I (re)write the songs

Those of you who are new to The Rachel Hartman Experience (with Rachel Hartman) will not have been exposed to this side of me yet, but it has to come out sometime: I am an incorrigible filker. Filker may not be exactly the right name for it; I’m not a member of the filking community, after all, and my subject matter (and source songs) aren’t genre-standard. But I don’t know what else to call what I do.

When my son was very small, I used to rewrite song lyrics as a way of turning my frustration into something more palatable. I came up with songs like “Psycho Toddler”, “I Want to Ride My Tricycle”, and “I Am the Man (of Constant Teething).” I don’t do it that often any more – certainly not about the boy – but every now and then I’ll still be struck by something. Usually when I’m driving and can’t write it down.

Anyway, REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes” came on the car radio today, and I suddenly realized that with just a little tweaking, it was all about novel revisions. Here’s the source song for those of you who aren’t time-travellers from the ’70s.

I need to add: this is written from an editor’s perspective. My editor is a fabulous human being, and he has never speculated about monkeys teaching me grammar. Any silliness in this song must pertain to those other editors at other publishing houses. I mean, obviously.

“Write Me Some Changes”

As soon as you are able, writer I am willing
To let you know your book could use some rewrites.
Notebook’s on the table, and the red ink’s spilling.
You’ve got plot-holes that ought to keep you up nights.

I get so tired of the same old story.
I think you need to cut some pages.
I will be here when you are ready,
To write me some changes — yeah!

I knew you couldn’t end it, knew you’d pull your punches,
I’m thinking that a monkey taught you grammar.
This trope, you can’t defend it. There are no free lunches.
Get right back in there with a saw and hammer.

I get so tired of the same old story.
I think you need to cut some pages.
I will be here when you are ready,
To write me some changes — yeah!

Keep on writin’
Keep on writin’
Oh, write me some changes
Keep on writin’
Keep on writin’
You got to, got to, got to write me some changes — got to! Got to!
(ad nausem, until awesome synthesizer solo. Yeah, baybeh!)


More nice news

My writer friend Elizabeth May just brought to my attention that Seraphina made the Summer 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List’s Top Ten. (say that ten times fast!) Looks like Seraphina clocks in at #2, behind Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue. I’ll take that!

(Technically, my agent and editor also pointed this out to me, but Elizabeth’s mention let me know this information isn’t a secret.) (Hey, some things are secrets. I’m bad about spoilers and secrets, both.)

If you look further down the list, you will also notice a book called Dragons Love Tacos. Ironically, that’s the opposite of what you learn about dragons in my book. I don’t assert outright that dragons HATE tacos, but I think it’s strongly implied*. I suppose readers will have to read both books and decide for themselves.

* That’s a joke, not a spoiler. There are no tacos in my book. OK, THAT was a spoiler.


Two months, and a teaser!

Seraphina comes out two months from today, friends! (In North America, that is. I understand there’s some variability around the world.)

In honour of the very exciting fact of time passing, I have something special for you: a short excerpt from the book! Yes indeed. I will pause whilst you caper merrily about.

Prancey-prance. Aw. You’re cute.

Anyway, without further ado or silliness on my part, the teaser is under the fold. Enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »


More merry music

I seem to be on some kind of Breton music kick. I blame my husband for this. Anyway, today’s theme song is Tri Yann’s Hañvezh ar bonedoú ruz. Isn’t it merry? The “Lalalala lalenola” chorus is almost madrigalesque in its silly cheerfulness.

Er. Never mind that the song seems to be about some sort of rebellion with people being hanged and all.

In other news: I am reading through the sequel! Parts of it are glorious! Parts of it are, uh, sub-par. But! I will fix those parts and make them glorious! I am using up all my exclamation marks here because Captain Horatio Editorpants always makes me weed them all out if I put them in the manuscript!

I am feeling highly optimistic about handing it over soon, however. Then maybe I can finally play Skyrim, hahaha. I heard it’s good.


Maurice Sendak, RIP

I am so sad to hear that Maurice Sendak has died. His books were a huge part of my childhood, of course, but he was also someone who inspired me to write as an adult. I saw him give a talk when I was in college, and he was cranky, yes, but also so unabashedly, unapologetically himself. Seeing him helped give me the courage not to go to graduate school, but to pursue art and writing instead.

One particular quote stuck with me: “People ask why I write children’s books. I don’t write children’s books. It’s not my fault booksellers don’t shelve me next to Saul Bellow!”

I took that to heart. Write what you need to write. Let someone else decide how to categorize it.

Rest in peace, old man.

Edited to add: Holy crap my friend Phantom can write. Here’s her eulogy to Mr. Sendak.


I can’t not share this

A lovely review at Amazon.co.uk.

I mean, it contains the phrase “artistic mathematism,” a phrase custom-made for me if there ever was one.

“Is mathematism a word?” you may ask.

It is. I believe in it, absolutely. I have adopted it and given it a home in my heart.


What’s in a name?

Every author has the unfortunate duty of naming her characters. I say “unfortunate” because I’ve never felt comfortable doing it. My characters are usually born with names – maybe even born from names – and sometimes those names are weird. Back when I did comic books, and before I had a kid, my husband used to shake his head over my stories and say, “You are NOT naming our children!”

There are a few characters who have been with me such a long time that I don’t remember anything about naming them. Josef, Earl of Apsig, is one. He wasn’t always an Earl, but he’s always been ready to step into the story wherever I need a jerk, a cad, or sometimes even a bad boyfriend. He’s like my utility infielder. Need somebody at jerk base? Josef, you’re up.

There are others, though, whose name origins I remember quite clearly. Here are a few:

Lars – I first conceived of Lars while watching the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. I thought that was a really interesting film — particularly coming from my classical music background. There was a segment on the classical origins of heavy metal, and that got me thinking. Surely, in every era, there have been people who would have been metal fans if they lived today. What were they doing back then? Playing bagpipes? Pipe organs? How did they get their loud music fix? And thus, a character was born, my Medieval Metalhead, and I named him after Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica.

Abdo – Abdo was named after George Abdo, one of the great early recorders and popularizers of raks sharqi bellydance music. And he is a dancer, yes. And it is not a coincidence.

Orma – Orma was named after this grumpy guy I used to work with, whose name was actually Norman. And to be fair, I didn’t know him that well. He may not have been in a bad mood every day; he was never anything but polite when I talked to him. He just looked grumpy, all the time, and this fascinated me. Owner of a grumpy face. I think that’s a song by YES.

Glisselda – Glisselda has been with me a long time as well, but I remember looking for the most over-the-top spoiled princess name I could come up with. One of those names that seems to encapsulate a personality already, that’s shorthand for something. Because what can you do when you have a name like that? You either live up to it, or you fight it with everything you’ve got. Unexpectedly (to me, anyway), my Glisselda seems to do both.

All right, I could go on, but I’m sick and should be napping. Let’s do this again sometime! I only have, oh, forty million characters, ha ha ha.

I kid. Four million, tops.