Anxiety dream

I was supposed to give a talk about Tess of the Road at a library (which was also a piano bar, as is so often the case). The place was full of friends from high school (who were also construction workers, because of course they were). I entered the witness box, next to the piano, and the piano asked me, “Why, exactly, did you write this book?”

And I couldn’t remember.

I woke up in a panic, utterly convinced that this was a sign of impending Alzheimer’s disease. I managed to settle down again by enumerating to myself all the reasons why I wrote Tess of the Road.

There’s never just one reason. There’s usually more like a dozen. I’m not even sure I listed all of them before I fell asleep again.

It’s kind of rare for an anxiety dream to be about the exact thing you’re anxious about, and it’s possible this one wasn’t; I have a nice long list of things to worry about as well. Still, the cover reveal on Thursday is the starting line of a long race toward my release date (Feb. 27th!), building anticipation, sparking interest, getting noticed, and – yes – answering questions.

Tess is the kind of book that sparks questions, even from dream-pianos.

I can tell you right now: Alzheimer’s isn’t irrelevant. My paternal grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and my maternal grandmother had some kind of vascular dementia. As someone who spends a lot of time in her own brain, dementia is one of my biggest fears, and something that could very well happen to me eventually. One of my goals in this book was to look dementia in the eye, and to write about it lovingly and compassionately — not romanticizing it, but not succumbing to fear either.

Where does the brain end and the body begin? How much control do we have over what we remember and when we remember it? Where do memories really reside, and what are they for, ultimately?

Anyway — cover reveal on Thursday! Don’t let me forget, haha.


Eclipse viewing for the cautious astronomer

Super excited about the eclipse tomorrow, but worried about your eyeballs? You’re not alone. My physicist husband wouldn’t trust anything short of a welder’s glasses with a suitably high rating, and even then he’d merely feel reassured that he could quantify the damage, nothing else.

In 1994, we witnessed a partial eclipse in St. Louis, outside the physics department at Washington University. My husband said, “You can tell the theorists from the astronomers. The theorists are looking at the sun through various viewers and dark glass; the astronomers aren’t looking at the sun at all.”

Well, kids, here’s what I learned from those cautious astronomers, and I’m passing this along to you because it’s cool: you can make a pinhole camera right on your own stomach. I don’t mean those big clunky boxes you see kids wearing in old photos — that’s overkill. This is much simpler, and it really works. I did it in 1994.

Wear a single-color shirt — white is good, but anything will do. You just don’t want words or a pattern interfering with your projection. Your stomach is the movie screen.

Form a little square “pinhole” by pressing the tips of your thumbs and index fingers together. It doesn’t have to be super tiny, just whatever gap is naturally there. Hold that pinhole a foot or so in front of your stomach and aim it toward the sun. It takes a little work, moving it in and out to find the best focal length, but you will find that you can project an image of the diminishing sun onto your belly.

Another unexpected detail: the gaps in overhead foliage also act as pinhole cameras. The ground beneath the trees will be covered in hundreds of dancing crescents!

I know there will be folks who won’t feel like they’ve seen it unless they SEE it through a viewer of some kind. I just wanted to reassure the eyesight-risk-averse among us that there are fun options. We can’t all throw caution to the wind like those devil-may-care theoretical physicists.

Coming soon: cover reveal!

Thursday, August 24th, I will finally have the privilege of sharing the TESS OF THE ROAD cover with you, along with new covers for the re-release of SERAPHINA and SHADOW SCALE.

I’m so excited, y’all, and I’m glad it’s coming soon because it’s hard to keep my mouth shut. I’m really happy with these, especially TESS, and I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.

In other news: a few nice reviews are already trickling in at Goodreads. I read ALL the reviews for my first book, and none of them for my second, and now — older and wiser — I’m wondering whether I can read some of the reviews, some of the time, for my third. Nothing in excess, as the Delphic temple of Apollo used to say.

I accidentally typed “odder and wiser” at first, which was inadvertently accurate.