On cutting, and revising, and hanging on, and letting go.


For those of you who have followed me on Facebook and Twitter, back when I used to be on Facebook and Twitter (I am still on the latter, officially, though the only tweets currently are the automatically generated blog post alerts from WordPress. My computer prevents me from accessing the site until September. Because my computer is bossy. Which is to say, my thirteen year old daughter is bossy, because she was the one who set it up.) you may know that I spent the spring engaged in a grueling editorial process with my upcoming novel The Witch’s Boy. This was through no fault of my beloved editrix Elise Howard, who is brilliant and amazing and right about everything.

This has everything to do with me. And with the work of novel production, and novel refinement, and novel discovery, and novel re-discovery. And, believe me, it is work.

Revising a novel is building a granite castle. And then taking it apart and building it again. By hand. By yourself. And then, when you’re done, you run a marathon. Barefoot. While carrying a very heavy and very ill-tempered goose. It’s kind of exactly like that.

Revising a novel is a return to a garden that you planted a while ago – one that you know is loaded with vegetables, but you cannot see them because the weeds now tower, jungle-thick, over your head.

Revising a novel is that colicky baby that will not go to sleep no matter what you do.

Revising a novel is the thick, muddy traverse through a swamp, only to realize that you have to climb a cliff on the other side. And you forgot your rope.

Revising a novel requires the skin of a rhinoceros and the strength of a bull and the delicacy of a jeweler.

Revising a novel feels like performing open-heart surgery. Without anesthesia. On yourself.

Revising a novel requires you to heft a thousand-pound boulder, sling it onto your back, carry it up a mountain, and balance it on the head of a pin.

Which is to say that revising a novel is effing hard.

And that’s the case generally, and in the case of The Witch’s Boy, it is even more so. This book is incredibly close to my heart, and was often emotionally exhausting to write. I have always loved my characters, but, in this novel, I - for real - love these characters. Partially because I didn’t come up with them on my own. This story began, very long ago, as a story that my son and I told one another during a particularly grueling hike through Shenandoah National Park when he was only six. There is a lot of Leo in Ned. There is a lot of me in Aine. And Sister Witch. And the Bandit King. Hence my struggles.

Also, there’s something about working with a new publisher – it’s exciting and inspiring and energizing, but also nerve-wracking. Because we want to get it right. And we want to make people happy with us. And we want to not suck. This is the way of things.

So I worked my bum off, took three months to write two crucial chapters that were going to re-imagine and re-focus the larger arc of the novel, allowing the choices and action to flow from a single nexus point where my main characters converge, bear witness, keep silent, and irrevocably change their trajectories.

Three. Long. Months.

And….maybe it worked? We’ll see.

Anyway, apparently, in the last revision, I managed to grow the novel by ten thousand words. And that was after some major textual excising. Which explains a thing or two.

And now I am, once more, into the brink. I have tools. I have a map. I have my dear editor sounding her trumpet and spurring me onward. I have a lantern. I have a sword. I have a pure heart and a just cause and a mind on fire. I have characters to rescue. I have giants made of stone. I have a stalwart wolf and a ferocious girl and a boy who does not know what he is capable of. I have my heart and my brain and my love, and I hope it will be enough.

Anyway, I will be posting some out-takes here and there.

Like this:

He was alive. For now.

“Ha!” a man said, shaking his fist at the water. “It won’t be taking this one, by god. Only one victim for that blasted river.” He gave the river a hard look. He did not help the father, nor did he touch the boy. Everyone in the village knew that those marked for drowning were cursed by nature. The river was a greedy thing. And foul-tempered. It would have that boy eventually. This was common knowledge.

And this:

This was not magic. This was a simple practicality. Witching, after all, is tricky work. And complicated. She had learned, after all these years, to see the world from the inside – its foundation and its beams, its braces, insulation and gaps. She knew the weak places. She knew how lean against the fabric of the world and nudge it this way or that. She knew how to make suggestions. Anyone could do it, if they ever learned. But people called it magic, and conflated it with her real magic, and Sister Witch didn’t correct them.

Her real magic was dangerouscapable of great good and great evil in equal measure. It was work keeping it good. It required a firm hand and an iron will. Best to use it sparingly, if at all.

And this:

The ladies from the village came in droves. They descended onto the grieving house like an army of magpies, all feather and gossip and claw. Sister Witch thought she’d never be rid of them, and suffered the indignities of grief in relative silence.

“It’s a pity,” the magpie ladies simpered. “Such a terrible pity.”

Go away, Sister Witch seethed.

“And on such a beautiful day,” as they munched on the pastries they had brought for the family.

She thanked her visitors for their meat pies and fruit pies and custard pies and pies she could not identify or name. She thanked them for their pots of stew and their legs of lamb and their heavy rounds of hard cheese. Their gifts were thoughtful, tender, and full of wiles.

They were gifts that asked questions.

Sister Witch had no intention of answering a thing. Her son, Tam, was dead. Her magic could not save him. And that was that.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how deft your hands may be, or how sharp your scalpel or how cunning your eye. Cutting away bits and pieces of our novels – fingers, toes, tumors, tongues, unsightly moles or pounds of pulsing flesh – well, it hurts. 

A lot.

And because I hate being alone and wallowing in psychic pain, I turn it over to you. Any sections that you’ve cut lately? Any extraneous scenes that simply detracted from the central pulse of your novel – that single, beating heart? Paste it here and share! Our amputated novel bits can assemble and congregate. They can bind together into hideous and beloved homunculi. They can resuscitate, respirate, ambulate, and live.

Here is Faust and his homunculus. It worked for him, right?

And it will be beautiful.

My Cover is All Official and Stuff

So, I’ve been far, far away for the last two weeks. We loaded up the minivan with kids and dog and food and gear and went camping in the Badlands and the Black Hills and the Rockies, and Devil’s Tower (we tried to camp in the Laramie Range, but alas, they were on fire). And it was awesome. And I have Much To Say on the subject, but it will take more brain space than I currently have available. So instead….

TA DA!

My cover!

I got the official cover while I was gone, but I never had a solid enough wifi signal to actually compose a post and heave it onto the internets. But now I am home. So here it is!

Isn’t it a pretty thing?

The artist – like the new cover for JACK – is a lovely Italian man named Iacopo Bruno, and I think he is super special. He also made a bunch of interior illustrations, that I can’t show you yet, but I assure you,  are FANTASTIC.

Anyway, what have you people been doing for the last two weeks? Any glorious adventures?

 

Another Student Story!

Many of you may remember that, a while back, I did a fiction residency at Epiphany Catholic School. I told the kids that if they started a story and wanted to work on it for a while, they could send it over to me at any time and I’d share it on my blog. Well, finally a really cool kid took me up on it! Sixth grader Christine  wrote a very fun little story about a dragon who was convinced that he was just a plain pet lizard, despite the encouragement of the people around him. I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did. Thanks, Christine, for sharing your story with us!

The Dragon That Could

By Christine Z.

CRASH!

“Henry? What was that?”

“Uh…nothing Mom. Bruce just ran into the door again.”

Bruce is my pet lizard. Well, he’s not really a lizard but he sure thinks he is.  He is actually a dragon, but he can’t fly or breathe fire or doing anything a normal dragon can do, so we just say he’s a lizard.  I’ve been trying to teach him how to fly but, well, I think you know how that’s going.

“I told you, Henry. Lizards don’t fly! No matter how hard you try, I won’t fly because I’m not supposed to!”

       “Bruce, how many times do I have to tell you? You are a dragon! Not a lizard! If I wanted a lizard, I would’ve just gone next door to Monty’s. He’s got a billion lizards. But no. I flew all the way to Zion to find the perfect dragon. Do you know how far away that place is from here?”

          “No I don’t…OF COURSE I DO! I lived on Zion for years before some stupid kid named Henry came and kidnapped me because he wanted a lizard that he could teach to fly.”

          “No, Bruce. He wanted a dragon because he thinks dragons are really cool.”

          “If he wanted a dragon then he should’ve kidnapped a dragon not a lizard.”

          “Okay Bruce. I’m done. I give up. You just won’t accept the fact that you are a dragon, so I will stop trying to make you.” Pft! Yeah right! I would never give up, but I have a plan to make him realize that he really truly is a dragon.

          “Thank you. You have finally found some respect.”

          “Stop it. You’re starting to sound like my sister. She’s all ‘You should learn to respect people. You would have more friends if you did.’ I hate those kind of people.” That sounded really lame. What kind of brother quotes his sister in front of his friends? I’m surprised Bruce is still awake.

“Woah! Take a chill pill. I was just kidding.”

“You better be because I hate my sister when she does that. Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Wow, Henry. Could you be more obvious? I mean, really? ‘Do you have any brothers and sisters?’ Just thought I’d blurt that out without thinking because I want my plan to be ruined.

“Since when do you care about my family?”

“Um. I-I’ve always…uh…c-c-cared a-b-b-bout…mm…yo-your f-fam-m-mily. Hehe. I…uh… j-just…um…th-th-thought that y-you…uh…w-wouldn’t want-t-t to…mm…t-talk a-b-b-bout it. Hehe.” I just blew it! I hate how I can never lie because whenever I try to, I always stutter.

“Oh. I know what your trying to do.”

“Ummm….Y-you d-d-do?” Oh no! My plan will be ruined if he finds out what I’m doing.

“Yeah. You’re trying to bring up a sore subject for me so that you can play Mr. Nice Guy who is trying to be a good friend.”

“I can never keep anything from you, Bruce.” That’s a lie. For example, one time I went to the movies with my friends after school and when I came home an hour late, Bruce believed that I was studying at the library. He is so gullible. Gosh. I never noticed how parent-like Bruce is. That’s exactly what I need: another parent.

“And you shouldn’t…keep anything from me. Friends don’t keep secrets, remember?”

“If friends don’t keep secrets, then tell me about your childhood.”

“Okay. Deep breaths, Bruce. You can do it. Just tell Henry about your family. I think I’m ready.”

“Good. Now let’s start with your most interesting memory.”

“My most interesting memory? Um let’s see…oh I remember. It was a long time ago so my memory might be a little rusty, but I’ll try my best. I was outside playing with my best friend Roy, he was a unicorn, when this strange creature came up to us. The creature was big and hairy. He had beady red eyes that stared at you as if you would be a perfect snack. He started to walk toward us growling and gaining speed fast. Roy picked me up and put me on his back because then we could run faster. Roy ran faster than I’ve ever seen him run before. He was obviously just as scared as I was. As we were running, we noticed that the creature’s footsteps had disappeared so we stopped to rest. Then the creature jumped down from a tree and almost landed on us. We quickly got up to run again but something stopped us.”

“What was it? What stopped you?”

“See, that’s the thing. I don’t remember what stopped us. I also don’t remember anything before that day or after that day. The next thing I remember is waking up to the sound of wind. That was the day when you came and took me. I don’t know how much time passed between those two events. I don’t remember my family or my home or anything except that horrifying day.”

“Oh my gosh! Are you serious? You don’t remember anything other than that day?”

“Nope. Nothing. It’s as if all those other memories before that were never there.”

“Wow, this is serious. We need to find out what happened to you to make you lose your memory. I guess we get to go back to Zion.”

“Really? You would do that for me?”

“Of course I would. We have only one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“How are we going to get there? My mom took my jet pack because she found out that I stole dad’s hovercraft.”

“It’s too bad you don’t have a sister with a bubble car.”

“Oh yeah! Kat’s car! We can use that to get to Zion! You’re a genius, Bruce!”

“I know.”

“But how are we going to get the car? Kat is always watching and she has fingerprint locks.”

“You get the fingerprints and I’ll distract her.”

“Okay. Meet back here in ten.”

“See ya!”

Okay so now I have to get my sister’s fingerprints. How am I gonna do that? I’m just kidding. I know exactly how to do that. I just have to get her to hold something long enough to get her prints to stay. I think it’s time for her daily dose of Vitamin Q. Vitamin Q is a vitamin that makes your attitude 100%. We give this to Kat once a day because she has a very rotten attitude.

Now that I have a plan, it’s time to take action. I open my bedroom door and walk out and down the hallway. As I walk by Kat’s room, I hear her on the phone with someone and she says that 2:00 would work fine. I wonder who she’s talking to. I’ll probably find out later. Anyway, I walk up the long and winding staircase and finally reach the study. In the study, you sit on a special chair and you hold a book. By holding the book, all the contents of that book absorb into your body through your skin. If I am going to a different planet, I should probably learn more about it. I sit down in the chair and pick up a book about Zion. Every book takes a different amount of time to download into your brain. For example, this book about Zion will take three minutes. I wait impatiently while the book absorbs. Two minutes left. Why is this book so big? One minute. It’s almost done. 5…4…3…2…1…beep beep beep.

Now to the kitchen. I walk through the living room where dad is watching robot racing as usual. Finally, I’m in the kitchen. I get out a glass and go to the computer. I type in Vitamin Q juice and…

“Henry, what are you doing?”

“Oh, hi Mom! I was just getting Kat’s Vitamin Q juice to bring to her room. I thought I would help out and do it for you today.”

“How sweet of you! I won’t disturb you. Just keep working. I love you!”

“Love you, too Mom!”

I press enter and the cupboard opens. Inside the cupboard are the juice and a Unibar (for her unicorn). I take both and head for Kat’s room. I walk back through the living room and the study. I carefully go down the stairs and walk back down the hallway. I knock on Kat’s bedroom door and I hear a loud thump from inside. The door slowly opens and a head peeks out.

“What do you want, squirt?”

“I brought you your VQ juice and a Unibar for Sparkles.”

“Ugh! Why does mom make me drink this crap? It’s disgusting!” She tosses the Unibar to Sparkles and watches her devour it in a second. Kat takes the glass and drinks it as fast as she can. She makes a sour face and gives the glass back to me. She smiles at me and sits back down on her bed. “How’s life, Henry?”

“It’s fine but I actually have to go find Bruce. See you later!”

“Okay, bye buddy! I love you!”

Did you see how fast that juice worked? It’s amazing, isn’t it? I walk out of her room and go back to my room. I carefully put the glass down on my desk, trying not to smudge Kat’s fingerprints. I go to my computer and type in fingerprint kit. My desk drawer opens up and inside is a full fingerprinting kit. I open it up and remove some powder, a brush, and a fingerprint holder that looks like a half cylinder shaped piece of plastic. I dip the brush into the powder and dust the glass. When I can see the fingerprints, I take the plastic and place it on the glass where the fingerprints are. I carefully remove the plastic from the glass. It worked! I can see her fingerprints. Now I wait until Bruce comes back…

“Hey Henry! Did you get the prints?”

“Oh, hey Bruce! Yeah I got them. Did you find a good distraction?”

“Of course! I called your sister and told her I was a boy from school. I asked her if she wanted to go see a movie and she said yes! She is going to see the movie at 2:00.”

“So that’s who she was talking to on the phone! Okay so if the movie is at 2:00 then we still have ten minutes. Let’s get some sketches of what Roy and the creature look like to help us when we are on Zion.”

“Good idea!” He gets out a piece of paper and a pencil and starts to draw. Eight minutes pass. Finally, Bruce says, “There! All done. This one is Roy and this one is the creature!”

“Good job, Bruce! It’s 2:00! Let’s go steal some cars!”

Bruce and I walk down the hall and into Kat’s room. We walk to the other side of the room where the door to her garage is. The door is locked so I take out the fingerprint and put it up to the fingerprint lock. Access granted! We walk into the garage and get into the bubble car. I use Kat’s fingerprint to start the engine. We drive the car out of the house and all the way to Zion. It took a whole two hours!

We land on Zion and get out of the car. I take out my computer and scan the sketches that Bruce drew into it. Roy’s picture comes up and says that this really is a picture of Roy Unigreen. His profile says that he was killed by a unicorn hunter many years ago. The creature’s profile comes up and says that his name is Alek Hunter. He is a well-known and feared unicorn hunter. He has killed over 200 unicorns.

“I’m sorry, Bruce, about Roy. I can’t believe that Alek killed him. It was a very cruel thing to do.”

“That’s okay, Henry. It’s not your fault. Besides, I barely remember Roy.”

“I am going to set up a GPS feature to locate Alek.”

“Sounds good.”

BUZZ! Target located.

“The GPS found Alek! It says that he is in Cavern Cave in northern Zion.”

“I know where that is! I’ll lead the way!”

“I’m right behind you.” This is so exciting and sad at the same time. I’m surprised that the GPS actually found Alek. Usually killers try to hide themselves better than that.

I followed Bruce through forests and jungles, swamps and beaches, meadows and savannas. It seems like we’ve been walking for days, but Bruce never changes pace. He is in a very good mood which makes me happy.

“Hey Bruce?”

“Yeah?”

“Have you ever thought about why you can’t remember anything?”

“Yes, I have. Loads of times. Why?”

“Because I have a theory.”

“Go on.”

“Well, you know when you stopped to rest because you thought Alek was gone but then he came back?”

“Yeah.”

“And you can’t remember anything after that?”

“Right.”

“What if someone made you forget?”

“Maybe. My theory is that I hit my head too hard and lost my memory.”

“Both theories are possible, I guess”

“There it is!” He pointed to a very large cave.

“Wow! That’s Cavern Cave?”

“Sure is.”

“Okay Bruce. Whatever happens in there, just remember that you have always been my best friend.”

“Right back at ya. Oh, and I am glad that you kidnapped me and took me back to your house to live with you.”

We slowly walked into the dark and cold cave. Bats flew above our heads. Spiders and rats crawled below our feet. We travel deeper and deeper into the cave, now shivering because of the cold. There was a loud scream. We both jumped and tried not to scream ourselves. We came to a ledge that looked over Alek’s home or room or whatever you want to call it. We were just close enough to hear the conversation below.

“Please! I’ll do whatever you want!” shrieked the girl.

“Why should I let you live?” Alek asked.

“I have a family! Two sons and a husband. They can’t survive without me!”

“Does it look like I care?”

“No,” the girl said quietly.

“That’s because I don’t! There is only one thing you can do to spare your life.”

“What is that?”

“You must go and fetch me the three unicorns that you helped escape from me. Oh and bring me two extras to make up for it.” Alek demanded.

“But it is wrong to kill such an innocent creature!”

“What are you, my conscience? You have no right to tell me right from wrong. Just do what I say or die!” said Alek harshly.

“We have to save her!” whispered Bruce.

“How are we going to do that?” I asked.

“We have to go down there.”

“Okay but be quiet. We don’t want him to know that we are here.”

Bruce and I quietly tiptoed down to where Alek was. A rock fell and hit the floor near where Alek was standing.

“Who’s there?” Alek yelled.

“Why do you hate them?” Bruce yelled back.

“Hate who? Show yourself!” Alek yelled angrily.

“The unicorns. Why don’t you go after dragons or centaurs? Why Unicorns?”

“Who are you? Why should I answer your questions?”

“Because I can make it all better.”

“Make what better?”

“Your life. I can make you a better person.”

“And how would you do that?”

“I can make you forget all the bad things you’ve done. You can start a new life.”

“What makes you think I want a new life?”

“Because you were so focused on talking to me that you walked away from your prisoner and she escaped.”

“What?!?!” Alek screamed furiously.

“Yep. Look around you. Do you see her anywhere? No. And you wanna know why?”

“Why?”

“Because when you heard me talking about a new life without all the bad things and you started to think. And while you were thinking, you started to walk away from her and towards my voice. That means that you were considering my offer.”

“What do you want from me?” Alek asked with a little remorse.

“Do you remember the unicorn and the dragon that you chased in the forest? Do you remember killing that unicorn? Do you remember making the dragon forget everything?”

“Haha. Yeah, I remember that. That was one of my more interesting unicorn findings. The poor dragon had no idea what hit him.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you sure that you made the dragon forget everything?”

“Of course I’m sure. I never make a mistake.”

“Well, you just did.” said Bruce, stepping out of the shadows into plain sight of Alek.

“It’s my young dragon friend. How’s your unicorn pal?”

“I think you know the answer to that, Alek.”

“Wait! How did you remember that day in the forest?”

“Because you made a mistake. You felt bad about hurting a unicorn in front of his friend, so you accidentally did the spell reversed. You made me forget everything except that day when you were supposed to make me forget just that day. I read somewhere that magic is less effective when the user is sad or mad. That means that you were either sad or mad. I think it’s most likely sad because you had a bad experience with dragons and/or unicorns.”

“I..how..what..you..no..why..”

“Don’t know what to say? Here’s a hint: ‘When you drop that rock on me, will you please not hit my head?’.”

BANG!

“That looked like it hurt!” said Henry, coming out of the shadows.

“We did it!” exclaimed Bruce.

“We’re not completely done yet, though.” advised Henry.

“What did we forget?” asked Bruce.

“Two things. One: we have to bring this young lady home. And two: Don’t you want your memory back?”

“I didn’t even think about that. Do you think Alek could give me my memory back?”

“I think if he could take it away, he can definitely give it back.”

“Yay! We should probably tie him up so that when he wakes up, he can’t escape.”

“Good idea. Hand me that rope.”

We not-so-carefully put Alek onto a chair and tied his arms and legs. Then we made sure everyone was far away from him so that when he wakes up, no one will get hurt.

“Hmm…uhh…um…” grumbled Alek.

“He’s waking up!” cried the girl.

Alek slowly opened his eyes. He started to struggle but soon gave up when he found it useless.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.” said Bruce.

“Get away from me.” Alek said.

“I will as soon as you give me my memory back.”

“Fine. Bring me that book over there. The big blue one.” he opened up the book and then said, “This dragon’s memories are gone. Put them back where they belong.”

There was a big flash of light and then I saw fire. I ran over to see where the fire was coming from. It was coming from Bruce. He can breathe fire again!

“Thank you, Alek. I will always remember this.” said Bruce gracefully.

“Yeah whatever. That was easy magic.” said Alek.

“Now open that book of yours and give yourself a new life without evil.”

“Alright. Hold on…Lemme find it…Aha! Here it is!” he said, “My life is bad and makes me sad. Give me a new one with many balloons.”

There was a bolt of lightning and he was gone. Alek was gone. Hopefully that spell worked and made him a better person with many balloons.

“Wait, Bruce, if you can breathe fire do you think you can fly?” Henry asked anxiously.

“I don’t know. Let me try.” he said right before he started flapping his wings and flying. He was FLYING!

“I can fly! Woo hoo!” Bruce screamed excitedly.

“So when Alek took away your memory, he must’ve made you forget how to fly. This makes so much sense now!”

Bruce came back down to the ground and told us to hop on his back. So the girl and I got on Bruce’s back and flew to the beach. We stopped at the beach and brought the girl to her family. Her and her family thanked us and said that we should come visit them sometime. We told them we would.

After that, we flew to the bubble car. I got in the bubble car and flew home while Bruce flew beside me. We got home and returned the car to my sister’s garage. We went back to my room because it had been a long day and we both needed some rest. I got in bed and Bruce laid on the floor.

“Today was the best day of my life!” whispered Henry to avoid waking up his sister who was sleeping down the hall.

“I agree. I couldn’t ask for a better friend.” said Bruce.

“I would say the same about you. Oh and one more question” Henry said.

“What’s that?”

“What kind of creature are you?”

“Oh that’s an easy one. I am a dragon and I’m proud of it.” 

The Perils of Photography (or, My Life-Long Obsession With Oscar Wilde)

My whole life, I’ve wanted to be this guy:

http://www.wilsonsalmanac.com/images2/wilde_recline_sm.jpg

Oscar Wilde. Man of wit, elegance and grace. His stories were delicate, lovely and brutal. He managed to be both honest and coy at the same time and managed a frankness in literary subterfuge that I have always admired and will never, ever master. Indeed, I’ll never come close. He was lovely to behold, lovely on the page; his words could insinuate themselves into underclothes, convince buttons and laces to spontaneously undo, unravel a “yes” with the flick of an eye.

What I’m saying is that dude got around, and got some. And bully for him.

And he’s my total hero.

Which may sound weird, given that I’m a happily married (and matronly) wife and mama of three. Why is it that I am so utterly, utterly delighted by Oscar Wilde? Honestly, I have no idea, but I’ve been in love with him since I was eleven years old – when I first read “The Fisherman and His Soul”, and I’ve never looked back.

I love him for his cunning duality, his dark humor, his moral ambivalence. I love him for his loneliness, for his joyful and unabashed love of his own body and its appetites, for his hunger for true love, even as it eluded him. Even as it betrayed him. Also, to be perfectly frank, I love him for his fashion sense.

http://generationforhire.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/oscar-wilde1.jpg

Indeed, if I were to name my two fashion heroes in life, it would be Oscar Wilde and Catherine the Great. Because if I could pull off these outfits (which, by the way, I can’t. As I mentioned: matronly; mama-ish) I totally would.

http://www.oscarwildesociety.co.uk/images/ow11.jpg

Oh Oscar! That wrap! That saucy mug! That hat pulled rakishly to one side! That is the face of a young man who honestly wants nothing more than to make love to the entire world, and I for one thinks that he should go right on ahead. But first, he must sit at my table so that I may feed him as he tells me stories.

And the only reason why I bring up my dear, dear Oscar at all is because the good folks at Little, Brown were pestering me last week for a photograph. Something authory and not-horrible, which was problematic, because I have an issue with taking not-horrible photographs. Or, in other words, I tend to be so terribly un-photogenic that cameras, when they are in my vicinity, have been known to spontaneously combust and sometimes explode.

I will never be Oscar Wilde! I will never be dashing or debonair or devastatingly clever. Oh Oscar! A lifetime of loving you and yet you give me nothing! It’s enough to make a lady want to despair.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3200/2719964225_1d4e50c7e8.jpg

Still, a photograph was owed, so I endeavored to do my best. I had already made it clear that I did not want any images of me to appear on my book at all. Indeed, as a reader, I always find it jarring to see a snapshot of the author who wrote the book on the book. Do I need to know what the carpenter looked like who made my diningroom table? Or the craftsman who built my piano? Or the architect who designed my house?

(Actually, scratch that one. The guy who designed my house also lives in my house. He eats the food that I cook and wears the clothes that I wash and sleeps in the bed where I sleep and I love him very much.)

Anyway, the point is that I had a very bad attitude about any publicity photograph involving yours truly. I didn’t see the point, I was sure that the results would be horrifying, and for god’s sake it would just be further proof that I was not, nor would I ever be, as awesome as Oscar Wilde, and it was as though the universe was just rubbing it in.

Fortunately for me, I have nice friends.  Bruce Silcox, photographer, and all-around Nice Person, was kind enough to snap some photos for me. I’ve known Bruce for years – our daughters have been friends since Kindergarten – and he managed to quell any camera-exploding mojo that I had radiating from my skin. And he took a few good pictures.

I’m not Oscar Wilde, and I never will be. I am neither dashing nor quick-witted nor devastatingly handsome. I do not write with his sly grace, nor his looming heatbreak. I do not have the power to make men weep for me like he could. Still, my lifelong obsession with Oscar Wilde has built me into the writer I am today. He was my first love, my first writer-crush, and I will always appreciate him for it.

I will never photograph as well as he could on an off-day. Still I like these pictures a lot. So I feel a strange kinship with my hero right now, and I have a hankering to say something devastatingly witty to someone who richly deserves it. Perhaps I need to be invited to more dinner parties. Or, even better, perhaps I should start crashing dinner parties.

Yes. I think I would like that very much.

Two weeks to MECHANIQUE! Two weeks!

Ladies and Gentlemen! On May 5, 2011, Genevieve Valentine’s gorgeously glorious novel Mechanique, a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti will be available to anyone with a bookstore nearby – or, failing that, an internet connection and a credit card and a penchant for indie book sites. (Actually, you could get it from Amazon, too, but I prefer the indies, and so should you.)

Now, I’ve blogged about this book before, and will do so again, but just so you know that a WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE are excited about this novel, here’s a bit from the good folks at Publisher’s Weekly (they gave it a star! A star!):

“This steampunk-flavored circus story begins with a disturbing undertone, like an out-of-tune calliope, and develops in hints and shadows. Touring a drained postwar world, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti rarely visits a city twice in anyone’s lifetime; borders are lax, and lives are short. The circus’s performers have no time for training, instead undergoing terrible trials in the ringmaster’s workshop to gain their skills. Enter the “government man,” who dreams of bringing back the order and security of the old world and wants the ringmaster to help him. She shares many of his dreams but mistrusts his offers of alliance. The drama and climax come not from the rivalry between the two but their similarities as they decide how to use their powers and who will suffer the consequences. Fans of grim fantasy will love this menacing and fascinating debut.”
Publishers Weekly

If that’s not enough, then how about this. On May 6, the inimitable Ms. Valentine will be hosting a book launch party. A circus-themed book launch party. In a warehouse. With performers. AND IT IS GOING TO RULE.  Check this out:

Performers! Readings! Snacks! If I was living in NYC I’d wait outside the door for weeks and weeks just to make sure I could snag a book, get her to sign it, listen to a reading, hob-nob, and watch amazing artists to ridiculously amazing things with their bodies.

I’m so excited about this book, I can hardly tell you. And I’m so excited for you, dear readers, who will be attending this little shin dig.

Promise you’ll send me pictures.