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I just got a new telescope. It’s happily snoozing in the guest room at the moment, and doesn’t wish to be photographed, but here’s a picture of the moon I took with it last night. This was with my iPhone camera held up to the eyepiece, so you’d think it would suck. But my telescope makes even this silly procedure AWESOME.
That’s a tiny bit of the moon, because from now on I am magnified. Must now learn the names of all the craters and snack bars on the moon.
Here are Four Other Things of possible interest:
The Uglies series is launching in Brazil this week, complete with a really cool website:
I love the look and feel of it, and hope it does well for my publisher there, Editora Record. If you speak any Portuguese, check it out here.
Just noticed that Behemothhas an Amazon page now, but no cover. (Amusing reviews for some other book are there at the moment.)
Thing 3 Justine are about to head back to NYC, where we have an event for Read This, a charity that collects books for people who need them, including schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, troops overseas, etc.
Justine Larbalestier, Bennett Madison,
Scott Westerfeld, & Cecily von Ziegesar
Reading and Q&A
12:30PM-1:15PM, Saturday, 10 April
Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street, Second floor
(between Madison & Fifth Ave.)
The price of admission? Your donation of two or more new or gently used board books through grade 12. Cool idea, huh?
I sort of missed it, but yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day!
Ada Lovelace, of course, is the patron saint of Dess, the hypernumerate character from my Midnighters series. She’s also one of the towering figures in the history of computing, given that she wrote the world’s first computer program . . . back in 1843. This achievement is as amazing as it sounds, given that the computer didn’t exist back then, except in theory. But that didn’t stop Ada.
It’s stories like this that make me realize that history itself can be quite steampunk. That is, ideas and technologies don’t all appear in a neat, predictable order. Sometimes theory gets ahead of practice in ways that are profound and mysterious, and imagination is never limited by the engineering capabilities of the present.
That’s a good thing to remember, so happy belated Ada Lovelace Day.
Also thanks to everyone at Marrickville High School, where I had a great visit yesterday. About 40 students (mostly Year 9s, or what us USians call freshmen) were stuck with me for about two hours. That’s a long stretch, but they all stayed focused and smart and full of brilliant questions.
Thanks for a great day, Marrickvillians, and good luck with your NAPLANs.
Last week there was a short piece in MTV News’s Hollywood Crush last week about the Uglies movie. Let me quote it:
Industry sources have confirmed to MTV News exclusively that Screen Gems, in the wake of the success of its current release “Dear John,” is developing — and in fact, fast tracking (!) — a film version of “The Uglies” series.
While there haven’t been any decisions made regarding things like casting yet, we can tell you that our source said production of the movie is planned for later this year. That means we will all hopefully know soon enough who could be playing the beloved teen Tally Youngblood in the futuristic, meaningful tale about a dystopian society that places an incredible emphasis on looks.
In the words of my Hollywood agent, fast-tracking means, “it’s on the list of projects that they are hoping to make vs. the ones that will never see the light of day.” In other words, this is not a done deal. But it’s a lot better than being in that other, not-so-fast-tracked pile.
Now, some of you are no doubt asking about casting at this point. STOP! I’m the wrong person to ask. Trust me, if I hear anything I will tell you here on this blog, on FB, and on the Twitter machine. But in the meantime, I have nothing to do with casting movies.
If it were up to me, you would all get to play Tally for exactly three seconds of screen time. (And this would be why it’s not up to me.)
Plus, I doubt it’s as far along as this article makes it sound. Like, the casting isn’t going on right now. Probably.
It’s about a girl named Solace who has grown up in foster care her whole life, and who’s always realize that’s she’s kind of . . . different. She doesn’t like the sun, she’s wicked strong, and if she concentrates really hard, she can hear a conversation two blocks over. Then someone starts invading Solace’s dreams, and things get really complicated from there.
It looks like this:
Here’s the launch deets:
Sunday, March 7
Level 2, Galeries Victoria
500 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
I’ll be giving a wee speech about how cool this book is. Of course, I’ll be more than happy to see you guys there and say hi. But please remember that this is Foz’s party, not mine, so buy her book!
It comes out in Australia on March 1. When it finds a US publisher, I’ll let you know.
Sorry that I missed the latest Forum Meet-Up. It was scheduled for early Sunday morning, Sydney time, and I woke up ill. Too ill to type!
But I hope you all had fun. I’ll try to check out the questions you left me, and answer some of them here on the blog.
In other news, Leviathan has been short-listed for the Andre Norton Award for outstanding young adult science fiction or fantasy book published in 2009. w00t, and congrats to all the other nominees:
HOTEL UNDER THE SAND, Kage Baker
ICE, Sarah Beth Durst
ASH, Malinda Lo
EYES LIKE STARS, Lisa Mantchev
ZOE’S TALE, John Scalzi
WHEN YOU REACH ME, Rebecca Stead
THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND, Catherynne M. Valente
LEVIATHAN, Scott Westerfeld
Now, you may be thinking, I’d like to do that some day! Indeed you can, but not this year, because applications are already closed. However, you can support those who have been accepted this year, a few of whom need financial aid. The organizers are trying to raise a modest $2500 by selling a delightful zombie book called Ned and Zane.
Zombies. Young writers. Brains. What more could you ask for?
Next Saturday, August 1, Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd will be in stores!
This is one case where the marketing copy pretty much tells the story:
Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.
With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you’re a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on.
I’ve really loved the stories in Geektastic that I’ve read. A lot of them have the feel of being based on real events—strange encounters as science fiction conventions, amusing role playing incidents, and general mayhem both on- and offline. It gives a little glimpse into the dark underbelly of geekery.
Next week Justine and I are headed to the Melbourne Writers Festival. I’ll be doing five events, and at all of them I’ll be revealing fabulous Leviathan art and talking about the series, as well as other Deep Topics as listed below.
Time: 4:00 PM
Venue: ACMI 1
Event Name: Taking Over the Grown-Ups Table
Panelists: Isobelle Carmody, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier
Chair: Agnes Nieuwenhuizen
Join Justine Larbalastier, Isobelle Carmody and Scott Westerfeld, three authors who have successfully marketed their books to crossover audiences. Join these hugely successful YA authors as they discuss just who they think are reading their books.
Time: 12:30 PM
Venue: ACMI 2
Event Name: The New World
Panelists: Scott Westerfeld, China Míeville
Chair: Cordelia Rice
Join two of the festival’s sci-fi superstars Scott Westerfeld and China Mieville, as they discuss the boundaries of science and fiction. How does fiction repackage Earthly themes into other worldly packages? What are the rules of science fiction, and how do you break them? All of Scott’s books in the Uglies series have made the New York Times Bestsellers List, while China has won two Arthur C. Clarke awards for his speculative fiction.
Time: 1:45 PM
Venue: BMW Edge, Federation Square
Event Name: Creating New Worlds
Panelists: Scott Westerfeld
Chair: Cordelia Rice
How does science fiction combine the known with the unknown? Join young-adult and sci-fi novelist Scott Westerfeld as he talks about creating new worlds, and of writing Extras - the latest book in his Uglies series, all of which have made the New York Times Bestsellers List. His next work, Leviathan, an illustrated novel of an alternate World War I, will appear in October 2009.
Time: 11:15 AM
Venue: ACMI 2
Event Name: Place, in Space
Panelists: Scott Westerfeld, Anthony Eaton
Chair: Andrew Finegan
Why is setting so important to a reader? What elements of a setting bring a place most alive? Scott Westerfeld and Anthony Eaton take you through their building techniques. Anthony is author of the Darklands Trilogy and Scott is an award-winning science fiction and young adult author whose next work, Leviathan, will appear in October 2009.
Time: 11:15 AM
Venue: ACMI 2
Event Name: The Science of Fiction
Panelists: Scott Westerfeld, Penny Tangey
Chair: Cordelia Rice
Join young-adult and sci-fi novelist Scott Westerfeld, and award-winning comedian and writer Penny Tangey, as they show the ways that science can accelerate fiction; how to blend science into writing; and why it is such an exciting element of any fictional world.
We are only one week away from the release of Leviathan. But the big news at Casa Larbfeld today is the release of Justine’s new novel Liar!
As you might guess, Liar is about a girl who doesn’t always tell the truth—not even to the reader. It’s one of those books in which the whole story (indeed, the whole world) gets flipped upside down in your hands every few chapters or so.
Of course, it would seem uxorious and self-serving to heap praise upon my wife’s novel, so instead I will direct you to its three starred reviews:
“Dark, gripping . . . an engrossing story of teenage life on the margins.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“Readers will get chills paging through Larbalestier’s suspenseful novel . . . with a masterfully constructed unreliable narrator [they] will be guessing and theorizing long after they’ve finished this gripping story.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The chilling story . . . will have readers’ hearts racing. In the end readers will delve into the psyche of a troubled teen and decide for themselves the truths and lies.”
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Okay, so the Canadian segment of the Leviathan tour starts next week.
One cool thing is that I’ll be appearing with Cassandra Clare (author of the Mortal Instruments series) and Holly Black (author of Tithe, Good Neighbors, and the Spiderwick books). On top of that, the Ottawa event has bonus special guest Keith Thompson, illustrator of Leviathan!
I’ve only done one event in Canada before, in Toronto, so I’ll be meeting a lot of you for the first time.
Here are the dates:
Wednesday, November 4th 7:00PM
6321 Trans-Canada Highway, unit 1410
Friday November 6th 7:00PM
Trinity St. Paul’s United Church
427 Bloor Street West
Because Toronto is an off-site event, admission is five Canadian bucks. You can buy the tickets right here. You can also pay at the door, if there are any seats left!
See you there!
Note that the week after next (November 8-12) I’ll be doing events in NY and NJ. And I’ll be doing a benefit for Philadelphia’s library system on November 22, at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA. Watch here for details.
Justine will be in Chicago next week, talking about her new book Liar.
Tues, 3 November, 7:00 pm
55 Old Orchard Center
Wednesday, 4 November, 7:00PM
5112 Main St
Downers Grove, IL
Welcome to another tip for all you NaNoWriMo-ers out there. I’ll be dolling out writing advice every odd-numbered day of November, and Justine will take on the even-numbered days. Don’t forget to check out Justine’s tip from yesterday, about not skipping the tricky parts.
It also reveals a delicious new piece of art from Leviathan, so let me repost it here:
This is the captain of the Leviathan in his office, and that’s Deryn saluting. Notice the nautilus-shell theme running throughout the picture. Keith and I decided early on that all the Darwinist designs would echo living creatures, even furniture and jewelry. (Check out the captain’s cufflinks and hat.) Clanker design is, of course, very different, with everything echoing machines and mechanical parts. Not just two sides at war, but two aesthetics!
Okay, now onto the Nano Tip . . .
Let’s talk about “Passages of Disbelief.” That’s my own pet name for the part of a fantasy (or horror, or sf, or whatever) where the main character realizes that paranormal stuff is happening. The part where they say to themselves, “Holy crap! Vampires (or elves, or aliens, or whatever) are REAL!”
Passages of Disbelief (PODs) can be very problematic for a writer for the following reasons:
1) The average fantasy reader had already read dozens of PODs. Hundreds of them. We are bored with them.
2) The reader already knows that vampires, aliens, or whatever are real in the fictional world, because they read the back of the book. It’s not news.
3) If vampires really did turn out to be real, most people’s reaction would be to say, “Holy crap, just like in [insert name of fictional vampire franchise].” And there’s something unsatisfying about characters in books referencing other books of the same genre. Like when people in bad sf movies say, “Wow, this is like something out of a bad science fiction movie.”
Now, obviously there are many so-called “open fantasies.” In True Blood, everyone knows there are vampires. In Lord of the Rings, everyone knows there are elves. So if you simply decide to write an open fantasy, you can skip the POD.
But sometimes you want the fantastical elements of your story need to be “closed,” hidden from the world at large, mysterious and amazing. So how do you deal with PODs in an artful and interesting way?
To make your thievery easy, here are the most common tricks for Passages of Disbelief:
One: Use Humor
Comedy can make a POD into something new and hilarious. You can take advantage of your readers’ familiarity with POD scenes, by taking their expectations and subverting them.
But this approach has a big problem: many, many writers have already done it. (See my Buffy essay above.) You will have to work hard to top them, and not sound like someone telling an over-familiar joke.
Two: Start Your Story After the POD
If your character has already been recruited into the alien-slaying guild before the first page, then there’s no need for a POD. You just start out with your character explaining alien slaying to the reader in a matter-of-fact-way.
Sure, a quick flashback to the day your protag first learned about the Secret Alien Invasion might be warranted at some point, but that’s much less onerous than a whole real-time scene.
The problem here is that in a closed fantasy, you’ll eventually run into a secondary character’s POD. Like, when your alien-slayer’s boyfriend (or mom, or parole officer) finds out about the aliens. Then you’ll have to deal with it anyway!
So here’s the ultimate answer the POD problem:
Three: Make Sure Your Ideas Are Mind-Boggingly Original
Here’s the thing: If you’re original enough, your reader will ALSO be going through a Passage of Disbelief along with the character. Whatever they’ve read on the back of the book or heard from friends will pale in comparison to your brilliant new take on fantasy. And they will NOT be bored.
Instead of saying, “Here we go again,” they’ll be shrieking, “Holy crap! Alien vampire werewolves from Poughkeepsie! I never saw that coming!”
I’m afraid that this little trick the only real answer to PODs. In a world swimming with paranormal stories, if you aren’t genuinely freaking your reader out, your main character’s little freak out will only be so much wasted ink.
See you in two days! In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Justine’s tip tomorrow. And if you haven’t already, click here to buy Leviathan, or grab it at your local bookstore.
But it’s not just us. A whole crew of SF and fantasy writers will be descending that day. Check out this list:
Anzac Square Arcade265-269 Edward St
Brisbane QLD 4000 (map)
(07) 3236 2750
Saturday, January 19, 2010
Trudi Canavan and Kaaron Warren, 10:30-11:30
Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld and Sean Williams, 11:30-12:30
Karen Miller and Glenda Larke, 12:30-1:30
Pamela Freeman and Katie Taylor, 2:30-3:30
It’s all very informal. Just come by and say hello. Brings books to be signed or buy them in the store. (You can also buy tickets to the award ceremony that night.)
I haz a wine:
My lovely Oz publisher, Penguin Australia, gave this to me. It’s a Barolo Valley Shiraz, if you’re interested.
This is a bit out my usual blogging style, as it concerns technical aspects of the publishing biz. Feel free to ignore it and look at Stormwalkers made of Legos. But as an author, I have to keep up with these things, and occasionally make my opinion known.
This weekend, Amazon more or less “de-friended” one of the six big US publishers, Macmillan. They removed the buy buttons from all Macmillan books as part of an ongoing conflict about electronic book pricing. Many people are quite annoyed with Amazon, and a few are also blaming Macmillan, in a “pox on both your houses” kind of way. But I think a lot of people are uttering total yackum on the subject.
So let me attempt to set the record straight, as best I know how.
Stage 1: Amazon prices ALL its Kindle e-books at $9.99 or less. This becomes a selling point for Kindle, as new hardback books can cost up to $27. In some cases, Amazon is actually paying the publisher MORE than $9.99 per copy sold, and losing money. But, hey, Amazon has stacks of cash, and it’s a way to sell more Kindles. “Loss-leading,” as it’s called, is a fairly common practice. It’s a way to get people into the store, to leverage other products, etc. Plus, books are commonly discounted well below suggested price.
My Verdict: I don’t hate anyone yet, but I’m kind of sad. Losing money on every book sold is a very aggressive form of pricing, which indie bookstores will never be able to match. This is not going to be great for my bookseller allies in the physical world, where many of my readers (especially the youngest) like to get their books.
Stage 2: Macmillan (and many other publishers, to be sure, but let’s stick with Macmillan for simplicity of narrative) suggests to Amazon that they raise their Kindle-edition prices. Macmillan is worried that e-books are being devalued, and that customers will always expect this discount forever, when it’s currently being propped up by Amazon’s crazy-internet-bubble stacks of cash. Macmillan is also worried that normal bookstores, made of bricks and mortar, will take a hit as sales are lost to much cheaper electronic editions. These are difficult times for bookstores, and we (authors, readers, and publishers) all want a diverse bookselling ecology that includes chains and indies, as well as online and physical bookstores.
Macmillan also suggest something called the “agency model” to calculate what cut Amazon gets. I will not bore you with details, but it does change the way profits are divided between Amazon and Macmillan.
My Verdict: I still don’t hate anyone. It’s far-sighted of Macmillan (etc.) to take the needs of their smaller allies into account, rather than just saying, “Hey, Amazon’s selling at a loss, and we get to keep out usual profit! FTW!” (By the way, I know this is merely self-interest on Macmillan’s part, but at least it’s enlightened self interest, which is what I mean by “far-sighted”.) As for the agency model, Macmillan is certainly allowed to suggest new business arrangements to Amazon. As a bonus, it’s all fairly polite so far, or at least it hasn’t affected those of us on the outside world.
Stage 3: Amazon says, “Nope. We set out own prices. And we like the cut we’re getting now.”
My Verdict: Okay, I still don’t hate anyone. Amazon has the right to set prices (even if the pricing seems predatory to, say, an indie bookstore going through tough times) and to negotiate for the cut they’re taking. If they want to burn their own money to make electronic books cheaper, I may shake my head for the future, but I can’t stop them.
Stage 4: Macmillan says, “Fine, if you’re going to do that, we’re going to ‘deeply window’ our electronic editions.” In other wor
Here’s my new button for anyone who wants to buy my latest novel, Leviathan. Just select whatever retailer you want: Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Books a Million, Borders, Buy.com, Overstock.com, Powell’s, or Walmart.
Yep, that’s all of them.
Well, almost all of them. For reasons discussed here, there’s no Amazon link anymore. Sorry for any inconvenience, but trust me, it’s not as annoying for you as it is for the hundreds of authors who’ve had their income decimated by Amazon.
So, yes, I’ll steadily be deleting links to Amazon wherever they occur on this site. Making changes to code is my least favorite kind of internet fiddling to do, and I’ll getting more and more annoyed as I go.
I’m sure Amazon intends to re-friend Macmillan at some point, but I assure you, it will take me even longer to put these buttons back than it did to remove them all. This won’t starve either me or Jeff Bezos, but it’s the little things that count.
Today we have Maureen Johnson, best know for her fabulous novel Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. Her latest series is Suite Scarlett, and this IMterview marks its paperback release. I read it back in its manuscript days, and those of you who follow Maureen’s blog will not be surprised to hear that it is totally hilarious!
So without further ado, let the IM-ing begin . . .
For those of you who’ve ever wondered what my novels would be like if they were only 140 characters long, I’ve decided to engage in a strict program of twittering once every, um . . . fourteen hours or so. Because that’s what allthecoolkidsaredoing.
If judging a book by a cover is bad, then judging a book by its title must surely be worse. After all, covers are pictures, pictures are worth a thousand words, and titles are usually a mere phrase.
But it’s not that simple. Titles name a book, and names are important. A good name can make or break you.
Take, for example, the case of Ziz. Poor sad Ziz, of whom you have NEVER heard.
You see, there was once this trio of awesome creatures. All three were in the Bible, rocking out with special dispensations from Yahweh and generally kicking young earth ass. Three unbeatable giant beasties, one of the water, one of the land, and one of the air . . .
Leviathan, Behemoth, and, um, Ziz.
How bad is it to have a lame name? Well, thousands of years after their cameos in the Bible, Leviathan and Behemoth are still both famous. Their names are words in modern English, both meaning, “stuff that is big and awesome and/or scary.”
“Behemoth” is equally culture-spanning, including this delightful Polish metal band. (Warning: high-volume flash intro Not Safe For School.)
But Ziz? Ziz has a crappy name, so the creature itself wound up fading into obscurity.
So if names are this important, surely titles are too.
Titles bring the reader into the world of the book. They set them up for what’s coming: comedy, tragedy, farce, or all three. They create inevitabilities (Death of a Salesman) and anticipations (The Year of Living Dangerously), or intensify the poetry of a key phrase (Dude, Where’s My Car?).
Even punctuation can be key. I mean, what if James Kelman’s classic novel How Late It Was, How Late, had been titled “How Late? It Was How Late?”
Totally different story, man.
Which brings us to my next trilogy, the first two books of which are called Leviathan and Behemoth. But seriously, can I call the third book, um, Ziz?
Those of you who follow my wife Justine’s blog know that two months ago she was challenged by various no-goodnicks to learn to Lindy hop. This bizarre challenge came about because she’s writing a novel set in the 1930s, when Lindy hopping (an early form of swing dance) was all the rage. Justine proclaimed that she’d only do it if her fans raised $5,000 for the New York Public Library. Which they did!
So we took lessons.
Justine doesn’t like being video’d, so I had to take secret footage. Heh, heh.
Note that comments are turned off here. But you can always comment over there.
When recessions loom, libraries have the double whammy of having their funding cut at the same time as more people pour through their doors looking for help with job-hunting, learning new skills, and staying warm. So don’t forget to support the NYPL, or the library system of your choice.
Given that Leviathan is coming out on October 6, I thought we should retire the old Extras look and get all steampunk’ed around here. Hope you enjoy the gears. (Mmmm . . . gears.)
Thanks to all the folks who made this possible, especially Deena Warner Design and all the folks at Simon & Schuster. Without them, this wouldn’t look so fabulous. In fact, it would look exactly the same as it used to, because I’m way too busy these days to work on non-book stuff.
Well, except for heading down to the recording session for the Leviathan audiobook, where I got to hang out with star of stage and screen Alan Cumming (aka Nightcrawler of X-Men, Fegan Floop of Spy Kids, and the Emcee of Cabaret).
I haz proof:
I really enjoyed listening in. When I got to the studio, Alan (um, if I may) was just starting the huge battle scene in the middle of the book, and he was really rocking it. He’d invented voices for all the characters, which was freaky for me (but in a good way). Everything was so much more dramatic than how I read my own stuff aloud. Old-school storytelling is really nothing less than magic.
Alan was working off a specially marked recording script, and hadn’t seen the art yet. So over lunch we went through the Big Book of Illustrations I carry around with me, and he was suitably impressed and kept saying, “This should really be a movie.” (I told him he should play Count Volger, and he was down with that.)
Then we talked about old Saturday Night Live sketches, which I’ve done with a lot of people over the years, but not anyone who’s actually hosted the show.
It was loads of fun, and he had the grace to notify me when there was something unattractive stuck between my teeth, which is really all I want in a celebrity. (Note to self: black bean soup = tactical error.)