{a tiny PR note}

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I’m told the candy does NOT, in fact, taste like peas or carrots. Bummer.

People expecting copies of PEAS AND CARROTS, those are going out this week. People who want a chance to win a copy, along with a lunch bag and a little magnet — please stay tuned to the February 9 release date —

February is not just when the groundhog emerges (albeit with a LOT of help from people pulling it) from its hole to find its shadow – it’s apparently the month when introverts Make An Effort (also with a LOT of help from people… pulling). I’ll be booktalking, and being visible this February here and there – first, I’m presenting a webinar February 2nd for The National WWII Museum on Mare’s War as part of their WWII emphasis this year. Teachers and families who do homeschooling, you’ll want to jump on this! The week following, I’ll be on the blog STACKED and then the tumblr Size Acceptance in YA; at BN Teen Blog’s Open Mic project sometime next month, and on John Scalzi’s WHATEVER blog’s Big Idea project on February 9th, which is the same day that PEAS AND CARROTS has its book birthday.

I’m grateful to everyone who asked me to show up and hang out next month, and given me the opportunity to talk about what I do and how I do it.

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{the opposite of indifferent}

The antonyms of indifference, Merriam-Webster reminds us, are attentiveness, curiosity, warmheartedness and sensitivity. I agree, and Tabatha Yeats, a writer who blogs at The Opposite of Indifference has those qualities in spades. Dismayed at our after-Christmas distress, she sent along the perfect joyful little distractions… games!

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Please note the blue and copper glitter nail polish= also a fun distraction

Love Letters is kind of a narrative game of risk that seeks, in a most unloverlike fashion, to knock all the other lovers out of the game. It’s kind of amusing when really cut-throat people play it; Tech Boy and I are still kind of fumbling their way through and the first round, anyway, were somewhat gentle with each other. (That didn’t last.) But Red7 is …catnip for the competitive, a game in which one has to change the rules to win. On the surface, it’s very simple… you’re simply organizing suits, in a way. But, you’re also playing seven games at a time. We were a little amused and a little relieved to see that there are Youtube tutorials – at least three – on how to play.

If the first ten days of January predict how the year will go, I’m going to be well amused (and also well drookit, as the Scots say. This rain is kind of amazing)! Thank-you, Tabatha, very much.

{cover & swag}

Have I shown you this cover yet?

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[CLICK TO LET IT EAT YOUR SCREEN]

Is it not stunning? So ORANGE it is. SO orange. I immediately want one of those Outshine Tangerine Carrot ice lollys, as the Scots call them. I want to roll around in that sizzling hue. I love, love, love the vibrant colors. *happy sigh*

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This final cover is the result of a lengthy negotiation between my understanding of the book’s characters, and the designers’ understanding of the job before them. I’ve been asked not to share design “dud” rejected for the official cover – and really, it wasn’t a dud, per se, it just wasn’t right for this book – but the original concept introduced to me was a broad lawn on which two girls lay – separated by a lot of space. Unfortunately, they were separated from the reader as well – we looked down on them from far, far away, and to me, they looked tired, or hung over, or …something passive. This was brought back to me cropped in various ways, lightened, darkened — but it was variations on a theme, and for me, it didn’t work no matter how we angled our gaze. For one thing, there was a glut of books a few years ago that looked like lawn-care manuals with all of that grass. For another, a quick check through internet images will net romantic YA novels like STEALING PARKER by Miranda Kennally and the paperback of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by that one guy — both with people lying on lawns. And there are more. MANY more. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong a lawn, one of the characters in the novel is not a product of suburbia, and would probably never be found just lying down on nature — not public nature, anyway. You don’t know where that’s been. We take so much for granted, culturally, and we can be quite tone-deaf sometimes about projecting our perceptions. So, it was a “no” from me, over and over.

It is hard enough differentiating a book from the herd; it’s easier when your book doesn’t look like another book that just came out. Hopefully I didn’t frustrate too many people as I quietly lobbied for a whole new design. And asked my agent to help me lobby for a new design – and we got one! And it just pops with that brilliant color.

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The designs you see accompanying this book are MY design duds. Now, I don’t always do as much public PR stuff as I *cough* should with regard to books (still vainly hoping that merely writing them is enough) but as soon as I knew I’d have a book out in February (a discovery brought home to me by the ARCs arriving two months ago – previously I understood there was an Autumn release date, not early-early Spring) I started checking into costs and considerations on creating swag for giveaways.

Aside: There is a wildly misunderstood notions by those outside the industry and some authors who are independently published or published through a small press, that only THEY have to worry with doing their own PR. Haha, no, I am published by one of the BIGGEST of the “Big Six” (which is now Big 5, since two morphed into one RandomPenguin) and this is still something I need to do, and it is my money that goes into it. (While we’re on the topic, did you read that the Author’s Guild reported most writers earn below the poverty line? Unless your name is Joanne and you wrote about wizards whilst living in Scotland, you’re usually not rich. Thanks to Tech Boy, I worry a bit less about this, but…) It’s a choice we all make, how much of our advance we plow back into PR stuff, how helpful and fun it is for readers, etc. Wise writers have advised it’s a better use of time/funds than social media.

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A rummage through Google brought a few helpful ideas to the fore, beginning with Sherri D. Ficklin’s tips on price and practicality, on through the magical Joyce Wan, and into the wilds of Etsy, a dangerous place to go with your wallet. I found quite a bit of fodder for swag, but the most helpful thing has been the niecelet currently living here rent-free being a newly minted graphic designer with an MFA in Advertising and Art Direction from Academy of Art University. I advise EVERYONE to find one of these if they can, trés helpful. (Oh, don’t look like that. I’m not using her, I’m a client. And, I’m going to pay her. Eventually.) We did a lot of brainstorming through the summer on what we could come up with, and… I said “No” to her a number of times, and felt increasingly embarrassed about it. However, as she reminded me repeatedly, at the end of the day, nobody is going to love my book project more than me, so I sat down and did some actual designing myself. Niecelet made it look like it wasn’t done by chimpanzees using broken crayons on a laptop screen, and the upshot is that bags and magnets containing my design should be arriving next month.

I feel professional! And excited! And a little horrified by how expensive it is to get things printed on bags! Never mind, though – it’s a great way to connect with librarians and bookstore owners, and some lucky person in a few months will get a finished copy of the book with a bag or a magnet or — heck, maybe both. Stay tuned, ALL SHALL BE REVEALED…

{some “broad” hints…}

When you get SCREEN CAPS from friends (broads?) to let you know a.) that they’re talking about you online, b.) that they’re talking about you online in a forum to which you have no access c.) that they’re talking about you online in a forum to which you have no access and want to make sure that you know they can say whatever obnoxious thing about you that they want because you’re not there to defend yourself, you know it’s probably past time to join Twitter.

If your agent/editor/book designer gives you exasperated side-eye because you won’t reconsider Facebook… yes, you, too can be shamed into joining Twitter — even if your agent/editor/book designer doesn’t tweet, you can hope they acknowledge that Twitter’s “better than nothing.” Nothing, which you, like I, was perfectly happy doing…

And so resumes the uneasy marriage: introvert and social media.

For however long the ride, it should at least be entertaining. 😈

{goodbye to the wit and wisdom of sir terry}

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Oh, Mr. Pratchett. You were a diamond, too.


And now comes the time for the wearing of the lilac…

It’s a bit of irony that I think would amuse Terry Pratchett: after all of his advocacy for assisted suicide and the right to die, he passed away in his sleep.

He wrestled Alzheimer’s to the ground – and won.

Happy are those who live life on their own terms, all the way to the last day.

Godspeed, Sir Terry, and thanks for all the books, and all the worlds you shared; flat ones atop elephants and a ginormous, improbable turtle, deep ones, in the nap of the carpet, crumbly ones, well dug into dirt, high ones in Dunmanifestin or the Ramtops, and little ones inside our hearts, patrolled by verbose frogs, illogical blue men and irascible – and far more importantly, incorruptible watchmen. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? You. Always. And you showed us how to watch ourselves.

Boy, were you loved, and will be missed and mourned so very much.

{dear mr. handler}

November 20, 2014

Dear Mr. Handler:

I remember the last two National Book Award books I’ve read – the Gene Yang and the Sherman Alexie books both blew me away, so I know BROWN GIRL DREAMING must be STUPENDOUS. So soon after Ms. Woodson’s words during the We Need Diverse Books debacle, this award is a real triumph. I am SO pleased for Jacqueline Woodson! These are my thoughts today, while you’re beating yourself up at home, probably wishing to God that you had never seen a green-and-white striped melon, much less told an allergy joke, expressed lighthearted dismay about not being eligible for the CSK Award, or made light of racial profiling. Today you are possibly feeling a little like the Paula Deen of the kidlitosphere.

Dear Mr. Handler, thank you for acknowledging that you spoke with your mouth full of privilege, and with your eyes blinded by it. Thank you for understanding the extent to which you had erred, and thank you for your apology. I am writing to remind you that the best apologies on earth are non erbis sed operis; not words, but deeds. You made a solid and humble apology – acknowledging what you did, not blaming anyone else or excusing yourself. But, the very best apologies make restitution. Here’s what I’d like to suggest:

First, buy Ms. Woodson a case of high-end champagne or whatever non-alcoholic fancy bottled drink of her choosing. Raise a silent glass to her well-deserved award for sharing such a personal and touching story, and applaud again the National Book Foundation’s good taste in awarding her this honor.

Next, buy half a print run of BROWN GIRL DREAMING. Take it in your mittened hands, and walk it around frigid New York. Press it into the warm palms of school children in large suburban schools. Press it into the hands of middle-aged shoppers at the Mall. Press it into the hands of elderly people coming out of church. Fly to a different state. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Finally, in silence, allow the furor to die. Don’t speak. Let your acknowledgement of your error be your last words to the Outrage Machine that is Twitter on this subject. By your silence, you can assist in directing the attention back to Jacqueline Woodson where it rightfully belongs. The social media world is a vicious critic, quick to indict, quick to a blood frenzy – and you may feel this sting for awhile, but lifting up someone else has always been the best way to mitigate the effects of negativity. Using your influence, your money and your time to boost this talented and lovely author is honestly the least – and the best – you can do.

And, know that this too shall pass.

Still a fan,

-tsd

EDITED TO ADD

As a postscript, I want to respond to the idea of “permission racism:”

I’d previously suggested that Mr. Handler put his head down, close his mouth up, and Do Better. Doing Better may eventually mean an explanation — but how about at a We Need Diverse Books event, and not on Twitter? Perhaps at a public event, in person, he can say why he thought his remarks were funny/edgy, and why he now knows that he’s wrong and what he’s going to do with his newfound understanding. That would be a powerful step in further opening the door on dialogue about race in publishing.

His fund matching to me isn’t giving him permission to be racist after the fact. A part of a good apology is to own what you did, and the final piece is to take steps to make restitution. He can’t restore the whole night – we don’t time travel yet, and he’s not hardly a god – but I think he’s doing so much more than many others would in his position. Which is maybe faint praise, but it’s what I’ve got. For me, this is about US as kidlitosphere people. I don’t want us to be vicious. I don’t want Daniel Handler to be the Paula Deen of the kidlitosphere… I really don’t. And I think we shouldn’t let the Outrage Machine of Twitter goad us into asking him to do unrealistic, ridiculous mea culpas through his whole life, and still act like there is NO forgiveness for him, at any point, at any date, EVER, because Racist! and Let’s Get Him! Here is a truth: EVERYONE has perceptions and biases and comprehensions that are less than ideal. I don’t at all like the concept that “everyone’s a little bit racist,” but I certainly will concede that everyone speaks poorly from privilege at times, from bias, from mistaken attempts at humor and relating that fall painfully flat, or edge toward disrespectful and stupid. We need to be as gracious to him as we would want others to be to ourselves. Seriously.

{and when I have so much to do, of course I have the attention span of a flea in a kennel}

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So many choices of what to freak out about first! So little time!

♦ I would like the toilets in my house to stop backing up. Just… stop. There’s no reason for it, despite the 1948 sewer and pipes. We’ve poured gallons of stuff down it, we’ve gotten it professionally roto-ed, so it needs to just STOP. Surely tree roots couldn’t have grown back again in a year (she says, ignoring how trees grow). I blame the ivy, which we tried to dig out of the garden last year, and it’s coming back and taking us all over. Anyway, the toilets need to just stop mucking about and clear up. We have guests coming for Thanksgiving who aren’t related to us, and so of COURSE the stupid system chooses NOW to back up and make me crazy. *claws the rug* Hiss.

♦ I would like bad news or scary news or worrisome news to take a chill. This past week, one family member had news of maybe cancer, another of maybe organ failure, a third an unknown diagnosis, which should make being thankful around the table – with unrelated guests, mind – especially uncomplicated. This is not to mention a chronically ill friend who is going to try to drop over for thirty minutes – her recent leaving-the-house limit. Good grief. Sometimes… clawing and hissing don’t seem to be enough. I think I need a caterwaul.

♦ I would like to have been smarter than to say “Yeah, sure,” to the myriad things I have, which all seem to have come home to roost within five minutes of each other. Of course this is the year that I get dragged into organizing all the holiday programs for church. So, the weekend before Thanksgiving is a Thing, and the weekend after is rehearsing for Handel (and then off to sing w/ the SF Symphony Chorus Community of Music Makers the following day… because fun, right? Hours of rehearsal was something which I signed up for and thought this will be AMAZING with the chorus and all, but which now seems stressful and time consuming. Which is horrible. I mean, we’re singing the second and third movements of Brahms’ Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen? [it’s based on the Writings of Job] and How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place and traditional Finnish carols [in English], so what’s not to like? But right this second, it all seems like too much effort. I’m disappointed in myself), and then A Thing the weekend following, and then the Handel’s, and then… Cybils judging. Yeah. I am accepting ZERO social invitations in December, just fair warning to anyone. I really feel like I’m unable to focus enough to do anything amazing with this revision, and time… so not my friend right now. *fur explodes all over* Hiss.

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♦ I would like to not be thinking of all of this when I am supposed to be diligently working on my revisions, for which I have forty days (and this is counting weekends, because eventually I may have to work then) left. JUST OVER A MONTH TO COPYEDITING, PEOPLE. Crapweasels. I am feeling just the tiniest bit… fraught. *madly sharpens claws*

WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN AS I’D LIKE?

Nothing, of course. What, you thought we had some control over the universe???? HAH. Like a cat tossed from a window, I just have to twist in the wind like everyone else – and pray I land on my feet.


Meanwhile, Cool Things Seen Today:

Oh, sweet tablet, it’s Glasgow. How I miss you, crazy, filthy city.

The People of the Book, yo. The best Bat Mitzvah evah.

Superheroes totally make more sense in 17th century times. No, they do.

Now my writing group is getting iconic votives… Best. Idea. Ever.

Children’s Book Week posters from 1919… for sale!!!! In various forms.

Finally, three words, word nerds: Worldwide. Free. Shipping.

{well, it’s all fun and games ’til somebody gets their editorial notes dropped off}

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It was a long and glorious summer.

Well, goodbye all, it’s been fun… but I’ve got to stop gadflying about and finish this thing called Novel.

Drat, I was so hoping I could finish my current Wreck In Progress before putting it on the back burner for the revising. I’ve been expecting this since September, so it’s been a nice long – unexpectedly long, thank-you, early arriving Editor’s Baby – break from the P&C manuscript, and I’m hopeful that this means I can approach it anew with fresh eyes.

Right now, all I’m feeling is OVERWHELMED eyes. The notes are so polite, and they’re only five pages long, but – oy. Is it really a snarled skein of crap like it sounds? Ugh. Why wasn’t I born good at subtle nuance in detail? Why do my characters suffer from persistent – and apparently unbelievable – innocence? How do I keep creating frustrating fake outs and muddled conclusions? And, why is writing such a BIG. HARD. STRUGGLE EVERY. SINGLE. TIME?

*sigh*

Seems like you and I have had this conversation before.

Welp, it seems I’ve inadvertently entered NaNoFiMo. I’m only eight days late. Yay, me.

Once more into the breach, dear friends,

See you in January.

{when i am crazed, i remember agatha}

WHY must I have Existential Crises at 10:45 on Sunday nights? We even had a long weekend this weekend, I had plenty of time to come unglued about the glacial speed at which my current revision is going — but no. When we needed to be safely asleep and storing up hours of rest against a busy week, I start fidgeting and sighing, and poor Tech Boy says, “So… should I just leave the light on?”

“No… it’s fine, we can go to bed. It’s just that…” Aaaand, we’re off.

My Tech Boy is no stranger to my cray-cray, but rather than rolling his eyes or tuning me out in favor of his book – which, not gonna lie, I might do to me – he actually listens to the words behind the hysteria. He listens until I wind down, and then says a few knowledgeable things which spark something. Somehow, within minutes, I am back on track after spewing invective and doubt all over the room. I grab my bedside pad of paper and pencil, and start scribbling notes. I nod. We discuss. And, finally, much later, I sleep, at last able to actually relax.

Much to my dismay, yes. There’s a moment like this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

But, then, this is par for the course:

“There is always, of course, that terrible three weeks, or a month, which you have to get through when you are trying to get started on a book. There is no agony like it. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling like you want to cry your head off. Then you go out and interrupt someone who is busy – Max usually, because he is so good-natured – and you say:

“‘It’s awful, Max, do you know, I have quite forgotten how to write – I simply can’t do it any more! I shall never write another book.’”

“‘Oh yes you will,’” Max would say consolingly. He used to say it with some anxiety at first: now his eyes stray back again to his work while he talks soothingly.

“‘But I know I won’t. I can’t think of an idea. I had an idea, but now it seems no good.’”

“‘You’ll just have to get through this phase. You’ve had all this before. You said it last year. You said it the year before.’”

“‘It’s different this time,’” I say, with positive assurance.

“But it wasn’t different, of course, it was just the same. You forget every time what you felt before when it comes again: such misery and despair, such inability to do anything that seems the least creative. And yet it seems that this particular phase of misery has got to be lived through. It is rather like putting the ferrets in to bring out what you want at the end of the rabbit burrow. Until there has been a lot of subterranean disturbance, until you have spent long hours of utter boredom, you can never feel normal. You can’t think of what you want to write, and if you pick up a book you find you are not reading it properly. If you try to do a crossword your mind isn’t on the clues; you are possessed by a feeling of paralyzed hopelessness.

“Then, for some unknown reason, an inner ‘starter’ gets you off at the post. You begin to function, you know then that ‘it’ is coming, the mist is clearing up. You know suddenly, with absolute certitude, just what A wants to say to B. You can walk out of the house, down the road, talking to yourself violently, repeating the conversation that Maud, say, is going to have with Aylwin, and exactly where they will be, just where the other man will be watching through the trees, and how the little dead pheasant on the ground makes Maud think of something she had forgotten, and so on and so on. And you come home bursting with pleasure; you haven’t done anything at all yet, but you are – triumphantly – there.”

An Autobiography: Agatha Christie, pp. 571-572)

To think that the woman who crafted Marple and Poirot writhed on the point of her pen makes me smile. That she nagged her husband with her crazy makes me laugh. Some of us have to make several false starts to begin our writing; others of us struggle with slump-y middles, and still others of us are in agonies at the end. All of us are, at some point, an absolute joy to live with. I can never say enough good things about my Tech Boy – when I am pulling out hair and clinging to the side of cliffs, he just starts talking me down.

I think I’ll keep him.