Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My website is UP and I'm moving!

It's been in development a while and it will continue to grow and get tweaked, but my website is now up and running! The contents of this blog have been exported there, but it's still called Writer's Grove and new entries will appear there from now on. I hope you'll all stop by to check it out and come back often. Feel free to comment!

It's easy to comment, by the way; you don't have to follow me or register. And once I figure out how to do it, you can even have a little avatar doodad show up next to your name. Also, if you're on Facebook, there's a cool goodie on the home page you can click to "Like" me without leaving the site. Same goes for Twitter.

Know what else is super cool? If you go to the Books page on the site you'll see the final cover for my third book, HAMMERED! It's been up on Amazon for a while, but I haven't posted it anywhere myself.

There will be a free short story posted on the site in the coming weeks, along with some other goodies—keep checking the Goodies page. :) 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sentence Envy

Sometimes I congratulate myself for something I’ve written, a sentence or a phrase that I think is fairly succulent and worth chewing on for a while. But most of the time, when I read, I’m struck by Sentence Envy. Other authors write delicious things I wish I’d written. But there’s one particular author who writes sentences that just get in my head and kind of turn in circles, like a dog settling down for a nap, and then they rest there, fat and sassy, a tether to a different world. It’s William Gibson. Here’s what I mean:

The receptionist in the cool gray anteroom of the Galerie Duperey might well have grown there, a lovely and likely poisonous plant, rooted behind a slab of polished marble inlaid with an enameled keyboard.  —Count Zero
His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines. —Neuromancer
“Call him,” he repeated, wrapped in Japanese herringbone Gore-tex, multiply flapped and counterintuitively buckled.  —Zero History

His worlds are at once slick and dissonant, a polished surface with an invisible coating of malice on top, constant tension embedded in the language itself. I can’t write like that, but I’m glad somebody does. If you’ve never read Gibson, you’re missing out one of the premier wordsmiths of our time.

Does anyone else get struck by Sentence Envy?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stuff They Never Told Me About Publishing #1

You know those video games where all of the unexplored portions of the map are covered in darkness—they call it “fog,” and you have to go there to reveal what’s hiding? And sometimes the stuff that’s hiding is freakin’ awesome (like a special weapon or nummy digital food or an extra life), and sometimes it’s an obstacle you can’t get around and you have to go another way, and sometimes it’s stuff that wants to slay you and splatter your viscera on the walls? Publishing is kind of like that, except for the splattering viscera. The sense of adventure is really honkin’ cool, so if you’d like to learn everything as you go, then by all means, stop reading now. But for those aspiring writers who’d like to know, I thought I’d share a few things I didn’t find out about publishing until after the deal was made and I started walking through the fog. This will be an ongoing series with absolutely zero splattered viscera.

Book tours aren’t cost effective.
I’ve been surprised at how many people ask me if I’m going on a book signing tour. There seems to be an assumption that all authors do it. I knew that couldn’t possibly be the case before I signed my deal, but I didn’t know the reason why. I discovered that, economically, it’s not sensible for a publisher to lay out that kind of bread—airfare, hotels, meals and so on—when you might get twenty to sixty people showing up to buy a book at any given site. The publisher’s money would be better spent on marketing and social media networks. Most authors you hear/see doing tours have established reputations or prior celebrity status and are sure to draw big crowds of fanboys and fangirls. But debut authors like me? Nah. It doesn’t make sense to expect people to skip their favorite TV show and go to Borders on a Wednesday night to meet a dude they’ve never heard of before. What I’ll probably do is a few signings in Arizona because the books are set here, but that will be it to begin with. I'll continue to appear locally as often as I can because it'll be on my own dime. But honestly, a large part of this process is still in the fog for me, because from what I understand signings don’t get arranged until a couple months from the release date, and I'm still four and half months out.

You need a platform.
You have to blog and tweet "and stuff." If you do it well, then you have this thing called a platform, and this is something you absolutely must have. Everybody says so. But here I must confess that I’m not too clear on why. It’s kind of like the importance of getting good grades in high school: all the adults tell you it’s vital for your future, and so you study for the quadratic equation test because you hope it will make sense someday.  That’s kind of what I’m doing with my blog. I try to provide some info for aspiring writers (because I know what it’s like to be one) and some entertainment as well (mostly for myself), but I’m sort of in a continuous cringe, waiting for someone to swoop in and say, “No, no, no, McFly, you’re doing it wrong!” And I’m also waiting for someone to explain exactly how x number of followers on my blog or on Twitter translates into x number of sales I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I don’t mind blogging or tweeting—I enjoy both quite a bit! But I don’t understand how the mechanics of this platform thing truly works. (Does anyone? I've heard of social media experts, but I don't know them socially, so how expert can they be, right?) This is one of those things that don’t get adequately explained to newbie authors and thus you might as well get used to it. You need a platform because everyone says so and everyone’s doing it. Now go and build one, and don’t forget to write your next book. ;)

There are many people involved in publishing a book, and they’re all awesome.
Agent. Editor. (Those are the two I knew about because those are the people aspiring writers are understandably obsessed with getting to.) But since the deal, I've played jokes on my Assistant Editor and have been pranked in return. And then there's the Copy Editor. Managing Editor. Marketing Dude. Publicity Dude. (Marketing and Publicity are two different departments and I didn’t know that before; I know who my marketing fella is, but I don’t know who’s in charge of my publicity yet—that’s still in the fog.) Typesetting House. Art Director. Photographer. Model. Digital Artist. A department of people who deal with Subsidiary Rights. The nice lady at the security checkpoint in the Random House building who prevented me from injuring myself. There’s somebody named Phil in Accounting and he sounds like a cool cat. And then there’s the printer, of course, and the people in Sales who take my book to the buyers for the bookstores and say LOOK, THIS BOOK IS FRICKIN’ RAD AND I WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND IF YOU MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES TACKLE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND THRUST IT INTO THEIR HANDS! And we can’t forget the distributor, the warehouse workers, the nice guys who drive my books around, and the spiffy people who work in bookstores and never tackle their customers. I’m sure there are plenty more but I’m not aware of their existence yet. All those people have buttloads of work to do to make sure my book hits the shelves on time and calls to people with the lure of a siren. They come online at different stages of the process and I couldn’t possibly thank them all, but once you think about it, it makes sense why it takes about a year for a book to get “out there.” And it also makes sense why self-publishing often doesn’t work out so well; it’s because you’re trying to do all those jobs yourself and you can’t.

That's all for this installment. If you'd like to hear about something specific, let me know. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Write more

When it comes to writing novels only one thing is easier—knowing I'll finish. I have a confidence there where there used to be gnawing uncertainty that I might be wasting my time. Now I know that I can probably crank out two a year if I have an outline for them. That's vastly comforting. But there are other parts to the writing process that will never get easier. 

1. Revising. There aren't any shortcuts. I revise quite a bit before my agent and editors take a peek, and then revise more after they give me their comments. I don't think anyone writes the Golden Draft...maybe I'll produce a copper or bronze one someday. :)
2. Waiting. Once I send work to my agent, he sends it out on submission...and I wait. Sometimes the wait isn't all that long, but sometimes it's months. I try to deal with it by writing more. And if there's a deal, then there's another wait on the contract (which is where your agent truly earns his money and is worth every penny of his commission). Sometimes that wait is only a month or so, but I've also had to wait close to a year because of problems with boilerplate contracts, and my agent had to take on Viking Death Ships full of lawyers. (Luckily, he ate his spinach.) And after the contract is finished and you sign it, there's another wait for the money to arrive—anywhere from a couple of weeks to three months, depending on where it's coming from. If there isn't a deal, well then...
3. Rejection. It still happens. Getting published once isn't a golden ticket to getting published again, and getting published in the U.S. doesn't mean other countries are going to hand over bags of money for translation rights. One market will look at my series and say "Gimme!" and another will look at it and say "Meh." The answer to rejection, like waiting, is to write more, because otherwise I might chew glass. 
4. Fear of #3. Even though I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm capable of writing publishable books, I still look at my writing at times and conclude that it isn't good enough. "Whine," I say to my wife, "whine whine this sucks whine whine." She tells me to shut up, I do, and write more. It's the only thing that can possibly make the sucking stop, after all.

Right now I'm enjoying coffee with this seasonal creamer in it—it's called marshmallow mocha. Mmm. Hope you're taking advantage of the season's opportunities for warm, comfy drinks. And writing more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's piñata time

I've always enjoyed my family tradition for Thanksgiving, but didn't realize it was out of the mainstream at first. I thought with a certain naïveté that since everyone got the day off and everyone was talking turkey, everyone must celebrate it the same way too. Eventually, after seeing several movies of people indoors and not beating the shit out of a piñata, I hypothesized that maybe my family did things a bit differently. To test it, I asked a school friend after Thanksgiving, "So what did you get out of your piñata?" and received a look of complete bewilderment in return. That clinched it. My family was the strange one. But also very cool.

We go out to the desert and have Thanksgiving dinner outdoors. We can do that because it's Arizona, and nine years out of ten the weather is just fine on the fourth Thursday of November. Refusing to succumb to food comas, we then climb a hill with a beautiful view of Rio Verde and some almond orchards, snap a few pictures, then climb back down and ritualistically, mercilessly, joyfully thrash an innocent piñata to death. Don't judge; it's great fun and we bond over the shared violence, and besides, that papier mâché had it coming.

There is much to give thanks for this year. Hope you have many blessings to count and you enjoy lots of warm fuzzies, and maybe hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Release date moved up!

I have always wanted to time travel, and for a while I held on to a tiny dream that one day I would find someone like Doc Brown, and he'd have a flux capacitor in a blue Shelby Mustang, and once we got hold of 1.21 jigowatts of electricity (the movie's approximation of gigawatts), we'd be golden. We (the Doc and I) would go back and see Hamlet when it first debuted in Elizabethan England, and then we'd most likely catch the plague and die. Or get hanged as witches. Today that dream sort of came true.

I didn't find a Doc Brown, but I did receive notice that my long wait for publication has just been shortened by a week. The release date for Hounded has been moved up from April 26 to a NEW! EARLIER! date of April 19! So in a way it's like I skipped a week of time there. And so did everyone who pre-orders the book or buys it the first week! All those lucky people have become time travelers and probably would be justified in becoming a bit snooty about it. I'm a wee bit saddened that it didn't involve a tricked-out Mustang (or a ride in Dr. Who's TARDIS—bow ties are cool), but I'm certainly not going to complain. A shorter wait is just one more thing to give thanks for on Thursday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Update

1. I'm frustrated that I can't seem to watch Sharktopus on demand. I've seen the trailers and it's chock full of ridiculous. The kind of movie where you just sit down with some friends and popcorn and laugh. I don't troll the TV enough to catch it when it's on the Syfy Channel, and it's a shame, because I think it has the potential to be a B (or C) movie classic.
2. My school's football team advanced in the state playoffs last night. They're in the final four; it's the best they've ever done. I won't get to announce anymore, though, since it must be in a neutral location and I'm not a neutral announcer.
3. Going to see Harry Potter at some point this weekend; kid is looking forward to it, to put it mildly.
4. Author Stacia Kane put up a great post about copyright and if you're a writer (or a reader) you should check it out.
5. My webmaster dude (IT term) is working on my site and what I've seen of it so far is pretty spiffy.
6. For two whole days this week, I had nothing to grade. It was awesome. But now I have a giant stack of essays to look over, so I'd better get to it.
7. All three books now have their cover art up at Amazon! And (ahem) they're available for preorder! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Tidings

1. By this time tomorrow I will be caught up on my grading—only happens eight times a year! But I'm not quite caught up yet, so this will have to be quick.
2. Gaius Baltar is dead. He died in the Suvudu Cage Match at the hands of mouse-clicking George R.R. Martin fans, despite the fact that he had a gun and his opponent had a sword. The happy bit about this is that I had a wonderful time writing up those little scenarios.
3. The Iron Druid Chronicles will be translated into Thai and Russian! Very grateful to Tathata publishers in Thailand and Olma Press in Russia, and extremely excited to see the covers! 
4. It's just about marshmallow season. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #6

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but I finally scored a beer I've been looking for and I had to write it up. My writing/blogging friend Hillary Jacques told me about it and claimed it was to die for; I have taken her at her word because she's from Alaska, and people have died for stranger things than beer in the land of salmon and short summers.

The beer is Alaskan Smoked Porter, and it comes in big ol' dated bottles. For such an august brew I broke out the seminal autumn cuisine and a very serious dwarf to guard it.

That's a grilled brat with sauerkraut and mustard, accompanied by some kettle chips. The Alaskan Smoked Porter stands majestically to one side. And on duty today from the dwarf kingdom is Einar Ericksson, high atop the seeded bun, shining a light in the dark cave of tasteless beers and leading us to liquid gold.

Einar's motto ("I seek treasure and beer and often don't know the difference") is an example for us all. And in truth, he's something of an archetypal character, guiding us through menus of tasteless swill to find a brew with gustatory substance. Do you doubt his archetypal muscle? Behold:
See, they're really the same guy. The hermit is a bit longer in the femur, that's all. And maybe he could use a Snickers bar. But Einar is carryin' a freakin' GUN, son! That's because he can lead you through the mines past the Balrog to the legendary casks of Shaft-Aged Scrumptious Shit, brewed by the celebrated hopmaster Steinar Thorvaldsson. And if any demons from the old world show up to try to mooch a pint, Einar will pop the bastard between the eyes with a black powder ball! Ain't nobody gonna snake my Smoked Porter with Einar on the job.

Speaking of which: I can see why so many Alaskans have died for this noble brew. Jerry Hoffman of Fairbanks lost his life when he attacked a Kodiak bear trying to break into his cooler of Smoked Porter; he was armed with nothing but a pair of BBQ tongs. Fisherman John O'Bryan of Anchorage accidentally dropped an unopened bottle in the sea, dove after it, and got eaten by an orca that mistook him for wayward chum. ("Carry On, My Wayward Chum" is the unofficial anthem of Alaskan fishermen.) If you get a chance to snag a bottle, do—you can always age it in your silver mine for a few years if you don't have occasion to drink it right away. It's awesome.

And now for something neither here nor there. To the person who thought it would be a good idea to take one of the greatest rock songs of all time—"Sweet Child o' Mine" by G n' R—and chop out 16 measures here and there to make it more "radio friendly": You suck hairy goat sack! You mutilated a masterpiece and ruined the song's balance, removed its musical tension so that we're left with all yang and no yin. You even cut off half of Slash's epic solo. What possessed you? Did you wake up in the morning and say, "Today, I'm going to take someone's work of genius and turn it into shit!" or are you seriously so clueless that you thought this might be a good idea? Honestly, I'm never listening to that station again. If they don't want to respect the music—leave someone's creative vision as is—then I'm not going to give their advertisers a chance to reach my ears. This concludes my rant. I am going to let Einar help me find a happy place.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Don't know if you've ever checked out Goodreads.com or not, but I dig it and I'm "there" now as an author if you'd like to click over there and say howdy. You can friend me there or follow me as a fan (I think?) and my blog posts will update there too. I'm not going to attempt to rate all the books I've read because that would take a looong time, but I do enjoy putting some things up and comparing my ratings with others, especially my friend Alan, who tends not to like things as much as I do. He's a bit more critical than I am, and that's a good thing, believe me, because he's my alpha reader and I don't know what I'd do without his insights. Usually I'll give four or five stars to things or I won't rate it at all, proceeding on the maxim if you don't have anything nice to say...you know. The exception to this rule is Charles Dickens. I delight in giving his books one star. I might be the only person in the world who despises Charles Dickens, but I'm grateful to Goodreads for giving me a forum to express my wintry discontent with so little effort.

The other thing that's really cool about Goodreads is the ability to get some ideas on what to read next...and I'm almost to the point where I'll need something soon. I've been making progress through my pile o' books and I'm just about caught up. I think I have found a candidate for the next one...it's called Hunger by Jackie Kessler. It's about one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Know why I'm going to read it? Because of this picture right here:
That's Neil Gaiman holding Hunger. That's all I needed to know. Put that on my TBR pile.

Also, my cover is getting "out there" and I'm very happy to see that people tend to like it. A lot. Here's a blog where it appeared recently—she got the photos from my Twitter feed, so thanks to Persephone for following my tweets!

And today I will leave you with a gratuitous photo of my Boston Terrier, Sophie:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shiny Covers!

They didn't tell me they would be shiny! I just got what they call sales proofs in the mail—these are what the sales folks take around to bookstores and say, "See, if you're going to judge a book by its cover, then THIS ONE WINS!"—and the title that was previously white text is now foil stamped and embossed! I had no idea they were going to do that until my editor told me they'd gone ahead and done it. My scan doesn't do it justice, but you'll get the idea:
As Patrick Rothfuss would say, click to embiggen

Well, my peeps at Del Rey outdid themselves with these covers. I love 'em! They are going to gleam on the shelves! Ginormous thanks to authors Ari Marmell, Kelly Meding, and Nicole Peeler for reading the book before the awesome cover existed and saying something nice about it. That truly means the most, because they didn't have to read it or say anything nice, yet they did.

Now here's a better look at the cover for book two in the series:
I really dig this one because you can see Atticus's tattoo much better; it wraps five times around his biceps and then falls down the top of his forearm, but you can't see that in the pose for Hounded. This cover has a couple more touch-ups to go before it's finalized, but it's 90% there and they needed to get a proof out for the sales team. I think it looks spectacular as is! Hope you dig 'em too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Platform Building with a Pug

There's a pretty cool post over at SFWA by Victoria Strauss about gettin' published: It's not a crap shoot. She addresses three assumptions made by grumbling, rejected writers, and while I urge you to click over and read her original post, I'd like to piggyback on those assumptions based on my own recent experience.

1) First assumption: All manuscripts are on equal footing in the marketplace. As she says, that's completely untrue, and I'm not talking about anyone's writing but my own. The two books I wrote, submitted, and had rejected before I wrote Hounded were not all that great, though I thought they were okay at the time. Only with experience and hindsight did I see that they deserved to be rejected. Yet I don't regret writing them; I learned a lot in the process and they got me to a much better place in my craft. If you're on submission right now, write the next book while you're waiting; it'll probably be better than the one you're shopping around. (It worked for me.)
2) Second assumption: The industry doesn't want new writers. Not sure how anyone can believe this one. I just read a great debut by Mark Hodder called The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. And my fellow inductees into The League of Reluctant Adults, Sonya Bateman and K.A. Stewart, came out with their debuts this year. I'm obviously a new writer, and there are plenty more on deck...so I think that one's wishful thinking, whoever thinks it.
3) Last one: No one wants a writer without a platform. Strauss says this assumption is more true for nonfiction writers than fiction...and she's right. I'm still trying to build my platform; I wrote and sold my book without knowing what a platform was. In fact, I'm still not sure about the whole platform-building thing, since I'm such a newb to this aspect of the business. What I probably need is some help from my pug, Manley (named after the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins). Come on: How can you not follow a guy who has the devotion of a pug like this?
Manley likes laser pens and long walks in the dog park.

My write-up of Baltar vs. The Mountain That Rides is up on Suvudu on Monday! Don't forget to vote for Baltar! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mental Flotsam Purge #1

I'm currently marveling over the fact that there's a British actor by the name of Benedict Cumberbatch. I love that name. I think it's my new favorite, honestly. For many years, my favorite name was Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, but that's a fictional name courtesy of Douglas Adams. Benedict Cumberbatch is a real dude. He's now starring as Sherlock Holmes for the BBC.

Here is a silly one-verse parody I made up in the car while driving to work...can you guess the Zeppelin tune?

There's a barmaid who's sure
All that she pours is gold
And she's pulling the next draught
For Kevin.

I'm a fan of old spellings. "Draught" scores about four million style points over "draft."  Draught beers taste better to me than draft beers because they're spelled deliciously.

My next write-up of Gaius Baltar's adventures in the Suvudu Cage Match will appear Monday morning. He's taking on The Mountain That Rides from George R.R. Martin's series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I'll desperately need your help for Baltar to win...the fans of Martin's series are legion. Round up your kids and all your laptops and vote for Baltar! :)

Benedict F***ing Cumberbatch. That's a seriously epic name. It's right up there with Bilbo Baggins.

The sound of my dishwasher is oddly comforting to me. I am wondering if it was designed to mimic the pulsing whoosh and hiss of the womb.

Many folks doing NaNoWriMo, and I wish them the very best; I hope something publishable comes out of it. I cannot yoke myself to that particular plow, because it seems (and I stress the SEEMS because I don't know, having never done it) to prize quantity over quality. I do recognize its value for those who need to discipline themselves to a course of writing, and I'm absolutely positive that it works extremely well for many people; I'm just not one of them. I write somewhat sporadically while school is in session, but always try to get in a couple thousand words a week at minimum. Once I'm off school, I usually write 2-3K per day. Today I'm very pleased to have surpassed 10,000 words on my fourth book. Getting into five digits feels pretty good. What would feel completely awesome though is coming up with a name like Benedict Cumberbatch. Maybe I should just snag a British phone book...

Monday, November 1, 2010

HOUNDED cover revealed!

Though I suppose I could be accused of bias when I say "I LOVE IT!" it's true nonetheless. The cover for Hounded is awesome; Del Rey has captured Atticus perfectly!

When Tricia & Mike (my spiffy editors) told me that Advanced Reader's Editions were on their way, they made one request: have someone take pictures of me opening the box. They know I've been waiting to be published a long time, and to see my book bound and printed for the first time would be, in the words of our vice president,  "a big f#%!ing deal." I agreed readily, not knowing what torture it would be...

The box arrived on Friday; I arrived soon after. BUT NO ONE WAS AROUND TO TAKE PICTURES. I couldn't open it! I could have gone to a convenience store and made the clerk take pictures—I was thinking such things—but not seriously, because I wanted my family to be around when I opened it; they've been waiting a long time to see the book too. I had to wait three hours for my wife to get home, gnawing on my fingers the whole time, staring at the Box of Joy that I could not open.

It taunted me with its Random House return address and its priority overnightness:

Do not be alarmed by my strange expression in the next picture. I'm petting the box and purring, see. Well, okay, be alarmed if you'd like.
The Box of Joy finally surrendered its happy contents to me:
....Words fail. All I can say is that there's nothing like a dream coming true, and I couldn't be happier.
   Below is my photo of the ARE cover. I apologize for the wee bit of glare. Also, the icons on the charms aren't really coming through on this picture—all you see are black squares—but you'll see them "for reals" with your naked eye, and they're sublime. I'll have the cover art file later, but for now enjoy the ARE:
If Atticus looks at you like that and draws his sword, APOLOGIZE. It doesn't matter for what, just tell him you're sorry and you'll never do it again!

I've said it before and I'll say it lots more: Del Rey has been completely lovely to work with. Tricia and the art dept. deserve mad props for this cover, and for the Hexed and Hammered covers as well. They brought Atticus to life and they incorporated my suggestions beautifully; I will build them a shrine and make offerings of gummi worms and beer.

And whoa—Hounded is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Borders.com, and BN.com! They don't have the cover image up yet, but in case you're really itching to get a head start on buying the books you need to read in April, now you can!

In other news—yes, I have other news!—my Cage Match write-up of Gaius Baltar vs. Feyd Rautha-Harkonnen should be up sometime today on Suvudu.com, so I'd love it if you went over there and took a gander. And, should you be so inclined, please vote for Baltar! Not only is he a completely awesome villain that you love to hate, as long as he wins, I get to keep writing!

I wish you peace, if you're into that sort of thing. Otherwise, may you be swept suddenly into a world of intrigue and learn a rune-based magic system in only three days to prevent a demon apocolypse.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Developments & Shocking News

The shocking news first: I have discovered that there are some human beings—sharing the planet with us right now, I might add—who don't like pie. Until today, I was not aware that this was an option. I'm actually thinking that this is an elaborate hoax perpetrated by my students, and those who protested to me that they seriously don't like pie are being contrary. I am tempted to dismiss it all as teenage rebellion. I mean, how can you look at this...
and react to it like this....?
That's not right.

But in other news: I have found a neato website designer, thanks to a neato guy named Joe. The neato website designer is Sean; he'll be getting something together for me soon once my cover art is finalized. I'm going to migrate this whole honkin' blog over to my website, and it'll be a WordPress kind of thing because I hear all the cool people are using it (plus I'll be able to update the site easily, which is its primary attraction). 

Dudes: Six months until Hounded is on the shelves. It's starting to feel real.

I think (I hope?) Gaius Baltar will beat the White Witch in Round One of Suvudu Cage Match: Villains, and as such I'll get to write a new throw-down featuring him and whoever wins between the Borg Queen and Feyd Rautha-Harkonnen. (Can I just say how much fun it was to type that sentence? Most people would shuffle away from me and signal a taxi if I said that out loud, but I can let my Nerd off the chain when I blog.) Feyd is winning so far, so I'm having fun imagining that particular scenario. I'll know the final results tomorrow (Thursday) and then I'll have a couple o' days to come up with a lovely violent vision for Gaius. The new write-up will appear on Monday, and of course I'd appreciate your support once again for Baltar...I get to write about him for as long as he lasts!

Progress on book four, Tricked, has been going well this week. I introduced three new characters and gave Oberon his longest speech of the series thus far. But I realize now that Oberon has yet to eat any pie in my fiction—indeed, my books have thus far been pie-free. Perhaps I will soon have occasion to enshrine pie in my series. Any votes on what kind of pie?

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Villain Worth Celebrating

A common complaint about villains in stories and film is that at some point their motivation all boils down to ruling the world. The super-cheesy ones say so plainly with malevolent glee and tack on an evil laugh at the end—“And then I will rule the world! Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haa!” Mike Myers mocked this tendency brilliantly in the Austin Powers movies. But why do they want to rule the world? Because it’s there?

They’re power-mad, these villains, and we rarely get any idea of what truly motivates them. Take Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, for example—what drove him to hate so much? What was his beef with the Jedi? We never find out. He’s one of the flattest characters ever. He had a cool Halloween mask for a face, a neato double light saber and a gliding motorcycle thingie—but he was completely boring. Darth Vader was (and is) a much better villain, because we know what happened to him and we can empathize a bit with what turned him to the Dark Side—namely, the death of his mother.

But even though Darth Vader is one of the greatest villains ever and rightly deserves his top-ten seeding in the Suvudu Cage Match, I think there’s another villain in that particular tournament of evil that deserves a lot more respect: Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica.

The genius of Baltar is that he’s always able to convince himself that he’s doing the right thing, the best thing for everyone—it’s just a coincidence that it’s also the best thing for him personally. Occasionally, he’s able to convince people—and perhaps us, the viewing audience—that he’s actually the victim. Nothing is ever his fault. He doesn’t have an evil bone in his body.

He sure does have a selfish bone, though.

To my mind, Baltar is the best villain ever because any one of us could become him. We couldn’t become Sauron or the White Witch or the Terminator, or many of the others in the Suvudu Cage Match: they’re all one-dimensional bogeymen, a foil for the naïve hero. But we could (and we do) make choices based on our own selfish desires. Like Baltar, we could descend into corruption in our pursuit of power, fame, fortune, and the sensual luxuries that are supposed to attend them. And we could tell ourselves, all the while, that we are the heroes of our own story; we could even pile on great heaping dollops of this faith or that, as Baltar eventually does, and give our actions the hue of religious righteousness.

If you want to see someone truly go to the Dark Side, Baltar is the one to watch. The villains from Star Wars go there and get symbolically cloaked in darkness, but they, like many other fictional villains, are a bit over-the-top, a bit too cartoonish, and thus they are entertaining more than truly horrifying. Baltar, however, is wholly loathsome and terrifying, because I can easily imagine him in our world today; I think there may be a few copies of him running around right now.

Now through Thursday, you can go vote for Baltar in the Suvudu Cage Match. He’s up against the White Witch from Narnia. I wrote up the prediction for how I think it will go—and if Baltar wins, I’ll get to write more. I think he should win the whole tournament, and with your help, he will! Spread the word, please—a vote for Baltar is a vote for well-rounded villains that we love to hate. While you’re at it, vote on the other matches, too—it’s tremendous fun and a chance to geek out about your favorite bad guys.

If you’re visiting my blog for the first time because you saw my write-up on Suvudu—welcome, and thanks for visiting! Take time to explore the archives, follow me here or on Twitter, and feel free to say howdy in the comments!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm a Reluctant Adult

No...really! I've joined the League of Reluctant Adults at their invitation, and I'm thrilled! What is the League?

Well, it's a group of 23 authors (including yours truly) who write Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. We get together during conventions and whatnot to hold group signings, do unspeakable things to action figures, etc. I haven't met any of my fellow Leaguers in person yet, but I've read quite a few of their books and I know from that experience that they're brilliant. For example, there's Nicole Peeler, Kelly Meding, Stacia Kane, Cherie Priest, Anton Strout...and more!

Go visit the League here and follow us! Nicole Peeler is introducing/hazing me sometime today on the site, so you're sure get a laugh or two. You might have to scroll down to find me (depending on when you click over there because two other authors will be introduced), but it'll be worth it—Nicole is pretty funny.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Wee Adventure in Bookman's

Right now I'm on October break—a week off in between quarters. It's an excellent time o' year to be off work in Arizona. The weather is freakin' perfect.

Today was an especially cool day. I all but finished copy editing Hammered, I got invited into a SUPER! SECRET! club (which won't be a secret on Monday because I'll blog about it then), I hung out by the pool at an awesome resort with some friends of mine, hit the comic book store to pick up Chew #14 and Northlanders #33, then walked into a used bookstore out here called Bookman's.

Here is what happened when I walked into Bookman's with my daughter:

UNKNOWN FEMALE VOICE: (shock, excitement) Mr. Hearne!

Hearne turns his head to the right. Two students stand agape at the vision of their English teacher existing outside of school.

HEARNE: (shock, bewilderment) Brunnhilde! Megatron! (Names changed to protect the innocent)

BRUNNHILDE: I can't believe this!


HEARNE: I know!

It is a magical moment for all concerned. Brunnhilde and Megatron realize that teachers have lives and do not live in coffins, iron maidens, basements, etc. Hearne is filled with hope for the future because he has now witnessed students visiting a bookstore of their own free will during a vacation.

Heh! Honestly, it was great. Those two kids are simply brilliant, and it's easy to see why, since they weren't at home watching TV or playing video games. They were in a bookstore. Looking at books. Talking about what they wanted to read! It made me ridiculously happy. Such a very cool day.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #8

I'm on my October break—which means a week off from school—and having a WHOLE! WEEK! to read and write and run errands during normal business hours sounds like a swim in milk chocolate right now.

My copy edits for Hammered are going to arrive today, so of course I'll be diving into that, and I'm hoping to finish up my outline for book six this week, which is currently wearing the tentative title of Hunted.

My outlines are about 10-15 pages. I'm making them longer and more detailed than I used to because I saw the advantage of it while writing Hexed; the detailed notes I'd written on Hexed allowed me to crank it out in five months, and it was also far easier to edit/prettify than Hounded or Hammered, neither of which had detailed outlines. So I've learned quite a bit about myself as a writer—I can write as a pantser and as a plotter as well—but wow, the job sure gets done more efficiently when I plot. That doesn't mean I slavishly follow the outline, either—I change things as I go, especially the order of events. I'll probably post my Hexed outline after the book comes out so people can compare what I'd planned against what actually got written.

Here's what I plan to read this week:
Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #8
We have three miniature fruits here alongside a giant variation of another. Miniature Clementine oranges, a wee watermelon, and a petite pumpkin frame Scott Westerfeld's dieselpunk Behemoth, while huge table grapes called Pristines nestle against the steampunk succulence of Cherie Priest's Dreadnought.

I loved both Leviathan (Westerfeld) and Boneshaker (Priest), so these sequels are going to be delightful returns to worlds I enjoyed on my first visit. I especially love that Dreadnought is printed in brown ink like Boneshaker was.

In other news, Suvudu is starting their Villain Cage Match! TODAY! You can go vote now for who should fill in the last few slots in the bracket here.

And when the first round starts, one of the matchups will be introduced by Yours Truly! The bracket is public now, so I'm not going to be spoiling anything with this: I've written up the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia (Seed #5) vs. Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica (Seed #28)! I hope you'll follow along and join in the fun by voting! These Cage Matches are the coolest thing ever...it's a chance to feed the Nerd Inside. So say we all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Speaking to the APW

A couple months ago, the Rim Country Chapter of Arizona Press Women invited me to speak in Payson about writing genre fiction and how I got my start, and I accepted gladly. I've had plenty of practice keeping high school kids entertained for an hour, but could I do the same with adults? It turned out to be two hours. Once I got going I found out I had more to say than I thought. And they paid me a huge compliment—when the organizer asked about halfway (??) through if anyone wanted to stop and take a break, no one wanted to go! So that gave me warm fuzzies and I'm glad it wasn't a snorefest.

It was held at the East-West Book Exchange, an extremely cool little place with some gift shop goodies and a coffee bar (free wifi!) in addition to books and a lovely room that they rent out for yoga classes and small events like mine. Owners Chip and Lisa Semrau are gracious people and their mochas are fantastically good. Like holy-crap-I-think-Starbucks-sucks-now kind of good.

There were 35 people there, which I thought was fairly decent considering that I haven't even been published yet. Many of the people I spoke to had already been published in nonfiction markets but were curious about how to break into fiction, so I explained why getting an agent is a Really Good Idea and how one might best accomplish that, and I also spoke about urban fantasy tropes and the glorious fun of steampunk.

I saw some folks in the audience taking notes and they had some great questions afterward, so I hope it turned out to be helpful. I like to think of the market as a giant pie, and everyone should have a slice.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whiskey Row

This post isn't about whiskey. But I could see how you'd think that, what with the title and all. Nope, this is about a destination.

Whiskey Row is in downtown Prescott, Arizona. It's famous for an awful lot of rows begun by men who drank too much whiskey. And, of course, there used to be a whole row of bars there in the days when people only bathed seasonally. There still are quite a few bars there, but they're interspersed with gift shops and scented candle stores now that people bathe more often. It tells you how far Arizona's come in a hundred years: we used to just need booze, but now we need booze and a way to smell good afterward.

On the corner of Gurley and Montezuma is the St. Michael Hotel. It's over a century old, which is "old" for Arizona. Teddy Roosevelt stayed there. John L. Sullivan did too, and I was told by my paternal grandmother (maiden name of Sullivan) that I'm distantly related to him somehow. (I only remembered that today, when I saw a plaque with his name on it affixed to the hotel. I sorta thought, "Wow. You know you're famous when your sleeping arrangements get marketed to future generations."And I might not be related to him at all—Grandma's story might have been blarney; I think he's someone every Irishman wishes he was related to, because he kicked a lot of ass and his mustache was epically virile.)
My supposed relation, John L. Sullivan

In any case, my family and I decided to sup in the bistro located on the ground floor of said establishment. It looked like this:

We were early so that's why the joint looks deserted. I ordered a broiled portobello stuffed with artichoke, spinach, tomato, zucchini and parmesan spread out on a red pepper coulis. Jasmine rice and veggies on the side. It looked like this and it was nummy:
I gave the cauliflower to my daughter because I can't eat that stuff. It looks like braaaaains.

We were visiting Whiskey Row today because there's a very cool photographer up there named Amy Ryland, and if I absolutely must let someone take my picture, then it's gotta be her. She found a spiffy stone wall on Whiskey Row and shot me there for my author photo. Brace yourself.
As promised, I eschewed the infamous and ubiquitous Author Chin Cradle. (Though I'm leaving my Profile Chin Cradle up on the right sidebar, and I'll also continue to use it on Twitter and Facebook because it cracks me up.) I didn't give into temptation and stand in front of a bookcase, either. Nope, this is Stone Cold Whiskey Row, and there's a twinkle in my eye because that tends to happen when I'm in close proximity to that much whiskey.

I think you can click on the picture to enlarge it, but I'd recommend that you resist the urge, because there's only so much cute chubby Irish guy you can handle.

My editor tells me that Advance Reader Editions of Hounded will be available sometime in December. I have no idea how many they will print or who will get them: It's a mystery. But O, frabjous day! My cover shouldn't be a mystery for much longer! For one thing, there will be a poster of it on display at the New York Comic Con next weekend. If you're going to be there, stop by the Del Rey booth and check it out. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nom nom nom!

When you present the Cookie Monster with a cookie, he’s going to love it because he’s the frickin’ Cookie Monster. He’ll eat it and say, “Nom nom nom!” even if it’s kind of bland and stale. But if you present the Cookie Monster with a kind of cookie he’s never had before —a rich, moist, warm one, say, plus a glass of milk—the Cookie Monster will probably have a sugargasm and he’ll say, “Nomnomnomnomnom!” There will be crumbs and blue fur everywhere, and slightly alarmed innocent bystanders will cover their children’s eyes in the name of decency.

Urban Fantasy readers (like me, anyway) are kinda like the Cookie Monster when it comes to novels in the genre. Give me a UF novel and I’ll devour it happily, saying “Nom nom nom!” all the while. But I think I’m about ready for that book that sends me into unchained fits of turbo-nomming. I need a more varied diet in my UF reading, but I need other writers to help me out a bit here—and maybe some suggestions from readers who can point me in the direction of something I haven’t seen yet.

What I’d like to read are more stories told from the point of view of characters who aren’t your everyday UF hero(in)es. Instead of a shifter, vamp, faery, demon, or a half-version of any of the above, can we get a story told from the point of view of a wight who’s a mite misunderstood? How about a dude who escapes from a mad gene-splicing scientist with the head of a cuttlefish? I want to get inside the head of a half-mad half-squid, you see, and hear about his struggle to hold on to his humanity while he pursues vengeance against the butcher who replaced his whiskers with tentacles, and weep with him as he tries to reconnect with his wife and daughter, both of whom happen to be allergic to seafood.

Gnomes, trolls, goblins, kobolds—I don’t think anybody’s written the definitive work (correct me if I’m wrong!). I’ve seen some mermaid stuff in YA fiction—I’m thinking Emily Windsnap—and I might be missing a whole lot more because I don’t read much YA. There’s probably a centaur book or two out there, maybe a hipster hippogriff. But I definitely haven’t seen any attempts to write these sorts of characters in the adult UF market. Then again, I might be the only guy demanding such stuff, which would explain the short supply.

I don’t know how much demand there is out there to hear stories about Druids—I guess I’ll find out next year when my books hit the shelves!—but one reason I chose a Druid to be my main character was to attempt to introduce something new-ish to all the Cookie Monsters out there. I know that vampire/shifter/magic-girl love stories are popular—I completely understand because I like them too—but I can’t believe that’s all people want to read. I think there are vast opportunities in UF to tell some fresh tales, from the harrowing to the humorous, but somehow the genre has worn itself into a few distinct ruts already, and instead of treading new ground, people are throwing themselves into the same few grooves. If you think it’s too risky to try something a bit “out there,” well, I can always point to my publisher (Del Rey) and say look, there are editors in the biz willing to take a chance on an unorthodox hero, because they’ve taken a chance with Atticus O’Sullivan. (Harry Connolly’s hero, Ray Lilly, is not your average bear, and neither is Stacia Kane's Chess Putnam—and look! They're both with Del Rey! ;))

I hope to try some new cookies soon. If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll find time to experiment in the kitchen of your word processor. And if you know of any unusual UF narrators out there now, please let me know in the comments! Nom nom nom!

Monday, September 27, 2010

If you stalk a writer...

I have to sit still long enough for someone to take an author photo and I'm practically gibbering, "distilled almost to jelly in the act of fear." (Shout-out to Horatio)

How can I simultaneously make myself look interesting and yet not so weird that I scare the bejesus out of potential readers? Try to come up with an image of yourself being "conservatively interesting" and you'll see what I mean. It's nearly impossible. It's why authors give up and stand in front of bookcases. It's why they bow their heads and stare at pads of paper with pen in hand. It's why they do the infamous chin cradle (see my profile picture, which I did on purpose and it cracks me up) or skulk around trees.

I will not go gently into that good night: I shall not cross my arms in front of a bookcase and pretend that this is what I normally do. If one of those wildlife photographers were to stalk me, to capture my life candidly in my natural habitat, then they'd probably catch me reading comic books on the couch, far away from the bookcase. Or I'd be writing at the kitchen table, which is what I'm doing right now and where I write most of the time. There might (or might not) be a beer next to the computer. But I can't do any of that: see, if I'm reading a comic, some people are going to sneer at me because I'm reading comics, some will sneer because of the particular titles I read, and heck, I probably couldn't get permission to publish a copy of the comic cover in any case. And if I have a beer in the picture, I'm going to offend all kinds of people—first, people who don't drink, second, people who drink wine or "harrrrrd likker," and third, beer snobs who will criticize my unrefined palate no matter what's in my glass.

I paint miniature dwarfs, but someone will recommend me for therapy if they see a picture of that. On the other hand, I might be enshrined into the Nerd Hall of Fame for a picture like that.

Sigh. I'm probably going to hover around some plant life and hope it camouflages the fact that I'm almost forty. But it'll be kind of cool to have a "39" picture out there. I might wind up using it for a long time. :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Different Sort of Cage Match

Suvudu will never run a Cage Match like what I saw tonight. I just watched the Cardinals and the Raiders play one of the worst games EVAH. The Cardinals "won" 24-23. It wasn't a victory for the Cardinals so much as proof that the Raiders Suck More. The Cardinals still sucked; they just Sucked Less. The whole thing was jaw-droppingly bad, except for that one immensely entertaining play where the Raiders fumbled, picked it up, then the referee got in the way and actually stripped the ball out of the running back's hand, sailed ass over teakettle, and the Raiders retained possession because the ball went out of bounds. That was all just the Raiders and the Ref. The Cardinals weren't really in that picture. I hope that play winds up on a highlight reel somewhere, because it was hilarious—an instant classic, actually, but they only did two replays on the broadcast. They need to put that thing on a loop!

Someone at the top of the Raiders' organization must have done some incredibly naughty stuff to deserve karma like this.

Excited for The Walking Dead

I'm excited to watch other people deal with them, anyway...on TV. AMC's new series, based on the graphic novels, looks absolutely spectacular. It's going to be far more character-driven and tragic, methinks, than you'd see in a horror film, and it won't be anything like the campy fun of Zombieland. You won't see anybody sayin', "You got a purty mouth!" before clocking a zombie with a banjo.

If a zombie apocalypse were actually possible, I figure it would look much more like this bleak vision: lots of drama, lots of tension, and a despairing hope for a new world. This Halloween, I'm staying home and enjoying TV...because outside of football games, I haven't watched anything since Battlestar Galactica ended. Maybe I'll actually get scared on Halloween for a change!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm Tweaking

I'm tweaking outlines for my agent and suggesting tweaks to the covers for the first three books. I got to take a look at the second draft of them yesterday and OMG they rock! Del Rey has been completely dreamlike here in working with me; they took my suggestions after the first round and made everything awesome. There are still some minor issues that need adjustment, but after these final tweaks get made I think we'll be in really good shape!

In other news, have you ever visited Suvudu.com? If you haven't, check it out and bookmark it. They ran a Cage Match earlier in the year where fans could vote on who would slay who if fictional characters fought to the death. For an example, here's a link to one of the matches between Gandalf and Hiro Protagonist (the best name EVAH). It was a ton o' fun, huge numbers of people voted, so they're going to do it in again, starting in late October, with a different set of characters. You won't want to miss it! Not only can you root and vote for some of your all-time favorite asskickers, but you might see something from Yours Truly up there. :) I'll provide a link when it's up!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #7

It's been a while since I've been able to read anything for fun. Now that school's back in, I tend to have other things to read. Here's what I have to read this weekend:
That's the typeset pages of my second book, Hexed, plus essays on The Crucible, a reworked paragraph from The Scarlet Letter, and some quizzes. Anybody who thinks teaching is a nine-to-five job doesn't know jack about it. With all that on my plate, it's tough to fit in any reading for pleasure...or writing, for that matter. But my editor sent me an Advance Reader's Edition of Cherie Priest's Bloodshot—it comes out at the end of January next year—and I'm tellin' ya, it grabbed me. I stayed up late to finish it and I paid for it the next day, yawning at everybody, but wow. I was already a fan of hers after reading Boneshaker (see Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #3), but this one has turned me into a fanboy. If you think Priest's steampunk is good, wait until you try her urban fantasy! Emphasis on the wait, I guess, since you'll have to wait before you can snag a copy, but it'll be worth the wait, I promise! Take a gander at it here, chillin' out with a Granny Smith:
Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #7
Tough to say which looks tastier, isn't it? Sweet cover—and an even sweeter story. Put it on your wish list. Speaking of covers, I've seen early drafts of mine, and I'm excited about the portrayal of Atticus! Can't wait until I can share!

And while we're on the subject of covers, I might as well throw in my two cents about photographic vs. painted covers, since I've seen a few posts about it recently out there on the Internet(s). Right now photographic covers in fantasy are very popular—they're selling well—and some folks bemoan the switch from painted scenes to photographed ones. There are even conspiracy theories out there—that this is a cost-cutting move by publishers, or they're trying to save time, even doing it out of sheer laziness.

Maybe they're right...I can't refute any of those arguments with solid facts or numbers, since I don't have access to them. But it sounds a bit off to me, simply based on what I've been seeing with the production of my covers. Is it cheaper to hire a single painter for a cover, or hire a photographer, a model, and a designer/digital illustrator? I'm guessing the costs are comparable, if not even more expensive on the photography side. And in terms of laziness, I haven't seen even a hint of that in my case. Del Rey has asked for my input on the character's portrayal, and they've been fastidious about sticking to it. Honestly, I couldn't ask for more. They got the hair right. They got the clothes right. They got the sword right. And since my character wears a cold iron amulet around his neck, together with some silver square charms with hammered designs on them, they had a jeweler make one from scratch so that the model could wear it during the photo shoot! Say what you want about costs and time savings, but that's definitely not lazy; that's scrupulous attention to detail. Perhaps I'm extraordinarily blessed to have a publisher who gives a damn—I certainly think so—but I imagine other publishers are doing the same with their authors. Take a look at Orbit's covers for Gail Carriger—especially her latest—and you'll see plenty of details.

I think using photography vs. paint is an attempt to make the characters more real for readers and bring that world alive in their minds. Judging by its success—we're seeing photography used in epic fantasy now, not just urban fantasy (see Peter V. Brett's The Desert Spear)—most readers appreciate it. I completely understand and sympathize with those who have different aesthetic sensibilities; there's no arguing matters of personal preference. And there's no denying that truly stunning paintings can add value to a book beyond the words inside. But I don't think there's a giant conspiracy of corner-cutting behind the switch to photographic covers; publishers are simply trying to compete and get their authors' titles noticed and picked up. Some covers work better than others—I certainly hope mine work better—but that was also true of painted covers. I'm not going to wail and gnash my teeth over it; I like the photographic ones just as much as the old-fashioned ones.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A bulleted list of updates

•I have publication dates for all three books now:
HOUNDED, April 26, 2011
HEXED, May 24, 2011
HAMMERED, June 28, 2011

•In super-duper-happy-mega-big-jumbo news, I'm getting ultra-spiffy, full-color, finished-art ARE's (Advanced Reader Editions)! Normally ARE's are sent out with generic covers on them; they say the author's name, the title of the book, and then there's a nice houndstooth pattern or some diamonds or whatnot to look at, nothing more. Full-bore ARE's are supposed to indicate the publisher is really behind the book, thinks it will do well, etc. so I'm extremely grateful and lucky to have the coolest editor evah. But it also means I'll get to see some cover art a bit sooner than I thought! If you cannot feel my excitement pouring through the pixels at your eyeballs right now, then you are extraordinarily stable to the point of Stoicism! Squeeee! There. That did it. You're excited now too!

•Whoa! I got my first fan mail! A relative of my alpha reader wrote me a very nice note after he finished reading HEXED. Completely made my week. Here's a snippet:
The last fight scene was epic! I could picture it exactly--it was very easy to follow what was happening...I've read other books where I just get lost in the various battle sequences and I just end up skipping pages.  Boo to them.  You, sir, know what you're doing.  Kudos.
Wasn't that sweet? He said a lot of very nice things, but that bit made me all warm and fuzzy inside because fight scenes are extremely difficult for me to write. I count that as  high praise indeed. Thanks, Mike R!

•Possessed by whimsy, a couple of my friends are doing a parody of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video with me. We are all giant men. We won't be wearing spandex or leotards because we're trying to induce laughter rather than vomiting. Can't wait to get it all shot and edited...we did the first part today, and it was quite a hoot!

•Getting into The Scarlet Letter with the kids at school. The Romantic writing style is a bear, but the story is first-class soap opera, man. And Roger Chillingworth is the most cold-blooded villain ever. Dude  creeps me out. I've had nightmares, because he just never gives up. And it's funny how some adults have heard we're reading it and they're instantly down on it. "HATED IT!" they say. Well, it's only because they're still having nightmares about Roger F-ing Chillingworth. I mean, if you give Darth Vader, Freddy Kreuger, and Roger Chillingworth each a planet of people to make miserable, first one to make 'em all go insane wins, Roger F-ing Chillingworth will win. He is a master of mental torture. Puritan Guilt: It's What's For Dinner!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm the Man in the Box

Little known fact: I don't just moonlight as a novelist. I also do play-by-play sports announcing for high school football. All levels—Frosh, JV and Varsity.

I've been doing it since the school opened, and I have to tell you it's a lot more fun now that our football team is a bit better than it used to be. As the immortal Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh said, "I love winnin', man! Know what I'm sayin'? It's like, better than losing?"

What's NOT cool is that the media booth where I do my thing is a metal box without any air conditioning. So it spends all day heating up in the Arizona sun, and then it's nice and sweltering when I get there. It's quickly turbo-gross inside, and then for some bizarre reason, at about 7:15 pm without fail, a plague of tiny flying insects chooses to dive to their deaths on top of my player roster, the scoreboard controller, my scalp, etc.

"DIE, laddie!" I scream as I smoosh them to paste between plays. Once I forgot to turn off the microphone before I did this. It was misinterpreted, and I had to explain to a stadium full of people that I tend to talk to insects as I slay them. Sigh.

Tonight's the first home game, and it's always a good time. The band kids will be excited. The people who sell nachos will be excited. Heck, the people who eat nachos will be excited. And we have this tradition where someone does pushups on a splintery wooden board held up by fans in body paint. Sometimes these pushups are pretty gnarly. When it gets to be a high-scoring game, you have to wonder who can rip off 52 or so and look good doing it.

What I enjoy about high school games are all the reasons people are there. Some aren't there to watch the game at all. Some are way too into the game, shouting at the ref and the coaches and yes, the players for doing something they perceive as "stupid." Some are there to enjoy the atmosphere and people watch, and that's basically what I'm up to in between plays. That, and wishing one of those cold trains of refreshment would suddenly blow through the stadium like you see in the commercials. None of that refreshment would probably make it up to my metal box, but it would be nice to be reminded that refreshment is possible. Oh, and look, Old Spice Body Wash Guy, I don't care how awesome you are, you won't smell that good after spending ten minutes in my booth. You'll probably still look impossibly handsome, though, damn you. *envy*

Heading out now to be the Man in the Box...hope we win!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where did the time go?

It's been almost a week since my last post...I've been busy. School, you know. I'm finishing up The Crucible and about to start The Scarlet Letter. O, the calamities of Puritan drama! They'll be begging for the Age of Reason soon.

But I was rather productive over the long weekend. The typeset pages of HEXED arrived and I finished a read-through, finding far fewer errors than I did for HOUNDED, so that had me feeling happy. Still, I found a tiny sequence where I wasn't quite sure what was happening...I almost couldn't believe I'd written it. Funny how time away from a manuscript can bring out little things like that. So I have some very minor tweaks to make—probably less than 30 words—and then that will be finished.

I also finished outlining book five, which is (at this moment) titled TRAPPED. My earlier idea for that book's title was TEMPTED, but I decided that made it sound either like a romance novel or some sort of Food Network book about desserts. Romance and desserts are awesome, of course—especially together, isn't there a subgenre called Calorie Erotica?—but that's not the vibe I'm going for.

And hey, cheers to my followers in Australia—I think I have a couple, right? You'll be pleased to hear that I got my contract from Oz today, and the publication dates for all three books are just one month behind the US release, so you'll get HOUNDED in June, HEXED in July, and HAMMERED in August of 2011! I'm very excited about this and so happy that HarperCollins/Voyager decided to pick up the series!

Must go back to school now to announce the freshman football game. My play-by-play kung fu is the best in the East Valley. ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And my series title is...

The Iron Druid Chronicles. I got the official word today from my editor at Del Rey!

I love it! It sounds so badass! I have hopes that maybe a tiny dusting of its badassery will accrue to me, since I'm the author. ;)

I've waited a long time to know what the series would finally be called—almost a year. The original series title I'd queried with (and got the deal with) was ditched long ago: I'd called it The American Druid Series. But it quickly became apparent that it wasn't appropriate for several reasons:
1. My Druid is Irish—as in, he's really from Ireland. (That means he can never be President—is that a spoiler?)
2. It sounded like a vaguely patriotic title, and my Druid cares very little about the interests of any political entity, much less one that's only been around for 234 years. (He's 2,100 years old.)
3. The series goes far beyond the boundaries of America after the first couple of books.

What followed was a long journey through rivers of discarded ideas. This one's my favorite, offered whimsically by my Assistant Editor, Mike Braff: "Druid, where's my car?"

A large part of the problem was that "Druid" doesn't scan well with other words. It doesn't fall trippingly off the tongue, shall we say, when one is trying to formulate a phrase that's simple and memorable yet captures the essence of multiple books in a series. When we strayed into ideas that didn't have "Druid" in them, however, we ran into other issues—the titles sounded too sci-fi, or too mystery-ish, or sounded too close to other titles out there. "Iron Druid" came to me yesterday on the way home from the day job, and it was one of those facepalm moments, where you can't believe you hadn't thought of it earlier. Especially since I'd written that exact phrase on page six of Hounded. So I sent it off to the big house in NY, and they liked it, and now I imagine they'll do something logo-ish with it to make it look even cooler than it sounds.

I want a T-shirt that says The Iron Druid Chronicles on it. I want the mug. The sheet set. And the limited edition Monopoly® game (I get to be Oberon!).

As if that news weren't spiffy enough, Tricia (my editor) told me the typeset pages for HEXED are on the way! Woohoo! This is a very cool Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The 3:2 Interview with Gail Carriger

Welcome to the fourth 3:2 Interview, where I ask an author three writing questions and two that are decidedly not about writing at all. Today I’m delighted to have a virtual tea with Gail Carriger. Gail is the bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series, an intriguing and vastly amusing mashup of urban fantasy tropes, steampunk fashion, and a Victorian comedy of manners.

Her main character, Alexia Tarabotti, is soulless—a condition that grants her certain powers in a London populated with werewolves, vampires, and other creatures of the gothic milieu.

Gail’s third book, Blameless, is available today at your favorite bookstore or online here.

KH: Gail, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat.

GC: Thank you for hosting me.

KH: I know that your books are primarily written to be entertaining—at which they succeed magnificently—but I also enjoy the subtexts of various culture wars. Alexia’s Italian heritage and her soulless condition mark her as “other” in Victorian London, and she becomes associated with quite a few “others” during the course of the series. Most often she fights back against intolerance with superior fashion and manners, and I appreciate the light handling of weighty topics and that the books do not ignore the prejudices of the era (and indirectly shine light on our own). To what extent are you consciously exploring these themes? 

GC: I do tend to prefer to take as light a hand as possible with even the most weighty of matters. I enjoy frivolity in all its many forms. That said, I am aware of some of the subtext. I am consciously playing with (and spoofing) Victorian bigotry and stereotypes. Alexia has some modern sensibilities, but in the end, she is a creature of her era. As the series progresses, readers get to see how this has colored her worldview – sometimes unpleasantly. As to some of the other themes of tolerance and tea addiction, I do think that an author's beliefs are bound to sneak into whatever she writes.

KH: Taking a break from questions of great import, I know you’re quite the tea aficionado. Right now I’m drinking Earl Grey with milk and honey, but due to being American—an incurable condition, I’m told—I’m desperately afraid that this makes me a rather pedestrian consumer. Could you educate my palate a wee bit? What sorts of teas should I seek out to mature my hopelessly American palate? And might this question be of greater import than I thought at first?

GC: Oh dear, this is quite a serious matter, indeed. I'm afraid I have never been one to condone the consumption of Earl Grey – nasty perfumey bit of business. I'm a Twinings English Breakfast gold label drinker myself. Which I have to track down and import from England specially. It's better than the American Twinings because it can be brewed strong enough for a mouse to run across without getting bitter. It should be drunk with a healthy dollop of whole milk. The milk adds just the correct amount of sweetness. Good tea, like good espresso, should not need a sweetener. If it is so bitter it requires sugar it is either over-brewed, under-milked, or bad quality tea. Or the tea drinker his ruined his palate with something utterly plebeian like – shudder – soda.

KH: Clearly I have months of rehabilitation ahead of me. :) How much of a distraction do you find social media like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and so on? Are they gigantic timesucks that threaten your ability to write anything? How do you balance the need to promote and connect with fans with the need to meet deadlines?

GC: A terribly big distraction, but social media has been very good to me. I try to be  self disciplined about it. When I have a draft due and a deadline, I spend about two hours on social media three days a week, and do things like schedule my tweets ahead of time, or hold off on blogging to save time. If I'm really doing badly at staying on target, I remove myself to a cafe that has no wifi. It's difficult to balance because I want to be accessible and available to my fans, but I also need to write the next book or I won't have any fans. Luckily, they are pretty understanding when I go dark. The hardest thing is the guilt, when someone takes the time to write to me I feel awful if I don't write back immediately.

KH: Everybody wants to know more about bookshelf porn. (I can’t back that up, but I feel instinctively that it must be true.) You introduced me to the concept via your tweets, and I love it. Methinks the world would be better off if more people indulged. Which way do your tastes tend to run? The spare minimalism of modern shelves, the quirky shapes some of them employ, or the traditional wall unit of dark wood lurking in a study or library, faintly redolent of paper and glue and perhaps pipe tobacco? 

Are you a purist who claims bookshelves are for books and naught else, or a knicknacker who believes bookshelves are enhanced by the addition of objets d’art, clocks, and maybe even action figures? What does your perfect bookshelf look like, and what might we see on it?

GC: It often surprises people but I'm a strict minimalist. I have a bit of an OCD side so I like my environment very tidy: modern or slightly Asian inspired furniture, nothing steampunk or frilly Victorian about it. To that end, I once saw a photo of someone who had organized all the books behind their couch by color. I live for that. As things currently stand, I have a mahogany bookshelf that came from my Scandinavian grandmother – very severe, on which reside all my favorite genre paperbacks and a small stack of trade sized Young Adult books. Then I have two stacks of Baedecker's (Victorian period travel guides) and some of my more frequently referenced primary sources. I try not to buy anything in hardback. Sharing the shelf is one small framed picture, a bobble-headed gold plastic octopus, and a vase of fresh flowers.  Hidden away in the wardrobe are my "messy looking" research books.

KH: Steampunk is going mainstream, if it isn’t already there. In addition there’s dieselpunk, atompunk, and a whole lot of other punks running around threatening to make people’s lives absolutely fabulous. Why do you think all these punks are suddenly so appealing in fiction? (And by “suddenly” I mean within the last decade.) Is it the next evolutionary step in fiction, an outlet for counterculture expression, a wistful longing for what might have been, or…?

GC: I have many theories on this. Part of the appeal, I think, has to do with our own sense of chaos and impending doom in America right now. This often causes people to seek out a time period that was more rigid and controlled, full of polite manners and forms of address. Steampunk has the advantage of being connected to an aesthetic that incorporates the maker movement and even the green movement. I think that is a large part of its charm: style, conscientiousness, beauty, and escape – all rolled into one.

KH: I can empathize with that immensely—the green bit especially. Gail, thanks so much for visiting with me! I can’t wait to read Blameless, and I wish you the best of luck with it!

GC: Thank you! And good luck with your own literary future.