Here in Istanbul, researching Book 2 of Leviathan. Busy with travel, but I will say two things:
Just some weird confluences to report:
1) There’s a cool article about steampunk in Time magazine, which quotes me profusely.
2) The December 4 Word of the Day at Merriam-Webster is “Leviathan.” I haz proof.
3) Tomorrow morning, Children’s Literature Ambassador John Scska will be on CBS’s The Early Show to talk about good books. I hear that he’ll be mentioning Leviathan. Update: Turns out he didn’t! But he did recommend lots of other great books, including Candle Man, Book One: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glen Dakin, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, and Stitches: A Memoir by David Small.
That is all of the weirdness.
Oh, and Justine and I are in the Korean Air lounge at JFK airport, which is also the Aeroflot and Turkish Air lounge. Istanbul is a mere 11-hour fight away!
Just got back from a wonderful mini-tour in Canada. Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, and I had a great time, and Keith Thompson enjoyed a warm welcome into the world of bookstore appearances. I think he will do more!
But now I am SLEEPY. So I’m cheating and pulling another old writing advice out of the e-drawer. It’s from January 10, 2006, so only you old-school blog-stalkers will have read it before.
I promise to do a fresh one for Monday! And don’t forget Justine’s excellent advice from yesterday.
Take it away, me from three and a half years ago:
While I was finishing Specials my fictional brain started to break, so I decided to take some time off from narrative. Fortunately, a collection of letters written by the great hard-boiled writer Raymond Chandler leapt from the depths of my Sydney storage unit and into my hands.
Chandler’s technique for writing letters was to stay up at night drinking and talking into a tape recorder (a wire recorder in those days, actually). The next day his secretary would type up his rantings and send them in the mail. This led to many a drunken tongue-lashing, and a fair amount of solid writing advice, being preserved for posterity.
As I re-read the letters, I realized that I’ve stolen a lot of Chandler’s writing techniques over the years, especially his “four-hour rule” (see below), which I’ve expounded to many a writing class. So I figured it was time to ‘fess up and show all of you the source material.
So here is the unalloyed Raymond Chandler on the subject of writing:
1. Letter to Frederick Lewis Allen, editor of Harper’s Magazine
7 May 1948
My theory was that [the readers] just thought they cared about . . . the action; that really, although they didn’t know it, they cared very little about the action. The things that they really cared about, and that I cared about, were the creation of emotion through dialogue and description; the things they remembered, that haunted them, were not for example that a man got killed, but that in the moment of death he was trying to pick a paper clip up off the polished surface of a desk, and it kept slipping away from him, so that there was a look of strain of his face and his mouth was half opened in a kind of tormented grin, and the last thing in the world he thought about was death. He didn’t even hear death knock at the door. That damn paper clip kept slipping away from his fingers and he just wouldn’t push it to the edge of the desk and catch it as it fell.
That paper clip image is very goosepimple-making, a classic noir example of the crumpled little guy facing oblivion. Of course, we all know that a guy trying to pick up a paper clip on a hoverboard would be cooler. And like, especially if the paper clip exploded . . .
This next motivational technique is one I always tell aspiring writers to try:
2. Letter to Alex Barris, an interview by mail
18 March 1949
The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything else but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor. But he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing. It’s the same principle as keeping order in a school. If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored. I find it works. Two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. B. you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.
Put those two rules on your refrigerator and you’ll have a novel within a year. Or at least someone else who uses your refrigerator will.
The letter below reminds me of something Kingsley Amis said: “Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting the characters out of the pub and into the cab.” Writers don’t just get stuck at the earth-shattering, life-changing decisions that our characters make; the little details of reality management are actually quite tricky and frustrating. Never assume youâ€™re a crap writer just because you can’t get someone across a room—it happens to all of us.
3. Letter to Paul Brooks, a publisher working on a Chandler collection
19 July 1949
When I started out to write fiction I had the great disadvantage of having absolutely no talent for it. I couldn’t get the characters in and out of rooms. They lost their hats and so did I. If more than two people were on scene I couldn’t keep one of them alive. Give me two people snotting at each other across a desk and I am happy. A crowded canvas just bewilders me.
This letter to Alfred Hitchcock contains fantastic advice for writers as well as film-makers. Just substitute the words “wicked-cool sentence” or “scintillating simile” for “camera shot.”
4. 6 December 1950
As a friend and well-wisher, I urge you just once in your long and distinguished career . . . to get a sound and sinewy story into the script and sacrifice no part of its soundness for an interesting camera shot. Sacrifice a camera shot if necessary. There will always be another camera shot just as good. There is never another motivation just as good.
Beyond his anti-Agatha Christie snark, there is an excellent point below about the difference between novels and short stories. A lot of writers who excel at the story level don’t think to “turn the corner” when attempting the longer form.
5. Letter to Dorothy Gardner, secretary of the Mystery Writers Association
The trouble with most English mystery writers, however well known in their world, is that they can’t turn a corner. About halfway through a book they start fooling with alibis, analyzing bits and pieces of evidence and so on. The story dies on them. Any book which is any good has to turn the corner. You get to the point where everything implicit in the original situation has been developed or explored, and then a new element has to introduced which is not implied from the beginning but which is seen to be part of the situation when it shows up.
Speaking of snark . . . bet you didn’t know that Raymond Chandler’s brief foray into science fiction actually predicted the rise of Google as an information search service. Check this out:
6. Letter to H.N Swanson
14 March 1953
Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It’s written like this: “I checked out with K19 on Abadabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.”
They pay brisk money for this crap?
Yes, Mr. Chandler, they do.
Thanks to everyone in the Boston and DC areas. Robin and I had a great time. When we got to Politics and Prose, we found out that Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi had just been there with their new Spiderwick book, and they left us a present:
An original Diterlizzi! Thanks to Holly and Tony for being so sweet.
For signed copies of our books, head to Politics and Prose in DC, Hooray for Books in Alexandria, VA, the Children’s Bookstore in Baltimore, or the Borders in Sterling, VA. We are everywhere.
Right now I’m in LA at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association annual convention. But I won’t have time to do anything else before heading to Miami:
Sunday, October 25 6:00PM
Books & Books
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134
And there’s a TeenReads forum beforehand at 5PM. Robin has gone home, so it’s just me, but it should be cool.
After Florida, I finally get a week off, and them: Canada! Click here for all tour details.
Saturday, 24 October, 10:00 am -5:00 pm
Austin Teen Book Festival
Westlake High School
4100 Westbank Drive
I’m on the radio this weekend! You can tune into Inside Edition on Air America at noon Sunday (EST, I guess) and hear me interviewed by Ana Marie Cox. You can also download the segment from iTunes, it’s the 10/23 episode. We manage to give Leviathan a contemporary touch by talking about, um, balloon boy. (It was all a publicity stunt for me, it turns out.)
Also, I was recently on a post-apocalyptic YA panel in Manhattan, click here to read about it and to see my fabulous Dr. Who coat.
Thanks to all of you who’ve come out for the Leviathan tour so far. It’s been great. No matter how tired I am, you guys give me energy.
Speaking of tired, I have a grand total of one (1) day off at home today. w00t! It’s going to be all about sleep and laundry (mostly laundry). And then I head to New England!
Sunday, October 18 4:00PM
In-store signing at RJ Julia
Location: 768 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
Monday, October 19 6:00PM
In-store signing at Wellesley Booksmith
Location: 82 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02482
After that is Sterling, VA on Wednesday, Washington, DC on Thursday, Baltimore on Friday, and Miami on Sunday. Then Canada, then back to the NYC for a few more things. Click here for all tour details.
As noted earlier, Sarah Rees Brennan has left the tour to go write in Mexico. Sarah just posted her account of us touring together, with much hilarity and occasional fires. Check that out here.
Joining me from now on will be Robin Wasserman, author of the wonderful Skinned. You may remember her guest blogging here for a week last September. (Here’s her first post.) And we also did this IMterview together a while back.
For those of you who saw me (or missed me) in Seattle and Portland, I have some cool news. My lovely wife Justine is headed your way to talk about her book Liar. On Monday, 19 October at 4:00 pm, she’ll be at the Mukilteo, WA Public Library.
And, as always, click here to buy Leviathan.
And now, as promised, some photos from the tour:
Leviathan cupcakes at my agency’s launch of the book. And Sarah interviewed for TV at our A Day Made Better charity event on Day One.
Posters for Justine’s upcoming tour welcome me everywhere, which is nice because I MISS HER.
More photos to come, including many from the Steampunk High Tea at Copperfield’s.
So I recently got the word that Leviathan is officially in stores in Australia. It launched on October 13 there, a week later than the US.
Apologies to my Aussie fans for having to wait. But now you have it! (Oi, oi, oi.)
The tour is still going great. No more fires, anyway. Had a wonderful event at Changing Hands in Arizona last night and at the 86th St. B&N here in Manhattan. It’ll be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.
I’ll be in New Jersey tomorrow with Robin Wasserman. Come check us out at Books & Greetings in Northvale.
Friday, October 16 4:00PM
Books & Greetings
Location: 271 Livingston Street
Northvale, NJ 07647
Oh, and thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy or told a friend to buy one. Because of your enthusiasm, Leviathan has debuted at #5 on the New York Times Hardcover Children’s list. W00t!
I have two events today here in beautiful Arizona. Details about them, and then I’ll tell you about our hotel-on-fire experience of three nights ago.
First, however, thanks to TourTron for putting me at the Biltmore, which is a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired hotel and spa. Not just inspired by him, he also consulted on the design. I love me some FLW.
Here are the event details:
Wednesday October 14th, 2:00PM
Chandler Public Library
22 South Delaware Street
Chandler, AZ 85225
Wednesday October 14th, 7:00PM
Changing Hands Bookstore
Location: 6428 South McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
Alas, Sarah Rees Brennan has headed off to join Holy Black and Cassandra Clare in Mexico, so it’ll just be me.
Now for the fire in our Portland hotel:
It was about midnight, and a hideous whooping sound shattered my bedly ablutions. Then came an announcement to “stand by” while they determined the source of the alarm. So I was like, “Good, I don’t have to do anything.” But then I smelled smoke.
At this point, I was still hoping for an all-clear so I could go to bed. Touring is, after all, exhausting. (Touring buddy Sarah Rees Brennan and I had barely survived a 4:30AM pick-up the day before.) But the smoke smell was turning more chemically and weird, so finally I dressed and headed downstairs.
Saved: laptop and phone. Left behind: passport, chargers, and backup disk. I’d make a crappy refugee, I guess.
From the mezzanine full of pajama-clad fellow escapees, I called Sarah. She was still up in her room waffling. I told her about the firemen headed up the stairs past me, and sent here photographic proof:
Convinced of her peril, she decided to come down too. Note that she also brought her laptop and phone, and forgot her passport and chargers. (Hey, at least I had a coat.)
We then proceeded to post tweets, which is what one does in any emergency. I also got to follow up on an amusement earlier that day, when my publicist had reluctantly let me take a train alone. (Publicists never let authors escape in a strange city, because we’re not very clever about practical things.) I’d played a little jape on her, claiming for half a text message to have wound up in a distant borough. So now I could email her with the subject line “Hotel On Fire,” knowing she’d think I was a big liar. Hah! But I WASN’T LYING!
Oh, the fun we have.
Anyway, around 1AM they sounded the all-clear, and the fire turned out to have been towels in a dryer. So the morals of the story are:
1) Never cry wolf to your publicist. One day the wolves will really come.
2) Clean out those dryer filters. Lint is NOT your friend!
One more thing: All our fellow refugees in the lobby looked very bedraggled from being in bed. Now that’s an awesome etymology: “bed-raggled” = raggled from being in bed! (By way of full disclosure, I stole this from Brian Atterbury. But it occurred to me afresh that night.)
The tour continues. On Thursday I’ll be back in NYC briefly before heading to NJ, CT, and MA. See you soon, NYC peeps:
Thursday, October 15 7:00PM
Post-Apocalyptic Panel at Barnes & Noble
Location: 1280 Lexington Avenue (at 86th Street)
New York, NY 10028
ALSO: My lovely wife Justine Larbalestier will be discussing her amazing book Liar in Larchmont, NY on Friday night.
Friday, 16 October, 7:00 pm:
1997 Palmer Ave
She hopes to see you there!
One: As you may remember, Leviathan is coming out on Tuesday, a mere three days from now. (Update: After a quick recount, turns out it’s actually four days from now: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, TUESDAY!)
But there is another object going on sale that very same day, October 6. I call it “the brick,” because it looks like this:
The brick contains all four books in the Uglies series—Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras! And they all live together in a lovely box that references all four covers. I love me a slipcase.
Two: Simon & Schuster Canada sent me this amusing steampunk video on how to install a “Leviathan Wobbler,” a bookworm dazzler of astonishing complexity.
I think you need to watch it.
Three: I have moved my tour dates away from the blog post of a few days ago, and put them in a more sensible place: my Appearances page. From now on, all updates and changes will be made there.
To go to the Appearances page, click the “Appearances/News” button up in the menu at any time. Or just click here.
So. Close. Can. Smell. It.
Here at last is the info on my big Leviathan tour. But first the bad news: I’m probably not coming to your home town.
Why not? Well, I can’t go everywhere. In fact, I can only go to a tiny sliver of this gigantic country, even in five weeks of hard touring. So most of you will be disappointed. I AM SORRY ABOUT THIS. (As for other countries: There are plans for the UK, France, and Australia. But no details yet.)
Luckily for me, I cannot be blamed! This schedule was created by the giant S&S computer known only as TourTron, and I have no power over TourTron. No one does.
Here’s the good news, though, for those of you who live within the tiny sliver. I’ll have a couple of special guests on many of my events. One of them you know quite well: Robin Wasserman, author of Skinned and Crashed. You may remember her from this IMterview, and her week of guest blogging here.
My other guest will be Sarah Reese Brennan, author of Demon’s Lexicon, which I liked enough to give a big fat blurb to. She’s a wonderful writer of fan fic as well as YA, and has a hilarious blog. I’ll be IMterviewing her here soon.
Each event says who will be there—me and Sarah, me and Robin, or me alone.
And now for the schedule!
Can’t wait to see you guys!
Note update due to Daylight Savings Time!
Dear Commenters, please note that I have set the local time on this blog to UMT +4:30, the time zone of Tehran, Iran. Normally I’m set to Sydney time, which confuses you guys all the, um, time. So I doubt it will make your comment time-stamps any messier than usual.
Here’s the reason for this change: Censors in Iran are currently searching for blogs with Tehran local settings as a way of finding and shutting down sites that are protesting Iran’s recent (probably stolen) election. The more blogs in the world that are set to Tehran time, the harder the job is for these censors to do their job.
(By the way, if you are a censor visiting here from the Iranian authorities, welcome! I hope I have wasted your time. In other news: your regime sucks. Why not just play Tetris today instead of quelling protest? It would be more fun, and you would not personally be contributing to the suckage.)
If you, dear reader, have a blog, you can also set it to UMT +4:30. Somewhere in your dashboard or whatever is a button called “settings.” Click it and you should be able to change your local time fairly easily.
For more on the subject of censorship (in Florida*, not Iran), please enjoy this video from Maureen Johnson.
This post was quoted in the Wall Street Journal‘s Digits blog today! (Hidley-ho, link-following stockbroker-eenos! Come for the Iranian insurrection, stay for the YA!)
*Stolen elections and censorship, two great tastes that taste great together!