Belle Epoque

Last of the Morris interviews! Elizabeth Bunce talks to Elizabeth Ross about Belle Epoque!

I hope you’ve enjoyed all of these. I sure have. The Morris Award will be announced with the rest of the ALA Youth Media Awards (the Printz, the Coretta Scott King, the Caldecott, etc.) on Monday, January 27th, in a ceremony beginning at 8am EST.

That’s 5am on the west coast, here. I’d whine about that, but I’m sometimes up that early anyway. If you follow that ALA link, it looks like there’s going to be a live webcast. And will you look at all those smiley librarians? Ooh, one of them is holding Seraphina!

Anyway, congrats to all nominees. As convenient as it was for me to go to Seattle last year, I do kind of envy you all going to Philly, where I used to live.

Sex and Violence

Today’s fabulous Morris nominee interview is up! John Corey Whaley talks to Carrie Mesrobian about her first novel, Sex and Violence.

And be sure to tune in Monday, when Stephanie Kuehn graciously answers my impertinent questions about Charm and Strange.

In other news: did I mention I’m on deadline? I reckon I did. Sorry to be so absent, but it’s eaten my entire brain. I will just say, it continues to go well, although I’m getting a bit tired. This has been quite the sustained effort, for me. I throw it back at Jim in just over two weeks, and then I’m FREE — until the next go-round. And there will be one, because that’s the way we work.

But hey, it’s getting better all the time. Let that encourage you.

Yesterday, tomorrow, and soon

Nafiza at The Book Wars posted an interview with me yesterday (thanks again, Nafiza, for the wonderful opportunity!). I get a bit chatty there, partly because I’m in a good mood, and partly because she was asking questions from slightly different angles than I’m used to. That’s good for waking up the brain!

Coming soon: I’m going to be the one asking questions, which is a first for me! Yes, it’s time once again for the YALSA Morris Awards, and for that annual tradition – begun by inaugural Morris winner Elizabeth C. Bunce – of Morris winners interviewing this year’s nominees. Here’s the schedule of events. I will link to the interviews individually as they happen. The first one’s tomorrow, Blythe Woolston interviewing Evan Roskos.

I have the great honour of interviewing Stephanie Kuehn (pronounced “Keen”), author of Charm and Strange, on the 20th. I’ll review the book a day or two beforehand, but let me just say right now: it’s a difficult book on an upsetting subject, and very much worth reading. Highly recommended.

The merry month of November

My darlings, I have news: I have completed the most recent draft of the sequel, and I sent it to my editor this morning. I have spent the last two hours bouncing around my house like a ping pong ball, because – ye gods – this is such a weight off my heart. I can’t even tell you. I’m made of words, but I have no words.

Do you know what the very best thing about this is? No, it’s not the fact that you really will get to read the sequel this decade, although that’s pretty nice. OK, very nice. But the very best thing is that today is November 1st, and it will take my editor a few weeks to read the draft and get comments back to me (alas, let us not pretend the book is completely finished).

I have November, for novel-writing purposes, OFF. Nothing in November.

This has been a special goal of mine ever since last November. Allow me to explain.

I have known, ever since I moved to Canada, that November is the nadir of my year. It’s dark, and getting darker. It’s rainy, and getting rainier. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, so there isn’t even a holiday to liven things up between Halloween and Saturnalia. I get epically bummed out. Seasonal affective disorder? Maybe, but the point is, it happens every year, so theoretically I ought to be able to come up with a strategy to combat it.

My previous strategy — keeping my nose to the grindstone and muscling through — did not work. In fact, it made things worse. For the last two years, in particular, by the end of November I have been not merely depressed but burned out and exhausted as well. There had to be a better way.

Well, lovelies, there is. This year I am proclaiming the month-long holiday of November Nothing! While others toil at NaNo, I shall be celebrating NoNo.

NoNo has exactly one rule: Be gentle with yourself. It is the month of restoration, of remembering what you love and why and doing exactly that. Of resting when you need to, laughing as much as possible, slowing down and staying sane.

I’m planning to be here a lot, honestly, because you know what I miss? Writing for fun, or for no reason at all. While I was working on revisions, I felt guilty any time I came to this blog, particularly if I was going to write something silly. Well, NoNo rejects the idea that only focused, goal-oriented tasks are worthy! We laugh in the face of that idea! Time spent doing things you love is never, ever time wasted, and sometimes goals just have to wait their turn.

I am here to laugh and enjoy myself, and probably write more about prog rock than anyone but me cares to read. And if it starts to feel like work, maybe I’ll slack off — I have permission! It’s Nothing November, my dears, and you are all welcome to join me, fully or whenever you’re able.

Be gentle with yourselves. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Sunburst Award!

As some of you may have heard already, Seraphina has been awarded the 2013 YA Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. A big thank-you to this year’s jury, and congratulations to Martine Desjardins, winner of the adult award, to all the runners-up, and to Lesley Livingston, who won the Sunburst Society’s Copper Cylinder Award. I got to meet Lesley this past weekend, and she is a fabulous human being.

In fact, I have an amusing tale to tell you. This past weekend I gave a reading at the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival — a wonderful festival in Ontario, and you should all GO if you ever have the chance! Anyway, I gave a reading in a picturesque, bucolic garden, and was now signing books at the signing tent. When my merry fans finally dissipated, I turned around to see two stern older gentlemen behind me.

“Rachel Hartman?” they said. “We’d just like to ask you a few questions.”

I followed them to the village hall, wondering what on earth they wanted to ask. Waiting for us in the hall were five or six other people. That’s when I started to worry. The difficulty with being a writer, you see, is that my brain immediately leapt to many ridiculous and false conclusions about what was going on. I had upset the Literary Mafia and would soon be swimming with the fishes in the millpond. I was being abducted by aliens or inducted into a secret society.

It took a few minutes to understand that, no, they were giving me an award. I’m told I handled myself with aplomb. I mostly just remember feeling tickled. And relieved.

Leon Rooke, Peter Halasz, and a peculiar woman with a fabulous medal. Photo by Peter Grimaldi

Leon Rooke, Peter Halasz, and a peculiar woman with a fabulous medal. Photo by Peter Grimaldi

The award, of course, wasn’t to be announced until the 18th, but since the jury members were there, and I was there, and they really wanted to see the look on my face, they’d decided to present the prize early. I was sworn to silence for a few days. Anyone who happened to see me later that afternoon, looking like I had a cramp in my face, that’s why. I was struggling not to grin. I have the kind of grin that inevitably inspires people to ask, “What’re YOU grinnin’ for, ya rascal?”

Peter then enlisted me to present Lesley Livingston with her Copper Cylinder Award. I tried to be as ominous as possible, but I almost certainly failed. I’m just not the ominous type. I feel certain I giggled. Anyway, it was awesome because then Leslie and I got to hang out, and that’s half the fun of these things, making new author friends. It’s like going to camp. We all weep and promise to write when it’s over, although sometimes “promise to write” means writing the next book. That’s fair.

I strongly encourage you all to check out past Sunburst winners as well as this year’s shortlists. There’s a lot of good speculative fiction coming out of Canada; I would have been honoured to lose to anyone on that list.

Happy Turkish book birthday!

If any of you read Turkish, you’re in luck! Seraphina is now in Turkish too.

I’ve been to Turkey, so this was an international sale I was particularly tickled about. Someday I can regale you with tales of how the Basilica Cistern gave me the massive heebie-jeebies, or how we got unbelievably lost and dehydrated in Izmir. Or how I ate olives wrapped in anchovies and was thirsty for the next three days, or how the music-store clerks scoffed at our super old-fashioned taste in baglama music.

Good times! Happy memories! My funniest stories make it sound like everything went wrong, but it was one of our most fun, memorable trips and I’d love to go back someday.

Dragon Con!

This coming weekend I will be a guest at Dragon Con in Atlanta.  I’m very excited, not least because the con has such an apropos name. Back in my comic book days, I went to a lot of conventions, but I never made it down to Dragon Con. Nice to be able to rectify that omission years later.

For those interested in seeing me there, I’ll be participating in six panels:

YA at Its Finest
Description: YA authors discuss the how-tos and wherefores of writing for the YA market.
Time: Sat 10:00 am Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Advice for Young Writers
Description: So you’re a teenager or young person who has a story to tell. Come hear some advice from seasoned writers about how to get your start.
Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Okay, You Sold It. Now What?
Description: For writers who’ve sold their first novels and/or short stories. What should you expect next?
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

A Diversity of Dragons
Description: Murderous flying lizards? Hardly. Dragons can be cunning, compassionate, graceful, wise, brash, bestial — and sometimes all of the above.
Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: Embassy C – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Sidekicks in YA
Description: All of our heroes have someone by their side. Harry has Ron and Hermione. Katniss, Peta and Gale. How do these characters help shape the story?
Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Stuck in the Middle
Description: SF and Fantasy for the middle grades and younger fan.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Lots of informative writing and publishing panels, sounds like. Should be fun. I don’t know whether I have any kind of formal signing time, but I’m always happy to sign freelance if you catch me after a panel.

A pair of book birthdays

I’m early for one and late for the other, but let’s just pretend it’s Presidents’ Day and celebrate both together! Here’s the cover for the Brazilian edition of Seraphina, which came out in April:

Capa Seraphina

Hurray! I hope Brazilian readers are enjoying the book!

And then, coming out at the end of May, we’ve got the Indonesian Seraphina!

Indonesian cover

My Indonesian translator informs me that this is original art by Martin Dima. I love how it’s reminiscent of the North American cover – sepia tones, Medieval city – while still being entirely its own thing.

Happy (late and early!) birthdays, international editions! It is humbling to realize how many places people are (and will be!) reading my book.

Two weekends, two events

Last weekend I did a reading at McGill Library in Burnaby, where my madrigal choir (plus an extra musical guest) very kindly agreed to sing, and where my friend Els very kindly agreed to take some pictures.

I started off reading excerpts from Seraphina and fielding questions from the crowd. And it was one of the biggest crowds I’ve had:

Rachel charms the crowd

I talked a lot. It’s a well-known fact that I can go on and on:

"Well, now, let me tell you a little story about THAT..."

“Well, now, let me tell you a little story about THAT…”

The second half was devoted to our musical performances. The choir sang two Renaissance songs: “Belle Qui Tiens,” which is a pavane (like the pavano Seraphina dances with Kiggs); and “Mille Regretz” by Josquin Desprez, a goosebump-inducing piece of music which was an inspiration for the book itself.

Too bad you can't hear us, because we were AWESOME.

Too bad you can’t hear us, because we were AWESOME.

Then we had some special instrumental demonstrations. Here’s Lise – my librarian friend who set this all up – demonstrating the wooden transverse Renaissance flute, just like Seraphina plays:

Lise plays Jouissance Vous Donneray

Lise plays Jouissance Vous Donneray

An intrepid recorder trio then played Praetorius’s “Bransle de la Torche”, which is one of my favourite Medieval dance tunes.

Did you know recorders came in so many sizes?

Did you know recorders came in so many sizes?

I even demonstrated the bransle, or bits of it. It’s really more of a line dance, but I’ve never been embarrassed about dancing with myself.

My idiosyncratic bransle includes moves from the Charleston. This isn't one of them.

My idiosyncratic bransle includes moves from the Charleston. This isn’t one of them.

For the grand finale, Lise’s cousin Nathan gave us a demonstration on his amazing bass sackbut! That’s right, friends, the sackbut is a real thing. I didn’t make it up.

No, it's not a trombone. It's a proto-trombone.

No, it’s not a trombone. It’s a proto-trombone.

At the end of my visit, I received some tulips, a special bookmark, and this, a lovely piece of art from a talented young lady named Caitlin.

It's on my mantle now, between Apollo and Poseidon.

It’s on my mantle now, between Apollo and Poseidon.

So that was last weekend. THIS weekend, I got to go to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, and attend the BC Book Awards Gala Dinner. No point keeping you in suspense: I didn’t win the award I was nominated for, alas. But I had a cultural experience most Canadians never get to have, a reception and dinner with my province’s Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor is, at a provincial level, what the Governor General is at the national: the official representative of the British Crown. I have never been anyplace so officially fancy in my life.

BC literary lights - I knew five people in the entire room, and two were my husband and son.

BC literary lights – I knew five people in the entire room, and two were my husband and son.

That’s the VIP reception, pictured above. My son was SO EXCITED to be part of it. He’s totally planning to brag to his friends that he was a VIP. I’m pretty sure this is not what his friends are going to imagine he means.

Then there was the award presentation and banquet, in the ballroom:

We sat at table five. (Oh, oh, oh, oh, table five! Table five!)

We sat at table five. (Oh, oh, oh, oh, table five! Table five!)

After the awards ceremony, we had a fancy dinner involving things like “White Asparagus Panna Cotta” (it was white! And gelatinous! ), and “Stinging Nettles & Fresh Goat Cheese Custard” (which didn’t sting, even a little). My son was far and away the youngest person present, and he got quite a bit of attention for being patient, well-behaved, and a good eater (even of the unusual foods, above). I may not have won the prize, but I did get a weekend that my whole family is going to remember for a very long time, and that is worth a lot.

And who knows, maybe I’ll be back someday.

Edited to add: Geez! I should tell you who DID win! It was Caroline Adderson, for her book Middle of Nowhere! I haven’t read it, but I’d better correct that. All the winners and nominees are listed here. What a writing culture we have here in BC!

Coming soon: Burnaby library event!

Mark your calendars, darlings! I’m going to be appearing at McGill library in Burnaby, Saturday April 27th at 2pm. Here’s the BPL listing for it, and they would like you to pre-register if you’re planning to come because space is limited.

This is going to be a particularly special event because we’re going to talk about Renaissance music and have some real-life examples! My fabulous madrigal-singing friends have very kindly agreed to come perform a few songs, and they will even demonstrate some Renaissance dancing and instruments. Thought the “sackbut” was something I just made up? THINK AGAIN.


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