Monday, August 31, 2009

Some FAQs!

Before I get to the FAQs: Check out readergirlz tomorrow; Graceling is the featured book in September.

Okay, here goes.

1. Does Katsa loiter? Does she lurk in the corner of your mind and say things like, "That is so not how I would do it!" (for example)?
*smile* No, she really doesn't. None of my characters do. There is a very clear line between me/my life and my characters/their lives, and when I think about my characters, they're always in their own world, not mine. I wish this did happen now and then, though. There are plenty of times when my characters would make better decisions about how to handle certain situations than I would. I could really use some tips from them :o)

2. I'm writing a book. It's slow going at times to try to keep my focus. I feel like I can see ahead to more exciting parts of the story, while right now I'm trying to set up the setting, which can be tedious. Do you have any suggestions for this? Should I skip ahead and write the exciting parts, then go back and fill in the build-up?
This is a really good question, and it's something that happens constantly, over and over, in the course of writing a novel. There are so many parts of a novel that are the parts without a major tension or emotion or climax or revelation.

Some people skip ahead and that works for them. I can't tell you what to do. But I can tell you what I do. I do NOT skip ahead. (The only time I skip ahead while novel-writing -- and I never skip more than a few lines/paragraphs -- is when I absolutely cannot know what's supposed to happen now until I've written something that won't happen until later. I leave a gap with a small outline or notes, and make myself move on, even though I hate to leave blank places and it makes me worried and nervous.)

What I do try to do is figure out a way to write the establishing-the-setting type things, the establishing-who-the-characters-are things, in scenes that are emotionally interesting and do have some sort of small excitement. I don't mean that every single scene needs to have high drama; I only mean that... well, for example, right now in my writing, I'm building up to some fun, exciting stuff that will be happening soon. But the parts I'm writing right now are distinctly unexciting, and it's hard to make myself keep writing. I kind of need to show the passage of time and do some exposition that feels pretty boring to me. So, I'm trying to use these passage-of-time sections to build the relationships between characters I've neglected so far. For example, if there's some information I need to convey to the reader during this slightly unexciting section of the novel, I might try to find a way to reveal the information using an unexpected conversation between two characters who haven't interacted much before. Put them in an interesting place, maybe give them a few props to work with (something to do with their hands or look at with their eyes), and also give them a few things to talk about at once -- some important topics, some less important topics, and maybe even something frivolous or funny, all mixed in together. (Don't make your conversations too linear!) If you get your characters moving around their setting and talking, revealing the way they interact with each other, your setting/characters/exposition will come to life, and the conversation/action will engage the reader at the same time as you convey the possibly unexciting stuff you need to convey. And you might learn something from their conversation that you hadn't realized before.

Does that make sense? It's only one example of a way you can use laying-the-scene to also further-the-plot and increase-inter-character-tension. ^_^ If you feel like you're bungling, don't worry too much. I don't think it's possible to write a novel without feeling that way.

3. Do I need to read Graceling before reading Fire?
This is hard for me to answer objectively, because, of course, as the purist author, I would prefer everyone to read them in the order in which they were published, and I also think that reading Fire first gives away one big Graceling spoiler. BUT, I have heard from plenty of people who read Fire first and then Graceling and say that reading them in that order totally works. Both books stand alone -- technically, you don't need to read one in order to understand the other. So I think you're safe either way! (Blog readers who've read both -- if you have a [SPOILER-FREE] opinion about this, please feel free to leave it in the comments!)

ETA: There are some strong (spoiler-free) opinions about question #3 in the comments, so do check them out if you need advice!

There are so many other questions I want to answer, including questions about dealing with anxiety about publicity/appearances/etc., and I hope to have time for more FAQs soon. Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fill in the Blank

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is ______________.

My answer: go into the room where all the plants are and adjust the curtains so that they'll be happy with the light.

Your answer? (Don't forget, I only see comments made at my Blog Actual.)

On Monday, I hope to answer a few FAQs!

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Being Human Is a Guest House

Sarah Miller posted this poem on her lovely blog last January and it wowed me so much that I printed it out and stuck it on my wall. Sarah, thanks for introducing me to a poem that I love every single day.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door, laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

- Rumi

Feel free to leave a favorite poem in the comments. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

They actually did! They had stars upon thars!

Extra points if you recognize today's title.

WARNING: Today's post is all business, so if you don't want to read about release dates, my blog tour, my regular tour, reviews (with stars upon thars), interviews, how to read the first 3 chapters of Fire online, etc., etc., please just skip this BORING post and scroll down to read about cool stuff like babies and translations or to vote in my extremely relevant birthday poll.

Okay, here goes! Firstly, I am proud to report that Fire has received starred reviews from The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, and a gold star from the Romantic Times. *blushes* I've finally gotten around to creating a page of Fire review excerpts; see the link on the left or just click here. (BTW. If you notice that it or any of my other Quick Links are dated 2/28/08... that's just the date I randomly give Quick Link posts, so that they don't pop up as new posts and clog people's readers. Make sense?)

Secondly: The US/Canada Graceling paperback is now in stock at Amazon and, and will, I assume, be in bookstores soon if it's not already. The mass market paperback in the UK/Australia/NZ will be released in September 2009. Fire will be released in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and NZ in fall 2009 (September for the UK edition, October 5 for the US edition). Everything I ever know about release dates is on my Contacts, Info, and Credits page, so please check there for updates.

Thirdly, I'll be doing a blog tour for a few weeks in late August/early September; this will involve Fire giveaways and other shenanigans; more info will be forthcoming.

Fourthly, I am doing a domestic tour for Fire in October and will be hitting a lot of different spots, but most of my appearances will be school visits, not open to the public. I'll let y'all know when the schedule is finalized, and I'll be sure to indicate which events are open to the public.

Fifthly, a recent interview with the Chicago Public Library has gone live; read it here. Thanks, Sarah, for asking some great questions!

Sixthly, you can read the prologue and first two chapters of Fire at Scribd.

Seventhly (I think I have begun to make adverbs up), there is still time to register for Sirens, a conference about women in fantasy, taking place in Vail, Colorado in October. Tamora Pierce, Sherwood Smith, and I are the guests of honor. More info here!

Eighthly, Graceling will be the featured read at readergirlz in September. I'll give a heads up when that happens.

Ninthly, once upon a time I was making a flow chart; now I'm only falling apart. (with thanks to colorwheel ^_^)

Tenthly.... that's it! I'm done! (And done in.)

Gah. Posts like this always feel very narcissistic to me. So why not close with a PHOTO OF ME? :D?

Really, it's a photo for the Gallery of My Favorite Objects. Orchids are among my favorite things in the whole wide world, and here are two. Incidentally, another of my favorite objects is (sort of) in this photo -- my fireproof, waterproof safe, which is on the floor at the bottom left. That's where I keep notebooks/manuscripts.

Thanks for your patience with this post, everyone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcome, Babies, to the World

Step 1: Open up a new tab and get this song playing on youtube ("C'est la Vie", by Cameroonian artist Henri Dikongué).

Step 2: Come back here, and, unless you speak French ^_^, check out the English translation of the lyrics.

A birth, a cry
A pain, a noise
A body so soft, my friend
A heart that beats, life

I would like to stop
On this happy moment that you have given me
This bursting forth of your fragility
Does not cease to amaze me
Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping
Leave my distress behind
Everything seems beautiful, everything seems light
As if the world has changed

(2x) That's life, life
Life oh, life eh
It is good, divine friend
We look it over and we smile

A caress, a joy
A smile, a voice
A trembling hand and me
A soul that lives from you

I would like to say thank you
For this moment you have granted me
It is as if I were never born
Before this infant, newborn
Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping
The wounds of my past
Everything seems beautiful, everything seems light
As if the world had changed

That's life (etc.)
It is mystery, it is magic
I feel like a father, and it pleases me

That's life (etc.)
It is good, divine friend
It gives me wings and desires

That's life (etc.)
It is good, divine friend
We look it over and we smile

That's life (etc.)
This presence that also makes
An existence of my life

With this beautiful song, I welcome my nieces, secret codename: Isis and secret codename: Phoenix, to the world. Babies, you are so very welcome. I am the happiest auntie that has ever been. Everything seems beautiful, everything seems light -- the world has changed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lost in Translation

This article makes me sad. And mad.

Changing topic... I've been having some great exchanges with my Korean translator for Graceling, Yoon Hoh, as she works through some of the trickiest parts to translate. At a certain point, I realized that you guys might find this stuff interesting, so I asked her permission to share some of it. I never really thought about the challenges of translating before, but... well, here are some examples:

First, there are the words I made up for the book. The first time Yoon contacted me, it was to ask me to explain what "borderlords" and "underlords" are.

I was able to explain borderlords pretty easily -- they're lords who live on a kingdom's border, i.e., Lord Davit is a Middluns borderlord because his Middluns estate is right near the Nanderan and Estillan borders.

But... underlords? *...* What the hell is an underlord, and why did I make up such a silly word? I had to go back to the text -- thank goodness, I have the pdf of the typeset book, so I was able to use the search tool -- and check all the times I used the word "underlord" to figure out what I'd meant by it. I determined (with some relief) that, in the Middluns, at least, it's pretty much synonymous with "lord," but tends to be used when a lord is being mentioned specifically in relation to the king. ("An underlord of Randa's had been exposed as a spy," for example. "Giddon, Randa's underlord," to cite another example. Giddon is a lord; he's also an underlord, because all lords in the Middluns are lords under Randa.) (*....* Again, why did I make it up in the first place? Sigh....)

Second, there are ways we use language to create certain impressions that simply do not translate to other languages. Po's real name is Greening Grandemalion, and Raffin and Katsa make fun of him -- it's maybe a mildly silly name, a bit pompous, for someone who's only the seventh heir to a king. I meant the "Grandemalion" part, in particular, to sound ostentatious. How did I come up with the name? Well it's a combination of a bunch of kinds of names and words that sound royal and fantastical and mythical to me. Tolkien's Silmarillion, for one; and characters from the King Arthur stories, like Uther Pendragon, Gawain, Pellinore, Merlin, Lohengrin, Calogrenant, Igraine, for example. I still have the post-it note from when I was trying to come up with Po's various names. Here are some words I made up: Marillion, Coremillion, Galmarillion, Potemnian, Potemnial, Potadriel, Potendrial, Pomendrian, Pomendrillion! You get the sound I was going for?

Anyway. For Yoon, the sound of the name simply doesn't translate. Check out this passage from Graceling (bold print Yoon's):

Cocky, she thought. Cocky and arrogant, this one, and that was all there was to make of him. Whatever game he was playing, if he expected her to join him he would be disappointed. Greening Grandemalion, indeed.

Yoon asked me, what does Greening Grandemalion even mean, and what did I mean by "indeed"? Why is everyone making a joke out of the name? I had to explain how the name is meant to sound to a native English speaker, and also explain what Katsa is thinking and/or feeling when she says, "Greening Grandemalion, indeed." Like, maybe she's rolling her eyes or snorting. It was tricky to explain! And Yoon decided to think about adding some words to Po's name so that Korean readers would understand that it was fancy and grandiose.

Which then got us into a whole conversation about how all the Lienid names have color or image references, some of which probably don't translate, because I've spelled the colors weirdly (E.g., Captain Faun [like the color fawn]; Skye [like a blue sky]; Jem [like a gem]; Ror [like aurora, the Latin word for dawn]); but that's a whole other kettle of fish that I won't get into here.

Third, check out this passage (again, bold print Yoon's):

Just as she was beginning to wonder if Oll and Giddon had lost themselves in the dungeons, they appeared around the corner, and slipped past her.

A quarter hour, no more,” she said.

“A quarter hour, My Lady.” Oll’s voice was a rumble. “Go safely.”

Yoon asked me, did I mean, "It won't take more than a quarter hour"? Or, did I mean, "Make sure it doesn't take more than a quarter hour"?

Isn't that a great question? I intended it to mean the latter. But I had to go back and read a few pages, and pick up my own subtle clues here and there, to decide for sure that that's what I'd meant. Little things, like her worry about why Oll and Giddon were taking so long, her general attitude of being impatient with them, and of being in charge. I also realized, of course, that either interpretation is completely valid. (If you disagree with my interpretation, that's totally fine!) But at least here I had an opportunity to state which interpretation I'd meant to convey.

So. Am I crazy to find this process interesting? And it's also fun :o). I only wish I had a Korean cover to use with this post! Maybe one will be forthcoming at some point.

Happy Thursday, all. And thanks for voting on Monday! Seems like the socks and the kangas are running away with the show.

Oh, and Fire is getting two more starred reviews, in Booklist and The Horn Book :o)

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Birthday Poll

It's my birthday week!

If you were around for my last birthday, you may recognize this poll, so forgive me for the repeat. I have a lot more readers now than I did then, and how could I waste an excellent birthday poll?

Please vote; and if you're someplace other than my site and can't see the poll, just click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fill in the Blank (and a Warrior in Training)

Check out my young pal, secret codename: Morgan.

(Now is probably an appropriate time to let you all know that it's not a real sword!)

So, my friend aroraborealis does a cool thing now and then on her blog -- a fill-in-the-blank sort of thing -- and I always enjoy it, so I'm going to copy her here.

Fill in the blank, guys!

I ______________, therefore I am.

(Reminder: I don't see comments left on LJ, Amazon, etc. Please comment on my Blog Actual.)

Monday, August 3, 2009


I'm going to share one of my all-time favorite passages from Pride and Prejudice. Some context: Lizzy is excited about her upcoming tour of the Lakes with her aunt and uncle, but wishes her sister Jane could come along.

"But it is fortunate,” thought she, “that I have something to wish for. Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment would be certain. But here, by carrying with me one ceaseless source of regret in my sister’s absence, I may reasonably hope to have all my expectations of pleasure realized. A scheme of which every part promises delight, can never be successful; and general disappointment is only warded off by the defense of some little peculiar vexation."

I think about that passage whenever my perfect peace is ruined by "little peculiar vexations." The vexations help me keep perspective, yanno? I just moved into a new home. I LOVE IT. But it's not perfect, and right now, the little vexation that annoys me and kicks me into realizing how much I love everything *else* about my home is that my front room looks out onto a noisy street; in summer, with the windows open, my front room is not quiet.

Do you have a little peculiar vexation? Does it ward off disappointment? Or is it merely vexatious? :o)

Anyway. Before I go, here's something that'll take away all your vexations for 3 minutes, guaranteed. Well, maybe that's not fair. I'll just say this: it took away mine. (Thanks, Ranting Nerd, for the link!)

Happy Monday, all.