Friday, August 29, 2008

Drinking songs

If there's any booze left in the city of Denver after the World Science Fiction Convention and the Democratic National Convention got through with it, that's about to end.

A quick aside: I need a research assistant. Someone I can turn to (virtually or for real) and say, for instance, "How much did a shot of cheap whiskey cost in 1959?"

Because looking these things up for myself usually means I end up at sites like this: Modern Drunkard Magazine's World's Best Drinking Songs.

I was going to save that link for a later post, but I thought it was important to inform you of this weekend's National Drunkard Convention, running today through Sunday in Denver.

From the website:
What to Expect: The tribe uniting. The elite inebriates finding each other. The best and the booziest. Ever go to a bar and wish there were some real goddamn boozers on board?

So what's your favorite drinking song (mine is "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues)? And how do I avoid massive distraction when doing online research?

And what was the price of a shot of cheap whiskey in 1959? Help!

Now playing: Little Milton - My Baby Pleases Me
via FoxyTunes

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The fierce urgency of now

As you probably know, this historic day, when Barack Obama will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for the President of the United States, also marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it today, whether you've seen it before (like me, not since high school) or not.

And whatever your party affiliation, take a moment tonight to realize how far we've come as a nation. Be proud.

Then get up tomorrow and make the dream a reality. Because though our nation stands on the "warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice," there are still those who would slam the door.

Let freedom ring.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Introducing...The Reawakened!

On November 1, my Aspect of Crow fantasy trilogy, which began two years ago with Eyes of Crow and continued last year with Voice of Crow, will wrap up with the biggest, wildest installment of all, The Reawakened.

You can now read an excerpt or pre-order at Mysterious Galaxy, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

And look over there--the cover! It's my favorite ever. I actually screamed when I opened the envelope and saw the cover flats.

Speaking of cover flats, I have three to give away. I'll draw random names from commenters on this post at 11:59pm EDT on Wednesday, September 3.

I'll be giving away one ARC here on my blog in early September and another one in the Summer issue of my newsletter, which comes out next week.

And now, you might be wondering a few things about the new book. Such as...

Q. Is that Rhia on the cover?

A. In my mind, no. It looks exactly like I imagined our younger heroine Sura (whose story starts in the excerpt). If you read Voice of Crow, you might remember her as the little baby daughter of Lycas and Mali. Now she's all grown up, brave and angry and ready to do anything to throw the Descendants off her people's homeland.

Also, she's a Snake and can manipulate fire. Fire is cool.

Q. Wait, wait, rewind. Did you say the Descendants are occupying Asermos?

A. Sadly, yes. The Reawakened begins eighteen years after the end of Voice of Crow. The Descendants (or Ilions, as they call themselves) invaded, took over, and now occupy the villages of Asermos and Velekos. It all happened between books, so you haven't missed anything.

Q. So is Rhia still the main character?

A. Yep! She's still the one, as the song goes. The book begins and ends with her point-of-view. But just as Voice of Crow widened the scope beyond Rhia, The Reawakened goes even further, and we get (*counts on fingers*) six points-of-view in this book: Rhia, Sura, Lycas, Rhia's son Nilik, and two other new characters.

Q. Why isn't it titled [insert body part here] of Crow?

A. Because The Reawakened is better. See this blog post for why.

Q. So who's the Raven?

*zips lips*

Q. Does this book have vampires in it?

No. It's completely unconnected to my series that began with Wicked Game. However, that book's sequel, Bad to the Bone (releasing May 12, 2009) is already available for pre-order at Mysterious Galaxy and Amazon.

Q. Will there be further books in the Aspect of Crow universe?

A. This book ends this trilogy. Currently I have no plans to write more, but the idea of animal magic is pretty darn cool, so you never know--I might revisit this universe someday. There are lots of nooks and crannies in these lands that would make perfect material for short stories and novellas.

Q. Is it true that the word 'Reawakened' is really hard to type?

A. Yes. All the letters but one are crowded over on the left-hand side with the two littlest fingers.


So tell me what you think of the cover and/or the excerpt, or ask me another question about TR (see, I said it was hard to type, so I avoid it whenever possible) down there in the comments before 11:59pm EDT on Wednesday, September 3. I'll draw three names at random among my three blogs (, LJ, and MySpace) to win an autographed TR cover flat. Good luck!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Eclectic Review pods again

Stuart and Glory Jaffe's Eclectic Review discussed Wicked Game again, even more in depth than in last month's episode. This time it was in the context of recycled art and how the novel puts unique twists on the old vampire conventions.

Stuart also remarks on the unobtrusive use of first person present tense (something that usually annoys him) and how he didn't even notice it until a third of the way through. I discussed my choice to use that technique in my answer to the first question in the Fangs Fur & Fey interview, if you're interested.

Speaking of which, I'm posting over there today on the Topic of the Week (today's is pen names), because that's how I deal with Mondays.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Newsletter alert

It's coming!! I'll be sending out the summer issue of my quarterly newsletter the week of August 31. If you haven't signed up, you should, and here's why:

1) It'll include a link to the new vampire DJ short story, depicting the night Spencer went undead. Newsletter subscribers will get to see it a week before the rest of the world.

2) It'll offer a contest to win an ARC of the concluding volume of my Aspect of Crow trilogy, The Reawakened.

3) As always, two subscribers will be drawn at random the day the newsletter goes out. They'll each win a signed copy of one of my books (winner's choice).

4) The newsletter will be concise, entertaining, and totally text-based. At the risk of bragging, after each issue goes out, an average of two people unsubscribe. TWO, out of many hundreds. So I must be doing something right.

You can sign up in the box over there on the sidebar. It's easy, and if you're already on the list, a little message will tell you. So when in doubt, subscribe!

I've got a full weekend of work planned, but it's all fun stuff, and the weather is gorgeous.

What about you? Any exciting plans? Movies? Beaches? Hurricanes?

Now playing: Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
via FoxyTunes

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fast Forward TV interview

Back in May I was privileged to be interviewed by Mike Zipser of Fast Forward TV, a monthly half-hour TV series on science fiction and fantasy. It was on the air the in DC area during July, but thanks to the internet, you can view it at your leisure (like, now, for instance!).

It was a huge pleasure to do the interview. Mike was a fantastic host who asked fun questions (which I didn't have access to ahead of time), and it was over before I knew it.

Like that podcast with Jon Armstrong, I haven't watched this yet. I find it too nerve-wracking. So let me know how it is, and whether I should wear my hair back next time.

Now playing: Peter Gabriel - I Have the Touch
via FoxyTunes

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Fangs Fur & Fey Topic of the Week

If you've ever wondered why I often don't blog on Mondays (yes, I'm sure you've pondered this mystery for hours on end, perhaps speculating with friends over appletinis at the local fern bar), it's because that's the day I post the Topic of the Week over at Fangs Fur & Fey.

Each Monday I present a question on a writing topic--sometimes urban fantasy-related, but usually more general. Then we discuss! Both Members (published UF authors) and Watchers (fans and aspiring authors) are encouraged to participate. Anyone can submit a Topic, but when the submission well runs dry, I make up my own. It's a great way to get a lot of people sharing their experiences.

Today's topic is How We Begin, what gives us the spark that makes us start writing a new project. Titles? Characters? Story? Scene?

Here are all the Topics of the Week in one place.

Anyone can be an official Watcher in the FFF community. All you need is a LiveJournal account (a basic one is free) and an enthusiasm for Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy or Paranormal Romance.

And just to read the blog? You don't need nothin'! Here's a list of the fabulous FFF authors, many of whom can be found commenting there every week.

It's the place to be, so stop on by!

Now playing: The Raveonettes - Somewhere in Texas
via FoxyTunes

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Interview with Kat Richardson, author of the Greywalker series

Here's a series I've been wanting to get my hands on for a long time. I've never met Kat but I've heard from reliable sources that she's really sweet and gives great panel.

Quick reminder: I'll be at the Author Extravaganza in beautiful Cumberland, MD, tomorrow from 11-3 at the Country Club Mall. Click here for directions. Hope to see you there!

* * *

Kat Richardson is the author of the Greywalker paranormal detective series. UNDERGROUND, the third book in the series, will be out August 5--it's her first hardbound book and she's very excited about it. You can learn more about Kat and her books by visiting her website or blogs ( or

1) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

I had a couple of things I wanted to do: I wanted to write a "monsters in the sewer" adventure and I wanted to expand a little on the character of Quinton, Harper's mysterious tech-geek friend in the Greywalker series. So I combined the two interests into one book and this was the result.

2) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Oh, it's definitely changed over time. My tastes change, and there are always new writers coming on the scene who surprise and excite me. I love classic writers of excellent English, like Shakespeare, Austen, and Kenneth Graham as well as their contemporary colleagues like Patricial McKillip who make language a joy. I also really admire groundbreakers like William Gibson, Richard K. Morgan, and Ken Bruen. I'm a total fangirl of quirky writers like Cherie Priest--and she only lives a few miles away!--Liz Williams, Jasper Fford, and Victor Gischler. I've let a lot of writers drop off my reading list for lack of time, not lack of interest.

3) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I like the "what if" that underlies SFF. It's a challenge not only to style, craft, and story but to raw imagination. It's the quintessence of invention and curiosity that drives humans to strive. If it were not for "what if" would Gallileo have invented a telescope to look at the stars? And you see where that led.

4) What do you find most interesting about Harper Blaine? Her various adversaries? Why these characters?

I lover Harper's toughness. I don't just mean that she carries a gun and talks like Sam Spade; it's her sheer drive to keep going in the face of any and every adversity that makes her intriguing. She had a nice, settled life that she's worked hard to build and when it was suddenly upended, she hated it, but she rolled with it and keeps on going. She's learning more in each subsequent book about her abilities, but also about herself and what really drives her and what ultimately satisfies her. Her adversaries change in each book but in the end there is always the problem of making peace with herself and living with her challenges.

I have to say that my favorite of her adversaries is yet to be fully revealed. I'm working up to it in a future book. Suffice to say, he has a plan and it is Not Good. But writing about it should be tremendous fun.

As to why these guys... Well, they just seemed like the right group to complicate Harper's life.

5) You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

I'm a former magazine and technical editor, so I'm kind of an English and History geek, but I'm also fond of sailing, computer games, swing dancing, ferrets, target shooting, and motorcycles. I used to work at a renaissance faire as a dancer and actor. I've read the Sunday funnies for a radio service for the blind. I work on the Northwest regional board of the Mystery Writers of America, and before I got into journalism in college, I majored in vocal music. I'm also a bit of a science geek: I love to read physics books and biology, I used to write technical course material about diamonds for the Gemological Institute of America, I hand-code my own website (which explains the very plain design), and I poke my nose into all kinds of tech-y subjects whenever I have the time.

6) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do general to writing?

UNDERGROUND required quite a bit of reading as well as interviewing. I spent a lot of time in my library reading about local Indian tribes and legends, local history, local architecture, and then I tracked down the historian for Seattle's underground tour and picked his brains, too. Research is one of the things I love about writing--I always find some weird detail I hadn't thought of that can be useful. I've found information on crimes, earthquakes, people--even buildings--that have turned out to be fascinating and useful. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 made it into GREYWALKER, POLTERGEIST utilized information and locations from Washington's most notorious mass murder, and the collapse of a building in Pioneer Square in 1897 became an important clue in UNDERGROUND.

7) I see a lot of information about the homeless in this book. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?

It was more story-driven, but I have to admit that after doing the research, my awareness of the homeless, and the situations that surround them, has gone way up. Some really have given up on getting out of their situation--it can be really bleak and crushing--but most are trying very hard to re-enter the mainstream, to get jobs and homes and stop living on the street. There are some surprising grass-roots organizations out here--like Peace for the Streets, Women in Black, and the Coalition for the Homeless--trying to help these people get off the street and back to living lives that aren't haunted by a constant state of fear and hopelessness and raise the awareness of people like me.

8) So, if you were Harper Blaine and someone introduced you to a zombie, as happens UNDERGROUND, what would you do?

Me? I'd freak right out. I am so much not Harper Blaine. Babbling... yeah... that would be my most likely response.

9) What are you writing now?

I'm working on Greywalker #4 which has just been retitled VANISHED. It's a continuation of the arc that started in GREYWALKER and it will wrap up a lot of questions as well as posing some new ones to be answered in Book 5.

I'm also working on an SF Police thriller novel I'd like to finish and sell and I'm noodling with a bunch of other ideas. But that's pretty much the way all writers are--noodling constantly.

10) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you be surprise?

It was a bit of a surprise. I'd always wanted to be a singer or a dancer or maybe an ice skater--very girly. But when I was heading for college, I realized I'd been writing all my life--my first short story was written for a class when I was eight--and I thought that was a huge clue that maybe I should just do that, instead of being a music teacher.

11) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I do and I don't. I start with ideas either under a deadline or something that has just jumped to the front of my brain and won't shut up. Then I try writing it out for a while. Eventually I get stuck and have to fall back and outline. After that I can usually go ahead, although I've been known to write up to four outlines of 35 pages or more each before I can comfortably finish a novel so it's a bit more complicated than "I just write." I write my novels with a Mystery structure where timing and placement of clues is vital, so what I'm really doing when I outline is working out ahead of time a lot of the issues that would normally come up in revision. That doesn't mean I don't revise, but it's not usually too heavy. With shorts or novellas, I tend to just jump in with an idea and thrash around, revise a couple of times, and then finish it up and ship it. I don't have much of a routine per se, I just get up, clear off the housework and paperwork, mess around until I feel like I've wasted enough time for one day, and then write until I can't stand any more, or I've reached a good stopping point. And I write pretty much every weekday and do things like this interview on weekends.

12) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite? How does the environment you write in affect your production? Your process?

I don't have much space, living on a sailboat. I just plop myself down on the dinette bench, pop open my laptop and work. I like being at home where I can blast music, look after our geriatric ferrets, or pace around and talk out the dialog aloud, so I'm not really comfortable in coffee shops or libraries. I do occasionally have "playdates" with Richelle Mead and other SFF writers in the area whom we've started calling "Team Seattle" where we sit in her living room and work because we're too embarrassed to let the other one see us not working.

13) Is there anything you especially like to work on in a book? Anything you hate?

I hate writing sex scenes, which is why I never do them. There's one in UNDERGROUND and it was the worst thing I ever had to do. Ugh! I'd rather write an action sequence, or even revise, than do that again! What I love is making the past come alive, letting the setting and the ghosts flow out--that's just too much fun!

14) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

Right now, only the Greywalker series: GREYWALKER, POLTERGIEST, and now UNDERGROUND, but I have a werewolf Christmas short story coming out in an anthology in October called WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE that was edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. A Harper Blaine novella will be out in January 2009 in the collection MEAN STREETS and I'm really looking forward to that, since the collection is just four of us from Penguin's fantasy noir side: Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Thomas Sniegoski.

15) Do you see fiction as having a purpose? Generally? How about your own work?

My work is mostly entertainment, but I hope that readers do occasionally see the depth of history in it, and the way in which human beings shape their worlds by what they believe--good or bad--as much as by what they do. That's a bit of a recurring theme in the books, along with the idea that you can control and shape your own life, no matter what gets thrown at you.

In general I think fiction should sneak ideas into our heads--not bludgeon us. It pretends to be entertaining, but it should tickle our minds to thought, if possible.

I'm excited that the UNDERGROUND is out in hardcover and I hope it does the series proud. It's been an interesting book to research and write and I'm looking forward to seeing it "in the wild" at last. It's a Roc book, so it's available from major booksellers all over the US, Canada, and the UK and you can get one online--I'll even sign it if you ask--from one of my favorite independent booksellers: Seattle Mystery Bookshop, or find an independent bookseller near you, or order from Barnes & Noble.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Hear Dead People

I didn't blog yesterday, but that's okay. I have people for that now.

When Rob Usdin of the Jersey Jamcast told me about a cool new online radio station, I passed it on to Shane, who blogged about it last night and started a discussion about who we think is already dead but isn't. Go say hi if you have a chance (you need a MySpace account to comment, but not to read).

Which prompted him to check the Abe Vigoda status. Hat tip to Rob at Laughing at the Pieces for showing me that one oh so long ago.

Now playing: Muddy Waters - I Can't Be Satisfied (1948)
via FoxyTunes

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Interview with Gregory Frost, author of the Shadowbridge series

This week I'm featuring interviews with two authors from my SFNovelists group. The first is Gregory Frost, fantasy author extraordinaire. I loved his take on the Bluebeard legend, FITCHER'S BRIDE. It was fascinating and absolutely riveting, and I would tell you more if I were better at a) remembering specifics about books years after I read them and b) capable of a coherent book review. Regardless, Frost is definitely an author to keep your eye on.

Gregory Frost is the author of, most recently, LORD TOPHET, the sequel to the acclaimed fantasy novel, SHADOWBRIDGE (both from Del Rey Books). Shadowbridge is a world dreamed into being, as its creation story--included in the first volume--makes clear. It's an accretion of our myths, legends, folk and fairy tales but they've all altered in the translation somewhat, and taken on lives of their own. Everything in Shadowbridge thus sounds familiar and alien at the same time.

1) What was your inspiration for writing these books?

The answer is, there's no single inspiration. The idea of this world of bridges was one I kicked around for years. I talked it over with other authors, like Michael Swanwick who threatened to steal it if I didn't do something with it (nothing like that sort of terror to push you into action). One inspiration might be Gormenghast. Another is surely M. John Harrison's Virconium stories. And Hadawy's translation of The 1001 Nights. The Trelawney translation of The Ocean of the Streams of Story by Somadeva. But you won't find any direct reference to these things. Samuel R. Delany has a concept he calls "received language" and to a degree, I think that's what happens with all of us--we absorb, we receive, and bits and pieces accrete, and this thing emerges. It's original, it's us, but it's also all this stuff we've read, seen, heard, thought about. This is one reason why as a writer you absolutely must read beyond your narrow genre or you're going to be boring.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

Roger Zelazny, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Walter M. Miller, Mikhail Bulgakov, Homer, T.C. Boyle, Donald Westlake, Jack Williamson, Kelly Link, Shirley Jackson, Ian Fleming, John Irving, Alexandre Dumas, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Rafael Sabatini, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Chandler, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar...I don't know if this is anything like a definitive list, but it comprises the names of writers whose work I treasure and can come back to time and again and be rewarded.

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

I think, as a kid, it was the 'gosh-wow' factor. Fiction that took me away from where I was, and at the same time sort of wryly commented on where I was. I loved its strangeness, its otherness. Really, I wallowed in reading it. I never thought I would be writing it.

4) How did you come to make Leodora your protagonist?

When Mr. Swanwick threatened to run off with my world, I immediately went out and wrote a story called "How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes." I created the "Coyote" figure for all of Shadowbridge, and in the frame of that tale created a storyteller named Bardsham (which is a Shakespeare joke of sorts--the faux bard). Bardsham was based on a real shadow-puppeteer I'd met. But when I came to the prospect of a novel, I didn't want to write about him. At some point, I arrived at this vision of a girl, Leodora, standing on top of a bridge support tower, high above the city, and looking at her world. What I said about about things coming together out of all the material you read, things you see...I don't know where she came from, where that moment came from. The view from Arc de Triomphe, or from a railroad bridge I'd climbed as a kid, or looking down from the Palatine Hill in Rome? I have no idea. Maybe it's all those things at once. But it pushed the book in a direction, and the rest unfolded from there.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I've been an avid cyclist for (shudders to admit it) 38 years. This is the first summer, in fact, in all that time, I haven't been on a bike (I had a serious leg injury last fall and I'm still working that off). I studied aikido for ten years, under the tutelage of sf/fantasy author Judith Berman. Used to sing in three garage bands (not at the same time of course). And I tremble to admit it, but I like to read research.

6) What sort of research did you do to write the Shadowbridge books? What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

Frankly, every book requires a different amount of and sometimes entirely different kinds of research. I got hooked on that element back in the 1980s, researching for TAIN and REMSCELA, which comprise the retelling of the Tain Bo Cuailnge and subsequent events in the life of the Irish hero Cu Chulainn. A lot of sociological research into bronze-age Celts went into those books. Research into Druids, and into mythology. Shadowbridge has been more of the same, but now it's not just one branch of mythology, it's all of them shoved in a blender and pureed. But my first novel, LYREC...I did no research at all. That book came, whole-cloth, out of my head. I heard Jeffrey Ford say the same thing about The Physiognomy, too--to my amazement. He just invented that world and ran with it. Didn't do a lick of research, and those three books are just sodding brilliant.

7) How much of you goes into the characters? How much is Leodora like you?

They're all me, aren't they? Villains, heroes, heroines, lovers and fiends. She isn't "like" me. How could she be? She's herself. I think that writing fictional characters is akin to acting. You adopt the role of the character and try to inhabit it while that person's on stage. Then you try to become the next character, and so on. To a degree you have to know these people before you pick up the pen and write (sorry, I still use a fountain pen so that's my metaphor). You have to know what motivates. You have to know at the very least what they want. Even if they want nothing at all--wanting nothing is a state of being. It tells you something about the character and how she'll react. It sounds horribly pretentious, but it's not. It's ridiculously basic. Creating characters is understanding on some intuitive level what they want right now.

8) What are you writing now?

A supernatural mystery (no, there are no frickin' vampires in it, so stop asking now). Contemporary, and set on the Main Line outside Philadelphia. As far from Shadowbridge as one could get...which is no doubt why I have no career at all. I just can't stay in one place long enough to concoct a series.

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

I thought I wanted to be a comic book illustrator. I wrote and drew comics all through junior high and high school. Showed them to nobody, really. But I'm not one of those who says "Oh, yeah, I popped out of the womb knowing I was going to be a writer." Great, man. Love ya. Not me, I had no damned idea at all.

10) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I think it's hard-wired into me. The first book I can remember ever choosing on my own from the library was a retelling of The Odyssey. I grew up on Captain Midnight and Superman and The Twilight Zone and Commander Cody. And comic books. I was utterly fantasy oriented, and story ideas when they come are invariably fantastic or horrific. I don't think in terms of "people paralyzed by angst at recognizing the human condition." Sorry, just not my cup of hemlock.

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

That would depend on where I am in the book and whether or not I know what the next part looks like. First drafts are hard, and crappy and fragmented. Revisions just seem to last forever. Different parts of the brain and different processes, and so different lengths of time. But I now write far more often in coffee shops than I would ever have thought possible.

12) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

Before this was FITCHER'S BRIDES, a reworking of the Bluebeard line of fairy tales. The serial-killing husband. Dark, nasty, and great fun to write. There's a collection of short stories out from Golden Gryphon Press called ATTACK OF THE JAZZ GIANTS & OTHER STORIES--I've been publishing short fiction since 1981. I mentioned already the early novels. There's also a science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT, that was a Nebula nominee back in the mid-'90s.

The Shadowbridge books are available pretty much everywhere, but I recommend purchasing them through simply because I support independent booksellers.

If you want to order Shadowbridge, go to
If you want to order Lord Tophet, go to
If you're interested in Attack of the Jazz Giants go to
If you're interested in Fitcher's Brides, go to

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Author Extravaganza this Saturday

Well, the big family weekend went smashingly. Meadow loved the kids, and not just because they held food at mouth level. She was positively giddy with happiness, and didn't even flinch when the screaming began.

We are now all very tired.

This Saturday I'll be at the Country Club Mall in Cumberland, MD, from 11-3 for their Author Extravaganza. There'll be about two dozen authors signing books, so if you're in the area, drop on in!

I've done a few website updates:

News page, with new upcoming appearances in 2008 and 2009
Wicked Game page, new reviews and links
About me page, new interviews (all of which I've linked to on this blog at some point)


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Friday, August 08, 2008

Contest winner and update on Tommy

The winner of a signed copy of Victoria Dahl's A Rake's Guide to Pleasure is...MEME! Yay! MEME, send your mailing address to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, and I'll pass it on to Victoria.

In other news...our foster dog Tommy got adopted! He left us a week ago to go live with a very nice couple and their very active nine-month-old puppy, who will provide him with a lot more exercise (and possibly a heart attack) than Meadow ever could. The new mom reports that he's doing fantastic.

In writing Spencer's short story, I've revamped (ha! Get it?? I kill me.) his playlist, adding a few more familiar tunes and rearranging the rest so they flow better. (Y'know, so it's like an actual DJ put it together and not someone who quickly added 20 era-appropriate songs to get the site ready in time for the book launch.) It's a great playlist for a Friday in the summertime, so enjoy!

I've got company coming this weekend, so I've gotta go clean the house and buy food and figure out how to make the dishwasher child-safe (the bottom piece fell off--the part that the fixit guy opens to work on the wiring--and now there's a gaping hole, which is perfectly safe as long as you don't stick your hand in there--in other words, if you don't act like a little kid).

Wish me luck.

Now playing: Ritchie Valens - Come On, Let's Go
via FoxyTunes


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Interview (and giveaway!) with Victoria Dahl, author of A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE

NOTE: The comments to this post are taking a really long time to post (some problem with Blogger), but don't worry--they're all coming to my inbox, and I will gather them there to draw from. So if you've left a comment, you'll still be entered in the drawing, even if it doesn't show up on the page.


The lucky winner of the signed copy of Jackie Kessler's Hotter Than Hell is...Lina! Yay! Lina, send your mailing address to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, and I'll pass it on to Jackie.

Everyone else, go buy the book (you won't be sorry), and be sure to stop by at the beginning of next month for a chance to win Jackie's debut novel Hell's Belles, the first in the Hell on Earth series. EDITED TO ADD: Check out Jezebel's amusing interview with her former squeeze Daunaun on the Cat and Muse blog.

And now for something a wee bit different.

Backstory: I first met author Victoria Dahl on a comment thread on the Smart Bitches, um, literary discourse blog. She said something fascinating and witty, I replied in a comment, and she e-mailed me for further bitchery discussion on the topic. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, it was Like Minds from the beginning. We finally met in person at last year's RWA Nationals--again, thanks to Smart Bitch Candy. Vicki and her awesome critique partner Jennifer Echols (who writes amazing and funny young adult novels) and I proceeded to close the bar. It was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me.

So a week or so later, Victoria's debut historical romance, To Tempt a Scotsman, was released. Being a friend, I bought it the first week (yes, that is a writer's definition of "friend"). Though I love stories with strong romantic elements, I don't read a lot of straight romances, and when I do they tend to be paranormals or funny contemporaries, so it took me a few months to get around to opening it. I mean, look at the cover over there. >>>

When I did, I was blown away. The heroine, Alexandra, is no shrinking Victorian violet. When she wants something (or someone), she goes for it. And when what she wants is a smokin' hot Scotsman...hhhhohmigod. But seriously, she's one of my favorite heroines ever, because I get very frustrated with characters who dork around denying their own desires without a good reason, and I find that many romance novels place false obstacles (whether internal or external) between the characters to keep them from their Ultimate Reward (nookie happiness). Grrr.

Besides the fact that Alex and I were sympatico, the novel was beautifully written, with a smartness and subtlety that made me reconsider my preconceptions of the genre.

But Dahl's new novel, A Rake's Guide to Pleasure is even better. I read it in one sitting (except for dinner, and if I were alone that night I would've just nuked a hot dog or something so I wouldn't have to stop reading). I NEVER read a book in one sitting. What's more, this wasn't even a book--it was a PDF file. I hate reading onscreen. But this completely captivated me.

Rake's Guide was incredibly hot, of course, but also poetic. The characters, Emma and Hart, were genuinely conflicted, especially about sex, which made their mutual seduction that much darker and emotionally risky. I wish I were better at summing up my responses to books, but luckily Janet at Dear Author wrote this thoughtful review which I 100% agree with, so pretend I wrote it.

So I urge you in this case NOT to judge a book by its cover, and to check out Dahl's superb writing. Not just because she's my friend and we are spookily alike (unless that affects your decision in a positive way). Not just because Vicki is going to be huge one day and you'll want to brag that you "read her when." Do it simply because She. Will. Rock You.

But first check out this interview with the charmingly, in-your-facey, irrepressibly ho-baggy naughty Victoria Dahl.

EDITED (AGAIN, BECAUSE I AM BRAIN DEAD AND DON'T EVEN HAVE LACK OF SLEEP TO EXCUSE IT) TO ADD: Victoria will be giving away a signed copy of Rake's Guide to one lucky commenter.

Q: Looking back on the year since the release of TO TEMPT A SCOTSMAN, what was the most surprising/thrilling experience of being a debut author?

Victoria: I’d say the most thrilling experience was seeing the book in Wal-Mart. I don’t know why. It’s logical to see it in a bookstore, but NOT next to the refrigerated Coke, somehow. I felt like a conglomerate, and that gets me hot.

The most surprising thing was the price tag at Wal-Mart: $2.57 baby! I am the Mr. Pibb to your Dr. Pepper. Or maybe I’m the Safeway brand “Dr. Skipper.” The bottom line is that I’m a cheap date, which also gets me hot.

And the first letter I got from a reader was absolutely shocking. Mostly because it was my first piece of fan mail, but also because it came about two WEEKS before my book was supposed to be available!

Both of your historicals feature heroines with shady pasts who for one reason or another are beyond the reach of their society's restrictive rules. What attracts you to these "scandalous" women?

Seriously? I think we both know the answer to that, Jeri. I’m a naughty girl with authority problems and a dirty sense of humor.

On one hand, I think there are ways of making the “average” girl fascinating. In fact, I’ve recently written a novella about an average Victorian woman who knows nothing about her own body, much less her husband’s, and I like to think that it’s interesting. But in general, I’m attracted to the woman who knows who she is and knows exactly what she can get away with.

People tend to have such a small vision of what Victorian England was like. But the truth is that life was as complicated then as it is now. An upper middle class woman trying desperately to make a good marriage could not risk even talking to the wrong man. But the rich sister of a powerful duke? Please. She could do pretty much anything and still have a decent life and she would be fully aware of that.

Along those lines, do you feel that female characters are held to a higher standard of behavior than their male counterparts in similar situations, i.e., are their transgressions less often forgiven by readers/reviewers/publishers/contest judges? If so, why do you suppose this is the case?

Absolutely! The reaction to To Tempt a Scotsman was funny in this way. Granted, my heroine was scandalous. And I got the typical letters calling her a whore and a slut, because she wanted to get it on with a man she wasn’t in love with. (Everyone gasp.) But what surprised me was the reaction to the hero, Collin. Once they are involved in the relationship, HE was the one with the problems. He was jealous. He jumped to conclusions. He said horrid things to her (though his temper was fleeting and he always, ALWAYS apologized soon after.) Alexandra might have been a bit young and impetuous, but she was really the steadier hand in their marriage, and very few people seemed to see that. Reviews called Collin “adorable” and “sweet” and “dreamy.” Now, I like Collin a lot, but he had some issues, people!

I can’t begin to analyze the reactions, but it’s clearly based on gender roles. Jealousy is acceptable in a hero, but like nails on a chalkboard with a heroine. I understand that, but I can’t explain it.

Like me, you're a huge music fan. Which contemporary song(s) would be on a RAKE'S GUIDE playlist? If Emma and Hart were suddenly transported to 2008 and were somehow not freaked out to the point of needing institutionalization, what would be on their iPods?

Jesus, are you trying to break my brain??? Actually, I have an answer for the first question, so poo on you.

The first time I heard Madeleine Peyroux’s “Blue Alert,” it fit RAKE’S GUIDE so perfectly I nearly cried. “It’s just another night I guess. All tangled up in nakedness. You even touch yourself… you’re such a flirt.” Ha. So fucking perfect. And the line, “Your lip is cut on the edge of her pleated skirt.” Gorgeous. I was going to post it on my blog, but now you’ve ruined the surprise. Thanks, Jeri.

As far as what they’d listen to… Wow. That’s a toughie. Huh. For Emma, I guess I’d say PJ Harvey. A little hard and dark, but still pretty. And definitely a bit enigmatic. No, maybe that’s not right. Maybe something that sounds pretty and simple, but the words reveal serious complication. Patty Griffin. YES!

As far as Hart goes…I don’t want to be stereotypical, but I’d have to go with classical because he wouldn’t be into lyrics. Although he has very deep feelings, he would not want to examine them in any way. He could live with feeling them but couldn’t live with hearing them put into words, if that makes sense. So I think very intense, dark classical compositions would be his thing.

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?

I won’t choose Emma, because she has had a very hard life and she’s still filled with that sorrow. I think I’d like to be Alexandra (from SCOTSMAN) for a few days. Not only is she rich, but she’s also completely self-assured. And married to a big hunk of Scottish manflesh.

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

Well… I’m madly in love with Hart right now, but he’s a bit too intense and intimidating for my real tastes. But did I mention that big hunk of Scottish manflesh?

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

I might like to be Sookie Stackhouse for a day (from Charlaine Harris’s series.) I understand that it wouldn’t be fun to live with telepathy every day, but it would be totally awesome for a short period of time. And her friends are awfully interesting.

The second question is hard. I’m beginning to think I don’t have a good imagination. I’ve always liked Wolverine. Oh, and I had a serious thing for the men of the GI Joe cartoon series when I was a girl. Wait. I think this has devolved into a very different question from the one you asked.

How about Lucifer from your Requiem for the Devil??? YEAH! But from after the book’s ending. I want to see how he’s doing now. He was so dreamy. *g*

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

Collaboration scares the shit out of me. I couldn’t do it. It exposes my fear of obligation and my aversion to responsibility, as well as my absolute terror of anyone depending on me for anything. Jennifer Echols (my critique partner) brought this up once and I wouldn’t speak to her for weeks.

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

Uhhhh… My brain tends to throw away any random bits once I’ve used them. I’m good at tests though, you know? I do remember that my favorite historical euphemism for the clitoris is “little shame tongue.” You couldn’t make that better if you tried.

What's your earliest memory?

I have a vague impression of a traumatic time in my family’s life, of large people moving around me as I lay on a couch or something (it’s just blurry shapes and colors), but I don’t know if that’s for real or not. I would have been an infant.

My earliest vivid memories start at around four or five. I remember the sensation of running barefoot over my driveway, because it was made of loose stone. And turning my trycicle upside down and making it into some sort of factory machine that turned mud and rock into something important.

Do you have any phobias?

Literary collaborations. And machines that deal with water, like hydroelectric dams or wave machines. But come on. Everyone’s afraid of hydroelectric dams, right?

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

Well, berserkest, first of all. And liberry instead of library, but I guess that’s not word use so much as pure hilariousness. (This is actually a real problem for me, because I pronounce it “liberry” with my friends and I am going to slip up one day during an interview with RomanceNovelTV and I will be a notorious idiot.)

Oh, you know what drives me insane? Signs that try to put emphasis on things with quotation marks! Like PURE, COLD “WATER” ONLY $1.00! or PLEASE “DON’T” FEED THE ANIMALS. I mean, enough with the mixed signals already.

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)?

I thought Waterworld was a totally awesome movie, and the rest of you can kiss my ass.

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

Frankly, I try to find these free days as often as I can (See “fear of responsibility”), so this is easy for me to answer. I’d watch a movie on PPV that my husband wouldn’t want to see. Like 28 Days Later. I’d eat something really naughty and comforting. Then I’d eat something truly decadent and indulgent. Then I’d take a bath and sip wine while reading a book. I’d stay up until two a.m. repeating these things over and over. I am not interesting. The end.

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

I think you’ve just unearthed a new deep-seated fear: honest answers. Because this question made me nauseous.

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

Contemporary. *cheeky grin*

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

I’m working on way too many things. WAY too many things. I’ve got five releases next year, so let’s just barrel through those, shall we?

January 2009 – TALK ME DOWN, my first contemporary! Chock full of cold weather, hot sex and dirty jokes!

February 2009 – “Lessons in Pleasure” in the LORDS OF DESIRE anthology. It’s the story of the Victorian woman I mentioned earlier. One night she unexpectedly has her first orgasm. Interesting things ensue.

July 2009 – START ME UP, my second contemporary! Hot weather, hot sex and dirty jokes.

August 2009 – The unnamed historical romance that is excerpted at the back of A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure. It’s mysterious because you dare not speak its name. Because it doesn’t have one yet.

September 2009 – A vampire Highlander romance in an unnamed vampire Highlander anthology! Even more mysterious.

I’m tired.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

It’s dirty. And sad. Is that two things? It’s porniliciously poignant. It’s porngnant.

Now, can I add a closing statement? I think you’re one of the most awesome people in the world, and I love your writing too. Thanks for having me. *nudge, nudge* And I’m so impossibly happy that you liked my book.


It was a pleasure to have you, Victoria. *nudge, nudge* You're making me blush in all the bad places.

Leave a comment or question for Vicki, or tell us one naughty thing you've done (or wish you'd done), down there in the comments to enter to win a signed copy of Rake's Guide. One name will be drawn at random at 11:59pm eastern time on Thursday, August 7 and announced here on Friday. US/Canada entries only, please.

***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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Friday, August 01, 2008

Interview with Jackie Kessler, author of HOTTER THAN HELL

I fell out of heaven
to be with you in hell
my sin's not quite seven
nothing much to tell
--"Lust" by The Raveonettes

Today's guest and book is a very special treat for a certain subsection of my readers--the hardcore, die-hard Jeri Smith-Ready fans who've read my first novel, urban fantasy Requiem for the Devil. If you liked that book, I've got something even better for you.

Jackie Kessler's Hell on Earth series began with Hell's Belles (Kensington Books, January 2007, coming in mass market paperback this September 2) and continued with Road to Hell. These first two novels focused on Jezebel, a succubus who goes on the lam from Hell after a universe-shattering announcement from the Big Boss. She finds work as a stripper, falls in love, and, well, you have to read the rest to find out what happens. Suffice to say her diabolical superiors and comrades are not happy about her decision to go post-evil.

One of these malcontents is the incubus Daunaun (pronounced like Don Juan, because he is the original inspiration for the Don Juan/Don Giovanni character), and he takes over the stage in Kessler's brand-new release, Hotter Than Hell, which, in my opinion, stands alone very well as its own story and could be read first before the rest of the series.

In HTH, Daun is given a challenge: seduce a good woman marked for Heaven, with her full knowledge of who he is and what will happen to her. If he succeeds, he'll be promoted to second-in-command in charge of Lust (each of the Seven Deadly Sins has its own department in Hell and an accompanying bureaucracy--demons rarely kill the wrong person because it involves eons of paperwork).

If he fails, he dies. Painfully. Hey, it's Hell.

As he sets out to accomplish his near-impossible goal, he's a) haunted by his unrequited love (though he'd never call it that) for ex-succubus Jezebel, and b) plagued with attempts on his life by minions of four of the other Deadly Sins. Moreover, the good woman, Virginia Reed, is immune to his charms.

So that's the story. Here's the squee:

I greatly enjoyed Jezebel's tales. They were funny and raw and poignant, with just the right amount of thought-provocation. But Hotter Than Hell was simply amazing. Beautiful is the word I kept coming back to. Not just the story, but the writing itself, especially the voice. The descriptions were achingly precise, and Daun's cadence was hypnotic. I was in awe, and completely sucked in from the first page. I found myself stuck in really uncomfortable positions because I didn't want to put it down long enough to get comfy. (My back is still a bit miffed with me.)

So I would highly recommend it to fans of Requiem, although the level of profanity and sexual content is much higher. But it fits because of who Daun is. Sex infuses his brain because of what he does, the same way a book from a chef's point-of-view would focus on food. The sex scenes are neither gratuitous/pornographic or flowery/romancey, so if you're not normally a fan of romance, don't worry. This is an urban fantasy, regardless of what it says on the spine.

More important, it's a phenomenal book that transcends genres. Here's Jackie to tell us a little more about it:

Q. Was this your first time writing from a male POV, and if so (or even if not), did/do you find it easier or harder than a female POV?

Jackie: Yep, first time. And boy, did it take me a while to lose Jezebel's voice and make way for Daun. Once I found the voice, though, it came through easily. Tougher was when I had to go back to Jezzie's voice for another story --then it took me a while to lose Daun's voice. And let's not even get into how I wrote a novella that's in both Jezzie's AND Daun's first-person POVs...

You started this series with the delightful succubus-turned-stripper Jezebel and the story of her escape from Hell. Did you always plan to give Daunaun his own story, or did he sneak his hot little tush into your heart and insist on it?

I had a feeling he'd get his own story when I was writing the first book. But it was when I was writing the second that I knew Daun's story would be next. (And yeah, he's definitely a favorite. Shhh. Don't tell him. It'll go to his horny head.)

I love the way you address the topic of sin in a way that is neither preachy nor fluffy--there's philosophical meat there, but such tasty meat indeed! Did you find it a challenge to reach that balance--was it something you had to hone over the course of your drafts?

Thanks! When I started writing Daun's book, I knew that the idea of Sin would be important. So I started doing some reading about the Seven Deadly Sins. One of the online sites that really resonated with me was, which mentions the idea of the one central transgression--that is, the sin from which all others stem--can change. I thought that was utterly brilliant. And that got me thinking about the nature of sin. And that led to a subplot in HOTTER THAN HELL.

The chapter that really tackles the idea of malleable sin originally came out a little too infodumpish (thanks, oh trusty critique partner!), so I revised it to make the information flow better. And to make Daun scoff more.

Your bio says that one of your childhood dreams was to be a comic artist. Do you still draw these days or have aspirations to get involved in comics as a writer or artist?

Ooh, I would **love** to write comics! Yes, I'm still in love with superheroes overall, even though I don't do any more drawing (well, other than in crayon, with the kids). And it would be utterly thrilling if one of my books were turned into a graphic novel, a la Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. (Dreamy sigh...)

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?

Um, the problem here is that I **know** all the crap that the characters will be going through. With that in mind, I sorta don't want to be any of them. (Please, they'd kill me if they had the chance...)

But being one of the seven most powerful entities in the Universe would be sorta cool...

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

Oh man. I'd love for Jesse to be real and just hang out with her. As for Daun? Eek. The thing is about Daun, he's evil. Seriously. Maybe he's a good guy, but he's also evil. That being said...yeah, I'd love for him to be real.

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

I'd love to be part of the Buffyverse. Seriously. Okay, maybe not a vampire, or Evil Willow. But I'm willing to learn.

And it would be awesome if Harry Dresden were in the real world. Except that would probably mean all the big bad nasties that he fights would be here too. That part, not so much.

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

Three guys top my list here: Neil Gaiman, Chris Moore, Jim Butcher.

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

Er, um, the difference between a ball spreader and a ball stretcher. (No, I'm not telling.)

What's your earliest memory?

Sitting in the backseat of my parents' car, watching our building go away as we turned a corner.

Do you have any phobias?

Storms. Specifically, thunderstorms. I have no idea when this started, but now when it's a dark and stormy night, I jump and shake like I'm in a twister contest. Of course, Loving Husband **loves** lightning. Sigh.

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

When people say "between you and I." No, no, a thousand times no. It's "between you and me." Seriously. It is. Runner up: when people say "tin foil" instead of "aluminum foil." Argh!

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

Eat chocolate, drink wine, read a terrific book, go watch a movie, and take a nap. Ah, bliss! (I'm such a wild and crazy gal...)

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

Have you ever written a subplot to cover a previous mistake or inconsistency? If so, what was it?

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

I'd love to do a juicy horror novel. With tasteful comedy, of course. Nookie optional.

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

Currently working on the fourth book in the HELL ON EARTH series, called HELL BOUND, which will answer a lot of questions that have been raised in the first three books.

Next, I'll be working on the second book of the dystopian superhero series, THE ICARUS PROJECT, co-written with Caitlin Kittredge. (Think JUSTICE LEAGUE meets 1984, with a splash of BLADERUNNER.) The first book, BLACK & WHITE, will come out in summer 2009 by Bantam Spectra. (Caitlin writes in the POV of the villain; I write in the POV of the heroine. She's the evil genius; I'm the tortured hero. We have to work together to stop the Big Bad Evil. Bwhahahahahaha!)

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

First person male point-of-view starring a demon who has sex on the brain all the time--and he's the GOOD guy.


Leave a comment or question for Jackie, or tell us which Deadly Sin you'd most like to be in charge of (take this quiz if you're unsure--I don't need no stinkin' quiz to know I'm a slave to Wrath), down there in the comments. One name will be drawn at random at 11:59pm eastern time on Monday, August 4 and announced here on Tuesday. International entries welcome!

***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.***

Also, coming next month, stripper/talk radio host Jezebel will be in the interview-ee's seat for a change as I resurrect our old friend Beelzebub from Requiem to, uh, drill her about Hell's Belles.

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**


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"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!).

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Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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