Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



I'm thankful for each and everyone one of you. Have a happy and safe holiday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogging?

My updates are probably going to be rather sporadic for the next few weeks. If you have any questions or subjects you would like me to blog on, feel free to post them in the comments.

Okay, that's all.

Happy Monday everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dahlonega Literary Festival wrap up and a video chat

I recently returned from the Dahlonega Literary Festival, a great book festival in an artsy little town in the Georgia blueridge area. I had an absolutely wonderful time and met many amazing people during the weekend event. I also stayed at the cutest little bed and breakfast called the Lily Creek Lodge, and if anyone ever wants to escape for a weekend, I highly recommend it.

Finding your Topic panel
Over the last year I've had the opportunity to speak at a lot of fantasy and fan conventions, but this weekend was my very first literary festival. I've attended a couple literary festivals in the past, and at every single one I've found that genre fiction has been rather under represented and the fantasy genre conspicuously absent. There is often contention and rather nasty biases between literary fiction and genre fiction, so I admit I was a little concerned what reception I, as a rather young, newly published urban fantasy writer, would receive both from the audience who would attend the event and the other writers, but everyone was absolutely wonderful. The discussions on the panels were diverse and fun, my fellow writers were amazingly friendly and a pleasure to converse with both on and off panels, and everyone I spoke to was absolutely wonderful. And, for the first time at any literary festival I've attended, fantasy had a strong showing! There were three fantasists on the guest list: Seressia Glass, Susan Hubbard,  and myself. (Special shout out to Carol and Sharon for inviting us.)

I chatted with Susan and Seressia a good deal over the weekend, and near the end of the event, I asked if I could record a quick video chat. I apparently make faces when I talk and gesticulate horribly (I imagine I do this on panels as well) but it was a ton of fun to record the chat, so if you guys like this kind of thing, I'll try to take a video camera to all my events in the future. Check it out here:



Happy Tuesday everyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wanna grab some Grub?

I have to seriously wonder where the saying "grab some grub" to mean get some food came from. Why am I wondering about this? Mostly because I just spent the last two hours in my garden fighting a grub infestation.

I mean really, do these guys look yummy to you?

Yeah, me neither. And I must tell you, I'm rather distressed by their presence. When I first moved to my new place, I put three 4X4 garden plots down, but I only used two of them because it was so late in the season. The third I decided I would be enterprising, and as this development was built on nutrient deficient sand, do a little open air composting. I have a compost bin, but as a whole I have more grass clippings and weeds than I need in a single bin, so I dumped the extra in the empty garden bed hoping it would improve the soil by the time I'm ready to plant next spring. At first I turned and watered it regularly, but then I probably got a little slack.

Recently I noticed the grubs. Major ick.

I'm not real sure what to do about these guys. I don't want to hard core poison the box because I would like to grow stuff in it eventually. I considered burning it, but 1- I'm pretty sure my homeowners association would have something to say about my starting a bonfire in my garden and 2-it actually composted pretty well, so I'm not sure it would burn. As you can see from the photo, I sifted and plucked a good pound of those suckers from the soil, but I'm sure I missed some.

Anyone have any suggestions?

(Yes, this post is completely unrelated to any aspect of writing. I know, I know, the blog is supposed to be about writing. Let me think . . . How about this parallel: When revising, you have to roll up your sleeves and dig the ugly/bad/gross stuff out of your story to end up with a healthy book?)

Happy Thursday everyone. And seriously, anyone have any tips on how to clear out this grub infestation?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dahlonega's 7th annual Literary Festival

I know I posted a while back that my conference and convention season for 2010 was over, but a couple weeks ago I was invited to be a guest at Dahlonega's 7th annual Literary Festival and I was delighted to accept. The festival is this weekend (November 12-14th) in Dahlonega, GA and based on the schedule I just received, it will be a wonderful event.

I'm not sure if a full event schedule is available on the website yet, but I'll be sitting on the following panels:

Saturday 10:45 - 11:30 -  Fantasy vs. the Great American Novel.
(Panelists: Seressia Glass, Kalayna Price, Jeffrey Stepakoff, River Jordan, William Rawlings, Vicki Alvear Shecter, Susan Hubbard)

Sunday 11:10 - 11:55 - Finding Topics That Sell, Practical Options for Finding the “Right” Plot for Your Fiction
(Panelists: William Rawlings, River Jordan, Susan Hubbard, Jon Turk, Patrick Michael Finn, Jeffry Stepakoff, Seressia Glass, and Kalayna Price)

Sunday 3:30 – 4:15 - A Woman’s Voice in the Creation and Business of Writing 
(Panelists: Laura Knorr, River Jordan, Vickie Alvear Shecter, Seressia Glass, and Kalayna Price)

I will also be at the Welcome Reception on Friday night, the dinner event on Saturday, and Sunday's Brunch. And they've scheduled me for three signings during the event:
Saturday 11:30-12:00pm,  Sunday 12:00-12:30pm, and Sunday 4:15-5:00pm.

If you'll be at the festival, I hope you'll introduce yourself and say hi. I look forward to meeting you. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

NaNo Day 9: Helpful Links

So much has been going on recently that I haven't had a dedicated NaNo post since the begining of the challenge (and I'm actually putting off releasing news today--it will wait a day). Today let's talk words.

Week two of the challenge has now started. Everyone still pushing along? How is the wordcount coming? According to my chart, today's word goal is 15k words. (Okay, technically 15,003. Let's be exact.) Have your characters surprised you with what they've said or done? Any unexpected plot developments?

At this point your beginning has well and truly begun, and you are probably hurtling toward the first turning point in your story (or perhaps you've already hit it.) You've made a good start, so keep powering on with the momentum you've created. Here are a couple links to resources you might find useful as you write through the second week:

  • Write or Die--This is a great motivation tool. The product page used to say "Putting the 'Prod' back in 'Productivity'" (it might still say that somewhere, I only glanced at it) and it does just that. You enter how many words you want to write and the amount of time you wish to write them in and then hit start. A window will pop up for you to write in, and if you stop or you fall behind, it will begin to penalize/agitate you. The aggressiveness of this 'agitation' ranges from annoying sounds and blinking lights to it actually erasing words (*Note erasing words only occurs if you set it to Kamikaze mode. I personally suggest using that mode sparingly.)  You can use the program for free on the web, or buy a downloadable desktop version that includes the abilites to have timed wordwars with friends online. If your word count could use some prodding, make sure to check out this program. 
  • NaNoWriMo Report Cards--There are several of these out there, but they all work about the same. They are a spread sheet were you enter your current word count and the number of hours you wrote that day. The spreadsheet then calculates how many words you still need, how many you need to write per day to finish by the 30th, and it estimates the date you'll finish by your current pace. Whether you are ahead, behind, or right on target, it's always fun to watch these number change. Here is link to such a report card. 
  • Dropbox--with as much time and effort as you are putting into writing, don't forget to backup your work. 15k words would be a lot to lose, and your count will only continue growing from this point out. We all hope file corruption, viruses, stolen laptops, lightening strikes, or dead hard drives don't happen, but it's best to be prepared for the worst. Remember to back up your work onto an external device such as a USB stick or to an external server like Dropbox. Or both. (I use both time machine and dropbox) If you've never heard of dropbox, it is a wonderful tool both to back up your files on an off site server and to share your files between multiple computers/devices. The best part? They give you several gigs of server space for free, so check it out.
  • Scrivener--Now, it is a little late in the writing process for me to mention scrivener to you, but I'd be remiss to create a list of helpful writing links and not include scrivener. This is THE writing software for me. I've written my last three books on Scrivener and I love it. Many of the the things I used to do in several programs or mediums--like plotting with post-it notes--are all incorporated in Scrivener in a way that fits seamlessly with my process. Also, I love the organization capabilities. The creator seriously could have written this program specifically for me. One day I'll do a full post on Scrivener, but not today. Today I'll just say that at some point you should check it out and see if it is a program that would help you manage the daunting task of writing a book. And good news for windows users--they just released a Windows beta, so you're not left out anymore. 
Okay, so those are my helpful links for you today. Now, maybe what you really need right now isn't a helpful link, but a moment of distraction? I have those for you too. Check out these NaNoWriMo themed youtube videos:
And that's enough distraction. Back to writing everyone!
Happy Tuesday. Many words to you!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Grave Witch in the wild Winner(s)

The polls have closed and the Grave Witch in the Wild contest is now officially complete. The votes have been tallied and with 27 votes in the sidebar and 17 votes in the comments the winner is: Kitty with the Kindle!






Congratulations Dawn! Please email me at Contests(AT)kalayna(dot)com with the shipping address of where you'd like the bookmark to go and let me know if you want the ghost or tombstone. (click here for pictures).

Now, the second prize is supposed to randomly selected, but I have to say, I love all the entries so much that I decided that all four entries deserve to win. I just ordered more charms from etsy, so as soon as they arrive, I'll design two additional bookmarks. That means four prizes in total and everyone wins!  ASchilling,  KT, and NL Berger, please email me at the above address with where you'd like me to ship your bookmark. (Since the charms have not arrived yet, be prepared that it might be a week or two before I can ship the bookmarks.)

Thank you everyone who voted in the polls and congrats to our winners!
Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, November 05, 2010

On Cooks Source, Copyright Infringement, Pirating, and the power of the internet

November 4th 2010 might forever be known as the day the internet fought copyright infringement. Most of you are likely already familiar with the events surrounding Monica Gaudio and Cooks Source Magazine, but for those new to the story (were you away from your computer yesterday?) I'll recap very quickly.

On Wednesday night Monica blogged about discovering that a post she'd written several years ago on apple pie had been reprinted in a magazine she'd never heard of let alone granted permission to print her piece or received compensation from. After emailing and calling the contact information (which used to be provided on both Cooks Source's home page and facebook profile), Monica was eventually asked what it was she wanted. She asked for an apology and a $130 charitable donation to the Columbia School of Journalism (which considering she'd been plagiarized by a for profit 'professional' magazine, her request was both kind and rather selfless.)

The managing editor, Judith Griggs, sent this sarcastic and inflammatory response (as reported by Monica on her blog)
But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

There are a lot issues in what Judith said, from the ignorant claim that anything released online is "public domain" (it isn't--if you publish something online you might forfeited being able to sell first publication rights, but the moment you create creative property it is considered to be under copyright) to her ridiculous claim that Monica should be grateful for the effort put into editing the piece and perhaps Monica should pay for the improvement to her writing portfolio! Well, it's no surprise Monica was mad--I'd be incensed--but like many victims of theft, I think she felt rather powerless and unsure what she should do next. So she blogged, vented a little (though very calmly and articulately) and asked her blog readers for advice.

I don't think anyone could have predicted what came next.

Monica's blog post went live around 11pm (according to the tag) on Wednesday the 3rd. By the middle of the day Thursday, other bloggers had picked up the story and authors like John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman tweeted links to Monica's post. That was how I first discovered the story. My first thoughts were along the lines of  "Oh, that Griggs is in trouble now, this thing is going viral and she's going to find herself in a nice little tempest in a teapot." Little did I know that tempest would turn into a shit storm of massive proportions.

I'm not sure I've ever seen any story go quite so viral so fast. As the day unfolded, it was everywhere. Not just blogs (big or small) but Publisher's Weekly, the Washington Post, and other major players began reporting on the situation before the end of the day. The internet descended in mass on the Cooks Source Facebook page. (Even now, updates are seconds apart) At some point, it became a mob and more violent and hateful than Griggs's actions (however deplorable) warranted (such as her home address and phone number appearing at one point).  But the internet (and yes, I am using the term to describe the hundreds of thousands of individuals involved and not cyberspace content) also organized to do some rather productive things as well. The sources of other articles featured in Cooks Source (which, according to their facebook page, has been around since 1997) were sought out to see if Monica's case was an isolated incident or if Griggs's standard policy was theft and plagiarize.

The early findings indicate Monica was not alone. Some of the people Griggs (allegedly) stole content from aren't small players either. An incomplete list of possible copyright holders include Paula Dean, Martha Stewart, Disney, and NPR. People also started tracking down the images in the magazine, and traced the advertisers to inform them they were involved with crooks. Most of those advertisers pulled their support from the magazine by the end of the day.

This was all by the time I turned off the computer last night. That happened in one day. ONE DAY. Guys, the internet has power.

This was organized (well, that's really not the right word--let's say accomplished) by people all over the country (and possibly the world) who don't know each other but who saw an injustice and fought against it. And all in the single day the story broke (and scarily enough, before the story could be confirmed, so I hope this story is true and has the happy ending of Griggs's career justifiably ending and other snippy, ignorant plagiarists learning from her example.)

Yes, some of the mob went too far, but I have to say I'm thrilled to see people crying out at the injustice of copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. Granted, what differentiated this case from so many (so very many) cases was Griggs's belligerent attitude. I imagine a number of the links in this post will break in the next few days because Cooks Source is, well, cooked.

In the wake of this amazing rally of support (and internet justice!) I'd just like to cheer and count this as a score for all creative types everywhere. But I'd also like to point out that Copyright Infringement comes in another form. One which negatively affects every writer I know--Pirating.

No, there's no snarky, self-righteous evil editor to flame or bombard--mostly because pirating is so devastatingly widespread. I get nearly daily alerts of my books showing up on sharing sites, and I'm not alone. Just this morning a friend of mine whose very first book hit shelves last month was devastated to discover an explosion of torrents for her book--a book that she's been watching the sales rank of because in publishing, sales matter. Writers write, but we like to be able to afford to eat as well.

So, as we are all now hyped up and super aware of the evils of copyright infringement from our encounter with Cooks Source Magazine, can the internet please go attack pirating next. Please?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

GRAVE DANCE cover revealed

Today is the day, and I am very pleased to reveal the cover for the second Alex Craft novel, GRAVE DANCE. I could build this up a bit, but I think I'll just splash the cover and not keep you waiting in further suspense.


So, what do you think?

Personally, I think it's absolutely striking. It retains the ethereal and contemplative aspect of the Grave Witch cover while the closer crop and forward angle of Alex's body adds an edge of power and assertiveness. The cityscape visible behind the cemetery is a gorgeous touch, and I love that they kept the subdued blue greys overall  with just a single splash of brilliant of color with Alex's shirt (green this time). In short, I love it and I absolutely cannot wait to see it on the shelf beside the first book!

Happy hump day everyone! 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Nano Day 2 and Grave Witch in the Wild finalists

It's day two of NaNo. How are things going? I saw several of you knocked a nice chuck of your word count out last night. Congrats! If you find you're falling a little behind, no worries--you have plenty of time to catch up. If you find you're spending a lot of time staring at your screen and not writing, try setting a timer for short bursts of writing--try 10 to 15 minutes at a time and you might be surprised what you can accomplish when a timer is counting down. If you're having trouble carving time to write out of your busy day, remember that you don't need long periods of time. If you can jot down a sentence or two at a time while cooking dinner or waiting on the kids to get out of after school activities you'll find yourself a lot closer to your goal when you finally do reach your computer. (Also, thinking about your story throughout the day will keep it percolating in the back of your head.)  So, how are those word counts looking?

Switching gears, I want to say thank you to everyone who participated in the Grave Witch in the Wild contest! I received some great entries (as you'll soon see) and I have to say, I'm glad I don't have to pick the winner because it would be tough! It's up to you guys to vote on the winner (yes, I'm leaving the tough choices up to you. Also, remember that a second winner will be randomly selected using a random number generator.) Voting will be open until 11:59 pm EST Sunday, November 7th. You may cast your vote here in the comments (and if you do, please mention why you picked the entry you chose) or you may vote anonymously in the "Poll" box in the left hand column of the blog.

Okay, let's see the options, shall we? (Numbers are above the entry)

Option #1

Option #2


Option #3


Option #4



It's going to be tough, isn't it? I told you. ^_^ You may vote based on any criteria like, and feel free to try to rally support for your favorite here in the comments or elsewhere using this link ( http://3.ly/R7Kv ) back to the post. So, which has your vote?

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Nano Day 1: What the heck is NaNoWriMo anyway?

Before I start talking about NaNo, let me first remind everyone that today is the very last day to enter the Grave Witch in the Wild contest. I'll be posting the finalists tomorrow, so make sure you get your entries in by midnight tonight!

Also, if you're a newsletter subscriber, I have a very special sneak peek of the GRAVE DANCE cover going out exclusively to subscribers tonight. Everyone else will have to wait until Wednesday for the big reveal. If you're not a subscriber but you would like to be, subscribe here:





Okay, now on to today's blog post.


It's November first, which means it is the first day of NaNoWriMo. All over the world thousands of people will be putting words to the page and starting novels today. Are you one of them?

As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, I would like to once again run a mini community here on the blog. Participating is easy, if you are taking the challenge, simply stop by the blog a couple times a week and share your current word count. Also feel free to discuss any challenges or triumphs you encounter as you write. Fraternization with other commentors is highly encouraged--please cheer each other on!

Everyone who crosses the 50k word deadline by the end of the month (You'll need to send me a link to your NaNoWriMo profile with winner bar) will be mentioned in the acknowledgments of the upcoming Haven Novel, THIRD BLOOD. Also, out of all of those who finish, I will choose one grand prize winner who will receive his or her choice of one of the following craft books:
These some of my favorite writing craft books and books I think every writer should read at least once. The grand price winner will be chosen at random, but each comment will give you another entry in the drawing (max three entries per day).

Sound easy enough? Well then, let those fingers fly! Today's word goal is 1,667 words (50k divided by 30 days = 1,667 words per day). How has the first day treated you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

**IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT** Tomorrow's Signing CANCELED

Hey guys, I'm so sorry to cancel the signing scheduled for tomorrow (10/30/10) so close to the date. (Heck, I'm sorry I have to cancel it AT ALL.)

Due to circumstances completely out of my control, tomorrow's signing at the BAM in Sandhills has been canceled. I've been in contact with the manager this afternoon, and the books he ordered for the signing did not arrive, so they have only what was on the shelf--2 copies, apparently. The manager wants to reschedule for an as of yet undetermined date (we'll see) but the pertinent fact is that tomorrow's signing is canceled.

I'm so sorry about this guys. If I had any control of the situation, I'd still hold it.

Sorry!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A couple quick announcements

Hey, I have just a couple quick announcements to make today:

First up, tonight (Thursday, October, 28th) I will be in the Knight Agency Chatroom starting at 9pm EST chatting live with readers. I have no idea what I'll talk about for an hour if you guys don't show up and ask questions, so please log in and join in the discussion. I would love to chat with you guys. Also, I'll be giving away 3 signed copies of GRAVE WITCH and there will be several other paranormal books by other writers represented by my agency up for grabs, so please drop by. You can find out how to log in and all the other important details HERE.

Second item on the agenda is that my Halloween book signing is this Saturday, October 30th from 1-3pm at the Books-A-Million in Sandhills. (164 Forum Dr. Columbia, SC 29229) I'll have candy and swag, so if you are in or around the Columbia area and couldn't make it to the release party at the beginning of the month, I hope you'll try to make the signing on Saturday. I'd love to see you.

And last on the list, I wanted to talk a bit about NaNoWriMo. If you're not familiar with that weird little word, it's short for National Novel Writing Month, which is a challenge held every November to encourage people to write 50k words in 30 days. I'd planned on doing a complete post on NaNo, but this week hasn't gone as planned, so I'll condense here and expand tomorrow or over the weekend.
Last year I sponsored a mini writing community here on the blog with a chance to win prizes for those who participated and acknowledgment in TWICE DEAD of those who met the 50k word goal. For those of you who are writers or who are aspiring writers, I'd love to host the community once again. Participating is easy: I'll post daily blogs throughout November (or as near daily as I can manage)  and participants leave comments with their daily and total wordcount in the comments (no need to check in every day, but try to update everyone on your wordcount a couple  times a week.) Also feel free talk about any struggles, snags, or triumphs in the comments and to offer other participants suggestions, encouragements, and congratulations. If the timing works out (and I think it will) everyone who crosses the 50k word finish line will be in the acknowledgments of THIRD BLOOD. I will also put together a prize packet to give away to at least one random participant. (I'll let you know what it is once I decide. It will probably be one of my favorite craft or editing books.) How does that sound? Do you have a novel in you waiting to get out? Now is as good a time as any!

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you'll drop by the live chat tonight.

P.S. one last thing: I just saw the cover for GRAVE DANCE. You guys are going to love it. More news as soon as I have permission to share.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Loving Memory: Licorice (May 1999 - October, 27 2010)

Pets fill a number of different roles in peoples' lives. For me they are family, so today I lost a family member. Licorice was 11 1/2 years old and the sweetest guy you could meet. He was a lap kitty and purr box who often had the tip of his tongue peeking out. Monday we made an emergency appointment with the vet because one of his toes suddenly doubled in size. They put him on a steroid, an anti inflamatory drug, and an antibiotic as a first step, but there was a good chance it was cancer and that on the recheck next week we might have to consider amputation. Yesterday he was happy enough. This morning he was having trouble breathing. He died in transit to the vet. At least he died in someone's arms, knowing he was loved. And it was fairly fast, so I don't think he suffered much.
I do believe animals have souls and that he is in a better place, but that doesn't dampen the ache of saying goodbye. Here are some pictures of my baby so he is immortalized here on the blog.










I hope you're having a better Wednesday than me. Don't forget to hold your loved ones tight, everyone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Your Questions Answered

Last week I asked for questions. Today I will be answering them. So let's see what you were curios about:

Edna asked:
Q. How many books will there be for the Alex Craft series?
A. Currently there are three books contracted in the series, but I have ideas that go beyond the third book, so I hope Roc buys more of the series. The next book, GRAVE DANCE, will be released late next summer.

Q. Falin and Death both seem like fantastic love interests for Alex. I was wondering if you already have it set in mind who she will end up with, if anyone at all?
A. I have a definite direction for Alex's love life, but as I'm writing surprises often occur, so nothing is set in stone. 

Q. And this is a general sort of comment but I'm incredibly fascinated by Death. In a future book I hope Alex can learn more about him and maybe get a glimpse into his world. How about "A Day in the Life of a Soul Collector"? ;) Falin is quite interesting himself. I'm eagerly awaiting to read more of his history.
A. Those aren't really questions, but I thought I'd just comment that you will definitely be seeing more of both and learning quite a bit more in the next two books. I'm glad you're enjoying the characters and the world! Thanks so much, and thanks for the questions!

The next set of questions are from Natalie via Facebook:
Q.How do you pronounce Falin? I have an acquaintance named Fallon (rhymes with Allen), and I've been pronouncing it the same way, but I've nev...er seen it spelled your way.
A. Technically, the 'i' would make the 'a' long, so I pronounce it FA lin. That said, FAH lin isn't that far off so is probably an acceptable pronunciation.

Q.Why a Chinese Crested? I mean, I love cresties, but it seems like an odd match for Alex.

A. This is actually a question I answered in a recent interview over at Smexy Books. Instead of thinking up a different way to say the same thing, I'm just going to steal that answer. I hope you don't mind.
A Chinese Crested of the truly hairless variety is a small dog with patches of hair only on the head (the crest), feet, and tail. This hair is typically white or black, and their skin is usually pigmented any number of combinations of pink and grey. The first time I saw one, I couldn't decide if it was adorable or had some terrible disease. In my experience, most people either think they look like ugly hairless rats or are cute in a pathetic way. When I was creating Alex's character, I liked the idea that she'd be drawn to a dog who just didn't fit in. He's not a stray of unknown origin—let's face it, sadly, those are a dime a dozen. He's a pure breed that many people would be vaguely repulsed by. It worked for her.
Thanks for the questions, Natalie!

Christina asked:
Q. I've read your Haven books and love them. I was wondering if we were going to see more of Tatius in the next book. I really like him, he is such a fascinating character.(and I may have a teeny tiny crush on him) I was intrigued by his behavior towards Kita in the second book. What is he about?
A. This question makes me smile. I'm so glad you like Tatius. He was one of those characters who was just a name and a small note in the outline of the first book. I mean, I knew his history and his agenda before I started writing, but he was just supposed to be a minor antagonist. Then I wrote his first scene in Once Bitten and he jumped right off the page. Sometimes characters surprise the writer. After the events in Twice Dead, Tatius wasn't supposed to reappear in the series until book four because Third Blood is very shifter and Firth centered, but that punk haired master vamp doesn't tend to care what my outline says. ^_^
Thanks for the question!

Happy Monday everyone. And don't forget, this is the last week for the Grave Witch in the Wild contest. So far I have only a couple entries, so odds of winning are really good. Please check it out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do you have questions?

After the blog party and my month of blogging near daily, I'm a little unsure of what to talk about on the blog. Soon I'll start blogging on NaNoWriMo--very soon, I guess, as November isn't far off and I plan to invite others to take the challenge with me once again this year. November will likely be mostly craft and encouragement posts, but for the rest of October? I'm not sure (hence the silence the last couple days).

So, I thought I'd open the blog to questions.

Do you have something you'd love to ask me? It can be about either series I write, about writing in general, about hooping, heck, you can even ask me your homework questions, but I don't promise to know the answers.  If you leave questions in the comments of this post, I'll answer them in tomorrow's post. Sound good?

Happy Vampire Diaries day Thursday! (And don't forget, the Grave Witch in the Wild contest is currently open for submissions. Check it out!)

ETA: Oh, Please try to avoid spoilers about the books in your questions, or please clearly mark them with **SPOILERS** and space down a bit to give others who might not have read  the book fair warning. Thanks!

Monday, October 18, 2010

CONTEST: Grave Witch in the wild!

A week or so ago I inquired whether you guys would be interested in a photo contest with the prize being a custom made Grave Witch bookmark. The response was enthusiastic, so I went in search of the perfect charms. Considering it is nearly Halloween, I thought now would be the ideal time of year to find charms that would tie-in with Grave Witch. Apparently I was wrong. I scoured every craft store and Halloween shop I could find with absolutely no luck. I nearly gave up the search and considered making the charms myself (because I need yet another hobby and everyone wants me learning to carve soapstone instead of writing, right? yeah, no.) Luckily, in a shop I never would have guessed would carry charms, I found the cute little tombstone and ghost that are now on the bookmarks.

These were designed and hand beaded by me. I chose the black and silver with just a splash of red color scheme to mimic the cover of the book. Both bookmarks feature gauzy black ribbon, a silver toned charm, and Swarovski crystals. I'm currently working on the possibility of embroidering the book title on the ribbon, but I have to touch base with a friend to see if her machine could do it, so the final product may or may not feature that (but I really hope it will!) The ghost bookmark has a total of nine Swarovski crystals including a 10mm Siam heart. The tombstone bookmark includes magnetic hematite and a brilliant glass bead as well as a gunsmoke-colored chain and hand-shaped wire.

So, what do you think? Do you want to win one of these limited edition Grave Witch bookmarks?




Here are the contest details:
Contest name: Grave Witch in the wild!
How to enter: Take a picture of yourself, your friends, your children, your pets, your plants--whoever--reading GRAVE WITCH. (If you have an electric copy, just take a picture with your ereader displaying the cover or title page.) Upload the picture somewhere like facebook, twit pic, yfrog, flicker, photobucket, your blog, or anywhere else you can post a picture on the web, and then add a link to the comments of this thread. (Limit one entry per copy of the book, please)
How winners will be chosen: There will be two (2) winners. A panel of judges (aka friends and family I can rope into the job) will choose finalists out of the submitted photos. Those finalists will then be posted on the blog and a poll will be opened for the public to vote on their favorite picture. (Funny, cute, and/or clever pictures probably stand the highest chance in a public forum.) A second winner will be chosen at random from amongst all entries (not just finalists) by a random number generator.
Who can enter: Anyone who is willing to take a picture with the book. I'll ship anywhere that customs won't stop the bookmark from entering the country.
Entry Deadline: Monday, November, 1st at 11:59 pm. I'll announce finalist's later that week, and will announce both winners once voting has finished.

Sound easy? Sound fun? I hope so.

I can't wait to see the pictures!



(**by entering the contest you grant me the right to repost your submitted photo on the website and blog. The winner chosen on the public forum will have first choice between the two bookmarks.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hello mister tall, dark, and terrifying

(Blog X-posted)
October is moving right along which means creepy costumes and sugar highs are just around the corner. Or is that just my plan? Surely not.

Halloween is nearly here, and it's a good time for the things that go bump in the night. Many creatures which once would have been relegated to horror stories and movies are now featured as heroes and romantic leads, but let's forget them for a moment and talk of the terrifying.

What flavor do you prefer your horror stories/movies? Do you like an oppressive atmosphere that keeps your shoulders hitched as you wait for the worst? Do you like the monster you never quite see so he's worsened by your imagination? Perhaps your horror preference is the gore and the gritty details. Or maybe the psychological horror tale that worms itself into the back your mind and then begins to twist. Or perhaps your horror tastes lean toward the destruction of all hope in the face of insurmountable and unstoppable odds? (Zombie Apocalypse anyone?)

From the ghost story to the slasher film, horror is a genre with many faces and many elements. Which work for you? Do you laugh off a scary tale, or do you sleep with the lights on after a good horror flick?  It's the month for spooky stories and frightening monsters, so please share your favorite horror movies and books! (We could all use a good scare, right?)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A little ironic

When I started thinking about writing this post, my initial title idea was "I think my kitten is a vampire." If you are a fan of my novels of Haven, you probably understand why that would have been rather ironic. That said, I'm still inclined to believe my kitten (okay, she's close to three now, but she's the youngest cat) might be a member of the undead.

What makes me think so? Well, I've been having trouble keeping the puppy (who, again, isn't actually a puppy, just the youngest) off the bed when I'm not in the room. She knows she's not allowed on the bed when I'm not in there, and knowing that, she jumps off the bed as soon as she hears me leave my office so that I never catch her on the bed, just hurtling herself over the edge. Oh yeah, and the wet spots where she's been chewing on her feet are a pretty big give away to what she's been doing. In an attempt to keep the puppy off the bed, I've started closing the bedroom door. Easy solution, right?


Not quite.


The kitten sleeps under the bed during day. As her water and litter box are not in the bedroom, locking the puppy out also meant she needed to be locked out. Now you can probably imagine the commotion Monday morning when I first shut the door. I wasn't positive I'd make it through the day. But after thirty minutes or so, the kitten stopped complaining (the puppy continued to complain most of the day). I eventually emerged from my office and looked around to figure out where she'd decided to spend the day. I assumed she would be basking in a window with the other cat, or maybe sprawled in a chair or in one of the pet beds scattered around the house, but she wasn't anywhere to be found. After some more intense searching, I discovered her sound asleep in the bathroom cabinets. The nice, dark cabinets much like the nice dark area under the bed where she usually spends her days, not emerging until night. This is now her morning routine. When I shut the bedroom door, she locks herself in the cabinets.

I think she's hiding from the sunlight. Vampire kitten?

What do you think?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Events and happenings wrap up and THANK YOU!

The last week has been busy but extremely exciting, and I owe most of that to you guys, so I just want to say Thank You to all of you.

The release of Grave Witch seems to be going well from my outside view (Of course, I won't  know anything definite until I hear from my publisher in several months.) The blog tour stops have seen good traffic, the online chatter has been really positive, and reviews are cropping up! Thank you everyone who has picked up a copy already, and double thank you to everyone who has blogged/tweeted/recommend it to others. You guys are AWESOME!


Now, I promised you a wrap up of my first ever book signing. The event on Friday went extremely well (or at least I though it did). I was crazy nervous, which didn't help my already chicken-scratch hand writing or the fact that on good days letters get jumbled in my head and when I'm nervous? Yeah . . .
But everyone who came out was absolutely amazing. I must have talked to fifty or sixty people over the course of the two hour signing. Many of the readers who came to the event were familiar with my Haven series, and it was great to talk about Kita and her world with real live people (who aren't my CPs and a captive audience). I was terrified that I'd sit there all alone for most of the night, but people came and went in such a staggered pattern that I almost wonder if you guys didn't gather and plan entrances before hand. I don't think I went more than a couple minutes without someone there at the table. It was great. I can't decide now if the success of the first signing makes me more or less terrified of the Halloween signing planned for the end of the month. LOL






(WHD pictures by Scott Johnson)
The other big event of the weekend was World Hoop Day. I meant to blog about this before the fact, but I got wrapped up in everything else going on. If you're a facebook friend you probably saw my post about it, but I never actually got around to a proper blog.

I'm not going to say too much here, but if you remember my post on World Hoop Day last year, you know that the event is not only to celebrate the joys and benefits of hooping, but to raise awareness and spread the fun. All around the world on 10-10-10 at 10:10 am, people were hooping in their communities. In my home city, we gathered at the State House and jammed for a full hour.

We had a great turn out for the event, and we got decent exposure from walk by traffic--we even managed to talk several people into joining us! Very fun!




Hope everyone's weekend went well. Happy Monday!

Friday, October 08, 2010

GRAVE WITCH Release Party Tonight!

This is just a quick post to remind everyone that the Grave Witch Release Party/Signing is tonight from 7-9 pm at the Barnes and Noble on Forest Drive in Columbia, SC. If you are in the area, I would love to meet you!

I just packed my bag of swag and candy, and I'm excited. And a little nervous.

I was excited on release day, but you know, I didn't actually have to do anything on release day--the work on the book was already done, it was just a matter of logistics with the physical copies. (And of course the excitement of knowing people could actually read it!) Today I'm full of nervous energy because I get to talk to people and meet readers. I can't wait! (Now just to figure out what to inscribe when I'm signing books . . .)

I hope to see many of you tonight! And for those of you who can't make it, I'll make sure someone has a camera so I can share all the interesting details.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

An afternoon post on contests and pictures--Your opinion needed!

Irmo, SC by Michelle
Several people have sent me pictures of Grave Witch on shelves or even a few of people with a copy, and am absolutely loving seeing the pictures. In fact, I think they are so awesome that I'm considering holding a contest so more people send me such pictures.

The question with such a contest is what to give away.

A signed book really wouldn't work as most people entering will have already bought a copy. I was thinking something special. Something unique.

Charlotte, NC by Sabrina Luna
If you've noticed my etsy link in the sidebar, you know that I make hand beaded bookmarks and jewelry, so I was thinking about creating an original, Grave Witch themed bookmark. Would that be something you as readers would be interested in? Would it be worth taking a picture of you (or your cat, or your plant, or get creative[but stay "G" rated]) with a copy of Grave Witch to enter a contest to win such a limited edition bookmark?
BAM, Columbia, SC

I'm still looking for the perfect charms to make such a bookmark--it's nearly Halloween, you'd think I'd be able to find more charms that would tie in with the book--but let me know if you think you'd be interested. I'll redouble my efforts in the search and make a couple prizes if that the contest is one you'd like!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Guest Post from Nancy Holzner: The Telling Detail

Today I'm joined by very special guest, Nancy Holzner, author of the Deadtown novels. If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably recognize Nancy's name and series from a post I wrote several months ago on hooking the reader with the first line.  Nancy's first book, DEADTOWN, is a personal favorite of mine, and I'm anxiously awaiting the release of her second novel, HELLFORGED. (It will be out December 28th!)

So, it is with great pleasure that I share this amazing guest post with you. Take it away, Nancy!

The Telling Detail

When I talk to readers about urban fantasy, one thing I hear a lot is that people enjoy this genre because it feels like the story could really happen. The settings are recognizable—you can walk the streets and see the landmarks of magical Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, or San Francisco, and even fictional cities have a real, gritty feel to them. The characters interact with people who could be our coworkers or our neighbors. In addition to their otherworldly battles, characters have problems we can relate to, like how to pay the rent or get over a fight with a boyfriend or deal with an annoying boss. The urban-fantastical world of magic, ghosts, demons, and monsters feels adjacent to ours, like you could turn the wrong corner some dark night and suddenly be there.

I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets when I say that authors accomplish this sense of realism-in-fantasy by sprinkling telling details through their stories. A telling detail is an image that packs an emotional wallop and makes the scene feel “true.” It brings the scene to life. The telling detail gives readers a tug on the heartstrings, a shiver along the spine, or a kick in the gut. It’s something we understand and relate to, even when what’s happening is far outside our everyday experience.

Here’s an example from Magic Bites, the first book in Ilona Andrews’s terrific (and phenomenally popular) Kate Daniels series. Kate is about to meet Atlanta’s Beast Lord, a werelion, for the first time; she’s alone in a dangerous part of town and expecting violence. And what does she do in this situation? She calls out, “Here, kitty, kitty.” For many readers, this telling detail is a favorite moment in the book. It cracks the scene wide open and gives us insight into Kate’s character. This detail, along with Curran’s reaction, shows us a hint of what their relationship will be like. And it’s something we can relate to. Maybe you’ve never clutched a sword on your way to meet a werelion, but I bet you’ve blurted out something even when you knew it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to say. The telling detail is a point of connection between reader and story.

Kalayna’s novel Grave Witch has a great telling detail in its opening sentences:

The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother's medical chart at him. As far as impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time, so he eventually forgave me.

Those two sentences pull us into Alex’s world very quickly, and the image of five-year-old Alex throwing her mother’s medical chart at Death shows us a lot about her temperament. Even before I know a thing about her, I admire Alex for her bravery in the face (literally) of death.

My Deadtown series is set in Boston, where a zombie plague has revealed the existence of paranormals (who were immune to the virus) and forced the norms and the monsters to live uneasily side-by-side. Deadtown’s protagonist, Victory Vaughn, is a shapeshifter who kills other people’s personal demons for a living. Those things are pretty far removed from most people’s experience, so I try to bring Vicky and her world to life through recognizable, relatable, telling details, such as the checkpoints residents must pass through to get into or out of Deadtown; the no-man’s-land between Deadtown and human-controlled Boston (called the New Combat Zone in honor of Boston’s former red-light district); and the kinds of personal demons Vicky exterminates: Drudes (dream-demons that feed on fear), Eidolons (guilt demons), and Harpies (revenge demons).

I also use telling details to give insight into Vicky’s character and emotional landscape. In one scene, Vicky recalls the night her father died, ten years earlier:

I sat on the bed, numb. The world was divided into Before and After, as completely as if someone had split it with a butcher’s cleaver. Before, I’d woken up in this bed, and Dad had been alive. Before, I’d gone down to breakfast, and Dad had been alive. Before, I’d run up here to change out of the sweats I wore for sword practice, and Dad had been alive. The clothes still draped the chair where I’d tossed them.

I told myself I should put them away, but I couldn’t bear to touch them, as if moving them would make it real.

A glass of water sat on my nightstand. Thirsty, I reached for it. Before, I thought, when I’d filled up that glass . . . My hand dropped to my lap.

The clothes on the chair, the untouched glass of water are telling details. As Vicky reaches for that glass, the enormity of what’s happened—the permanence of her loss—sinks in.

Sometimes, a telling detail can show a writer something about the characters as she creates them. In my forthcoming novel Hellforged, Vicky’s protégé Tina, a good-natured teenage zombie who manages to across as obnoxious and self-centered at times, gets a gig as a backup singer for a zombie rock star. Vicky, believing that Tina is in danger, looks for her in her dressing room before a big concert:

I went up the stairs. Tacked to the door was a piece of paper with Tina Terror printed in bold black letters. Tina’s last name was Zawadzki, so I could see why she’d want a stage name. But “Tina Terror”? That was as bad as Monster Paul. Below the name was a lopsided star, hand-drawn in yellow highlighter. It looked like something a preschooler’s mom would hang on the fridge.

In Deadtown, zombies don’t have dreams. They stay in their restricted area and do manual labor. When I “saw” Tina’s hand-drawn star in that scene, I understood it as her declaration that she’s not settling for less. It symbolizes her hopes, but also her fears. Zombies don’t get stars; Tina knows that. So she’s going to make her own. Even if it looks kind of lame, it’s hers.

Telling details can be large or small. They stay with us because they’re vivid and they give us insight. When you think back to your favorite scenes—those that made you laugh or cry or moved you in some way—what you probably remember are the telling details. What are some of your favorites?







Nancy Holzner is the author of the Deadtown urban fantasy series, featuring shapeshifting demon slayer Vicky Vaughn. Deadtown is out now; its sequel, Hellforged, hit bookstore shelves on 12/28/10. You can read Deadtown’s first chapter here. 






Thank you so much for joining us today, Nancy! Great post.
I hope everyone is having a good Wednesday, and don't forget to check out today's stop on the blog tour over at The Qwillery.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

RELEASE DAY!

It's finally here: RELEASE DAY!

GRAVE WITCH should now be available at all major bookstores and about anywhere books are sold online. Here are some convenient links to online sellers, or check your local brick and mortar store.
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books a Million
Borders
The Book Depository






Also, don't forget that I have a Virtual Release Party starting at noon today over at Bitten By Books. I'll be chatting with party goers and even giving out a $50 amazon gift certificate, so don't forget to stop by!





On the blog tour front, today's stop is at the blog of my fabulous agent Lucienne Diver. Don't forget to check it out.

Okay. That's it for me. I'm going to go over there and continue squeeing and doing my happy dance. ^_^

Happy release day everyone!

Monday, October 04, 2010

One More Day . . .

We are one day from the official release of Grave Witch, and I can hardly believe it. (Actually, according to the countdown widget we are at just under 10hrs because the book is technically released at midnight--but bookstores won't be open so lets say a day.) Reports of sightings are pouring in, and I'm already finding myself checking the amazon and B&N stats (even though those don't really tell me how well the book is doing). Reviews are also really cropping up now, and I'll link to some of those in a minute. In the meantime, I want to point out the two big events happening this week:
The Virtual Release Party at Bitten by Books, and the Release Party/Signing in Columbia.

The Virtual Release Party will be tomorrow, October 5th (release day!) starting at noon over at Bitten by Books.  I'll be talking about closed vs open worlds in urban fantasy, about Grave Witch (of course), and basically anything else book/world building/etc people would like chat about. Also, I'll be giving away a $50 amazon giftcard to one lucky party goer. You can RSVP now for extra entries into contest, so go check it out early and make sure to stop by and join the party tomorrow. I look forward to seeing you there!



 And if you are in the Columbia area and want to see me in person (and pick up a signed book and some swag) don't forget about the Release Party/Signing at Barnes and Noble on Forest Dr this Friday the 8th from 7-9 pm. The B&N site even has an official listing for the event. I'm bringing candy!

Speaking of B&N, one of my facebook friends just let me know that GRAVE WITCH is a featured recommend read on the B&N Community board. Thanks so much Sue Toro Staltare for the heads up! 

Okay, on to more links and such. How about some more things to win? Have you been checking out the Blog tour? Some stops include gift cards, signed books, and/or swag packs so make sure you check it out. Today's stop is a guest post on Folklore in Fiction over at Dark Faerie Tales blog. I'm giving away a $10 gift certificate (you can buy Grave Witch and still have money left over!) so go check it out!

To wrap up this crazy post on what is happening everywhere else but here, let me link you to some of the awesome reviews GRAVE WITCH has received over the last few days:

A rating of "A" over at That's Queen Bitch to You
5 tombstones over at Bitten by Books (Beware: this might be a little spoilerish but an excellent review)
4 Bats and "Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now & pre-order the sequel"  at All things Urban Fantasy
4 skulls at Dark Faerie Tales

If you write a review or run across one online, feel free to forward it on to me. I probably shouldn't, but I read reviews (I know, dangerous past time)

Until tomorrow everyone!

(side note: anyone else start humming Les Mis after reading post title "one more day . . . "?)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blog Tour

In case you missed the blog tour links on the front page of my website, I thought I'd link them again. I'll update this list as posts go live, so check back!


GRAVE WITCH Blog Tour:


    10/16: Fresh Fiction
    10/26: Fang-tastic Fiction

Friday, October 01, 2010

Writers' Police Academy

If you were following my twitter feed last weekend, you probably received a deluge of tweets with the hashtag #writerspoliceacademy about subjects ranging from signing a waiver which stated I could die to a conversation with the Hazardous Device team that started "So if I wanted to blow up a building . . . ?" As the hashtag implies, I was at the Writers' Police Academy, a conference with the motto "Sweat now so your manuscript doesn't bleed red ink later." They promised a "hands-on, interactive and educational experience to enhance understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics." And I have to say, they delivered! I only wish the Academy had lasted longer because there was just so much to do, to see, and to learn--I couldn't get to all of it. Regardless, I still came home with pages of notes (how many pages? I'm not sure. I've been so busy with the blog tour I've barely had time to look at them!)

Hazardous Device Team's Armor
Obviously I will barely be able to scratch the surface in this blog post, but I'd like to highlight some of the things I did and learned while at the Academy. As always, while I had a camera and even carried it with me at all times, when I arrived home, I discovered I'd taken almost no pictures. Bear with me. (Funny aside, I wrote "Bare with me" at first, then I heard Cera's [one of the Tri Mu] voice in my head going "seriously, you want all your blog readers to get naked with you?" My CP has invaded my inner thoughts, what does that mean? lol.) Okay, on to information from the Writers' Police Academy:

The Academy started by releasing the writers onto a group of law enforcement professionals--some clearly less prepared for a writer's overly inquisitive nature than others. We had a couple hours to move between the set up stations and talk to these professionals. Several questions led to widened eyes, but most were met with amusement, and everyone was wonderful both about explaining what they did, showing us their toys, and answering our often rather alarming questions.

Some random facts gathered: (*Note: any inaccurate information is probably my note taking skills and not misdirection for the officers/agents.)

Remington 870
  • What we usually refer to as the "Bomb Squad' is officially called (at least in Gilford County, NC) the Hazardous Device Unit. Members of the team are not only certified bomb technicians but are also certified as hazardous material technicians. Their suits (featured in the picture to the left) weigh approximately eighty pounds and are made from Cavlar and Ceramic. In the event they are caught in a blast, the ceramic will shatter and absorb some of the blasts impact.
  • Fire fighter's tanks are filled with compressed air. Not oxygen.
  • Police cars in Gilford County are equipped with a Remington 870 in the ceiling of the vehicle. (picture to the right)
  • Finger print dust is used to lift prints on smooth, non-porous surfaces. For porous surfaces  like cardboard or styrofoam magnetic silver black powder will be used. 
Okay, those are a few quick facts from about three pages of notes--and the day was  only just getting started. That afternoon included tours of the firehouse, a two hour session with Jonathan Hayes who is an internationally best selling author and the Senior Medical Examiner in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan, and then the night rounded off with Lee Lofland (the organizer of the event, author of the amazing resource book Howdunit Book of Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers, and the man behind the The Graveyard Shift) detailing the true story of the grisly murder of Tina Mott.

Lee Lofland, Kalayna, and Jonathan Hayes after the Banquet
I have pages of notes from those events, particularly from Jonathan's lecture on decaying bodies, but as I wouldn't want this blog to end up with an "R" rating due to violence and gore, I think I'll keep those off this space. Moving on.

Day two started with a demonstration/dramatization of an active shooter in a school with law enforcement and EMS workers responding to the scene. This was followed by a full day of workshops and classes on several topics. I really needed to clone myself so I could attend multiple panels at once (but of course, I couldn't do that). These classes included topics such as Gun 101, Crash investigation, Handcuffing techniques, Firearms identification and ballistics, and undercover investigation.  The day was rounded off with the Banquet (where keynote speaker Jeffrey Deaver spoke) and a late night signing. But I've skipped the best part . . .

Tom Sweeney and Kalayna. FATS
Remember when I said I had to sign a waiver? That was for my FATS session. That's Firearms Training Simulation. Basically, it was the coolest video game I've ever played. I've always been more of the RPG gamer than first person shooter gamer, but yeah, I would own this system. The guns were real, but outfitted for the program and the scenarios were multiple variable life or death situations a law enforcement officer might come in contact with. In fact, officers are trained with this system (which means I probably shouldn't call it the coolest video game ever, but what can I say? I'm a product of my generation.) There were two parts to the training, the first I was with a partner, and after a rocky first scenario where I completely and totally missed the bad guy and shot up an innocent tree, I became a better shot and the two of us worked well together. We didn't kill any civilians, only got killed a few times, and didn't have any bad shoots that would have lost us our badges (you know, if we had one.)

The second room used a slightly different system, and this one was my favorite because the Glock I was using had a realistic amount of kick to it. Apparently had it been firing live rounds the riffling would have caused the gun to pull right more, but otherwise, it was just like firing a real weapon--which was extremely useful to me as I'd never so much as held a gun before but I write about them. I could go on and on about FATS (in fact, I did when I first got home. Poor DH. He got the story with pantomimes and play-by-plays of the scenarios I faced.) but I'll spare you and move on.

The last day was the "debriefing", which was really a very large question and answer session. If you've ever been around a large group of writers given free rein to ask questions, you can probably guess that this led to points where I was frantically taking notes because it was a great question with an informative answer, and other times I was shaking my head because they weren't asking a question and they didn't care to listen to the professional's answer. As a whole, the debriefing would have benefited from a moderator, but it was an amazing opportunity to get clarification on many things we learned and covered over the previous two days.

This post is becoming obnoxiously long. Kudos to those of you still reading. I think I'm going to end this by saying this post couldn't possibly do justice to how amazing and informative the academy was. I have every intention of returning next year, and if you are a writer who wants to learn more about law enforcement/ ems/ fire fighting/ and other similar topics, I would encourage you to check it out.

Happy Friday everyone. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guest Post from Rachel Aaron: The New Gold Age

Today I am being joined by debut author Rachel Aaron. I first met Rachel (and heard about her Eli Monpress series) over at the Magic District blog. More recently, I had the amazing opportunity chat with Rachel in person for a couple hours  at Dragon*con, where as well as having an entertaining conversation, she gave me a 'teaser book' with the first chapter of her debut novel, Spirit Thief.
The novel is a humorous fantasy, and you can find that same first chapter HERE. (Go ahead and go check it out, I'll wait.) I dare you to read it and not want to read the rest of the book. Spirit Thief hit shelves Tuesday, and you can bet I already pick up my copy.

And now, on to Rachel and her post on The New Golden Age:






When I tell people I'm a writer, one of the first things they say (after the obligatory “So, when are you going on Oprah?”)  is generally some variation of “too bad kids/teens/people-in-general don't read anymore” accompanied by either a defeated sigh or a fed up eye roll. Now, I love to counter this by pointing out that people are actually reading more than ever. There's this thing called the internet, maybe you've heard of it? Smart-assing aside, though, I understand what they're saying: people don't buy books, they just watch TV/Movies/cats on YouTube, the age of literacy is ending, etc, etc. It's all part of the never ending cloud of doom and gloom that sits on commercial publishing's shoulder like a vulture, waiting for the bookstores to crumble so it can feast on the rich offal of schadenfreude. A horrifying specter to be sure, and as someone who makes her living selling stories, it would be easy to be afraid. After all, if people don't buy books, my mortgage doesn't get paid. That said, I don't buy into it for a second, and I'm going to tell you why.

When people talk about the public's book buying habits, it's often in comparison to other entertainment options, like movies or television*. And it's true, when you look at book sales numbers next to, say, box office numbers, even the huge bestsellers start to look anemic. So why don't books sell like movies do? It's clearly not a price issue. My book, which released in mass market paperback (the size you can stick in your purse or a really big pocket), retails for $7.99. That's the matinee price at my local theater and a third of the cost of a new DVD. Now, it's true trade paperbacks will run you a bit more, and hardback prices are outrageous, but I think we can safely say that price isn't the driving factor here. So what is it? Why don't people buy more books? Is it because our schools are failing at teaching kids to enjoy reading? Is it because publishers aren't serving the needs of the book buying public? Has America (and rest of the world) simply decided that movies and/or television are superior storytelling mediums?

Well, maybe on some of those, but I would put forward that the real reason book sales are eclipsed by movies and almost every other form of consumed entertainment is because, frankly, books are not for everyone. They are not for the lazy, reading a book requires you to work with the author. Even the simplest, trashiest, escapist books require you to fill in faces, places, voices, everything with your own imagination. Where movies ask only that you watch, meaning keep your eyes open and your brain engaged enough to follow the plot, books are a two way street. You and the author share the storytelling, the author provides plot, character, story, and description, but everything else is up to you. That takes work, though, effort, and if life as an American has taught me anything, it's that we freaking hate doing work, even when the work is enjoyable.

Movies and television are easy. Even in the best of them, your story is fed to you through a straw. All you have to do is take it in. This is not to diss on screen entertainment. I'm an avid reader, but there are plenty of times when all I want to do is turn on the TV and watch. That's fine, that's what television and movies are for: plug-n-play entertainment. But books, books are work. Amazingly fun, rewarding, life altering work, but nothing can change the fact that people are lazy, and work, even awesome work, tends not to get done when there are other options.

This difference (easy story consumption vs. working for you story) might seem like another nail in the coffin for reading. It's not a stretch to say that people don't like effort, just look at how many of us choose the elevator despite the much lauded health benefits of taking the stairs. However, this is also the exact reason I say that, although movies and television and whatever new story technologies are to come will probably always eclipse book sales, books will never, ever go away. See, the work a reader puts into a book is an investment, an investment that often pays out enormously. Reading gives you a stake in the world you are helping to create, something anyone who's ever read a book and finished with that special sort of giddy glee that accompanies a fantastic read can attest to. No one is ever going to give that up.

Still, all that joyful tingling doesn't change the fact that books will never out do movies in sales because books make you do work. Blah. However! This doesn't mean that books are flopping. The vultures are going to have a long wait because books are actually really hot right now, and they're only going to get more popular. That's because the next generation of readers coming up is the Harry Potter generation. Harry Potter and other blockbuster books, Eragon, Lemony Snicket, Twilight, and so on, whatever we may think of them, have done more for reading than any school literacy program could have dreamed. These books made reading cool. They taught an entire generation that books are worth the investment. And for genre writers, it gets even better. I mean, Harry Potter made wizard fantasy, once the realm of the ubernerd, cool. These blockbusters, most of which have been fantasy, have brought floods of money into fantasy/scifi publishing. This money, along with the rise of SciFi culture thanks in large part to videogames and movies, plus the ravenous beast that is Urban Fantasy, has created an explosion of interest, investment, and new offerings in genre fiction. Add to this the excitement of e-readers, which combines reading with America's favorite pastime – gadget buying, and suddenly publishing has a pretty bright future. In fact, I can't think of a better time to be a debut novelist.

The truth is we are living in a golden age of reading. We as a species have never had more or better books so easily and cheaply available. And within this golden age of reading is a platinum age genre fiction, and it's only getting better. So the next time someone says publishing is dying, tell them (politely) that they're full of it. Publishing is changing, and change is never easy or disaster free, but books are thriving. In fact, it's probably never been easier or more rewarding to be an author than it is right now, and there's certainly never been a better time to be a reader. So enjoy this golden age of fiction, read everything that you can, support your writers by spreading the word about their books, and let's see if we can keep this fantastic thing going for years to come.

* (I'm deliberately excluding games here because we're talking about pure storytelling mediums and story is never more than a fraction of any gaming experience. This is as it should be, because a game that is 100% about story is really just a movie where you push buttons.)


Rachel Aaron the author of The Spirit Thief, a funny adventure fantasy about money, magic, and the world's greatest thief, available at bookstores everywhere October 1! You can read sample chapters, reviews, and Rachel's blog at www.rachelaaron.net.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Rachel!

For those of you following the Grave Witch blog tour, remember you can find all the tour stops on the front page of my website. Today's stop is a post on Magic in Modernity over at Reading with Tequillia. Please go check it out!