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Death comes for us all.

Keep her as your friend.

 Read "La Santisima"

What's New:

Miserere is now available at Audible.

My short story "Naked the Night Sings" is only one of the many fine stories in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.

Novels

"Filled with show me now and tell me later prose, [Miserere] was one of the finest debuts of 2011 and remains a novel that I remember details from nearly three years later." Justin Landon, Tor.com

Download an excerpt of Miserere here

Monday
Jul152013

hitting your target audience

Several people have remarked or asked why Lindsay, Lucian's twelve-year-old foundling, wasn't on the cover or mentioned in the blurb of Miserere. First of all, Miserere never got a catchy blurb, what you're seeing on the back of the book was the synopsis from my query letter. A teaser blurb and a query letter are two different animals; however in this instance one factor would have remained the same: Lindsay would not have been mentioned.

Both the query and the blurb had to be whittled down to the show the bare essence of the story, and while Lindsay plays a very important supporting role, the story isn't about her. The story is about Lucian and his relationships with his sister Catarina and his lover Rachael.

Likewise on the cover art, the publisher is looking at the target audience. I know from having spoken with the artist that he was told to put the three adults on the cover. This was a wise marketing decision, and I was behind it one hundred percent from the beginning.

When a publisher puts a twelve-year-old on the cover of a novel, it doesn't matter what lies between the pages, people see a twelve-year-old and their minds shift to young adult. If there is a woman's name on the cover AND a twelve-year-old, in most people's thinking, the story absolutely MUST be YA.

Miserere is an adult novel and contains a lot of scenes and issues that tend to turn YA readers off. My favorite review comment comes from a YA reader who called Catarina "yucky." The initial reviews for Miserere bounced around a bit and were quite conflicted with reviewers unable to get a fix on the story. I couldn't understand why people kept thinking that Miserere was YA until I realized that most readers were adding my name plus twelve-year-old in the story and just automatically coming to the YA conclusion. Reader expectations were obviously getting in the way of the story.

Men don't have this problem, by the way. John Saul wrote about children in a large number of his novels but no one ever called him anything other than a horror author. My publisher can't be blamed because they went over backwards to make sure that Lindsay wasn't pictured or mentioned on the cover.

Recently, Julie Crisp at Tor Books in the UK posted these enlightening statistics in her article Sexism in Genre Publishing: A Publisher's Perspective. According to her statistics, in the YA category, 68% of the submissions are by women. That means that a lot of women read and submit YA stories. I see a great deal of women talking online about YA and defending YA as being progressive because it deals with a lot of issues important to young adults.

Is this a bad thing?

No.

I have no problem with YA or with the fact that a majority of women write and submit YA literature to publishers. I occasionally read YA just to keep up with the various genres; there are some excellent stories out there, but it's not my genre of choice. All of these statistics and facts tell me that readers tend to associate women with writing YA simply because of the sheer number of women who associate themselves as either readers or writers of that genre.

Again, not a bad thing, but it does make it exceptionally difficult for debut authors who are attempting to break that mold. My own work is best described as urban fantasy/horror and was billed as such from the beginning. Even so, many people who read YA picked up Miserere and got a harsh, rude awakening that left them feeling yucky. They were most likely victims of their own expectations and misperceptions through no fault of their own. I'm guessing that was because there was a woman's name on the cover, a twelve-year-old in chapter two, hence in the reader's mind, the story must be YA.

Except that it is not.

There are quite a few women who write horror and urban fantasy with an edge--far too many to list here competently. Some have children in their novels as secondary characters, some don't. I know that according to Ms. Crisp's data only 17% of the Tor submissions in horror came from women, but still ... women write excellent horror stories.

Here is another thing that I've observed from reading reviews and online discussions about Miserere, something that intrigues me to no end: most women comment on Lindsay in very glowing terms. Very few women discuss Rachael, an extremely capable, emotionally strong woman. Rachael saves Lucian, not just with her strength but also with her compassion. Without her, he'd never make home. I find the lack of discussion about Rachael very interesting and wonder why. Women say that they want competent female protagonists who don't need to be saved by their male counterparts, yet I've heard very little about Rachael.

I'm not sure what to make of any of that. What I have learned is the importance of marketing and hitting a target audience. I've also learned that sometimes that audience gets missed in spite of everyone's best efforts.

I've revamped the web site a little this weekend with that target audience in mind. I loved my old header, which was created for me by a dear lady who has a great deal of talent in that area. However, I needed something that better reflected my stories, which are dark and for adults. Of the two short stories that will be published in upcoming anthologies, one is borderline horror, the other is a dark fantasy.

I hope you enjoy them both with that in mind. Meanwhile, on the web site, all that has changed is the colors and the headers. Everything else is right where you'd expect to find it.

And me.

I'm here too. I hope to see you around.

Friday
Jul122013

fabricated SFWA fascists

Ignorance is unbecoming to everyone. Last night, there was a list of "SFWA Fascists" posted on Twitter. To the person who compiled that list: You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means.

Just because someone does not agree with your viewpoint does not make him or her a fascist, or a communist, or a socialist,* or even politically correct.

Likewise, treating other people like human beings worthy of dignity and respect is not fascism--it's called ... well ... being nice. If we were all nice to one another and treated one another like professionals, then we might just get along and quit acting like a hoard of raging hemorrhoids.

It's possible. Think about it.

Meanwhile, please stop calling people who do not agree with you "fascists," because if you persist, people who know what that word really means will think you're stupid.

__________

*As a side-note: No one is a fascist/communist/socialist. That creature cannot exist except in a most Sybil-like manner and it would devour itself in rage, because all three of those things are antithetical to one another.

Monday
Jul082013

building first drafts and cygnet moon

First drafts are very fluid for me--they shift and merge a little at a time as I work through the story. A strong synopsis gives me an excellent road map to use, but all stories shift and merge and change as they go along, primarily due to the growth of the characters.

During the course of a first draft, I find or create various images to help me visualize and describe the characters and their environment; I write scenes that help me define characters and their motives but never make it into the novel. I draw maps, or locate pictures or scenes of different landscapes, and sometimes I find pictures of men or women who make me think of my characters. I keep them on hand for inspiration. Sometimes, I post them to my Tumblr, other times I just save them to my hard drive and pull them up when I need to strengthen my inner vision.

About a week ago, I changed my cover pic on Facebook (and a couple of other places) just for something new. Back during the winter, Robert Dunbar posted a spooky little pic on his Pinterest page that intrigued me. I took the pic and edited it heavily in my photoshop program in order to make it look like a character from my new work in progress, Cygnet Moon.

Several people asked about the picture and a few people speculated that the character was supposed to be evil, but he's not. I'm reposting him here with the excerpt so you can meet Makar's ar'nel with the understanding that all of this might change before the first draft is finished.

This is the first time that I've photoshopped a pic to make a character and I'm really proud of how he turned out, because this is exactly how I imagined Makar's ar'nel to look:

He is a black shadow with wild hair and eyes like nickel. My ar’nel is my magic made manifest, the breath of my spirit. My grandmother’s ar’nel exhibits itself as a great gray swan that follows her like a shade. When she visited me, her ar’nel filled my chambers and enveloped her in a pearl mist. The tapestries undulated like waves and the shields that decorate the walls trembled in her passing.

My ar’nel barely causes the lamp flames to flutter. I glare at him. If he was a great spirit like grandmother’s swan, I could use him to force the guards aside; they would have no choice but to obey my commands. Instead, I am left with this wicked magic that refuses to obey me. He is good for tipping over inkpots and knocking paintings askew but little else.

I've got two short stories to finish, then I am back into Makar's world in Cygnet Moon. If you want to leave a comment, let me know what you do to build your worlds during your first drafts.

Sunday
Jul072013

the futility of arguments

The world often spins far too fast for me. Blogging was on the back-burner for June for many reasons, many of them job related, but I don't talk about my job online. June was just a frustrating, fearful month for me for many reasons, and when I am afraid, I often turn to anger to cover my fear.

I have no intention of discussing these tribulations online, because I have a strong rule about blogging and some subjects are completely off-limits. I never discuss family, work, or writing colleagues on my blog. A blog post is public and once I've published it, I have lost complete control over where those words go. I don't have the right to invade other people's privacy.

The political and SFF fronts also had a lot of anger. There were so things I wanted to say but I held back for many reasons. I consider my writing work, as well, so I refrained from commenting too much online. With my writing colleagues, I will write reviews or editorials or even rebuttals; however, even then, I refrain from writing judgments about another person's character. I try to maintain my focus on principles, not personalities, because it is all to easy to descend into character assassination.

I keep my negative words, which can be harsh and unforgiving, for my private face-to-face encounters with the other individual. I want to look into the other person's eyes when I say what I have to say, because when I look into an individual's eyes, I remember that he or she is human and fallible and deserving of kindness and forgiveness as I am. When I look into another person's eyes, I can temper my words, because if I see that the individual is confused or hurt, I realize his or her mistake might be honest error. It's also possible that I misinterpreted the other person's intent or words. If I see arrogance or rage, I know to sharpen the exchange, but I will only say what I have to say and move on.

I don't argue. Arguments are an exercise in futility, especially when both parties are utterly convinced of their righteousness and especially online where we tend to throw words at one another like stones.

Most often, these online discussions begin sanguinely enough, then about five or six comments in, they degenerate into a nuclear war filled with f-bombs and ugliness. Words written or said in anger invoke first defensiveness, then retaliatory anger; communication disintegrates and nothing is resolved.

There is a lot to be angry about nowadays, and I don't blame a lot of you for that anger. I understand it, probably more intimately than some of you will ever know. I've experienced abuses that I do not feel comfortable talking about online and only my most intimate family members know about the trials that I've suffered. I have spent a long time and a lot of money getting my head straight, and I know that when the anger begins to consume me, it's time for me to back off.

I can only speak for myself and through my experiences. Your experiences will be different and as unique to you as mine are to me. You have to live with the ramifications of your actions, so you must use whatever tactics are at your disposal how you see fit.

This I know: anger is deadly to me. So I've had to disengage from some of you. It's not that I feel like what you're saying is wrong or even badly said, but I cannot stay in a constant state of rage. For the sake of my mental health, I have had to disengage somewhat.

Does this mean that I keep my outrage silent? No. It means that I say my harsh truths directly to the individual's face. Ask people who have known and met me and they will tell you that I speak what is in my heart, sometimes eloquently, sometimes profanely, but I will not lie to you, or for you.

In an effort to control my own anger, I often turn to a favorite translation of Taoist works by Lin Yutang. Chuangtse directed a lengthy passage against the argumentative philosophers of his time and he cautions that arguing never truly solves a problem. He says:

The right may not be really right. What appears so may not be really so. Even if what is right is really right, wherein it differs from wrong cannot be made plain by argument. Even if what appears so is really so, wherein it differs from what is not so also cannot be made plain by argument.*

Chuangtse reminds me not to jump to conclusions and that arguments do not provide neat resolutions to differences. Balance is necessary in all things and arguing brings discord and imbalance to all decisions, because rhetoric can override reason.

Another favorite is Emerson, who said, "The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well."**

Stand up for what you believe in with all of your passion but also remember to be compassionate. Online, we tend to talk AT one another, rather than talk TO one another--the difference between these two things is very clear. Most importantly, we should LISTEN to one another.

If you want the right to be wrong, extend that same courtesy to others, and remember that sometimes you're not going to change the other person's viewpoint. Sometimes, you just have to agree to disagree and walk away before someone pops a blood vessel. I know I am most effective at changing others when I am assertive and grounded and when I met the individual eye to eye. That is when my battles will be fought, when I can look into your face and gauge the effect of my words. Whenever I am in a heated exchange, I remember that it takes two to argue and I always have the option to walk away. I exercise that option liberally, for my own mental health.

_______

*The Wisdom of Laotse, Lin Yutang.

**Emerson's essay on Self-Reliance

Sunday
Jun302013

My male pseudonym should be ...

I know I haven't been around a lot these last few weeks.

Sorry.

I've been writing and that is important, me being a writer and all.

I thought I would pop in with something kind of fun today, just for the heck of it.

A few of us were discussing names again on a Facebook group recently. Well, that's not entirely true. The discussion began on statistics and demographic breakdowns on our author pages (i.e. how many of our followers were male versus female), because Mark Lawrence asked some questions. After seeing some of the data, I brought up names again.

I noticed that guys with manly names had an overwhelming majority of male "likes" whereas I had roughly 58% females and 42% males. These numbers tend to flux given Facebook's algorithms, but the percentages are plus or minus only a few points, in other words, insignificant to our discussion.

In light of this mass of information that I really don't have time to analyze properly, I am going to give you a poll. That is right. Just in case I'm ever asked to publish under a male pseudonym, I'll need some ideas. So here we go ...

If I ever publish under a male pseudonym, what do you think it should be:

My male pseudonym should be:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Monday
Jun102013

time, writing, and social media

A lot of you have been asking me when my next novel is coming out, and I am so grateful to all of you for your interest! You just blow me away, you really do. Unfortunately, I don't have much to report right now. Garden in Umber is still on submission, and I will let you know if it sells to a publisher the very minute that I am able.

I also want you to know that my online presence might be somewhat diminished for the next couple of months. Without disappearing entirely, I am going to be taking a less active role in social media. It's not that I don't love interacting with everyone, but working on three short stories and my novel really made me realize how much I'd missed writing during the months of March and April.

The year 2013 started out with sickness and upheaval in all aspects of my life: the day job and my writing were going through transformations, and my home life was disrupted by my own illnesses. It hasn't been a good year thus far.

The day job still hasn't stabilized; however, my own equilibrium has begun to return. That doesn't mean I am filled with peace and serenity while being tossed by the seas, but it does mean that I am no longer giving other people control of my free time. I want to spend that time reading and writing.

I'm really excited about being a part of two lovely anthologies: Manifesto: UF and The Neverland Library's Fantasy Anthology. Working with the editors and writing stories to specific guidelines has given me the opportunity to flex my writing skills in ways that I hadn't imagined that I could. I am indebted to both Tim Marquitz and to Roger Bellini for inviting me to participate in their respective adventures. I'll be around to promote both of these anthologies when they are available.

I want to tell you about my friend Helen Lowe's novel Heir of Night. I have a partial review written and would like to finish it soon. My friend Alex Bledsoe's newest novel Wisp of a Thing is pre-ordered on my Nook, and I intend to give you a review of that too. I also have an idea for southern gothic short story that I've started to kick around, in addition to working on my novel Cygnet Moon.

I'd like to get all of these projects rolling and finished by the end of the year, and in order to do that, I'm going to have to spend less time on social media and more time doing that writing-thing that I love. I will be popping in on the old blog with my updates, but if you don't see me on Twitter and Facebook as much, it's because I'm writing.

Ya'll carry on ...

Monday
Jun032013

Skyhorse/Start acquires Night Shade Books

I spent the month of April deciphering contracts, contract law, and intellectual property law, not because I was bored and wanted to snarl my brain. It was in April that authors received the news that Night Shade Books was being purchased by Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. This led to one massive brain hemorrhage as we all tried to comprehend what this meant for our books and any future novels tied with those contracts.

Thanks to Kameron Hurley, a Google group was set up and information started to flow. Some of this information was good, some of it was bad, some, well, ugly in that it wasn't what we wanted to hear, but it was the truth.

One of the biggest benefits that I received from being an SFWA member is the ability to participate in the SFWA forum. If you are in utter and complete publisher meltdown, that is the place to go. I received clear-headed assessments of the situation from experienced members. Several kind people emailed me off the grid with details that tipped the balance of my decision.

On the surface, the issue with Night Shade Books appeared as if the SFWA was coddling the publisher. As April progressed, my anonymous email advocates armed me with facts that simply could not be made public for many reasons. Once I possessed all the facts, I realized that the SFWA did the right thing.

Kameron did an awesome job as moderator of the Google group and I thank her and Mary Robinette Kowal, who really spent hours and hours of her personal time going to bat for us. Mary couldn't have done her job without the weight of the SFWA behind her, and for that I am very grateful both to Mary and to the SFWA for taking a part in these negotiations.

For a long time, everyone was between a rock and a hard place, and some authors still are. I am hoping for the best for everyone.

I only the briefest of statements about The Bulletin and the SFWA:

I did finally receive my copy of the Bulletin and I want to say for the record that I found the article very offensive. I have neither the time nor inclination to write a ranty blog post about it; there are plenty of those out there if you want to read one.

The SFWA is taking strides to amend this situation, so I intend to give my membership more time. I want to see what the SFWA does, and I also want to be a part of the solution if I am able. A lot of changes are happening, some of which are too rapid to document. So I'm sticking around for a while longer.

I hope so anyway.

I'll be around and if you don't see me, I'll be writing.

Friday
May312013

Change in the SFWA

E. Catherine Tobler posted an open letter to the SFWA earlier today about why she doesn't intend to renew her membership in the SFWA. Kameron Hurley gave more insight into the issue (see Kameron's post right here) as did Jason Sanford.

I make no dispute with Tobler's summary of the events leading up to her decision. After reading Tobler's post, I saw another author, who I respect, make the same decision for herself--that she would not renew her membership in the SFWA.

I, the last person on planet earth ever to receive the Bulletin, am still awaiting my copy in the mail. Since I have not read the article in question, I don't intend to make comments based on other people's blog posts--that's another post for another day.

Instead, I'd like to ask that the members who are quitting to please reconsider your decision. Organizations grow and change because the membership grows and changes. A very wise man once told me that the only way to change an institution was from the inside.

I understand your frustration; however, I also understand that a majority of the SFWA membership does NOT endorse Resnick and Malzberg's views. These members are working hard to change attitudes within the organization, and they can't work without us working beside them.

And change, being painful and unfamiliar, is often a long, arduous process.

I'm no stranger to change, pain, or arduous processes, and I'm sure none of you are either. Hence, I would ask that you please reconsider your decision. Whatever you decide, I will back you one hundred percent, but I do ask that you please stay and help us change.

That's all.

Thursday
May302013

My short story Love, Crystal and Stone has been sold

I'm really pleased to announce that my short story, "Love, Crystal and Stone" has been sold to Neverland's Library Anthology. Tad Williams is writing the introduction to this anthology and the collection includes stories by: Mark Lawrence, Marie Brennan, Tim Marquitz, Kenny Soward, William Meikle, Peter Rawlik, Miles Cameron, Betsy Dornbusch, R.S. Belcher, Marcy Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Jeff Salyards, and me.

This is a crowd-sourced project with a portion of the sales going to First Book, a non-profit organization working to provide educational resources and literature for children in impoverished areas across Canada and the US.

Today is the very last day that you can help contribute to this project. Read more about Neverland's Library Anthology and why they chose Indiegogo to crowd-source right here.

Please help us get the word out.

Tuesday
May282013

I am writing and reading and writing some more ...

... Or a very teeny update.

In the month of May, I completed two different short stories, "Naked the Night Sings," which will appear in the Manifesto: UF Anthology published by Angelic Knight Press (coming in September 2013), and a new story "Love, Crystal and Stone," which I intend to submit for consideration in the Neverland's Library Anthology.

Neverland's Library Anthology is winding into the final hours of its crowdfunding drive, so go right here to help fund this anthology. They have a super line-up of authors who are confirmed participants in the anthology, and none other than Tad Williams will be writing the introduction.

Just so that you know I'm not slacking off here: between these two stories, I wrote approximately 11,900 words, which is about one-quarter of a novel.

Also in May, I finished reading the very well-written Heir of Night by Helen Lowe. I am working on a review for you.

I will be posting at BookSworn later this week with a never-before-seen-authentic-hand-drawn map of Woerld, drawn by ... ahem ... none other than me.

I have several other things in the works, but if I fall silent again, then it's because I've returned to work on my new novel Cygnet Moon.

And that is all that I have for you right now. Stay tuned, I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, watch for me ... I'll be around.