Monday, June 30, 2008

Monroe's story is live!

In the nick of time (it's still June, barely), I've posted the short story "Crossroads" by Monroe Jefferson.

This is the "true" tale of how vampire DJ Monroe was turned, back in July 1940, at a Mississippi crossroads. It's slightly different than the story he told in Wicked Game. That version was just to impress the crowd at the Smoking Pig, but this here is the real deal.

It even has a playlist at the bottom if you want to listen to the music while you read. (Personally I think it has more impact if heard afterward, but hey, it's a free country).

To celebrate, I'll give away a brand-new copy of the first CD that turned me on to the blues, Alvin Youngblood Hart's Big Mama's Door. To enter, just send me an e-mail telling me what you think of the story, or post a comment here. I'll draw one name at random a week from now, at 11:59pm eastern time, Monday, July 7.

But wait, there's more! Beginning with Spencer's story in August, my newsletter subscribers will get to read the stories a week before the rest of the world. So subscribe now (or stay subscribed) and get in on all the vampire action early.


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Join me on the Desert Island

I'm the leadoff guest author over at the hottest new blog for readers, Desert Island Keepers. I'm giving away a signed copy of Wicked Game (or another book if you already have that one) to one person who leaves a comment on either today's or tomorrow's post.

Today I'm introducing myself by running the gauntlet of "About Me" questions the DIK ladies (hee) all succumb to. Find out my favorite love (and sex) songs, which hero I would be (hint: he has a butler and a lot of cool toys), and which series I would live in (other than the fantasy that is my real life).

Monroe's story will be up later today/tonight. I'll post when it goes live!

Now playing: Junior Wells - Blues Hit Big Time (alternate take)
via FoxyTunes

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Interview and giveaway on Amberkatze

Thanks to everyone who stopped by last night to chat with me on Jacquelyn Frank's Marathon Chat, and congrats to those who won books, WVMP swag, and the marvelous raffle bags Jacki was giving away. It was great to meet and hang out with some new readers.

There's an interview with me up at Amberkatze's Book Blog. You can enter to win a signed copy of Wicked Game. Enter once by leaving a comment or question, enter twice by blogging about the interview somewhere else, and enter thrice by joining Amber's newsletter. Triple the contest-entering fun! Entries will be taken until next Sunday, July 6.

I'm also excited to announce that the short story about vampire DJ Monroe Jefferson's 'turning' will definitely be up here at tomorrow. It's done, just needs a bit of polish and formatting for the web. I finished it off last night while watching the DVD of Eric Clapton's Crossroads benefit concert, which is four hours of phenomenal music. Almost makes me want to learn to play the guitar. Almost.

Now playing: Eric Clapton - Little Queen of Spades
via FoxyTunes

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Marathon Chat Saturday!

This just in! I've just confirmed that I'll be taking part in author Jacquelyn Frank's Marathon Chat tomorrow (Saturday) and giving away a signed copy of Wicked Game to one lucky participant.

Here's the schedule:

10:00am – 11:00am: Patrice Michelle

11:00am - 12:00 noon: Alexandra Ivy

12:00pm - 1:00pm: Gena Showalter

1:00pm - 2:00pm: JJ Massa

2:00pm - 3:00pm Lauren Dane

3:00pm - 4:00pm HelenKay Dimon

4:00pm - 5:00pm Lara Adrian

5:00pm - 6:00pm: Cynthia Eden

6:00pm - 7:00pm: Me

7:00pm - 8:00pm: Meljean Brook

8:00pm - 9:00pm: Shelly Laurenston

9:00pm - 10:00pm: Yasmine Galenorn

To participate, go to Jacquelyn's forum page and click the link that says "Visit the Chat Room." It's very small, right under the header, on the left side.

Each author will be giving away signed copies of their latest releases, so stop by, hang out, and win stuff!

Now playing: Geechie Wiley - Last Kind Word Blues
via FoxyTunes

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New review site, Ciara's fear-ah, and a trip to the vet

Time for a few sundry items.

Bitten by Books reviewed Wicked Game yesterday. I post a link not only so you can read the review (Five Headstones!), because I don't blog about every review (seems a bit brag-alicious, and besides, if you're reading my blog regularly you've probably already decided whether or not to buy Wicked Game), but also to introduce you to this fabulous new site. Rachel Smith has put together a great design and a very active community, so if you like paranormal fiction, it's the new place to be!

Ciara has blogged again, this time about her fear of being interviewed by Dante from A Rush of Wings. It'll happen soon, whether she likes it or not. I mean, I give her free room and board--the least she can do is field a few interviews for me.

Misha was walking wobbly this morning, with his back legs giving out on him, so I rushed him to the vet, fearing a thrombosis (blood clot). Of course, once we got there, he steadily improved and now seems a lot better. (Probably regretting getting into the Jim Beam.) The vet said to keep an eye on him all weekend to make sure he doesn't get worse. He's a very athletic cat, so it's sad to see him sort of feeble.

Speaking of beasts, Baron went into a foster-to-adopt home, so we're not sure which foster dog we're getting and when. I'll be sure to update you and post pictures when I find out.

Still working on Monroe's story and planning to have it up on this site Monday. Will post when live! Have great weekends.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest blog/giveaway at the Maverick Authors

The Blog Whore Tour is back on the virtual road! Today I'm blogging over at the Maverick Authors about the Top Ten Signs You're on Deadline.

Everyone who comments gets put into a drawing for a signed copy of Wicked Game, so tally ho! You have until 3PM eastern time Sunday to enter.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

SBD winner and bits of geekery

The winner of the signed Sarah Beth Durst hardcover giveaway is...Jess! Congrats! Jess, just send your mailing address and your choice of book (Into the Wild or the sequel Out of the Wild) to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, and I'll pass it on to our lovely guest.

Our next guest interview/giveaway will be Stephanie Kuehnert, author of the phenomenal debut I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. She'll be joining us on July 7, the day before the novel is officially released.

And now, the geekery:

The first comes from my friend Jason, who introduced me to a comic called Sheldon, by Dave Kellett. In this series of strips (start there and read through the following Saturday), the characters prepare to reenact the pivotal battle in Return of the King, then decide they need to understand the backstory and motivation of the mindless evil creatures they portray.

The next two are courtesy of my husband Chris. First, the Kennedy Space Center built out of 750,000 Legos. The launch pad alone is mind-boggling.

Say what you will about the reliability of Amazon customer reviews, but they are the source of some of the most brilliant satire on the internet. I've devoted more than an hour to reading riffs on Cthulu and existentialism in Family Circus collections (sadly, Amazon tends to remove these "inauthentic" reviews and leave only the fawning, misspelled ramblings of true Bil Keane fans. A conspiracy? You decide.).

Anyway, Denon is offering an Ethernet cable for $499.99 (regular price $500.99--your savings: a dollar!), about one hundred times the going rate. Reviewers have responded, not only with reviews, but with tags. A brief sample:

If I could use a rusty boxcutter to carve a new orifice in my body that's compatible with this link cable, I would already be doing it. I can just imagine the pure musical goodness that would flow through this cable into the wound and fill me completely -- like white, holy light. Holding this cable in my hands actually makes me feel that much closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. I only make $6.25/hr at Jack In The Box, but I saved up for three months so I could have this cable. It sits in a shrine I constructed next to my futon in Mother's basement.
After I took delivery of my $500 Denon AKDL1 Cat-5 uber-cable, Al Gore was mysteriously drawn to my home, where he pronounced that Global Warming had been suspended in my vicinity...Didn't notice any improvement in audio quality though. The $800 Apple iCable is clearly superior.
The first time I downloaded a picture to the printer over this cable, the bits moved so fast the printer collapsed into a naked singularity, right there in my office. Since then, I can't find the cat, and my entire set of VAX/VMS 4.7 documentation (DEC Will Rise Again!) (Mmmmm, orangey!) has gone missing.
I accidentally dropped one end of my Denon cable into a glass of Tuscan whole milk I was drinking. Later when I finished my milk (yeah, I still drank it; should I not have done that?), my right arm (lost in an accident in 1987) spontaneously grew back.


Now playing: Dropkick Murphys - I'm Shipping Up to Boston
via FoxyTunes

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Not-So-Lazy Sunday

Yesterday's event at Constellation Books went amazingly well. I'm always astonished when people I don't know show up at these things. Some of them had read the article in the Westminster Eagle and discovered the book takes place in a fictional version of our little town.

The store sold out of copies of Wicked Game and Eyes of Crow, so I had to send my Knight in Polo Shirt home to fetch some more books, which the store bought from me on commission and then resold to the folks who wanted one.

Bizarre coincidence: the owner of Constellation Books, Lauretta, used to work with my husband at the Space Telescope Science Institute. As my friend Jason says, "Maryland: Two Degrees of Separation."

Anyway, it's a fantastic store, and I'm definitely going back next year for Bad to the Bone. I'll post pictures as soon as I get them from our friends (I remembered my camera but forgot the batteries were dead).

Note to Maryland vampire fans: Constellation Books is having a Breaking Dawn party to celebrate the release of Stephenie Meyer's next novel. So pre-order your copy today!

In other news, I discovered we aren't actually supposed to pick up Baron until next Saturday. It was right there in the e-mail from the shelter, but I missed it, just assuming that the first day I could take the dog (today) would be the day he would come, so I only looked at the time and place, not the date. Oops.

So today I'm going to:

a) work on Monroe's story (the first line of which I wrote yesterday)
b) dive into my e-mail inbox and try not to drown
c) start a new online class that will help me rewrite Bad to the Bone and write the proposal for my new Young Adult series

I'm still working on the slowing-down-for-the-summer thing.

***Don't forget, you have until 5PM Monday to enter to win a signed copy of Sarah Beth Durst's Into the Wild or Out of the Wild.***

Now playing: Muddy Waters - I Want to be Loved
via FoxyTunes

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst, author of INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD

Last year I wrote about the debut novel of an author I first met at World Fantasy Con 2006 in Austin--Sarah Beth Durst! That novel was Into the Wild, the adventures of Julie, Rapunzel's daughter (yes, that Rapunzel) as she tries to save the world (not to mention her mom) from the Wild, the powerful (and leafy) force that wants to trap everyone into being a character in an endlessly retold fairy tale.

Into the Wild has been nominated for the Andre Norton award (which is basically the Nebula Award for young adult and children's literature), the E.B. White Award and the Cybils Science Fiction and Fantasy Award.

Today marks the release of the sequel, Out of the Wild. I was lucky enough (*brag, brag*) to get an ARC of this fantasy adventure novel when I saw Sarah at New York Comic Con.

There are a few books in my life that stick out in my mind as being "wonderful" in the most basic sense of the word--filling me with wonder. This phenomenon manifests as me lying there, slack-jawed and wide-eyed (not a flattering photo op), transfixed not just with curiosity over what will happen next, but with the certainty that anything could happen.

On that short list I'd put Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, and now...Out of the Wild. It reminded me why I love fantasy--its ability to transport me to a new world and shed light on our own.

Plus, it's hilarious. Julie's cross-country journey with her dad Prince (a fairy tale prince, not the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince) takes us to Graceland, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyland, among other destinations. The mastermind behind the Wild's new growth spurt chooses these iconic locations to enact "fairy tale moments." I thought this was brilliant, since these are places around which we as a society have built up so many myths and fantasies.

Edited to Add: D'oh! I forgot to mention my favorite thing about Sarah's website: her Obscure Fairy Tales page, where she tells old tales, interspliced with a very funny running commentary (think Mystery Science Theater for fairy tales).

Sarah has generously offered to give away a signed copy of (winner's choice) a hardcover edition of Into the Wild or Out of the Wild to one lucky commenter. So read on, and good luck!

Q: INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD are partially set in your hometown (Northboro, MA). What's been the reaction of your former neighbors? Do you ever get letters from its residents saying how cool it is to be living in the "The Fairy-Tale Capital of the World" (and yes, there need to be real T-shirts that say that)?

Sarah: One of the kids from Northboro said to me, "Thank you for making something cool happen in Northboro." How awesome is that to hear? I know what the kid meant, though. Growing up, I always wanted something magical to happen to me (a dragon in the school cafeteria, elves in my basement, unicorns in the woods...), so setting Into the Wild and Out of the Wild in my hometown was pure wish fulfillment.

The reception from my hometown has been wonderful. Last fall, I visited every elementary school in the town, spent three days at the middle school, and a day at the high school. It was so cool talking with kids that know Rapunzel's Hair Salon is really Innovations downtown and that there really is a giant rooster sculpture outside the old Agway store.

While your books are written for middle-grade readers (ages 9-11), their themes resonate with adults, as do the characters of all ages (and most important, the sheer fun of it all). Did you always plan to write fiction for younger readers?

Whenever people ask me "What age are your books for?", I always want to say, "Well, I wrote them for me and I'm 34..." Seriously, I don't write with a particular age range in mind. In my mind, the only thing that makes these books "middle grade" or "lower YA" is that Julie, the protagonist, is 12-years-old. To be perfectly honest, the age label drives me a bit nuts. I think a far more relevant measure of whether you'd like the book is not your age but whether you like fairy tales.

I didn't always plan to write for younger readers, but I also didn't plan not to, if that makes sense. My main goal was to write the kind of books that I love to read: books where something magical happens, books where ordinary people triumph over incredible odds, books that make you smile as you read them.

Julie is an incredibly resourceful and intelligent heroine. Were there ever times while you were writing the books when you felt like she knew more than you?

Julie (Rapunzel's daughter) is way braver than I am. And more sensible. If I'd gone into the Wild, I would have been so excited to be in a magical world that I would've been eaten by a wolf in minutes.

You're familiar with a lot of fascinating, obscure fairy tales. Which is your favorite and why?

I read a TON of fairy tales while I wrote these books. Some of them were really obscure and really random. If I had to choose a favorite... I'm pretty fond of Tatterhood because she's a princess, she's ugly, and she kicks butt. And she's nice to her sister even though her sister has a cow's head.

Looking back on the year since the release of INTO THE WILD, what was the most surprising experience of being a debut author?

I think I was most surprised by all the little moments that come after the "someone wants to publish your book" call. Before I got the Call, I saw publication as one single large moment where someone taps you on the shoulders with an enchanted sword and says, "Now thou art published." Really, though, it's lots of little steps: seeing your words typeset for the first time, receiving your first reader email, signing your first book. It's been very cool.

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

Gut instinct says Julie (my protagonist, Rapunzel's 12-year-old daughter) because she's the one who gets to fly on a flying bathmat, climb a beanstalk out of the Grand Canyon, and dance with a prince at a ball. But she also has to attend middle school, which I wouldn't ever want to relive. So maybe I should pick her mother Rapunzel because she's smart and brave. But she also had to live without her husband for five hundred years. My husband says I should pick the Wild because it's all-powerful. But it's also kind of the enemy... Really, I think I'd rather just stay me.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world?

Gothel, Julie's grandmother. She used to be the wicked witch before she and the other fairy-tale characters escaped their fairy tales. Now she owns the Wishing Well Motel and tries to be not-quite-so-wicked (though she has occasional lapses -- there are an abnormal number of toads around her motel). I think it would be rather awesome to have a reformed wicked witch hanging around...

Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?

I'd like to be Beauty from Robin McKinley's BEAUTY (a retelling of Beauty and the Beast). I covet her library, which contains all the books ever written and all the books that ever will be written. As for which character to bring to life... I think the world could use a unicorn or two, or perhaps a few telepathic dragons (just friendly ones).

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

Before I wrote Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, I read a TON of fairy tales, including some really odd and obscure ones. The oddest bit that I found and used was this curse: "You shall become a black poodle and have a gold collar around your neck and shall eat burning coals 'til the flames burst forth from your throat!" Another odd tidbit that I used was the fact that Elvis's bathroom still contains the toiletries he used on the day he died in 1977.

What's your earliest memory?

I don't remember. Sorry, sorry, couldn't resist. Seriously, my earliest memories are all such a jumble that I can't pin dates on them. I remember that my preschool had a pet boa constrictor. My husband tells me this is an odd pet for a preschool, but since he spent vacations at his grandparents' retirement home in Florida which had alligators living next to the sidewalks -- six-foot alligators at a place filled with elderly people and their visiting grandchildren -- I really don't think he's one to talk.

I can tell you about my first real writing memory, the first time I ever experienced writing something that impacted another person. While I was in elementary school, my mom's friend Mrs. Casagrande lost her mother. Losing one's mother was (and is) such an incomprehensible loss that I gave Mrs. Casagrande the most personal thing I could think of: a collection of poems that I wrote. They weren't about her or her mother (whom I'd never met), but they were something that I created myself. I'd never showed them to anyone before. I just remember wanting to do something... to reach out in some way... and I think she understood. As a thank you, she gave me a blank journal, the very first blank journal that I ever owned, to write my poems in. I think that was one of the key moments that led to me wanting to be a writer, one of those pivotal moments that shape who you are and who you will become, even if you don't know it at the time. I still have that poetry journal.

Do you have any phobias?

I have a fear of skunks. I will flee them with the same gusto as I'd flee a rabid bear. I think my phobia may date back to kindergarten. We had a family of skunks living in our basement, and my teacher used to have to leave my coat outside the classroom because it was too fragrant to have inside. Really, I regard it as nothing short of miraculous that I wasn't called Stinky Sarah for my entire childhood.

My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?

"He did real good." That one is so annoying that it's become a running joke in our household. Sadly, we've used the phrase jokingly so often that it's started to almost sound normal to me. I know I'm going to accidentally use it in public some day. Oh, well.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. It was a short-lived Cartoon Network show that was essentially Buffy the Vampire Slayer minus the whining. It was awesome.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Wow, such a day is inconceivable to me right now. I swear that I have never been as busy as I am now. Granted, it's all by choice, so I shouldn't complain. If I had a free day... I'd write, read, eat a lot of chocolate and pizza (not simultaneously), and maybe take a walk down the street. I know, I know, grand ideas, but it sounds heavenly to me.

If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?

What's your story? (And I don't mean that in a punny way. What I mean is: how did you get to be who you are and where you are and what you are? I actually want to ask this of pretty much everyone I meet. Whenever I see someone interesting walk by, I always think it's such a shame that it's socially unacceptable to walk up to someone and say, "Tell me your life story, please.")

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

I'm really a one-genre kind of girl. I love fantasy. It's what I love to read, and it's what I love to write. I believe that there is no novel that cannot be improved by the addition of a talking cat. I do understand that realistic fiction plays an important role in literature, but between you and me, I always feel a little disappointed when I reach the end of a story and no one has developed magical powers or vanquished a demon or flown on a dragon. I would be happy to write for any age range (adult, YA, MG) so long as it involved some fantasy elements.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about INTO/OUT OF THE WILD (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

You won't ever look at fairy tales the same way again.

* * *

Give Sarah a comment or a question, or tell us which is your favorite fairy tale, down there in the comments before 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 23. I'll draw a name and announce the winner Tuesday morning. Due to the cost of postage, only entries from the US will be eligible.

If you don't have a Blogger account, just sign in as anonymous and leave your name at the bottom of your comment so I can call your name.

***I recommend against putting your e-mail in the comments, since that brings on spam (not from me, from the Bad Guys). HOWEVER, if you don't leave a way for me to find you, you must stay subscribed to the comments or come back to the blog to see if you won.***

Good luck!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tea with Me

Saturday I'll be at one of the local indie bookstores, Constellation Books, for a Tea with the Author event from 3-5 PM. I'll do a reading and basically hang out and chat and eat cookies.

Constellation is located at 303 Main Street in Reisterstown, MD. Hope to see you there!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another foster dog update

Well, it turns out Beanie isn't too fond of other dogs, so instead we'll be getting Baron on Sunday. Poor dude is being treated for heartworms, so he'll need to be kept quiet for a couple more weeks. But look at him! Gorgeous!

I must admit to loving big male dogs like Baron (assuming they're nice like this one supposedly is). They make this li'l girl feel safe.

Monday, June 16, 2008

DONE! - and Happy Meadow Day

I finished Bad to the Bone! I "completed" a first draft at the end of February, but missed that feeling of elation because I never wrote the final scene. I just sort of...stopped.

But tonight, it's done! Tomorrow it'll go off to my editor and hopefully won't make her weep in despair. It's got at least one too many plot lines, but some space and feedback will help me figure out which ones stay and which ones go.

I'm taking Tuesday off, my first deliberate vacation day since December 2. Not that I'm complaining. Busy = employed. But too much of a good thing is....

OK, enough words! Say Happy Eighth Birthday to Meadow Sophia Ready, pictured here under one of our white pines (or, as Meadow thinks of them, The Tickle Trees):

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Foster dog update

Still untangling the end of Bad to the Bone (important lesson: sometimes when a scene doesn't want to be written, it means it wasn't meant to exist), so I've only got time for a quick Furface post.

Turns out, Annie got adopted (yay!), so we'll just be fostering her sister Beanie, beginning next week (Wednesday, I think).

Must. Hug. Now.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

In other news...

A few updates:

After nearly a year of crushing deadlines (me), a pinched nerve (Meadow), and madcap traveling (me), we're getting another foster dog next week! Her name is Annie (web page TBA), and if things go well, she'll be joined shortly by her "sister" Beanie. Yes, we are making up for lost time.

I have a deadline next Monday morning for Bad to the Bone, the sequel to Wicked Game. I'm putting in all-dayers between now and then, so this might be my last blog post for a week, though I do have half of one I might be able to post tomorrow if I get a few minutes tonight. Also, don't get mad if I don't return e-mails right away. Do you want another vampire book or not? (Don't answer that.)

Also, the winner of a signed copy of Nancy Haddock's La Vida Vampire is...Diana Cosby! Yay! Diana, just send your mailing address to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, and I'll pass it on to Nancy. Thanks to everyone who commented and made Nancy feel at home, and also thanks for all those great ideas for vampire hobbies (taking notes).

And now my last bit of news, which was originally going to be Friday's update....

Wicked Game was #4 on Mysterious Galaxy's paperback bestseller list for the month of May!

Thanks a million to all of you who pre-ordered the book to have me sign, or came to the Birthday Bash on May 10, or who have ordered it since. I appreciate the support for the book, but even more I appreciate your support for this phenomenal independent bookseller. These people work very hard (and have a lot of fun) promoting the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. They know their stuff and deserve all the success they get.

They should still have some signed First Editions of Wicked Game at the store, so if you'd like one (or more), go order today!

Now playing: Fast As You Can - FIONA APPLE
via FoxyTunes

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Best. News. Ever.

Wednesday afternoon I got two bits of great news, which I was going to mention today and Monday (when I'm on deadline, I like to dole out the blog topics one at a time, purposely stringing them out so I don't have a huge gap of silence, during which people wonder if I've died).

But Thursday night my editor gave me the two words an author loves to hear most:



In that order.

So the other news will have to wait until Monday and Tuesday.

Less than a month after its release (23 days, to be exact), Wicked Game has gone back for a second printing. I'm told this is pretty fast.

What does it mean? First of all, it doesn't mean every copy has been sold. That would suck, because then people who want it couldn't buy it, and then people who have bought it would be knifed and punched in the street for their copies, and the last thing I want is for violence to break out because of Wicked Game.

(Okay, maybe it's not the last thing I want. I've got a wee bit of rock 'n' roll ego, after all.)

Anyway, there are still plenty of copies* in stores and in warehouses, but not enough to meet future demand. There are a few possible reasons behind this situation:

1) booksellers have put in new orders, more than originally expected
2) several thousand copies were eaten by termites
3) or fell off the back of a truck in North Jersey
4) or fell off the back of a truck in North Jersey and then eaten by termites

The publishing industry is shrouded in mystery, so really, it could be any of these. (We can probably rule out #4, unless we're talking about the heavily wooded extreme North Jersey, but things are less likely to fall off trucks up there.)

So to avoid the aforementioned shortage and mass muggings, Pocket has decided to print some more copies. Hopefully this will happen again and again and again.

To a publisher, the success of a book isn't so much about raw numbers of copies sold as it is about expectations. They're much happier with a book that sells 12K out of a 15K print run than one that sells 20K out of a 40K print run. I know, it seems weird at first, but when you think in terms of net versus gross revenue and getting a return on investment, it makes sense. (If this is confusing, let me know and I'll do a separate post. This one is getting long and way too self-congratulatory.)

See you Monday for Second Best. News. Ever. (Yes, I'm evil, and I'm okay with that.)

*of what is now officially the First Edition--get yours today before they're gone! I hear it's a bad year for termites.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Interview with Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series

My guest today is Simon Haynes, the British/Australian author of the bestselling, award-winning Hal Spacejock series, featuring an over-confident but woefully under-skilled freighter pilot and his wise but obsolete robot, Clunk.

Check out the end of the interview for an exciting announcement that means a free book for YOU! But read the interview first to find out why that's a good thing.

If you enjoy TV shows like the Young Ones, Blackadder, Red Dwarf and Dr Who, or books by Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt or Jasper Fforde, then the Hal Spacejock series was written for you.

If you’ve never heard of the Hal Spacejock series … surprise! It’s only available in Australia.

However, to coincide with the launch of Hal Spacejock 4: No Free Lunch, the full text of Hal Spacejock Book One has been made available as a free download. To grab a copy in text, rtf or html format, visit (Yes, you’re welcome to share the download link. Encouraged to, as a matter of fact.)

Simon, what was your inspiration for writing Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch?

My publisher phoned me and said 'can we have another one?', and I find that sort of thing very motivating. Fortunately, I'd already completed two drafts. Unfortunately, the book I handed in didn't result from either of them.

My other motivators are Hal and Clunk themselves. These characters are very dear to me, and I love putting them in life threatening situations, sending them broke, taking away everything they care about and generally giving them a really hard time.

Hey, I'm a parent. It's in my nature.

Who are your favourite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

When I was growing up I read all the usual suspects for a British kid in the 70’s: Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, Agatha Christie, Jerome K Jerome, Tolkien, Showell Styles, Frank Richards, Richmal Crompton, Michael Bond, WE Johns, Isaac Asimov, William F Temple ... and about a hundred others.

We moved to Spain in 1976 and English books were suddenly very hard to come by, so I read anything I could get my hands on. Westerns, thrillers, SF and so on. Mostly the sort of holiday books people abandon when they go home again.

Nowadays I enjoy humour, satire and SF, plus the occasional horror novel or murder mystery. I studied eng lit for my BA, which was enough to put me off the classics for many years, but I'm slowly coming round in my old(er) age.

What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

Every novel begins with a blank slate, and the possibilities are endless. Whether you’re reading the things or writing them, or both, it’s a journey into the unknown and the unexplored.

Also, speaking of my own stuff, I just love the idea of self-aware robots. Despite their supposed loyalty to humans, the robots in my books often have their own agendas and desires, and rather creative methods of getting what they want. If you’ve ever struggled with a wayward computer program you’ll know the feeling.

Why did you decide to make Hal a space courier?

I needed someone with a valid reason to travel the galaxy. Also, Hal's a careless type and there's a lot of humour to be found in his clumsy destruction of valuable cargo. His chosen occupation puts him in competition with customers, other pilots and all manner of officialdom, and we all know conflict drives novels.

It’s not just freight disasters giving Hal problems … there’s a spare cabin aboard his ship, which means I can throw in the occasional passenger. They’re inevitably bad news for Hal, and that’s fun to write.

A few people have asked whether I modeled Hal on Han Solo, from the Star Wars series, and the answer is no. Hal Spacejock is a terrible pilot, is law-abiding and is fearfully over-confident while being woefully under-skilled. I’m not even a big SW fan, have never read any of the books associated with the series, and am still trying to expunge Episode I from my memory. Anyway, my influences are mostly British and Australian.

As for Hal’s name … I began writing book one in 1994, and when I reached for “brash, over-confident, loud, unintentionally funny, unaware of his failings, secretly insecure”, the name ‘Hal Spacejock’ instantly popped into my head. Anyone proudly calling themselves ‘Spacejock’ has a lot of complex issues for me to uncover.

What do you do for fun?

I love DVDs, particularly watching them on my laptop with headphones. It’s more personal and involving than watching on a big screen. I rarely watch live TV, thanks to the ads, watermarks and scrolly banner things, so boxed sets are a great escape.

Apart from my DVD-watching hobby I also count golf and archery amongst my favourite activities. In truth, it's four or five years since I swung a golf club in anger, but I just rekindled my interest in archery and am looking forward to nailing a few targets.

Finally, I write a lot of software, particularly for readers and writers. I make it all available free via the website.

What sort of research did you do to write this book? What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

I don't do any research. I just outline the thing to death, send a two-page doc to my editor and await her go-ahead. The writing always diverges from the plot outline, but I rarely force it back again. An outline is just a map, and writing the novel is the journey.

Preparation … I stock up on coffee, chocolate, biscuits and spare batteries for the exercise bike. (I built a shelf on the handlebars for my laptop, and only allow myself to watch DVDs when I’m peddling.)

Hal Spacejock loves his food, and particularly coffee. Is that your favourite too?

Yep – instant coffee by the bucket. These days I limit myself to three cups a day, but I try and get them all in before 10am. Then I switch to t-tea and t-try not to l-let the j-jitters get to m-me.

I rarely eat out, and can’t be bothered with fancy restaurants. Give me Thai or Indian and I’m happy.

I enjoy cooking, and have a page on my website with my favourite recipes. Nothing flash – I like healthy, filling food which tastes good. I’m not in bad shape for a writer – 1.92m and 90kg (6’3” and 200lb) – but I can see that balancing health, fitness and writing long-term is going to be a struggle. In case I’ve given you the impression I’m a health nut, I’ve not seen the inside of a gym since 1985. I just try to burn more calories than I consume.

You say Hal Spacejock is law-abiding, so how come he gets into so much trouble?

Because his author is a right bastard. If I wanted all-round nice guys and do-gooders in my books I’d go write picture books with an eye to the lucrative education market. As it is, my books are popping up in school libraries all over Australia, so I’ll accept some of the blame for the parlous state of modern youth.

The thing is, I’m a firm believer in actions and consequences. If Hal is forced to ‘borrow’ a truck in one chapter, you can bet your booties he’ll regret it later. There is NO easy way out for any of my characters, EVER. Just like real life.

What are you writing now?

I’ve just dashed off yet another plot outline for Hal Spacejock 5. Every time I come up with a new plot I know THIS is the one… until I come up with the next one. I like the other plots, but they can always form the basis of book 6, or 7, or 14 …

Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

I majored in Creative Writing at university, but despite that handicap I still maintained an interest in fiction. The problem at uni was that there were so many Serious Writers pouring their hearts and souls into passages of deep, moving prose. Handing out copies of my work for class discussion was like chucking hand grenades into a chook pen.

As for where I am now, that’s a long story. (The grotty details are on the Spacejock website, but in brief I self-published three books using my own imprint, and was literally plucked from the shelves of a local bookstore by a proper, real, honest-to-goodness publisher. The old ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ .. and it worked!)

What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

I see the kids off to school, mess around with email & internet until two hours before they’re due home again, then do two thousand words in a right old hurry.

Where do you write?

Propped up in bed. I kill the wireless network and get on with my daily word count, safely tucked away in a quiet corner of the house. It’s relaxing, and I enjoy the familiar surroundings. Also, nobody can sneak up behind me and read the early first draft rubbish over my shoulder – it’s strictly backs-to-the-wall stuff.

What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

Hardest? Hitting 3000 words with 92,000 to go. I have no idea where it’s going at that stage. How many months will it take me to finish? Will the deadlines trample my grave? Will I disappoint my fans?

Easiest? Hitting 3000 words with 92,000 to go. I have no idea where it’s going, and I love it! It’s going to be the best Hal book yet, I have months to work on it, and I gesture rudely at impudent deadlines.

This isn't your first book. Tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

This is the fourth book in the Hal Spacejock series, so there are three more of those for starters. In each title Hal finds new and exciting ways to destroy his business, his cargo and his reputation. Funny, too.

The books are available in stores across Australia and New Zealand, so those living elsewhere have to make do with (expensive) imports. My publisher and my agent are on the lookout for overseas rights deals, but are facing two problems:

One, US publishers aren’t sure how the UK-style humour will translate to their market. (To which I say, bugger the translation. Just print the books as-is and trust your audience. I’ve tested the books on US bloggers and readers, and none have dismissed the weird limey humour as incomprehensible.)

Two, UK publishers regard Australia as their home turf. When they publish a book in Britain, up to a third of the print run sells to Australia, so books which are already published here are far less attractive than home-grown ones.

On top of that, several US publishers indicated they’d be interested in the series if it did well in the UK first. To which I say Aaaaaarrggh! Sometimes I swear I’m living in a Monty Python sketch.

Anyway, I console myself with the thought that each Hal book, each positive review, each appearance in a bestseller list, and each additional printing of the books is jacking up the price these publishers are eventually going to pay. I’m in no hurry, but I’m not happy when I have to reply to emails from UK and US residents asking me why they can’t get Hal in their local store.

In light of this, my publisher recently agreed to release the first Hal Spacejock novel as a free ebook:

The press release with the reasoning behind the choice of a drm-free, publicly available ebook is here:

What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?

It exists to counteract the Serious Writers with their Ponderous Tomes of Gloom. Unfortunately, some writers have resorted to writing Serious SF in Ponderous Tones, just to get establishment approval (and arts grants, recognition, reviews in major media outlets, lucrative awards and other petty trappings of the literary world). SF writers who still remember to entertain first and pontificate second are my heroes. Motto: We don’t need no stinking arts grants .. we live or die on the sales of our books!

Ordering links for the Hal Spacejock books

The bad news is that Hal Spacejock is only widely available in Australia and New Zealand. You can order the books from Amazon and Powell’s, but they’re imports and the cost of postage is high.

Because of this, Fremantle Press has put together a bundle of all four Hal Spacejock novels including worldwide postage for just A$79.80* (That’s the same price Australians pay in bookstores.)

* Subject to change – follow the link for details.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Anyone get Realms of Fantasy?

There's a review of Wicked Game in the May issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine. I got an electronic copy of the review ("a fun, fast read" with "sexy, witty banter"), but I'd really like a hard copy or two.

So if you have a copy of the May issue, please contact me.

There might be something sweet in it for you. :-)

UPDATE: Duh, I just realized it's the August issue, not the May issue. I have one offer from a reader to mail a copy to me, and I can get further copies on the newsstand if they're not sold out by the time I drag my butt to B&N. So never mind! Thanks!

Now playing: Arco Arena - CAKE
via FoxyTunes

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

*dies happy*

Guess which book Charlaine Harris just mentioned in this week's Book & Blog post?

Just when I think the vampire genre must be exhausted, just when I think if I read another clone I’ll quit writing vampires myself, I read a book that refreshed my flagging interest. Jeri Smith-Ready’s WICKED GAME was consistently surprising and original.

For those of you outside the genre, Harris is the bestselling author of the wonderful Southern Vampire series (most recently From Dead to Worse), which is being turned into an HBO series called True Blood, written by Six Feet Under's Alan Ball and starring Anna Paquin, beginning this fall.

Needless to say, I'm weak-kneed with thrill-dom.

Don't forget, you have until Friday to comment on Nancy Haddock's interview and get a chance to win a signed copy of La Vida Vampire!

Back to work now...travels are over...time to hermit.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Hey Bo Diddley

The beat goes on.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Interview with Nancy Haddock, author of LA VIDA VAMPIRE

Our Mostly Debut Author interview series continues, which means, yay, more book giveaways! Today's stellar guest is Nancy Haddock, author of the Oldest City Vampire series, which takes place in America's Oldest City, St. Augustine, Florida, and features a unique vampire heroine who works as a ghost tour guide--and in her spare time, loves to surf. I'm really excited about this one, because as you can imagine, I like a fun twist on vampires.

Romance Junkies called La Vida Vampire, the first in the series, "An exceptionally innovative vampire romance filled with tons of fun." Check out an excerpt, and read on to learn more about Nancy and her new series.

Q: What's been the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a debut author?

Grins! The surprises were many, and they were all thrilling! Receiving such wonderful reviews -- including the 4.5 Star Top Pick from Romantic Times, and being featured in the RT Clubhouse -- was huge. Being in the top 20 for romance trade on the BGI, B&N and Brookscan lists was enormous. Being being on the B&N romance trade bestseller list for 7 weeks was, well, I'm running out of superlatives. So many moments have been surreal, but delightfully so. Of course, seeing the book on the shelf in my hometown B&N for the first time was one of those surreal moments. So much so that, in the pictures my hubby took, I look shell shocked. I've also been blessed to have authors like the fabulous Jeri Smith-Ready invite me to blog with them. Now that's a high!

Your Oldest City Vampire series contains ghosts as well. How do these undead (sorry, Cesca, I mean "un-alive") beings all get along?

Cesca says "underdead" is fine for her, and that she gets along quite well with the ghosts thank you. Fay is chronically cranky, and some of the ghosts are pranksters, but they're harmless to residents and tourists. That is, unless Haddock decides to stir them up.

Tell us about the moment when the idea for a surfing vampire hit you.

Exploring Cesca's character was like getting to know a new friend. She let me know that she loved the beach, and used to take off in her dad's rowboat to romp on Anastasia Island. When she insisted that she day-walked, she reminded me that she'd want to put in beach time. And
that, hey, if she was at the beach in the daylight she should learn to surf! So, credit for the idea goes to Cesca. I had to mull before I agreed.

You've adapted LA VIDA VAMPIRE into a screenplay. What were some of the challenges in this process? Which plot points or characters elements got left out? Added? Changed?

In the screenplay, I had to find ways to show crucial points of internalization with different action and dialogue, and to focus down to the essentials of the story. For instance, instead of Gorman confronting Saber and Cesca in Wal-Mart, Gorman confronts them outside the Spanish
restaurant. I love the way the scene works! I also axed certain characters, but that was in the first few drafts. After consulting with my daughter and collaborator, I'm rewriting the screenplay to bring some characters back.

Of course, should the book - or screenplay - be optioned, the project well may be turned over to a screenwriter with an industry track record. I can live with that!

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

Oooh, I’d be Millie! She has season tickets to the Jacksonville Jags games, has a new boyfriend in the sequel to La Vida Vampire, and is old enough to say what she wants and get away with it. I would, however, cut back on the amount of Shalimar she uses.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (maybe as a best friend or much, much more ;-) ?

I’d love to have Cesca for a best friend and surfing buddy. She’s my first pick. My second choice would be Triton. I could live with the shape-shifting!

Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?

I’d adore stepping into the lives of several women in Kelley Armstrong’s The Otherworld series! Paige, Jaime, Eve. I wouldn’t want to be Elena right now. She just had twins.

As for bringing another author’s character to life, I have so many favorite authors with so many great characters, I’d love to meet and befriend any of them. (The good guys and gals, that is!) Stephanie Plum would be a hoot to hang with!

Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?

The real question is who would want to collaborate with me, but my answer is Anne Frank or Helen Keller.

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

Another toughie! What a safe deposit box key of the late 1920s looks like. There was nothing on-line, zip. I finally talked with a wonderful woman who works at a bank owned by people I grew up with in Oklahoma. She knew the answer!

What's your earliest memory?

I remember people bending over my crib and talking to me.

Name a literary cliche that makes you throw a book across the room.

Nothing makes me throw a book anywhere. I don’t have huge pet peeves about clichés, though I work at twisting the ones I use. What will make me put a book down is lack of logic in the story, poorly drawn or motivated characters. Big things. I may be a more patient reader than some.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

F-Troop. The series ran on an “oldies” station, and I got obsessive about watching it.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I’d go to the Mission Nombre de Dios and feed the squirrels in the morning, then hang out in town for a while. Hit the St. Photios Shrine, and some out of the way places I don’t go into much. In the afternoon, I’d hang out at the beach. After a possible nap, I’d watch some favorite movie or TV show. Then I’d read as long as I wanted to, not worrying about what time I had to get up the next day.

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

Ooooh, Regency romance. I adore Regencies and have for years!

What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?

I’m finishing my revisions on the sequel to La Vida Vampire now, and release date is May 2009. I’ll probably start the next book in the series fairly soon after I turn in this sequel, simply because the idea and initial few scenes are starting to call me. I’m also revising a cozy mystery series, and working on another paranormal idea.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about LA VIDA VAMPIRE (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

That I had a total blast writing a light paranormal mystery romance set in St. Augustine!

* * *

Give Nancy a comment or a question, or tell us which hobby you'd like to see a fictional vampire pursue (besides surfing--man, I have got to read this book!), down there in the comments before 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 6. I'll draw a name and announce the winner Saturday morning.

If you don't have a Blogger account, just sign in as anonymous and leave your name at the bottom of your comment so I can call your name.

***I recommend against putting your e-mail in the comments, since that brings on spam. HOWEVER, if you don't leave a way for me to find you, you must stay subscribed to the comments or come back to the blog to see if you won.***

Good luck!

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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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