Friday, February 25, 2011

Just to Look At

You know how, when a toddler confronts an expensive china thing, you say, "No, no...that's just to look at"?

Well, I have several things to show you that for the moment are Just to Look At but soon will be To Read. In other words: BOOK COVERS, BABY, all of them announced this week or shortly before.

I am doing this today because I need something great to look at because it's snowing and it just turned to rain and sleet and at some point I will have to shovel 5 to 8 inches of wet concrete off the deck and after all that it might not even be skiable so I'll be relegated to the Evil Snowshoes That Dump Me Headfirst. Otherwise, the weather's fine, thanks, wish you were here.

First, here's the latest edition of Barrie Summy's "I So Don't..." series of teen novels (Barrie was a fellow 2k8er with her debut novel, I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES.) This one comes out May 10.

Winner of the creep-tastic prize is the brand new cover for Gretchen McNeil's POSSESS, her debut novel. Gretchen is a fellow Enchanted Inkpot blogger, and also sings in a circus so she's well worth knowing. POSSESS, which is about a girl who can banish demons, comes out in August.

Elizabeth C. Bunce, another 2k8er AND another Inkie, is publishing her third book, for which I try not to hate her. LIAR'S MOON, Elizabeth's second fantasy about a pickpocket named Digger, comes out in November.

And Elliot's back! That would be Jennifer Nielsen's Elliot Penster, goblin fighter--now up against pixies. Jennifer's also an Inkie. This book comes out in May.

Well, I feel better. How about you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brandon. And stuff.

The town of Brooklin, population 900, turned out in droves Saturday for a public supper to benefit Brandon Higgins, a teenager with an inoperable brain tumor. (That's him at right, working in the Brooklin Youth Garden last summer.) At roughly $10 admission, the supper made around $6,000, or so they announced as things were winding down. I'm not saying all the 600 were from Brooklin, but still...pretty impressive. (A yard sale and auction swelled the proceeds to around $8,000, last I heard.)

I love my little town. Even when it's covered with slush, as it will be a few weeks from now.

Brandon, by the way, just got back from California , having spent a long weekend out there with his family attending the NBA All Star game and attendant festivities. Yay, Make A Wish Foundation.

For more info, here's a story about him in The Ellsworth American.

That's how it goes sometimes: It never fails--just when you're writing with hands tied behind your back and a mouthful of dental appliances, A Fuse #8 Production goes and devotes a whole post to your measley little book. Did me the world of good. Betsy Bird is a goddess--or a librarian, which is essentially the same thing.

On the other hand, today I wrote a scene involving a large bowl of poisonous spiders. Could have used a dental appliance or two for that one. Euugh.

In other business: The Bangor Daily News reviewed SMALL PERSONS! Right here. And The Ellsworth American, on top of all its other lovely coverage, also posted a lovely review on its web site. I do love newspapers.

The knitting report: Mid-foot, nearing the toe. I have yarn for a pair of cotton socks, but I'm feeling slightly tempted by a cotton sweater. God help me. Rob, however, has grown deaf to swearing and has stopped asking, "What? What? What's wrong?" when I get wound up. So he'll probably survive a sweater nicely.

Don't forget there's a contest on. I didn't set a deadline, did I? Let's call it a week.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Contest!

SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS has been out for a month now, and the paperback edition of THE UNNAMEABLES comes out in another month. So, having admired everyone else's contests over the years, I'll try one of my own.

Mellie in SMALL PERSONS is obsessed with art history, which enables her to tiptoe close to creativity while keeping her imagination firmly under control. (She collects art trivia and likes to catalog it.)

Medford in THE UNNAMEABLES is obsessed with wood-carving--in a good way, but his obsession also is dangerous for him.

So what's your passion? Music? Manga? Horses? Antique bottle caps? Ant farms? Tell us about it in the comments--what you're passionate about and why. (Keep it clean, obviously!) One random commentor wins signed copies of SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS and the new paperback of THE UNNAMEABLES.

ETA: This contest will end at noon Tuesday, March 1!

The knitting report: I am knitting my fourth sock, and I've had to rip out the heel twice. I seem to be getting worse at it rather than better. (How, I ask you , did I end up with FIVE extra stitches?) Poor Rob has to sit there and listen to me swear. This pair is supposed to be for him, and he's been tactfully trying to say that he isn't THAT short of socks. Too bad. He's getting these if it kills me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Wanna Be a Paperback Writer

Just LOOK at that. Did you ever see anything so gorgeous?

THE UNNAMEABLES comes out in paperback March 21. I am now the proud possessor of a whole box of them. I feel a contest coming on.

In case you want a closer view:

The cover was designed by Regina Roff, and those who've read the book will know just by looking at it that she did, too. And very carefully. Thank you, Regina! I'm also grateful to Julia Richardson, editorial director for paperbacks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for shepherding Medford and friends into their new home.

Bloggy goodness: Nice reviews for SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS at Educating Alice , Charlotte's Library and Flamingnet, where young adult books are reviewed by actual young adults. Thanks, all!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines Forever

Rob and I observed our thirty-second Valentine's Day yesterday. Which made me think about how careful we should be about setting precedents.

On our first Valentine's Day in 1980, Rob gave me a teddy bear, for a variety of slushy sentimental reasons that will remain forever locked in our secret past. This was such a hit that he started giving me a stuffed animal every Valentine's Day, every year striving to find something new and different.

I now have thirty-one stuffed animals. (One, a bear named Fred, was sacrificed to a lonely new puppy, who grew old and went to meet his fathers a decade ago at least.) Number thirty-one is a walrus whose name has turned out to be Tuskany. "It's getting harder and harder to find new ones," Rob groused. And it's true...I have two moose, a mallard duck, a pig, a cow, and, last year, a porcupine. They all live together on a couch in our bedroom,which now serves no other function except when I toss my clothes on top of the animals, which I often do.

If this goes on, by the time we shuffle off the coil we'll have more stuffed animals than the toy store. Certainly we'll have more stuffed animals than brains. Poor Rob will be reduced to giving me a stuffed slug and/or mollusk.

And yet, we can't stop. I think we both feel that things have been going along just fine for the past three decades, and we fiddle with tradition at our peril.

I do keep trying to shake things up. At Christmas, I threatened to carry him off to Mexico to visit our friend Larry, but in the end I, too, gave in to the promise of snow and Merry Gentlemen and having the neighbors in for turkey.

Next year, maybe we'll make it to Mexico. But I suspect, twenty years from now, we'll be trying to find a spot for that fifty-second stuffed animal.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This and That and The Other Thing

This: On the one hand, there's skiing. On the other hand:

The dog Callie hates this winter. Tough finding a place to answer The Call when you're up to your butt in snow. She ends up befouling the footpath, which is against her principles. (She's a very good dog.)

That: SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS got a lovely review in The Horn Book ... or will, when the March/April issue comes out. It says, in part: Readers will pull for Mellie to prevail—not only in her efforts to help the Parvi but also in her maturing relationships with herself (as she “grows into her grandeur”), her family, her new friend Timmo, and her peers.

On the blogosphere, Francesca Amandolia used the words "marvelously inventive" at YoungAdultBooksCentral , which Durindana and Co. appreciate deeply. Cori at the Phoenix Book Company calls Mellie "a great central character," and vancie917 at Not Another Book Blog says the book is "fantastic" and "everytime you think it can't get weirder, it does." (That's pretty much what I was striving for, so I'm swelling with pride. And my friend Alice's cupcakes, but that's another story.)

In general, not a bad haul, and very much appreciated.

The Other Thing: Rob and I went to the Stonington Opera House yesterday with our friends Alice and John (hence the cupcakes) to see "Dying City," Christopher Shinn's Pulitzer-finalist psychological about a troubled Iraq-war widow and her husband's equally troubled twin brother. The acting was wonderful and the play thought-provoking. We should all be flattered that the Opera House thinks we're up to this sort of thing in February... actually, I found it suited my mood. Yay Opera House!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Book Review Club

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book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Monster snowstorm happening here--hope I get this posted before the power goes out. (If the formattings a bit wonky, Blogger seems to be having issues today. Or maybe it's me.) Anyway, time to huddle by the fire and be thankful for indoor plumbing. Don't forget to click the link for great reviews--one of which is of SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS with a fun interview by Sarah Laurence!

At Home: A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson
Doubleday, 2010

Bill Bryson is the enemy of silent reading. I defy anyone to get through more than five pages of AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE without feeling compelled to read some paragraph aloud to whoever else is in the room. For example:

Country churches in England look like they’re sinking, but really the graveyards are rising. A typical churchyard has accumulated some twenty thousand corpses, one buried on top of another.

When Thomas Edison first wired a section of Manhattan in 1881-82, “horses behaved skittishly in the vicinity until it was realized that leaking electricity was making their horseshoes tingle.”

“Originally, the joists in English terraced houses ran from side to side and sat on the partition walls between houses. This essentially created a linear run of joists along a block, heightening the risk of fires spreading from house to house. So from the Georgian period, joists were run front to back in houses, turning the partition walls into firebreaks.” Because the joists had to rest on interior walls, this determined the layout and uses of rooms in urban households for generations to come.

In the 1700s, British colonial law and the realities of markets and transportation meant that Americans had to order manufactured goods from England even if the raw materials came from here. In 1757, George Washington’s order included snuff, sponge toothbrushes, salt, raisins, almonds, mahogany chairs, tables, Cheshire cheese, marble, papier-mache, wallpaper, cider, candles, twenty loaves of sugar, and 250 panes of glass.

Bryson is the author of A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, among many other books. He has a questing mind and must live for research, judging by the twenty pages of bibliography. Best of all, he has a puckish sense of humor and loves to tell straight-faced tales of eccentric aristocrats, misguided inventors, and eight hundred Thames daytrippers drowning in raw sewage in 1878.

The book’s organizing principle is a tour of Bryson’s home in England, a former rectory built in 1851, stopping at various points for a discussion of issues related to drawing room, scullery, or fuse box. The topics addressed in each chapter are wide-ranging: The chapter on the bedroom covers bedding types and syphilis, but also the evolution of medical care and attitudes toward death.

Every time I interrupted my Dear One with some new gem from the bowels of history, I found myself exclaiming: “Whatever made him decide to look THAT up?” The answer, I guess, is that the guy loves both to read and to entertain. His books do not give the impression of being planned, somehow—reading this one is not like listening to a well-reasoned discourse with a sweeping conclusion at the end. This is visiting your favorite sweater-clad scholar for afternoon tea, getting yourself invited to drinks and dinner, and staggering home delightedly at midnight.

Did you know the Aztecs made salt by evaporating their own urine?

A word of remembrance: Novelist Diana Norman, who also wrote as Ariana Franklin, died January 27. She wrote the MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH series of historical novels set in the time of Henry II—they were my entry in this review club a while back. They are marvelous, and I’m desolated that there won’t be any more. I plan to get my hands on the ones she wrote under her own name and suggest you do the same. RIP, Ms. Norman.