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
Stay tuned for the next installment of Writers' Rooms. This week we explore the sanctums of Jennifer Rardin, Kelling Meding and Jaye Wells.
First though, a little news and commentary.
I'm new to the League as may be many of you. To say that this is a terrifically talented group is an understatement. To prove my point, check out the book covers of Leaguers on to the right and left of this post whose books have just been, or will be released, in the next few days. To make your shopping easier, here is a list that you can copy and take with you to your favorite bookstore.
Remember, support your Leaguers-- Buy early and often!
Acevedo, Mario JAILBAIT ZOMBIE
Cassidy, Dakota THE ACCIDENTAL HUMAN
Henry, Mark ROAD TRIP OF THE LIVING DEAD
Kittredge, Caitlin SECOND SKIN
Lewis, J. F. REVAMPED
Priest, Cherie FATHOM
Strout, Anton DEADER STILL
So, just a couple of announcements before we hit the feature--
I'm now posting on the on The Biting Edge Thursday's beginning this week.
To kick things off Mario and I are having a contest-- this one will take thought and ingenuity but the prize cache is truly awesome. We plan to have details up on Thursday so be sure to check in!
Now-- here we go with Writers' Rooms.
Jennifer Rardin said: Nothing. Evidently she had trouble sending me the pic so it came through someone else. Dangerous, Jennifer. That means I can say anything I want
I say: Another neatnic. Notice how the laptop is aligned perfectly with the desk blotter which is aligned perfectly with the edge of the desk. Now I ask you, is that normal? I think not. Jennifer, come clean. You staged this didn't you? You may defend yourself in comments if you wish.
Kelly said: For as long as I can remember, my writing space has always been my bedroom. I've never had an office, and I rarely do any significant amount of writing away from home (of course, I also don't travel very much, *g*). As messy as it might look, it's actually pretty organized. My favorite fuchsia mug is sitting on its warming plate (coffee shouldn't be cold unless I ordered it iced). Behind my monitor on a piece of yellow paper is a sign from my best friend that says "Write, Chaos, Write!", and it's advice I try to follow on a daily basis. There's always chocolate of some sort hiding in the left-hand drawer. And all the little sticky notes help keep me sane. Maybe I'll have an actual office some day, but for now, this is where the magic happens.
I say: this is more like it. I especially like having chocolate and coffee close to hand. Important aids to the imagination. The "write, chaos, write" bit you obviously have down. Who needs an entire office when you have everything within arm's reach? I like it.
Jaye said (and she had a lot to say along with sending three--count 'em--three pictures! However, truth be told, she is the ONLY one who actually followed my instructions. So I'm giving her the rest of the page!) :
This is where the magic happens, folks. I just redecorated the entire room last summer. I totally heart the purple. As you can tell from the Buddah, I was going for a Zen-ish theme. Pretentious maybe, but when you are the only woman in a house full of men you learn to appreciate a quiet, clean spot.
Points of interest:
1. The sign next to my computer reads: "She was armed with intuition and the fearless courage to act." That quote sums up the person I want to be. I'm not always good at it, but the sign is there to remind me to try.
2. I have way too many candles in this place. My favorite is the sandalwood one on my desk. The mages in my series all smell like sandalwood so it helps me get in the mood to write about magic.
3. True fact: I actually work better in public spaces. My first two books were mostly written at a nearby Starbucks. It took me a long time to get used to writing alone in my office. So usually I have music blaring when I'm working so I don't feel so claustrophobic. This of course completely contradicts my early statement about having a quiet place. What can I say-- I'm a complicated woman and no one understands me but my internal critic.
4. There is no rhyme or reason to the organization of my book case. Well, except for the top two shelves, which my husband stole for his books. His are organized because he's a Virgo. I'm a fiesty Aries and prefer a less anal-retentive approach to life. I'm always finding books I forgot I have, and it's like getting presents every time visit my books.
My debut is RED-HEADED STEPCHILD and it comes out March 31.
So there we have it for another week. Look for me next Saturday with news and views. Also, I'll be posting the cover for my new book, Retribution, which comes out in September.
See you then!
PS-- Okay Tom and Tator-Gator-- here's Jaye's third pic-- notice I just centered it all by itself. This is this blogger site's preferred formatting. It's the only one I can do without pulling out hair.
I'm brainstorming today. I need to get started on the second book in my new paranormal romance series -- first books are fairly easy. Second books? HARD. (at least, for me). The first series I did, my vamp one, I never really had a plan for it since I never knew I'd get the chance to go five books with the same characters. This non-planning presented several challenges for me in regards to overall character arcs and other lovely writerly terms. It all worked out, luckily enough, but it wasn't totally easy getting from point A to point Z while keeping each book as stand-alone as possible.
I'm lucky enough to now be at the beginning of two potential series - one for adults and one for teens. The first book is written for both, and my task in the next five months is to write 2 book twos. Basically I want to make things easier on myself by thinking things through up front. But how do you do that? How do you know where your characters might be in five plus books?
I'm basically writing everything down in a series bible -- character motivation and goals, descriptions, potential plot points. It's intimidating! Mostly because I'm one of those people who overthink everything and assume I'm doing it wrong.
So I'm asking my fellow Leaguers -- many of whom have written or are writing awesome multi-book series -- (or any other fabulous person who'd like to answer the question) HOW DO YOU DO IT? Do you have any tips, tricks, or words of wisdom in thinking "series"? How do you approach this specialized kind of novel-writing? Do you take it one book at a time? Do you know how everything's going to turn out or do you let your characters surprise you and take you in new unexplored directions?
Please! Share with the class. I really want to know. (So I can use your tips for my own selfish and nefarious reasons, of course).
--Michelle Rowen :-)
Nicole: Welcome League readers! As ya’ll know, we’ve been doing a series with up and coming writers discussing the “process” as they’ve experienced it. There have also been some nasty rumors about how we at the League use these interviews as an excuse to lure people in so that we can rid ourselves of our competition. Which is totally not true. Every single guest has survived . . . by the skin of their teeth. Anyway, today we have another YA fantasy writer, the incredibly talented Cindy Pon. In fact, she’s so talented I can feel my trigger finger itching . . . Um, Cindy, why don’t you tell the League something about yourself and your current project(s)
cindy: hi nicole! thanks for inviting me to the league. i feel so honored to be here! let's see, i'm a stay at home mom with two little ones, sweet pea (5) and munchkin (4). the full time mom thing made me want to have something to call my own, so i decided to try and write a novel! i wrote as a teen but stopped all through my 20's. after about two years writing and revising with my critique groups, i began querying for agents! i queried 121 and was very fortunate to have bill contardi take me on.
we sold SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the KIngdom of Xia to greenwillow books at auction. it was very exciting and very stressful. also surreal. it is a young adult asian fantasy.
*Nicole stops adjusting the silencer on the small handgun she’s pulled from her purse* Um, Cindy? Are you not using capitals? I can hear that, you know. I have a highly developed sixth sense for punctuation. It’s called my eecumonyerkillingme-sense. Lack of capitals tends to drive me a little . . . umm. . . we’ll not talk about it. I’m sure I’m just imagining things. Your book is very near to its release date. What has the process been like for you?
Cindy: i've learned so so much. the best part was working on the revision drafts with my wonderful editor, virginia. but also, it was very exiting to help choose a model for my cover and see my heroine brought to life on the cover. it's been a little overwhelming at times (mostly from my own neurosis, ha!), but amazing the entire way!
Nicole: *facial muscles twitching* Okay, seriously. There were i’s used as subjects and not punctuated in that last response. Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me, woman? Did Jen Hayley tell you to do this, after the crossbow incident? I totally wouldn’t have shot her with it, btw. I was just toning my triceps. So go ahead and tell me how it feels to see your book for the first time? AND USE FREAKING CAPITALS.
cindy: *obviously enjoying watching nicole squirm* virginia shared my book jacket with me on halloween. what a TREAT. it brought tears to my eyes. the color scheme, the incorporation of my calligraphy, the small beautiful details... chris borgman and paul zakris did an amazing job. i feel very fortunate.
Nicole: *writhing in agony* Oh my gods . . . so many proper nouns . . . so little capitalization. Gretchen made you do it, didn’t she . . . it was the Drano cocktail. We will not be foiled! I have ear plugs around here somewhere . . . while I hunt, tell me about your various projects. How did you branch out into such diverse types of books?
cindy: i sold the sequel to SILVER PHOENIX along with a children's picture book. i am a chinese brush art student and had just had a group art show and posted some fotos. i mentioned off hand that doing a picture book with my own art is a dream of mine. virginia popped into my blog a few days later (while my manuscript was on submission with her) and offered a children's picture book contract as well. i was floored, but am having so much fun working on this!
Nicole: See, you CAN use capitals! Now use them in the correct place, goddamit! What is the most important lesson you learned from this experience?
cindy: to be flexible. to be open to learning. to be a pro at multi-tasking. to never forget how much you love your book and what you are doing. whoops. you asked for one. pretend i only said the first. ha!
Nicole: *Scratching at her ears in agony* You are killing me! I am supposed to be killing you! Not vice versa! Tell me your advice for aspiring writers and get out, you upsetter-of-the-natural-order-of-things, you!
cindy: *obviously relishing her final remarks* my advice is to believe in yourself and keep trying. don't be the pretentious writer who thinks s/he is above criticism, learning or revisions. don't be the timid thin-skinned writer who crumples at the aspect of just one rejection. (i probably received 100 myself...) you may not sell your first novel, you may not sell your third. but if you love the process well enough, it's worth it to keep trying. you will improve with each work and you'll grow as a writer, find your voice, find your passion.
i've learned that it takes a lot of courage to chase your dreams, and an even braver soul to live it. but i can also tell you that it is most definitely worth it. /bootay shake! =D
Nicole: *trembling on the floor, lying in a pool of sweat* That’s it, I’m done. No more interviews for a while. You can find more information about Cindy, and examples of her admittedly gorgeous art, at http://cindypon.com/. Now get out, you no-capitals hussy.
I mean, of course it's bad. It's gross; it's squick all around. But apparently, cannibalism is one of those things that You Should Not Put In Books either.
I'm currently over halfway through the third Downside book (which I am extremely happy with, yay!) and my Bad Baddies are really starting to crystallize. Of course they've/he's/she's (no spoilers here!) been around since the very beginning, because that's the way I roll it, baby. But now we're exploring the BB more intimately. And one little character trait I had in mind of this particular/these particular BBs was that they occasionally enjoyed sitting down to a nice meal of other human beings.
Perhaps it's because I was seventeen when Silence of the Lambs came out--the book, which I read before I knew a movie was coming, and then the movie which I saw the day it was released--this didn't seem to me to be that big a deal. I mean, clearly it's yucky, but not horrifyingly, shockingly so.
Especially when you consider that Hannibal the Cannibal was and is so, so popular.
Especially when you consider that, for example, vampires are so sexy (yeah, you might not think so but I sure as hell do); and really, while drinking blood isn't exactly the same as actually eating flesh, there are distinct similarities. And while I know there are people who find vampires gross for that reason, there seem to be a lot of others who find the idea more of a turn-on than a turn-off. I freely admit I fall into this category.
And that's not even touching on the fact that, of course, one of the greatest heroines in urban fantasy is Mark Henry's Amanda Feral, who eats people, and whose latest adventure was just released yesterday so you should go buy it!! And while you're at it, but Mario's and Anton's books as well, of course.
I have recently been informed by several people In The Know that cannibalism should be avoided. It's not a big deal; I'm not complaining or anything. But I am, well, a bit worried. Make that a lot worried.
Because, um, there's a little bit of it in the second Demons book. I don't want to spoil it (no pun intended), but it is there. It's ritual cannibalism and clearly presented as such; a gesture of respect, a continuance of something, a transfer of power, all that and more. It's there. And while I had a concern when writing it, I felt fairly confident that I'd made it and the purposes for it clear enough that readers would understand it and not be too horrified; that it would equate largely with vampiric blood-drinking. I made several mentions of ancient tribes practicing ritual cannibalism. I made one or two oblique references to Communion and transubstantiation (Yes, I'm fully aware there is a difference; please do not think I'm equating Catholicism with cannibalism; I'm simply pointing out that there is a similar form of ritual to which people don't give a second thought, really). I make it clear that this is a very distinct, once-in-a-lifetime sort of ritual and is not a part of the everday lives of any of those involved.
But I have to admit I'm still worried.
I can't do anything about it now; there's no way I can remove it because it is such an important part of the events of the book. It's the lynchpin on which the entire last act of the book spins and is the basis for several Important Discussions and Events. But given that DEMON INSIDE has a darker spin overall, and given that cannibalism is apparently a real taboo... I am concerned. Quite concerned.
What do you think? If a character you like performs such an act--once-in-a-lifetime, remember, with deep ritual meaning; one symbolic bite, say--would you be sickened? Would you find it difficult or impossible to continue seeing that character in the same way? Would you throw the book against the wall and decide I should be committed? Would you question the sanity of a character who didn't condemn the act, who didn't decide s/he couldn't possibly contemplate even speaking to that character again?
Give it to me straight. I can take it. Sigh.
What I do know is, if you pick up a copy and want a signed book plate and some swag, just send me an email with your address and I'll hook your ass up!
So...what can you expect from Amanda and the gang in this one? I think I'll make a list...
1. Drag Wolf Tanesha Jones and her airbrushed claws of doom!
2. Hot necrophilia (well sort-of in that Amanda's dead, kinda)
3. A Kranky Kraken and a trio of Chthulu brethren with speech impediments.
4. A bizarre homeless guy with the very fitting name Fishhook.
5. Cross-country mayhem and a trail of bodies.
6. Werewolf attacks and bloody battles at cheap roadside motels.
7. A superhot shapeshifting love interest (or at least lust)
8. MC Shaman and his pimp-cup o' plenty!
9. A Hindu Goddess in steampunk attire.
10. A 50's family with a striking resemblance to certain Flowers in the Attic.
11. An outbreak of zombie skinheads!
So...pick it up now at one of these fine retailers...
University Bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, Powell's, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Stay tuned for the winner of the Zombie Stimulus Package, later today, and don't forget to email for a book plate!
It's the big day. Book 4 of the Felix Gomez vampire-detective adventures is on the streets.
To celebrate you have a chance to earn a coveted yet feared Devil Duck.
Maximize your chances by stuffing the ballot box over at BronzeWord.
And everybody's Facebook friend, Amber Katze is giving you another chance for the Duck at the AmberKatze blog.
Celebrate the Apocalypse! What fun.
Read what I say about the end times on Laura Benedict's blog Notes From the Handbasket.
First, me and the lovely Amber Benson, who is now my BFF and who also shares my on sale date with her quirky urban fantasy, Death's Daughter. How can you not support two lovely bitchez like us, I ask you?
That said, my mind feels like zombies have been munching on it lately.
At the moment, I am:
-promoting book two, Deader Still, on sale today!
-finishing up the epilogue on book three
-packing my apartment to move to scenic New Jersey, where I will be minutes away from my precious Chik-fil-A and about a half hour from Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash.
-answering interview questions
-doing three projects for work
-planning parts of my doings for sales conference
So I'll be brief, as I'm running on fumes and short on sleep. Won't you please help support my little corner of the League by picking up a copy of Deader Still? Feel free to blog it up elsewhere. I have a hell of a lot of fun writing it, I hope you have as much fun reading it.
Anton, amateur rapscallion
PS. For the curious, why yes, I am wearing a t-shirt of my favorite xylophone playing cat, Sammy. Why do you ask? If you like Easter eggs, see if you can find a link to him on my website and enjoy him in action!
I have to say that shows like "Ghost Hunters," "Ghost Adventures," and "Paranormal State," are at least TRYING to either find real evidence of paranormal activity or help people claiming they have supernatural problems. Okay, "Ghost Adventures" just picks creepy places and locks their selves inside all night, but still.
"Most Haunted" ... not so much. It's great fun to watch, though. They take a walk-through of the building and discuss all the horrible history. Hangings! Murder! Women walled up in rooms and left to starve! Then they get their psychic du jour to do another walk-through and he comes up with amazing (amazing!) details about the place, and usually some names that are either so common to the time period the historian confirms them (do I sound cynical?) or that can't be identified at all. I dunno. If some asshole walled me up in a room and left me to starve, I think I'd be pissed off enough to reach the psychic and reveal pertinent details.
Anyhoodles, then our intrepid investigators and the psychic turn off the lights and use their night vision cameras (which always makes their eyes look freaky) and go through the creepy place asking the ghosts to communicate. They always have a seance. Surprisingly, the table nearly always moves and/or knocking sounds are heard. Spoooooooky. The British chick is always screaming her head off or saying in loud whispers, "Didja hear that?" They talk so loud, you can't hear if there was a noise or a voice. This does not prevent "Most Haunted" from re-playing the moment 700 times so you can not hear it again.
Still, it's an hour I don't have to do laundry, so I'm in.
"A Haunting" is a little scarier in tone. Demons are always popping up in these houses and possessing people. Weird. The haunted experience is re-enacted by actors, and then interviews with the real people are interspersed throughout the segment.
Here are some things I've learned from this show:
*Buying old houses is stupid. In addition, buying a plot of land without verifying it was an old Indian burial spot or a forgotten cemetery is also stupid.
* If you're going to use witchcraft ... don't. Just don't. You can't go out and buy books about Wicca and expect to know what you're doing. Leave the Wiccans alone, damn it. The same goes for using Ouija boards (Hello, did ANYONE watch "The Exorcist"?) or other instruments designed to invoke and/or contact the spirits.
* Getting your priest to bless the house just pisses off the demons/ghosts/neighbors. Every time one of these home owners call in some religious dude to get rid of the entity, things immediately get worse. It's the same story, "Everything felt lighter, as if the darkness had been lifted." And the next night, the evil spirit comes back and brings friends. Now, it's a demonic party. Good job.
* If the psychic is scared of your house, get out. Pack your shit and leave. Whatever's there isn't going to leave. It was there before you. If it doesn't like you or it wants your child or it's scratching your husband ... getouttathere.
And so ends our foray into the televised delight of haunted places (and people).
NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!
Hey, guess what? I got some NEWS!
On Writer Wednesday, I will review ROAD TRIP OF THE LIVING DEAD by Mark Henry. Amanda Feral and her BFFs steal a Winnebago and hit the road.
Next week, on Thursday, March 5th, I will be in Houston with Dakota Cassidy at Murder by the Book.
And did I mention the new Michele's Minions website?
I'm so excited to reveal to the League the AMAZING cover for Tempest Rising. I can't tell you HOW pleased with it I am. It's perfect for my book and it's everything I could have wanted.
Humans, I've come to believe, are master procrastinators. None more so than writers. Because nobody is standing over us with the Glowing Sword of Thesaurus, threatening to spear, pierce, stab, spike, and skewer us if we don't hunker down and put some damn words on the screen. I suspect even some of our League members have, from time to time, struggled to fend off the Procrastinator Monster, who skips into the office bearing Ding Dongs and 24-hour Internet access, knowing full well we have the willpower of shipwrecked sailors.
Sometimes (like now) when I'm getting ready to begin a new book (damn, they're long!) I find myself deviously avoiding face-time with ye olde outline. This might be because I've always despised outlines, never having completely understood where to put the capital "A" versus the lowercase "a," not to mention the various numbers, which my high school English teacher insisted had to be symmetrical.
"If you can come up with two explanations for section A, Jennifer, you must also devise two explanations for section B."
"What if I can only find one argument to support section B, Mrs. Tortureme?"
"Okay, then. What if a large dragon came and bit off your head tonight? Would my paper still be due on Friday?"
But I digress. Or do I? Ummm . . . anyway. What do I do to avoid doing the work I should be doing? Here's a sample:
1) Make useless lists which can later be printed, recycled into paper airplanes, and raced across the living room.
2) Spend all day on Facebook trying to think up bizarre statuses (stati? staten?), taking ridiculous quizzes, and playing with my Fluff friend, Feerce, who I am training to go back in time to snap off the head of Mrs. Tortureme.
3) Clean. Yup, I am this desperate. Laundry. Dishes. Dusting. I've even been known to wash windows to avoid the laptop.
4) Watch reruns of Hogan's Heroes. Is this not the best show ever made (besides the Beverly Hillbillies, I mean?) Classic!
5) Make noodles. This can take an entire afternoon if you time it right.
6) Visit my mom. Same as above. Plus she pays for the food. Sweet!
7) Read a book and justify it as market research.
8) Go shopping. Eventually I'll be doing a talk. Or signing some books. Or something requiring decent clothes. (I tell myself this to avoid the guilt. It works.)
9) Decide I'll never write comfortably again without that white cardigan that I haven't seen in three years. Thus will commence a house wide hunt that will range from the attic to the basement. Eventually I will realize I'm wearing the cardigan.
10) Spend two hours planning a trip to the location about which I'm writing only to find it will cost me ten thousand dollars just for plane tickets and hotel fees. Scrap the whole idea and start planning a vacation instead.
How about youse guys? What're your top procrastination picks? Hope they're doozies. Lately it's been getting harder to put myself off, so I could use some new material!
Ready for the next installment of the League Writers’ Rooms? It follows after these messages from our sponsors.
A little Whedon stuff off the top of my head. I’m having a contest on The Biting Edge. Prize is a copy of MBR—just released in trade. All you have to do is pop over and make a comment—hopefully about Dollhouse, but really, can be about anything. MBR is dedicated to Joss Whedon from a group I belong to called The Buffybuds. Contest ends on Tuesday at midnight.
On March 23rd, another Whedon Alum, Nathan Fillion of Firefly/Serenity/Dr. Horrible fame begins his new show on ABC, Castle. We’ll be discussing that on The Biting Edge, too, I’m sure.
Some interesting (at least to me) factoids about bookselling and numbers. For 2008, the top ten books in terms of numbers sold were:
1 Breaking Dawn Meyer, Stephenie 3,310,000
2 Twilight Meyer, Stephenie 3,175,000
3 A New Earth Tolle, Eckhart 3,146,000
4 The Last Lecture Pausch, Randy 2,705,000
5 New Moon Meyer, Stephenie 2,667,000
6 Eclipse Meyer, Stephenie 2,563,000
7 The Shack Young, William 2,551,000
8 The Tales of Beedle the Bard Rowling, JK 1,822,000
9 Brisingr Paolini, Christopher 1,312,000
10 Eat, Pray, Love Gilbert, Elizabeth 1,274,000
For the top fifty list, go here.
For Tolkien fans, an early unpub’d work is coming out. From the AP:
"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun," a thorough reworking in verse of old Norse epics that predates Tolkien's writing of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, will be published in May by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
According to Houghton, the book will include an introduction by Tolkien and notes by his son, Christopher Tolkien.
J.R.R. Tolkien, whose fantasy novels have sold millions of copies, died in 1973. "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" was written in the 1920s and '30s, when the author was teaching at Oxford University.
Okay, here’s something REALLY cool: You can help name the new NASA node. Voting will be open from February 19th to March 20th, 2009. NASA will announce the winning name in April 2009.
While I’m partial to Legacy for personal reasons, Serenity seems up and away the favorite—You’ll see what I mean when you vote.
Next Wednesday I’ll have more book news and a couple of writing contests for you to check out on The Biting Edge.
Back now to our scheduled feature. Writers’ rooms.
Today’s victims—er—guests are: Cherie Priest, Richelle Mead and Nicole Peeler.
We’ll start with Cherie first. She says: It's not ordinarily this tidy, but I just moved -- and the desk area hasn't yet had time to restore itself to chaos.
I say: baloney. Nobody with a desk this neat EVER lets it descend into chaos. And look at those pictures on the wall! Did you hang them with a level? Even the days marked off on the calendar are tidy. I want to revisit this in say—six months—and see if I’m right. I’ll bet it will be just as neat!
Richelle Mead. She says: You sure you want this monstrosity? Was I supposed to say anything about it? I'm so scattered lately.
I say: Richelle, baby, with three series going, a deadline every three months, and a blog that you journal in everyday, you’re entitled to be a little scattered. Personally, I like it. Especially the exercise thingy in the left corner which I assume you use to hold your calendar (I think that’s what that is). I was trying to figure out what those red things are on the floor. Care to share?
Nicole Peeler. She says: Nicole works in a corner of her apartment, near the fire so she can burn things when she's frustrated. Her desk always (has) drafts of novels/conference papers/journal articles that usually need to have been finished five minutes ago. She also keeps cards from her friends, and a very special motto given to her by her high school English teacher close at hand.
I say: My first question back to Nicole upon receiving this was: Do you REALLY sit on that ball? She replied: Yup! :-) I swear, once you go ball you'll never . .. okay, that puttered out. But seriously, it's awesome. I hate sitting at my desk chair in my work office now…. That said, I have totally fallen off of it a few times. Which may explain a lot depending on whether she fell backwards and hit her head on the floor, or frontwards and hit her head on the desk. Well, come to think of it, it doesn’t really matter which way she fell, does it? Next question: I couldn't read the motto. Do I want to?
So that's it for this week. Tune in next Saturday for another installment of Writers' Rooms. Same bat time (more or less). Same bat channel.
Yes, it sounds a little odd to have my first signing so far away from my hometown. My parents live in the St. Louis area and my mom has been talking the book up to anyone who will listen. She also handed out promotional bookmark to people on the streets of New Orleans last week. She's a one-woman maternal promotion machine.
1 p.m. April 11th
Chesterfield Barnes and Noble
600 Clarkson Road
My publicist will be scheduling something in Paducah soon.
Hope to see you there!
Nicole: Thanks for coming and talking to me, Jen. After Gretchen survived, er, gave such great interview last week, I was beaten thoroughly by the rest of the League. And by “beaten,” I mean with congratulations. Anyway, I am going to do my best to stick you with this sword . . . um, ask you super probing questions that get to the heart of our modern condition. Can you start by telling the League something about yourself and your current project? And maybe stepping closer so I don’t have to swing this thing so far . . . or raise my voice? No? You prefer to stand over there? Fine, Rardin left a crossbow around here somewhere. I mean, I can hear you. Answer the damned question.
Jen: *backing further away from the short woman with the broadsword* I’m a YA urban fantasy writer, and my books are about ghosts and demons and fun stuff like that. My current project, MY SO-CALLED AFTERLIFE, is the first in a series about a 17-year-old girl named Cassidy who meets an unfortunate demise. She becomes a ghost and enters a strange afterlife world where she has to attend crossing over classes and live in a cemetery. Otherwise, she’ll turn into a roamer: a ghost who wanders the earth for eternity in pain. That doesn’t sound like much fun to her. So, she goes along for the ride until she discovers the ghosts running the crossing over classes aren’t quite what they seem…
Nicole: *Nicole has been mumbling to herself while rummaging around in a stack of medieval looking weaponry. She finally finds the crossbow* . . . now where are the freakin’ bolts? If Jaye’s been lending them to Sabina to use as hair sticks, I am so kicking both their asses . . . oh, Jen, you’re finished. Great. Now, once I find the crossbow bolts, I can finish you. I mean, ask you more questions. Why don’t you start by talking a little about where you are in the “process?” And do you have any last words . . . I mean, inspiring anecdotes?
Jen: *takes a few slow steps back* I’ve completed revisions for my agent, and we’re this close to going on submission to editors. I’m both very excited and very nervous about this! And I may have programmed a special ringtone in my cell for her…
She also happens to be the very first agent I approached about my novel back in July. Two and a half months later, I’d queried every agent I thought appropriate, and I was beginning to get a little discouraged. Okay, a lot discouraged. I’d received a lot of interest, but I’d also received a lot of rejections. It was one roller coaster of a ride. I wish I could go back and tell my July self I didn’t need to go through all that! But then you never really know who will love your work, and experiencing the stress made me appreciate getting an offer all that more.
Nicole: Ha! Bolts! Finally! Jen, why are you hiding behind the refrigerator, dammit? Come out! No? Crap. Fine. I can sneak up on you from the side. While I do that, what is the most important lesson you learned from your experience querying?
Jen: Patience. Okay, I’m not sure I’ve really learned how to be patient as much as I’ve learned I need to be patient. Everything takes time. Getting an agent. Getting ready to go on submission. Getting an editor. And then there’s even more waiting after that.
I’ve always been a very impatient person, but I think this experience is making me come to terms with the fact not everything can happen immediately, especially when dealing with the publishing industry. *turns and runs*
Nicole: *chasing Jen in a circle around the refrigerator* Okay, I’d rather be running after the publishing industry. For you are fast, I am chubby, and this crossbow is heavy. Why do I always have to murder our competition, anyway? *flops down in a recliner, panting* I give up. Tell me what your advice is for aspiring writers, and then get out.
Jen: *eyes Nicole warily* “Without the bitter, the sweet just ain’t as sweet.” Okay, I stole that line from Jason Lee in Vanilla Sky, but I’ve adopted it as my motto.
All writers get rejections. I’ve gotten a lot of rejections, and there’s still more to come. The biggest dreams are often the hardest, but they’re also the most rewarding. Because once you do get that acceptance, you know it came to you through hard work and dedication. And that makes it all the more awesome. “No one writes songs about the ones that come easy,” said Logan to Veronica Mars. Sure, he was talking about relationships, but I think it’s also true for goals and dreams.
Nicole: *still struggling to catch her breath* Okay, if you tell everyone I came this close to decapitating you, I’ll not only let you walk out of here but I’ll tell everyone your website. Deal? You can find Jen Hayley, still quick and still alive, dagnabbit, at http://jenhayley.com/.
Finishing up book 5, vampires vs werewolves (fighting and a lot of fraternizing).
Working title: THE WEREWOLF SUPER SEX CLUB
People wonder what writing a novel is like so I drew this cartoon.
If you're not familiar with my books, you can download NYMPHOS...for FREE! Simply go to the EOS blog.
Surely you're aware that the current mainstream popularity of vampire lore had spawned a new generation of wannabe vampires. You know the type. They wear lots of black, think they discovered Bauhaus and demand their parents now call them "Raven" or "Morpheus." Although, I guess these days they're going by "Bella" and "Edward." Back in the eighties, we called these kids Goths. In the nineties, we had the emos. And now, in the naughties, we've got the Twibiters (trademarked, bitches!).
Anyway, the real vampires are pissed. They're not going to stand for these tween bloodsuckers co-opting their lifestyle anymore.
I don't know about you, but I'm thinking the next obvious step is Vamp Pride Day. It's time for real vampires to come out of the coffin and demand their rights. I can already see the flag- a black bat on a field of red. Vampires of the world unite!
Obviously, our fanged friends will need a catchy slogan to shout at their parade. What should it be? Hmm?
I'm talking, of course, about the news that Hollywood celebrities will have to do without this year.
Moment of silence.
This year, the "goodie bags" at the Oscars will be filled with 80% less bling.
I'm going to give you a moment for that and everything it means to sink in. Because, do you really want to live in a world where Brangelina can't have the shiniest new cell phones to reflect their signal of hope to unwanted babies everywhere? How do you think Jennifer Aniston is going to feel when she opens her bag and pulls out a linty Zagnut? NOT. HAPPY. That's how! Hasn't she been through enough?
(quick aside: is it to early for a Rhianna joke?)
I didn't think so...
What is Rhianna supposed to think when she opens her bag and finds only a lone jar of MAC ultimate cover-up (graciously donated)?
Do you see?
It hurts everyone, people.
If I could have a goodie bag, I'd fill it with love and anus jokes.
What's in your discount Hollywood goodie bag?
. . . A facetious title for a hellish process that is more accurately described using terms such as “torturous,” “nauseating,” “mind-boggling,” etc. That said, I think that my rather unique perspective as someone who has spent an entire lifetime getting rejected may help some people who are getting hung up on the querying process.
Why have I spent so long getting rejected? Keep the snide remarks to yourself, people . . . the official reason is that I’m an Academic. Which means that I have spent every year since I was seventeen putting myself out there only to get rejected. College applications? Rejections! Grad school applications? Rejections! Big Time Scholarship applications? Rejections! (Damn you, Cecil Rhodes!)
Then came the mother load of rejections: The Academic Job Market.
Being an academic SUCKS. Don’t let the fact that we never apparently do any actual work fool you. The reason we spend so much time not evidently working is because we’re busy trying to heal the festering wounds that riddle our souls--wounds garnered from our various, individual, lifetimes of rejection.
This is how applying for an academic job works. You study your ass off your entire life. You devote yourself, heart and mind, to a topic that you end up having to sort of, pretty much, and sometimes entirely violate in order to turn into a defensible thesis. Then you get to encapsulate yourself--your essence, dammit--into a cover letter and a Curriculum Vitae, which is Latin for, “the sudden and horrifying realization that you’ve done fuck all.”
Then you send out said cover letters to dozens, sometimes hundreds, of potential collegiate soul mates. Surely they’ll examine your finely crafted, carefully honed statement and recognize you for the creative, caring, genius/mentor that you are? Surely they will recognize that between the depth of your intelligence, and the expanse of your empathy, that you will be like a one-(wo)man Socratic Symposium? That you will single-handedly change a generation, bringing new visions of life to text-addled brains? They will turn from MySpace! And they will turn to YOU!
Only none of that happens. Instead, you hand over your finely crafted declaration of self and what you get in return is a form-letter, with a digital signature, and, oftentimes, egregious typos. It says something about how everyone is very sorry,but you SO AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH. Don’t take it personally! It’s just that everyone else was slightly better than you.
Eventually, you begin making jokes about how you should wallpaper your living room with these rejections, but you do so because the only other option is to crawl into a fetal position and wait for death to bring you solace.
And that’s where I get to querying. Because I learned something from the hell that is the Academic Job Market that I applied to my query letters. I realized, rather belatedly, what they meant by “it’s not personal.”
My cover letters sucked because they weren’t supposed to be about me. So, when I wrote my query letters, I stripped them. And that’s my advice: take out all the cute stuff, the stuff that tries to convince them you’re a great person who deserves this great opportunity. Because they. Don’t. Care. They want a product. Academia wants publications and proven teaching ability. Agents want a book they can sell. They don’t want a new friend. If you’re lucky, like me, you end up with an agent you can’t wait to get schnockered with. But that’s not where you start. Start with the project. Work on that tiny, paragraph long summary. Make it zing. Don’t have a half-page bio if, like me, you haven’t done jack. I was confident about my novel, and I’d learned from writing TONS OF UNSUCCESSFUL COVER LETTERS that trying to distill “me” and put it into a letter wasn’t the point. The point was the project.
If you’re still getting tons of rejections, start with the letter and work up to the project. Start asking yourself tough questions. Does the letter need work? Finally, does the project need work? Rejections can be taken two ways. The first says, “They’re all wrong, I’m perfect, they don’t recognize genius.” The second says, “Okay, something is rotten in Denmark. I need to assess. Am I querying the wrong agents? Can I improve my letter? Is there something about this project that doesn’t zing?”
The first gets you a glorious haze of self-righteousness. The second gets results.
Lemme know what you think. What has your experience been? What’s your take on query letters? Do you want to drop out of academia and become a necromancer because raising the dead can’t be as morbid as resurrecting an academic career in today’s market?
So I see that Donnie Darko's on TV last week one night at midnight -- a movie I've wanted to watch for a few years but never gotten around to it. I love quirky, cult movies. I like Jake Gyllenhaal. I've heard great things about this movie. So I record it, then I sit down, lights dimmed, with my little bag of low fat popcorn and Diet Coke (let the fun begin), and press play......
And I wait for things to start making sense. I'm open for it to be weird or strange or whatever. I want to be hip and "get" it. I want to be part of the in crowd. The cool kids who like movies like Donnie Darko.
I didn't get it. There wasn't one moment where everything clicked for me.
SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE AHOY. SORT OF.
The bunny thing was interesting and creepy. But it didn't make any sense by the end of the movie. Why would that dude wear a Halloween costume like that? Just because it's strange? Did it have any meaning? Why a black, creepy bunny? And why would that entity be the thing to act as Donnie's "guide"? And why was it making him do things like burn that pedophile's house down and flood the school?
What was the deal with the old lady? She wrote the book on Time Travel, but why?
And how did Donnie Darko get back in his bedroom when he was on the cliff that night? Did he jump into the cool special effect stormy thing over his house?
And why don't I like Drew Barrymore and never have since ET?
And why did it take place in the 80's? (However, I did enjoy the soundtrack immensely)
Should I watch it again? Will it blow my mind? I loved The Butterfly Effect (don't judge me) and other strange, alternate/parallel universe-type, time travel stories.
Just not this one. And that makes me sort of sad.
However, it did make a bit more sense to me than Dollhouse did.
Hell, maybe it's just me.
Today's question is from Karen, who wants to know how the heck I find time to write.
Elves, people, little elves come into the house at night and write this stuff for me.
Tune into my blog for this and other seriously pompous answers.
My favorite episode is "Sixth Sense." It was freaky. You can watch the whole thing on You Tube, just click HERE.
What I find so fascinating about this show ... well, about every paranormal investigation show ... is how adamant everyone is about pursing the truth and trying to determine if whatever is occurring in the home, library, business, graveyard (Ghosts in a graveyard? How odd.) is supernatural. The only show not really concerned by determining if something is really haunted is "Most Haunted." They delight in creating circumstances (tables moving, startled screams, asking 420 times "did you hear that?") that are more about entertaining than investigating. Plus, everyone has a British accent, and that makes the dialogue more interesting.
But I digress.
I don't watch "Paranormal State" consistently (actually, I don't watch any show consistently), but I did catch a marathon one day. As the shows progressed we found out that Ryan has a demon nemesis. No, I'm not making this up. (See Wikipedia.)This demon shows up in a couple of the investigations, freaks out Ryan who is stoic, but determined to win the day ... er, night, and nicely creates a plot within a reality television show. Weird, right? BTW, everyone made a big deal about not revealing the demon's name, but Wikipedia lists it. And no, I ain't putting it on my blog. I got enough crap to worry about.
PRS uses all the usual technology most ghost hunters do, but they also bring in psychics and priests. I love it when the priests show up. That just tends to piss off whatever they're trying to get rid of. The psychics usually confirm this. This is also what happens in "A Haunting." Every time they go to bless the house, it just makes everything suck worse.
So, while I will watch "Paranormal State" because I love me some ghost shows, I can't say I'm entirely convinced. I think the efforts are sincere, but in the end, something's gotta happen to keep the audience interested. That's the difference between reality and television. Reality is often boring, even when tracking down the spooky.
Next Monday, I will wrap up Ghost Month with "Most Haunted" and "A Haunting." Please put your favorite ghost show in the comments and I'll do a random drawing for an autographed copy of BECAUSE YOUR VAMPIRE SAID SO and Broken Heart swag. The heroine, Patsy, can see and speak to spirits, which complicates her undead life all the time.
At any rate, as soon as they gave me the job, I would totally be slamming my hand on that puppy at random intervals.
Honk! Excuse me, everybody at the Big Kids' table here has the munchies, so we're pausing the game while Frank runs to the concession stand for Diet Cokes and Snicker Bars.
Beep! Time out for the officials. Yeah, I'm talking about you, dude. I can tell you need to pee. Go ahead, we'll wait.
I know, I know, they'd fire me nice and quick. My hubby estimated before the first half was over. But it would so be worth it. Which brings me to my question.
If you had godlike powers over the game of basketball, what would you do to make it more fun for everyone, including viewers like me who might be enticed into watching by the promise of man-eating lions?
Okay, I know you've all been waiting for this. The winners of this fabulous stash are:
Blackroze37 and Fantasy Dreamer!! Send me your snailmail info at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get those packages off to you.
Now, who watched Dollhouse last night? Come on, show of hands. You know you wanted to if you didn't. So, let's hear your opinions. I'll be blogging about it in detail on Wednesday on The Biting Edge, so drop in if you DVR'd it and didn't get a chance to watch yet.
My first impression is, I liked it!! Especially the intros and little teasers during the show with Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku. If you want a taste, go here. The set on this show is rumored to be one of the most expensive ever built for tv.
I'm also going to run a contest on Wednesday--for a trade copy of the anthology Many Bloody Returns in honor of hearing today that it made the NYT bestseller list! That makes a two time winner because when the book came out in hardback, it was on the list for three weeks running! Maybe we'll break that streak. Anyway, that contest will be run on the blog Mario and I share so mark your calendars for Wednesday and walk those little fingers over to The Biting Edge--
Now-- Onto the Saturday feature-- Writers' Rooms-- I did a random drawing and came up with the first three of our Leaguers to be featured:
Mario (I swear it was random), Mark and Dakota. Here we go:
Mario says: My writing space is at one end of my bedroom. I call my space, the most holy of shrines to the Muse: The Bus, The Donut Shop, or The Sausage Factory. Also, Hangover Haven.
I say: note especially, the empty bottle that Mario swears is only used as a paperweight. I also know, there's probably a cat in that mess somewhere. Or one of his sons. Both have been missing since Mario started rewrites.
Dakots says: All I have to say about my office is this--"Yep, this is where crazy and a keyboard make beautiful music together."
I say: Admit it--you straightened this out for the pic, didn't you? I remember you saying something about doing your own housework once and I said "NO WAY." If this is really how neat you are in your writing area, I may owe you an apology. Unless of course, you've got that cute dog in the corner trained to keep everything in order for you. The candle is a nice touch, btw.
And last for this week, Mark who said: Please note that on my desk is the international symbol of cheapskates everywhere. The toilet paper roll. Oh no Kleenex for this guy.
I say: my first impression was that like Dakota, you straightened this room out for the pic. But on closer examination, there is a nice cluttery effect to your working space which mirrors your cluttery mind (notice I removed the "nice" from that second part.)I do like the tp, too. In fact, it made me go back and look at Mario's picture because I'm sure he must have a roll stashed in his office, too. Obviously, he had the good taste to hide it.
So there you go sports fans, the first chapter in getting to know the rather odd collection of individuals that make up the League. I'm glad I'm the normal one.
Now, tell me what you think. Are these pictures reflective of your impressions of these three esteemed, successful writers? Did anything surprise you about where they spend their waking hours? Have any questions for them?
Next week, we'll continue the series.
Happy Valentine's Day--
Next time, I'm asking the chihuahua.
The winner of the Advanced Reading Copy of OVER MY DEAD BODY, the fifth book in the Broken Heart, OK series is... QWILL.
Nicole: Hi Gretchen! Great to have you here! Ummm . . . before we begin, can I just ask you something? You haven’t heard anything about up and coming authors disappearing from League headquarters, never to be seen from again, have you? Because it’s totally lies. I mean, we’re not trying to off all the competition in our crazy bid for world domination, or anything. Again. After that last time . . . haven’t heard anything? Wonderful. Why don’t you go ahead and sit right there . . . What was that? Oh, no, that’s not a trap door under that chair. Those are just . . . spirit lines. We draw them. You want to sit over here instead? Shi . . . I mean, sure! Whatever’s clever! Now, why don’t you tell the League a little something about yourself and your current project.
Gretchen: *examines new chair for booby traps* Well, I'm an opera singer, television producer, voice over artist and circus performer who decided, on a bit of a whim in 2007, that I’d try writing a novel. It turned out pretty good but (justifiably) failed to snag me an agent. While I was on the query-go-round, I started a second, significantly better novel. THE WITCH'S EYE is about a one-eyed Bronx teenager who ends up racing the not so mythological tribes of Ireland to an ancient scroll that could destroy the world.
Nicole: Wow, that’s really interesting. *she accidentally sets her coffee cup on one of the buttons on the armrest of her chair. The trap door underneath the seat Gretchen declined whooshes open, sending the chair rattling down into oblivion.* Huh, maybe it was a trap door. Who knew? Anyway. You had a very unique experience in acquiring an agent. Can you share what happened with us?
Gretchen: Let me preface this story by pointing out that I queried my first novel for seven months – over 130 queries with only about two dozen requests for material. It's a process that's about as action-packed as a Sunday afternoon at Leisure World. Therefore, I was completely unprepared for the speed at which THE WITCH'S EYE was snatched up. Within two weeks of unleashing it on Agent Land, I had four offers of representation. Now I was over the moon after the first one. By the fourth, I think I'd developed an ulcer. However, once I made the decision to go with Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown, I knew it was the right choice. Stress and anxiety? Gone!
Nicole: I’ll give you stress and anxiety . . . I mean, what is the most important lesson you learned from this experience?
Gretchen: I never set out to be a "writer." I never kept a journal. I wasn't the kid writing full length stories on rainy days. I've never taken a writing class in my life. Part of me felt it was awfully cheeky of me to dare to write a novel. And yeah, that first draft of that first novel was craptastic. If you asked me at 18 what career I would follow, I'd have said "opera singer." I did, for awhile. I was pretty good at it, not great, not spectacular, just pretty good. Then through a series of coincidences I got into television production. I'm pretty good at that, too and I really do enjoy it. Now I write, which I love and hate at the same time (it's like a marriage, really)…
Stick with me. I'm going somewhere with this.
There was an anecdote I once heard about the world-famous soprano Renee Fleming. When she finished Julliard, she was working as a jazz singer in a New York bar and there was a point at which her career could have gone either way – opera or jazz. It just so happened that the next major opportunity came from the opera world. But she kept her options open; she was receptive to whatever came along. That's the lesson I learned. Keep your options open. We weren't put on this earth to just do one thing. Don't be afraid to try something else.
Nicole: Speaking of “trying new things,” would you like to try this . . . gimlet? Why is it smoking? It’s dry ice. And no, that wasn’t Drano I poured in it. That would kill you! And who would want that, Miss Soon To Be Famous and Lure Away League Readers? Okay, fine, you don’t want the damned drink. So what is your advice for aspiring writers?
Gretchen: There are a lot of clichés floating around in the world of the unagented writer. "It only takes one." "Right novel, right agent, right time." "There's a perfect agent for every manuscript." "Don't call us, we'll call you…" We kind of hold onto these, repeating them like pseudo-religious mantras, willing ourselves to believe them. For me, I always hoped that an agent would love my work, but until I got that first magical call which included the words "I'd like to offer representation," I'm not sure I truly believed it. And I can tell every aspiring writer that it can-slash-will happen until I'm blue in the face without getting them to believe it. But I'll say it anyway. It can happen. It will happen.
Thanks Gretchen! And since you survived . . . I mean, were nice enough to come talk with us, you can still be found at http://www.gretchenmcneil.com/. Dammit.
Also, remember the contest is still going on here. Response has been so good, that I"m doubling the prize--that's right--you now have two chances to win all that loot. Saturday I'll post winners and begin my writers' room series.
Give her a round of applause, everyone, and of course, don't forget that Deader Still is showing up in stores already and will be fully distributed by 2/24. Get thee to a bookery!
1. I used up the majority of my life's component of BS lying to my parents during my teen years.
2. Once I had kids, I decided if I wanted to be a good mom, I should tell them the truth as much as possible.
Here's the exception. For years our kids thought we had a dragon in the attic. Our reasoning was that the attic isn't fully floored, so we didn't want them up there screwing around and possibly falling through. Lucky for us they were just deeply steeped enough in fantasy to think it was cool that we lived with dragon, and yet to respect the fact that they'd probably be cripsy curled if they ventured into its lair. Now, at the ages of 16 and 18, they're not even pissed that we misled them. In fact, the attic still holds an aura of mystique for them to this very day.
I know we're not the only parents to pull this kind of crap. I remember I once babysat for a little girl whose folks informed her that a crocodile lived down by the creek that edged their land, because they were afraid she'd wander off and manage to drown herself before they found her. (Uh, we live in Illinois, so the only crocs we ever see live in zoos.) Anyway, she never went exploring on her own, so I guess the story worked.
How about you? Did your parents ever spin you a yarn that later turned out to be a life saver? Or have you pulled one off on your kids? Can't wait to hear!
I told you guys I was going to talk about “the process,” and that’s exactly what I’m going to do for the next few weeks. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to talk about, ask in a comment, or in my personal forum, or in a message to me.
I’m going to alternate Talking About Myself (one of my favorite activities) with Talking About Other People. I have interviewed three writers who are all at different stages of the process. First, we’ll have Gretchen McNeil, who just fought off FOUR (count ‘em, FOUR) agents to find a match made in heaven. Next, we have Jen Hayley, who is at the revisions stage with her own agent. Finally, we have Cindy Pon, whose YA Fantasy, Silver Phoenix, will be available April 28, 2009. These are all women you’ll being seeing a lot of, soon, so here’s your chance to get to know ‘em.
But first I’m going to talk about myself. Mmmmm. Myself. I wrote Tempest Rising, on a whim, after I’d completed my doctorate. I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I didn’t have anything to do all of a sudden. My life had been completely dominated by my teaching and thesis-writing, but suddenly these were gone. The thesis was done and defended, I was just about finished with the very short British semester, and I had nothing on my plate. Then I went on a fortuitous visit to a little place called Shreveport, Louisiana, to interview for a job. On the way back to the UK, my niece helped me pick out a book with a pretty cover about a girl who lived on the outskirts of Shreveport, and who was just about to drive into town to hang with the local vampires. It was a book I ate up like candy, and it reminded me why I loved the urban fantasy genre so much as a child. But this book was different from the ones I remembered. This book was ironic, funny as hell, and really self-aware. It knew it was a vampire book in a world full of vampire books. It had this amazing tone that combined self-awareness, a hint of self-deprecation, hot supernatural nookie, and, rather paradoxically, a heady dose of reality. It was the most believable fantasy book I could ever remember reading.
And I knew I could write like that. Something about the tone spoke to me, challenging me to try my own hand at the genre. So I did. I think I had my job interview in late February, 2008, but I know I had a first chapter when I went to Turkey at the end of April. I remember because I went from Istanbul to the Lake District for a friend’s birthday celebration, and when everyone else went walking I stayed in our rented cottage with my friend, Ruth, who was finishing up her dissertation. We sat in front of the fire. She wrote her thesis; I wrote my second chapter; we cooked chickens. It was a heavenly combination of a good friend, that feeling of excitement and energy that only comes with a great project, and the smells of woodsmoke and roasting chicken. I finished Tempest Rising in June and I had an agent by August and a deal October 27.
It was fast; it was furious. I don’t know how much I really learned. I know I did a lot of stuff incorrectly, and I learned mostly be faffing things up. But I’ll take you through what I did to find an agent, slower, next Tuesday. And this Thursday, we’ll hear from Gretchen McNeil: Agent Magnet.
In the meantime, get in touch with your comments regarding your own experiences. What made you start writing? What kicked off a particular project or a particular idea? How do you roast a chicken?