roller derby

German edition of The Mirage coming März 2014

A heads-up for my German fans who’ve been emailing to ask if and when The Mirage would be available in translation: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag has officially set publication for March 2014. The novel will be available in both hardcover and ebook editions.


* The American ebook of The Mirage is still on sale for $1.99.

* Just finished watching season 2 of The Borgias. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, this is like the non-fantasy version, with Charles VIII’s army replacing the ice zombies and Machiavelli’s The Prince serving as the tie-in book. Really well done.

* Last Saturday was the 2013 championships for the Rat City Rollergirls. Grave Danger beat the Sockit Wenches 202-167 in a close-fought bout. But the best moment of the evening came during the mid-bout break, when Method of Madness proposed to Jalapeño Business. Jalapeño said yes, and the crowd went wild. This tops the previous coolest thing to happen off-track this season, Nancy Pearl’s Feb. 9 halftime appearance where she did a live reading of Where the Wild Things Are. Mazel tov to the happy couple!

The regular derby season is over, but the post-season bouts start next month, with visiting Montreal and London teams going up against the Rat City all stars. Full schedule is here.

* Cat font!

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Coming up for air

I’ve been making good progress on the new novel, hence the lack of recent posts, but with The Mirage paperback publication coming up in two weeks, it’s time for me to come out of my little room and practice talking to people again. (I also need to shift gears mentally from 1950s Chicago and New England, where I’ve been for the last six months, to alt-universe Baghdad; I expect some culture shock).

I’ll be doing readings in Seattle and Portland in conjunction with the publication; my current schedule is here.

In other news:

* The late, lamented Seattle indie bookstore Queen Anne Books is being reincarnated as the Queen Anne Book Company! It’ll have a new owner and new management (and is, technically, an entirely new bookstore), but it’ll be in the same location and at least some of the old Queen Anne Books staff will be returning. The grand opening is March 1. You can follow the new store on Facebook and Twitter.

* I’ll have a separate, longer post about this soon, but the National Endowment for the Arts is currently accepting applications for their 2014 Literature Fellowships in Prose. These are grants of $25,000 for fiction and creative nonfiction writers who are either citizens or permanent residents of the United States. The deadline for applying is February 28.

* Iran is claiming it launched a monkey into space. No word on which monkey, but I have my suspicions. In semi-related news, Bigelow Aerospace is partnering with NASA to test an inflatable space module. The prototype will be attached to the International Space Station, but the long-term goal is to develop a line of standalone orbital bouncy castles for rich people. Warren Ellis is skeptical.

* Rat City Rollergirls season 9 has started. The next bout is February 9 at Key Arena. Grave Danger will be going up against the Throttle Rockets, and the Sockit Wenches face visiting Terminal City Rollergirls team the Bad Reputations.

* Livestream kitten cam!

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Rat City Rollergirls, S8B4 results

The Throttle Rockets’ Luna Negra breaks away from the pack © 2012 Frank Blau Photography
Nehi Nightmare makes full eye contact with the opposition © 2012 Frank Blau Photography

So the one downside to being in L.A. last weekend is that I missed the Rat City Rollergirls playoffs. Grave Danger beat out the Sockit Wenches and the Throttle Rockets beat the DLF, so it’ll be Grave Danger vs. the Rockets in next month’s championships. I can’t wait! The championship bout is on Saturday, May 19 at KeyArena. Ticket info here. More great photos here.

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At the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend

Tomorrow I fly to Los Angeles for the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Hope to see some of you there.

My current schedule:

Friday, 6:30-9:00 PM, at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave. — Attending a party hosted by the Mystery Writers of America.

Saturday, 11:00 AM, in the Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL 101) — Panel discussion, “Seeing the Light,” moderated by Mary Otis and with fellow panelists Alex Shakar and James Wallenstein Janet Fitch, to be followed immediately by a book signing.

Saturday, 8:30 PM-midnight, at the L.A. Central Library — Attending the Young Literati’s Book Drop Bash. This one’s invitation only, but if you’re there, come say hi.

Sunday, 11:00 AM, at booth #372 (Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore) in Founder’s Park — Book signing.

And for those of you who are staying in Seattle while I jet down to SoCal, Saturday night at Key Arena is the Season 8 playoffs for the Rat City Rollergirls roller derby league. Doors open at 4:30 PM, first bout starts at 5:30. Don’t miss it!

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Rat City

Re-AnimateHer © 2012 Frank Blau Photography

So, I have a new favorite sport.

In January, my friend Frank Blau got me a trackside seat for the season-opening bout of the Rat City Rollergirls roller derby league. I had a great time and have been raving about it ever since, so last Saturday night I went back with Lisa and a bunch of our friends, and now they’re all raving about it too.

For those of you who missed Whip It, roller derby is a contact sport that combines elements of speed skating and rugby with a biker bar/Rocky Horror Picture Show aesthetic. It’s played on an oval track that can be flat or banked. Each team fields five players at a time: a jammer (easy to spot because of the big star on her helmet), who scores points by lapping the other team’s skaters, and a pivot and three blockers, who collectively form a pack that tries to stop the opposing jammer. In blocking, contact is supposed to be limited to the hips, torso, and upper arms, but fouls are common, and it’s not unusual for both teams to have one or more players in the penalty box. Part of the strategy is knowing how to play shorthanded—or press the advantage when you’ve got the other team outnumbered.

And yes, there is strategy. It would certainly be possible to run derby as a staged spectacle like professional wrestling, and the Rat City league does have elements of that, like the costumes and the player names—”Anya Heels,” “Betty Ford Galaxy,” “Foxy Throwdown,” “Tempura Tantrum“—but out on the track they play for real.

Anya Heels (2nd from left) gets missile lock on jammer Skate Pauli Girl © 2012 Frank Blau Photography

Saturday night’s second match-up, between league champs Grave Danger and the Derby Liberation Front, was particularly amazing. With less than fifteen minutes to go, the DLF were down by 35 points. Then Grave Danger’s jammer got sent to the penalty box and the DLF went on a 29-point scoring rampage, after which the two teams were neck-and-neck to the end, with Grave Danger just managing to stay ahead for a 122-117 win. One of my friends who’d initially been a little skeptical about derby pronounced this the most exciting game he’d ever seen.

Nehi Nightmare (right) tries to pass Kamikaze Kim while Avihater looks on © 2012 Frank Blau Photography

If you’d like to check it out, Rat City’s next bout is on April 21st at Seattle’s Key Arena. The league championships are on May 19th. General admission for adults is $14 in advance, or if you want to splurge, you can get a trackside seat for $37. If you really want to get close to the action, the league is holding player tryouts this Saturday, March 31st, and a referee clinic on April 1st. And if you’d like to see more game photos, visit Frank Blau’s website (thanks, Frank!).

Update: Via @TheAuthorGuy, the International Rollergirls’ Master Roster—apparently, every player’s derby name must be unique. Hours of punning entertainment here.

Update #2: As Josh notes in comments, tickets are cheaper if you buy them from the Key Arena box office or from Fast Girl Skates in Wallingford, and adult general admission tickets from those outlets are buy four, get a fifth one free.

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