because I got high…

First, drop absolutely everything you may be doing, and listen to this.

I mean it.

Really.

Back? Yeah, sorry, I should have warned you that it might induce stomach cramps due to uncontrollable laughing. “Now I’m jerking off and I know why…” Whew, I’m wiping tears from my eyes.

Speaking of dissolution, I should mention that I have become so addicted to that website (online karaoke called Singsnap) that I think I might have to quit cold turkey. There is something sadly seductive about karaoke, let me tell you. I actually hauled my laptop into the bathroom this morning just so I could get some manual reverb on my microphone. Yes, I’m that sad.

But I’ll have a new round of reviews up soon, since I’ve also been reading. It’s the writing that’s taken a bit of a hit for the last week, but I’m gonna have to get back on that saddle immediately (finally got a due date for Book 2 of Spirit Binders). Way too much to do, as usual. I almost like deadlines, because they give me a last minute to project myself against. Otherwise it’d be nothing but singing joints and eating…chocolate snickerdoodles.

In case you were wondering where I’ve been.

if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow

So, The Tour is over. I had a lovely, if exhausting, time.

A shout-out to my homies in LA, who are all totally black (or Jewish) enough, even if they sound like pasty-ass white guys and, whatever, I wouldn’t exactly call them people, anyway. (Boondocks is amazing. For some reference, watch the episode with Stinkmeaner.)

I had the fun experience of waking up to the sound of three police officers taking someone down outside the window of my hotel room. “Get on the ground!” they shouted while pointing guns. “Uh…but I am on the ground,” I muttered as I dragged myself out of sleep.

LA is a nice place to visit, but I’ll never understand a city that doesn’t even pretend to have decent public transportation and yet also claims to be cool.

On to San Francisco, which I approached by overnight bus, much to my eternal chagrin. Yet, I say, is it MY fault that our lovely Amtrak is so dysfunctional as to have NOT CONNECTED the TWO MAJOR CITIES on the coast of California by train? Why should I add more CO2 to th atmosphere by taking a fossil-guzzling plane? But next time I think the environment might just have to suffer, because I have never had less leg room in my life, and I include several domestic flights within West Africa.

But once I actually arrived I had a lovely time, visiting with a good friend in Palo Alto, who in fact had just discovered that she has been accepted to academic servitude at UCLA (a.k.a. grad school). We celebrated by going to some docks and buying ludicrously delicious cheese and real SF sourdough, and then bringing the bounty to a wine bar, where we split a bottle of pink champagne. Joy! Drunkenness! Memorable moment: the two of us attempting to totter back to the commuter train in time, I decide to go sprinting down the median strip in the hopes of catching up to the fast-departing MUNI train, as though my desperate desire really could fold the fabric of space-time, I suddenly hear my friend’s voice shouting my name, but I don’t see her anywhere– hey, is that a car pulling up beside me, like I’m a second away from the bad guy capturing me in a thriller? “Get inside!” she shouts, improbably, from the back seat of a taxi. “Hey, how’d you get that?” I ask, getting inside. The cab driver seems disappointed that I am not, in fact, Ethiopian. In consolation, I tell him that I do love injera.

The reading in Berkeley was nice–though not quite a reading, and the bookstore was like crack to a recovering addict. My god, all those books! I need to go back when I’m not toting all my luggage on my back like a turtle. Dark Carnival is a gem.

Then a plane to Seattle, because of course I discover a mere week before I’m scheduled to leave New York that there has been some kind of natural calamity westerners call mudslides that has apparently rendered EVERY Amtrak train impassible until mid-March. Not helpful, I tell you. So a plane, mercifully uneventful, and I’m picked up by my other really good friend (seriously, in high school I had four of them, and one was my sister), who has moved to a swank, HUGE new apartment in Capitol Hill and we proceed to eat ridiculous amounts of good food and swill coffee. Bill loves coffee. I love coffee. We stayed up very late. I had a lovely time. I actually did read this time, and the word on the street is that I was rushing at the beginning but hit my groove a few pages into the chapter.

More food and coffee and food (holy crap, the best crepes I’ve ever had in my life, I’m really not kidding. It’s a restaurant with precisely one employee, who takes the orders, makes the crepes, serves the food and gives the change. I’d go back to Seattle just for that). Yeah, Seattle is a great city. I’m still not sure that it beats out Vancouver for my wholly undesirable trophy of best West Coast city, but it’s close.

Then this afternoon I take the super-secret Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland. Admittedly, it is dark and rainy and I don’t have the slightest clue where I’m going, but Portland is…weird. I ate dinner in an old church that was converted to a brewery and had the singular experience of eating gnocchi (after the waiter stared at me like I’d asked for escargots when I ordered it) while listening to some hard-up musical conservatory student play The Band and Led Zepelin on a church organ. Everyone clapped. The reading was great, though–very nice conversation, and someone who’d bought my book on Amazon after reading the first few pages.

Then the pensioners/drunks/high schoolers bus, where I nearly missed my stop, and nothing I saw from the window did much to improve my impression of the city. HOWEVER, I am now typing this blog post from the free wifi available in the airport, so I guess I can’t complain.

They’re boarding my plane now, so I guess I’ve got to go. Thanks so much to everyone who made my trip so great. Time to go home.

OLPC = One Laptop Per…toddler?

So, at precisely 2:45 this afternoon, the FedEx man pulled in front of my apartment building and delivered the package that I’d been awaiting with about as much patience as a kid getting a Wii for Christmas. My very own OLPC XO laptop! It should have arrived five days before (a series of holiday screw-ups at the FedEx location in the Bronx) and so I practically pounced on the deliveryman as soon as he walked through the door. I dropped to the floor, tore open the tape and packaging and dumped the grail to the floor.

olpc-full-view.jpg

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My, I thought, that looks…small.

Right around now, all of the members of my writers group will be crowing “I told you so!” Okay, I knew what the “C” in OLPC stood for. But I had read that the keyboard would be only 20% smaller than a normal-sized keyboard. My hands are tiny, I thought, no problem. And look at all the countervailing awesome: a spinning monitor that can fold back into a tablet for reading ebooks, 17-hour battery life, a screen that goes black-and-white for easy reading in daylight, water and damage resistant casing…I mean, it seemed like the perfect travel laptop!

olpc-tablet.jpg

And all of that stuff is still great, only I have one problem: I needed a travel laptop to write. And by write, I mean type on a keyboard upon which I don’t have to squish my fingers together and practically roll them back and forth to reach adjacent keys. Holy crap that keyboard is small! It must be half the size of a normal one. When they said this was designed for children in third-world countries, I assumed that they wanted almost all children to be able to use it. But plenty of eight and nine year olds will have hands too big for this thing. And I just feel sorry for the tweens. (Pictures below comparing it to a regular keyboard)

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I guess I could get one of those folding portable keyboards and connect it with a USB. But that seems to sort of defeat the purpose of a lean, mean travel-typing machine. Should I sell it on ebay? Learn to type small? Endure the friendly cackles of my writer’s group?

Well, I think I gotta do the last one no matter what 🙂

all things go, all things go

Back from Chicago. Great city (what little I saw of it, anyway). I went to a bar and my awesome friend Mariel treated me! (Very adult-like, I swear, though it’s a little weird when a 21-year-old college senior thinks she should treat you for drinks). Met a fanfic-friend AND a spec fic friend. Bill Shunn apparently did the public transportation equivalent of hiking the Himalayas to see me read, and for that I can only be grateful. I need to buy him a drink the next time he comes back to civilization (a.k.a. NYC).

All of which means…

Chicago has 32 points! I had about 31 people at my reading, which is cool beans in my book of small fries.

(btw: omigod, my picture is actually in an issue of a glossy magazine. Please ignore the girl having a tizzy.)

ETA: Forgot to mention that you should all go and check out K. Tempest Bradford’s very well done interview with me and Carole McDonnell, author of Wind Follower (out now from Juno books). And no, I don’t think that Neil Gaiman actually wrote an elf fantasy. It’s just that the trickster aspects of Anansi remind me of elves (a la Puck, not Galadriel).

I love you too, Chicago

How cool are you, Chicago? Let’s do some arithmetic (everything I need to know about math I learned from the quizzes in Seventeen Magazine, apparently…)

— You have a marvelous magazine (of the Time Out variety) that just so happened to give a really GREAT review to my novel, Racing the Dark. And an interview! Where I sound vaguely intelligent! (+10) (Shut up.)

— You are the host city of my publisher and editor, which is one smooth small publishing operation. (+5)

— You are going to be hosting yours truly at an event in one of your local bookstores. However, I reserve judgment on precisely how cool this makes you, since you had better rustle up a few people to actually sit in the audience. (+4 for the event, +8 if people actually show – 7:30 pm, Wednesday November 14th, Women and Children First)

— I could have gone to school in you, if you weren’t so fucking cold. Though, actually, when I visited my would-be alma mater, it was warmer there than it was in New York, where I ended up going. Maybe that should have told me something… (+4 for probably being much better than the school I ended up attending)

— But you still are fucking cold. (-5)

— But while I’m at it, Chicago, your school districts have some serious issues. Like, some school administrators who seem to think we are living in a proto-facist state. Hell, I think we’re living in a proto-facist state, but at least I’m not trying to speed along the process. Listen up, Superintendent Ben Nowakowski: the right to non-violent protest is one of the foundations of this country. These students cut class to protest a horrifying, illegal war. If you want to give them detention for cutting class, knock yourself out. But you want to expel them for exercising their constitutional rights, after administrators had already promised them that they would only be given detentions? Then I think that you, and your sorry, clueless school board needs to lose your damn jobs. What’s particularly sad about this, to me, is that these kids are using their education in a profoundly relevant manner. When I went to high school, you would have thought that the only purpose of the grinding hours of classes and homework and after-school activities was to get into the right college. That’s all I heard anyone talking about, anyway. “My Dad’s legacy, but I still have to be president of at least three clubs my senior year so I can get into Yale.” Community service was rarely about serving the community, it was about ticking off a box on an application. And apparently this soul-numbing view of education and its ultimate purposes has infiltrated the thinking of the highest officials in our school system. I can think of no other reason why these protesting students would be punished so harshly, vindictively and stubbornly (in the face of such public outrage). It’s a message: education is not about learning, or following your conscience, or applying your intellect to current problems. No, it’s about the personal essay, the supplementary materials and the teacher recommendations. Why else would they have given the “better” students more lenient punishments?

I admire these Morton West students more than I can say. I never did anything like that in high school. I’d caught the prep school bug, I guess. Kids these days? About a hundred times cooler than I ever was.
(-15 for a lousy school district, and +20 for kids with the guts to stand up to them).

(btw, if you support what these students did and are horrified at what’s happened to them, please take a moment and sign the petition in their support. The school board is apparently going to decide on their fate in December).

— And, finally, you are the subject one of my favorite songs on earth: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens (+5)

And if you add it all up…

Chicago is 28 whole points of very, very cool. 32 if I don’t just give a reading to the bookstore staff. (And any scale that gives Chicago a 28 gives New York at least a 40 and DC about 38).

Look, now I’m all excited about going there tomorrow. Chicago, here I come!

Taking care of business

So, World Fantasy. Fun. Maybe a little too much fun. Moral of the story: avoid Australian wine and hard liquor. I think we can all do without my con report. (Though: Scott Westerfeld, Doselle Young, Ekaterina Sedia and Kristen Janz are incredibly cool people. And I met Guy Gavriel Kay! And Saladin! And a bunch of other awesome people! No…must…resist…)

Better news: you can now listen to the live stream of my interview and reading with Jim Freund on Hour of the Wolf. I don’t seem to be on the TOC yet, but if you go here and search for “Hour of the Wolf” you can find the raw audio. Jim is a very gracious host and interviewer, and has edited me to make me sound much cooler than I was 🙂

And some other news, for any New Yorkers (among the three people who read my blog), I’m doing a reading in the East Village tonight at the Tompkins Square Library. Info:

6-7:30, the Tompkins Square Branch of the NYPL, 331 E. 10th Street, off of Ave B

Alaya Johnson, Racing the Dark
Kristen Kemp, Breakfast at Bloomingdale’s
Louise Plummer, Finding Daddy
Abby Sher, Kissing Snowflakes
Scott Westerfeld, Extras
Jake Wizner, Spanking Shakespeare

And, just for the sake of completeness, I’m going to Chicago on the 14th to do a reading there, also:

Women and Children First. The listing for the event is here. Wednesday, November 14th at 7:30. If any of you happen to live in the Chicago area I hope you can make it.

And that, I think, is that. Back to regularly scheduled programming when I feel slightly less blown out.

Every author needs some Pips…

So, I went to BEA this past weekend (with Tamar and her three fab friends) and it was great and fun but scary and SO EXHAUSTING that I think I have only now recovered. I now am filled with renewed hope about the prospects of my novel, but then again, I feel like I’ll hate myself forever if I don’t attempt to be more proactive about promoting it. I was incredibly happy to meet all of the reps at PGW. A lot of them had actually read almost all of the book (and they’d probably had galleys for a week at most before the conference), and they were really enthusiastic. This is weird to me, because I’ve realized that for the past three years, I could count the people who have read that book on one hand. And now, suddenly, I have signed and given away a bit less than two hundred galleys and I I have NO IDEA who is reading it! Well, actually I do know a few people who are reading it, but they are some pretty big authors from whom I am praying to the star-gods I will get a blurb or two. So, really, best not to think of it. I know this might seem like a little late to be worried about this– but I’m still afraid that the novel sucks and my publisher/agent/sister are just crazy. Must breathe.

Actually, a good thing about BEA was that it showed me just how much “street cred” my publisher has in the business. Not as though he hasn’t been wonderful as an editor, but I think that this was the first time I had ever really seen him in full publisher mode, and I was definitely impressed. He has a small press, but he gets major attention, and that’s all I can ask for. Sometime later, I may make a more in-depth post about the pros and cons of going with a small publisher, but in brief: my experience has (so far) been great. The major downside, as far as I can tell, is the money, but in these days of dwindling advances and almost non-existent author loyalty, I’m not sure how important that should be.

On Thursday I went to a black publisher event, and ran into a few old colleagues of mine. I also ran into Walter Mosley (or should I say he ran into me? We ended up walking out of the party together.) I introduced myself and mentioned my novel, and since he writes science fiction himself, he was actually sort of interested and suggested I drop off a copy of the galley in the Hachette Book Group booth the next day. Of course, the next day is Friday– and that morning I am due for my very first AUTHOR SIGNING. Now, I know all I have to do is smile, read a name tag, and sign a book, but this absolutely terrifies me. What if no one comes? What if the only books I give away are to my friends? What if I misspell someone’s name? Actually, about fifty people came, which isn’t so bad considering that I’m a first time novelist. Lucky for me that I used to work in publishing, because plenty of old friends/colleagues were at the convention and made sure to stop by and fill up the line. It was just half an hour, and actually a few people ran to catch me when my time was officially over so that they could get a signed copy of the book. It warmed my timid little author’s heart. Later that day, I went with my former boss, friend, and all-around awesome person Retha Powers to find Walter Mosley. He was signing galleys of his forthcoming Easy Rawlins novel, Blonde Faith, and I realized that it would be a perfect opportunity to give him a copy of my galley. So I screwed up my courage (and braved some significant awkwardness) and approached him. He remembered me (whew) and actually complimented me on the first line. He put it with his stuff and I think it is, in fact, possible that he will look at it. Hey, I’m a writer, don’t knock the small hopes.

Saturday I met with Tamar and her friends and they went off to become the swag queens of BEA. Well, actually, they were pretty impressive at the time (shipping boxes home to CA, no less), but on Sunday I realized that I had not seen even a fraction of the gigantic pirate’s bounty that a canny con-goer can obtain at the end of BEA. I’d done the whole “gobble up as many galleys as I can” thing last year and realized that, in fact, cool as free books seem, stacks and stacks of unread books in the apartment are overrated. We had lunch in the (awful) Javits Center food court, and I realized why people have suggested taking the ferry to Jersey City as a viable alternative to dining on a stale cinnamon muffin or congealed General Tso’s Chicken. One of her friends had her first novel come out this past month from St. Martin’s Press, and she was concerned (but reassured by her publisher) about the first-month sales. Clearly, the anxiety of being a writer is a never-ending cycle. I think I need to look into Buddhism or something. Otherwise I might be destined to be reborn as an ulcer.

Saturday night, my boyfriend Scott (who had been planning to attend the show, but instead spent ALL DAY CLOTHES SHOPPING. No, I’m not kidding) and I headed to a bar where I had heard there would be a fun YA get-together. I found my friend Lauren McLaughlin, whose first novel was just picked up by Random House in a major auction (and it’s truly awesome enough to deserve it), her husband Andrew, and her friend Deb. I was planning to go to the big PGW party downtown at the Gramercy Theater, but then Lauren told me about how all the YA authors were going to do some karaoke, and if there is one activity I am powerless to resist, it is the selection of songs and standing up in front of friends and singing them. I am a karaoke fool. When I went to Japan for the first time, my friends and I ended up in a karaoke booth at least three times a week. Sometimes multiple times a day. So, Scott went off ahead to scout out the PGW party and I headed off to karaoke heaven.

And my god, was it karaoke heaven. I have had some fun times, but I don’t think that much tops the singing of “Midnight Train to Georgia” with Coe Booth and Lauren and a few others serving as my Pips (I nearly died on “A superstar, but he didn’t get far”). I didn’t make it to the PGW party, needless to say. Scott came back with his friend and then we ended up going out with Deb to one of my favorite Indian/Pakistani places in the city: the incomparable Haandi, taxi-cab stand to the (karaoke) stars.

Cue Sunday, and I’m so tired that I’m practically falling asleep in the Agate booth. Also, though the air conditioning has been rather inadequate for the last two days, today the clever managers at the Javits Center have decided to really tackle the problem by turning the convention center into an arctic winter. I am wearing a sleeveless sundress. Unhappily. I shivered my way around the areas of the convention that I hadn’t yet seen, and was surprised by the relative lack of self-published authors this year. I remember that last year there was a whole aisle stuck off in the corner of people wearing crazy costumes with hand-made signs attempting to waylay anyone who didn’t walk by fast enough with a discussion of their latest book, printed by that reputable “traditional publisher,” Publish America. Maybe they just decided to explicitly exclude anyone from exhibiting who wasn’t affiliated with a legitimate press? Of course, there was at least one bona-fide, pay-for-your-novel self-publisher on display, but maybe they found some way to hide their true nature. After the con was over, Scott and I went to Patsy’s, because what better way is there to end a crazy weekend than eating the world’s best pizza? Possibly sleeping, which I did promptly at 7 pm.

BEA was a lot of fun, but I’m glad it’s only once a year. I wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year? Oh yeah. Worrying about my writing.

A completely useless post

…in a completely useless blog?

Well, I suppose we’ll see. For now, I guess I’ll just have to make do talking to myself. It occurs to me, now that I’m about to enter the uncharted and dangerous waters of publishing my first novel (Racing the Dark— my banner image is an excerpt from the cover art), that I ought to make more of an effort at self-promotion. Thus, the blog. I am obsessed with fantasy novels (particularly those with a hint of romance, though I mostly hate romance novels) and therefore write them. I also love popular science, though a complete inability with math prevents me from fulfilling my childhood aspirations of becoming a world-famous biologist who lives in rainforests (also, I’m terrified of bugs).

I (sort of, when we have time) maintain another blog, Two Fangirls with my friend Andrea. I’m also planning this to be a sort of extension/update of my livejournal blog (username utsusemia).

Here I honestly plan to post about whatever is interesting me– whether some science news, politics, writing/litblogging world kerfuffle or (last but not least) my struggles to promote the novel/write new ones. I’m sure that there will be plenty on the New York writing life since, well, I guess that’s what I’m living (though it seems hard to credit, sitting here on my couch in my underwear).

Here’s to not being entirely useless. I’ll cross my fingers.

For now, if you want to find out more about me: my website.