Tag Archives: The Boneshaker

In Which I Sneak onto a Very Important Panel by Organizing It (Please Come)!

Yes, folks, I get to talk upper middle-grade with Rebecca Stead, Mariko Tamaki, and Nancy Paulsen! I’m kind of dying of joy, in part because, as an author, bookseller, reader and mom, I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of these women, and in part because this is a conversation I want to have as often, and as loudly, as possible.

Last year, I was really fortunate to be able to take part in a panel discussion at last year’s NESCBWI conference with Laurel Snyder and Aaron Starmer on the subject of upper middle-grade fiction. We called the panel “The Blurry Space of Thirteen.” It was a phenomenal discussion, and I’ve been on the lookout ever since for another chance to dive back in. After all, before Greenglass House, all of my books fell squarely into this awkward upper middle-grade range. My next book is upper MG. Nearly every book in my head is upper MG.

Now, if you have visited this site before basically ever, you know that I’m terrible at updating it. In the last year, I’ve blogged exactly twice, and one of those posts was this one: Just One Reason Why THIS ONE SUMMER’s Caldecott Honor Matters a Lot. 

You can read the whole (excessively long) thing if you have time, but basically my thesis is, books for the set of readers who fall in the icky transitional space between kid and teen are hard to serve in the kids’ book world for Reasons (see post for specifics). But it’s critically important that we serve these kids–they’re going through some of the worst years of their lives, if my memory is to be trusted at all (and I had it better than most kids). To serve them, we have to understand that their needs sometimes include books that touch on subjects that can make adults uncomfortable, and as book creators, we have to acknowledge that those stories often don’t seem to fit comfortably in either traditional MG or in YA.

That post scratched the we-have-to-talk-about-upper-MG itch for a while. Then this spring, I got my hands on an advance copy of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, which lives squarely in the aforementioned blurry space,  alternating between middle-school and high-school POVs in its discussions of Things That Adults Are Uncomfortable Thinking About Kids Dealing With.  Cristin Stickles, through some magic that only she possesses, convinced the wonderful Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books at Penguin Young Readers, to moderate our discussion, and NOW IT’S HAPPENING, GUYS! IT’S HAPPENING NEXT WEEK! I hope you’ll join us if you can. I truly believe this is an important conversation to have. All ages are welcome.

And now I leave you with the words of the wonderful Cristin Stickles, my partner-in-crime at McNally Jackson Books:

A great rule of thumb is to never trust someone who enjoyed middle school. It’s a miserable time for any halfway-decent human, that murky area between being a kid and a teenager, between Charlotte’s Web and The Outsiders, between elementary and high school.

The right books can be key to surviving this purgatory, but writing for the 11-14 year old set poses its a very unique set of hurdles. Join three authors who are up for the challenge in conversation about the not-so-wonder(ful) years and the books that can help kids get out (relatively) unscathed.

Join us, won’t you?

Countdown to THE BROKEN LANDS: the Cover, and a Contest or Two

About a week ago I got to see the final cover of my next book at last. Yes, The Broken Lands jacket art has been finalized, and all I can say is that it’s truly beautiful. Not that I expected anything less for a moment. Andrea Offermann, the amazing artist behind the cover and illustrations of The Boneshaker, returned for this book, and I’m just in love with what she’s done this time. In fact, I’m so in love I want to celebrate a little.

Here is Andrea. Wonder what she's working on...

I’ve also been receiving some fabulous comments about the book from some fabulous writers, educators, and librarians. I want to celebrate that, too. I’m just feeling generally celebratory. So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking: how about I show you the jacket art next weekend, and how about before do, let’s have a CONTEST? In fact, let’s have TWO OF THEM!

Contest #1: Draw some stuff.

I’ll post an excerpt from The Broken Lands later this afternoon, to introduce you to the setting and one of the characters. I invite you to bring either or both of them to life any way you like. Post a link to your art in the comments of the posted excerpt any time this week.

Contest #2 (for those of you who, like me, lack any drawing capability whatsoever): Help get the word out about this contest and the cover reveal next weekend.

Post a thoughtful comment or question here, tweet or re-tweet links about the contest, mention it on Facebook, do what you can to keep the chatter going. Those cool comments about the book I mentioned? I’ll be dealing some of those out on Tumblr this week, and you can re-blog one or two of those if you’re so inclined. I’ll do a random drawing from all chatter-amplifying commentary I can find, and select a few winners. It’s probably best, so that your efforts don’t slip my notice, that you also make it easy for me to find them. Use my Twitter name, @katemilford, or my Facebook name, @katechellmilford, or comment here on the blog as to how you’ve passed the word along. Thoughtful comments or questions will earn you an extra entry. What constitutes a thoughtful comment or question? I don’t know, but I know one when I see it.


The deadline to enter is Friday the 10th. I’ll post the cover Saturday the 11th, and announce the winners Sunday the 12th.


The winner of the chatter portion will be drawn at random, but multiple contributions will earn you multiple entries. The winner of the art portion–well, it depends on how many entries there are. If you’re the only person who steps up and gives it a shot, YOU WIN. If you’re one of only two or three, you probably all win. My blog traffic isn’t that high, so honestly, your chances are pretty good. I’d give it a go.


My endless gratitude. Oh, and yes, books. The winner of the art portion will receive the ANDREA OFFERMANN CELEBRATION PRIZE: a copy each of The Broken Lands (your choice, advance copy in about a month, or real-live bound book in September) and Sonya Hartnett’s The Midnight Zoo, which Andrea also illustrated.

The winner of the chatter portion will receive the SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT MY BOOK CELEBRATION PRIZE: The Broken Lands (same choice, arc very soon or hardcover this fall) and your choice of a book by one of the wonderful writers who so generously gave their time to read The Broken Lands. I’ll let you know the specific choices at the end of the week, but there are clues here as to whose books will be up for grabs if you look closely enough.

I should also warn you that I’m overseas this week, six hours ahead of you. It’s 8pm here, and I have somewhat limited internet. So please don’t panic if I don’t reply right away–or, you know, for six hours. Or if something gets stuck needing me to moderate it. Just think of it as part of the fun. And while you’re waiting, here’s an interview with Andrea from just a couple of days ago to keep you busy.

So, without further ado…let’s start…NOW!

Today I Go In Search of a Villain.

This is a fascinating state of affairs for me. I will tell you why.

But first, let me say this. I love writing villains. I love dreaming them up, deciding on their quirks, their monstrosities, and the cuts of their bespoke suits (I’m looking at you, Walker). I love choosing which slivers of humanity to reveal, and when. I love when my beloved beta-reading genius editor kids tell me, “No, that’s not too scary. I think he could be a little scarier. And by the way, are you going to write more about Jake Limberleg?”

I love villains so much that, from time to time, they turn up in my head before the hero does. It may surprise you that this is what happened with The Boneshaker. That’s right; Jake Limberleg surfaced before Natalie Minks. The Broken Lands was a little bit different. I knew the villains in advance, but I knew the main characters in advance, too; and unlike Natalie, I knew them just as well, maybe better, than High Walker and Bloody Bones, the folks they were going to go up against.

So now we come to my current project. Let’s call it Peculiar Springs, since this is what it’s called in my head. This one is coming together in an entirely different way: the place happened first. This has happened to me before, too, but I didn’t start thinking about a book set in that place until I discovered I had a protagonist and a villain in mind. Fortunately, the minute I began building the Peculiar Springs Hotel in my head, I knew immediately who was going to have an adventure there, and why–partly because I was looking for an adventure idea for this particular character. Let’s call her…well, let’s just tell the truth and say it’s Natalie.

So now I have a place and I have Natalie. In the last month, since this idea first occurred to me, you would not believe the details that have come together for this story. This is how I always know I’m on the right track. Unrelated strange and interesting things suddenly reveal their connections to each other. I read something I’ve really been looking forward to, and immediately I see how it relates to Natalie in Peculiar Springs. Five or six different characters have shown up and come to life. But the one who hasn’t turned up yet is the villain.

So I’m ready to get moving, to start writing–and I’m missing my adversary. This is not normal. I always know who the villain is, because the villain is half the fun for me. What to do?

Continue reading

Nebula Season, and the Return of the Informed Voter Project

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!

Life Changers, Part One

A week ago I had the coolest thing ever happen. I was on the way home, ending what had already been a fairly amazing week (see my previous post). Nathan and I were sitting in traffic with my parents on our way home from New Hampshire amusing ourselves with a voice-changer toy we’d gotten my father (who was driving, and therefore cut off from using it due to the likelihood of him laughing so hard at one of his own jokes that he could drive us off the road). Nathan also spent rather a good amount of time cursing the fact that we seemed to be driving through every dead zone in New England (and he was technically working from the road). Still, somehow  this email miraculously got through despite the patchy internet:

Dear Miss Milford,

My name is Emma Humphrey and I am currently LOVING the Boneshaker. My mom and I run a book club for me and all of my friends every summer. For our fourth book club we are doing Newberys, and since we know that your book is a contender for this year our meeting tomorrow is on the Boneshaker. I know that you are currently in Milford New Hampshire and I just found out, I wish I were there to see you. I was wondering if there was any chance that you’d be in, or anywhere close to Massachusetts tomorrow day, night – whatever. My book club consists of ten girls who all love to read and would do anything to meet you. I know this is probably a huge thing to ask but I hope you’ll write me back.

Emma Humphrey

I wasn’t planning to be in Massachusetts the next day, but, as I may have mentioned, at the end of June I left my full-time job to try my hand at being a full-time writer. I do work a couple days a week at my favorite bookstore, but I didn’t have to work the day of Emma’s book club; and, as I’ve definitely mentioned, I love to drive. So I told Emma I’d come up, and the next day, a little after 5pm, I pulled up in her driveway and immediately a row of heads popped up in the window. One of them was–I am not exaggerating here–literally jumping up and down.

Before I was all the way out of the car, the front door opened and this swarm of sixth-grade girls came pouring out of the house. At the front of the swarm was Emma, who introduced herself, shook my hand, took my bags, and brought me inside. There I met her parents and her teacher, the latter of whom greeted me with, “Hi! You’re insane.” (Usually I manage to look sane for at least five minutes before people catch on. All I can say in my own defense is, I’d been driving for a while and didn’t have time to touch up my makeup before I got there. But this isn’t the point.)

They ushered me into the dining room, where they had decorated the table with plastic gears and a (toy) bee in a jar for a centerpiece. There was a boneshaker-themed dinner: popcorn in carnival-striped bags for appetizers, tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner, and unburned chocolate cake (devil’s food) along with gear-shaped cookies for dessert. Basically everything here is a reference to something in the book. While we ate, we talked. There were fifteen girls there and Emma’s little brother, Quinn, and all of them had questions and commentary. Their questions were so good, in fact, and their discussion so thoughtful and engaging, that I totally lost track of time. The plan had been for the book club to go from 5-7, but it was 10 before I finally left with cards signed by all the book club members and my hosts, a necklace with a gear on it (one of the moms had made one for all of us girls), the bee in the jar, and my life utterly changed.

I love to write. I would write even if nobody wanted to read what I wrote, but having a book in print means knowing that there are at least a few people out there who know how I spent the last five years of my life, and will have opinions on the result. I have been lucky enough to have had some very glowing reviews, and those made me feel really good, but let’s face it, this book was written for younger readers. In the past week I’ve had my first experiences meeting some of those readers in person, and after seven days I still don’t have words for what it felt like. All I can say is, thank you Emma, Maeve, Dulaney, Olivia G, Olivia W, Abby, Minnie, Emma M, Ginny, Ellie, Julia, Alex, Amazing Quinn, Mike, Laurie, and Paul for inviting me to your table and making me feel like I had something worth saying.

Oh, and these amazing readers have agreed to do a series of guest posts here at the Clockwork Foundry in September on their summer book club reading. Mark your calendars! I can’t wait to read what they have to say.

This Wednesday at Pandemonium; BEA; and Some Very Important Questions

Updates! I gots ’em!

This Wednesday, I’ll be signing at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, Mass with Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

I just finished Mistwood yesterday, by the way, and it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll do a Subway Literature post on it after the signing, but in the meantime, let me just say I read it in what would’ve been one sitting if I hadn’t had to work this weekend. It follows Isabel, herself a creature of legend in the world of the book: she is the Shifter, a preternaturally powerful bodyguard/assassin/adviser to the King of Samorna. The Shifter sometimes leaves the court, but always returns when her King requires her protection. Isabel is called from the Mistwood, her home and place of strength, by Rokan, a king with reason to fear for his throne. There’s fast-moving intrigue and several really excellent twists, and Isabel is a stellar character. I’m going to stop myself from saying more until after the signing, but I definitely recommend it. So come by if you can, this Wednesday, 6/2, at 7pm.

Pandemonium Books & Games
4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Last week, Book Expo America came to NYC.

I wasn’t able to attend the first day (bummer and a half, because there were some panels I would have loved to have had the chance to attend), but on Tuesday night I stopped by the Steam Salon at Madame X in Soho to hear readings from Felix Gilman, George Mann, Catherynne M. Valente (recent winner of the Andre Norton award for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I loved desperately), and Cherie Priest. No, I did not wear the very cool veil I made in order to turn my dress into an appropriate costume–I took it with me but then I kind of wussed out (I’m not very good at costumes)–but I did get to meet Cherie, who was completely awesome, and who didn’t seem to think it was weird that after a couple scotches I felt it was really important to give her a giant thank-you hug (or maybe two) for being so cool about the title fiasco.

On Wednesday I made it to BEA for a video interview with a very nice woman from Amazon and the “Speed Dating” event with children’s librarians and booksellers, which was a bit of a blur but a lot of fun. Wednesday night Nathan and I stopped by Books of Wonder, where several tween and teen authors were reading. I will admit we went mainly to see Cory Doctorow. We’re both huge fans, but I particularly wanted to meet Cory to say thank you for his beautiful review of The Boneshaker on BoingBoing.net. We also picked up his new YA, For The Win, which I read in two days (although this required some ignoring of Nathan, which he has still not forgiven me for). Then on Thursday I had a chance to really wander around the main floor after lunch with Jeri Smith-Ready (whose awesome new paranormal YA Shade launched at the beginning of May) and Sarah Beth Durst (a finalist for the Andre Norton award for her gorgeous fairytale retelling, Ice). Jeri and Sarah had attended the entire conference, and considering I felt pretty brain-dead after my one event, I have no idea how they were capable of holding conversations by that point.

BEA is seriously overwhelming, and I don’t get the impression this is just my perception as a first-time attendee. Next year I will have a bit more of a plan in place. For one thing, that trade floor is absolutely made for a scavenger hunt. Filing that thought away.

Oh, another cool thing happened, during but unrelated to BEA. I got a message from a former co-worker that she’d spotted this in AM New York, a free daily newspaper, on Wednesday:

See it? There on the right hand side? Here it is, a little closer:

And now, as promised, Some Very Important Questions, in honor of the Pandemonium Event, from my oldest little brother, Buddy Chell.

Buddy Chell: If you were leveling a Blood Elf Mage for PvE play, would you spec him/her as a Frost Mage, Fire Mage, or Arcane Fire Mage?

Kate Milford: Good question, Buddy! While being a Frost Mage sounds wicked cool, I think I would feel obligated to spec him/her as an Arcane Fire Mage because the town in my book is called Arcane. On the other hand, being a Frost Mage would probably give me greater personal satisfaction, because Nathan hates the cold and I think I would feel very powerful if I could cast some awesome Frost Mage badassery at him to annoy him whenever I wanted.

(Nathan Milford, from across the room: Good luck. I would cast Ice Barrier at level eight and absorb only 3% of the damage, assuming Kate could really roll against my armor class and hit THAC0. She’d need a d30. *laughs maniacally*)

BC: What level Jewelcrafter are you? Can you transmute epic gems?

KM: I am a level two Jewelcrafter, master of crafting from antique shrimp forks and camera parts. No, I can’t transmute epic gems, but I can beat up any of those lame Jewelcrafters who make stuff out of yarn and elbow macaroni. Take that, kindergarteners.

BC: How many heroic dailies do you run?

KM: Okay, what the hell does that even mean?

(NM: I always live by my old dungeonmaster’s motto: We are armed to the teeth for your protection.

KM: How is that relevant?

NM: It’s relevant because it’s awesome.)

BC: Do you prefer to tank or be dps as a feral druid?

KM: Tank is a verb? Other than in the sense of, man, I tanked my history final? I prefer not to tank history finals. I prefer not to be involved in history finals. What’s my other option? Feral druid? I pick that one.

BC: How often do you hang out in Goldshire pwning n00bs?

KM: As often as possible. Nothing else gives me satisfaction like pwning n00bs, especially in Goldshire. It’s my favorite place to pwn them.

(NM: Psh. I pwn n0obs in Ravenloft. In the mists of Ravenloft. In the mists.)

BC: Whats your guild’s name?

KM: The Yankee Clock Peddlers. Because trust me, nothing is more intimidating or sinister than a Yankee Clock Peddler. Seriously. Look it up, n00b.

And there you have it! I will be available to answer further questions this Wednesday. In the meantime, I leave you with this, which I couldn’t help but be reminded of. Happy Memorial Day!

My Book, for Really and for True, or: The Best Reason I Ever Had for Going to Pieces in Public

When I was in first grade and got picked as Central Elementary School’s “Writer of the Week,” I was pretty sure that, with a little hard work, I would be published before I graduated to middle school. I’m sure I’m not the only one with something like this in his or her past. I’ve wanted to write a book ever since I was little. For a while, in high school and college, I wrote plays instead, and for a while after college I thought I wanted to write movies. Then I did what I’d planned to do in first grade, and I wrote a book.

Today, more than two weeks before I’d prepared myself for it, Nathan and I found it in a bookstore, like…like it belonged there, with the rest of the Real Books.

Here it is, courtesy of Nathan:

Now, The Boneshaker was supposed to come out–let me check my countdown widget–eighteen days from now. So I didn’t have time to figure out what I would say to the very nice woman behind the counter at Word, the first bookstore I found it in. Because…I don’t know why…I wanted to say something. I desperately wanted to say to her, that’s my book and I can’t believe you have it here, faced out and pretty on a shelf for me to find. I wanted to say thank you, I guess, only I was about to cry and not really thinking that clearly about the whole thing so I thought, I can’t say that, that’ll sound dumb…I’ll just ask when it came in. So I went to the desk and started to ask my fake question and I got as far as, “Um, you have…there’s a book…The Boneshaker over there and”–here’s where I started wrinkling up my face and gulping air and the bookseller started to look panicked–“and I wrote it and”–tears started about here–“and it was going to be out way later and when did it…when did…”

But she brightened up as soon as I got out the I wrote it part and said, “That’s your book? That’s so great! Congratulations! Would you sign the copies for us?” Like I hadn’t just about had a meltdown in front of her. Bless her. I wanted to hug her.

So here’s me, signing two copies of The Boneshaker for the first time, at Word in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I don’t have words for what this felt like. And now I have to stop, or I’ll start crying again.

Three Happy Things: Postcards, Posters, and a Friend’s ARC. Oh, and Free Stuff!

First, the free stuff, because I know that’s what people really want to know about. The Enchanted Inkpot turns one year old this April, and in honor of this very important anniversary, the Inkpot has put together two very, very cool giveaways this month. The first ends April 14–THAT’S TODAY, PEOPLE!–with a winner announced on the 16th, along with the prizes for the second contest.The best part is this: all you need to do is comment on this post right here and tell the Inkpot about a middle-grade or young adult book you read that you’d recommend. A winner will be chosen at random, and here’s what that winner will get:

  • Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R.L. LaFevers (signed hardcover)
  • Shadow by Jenny Moss (signed hardcover)
  • The Boneshaker by Kate Milford (signed ARC – hardcover comes out May 24, 2010!)
  • Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (ARC)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (signed hardcover)
  • The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs (signed hardcover)
  • Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R.J. Anderson (signed hardcover)
  • The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem (signed hardcover)
  • Possessions by Nancy Holder (signed paperback)

Further info to be found at the Enchanted Inkpot. Comment and win! How easy is that? And, in a convenient segue to Happy Thing Number One, I will include one of these sweet posters with the ARC I’m contributing:

Don’t go crazy looking for info at that link yet. The posters got here so fast the page isn’t live yet…but it’s coming. This, by the way, is text from The Boneshaker: it’s the handbill announcing Jake Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show to the town of Arcane. In a further by the way, the company that did these is called Contact, and you can find them here and reach them at ideas@gomakecontact.com. They are unbelievably nice, can work within even a meager budget like mine, they arranged printing and delivery, and the turnaround was super-fast. Speaking of which, if you know a bookstore or coffee shop or other random location that might be willing to post one, shoot me an email or comment and I’ll send some to you. I’ll take all the help I can get in getting the word out.

Other happy news! A couple of weeks ago I did my first school visit at Yonkers Montessori Academy. I spoke with Mrs. Audevard’s 6th grade class, and Ms. Governali’s 7th/8th grade class. It was an absolutely wonderful first experience: the kids, the teachers, and the school were unbelievably welcoming and enthusiastic. And a couple of days ago, I went to my new PO box for the first time and discovered they’d sent me mail!

We’d talked about the idea of crossroads, and the kids each wrote me about a crossroads they’d experienced in their lives. Lots of them asked if I’d ever had to face a difficult crossroads like the ones they had. Needless to say, the answer is of course. And it’s often true, as several of my new correspondents suggested, that sometimes choices that seem like no big deal turn out to be far more important than they seemed at the time. The reverse is also true: sometimes a choice that seems like it ought to be no big deal can be just as hard to make as one you know will have lasting consequences. Because every choice means taking a chance or  giving something up, and those are never easy things to do.

Lastly but most excitingly, a very cool thing happened to me a little bit ago. A friend of mine who happens to be in the book buying business emailed me that she’d gotten an arc that she thought was right up my alley. The next time I stopped by her store to visit, she handed me an advance review copy of Matthew Kirby’s gorgeous debut, The Clockwork Three. This was cool for several reasons: firstly, it is right up my alley; secondly, it is a flipping beautiful ARC; and thirdly, I’VE READ THIS BOOK AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. I met Matt Kirby via the SCBWI message boards, and we’ve exchanged a couple stories and a couple manuscripts over the last year or so. Matt’s absolutely a lovely human being and a tremendous writer, and you should really mark your calendars for the release of this, his first novel, in October. (More detailed review to come a little closer to the release date.)

So those are my happy thoughts for this week! Stay tuned for the next installment of my commentaries on the Nebula finalists–voting is over, but the adventure continues. Until then…

The Boneshaker: A List of Seriously Cool Stuff that’s in This Book

Velocipedes, patent medicines, phrenology, Winton motorcars, blues, psychotic harlequins, snake oil salesmen, electroshock, automata, an Edgar Allan Poe-quoting fortune-teller, and a contest of skill played at the crossroads against the Devil.

You’re wondering now, what is this list of weird, cool stuff?

It’s a list–a very partial list, mind you; it isn’t even a complete list–of weird, cool stuff in The Boneshaker.

At long last, things are happening. The book comes out in four months, and I’m starting to get emails and phone calls from contacts who have received advance copies. After one week of play, the Feburary Facebook Boneshaker ARCmania Game (today’s randomly-chosen exciting name) is in full, highly-competitive swing; at last count (and I am counting obsessively) 81 new members have joined The Boneshaker’s FB group for this contest (and I hope you all win). A whole bunch of people have showed up here at The Clockwork Foundry. I hope you’ll all visit often. All things considered, it seemed like a good time to tell you a little bit about the book and why you are going to love it when it shows up on your doorstep on May 24.

For a basic summary of the book, I will direct you to Powell’s (where, conveniently enough, you can pre-order it if you haven’t already). For this post, I have decided to list all the Cool Stuff that went into the story. If you like these things, you are probably going to like this book just on principle.

Cool Stuff that was percolating in my head in 2003 (or whenever it was that I wrote the first draft):

  • Item: New Yorker article about the Jamaica Ginger epidemic of the 1930’s, referenced by various blues musicians as jake leg, the gingerfoot, and the old jake limberleg blues. In order to bypass Prohibition regulations that were intended to make the patent medicine called Jamaica Ginger Bitters (or jake) less drinkable, a pair of bootlegger chemists added a plasticizer to it that turned out to be a neurotoxin. (For clarification: patent medicines=cool and interesting. Net results of neurotoxins being added to them=not so cool.)
  • Item: Horatio’s Drive, the Ken Burns documentary about Horatio Nelson Jackson’s 1903 cross-country drive in a Winton motorcar, accompanied by a professional bicycle racer-turned-mechanic.
  • Item:  Les Automates (French-language photo-essay book about automata purchased at the Strand Bookstore).
  • Item: A selection of old books of American folklore, including 3 on the subject of Jack Tales.
  • Item: Ray Rupelli’s apartment, with Cool Stuff including but not limited to an antique dentist’s chair found on the street; a coffee table decorated with guitar picks; a piece of iron grate; and a Robert Johnson record, found (I believe) in a box of records cleaned out of some apartment and left by somebody, like so many treasures are, on the sidewalk for pickup on trash day.

So, percolating in my head that year: patent medicines, blues, the Devil at the Crossroads, bicycles and motorcars. Then I started commuting from Brooklyn to New Jersey, and listening to audio books. Which brings us to:

  • Item: Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (purchased as an audio book to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel while commuting from Brookyn to New Jersey).  I fell in love with Bradbury’s language and the dark wonder of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, as well as the small-town setting of Green Town. (Although I can’t cite it as a Cool Thing That Influenced This Book because I only read it last month, Arthur Slade’s Dust is another wonderful story about a menacing traveling show that wins over a town, and the single kid to whom it falls to rescue everyone and everything he loves.)
  • Item: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (also bought on audio to keep me from passing out while commuting). Lots of people feel really strongly about the His Dark Materials trilogy or about Pullman himself; some are fans, some aren’t. I’m not getting into any of that. I loved the books, but what I loved most was Lyra Silvertongue, Pullman’s fierce heroine.

So now, to the percolating Cool Stuff you can add: a diabolical traveling showman and a fierce young girl, the only person who can save everyone and everything she loves from Impending Doom:

The Diabolical Traveling Showman: Dr. Jake Epiphemius Limberleg, proprietor of and head of research for Dr. Jake Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. Also in Limberleg’s corner are Willoughby Acquetus, Paracelsus Vorticelt, Thaddeus Argonault, and Alpheus Nervine: the Paragons of Science, four specialists in the arts of Hydrotherapy, Phrenology, Magnetism, and Amber Therapy.

The Fierce Girl: Natalie Minks, daughter of the town’s bicycle mechanic and the woman who knows all the weird stories about their crossroads hometown of Arcane. Natalie loves all things mechanical, the Wright Brothers, and the antique Chesterlane Eidolon velocipede her father fixed up for her, even though it’s a meanspirited, hateful, impossible-to-ride boneshaker of a bicycle.

Then there’s Jack, the green-eyed drifter with a carpetbag and a tin lantern, and nobody knows what he’s up to. Except for maybe Simon Coffrett, the man who lives in Arcane’s only mansion…but nobody’s real sure about that Rilke-quoting recluse, either.

Join “The Boneshaker” on Facebook, Recruit Your Friends, Win an ARC

Wow, that title’s so good you hardly need the rest of the post, right?

Just in case, here’s the deal: The Boneshaker has its own Facebook group, which I, fledgling newbie that I am, started about a year ago when I had zip in the way of updates and excitement to let people know about. Despite my staggering lack of content at the time, 181 people humored me and joined up. From now until March 1, this intrepid group of superhuman sweethearts are going to tell the world about this amazing book their sister/niece/forum buddy/critique partner has coming out, and the person who gets the most people to join the group wins an ARC. (And you saw how sweet the ARCs are, right? If not, please to read about it here.)

Are you on Facebook? Then you can play, too! Join the group, then refer your friends. Your recruits should write a wall post dropping your name. If you win, I’ll send you an ARC, and I’ll draw one of your recruits from a hat and send one to that lucky person, too. (To clarify: I’ll draw a name, not an actual recruit from a hat. No participation in actual hat tricks are necessary to win this game.) The fun ends March 1.

Thanks in advance, folks! Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.