A semi-regular free message & gift from Peter S. Beagle to everyone on the www.peterbeagle.com email list.

And a big, warm, utterly enthusiastic Valentine's Day hug from all of us to all of you! (Or post-Valentine's hug, given when I suspect it will actually go out the e-door.)

Connor Freff Cochran here, with an update on the doings of Peter S. Beagle. This latest RAVEN flies in with lots of news and yet another Peter freebie: a slice of surreal Hollywood life guaranteed to make you smile.

But first! With a flourish of trumpets, and exactly 19.5 confetti cannons aimed at the sky, it's time for...

THE LATEST NEWS

FLORIDA AHEAD!

(Cue Announcer Voice.) It's warmer times and warmer climes as Peter flies south for three fabulous, fun-filled days as a special guest at MegaCon 2005, which will be held February 25-27 in Orlando, Florida, at the Orange County Convention Center. This event is accurately billed as “the Southeast's premier Comic, Sci-Fi, Anime, Gaming, Multi-Media Event of the year,” so if you live anywhere near Florida (or even just near an airport with flights to Florida), then come on — it ought to be a blast! There will be all kinds of big professional names there from comics, book publishing, television, and the movies. Peter himself will be doing two panels, and singing when the mood takes him, and cheerfully signing books for all comers at no charge...

...Assuming we can keep him away from Mercedes McNab's autograph table, that is. Mercedes is the actress who played the vampire Harmony on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and Peter is a big, big fan of both shows (but especially of Buffy). So if you should see Peter in Florida and notice that he's been chained in place at the table, don't ask why. Just nod knowingly and smile.


FLORENCE TO FOLLOW!

The ABROAD Workshops are a magnificent series of Writers' Teaching Retreats held in exotic and interesting locales around the world. How incredibly cool to spend a week not just studying and interacting with famous, talented authors, but doing so in places like Belize, Dordogne, Tuscany, and Botswana!

This summer — July 9th through 16th, to be exact — Peter will be ensconced in a beautiful villa outside Florence, Italy, to provide a week's inspiration and education on the subject of “The Power of Myth.” Joining him there will be Nebula Award-winning writer Michael Bishop, and novelist Sophie Powell, author of The Mushroom Man. In addition there will be a practical seminar in Screenwriting led by Lisa Rosenberg, and one on fiction writing led by Chuck Wachtel.

It promises to be quite the memorable time. If you or anyone you know would like to join in, go to http://www.abroad-crwf.com/index.html to learn more.


PASADENA JUST BEHIND

Just about a month ago, in January, hordes of Lord of the Rings fans descended on the Pasadena Center and made it their own for the three days of ORC the One Ring Celebration, organized by the good folks at TheOneRing.net. (To see some pictures of the event, go here and here. And if you'd like to sign up in advance for 2006, go here.)

Peter was a special guest and had a terrific time meeting with all the fans of his work who came to his panels and talks, or swung round the book table. Lots of nifty new connections got made during the weekend, lots of people signed up to get THE RAVEN, and more than one plan was hatched (including getting the Celtic-rock band Emerald Rose to play on a couple of tracks of Peter's upcoming Magicians' Wives CD project).

If Peter and I met you there, hello!

Big thanks, as well, to everyone who expressed concern about our friend Suzie Burlison, who came down to help for the weekend only to be laid low by a case of salmonella poisoning. It was certainly an adventure: a middle-of the-night run to the Huntington Hospital Emergency Ward, complete with morphine drips, anti-nausea drugs, blood tests, and even an MRI to rule out the possibility of appendicitis. Oy! Poor Suzie! She is feeling much, much better now, but I suspect she'll think twice about ever again eating eggs prepared at an unfamiliar deli.


LAST UNICORN NEWS WE CAN'T
TALK ABOUT

I know, I know. I'm a horrible tease. But it's true. There is stuff going on right now with The Last Unicorn, in book and theater and possible film form, that is incredibly cool and incredibly exciting (or at least potentially so). But none of it is settled, so I can't talk about it. People in dark suits, chrome sunglasses, and mysterious black SUVs would have to kill me if I did.

But soon, I swear it — soon! (Maybe even by the next RAVEN, some of it.)


LAST UNICORN NEWS WE CAN TALK
ABOUT — THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (“WHAT GRAPHIC NOVEL?”), THE AUDIOBOOK,
AND THE LONG-AWAITED FOLLOW-UP
STORY, “TWO HEARTS”

First, the graphic novel.

Peter has just signed a contract with Scholastic Inc. to script a graphic novel version of The Last Unicorn, which will be published in fall 2007 as part of their new Graphix line. No artist has not been selected yet, but Peter has contractual approval over the choice, so rest assured that we'll go with a good one.

Next, the audiobook.

The unabridged audiobook version of The Last Unicorn marches steadily forward.

  • Recording and mixing were completed several months ago.
  • The MP3 encoding for the downloadable version, perfect for iPods and other portable audio players, is complete. Please note: Ace audio engineer Jim Lively opted to use a special encoding scheme called LAME, which despite its unfortunate name offers vastly better audio quality than standard Huffman MP3 encoding. To tell the difference between our 128k-encoded LAME version and a true CD you'd have to A/B the two sources directly. (The acronym LAME is another one of those great computer industry irreverencies. It stands for LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder.)
  • A special bonus “trialog” between Peter, audio engineer Jim Lively, and the project's dangerously insane producer (c'est moi!) has been added to the CD format edition. In it Peter shares many revealing stories from the history of The Last Unicorn, and together the three of us go behind the scenes talking about production of the audiobook itself.
  • The MP3-on-CD and CD packaging graphics are complete, and everything is on the way to manufacturing.
  • Within a couple of weeks the revised Conlan Press website will be offering direct sales in multiple formats: downloadable MP3 ($30), MP3 on CD ($30 plus shipping), CD audio ($40 plus shipping), and MP3/CD combined ($55 plus shipping). You'll also be able to buy specially autographed copies of the Roc trade paperback of The Last Unicorn at the same time, if you'd like.

For more information as it becomes available, and to place orders as soon as the on-line card-processing and download machinery is activated, go to Conlan Press.

A little note for the curious, since some people have asked. Peter S. Beagle and Conlan Press are closely associated with each other, because Conlan Press is my company and I am Peter's business manager. But Peter does not own any part of Conlan, nor is Conlan exclusively devoted to his works. (A lot of Beagle-y things are on the schedule, true, but Conlan will be publishing other authors as well.) What we're devoted to by way of Peter are those projects which, for reasons of quality and schedule, just make more sense being kept “in the family.”

And finally, “Two Hearts.”

Peter's long-awaited follow-up story to The Last Unicorn has been generating tons of excitement even before it is released! Here's some more information on the story itself, plus all the latest info:

  • Conlan Press is publishing a special limited collector's edition of “Two Hearts” in hardcover, with each copy signed by Peter. The original plan was to print 2000 numbered copies which would not be for sale. The only way to get a copy? Simple: Buy any edition of the Last Unicorn audiobook. Pre-order reservations have been coming in at such a fantastic clip, however, that it is now obvious we seriously underestimated demand. What should be done about that is under discussion (one suggestion: add an additional 1000 un-numbered copies in a slightly different binding). In the meantime, while reservations haven't maxed out the 2000-copy run — yet — it's clear that will happen much sooner than we originally thought. If you haven't already made your reservation by notifying contact@conlanpress.com, you might not want to wait.
  • Eager fans who don't manage to get in under the limited-edition wire will be pleased to know that “Two Hearts” will be the cover story in the 2005 Special Anniversary Issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, dated October/November. I've seen a rough sketch of the art, and all I can say is that F&SF editor Gordon Van Gelder chose extremely well when he selected Cory and Catska Ench for the job. I can hardly wait to see the finished painting!
  • Some people who have seen the “Two Hearts” title have asked if the Princess Allison Jocelyn (last seen going off on Schmendrick's horse, in pursuit of the sad young King Lir) is part of the story. The answer: a resounding no! For myself, I think Lir solved all her problems and saved the day, as any true hero would, then hugged her chastely or patted her on the head or something and went back home. She sounded significantly high-maintenance.
  • As for that title...“Two Hearts” was not on the front page of the manuscript when Peter first handed it to me. In fact, there wasn't any title on it at all. How in heaven's name do you manage a follow-up to a classic title like The Last Unicorn? (Hollywood's no help, that's for sure. The Last Unicorn 2: Last Unicorn With a Vengeance? When Schmendrick Met Molly? I think not.) So Peter and I went digging deep into the language of the story, praying that we'd find something there, something he'd already written, something that would rescue us from having to attempt the impossible. And we did, too, plain as day: “Two Hearts.” The only possible title, both literally and metaphorically.


NEW SHORT FICTION RELEASED,
AND EVEN NEWER SHORT
FICTION ON THE WAY

In years past, Peter's shorter tales were rarer than fine diamonds. Mostly he worked at book-length.

That is definitely changing. Peter has just sold a story to Sharyn November's new Firebirds Rising collection (here's a link to the last one); he is working on pieces for original anthologies from Ellen Datlow and Gardner Dozois; and I know of at least five or six other beauties under development. It is now safe to say that lots of new classics are going to be joining such old and familiar titles as “Come Lady Death” and “Farrell and Lila the Werewolf.”

The new Beagle story most recently published?

That would be “Mr. Sigerson,” which can be found in Michael Kurland's delightful collection Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. This book is a must-have for any Holmes fan, and Peter's story shows he could have a grand career in mystery fiction any time he feels like it. (Hint: there's a bit in this story that I have been dying to see in a Holmes story from the very first one I ever read, without consciously knowing it. The bit is that good, and I'll bet Peter is the first person to ever actually do it.)



THIS RAVEN'S GIFT

We're fast-approaching the Academy Awards, so it seemed like the perfect time to share a certain story from last year, called...

THE SCREAMING
by Peter S. Beagle

It's different when they scream. I was all right until they started screaming.

Over the course of forty-odd (quite odd) years as a free-lance writer and occasional singer/songwriter, I've spoken publicly in a lot of places and learned a great deal about show-business in the process. I've learned how to use a microphone properly, how to size up a crowd and recognize in a hurry just what they like about you, and — most vital of all — how to get offstage neither too soon nor a nanosecond too late. And I'm something of an expert on judging the quality of laughter and applause, from the decorous academic patter to the more generous clapping of an audience that has no stake in not liking you, and, once in a while, the satisfying roar that comes when you've taken them by surprise and made them like it. I'm no standup comic, but I know this stuff.

But screaming....

Screaming is twelve-year-old girls; screaming is the Beatles, the Stones, the Grateful Dead, James Brown, Julio Yglesias, Britney Spears. Screaming has always made me nervous, partly because I don't understand hysteria, or deal well with it; partly because screaming for the star's ties and undershirts never seems more than a skin away from howling for his head. When it started for me, I froze in my tracks.

The occasion was a post-Oscar party for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, thrown by TheOneRing.net, a website devoted to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and other writers of epic fantasy. I was one of some twelve hundred guests hitting the cocktails and canapés and cheering, not only the landslide results of the Oscar voting, but the final cultural validation of a beloved tale; and, beyond that, of the other great stories still so often denied official designation as true literature. Once upon a time, in a world lit only by fire, all literature was what we now call fantasy, but then the fluorescents came on, and more than Tolkien's Elves dwindled and faded and was lost. Even so, the fantasy ghetto, set apart from “real” writing and visited only by geeks, weirdos, and artistic slummers, is very largely a creation of the last half of the last century. The walls around it are crumbling steadily these days; us weirdos are out, and storming the literary castles. The raucous cheers I shared were saying, Hurray, finally, for our side!

I knew in advance that, as a fantasist myself, I was likely to be introduced from the stage, and I expected my usual share of the mannerly applause I've grown used to over the years. It wouldn't be exactly Dionysian, but it was my due.

When the time came, the Emcee announced me as “a special surprise guest — the author of The Last Unicorn...”

He never got to my name.

The screaming went on and on. I've already said that I froze, but it was more than that; it was an internal paralysis as well as a physical one. A friend literally pushed me up the steps and onto the stage. He figured, more or less correctly, that reflexes would take over when I got there.

There's a show-business streak in my family; we may seem naively wide-eyed and spontaneous, but we know what we're doing. I wandered out to the microphone, waited for the ovation to die down slightly, and then said, “So that's what it's like. I always wondered.”

And they did it again. Louder.

I don't know whether I've made adequately clear exactly how unused to this sort of reception I am. I do know that I haven't at all stressed just how addictive it is. Within seconds — seconds— I wanted, needed another dose, on demand, this minute. The violence of the desire was almost shocking, especially to someone whose lifelong self-image is that of a modest professional, in no need of limelight, content merely to get the work done right. But when I look back on that moment, all that comes to mind is a hunger and a reward, both more powerful than anything I think I've ever known. It must be like that for a new-made vampire getting his first taste of blood.

When I got off (which I managed properly; there's another reflex) I found myself surrounded for the rest of the evening by people who kept telling me what an honor it was to meet me, and how much my novels and stories had affected their lives. I fell promptly into my Gracious mode — every writer, no matter the sales figures, has one of those — determinedly making eye contact, telling little self-deprecating jokes, and, above all, showing personal interest by asking earnest questions. It's an old trick, one of my best, and paradoxically quite sincere. But this time I couldn't hear either them or myself, because the screaming was still going on in my head. I really don't remember much after the screaming.

But I do understand something now that I never did before. It's no wonder that the stand-ups, the singers, the matinee idols (is anybody ever called that anymore?) so often find it impossible to leave the stage after the very last farewell tour, the final comeback. It's no wonder that the stars and superstars so often turn into monsters; what's remarkable is that not all of them do. I've now had my one taste of blood — I've no idea what I might become if I should ever get more of it. Just remember, when you encounter me after my thirteenth appearance on Oprah, and I brush rudely by your proffered autograph book on my way back to trash my hotel room, that I used to be a real sweetheart, a pussycat, an unpretentious regular guy. It's the screaming, I swear — I'm not really like that. It's just the screaming....


CREDITS

Text for this RAVEN by Peter S. Beagle and Connor Freff Cochran. Logistics and delivery handled by Kim Flournoy. To learn more about Peter's work and to stay current with his latest personal and professional news, come to www.peterbeagle.com.


CLOSING QUESTION

Last time round we asked our recipients whether they'd prefer their RAVEN to arrive dressed in wings of HTML or the format-less straightjacket of a plain file. Everyone who responded (which was only a handful, mind you) shouted out a hearty “HTML!”

But the sampling was way too small to be definitive, so we're asking again. Please take a moment to email webmaster@peterbeagle.com and let us know your preference.


UTTERLY SHAMELESS PROMOTION

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