From Books


I caught a meme from Delia Sherman. She is wise, and kind, and a wonderful writer. She won the Mythopoeic Award in 2012 for The Freedom Maze, a book that absolutely everyone should read. (I’ll have more to say about the Mythopoeic Award in my next post.) She tagged me with a meme, and I couldn’t say no.


This is Delia’s contribution to the great, internet-spanning Writing Process Blog Tour. She says blush-inducing things about me there.

For the next stop on this tour visit Kelly Barnhill, to whom I have passed on the meme-germs. I got to read an advance copy of her next novel, The Witch’s Boy. You are insanely jealous of this, and you should be.


Kelly will be posting answers to these selfsame questions early next week. Meanwhile, here are mine:

1.  What Am I Working On?

Science fiction! As a kid I always assumed that I’d grow up to write science fiction. I wanted to tell stories that made sense of things. The universe is unsettling, but we can always count on Spock, or Data, or the Doctor to tame otherworldly terrors by making them make sense.


This did not go as planned. At some point during adolescence the world ceased to make sense to me. (Adolescence usually does that to people.) I started to prefer stories that followed sideways and associative sorts of logic. I went back to reading fairy tales, and books based on fairy tales, all of them filled with unsettling and otherworldly terrors—but not the kind you can just explain away. And when I started writing, I wrote fantasy.


But now I’ve come back around to more omnivorous reading habits. Now I like splitting my time between the two hemispheres of speculative fiction’s hivemind. I also write for kids, and I still need to tell stories for the young reader that I used to be—the one who craved science fiction in particular, the one who wanted to fight monsters by making them make sense.

Ambassador, my first SF novel, comes out in September. It’s about Gabe Fuentes, a kid who becomes the ambassador of our planet. Right now I’m writing the sequel.


2.  Why Do I Write What I Write?

Because I’ve never needed books more than I did when I was eleven, and because I love stories that unriddle the world, and because otherworldly tales are always necessary for changing the shape of our own.

(The phrase “unriddle the world” is me quoting Susan Cooper quoting Alan Garner.)

3.  How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre?

I stared at this question for a long time. Then I tried to answer it. Then I gave up, because this isn’t really a question for writers. This is a question for readers.

Books and stories make up a vast ecosystem. As I writer, I can’t see the shape of the landscape while I’m trudging through it. As a reader, I’m more interested in shared conversations and similarities than the differences that set each book or author apart.

4.  How Does my Writing Process Work?

First I need my own small children to nap. If the kids are awake and at home, then I’m not writing. Maybe this is just a parental time-management issue, or maybe I siphon off my books directly from their napping dreams. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them.

Step One: Pour stolen nap-dreams into a large flask or cauldron. Step Two: Add espresso. Step Three: Slowly stir while adding instrumental music. Step Four: Continue stirring until the mixture thickens into ink.

I usually start a book with notebook and pen, because the pale glow of a blank computer screen is unhelpfully hypnotic. Then I transcribe those messy, scribbled first drafts. Then I move words around to shrink the distance between what I said and what I meant to say. Then I read it aloud. It’s good to know what your own sentences taste like.

Whenever I get stuck I abandon my computer and return to my notebook and my bubbling cauldron of nap-ink.



My next novel, AMBASSADOR, will soon exist. Kirkus just gave it a starred review. The fantastically retro cover will have… wait for it…


photo 1

The book is Middle Grade science fiction. It stars Gabe Sandro Fuentes, who becomes our planetary ambassador to the rest of the galaxy. And I have an advance copy to give away.

Interested? Then tell me what message you would send to alien civilizations.

photo 3

In the past we’ve put maps, music, and line drawings of pale, naked humans on board spacecraft before sending them out into the deep. What would you send instead? What would you say?

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The winner will be chosen at random from the comments below, and will receive a signed and inscribed ARC of AMBASSADOR. Note that, unlike the Pioneer spacecraft, this inscription will not include naked doodles. Also note that only the final, finished book will boast holographic foil. The advance copy will not catch and fragment light like Newton’s own prism. Sorry. It will show off the fantastically retro cover design.

Send me your galactic messages. You have until midnight on Monday, May 12th.

Lions, Lambs, & Hats

March is over. They say the month is supposed to come in like a wintery lion and go out like a lamb frolicking in sunshine. This particular month slunk away in a trail of dirty slush like a mutant lion-lamb hybrid. But I got a book published in March, so for me the month was glorious.

Addendum Books organized the launch party. PW covered it here. We drank hot chocolate and listened to live music from Dreamland Faces.


DreamHaven and Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus and Uncle Hugo’s and Birchbark Books all hosted splendid events. This town is so very rich in bookstores.

Wild Rumpus made me a great big mask.


Louise Erdrich joined me at Birchbark and gave me a hat.


It was a very good month. The frozen resentment of mutant lion-lambs can’t possibly compete with such celebrations and hospitality.

I leave you with links to three articles:

Nancy Holder asked me all sorts of excellent questions at The Enchanted Inkpot.

The Route 19 Writers blogged about favorite passages from Goblin Secrets and offer insights into why those particular bits of the book worked for them.

Amy Goetzman wrote about me and unsettling stories for MinnPost.

And that’s all for now.


Ghoulish Song Launch Events

LADIES & GENTLEMEN! And anyone and everyone else not represented by either of those categories! My second novel will exist on bookshelves next week. It’s not precisely a sequel to Goblin Secrets; the two happen at the same time, in the same city, and involve several of the same characters, but the books also stand alone. You can see them unfold in the background of each other, if you look…

I’ll be throwing several parties and readings throughout the month of March. Come celebrate with books and masks and music! And also chocolate. Ghoulish Cover

Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau, hosted by Addendum Books with live music by Dreamland Faces: Tuesday, March 5th at 7pm

DreamHaven Books (with more live music!): 
Friday, March 8th at 7pm

Red Balloon Bookshop
: Saturday, March 9th at 2pm

Wild Rumpus
: Saturday, March 16th at 1pm

Uncle Hugo’s: Sunday, March 17th at 1pm

Birchbark Books: Saturday, March 30th at 2pm


Addendum Books & Wild Rumpus

I read at Wild Rumpus TONIGHT.

The previous sentence is intended to be read with Inigo Montoya’s accent. If you did not use said accent the first time, please go back and read it again.

If you wish me to personalize books tonight, please do contact the store beforehand and let them know.

On Tuesday I signed a whole bunch of books for Addendum in St. Paul, so I must add them to my list of excellent independent bookstores that carry signed books by me. They also organized my very first school visit and put me on stage in front of hundreds of kids. It was grand, and all of the kids made cards for me, and I’m still reading through them. I’ll post pictures soon…