Monday, April 27, 2015

Con or Bust - Calling at Morganville, the Discworld, and Sixes

Well, at this point it's no big secret: I really, really, really like going to conventions.

And why wouldn't I?  I learned how to be an author at a con.

For my first-ever reading, it went pretty well!
And also how to be a fan.

My endgame cosplay scenario: Pam Poovey with a portal gun.
I've met amazing new friends at cons.

This is my legendary 16-bit buddy and pixie-lated musical genius, Lauren the Flute
Under Merriam-Webster's revised definition of the word "literally", she is literally a flute.
 And had once-in-a-lifetime experiences with old ones.

WorldCon 2013, DFW Writers Workshop contingent.
My first and sadly only time getting to hang out with Paul LaMarr.
As usual, Gabe stole the show.
Going to cons has become the absolute highlight of my probably-shouldn't-call-it-a-career-yet.  I seriously live for the weekends when work and writing and wifing all get kicked to the curb while Cinderella goes to the ball.

So naturally, I want other people to get to enjoy this weird, wild, nothing-else-like-it phenomenal good time that we call fan conventions.  I want a world where everyone has the opportunity to have a Disneyland-Hogwarts-Woodstock-carnival-prom experience of their very own.

We don't live in that world yet - but we are incredibly fortunate to have Con or Bust, a non-profit initiative that provides funding for fans of color attend conventions.  That means a great time for them, bigger and more inclusive events for con-goers in general, and ultimately a richer, stronger, greater community for everyone. 

"SWEET," I hear you say.  "How does it work?"

Well, Con or Bust raises money by accepting donated items - books, crafts, services, you name it - and auctioning them off.  This year, I am pleased as passionfruit punch to have goodies of my own to donate - and stoked as strawberry sangria to have a partner in crime.  Rachel Caine, New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series and all-around phenomenal human being (seriously, guys, you are NOT prepared), has generously contributed a collection of rare, limited-edition books and merchandise to help further the cause - and all of it is going to the highest bidder!

Here's what we have (click each title link to go to its auction page):

The Morganville Vampires Superfan Swag Bag

Everything but a vampire's kitchen sink! (Cat not included.) You get:
  • an autographed copy of The Morganville Vampires, Volume 1
  • a pair of vampire bunny slippers (a.k.a. the “Rabbit With Big Pointy Teeth” slippers)
  • the Morganville: The Series paper doll book
  • “Common Grounds” coffee mug
  • lenticular double-wide Fall of Night bookmark
  • Morganville: The Series souvenir postcard
  • set of six Morganville temporary tattoos (all different designs)
  • Morganville Resident Identification Card
  • green rubber Morganville wrist band

Prince of Shadows Special Gift Set 

Buddy, this ain't your granddad's Romeo and Juliet. This is dark, thrilling, historical YA at its murder-in-the-alleys finest. You get:
  • a hardback copy of Prince of Shadows, signed by the author
  • a decorative hard-backed journal, with lined pages and a magnet flap
  • black and gold novelty book box with red faux-velvet interior (inside storage dimensions 11.5″ x 7″ x 2.25″)
  • blue ballpoint quill pen
  • 6″ heavyweight ‘rapier’ letter opener

One Night in Sixes - Rare Annotated Misprint Edition

This isn't just one of the rare first-edition British copies that got pulped and reissued when we (by which I mean my super-diligent Uncle Sandy) discovered a missing page.  This is a rare first-edition British copy that I've lovingly annotated with never-revealed series secrets, research notes, character trivia, and lore galore. It's cowboys-and-fishmen fantasy like you've never seen it before - with DVD director's commentary!

Manuscript Critique - Up to 10,000 Words

Want some help with your own magnum opus?  I'll critique up to 10,000 words of your original fiction, with your choice of either content, line, or copy-editing (see auction page for details).  Come, ambitious writers of the world - marinate your masterpiece in my delectable brain-juices!

And last but not least, in tribute to the late, great Terry Pratchett:

2015 "We R Igors" Discworld Diary

This is a new copy of the 2015 “We R Igors” Discworld Diary. It's a wonderfully designed hardcover book, featuring day-planner-style blank calendar pages alongside excellent illustrations and fun “flavor text” entries revealing the inner lives of the Igors – a true collector’s item.

Can you beat that?  At the risk of sounding competitive, I would submit that you cannot.  And you know what they say: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em before the auction ends on Sunday, May 3rd. Now go, gentle reader - visit the auctions, learn how to place your bids, and help make the world a better place for fandom!

Interview: Laura Maisano and SCHISM

Did you feel that?  That sort of shaky, shifty tremor in the ground?  No, it's not the fracking this time: it's debut author Laura Maisano, getting ready to rock your world!  If you like New Adult, portal fantasy, and things that are awesome, pull up a chair and smell what she's cooking!

TT: So there's like a million things I want to ask you, but first let's get everybody up to speed: how would you describe SCHISM to somebody who hasn't already heard about it?

LM: Oh boy, the hard questions first! For easy comparisons, if people watch anime, I say it's like Fushigi Yuugi meets Fringe because there's a portal story, but it's also based in quasi-science. The whole concept is that Gabe lost his memory in a car wreck, so he doesn't know he's from a parallel dimension. He meets a girl named Lea who's desperately trying to prove that world exists so she can get proof of the people who live there and free her parents from a mental institution. You can see where this is going.

TT: Man, if I had a dollar for every cute guy who fell out of an interdimensional portal...!  And actually, I'm glad you mentioned the boy-meets-girl part, because I'm legit curious, here: how would you say the romantic element is affected by having these fantasy elements in the story?  Like, how did that change or complicate your writing of Gabe and Lea's relationship?

LM: The fantasy elements give me much more ammunition to fire at their relationship. Wait, did I say that out loud? Seriously, that's why I love fantasy. In the real world, there's only so much that can go sideways to mess up a courtship, but throw in a fantasy culture, taboos, obligations, kidnapping, megalomaniac jerkwads, and you've got a much harder time hooking up then the two kids on campus trying to figure out who wrote those awful notes about them on the quad.

TT: Haha, aMEN!  Characters, meet author.  Ants, meet magnifying glass.  Well, and speaking of the campus quad (and speaking AS someone who's never attempted anything of the sort), I was wondering: what inspired you to do the NA college setting, rather than straight YA?  Is there a major difference in the characters and writing, or was it more about story-logistics?

LM: It was a mix of things. One, the first place I came up with the idea, I was attending college at the time. I also realized I rarely read books starring college students. This was in 2002 before the big NA boom. There's also some major story logistics that made me have to age them that old. Lea needed enough knowledge of physics to realistically do her research, and Gabe ends up in a position of authority, so he had to be over 18 in my mind.
TT: 2002?! Holy mackerel, Laura - your book is almost old enough to *read* YA! Let's talk about that for a second: what was the journey from then 'til now?  Did you repeatedly rewrite and reboot it, or was this more about blowing the dust off and giving it a recent, radical revision?  (... that's a lot of Rs...)

LM: Oh, please don't think I've been writing and re-writing this book that long! No, I started it as an idea for a graphic novel and did all my world building and stuff, then forgot about it. Then years later, I wrote the first few chapters in a NANOWRIMO attempt, and floundered out again. In 2012, a good friend and I were talking about books we liked, and I somehow got onto the idea of my story. She was really excited, like REALLY excited. I thought "hey...someone would want to read my story. Maybe other people would too." And then I legitimately wrote a full draft, attended a writer's confrence, did my research, rewrote a bunch, got it edited, and NOW we're at today.

TT: Hey, I am ALL ABOUT today!!  So let's stick on the graphic novel part: one of the things I'm really looking forward to is reading about Gabe's art, because I know that you yourself studied it, and it's so cool when an author uses their own real-world expertise in a story like this.  How did your drawing background help the story take shape?  Or what other pieces of real-world you will we find in there?

LM: I was a drawing minor at UNT, so it was easy to weave that into the story. I know he'd have his box of art supplies, or be hauling around a gigantic portfolio to and from the building, so there's a few touches like that. As for the real world, much of the story is set at UNT in Denton, TX. Gabe lives in Bruce Hall, and they mention the weird thing about the art building's non-existent fourth floor, but totally real staircase to it. Scenes take place in the Auditorium building, they meet at Cool Beans once. There's lots of Easter eggs for Dentonites.

 TT: Ahh, NEAT! My sister went to UNT back when the original albino squirrel was still around - that is so cool that you worked all that local flavor in there! 

Seriously, he was a local legend.
TT: And actually, while we're thinking about those kinds of unique features, here's a question I always like to ask: what do you think people will find special and unique about SCHISM?

LM: They say there's "no new stories" and that all the plots have been done, so it's hard to claim unique there. And truly, everyone likes to think their worldbuilding is unique, but I won't kid myself. If you look hard enough, I'm sure you can find lots of stories with bizarre skin colors and strange features. What I think SCHISM has is a neat touch to dialogue, or at least I think that's my strength. Whether it's the humorous sections or the dramatic ones, there's lines in there that'll stick out.,d.eXY
TT: Ahh, that's what I like to hear - and from the excerpts on MuseItUp's website, I daresay you're right! And y'know, I think you're in a better position to judge than most authors - I mean, as an editor, you must go through tons of manuscripts every month!  What's that like, anyway?  How has wearing the senior-editor hat for Anaiah Press affected your writing?

LM: Well you know when all your critique partners tell you to put the action up closer to the front of the story? They're right. It's made me realize how important a strong beginning really is. No one is going to just "give it time" for the story to develop. And if they're confused at all, they'll put it down. I think I instinctively know to better place my openings now that I've read so many.

TT: Hang it up! Preach! So many of the writers at our workshop struggle with that too (and I include myself in that!) Well, last question, then: you've worked so hard to give us a kickass beginning with SCHISM, but I know the story's not over there.  What's the forecast for UNITY, and how are the two connected?  (Are you gonna make me hurl the book at the wall with a final-page cliffhanger? :) )

This is Fushigi Yuugi. It is basically Avatar, as written by the
Breaking Bad people. It will wreck you.
LM: *hides in the corner* It's not so much a cliffhanger as a "oh crap, what now?" kind of ending. It comes to an end, but the main conflict is certainly not resolved. It's not so different from One Night in Sixes in that way I suppose, if I'm allowed to compare myself to greatness. UNITY picks up three months later, and keeps picking up pace until the end. There's a great deal of drama, so it lacks some of the humor SCHISM has in it. Like my inspiration show Fushigi Yuugi, the first season is happiness and butterflies, and the second...not so much.

TT: Dammit, Laura, if you kill my favorite celestial warriors, I WILL call your house at 2 AM and make you console me! 

So there you have it, people: don't be deceived by Laura's sweetness and light as she plots to mutilate your emotions, but do set your alarm, stockpile your reading-minutes, and put your name in the gift-card giveaway hat, cuz SCHISM is going on sale tomorrow!

Buy at Barnes & NobleAdd to GoodreadsPre-Order From Amazon

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Update From the Under-Tubes

Where am I?  What day is it?  Is it time for more fun now?

Well, best guess is, it's Wednesday, I'm somewhere between Piccadilly Circus and Tooting Bec (god, aren't English names just precious?), and the funslaught continues unabated.  It'd take far too long to tell you about it all just now, but here to brighten your day is some bucolic Glaswegian splendor:

The horse says 'neigh'.  The sheep says 'baa.'
The cow says, 'hoaw you - you goin' wide?'
And here are the relevant weekly updates:

WRiTE CLUB is open for submissions until April 30th!  You've heard me blog about this contest before (even offer tips on winning it!), and my enthusiasm has reached a blue-white passion now that I'm one of the judges.  Did I mention that the grand prize is a ticket to DFWcon 2016?  True story - and you KNOW you can't pass up an offer like that.  Go!  Write!  Win!

Also, speaking of happy writey things, the great folks at ApolloCon have asked me on as their 2015 Writers Workshop Coordinator.  I'm so excited to meet all the writers!  I'm gonna get a big tank with colorful plastic tubes and an exercise wheel and put in fresh veg and toilet paper cores for chewing... oh, I can't wait to see them all!  The deadline for entry is likewise April 30th, so if you're going to be in Houston for the con, put your name in the hat and your submission in the mail!

Is it over?  Are you sick of me yet?  No?!  Well that's good, cuz I'm going to be blowing back into town on Friday night - just in time for...

Heeeeell yeeeeeah.  Look at that - they let me headline it!  Sort of!  (And if you know Carmen Goldthwaite, you also know how massively unjust that is - she is AMAZING.)  Anyway, if you're local to DFW and want to meet a whole passel of authors, come to the Hurst Barnes and Noble (same one we have my book-parties at) this Saturday, the 18th - there's going to be children's authors doing storytimes, adult authors signing books, and good times out the yang. 

Anyway, the nice Tube lady is reminding me to collect all my personal belongings, so I'll close here.  If I owe you an email (and I almost certainly do!), be assured that you are a splendid human being whose affections I am earnestly grateful for, and I will hit you back ASAP!

Please mind the gap.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

If This Isn't Nice...!

Dear Diary,

Yeah, I know.  You're not really a diary.  You're a blog, and that means that I shouldn't post anything super-personal here, and should aim for subjects that are at least nominally interesting to people who aren't me.

But you're also a great place to put things that I don't want getting lost in the social ether, and I just have to tell you about the day I had.

It started with making the trek from London to Oxford to visit my publisher at their HQ.  It was IMMENSE.  There was beer and ribs by the Thames, and a video interview I didn't totally bomb, and more free books and swag than I can carry.  Diary, I have done things I can't even tell you about. I have seen things that men were not meant to see. 

Then my wonderful new friend Helen Marshall took time out of her postdoctoring to show me around Oxford.  We went to the Pitt Rivers Museum, which was resplendent with arcane weaponry and shrunken heads, and also I got to pet a taxidermied Shetland pony named Mandy.  We had drinks in a 16th-century pub (like you do), and talked about all things writing (like I do), and next time we are totally going punting (like Oxford people do).  And there will be a next time!

Then I sailed the train, and drove the underground, and pole-vaulted the DLR - I got REALLY good at public transit today - back to the east side of London, and met even MORE fantastic new friends (codenames: TK & BB), who took me out for a catastrophic plenitude of crispy duck pancakes and linguistic banter.  It was SO great.  They are so great.  You would be physically angry if you knew how much greatness you'd missed out on.

Anyway, like I said, I know you're a blog and not a diary, and blog posts are supposed to be more than just summary ramblings. So here is a thesis statement, just to keep this legit.  Today, I have done nothing but soak up hospitality from people I've only just begun to get to know.  And none of them were of my own finding - they were each introduced to me by someone else.  It's so amazing to follow these little friendly fractal patterns outward, from one connection to the next, and such a thrill to feel yourself crowd-surfing on the generosity and enthusiasm of people who are still almost totally new to you.  And I think the best part of it is something I'm only just learning how to do: to know that it's better to give than receive, yes, but also to kick back and enjoy the receiving all by itself, without instantly worrying about how you'll pay it all back, because you're finally mature enough to realize that it's not an either/or proposition: when you're in good company, receiving IS giving - and if you keep that company long enough, everything will balance nicely.

Okay, navelgazing over.  Thanks for listening, Internet diary - you are an excellent abstracted representation of a real pal, and goodness knows I'm not short on those.

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cons, Cake, and Amphibious Cartography

Am I dead?  Is this... is this the afterlife?

Well, if I am, the heavenly gates look an awful lot like the hotel bar at the Heathrow Park Inn, and if I'm not, I should probably post an update.

So I just finished having a ruinously great time at EasterCon in London, where I met up with some of my very favorite people, found some new-favorite people, nominally contributed to the furtherance of SFF literature by mentoring at the writers' workshop, and blew through a month's worth of serotonin in four days.  It was just catastrophically fun.  Anybody want to spot me a couple grand so I can come back for FantasyCon in October?  Anyone?

Well, let's put a bookmark in that.  In the meantime, I am very happy to say that Medicine for the Dead is launching on Thursday here in the UK, and it is already doing great out on the World Wide Web!  Here are some of the online highlights from the past couple of weeks:
Mary Robinette Kowal's My FAVORITE BIT

The fantastic Mary Robinette Kowal has graciously hosted me for a full-on geek-out session at her blog, and this one's all about maps.  This is me nerding out about how we arrived at the inside map for the book, and all the cool epiphanies and neat worldbuilding that that project inspired.  (If you want to know what DIDN'T make the final version, or were wondering what that "Il On Échappe" label means, check this out!)

SFsignal Guest Post: Language Barriers in SFF

Okay, so this is the guest post I was most nervous about writing, and the topic I'm easily the most excited about.  Over at SFsignal, I've got a guest blog about all the awesomesweet stuff you can do with language barriers and translator characters in sci-fi and fantasy, and if you have any interest in that (or are just curious about how a Bulgarian interpreter can help you navigate your next erotic encounter with an alien buffalo-squid), you should definitely go see!

Ally Bishop's Upgrade Your Story Podcast - Episode 64

This was SUCH a fun time, y'all.  If you don't know, Ally is basically the Arch-Magus of Editing and the Supreme Queen of Online Socializing, and we had a total gas talking about the different paths to publication and what I've learned about how to promote and present yourself out in the real world (or at least as close as SFF conventions get to reality).  Definitely, definitely get on board with Ally - she is fun in a can, and the host with the most!

Heartfield Fiction: What I Learned About Writing From Cake

My friend and agency-sibling Kate Heartfield has a fantastic blog series called "Unlikely Influences", and I was so happy when she invited me to contribute. And let me tell you: in raw quantities of of love, fear, toil, and genius, writing is second only to cake. I put the piping bag down a few years ago, but all those sleep-deprived, frosting-smeared nights became retroactively worthwhile when it came time to spend a few thousand hours trying to prove that I had a story worth telling.

IndieReview Behind the Scenes - Weekend Edition!

The thing about Michelle Cornwall-Jordan and Jamie White is that they're basically drift-compatible Jaeger pilots, but for a kickass indie podcast instead of a giant kaiju-destroying robot.  (And they graciously let me in under the fence, even though I'm not technically indie :) )  We had an awesome time chatting about everything from fishmen feeding-frenzies to writing inspiration/advice, ostrich ragout, and oh god, I actually did tell the ketchup packet story.  Sorry, Mom.

GCE: It's 3:10 to Yuma Meets Fantasy

Okay, this last one's not any of my doing, but GeekChicElite put up SUCH an awesome review of Medicine for the Dead that I can't not share it with you.  GCE was where I got my very first review, back when Sixes came out last year: they have been so enthusiastic about the series from day one, and I've been so nervous about whether this second book would live up to the first, and it's just wonderful to see it so well received.

Actually, that goes for all of you guys, too.  Thank so you, so much for the reviews you've written, the Facebook updates you've posted, the books you've bought and the people you've told. Every lasting success is made up of hundreds or thousands of small, singular acts, and I so appreciate you acting on my behalf.

SIXES was like riding a new ride at the theme park. MEDICINE was like riding the same ride but at the front with your hair on fire.