Category: Books

The Quantum League! And some other stuff.

First things first. The news is out, so I’m excited to announce my next writing project. From Publishers Weekly:

Lisa Sandell at Scholastic Press has acquired a three-book middle-grade fantasy series called The Quantum League by Matthew J. Kirby, author of The Clockwork Three and Icefall. In the series, two best friends fight modern-day magicians in a magical crime saga; it will debut in 2014. Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency brokered the deal.

That doesn’t say an awful lot about it, but it’s still pretty early to go into more detail. So I’ll just add that I’ve always wanted to write a crime saga. Something with daring heists, criminal underworlds, and evil masterminds. The trick was to write one in a way that was exciting and fresh to me. That’s where the magicians come in. And I’ve been fascinated by quantum physics for a while now, so that found its way into the story, too. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write, something fast-paced and exciting. I’ve begun work on it, and like PW said, the first book will come out in 2014, with the next installments coming out a year apart after that.

I have to also say how happy I am to continue working with Scholastic. The people there (far too many to name right now) have all been so supportive of my books and my career. Especially Lisa, my editor. She understood the vision for this series right away, and I’m really looking forward to working on it with her.

So, after my installment in the Infinity Ring series and my next stand-alone novel (both of which will come out next fall), The Quantum League is what I’ll be working on.

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I mentioned in a previous post that my wife and I had moved to Northern Idaho, and I presented a photographic argument for that decision. We have since bought a home. We hadn’t planned to buy a home just yet. It made sense to first live here for a year, become familiar with the area, and then decide where we wanted to put down roots. But in becoming familiar with the area, we found a place that satisfied almost all our “dream home” criteria, and we couldn’t pass it up. We live on several acres, much of it wooded with pine and cedar and tamarack, on a lake, with the potential for horses.

It is also fairly remote, something I am still getting used to. My internet comes in through a parabolic dish mounted on my roof. Our water comes from a well. We have a family of wild turkeys that spend a lot of time on the property and drive our dogs crazy. The frequent deer have long since stripped the elderberry bush in our back yard clean. Last night, I fell asleep listening to the nearby howl of a wolf. It is a beautiful spot of earth.

I’ll try to post some pictures soon.

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A few upcoming events…

  • In October, I’ll be in Utah for the annual Book Festival sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council. I’m doing an event in Brigham City, and another in Murray. Both events will be held on October 17th and both are free and open to the public. Details can be found in the sidebar to the right.
  • I’ll be speaking at the annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City in February, presenting some of the same material I taught at the summer conference back in August. So if you wanted to come to one of my break-outs in L.A., but weren’t able to, you’ll have another opportunity if you’re going to the winter conference.

PEN Center USA, and the Infinity Ring launch

I’m honored and pleased to announce that Icefall has won the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature! I continue to be humbled and touched by the attention Icefall has received. As I’ve talked about many times, Solveig and her story are very close and personal to me, and I love that the book has resonated with others. Congratulations to the other finalists, including Trent Reedy for Words in the Dust, Allen Say for Drawing from Memory, and Gretchen Woelfle for All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts. One of the judges for this year’s award did a write up here. I look forward to going to the banquet to receive the award next month.

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Last month, James Dashner’s Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time came out in bookstores, and I was fortunate enough to be there for the big launch in Salt Lake City on August 29th. James did a couple of school visits that day, and I went along with him. We went to Canyon Rim and Rowland Hall, and both schools were a blast (in spite of the fact that James told the kids I was a serial killer. I mean, look at this picture:

Now tell me, which of us looks more like a serial killer?) It was a special treat going to Rowland Hall, because the librarian there, fellow author Becky Hall, was once my 5th grade teacher at Uintah Elementary.

I love doing school visits. More so now, I think because the school year has started and I’m not working with the kids on a daily basis anymore. It’s been a bit odd for me. Even though I am so excited to be writing full-time, a part of me misses it.

After the school visits, Jennifer Nielsen joined us for the launch event at the Salt Lake City Public Library, hosted by the amazing folks at The King’s English. At the event, I told the audience that The King’s English is the heart of the writing community in Utah, and I meant it. During the event, James, Jen, and I did a reader’s theater, each taking one of the three main characters in the Infinity Ring, with special guest Brodi Ashton as the narrator.

And afterward, we signed books and posters. Those who came were able to get both signed by all three of  us:

The event reminded me of a few of things. First, how fun it is to be involved in something like The Infinity Ring, with such talented writers and friends. Second, how amazing it is that three of the six Infinity Ring authors are from Utah. And third, how much I miss the people with whom I have formed such meaningful relationships while I lived in Utah.

Thanks again to the Salt Lake Library, The King’s English (especially Rachel!), and Chris and Charisse from Scholastic for putting together such a great event.

The Edgar! Also, butterflies, a space shuttle, and a really big snake.

photo credit: Rocco Staino, SLJ

As some of you may have heard, last week Icefall won the Edgar Award in the Juvenile Fiction category! I am honestly still a bit stunned. The nomination alone took me completely by surprise, to say nothing of actually winning. But I’m so thrilled and honored, and I’d like to say thank you to the Mystery Writers of America.

I flew to New York City last week for the big banquet, which is a very fancy black-tie event. I actually went out and bought a suit for it, since I didn’t own one. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The day before the banquet, I participated in a great panel with some of the other Edgar nominees, including Sheela Chari, Maureen Johnson, Todd Strasser, and Tom Angleberger. The topic of the panel was how we write for modern readers, and there were lots of witty and insightful things said by my fellow panelists. And Tom made us all laugh.

Prior to the banquet, we went to a reception for the nominees, and I have to say this part of the night was something I’d been anticipating for months, because Neil Gaiman was a nominee in the short fiction category. I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand, and say thank you. As I was writing Icefall, I struggled with how to incorporate all the Norse mythology in an organic way. I wanted it to feel integral to the story, an essential part of the whole. And so I studied American Gods, because nobody does myth better than Gaiman. And I’m grateful that I was able to tell him all of that in person.

After the reception, the banquet began. It opened with a personal, videotaped message from John Cusack (who is currently staring as the man himself, Edgar Allan Poe, in the new movie The Raven) which, as a fan of his, I thought was super cool. Then, for the next hour or so, I tried not to think about the award. I just did my best to stay calm, eat my dinner, socialize, and for the most part I succeeded. But as soon as the presenter for my category took the stage, a tidal wave of nerves and heart palpitations crashed over me. And when they called my name, I got up and gave my acceptance speech in a daze. I’m still not exactly sure what I said. I know I quoted Richard Peck (“We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.”) as a reference to the very bright light Gaiman had shined on me.

In fact, after the banquet I was able to give Neil a copy of Icefall, and that’s something I’ll remember for a long, long time.

During dinner, I was sitting next to School Library Journal’s own Rocco Staino, and he captured a photo and a video of me right after the announcement. He also wrote up a nice article on the event.

Congratulations to all the other nominees. I’m glad I was able to spend time with them, and if you’re looking for good mysteries to read or suggest to kids, I highly recommend every one of their books. (And for a bit more on each of them, try this article from the Christian Science Monitor.)

I also have to take a moment to once again thank my agent, Stephen Fraser, and my editor, Lisa Sandell, as well as Candace Greene and Lauren Felsenstein and all the other wonderful folks at Scholastic who have been so supportive of my career.

And just for fun, some more photos of NYC:

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

The top of the GE Building at Rockefeller Center

A bag-piping busker outside Grand Central Station

The Hayden Planetarium, where my wonderful editor took me to see a show – amazing!

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After the Edgars, I flew to Washington DC for the Malice Domestic conference, where Icefall was nominated for the Agatha Award. My fellow Edgar nominee Shawn Thomas Odyssey and his wife were on the same flight, a flight which had the amazingly good fortune of being on the runway right as the Space Shuttle Enterprise came cruising in on the back of a 747.

Taken by the nice guy next to me, who had the window seat.

The conference itself was a lot of fun. Such a nice group of people. Every person I talked to made me feel welcome, and though I didn’t win the award, I had a great time. Congratulations to the winner, Chris Grabenstein, and all the other nominees.

While in DC, I managed to catch a metro train to the Smithsonian for a couple of hours before my flight out, where they had a couple of new exhibits. The first was of the recently discovered “Titanoboa,” also known as the HOLY-CRAP-IS-THAT-A-SNAKE-boa. Seriously, this 50 foot, 25oo pound monster could strangle just about anything. One of the fact sheets on the creature posed the question, “What did Titanoboa eat?”

The answer?

“Whatever it wanted.”

That's an alligator tail sticking out of its mouth.

The other exhibit I caught was a butterfly atrium, which was one of the most serene and beautiful things I’ve experienced in a long time. They say that watching fish lowers your blood pressure. Well, I think watching butterflies has the same effect.

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And finally, a few more reviews of Icefall from around the web:

Lytherus

sayTaina

Book’em Benj-O

The Book Snitch

Story Snoops

Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Travels, Part 2

This post has been a long time coming, but I do still want to talk about some of the trips I took last fall. One of the things I’ve loved most about my writing career has been the opportunity to travel, to meet new people and have wonderful experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get to have. So without further ado…

Portland

I went for the trade-show of the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers Association, and was reminded of what amazing people booksellers are. Seriously, for anyone who likes books, it doesn’t get much better than spending time with people who are passionate about getting them into the hands of readers. As part of my events there, I also got to spend time with Allen Say, whose new Drawing from Memory is absolutely wonderful. Allen, by the way, has the smooth and resonant kind of voice that you can listen to all day. He can be saying anything, really. Kind of like when Oprah asked Anthony Hopkins to read the phone book. While in Portland, I also got to spend time with two friends, Danielle Jones and Kimball Fisher, and it was nice to catch up. Danielle took me to Burgerville, a locally sourced, sustainable, and environmentally conscious restaurant chain, and I think it was the first fast-food I’ve eaten without feeling guilty.

Houston

The Tweens Read Book Festival was fantastic. The people in charge did an amazing job organizing, and I think it was a great success for its first year. Plus, I got to hear Richard Peck speak, and that is something for which I will go well out of my way. I’ve heard him speak a couple of times before, and the man blows the roof off every time. I carry around several quotes of his in my head. I think my favorite is, “We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.” But coming in behind that is a new favorite: “Unless you find yourself early in the pages of a book, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.” Brilliant. Here’s a video with some pictures of the event.

Denver/Boulder

I’d already been to Denver earlier in the year, but I went back for several school visits over the course of a few days. The whole trip was put together by Boulder Country Day School’s librarian Melinda Elzinga, and she made my first out-of-state school visits an absolute delight. Everything was well-planned and organized, there were no panic moments, and it all came off without a hitch. Well, except for the part where I tripped over my laptop’s power cord and ripped the power-port right out, leaving me without a laptop for my presentations (fortunately, that happened near the end of my trip). I went to several different schools, including Dawson, the Montessori School of Denver, Friends’ School (which wasn’t a Quaker school as I had assumed) and finally a book fair signing for Graland.

They did something really cool at Melinda’s school, where they teach Latin to the upper grades. They had taken several of the Latin phrases from The Clockwork Three and taped them up in the hallways for the students to translate.

Their Latin teacher had also picked up on the fact that I used Medieval Latin in the book instead of classical Latin. That was actually a conscious choice on my part, one of those little details we writers use and wonder if anyone will even notice. But someone did, and that was gratifying. Thanks again to my brother, Josh, a real-life Renaissance Man, for providing the translations.

The only sightseeing I had time for outside the school visits was a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder. That was a lot of fun, in a Willy Wonka kind of way. I mean, they have a Peppermint Room there, and when you walk into it you get hit with this wall of peppermint that you feel in your nose and makes your eyes water. If you’re ever in Boulder, I recommend the tour. I also stopped back by The Bookies and said hello. Love that store.

Chicago

I went to NCTE for the first time in November. It has a similar vibe to ALA in that it’s an enormous group of people who are all passionate about books and literacy. I was there for five very busy days. The first couple of days I did school visits, and here I would just like to take a moment to say how much I love doing school visits. To begin with, since schools are where I work, I feel right at home in them. And something else my job has done is inoculate me against any fear of a group of kids, even a large group of kids. I actually enjoy the energy of a big assembly with two or three hundred students. I really don’t get nervous at all, and I thank my job as a school psychologist for that. The other great thing about school visits are all the wonderful things students do to make you feel welcome. Like banners and posters…

…and even violin performances!

I hope to keep doing lots more school visits in the future (if you’re interested, feel free to contact me with the link in the sidebar).

At NCTE I was on a panel talking about revision and peer critique. I gave a big shout-out to my own intrepid critique group, and how they help me every week. (Hm. I just realized that I haven’t talked much about them on the blog before. Have to remedy that.) Also on the panel were Kate Messner, Eric Luper, and Linda Urban,  moderated by Denise Johnson.

I really appreciated what everyone on the panel had to say, since revision does not come naturally to me. As I said in my remarks, left to my own devices I am far more likely to go chasing after something new and shiny than I am to return to polish something a bit old and tarnished.

Another NCTE event I did was the Scholastic Literary Brunch with Sarah Weeks, Coe Booth, Jeff Hirsch, and Jen Nielsen.

I love this kind of thing because it allows you to hear an author’s words in their own voice, the way they heard them when they wrote them. It adds so much to the experience of their work when I hold their voice in my head as I read. Case in point, once you hear Coe Booth read from one of her novels, you won’t ever read it the same way again. Oh, and also, David Levithan does an absolutely hilarious impression of an attorney.

Readers' Theater with (L to R) David Levithan, Sarah Weeks, and Coe Booth

While in Chicago, I did a signing event at Anderson’s Bookstore with Trent Reedy, Kenneth Oppel, and Gordon Korman. We had a lot of fun, and afterward went out to a cajun restaurant where they seated us right next to the jazz band. It can be hard to carry on a conversation with a trumpet in your ear, but we gave it our best. I had the turtle soup, since I’d written about it in The Clockwork Three without having ever tasted it, and I figured I needed to at least once. I liked it, enough that I’ll order it again if I ever have the chance.

At the recommendation of my driver, I also stopped by with a few friends for some blues one night at Buddy Guy’s Legends. That was a blast.

One last thing before I move on from Chicago. I have to take a moment and talk about the hotel where we stayed, which was the fanciest hotel I’ve ever been in. To illustrate, when I first walked into the bathroom, I noticed a remote control on the counter by the sinks. I’d never seen a remote control in a bathroom, and I had to wonder what it controlled. So I just kind of held it up, hit the “on” button, and looked around. That’s when I noticed the TV come on in the mirror. Yes, a TV came on inside the mirror! I had that thing on the whole time I was getting ready in the morning because, well, if you have a TV in your mirror, how can you not use it?

 Also, the room had an Eames Classic, AKA the chair I’d admired for years while watching Frasier.

I took a nap in it.

New York City

The trip to NYC was for Infinity Ring, which I already wrote about briefly after they announced the series. Aside from the stuff I talked about in that post, we got to see a demo of the 3D computer game (awesome!) that will be an integral part of the series, did some promotional photo and video shoots, and spent time with Scholastic’s sales reps. Also, one night David took us all to see Tiger Beat, the YA band fronted by Libba Bray, which was hilarious and a blast.

And I think that about catches me up. I don’t have too much going on for a little while. I’ll be in Boise in April, speaking at the SCBWI conference, and the week after that I think I’ll be back in NYC for the Edgar Awards Banquet. I’ll be sure to let you know how those trips go.

 

 

 

An Edgar Nomination for Icefall

Just a quick note with some really cool Icefall news. Pretty soon, I hope to do another post about the travel I did in the fall, as well as a belated New Year kind of thing where I talk about my writing goals for the upcoming year.

But in the meantime, I’m really excited to announce that Icefall is a nominee for the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the juvenile fiction category! I am so thrilled by this. I love mysteries. I grew up watching Mystery! on PBS. I had the Edward Gorey introduction memorized, down to the desperate cooing of the lady in distress…

…and Jeremy Brett will always be my first Sherlock Holmes.

That said, the mystery aspect of Icefall was something I always felt a bit insecure about, and doubted whether I could actually write. I think it helped that as a mystery, it is unconventional. I deliberately set out with two goals when writing it. First, I wanted multiple theories to be proven correct in the end. Second, I wanted to write a mystery where the reader didn’t actually want to know who did it. What I mean by that is, I wanted the reader to love each of the characters so much that, like Solveig, they don’t want to find out that any one of them would be capable of betraying her and her family. I don’t know if I accomplished either, but the fact that Icefall has been nominated for a mystery award delights me to no end. Thank you to the Mystery Writers of America.

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Icefall is also a finalist for the Cybils in the Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy category, and I’m so excited about that as well. It’s always interesting to me to hear Icefall described as fantasy. Some don’t consider it to be fantasy at all, but historical fiction. As the author, I’m not sure what it is. I know that it feels like a fantasy, because the world in which it takes place is quite foreign, and the Norse myths and legends seem to be stalking the characters, lurking in the mist and the ice. But you never actually see Odin, or Thor, or any dragons or trolls. In the end, I don’t know that it has to be one or the other for the reader to enjoy it. First and foremost, it’s a story.

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The New York Public Library recently released their 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing for 2011. Icefall is on the list, and so are a great many other wonderful titles. You should check them out.

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And here are a few more reviews of Icefall from around the web.

Kids Reads

Fantasy Literature

Pica Reads

Bibliophile Support Group

Tripping Over Books

Mother. Write. (Repeat.)

Fantasy Book Critic

Luxury Reading

Infinity Ring

I’ve recently mentioned a secret project I’ve been involved with, and I am excited to finally announce it. But before I talk about it, The New York Times just ran a piece on it, which I would recommend reading first. You can find it here. If you want to track down the print version, it’s on the front page of the arts section.

And here is the announcement on Scholastic’s On Our Minds blog.

From the press release:

Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, and the pioneering force behind the groundbreaking and international bestselling The 39 Clues book series, expands its innovative multi-platform publishing program with the worldwide launch of Infinity Ring, an alternate-history time travel series for readers ages 8-12. To be written by a team of six authors, this exciting new adventure combines books, an interactive “Hystorian’s Guide” map feature (named for a centuries-old secret society featured in the books), and a fully-immersive online game experience where readers travel back in time to fix history. Infinity Ring will launch simultaneously in September 2012 in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, with “Book 1: A Mutiny in Time,” written by New York Times bestselling author James Dashner (The Maze Runner), who also outlined the program’s overall story arc. Dashner will be followed by a team of bestselling and acclaimed authors including Carrie Ryan (Book 2; November 2012), Lisa McMann (Book 3; February 2013), Matt de la Peña (Book 4; June 2013), Matthew J. Kirby (Book 5; September 2013), and Jennifer A. Nielsen (Book 6; December 2013). The last book in the Infinity Ring series also will be written by James Dashner (Book 7; March 2014).

The story…

History is broken, and a long-feared Cataclysm seems imminent. The capital of the United States is Boston. Lincoln’s face is nowhere to be seen on Mount Rushmore. Everyone’s buzzing about the French royal wedding. And an international group of men and women known as the SQ is more powerful than kings, richer than nations, and more fearsome than armies. When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the key to time travel – a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring – they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone completely, and disastrously, off-course. Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the “Great Breaks”… and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!

And if you want to read the full, official press release, it’s here.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

When I got the call from David Levithan a couple of months ago asking me if this was something I would be interested in, I told him that this was exactly my kind of project. I love alternate history, I love science fiction, and I love computer games. I grew up reading books and playing old-school Sierra games like King’s Quest, Hero’s Quest (tragically renamed Quest for Glory) and Space Quest. Putting books and computer games together? Infinity Ring is the kind of integrated story and multi-platform experience I wish had been around when I was a kid. So yes, I wasn’t just interested, I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.

I’m also honored to be working alongside James Dashner, Carrie Ryan, Lisa McMann, Matt de la Peña, and Jennifer Nielsen. Such an amazing gathering of talent. The experience of working with them on this story – creating, building, firing ideas back and forth – has been remarkable. We were all together in New York City a couple of weeks ago for the Scholastic sales conference, and we had the opportunity for a face-to-face brainstorming session. The creative energy in the room was palpable. And to top it off, we all get along really well, and though I always respected each of them as writers, I now count them as friends.

Clockwise from back row, left: Matt de la Peña, James Dashner, me, Jennifer Nielsen, Carrie Ryan, & Lisa McMann. Photo Credit: Ken Karp

There will be more details in the coming weeks and months, I’m sure. Check the official Infinity Ring website for news. But for now, I’m glad I can finally talk about it. Any questions?

Parents’ Choice, and a few more Icefall reviews

Some more good news and reviews have been coming in for Icefall.

First, it was recently announced that Icefall has been given the 2011 Parents’ Choice Gold Award in the Fiction category! I’m honored and grateful. Icefall is sharing the award with Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck, and there are some other great titles on the lists, including The Cheshire Cheese Cat by fellow Utah writer Randall Wright and Carmen Agra Deedy. Be sure to check them all out here.

Second, Icefall is a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee, along with many other wonderful books.

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I recently gave an interview to the Scholastic Book Clubs about Icefall, and you can read it here. Additionally, Icefall was featured in the Editor’s Picks video, which you can watch below.

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Icefall has received some very nice reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

School Library Journal said, “In a page-turning climax… the ensuing battle and survival scenes are vividly portrayed, and characters fight back with the epic heroism of gods. Solveig is an empathetic heroine and Hake, the hulky berserker war chief, is also a well-developed and (eventually) endearing character. Fans of John Flanagan’s “Ranger’s Apprentice” series (Philomel) will enjoy this adventure tale.”

And Booklist said, “Over the course of the brutal winter, Solveig learns the delicate art of storytelling from her father’s skald (“the poet of the living past”) and also forms a bond of mutual affection with the most fearsome berserker of the bunch. Her stories provide comfort, distraction, and hope for the starving people, but are tested to the utmost when blood begins to spill. Both elegant and exciting, this work recalls Jonathan Stroud’s Heroes of the Valley (2009) in its treatment of the lofty spot that lore occupies in a warrior society and how stories give meaning to both life and death.”

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Ann Cannon recently mentioned Icefall in a round-up of some great fall titles by Utah writers. Lots of fine recommendations there. Check out the article here. Of course, Ann should have mentioned in the article that her wonderful middle grade novel Charlotte’s Rose is also back in print.

And Ann Diener, owner of the Yellow Book Road, recently recommended Icefall in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which you can read here.

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Finally, a few more bloggers have reviewed Icefall, and you can read their thoughts by following the links below.

BooksYALove

Kinnelon Library Teen Blog

Collected Miscellany

Images of Icefall

A little while ago, I wrote about the soundtrack I listened to while writing Icefall. I mentioned then that I would also like to talk about the images that I had in my mind when writing the book. If you haven’t read Icefall, you might want to stop here, because I think it’s important – and many readers prefer – to fill a book with their own mental imagery. But if you’ve read the book, and you want to see what I had in mind, read on. It might be interesting to see how our visions of the story compare.

Icefall takes place entirely within the confines of a small steading located in a remote fjord. As the book opens, Solveig stands at the edge of cliff looking down on the water.

But it is winter, so perhaps more like this:

Within the steading walls, the characters live in a traditional Scandinavian hall, which I always imagined to be a small, rustic outpost.

From the outside:

And from the inside:

The steading is situated between “towering mountains and a frozen sea.” In the book, I describe the mountains as being like a procession of marching trolls.

But what Solveig sees…

The hall is also surrounded by woods, dense and forbidding regardless of the season.

Above the hall looms the glacier.

While a runestone stands silently in the woods below.

And lastly, here is an image I only found recently. It didn’t inform the character of Solveig, but I love that it includes a raven.

Claymation! Plus, Scholastic HQ.

Just a couple of videos today.

The first is a book trailer that a fan made for The Clockwork Three. In claymation!

I love that the door to Alice’s cabin is yellow, just like in the book. Now that’s attention to detail!

The second video is of the Scholastic headquarters in New York City. Having briefly been there once before, it was kind of cool to see it again.

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…

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