An Untold Story

In the summer of 2009, I sold my pickup truck. I could’ve taken what profit I made and done something responsible, like put it towards my continent of student loan debt, but I didn’t. I bought a netbook. And I started writing a novel.

I’d had notes and something that resembled a draft leftover from college, but it wasn’t the book I’d wanted to write. I changed names, tempers, ambitions. The story got fat on thought, feasting on bigger ideas than the silly one that started it. It had no title, and then it had a working title, and then it was just plain entitled to way too much of my time.

I finished writing the following spring. When I wasn’t revising, I was querying. For anyone who writes, or even anyone who reads, this is not news. The sorrow and vigor of the publishing industry is more transparent now than I suspect it’s ever been, but it doesn’t change why we do it. The compulsion to write is primal and vital, but it’s also social, at least for me (as an introvert, this is a Big Deal). I’ve never written a word I didn’t want to share with someone else, even when I was only calling my best friend in junior high school every forty-five minutes to read aloud what was basically erotic friend fiction (but with post-apocalyptic scenarios and/or elves).

But now I get to say a thing I’ve wanted to say for a really, really long time. I get to share my first novel with you (and you and you and you, too, if you want). The Hidden Icon is forthcoming from Fable Press, and I am so, so ready to geek out with you about it. I’m so excited about this I’m sure something’s going to go horribly awry, but a little healthy skepticism can’t still the thump-pumping hunk of my heart I’ve put into my unreliable narrator’s hands. Because now you get to meet her, too. And that’s just damn cool.

Even if nothing or everything or only a little, lovely something comes of this opportunity, I won’t be sorry. Because this story didn’t begin in 2009, but in 1989, when I wrote my father poetry on the back of an envelope and he kept it on the dash of his work truck.

And this story isn’t over yet.

Listen Up

For a first time mama, I make a lot of time to read. Which still isn’t a whole lot, or nearly as much as some others I know (envy!), but I do what I can. I also try to read in front of my daughter as often as she’ll let me, because I want her to know that I’m a reader, that I value books, and they’re more fun even than the Farscape marathons that accompanied her early nursing days.

But being a baby, she doesn’t have my unrivaled attention span for a new book (though she does toss the ones she doesn’t like to the floor, which I can appreciate after reaching the end of Cold Mountain). So when we’re not listening to “Pollywog in a Bog” or “Prairie Lullaby,” I’ll often listen to some old favorites on audiobook.

I indulge in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy at least twice a year, and the full cast version of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, too. There are a few books that listening to has actually made readable, though I’ve gambled on others I neither enjoyed in print nor by ear. And let’s just say I can’t even wait to hear as well as read one of my favorite writers later this year.

Listening to a book is such a dozy pleasure, like nursing a cup of hot chocolate in December, or taking a bubble bath. I can’t race right through, and I’m not competing with my cat for a comfortable spot to rest my arms. Listening also means I can get away with things like folding diapers or building block towers at the same time. While I’ve got to start being more mindful about what we’re listening to as my baby girl grows up (I don’t want a repeat of when this book got super unexpectedly sexy, super fast), listening to books seems to me like a lovely way to share some of my favorites with her.

And a way to take advantage of what precious little spare time motherhood provides.

Be(ginning) Like the Squirrel

There’s a lot they don’t tell you about the change: the 45 minutes you’ll spend flossing the next morning. The big fat tips you’re going to give the plumber for discreetly snaking your shower drain every month. Missing the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. The minor fractures. The fleas.

Nothing, of course, compares with the horror of spending spring break hunting with your family.

Movies and TV have got it all wrong. Werewolves are like the Italians. Or the Greeks.

I love beginnings. Catching the previews before the movie, a full plate, a first kiss. And when it comes to writing and reading novels, it’s the same. I remember in a creative writing workshop as an undergraduate, we wallowed about in first lines for a solid week. The importance of pinning your reader in their seat from the very first wasn’t lost on me, and I probably spend more time thinking about the first line than I do the next twenty pages (which is almost certainly a problem, but hey, that’s what editing is for, right?)

Someone asked me once if I ever worried I would run out of ideas for novels, and I could’ve laughed. Not at them, mind, but at the notion that I’d ever have in my life time enough to write what comes after all of the beginnings I’ve already written. I’m no Joss Whedon.

Though I’m pretty sure just standing near him increases one’s productivity.

So I’ve finished a revision of the endlessly-revised novel and already I feel like I ought to revise again, ought to revisit the next book in that series, should flirt a little more with YA science fiction, or maybe show this new adult werewolf a good time. WWJ(W)D? He’d say get on it, girl.

But not all at once.

All Shook Up

It’s rare (for me) to read a tough as nails heroine who delivers on the grit and still has enough heart to keep me reading. While she took a little while to grow on me, Boneshaker‘s Briar Wilkes’ ferocity (and at times her heart-achingly dear vulnerability) where the fate of her son is concerned is a wondrously written thing. I felt I was getting a little sneak peek at the future of worry and love over an almost grown up child, and I connected with Briar in a way I’m not sure I would have before I became a parent.

But Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker offers plenty to revel in. The Doornails and the gadgets and the rotters and a surreal, Blight-fogged Seattle thrilled and really fired my imagination. I even loved Priest’s epilogue for the nit-pickers (and anyone who does their research just so they can toss it).

My only complaint was in the reveal of Minnericht’s identity. Without more of his story, it lacked the impact of Briar’s confession (which I loved, and should’ve seen coming and didn’t, a credit to Priest’s writing).

Super curious about the next installment and will absolutely be reading.

Book Lust

I feel like I’m giving myself permission to write about All The Things in a way that is neither deep nor lyrical. Because I am, lately, a creativity camel. My urgent need to write and world-build and daydream is by necessity put off by diapers that need changing (and washing and drying and folding), block towers that need collapsing, toothless smiles soaked up and baby giggles bottled. When I get my figurative drink on, however, I drink deep.

So I am excited about reading and writing when I can, and presently, this. I’ve made a concerted effort to read women in the science fiction and fantasy genre (and all books ever, really), and I love a good reading challenge. I’ve had Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker on loan from the library and am anxious to dig in. I only wish I hadn’t just finished Julianna Baggott’s Pure, because, my goodness, what a note to begin on that gritty gem would’ve been.

Reading is such a cornerstone to writing that even when I’m reduced to a blubbering, unproductive mess by the spectacular imaginations of others, I can’t regret the hours lost in another world. Because lost isn’t even really the right word.

It’s more like lust.

A good book is about what can’t be had, only dreamed. And I can’t hope to write one if I haven’t read a whole hell of a lot of them.

Kid Stuff: Alien Abduction

Elinor Anna abducted an alien.

He was hiding in a tree in her backyard, too-green between the leaves. When he wouldn’t come down she climbed up, taking his too-many fingered hand in both of hers and leading him into the house.

He didn’t like her Legos or her coloring books. She was worried he might eat the cat (he licked his lips and said a whole lot of words Elinor Anna didn’t understand), so she hid him in her toy chest and fed him cheese crackers to keep him quiet.

“What’s that noise?” Asked her dad from the kitchen when the alien burped the biggest burp Elinor Anna had ever heard.

“It was me!” She shouted, and thumped her belly.

“What’s that smell?” Asked her mom from the hallway when he took off his rocket boots and wiggled all seventeen of his toes in Elinor Anna’s face.

“It’s me!” She said, pinching her nose.

“Time for a bath,” said her dad, scooping Elinor Anna up in his arms. She shut her toy chest just in time.

When she had her bedtime story, Elinor Anna hoped the alien could hear, too. And when she filled her water glass, she filled it extra full so she could share if he got thirsty.

After her mom turned out the light and shut the door, Elinor Anna hurried over to her toy chest. But it was empty. The stars that danced out of her night light lit the faces of her favorite dolls and the skins on her toy drums, but her alien wasn’t there. Her window was closed but she could see the stars out there, too, shining just like the stars in her room.

They must’ve shown him the way home.

Kid Stuff: Training Wheels

Elinor Anna’s bicycle has training wheels in the fourth dimension.

She pedals up one side of the street and down the other before she squeaks through a crack in spacetime.

“Be careful!” Says her Dad.

“Be carefuller!’ Says her Mom.

Even if Elinor Anna melted a whole box of crayons together she couldn’t make the colors here. She gathers them in her arms like wildflowers: purgurple, azureal, magentish. She brakes in a puddle of worange to say hello to her fourth dimensional friend, a grinning girl reflected in an extrasolar wind.

“Hi!” Says Elinor Anna.

“Hi!” Says her friend. Their smiles are just the same.

When Elinor Anna chases a rogue comet, her friend does, too. When her handlebar streamers attract a host of galactic butterflies, they both try to catch them. She shares her tangerine, and they take turns throwing the rind into a baby black hole.

Through the crack in spacetime Elinor Anna can see that the sky is growing dark. A lightning bug has found his way through and she pockets him gently.

“It’s time for us to go home,” she says. But Elinor Anna isn’t sad. Because in the fourth dimension, it’s already tomorrow and tomorrow and yesterday, too. Because in the fourth dimension she’s always already at play.