Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Another fine mess

I’m fortunate to live in Denver. Besides the essentials: nice weather, fairly low crime, beautiful landscapes, medical marijuana, and plenty of watering holes (within shambling distance), we also have a thriving multi-faceted writers’ community. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. MeetUps. Open mike readings at the Merc. And at the top of the literary heap, my tribe of scribes in the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

This Friday, Lighthouse kicks off their annual LitFest with--what else?-- a party. The next two weeks of LitFest are packed with workshops, seminars, and readings.

On June 7th, Lighthouse and the Denver Civic Theater will host the LitFest Salon, The Final Word (on Final Words):

As writers, we often dwell too long on crafting a beautiful opening chapter. And we must keep our reader engaged during the narrative marathon in the middle of the book. But our story is a journey that goes somewhere, hopefully resolving the plot questions and tying all the loose ends before we get to THE END. Our esteemed panel will discuss how one might answer those nagging plot questions, wrestling with narrative twists, and leading the reader to a satisfying conclusion.

Presenting authors include: David Wroblewski, Oprah Pick and author of the NYT bestseller The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,

Eleanor Brown, whose book The Weird Sisters has been praised by everybody it seems, including NPR, People, and The New York Times,

acclaimed author of Agusta Locke, Lighthouse alpha instructor and literary ninja, William Haywood Henderson,

and me.

Actually, the salon topic was my idea (every once in a while, a little light does shine into the brain pan). I figured I’d use this League post for a preview on my thoughts for the salon. Like the description above says, we writers spend a lot of time on the first chapter, the first five pages, the lead paragraph, the opening line...but that’s just the start. But where the hell is the story going? There’s gotta be a destination.

To answer that question, let’s go back to the middle. Back further, to the beginning. In this case, my first published book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. I wrote that novel on a personal dare and as a standalone. But my agent said he had a better chance of selling my manuscript if it was a series. So series it became.

A lot of writers develop reams of backstory and a definite arc to the series. I never thought about that. Nymphos ended with the major story question resolved, and all the minor plot threads tied with a neat bow.

My protagonist , detective-vampire Felix Gomez, emerged from the plot swamp fully formed and complete. No need for character growth. All baggage checked and accounted for.

When I got my editor’s revision letter on my second novel, she pointed out there existed a lot of opportunities to flesh out my vampire. In other words, character growth.

Something else happened. The ending in book two got a little messier. Some of the plot threads, particularly those involving personal relationships between the characters remained undone.

By the third book, I decided to leave a lot unresolved. Sure, the bad guys got their comeuppance--Justice Served!--but the fallout in solving the case caused a lot of collateral damage among the characters.

With each successive story I introduced more moral ambiguity and forced Felix to choose between bad choices. And the lesser of evils sometimes led to worse outcomes.

Then, as if by magic, I found the series story arc. There are hints of it in each book but I can’t claim to have put them there on purpose. Obviously my subconscious was at work, no doubt shacking up with my Muse cuz the fickle bitch is rarely around during the day when I need her wordy ass. Also proof that I may be smarter asleep than awake.

Maybe the messiness in the final chapter of my stories is a metaphor for the way my life is going. In that case, I predict my end will be a big mess.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Phoenix Comicon

Geekalicious, friends, geekalicious. I got to meet a couple of my favorite authors—John Scalzi and Cherie Priest—and get 'em to sign books for me. I was even on a panel with 'em! In case you don't believe me, I haz proof!
I'm the guy who isn't Cherie Priest.
The costumes on the floor were pretty fabulous, as was the unchained expression of All Things Nerd. I'll give you a sampler:
The carpet pattern overloaded his camouflage circuits. Poor Predator.
OK, this next picture is my favorite, and it's not because of the girl wearing almost nothing. It's because of the guys behind her checking her out. ONE OF THEM IS A NINJA. I just want everyone to know that this is the first time a ninja has been captured on film.
I have plenty more pics to share—just check out my photo album on my Facebook author page. There's a great Dr. Strange, the 10th Doctor Who, Doctor Doom, and other characters who aren't doctors.

Next time I'm scheduled to blog, June 7, I'll be in Colorado on my Book & Beer Tour. I'll post from the road; if you are in Colorado or know anyone who is, please tell 'em to come see me!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tour Recap of the Damned

Cross-Posted from my Blog.

Hello, my pretties! I'm back in Dallas and still recovering from my week of debauchery, aka the Snark-LA-TEX book tour with Nicole Peeler. Before I get to the details, a quick snapshot in stat form:

No. of book stores visited: 5

No. of miles driven: 1,285

No. of tattoos parlors visited: 1

No. of pounds gained: 3

Also, if you'd like an alternate perspective on the trip, check out Nicole Peeler's blog. She'll have more pics than I posted here. Go check her out, y'all. But be sure to come back because there's dirt down below.


Nicole and Mary Lois arrived that afternoon and our first stop was, naturally, food. I introduced the ladies to Fuzzy's Tacos, which is a delicious street taco restaurant with lots of thinly veiled innuendos serving as decor. Duly fortified, we headed to Borders in Allen, TX. First, let me say, this store is awesome. It's a two-story beauty of a store and the staff couldn't have been more solicitous or fun. The crowd was enthusiastic and filled with lots of local friends and fans, which was a fantastic way to kick off the tour. After the event, we all headed to another Mexican joint for the strongest margaritas on earth (they refuse to serve anyone more than two). They're like the most delicious Slurpees you'll ever consume.


The girls and I got up bright and early and headed to Cafe Brazil for chorizo empanadas before hitting the road for Austin. It's a modest 3-hour drive and we had fun comparing iTunes playlists, which were scarily similar. We arrived in Austin just in tme for a quick shower and some make-uping before we met our friends David and Marlena at Bess Bistro for dinner. This restaurant is famously owned by one Sandra Bullock. I'm sad to report that Sandy did not make an appearance, but the food, wine and conversation were awesome. From there, it was a short drive to Book People for our signing.
I'd never been to Book People, but it's somewhat of an institution and I was excited to sign there. The space itself is inviting and spanned a couple of stories. I shocked to see so many people come out for a Monday night event and we had a great time talking about the books. Afterwards, we bought a metric ton of fake mustaches (more on this later). I also tried on the creepiest mask I've ever seen. Only later did Nicole and I realized we missed an amazing photo op by not both wearing chicken heads and staging a cock fight. You may rest assured this will be remedied next time we hit up Book People.

After the signing, we hit Austin's infamous 6th St. for some celebratory cocktails at The Library. Even though it was a Monday night the street was pretty busy since most of the students of UT were out celebrating the end of finals. But, being the mature authors we are, we headed back to the hotel at a respectable hour. On our way back to the hotel we saw a pregnant hooker. Good times.


We woke up excited to head to Houston and our favorite book store, Murder by the Book. We grabbed some migas at Austin Java and then hit the road. Our event wasn't until 6:30, so our first stop in Houston was the Galleria mall. This is where Nicole and Mary Lois introduced me to a lingerie store called Intimacy. A couple of hours later and way too much money poorer, we quit the Galleria and went to meet John at the book store. John and his partner Matt were gracious enough to let us bunk with them for the night. They have the cutest cats, including one that looked just like Giguhl except with black fur.
As for the signing, we decided to mix things up a bit. Remember those fake mustaches we bought in Austin? We insisted that all the audience members don mustaches before we'd speak. Not to be outdone, Nicole and i each wore these ridiculous handle bar mustaches during the entire event, although mine became a sort of Abe Lincoln-esque goatee by the end of the night. It's very difficult to do a reading and answer serious questions posed by women who look a little too good in thick mustaches. Regardless, fun was had by all and the audience were all very good sports for putting up with our autocratic demands. Another twist at this signing was that Nicole and I read from each other's books. I read a salacious scene involving a Barghest and a sexy oven range and Nicole read a scandalous scene from Green-Eyed Demon about a midget orgy. Fun times!
After the signing, John and Matt took Nicole, Mary Lois, Elle Stone (a YA author) and I to this great little bistro. Despite the elegant surroundings, the conversation devolved into discussions about poonstaches and anal bleaching. I'm sure our neighbors were delighted.


When Nicole and I put together the schedule for the tour, we were sure to work in an extra day for a little detour to New Orleans. So, after a six-hour drive, we arrived at our Bourbon Street hotel for some shenanigans. Let me just say beer never tastes as good as when you're drinking it from a plastic cup in the French Quarter. The night looked like it was going to be a debauch-fest until we decided to duck into a swank bistro called Muriel's off Jackson Square. We thought we'd indulge in a little dinner and then hit the bars. What happened instead was a shameful gluttonous consumption of deliciousness that resulted in much groaning and rubbing of the bellies. We decided to call it a night and return the next day to make up for our lameness.


Thursday morning dawned with purpose. We had the whole day ahead of us and the French Quarter laid out before us like a fecund buffet of delights. We also had a list of places we had to visit before we left for our Baton Rouge signing. We hit two voodoo shops and one general occult store in our search for chicken feet. The highlight of that quest was having a middle-aged white voodoo priest ask us if we like to see his snakes. We escaped for some retail therapy at Trashy Diva. It's actually three stores in one--shoes, lingerie and vintage-inspired dresses. We had a great time trying on girlie, frilly things, and, then, clutching our purchases like trophies, we headed back to hotel.

We thought we were fine. Baton Rouge is only--as the crow flies--maybe an hour-and-a-half from New Orleans. Unfortunately, crows don't have to deal with traffic. Which is why when we hit stand-still traffic in Baton Rouge, we started to get nervous. Adding to this stress was the fact that one of us had a bladder which had swollen to painful proportions. After half an hour in the parking lot called I-10, we finally escaped the highway and found a gas station. This was when Mary Lois saved our asses. See, the traffic had delayed us--a lot. We had about half an hour before the signing started and had, neither of us, a lick of makeup on and were still in our street clothes from NOLA. Mary Lois drove us to the Books-A-Million while nicole and i scrambled to make ourselves presentable. We finally reached BAM with time to spare. We were contemplating running in to change in their restrooms when the fateful words, "Wait, is this the right BAM?" were spoken. TERROR!

Luckily, Mary Lois proved herself to be the best navigator since Magellan and got us to the correct store. We were only 1 minute late and rushed in to find several good humored fans waiting. Especially meaningful was the fact that two of them had driven 2.5 hours from Mississippi to come see us. How cool is that? It totally made all the stress of getting there worth it.

Randolph and "Pepper" at BAM were awesome! They suggested we try a local pizza joint called the Red Zeppelin for dinner. While we gorged on pizza and wine on the restaurant's patio, one of us noticed that a tattoo parlor was right across the street. Nicole's eyes lit up. Ever since our signing in Allen she'd been talking about wanting to get a mustache tattoo on her finger. And now it seemed the gods were sending us a sign. This is how, on a random Thursday night in Baton Rouge, three young travelers walked into Atomic Tattoo.

I'll admit I was hesitant. The mother in me was terrified the place would be dirty and a one-way trip to Hepatitis town for Dr. P. But my worries were unfounded because the place was clean, bright an filled with helpful and friendly tattoo artists who worked Nicole in very quickly. In no time at all she was the proud owner of her very own mustache tattoo. Which she proceeded to flash at us every thirty second for the next twenty-four hours. Seriously, though, it's pretty cute and very Nicole.


Last day of the tour! Nicole used to live in Shreveport and Mary Lois still does. I'd been to the city a couple of times before to do signings with Nicole, so in a way it was kind of like returning home for me, too. Mary Lois's husband took pity on our distended bellies and made our first home-cooked meal of the week. After that, we headed to B&N for the signing. The audience was filled with lots of local friends of both Nicole and ML, and I'd met several of them at earlier signings. That meant the discussion was fun and casual, which was just what we needed. Afterwards, we headed to the Noble Savage, which is kind of an institution in Shreveport. There we had celebratory drinks and ate delicious meat pies and crazy good nachos (can you sense a food theme for this tour?). Then we returned to Mary Lois's house to sleep like the dead.

On Sunday, I said goodbye to my tour-mates and did the lonesome three-hour drive of shame back to Texas. As I drove, I had time to reflect on the experiences of the past week. I figured out a few things:

1. Be sure your driver's license has not expired before you embark on a 1200 mile road trip. Not saying whose was expired. Just sayin' it's a good idea.

2. While we were pretty good about working out in hotel gyms on the road, no exercise routine can withstand the power of beignets and beer and fast food ice cream.

3. Despite my promises to myself, I only managed to write a total of 1400 words on the road. Pitiful. Perhaps next time instead of heading out to bars after signings I should hit the hotel for some word work. Oh, who am I kidding?

4. All writing and no play make Jaye a dull writer. It's good for writers to get out and experience things. This may sound simple but in six days I saw amazing things and had fascinating conversations that will no doubt end up in future books.

Wheh! Sorry for the long post but I was afraid if I didn't get it all down now, I'd forget stuff. A lot of people have asked when Nicole and I are bringing our tours to their areas. First, let me say, um, not for a while. As fun as this trip was, I am wiped out and seriously in need of some down time. Also, my first job is to write books. So I'll be focusing on that for a while. That's not to say we don't do other tours. Just not in the near future.

All that said, I'm off to finish off Blue-Blooded Vamp. It's due at the end of July, so I'm entering monastic mode for the next couple of months. But I'll always have memories of Snark-LA-TEX to keep me amused while I'm stuck in my little garret pounding out word sauce.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eleven Years

((Cross posted at Literary Intent))

Fair warning, sappiness ahead. Batten down the hatches, pump out the bilges, roll up the trousers, all that stuff.

As predicted a month ago (I must be psychic!), today is my eleventh wedding anniversary. Or, as I like to say, it's been eleven years and I still haven't killed him yet. Not for lack of trying, grant you. I mean, I did hit the man with a car. Twice. (And he still agreed to marry me anyway. What's that about?) You'd think, after the first time, that he'd have moved.

In fact, if you peer farther into the past (my editor has given up teaching me the difference between farther and further, btw) we were best friends even longer than that. Six years before we were ever a couple, for a grand total of eighteen years. Wow, now I feel old.

It's at times like these that I like to stop and think about how very different my life would have been without him. And I mean more than just the "well, I wouldn't have had my daughter without him" or the "I'd be married to someone else" kinda stuff.

First and foremost, the Jesse James Dawson series would not exist without my hubby. My motivation came from him, from his desire to see the kind of hero he wanted to see. The story idea was his, hashed out between the two of us over a very fateful anniversary dinner quite a few years ago. (Full circle, see?)

But more than just the one series, he helps me with all aspects of my writing. He's the best brainstorming partner I've ever had, mostly because he knows how to ask the right questions to get me thinking. He's my motivator when I'm slacking, my cheerleader when I'm down. While I know that Jesse wouldn't exist without him, I can also say that I'm not sure I'd be writing at all without him.

Writing itself can be a very lonely occupation. A writer spends a lot of time wandering around inside their own skull, and while it's usually peopled with lots of interesting creatures and situations, it makes it hard to find objectivity. Too many of those voices in there say things like "you suck" and "this is impossible" and my personal favorite "why bother?"

I think every writer needs a support network, even if it's just one person. Someone to say "Hey, just keep trying" or "maybe try it a different way". Someone to shout louder than the voices that say "this is hard, just give up."

My support network is huge, I admit this. I have the League, I have the Purgies, I have my family and my friends. But first and foremost, before I had any of that, I had my hubby.

So on my anniversary, my hope for all writers, and for everyone really, is that you find that one person who will keep you aimed toward your chosen goal when you're ready to quit. Be it a friend, a mentor, a husband or wife, a pen-pal, I hope you all find the support we all need. Because in the end, it's worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Don't Be Sick!

One of the crazy-ass things about being online is that as soon as you mention anything, everyone has an opinion or--worse--advice. Even when it's the sort of thing you would never say to a veritable stranger in person, online people will tell you how to manage your cold, your kids, your shopping, and what medications to take or avoid, what politics you ought to practice and even which undies to wear. You didn't ask them for any of this help, you just happened to mention, in a casual way, that, say... you have a headache.

And not all of us have a convenient ferret to distract the advisors with.

And let's just forget that you're ever going to be able to adequately explain that as an adult who has managed to survive the world, to rise from the dirt-eating, bug-sampling, plant-nibbling, mud-puddle-dancing, nose-picking, zit-scratching yard-ape that you once were to become the alcohol-guzzling, pencil-nibbling, ink-jet-copy-sniffing, caffeine-addicted stress-monkey that you are today you've already tried pret-near every damned thing* that anyone is going to suggest, and a lot they won't. I mean, y'know, as a writer I've not only been there and done that, but I had to research it too, because if I ever write a scene that gets any of those things wrong I will hear as much about it as... well as if I'd casually mentioned that I had a cold on the internet. (Yes, I have had to research snot--my mom was a nurse--I've even been a medical school show-and-tell exhibit of childhood diseases. Such is the joy of growing up with a nurse-in-training: you get sick, you go to night school as Example 1.)

After a while I start to envision--possibly even to yearn for--those horrible Tom Brown's School Days/Ripping Yarns sorts of scenes in which the young school boy gets a hiding from the headmaster with nary a flinch but "Thank you, Sir, may I have another!" and a stiff upper lip. And you don't know if you're the school boy or the headmaster, but you're reasonably sure you prefer not to be the spankee and shall feel bruised and want to kill something when it's over.

So my advice to you, dear readers and possible aspiring writers is this: NEVER ADMIT TO THE INTARWEBZ THAT YOU'RE SICK! Let's just call it a tumor.

*"Pret-near every damned thing" is a Dad-ism: my multi-degreed dad was from Oklahoma and occasionally felt the need to prove it with very strange colloquialisms. And it came out "prit-neer ever damt thing." And you thought I was the strangest member of my family....

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Hello mah beauties! Right about now I should be in the air, flying to Dallas to meet up with Jaye Wells and start our mini-booktour, the SNARK-LA-TEX! Come for the signing, stay for the snark! If you're in Louisiana or Texas, we might be near you. Here's our schedule:

Sunday, May 15th — DALLAS, TX

4:00 pm, Borders (965 West Bethany Dr., Allen, TX 75013)

Monday, May 16th – AUSTIN, TX

7:00 pm, BookPeople (603 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX 78703)

Tuesday, May 17th — HOUSTON, TX

6:30 pm, Murder By The Book (2342 Bissonnet St., Houston TX, 77005)

Thursday, May, 19th — BATON ROUGE, LA

6:30 pm, Books-A-Million (2380 Towne Center Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA, 70806)

Friday, May 20th – SHREVEPORT, LA

7:00 PM, Barnes & Noble (Bayou Walk, 6646 Youree Drive, Shreveport, LA, 71105)

There will be readings, gabbing, question answering, as well as much snarkage.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Finding My Rhythm

I have a small confession to make.

A Brush of Darkness was never actually supposed to be published.

Back in the summer of 2008, I started writing it. It was the first thing I'd seriously written in nearly 15 years. It was supposed to be my "starter" book - the one I was going to learn the ins-and-outs of publishing with. You know - how to query, how to revise, how to *write*.  I took a bunch of workshops, and wrote off and on until I finished it in April of 2009 - just in time to pitch it at Romantic Times.

I entered it in many contests, wrote and rewrote that first chapter probably like 15 times, trying to please everyone as to what a first chapter *should* be. Eventually I found friends and fellow writers who convinced me to listen to my own voice and do what *I* wanted with it.

Funny thing? I started winning some of those contests. I fixed up my query letter. I started writing the second book. And then I got my agent. (I actually ended up with three offers of representation and made some hard choices). A few months later we went on submission and I got my 3 book deal with Pocket.

It went by in a whirl and there's still a part of me that doesn't feel quite so worthy. After all, I'd been told time and time again that almost no one sells a first book. That I'd probably write 3 or 5 or 10 books before I'd get an agent.  So it was unexpected, to say the least - but happily so.

However, if I felt as though I hadn't paid my dues beforehand, I've certainly paid them since. My first revision letter for BoD was 26 single spaced pages. I rewrote about 70% of the book in six weeks to convert it from a paranormal romance into more of an urban fantasy. (I say more of, because I think it still retains a little too much PNR to be fully UF, but it was a hard thing to have to do.)

Remember the second book I'd started? I had about 40k written when I sold BoD...almost all of which had to be changed because so much of BoD had been changed. The original story had an HEA, for example - and  I was stuck with rewriting most of what I had to reflect that the leading man was no longer quite so leading.  But I kept plugging away.

A few months later, my agent got sick and quick being an agent...and I got a new agent within the same agency. A few months after that, just before my second book draft was due, my editor quit (to go work with my old agent)...and I was left in limbo for a few months.

As a new author, it's a bit scary.  It's awkward to get a new editor part way through a series like this because there's always this fear lingering in the back of the mind - what if he/she doesn't like my first book? What if they don't understand what I'm trying to do? What if we don't click? What if, what if, what if.

It can drive a person crazy. Eventually, I did get a new editor...and my revisions, several months after that. So it's been an interesting bump - I've had to adjust to a different editing style and a different vision, but I've also had to learn to trust my own voice again, even as I change up my writing style. And by that, I mean that a second book is different than the first - the world building is already in place, so I know how things work, but I also have to go back and make sure there are enough clues that new readers won't be completely lost if they pick this book up first. (There seems to be a bit of art to this, by the way - this subtle dropping of hints and clues - not sure I've quite mastered it.)

Anyway, the point to this post was that there's not always a straight road to writing or getting published, but that any writer needs to be adaptive to the changes that come. Everyone's road is different, even if the destination is the same.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waxing uncomically about comics

This has been a graphic year for me, and I'm not just talking about when I'll be giving birth in August. 2011 will see two of my series transcending mere words and becoming comics and graphic novels. My Dark Swan series, starting with Storm Born, will be released in single comic issues before eventually being bound and sold as a set. Issue 1 comes out next Wednesday, May 18, and I'm pretty excited.

The first book of my Vampire Academy series is also being turned into a graphic novel and will be released as one complete book on August 23. Subsequent books in the series will be released later, and in that crazy way publishing works, we're already developing and adapting Frostbite (book 2) before book 1 is even out.

I've done a lot of interviews for both of these projects, and I'm constantly asked about any problems or difficulties along the way. I don't know if it's just something crazy and unique to me, but everything's been great. I've had no drama to report and always end up turning the interviews into big ol' lovefests.

I can definitely see the potential for problems, though. In both cases, I chose not to write the scripts. It just wasn't anything I had time for, and I was sure there were others who could do a better job than me. What this means is that both books were left in the hands of others to adapt, and as we all know, adapting requires cutting. It's a fact of life whether you're turning a book into a comic or into a movie or into some other medium. It simply isn't possible to include every single detail from the original novel. As an author, you have to let go of the idea that every word, every aside, and every quirky description you've created is golden. The story will go on without those things. You also have to keep track of the balance of action and exposition. Too much of the latter doesn't work in comics. That being said, there's also the danger of wielding the adaptation knife so fiercely that key things get slashed--like seemingly innocent comments and moments that are clues to huge plot developments later in the book (or series).

I've been fortunate with both projects to have good script writers who read the books with a careful eye and did a great job in assessing what stayed and what went. Going along with that, I was also able to see the scripts along every stage of development. So, in the rare times something was erroneously deleted or added, I was able to point it out and get things fixed. Everyone was very easy-going and open to feedback--and the same was true for the art as well. See? Didn't I warn you about the lovefest?

What's been truly fascinating about all of this is seeing what a different art form the comic/graphic novel genre is. A picture really is worth a thousand words. I can spend an entire paragraph describing how someone thought a particular comment was ridiculous, emphasizing his sneer and "look of disbelief" in his eyes. Then--an artist can convey that exact sentiment with one small panel. It's amazing and beautiful in its simplicity.

As a professional writer and lover of language, I of course think nothing will ever truly replace the original novel. Those long paragraphs of description can convey beats and emotions that pictures can't. And that's why it's so cool to have all these adaptations. Each version offers something amazing. At heart, I'm a storyteller, and every new format gives a new perspective into that story and the characters. A graphic novel version makes the story more multidimensional and more accessible to those who might have shied away.

Also, it just looks really cool.

Volume 1 of Storm Born goes on sale May 18 and will be available through comic book stores or in very limited quantities at University Bookstore. The bound edition will be sold in regular bookstores this fall. The Vampire Academy graphic novel goes on sale August 23 and will also be available through regular bookstores.

Completing the first draft with Steampunk Cats and Robots

What is that guy talking about with a post title like that?

I don't know, and I *AM* that guy.

Seriously though, as much as I want to impart revealing secrets about writing and set fire to the hive mind of the internet with knowledge of the ages, what I really want to do is bounce around like a happy puppy. The first draft of Hunted (Void City, Book 4) is done!

But also, I gotz magic cats and crazed scheming steam punk robots!

For a while now, I've been working with the guys over at Ignitus Innovation, Inc (formerly The Wandering Men) on a web comic idea. At Crisis Con last year, I was talking to Ashy about wanting to write comics (Marvel Comics, if you're out there, I have the first three issues of a Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy miniseries already written) and Ashy mentioned that they were interested in doing a web comic that tied in to the their Untold RPG. I asked what the setting was like and he asked me to sit in on a demo later that evening. I did and as a result, GEARLESS: A UNTOLD COMIC was born.

It all seems innocent enough at first: D3rr0 (pronounced Derro) is a Klik Roller trying to help his buddy Kiern (a L'na Dawn, but for our purposes think flying talking magic cat with heavy mystical firepower) find her missing mate Rior. Heh. Yeah... really, that's all the story is about.

*cough* undead monster *cough*

*cough* hidden agendas *cough*

The first page goes up in a week or so, but in the meantime here is the cover Aviv Or did for the piece:

The logo is changing a little so the "G" is more obviously a "G" and our names will actually be on the next version, but what do you think? You can follow all the future developments over here. Or my Facebook page or @JF_Lewis on Twitter. I pretty much can't shut up about it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wherein I Declare My Love of the Doctor

You know how Dakota finally got off her hiney and started watching BUFFY? Well, that was me earlier this year with DOCTOR WHO. I'd been hearing about the series (in all its various forms) for years. And I'd think, "Yeah, I want to check it out." But then, damn, where to start? There were so many Doctors! That was daunting in and of itself -- was I really supposed to start with episodes from the 1960s? If not, then which Doctor should be my starting point? Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

So I did what any person would do: I asked people on Twitter and Facebook. And the People have spoken. They said to me "Start with Christopher Eccleston." And I said, "Who?" And they said, "Exactly. Christopher Eccleston's Doctor is where to start watching DOCTOR WHO."

Even so, I put it off for a while. Time elapsed without me knowing what the hell a TARDIS was. A Dalek sounded like a disease. And the Master was straight out of BUFFY. (**Jackie waves at Dakota**)

And then, there was Netflix.

Oh, Netflix, how you make everything possible! (Well, except when assholes screw with the Sony Playstation interface thingy and prevent me from watching you on television.) Thanks to Netflix, DOCTOR WHO season 1 -- the Christopher Eccleston season -- was ready and waiting.

And so, I started watching. The first few episodes were fun -- slightly cheesy yet sorta cool fun -- and I enjoyed watching, but I didn't see what the big deal was. The Doctor was an interesting character, yes, but his companion Rose annoyed the hell out of me. Then I watched "Father's Day," and I saw a different side of Rose -- and of the Doctor -- and I started really liking the show. And then there came the two-parter "Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances," and I started loving the show. Holy cats -- "Are you my mummy?" was soooo creepy! And hello, Captain Jack Harkness! When the Doctor declared, "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!" I wanted to cheer. (Actually, I think I did.)

And then, my God, the ninth Doctor...left. Died. What have you. He regenerated, and that was the end of Christopher Eccleston's run. I freaked. I mean, sure, I knew it was coming -- maybe I hadn't known what a TARDIS was before I'd started watching, but I sure knew there had been a boatload of Doctors -- but that didn't take away the sting of saying goodbye to the ninth doctor. He was fantastic, wasn't he?

Ah. Hello, David Tennant! Brilliant, mad, fun, dark dark dark tenth Doctor! "The Christmas Invasion" was just about perfect -- it introduced Rose and the viewer to Ten in a fabulous way -- Rose didn't believe Ten was her Doctor. And by the end of the episode, she believed. And so did I. **gets all giddy thinking about it** Amazing three-year run with David Tennant. So many jaw-dropping episodes! ("The Girl In the Fireplace"! "BLINK"! "MIDNIGHT"!!!) And OMG, River Song!!!!!!! **gets giddy AGAIN**

And then...Ten left the building. Oh God, he left, and it broke my heart. Poor Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor, hasn't quite healed me yet. I'm still hoping.

But here's the thing about the Doctor: he is defined in part by his companions. And I can't freaking stand the eleventh Doctor's main companion, Amy Pond. (Just typing her name made my eye twitch.) I can't begin to describe just how much I dislike her. NOTE: The actress, Karen Gillan, is AMAZING. Seriously. Kudos to Karen! But the character? Oy. Serious dislike! SERIOUS DISLIKE!!! **mopes** Then again, I detested Ten's third companion, Donna Noble...at first. But by the end of season four, she had become my favorite companion. So...fingers crossed for Amy Pond and Eleven.

I am slooooooooooowly making my way through the classic series. (Very slowly. As in, I've watched "City of Death," "The Three Doctors" and most of "An Unearthly Child.") Eventually, I'll be caught up. (Well. Not counting the missing episodes.)

Anybody here a fan of the Doctor? If so, which one is your Doctor?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I'm still in the weeds, work-wise (although I did turn in my SACRIFICIAL MAGIC edits on Thursday, yay!) but had some fun here and there over the weekend. Sort of.

On Friday I had to go to the grocery store, to get some stuff for dinner. I'd decided, very optimistically, that I was going to give homemade Ikea-style meatballs a try, so needed ground beef and pork and potatoes (the recipe includes mashed potatoes in the meat mixture). So I head off full of vim, to get my groceries.

Only I couldn't find any ground pork at the meat counter. And I notice this older woman standing next to one of those riding carts, shouting "Hello!" at the empty window into the butcher area. Nobody's back there.

I stand there for a minute, and she's complaining about how there's nobody there and she hates going shopping at that time of ay but she can't drive anymore so is at the mercy of her son and whatever, and then she asks me to watch her little cart and actually goes back into the butcher area. Weirdly, this feels a bit like being the lookout at a robbery or something. I can hear her shouting back there, and picture her slipping sides of beef into her voluminous pants.

This goes on for a minute or two, while I wonder just how much room there is back there, because it sounds like she's wandered into some sort of maze.

Then a male voice starts yelling, and I turn around and see the meat manager (heh heh) heading up the store aisle. He's very angry, and is already berating the woman for going back there where she shouldn't be. And he keeps looking at me, too, while he's talking. So during a pause in his speech I interrupt with "I only just got here," because the woman keeps emphasizing that she stood there yelling for almost ten minutes and nobody came so what was she supposed to do?

She tells him what she wants--I think it was to split up a package of steaks or something--and he heads back into the shop area to do whatever it is, still informing both of us in very definite tones that We Do Not Belong Back There. At which point I start to get a little annoyed, because what was I supposed to do, make a citizen's arrest or something to stop her? She's a total stranger. Yes, I agreed to make sure nobody would steal her cart, but that's hardly egging her on. (And besides, really, there should be some way to call someone to the counter, right? I don't think store employees have no right to step away or anything,but at least leave one of those little clocks with the "Back at" time or whatever, so we know.)

Anyway. He starts to come back out to hand her her meat (heh heh), then pauses and holds up a big white plastic jug. "You're lucky," he says. To me. "I was supposed to put this on the floor, and if I had you would have slipped and died." Again, he's looking right in my eyes as he said this. Like I was frolicking around back there too, only managed to make my escape before he showed up.

He comes out and gives her the package (still heh heh), still discussing how dangerous it is and how special shoes are required to go back there and how awful it was to go back there and shame, shame upon our houses. He's still looking back and forth between us as he does so.

So finally I say, and I quote, "I didn't go back there, dude."

He replies, "I'm just telling you." Because obviously I look like the sort of person who *would* go back there given half the chance, like someone who's just waiting for my opportunity to sneak back into the Secret Butcher Area (that's what she said) and, I dunno, taunt the Oompa-Loompas and rub raw meat on my naked body like Odin Quincannon in PREACHER. The butcher is no fool. He's seen my type before, and knows I Am Not To Be Trusted.

At this point I am trying very hard not to laugh. Part of me thinks I should be pissed, but it's so damn funny I can't help myself. Only I can go to ask where I'd find ground pork and end up in the middle of a scandal. A meat scandal.

I did get my ground pork, wished my apparent partner in crime and the butcher a good day, and grabbed the few other items I needed. The whole thing ended up with a very enjoyable discussion about Duran Duran with the checkout lady and the woman in line in front of me (the store was playing "Hungry Like the Wolf" on the sound system as I reached the checkout. Unfortunately, it wasn't playing anything suitable during the Meat Counter Confrontation, although what might have been suitable I don't know, really. I'm not aware of any songs about raw meat perversions).

The meatballs were okay. But the adventure...that will last forever.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finally popped my cherry!

No....not that one.

Lots of other ones, though. I'm finally published now! That was beeeeg and ridiculously fun! I visited some bookstores and signed some copies in stock and said howdy to friendly booksellers. Favorite surreal moment was walking up to introduce myself to a lady in Barnes & Noble as she was reading about me on "The Big Idea" on her Nook. Later that day I went into Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe and got surprised by a spiffy display thingie that they had set up for me!

Also just got back from my first Convention—the LepreCon in Tempe. I met Gini Koch and Seanan McGuire and Diana Gabaldon! (Did you know that Diana is SUPER DUPER NICE?)

Had lunch at Rula Bula, the Irish pub featured in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Had lamb stew and a Snakebite (which is Guinness and Cider). My friend Alan bought me a shot of this amazing whiskey called Red Breast, 12-year-old pot-stilled Irish stuff. Seriously awesome! To make this day even spiffier, it's FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! It's a sacred day when nerds are rewarded for being themselves.

Need to disappear for a bit and finish up a ton of work at the day job, but this week sure was fun!

Oh, by the way, I have issued a challenge to fellow Leaguer Kelly Meding. Make sure you drop by to give her some encouragement (and ratchet up the pressure)!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My super-brilliant early writing career

Like a number of writers, I have a side job to pay the bills. Writers with side jobs tend to fall into two categories: those with writing-related professions, and those with non-writing related professions. I have a marketing/advertising writing side-job, so I'm in that first group.

There are whole schools of thought about whether it's better for your side job to be about writing or not. (e.g. if you write for your side job, will you use up all your writing juice? vs. if you write for your side job, does that just give you extra practice?) I actually go back and forth on that.

Anyway, as some of you may know, Mr. Crane and I are moving across town. So, tonight I cleaned out this old file cabinet. And of course, it turned into this whole walk down memory lane. 

I found all these files from my VERY FIRST advertising copywriter job, more like a paid internship.I was an advertising copywriter for employment want ads! That was back when there weren't enough employees to go around, unlike today. The competition for, like, mildly competent telemarketers was fierce. And employers would hire agencies like the one I worked at to create major campaigns in the newspaper employment section to attract the best and the brightest (because newspapers were where all the action was when I was a youth). 

Anyway, I discovered this file I had kept with what I then considered some of my best ideas, because, when you're an advertising copywriter, you never know when you'll need a killer idea.  

I think this first one shows my early UF roots. Note the spider. I was so ahead of my time, biotches! People just didn't recognize my brilliance! 
A brilliant concept mock-up that nobody else thought was as cool as I did. 

This was for seasonal hiring at a well-known department store (name blanked out). As you can see, it isn't a finished ad, but a mock-up that I produced with clip art, a printer and a photocopier. My idea was to sell it within the agency. To make it look ad-like to help them visualize the brilliance of the concept. Shockingly, they never went for it!

Ah, Dr. Elliot, convincing the youth of Minneapolis that telemarketer jobs are SO awesome. My Dr. Elliot ads actually ran in the paper for weeks, so they must have been working. They featured different case studies, as you can see. It's funny to look back on them. 

In UF, parents are often absent or else evil, and check it out. I was working that schtick way back then! 
The Mr. Elliot campaign, one of my first copywriting triumphs! This is
the kind of ad you get when you hire a budding fiction writer to write ads.
My Dr. Elliot ads were kind of this joke around the agency - nobody could believe the client went for it, but I was so proud of them!  

Actually, I think the client refused to run this one. They didn't
want their employees showing up looking like the Fonz. 
This job was years ago. I came into it after a stint of waiting tables in really funky outfits, and I struggled mightily to look like a businesswoman. I would go to Goodwill and get these outfits that looked super career girl to me, but I'm sure the people at the agency thought I looked like a bag lady. I have always had a hard time dressing well. It like it took until I hit my 40's to even start getting the hang of how to put together outfits, and even now, I make very poor choices. A lot. 

One of my FAVE campaign ideas that never got used!!!!

This was a personal favorite campaign idea of mine, which again, I mocked up, again with the help of clip art and a photocopier. I tried to get the designer to design it properly so that we could present it to the account executive and then ideally to the client, but the designer was not on board (Yeah, I'm talking to YOU Jenn!). I can't understand why, can you? Isn't it totally persuasive that this job opportunity is not one where you get hit repeatedly with a heavy ball and knocked over? 

Okay, I think these ads are so hilarious, but it's entirely possible that this post is one of those posts that are only funny and/or interesting to me. All you bloggers out there, you know what I mean. That thudding silence. But it was so funny to find these in the old filing cabinet! I was like, I'm putting them on the blog, dammit! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wherein I finally watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer


Don’t say it. I know, I know. You’re all going, WTF? How is it that you’ve never watched Buffy,__ (insert epithet here. Your choice. Dumb ass completes the sentence nicely. I know. I inserted it.)?

I also had no idea who Joss Whedon was. Again—if you must call names, be super creative :)

So, okay. I’ve never watched Buffy. Scorn all you like, but I have reasons.

I think it was because during its run in the 90’s, I was still married to my first husband, and he was sort of in charge of the remote. I was in charge of baked goods and big hair. At the time, it worked. Er, at least I thought it did. That’s a whole different blog...

Also, I don’t come from the background most writers in the paranormal genre do—or so I’ve heard and read they do (again, this is me. What do I know?). What I mean by that is, I didn’t even know the genre in romance existed until I began reviewing and found Nina Bangs’ brilliance. When I finally wrote my first book—it was a contemporary. By then, I’d begun to read more paranormal erotic romances (wiggles eyebrows), and then I decided to write one of my own. When I did, I knew so little about vampire myth/folklore/whatever, Buffy would have slayed me for my ineptitude. From that point on, in my writing anyway, I made it all up with very little to go on because I’m a lazy ass researcher. It takes the fun out of writing for me so I only do it when force is involved.

Anyway, I’d never seen Buffy. Yep, I’ve heard all about Angel and Spike and the premise of the show for several years since I began writing. I’ve often heard the quotes or funny lines that became so popular from the show, and learned, after I stared blankly at the quote-er, they were from Buffy. I recognized Angel because now he’s on Bones. But I wouldn’t have known Spike if I’d crushed his body during a bull run in Pamplona.

Plus, once I tapped writing paranormals, I was afraid to watch due to getting anyone else’s shiz in my head. I try not to read in my genre, especially if it’s humorous. Even when my style’s compared to another writers in reviews etc—at least I know I’m keeping it real. I’m always secretly patting myself on my lame back that all the crap I come up with is born of my demented soul and not a twist on someone else’s stuff.

But we all know there are like five plots in the world. They just have a zillion variations. It all depends on how you spin it.

So fourteen years later, and always late to the party, I decided to cop to it. My BFF Renee talked Supernatural to me all the time, and I hadn’t watched that either. But during my writing hiatus aka, “Dakota’s waiting to see if she’s going to get another contract,” I watched Supernatural.

It’s the shit. I had five and a half glorious season to watch and I sucked them up like I was snorting coke off my mother’s kitchen table. Thus, I deemed BFF’s opinion invaluable, and I gave Buffy a whirl.

So hang on for the gush here, folks.

OMEFFIN’GOD—I had no idea. I feel like I just found a pair of Louboutin’s stranded on the side of the road—mint in package--in my size! I feel like I’ve been walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness and found the power and the glory in slayer kingdom when I came out the other side. My vampire goodness cup runneth over! I love, love, love it. I’m in season two right now, and I have contracts to fulfill, which means I’m sneaking these muthas in whenever I can.

So here’s my question for all of you—where the flip were all of you when I needed a good Buffy intervention? How could someone not have held me down, glued my eyes open, duct-taped me to a chair and made me, nay, forced me to watch this brilliance?

For shame—all of you, for shame.

No. I’m kidding :)

But here’s what I really wanna know. Spike or Angel?

Thus far, I’m a Spike, snark-licious, platinum blond-ish kind of chick.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How's It Going to End?

If you've never seen The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, I highly recommend that you go and watch it. Right now. I'll wait.


Did you watch it? Wasn't it awesome? And how about that ending?

Endings are important for books (and movies). A truly good ending can make you happy for days -- and a bad ending can leave you feeling angry, cheated, and possibly ready to storm an author's house with torches and pitchforks *coughStephenKingWizardAndGlasscough*. So, as an author, I take endings very seriously.

Right now, endings are on my mind because I'm right at the beginning of a shiny new novel, and everything about it is awesome and amazing and exciting (for now -- that will change when I get to the middle, but at the moment I'm loving the book). And, for perhaps the first time in all my novel-writing years... I have no idea how it's going to end.

Oh, I have a vague concept that the main character will somehow triumph over adversity. But that's all I got. This is slightly worrying.

He might just kill everyone. And then all get to write the epic final line: And everyone died. The end.

But that just isn't a satisfying ending.

So I've been contemplating truly great endings in the hopes that one of them will spark a fabulous wrap-up for Shiny New Book. Here's what I have so far:

Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz -- okay, so this one was unexpected and made me... emotional. Very, very emotional. But once I stopped weeping, I realized that the book had to end the way it did, and I was satisfied. Mostly. If I ever meet Dean Koontz, I might smack him a little. But then I'd be okay.

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett -- I absolutely adore Pratchett, and this one is my all-time favorite Discworld novel. Yes, it's got a lot to do with Vetinari being a primary character, and being terribly Vetinari-ey throughout, but the ending has a lot to do with it, too. It's masterfully done, with everything wrapped up and accounted for.

The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan -- Yeah, it's a movie. But the ending is epic. EPIC. I adore being completely surprised... and I loved the way that, when this movie was in theaters, absolutely no one talked about it after they watched it. The ending was that good. Even the mean-spirited people didn't want to ruin it.

What are some of your favorite endings? And if you don't mind... would you tell my how my book is going to end? I'm still lost.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Um, yeah ... it's research. Really.

I love the movie, "Stranger Than Fiction." It's a difficult film to describe, but I'll give it a go. It's about an IRS auditor who begins to hear a woman narrate his life. What he doesn't understand (not yet anyway) is that the woman is a novelist working on her come-back novel and he is her main character. The problem is that she mentions he's going to die.

I made my boyfriend watch this movie last night. The selling point was Will Ferrell, of course, who plays the beleaguered Harold Crick. And every time I watch the movie, I fall in love with it all over again. I can't imagine any writer NOT watching this film. Not only from the unique perspective of fiction colliding with reality and somehow mixing until it makes perfect sense, but also watching the neurotic attempts of the writer, Karen Eiffel, figure out how to kill Harold Crick. If you watch this movie, as a writer, you will say, "Oh, yeah. Been there." As a reader, you'll say, "Holy shit. Writers are nuts."

Being a romance writer, I'm also fond of the romantic element that unfolds as Harold starts to really live his life. Here are a couple of my favorite scenes:

Another movie that I adore, and that I think writers should watch (more than once!), is "Adaptation." Again, it's a difficult movie to describe. A screen writer struggling with turning a nonfiction book into a screenplay begins to write himself into the script. One of my all-time favorite scenes (and really, a personal a-ha moment for me) is posted below. "Adaptation" is another complexly written, yet easily understandable film, and it also gives insight to writers and their neuroses. Guess we're all kinda nuts. Maybe we have to be.

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