I meant to post this a long time ago, but somehow forgot. (I say “somehow,” but really there’s no “somehow” when you forget things as often as I do.) You may remember Alessandro, the young musician who composed a quartet inspired by The Clockwork Three. Well, he has done the same for Icefall, and I continue to be amazed by this young man’s talent.
Here is how he described the piece:
Sextet on an Ice Epic is a piece inspired by Matthew J Kirby’s book Icefall. The structure of the piece loosely reflects the story:
• A “run-away” theme plays when Solveig, a young princess, is forced to run away in an icy land.
• She spends a lot of time alone, like a star in the Northern sky, sad but strong (sweet “Solveig theme”).
• Enemies arrive, they want to kill her! Solveig’s warriors fight to defend her (battle theme).
• The run-away theme returns, since Solveig and her warriors are forced to run off, but …
• Solveig has an idea and the enemy is defeated (“tumbling down” theme).
• Her dad, the king, finally arrives and Solveig is now happy again (peace theme).
A few weeks ago, Scholastic was kind enough to send me to Los Angeles to receive the PEN Center USA Award for Icefall. I have to say, I think this was one of the most intimidating events I’ve been to. It’s partly because I was there alone and didn’t know anyone. It’s partly because it was held in Beverly Hills, and I’d spent that afternoon walking past stores I didn’t think I could even afford to set foot in. The banquet and ceremony were held in a ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and there was a cocktail reception before the event, during which I was just sort of hanging out on my own at the edges, watching the people and simply enjoying being there.
At one point, while I was texting my editor, I looked up and saw someone standing right in front of me who seemed familiar. She had red hair, and it took about five seconds for me to think to myself, “That’s Molly Ringwald.” And before I could decide if it was a good idea to say anything to her, she looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back and blurted out, “Are you Molly Ringwald?”
“Yes,” she said.
I’m sure at this point she usually gets the Breakfast Club or 16 Candles appreciation, but I was more interested in the fact that I thought I’d heard she’d written a book. So I asked her about it. It’s a collection of short stories tied together by a theme of betrayal called When it Happens to You. We talked about that briefly, and then she asked about my work and we talked about Icefall.
The whole interaction lasted maybe two minutes, but it was kind of fun to have a Hollywood moment while I was there. I thought about asking to take a picture with her, but after feeling the mood of the room, I decided I didn’t want to be that guy.
That’s me giving my speech. Thanks to Drew Filus for snapping the picture.
When I went up to receive my award and give my acceptance speech, I talked about what an honor it was to receive the same award that had been given to Ursula K. Le Guin a few years ago. I haven’t ever blogged about Ms. Le Guin in detail, or what her work has meant to me. I think that’s something I need to remedy in the near future. I am a writer because I read her books.
It was a really wonderful evening. Thank you again to PEN Center USA for the honor, and to Scholastic (I’m looking at you Candace!) for their support in sending me. And congratulations to the other finalists!
We had our first snowfall of the year a couple of days ago, and woke up to this:
The back yard.
The front yard.
Pretty magical. I looked out the window and felt a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story on Christmas morning, with the harp music playing and everything. It has put me in mind of the holidays, that’s for sure.
And speaking of holidays, a good friend of mine, Kimball Fisher, has written a short story for the Christmas season. It’s titled Finding the Baby Jesus. I really enjoyed it and blurbed it. It’s available through Amazon.
Yesterday, I received copies of the German translation of Icefall. I think it’s a really interesting take, and I particularly like the tattoos on Solveig’s hand and face. I had never pictured her that way, but I think it’s pretty cool. It’s also fun to see how widely interpretations of the material can vary, when comparing this, the more realistic German cover:
to the more fantastical, almost ethereal Italian translation:
In some ways, this is actually a reflection of the different ways people read the book.
Just a reminder, I’ll be in Utah this week doing a couple of library events on the 17th, in Murray and Brigham City. If you’re in the area, come on by! Details to the right in the sidebar.
This first appeared years ago in the online speculative publication Strange Horizons, and was my very first professional sale. It is particularly appropriate to what I am reading and researching right now for The Quantum League, so it seemed a fitting time to re-post it.
I’ve been researching quantum theory recently, and by “research” I mean that I’m trying to wrap my math-challenged head around something that is even more amazing, disturbing, and shocking than I thought it was. Things (very small things) really can be in two places at once. The observation of something writes the history of that thing before you observed it. Schrodinger’s cat can be both alive and dead. Two electrons can affect one another across vast distances, instantaneously. The quantum behavior of very small things defies our intuitive understanding of the world around us, supplanting the Newtonian “approximation” that we take for granted. Quantum physics is where it’s at, and it’s pretty mind-blowing. I mean, it’s arguably the most proven theory in all of science, and a third of the world’s economy is comprised of industries based on quantum mechanics (things like lasers and the microprocessor in your computer and your phone).
I’m researching all of this for The Quantum League, and it’s got me really excited to write the series. If you’re interested, Brian Greene, a physicist with a gift for being able to describe very complex concepts in understandable ways, took on the quantum realm for the PBS show Nova. You can watch it below, if you’d like.
And now, some pictures of my new yard and neighborhood, as promised.
my front yard
my back yard
the view from my office
The family of turkeys that love to stroll through my yard, completely unperturbed by my two barking dogs, whom they drive completely insane.
And now, a few pictures of the neighborhood.
For those of you who are of a certain age, do you remember the movie Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze? Well, last night I dreamed it. Sort of. I’m still not sure who the invaders were, but they were Russian-like. Except they had ships like those crazy flying armored whale things in the Avengers.
Yes. Like that.
Well, since Robert Downey Jr. et al never made an appearance, the Russian-ish invaders pretty well managed to subjugate the populace. Everyone was just surrendering. That was when my brother and me got a rocket launcher. (That sentence would make you chuckle, or at least raise an eyebrow, if you knew my brother and me.) And we shot down one of these ships. But it didn’t just fall out of the sky. No, it careened, smoking, blazing, right over our heads into the White House. The explosion that followed would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich both applaud and weep and turn in their directors’ chairs and bullhorns (they use bullhorns, right?) in the knowledge that they will never, ever be able to surpass such cinematic awesomeness.
After the shock of seeing something so spectacular wore off, the pseudo-Russians started looking for who had fired the rocket, so my brother and I stashed the launcher in an open cab and walked away. No one knew who had done it. We were anonymous heroes.
I woke up at that point, but if I had continued dreaming, I’m certain our bravery would have inspired others and incited an uprising that would ultimately drive the vaguely Russian invaders from our soil.
The thing is, I don’t normally remember my dreams. One of the last dreams I remember led to Icefall. I doubt this dream will lead anywhere, fictionally, but if it does, watch out, Bay and Emmerich.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
James Dashner’s first installment of the Infinity Ring series hits stores on the 28th, and I’m really excited for him. But right now, you can go to the Infinity Ring website and play an early demo of the game. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It’s a 3d role-playing game set in Revolutionary Paris! This is exactly the kind of thing I would have loved when I was younger. Ah, who am I kidding. I love it now!
If you want to get a taste for the what the games will be like, go to the site, click on the “play” link, install the game engine, and you’re off! At some point, you’ll be prompted to create an account (it’s free!) and since this is a demo, eventually you’ll hit a point where you have to get the book to go any further. But the book comes out soon!
I mentioned in a previous post that I had recently moved from Northern Utah to Northern Idaho. When I tell people this, I get one of two responses. Either they’ve been here, and they understand, and they nod along saying something to the effect of, “Oh, I’m so jealous.” Or they’ve never been here, and they ask, “Why Northern Idaho?”
To answer that question, I enter into evidence the pictures below. I think they make my case.
A day on the lake with one of my dogs, Coral. She loves to swim.
She was a bit cold and shivering after a dip in the water, and nestled up to me to get warm.
This past week, I finished the book I’ve been working on for the last year or so. But in some ways, it’s been even longer than that, because this was the first book I sent to my agent several years ago. He actually passed on it and suggested I put it aside to write something else. I followed his advice and wrote The Clockwork Three, so I think it fair to say his advice was good, and I’m glad I followed it. But I never let go of that first book, the first novel-length piece of fiction that I’d written. I loved the characters, the idea, and the emotional heart of it. So I went back to it with the benefit of perspective, having been away from it for a few years, and I saw immediately what it needed. It is now a very, very different book, and so much better than it was. That’s why I think it’s a good idea for every writer to step away from material, especially if the book isn’t working. Go, write something else, and come back.
That can be a hard thing to do, especially if you’re still trying to get your first book published, like I was. I was eager, and impatient, and I didn’t want to be told to put it aside. I’d already put a year into that manuscript, and I didn’t want to think about another year of writing, or more, before I would be ready for another chance. But I also knew that I didn’t just want to publish that one book. I wanted a career as a writer, hopefully with many books. So I told myself it made sense to go ahead and get started on the next one and see what happened. And that worked for me.
I’m sure my editor will have some revisions for me to consider, and I’ve already thought of two more scenes the book needs. So I’m not exactly “done”. But I’m really close, and I’ve been able to move on to my next project, which will be my installment in the Infinity Ring series. I have an idea that I think will be really fun, and cool, and as soon as I can talk about it, I will. But in the meantime, here is what’s upcoming for the Infinity Ring.
Don’t they all look amazing? I can tell you, having read them, that they are. I’m so excited about this series.
And there’s some other great stuff coming up on the blog. Some Icefall news, some news on what I’ll be writing after the Infinity Ring, a cover for my next book. Lots of exciting stuff, and I look forward to sharing.