DEFIANCE Giveaway!

That’s right, yesterday was the official launch of the fourth in the Strange Angels series, Defiance. I celebrated with Episode 2 of my podcast, Ragged Feathers. But that wasn’t nearly enough celebration, so today, I’m giving books away!

What you can win: There will be four (4) winners. I will be giving away three (3) signed copies of Defiance (note: if you’re outside the US, I will have to send books to you through BookDepository instead, sorry about that.) ONE lucky winner will get a set of all Strange Angels books so far–Strange Angels, Betrayals, Jealousy, Defiance–again, signed if you’re in the US, sent through BookDepository if you’re not.

What you do: In the comments of this post over at the Deadline Dames, you’ve got to tell me the best piece of trivia you ever found. I’m not talking about the most arcane, or the one you think will impress other people. I’m talking about that useless fact you found that made you deeply happy, made your socks roll up and down and your pants fly off. The winners will be picked with the help of Random.org; if the random spits out a comment number that has no trivia I’ll pick another. Remember, you must go to the Deadline Dames post to comment in order to win!

Ready? GO!

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Snap, Bite, Growl, Anyway

I’m over at Bitten By Books today, along with the rest of the crew from the Those Who Fight Monsters anthology. There’s a contest, too, tempty-tempty.

Now for the not-so-pleasant. Oh, tax time. You know, as a single mother, maybe I shouldn’t be penalized so heavily. And really, if I have to pay this amount in taxes, why can’t I have better schools? Better roads? And universal health care? Oh, that’s right–because I exist only at the pleasure of the corporations who are people now. And because the super-rich have managed to ram through a budget that cuts social safety nets to ribbons so they can feed the war machine. We can afford wars, but we can’t afford to relieve some poverty. The commie poor might get ideas above their station, after all.

I wouldn’t mind paying goddamn taxes if the cash was spent on infrastructure, education, and a social safety net instead of corporate welfare and the goddamn war machine. Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just bitter. Jesus. ANYWAY.

It’s a nice day, sunny and beautiful. I’m shifting between Bannon & Clare and a separate project I can’t announce yet. (So exciting.) Miss B., after a morning walk in which she was absolutely full of all sorts of vinegar and baking soda, is now sacked out at my feet and evinces absolutely no desire to go outside. This will change once the Little Prince comes home from school, I fancy.

One of the things I’m struggling with while writing now is just how much verite to put into a sort of alternate-historical fantasy. I am playing fast and loose with Londinium and with history. No doubt there will be a great deal of screaming. No actual cities are ever harmed in the making of these books, but plenty of electrons are terribly inconvenienced, to mashup a phrase.

Anyway, it’s time to turn to the Sekrit Projekt and do some pen and paper work. I can barely sit still, it’s so exciting. This is another Year Of Doing Things I’ve Never Done Before, and I’m terrified enough to think it’s grand fun. Off I go to get into more trouble…

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Gormenghast to Ziggurat

I can’t afford to get sick. I have too blasted much to do. Unfortunately, my body is not listening, recalcitrant thing that it is.

For those of you asking: I don’t know what’s going on with Those Who Fight Monsters. It was supposed to ship in March; the publisher will have a clearer idea of what’s up. (ETA: There’s a giveaway here.)

I’ve also finished the Gormenghast novels. I was ambivalent about Titus Groan, I quite liked Gormenghast, but Titus Alone lost all the goodwill the first two books earned. (Can we please stop having the Callow Adventurer being so Irresistible To The Laydeez? GAH.) Peake’s genius for names and the decaying Gothick splendour of the castle itself were magical, and I could even see the first two books as a sort of social allegory. Steerpike was my favourite character, with Fuschia and the Doctor as close seconds; but Peake betrayed every single woman in the book dreadfully. Anything with ovaries was a cipher, and not a very well-drawn one at that. However, props to Peake for taking Steerpike to his logical conclusion, and not flinching. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I think Dr. Prunesquallor was Peake himself, and Titus was what Peake wanted to view himself as. This leaves Steerpike as the id, or the Shadow. (My vote is for Shadow, but I might be biased.) Once Steerpike was gone, the book ended. If the story belongs to the character that changes the most (as Laura Kalpakian, I believe, said, though I’ve attributed it before to Karen Fisher), then the Gormenghast books belong to Steerpike.

End result: I’m glad I read it, though I probably never will again. I may go back to Gormenghast and read for Steerpike, but that’s about it.

A majority of this weekend will be spent sucking on cough drops and helping with the grand reopening of Cover to Cover, my favourite local indie bookstore. I was down there today, breathing in the new paint fumes as bookcases (recently cleaned of smoke, the old location suffered a dreadful fire) were carried in, as well as various sundries–and I just got a call telling me that the gigantic ziggurat of book boxes was making its way into the store. The books were lovingly cleaned and taken care of by the staff at Servicemaster (who have been incredibly wonderful, and gentle, thorough, and kind) and are almost ready to go up on the shelf. We just have to drag the shelves around and reassemble them.

So yeah, there’s my weekend. There will be pizza, and sore muscles, and a great deal of dust and excitement. All in all it’s a good way to finish saying farewell to a character or two. The old Cover to Cover saw many a long discussion with my writing partner, where we both hashed over aspects of a book (hers or mine, didn’t matter) or generally noodled on about writing. Soon we’ll start treating the book-lined walls of a new place to long discussions of plot and genre and animus, pop culture and lit fic and ships and seas and sailing wax, cabbages and kings.

You can tell I’m excited. I have a ton of pictures from the moving in. Including pictures of Shirley the penguin, perched on a high shelf as is her wont, staring dramatically at the ceiling. (Yes, we have a two-foot high plastic penguin, and her name is Shirley. Just one of the many reasons I love this store.)

Oh, and there’s more trouble to get Bannon & Clare into as well. I think it’s about time they met an Adventurer…

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Valley Of Plot Tangles

A busy day looms ahead of me! First off, I’m over at Tynga’s place with an interview and giveaway for Paranormal Spring Break. Also, neat stuff: how pain and the sense of smell appear to be linked.

We’re right on the cusp of spring. The plum tree out back is dragging its feet over blooming; the snowball bush down the road only has a few lone petals standing out like white rags on a sinking ship, the birds are going nuts but the squirrels are oddly quiet. It feels like the world’s holding its breath before the plunge into blooming and growing again. I’m okay with this.

…I just deleted a whole long entry about how terrified I am about taking on yet another project that involves a type of book I’ve never written before. Going outside my comfort zone is good; I think I can do this, I think it will stretch me and I will (hopefully) grow. Of course, I could end up in a flaming wreck on my living room floor, sobbing and drooling with my cerebellum fused, my agent and editors and readers dumping me in disgust. Too soon to tell. Of course, the fear threatens paralysis, and sheer stubborn bloody-mindedness is the only way through.

Good thing I’m good at that. Or at least, well-practiced.

With that cheerful thought, I’m going to go get started on the rest of the day. Yea though I walk through the valley of plot tangles, I shall fear no revision, for I’ve got the Muse chained up in the basement and neither of us are leaving until we’ve given this our best shot. *cracks knuckles* I may end up a drooling mess, but at least I’ll have tried it. That’s all I can hope for.

Over and out.

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Me And That Sea Pirate

I have a croak like a raven and a slight fever, so the Tale of the Squirrel Surfer will be put off until tomorrow. I just don’t think I can do it justice in my present condition. I keep wandering away from the computer to go lie down for a little bit and put together scenes of an alternate almost-Dickensian London inside my aching, stuffed-up head.

It’s weird being me.

Anyway, in lieu of the Tale, I shall instead present you with this: what happens when you put me and Captain Jack Sparrow in a room together. Hilarity abounds. (I had so much fun with this.) Also, there is a zombie cupcake. And there’s a three-book giveaway involved–I’ll be giving away a signed set of the first three Strange Angels books to a lucky US commenter. Go, read, hopefully be entertained, and possibly win some stuff.

Other than that, let’s see…oh yeah, the Selene & Nikolai reunion story will be in the upcoming Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, which I don’t have a link for yet. You guys seem to like that Nichtvren couple and are inundating me with email! Heavens. I had no idea Selene was so likable–I found her a bit difficult, albeit for some really good reasons. And Nikolai, well, I never liked him. But we all knew that.

Anyway, I’m going to go nurse this cold and see if I can’t get the next few scenes of the sorceress and the logic machine out of my head and onto the laptop. Peace out.

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Heaven’s Spite, and Giveaway!

That’s right, it’s the release week for the fifth Jill Kismet book, Heaven’s Spite.

To celebrate, I’ll be giving away three signed copies, over at the Deadline Dames. I regret that I can only ship inside the US, but that’s the way things are. To make it even, I’ll also be giving away a $20 Amazon gift certificate. And what must you do to win these wonderful prizes?

Simple! Just comment on this Deadline Dames post by midnight on Sunday, October 31 (the witching hour on Samhain, even). But not just any old comment, please. You can give your favorite quote, give a Dame a compliment, tell us your favorite Halloween candy or spooky story. The winners will be picked with the help of Random.org, and I may pick a special prize for originality. You never can tell.

I’ll announce the winners next Friday, and (I promise! I promise!) will have the long-awaited next Process Post then.

Thank you for reading! I’m very excited that Jill’s next adventures are out in the world.

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The Damndest Questions

Morning. (Insert yawn, gap, and stretch here.) Links first! There’s an interview (10 Favorite Things) with me over at Book Chick City, as well as a giveaway. And decluttering your life. (Been doing a lot of that lately.) You can make jelly out of Mountain Dew. But if you want something a little less jet-fuel and a little more tasty, gingerbread pancakes are probably a good bet. (Thanks to Reader Kathy McC for that last one!) Last but certainly not least, tolerance in two stories: New York Mayor Bloomberg’s recent speech, and a piece on Abd el-Kader and the Massacre of Damascus.

Whew. That’s a lot of links.

Every once in a while, I like to work some retail to keep my hand in. Being on-call on a volunteer basis for that certain local used bookstore suits me fine. Yesterday I opened and closed the store, and as usual there was a certain amount of craziness. The owner calls it “the Vortex” because the weird swirls around and around, and sometimes funnels through with a gurgling noise.

I tried to warn her this was the rule more than the exception in working retail. She didn’t believe me, having been stuck in the corporate hell of a cubicle job for years.

Now she believes.

Anyway, yesterday I got called “Peggy”, was sized-up by a cologne-dunked man buying mythology, found textbooks online for a half-drunk college student, drank and made a lot of coffee, took in a lot of books, hand-sold some of those same books less than an hour later, explained why Clancy hardbacks just don’t sell, and just generally chuckled and meandered my way through the day. If one must work retail, a bookstore isn’t a half bad place to do it.

One funny side effect, though, is that people wander in with the damndest questions.

* “Where’s the liquor store that used to be here?” Answer: “It’s moved about a block and a half up the street, and that was over twelve years ago. You can see it from the edge of the parking lot. Good luck.”

* “Do you have a phone book?” Answer: “Yes.” Then a long beat of silence. Finally, the second question will come up, which ranges from “Can I borrow it?” to “Can I look something up in it?”

* “Do you have maps?” Not heard as often as just a plain, “Where’s X?” X can be the local museum, any other local business, any business in Portland, a random street number, an address, or (on certain memorable occasions) someone specific’s house. Usually, the people asking for someone’s house are pupil-dilated, disoriented, and have to learn to live with “I don’t know. Are you all right?” for an answer. People just think that when you work in a bookstore, you Know More, and will disperse that information rather like a search engine.

* “Where’s your bathroom?” OK, a lot of retail places hear this. It becomes time for a judgment call as soon as the words are uttered. Because for some reason, the loo of a bookstore is apparently second only in desirability to pub or music-store loos as a place to shoot/snort/whatever. So the answer ranges from “We don’t have one” to directions.

* “I’m looking for a book…but I don’t know the title or the author.” Answer: “Well, what do you remember about it?” Between what people remember of the cover or (less frequently) the story, we can usually find it. The owner used to laugh when I told her she would get this question and soon develop an encyclopedic knowledge of cover art people are likely to remember, as well as a finely-sharpened intuition about what title people are really looking for based on what they remember of the story.

* “Do you sell…magazines?” Answer: “No. Especially not those kind of magazines. Check the gas station down the street.” Which really, they don’t have any either, but it gets the men who come and ask this particular question out of the store. I mean, occasionally a dude will come in looking for a Ladies Home Journal or something, but that is by far the exception. Mostly they’re looking for Playboy. (For the articles. Yeah. Right.)

* “Oh…damn…where’s the bar?” Answer: “Right next door.” Yes, there’s a bar next door. Sometimes drunken patrons are sent over with trivia questions so we can settle the bets made over shots of something-or-another. Plus, their karaoke comes throbbing through our walls at night. It’s…interesting.

* “Where’s your fiction?” Answer: “What genre?” And a quick list: litfic here, mystery and spec fic (sci fi and fantasy) and horror and romance around the corner there, suspense and spy fiction in this room here, westerns up front…and nine times out of ten, the questioner will simply look at you bug-eyed and repeat, “Where’s your fiction?” Which generally means they have rarely been in a bookstore before and want a recommendation, because they don’t know what the hell they want, but they want something, dammit, and it’s YOUR job to see they get it.

* “Are you hiring?” Answer: “No.” Bookstores are pretty desirable places to work, either because the questioner thinks we’re edgy and snarky a la music stores, or because they think it’s easy. Just drink coffee and read all day! They have no idea about the customer service, the answering questions, the art of buying books and weeding the shelves to make sure they can breathe and tempt consumers, the little maintenance tasks…I could go on.

* “Do you buy books?” Answer: “We do, for in-store credit. We do not pay cash.” Around the end of the month we get this question about twenty times a day over the phone at least, and a few times in person. It’s amazing, though–98% of the questioners then say, “Oh, thanks.” And hang up. Or just hang up without the thanks. Sometimes they try to argue. “But I have pristine hardbacks!” (I am not kidding.) The most fun, however, came when I was working in new bookstores and people wandered in to ask this…

Every bookstore I’ve ever worked at (they’ve mostly been used bookstores, natch) has a board set up in the employee area with variations of these questions in different boxes, and some way of marking them off. It’s just like Bingo, only with retail and caffeine. Days when you get a bingo used to mean drinks after work for everyone on shift. Nowadays they’re more likely to spark a flurry of emails, mostly variations on “Guess what happened THEN?”

If you get a blackout on that board, though, it always means drinks after work.

I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life, and a good proportion of them have been service or retail oriented. You get to see the best and the worst of humanity. I have a special place in my heart for working in a bookstore, though. Even on blackout Bookstore Bingo days, the regulars and your fellow employees more than make up for it. The joy of matching the right book with the right person, too. Those times that someone returns and says, “You recommended X to me, and I LOVED it!” make one happy to be alive. Plus, geeking about Litrachur with the oddest people–people you wouldn’t think twice about talking to if you saw them on the street, or people you would simply never meet because their slice-of-life is so different from your own–has to be one of the most sublime acts of social and intellectual connection I think I’ve ever experienced.

The greatest thing about it, though, is that working in a bookstore provides such awesome material. Nothing is as absurd as real life, nothing. Fiction has to obey rules. Reality is far zanier than anything a writer can come up with, but you can strip-mine it for the telling quirk, the tiny detail, the internally-consistent eccentricity.

I don’t get paid for any of the volunteer hours I put in. I have to tell you, though, the experience of the daily Vortex spin damn near pays for itself. At the very least it provides me with hilarity I don’t have to watch on a screen. And it reminds me that people are the most strange and wonderful oddities the Universe has going at the moment.

So if you’re working retail today, I salute you. I hope you’re getting great material. And I hope you’re only crossing off a few of those bingo squares…

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Tonight’s The Night

Regular blogging will commence shortly. I know I haven’t been popping in much to say much of substance here. Deadline hell looms, as always, and I’m getting everything situated for another school year, as well as cleaning house emotionally, so to speak.

BUT, things are calmer. Summer is winding down, which means the publishing world is picking up speed again, thank goodness. Tomorrow I’ll be writing about my path to publication, since that’s the theme of the week over at the Deadline Dames. (You can read Dame Devon, Dame Jackie, Dame Rachel, and Dame Keri from earlier this week!)

But today, I’m sending in a first draft (gods willing, if I get this done) and heading out to Beaverton for my 7pm signing at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s. I will be reading from Defiance, book 4 in the Strange Angels series. (I am hard at work on the fifth and final book as we speak.) I will also be bringing prizes to be raffled off!

That’s about all the news. I’m going to dive back into this draft so I can hopefully give an editor a pleasant surprise before the weekend.

Hey, it could happen.

See you around!

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Hey, Jealousy!

All right! It’s release day for Jealousy, the third in the Strange Angels series!

Dru Anderson might finally be safe. She’s at the largest Schola on the continent, and beginning to learn what it means to be svetocha–half vampire, half human, and all deadly. If she survives her training, she will be able to take her place in the Order, holding back the vampires and protecting the oblivious normal people.

But a web of lies and betrayals is still closing around her, just when she thinks she can relax a little. Her mentor Christophe is missing, her almost-boyfriend is acting weird, and the bodyguards she’s been assigned seem to know much more than they should. And then there’s the vampire attacks, the strange nightly visits, and the looks everyone keeps giving her. As if she should know something.

Or as if she’s in danger.

Someone high up in the Order is a traitor. They want Dru dead–but first, they want to know what she remembers of the night her mother died. Dru doesn’t want to remember, but it looks like she might have to–especially since once Christophe returns, he’ll be on trial for his life. The only person who can save him is Dru.

The problem is, once she remembers everything, she may not want to…

I am currently suffering the writer’s version of performance anxiety. I plan on hitting the rock wall today to combat it, plus there’s revisions on another book and fresh wordcount to get in. Work really is the cure for everything that ails me, at least lately.

But I don’t want to go without saying thank you to the people who helped make today’s release possible, from my writing partner to my agent and editor, to the great team at Razorbill, to my children and my sisters, to my friends CMH and SZ, and everyone who told me to just get on with it.

Most of all, dear Reader, thank you. I shall thank you in the way we both like best, by telling you a story. I hope you like Dru’s continuing adventures…

You can buy Jealousy at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound, and Amazon. Signed copies are available! There’s also a chance to win the whole series at the Strange Angels official website.

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Release Week Madness

It’s release week for Jealousy. I am a bundle of nerves. I am always a bundle of nerves on release week.

Anyway, I’m over at Bitten By Books today; there’s an interview with me and a contest for an Amazon gift card; plus I’m answering questions all day! You read that right–I will be dropping in over there all day and tomorrow morning to answer questions in the comments. Plus, in the interview, I get to talk about the first story I ever really wrote and jobs I’ve held. It promises to be a lot of fun, so hike on over and take a look if you’d like.

It’s been ninety-plus degrees here for the past few days, and the sky is that peculiar deep hot starving blue it gets in summer. I am thanking the gods for air conditioning, struggling to stay hydrated, juggling two new books, and about to start revision on a third–and, of course, gearing up for release week madness.

*stares longingly at bottle of whiskey*

*goes back to work*

See you ’round.

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