September 23, 2014

Just for Funsies: Zombie Weapons

My parents just moved onto some land out in the country. They have horses, and want their horses to finally be able to share their address. 

Of course, no land is perfect, though, and their couple acres need to be cleaned up a bit before the horses can move in. My oldest brother, Jonathan, is here this week, helping to clear out some of the woody parts of the property.

This is the view from their back fence.
We've had so much rain here lately, this isn't normally a pond.
But you get the idea. Trees, vines, mud, muck. 

So of course I decided to help.

And of course we needed to talk zombies while we worked, and of course we now consider ourselves ready for the apocalypse! 

Because weapons!

Everybody, meet Jonathan.
He's killer with a chainsaw.

Me? I prefer this knife.
I think the hook on the end gives it that little something special.
Don't you agree?

Anyway, much as I joke (and much as I LOVE that knife), every time I do something like this I realize more and more: I'd never survive a real zombie apocalypse. It wouldn't be the zombies to get me, though. It would be the bugs. The ticks in particular. And the fact that, with my insomnia and compulsive need to feel clean at night, I'd never sleep and I'd go absolutely insane.

And incidentally: today I also learned I have an irrational fear of chainsaws. *shakes fist at Texas Chainsaw Massacre*

See? Insane.

Happy Tuesday and I hope I made you smile.


September 17, 2014

I'm Falling in Love with John Scalzi's Lock In

Yeah. You read that right. I'm falling - hard - for a brand new sci-fi thriller, penned by none other than John Scalzi (of the Old Man's War series and Hugo-award winning Redshirts).

But it may not be for the reasons you expect.


Sure, the story is fun and exciting. Sure, the sci-fi tech is accessible even to an English major like me. And sure, I love the idea of characters who've become "locked in," thanks to a disease that shuts down their nervous systems but not their thought/communication processes (hey all you Ice Bucket Challengers - this part will interest you!!!). It's only through human "Integrators" or mechanical "Threeps" that these characters are able to communicate and live semi-normal lives, and it's INTERESTING.

But nope. Those aren't the reasons I'm falling so hard for this book.

A big part of the reason is this: there are two characters, Jim Buchold and Rick Wisson, who are MARRIED. Yep. You got it. Two guys, married.

And here's the BEST part, the part that makes me love this book so damn much I want to squeeze it: in this book, this lovely little sci-fi novel, the fact that Jim and Rick (two dudes) are married is absolutely NO BIG DEAL!

YES!!!!!!!

A gay, married couple, treated JUST LIKE ANY OTHER CHARACTERS!!! They're introduced as guests at a dinner party, and it goes something like this: one guy introduces himself to the main character as the other guy's husband. The main character....doesn't even comment. It's just a fact, like any other fact at that dinner party. Far more interesting than the fact that Rick and Jim are married is the discussion around the plight of people infected by Haden's, the disease causing the locked in phenomena.

Jim and Rick are not the phenomena. Not at all. They're just two guys at the party.

Later, when something bad happens to Jim's business (I'm trying hard not to give spoilers here), we see Rick make Jim a drink, just like any other loving spouse would do. When Jim doesn't drink it, Rick does instead, just like any other loving spouse would do. They're not treated any differently than any other married couple in any other book.

Look. This may not seem Earth-shattering, but it is. There are a lot of books out these days with LGBT characters. In many of them, a character's being LGBT becomes a central theme of the work. And that's good. In fact, that's great! We need to discuss these issues! It's important!

But perhaps just as important is providing characters that are LGBT, and NOT making their sexuality central to the story. By letting LGBT characters become a part of the landscape, no different from anyone else in the supporting cast, Scalzi is making a huge statement. "Hey, world, this is normal. This is no big deal. This is how we SHOULD be treating LGBT people IN REAL LIFE."

I love it. So much it hurts.

(Of course, I'm only about a third of the way into the book. LGBT themes may come into play later on. Rick and Jim might be the bad guys! I have no idea! If that becomes the case, I'll update this post, I promise. But from what I know of Scalzi and his politics, gleaned from years of reading his blog, I don't think that'll be the case.)

(Don't forget - I'm a slow reader. It may take me another full week to reach the end. So don't wait around today, expecting an update.)

But yes. Please! Go buy Lock In, and support the idea that having a gay, married couple in your sci-fi novel should be treated as NO BIG DEAL! Because YES! LOVE! EQUALITY! HOORAY!

****

UPDATE:

I finished Lock In, and I'm still in love. It was a fun read, it spoke my language (code, patches, software, hardware - years in the software industry have taken their toll on me and I love to see that world in fiction), and the ending was completely satisfying.

Was it the best thing I've ever read? Maybe not, but still, it was super-fun. I highly recommend it, especially to all my old software buddies out there!

September 15, 2014

Florence Comic Con 2014

Hey y'all! Happy Monday!!! I'm completely exhausted but I'm up and have done my daily abs challenge (don't ask), made breakfast for Charles and Zoe, and am sitting on the couch wondering if Bennett the pup has a belly ache (more on that later).

Yesterday was a LONG and FUN day, hence the exhaustion. I sold books at the 2014 Florence Comic Con, and whew....it was crazy. Good crazy, though.

Florence is a city in South Carolina that's about two hours north of where I live in Charleston. I was invited to the con earlier this year when I was at the Captain's Comic Expo, and it sounded too fun to pass up. And since we didn't make the decision about who was going (would I go it alone? Bring just Charles? Charles AND Zoe?) until 10:00 Saturday night, Sunday was destined to start early and end late.

A quick note here on kids and Cons....Zoe came to Captain's with Charles and me last year. There were jump castles and toys and all kinds of books to look at, but she was still somehow bored within about two hours. Thus, I discouraged her from coming to Florence, and my mom was going to keep her overnight and all day Sunday, taking her to visit horses and to get into all sorts of shenanigans. But Zoe became determined (somewhere around 9:00 Saturday night) to go help Mommy, so home she came, and to Florence she went. More on how THAT went later...

So. We left the house at 6:30 a.m., locking the dogs together in the laundry room with a dog bed that was doomed to destruction, and we headed up to the con. Since I'd learned a little at Captain's last spring, here are some things I knew to pack:
  • Extra books (I sold out early at Captain's, probably because everyone was SUPER sweet to me);
  • WATER;
  • SNACKS; and
  • Stuff for Zoe to do
The drive wasn't bad at all, and we made it to the Con just in time to set up before their 9 a.m. (loose) deadline. Already the cosplayers were out in force. That was something that was new and different about the Florence Con....TONS of cosplayers. Lots of pics to come in a sec with some of our favorites. That wasn't really a thing in Charleston....some people dressed up, but not to the extent they did in Florence. We had tons of fun people-watching.

People started to arrive around 10, and sales were slow but steady throughout the day. I didn't sell out because I brought enough books, but I sold enough to be very satisfied. I sold more in one day in Florence than I typically do in a month online...so that's VERY cool, AND people were able to buy both JO and ZOMBIE DAYS, CAMPFIRE NIGHTS, which was awesome. Here are some pics...and some further Con lessons learned along the way.


This was the first selfie I took yesterday. Because PENNYWISE!!!! MY NIGHTMARE!!! So of COURSE I smiled pretty beside him. (To be fair...this was a mask....had it been a real person, I'd have run away with my tail between my legs.)


I found the Predator, too. Since I have GREAT memories of watching Predator and Predator 2 with my dad when I was a kid, I needed my picture with him. I wasn't afraid here....I swear!


Meet Zoe Maul. She was THRILLED to have such cool face paint....but this will lead to some lessons later on...

Like this:


No matter how much I pack or prep, or how much cool stuff there is to look at, Zoe will still get bored, and at some point, will wind up weeping with her Darth Maul face against my shoulder while I sell two books to a mom and daughter and attempt to sign them while not getting red and black makeup on my WHITE dress! 

Lesson learned: Pack make-up remover wipes for next year. Also: yes, her hair was sprayed quite red. That came out in her shower, though her eyes are still darkened this morning - she looks a bit like an ancient Egyptian queen!!


Charles made some new friends, too. Here is is with Harley Quinn and...um...I forget the other one's name, but they were cute and had their mom walking with them, managing their photo ops. I was amused.

Lesson learned: Leave all jealousy at home. At cons, there WILL be young women (girls, too) walking around, scantily clad, looking hot. I can't worry about them. I can only worry about me. Plus, they ARE fun to look at... ;)

And finally...


OMG INDIANA JONES BOUGHT JO!!!!!

So that was cool and it made me all kinds of giggly. Hence the giggly picture. I'm laughing hysterically here, while trying to take a selfie. It never goes well.

Lesson learned: Keep your composure, even when meeting someone dressed up as your favorite pretend boyfriend. Otherwise, your selfie will look like THIS!

We didn't get home until after 8...at which point I found the dog bed in a million pieces scattered throughout the laundry room. Which was fun to clean up. I mean, I knew it was coming - Bennett destroys beds, and when my mom let the dogs out mid-day, she let me know it was already quite a mess - but still...ugh. The puppy may have eaten some foam, hence my worries about his belly ache, so I'll keep an eye on him today. 

And then I got to wash the red spray out of Zoe's hair...and try to straighten some things up...and wash the red lipstick from my own lips....and eventually pass the hell out....

It was fun. So fun. I can't wait to do it all again next year!

September 10, 2014

A picture of success

"Hey, congrats on the release of your new book!" 

I hear it daily now, which is fabulous. If only it wasn't so often followed by the inevitable: "How are sales?"

(People: don't ask authors this. The answer is almost always, "Not quite what I hoped it would be." Because we all dream big, don't we?)

I always answer it as cheerfully as possible (which, if you know me, is mighty cheerful - in general, in public, I'm ridiculously cheerful), with my canned answer, "Oh, you know, slow and steady. A book or two a day. For me, that's great!"

And I smile and swallow back the self-doubt and the equally-inevitable, crushing thought: "It's not enough. It's never enough."

And then I think about my (seemingly modest) definitions of success, and how I never seem to be there. "Success," or my picture of it, always seems to be just out there, tantalizingly beyond my fingertips, but close enough to taste it. To not give up on reaching.

It's frustrating, to say the least.

But then, this weekend, my daughter, my Zoe, taught me a really good lesson about what the picture of success can - and should - be.

****

Zoe came out of the womb kicking. I'm not lying. She used to sit in her little bouncy seat at daycare (this was back when I worked full time), kicking her little feet, happy as a clam to sit and watch and kick. She wore a hole in the foot-section of her bouncy seat that way.

It seemed, then, only natural to sign her up for soccer as soon as she was old enough (three, in this area, in case you wondered). And from the moment a coach placed a soccer ball on the ground by her feet, she took off running, and never looked back.

Seriously. I have video of her at a 3-year-old soccer clinic, quite literally running circles around the other kids, while dribbling the ball, and heading straight for the goal to boot it in. In a game when she was four, playing in the U6 recreation league, she scored 13 goals. No. That's not a typo. 13. 

Soccer is what she can do, and what she can do VERY well (at least in my mom-ish opinion).

But with all the success she was finding on the field, it soon became clear that she wanted to find success in another way. She wanted to be a GOALIE!

"Shoot the ball at me," she'd shout, every time we set up any sort of goal in the back yard. "I'm the goalie!"

And a goalie she was. She dove for the ball before anyone showed her how. She caught the ball with her hands, her stomach, her face. She'd throw herself bodily in front of the ball, doing whatever it took to keep the ball out of the goal.

Only problem? Our U6 and U8 rec leagues don't have goalies. 

Le sigh.

But have no fear! Help was on the way! This fall, we signed Zoe up for a "club" team - it's a step above rec, and now she plays against teams from around our region, instead of just in our hometown. The field on which they play is bigger and - get this! - there are GOALIES! 

HOORAY!

Now. Here's where I interrupt this story to say: I didn't want Zoe to be a goalie. EVER. I was a goalie when I played rec soccer as a kid and I HATED it. HATED. It was the WORST! It was TOO MUCH PRESSURE! Every ball that got past me was MY FAULT AND MY FAULT ALONE!

So no. Of COURSE I didn't want that for my kid!

But she is as stubborn as me, and she talked to her coaches without me, and this past Saturday, she took the field in their first games as the goalie (other girls played goal, too, but Zoe did it longest by far). They actually had a double-header, and the first game went great. Zoe's team won 9-3, so everyone came off the field smiling (though admittedly, I was still panicking over her being in goal). 

The second game was tough, though. It was a tight one. Zoe went into goal midway through the first half, and three balls slipped past her right away. I stood nearby, knowing she was upset but that there was nothing I could do, so I simply shouted encouragement.

"You're doing great!"
"Shake it off!"
"You'll get the next one!"

By halftime, though, I was hoping she'd play in the field instead of goal. I didn't want her dreams shattered by one bad game.

It was not meant to be, though. 

When she took her spot in goal in the second half, she looked so tiny standing there, framed by a giant, gaping maw of a goal. I wanted to cry. I wanted to grab my baby and take her home. But of course I didn't.

Play started. A girl from the other team headed toward her with the ball. Zoe got ready. The girl kicked the ball and...

Zoe stopped it!

She stopped the next one, too! And the next, and the next! Pretty soon the parents for the other team were cheering for her almost as much as they cheered for their own girls! 

But our girls were all tired. They had trouble moving the ball around. They weren't able to score in that second half. So the game stayed tight, 4-3, with the other team in the lead.

Still. Zoe kept stopping shots. And stopping shots. It was insane!

It was in the final minute or so that finally, another one got past her. The other team cheered. Zoe got the ball of the net, tossed it to the referee, and got back in position inside her goal. She looked more determined than I'd ever seen her.

I wish I could say here that, in a Disney-worthy moment, her team came back and scored three goals for the win. I wish I could say that, but it wouldn't be true. In the end, they left the field, losing 5-3. 

As Zoe reached the sideline, people swarmed her. 

"Great job, Goalie!" said parents from the other team.
"We started calling you No Goal Zo," said the father of one of her coaches. 
"That was almost a shutout, great job!" said someone else.

Zoe ran for the hills. Overwhelmed, a little terrified by all the attention.

I let her sit for a few minutes, then I called her over to me. I was standing far from everyone else, far enough so she listened. As she approached, I wondered what she would say. What I would say. Because I remembered...

...I remembered being 10 and losing a game in which I'd been in goal. I remembered the way I felt I let the team down. I remembered hating myself. I remembered feeling like a failure.

But not Zoe. Oh no.

As she approached, and it was just her and me in the middle of the field, set apart in our own little world, a smile broke across her face and it was like the sun came out.

"Mom!" she said, her voice hushed. Awed. "Did you see that? I only let four past!"

I grinned, and gathered her up into a ginormous hug. "Yeah," I said. "Of course I saw that. I couldn't be prouder of you. You did a great job!"

****

Success. I think I need to redefine it. I need to remember...

....Zoe only let four past. A lot more balls came her way, but she only let four past.

....I didn't only sell a book or two today. I SOLD A BOOK OR TWO TODAY! Either someone who knows me cared enough to buy a book I wrote, or a total stranger was interested enough in something I wrote to purchase it. Either way, that's a huge score, don't you think?

I sometimes forget to think that. But I'm going to try. Because Zoe taught me that this is a picture of success:

September 9, 2014

Rob Hart's New Yorked gets a GORGEOUS Cover!

Rob Hart is the kind of guy who checks in on me and my writing journey. "I just want to make sure you're in good hands," he says, and he means it. 

He shares tweets and Facebook posts about books written by his friends. He helps struggling writers sign up for classes over at LitReactor. And he buys his friends' books and actually READS them.

Yep. He's that kind of guy.

So when a good deal went bad and his book New Yorked lost its publisher a while back (through no fault of Rob's - the publisher actually shut down), I think I was almost as sad as he was! It about broke my heart! He didn't deserve that! I was ready to fight for and with him!

And then, when he found a new publisher, who's been AMAZING to him, I wished I was in New York to party with him.

Now that he's got a cover for that book, and he's doing his big reveal this week, of COURSE I'm thrilled to host him here! Read on to learn more from Rob about his upcoming novel, New Yorked, and man! Check out that cover! It's incredible!

Rock on, Rob, and I can't wait to read New Yorked! Next time we hang out in real life, I'm buying you a bourbon!



"Most cities are nouns; New York's a verb."
--John F. Kennedy, quoted in Native's Guide to New York

I love this quote, because it's so true, isn't it? New York City is bigger than a collection of buildings and people. It's does something to you. Changes you at the genetic level. 

And it does work as a verb. I have a friend who uses the term "New Yorked" to describe things this city fucks up. Like the snow. Beautiful when it first falls, but after an hour or so, between the garbage and the exhaust and the foot traffic, turns dingy and gray. The snow has been New Yorked. 

Those $4 bodega umbrellas that snap in a stiff wind and litter the streets like corpses after every rainfall? New Yorked. 

Ashley McKenna, the narrator of my debut novel, gets New Yorked too. Hence the title. It's perfect. Just like that quote from JFK. And just like this cover. 

Snow is an important thematic element in the story, so highlighting it feels right. I love the injection of color the umbrella brings in. 

And it nails what I think is becoming the most important elements of cover design: Big letters. Simple, bold images. Most people, the first time they see this, it'll be on a computer screen, shrunken down onto a sales page at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If the details are too fine it's going to look like a jumbled mess. This, you can make out from a distance. 

See also: Jo by Leah Rhyne. Nice and simple. Splash of color. Atmospheric. It's the kind of cover that makes me want to read the book. 

New Yorked is coming in June from Polis Books, and I'm thrilled that this is the cover. After seeing it, I can't imagine it being anything else.

September 1, 2014

JO is OUT TODAY!!!

She's alive! She's alive! She's....okay, well, she's mostly dead throughout most of the book, but my JO releases TODAY! As in, you can order my brand-new, modern-day retelling of the classic Frankenstein-style story RIGHT NOW! 

So my only question is....WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Oh. Links. Right. I can help with that.




I'll update this post as I figure out all the other links today (it can take a while to appear in some of the other ebook distribution spots), but those are the three main ones for now!

If you've been waiting to find out why JO is almost dead, today's the day! Go check it out! There's a sample available at all three vendors, so you can see what you're getting yourself into. If you read the sample, I hope you love it enough to buy it. If you buy it, I hope you remember to leave a review, because reviews are the nicest things you can do for any author. 

And for now, I'll leave you with this - one of my favorite excerpts from JO!

****

“It’s okay, Luce. It’s just the girls.” I looked around me, and even in the darkness I could see their unsteady shapes, rising from their tables. My eyes were adjusting rapidly to the lack of light, and I found if I squinted, I could see pretty well. “Girls, it’s okay. Lucy, it’s okay. Everyone, we’re going to be okay.” I remembered how scared I’d been when I’d awoken. “I’m here. I’m Jo. I’m just like you, and I can help you.”
From around me came the rustling and banging of stiff, uncoordinated bodies sitting up and sliding off tables. There were crashes as some rolled and fell to the floor. Just like I had. And still I stood, motionless, speaking, watching. “I’m here to help. You’re going to be fine.” I spoke with a confidence I didn’t know I possessed.
I felt a hand on my arm. A girl stood beside me, unsteady and unsure. She was one of the blondes, and even in the pallor of her partial death, even in the darkness, she was beautiful. Her skin was supple, where mine was taut and gray. She reached with her other hand and held my arm in both of hers.
“Lucy,” I whispered. “Luce, come over here.”
“I can’t,” she whispered loudly. “I think I’m stuck. I can’t see you. Where are you?” She’d moved further down the wall, toward a corner, clearly not feeling the kinship that I felt with the girls. There were five of them between us.
I covered the hands on my arm with my own, and squeezed. “I know you’re scared,” I said to the girl attached to the hands. “But I’m here. It’s okay.”
Around us, the girls stumbled as they walked. They seemed to be targeting Lucy and me, which made sense. They were scared. They needed comfort. Then one let out a moan, and I smiled, remembering my own experiences in re-learning speech.
“It’s okay,” I said to her. “Go ahead and moan if you need to. You’ll figure out how to make words again in a minute. Keep practicing.”
Around me, other girls took up the moaning. The sounds were guttural, primitive, and I wondered: Did I sound that bad?
“Jo?” Lucy’s voice cut through the moans, though it was meek, shaking. She was terrified.
“Calm down, Lucy. We’re going to help these girls, aren’t we?” I squeezed the hands on my arm again, patting them as comfortingly as I could.
The hands on my arm began to squeeze. The blonde girl attached to them began to moan, quietly at first, and then louder, her voice blending with those already filling the room. She squeezed harder.
With horror, but without pain, I felt the fingers penetrate the flesh on my arm, reaching through until they hit bone. I felt the brittle bone break.
“Stop,” I said. “Don’t do that!” I tried to pry her hands from my arm. I couldn’t. The girl moaned again.
It sounded different, though, than I remembered my own voice sounding when I first tried to speak. These moans were more animal, less human. Feral. Vicious.

And suddenly, I was terrified.



August 26, 2014

JO! Ebook Available for Pre-Order!

Hey friends! Guess what! The ebook version of JO is available for pre-order NOW!!!! Check it out!

Links will be below, but first, a quick note:

JO will be available as a paperback, too. It will be $13.95. Right now, the ebook is $2.99. BUT if you order the paperback for JO, it's enrolled in Amazon's Match Book Program, meaning you'll get an e-copy for FREE with every paperback! So it's like saving $3.00.

SO! If you want to get the paperback, don't pre-order the ebook (much as I'd love to have tons of ebook pre-orders). Wait and get the paperback via Amazon and get the ebook free!

SO!

Links!!!

Here's JO at Amazon!

Here's JO at Smashwords

(Smashwords is a distributor and bookseller in its own right. You can get all kinds of e-formats there.)

One more quick note:

Pre-orders help with Amazon rankings and such. If you do plan on purchasing the ebook only, please consider pre-ordering! I'd love it if you would!

Also! There's a Goodreads giveaway for two free copies of the JO paperback! You should enter! I'd love it if you won!

So that's all I have. Forgive me! I'm a little over-excited!