Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?
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
Apparently, Mark and I aren't enough man for the insatiable appetites of our demonic vixens in the LRA, so at their salacious request, we began searching far and wide for a suitable candidate, or manidate if you will...
Neil Gaiman wouldn't return our calls. Robert Asprin, sadly, is dead. China Mieville sent us a cease and desist letter. So we kept on digging... digging, perhaps, past the bottom of the barrel.
It gives me some reluctance and zero joy to announce the newest member of the League, food pornographer and blood sucking enthusiast Mr. Jeremy Lewis. You may remember him from our interview a few weeks ago to help pimp his book Staked. Had we known it would turn into such a mess as this, I would have disbanded the League immediately. Yet apparently, we're stuck with him... for now. For those of you more generous in spirit that I, feel free to welcome him in your warmest League fashion (which for many of you is peeing on him, I know).
I don't pretend to read the type of vampiric tripe the likes of him are responsible for, and honestly he's only here to fill a quota so the LRA can continue to receive funding from the Anne Rice Foundation for Lesserer Fangbangers. Still, he has helped bring all our writing productivity to a halt with discussions of Jelly Babies, Spamcicles, battery-powered toys, machetes, and food porn... on second thought, I welcome him with open arms!
You should too. Show the man some love. You know the kind... the kind that's illegal to do across state lines. Please help us welcome Jeremy! Let the long and spanking paddled hazing begin! League minion,s attack!
(and a wee bit of thanks to Mark for all the trouble it is to add this new fellow to all our banners and pages here)
Actually, I'm feeling a wee bit panicky. This happens, sometimes, when I'm writing. There's various kinds of panic:
(A) The ZOMG THE DEADLINE APPROACHES panic, when I'm terrified that I'll never get the book written in time.
(B) The ZOMG THIS BOOK SUCKS panic, which I think is self-explanatory.
(C) The LET'S TURN JACKIE'S HAIR WHITE panic, which is a lovely dose of A and B, above.
Today's a C day.
So cheer me up, Avid Fans. Know any good jokes?
Enter Google and Youtube. Praise be to the Internets--a writer's best friend (and worst enemy, but that's a post for another day).
I was talking with a writer friend the other day and we both agreed we didn't know how we'd do our jobs without it. Whether it's looking up the exact location of a landmark to researching demonology to translating a spell into Sumerian, I could not write my books without easy access to Google. I'm not one of those writers who can insert a place holder when I don't know a detail. Until I find what I need, I'm stuck.
Now, imagine we suddenly had to go back to living without the internet. How would your life (and your writing, if that applies) be different?
In the Nocturne City series it's food--my heroine has a werewolf metabolism and she eats constantly. I've been able to invent a whole series of fictional restaurants and have her eat everything from burritos to gourmet sushi. It's great for world-building on a detail level and it's something fun that series readers can pick out.
In the Black London books, it's music. My hero is an ex-punk who still clings to the musical tastes of his youth, and so I got to dive into my MP3s and extract such gems as the Supersuckers and the Anti-Nowhere League so I could reference their songs in the text. More character-building here...you can tell a lot about someone by what kind of music they listen to.
What are some of your favorite Easter eggs in novels? What are some you put in your own writing?
So far, I haven't found a promotional method I didn't feel comfortable with. Until this past Sunday, that is.
A few months back, I got this really flattering request from a local Barnes and Noble to do an in-store signing appearance. Their sales of Happy Hour had been brisk and consistent and they were confident it would be an awesome opportunity. I didn't need to be talked into it, I would have come no matter what.
I figured, I'd go sit around chat with some folks sign a few books that the store could then sell. No big deal. When I got there though, there were 20 books sitting on the signing table, so I felt some pressure going in. Not to mention the fact that I was regaled with tales of a previous author sticking around and handselling his massive hardback western to tons of people. I was pretty sure this was a standard pep talk kind of thing. Like an urban legend.
Until I'd taken my seat and watched the customers as they marched in. Can I just say, NOT my demographic. They were primarily teenage girls buying their 10th copy of Twilight and middle aged men hunting for Car and Driver or the latest Baseball bio. Zombie bitches was not just a hard sell in this crowd it was an impossibility.
Second, I noticed that none of these people would give me even a blink of eye contact. I felt like a door to door salesman. Sad. The four people--count 'em: 4--that actually were interested enough in the cover to come over and chat, bought.
Four in nearly three hours.
I wondered if it was a timing issue. Is there a better time for buying urban fantasy with a potty-mouthed protagonist than right after church? When do you go to bookstores? I go on Friday nights sometimes.
Was it the weather? It was sunny. Do people buy cannibal comedy instead of attending picnics?
Was it me? I'd bathed an everything.
Whatever it was, the in-store was uncomfortable and kind of unproductive (though the staff was great and really receptive to the book--which one had read and another bought). I really prefer the "reading event" as a means to hawk my wares. I can reach into the aisles with a mic, but anchor me to a desk and I'm weak.
Or rather, about people who tout themselves as bestsellers.
I don't mean the NYT or USA Today bestsellers. That's a big deal, and frankly if I made one of those lists I'd probably redecorate my house with photocopies of it. I'd get a personalized plate for my car, I'd get t-shirts made, I'd get it tattooed on my ass. Well, okay, I wouldn't go that far, honestly. But you get what I mean. Those lists are a huge deal, in terms of money and prestige, and making one of them, even the extended lists, is something to be proud of.
But am I the only one who is immediately suspicious when I see someone of whom I've never heard refer to themselves as a "Best-selling author"? Or, even better, "Internationally best-selling author"? (oops, I actually typod that first one to say "Vest-selling author". Which puts a totally different spin on it, doesn't it?
Actually, I get a little twinge when I see "author" anyway. I don't know why. Maybe because it seems the siren call of the vanity press is "Be a published author"? And it seems like every vanity- or self-published writer I've ever met is very careful to describe themselves as such?
I say "writer". I like it better; it sounds like work. It makes me think of rolled-up sleeves and green eyeshades and empty bottles of bourbon. And while I prefer the bottles full, anything which involves bourbon is good for me.
Anyway. Here's the thing about 99% of best-seller lists out there: Nobody cares that you're on them.
I don't mean to downplay it as an achievement, honestly I don't. It is gratifying to be on a list. It's gratifying to be, as I was, the #1 Fantasy bestseller on Fictionwise for two weeks (see? Even I am not immune, although my tongue is firmly in my cheek, which looks kind of rude to be honest.) But the difference is, I don't think being #1 in Fantasy on Fictionwise means I have the right to change all my blog headers to "National Bestseller" or "Nationally Bestselling Author". I was pleased to see it, it was kind of neat, as Fictionwise moves a lot of ebooks. I blogged about it here because I needed a topic that day.
But I didn't think it meant anything, really. I didn't think, and don't think, that it gives me some kind of authority.
Don't get me wrong here. I'm for the lists; I think that little sense of achievement can be really nice on a tough day. I think it's great when bookstores track their bestsellers, I think it's great when publishers do, although EC doesn't and I actually like that too.
And sales are important, obviously. But I wonder--and this is the ultimate point of this post--if all the lists springing up everywhere, in every different permutation you can imagine, doesn't put undue pressure on writers, or encourage readers to buy things they ordinarily wouldn't? If Bestseller Madness isn't infecting us all to the point that we can't think straight anymore? If people don't build those lists up to the point that failing to make one leads us to think our careers are over before they begin? If there isn't some loss of perspective involved?
What about you? How much do those lists mean to you as a reader? If you're a writer, what are your thoughts on them?
Email me: jayewells(at)gmail(dot)com to collect the awesomeness.
I am proud to tell you that books three and four in my Simon Canderous series have been sold to my current publisher, Ace Books! I'm thrilled to continue on with my darling publishers, where I have the cutest editor in the biz.
What does this mean for you, the consumer?
Dead To Me- On Sale now
Deader Still- March 2009
Book 3 of series- March 2010 (most likely)
Book 4 of series- March 2011 (most likely)
In the interim, there will be a few short stories coming out to tide you over, most of them set in the Simon Canderous universe, including The Fourteenth Virtue in DAW'S The Dimension Next Door out on July 1st. More news on the others as their dates approach...
Also, just a reminder to all our wicked minded and creative readers about the DEAD TO ME photo contest I'm running over at www.antonstrout.com
You've got to be in it to win it, so head on over, check it out, and get creative. You have until July 18th!
From Jackie's blog:
Sorry, I've been a bad blogger. I've been writing. But I haven't been too busy to watch this fabulous video that my crit partner, the phenomenal Heather Brewer, sent me. It's made by her son, Jacob. It's brilliant.
I have to admit a bit of bias here because Jonathan is my agent. In addition to being a fantastic agent with deadly laywer-fu skills, he also approachable and funny. Help us give him a hearty League welcome, will ya?
Hi, Jonathan! Welcome.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself and your agency.
I am a licensed attorney and president of Lyons Literary LLC. I represent a select list of writers in various genres, including narrative non-fiction, history, food writing, biographies, women's issues, pop culture, sports, true crime, mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction, near future science fiction, and contemporary fantasy (of course). Agency clients include finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and PEN/Hemingway Award, nominees and winners of the Beard Foundation Award and Coretta Scott King Award, winner of the PWA Shamus Award and CWA Ellis Peters Award, and more.
On a more personal note, I grew up in the mighty state of Texas, just like Jaye. I've been gone long enough to lose my accent, but I've retained my passion for Mexican food and the San Antonio Spurs. And I'm suspicious of frozen vegetables and people who don't read.
Is it possible to get good Mexican food in New York?
I've been searching for ten years, and the only places I've found that are any good are expensive. What I would do for a Taco Cabana!
You've said on your blog that you're actively looking for urban fantasy. What are you looking for specifically and who are your favorite UF authors?
Secret history stuff is always fun, and I think there could be more done with human protagonists struggling in a world that has become dominated by magic. But I'm really looking for any type of contemporary or near future fantasy (which includes urban fantasy). My only requirements are that it's original, well-written and set on this planet, though I'm fine with things leaking over from alternate worlds into ours and vice versa.
As for my favorite UF authors, I'm a Jim Butcher fanatic, but I also really enjoy reading Ilona Andrews, Patty Briggs, Kim Harrison, and Jaye Wells, of course.
Now, we hear a lot of scuttlebutt around the internet that vampires are passe. Are you finding this to be the case?
Not at all. I know some agents and editors have said this, but I think what they really mean is that aspiring writers need to twist the myths an original and compelling way. After all, readers certainly aren't sick of vampires--Mario Acevedo, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Patty Briggs, Jim Butcher, Karen Chance, Laura Anne Gilman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Tanya Huff, Kat Richardson, and Jeri Smith-Ready are just a few of the many successful authors with vampires in their stories.
There also seems to be some confusion about the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance out there. What's your opinion?
I think that if the plot centers around a romance and the relationship between the protagonist and his/her love interest ends happily you're writing paranormal romance. If the plot centers around a mystery and the relationship between the protagonist and his/her love interest ends unhappily you're writing urban fantasy. Advances and sales are generally higher for the latter.
What are some of the pitfalls of writing urban fantasy that you're seeing in submissions recently? Characterization, world building, plotting, lack of originality, all of the above?
I've certainly seen problems in all of these areas, but one thing I've noticed recently is that some writers seem to focus so much on the world-building that they forget about all of the other elements that go into making a good urban fantasy, like a strong mystery.
Another problem I've seen recently in submissions are writers crossing over the line from creating an attractive bad-ass of a protagonist with a sarcastic wit and good fashion sense to creating an inaccessible and annoying lead character.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer who's struggling with rejection?
I wish I had some magical advice here, but sadly rejection seems to be a part of the process. I hope that aspiring writers can find some solace in the universality of it, and also find hope in the success stories they hear from authors. I know this sounds very Jiminy Cricket, but I truly believe that if you have the talent and you work hard enough that success will come your way, eventually.
And if push comes to shove, I suggest trying to remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."
Oooh, nice Big Trouble in Little China reference. You're a movie buff, right?
Huge. My first passion is books, but I love movies too. I'm not sure if Steve Martin's character in Grand Canyon was right when he said that all of life's riddles are answered in the movies, but I think a lot of them are.
So, we all hear about what to look for in an agent, but what do you look for in an author?
First and foremost, I look for professionalism. For me this means working hard and doing your best to meet deadlines. It means being open to revisions (though I'm not suggesting you have to make every change either your editor or agent suggests). And it means treating everyone from your editor's assistant to your readers with respect.
Is there anything other than writing a good book that an aspiring author can or should do to be ready for signing their first deal?
Sadly, there will always be things you can't control when it comes to the whole publishing process. Maybe you query an agent who just ate some bad sushi and who's taking it out on aspiring authors. Or maybe your editor gets fired and your book is orphaned. Or maybe some buyer in Des Moines is going through a rocky break-up and decides your protagonist reminds him too much of his ex and decides not to make an order.
So I think you just have to rock out on the things within your grasp. Research the industry and the publishing process thoroughly. Make sure you send your query in to the right agent and in the right way. Make sure there are no typos. Be polite but persistent with the people you interact with.
Now, enough of that businessy stuff. Rumor has it that you have a man-crush. Who is it and why?
I'll admit it--I love Nathan Fillion.
So yeah, he's Joss Whedon's muse, which is a pretty cool gig (most recently the two collaborated with Neil Patrick Harris in an internet musical called Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog). But he's also just an awesome actor. He can play scary baddies like Caleb in Buffy or grumpy heroes like Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly with equal aplomb (I'll still watch Serenity every time it's on TV). He made Slither bearable. Finally, he's a strong believer in the importance of reading, and helped found the nonprofit organization Kids Need to Read.
See? Yet another reason we work so well together: We have the same taste in men.
One last question. I think we'll all agree it's the most important one you'll answer this year: We all know your favorite client lives in Texas and writes urban fantasy. What makes her so great?
Besides having great taste in agents? Well, she's an absolutely awesome writer, but I think the one thing that stands out most in Jaye's writing is that she's wicked funny. She doesn't let her humor distract you from the journey, but she makes you laugh along the way.
And that, my friends, is why this man earns the big bucks.
Got a question for Mr. Lyons? Ask away in comments. As a bonus, I'll give one lucky commenter a copy of Weirdly Vol. 2: Eldritch, which releases on June 24 from Wild Child Publishing.
--Edited to fix weird symbols. Sorry bout that, folks.
"Momma, did you know dads always make more money than moms?"
I won't repeat the patient lecture he received, but suffice it to say that idea was nipped in the bud.
Then there was this: "What job will you do when you stop writing books?"
Huh? Why in the world would I stop writing books? I told him that if by chance I ever decided to stop writing books I'd probably go work for a magazine like I did before he was born. But it was more likely that I'd just write different kinds of books if I ever decided to stop writing about vampires and magic.
"I think you should go work at Blockbuster."
I explained that if I did that, I'd have to work for someone else. I couldn't hang out with him whenever I wanted. We wouldn't have as much time to play games together.
"I have an idea," he said. "Let's go to Blockbuster and rent Kung Fu Panda for my Wii!"
Yes, I was totally played by a kid who can't tie his own shoes.
An announcement and a reminder:
The winner of J.F. Lewis' Staked is DAELITH! Congrats! Email J.F. and he'll take care of you: j(at)authoratlarge(dot)com.
Also, don't forget my interview with Jonathan Lyons, agent and man of mystery, is tomorrow. Come by and make him feel welcome, will ya?
Why are some questions so prevalent in the writing community? Specifically, why is where do you get your ideas so popular?
I HATE this question. Hate it. When it comes up I want to scream STOP IT STOP IT STOP it and hold my hands over my ears and throw a fit. Because it's un-answerable, and as a borderline obsessive Type A personality I NEED to have all the answers. NEED, people. You're seriously messing with me by asking me this.
Ideas can come from anywhere. Literally anywhere. I've written books that started with ideas from:
-Bad TV shows
-Good TV shows
-The song "Voodoo Child" by Jimi Hendrix
So there's your answer. They come from eeeeeeeeeverywhere. [spooky hand movements.]
I'd much rather answer questions about how I write than why. (Because it's easier than getting a real job, FYI.) I'm happy to discuss my process with you at great length, the path that lead to a finished novel, writer's block, alcohol consumption, research or lack thereof, sex scenes, my childhood traumas or who will play Captain America in the new movie. Unlike Laurell K. Hamilton, you really can ask me anything and I will respond with good cheer, or alternately rude hand gestures and cursing. Because some people can be real idiots when they get up at author events.
Just not The Question. Please. I'm begging you.
(And the first smartass to comment "So...dur hurr...where do you get your ideas?" is getting thrown out of the clubhouse.)
This Saturday, agent Jonathan Lyons will be sitting in the League hot seat. He's going to discuss agenting, the uf market and maybe even reveal a personal secret or two. Be sure to stop by and comment because one lucky commenter will also receive a prize.
The big wiener of all the Dakota Cassidy shiz is...
The #75 commenter was nascarandbeans!
Email your addresses to - email@example.com and I'll hook you up.
Voyeuristic Eating -- the Vampire Way
Mark was kind enough to ask me to stop by and blog here in the hallowed halls of the League of Reluctant Adults. He even gave me free rein to talk about whatever I wanted. MWAHAHAHAHA! This is, of course, why I chose porn. Okay. Okay. I won't blog about porn. (Though I do keep meaning to blog about the peculiarities of food porn as practiced by the vampires in my book.)
You know, maybe I will blog about food porn.
Imagine never being able to eat food again. Worse yet, imagine seeing some wonderful dessert and never being able to taste it.
No more chocolate. No more strawberries. Not even a sip of rootbeer. And what about the stuff you had never tasted? What about daikon?
It looks like a big white radish, but it doesn't taste like one. Its taste is unique.
I'm not a small mammal, and I think it's clear to anyone who's met me that I enjoy food... Which may explain why I thought one of the most cruel drawbacks to being a vampire in my universe would be the complete inability to eat or drink anything other than blood. Now imagine that you became a vampire before your would-be favorite flavor of ice cream was ever invented... or in 1936, the year before Krispy Kreme donuts. The only way you'd have left to enjoy food -- both old favorites and intriguing new flavors -- would be vicariously. My vampires are obsessed with food, smelling it and voyeuristically watching others enjoying it, making their paramours and lackeys relish the tastes they no longer can and eat the foods they crave, forcing them to savor and describe culinary delights... and debacles.
Each vampire has his or her own particular favorite long lost dishes. For Eric, the male co-tagonist of Staked, it's pizza:
"I considered buying a pizza parlor once, but I decided I would go crazy from the smell. I love pizza. If I smell pizza, I have to stop and take a good whiff; I have to look at it, see what kind it is, and watch a lucky bastard take a few bites. Chicago pizza, Italian pizza, brick-oven pizza, anchovies, pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, peppers, kiwi, it doesn't matter to me, so long as it's pizza. I think I miss pizza more than I miss the sun."
Were I a vampire, I think I'd miss crab meat the most. In the back of my head, I always intended to include a vampire chocolatier, an immortal Willy Wonka of sorts, making chocolate confections as well as special new types of chocolate, then watching those that savor his confections with all of his or her supernaturally enhanced senses, questioning them endlessly to see if the effect was what he intended. Maybe in the next book.
So all that talk about food leaves me with a question: What would you miss the most? Would it be a single food? A specific meal? A wine? A dessert? What would it be?
And now for some awesomeness. Jeremy is giving away a signed copy of STAKED to one lucky commenter. I know? It's almost too much to take, right? We've been giving shit away here all week. And it seems we still are. So...answer the man's questions for Christ sake and consider yourself entered. We'll draw tomorrow some time.
Visit Jeremy at his blog and if you don't win make sure to pick up a copy of STAKED, wherever it is people buy books.
**Edited for weird symbols--Why can't you people email me when that shit happens? My OCD kicked in like a mother**
This morning I had to take the Faerie to the doctor's office. She's officially three and a half now (my baby's not a baby anymore!) and so needs her shots.
If there is anything in the world that feels worse than deliberately taking your precious baby to a place where you know they will cause her physical pain, I don't know what it is. Seriously. With both my girls I practically need to be sedated before taking them for their shots. I get all teary and guilty and watch them walk around, happily oblivious, like I'm about to sell them into slavery or something. They're so trusting, you see. They know Mommy would never, ever hurt them. Their Mommy would never hold them in an iron grip while a total stranger gives them a puncture wound, right?
So I, feeling awful, walk my adorable little darling to the doctor's office, trying not to cry while she smiles and says hello to people and tells me she's so happy to see the doctor, she loves the doctor. And then we sit in the waiting room and look at a magazine together and I keep kissing her sweet little head because I figure in ten minutes she's not going to want to let me touch her at all, after I've thrown her to the syringe-bearing wolves.
And we go in to the office, and the nurse shows me the huge array of little bottles (three and a half means like five vaccines at once) and my eyes sting. And we take my beloved child's cardigan off, and we expose her arm and I hold it in place, and she's looking at the posters on the opposite wall like the obedient angel she is (the nurse told her to look at the picture), and all I can see is the enormous needle which appears to have barbs at the end of it and is also laughing at me, and I brace myself for the sobs and that "Et tu, Mommy?" look that the Princess used to get (once she basically cussed out the nurse--her language skills weren't up to the job but the collection of syllables pouring from her little mouth made her feelings clear enough).
And the nurse sticks the needle in. And the Faerie sort of glances down, like something mildly interesting is happening, and looks back at the posters.
The same thing happens when we turn her in my lap so the nurse can stick the other arm with the remaining vaccines (Half in one needle, the other half in the other.)
Not a tear. Not a peep. Nothing.
That is how awesome my little Faerie is.
So go ahead. Brag about your kids. Or your pets. Or whatever. Let's hear it.
(Bonus points if you recognize the quote I used in the title.)
Anyhoo, on to contest time, or as I call it The Totally Not Pat Rothfuss' Photo Contest Contest!
A good idea is a good idea, even if it happens to be the idea of your sworn enemy.
While I would sooner walk down the other side of the street than share it he who shall remain nameless, I am so inclined to run a contest both similar in design and nonsense, all for the sole purpose of heightening worldwide awareness and adoration of Dead To Me. That, and I'm hoping the fan girls really get into it. There's nothing like elf ears on a spirited minx clutching my book to
get the feminists after me show some spirit!
Here's what you do:
- Display a copy of Dead To Me in whatever creative fashion you will. Props, people, what every your twisted mind can come up with. I'm looking for originality here.
- Snap a picture of it. Send as many entries as you like, but you know, not like a stalkery amount.
- Send them to me at anton dot strout @ gmail dot com. I'm gonna restrict this to the
U.S.and , not because of my general loathing of the rest of the world, but simply because mailing across the planet don't come cheap, folks! Canada
- Make sure to include how you want your name to be credited for them.
Pictures passing my rigorous screening process will be posted both in my Facebook photo group and at antonstrout.com, once I check them for signs of ribald content.
Here's what I will do:
I will sit upon my mighty throne of judgment and make with the judgin's. I'll say the cut off date is Friday, July 18th. Depending on what type of entries come in, I'll be assigning categories of winnage and if you've impressed me with your mad phat photography skills or made me laugh or what have you, you'll earn a prize of some sort. What those prizes are, who can say? I'm a packrat by nature and there's got to be some Anton Strout rarities around here that will someday fetch as high as eight bucks on e-Bay!
Now my greatest fear is no one will play along, so for the love of my fragile ego, spread the word! The more buzz and excitement we get going and the more fun we have, the better my prizes will be!
Remember, this is MY original contest idea, and not that of, say, other more bearded fantasy writers.
Now go forth and make with the snappy photographs! Details of the contest will be posted over at www.antonstrout.com as well should you need to reference them. And for those thinking to have The Name of the Wind standing with a sword over the bloody corpse of Dead To Me- I'm on to you!
Say it with me: HUZZAH!!!
Dakota: It's Cassidy, darling. Dakota Cassidy. I can totally understand the mixup, though. *Waves hand under nose in a dainty swirl* Maybe you should reconsider sober? Just to avoid these kinds of embarrassing public displays. Oh, and would you ask the skanky dude in the corner to pass the damn booze? Frickin' hog. While you're at it--I believe, before I agreed to this, ahem, interview, I asked that you remove all of the YELLOW M & M's from my line of vision in my diva interview request package. Get someone on that, would ya? Clearly, someone on your staff'll be searching Monster jobs frantically tonight.
Me: Anton! Clean up your soap making supplies and get this bowl of fat out of here! It's offending Ms. Fanning...I mean Cassidy. Pardon me. I think I even read your book. Werewolves, or something.
Dakota: You can read?
Me: Oh...it's a funny lady. I skim...occasionally. Funny shit, if I recall. My eyes didn't bleed or anything, however, I did develop a nasty case of stigmata. I suspect the hemorrhaging is a result of straining from all the laughter. Did you set out to write a comedy or was your goal to steam up the werewolf world with hot sex?
Dakota: Thank Jesus there was no eyeball bleed-itis. However, for the stigmata you can join the class action suit against me. Fuzzy on the details because, you know, I'm a boozer, but it's something about lawyers and candlelight vigils to save the victims who've read my book and are now rendered blind--or some such whiny crap. They call themselves The Accidental Victims. I can't help you much more than that, but I know there's a number you can call... *searches big stack of legal papers* Ahh, here it is. 1-800-Bleed-The-Bitch-Dry. Yeah, thass it :)
And on a serious note--I never set out to write a comedy, it just happens. I just tell the story like I would if I was hanging out with you and that's how it comes out. The Accidental Werewolf was from my 2004 RWA experience where we conventioneers shared a hotel with the Mary Kay chicks here in Dallas. I didn't have a name tag because I was unofficially attending, seeing as I live in Dallas. So whilst flitting from group to group, those who didn't know me would eyeball me suspiciously and ask if I was "Mary Kay or RWA." I certainly understood the confusion because I mean, I do know makeup, but watching those chicks work it with those unsuspecting writers was an amazing experience for me, and set in motion the "what if" factor that rules my insane mind.
Me: Insane? Hmm. I'll reserve comment on that one, just to be polite. So here's one for ya. Marty, Nina or Wanda? Which one is most like the Dakota you are today?
Dakota: Marty is definitely my exterior. I'm all about cute shoes and clothes and wearing what's right for my coloring. Wanda's the OCD, diplomatic part of me. But Nina's who I am internally--she's all about the loud and proud, whereas I, and the ex beauty queen in me, have a filter from brain to mouth. But trust me when I say, I think just like Nina speaks... For instance, right this second I'm thinking much the way Nina would. "What the frig kind of jacked up craptacularness is it with this Mark Henry? First, there were the yellow damned M & M's, then the name mix up, not to mention the lack of some good booze. To top it off, the tard brings me to this hinky, dark basement all wearing creepy clothes and scratching himself. What. The, Hell?"
Me: Didn't mean to offend. Caitlin came home with the Popov's Vodka again so we didn't bother to freeze it. As for the clothes, well. I was buryin...I mean doing some yardwork. Now, where was I? Oh...I can research women's stuff with the best of them, but it doesn't mean I necessarily "get it." So, what's up with the color wheel obsession? Seriously? And why is yellow a scourge against humanity?
Dakota: I love yellow on cars, walls, flowers, and sometimes the occasional "true" blonde, but for the most part yellow does nothing for anyone in terms of enhancing their color auras. Oh, and it's just plain wrong :) And the color wheel thing is a total joke from way back when I first began writing like four years ago. I'm a REALLY SMALL-TIME old, dried up ex-beauty queen, and I won some cheesy tiaras in my reign of vaseline and duct-tape. Back in my prime (long ago and far away), I learned a thing or two about what colors suit you, clothes etc. I just joked all the time about my infamous BQ history and how to be a babe on some groups and it stuck. Believe me when I tell you, it's grown to proportions that even the word epic don't cover :) Most anyone who knows me from the Yahoo groups, etc will crack on me about it and it developed into what I jokingly called the color wheel of life. In reality--I really don't judge anyone on their color choices--it's all in fun--unless you want the truth... LOL
But I'd be happy to do your color wheel--because I only want the world to be beautiful--and that shirt you're wearing is burning my eyes :)
Me: Maybe later, Jonbenet. Can we move on? Accidental Werewolf isn't your first book. It's not even your first werewolf series. Spill some history for the readers, why don't ya?
Dakota: Sho nuff ain't. Here's the short of it. I wrote erotic e-books in the beginning of my writing career--just as the wave of e-pubbing was becoming really popular in 2004. I was a reviewer for an online site when I first discovered e-books, and that's how the writing thing happened for me. I wrote probably thirty or so--mostly series related shorts like the Wolfmates series, and a couple of full lengths. During an ugly divorce after being married for 19 years (and I'm only 29!), and no job history but trophy wife and SAHM to put on my resume, I needed to do something--anything. When that went down, and I couldn't even find a minimum wage job to support myself and two children to save my Cole Haan's, was when I got serious about writing more e-books. I had no other means to support myself and my sons. Needless to say, I had the attorney of a lifetime, and I got my fair share in the divorce--so I kept writing e-books which was my green light to stop practicing "Welcome To Walmart" in the mirror.
My intention was never to write anywhere else but for e-pubs. However, some very close writing friends had other ideas and literally nabbed not one, but two agents for me. One pal cornered my now agent at the RT book fair in Daytona (yes, I still cringe when I relay that because it was so not a set up on my part). She was sitting next to my now agent Deidre Knight. I'll leave the guessing up to you when you wonder who my friend is (think same last name as my agent--crazy talented writer--now a NYT bestseller--and one of my mom-like influences in publishing). Deidre and I totally connected--she emailed me next day to ask to represent me--I wrote a proposal for The Accidental Werewolf, and she sold it two months later, and here I am. There but for the grace of and all, and an editor in NY who truly, truly has some nads and an awesome sense of humor :)
Me: Normally at large social gatherings, I like to be the center of attention. So you can imagine my surprise, when at the Romantic Times Convention, I started hearing whispers of Dakota. Dakota this. Dakota that. It'd be enough to drive lesser only children mad. So I had to meet you, plus your book seemed to be everywhere mine was, again drawing attention away with it's purple cover and cute factor. I was not amused.
Dakota: Is your color green today, darling?
Me: No no. Not at all. How's that drink?
*I point to the plastic party cup. Dakota eyes it suspiciously.*
Me: So! What's next for Dakota Fanning? More werewolves?
Dakota: Well, for Dakota Fanning I'm sure it's an episode of When Child Stars Go Wild, followed by a stint in rehab, an appearance on Judge Joe Brown, and finally a potential Lifetime movie about her recovery. For Dakota Cassidy--it's vampires and Accidentally Dead July 1, 2008, then The Accidental Human, winter 2009 and a stand alone called Kiss and Hell in the summer of 2009 :)
*It's at that moment that Carrie the Book Girl burst into the basement from the exterior door, filthy and dropping clops of sod as she shambles into the room. Dakota snatched up her traveller and darted, leaving me to take a shovel to my poor former assistant.*
Me (yelling): Bye Ms. Fanning. Sorry about the interruption!
Dakota and I will be sneaking in and out of the comments all day to snark, mostly but also to cull a winner from you crowd of book freaks.
Winner? You ask?
Oh yeah. Count 'em. Three. Trois.
And the prizes are so in your color wheel, we've made sure of it.
A signed copy of The Accidental Werewolf (personally signed in front of me, so I know it wasn't so freaking stamp and then packed into my RT suitcase with my dirty chones).
A signed ARC of Accidentally Dead (cuz once you read AW, you'll sock your mom for more Nina).
A $15 dollar Amazon gift card (in case a certain zombie bitch is more your style, or something).
Make sure to comment, cuz we ain't freakin' psychics. We'll announce the winner on Wednesday so check back then and often.
ETA: I'M GOING TO TOSS IN A COPY OF HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED TO COMMENTOR #75. SO START SPREADING THE WORD. KEEP WATCHING. MAYBE YOU COULD JUMP IN AND SWIPE IT!
**glances at Facebook; sees that I was bitten by about a zillion zombies**
Looks like the rest of the League is having a tough time of it--I wouldn't know, since I work from home and have managed to stay barricaded inside my house with a supply of chocolate and the internet.
TV went out, though. Bummer. Guess I'm going to have to pick up my TBR pile.
Those neighbor kids are quiet for once, now that the biggest one turned on the smallest and ate her. Circle of life, man...I'm not one to interfere.
It's very quiet here since the electricity went, and a strange smell is coming from under the sink. So quiet. You can hear the zombies singing, in a quiet like this.
They sing to each other, yeah. Maybe we can't understand it, but they're communicating. Watching. Watching me watching them.
Dizzy...time to drink more water.
Let's see what the League handbook has to say about this whole mess...ah, here we go.
Caution should be taken when barricading a residence as prolonged confinement can cause feelings of paranoia, hallucinations and irrational behavior. Care should be taken to ensure that a confined survivor does not break the barricade in a fit of insanity and allow the undead into your safehouse. Execution may be necessary.
But if I'm the only one here...do I execute myself? Haven't got a gun...could open the window, just for a moment, just for a breath of air...
Hear that? They're singing...telling me to let them in...
As we reached the top of the wreck, we were met by scabrous mass of flesh in a stained magnolia sun dress. The woman--well, she used to be a woman--carried a baby in one arm as she pulled her morbidly obese carcass up the opposite side. She cooed at the thing in vibrato, her moan rattling with loose sputum. Charles tried to maneuver away from her, but she forced the baby ahead of her--well, not really a baby anymore, either. It snapped at the soldier from the zombie's hand like a puppet. A hungry teething puppet. It clamped on to his earlobe before he could slap it away. And I knew in that moment it was over. Charles' eyes changed. One minute horror, the next resolution. He knew. He scrabbled down the rail side of the bridge and tossed himself over. It's not the kind of fall he could survive, or swim away from. If zombies could swim, they'd certainly need functioning limbs.
He didn't scream, all the way down, while I beat the things to stillness with a tire iron. I climbed down the other side and resisted peeking over the rail. There were a few more shambling about but those were slow enough to avoid without too much effort.
I found a motorcycle with a bit of gas left in it. I'm going to try to make it through the city. It doesn't make sense to go back. There's nothing there anyway. Maybe someone made it to the safe house.
I of course remembered my League Emergency Preparedness Guide, and of course the information on Page 114 is completely accurate (did you doubt?):
"...Zombies prefer human flesh, but, being vicious and not particularly clever, can be easily temporarily mollified by beasts of any variety. Or small vehicles."
This being rural England, there are plenty of cows and sheep around (hey, it's them or us, okay?)
We've fled to the moors, along with a small band of other living people. There are very few homes and villages here, so it's still fairly safe; we've found a B&B and are holing up here for as long as we can.
Meanwhile...the sounds of the cows lowing outside is getting quieter...we're hoping it's just that they're going to sleep.
Thanks goodness there's still a wireless internet network up.
Kayleigh is running a fever and the dark circles around her eyes threaten to cave into her skull. She's stopped talking. Charles and I are leaving her behind. If I had a gun, I'd shoot her in the head before she had a chance to slake off her soul and hunt. I should have left them both behind in the library, then I wouldn't have to make these kind of choices.
The bridge is impassible.
At least thirty cars are piled on the southbound span, an accident that kept building until it was a wall. The air is thick with the putrid scent of burnt flesh and scrabbling rot. A chorus of moans seems very near, though we see no zombies, right now. I suspect they're on the other side.
We're leaving now. Going to climb the hulking wreck.
If I had a gun, I'd shoot myself.
STILL ALIVE STOP
ANTON TRIED TO EAT ME STOP
HUSBAND WILL BE MAD STOP
BUT HE WAS REALLY AFTER MY MIND STOP
I found Caroline's car in the parking lot at her work. The door was hanging open.
The building teemed with the undead fuckers. No screams. Bad sign.
I fear the worst.
At last count, Jaye and Anton were down, too.
If it weren't for Charles and Kayleigh, pulling me from the heap I'd become, I'd have died right there. The zombies streamed from the doorway as soon as I got out of the car.
We just passed Maytown, the auction yards are still. Smoke rose in crooked columns on the horizon.
The EBS just stopped dead on the radio. Now, it's all fuzz.
No word from Caitlin. Jackie? Stacia?
When I woke up this morning, the neighbors were in my house. The neighbors? We never even talk to them. We are NOT good neighbors. So you can imagine my surprise when the guy next door bumped into me as I came out of the bedroom. Or maybe you can, since this is spreading everywhere. Steve is his name. Was, actually. He tried to bite me. BITE me. WTF? Luckily, we rarely put anything away, so the cane I used as part of a Halloween costume two years ago was nearby.
Let me tell you, it's rarely pleasant to bash in someone's head before one's first mug of coffee.
There were two more downstairs, one of them didn't have her legs; she bumped into fallen dining room chairs like one of those disabled kids in a helmet. I noticed her first by a nasty trail of sludge draining from those ragged amputations. As I stepped into the stairhall, her head twitched in my direction. One of her eyes dangled from a gash across her face, bouncing against her cheek from the nerve like a tether ball. The other groaned from back near the kitchen, a deep echoing sound that had me scurrying for the front door before I could even think.
Outside was a complete mess. On the front walk, instead of the newspaper, an arm flayed out in a crooked "v", a bit of shoulder attached, probably the paperboy's. The other neighbors seemed to have been dealing with the situation a bit longer, as the streets were nearly void of life--not movement, mind you--but the living. Garage doors left open, empty.
Ours was too. Caroline must have left before it started.
From off to the right, the cul-de-sac, a pack of neighbors scrambled to their feet from around a mound of gore and bones way too big to be just one body, more like five. One of them pointed toward me stretching his dripping arm in my direction. Was he moaning to alert the others? It seemed so. They rushed me at various paces, some quick, others shambling like the zombies of film.
So I ran.
I know what you're thinking. I should have been prepared for this. Me, particularly. We even put together a manual. The League, I mean. A Zombie Preparedness Guide. Where is it? In my office.
And I'm at the library. I can hardly believe I made it here. I swiped this laptop from a local coffee shop. I don't think the owner needed it, unless he could type with his toes.
I'll try to connect with the League. They'll know what to do.
I'm moving on.
ALL the buildings are deserted. Everyone is just sort of milling around outside.
We've been okay, watching DVDs at home, but...we'll need to get some groceries or something soon.
Burst transmission, all channels, New York City. 9:12 a.m. EST.
Ok, WTF people?! I know it's a half day Friday here, but could you fucking pedestrians show a little less sluggishness in the streets and get out of my way?
Hold the phone...
*pulls out the League Emergency Preparedness Guide*
Fuck... we got zombies. This is not a drill, League! Sure, that was e-coli on those tomatoes.... idiots!
*checks the LEPG again*
"I need to talk to Supply about labeling the flamethrowers properly. They really should come with a large sticker on them that says: WARNING! USE ON ZOMBIES ONLY PRODUCES FLAMING ZOMBIES!
Everyone to the League Safehouse NOW!
*puts on t-shirt with the image above on it*
A zombie is approaching you from the north at .01 MPH. A second zombie is approaching you from the west at .03 miles an hour. Which one of your friends do you sacrifice so that you can run back into the mall and barricade the doors?
Show your work.
Dakota joins me for an interview so funny and sexy, it'll stain your underwear one way or the other. Make sure to check back on Saturday, there'll be a contest and prizes, including a signed copy of The Accidental Werewolf, an ARC of Accidentally Dead and even a gift card to feed you hedonistic book buying sickos.
See you there.
But I'm not.
Sure, I like to bitch about it and blame my lack of productivity on my age but the truth is, I don't really care. Birthdays were never a big thing in my family, which is odd considering that the relationships were very much notable due to age. My mother is 10 years older than my father and she had me when she was nearly 40, so very late in life and risky (the chances for Down Syndrome increase dramatically as those eggs get stale). My parent's reactions to birthdays were flavored by childhoods adrift in siblings and not a lot of money to celebrate. So even though I was an only child and finances had improved. The just weren't considered a big deal.
And neither is this post. I've begun to bore myself and that's not good.
Stacia says I'm in a writing rut because of the Mercury Retrograde. I really don't know what that means, but I'm always looking for something to blame my behavior on, so...
...why not tomato bacteria? The neighbors had a block party the other day and someone had a whole box of tomatoes. Didn't they take those off the shelves? They're so weird.
Aw shit...I got nuthin'. Does anyone have a question? I'll answer anything. If I don't know the answer, I'll make it up.
Anyway. I was at Tesco, buying chicken breasts to eat tonight. And I was chatting to my little Faerie who was riding in the cart, like I do every day.
But Tesco seemed a little quieter than usual. Nobody else in there was talking very much. And it was a lot emptier than it usually is at that time of the morning too.
But what really freaked me out was, some guy started following me. Not like a normal guy (of course, guys follow me all the time, lol) but...he looked weird. He kind of shuffled his feet.
Now, he looked really tired. So I thought maybe he was just hung over, and maybe he just wanted to buy a few bottles of water too and that's why he followed me into that aisle. But he seemed fixated on me. It was odd because people don't really look at each other here, as a rule.
I think he tried to touch me, but I was rounding the corner so really didn't see.
A couple of the check-out girls seemed kind of tired and off, too. Now there has been a stomach flu going around (I had it a couple of weeks ago, remember?) But this was, like...really off. Mouths-hanging-open off.
I noticed a lot of people like that when I went to pick Princess up from school, too. Everyone was just sort of standing around. I'm used to being ignored here, but everyone watched me today.
And there was a group of kids eating something on the field. They're not supposed to take food out there, much less huddle in a little group like rabid animals and shove things into their mouths.
It was kind of freaky, to be honest, and I'm not sure what to do. I went outside to smoke a cigarette a little while ago and there were some people just standing around in the road. They didn't see me. I'm starting to wonder if that wasn't a good thing.
What do you guys think? Should I be concerned? or is there just some sort of flu bug in town or something?
In all the hoopla of Dead To Me coming out, I have perhaps been neglectful of my next piece of work to hit the stores. Well, that neglect ends NOW!
July 1st will see the publication of The Dimension Next Door, a DAW anthology with yours truly as the opening story.
It's entitled The Fourteenth Virtue and ties into part of the historical records of the Fraternal Order of Goodness from Dead To Me. For those who have read DtM, there was a moment where Simon accidentally triggers off a book that Wesker is holding and he gets a flash of a rotting, decaying but still living Benjamin Franklin. This story looks more into the necromantic adventures of one of our founding fathers... who doesn't want to read that???
So hit your favorite retailer, be they online, bricks and mortar, indie, national chain or creepy guy in a trenchcoat on a corner selling urban fantasy surreptitiously. Go forth!
I was driving home last night when I heard this song on the radio that made me start banging my hand against the wheel and singing the chorus (quietly; the kidlets were sleeping). I made myself remember the first line of the chorus (easy, because it was one line that repeated), and as soon as I got home I Googled it.
And then I saw the video, and it blew me away.
The song, in case you're wondering, is "Youth of the Nation" by P.O.D. -- and here's the video.
The last song to make me stop in my tracks like that was Breaking Benjamin's acoustic version of "The Diary of Jane." That one hit me so hard that I nearly changed a character's name in my current story at the time (HOTTER THAN HELL) from Virginia to Jane.
This ever happen to you -- that you hear a song that utterly grabs you by the throat and won't let go? If so, which song?
Because a lot of these ideas are bad. I don't hit a home run every time. I don't even bat .400. I do use too many sports metaphors in this paragraph.
Some highlights of my bad ideas include:
- The Star Wars tie in novel I wrote. When I was 13. Yeah.
- The epic dark fantasy about a WARLORD and a CHRISTIAN ALLEGORICAL SOCIETY that was THEMATIC and IMPORTANT. Also BORING.
- The urban fantasy about vaudaun starring a redneck white chick, her pickup truck and some dead chickens.
- The thriller about a psychic serial killer and a psychic FBI agent who had mind battles.
- The oh-God-what-IS-it about lycanthropy experiments during the Vietnam War, complete with de-aging and Government Conspiracies. I actually still sort of like this idea, but the execution sucked.
And that I should never, ever be allowed to write epic fantasy again.
You see, I'd much rather make fun of crap, or pornify Oscar nominated film titles, or recount the horrors of my daily life than write about what I do, the mechanics of which, I have a hard time making sound amusing. I'm not adverse to reading about writing--in fact, Stacia's post yesterday reminded me to add some scents to my WIP--and according to some author bloggers, it should be our primary purpose.
I'm not sold on that idea.
I've gotten it into my head that people read blogs because there's something about the writer's voice that resonates for them, whether it's a political stance, a similarity to their fiction, or a sense of humor (I'm kind of counting on that). I've tried to follow the program, but it's a struggle. I don't feel like an expert, in any sense of the word, so everytime I try to speak on description or showing vs. telling, I tense up in my gut. I feel like I'm trying to hard.
You know what I mean.
I've seen blogs by writers that have gotten that same advice and their posts are more forced than an impacted bowel and half as interesting. I'm certainly not going to point fingers because I can't say mine are any better. But I need to stick to what I do well. Write what you know, is--I guess--what I'm ultimately saying.
Anyone know of a blog, one devoted to the mechanics of writing and the business of publishing, they think consistently delivers info about writing in an interesting and valuable way?
Last night I wrote a scene in which smell was a big factor. Sweaty bodies, drugs, magic herbs, cheap beer and homebrew all smushed into one hot, smoky space. I like the scene; I like writing about smells. I think it's one way to really, firmly put the reader where you want them to be.
And writing about scents always makes me think of pheremonal attractions, too. A long time ago I read about smell being one of the most basic building blocks of attraction--literal chemistry between two people. You could meet the most beautiful woman or most handsome man in the world, but if you don't like the way they smell chances are you're going to have a hard time getting it up, metaphorically speaking.
I don't mean liking their cologne or soap or whatever. It's the scent of their actual skin, that unique combination of different smells that make one person, that's important. It's one of the earliest indicators of attraction, I think, the idle thought that someone smells good. Even smells we might not ordinarily like could very well smell good on someone we find attractive--the hubs used to wear Fahrenheit, which I never liked, but it was okay on him (although I went out and bought him a set of Givenchy Pi, which I love, at the earliest opportunity. The smell of it still makes me go all tingly.)
Conversely, I once had a boyfriend buy me a bottle of Giorgio Wings, which I hated. I wore it for him because he liked it so much, but as soon as he was gone, so was it. I gave it away almost before I gave him back his stuff.
JK Rowling, I think, used this very effectively, when describing the scents Harry found comforting and appealing, which just happened to coincide with what a particular character smelled like. I've done the same thing, too.
When do you notice fragrance or smells? Can you think of a scene in a book which used scent particularly well (no fair citing Suskind's Perfume), or one which didn't?
What smells do you like?
The writing life is a series of ups and down and any instant gratification that does happen has to be deep and personal because from the time you finish writing it to the time people read and comment on it, it is an eternity. So be gratified by your daily accomplishments, be it a few words, edits, research... as long as you are moving forward even in baby steps, yer doing the right thing.
The intoxicating scent of wanting to be published drives people mad. A lot of folks set unrealistic goals for themselves and then get frustrated when they don't make them. A book is written word by word, page by page... take it in those bits and try not to think about THE ENORMITY OF THE TOTALITY OF THE BOOK AS A WHOLE OMG WTF I AM NEVER GONNA FINISH MAH EPIC!!!!
But back to the ups and downs... here's my short list of what I've experienced so far:
UP: sharing my stories, seeing the finished book, the good reviews, getting the occasional fan mail, getting a chance to talk about writing with others, helping others... but here's what really inspired it all- making my first bestseller list over at Locus. I'm number 9 on their Paperback list!
DOWN: finishing yer book in Fall 2007 not to get audience reaction until late Spring 2008, the occasional bad review, trying to figure out they mystical world of if yer book is actually selling (easier for me as I AM in the sales department, but still...), editing book two while trying to write book three and having them interfere with each other, and finally.. the waiting.. oh the waiting for everything- to go on sale, between books, for reviews, for checks!
Despite all that, I do love a good roller coaster and wouldn't trade it for the world... as frustrating as the ride can be at times, I am doing what I love and not everyone gets to say that in this life.
Now speak up, peeps! What are your ups and downs?
(A) Make a nice cup of tea and try to get back to sleep
(B) Get a glass of wine and try to get back to sleep
(C) Screw the sleep, let's get some caffeine and start writing
(D) Google for the possible reasons why I can't sleep and freak out over the (slight) possibilities of tumors, brain disorders and possession
(E) Go online and see if my Seattle buddies are awake (hi, Caitlin!)
(F) Think about waking up my kids, just to return the favor of many a long, sleep-deprived night from when they were infants
(G) Grab a book and read
(H) Plot to take over the world -- real or fictional, doesn't matter
(I) Blog and post to various online communities; heck, might as well be a little productive*
(J) Mix and match any of the above
What do you do when you can't sleep?
* Okay, duh, so this one's a gimme