There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of these, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March:

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal:

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of the other books on the list, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March: 

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal: 

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

Oh dear, has it really been that long since I updated my journal? Well, at least the time away has been well spent, as I was able to turn in the revised draft of Swift to my UK editor on Friday. So that is Happy-Making Thing #1 at the moment for me.

Here's a little taste of what's to come, from the beginning of Chapter 2:

[Ivy] took a step backward, feeling the dirt crumble beneath her bare feet. All at once she was acutely aware of the hairs standing up on her forearms and the nape of her neck, the boom-boom-boom of her heartbeat, the stench of her own cold sweat. “How--“ Her voice wavered. “How do you know my name?”

The spriggan moved closer, teeth gleaming in the shadows of his hood. “That’s good,” he said. “I didn’t even have to tell you not to scream. I think we’re going to get along very well.”


Hm, maybe that particular excerpt is not very happy-making. But you get the idea. Action! Excitement! Danger! That sort of thing.

***

Thing #2 that fills me with delight at the moment is this video, from singer Kina Grannis:


In Your Arms - Kina Grannis (on YouTube)

As an animation geek, I found the "Making Of" video even more interesting, but it's a sweet song and a lovely bit of stop-motion work.

***

And Thing #3 I've been enjoying of late are the books of Zoë Marriott, a UK-based author I met on Twitter who said some lovely things about my books, which caused me to check out her blog, which led me to the page of her website describing her books, where I found out that said books involved non-white female MCs, interracial romances, disability and mental health issues, high fantasy worlds based on non-Western history and culture, and other things Relevant To My Interests, which led me to leap to Book Depository and order all her books immediately.

And I was not disappointed. I enjoyed Ms. Marriott's most recent book Shadows on the Moon, a loose retelling of Cinderella in a fantasy world based on historical Japan (with a few bits of China and references to a quasi-African country), quite a bit -- she handled some thorny issues in a very interesting way, and created compelling characters that I came to care about a great deal over the course of the book.

But even then I was unprepared for how much I absolutely loved Daughter of the Flames, her second book (yes, I am reading them in reverse order). Seriously, it's like she had a checklist of tropes and ideas that I either adore unconditionally (swords! acrobatics! fire! amazing descriptions of food!), or would like to see handled in a new and interesting way (religion! disability! culture clashes!), and was ticking them off in every chapter. I actually squeaked out loud when I got to page 174 in the UK edition because [classic romance trope redacted] is one of My Favourite Things (right along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens) and she handled it so very well.

So now I just have The Swan Kingdom, Ms. Marriott's first novel, left to read, but part of me is almost afraid to start into it because once I've read it there will be no more left until her next book comes out...
Inspired by fellow Canadian YA author Arthur Slade and others, I've taken up walking on a treadmill as I write, watch videos, and browse the web.

It took a while to get a setup that would work for me, as our treadmill is an old fold-up clunker with slanting arms, so my husband had to figure out how to create a platform that was strong enough to hold the laptop but also could be folded up along with the treadmill when not in use.

Fortunately, my husband is a genius. Pictures and video behind the cut )

After three days of using the treadmill desk off and on, I could easily see myself getting into the habit of working on the treadmill at least half the time. It's not hard to do 30-45 minutes of writing or browsing before taking a break for another 30-60 minutes and then going back again, and it's a nice healthy change from sitting for 6-8 hours a day.

The drawback of this particular treadmill (though I really can't complain, as it was given to us free) is that it's REALLY LOUD, and also quite bulky. If I really get on a roll (ha) with the treadmill desking, then I think I would invest in a lighter and quieter model like the one Arthur shows in his video. But if I put on my headphones I barely notice the background noise, so I can see myself using this particular setup for a few weeks or months at least.

And hey, maybe I'll even lose a few pounds in the process! Or at least stop being so ridiculously out of shape...
So a while back, the nice folks at my UK publisher, which also happens to be Jackson Pearce's UK publisher, asked if Jack and I would be interested in doing a video together. And since I really enjoyed Sisters Red and she really enjoyed Knife a.k.a. Spell Hunter and Rebel a.k.a. Wayfarer, coming up with questions to ask each other was no hardship!

However, Jack is a veteran of video blogging and I... am not. So it's a bit squirrelly near the end where I suddenly realized I'd deleted one of my crucial clips and had to re-film it, but couldn't quite get the camera angle right.

Other than that, though, it turned out great! Really!



(Note to self: get a better camera.)
Lo, I have returned to the snowy shores of Canadia (as one of my hosts on my last night in the UK jokingly called it), tired but happy. It was a busy week packed with school visits, store events, and meetings with booksellers and sales reps, not to mention plenty of time in planes, trains and automobiles getting from one point to another.

But the folks at Orchard Books took excellent care of me, and the schoolchildren and loyal readers who attended my events in Fleetwood (check out the amazing Rossall School where I did my first school visit -- Hogwarts, eat your heart out!), Benton Park High School in Leeds, Newcastle's Royal Grammar School and the rather nifty Cramlington Learning Village, and London's Muswell Hill were all wonderfully attentive and charming.

I was also pleased to meet several folks I'd been chatting with online, some (like [livejournal.com profile] davidbrider and [livejournal.com profile] alawston) long before I was published, and also spent a lovely final evening with the Bradnam family in East Croydon, who made me very welcome.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and would gladly do it again! Though not perhaps for another year or so...

On one of my last couple of days there, I did a special interview with Orchard Books answering questions posed by readers on Twitter, such as "Which author inspired you the most?" and "Are the characters of Knife, Rebel and Arrow based on any real people?" You can see the answers here under the cut )

And I also came back with glorious swag, including some books for my boys, and an especially nifty little something you can see demonstrated in this video right here )

Now I get to spend the rest of February researching and preparing to write Swift -- my bedside table is piled high with books on Cornwall right now. I've already learned some quite interesting things about the faery legends of that area that are making me excited to start this new chapter in the series!
Here I am resurfacing from the wilds of nowhere (where I have been reading a great many books, and getting housework done, and other mundane but necessary things -- not that reading books is mundane, because it is actually quite awesome; but chores and such, definitely) to share with you an assortment of Things Relevant To Your (or possibly just My) Interests.

***

First, I think it is very important that you all learn the correct way to peel a banana.

Helpful video under the cut )

Seriously, I had NO IDEA. Why did no one tell me about this?! It's brilliant! I want to open bananas all day long now, and I don't even like them that much!

***

Second, the hardcover of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter may be listed as a bargain book on Amazon ($6.80, people! Buy one for Aunt Bessie while you can!), but it is doing rather nicely in other respects -- including being nominated for the Clive Staples Award. Right now the coordinator of the awards, Rebecca LuElla Miller, is doing an in-depth survey of all the titles with links to excerpts, reviews and so on, and I have to say I've got some pretty stiff competition here!

To vote, you have to have read at least two of the nominated titles, so this isn't just a popularity contest to see who has the biggest fanbase -- it's meant to encourage the reading and writing of speculative fiction by Christian authors. And I am totally behind that, so I plan to check out one or two of the other nominated titles myself! Voting begins in August.

***

Third, I am gearing up for this weekend when I appear on the panel "FTW = Fandom Trained Writers" along with Naomi Novik, Sarah Rees Brennan, Karen Healey, Ali Wilgus and Peg Kerr at Infinitus 2010 in Orlando. I am ridiculously excited about this and looking forward to creating large amounts of havoc with Sarah and Karen, which you can count on Sarah to sum up in hilarious fashion on her LJ when we get back. (Or else I will be very boring and she will just have to make up a pack of outrageous lies, but she is good at that too!)

***

Fourth, I went to see Crowded House in Toronto last night with two of my three older brothers. This was a landmark occasion, not only because Pete and Mark are fab people, but because the last time I attended a Crowded House concert was on my 16th birthday and I will always remember that as the best concert I've ever been to in my entire life. So I knew that even though the band has aged considerably since then (and so have I), I would not be disappointed.

And oh my, I was not. It was a wonderful show indeed. AND THEN THEY PLAYED THIS SONG, which made me insanely happy:

Video from the concert )

"Fingers of Love" (link is to album version) is on the Touching Indigo soundtrack, and rightly so. The way the music crashes in on "Colour is its own reward" alone makes me see stars, and I'm not even a synaesthete. Sigh.

***

And I think that is all for now!
BOOKISH SHINY

If you like your secondary-world fantasy with a healthy dollop of intrigue, wit, danger, and understated but powerful romance, you should all go read Leah Cypess's Mistwood (HarperTeen, April 2010), which I just finished and enjoyed enormously. Steph Su has a very good review of the book here, though I'd disagree with Steph's comment about the secondary characters -- I had no trouble telling them apart, myself.

And Leah tells me she is working on revisions to the companion novel as we speak! Yay, companion novel!

***

TV SHINY

In the DO WANT category: J.J. Abrams' new show Undercover, about a married couple who are spies. From the guy who wrote Jack and Irina? This HAS to be good. Seriously, look at this picture. I am gleeful and optimistic.

Also, check out this lovely, exuberant, heart-warming Doctor Who S5 vid from [livejournal.com profile] humansrsuperior: Brand New Day. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] infiniteviking for the tip.

***

WRITING SHINY

I'm mostly preaching to the choir here, I'm sure, but still -- [livejournal.com profile] taraljc has reposted a terrific essay about the effort that goes into writing quality fan fiction, and how it isn't always easy -- or even desirable -- to just file off the serial numbers.

***

And that will be all, because I'm feeling curiously dizzy all of a sudden. *blinks*
*steps very cautiously outside into the Big Wide World*

*sniffs*

*blinks*

Oh, look, there's a big shiny yellow thing up in the sky! *squints at it* I think it's called the sub, or something of that sort?

Well, maybe I haven't been quite that dramatically isolated in my First Draft Cave since mid-January, but it feels like it. All my usual activities went out the window when I set myself the challenge of finishing Arrow by the end of March, and then somewhere in the middle of my frenzied typing I came down with Baby's First Sinus Infection, which was a lot of No Fun At All.

However. I am here now, poking my head out of my burrow and sniffing the virtual wind, and by that you might rightly conclude that I have, in fact, succeeded. To wit, I wrote the last sentence of Arrow this past Saturday. Yay!

Of course, my work is not quite done yet; I have the month of April to revise the really rocky bits of the manuscript and give it a last polish before I turn it into The Lovely Sarah (my UK editor). But for me, the first draft is by far the hardest part of writing any book, and revision is much less stressful. So I'm giving myself a few days to relax and breathe and catch up on all the things that have gone by the wayside in the past three months (like certain household chores, and my shockingly neglected e-mail inbox), and then I'll print the whole ms. with a new font and double-column layout so I can look at it with fresh eyes, and start marking it up like crazy.

In any case, some interesting things have happened since my last post, and I look forward to telling you all about them. You may expect to hear from me a little more often in the next few days...

But in the meantime, you might check out this (now slightly outdated) video I made for Adele over at the book blog Persnickety Snark, giving a little update on what I've been doing and what's coming up in future.

So I followed some links from a post on Bookshelves of Doom about Time Lord Rock (yes, it's like Wizard Rock, only for Doctor Who) to a charming piece inspired by "Blink", and I quite enjoyed it.

But then I poked around a bit more and found this non-Who related piece by the same young artist, in which he answered a friend's challenge to write and perform a song using only household objects for accompaniment:



Not only is it completely adorable and also witty and clever, it has Unexpected Stephen Fry voiceover* at the end. FTW.

P.S. He's a Nerdfighter! I KNEW IT! The influence of John Green is unmistakeable.

--
* Which I guess will not be Unexpected any more now that I've told you about it, but oh well.
Okay, I shamelessly admit to skipping the entire S4 finale and I doubt I'll change my mind on that point, but this preview has me all pumped for S5, despite* the spoilers )



So do we have an actual date for the beginning of S5, or just this vague promise of "Spring"?

Note to self: Need Matt Smith icon.

--
* Oh, all right, maybe BECAUSE of that part. What can I say, I'm an Old Skool Whofan, I still haven't got over the novelty of it.

Winter Snow
Originally uploaded by rj-anderson
An utterly inconsequential video really, but it is proof that I have discovered how to shoot videos with my camera and upload them to the Internet, which may mean very bad good things later on.

And speaking of multimedia, I discovered today that the complete and unabridged audiobook of Knife as read by British actor Emma Parish is now available for sale. There's a 5-minute sample from the first chapter on that page if you're interested -- the accent she's given Wink is rather adorable, IMO!

And finally, I have decided that SWIFT (book #4 in my faery series) will be set in Cornwall, land of my maternal ancestors, and that I ought to go there as soon as possible in the interests of eating pasties and saffron buns until I asplode research. Whether this will actually happen is anyone's guess, but I like to think about it, you know?
Nearly all my good news these days seems to be coming from the other side of the pond -- which is not a bad thing by any means! But in any case, I found out this week courtesy of some schoolchildren who e-mailed me from the UK that Knife has been nominated for the Hillingdon Secondary School Book of the Year for 2010. The nominees are selected by a team of librarians, copies of the nominated books are read by students at all participating schools and then the final award winner is voted on by the students themselves, so I'm really delighted to be part of this!

And also related to the UK editions of my books, I just completed a short "Meet the Author" video where I talk about the inspirations behind Knife and Rebel, for Orchard Books to use on their website:



I have already been mocked* for the Scarf That Ate Rebecca's Head, so you can hold off on that one. :) Next time I shall know better.

--
* Not by my publisher, I hasten to add. And it was all in good fun anyway.

KNIFE on TV!

Nov. 30th, 2009 10:41 pm
rj_anderson: (Knife - UK Cover Full Length)
Thanks to Rebecca Matthews on Facebook (who hasn't even read my book yet, but says she's planning to), I was just made aware that Knife received a glowing review on The Shak, a popular teen show on Australia's Nine TV network... and after a bit of sleuthing, I was able to hunt down the video. Click on the link below to check it out!

Review This!
Review This!
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It is possible that there is something more entertaining on the Internet today than the Muppets performing their own skewed take on "Bohemian Rhapsody", but somehow I doubt it.



I am going to be grinning idiotically about this all day. Thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for the tip. And for more Muppety video goodness, check out [livejournal.com profile] shoebox2's recent post.
I am speechless with glee over this.



Thanks to Hardcore Nerdity for bringing this bit of genius to my attention.

ETA: And while we're bringing the 80's TV & classic SF mashup love, how about this one:

First, before I forget -- remember you can win lots of lovely FREE BOOKS over at the Summer of Seven site! Including a signed copy of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter or Knife!

***

I promised a long time ago that I'd talk about why I love living in Canada, and I... totally never got around to it.

But today is Canada Day! The day when all the provinces decided to get together and become one happy family! And then they went out for butter tarts and poutine. Or something.

So I will celebrate by telling you why I love Canada.

Five reasons why being Canadian is pretty cool )

Okay, so maybe I'm not taking this list entirely seriously. But I have travelled to several different countries now, many of which I have found attractive and admirable in their own way and would be happy to return to as a visitor, but I have yet to go anywhere that made me feel sorry that I live in Canada. I love England, I am nigh fanatical in my passion for Wales, I enjoyed the year I spent going to school in New Jersey, and I thought Israel was amazing and would love to go back for another visit some day. But ultimately I am always glad to come home to my quiet, unassuming, fresh-scrubbed little (albeit very big, in terms of land mass) country.

And I think this video says it all, really. Warning: extreme catchiness ahead.



Brits have got the monarchy
The US has the money
But I know that you wanna be Canadian

The French have got the wine and cheese
Koalas chill with the Aussies
But I know that you wanna be Canadian





I feel Blue

Jun. 17th, 2009 09:58 am
rj_anderson: (Tintin - "What?")
[livejournal.com profile] watchmebe a.k.a. Jackson Pearce (author of the forthcoming As You Wish, which I am dying to read) has posted a hilarious video from her recent trip to Savannah with the Gothic Girls, in which they all retell their stories using zombies.

But although this post was inspired by watching that video, it is not zombies I wish to speak of, dear readers. Rather, I was moved by the closing music of the video to talk about the Smurfs.

As a cynical child, I totally hated the Smurfs. All these smarmy little blue people being cute and singing their little la-la-la song, and the only hint of conflict or danger was that evil wizard Gargamel (whose motivations for persecuting the Smurfs were obscure to me, to say the least). When I sat down to watch Saturday morning cartoons, I resented the Smurfs for taking up time that could otherwise be spent watching shows that were really awesome, like Drak Pack and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

But then one day I was browsing through my local bookstore, feeling frustrated that I already owned every Tintin comic in existence and that there weren't any new Asterix to be had, and I came upon -- what's this? -- an actual comic book of the Smurfs, as created by their original author, and translated into English by the same clever folk (Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge) who did Tintin and Asterix?

Hmmm.

I picked it up. I flipped through it. I laughed in surprise.

And then I bought it.

You see, Peyo's Smurfs were not the nauseatingly perfect little darlings of the cartoon. They were not reduced to a convenient set of stereotypes endowed with different costumes so you could tell them apart (well, apart from the obvious differences of Papa Smurf and Smurfette, that is). They had actual attitude and personality, and what amused me most was that they used the word "smurf" in totally different ways than the cartoon did.

On TV, "smurf" was a cute little substitute for random nouns and verbs -- "Oh, that's absolutely smurfly! What a smurfy day for a picnic!" Whereas in the comic, "smurf" frequently ended up being a euphemism for things that could not be said in print. "I'll smurf you in the smurf, you smurfing smurf!" *cue tornado with flailing blue fists here*

And then of course Papa Smurf had to come break it up, but even he wasn't nearly so smug and condescending as in the TV series. He could be cranky and impatient and, well, more like a real person would be if they were saddled with being the father figure to a village full of little blue savages.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating the Smurf aggression factor a little. But there was definitely enough wit (including sarcasm) and conflict that the Smurfs could actually have plots all their own, instead of having to rely on some outside baddie (i.e. Gargamel) to come and persecute them. In fact, Gargamel was hardly in the Smurf comics I read at all.

In short: TV Smurfs = meh. Comic Smurfs = kind of awesome.

You would think I would turn this into some deep authorial musing on the importance of writing three-dimensional characters with flaws as well as virtues, wouldn't you? Nah, you can probably figure that part out yourself.

However, I fear I have sad news. The Smurfs did not fade gently away when their TV show was cancelled, nor enjoy an eternally cozy existence between the pages of Peyo's comics.

No, I am afraid that with the full approval of their creator, they were bombed to death by UNICEF.

You think I'm kidding, don't you?



Which just goes to show, sometimes you can take that whole conflict thing a bit too far.
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