Context Is A Gift

Last night was my birthday eve, and today is my birthday, and most of you know how much I enjoy birthdays in general. Christopher and I were supposed to be in Boston, but the universe pulled a neat trick in making it all right that we ended up staying home.

Joseph-Beth, bookstore extraordinaire, just happened to be hosting one of the last event's on the epic Neil Gaiman final signing tour. Now, here's the thing, Neil is one of my oldest friends. I've known him since I was a teenager. And another of my oldest friends is Sunshine Ison, who I've also known since I was a teenager, and is actually how Neil and I met. Because we are all busy and far-flung and a host of reasons, we haven't been in the same place in more than a decade.

But here we are last night, in the green room before the event.

 

Green room hijinks!

 

That was a birthday gift.

So many memories I have with both of these guys (late nights watching Jerry Springer and snarking on beauty pageants, discovering screwball comedy and books that remain favorites). It was absolutely lovely to see them both, especially at the same time, and steal a little catch up. (And, holy moly, I do not know how Neil is doing this–well, I do, because he held up his hands side by side to show us the swelling in the signing one. Yeeouch.) I'm lucky to have so many people I've been friends with almost as along. And I'm lucky to have friends who are dear to me who I haven't known nearly as long, like Laurel Snyder, who the universe is bringing through town tonight, randomly; I couldn't have wished for better birthday serendipity. My storehouse of memories is constantly growing.

The point I want to make with this is my problem with the way we're supposed to feel about getting older. We're supposed to hate it, especially us ladies (what good will we be when we're oldies and our looks go? goes the dumbdom–the opposite of wisdom). But I have rejected that since I was a teeanger. I know there are bad parts about getting older–I imagine this is especially true when people you know and love start to pass away, and illnesses strike with greater frequency. But.

What you get back in return is the context of yourself, of your life lived. All the things you learn, all the things you still have to learn. All the people you've known, and still know, and will come to know. Every dear friend I have is part of who I am today, this minute, this second. Relationships change over time, just as we all change over time, and we can hope and try to make it for the better whenever possible. Birthdays are to be celebrated, because life is to be celebrated. All these days we get are gifts. Recognize the bad and let it go, and embrace the gift instead.

Speaking of embraces… One of my favorite books of all time is Eduardo Galeano's The Book of Embraces–I'm not sure if I discovered this first or if Sunshine did, but I do know we both loved it, way back in high school. The other night, on a lark, I searched tumblr for Galeano quotes, and found disappointingly few. One that kept turning up was this one: "We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine."

Which is nice (though hardly his most important work), but which seemed wrong to me. So I pulled down my copy and found the context. If you haven't read The Book of Embraces, do yourself a favor; it's a unique mix of the universal and the specifically political; it's got strange, ironic, wonderful illustrations, and brief pieces that sometimes tell a story and sometimes don't. It all adds up to something special and magical. Here's the short piece that quote came from in its entirety, because it also seems birthday-appropriate:

 THE FIESTA

The sun was gentle, the air clear, and the sky cloudless.

Buried in the sand, the clay pot steamed. As they went from ocean to mouth, the shrimp passed through the hands of Fernando, master of ceremonies, who bathed them in a holy water of salt, onions, and garlic. There was good wine. Seated in a circle, we friends shared the wine and shrimp and the ocean that spread out free and luminous at our feet.

As it took place, that happiness was already being remembered by our memory. It would never end, nor would we. For we are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass, which is something everyone knows, no matter how small his or her knowledge.

It's better with the context, isn't it? Yeah, of course it is, and so is life.

This book also has my favorite dedication ever, one that makes me tear up every time I read it: "Cedric Belfrage died shortly after finishing his translation of my work The Book of Embraces. We had already worked together for many years. Each one of his translations increased our certitude of mutual identification. I would recognize myself in each of his translations and he would feel betrayed and annoyed whenever I didn't write something the way he would have.

"A part of me died with him. A part of him lives with me."

My birthday can only be happy because of all the people in my life, and so thank you, all of you, and most especially Christopher. Go out and do something happy today that your memory will already be remembering.

Tuesday Hangovers

ALA Confidential (+ ARCs + Contest Winner)

Okay, so, was ALA only last weekend? Two quick things, and then a little trip report.

  • Thing the First: The Woken Gods lives! aka, there are ARCs. As always, the author is the worst place to get these, though I'm happy to point people in the right direction. If you're a reviewer/bookseller/librarian, you can go request on Netgalley or contact Strange Chemistry about print ARCs. A couple people have asked, so to clarify: this is not a sequel to Blackwood, but an all-new world and characters, completely different. (By the by, if you're not on the Chemistry Set email list, where notifications and things go out, you can also sign up for that.) *nervous* Hope all you lovely early readers (and the ones who come later) like the book! (Stating the obvious, I know. I doubt there's ever been author who was truly all: "I am not nervous at all. And please, hate my book, it's what I do this for.")
  • Thing the Second: The winner of the signed copies of Blackwood and The Woken Gods is… ::drumroll:: Tiffany Snyder! Who I'll be contacting via email. Hope your students enjoy them!

So…my time at ALA was brief but wonderful. It was my first time there, and I didn't have any official events or programming so was just able to wander around and get a feel for how it works and see people. And even though I managed to see a LOT of them, there were plenty more I missed (Jules, for one!), saw far too little of, or only found out were there afterward. Such is the conference life.

I did take my camera with me, but–as usual–left it in the car the whole weekend. I seem to have mostly managed to take photos of food and cocktails with my phone, so I'm stealing a couple of pictures for this post via twitter. Mwahaha. The rest behind the cut; gratuitous mentioning of people ahead (always dangerous, but otherwise I forget who I managed to see, so you're getting it–if I forget anyone, it's because my brain is a sieve).

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Two Quick Things

Because that's all I have time for today, as I dig out from the mountain that…just a weekend away at ALA has left behind. What's that about? I do not know, except that I must climb it. A post about how fun ALA was (sooo much fun) is coming as well, but for today: 

*continues to run around like hair is on fire*

Cover! Reveal! The Woken Gods!

Hi there, everyone!

So, finally, today, the cover for The Woken Gods can be shown. I think it's a nice mix of the mythical and the modern, the old and the new, which I hope the book is too. And my HUGEST thanks to my publisher Strange Chemistry and all the bloggers participating in the reveal: 

Birth of a New Witch
Civilian Reader

Daisy Chain Book Reviews

Totally Bookalicious

Fantasy's Ink

A Fantastical Librarian

The Pewter Wolf

*beams in your general direction* Visit them! And I'll add others as I catch them.

And the traditional bonus giveaway: If you'd like to win a signed copy of Blackwood and of The Woken Gods (as soon as it's available) say so in your comment here (email address required)–I'll count entries made until midnight on July 2, one per person. Let us know what you think!

Some of you might remember that this book was originally to come out in July and the eidetic might remember that the original synopsis and draft snippets were quite a bit different too. That's because I needed a little extra time to make this book what I wanted it to be. (And to figure out what that was. Remember all those stressed out, panicked revision tweets? They were about this, my rebellious heroine navigating scary trickster intrigue in a strange D.C. book.)

I hope you like the book, and pre-orders are always appreciated, from wherever you prefer to get your books. I also hope that if you're excited about it, you'll help spread the word as we travel from now to its release date September 3 (US) and 5 (UK). That extra time I needed means I now need all of you more than ever to help out in that respect. As any author will tell you, a second book is often even more important than a first. So, thank you all, again, for your support. You are amazing.

And now the cover (designed by Amazing15), with book description and a snippet to follow…

TheWokenGods-300dpi

(Click to embiggen yet more)

ABOUT THE WOKEN GODS

Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.

This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne "Oz" Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don’t care that she knows nothing about her father's secrets.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn't? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.

From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan.

"Unique, fast-paced, and rife with tension, The Woken Gods brilliantly pits loyalty against survival, trust against inevitability, and love against fear." – Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series

And how's about a little sneak peek? The prologue is behind the cut:

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Friday Hangovers

  • A proper post or two next week, but for now closing some tabs. Also, Christopher and I will be bopping around the exhibits hall and the general festivities at ALA in Chicago next weekend. So say hi!
  • Joss Whedon offers some good advice for being productive.
  • Coffee might not always be the best for creativity? WHAT. Flawed study. *pretends never saw this*
  • Cheryl Klein has a post on terms to help in discussing endings.
  • An interesting take on the Miss Utah answer flub at the WaPo from Alexandra Petri: "Besides, only at the Miss USA pageant would you ask a woman, teetering in heels and an evening gown, who had just strutted her stuff in a swim suit on national television in a competition redolent of the Atlantic City beach in the 1920s, to explain the question of pay inequality coherently in a minute or less. That’s the bizarre double standard, in a nutshell. It’s a microcosm of what women have to deal with, in various less ludicrous forms, everywhere they go."
  • Genevieve on Dealing With It. (Must read. Also, for the record, my RT of this post is the first time I've ever had to block someone for responding with sexist nonsense on twitter. So, there you go.)
  • Charlie Jane has a fascinating piece on research on empathy and how we might create more of it.
  • I have been semi-shocked to learn that Bennett Madison's new novel September Girls–which I have made no secret of my admiration for (I also adored Blonde of the Joke)–has apparently gotten tons of flack from being construed as misogynist. Which it is NOT. Here's an interview where Bennett discusses his intentions and the layers of a book that I very much do consider feminist, and also one of my favorites of the year. I particularly loved this point: "To me it’s better to try to say something and fail to say it in a way that everyone will understand than it is to avoid saying that same thing because I’m assuming my audience isn’t sophisticated enough for it. Pandering to an imagined audience of people who will get the “wrong” message is more than just an insult to my readers– it’s ignoring my responsibilities as a writer." This.
  • Tanita Davis gives some straight talk on diversity and the lack thereof in children's books: "This matters. Not because I am a person of color. Not because I don’t feel “comfortable” reading books that don’t feature people of color. But because the longer we tell young adults and children that they are invisible from their own imagination, the more we’re allowing them to disappear from the world’s stories. The more we’re encouraging them to be audience instead of actor, observer instead of participant." Go read the whole post.
  • Andrew Shaffer creates a quiz using "breathless physical descriptions" of authors from NYT profiles. FUN.
  • Stephen Colbert's tribute to his mother; prepare to cry.

Something In The Air

There must be, that is, because I did a fun interview for a podcast/radio thingie earlier today on gender and YA marketing and–unrelated–the epidode I'm on of WFPL's new fiction-on-the-radio-show Unbound airs tonight. The skinny:

We're posting the audio from each show the morning after it airs. Tonight, tune in to 89.3 FM in Louisville at 7 p.m. Eastern time (stream us live at http://wfpl.org/) to hear Patrick Wensink and Gwenda Bond read stories about folks who have bad luck.

That's right, I read from Blackwood. (Let me know how it is; I can't stand hearing my own voice until someone tells me I won't cringe. And C's not back in town yet to do the test listen for me.)

All the episodes can be found here, posted after they air. The first season began airing Monday and continues each night, so check it out. And tell your local NPR station you want them to pick up the show. Huzzah and congratulations, WFPL, you made a show!

Updated to add: And here's the direct link to the episode. Loved hearing Patrick Wensink's piece.

Monday Hangovers

Happy Thing Of Today

Hopefully, we are entering the season of happy things, as it will be book release time before you know it. (September!) Cover soon, I promise. But first, today I'm beaming madly because the book that almost killed me received a lovely blurb from an author I admire tremendously and generally think is the bee's knees. 

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ryan says: "Unique, fast-paced, and rife with tension, The Woken Gods brilliantly pits loyalty against survival, trust against inevitability, and love against fear."

*beams more*

Tuesday Hangovers