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

COVER REVEAL! Jinn and Juice

Hey folks!

I’m so happy to show you the beautiful cover Orbit Books made for Jinn and Juice!

The art is Nathalia Suellen, and the design is Lauren Panepinto. I think they outdid themselves. And who recognizes that city in the background???

Peeler-JinnandJuice-TP

(click to embiggen!)

Please let me know what you think of Lyla! xoxo

Where Have I Been All Your Life?

Hey folks!

Sorry I’ve been so MIA but life has been crazy! Awesome, but crazy. Right as school ended, I went to the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans. I go to RT every year and I always have a great time, but this one was absolutely fabulous. It was in NOLA! My favorite place on earth! So how could I not have fun?

I also got to be on a panel with Charlaine Harris, who is sorta my ultimate hero, so I was fangirling like crazy. I was lucky enough to be picked to participate in Charlaine’s Sookieverse Anthology Dead But Not Forgotten, which came out in audiobook that week. So the antho participants attending the convention were taken to breakfast by the lovely folks at Audible and then we were on a panel together.

I was on a bunch of other panels and had a very busy con overall, and the cherry on top was receiving an RT Book Reviewers Award for Best UF Protagonist. RT was my first big convention as a published author, which I attended to promote Tempest Rising and it felt very “full circle” to receive this award for the sixth, and final, book in the Jane True series, Tempest Reborn.

Here are some pics from the con, in no particular order:

I think I make a great romance heroine, don’t you?

20140629-142821-52101754.jpg

I had to include this one of Mark Henry, snapped seconds after he first got to the con, road-piña colada in hand. We always look to Mark to set the tone.

20140629-142821-52101396.jpg

Jaye Wells and I roomed together. And ate a lot together. Here she is having a moment with our first dessert experience of the con, which involved a brownie made with foie gras. Speaking of setting the tone…

20140629-142820-52100940.jpg

In general there was a lot of eating. Mark ate all the mystery shellfish, which we appreciated. Here he is, going in with what I think is a reasonable amount of trepidation for something that came from a shell that we didn’t order and can’t identify:

20140629-142822-52102198.jpg

And Jaye spent a lot of time in contemplation. While wearing a nun’s habit.

20140629-142822-52102614.jpg

Here we are, dressed as nuns, at the absinthe bar in Pirate Alley and eating beignets. This is the kind of thing that just happens in New Orleans, where everything is dreamlike and sticky with powdered sugar. Why do you think I visit so many times a year?

20140629-142823-52103148.jpg

I had beautiful dates for the awards ceremony, Ms. Jaye and Ms. Liliana Hart:

 

20140629-142823-52103302.jpg

And I got to take home this beauty:

20140629-142823-52103952.jpg

And my dates and I may have hit the road sodies ourselves a few times:

20140629-142824-52104114.jpg

Also the Tums:

20140629-142824-52104436.jpg

And we baptized the stunningly gorgeous courtyard of the W French Quarter with one of our famed Live Erotic Readings. The other patrons were thrilled:

20140629-142825-52105129.jpg

And just in case you forgot, I won an award (and wore a ladybug dress):

20140629-142823-52103716.jpg

So RT was amazing. Even more amazing than usual, but how can anything not be amazing in New Orleans? I took two days of actual vacation time after the con, and spent them mostly by the pool:

20140629-142824-52104829.jpg

Besides being a pool bunny, I also got to spend quality time with some friends from New Orleans, especially my girl Jennette, the Hooping Queen of NOLA. It was great to catch up!

Meanwhile, I really needed those few days of respite. For those of you who don’t know, I’m also a full-time professor, and this year was a doozie at work. A good doozie! But a doozie.

First I went up for promotion, which is a LOT of work. I was successful and am now an Associate Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing, but the work and stress that went into it was a lot. We also did program review for the English program, and I was on that committee. So that was a lot of work all year, too.

But the big change for me occurred when my colleague who directs our MFA in Writing Popular Fiction got sick. He’s doing much better, but was out for the whole second semester. Dr. Lee McClain and I stepped up to co-direct the program, so that was a ton of work that I was not anticipating. It all turned out well, however. My colleague Dr. Wendland is doing much better (and just released his awesome new SF novel The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes) and should be back in the saddle soon. But it turned out he was in the process of semi-retiring anyway, and was planning on stepping down as director at the end of the coming year. So he and I will continue to co-direct the MFA program this coming year, and then I’ll be director when he steps down. Which means I’m about eight years ahead of my career plan, but that’s fine by me. I really enjoy the MFA and getting more involved is something I find challenging in the best way, and equally rewarding.

And last week we had the first residency with me as one of the directors. It was soooooo busy but also very, very fun. The students are great and it was very rewarding to be the public face of the program, doing the speeches at graduation, etc. So I had a great time.

I am also exhausted.

So I’m going to cut this short (okay, admittedly kinda long) and go do laundry. I’m leaving for a few days to go visit friends in Vermont, and after that the summer will be packed with work. I’ve got revisions on two books waiting for me, a program to run, a new course to develop for our undergraduate creative writing department…and I’ve also got my little house to enjoy, my fabulous friends to have fun with, and my very patient boyfriend to cuddle.

My life has been extra crazy, but I am extra grateful for all of my opportunities and the wonderful people I have to rely on for incredible amounts of support.

Also for taxidermied griffins, to help me express my school spirit.

Go Griffins!

20140629-142825-52105494.jpg

Nicole Does Nola: My RT ’14 Schedule!

Hey folks! RT Convention 2014 is right around the corner! WHO’S EXCITED????

Now I won’t be getting there till Wednesday, as Tuesday I give my last final of the semester. So you’ll have to warm up the city for me, mmmmkay?

For those of you attending, here’s a link to my schedule. As you can see, I’m taking part in a number of events, as well as a big giveaway scavenger hunt, for which you could win a Kindle Fire HDX!

To take part in the scavenger hunt, make sure you find the playing card in your goodie bag. Keep it with you and keep an eye out (stalk!) the participating authors. We’ll sign your card and give you one of our individual AWESOME buttons (I’m the absinthe one!). When you’ve collected all of our buttons/signatures, give one of us the card and we’ll put your name in as an official entry to win the Kindle. But no matter what you’ll have some rad buttons and the chance to breathe in our whisky/oyster funk, or what I like to call L’Eau D’auteur. Here’s a pic of the card with all of our buttons:

20140511-163042.jpg

But how will you find us? We’ll be at our panels (obviously) but we’ll also be out and about in the city and at the convention bar. We’ll be tweeting/facebooking our whereabouts at odd times, encouraging your stalking finding us.

So be sure to follow me on Twitter (@nicolepeeler) and Facebook (personal page, fan page). We’ll be using the official #RT14 hashtag, to help you find us and get yo’ buttons!

For those of you not attending the convention who live in the area, there is a MASSIVE book signing that is open to the public, and we’d love to see you!

All right, I’ve got to get back to grading (I WILL be done with grading before I leave Wed!) but hollah at me with any questions.

Can’t wait to see you in the Big Easy! xoxoxoxo

Audiolicious!!! Preview of my DBNF story “BORDERLINE DEAD”

Hi folks! The audiobook release of DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN is less than a week away! My story is from the perspective of Desiree Dumas, the girl we see working with Bethany Rogers at The Bat Wing in Texas, before Bethany is killed by the Fellowship of the Sun. I wanted to write Desiree’s story for a lot of reasons, but the big hook for me was telling the story of a regular ole human in Sookie’s world.

I’m really proud of this story and very happy to be in this anthology. I hope you enjoy it, too. xoxo

There Is Sometimes Such Things As A Free Story!


Hi folks!

It’s the run up to the launch of Audible’s audiobook of DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, in which I have story.

The anthology will be a print hardcover, but first it’s being released as an audiobook. Audible is doing a ton of rad promo, including releasing THIS FREE VERSION OF JEANNE STEIN’S STORY, “LOVE STORY.”

It’s about Adele Stackhouse and her affair with the fairy, Fintan, from whom Sookie inherited her special nature. The narrator is the woman who narrated all of the Southern Vampire Mystery Series, and Charlaine herself introduces each piece. So could you ask for anything more awesome?

I know I couldn’t. ;)

In other news, I’ll be blogging soon with info as to what I’ll be doing at RT next week. We’ve got an awesome scavenger hunt planned, I’m doing a panel with Charlaine at which I’ll inevitably geek out on her SO HARD again (I’m like a particularly forgetful Golden Retriever around her–every time I see her I’m like OMG CHARLAINE HI HI HI and I imagine she reaches for her mace), and I’m doing a bunch of other panels. AND I’m receiving an RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best UF Protagonist, for which I bought a dress and have to write a speech. SO EXCITED AND CHUFFED. I will also be out and about in New Orleans eating anything not tied down and doing my part to decrease the Sazerac population of the French Quarter. After the con I’ll be hanging with my girl J-Trouble and all my other friends in NOLA, so that will be some much deserved downtime.

Because I turned in JINN AND JUICE last week! Which was very exciting. I can’t wait to show you the cover Orbit’s working on and share more with you about my new novel and its crazy, crazy people. There are jinn! And drag queens! and spider wraiths! And fodden! And PITTSBURGH! So basically it’s the other thing you’ve always wanted, besides Charlaine Harris introducing stories in your ear hole.

I’m kind of spazzy right now, sorry. It’s been a crazy month for me and I am running on fumes (translation: I had a Mountain Dew at lunch cuz ADULT).

It’s now time for me to grade things so I gotta go, but hollah at me in comments if you’re going to RT  and tell me what you’re most excited about!!!! xoxoxo

Full of Malice….

…or at least Malice will be full of me!

In a few hours I’m driving off to meet the lovely Juliet Blackwell for some serious lady bonding. Note I said bondING, not bondAGE.

For those of you who’ve followed me for a while know I have a bit of a cabal with Juliet, Sophie Littlefield, and Rachael Herron, all of whom live in golden California. I used to flit off to San Francisco two to three times a year to visit them, and there are many pictures of taco trucks on this blog to prove it. Unfortunately, with buying the house last year, and all that sort of adult stuff, I’ve not been able to travel as much this year as I normally do. SO I MISS MY LADY FRIENDS. I’m sad not all of them can be in Bethesda, but having one of them in Bethesda is AWESOME.

So I’m driving out there this afternoon, with my extra liver and a stack of mystery writer fliers from our Writing Popular Fiction program. Sunday I’ll kidnap Juliet back to Pittsburgh, and then she flies out a few days later. I would keep her forever, but apparently the weather is better in Oakland, CA, than Oakland, PA.

IN OTHER NEWS, I’ve turned in my manuscript for my new novel JINN AND JUICE. And yes, I also know that those of you with keen eyes are like, “JESUS, WOMAN, IS THAT THE TITLE OR ISN’T IT.”

Yes, JINN AND JUICE is the official title of the new book, FINALLY. It’s what I’ve been calling it from the beginning, so I’m chuffed that it was finally accepted as the real, for sure title.

I’m also super chuffed to have a book called JINN AND JUICE because hello, being a teenager in the 90s. Hollah!

So lots of great things are happening Casa Peeler. This has been a super whirlwind  year for me. We were very sad that our Director of the MFA, the lovely human bean Al Wendland (who has a book release in MAY), was out this semester on medical leave. But co-directing the MFA program with the equally lovely human bean Lee McClain has been such great fun. A lot of hard work, but a lot of fun. It’s definitely pushed me to get better at a few things I’m not naturally adroit in (like having patience), and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.

But despite all of that, and going up for promotion to Associate Professor, and being on our program review committee, I wrote a book! And I like it! A lot!

Sure hope my editor does, too. ;)

But I’ve gotta go hang some curtains, and go to the gym, and pack up and leave for MD. If you ARE going to Malice, I am NOT going officially, so I’m not on any panels or anything. I’m doing what we call “bar-conning,” which means you can probably find me at the bar. All weekend. Cuz that is how the Peeler do.

Defo hollah at me if you’re there and I can sign whatever. Books, babies, foreheads….. it’s all good.

And have a great weekend for those not at Malice! Go order Jinn and Juice! You know you want to.

Super Exciting News: My Story in DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN!!!!

Hello folks!

So awhile back I was crowing over some super sekrit exciting news that, finally, is SEKRIT NO LONGER.

The news is this: I was picked to write a Sookieverse story for an anthology, edited by Toni Kelner and Charlaine Harris herself, called DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. It’s coming out as an audiobook first (on May 13th, 2014), then in hardcover and kindle (Nov. 25, 2014).

For those who’ve been following me for a while, you know how much the Sookie books mean to me. I was inspired to write Jane while reading Dead as a Doornail somewhere over the Atlantic. It was the first non-literary fiction I’d read in forever, and reading that book made me remember how much I loved popular fiction and why. I FELT the whole way through that plane ride, a surge of affective response that I’d forgotten about after years of intellectually rigorous reading.

I also remembered how powerful and how worthy a pursuit is granting people such escape. At the time, I was going through a lot of huge changes–leaving the country I’d lived in for six years, leaving a long-term partner, graduating from my PhD program and interviewing for jobs back in the states. But on that long plane ride back to Edinburgh after a job interview (in Shreveport, LA of all places), I didn’t think about any of my worries. I just read, and lived Sookie’s life, and I got away from all my sorrows and stresses for a little while.

That’s what people pay millions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies for, and I bought such release for $7.99 at a Barnes and Noble.

During that flight, my little PhD brain was also analyzing everything I read and it told me, “you could do this. You could write one of these.” And, much to my own amazement, I went home and I did. Three months later I had a rough draft of Tempest Rising; about three months after that I had an agent; and about three months after that I had a book deal.

My life changed utterly, and I credit a lot of that to Charlaine. This explains why I geek out on her so hard every time we meet, much to our mutual consternation.

So to say I was pleased to be invited to take part in this anthology is an understatement. I ugly, if joyfully, cried like a woman whose boyfriend popped the question at a baseball game, all tears and snot on the jumbotron. And I ugly-cried for like three days, in all honesty, to anyone who would listen and could ignore the mucus.

That was a while ago, but now it’s even more exciting to see what everyone else has done, and to be a part of the buzz surrounding the antho. Here’s one of the official write-ups from Audible’s publicist:

Charlaine Harris’ smash-hit Sookie Stackhouse series may have reached its conclusion, but the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, lives on in this all-new collection of 15 stories. Written by a killer lineup of authors, including New York Timesbest-sellers Rachel Caine, MaryJanice Davidson, Jonathan Maberry and Seanan McGuire, and with introductions read by Charlaine herself, Dead but Not Forgotten puts your favorite characters center stage.
The stories included in Dead but Not Forgotten are:

“Nobody’s Business” by Rachel Caine (featuring Kevin Pryor & Kenya Jones)
“Tyger, Tyger” by Christopher Golden (featuring Quinn)  
“The Real Santa Claus” by Leigh Perry (featuring Diantha)
“Taproot” by Jeffrey J. Mariotte (featuring Andy Bellefleur)
“Knit a Sweater Out of Sky” by Seanan McGuire (featuring Amelia)
“Love Story” by Jeanne C. Stein (featuring Adele Hale Stackhouse)
“The Million-Dollar Hunt” by Jonathan Maberry (featuring Mustapha Khan)
“Borderline Dead” by Nicole Peeler (featuring Desiree Dumas)
“Extreme Makeover Vamp Edition” by Leigh Evans (featuring Bev & Todd)
“Don’t Be Cruel” by Bill Crider (featuring Bubba)
“What a Dream I Had” by Nancy Holder (featuring Alcide Herveaux)
“Another Dead Fairy” by Miranda James (featuring Claude & Claudia Crane)
“The Bat-Signal” by Suzanne McLeod (featuring Luna)
“The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars” by Dana Cameron (featuring Pam Ravenscroft)
“Widower’s Walk” by MaryJanice Davidson (featuring Eric Northman)

Dead but Not Forgotten was edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner.

And here’s the Audible cover. We should have cover art for the books soon. :)

dead but not forgotten_front mech.indd

So yeah, I’m really proud to a part of this anthology. I feel like it’s brought me full-circle, somehow, and that I get to honor Sookie in an act of homage that fills me with both joy and pride. I’ve loved the opportunities that writing has given me, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to receive letters from fans who tell me about times that they’ve been hurting, and during which Jane’s helped them get by.

That feels like magic. Beautiful, humbling magic that I’ve been so grateful to experience, on this side of creation.

So thanks, Charlaine and Toni, for letting me share Sookie’s magic. And I hope you all like getting to know Desiree Dumas, and my version of what a regular girl might do in a world populated by the supernatural.

And before you go, please to enjoy another of my favorite homages to Sookie….Snoop Dogg’s. “OHHH SOOOKEH”