Thursday, March 29, 2007

Obscure Fairy Tale: The Tinderbox

Today's fairy tale is not incredibly obscure. Well, OK, it hasn't been done by Disney, but it is one of the very first fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen so that's got to give it some clout.

One geeky sidenote before we begin: unlike the Grimm brothers and Asbjornsen and Moe, HCA didn't collect folktales. He created them, and he did it so well that many of them entered the canon with the same cultural status as tales born from the oral tradition. I think that's cool. A thousand storytellers made Cinderella, but a single writer made the Ugly Duckling. And a single writer created the story that I'm going paraphrase below...

The Tinderbox (by Hans Christian Andersen)

On his way home from war, a soldier meets an old witch. The witch asks him to climb down into a hollow tree. Inside, she says, he'll find three rooms: one filled with copper, one with silver, and one with gold. Each room will be guarded by a dog. In the first room, the dog will have eyes the size of teacups. In the second, it will have eyes the size of mill wheels. The third dog will have eyes each the size of the Round Tower.

If I were the soldier, I'd be edging away real slowly now. Rooms inside a tree? Dogs with oversized eyes? The old witch sounds a few bristles short of a broomstick, if you know what I mean. But he doesn't leave.

She gives him an apron and instructs him to pick up each dog and lay it on the apron and then help himself to as many coins as he wishes. In exchange, she merely wants a tinderbox, which (she claims) her sister left last time she was down there.

Why do I suddenly think of the Nigeria email? You know, the one that says if you send your bank account info, you'll be able to help a poor widow and also make millions of dollars for yourself...

The soldier agrees and climbs into the tree.

Apparently, he had nothing better to do.

He finds the three rooms with the three dogs with enormous eyes, exactly as the witch said, and he fills his pockets with coins.

I love these dogs. I picture them as big, fluffy St. Bernards with sweet anime eyes.

He leaves the tree and asks the witch what she wants with the tinderbox. She says it's none of his business. He says, "Tell me, or I'll chop your head off." She says, "No." And he chops her head off.

What? Excuse me, he did what?!?

He takes the best room at the best inn in the nearest city -- a city which is home to a beautiful princess who lives in a copper palace and is never allowed to see anyone but the king because it has been foretold that she will marry a simple soldier -- and he spends every coin he has on food and entertainment.

I'm sorry, but can we rewind a bit? Did he seriously just chop that nice little old lady's head off for telling him to mind his own business?

He has to move to a tiny garrett room, and none of his friends will visit him because, they say, "There are too many stairs to climb."

Nice friends.

One night, he uses the witch's tinderbox to light a candle, and the dog with eyes as big as teacups appears and says, "What is my master's command?"

Told you the dogs were cool.

He promptly asks for more money, and the dog fetches him a sack of coins. After some experimentation, he learns that if he strikes the tinderbox once, the dog with copper coins comes. If he strikes twice, the dog with silver comes. And if he strikes three times, the dog with gold coins comes. He returns to his nice rooms, and his friends start visiting him once again.

One night, the soldier decides he wants to see the princess who no one ever sees, so he summons the dog with eyes as big as teacups and commands him to bring him the princess. In seconds, he returns with the princess on his back, asleep. The soldier kisses her, and the dog carries her home.

What is it with fairy-tale heroes and sleeping girls? For one thing, it's definitely not kosher to kiss a sleeping stranger. All sorts of assault issues there. For one thing, how romantic is it really to kiss someone who most likely snoring and/or drooling?

In the morning, the princess wakes and tells her parents about her strange dream with a dog and a soldier. The next night, her parents instruct a lady-in-waiting to guard her.

Very sensible. Yes, keeping the princess cooped up in the copper palace is a total overreaction, but at least the parents show some sense here.

Again, the soldier instructs a dog to fetch the princess. The lady-in-waiting chases after the dog and marks an X on the soldier's door with white chalk so that she can find it in the morning.

Why doesn't she alert the guard? Hello, kidnapped princess here. Call 9-1-1, please.

The soldier sees the chalk X on his door and marks all the other doors in the neighborhood with chalk Xs. When the lady-in-waiting brings the king and queen and all their guards to arrest the soldier, she can't identify the correct door.

Clever. Nice to see a fairy-tale protagonist showing a bit of sense. Often their finest quality is obedience or politeness.

The next night, the queen sews a pouch of grain with a hole in it into the hem of her daughter's skirt. When the dog fetches her, grain spills out in a trail leading to the soldier's door.

Glad to see the queen has stopped delegating her daughter's safety, though as a general rule I think edible trail markers are a bad idea.

In the morning, the soldier is arrested and brought to the gallows. He asks if he can have a final smoke. The king agrees, and the soldier strikes his tinderbox once, twice, and three times. All three dogs appear. "Save me!" the soldier cries, so the dogs catch and fling the guards into the air. The guards fall to their deaths.

Bad doggies.

The largest dog then grabs the king and queen and tosses them to their deaths as well.

Bad, bad doggy.

The people all shout, "You must be our king and marry the princess!"

What? OK. Let's stop right here. Soldier-boy kidnapped and assaulted the princess multiple times, murdered her parents, and now the poor girl has to marry him?!? Hasn't she had a hard enough life being kept prisoner in her own home?

The princess becomes queen, the soldier becomes king, the dogs attend the celebration feast, and everyone lives happily ever after.

OK, that's just wrong. But I am pleased that the dogs get to eat at the party. After all that coin-fetching and kidnapping and murdering, they must be rather peckish.

For other obscure fairy tales, check out The Princess in the Chest, The Juniper Tree, Molly Whuppie, Tatterhood, Jack My Hedgehog, or The Wishing Table.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Shiny is Nice

Today I got a lovely present from my editor: copies of my book jacket!

I am so framing one of these puppies.

You see that gray stripe in the cover art? (Look to the right side of the screen. Yeah, there, in the Blogger sidebar. LJ Friends, you can see it on my website, if you want.) That gray stripe is actually a mirror-shiny silver. Also, my title and name are now in white, and my blurb from Tamora Pierce is above the title.

And you should see the back! In the silver stripe on the back, it says in purple: "Beware the Wild. It bites..." And there's a little pink fiddler guy perched on the silver stripe. I love it, I love it, I love it!

*Snoopy Dance of Joy!*

In other news: I have scheduled some more appearances, including reading/signings at:

- Book Revue (Huntington, NY) on June 21 at 8pm
- Books of Wonder (New York, NY) on June 23 at 12-2pm
- Barnes & Noble (Worcester, MA) on July 14 at 3:30pm

I'll be adding others to my Appearances page as they are scheduled.

Hope to see you there!

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lunacon Trip Report (part 3 of 3)

Sunday at Lunacon was a very full day. Here's the play-by-play:

8am - Wake up. Jump into shower before the official wake-up call from the hotel. Listen to the phone ring endlessly until I hop out o
f the shower and pick up the dratted thing. Wonder if it would have rung all day if I hadn't answered.

8:30am - Prance around the hotel room practicing reading scenes from INTO THE WILD. Time myself on each scene. Discover that all my chapters take exactly 10 minutes to read out loud. Think that this is weird.

9:30am - Eat breakfast in the Green Room with Lucienne Diver and Roger MacBride Allen. Discuss the publishing business. Marvel at how coherent they are so early on a Sunday morning.

10am - Serve on the "Children's Fantasy" panel w
ith Tamora Pierce and Catherynne Valente. Fail to remember the names of any formative books in my childhood with the exception of Tamora Pierce's. Though to be honest, her ALANNA books were extremely formative. Manage to make the audience laugh a couple times. (I prefer to think of it as laughing with me, not at me.)

11am - Serve on the "Danger in Children's Fantasy" panel with Tamora Pierce, Patricia Bray, and Amy Goldschlager. Talk more. Afterwards, meet the writer guest of honor, Christopher Moore (who is very nice).

Dangerous Writers
(Patricia Bray, Amy Goldschlager, Me, and Tamora Pierce)

12pm - Race to the bathroom.

12:02pm - Race to the water fountain.

12:04pm - Race to attend Tamora Pierce's reading. Listen to a chapter of MELTING STONES. Try not to be nervous for my reading.

12:30pm - MY READING!!! Read three scenes from INTO THE WILD. Enjoy myself immensely.

1pm - Eat lunch with Tamora Pierce, Tim Liebe, Emily, and Penelope.

2:30pm - Catch a taxi to a train to another train to a ferry.

6pm - Wait for the ferry staff to figure out how to dock a boat.

6:15pm - Disembark! Home!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lunacon Trip Report (part 2 of 3)

Saturday at Lunacon began with a quest for coffee. Not my quest. Josepha Sherman's quest. (I don't really like coffee unless it has so much milk and sugar that it's really just warm ice cream.) Elaborate plans were laid involving Lawrence Schoen's stuffed buffalo, but in the end, Jean Elizabeth Krevor saved the day with a call to the hotel staff. So Josepha, her coffee, and I were able to proceed to our 10am panel "Writing Fairy Tales," where we were joined by Catherynne M. Valente and Pauline J. Alama. For 10am, it was quite the lively panel. The subject of Disney came up, and I think it's fair to say that my fellow panelists have little fondness for old Walt... But no matter what anyone else says, I still love the Mouse! (Special thanks to Ernest Lilly of SFRevu for pointing out that Disney heroines have come a long way since Snow White.) Seriously, though, it was lots of fun. And afterwards, I chatted with artist Roy Mauritsen, who has painted some kick-butt fairy-tale themed paintings.

I then had lunch with Anne Sowards and Jessica Wade, two editors from Penguin, and fellow Penguin-author Mark del Franco. All very cool people. Go, Bird!

At 2pm, I attended the Broad Universe group reading. I joined Broad Universe just a few days ago -- it's an organization devoted to supporting women science fiction and fantasy writers. Afterwards, I met Sue Lange (the reading organizer) and talked with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Delia (author of the super-awesome CHANGELING) was supposed to be in Florida, but her flight was cancelled due to snow. For the first time, I was happy for Friday's weather.

Next cool thing that happened was that I talked with Jim Freund, producer of "Hour of the Wolf," a radio show on WBAI (a NYC PBS station). I will be the guest author on his June 16th show! Eeeee! I've never been on the radio before. Very exciting. Hope I don't accidentally cluck like a chicken.

I then went on to attend half of the "Women in Comics" panel, after which I had a lovely time talking with Tamora Pierce, Tim Liebe, and my two new convention friends Emily and Penelope. Then it was time to eat again (yay!). Tamora Pierce, Tim Liebe, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, and I had dinner together... [Brief pause while I bask in the coolness of my dinner companions...] Ellen and I split some steak thing with really yummy fried bananas.

After dinner, I returned to my hotel room to pick out which chapters to do for my reading on Sunday. And then, because I had come all the way here and didn't want to waste a minute of the convention, I went out again at around 11pm to track down a party. Found one, thanks to Rowena, the woman who designed the impressive Lunacon program scheduling software, and got to chat with her and also to thank Leigh Grossman (who was responsible for programming) for my magnificent schedule.

Coming next, Sunday at Lunacon, in which Sarah talks a lot.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Things Fall Apart But I Party On

As you may know or have guessed, I am a wee bit busy these days. In fact, I don't think I've ever been busier in my entire life. So it's to be expected that something would eventually slip.

What slipped was our rain gutter. Yes, half of the front gutter broke and fell off the house. I heard a sound like ice sliding off the roof and then a creak and then a crash. I looked out the window and saw the gutter stretching diagonally from the roof, across the front door, all the way down to the ground. We're talking a good twenty feet of gutter. We had to duck to get out the front door.

My husband has since bent the gutter back 180 degrees so at least you no longer have to duck to enter or exit. It looks very classy. Only thing that would make it classier is if there were Christmas lights attached to the gutter.

My solution to the problem was to jump on the train to my favorite bar in Manhattan to hang out with fellow YA/MG authors.

Last night I met several authors that I hadn't met before, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Melissa Kantor. I also got to chat with Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, E. Lockhart, Leslie Margolis, Lauren McLaughlin, Nico Medina, Adrienne Vrettos, Robin Wasserman, and Scott Westerfeld. Also briefly said hello to Coe Booth, Thu-Huong Ha, Jenny Han, Mary Hogan, David Levithan, Bennett Madison, Natalie Standiford, and others.

Afterwards, I had dinner with Scott, Justine, Maureen, and Lauren at one of those chic Manhattan restaurants that is so ultra-cool that it doesn't even have a sign outside. We ate macaroni and cheese (don't laugh) and discussed everything from high fashion to Donald Duck impersonations (OK, you can laugh). It was really, really fun. So fun that I very nearly missed the last train home.

The house was still standing when I returned. Mostly.

Tomorrow I'll return to your regularly scheduled Lunacon trip report...


Monday, March 19, 2007

Lunacon Trip Report (part 1 of 3)

It became spring the Monday before Lunacon. Birds chirped. Sun shone. I even saw a yellow crocus in bloom.

So naturally, on Friday, the first day of Lunacon, it snowed, it sleeted, and it hailed. Goodbye to plans to drive to Lunacon. Hello to public transportation. One car, one boat, two trains, and one taxi later, I arrived at the Rye Hilton. Yay me!

I then promptly got lost.

The Rye Hilton is also known as the Escher Hilton. To reach anywhere in the Hilton, you must go down three ramps, up four sets of stairs, down five corridors, and across three states. I checked into my room, then merrily trotted off to register -- and ran into a dead end. Retracing my steps, I encountered many kind souls who explained the key to the Escher Hilton: the fourth floor is the same as the seventh floor. To reach registration, I had to go through what is fondly known as "the transdimensional corridor," a down ramp that leads from the fourth floor to the seventh floor. I kid you not. Here's the floor plan for the hotel:

Escher Hilton

I was one of the lucky ones. Some Lunacon attendees have been lost in those corridors since the last time the con was held there three years ago. As you pass through the transdimensional corridor, you can hear them, forlornly filking for all eternity...

I had a light at the end of my tunnel, though: the Lunacon Program Participant ribbon. I could not afford to stay lost with such a prize waiting for me at the end of my journey. Remember how I kind of obsessed a wee little tiny teeny bit about my program participant ribbon for Boskone? Well, Penelope (one of the aforementioned kindly souls) had apparently read that blog entry, and she was in charge of putting together many of the participant packets for Lunacon. So when she saw me wandering in the halls, she told me that she had double-checked my packet to be extra-sure that it had my ribbon. How cool is that? Very cool.

After going down the ramps, up the stairs, over the river, and through the woods, I obtained my glorious golden ribbon and embarked on the following activities:

First, I checked out the Dealer's Room. The Dealer's Room at a convention is where various vendors sell books, jewelry, fancy swords, cute statuettes of dragons wearing bifocals and holding umbrellas (I own the one with an umbrella and a rubber ducky), more books, juggling sticks, T-shirts with clever and/or obscure statements (such as, "My name is Bambi. You killed my mother. Prepare to die."), more books... You get the idea. I didn't buy anything, but I did get to chat with the lovely Lucienne Diver, who was selling jewelry, and I loaned a copy of my galley to a nice librarian named Carol who promised to return it before my 7 o'clock panel. It felt like loaning someone my baby, but she returned it in time and said nice things so all was well.

Second, I had my first panel of the convention! It was called "So It's Your First Con," and my fellow panelists were Keith DeCandido, Elizabeth Glover, Victoria McManus, and Lois Fitzpatrick. All of us have been to lots of conventions and had lots to say, so it was a really fun panel. Our basic advice boiled down to: drink lots of water, don't forget to eat and sleep, and please shower. Really, I think this is good advice for life.

Lastly, I attended the "Meet the Pros" reception and the Art Show Reception. The conference organizers gave a free drink coupon to all the pros, so we showed up in force. The Art Show Reception involved free food for all the pros, so we showed up in force there too.

Throughout the evening, I talked with many very nice and very cool people, including but not limited to everyone I mentioned above plus John Joseph Adams, Roger MacBride Allen, Barbara Campbell, Douglas Cohen, Esther Friesner, Leigh Grossman, Glenn Hauman, David Honigsberg, Jean Elizabeth Krevor, Terri Osborne, Josepha Sherman, Andrew Wheeler, and several others whose last names I don't know, such as Emily, Mark, Scott, and Seth. (Once again, I feel the need to point out that I didn't actually talk to them in alphabetical order.)

Coming next, Saturday at Lunacon, in which Sarah talks to many more people and remembers to eat, sleep, and shower.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lunacon Schedule

This weekend, I'm off to another fantasy/science fiction convention!!!

For some reason, as I'm writing this blog entry, this song keeps running through my head.

Yes, there are frequently Muppets singing i
n my head. It's fun in here.

Inside Sarah's Brain

Anyway, the convention is called Lunacon. It's in Rye, NY. And I will be a program participant. Yay! You can check out my schedule here on Lunacon's snazzy website. Or you could, you know, just read this:

Fri. March 16, 7pm - Panel - Keith DeCandido, Sarah Beth
Durst, Elizabeth Glover, Victoria McManus - "So It's Your First Con"

Sat. March 17, 10am - Panel - Sarah Beth Durst, Joseph
a Sherman, Catherynne M. Valente - "Writing Fairy Tales"

Sun. March 18, 10am - Panel - Sarah Beth Durst, Tamora Pierce, Catherynne M. Valente - "Children's Fantasy"

Sun. March 18, 11am - Panel - Patricia
Bray, Sarah Beth Durst, Amy Goldschlager, Tamora Pierce - "Danger in Children's Fantasy"

Sun. March 18, 12:30pm - Reading - Sarah Beth Durst

Cool, huh?

My first panel is with Keith DeCandido, an e
xcellent writer and a great guy. I met Keith at the very first convention that I ever attended (so long ago that it fades into the dim recesses of memory), so I think it's particularly cool that I'll be on a panel with him at Lunacon and particularly appropriate that the panel is called "So It's Your First Con."

In the Dim Recesses of Sarah's Mind
(Yes, when you search Google Images for "dim recesses," it gives you a vampire squid.)

I have two (count 'em: two!!!) panels with Tamora Pierce. 'Nuf said.

Queen Tammy

And then I finish with a reading from INTO THE WILD! I can't wait!

Hope to see you there.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Obscure Fairy Tale: The Princess in the Chest

As many of you already know, I've been sharing obscure fairy tales that I discovered while researching INTO THE WILD...

Today's tale stuck with me because the hero is no Prince Charming. And the princess is not your standard princess either. Their tale appears in THE PINK FAIRY BOOK by Andrew Lang. I'm sure some of you have heard of the Andrew Lang fairy-tale books. With some notable exceptions, the famous tales are in the primary color books. By the time you get to "pink," you start finding tales that will never make it into a Disney movie (not even direct-to-DVD!). And once you reach "olive" and "gray"... Just be glad there's not a "puce fairy book"...

Anyway, without further ado:

The Princess in the Chest (a Danish tale from THE PINK FAIRY BOOK by Andrew Lang)

A childless king says to his queen, "I am going away for a year. If you haven't given birth by the time I return, then I will leave you."

Let's stop right here. Um... Not to pry into your personal life, your majesty, but don't you want to perhaps be involved? Do we need to talk about the birds and the bees? Or are you just going to always wonder why your kid bears such a striking resemblance to the stableboy?

In despair, the queen consults a local wise woman, who tells her that she must go to the king's garden before sunrise, find a bush with three buds and hairy leaves, and eat the middle bud. Then once the child is born, she and the king must not see the child again until she turns fourteen years old.

Quite the serious conditions for this miracle. I'm thinking that the stableboy would have come with fewer strings. Can't speak to whether he's less hairy than the leaves, though.

Six months later, the queen gives birth to a girl and hands her to a nurse to hide in a secluded part of the castle. When the king returns home, he wants to see his daughter, but the queen says no. Nearly fourteen years pass...

No, I don't know why the child is born prematurely. It's never mentioned again. But I do think that someone should call Child Services and tell them about the kid locked up in the castle. And I hope they checked that nurse's references really carefully.

The night before the princess's fourteenth birthday, the king says to the queen, "I can't and won't wait any longer. A few hours, more or less, can't make any difference."

Bad idea. Bad, bad idea. Go watch some Saturday Night Live reruns or something and wait until morning. Idiot.

The king bursts in on his daughter, who embraces him and then says, "Tomorrow, I will die and you must choose one of three things: pestilence, war, or to set my body inside a chest in a church and place a sentinel there every night for a year."

Personally, I don't think His Royal Idiotness deserved a hug.

The king sets a sentinel in the church every night. Every morning, the sentinel is gone. This continues for nearly a year.

Nearly a year? That's, like, 300 missing men! No one saw a problem with this?

A rumor spreads that the dead princess is eating the sentinels, so the king begins offering large sums of gold to attract new ones.

OK, at least someone noticed. But still... what idiot would agree to be a sentinel after 300 men went missing? Enter our Prince Charming...

One night, a merry young smith enters town, drinks more than he should at a local inn, and boasts that he is not afraid to stand guard. So his new friends bring him to the colonel, who dresses him in uniform and shuts him into the church. After a few hours, the effects of the wine begin to wear off, and the smith decides to run away.

Ahhh, my hero.

The moment the smith steps out the door, a little man appears and says, "You may not run away, but I will give you some advice: hide in the pulpit until you hear the lid of a chest slam down." The smith obeys. At twelve o'clock, the lid of the princess's chest opened, and the princess, now hideously ugly, sprang out, "Sentry, come here, or you shall have the worst death imaginable!"

FYI, this isn't one of those "love at first sight" stories.

The smith stays in the pulpit, and the princess howls and shrieks but cannot reach him. In the morning, the king rewards him with gold, and the smith boasts that if the king will give him twice as much gold tomorrow, he'll stand guard again. The king agrees, and events repeat: the smith enjoys himself at the inn, is shut up in the church for the night, attempts to run away once he sobers up, and is stopped by a little man. This time, the little man instructs him to stand in front of the altar. The smith obeys.

Let's stop right here for a minute. Why exactly is the dead princess now a she-beast? And who the heck is the little man? Did I miss something?

The second night, the princess again emerges from the chest and threatens to kill the smith. Her appearance is somewhat less hideously ugly.

Events again repeat: the smith agrees to stay again for the promise of more gold, drinks himself silly, attempts to escape, and is stopped by the little man who instructs him. This time, the little man says that he must jump into the princess's chest as soon as she emerges and stay there until dawn. The smith again obeys.

The princess again howls and shrieks. After an hour, the smith hears soft music, many footsteps, and the voice of a priest conducting a wedding ceremony. At daybreak, the smith emerges from the chest to find the princess, alive, not hideous, and crying on the altar of the church.

Why is she crying? She's been saved. Does she miss being a she-beast?

She stops crying when she sees him, thanks him for breaking the spell, and tells him that he can marry her if he chooses. If he chooses not to, then she will go to a nunnery and he can never marry anyone else because they have been married in a ceremony of the dead.

Talk about an ultimatum. Sheesh. He either marries the (formerly dead and monstrous) woman who has been threatening to kill him for the past three nights, or he spends the rest of his life single. The princess is quite the romantic, though kudos to her for being the one to propose rather than waiting for him to produce a ring. Very non-medieval of her.

He agrees to marry her, and he inherits the kingdom when the king dies.

And now the kingdom is ruled by a drunken, cowardly braggart and his cannabalistic wife. Speaking of which... what about all the other sentinels? Did the dead princess really eat them? Here's what the tale says, verbatim:

"As for the other sentries, with so many doors and windows open, no doubt they had run away, and gone into the Prussian service. And as for what the smith said he saw, he had been drinking more wine than was good for him."

They ran away?!? All of them? All 300+ of them? With no word ever to anyone? Nuh-uh. I don't think so. And even assuming it made sense for them all to have run away, why would they have run away if the smith merely imagined everything he saw in a drunken stupor? Not buying it. I think Miss Charming totally ate them.

No idea what happened to the little man.

This tale really leaves you hanging. If you're itching for more, check out my other obscure fairy tale posts: The Juniper Tree, Molly Whuppie, Tatterhood, Jack My Hedgehog, or The Wishing Table.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Character Meme

At the risk of sounding really uncool... can someone tell me what "meme" means? I know what it is -- a collection of questions that you are honor-bound to answer if someone tags you. Kind of like a chain letter, except without the promise of horrendous luck if you fail and dozens of pairs of socks if you succeed. (Honestly, I've gotten chain letters like that.) But is the word "meme" short for something? Is it an acronym? It sounds kind of acronym-ish to me. Someone educate me so I can appear cooler in the future.

Anyway, I've been tagged to do Miss Erin's Character Meme, so here goes:

Character you'd most like to have over for tea?
The White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Yes, she's rather arrogant, and she could turn me into stone. But if she promises to bring that hot chocolate and those Turkish Delights, she's invited.

Character you'd most like to have as a sibling?
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. She'd probably drive me a little nuts, but (A) she'd be fun, and (B) she'd always be in more trouble than me. :)

Character you'd most like to be friends with?
One of the telepathic dragons from the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. It doesn't need to be a bronze or a queen dragon. But I'd prefer one that isn't snooty or grumpy.

Character you'd most like to have as a cousin?
Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I think it would be useful to be related to a wizard. And fun at family parties.

Character you'd most like to have an adventure with?
Silk from the Belgariad by David Eddings. He's the quintessential "thief" character-type: smart, resourceful, funny. He'd both keep me entertained and keep me from being eaten by a grumpy dragon. Not that the dragon would want to eat me, since we'd be buds (see above).

Favorite quirky character?
Fred, the belching black hole from So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane, because who doesn't love a belching black hole? (Or is it a white hole? Gotta go reread...)

Favorite love-to-hate character?
Severus Snape from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Friend or foe?

Favorite bad guy?
Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth. I know, I know, it's a movie. And he's David Bowie. But come on. You know he's cool.

If you'd like to do this meme too, please consider yourself tagged. :)


Friday, March 02, 2007

Price of Admission

To steal a phrase from Scott Westerfeld, last night was nine kinds of awesome.

First, I discovered that my winter coat (which is large enough to be mistaken for a person on its own) can hold up to four paperbacks in its pockets with no discernable increase in size or weight. I think this is cool. The train trip to Manhattan and back is a 2 1/2 book journey, plus I like to have some choices in case my reading mood changes en route. This is the one and only thing I will miss about winter once spring rolls around.

Second, on the train ride into Manhattan, thanks to my handy-dandy enormous coat pockets, I brought and read PRICE OF ADMISSION by Leslie Margolis. It's about a movie producer's daughter who writes her diary in screenplay form and then finds out that her screenplay (which exposes all sorts of family secrets) is going to be produced. Very fun peek into the Hollywood life. But the best thing about the novel is the protagonist. Leslie did a brilliant job of crafting a nuanced character who is totally appealing and relatable despite her many flaws. The protagonist's relationship with her father is also beautifully executed. So beautifully, in fact, that I was even able to overlook the absence of talking cats and telepathic dragons from this story. :)

Third, in Manhattan, I attended a book launch party for this very book, PRICE OF ADMISSION by Leslie Margolis, as well as her other new book, FIX.

OK, we need to pause here and clarify: I am not actually a very cool person. I don't hang out in bars every weekend. I don't even get to the movies very often. I completely forgot to watch the Oscars. (Who for
gets the Oscars? I mean, it's one thing to choose not to watch them, but to utterly not know they were happening?) Nearly all of my jeans have holes in them. I still wear T-shirts that I had in high school. I can't cook anything fancier than a bagel (and frankly, I burn those with alarming frequency). So for me, going into Manhattan to attend a book party is a Very Big Deal.

Fourth, above mentioned book party was attended by a bunch of TV celebrities. Samantha Bee, Rob Corddry, and Mo Rocca from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were all in attendance. I've never attended a p
arty with TV celebrities. I felt like Paris Hilton. OK, not exactly. See above notes on "not actually cool." Not that Paris Hilton is necessarily cool. But you know what I mean.

Fifth, I arrived fashionably early (see again note on lack of coolness) for the party so I had a chance to chat with Leslie before the throngs of people arrived. Also got a chance to talk with Robin Wasserman, whom I'd met before at several TADNs. Plus I met several very nice editors from Simon & Schuster.

Sixth through Ninth, I spent the bulk of the evening chatting with the fabulously awesome Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, and Kate (excuse
me, I mean Daphne Unfeasible). Later, we were joined by the equally fabulously awesome Coe Booth. These people are so cool that simply standing near them raised my coolness factor by at least 50%. I bet they buy new T-shirts all the time and have never burned a single bagel. In fact, I'm reasonably sure that their bagels simply toast themselves sans toaster oven.

Maureen, Kate, Me, and Scott (photo courtesy of Coe)

The only downside was that I eventually had to leave. Cut it a bit close with the train -- the last one of the night -- but it was 100% worth it.