Posts Tagged ‘Solace & Grief’

The castle of Starveldt is waiting. Having escaped once from Sanguisidera, Solace and her friends are in desperate need of guidance. Seeking to unravel a cryptic prophecy, they travel to the Rookery, an otherworldly place governed by the enigmatic Liluye. Magical and wild, the Rookery tests them all in preparation for the crossing to Starveldt. But the group is starting to fracture. The threat of Lord Grief continues to grow; old betrayals, lies and secrets boil to the surface – with startling consequences. As danger closes in, can they make their peace before everything falls apart? Or will the Bloodkin triumph?

Last Saturday on October 1, The Key to Starveldt hit shelves, officially confirming it as my second published novel. The largest part of my brain still cannot process the idea that this is A Thing That Has Happened, as opposed to A Thing I Have Daydreamed About And Which Would Never Happen, Ever, which is possibly why it’s taken me so long to blog my celebration. But! That time has now come, and so I say unto the world at large, SQUEE! The Key to Starveldt is out! Reviewer Jenny Mounfield says:

“With its shades of Alice in Wonderland, Misfits, Supernatural—and others—this series will delight the Twilight generation. Meadows has handled her large cast of characters with ease; each is as multi-layered and complex as the plot—which really is a slippery thing: easy enough to grasp, but not so easy to hold onto. It twists, squirms and folds back on itself, all the while keeping readers guessing.

The Rare isn’t just a story of good and evil, it’s about friendship, loyalty, belonging and dealing with difference. As Solace tries to resist the lust for human blood encoded in her genes—traits her dark brother has embraced—questions of nature versus nurture, not to mention our ability to choose our own fate, are brought to the fore.

I was bowled over by Meadows’ story-telling skill in book one, and book two has not disappointed.”

Which, frankly, fills me with glee. But in case you need a little more inducement, I offer you this reading from Chapter 3: The Rookery.

Expect more Cool Things to come, but for the moment: whee!

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Apparently, I just can’t shut up this week. Which is odd. Because usually when I write long, link-strewn blogs about Important Politicky Stuff, it acts like a mental catharsis, allowing my opinions to recede to the hindbrain, there to simmer quietly. This week, however, everything has snowballed forwards, forcing me to keep blogging. I understand completely if you’re sick of this, in which case, I apologise. Possibly this whole outpouring is nothing more than the fevered byproduct of being stuck at home with a cold. But before my inevitable return to sloth, I have (at least) one more thing I want to discuss on the topic of feminism, criticism and YA reviews: the question of intentionality vs interpretation.

It’s long been an acknowledged that no story has only one correct interpretation. True, statements made by the author might be viewed as slightly more canonical – for lack of a better word – than those of other commenters, particularly when it comes to the semantics of worldbuilding, but by and large, we understand that it is entirely possibly for readers to come up with interpretations of the books they read that had never occurred to the authors, and which they certainly didn’t include on purpose. Where such discoveries are positive and/or thought-provoking, the vast majority of authors will accept them with gracious glee, happy to have a critical readership who approves of their storytelling. But when it comes to negative interpretations – no matter how thought-provoking – we authors have a tendency to play the intentionality card. We try to explain what we really meant, to insinuate either openly or subtly that the reviewer has simply missed something crucial in the narrative or brought their own, biased assumptions with them, and the thing is, we won’t always be wrong. There is, after all, a world of difference between critiquing a book on the basis that you found problems with it, and critiquing a book on the basis that you wish the author had written a different book entirely, or that you just don’t like the genre. But even allowing for such problems of mismatched readership, we are left with considerable room for readers to legitimately identify negative themes in the stories they read, even where those themes directly contradict the intentions of the author.

Recently, I had something of an epiphany with regard to racism, viz: declaring myself to be anti-racist, no matter how deeply I adhere to the sentiment, does not magically prevent me from subconscious racism. I am not a perfect being. I make mistakes, and more importantly, I am a product of the culture in which I live – a culture which, sadly, is less than perfect when it comes to embracing  diversity. Knowing this, I try to identify my mistakes and then learn from them: I want to be a better person, and that takes constant work. I am acutely aware, for instance, of the fact that there is only one non-white member of the cast of Solace & Grief, and while I didn’t consciously set out to engage in tokenism, any criticism of the novel along those lines would be entirely justified. I cannot unwrite what I’ve already written; I cannot unpublish what I’ve already published; and even if I could, I’m not sure I’d want to. What I can do, however, is acknowledge the problem and try to do better next time. The fact that I made a mistake doesn’t make me a racist – but declaring myself not to be racist doesn’t prevent me from making mistakes, either.

Which brings me back to the question of feminism in YA novels, and the debate surrounding negative reviews. YA paranormal literature is currently dominated by female authors, a vast majority of whom would – I suspect – be offended by the suggestion that their novels could be seen as perpetuating anti-feminist sentiments. Certainly, some have taken public affront at criticism of their books for exactly that reason, as was the case when Jackson Pearce reacted to the assertion that Sisters Red encouraged a victim-blaming mentality by publicly explaining her own intentions on the blog in question.

A brief aside, before we go any further: my husband and I, like any normal couple, argue. Because he is a philosophical logician and I am a slightly crazy author, however, these everyday arguments frequently overlap with multiple pedantic meta-arguments about the differences between what was actually said and what we meant to say. And there is a difference, sometimes a very crucial one: it might not matter most of the time, but as soon as one of us phrases something such that the other person is offended, we both have to stop and separate out the intention from the effect. It’s no good just dismissing the other person’s outrage on the grounds that we meant something entirely different – the fact is that we’ve caused distress, and the most dickish thing you can do at that point is refuse to apologise or even discuss it simply because that wasn’t what you meant.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Despite the fact that I love YA, there’s still a large number of popular novels I haven’t yet read – or which, if I’m honest, I don’t intend to read, unless it’s to justify my engagement in conversations where they continue to crop up. I believe in making up your own mind about something firsthand, rather than just taking the popular word for it, but if twenty different reviews by intelligent, adult women all complain about the same problems of anti-feminist sentiment in the same subset of YA novels, then I’m not about to dismiss them out of hand. And if, as an author, you take offense at the idea that something uglier than what you intended is being talked about in connection with your novel: well, offense is your prerogative, but the fact that you wrote something doesn’t mean you get to play intentionality as a trump card in every subsequent debate. You can intend all you want, but when it comes to debates about sexism, racism, homophobia and eurocentrism in the wider SFF community – or when it comes to discussions of rape culture and alphaholes in the wider romance community, for that matter – the record is pretty clear on the fact that these negatives cultures do exist; that they are perpetuated subconsciously more than actively; and that we need to discuss them if they’re ever going to be fixed.

You, personally, are not being called an anti-feminist: certain aspects of your work are. And if you can’t appreciate that distinction – if you continue to try and prejudice intentionality over interpretation every time someone takes offence – then perhaps you shouldn’t be in the debate to begin with. But regardless of your participation, that debate will continue to be held. Because it matters. Because we care. And because perpetuating a culture of YA novels whose heroines are being sold short is not something we want to do.

It’s still in rough at this point, but for those of you who are interested, behold: The Key to Starveldt!

(Apologies for the tiny graphic – the other images I have are all Adobe PDFs, and I can’t figure out how to make them into JPEGs for ease of use.)

As I type this, the edited pages for TKTS are sitting just to my left, and I am anticipating that a fully updated manuscript will be sent back to Ford Street  – who now have a shiny new website – by the end of this weekend. I can’t give you a concrete release date yet, but right now, it’s looking to be sometime in August/September 2011. Apart from all the work involved in sending final edits back and forth, printing the actual books and organising promotions, the fact that I now live in Scotland means that physically getting myself to the launch has become a much more involved process than it was for Solace & Grief. However, while it would be nice to be on hand when the book hits shelves, I understand that certain of you are keen to see what’s been happening to Solace, Sharpsoft and the rest, so regardless of what happens with my travel plans, I’ll do my best to ensure the book comes out as soon as it reasonably can.

This time last year, Toby and I were still in England. On New Year’s Day, we walked through the snow in Leatherhead, Surrey and talked about what we wanted most for 2010. Among the usual small hopes were two important ones: a successful debut for Solace & Grief, and a chance to come back to the UK. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we’ve achieved both those things. The Key to Starveldt is due for release this year, and in just five days, we’re moving to Scotland for a minimum of eighteen months. It is thrilling, terrifying, wonderful. We worked hard for this, and the reward of actually getting it is monumental. And now we’ve crossed the threshold of another new year, and we get to do it all over again: more work, more plans, more effort and hope and sheer hard yakka, because both of us have the kind of dreams that are easy neither to achieve nor dismiss.

I want to be a professional writer. Toby wants to be a professional academic. In bald terms, we already are these things, but there are no laurels to rest on for being able to claim that much, and even if there were, I doubt we’d be content to do so. Stories are the blood in me, just as my husband breathes philosophy. We understand and love that about one another, the degree to which who we are cannot be readily separated from our aspirations. This year, we have a real chance to make something of ourselves in the ways that matter most to each of us. We have come this far, but the aim is to go much further. And I think – I hope – we can do it.

Beyond all that, I still want the same small things for 2011 that I want every year: to eat healthily and exercise regularly, to pay off our debts and live within our means, to try new things while reconnecting with old passions. It might seem repetetive and futile make the same resolutions each year – or at least, it would do, if any of them were finite achievements. The point of such things isn’t to find some magic, perfect level of successful compliance and declare yourself done, but to constantly look for improvement. This past year, my domestic skills have started to be worthy of the name, not because I suddenly woke up one morning with a desire to be tidy, but because I spent months telling myself that I needed to be. Because in a lot of ways, the biggest change of 2010 – and the one I’m most keen to uphold in 2011 – was the realisation that I could set goals for myself and reach them, even if they were difficult.

Maybe I’ve just grown up. But I hope not. I like having room for development.

Happy 2011, everyone!

Attention Melbourne peoples!

This Saturday, 17 July, myself and ten other Ford Street authors and illustrators will be doing a double signing event.

From 11am to 1pm, we will be at Dymocks Southland in Cheltenham, and then, from 3pm to 5pm, you can find us at Angus and Robinson in Victoria Gardens, Richmond. Apart from myself, the cast of attendees includes Paul Collins, Hazel Edwards, Meredith Costain, George Ivanoff, Felicity Marshall, David Miller, Sue Bursztynski, Sean McMullen, Doug MacLeod and John Petropoulos.

Come one, come all! Grab a signed copy of Solace & Grief (or one of the many other fantastic books on offer) or simply drop in for a chat. Either way, it’ll be great to see you there!

A&R details

Dymocks details

Tomorrow, Toby and I start moving into our new apartment. The preparations necessary to facilitate this happy event have made this quite a big week, but we are both extremely excited. Not only will we have our own space again, but after nearly eight months of separation, we will be reunited with our cats. Huzzah!

In celebration, therefore, here are a few new Solace-related links:

– Two reviews, one by Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, and another by Donna, a teenage reader;

– A redux of the Sydney launch I somehow missed the first time around, courtesy of Kat at BookThingo, which wins bonus points for featuring actual photographic evidence of my encounter with Scott Westerfeld;

– A detailed interview with the wonderful Tania McCartney; and

– A pair of blogging appearances: one with Fragments of Life, wherein I expostulate on writing advice, and the other with William Kostakis, on the joys of being published.

Also, as of this moment, Solace & Grief has now been available for just over a month. Which staggers me, in a thrillish sort of way. Happy Thursday, everyone! Whee!

First up: for all you Melbourne people, I’ll be signing books at Southland Dymmocks tomorrow from 11:30. It would be great to see you there!

Secondly, I’ve not been blogging here lately as often as I’d like – which is to say, I’ve been stopping in to put up links, but otherwise not doing much in the way of generating content. My apologies! What with full time work, househunting, writing The Key to Starveldt and trying to keep abreast of the million other deadlines I seem to have accrued of late, not to mention chewing a hole through my To Be Read pile, the fact that I’m still on the sanewards side of the Great Wall of Crazy feels like a smallish miracle. Therefore, by way of a cheap blog-stunt in celebration of this fact, I give to you this largely pointless list itemising the contents of my bag, because I feel like it, and because really, I carry around a lot of stuff.

So:

Things In Foz’s Bag

1. My red iPod nano, the back of which is engraved with my name and Toby’s, because we were each given one as a wedding present. Thanks, Andre!

2. A pair of cheapish black headphones, large enough to snag on anything else I put in there.

3. My review copy of Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead. I’ve just started reading it, and so far? Awesomeness.

4. Two Anne et Valentin glasses cases. One is purple and empty, the summer home of the pair I wear everyday. The other is silver, and holds my very first pair of prescription sunnies. From the coolness of these pairs of glasses, one might mistakenly infer that I have good taste, when in actual fact, all the credit goes to Josie Meadows, my sister-in-law, and her shop, Scoogle. If you’re looking for some good frames, check them out!

5. A stylish blue lanyard with matching security pass for my current job with the Department of Justice. That’s right, people. I occasionally work for the government. Be afraid.

6. My camera, which is to say, Toby’s old camera, which works beautifully provided you have hands that are steady as carven stone and no intetion of ever using the flash. Or which, if you do want to add a little illumination, will take anywhere up to a minute to register that yes, you’ve pressed the button, and therefore that taking the Goddam photo might be a good idea.

7. An old, mostly dead USB key in a large plastic case. I keep it because…maybe it works? Sometimes? Also, it says Baulderstone Hornibrook on it, from when I used to work there. Yes, that’s the name of a real buisness. Stop sniggering.

8. A notebook with a cover that looks like a stack of old Penguin edition spines, given to me by an old boss, in which I’ve written various story notes. Thanks, Helen!

9. My bunny stitches purse from Cybertart – which, incidentally, is where the garden of hearts bag also came from.

10. A pair of 3D glasses, taken from today’s viewing of How to Train Your Dragon. Which, just so you know, is the best dragon movie ever.

11. A small purple notebook, in which I write down interesting names.

12. My red secondary purse, which contains a whole lot of absolutely vital stuff. This includes: a booklet of nightclub matches; a card my friends gave me when Solace & Grief was first accepted for publication; a plastic strip of valium tablets from when I last kronked my neck, but which I’ve subsequently used to help get to sleep on planes; an untouched Ikea voucher for $200 that my parents gave Toby and I as a wedding present three years ago, but which we haven’t yet spent; about four pages of handwritten story notes; all my old school and uni ID cards; my Medicare, blood donor and video store cards; various business cards; some tampons; bandaids; a hairband; some cheque stubs; and a small pink envelope, the original purpose of which eludes me.

13. Half a hairbrush. Toby knocked it onto the bathroom tiles one day, and the handle broke off, so now I carry the head of it around rather than buy an actual travel-sized brush.

14. Two identical Indigo Moon notebooks. One I bought a couple of years ago: it’s battered and almost entirely full up. The other was part of this year’s birthday present from my aunt and uncle, who had no idea about the first one.

15. A spare ventalin cannister, in case my asthmatic-but-never-carries-an-inhaler husband actually needs one.

16. Two plastic Mr Men figurines: Mr Pernickety and Mr Grumpy. I tend to refer to these as my visual aides, which I use to illustrate the very important difference between philosophers plying their trade Before Beer (Pernickety) and With Beer (Grumpy, whose fist is raised mid-tirade).

17. Random Crud, which includes: eight pens; three hairbands; the plastic bowler hat from the top of a bottle of gin; scribbled-on Post-It notes; two miscelleneous keys, plus a third that fits my bike lock; a chapstick; several dead tram tickets; a promotional Boost Juice flyer; stickers promoting Solace & Grief; bookmarks that do the same thing; and a Home Brand AA battery. There used to be a yellow golf ball, too, but I think I might’ve given it to someone.

This constitutes the minimum amount of stuff I’m carrying at any given time. Which is, you know. Scary. But also weirdly enlightening.