“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway said to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
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
I have been busy. I have a November 1st deadline for the first book of my new series for Ace, The Spellmason Chronicles. All these characters are a bit new to me, not like heading out with the Simon Canderous D.E.A. crew, so it’s been an interesting ride so far. On top of that I’m trying to finish up a YA steampunk thing I’m looking to sell, I have a sekrit project on submission, another sekrit project to help my fellow authors, and I spent the last month speaking at San Diego Comic Con, Gen Con in Philly (Author Guest of Honor in the house..woot!), and Authors After Dark in Philly. So I’m a bit crazed in a boo-hoo-poor-working-author kind of way.
So I polled my Facebookers for what I should talk about this month. The five suggestions were:
- my love of the Green Bay Packers
- proper nutrition for a writing/gaming life
- my secret addiction to lolcats
- things I’ve written that make me laugh out loud... or tear up
- food cravings I have as I write
So, in order, my answers are:
- the Green Bay What-ers? Several years ago a friend of mine had me on a program where I learned a new football player on the team each week.. that knowledge has long since left me (but I can easily name all the Dwarves from The Hobbit… go figure)
- Gobstoppers, Doritos, Lemonheads, and a 67 oz. Diet Pepsi and/or Mt. Dew, not necessarily in that order
- My addiction to lolcats is no secret… I’ve even used them in my advertising sometime. See?
- I have cried twice when doing readings of my stuff. The latest was a reading of Lowstone, a Steampunk Wild West piece coming out in Westward Weird Feb or March 2012. The other was reading ‘Stannis’ from Spells of the City, which is the basis for the Spellmason Chronicles. When I get something written that really works, the emotion gets to me when I’m reading it back and yeah, I get a little teary… in a totally manly way.
- I don’t crave food when I write… however, I ALWAYS want PEZ. Lemon PEZ. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I do find when the writing gets hard, I sometimes need to step away, go eat something, then come back refreshed, but I don’t crave anything specific
Do YOU have any pressing questions about my clearly glamour author life? Speak up in the comments!
And, because I'm just in that kind of mood, I'm going to post an excerpt from the fourth Downside book, SACRIFICIAL MAGIC, which will be released on March 27, 2012. (And wait till you guys see the cover!)
READING, WRITING, AND RAISING THE DEAD
When Chess Putnam is ordered by an infamous crime boss—who also happens to be her drug dealer—to use her powers as a witch to solve a grisly murder involving dark magic, she knows she must rise to the challenge. Adding to the intensity: Chess’s boyfriend, Terrible, doesn’t trust her, and Lex, the son of a rival crime lord, is trying to reignite the sparks between him and Chess.
Plus there’s the little matter of Chess’s real job as a ghost hunter for the Church of Real Truth, investigating reports of a haunting at a school in the heart of Downside. Someone seems to be taking a crash course in summoning the dead—and if Chess doesn’t watch her back, she may soon be joining their ranks.
As Chess is drawn into a shadowy world of twisted secrets and dark violence, it soon becomes clear that she’s not going to emerge from its depths without making the ultimate sacrifice.
EXCERPT (this excerpt is taken from the pre-copyedited version of the ms; final printed version may vary slightly):
Bump leaned back on his gold-tipped cane, crossed one ankle in its furry boot over the other. Somehow even standing on the street across from a burning building he managed to look like he was lounging around his horrendous living room, perfectly relaxed, lord of his tacky pornography empire.
“Nobody in, aye?” Terrible asked. He stepped a little closer to her; just half a step, really, nothing anyone would notice, but she did, and it helped.
“Nay, ain’t none people in there, when it fuckin go. Only our fuckin supplies, yay? Fuckin only half got out, fore it blowin the fuck up.” He leered at her. “Too fuckin bad, yay? Got less smoke now, price goin up, Bump gots the guessing on. ’Course, could be you ain’t gotta get the fuckin raise, you helping Bump out, getting what we needing done up, yay?”
She didn’t answer him. Would not. He didn’t deserve an answer.
Instead she just watched the fire, watched Terrible’s profile silhouetted by it and the way it cast changing golden light on everything. Downside looked almost wholesome with the flames dancing in their enormous makeshift firecan; that same light softened the sharp edges, bleached out the blood and needles and filth, the passed-out bodies and pockmarked walls and broken streets. The fire smoothed it all over, made it look almost normal.
Funny, she’d never really noticed that before. But then she’d never really paid this much attention to a fire before, at least not one she wasn’t inside. Burning buildings were as common an occurrence in Downside as muggings and beatings; they no longer attracted much attention, save from scavengers looking for something to snatch from the wreckage.
After the fire finally died they’d swarm, and look for every scrap of metal, every bit of furniture, every smoke-damaged pipe. And of course, any lumps of Dream that might have survived. The thought caused a little pang in her heart. She could use a visit to the pipes just then. It would be nice to forget Bump’s beady eyes, his dismissal of her, the confidence with which he used her.
But that was the price she paid, and she knew that. So she squared her shoulders. “You don’t have any idea who could have told? Who knew the place would be empty?”
“Terrible an meself, coursen. An a some they others. They needed for fuckin clearin up, dig, movin fuckin furniture. Movin them fuckin Dream out, yay. They Bump gots fuckin trust for.”
“So who could they have told?”
Bump shrugged. “Ain’t shoulda given none the fuckin tell, yay? Bump’s business Bump’s own fuckin business. Ain’t for nobody givin out.”
“Well, clearly someone you trust isn’t really someone you should be trusting,” she said without thinking, and regretted it when Terrible glanced at her. He did it fast, just a quick cut of his eyes in her direction and then away again, but she saw it. She felt it.
It was starting already. She wished she could say she was surprised, wished she hadn’t been waiting for it, expecting it the way she expected rain from black clouds overhead. Nothing in the world was permanent, especially not happiness.
She’d always known that. She just wished life would stop proving her right.
Have you pre-ordered your copy yet? I hope so!
Barnes & Noble
The Book Depository
It was sitting on my computer a little while ago, just staring at me. You know how they do... THAT look. That "I'm not going to do what you say" look. Yes, the manuscript has become an intractable little brat.
Sadly, I don't seem to be able to control my WIP at the moment. It's been a royal pain since day one--which was back in June--and it will probably still be a pain in October, when it's due. Sometimes manuscripts just get stubborn. They won't stick to an outline, the wander around like lost dogs, or they stop in one place and glare at you like an angry monkey.
In fact they're a whole menagerie of annoying little pseudo-animals. Most of them slow moving and very grumpy, from elephants who stop in the road and decide to eat the best parts of the outline because the don't really work, no matter how tasty they are; to gibbering apes throwing poo.
I know why my manuscript has turned into the Nightmare Zoo, but I'm not sure I can do much about it--things have been a little crazy here. I just wonder if I can make something good out of it, maybe just ride it out on the back of a charging, spitting arc camel as it careens wildly through the plot, or play whack-a-mole with the plot bunnies until they get in line.
If you see an emergency flare in the shape of a broken typewriter, coruscating like alien neon over the local zoo at night, that'll be me: send chocolate, extra ammunition, and memory upgrades. Please.
image blatantly stolen from Dad's Big Plan.
Hello folks. It's that time of year again, for me . . . summer is over.
Because I've been perpetually a student, and now I'm an academic, I've always been on an academic calendar. Which means I've had the luxury of long (if no longer lazy) summers all of my life. Things haven't changed that much since I was a kid, though, and I mourn the ending of summer.
That said, the end of the summer is sort of like the beginning of a new year for me. In fact, the New Year never feels like my new year, it's very much my mid-year. Therefore it's always the beginning of the school year that finds me reassessing my goals, my dreams, and my place in my own life.
Right now, I have to say I'm about as recharged and raring to go as I can get. I've just had what was probably the best summer of my life, so far, and it's left me super focused and super clear about what I've got, what I want, and what I think I need to do.
My first big epiphany this summer was that I chase happiness, rather than letting happiness come to me. I had that fortune-cookie realization one night when I was nearly asleep, but not quite. It took me a while, but I think I now know what I meant. And I was right! I've always been really active and impatient, but there are some things that can't be rushed, or forced. Those things I've got to let go of and just be open to them, rather than actively pursuing them.
My other big epiphany was that I need a home. It's probably not going to be here in Greensburg, as what I really want is a bolt hole in a fabulous location for holidays and long weekends. I think I know where, and it's a city I fell in love with the second I stepped foot there. I don't want to say too much as things may change. I'm holding my dream tight to my chest like a frightened bird, but I'm so happy to have something I know I want, for my personal life. I'm very lucky that my careers are going well and that I know what I want professionally, but sometime this summer I realized that my only goals were career goals and that I needed to think about how I want to live, not just what I want to do.
So that's me, in a nutshell. Is there anything you've realized about yourself, after our long, hot summer grinds down into fall?
As cons go this was one of the more intimate ones that I've been to, but It was nice because I got a lot more one on one time with readers and fans that I might not have run into in a larger venue. I also got to be on my first set of panels. As a first timer I can really appreciate the more laid back atmosphere that AAD provided. Far less intimating than I thought - plus I had the added bonus of being able to talk pretty freely about a certain panty-sniffing unicorn. (Oddly enough I had questions about him even on panels I wasn't actually attending!)
The only real bump so far was pulling into the parking garage the first morning and hearing my brakes start thumping. (I actually took it to a local dealership today. Good news is I can drive home on Sunday. Bad news is that it's going to cost me $2000 to fix. )
But overall I've had a very good time (and I got to meet fellow Leaguers Anton Strout, Carolyn Crane and Dakota Cassidy for the first time too. Yes the little things get me excited.)
At any rate, things wrapped up nicely with the steam punk ball this evening (I'll try to find some shots of me running around in my costume for next time) and I'm going to go pass out now. :)
And because I'm kind of missing the days when I wore much smaller clothes, I was digging through some old pictures recently. My sleuthing unearthed something that needed to be dusted off and shared from a trip I took to Ireland a few years ago.
Yes, that's right. Welcome to the Bram Stoker Dracula Experience. What kind of vampire author would I be if I didn't go to this? The Experience is a museum that's in a pool hall that's in an arcade that's in a bar/nightclub that's in a health club on the outskirts of Dublin. I am not making that up. After you buy your ticket from a bartender, a very, very short and sinister man lets you into the wonders that await...
The Experience had all sorts of info about Bram Stoker's life, a lot of which I found kind of depressing as a fellow writer. Like so many great authors and artists in history, Bram went relatively unrecognized in his own lifetime, unknowing of what his book would eventually spawn in vampire culture.
The rest of the Experience had stuff like this:
Most were exhibits of highly embellished scenes from the book, a la Halloween haunted house style, complete with mechanical monsters that occasionally lept out at you. There was also helpful how-to info posted about, like this:
Let's zoom in and take a closer look...
Huh. Looks like I hit a few of Stoker's rules right on for my books.
Aside from his lack of success in life, I was also a little disturbed by just how much people read into Stoker's life now because of what he wrote in Dracula. We watched this video about him, and it was just crazy listening to modern experts analyze him and make assumptions about his repressed anger and sexuality, based on the book. Man, can't a guy get a break? Does a book have to have subconscious meaning from the author? Makes me nervous to know what people are reading into my books.
All of that for a mere 7 euros! Of course, maybe I shouldn't say mere. With the state of the economy these days, that's a small fortune. But can you really put a price on paranormal camp?
What is Albacon, you ask? It’s a local fan-run SF/F convention that celebrates science fiction and fantasy books, flicks and TV. But hey, it’s not just epic fantasy and space opera; it’s urban fantasy and paranormal romance and military SF and horror and almost any sub (and sub-sub) genre in the SF/F field. It celebrates fiction for adults and fiction for teens. There are panels and workshops and vendor booths galore. There are banquets and costumes and (rumor has it) a keynote from yours truly.
Albacon is very laid back. It’s a fun, low-pressure sort of convention, run and attended by terrific SF/F fans and authors who love the genre. And hey – there’s a bar. Woot!
Programming is being finalized, but I’m crossing my fingers that there will be:
- A panel on the worlds of Joss Whedon. And that’s not just because I wrote a short comic set in the Buffyverse! Give me Firefly. And Doctor Horrible. (Dollhouse? Erm.) And yeah, Buffy and Angel and the Scoobies.
- A favorite monsters panel, be it vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, or something completely different. Me? I’d vote for demons. Some people might say “Death,” but any character that looks like Kurt Cobain just can’t be a monster, sorry.
- A writing-focused day of workshops that cover a broad array of topics (OMG, I’ve lapsed into Business Speak!), including queries, the changing author/agent relationship, the realities of e-SP (electronic self-publishing), spicing up nooky scenes, choreographing an action scene…really, my hope for this sort of thing is almost endless.
- Hey, if I’m fantasizing, I also hope that Matt Damon will be there. And Nathan Fillion. And Neil Gaiman.
And hey, I mentioned there’s a bar, right? (That part’s not a fantasy. That’s a fact. Bars at SF/F are mandatory.)
Registration is cheap, the authors and fans are awesome, and hey, you need something to do in October. Come to the thriving metropolis of Albany, NY, and hang your hat at Albacon.
Here's the result...
Feel free to comment and stuff.
If you know much about me, you know I hate to promote my books. If you didn’t know that, you’ll know by blog’s end. :)
I hate to PROMO. I hate the glare of those capped letters. I squirm at the idea of talking about my latest release or gearing up for a new release. I envy all green-like over those who do it so effortlessly. They’re brilliance leaves me feeling incredibly inferior. I guess it’s probably because while I don’t mind being the center of attention (don’t all gasp and stuff), I’d prefer it wasn’t in reference to my books.
I know, crazy, right? I had this very conversation with my agent who has heretofore been dubbed Agent Fab. She asked me over lunch at a convention why I hate it so much. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I never planned on writing books. I didn’t set out to storm the publishing world, and I definitely didn’t dedicate a ton of effort to pursuing a career in it. I didn’t stay awake at night and dream of the day I’d be published. I did, in my misspent youth, stay awake at night and plot my escape to Hollywood where Barry Manilow would await me in his stretch limo (white. The color all virgins wish for), and thus, whisk me away, and we’d sing duets together.
I also dreamed I’d skip off to my fabulous job with an unknown title while my fabulous purse swung (swang? Whatever.), from the crook of my fabulous arm and my fabulous doorman would greet me each day to open the doors to my lush, fabulous penthouse suite in New York City.
No. I really did. :)
Anyway, this was all an accident. I wrote something one day after reading a bunch of ebooks. I don’t even know what made me do it. Though, I truly believe a higher power was looking out for me, in that, this universal leader knew I was going to need a full-time gig. Because shortly after that first book, I was in the height of a rather difficult divorce with no means to support my children because I was a full-time SAHM (now that acronym I know).
So, long story short—while I didn’t dream of being a writer, that doesn’t mean that now I don’t spend almost seven days a week writing my brains out or that writing didn’t become my dream eventually.
Because it did. Has.
The dream happened gradually. I didn’t know and or understand most of the things people who’ve pursued this published thing talked about at conventions and writerly gatherings. I didn’t get the catch phrases and had not a clue what the acronyms for WIP and HEA etc meant. I didn’t understand numbers or lists or what being an NYT bestseller meant from say, being a stripper. So instead I went my own way—listened from the sidelines in order to learn from the masters and did what I do best. What I’ve always done best.
Hangout and chat with readers and authors while I learned the ropes.
Eventually, I developed my own sort of reverse PROMO. I’m often heard telling people not to buy my books because they suck. They’ll cause anal weeping. Maybe even loose bowel syndrome. I joke about the class action lawsuits filed against me after reading one of my books (at least I think it’s a joke. Who knows what tomorrow brings?). I sometimes refuse to let people buy my books at a signing. I mean, I eventually give in—but there can be some tug of war to be had before the sale is complete.
So when Agent Fab and I talked, I came to this conclusion. I think this dread of PROMO has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t feel like I paid my dues. That I didn’t stay up late enough at night, fingers bleeding while I honed my genius. Sweat for long periods of time, in some cases years. I don’t feel like I agonized long enough or hard enough.
I definitely don’t think I have any right to give advice on the craft or guide anyone on their path to publishing. I guess it’s my defense mechanism. It’s my way of saying, “Me writing books for a living? This is all just nuts, and if you think so, too, you won’t hurt my feelings.” :)
Yet, I learned something very valuable this week after the passing of Leslie Banks, and I heard it echoed in Richelle Mead’s words when we discussed her passing at the League. Leslie left a legacy of generosity that surpassed even her amazing books. She left a warm glow—a kind word of acceptance—a hug so enormous it literally enveloped you. She left a lesson in inclusion—one every writer--no matter their status in the writing world--should feel.
While the genius of her books will always remain—sentiments like the ones above are what I’ve heard in spades about Leslie this week. In my mind, those qualities made her a genius. She promoted integrity, hard work and a generosity of spirit without ever even mentioning one of her books. I bought them because I wanted to connect in yet another way to the wonder of her good heart, but it wasn’t because she had a contest or sent me her newsletter. All good things, mind you, in the hands of the right person—which is not me J I fumble. I stumble. Then eventually I just make a joke.
So I’ve decided to stop bashing myself over the head about how bad I am at retweeting a good review or working up a release day contest and instead, follow in Leslie’s very simple footsteps. Rather than flail so miserably in discomfort, I’m just going to try and be even half the awesome human being she was. Because I wanna be just like her when I grow up. :)
You probably knew her as New York Times Bestselling Author L.A. Banks. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with late stage adrenal cancer. If you Google that medical nightmare, then you will know what Leslie probably knew--life is too damned short, so live well and live joyously.
I met Leslie at a Romantic Times Convention several years ago. We sat next to each other at the author book fair, and she was a riot. Not only that, she was all kinds of interested in me--pretty much a nobody, but man oh man, she made me feel like a somebody. That was the year before my first Broken Heart novel came out, and I asked Leslie if she might have the time to give me an author quote. She said yes (well, from Leslie, it was more like Yes!!!). And the next year, when the novel actually came out, we found ourselves seatmates at the RT Book Fair again--and she spent more time telling her fans how hilarious my book was--and literally shoving it into their hands--than she did talking about her own work.
Leslie was magnificent.
We at the League spent some time talking about our memories of Leslie, and here are few we'd like to share:
Jackie Kessler: Two years ago, Leslie and I were on a terrific RT reader panel, along with Dakota, which was basically American Idol: The Cover Model Edition. L.A. acted like Randy Jackson, and she was hilarious. It was an awesome panel in no small part because of her. The audience was in stitches. That was the only time I met her. She was lovely and funny and warm, just an amazing lady to talk to. The world is a poorer place without her.
Stacia Kane: I met Leslie at my first RT ever, in Orlando. There was a dinner for St. Martins authors and Caitlin Kittredge asked me to go along with her; I was all nervous and felt really awkward, since at the time I only had small-press stuff released. And I was totally stunned that L.A. Banks was there.
Caitlin introduced me to her, and she gave me this big hug and said how great it was to meet me. She had no idea who I was, of course; that was just the kind of person she was, the kind who would hug a fellow writer they've never met before, who would ask about my upcoming series and say nice things about it and genuinely be interested.
This is a horrible loss.
Dakota Cassidy: I met her a day or so before a panel I was supposed to do with her (one of my first at RT), and I didn't know who she was. But that didn't last long because LA made you feel like you'd always known her. From that moment on, we were friends. We emailed back and forth--she gave me a quote for my book. Later, Jackie and I did the Idol based panel with her at RT where she was Randy Jackson. It was one of the best RT memories I have because she was right in there with me and Jackie just five minutes prior to it beginning, trying to figure out how to keep that panel from imploding.And she was a total riot.
She was an awesome human being.
J.F. Lewis: Shortly before I was published, I met Leslie at Dragon*con. I was carrying around the cover to my first book like a proud father and she gave me a hug and said, "You're in the club." That was the only time I got to spend time with her, but with that brief I interaction, she made me feel very welcome.
She was a very nice lady and the world is dimmed by her departure.
Mario Acevedo: At RT2009 in Orlando, LA went out of her way to introduce herself to me. She was a class act.
Jeanne Stein: I met Leslie first at a book fair in Georgia. She was warm, welcoming and so funny, she had a us all in stitches. I didn't know her well, but I her knew her well enough to really like her. She will be missed.
Richelle Mead: You know, in this profession, we all scurry over good sales numbers and reviews and all that. Leslie had those things, but what's really had the greatest impact on all of us are these meetings we had with her. Everyone (myself included) has a story where we were just blown away by how down to earth and kind she was, especially to those just entering the profession. Books are a great legacy to leave, but I think it's a greater thing for someone to be remembered for the kind of person they were.
Leslie's joy encompassed you with same ferocity as her arms did when she hugged you. And she hugged everyone. And she laughed a lot. And she made everyone she talked to feel like they mattered.
Leslie was one of those people with an inner light so bright and warm, you couldn't help but be drawn toward it. I think the best way we can honor her is to follow her example.
Instead of impatience, choose kindness.
Instead of silence, choose laughter.
Instead of talking, choose listening.
If there is an opportunity to spotlight yourself, turn it instead upon someone else. Be the person who makes others feel good by showing genuine interest. Be compassionate.
Live well, and live joyously.