Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SoonerCon Recap and CONvergence Schedule

Where am I?  What day is it?  Is it time to have more convention now?

Well, I'm here at the airport watching the sun rise through the departure gate window, so I reckon it must be!

So this marks the end of the road-trip portion of my Summer of Shenanigans, and the beginning of the jet-setting phase.  Last weekend I drove up to SoonerCon in Oklahoma City - and let me tell you, it is a hell of a production.

It's a real family-oriented con, for one thing -

You know what they say: the family that crushes the Rebellion together, stays together.

- and they let a horde of us authors absolutely tear up the ballroom for a mass koffeeklatch -

THEY EVEN SERVED COFFEE. And pastries! And fruit!
I'm pretty sure that has literally never happened before.
- which Mark Finn further enlivened by holding court with a box of moon-donuts, like a regal barbarian king distributing sweet yeasty plunder to his thanes -

Basically, my new life-goal is to become a Mark Finn sommelier.
"Elegant, yet unpretentious. Honest, yet gracious. Erudite, yet perfectly
comfortable bringing up 'the meat-sweats' in casual conversation."

- but for me, the real highlight was getting to stay with Jeannette Cheney for the duration.  For one thing, it's a real treat to stay in high nerdy style -

For the record, that's a framed copy of Tolkien's "The Road" poem,
a Dalek pillow, and a dog hair roller. I defy you to find this splendor at any hotel.
- and you absolutely can't beat the company -

These are my newest and most favorite host-dogs, Penny and Al!
- and honestly, the longer I do this, the less willing I am to pay for a hotel room, 80% of which I don't use.  For real. I don't need a coffee maker or a hair dryer or a TV. I don't need my bed made or towels changed. I don't even need reconstituted apple juice and stale freezer-pastries in the morning. I need a small, clean space with a bed, good wi-fi, and air conditioning. That's it. If somebody can figure out how to sell me that, I am unbelievably ready to buy it... on the unfortunate occasion I don't have a legendary life-mate with a guest room, of course.  (Thank you, J!)

Okay, rant over. But seriously: you know, there are times when nobody comes to your reading, when you and your fellow panelists outnumber the audience two-to-one, when you can't help but wonder whether any of this even matters.  But this friend-network of mine is growing and deepening month by month, year over year, and it is unbelievably life-sustaining. So much of this whole low-rent show-business thing we do is random and unpredictable, and it is absolutely vital to hang on to the one thing you can directly, reliably influence - which is to say, the people you meet and how you treat them.

And now, my friends, it is nearly time to go find some of my most favorite folks!  CONvergence is about to converge, and I could not be more jazzed.  My actual official events listing is a short one this time around:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Remembering Chris Harvey

A brief interlude from con-madness today.  Full disclosure: discussion of death, grief, and suicide ahead.

So Saturday was the eighth anniversary of the death of my friend, Chris Harvey.  I was 24 when he died, and it came as a huge shock.  He was the first person I ever really 'lost'.

I'm struggling with this blog post, but it feels too important to not write something.  His mom said it better than I could:

8 years ago tonight my son Chris Harvey died at Parkland Hospital, 10 days after jumping off a 10-story building due to undiagnosed and untreated bipolar II. A part of his mother died that night too. But I'm still here today, thanks in large part to his amazing friends-who took me into their hearts and lives and gave me a safe place to remember him through tears and laughter. I will leave some out by accident I know but thank you all

I keep thinking about lots of little things - bits and pieces, mostly.

I remember how shocked we were to get the news that he'd attempted suicide.  I remember how hugely relieved we were to hear that he'd survived it with nothing but bruises and broken bones.  I remember how my sister and I went to visit him, how the three of us were joking around (in that kind-of-uncomfortable 'holy shit, dude' kind of way) and how it felt like this would be a turning point for him - how glad we were that he would get the help he needed and get his life back on track.

I remember getting a call from his mom while I was at work, and how I let it go to voicemail.

I remember not even wondering about it until hours later - how it didn't even occur to me that anything bad could have happened.

I remember playing the message that told me he had died.

It seems so, so unfair, even eight years later - that someone could survive a ten-story fall, but not a tiny little blood clot.  And I know some of my friends still feel guilty even now, because they hadn't gone to see him yet - because we all assumed that he was going to be fine.  We were young, most of us barely more than teenagers, and we'd never had anything but time.

It was a hard lesson, but we tried our best to learn.  We took turns speaking at his funeral, half of us incoherent through tears.  We went with his family to scatter his ashes at the lake.  We printed out his picture and took it with us to go see the first Transformers movie, because he had been so excited for it.  Even today, his name comes up at D&D sessions and in fond 'remember when' moments.  And here I am now, trying to communicate him to you and making a total hash of it, because his life is what matters, and all I've talked about is his death.

Maybe that's because death is so much more finite and expressible. A cause, a date, a narrative small enough that we literally put it on a certificate.  You can't do that with a life.  A person doesn't fit into a little 100-word column in the newspaper, no matter how eloquently we try to summarize them.  I can tell you all about how good he was at doing the Eric Cartman voice, how you could loan him any Nintendo RPG you wanted and know that you'd get the cartridge back with every character leveled to 99, how he drove his brother absolutely bananas watching Toy Story on repeat all summer long.  I think that's the secondary sadness - I can go on and on, but for everyone who didn't know Chris while he was here, he will only ever exist in summary.

You know, a wonderful new friend of mine gave me a phenomenal compliment a few weeks ago, which I didn't fully appreciate then.  "I think that's why people like you," she said. "When you talk to people, they feel seen."  It was nice to hear at the time, but the more I think about it, the more vital that seems. We need people to see us, to really pay attention and understand us, so that they can carry us forward when we're not here.

And to be honest, that's a big part of what keeps driving me on to do all these cons and events, to go to workshops and parties and adventures every chance I get. Part of it is egotistical book-pushing mercantilism, yes. But when Chris died, I went from being someone who had never experienced a tragedy to someone who had. It changed me. And I know that someday, something else will happen - an illness, an ordeal, a death - and I'll change again.  The person I am right now will be gone. I'm mostly okay with that, but I desperately want you to see her while she's here - to have proof that she was real.

And of course, I want to see you-all too - to know you and carry you with me.  I want you to take Chris with you, and so does Dana Beth (who has given her warmest blessing to my sharing all this.)  I want us all to carry our nearest and dearest with us, and to constantly reach for new people too, so that the people we are today can continue on, no matter what happens to us tomorrow.

And the more I think about it, the more ordinary and sensible that seems.  After all, we're human beings. We sustain each other.

To infinity, and beyond.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: Quaternity

Howdy, partners!  As I pack my bags to head up north for SoonerCon, this seems like the perfect time to get back on the book-review wagon – and back in the spec-fic saddle.  This book here is special to me: it's not often I get to make friends with a fellow Weird Western author – and a real treat to read one whose knowledge so far surpasses mine.  If you're a fan of five-star, old-school, blood-spattered Western horror – BOY have I got a book for you!

by Kenneth Mark Hoover
Hell is Truth Seen Too Late! Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border. Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria. And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

You know those old silver-screen cowboys, like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, who wore white hats and fought for justice and shot the guns right out of the bad guys' hands?

This is not that.

This is the polar opposite of that. 

In fact, we spend 80% of this book with the black-hatted desperadoes who are raping, murdering, and pillaging their way along the Texas-Mexico border (light on the rape, heavy on the murder).  If you are not up for skinnings, scalpings, hangings, beheadings, disembowelings, feticide, homicide, and a body-count to rival the Alamo AND Goliad, this is not the book for you.  If you are looking for a progressive vision of women and minorities, this is definitely not the book for you.

So now that we've got that out of the way: this is an exceptionally well-written book.  I can't emphasize that enough.  The style is sharp and spare –ideal for the stark, grim subject matter.  The language is pitch-perfect, not to mention immaculately researched: if you know your Sharps from your sofkee, this will be right up your alley.  (If you don't, you might like to keep Google handy: there is plenty of jargon, not to mention a handsome amount of Spanish, and the narrative will not coddle you.)  For me, this was a huge plus: I love a story that expects the reader to pull her weight, and an author with a truly masterful command of his material.  With that said, be prepared to do some reading between the lines, as the 'whys' of the venture are sometimes not as clear as the brutal, bloody 'hows'.

In short, Quaternity is a grisly old-western Odyssey, starring the apex of antiheroes in a world drenched in history and horror.  If you think you can handle that, saddle up and hang on.

Buy at Barnes & NobleAdd to GoodreadsOrder From Amazon

My favorite bit:

Botis sat in a leather chair before the flames, dressed in rancid skins and wearing his black galero. His face was lit like a sword, and he was prepared to pass judgment on those men who had declaimed him. Buzzards sat perched in the high branches of tall juniper trees along the riverbank. The ground below was carpeted with a bed of their long, stinking feathers.

Botis picked up the tortoise-shell pince-nez with his customary dainty ease. He set them on the end of his nose and addressed the frightened congregation by the light of the burning church.

"I am Abram Botis," he said. "I ride with demons. I have come among you to judge all things past and future given."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ApolloCon Recap and SoonerCon Schedule

Well, y'all - I can't possibly tell you about the time I just had at ApolloCon.  But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe I can show you instead.

Oh, wait.  Yeah.  No, I can't show you either, because I was so flat-out for the entire weekend that I didn't think to take a single picture.  Curses!

Well, words it is then.  Okay, so try to imagine a swanky cocktail party, a bazaar full of strange and wonderful novelties, a free all-you-can-eat buffet, The Little Writers Workshop That Could, and about 200 of the Lone Star State's finest nerds.  Oh, and a cardboard cutout of Mr. Spock beaming people up to the aforesaid buffet.  That's pretty much ApolloCon.

This was a new experience for me, because even though it was a pretty cozy con, I was absolutely booked every single minute.  If I wasn't actually scheduled on something, I was prepping for it.  In con-ops begging for help printing flyers an hour before my reading. On the treadmill at the hotel gym at midnight the night before the workshop, pen in hand, critiquing submissions at 1.3 miles an hour.  Bolting straight from the 2:00 panel to the parking garage so we could go see the phenomenal Jenny Martin's signing event at the little indie bookstore down the road (oh, friends, we must talk more about Jenny Martin) and still make it back for the 4:00 panel.

This book, you guys.  This freaking book!
(It is a whole other blog post)
Needless to say, I was in hog heaven.

It's like... you know, I was telling a friend last week about how there's this weird new ugliness in me now that I'm Out There, this horrible tacky tapeworm in my gut that's got me starving for attention and recognition and praise. I keep cramming that stuff in my face, sucking up every bit of limelight I can get, but that nasty little parasite always wants more.  It's so hard to even know what 'enough' is anymore.

This weekend, though, I was full.  Literally, in that my schedule was full, and figuratively, in that I never had time to worry about whether I was doing enough, being seen enough, etc. etc. etc. I just took all the minutes that I had and USED them, and it felt so good.  It gives me hope that I won't always be this ravenous - that there is a place somewhere between me and J.K. Rowling where I will be able to feel like a stable, successful, satisfied person.

I tell you what, though: if there is a happy medium, it is between these two ladies.
That is a whole other blog post too!

In the meantime, I continue to Do All the Things!  Here is a digital selection from the past week:

Upgrade Your Story #76 - The divine Ally Bishop has graciously taken me under her wing, helping me to fail less at social media - and we made a podcast about it!  If you are likewise struggling to figure out the Tweet Zone and the Face Space, consider this a workout video you can do at home, and me the squishy lady in the unitard at the back who makes you feel better about yourself.  (We also talk about the art of crafting atypical characters and pushing your story to the next level - it's good stuff.)

SFsignal Mind Meld - in which we wax euphoric about our "pull list" of favorite authors (and I go a little bit bananas about Portuguese fish-ladies in sensible shoes)

EDIT: Website looks broken at this exact moment - will activate the link as soon as I can bring it up

And even though I probably shouldn't share this, I just can't not: here is the best three-star review I've ever gotten.  I'm so in love!

Anyway, no time to wallow in anything - it's T-4 four days to SoonerCon, and I'm packing my waders in case the car floats away on the drive up.  If you can get there, come find me - here is my schedule!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Campbell Recap and ApolloCon Schedule

Okay, y'all know the drill by now. I tell you how rocking-awesome the thing I just did was, and then how eyeball-explodingly excited I am about the thing I'm fixing to do, and follow it up with some generalized warm fuzzies.  Then we smoke a cigarette, roll over, and go to sleep.

Well, I hope it was good for you, cuz there is going to be a pantload more of all of the above over the next few weeks.  And the reason I'm three days late in writing this is because a weekend of relentless academical edutainment at the Campbell Conference (bookended by 500-mile drives from Texas to Kansas) has absolutely knocked me out.

See, a few months back, I successfully creeped on this fine gentleman here:

It's a good thing I didn't know he was the Eleventeenth Doctor,
or I'd never have had the guts to try it.
That's Dr. Robert Maslen, professor of literature and director of the new post-graduate fantasy program at the University of Glasgow.  He read my first book and liked it (and said so on Facebook!), and when I mailed him the second one, he liked that too - well enough to invite me to speak at the U of G this November (how rad is that?!) and to ask whether I would be at the Campbell Conference in June.

"Will I?!" I scoffed, while furtively googling "Campbell Conference."

Well, Google told me that it's where the Campbell Award is given every year.  But now that I've been, let me assure you: it is way, way more than that.

This year, it's where professors from universities all over the country (and beyond!) gather to present on what their institutions are doing to promote the study of science fiction, and to apply it for all kinds of cross-disciplinary purposes.  Video games, linguistics, neurocognition, climate science, you name it. (And I'm talking serious real-world stuff, too. For example, Arizona State has environmental science students in its Phoenix 2050 program write science fiction stories to present their ideas for how their city could solve its water and sustainability problems.  How rad is that?)

It's where everyone (from college students to elite grandmasters) is deeply excited to be there, and people take eager, copious notes on all of the above.

Look at all those notepads!
It's where you go to hear authors whose work you never knew you desperately needed to devour.

This is a terrible picture of the human splendor that is Cat Webb, but it beautifully illustrates the subtle yet pervasive stranglehold of coffee in writer culture
It's where you can get a personalized library tour of all manner of one-of-a-kind historical treasures – 

including this vintage rejection letter - click to embiggen!
 - and enjoy a private screening of the world's most amazing $5,000 movie, with personal commentary and salad-bowl space-helmet demonstrations from the executive producer himself –

- and be caught in compromising positions with an 8-foot-tall silver-age robot –

I'm not telling you who that is, but suffice to say that she is my new everything
- and enjoy a Sunday-afternoon salon with fifty of your new favorite people (and one phenomenal smorgasbord) -

This is like, half of the dessert spread.  HALF.
- and sit out on the porch all afternoon and long into the night, eating pizza and watching the fireflies come out.  

This is Steven Gould, who is currently novelizing the Avatar movies,
and Laura J. Mixon, who is currently provoking raging, barely-controlled shoe-lust
And that's not even the half of it, but I'll stop there, because telling the rest would take as long as living it.  Here's the relevant part: this genre of ours is fun, but it's not JUST for fun.  It's vital and important in ways I never imagined, and there is no greater way to internalize that than to surround yourself with people who have spent their lives studying, advocating, and celebrating it.  They're living my dream, and even though I feel like the smallest puppy in the pile, I can't tell you what a thrill it was to get to run with the big dogs.

The biggest dog of them all: Chris McKitterick, Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction,
nominations director for the Sturgeon Award, Campbell juror, and buttoned-down stick-in-the-mud.

And I'm still running, too – all the way down to Houston for ApolloCon.  Super excited about this one, and super nervous – it's my first time actually running a writers' workshop (though I have, of course, recruited a veritable justice league of wonderful people to help me out), and I'm really looking forward to it.  The con organizers have been tremendously generous in scheduling me, too – just look at this fabulous lineup!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hats, Horse-Slobbers, and Happily-Ever-Afters

You know, my good buddy Ally Bishop has a wonderful rule: "90% of everything you do should be about somebody else."

This week, I am breaking that rule into tiny well-intentioned pieces.

Because when somebody else gives you a platform to talk about yourself, you can't exactly neglect to showcase their kindness afterwards, even though their efforts are technically all about you.  It's an ourobouros of socially-acceptable narcissism - and I am devouring myself like Pizza the Hutt.

If this obscure pop-culture reference means nothing to you...
well, that's probably for the best.

Anyway, here for you (and let's be real, me) are three guest blogs I wrote for three wonderful sites:

Civilian Reader - Don't Hold the Horses!  And don't let them be featureless expendable inventory items, either.  Here's an introduction to all the fun and plot-twisting adventures you can have with your story's four-legged fantasy Ferraris. - Fine Dining in Fantasyland  Come for the story, sure – but stay for the butterbeer, the lembas, and a big, fresh, still-squirming plate of gagh.  Let's talk fictional gastronomy – and while we're at it, let's make the case for moving the menu beyond hardtack and stew.

Interview with Jan Edwards  Step right up, folks!  SEE the secrets of cowboy lingo revealed!  MARVEL at the insufficiency of allegorical representation!  SHUDDER as I wax distraught about the carnival of tedium that is modern living!

And here, hot off the presses, is the most fun I think I've ever had on Twitter - being interviewed by the inexpressibly wonderful Michelle Cornwell-Jordan! (If you don't follow her, please amend that with a quickness - she is a firehose of generosity and enthusiasm!)

And if you've read this far - well, feel free to call in a favor, because I owe you 90% of my everything!

And there's no limit to what we can do - me and you
But mostly me

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ten Things I Learned While Doing the Crazy Ivan

So maybe you already know this, but in The Hunt for Red October, and subsequently Joss Whedon's Firefly, a "Crazy Ivan" is a screaming-fast, metaphorical-rubber-burning U-turn.  It's pretty intense.

This is not Crazy Ivan.
This is the man daring enough to do one.
And that's the analogy that's stuck with me as I pulled a week-long Crazy Ivan of my own: flying out to San Jose for the first half of BayCon (and a Californian friend-fest), taking the overnight flight to Houston to catch the second half of Comicpalooza, slogging through a cancelled flight, a failed rebooking, and about seven inches of truly Biblical downpour before finally giving up and renting a car to brave the four-hour drive up from Houston, passing through Dallas and arriving up in Denton with about an hour to spare before my worldbuilding presentation, staying out carousing with my North Branch buddies after the fact, and going home (at last!)... find that everything in our fridge and freezer had spent the entire week rotting at room temperature.  There proceeded about an hour of frantic, eye-watering defunkifying, all windows open and damn the thunderstorms, before finally stuffing towels under the bedroom door and passing out about 2 AM.

To say that I'm tired would be an understatement. To say I had a good time would be a heinous one.

Anyway, I won't give you the blow-by-blow, but here are ten things I learned on my trip.

1.    Not all cheap hotels are awful.  Some are just hilarious. 

If you need to stay in downtown Houston on a budget, check out the Athens: it's 1/3 Addams family, 1/3 Overlook Hotel, and 1/3 luxury oasis.

One of Cicero's lesser-known quotations.

2.    Fandom is fantastic 

Really.  I said this on Facebook already, but it's such an endless thrill to surround yourself with people full of shared enthusiasm and the joy of making things.

No, she is not 'cute as a button'.  Buttons WISH they were this cute.
(Also, do you know DL Young? Great things happen near him!)

3.    SuperShuttle are dicks.

No picture, because those fuckers drove off without me.  Listen, asslamps: if I book for 5:15, don't blow up my phone at 5:00 and then peace out at 5:04.

4.    Sometimes it's actually a good thing when your flight is cancelled...

5.    ...but not when everyone else's is too.

Seriously. This was the line for rebooking flights and getting hotel vouchers last Monday night, and I bet you beer-money that there are STILL people waiting in it.


6.    Don't try to work when everyone else is playing 

See, it's a visual analogy, because "CalorieMate" is this weird brand of diet food-block, sitting conspicuously straight-laced amidst all the fun treats at the Japanese grocery store.  This is what you look like when you go to convention panels and workshops expecting some kind of rigorous education.  (I know, cuz I've done it.)

Also, I can now say without shame that I would like EveryBurger.

7A. Kittens are terrific

7B. Friends are terrific

7C. Being friends with a kitten is basically the best thing ever

Of course, I have to settle for being friends with the people who are friends with the kitten - but that's pretty good too.

8.    I should probably stop saying "clownshoe" like it's a bad thing

If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor.
9.    If you're going to drive home in a lightning storm, bring some metalicious cartoon music along for the ride. You will feel like Thor.

Seriously, guys.  Seriously.

10.    Sometimes the littlest things are the biggest deal

I was reminded of this over and over this week, and at the most unexpected times.  When you feel like a hack in a headband, when you're wondering whether and how badly you've just wasted everyone's time, when you're starting to question whether any of this self-indulgent cross-country attention-seeking makes any difference at all... that's when somebody comes along to say "by the way, that was just delightful" - and suddenly you're ready to throw down on Larry King Live.  Big love, y'all.  Big, big love.

WHO'S FLYING THIS THING?  ...oh right, that would be me. Back to work!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Slush, Bang, Boom!

This is me, not writing a blog post.

This is me, not writing a blog post, because I have a million other things to do.

This is me, not writing a blog post, because I completely 100% do not have an hour to spend meticulously word-crafting a digital Fabergé egg.

Dammit, I just stopped to look up where the accent goes in 'Fabergé'. I guess I'm committed now.

But briefly, friends, briefly!

1. Write Club - Secrets of the Slush Pile

Write Club kicks off today, and my rakish colleague Dan Koboldt and I could not be more excited! How excited, you ask?  So excited that we did a postmortem slush-report together!  Think of us as your friendly local Macy's Day Parade reporters, if the giant Pikachu balloon and the Hamburger Helper float were going to duke it out right there in the middle of Fifth Avenue... cuz that's exactly what's happening!

Anyway, do get your seat and popcorn ready for the contest - and if you're a writer who wants to know what makes a submission stand out, check out the trend breakdown of our epic 85,000-word slush-fight.

Oh lord, that took way too long.  I actually Googled the Macy's Day parade float entries. Faster, friends, faster!

2. Shirtless, Peerless, Fearless RT

I went to the RT Booklover's Convention this weekend!  (In much the same manner as pigeons go to the zoo: neither a paying guest nor a featured attraction, but present nonetheless.)  And oh my cheese, y'all.  What a place. What a time! 

Y'know, in my sci-fi/fantasy circles, romance doesn't get much respect. Well, I tell you what: you can gawp and sneer all you want, but these are some of the most friendly fans, the most professional pros, and the most devastatingly organized convention I've been to.  Forget all the comic-movie-actor-media-celebrity stuff we're used to seeing at our high-dollar cons: this place had lines out the door and down the hallway- for BOOKS!  People were patiently waiting for hours - for AUTHORS!  Everyone was nicely dressed and pleasant-smelling - because they took SHOWERS!

Ugh, and *I* should have showered half an hour ago. Hurry with me to the end!

3. Tex's Two-Step

Okay, and speaking of comic-movie-actor-media-celebrity cons, I am getting on a plane tomorrow, preparing to attempt my most ludicrous feat yet. Are you ready? Are you sure?  Here it is:

Two cons. Two time zones. One weekend.

Yes!  I will be at BayCon in sunny San Jose this Friday and Saturday, and then jetting to Houston for Comicpalooza on Sunday and Monday.  It will be EPIC.

"Tex, you mad fool!" I hear you say. "You'll never make it!"

Maybe not, hypothetical companion-friend, but I have to try!

And now I really do have to stop typing into this box and start packing my Stetson.  Find me this weekend, and if I don't make it back, tell my cat that I love her!

P.S.: Ally, if you're reading this, this totally does not count towards my New-and-Improved Blogging Lifestyle. Love me. Forgive me. Call me.

Don't they look lovely, June?
Fabulous, Harry - I love the feathers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: SCHISM

Hey, remember when I did book reviews? That was fun. Let's start doing that again. In fact, let's blow the dust off with a book that will blow your socks off.  You've heard me interview the author - now let's handle up on the story!

by Laura Maisano

Art therapy hasn’t done squat for Gabe Jones. A thousand sketches of his fiancée can’t bring his memory, or her, back to him. Nothing on Earth can. His past lies in another dimension, a world just out of sight.

Another student on campus, Lea Huckley, unknowingly shares Gabe’s obsession with the fourth dimension. The monsters from the other side attacked her parents and fled, getting her folks locked up in the loony bin. Proving this other world exists is the only way to free them. Lea and Gabe strike a deal to help each other, and together they manage to open a door to the world of Gabe’s true origin. She’d use him for proof—if she didn’t already care too much.

While Gabe tries to reconcile his feelings for Lea and his rediscovered memories of his fiancée, a much more sinister plot unravels. He uncovers his history just in time to become the unwilling lynchpin in a conspiracy to start a war. His memory holds the secret to the final riddle the would-be conqueror needs to get the upper hand. Gabe must protect the riddle at all costs, even if that means leaving Earth, and Lea, behind forever.

What if you weren't who you thought you were?

What if you were someone powerful and important, maybe even from another world?

What if something horrible happened to your family, and you felt it was your fault?

What if you had a long-lost sibling you never knew about?

What if you loved someone you couldn't possibly have?

What if you had to destroy one of your best friends in order to save the world?

What if you got a lot of people killed?

Y'know, if you're anything like me, you'd agree that any one of those questions could make for a stellar book –but in SCHISM, we are hitting ALL of them at eighty-eight miles per hour.  Hold on to your hats, buckaroos: you're in for a wild ride.

Before we get into it, I have to tell you that I am probably the worst possible reader for this book, because I'm not usually a YA reader, don't go in much for romance, and want my fantasylands to read like magical molasses – rich, thick, and slow.  By comparison, SCHISM is a double-shot of espresso in a giant oh-shit to-go cup.

So what useful things can I, the worst possible reader, tell you about this book?  Well, for starters, you are in no danger of nodding off: from chapter one, page one, strange happenings are afoot, and every next verse is less like the first: a little bit faster, and a whole lot worse.  It's a hell of a plot, with twists and turns that make me legit jealous.  In a lot of ways, that's a great thing: no time for heroes to sit around and angst for a hundred pages, no drumming your fingers waiting for some inevitable, predictable "twist", no pointless waffling of any kind.  I dare say there is not a word wasted anywhere.  For me, that was a mixed blessing: I love the story, but wish we'd had more time to stop and smell the roses.  I'm dying to know what's for dinner in that universe-next-door, what the fashions are like, what the cool slang is, how people get married and what you say when somebody sneezes.  Sadly, there is not a lot of time for sightseeing here: there are so many plot points, all falling one after the other like so many awesome disaster-dominoes, that we don't spend a lot of time on any single one.

I tell you what, though: maybe it's just my inner curmudgeon speaking, but Lea warms the cockles of my cold and withered heart.  Like, I love me a tough girl with a gun, but it is so refreshing to see a heroine who's smart, empathetic, generous, compassionate, honest, and indefatigably bubbly-fun.  (I mean, that's like all six My Little Ponies in one. Is that even legal?!)  To be sure: it's not all kittens and rainbows here – there is plenty for her to be afraid of and/or upset about – but I love that her eventually-more-than-friendship with Gabe is the solid emotional bedrock supporting all of the unholy supernatural shenanigans that follow. 

Yeah, actually, I think that's the best way for me to summarize it: there's a portal-hopping shape-shifting havoc-wreaking worlds-colliding epic story starting up here (and don't think you're gonna see the end of it without picking up the next book) – but right from the first page is a warm, sweet center that gives life to the whole thing.  Take everything else I say with a grain of not-my-usual-genre salt, but I can promise you that SCHISM is a hellraiser with heart.

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My favorite bit:

It was stupid. What was she to him? Oh yeah, a college buddy. She was the loud, weird chick in the art class, not exactly his type. His type was Heather. Heather the beauty, the girl who seemed to sweat strawberries from her teeny-tiny pores. Lea couldn't compare to her alive, and now – a ghost was perfect. She could never live up to a ghost.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Worldbuilding, Rally-Racing, and Total Kitten Anarchy

Y'know, my notorious frenemy Benjamin Inn said something about me once, which has since become the controlling metaphor for my life.

"She’s like an explosion of 52 enthusiastic kittens all trying to go in the same direction, but instead latching onto everything at once."

He nailed it.  My life in twenty-three words.  And if you haven't heard from me in awhile, it's because there are kittens friggin' everywhere.  Clambering through the cabinets and chewing on the electrical cords and leaving little wet spots on the carpet.  It's not good.  Anyway, let me try and corral a few of them into something resembling an update.

1. Worldbuilding workshop - secret special engagement!

So speaking of Ben, I'm probably going to have to start being nice to him or something, because that obstreperous clownhat actually, successfully agitated to book me for a worldbuilding workshop in Denton this month.  I'm seriously irritated at how excited I am about this: we're going to make personal worldbuilding cheat-sheets, take apart some of the most fun and successful fictional realms to see what makes them tick, and maybe even gin up one of our own. It's going to be immense.

And here's the best part: this was originally going to be a private party, but (since we just found out that we can seat 80 instead of 20) the North Branch crew and I are flinging the doors open! Come join us at:

Emily Fowler Central Library
502 Oakland St. in Denton
Tuesday, May 26th from 7 to 9 PM

Oh! And come ready to write - I promise to keep you busy!


Okay, so there's this book that came out last week.  It's called Tracked, and it's a YA sci-fi novel that people are calling Star Wars meets Speed Racer, and I hear it's a hot, delectable mess of action and romance and all the bad-assery you would expect from a heroine named Phee van Zant.

And you know what?  I can't tell you much about it myself, because I haven't read it yet.  But let me tell you a thing or two about this lady here:

Man, I swear these YA readers get younger every year...!

Her name is Jenny Martin, and she is basically the avatar of authorial goodness.  Like... to put it in context, this book has been in pre-publication for literally the entire time I've known her (for the record, that's three years). She has suffered through every setback and frustration and hair-pulling nightmare you can imagine - including watching newbie punks like me roll into workshop, land an agent, get a book deal, and see our books on the shelves, all while she was stuck rolling her own boulder endlessly uphill - and she has been the absolute soul of grace and selfless enthusiasm all the while.  She has cheered us on, talked us up, and dried our tears (oh god, please tell me I'm not the only one who leaked on her), and I am so, SO excited that her day in the sun has finally arrived. 

Anyway, needless to say, you should check out the book.  Because it's cool, and because she's phenomenal, but also because I took a second piece of cake at the launch party and said it was for you, so now you basically have to.

3. Something something look at me, aren't I wonderful

Sorry, that's all the subtlety I have left in me.

I want to tell you about this one really great review that came in. ("One Night In Sixes is a first rate example of this new “genre”, mixing a very sharp take on racism, slavery, justice, love and loyalty, all combining effortlessly in this deep, moving and involving start to a new trilogy". Oh my god, MARRY ME.)

I want to gush about this amazing interview I did, where I got to talk about the best experience I've had as a published author, and what I want people to take away from my books.

I want to showcase my updated con schedule, with SoonerCon and the Campbell Conference and more awesomesweet events than you OR I can handle.

I want to regale you with the epic tale of how my mom set me up the bomb.

But like I said, there's kittens hanging from the light fixtures around here and I just can't razzle-dazzle all this the way I want to.  Suffice to say that being an author is basically the act of falling all over yourself in gratitude for what people have already done for you, while simultaneously asking them to do even more.

So... if you've bought my books, read my books, reviewed my books (ESPECIALLY if you've reviewed my books), talked me up, come to one of my events, or ever had a nice thought in my direction... man, thank you so much.  Here, have a kitten!

It’s a bundle of my imperfections, eighty thousand words or so, folded up and sharply creased.