Friday, April 20, 2012

Tools of the Trade

(Cross posted at On Literary Intent)


When I’m stuck for blog topics, I often poll my friends to see what things they’d like to hear me babble about. Most often, one (or more) of them says “Hey, tell us more about the swords and stuff that you talk about in your books.” And I’ve been hesitant to do that, mostly because I don’t consider my knowledge on the subject that extensive. I know just as much as I need to know to make sure that I don’t look like an idiot in my writing. If I started claiming to be some expert, I'd be a big fat liar.


However, that said… My hubby and I own a LOT of swords. A LOT. And most (99.99%) of them were made by the crew at a place called Badger Blades. I love these guys/gals, not just because they make awesome weaponry, but because they’re awesome people. We’ve known them a long time, long enough that they’ve seen my kiddo grow from infancy (where they spoiled her rotten) to almost-tween (gods help me) and they still spoil her rotten. Long enough that my hubby has a place of honor on their website, because of all the wicked blades he owns.


I’ve learned a lot about swords from Badger and his crew, from how they’re made to how they function. In A Devil in the Details, I mention that Jesse’s katana can almost be bent double and still spring back straight. After that book came out, I had a fan letter questioning whether or not that was actually possible. And I swear to you it is. I’ve seen it. I’ve been hit with shards of flying anvil when one of Badger’s swords has taken out chunks and left not one blemish on the blade. I’ve also seen one punch all the way through a chest freezer without a bit of harm (don’t ask). They’re beautiful, and functional.


Now, when it comes to katanas, we all know that the old Japanese sword masters did amazing things with metal. They folded it an insane amount of times, slowly working impurities in the metal into miniscule amounts in order to keep the blade from having weak points where it might shatter. Those swords are indeed works of art, and the world will probably never see their like again. However, that doesn’t mean that today’s modern weaponry is anything to sneeze at. It basically boils down to the quality of the metal. Old swords were folded because the steel had so much gunk in it. Then new smelting technologies were introduced, and today’s steel is much higher quality than what those ancient masters had access to. So while today’s swords may not require the intricate effort that the old ones did, that doesn’t mean that they’re inferior quality.*


*Note – There ARE inferior swords out there. Cheaply made, easily broken. They’re meant to be hung on a wall and be pretty, not to be used.

**Note the second – Yes, I know that the middle blade in this picture isn’t technically a katana. It’s a nodachi. I just wanted it in with the smaller blades for size comparison.

Frankly, everything I know about modern swords, I learned from Badger and his crew. You can find out more on how they make these gorgeous blades on their FAQ page. Are there folks who do it differently? Sure. But having had my hands on just about every blade they've made in the last...oh...ten years, I know the quality of their craftsmanship, and I trust their work.

If you’d like to see pictures of more swords, you should really swing by the Badger Blades website. Their photos are much better than mine, and they've got some swords there that I don't have examples of at home. (Don't tell my hubby there's a sword he doesn't have yet)

And if you really are a sword lover, check out Badger Blades' show schedule to see if they’re hitting an event near you!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Romantic Times Roundup!

Hi folks! Nicole here. Another Romantic Times has come and gone, and I've got the spinning brainz to prove it. :-) Here's a picture round up of the bulk of the action. The first day I got in, I spent a lot of time with Heather Osborn, Jaye Wells, Suzanne McLeod, and Liliana Hart. Here's some photographic evidence:

Jaye and I had to be on relatively good behavior, as our Editrix, Devi, was in attendance. Here she is doing her Eye of Sauron impersonation, if Sauron got excited about his new (adorable) bag:

I of course found myself wearing another mustache:

And Suzanne and Jaye ended up in the pokey:

Not least because Jaye nearly threw herself at Anne Rice. Here she is vaklempt at signing next to Anne on someone's tote:

Meanwhile, I'm all professional, and shit:

Not least as I was on Sheriff duties the Samhain Stampede:

For all our hard work, Zombie Joe brought us cupcakes:

And all in all we had a brilliant time. Here's me, Richelle Mead, Jeanne C. Stein, and Heather Osborn. We spent a lot of time in Heather's room, watching Ambient Videos and doing dramatic readings of amazing smut. It's how RT is supposed to be spent, really.

Can't wait to see you guys next year. Thanks for the laughs!!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Update and CHANGELING Snippet

Cross-post from my blog.

So I've been quiet lately, and I know I kind of left folks hanging a little with my last Organized Chaos post. I want to start by saying thank you to everyone for your kind words and support of the Dreg City books. It means a lot to know there are readers out there clambering for more of Evy and her friends.

The good news is that I will, in all likelihood, self-publish the rest of the series. I can't tell you when, because I have other projects in the pipe right now, but I hope to have something new for readers, even if it's just a short story, by the end of the year. Maybe the first of 2013. I will keep y'all posted as that develops.

The Sekrit Project is also finished and in the hands of both my agent and my crit partner. I'm pretty excited about this trilogy, because it is centered around my favorite supernatural creature: shifters.

I'm also gearing up for the release of CHANGELING (MetaWars #2) on June 26, so to round out the post, I'm going to offer another snippet from the book.


A little set-up: The team has purchased an abandoned mansion in Beverly Hills and are fixing it up as their home base. Dahlia "Ember" Perkins has been saddled with the task of hiring an electrician so their home improvements don't accidentally burn the place down. She finds herself at Scott & Sons, a place now run by someone she went to high school with--and who may or may not have had a crush on her once upon a time.


From Chapter Four

Dirty sneakers descended from the darkness, followed by tight, ripped jeans, and a T-shirt clad torso. An unbuttoned flannel shirt, sleeves rolled up, flapped in the wind he created as he charged forward. I looked up, past a narrow jaw, and into the brightest green eyes I had ever seen on a human being (except for Marco, but his eyes weren't quite natural).

If he wasn't Noah Scott, he was definitely related. He was about my age, with spiky auburn hair and a light smattering of freckles on his sharp nose. He stood about my height, thin-waisted, muscles rippling beneath his tight T-shirt. A runner, maybe, or a swimmer. Nothing like the skinny, gangly boy I remembered from high school. That boy had enjoyed loose clothes, kept his hair shaggy and long, and he couldn't possibly have been so handsome. Even his eyes seemed a brighter green than before.

Of course, a distance of six years can change your perception of a person.

Slim eyebrows arched as he studied me back. Wide lips puckered into a silent question, and he tilted his head to one side.

"Can I help you?" he asked. His voice had a rough quality, like sandpaper.

I licked my lips, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach. "Yes," I said. "I, um, need lights." I could have slapped myself. Obvious and stupid.

His smile broadened, baring bright white, but somewhat crooked teeth. Some small amount of recognition had crept into his eyes—it could have as easily been knowing me as Ember as remembering me from school. "You're in luck, because that's all we sell here," he said.

I laughed, feeling like an idiot, and walked confidently up to his counter and squared my shoulders. His eyes dropped briefly to my chest, and I had the sudden, irrational urge to flee this shop and never look back.

"What kind of lighting to do you need?" he asked.

"All kinds. We're, um, remodeling an older home and a lot of the ceiling fixtures need to be replaced. That's our biggest need right now. And installation. Ethan's not so good at it."

"Your boyfriend?"

"My what?"

"You said Ethan isn't good at installation. Is he your boyfriend?"

Laughter bubbled in my chest, but I tamped it down. Maybe-Noah was much more Ethan's type than I was. "No, he's not my boyfriend. One of my roommates. A bunch of us are fixing up the house together."

He walked around the counter and stopped an arm's length away. I liked that we were the same height; I didn't have to strain my neck to stay under his intense gaze. His eyes roamed all over. Most days, I would have walked off in a huff after being openly appraised like that. With this maybe-not-a-stranger, I rather enjoyed the attention. Even living with five other people, I was often lonely.

"Do you see anything you like?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah." His eyebrows shot up, and I realized what I just said. "I mean, I haven't really looked at your lights." Eyebrows higher. "What you have to offer, I mean." Lordy, there was nothing coming out of my mouth that didn't sound like innuendo. Teresa would kill me if I screwed this up.

"How about some track lighting?" he asked, indicating the wall behind me. "Brightens up a room pretty quick, and you can set it on a dimmer switch. How many rooms?"

"Quite a few." Good, simple answer to a simple question. I was back on track to having an intelligent conversation. "We don't need all of them done at once, but there are half a dozen rooms downstairs, and at least six upstairs."

"The house sounds huge."

"It's in Beverly Hills."

His lips parted in surprise. "Wow, that's an interesting neighborhood to pick. Few people can afford those houses."

Dollar signs danced between us, taunting. It was a social barrier that I'd never dealt with growing up—at least, not from the rich side of the line. I never wanted money from my father, and I ignored my trust fun when I turned eighteen. Mom's insurance paid most of her medical bills. Everything I had, I earned on my own. I was no different than this man in front of me, self-made and struggling to be independent. But the squint in his eyes, the harder line of his mouth, indicated he didn't know that. He just knew I had money. Money he could make.

"It's a group effort," I said. I wanted him to understand and didn't know why. "We needed a big place with good security. A bungalow in Inglewood wasn't going to do it for us."

"So you're looking for at least a dozen fixtures," he said, as though I hadn't spoken. "Plus installation and any necessary rewiring. Some of those old places can have exposed wires that cause shorts. Fires. You should definitely have a thorough inspection."

I bristled. Yeah, he was milking those dollar signs. Ass. "Do you provide those services?"

"As a matter of fact, we do. Why don't—?" Footsteps thumped down the back stairs, cutting off his train of thought. We both turned toward the sound.

A girl appeared behind the counter, maybe eighteen or twenty years old. She had long black hair and equally long legs that disappeared beneath a short, white skirt. "Hey, Noah, how come I always—?" Her almond-shaped eyes landed on me. "Oh, sorry. Didn't realize you had a customer."

Okay, so he was definitely my old schoolmate. Someone I obviously hadn't made an impression on, since he'd yet to indicate he remembered me.

Noah eyed the girl's outfit, from the pencil-heeled white sandals to the low-cut orange tank top barely reigning in her breasts. "Are you going out in that?"

"Sure." She twirled, the flared skirt riding up a little too high for decency. "Why the hell not?"

"You look like a hooker."

She belted out the perfect flirtatious giggle. "You think I'm going to go out and pick up some strange man to bring home? Be serious."

"Just be careful." He sighed, and I wondered if he'd had this conversation before.

She blew a kiss and flounced out the front door.

"Sorry about that," Noah said.

I shrugged. "What were you saying?"

"I was going to suggest I make an appointment to inspect the property. I'll be able to get a better idea of your needs, see the wiring as it is, and know where things are going to fit. Then I can order what I don't have in stock, and we can start getting you guys set up."

"Sure. What's good for you?"

"How about right now?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Sentence Snafu

Being an author can be stressful. Deciding which mansion to buy, eating unpeeled grapes, the constant paparazzi... the list is endless. But you know what takes the cake?

Having the first line of your book accidentally left out of the book.

Sound like a nightmare? Imagine if you were Mary Robinette Kowal and discovered, on the day that Glamour in Glass hit the shelves, that your first sentence just simply didn't make it to the final copy -- despite reviewing copy edits and page proofs.

Now Mary took that lemon and made the best lemonade ever, including digital bookmarks with the first sentence on it...and a promise that she will handwrite the first sentence into the book for every person who shows up to one of her signings. For the full monty on what Mary is doing to get the first sentence out to her audience, check out her awesome blog post.

And hey - show Mary your love by buying a copy or twenty of Glamour in Glass. You can buy it instantly at the Book Depository, your favorite local indie via Indie Bound, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sad Fashion confession

Cross-posted from The Thrillionth Page
Yesterday, while typing away at my WIP, I heard the sound of the mailman down at the building entrance and realized I'd forgotten to send my insurance payment, which is egregiously late! I scribbled a check, all the codes, slapped on a stamp, and burst out, running down the sidewalk after him in my slippers and office clothes to give it to him.

Pictured: the sweater I wore to chase/scare
the mailman. 

And then walking back to the condo, past people waiting for the bus etc. I realized: OMG WTF am I wearing? 

The answer: rags.

I bring you exhibit A: my favorite sweater of 2008. Somewhere in my clothes-challenged mind, I still think of it the day I got it from Kohls, new. So pretty. I would also direct your attention to my generously vented favorite office pants. I do love them. The fabric is just too thin even to patch. I have two other similar pairs. It is kind of crazy, what I wear every day. The degree of decrepitude. 

Working at home is such a strange luxury. Because, it IS this luxury, but the people doing it typically wear the most un-luxurious outfits.  

These pants: holes front and back, and a sad
mixture of clownish yet obscene. And I am
wearing them as I type.
I remember when I worked at an advertising agency--it was always SO hard for me to cobble together a nice looking outfit every day, and ad agencies are way more casual than normal businesses, but still. When I was at my most uptight agency in terms of clothes, I remember this hotshot freelance copywriter came in for a meeting wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, and it was this sign of prestige that he didn't have to wear something nice. I was so impressed by that. 

Now I'm the freelancer going in for meetings, (though honestly, women freelancers have to dress a little nicer). Anyway, I wear my nice clothes from 2005. Mostly, though, I have meetings virtually, which I wildly prefer. Because I don't have to think about the clothes thing. 

Though, the crazy outfit I wore to chase the postman was definitely pushing it! And, I am not even going to start on my jogging clothes. 

The other day I was going to go to the grocery store and I put on jeans and a normal shirt, just enough to get myself presentable in normal society, and I was grumbling to myself that one good thing about winter is that I can throw a coat over my ragamuffin outfit to go to the store, but when it's hot, I actually have to change--I cannot cover my pov-looking self with a giant coat. @#$@#!

I need to channel more of Betty. Maybe
not 100% Betty, but would 5% kill me? 
Anyway, my husband looks at me surprised and goes, you look really nice! And I realized he always says that when I have any clothes on that aren't rags. It made me feel a little bit bad because, okay, it's not the 1960's, I don't have to look like Betty Draper every day, but surely I can make an effort to not wear rags! 

I should probably retire some of my clothes. Maybe I will...maybe I won't. I do love the blue sweater. It is cozy on cool mornings. I don't know. 

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