Monday, November 29, 2010

To everyone who has gotten in touch....

I woke up this morning trying to think of a way to say thank you.... everyone who has written to me through , facebook, twitter, etc. I have been trying to answer each one of you, and have to finally admit that I am probably too far behind to ever catch up.

It’s amazing. YOU are amazing. I have heard from people all over the US and Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Poland, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Belize, Brazil, Mexico, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Turkey, China, North Korea, Chile, …and all of you will get a link to this message soon. If you have written me from a place I have not mentioned, contact me, and I will add it.

If you want updates on my work once or twice a year, please email me:   kathleen duey at earthlink dot net. You will be the first to know what’s up next and how it’s going. I start almost every day by reading messages from readers. Your letters are a treasure. They make me write better (and sometimes faster). What you have written makes me smile and laugh and sometimes cry.

It’s always wonderful to hear someone say they love my books. People write to me asking questions about Sadima, Hahp, Gerrard, and all the others in ways that make me feel like they are people we both know and sometimes worry about. The city of Limori is very real to me, too, and yes, I do know more about it than I will ever fit into three books.

Thanks to everyone who thinks that a book about Eridies might be interesting. It might be. To everyone writing to ask about Russet: I am accumulating entries again will post them soon.

I love to hear from teens who say they hate reading but they liked my books anyway and stayed up late because they couldn’t stop reading.

Older Adults have written to tell me that even though the books are for Young Adults, they stay up too late reading them too.

LOTS of people have suggestions as to how Somiss needs to die. All I can say is, we'll see...

Librarians often say there are waiting lists for the books! School librarians write to say the added them to their collections and hope the censorship loving parents don’t notice.

One teen reader, recovering from a terrible accident, wrote to tell me that the books took her “out of the hospital, away from the pain". Another girl thanked me for the Eridians and said that her friends were like that, they carried as much of her sorrow as they could. Teen book clubs have written asking me really deep questions about the stories and the characters. I have recently gotten Skype and look forward to being part of book club and library discussions.

Some people write to ask WHERE TO BUY THE BOOKS.
In the US:
Most bookstores carry them and any bookstore can order them for you and have them in a few days.
Indiebound is a portal into the wonderful world of America’s independent booksellers. Type in the book title upper right and you can order it from a local bookstore in your area. All the online stores carry the books: Amazon, Barns&Noble, Borders, etc.

Internationally: Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars have been translated into:
Polish: (coming soon)
UK English (ok, not really translated, but some expressions and words changed)

If you want UK English versions of *any* book:
They have fair, low prices, and ship to most of the world... free.

Thanks for all the people who have written to tell me there are no ebook versions yet. I know. There will be, probably in 2013.

Everyone (almost) asks me when the third book will come out. After a LOT of interruptions (some of them self-inflicted) I am writing all day every day on book three. As soon as it tells me its name, I will tell YOU. I hope to finish it (including the revisions, etc, by the end of summer 2011. After that, it will take most of a year to produce the hardcover. I know. I apologize. I am trying hard to make it incredibly good.

Valid Excuses:
1. These are complex books and the details take time.
2. I have had to write other things, including books for younger kids, which I also love doing.

1. I want the last one to be so good that I am afraid of it, a little. Which doesn’t sound like a very good excuse for taking so long, but it is, in an odd way.

Thank you ALL for writing to me, thank you for reading this. I send you all my very best wishes and may the coming new year bring you all good things.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Washington Post's annual word-repurposing contest.

I look forward to this every year...

The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I am thinking about writing a book about writing.

I have two monster deadlines to meet.  After that, or during that, somehow, I am thinking very seriously about writing a book about writing. One that addresses both art and craft and treats them as lovers, partners, siblings, fraternal twins, BFF's.

I spent last week interacting with an MFA class whose teacher is a friend (the amazing Bonny Becker) and realized from the questions and my attempt to answer them.....that maybe there is a reason for me to write a book about writing. 

!!!AND!!!  if I released it as a download-only, I would have very little tree-guilt.

(((This is the French Edition of Skin Hunger,
just released....)))

Monday, October 25, 2010

A former slave writes his master--this just caught my heart.

I checked snopes and other places and this appears to be real.

Jourdan Anderson

Annotation Jourdon Anderson, an ex- Tennessee slave, declines his former master's invitation to return as a laborer on his plantation.

1865 Text Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday- School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free- papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly- - and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

<>P.S. -- Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson
Source: Cincinnati Commercial, reprinted in New York Tribune, August 22, 1865.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Unicorns and faeries, oh my!

The new Unicorn's Secret covers are really lovely.

And the Faerie's Promise books are beautiful, too. Thanks Sandara Tang!!!

first chapter excerpts here

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zombies vs Unicorns

Unicorns are fascinating. They are mysterious, shy, rare, and beautiful.  Many of the of the old stories say they had the ability to heal, which has always fascinated me. They are in the folk tales and mythology of almost every part of the world–and so are Zombies. 

When Holly Black contacted me about writing a short story for the anthology she and Justine Larbalestier were planning : ..... I was thrilled to be included. I was team unicorn, of course! I had written stories about unicorns for young readers, and I was excited to write the darker side of unicorns for teens and YA readers.  Once I started the story, it dragged me into deeper and darker explanations of how the ability to heal might shape a unicorn’s life, his ethics, his needs. It became far darker than I could have imagined. 

It is the possibility of both darkness and light that make unicorns awesome.  As much as I love zombies (and I DO) they are always more or less the same. How people deal with them, survive them, escape/hide/destroy—mourn the friends who become zombies—all of that is interesting and exciting, yes. It can make for great books and films and TV shows about how human beings react when zombies stumble into their towns and cities.  But unicorns aren’t that simple. If you saw one leaping across an intersection, or hiding in the woods, you wouldn’t know how to react, whether to be scared or astonished or grateful or crazy or...?. The old  tales are vague and varied and ancient. There are just so many things we don’t know about unicorns...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Central Coast Writers' Conference, San Luis Obispo, CA

It was FUN.  It was wonderfully well run and I learned a great deal!   I also got to take a train ride, which is always a plus for me. This train-window shot is worth enlarging just to see the color of the water. It was a cloud/sun day, so it changed constantly....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

DragonCon, oh, DragonCon....

DragonCon is a huge event that is much like a small city, assembled within a big city, if that small city had to be built and inhabited overnight, and could exist for only four days a year....and if it were populated with an explosively creative citizenry of all ages, including pre-natal and post octogenarian.

 There is, every year, a blood drive near the YA track rooms. Vampires line up next to corsetted and begoggled Steam-Punkers, Elves, Zombies, Jokers, Storm Troopers, and the astounding variety of one-of-a-kinders.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

There are no bad words....I am almost sure.

I got two very thoughtful, very kind, messages this past week telling me that my Resurrection of Magic books are well written, absorbing, and very hard to put down, but that "foul language" was an issue for both readers. If you have read the books, skip the next section. If not, you might want to skim it.

There are two stories in the Resurrection of Magic books--and two protagonists. The narratives go back and forth every other chapter. The stories are set about 200 years apart and the first story causes the second one:

First story: Sadima is a damaged, gentle person trying to make sense of herself and a young man she loves—even though he is tangled up in the rage and ambition of a fanatic who is intent on re-discovering magic and changing the world at any cost.

Second Story: Hahp is trying to survive (200 years later) in the decaying and brutal academy that is eventually founded by Sadima’s companions. It is a strange and terrible place. Hahp, 11 years old at the story's beginning, often uses the word "crap" in the first book and uses f-word twice. In the second book, (just over 550 pages long ) he uses the F-word fifteen times--about once every thirty six pages--and the word "crap" only twice. He has outgrown it, I think, and/or it no longer provides the rage and terror release it once did.

Both stories are terrifying at points, emotionally realistic--a portrayal of uncontrolled ambition and fanaticism and the universally human inequity of power and magic. The two stories gradually weave together: in the third book the time difference narrows to synchronicity, almost 200 years having passed by the end of Sadima’s story and about 7 in Hahp’s.

Neither of the people who wrote me made a single comment about the ordeal of either character, even though both are nearly destroyed by what happens to them. The books are very dark. Both readers were bothered by specific words Hahp used. All the “language” issues are in Hahp’s story, I am almost certain. Sadima copes with her experiences in other ways.

One person said it was impossible to recommend the books because she would be embarrassed if friends found out she had read them. Reading the third book when it comes out would be impossible, too, she said, so she would have to "make up an ending" to the “amazing” story because of the “profanity”. She closed with "I won't read the next one for fear of the same bad language." If she had used any word but *fear* I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

The second writer said she couldn’t wait to read the third one and explained that it was a single word that bothered her most (for clarity, it starts with F, rhymes with truck, was said 15 times in a 550 page book, or about once every 36 pages.. She said she had read a lot of books for teens and that few if any used that word. (this is not my experience, but maybe I pick dark books) She wanted me to realize that a great tale can stand on its own without foul language.

I agree.
Unless it is what the character would say.

I try hard to stay out of the way and to accurately record what happens. I never give the use of language by any character ten seconds thought. As loopy as it will sound to people who don’t write books, I never restrict the language of my characters: I have no right to do so. And I need to admit that if Hahp had even once said "Gosh, this is terrible," I would have canned him as a shallow and souless protagonist unworthy of the book and its readers and I would have held another casting call.

So here is my very respectful response to two people who could not have been more respectful to me in bringing up an issue that genuinely disturbs them both:

My own opinion is that words are words. There aren't good or bad ones. All exist because they were useful to human speakers for one reason or another. Some carry huge emotional freight…sometimes. Others don't. Many words, spoken or shouted with anger and/or hatred, can hurt. They can also sometimes ease the heart of the shouter, prop up courage, or announce a line drawn, hope abandoned, hope reclaimed, and so much more. They can build a proud wall between a bruised heart and bottomless despair. The use of words to communicate with ourselves and others is not a simple issue and it is a deeply personal one.

Interestingly, Hahp is using much less strong language in book #3—at least so far. He is older now, almost 16, and has seen more inhumanity that I ever will. He doesn't seem to need to prove/announce/prop-up his courage like he did a couple years ago. Yet anyway. He has nearly drowned in random and deliberate cruelty and confusion, and he has found a way forward in spite of it. He is a decent, fair person in a sea of brutality and has faced decisions that would torture anyone of any age.

I admire him.
I don’t care what words he uses to describe his story.
I just want him to survive.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ellen, Humble TX,censorship, and something even worse.

My friend Ellen Hopkins was recently invited--then un-invited--to speak to students in Humble TX. Authors' reactions have been thoughtful and varied. Many--not all--of the other authors who had agreed to be part of the event have dropped out  in support of Ellen and her work, and in opposition to censorship. They have written about their reactions:
Tera Lynn Childs
Pete Hautman
Matt de la Pena
Melissa de la Cruz
Ellen herself:

Ellen is often targeted by people who are convinced her realistic portrayal of teens, their problems, and the consequences of their choices are too....realistic? Her enormous popularity among teens and Young Adult readers argues that her words ring true and resonate with them. She is not alone. Many of the authors teens love best have censorship challenges all too often.

One of the most troubling things for me about this situation is that it sounds like one librarian alerted 2 or 3 parents, who then contacted the superintendent of schools. Oh, how I would like to be able to hear that first conversation. But however it went, the superintendent could have reacted by raising the question of Ellen's appearances for general discussion by all involved--including Ellen, people who have heard her speak at schools, and all the students and their parents. If he had, my guess is that the ayes would have drowned out the nays very quickly.

AND...while people debated and settled on some compromise, everyone would have had a chance to think about and talk about all the issues involved. But like so many administrators before him, the superintendent ducked. So the librarian and her like-minded parents silenced an author who has--without scolding, preaching, or patronizing, helped countless kids understand that their choices are real, ongoing, and *will* shape their lives. The most concerned parents could have been given an alternative author, or could have been transported by their parents to a school with a less controversial speaker. Lessons of all kinds about free speech and democracy and personal choices would have been learned by everyone involved.

But no.
The superintendent ducked.
I can imagine his work load, the headache he got after the phone call, the staff he doesn’t have to handle things like this. But he is in charge of a school district. This was a massive teachable moment and he opted instead to write an email un-inviting Ellen and that was supposed to be the end of it.  A decision was made by a few adults that effected thousands of students and their parents without any of them even knowing it was being made.
That isn’t just censorship, it is something far worse.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The future of the future?

Almost every writer I know sets Google alerts for her/his name and book titles. I do. I want to hear what people are saying about my books. Lately, the alerts have directed me to illegal download sites as well as the usual blog reviews, bookclub discussions and fan comments. As of this morning, I have seen stats claiming that my Resurrection of Magic books have been downloaded over 60,000 times.

I am not a cave-dwelling preservationist, I am a futurist. I am fascinated with the rapid-change era I live in and can easily see many human advantages to being able to access all the arts free of payment. But…wow. So I whined a little on Twitter. ((One of the many good things about Twitter is that even whining must be brief.))

I tweeted that I'd spent the morning a little sad over downloads. Neil Gaiman , a writer I admire a great deal, a man who has 1,480,401 (so far) people who follow his every word and drown him in tweets, somehow noticed and answered my whine:

Neilhimself @kdueykduey I don't mind downloads. I figure nobody who's going to buy something won't, and it just makes readers. Your mileage may vary.

Which is pretty much what I think when I can stop multiplying my royalty rate by 60,000 and let my brain kick in again. It's easier for Neil to say because of his income level, but I think he's right. I also think there is no turning back so I intend to look forward. Cory Doctorow, ((a visionary SF author, journalist, BigBrain, and very nice guy)) drove his publishers crazy putting up whole books to download on his website. But then his book sales went up. WAY up. Word of mouth matters.

So here’s the deal. If you download my work for free, and you like it, do me a favor.
Talk about it.
Tell everyone you know how interesting and odd the books are.
I promise to write more.

Then, consider getting the next book at your local library--also free, and a great place to meet the other reader-teens in your area. Camp by the YA section and see what happens. And when you are happily dating someone who is both hot and your intellectual equal...

Go here:
click “contact”
And thank me.

The picture is of Volubilis, the southernmost limit of ancient Roma, as far south as they ever got, in what is now Morocco. They did not have free, stolen, downloads but figured out much worse ways to screw over their artists.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I have a very good excuse for not posting here lately  No. Wait, I have TWO very good excuses.

The first one is that I am writing like a maniac and you will thank me for that later, I think, because the third book of the trilogy is getting amazing....

Second, I am traveling a lot and had to deal with a nasty flu after my last trip. I am almost completely over it YAY.
It was *awful*. 

Back to work,
(me, I mean, you are free to play if you like)

Monday, June 21, 2010

WRITING UPDATES w/writing insights


People have asked me to write a project log again and to incorporate writing insights if I can. I appreciate the suggestion. I am so wrapped up in the current book projects that I have neglected le blog.

NO SPOILERS will be included.

Several book projects will be represented.

July 6 2010: Beautiful Writing and Something Even Better:

For me, the best books have always been the ones that let me forget I am reading. I love beautiful writing, the grace of the unexpected and perfect word, the dance of language. I am a fan of the goofy-smart-ass-hyphenate. But I love beautiful writing most when it isn't so flashy that it requires me to stop and admire it--and its author. If I am admiring (and probably envying) the writing, I have remembered I am reading, that this place and these people aren't real.

I can imagine the writer's joy at finding that perfect sentence and I can carefully re-read that astounding description of a house, a torn glove, a rainstorm. But if I have stepped out of the story to appreciate awesome facility of language, then I have probably lost the vague ache in my heart, the one echoing the protagonist's ache.

Chances are I will flip back a few pages to read another lovely bit of writing I had noticed, but that hadn't stopped me in my tracks and I can only now fully appreciate. And from there I might reread the bio on the jacketflap, then set the book down, remembering that I have a deadline, a dinner to start, a dog to bathe.

There are nearly infinite kinds of beautiful writing. I love them all, but I prefer the ones that don't interfere with the story. It is one of my current writing goals: I want to write literary page turners. To that end, this morning, I cut a scene by more than half. This is what made the cut (so far anyway, this is second draft text:)


Walking light-footed, almost running in the moonlight, she was halfway up the hill when she saw a lantern in the window and knew Sully was awake. Good. But then the door banged open and she heard someone stumbling down the steps, someone tall, doubled over, making a hoarse, sucking sound that terrified her. Eric?

She stopped, staring as Sully pounded across his porch, vaulted the rail and hit the ground running. He was fast enough to get one strong arm around his son's shoulders. For an instant she felt a twist of hope, then realized Eric was limp, folding up. She winced when Sully lost his balance and sat down hard in the dirt, still trying to straighten the tangle of legs and arms, to hold Eric close. When he couldn’t, Sully arched backward, screaming at the sky until his breath was gone. Then he sorted out the mess and began to rock what was left of his boy. She sat down in the wet grass to wait.

Sunday, June 20,  A Resurrection of Magic, Book #3 (which will not yet tell me its name)

Started reading from the beginning to make sure the dual pacing works before I go on.  Adding a chapter in one story means I have to add one in the other story and that can be maddening because the stories interlock...sometimes...and are on sliding timelines, Sadima's is MUCH longer than Hahp's.

 I stalled on the first chapter of Hahp's story as I eliminated what has to be the 10th layer of my desperate attempt to fill in the backstory. There is no better argument for "show don't tell"  than the first 2-4 chapters of any trilogy book, especially #3.

Here are two excerpts;

**Sadima's story is the odd-numbered chapters, Hahp's are the even numbers.
Chapter 2  (My first draft of Hahp, written many months ago: )

I could hear Gerrard's breathing, steady, quiet, as if nothing had happened, nothing that mattered enough to keep him awake. He had said more than once that he was a South End orphan. And at first, I had been sure he was lying. How would an orphan end up here, in the most expensive academy in Limori? And why would a beggar boy know how to read? Reading had been forbidden for commoners for most of the city's history. Now the high price of education accomplished the same goal. Commoners couldn't read; beggar boys least of all. But if Gerrard was lying, why had he smelled like South End--like fish and sweat--on our first day here?

My father had taken me to the slum of South End only a few times. It stank. The ragged children pressed up against the carriage as the pony began to trot, his head high, ready to fly when the coachman loosened the reins. The children were pleading, holding out their dirty hands, begging us for a coin. My mother wept. My father ignored them like a stable hand ignores flies, like he ignored me. Did he ever think about me now? Or was he too busy overseeing his ships, his fortune--busy being cruel to his servants, his wife. 

I turned over, then back again, wishing the wizards would just punish us. Or at least indicate somehow that they had found proof of what we had done.(altered). But they had never concerned themselves with helping anyone get through anything. They withheld food, over and over, not caring when some of the students died. And if what Somiss had said was true--all the parents had known they might never see their sons again. So no one cared about me. Not even my own father.

Gerrard stirred, then quieted. I turned my head toward his cot and realized I was had been staring into the darkness. I closed my eyes again. The little chamber seemed even quieter than usual.  But everything here was hushed, every birdsong, every wolf's cry, every storm was silenced by the endless passages that wormholed the dark stone cliff. I had seen the sun only once since my father had brought me here--the day Jux allowed me to fly.  I still longed to do it again. Just once more, before the wizards decided to kill all of us. And they would. They would have to.

As it reads this morning:

Chapter 2

It was pitch dark. I could hear the mouse still trying to find a way out. I had made it a bigger box, but it hadn’t helped. I hated the sound of its toenails on the blood-flecked wood. I just wanted to let it go, but I was afraid to.

I fed it fruit, cheese, and bread. I always brought back more than I needed from the food hall and I always left it in plain sight. Gerrard hadn't touched it. He was stick-thin and I was almost sure he wasn’t eating anything. He was the only one who hadn’t yet passed the last test, except Luke, but that hardly mattered now.

Gerrard stirred beneath his blanket. I heard his cot ropes creak, then the easy rhythm of his breathing.
He was sound asleep.

I hated him for that. I hadn’t slept through the night in a long time. And once I was awake, I felt lost in the  stone passages that wormholed the cliff. I felt the silent pressure of the still, stale air. And I couldn’t stop remembering.

The wizards had taught us that. Memory—exact, detailed memory. So I could see Luke, his face half in lamplight, half in darkness. I could count the beads of sweat on his forehead. And I could hear the sound of my own voice, soft, calm, sincere.


June 24:

Working on two things today, the third of the Resurrection of Magic trilogy and a young MG novel I am still struggling to find a voice for. Yesterday I took half a day to do a ms consult for someone I met at a conference in FL. She is a good writer and a lovely person. The missing ingredient in her story was a firm point of view in the text. I see this a lot. Here is the 10 second demo (not excerpts from current work, I am making these up) why VP is usually better:

   Narrator's voice:
         The air was hot and damp. The clouds were so thick it was eerie. It looked like the kind of rainstorm that usually meant spectacular lightning and thunder, but this time it wouldn't. Tory and James both knew they had no time to rest. They would either make it to Franklin's Bend before the storm hit or everything they were doing, everything Greg had done, would be for nothing. Faces beaded with sweat, they kept going, dropping back into a plodding jog to catch their breath, then running again. When James couldn't keep up, Tory went on, glancing only once at the unatural, darkening sky.

Same Scene, Tory's voice:
       Tory's eyes stung from the salt in her own sweat. James was slowing down. She could hear his heavy footsteps behind her, the sharp gasping of his breath. She dropped back to a jog again. She had no idea how much farther Franklin's Bend was, but it didn't matter. If James couldn't keep up, she would have to leave him behind. She had to get there in time to warn everyone to stay inside, to make them understand this wasn't  a rainstorm. If she didn't, Greg would be just one more casualty instead of a hero who had died to save everyone he loved.
       Tory refused to cry. This was the only gift she could give her brother now. She wiped her face on her sleeve and broke back into a run. She heard James shout, but she kept going . When she finally glanced up at the sky, she almost stumbled. The storm was coming in fast, straight overhead, and the clouds were black.


June 26, 2010

Another show-don't-tell example--even when you are working in an insanely massive backstory, it's better to show and imply:

Bad first version:

    Sadima missed South End sometimes. The Eridian meetings in the little apartment over Charlies' cheese shop had saved her life, her heart. For the first time since his death, she had been able to laugh, to cry--at least for a while. She knew it was only a matter of time before the women who had become her sisters realized  that she wasn't getting older. Once they did, they would know that magic had been worked upon her. She was doing everything she could to keep them from noticing, using the khol she had bought in South End and wearing drab clothes. But they would notice, evenually. She could only hope that they wouldn't blame her for it, that the friends she loved wouldn't hate her for what she could not even remember.

She got up and set about her chores...

Current, better (not final yet) version:

    Sadima put kindling into her woodstove, stirring the ashes, baring the hot coals, and opened the flue wide. Then she carried her kitchen bucket out to the well. Coming back, she heard children’s voices, high-pitched, happy, and a moment later, the sound of someone whistling, walking the path that ran past her little house. The settlement was waking up. She belonged here. Whatever she couldn’t remember mattered less than her love for this place and these people. Far less.

Back inside, the fire crackling, Sadima warmed water to wash her face. While her skin was still wet, she dabbed moistened kohl around her eyes to make grayish shadows. Looking into her little mirror, she squinted a hundred times to make natural looking lines as the khol dried, then used a light dusting of finely ground chalk to pale her rosy cheeks and lips.  As she buttoned her modest gray dress and assumed the hunched posture she wore all day, she forced herself to think about things she had pushed aside. She had debts to pay.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

Three people have emailed this week to make sure I am all right. Four or five more have written missives asking me when I will get to whatever it was I said I would do...months ago. Russet fans are asking when that story will continue. ((Soon, soon.))

My first book cover,
copyright Sergio Giovine

So...I am behind on everything. There are a pile of reasons, mostly small ones, but they have added up. So I am not all caught up with finished manuscripts and traveling this summer as I thought I would be. I am traveling, as planned, not missing appearances, but once home, I am pretty much chained to my desk trying to meet re-set deadlines. In a few months, things will be less crowded...YAY!! So I apologize if I haven't answered your email or returned your calls. I will, I will...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Mrs. Fredericksen taught 4th , 5th and 6th graders in a tiny school. She gave many of us unique, tailored, special assignments. Mine, for all three years, was to write a story a week.

Mr. Doohan crammed 36 weeks of high school grammar, composition writing, and other required studies into six weeks so we could read glorious books and poetry the rest of the year. The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits), Pride and Prejudice, The Invisible Man… I will always hear his voice in my head as he paced, shouting and whispering the courtroom scene in To Kill A Mockingbird.

They were both getting old when I was in their classrooms. I never went back to tell them how much they had shaped me. So I use their names in my novels. And during school visits, I look around for the best teachers, the ones who shine, the ones the kids obviously love, respect, listen to, trust...and I thank *them*.

** The classroom in the picture is in Abu Dhabi.  International schools, oh, yes, I will fly anywhere! Call me**

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Faeries and Unicorns

Lord Dunraven forbids people and magical creatures to have any contact at all. He is convinced that people who see dragons sail past overhead, or glimpse a unicorn in the woods, or hear faerie flutes on the light air of morning, are more likely to daydream--and less likely to work from dawn to dark.

When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I dreamed about Lord Dunraven's lands every night for a year and a half. I would close my eyes here and wake up *there*. And when I lay down to sleep in the dream, I would open my eyes *here*.  It was seamless. I had two lives.

I have written two series based on those dreams:

The Unicorn's Secret (8 titles) is getting flashy-lovely new covers to celebrate 10 wonderful years in print.
The Faeries' Promise (4 titles) is almost finished.

The first Faeries' Promise title and two Unicorn's Secret titles will release together in June 2010. The rest will follow soon.

The lovely covers and chapter excerpts are here:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The book I write, the book you read...and the real wars.

Home from San Antonio, it was a wonderful conference! Hundreds of teens were invited by their libraries, so I got to talk to a lot of kids who had read or were reading The Resurrection of Magic books. I carried books with me, as always, and extra ones for the Teen Book Drop  and placed them  here and there….

One boy (about halfway through Sacred Scars) was concerned about Sadima. He was hoping that Thomas Marsham would leave her alone and that Somiss would never find her. He sounded protective, angry, like she was his sister and he would stand between her and anyone who tried to hurt her. When he was through talking, he stared at me. "Marsham and Somiss are both still alive in Book three," I said, finally, quietly. He tightened his mouth, nodded, asked me to write faster, then walked away.

One girl hated Franklin, because he could and should have killed Somiss when they were boys, she said. We talked about it, about how hard it would really be, to be a child faced with another child who was that strange/smart/dangerous--and how Somiss and Franklin are, in their sad, distorted way, brothers.

Three girls stood in a line before me and talked to each other, arguing over whether or not Gerrard was really from South-End, or if he had made up everything he told Hahp. I am still not sure. I don't know how Gerrard knows what he knows. I told the girls that he is the most interesting character for me; he rarely talks to me, in my head, or through my fingers and the keyboard. He is silent, angry, stiff, fierce, and, I think, scared.

…..And on the last day, in the airport, I saw a young man crying. I sat near him and after a few minutes asked him if there was anything I could do to help. He looked up and said this: "Can you make this deployment go fast?"

I put out my hand and he gripped it hard for a little while. Then he sat up straighter, squared his shoulders and hauled in that long breath, the universal human sound of acceptance and determination. We talked a little. He was carrying a book. He said he liked dark fantasy. I had one copy of Skin Hunger left in my backpack, so I signed it for him. Actually, I signed it to anyone who might read it because he said people always leave their books behind when they go home, to build a library for the incoming soldiers. Being a writer has made me a better human being--one of a thousand perks.

No matter how you feel about the wars our country is engaged in:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010



On April 15th, I will be finding places in San Antonio TX to leave books for teens to find.
There are many ways to participate in the fabulous event.  The amazing READERGIRLZ explain it all here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When to stop....and where...

Last night I stopped writing in the middle of a scene. I often do, it saves me the "blank page doldrums" that can somehow take a perfectly normal-length morning and make it disappear without producing a single word. But last night I wasn't ready to stop writing. I quit because the story was dragging me in a direction that flummoxed me.

I know this happens to every writer now and then. It's happening to me more and more often. I think it means that I am finally past the point where I am thinking about craft--or anything else--while I write. It feels more like I am watching the characters, following them around.

I went back and reread it the moment I got up this morning and it now seems inevitable. Of course. Nothing else could have happened.

So: conscious effort-0
Getting myself out of the way-1

Thursday, April 08, 2010

April 8th and wondering...

Most writers have too many ideas. I certainly do. I am in the end stages of the four Faeries Promise books for younger readers. I LOVE the way they have turned out and I love the covers.  And within 3-4 months, the last of the Resurrection of Magic books will be finished.  And THEN what?

I feel like a cartoon character at a crossroads, staring at one of those old  fashioned posts bristling with little signs, angled in a dozen different directions.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


The image is from Theo Black created it as downloadable wallpaper. It is the pattern of the Eridian tattoos which were not part of the books until cover artist David Ho added them to the sketches for the cover of Skin Hunger, which made me find a place for them in the story.... Thanks, David!

Stuff happened. The whole day turned upside down. But I still wrote about 10 pages. Today, I pin the ending on it. THEN back to Limori full (or nearly full) time tomorrow. I love these Faerie books, but I am really looking forward to getting back to the trilogy. So many unaswered questions. I don't know who Gerrard is, how he knows what he knows. And I think the answer is not the obvious one.

3/14/2010 My subconscious seems to know that today should be the last day writing The Faeries Promise: The Full Moon (and I LOVE the ending now). But as I work, like, every ten minutes, I have to grab the digicorder and outline things that are coming to me about Sadima, about how something she did almost 200 years ago is pivotal to what she is doing NOW. I can't wait to be full time on A Resurrection of Magic again. Tomorrow should be the day! Thanks to everyone contacting me about the books. I can't tell you how much it helps me  write.

3/5/2010 After three tries, I think I have the ending paced out now.  The back-up-and-rewrite will be a hard slog, but worth it.

3/4 Off to a slow start today, but a start nonetheless.  Alida is caught between tradition and revolution for the faeries--and afraid of both.

3/2/2010  7:07 pm
I am nearly finished with The Faeries Promise.  ((How many times have I said this??)).  Welcome to the Land of Writing.  Nothing here goes as planned. Time is like taffy and calendars are often useless. I didn't cause the delay and can only work long hours and hope to keep up.

Mornings are going to the faeries,  I spend afternoons and evenings in the city of Limori . Sadima, Hahp and Gerrard--who remains a mystery to me--are coming closer and closer together in time. I am about to go back to them now...

Robin Wasserman has been interviewed about the inspiration/origin of her book Skinned, and more. She says very nice things about my books, too, which means a great deal to me, coming from a writer I admire.

back to work.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

writing writing writing YES I am...

I will be keeping track of my writing days again for a while. I don't have time for much else...

2 /25/ 2010  A distracted and distracting day full of good phone calls and very little writing. I did get a great idea for Free Rat midday, while digging weeds in the little jungle. Lots of stuff coming through the new website now I am findable again...and now, to write as much as I can before bed.

2/23/9:46 am   I just finished set pages on Faeries Promise #1 Silence and Stone. It looks lovely! Am close to finishing #4 The Full Moon. Can't wait to have my whole brain back on the third Resurrection of Magic Book. This morning, I reread a paragraph I type-scribbled last night in a yawningblurrstupor. It doesn't fit with *anything* but kicked open a door. Looks like the strange love story is ON. And now I must write it with a tenderness of bruised-hearts despair---because it couldn't happen any other way.

2/22 2010  6: 12 pm Went over the set pages for the first Faeries Promise book: Silence and Stone. Copyedits next, then pass pages. I REALLY like the way these books are growing up...and now,for the rest of tonight, back to Limori.

2/21/ 2010 6: 15  I am writing and writing and some of it is beginning to fit together. And, for some reason, YA/adult novel ideas are pouring out of me. I stop and type them until my fingers stop, name them and save them. Most will suck when I reread notes/listen to the voice files. But some won't. More and more often, three or four of them grow together, like trees that touch. I am learning to name and rename the files in a way that lets me see this process.  Winnowing will be the hard part.  Back to the faeries....

2/20 2010  6:35 am: Nice long talk with my agent yesterday morning...trying to lay out the projects for the coming year.  I worked all day yesterday on the Faerie book and have the first half in lovely shape (60 pg ms). After that it mushes out and spins. So today....I make ginger tea (fresh ginger, grated into the steamy water) then I haul plot...

2/19 2010
Late last night, following Somiss down an alley in South End, I found out two things: first that the criminal branch of the Marsham family tree has a vested interest in his ability to keep the city-kingdom in chaos; and second, that he has a longing I would never have expected.

2/16 2010
After 2 trips and a week of uneasy mulling, I am back to full speed ahead on The Faeries Promise: The Full Moon/. It's the last of  a four-title 2-4th grade fantasy series. It is set in the same place as The Unicorn's Secret, an 8 book series getting new covers and a relaunch this Spring after 10 years in print.  My never-ending website building experience continues.... will soon include art and excerpts of both series.
I love these books. Lord Dunraven writes a law that forbids people to have contact with magical creatures and the repercussions echo for a hundred years.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mars, Venus, you know the tune...

Collaboration is tricky...

The original execise was probably in 1997, according to Snopes. There are embelished versions online and a few are a little funnier, but this appears to be the original and it is amazing enough for me. How quickly jibing turns into hostility... (a little crude language.)


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Current Projects Update:

The Faeries Promise: Aladdin Books 2010:
Lord Dunraven's old law separates people from magical beings. The faeries are hiding, hoping the humans will join them to defeat Dunraven’s guards.

A Resurrection of Magic #3 (still untitled) : Atheneum Books: 2011
Sadima and Hahp are trying to survive what they have caused. It seems impossible that either one can live, never mind both. But maybe. If they can get help.

Read now, online: Russet
Russet is running from his father, from the man with one wing, from his own crazy past:

Up Next:

A Virgin’s Blood
A desperate girl lives in a slum, a favella that is growing daily as refugees pour in. She won't tell me her name, but I know she is planning on selling her blood.  I have met the old man who will drink it, and I have seen his stone house, near the river. There are rooms without windows.

Free Rat
Small is in the dome in the desert. The world is falling apart beyond the white walls. He has almost figured out how to escape. Almost.

B. hates the name her parents came up with: Berendina Pumpernickle. She is in the grocery store with her mother, hoping no one from school sees her, that her mother doesn’t do something silly, and that no one ever finds out how weird her family really is...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Miami: writers, alligators, sky mirrors

This is the Everglades. A tiny little portion of them, I mean. I was in Miami for a writers' conference and was treated to an airboat ride. Somehow I never knew the Everglades is a river. There is a steady, slow, slow current. So many interesting residents there. Birds, turtles, and the alligators (the guide said) have survived two ice ages. They have brains the size of a peanut. So really, what is my excuse? This big glop of stuff between my own ears and just a puny little economic recession to make it through?

I will be back in FL in June, then again in October for The Miami Bookfair.

. click the photo to enlarge it...there are clouds in the water and an egret in the grass. I think it's a grackle, flying away, away, away....