Big Pimpin’ in the NC – Release Week!

John G. Hartness

With the requisite shout-out to Jay-Z, perhaps the first time that’s ever happened here at MW (but if you don’t love his 2001 collaboration with The Roots on MTV Unplugged, I don’t know what’s wrong with you), there are a LOT of awesome books dropping just in time for you to slam them onto your kindle and go sit out somewhere in the heat tomorrow night and watch professionals blow up shit in celebration of freedom.

Please be safe. Leave the blowing up of shit to professional pyrotechnicians and rednecks. We know how to do that stuff, y’all.

But there’s not one, not two, but THREE awesome North Carolina writers with new books out this week. Technically, it’s five NC writers, because two of these books are by husband-and-wife teams, but who’s counting? And I suck at math anyway.

In the Still of the KnightFirst, because I’m the one writing the post, is everybody’s favorite smartass vampire writer – ME! In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, or wisely ignoring me on social media, In the Still of the Knight released Tuesday to great acclaim. Okay, maybe not great acclaim, but solid sales so far and a couple of very positive reviews. I’m incredibly proud of this book; it’s by far the most personal of the Black Knight books, and I believe it is the best one in the series.

You can read more about it in my Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s blog, or in my 5 Things I Learned post on Chuck Wendig’s blog. Thanks a ton to John and Chuck for the signal boost. You can pick up a hard copy next weekend at Illogicon, or you can order it wherever books are sold. Including this little shop.

But that’s not all!

The inimitable (damn, that word is hard to spell!) Gail Z. Martin has has a new book out, and this time she’s collaborating with her long-time real-life collaborator, partner, dog-wrangler and amazing cook Larry N. Martin. Yep, there’s another husband-and-wife duo in the fantasy world, so look out Kevin and Rebecca, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Larry and Mercedes, Tom and Katie (oh wait), Brad and Angelina, Tee and Pip…you get the idea.

Iron & Blood is the first book in the Jake Desmet Adventures, and it’s set in a steampunky New Pittsburgh in 1898. I haven’t read it yet, since it released today, but I love Gail’s writing and I’m sure this is going to be awesome. Here’s the Amazon description –

Iron and Blood by Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin

Iron and Blood by Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin

New Pittsburgh, 1898 – a crucible of invention and intrigue. Born from the ashes of devastating fire, flood and earthquake, the city is ruled by the shadow government of The Oligarchy. In the swarming streets, people of a hundred nations drudge to feed the engines of progress, while in the abandoned tunnels beneath the city, supernatural creatures hide from the light, emerging only to feed.
Jake Desmet and Rick Brand travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake’s cousin, Veronique LeClerque. But when their latest commission leads to Jake’s father’s murder, the three friends are drawn into a conspiracy where dark magic, industrial sabotage and the monsters that prey on the night will ultimately threaten not just New Pittsburgh, but the whole world.

 

And last but not least, a shout-out to another NC fantasy power couple – Clay and Susan Griffith have released the second in their Crown & Key Victorian Urban Fantasy series – The Undying Legion. It dropped on Tuesday, and the Griffiths and their publisher are doing something brave this summer – they’re releasing three books in three months! Book 1, The Shadow Revolution, dropped the first on June, Book 2 hit in Tuesday, and Book 3, The Conquering Dark, lands the end of July. So not only are the books set in Victorian times, the release schedule is hearkening back to the old penny dreadfuls as well!

A thrilling new Victorian-era urban fantasy for fans of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr.
 
legionWith a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?
 
When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

Check out The Undying Legion here.

There, that oughta be enough to get you through the fireworks display. Have fun, and I’ll hit y’all next week with my Congregate schedule!

David B. Coe: Different Books, Different Roles

admin

200CoeJacksonHello again, Magical Words! I’m baaaccckk!

Today, I launch what I have been calling the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour. Over the course of the next five weeks, I have two books coming out: On July 21, Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth and (for now) final Thieftaker novel, will be released by Tor Books under the D.B. Jackson pseudonym. And on August 4, His Father’s Eyes, the second volume in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, will come out from Baen Books under my own name.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two novels, in two separate series, under two bylines, coming out from two publishers. When we (my agent, Lucienne Diver, and I) sold the second series, we didn’t envision this kind of summer. We hoped that the books would come out far apart. But in publishing, things don’t always work out according to plan, and really, as problems go, this is a very, very good one to have.

Each week over the next two months, I’ll be here posting about the two books, touching on character, setting, voice, and other craft issues. There is lots to discuss with respect to both novels. But today I wanted to discuss the nature of the books themselves, because these two titles come at quite different points in their respective series.

Dead Man's Reach, by D.B. Jackson (Jacket art by Chris McGrath)Dead Man’s Reach is the fourth Thieftaker novel, and, as of now, it is the last one under contract. While working on it, I had no idea whether I would write any more Ethan Kaille stories. To be honest, I still don’t know for certain, though my recent collaboration with Faith, set in Ethan’s world, makes me more inclined to fight for additional Thieftaker books. But I digress . . . Because of the contractual situation, I had to write this book as if it might be the last. And, in truth, the basic plot elements lent themselves to this. As with all the Thieftaker novels, Dead Man’s Reach relies on real historical events to provide its timeline and general narrative direction. In this case, the historical events in question are the violent confrontations that shook Boston during the winter of 1770, culminating in the Boston Massacre on March 5. This is the most dramatic of the events I’ve used as story backdrops, and so provides a natural climax to the historical arc of the series.

But more than that, several of the key relationships in the series also reached some sort of resolution, for good or for ill. I won’t reveal much more than that; I want to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say that my goal in writing this book was not just to resolve this particular mystery and conflict. I also wanted to give my readers some sense of completion; to tie off loose ends and answer recurring questions, so that fans of the series would feel that they had reached a point with Ethan and his fellow characters where they could say goodbye without too much regret.

His Father's Eyes, by David B. Coe (Jacket art by Alan Pollock)In contrast, His Father’s Eyes is the second volume in the Fearsson sequence, and so my goal for it was entirely different. I know there will be a third book. Hell, I’ve already written it. So with this book, rather than answering questions and setting up a possible ending to the series, I wanted to create more mystery, to deepen the tension and the danger, to set up future volumes. I introduce new characters and bring new elements to the magic system — elements that are consistent with what I established in the first book, but take us deeper into the mysteries of runecrafting.

In essence, then, these two books, in their respective worlds and story arcs, are moving in opposite directions: one toward a semblance of resolution, the other toward chaos. I wouldn’t say that either was more fun to write, or that I expect one to be a better read than the other. The truth is, these are, in my opinion, the two best novels I’ve ever written. They’re as different as can be — well, as different as two urban fantasies, written by the same person, with white, straight, male protagonists can be . . . Okay, they’re pretty different. Trust me . . .

The point is, they accomplish very different things, and I think each does so effectively.

Every book has a purpose. Some are written as true stand-alones, and are intended to tell a complete story, without any reliance on prequel or sequel. Others, are part of extended story arcs, and, like stones in an archway, cannot support their own weight without their fellow volumes. The novels of the Thieftaker and Fearsson series fall in between. They are stand-alones in that each can be read independently of its siblings. But within each sequence they are also connected to one another by character and plot threads. It follows, therefore, that each plays a slightly different role in relation to the other books in the series. When you’re planning your own series, you should give some thought to how its various component parts work together to improve the whole.

Where does the book you’re writing now fit in? Which volume is it? What particular challenges has it presented in terms of telling your larger story?

*****

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, which will be released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://www.davidbcoe.com/blog/
http://www.dbjackson-author.com
http://www.facebook.com/david.b.coe
http://twitter.com/DavidBCoe
https://www.amazon.com/author/davidbcoe

Doing a Photo Shoot for your Book Cover

Tamsin Silver

Back when I first announced I would be writing for MW, I asked my friends/fans on my Facebook Page what they’d like me to talk about. One of them asked for me to discuss my photo shoots that I do for characters because not everyone does this.

It began in October of 2010. I was writing the book, Moon Over Manhattan (that I’m hoping to put out around this time next year) and was still in the process of trying to sell the Windfire Series (then called, the Living Dead Girl Saga). Since I wasn’t published yet, I was thinking of how my website could be different than others. My decision was to do a photo shoot of the main werewolf pack. So I used my experience as a director (in theater, you tend to cast the shows you direct, unlike film, so I’ve cast a TON of shows and thought this would be a simpler process…hahahaha!) to cast my book.

So I did what I normally would do, I posted an ad for talent and one for crew on Craigslist and we were rolling! It’s how I met the head make-up artist who works on SKYE (Chris) and it’s how I met my best friend here in the city (Lauren). I was only casting 8 characters, so I figured it’d be a simple day. And compared to the shoot I ended up doing for Living Dead Girl/Windfire, it was. LOL!

VPL_7651R VPL_7644RS

Pictured here are two group shots of the West Side Pack of Manhattan (those of you who know Lauren Steinmeyer from SKYE might recognize a 20 year old version of her here in a curly wig. :) ) taken by Lingner Photography. Fun note: I cast two of these folks from a subway encounter, one from a wedding encounter, one from the club, and the other four through Craigslist. Interestingly enough, since then, I’ve cast a few more folks from those I met on the subway. It’s an ongoing joke with friends of mine…but hey, if you see someone who fits what you need, you can either let that person get away, or ask. It never hurts to ask.

IMG_4824cropE

I went ahead and created a page on my website with pictures of characters and information on them. It was definitely a different choice, and we had a really fun time! To see the video of that fun, go HERE! I did this again for Living Dead Girl/Windfire and the video for that is HERE. The pic on the right below is from that shoot. If you read the Windfire Series, pictured here (L to R) would be Roman, Phoenix, and Stephan. The picture below this paragraph is also from this shoot, and those characters are (L to R) Jensine, Gray, and Atlanta. (Note: the girl playing Jensine may look familiar to you SKYE fans…if not, picture her with some red hair.)

IMG_5075E

Anyway, that all said, when I wrote Mark of the Necromancer last summer (mostly on my cell phone in transit), I didn’t think I’d be self-publishing it, but I am, and it will come out this fall (Either the final product or the ARC will be at Dragon Con). So once I realized I would be doing this myself, I began the casting process. I posted on Actors Access. But this time, I was only looking for the two leads (Sabrina and Alex).

I got a slew of submissions, mostly women, but some men. And I found my Sabrina almost immediately. Kara Rosella was cast and then I got super lucky and found my Alex…or so I thought. And here’s where I’ll talk about the difficulties of casting this kind of thing.

Not all actors are dependable. Sadly, the young man I cast for Alex to begin with, after a lot of texting with me and emails (and accepting the role) disappeared from my realm. I think in dating the term for it now is “Ghosting”. Meaning, instead of breaking up with someone, you just disappear. No texts, calls, etc. That’s what this young man did. So sadly, after a few months I fired him (I should’ve fired him sooner, but we’d become friends so I waited a bit longer than normal). I cast another young man and after two emails, he too went POOF! I’m guessing the pay, location, or the fact that I was a self-published author wasn’t to his liking. However, instead of saying, “Sorry, not for me.” He ghosted. It’s not just frustrating, but in the business world it rude and unprofessional. Give an actor 2 weeks and use multiple forms of communication (email, Facebook, texting, etc.) to give one last shot…then either move on OR if they have accepted the role, fire these folks (send a short, polite email. Just because they are being rude, doesn’t mean you can be). You can’t trust them to show up if they can’t be bothered to return a darn email or text message.

The other hiccup you will run into is that an actor could get offered a big gig and have to cancel OR they might have a planned gig change dates to YOUR shoot day. It happens. Be prepared for it. Have a back up person in mind if you can. Don’t tell them they’re the back up, that’s not cool and they shouldn’t think they need to hold that day open for you. But have ideas so when you get hit with this, and you will, your panic level is a 5, not a 10. :)

In the end, I ended up casting a personal friend (Josh Price) for Alex (as he has the look and more importantly, I know he’s great to work with and can trust him to put the time aside and make the shoot) and a personal acquaintance (Jason Griffith) from my directing theater days for Lucifer. I knew that pairing them up with Kara Rosella (who I cast way back in February and have gotten to know over Facebook and email since then) would be a lot of fun! And trust me, when casting, keep in mind personalities. You have to spend time with these folks and they with each other. If you can, try to get folks who you can see yourself having a drink with (be it a beer or tea/coffee). It’ll make a world of difference. Trust me.

So you’re cast…now what? COSTUMES!

You have three options for setting this up. Email, phone call, or go to the actor’s apartment to go through their closet. Each person will be different. However, for your leads, I recommend going to their place (if they don’t mind) and playing dress up. Especially if that lead is someone who has no idea what they have that will work. Plus, it’ll give you a chance to bond a bit with your lead…and that’s the fun stuff.

Then you email or call your photographer and lay out your shot list (needs and wants). THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! You both are a team…so be on the same page.

IMG_8241But it’s not all just clothes…there’s make-up and hair and so on…sometimes you’ll need a make-up/hair team (like I had for Windfire and Moon Over Manhattan) and sometimes you only have two gals and they both know how to do their make-up and you’re not in need of tattoo’s or special FX. Figure that our early and hire 2 people to do your make-up/hair if you have more than 3 people who need it. Pay them. They’re using expensive products they bought on your actors/models. So be sure they get paid and make sure they have pictures of cast (headshots are fine) ahead of time and meet with them once in person (or over the phone) to discuss your needs and wants.

Anyway…on to the shoot itself! (below pictures courtesy of Lauren Steinmeyer…who is also in the photo to the right dressed as Denika again from Moon Over Manhattan.)

We arrived at Candace’s at around 2pm…

First we met the dog…THIS is Bear…and she liked Josh best (givin’ him paw and trying to get in on the photo action…LOL!)

Bear giving Josh paw Josh with BearOnce we upstairs in the studio (where these two pics were taken) we got to work. Meaning, it was time I made tons of decisions.

Something that’s always important to remember is to use your actors/models time wisely. For instance, A) Knowing I didn’t need to shoot as much of Lucifer as I did Alex and Sabrina, I had the model for Lucifer come a bit later than the rest of us. B) Knowing the model for Alex needed to be out the door the soonest so as to get to work, I started his solo shots first.

I picked out Alex’s first outfit and while he did solo shots in it, I selected the first outfit for Sabrina that would go well with it. We did 3 poses of Alex alone, then three of Alex and Sabrina for book one, then BAM! I’m needing to choose more clothes and jewelry. And on we go.

In actuality, it was the fastest photo shoot I’ve ever done. This is because Candace (CandyLust Photography) is fast and we move on to the next thing quickly. Plus because I knew what I wanted these pictures for. When I did the other two shoots, the plan was just that I wanted each character to have a solo shot, then to get pictures of characters in groups (couples, friends, etc.). It was crazy and it was a lot more people. However, the same rules apply. And honestly, it all comes down to one thing:

Josh and KaraProvide a great environment for your cast. Whether you’re paying them or not, you want everyone to enjoy the experience. Why is that my only rule? Well…because EVERYTHING connects to that one thing. So, HOW do you provide that great environment?

1) Provide water and food (and make sure some items are healthy and that you have gluten free things). If your actors (or you) get hungry or thirsty they/you get hangry (I love this made up word of hungry + angry), and no one has patience, creativity, or is fun to be with when they’re hangry.

2) Be as on time as traffic or trains/buses can make you. Leave early if you must. Nothing creates an air of uneasiness like the person in charge not being there.

Josh Kara and Jason3) If you get stressed out, take a moment, breathe, and let it go. Just remember, this is not life or death. Stay positive, keep a smile on your face as much as you can, and make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when they need to be there. Note: If you do get angry (for good reason) work the problem and then forget you were ever upset.

4) Create a communication system for big shoots. When I did the Windfire shoot, we had walkie-talkies between me and my team of make-up and hair artists who were set up in my apartment while I was on location at the park. It saved on cell battery and made communication faster. This way you can have fast answers for cast members both on location with you (who could be waiting for another cast member to do their last scene) or who are wondering what to put on before they head out to the park. No one wants to have to go back to home base once they are at location.

Jason on the couch5) Stay on schedule. Be anal retentive when you plan this day. If it’s a long shoot, have an assistant to keep track of time for you. If it’s a small shoot, don’t veer off the plan. And remember, use your actors/models wisely. Don’t waste their time if you can help it.

6) Work with your photographer as if they are your teammate. Yes, it’s your ideas and need, but let them play and have some vision too (unless they tell you they don’t have any…which can happen). This creates a fun atmosphere for those in front of the lens.

All said, the entire group had a great time and my only regret is that it’s over. HUGE thank you’s to my cast and my photographer…you all made this the best shoot yet!

Well, that’s it for me this time around… write hard, bathe in imagination, and have some photo fun for what you write!

Tamsin :)

 

 

American Standard English: a Love Story

Emily Leverett

Last time I posted I took a detour from grammar to talk about place influencing writing. Today I’m going back to the English language, but in a broader sense.

If you follow pretty much anyone on Twitter, you’ll eventually see some non-grammatical tweets. People shorten and abbreviate words, omit punctuation, use acronyms, etc.

And this really pisses some people off.

I admit, when someone posts an error riddled tweet, I roll my eyes and think they can’t get it together, or at least slow down long enough to make sure what they’ve written is legible. But I also see regionalisms and short hand that aren’t mistakes, they’re choices. And that’s cool.

I’m an English prof, so one might assume that I love the English language. That’s true, most days. But my area of study is Medieval English, so I spend a lot of time working with texts whose authors spelled everything phonetically– or how they felt like it at the time. This included character names, too. People like Chaucer would spell a character’s name differently in different moments for syllables-per-line or for rhyme. Spelling varied depending on where the author (or scribe–the copier) lived, because of different accents. So, I’ve seen spelling change all over the place. And now, I’m not so hooked on laughing at folks who don’t spell words the way I do. Or don’t define them quite like I do either.

Words like ask and bird used to be “aks” and “brid.” Why did they change? Don’t really know. But it does mean that New York accent you might make fun of is actually a historical pronunciation variation that predates the word we use today.

But, people may say, “failing to use American Standard English (ASE) shows a lack of intelligence.”

To which I say: “poppycock!”

Not using (or being able to use) ASE shows that they haven’t been educated in ASE, or they weren’t born and raised speaking ASE. Or they are choosing NOT to use ASE. Mastery of a language and the rules of that language does not immediately reflect intelligence or character. The lack of mastery equally does not reflect a lack of intelligence or character.

The truth is that ASE has a long and complicated history. It is the standard because it, over time, has come to be viewed as the most neutral and understandable. Having perfect ASE accent would mean that you spoke like some character from a Midwestern fantasy. No unique inflection, no unique idioms or words,and no unique grammar choices.

ASE is wrapped up in class and race.

I learned ASE without learning it. That language was spoken at home, in my schools, at church (when I went), in the books I read, etc. So I absorbed it.

Knowing all this, it is tough for me to dismiss people who struggle with language.

That said, the American publishing world expects ASE. If you don’t use ASE in your correspondence and conversation, then you might run into difficulties getting into the field. And in a field where the smallest mistake can hurt you (though less than some catastrophizing folks think), it helps to know the rules.

I admit that, if you want to sell me a book, and I pick it up to read the first few paragraphs, and I see a ton of grammar problems / typos, I will put it back down again. Grammar problems make a text difficult to read and understand. That means the text would be almost impossibly to enjoy.

(Two caveats here, and they are obvious: first, dialogue is not written in ASE because we don’t talk in complete sentences; second, a writer can choose to write in dialect, which will have very different rules than ASE. Both of these, though, are about informed choices.)

So, unfair as it is, I encourage anyone who wants in the publishing industry to learn ASE. Know it, use it, and, if you can, love it. You don’t have to use it with friends or family, but use it when you’re putting forward your professional identity. Use the posts from me and Melissa and the rest of MW to help you understand the rules and how they work. Have people proofread something for you. Read a lot in ASE to help it feel more natural.

So, that’s it for my non-specifically-about-grammar-posts!  Next time I’ll be back with adjectives!

Buy My S&$!

John G. Hartness

That’s my tagline at conventions, in case someone has missed it. I hand-sell a lot of books, and a fair number of those sales start off with encouraging people to simply “Buy my (stuff).” I then laugh at their shocked expression and go on to explain that it’s what everybody else means, I’m just willing to come out and say it. More often than not, they buy something.

So hey, you – Buy my (stuff)!

I’ve mentioned once or twice that the fifth book in my Black Knight Chronicles series comes out next Tuesday, and we’ve talked about how important pre-orders and first week sales are to authors, especially mid-list authors like me and most of your MW crew. There are real dollar attached to selling well out of the gate, so it’s very important that we promote our new releases as vigorously as possible. To that end, I’m giving you a free sample of In the Still of the Knight here on Magical Words before you can get it anywhere else, in hopes that you’ll click the pre-order link and buy it either on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

So here’s a little bit of the intro to In the Still of the Knight

In the Still of the Knight

SOMEDAY I’LL HAVE a normal date. A nice dinner, maybe a movie, maybe even some dancing leading to some making out on a sofa, or even something better. No murders, no kidnappings, no thefts, just a nice quiet evening out with a beautiful woman. Yeah, I’ll have one of those dates someday. But today is not that day.

These are the thoughts that flashed through my mind as I vaulted over the patio railing to the sidewalk a few feet below and sprinted after what looked like an ordinary purse-snatcher. He was just a guy, right? Just a skinny little bastard in a dirty black hoodie, cargo pants, and black Chuck Taylor hi-tops. Average white kid with a scraggly little chin beard and about three hairs on his upper lip, his slight build making him look even younger, maybe sixteen if he was really pushing it.

I saw him the second he came onto the patio, and watched Sabrina take note of him, too. He wasn’t the typical clientele for the Epicentre, and sure didn’t look like he was coming out for a little Mexican alfresco. So it didn’t surprise me when he fake-tripped beside our table and snatched Sabrina’s purse out of the chair beside her, then straightened up and vaulted over the patio handrail and down to the sidewalk a few feet below.

“I got this,” I said to my date, Detective Sabrina Law of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “I assume there are things in there that shouldn’t be running around the streets of Charlotte unattended?”

“Like my badge and sidearm? Yeah, getting those back would be good.” Sabrina was on her feet and moving to the edge of the patio, but I put a hand on her arm.

“I said I got this. But you probably want to take care of the check in case something goes pear shaped.” I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and jumped over the handrail. The purse-snatcher sprinted up College and had about half a block lead on me, but I wasn’t sweating that. I poured on a little extra speed, and by the time he was trying to blend in with the crowd waiting for the light at Fifth Street, I was standing by his left elbow.

“That bag doesn’t match your shoes,” I said, putting a light hand on his left arm. “Why don’t I take it back to the lady you boosted it from and we’ll forget this ever happened.”

He turned to me, eyes wide, and twisted out of my grip way faster than I expected him to move, and faster than he should have been able to move. Then he put both hands on my chest and shoved me out into traffic, right in the path of a Lincoln Navigator turning right onto Fifth. I bounced off the hood of the car, crashed to the pavement, and bounded right back to my feet. I waved to the wide-eyed soccer mom in the car to let her know I wasn’t dead (as far as she could see, anyway) and scanned the crowd for the thief.

Nobody moves that fast. And nobody can throw me like that. Nobody human, anyway. I caught sight of a hoodie moving quickly but discreetly through the crush of bodies walking up the hill on Fifth toward Connolly’s pub. I Froggered my way across the traffic on College and followed him up the hill on the opposite sidewalk, using the foot traffic to mask my pursuit. A gap in the crowd left me walking alone, and I caught the thief’s eyes as he made me. He gave up any pretense of being normal then, hopping off the sidewalk into the street and running against oncoming traffic.

He wasn’t too worried about cars, though; he simply leapt over any that came down the street in his lane. “Crap,” I muttered as I realized I was going to have to do the same thing if I wanted to have any chance of catching him and getting Sabrina’s weapon and badge back. Sometimes I hate being the knight in shining armor. I stepped into the street and sprinted after him. He sped up, but I easily matched him. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in nearly twenty years of being a vampire, it’s that I’m fast, even for a vampire. If there’s another thing I’ve learned, it’s that SPF 50 doesn’t work for us.

I cut his lead to twenty yards by the time we turned right on Tryon, and running with traffic made the going easier on both of us. I was almost on him in front of Ri Ra when a pedal cab with some goofy real estate agent’s face on the back pulled out in front of me and tripped me up. By the time I untangled myself from bike and driver, my quarry was across the street and about to turn the corner in front of the Dunhill. I leapt the street, surprising myself with my distance, and hit the ground running flat out. I made it around the corner on Sixth just in time to see a manhole cover slide back into place.

I came to a stop and looked up at the heavens. “Sewers? Really? Vampires in the sewers? This is how you wreck my date night? What did I ever do? Don’t answer that.” Fortunately, the Almighty and everyone else upstairs remained as blissfully silent as ever, and I walked down the street to the manhole cover. I stopped right above the sewer entrance and sniffed the air, breathing deep and trying to separate the scent of the snatcher and Sabrina’s lingering fragrance on her bag from the normal street smells and the thick stench of the sewer roiling beneath my feet. I froze as I recognized the scent that overlaid Sabrina’s in the air. It was a familiar smell, the rich tang of coppery blood laced with long-dead flesh. My purse-snatcher wasn’t just some random thief with super-speed. No doubt about it now. He was a vampire, just like me.

If you enjoyed that, don’t forget to pre-order and spread the word! 

Five Things To Remember When You’re Building A Blog Tour

Misty MasseyMisty Massey

Posting this on behalf of the delightful Gail Martin, who’s off on a lovely vacation!  Enjoy!

I&B final coverA ‘blog tour’ is when an author lines up a number of blogger sites which have agreed to post a guest blog by that author during a certain period of time–usually a week or so–in order to promote a specific event–usually a book launch.

Blog tours can be valuable ways to get your message out to a broad audience, utilizing the networks of your host bloggers. Done right, not only can your blog post reach readers of the host blog who might not visit your own sites or be aware of your work; you can also benefit from publicity about your post done by the blogger via Twitter, Facebook and other channels.

Readers who like your post may re-tweet the link or post a direct link to what you’ve written on Reddit or a similar site. Other bloggers, online news sites and digest blogs may pick up your post, reaching an even larger audience. Every guest blog post increases the good links associated with your name on Google and other search engines. And if you put the blog tour together yourself, all of this visibility is free. Sort of. It still takes time, and it requires observing the niceties of netiquette. That’s why it’s important to keep five things in mind.

#1 Make your guest blog post a win-win for the blogger. Sure, you want to do a guest post so that more people hear about your book. But what’s in it for the blogger who is hosting you? Make sure you write a blog post that is informative and entertaining, perhaps a how-to or an opinion piece, rather than just dishing up a press release or a glob of self promotion. You want to draw readers to the blogger and provide a reason for other people on the internet and the media to talk about the blogger’s site. Make sure your blog tour plan is strong on giving back to the people who help you.

#2 Plan to be very visible on Facebook and Twitter throughout your blog tour, promoting the links to your upcoming guest blogs, thanking the bloggers and their readers, mentioning the host blog with all relevant social media tags, and directing traffic their way. This is a good time to ask your publisher’s PR person for a signal boost, and to rally your most active Twitter and Facebook followers for some shares and retweets.

#3 Be interesting. Sure, you want to mention your new book. But you need to talk about more than that. Do a trivia contest for ‘pride, not prize’ and announce the winners, tie in a Goodreads or Reddit book giveaway, come up with a contest and give the winner a Tuckerization (mention them by name in your next book/short story), share some outtakes or short fiction—-in other words, don’t just promote. Tell people about your book and then talk about related stuff. Then come back to ‘oh, and I’ve got a new book coming out’ with another tidbit, and then talk about other stuff some more.

#4 Build relationships with bloggers in advance by regularly retweeting and sharing their links and commenting on their blog. Bloggers attend conventions, they hang out of Facebook and Twitter, and they love to have people share links to their posts. You can begin building relationships long in advance of when you want to do a blog tour by being a good online neighbor first.

#5 Respond. Use Twitter and Facebook to (frequently and repeatedly) thank the bloggers who hosted you. If someone comments on your post, answer! Make it a conversation instead of a one-way monologue. Be a good host and make sure your guests have fun. In fact, the goal is to make sure people have so much fun they forget this is a promotional event and walk aqway happy from a darn good party remembering that you (and your new book) were the hosts.

Good blog tours take effort to prepare and promote, but the links stay online forever and the benefits can be awesome for you and your book!

Check out my new Steampunk novel Iron and Blood, co-written with Larry N. Martin, set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. In stores July 7!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event blog tour runs June 21-30 on more than 28 blogs worldwide and  includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 28 awesome partner sites around the globe.  For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Commonly Confused Words – One Word or Two?

Melissa Gilbert

Two weeks ago, we started talking about words often confused, and we’re going to continue that today. Today, however, we are going to talk about words that sound the same but can be written as one word or two.


Always – All Ways

Always: this spelling is used when you mean forever

All Ways: this spelling is used when you mean that you have tried all of the different ways

 

Alright – All Right

Alright: this spelling is used when you mean OK (note: this is a non-standard word that some people don’t consider a word at all!)

All Right: this spelling is used when you mean that everything is right or as it should be

 

Already – All Ready

Already: this spelling is used when you mean that something has happened

All Ready: this spelling is used when you mean that something is completely prepared

 

Altogether – All Together

Altogether: this spelling is used when you mean thoroughly, completely, or totally

All Together: this spelling is used when you mean at the same time or as a whole

 

Allot – A Lot – Alot

Allot: this spelling is used when you mean to allow or to portion

A Lot: this spelling is used when you mean a group or amount of something

Alot: just don’t, please.

 

Apart – A Part

Apart: this spelling is used when you mean away or separate from

A Part: this spelling is used when you mean a portion of a whole

 

Awhile – A While

Awhile: this spelling is used when you need an adverb when you mean for an unspecified amount of time

A While: this spelling is used when you need a noun

 

Everyday – Every Day

Everyday: this spelling is used when you mean ordinary or commonplace

Every Day: this spelling is used when you mean the days in succession

 

Everyone – Every One

Everyone: this spelling is used when you mean multiple people acting as a single group

Every One: this spelling is used when you mean the persons individually


Can you think of any I missed? What words do you wonder about that could be one word or two?

See you in two weeks for a shiny new topic!