Seeing Red

I was in the hallway at the kids’ school last week when one of the moms stopped me. “I wanted to buy your book,” she said. “I found it and I was going to buy it, but then I looked inside… and it was horrible!”

I mumbled something incoherent about Seeing Red being meant as a sort of social history of blood…

“Why would you write such a thing?” she asked.

“Well, some kids like subjects like that.”

“Aren’t you worried that children are going to read your book and be incited to do violence?”

Um… no. That had never occurred to me. “I think they read worse things?” I said.

seeingred

During all this, a voice in the back of my head was whispering, “Ah… so this is how Angie Abdou felt.”

I didn’t cry in the school hallway. I did stew about the conversation for a few days, and think of many, many more intelligent points I could have made.

Then the world came to my rescue. Because as I was talking with a friend in the playground (a relatively secure woman, thankfully), this same mom appeared and said to my friend, “I like your sweatshirt. Those were so in style five years ago.”

And there on the playground as I tried not to laugh out loud, and later as I made my friend feel better about her sweatshirt by telling her about my violence-inducing book, the whole situation became funny.

Plus, my schoolyard critic has given me the perfect response for the next time someone doesn’t like one of my books. I’ll say, “Well, I do like your shirt. Those were so in style five years ago.” And leave it at that.

The reluctant shopper

Check out this lovely video created by Annick Press about books for reluctant readers. It features the 50 Questions series and Seeing Red.

The video points out all sorts of reluctant-reader appeal tactics, such as cartoons, graphic-novel panels, short chunks of text. All wonderful, helpful things. But I think there’s one additional key to attracting reluctant readers: don’t be the shopping mall.

I spent part of Family Day weekend in a shopping mall, and it was rather excruciating. Something about fluorescent lighting and off-gassing polyester turns my brain to mush. But the main problem is that we don’t go to the mall to get the best of any one thing. We go to browse a billion almost-the-same, basically decent things. The mall is a collection of everything and the best of nothing.

Likewise, many non-fiction books are collections of everything. Every fact the writer can find. But kids don’t want to sort through the racks, and they shouldn’t have to. They should be able to flip open an information book and find the strangest fact, the most interesting person, and the very best story.

For the rest, there’s always Wikipedia.

Or the mall.

Found in translation

I have learned how to use my scanner (no small feat) JUST so I can share what arrived in my mailbox on Friday:

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 8.03.20 PM

Can you tell what it is? I’ll give you some hints. That’s a vampire over on the right, obviously. There’s a thirteenth-century Egyptian dude below him, a sacrificial pig at the bottom, and Dr. Karl Landsteiner at the top left.

Still need help? It’s the new Korean edition of this, published by Acenet Junior. And it’s pretty bloody fun to see my text in Korean!

How would one gift wrap a scalpel?

There’s a review of Seeing Red over at The Cozy Little Book Journal. Mary says “It’s creepy and gross and SO good.”

This reminded me that ’tis the season for all those gift-matching lists. Give I’ll Love You Forever with a decorative box of tissues, for example. I’m thinking that this year, I’ll promote “give Seeing Red, with a personalized scalpel set” or “Seeing Red, with a little box of blood jellies.”

Red’s a Christmas colour, after all.

Random thoughts and missed opportunities

ALWAYS, after a non-fiction book goes to the printer, I find some fact or idea I wish I’d included. For 50 Underwear Questions, there were two: the radiation-blocking shorts and the Playtex seamstresses sewing space suits.

I hadn’t had any regrets for Seeing Red… until yesterday.

I was driving home from a play last night, listening to Q, and there it was. A random point from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:

We have blood based on iron, and therefore red. If we had blood based on copper, as crustaceans do, it would be green. When we cut ourselves, we would see green. So, would green therefore be our warning colour, and would stop lights be green?

Who woulda thunk there could be a connection between streetlights and blood?! Yeesh… now I’m going to have to write a whole new book.

Waiting for the stork

Seeing Red is out in the world… somewhere.

I heard that the balance of black, white, and red was so tricky that a representative from the publisher was on site at the printing press. I heard that the printers were so happy with the final results, they’re entering the book in a print competition. I heard it looks fantastic!

And I haven’t seen it. Yet.

Seeing red over indexing

Late last night, I began the index for Seeing Red.

Already, you can see the problem. Indexes should not be started at night. Not only are one’s alphabetizing capabilities at an eyes-half-shut low, there are all sorts of neurotic questions that might stop the intrepid indexer in her typing tracks.

For example:

  • If I list a Norse creation myth under mythology, do I also list it under religion? It was part of a religion, right? Once?
  • If the Catholic Church doesn’t consider itself a Christian denomination but, instead, the one true church, do I still list Catholic blood rituals under Christianity?
  • Is any ten year old going to look up the word “rites” in an index?
  • Are offerings the same as sacrifices? And if not (because I decided they’re not), do I list offerings in the index, even though I’ve used the world in passing and they’re not necessarily blood-related?
  • If the faith is called Islaam, and followers are Muslim, what do I call a Shiite Muslim ceremony when I list it with other religions, such as Christianity and Judaism? Shiite Islam? Shiite Islamic? Shiite?
  • Am I losing my mind? And if so, should I list that under I for insanity, or D for dementia?

And the indexing continues…

The big reveal

Here it is! The project I’ve been working on for the last few months. It’s all about the non-scientific roles that blood plays in human culture. (Hmmm… I’m really going to have to find a more-fun way to say that.) For now, the cover probably says it best:

It’s illustrated by graphic artist Steve Rolston, entirely in black, white, and red. It looks fantastically cool and I’m justalittlebitexcited.

Real-life copies available in the spring!