Worth 1000 words? Oh yeah. Tuesday, Mar 23 2010 

Every book needs its cover: to display the face of the prose to the world, to nudge or tweak the curious buyer. This is the glorious cover for my novel due out in October 2010, Under the Poppy. It was created by Base Art Company, and to say that I’m over the moon would be an understatement.

What the best cover art does is combine artistry with subtlety, to display  the meaning and idea of the book, rather than flatly illustrate a scene, which is so much harder than it sounds.

I’ve had some amazing covers thanks to Rick Lieder, to wit, Kissing the Bee and The Blue Mirror, two of my favorites.

There have also been disasters – none of them were my YAs, let’s leave it at that – but yargh.

Breakfast at MRA Sunday, Mar 21 2010 

An 8 AM breakfast, amazing company – educators laugh a LOT, did you know that? – and a chance to talk about why middle schoolers are rad and how reading resembles deep sea diving … Here’s me and my table mates at the MRA breakfast, at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit, on a grey spring morning. We had a rockin’ time; wish you were there.

Awash in unhealthy excitement Friday, Mar 19 2010 

The Little Professor is busily corrupting students, what with all that distempered excitement and those dangerous cravings, and I must heartily concur and add warnings of my own: Once you start reading a really excellent novel, you might as well kiss your dull-minded, content-to-be-bored life goodbye, and become forever the trembling slave of pleasures unknown.  Like what just happened to me with Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith.  I mean for god’s sake, people, I lost uncounted hours reveling in bad new words and whiplash plotting and ladies’ prisons and it got so bad, why, I almost forgot to take my Flintstones Chewable Morphine!

So beware.

Does it have to be a novel? Wednesday, Mar 17 2010 

Why is short fiction seen as somehow lacking gravitas? Like it must be easier to write shorter: a person could just laugh out a short story, or cough out a poem, and a haiku would be a fart, right? Mais non. Compression is tough. A big ol’ baggy doorstop book does not automatically equal IMPORTANT. Or good. Or Fun (operative word) to read.

One of Emily Dickinson’s dashes kicks the ass of a thousand trilogies.

Shakespeare got to get paid, son. Saturday, Mar 13 2010 

The comments I’ve been hearing about “Clod, Pebble” (and thank you for them) have focused so far on the father’s dilemma, both with his ex-wife and daughter and in that crappy bookstore line, confronting the real and the fake.

But there’s another dilemma, enacted on the other side of that table, the never-ending battle between Art and Commerce, and we all know who wins that one, right, at least in the short term? Dragondreams: War! crushes all before it, and poor Mr. Dunbar goes home to a microwaved pizza. Or that’s how the story usually plays out.

That battle interests me a lot, not only in fiction but in my daily life, since what I do for a living is write.  And since the times they really are a-changin’ – not only in publishing but for all us (somewhat queasily-designated) content creators, all across the board – does that make it harder or easier for writers to write books, when the definition of “book” itself is up for grabs?  How about artists?  Or musicians? Who’s going to pay us to do what we do, so we can do it and still keep the lights on? And who, or what, are we creating this stuff for, anyway?  The people who like it?  The idea of art? Ourselves? Itself?

Or, as Amanda Palmer puts it in her interview on NPR’s On the Media: “If you’re a teenager with a dream of being a rock star, maybe you’ll really think about why. Were you doing this to be rich and famous or are you doing this because you really love music and you want to connect with people, and you’ll do it even if it just means you make a living wage? If that’s true, I’m – you know, I’m a fan of the new system.”

Actually, me too. Because the answer is, make up your own answers to these questions, then act accordingly.  The answer is, support the stuff you love to listen to, to read, to wear, to stare at on your walls or in a browser, put your money where your love is, because Shakespeare got to get paid, son. The answer is a Swiss army knife, with some tools we may not have seen before, or know how to use, but that’s why life is fun. The answer is I better get to work, now, I have a book to finish.

Two voices, one story: collaboration Monday, Mar 8 2010 

Here’s a story I co-wrote with one of my favorite writers in the world, and one of the best, least sentimental, most erudite, and funniest writers I have ever read: Carter Scholz. “Clod, Pebble” is a little moral conundrum; anyone who’s ever waited in one of those interminable bookstore signing lines will understand, and double that if you’ve ever sat behind the table.

In my experience of collaboration – Carter and I wrote “The Doctrine of Color” together as well as “Clod, Pebble”, and Barry N. Malzberg and I wrote a lot of short fiction – it’s a real joy to work that way with another writer, a way very different from working alone, where all the dash and all the burden are your own.  This is what musicians (and interestingly enough, both Carter and BNM are musicians, too) must feel when they jam together: the back-and-forth, the froth, the play.  Hope you enjoy our effort.

Jumping the Candlestick with Debbie Monday, Mar 1 2010 

It’s Monday, which may or may not be entirely good news, but I’m happy to pop up on Deborah Diesen‘s blog Jumping the Candlestick, as part of her “Michigander Monday” series.

When I was a kid, I thought for sure that to be a “real” writer – you know, a Published Author – you had to live somewhere glamorous and taxified and elbow-patchy (you know, those blazers that professors wear in movies), a hazy realm that might have been an idealized New York but was certainly the Land of Publishing, a glorious land where everyone was smart and witty and knew everything you didn’t … Yes, I know, but I didn’t then. Eventually I learned that good writing goes on everywhere, the only trick is to find the place that allows you whatever mix of hustle and solitude suits you: and then you can forget all about the whole thing and get your work done. For me, that place is the D.