Saturday, January 31, 2009

Young Readers Online

So, I'm doing this talk next weekend at the Oregon Reading Association conference on the subject of "Kids & the Kidlitosphere" -- that is, how young readers can connect with authors and other book-minded folks online and enrich their reading experience.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic?

When I was a kid, authors were. . . remote. Unreal. Inaccessible. I suppose they loved getting letters then as much as I love getting emails now, but I just didn't think to do it. People like Madeleine L'Engle and Paul Zindel just didn't seem like humans inhabiting my planet who might ever write back. I'm not saying they wouldn't have, it was just so different then than it is now. Authors are ONLINE. We're so easy to reach, and I can't speak for every author, but we LOVE to hear from young readers (and un-young readers alike).

In my blogroll I have a special section for awesome young bloggers, and right now there are only three on it: Lexi, Jehsyka, and Erica, all (I think) thirteen, all smart and funny. I love reading their blog entries, knowing they are writing books, hearing their unique voices. Jehsyka recently posted covers she designed for her series-in-the-works and they're so professional they could easily have been plucked out of a publisher's catalog. These young bloggers rock. I imagine myself at thirteen and how much I would have loved a space like a blog to connect with readers and writers around the world -- it would have been an amazing thing for me. A world-unfolding experience. As it now, as a writer, I love the opportunity to connect with other writers and with readers. I can't imagine if this ether-space didn't exist. How lonely!

For my talk, which I am devising now, I'll be talking about emailing authors and posting reviews on Amazon, and about fanfiction and blogging, and about readers' sites like and Readergirlz. I'll also mention different book-give-away contests that authors have run, like Maureen Johnson's marvelous Zombie Idol of last year, in which she, along with fellow judges Meg Cabot, Justine Larbalestier, E. Lockhart, and John Green, read oodles of entries of great works of literature rewritten with zombie content. Awesome!

I had a drawing (no writing contest portion, though I'd like to do that someday) to choose early readers of the Silksinger manuscript, who would read the second draft even before my editor did and give me feedback. Lexi, mentioned above, did not win the drawing but I was so taken with the Dreamdark-inspired faerie character that she emailed me that I sent it to her anyway.

I'm trying to think of other particular ways that young readers can get involved with the reading & writing community online. Can you think of anything? Please let me know. Also, if you are a young reader/writer with a blog, let me know about it; I'd love to see it and maybe add it to my blogroll. If you are a young reader/writer who has thought about creating a blog but hasn't started yet -- start now! It's great. I encourage you to post reviews of your favorite books and let the authors know. For my part, I LOVE that! (I have Google Alerts that let me know about any new reviews). Also, post your writing and art. Find other bloggers, make new friends. (Don't use your full name, and don't put up clear photos of yourself, for safety sake. You can even create a cool secret identity if you want.)

Help, anyone? Thoughts? Insights? Personal anecdotes about interactions with favorite authors, or writers: interactions with readers? I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Venice Regrets

[Sunday Scribblings prompt: Regrets: got any?]

There was the time on a night train, Venice-bound. I woke to a thief's arm fishing through the door. I'd belted the handles (always belt the door on a night train -- any buckle belt will do) but there was an arm-width gap and a thief was reaching through it, plundering my backpack on the luggage rack overhead. He wouldn't have gotten anything even if I hadn't woken. My money and passport were under me, my camera in the crook of my arm. So I just sat up and looked at him and he took off.

The whole thing transpired in silence. I went back to sleep.

The train spilled us into Venice in the dawn hours and a raggedy assortment of backpackers stood around, knowing it was too soon to get a hostel bed or even find breakfast. Some of the backpackers had been robbed in the night. One girl had lost her journal and camera.

And I wondered, if I'd gathered all my breath within me, gone to into the aisle of the train, and screamed, "Ladro!" at the top of my voice -- "Thief!" -- maybe they wouldn't have gotten robbed. Maybe the thief would have been caught.

I don't know.

* * *

A few years later, back in Venice. This time I wasn't alone. I was with Jim. It was our first day there, at the tail end of a trip that had begun in Bulgaria and taken us through Turkey and up from heel of Italy's boot, criss-crossing over to the Amalfi Coast and finally up to Venice. Jim was acting weird all day, like his mind was elsewhere. I was crabby. Headachey -- maybe dehydrated? Luckily, my temper improved, because Jim had something planned for that evening: a gondola ride by twilight.

Our gondolier was named Roberto, and he poled us around the mazy waterways, reaching the Bridge of Sighs just as the sun touched down. Perfect timing. Jim stood up, and then he knelt down. And he had a ring.

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Roberto took a whole roll of film on our camera and documented the entire proposal. I was wearing a yellow skirt. The water was green, and we were smiling so big. I was afraid the ring was going to fall in the canal. I got that thing on my finger as fast as I could. A marquis-cut diamond. "Gondola-shaped," I said. There was kissing.

We were going to be married!!!

Roberto ferried us to a quay somewhere; we were dazed and happy.

We were extraordinarily broke after our long travels; we were art students, for goodness sake, and could scarcely afford a gondola ride, let alone a diamond!! So we didn't tip the gondolier. We couldn't. We really couldn't.

But every time we see those photos, we wish we had.

* * *

For our tenth anniversary, which will be in 2011, we have sworn we will go to Venice. We will go for at least a week, though two would be nice, and we will stay in a lovely hotel, hopefully with a balcony over a canal. We'll eat in good restaurants, at least one or two of the kind you read about in magazines, where the cost of a single dinner could keep a backpacker in pizza for a month. We'll buy another Venetian mask to go with the ones we bought that summer. We'll wander and get lost, and we'll sit and draw for hours. Or Jim will draw and I'll write a ghost story with lots of cats in it. We'll feed flower petals to the mermaids and scraps of wild boar sausage to the gargoyles. We'll hear Baroque music in a church.

We'll take a gondola ride, maybe one every evening, and we will tip the gondolier. Maybe we'll even find Roberto and tip him ten years late!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

assorted newsiness (and cuteness)

So, the news is that The Graveyard Book is going to be a live-action movie, not a stop-motion, to be directed by Neil Jordan. Cool! Which leads me to idea #2 for Laika's next feature-length film: Dreamdark: Blackbringer!!! (Can't blame me for trying!)

Anyway, moving on. More good news on the book awards front: Ten Cents a Dance, which I recently raved about, has been selected as a YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults! Yippeeee! Yay for Christine Fletcher!!!! Also, Nation and The Hunger Games were selected, both books I loved this year.

Again, moving on, to un-book-related news. Have you heard the very exciting news that Idris Elba, aka Stringer Bell, aka one of the sexiest men on television (and movies) is going to be joining The Office for six episodes??? He'll be playing a rival to Michael Scott, and all I can say is. . . I pity Michael Scott, going up against Stringer Bell Idris Elba. (If you haven't seen The Wire, aka The Best Show Ever Made Ever Ever, Stringer Bell is. . . well, he's a great character that you don't mind looking at, even if he is a drug dealer :-)

Last, neither of these constitute news, just cuteness (of the animal -- not actor -- variety):
Just randomly came across this story of a rescued abused greyhound named Jasmine, who was nursed back to health at a wildlife sanctuary in England, and is now the unofficial surrogate mother to all species of orphaned baby animals who are brought in. To date: five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, 8 guinea pigs, two puppies, 15 rabbits, and one fawn. Awww. Apparently, as soon as they are brought to her she commences cuddling and licking and snuggling them. Can you believe? Full story HERE.

This one's a CBS story about an unusual animal friendship. Oh so sweet.
Aren't dogs the best?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

awards season is not just for movies

This is late-breaking news to those who follow children's books, but anyway: I am so pleased that The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has won the Newbery Award, the country's highest honor for contributions to children's literature.
This title is one that we selected for the Cybils shortlist, and without any dissent, so I whole-heartedly agree with the Newbery committee's choice! If you don't know the book, basically, imagine The Jungle Book if, instead of a human child being raised in the jungle by animals, the child is raised in a cemetery by ghosts -- while a murderer is on the prowl, looking for him. Sounds creepy, and it is, but not overwhelmingly so. It's sort of about connection, and finding your place in the world. The characters and situations are wonderful, the prose beautiful. And, it's fantasy, which doesn't always get noticed by awards committees, so YAY!

Another of our Cybils shortlist titles received a Newbery Honor: Savvy, by Ingrid Law. Yet another, A Curse Dark As Gold, won the Morris Award. A book that I would really have liked to see on our list, Nation by Terry Pratchett, got a Printz Honor. That one was an almost-shortlister which I enjoyed very very much. So many good books! I'm curious to see what the Cybils judges will choose as the *best* off those powerfully strong shortlists. A very tough decision! Though I loved Graveyard Book, of course there is a big part of me that wants to spread awards around, recognize books that aren't already #7 on Amazon and 7 weeks on the NYT bestseller list, you know? I mean, there was always that voice in my head, during the judging, wanting to lean toward the books that haven't already found huge audiences. If I was split between two books, I'd want to honor the one that wasn't famous yet. But you try to blot that out and just think of the work itself. Still, I root for new authors, up-and-comers, and titles that deserve attention but just, due to the turning of the wheel of luck and marketing dollars, haven't gotten it quite yet.

In a NYT interview yesterday, Neil Gaiman said this:
“You always have this Platonic beautiful ideal of a book in your head, and then you write something which isn’t as good as that,” he said. “The Graveyard Book’ is the first time I’ve had a Platonic ideal of a book and written the thing and looked at the book and said, ‘You know, I think you’re better than the thing I set out to write.’ ”

Interesting to note, the book had been gestating in his head for about 20 years, ever since he used to take his son to ride his tricycle in a graveyard. Sometimes books incubate for a long time; sometimes, I think, they have to -- not every book is ready to hatch immediately. Like a dragon egg -- legend has it they incubated for years. So. I'm just saying. Some books are dragon eggs. I like this quote by Mark Twain:

"There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself."

The book I am ensconced in now had a bit of an incubation period while I took a break and wrote a different book for NaNo. By the time I was done with that (and not in love with it, by the way), this one was ready to be written, and this one I am in love with. Like it's found its proper form. There are other books in my head which have been waiting MUCH longer, and I do wish there was a magic spell for getting them all out and down on paper, but there's only the old-fashioned way: one word at a time!

Meanwhile, you know what would be FABULOUS??? If this honor accorded The Graveyard Book were to coincide with fabulous ticket sales and much success for the movie Coraline (also written by Neil Gaiman), opening February 6, and the stop-motion film studio, Laika, here in Portland, were to immediately embark upon an adaptation of The Graveyard Book, thereby reemploying all those amazing animators and set builders and model makers who worked feverishly on this stunning movie. I would love to see Portland become a new hub for animation -- especially this kind of animation, where things are made and built by hands. You know? Where models are painted with tiny paintbrushes and trees are made out of popcorn and giant scale dollhouses are built with. . . wood and nails and glue. Wouldn't that be AWESOME???

(I was just reading this awesome book about renovating an old mansion in Casablanca, and the author notes that the reason traditional crafts in Morocco (like bejmat tilework and tadelakt plastering) are still alive and well there, while crafts die out in so many other countries, is because the royal family has kept them alive -- has commissioned so many building projects over the years that the apprenticeship system has kept on. I love the idea of people building things and making things, which is why I love stop-motion so much. Keep people building and making!)

Go see Coraline when it opens! Help build a stop-motion industry in Portland, Oregon! Help employ artists!!!

Here's the trailer. And I don't know about you, but when I'm watching it I have to remember: this is not CG, this is not all done on computers. Those are dolls, every single one of them, every single movement is a fraction of film, with puppeteers (OCD puppeteers?) moving every single finger, every single everything, in tiny increments) and all those background are sets. Every flower was made by hand. It's AMAZING!


[Added: for a small inkling of the craft involved:]

[Added: two people commented to tell me about the knitter of tiny sweaters for the movie; this I had to see for myself. Check it out!]

(there are a bunch more Coraline-related clips and stuff on youtube if you're keen.)

P.S. It's snowing again in Portland!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Woe is me. . . but not really

Look what came back to me today. My current boomerang.
Yes. Silksinger. This time, she's typeset, and I get to read her. . . AGAIN. Good thing I love this book. Note: be sure only to write books you rillyrilly love, because you will have to read them minnyminny times. Also: try to keep them short. This is not something I have managed to do, but it seems like a good plan right about now.

Typeset, and without the art (which Jim is working on now), she comes in at 439 pages. Blackbringer is 437. Huh. Pretty close!

So, this weekend I have a reading date with my Dreamdark crew: Magpie and Talon, Whisper and Hirik, and multitudinous imps and hobgoblins and faeries and devils.

This is going to be a year for me of many exciting moments. I will get two boxes of ARCs in the mail, and two boxes of new books. This is the "Back to the Future" moment I've mentioned before -- how all writers I know seem to remember the minor scene in that movie in which the Crispin Glover character gets a box of books from his publisher. Only aspiring writers take note of that scene, and we remember it forever.

I will also read reviews, which I hope will be good, and I will see the German edition of Blackbringer, not to mention the very beautiful paperback, which I am going to show you NOW:
Isn't it gorgeous? I love the new type treatment, and you can't really tell here, but the type and the image of Magpie and Calypso are spot-laminated so they stand out shiny against the misty matte background. It's scrumptious. And I'm very excited that Holly Black blurbed the front cover. Thank you Holly!

I'm also very excited that Firebird chose to use Magpie as the lead page to their section in the Penguin Young Readers catalog:

I'm giddy about 2009, for lots of reasons. GIDDY. So if I seem to be complaining about having to read my own book again, know that I am doing so with a sense of total grace and gratitude for the year that is upcoming.

Now, on to something very funny. Well. One of the Cybils shortlist titles in sci-fi/fantasy, selected by me and my co-panelists, is Lisa McMann's Wake, a book I read in one sitting (well, one "lying" because I was in bed and didn't fall asleep until I finished it at 1:30 or so). When I posted about it, a friend in Arizona emailed to tell me essentially, "Yeah it's great, and did you know she wrote it in seven days?"

At which point I swore violently and laid curses in the general direction of Arizona, where Lisa McMann also lives, because, you know, just because. Because writing a good book in seven days is just plain showing off!! So, this same friend from Arizona, a YA book enthusiast and his wife, a 6th grade teacher and also a YA book enthusiast, were in Portland last weekend and when we got together for lunch, they had this gift for me, a copy of Wake inscribed, by Lisa McMann, as follows:
Tee hee. I find this very, very funny, and it's made funnier by the fact that the book was handed off at night between car windows in a parking lot, the way FBI agents meet informants in TV shows. All clandestine-like. So, thank you Daanon and Michelle for the gift of the book, and thank you Lisa McMann, for good-naturedly rubbing my nose in your absurdly fast writing abilities. :-)

[psst. I don't really think she was showing off. I'm just jealous. And I really liked this book. It's about a girl who has the very bad luck that, whenever someone falls asleep in her vicinity, she gets sucked into their dream. It's a thriller and a romance, and an unputdownable read, AND the sequel is coming out in like 17 days or something. It's a good read for adults or teens, and you can count on it for teen reluctant readers, because it is so fast-paced.]

[Totally off the subject, but I want to say Halleluja to PRESIDENT OBAMA for rolling back the "gag rule" today. As I understood it from previous reading, Bush's first act in office eight years ago was to deny funding to any NGOs around the world that provided abortion counseling or services. This effectively meant depriving women and families in desperately poor countries of not only abortion (that is, hypocritically depriving them of a service that is still legal here), but birth control and HIV prevention, as well as other life-saving counseling and services. Well, that funding is now restored. Thank you, President Obama, for your first three days in office. Off to a good start!]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

luteous and susurrous

Luteous and susurrous. These are two words that have found their way into my w.i.p. I love them. They are words you can almost taste. Does it ever happen to you when you are toying with a sentence in your head, thinking up the best way to describe something -- an eye color, the sound of an otherworldly language -- that a word will pop into your mind? A word like "luteous" you're not sure is even a real word, let alone a word that means what you hope it means? But then you look it up and it is and does -- it is just perfect? That happens to me all the time, and makes me marvel at the strange furls of memory, all the things that are folded away, like, I don't know, like heirloom china in a box in the garage. You haven't seen it in years but suddenly the pattern pops into your head.


In other vocabulary "news," I [heart] google. Everyday I say to myself a dozen times at least, "I [heart] google." What can't you find? I wanted to describe something as looking like a sheep, but I didn't know if there was a single word for it, the way there's "bovine" for cows or "feline" for cats, etc. Well, of course there is, and it's "ovine." Cool.

[You see, when all I am doing is writing, my world. . . it shrinks to this, to luteous and susurrous and ovine. That and Jim and Leroy and what's for dinner. Which tonight, was pancakes, because. . . why not, really?]

Oh, and I just read this interesting piece by Sarah Zarr about writers' themes, the things we don't realize are our themes until we've written several books and suddenly discover that there are common elements to them all. It was interesting to read, because I have begun to detect certain things that keep wanting to come up in my stories. Outsider-ness. Sacrifice. Vast depth of backstory -- vaaaast, like, millenia of mythic history that has profound relevance to the "now" of the story -- I guess that's the Tolkien reverence in me. Secret identities, including: a character's own identity being a mystery to him or herself. And other stuff. Do you think it means that I have an identity that is secret even to myself, and that there is a long-forgotten mythic history I am supposed to uncover?

Maybe. You never know.

Monday, January 19, 2009

sleepy book thoughts

Whew. Sleepy. Today I resolved a chapter that has been giving me trouble for a week or so, and I am able to move beyond it and into the rest of the story. YAY!!! Glory glory! And I love it, there are so many things I love about this story. I know enough about it to move forward, but not everything about it. I have a sense of possibilities, not a concrete roadmap straight through to The End. For now, it's enough.

Some writers like to map everything out in a very precise way. Others start with only a hint or a character, a wisp, and go forth boldly into the total unknown. I guess that my way is somewhere in between. I have to have a strong sense of story, but not a total outline. I have to have more than a wisp. When I have a wisp and it's an intriguing wisp, I don't just start writing a novel. I start brainstorming the hell out of that wisp until it is a substantial thing, enough to build something on. I am not brave enough to build on a wisp. For now, anyway.

It's good to be in the midst of a vibrant, pulsing story that daily sets my mind on fire. Very very good. And tiring.

Tired brain.

Today I learned -- and checked with my sister the herpetologist, to confirm that it is true -- that snakes get peevish before they shed their skin. Beware of peevish snakes.

I also, when googling gorilla teeth, came upon this wonderful site, Gorilla Doctors, which is what it sounds like. A group of Western and African veterinarians in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda (the very small range of the Mountain Gorilla) who work to protect this severely endangered species from, among other things, fatal human-spread contagions. There are only 740 of these animals remaining in the world. 740. When I was a kid and dreamed of being a veterinarian, these were the kind of dreams I had. I love reading about people doing this marvelous work.

Oh, and to everyone in the entire world:
HAPPY INAUGURATION DAY! A new era dawns, and I am full of hope.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saddened and moved

I keep hearing about this book with a quirky and unforgettable title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; I don't know how many times I've heard the title and made a passing mental note of it, meaning to look into it. But it wasn't until this morning, when I saw it mentioned on a Goodreads update (I believe Miss Erin marked it "to read") that I took note of the name of the author. Mary Ann Shaffer (and Annie Barrows). Mary Ann Shaffer. Immediately my mind flashed to a wonderful woman I had worked with at the fabulous independent bookstore, Book Passage, in the early 90s, while I was in college. She had been an older lady, a former librarian, and a hoot of a storyteller with a hint of a West Virginia drawl. But, I mean, the name Mary Ann Shaffer is probably pretty common.

But, it turns out, this is indeed the same Mary Ann Shaffer! I knew as soon as I saw the picture of the authors at the book's website -- so wonderful to see her face again! And when I saw the link to "the Mary Ann Shaffer Memorial Fund," my heart kind of froze. It turns out that Mary Ann did not live to see her novel published. Or indeed, to see it hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list, or be loved by lots of people. Her niece, children's book author Annie Barrows (author of Ivy and Bean) helped her finish the book when she fell ill, and has had, I imagine, the bittersweet joy and sadness of seeing to it published to great, great success after Mary Ann's passing.

I'm so happy for Mary Ann, and so saddened by the news.

There is a story she told me once at Book Passage that has stuck with me, that I have repeated over the years, usually when the subject of the actor Anthony Hopkins comes up (you'll see why); I won't be able to tell it as she did, of course, and I'll have forgotten many of the details, but it was something like this. Mary Ann had, after a long period of nursing her husband through an illness, taken the advice of friends and library patrons where she worked, and decided to do something for herself, just for fun. The thing she decided to do was to fly to New York to see Anthony Hopkins perform in Equus. So off she went. What she didn't know was that one of the library patrons had taken it upon herself, through whatever resources she possessed, to notify Mr. Hopkins of Mary Ann's coming, and to tell him a little bit about the circumstances of her trip. So, again, details elude me, but as I recall, Mary Ann arrived in New York and checked into her hotel, and she was out on the street in front of the hotel about to set off on a walk, or to go early to the theater, when she happened to see. . . Anthony Hopkins on the sidewalk. As she watched, kind of amazed, he went up to a woman and asked her a question. The woman shook her head and walked away. He approached another woman and, again, asked her a question. This woman too shook her head and walked away. Mary Ann stopped her, and asked, "What did Anthony Hopkins just say to you?" And the woman said, "He asked if I was Mary Ann Shaffer." Imagine! Of course, Mary Ann was stunned, and managed to say, "But. . . I'm Mary Ann Shaffer!" and the woman urged her, "Go! Go!" and she did, and introduced herself, and Anthony Hopkins very graciously took her on an early tour of the theater and made her feel very special and welcome. And that's all I remember. It has always made me think very well of Anthony Hopkins, and if anyone were to suggest (I don't know why they would) that he is anything but a nice, considerate man, this would be my proof to the contrary!

I wish I remembered more stories. I am so eager now to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which sounds like just the kind of book I love -- a glimpse into a little-known slice of history, peopled with interesting characters. . . And what's more, I gather that it's about book lovers, and about ordinary people bearing up under Nazi occupation, and perhaps committing small acts of heroism.

* * *

In wistful memory of Mary Ann Shaffer, who realized her dream but didn't quite get to see it.

Here's a video of Annie Barrows discussing the book:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wings, puppies, and the genius of Joann Sfar

When I'm really into a work-in-progress, my blogging suffers. As it should be, yes, but as I cast around for something to write about here that doesn't have to do with the minutiae of characters you know nothing about, I feel like my external world has shrunk to about the size of. . . my house (which I haven't left in several days, except to take the dog into the back yard), while my interior world is all dazzly and sparkling and immense, but in a way I can't really share. Except by, you know, actually finishing this book and then getting it out into the world.

So, hm. I keep wanting to drop bizarre little hints about the book, but that would be more interesting for me than for you. Instead, I'll show you my sister's new puppy:
Awww. Lookit him! She picks him up from the breeder in two days. Question: if you are a dog person, are you a puppy person or a grown dog from the Humane Society person? We are the latter, partly out of fear of puppy destructiveness, partly out of soft-heartedness for older dogs who need love too. Well, now we have only Leroy, and he doesn't *play nice with others* or we might have brought home another rescue after Shiloh died two years ago. But seeing pictures of puppies like this, I certainly understand the draw.

Okay, and here's another question for you, sent to me by 12-year-old Erica in Michigan (who, delightfully, describes herself as: "human, unfortunately"). Erica asks:

If you could fly, would you rather have butterfly wings, dragonfly wings, bat wings, or no wings at all, you could just magically float? Thanks!!!

Well. This is the sort of thing I tend to give a lot of thought to. Too much, maybe. In this case, I would have to answer that, though I am a lover of all things "wings," if I really had to make this decision I'd go with the magically floating (and magically zooming, a la Superman). See, wings are great in theory and in art and fiction, but they might be kind of cumbersome as far as sleeping positions and movie theater seats, etc, and then, I'd have to alter every single shirt or jacket or dress I ever hoped to wear. And this is me we're talking about. I wear 6-inch-platforms just to avoid hemming jeans!! So, there you have it.

But, if the question were simply: what kind of wings would you have. . . well, I suppose I'd do some studying up on the respective merits of bird wings vs bat wings, but it would be one of those, for sure. Dragonfly wings are cool and all, but in the nonmagical world, without access to old healers who can re-knit rips with spidersilk, they must be quite fragile. Crow wings (like a certain young faerie lad I know) would be my choice. Or perhaps. . . bat wings, for that little touch of eeevil that never did anybody any harm.

(One of my all-time favorite movie moments comes from a movie I've only seen half of, because I got bored, and that is Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. The scene I love is two angels sitting in a convertible, longingly listing all the things that would be great about being human. And one of them says, with feeling: "Just once, to enthuse for evil!" I. Love. That.)

So: puppy or grown dog?
And: wings or superhero flight?
And: what kind of wings?

One last thing. I just read one of the most awesome graphic novels I have EVER READ. It's The Rabbi's Cat by the French writer/artist/genius Joann Sfar, responsible for titles like The Professor's Daughter (a mummy romance) and Vampire in Love (the first of his I read, stunned the whole time over its total oddness). Well, I liked those, but LOVED this story, which is narrated by a rabbi's cat in Algiers in the 1930s -- a cat that manages to gain the power of speech, only to use it as any cat would, to lie, wheedle, and blaspheme! The humor; the many perfect moments where Sfar captures something so TRUE about human nature; the fascinating context -- being Jewish then and there, at the bottom of the complex social/religious spectrum of North Africa; and there's so much warmth and silliness, and a little bit of [delightful] crudeness (that makes it inappropriate for younger children).

Perhaps my favorite line in the book, from p. 82: "You sure you don't want me to kill him? You know, sometimes you kill just one person and it takes care of everything." tee hee!

This is one to hang on to. Alexandra gave it to Jim for Christmas (thank you!), and I ordered the sequel yesterday, which led to -- ahem -- a much larger order than I had intended, stuffed with tantalizing books on the obscure topics of my w.i.p. . . including the discovery of this Anglo-Afghan author, Tahir Shah, who has written all kinds of totally intriguing sounding books, about things like renovating a decaying palace in Morocco; or studying fire-walking with a sorcerer in India; and tracing the folklore of flight from the Andes to the Amazon. . . Cool.

And very very lastly, a tidbit of trivia from another fascinating nonfiction book I am reading (which was also a gift from Alexandra): did you know that the most important red dye in history, responsible for the brilliant color "carmine" is made not from flower petals or berries or some such lovely source, but the blood of cactus -dwelling beetles? How about that? It's called "cochineal" and it's likely in your lipstick, not to mention your Cherry Coke!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy dance round-up!

I have spastically awesome news to relay on behalf of fabulous blue-haired writer, Stephanie Perkins. Actually, I'll let her tell you herself. . .

[Go on, please, take a peek.]










How awesome is that? Yay! This is the manuscript, by the way, that I posted (and sort of gloated) about HERE. Maybe you remember, I don't know. Anyway, I'm so happy that it is now in the hands of Kate Schafer Testerman, aka Daphne Unfeasible, who Jim and I had the pleasure to meet at SCBWI Western Washington last year, discovering in her a fellow true-blue Joss Whedon fan and kindred spirit. I can't wait to hear how things go with the sale of Stephanie's book! I'M SO EXCITED!

It's been so cool, the past few months, seeing talented writers I've met get representation. Just a few weeks ago when I was talking to LK Madigan, she mentioned that her own agent, Jenn Laughran of Andrea Brown, had just signed a new client who goes by the name of Gwenda Bond. I think that because "Gwenda Bond" is such a cool name, maybe Lisa wasn't sure it was her real name, but as far as I know it is, and I'm so happy for her too. Yay, Gwenda! She got the news on New Years Day, too. Does that augur a great year, or what? Here's her giddy announcement.

And there's the incredibly talented Amber Lough, whose manuscript I was also lucky enough to read last year -- it's a grim story about a peaceful island nation invaded by the cannibal Maori in 1835, and it's written so beautifully. A little while back she signed with Laura Rennert, also of Andrea Brown, who's shopping it now. Yay! (She also gave birth to her second child a few months ago, so she's had quite a year!)

And of course. The marvelous Jolie Stekly, former co-Regional Advisor of the Western Washington SCBWI, who has stepped down from those duties to devote herself more fully to writing, signed in the fall with Rosemary Stimola, who has begun to shop her manuscript, of which I have only read the first chapter, which hooked me immediately. Go, Rosemary!

Lastly, this one goes back a bit further, but the lovely lovely Holly Cupala signed with agent Edward Necarsulmer IV, who has gotten her a two-book deal with HarperCollins. The first book, which was once marvelously titled "Brimstone Soup," has been renamed "A Light That Never Goes Out" and I'm not sure when it's slated for release. 2010? Can't wait to read it!

So, writers out there, persevere. I myself have an unorthodox agent story and didn't go through the usual process (Jane was my licensing agent for Laini's Ladies first, and isn't primarily a book agent, though we did meet at an SCBWI conference), so I don't really know what the usual process is, except that it is HARD. And it is PAINFUL. And can take a really long time. But look. All these writers with fabulous agents! It happens. In fact, it happens A LOT. The most important thing, I think, is to have the best possible manuscript. I remember in art school, a teacher (who I later came to hate, but this was before that) saying that the world of illustration really is a "meritocracy" -- unlike fine art, it's not about what gallery you've shown at or where you went to art school, just about how good your portfolio is. Well, I'm sure there's *some* importance to "who you know" (because, isn't there always? I'm a big believer in meeting people at conferences) but writing is the same. It really is the work that is important. Write an awesome book. That is the secret to getting published. Right? I wrote about that more, including Mo Willems citations, in THIS POST last year. Of course, even an awesome book isn't going to be right for every agent, so you have to find the right person, kind of like dating.

Anyway, so. . . HAPPY DANCE for the newly agented and newly published and soon-to-be-published! Yay!

And, oh, I got up and running on Scrivener last night and I can tell I am going to love it, as soon as the shininess wears off enough for me to stop playing with it and get some writing done. Before I actually downloaded it and did the tutorial, I couldn't quite imagine what it is about it that makes other writers rave so much, but now I understand. See, it's not a "word-processing" program to make your document look all pretty and formatty (though it does look pretty). It's mainly an organizational program that pulls every auxiliary document, every scrap of research, every version of every scene, etc, into one "project binder" and makes it super easy to navigate through your own work. As someone who has gotten mired and lost in file directories that look like this:

Silksinger draft 1
Silksinger draft 1a
Silksinger draft 1aa
Silksinger draft 2
Silksinger new draft 2
Silksinger no really new draft 2

(ha ha, I'm serious. It's bad) -- I can tell this is going to be awesome. I love how it makes it easy to split the text into individual chapters and then combine and split them again at the drop of a hat, depending upon what you need to do at that moment. And it's got outline functions, and an honest-to-god index-cards-on-a-corkboard function, so you can see your book at a glance, and there are all kinds of other tools that I could tell you about, but it'd be better for you do download the free trial and play with it. Oh, it's Mac-only, which I love, having only ever owned Apple computers since that first Apple 2GS back in 1987, and there are so many programs that are PC-only. But this, this is for us. So, nyah.

Now, I'm going to go and play some more, highlight things willy nilly, and drag photos of horse gas masks and Moroccan tea pots into my Inspector. Because I can.


Monday, January 12, 2009

A reminder: the working doc; always think in writing; and: time to register for Squam!

I've been gratified to see, here and there, that some people are trying my "working doc" trick and that it's helping them write. I think of this now as I am deep in my own project, and am so reliant upon the working doc that it is comical to remember I used to try to. . . just write. You know, write Chapter One and start writing, and think that that is how it has to be, word falling after word, neat as dominoes, in a civilized, organized manner like that, the story unspooling in a linear manner, ideas coming just when I need them, just in time to put the next scene in its proper place. Hah!

I've written more extensively about the working doc in Not For Robots, and I just thought I'd mention it briefly here. This is what it looks like. Couldn't be simpler. Two documents open side by side:
On the right, that's my manuscript. Well, that's an old project, not my current manuscript, but you get the idea. And that's mostly where I write. But you know how it happens that you get to the end of a scene, and you have only a vague idea of how to get to the next thing you want to happen? Or worse, you don't know what should happen? I've heard some writers say they write in a kind of magical dream for the first, say 20 pages, or 60 pages, or whatever, of a new project, and then it "fritters away" and is gone? Well. No it doesn't fritter away. It just doesn't exist yet. You were lucky to get that magical dream of 20 or 60 pages so effortlessly. Now the effort begins.

How do you best bring the next scene -- and the next and next -- into existence? Do you sit staring at the screen, tentatively put in a sentence and then delete it, not sure where you're going? You could. That's what I used to try to do. Now I just leap over to that working doc on the left and brainstorm. I ask myself: What now? And I think of a thousand things that could happen next, and consider how they'll fit into the overall arc and what would be most fun to write, most interesting, and I think and think and think -- in writing, always think in writing -- until I feel like I've hit upon a cool next step. And then I write that. And so on. So basic, right?

On the subject of "always think in writing," here's why: it focuses your thoughts, makes them real, black and white before you, and it prevents your mind from wandering to laundry or the movie you saw last night or the neighbor's unsightly trash cans or whatever. It keeps you on mission, and when you stay on mission, your thoughts lead to more thoughts -- more relevant thoughts, that is, not laundry thoughts, and your ideas build and build until you've figured out what you need to figure out. Daydream on paper, on screen. Otherwise the fairies of the air will just steal you thoughts away and give them to someone else. Okay, not really but it's a cool image, huh?

And that is what I have to say about writing for today.

I've downloaded Scrivener (thank you, Mac Leopard), but I haven't done the tutorial yet or tried to switch over to it. I wonder how it might change my working doc process, what new forms and mutations my process might take. We shall see.

So, guess what: it's coming up on time to register for Squam!
photo credit: Blue Poppy

Squam is an awesome arts retreat on a gorgeous lake in New Hampshire, the dreamchild of the fabulous Blue Poppy. I missed out on the first ever session, last fall, and you can see by these pictures of painty smocks and smiling faces what a blast it was, and how beautiful. (click the slideshows on the left.) Now there are two sessions planned for this year, and the Spring session, June 3-7, has a focus on fiber arts, with some really cool classes which you can look at HERE. It's not only fiber arts, there are some painting classes too, but there's stuff like Block-Printing on Fabric, Printing with Botanical Designs, making really cute, creative dolls, felting, and lots of knitting. If you're a knitter interested in a gorgeous retreat with kindred souls, luscious yarns, and new techniques, check it out.

The Fall session, September 16-20, offers art and craft classes, many of which have a word-oriented angle, like incorporating poetry into art and text into jewelry-making, and a class on songwriting, and another on elements of story. Very cool classes, HERE.

I hope you'll check it out. What a wonderful creative gathering!

And speaking of wonderful creative gatherings, I'm having a bit of a drool about this trip that I am not taking, to the country I am most desiring to go to right now. Well, shoot. It's a pdf download so I can't link directly to it, but you MUST see it, so go to THIS POST at one of my favorite blogs, Maryam in Marrakesh, and scroll to the middle, by the picture of the smiling ladies on the stairs, and click where it says "If so read this." Really. Go there. Click it. And see what I wish I could be doing next week.


Multiple shopping trips in the souks of Marrakesh with Maryam, shopping goddess extraordinaire. Plus, learning decorative painting techniques from masters like Melanie. Oh. Oh my. Sigh.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Because artists are lame too. . .

Good news! My qualifications for L.A.M.E. (see last post) took a nose-dive yesterday! Yay! I wrote about eight pages of a new scene. Well. . . okay, I may have written a couple of those the night before, in a desperate effort to recover from lameness and save the day. Still, eight pages is eight pages. The scene is a bit "edgier" than I had set out to write, a fact which my Facebook status yesterday can testify to: "Laini is. . . writing a scene about a naked person."

Huh. First a graverobber, then a naked person. What the heck kind of book am I writing? But don't worry: the naked person will get his comeuppance. I mean, I am not the sort to write books in which nakedness goes unpunished! Such prurience. . . I shudder.


Wow, I sound really weird. Okay, this particular naked person might need some lesson-teaching, but that does not apply to nakedness in general. I have no agenda there. (Jim says that, speaking of nakedness, I should link you to this Sigur Ros video, wherein naked people frolic in the forest. View responsibly.)

Anyway: scene written, left at a place I'm anxious to get back to and continue. Yay! Oh, and one of my tricks for avoiding L.A.M.E.ness? Not reading fiction. Fiction exerts too powerful a pull sometimes, like a riptide. You have to swim diagonally against it to get out, and there's a good chance even that won't help. Nonfiction, even really good, parasitey nonfiction, it releases you, lets you swim safely ashore and write your own book. So, I'm holding out against fiction, at least for a few days. I have to do this sometimes, discipline myself. Especially after the bad-habit-forming and delicious last month of Cybils-reading where I basically excused myself of all other responsibilities and just read books. I must unform that habit! (Short stories are a good substitute for novels too. Their spell can be powerful, but it is cast in short little spurts.)

So, after the last post, I was sensing a need for a new L.A.M.E. seal, one for the illustrators of the world! So here it is, though I went with "artist" instead of "illustrator" to preserve the awesome acronym. The problem? There was no paintbrush icon! So I kept the quill, and added a few extras just in case: the "mad monkey," and the "zombie hunter's tools." I didn't see a cupcake icon, or maybe I'd have gone with that. You artists decide which one you like best. Oh, and this particular color scheme, it is important to note, is called "zombie hunter." I mean, what else could it be?

If you would like to play with your own seal, go HERE. It's funny how I'm still not used to the "everythingness" of the internet. I went to google images searching for a generic seal, before it occurred to me that such a thing as a "seal generator" might exist. I mean, of course someone would have made such a thing! It's like when I was wondering, as I am wont to do, how many miles away the star Betelgeuse is. I knew how many light years it was, but I didn't know how many miles were in a light year, you know? (I do know that a light year measures distance, not time, but that is the extent of the knowledge of one who was inexplicably allowed to opt out of taking physics in highschool. Why did they let me DO that? Young persons out there, learn from me. Some day you will be wondering how far away a star is, or pondering what kind of gravity other planets would have, and what factors of size or orbit might determine that, and you'll wish they had made you take physics!)

Anyway, long story short, I googled "light-speed converter" or something and found what I was looking for, and the answer is: Betelgeuse is many, many, many miles away from Earth.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Join a new club? (Plus, review: Ten Cents a Dance)

I am lame. In recognition of said lameness, I wrote this email to Stephanie Perkins last night:

I haven't gotten any writing done today and now I am just sitting on the couch reading Ten Cents a Dance. I'm so lame.


And she wrote back:

Dear Lame-O,

Congratulations! After reviewing your application, we've decided that you're just the kind of person the League of Authors Misapplying Energy (L.A.M.E.) is looking for! Enclosed you'll find: the L.A.M.E. starter guide, an official L.A.M.E. membership card, and a L.A.M.E. badge to pin to your lapel (or pajamas, if you are M.E. and haven't gotten dressed today).

We are thrilled to welcome you to our ranks, and if you have any questions -- any at all! -- please do not hesitate to contact me. Though I might be M.E., such as watching a pop culture countdown or preparing a bubble bath, so it may take awhile to hear back from me.

Congratulations again, Lame-O, and welcome to the club!


Stephanie Perkins
L.A.M.E. President

Well. I thought this was about the cleverest acronym I'd ever heard -- clever, clever Stephanie -- and promptly started looking for a "seal generator" so that I could make our new club official. Here it is:
So, are you lame? Don't hasten to say yes, just so you can join a new club! This really isn't a club any of us want to be part of. We want to be shining stars of goal-achieving and book-finishing, right? Sadly, we all have our L.A.M.E. days. Feel free to pull this seal off and use it, if it happens to apply!

I blame my L.A.M.E. evening, yesterday, entirely on Ten Cents a Dance, and I mean that with affection and jealousy, because I just could not persuade myself to set it down, so instead of working on my own book, I read until I finished it. It is soOoOoOoO good! It's set in mid-1940's Chicago and features a fifteen-year-old Polish-Irish heroine, Ruby Jacinski, who has to quit school to support her family by pickling pig knuckles at the meat-packing plant. Ruby loves to dance, and when a neighborhood bad boy tips her off that she can get paid to dance -- and earn up to $50 a week (she makes $12 pickling knuckles) -- her whole life changes. She becomes a taxi dancer, a girl men pay 10 cents to dance with, and has to keep her new job a complete secret from her mother. Ruby is a good girl whose wild streak nestles cozily beside her total innocence, and there's a sense of precariousness and impending danger as she gets more deeply enmeshed in her new life, makes dangerous mistakes, gets close to the wrong boy, and piles up so many lies she barely knows who she is anymore.

Christine Fletcher has recreated this time and place with remarkable detail, from the social protocols to the racial tensions, and I was fascinated with little things, such as how a girl like Ruby would never have been to a restaurant, or known anyone who owned their own car; the intricate schemes by which the dance hall girls got all they could out of their customers; the "black and tan" clubs which were the only places all races mingled in the interest of one thing: music. Oh, and don't neglect to read the Author's Note, and how the idea of taxi dancing first entered Christine's awareness -- it's a loo-loo of a family secret!

Read it.

For fun, here's some of Ruby's kind of dancing, though I don't know when this video was taken.
And this one's cute, from a 1945 movie called Twice Blessed. I'm getting the idea it involves identical twins who've switched places. One knows how to dance, the other. . . not so much. Cute!
Jitterbug? I don't know dancing, but it looks like fun and great exercise.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I went to Morocco and India yesterday. . .

Yesterday I worked on a scene set in Marrakesh all day, and I did some flipping through guide books, and some googling, and by the time Jim and I were trying to decide on a restaurant to go to for dinner, I really wanted Moroccan food! But I discovered that apparently the only Moroccan restaurants in Portland are big belly-dancery affairs where you sit on poufs and eat mass-produced four-course meals. You know, all ambiance, like for birthday parties and stuff? That wasn't quite what I was looking for. But we did find a "Mediterranean" restaurant (Lauro Kitchen) that serves Spanish, Portuguese, and North African-inspired dishes, and we went there. Good choice! I had a chicken tagine with pistachio couscous (though the photo there is a beef tagine I just swiped off the internet), and Jim had pork loin in plum sauce, which was a bit less Moroccanish, but yummy. And there wasn't a belly dancer to be seen. Not that I'm against belly dancers or anything. But, you know.

I am massively craving travel to an exotic country -- Morocco in particular. Poring over the guidebooks isn't helping. You know, you can go to the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez, Mediterranean beaches, Berber souks. . . all in that one country! Sigh. And the mint tea. . . I've been reading about how they prepare and serve it. Very interesting. They hold the tea pot at head height and aim the tea down into those tiny decorative glasses, and it forms a head, like a glass of beer. Cool, no? Sadly, it is highly unlikely -- I would go so far as to say improbable -- that we will be traveling there any time soon. I can't quite bring myself to say "impossible" though I am sure that, tragically, it is true. Sigh. Maryam, have a glass of mint tea for me, and, I don't know, pet a peacock :-)

So anyway, after Morocco, we went to India! That is, we finally saw Slumdog Millionaire and it is SOOOO GOOOOOD! DO try to see it.

Now, I'm headed back to Marrakesh, where I left my main character taking tea with an Amazigh (Berber) graverobber. . .

On a totally separate note, I've discovered, through a chance email comment, a fellow parasite enthusiast! That is, Portland YA author Christine Fletcher, whose Cybil-short-listed Ten Cents a Dance I started reading last night (so far: SO GOOD). Turns out we're both kind of in love with parasites and could go on talking about them happily for hours! Who knew? Turns out she's even taught Parasitology to veterinary students, so she knows a lot more than me, a mere amateur parasite-lover!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Beach Writing Weekend!

Well, we did make it to the beach to our writing retreat. Yay! Driving through the Coast Mountains, it looked like a Narnia winterscape, the snow-flocked fir trees. And even in Manzanita, at the actual beach, there was snow! What a winter. (It's snowing again right now, but I am beginning to feel like a broken record saying that. Really, this isn't normal!)

Still, the sky was blue much of the time, while Portland was gloomed in, and it wasn't windy, and the house was nice, and the company was good, and the words, they flowed. I wrote a chapter of the new book, and then when I was about to shut the laptop and go take a nap, a line appeared in my head and I typed it out on a new doc -- it was first-person, which the book is not, and it was full of italics, very emphatic -- and before I knew it, I had written four pages of a very odd little short story called "Sally Roundabout." Huh.
The house was up a hill at the end of a quiet road, with a "distant view of the ocean." It was big, but sparsely furnished in the way of rental houses:
We didn't explore very thoroughly when we arrived, I guess -- we each thought someone else had -- because on the day of departure we discovered a whole extra bedroom downstairs!
Lovely time. Clam chowder and salt water taffy were involved.


Friday, January 02, 2009

more snow??????????? wait, FLOODS???? What?!?!

Unbeleeeeeevably, the weather is against me again. Woke this morning to snow, slushy and already melting, not a big deal except for the fact that one must drive over the Coast Mountains to get to the beach, where the cozy writing retreat house is just sitting there, empty and waiting. And as if snow and ice on the mtn highway aren't bad enough, the coast rivers are all in flood. Hurray! What else could go wrong?

I've been glued to the ODOT (Oregon Dept of Trans) website all morning, watching with horrified fascination as road closures pop up as little mean red Xs. Mud slides. Crashes. Floods.

[Laughs maniacally]

Egad. Can you beleeeeeeve it? Sob. Sob. Stay tuned. . .

Meanwhile, have you seen this? Ha ha! Sucky video quality. Sorry, but all these other ones were from news outlets that turned 12 seconds of footage into lame two-minute reenactments!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! (And Cybils nominees)

Yippee! It's 2009. Last night we were [jokingly] flipping off 2008, which hasn't been the best of years in some ways. I have a good feeling about 2009 though. Lots of good things are going to happen! I can feel it.

Tuesday night my fellow Cybils panelists and I convened for a gmail chat (which was really really fun!) to decide on the shortlists in our two categories. The first four (out of five) slots went really easily. It was like the clear excellence rose to the top and those books just shimmered and shone. But. There were more than five truly excellent books in each category, and it was the 5th spot on both the middle-grade list and the young adult list that were not so easy to come to a consensus on. So we agreed to come back the next day to cast final votes on those, and I'm sorry to say: there are books I LOVE that didn't make it onto the list, and I mourn them (I shake my fist at my fellow panelists, albeit with a smile, because they are all awesome and just as passionate about their choices as I am about mine.) So without further ado, here are the titles we selected, looking for books with high literary quality AND high kid-appeal, the kind of books that kids and teens will pass from hand to hand, devotedly, but that also meet a level of critical excellence. It's a fantastic group of books; we had so many wonderful titles and such diversity. The whole experience has been a joy, and I miss the other panelists already. (Hey guys, can we have another gmail chat? Just about. . . whatever? The weather?)

Middle Grade
Lamplighter, by D.M. Cornish
The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas
The Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkoski
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Savvy, by Ingrid Law

(I shall be writing soon on Lamplighter, about which I am overflowing with such love and awe that I cannot yet quite articulate it.)

Young Adult
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Wake, by Lisa McMann
The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson
Airman, by Eoin Colfer
Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

There are six on YA because we were totally deadlocked on the fifth slot, and had to either kill a panelist or break the rules and add another title! HERE are our write-ups on these books, with links, and HERE are all the other categories and their own shortlists.

A new panel of readers now comes together to decide final winners from these lists. I had thought at the outset that they had the easier job, because they have fewer books to read. But now I think the final selection is much more challenging than the thinning that we did, whittling down 160+ titles to eleven. HOW are they going to choose winners? I imagine their negotiations will go on much longer than ours did. Unless by some miracle they happen to mostly love the same titles!

Well. It's a drizzly dreary January first here in Portland, and I have Things to Do. I am still locked in a death struggle over commas with the copyeditor of Silksinger. Okay, not really. But I have to drag myself over to look at commas again, about which I am deeply, deeply unenthusiastic. Tomorrow I'm going on my lovely writing retreat and I want to have my head miraculously clear to dive with joy and undivided attention into my Newt. Seems fit for a new year: a new book! One that is stomp-dancing in my head demanding I BEGIN ALREADY! What else, what else. . . {drums fingers on table, looking pensive} Bake blueberry muffins? Yes, later. Hm. House is [mostly] clean, and I love that. A newly clean house. Yum. New Christmas gifties looking adorable in their new places, like a new tablecloth on the kitchen table (Anthropologie, I love you). I love cute new tablecloths. I still have to clean out my closet, but that is not on the roster for today. New clothes can live in the studio chair where they are piled for a little while longer. I don't know. Not many obligations for today. That's nice. Cheerio. Happy today!

P.S. A terrific new review of Blackbringer HERE. Thanks, BookHound!

OH! EXCITING! The Blackbringer paperback is up on Amazon! You can see the new cover. I'll post a clearer image once I have a good file. LOVE it!