Francesca Forrest, Pen Pal
I read this in early draft, and loved it, but I was afraid that an agent or editor would require Francesca Forrest to gut so unusual a book in order to make it fit into market requirements. I was so relieved when she decided to go indie.
It seems to be a young adult novel at the beginning, as Em, who lives in a tiny floating village in the gulf coast flings a bottle into the sea, hoping it will net her a pen pal. Through the serendipity that always attends message bottles that do fetch up somewhere (and Forrest is collecting links to real stories about these), her letter comes to Kaya, a young woman suspended precariously over a volcano as a political prisoner. Kaya's letters and her journal, written to keep her sane in her increasingly dangerous prison, are swapped with Em's letters and story. This could be read by young people, and I think they would be fascinated, but as the lava rises inexorably in the volcano, and a hurricane threatens the gulf shore, the stakes intensify in the world of adults with powerful poignancy.
And that's why it's so amazing. Without treading into graphic adult territory, the story gives a true picture of how young and old live in a dangerous and difficult-to-navigate world. Further, what makes a good book into a great one is the subtle touch of magic, built absolutely into the worldviews of the the characters, so it becomes as ineffable as sunlight on water. Is it real? Is it delusion? That will depend on who you ask--and who you are as a reader.
I found this story so compelling that I've been running an interview by letter with the author, which I will post as soon as I finish reading this, the final draft of the book.
Andrea K. Höst, Bones of the Fair, sequel to Champion.
"Happen?" Aspen gave her a pitying look. "My dear child, what have you and the King been up to for the last six months? Hours of lustful abandon, that's what would happen. The shrieking of my name in ecstasy. A good deal of parading about naked, and many tender confidences where he tells me all his secrets."
Though this is a sequel, I believe that a new reader could plunge right in; a new character is introduced at the beginning, who has her own slant on the action of the first book, skillfully serving as a reminder for the reader familiar with Champion and getting a new reader up to speed on the beguiling world of Darest, so full of dangerous magic.
That said, I strongly recommend Champion, which begins with a delightful role reversal, wherein a young woman with no military skills discovers that she is the king's champion, and must defend a king she has never met. Along with Soren, the champion, the reader enters a fascinating world, and this book contains a rarity for me, an introduction of the fae that evokes the numinous.
Ankaret Wells, Heavy Ice.
This is also a sequel (The Maker's Mask and The Hawkwood War) in her space opera about the world of Requite. I liked the first one better than the second (which was still a ripsnorting read), and I absolutely loved her stand-alone Firebrand, prompting me to grab this as soon as I heard it was out.
The opening is very promising; in somewhat similar fashion to Bones of the Fair we get a new perspective on the action gone before, which turns a summary into intriguing perspective. It looks to be a good, long read, with plenty of world building, humor, action, and fascinating characters--just the way I love space opera.
As I have been working on my own mystery series (The Bishop’s Wife, out about a year from now), I have been surprised to discover truths about mystery that I never realized before.
So often, when we think of mystery, we think of Sherlock Holmes or of CSI type shows. We think about procedure, about clues, about red herrings and fooling the reader into thinking it is the wrong person until the very end. And yes, those are definitely traditions within the mystery genre.
But some of my favorite mystery series often spend little time dealing with clues or showing how to prove one person “did it.” Foyle’s War, Wallander, The Boy in the Suitcase—these are stories not about the pecularities of death, but about life. There is no attempt to make the body itself a bizarre feast of the type that we see on Castle or Bones. And the story isn’t so much about the detective detecting and showing off brilliance as it is about community.
This has led to me making two theories of great mystery writing:
#1 Mysteries are about understanding the dead person’s life and making a shape of it. Everyone is interested in this because we are all going to die, and we all want to believe that there will be a final tragic and comedic story to be told that encompasses our life and makes us appear as the unique individuals that we are. We want death to finalize and measure us. We want to see our own good and bad and to know that our loss will be marked, that there will be friends and loved ones who will remember us, and that in some sense, we will go on. In this sense, a mystery is an extension of a religious ceremony of grief.
#2 Mysteries are about community and about how the people in that community fit together. As great detective detect, they interview people. They find out about motives beyond the murder itself. They discover that everyone in the community has a reason to kill, and that there isn’t a great distinction between the one who is guilty and the ones who aren’t technically. My husband complained recently that he doesn’t like shows where two people are planning the murder and only one does it. But that is the essence of mystery. We all hate and love each other. That is what a community is, and if you think that is too dark, well, you probably don’t like mysteries.
I spend a great deal of my time in front of my computer in my pyjamas. Thus I wear pyjamas more than I wear any other clothing. They are my work uniform. All my novels have been written while I was wearing pjs. I think about pyjamas a lot.
I like mine to have three pockets, two on the pants, as well as a breast pocket. I like them to be soft and loose fitting, and deliciously comfortable. It’s a bonus if they can also have goofy, gorgeous or gelid1 patterns on them.
I mentioned on Twitter that most women’s pjs do not have pockets and the sadness this fills me with. How I am forced to mostly wear men’s pyjamas which typically do not have as interesting prints as women’s. Soon we were in a discussion about the paucity of pockets in women’s clothing, the awesomeness of pockets, and of pjs, and there was much bonding.
Though there was also some who made distinctions between kinds of pjs. For them pjs are what you wear to bed and lounging pjs are what you wear to write in. Okay . . . sounds very Katherine Hepburn-y, and I love her, so I’ll go with it. But I do not make such a distinction. Then there was mention of “house dresses” which I’d only ever heard of in ye olde Hollywood movies. Must be a thing of the USA.
But there was also a distinct minority who questioned the need for pockets in pjs. I admit to being bewildered by the question but it swiftly became apparent that there are people who only wear pjs to sleep in.
I know. I was shocked too.
Then it turned out that there are people who don’t like pockets. Who don’t want pockets on any of their clothing. There was talk of pockets always having holes, ruining the lines of clothing, making people look fat (!).
I must confess at that point I fainted from shock.
Where do they put their phone? Their keys? Their sekrit decoder ring (when not in the company of people where it can be worn freely)? I don’t understand!
The answer was in their bags (or purses as those from the USA call them). Don’t get me wrong. I have handbags, I have backpacks. I use them. I even have some I love dearly but in my heart of hearts I wish everything I needed when I left the house would fit into my pockets. That I could be unencumbered by bags.
For bags weigh me down, pulling on one shoulder, or the other, or both in the case of backpacks. I am always inadvertently whacking into things with bags or being whacked with them. They are little violent, destructive beasts.
Worst of all bags eat my stuff.
I know the only pen I’ve ever liked is in the bag I bought in Rome many, many years ago. The first fancy bag I ever bought myself. And Italian bag! My Italian bag. I still have that bag though it is faded and frayed and somewhat less fabulous than it once was. The pen should be in there. But can I find it? No, I cannot. That stupid Italian bag ate my favourite pen. I have never found a pen like it since. I no longer like pens. All because of that bag.
In conclusion: Pyjamas are the best WITH pockets. Purses (bags) are the devil. The end.
- They only need be gelid in summer. In winter I prefer warmer patterns.
If you are friends with a writer, you may have moments when you think that it is the best thing ever. You get to read books before they come out! You get to hear stories about the publishing world! You get to live vicariously the life of an author! You get to hear hilarious stories about school visits, book signings gone wrong, and famous authors who are jerks! You may even get invited to a movie premier based on your author friend’s book! Or you may meet that famous author you’ve always admired who turns out to be a nice person!
However, there are a lot of downsides to having a writer friend:
1. Writers don’t leave the house all that much. Because, well, they often have to write. When other people are enjoying vacations, writers are on deadline. And they don’t answer their phones. They don’t go out for lunch. They whine and complain about being on deadline. They have no life.
2. Writers will use you in their books. They may use your name. Or your physical description. They may steal the relationship you have with your mother. Or your ex-wife. They may write about that horribly embarrassing moment you had in eighth grade. And they may not even realize what they are doing until you call them on it and the book is in print and there is nothing they can do about it.
3. Writers don’t enjoy books, movies and TV shows the way that other people do. I mean, they don’t just sit down and let it flow. They don’t watch it for fun. Because any storytelling is their business. So when you are enjoying yourself with popcorn, they’re busy analyzing, and making it better. Or just making snarky comments because there’s nothing that can be done to improve some things. Really. And they can’t turn this off. They really can’t.
4. Writers are often lousy cooks, and lousy at just about everything except whatever they happen to be researching for their new book. And then they’re not even really good at that, even if they sound like experts. They think they’re smart, but they’re pretty useless when it comes to fixing a car, doing a science fair project, or just about anything but writing.
5. Writers will tell you what they really think about your first attempt at a short story or novel. They won’t hold back. You think you’ve done a pretty good job, and they roll their eyes and tell you every tiny thing you’ve done wrong and why this will never sell. Even though you didn’t want it to sell. You were just writing something for the church Christmas party. And if you’ve pretended a story that your child wrote was yours, the writer may be so brutal your child bursts into tears and refuses to ever speak to you again.
So the moral of this story is, be careful when making friends with writers! You may regret it!
In the comments, I observe the pitfalls of being a visual writer--nothing new to anyone who visits this blog--but it left me wondering if first drafts, however they look, are (except for the genius few) essentially placeholders. Revision isn't just about choosing better words, it's about looking for trapdoors to the scenes that will build toward that climax. Also.
The concept of placeholder works on the plot level, the character level, as well as the prose level. The trick is identifying those placeholders so that they can be unpacked.
This year, I published my most frockalicious book yet. Lady Persis Blake wears nearly twenty different amazing outfits over the course of Across a Star-Swept Sea, and she’s also a certified badass. Which is how I know she’d get on like a house on fire with Lilac LeRoux, who like Persis, is futuristic, rich, fashionable, and totally awesome.
And she manages all of this in a single gown. This one:
Altogether now: Oooooooooooooh. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
These Broken Stars is the first in an amazing new sci-fi series by authors Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Think Firefly meets shipwreck. You’re gonna love it.
Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner are longtime friends and sometime flatmates who have traveled the world (but not yet the galaxy), covering every continent between them. They are sure outer space is only a matter of time. Meagan, who is also the author of the Skylark trilogy, currently lives in Asheville, NC, while Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia. Although they currently live apart, they are united by their love of space opera, road trips, and second breakfasts.
Visit the These Broken Stars website for the latest news on the series and follow the authors on Twitter at @AmieKaufman and @MeaganSpooner. You may also sign up for their newsletter as well! These Broken Stars will be available in North America on December 10, 2013.
And here’s the coolest part. Lilac’s green gown is real, and it’s going on tour! The first stop, yesterday, was chilling with Marie Lu on the streets of LA. Today, the gown is hanging with me in our nation’s capital.
We took a little hike in Rock Creek Park. Ah, the fall color!
And by “we”, I mean me, the dress, and of course, Rio:
This one might be my favorite:
Nothing like a rock throne, amirite?
Thank you so much to Disney/Hyperion, Meagan, and Amie for letting me unleash my inner Lilac and go hiking through the wilderness in a fine green gown.
And that’s not all, folks!
And stay tuned for more adventures of the Traveling These Broken Stars Dress.
News Flash: Uglies and Leviathan ebooks are on sale!
Both titles are $1.99 for all of December. ‘Snot bad.
(This applies to the USA only.)
And for Uglies on Kobo, click here. (Leviathan isn’t on sale on Kobo. Sorry!)
What the hell. I’m just going to throw in some laudatory quotes:
“Full of nonstop action, this steampunk adventure is sure to become a classic.”
—School Library Journal
“When a book pursues you into your dreams, you can’t ignore it.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if the First World War had been fought with genetically engineered mutant animals, against steam-powered walking machines? And the answer is, Yes, it would.”
—The New York Times
“A superb piece of popular art.”
—New York Times
“This book, the first in a trilogy, asks engaging questions about the meaning of beauty, individuality, and betrayal. Highly recommended for SF fans or anyone who likes a good, thoughtful adventure.”
“With a beginning and ending that pack hefty punches, this introduction to a dystopic future promises an exciting series.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
For years I hosted JoNoWriMo+1.5, in which we all set goals and checked in to keep accountable. Do you know how many books I finished/revised thanks to this challenge? A lot. And I know many of you did, too. :-)
Then I signed up for the Couch to 5K challenge, and managed to get my sedentary butt moving and moving and moving! It was a miracle. And the great thing was, a bunch of my friends joined me and many of us ran farther than we have our whole lives. What an amazing feeling!
It seems I stick to my goals when I join something like this, which requires me to share my progress in public, but also to cheer on people who are going through the same thing with me! I guess I don't like doing this stuff alone. I love to encourage my friends to reach their goals as much as I love to meet them myself. There's something so special about doing something good for you TOGETHER. Know what I mean?
Recently, I did the 30-Day Plank Challenge. I printed out the schedule and put it on my refrigerator. Every day when I completed the task, I got to scribble it out and it felt SO GOOD to do that. :-) I also checked in with friends both on Facebook and Twitter and several of us managed to complete it. Yay!
My writing partners and I check in with each other every day and share our word-count or revision goals and cheer each on until we reach them. I know if it weren't for checking in with my friends on many of these days, I would accomplish nothing. Instead, we work together and make a ton of progress.
Do I rely too much on others to help me stick to my goals? Maybe. But I love not being alone. I love feeling like my success feeds their success, just as much as theirs feeds mine.
Now that I know how well this all works for me, I've made my own challenge for December. I've posted it below in case you'd like to join me. If this seems too easy or too challenging, you can tweak it to fit your own needs. In fact, this is your Monday-Morning Warm-Up! I've added my writing goals as well, and I encourage you to do the same. :)
I hope you'll join me!!
1. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups
2. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups, run at least 1 mile; write 500 words
3. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups; write 500 words
4. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups, run at least 1 mile; write 500 words
5. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups; write 500 words
6. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups, run at least 1 mile; write 500 words
7. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups
8. 2 min plank, 10 sit-ups, 5 pushups
9. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups, run at least 1.5 miles; write 1,000 words
10. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups; write 1,000 words
11. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups, run at least 1.5 miles; write 1,000 words
12. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups; write 1,000 words
13. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups, run at least 1.5 miles; write 1,000 words
14. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups
15. 2.30 min plank, 15 sit-ups, 7 pushups
16. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups, run at least 2 miles; write 1,000 words
17. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups,; write 1,000 words
18. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups, run at least 2 miles; write 1,000 words
19. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups,; write 1,000 words
20. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups, run at least 2 miles; write 1,000 words
21. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups,
22. 3 min plank, 20 sit-ups, 10 pushups,
23. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups, run at least 2.5 miles; write 1,000 words
24. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups; write 1,000 words
25. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups, run at least 2.5 miles
26. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups; write 500 words
27. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups, run at least 2.5 miles; write 500 words
28. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups
29. 3 min plank, 25 sit-ups, 13 pushups
30. 3 min plank, 30 sit-ups, 15 pushups, run at least 3 miles; write 500 words
31. 3 min plank, 30 sit-ups, 15 pushups; write 500 words
This is pretty cool. It’s a table restoration by Fiona S. and her grandma, featuring monoplanes, the Emperor’s airyacht, and a kraken on the top.
Here’s a close up of the air yacht Stamboul:
But wait, there’s more!
The side panels feature a flechette bat . . .
a strafing hawk . . .
a message lizard . . .
and the ever-popular perspicacious loris!
Truly a magnificent piece. And it’s great to see everything in such vibrant colors. May you have many fine tea parties on this table, Fiona.
Just a wee headsup: There may be some Uglies news before the end of the year, or in early 2014. Look for it right here, or in the pages of your favorite industry rag.
UPDATE: Ebooks of both Uglies and Leviathan are on sale for all of December in the USA. Click here for details.