... [a] near-perfect version of an established theme and subject, which is ... =Right Angles to Fairyland=. It's in the C. S. Lewis/Susan Cooper/Lloyd Alexander/Joy Chant territory: not new, but surprisingly hard to do well, and she does it very well indeed. The surface of the words almost exactly matches the surface of the story. She conjures the kind of full-sunlight close-up real-world magic that can only be made out of precise, concretely imagined language. I truly laughed out loud, twice, on page nine; and that shimmery transformation on page eighteen raised goosebumps on me.
I won the RMFW contest for SF/F. Above are the comments from Teresa Neilsen Hayden, who judged the entry and with whom I had a meeting in NYC on Tuesday to discuss the book... and everything else under the sun. :)
14th floor of the Flatiron Building: to the right, nothing in particular. To the left, Mecca. SF books coming out the wazoo. I'm not sure it actually says 'Tor Books' or anything of that ilk on the doors, but there's no mistaking that This Is Tor. So in I went, and said I was Catie Murphy there to see Teresa, and a minute later she came out, slowed, and loooooooked at me and lifted a finger like, "Heeeey, you look familiar!" And I told her we'd met, in fact, at Writer's Weekend, and she said, "Ah!" and began loading me up with books. *laugh*
I got to see the slush pile, except there was practically no slush! Patrick's assistant, who is apparently Very Mighty Indeed, had slain it, and it lay in a corner, whimpering and mewling. Then there was a tour of the whole office -- now, the Flatiron Building is very silly-shaped and narrow, and there are bookshelves EVERYWHERE in the Tor offices, so getting through the place is very much like winding through a narrow maze. Unexpected walls and skinny halls and tiny offices--well, they'd probably be bigger if they weren't so filled with shelves, but tiny because of them--and one has the sense that a minotaur, or at least a ravening editor, might leap out from one of those narrow halls at any moment, and wreak havoc upon the world. However, neither Anna Genoese, whom I wanted to say hi to, nor Jonathan Schmidt, whom Teresa wanted me to meet, were there, so we collected Ted from under the William Seward statue in the park across from the Flatiron Building, and off we went to lunch.
Where we talked for a LONG TIME, about many, many things. TNH is a Font Of All Knowledge, just exactly like her weblog suggests, so it was just really insanely entertaining. A few weeks ago she had a wonderful entry called 'The fabric of the city' which is just all about NYC, which came up in conversation, and I said I hadn't been able to let myself start clicking through the links, 'cause I'd have still been there reading. It's really kind of cool to be able to get a reasonable picture of someone via their weblog, although the flip side of that is I suppose it's really kind of weird that complete strangers have a reasonably good picture of you from your weblog. :)
Eventually, after topics ranging all over the place, she said, "I suppose I should ask you some questions about your book," which she then proceeded to do. *laugh* Bearing in mind she'd only read the first 3 chapters and the synopsis for the book, her biggest concern at that particular moment was that--ok, here's the teaser for the book, before I go on:
Five children discover a faery circle on Midsummer's Day, and make their way into a Faeryland torn apart by centuries of strife--on one side is Faery, caught in Winter, and on the other side, Goblin, bound to endless Summer. The five make allies on opposite sides of the conflict, and individually go on quests that will help to bring the shattered land back together--or destroy it forever.
--so she was worried that the kids being separated would be arbitrary and not do anything to further the story. Random Happenstance, as the synopsis didn't touch on that. Fortunately, that's not what happens--they enter Faery/Goblin through two different locations, which splits them up, and then they get further split up by the quests they're sent on -- so that was all to the good.
She also wanted to know how long I'd been working on it, and if I'd re-re-re-written it, and Ted said, "She's been working on it ten years," and I said, "In a way, yeah," and explained that I'd wanted to write that book my entire life, and that I'd tried for years, but then last October I woke up in the middle of the night and got up and started writing, at which point Teresa said, "You finally knew where to begin," with *perfect* understanding. Yes! Yes! *Exactly*! And I said I'd written the bulk of the book during NaNoWriMo last year, and that I'd rewritten what I needed to, but basically the book had just come very easily and very well, so the actual writing of it hadn't taken all that long at all. She said the voice and writing were very fresh and didn't feel over-worked. *beam*
*laugh* So I asked her if she was familiar with the phrase 'book of my heart', which of course she was, and told her that while I thought the phrase was insipid and irritating, that Angles is, in fact, very *much* the book of my heart, as it's something I'd wanted to write my whole life. She seemed to understand that, too. :)
And, let's see. She asked how long it was, and I said 330 manuscript pages, and she slapped her hand on the table and said, "Perfect!" (which seems like a good thing o.o) aaaand asked what else I'd written, so I told her about some of the other books, including Urban Shaman, and a book that I *haven't* written yet, the idea of which entirely caught her attention *laugh*, and led to the interesting tidbit that she's been excommunicated from the Mormon Church, and I said that I was planning another two books in Broken Faery, not using the same kids from Angles but using the same setting, and again with perfect understanding, she said, "There are still stories you want to tell in that world," and I said, "Yes!" She was also glad they weren't direct sequels, since books that have sequels are lacking something (like, say, a conclusion!), but they're not; all three of the Broken Faery books ought to stand alone just fine.
She also said, while we were talking about the contest, that Angles was the first of the RMFW contest entries she read, and that she thought, "Damn! If these are all this good, we're really doing something *wrong*, because it means these people should all be *published*!" And she said again that it was a really tough call between Angles and the second-place entry, which she was also extremely enthusiastic about, which is really cool, 'cause last year I met the author of that piece (although I haven't read it) and he's a really nice man, so I'm delighted that his entry was also so highly regarded. *beam*
Interestingly, last year, the same sort of entry won, as mine this year. Last year's winner was also on an established theme--it was a coming of age war story, a la STARSHIP TROOPERS or THE FOREVER WAR -- and what I read of it was, well, perfect. Interesting side note there, that's all. :)
Eventually we went back to Tor and I got to meet Jonathan Schmidt, who said he was looking forward to reading the manuscript, and then I stopped by to say hello to Anna, who said something to the effect of, "HEY! Wait! *This* is the one you were talking about? No! She's mine! I've already got her manuscript!" To which Teresa said, "Which one?" and Anna said, "Urban SHaman!" and Teresa said, "Lucky you! But I've got her YA, I'm not stepping on your toes, nanner nanner!"
Well, that was the gist of it, anyway. It was pretty funny. *laugh* Anyway, Anna thought it was too bad she hadn't known it was me whom Teresa was lunching with today, else she'd have come with us, so Teresa and I gave her a hard time for having actually been at lunch at lunchtime when we went through to meet everybody, and it was all a lot of fun. :)
Finally Ted and I went to get the floppy with the manuscript on it, and brought it back to Tor, and that was the end of *that* part of the day.
Later I will write about Hugh Jackman. :)