Thursday, February 17, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky new release date!

So, bad news for the impatient: A few of you have noticed that Between the Sea and Sky's release date on Amazon is now October 25th. I got confirmation that this is true.


That is also what I thought. But I was informed of very good reasons for the delay that aren't really anyone's fault, so...I will soldier on until October. These things happen.

In the meantime, you can look forward to my story in the Corsets and Clockwork anthology in May. I got an ARC of the collection and I must say, I really am enjoying it! Usually with short story collections there are some stories I have to slog through but so far I haven't encountered any like that in this collection. I think it's really stellar! I mean, there is a mermaid girl who eats people and a theatrical automaton and a steampunk Civil Rights story and all kinds of cool junk, and I'm not even done with it yet, so definitely pick it up if you are so inclined!

And also in May, the Magic Under Glass paperback will have a preview of Between the Sea and Sky in it. So enjoy the tease! I continue to be very impressed with the amount of people adding the book on Goodreads, pre-ordering it on Amazon and emailing me asking for review copies, so, THANK YOU!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Outsider Boy Love

At the Branson retreat we had a question of the night, and one of them was two things that push your buttons as a reader.

I have a very specific button-pusher, which is: Outsider people who are different in some physical way that they can't hide but who find a way to fit into society without compromising who they are. And preferably, who they are is also a hot boy, just saying.

Which led to a tweet from a certain moose (yes, the taxidermy in our house was tweeting, which I find disturbing) about how I like hunchbacks, but that is not really what I MEANT (although admittedly, Dean "Jarback" Priest from the Emily books was one of my childhood literary crushes, before I realized he's kind of a jerk, so maybe I do mean that).

There are a lot of ways to make a character different, though, especially in fantasy and spec-fic, where you can have a guy who looks like a demon for no apparent reason (Nightcrawler from X-Men), a guy with dragons growing from his back (Star Ocean: The Second Story for PlayStation), or a guy with scissors for hands (do I even need to tell you?). That is, besides the obvious ways to make a character different: disabilities, scars, being a different race from the norm, having strange coloring of some kind, etc. In fantasy, it's all blown up even beyond the differences we have to deal with on Earth.

I just can't seem to get away from this trope in anything I write. Sure, I have some other character types I love too (Arrogant Man with Pain Beneath His Exterior is another one that gets me every damn time), but that is like the soul of my writing.

It took me a long time to realize why I was so drawn to these stories, but I think (if I can't explain it with past lives?) it's because from the first time I was thrown into a crowd of peers (in 2nd grade, the only year I wasn't homeschooled) I realized I was deeply different. The things I ate, the medicine I took when I was sick, the music I listened to, the things I liked to do, even the way I thought the world worked, were all markedly different from my peers, and it was a shock. I still get that same shock every time I am in a large group of people. I think everyone must feel this way to a degree, but for whatever reason the theme always really resonated with me.

I think the other reason I am attracted to it is because when your outsideriness is obvious, you sort of have to work extra hard to be normal. I tend to see the outsider characters as the most "normal" at heart, I think. (And in this case I think of normality as a positive, relatable, moreso than "someone who is very average".) For a romantic lead, it can also be a rather vulnerable position...if you have a disability or are of a different race from the norm or whatever you have to have an extra dose of determination or cleverness or some it factor to get ahead.

A few of my favorite physical-outsiders-who-find-their-place-in-the-world:

Gen from Megan Whalen Turner's books
Otto from A Long Long Sleep (which comes out in August, I just read it, it's AWESOME)
The aforementioned Nightcrawler from X-Men, in his more fun-loving, swashbuckling configuration and not Emo Religious Mutant
Tyldak from the Elfquest comics
Chichiri from the Fushigi Yuugi anime

Gah, I know there are plenty more, but I have to go make dinner. And one of my favorite literary boys is Po from Graceling but he doesn't truly qualify. Anyway, if you have any recommendations, fire away, I'd LOVE to add more to the list...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Escape from Branson

Some of you may recall that a week ago I left on a writing retreat to Branson, MO (which is where we happened to find a cheap house big enough to fit 23 authors). Rare is the vacation where so many things go wrong that if you could go it all over probably wouldn't. But the Branson retreat was one of those trips, for me. Not because of the company (which was lovely) or the beauty of the lakes and hills of the Ozarks (it really was beautiful there). Just because of...everything else. Which means it makes for some great blog fodder.

We arrived Saturday, and had a fun time with the usual hijinks that occur when a zillion writers get together. I had a lovely little room on the top floor with my critique partner Jessica Spotswood with windows all around overlooking snowy woods and snowy lake. It was lovely. Sunday was our first full day. I talked to people. I even got my 1000 words for the day. I also noticed a tickle in my throat.

The tickle, alas, did not go away. By that night it was more like a lump of congestion that kept me up all night, and in the morning I had a fever. I made my way downstairs, weakly, and soon realized...all I wanted was to go back to bed. So I did. The fever got worse. I was so exhausted and with such chills that all I could really do was sleep. At that point I was so sick I didn't even CARE that I was missing out on fun. I just wished I was home with Dade and the kitties and access to my local health food store and my teapot.

On Tuesday I was able to sit up and mostly stay awake, but I still couldn't really make it downstairs. But Wednesday we were leaving. I wasn't looking forward to flying and changing planes since I was still pretty wiped and dizzy, but it would be all worth it once I got there.

I woke up to the news that we were snowed in and our flight was canceled. Despair! But then it got a lot worse. I called AirTran to reschedule my flight and they told me I couldn't go home until FRIDAY. "When are they telling you guys you can go home?" I called at the rest of the group. (There were twelve of us on the same flight.) "Tomorrow!" they said.

Yes, every other person got on the flight home the next day. EXCEPT ME. Even people who called AirTran AFTER I did. I called them a couple more times, and Jessica even called and pretended to be me, but they just kept saying the flight was booked, overbooked in fact, and I was not likely to get on it.

After a good crying jag, I really TRIED to make the best of this. We had almost run out of food in the house, but I had brought food with me, including a bag of baby potatoes, which I brought out at this point to share for lunch. 24 ounces of potatoes for 18 people = 1 baby potato per person. While Myra stretched them out into soup, I looked at hotels in Branson and tried to find a place where I could maybe walk to some attractions or shops or something. There were some thrift stores downtown. Maybe I could trudge through the snow and thrift.

But, let's face it, I really did not want to wander alone and sick in Branson, I wanted to GO HOME. So I kept checking AirTran. Around 8pm, I saw that I could buy a ticket from Branson to Atlanta. But now there were no Atlanta to Orlando tickets. I called again and asked if they could at least just LET ME LEAVE BRANSON. I was told no, they had to book the whole ticket at once. Dawn said I should call customer service, so I did, and the nice woman there was finally willing to work with me and she found some way to book me on the flight. She seemed a little confused by my enthusiasm for the new situation.

AirTran Woman: Okay, ma'am, here's what I can do. I have you on the Branson to Atlanta flight.
AirTran Woman: Yes, but, ma'am, all the flights to Orlando are full. I can get you a flight leaving at...ooh, that's a long layover. I can get you out at 8:30 the next morning.
AirTran Woman: That's 8:30 in the morning, ma'am. I can't get you out that same day.
Me: I KNOW! YOU ROCK! All I want in life is to LEAVE BRANSON.

I really wasn't worried, honestly, if I could just get to Atlanta, because there were five flights leaving Atlanta for Orlando that evening and I found it highly unlikely one would not have a standby seat. And in fact, Dade called again for me around 1 am and got me a seat on the 5:49 pm flight out.

However, the flight was only half the battle. There was another battle going on, a battle that was luckily not mine to fight, but a battle for all of us still trapped in the Branson house. You see, even with a flight out, we were still all trapped in the house. There are four cab companies in Branson, apparently, that are all actually run by the same people. They had two vehicles capable of traveling in the snow. But there were twelve of us. We needed a van. They were trying to get use of a shuttle van, but they weren't willing to take it all the way to the house.

At some point, I was told, "Worst case scenario, we just have to walk a mile at 7 am in 0 degree weather and 6+ deep snow with all our luggage uphill to the main road."

No, worst case scenario is, the weakest among us are left to die. At least I've heard freezing to death is very peaceful.

But, what luck, some kind local soul helped us out. I was now told, "All right, this guy with a truck is going to pick us up in batches and drive us down to the Mule Mart to wait for the cab. I don't know if the Mule Mart will be open, so dress warmly."

So that is what happened. We were trucked on down to a convenience store called the Mule Express to wait for an hour with our luggage. It was open. At some point a local came in and asked, "Are you ladies havin' a sewing circle?"


So, the shuttle arrived (at this point, each thing that happened: transport to mule-themed convenience stores, or the shuttle actually happening, was greeted with exclamations of joy verging on disbelief) with ALMOST enough room for all of us (we crammed in there somehow) and we got to the airport. Our plane was late. There is no food in the Branson airport except a barbecue joint. Not a tasty one either. Woe to the stranded traveler. Did I mention I came home quite a bit skinnier than I left?

As a final note, my plane from Atlanta to Orlando was full of cheerleaders (perhaps junior high age) from Tennessee. I mean, fully half the plane was solid cheerleaders. When I got on there was a cheerleader in my seat.

Me, to patient-looking stewardess: I think that's my seat, 19C.
Stewardess: *checks log* Okay. *to cheerleader* What is your seat assignment?
Cheerleader: *chewing gum, giving blank look preteens are so good at* 19B.
Stewardess: Okay. And *to girl in 19B* what is your seat assignment?
Cheerleader 2: *gives same blank look* 19A.
A look passes over the stewardesses face like, what if every cheerleader is sitting in one seat wrong from their assignment? She looks over at 19F. "That looks like the seat that is open. Would you like that seat?"
Me: "I would LOVE that seat."

The cheerleaders mostly occupied the entire back of the plane. When it stopped, the man in the aisle seat behind my row jumped up and said, "I'll hold 'em back for you!" to those of us ahead of him. And he did.

I had made it home.