Come On Over

So if you’re old enough to remember Christina Aguilera when she looked like this, well, you’ll wish you weren’t. Because then you wouldn’t have invited that song into your head with this blog title.

But. I have a real reason for writing.

I’ve moved over to a Kaylee-approved degree of shiny new blog on my website. I will no longer be updating here, much though I am loathe to bid farewell to Star Wars references. But we all know I really won’t be.

I do hope you’ll come and play. I always let the Wookiee win.

A Little Perspective

So, tomorrow is release day for The Hidden Icon.

I’ve had so many people, more than I deserve, offer their support and congratulations. I’ve been asked a lot as the day grows near, “Are you so excited?” And of course I am, absolutely. It’s all too unreal to me. I’ve held the paperback in my hands, opened it and recognized every single word I edited and agonized over (and over and over), scrawled my illegible signature in a couple of advance copies. But overwhelmingly, do you want to know what I’m feeling?

Fear.

I almost didn’t even want to write that word and I won’t tell you how long I waffled over posting this, but I feel like it’s important to be honest. I’m no Wesley Crusher but I do believe that Wil Wheaton provides humans an excellent standard to live by.

“Be honest. Be kind. Be honorable. Work hard. And always be awesome.”

This book, come tomorrow, it’s not mine anymore. Every word I’ve written becomes the province of the reader’s imagination. The shape of Eiren’s nose, the sound of Gannet’s voice, their smiles and scars and tracks in the sand will venture, with luck, very far away from me. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it (nor would I want to).  I don’t expect big or even little success, but I do expect that I will have to learn to share my secret friends, which is what these characters, this world, has been for me for years. I am elated to share them, of course, but I’m terrified, too. How could I not be?

Here’s what I hope for: a bigger, badder, grander version of the hyper-eager phone conversations I shared with my best friend when we were teenagers, when we called each other to read passages aloud from the things that we were working on and the the things we were reading, to talk about characters, about adventure, about love. What would send me absolutely over the moon is if we aren’t the only ones talking, this time.

Five Favorite Book Characters of All Time

The gals at The Great Noveling Adventure have been a delightful distraction from my writing lately (and they’ve got some swell stuff for writing, too, for when you’re feeling responsible and crafty). In a recent post, one of the writers talked up her five favorite book characters of the year, and it made me want to do the same thing. I only wish I’d read enough this year to have more than a handful of characters to choose from. So instead I’m going to take the easy way out and share my five favorite book characters of all time. Because what isn’t fun about all time?

These aren’t in any particular order, and while some of these books are certainly among my favorites, these characters transcend the page, making me wish for short stories and artist renderings and, gasp, fanfiction.

I dig American movies. I dig Negroes, particularly Michael Jackson. I dig to disseminate very much currency at famous nightclubs in Odessa… many girls want to be carnal with me in many good arrangements, notwithstanding the Inebriated Kangaroo, the Gorky Tickle, and the Unyielding Zookeeper.”

Alex Perchov from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is irresistible from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the “hero” of this novel. Never has a character misused so many words so spectacularly.

 ∞

Remember that while the Clayr can See the future, others make it. I feel that you will be a maker, not a seer. You must promise me that it will be so. Promise me that you will not give in. Promise me that you will never give up hope. Make your future, Lirael!”

Lirael from Garth Nix’s Lirael and Abhorsen manages a balance of strength and vulnerability on the page that makes me wonder if perhaps Nix was a teenage girl in another life. She’s the rare heroine who can make enormous, childish mistakes, cry about them, and challenge herself to overcome them without ever distancing her reader (at least not this reader).

  ∞

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice demands a place in my esteem forever, and the esteem of most women, I think, of my generation and temperament. She is confident, intelligent, and refuses to compromise who she is despite every expectation that she must.

  ∞

Curiosity killed the cat,” Fesgao remarked, his dark eyes unreadable. Aly rolled her eyes. Why did everyone say that to her? 

“People always forget the rest of the saying,” she complained. “‘And satisfaction brought it back.” 

Aly Cooper from Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen is indomitable. And so funny. I feel like I don’t read enough traditional fantasy with a good sense of humor, but Aly really carried me into this series after many failed attempts to read Pierce’s other works.

  ∞

You show the man you are when you insult me thus,” I said very quietly.

“And what sort of man is that?”

“A man with no sense of right or wrong. A man who cannot laugh and who rules by fear. A — a man with no respect for women.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“And on what do you base this judgment?” he asked eventually. “You have spent but the briefest time in my company. Already you believe me some kind of monster. You are indeed quick to assess a man’s character.”

“As are you to judge a woman,” I said straightaway.

So, I lied and saved the best for last, and I’m cheating because it’s actually two characters. Bran and Liadan from Juliet Marillier’s Son of the Shadows are whole and real within minutes of meeting them on the page, but together they make me weep. Marillier has gone on to write a number of Sevenwaters novels, and most of them have been highly enjoyable, but still. All I want is more of these two, forever.

… I can’t promise I won’t do this again with my biggest fictional crushes. Or favorite fictional worlds, because, nobody from Harry Potter even made this list because I’m really just in love with Rowling’s world building. But for now, who’s on your list?

The Write Life

I didn’t make it to nearly as many Writer’s Track panels at this year’s Dragon*Con as I’d hoped to (I blame feeling all the mama feelings and coming home early), but I did manage “First Ladies of Fantasy” on Sunday morning. The panel featured Mercedes Lackey, Laurell K. Hamilton, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Sherrilyn Kenyon, and was moderated by Nancy Knight, author and director of the Writer’s Track. They were a delightful group, their answers to her questions candid and so very human. What inspires you? Describe your process? But then she asked, How do you balance your writing and your personal life? And it’s a question I’ve heard before, and the answers I’ve heard before, too.

And they irritate the piss out of me, every time.

“What social life?” This from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, her sentiments echoed, in one fashion or another, by all of the panelists except for Sherrilyn Kenyon, who was emphatic about her days belonging to her family (I gathered that she does much of her writing at night). Laurell K. Hamilton bemoaned that any “mundane” interruption in the morning made it impossible for her to settle down to write for an hour or more.

Every writer has systems in place that work for them. And I don’t fault anyone for setting boundaries, having priorities, or cozying up to a garden shed. What I do take issue with is suggesting that in order to be a productive, successful writer, you can’t make time for friends. For family. For leading a full, rich life that involves more than writing. And while they certainly didn’t go so far as to lay it out so plainly, I got that impression all the same, and it’s the same bleak picture of the prolific writer I’ve read before. But I think it’s dangerous and unfair to suggest that there’s only one way to live as a writer, one way to write. I had a creative writing professor who told me once that you do whatever you have to do to write. If you drink a glass of wine to wind down, you drink a glass of wine. If you need to go for a walk, go for a walk. Run. Bake. Sew. Garden. Read.

I recently set up a writing desk in my basement, but I’ve yet to use it. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’m just coming to the realization that for me, right now, the notion of needing a “sanctuary” to work is the most convenient excuse there is NOT to write (on an unrelated note, Laurell K. Hamilton even suggested that this advice is only applicable to those writers who are introverts and thrive in solitude, which I found intriguing). I am more than guilty of lamenting the fact that my daughter doesn’t sleep through the night, and if I could just count on a solid six hour block of sleep I could routinely wake up before she does and get some writing in. Neither of those things has happened yet, but I’m adapting.

I write for ten minutes when she falls asleep in the car on the way home. I write for fifteen minutes on the couch in the living room while she constructs elaborate messes with toys, books, television remotes. Between cleaning up after dinner, bedtime, freelancing to pay the bills, and paying some modicum of attention to my husband, I write as much as I can. And I never feel like it’s enough. Rarely do I have an uninterrupted hour to do anything. Rarer still is my mind completely cleared of all of the things that want and need doing, the “mundane” demands of my life as the mother of a very young child, a good friend, a wife.

Writing has taken precedence when it comes to my creative energies (I don’t write music anymore, and play my guitar but rarely). But I never want to be the writer who gives up what they love for the sake of being more productive, because actually living is what drives me to write. I’m not suggesting that these writers aren’t living or even that they’re wrong, only that it’s wrong for me, right now. Do I want to write more in the future? Absolutely. But two or more hours of quiet reflection is sometimes more than I get in REM sleep. So I’ll do what I can, when I can, as much as I can.

And I won’t feel bad about it.

Kid Stuff: Dragon Daddy

When he is asleep, Elinor Anna’s daddy is a dragon.

And that makes Elinor Anna a dragon hunter.

When he sleeps she creeps into his fluffy den of blankets and pillows and cat fur. Her little feet pad through the carpeted tracks left by his big ones, so quiet. She waits for a great big grumble before she steals stealthily near.

Elinor Anna can see her daddy’s dreams all gummy in the corners of his eyes. He’s breathing fire over a great hoard of golden gaming cartridges, circa 1988. His scales are made of circuit boards and his tail hooks protectively as her arm around her lovey. She goes as close to as she dares, nose to nose, and sees that theirs are the same. She gasps and her surprise is mirrored in her daddy’s face when he wakes and finds his talons turned to tickling fingers, his shrewd, slitted eyes to soft ones.

Elinor Anna can’t be a dragon hunter, after all. Not when she’s a dragon, too.

Chores? Nay, QUESTS

I’ve become more than a little bit obsessed with HabitRPG. So much so that adding a To Do to write a blog means that I am here, writing it. Is that meta? I don’t know. There’s something about things that are meta that make me as irritable as hipsters chattering in my favorite coffee house. Probably because they both leave me feeling like I’m fourteen again and a little slow on the uptake (I was too busy worrying about what my mother made me wear that day and hoping I didn’t have food caught in my braces).

Remind me to tell you the story about the time in our sex education class when we all had to swish and spit into Dixie cups*.

Like most writers I know, I am an extremely skillful time waster. And like most writers I know, I lament this fact even as I’m collecting images of period gowns for an inspirational Pinboard on my latest project, perfecting my cold brew for the smoothest cup of iced coffee to accompany my morning writing, or “networking” on Twitter by fangirling about Doctor Who and retweeting Feminist Hulk. So anytime I’ve been able to incentivise getting shit done, especially when it comes to writing, I do it. It used to be a solid hour of writing meant a little gaming, but now that I have a baby who monopolizes most of my higher brain functions when she’s awake and contributes an alarming amount to the dishes and laundry, there is no time for games. Which is why my achievement whoring heart loves HabitRPG so very much. I can collect experience points and gold for outlining a chapter? Washing a load of diapers? Writing a blog post? DONE.

But in all seriousness, it’s really, really cool, and sincerely helpful in prioritizing exactly how you’re going to waste time, if you must waste it, and how you’re going to be productive. Sword-wielding, armor-wearing, wolfhound at your heels productive.

*Our gym teacher dumped everything into a glass pitcher so everyone could see what our water and saliva looked like all mixed up together, which is, I suppose, exactly what it would have been like if we’d all slept with the same undeserving eighth grade boy? A real gem of a girl pointed out the floaters and informed everyone of how they must’ve been mine, even though I brushed every day after lunch. 

Love at First Sight

Alif the UnseenWell, almost.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure when I started reading if I was going to enjoy G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseenbut I’ve never been more delighted to be wrong (about a book, anyway). Once I got into the mystic, jinn-blue heart of it, I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve seen some references here and there that liken the novel to Harry Potter, and I think I know why. Willow Wilson is incredibly skillful in taking the mundane and making it magical, which is even more of a feat given she does so with a) the Middle East, a world  largely mysterious to the Western reader already, so she’s almost doing double the work, and b) the seemingly black and white, zeroes and ones world of computers. I was so impressed with the believability of the hacking that goes on in this novel, along with about a thousand (and one nights) other things. Like Rowling, the world leaves me wanting more, to the degree that I wish there were a journaling community where I could pick up a Sila character, or at least a forum with some illuminating fanfic about Vikram and the Convert.

My tastes, they are so much less lofty than the aims of this novel. I hope it’s okay if I love it anyway.