Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The making of a book jacket

Quite a few people have asked me about the rich blue jacket of Ingledove, and they have wanted to know how much control I have over a book's appearance. I gather that I've had a good bit of input, judging by the accounts of many others--even judging by my own experience with a few of my other books.

The process of choosing an illustrator for Ingledove resembled that of The Curse of the Raven Mocker. Steve Ciezlawski's jacket illustration for that book, an oil, now hangs over my library table--a wonderful gift from him. Since work on solo shows now takes up most of his time, Raven Mocker was Steve's final book jacket.

1. My editor proposed various possibilities for Ingledove; except for one, all of the illustrators he suggested were rather well known in this country. I visited web sites, looked at books, and viewed lots of xeroxes and email attachments of illustrations.

2. After some email exchanges, my editor and I settled on Renato Alarcao. The illustrator read the manuscript and came up with a surprisingly large group of preliminary sketches, and so we had more back-and-forth discussion about this choice. We singled out the one that included two of the three main characters, showed mysterious "music" swirling in the sky, gave some sense of the "drowned lands" beneath, and served as an image of "border crossing." While we liked many of the illustrations, this one summed up more of the tale.

3. We picked a second image--Malia with her victim and Ingledove wielding Jarrett's sword--for the frontispiece. It was a very different picture than the first, a good contrast to it, conveying the peril and strangeness of the story.

4. That was my last bit of influence over the physical look of the book! Along the way I found out about the "watery" title, and I met the designers after-the-fact. I also helped with making up a list of writers to be contacted for a blurb. But I knew nothing more about the appearance of the book until I received a copy of the dust jacket.

That's jacket, not cover! The cover is the wrapped boards and spine underneath the jacket . . .

The Palace Storeroom: the Witchmaster's House

Last week X. came up to me and said that she was sure that the Witchmaster's house in Ingledove was partially inspired by her house, S------. I had forgotten that I'd used some of the magical clutter and layered history of S------, but remembered it immediately. And I dug up a note scribbled some years ago about my first encounter with the house.

A pilgrimage to S------,14 May 2001

Curious, spellbinding, ravishing day! I had heard fromvarious people that X. lived in a very interesting place, called S------. "Interesting" wasn't a sufficient word. She lives what appears to be a huge brick Victorian--the first section was actually much earlier, built in 1790, then another part was built parallel but a distance away, and in the Victorian period the two houses were unified into one grand one by building a third section between them and giving the house a brick with wood trim and porch exterior. (I believe the family owned the land before the Massacre, but there was no house then.) Harriet Beecher Stowe sent her own architect for the renovation, and this house resembles hers. There are also barns and a farm.

However, what's inside is even more fascinating. X. is the eighth generation of the same family to live in the house, and it is jammed with evidence of all those generations. The house itself is elaborately coffered and wainscoted and decked with grand arches and thresholds. It's stuffed with family furniture--very grand--from various eras but mostly Victorian. Nothing was ever bought as an antique--if you see a pair of Shaker rockers, it's because the family bought some when they were new. There are many oils, including a Gilbert Stuart of an ancestor, and various documents, including one signed by Abraham Lincoln. A little montage of beautifully penned orders for "small clothes" (the family manufactured them at one time) includes requests from Benedict Arnold, Cadwallader Colden, and John Jay. It is astonishing, such a rich dense place that I was wild to abandon my children and run about like a bird dog on the scent. Precious objects and collections were strewn everywhere. But it was nothing like going into a wealthy person's house, where rows of ivory or glass or whatever are on sterile display. It felt like the accretion over time of a natural thing, a gloriously bedecked shell. In one place there would be a stash of ivory-handled parasols, and another place would shelter higgledy-piggledy rows of valuable books, some signed. I was in love with the house; I even liked the dead flies in the windowseats!

Over the whole edifice was an faint aura of seediness which somehow emphasized how utterly precious the place was--that nobody, nobody could buy with money what X. possessed and would be passing on to her children and nephews and nieces. You could only hold it for a while by the gift of being born into the life of the house and belonging. It would probably never be totally clean, entirely in order. But the clutter and the traces of the past--the doctor's former office, the small clothes receipts, the guns and riding gear--felt alive, not at all like a museum.

The children spontaneously put on a fashion show, all the clothes drawn from the wardrobes upstairs. X.'s mother owned a group of historic costumes, many of them be-pearled and beaded, made out of wonderful fabric wonderfully dyed. The boys and Nora (who always wears boy clothes and has a boy haircut) wore top hats and tails and suitcoats and escorted the girls in. They had organized "collections" and appeared in the"Theodore Roosevelt collection," "the black cat collection," the "undersea collection" and so forth. R., being flamboyant and untrammeled by inhibition, came out like an actress, behaving as each dress dictated. No wonder X. is so different from other people, so imaginative and perceptive about children. That house would stretch you!

Some time I want to write something about the whole experience, which felt bigger than hours would suggest. And I want to go back. One of the barns holds the family's carriages and a Stanley Steamer, and I didn't even make it that far, since I had to track three children amid the chaos of a party.

I'm still feeling pleasantly dazzled.

O lovely, alluring stories!

O glimmerings and decays...

Me, head full of dreams.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Palace Reading Room

Since I somehow deleted the last few posts, I'll just clash my steely teeth together like a proper ogress and recommend somebody else's words. Some-smart-bodies. Who are not ogres or ogresses of the web but adepts who sit in the very heart of the web, spinning. Ones who don't delete the wrong posts! A bit feckless to annhilate one's very good news--not to mention the blasting of a first-rate chicken joke into the aether. . .

Items of interest, some old, some new:
Matt Cheney on speculative fiction for non-genre readers at
The Mumpsimus archives;
Jeff Vandermeer and Brooks Hansen on The Chess Garden--which I began reading, was deprived of at a most interesting point (like the unfortunate Miss Tilney in Northanger Abbey, except that my loss was due to the collosal avalanche of papers and books that has obliterated my writing room), unearthed, resumed reading while perched on top of a precarious mountain of books, and at last finished, trala!--at Vanderworld (July 13 post);
Kevin Smokler on writers and "new technologies," a lecture I must woefully need, given what I have just done in the Deletion Department, at Buzz, Balls, & Hype;
Robert Grey on a thing of curiosity, the BEA frolic, at
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/shire15/;
and much at http://thepage.name/.

Good news keeps . . .


Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Palace Library

Here are samples—wholly arbitrary—from the five stories that are out or soon to be out in current issues.

from “A Map of the Forest,” forthcoming in Blue Moon CafĂ© IV (MacAdam/Cage)

I must have heard the story about how our father died and how our Uncle Willem came to be as he was a hundred times. I always pictured the event in a landscape of fields bordered by the thin, irregular spires of Lombardy poplars. This was wholly untrue and entirely dictated by some black-and-white photographs of Europe that I had seen in an exhibition at the local Armory. Actually the men had been in the Hurtgen forest, about which I knew nothing, and narrow lanes bordered by poplars were hundreds of miles away. I still have to make a conscious effort to change the landscape, when I imagine what happened.

Because it is in me as a place in that other mode, and the atmosphere is always a little grainy and gray.

The way Jack tells it, my father and uncle and another boy from home were lost, and a Panzergrenadier of fifteen or sixteen tossed a grenade at my father and shot our Uncle Willem in the head with a Luger. It had started to snow, making the scene look even more like a photograph, stippling the air with dots. They were muzzy with lack of sleep; they hadn’t noticed a thing, and my father never did. The other fellow with them was scouting ahead but not so far that he didn’t shoot the German, who was now hobbling away at the edge of the road. The boy sprawled in the ditch by the trees and bled to death quickly, while the sky awarded numerous cold stars for his bravery.

from “An Incident at Agate Beach,” Argosy (current issue):

“The black man? Do you mean the devil? Oh, I know—the black belt. I thought he looked friendly. What did he say to you?” Marsha tugged at the sampler, straightening the cloth. It had puckered around a large urn from which fantastic flowers sprouted.

“He wanted me for himself. To do his magic. He said I took to it like nobody’s business. What did he mean by that?”

She looked at his lithe frame and the feet that seemed never to be still but danced and pattered on the sand.

“He meant that you could be good at karate, that you looked like a natural—somebody who can do it easily by imitation. At least, that’s what I suppose he meant. What did you tell him?”

The boy jumped in the air and sank into the horse stance, rocking and grinning at her. “I said Hoah! in the deepest voice in the world, deeper than his, so deep that it scared some of the hairs out of his head. Then I shouted Yah! Yah! Yah! And Catch me! He raced after me, but I lost him in the stones. They were all running after me,” he said with satisfaction, “but nobody could catch me. I looked out at them and laughed.”

“How? Did you hide?”

“I swam into a rock pool and stirred up the sand so they couldn’t see, and I hid in a crack.” The silk of his hair swung, as if nodding in agreement with his words.

“Well, you are limber and quick. I don’t doubt that he would have wanted to teach you. But you shouldn’t hide in the water like that. What if you drowned?”

“You’re not calling me Eetsch, you know. You should call me Eetsch. I’d never drown. I can swim better than you. Better than any of those punch-punch boys. If they had come close, I could’ve jumped into the sea and swum away from them all, till they gave up and drowned.” He put out his chest like a body builder, grinning at her.

“What a little Puck you are,” she said, rather charmed by his boastfulness.

“What’s that?” He frowned, wrinkling the smooth area between the two golden bows of his eyebrows. Marsha felt like touching them, they were so fine and glistening.

“A sort of sprite. A fairy.”

“You mean with wings? Oh, I like them.”

“Do you know any?” She laughed in sheer pleasure.

“Well, I’ve seen them. You’d have to talk to my brother about those. He knows them—he’s met them far out in the ocean, riding on a whale’s back.”

“Birds, I suppose,” she said softly.

from SCIFICTION, May 11 (online):

Abruptly he cried out his wife’s name: “Rosamund, Rosamund, Rosa--”

Like a ballerina, the girl ran on tiptoe--right up to him with her gossamer skirts bunched in her hands--and stood looking at him gravely, her lashes wet with drops: still on tiptoe, still with skirts gathered. The act reminded him of the motions of a cat scampering and halting in mid-rush to delicately inspect a stranger. She broke the stance; she looped her arms around his neck and laid her head upon his shoulder. It was an extraordinary thing to have happen! That she should trust him so touched and startled him.

Yet, almost immediately he longed for her to be gone. She was cold but not shivering, and he rested a hand on her waist, as if to push her away. For something about the girl--perhaps the pallor of her skin, or its coolness, or else the music that now seemed to swell and to envelop her--troubled him and made him flinch. He began to feel that her presence was intolerable, that he could not, could not bear its frost for another instant! It felt blighting; he might go to a mirror and find himself grown unrecognizable, the skin she had pressed gone mushroom-pale and wrinkled and marred by bruises. As he reached to loosen her grasp, her fingers tightened at the nape of his neck. A dread he recognized from nightmares of flight and pursuit crept over him; he tried to unfasten the fingers, now laced together, but they clung with strength.

from “The Angel with the Broken Face,” forthcoming in Mars Hill Review:

I had come to suspect that Ainsworth had some peculiar, subterranean relation to me. He had the body of a stripling where I was muscular and fit. He had my wife, while I had an enforced chastity. Once, when passing a mirror, it seemed that I glimpsed him in the room, and for some days I felt a horror of that glass, which I at last turned to the wall. Still, I had an irrational and superstitious feeling that the reflection was there, facing the wainscoting. I went so far as to suspect some hitherto unsounded relation between us, and even to question whether we were both genuine! It sounds nonsensical, yet there it is. I believed the feeling of unreality that had crept into my heart to be merely a result of the blows to my marriage, the effect of which I was still determined to suppress.

from “The Gate House,” forthcoming in Argosy 4:

As she wandered toward the creek, drawn by the water’s song, she saw him and held still. The boy was standing in front of the grove of saplings, behind the scrub, as he had done before. Again she had the sense of his gaze as almost brutal. He was telling her something. What? She mouthed the word, her eyes fixed to his. The frantic song of meltwater was the only answer, though he didn’t look away. She drew closer and thought of crossing the stream once more, though the soil close by was a slough of mud and ice. As though he could read her mind, the boy put out a hand. Stop. She paused, and he gave a little push with his palm. The wind lifted her hair, nudging, as if urging her away; then she heard a roar. He turned his head until he was practically facing the lake road, and as she followed his gaze, she saw a burst of white foam, juggling logs and trees and stones, churning and jolting along the streambed. The creek surged and swelled, lifting above the banks—she glanced, the boy was gone—as she began to run, her feet sucked by the mud and sliding on patches of ice, past the cottage with its seven doors standing open, past the first that made the front into a place of gloom, and through the formal stone pillars with arch and ironwork griffins. The stream chased and caught her, tangled with her feet and slammed her to the ground. She picked herself up and raced on in deepening water until she came to the lake road and jogged on its glaze of muddy liquid until she came to dry pavement. There she stood, panting, hands on soaked and muddy knees, and surveyed the invasion of her domain. The stream had flown through the cottage and out the other side, making a shallow lake of the lawn. For only an instant she saw the flooded grounds as magical—the reflective surface gleaming like a jewel, the cottage like a moated castle.

“All my things,” she whispered.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Midnight Crier at 2:00 a.m.: Ingledove's Chickens Contest

As there are already two responses to a tiny e-mailing, I'd better post a copy of the contest here:

Win an inscribed copy of"Ingledove"
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2005)
ISBN: 0374335990
In stores May 7

Praise from DIANA WYNNE JONES: INGLEDOVE is a marvelous book. I loved it and thought it was even better than Marly Youmans's first book about the magic land of Adantis, The Curse of the Raven Mocker, where the inhabitants and their magic are half Cherokee, half Border Celtic. I loved the way the Hidden Land materializes around you as you read as naturally as breathing. And the magic seems to arise almost as naturally--though it can be as sudden and cruel as a snakebite--and all of it is always breathtakingly wonderful. Then, instead of leaving you simply gasping at her marvels, Marly Youmans has the courage and the good sense to point out that experiences of this order cause people to change. I really admired this book.
Further reviews, pictures, and interview available at http://www.marlyyoumans.com/Ingledove.htm.

How to win: Leave a comment, witty or serious, that includes the words "chicken" and "Ingledove" anywhere on Marly's news page, http://thepalaceat2.blogspot.com/, between May 20 and July 30. Click on the word "Comments" under any entry, current or archival, to leave a message (Do not use the envelope symbol!). Winner will be chosen by a chicken, if handy, or else by pulling names from a top hat. TBA July 30 on the site.

Ages 10 to 110!

Questions? Write camellia [at]marlyyoumans [dot] com.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

This Week at the Palace

I revised "The Angel with the Broken Face" for Mars Hill Review; it was too long for them and was a bit overstuffed anyway. The editing comments were interesting.

So far I've seen one review of my story that's up at SCIFICTION. I find it curious that the reviewer never thought that the vision of the girl might point both to Lyle's wife as a girl and to the young woman at the opening of the story--it works in a double way as prophecy, but if one doesn't "get it," the story is diminished. I don't quite see why that would need to be explained... And I always find plot summaries of fiction to be disturbing; if I'd wanted to write a story in 200 words, I would have done so. However, it's enlightening to have paid a visit to the genre world, where there seems to be a lot of lively talk about magazines and stories.

On Saturday I'm doing a yack-and-read at a Barnes & Noble in the hinterlands. I hope that last week's remark, "sometimes we get two librarians," doesn't turn out to cover my event!

Tussle of the week: http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/002014.html#002014. The initial explosion has set off interesting small fires elsewhere.

My favorite response to "Chickens at the Palace": "Can't match Mike the Headless Chicken -- which, as Dave Barry would say, sounds like a terrific name for a rock band -- but Whiteville, N.C., has its Fire Ant Festival coming up."

The rest is reticence.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Midnight Crier in the morning: Ingledove at Bookloons

There's a review of Ingledove at Bookloons:

http://www.bookloons.com/cgi-bin/Review.asp?bookid=4419

Here's the conclusion:

Finally they must fight for Lang, their own lives and for Adantis, 'the soul of the planet, where all that once seemed a dark or a shining mystery has survived and flourished.' Ingledove is an unusual, lyrically written mix of fantasy and horror, enriched by familial love and the possibility of romance.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Chickens at the Palace

Elaine, Queen of Copy Editors, has read my news page and sent the following item from The New York Times. Here's an opportunity of considerable curiosity to people who have made a rash pact involving chickens:

Fruita, Colo.
When: May 20-21
Why: Fans of all things chicken can do no better than the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival in Fruita, just 13 miles outside of Grand Junction. In honor of a chicken who, so the story goes, lived without a head for 18 months starting in 1945, the festival includes a chicken recipe contest, an eating contest, a chicken dance contest, a frozen chicken football game and, of course, plenty to eat. See www.miketheheadlesschicken.org for more.

My husband is also Mike, but he is not a chicken. Nor is he a Youmans. Especially he is not the mysterious possibly-remote-cousin Mike Youmans who occasionally sends me mail from Elizabeth Spencer; she always gets my email address wrong. How did Mike Youmans know my real address? What does he think about writers hijacking his mailbox? Why chickens? Why Mike the chicken? Why would this notice appear on Friday the 13th?

These are things that remain imponderable.

I have a general chicken thing going with her Royal Highness, Elaine, and I also have a chicken pact (heretofore mentioned) with writer Howard Bahr. Elaine has sent me several chicken books, and I am suitably grateful. Howard, meanwhile, has sent recordings of his neighbor's chickens. I listened to them over breakfast, and they made me nervous and gave me indigestion. And then I misplaced them. (Lucky for me, Howard is mostly allergic to the web and will never know.) However, I am still keeping the chicken pact. Can't recall, though: did I remember to put a chicken in Ingledove? Could I be mad enough to forget?

Yes, a woman with three children could forget anything and often does.

Now I will be worried until I find that chicken. Surely there is a chicken scratching about underfoot in the scene with Sally, the moustachioed mountain woman. If not, I will have to pencil one in.

* * *

In case you need to learn something anatomical, useful, or strange about chickens: http://www.backyardchickens.com/index.html. Ingledove has the Witchmaster; the ruler of this little web coop calls himself the Chickenmaster.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Midnight Crier at (yawn!) 9:00 a.m.: Scifi.com

"The Girl in the Fabrilon" is up at Ellen Datlow's SCIFICTION magazine, a publication of the SciFi.com channel. Just click on one of these: http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/ or http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/. Click on my name for a biography and bibliography.

Here's one small bite:

When joyful notes came swirling along the hilltops, she began to hum. Curious how one's never any older on the inside, she thought; at seventeen, I would have pirouetted on the grass, feeling just as I do at this instant, quickening with music. Only not breathless. Never that. The landscape opened like a precious box of jewels, the lid of clouds lifting and letting in a gleam of sun while torn leaves quivered, flew, and, juggled by air, dropped in stages to the lake. Limber young trees yielded into the breeze and flung their heads over until the green of foliage barely kissed the green of the grass. Drawn to the edge of the water, Rosamund leaned forward, feeling the park stretching behind her like a boat eager to snap its moorings. Where was she going? Where had she been? Was she the figurehead of the ship, the column of the harp, the bard who had fled and was sure to be going along the road singing and strumming and looking for fresh faces to please? She didn't know; she was all of them, none of them—the music, the strings, the player, the listeners, and the outward-going vessel.

The Midnight Crier at 2:00 a.m.: On Mars Hill

On Friday "The Angel with the Broken Face" was accepted by Mars Hill Review. That's another one of my Templeton stories, with James Fenimore Cooper making a cameo appearance. It's set around the lake and in Christ Church with its wonderful Tiffany angels--a story of betrayal, fervor, doubles, time skewing, metamorphosis, gigantic glass angels with eyes that follow one's steps...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Out from the Palace Storeroom: Fae Malania's "Hazel Nut"

Today the proof pages for my friend Fae Malania's book, The Quantity of a Hazel Nut, arrived on my doorstep. The Seabury reprint looks--albeit in xerox form so far--just as elegant as the 1961 Knopf copy I own. The quest for this new book was rather long but found helpers in John Wilson and Lil Copan and other people; it's wonderful to see the reprint so close to completion.

Soon Fae's collection of lyrical spiritual essays will have a new life in its Seabury incarnation. Seabury is an imprint of Church Publishing--publishers of the "new" Book of Common Prayer. That's a curious serendipity, because the revision of the BCP was led and coordinated by Fae's late husband, Father Leo Malania.

About 11:00 I went to The Thanksgiving Home to visit Fae and take some pictures of her for the book and publicity, then stayed for a visit. I've already fired the pictures off to Cynthia Shattuck at Seabury. The pages will remain with Fae for a few days; then I'll have a read. I'm looking forward to seeing Lauren Winner's introduction. Lil Copan told me that Lauren often mentions Fae's books in her discussions. I need to check over my biographical sketch as well. I enjoyed interviewing Fae about Leo, Dimi (the autistic son from Leo's first marriage, raised by Fae), the events of her childhood, her time at Mademoiselle, her marriage, and the essays. She's a dear, thoughtful person.

After the book is launched, I want to start digging through her unpublished essays and see what's there. I have a tattered pile strapped together by an ancient rubber band, plus a fat envelope of I-don't-know-what. I know there is a long manuscript about Tolkien, plus essays in the manner of Hazel Nut.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Midnight Crier (at 2:00 a.m.): Got Books? Let's Read conference

What I found curious at the Hodge Podge Books conference:

hundreds of people wearing little blinky name tags;

lots of children's book authors, many of whom live an arduous life of flying from school to school (school visits sound to the uninitiated like comical nightmares--uncontrolled children in assemblies, missing equipment, machines that begin to smoke just before burning up a carousel of slides, etc.);

hundreds of people wearing those blinky name tags and neon necklaces;

illustrator-writer Judy Byron Schachner, who looks like me (her third-grade picture with tight braids and crooked mama-cut bangs might even be me);

Frank Hodge, who has organized such events for several decades and is sweet and gentle and funny;

illumination (complete with the blinkies) at late night wine-and-yack with various writers;

picture book presentations, particularly ones by twin Judy and by Denise Fleming (wish I could have gone to them all--I wanted to see Tracey Campbell Pearson talk about painting chickens, always an irresistible subject);

teachers, who prove to be infinitely various in their ways and backgrounds;

hundreds of people wearing blinky name tags and neon necklace and all holding up globes-on-a-wand filled with whirling light (why haven't all the meetings I've gone to given me toys that my children can't resist, I wonder?);

the Desmond Hotel, a site entirely suitable to the meeting in its make-believe.

I have also gone up in my daughter's estimation by bringing her a signed Coville--I bought too many books, though I craved more--because she passed through a Coville-devouring phase on the way to her current deep-sworn allegiance to Diana Wynne Jones.