Friday, April 27, 2007

A Cake A Week

Jim just had a birthday, which gave me an excellent opportunity to bake a chocolate cake. Isn't it wonderful to have a chocolate cake in the house, a big, entire chocolate cake on a glass stand? There's just something about it. It's homey. If not for obvious reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea, I would always have a big, tall cake in the house. A cake a week, perhaps. Yum. I also love wrapping presents and making gift tags. It was a love of making gift tags that more or less gave rise to Laini's Ladies.

Here's Jim acting very suave with his some of his grown-up presents:

The Superman patch was from Leroy (the dog) and was accompanied by another patch that kindred nerds out there would perhaps recognize as the emblem of the Browncoats. Leroy thought these would look nice on Jim's computer bag. As for the Spiderman gift bag, that was from my parents and included, among other things, fancy pie-making gear that further establishes Jim as the go-to pie slave o' the family. Yay, pie!

I just got sample copies in the mail of the upcoming Cloth Paper Scissors magazine that has an interview with me about Laini's Ladies. Thank you Lesley Riley for thinking of me for that! The layout looks great!

And the marvelous Anahata is on the cover! Anahata and I met at the New York Stationery Show when I was wandering around with my Laini's Ladies on a big ring (like a jailer's key ring) and hoping to find a company who would license the art (and I did). She had a booth there, and her gorgeous art just grabbed me at once, more than anything else at that whole show, and it has only grown in fabulosity in the three or so years since.

To anyone who lives in the Topeka area, I will be speaking several times over the course of the day at the library next tuesday. The info is here.

And the Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is a good one: wings, one I will not be able to pass up. I just love wings TOO much. So join in! Write about wings! Have a great weekend, all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shark or crocodile? Or Baghdad?

I stumbled upon this image while looking for pictures of what crocodile claws look like (don't ask why, but I urgently needed to know), and it seemed an appropriate image for the day because for some reason when we woke up this morning, before even getting out of bed, Jim and I were discussing whether we would rather lose a leg to a shark or a crocodile. I really couldn't decide, but Jim was quite certain that he would prefer a shark, believing it would be a quicker process. A croc might have to take more chomps than a shark. I don't know if that's true, and I hope I never know.

I must say, this morning's conversation, grim as it was, was much better than waking up to hearing on the radio that 183 people had been killed just that day alone in Baghdad, which made it something like the second bloodiest day of the war so far (last week). The war? What war? Oh. . . the war it's so easy for Americans to pretend is not happening, except when the pesky radio wakes you with news like that. What a way to start the day. Poor us, having to listen to that. Solution? Set the radio to a music station. It's really that easy to pretend your nation is not at war.

So, next question: would you rather lose your leg to a shark or a crocodile, or would you rather live in Baghdad?

If it sounds like my tone is light, please believe it is not. It is bitter. I've been doing some writing in preparation for a talk I will be doing next week at the public library in Topeka, Kansas, and since the library has embraced the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury for its summer reading program, I am rereading the book, and really thinking about it. And wow is it a great book. Here are some of my thoughts so far:

The best hope for humanity is suppleness of mind.

Mark Twain said, "You should get your mind out and dance on it. That might take some of the rigidity out of it," and I love the image of a whole roomful of square-dancers tossing their hard-as-snail-shells minds on the floor and tromping all over them until they are as supple and fine as well-loved baseball mitts. Minds can harden into shells that no new ideas can penetrate, and more importantly, no empathy can penetrate, and I think that might be our downfall. Those hardened chitin minds are what enable some people to think things like "Iraq = bad," an unsophisticated thought unworthy of our humanity. {I read an interview recently in which a writer (forget who, sorry) told how after 9/11 her child's classmates were scribbling Afghanistan off the maps in their textbooks, and how chilling that was -- the message these children were getting from somewhere to obliterate an entire nation. And sadly, it's not just kids who think that way.}

The next part of my thinking is that the two best ways to keep a supple mind are: travel and fiction. Two of my favorite things, as luck would have it. Not everyone can travel, especially as children, but everyone can read. And the more books we read, the more our humanity grows, the more sophisticated our empathy, the more supple our minds, until at last we are not the sort of people who could ever believe that a whole nation of people, or a whole religion, could be evil or lesser, but only different, and probably not even all that different. The more characters we read, the more we subsume them, they become a part of us, and our minds grow. And grow. And then when we hear a news headline, our imaginations are that much more equipped to supply flesh and blood images to go along with them. And to every situation that the news reduces to its most simplistic factual elements, we can imagine a story behind it. Even if we are not imagining it just right, as readers who have made a thousand characters citizens of our own vast minds, we can imagine the complexity, the challenge, the struggles of strangers. The way poor decisions beget more poor decisions, the way desperation leads to tragedy, the crazy paths that lead people to do the things they do. And we can never just shake our heads and make simplistic judgements. We readers know how complicated life is, and not just our own, but all the lives we've read about. And knowing this makes us better.

The main character in Fahrenheit 451, Montag, happens to have retained, against all odds, some suppleness of mind in the midst of his lunatic world, some faculty that allows him to wonder and to think. That is the seed of hope. When you hear that someone was raised deep in a fundamentalist sect of a religion, be it Christian or Muslim or other, has been reared on intolerance and yet managed to disentangle their minds from it, you see: there is hope. Not everyone can do it, but I bet fiction readers stand a better chance than most.

So read and let others read. Anything and everything. Down the path of banned books, and the path of no books, lies a poor, starved world filled with hard, dull minds. Don't go there!

Monday, April 23, 2007

thank you again, fuse #8!!

How much do I love fuse #8?

More than my arms are long. That is, imagine the long-armed Mongolian dolphin-saver standing with his arms outstretched to their full 8-foot span, saying "this much." That's how much. (Only I couldn't find a picture of him doing it, so that's Martha Graham.)

Fuse, thank you so much for giving me such a fabulous present on your birthday!

And thank you to everyone for your exuberance and kind responses to my last post. My arms are long for you, too!

And just because this looks like fun:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Proud to be a spaz!

I can't play it cool. I am not cool. So. . .
It came today! It came today!
My book is a real book!!!!!!!
And here it is!!!!

There may come a day, many years in the future, when a book of my own, arriving in my hands for the first time as a real book, will not make my heart race. But I sincerely doubt it. I still remember the random scene from Back to the Future when the dad was an author and a box of new books arrived from his publisher; that's about all I remember -- I thought: how cool.

I guess maybe I'm a novice and a dork, but so be it. Last week when I found out about the ALA nomination, I happily sent congratulations to the 4 or 5 of my new Myspace friends (only one of whom I have ever met in person) who are also nominated. I got a few pleasant replies, a few nothings, and one genial sort of pat on the head to the effect of, it's so cute that you think this is such a big deal. heh heh! wait til you have a few more books out. there are a million different lists. . . That sort of thing. It was kindly meant, and kindly received but still, I say: "Whatever." I AM excited that librarians have read my book and liked it. HUGELY excited! AND I'm really excited to hold my book for the first time and see the shiny foil letters, and flip through it and see Jim's illustrations looking all lovely and crisp on the nice paper, and where the fancy fonts were used, and all that stuff. Wheeeeee!

My new hope is that some day, somewhere, I will randomly see someone reading it, in a cafe or on the bus or something. THAT would be awesome.

P.S. The book won't actually be in stores until June. Drat.

Here are some sneak peeks:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My tribe of genius ninjas

If you're interested in my plans to raise a tribe of multi-lingual telepathic genius ninjas, you may read the new interview just posted at Studio Online.

But that's false advertising. I don't reveal any of the details of that scheme; Jim & I prefer to keep our plans for world domination secret. However, you can read details of my childhood and work habits there, and about how my life is not as interesting as my characters' lives. Do I wish it was?

That's been a theme in my thoughts lately -- would I really want to live one of my own stories? Would I want to have to save the world from a shadowy ancient evil? Would I want to find my fate intertwined with that of a mysterious race of demons? The answer is: Heck YES! (But only if I got the magic powers that went along with it.) And yes to vampires and zombies too. And dragons! Dragons for certain. You?

{thanks for the interview, Cindi!}

Sunday, April 15, 2007

pancakes & painkillers: a weekend update

This is a potpourri post. I'll just list:

1. New Laini's Ladies notecards! Yay!

2. I visited a school library to talk to kids about my book on friday -- and it was fun! Thank you Jone for setting that up and for bringing pizza! Your library is wonderful, and the kids were a great audience; I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

3. Saw Liz and John for breakfast on Saturday. Hadn't seen them in a while and it's always wonderful -- they're such fun to talk to about everything from Battlestar Galactica to crocheting to the mating displays of birds of paradise.

4. After breakfast (which was massive pancakes), we stopped to pick up painkillers and frappacino for poor suffering Alexandra, and handed them through a narrowly cracked door to her as if she were Typhoid Mary, though she is not actually contagious.

5. Jim and I went to see 300 while it's still on the big screen. I was sort of expecting to be underwhelmed but I loved it. And not just for the half-naked Spartans! We will definitely buy that one when it comes out on DVD.

6. I'm in the June issue of Writer's Digest! Thank you Jordan for interviewing me; it's so weird and cool to see myself in a magazine.

Have a great week! And happy tax day!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Earth's Greatest Hits -- Part I: Lizards

Look. At. These. Creatures.

And this, apparently, is not a snake, but a freaking legless lizard. What?

Thank you for spending a moment looking at lizards. Can you believe how amazing? I was looking for some reference for an illustration and I kept crying out, "Wow!" and "Holy Cow! Look at this one!" and I had to share. I'm such a big kid this way, being constantly overwhelmed and amazed by the weird wonderfulness of our planet, I will probably turn this into a random little series of celebrations. I wonder what will be up next.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My editor called today to let me know that Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer has been nominated as an ALA Best Book For Young Adults!!!!!!!

Holy Cow!! I really can't even convey my excitement. You can see the list of nominees (so far) and the previous years' winners here. I think the way it works is that librarians continue to nominate books throughout the year and then a committee narrows the list down to a final 80 or 90ish titles next January at ALA Midwinter, and also creates a top 10 list of titles. To the lovely, marvelous librarian(s) who nominated me: thank you, thank you, wherever you are. You have made my heart happy. And my brain too.

Thank you!

So they tell me I need a secret identity. . .

My first ever school visit to talk to kids about my book is this friday. Friday the 13th, mwah-ha-ha. . . And, well, that's appropriate enough because I'm terrified of kids and know hardly any. Ha ha. I'd like to say now that I'm joking but I'm only kind of joking. Kids are awesome, I know that. But I really do only know, like, one kid, my niece in California. So. I'm anxious. But also super-excited. So, I was in my knitting class last Saturday and I asked this cute eleven-year-old girl named Aya (and no, I'm not taking a kid's knitting class; Aya is just very advanced), what kind of things kids want to know from authors, and she replied, very seriously and solemnly, that they mostly wanted to know about authors' secret identities.

Our secret identities.

I immediately thought that this was something my publisher had forgotten to tell me about. You know: make a postcard of your book to give to people, have a 15-second "elevator talk", have a website, and . . . make sure you have a secret identity, because kids will want to know about it. Ha ha! I LOVE this. I do. But I don't have a secret identity. I'm not quite sure what Aya meant by this but I know she was quite serious. So that's what I'll be working on. I'm pretty sure it will involve dagger-throwing. And, you know, a past that included diving off a sailboat with a knife clenched in my teeth. It may come out that I speak twelve languages with no discernable trace of an accent and that. . . I can control panthers with my mind.

(Saying "panthers" there just reminded me of a funny thing -- I guy in the English dept with me at Berkeley used to challenge himself to somehow work the word "panther" into every single essay he wrote in his entire college career. Isn't that weird?)

So, I'm really looking forward to meeting some actual kids on friday! And then, very soon, I will be talking to teenagers. Yes, teenagers. I'm going to just think about the cool teenage bloggers I have encountered, and think about how very un-intimidating I myself was as a teenager, and thus stave off the terror. I really am very, very excited. That's happening in Topeka, Kansas on May 1st, which from what I can tell so far looks to have an absolutely fabulous library system with really cool librarians putting together innovative programs (and even online sim worlds!); and then I also just got invited to speak at a library conference in Tacoma, Washington in mid-May, which happens to perfectly coincide with a group bookstore talk I'm taking part in in Seattle. So, all of a sudden, I feel like. . . an AUTHOR. And it's awesome!! And the book isn't even out until June!!

Meanwhile, back to work on Silksinger. And at night, when my brain shuts off, there's the knitting. I'm digging it. Here's a glimpse of my first scarf (though the picture doesn't do justice to the colors):

This gorgeous, luscious stuff is up next:

It comes from a non-profit called Manos del Uruguay and is hand-spun and hand-dyed in, yeah, Uruguay, and just holding it I can't help but think about the faraway sheep, and the faraway women stirring vats of dye. There's just something so cool about that. And isn't it bee-oo-tee-ful?

P.S. Poor Alexandra has come down with shingles!!! And she is not feeling at all well, so if you want to send her some cheer, go here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Funny stuff to watch!

Last night Jim discovered this kooky guy zefrank who does short online video commentaries that are just bizarre and hysterical. I've only watched a few of them, like this one about Scrabble. Check it out! Hilarious!

Spent Saturday acting like a person who lives in a city and does city things like browse in the best bookstore on the planet, shop for gorgeous hand-dyed yarn, and buy organic coffee and strawberries at an overpriced market. Spent Easter Sunday productively and non-Easterily: wrote a chapter I totally dig; knitted half a scarf (woo hoo!); read too much of a book I just bought (Dragon Slippers), that had been recommended by Miss Erin and which is even now calling out to me to come and finish it (No, you temptress! I have my own dang book to write!); and, hm. Maybe that's all I did. And today I believe I will do more of the same.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

How to disguise yourself as a tall person

Step One
Wear very long pants.

Step Two
Wear very tall shoes.

It's that simple.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Making low-fat cupcakes low-fatter, by mistake

The following is a reenactment from inside Laini's brain:

Huh. That's funny. I wonder why my cupcake batter is so thick. That can't be right.

Let me check the recipe. Mm hm. Mm hm. Eggs, got em. Yeah, oil. Check. Hm. I did everything right. Why then is the batter like cement?

Huh. What should I do? Ooh -- I know. I'll put some peach sauce in! (You know, like apple sauce but with-- yeah.) There, that's better. Plus, peace sauce is yummy. Think I'll eat a few spoonfuls out of the jar. Mm.

Okay, time to spoon these into the cupcake papers, better clear off the counter. Wait. What's this? Why is the vegetable oil still in the measuring cup? Hm. That explains things. But. . . I just put all that peach sauce in the batter. Hm. Well, I guess these low-fat cupcakes are about to be low-fatter. Hope they set.

And they did set. And they're good. And this has been a lesson that oil is not really necessary in baking. From now on, every time I bake, I am substituting peach sauce for the oil or butter. Okay, not really, but this was a happy accident! These, incidentally, are carrot cupcakes, now: carrot peach cupcakes, with ginger-fat-free-cream cheese frosting, topped with candied ginger. Yum! We're having early Easter tonight, because my parents are going out of town this weekend. You know what's fun about holidays, even while being kind of a pain? Loading up the car with all kinds of good stuff to take to your parents house, or wherever the holiday is occurring.

When we drove our two-seater pickup, I'd have to get in, and Jim would have to kind of tuck everything in around me: tureens of soup, good wine bought while traveling and saved for a special occasion; a cake on a glass stand, cradled lovingly over bumps in the road; bags of presents or stockings already stuffed and ready to be hung by the chimney; boquets of flowers; Easter baskets with handmade cashmere stuffed animals in them; loaves of fresh bread that smells like rosemary; little jars of this and that; dishes to return from the last time Mom stopped by with a cobbler or Papa with his mulligatawny soup; books they'll like; etcetera. And then getting there and having to be extricated from the truck and make lots of trips inside with arms full of food and presents and flowers. It's nice.

P.S. Here are the tulips Jim brought me yesterday. Sweetie.