Curses and Dragons

Entries categorized as ‘Books!’

Page Number Game Entries from Wednesday, 10/23

October 24, 2013 · 6 Comments

Welcome to day 3 of the page number game!

Give me a page number in the comments and I will post you an excerpt from that page with an Intriguing or Interesting Bit.  I am amending that you should restrict yourself to THREE entries per day, just ‘cuz it’s going to get ridiculous otherwise.

If anyone stumbles on one of my top SIX favorite, non-spoilery pages, prizes will be given.

One of you has won.  There are now four prizes left.

YKL said: Um, 59.

A girl, dressed in saffron velvet and russet silk, with frizzled golden-brown hair flowing from under a small cap…

Mary said: 277

He shushed her. He could barely hold the whole of this mad idea in his head. All he could see was what needed to be done next, and then he did it, the whole plan only glimmering at the edges of his awareness.

Gabi said: How do you pronounce Perrotte’s name?  And because we can enter 3 guesses . . . 57, 200, 313

Perrotte…  pronounce it Frenchly?  LOL.  It’s NOT like “parrot.”  Pair and rote, pair-rote.  With a gurgly R.  Sand is meant to be pronounced with an “ah” like father instead of an “and,” and also no, you don’t pronounce the D at the end.  But! You all say them how you like to say them, in your mind.  Because I say Sand-like-and except when I’m REALLY thinking about it!  Though I never call Perr “parrot.”

In the chapel, sunlight poured through the colored glass windows depicting the strange life of Saint Melor and his metal limbs.

He’d often considered asparagus a burden.

What did you say that got you imprisoned by Jannet?

Michelle Bitner Smith said: 18

He slept there, the first night, by his fire, under the eyes of the phoenix and the swan.

Mary said: 178

I thought nothing grew here.

Steve Buchheit said: 12

She smelled like… nothing, really.  Stone, maybe.

Alana Joli Abbott said:  How about 42?

He prayed to Saint Eloi to send his stepmother a sign.


Well done, Gabi!  You won a copy of The Princess Curse with page 200 and the burdensome asparagus.  I wish I could quote you the whole scene.  Email me at merriehaskell AT by November 1st with your address to claim your prize.  (Though I think you’ve won something from me before–but still send it to me, please!)

FYI, I left a clue on my author’s page on Facebook.  It’s up to you to find and use it, but it will certainly help you focus your entries in the comments below!

Categories: Books! · Giveaways

Page Number Game Entries from Monday, 10/21

October 22, 2013 · 16 Comments

Welcome to day one of the page number game!

Give me a page number in the comments and I will post you an excerpt from that page with an Intriguing or Interesting Bit.

If anyone stumbles on one of my top SIX favorite bits (I will clarify: pages), prizes will be given.

Full disclosure: when I went through picking favorite bits from this book, I realized my MOST favorite things were hugely spoilery.  So I have my non-spoiler faves marked–for legitimate randomizing–and waiting.  I would post a picture of the post-it notes sticking out of the book, but that would give you an edge.

No one has hit the fave pages this round.  One of you came REALLY CLOSE though.

Ash said p. 26:

No one had seen Sand. He had disappeared from the world.

YKL said p. 327:

So, YKL, this is the last page of the book.  Almost nothing here is not a spoiler!  So you get 2 really isolated sentences:

An astrolabe. A star-taker.

Danielle D said p. 247:

You cannot defeat the hedge!

Mary said p. 92:

Jannet threw open one chest, then another, glancing with unconcealed disdain for what she found inside.

Steve B said p. 253:

He went to the smithy and restacked the bricks of his forge.  That made him feel much better.

Mary said p. 244:

We’d need a few trebuchets and cannons, too.


Thanks for playing today–please go to the latest entry to keep playing!

Categories: Books! · Giveaways

I have ARCs! So let’s play a game…

October 21, 2013 · 14 Comments



Give me a page number in the comments and I will post you an excerpt from that page with an Intriguing or Interesting Bit.

If anyone stumbles on one of my top SIX favorite bits:

  • I will give the first three persons to stumble on a fave bit a copy of THE PRINCESS CURSE
  • the second two lucky stumblers a copy of HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS…
  • and the sixth person to stumble on a favorite bit will get an ARC of THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS just like the one above

Enter as often as you like (but no more than 3 entries per day, please for the love of Montressor)!  You can win more than one item.  The game ends when the ARC is gone, or by Halloween 2013 (midnight, the start of NANOWRIMO), whichever comes first.   I’ll post excerpts/winners once daily (or less if no one has entered recently).  You’ll need to pick a number between 1 and 327. Go!

I’m closing comments here–new entries should be placed on the latest blog post.

Categories: Books! · Giveaways


October 8, 2013 · 4 Comments

It has arrived!


CastleBehindThorns hc c


Mr. Keele has done it again.  I was lucky enough to get a Jason Chan cover my first time out — lucky in not just the fact that Jason Chan does amazing work, but because he has fans of his own — now I await the Kevin Keele fans, between this and the wonderful art he created for HANDBOOK.

And my cover designer at HarperCollins (my!?), Joel Tippie, always does this amazing thing where he makes the whole design sing.  The whole jacket will be a thing of beauty.

Independent of the art? I weirdly love the little crosses around my name. Why? Do not know.

The light coming from behind–I’ve had that in all three of my book covers. It’s apparently my thing? (Again, “my?” I don’t know!) I love the way the light unifies all the covers.  And all have a single human figure, and all have the Thing that sort of defines the main character or their journey–Reveka had her herbs, Tilda her horse, and Sand up there has his blacksmithing hammer.  And the locale in all of them is equally strong–Reveka in the Queen’s Forest, Tilda atop Mount Lorelei, and Sand in the Sundered Castle.   My books are stand-alones set in the same universe, and in my mind they share the same mythology, politics, and magic–and of course, the same Underworld–and I feel like these wonderful covers unify them as well in the same way.

I love everything about this–I love that the faboo Rae Carson gave me a blurb for the cover, and I love the colors, and I love the castle, and I love the lonely figure, and the aforementioned light, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the creepy carved statues by the doors.  There aren’t any creepy carved statues of these people in the book, but you will recognize the people when you meet them, and this is the perfect nod to their existence/importance.

So! Now that my biased opinion is out of the way: What do you think?


Categories: Books!

What I’m working on…

September 22, 2013 · Comments Off on What I’m working on…

Actually, working on sheer loads of things right now, but most pictorially representable…

2013-09-04 22.51.13


Galley proofs from The Castle Behind Thorns.  From this snapshot you can see that we have:

a) awesome thorns twining around the chapter numbers

b) chapter titles (a first for me)

c) a thorny font for chapter titles

d) a chapter that has the same name as the working title for the book (which was Mending, of course)

e) characters named Sand and Perrotte

f) a lovely note from my lovely editor, who likes the title of chapter 32 as much as I do

Categories: Books!

Jurying and Getting Paid (unrelated topics)

August 13, 2013 · Comments Off on Jurying and Getting Paid (unrelated topics)

Things I keep forgetting to mention:

I’m the chair of the Andre Norton Jury this year. I joined last year for the main purpose of having to carve more time out to read, and it paid off–I finished twice as many books as I normally read in a year (around 50), and read the first fifty pages of about twice (thrice?) as many as that.

And the other thing I seem to never remember to mention: writers get paid. Do not give your stories to someone else to publish to make money off of unless you are getting some money yourself–the going market rate is fine (depending on the rights acquired), but the going market rate should never be zero dollars.

One thing that is interesting having “come up” through a genre with a well-established short fiction community (the science fiction and fantasy community) is that I was bathed early on — like Achilles dipped in the River Styx — in the ethos that yeah, professional writing requires a professional payment. Every few years in SF/F someone gets a wild notion to become a short story publisher and they bop around asking for submissions AND THEN you find out that they were just hoping you wouldn’t ask about the money. They have excuses. They have what seem like reasonable arguments about “providing exposure” (to whom?) and “looking for quality work” (quality how?) and “doing it for the love” (do you love not getting paid?)

The going short story rate in most SF/F publications is about 5-6 cents a word, which is a pittance. (Novel advances in SF/F can be about that much, but you also get more money after you earn out your advance.  And in children’s lit, I usually see advances that work out more like 14-25 cents a word on up to a dollar or two or more a word.)  Regardless of whether or not people can make a living at writing novels, you cannot make a living at being a short story writer nowadays, not in SF/F.

rarely write short stories nowadays for the simple reason that they are hard for me to write; they are not my natural length, and a single 5,000-word short story can take me 3-4 months to write because it has to get carved out, packed in, tamped down, in a way that is alien to me and my brain. At this point in my career, I am a natural children’s novelist. I write to 65,000 words like it’s my job. (Also, it is my job.) When I think about spending the time it takes me to write one quarter to one WHOLE NOVEL on a single short story, I cry. So does my agent, probably.

So at this point, I hardly ever write short stories anymore. And that’s because little payment isn’t worth the stress and time of a short story when I have deadlines with bigger money attached. And that’s life.  Other professional writers feel entirely differently because short stories are easy for them to write, or whatever.

But none of those writers will be handing over a short story to a publication for no money.

And now we are coming to the crux of how the New Golden Age of YA is leading to people dipping their toes into more YA short story publications.

And guess what I’m seeing? Brand-new publications diving in and asking for free short stories with the same old broken rhetoric about why authors aren’t going to get paid.

Nope.  Don’t do it. Walk away.



Categories: Books! · Short Stories

I owe you a good blog entry

July 22, 2013 · 1 Comment

I have nothing but rambles in my head right now.  Like brambles in that they are tangled and thorny, but hopefully they aren’t out to get me.  I did get snagged by a bramble (a rosebush) in the garden today, right across my arm–apropos of nothing.  But I have thorns on my brain, with The Castle Behind Thorns getting all pumped for its life in the world.

It’s weird for readers, I think, to hear that there’s a book they won’t see for 10 months or more that is all but completely done and finished lurking somewhere in the world.  It’s weird to me, too, never fear.

There is still some book-production stuff to do between now and then–galleys and then the checking of the galleys, and tweaking the cover art and the cover copy, and of course the printing.

But almost everything else that happens is not production; we are now in the long season of PR, marketing, and all that kind of stuff, most of which I will not see or hear about except in the most obvious and tangible of ways (“look at this nice ad we did, Merrie”), when in fact, the least obvious and tangible ways to the writer are probably the most effective and the most necessary (and if I knew what those were, beyond vaguely waving my hand toward the nearest school or library and saying, “You know. Library and school marketing,” I would totally tell you.)

One other bramble/ramble:

The Princess Curse did not win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature (please note that NOT, it’s the important part).  I cannot be sad that Sarah Beth Durst’s Vessel took the honor, though; that was easily one of the very best books I read last year, one that brought me to tears in the opening chapters and made the woman on the elliptical trainer next to me think I was having an asthma attack because I was crying. (I made sure to read the rest of the book in private.)

So, congratulations to Sarah!  And you know what? That whole “honor to be nominated” thing?  Is solid truth. It really is.




Categories: Books!

Looking forward to: Sally Slick!

June 21, 2013 · Comments Off on Looking forward to: Sally Slick!

My writing neighbor, Carrie Harris–

Wait. I fear that when I said, “Writing neighbor,” you had no idea what I meant.

meant: this one time, when I was a debut author, there was this other debut author in the Elevensies book group who had a last name that was pretty close to mind (Harris, Haskell–I always sat next to Harrises in school) who had the same town as mine listed next to her name. We both assumed there was a clerical error.  But no! We both live in the same little town in Michigan.  We both debuted in 2011.  And we both have HA- surnames.

So, my writing neighbor, Carrie Harris, who is my neighbor geographically, chronologically, and alphabetically, has a new book coming out in December.

Every hero has a story. This one starts with a girl and a racing tractor.
Sally Slick knows she’s meant to be more than a Midwestern farm girl. What she wants more than anything is to be an inventor when she grows up—and she has the custom-built racing tractor to prove it. But good girls in 1914 don’t go off to the city in search of adventure. Everything changes when Sally’s big brother comes back from Chicago with a robot in hand and mobsters on his heels. With the help of her friend, wannabe hero Jet Black, Sally will risk everything to protect the people she loves.
Those bad guys are about to get a giant wrench thrown right into their plans.
And it’s got a truly gorj cover. Gorge? Gorgeous, you know, but abbreviated?  How do you spell that?
Sally Slick Steel Syndicate 200dpi
Oh, stop listening to my blather.  Go listen to Carrie instead.

Categories: Books!

Germany Pic of the Week & 2 Days to Launch

May 26, 2013 · 1 Comment

HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS comes out in TWO DAYS. So enjoy this anticipatory picture of Mt Lorelei:


Why am I sharing that with you?

Because that is the same mountain that Kevin Keele has portrayed on my awesome cover:

On purpose or not. Really, the cover image does not precisely portray a scene from the book–Tilda is not exactly awake and alert (not really a spoiler!) when she arrives at Mount Lorelei, and suffice it to say, if Joyeuse (the horse) had seen Curschin (the dragon) flying in the distance, the second half of the book basically wouldn’t happen. BUT. Pretend with me. It’s nicer that way.

Categories: Books! · Random but Related
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Great Company

May 15, 2013 · 2 Comments

If one were to casually check out the Mythopoeic award finalists today, one might note this section:

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, Giants Beware! (First Second)
  • Sarah Beth Durst, Vessel (Margaret K. McElderry)
  • Merrie Haskell, The Princess Curse (HarperCollins)
  • Christopher Healy, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press)
  • Sherwood Smith, The Spy Princess (Viking Juvenile)

What a list!  Sherwood Smith, whose book Crown Duel was literally the third thing I ordered off Amazon, on May 5th, 1999!  And Sarah Beth Durst’s Vessel was a book I was super pleased to see hit the Norton ballot this year.  Those are the works on this slate I’m familiar with–

Except the one in the middle.  I know that book really well.

So, the great news for me is that Mythcon 44 is in my backyard this year–just an hour up the road in East Lansing.

What great company to be in!

Categories: Books!
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