Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's True. I've Seen It!

Jaye's not lying. There's somethin' over there.

There's also something coming to this spot. Something big. Something different. Something smelly?

Could be. But I bet it's a new site with new members and something else. Hmm.

Five Days!

If you'd like a clue about the changes, you might want to check out Facebook. Rumor has it the League might have a presence there now. But you'll have to check back Monday to find out the identities of all the new members. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, January 23, 2009

10 Days and Counting

Are you excited? You should be. In t-minus ten days, the new League will be unleashed upon teh interwebz. It will be just like a zombie apocalypse except with more looting and poop jokes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barackula - The Musical

This is not a political post. It really isn't.

It's no secret that I love musicals. Anything from The King and I (total Yule Brenner man-crush territory there) to Annie and more recently the film version of Sweeney Todd. My iPod is filled with the likes of Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Chess (the British version with original ending not the American rewrite). I like 'em anyway they come: happy, sad, sappy, dark, brooding... of the music is good, then I'm there.

Even so, when I saw this synposis... I was skeptical.

"Barackula is a short political horror rock musical about young Barack Obama having to stave off a secret society of vampires at Harvard when he was inducted into presidency at the Harvard Law Review in 1990. Obama (Justin Sherman) finds that he must convince the vampire society that opposing political philosophies can coexist or else the society may transform Obama to the dark side. Reminiscent to Michael Jackson's Thriller and a slight infusion of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

But... musical.

Musical + Vampires...

I simply had to check it out.

And I after watching it, I just had to post it here. If this post is viewed as politcal, I'll happily take it down, but really... it's about Vampires and Musicals and some really high poduction values... except for the mouse thing. *That* was cheesy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009 - Where Are Ya?

No matter what your politics, today is a day that will go down in history. Might as well start getting ready to answer the question: Where were you when Barack Obama was inaugurated?

So...what's your answer gonna be?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nicole Peeler: Part Deux

When we last left the League clubhouse, Nicole Peeler had been cast down in the pit of Stumpy, the terrible were-chupacabra, as punishment for her chronic diarrhea of the mouth.

While we were away, Nicole managed to subdue Stumpy by talking his ears off--literally. Now she has the earless were-chupacabra, as well as the other members of the League, tied up in the center of the League interrogation room. This is where we join the action:

Nicole: Ask it!

Jaye (cringes and shakes her head): Never!

Nicole: Ask it or I'll tell the story about when I got The Call again.

Mark (gasping): For God's sake, woman, ask her the question!

Jaye : Fine! Why did you chose Maine as the setting for Tempest Rising? (she dissolves into pitiful tears)

Nicole: What a great question, Jaye! How creative of you to ask! Setting the book in Maine came from having Jane be half-Selkie. She had to know she's not quite normal, but not because she glows in the dark or starts fires or something she can't hide. Swimming is normal . . . she knows the way she does it isn't normal, cause it should kill her, but swimming is normal, right? That's gotta be her thought process. You have to believe she could convince herself to just keep swimming, keep it quiet, and just keep her worries to herself. So she had to be close to water. But a Californian or Hawaiian girl who swims all the time wouldn't raise eyebrows. So it had to be "extreme." Hence our Northern shores. I figured the Atlantic is colder than the Pacific. Then went as North as I could get, without going into Canada, and there was Maine. Then, as I'm a good academic, I started doing my research, and found the Old Sow. Which is completely real. Everyone who's read the book has told me how brilliant I am for making up the Sow and how it's genius and I'm so creative. Well, no, I'm not, because it's real. That's probably my biggest advice for struggling writers: do your research. Because truth is always stranger than fiction, and you'll find such good stuff if you start looking at a place's history, or a legend's origins, or whatever. Rockabill became so real to me once I made all these Old Sow connections, and who the hell would make up a whirlpool named after a pig? It was too good to be true, and I could never have come up with that. Plus, if my readers google "Old Sow" they can hear it squelching on someone's website. And I love when UF really links in with reality; when our world pads their world so tight it's like a sausage in a casing. I'm a terrible abuser of bad metaphors, by the way. Ask my students. Anyway, that said, the series is definitely not relegated to Maine. Tempest Rising moves to outside of Quebec, and then the sequel is mostly set in Boston. So Jane will be doing quite a bit of traveling. I'm very peripatetic, and my protagonists are definitely going to have similarly itchy feet.

During Nicole's speech, Anton, Jackie and Jeremy die of boredom. Mark, Jaye and Stacia are whimpering. Caitlin looks like she's ready to start cutting just to stop the pain.

Nicole: Oh, shoot, we lost a few. Oh well. Next question!

Mark (sobbing): Who are your favorite Urban Fantasy authors?

Nicole: Well, to be honest, I hadn't read anything in the genre for about ten years before I wrote the novel. Then I figured I'd better see what else was out there. So I've been playing catch up. Obviously, Charles de Lint is my all time favorite. And I still remember worshiping Mercedes Lackey's series with Diana Tregarde from when I was a kid. I also still re-read Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series. I loved it when I was young and still adore it.

As an adult, the book that got me writing Tempest was Charlaine Harris's Dead as a Doornail. I was at a bookstore in Illinois with my brother, Chris, and my niece and nephew, Abigail and Wyatt. I asked my niece and nephew to help me pick out a book to read on my flight home because I'd just finished my thesis and, for the first time in like five years, I didn't have to read anything. So, my niece said, "Read this one!" and pointed to Dead as a Doornail. It had this adorable, glittery cover that appealed to both a six-year-old and to me, 'cause I bought it and started reading it on the plane back to Scotland. And the reason I was in the states, at the time, was because I'd had my campus visit to Shreveport, as part of the interview process for the job I have now. So I'm reading this random book, on my way back to Scotland, about a waitress from Bon Temps, Louisiana, who is about to drive into Shreveport to visit the local vampire bar. I nearly died at the whole kismet thing. Sitting on that plane, I knew two things: that I was going to get this job and that I wanted to write a book that made me laugh, and tear up a little, and get a little hot under the collar, and adore the heroine, the way this one did. I started writing Tempest a month later, after I'd obsessively outlined everything I could outline, and three months later I had a rough draft.

Since then I've gotten hooked on the rest of Harris's books, as well as Katie MacAlister's paranormal romances. I love her sense of humor and how she pokes fun at the genre, while obviously adoring it. I have been eating up Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series, and am really enjoying C.E. Murphy's Urban Shaman series. I love her connections between Celtic and Native American mythology. I also worshiped Stacia Kane's Personal Demons, and I've sent it as a present to about 14 people.

(Stacia perks up.)

I think that book is so clever and so readable, which, to me, is the perfect UF fantasy. Something I can tear through, with the gusto I used to tear through my books when I was a kid, but that also pings in my brain box with little notes of inspiration or, "huh, that's cool," moments.

Stacia: Wait a minute guys. Maybe we've been too hasty in our judgment of this obviously brilliant woman. Jaye and Mark glare at the blonde vixen. Cailtin rolls her eyes.

Nicole continues: I also love Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, especially as I'm from a suburb of Chicago, and Tom Holt's bizarre books about the demonic forces that run amok on London's Fleet Street. Another thing I literally couldn't put down--I was a complete psycho, finishing it and then going immediately back to the beginning to read it again--is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. And there's a book by Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr. Y, that is one of the darkest, smartest, coolest, most incredible things I've read in a long time. It's UF on intellectual heroin. It involves both Derrida and rough sex, although, luckily, not at the same time. It's sublime. I don't think it made a big splash in the US, but it was big in the UK. Find it; read it; love it. It's breathtaking.

Jaye (under her breath): Your ego's breathtaking.

Nicole: Next!

Stacia (perkier now): What's your weirdest writing habit?

Nicole: Thanks for asking, Stacia. Have I mentioned I love your books?
(Stacia beams back.)

When I'm home, using my desktop, I write sitting on one of those giant pilates balls. I love it, and I'd never go back to a desk chair. But I bounce all over the place. I'm a very "active" writer . . . I talk to myself, and laugh at my jokes, and try to feel out the physicality of a fight scene or a love scene. Which is awesome, as I also work in coffee shops a lot. So, I'm the chick at Starbucks, mumbling to herself while she punches at the air. Okay, that lady just forgot to take her medication. I'm the one sitting next to her, with the great hair and the Betsy Johnson jewelry. Who is also talking to herself and feeling herself up, but in a really refined, charming way that oozes intellectual sophistication. Right?

Stacia nods enthusiastically. The others glare.

Nicole: Right? (she lifts a megaphone) Don't make me use this. RIGHT?!?

Mark wets himself. Jaye begins twitching. Caitlin sulks. But they all muster a half-hearted chorus of "right."

Nicole: Now, I've been thinking. This place needs a little life. A little pizzazz. Just because I love Stacia's books so much, I will join the League. You may thank me now for my genius.

Stacia: Great idea!

Caitlin shrugs. "Whatever."

Mark and Jaye exchange horrified looks. "But--"

Nicole: If you want to walk out of this room without a severe limp, you will just smile and nod. (she waves the megaphone at them)

Mark and Jaye, knowing they are broken, hang their heads and nod.

And that, my friends, is how the League was infiltrated by one of its newest members.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Urban Fantasy Land Awards!!

The League swept up a buttload of nominations at the first ever Urban Fantasy Awards and we couldn't be more psyched!

Jackie's up for best anthology for Eternal Lover.
Jeremy got a nod for Staked, up for Best Vampire Novel.
Night Life was nominated for Best Shapeshifter. We're so proud of Kit Kittredge.
In the category of Best Demons and Zombies, Stace's Personal Demons, Jackie's Hotter than Hell and my very own Happy Hour of the Damned are duking it out.
Anton's on his own though in Best in Ghost's, Witches and Magic.

Why don't you be a loyal Leaguer and head on over to Urban Fantasy Land? While you're there, make sure to do the write in votes for a chance at a $25 gift card. What could it hurt. Also, "debut" author means that the author's first book hit stores in 2008, I think there might be some confusion from the comments I saw.

Off you go...


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who likes prizes? YOU do!

Ah, the life of a successful, fat, rich author! Well, I've got the fat part down anyway...

So I've been thinking about how to best advertise the upcoming release of Deader Still on 2/24 since my publisher has yet to deem me worthy of being plastered on the sides of buses or billed on boards across the country. Apparently, advertising consists of at least three things: creativity, money and time.

Two of those I don't have. I'll leave it up to you which two they are.

BUT what I do have, my gentle undead approved readers, is you. And because of that… it's contest time!

I've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately on the iPod, that series about ad men in the 60's who chain smoke and drink like it's, well, the 60's. So with that in mind...

Make an ad for me! It can be anything: a mock-up ad, a YouTube video, cartoon style, comic bookish, anything that I can use for promotional purposes to help make people chomp at the bit for the next book in the series. Anything your demented minds can dream up. And as further incentive, other than winning my undying love, there will be prizes!

Signed copies of Dead to Me and Deader Still, signed rare advanced reading copies, cover flats, and perhaps a gift card or two to fill your grubby little hands with more books. Depending on how many entrants there are, I may create several categories for judgment.

There's a good chance I can hit a bestseller list or two with this one, and I'd love your help in getting the word out. And you get cool stuff in return!

The deadline for submission is February 1st. I'm going to limit the contest to entrants within the United States. Sorry, my international friends, but oversea shipping is a killer to me right now.

Please send any questions or entries to me with the subject line "Deader Still Ad Contest" to:

I look forward to see what madness you come up with. I pride myself on the savvy cleverness of my readers (and their sexiness), so don't let me down!

Deader Still Promo

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Best of the Rest 2008 Edition

I did my year end recap on my regular blog but didn't actually list out my favorite things that I either read, listened to, watched or attended, so I thought I'd mosey on back to those wondrous days of yore, that ended last week.

Take your gingko and follow along.

Last year was ginormous for book readings, not my own. I wouldn't be so egotistical to say that I give good reading, though, frankly, they're dirtier than most I've attended. If that's your thing then check your local reading/signing announcements, cuz you never know when I'll come wafting into your secluded enclave of elitist readers to shake things up with potty humor and dick jokes. What I'm talking about is readings I attended as a fan.

Take Chuck Palahniuk. Synde and I did. Twice...and hard. Once with Caitlin and the other with Caroline. It was nasty and hilarious as usual. I may not get to read everything he writes, but damn it, I'll be at the readings to hear the stuff that'll never go to typesetting.

"If you're not offended by explicit sex and erotic excitement" then watch this (what could be the best book trailer evah)...

My favorite video of the year came out of, of all things, an Converse campaign. I'd already fallen hard for Santogold, but when she teamed up with N.E.R.D and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes I was in ecstacy...

Now you'd think that'd be my favorite song, but no. Not so much. I love to sing in the car, especially if people are looking. Little known fact. I'll serenade the shit out of the person in the next car cuz I'm crazy. Actually I've never done that. But I totally would. Dare me. I might do it with this year's anthem: MGMT's Kids Time to Pretend or Ladytron's Ghosts. Come to think of it, I don't have a favorite. Hmm.

Song, that is.

My favorite movie from 2008 was one I watched after Christmas, that one I told you about. Quid Pro Quo. I was merely going to watch it for research but, Damn, did it suck me in. I looked over at one point and Caroline and a friend of ours, Jo, were watching with their mouths open. I noted it and then realized my own was hanging too. It takes a lot to really disturb me, but when you have a parapalegic wanna-be hitting on a parapalegic, both in wheelchairs and it's somehow erotic, that's a lot to take. Still it worked. Vera Farmiga is stunning and weird and Nick Stahl, an actor I don't particularly care for turned me around. Watch it.

World War Z by Max Brooks tied for my fav of the year with a book that couldn't be more different, Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files. I can't wait for a movie of either and I'm sitting here next to the sequel to Spellman, though you think I could find a minute to read it? Nope.

Well. I'm tapped for now. What are some of your favorites from 2008?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

League Interview: Nicole Peeler

Happy New Year, Leaguers! Today we have a special treat. Nicole Peeler, who recently sold her debut novel to Orbit, sat down with me at the League clubhouse for an interview. Nicole’s TEMPEST RISING is set for release in November of this year.

Jaye: Hi, Nicole. Welcome to the League! Why don’t you start out by telling us a little about TEMPEST RISING.

NP: Sure! No problem, Jaye. Are you comfortable? (Takes a deep, deep breath)

Tempest Rising is set in Rockabill, Maine, a fictional town outside of Eastport. The protagonist is Jane True, who works in a book store and is, in many ways, utterly normal. Except she's got a few odd secrets, the most obvious being her need to swim. Which doesn’t sound all that strange, except that Jane swims in the freezing cold winter ocean, naked. And in the Old Sow, which is the fifth biggest whirlpool on earth, and has all this bizarre tidal phenomena. She should be dead of hypothermia or drowning after her little ocean jaunts. Instead, she emerges all after-glowey and pumped with energy. Knowing the swimming isn't normal, she's managed to keep it to herself for years. Everything changes, however, when she finds a murdered body during one of her clandestine nightly swims. Finding the body precipitates the revelation of her true heritage: that her mother, who abandoned Jane and her father when Jane was six, is actually a Selkie, and Jane is only half-human. Jane also learns that there is an entire, secret world laid out next to ours, which consists of all the beings that inspired human myths and legends. After Jane's introduction to this supernatural society, the action really takes off. Jane meets Ryu, a handsome bloodsucker--in the literal, rather than the corporate, sense--who is sent to investigate the murder. Soon enough, they discover another body—this time that of a goblin—which means that major forces are at work. As they plunge further into the intrigue of the nearly immortal beings at the top of the supernatural food chain, they fall equally hard for each other. Copious amounts of sex ensue. And some violence. So the book will make an awesome stocking stuffer for the kids next holiday season!

Jaye: (blinks) Wow, that was certainly … thorough. Did someone forget her Ritalin today?

NP: Well, that's an interesting question, actually . . .

Jaye: Never mind. Just focus and I’m sure it'll be fine. Now, what kinds of fantastic creatures will we meet in TEMPEST RISING?

NP: Well, Jaye, the world of Tempest Rising is absolutely chock-a-block with fantastical beasties. I did most of my undergrad electives in mythology and religion, and I've always been fascinated by how completely divergent cultures across the globe share similar mythologies. So, to a certain extent, the world of Tempest Rising is my imaginative response to why these diverse legends sprang up in communities with no other obvious connection. Jung says they're archetypes that emerge from our collective unconscious, tapping into our instinctual, pre-civilized, shared bonds. Tempest says, "Bah, humbug. It's really because all these creatures exist and people saw them running around. They made stories about them. But humans exaggerated or got things wrong." So the series is full of myths from all over the world. Jane has Celtic origins with her Selkie heritage, Ryu is the vampire/strigoi/nosferatu/baobhan sith legend that's found all over the place. Another major character, Anyan, is a barghest, which is a Germanic myth. There are Ifrits, Djinn, Nagas, Incubi, Succubae, Satyrs, Dryads, and Nahuals. So myths from all over the place. And, for nerds like me, there are lots of jokes about mythology. The book is crammed with every level of humor possible. I'll laugh at just about anything, I have no standards. So there are super-immature potty jokes, then a joke about Kafka, then something really slap-sticky. So even though there are all these huge, crazy, magnificent things happening all around Jane, she's always seeing it kinda off, or breaking it down into something funny so she can handle it. Where other UF heroines put their hand on their gun, or their knife, to feel more secure in a situation, Jane reaches for a joke. She's a complete smart ass, and definitely uses humor as her first line of defense.

Jaye: Okay, we need to have a little talk. I know you're excited and all, but you're turning this interview into a novel. But don't worry, I have an idea. See the guy tied up in the corner over there? That's Mark. Whenever you start getting too wordy, he's gonna get a few lashes with this here Cat O' Nine. Cool?

(Whimpering sounds come from Mark.)

Shut it, Henry. This is payback for killing me in Rowen's interview.

Now, where was I? Oh, right. Interview. So, tell us how a professor of English Lit ends up writing Urban Fantasy.

NP: Hi Mark! I love your red, seeping wounds. They really make the color of your eyes pop. Anyway, Jaye, have you seen what academics get paid? Seriously? It was either write genre fiction or sell my eggs. And apparently nobody wants short, truculent children with a penchant for sarcasm.

Okay, it's really because I love this genre. It's what I grew up reading. I mean, I read everything that wasn't nailed to the floor (and you’d be surprised how often books in the Midwest are nailed to something). But I always came back to fantasy, and when I discovered Charles de Lint, it was over. I was hooked. So I always wanted to be a writer, although I always did think I'd write "literature." Then I got older, and I was lucky enough to know some really amazing writers, some of America's greats, and they're these incredible, charismatic artists who pour their whole lives into their work. Meaning that a lot of people, including themselves, get hurt along the way as the writers reveal so much of themselves and their lives. I realized that a big part of my problem, besides the whole not being a genius thing, was that I didn't want to go that far. I am not brilliant, but even if I was I don't know if I could strip myself bare the way people do in order to write "real" literature. On another note, I also think that popular literature is really important to society on a number of levels, but I will refrain from putting on my professor hat and giving you a cultural studies lecture.

(Whipping sounds come from across the room, followed by girlish shrieks. Nicole is so in love with the sound of her own voice, she doesn't hear Mark's muted cries for mercy)

So then I finished my PhD., which was perfect training for being a genre writer. It's all about coming up with an idea and executing it without letting your ego get in the way. Then you whittle it and hone it until it's as good as it's going to get. And that's what I did on Tempest Rising. I approached it just as I did my thesis. I researched, outlined, then drafted. Only I didn't have to read nearly as much Nietzsche, for Tempest. And I did get to "research" sexual positions. Which I totally didn't get to do when I wrote my thesis, at least, not legitimately. Although, as I did write about Philip Roth, I suppose I could have researched the whole onanism and liver thing. But I don't have the right equipment. I also prefer my livers fried in butter with onions and then blitzed and eaten on crackers. What was I answering? I give good tangent.

Jaye: (sweating for exertion) Seriously? We didn't notice. Did we Mark? (Mark has passed out from the pain). Okay, obviously you're immune to others' suffering. Is there anything that will make you keep your answers succinct?

NP: I love the word "succinct!"

Jaye: (Sighs) If you keep it up I'm going to have to end the interview. Trust me when I say you don't want that. Now, I'm almost afraid to ask, but what happened when you got The Call?

NP: Again, great question! You're so good at this, Jaye! Well, when I got the call, I shat myself. Maybe. Just a little. Okay, no I didn't. But it was close. It was around five o'clock, I was just getting ready to leave for my belly dancing class. I was totally not expecting a call, as I’d been firmly, if lovingly, told by my agent, Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh and Otis, to stop spazzing the fuck out, that nothing was going to happen for at least another month as my subs had been out for only four weeks. So, like a day or two after she commands me to relax, Rebecca calls, and proceeds to tell me there's been an offer. And that it's big, three books, and it's Orbit (which blew me away, as I know Orbit well from living in the UK, and know what a fantastic house it is). And that they want to "pre-empt" (keep in mind I have no idea what I'm doing and don't know jack about publishing). And that they're pushing to get something finalized by Wednesday, as the editor is leaving Thursday for India. Did I mention it's Monday? There's all this talk of "leveraging," and "negotiating foreign language rights," and "auctions," and I'm crapping in my pants. I sort of managed to keep it together on the phone with Rebecca, and made appropriate grunting sounds when she told me more stuff I didn't understand. Then she told me she’d call me the next day after she’d contacted the other houses still involved, yadda yadda, and that she needed short synopses of the next two books in the series.

(Jaye presses a red button on the table. In the distances alarms echo through the halls of the League compound. Nicole is oblivious to the flashing red lights.)

Do you hear something? Anyway, so then I called My One Friend here in Shreveport, Mary Lois, to tell her she’d have to find her own way to belly dancing, only instead of telling her any of that I just start crying hysterically. Mary Lois, who had actually paid attention when my agent told me nothing was going to happen for another month, thought someone had died. Then I called my parents. And then I called my friend Loren. And then I called my brother's family. And then I called my friend Jana. . .

(Jaye gets up and goes to unhook Mark from the wall. He groans, but notices the red lights and his eyes widen in fear. "Stumpy's waking," he whispers. Jaye nods solemnly. "It couldn't be helped. Talky McTalkerson over there forced my hand.")

. . . and then I wrote the synopses. And then Mary Lois and I tried to go out and celebrate, but it was Monday, and our favorite bar was closed, so we went to this meat market place that was the only thing open, and a random drunk guy asked Mary Lois if she'd like to watch porn with him. She was eating a taco salad. I pointed that out to him, hoping he’d realize that most people wouldn't get up from their taco salad to go watch porn with slightly elderly strangers. But he persevered. So we went home. Anyway, it just got more crazy over the next two days, and there was some screaming involved, maybe some more crying, and I started swearing at my agent at one point because I loved her so much all I could do was drop the f-bomb on her. In my family, love is often expressed through gratuitous swearing. We're like pirates. All in all, selling the book was the longest three days of my life. I think my students thought I was drunk the whole time, but I wasn't. I just didn't sleep, didn't eat, didn't do anything except try to wrap my brain around the fact I'd actually sold the books. I still haven't really come to terms with it, I don't think. Bye Mark! Why is he limping? And bleeding profusely? That's a fierce whip, Jaye. It's hot. And whips are hot on the runway right now, they're totally this season’s black . . .

Now that Mark is safe, Jaye walks over and pushes another button. This one opens the trap door under the interview area. Nicole falls through the gaping hole and into the clutches of Stumpy, the League's pet were-chupacabra. Will Nicole fall victim to the goat sucker? Or will she live another day to terrorize the world with her lethal verbosity? Check in next week to see if Nicole survives to answer the rest of Jaye's questions.

In the meantime, check out Nicole's Facebook page for more info.

Groan. Women have actual minds, you know.

So we needed to buy a new calendar. Because of it being a new year and all, y'see.

Our '08 calendar was Elvgren pinup girls, and we both really liked it, except for the way the actual dates were set up. For some reason it started the weeks on Monday so I was constantly getting the date wrong or forgetting which day was what. Very irritating. But the pinup girls are of course adorable--this was our second Elvgren calendar--so we figured we'd see if we could grab another one.

And they had one. But half the pictures were the same as last year. Over half, in fact, which is just ridiculous. It's not like there are thousands of Elvgren images to choose from, you know? Sigh.

Anyway. So no Elvgren calendar this year. And the selection we found sucked. Really bad. All landscapes. Which are fine but I like something a little more fun, personally. (When I worked at a credit card bank I used to have a lot of fun with oddball calendars, since there were such strict rules about what we could and could not display. So I couldn't get anything racy, but I did find a nifty chicken calendar. I like chickens. I have a chicken kitchen; chicken clock, chicken bookends, a chicken plaque about seasons. They amuse me. Anyway.)

They didn't of course have a chicken calendar at Borders. They didn't have much of anything. So as I hunted around I saw a cartoony looking one called "What Every Woman Wants." (I have just spent fifteen minutes hunting for the thing on the Borders website and through Google and can't find it, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

So I grab it. And I admit I was already rolling my eyes a little bit, because I suspected I knew what was in store.

And I was right. On the back of the thing they show images of each month, you know what I mean? Those little previews. And EVERY SINGLE IMAGE is this cartoon egg, thinking or saying things like "I just want a spa day" or "Give me some chocolate". Or walking into a store with a signboard out front advertising mani/pedis.

So that is it. According to the makers of this calendar--probably a bunch of old men with hair sprouting out of their ears--what women really want is chocolate and manicures.

And you know, screw those people.

I really don't offend easily but there is very little that pisses me off and offends me more than this tired, stupid stereotype that all women would rather sit around sucking back chocolates and having someone paint their nails than use their minds or their bodies. I am so sick of the idea that all women are essentially on the same mental/emotional wavelength as a bunch of tipsy fifty-year-old divorcees living on alimony, collecting Beanie Babies, and bemoaning their empty nests while watching Oprah religiously and never picking up a book.

I am so SICK of it.

You know what? I have a brain. And I use that brain. Nothing sounds like less fun to me than a freaking "spa day". Seriously. I don't like steam. I am not a fan of wearing only a towel, anywhere. I am 35 yeard old and have had long, lovely fingernails for seventeen years, and have had three professional manicures in all that time--one of which was for my wedding--and ONE pedicure.

Don't tell me what I want. Don't tell me that out of everything in the whole wide world, what I really, really want is to hide my light under a mud mask and flop around staring at the ceiling and imagining how my skin will glow later. Do NOT tell me that of everything in the whole wide world, what I really want is some fucking chocolate. Like I'm a little kid and you can just give me a piece of candy and something shiny to look at and I'll be happy for hours. Like if I'm getting unattractively flushed because I'm passionate about something that's bothering me you can just pawn me off with a piece of chocolate and the promise that later someone will paint my nails, and my stress will disappear and I'll be a pretty, pliable decoration for you again. Do NOT pat me on the head.

Because you know what? There are lots of things I want. There are lots of things I care about. And that calendar is bullshit, offensive bullshit. Do you really think that's funny? To imply that work isn't important to me, that my children aren't important to me, that the world isn't important to me? That what I really want is to spend a few hours, not even just totally focused on my self, but on my LOOKS?

It's like bath stuff. (Bear with me.) Now, I am not offended by bath stuff gifts, although in the last three years I think I've taken exactly that many baths. Bath stuff is an easy gift to buy and give. And I do appreciate lotions of all kinds, because I have dry skin and so do use lotion daily.

But I am so tired of being told to take a bath to relieve stress. I am so tired of this image people have of women as people who would rather sit by themselves in a tub full of water than anything else in the world. Every stupid women's magazine out there is constantly telling me to take a bath. To be honest, it reminds me of the flowing-water-treatment Neely O'Hara was given at the mental hospital in Valley of the Dolls. You know, when the patients started acting up or getting stressed, the nurses would put them in a tub and run water over them until they calmed down.

That's what it feels like, every time those magazines tell e to take a bath and tell me about all the neat new Bath Products I can try. You know, I have a lively mind; try as I might, I simply cannot find great enthusiasm for the idea of sitting in a tub staring at my pores. It doesn't interest me.

Is something wrong with me, then, or is it simply that this tired, stupid, offensive stereotype of women as superficial simps who'd sell their souls for a piece of Godiva just wrong-headed and offensive and old, and it's time to put an end to it?

And for the record, lest you think me sexist, I am just as offended by the idea that all men want are sports equipment and steaks. Several years ago I got megapissed with Amazon because they claimed to offer one-day shipping for Father's Day gifts. Which was essentially true but what they didn't tell me until it was too late, was that that only applied to what Amazon deemed suitable as a Father's Day gift. Had I wanted to buy the hubs golf clubs or a razor or a book on football, I would have had one-day shipping. But because I wanted to buy him a Hellblazer graphic novel, they wouldn't even ship the thing until after Father's Day; not because it wasn't in stock, but because they were focusing on filling orders for golf clubs and whatever else was on their list of Things They Thought My Husband Should Want.


What do you guys think? Am I overreacting or is the "What Every Woman Wants" calendar really sexist and offensive? Or both?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Does journaling help? I don't think so

If you've spent any time online--or anywhere else--reading advice for writers, or tips for writers, or anything else, you've probably at some point or another come across the "Keep a journal" tip. It's pretty common, actually.

I see the reasoning behind the advice, I do. Keeping a journal gets you into the habit of daily writing, which is terrifically important. It can expand your vocabulary; it can make you familiar with the process of writing itself. It can help you find a voice.

But here's my problem with it. Writing a journal is not at all like writing fiction. Not remotely like it, actually. Trust me on this; I blog, and I write fiction. The processes are completely different; the feel of it is different. Even the voice is largely different.

Now, I don't claim in any way to have mastered either the art of the novel or the art of the entertaining blog post. What I can tell you is that I've written some of both of which I'm quite proud, and here are the major differences as I see them (and some of these are versions of the same thing, you'll notice; that illustrates points 1, 6, and 8) :

1. Good fiction writing is precise and focused. Good blog writing is all about digression.

In fiction every word has to count. In blogging, not so much. While I do have a tendency toward digression--ah, my beloved emdashes--in fiction, I really do it in blogging. It's okay in blogging to bring random weird examples into play. It's okay to repeat yourself a dozen times.

2. Exclamation points are frowned on in fiction. I've had this one drummed into me so hard that I feel weird using exclamation points in my books even when it's appropriate. In blog posts? Not so much. A quick look back at some of my blog posts shows considerably more exclamation points than you'd ever find in one of my novels.

3. The use of cliches. You want to avoid cliches in fiction, of course. Cliches are bad in fiction. Dumb as a post; white as a marshmallow (or ghost, or sheet); hard as a rock; shaking like a leaf; etc. etc. etc. (Another phrase you cannot use in fiction.) Dialogue is of course a different matter; cliches can advance characterization there. Having a character speak largely in cliches or platitudes shows the reader something about them (of course, you want to be careful you don't overdo it, but it is an occasionally useful tool.)

But in a blog post you can use cliches, or rather, you don't need to be as vigilant about them. In fact, in a blog post it can be irritating if you work too hard to avoid cliche. Going out of your way to be clever often sounds forced.

4. Digression. A story has to go somewhere. Your reader wants to know what happens next. They do not want you to lose topic and wander off into an interesting anecdote about The Time You Accidentally Ate A Bug. Stories like those are delightful in blog posts. Not so much in fiction. Not to mention, parentheses are great fun in blog posts but tend to be jarring in fiction.

5. Italics and boldface. Both are great fun in blog posts and can be used liberally. Both are to be used sparingly in fiction if at all.

6. Targets and points. See, in a novel or short story, every word, every sentence, every scene, has to advance the story. In a blog post there is no story; or rather there might be, but not one with great complexity. Not often, anyway. It is perfectly okay to blog about three unrelated things in one post. It is not okay in a novel to introduce characters who have no purpose in the story, or to throw a recipe in somewhere, or whatever.

7. Blogging is telling, not showing. Fiction is the opposite. A good blog post is snappy. A good blog post often tells rather than shows the action; it can be a mix of both, but as good blog posts are often short, telling is usually necessary.

8. Lazy writing. Yes, this is sort of covered already; it all really boils down to this point and the next. But seriously. When I blog I don't worry so much about word choices or points or repeated words. I don't worry about emdashing and parenthesesing myself into a glorious stupor.

9. Journals are all about YOU. A novel is not about you at all. This is the biggest one. A novel is about your characters. It's their story. Your blog is about you; what you're thinking, what you're feeling.

In other words, blogging encourages you to focus on yourself. It encourages you--the Writer--to examine every bit of your psyche, to turn yourself and your opinions, thoughts, and feelings into The Star Of The Show.

Whereas you don't belong anywhere in your novel. Oh sure, parts of you might. But I firmly elieve this is where a lot of writers fall on their swords. By thinking that blogging/journaling and fiction writing are essentially the same thing; by thinking the hip, fun voice that readers enjoy in their blog translates to fiction. It doesn't. What's fun and amusing in a blog is irritating and intrusive in a novel. I don't buy novels to read what the author thinks of political or social issues. I buy them to read a story, and most readers do the same.

But blogging encourages you to turn inward. To view all your writing through the lens of your cuddly, fun, enticing self. When you write fiction there is no self. There is only the character and their story.

Blogging encourages you to insert yourself into your work, and that's not a good thing. Blogging encourages you to be lazy, to be loose, to be imprecise. And that's deadly in fiction.

This isn't to say that there aren't ways in which blogging can help you. Like I said, as a vocabulary builder or a tool to get you into the habit of putting your fingers on the keys, it's fine. This also isn't to say that great bloggers can't be great fiction writers.

What I am trying to say is that the two are different skills, and being good at one does not necessarily translate into being good at the other. They're different mindsets, with different focuses.

It's not that I think blogging is a bad thing, or that it will hurt you. What I do think is that encouraging writers to keep a journal is not necessarily great advice.

Because the number one most important thing to do to improve your fiction is keep practicing.

And if you're writing in your journal, you're not working on your novel. Period.

A blog is a timesuck, and you'd use your time much better if you kept practicing your fiction.

What do you think?

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