Friday, November 19, 2010

Paths to Publication: Pearl North

Paths to Publication

The Boy from Ilysies_Pearl North
The Boy from Ilysies by Pearl North

I wasn't always Pearl North. That's right. It's not my real name. I'm really Anne Harris and I wrote three science fiction novels for adults before turning to YA and adopting the pen name Pearl North. People tend to have a lot of questions about this. Why did I take on a pseudonym? Why did I switch to YA? And the question I get the most: How did you come up with the name Pearl North?

As to why I started writing YA, that was a total gimme. I've always had adolescent characters in my books, frequently as main characters, and when I decided to write a book about a teenage girl living in a library so vast people sometimes get lost in it and never come out again, well, that was an idea that pretty much screamed YA to me, and my editor agreed. It was at that point that he asked me if I'd be willing to take on a pseudonym, and the reason is pretty unglamorous. The unvarnished truth is that after three sf novels with successively decreasing sales, I was officially in what is known as the dreaded Death Spiral. This is a thing that happens where your first book comes out and everybody's really jazzed about it and the buyers for the book stores buy x number of copies for each store and something like x-2 copies sell. Well, when your next book comes out, that buyer only orders x-2 copies, and there's some unwritten law of the universe that one or two copies of a book always go unsold. So your second books sells x-2-2 copies, and then your third book comes out and the buyers order x-2-2... You see where this is going. So the whole point of taking on a pseud for my YA books was to do an end-run around the Death Spiral and get Libyrinth ordered as if it were a promising debut novel by a new YA author. Ahem. I'm happy to say it appears to have worked.

As to the origins of Pearl North, here's what happened. There was a delay between the time when my editor said he would buy the Libyrinth books -- and he insisted it be a trilogy, not the single novel I'd originally planned -- and when the contract actually arrived. When it did come, I was on vacation in Northern Michigan, at my favorite place in the whole world, Pearl Lake. My agent called with the news, and she needed my pseudonym for the contract, so I had to decide on something in like, an hour. All I could think of was that I was up north, at Pearl Lake. And that's how Pearl North came into being.

Libyrinth came out in 2009, The Boy From Ilysies just came out Nov. 9 of this year, and the third Libyrinth book, The Book of the Night, is forthcoming in 2011.

~Pearl North

You can read more about Pearl at:

facebook page:

Here's what some of the reviews are saying:

“An interesting twist on the themes of societal opposition and integration, and perhaps an intriguing companion to ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” —Booklist

“The novel combines many science-fiction tropes—the quest, dystopian governments, degenerated society—into a clever, original story. The dramatic, satisfying climax and deftly handled resolution of the many plot threads will convince and exhilarate readers. A book-lover’s delight.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Libyrinth isn’t timid or polite. There is pain, there is death, there is consequence, and there is reality. But there is also joy, great adventure, and grace. It’s a strangely timely novel that will leave young (and not so young) readers wondering about their iPods and books. This is good YA.” —Nnedi Okorafor, author of The Shadow Speaker

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Deal: Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

Book Deals

I am happy to finally announce that Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction has been picked up by Headline Books, Inc.. This is the writing guide that Mike Arnzen and I are co-editing.

Michael Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller signing the contract for Many Genres, One Craft
Photo by Jason Jack Miller

Lots of news to come, including a list of contributors, a new website, and a tour schedule.

This has been two years in the making, so I am very excited about the project coming to fruition in such a great way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Article: Almost There (or How Heidi Ruby Miller Might Change Her Luck)


Pennwriters Logo

I knew my article "Almost There" was going to be in the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of The PennWriter, the official publication of Pennwriters Inc., but I was excited to see it was on the first page.

This article sums up my frustration at being an in-betweener, someone who has taken the workshops, sorted through the writing advice, written my million words and then some, and watched my peers attain a certain success (in novel writing) while I wait in limbo. More importantly, it shares how I have accepted this fact and simply moved on with my writing and am happier because of it.

I quoted some wonderful words of advice in "Almost There" from my first Seton Hill mentor, Tom Monteleone. He told me, "...This business is mostly luck. Sometimes good writers don't become successful: sometimes bad writers do. If you like to write, then write the best story you can and at the end of the year, if nothing else, you have a book you want to read."

You know what I liked about that? He didn't try to pump me up with sunshine, tell me to keep at it, work harder, chin up.

Blah! When someone says that to me, all I hear is the implication that my three-four hours a day isn't really hard work and that they got where they are because they wanted it more. I'm sure not all of them mean that, but it can be difficult to relate to someone at the bottom of the ladder when you're already at the top.

I like Tom's words better because they helped me understand why I write - not because it will make me rich or famous, but because I like to tell stories. (Something Mike Resnick reminded me of during a casual conversation at a convention. I'm sure you don't remember that, Mike, but thank you.)

Maybe some of my Irish luck will come to the surface and you'll be able to read a couple of those shelved novels one day. Then again, maybe I could do something I would have never considered even six months ago - make my own luck like J. A. Konrath (who happened to be on the panel I moderated which spurred this little article) and David Morrell have...I'm not kidding.

Things, they are a changin'.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Event: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear


Jason and I had an incredible weekend in Washington, D.C. The highlight, of course, was Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Sanity Rally Poster
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Thank you to Jason Jack Miller for taking all of the photos; that way I could just enjoy everything, but still have photographic stock later.

Washington DC Metro
This photo was taken on Friday, October 29, but The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority counted 825,437 passenger trips on October 30, the date of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, breaking a 19-year record.

Ben's Chili Bowl
We ate lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl as soon as we got into DC. Awesome!

International Spy Museum
Then headed down the street to the International Spy Museum. It's hiding behind that tree.

Heidi Ruby Miller at Spy Museum
And, that's me acting like a spy in the cafe.

The National Portrait Gallery
Our training allowed us to sneak into the National Portrait Gallery right through the front door.


On Saturday, we got to the Mall around 10:00 AM. The first sections were already filled, so we ended up in the middle across from the Air and Space Museum. The official crowd count was 215,000 people.

Sanity Rally Crowd 1

Sanity Rally

Sanity Rally Crowd 3

Heidi and Jason at Sanity Rally
Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller at Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Sanity Rally Crowd 2

One of the best souvenirs was this hat.

Musical guests included The Roots, John Legend, 4Troops, Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, The O'Jays, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and Tony Bennett.

Also entertaining us were Father Guido Sarducci, Tim Meadows as P. K. Winsome, Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, R2D2, and Law and Order's Sam Waterston, who read Stephen Colbert's The Greatest Poem Ever Written:

The Greatest Poem Ever Written
Are You Sure?
Copyright 2010
By the Reverend Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert DFA

Did you hear that? No?
You’re probably going deaf
It’s your kids back home
Cooking up some crystal meth

Did you turn off the oven?
Did you set the alarm?
They still haven’t caught
the man with one arm

Look around at these people
How safe do you feel?
You’re car
when you parked
did you lock it?
Thinking reasonably now
what are the odds
that no one here
is a pick-pocket?

That guy who just coughed down your neck
Could he have an infection?
The restaurant where you went to brunch
did it fail its health inspection?

A mad man could set loose a virus
for which there isn’t a cure
and while these things may be unlikely
ask yourself … are you sure?

And can you be sure
that you won’t get ebola
from a tainted diet cola
toxic waste or getting chased
by a bearded Ayatollah.

Funnel clouds inhale
anthrax in the mail
your lover will discover
your vestigial tail.

Someone’s robbing your house
I can see through your blouse
Your mother was right
you chose the wrong spouse

Unlabeled Drano tornadoes torpedoes
the horrible sights of some guidos in Speedos
STD’s, PCB’s SUVs, UV Lights
A giant pimple on your face
you have a date tonight

Chocking on a biscotti
being whacked by John Gotti
Getting trapped overnight
in a full port-o-potty

And I have a final fear to drop in bucket
about a friend of a friend of the man from Nantucket

There once was a man from Eau Claire
Who no one was able to scare
He wouldn’t join panics
about the Hispanics
And later he was killed by a bear

You can watch videos from the event at Comedy Central, who broadcast the rally live.

Marine Corps Marathon
Bright and early on a chilly Halloween morning, participants began the Marine Corps Marathon. We cheered them on as we ate danishes and drank hot tea in front of The Castle.
">The Castle (Smithsonian)

Air and Space Museum
We couldn't visit DC without our traditional stop at the Air and Space Museum.

Dia de los Muertos
Before heading home, we stopped at the American Indian Museum to see the changing exhibits and catch a show for Dia de los Muertos.

A Final Note
In closing, I'll post part of Jon Stewart's closing speech because it was so inspiring and so...sane:

"I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult -- not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller -- but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is -- on the brink of catastrophe -- torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV. Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises...

...Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."