Sunday, September 30, 2007

Poison Study winner!

The winner of the signed copy of Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study is...


Come on doooooooowwwwn! Just send me your mailing address and I'll pass it on to Maria.

Thanks to Maria and to all the great commenters and questioners. This was really fun. I'll see if I can't round up some more authors to do my work for me guest blog.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Holy Moly another Guest Blog

I'm taking part in my publisher's Blog Bash--30 Authors in 30 Days, answering the question

Which was a lot harder question than I thought.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out who won a signed copy of Maria Snyder's Poison Study from last Friday's comment-fest.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

400 Years in Manhattan

One of my old bloggy friends, Noah Diamond of Nero Fiddled, has a new play coming out in New York next week.

  • What: 400 Years in Manhattan is a "comedic journey through time, for anyone who loves New York."
  • Where: The HERE Arts Center (145 Sixth Ave., between Spring and Broome; enter on Dominick)
  • When: October 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th at 7PM
Here's his description:
As you may know, I spent seven years working as a New York City tour guide. On double decker buses, on boats, and on foot, I've told the amazing story of this beautiful town to about a million people. Now, having hung up the microphone, I'm telling the story one last time -- in a nice comfortable theatre.

I wrote 400 Years in Manhattan, and designed its accompanying slideshow, from the perspective of a tour guide unconstrained by time or place. We'll visit places in New York which no longer exist, and compare the past and the present side by side. Most of the stories I tell in the show come directly from my tours, but the view is different. Instead of starting on Eighth Avenue, we start in 1609.

Noah is a fantastic writer, one of the funniest and most eloquent people I've seen online. So this should be good. I wish I were going to be in town when it's playing, instead of all the surrounding days when it's not playing. Grrr....

To order tickets, get information, or read more about the show and how it came to be, visit Or if you don't feel like reading, watch the promo video!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Booksigning Saturday

I'll be signing copies of Voice of Crow and Eyes of Crow at the Borders in Winchester, VA, this Saturday, 3-5 PM. It's located at 2420 S. Pleasant Valley Rd., Winchester, VA 22601.

The Winchester Star did a nice article on me and the Aspect of Crow series. She managed to make me sound like not too much of a blithering idiot, which is quite a challenge.

Last year the signing at Borders went magnificently--47 copies of Eyes of Crow sold!--and I'm hoping we can top that performance this Saturday. Cross your fingers for me--or better yet, stop by and say hi!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Special deals for Voice of Crow readers


Okay, this isn’t so much a contest as it is a pact. Everyone who reviews Voice of Crow by October 31 gets an autographed ARC of my May 2008 vampire novel Wicked Game. Blog about it, post it on an online bookseller site, send it to your local newspaper, talk about it on your podcast, whatever. Just do it by Halloween and let me know about it.

Again, this is not a drawing. Everyone--that’s EV-REE-WON--who does this will get an ARC. Even if it’s a bad review, though in that case “ARC” might stand for Angry Red Cobra. Kidding, of course! I love animals.

The original artwork for Voice of Crow’s cover is quite different from the final version. I liked the first one just fine, but the reaction from book buyers (i.e., the people who place orders for the bookstores) was, “Hmm. Try again.”

Curious? I won’t be posting it on my website ever, but I have about twenty cover flats with the original artwork. If you’d like a copy of this collector’s item, all you have to do is buy any of my books from my favorite independent bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy.

Here are the direct links to the four books (Wicked Game would be a preorder, obviously):

Voice of Crow

Eyes of Crow

Requiem for the Devil

Wicked Game

Just send me your proof of purchase (receipt, shipping confirmation, packing slip), either by e-mail to or snail mail to P.O. Box 66, Westminster, MD, 21158, and I’ll send you the cover, autographed. This is a one-time offer, while supplies last, as they say.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Release Day to Voice of Crow!

Voice of Crow is in bookstores now! Like this Borders in Albuquerque, where we were today. Both of these copies were spoken for, so you might want to call your local store to make sure they have a) gotten the books in, b) unloaded them, and c) still have some left.

Gotta go have celebratory dinner in Nob Hill. More Thursday.

UPDATE: Yanni's Mediterranean Bar on Central Avenue--one of the best meals I've EVER had. And after four straight days of southwestern cuisine, I was ready for something without red and green chiles on it.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Animal of the month - Cougar

When I redesigned this website last year before Eyes of Crow’s release, I intended to create a page for each of the twelve Animals to correspond with the Animal of the Month. I made one for Crow, but it was so much damn work I never got around to making any more. No one wrote me begging to be enlightened as the biology, mythology and cultural history of various critters, so after a few months of feeling guilty, I gave up.

But then it occurred to me that I could still talk about the Animal of the Month as it applies to the books themselves, since that’s probably more interesting to readers, anyway. After all, more information on real animals can be found on the internet.

So let’s start this month, right now, with Cougar. Here’s the description from the Discover Your Spirit Animal quiz results:

Grrr, baby—you're the personification of animal magnetism. Your confidence, beauty, and athleticism make you the target of many romantically inclined individuals. Too bad for them—you don't stick around long enough to make breakfast, much less a lifetime commitment. Hello Kitty, Goodbye Heart.

Sounds dangerous but fun, no? In the Aspect of Crow series, the Cougars are the hunters. They have super-speed and strength, average stamina, and are skillful tree climbers. They can see in the dark and therefore make great sentries.

In a scene from Eyes, Alanka tells Rhia about her blemished relationship history:

Alanka counted on her fingers. “There was Adrek, a Cougar, he was the first. After that came Morran, a Bobcat, then Endrus, another Cougar.” Alanka sighed. “Learned my lesson finally. Thrice bitten, once shy, right? Cats don’t stay around.”

Adrek is less than reliable, but in Eyes he does the right thing when it really counts. In an early draft of Voice, he broke Alanka’s heart again, but the feedback I got from beta readers said that he was too much of a jackass for a strong woman like Alanka to fall for. So I shipped him off to a foreign country to rescue his kidnapped two-year-old daughter, thus

a) making him more heroic, and

b) saving Alanka from his jackassedness.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Guest blogging at Magical Musings

The tour continues! Visit Magical Musings today to see my Top Ten Soundtracks for Paranormal Writing. I'm giving away an autographed set of Eyes of Crow and Voice of Crow to one lucky commenter, so stop by and opine on your favorite movies and music.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maria V. Snyder gets Kiki

(Apologies for the bad wordplay. OK, I'm not really sorry--maybe Mel Gibson-sorry, but not Michael Richards-sorry.)

Anyway! Everyone give a big welcome to award-winning fantasy author Maria V. Snyder. Names of all the commenters from here and my MySpace blog will go into a virtual hat, and a week from now I'll draw a winner of an autographed copy of Poison Study.

Don't let those MySpacers show you up. Ask Maria anything, or share your own experiences with research and/or scary animals.


Hello! First off I want to thank Jeri for allowing me to be a guest blogger – Thanks Jeri!

One of my favorite aspects of writing is doing research. In Poison Study, I studied how to taste foods for certain flavors and textures. With Magic Study, I needed to learn how to ride a horse. Having grown up in Philadelphia, I had zero knowledge about horses. My friend Susan offered to teach this city girl how to ride her horse, Kiki.

Kiki, an American Saddlebred, is 16.1 hands tall. While I can’t tell you exactly how high that is, sitting on her for the very first time, I felt I was about ten feet from the hard, hard ground below. I was wearing a helmet, but it seemed inadequate for protection – full body armor would have been more preferable to me. And it didn’t help my nerves when Kiki’s head went straight up, her left ear cocked back, and she gave me the eye without turning around. With almost 360 degree vision, she only needed to move her head a little to keep me in sight. And I knew she was plotting how to dump this stranger on her back into the nearest mud puddle.

Kiki though was a perfect horse for a terrified beginner. At 22 years of age, she had seen it all, and we spent many hours slowly walking around the training ring. It was July, she was hot and I probably could have gotten off and pushed her faster. The pace was soothing for me and soon I was feeling my….well…oats, and wanted more excitement than doing figure 8’s at 1 mph.

Once I felt comfortable, Susan started teaching me how to guide Kiki into a trot. Although Susan insisted that Kiki is a Cadillac of horses, the bone-jarring gait threatened to dump me onto the ground. Susan has an English saddle—the one without the horn, and, in my mind, the one without anything to hold onto—so posting was required. When it comes to posting letters, I’m a pro, but the equestrian posting—where you raise your body with your legs to the movement of the horse so your butt’s not slammed into the saddle with every step—was beyond my abilities.

Eventually Kiki and I graduated from the training yard to the trail, and I was getting rather cocky. We were having fun without Susan reminding me to keep my heels down and straighten my back. Trotting and walking with trees and wildlife all around. Peaceful, idyllic, singing with the birds until Kiki startled and did a 180 on me. She went right, but I went left.

Remember how I said there was no horn on the saddle to hold? Well Susan’s been telling me for weeks to grab Kiki’s mane if I was going to fall (she won’t feel pain – I checked) and she did a great job of training me. I automatically grabbed her mane, and Kiki, a very smart horse, stopped dead while I pulled myself back up from the brink. All my cockiness was gone in a flash. Although, I still think Kiki didn’t really get spooked, she just wanted to stop my singing ;>

It was a scary, fun and interesting time. I learned about horses and I learned about myself. Mainly, that I like to be in complete control. Even though I held the reins, I knew Kiki was in charge.

To see a picture of Kiki go to Maria’s Website and scroll about ½ way down the page.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Poison Study and/or Magic Study, click here: Books

A Lesson in Loyalty - A Master Class in Intrigue.
Yelena is a survivor. Kidnapped as a child, held prisoner as a teen, then released to act as a poison taster, she is now a student of magic. But these magic skills place her in imminent danger, and with an execution order on her head, she has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth.
But nothing in Sitia is familiar. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her powers, a rogue magician emerges--and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in a situation not of her making. And once again her magical abilities will either save her life...or be her downfall.
Buy it here:

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Guest blogger Maria V. Snyder tomorrow

Company's coming! Quick, everyone, clean the house! Sweep the cobwebs from the ceiling! Wipe that sticky stuff off the kids' faces! Make the dog take her dead rabbit outside!

Our first guest blogger arrives tomorrow. Fantasy author Maria V. Snyder writes the award-winning Study series from Luna and Mira Books. Read an excerpt from her first book, Poison Study, which won the coveted Compton Crook Award for Best First Science Fiction/Fantasy Novel. Her latest book is Magic Study, which was nominated for the Rita Award for Best Paranormal.

If you like my Aspect of Crow series, you'll like this one, too. The world-building is subtle, the characters are easy to relate to, and the romantic elements are strong and poignant but don't overwhelm the fantasy plot. And they are un-put-down-able!

Tomorrow, Maria tells us her favorite research story and how she learned not only about her topic (the bond between horse and human), but about herself as well.

I'll be out of town all weekend, but peeking in as often as I can, so everyone behave themselves, OK? No throwing food at the guest (unless it's chocolate, and even then, not those little squares with the hard corners).

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What took me so long?

After much gentle nudging from friends (with and without cattle prods), I finally got a LiveJournal account. Not only do I have my own journal, but I'm also part of the Fur, Fangs and Fey community of urban fantasy writers.

Color Catie contented.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Map making do

I'm trying to get my head around some of the events in my third Aspect of Crow book, THE REAWAKENED. It has more settings and POV characters than the first two books, and trying to keep everyone's whereabouts straight was driving me mad and wasting time that could be spent writing.

So first order of business: make a map. I love maps, in real life and as a reader. I've never made one as a writer before. I could have put one in VOICE OF CROW, but I didn't want to lock myself into hard-and-fast distances and topographical features that were irrelevant to the earlier books, in case I needed to use them in the last book. For instance, the village of Tiros is mentioned in Books 1&2 but never depicted until Book 3, so I wanted to leave my options open as to its exact location and geography.

Is that cheating? I prefer to think of it as maintaining flexibility. ;-)

Robin D. Owens has made gorgeous maps for her worlds using Fractal Terrain software. I downloaded the demo, but the learning curve was too steep, considering I Need. Maps. Now.

drum roll.....PowerPoint to the rescue! The program's drawing tools were all I needed. It has a lot of AutoShapes that can be made to look like anything:

trees = forests
triangles = mountains
explosions = quarries
purple thought balloons = vineyards
sofas = garrisons

Well, from above, a sofa icon kinda looks like a garrison. Loveseats make great armory outposts.

So here's my unimpressive but highly useful impromptu map, courtesy of PowerPoint:

It's not on the key, but that little star thing is the site of Rhia's Bestowing in EYES OF CROW.

I think it needs more loveseats, don't you?

Writers, do you make maps to help you write, whether or not they'll ever appear in your book? Readers, do you like to have maps to refer to when you read a novel?

UPDATE: I just realized that I need to add another bridge, on the road between Velekos and Asermos. Which works perfectly with the story, actually.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

My first guest-blog

I'm going on a bit of a blog tour, lasting the next few weeks. Today I start at Dionne Galace's awesome blog, It's Not Chick Porn. I'll be talking about animal magic and revealing a secret that very few of you know about me.

Also, I'm giving away an autographed set of the Aspect of Crow series, to be drawn from the commenters, so stop by and say hi!

Next week it's Magical Musings, then Maria V. Snyder's blog, then my publisher's blog, and then...then my fingers fall off.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

First peek at Wicked Game

Behold! The top third of the front cover of my upcoming vampire novel (they're still working on the title font, so this was all I could show). I've also posted the first chapter for your Friday reading pleasure.

No, Ciara doesn't have a tattoo in the book (due to her low pain threshold), and her hair is a bit longer and blonder, but there's no doubt in my mind: This. Is. Ciara. It's got her attitude.

I'm actually glad the hair is shorter than it's supposed to be, because this woman has a beautiful neck. Some would say it's quite biteable. Not Ciara, though (see ref to low pain threshold above).

When I first saw this cover back in July, I decided to redesign the entire radio station to match the one pictured. This was how it was supposed to look--moody and ramshackle, not sterile and utilitarian like I'd always imagined it.

So I played "Extreme Makeover"--I shrunk the building, made it claustrophobic and rickety, with strange items like deer heads and life-size cutouts of--well, just read the excerpt.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 books

An article in USA Today states that out of over 1,000 books about 9/11, only about 30 of them are novels, of which "none has seized the public imagination."*

I wonder why that is? I don't think it's unique to 9/11 itself. Certain things are just so horrible that they require no imagination whatsoever. There are several classic nonfiction books about environmental problems: An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring, but how many environmental novels even get published, much less widely read?

Not the two I wrote, that's for sure. To get my tree-hugging butt published I had to cloak my green ideas in fantasy and romance and hope nobody noticed. (Shhh....don't tell anyone.)

So, read any good 9/11 books lately?

*I'd really like to read Don DeLillo's Falling Man, but only because I love Don DeLillo, not because I want to read about 9/11.

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L'Engle justifies my revision madness

As with all my books, Starfish was more rewritten than written, and with each subsequent book the need to rewrite becomes more rather than less. As the writer struggles to grow in knowledge of techniques, characterization, theme, more and more work becomes necessary.
--Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

Thank you! I thought I was just growing more and more incompetent with each book. The final version of Voice of Crow was 25% brand-new material; the final version of Wicked Game, 35%.

I'm already tearing apart The Reawakened, and anticipate much more bulldozing to come both before and after I turn it in to my editor. I doubt even half of what's currently written will remain standing at publication.

Make that a quarter, or a fifth.

Hmm, I could go for a fifth of something right now, just thinking about it...

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Monday, September 10, 2007

A Spicoli moment

What Jefferson was saying was, Hey! You know, we left this England place 'cause it was bogus; so if we don't get some cool rules ourselves - pronto - we'll just be bogus too! Get it?
--Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

I am, at this moment, learning about Cuba, and having some food.

Awesome. Totally awesome.

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Beauty walked among us

The artist, if he is not to forget how to listen, must retain the vision which includes angels and dragons and unicorns and all the lovely creatures which our world would put in a box marked Children Only.
--Madeleine L'Engle, from Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

In my life I've only burst into tears upon hearing the deaths of three celebrities. The first was Senator Paul Wellstone, the second was Barbaro.

The third was one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle, who died Thursday of natural causes at the age of 88. She was best known for her Time Quartet, which began with the classic A Wrinkle in Time.

Unlike most sf/fantasy writers, I didn't grow up reading the genre. We were assigned A Wrinkle in Time in my gifted kiddie class in third or fourth grade; I couldn't finish it. I wanted to read about dogs and horses (and not talking dogs and horses--puh-lease) and little houses on the prairie.

Then a few winters ago, I read The Time Quartet in less than a week (my favorite, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, in one evening). Until Harry Potter, it was the only series I've ever read in its entirety. It was every bit as profound and passionate as it was famed to be.

But what brought me closest to the real beauty of L'Engle were her essays on writing and living: Walking on Water, Glimpses of Grace, Herself. She saw the act of artistic creation as sacred. She taught me to honor this thing we do, turning little black marks on paper into worlds and people that could change lives or give comfort or bring humanity a wee bit closer to a deeper understanding.

Enough of my words, which can't come close to honoring such a great mind and warm spirit. Maybe I'll make this a "Madeleine's Greatest Hits" week and pull out some of my favorite quotes on writing from her books. But I'll end with this today, again from the final chapter of Walking on Water:

Art is an affirmation of life, a rebuttal of death.

And here we blunder into paradox again, for during the creation of any form of art, art which affirms the value and the holiness of life, the artist must die.

To serve a work of art, great or small, is to die, to die to self. If an artist is to be able to listen to the work, he must get out of the way...And if we die willingly, no matter how frightened we may be, we will be found and born anew into life, and life more abundant...

I am mortal, flawed, trapped in my own skin, my own barely used brain. I do not understand this death, but I am learning to trust it.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Writing Quote of the Week

People are still asking me about the death of the book, and yet here I am and every day I go out to the biggest bookstores that have ever existed and are doing the most business daily of any bookstores in history.

It's the oldest and the first mass medium. And it's the one that requires the most training to access. Novels, particularly, require serious cultural training. But it's still the same thing --
I make black marks on a white surface and someone else in another location looks at them and interprets them and sees a spaceship or whatever. It's magic. It's a magical thing. It's very old magic, but it's very thorough. The book is very well worked out, somewhat in the way that the wheel is very well worked out.

--Author William Gibson, "Through the Looking Glass," Washington Post, Sept. 6

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gimme an E!

Got confirmation yesterday that both Eyes of Crow and Voice of Crow will be available as e-books starting October 1. And I noticed on Simon & Schuster's website yesterday that Wicked Game will also come out in electronic formats coinciding with the print publication.

Since a number of my readers first started out with me with Requiem for the Devil, this is great news. It also means that all of my books will now truly be available around the world.

Wait! I think this calls for tacky WordArt......

Another bit of news, garnered from the S&S site: the second vampire book, with the scintillating name of Untitled Sequel, will be published June 1, 2009. So plan your 2009 beach reading now! Mmm, can't you just smell the sand and the suntan lotion as they create a sticky smear across page 321 of Untitled Sequel?

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Insert incoherent noise here

I've been flying along on The Reawakened for six weeks now (and three weeks in March) without outlining, just having fun with the book, getting words down, feeling pretty good. Basically the opposite of the approach I took to Voice of Crow, because I spent most of the first draft of that book feeling scared and cramped and pretty much hating it.

Last night I realized I have about two and a half weeks before I want to have the first draft of The Reawakened finished. So I figured I should probably list the scenes I have and the scenes I have left to write (as much as I can).

I have just reached the 100K-word-mark on The Reawakened, and I'm not even halfway finished the story.


It gets better.

I'm not even sure what the second half of the story entails, except three events at the very end and a lot of vague guerrilla war stuff before that. (I am counting on Mao Tse-tung to drag my ass out of the fire on that one.)

I don't worry that the book will be too long, because I know that at least 30% of those words are crap, just filler, some ambling conversations that consist of the characters taking my place to think out loud about the plot. Many of the words are just parenthetical musings about the worldbuilding or plot that I decided to count anyway, because I wanted to always be pushing forward, forward.

I don't regret using this method for this novel. In writing The Reawakened in such a haphazard fashion, I've stumbled upon many surprises and discoveries about the world and characters and plot. If I'd done a scene-by-scene outline ahead of time I never would have had so many serendipities.

But it's a mess. A magnificently ambitious mess that may someday turn into a halfway decent novel, but not yet. Not even close.

I just read a post over at Kate Elliott's blog about writerly insecurities that made me feel better, though. It's nice to know that so many authors I admire have the same fears and inner monologue/dialogue as I do. Right now I love every single one of them, even those I'm not sure who they are because it's LiveJournal and everyone has these cute but cryptic usernames that totally disguise their identities.

So I'm not crazy--and more importantly, I'm NOT ALONE.

If any writers are reading this, how do you deal with these moments of panic/insecurity? If it involves a one-way ticket to Fiji, can I come with you?

A-Z Update: momentarily suspended due to the demise of Natalie T. Steppenwolf's motherboard.

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This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**


Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or



"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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Photo © Geoffrey C. Baker

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