Friday, February 29, 2008

Book Club: Unshapely Things Finale

By Friday, I always seem to forget that a lot of League readers are out east, so then by the time I post, it's already afternoon there. I think I'll have to go back to posting on Thursday night. I've got to apologize to our guest, too. Had a bit of a crisis yesterday and the club slipped my mind entirely. I hope the two Wednesday threads kept you busy and our guest blogger provided some thoughtful discussion.

Anyway, on with the show.

Today's theme day. Just like last time. What theme(s) resonated from Mark Del Franco's Unshapely Things? What struck a chord? What memories did it spark?

I was struck by Connor's heroism in the face of overwhelming personal obstacles. I always love flawed characters, their vulnerability, particularly. When I read a depiction that is well crafted, and very real (even in a fantasy), I feel like I can access some of that in myself and my own characters. At least I hope I can.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guest Blogger: Seressia Glass

seressia

(Quick note from Stacia: Apologies for the wonky photo layout, which should be better because the cover for Dream of Shadows is so gorgeous. Why Blogger has taken such a strong dislike to uploading photos for me lately I don't know. Maybe because I'm cheating on it with Livejournal?)

Can You Relate?


When Stacia asked me to do a guest blog over here, my first thought was, "Does she know what she's stepping into?" It's not that I'm controversial or confrontational. At least, I didn't start out that way. That's until I realized that there are two romance novel worlds: the world of white heroines, and the world of The Others.

It took a long time to come to this realization. Ten years ago I joined my local and national romance writing organizations, eager to learn. I wrote my first book, an interracial romance, and entered it into the Golden Heart. I should have known that the range--one 3, the rest way higher—was an indication of things to come. (Funny how a decade later, I remember that.)

I sold to a small black publisher. (Probably the first mistake, not waiting for a bigger "white" publisher.) I eagerly awaited its release. I thrilled over the "Top Pick" review from Romantic Times, totally ignoring that it was in the multicultural review section. On the release date, I eagerly went into my local Borders' romance section, looking for my book.

It wasn't there.

That was the start of my realization that black romances are perceived as different than white romances. They are shelved differently. They are reviewed differently. They have smaller print runs. As far as some readers are concerned, they are as diametrically opposed to mainstream (white) romance novels as inspirational and erotic romance. In fact, more than one reader has told me that they "can't relate" to black heroines. And yet, readers are scarfing down vampire hunters, Regency misses, and Indian princesses like there's no tomorrow.

Unfortunately, marketing and shelf placement perpetuate this stereotype, because romances written by black authors are invariably shelved in the African-American fiction section, intermixed with classics, mysteries, street lit, and other genres written by black writers. This "literary segregation" makes black readers feel special while alienating mainstream (white) readers. The same readers who will then go scarf down romances written by white authors featuring black protagonists, because those books are shelved in among the other romances.

Of course, not every retailer practices literary segregation, thank goodness. And I'd be lying if I said there were no benefits from separate shelving. Readers more likely to read me are already in the section. (They usually are browsing longer because they have to shop both areas--if you think black readers don't read white romance, you're deluded.) And thanks to online stores, reader blogs, and old-fashioned WoM, there are readers willing to cross the color line for the sake of a well-told story.

So what is the answer? I think we need to start with agreeing on the question. Is separate shelving a good thing, or a bad thing? There are those who say it isn't discriminatory. Others say it's just business--no harm, no foul. Some black writers prefer the separation because they feel it gives them more sales. Me, I'd just like to make a living wage from my writing. And for that I need readers, the more the better.

Seressia Glass is an award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romances. Her newest releases are Channeling Moonlight in the Vegas Bites Back novella and Sex on South Beach in the What White Boyz Want anthology. She can be found on the web at www.seressia.com.

Seressia, thank you so much for coming to blog with us, and for discussing such an important issue.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spoiler Day! Unquiet Dreams Thread

Two threads today, one for UT and the other for UD (cause I know you people read it already). I haven't, so I won't be looking in there. I'll leave it up to MDF to check in on those folks who want to venture in.

Use this thread to discuss all things spoilery about Unquiet Dreams! The ending perhaps. And by all means take Del Franco to task and pry out some new info.

Have fun.

Spoiler Day! Unshapely Things Thread

Two threads today, one for UT and the other for UQ (cause I know you people read it already). I haven't, so I won't be looking in there. I'll leave it up to MDF to check in on those folks who want to venture in.

Use this thread to discuss all things spoilery about Unshapely Things! The ending perhaps. And by all means take Del Franco to task and pry out some new info.

Have fun.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unshapely Things: Topic 2 + Giveaway

As a result of a certain other book hitting the shelves, I've been busy as hell. But I can't forget about my clubbers, so here we go...

Mark Del Franco informed me that there will be a GIVEAWAY at the end of this week, now I have no idea what said GIVEAWAY will entail, but you can be certain, you want it. So check back regularly. If you don't participate in the comments then you don't enter. Get it.

Topique No. Deux: Although urban fantasy is a "hot" genre, there are still relatively few male protagonists. Why do you suppose this is? Where does Connor Grey sit in the pantheon of UF heroes?

We Interrupt this book club...for release day stuff!

Not sure if y'all are aware of it, but both Mark and Anton have books releasing today! I know, I know, they're too shy to toot their own horns so I'm going to, uh...toot their horns for them. Um.

First I want to talk about Anton's book, Dead to Me.

One of the more embarrassing things about being me is I tend to rate my enjoyment of books based in large part on how sexy I find the male lead. (This might be the reason for some of my more unusual tastes, actually.) So of course, large in my mind as I started reading--and kept reading, and stayed up half the night reading--Dead to Me was, do I actually want to make kissy with Simon Canderous?

Yep.

I loved him. I loved his mix of vulnerability and toughness, his self-awareness, his awkwardness around women, his shady past and his desire to move forward from it. I loved that he wasn't above getting dirty if need be. I loved his really cool apartment that he hadn't yet managed to unpack. Basically, I pretty much loved everything about the dude, which added an extra frisson of goodness to what would already have been a great read.

But it's not just the main character who's loveable here. His mentor is a gruff, appealing mix of a Chandler character and Dr. Cox from Scrubs. The women--often a weak spot for male writers--were pitch-perfect. Not so girly enough that they irritated me or I found them hard to like, but girly enough that they weren't men in women's clothing. They weren't TSTL or dangling off the ends of the Madonna-whore scale. And the villain was sexy too. Mmmm...villains.

I needed this book. Because what I think I loved best about it, aside from the jokes and the characters and the rollicking storyline that kept me guessing all the way through, was the basic goodness here. I loved knowing there's a literary world where people are still basically good. It's something I don't think we get enough of, I really don't, and even if I hadn't loved the heck out of the book I would have loved that element.

And the story. Oh, this was a fun one. Because I stink at recapping storylines (and am forced to do it for my own books, which makes me really not want to do it elsewhere), I'm not going to go into details. But I laughed. I laughed every time we heard about another pamphlet or "Lunch n Learn" or workshop. I laughed every time the big wooden fish was mentioned. I laughed when Simon said or did something adorably guy-like, which he did often, being an adorable guy.

Basically? I had fun reading this book. Real fun. Laughing fun. Neglect-my-own-work fun. So go buy it for yourself, so you can have fun too. You won't regret getting to know the sexy Mr. Canderous and his buddies, and if you're like me--which you're not, because you don't have the access to Anton that I do--you'll immediately email Anton and demand to know what happens next. Ha ha, I know something you don't know!!

I already gave Mark a review over at my own blog. So basically, if you can't be bothered to click on over there, I'll just say it. Mark's a genius and his book is hilarious and I suspect--this is just a guess here--that everyone has bought it already simply to get him to shut up about it already. Please. I beg you. You won't regret that one either.

So if you're looking for a fun day or two's worth of reading, grab these two books--interestingly enough, you can get them together from Amazon or you can just slip into your local bookstore and pick them up, which I recommend because then you don't have to wait for shipping--mix up a pitcher of cocktails (a Zombie, anyone?), plunk yourself down, and read.

Monday, February 25, 2008

League Book Club Post #1: Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco

Here we are again, another week of chatting about books and stuff. This time it's Mark Del Franco's druid detective, Connor Grey in the spotlight. We'll be talking about both Unshapely Things and Unquiet Dreams (in a separate post, so hold off with the spoiling, people).

I have to remind myself and all you guys, the purpose of a book club is not to discuss whether you liked a book or not, but to express what resonated with you, themes, all that. But favorite bits is still the best place to start.

So here's the question...

Who's your favorite secondary character and why? I'd jump right into Connor as the topic, but Del Franco has populated his world with such fascinating personalities, they beg a mention--not to gush or anything.

So off we go. Remember, Mark has agreed to swing by and answer questions and chat. You never know who'll stop by really.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My fellow man-bitch: Mark Henry

I'm not sure if any of your readers out there have heard (because he's terribly shy), but fellow Leaguer Mark Henry also has a book coming out on 2/26. Against his better judgment (if he can be said to have any), he has let me put the screws to him. Enjoy!

Anton: Some people are calling you the Candace Bushnell of the George Romero set. And by some people, I mean me. I just made that up right now. Pretty good, right? Anyway, do you think that's a fair assessment? Feel free to shamelessly plug HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED in your answer...

Mark: While I'll agree there's a certain Samantha-on-brains flavor to Happy Hour, the book is more of a satire of chick-lit as a genre rather than it's most recent incarnation. I do have a Bushnell story, though. When I was in New York meeting with my agent and editor, I got a little lost and ended up in Bushnell's building; confidential hilarity ensued--it'd probably be a better story if the punch-line didn't involve her address.

As it is and told with crass abandon...

Happy Hour of the Damned is the wild rollicking tale of Amanda Feral, a hilariously bitchy advertising executive who, following a chance encounter with an undead octogenarian with some nasty breath, turns into a flesh-hungry zombie. Lucky for her, Seattle's underworld teems with ghouls, bloodsuckers and horny devils, waiting breathlessly for their very own undead socialite to stalk with cameras and ridicule. It's not all parties, cocktails and sweetbreads, when her succubus friend disappears; it's up to Amanda and her friends to navigate a debauched world of nightclubs, demonic bowling leagues and 12-step groups for the recently departed. Along the way, she uncovers a plot to instigate the last great zombie plague and for Amanda, that just won't do, less food and all.

Anton: So I understand that HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED will be your first and last book, that the anxiety of being released up against DEAD TO ME is so great that you're never going to write again. What will you do with yourself now?

Mark: I plan on buying a football helmet and sitting in the corner, banging my head against the wall. Or maybe... I'll finish up the next two in the series, ROAD TRIP OF THE LIVING DEAD and AMERICAN MINIONS. Right now I'm working on another urban fantasy comedy, THE DARK RITES OF JOE BARKLEY, about an impotent incubus, a hooker with a limp and the mysterious murders of patients at a secluded sex therapy clinic. You know, just trying to turn this weird fluke into an actual career.

Anton: I noticed recipes in HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED. What can we expect in ROAD TRIP?

Mark: Those recipes are actually pretty good; we tested 'em out and everything. For Road Trip, you got your roadside attraction signs, iPod playlists and some veddy interesting correspondence, not to mention more "Interludes of the Bitter and Pathetic."

Anton: I've spent a lot of time, time I should probably have been writing, hitting refresh on the Amazon Ranking button, and I can only imagine you have too. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHY DO WE DO IT??

Mark: Oh yes. It's an addiction, sir. We must accept the things we cannot change, and all that. I don't know what the number means except that if it's low then I'm in a good mood and vice versa. I'm a slave to its power. I can't escape. I just checked while answering this question. Oh God someone kill me.

Anton: Preferred weapon in the coming zombie apocalypse?

Mark: Thanks to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, I'm going with an air hammer with an extension rod. No need to reload until the tank is empty. Of course, I'll have to stock up on pressurized air, or else knock over some espresso stands for their whip cream dispensers. I could probably pick up an air hammer on Amazon; let me go check.

#70 on the contemporary fantasy top 100. Oh God! Someone help me.

Anton: Many people speculate that you get your ideas from consuming the flesh of the living and entering a trancelike state where you write out words on the page in savant fashion. Again, by many people, I mean me. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

Mark: I'm inspired by anything that makes me laugh, cry, scream, cringe, etc. It could be the briefest moment from real life that I'll be able to harvest and turn into a scene. Some overheard conversation that resonates can turn into an entire chapter. Likewise the endless little horrors in my neurotic brain are ripe for our genre.

I suspect it all comes from being subjected to horror movies as a child. Let that be a lesson to all you parents out there. Make sure to shelter your children against objectionable film, television and books. I'd hate the competition.

Anton: Zombies: Which be scarier, fast or slow? Discuss amongst yourself.

Mark: Fast are scarier because they're just so wrong. You don't expect reanimated corpses to be so light on their feet, when you add that to the fact that there are so many of them and they just keep coming; it's too much.

On the other hand, slow build up tension, give you time to get a real good look at what's going to be gnawing at your armpits, Achilles tendons and groin--oh, I mean brains.

Anton: HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED is quite heavy on the girlyness. One could mark that as the sign of a well-researched tactic by an author sharply on his game. One could, but that one is not me. In fact, it calls into question that you claim to be married, and to a "woman". Are we expected to buy that?

Mark: The only thing I expect you to buy is the book--HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED a zombie comedy with eyeliner and cocktails in bookstores everywhere February 26th--the rest, I'll leave up to your imagination and the many photos popping up all over the internets.

Anton: Well played, sir, well played.

Zombie Quiz Winner + Answers!

Congratulations to Brenna!

She's our winner with a stunning 14 out of 15 correct. So, as promised, here are the answers.

1. What's the difference between a zombie and a golem?

A golem is a construct, an animated creature made from inanimate material, while a zombie is a reanimation of a corpse or a person under the toxic effects of the coup de poudre (see #3).

2. Wade Davis wrote two books about voudou zombies is Haiti in the 80's. Name one of them.

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and PASSAGE OF DARKNESS, both explored the Haitian zombie from an anthropological and ethnobotanical perspective.

3. The coup de poudre used by voudou bokors to create a zombie consists largely of the same toxin (Tetrotodoxin) as that found in what type of fish?

Puffer fish, blowfish, globefish or even fugu for those sushi afficionados.

4. What was the first name of Shaun's stepfather in Shaun of the Dead?

Phillip.

5. In the 1984 film Night of the Comet, where do the teenage girls get into a gunfight with zombies? Bonus point: what are they doing there?

Department store. Bonus: hello? Shopping, dancing to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", being objectified by drooling zombie stockroom clerks.

6. The first zombie movie was made in
a) 1961
b) 1945
c) 1972
d) 1932 White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi

7. Put these films in chronological order: Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead

Night, Dawn, Day. Extra credit for Land and Diary.

8. Which one of these is not a real title:
a) Chopper Chics in Zombie Town
b) Zombies on Broadway
c) Night of the Zombies
d) Zombie Sunrise

9. The author of Zombie Survival Guide was:
a) John Romero
b) Max Brooks, son of funny guy Mel Brooks.
c) Steven King
d) Wade Davis

10. What does FZVA stand for?
a) Female Zombie Vixen Alert
b) Federal Zombie and Vampire Agency
c) Apocalypse
d) None of the above

11. David Lynch is to Frederico Fellini as George Romero is to Lucio Fulci.

12. What 1988 film starred Treat Williams as a zombie cop on the trail of
undead crooks?

Dead Heat, also starred Joe Piscopo as is his partner.

13. In Shaun of the Dead the name of the pub is...
a) The King's Arms
b) Elephant & Castle
c) Chippers
d) The Winchester

14. What spoof of zombie films proceeded to spoof itself in its sequel
(hint: it's not Evil Dead).

Return of the Living Dead, famous for the line "Send more paramedics." Also for a punked out Linnea Quigley dancing on graves.

15. Which foreign zombie splatterfest featured a lawnmower put to use on
the undead horde?
a) Undead
b) Zombi 2
c) Brain Dead, Brenna correctly pointed out that this was released in the U.S. as Dead-Alive
d) Shaun of the Dead

Friday, February 22, 2008

Zombie vs. Psychometer: The Anton Strout Execution...I Mean Interview

Today, we've got Anton strapped to the barber chair Stacia swiped from the Sweeney Todd set. That's right kids, it's an inteview, interrogation-stylee. Check it!

Mark: Hey Anton, I normally ply my interviewees with alcohol but it was a wild weekend in the League Lounge--as you know--and we're fresh out. Luckily for us, you can't resist an opportunity to talk about yourself or your book, Dead to Me. Why don't you give the peeps a primer?

Anton: Why give you a primer when super-author and southern belle of urban fantasy Charlaine Harris puts it best: "Simon Canderous is a reformed thief and a psychometrist. By turns despondent over his luck with the ladies (not always living) and his struggle with the hierarchy of his mysterious department (not always truthful), Simon's life veers from crisis to crisis. Following Simon's adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but it's well worth the wear and tear."

Sorry, I was in a fugue plugging state...lemmee see, where did I put that primer. Oh yeah, here it is!

Psychometry-the power to touch an object and divine information about its history-has meant a life of petty crime for Simon Canderous, but now he's gone over to the good side. At New York's underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, he's learning about red tape, office politics, and the basics of paranormal investigation. But it's not the paperwork that has him breathless.

After Simon spills his coffee on (okay, through) the ghost of a beautiful woman-who doesn't know she's dead-he and his mentor plan to find her killers. But Simon's not prepared for the nefarious plot that unfolds before him, involving politically correct cultists, a large wooden fish, a homicidal bookcase, and the forces of Darkness, which kind of have a crush on him.

I think that nicely sums it up, although I am partial to the cover copy where it says, "For this paranormal investigator, it's business as unusual..." I cracked up when the copy department told me and when I asked which of them wrote it, they said that I had. It was from in the book. I didn't even know my own genius!


Mark: I've had the pleasure of reading an advance copy and quite enjoyed myself, I'm ashamed to admit. Simon is a psychometric smart-ass. We all know you're the inspiration for the smart-ass part, but are you holding out on a psychic ability?

Anton: Well, I'm a skeptic on all things paranormal. I've never experienced anything in my adult life that has been, but I'd like to think that of the 90% of our brains that we don't use (a higher percentage for some people), it would be a much cooler world if the powers existed. Then I could finally crush you with mah MIND POWERS!

Mark: Heh. (sharpens straight razor, grinning) Being zombie week, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about your fondness for the legion of undead. What's the allure?

Anton: For me zombies are such a great allegory for the slow march of inevitable death that comes to us all. Zombies are all about inevitability. First they're funny cuz you can outrun them and they're kinda clumsy. But eventually you gotta rest or sleep or stop, but they keep on marching on...like time. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I'm gonna giggle like a schoolgirl cuz I know I'm not gonna survive, but I'm gone love kicking ass and taking names until I go down, shotgun ablazing.

Mark: You joke about working for the same house that's publishing your book, but I suspect you had to go through the same channels as most first time authors. Am I totally wrong? Was there some sort of Penguin conspiracy to start producing books from within? I'm frightened.

Anton: Well, I certainly had more access to some of the people in the industry than most, but as it's been pointed out to me over and over again, they never would have bought my book if it actually didn't deliver. That said, it was nice to be able to approach the people I've known for a decade and ask advice and such.

My first sale, which was a short story to DAW didn't come through an in-house connection, but from attending the writer's symposiums at Gencon. I think to help yourself break through as a writer you have to be a little bit shameless, so I pretty much approach anyone willing to talk to me and try to make a connection. Of course, you don't wanna be an asshole or too pushy about it, but editors and agents are people and approachable, especially at genre events.

Here's how selling Dead To Me went down:

When Dead To Me was finished, I asked one of the editors I dealt with as part of my day job to take a look at it, strictly on a no-strings-attached basis. I was looking for feedback to make it better, and with access to these professionals, I'd be silly not to at least ask the question. She said yes, she'd look at it.

And I waited.

And waited.

And I saw more and more books in the genre I was writing getting pubbed all around me. It did little to calm my nerves. Again, the manuscript was being looked at simply as a favor to me, so I had to exercise infinite patience.
As I waited to hear back on the full manuscript, however, life went on. I sat in a bazillion meetings where I kept seeing books like mine being put on the schedule.. books eerily like mine. Either my finger was on the pulse of what was hot or I was very derivative. It was killling me.

So then one day in March of 2007, I was actually in a meeting with one of the fantasy imprints where they actually said "If only we could find a new urban fantasy author to break out" which naturally had me squirming in my seat. So I went back to my office and sent my initial editorial reader an email saying "Listen, this isn't to put pressure on you, but Company X is practically begging for the type of book I've written and I'd like to show it to them while the discussion is fresh".

Someone else wanting my type of book must have lit a fire or something because the editor promised to finish my manuscript over the weekend and give me an answer. That next Monday, Ace Books offered me a two-book deal.

Now quick everybody.. go do what I did and you too will be guaranteed publication!

Mark: You've been pretty open about the anxieties of first time novelists. Where are you today, less than a week from the official release, with literally tens of people counting on you to succeed, to be awesome? Still stressed? How do you deal?

Anton: I'm surprisingly relaxed right now because reports of people finding the book in stores pre-on-sale date have been coming in and now that it's 100% out of my control, I take comfort on that. I have been taking a lot of meds to help me sleep tho and for once in my life, I'm almost sick of hearing me talk about me and my goddamned book. Almost.

Mark: Simon 2 has got to be close to delivery, what's next for Anton? Simon 3? Something new? Retirement?

Anton: Book two is due to my editor on 2/26 when book one goes on sale. I think I hate my editor for that a little for balling up all my anxieties into one focal point. Simon 3, as it were, actually started coming to me in the process of fleshing out Simon 2 so the notes are already going down for it. There is a special regular fiction project I'd love to get back to, but all this paying work keeps getting in the way. Poor me, I know. Send PEZ!

Mark: Finally, how excited are you about HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED? I hear it's one of your wife's favorite books, does that trouble you?

Anton: When I see her laughing and reading another man's book in bed, it's like she's slutting it up with him, that hussy! My wife actually likes uncomfortable movies and books (Palaniuk, for one) so she doesn't read a ton of my genre. Which will probably save our marriage in the long run. She used to be an editor for Three Rivers Press, so I try to keep from putting her in that editorial mode and such.

And just for the record. It's not that she liked HAPPY HOUR. It's just that she started reading it and it disappeared. She may actually have been saving me from having to read it and having it scar me for life. Maybe it's buried outside in the yard, the way a dog hides things it know will harm its master.

Mark: Oh, who are you kidding? She loved that shit. (turns to the open door) Ilona! I'm going to do a quick slice so get the furnace ready, okay?

Zombies for Grrls

So a lot of you ladies out there are thinking, "Zombie movies? Eww." I know I thought the same thing...but I married a man that was utterly in love with the genre. Bleh. As a dutiful wife, I was subsequently forced me to watch zombie flick after zombie flick with him. Pain of death. For realz. But I found myself secretly enjoying them (wtf, right?) and I thought that the girls of the world definitely needed a little more zombie action.

Here is a girly rundown of some hidden zombie gems:

1) DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) - Because almost all of the movie takes place in a shopping mall.
2) 28 DAYS LATER - Naked Cillian Murphy. In like, the first scene.
3) RESIDENT EVIL - Supermodel Milla Jovovich wears a hot red dress and kicks everyone's butt.
4) RESIDENT EVIL 2 - Skip upon pain of death. Jill Valentine ruins this movie.
5) RESIDENT EVIL 3 - Mmmm, hot dude from the Mummy is in this (Oded Fehr).
6) HOUSE OF THE DEAD - It's a terrible Uwe Boll movie based off of a video game, but how can you hate a film with a campy, star-spangled Asian kickboxing chick named Liberty?
7) SHAUN OF THE DEAD - It's a love story. Really. Shaun is a nerdy dude trying to get his girlfriend back. With zombies.
8) DOOM - Mmm, Karl Urban. Mmm, The Rock. Storyline? What storyline?
9) NIGHT OF THE CREEPS - I enjoyed the hideous 1980s prom fashions in this one. Watch it for giggles.
10) SLITHER - Kinda gross, but mmm, Nathan Fillion.

If your husband suggests anything not on this list, just tell him you have a headache.

Let's get Zombie with it!

Original Zombie Drink Recipe

Ingredients

1 oz Vodka

1/2 oz Triple Sec

1 oz Dark Rum

1 oz Light Rum

1/2 oz Creme de Almond

Orange Juice

Sweet and Sour Mix

Original Zombie Directions

Pour light rum, dark rum, creme de almond and triple sec into an ice-filled hurricane glass. Almost-fill with equal parts of sweet and sour and orange juice. Top with 151 rum. Add a large straw, and serve unstirred.

Serve Original Zombie in a Hurricane Glass

Courtesy of www.drinkswap.com

It's fun to stay at the YZCA

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Zombie Quiz NOW With Bonus Contest!


Whaddya think? You know you want one for bathtime, right? Well this little zombie devil duck can be yours. All you need to do is complete that zombie quiz down there and email me (over there on the left should be a link) with the answers. If you get them all right (if there's two, I can come up with something equally zombirific for a second prize). If I end up with tons of correct quizes, I'm gonna have to do a draw. Just sayin'.

Zombie Quiz, Zombie Quiz!

Answers on Sunday!

1. What's the difference between a zombie and a golem?

2. Wade Davis wrote two books about voudou zombies is Haiti in the 80's. Name one of them.

3. The coup de poudre used by voudou bokors to create a zombie consists largely of the same toxin (Tetrotodoxin) as that found in what type of fish?

4. What was the first name of Shaun's stepfather in Shaun of the Dead?

5. In the 1984 film Night of the Comet, where do the teenage girls get into a gunfight with zombies? Bonus point: what are they doing there?

6. The first zombie movie was made in
a) 1961
b) 1945
c) 1972
d) 1932

7. Put these films in chronological order: Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead

8. Which one of these is not a real title:
a) Chopper Chics in Zombie Town
b) Zombies on Broadway
c) Night of the Zombies
d) Zombie Sunrise

9. The author of Zombie Survival Guide was:
a) John Romero
b) Max Brooks
c) Steven King
d) Wade Davis

10. What does FZVA stand for?
a) Female Zombie Vixen Alert
b) Federal Zombie and Vampire Agency
c) Apocalypse
d) None of the above

11. David Lynch is to Frederico Fellini as George Romero is to ___________.

12. What 1988 film starred Treat Williams as a zombie cop on the trail of
undead crooks?

13. In Shaun of the Dead the name of the pub is...
a) The King's Arms
b) Elephant & Castle
c) Chippers
d) The Winchester

14. What spoof of zombie films proceeded to spoof itself in its sequel
(hint: it's not Evil Dead).

15. Which foreign zombie splatterfest featured a lawnmower put to use on
the undead horde?
a) Undead
b) Zombi 2
c) Brain Dead
d) Shaun of the Dead

You be the judge: Zombie or ghoul?


In my ceaseless attempts to bring ya'll the latest in zombie...uh...stuff, I stumbled upon this. It's the Zombie Man costume from the "Silly Jokes" party & costume shop.

Now I ask you: Does this really look like a zombie? No! Everyone knows zombies wear suits (with big striped ties, usually), or the occasional sports uniform. Burial clothing. Who buries people in tattered, hooded shrouds anymore? Fringed shrouds? He looks like if the Village People had a zombie member too. (Ooh, wouldn't that be cool? Policeman...construction worker...Native American...zombie...biker guy...cowboy. Ever wonder why the Village People didn't have, say, a vampire? I wonder what would be in a paranormal Village People. The Graveyard People. Anyway.)

The costume is a robe. Is he a zombie monk? If so, where is his toque? Or big rosary belt, like Friar Tuck? He looks like Much's "The Scream".

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that this is not a zombie. It is a ghoul.

Discuss.

Save the Date!

The League of Reluctant Adults Book Club welcomes Mark Del Franco starting Monday, the 25th. He'll be chatting up all the club peeps and though we chose Unshapely Things, I know a lot of you have been reading Unquiet Dreams, so we'll run a spoiler thread on that, too.



We had a blast last time, and tons of visits to the site during our Heart of Stone book club. We're expecting a record turn out for this one, too. Make sure to comment and get the most out of it. We promise not to ridicule you too much.

I'll Take Music Videos With Zombies That Aren't Thriller for a 1000, Alex.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is it a zombie?

(Note: When I wrote this out it was a cool little chart, but for some reason it didn't post that way, and now I've spent like an hour and a half on it so you will read it, dammit.)

Here's how to tell:

If you're walking down the street

A. Is it moaning and stumbling, with its arms held out and its head at a strange angle?

Yes. Keep reading, it may be a zombie!

No. Is it wearing a leotard?

Yes/No

Is it wearing black-and-white makeup?

Yes It is a mime. Run!

No Probably not a zombie


B. Are its clothes dirty and tattered?

Yes Does it have a heavy beard?

Yes Probably not a zombie

No Is it a drunk?

No Is it a man?

Yes Could be a zombie

Is she missing a shoe?

Yes Probably a zombie

No Is she hot?

Yes Dude, go for it

No Call her a cab


C. Did it attempt to eat your brains?

Yes Run, it's a zombie!

No Probably not a zombie


At the office:

A. Is it wearing the same outfit it's been wearing for days?

Yes Keep reading; it could still be a zombie!

Is it the office slut?

Yes
Do its lovers still come to work the next day?
Yes Just a slut
No May be a zombie

Is it the office slob?

Yes Just a slob
No May be a zombie

B. Does it smell of blood and death?

Yes Is it your boss?

Yes Bosses always smell like that, but proceed with caution
No May be a zombie

No Probably a zombie

C. What is it eating?

Brains It is a zombie

Donuts It is just a co-worker. Who steals donuts.

Why Zombies?

It's not news that Anton and my debut novels are prepping for their official release next week (both are even showing up in stores)! So I'll take a moment to pimp them gratuitously before I move on.

Buy them! Please! Only you can support an urban fantasist. Think about it like this, for less than a dollar per day you and your family can enjoy countless evenings of wholesome entertainment (well maybe not wholesome).

Me first, though. This is, after all, my post.


Amazon * Barnes and Noble

Amazon * Barnes and Noble

Now, with that bit out of the way, we can move on to the topic at hand...Zombies! And specifically why zombies? In a few of the interviews I've given recently, the question came up as to where I got the idea for a zombie protagonist. It seems natural to me, since, I've always been fascinated by the living dead. I can trace it back to my childhood.

*cue flashback sequence*

My grandmother died when I was 5 or 6 and we travelled to her house in North Carolina for the funeral. I remember napping in her bed, there was an armoire in the room with mirrors inset in the doors. The room had that dusty grandma smell that accompanies crochetwork, antique quilts and aging perfume. It also had a big clunky air conditioner that was so loud it blocked out any sound from the rest of the house. When I woke up, one of the armoire doors was open and a hand reached out from inside, followed by a wrinkled leg, and then my grandmother's dead face emerged. Her eyes were clouded in cataracts. I woke up screaming, for real that time.

I continued to have that dream nearly every year until I graduated high school.

I became obsessed with zombies and read everything I could about their origins, the different varieties and, of course, many movies that had been and were being made. This was the seventies for long before the glut of horror that we access today. On my 5th or 6th birthday, my mother checked out a film projector and the black and white reel of Night of the Living Dead. It was the ultimate in positive reinforcement for my zombie infatuation.

I moved on to the italian zombie flicks from there, Fulci loved his gore bright red and so did I. Couldn't get enough.

If those aren't good enough reasons, then take a look at this...


How can you not love that? It's insane. A scene from Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2, which is actually his first zombie movie but Night of the Living Dead was released in Italy under the name Zombi, so Fulci was screwed.

My obsession has only gotten worse from there. Particularly after Dawn of the Dead when it became clear that zombie's were the perfect horror tool for sarcasm. Return of the Living Dead ushered in the zombie comedy that became my favorite incarnation of this classic movie monster.

So...that's it. That's why zombies. At least for me.

You'll have to ask Anton.

Zombie Finger cookies

1 package pre-made sugar cookie dough
food coloring
colored frosting for decoration (comes in a tube)
pumpkin seeds (optional)


Mix dough & food coloring until the dough is a greenish-gray color. Make 2-inch balls with the dough, then roll it until it's a finger-sized cylinder. Set on baking sheet. Insert pumpkin seed (if using) into the end to make fingernails.

Bake according to package instructions, let cool. Decorate with frosting to make knuckles, wounds, blood, whatever you like.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FYI

Susan and the Zombie Menace

Add to My Profile | More Videos

10 Reasons why Zombies Are Better Than Men

10. Zombies rarely talk about themselves, so they're good listeners.

9. Zombies don't care what you watch on TV. Hellooo, Lifetime network!

8. Zombies don't demand a different meal every night. As long as you have a fridge full of brains, they're happy.

7. Zombies don't obsess about sports.

6. A zombie has no shame. They'll hold your purse for as long as you like.

5. Zombies don't need a freshly ironed shirt every day.

4. A zombie won't refuse to let you ask directions.

3. Zombies are happy to clean the bathroom, or anything else you tell them to do.

2. Zombies don't generally go to bars and pick up other women.

1. If you tell a zombie to do something, he'll do it. And keep doing it, until you're satisfied.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Send brainnnsss



















With 13 minutes left to today, I'm still getting my Monday post in, but I have the perfect excuse! It's Zombie Week, and if there's a perfect time to be a zombie, it's the week before your first full length book goes to press! I can only hope that Mr. Henry is as frazzled as I am right now... cuz insanity loves company, my friends.

And in case you were wondering if I really was a zombie, that's proof positive up above in lovely sketch form by talented comic artist John Perry.

Tune in for more zombie goodness throughout the week!

This Just In...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Interview: Tananarive Due, American Book Award-winning author

(Okay, Blogger is not allowing me to upload images. I'll come back later and try yet again.)

Today we have a very, very special guest interview: Tananarive Due, who's been published in a number of genres and won awards in all of them. Ms. Due received the American Book Award in 2002 for The Living Blood, sequel to 1997's My Soul to Keep (The Living Blood was one of Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of 1997; My Soul to Keep made the same list in 2002.) The Black Rose, a biography of Madame C.J. Walker, America's first African-American female millionaire, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and the book she co-wrote with her mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, Freedom in the Family, was named 2003's best civil rights memoir by Black Issues Book Review. On top of these amazing acheivements, she also proves her excellent taste by being a fervent fan of the Miami Dolphins. Why she agreed to come here to the League and slum it with us, we can only guess, but we're sure glad she did. Please join us in welcoming Ms. Due.

Your latest book, CASANEGRA, was a collaboration with your husband Steven Barnes and actor Blair Underwood, who'll be starring in the film adaptation of your novel MY SOUL TO KEEP. Could you tell us how that came about? And also, is Blair as sexy off-screen as he is on? (Hey, our readers need to know this sort of thing.)

Long ago, when I first published MY SOUL TO KEEP, I sent a copy to Blair Underwood because I had imagined his face as the immortal character Dawit's. I have been a very big fan for years. I never expected anything to come of it, to be honest, but Blair read the book and loved it. He's been trying to launch the film version ever since. It's currently in development at Fox Searchlight...and now that the writer's strike is over, maybe there will be some progress.
But it takes years to get a movie made. In the mean time, Blair suggested a collaboration, and we all came up with the idea for a mystery series with erotic overtones. It has been great fun to write!
Is Blair as sexy in person? What do you think?

Your African Immortals series blends African folklore and history into modern African American society, and you were a Rotary Foundation Scholar in the field of Nigerian Literature at the University of Leeds in England. Has African folklore always been a subject you studied? Do you have a favourite legend or story you could tell us?

When I went to the University of Leeds, I had my very first exposure to Nigerian literature. Rather than looking at if from a folkloric point of view, I chose to write my thesis on the role of authors in conveying the pain and national trauma of the Nigerian civil war. I suppose that was of interest to me because I was about to undertake a career as a journalist. I read Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka and Ben Okri, as well as Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, and I was left with a very strong imprint that a writer can have a relevant voice in cultural dialogue. So my use of black history in my novels is a way of conveying to all readers that while the past is behind us, it isn't quite gone. That past doesn't always have to be a source of pain or shame--it can also serve as a source of strength and resolve to do better.

What do you think is the most common misconception about books written by African American authors? And what would you say to people who believe it?

It's interesting: Years ago, before Terry McMillan, most black readers in search of commercial fiction almost exclusively read mainstream authors like Stephen King, etc., just like anyone else. Likewise, black moviegoers have often had to watch movies where their primary identification was with the white characters--and we all have the capability of empathy. For some of us, though, that capacity for empathy has rarely been tested. Nowadays, when Will Smith can make hundreds of millions of dollars in a movie like I AM LEGEND, it's clear that many other moviegoers are also able to empathize with a character who doesn't look like them. But that has been a struggle for artists of color.
So if there's a single stereotype about books by black authors, I guess it would be that somehow those books aren't universal. True, there's a growing segment of black fiction skewed toward a certain kind of inner-city experience that reflects the experiences of the readers, like Italian ganster fiction---but there are also black romances, black suspense, black mysteries, black horror, you-name-it. And if relative populations were reversed, far more white readers would be turning to black authors to find expressions of their universal humanity, just as black readers have. Trust me, if most people of any ethnicity were trapped on a desert island with nothing but boxes of books by black authors, especialy if the genres were diverse enough, their understanding of our commonalities would be deeply enhanced.

What made you leave Miami? And do you think perhaps the Dolphins are doing poorly because you left? Maybe if you move back we'll start winning again. I'm just sayin'.

I actually left Miami because I married novelist Steven Barnes, and he and his ex-wife lived in a small town in the Pacific Northwest while they co-raised my stepdaughter. I live in Southern California now, which is a vast improvement for a Miami girl like me, but I don't think I could live in Miami again---I'm too spooked by hurricanes.
And it's true: The Dolphins began their descent at about the same time I left. If there's any connection, I owe Dolfans a huge apology. But until there's an end to hurricane season, I won't be back---so instead of relying on me, I guess the Dolphins will finally have to find a reliable quarterback to carry on Dan Marino's legacy.
Don't get me started. But I never miss a game on TV.

Your books run the gamut from historical fiction (THE BLACK ROSE, an NAACP Image Award nominee) to non-fiction (FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY, a civil rights memoir you co-authored with your mother Patricia Stephens Due) to supernatural thrillers (The AFRICAN IMMORTALS series, THE GOOD HOUSE), and now to mystery with CASANEGRA. You also contributed to NAKED CAME THE MANATEE, a hysterically funny mystery/thriller parody. Is there a particular genre you don't think you would ever attempt, and do you have a favorite genre?

Supernatural suspense and dark fantasy are still my favorite genres, I think, because I am so fascinated by mortality. But I have really enjoyed my entree into mystery writing, so don't be surprised if I turn up in future mysteries. In terms of other genres...hmmmm. I have a pretty good sense of humor. I did stand-up during an open mike night at a comedy club in Miami once, and I have always wanted to try my hand at humor. That's the one nut I haven't cracked yet.

You teach creative writing in the MFA program at Antioch University in Los Angeles. What do you think is the most important thing you tell your students?

I try to convey to my students the lesson I learned after workshop classes with very talented students at Northwestern University in the 1980s: Talent isn't enough. Even hard work isn't enough. I believe the biggest pitfall writers face is the aversion to rejection---and rejection is to publication what a stove is to cooking. You don't get one without the other. A high school English teacher once told me that in order to be a writer, you have to wallpaper your wall with rejection slips. That's the single best piece of writing advice I ever got. It's "easy" to learn craft: practice, practice, practice.
But how do you learn to withstand pain? That's the key to writing success as much as it's the key to life.

What is your method of writing, if you have a method? Do you outline? Do you listen to music while you work? Does the room need to be tidy before you start?

TIDY? Excuse me, I nearly fell out of my tattered chair from laughing so hard.
Thank goodness "tidy" has never been a prerequisite. I'm working on it, but I'm still a slob.
From the beginning, though, I've needed a room with a door that closes. That's important to me. Yes, music is often important too---music helps me get into flow state.
And while I'm not a fan of outlines, I have learned that they are a necessary evil in the professional writer's life. Not only can an outline and three chapters be the basis for selling a project (and, thus, the highly-coveted "check" that comes in the mail once in a while), but they're pretty essential to make sure you actually know where your story is going. I once wrote a hundred pages of a novel that never went anywhere, and I simply can't afford that kind of luxury anymore.

"Tananarive" is such a beautiful and unusual name. Can you tell us if it's a family name, or if there is a specific meaning to it?

Tananarive was the capital city of Madagascar, now called Antananarivo. My mother first heard that name while she was taking a course at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and the only other Tananarive I've met lives in Tallahassee and had a parent who attended the same school. So I'm thinking it's not a coincidence.


I found JOPLIN'S GHOST fascinating, especially as a former St. Louisan. Do you feel some of the same pressures Scott Joplin did, with regards to writing what your heart tells you to write vs. writing what will sell? Do you think that may be one reason why your writing covers such a broad spectrum of genres?

Yes, absolutely, JOPLIN'S GHOST was my meditation on the pressures of the marketplace on an artist. I make no secret of the fact that CASANEGRA was very much a commercially-oriented project, but at the same time we want good reviews and a lasting legacy. I don't think commercial writing and "literary" writing are mutually exclusive---especially if the definition of "literary" encompasses the notion of work rooted in ideas and not just plot---but it is definitely a struggle I face every day.


Of all your books, which one do you personally feel is the best introduction to you for a reader unfamiliar with your work?

I often suggest MY SOUL TO KEEP, since that has been a reader favorite and has spawned two sequels. I think I hit something pure in that novel.


Can you tell us what your next project is, and perhaps something more about the films in development as well?

My next novel, entitled BLOOD COLONY, happens to be the second sequel to MY SOUL TO KEEP. (There's a middle book, entitled THE LIVING BLOOD, which won an American Book Award.) I have a sample chapter posted on my blog! We're also racing to finish our second Tennyson Hardwick novel in the CASANEGRA series with Blair, which will be entitled IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT.
In terms of the film front, Steve and I were very excited to sell our screenplay adaptation of my haunted house novel THE GOOD HOUSE to Fox Searchlight, and we can't wait to get the studio notes and start rewriting it now that the writers' strike is over. And, of course, all three of us are very eager to find a film home for CASANEGRA. Wish us luck!

Next time Blair Underwood calls, would you give him my number?

Sorry, Steve and I are keeping Blair all to ourselves. Can you blame me?


You can learn more about Tananarive and her amazing body of work at her website, and read her updates, news, and thought-provoking posts over at her blog.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Ms. Due!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Guest Blogger: John Levitt, Author of Dog Days


Today we have a special guest blogger! John Levitt, author of Dog Days, (currently number NINE on the Locus Magazine Bestseller List), guitar player extraordinaire (you can check out his band here, and great guy.

Thanks first to everyone here at the League for inviting me to guest blog. My urban fantasy, Dog Days, is currently out from Ace and the next in the series will be out this fall.

When I wrote Dog Days, I made my main character a musician. (Well, actually I think the main character is really Lou, the "dog", but that's another story.) And by an incredible coincidence, I too am a musician, as well as a writer. This has definite advantages, the main one being the opportunity to avoid responsibility for the quality my playing. If someone thinks my band sucks, I have an easy out-- "Hey, I'm really a writer. Music is just a sideline."

This gives you an automatic pass. If you're halfway decent as a musician you can play an acceptable solo, although people may simply shrug. But if you are a published writer, you go up a notch. People are suddenly amazed and gratified that you can play anything at all. It's like the dog who plays checkers-- the skill level isn't the issue; it's astounding the dog can play at all.

But the great thing is that it works both ways. If someone doesn't care for my writing, poof--magically I'm a musician who just happens to write books on the side. Again, it gives you a pass. Very few people have both read my books and seen me play, and they're easy enough to avoid.

I used to play jazz, and still do the occasional wedding casual, but these days I mostly play with my pop/rock band, The Procrastinistas. I often write about the similarities I find between music and writing, but that's mostly about the commonality of such things as rhythm and melody, genre vs. classical, etc.

But there are other similarities.

Making a living is the main one. Sure, a writer can make a billion dollars. Just look at J.K. Rowling. Or even Stephen King with his paltry hundreds of millions. But most of us have set a more reasonable goal: making enough to be a full time writer without needing a day job. Still a very difficult proposition, but not impossible.

But you think it's hard to make it as a writer? Try being a musician. Paul McCartney, like JK, is a billionaire, but the dream of making a living as a full time musician is closer to impossible than it is for a writer. I do know a few full time musicians. But it takes talent, luck, and full time hustling. (Or as writers call it, relentless self-promotion.)

But you can't simply kick back and take the gigs that drop in your lap, any more than a writer can quietly churn out manuscripts and ignore all the rest of the business. Blogging, calling bookstores to set up a tour, cons, promotion and marketing--sound familiar? That's not writing, but without it you may not be able to continue writing. And likewise, if all you want to do as a musician is to play music, and screw all the rest of that stuff, eventually you'll find yourself alone in your basement.

But what if you're an aspiring writer, hoping to hook up with an agent or editor? We all know the drill--polish your query, send off partials, pitch at writers' conferences, and get used to dismissal and rejection. But it's no better for a musician; in fact, in many ways it's worse.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I left my musical community behind. How then do you find a gig or a band? If you are of such astounding talent that people's jaws drop (in a good way) when you start to play, that's not a problem. But again, most of us aren't the musical equivalent of Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, and there are a lot of good musicians out there, just as there are a lot of good writers.

The answer to getting gigs is networking. But that's difficult if you don't know anyone. If another musician is looking for a guitarist to sub in, they have quite a few options. They know a lot of talented guitar players. Some of them are friends. Why bother to give you an audition when they have perfectly good player available that they already know? It's kind of like an editor looking for a story to fill an anthology. She knows many fine writers who can fill the bill, again, some of whom are personal friends. What possible reason would there be to invite an unknown stranger to submit a story?

So the other option is to audition for a band who is just starting up or is looking to replace a member on a permanent basis. Kind of like a pitch session. Except, you're not presenting your polished work. You're asked to learn a song on the spot and do what you can with it. It's like a first draft, but that's the only chance you get. It's tough. Would you care to submit a first draft of a story to an editor, written on the spot, as an example of your work?

And rejection? I've been rejected by bands that I didn't even want to play with, because they weren't up to my standards. Talk about humiliation. Like having a story turned down by someone with a Xerox copier and a mailing list.

Of course, all my examples involve music as a collaborative effort, which is very different than the solitary process of a writer. A better example would be to compare writing to being a solo performer, like a singer/songwriter. But then none of my analogies would work as well, so I didn't. Besides, I'm allowed to make things up. I'm a fiction writer. When I'm not a musician.


Be sure to visit John's website for all the latest news and reviews, and look for his next book in the fall!

Thanks so much for visting, John!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Fish Day!


On Valentine's Day, we eat fish. Don't ask me why. I don't have all the answers. We just do. Maybe it's because I don't cook fish at home, so fish becomes the only food that's special. And let's face it, devoting one day a year to doing something special with your wife/husband/lover/mistress isn't too much to ask. Even if it's just fish.

So tomorrow we'll head up to Seattle, roam the drizzly streets, browse, shop and have a late supper at McCormick's. Tres Romantical, eh?

No?

Well it doesn't take a lot to make us happy. I tried to remember a horrible Valentines Day but I just don't have one.

What I have is a story.

Caroline and I have known each other for 24 years, we've been married for eleven. Now, I'm only 39, so that tells you something. There were thirteen years of something else.

We started out as friends and joked that we'd end up together because no one else would be able to put up with our humor. Relationships came and went, I moved to Alabama, but eventually returned. When I did it was like I'd never left. The laughter was just where I left it. We moved in together before we'd even voiced that we were embarking on an actual commitment, before we'd even kissed. But it wasn't long before things changed. She knew before I did, of course--women have a vision for these things. It didn't have to change much, there was always love and emotional intimacy, we just added the physical part, which is the easiest bit.

Then we got married, and I'll agree with all the brides out there: it was a special day.

But is Valentine's Day "Special" to me? No. I don't think it's special to Caroline. It's the relationship I cherish and the woman. I do that every day.

But the fish is good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day Hates Me

And I believe it always will.

I cannot think of a good V-Day I've had, ever. Well, in sixth grade my "boyfriend" gave me a box of chocolates. He snuck them into my desk and then whispered in the lunch line that I should look in there after recess. Then he took off, fast, after school before I could thank him. I suspect this had something to do with him turning out to be gay as an adult (I think, anyway. I have no proof of this. It just makes me feel better to think it after our acrimonious break-up, which invlved the passing of lots of angry notes during math.)

I have to give him credit, though, despite the fact that I think his Mom probably made him give me the candy. At least he got me something good. This has not been a theme with most of the men in my life.

Maybe that's not really fair. I know, for example, that over the years I've been gifted with a stunning assortment of perfumes I don't like and itchy lingerie. It's just that they've all run together, leaving me with a vague impression of Giorgio's Wings (which smelled on me like I'd doused myself in baby powder and rolled around on an old woman for an hour or so) and cheap red lace.

I spent my entire high school career sick with bronchitis every Valentine's Day. I think it was my body's way of rebelling.

For a few years in my early twenties we had the Punk Prom on Valentine's Day, which was always fun. Very few activities beat getting dressed up in a thrift-store 50's prom dress and drinking beer in a warehouse parking lot. (What? I'm serious.)I always had a boyfriend, of course, and when I didn't...well, let's just say I was never lonely.

And then I met my darling husband, and everything changed. Most things for the good. Valentine's Day? Not so much. The hubs and I have been a couple for eleven years now (or rather, it will be eleven years in April). That's eleven years of miserable Valentine's Day fights, usually over things completely unrelated to Valentine's Day. Last year we somehow managed to fight over the fact that he hadn't ignored Valentine's Day as I'd requested in order to avoid fighting. That was special.

We managed a couple of good ones. One year I made spaghetti and meatballs and we watched The Godfather (I highly recommend this combination, but then, The Godfather makes everything better. It's like movie MSG.) I don't think we fought, but I do know he fell asleep on the couch by about ten thirty, so maybe that's why. I seem to recall going out to a movie one year and that was good too.

But in general, I hate Valentine's Day. So cheesy. So much pressure. So much pink.

This year the only thing I've asked for is to not have to cook. Anybody care to place bets on how the day goes?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Valen Times!

Happy Monday, y'all! This week we're taking on our most tragic or humorous Valentine's tales... why? Because we like the sweet delicious sting of our own personal whips beating us, I guess.

Thing is, most of mine have been good... when I've been single during it, I was never one of those grousers who were "THEY JUST INVENTED SOMETHING TO TEAR THE MONEY OUT OF YOUR POCKETS BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND EASTER, MAN!!!". At the risk of exposing my soft underbelly here, I like celebrating it, I'm attentive all the year round but I'll play ball with this fabrication, and hey, I'm all for celebrating a little more focus on love, ya know? So I don't have any woe to share..

BUT!

I will share my most misguided and illfated date ever.

T'was December of 1987 and a young Anthony Matthew Strout was an actor back then, with a huge crush on his dance partner during the Fezziwig scene of Christmas Carol. She had short dark hair, a dancer's body and more importantly, she was smart and funny. I however was a bit chunky, sported the requisite 80s mullet, and well, I looked like me. Despite all this, we would talk on the phone for hours and eventually I decide to invite her over for a nice romantic dinner.
I'm 17 and in a fit of generosity my parents get the hell out of town, and I attempt a gourmet dinner, which goes over fairly well, the evening lit by candlelight. We then settle in to watch Casablanca cuz there's nothing sexier than Nazis and a toupee wearing hairlip, right? Then at her request she wants a full body massage... and I think you know what that means in terms of teen lingo... clearly its the overture to some kind of "bow chika wow wowww", yes?

Things progress, but when I go to actually move in for a kiss, things get weird. She freaks out like it was coming out of nowhere, and I take her home immediately in what has to be the most uncomfortable forty minutes of my life back then... Just silence.

We never really talked during the rest of the show, except for that fake talk you do in fake party scenes, but even that was awkward and uncomfortable.

Looking back, I have to laugh. In many ways, I was out of my league for who I was back then. Had the timing been a year different, the whole thing would have actually worked out due to who I had become by then, but alas.. twas not meant to be. It's fun to look back on yourself and be amused by who you were... a lot of people block that out, but I like to learn from it and if you can't see the humor in yourself, well, you're just no fun.

And yes, I know what you are wondering... yes, I occasionally run out into the wilderness naked, shake my fists at the heavens, screaming "Who's laughing now, dancer girl, who's laughing nowwww?"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Guest Blogger: Carole McDonnell, author of Wind Follower

Having my Cake and Eating It Too


Now that my novel Wind Follower is published and I've created a Native-Americanish Asianish hero to fall in love with my dark-skinned character, I'm working on my new WIP, presently called Inheritance where another new guy falls in love with yet another dark-skinned character. Yeah, I've got issues.

Truth to tell: I've got this hankering for flesh. White flesh. It's kind of vampiric, I know. It shows up in my love for a good -- I repeat "good" -- cowboy flick. If the main character isn't a cowboy, then it's got to be some homespun cornfed type. For my own sanity and self-respect, I'd like to think that this particular issue isn't peculiar to me. I suspect that black girls, Asian girls, Native American girls all have this love for cowboys, the mythic great American ideal. After all, they hook into our testosterone. They ride a horse well. (uh...really well.) And although we've all been subjected to all those old movies where the blonde squinty-eyed Stenson-hatted guy always chose the blonde haired preacher's daughter over the raven-haired but fallen saloon gal...we pretty well knew that we weren't in his rodeo, his range, or mountain...brokeback or otherwise. It's kinda like what Cher (of Sonny and Cher fame) once said in an interview...how she liked Snow White because Snow White was the only black-haired Disney animated character. So yeah, there probably are all these dark-haired women wanting the cowboy to pick the dark-haired girl.

Well, It's a rejection issue. A societal rejection issue. Not that we always wanted the guy, but as minority gals we were more than aware that the homespun guy in all those American flicks just didn't want us. Heck, he wouldn't see any beauty in us. And if he did, he certainly wouldn't marry any of us. It's a rejection issue that any ethnic woman writer has to adapt to. And I mean "adaptation" literally.

My movie life has been spent saying two things.

The first: "Sure the main character's cute but, he'd be prejudiced in real life."

The second: "Okay, that was a nice movie...but what if the main character was black?" Yes, let me see... What would the film "Single White Female" be like with emphasis on the "white"? I could go on. But you get the picture.

So, there I was working on my new novel when who should present himself? A homespun type. A guy named Danny who is neither slender nor stocky but with a body --well you know-- made for sin. Could I do it? Could I create the love story that would challenge all those Janet Oke Lifetime movie love stories I'd fed on?

Nah. Within three months of thinking about this character, he had turned ethnic on me. Part Chinese and part Native American. But he was still homespun. From an upstate New York farm community no less. He was also politically incorrect. Very. Almost...well, almost...racist.

Of course I wasn't really surprised at this. I'm always trying to create an all-American cowboy and no matter what the Black Gang -- as Bujold calls the muse-- rears its serious little head and twist things about. Lord knows why. Maybe I still don't think a cowboy would want me...uh, my character? Maybe I've outgrown that part of me that wanted them...the way they were. Either way, the Black Gang is reluctant to do it. Again, I feel the need to sound saner that I probably am so I'll just restate that I've noticed this kind of thing in stories by other women writers of color. The girl is mother of the woman, as they say. And adaptation seems to be the best choice for a reluctant adult woman writer who used to daydream about cowboys who would have nothing to do with her. Making the guy ethnic, I can have my beefcake and eat it too.


Engrossing, perceptive, earthy, and provocative, Carole McDonnell's debut novel, Wind Follower is a soulful, mythic epic of race, class, and cultural divisions that speaks volumes to the important questions of our day. Her lead characters, Satha and Loic, are vividly depicted, fully realized in this magical world. She can write scenes that plug completely into all of the key emotions of the reader, alternately spellbinding and disturbingly masterful.
Robert Fleming, author of Havoc After Dark and Fever In The Blood


Buy Wind Follower on Amazon

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Blog Therefore YOU Are...*

Or alternately, if a blogger falls in the woods and no one's there to read about it, did it really happen, at all? Or even more alternately, if I blog and you comment are you anything more than part of my blog.

Am I absorbing you? Are you feeling less you and more me?

Thoughtful questions?

Should you even answer that? Was it a ploy? A trap? Did you see how I just threw it in there flippantly like it didn't matter? Maybe that was to coax just a few words from the tips of your fingers. A "whoot" or a casual "lol".

But then I'll have you. You're mine.

Or even more alternately, still. What if you only exist as an extension of this blog? If you were to stop coming, maybe you'd simply start to fade away.

Disappear.

I'm not saying that would happen. I don't make casual threats. I'm not even making sense.

Or am I?

Sometimes when I'm sitting here in this room I wonder if the internet is even on, or if I'm imagining the comments. If I'm creating personalities for your screen names. If I'm making up your screen names.

Am I?


*This post brought to you by lack of sleep.**
**Or am I making that up, too?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Celebrating Black History Month

The Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing representation of people of color in the speculative genres. We've polled our members and come up with a recommended reading list of speculative fiction books by black authors for Black History Month.

The idea is for you to read these books this month, forward this list around to your friends, take this list into your local bookstores and ask them to display these books this month, post the list on your blogs and websites, etc. I hope you'll all strongly consider at least picking up one of these books and falling into it. It's a wonderful list, and your February will be improved!

So, without further ado:

THE CARL BRANDON SOCIETY
recommends the following books for BLACK HISTORY MONTH:
So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust
Mindscape by Andrea Hairston
Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell
Futureland by Walter Mosley
The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu


And the 2005 CARL BRANDON SOCIETY AWARD Winners:
**PARALLAX AWARD given to works of speculative fiction created by a person of color:
47 by Walter Mosley

**KINDRED AWARD given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group:
Stormwitch by Susan Vaught


The League is pleased to announce:

Carole McDonnell, author of Wind Follower, will be blogging here with us on Thursday;

Also, Tananarive Due, multi-published author, two-time Bram Stoker nominee, NAACP Image Award nominee, American Book Award winner, and--most importantly--fellow Dolphins fan, will be stopping by later in the month;

And Seressia Glass, multi-published author of paranormal romances, will be blogging with us next week!

Please help us make these amazingly talented ladies welcome!

(Note: Be sure to check back later today for Mark's weekly post!)

I blog, therefore I am

(See what I did there? Twisting Anton's title from yesterday? Isn't that clever of me?)

I blog...well, I blog in large part because it's easier than standing around outside with a copy of my book, jumping up and down and waving it in the air while shouting, "Look at MEEEE! Look at MEEEEEE!"

But I also blog because it's fun. I like blogging. It's my own little platform for my own little opinions. It's a way to connect with other people, too, which is certainly valuable these days. Not just for promo, but for companionship. I love my blog friends. I love the people who read my blog. I notice when they stop popping in to comment. I cheer when good things happen to them and feel awful when bad things happen to them. It's nice. It makes me feel like I'm part of something.

I've been blogging for years, since...late 2003, in fact. I started with a livejournal, a personal one. Then when I sold my first December Quinn stories I started a new one. Then I found Miss Snark, and along with her a whole community of writers I liked. People whose words and thoughts I enjoyed. And I actually got to become part of that. People actually link to me. They read my thoughts. They say nice things about my work--and I don't even pay them, can you believe it? Writing my blog and reading others has made me feel like there is always someone out there to talk to.

And I love reading author blogs. To me a website isn't nearly as important as a blog. It's on a blog that I get a sense of an author's voice and personality. Do they have the same sort of sense of humor as me? Do they like the same movies? Because if they do, I'll probably like them and their books. And if I already like their books, it's a way for me to keep up to date, to find out what's happening in their head as they write the next book, or when that book will come out, or what new stuff they're working on.

See, we get entertainment news in other industries. We can go on IMDB (ahh...IMDB...) and see what movies are in production, and who's in them. We can read music magazines to see who's working on a new album. But there's no way to tell, before a book appears on Amazon for pre-order, what an author is working on unless you visit their site or blog. There's no big clearing-house website that tells you what everyone is up to. In a way maybe that's good. But I like to know. I like to anticipate. I like to get the occasional sneak peek.

Yes, my blog is promo, and as we march ever closer to the Personal Demons release I'll be doing more of it--more excerpts, more contests, more discussion of the book itself. But honestly, I always feel kind of bad doing too many promo posts, because I owe my blog friends some real interaction. Maybe that will change when the book comes out, or the subsequent books (got word today that the Personal Demons sequel, The Demon Inside, is tentatively scheduled for a January '09 release!) Maybe my blog readership will expand or change and will be more interested in that sort of thing as opposed to what it is now, where I rant about stuff. (I already notice a distinct difference in tastes between my Blogger readers and my Livejournal readers.)

But for the past few years, and for now, I blog because I like to. I blog because it makes me feel like I'm contributing something, like I'm getting my name out there, and like I'm not alone in this big crazy world. And that's one of the best feelings there is.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I think, therefore I blog

Welcome to Monday, folks! Grab some coffee, time to wake up!

So this week we're delving into why authors blog... where I'll address why I do since I'm apparently an author...go figure!

I'm gonna go with two great reasons here: writerly support and publicity.

First, support. Technology has give us many a fine thing. When I started really writing, it was on an old Selectric typewriter in the mid-80s. It was the pinnacle of technology... I could backspace a WHOLE LINE back, erasing it... and that was about it. Think of how easy we have it now when we can cut, paste and move whole selections to anywhere in a story with a few simple keystrokes. How did writers ever edit before computers, right? Then when Nobel Prize winner Al Gore invented the Internetz for us, I wonder if he knew the great neuroses calming tool he gave the common writer?

Think of all the support we can get from going online. We can bitch to our fellow writers about problems we are having with our work.. we can even get solutions to them! We can vent our frustrations without having to take the life of a nearby loved one. We can calm our nerves by hearing similar tales of woe from our fellow writers. Before we could blog, writing must have been a much lonelier business than it already it is. The support from blogging is manyfold and the amount of jailtime I haven't served for Hulking out in frustration over writing issues on those around me is simple proof of the benefits.

My second reason for blogging is because I'm an attention whore or to put it politely, it's one of the best ways I can think of to get publicity without spending scads of my own personal cash.
As the new kid on the block of urban fantasy, there's only so many dollars my publisher can put at risk on me so it's up to me to do as much as I can to help myself. So I spend as much time as I can making friends, joining the right communities, finding out where I should be going... all of it thanks to my blogging. For me, blogging about the upcoming release of Dead To Me is like that Pantene commercial... and he told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on...

Of course it's ironic that with twenty odd days left til I go on sales that I've regressed to using blogging as a support system for the wait keeeeling me... but that's a post for another day...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nalini Singh Rocks My Underpants


If you're not familiar with the name Nalini Singh, you have either been under a rock for the past few years...or perhaps you've never read paranormal romance? If not, then you are missing out on some of the most awesomely in-depth world-building to hit the paranormal world today. Combine this with smokin' hot sexiness and you've got a book that I cannot put down. I was stuck in an airport when I read the first two Nalini books, and after my plane landed, I promptly drove to the bookstore to get her third one. Delicious!

So when Nalini's new book hit the shelves, I asked her if she'd like to stop by the League and tell us a bit more about her world.

For those that are new to your books, can you give us a quick description of them?

The Psy/Changeling series is set in the not too distant future in an alternate Earth. This Earth is populated by three races - humans, changelings (shapeshifters), and Psy.

The Psy have amazing psychic abilities, from telepathy to telekinesis and beyond. But those gifts come with a price - they have the highest rate of murder and insanity of all three races. As a result, they decide to embrace Silence, a protocol that eliminates emotion from their lives. As the first book opens, Silence has been in force for over a hundred years and the Psy are the coldest people on the planet.

The first book pits Lucas, the alpha of the DarkRiver leopard pack, against Sascha, a cardinal Psy whose conditioning is starting to break down. But the instant any other Psy realizes she's beginning to feel, she'll be "rehabilitated" - her mind wiped, her personality destroyed. Throw in a serial killer, a power-hungry Psy Council, an angry leopard pack, and you have the beginning of the series.

(Jill's note: Slave to Sensation is awesome. You should all buy it.)

What's the latest book about?

Mine to Possess, is the first one in which a human plays a major role. Talin McKade is the human - she knew Clay Bennett, one of the DarkRiver sentinels (the alpha's most trusted men and women, the protectors of the pack), as a child, before a terrible event tore them apart. Now, she's back to ask for Clay's help. The kids she looks after on the streets are disappearing and he's the only one who might be dangerous enough to help her. Clay, meanwhile, is seriously pissed at Tally. And I mean *seriously*.

This book is very, very emotional, and I was in tears in parts of it. I hope it makes you cry, too, Jill *g* I really want everyone to fall in love with these two complex characters who have one heck of a past.

(Jill's note: I will probably blubber like a baby, indeed. I am emo like that.)

The Psy-Changeling world is extremely different from most paranormal romance out there, setting-wise. How did you come up with the setting?

I began with Lucas and Sascha. They were so vivid in my head. And the setting was just there. I'd played with some of the concepts before, but it wasn't quite right. But that day, when I sat down to write up a few notes about these two characters, it was as if everything coalesced. Enough simmering, the story was ready to blast off.

I wrote the first draft in three manic weeks around a full-time job. I also ate peanut-butter toast for most of that period. I don't recommend doing this, but boy was it fun!!

(Jill's note: Mmm. It's peanut-butter jelly time...)

What's been your biggest challenge as a writer so far?

I think different challenges appear at different stages of your career and at that time, it is the biggest. At least that's what I've found. Before I was published, I had to learn the very basics from how to submit, to how to format a page. Later, I had to learn to do revisions within a short timeframe. So it's all relative. These days, I'm in the single title pond, and I'm learning the ropes of sell-throughs, print runs, and bestseller lists among other things.


Man-titty - do you think it helps sell the books or not? ;)


Totally! Number one - the covers are nice to look at. And number 2, the male chest covers are synonymous with romance, so when you see that cover, you immediate know that it's probably a romance - it's appealing directly to the very readers who might enjoy the work.

(Jill's note: See? All you haterz, there is a reason for the copious man-titty!)

Do you have a favorite character that you've written? If so, which one?

I can't decide. I just can't. I love all of them for different reasons. I think as a writer, it can't be any other way - I have passion for each book I write, so how can I not love all of the characters?

(Jill's note: I'll pick for you. Vaughn from Visions of Heat is smokin' hot.)



What kind of underpants would Judd from CARESSED BY ICE wear? I always pictured him as kind of commando.

I think I'm disturbed by the fact that you've thought about that. You know what - I'm going to leave that up to you. If commando rocks your boat... *grin*

(Jill's Note: What? Nobody else wonders what kind of underpants characters wear? I know Stacia does!)

Is it weird being in New Zealand and your books are published here in the US? (er, are you published in NZ too? here's where I show my ignorance)

My major market is the US, but my books are available in NZ, too. It's not weird because I'm used to it. Sometimes I wish I could walk into a store and see a HUGE display of my books (total wish fulfillment), but otherwise, it's normal for me. Also, the Internet has really opened up things in terms of my ability to interact with readers.



What's next after MINE TO POSSESS?


I'm currently working on Angels' Blood, which is the first book in a series about a vampire hunter who tracks down rogue vampires for their masters...the angels. It's a very cool book. Look out for it in 2009.

And I've just turned in Hostage to Pleasure, the next book in the Psy/Changeling series. It's about Dorian, the sniper with surfer-blue eyes.

(Jill's Note: But do we get more Vaughn?)


Any particular influences or anything you want to squee over at the moment?

I'm really excited about MtP hitting the shelves. I'm like a kid with each new book :)

Thanks for the interview, Jill. You do realize that now I can't stop thinking about Judd and his you-know-what. Hmm, not a bad way to spend the time...

(Jill's Note: Well, I wasn't thinking about his you-know-what, but his underwear. But now that you mention it...)

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Thanks Nalini, for the fun interview. :) I am sooo looking forward to your new book!

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

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