I’ve lived in Brooklyn for ten years now, and one of my favorite things about it is the Brooklyn Bridge. The story of how the Bridge came to be is truly epic, and the Bridge itself is a thing of utter beauty. I have crossed it by car, bicycle, and foot; in the sun, the rain and the snow; and I have stared at it from train windows. I never get tired of it. I love it desperately, just as I love my adopted hometown. I guess it was inevitable that I would wind up writing a book about it.
Or, I should say, it was inevitable that I’d cannibalize the first book I ever wrote, which happened to be about Brooklyn, and try and turn it into something great. And get this: it was a romance novel. Hilarious, right?
So basically I woke up this morning and realized it’s April. Holy cow. Here’s where I disappeared to and what’s going on at Milford Command Central.
What’s going on: this Saturday, 4/2, I’ll be appearing as part of the 5th Annual Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival in Philadelphia, at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore! The whole weekend’s lineup is wonderful, but my discussion and signing is Saturday at 3pm. I’ll be appearing with Beth Kephart, author of many, many books including the new Dangerous Neighbors.
Also, the audiobook of The Boneshaker is out in the world! At the moment, it’s unclear how you go about getting it except directly from Recorded Books (libraries and individuals can purchase the unabridged audiobook through their website) or through your library. But it’s out there. I ordered one just to make sure, and it showed right up at my front door. Also, the paperback edition of The Boneshaker comes out 5/23, and it’s available for preorder at all the usual suspects, or you can place an order with my beloved McNally Jackson Books and I’ll sign it for you before we send it out. If you can’t wait until May, McJ has copies of the hardcover.
So where have I been? Finishing the companion book to The Boneshaker, which comes out a year from now and goes by the monicker The Broken Lands.
This has been a very interesting writing process; the original idea for the book, which is a prequel, was a one-page synopsis that I thought I might turn into some kind of novella or something. Then my wonderful editor at Clarion got her hands on it and decided it ought to be longer. She was absolutely right. Still, this meant building up the vague idea for a story into a full-length draft in four months, including all the requisite research, which I had not even begun. And there was A LOT of research. I’m still doing it. Coney Island, the Civil War and Reconstruction, hoodoo, card games and card sharps, and (requiring the most reading), fireworks, alchemy, Taoism, and the Brooklyn Bridge. And other stuff, too. My husband did a lot of lecturing on certain elements of the Linux startup procedure, for instance. I’ll leave you to wonder how that factors in, since this book is set in 1877. I still have lots of work to do, but I’m really happy with how it’s going, especially since the wonderful Andrea Offermann will be returning as the illustrator.
I also got a really bad case of bronchitis THE WEEK BEFORE MY DEADLINE. Talk about crazy-making. I haven’t been so sick in a long, long time. I slept for six days. I lived on ice cream and toast and old X-files episodes, very few of which did I manage to watch straight through without snoozing. The week after my deadline, though, I attended Yonkers Montessori Academy’s Writers’ Day for the second year. I cannot tell you how wonderful these kids and their teachers are. After weeks of being frantic or sick or both, it was so nice to get to spend the day with these amazing 4th-6th graders. They were ready with wonderful, thoughtful questions and intelligent discussion, and they made me feel like a rock star.
So that’s my story. Now, back to revisions…
That post title is funny to me because I’m hungry and I’m having coffee instead of food. Whatever.
Today, with less than two weeks left of the Nebula nomination period, I am finally getting around to writing up some of the wonderful stuff I am hoping gets some Nebula love. Today I have for you ONE adult novel I pretty much totally adore PLUS TWO young adult delights (well, in at least one case “delight” is really not an appropriate choice of words, but it’s a truly wonderful book), PLUS ONE young adult novel that is officially next on my to-read, PLUS ONE thing I must do before the voting deadline (February 15th).
Last night another foot of snow fell on Brooklyn. When I was a kid in Maryland, on a night when it snowed my mom would bundle my sister and brothers up (and my dad, sometimes, too), and we’d walk from our house along Riva Road to the tiny convenience mart that we always called simply “the little store.” There, we’d provision up in the hopes that we’d be snowed in the next day. Even after I moved to New York, I always tried to make it out for a walk on a snowy evening. Last night I decided it was a perfect time to reinvigorate the tradition and take out the new tripod Nathan got me for Christmas. Never mind that it was midnight! Out into the wild!
These, by the way, are color pictures, even though they don’t particularly look like it. And the weird flares are from the wind blowing the snow around. I got kinda obsessed with being able to see the wind like that. And thanks to the four very nice guys out hiking the drifts who somehow didn’t think I was insane and were willing to wander around and let me take pictures of them.
For the last three weeks, my husband Nathan has been hopping around the country and the world doing IT Stuff, and I’ve been sitting at home trying to finish a book draft. Somewhere along the way my beloved red Dell started making some really creepy noises. Now, basically everything I have is backed up through the amazing thing that is Dropbox, so we weren’t precisely worried that I was going to lose data if the laptop died, but this is not the time for me to lose days of work because of a dead computer. So he handed me one of his and hopped on a plane. This is how I got stranded with Linux. And you know what? I might stick with it.
There may be some among you who have no idea what I’m talking about. (For those who do, please forgive me the gross oversimplifications that are about to follow.) Linux is an operating system, like Windows. If you have a PC, your computer shipped with Windows and you probably run programs like those included in Microsoft Office. I, for instance, use Word when I’m writing. I use Excel to organize my taxes. I use Photoshop and MS Paint to remove scratches from my negatives and resize photographs for use on this blog. All of those are programs that run on Windows. They are also all programs that have to be purchased (or–don’t do this at home, kids–pirated). If you’re a Mac user, you’re probably using Apple’s operating system, Mac OS X. Same idea.
Linux’s biggest difference (at least for a non-techie like me) is that it’s open-source, meaning anyone can take the code and use it, change it, improve upon it, and send it back out into the world, so it’s constantly evolving with the help of its users. And, by the way, if you use an Android-based phone, you’re already running Linux.
Nathan is a confirmed Linux guy. He’s been managing a few hundred Linux servers for a couple of years, and has been running a Linux-based operating system on his desktop, too. When he left me with this thing, he said, “Just try it. If you don’t like it, I’ll fix your laptop and you can go back to Windows.” Why, I wanted to know (and I was rawther frustrated at the time), would I want to change what I was using? This is what he told me:
Okay, so those are the plusses (again, I’m sure there are many, many more, but I’m restricting myself to a couple that pretty much anybody who works regularly on a laptop can appreciate). But Open Office Word Processor is not Word, Spreadsheet is not Excel, and GIMP is not Photoshop (according to Nathan, I’m really going to be annoyed with GIMP for a while. Evidently it’s a pain in the neck). So for anybody who’s curious, here are the negatives I’ve found so far.
And…so far that’s it. We set the defaults in the word processing and spreadsheet programs and GIMP to save my files as .docx and .xls and .jpg so I don’t have to worry about converting them. So I won’t, by accident, send my agent or editor a file they can’t read, or switch to my netbook (which runs Windows) and not be able to open my manuscript. And yes, things look different in Open Office, but working in its word processor rather than Word is no big transition. It’s like making an omelet in somebody else’s kitchen–the frying pan might be in a different place than it is in yours, but as long as all the tools are there and in logical places, you can cook breakfast without a headache.
So there you go. My writing life is an experiment right now. But I’m not hating it.
First of all, and I’m really tempted to capitalize it, The Boneshaker is a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults! (Look at that. I even managed to restrict myself to only one exclamation point. It was tough, I’ll tell you.)
Here’s the rest of the list, which contains my wonderful crit-mate Heidi Ayarbe’s Compromised as well as some other books I well and truly loved in 2010.
Another cool thing that happened to me last week was that I got to participate in a Children’s Literary Salon at the New York Public Library, along with Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm) and Michael Teitelbaum (The Scary States of America). Betsy Bird acted as ace moderator for the panel, entitled Blood, Bones and Gore: Horror and the Modern Children’s Book. It was a ton of fun! I had already read A Tale Dark and Grimm (and LOVED IT. LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT), and after hearing Michael Teitelbaum talk about The Scary States of America I went right out and picked it up. It will be my subway reading, starting tomorrow. I expect to love it just as much.
Oh, also, work is going swimmingly on The Broken Lands. I am pretty sure I am going to change the date the story takes place from 1883, when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed to 1877, when it was very definitely still in pieces. Why? Oh, so many very good reasons I think I’d better not spoil the surprise by sharing. Suffice to say some awesome stuff happens when I stick the story in 1877, and I think I like that stuff a lot.
Current research reading:
No, I did not make any of that up or embellish it. That’s literally what the front title page says.
That’s all for now. Happy (belated) New Year, everyone!
So far, not my most productive Christmas season ever. I guess I figured once I no longer had a full-time non-writing job, I would suddenly have All The Time In The World. Not so. Generally, in order to keep the insanity and stress of managing a retail store through the holidays from permanently altering my brain chemistry, I:
This year, I sent one of my best college friends a box that literally held two little gifts and a bottle of liquor, not wrapped at all and padded with–wait for it–plastic grocery store bags. Then I sent it to the wrong address. It has not surfaced, probably because it is too mortified to show up and be opened by its intended recipient. This was back in early November, and my holiday execution has pretty much gone downhill from there. Today I only managed to have breakfast because my friend Carrie sent me brownies a couple days ago. How do I have fewer obligations, fewer drains on my time, and yet somehow I am getting absolutely nothing done?
I suspect this is one of those things that just doesn’t have an answer. This year I think I just have to accept I am not a functioning adult. (This year, after all, I am a Professional Writer! Turns out that means more than just living out of pajamas and skilfully ignoring sinksful of dishes.)
Oh, well. Here’s hoping the two plum puddings still left in my fridge from last year (when, in October, I candied citrus peel, made homemade bread crumbs, and turned out no less than six plum puddings) have sufficient liquor in them to be edible on Saturday. I suspect they do. If there’s one thing I do right at the holidays, it’s sauce things with liquor. Anyhow, they’ll be steamed and set on fire before they’re eaten–that should kill any remaining microbes off. I think.
Happy holidays, everyone! May the insanity in your household be of the joyful kind.
It’s Nebula Time, and I have a vote to be informed about! That’s right, from now until February 15th, SFWA members get to cast their votes in support of their favorite SciFi and Fantasy works of 2010. Are you an SFWA member? Then get off your duff and start thinking about your ballot.
For those who don’t know, there are two rounds to the process. This first round, everybody nominates their favorites, and the six in each category (Short Story, Novella, Novelette, Novel, Screenplay, and Young Adult Novel) with the highest number of votes make it to the final ballot. Votes can be entered and even changed right up until the February 15th deadline. Then the second phase begins, where SFWA members read the finalists and cast a second round of votes.
Admittedly, I started this project way too late last time around, when my goal was simply to read all the finalists and blog about what I read (I did manage to get the reading done, but I didn’t manage to get my comments up on every category before the voting deadline). This year I am actually getting to cast a vote to help determine those finalists, and while I certainly can’t possibly read the entire field, I am going to use it as an excuse to get serious about catching up on my TBR pile, and maybe to occasionally remind anybody who cares that my book came out this year and is eligible for the Norton Award for YA lit. I would bat my eyelashes at you, but I have no makeup on and am just finishing my first cup of coffee and it wouldn’t have the effect I was looking for. I will, therefore, settle for tossing out the reminder and also pointing out that SFWA members can read the text free, along with the work of lots of other hopefuls, via the SFWA message boards. There. Self-indulgent message completed.
Books I’m really excited about reading? A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz. Sarah Beth Durst’s Enchanted Ivy. Paolo Bacigalupi’s National Book-nominated Shipbreaker, of course–although I suspect he won’t need my vote to make it to the finals, much like Megan Whelan Turner’s Conspiracy of Kings, which it’s about time I read, too. Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought. The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu, which I have to double-check the rules about (it hit the US market in 2010, which I think makes it eligible). China Mieville’s Kraken. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade. Ian McDonald’s Ares Express. That’s just off the top of my head. How many is that?
Books I’ve read this year that I loved? Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Aurorarama. Mistwood by Leah Cypess and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. Mockingjay, the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, which I also probably won’t vote for because, again, it’s not going to need my vote to place (which may be a crap way of doing things, but hey, it’s my vote, so deal with it). Monsters of Men, the final installment of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, which anybody who liked The Hunger Games should start reading immediately if not sooner. Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman. Matt Kirby’s The Clockwork Three. I’m resisting the urge to get up and check my bookshelves. I read so much good stuff this year.
And then there’s the short fiction. I am so bad at actually reading short fiction. I love it when I make the effort, but I will be the first one to admit I’m bad at making the effort. So it’s time to start making the effort. I would love to hear your suggestions about short stories, novellas, and novelettes to start my reading off with.
So welcome to Nebula Season, and the Informed Voter Project! I’ll be posting comments on my reading in the coming months, and would welcome your comments and suggestions. Happy holidays, and happy reading!
Since many if not most of my readers are old friends, many if not most of you know about my obsession with roadside attractions, small towns, and things old and weird and forgotten. For those of you who didn’t, consider yourself informed. For Thanksgiving, Nathan and I took our beloved little car, Faye Valentine, and drove to spend a few days with his folks in Missouri. We picked a couple places to stop along the way out and on the way back, and here they are!
Sunday, November 21: The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Basically, there’s this castle in Bucks County and it’s full of early American ephemera. I mean, stuffed full. This is how I killed the battery in my camera, I think. Later I’ll put up a slideshow, but for now, this gives you the basic idea.
Monday, after much driving through the wilds of West Virginia with my husband experiencing the general freaked-outness of a Midwestern boy accustomed to flatlands when he is forced to spend hours getting through the mountains (where, to his horror, the speed limit is 70 and there are no guard rails), we wound up at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky and took their “Hard Hat” tour. Nathan was in heaven.
After that, it was off to Louisville, where thanks to the amazing folks at RoadsideAmerica.com, I found this amazing yard to kill the rest of the camera battery with:
Again, slide show coming to give you a better sense of how cool it was, but basically both the front and back yards were just full of weird stuff–cigar store figures, a life-size (I guess) E.T. in a red phone booth, a few dinosaurs, King Kong, that kind of thing. Then we drove to Cave City, Kentucky, and made camp here for the night:
Tuesday we drove from Cave City to Hannibal, Missouri, stopping here and there along the way. On Wednesday, right before leaving the hotel to visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home, we got a phone call from my agent, Ann Behar–but more on that later.
From there it was on to Kansas City to spend Thanksgiving and the day after with Nathan’s folks. On the trip home, we made two stops (leaving out the assorted antique shops and flea markets I dragged Nathan to): Clairton, Pennsylvania, which has some very ghost-town like stretches of street dating from days when it was thriving, and Roadside America, the Attraction.
You can probably figure out which was which. By the way, Roadside America is on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which, in certain areas, has geographical features like mountains in common with West Virginia. I found the drive beautiful, but this is what my husband had to say about it: ”If Frodo had to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get the ring to Mordor, it would’ve been a very different story.”
Oh, and that very exciting phone call I received in Hannibal? The Very Important Announcement? In 2012, Clarion will release the next installment of the story begun with The Boneshaker, which is currently going by the title The Broken Lands. I am very, very excited about this book–so excited that I think the news and the story merit a post of their own. Stay tuned for more information, but in the meantime, safe travels wherever the holidays take you, and don’t forget to stop for the weird stuff along the road.
I am a nerd for history and a nerd for weird stuff. I like the forgotten, I like the lost. I like things that have the feeling of the vaguely strange and secret. And I love, love, love my borough of Brooklyn, which has been home to me now for almost ten years. So this year for Halloween, Nathan and I decided to do something we’d been meaning to do for a while. We signed up for a tour of the world’s oldest subway tunnel, running under a stretch of Atlantic Avenue from Court Street to Henry Street. It was completed in 1844, relieved traffic along this (even back then) congested stretch of roadway with steam trains until 1859, and was sealed up two years later, but never demolished. The tunnel was re-discovered in 1981 by Bob Diamond, who conducts the tours. In its lost time, the tunnel did service sheltering bootleggers, pirates, even (according to less-likely legend) John Wilkes Booth, who, if you believe the conspiracy theories that have him escaping north to NYC and thence to freedom and a longer life than history books would have us believe, hid pages of his journal in an abandoned train in the tunnel that revealed the other conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.
So here we go!
First step: through a hole in the street.
We were told to bring flashlights, and this is why. At the bottom of the ladder is a little antechamber with a brick ceiling, well-lit. Then there’s a very small hole in the wall with stairs on the other side, also relatively well-lit.
After that, it looks like this.
Once you add in about a hundred people with flashlights and your eyes start to adjust, though, things are easier to see. By the end of the tour we could pretty well see where we were and what we were looking at.
There were two sets of tracks in the tunnel for steam trains. Below you can see where the railroad ties were on the south side of the tunnel (the wavy surface).
The ones on the north side are less-well defined because they were removed in order to fix the south tracks and their persistent snakehead problem. That’s right. Snakehead problem. Seems cast iron rails could warp in a seesaw motion, causing one end of the occasional iron bar to seesaw up as the other end was compressed and sending a piece of iron through the floor of the train and resulting in the potential for some gruesome occurrences. Snakehead problem.
This is the Henry Street end of the tunnel, which hasn’t yet been excavated. This is about the midpoint, so beyond this wall there are about six blocks of unexplored tunnel. Mr. Diamond suspects there is at least one abandoned train on the other side.
Then once again up the stairs…
…and up the ladder and out into the world.
The rest of my photos are below, for those who are curious and don’t mind indulging me as I attempt to get exposures in a dark space without a tripod.
If you’d like to see the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel for yourself, details and lots of more information and links are available at the Brooklyn Historic Rail Association’s tunnel website here. I highly recommend it.