Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I was actually a bit unsure what to blog about, until I read the fair Kelley Armstrong’s super informative post last week! There was one particular bit of information that I found very inspiring.
Q: Who are the Smart Chicks?
A: Not us. Well, not me anyway. It’s a tip of the hat to both our characters and our readers. We feel that all the authors on this tour write “smart chicks”—not necessarily kick-ass girls, but capable ones, and that’s what counts. And, of course, a love of reading always improves grades, so we consider all our readers “smart chicks,” too.
I am so glad I am not meant to be a smart chick. While our tour has some very, very intelligent ladies in it, I have to say, anyone who has seen me read a map had good reason to question my brilliance. (Imagine someone with all the sense of direction and cool reasoning capability of a panicked weasel, trapped in a wardrobe.)
But I am also terribly glad to see the celebration of capable ladies!
Have any of you guys heard the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake? It goes like this: ‘I want a girl with a mind like a diamond. I want a girl who knows what’s best.’
That is basically my theme song when I read books. Not for me, the lady who says ‘Count Squarejaw, I have every faith you will protect me from the ravening alien werepredator. I’ll be upon the fainting couch, waiting for you to answer the really important question of this book: if you like me, circle yes or no.’
Not for me either, the lady who says ‘Yuck, other girls. They’re all so much girlier than me.’ So a lady scorning Miss Swoonhilda won’t work either.
I like girls in books to be awesome in a variety of ways! And the more awesomeness and more variety I see, the more I like it.
Now, some of the Smart Chicks Tour authors have written some of my favourite capable ladies. I mean, really, really awesome heroines. Lots of really, really excellent ladies. But I fear I would seem to be simply bragging of the lovely company I find myself in if I discussed them.
So here are some heroines written by writers who are not in the Smart Chicks tour, but who I think exemplify the Smart Chicks way…
Sophie, the heroine of one of my favourite books, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
SOPHIE: Today an evil witch stormed into my hat shop and enchanted me to be eighty years old.
SOPHIE: Some people would be annoyed. I have decided to take matters in stride and appoint myself the housekeeper of a flying castle owned by the evil wizard Howl, who eats hearts.
HOWL: Uh – I guess – uh-
SOPHIE: All shall look upon my broom of fury, and despair!
SOPHIE: Must clean up bathroom, including all of the evil wizard Howl’s beauty products.
HOWL: Woman, you made my hair turn pink! PINK! It is time for an epic magical tantrum!
SOPHIE: You look silly with green slime on your face.
HOWL: How can I be the most powerful wizard in the land, when even my housekeeper does not fear me?
SOPHIE: Silly man, don’t take it personally. Nothing stops me. Not spells to make me old or wizard’s messy castles or attack by demons or creepy animated scarecrows. I AM A HOUSECLEANING FORCE OF NATURE.
SOPHIE: Just say ‘Yes, Sophie.’
HOWL: … Yes, Sophie.
Kate Sutton, from Elizabeth Marie Pope’s book The Perilous Gard.
KATE: My little sister has got me in trouble with Queen Elizabeth I and now I have been banished to a creepy faraway manor where the daughter of the house has disappeared and her young, handsome, troubled uncle lives in a Hut of Shame and Guilt. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this!
KATE: Seems the young lady has been kidnapped by faeries. And now her Hot Uncle Christopher has traded himself for her safety. Oh lord, nobly sacrificing heroes. I must see to this!
KATE: Being undercover as a servant to the faeries is very tiresome. Faeries keep making personal remarks about humans’ looks and gracefulness. Or lack thereof.
KATE: How’s it going, Christopher? In order to keep up your spirits before you get sacrificed, let’s think about farmland and ditches!
CHRISTOPHER: I know I’m a noble romantic hero, but actually talking about ditches really soothes me.
QUEEN OF THE FAERIES: Kate, I’d like to offer you a nastily tempting faerie bargain.
KATE: Oh Queenie, have you paid no attention to this book at all?
Kate Daniels (Kate is a clearly a good, capable name!) in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, beginning with Magic Bites.
KATE: Dear Diary, my to-do list for the day:
1. Avenge godfather’s death.
2. Insult king of shapeshifters.
3. Do battle with vampires.
4. More battle with vampires.
5. Strangely good kiss with king of shapeshifters.
6. See to serial killer.
7. Must tame city out of control.
8. Better see to plague.
9. Adopt street child, solve her mother’s murder.
10. Rescue werewolf sidekick.
12. Seriously, king of shapeshifters kisses like a minx.
13. Take part in crazy supernatural tournament fight to death.
Pretty much your average day. Could use a lemonade. Kate out!
Ellie Spencer from Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead
ELLIE: I think the handsome mysterious boy in class I have a crush on is hiding magical secrets from me! And so I am going to punch him in the face.
ELLIE: Got to save best guy friend from being made a love slave.
ELLIE: Uh-oh, matters have spiraled out of control, and now I must save NEW ZEALAND. This is going to call for more than face punching. There will have to be some roundhouse kicks in there as well.
Attolia from Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, starting with The Thief.
Attolia’s Guide To Royal Etiquette
ATTOLIA: What do you do when your fiancé insults you? Poison him.
ATTOLIA: What do you do when a courtier plots treason? Starve him to death in a cage in the town square. (Plus: Makes everyone else reconsider treason!)
ATTOLIA: What do you do when you catch an insolent thief? Throw him in your darkest dungeon.
ATTOLIA: What do you do when you catch an insolent thief again? GET CREATIVE.
GEN: Uh, as the hero of these books, I’m going to have to ask you to be gentle with me.
ATTOLIA: Queens don’t DO gentle.
These are all very different ladies, with one thing in common: in a crisis, they tend to keep their head (just about, anyway. Usually. Just enough.) They have their own very strong views on things, and when they act, they act practically and decisively, using all the weapons they have to hand (brains, brawn, magic) to the very best of their ability.
Another thing they have in common is that I really, really love them.
So, thank you so much to all the lovely smart chicks who commented on my last post, and congratulations to shaideneuse, who my random numbers generator has declared to be our winner! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, and I will send your prize.
And for everyone else, to win a copy of any book (which is already published, that bit is important!) by one of the Smart Chicks tour authors – I thought it would be nice to have a Smart Chicks Festival! So comment here (or link to a blog post of your own, if you find yourself with just too much to say) with thoughts about your favourite smart chicks in books, who they are, what they do, and why you love them.
And feel free to talk about the Smart Chicks tour authors’ characters, even though I did not. Because: wow, those are are some really, really excellent ladies.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I'm a little late drawing winners, but I've done that and notified them (Louisse and ParanormalBites) Now I'll answer the additional questions...
Q: Do authors mind signing something other than a book, such as a print-out of a collage of their book covers?
A: They won't mind. We're very flexible. I've signed everything from Kindle covers to body parts myself.
Q: Will you be available for any interviews with media and/or bloggers?
A: If it's arranged in advance and fits our schedule (which varies by city) we'll do our best. Get in touch with us at email@example.com
Q: How long approximately do these events last?
A: It depends on the size of the crowd. We answer questions for 15-30 minutes, then sign. If you're near at the front of the line, you can expect to be out in an hour. At the back...it may take a while. If the line will be huge, the store often hands out tickets etc, so you can leave, grab a coffee, etc.
Q: how many total books do all of you have published, if you add them all up?
A: Eek! I'd embarrass myself if I guessed and got it wrong. Many of us have multiple series, which makes it really tough. I'll say "a lot." As for me, my 18th book just came out (today, actually!)
Q: Will the authors sign any books from their other series? Like Is Kelley A. only going to sign books from Darkest Powers, Or will she also sign books from her books Women Of The Other World? Also, If You take a picture with them, will they sign the picture?
A: We'll sign anything with our name on the cover. Yes to photos, too.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Shane went first, and then Claire; the ladder felt rickety, but it held just fine. She hopped the last couple of steps down to land on the cave floor. Michael had turned on the tunnel lights, so there was no risk of walking into an ambush by . . . whatever, but she was still wondering what he’d seen, exactly. If he wasn’t just yanking Shane’s chain, of course. He never got tired of that.
No sign of trouble all the way to the big cave, and Michael hit the main switch there to turn on the banks of lights. The machine—Claire hated to call it a computer, really—was sitting exactly as she’d left it, screen showing normal readouts. Nothing wrong at all.
“Okay, I need to put in a password,” she said. “Hang on a second.”
She thought about it, and tried Myrnin’s name at the keyboard. No, the red light stayed on. She tried Amelie’s. The red light stayed on.
She tried putting in Ada’s name.
The red light stayed on.
Claire blinked at it. Myrnin didn’t have more than three passwords. He couldn’t even remember more than one at a time. He didn’t have a birthday he could remember; he didn’t have any family; what could he possibly use for a password?
Ah. She had it.
The red light stayed on. Claire frowned at it. “Seriously? Now you get security conscious?”
“Problem?” Michael asked.
“No. I’ll get it.” She tried Bob, for Bob the Spider. Bob was busily spinning webs in a fish tank near Myrnin’s chair. Myrnin fed him a steady diet of crickets and flies, which seemed to make Bob happy. That qualified as a pet, right? People liked to use pet names for passwords.
It wasn’t Bob either.
She tried, in desperation, Oliver. Not it. She plugged in the names of every possible vampire she could remember, including Bishop.
None of them worked.
“At least he didn’t put a lockout on it,” she muttered. She’d tried at least thirty passwords, without success. “Come on, I built you, you stupid piece of junk! Give me a break!”
“How about pulling the plug?” Shane asked. “Just turn off the power.”
She thought about it, but shook her head. “I don’t know what everything does in here. I could shut down something vital. Or destroy something we can’t rebuild easily.” She sighed. “He won’t be happy, but I’m going to have to ask Myrnin for the password.”
Michael’s head suddenly turned, but before he could speak, a rich, slow voice from the darkness said, “Ask Myrnin what, precisely?”
That was Myrnin’s voice. His hunting voice. Claire had heard it before, and it gave her immediate, life-threatening chills. He stepped out of the dark. The cheerfully neon Hawaiian clothes were gone. He was dressed in elegant black, with a bloodred vest, and his long hair was freshly combed and rippling in waves down to his shoulders, very old-school Gothic vamp. He was smiling.
Not in a nice way at all.
“Visitors,” he said, still using that creepy, oddly soothing voice. There was something about it that made Claire feel a little sleepy. A little . . . relaxed. “So lovely to have visitors. I get them so seldom. Especially here.”
“Myrnin,” Claire said. He was steadily coming toward her, without looking like he was moving at all. His large eyes were fixed on her, luminous, fascinating. She couldn’t blink.
“Yes, my dear. How surprising that you know.”
“Know what?” She felt stupid, almost drugged. He was close now, gliding up to her. She felt the cool brush of his fingers on her cheek.
“My name,” he said. “How surprising that you know my name. Perhaps you should do me the courtesy of giving me yours.”
A rush of adrenaline spilled into her body. He didn’t know her. Or Michael. Or Shane. He was acting like they were strangers.
To him, they were intruders.
She licked her lips and said, “Myrnin, I work for you. I’m Claire. Remember? Claire.”
“Nice try, sweet one, but I already have an assistant. Maybe I’ll save you for her. She’d like you.”
Ada. Claire’s heart thumped painfully as she took it in. Myrnin had been sucked under by the machine, and he thought Ada was still here. Still alive.
“You’re talking about Ada,” she said, and tried to keep her voice calm and even. “She’s not here, Myrnin. She’s not coming back. Ada’s dead.”
It was kind of cruel to say it like that, but she needed to snap him out of it, and that was the verbal equivalent of a hard slap.
Myrnin pulled up short, dark eyes gone cool and unreadable, and then he slowly smiled. “I’d know if she was gone,” he said. “Can’t you feel her? She’s here. She’ll be back. I know she’ll be back.”
“Claire?” Shane said. He started to move toward them, but Myrnin suddenly moved, backhanded him, and sent him rolling toward the wall.
“No interruptions,” he said. “I’m talking!” He was suddenly, terrifyingly angry. “Why would you say something like that, I wonder? Unless you’d done something to Ada?”
“Stop,” Michael said urgently. “Claire, come over here.”
Myrnin made an exaggerated, annoyed motion with his hands and turned to face Michael. “I said no interruptions! Oh—you’re not human, are you? Hmm. One of Amelie’s latest, I take it. I thought she’d sworn off of new fledglings, after that last disaster.”
Michael grabbed Claire’s arm and pulled her close. “Yeah, well, I’m Amelie’s, and this one’s mine. That other one, too.”
Shane, Claire thought, would punch him for that one. When he finally got up.
Please join us at a Smart Chicks event near you! :)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
It all started when I was very young. It was tragic, really. I was about eleven, and my mother had just finished a book called Interview with the Vampire. 'Best not to read this one, honey,' she said thoughtfully. Which obviously translated as 'Wait until I leave the room, then leap on it like a frog on a lilypad!'
Look, I don't make the rules.
I read the book, and then I read the sequel, The Vampire Lestat. And then I wrote some truly embarrassing stories about two vampires starting a rock and roll band with a child vampire who really liked purple silk dresses.
... I was young, okay? And when I watched the movie, I wanted to marry Tom Cruise.
(Unlike Katie Holmes, I grew out of that one.)
When I was fifteen, I read the Dark Visions books by L.J. Smith, which starred a psychic vampire called Gabriel. What's a psychic vampire, I hear you cry? He drank thoughts instead of blood, or something! But the important thing was that he still had to put his mouth on your neck! And he was snarky, and he was delivered to psychic summer camp in a Dangerous Juvy Van, and he accidentally killed his last girlfriend and... well, it's clear that I can't judge anyone for Twilight fever.
If they'd made a pillowcase with Gabriel's face on it at that point in my life, I don't know what I would have done. I can only be glad I wasn't exposed to that sort of temptation.
And yet I admit I did judge people for Twilight fever, the same way I judged people for Harry Potter fever when I was eighteen and until I picked up Prisoner of Azkaban and tore through the whole series. When something is crazy popular, some people (such as my judgy self!) often dismiss it as if a lot of people liking something means you shouldn't like it.
I mean, sometimes you won't like something a lot of people like. I don't like reality TV. But on reflection 'Other people like it!' doesn't make a lot of sense as a reason not to like something. For instance, a lot of people like chocolate. I have not decided to be an edgy, broccoli-lovin' rebel because of this.
So, judgy little me went 'Oh, vampires, I'm so over vampires.' And then I was on a panel about vampires at a convention, and someone said 'You have read more vampire books than anyone I have EVER MET.' 'Ahahaha I just like reading okay,' I replied, cleverly. And then I realised that all of my TV viewing involved vampires. (The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. Vampires... and the South! But we all knew the South was awesome, given Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl's Beautiful Creatures.)
Before Twilight, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Before that was Interview with the Vampire. This eighties movie called Lost Boys. Back in the mists of time, there was a little book called Dracula you may have heard of. Even before Dracula there was a craze for a vampire series called Varney the Vampire. (1845. See me, looking up stuff for your edification and delight!)
Despite people talking about 'what will be the new vampires' the evidence suggests that vampires are not going anywhere. 1845, man. Vampires are immortal.
(Yeah, I'm sorry about that. I had to do it, but if it helps, I'm ashamed of myself.)
And I have no problems with vampires sticking around. My favourite character in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series is a geeky young vampire. Rachel Caine rocks her vampire town in the Morganville Vampires series, and Melissa de la Cruz has a unique take on vampires as well.
I also don't think that the YA genre is going to be completely swamped by vampires anytime soon, when we have heavy hitters like Melissa Marr (Team Faerie), Becca Fitzpatrick (Team Angel), Mary Pearson (Team Robot), Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Jackson Pearce (Team Werewolves), Holly Black (Team Magical Conmen) and Carrie Ryan, the Zombie Queen. Not to mention writers like Kelley Armstrong and the aforementioned Cassandra Clare, who have vampires as a side dish to an array of werewolves, necromancers, warlocks, and I know not what. (Team... Supernatural Buffet?)
(This is all looking pretty tragic for Team Demon, guys. I'm starting to get very worried about my team.)
In summary: vampires are awesome, and clearly here to stay. YA is not all vampires, and the rest of it's pretty awesome as well.
And I have been delighted to make my inaugural post on the Smart Chicks blog! To celebrate the Smart Chicks (and because after my little vampire cheerleader routine, I may be escorted away from the blog by my fellow Smart Chicks and never allowed back on again) I wanted to do a giveaway!
Simply in these comments mention which one of any of the books by the Smart Chicks: Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Alyson Noel, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Rachel Caine, Rachel Vincent, Becca Fitzpatrick, Melissa de la Cruz, Kimberly Derting, Mary Pearson, Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl, Jackson Pearce, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jessica Verday, Carrie Ryan and your humble servant (Sarah Rees Brennan) you'd like to receive. (EDITED TO ADD AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Books that are already out, you guys. I have no spare copies of Beautiful Darkness, Clockwork Angel or Crescendo!)
And say which Team Preferred Supernatural Creature you are. Team Supernatural Buffet is a totally valid team. I am of course staunchly Team Demon, but Team Supernatural Buffet would always be my second choice... and I'd always have a dab of vampires on the side of my plate.
Like vampire dip.