Thursday, April 28, 2011

A truly AMAZING week

On the eve of TRW as well as the eve of my beach weekend with my loving husband, I must report the following extremely cool things that have happened this week.
1. I entered Amy Gesenhues' very first blog contest ever, and I won!
2. I entered Gretchen McNeil's "Possess" ARCs contest, and I won!
3. Erin Reel"s (The Lit Coach), interview about my Empress Chronicles blog is up!
4. My buddy Cheryl Strayed is reading The Empress Chronicles manuscript and mentioned it in her recent interview, posted here!

So what do you think, blog friends, should I head down to 7-Eleven for lottery tickets?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

teapunk: the long dark teatime of the soul

I've written a book that doesn't fit all that neatly into any particular classification beyond young adult. THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES is part romance, part historical, part contemporary-issue, part mystery, part urban fantasy, part magical realism, part steampunk. Actually, what it might be more than anything is a modern fairy tale. But, there is a mood that I want to encapsulate with some sort of distilling and overarching word or group of words.

At my day job, this would be the perfect opportunity for a branding exercise we call a 360. Essentially, in our 360s, clients and their trusted advisers gather in a room, and, following an agenda, we trot the clients through a brainstorming session that results in clarity and goals and all sorts of cool stuff.

In lieu of a traditional 360, I did some poking around, and, Et Voilà, I found a curious emerging sub-genre known as teapunk. Conjuring a Victorian moodiness and a fantastical Alice and Wonderland element, teapunk celebrates tea culture with a nod to some of the Victorian stylization of steampunk. Some go as far to suggest teapunk is a wide embrace of 19th century culture generally.

But what I like most about teapunk, is the punk-- a hint of the contemporary part of the historical/contemporary duality. And, borrowing from the quick definition of steampunk (a genre that features anachronistic technology in the Victorian era), teapunk might be thought of as a genre that celebrates the mood of Victorian culture via interface with a contemporary perspective. Ok, I made that up. Maybe better would be to quote the facebook page (and I paraphrase): Take the SM out of steampunk and steep in the long dark teatime of the soul.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

digital spring cleaning

Taxes? Check. The latest revision of my YA book? Check. Final disgorgement of huge bin 'o books husband set on my office floor? Check.

That's three major left-brained and/or clear-headed activities concluded in the last 48 hours. I'm gonna confess something here. Linear organization is not my strong suit. Sometimes I stand in front of a big, fat mess of odd and jumbled items and my brain just fires off like a pinball in a special bonus round.

I have adopted any number of compensatory strategies for this, including, surrounding myself with pictures of order, e.g. my screensaver feature the perfect symmetry of the Viennese Medical School my father attended; even the twigs emanating from the twin naked elms that flank the central building are identical.

Whenever my hard drive crashes, after I get done throwing stuff, I'm secretly glad because of the tabula raza thing. I get a brand new start, with the hope that this time I'll create files that make sense. I'll not put the document with the kids' social security numbers in a file cryptically called "dugoutisms," for instance.

But today I decided not to wait for the next virus, and get rid of a bunch of crap on my computer, and I started with my Firefox bookmarks. I just deleted them all. I mean, what was I thinking, bookmarking "how to build a snake feeding box" two years ago. Like I'd need that info again? And, I'm planning on following it up with creating useful Twitter lists, rather than the catch all: lit stuff. I mean, pretty much everyone I follow has something to do with literature.

Writers, do you have crazy filing systems for your work? What are your compensatory strategies?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

lost and found

Here's a good story.

About a year ago a writing acquaintance, Steve Arnt, called me up out of the blue to ask if I was missing a particular book from my shelf. I drew a blank, because I have several hundred books: some on shelves, some in boxes, some in tubs.

He'd been looking for an out-of-print book by a writer named Peter Christopher. The book was called Campfires of the Dead, put out by Knopf in 1989.

"Yes, yes," I said. "I know that book. I have that book. I knew Peter."

"You certainly did have that book," he said. "It's inscribed to a Suzy V. That has to be you."

I was in Hawaii when I got the call, on a deeply-anticipated holiday, one my husband and I had planned for over a year. We didn't know when we planned the trip that our house would be on the market, and, in particular, that our house would be on the market with a flooded basement, and that we would need to retroactively permit an addition put on illegally by my ex-husband years earlier.

Why all of this is important to the story is, about a month before our trip, during staging and dismembering hell, in the worst real estate market in two decades, my current husband and I hauled three truckloads of "yours, mine and ours" crap from the basement. Lots of it mildewed, moistened, stinky and ruined. But some of it merely heavy and cumbersome.

What I'm getting at is that Pete's book, the one you see in the picture with the very personal, lovely inscription, was a casualty of the dysfunctional triage. Where did Steve Arnt find it? Goodwill.

Now, I've done a lot of stupid, irresponsible things in my life. Once, I left my four-year-old daughter locked in the car while I ran into a coffee shop for an espresso. A cop was at the car's window when I returned, two seconds from hauling me to some sort of bad parenting jail. Back in college, I often swam naked in a local reservoir, and often there were drugs involved, or alcohol, or both. I was a poor swimmer and prone, at that time, to anxiety attacks. Drowning was a real possibility. And I won't even go into all the usual post-adolescent hyjinks. But being careless with something as sacred as a rare book--a rare, personally inscribed book at that, is inexcusably egregious.

So anyway, what happened next was, I conveyed my embarrassment and thanked Steve, who had called me so he could return my book, finished my holiday, sold the house, moved into a new house, and failed to follow up with Steve about my Campfires of the Dead.

But last week, at Lidia Yuknavitch's Powell's reading, there, sitting full-faced across the room, was Steve. And guess what? He still, after a year, was eager to return the book to me. So, we met for coffee, and there, on the cafe table, was Pete's book, not one bit mildewed, water-logged or otherwise ruined. And I'd forgotten how lovely the inscription was, and how it referred to a particularly glorious summer in 1993 when I'd met him on the Oregon Coast during a writing workshop given by Tom Spanbauer, and that I had continually dropped food on my feet while we shared writing and nuthorns and laughs.