Category: Icefall

Travels, part 1

I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling recently to promote Icefall. The first trip was to the Baltimore Book Festival in Maryland. Having lived in Maryland for several years, it felt a bit like going home. I stayed near the Inner Harbor, a place I really liked as a kid, especially the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.

The view of the Inner Harbor from my hotel room.

Before my event at the book festival, I went to do some sightseeing. I was particularly interested in exploring the U.S. Sloop-of-War Constellation as research for the novel I’m currently writing. Below are some pictures I took of the ship.

The Captain's cabin.

The next picture is of the Captain’s toilet and bathtub (he even had a view). You really can’t see it, but the bathtub is about the size of a large sink. And this was the only toilet on the ship. The rest of the crew had to use a special place at the bow, or the head, of the ship. Which is where the expression, “hit the head” comes from.

Good aim was apparently a prerequisite for any captain.

Okay, enough bathroom trivia. How about some cannons…

The gun deck.

The Wardroom, or officers' quarters.

An officer's cabin.

While the Captain and his officers stayed in relative comfort, the crew did not. When occupied by sleeping crewmen, their section of the ship was said to become an oven. A really dark and smelly oven.

More comfortable than you might think. Like a hammock in your backyard, only without the sun, the breeze, or any sense of privacy.

The Sick Bay was eye-opening. It had several cases of surgical implements on display, which suggested all kinds of painful things just by their appearance, but were almost exclusively focused on dealing with battle trauma. And back then, the way you dealt with battle trauma was usually amputation. While amputation has become a last resort today, back then it was a first line of defense against infection and death. Amputation saved a lot of lives.

Up on the top deck, they gave us a cannon-firing demonstration, which was pretty cool.

It was loud.

So there I was on this faithfully restored ship, a noble vessel which had been used to combat slavery and had seen many battles, and then over the side I heard this swashbuckling, pirate-y music, and I looked down to see another little ship “sailing” by…

We had a real cannon. They had water guns. We had history, and they had Disneyland. I started chuckling, and so did several people beside me on the Constellation, so I know I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the juxtaposition.

Just to orient you, the windows sticking out from the side are where you'll find the earlier bathtub and toilet.

After I was done exploring the ship, I had enough time to visit the National Aquarium. One of the coolest things I saw there was an exhibit of jellyfish. I can’t think of a more relaxing activity than watching jellyfish undulating in the water. Seriously. I could have stood in front of the glass for hours, man.

The Aquarium also had a 4-D theater.

“There’s a 4th dimension?” I said to myself.  I had never experienced a 4th dimension before, I so bought a ticket to a showing of “Planet Earth: Pole to Pole.” While the theater didn’t let me transcend my limited 3-dimensional awareness, it did blow icy wind and snow in my face during the arctic scenes, fill the air with bubbles for the underwater scenes, jab me in the back when a Great White Shark took out a seal, and shoot water mist in my face as though from an elephant’s trunk. Which is to say, it ended up being pretty fun.

After that I went to the book festival for my event, a steampunk panel with Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, and Eden Unger Bowditch. Kelly and Gavin have recently co-edited an amazing anthology of steampunk short stories, appropriately titled Steampunk!, and Eden has written The Atomic Weight of Secrets. The panel was a lot of fun, and Emma from The Children’s Bookstore did a wonderful job moderating it. I was especially excited to meet Kelly, whose work I have long admired (really, check out her stuff).

Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, & Eden Unger Bowditch listening to me blather. Also, the goggles were because, you know, steampunk.

After the panel I had a lovely dinner with Emma (my publicist for the event), Emma (from the bookstore), Eden, and a really nice bookstore volunteer helping out with the event.


My next trip was to Denver, Colorado for the annual trade-show of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association.  But before that I paid a school visit to the Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences.  The students were awesome, especially a young man named Isaiah. He had a reading wager going at the time, and I hope he won the bet and earned his free copy of Icefall. After I finished my presentation, I noticed a display for perhaps the greatest science project I’ve ever seen:

My kind of science!

Let’s look a little closer at exactly how this worked…

Step 2.5) Do not laugh.

What were the results?  Funny you should ask…

Clearly, blue Poprocks are the best.

My sponsors for the school visit were the lovely ladies of The Bookies bookstore. After the school visit, they fed me lunch and gave me a little unintended and entertaining tour of Denver before depositing me safely back at the hotel for my event. I participated in the “Author Tea,” along with several other writers, including Utah’s own Ann Cannon and Randall Wright. During the course of the tea, I got to move around to several tables and meet some passionate and wonderful booksellers. After that, the fabulous Roz set up a dinner with folks from The Bookies, The Tattered Cover, and the Boulder Book Store.  Great food and great company.

And that was Denver. More travel coming soon…

Icefall reviewed

I wanted to share some reviews for Icefall that have been popping up, but first, Jessica interviewed me over at Cracking the Cover. She asked some great questions, so click on over to check it out. She also reviewed Icefall, calling it “one of the best middle-reader books of the year.” Thanks, Jessica.

The next review is from Publishers Weekly:

Kirby turns in a claustrophobic, thought-provoking coming-of-age adventure that shows a young woman growing into her own, while demonstrating the power of myth and legend. Kirby’s attention to detail and stark descriptions make this an effective mood piece. Readers may be drawn in by the promise of action, which Kirby certainly fulfills, but they’ll be left contemplating the power of the pen versus the sword—or rather the story versus the war hammer.

Read the rest of the review here.

This next one is actually of the Icefall audiobook, so congratulations to the actress Jenna Lamia, who read the book and brought Solveig to life. (For which she already earned an AudioFile Earphones Award!)

A perfect pairing of text and narration shines in this magnificent blend of mythology and mystery… Jenna Lamia’s youthful voice lends credence to the listening experience. As she tells her story, young Solveig sounds as if she is recounting a dream. Her words hang in the frosty air of the far North.

For the rest of the review, click here.

The Deseret News recently reviewed Icefall, comparing the tension in the story to the sharpness of “shards falling from the glacier” and naming it “one of the best reads of the season.”  Read the entire review here.

And several book bloggers have reviewed Icefall as well, and had some very nice things to say. Be sure to follow the links to their blogs.

Fuse #8

Shelf Awareness


Fantasy Literature


Kiss the Book

Charlotte’s Library

Teen Writers Bloc

Librarian’s Quest

It is very exciting and gratifying to me that Solveig’s story is being so well-received. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read it and share their thoughts.

Icefall Book Launch – Now with more Vikings!

Last Wednesday, The King’s English Bookshop hosted the launch event for Icefall, and it was awesome. Through a co-worker, I was able to get in touch with some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). I asked them if they might have some Vikings who would be willing to come to the launch and perhaps provide a martial demonstration.

As those who were there already know, Vikings did come (along with a few warriors from other cultures and time periods). And they did fight.

The pictures can’t fully convey how hard-core these guys are. The fights aren’t staged. They aren’t pulling blows. And that’s why they’re covered in armor, because they’re striking as hard as they can.

There were quite a few young readers in the audience, and they were on the edges of their seats the whole time, watching and cheering. A few of them wanted to join the SCA and be given a sword on the spot. But it wasn’t just the kids who enjoyed it – the adults seemed to be having fun with it, too.

I put a video together of some of the matches. I was looking for music to accompany the video, and since I listened to it often while writing Icefall, I thought it appropriate to use “Hall of the Mountain King” by the quintessentially Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

NOTE: If the video player doesn’t appear in your browser, click the link below (and wait for it to download, which might take a few minutes):

Icefall Launch – Viking Combat

Icefall signing events

First, a big thank you to everyone who came out last night for the launch of Icefall. I thought it went really well, especially the armed combat. Yes, there were Vikings there, among other warriors, and they fought valiantly. I’ll do a post with pictures and maybe some video soon, but in the meantime I wanted to let you know about two more upcoming signing events.

  • On Friday, October 7th I’ll be signing books at the Layton Barnes & Noble (Layton Market Center, 1780 North Woodland Park Drive, Layton, UT). Event starts at 6 PM.
  • On Monday, October 10th I’ll be signing books at the West Jordan Barnes & Noble (Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan, UT). Event starts at 7 PM.

Hope to see you there!

Come to the Icefall launch party!

Just a reminder that next week I’ll be at The King’s English celebrating the launch of Icefall. All are welcome! I’ll be speaking a bit about the story, reading from it, and then signing books. And I’m trying to see if I can get some Vikings there. We shall see. For more details, click here.

Hope to see everyone there!

UPDATE: There will be Vikings there!  Fighting!  With swords! It should be a lot of fun.

Music of Icefall

In anticipation of the release of my next novel, Icefall, I thought I would share some of the music from which I drew inspiration while writing it. Like a lot of authors, I have a few tricks I use to help me enter into the world of the story I’m telling, and music plays a big part in my creative process. I typically have a playlist of songs I listen to while working on a given project, music that evokes the emotions, the mood, the setting, or the feel that I’m going for. The music I draw from may not always seem like the obvious choice (Rage Against the Machine and Tool are on rotation as I’m writing my next book set in Colonial America). But there’s always a reason for my choice that works internally for me.

Right about the time I began Icefall, I heard an interview with the composer Ben Frost. While I use the term “composer” to describe him, because it’s really the closest word, it doesn’t completely capture what he does. His work is hard to define – it crosses boundaries, or blurs them, or makes them seem irrelevant. There is an electronic component to it, an industrial component, a lot of traditional instruments sometimes used in nontraditional ways, and a few other sounds you might not find musical at all until you hear what he does with them. Like the sound of wolves growling and howling. Or the sharp intake of breath when your body hits icy water. It is relentless music and sound, visceral almost to the point where your ears want to turn away, and that is exactly what I needed for this book.

At any rate, when I heard Ben Frost interviewed on NPR’s Studio 360, I knew just from the few bits they played that this was what I was looking for to help me bring Solveig’s icy and forbidding Nordic world to life. I’ve embedded the interview here, and if you have any interest in music or the creation of art, it would be worth a listen.

And below I’ve embedded a player with some tracks from his album By the Throat, which he composed in Iceland and infused with a distillation of that landscape. When I was writing, I would typically play the entire album through and repeat it a couple of times in one stretch. Related to that, I’ve found that listening through to the end of an album or a playlist can be a great way to carve out units of time to write.

If you like what you hear, you can stream or purchase the rest of the album here.

Another song I added to my Icefall playlist is called “Crystal” by Mannheim Steamroller. For some reason, and as long as I can remember, I’ve associated this song with a vivid, almost-nightmare I had as a child. In the dream, I was walking alone at night over a winter hill, the icy crust on the snow crunching beneath my boots, my breath a white cloud carried away by the wind, the light of the full moon glinting on the ground. The feeling of the dream was desolate and very frightening without a distinct source for the fear. Here’s that song from my childhood:

A few pieces of classical music also found their way into the Icefall playlist.

The first, A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky:

And of course, it would be an absolute sin to omit Edvard Grieg from the playlist for a book set in Norway. The following come from Peer Gynt (this production).

And finally, if I wanted to lighten things up for certain scenes in the book, I would occasionally write while tuning into a Norwegian folk music station I found streaming online here. There were a few other pieces of music that I listened to now and again, but not enough that I kept them in the playlist.

So there you have it. The music of my novel Icefall. What do you think? Was there anything that you liked or that surprised you? Do you listen to music while you write?

I plan to do a companion post to this one in the future, the “images of Icefall,” with some of the pictures that helped me visualize the world of the story. But that post will be a bit spoilery, so I’m going to wait until after the book has been released on October 1st to put it up.


An email conversation with a friend reminded me of another album I listened to quite a bit. William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops are the aural equivalent of a memory you can’t quite fully recall. There are four albums, but I listened to the second while writing Icefall. How these albums came to be is interesting in itself. The story goes that as Basinski went back to transfer some old loops and samples from magnetic tape to a digital format, the magnetic tape began to disintegrate as it was being recorded, resulting in a sound like, as my friend described, “a very large something dying over a very long period of time.” This music, in particular, helped me capture the essence of the glacier as a figure in the book.

Icefall is available for pre-order: Indiebound|B&N|Amazon

One month away!

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this, since I mention it to everyone these days, but I am under deadline. And being under deadline, I have learned that deadlines are an effective way to time-travel. As they approach, time speeds up, bringing them rapidly closer, and before you know it you’re in the future and they’re right on top of you. But their time-compression effects aren’t local. No, they bring on other things more swiftly in their wake.

All of this is to say that I’m amazed September 1st has arrived without more advance warning. In one month, on October 1st, Icefall will be out in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook, simultaneously. I’ve seen the hardcover, and they look amazing. Once again, Elizabeth Parisi at Scholastic has designed a truly stunning book. October 1st is also the day that The Clockwork Three comes out in paperback.

To celebrate the release of Icefall, The King’s English in Salt Lake City will be hosting a launch party, and I’d love for everyone to come.

Date: October 5th

Time: 7:00 PM

Where: The King’s English Bookshop (1511 South, 1500 East, Salt Lake City)

The end of September/beginning of October also marks the first of a series of trips I’ll be taking. Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving I’ll be going to Baltimore, Denver, Portland, Houston, Boulder, and Chicago, with local events in Utah scattered between. But rather than list all the details here, I’ve added an events page to the side-bar menu, as well as a calendar where you can click on the days in bold and see where I’ll be. I’ve only added a few events so far, but I’ll get the rest entered soon.

The beginning of October is also when the manuscript for my third book is due to my editor. And so we come back to deadlines. Which reminds me, I need to get back to work.

2011 SCBWI Annual Summer Conference

Earlier this month I went to the annual summer conference of the SCBWI, and I had a wonderful time. It’s always great to catch up with old friends, some of whom I only see once a year at the conference. Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser pulled out all the stops this year in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the SCBWI. The weekend was packed with talks and presentations by such luminaries as Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen, Judy Blume, Norton Juster, David Small, and many, many others. In years past, I’ve always left the conference on a bit of overload, but this year, with the compressed 3-day schedule, it was like mainlining Wisdom and Inspiration. Some of my favorite nuggets below, though perhaps not exact quotes (I’m not the best note-taker).

From Libba Bray:

Sometimes you have to write something wrong to get it right.

Stories need time and patience to find out who they are.

From Laurie Halse Anderson:

You have more control over how you spend your time and energy than you want to admit. You can spend time on things that may make you happy, but also may not make you a writer.

Don’t be a writer. Be writing.

And quoting T.S. Eliot:

Do I dare disturb the universe?

From Richard Peck:

Write not what you know, but what you can find out. Write from observation, not experience.

Unless you find yourself on the page early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.

There was so much more, but like I said, I’m not the best at getting it all down. Judy Blume was very funny. David Small was poignant. Norton Juster, very clever. And Gary Paulsen could be a professional storyteller. Wait, I think he is.

Publishers Weekly has a write-up on the event here.


A few early reviews of Icefall have popped up, and you can check them out if you want by following the links below:

Kate Coursey

Hopping Fun Creations

Rogue Librarian

The Freebie Fairy

And I think I mentioned this, but just as reminder, Icefall is available for pre-order: Indiebound|B&N|Amazon

Final Icefall Cover Revealed

Here it is! Earlier versions have been out there floating around for a while on Goodreads, and Amazon, and some other places, but this is the final, official cover for my new middle grade novel, Icefall.  Release date, October 1st, which is just around the corner. What do you think?

Pre-order the book: Indiebound|B&N|Amazon

Where did July go?

I knew it had been a while since I posted anything new to the blog, but I was honestly surprised to see that it’s been almost a month since my last entry.  That was followed quickly by the surprise that the month of July is nearly over.  I don’t know where it went.  But the end of July means that I’m soon headed to the SCBWI annual conference, something I always get really excited for.  I’ve gone the last several years in a row, and I’ve never regretted it.  The conference gives me the opportunity to learn, to be inspired, and to participate in a very large community of children’s book writers and illustrators.  Writing is such a solitary activity, and I find it invaluable to be reminded that I’m a part of something much larger than myself.

But the end of July also comes with the realization that I am not as far along in the new book as I’d like to be.  It took a little while to find my footing on this one.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a very linear writer.  When I hit a rough spot, a character or scene that’s not working, I’m not someone who can say, “I’ll skip ahead and come back to this bit later.”  I need to work it out before I move on.  And since I didn’t have the beginning worked out to my satisfaction, I didn’t exactly make a lot of headway on the book.  I think I wrote five or six different openings before finally striking on what I think is the true beginning.  Some of the credit for the breakthrough is owed to my editor.  Lisa and I had a long conversation about it, and she helped me find my way into this story.

Now that I’m inside it, I’ve made great progress, and I hope it will continue to go smoothly.  It’s requiring a lot of research, more than The Clockwork Three, or Icefall.  The other day I went and got a community card at the local university library, and checked out an intimidating stack of books.  I’m trying to research a few steps ahead of where I’m writing, so I can keep up the kind of pace I’ll need to meet my deadline in October.

But something wonderful and unexpected has come from my research.  It sparked an idea for a completely unrelated story, something that I think may turn into a series.  It’s too early to really talk about.  The idea needs to age in the cellar of my subconscious for a while before I really know what I have.


The Clockwork Three has been shortlisted for the 2011-2012 West Sussex Children’s Book Award, an award voted on by young readers in, appropriately enough, West Sussex in the UK.  This is some of the first recognition the book has received outside the U.S., and I’m especially thrilled by it for that reason.  Congratulations to the other nine shortlisted titles and authors.

The Clockwork Three has also been named an Honor Book for the Judy Lopez Memorial Awards for Children’s Literature, given by the Los Angeles chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.  Congratulations to Kate Klise, who won the award for her novel Grounded, as well as my fellow Honor authors Rita Williams-Garcia (for One Crazy Summer), Lewis Buzbee (for The Haunting of Charles Dickens), and Jewell Parker Rhodes (for Ninth Ward).


I’ve got quite a bit of travel coming up in the next few months, to Denver, Chicago, Texas, and Baltimore.  I’ll post more details on my schedule later.

And check back soon to see the final cover of Icefall.

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