Monday, August 4, 2014

Barnstorming the Nobles

Well, we did it.  On Saturday, we trooped out to Barnes and Noble and had us a book launch.

And oh my cheese, y'all.  I was NOT prepared.

Like... okay, I used to work in catering.  I know a thing or two about event planning.  So I ordered the refreshments, confirmed logistics with the store's events coordinator (her name is Carol, by the way, and she is FABULOUS), put out invitations, made a Facebook event, strong-armed my friend Brooke into doing a blog writeup about it, added it to my website, harassed all my workshop buddies about it for a month straight, and pulled together a rough sequence of events (little talk, Q&A, prize drawings, signing, done.)

So what I mean to say is that yes, I did expect people to show up.  And yes, I did expect them to be wonderful (because I have amazing taste in people, so it's their general M.O.)  And the small part of my brain not busy suppressing the urge to barf on my shoes expected that it would probably be a pretty fun day.

But man, you guys.  I was not expecting to blow through a hundred books.  I was not expecting to sign for an hour and a half.  I was not expecting to go home and find 50+ Facebook and Twitter alerts. (I definitely wasn't expecting to go out have one of the best meals of my life in a gutted-out gas station restaurant in Watauga, but that's a story for another time.)

And to say that I wasn't expecting my very own official
"One Night in Sixes" night-light would be the understatement
of the century.  Thanks, Denise - you literally light up my life!
Anyway, the short story is: if you were there on Saturday, please know that you are just excruciatingly fabulous.  Thank you so much for making that big-ass drive.  Thank you so much for waiting in that big-ass line.  For you to lay down even more of your time and money and enthusiasm, when you've already given me so much already, is just unbearably kind.

And if you WEREN'T there on Saturday but wished you could have been - seriously, don't even worry about it.  Because A) we totally would have broken the fire code if all y'all had come out, B) I'm actually kinda glad there are still a few people in my life who haven't seen me cry in a bookstore, and C) we're gonna do all this again when Medicine for the Dead comes out in March (and your help will be especially helpful then, cuz y'know the world never gushes as much for your second kid!)  Really, though: it is a special thing to have so many folks in one place at one time - but it is even more special to feel the love pouring in from five time zones simultaneously, and to know that I have more wonderful people in my life than any single bookstore can hold.

And for anyone who's interested in the highlights reel, here is the text of what I said (or meant to say), along with a few more pictures from the happy day.

One Night in Sixes: Inception Edition.
You know, I'm really delighted to be here.  I was especially excited when Carol mentioned that this would be Marvel Day.  Nerd confession: my favorite, favorite superheroes ever are the X-Men.  I love that everybody has their own cool power.  I love that it really is a team story – that the universe doesn't revolve around one special person.  And I love that a mutant can be anybody.  In the comics, there are superhero mutants trying to do good, and terrorist mutants trying to do what they THINK is good, and homeless mutants struggling to survive, and regular everyday mutants who just want to go to school and get jobs and have a normal life.  

[oh my god, Kat, how did I not get a picture of you-as-Wolverine? 
A moment of silence, y'all, for what could have been.]

I love how these comics take magical fantasy superpowers and kind of overlay them onto our whole society.  Because that's a huge part of what fantasy is, right?  Harry Potter wizards and X-men mutants and Star Trek aliens are a fun way to take a break from the real world, but they're also a way of looking at the real world from a new perspective.

And actually, that's a big part of what I wanted to have with this book here – I wanted to write fantasy, but I wanted the fantastic elements to mean something. 
Yeah.  B&N's got your fantastic right here.

I also wanted to get outside European history.  Don't get me wrong, you guys – I love Lord of the Rings, I love Game of Thrones, but I decided I wanted to do something with MY history – with AMERICAN history.  Which sounded like a great idea... for about five seconds.

Seriously, have you looked at this stuff?   I mean, we have this phenomenal, special, one-of-a-kind nation – the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, the great melting pot, the American dream – we have the only country in the world that is founded on an IDEA.  But at the same time, there is no part of our country's history that doesn't involve somebody taking something from somebody else.  So we're awesome and special, but we also have all this baggage to deal with: colonialism, imperialism, racism, slavery, segregation, genocide...

(I know, right?  We went from comic books to genocide in about ninety seconds.  Whpsshh!)

Anyway, so I was trying to figure out how to deal with that.  Like, I didn't want this new fantasyland world to just be a carbon copy of the real world, but I also didn't want to sweep all the ugly stuff under the rug, either.  And I so admire what Stan Lee did with the X-Men, where it's not just a bunch of perfect white people in Spandex.  There's black people and white people and native people, older people, gay people, people with disabilities – every kind of person you can imagine.  I wanted something like that, with lots of different kinds of people, and lots of different cool-awesome powers.  But where does the magic come from?

(Spoiler alert: it comes from this guy.)

So I was trying to deal with this historical baggage on the one hand, and the magic stuff on the other.  And here's what I ultimately came up with: in this world, magic powers come from cultural continuity.  So basically, the more you eat what your ancestors ate, work their land, speak their language, and live their lifestyle, the more you share in your culture's particular type of magic – the more powerful you are. 

Which means that the native people, whose lifestyles have changed very slowly over the last few hundred years, still have a lot of power.  There's this group of people here with mind-reading powers, and this group of people over here with super-strength, and this group of people who can control the weather, and so on. 

Meanwhile, the settlers are changing very quickly.  They're industrializing, spreading west, changing their lifestyles so fast that they've actually lost most of their magic – because they're not living on their old lands, they don't know who their ancestors are.  They're changing so quickly that they've actually given up a lot of their culture-magic in the name of progress and opportunity.  

Those are my books, and that is my sister's
Arlen Gun Club T-shirt.  Perfection achieved.
So there's still some of the same kind of history that we really had in the 19th-century American West: there's been these huge wars between various native peoples and settler groups.  And the people in this world figured out the same thing they did in ours: which is to say, if you really want to destroy your enemy, you don't have to kill them all.  Instead, you force them out of their homeland, you take children away from their parents, you don't let them speak their own language or eat their own food or practice their own traditions – you take away their power, by taking away their culture. 

But the thing is, in this world, culture IS power – it is literally kickass magic powers – so the two sides are much more evenly matched.  They've actually fought to a standstill.  And even though the world here looks like a 19th-century Western, this story is actually a really modern one.  The characters in this book, in this town called Sixes, are kind of where we are today: the big wars are over, they're trying to get past the old ugliness and move forward, and now we've got a whole big mixed group of people trying to figure out how to live together – how to move forward into the future, without losing their connection to the past. 

And then a couple of idiot cowboys come blundering into town and screw it all up, but you can read about that on your own.  

(Her biceps can direct you to the aforesaid gun club,
should you require assistance in locating it.)
But if I can be real with you guys for just a minute here... y'know, I was born in Irving.  I grew up in Irving.  Went to high school and college in Irving.  Got a job and an apartment in Irving.  Married my husband, made him move to Irving.  (He's from Scotland, so it was a hell of a trip.)  Last year, he said "I'm tired of living in Irving."  So we got REALLY radical... and moved 10 miles down the road to Dallas.  (I know, right?)
This is probably what it feels like to be
Pearl Jam tickets.

And y'know... I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for staying put.  Like, in our culture, we have this model that says that when you turn 18, you're supposed to leave home and go into the big wide world, go off to college, have adventures, slay a dragon, and settle down somewhere new.  If you stay where you are, it's because you're some kind of sadsack basement-dwelling hobbit-loser.

But the thing is: I have benefited *enormously* from staying here.  Talking about power and cultural continuity – man, I'm looking at you guys, I'm seeing people here that I've literally known since I was a baby.  I'm seeing my parents, who gave me a wonderful home and a terrific childhood and the great education I used to write this book.  I'm seeing my husband, who left his own family and moved here to be with me, and gave me the stability and the financial support I needed to finish it.  I'm seeing some of my best friends, people I've known for forever, who've encouraged me cheered me on for the fourteen years it took me to get this thing done.  I'm seeing my writers workshop, who helped me kick this story into shape and make it into something solid, something worth putting on a bookshelf.  

(Admiring my perpetual hurr-face is optional.)
So what I'm saying with all of this talk about magic and culture and continuity is that, like... whatever magic is in this book, whatever there is in here that's good and special and worthwhile – it has come from you guys.  It's come from this place, from all these wonderful people.  And I am so blessed to know you all, and I so appreciate you being here with me today.  Thank you.


  1. Aaww that post is tear-jerk-worthy! I hope that B&N still has copies, cuz I plan to get on Saturday at crit group. Which you're going to. So you can sign it. :-p

    1. Laura, I am pleased to say that they do have copies, and Carol didn't let me leave until I'd signed them! I'm out of town for the next three weeks on a Magical Mystery Tour (writing this from Portland, as it happens) but don't hold that against me - I will definitely look forward to getting back into the workshop groove again!

  2. OMG, this is fabulous! May you have many more in the future! I long for the day when you can't walk through the halls of the convention hotel on account of all the fans swarming you

    1. Haha, thanks, dude! That'll be a good day, but I'd like to get in at least a few more before either of us reaches Mega-Rock-Star status - cruising the halls of ArmadilloCon with you guys was a huge thrill, and I haven't nearly had my fill of that yet!

  3. I *am* sorry I missed it, but I just got my copy and I can't wait for you to sign it! I'm so glad your launch went well; you really deserve it.

    1. Aw, thanks, Annie! I'm sorry I missed you too (all your vacation stories are going to be chewed meat by the time I get back up there) but I'm so glad you had a good time and made it back in one piece. Ride herd on the group for me and we'll get back together ASAP!

  4. Amazing job! You killed it with your speech, fielding questions and even *pitching someone elses book* in the middle of all that. Thanks so much for letting me share a bit of your spotlight, you're an incredibly gracious and inspirational author and deserve all the adulation the writing world and your future legions of fans can pile on!

    1. Dude, the pleasure is all mine. All that stuff I said about wanting to include people wasn't just for writing the book - I think that's so important in real life too! I am so glad to have you for a battle buddy (really wish I could come see you light it up at Roll2Play this month!) and as soon as I can steal your book from my mom, I am in there!

  5. Tex is actually the source of all awesome sauce in the world! Great writer and a better person. Proud as hell she's a Texan.

    1. Haha, I'm pretty sure that title goes to the sriracha factory out in California, but I'm proud to be a contender! Thanks for the props and big vote of confidence - there's only one star on that flag, but it sure has a hell of a reputation!

  6. Aw, Tex, that photo with your mom... that must have been some moment!

    1. Dude, if you laid all the capital-M Moments from this thing end-to-end, Peter Jackson would want to split the result into three movies. It was SUCH a good day, and I cannot freaking wait for you to have exactly this big a thrill!

  7. Congratulations with the book signing. Sounded like it was a big success!

    1. Aw, thanks, dudette - it absolutely was, and I am so lucky to have so many fabulous people to share it with!