actually, it is because I just cannot be bothered with it, Jim has become Supreme Commander of the Queue. I don't think he minds.

Also, two of my favorite people have recently joined the blogworld. My sister, "snakeymama," the herpetologist: HER BLOG is likely to concern itself with rattlesnakes and pink boa constrictors and such, and her first post tells more about being on a Honduran island for a whole week with only one pair of socks (And some rum. And a tarantula or two).

Also, my best friend from highschool, Lori, who long ago ran away and married a delightful Dutchman and wrangled herself some much coveted EU citizenship and a very lovely canalside life in Amsterdam, complete with an international gaggle of friends from South Africa and Italy and India and Finland (a Finnish rockstar, no less) and everywhere else -- she can now be found HERE.

Yay! Welcome, girls!

**Coffee is not the only culinary agent of Satan, apparently. A French cleric in 1620 called chocolate ". . . the damnable agent of necromancers and sorcerors." tee hee.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aebleskivers, antique stores, mother-in-law, and pure, unadulterated yarn greed

Look how cute my writing room looks when it's fixed up as a guest room! I love it. That cute little flag streamer across the bed was made by my friend Chary, out of all vintage fabrics.

My mother-in-law Sharon is visiting from California right now, and we have been out and about, and I have been a bad blogger. Here are Sharon and me:
See the stuffed robot I am holding? What a great find! Because you know what the problem with robots is? Usually they are not very cuddly. But this one is!

Sharon likes to plunder in antique malls, so that's something we often do when she visits, that we don't do any other time. It's fun. We went down to Sellwood, this southern neighborhood of Portland known for its antique malls. It was right after lunch, and for the first hour I was in a groggy, nap-time haze, zombie-ing my way down the aisles. At one point I carried around a mason jar of vintage rickrack for a while, but I was too tired to buy it so I put it back. Then? Coffee. And it was a whole new me. Though Sharon did not end up buying anything, I got an old Griswold aebleskiver pan, along with some old aprons and a cookie cutter and a big '50s diner icecream cone cut-out for the kitchen wall. Fun!

So of course, the next morning I wanted to make aebleskivers, which I had not only never made before, I had never had or seen before. Ha ha! Good old internet, I downloaded a video showing a chef in Solvang, California making them. I'm too lazy to find the link now, but I'll just tell you the traditional Danish method involves using a steel knitting needle to rotate the dumplings while cooking, and that is what I did. It was fun. Takes a while to get the hang of it, but I mostly did:
I started with just a few at a time and graduated to almost filling the pan. I filled the "aebleskivers" with pear sauce from Trader Joe's which is so much tastier than apple sauce. And then we ate them with blackberries, marionberry syrup, and powdered sugar. YUM!

Aside from eat too much, we also went to see The Orphanage yesterday -- it's the new Spanish ghost story produced by Guillermo del Toro. It's great! If you like a scary movie that's not gorey, and not even really TOO scary, but quite creepy and really well made and involves the most fantastic cliffside Spanish house you've ever seen, see it. Really good!

On the way to the movie, Jim finagled himself a stop at the comic book store by pretending solicitiously he wanted to stop at "Tuesday Morning" so his mother could browse there. So thoughtful of him! Incidentally, the comic book store is right upstairs from it! I was groaning inwardly, not always loving Tuesday Morning (it's a bargain store, where you can often get top brands for huge discounts), but then, ha HA! I hit the yarn motherlode!
LOOK at all this gorgeously colored merino wool! All for $2 or $3 a ball! This wicked impulse came over me to buy it ALL so nobody else could have any, and I DID. Well, not all, but I bought all the good colors. It was pure greed!

So that is what I have been up to. Cheers!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Zowee! Jane Austen bonanza!

If you don't already know about Masterpiece Theater's Jane Austen extravaganza, then check this out: months of Jane, every Sunday night at nine -- starting TONIGHT. FOUR new adaptations (Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Sense & Sensibility). The famous Colin Firth P&P will show, as well as Kate Beckinsale's Emma, in addition to a movie called "Miss Austen Regrets," in which an almost-forty Jane helps her niece find a husband.

Persuasion kicks it all off this evening, and stars the very Britishly-named Rupert Penry-Jones (from MI-5) (pic above). Funny, Matthew MacFadyen from MI-5 played Darcy in the Kiera Knightley P&P, and now Rupert Penry-Jones is playing the dashing Captain Wentworth. (If you haven't seen MI-5 by the way, awesome spy show).

You can see clips of all the upcoming movies at, HERE.

Good old Masterpiece Theater also has a new Room With A View coming later in the spring. And while I don't know why that needs to be remade, since the Helena Bonham Carter version is perfect, I haven't read the book in like fifteen years and perhaps there's a good reason to remake it. Who knows? I shall certainly see it.

I also heard a rumor that Gillian Anderson is now hosting Masterpiece Theater; don't know if it's true, but I will find out tonight. I love Persuasion, and the clip looks very promising! If ever there was any reason for an ongoing girls' TV night, this is it. (Jim, who pretends narcolepsy at the sight of Regency-era costumes, will be watching a "revenge movie" at a friend's house. He will, however, want me to tell you that he is actually very sensitive and loved the most recent Pride & Prejudice, as well as many other fine "costume" flicks.)

Check your local PBS affiliate for programming. Yippee! (If you miss it tonight, Persuasion is replaying Tuesday, at least here on Oregon's public broadcasting.) Oh, and interesting note -- the actress who plays Anne Eliot in Persuasion, Sally Hawkins, is the daughter of two children's book authors (but I don't know who; the article doesn't say!).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two cool things

Cool thing the first:
Today I spoke for the first time with the folks at Recorded Books, who will be making the audiobook of Blackbringer. So cool! My agent has managed everything with them thus far, and now that the deal is all concluded, it's on to the creative part: casting the voice talent. It makes me a little giddy. An actress is going to be acting out my book, doing voices and accents, rendering it into drama. This kind of talent amazes me. Next week I will get to hear samples of a few different actresses reading a few pages of the book. We've agreed a Scottish accent is our choice, and I'm so looking forward to hearing what we hear! After an actress is selected, I will have some input into rendering of particular characters' voices, but I don't know how much. Anyway, they're the experts. I'm just looking forward to the experience of hearing my book in a new voice. It'll be the nearest way to hearing it "fresh." I've read on Shannon Hale's blog about her experiences hearing her books on Full-Cast Audio for the first time, in some cases three or four years after she has last read the book, and how it feels all new, like it didn't even come from her. Sounds like magic!

By the way, Shannon Hale and Libba Bray are coming together to Powell's (the Beaverton one) on January 26th. Can't wait to go and be a fan-girl and get them to sign my books!

Cool thing the second:
Yesterday in the dark of dawn, I drove across the Columbia River to Washington to speak to three creative writing classes at Mountain View High School. I had a blast! The kids were really cool, and the teachers too, and I begin to think maybe I can get to like doing school visits, and possibly even one day be good at them! Hearing Marcus Zusak a few months ago was an inspiration -- the way he kept the whole thing very conversational and fast-moving, and focused on exciting subjects (like robberies and getting revenge on his brother) that teenagers might find interesting. Well, I didn't talk about brother-vengeance, I kept things to the topic of writing, and since these were writing classes I think there was more interest in that than there would have been to a general assembly of students. May I say, we had no creative writing in either of the high schools I went to!

I did show a silly slide show on my lap top, and I think in the future I will beef that up and use it as a mainstay, because it's a good way I found to keep my place with telling stories without having to have notes in front of me. Also, I think it's cool to show kids pictures of publishing offices and editors to demystify them a little. They are real! And, to show pictures of my glamorous writing life (bundled up in pajamas, on the couch, with my feet on the dog and my computer on my lap. SO glamorous!) Of course, I also gave out "Not A Robot" buttons, and was pleased to see one student left me a comment there! I also have some new MySpace friends. (Hi guys!)

So, that was great fun, and I'm less afraid of teenagers now than I was before. Ha ha! I'm not really afraid of them. I'm afraid of boring them. But with the exception of a few eyeballs fluttering shut here and there, they didn't seem super bored. Yay, me!

Having a shut-in writing weekend. (Big shocker there). Hope all is well out there!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Abandoned bunnies

Here are the abandoned bunnies, playing with my parents' bobtail kitties. Cute, no? I misunderstood when I said there was a black one and a white one. Obviously.

They're so soft and mellow, and their feet make these loud thumps on the carpet! They have to stay on the carpet -- it's so funny. When they try to hop on the wood floor they slide like they're on ice!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Manuscript tweaking

Ah, a drizzly Saturday. I wish it was snowing instead. It would be so wonderful to have that soft, peaceful white world outside. Last January we had the most perfect snow of our 7 years in Portland, where snow doesn't often stick. It was near the end of Shiloh's life when her old legs were carrying her oh so slow and we some slow snow walks through the perfect powder. That snow was magical. Wish we'd have another storm like that, instead of drizzle and wind! Last night I thought the roof would blow off!

Just home mostly now, fiddling with some scenes of Silksinger trying to get them just right. My editor did not read the manuscript over the holidays, so I'm still waiting to hear what he thinks. You know what I've gotten good at since starting on the glorious publishing road? Waiting. Actually, it was a skill I had been developing already for years while trying to get illustration work. Send stuff out to art directors and wait. Sign a contract and wait. Send in rough sketches or first drafts and wait. I've written this before on here, but there is so much of cultivating calm and tamping down anxiety and excitement, that it starts to become numbness. The real excitement moments are elusive. It's best to look for excitement in the process of the work itself, the one thing we have control over. Those times I high-five myself after nailing a scene? Those are the high times. Those, and the emails from readers.

It's funny about that, actually. The first several emails from 10- or 11-year-old readers that I got, I wasn't too sure they were really from kids. You know, it's email, and the tone of them was so universally mature, they just didn't seem like kids to me. I thought they were weird adults impersonating children! But now I've gotten enough of those wonderful emails to recognize the strangely adult voice of adolescent girls! I mean, it shouldn't come as a surprise. They're smart, cool people. I have a 12-year-old niece, but we don't email much, or I might have recognized the tone more quickly. It's hard to describe: slightly self-conscious and self-deprecating. Quirky humor, just a little awkward sometimes, but super smart and funny. I no longer doubt the identity of my emailers. I'm getting used to them. I LOVE those emails. They make up for a lot of lost excitement opportunities in the publishing process.

On an unrelated note, two instances of people-suck:
1.) My parents found a box abandoned on their private road. It had been there all day, in the cold rain and inside it with no food and no water and no blanket were two bunnies. It was in such a spot as it could not possibly have fallen by accident off a truck, AND the wonderful Oregon Human Society is not that far away! They could have taken them there. Instead, some idiots had left them out to freeze to death. Luckily my parents saw something moving in the box and rescued them, fed them a vast salad of grapes and lettuce and celery, went to the store for rabbit food and a water bottle, and now are trying to decide what to do. They are apparently adorable, one black and one white, and seem to be in good health. I wonder if they'll keep them? They already have four cats (four cats, zero tails) and a tortoise, not to mention oodles of wildlife: squirrels, including the nocturnal flying variety, chipmunks, raccoons and birds galore.

2.) My sister's scientific expedition got robbed by Honduran bandits. I like that -- "scientific expedition". It calls to mind the Darwin days of gentleman of science living rough in the Amazon, pinning butterflies to boards. But anyway, it was a scientific expedition -- her friends' research project on an island of the Honduran coast that is teeming with dwarf pink boa constrictors. They had to take a tiny plane to the coast, and apparently the airline routinely overbooks it so the planes can't take the weight of the luggage in addition to the passengers (but of course, they will not carry less passengers!) so what they do, is they just don't put the luggage on the plane. After all, who really needs their luggage. Usually, a day or five later, when a flight isn't full, they stuff all the accumulated luggage onto the plane and the people who have been waiting in the airport (for up to FIVE DAYS) finally get their stuff. How sucky! BUT this time they decided to hire a truck to carry the bags, and guess what? The truck got hijacked by bandits and EVERYTHING was stolen, including all their scientific equipment and all their clothes and everything.

So, there they were on the island for a week, unable to do what they came to do, and with only ONE SET OF CLOTHES each! Ai ai ai! Travelers, be advised: purchase travel insurance. It's not that expensive, not compared to losing $1500 worth of outdoor gear, as Emily did, or much more in equipment. Sheesh! Now some bandits have all they need to read body water content of snakes during the rainy season, or whatever it is the researchers were going to do! Hope they enjoy the bandits new careers as scientists!

Okay, back to manuscript tweaking. Happy weekend!