Exposed!: Five Common Myths About Being A Writer

Hi folks! I’m always asked about what it’s like to be a published author by fans, students, aspiring novelists, friends, and randos in bars. Oftentimes, they reveal preconceptions about The Author Life in how they word their questions. Today, I thought I’d play Mythbuster because–just like in the show–the reality is often more interesting than the myth. So here’s five common myths about being a writer, EXPOSED:

1) Authors write novels full time

The real subtext to this is “writers make good money.” Now, obviously authors can make good money. They can make great money. They can even make stupid money (Rowling, King, etc). But most of us make not-so-great money. Which means that, for the majority of us, we don’t get to be full-time novelists. Or, if we are, we’re not necessarily bringing home the daily bacon–the steady, “pay the rent” money may come from a spouse or trust fund, and “book money” becomes a sort of “mad money.”

Obviously there are a ton of exceptions to this rule. There are bestselling novelists with movie deals. There are authors with ENORMOUS backlists, or authors with prodigious outputs (six books a year or so, creating a sort of immediate backlist as well as generating new income). And there are full-time writers, as opposed to full-time novelists, who freelance in other areas of writing (journalism, tech writing, professional writing, etc.).

But the majority of us have a day job, at least until we have that enormo backlist/instant bestseller/HBO deal. For example, I’m a professor. Other writers I know work regular 9-5s. Some authors work in the service industry. Some are in the military, or they’re doctors, or lawyers.

Many of us, meanwhile, don’t really want to be full-time writers. There are times I may fantasize about that life, when I’ve got a stack of grading and a deadline for a book, all due at the same time. But the fact is that working gets me out of my own head, makes me interact with living human beings, inspires me constantly (because people are nuts and fun and constantly helping me understand the world better), and having a day job I love means that I have a constant ego balance. If I’m having a bad day writing, I can go to school and bury myself in satisfying work there. Or vice versa. And if I’m feeling super cool and arrogant in one job, there will be a freshman making a stink face at me OR a negative book review to make sure I don’t get too up my own tuchus.

Lesson here: Don’t quit your day job.

2) Authors choose their covers

Nope. And this bullet point obviously pertains only to trad-pubbed writers. Self-pubbed writers control all sorts of things, one of the nice things about self-publishing (although your responsibility obviously skyrockets in consequence).

Anyway, traditionally published authors control very little about their books. They don’t make their covers, and it really depends on their publisher and their relationship with that publisher as to whether they even have any say in their covers. They often don’t get to pick their own titles. They don’t control what’s on the “wrap”: the back of book copy, where their name is printed or how big, any tag lines, whose blurbs are on there, etc. If it’s a book in a series, they can’t tell the publisher to put the number of that book on the cover.

This is why you get books with red-headed, mixed race heroines and there’s a blonde on the cover. In my German translations, the first two covers sport a mermaid. There is nary a mermaid in my entire series.

So what do we control? What’s inside, for the most part. Although obviously I don’t mean formatting. Or length, as that’s contractual. And I’ve heard of battle royales about plot points in which the author is forced to concede………

Lesson here: Don’t expect, as an author, to have any control about what’s on your books and that you’re getting paid for what’s in them.

3) An author’s publisher pays for him or her to go places

My standard response to this is BLESS YOUR HEART and a sad little pat on the person’s head.

There are authors who have wonderful tours organized and paid for by their publishers. Those writers are, again, usually the bestsellers with the movie deals, etc. An author at my level pays for all of her own travel, unless she’s paid for by the event, itself.

Now, I’m a little different. I also have some travel money from my day job, because my book promotions help me promote our MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. But I’m like a unicorn in that respect, so don’t think any other writers have travel paid for by their employer.

So when you see a writer is going to a big convention in New York, please understand that they’re probably paying out of their own wazoo to get to that convention. And they chose that big convention because it is big: it may be expensive, but it’s a lot of bang for their buck in terms of networking, meeting a lot of readers, etc. That big convention, however, may blow their travel budget for the year. So they can’t go to see you in Nebraska, even though they’d really like to. Because they’re paying for themselves.

And if we are paid for by someone, we’re on their dime. I’m lucky in that I’ve started getting invited AND PAID FOR to do some events. This makes me feel very, very fancy. But if someone flies me out to Hell, Michigan, to incant over their bookstore, I can’t bugger off to Flint to meet with your book club. I would LOVE to, but I gots to dance for the person that paid me.

That said, the great thing about our world is technology. I’d love to Skype with your book club in Flint. And it’s free! Just get in touch to arrange it.

Meanwhile, writers need to be careful about making promises they can’t afford to keep. Cons are expensive. Book tours are expensive. Budget! (I’m bad at this)

Lesson here: Writers need to budget for travel and readers should understand that budget comes from the author’s own wallet. And refer to #1 for how slim that wallet can be. ;)

4) Writing is about being in touch with The Muse

The problem with muses is that they’re inevitably complete assholes: gone when you need them, all too present when you don’t. That said, while many non-writers and aspiring writers think that writing a novel is about inspiration and ideas, it’s really about what we call BiC, or Butt in Chair.

I always use the metaphor of a marathon to represent writing, especially writing a novel. Writing a novel is not fun, in the same way that muscle fatigue, nipple chafing, and blistered feet are not fun. There is like a few weeks of brainstorming that I imagine is like signing up for the marathon: planning your training, getting your t-shirt and gear, etc. This part of the writing process is “fun” and, genuinely, about ideas. This is where you’re like “Yeah, that’d be cool! Wow! I’m so clever! And then BAM, it’s all resolved! I’m a genius!”

Then you start the real writing (the actual marathon training). First of all, it’s slow. It’s tedious. Even if you write like the wind, a 90,000 word book takes a few months. And most people don’t write like the wind. An idea that was shiny and beautiful in week one seems like a pile of  dessicated poop by month five. Those glorious connections you forged in your brainstorming? They don’t make a lick of gotdamned sense in reality. And then once you complete the rough draft, you’ve got another few months of revisions, because rough drafts suck (they’re supposed to! They’re rough!).

Finally, like a marathon, you’re not guaranteed to finish, let alone get a gold metal. Your book may languish in a desk drawer forever, after being rejected for publication. Or it may languish at #2,400,499,399 on Amazon’s sales ranking, after it’s self-published and makes exactly $23.97 profit on a year’s effort.

So don’t think writing is fun. Or easy. Or particularly satisfying, unless you’re one of us lunatics who finds satisfaction in the process. Because by the time you actually see your book on the shelf, you are so over that book it’s not funny. You’re hopefully already halfway through your next book, and probably at that stage where this new book feels like it’s killing your soul, little by little, day after day. So you see your published book on the shelf and you’re like, “Aw, that’s so nice, there it is,” immediately followed by, “Now what am I going to do with that stupid plot point in chapter eight……..” and off you go tearing out your hair over the new book.

Lesson here: If all you want is to be a “writer,” you’re going to fail. You have to really enjoy writing. And by “writing” I mean “being a masochist.”

5) Other writers are our competition

I hear this most from non-writers, who say things like, “Oh, your book is out the same day as Anne Rice’s! Are you pissed?”

Now, the majority of my fellow writers will auto-scoff at #5. There are a few exceptions I’ve met over the years, but they are very few. The fact is that most writers understand that writing is not a competition. Here’s why:

Readers are nuts and they’re bad with money. I mean that in the best way possible, of course, and I’m a reader too, so this totally applies to me. But yeah, readers are incapable of buying just one book. If I go to the bookstore to pick up SEP’s latest, I will  sit in the car and scold myself for a good ten minutes, “You will only buy this one book!  Just this one! No more!” An hour later I’m back in the hippie spaceship, clutching fifteen paperbacks to my chest, wondering what the hell just happened and what I’ll eat that night, since I blew my entire weekly budget on shifter romance.

So I hope Anne Rice’s new book is out the same week as my new book. Because someone is going to go in to Barnes and Noble, telling themselves, “I WILL ONLY BUY RICE’S BOOK.” And they’re going to end up back at home with my entire series in a bag, having no idea where the last hour of their lives went, but being about $50 poorer.

And yeah, Rice is going to CREAM ME in terms of “sales ranking,” but I don’t give a shit. Because I bought her book, too. It’s Anne Rice fercrissakes! She gets to cream anybody she wants.

I know Rice is going to succeed, because she deserves it. And I want my other writer pals to succeed, because they deserve it, too. So I’m going to pimp their books, and tell everyone to read them, and hope everyone does. I’m a reader. I love good books. This isn’t a competition.

Lesson here: Be supportive. Build community. Support other writers. Never forget you’re a reader, first.

So those are some common myths, BUSTED. ;) Let me know in comments if you have any other questions, or anything to add.

And for those doing Nano this year, keep at it! This stretch is the hardest but you’re almost there! xoxoxo

Cover Reveal: THE RYU MORGUE

Who’s your favorite metrosexual vampire??? It better be Ryu! You can find out more about what he’s been up to since Jane by reading this story when it releases, on December 16th.

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To find out more, and for links to buy buttons as they’re available, go here! ;) And to read the latest story (starring Jane herself, but from Anyan’s POV), go here!

Release Round Up!

Hi folks!

This is going to be a busy few months for me, in terms of publishing, so I thought I’d give y’all the heads up.

Just last week I released THE HOUND OF BAR HARBORVILLE!

HoundFinalIt’s a story with Jane and Anyan, from Anyan’s point of view. Thanks to everyone who bought it and huge thanks to everyone who has reviewed it! If you haven’t yet, and you’ve read it, I’d really appreciate a review. It can be short, they just really help us beat those algorithm thingies! ;)

Next month will be VERY busy. My big release is, of course, JINN AND JUICE, coming out in digital release (paperback to follow in about six months). It’s getting great blurbs and people seem to enjoy it… and it’s SO cheap on digital, only $2.99!

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Another big release for me is the hardcover version of DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, which features my story, “Borderline Dead.” I’ll also be doing a signing with Charlaine Harris and some of the other anthology authors, at Murder by the Book on December 3rd.

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Also in December, I’ll be releasing another Jane short story, this one called THE RYU MORGUE. It’ll be about Ryu and Maeve–Has our favorite baobhan sith metrosexual met his match??

January will then see the release of THE SATYR OF ST. GILES, in which Graeme finally gets his comeuppance.

Anything you’re particularly excited for? Because I’m so glad to be having a busy few publishing months after a busy work year last year. :) And thank you for all of your continued support. Jane’s fans are AMAZING!

New York Comic Con Recap!

Howdy folks! Hope y’all are well and excited for the release of THE HOUND OF BAR HARBORVILLE, my Jane True story which comes out tomorrow. WHAT? I know. It happened so fast. You can follow the linkieloo above to pre-order it, and please do!

But I’ve been super busy the past week. I was a guest at New York Comic Con…and it was insane! First off, upon arriving at our hotel, The Yotel, I was greeted by my spirit animal:

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I know, right! Terrifying. I now know what a love child of myself and a moose would produce. Anyway, we came in on Wednesday so I would be ready for Thursday at the con…which meant that we had Wednesday night to play. And play we did! My lovely friend (and amazing artist) Lyla came with for the first half of the trip. Aren’t we cute!

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And soon enough we found ourselves in one of my favorite NYC bars, Beekman Bar and Books. There we were joined by my very old friend Wendy. I say “very old” because we realized it was TWELVE years since we met in Spain, and at that point there was not enough alcohol in the world to make me feel less freaked out. Although we did our damnedest. ;)

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The next morning meant it was time for me to go to work. We could see the crowds forming at Javits from our hotel window, a daunting sight. Apparently, word on the skreets is that this NYCC was bigger even than San Diego Comic Con. It certainly felt that way.

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But the good people at Orbit Books took excellent care of me, as usual, during my booth signing. We gave away TONS of copies of Tempest Rising. And I kept running into lovely human beans like Dana Cameron, whom I adore. YAY! I also got to hide behind the Hachette Booth…

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And hide I did! Thursday was the slowest day but OMG the people!

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We did venture out some, though. Mostly to take adorable pictures. My agent, the wonderful and talented Rebecca Strauss, was with us that day as well, and she took us to lunch and took photos…

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The next day I didn’t have to be at NYCC and we definitely needed a respite. Luckily, our lovely friend Lindsay came in from Pittsburgh to take second shift as my Official Con Escort, as Lyla had to get home that night. But we had all Friday to be tourists. We went to the MAD, which I adored. Then we walked the High Line. SO FUN:

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It was a great day out, ending in an Indian feast before Lyla had to catch the bus home. And the next day, I was back at NYCC, doing my panel and official autographing. Lindsay took a ton of pics, which is great, not least as I learned I make very absurd hand gestures when I talk. Here I am cupping something:

 

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And I appear to be going for a lay up in this one:

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You can see a video of the WHOLE panel below. My fellow guests were pretty amazing (mother of Yoda? YES.) and I think we had a pretty rad conversation:

That day was super intense, but I met lovely people and did a ton of business and was very glad to be there and very glad to get out. SO MANY PEOPLE. Did I mention there were a lot of people?

Luckily, I got to come home on Sunday, and have two days off to catch up on school work and prepare for the release of my Jane short story.

Thanks so much to Orbit, to Rebecca, to Lyla and Lindsay and Wendy, and to NYCC and the Yotel for a great time. I’m nearly recovered. Ish. ;) xoxoxo

Swag and Such: My New York Comic Con 2014 Schedule

Hey folks! Next week is NYCC 2014 and I’ll be attending Thursday the 9th and Saturday the 11th. If you’re there, you should come see me!

Here’s where you can catch me:

 

 

BOOTH SIGNING:

Where: Orbit/Yen (Hachette)

When: Thursday, 2:00 pm

THERE WILL BE GIVEAWAYS! ;) At least till they run out…

PANEL: NOT YOUR MOTHER’S FAIRY TALES

Where: 1B03

When: Saturday,  3:00-3:45

More here

AUTOGRAPHING:

Where: Autographing Table 19

When: Saturday, 4:00-5:00

More here

Books will be available for purchase

EXCERPT THIS!: or, Anyan Rides Again!

Hello my pretties!

Today I’ve got an excerpt from THE HOUND OF BAR HARBORVILLE for you! I’m so excited about this little story! It’s so fun slipping back into Jane and Anyan’s world. And this story is from Anyan’s point of view, which was also super fun.

Without further ado, here’s the excerpt! The whole shebang will be available October 15, 2014.

Excerpt from THE HOUND OF BAR HARBORVILLE:

Of course, lunch wasn’t just lunch. After we’d eaten our weight in Bar Harbor lobster—I’ll never understand why vacation lobster tastes so much better than our normal, Rockabill lobster, considering it’s the same damned lobster—Jane spotted an “adorable” gallery, and then another, and then another. After that she had to have an ice cream, and then a cocktail, and then another cocktail, and then there was another gallery, and then it was time for dinner, and then a nightcap. Somehow she conned me into ice cream again. Then we called home to check on the twins and Jane’s dad, who had everything well in hand. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was eight o’clock and I was very, very ready for our bed, if not for sleeping.

A shiny brass call bell was sitting on the desk at the hotel, and I gave it a mighty clap when we arrived, carrying what felt like dozens of shopping bags filled with tourist tat and some nice pieces of local art.

And then we waited.

And waited.

“That’s weird,” said Jane, and she clapped the bell again.

This time it was Timmy who shambled out of the hidden door behind the desk.

“Hullo,” he said listlessly, staring at us.

“Hello,” said Jane, straightening her spine with an expectant air.

Timmy’s dull brown gaze shifted between us like he wasn’t quite sure who we were or what we were doing there. His graying blonde hair hung into his eyes, contributing to the boyish air that clung to him, despite his obviously being middle-aged.

“We’re the Barghests,” I explained. “You carried our luggage to our room earlier today.”

“Okay,” said Timmy.

More silence.

“Could we go to our room now?” Jane asked gently.

“Okay.” Timmy didn’t have a very wide repertoire of responses, apparently.

“We don’t have a key,” said Jane. “Or a room number.

“Okay,” said Timmy, but this time he did move, first to take a key from under the desk and then to lead us up the stairs with a slow, determined tread.

Our room number was 13. Jane nudged me, but at that point I didn’t care if we had to kick a black cat and walk directly under a ladder to get into our room. Timmy pushed open the door and stood back, handing me the key as I followed Jane into the room. When I turned around to tip the man, he was gone, disappeared like a ghost.

I felt the hair on my arms rise and I reminded myself that I was Anyan Barghest, scourge of the supernatural world, and I shouldn’t be afraid of a middle-aged boutique hotel valet with the IQ of a toddler.

“It’s gorgeous,” Jane breathed as we set our shopping bags down next to the door and I turned to shut the door. “Look at that bed!”

The bed was huge and very elegantly made up. A four-poster draped in fabric, it was utterly romantic and incredibly practical for tying someone to. There was also the advertised chaise lounge and the fireplace and, when we poked our head in the bathroom, the enormous tub and equally large shower.

I turned to Jane, who put a hand on my chest.

“Not so fast, puppy. I need a shower. And to put on something special for our special night.”

“You already are special,” I said. “You can’t get any specialer…”

Well played, I congratulated myself. For I had my own special plans for tonight that had counted on Jane’s usual nightly ritual of a shower or bath before bed.

“It’ll take me twenty minutes, tops,” she said. “Think you can survive for that long?”

I sighed. “I guess. If I have to.” I bent to kiss her, meaning it to be just a quickie, but it deepened and soon we were almost too deep into it, ready to forget both of our separate missions. Champagne, I reminded myself. Candles. Shit girls like.

And with that I managed to pull back. “Get ready,” I said, giving her a soft kiss before she gathered up a few things from her little suitcase and went into the bathroom and shut the door.

I sprang into action.

From my own suitcase I pulled out three pillar candles I’d stashed amongst my clothes and the kit that Grizzie and Iris had handed me the following evening. I opened it to find a baggie full of rose petals, a bottle of massage oil, a pair of handcuffs that were not the fuzzy sex kind but real, honest-to-god handcuffs, a variety of toys, and a bunch of bananas. I hoped the bananas were for us to eat to keep our strength up, but with those two I probably didn’t want to know.

I placed one candle on the bureau across from the bed, by the door, one on the mantle above the fireplace, and one on the left-hand nightstand. I pulled from the earth’s magic, using a small burst of power to light each candle as I set it down. Then I strew the rose petals on the bed, looking at the clock. I still had fifteen minutes to carry out my plan.

Creeping out the door, I turned off the lights, looking back to check the scene. I had to admit, it looked good. I’d not bothered with the fire, as it was a warm night, but the candles lit the room with a soft glow that left most of the room, especially the bed, plunged in velvety shadow.

It looked warm and mysterious and sexy, like my Jane.

Then the candle next to bed guttered in a draft and went out, leaving the fabric-draped four-poster bed in total darkness. I nearly went to relight it, not trusting my aim with fire to do it from the doorway without lighting the bed on fire. Then I decided it could wait till I got back; getting the food and booze was more important.

It was Jane I was dealing with, after all.

Downstairs, there was no one at the desk and no one answered the bell this time when I slapped it impatiently. After a few minutes of waiting, I decided to take matters into my own hands and went behind the desk to push open the secret door there. It led into a small office, through which I could see a large kitchen.

Bingo.

I went to the refrigerator and pulled it open. Sure enough, there was a large paper bag that said “Barghest” on it. Inside I found the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries I’d had delivered to the hotel for our arrival. A little rummaging in cupboards and I found a few flutes and a silver tray, upon which I arranged everything. I debated whether to open the champagne there, in the kitchen, but figured I’d do it in the bedroom, especially as there was no one to help me open doors or anything.

Where the hell is the staff? I wondered. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves, which was odd considering part of the Chateau’s outrageous price tag was its promise of first-class service.

The champagne flutes jittered on the tray as I carried everything through the secret door and back up the stairs to our room. I figured that in the time I’d waited at the desk and then helped myself, I’d been about twenty minutes. I’d wanted everything set up before Jane came out of the shower, but arriving with it on the tray wouldn’t be too shabby.

I did have three of her favorite things, after all. On the tray was food and booze.

And the third thing is my doggie style, I thought smugly as I carefully nudged open the door, trying to be as quiet as possible in case she was still in the bathroom and I might yet manage to surprise her.

Only I was the one who was surprised.

For Jane was doing a sexy little shimmy for another man.

Even with my sharp barghest eyesight, I couldn’t see whom he was through the thick darkness created by the curtains of the four-poster bed. All I could see was that someone was in the bed, and Jane was standing just a few feet in front of me, facing the stranger and sliding her robe down her shoulders to reveal an absolutely stunning lingerie set.

“Who is that in our bed and why are you dancing for him?” I said, keeping my voice carefully neutral, not least because I’d registered something very odd about the man.

He wasn’t moving. Not even when Jane revealed her lace-covered tatas, which should have created some sort of reaction.

And speaking of Jane…

“EEEEEK!” she squealed at the sound of my voice, drawing her robe up and jumping away from where I stood, then shrieking again and jumping back towards me as her head swiveled toward its mystery occupant.

“What the fuck?” she shouted, lunging for the light switch even as I reached to flick it on.

She turned on her heel and we both looked at the figure in our bed.

It was our host, Jack(ques). He was propped up on the pillows, the covers—that I’d so carefully strewn with rose petals—pulled over his thighs.

He was very naked.

He was also very dead.

His eyes stared forward, his color already pallid. I couldn’t see any signs of blood or bruising or any other trauma, but he was definitely dead.

Jane looked at me, eyes wide. I looked back at Jane. Then I swore, moving just far enough into the room to set the tray down on a small table by the door before steering her away by the elbow to go call the human police.

So much for our romantic getaway.

Hope you liked it! Here’s the link to more info, and where you can find buy buttons as they’re available!

MOAR JANE TRUE???

Hi folks!

Just posting with some fun news. There are no more Jane True novels on the horizon, BUT I always said I may do some short stories…and I am!

They’re super fun, super fast reads for the established Jane True fan. I’ve got three planned so far: THE HOUND OF BAR HARBORVILLE, THE RYU MORGUE, and THE SATYR OF SAINT GILES.

“The Hound of Bar Harborville” is up first! Here’s the cover, done by the ever fabulous Mark Henry:

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Here’s what it’s about:

Anyan can’t wait to get Jane away for a romantic getaway to Bar Harbor – their first since the twins were born. But everything goes awry when Anyan catches Jane accidentally sexy dancing for another man…who happens to be quite dead. Jane, convinced there’s been foul play, wants to investigate, but Anyan just wants to get it on. One naughty wager later and Jane gets her way…but will Anyan eventually get his way with her?

The story is from Anyan’s point of view, and it’ll be out October 15th. I’m posting buy buttons as I’m able to, and you can already pre-order from a few venues here.

I’m writing “The Ryu Morgue” right now, and it’s about Ryu and Maeve, the human he meets in the Initiative, whom we hear about in Tempest Reborn. That should be available in December, after the release of Jinn and Juice and my Sookieverse story, in November.

Finally, “The Satyr of Saint Giles” will be coming out in January, and that’s where Graeme, the sadistic satyr, finally gets his comeuppance.

So be excited! Be very excited! Jane stories are coming at you.

You know her! You love her! You wanted more of her! xoxoxo

Speech! Speech!

We have a summer reading program at my school, Seton Hill University, and I’m head of the committee. This year we read The Book Thief (amazing read) and we all discussed it an then we had a Gallery at which I gave a speech. A few people have asked for the speech, so here it is!

Hello and welcome to all of you: our incoming class as well as our faculty and staff. My name is Dr. Nicole Peeler and I would like to thank you on behalf of the Summer Reading Committee. We very much appreciate your taking part in this event.

Today we are here because all of you read the same book, Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. It’s very long, as I’m some of you were painfully aware. And it’s not exactly a happy read, what with virtually all the characters dead at the end. The subject matter is also grim: concentration camps, genocide, the bombing of civilian targets, all narrated by death itself. Such a book may seem a strange welcome at a time that is full of promise, excitement, and hope.

And yet I would argue that this book is one of hope. As much as it is an exploration of the evil committed in the name of grandiose ideologies, it is also a story of love. It is a story of everyday people caught up in something much larger than themselves, who still manage to act with kindness and even, at times, with heroism. It is also a book in which these good people die.

We are more familiar with happier narratives. Those in which people who act with kindness not only survive, but are recognized and rewarded for their brave acts. Stories like the one told in The Book Thief are, quite frankly, depressing. And, we may ask ourselves, what is the point of such a sad tale? What can we take from a book that makes us doubt the fairness of the universe?

What I take from this book, and what we, as a committee, hope to share with you, are just these sorts of questions, rather than answers. The book asks, what could ordinary Germans have done when confronted with the barbaric, unstoppable machine that was Hitler’s Third Reich? And by asking that question, we must ask, what can any of us do when confronted with issues that are bigger than we are and that we know we can’t fix singlehandledly?

One answer, of course, is to remain silent. To shut our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. Another answer, a far more uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous answer, is to engage with the issue and do something, anything, to create even a thimbleful of change.

We do not live in Liesel’s Germany, but many of you have undoubtedly felt powerless in the face of the history unfolding around us. You have watched footage from Gaza, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. You have seen tanks on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. You have opened Facebook to pictures of beaten children or animals, or read headlines about Ebola outbreaks, suicide, or rape culture in your Twitter feed.

And you’ve probably felt, as I have so many times in my lifetime but especially in this past year, completely helpless. How can any one of us fix these huge issues plaguing our world? The answer is we can’t. And yet we can do something, and this is where The Book Thief comes in.

The Book Thief is about doing something to make a difference. Notice I said, something—not everything. It’s about effecting changes, not fixing a problem. And for as many problems as we see around us, we can also find opportunities to help all over the place.

The Summer Reading Committee has provided a banner that you will find at the table to the right of the stage. This morning, we challenge you to think of one issue that has bothered you in the past, but that you’ve been silent about. Something like poverty, or marriage equality, or voting rights. We ask you to write that issue on the banner and make a commitment to yourself to take even the smallest action.

Dr. Tim Crain is going to speak to you next. He’s going to talk to you about the National Center for Holocaust Education, and about Seton Hill’s commitment to Catholic social teaching and our commitment, as an institution, to social justice. When Dr. Crain finishes his talk, you’ll be turned loose to investigate the tables along the walls, all of which offer opportunities for involvement either here at Seton Hill or in Westmoreland County. This Saturday is also Seton Hill’s Labor of Love, run by Campus Ministry who has a table here today. This event is a great way to take the first step into engagement with your community.

And while you’re visiting the tables, please take a few moments to watch the Dance Club, led by Professor TaMara Swank, as well as the PowerPoint of holocaust related art created by Prof. Maureen Vissat. For that’s another lesson The Book Thief teaches: that art is absolutely a form of engagement with the world. And this is our ultimate mission here at Seton Hill, as faculty, as students, and as staff: to engage with the world we live in. Thank you, and please welcome Dr. Tim Crain.

When Our Parents Are Fighting

Some of you may know that my publishing company, Hachette, is feuding with Amazon. Others of you may be sweetly oblivious, because I’m not sure how much it affects individual readers. For consumers, it probably isn’t yet a big deal.

But this feud is a big deal for authors. I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts, mostly because it’s super complicated, I don’t fully understand everything, and if you Google “Amazon Hachette feud” you’ll probably get 1,000 sources and opinions far more informed than me. I am pretty sure about one thing, however, and that’s the fact that this fight is one of Goliath versus Goliath, which makes picking a horse to bet on pretty difficult (even if one of those horses is, technically, your own).

That said, there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about, and that’s who is really getting screwed in this pootch-house: the authors. Now, technically I’m one of Hachette’s authors, so I’m really bemoaning my own sad fate, here. But my next book isn’t due out until November, by which time Amazon could very well have bought Hachette and I’ll have been handed my red pill and complimentary sippie cup of water. But right now there are a lot of authors getting hit really hard by this feud. After all, no one wins when mommy and daddy fight.

This feud really sucks for those authors, not least because they didn’t have pre-order buttons for months and pre-orders are what publishing companies use to decide whether to make new deals, and how much to pay out in those deals. And I don’t just mean Hachette is looking at those numbers, cuz they should be giving a brother a break, right? Unfortunately, book sellers look at these numbers to determine what they want to order to put in their stores. And other publishing companies have the same numbers, and all they see is that Debut Author Sacrificia Lambe had like no sales, and because she’s a debut, they don’t know if it’s because of the feud or if it’s because her book was simply destined to tank. And they don’t know if a new series didn’t take off because of the feud, or because it didn’t have a freaking buy button for ninety years.

Such authors are kinda screwed, and it really sucks. Especially because one of these authors is my friend.

She’s being a total trooper and she’s not complaining and she gets that this is a business and blah blah blah but I’m her friend and I’m kind of a Tiger Friend and I’m all RAWR RAGE.

So here’s my proposition: BUY HER BOOK.

2014-05-15 21.57.36I don’t care where you buy it from. I’m not going to tell you where to shop. I’m just asking you to buy it. Because she’s a great writer and, as a reader, I kinda want to show The Powers That Be that I’ll get the damned book the day it comes out, whatever they do with buttons or orders or shipments or whatever.

Whose book is it? It’s my buddy’s book: Cursed Moon by Jaye Wells. It is the second book in the series, so you might have to just go ahead and buy the first book if you haven’t read it already. Really stick it to the man.

Because Jaye is an amazing writer and writing is her job. She takes it so seriously and she loves it so much and she wants to do what all writers do: to tell stories and get them into the hands of readers so y’all will love us and send us chocolate.

What we don’t really want to do is  have to scramble around the feet of Goliath and Goliath, trying not to get stepped on while they grapple. Writers aren’t known for their athleticism, quite frankly, and that’s some dangerous shit.

So go buy Jaye’s book. You’ll love it and you’ll have shown TPTB that no matter how much they squall, we have ways of reaching our readers. (I would like you to say that last sentence in a German and/or Russian accent. I know, I’m demanding as hell.) And I’m giving you a picture of us bar crawling, dressed as nuns, in NOLA, as payment.

Now send me some chocolate. xoxoxoxo

Pittsburgh Appearance!

Hello my friends!

Just a quick note to let y’all know that I’ll be appearing next weekend at CONFLUENCE, a local SF/F con here in Pittsburgh.

They’ve got me doing roughly a gajillion things, so if you want to find out more about Jinn and Juice or how to make killer chili, sign up and come see me! Here’s a link to the schedule.

In other news, I’ve been invited to join THE HOLY TACO CHURCH. Sign up now to receive recipes, events, and upcoming releases from authors like me, Jaye Wells, Kevin Hearne, and Chuck Wendig. Rad!

I’m going to go have cocktails now, because it’s That Time of Day. Cocktail time. xoxo