Beginnings

They happen all the time.

They happen all the time.

The bookstore is closed. This start is from the philodendron that used to be in the children’s section. The original is in my office, but I couldn’t let this tiny cutting get away.

I also have Shirley the penguin, the rubber plant that was in the children’s section as well, Clara the vulture, plenty of books, and over a decade of wonderful memories from the store. And yes, it’s closed, but my writing partner will have more time to, well, write.

Plenty of beginnings are built on scorched earth. I’m hoping this one takes root.

Release Day: KIN!

kin

It’s release day for Kin, the final fairytale retelling in my Beauty & Madness series!

Full moon. Glowing eyes. Red lips. And such sharp, sharp teeth…

In the kin world, girls Ruby de Varre’s age are expected to play nice, get betrothed, and start a family—especially if they’re rootkin, and the fate of the clan is riding on them. But after a childhood of running wild in the woods, it’s hard to turn completely around and be demure. Even if your Gran is expecting it.

Then Conrad, handsome and charming, from a clan across the Waste, comes to New Haven to seal alliance between their two families. The sparks fly immediately. Conrad is smart, dominant, and downright gorgeous. Yet as Ruby gets to know him more, she starts to realize something’s…off.

Then, the murders start. A killer stalks the city streets, and just when Ruby starts to suspect the unimaginable, she becomes the next target. Now Ruby’s about to find out that Conrad’s secrets go deeper than she ever could have guessed—and it’s up to Ruby to save her Gran, her clan, and maybe even herself….

Ruby’s story was so, so difficult to write. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the girls. All three hold a component of the young woman I was, perhaps, and it’s difficult to let that go. Not to mention these books, like the original fairy tales, cover some very dark territory indeed. I leave it to the reader to decide if they serve.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Ruby owes a great deal to Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland, a book that told me I wasn’t the only one long, long ago. Ruby also serves as a reminder to me that even the people who seem the most “together” have secrets, flaws, and fears all their own.

Above all, Ruby (and Cami and Ellie) belong to the world at this point. I’m so glad their interconnected tales can all be seen at once, now. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the rest of release day in my usual state of nerves and adrenaline, with a heavy soupçon of hiding in the corner…

Real Commitment

swac Issue 21 of Fireside is out, which means more Geoff and Abby! True to form, Abby’s decided the most efficient way to get what she wants, and in this case, that means getting into a bar-brawl.

Do I even need to say how much I really like this character? Once she makes up her mind, she is ALL IN, no matter the craziness. I respect that, both in characters and in meatspace. It shows real commitment.

kin Also, tomorrow is the release day for KIN, my retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Preorders and first-week book orders are important, so I’m going to be hitting the marketing gong for a little bit.

This is the last YA book I’ll be releasing for a good long while, possibly ever. Publishing in YA for Strange Angels was a wonderful experience, but there was a certain friction between the publisher, I think, wanting something a little more “marketable” and me in my corner, just not that sort of writer. The issues became somewhat acute during the fairytale retellings. I do not write by committee and will resist, in any way possible, any suggestion meant to take the blood and guts out of a story because “kids can’t handle that!” I refuse to “talk down” to younger readers, and while I think the fan response justifies that, it’s nerve-wracking for a publisher. I perhaps wasn’t as graceful as I could be during the whole process, either. During Wayfarer, the Cinderella retelling, I was buying a house, and we all remember how stressful THAT was.

So, yeah. The constraints of YA, and the energy spent fighting against dilution and bullshit in that genre, mean I’m tapped out and won’t return there for a good long while.

All that aside, I love the fairytale retellings with a fierce, fierce love. I fought for them, and the covers are wonderful, and I think in each of them I ended up saying what I set out to say. I think that comes through in them. I hope readers agree.

Hazelnuts

hazelnuts

The Princess did homemade Nutella for a friend’s birthday–a true labour of love that involved blanching and peeling, then roasting, the little bastards. Hazelnut skins dye things a very strong red, as we found out. The towel she’s using still bears the marks, and there was a ring inside the pan used to blanch them that defied all sorts of scrubbing. The ring has since faded, but the towel is still streaked with red, and we affectionately call it the “hazelnut towel.”

She may make more Nutella for my own birthday. Because she’s amazing. My girl.

On “Ulysses”

dream landscape 2 I finished Ulysses. My goodness, that was a slog. The allusions are fun, though characterization and coherence suffer roundly, and while I understand it’s supposed to be one of the first and most important “modernist” novels I’m rather convinced it was luck that chose it for that laurel rather than some other pile of authorial navel-gazing coming to Sylvia Beach‘s attention. I also rather think Stephen Dedalus was Joyce as he wanted to be, Leopold Bloom more like the hapless fetishizer of bottoms Joyce actually was. Circe’s island as a brothel, the Sirens as masturbatory fantasies, well, it was a man writing it, and it’s rather uncomfortably in the spirit of the original’s social conditions. Making Penelope into a cuckolding Molly only serves to highlight the fact that Joyce didn’t know shite about women, and is the biggest blackening of the Odyssey‘s eye–and the one, really, that I did not forgive Joyce for. His overheated (and inaccurate) fantasies about what a woman might think made me roll my eyes so hard it was difficult to keep reading.

I agree with Jung that there’s no rest in the book. The presentation of bodily functions in its pages (part and parcel of the “obscenity” trial) is schoolboy-ish, rather like a kid writing “bottom” in a margin or snort-giggling over Lake Titicaca. (Had Beach been enamored of another author, I might well be discussing that instead of Joyce. He was well-connected, at least.) I suppose that was only to be expected, and that schoolboy-ish or not it was daring for its time and opened a door somewhat–so that’s one point in Joyce’s favor.

I understood the allusions and the games with prose and rhetoric Joyce was playing, but it felt like he was simply dipping a surface reading of the Odyssey into used bathwater without adding anything new, interesting, or worthwhile, while taking away a great deal of power and beauty. Also missing is the idea that choices the truly disenfranchised (women, slaves, etc.) make can affect the outcome of great events as well, which the original had in spades. I’d almost prefer O Brother, Where Art Thou? as a finer homage. The Coen brothers had the benefit of looser social conditions, but still.

My views are admittedly somewhat colored by my feelings about the Kerouac Factor–young males sponging off women and kin, going off in search of “adventure,” finally producing a pile of self-referential bullshit that seems marvelous when one is twelve to fourteen but ages badly and turns puerile once one has acquired some basic perspective by sheer dint of living and thinking about things. (Or, one who wanders unprepared into the damn wilderness because living on the fringes has given a false sense of superiority and an inaccurate estimation of one’s own survival skills.) You could also call this the Salinger Factor. It’s gotten to the point where I see a young guy buying On the Road or Catcher in the Rye and I think, oh, we’re going to stick that in a back pocket and use it to draw in girls who haven’t lived long enough to know better, aren’t we. As a “classic” that a lot of slightly older males use to seem well-read and Serious About Literature, Ulysses falls somewhat under the same shade.

My final estimation of the book: not one I ever think I’m going to reread, though I’m glad I made it through. The allusions were fun, and playing the “oh, this is the prose style we’re in now” game was enjoyable, at least. I still would prefer to read Nora’s letters. I’d rate it a solid B-, for the classicism and the glimpses of historical Dublin, and for the occasional flashes of brilliance struggling through in Joyce’s sendup of penny awkward (instead of dreadful) novels. I kept reading, hoping for more of those flashes, but in the end, they remained fleeting.

Next up: some history to cleanse the palate. Already it’s proving far more enjoyable.

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Who’s Watching Over Boo Radley?

Mockingbird This morning: my 9th fastest tempo run, according to Runkeeper. Performed in the rain, of course, since I waited to see if the soggy was just a squall I could wait out and finally decided fuck it, let’s go. Now that I’m finally dry and settled with some tea, the rain’s stopped. Miss B doesn’t care–she’s wash and wear, having an amazing Aussie coat that shrugs off dirt and water with astonishing ease. She is currently a little damp and just a tad fluffy, and supremely happy with the world since she had bacon grease with brekkie and a run with Mum.

The news broke this morning about a “new” Harper Lee novel. At first my response was “RING ALL THE BELLS, HOLY HELL, THIS SOUNDS GREAT! PREORDER IT NOW NOW NOW!”

And then…I started thinking, and I arrived very much where this Jezebel writer did.

“The existence of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift,” said HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham in a statement.

But was the gift willingly given?

“After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication,” Lee said in a statement of her own. “I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

That might seem like confirmation of Lee’s willing involvement in Go Set a Watchman’s publication, except for the fact that we know about Lee’s messy relationship with her attorney (who, again, often gets her to sign things that she doesn’t understand) and Lee’s own publicity-shy character. (Jezebel)

What emerges after a little digging (try this Vulture piece first, then go see what else you can find) is a situation that sounds incredibly sketchy. Harper Lee lost her sister, the lawyer Alice Lee, who Harper called her “Atticus in a skirt,” and since then, things have gotten shadier and shadier, culminating in this “mystery” find of a Mockingbird prequel and its sale.

Now I’m torn over whether or not I want to buy it. On the one hand, To Kill A Mockingbird is transcendent, and I’d gladly read other things Ms Lee wrote–if I was sure she wanted them read. On the other hand, an almost-century-old woman is in assisted living, signing papers or statements she may or may not understand, may or may not be pressured to sign, and the things she valued all her life–her privacy and her decision to let the one book stand alone–are being broken. I dread the thought of a frail Lee being milked as a cash cow, I loathe the thought of being part of such a milking. It doesn’t seem ethical.

I haven’t decided yet; it bears some more thinking. But I have to say, right now I’m leaning towards the idea that it would be an insult to Lee to participate in this frenzy.

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