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Writer of fantasy novels and stories.
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1. Moved!

Just in case you didn't notice, my LJ has moved over to [info]sarah_prineas.

This update mainly for [info]msisolak, who hasn't come to visit yet. Marcia, I've just posted pictures of our house remodeling project!!! Come and see!

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2. LJ username change!


This is just to let you know that my new LJ is at [info]sarah_prineas.

Thanks for taking the time to read my sallytuppence entries, and I hope you'll move over to the sarah_prineas one with me.


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3. sallytuppence @ 2007-06-25T08:53:00


Does your significant other, if you've got one (or more), read your blog? Does that work okay?

I spent some time this morning explaining blogs/LiveJournal to John, who is perfectly tech savvy but has probably never read a blog; he's never read mine, anyway. I told him how much I love LJ and the threaded comments and its feeling of community. Blogging is an important part of my life. It's weird that he's not part of that, given how close we are in everything else.

"You should read my blog sometime," I said. "That way you can see what I'm up to."

"I could," he said. "On the other hand, I could just talk to you."

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4. This Post Has No

[with apologies for two posts in one morning, but I'm stuck in my comfy chair all day with nothing but my friends list to entertain me...]

The purpose of a good title, I guess, is to make a promise to the reader: this story or novel, the title says, will have these things in it. The title is part of what tempts the reader into reading the first line, and then the writing can do its magical thing.

But coming up with a good title…

As you may know, my books got their titles last week. They were chosen by the HarperCollins sales and marketing team and my editor and then passed along to me. So the series is called The Magic Thief, and each book will have its own sort-of sub-title: Stolen, Lost, Found. I’m told this is a good marketing move because booksellers are asked for the latest Harry Potter or book three of Lord of the Rings, and my publisher thinks The Magic Thief is a good way for readers to think of the series as a whole. Then they wanted “iconic” titles that would be easy to remember and would give readers an instant impression of what each book was about. Plus, when shelved together, the sub-titles would have their own arc.

Obviously this was not my book’s first title. The title of book one, as it was submitted to editors, was Magic Thief. Book two was going to be called something like Magic Shadow. Book three, in my files, was Magic Whatever.

For a while, I wanted to call book one The Wellmet Wizard (get it? Pun on well met and the setting, the city of Wellmet? Haha?) but my agent shot that down because, she said, it ‘sounds like a [certain genre publisher] mass market paperback.’ (My thought was, ‘gee, I’d love for this book to be published by [certain genre publisher]’. But that, it turned out, was not the plan).

Before that, the title was (god help me) Thief and Wizard—which was the title when I submitted the book to my agent. Why she ever read beyond that title is unclear to me.

Before that, the book’s very first title, was… Magic Thief. But I changed it before submitting the book to my agent because one of my first critters’ comments was “What’s wrong with the book: the title. I thought it was a D&D scenario.”

So obviously I am very bad at titling novels. But looking over my published stories, I don’t think the titles are too bad. None of them are puns, anyway. And several of them have the word dragon in them. Maybe titling stories is easier, because stories are generally about just one thing.

What about you? How do you come up with a good title for a story or a novel? Do you think about marketing at all? What are some of the better titles you’ve come up with for your own work (and why are they good)? Oh, and what are some of your favorite titles of others' work? I really do want to know.

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5. Ah, the irony...

So I've been sick for the past 12 days and had that lovely ambulance ride from the island and missed much of Blue Heaven...

Turns out I have Lyme disease. I'm starting on the antibiotics a bit late, but I should be fine.

Now to explain the title of this entry: guess my hometown.

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6. Done.

Well, I am sick and feverish, but somehow over the past couple of days I managed to revise my novel and have just now sent it off to my editor.

At some point I will do a post about revisions, but not now.

Now I have ice water to drink and more Tylenol to take, and, thanks to Sandra's influence, disk 6 of Supernatural season one to watch.

Yes, I'll go to the doctor tomorrow. Quit worrying.

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7. sallytuppence @ 2007-06-18T12:36:00

Here's a story with a happy ending. I got home from BH and one of our cats was missing, and had been missing, according to the cat sitter, since Thursday. John called the animal shelter and was told "several cats fitting that description are here." So I drove over and yes, Sparkle, the Smart One, was there. Thank goodness!

It's Monday of the [insert modifier here] week, and my final book one revisions are due on Friday.

No, I'm not procrastinating... Read the rest of this post

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8. Titles!

At some point I'll tell the story of how I left the island in an ambulance...

But first, some fun! The HarperCollins marketing/sales dudes have bestowed names upon my novels! The Conn and Nevery series will be henceforth known as:

The Magic Thief #1: Stolen
The Magic Thief #2: Lost
The Magic Thief #3: Found

These titles are perfect and I love them. I love that they're an arc, that they'll look cool when shelved together, I love that they're short and easy to remember, and that even if a kid forgot the title she could ask for "the second Magic Thief book". And I love most of all that more than one thing is stolen, lost, and found in the series. Yay!

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9. sallytuppence @ 2007-06-14T14:55:00

Here we are in the land of intermittent internet--Kelleys Island, Ohio, home of gherkinbrau, breakfast pie, the Pump, stuffed squirrels, explosions, and the Blue Heaven novel critique workshop. All is well. No zombies, thank god.

In the picture, I'm the one in the black sleeveless shirt, standing next to my twin.

Why does it bug me so much that the apostrophe is missing from Kelleys?

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10. "He do the police in many voices"

The reading at WisCon went really well, I think. Made me think a little about doing readings, and what readings do.

The audience at WisCon was amazing. They'd come to hear Jenn, Heather, Kat, Pan Morigan, and me read our YA work. It was a full room, for one thing, and when I got up to do the intros, it seemed like every person there was smiling like a room full of sunflowers--they wanted us to do well, to tell them some good stories, to make them laugh. The good feelings made the reading go well (so thanks, if you were there).

I think it's important, when writing, to remember the readers and their expectations and try not to frustrate them too much. As a reader-aloud, that's hard to do, because just about everybody hates public speaking, which in turn makes you want to block out the audience, forget they're there. It's hard to keep your antennae up and twitching when all you want to do is curl into a protective ball. But it is possible to connect with an audience, to respond to them as they respond to you, with those good feelings.

I've been to boring readings, where the author drones out his work. I've seen nervous authors stumble awkwardly through a passage (ouch), and I've seen authors condescend to their audience (which makes me not want to read their books). Kelly Link has this flat reading style that somehow works, maybe because of the inherent irony of this quirky, funny prose being read so flatly. I saw Michael Chabon do a brilliant, charming reading from his new novel, in which he didn't dramatize the dialogue, but somehow captured the distinctive voices of his characters.

What are the best readings? Do you like it when the author "does the voices" in a more dramatic reading? Or a more straight reading? How about length--do you prefer a shorter reading (say, 15 minutes) followed by questions and answers, or just talk about the book?

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11. SpammaP, Spamming the LJ

The scene: SarahP's house, after dinner. Theo's clearing the table. Maud's out in the backyard playing with her friend from next door.

Me: "Maud, come in and scoop the cats' litterbox."

The Maud: "I'll do it later."

Me: "No, now."

The Maud: "But Mom, unstructured play is a critical part of childhood development."

Me: *has no answer for this*

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12. Culture clash

John and Maud and I walked downtown on Saturday night. Our intention was to not get rained on (so we left between two waves of thunderstorms), and to have dinner at the new Japanese restaurant, Formosa, which is described as having a “Feng-Shui-inspired environment” and offering a “unique dining experience.”

It was so fancy! The mojitos cost six bucks and the saketinis seven bucks, and the crowd at the bar was very glossy, lots of young women with slick tans and halter tops, and young men with untucked shirts and gelled hair and sunglasses. We slunk in and ordered shabu-shabu, which is like Japanese fondue, and rather more trouble than it’s worth, in my opinion. Twice, glossy college babes bumped into our table because they’d drunk too much.

I watched the bar area, which I could see from our table. Shiny people, as I said, most of them having a good time, laughing a lot, talking on cell phones, watching the big-screen tv, probably drinking too much. An older couple came in: plump, gray-haired. He wore a plaid shirt and walked stiffly, with a cane; she had on a green pantsuit and clutched her purse up to her chest. There were big signs flashing over their heads: We are rural Iowans in the big city for the weekend. They sat down at a low table at the bar. A waiter brought them a drinks menu. He stood there for ten minutes; it looked like he was explaining the drinks to them. Maybe he offered them the special, two dollar sake bombs. They ordered. They drank, paid the bill, and left. He had trouble getting up out of his low chair—needed the cane to get onto his feet and walked as if every step was painful. Maybe he’d hurt his back. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations, almost as bad as construction work. I wonder what he thought of the feng shui.

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13. Giving and Taking

My buddy [info]velourmane wrote an entry the other day about workshopping and expectations and burnout, which got me thinking...

...about the value of critiquing and being critiqued.

Some context: I'm in the midst of reading and critiquing 12 partials (first 50 pages) and three entire novels for the Blue Heaven workshop. I've just received Book One revision notes from my editor at HarperCollins. A few trusted readers are reading the first version of Book Two.

So we often think about the process of writing as getting words onto a page, as ending up with a product. But once that product is complete, it's not done until it's been critiqued. When you finish a novel, you might have a feeling about whether it works or not--for me it's the sense that the thing has taken on a life of its own, is greater than the sum of its parts--but after finishing it's hard to get a good perspective on it. Does it really work? Is that ending earned? Do the characters come off the page? Do the sad scenes make Chance cry, or do they descend into melodrama?

So the critique can serve as a reality check. I have a few trusted first readers who have been wonderfully supportive of the first book, and who I trust to tell me, as they're reading the second one, whether it works or not, and if it doesn't, where the mistakes are. Often they'll point out things that I sensed were not quite right, but they'll articulate why, from a readerly point of view, and suggest ways of fixing them. I have a sharp agent who used to be an editor, who is an incisive critiquer (she made me cut 10,000 words from the first book!). And now I have an editor whose revision letter pinpoints exactly where I got lazy and didn't clarify something, or fudged a scene, or allowed redundancies to creep in.

Back to the book I go! With yet another perspective on how to make it better. The critiquing has become as much of a process as the actual writing is.

At the same time, I'm critiquing the Blue Heaven chapters and learning a TON about how to start a novel, how to create tension in the first few pages, how to introduce backstory in a sequel, how to use telling details to create real characters. And also how to not do those things, and how to articulate why certain choices might not be good ones.

I can sort-of see the process of critique becoming less constructive, as is possible when your own expectations and those of your critiquers don't match up. Or if you revise toward many different expectations so that your novel gets jumbled or ironed-out flat. Or if you get crit burnout altogether.

What do you think? What do you give in a critique, and what do you take from it?

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14. Website?

One thing I need to get started on, in addition to all the other things I need to get moving on, is fixing up my website.

Here it is: http://www.sarah-prineas.com

I made it using the Google page creator and with helpful feedback from many of you. But as the book comes out, the site needs to be better, more dynamic, more interesting to those beyond my immediate circle of friends. So here I pick the brain of the friends list!

1) A website designer's name has been recommended to me, and I plan to talk to him soon. But I'd like a full range of options before I decide, so if you know of a good designer and can point me to his/her website and portfolio, I will be ever grateful. Oh, and if you recommend a particular writer website for reference, I will also be ever grateful.

2) What should a writer's website have on it?

3) Karen suggested using my tiny dragon icon as part of the site, and I'm going to do that. The plan there would be to ask the artist (Kari Christensen, who did the original art for a SH story (here's his website http://www.karichristensen.com)) to turn the dragon icon into a bigger dragon with a tail curling around as a kind of frame. I haven't asked him yet if he'll do this...

Any other suggestions are very welcome.

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15. WisCon Report

Con was lovely. Possibly the best WisCon ever.

Many chocolate martinis were drunk. Were drunken. Whatever.

Coffee? I think there was coffee.

Talk was talked. Parties were partied. Sleep was not slept.


What am I forgetting?

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16. sallytuppence @ 2007-05-26T07:06:00

Why yes, it's 7:00 in the morning and I'm at WisCon writing a blog entry! Silly me.

The con is, as usual, the wonderful, but I shall say no more for fear of inciting the wrath of the BitterCon attendees, alas, woe.

The reason I'm up so early?

My revision letter arrived yesterday! J. read it to me over the phone. The revision letter, I've learned, is the cover letter from the editor, and it accompanies the edited manuscript. The writer's job is to address the changes suggested in the letter and the queries in the MS itself.

Usually, I think, the author has a little while to do the revision. I've got until the end of June, which would be plenty of time, except that I've got the Blue Heaven workshop for seven days, and a thousand MS pages to read and crit for that. So this revision will have to get done in about two weeks.

I suppose editorial styles are different. The suggestions from my editor are awesome--right on. In about two pages of notes, she identified all these fuzzy areas and asked for clarification. Why do people show up at certain places when they do? What, exactly, is the relationship between these two people, and why do they feel the way they do? How did this person get this information, exactly? How does the magic work in this situation? And I get to cut down some of Nevery's journals, the ones that are redundant with Conn's storyline. Very good. John was reading the letter, and I kept interrupting to say things like "Wow, I hadn't even thought about that!!" and "Yeah, she's certainly right about that!" The revision will be a challenge, for sure, but one I'm really looking forward to leaping on.

Which is why I'm up. Had an idea, had to get up to write it down before I forget it. Silly.

Hey, I just remembered. There's a coffee maker in here! Nrrrm, coffee.

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17. This way to BitterCon!

Right, so the car's in the shop getting all lubed up, and I've got my mapquest printout, and I'm heading for Madison bright and early tomorrow morning.


Alas for those who will not be attending. I point you instead toward BitterCon, hosted by [info]jlundberg. Alas, woe.

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18. YIKE!!!

Oh, my.

Just got off the phone with my editor, Melanie, at HarperCollins.


So the buzz has mandated a change in the schedule: they're moving the Magic Thief publication date up to Summer '08.

Melissa, she called it a "crash" publication schedule! Yike! The editorial letter arrives this week, and my revisions are due in June. Book Two is due asap after that.

A big part of me is going YEAH!!! bring it on!!

Part of me is going Wow, it's a darn good thing I finished Book Two when I did.

Part of me is going Yay, it's time to start The Book With Dragons In It!

Part of me is going CRASH schedule!! YIKES!!!

Part of me is going Bring me a chocolate martini, stat!


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19. WisCon Panel Question

Along with Gwenda, Patrick, and Hilary Moon Murphy (who I look forward to meeting), I am doing this panel thingy at WisCon:

These Kids Tomorrow (The Craft And Business of Writing SF&F)
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 p.m.
With YA so popular in its many incarnations, just what are some of the youth trends going on today? What will be the trends for tomorrow? For fantasy settings? Come and speculate.

As [info]sartorias noted the other day, we're in a bit of a YA fantasy/sf golden age right now. I guess this means that lots of good books are being written, the audience is growing, reviewers are taking note, publishers are excited.

As a continuing member of the Norton Award jury, I've been reading a lot of YA sf and fantasy, and I've got some idea of the trends. In fantasy, lots of there and back again portal world stories. In sf, lots of kids with special talents at special schools' stories. Looks like urban fantasy is hot, just as it is in the adult books world.

Y'all that read YA sf and fantasy, will you help a panelist out? Have you noticed any trends? What are the books that have stood out as particularly excellent or particularly trendy?

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20. How To Talk about It With Your Children

Scene: Theo's mom and dad having some after dinner smoochies in the kitchen (as Charlie and Rae know, there's nothing sexier than a man doing the dishes). Theo is at the table finishing his dinner.

*smooch, smooch*

Theo: "I don't want to see that."

*smooch, smooch*

Theo: "I'm turning away."

*smooching stops*

Theo's Mom: "Y'know, Theo, you wouldn't be here if not for kissing."

Theo: *Disbelieving stare of what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about*

Theo's Mom: "Yup, kissing is necessary. How do you think babies get into their mother's uterus?"

Theo: *thinks about this*. "Ummm, randomly?"

Theo's Mom: "Nope. Kissing has a lot to do with it."

Theo: "Well then, I think you guys should stop that kissing."

The end.

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21. sallytuppence @ 2007-05-16T11:37:00

Eight random things about me.

1) I don't do memes.

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22. Breaking Some Eggs

All this talk about The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy and Truesdale's appalling editorial, and that Nightshade board...

(yes, I finally got over there to catch up on it all this week, after finishing the novel)

(was not the best moment when the "Lucius" guy slapped down that insane "Murphy" guy?)

and the talk about the slushbomb...

...got me all excited to submit a story. Which was the original purpose of the slushbomb, I believe.

So I've never before submitted anything to Asimov's. Wish me luck, 'cos today I'm sending them that which is known to my beloved crit group as "The Egg Story."

I am absolutely sure it will be cracked, poached, flipped over easy, and scrambled, but you can't make omelets without... Read the rest of this post

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23. WisCon!!!

Oh my. I just read that Chance is coming to WisCon and got all excited. WisCon!! Just two weeks!!! Oh lordy, I can't wait.

So are you going? What're you going to do at WisCon?

Here's what I'm up for:

Friday: drive out with [info]charmingbillie and maybe [info]velourmane, and The Maud. Go to the Gathering. Rejoice at seeing friends new and old. Go to the Governor's Club bar and give Brian the bartender a $20 tip and say, "chocolate martinis and keep them coming!"

Saturday, 1:00-2:15: Reading. "Magic, Mermaids, and Other Things That Start With M" (YA reading) with [info]rambleflower, [info]jennreese, and the lovely Kat Beyer. Since this one is in the afternoon, Jenn and I will not actually be drinking chocolate martinis while we read!

Saturday afternoon: In the bar with the SFNovelists group.

Saturday night: Go to the Governor's Club bar and drink chocolate martinis. And parties.

Sunday, 2:30: Panel thingy on "These Kids Tomorrow." With [info]psamphire [info]bondgwendabond, and Hilary Moon Murphy. Something about trends in YA sf and fantasy.

Sunday night: Go to the Governor's Club bar and drink chocolate martinis. And parties. Help The Maud dress up in her Neef costume (does anybody have a curling iron we could borrow?).

Monday: Wake up late and not too hung over. Drive back to Iowa City.

Somebody's going to have to host BitterCon in my absence.

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24. The Parenting and Writing Entry

This is not going to be a post full of wisdom about how to be a writer with little kids in the house. Maybe I'll do a more pragmatic post about that later. Not that this post isn't pragmatic...

This is just some rambling thoughts about writing with kids that may piss some people off.

First the context. I have two, Maud (11), and Theo (7). I started writing when Theo was about six weeks old. I typed with one hand while he nursed, and wrote when he napped and in the evenings, and I thought about my stories while we were piling up blocks together. As we've gone on, the writing has become a bigger part of my life, and the kids grew up knowing that sometimes I will close my door and tell them to go do away and do something else, because I am writing. Theo has spent many, many hours playing with Playmobil pirates on the floor next to my writing chair.

I recently heard another writer say that the writer's child, who is under the age of 10, gave the writer "permission" to write. If the kid doesn't give permission, then, I guess the writer doesn't write.

This completely astonishes me.

As writers, we set up reasons for ourselves to fail, because it's really easy to fail at being a writer. "I can't write because I have writer's block." "I can't write because I work full time and stare at a computer screen all day." "I can't write because I don't have time, and wasn't House great last night?" "I can't write because my son never takes a nap in the afternoon."

I refuse to blame my children for my own failures. If I'm not writing, they're not the reason. In fact, they're a big reason why I AM writing. The first book is dedicated to Maud, because I worked out the main plot points while on long walks with her, talking. The second will be to Theo, who suggested a scene for the second book that has been my early readers' favorite scene so far.

I refuse to feel guilty for taking time for writing that could have been spent with my children. Yes, as they've gotten older they've had to look after themselves a bit. But y'know, they're great kids, they really are. I'm not a bad mother for telling them to get lost once and a while so I can finish a scene, or nail a piece of dialogue down. They're both independent, happy, smart, loving kids.

As a writer, I'm a good role model for my kids. It's good for them to see that I have a life beyond them, and dreams that I'm willing to sacrifice something to pursue, with no regrets.

As Maud would say, "so, yeah."

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25. The end...

...is not only nigh, it has arrived.

That's it. Done, done, done.


I'm going to bed.

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