Today at The Intergalactic Academy

(Where Phoebe and Sean teach exobiology and quantum phlebotinodynamics…)

Some of you will already have seen Sean’s review of Seraphina which ran last Friday. Well today I have a “guest lecture” up on Science Fantasy, and why I think my book fits that genre pretty well.

Those of you who love High Fantasy, don’t panic. My book is also that, perhaps even more convincingly so. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really interested in genre except insofar as I can poke it in the eye and dismantle it and see what it’s made of.

But go! Read! Argue with the teacher! That’s the best part of school, isn’t it?

Remind me of this in July

My friend Els (who I’ve mentioned twice now this week! Hi, Els!) sent me the link to Joshilyn Jackson’s blog post, “Launch Day“. I have a feeling I’m going to want to read that again on July 10th.

The money quote, to me:

I love this book. I am proud of this book. I think it is funny and hopeful and I bravely went down deep into the salty black mines of my own mental illness and tried to make it also truthful as I used the tale to wrestle with the questions that drive my life. And today, I have to stop all that, and set it down, and walk away, and see who picks it up.

The process of setting it down begins earlier than that – at least, it is for me – but yeah, I haven’t set it down completely yet. I still find myself gazing longingly into it, reliving bits, patting phrases on their little poetic heads.

But. The day is coming.

Road Sage

A great piece of advice from The System.

I know that looks like a cartoon about bicycles, but it’s not exclusively about bicycles. It’s about any situation where someone is mad or defensive.

It’s like Yoda, man. On a bicycle.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year!

My friend Els pointed this out to me yesterday: my book on dragons will be coming out in the year of the dragon. I’m not superstitious, but I’m proclaiming that propitious.

2012 had me kind of bummed, but a dragon year? I am so there.

Intro to my Asinine Love Song Analysis Project

I’ve mentioned one of my favourite music books here before: This Is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin. It’s a good read for anyone with an armchair interest in neurology – or music, for that matter. The brain is a funny place to live, I’ve always felt, and this book helps delineate what’s going on in there (and how it’s even stranger than you might think).

(This gets kind of long. Here’s a good bail-out point. No one will know!)

Continue reading

In other news

A few more reviews of Seraphina out in the blogosphere:

* From Diana at Happily Ever After

* From Veronica at Mostly Reviews

Thanks so much you two!

In general I only link blog reviews, because I want bloggers to get some traffic out of it and because Goodreads reviews are all clustered together in one place already. Today I’m going to make an exception, however, because Phoebe North is a friend of mine, and because I don’t think she’s planning to re-post the review on a blog. So here’s hers. And thanks, old lady!

To change the subject slightly, here’s author Mike Mullin on Why Bad Reviews Rock. I’ll tell ya, his novel Ashfall – about the Yellowstone supervolcano – had not particularly been on my radar (I’m not keen on survival novels, generally), but it sure is now! An example of how Excellent Author Behaviour can also make a difference!

All right, enough about reviews! Coming next week: stupid love songs. No, really. There are some abysmally stupid ones I really love. Catch you then!

On taking it personally

Some of my readers may not have the background for this post, so let me just start off with a few links to bring folks up to speed. There has been drama in Internet Bookland between YA authors and reviewers. In the fewest words possible: Authors, feeling hurt by reviews, have lashed out at reviewers. Reviewers have lashed back. It’s been widespread and notable enough that there was an article in The Guardian about it. Numerous writers and reviewers have blogged about it as well. Here’s an analysis I found fair and insightful.

I have written this post in my head a dozen times, and it keeps coming out very blame-y. Usually blaming authors, even though I am one. Maybe because I am one, and can see where the fault lines are in myself. Reviewers are going to review; authors can choose how or whether to respond. That post gets preachy and prescriptive, though, and that’s no good.

All I can do, honestly, is talk about myself and my own responses. If there are any useful tips here that anyone can take away, great. If this leads to a general consensus of OMG Rachel’s a weirdo, that is also fine. In fact, I’ll lead the chorus because I think I have a pretty deep insight into just how weird I am.

Bad reviews hurt. Heck, I’ve even been hurt by good reviews. I’m talented that way.

I can take anything personally, and probably have. You name it. The Wii telling me I can’t jump. The dog eating poo. The weather.

I am hypersensitive. That’s one of the reasons I’m a writer. In fact, I’d venture to say hypersensitivity is a useful trait for any kind of artist. It’s what compels me to create, and what gives my creations depth and emotional resonance. It’s what enables me to put words together in interesting and unexpected ways. Maybe it’s part of why I have so many ideas; all I require is the faintest feeling, the barest breath of nuance, to see all the myriad potentials therein.

I’m quick to laugh and quick to cry. The same trait that lets me feel a sunset intensely also means I can be easily hurt.

It’s funny because it isn’t: the drama has generated many exhortations to authors to Be Professional! when ironically our profession demands that we feel things intensely. Feeling is part of my job, ha ha! Feeling isn’t destiny, though, however fast and sometimes overwhelmingly it comes over me. I can let it control me, or I can take some time and deliberately decide how to act.

It was becoming a mom that really forced me to face the issue: it became imperative that I find a way to protect myself from such easily hurt feelings. One cannot afford to take a three-year-old personally. That is the fast track to madness. A three-year-old has lungs of steel, is incapable of reason, and has surprisingly little sense of self-preservation.

Mine used to scream: “I blame you out of the universe!”

The only reason I’m still here, in the universe, is that I developed specific strategies for dealing with it without having my feelings hurt all the time. I would listen (with my heart, not my ears) for the unspoken truth beneath his words. He would scream, “I hate you!” but I would hear, “I so mad I’m going to say the most hurtful thing I can think of to say!” There was always a big emotion there, and that emotion was the truth, and it did not entail a judgement on me. It was about him.

I won’t pretend he never got to me. I had a hard and fast rule for myself, however: never hurt the child. Ever. That was the bottom line, no matter how angry he made me. I had a lot of different strategies for calming down when I got mad – friends to call, a supportive spouse, putting him in a safe place while I went in the other room and had a little tantrum of my own. Long vigorous walks. Sanity breaks.

Navigating his storms was a discipline, and one I apply to all kinds of potentially hurtful things. Bad drivers. Rude grocery clerks. Trolls. Bullies. And yes, reviews – good, bad, and indifferent. I work at not taking them personally; it requires vigilance, but it’s doable. There will always be bad days when I fail, of course, but in those situations I have learned to recognize what’s happening and to walk away. And the bottom line is what it always was: no hitting back. Not even if a reviewer snatches my glasses right off my face and throws them across the parking lot.

Er. Sorry. Toddler-parenting flashback. I do not miss those days.

For the record, I love that boy with everything I’ve got; I always have, and I always will. And I love reviews, reviewers, and online book-discussion forums, even when they sting a bit.

The dog, on the other hand, is totally out to get me.

Here’s one last thing to think about: one of the reasons I write is because I am so easily wounded. Writing is synthesis and transformation, a way to heal and make sense of things, a way to spin dreck into gold.

I lie down with hurt, I wake up with art. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what it’s all about.

Back in the saddle again

Hello, darlings! Thanks for your patience. I had a very good week last week, minimizing internet use and getting myself back into a solid writing routine.

It’s irritating (to me) how automatic it becomes to reach for the internet the moment the going gets tough. Want to avoid housework? Internet. Want to ignore the people around you? Internet. Want to put off thinking about all the difficult problems your novel is posing you? Internet.

I tend to be an avoider, I fear, and my internet use sometimes exacerbates that. The worst part is, it gives me the illusion of engagement. I’m not running away from anything, I’m right here following all the drama and chiming in occasionally! This is very, VERY important!

I’m an active procrastinator. And hey, sometimes my brain really does need a break. The key is knowing the difference: am I here because I need a rest, or am I here because I’m avoiding something difficult?

Anyway, it was all out of balance, but I think I’ve got it sorted again. And of course, while I’ve been doing other things, my brain has been sprouting all kinds of crazy blog ideas, posts about dancing and crow brains and comparing YES songs to a really good sandwich. That’s one nice thing about being present in your own life: you have ideas, and ideas beget more ideas.

And now it’s time to move along. Back soon, friends.

2012 reboot

Hello, friends! I am popping in to say I’m popping out for a week.

2012 got off to an overwrought, melodramatic start – those of you who frequent Goodreads will know what I’m talking about, but it wasn’t just Goodreads. It was everything. My son was sick, good intentions went awry, and I got nothing done.

I had dreams of starting the year in a tidy and organized fashion. My word for the year, I’d decided, would be “perspective”. After feeling overwhelmed much of last year, some perspective seemed just the thing.

I hadn’t anticipated that 2011 would hang on for an extra week.

In any case, I’m declaring a reboot. Start over. The start of the year is an arbitrary point in the annual cycle anyway, so I’m wishing myself a Happy New New Year, as of this morning, and I’m going to faithfully do what I intended last week, before I let myself get swept away: calmly set to work and take good care of myself. So until I am back in the good groove, I am effectively off the internet. I anticipate returning next Monday.

I want to just acknowledge a few things before signing off, however. This blog had a record number of views this last week; thanks to everyone who dropped by to see the new cover! On Goodreads, more than 1000 people have added Seraphina to their to-read shelves, nearly half of those added in the last week. I am humbled an honoured. My thanks to each and every one of you.

Tomorrow, January 10th, marks exactly six months until the book comes out. This is the home stretch. If there was ever a time to take a moment, breathe deeply, and make sure I’m keeping things in perspective, it’s now.

More review goodness

Here’s a nice one at Book Catching. Thanks, Stephanie! (This one may have some spoiler-y info, depending on your definition of spoilers. I don’t think it spoils anything, but I’m kind of spoiler-insensitive)

Bloggity-Blog-Blog reviews it for a second time, in more depth. Thanks again, Laura!

In other news: thanks to everyone who’s dropped by here the last few days, for all the support and kind words about the cover. This is all so exciting that I’m probably going to have to put a paper bag over my head and go lie down for a while.

Yesterday was my son’s first day back at school after vacation, and my first day back working seriously on the sequel. It’s always so hard to get started again, even if I take a weekend off. I don’t know why that is; it’s like being very flabby and getting back to exercise. When you’re really exercising regularly, though, you come back refreshed after a day off. Why would writing muscles get flabby so quickly? Maybe there’s something wrong with the analogy.

I usually refer to this ailment as “The Mondays”, since that’s when I usually get it. Yesterday I had the Mondays to end all Mondays, but it was Tuesday, which was just embarrassing. This morning was much better.

To these two reviewers, then, waiting for the sequel: I’m on it.