Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Launch!! (oh my GOD...)

I don't know how this happened, but my HARROWING tour starts tomorrow (actually Friday, but I leave tomorrow). It seems only right to kick off in New Orleans - the most haunted and haunting city - maybe in the world. I'll finally get to STOP all this pre-pub craziness and just celebrate in my favorite place in the country, and also pay tribute, a year after Katrina. Ernesto downsized and moved East, so I think we're in the clear...

My friend and sister Killerette Heather Graham is hosting a Writers For New Orleans workshop, to get people into town to spend some money this week. I'll be doing two panels - one on "Things that Go Bump in the Night", and one on "Pre-Publication Promotion". Not exactly unfamiliar topics! - and I get to talk ghosts with Heather and Christine Feehan and Deborah LeBlanc.

And - we'll be doing some kind of show Saturday night - all I know is I get to do "Lady Marmelade" with Heather. Now I ask you - does it get any better than that? "Lady Marmelade", in New Orleans, with my real soul sister. Man, oh man, do I need to cut loose like that just about now - and LM is about as loose as it gets. Bring it on!

I'm just turning in THE PRICE today - tonight! - so there has been no time AT ALL to really process that THE HARROWING is out... Friday... but I'm starting to get the nicest letters already from people I don't know, which is almost painfully wonderful - people are having JUST the experience of the book that I wanted to create. It's just magic, the way that works... makes all the rest of the craziness worth while.

And it's definitely going to get crazy. After New Orleans it's South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee... and then on to California. (Tour dates here.) I'll be checking in (on my travel-sized Macbook!) and I really will try to document as much of it as possible.

I have to say I'm not ready for all this - I'd just about sell my soul for one more week to prep! - but what the hell - no turning back, now. And really, I live for the road. Nice to have such a great excuse to just hit the highway.

And DANCE.

I'll leave you with my favorite writing procrastination - the Bourbo Cam. Check in about 10 pm this Friday night and you may see me dancing along the street. I'll be the one with the... beads.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Virus!!

I was off line most of last week because of a @#$%^%&* computer virus.

Nothing scarier than being two weeks from your debut novel launch (and simultaneous second book deadline) and being on line and suddenly seeing your “URGENT” e mail automatically delete itself at a rate of two dozen e mails per second.

Not to worry, I have remote backup. And my friends who have Macs read me the riot act about PCs in general and now I have a beautiful brand new MacBook. I have to relearn the whole Mac system and find out where the hell on this lovely new computer all my transferred data is – but whatever. There are certainly worse things. (And may I just say as a public service announcement that MacAfee is useless when it comes to tech support? NEVER AGAIN.)

But of course the whole incident got me thinking about the psychology of virus writers. What in God’s name causes that kind of will to rampant destruction? Don’t get me wrong – no matter how destructive, it’s not on a par with rape or child molestation. But the narcissistic power trip – the love of control – has got to have some crossover pathology with the more sadistic versions. I did some Googling and came up with various, ultimately unsatisfying articles on the syndrome.

- This one not so good – I’m just throwing it in there because it’s odd to see Frontline put its name on something so unsatisfying.

- Here’s a better summation of the points the same expert makes.

- This next one more useful in detail. Teen to 20-something boys are responsible, of course, no surprise there. (This is another post entirely, but you know, if GIRLS suddenly started wreaking this kind of havoc it would be declared a national emergency and no end of money would be put into a solution. I'm just saying.)


I could post more, but I know you all know how to Google.

It’s all been very annoying and stressful and expensive, but the fact is, my third book is going to brush up against this world, so in this case it’s been a useful emotional jump-start on research. The best revenge is to write a bestseller, right?

So take that, virus-writer. Begone, you have no power here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New cover, new look

I've been holding on to the old splash page of my website because I loved the hauntedness of it so much, but it was getting ridiculous - The Harrowing is coming out in less than two weeks now, and I need to have the new cover up.

So my fabulous web designer, Beth Tindall, just made a new page, a bit of a movie. It really looks fabulous, and I think gives more of a sense of the book. In fact, I just a minute ago got a nice e mail from someone who loved the intro so much she's already ordered the book. Can't argue with that!

So just for fun:

This is the new

This is the old

Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Closing of Cody's

Now this is tragic. Any bookseller going belly up, of course - but this - Cody's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley closing, after 41 iconic years.

Why Booksellers are Going Belly Up

(It was last month, actually, but I missed writing about it because of my computer crash, and this is a great article - not just about Cody's and the book biz but about Berkeley, Telegraph, the whole damn thing.)

I can't imagine Telegraph Ave. without Cody's. Cody's was always the treat store, the homework break, the down time, the refuge, the place to get dry in the rain, a Xanax substitute, an oasis of sanity in the craziness of Berkeley. My blood and tears were in that store, literally.

It was HOME.

I am heartbroken that I will never be able to do a signing there. There's still Cody's in San Francisco and on Fourth Street, but it's not my Cody's.

It's not home.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pears from Margaret Maron

This was a week of Raleigh author get-togethers. After my night out with the guys on Tuesday, I went on Thursday to a very different kind of meal and gathering - lunch at The Grape with North Carolina mystery goddesses: Sarah Shaber, who writes the Professor Simon Shaw mystery series; Kathy Trobeck, who channels Southern charm and humor as Mary Kay Andrews; Brenda Witchger, who writes mystery and southern fiction as Brynn Bonner; RITA award-winner Diane Chamberlain, who's also new to town and the group; the great Margaret Maron, who needs no introduction (but writes the fantastic Deborah Knott mystery series), and legendary bookseller Nancy Olson, owner of the fabulous Quail Ridge Books and Music (who's already invited me to do a signing for The Harrowing, Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.).

I have been a huge fan of Margaret's since I discovered Bootlegger's Daughter and it's just amazing to me that I am suddenly part of this monthly lunch circle - it's really like being invited to tea with royalty. That is, tea... with a big splash of bootleg whiskey - because these women are just about as far as you can get from sedate. Gracious, yes, and graceful - I really meant it when I said "royalty" - but also wry, witty, wicked - all those W words.

It is just so lovely to have this level of authorial companionship and very touching to me how they've welcomed me into their group when I'm so far from home - so - Southern, really - just as if I were a new young bride (all right, I'm neither young nor a bride, but that's how it FEELS, okay?)

We talk about our books and our publishers and our tours and the South, and they laugh at me when I try to say y'all with a straight face. It's such a window for me into a different universe - and I am so privileged to have these incredible guides for my parallel journeys into the South and into the book world.

I came out of the lunch with one of Brenda's sons (to do my Blog site, I mean!) and a HUGE bag of pears from Margaret's staggeringly prolific trees.

Pears from Margaret Maron. Now THAT - is cool.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

J.A. Konrath comes to town...

I was one of the stops on Joe Konrath's tour last night...

Hmm... that came out wrong. Perhaps a bit too much to drink. That's what happens when you go out with a bunch of writers.

I'll start over. J.A. Konrath was in Raleigh last night as part of his already legendary Rusty Nail Tour and I had the great fun of going out to dinner with him and other local mystery authors J.D. Rhoades, David Terrenoire, and Stacey Cochran, who managed to wrangle us all into the same place at the same time (thanks, Stacey!). Photographic evidence here.

If you don't know J.A. Konrath stop reading this now and get yourself over to his website - but I can't imagine anyone in the mystery world DOESN'T know about him and the Rusty Nail Tour by now.

I'd met Joe briefly at the whirlwind that was ThrillerFest and have been an avid reader of his blog, but last night I really fell for him. (Really. Literally.).

He was worn out, obviously (he'd done ELEVEN bookstores in two states that day, covering a staggering number of miles), but the man just doesn't quit. He lights up talking about books, promotion, publishing - is just a fount of information - and more generous than anyone (in what is a remarkably generous community) about sharing tips and strategies (just check out the free stuff on his website!) He's a total inspiration (get him to show you his tattoos some day. There is the sweetest story behind them - but you need the visuals. Great arms, too!)

I know he could make a mint selling what he knows in CD form and on the lecture circuit, like Hollywood story structure gurus Robert McKee and John Truby. But when I told him so, he said that a) he thought the information should be out there, free, for everyone, and b) he didn't want to be known as "that marketing guy" - but for his books.

He gave me a copy of RUSTY NAIL and I read a little into it when I got home - and he's right. The only purpose of this landmark marketing should be getting these books out there. He's got a unique voice - wry and blunt and really interesting, coming from a sympathetic and prickly heroine - Jack Daniels is simply a perfect name for her. The sometimes laugh-out loud humor (great dialogue!) is startling in juxtaposition to the brutality of the serial killer plot line, but makes the story more accessible to people who wouldn't normally pick up a serial killer story (I myself have written them, but there are certain places I just don't want to go. I may have to avert my eyes sometimes while reading this one, but it's not anything I won't be able to take).

So do yourself a favor - go out and BUY a copy of WHISKEY SOUR if you haven't read it, or RUSTY NAIL if you have, and start working your way through this series.

And check out J.A.'s tour schedule - there's a frighteningly good chance he's coming to your town any minute. Buy him a beer, give him a bed, do his laundry. He's out there on the road for all of us - and he's giving us all the direct line on what he knows. Plus, he's a fun date.

Looking forward to many more drunken nights with Stacey, J.D. and David, too.

(Umm... that came out wrong, didn't it?)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD.

That one word may be all I can manage to write in this post because I simply don't have the literary capacity to write about it and come close to doing it justice.

I would rather watch DEADWOOD than any other show on television. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than any movie out there in theaters. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than anything in the history of film I can buy or rent. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than read - anything.

I. Am. Obsessed.

Where do I begin? The cast? Ian McShane (Disraeli... possibly my very first actor crush). Brad Dourif - one of the best character actors of our time. Keith Carradine (CHOOSE ME? Eeek.) A whole host of actors I'd never heard of before starting to watch the show and whom I now love as much as my own - well, my own characters. There has never been such a collection of incredible actors on the same set - I think maybe ever.

Just when you think it couldn't get any better, the phenomenal Brian Cox waltzes in as the Leading Player. (DEADWOOD is the closest thing we've got to Shakespearean in this lifetime. It's like orgasms on ecstasy.)

I was born and grew up in California so that Gold Rush thing is in my DNA. Even though the story is set in the Dakota Territories, it's like watching a past life. Add to that, I know a couple of the actors on the show. Really intimately, not in the way you're thinking. I was very young and so it's all very mixed up in my head. So watching DEADWOOD is not only like watching a past life, it's like watching my own past, this lifetime. Very disorienting.

It's about morality, and civilization, and how this country was built, and how people come together and learn to work together as a society and create laws and justice, and learn how to live with each other as fulfilled and functioning human beings.

It is - I'll say it again because there's no other word for it - Shakespearean in its depth of characterization and complexity of plot and poetry and passion and savagery.

DEADWOOD is also the most feminist show I've ever seen on television, or maybe anywhere else - because it tells it EXACTLY how it was for women, unvarnished. No voting rights. No property rights. Three career choices: prostitute, wife, or teacher (until you marry). A couple of wild card choices: Madam (selling other women) or living life as a man (Calamity Jane.) The show doesn't for a second flinch away from the brutal realities: being sold into sexual slavery by your own father. Being sold into marriage by your own father (oh right - redundant.) Developing laudanum or alcohol addiction just to keep going. Is it hard to watch? Oh, definitely. But also a huge relief - because it's TRUTH, and these women are so heroic and real in their situations. And they BOND with each other, as real women do - I am sick unto death of seeing women depicted as being always at each other's throats. Not in my world - not in my experience.

There is "language" in the show. Boy howdy, is there. What I mean is, motherfucking cocksucker, there is - which words are used not a few times, but dozens, going on hundreds, of times in the course of an episode. It's profanity taken to an absurd level, used of course to convey the roughness of the times and the people, but taking on a cult comic level of its own, once you get past the initial shock.

This, I know, is off-putting to a lot of people I in fact have not given boxed sets of the show to my own parents, who would be so infinitely delighted by the complex, evolving morality of the show and the stellar production, because they would never be able to get past the language. This is a tragedy I have no idea how to resolve.

If DEADWOOD were on every night, forever, I probably wouldn't even need to write. I could just watch and be content. Tragically, or fortunately, I'm not sure which, the brilliant (and by many accounts, difficult) creator, David Milch - is on to another show and HBO will be ending the series in 3 episodes (with two TV movies planned to finish the story).

I'm not at all sure how I'm going to cope.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Writer Beware - Twenty Worst Agents

Writer Beware’s list of the Twenty Worst Agents is posted on A. C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss’ blog as a public service.

The entire blog is full of great information - check it out!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sometimes the flubs are the best part.

More on the hidden joys of authorship: J.T. Ellison has a great post on stage fright up on Murderati today, and is asking for authors' most humiliating moments.

Well, where do you even start?

But my actual response surprised me.

The supreme embarrassing moment of my life was on stage. I was in a really spectacular and unique production of ONDINE, playing the Queen and other roles, and there was a royal court scene that the whole cast could never, ever get through without collapsing into hysterical laughter. A lot of this was because of the King, Reed Martin, a brilliant comedian who every rehearsal went out of his way to find new ways to make the rest of us break.

But of course you always somehow pull it together for opening night, and we did a week of performances without a hitch. And then - one night when the King rose grandly from his throne, one of the pearls from his ermine robe caught on the mesh train of my gown. And as he started walking downstage, both our robes rose like the wings of giant swans.

Well, the courtiers almost lost it. The audience totally lost it. But hey, we were professionals, or aspiring, anyway, and the courtiers got hold of themselves and somehow Reed and I did a little shimmy and two-step to get unhooked, shooting each other marital looks of annoyance, and we resumed the scene.

And it happened again. Same pearl, same mesh, same swan wings.

It was pandemonium. We could not stop laughing. Literally. Could. Not. Stop. I know from this moment what it means to be rolling on the floor laughing, because half of the actors on stage were. I was doubled over on my throne, laughing my guts out. The King was collapsed in my lap. The audience was shrieking. We could hear the director out in the house just wailing with laughter. It went on for minutes, which on stage is eternity. I don't know how we finally pulled ourselves together, but somehow we did. And after the show I have never had so many people thank me for the best laugh of their lives.

Now, you may be thinking - "But that's not embarrassing, that's priceless." Well, yeah - it was. But for us, the actors, at the moment - it was the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to us. It's perception, right? We were so worried about doing it RIGHT that we almost missed the moment of transcendence. And it was such a huge catharsis that I've never really been embarrassed by anything since.

An audience loves to see that you're human, and that mistakes are just a part of life. Laugh about it and they'll be laughing with you.

Sometimes the flubs are the best part.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This is starting to feel real... or a lot like acting.

Some things this week that are making me feel almost like a real author, with a real book coming out in - yike! - a month:

Real Author Thing Number One:. The Harrowing got a 4-star review from Romantic Times yesterday. OH, does that feel good! Not quite real, mind you, but really, REALLY good. Like one of those dreams where... well, all right, never mind that.

Real Author Thing Number Two: I had a radio interview this morning. Not my first, but it kind of felt like my first. It occurs to me that this interview thing is hideously like pitching, which I oh-so-naively thought I was DONE with when I moved into novels from screenwriting. "Pitching" is basically what you do to get a job in film writing. You go in to the studio, and face a firing line of producers and executives, and you tell your story, acting out the story and all the characters, preferably (I've found) with pictures and props, because, you see, executives don't read. And they watch your performance, and they say yes or no, and they either give you a big check or they don't. Lather, rinse, repeat.

When I moved from acting into film writing, I thought - "Well, hey! I never have to audition for work again!" How laughably wrong. Moving from acting to film writing just meant that I had to WRITE my audition piece, and then perform it on top of that, to get work.

So, now, here I find I am as an author doomed to the same things I hated about acting... the same things I hated about pitching. The stage fright. The distraction for days before a performance. The obsessive acting prep The Day Of: vocalization, a little Shakespeare recitation to get the old vocal cords working, physical warmup... an overdose of caffeine - oh, yeah, and did I mention writing and memorizing the script? And there's the same adrenaline rush as you're doing it, and the adrenaline crash after you're done... the deep desire for alcohol or mindless sex... preferably in combination and excess.

Crazymaking.

And now I find author interviews are just the same damn rollercoaster. And, just tell me the truth, I can take it... I am looking at a whole regular line up of them, incessantly, for the rest of my life.

Right?

You know what I really want to say? All you parents who are trying to discourage your young ones from the acting thing (You know who you are...)? Cease and desist. NOW. Acting is about the most useful class (major, training, lifestyle choice...) I've ever had. I cannot imagine a professional - profession - that would not be exponentially improved by acting training. You do not have to Go Into Theater to benefit from acting training.

LIFE. IS. ACTING.

The thing actors have over the rest of us is knowing how to fake it with more finesse. No less emotional trauma, but more finesse. This is gold, in life and in any business on the planet.

The trick is to get the training that will give you the skills that will advance your professional career - without picking up the addiction and craziness.

I don't have the answer to that one, because clearly I'm addicted to the craziness.

Or I would not be on this same damn rollercoaster, yet again.

Still, it was a good day, yesterday.

Almost - real.

And if not for the acting thing? I don't know how I would have made it.