- Yeah, yeah, I know! I disappeared again. But Christopher and I are finishing the first draft of our (sorta secret, except if you follow either of us on twitter or are facebook friends you know we're doing one) collaborative middle grade book today. Yep, we wrote a book together. In a month. And it was fun. Now we do some fixing, and show it to people, and I will definitely do a post about what I've learned from this process. Useful stuff I hope to take back to my solo work…especially since I'll be starting something new SOON.
- Other excitment in the works: I do believe you will get to see The Woken Gods cover (eek!!!) next week. Again: !!! And I imagine ARCs will be floating around soon as well, and of course, the book itself will be out in September. I'll just be over here breathing into a paper bag. Anyway, hope you like it–cover, book, the whole shebang. And now some links!
- Let's start with the ancient tales of a shapeshifting Jesus. Dan Brown, start your engines. (Via the estimable Colleen Lindsay.)
- "Ancient Egyptian relics were made of iron from space."
- And one more ancient things link–"Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1200 Years Under the Sea."
- Author Jennifer Lynne Barnes has written two amazingly smart, incredibly fascinating posts following up on the "what makes a big book?" discussion that John Green touched off with his post about TFiOS' success and what he believes factored into it. These are MUST READS if you're an author or in publishing or just talk about books in real life or online (especially the second one). Post the first and post the second.
- A crazy crazy vendetta story at Salon involving Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey. As I've already said elsewhere, some of the things mentioned in here are why I created my own circus for Girl on a Wire…so I could have the kind of circus I wanted to write about. Because after all the reading I've done, I do find the revelations in that piece shocking, but not surprising (if that makes any sense). But hey, we've got AGES before you get to read that book, so I'll say no more.
- A lovely profile of the wonderful Karen Berger in the NYT. She will be missed in the comics world; that's for sure.
- Veronica Roth's BEA speech is well worth your time. Snippet: "People say that writing is an isolated activity, but good writing requires company. Company that you ultimately love and cherish and value, and this perspective towards criticism, ultimate improvement requires humility."
- Baked Avocado Bacon and Eggs. This little piece of heaven came from the fab Beth Revis and I will be making it this weekend. YUM.
- The long-lost (and apparently terrible) ET game for Atari might be unearthed from a landfill? Snippet: "A Canadian studio has confirmed to the BBC it will search a former landfill site in New Mexico where Atari's much-criticised ET game may be buried."
- Best news: Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is this weekend's COVER REVIEW (by Barbara Kingsolver, who raves!) of the NYTBR. Read it! Yay! Great things happening to a great book by a great person. My favorite.
- A real post soon, maybe about what I'm learning (so far) from mine and C's secret project collaborative lark…as we hit the halfway point in it today. (Wow, that was fast. Double typing fingers means double word counts. And it is also proving an excellent distraction from The Nerves kicking in about The Woken Gods, now that it's more or less done and beginning to be read by some people…and even more people soon. Like, out in three months soon. Ack.)
- But first I'm just going to close some tabs–many of them bookish.
- I always love a peek at other people's processes, and the delightful Rachael Herron obliges with how she sets her target word count and keeps perspective on a project.
- Scientific American confirms the Internet is a giant black hole of time-suckage. Best part is new term: email apnea. This modern life, I tell you.
- The singular and amazing Chuck Wendig recently did a great two part interview over at Fantasy Faction. Go read it, then buy his new book The Blue Blazes, why don't you?
- Skeleton Lake in India. One of those rare stories where the photos and content are equally fascinating.
- Nicola Griffith talks with her editor about her forthcoming book Hild, definitely one of the books I'm most looking forward to this year.
- John Green offers his own opinion on the wild success of TFiOS for publishing nerds.
- Ron Charles gives a thumbs up to one of this year's books that's already a favorite of mine: Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Animal person? An adult who loved The One and Only Ivan? You must read this. Starred reviews, and so much love already. And it's out tomorrow!
Let me first start this post by saying I know a little about book packaging, but purely from the outside in–through knowing authors who've done it as work-for-hire and people who worked at packaging houses and as a general "watcher of the industry" and articles that get written about it. None of that makes me an expert.
The most interesting thing about watching heads explode this morning on twitter over the new announcement that Amazon has reached licensing agreements with Alloy/WBs (with more in the works) to allow writers to sell fanfic set in the Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars worlds through its new Kindle Worlds program was how few people immediately recognized these are all packaged properties. I have seen a lot of worry about the authors who created these characters getting money, and how the rights worked, and etc. etc. and I am reminded once again that lots of people–even savvy industry types–don't realize how prevalent packaging is in YA (and probably elsewhere too–I am most familiar with YA and so that's what I'm talking about here). People on twitter thought a post on the subject was a good idea, and so here one is. (Experts feel free to jump in the comments or send me an email if I've gotten something wrong or you feel there's something I missed that's important.)
I'm over at the SF Signal Mind Meld today talking about the appeal of mythology, gods, and goddesses in fiction, along with fancy types like Tessa Gratton and Jennifer Estep, and my Angry Robot compatriots Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher, and Mike Underwood, to name a few. Go check it out. Thrilled to be included, as always.
*Also, please to excuse my typo. That "definitely literally" was supposed to be "definitely literarily." I was fresh off an edit pass, and thus experiencing deadline brain fritz.
- Whoops, sorry to disappear, but I predict a return to more regular entries starting now. At least until circus edits land. In the meantime, I'm accumulating research material for a new thing and pecking away at a collaborative project with C that has been major fun so far. And soon now The Woken Gods will be dipping its myth-infused toes into the waters of People Reading It Early and so I must. stay. busy. But what easier way to dip my non-mythical toe back into the blog than the sharing of some amassed links and the closing of tabs? There isn't one, so.
- Speaking of The Woken Gods, I started a little pinboard for it, if you want a look-see.
- You may have seen this already, but I love it so here it is anyway: a photographer does a series of photos of her five-year-old daughter not as a princess but as various heroic real women.
- The cast of Better Off Dead, where are they now? (I want my two dollars!)
- Great think piece by the fabulous Anne Helen Petersen: "The Enduring Post-Feminist Dystopia of Bachelorette."
- Excerpts of letters from Italo Calvino are running at the New Yorker: "I’m a regular guy, I like well-defined outlines, I’m old-fashioned, bourgeois. My stories are full of facts, they have a beginning and an end. For that reason they will never be able to find success with the critics, nor occupy a place in contemporary literature." Good reading.
- This news story about the resurfacing of a 27-year-old CIA wig is just about perfect.
- Terrible magicians in pop culture. LOVE. (Via David.)
- An interview with Hot Key's editorial director that has some interesting insights into UK sales figures.
- Janni Simner kicks off her "Writing for the Long Haul" blog series with a wonderful piece from Cynthia Leitich Smith. (I, too, have an expensive grocery habit.)
- This post Austin points to sums up a large part of why I still keep up this blog, and probably always will, and why I don't really worry about how many of you there are (just grateful that you stop by, period). (Also, in the age of platform purchases and inevitable migrations, I believe that having a space you own becomes ever more important.)
- And, finally, two things via the Awl: Replacement similes for after all the animals go extinct ("(18) Brave as a lion = Brave as a freelancer") and the annotated wisdom of Amy Poehler ("Right now I'm singing along to books on tape. I typically pop in something like Stephen King's The Stand, and I love singing along to that kind of stuff.").
- Jamestown Colony cannibalism story; this has been all over, but you know how I love my early settler drama.
- The fabulous Annalee Newitz, one of the smartest people around, has a shiny new book out, Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. This piece at io9 is a great teaser for it.
- How entrepreneurs come up with ideas.
- Ten steps for being a grown-up from Kelly Williams Brown. I need to get better at three.
- What does science tell us about how we'd use superpowers; good or evil?
- Loved this interview with Melina Marchetta on heroines: "Whichever way you turn, female characterisation is a minefield. Male characters tend to get away with so much more. I loved writing Jonah Griggs (from Jellicoe) but Jonah killed his father, bashes up Ben and stomps on his fingers, shoves Taylor up against the wall in rage, yet I rarely read a negative comment about him as a character. Evanjalin in FotRock, on the other hand, has been criticised many a time and called manipulative and a liar. I think we are so much tougher on our female characters." (via Sarah)
- Good piece at Vulture with some script excerpts that show why Shane Black became one of Hollywood's favorite screenwriters.
- A truly must-read post from Kelly Barnhill: "The only reviews that matter."
- Another one that's already been everywhere, but which I'm sharing in case you somehow missed it. Maureen Johnson, brilliant human, launched the #coverflip earlier this week, asking readers to reimagine covers if the author's gender was flipped. The results are a must read and see. (See also: Amanda Hocking's reaction post.)
- Photos of abandoned Tunisian Star Wars sets.
So, yesterday morning, I asked for twitter's help deciding what to blog about, because that's turned out well in the past, and Libba pitched in:
— libba bray (@libbabray) May 6, 2013
Well, why not?
I learned many things about uvulas yesterday (fun word to say, and it sounds a little…dirty, doesn't it?)–that some people pierce them, that it's possible to get a bee sting there, that a friend knew someone when she was a kid who had two and could make them dance, that someone had a college instructor who mixed up uvula with an entirely different word to unfortunate results. WHO KNEW that the uvula's power to fuel anecdotes was so mighty? Not me. In fact, if Straight Dope is right, we don't even know what uvulas are for. But we do know they help us make some sounds and so that's awfully close to talking and talking is a suitable blog post topic.
All writers get stuck. There are the little stucks, the flummoxed by a scene for a day, or an hour, or a week. There are the bigger stucks, where nothing feels right, and we stall out or stutter-step forward, only to end up deleting a few steps back. Everyone. Gets. Stuck. And so everyone has to get unstuck.
There are various methods to this, as with all things. Some people walk away. Some clean the house. Some bang their head against their desk repeatedly. Some despair. Some move to a new city and assume a different identity. I have done all of these things myself at one time or another. Well, except the last one. That one I've just fantasized about when truly stuck.
But my most usual method for getting unstuck–and even, at times, just for moving forward, pushing ahead, figuring out a story–is talking it through.
Now, I'm lucky in this regard, because I'm married to another writer. He may not always be a captivated audience for these burblings, but he is a captive one. (Mwahaha.) I'm also lucky to have a number of writer friends who are happy to indulge in long talks to clear the fog or overgrowth that's hiding the path forward. Call on your writer friends, if you don't have a captive loved one, or call upon any friend or loved one to indulge your talking it out.
Often, it's just the very act of articulating the problem out loud that provides the solution. I think this is for a couple of different reasons:
1) Forcing yourself to explain a story knot or roadblock to someone else makes you have to explain it to someone else. And often that entails stepping back just enough to be able to see it more clearly. It also engages a different part of the brain, a different kind of thinking. Talking through possible solutions, your reaction to them will often reveal what's important to you about the story, and that is always a good thing to know.
2) You have to set your ego aside. Look, everyone gets stuck. But admitting you're stuck, not caring who knows, not letting that make you feel like a failure (see this fabulous post by Marie Lu on imposter syndrome), and asking for help, even if it's just an ear–that's a useful thing. It reminds you that this is about the story, about making it work, and not about you. It's hard to move forward with the full weight of the ego pressing down on your shoulders.
Another bonus: It's often fun, which being stuck isn't. Kicking around various solutions, talking over story issues, you can sometimes cover a lot more ground than you could cover in six weeks or six months at the desk making words and deleting them. The act of admitting you're stuck can also lead to commisseration, which in turns leads to less misery and feeling of awful aloneness. Ultimately, the solution comes from your fingertips, and yours alone, but there's no reason you have to suffer everything by your lonesome. Make others suffer with you. And suffer with them. This is the beautiful symbiosis of writer friendships.
The uvula wants you to talk it out. And remember:
— libba bray (@libbabray) May 7, 2013
As you were.
- The most exciting thing of today is that my dearie dearest Christopher Rowe has a brand new story, strange and marvelous, up at Tor.com. Go read "Jack of Coins." And then go check out this entry from Red Nose Studio on the behind-the-scenes of the making of that amazing illustration for it (right). But read the story first, because then you can nerd out over all the cool details in the art. Okay? Okay. (I'm told you can also get the story as an e-book single at Amazon, B&N, etc., if that's your pleasure.)
- Second most exciting thing of the day is that I finished my revision. So I'll be trying to catch up on email and other things that have gone by the wayside. And collecting all the books I need for the next projects I want to work on…because I wouldn't be me if I didn't start something new soon. That said, I'll also be having a weekend of sloth (mostly) first and envying everyone at RT. Next year, I will be at you RT.
- The Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary. Ooh. (Via Scott.)
- A fabulous profile of the 60-year-old Kim Gordon. Role model forever.
- A interesting piece on the Voynich Manuscript; the possibility it's a hoax makes it no less fascinating.
- R.I.P. E.L. Konigsburg. I loved this NYT piece in remembrance.
- I want to see the new documentary about Ricky Jay so. badly. But it's not coming anywhere nearby. Alas. *waits*
- Joe Hill interviewed at the A.V. Club: "In the first draft, at least in my case, I tend to write a lot more than I need. NOS4A2 is just about 700 pages in hardcover, and was well over 1,000 pages in manuscript form. But I cut several hundred pages out of the book, because there’s a difference between what I need to understand the characters, and what the reader needs to have a great time, and to really enjoy the story."
- The wonderful Toni McGee Causey on being brave (and an excellent demonstration of same).
- Rainbow Rowell posts about writing a Korean male lead and why in her amazing novel Eleanor & Park. I don't think I've mentioned it here, but I should've. Definitely one of my favorite books this year. Flirting over X-Men comics, two fully-realized and singular characters, gorgeous writing. Read it.
- "30 things to tell a book snob."
- Michael Shannon's dramatic reading of that sorority girl letter. Epic. You've probably already seen it, but since it's one of the best things I've seen in ages, I'm including in case you haven't.
Also known as that thing that happens around a deadline, and so I probably will be MIA this week. We had zippo wireless coverage for a chunk of Bat Cave, and were busy much of the time anyway. I'll try to catch up soon, and if you need something important or more timely, then you should feel free to ping me about it. Still, I'm behind on many things and unlikely to dig out fully before next week.
But lots of work (and play) accomplished at the retreat (revision vanquishment nigh!), and thinking about projects to come, and just generally yay. I miss everyone, but it's also nice to be home with C and dogs et cat in the beautiful bluegrass springtime with the backbrain throwing off story sparks. Hope it's nice where y'all are too.
1. Heading out this weekend for this year's Bat Cave retreat. It's set up exactly like this:
(Image from here.)
Except replace the underground stream with a hot tub. There's really nothing more energizing, wonderful, and magical than spending a chunk of time holed up in a scenic locale with a gaggle of writers talking fiction and being silly and sharing war stories and in-jokes and, yeah, I can't wait. Especially because I am still being attacked by rogue deadline and have to rewrite some more words to escape its clutches. But! Nearly finished.
2. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to teach a day-long workshop to this year's class of the Young Women Writers Project at the Carnegie Center. I can tell you that these are some amazing writers, who you'll be hearing lots from in the future. And I'm so sad to miss their big reading. If you're in the Lexington area, however, you should go: it's next Friday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. (during Gallery Hop) at the Carnegie Center. Go support them.
3. I can't remember where I saw this regional dialect map first, but it is fascinating.
4. A typically wise post from the fabulous Robin LaFevers on the ups and downs of life in publishing. The creative life is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights or lows.
5. Speaking of which, this week has obviously been a high point for me. When you sell your first book(s), it's impossible to know if you'll publish more of them after that. It feels, often, that this must be an accident or a mistake, and to expect it to happen again, well, that's some nerve. That's tempting fate. But you keep writing anyway, of course, because you can't stop and there are stories to tell and what's fate for, but to tempt? (See also: Chuck Wendig's post on imposter syndrome.) Girl on a Wire was a book I started not thinking at all of the market, before I sold Blackwood, just because I wanted to tell this story, and it would be worth it even if it never saw the light of day. And then I finished it and revised it because I still felt that way, despite the shadow voice whispering that my first sale was a fluke. To have that book find such a great home is just as surreal and marvelous as selling Blackwood and The Woken Gods (eep! hope you like it too) was. In some ways more, because of all of the above. I can't wait to get back to work on it. But I just wanted to say again THANK YOU, sincerely, for the overwhelming flood of congratulations on twitter, tumblr, facebook, email–wherever congratulations are possible–this week. It means more than you can know.
So, love to y'all, and happy weekend.