Friday, July 31, 2009


The Heir Chronicles Box Set will be released September 1. It’s all three Heir books in paperback in a nifty box. I just like looking at it.


Events are being finalized for my first ever author tour to promote The Demon King. Here are a few preliminary plans:

-October 2: Great Lakes Independent Booksellers: Authors Feast, Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, Cleveland, OH
-October 11: 2pm Hudson Library and Historical Center, Hudson, OH
-October 12: 7pm Joseph Beth Booksellers, Legacy Village, Lyndhurst, OH
-October 13: 7 p.m., Westlake Porter Library’s Westfest program, Westlake, OH and school visit, Burnesan Middle School
-October 17-18: Denver, CO events to come
-October 19: 7pm Chapters.Indigo, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto, Canada
-October 20: event to come
-October 21: events with University Bookstore, Seattle, WA
-October 22: events with Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
-October 23: 7pm Powells Books, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, OR
-October 24: Event to come
-October 26: school visit, Vista Academy, Oceanside, CA & 6pm Barnes & Noble, El Camino North Shopping Center, 2615 Vista Way, Oceanside, CA 92054

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Notes from the Garden: Suburban Menagerie

My Garden in Happier Days
I used to engage in a series of ongoing skirmishes with the animal pests that inhabited my yard.
The trouble began with the rabbits. One summer it seemed like there were rabbits everywhere. I had planted some Icelandic poppies and was eagerly waiting for the buds to open (a one-a-year event). One morning I looked and all the buds had been neatly nipped off.
My husband and I started a rabbit resettlement program (ok, we were young and naïve.) We put a live trap out in the garden and would drive the captured rabbits out to the industrial park and release them. We did this several times.
And then we caught a skunk instead. We retired the live trap and got out of the rabbit relocation business.
My neighbor took a more direct approach when a rabbit ate their newly planted pansies. He went out with an air rifle and shot it. I came home to a dead rabbit in my driveway and his wife and daughter crying, “Murderer!” as he shoveled it into a garbage bag.
I used to use nets to try to keep the birds from eating all our blueberries. Finally, I yanked the bushes and planted roses instead.
I’ve come to view the wildlife that share our yard as a kind of informal, fluid zoo. I realize that I’ve planted my house and garden where animals used to live. Small wonder if they burrow under my deck and raid my bird-feeder.
We have a lively population of chipmunks and squirrels. The chipmunks and moles have a network of tunnels throughout the flowerbeds. Now I sit in the garden and watch as they chase each other around the deck.
There’s a bird feeder outside the window where I write. It’s on a flexible metal pole. I find it entertaining when this big fat squirrel sets it to bouncing and goes flying off . HAHAHA. (It doesn’t take much to distract me when I’m on deadline).

One of the chipmunks took a more direct approach. He found the bag of birdseed in the garage and nipped the corner off, scattering birdseed all over the floor of the garage. No climbing necessary.
Recently, I noticed that the rabbits had nipped all the leaves off my lilies. Hmmm, I thought. Wonder if they’ll survive. The lilies, not the rabbits.
Ducks will lay their eggs anywhere. They are all like, Who you looking at? Earlier this summer, a pair of mallards laid their eggs in the flowerbed next door. The one belonging to Deadeye the bunny killer.
So I’m more laid back as a gardener than I used to be. Or maybe I’ve given up. I’ve accepted the fact that my yard is never going to be a showplace. There are some things that are just not meant to be.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Report from the Stacks (ALA 2009)

Unlike some people, I find it difficult to blog AT a convention. Let alone tweet. I mean, there’s too much conventioning to do. Plus my spouse was along, and he took up those snippets of time usually devoted to blogging. (Notice how I deflect blame?)
So now I’m home and blogging instead of tackling the BIG REVISION.
Chicago is a great city. My visit was a combination of business, pleasure, and pain. We got the pain over with early. That was the five-hour flight delay that cost us our first day in Chicago. Seems Continental forgot that they’d need a crew to fly the plane.
Our hotel was great, though—the Trump Tower Hotel.

We got a deal on the price, it was in a fabulous location, the room was huge, and it had a stovetop, dishwasher, microwave, and a refrigerator you could actually put things into. With a built-in ice maker. The service was gracious, but not stuffy. Imagine that—a luxury hotel that goes out of its way to make guests comfortable.

We went and saw the Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. It was focused on the movies (one of the guides said they weren’t supposed to talk about the books because it is sponsored by Warner Brothers). It included lots of props and costumes, such as Harry’s wand and Professor Mcgonigal’s dress robes, and recreated settings including Hagrid’s Hut and the Great Hall of Hogwart’s.

We also visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the Chicago Art Institute.
My ALA experience began with the Voya/Scarecrow Press reception for Perfect Tens and Top Shelf Fiction. (Voya named The Dragon Heir a “perfect ten.”) And, frankly, that is the only way I’ll ever qualify.
Then we went to a “Newbery banquet alternative dinner” at Aria organized by the awesome Nancy Werlin . Visited with Kindling Words buddies Laura Rubie, Toni Buzzeo, and Frannie Billingsley. Web designer Lisa Firke and authors Delia Sherman and Annette Curtis Klause were also there.
After dinner, we headed over to the Sheraton to hear the awards speeches. All the chairs were filled, so we ended up sitting on a platform at the back of the room.
We arrived just in time for Caldecott winner Beth Krommes’s speech and heard Neil Gaiman (Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book) and Ashley Bryan (winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award). Gaiman’s speech was especially moving. He described himself as a feral child raised amid the stacks by librarians. I congratulated Krommes outside the ladies’ room and she let me hold her Caldecott medal. It was weighty. And I shook Gaiman’s hand in the receiving line and told him his speech was fantastic. “Really?” he said. “I was kind of nervous about it.”
Maybe greatness rubs off.

The next day was my signing. I spent the morning chasing key ARCs and buying a few books (still no Going Bovine, alas). Arrived at the Disney-Hyperion booth to find out they were already out of ARCs of The Demon King. Signed Heir series books and met lots of people I’d only met online before.

Librarians rock! Seriously.

Friday, July 3, 2009

When Stories Bite

As a writer, sometimes I get impatient with people who say, I want to write, but I can’t think of anything. I want to tell them to go home and take up scrapbooking. Or classical guitar.
Writing is more about craft than concept. If you’re a writer, stories are everywhere. You just have to recognize them when they bite you on the…um…toe.
Perhaps they are setting their standards too high.Imperfect stories can be compelling, too.
I like to take walks around my subdivision in the afternoons. It’s not exactly your colorful city neighborhood, peopled with diverse characters, exploding with gritty drama, but it has its moments.
Take yesterday, for example. As I walked between the manicured lawns, I saw two boys crouching on the devil strip, their attention focused on the ground. As I got closer, I saw they were corralling two half-grown chickens.
I said, just to be sure, “What are those?”
“Chickens,” one boy said, looking up over his shoulder and rolling his eyes. “This one’s a hen, that one’s a rooster.”
Chickens in the ‘burbs. “Oh,” I said. “What are they doing here?”
“Well,” the boy said, “Mostly eating, sleeping, and pooping.”
I guess that falls into the ‘ask a silly question’ category. But what I meant, was: What’s the story? Several possibilities had already popped into my head.
Later, I saw a young girl approaching me on a mini bike—a very small, motorized bike. She was gangly—almost too big for it, her long legs nearly dragging on the ground. If I had to guess, I’d say she was about eleven. She wore a camouflage shirt and pants, and what looked like a combat helmet, though maybe it was a stand-in for a bike helmet. Over her shoulder was slung a toy machine gun, the business end pointed at the sky. She buzzed past me and on up the street, a solemn, combat-weary expression on her freckled face.
There’s a story there, I’m sure of it. I just don’t know what it is.
But I can make up a dozen or more.