Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pressure and Thanks

I'm using one of my Swedish covers today in honor of Graceling being a best seller in Sweden :o). Thank you to my publisher Semic for making this happen! --->

Today, outside my window, a woman's voice said, "Holy shit! What is that thing?"

I leaned toward the window and yelled, "It's a turkey!"

Yes, both the neighborhood turkey and noisy conversations about the neighborhood turkey have become so common in these parts that I didn't even need to look out the window to know what she was talking about. I'm really becoming fond of this guy. My favorite is when he's perched on a fence or a low tree branch, as if he were a mere sparrow. (He's a really big wild turkey.) I wonder if he's tired of astonished reactions yet. I try to act very blasé whenever I see him, to give him a relief from all the pressure to be astonishing.

Speaking of pressure...

Pressure is a funny thing. When I'm not working, sometimes I feel the pressure of work, of timing, of deadlines and schedules, pressing down on me. But when I am working, it goes away. I've noticed that while pressure can have less-than-wonderful effects on my appetite, dreams, and ability to rest (for example), it doesn't have any effect on my work. It doesn't make me work faster or slower or for fewer or more hours in the day; it doesn't make my work better or worse. The outside pressure needs to go away in order for me to clear my head for writing, and I'm not sure why it goes away without too much trouble, but it does. In this way, the pressure is nothing. It can't touch me where it hurts.

I think that if this ever changes -- if the outside pressure starts to affect my work -- that will be the day I take a break from writing for the outside world. Luckily, there are a few things a writer can do to limit the outside pressure -- or at least, to limit how much of it actually makes its way through the barriers to touch her. I try to do these things. And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my editor and my agent at this point. Both of them are blessedly patient with me, both of them understand my process, both of them know I don't dawdle, and both of them have made themselves into walls for my sake, holding back the pressure, dealing with it themselves rather than passing it on to me, and hiding it so that I can't see it.

Just one of the ways in which I'm a lucky, lucky writer.

Back to work.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on."

As often happens, I've got tons I'd like to blog about and no time. Ack! So, quickly, I've got two recommendations to offer:
  • A book called The Brothers Story, by Katharine Sturtevant. Loved the characterizations, loved being inside Kit's head while he works through a whole lot of things.
Re: the recent news from New York, I also have a photo to share:

Have a good week, everyone. Wish me luck, for I'm burning the midnight oil.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good News to End the Week

New York State, I love you lots.

Monday, June 20, 2011

These Are the Creatures in Your Neighborhood

A few days ago, while walking down a nearby street, I came upon an enormous wild turkey. It was rather a surprising sight in the middle of Cambridge, Massachusetts. A confused man was taking pictures of it. We had a little chat about how confused we were about it.

Later the same day, I was walking through the Harvard Business School campus and this big crowd of people went by. Several people in the crowd, at several points, began dancing when they saw me, waving their arms around, sticking their legs in the air, and saying hello to me. I smiled at them politely, all the time secretly wondering WTF was going on. Were they a dance troupe? And drunk? Later, I passed a reflective window and realized I was wearing my t-shirt that says "ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN THROUGH INTERPRETIVE DANCE."

Next (it was quite a day for encounters), I was walking along Memorial Drive -- probably the most trafficked road around, crowded with very fast cars -- when suddenly, the traffic came to a complete halt. Why? Because about 40 geese and goslings had decided to cross Memorial Drive, taking their own sweet time, stopping to honk a bit, changing their minds and turning around to go back, changing their minds again and turning forward to continue on, perhaps pecking at a few tires. It made me so happy. This happens here all the time and busy commuters are adorably patient about it. It's appropriate that Make Way for Ducklings takes place in Boston.

As I write this, I'm sitting by an open window. I just heard someone on the street yell to someone else, "Are you expecting a lot of rain?" (It's a very sunny day.) I looked out the window and saw a woman holding a huge rolled-up umbrella in one hand and holding a toddler by the other hand. "No!" she yelled back, gesticulating with the umbrella. "I just wanted to be prepared for the wild turkey!"

Seems it's moved in for good and is gaining a reputation.

Hope you're all well on this Monday, and enjoying the creatures in your neighborhood. :o)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Blogging Juice

But I can share some awesomeness. First, want to see the views from an astronaut's camera?

<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="View From An Astronaut's Camera">Video: View From An Astronaut's Camera</a>

Next, here's something that cracked me up (click to enbiggen):

Thanks to The Riot for creating it, and thanks to Hydrodynamically Captivating for bringing it to my attention.

And finally... maybe SYTYCD is getting tired of illegal youtube videos, because they've finally starting posting videos of the most recent dances on their website. It's a teeny little screen (could we have them bigger, please?), there's an Oreo ad that will make you never want to support Oreos again, there's sometimes a black bar at the bottom of the screen unnecessarily cutting off the dancers' feet (SRSLY? Is this the best SYTYCD can do at keeping people from searching youtube?), AND I'm sure the routines won't be up forever, so while you have the chance, go to the SYTYCD website and click on the down arrow to the right of the "Video Extras" box until you see "Melanie and Marko," then hit play. To paraphrase something David Letterman said once, if this dance routine doesn't drop you, you ain't hooked up right. Watch the others, too, of course, if you like! There were lots of good ones last night. But this one with the statues is an example of the reason I keep watching SYTYCD, despite the copious bullshit, like tonight's judging decision for example HRRRUMPH. Careful, judges, your manipulation is showing. HRRRRUMPPH! *ahem*

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Your Sun Is Lighting My Moon

So, years ago, when I started an email correspondence with my lovely Australian publicist, we discovered that not only had he and I both studied at Sydney Uni at the same time, in the same program, possibly even taking the same lectures -- but I'd worked at the pub where he'd gone to drink beer! Isn't it funny that I had to come back home, finish college, go to grad school, write a book, and get an Australian deal for us to get to know each other?

I got to meet Brendan in person during the Sydney leg of my trip. We went back to our old stomping grounds for dinner -- the Nag's Head, in Glebe. It was so surreal. Every time I rounded a corner, memories came rushing back.

I can't remember if I made a point, before this Australia trip, of explaining here on the blog that when I was in college, I spent a year in Sydney. I think I may have failed to do that! I studied English at Sydney Uni, lived in Darlington, screwed up people's orders at the Nag's Head, got into a lot of mischief, walked down to the harbour frequently, and traveled. It was a wonderful year.

One thing I *didn't* get to do during that year was spend much time in Melbourne, so both legs of this trip were a delight. In Sydney, I stayed with a wonderful writer friend ("wonderful writer friend" = "person who is a wonderful friend AND a wonderful writer." Like Charlotte, you know) and didn't worry about running around doing a million touristy things -- because I'd lived there before. I got to revisit old haunts and old favorites, calmly savoring the beauty of this city. (There may be no sight more beautiful at the end of a 12-hour plane ride than Sydney through your airplane window.) In Melbourne, I got to be the tourist -- with a second wonderful writer friend, also an American, also a tourist! We tore up the town. THE WHOLE TRIP WAS SMASHING.

A huge full moon was hanging over the city skyline one night as we drove into downtown Sydney. The thing about a full moon in Australia is that it's my family's sun, as they experience day on the other side of the earth, that's lighting up that moon. And now that I'm back home, I think about how the sun of my Australia friends is lighting up my moon :o).

I picked up a couple guys in Melbourne.

The I took them to the register, bought them, packed them in a box, and sent them away to their intended recipients.

Yes, King Tut was in Melbourne! Or, rather, his stuff was. Tut himself was in Egypt, I believe, where he belongs. King Tut's stuff? Breathtaking.

This blog post is all over the place, so I may as well end by embedding this hilarious clip from the Tony Awards. It involves Hugh Jackman, who's Australian, so that makes it relevant, right? Thanks, Sam, for the link.

Closer to home -- before I go, there's a book just out that I recommend: The Lost Crown, by Sarah Miller. This is beautiful and heartbreaking historical fiction about Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, a.k.a. the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II.

For my next blog post, I'm going to try for some structure.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Randutiae and Housekeeping for a Thursday

  • A few people have asked me for my reaction to the Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon called "Darkness Too Visible." (Here's the subhead: "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?") So, here's my reaction: Seriously? That old complaint again? I don't have time for this. I have a book to write. *closes tab and gets back to work*
  • A friend picked me up at the airport the night I returned from Melbourne. When, at an intersection, he (correctly) turned into the right lane, I had a brief moment of terror and cried out. This is more of a freakout than I ever had while I was in Australia and people kept turning into left lanes. I guess I was expecting my instincts to be broken there. Not at home, though! Luckily, I seem to have gotten my "we drive on the right" instincts back, and also, for the most part, my sleep. Though now I am sleeping endlessly instead of not at all, which is okay, seeing as it's WAY better for me and also more fun.
  • I have been meaning to link for ages to the Dreamwidth community accessibility_win. This is a community of people with disabilities giving tips for day-to-day accessibility improvements that people might not think to provide otherwise. Anyone with a disability is welcome to post, and anyone can comment. However, please read the rules before diving in.
  • A thank you I should have extended ages ago: thank you to my Italian readers who voted Fire the winner of the Xanadu prize in the category Terza media (and second place in the category Prima superiore)! I was in Australia when I got the news, and I was very happy. Thank you!
  • I have been watching Ballykissangel, Series 5. I have my problems with this show, but with the exception of Series 1-3, I do generally find it relaxing. In the last episode I watched, Danny (played by Colin Farrell) called his girlfriend Emma (played by Kate McEnery) and told her to come over quick! It's an emergency! When she got there, the emergency was that his pig wasn't acting like herself and kept giving him reproachful looks like it was his fault. I find it calming to watch an extremely young and adorable Colin Farrell fall apart with worry for his pig.
  • That's all for now. Back to work!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars?

Hi everybody. I'm still here, and I even have a list of things I want to blog about, but I have no time. In lieu of a real post, here are a couple of new covers I've loved recently. The first is for the Polish Graceling, published by Nasza Księgarnia. According to Google Translate, the title means "Chosen," which is appropriate, I think! Click to enbiggen.

The second is the French mass market pocket edition of Graceling, published by Orbit-Livre de Poche. I think she looks like an 80s rocker, which I love :o). I also adore her dagger.

Can't you just see Katsa putting turquoise highlights in her hair and caking on the mascara before going off to catch dinner?

I've uploaded a few new covers to my cover gallery -- check it out if you like. (I wonder, if all the Katsas on all the covers battled each other, which one would win the fight?) I hope to be back on track with the blog soon. Sorry for the dry spell, everyone!

(PS: Does my title ring a bell? It's from Starship's "We Built This City." And for the record, Katsa would never ride a wrecking ball into someone's guitar, unless it was an evil guitar. ^_^)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Post Comes to You Courtesy of My Jet Lag

A play in one act.

BODY, having finally consented to fall asleep at 2am Boston time, wakes up at 4am Boston time, completely alert. This is quite rational, because while BRAIN knows that sleep took place from 2am to 4am, BODY, on Sydney/Melbourne time, believes that sleep took place from 4pm to 6pm. BODY believes that it has taken a pleasant afternoon nap, presumably during a (lengthy) solar eclipse.

BODY: Wow! What a great nap! I'm ravenous! Eclipses must make me hungry!

BRAIN: [moaning] Shut up! It's not an eclipse! Eclipses don't last eight hours! Go back to sleep!

BODY: I'm starving! What's for dinner?

BRAIN: I wonder if I should try to fall back to sleep, or get up and eat breakfast.

BODY: Can I have a cheeseburger?

BRAIN: I'm completely awake. Better have breakfast and do some work now, before the breakdown that will inevitably occur later this morning.

BODY and BRAIN move to kitchen and begin to putter around.

BODY: What? Breakfast for dinner again? Can't I have some meatloaf? Can't I have polenta? Can't I have a steak and a meatpie? OMG!! There's a horrible bright light shining through the window! It's an intruder! Call the police!

BRAIN: Shut up!

BODY: OMG! It's getting closer! It's blinding! Call the fire department!

BRAIN: Shut up! It's the sunrise!

BODY: You frakking moron! It's an intruder! Close the shades!

BRAIN: No! You have to go sit in it and let it bore into your eyeballs so that you readjust to the time zone!

BODY: You frakking sadist!

BRAIN: Shut up! Just shut up! Do your work!

BODY gives in, sitting down in the bright light, rustling papers. A few hours of work go by.

BODY: Bedtime!

BRAIN: Must stay awake.

BODY: Bedtime!

BRAIN: Must stay awake until tonight or we will never get over this jet lag.

BODY: Bedtime!

BRAIN: No! No sleeping!

BODY: If you don't let me sleep, I'll give you a splitting headache.

BRAIN: I absolutely forbid you to sleep!

BODY: [pulling out the ace] If you don't let me sleep, I'll make you feel nauseated.

BRAIN: [faltering] Okay, please, no. No nausea, please. Here, let's make a deal. If I let you watch TV for the rest of the day, will you stay awake until it gets dark again and not make me feel nauseated?

BODY: Can I watch the Star Wars movie where Amidala says to Anakin, "Hold me like you did at the lake on Naboo?"

BRAIN: [groaning] Okay, fine, but I can't believe I let you buy that movie.

BODY: Can I watch The Two Towers extended edition, the one where Theoden says, "The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep one last time?"

BRAIN: We deleted that from the DVR, remember, because it was taking up, like, half the memory. And anyway, I know that's just you trying to trick me into falling asleep and dreaming about Eomer.

BODY: Oh, I know! Can we watch So You Think You Can Dance?

BRAIN: Yes! Let's watch So You Think You Can Dance!

Time passes as BODY and BRAIN settle into the couch watching So You Think You Can Dance.

BODY: That one judge keeps telling contestants that they're just like the Pussycat Dolls. The weird thing is that she seems to mean it as a compliment.

BRAIN: I admit, I've been confused about that, too. Sit up. No lying down.

BODY: [sitting up] Can you believe Nigel just played a memory trick -- for laughs -- on a contestant who's suffering from a traumatic case of amnesia?

BRAIN: I agree that that was horrible and offensive. Here, drink this tea. No yawning.

Time passes. More time passes. The sun begins to set.

BODY: OMG! Irish step dancing! I love it! I'm so proud to be Irish!

BRAIN: [begins to feel a bit apprehensive] Okay, well, don't get too excited. Maybe you should lie down now. It's getting late and I'm starting to feel really tired. [yawning] Oh, man. I'm EXHAUSTED.

BODY: [jumps up and begins to bound about] I think that strange fiery light from before really perked me up! I am so wide awake! I am so wide awake! I AM SO WIDE AWAKE I AM NOT GOING TO SLEEP FOR ANOTHER 24 HOURS!

BRAIN: [cries]

The end.