Fun on Friday

Most interesting man in the world django wexler

Look, I found a meme generator site! Solid advice, by the way, Most Interesting Man In The World.

The Forbidden Library, Silver & Salt, plus Tainted Blood news

The Forbidden Library has received the kitten stamp of approval from Shackleton.

The Forbidden Library has received the kitten stamp of approval from Shackleton.

So today is a hugely great day! I mean, not particularly for wallets, but great for brains. Because today is my friend Django Wexler’s book birthday! The Forbidden Library is available for purchase everywhere – now, Django is probably best known for his incredibly epic flintlock fantasy, as well as his inability to say no when I come up with a blog idea, but he will soon be also known for incredible middle-grade fantasy.

I don’t read a lot of children’s literature – I mean, beyond Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events, which, do those even really count? – but I read The Forbidden Library ARC back in June. Mostly it was because Django is my buddy, and because he promised that cats would be involved. So I might’ve started that book out of nepotism and the desire for literary LOLcats, but that is not why I stayed up all damn night reading that book. Seriously, this is SO DAMN GOOD. I wish that I could use a time machine to go back and hand it to my eleven-year-old self, because I wish I could’ve grown up with this one in my head alongside Narnia. But at the same time, it’s just honestly good, and I’m itching for #2.

Written for kids? Yes, and it will blow their minds. But at the same time, this completely holds up for an adult reader due to the nuanced characters and some extremely tricky and complex themes. Buy it, read it, love it, finally get all my references to The Swarm. (then nag your library into investing in a copy)


 

Look at that awesome cover!

Look at that awesome cover!

I usually have a lot of books and authors I list off when people ask me about what my literary influences were when it came to writing the Fort Scott books. I mean, I kind of wish I could just upload a few pictures of the contents of my bookshelves. But one influence that I absolutely cannot underemphasize was Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series – particularly the first book, Nightlife. The grit of it, the humor, the complete nightmare re-imagining of elves, and the emotional messiness – I just love that damn book. I also love Rob Thurman – I must have at least a dozen of her books scattered all over my house, most pretty banged up.

So I’m guessing that I’m not alone in the Thurman fandom, so that’s why you should like this – Rob Thurman has put together a Cal Leandros anthology. Two shorts that appeared in previous anthologies, one short that was previously online, and one entirely brand-new short story. Available in Kindle, paperback, and also on her website! Go snag a copy – Rob Thurman is trying out the Barb Hendee model and dipping her toe in self-publishing, so if she gets a good response out of this, we’re all likely to see a lot more of this kind of thing from her.


 

That’s news about my friends – now how about some Fort Scott stuff? Tainted Blood has an Amazon page! There’s also a definite pub date – November 4, 2014 should now be seared into your calendars. Finally, here’s the back cover copy – read and enjoy!

In the third Generation V novel, Fortitude Scott proves that working with family can be deadly…

Former film student Fortitude Scott is finally gainfully employed. Unfortunately, said employment happens to be with a group of sociopathic vampires—his family. And as much as Fort is loath to get too deep into the family business, when his brother, Chivalry, is temporarily unable to run the territory, it’s up to Fort to keep things under control.

So when the leader of a powerful faction of shifters turns up murdered, Fort finds himself tracking down a killer while navigating dangerous rivalries, longtime grudges, and hidden agendas. Even with the help of his foxy kitsune sidekick, Suzume, he’ll need to pull out all the stops to hunt for the paranormal assassin.

But as he calls on fairies, witches, and ghouls for help, he discovers that the problem is much bigger than a single dead werebear. The supernatural community is preparing for a massive shift in power within the Scott family leadership—and Fort has landed right in the middle of the gathering storm.…

When April Fool’s Day Pranks Partially Deploy

When I was at Vericon two weeks ago, I had the delight of meeting a number of great writers – Greer Gilman made me laugh so hard on a panel that I was covering my face with a program; Max Gladstone taught a group of us Small World, and Saladin Ahmed promptly kicked everyone’s ass; and I got to have lunch with Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Saladin Ahmed, and Max Gladstone. Plus very fun panels to be on, and even better ones to attend, and I’m not even starting in on the delight of a first-night dinner that included Luke Scull and his delightful wife Yesica (both terrorized by what we New Englanders call “spring,” which they were inadequately coated for), plus Pat Rothfuss. Good times!

A few days after the con was over, Max Gladstone posted a fun piece of futuristic dystopian John Deere flash fiction (really, why isn’t this a Hugo category?) on his website. I read it, enjoyed it, and posted it around, as you do. Then I went along with my day, which included teaching my short story class. The class is in one of my favorite sections of the course (the “Professor Brennan has been working hard teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tolstoy, Conrad, and the Bloomsbury group for two months, and deserves a one-week treat goddamnit” section, if you will) – on the previous class we’d discussed Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” along with Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” And in the class I was prepping for we were going to get to discuss Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” – really, top-notch, great stuff.

Then I remembered that April Fool’s Day was not only coming up, but this class was scheduled to meet on that day.

Then I thought about Max Gladstone’s flash story again.

Then I got a very, very bad idea.

When I went into class that afternoon, here is what I handed out to my thirty-three students:


April Fool’s Day Extra Assignment
Due: April 1, 2014, before midnight

Biographical Background

Max Gladstone’s first novel, THREE PARTS DEAD, was named a Massachusetts Must Read Book of 2012. He was shortlisted for the 2013 John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award, and longlisted for the 2008 Writers of the Future award. TWO SERPENTS RISE, the second book in the series, was published in October 2013, and a third, FULL FATHOM FIVE, is forthcoming in July 2014.

Max graduated from Yale, where he majored in East Asian Studies with a special focus on Chan poetry and late Ming dynasty fantasy; he lived and taught for two years in rural Anhui province, and has traveled throughout Asia and Europe. He’s been a researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Policy Law, a tour guide for the Swiss Embassy, a go-between for a suspicious Chinese auto magazine, a translator for visiting Chinese schoolteachers, a Chinese philosophy TA, a tech industry analyst, and an editor. He has wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

Max is also the personal friend of the professor. HIS MISTAKE.

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It

In addition to his excellent, genre-bending novels, Gladstone recently wrote an excellent piece of dystopian flash-fiction, “Sam Ogilvy’s Lament,” and posted it to his website at http://www.maxgladstone.com. This story fits in very nicely with the work we’ve been reading in class by Le Guin, Vonnegut, Jackson, and (particularly) Bradbury.

If you choose to participate (which is absolutely voluntary) the guidelines are as follows:

• At any time from 12:01am to 11:59pm on April 1st, you will go to the entry on Max Gladstone’s website that features “Sam Ogilvy’s Lament” (“The Tractor Story from ICFA. Also, Vericon fun!”) and post a literary analysis of the story.
• The analysis is a minimum of one paragraph in length, and should follow formal rules.
• The direction you take is up to you. You may draw parallels between Gladstone’s work and the stories that we have been reading in class. You may analyze the symbolism in the story (the emphasis on the tractor being “apple candy green”). You may analyze the moral implications of Sam Ogilvy’s decision at the conclusion of the story. You may follow whatever path your heart desires.

If you choose to participate, please make certain that there is some identifying mark on your reply text. First name and last initial are fine. If you can make it clear that Max Gladstone’s story is the subject of a class assignment – all the better.

• Those who participate will have their lowest quiz grade dropped.

 


 

We also read through Max’s flash fiction in class and discussed it a little.

April 1 rolled around yesterday, and I eagerly awaited the beginning of the swarm on Max’s website.

And waited.

And waited.

By 6pm, one student had posted an analysis. Clearly I had not properly calibrated the heart-breaking lethargy of students. There was a brief flurry of activity late at night, as their natural active hours appeared, and their ingrained last-minute assignment completion instincts kicked in. All told, seven participated, and I’d say that they do a good job with it – there are thoughtful comments, but it’s also clear that they’re having fun with it.

Max did eventually realize that something was going on, and he posted this tweet at 4:50pm –

@maxgladstone
A few folks are academically engaging with my tractor romance flash fiction in the comments section of my blog. How delightful.

That was a bit before the minor swarm began – really, I am pleased with the students who participated (they’ll be getting a bit of extra extra credit), but let’s all just take a moment and imagine the awesomeness of the prank that could’ve been – thirty-three students suddenly inundating Max’s website.

sigh

I guess there’s always next year.

The Outline

Writing methods vary by writers, for the excellent reason that we all have different preferences and quirks. Some writers work best with the “start with a basic idea” approach advocated by Stephen King in his (excellent) book On Writing. I’ve used that method a few times in short fiction, but it’s not a good fit for me. Maybe I’m more anxious or a control-freak (…..maybe?), but I far prefer to work with an outline.

Outlining varies. Some writers just get a generalized sense of direction and big plot beats. I like my outlines to be a bit more detailed – and by “a bit” what I really mean is “a shit-ton.” When I’m putting together an outline, I’m pulling in all the notes and ideas that I’ve been coming up with for the book over the past three to four months and collating it into one massive document. This gives me individual scenes, important background elements, and sometimes even specific lines of dialogue. I then go through that outline with a fine-tooth comb, looking for plot inconsistencies and weaknesses. Then I get out paper and calendar and plan out days and times – just to make sure where everything falls, and particularly how much time things are taking. This is information that almost never makes it into the book – after all, does the reader really care that Fort and Suze are in a battle for their lives on a Tuesday? Probably not. But it can help me keep track of where the weekend should fall. With the time-stamp, it helps me keep track of how long people have been at something – a personal quirk of mine is that it drives me nuts in fiction when characters have been running around for basically eighteen hours straight, killing monsters, exploding magic, banging each others’ brains out, and no one mentions that it might be time for lunch! (why does that bother me? I have no freaking idea. But there it is)

It usually takes me anywhere from two weeks to a month to put together my outline, but once I have it, I go straight into the book and don’t surface until the manuscript is complete. My outlines have gotten more detailed as I’ve gone – Generation V’s outline was six pages long, while Iron Night’s was fifteen pages. Tainted Blood hit twenty-two.

Not everything is identical from my outline to the book that people end up reading. If you look at my outline, for example, Keiko’s boyfriend never makes an appearance. That was a decision I made during the writing, since I felt like that would amp up some pressure. Other things got tweaked as I went (the name of Jacoby’s tattoo parlor, for instance) – when I do something like that, I’ll write that in on the printed copy of the outline that I’m using while I write. (that copy gets incredibly written over and dog-eared during the writing)

Finally, some elements get changed as a result of first reader comments or editorial comments. How Matt ends up at the Gage crime scene changed many times – when I was writing, I changed from him just showing up to Fort calling him over. Then my editor pointed out that this was pretty stupid long-term for Fort to do, so I switched it again in the editing process so that Matt hears something on a police scanner and rushes over because he’s afraid that Fort has been murdered. Moving Dan Tabak’s introduction from Book 3 into Book 2 was a decision I made during edits as well.

For anyone who is really curious about what my outline looks like, I’ve included a copy of the original Iron Night outline below. If you haven’t read Iron Night yet, definitely don’t read this – it’s basically nothing but pure spoiler. But if you read and liked Iron Night, and are interested in the process that turns a concept into a book, this could be interesting.

Iron Night released cover big version

Book Two – Plot outline

September 27, Friday, 4am
* Fort & Chivalry have driven a truck of goats out to the Claiborne-Pell bridge to feed to the trolls. Part of Fort’s new duties & training. (though getting up this early is unusual)
* Fort & Chivalry return to mansion, work out & train until 9am. (this has been daily since the end of the last book. Boxing, lifting. Fort is in better shape than in the last book, but not in an overwhelming way. Primarily he’s been getting used to the new strength & speed – he now has the attributes of an exceptional human. He has some vampire speed, but it takes a lot out of him to use it – needs to be rare) (needs a reference to Chivalry’s small sailing yacht, the Firefly, which he’d like to take out for one last sail this season. The name should be a very old one – from his first little yacht in the 1890s – but Fort should give him a lot of grief about the Joss Whedon series. Maybe jokes about browncoats?)
* Fort drives back to his apartment, changes & showers, dresses for work, catches a nap. Gage (the new roommate – spend some time here establishing the character) wakes him up to go to work. Need an exchange with Gage, brief, but enough to show what a nice guy that he is. Establish that he’s going speed-dating that night (at a local bistro, ages 19 to 30, tiny tables, etc. – make clear that he’s doing it on a whim, because it ‘looks like fun’), extend an invitation. This can also give a chance to a) make the audience miss Gage when he dies at end of chapter, and b) give a chance to talk about Fort’s nonexistent dating life.
*1pm, Fort goes to work at superfancy restaurant (think ten course tasting menu). Introduce to evil chef. Go through a little of his day.
*3pm, Suzume is in his section, questioning a potential client and tormenting Fort, teasing. She always makes sure that she’s placed in his section, and the other waiters are jealous. Fort could take a pass on this.
*10pm, restaurant finally closes. Fort goes home, exhausted. It’s Friday – tomorrow, Saturday, he’ll be able to sleep in, since it’s his day off from work and Chiv & Bhumika have a standing date at a local place for brunch. Plus there’s an auction that they like to go to.
*2am, a sound wakes Fort up. His new vampire hearing has been kicking in. He assumes that it was Gage coming in, but as he waits for Gage’s routine to start up (an anti-oxidant milkshake before bed) he can’t hear it. He gets up to investigate. Something’s wrong – Gage always leaves his shoes by the door. He knocks on Gage’s door, nothing. Now there’s something tickling his nose – can’t quite place it yet. Wait, blood. He pushes into Gage’s room. There’s the body. Pale, bloodless. Hands gone, some cuts on the mouth. He’s lying on front, Fort won’t know about the genitals yet. The window has been pushed open, screen pulled out & dumped. That’s the sound that woke Fort up – Gage’s body being pushed inside. Dumper (Soli) climbed up fire escape that’s on that side. Fort goes straight for phone. Gage was human, Fort’s first call is the police. Then realizes that he’s an idiot, but call was made. Call Chivalry. Chivalry can’t come – Bhumika sick. Sends lawyer, tells Fort to call “that fox buddy of yours.” Fort makes the call to Suze. (S: Just to let you know, Fort, etiquette dictates that the woman has to initiate a booty call relationship. F: What? S: I know, it seems sexist to me, too, but Miss Manners is very clear. F: Suze, it’s nothing like that. My roommate is dead and the police are coming.)
*Police show up, plus Fort’s lawyer. (note: Scott family lawyer immediately tells Fort to say nothing to the police. The police are okay with this, because they immediately get a visit from their roused boss, who just got a call from the woken-up mayor not to bother that nice Scott boy – so no questions at all). Matt McMahon (review) has a few contacts within the police department, and he shows up and nudges his way inside, trading on that connection to Fort. There’s strained interaction, and Matt examines the body (he knows that he has to move fast – bodies & evidence tend to disappear around the Scott family). Suze arrives just as Matt is leaving (no introduction) & body is being taken away. Tells Fort to grab some clothes and come along – police are all over apartment, he’s coming to her place for the night.

Saturday, am

*Fort wakes up in Suzume’s “spare bedroom.” Turns out that it’s Keiko’s room, and now she’s standing over him & freaking the fuck out. At the noise, S enters and she & K begin to engage. There’s a lot of tension here – K is angry at S’s closeness to F, the fact that she’s now engaging herself in a situation that she wasn’t even hired on for, and her complete disregarding of a tricky political element. But S is angry because she’s been hiding K’s relationship, and K is clearly skewing her pregnancy human for minor excuses (that won’t be overt). She won’t explain the pregnancy/relationship element to Fort yet, however. K leaves.
*Back to F’s apartment for clothing. Police are gone. This time, S sniffs around in fox form, and picks up a scent on the windowsill, where the killer rested a hand. Smells inhuman, but she can’t identify. But now there’s something unusual about the murder (they were just assuming human murderer), so they’re curious. Call Chivalry – but Bhumika’s health has taken a turn for the worse, & he can’t come, & in fact cancels future work-outs. He won’t be seen again for most of the book. Tells F to work out with S to keep up conditioning.
*F recalls that Gage mentioned speed-dating to him the night he died, even invited him along. F to computer to look, S goes through G’s stuff. She finds some info written on a stub of paper, leads them to the bistro. There, they learn that the event was coordinated by the Dreamcatching (New Age store) staff, who have been hosting a whole bunch of the events around the city lately. It nets them the cash for the night, brings business to the stores that host, plus they set up a little table with crystals and cute candles, with store cards to try to drum up business. This event was coordinated by Tomas, but Lilah was also there. That night, everyone arrived at six and left by seven-thirty. No one at the bistro remembers Gage, but they didn’t pay much attention to the group – they’re annoyed that they didn’t sell more alcohol – all they really sold were appetizers and finger food. (some of the workings of the speed dating will be covered by Lilah later)
*First visit to Dreamcatching. Meeting Lilah Doubrant, establishing interest and attraction between her and F. She is outed as a halfsie by S, F introduces himself as a vampire. Talk about Gage, F gives her his phone number in case she thinks of anything. S mocks a bit. They see Allegra, establish the pregnancy & her ¾ status. Otherwise, nothing. No big leads. Lilah does remember Gage, and notes that he got a few matches. She doesn’t remember seeing him leave – she was doing business at the candle table. Tomas is out today. F & S leave.
*No other events that day, other than the lawyer calling to assure F that no one will be talking to him. F calls Gage’s parents, who live in California, to offer condolences and offer to help get Gage’s stuff home for them to sort through. He and S (unexpectedly helpful here) clean up room, start boxing up Gage’s stuff to ship back to his parents. (note here: Gage was an only child – his parents were originally from Rhode Island) The clean-up lasts from Sat to Sunday (F & S dispose of Gage’s porn), S there both days, sleeping on the futon at night (in fox form? She’d want to spend a little time in her natural form). They watch movies (Avatar jokes!) and eat dinner together. Sunday morning S will work out with F – here there will be absolute mocking over how Chivalry has been training him. Note that he will have to use his legs, that he needs to do anything to take down his opponent, and that Chivalry’s style of fighting is relying on being so much faster than his opponent that he can take them down extremely fast – that’s not an option for Fort yet. She’ll suggest that he start getting lessons in muay thai (not the drink) – with his height, that fighting style might work well for him. It’s the “art of eight limbs” – using eight points of contact (punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes) instead of the “two points” – just his fists – that Fort is currently using. (note: Suze herself uses a mixture of several styles, including what she was taught in self defense as a young fox, but as an adult she’s spent a lot of time working with Krav Maga (the Israeli fighting style) because she likes its clear emphasis on finishing a fight as quickly as possible, meaning that all attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the body (face, neck, groin, knee, eyes, joints) – since she rarely fights for show, it makes sense for her, particularly given her small size, which means that she is almost never fighting at a distance. She also works very hard with both her switchblade and a pair of long fixed knives (think Legolas) that she can wear in thigh sheaths and hide under a long skirt, while still having quick access) Maybe a trip down to the gun range? Fort will be working on his aim with both the .44 (put a model on that one) and his new toy, a shotgun (Ithaca 37, pump action shotgun that he has sawed down. It carries four shells that are loaded into the front, same place that they are expelled from. Fort will be working on getting his reloading faster and faster. Work with a 20 gauge, but note that the lower the number, the larger the size of the bullet. Fort will also be trying to work his way down to a 12 gauge, but he has to get his arms used to the kickback from that.). S has called Atsuko, but neither know any kind of critter that would want to cut off someone’s hands, though plenty would’ve drained the blood. (S: “Sometimes there are weird supernatural killings too. I mean, humans don’t have the market cornered on crazy and random. Plus, there are some critters out there that are like great white sharks. It’s not personal – you just get unlucky. It’s really just bothering me that they dumped the body.” – here’s another reason that S has stayed over for two nights, and moved F the first – she was worried about his safety)

Monday, am

*Movers come by to pick up boxes from Gage’s room, packing them onto a truck to take back to California. The room is stripped down to the mattress again. F is both sad about Gage’s death and really irritated over the thought of having to start yet another roommate hunt.
*F goes back to work, S heads home. Matt contacts F, saying he needs to talk to him privately. They meet up that night after F gets out of work, at F’s apartment. Matt has been working all weekend. The tattoos on Gage linked to a missing person’s file that Matt has had for about six months, Rian Orbon, since the police wouldn’t call it a homicide the parents turned to him (note: this guy was the actual first murder, 9 months ago – for Allegra’s pregnancy). He’s also, through a police connection, rustled up another disappearance (Brent Jung) (3 men total – none older than 30 – there are actually 4 guys, but they won’t have that last name until the visit to the tattoo parlor) in the last few months that match in a lot of ways. Through the family of the hiring family, he has the promotional card for the tattoo parlor (Heart of Darkness Tattoos) (F feels its pull). Matt also called the coroner – while he’s still trying to get his hands on the coroner’s report (important that he doesn’t’ have it yet), he was able to talk with a connection and find out a few details that the police haven’t released – namely, that in addition to the hand loss that Fort saw, Gage was also missing his tongue and his genitals) He wants F, who generally matches victim descriptions, to go to parlor and check it out. Matt will be staking it out. (Matt is planning to tail F – suspicions from last book are alive & well) – There’s a lot of strain and undercurrent to this conversation. F is eager to help out – both because of the lead on Gage’s murder, and his desire to placate Matt about what he might know. He wants their relationship to return to what it was before, and (most importantly) for Matt to be safe.
*F calls S right after meeting (this is evening), gets her to agree to meet him the next day. She drops by that night instead, they talk about what’s going on. She sees the promotional card on the counter (F: “That is the best designed card I’ve seen in my life. I mean, I look at that thing and I actually start thinking that a tattoo is a good idea”), recognizes the glamour. Still early explorations, but now they’re on alert for elf involvement (elves at Dreamcatching, elf glamour on the tattoo card). She’ll ride along with him tomorrow. (S: “With how you were reacting to that glamour, I have to keep an eye on you. Otherwise you’ll have a butterfly tramp stamp the next time I see you.”) S makes an appointment at the parlor for “her boyfriend.”

Tuesday, 8am

*F & S drive over together to the tattoo parlor (Heart of Darkness Tattoos). Matt is across street in a Starbucks – F calls him (first mention & exchange about S).
*F & S go into the tattoo parlor. While they’re waiting (tattooist busy getting high – note that there should be a mixture of alcohol and drug abuse here – tattooist’s name is Jacoby Anderson – see other file for Jacoby’s arm tattoos), F flips through the design book. He stops at the tattoo that Gage got – that page is riveting. It’s been glamoured, and it’s compelling to regular guys, too. Tattooist is a changeling halfsie, with no loyalty at all to the elf community (called The Neighbors). He’s bitter, with a drug problem as a result of his childhood trauma. He’s willing to do anything for money, which S picks up on fast. For cash, he’s happy enough to reveal what his involvement was. In exchange for money, he gave a woman several of his promotional cards (note: Soli’s skin at this point was a hot Latina woman) (Jacoby: “No, she wasn’t an elf. I don’t know what the fuck she was, but she paid enough that I didn’t give a shit. But when those guys came back, they all gave me cards that had been glamoured up like crazy. Not one of the Neighbors, either. No one I know could do a glamour like that. For that, you’d need one of the big guys, one of The Crowd. (spits) The glamour was specific, too. Young men would like it.”) The men who came back carrying those cards were the ones who he was paid to keep an eye on & tattoo. The design page was also provided, pre-glamoured (“yeah, you’d know if I put the glamour on it. No one would fucking buy it. Maybe they’d look back at it once or twice, but that’s it.”) The page is compelling, and then he can talk the right guys into getting it, throwing in a discount if he has to. He was also supposed to write down their names & info, so that he could get paid his bonus. For another round of cash (cleaning out Fort), he hands over the list of names. Four names total, leading with Gage’s. This is one more than Matt found (the last guy, Franklin Litchfield, was supposedly killed in a car accident, which is why Matt didn’t pick up on him). (important – the list has to be handed to Fort, S won’t look at it, just ask him. This way she won’t pick up on the Lulu/Litchfield connection until she actually looks at the files later) Last thing – the tattooist was supposed to make sure that all the guys left with a glamoured flier for the speed-dating.
*F walks over to the Starbucks to see Matt while S goes over to the car. F tells Matt about design, gives him list with the name of the car accident guy, but leaves out everything else. Matt says that he’ll keep staking out tattoo parlor. F joins S in car, he’s driving. On drive to Dreamcatching, F catches sight of Matt’s car, realizes that Matt is tailing them. Doesn’t tell S yet. Worried.
*F & S go back to Dreamcatching, question Lilah. With the info about the tattooist (she knows him), the glamours (she sees the promotional card and confirms that it was placed by one of Themselves – not Nokke, but maybe Hobany or Amadan), and sending the guys to the speed-dating, she’s alerted and unhappy. Also introduce changeling stockboy, Felix Ortiz, at some point. There will only be a partial conversation about the earlier stuff – enough to convince her. Lilah will have to hurry them out of the store, not wanting this to get the owner (Tomas)’s attention, but promises to call F – to arrange meeting. L calls F about 5 minutes later – S is driving. (some undercurrents here – he clearly likes her, S is stepping back a little) L & F arrange to meet at his place that evening, after each gets out of work. (S: You know, I think I still have my old boombox in a closet. You can borrow it. F: Huh? S: You know, to hold up outside Lilah’s window. F: You’re nuts. S: I can already see you composing your mix tape. Don’t forget to put ‘In Your Eyes’ on it. Chicks dig that one.)
*F to work. Don’t go into detail. S takes off to handle some fox stuff.
*F & L meet up at his apartment. S is not there – she’s made an excuse about being busy (“I’ve got whores to the left of me, gigolos to the right” F – yes, that’s exactly like Bob Dylan described). F & L talk & bond – L mentions that she is suspicious about the Neighbors’ intentions (descriptions of her family life here), pledges to help, but not wholely sure what to do. At some point S will come in the window – she was eavesdropping from outside (on the tree? On the fire escape? Either way she was using fox tricks to remain undetected by passerbys – didn’t have to bother for F & L – “You two were distracted”) She has a suggestion – that they see if the tattoo artist had anything he was still hiding. They agree to break into Heart of Darkness. (“Crime!”)
*F & L & S break into the tattoo parlor. Looking around, they don’t find much else. Clearly he really was willing to tell everything for cash. They find lots of drugs, changeling has destructive habits. While they’re searching, Soli (the skinwalker – she’s wearing the skin of a cute Latina woman – matches description tattooist gave) walks in on them – she was coming by with more of the special inks. L was going through a broom closet when Soli entered – at one point in the fight F sees her there, crouching and looking freaked out, he gestures for her to stay down – it’s clear that she is in no way prepared for this fight, and F also realizes that it’s probably important to conceal that they have a connection to the elves. Soli has no intention of being questioned – she sniffs out intruders, and there’s a tussle. Soli needs to be really, really good at fighting. Good enough that S and F are having trouble, even with S’s great hand-to-hand and F doing pretty well. Soli knows that vampire involvement is a problem – and she recognizes Fort. At some point S gets a blade out and manages to cut her – revealing part of her true form. Recognition of skinwalker. Things are getting problematic – Soli manages to get S out of it for a second (damage here?), and now it’s her against F, and he’s overmatched and knows it. Then Matt comes in, armed. He shoots – Soli is too fast, dodges, & retreats. She’s clearly pissed at Fort.
*Now there’s a BIG problem. A human is in the room. Matt & F engage (words), but S has pulled herself up, sneaks up on Matt, and knocks him out. They have bigger problems here – skinwalkers are not allowed in Scott territory – they’re problems who leave high body counts behind them. They can keep Matt under cover for now, but F has to call home. F calls Chiv, is told to get to the mansion, NOW. L is still on board (after her courageous huddle), she’ll go home and try to get more info. S will take Matt back to her place (L needs to help (S: Yes, it would be nice if you contributed) – they use Matt’s car). F drives home.
*The mansion, late night, early am. Madeline (agitated), Chivalry (worried), and Prudence are all in attendance. Madeline needs to be noticeably older than in Book One – slightly weaker, too. (feeding F so often is taking a toll, as is general age). Madeline’s orders are immediate – Prudence is to set up a residence in Providence and immediately start helping out. F is to remain point on investigation (Mad pleased by his work so far), Pru is to provide FULL support & backup. The skinwalker is the priority – it needs to be executed, and if someone employed it, they need to be made an example of. There needs to be a suggestion here that those in the territory are picking up on Madeline becoming weaker – that is a large part of why this is happening now (P: Elves with some kind of plan. The kitsune numbers increasing. More movement among lower creatures. They sense your weakness, Mother). Pru is grouchy, but obeys. Mad makes F take a full drink from her (F sees that this is making her weaker, but Chiv at one point holds his head down, making him continue & obey – even Pru agrees with this action here), then he’s sent home. Pru meets him in the parking lot – discussion. Unusually amiable, for them, that is. At least she isn’t trying to kill him this time – she’s interested in him right now. Trying to weigh how Grace’s death has changed him. She needs to pack, then she’ll be setting up in ritzy hotel – gives him her phone number (important here). (reminds him to call her if he needs to – not to hesitate. A skinwalker is nothing to play with)
*Back to Providence. F to S’s house. Matt is tied up in the living room. Keiko is also here – completely irate. They are using fox tricks to keep M from overhearing – S & K are filled in by F – S wants to get some more foxes to help (list off about four cousins (Hoshi, Takara, Rei, Mio) suitable – better to have more than less with a skinwalker involved), K shuts her down. “Now isn’t the time to remind the vampires of our numbers.” K pushes F, he admits and repeats Pru’s comment – S explains it (“When the kitsune first came to Scott territory, it was only Atsuko. A generation ago, it was Atsuko and her 4 daughters. Now those four daughters have produced twenty granddaughters, all in our prime, and my cousins are at an age to start having families if they want. There are three great-granddaughters already, bringing the total today to twenty-seven foxes, and the floodgates are just opening. We’re stronger than we were when Atsuko negotiated her treaty with Madeline. To a suspicious mind like Prudence’s, I can see how this would be threatening.”) K angry that she explained honestly (indication of S’s relationship with F), & the twins fight about politics – K pulls trump card & says that she’ll call Atsuko – no foxes on any side – S’s presence is dangerous enough. With Pru and F both involved, there’s already too much danger that S will side with one over the other (and obvious that she’ll side with F) – with just one, she can be dismissed as a rogue. Five foxes would be a declaration of allegiance, especially if Mad is getting weaker. S gets one last shot – if K doesn’t want to be involved, she should go stay with the boyfriend (“I know you haven’t broken up. You shouldn’t bother trying to lie to me.”) K leaves. S doesn’t want to explain to F – shifts discussion by telling him to deal with Matt.
*F talks to M (tied to a chair). This is a difficult conversation – F admits to his involvement on the Grann incident, but keeps the supernatural stuff hidden. Manages to convince M that he really wants to find Gage’s killer. M agrees. S has brought in his files, spread them out on table, been taking notes. M asks if she’s found anything – she says no. Maybe there’s a link at colleges – three victims were undergrads or grad students. M agrees that he’ll follow up on it. Leaves.
*F knows S better (it should be notable that he can now tell when she’s lying). Asks what’s going on. She hands him the list of victim names – the same one they got from the tattoo artist, but that she didn’t read. Goes into her own office (very Suz, but with a surprisingly professional element) pulls out a file folder. Pulls out an article – the article about Dr. Lulu’s fertility practice. S recognized the one boy’s family name (Franklin Litchfield – the car accident victim) from the feature – they were interviewed, since their son had just been accepted by Harvard – the ultimate success story. Reference here to coroner files (Matt got them, Suze read them), and how Gage’s wrists, tongue, and gonads were all removed while he was still alive, and with surgical precision. The coroner was able to tell that the killer used surgical tools that cauterize as they cut, which is how he lived through the removals. They also learn here that from the marks on Gage’s ankles, he was tied upside down and then his throat was cut, draining his blood down with gravity. The cut was careful, though – not a big gash. He bled out from it, but it probably took him twenty minutes or more. Matt was busy today – he also got copies of the accident reports from the Litchfield wreck – Franklin Litchfield’s body was damaged by fire, but he also was missing at least hands (with the fire damage it is hard to determine the rest). They have a first target now. It’s 3am now – they’ll get 3 hours of sleep, then head out. Notify Pru (she is unusually complimentary). Bed. (Fort put in Keiko’s bed again)

Wednesday, 7am

*F & S to Lulu’s office. Pru meets them there. (note on Pru/S interactions – S is very careful around Pru, treating her like a rattlesnake). They go into clinic, pushing past the scheduling nurse. Lulu is in the wind, but they do snag her witch, Mitch (Mitch the witch!). They get incinerator’s use out of the witch, along with the fact that he’s been cooking up a roofie-like drink for Lulu, not for use in the clinic. (It will fog drinker’s memory and mind, but make them highly obedient, and willing to do things that they would never do under normal circumstances. He has no concerns about cooking it, or any interest in what she did with it. What he cared about was that it was something different than the constant fertility magic, of which they have racks of. A few of which are missing, by the way. But it wasn’t unusual for Lulu to take that home – it was common to use whenever they bred any of the Neighbors – a lot of times they were breeding people who didn’t want to have to try more than once for results). Mitch is very clear that he did not provide whatever new ritual they’re using now. They don’t kill him, but tell him to leave town and not have contact with the elves again. Pru scares him enough that he does it. F is behind that decision (Pru points out that “he’s the point”) – by pointing out that witches can be useful, (and easily bought – useful when you need them, and hard to locate – not a lot of them) that’s why doesn’t kill. P agrees with the decision, is pleased with him. There’s that balancing act that F is hitting here. They go through the files here (Lulu has had them scanned – they bully the scheduling nurse (Maureen – human) into printing them (interesting here – all four have files – better yet, all four were inseminated with elf semen, but were recessives, no elf traits). Pru needs to go back to hotel to wait out sunlight. Phone call with M – he’s working through colleges, trying to find patterns. Call from L – she’s at Dreamcatching, and she’s found something. F & S drive over.
*Allegra went into labor, Tomas is with her, and changeling stockboy (Felix) is at school (high school senior). With coast clear, L has been searching owner’s office, found some useful stuff (also found out that he cheats on his taxes). F & S show her the files they pulled from Lulu’s office. L is confused – it’s clear from the files that the four men were recessives, not changelings – and that should’ve been enough for them to be ignored their whole lives. No one has ever found a use for them (she will point out the coding in the files – the elf’s semen who each was created with – “They’re like prize stallions. There’s serious semen storage going on. The Neighbors are terrified of what would happen if any of Themselves were killed. So there’s just crazy storage going on”) Note: Felix is one of Nokke’s sons, which technically means that he’s a half-brother to Lilah. She looks out a little for him, but the truth of the society is that family really only means who was raised as a sibling. But there’s another speed-dating scheduled tonight – this one is located at a bookstore (independent bookstore – book sales for them, cash for Dreamcatching). Suggests that F & S check it out (hands them free coupons – because it’s one man & one woman, it won’t throw off the numbers, just be one extra table). With Tomas busy with Allegra, L will be the only coordinator there.
*F calls M on his way to work – gives him partial info, asks him to stake out the tattoo parlor. Anyone with those tats is in danger. From last night’s info, all the guys who got them are dead – any new victims still need to be tattooed.
*F goes to work. Half shift. Cuts out early to go to speed dating (boss very not happy). Call to Pru – she’s hunting Dr. Lulu. F & S at speed dating. There’s early amusement and merriment (also some business with L not being thrilled seeing F do the dating), but no breaks. None of the tattoos they’re looking for (they’re checking the women, too, just to be sure), no elf presence other than L in her coordinator position. Toward end, Soli (now wearing Beth’s skin) shows up, inserting into schedule so that F suddenly faces her across the table. Smug & taunting (dangers of Facebook!) – and F can’t do anything. Public place, surrounded by humans. S across room – she can’t interfere. Taunts are personal here. Some hints of info (answer the question of why Soli dumped Gage’s body in house rather than disposing of it in the incinerator or an accident – Soli has a nasty sense of humor. Liked the idea of a vampire dealing with a drained body. Knew that the vampires would cover up everything, making an easy evening for her. She wanted to cut out early and hit a bar, not stage an accident or sit around waiting for the incinerator to do its work. A line also about Gage being tied upside down: “Impressed? I was a Girl Scout. Got a badge in knotwork.”) Soli slips out of place before F can follow. He runs out, but she’s gone. She got into a car, so S can’t track her. S & L both react.
*F & L & S in car, discussing. L has been making calls – no answers, but there are hints that something big is going on with Themselves. And Allegra had a son, and there was a lot of excitement – more than usual, even for a ¾ giving birth. Note: What Lilah knows here is what everyone not involved in the murders has been told – that Allegra’s pregnancy was a ¾ and ¾ mix. Learn here about elf reproduction – the changelings were comparatively easier to create – human DNA seems to stabilize the elf problems, though there’s still only a 7% success rate. ½ to ½ are fine, with all offspring being active halfsies, but it was only after Lulu involved witch magic 30 years ago at her clinic that they were able to get a larger stream of changelings, and that 25 years ago there was the first birth of a ¾ cross. Before that, crossing a halfsie and an Ad-hene (Themselves) (one of the politer terms used by the Neighbors – the elves themselves prefer Sidhe or Tuatha de Danann) invariably resulted in nothing. The first generation of the 3/4s are in reproductive age now, and while they cross well together (just like halfsies, in fact), they’ve hit a wall again on reproducing with the Ad-hene – and in this one, even the witch magic hasn’t resulted in the 7/8th pregnancy that they’re hoping for. Allegra’s birth happened that afternoon. (Discussion on why Lilah won’t ask her parents for help. S: Fort, Keebler has a point. Her mommy fucked PopPop, and not in a Kathryn Harris The Kiss kind of way, either. Total premeditation and intent. We probably shouldn’t ask this woman to question her loyalties. F: Suze, don’t be like that. They did an insemination, obviously. That’s different. L: (silence) F: Uh, Lilah? L: (quiet) F: You mean, your mom really—L: I don’t know, okay? F: How can you not know? L: That’s kind of a zero-sum question to ask your mom. ‘Did you fuck your father’ has a really collosal downside. I’d rather just assume insemination.)
*F & S hit a hotel room. Two beds, one room. S doesn’t like how much Soli seemed to know about him, and isn’t willing to sleep in the apartment, or even her place. (she calls K, tells her to stay at the boyfriend’s and keep an eye out). L back to her place (S doesn’t worry about her. Plus, since the elves are employing Soli, she’d probably hesitate to do anything to L, even if she’s figured out that L is involved with the investigation, which she probably hasn’t, thanks to L’s incredible duck and cover routine at the tattoo parlor). F calls Pru, she thinks she’s closing in on Lulu. F & S try to get some sleep. (some early convo about after all this whining about reproduction S is grateful to be a kitsune. F: Why, how do you guys manage it? S: You meet a guy in a bar, you get laid, a few months later you have a litter of kits. Easy-peasy, and you even get a few free drinks in the deal.)
*F has the skinwalker nightmare about Beth’s death. S wakes him up. They talk. She tells him the kitsune story (the wife, the dog, the son, returning every night), to explain a little about the kitsune & relationships. F eventually falls back to sleep, S watching over him.

October 3, Thursday, am

*F wakes up because someone is knocking on the door – S is sleeping next to him in fox form (save human form for Book 3; She’s occupying his pillow – his head has been completely pushed off). It’s L with breakfast – she’s a little cautious at first – there are undercurrents, but S stays in fox form the whole time (eats breakfast that way), and L relaxes, starts warming up to F again.
*They’re finishing up breakfast when F’s phone rings. Call is from Matt – he’s been staking out the tattoo shop. A guy just came out with bandages in right spots, accompanied by Soli/Beth. He took a photo – emails it to Fort’s phone (all the bells & whistles from Chiv after Book 1). L recognizes Felix from Dreamcatching, good wtf & shock moment. Matt has now lost them in traffic. (Soli being careful this time).
*L is flummoxed – makes no sense, but she’s scared for the changeling boy. They need answers. Call Pru – she’s hit a dead end on Lulu – woman is wiley, has gone to ground. F asks L if there’s anything she can do. Hard decision, BUT (because she realizes that changeling is in danger) – Lulu would come out if there was enough incentive. And L can create that incentive.
*F & S & L go to L’s apartment. There, L calls a woman she is friendly with in the elf community (Peggie), but who has completely uncompromised loyalty to Themselves and the population. Lilah tells her that she is preg by a ¾ guy (Cole, Neighbors have been trying to set them up forever), but has been hiding it because she wasn’t sure what she was going to do, if she’d keep it. But now she’s having cramping, and is scared. Says she’s at her apartment. (knows that the woman will track Lulu down wherever, and this woman is utterly loyal – Lulu would trust, and there’s too much desire for ½ and ¾ crosses to not come – 5/8 aren’t ¾, but they’re better than 1/2)
*F & S & L wait at the apartment. Half an hour later, Dr. Lulu hurries in. Gets jumped by S & F, who were hiding. Tied to chair. They try to interrogate, but nothing. Lulu is a fanatic – really mad at Lilah (but Lilah is holding firm – more horrified that they are now hurting not just humans, but their own changelings. Lilah will also at some point say the ultimate heresy – that they’re all frantic to breed back to the full elves, but maybe they should just be freaking content with the community they’ve created and stop trying to recreate the past, which has never sounded that rosy to her in the first place). This section covers most of the afternoon – F realizes that they aren’t getting the info they need – calls in Pru. Once it is dark enough (4:30) Pru arrives – now Lulu is scared, and with some ‘encouraging’, spills the whole story.:
When the witch magic wouldn’t create the 7/8 that they’d been trying for, a few in the community who were trusted more closely by Themselves for this task (known to be fanatical) started looking to even darker stuff, and Tomas located the fertility ritual for Lulu – now F/S/Pru learn about how this is an enormously powerful ritual. Now they learn the details – the hands and gonads have to be eaten by the man (the elves have no problem with that – they like it), the tongue by the woman, and they have to have intercourse in a rain of the sacrifice’s blood. The witch’s roofie drink was used to drug the girls enough to do anything. The ritual starts just after moonrise, and ejaculation had to happen while the sacrificial man was still alive.
The sacrifices, the connections, and the breeding to ¾ females. We learn here that Allegra was the first time they used this ritual, and the baby who was just born is the 7/8 cross that they’ve been striving for. With that baby, though, and its promise – yesterday Themselves got excited, and made the decision to start using active changelings, with hopefully even more spectacular results. The first sacrifice is planned for tonight. Horrifying, but they get the location of the sacrifice (the fairy circle outside the entrance to Underhill – Lilah knows the spot) out of her, as well as the time (moonrise – 8:09pm). (L: Who are you using [which ¾]? Lulu: You should know [implying Iris, Lilah’s 19-year-old sister]. L: No, no – my parents would never agree to that. Lulu: They are loyal. They didn’t question us, just agreed to give the girl the brew, have her ready for Tomas to pick up.) Prudence kills Lulu after she’s told everything, and Fort is okay with it. (Pru: You’re point, Fort. What do I do? F: Kill her. (impressing Pru)) After all, Lulu just admitted to multiple murders, with no remorse, and was the one who cut off the hands & genitals, cut out tongues, sliced open the men’s arteries. All of men she’d delivered as infants.
*F & S & L to car. Pru to her own car.
A note on Underhill: Underhill is located in Lincoln Woods State Park – close to Providence (95 N to Rt 146N, to exit marked with signs) No entrance fee, open sunrise to sunset, gates open year-round, though. 627 acres with freshwater lake, equestrian trails, hiking and climbing. (history) The elves, with severely declining numbers, were locked in Underhill in 1845 – the year the Potato Famine in Ireland began. That’s when their halfsie offspring (all Irish at that point) fled to America, ending up in Boston & Providence. It took sixty-three years for the halfsies and the few elves locked out with them to open a gate – they managed it in what would become the park. Worried about long-term security, they made deals with Madeline Scott that went beyond their settling deals that led her to use her political influence to influence the creation of the park around their gate in 1908.
*They are all rushing to the fairy circle – the time needs to be close enough that they have to rush, and even then will only get there after everything has been set up and the ceremony has just started, with them just waiting on the arrival of Lulu. F calls M’s cellphone, gets voicemail. (M is actually tailing them right now.) They arrive at park entrance and park. L will direct them to a secluded place to park. F has the Ithaca 37 hidden in his trunk – in a locked container, along with the .45 from last book, which will be his backup now. He’ll also put extra shells & ammo in his belt. S has her own long knives, plus grabs the tire iron. Pru will be working with bare hands. Lilah – well, she takes a smaller gun (that unregistered .38 that Suze keeps throwing in her duffel just in case), but mostly she is going to focus on getting her sister and the changeling out of there. (so brave – so very unprepared – she’s clearly still dealing with Lulu’s death – even though she agreed to the necessity)
*Big throwdown. Map out in more detail when closer, but important elements are: at the fairy circle, the 5 big elves will be there. At seeing F & Pru and realizing the vampires are coming down, two (Beron & Hobeny) will cut and run, leaving Amadon, Nokke, and Shoney. There are also 6 ½ elves (including Tomas), 1 ¾ elf (Cole, that dude that they were trying to set up L with) actively helping – relatively easy to engage with – no training. Plus Soli – big threat – able to engage with Pru. There’s also Iris (drugged to gills, sitting naked in an inflatable kiddie pool that has been set up underneath where the changeling is hanging). They were waiting for Lulu to arrive to start. S will slice with knives, catch one elf (Nokke?) really well with the tire iron. Pru will rip one elf’s head (Shoney) head completely off his body (kill move!), slices up some halfies. A few halfsies have guns. F gets one elf with a shotgun blast to the body (Amadon), shoots at least two halfsies. Fort will also have a direct engagement with Soli, and in some way neutralize her or drive her backwards (she’s for hire, after all – she isn’t here to die). Matt will also show up at some point – early enough for Pru to see, but when the tussle could go either way. F threatened? Lilah directly threatened? He followed them, sees that these people are NOT human. Learns truth. In a moment where everything is obvious, he’ll have to trust F completely (despite everything), and will. Will shoot at a couple of elves – cold iron. Will be injured and on the ground at some point at end of fight. (not critically, but enough to take him down). Maybe Soli injured him, then F drove her back? (YES) Pru ends up chasing Soli after she disengages and runs – they disappear into woods. Eventually the halfsies are scattered and on ground, Iris & changeling have been grabbed by Lilah (standing in front of them with gun), Shoney is dead, Soli has fled, Amadon is full of cold iron and not doing great (Suze gets a few good hits with the tire iron on this one), and Fort has the shotgun aimed right at Nokke. Nokke raises hands, agrees to surrender. Talks with Fort, accepts him as Mad’s emissary, agrees to accept whatever judgement Mad decides on. (at last minute, when everything is agreed on, Fort will shoot Nokke in the kneecap. Just getting in a small moment of vengeance for those who died – showing also that Fort is harder now.) Grabs Amadon, they disappear into Underhill, leaving the remaining halfsies alone. Shoney’s dead body left, swarmed by hysterical halfsies (whoever left alive), who are no threat at all.
*Moment where everything seems okay, then Pru returns with Soli’s skin. Says that the skinwalker is dead, approves of Fort’s actions. No need to wipe out elves – Shoney’s death and the injuries to Amadon and Nokke – Pru is very much approving. Then suddenly things are problematic again – Pru walks over to where Matt is on the ground – he’s seen everything, and Pru knows that he knows. She also clearly knows who he is – calls him by name, says that he’s been a problem for long enough. Goes to kill him, but Fort moves with vampire speed and puts the shotgun muzzle against her head, tells her to stop. Tries to argue that this is a decision for Mad, but Pru realizes that he wants M to live, even knowing what he does. She’s upset. Forced back from Matt (F: Don’t push me, sister. Remember what happened to Luca.), points out that it will be Mad’s decision, but who will present their case to her first? Runs to car. Suze goes Matt, tells F to go – she’ll handle this. F runs to car.
*Car race to Newport! Back & forth, but the both peel into the driveway at the same time. Pru pushes F down, he skids and bounces on the rock driveway, runs ahead. He gets up and follows, leaving the guns in the car. Knows that Mad is inside, but Chiv is not – worrying. Runs inside, but Pru isn’t heading upstairs, where they both know Mad is. Instead, she’s going for Henry. F chases her, not knowing what she plans, but nothing that it can’t be any good.
*The polishing maid has been thrown aside, injured, not dead. F runs down the stairs. When he gets downstairs, he sees that Pru has also pushed aside Mr. Albert. He arrives just as Pru rips open the door to Henry’s enclosure – a huge example of strength. But Henry is fast and strong – he’s past Pru in an instant, going straight for his target – Mr. Albert, hurrying behind Pru, trying to contain. Henry moves close, close enough that Mr. Albert uses a stun-gun, but Henry is already ripping into Mr. Albert’s throat with his teeth. Even the stun-gun just jolts him, but he’s still ripping, ripping open Mr. Albert’s chest. He’s trying to eat him – F stops in his tracks, horrified, but Pru has pulled around now. She grabs at Henry, he pulls away. F yells, asks what she’s doing. She says something to indicate that she’s going to kill Henry. F is in shock, but he tries to stop her – he left the gun in the car, he is bare-handed. Pru slams a hand in his chest, he’s thrown hard against the wall, smacking his head. Slides down, head swimming. Pru catches Henry by the neck, and is pulling her other hand back to strike & kill him. Pru’s hand is caught by Mad, who is enraged – first time that F has ever seen her blue eyes completely black (neither he or Pru saw her enter – but Mr. Albert managed to hit the panic button). (M: My will was clear. Why have you crossed me? Pru: (still holding onto Henry) Whether it is sentimentality or ego that holds you back, it is enough. Fortitude’s transition has been held back for two decades, and I am saying enough. Perhaps it’s too late, maybe he’s ruined – more human than vampire. But I am putting a stop to your games.) Mad swipes, and Pru has to drop Henry, who lies still. He’s injured in a few places (maybe he and Pru actually had some kind of engagement?) Pru and Mad lock hands, each pushing. For a minute, Pru is winning. Then Mad grunts, her black eyes actually start to glow, and she pushes with full strength. Pru forced down. Pru is down, but this has to clearly take a lot of effort out of Mad, and her eyes bleed quickly down to blue, and don’t gleam with her usual strength. (Mad: (gently, the anger is gone) My darling, my dove, my daughter. So strong, and almost ready to leave my nest. (quick move, damaging Pru) But not today, love. (another injury) And not tomorrow. (a third move, gruesome, leaving bones sticking out, damaging even more) My will is still your law. (then leans down and strokes Pru’s face lovingly, with weird pride on her face) But soon, dearest. Now go. (Pru can’t walk, so she crawls, past Fort, who she glares at – the old hatred is doubled – this betrayal was worst)
*Now Mad checks on F, then Henry. Clicks her tongue disapprovingly (Mad: Ah, Henry. Such trouble you are.) Drips her blood into his wounds, wounds slowly close. Henry breathes easier again. She is visibly weakened, orders him back into cage. He struggles against command for a second, then gives in and obeys. He goes and sits, then looks at Fort. Note: With Mad in the room, Henry is puppet-like – F has never seen him with Mad in the room. Now Mad bends and touches Mr. Albert on forehead, sighing. (Mad: Oh, Albert. Faithful to the last). Now she goes to Fort, who was pulled himself into a sitting position. They will have the conversation about why she made him different (survival, adaptation – humans are a danger. In the 1800s, there was a significant uptick in the hunting of vampires. Rarely dangerous, but those with slow reproductive cycle (Mad realized) needed to be cautious. This was also the era where human-caused extinctions were starting to happen in the animal world, and be noticed by naturalists for the first time. She took note of that, plus the new theory of Darwinism, and decided to make a change), and the results. Prudence’s host parents were killed at her birth, which was usual. Their blood was her first meal. She is everything that a typical vampire should be – and that most parents would be proud of. But that’s not what the species needs. So when Mad made Chiv, she killed his father at birth, but she also experimented by leaving his host mother alive until he was 15, which she found held back the transition significantly. Chiv is different than most vampires – more capacity to love, less fixation on his own self-interest, his devotion to his wives, even though it leads to their deaths, is notably different than typical. Both were entirely raised by Mad. With Fort, though, she made significant changes – she wants him to have self-control, but also an understanding of humans that she, Pru, and even Chiv lack. Now Mad is clearly very weakened, F has to physically carry her upstairs to her own room. There’s a long blood trail leading to Pru’s suite of rooms.
*F sets Mad up in her own room (Mad: Much to do, my darling), then brings up what he and Pru were speeding here to discuss – Matt. There’s some discussion. Mad isn’t pleased, tapping her fangs with her fingertips – she knows of him. She and Pru have discussed him several times. Long wait, but in the end, Mad allows Matt to live – but to Fort: “You are close to an adult. I will let you make this decision – but remember that he and his actions are your responsibility now. If Mr. McMahon is dangerous to us, you will have to kill him. Not me. Not even your brother.”
*F leaves the mansion. Chiv is coming in when he leaves, but F tells him to help Mad, keep an eye on Henry and Pru – he can’t stop to talk. F calls Suze. She brought Matt to F’s apartment. F drives there – completely exhausted, yet unable to even imagine sleeping.
*F asks, and S leaves them alone. Matt is tied to a chair (again – make a lame joke here), and bandaged up. F tells Matt everything – the truth about Jill & Brian’s deaths, what is at stake, the world that Matt didn’t even know existed. What was behind the Grann murders months ago. Matt listens to it all, not speaking. F unties Matt at the end, and Matt just looks at him. Matt leans forward, pushing his hand gently but insistently into F’s mouth – F knows what he’s looking for. Says that he doesn’t have the teeth (which Matt saw on Pru when she was about to kill him) yet, but he will eventually. Once he transitions. Matt abandons him – this has to be harsh, but at the same time with justification.
*S walks in – she didn’t listen, but was waiting in the parking lot. She saw Matt leave. Fort sits on the couch, shattered. S takes him by hand, leads him to bed, settles him down, gently, with great care. Tells him to go to sleep – that it will be easier to deal with in the morning. He takes her hand as she starts to leave, asking where she’s going. She says she’s going home – there’s no more danger. It was taken care of. While he was driving, Chivalry already called all of the elf leaders left – laid down Mad’s punishment. Won’t tell him what it was tonight – just that it was harsh. No one is going to dare come after him. He can’t believe she’s leaving – she looks at him (full poker face) – tells him that Lilah had to take her sister & Felix home, but that she’ll call him in a few days. Leaves. F can’t quite get it. But sleeps.

Aftermath (over a period of a few days)

*Next day, F gets voicemail – he skipped out of work the night of the throwdown, not even thinking about it. He’s been fired. Again. He has to job hunt and find a new roommate – again.
*Chiv calls, tells him that in a few days they’re going out on the Firefly with Bhumika – no discussion. F tries to get out, saying that he has a lot to do. Chiv forces it, and (still bruised and sore from last night’s throwdown), F agrees.
*A few days later, L shows up at F’s apartment. (NOTE: Suze has not shown up since she tucked him into bed. She is deliberately keeping distance, though she should have sent some kind of silly gift his way – pajamagram?) Her sister and the changeling are safe – no one is particularly happy with Lilah right now, especially not Nokke, but she’s okay with that. She’s quit her job at Dreamcatching – will be figuring out how to live outside the community again. But suggests that maybe it doesn’t have to be like last time – asks F on a date. A lot riding on this – F is in the moment of decision, has to really weigh this, understand that Lilah really would be a good person to be with. But F chooses – he says that he’ll always be L’s friend, always be there to keep her company, but he isn’t going to date her. L blushes, asks if this is about S. F nods – he isn’t going to sugarcoat. L nods, then says (with grace) that she does hope that they really do stay friends.
*The day of the Firefly yacht ride – cool but sunny, a good last sail of the season. They’re on the boat, sailing in crisp October air in Narragansett Bay – and it’s clear that this will be Bhumika’s last trip on the boat. Sadness, worry about future. Toward end of day, there needs to be one small conversation between Chiv and F (about Mad’s decline, Pru’s challenge to their mother, worries about future. At least one mention that Chiv wants to make sure that F has the Matt situation under control – that Chiv would have chosen to kill Matt in that situation, though he would’ve done it quickly and painlessly) (There will also be the conversation here about Fort being ready to police alone – needing to cover for Chiv a while during Bhumika’s last months, but also an acknowledgement that after the elf incident he’s confident that F can handle himself (he negotiated when he could, he was willing to fight when negotiation failed, he made allies, and he was willing to make hard choices, like killing Lulu) He gives F his first solo assignment – a group of selkies are sinking local fishing boats that haven’t paid ‘protection’. Look into it, locate ringleaders, stop it)
*F goes home after boat ride. He is still leaving calls with Matt, but Matt won’t answer or pick up. He’s starting to look into the selkie incidents (there does need to be that solo confidence here). He’s also doing job interviews, hunting for work, putting up fliers for roommate, but at the same time he’s doing it halfheartedly – always waiting for S to show up. She doesn’t. Finally, one evening he gets irritated (glancing at window all evening long) and drives to her apartment, rings bell. She answers, looks surprised. He is standing on the doorstep, just blurts out his decision with Lilah. She’s surprised – teases him a little, but he can tell that she’s pleased. He then hands her a mix cd he made (as a joke on her earlier mix tape dig), and he’ll also end by asking her to partner up with him on the selkie run – and implied, in future. She gives him that slow, foxy smile, and says, “Sounds like fun.” and invites him in. He walks inside, knowing that something has changed between them, again. Ends with this element of commitment going forward – hint at romance. But the equality and respect is most important to emphasize on way out.

Authors on Author Photos

Iron Night released cover big version The author photo appears on the back page or cover of a book and has a strange position in our medium. We have hundreds of pages at our disposal to influence the reader, but one photo to say, “And this is me.” But who do we present as “me”? It’s a picture, after all. You can be almost anyone you want to be in a picture. It’s not as if you’d have to keep that persona going even as long as an average dinner party. You could deck yourself out in tweed and a pipe and do your best Tolkien impression and no one would know any better. Judith Butler wrote about identity as a purely social construct with a large performative element – certainly we all know that there are expectations readers might have about who writes what genre. If we want to, we can defy or meet those expectations. Or we can just run a hand over our hair, slap the camera on a tripod, and call it a day.

These were the ideas I was playing with recently, but then The Daily Dot’s Aja Romano posted about sexism in speculative fiction, and one of her quotes was from Sean P. Fodera (who then threw an incredible tantrum over the insolence of someone publicizing his more disgusting forum posts), who wrote, regarding the excellent writer Mary Robinette Kowal:

“For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach. No metal bikinis or such, but they were not innocuous writer headshots either. One of them, with her recumbent on the sand with legs exposed, made her somewhat attractive.”

Even if we disregard the specter of the disapproving Puritan in Goodman Fodera’s tone, that phrase “not innocuous writer headshots” springs out. It suggests that there’s a right way for the writer to present themselves, within acceptable boundaries, and that Kowal has transgressed beyond those lines.

Setting aside the blatant sexism in what Fodera is typing would be like trying to ignore rain during a downpour, but this isn’t a solely male-female issue, where female authors are the only ones under pressure. Consider the way that Fodera has also brought up the issue of attractiveness – women aren’t the only ones who are subject to the reader’s gaze. Every social science study conducted since the first professor had a useful grad student to serve as a confederate has shown that we like attractive people. We are more likely to respond positively to their ideas, to hire them for jobs, and possibly to also buy their books. When an author sorts through possible photos for the back jacket, is there also the subtle concern that if one is selected where the author looks particularly trollish, then there might be an ever-so-small impact on sales?

And wrapping itself together with all of those other issues – no writer is published overnight, and there’s no author who didn’t spend at least a few daydreaming moments considering what their picture would look like when that day of triumph finally arrived.

If you look on the inside cover of my books (which you certainly should – preferably after reading their contents), you won’t see an author photo. Or anywhere on this blog, actually. It was a decision made for the book, and I do think that it was the right one to try to give the series the best possible chance. Is it one I feel good about, though – that I’m not ever sure. Some days I feel one way, other days I feel another. But I will say this: when I was in high school, I read R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale series. There was no author photo, and there was a gender-neutralized name – and for a number of years I thought that R. A. Salvatore was a female author. That lack of the photo allowed me to project anything I wanted, and at that age I guess what I wanted was another female author on my shelf.

So what goes into an author photo? How do different writers view it? Joining me to tackle this question are eight wonderful other authors who couldn’t figure out a graceful way to say no when I asked them to participate!

    Jason Hough

 


Darwin Elevator coverAuthor photos are an interesting beast. They remind me of advertisements for Real Estate agents, which almost always prominently feature a glamour shot of said agent, for what reason I’ve never understood. I want to know how successful they are at selling houses. What does it matter what they look like? I asked this question of myself when my literary agent asked me for a portrait to include on her website. That was the first time in my career the author photo came up.

Despite my diatribe above, it’s understandable that people want to form a personal connection with their favorite authors, and knowing what they look like does help accomplish that.

When I signed my first book deal with Del Rey, one of the first things my agent said was “Go out and get a professional headshot taken.” I did so. Here it is:

Jason Hough Pic 1

It looks very “authorly” I suppose, and my friends all commented immediately that the only reason I’d have such a picture on my Flickr page was because I’d landed a deal (it wasn’t announced yet). I used the picture on my blog and in a few other places, but just before publication I changed my mind and went with this picture to go on the inside jacket of my books:

Jason Hough Pic 2

It’s not as serious, not so professional in composition and all that. My friends were pretty much evenly split on which to use when I posed the question. The main reason I picked this one is my 3 year old son took it, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to give the little dude a photo credit.

He took another picture of me later, and I’ve been using it since:

Jason Hough Pic 3

Which one is the “best”? Damned if I know. Is someone going to base their buying decision on what I look like? Sad to say, probably. But I don’t really think many people do this. If they did George RR Martin would never have sold a book. Sorry George, all due respect — you’re a stud and we love you! If anything his bearded, geeky glory is exactly what you’d want in a fantasy author!

I can say with some certainty that I never deliberately looked at an author’s portrait until I became an author myself. I never bothered to look at who published their book, either. These things didn’t matter to me as a reader. They are only things I think about now that I’m part of the club. Who published someones book matters when you’re an author. As far as their looks, well, it helps me recognize them when I go to conventions and want to introduce myself. That’s about it.

Do looks matter for authors? I’m walking a tightrope here but what the hell. I’m a balding middle-aged ginger white guy of decidedly average appearance. I’ve noticed in my short stint as an author that there are a few colleagues of mine (talking about the male authors here) who are smashingly handsome fellows. And, they all seem to be stunningly well connected and popular within the author community. There was a time when I felt very jealous of this, and attributed it all to their looks. But over time I’ve come to some new conclusions. First off, in my experience good looking people are often very, very confident. They almost can’t help it, I think. It comes with a lifetime of having people want to meet you, I suppose. Whatever the case, it is their confidence that makes them a magnet in social settings, not their looks. When you look at the broader landscape, the one common trait of any gravitational body in a social solar system is confidence. Good looks probably helps people become that way, but there’s plenty of other roads leading there. Success, for example. A keen sense of humor. Self-awareness. Shameless self-promotion. For some folks a little alcohol does the trick.

Do some people let physical appearance sway their opinion of an author? I suppose so. However if we’re going to call for the author portrait to be abolished because it places too much importance on looks, which don’t matter one whit when it comes to the quality of the novel in question, perhaps we should also ditch the author bio. Aren’t we also using that to sway opinion by telling readers where we live, where we studied, what career highlights we’ve had and all the rest? Do those things affect the quality of the story? If the book should stand on its own merits, surely this is also superfluous information.

But we won’t do that. We won’t do either. For some readers a personal connection to the author matters. Knowing what someone looks like makes them more real. Knowing where they come from and a little about their lives even more so.

I’ve never heard anyone admit to not buying a book because of the author’s picture. I did once see someone comment about me on twitter, saying “his bio is not doing him any favors” — apparently they’d decided my book must be bad because my past accomplishments were not impressive enough. Much like my looks, there’s not a lot I can do about that except chuckle and move on.

The proof is in the prose.

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    Delilah Dawson

Delilah Dawson Pic Here is a confession: sometimes, I can’t go to sleep at night because I’m anxious about author photos and what to wear to cons and conferences. If you think that’s silly, then it’s probably because you’ve never read the hateful words strangers have written on the internet about your face, body, and clothes. As fantastic as it would be if authors were judged solely by their books, the image we present to the public and online eye can impact our careers, our friendships, our reviews, our sales– and, yeah, our sleep. I even blogged about it–with photos.

Here’s a little bit of my mental process:
I want to be seen as a competent professional. But I’m a weird geek who writes vampire smut, comics, and demon stories. I’m pretty, but I’m getting older, and I was bullied as a kid, so I’m shy and introverted, but I don’t want to seem stuck up. Too much makeup and I look like a clown. Too little and I’m a slob. I want to wear a costume, but will that make people doubt my abilities? I love my Catwoman, Leia, Hannibal, and NERD shirts, but I hate it when guys accuse me of being a fake geek girl; I don’t have the energy to fight it when I have a presentation to give. I don’t want to dress boring, but I don’t want to overdress, either. I would wear that cute corset, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m a prostitute and proposition me– again. If I wear a dress, the back of my legs will stick to the chair. If I wear cute shoes, the women will like me, but if the heels are too high, they’ll resent me. I’ll be sitting down, so if I wear something too low cut, guys will be staring down my shirt. *headsplode*

Red stage curtain with arch entrance You asked about author photos, and I described public appearances, but it’s relevant. Why? Because author photos are FOREVER. The exact same problem described above, but on the internet FOREVER. Printed in the back of a book FOREVER. I just put up a new website, and I’ve already had people say that the photo doesn’t fit my brand, doesn’t look like me, doesn’t match the website, should be in costume, is too “fun” because it’s at the beach. But you know what? It makes me feel pretty and confident. When I see that photo, I remember that day. How strong and happy I felt, the scent of the ocean and the feel of warm sand between my toes. I am all these things. Happy and grinning in the sun. Dark and whimsical and goth. Geeky and weird and vulgar. Pretty and Southern and polite. How am I supposed to capture all that in a single photograph?

You can’t. You just pick the one that makes you smile when you see it instead of counting your flaws. And then you get back to writing.

And then you show people the outtakes from your first author photo shoot, because let’s face it: author photos can be pretty ridiculous.

Visit Delilah Dawson’s website
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    Django Wexler

 


Django WexlerWhen ML asked me to write something about my author photo, I realized I didn’t have a great deal to say. Mine comes from a photo shoot I did in New York with my mom, who is (conveniently) an ex-pro photographer and generally excellent camera person. She posed me outside the old ivy-covered stone church next to the house, and we took a bunch of pictures of me until we got one that looked reasonably dignified. (I use the undignified one as my Twitter avatar.) My decisions were limited to which black coat I should wear for the occasion.

The Thousand Names Thinking about it, of course, not having to care too much about an author photo is another symptom of what John Scalzi called “life on easy mode”. As a white male upper-class American, my “just looking normal” is the default image of respectability. (Sort of. The DEFAULT probably looks a little less goofy.) So while I may not have much to say on the subject, I very much look forward to reading the other answers here, from people who had to put a lot more thought into it then I did.

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    Elspeth Cooper

 


elspethcooperOne of the things I was least looking forward to about being published was the author photograph. You see, I hate having my picture taken; I always have. I’m not that fond of mirrors, either.

So when it came to selecting an author photo, I didn’t have many pictures to choose from. A B&W family snap of laughing, chubby toddler-me wasn’t going to cut it, obviously, but the only other photos I had were in my wedding album (the momentousness of the occasion had persuaded me that it needed pictures). I cropped down one of the portraits and sent it off to my publisher. It wasn’t a studio shot, or me posed awkwardly at a desk trying to look authorly, but it was happy and natural, so I thought it would do.

It’s served me very well so far. Despite 21 years working in IT, widely regarded as a boys’ club, I’ve experienced very little in the way of misogyny in the workplace. As far as I know my appearance was never used to make judgements on either my competence or my worth as a human being. Because of that, it never even occurred to me that it might be a hazard I’d have to face in my new career.

the_ravens_shadow_TorSo far, it hasn’t been. The male authors I’ve met have all treated me as a fellow professional, and I’d feel quite safe sharing the elevator with any one of them. But every few months there seems to be yet another story about women in this business being groped or creeped-on, or demeaned on the basis of their appearance. I read what had happened to Mary Robinette Kowal and then I looked at that photo of me in the off-the-shoulder silk gown, and I started to wonder.

Is it professional enough? Does it send the right message? Do I look too girly to be taken seriously or does it mischaracterise what I write as romantic fantasy? And the kicker: will it be used against me?

And then I thought about it a little more, and decided: to hell with all that. It’s me, take me or leave me. What I look like has nothing to do with how or what I write, and if my picture influences how people perceive me or my work, surely that says more about them than it does about me. Which is their problem.

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Stephen Blackmoore

stephen_blackmoore_bw_1200 (1)Ceci n’est pas une author photo.

Oh, sure. It’s a photo and it’s of me, an author. So technically, yes, it’s an author photo. But it’s a picture my wife took of me while I was slightly drunk sitting in an airport bar in Wisconsin in the middle of winter a few years back. That one just happens to make me want to run and hide the least of any of the pictures of me out there.

Author photos are weird. They’re more than just a picture. They are image and brand, trademark and logo. At their core they’re marketing tools. But I’m never sure what exactly my author photo is supposed to be selling.

The easy answer is books, but I don’t think that’s entirely true, at least not directly. My picture has nothing to do with whether my book is any good or whether or not you will like it. I didn’t write it with my face no matter how drunk I might have been at the time.

When it comes down to it what it’s really selling is me. I’m not exactly comfortable with that. I’d rather you never know what I look like at all. Like everyone there’s too much about me I don’t like. Too much about me I’m afraid you might not like. I’m too fat, I’m too short, my nose is too crooked, my face is lopsided, I’m too hairy, my eyes are off-center, my forehead’s too big, my eyebrows are too bushy. The list goes on. And it raises troubling questions. Does the Me in my author photo convey the Me that you think it should? That I think it should? Do I look like a fantasy author? Or a crime writer? Or a serial killer in an ice cream truck prowling the streets for children like some modern-day Baba Yaga? What do any of those things look like, anyway?

And why do I care?

Dead-Things-coverI care because I’m human and humans care about that sort of thing. I wish we didn’t, but we do. Like it or not we make decisions based on how people look every day. It’s so unconscious we rarely even know we’re doing it. It’s just how we’re wired. And I fear that whatever judgement you place on my looks is going to not just translate to my books, but be used to judge me as a person.

Stupid, I know, but there you have it. I don’t know who you are and don’t know me, but it’s there, anyway. I’m willing to bet some of you have something like that, too.

Whenever I look at that picture on a website or on a book it feels a little like I’ve turned to on-line dating out of a desperate need for validation. HERE IS MY PICTURE I HOPE YOU FIND ME PRETTY ENOUGH TO BUY MY BOOKS PLEASE GOD GIVE MY LIFE PURPOSE.

But of course that’s ridiculous. I don’t need a picture to show a desperate need for validation. That’s why I write books.

TOTALLY different.

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    T. Frohock

MisererePhotographs, like stories, are illusions. What you see in a photograph is a very stylized rendition of a person for all of a tenth of a second. Then that photograph is airbrushed and photo-shopped to make the person look a lot better than he or she normally does. My professional photograph in Miserere is merely one aspect of my character (my then-agent liked that particular photograph, because she said it captured the warmth of my personality). What you don’t see in that photograph is that my husband sat behind the photographer and joked with me to make me relax and laugh. So any warmth in that photograph is aimed at him, not you, sorry.

Illusions are funny things, what someone sees in a photograph is more telling than the actual picture. In other words, Mr. Fodera told us much more about himself than he did about Ms. Kowal. For example, Mr. Fodera obviously envisions something sexual when he sees women in “diaphanous white outfit[s]” on the beach.

To each his own. Personally, I think guys with dark hair sitting on motorcycles in torn jeans are sexy. Does that mean that we should portray Joe Hill as a slut because he didn’t opt for the “innocuous author headshot”?

Of course not.

Joe Hill and his bedroom eyes.

Joe Hill and his bedroom eyes.

However, let’s look at that picture for a moment. It is really a very sexualized pose for a man. There is Joe sitting on a vehicle that is associated with male virility, which is the male equivalent of being “recumbent on the sand with legs exposed.” The motorcycle is a TRIUMPH, another word associated with manly endeavors. His torn jeans expose his leg. His expression says, “I am one serious dude,” which is the male version of bedroom eyes, come hither, my love.

Or, is that what I’m reading into it?

It’s an illusion, you see. What I see in that picture tells you much more about me than it does about Joe.

The truth is probably much less lurid. The publisher indicated Joe needed a professional photo, the photographer asked him some questions, and VOILIA! Joe is on a motorcycle, looking appropriately badass as a horror writer should. Personally, I think the Wikipedia photograph of Joe reading from a book in a bookstore is, in all probability, a better representation of his personality.

The truth, quite frankly, is rarely what you see. In my case, I’d rather give you the illusion of my words and let you make your decisions about me based on my stories. Nothing more.

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    Mazarkis Williams

The Emperor's KnifeWell, this is an interesting question for me to answer since I have no author photo, and I think that too has its problems. Authors are personalities, and very often people like to attach a face to that personality. Without a face, there is added distance, but also some safety from being misjudged.

But even without photos, we see ourselves differently from how others see us: what we type in, or don’t, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Photos are just one more thing to decode. I don’t make a business of examining author pictures, but once in a while I’ll see one and wonder from my safe, faceless distance, what kind of choices were made in choosing that particular photo. Was it candid or calculated? Did the photographer or the author decide what to include? But never do I put any judgment to it, especially since my own photo is most definitely not out there. If I had one, I would want it to be arty, and convey intelligence, thoughtfulness, and perhaps gravity. But I have no idea whether it would be perceived in any of those ways.

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    Zachary Jernigan

ZacharyJerniganI’m endlessly fascinated by appearance, and I always take a bit of offense when someone thinks admiring a person’s physical form is, by its nature, superficial. I like people (despite what you may have heard), and part of liking people is admiring their features. I don’t find everyone attractive on the level we typically think of when we say, “that’s an attractive person,” but I do find almost everyone to have physical appeal. Especially in person, during conversation, individuals — well, interesting individuals, anyway — have such a range of expression that it’s hard not to find something likable in the mix.

It’s normal for you to be curious about another person’s appearance, especially if that person is someone you admire (or who simply provides an entertaining experience). As time goes on and the world becomes ever more connected, the expectation will only grow that an author provides an image. Yes, even though it has no bearing on the content you’re reading.

Well, except it does. If you see an image of an author, you carry that into your reading, or it informs your reading afterward. You attach a measure of significance, automatically, to a person’s face. This person wrote this. Like it or not, unless you’re somehow the kind of person who attaches no value to physical appearance, you will let this change the way you look at what the author has written. Slightly or fundamentally, it will happen.

If you’re a hugely bigoted person with a small range of “acceptable” or “innocuous” ways a person can be represented photographically, then obviously you should stay off all social media lest it shatter your rosy, neutered view of all these slutty wordsmiths parading around in sheer outfits. Don’t let our society, which increasingly tells folks (I hope) that it’s okay to dress and celebrate their own particular beauty, destroy what might be perfectly enjoyable books!

Oh, how much risk there is in looking at people! Heaven forbid you should be momentarily struck by someone’s beauty or ugliness!

I got a few words for you, if you’re that small-minded: grow the fuck up.

Now, I’m not all that grown up, but you know what? I encourage authors (like all people) to learn to love themselves, and celebrate with others the joy in their faces, the excitement of a good photo taken. I encourage them to reveal themselves to be people, and not just some abstract, often idealized form known as an author. I don’t expect writers to hide their faces or to demure unless they want to — and if they want to, who gives a shit? I don’t need an author photo to love a book, and I surely don’t need one to dig the hell out of the person who wrote it. I have no idea what Mazarkis Williams looks like, but dammit do I like the hell out of Maz.

(Waitaminute! Same goes for you, ML!)

No ReturnGoodness, I could go on forever on this topic, but I won’t. Suffice it to say — and finally get to the main question — I did put some thought into my author photo. I wanted to convey the fact that I don’t take myself seriously, all the while knowing what a huge display of privilege that was. I’m a man. I don’t have to worry that coming across as goofy will in any way invalidate me. I could choose to portray myself in nearly any way without repercussion.

Because, again, I’m a dude. I can post ridiculous crap like this and have people laugh and take my underlying seriousness and anger as just that — seriousness and anger. They validate me. I don’t get called a slut. There are no accusations of me shamefully using my body to garner attention. I got a lot of hits on that post, in fact. My intentions were read charitably. Anyone who didn’t think charitably of what I did remained silent. I didn’t receive hateful emails or passive-aggressive comments.

Tell me how many women, having done what I did, would receive so welcoming a response.

I’ll answer you. None. None of them would.

Any photo of an author — still, this late in the game, after all these proofs of our own prejudice; when we should be mature individuals, dammit! — reveals the underlying mechanics of privilege. It is a demonstration of how kneejerk our reactions are to appearance. More than anything, it is proof that we have a long way to go before we can say that sexism is not a problem in the science fiction and fantasy (and larger literary) community.

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Thanks so much to Jason Hough, Delilah Dawson, Django Wexler, Elspeth Cooper, Stephen Blackmoore, T. Frohock, Mazarkis Williams, and Zachary Jernigan! Have thoughts about author photos? Post below!

Whippets In Spaaaace, Week 3

The puppies continue to grow. With their mother as a convenient size reference, observe their terrifying growth rate. There’s starting to be a concern that these puppies are the whippet versions of Babe the Blue Ox. And we all know how that ended – in tragedy and a year’s worth of steak.

The puppies continue to grow. With their mother as a convenient size reference, observe their terrifying growth rate. There’s starting to be a concern that these puppies are the whippet versions of Babe the Blue Ox. And we all know how that ended – in tragedy and a year’s worth of steak.

Tepper the puppy recommends that you read Grass. Clearly this puppy is wise beyond her weeks.

Tepper the puppy recommends that you read Grass. Clearly this puppy is wise beyond her weeks.

It’s been a week, which means it’s time for another installment of Whippets In Spaaaaaace, the continuing mission of four puppies named after some of the greatest sci-fi authors of our day: to seek out new food and OM NOM NOM NOM. (sorry, that’s about as far as the puppies can go before they get distracted by eating)

Asaro disagrees with Tepper, because Asaro prefers space sagas, ship battles, and quantum physics. It is hard to argue with those points, Asaro.

Asaro disagrees with Tepper, because Asaro prefers space sagas, ship battles, and quantum physics. It is hard to argue with those points, Asaro.

There are actually some big changes going on, and not just in their size. The puppies are definitely more interested in the world around them. The plastic tub can still mostly contain them – well, except for Tepper when she’s feeling particularly motivated. This motivation often kicks in when someone is holding any other puppy than her, because Tepper has decided that she is the rightful owner of ALL THE CUDDLES. And as the largest puppy, she’s got an edge over the others. (and, let’s face it, she’s also the cutest. Her big brown eyes pierce my soul!)

Scalzi disagrees with both of his sisters, because he prefers his sci-fi with Star Trek jokes! And if Internet rumors are to be believed, there’s a network that agrees with him!

Scalzi disagrees with both of his sisters, because he prefers his sci-fi with Star Trek jokes!

Another interesting development is that now all of the puppies are showing an interest in human cuddling. They were fine with being picked up last week, but mostly it seemed to confuse them. They would kind of lie on your lap with little thought-bubbles like, “Wait, what’s going on? Why is my head being rubbed? Is there something to eat around here?” The whole situation seemed confusing to them. That’s changing – now when they see a human approaching, their activity level picks up and they scamper over to sniff hands and get head-rubs. Also a new development – they can scamper. During the last week some of that tricky giant belly/stubby legs issue got ironed out, and you’ll notice in the pictures that their legs seem a bit more in line with their general body size. It’s not a great scamper, mind you (there’s a lot of scamper-scamper-PLOP going on), but it’s impressive.
Brin, stretching, feeling grateful that I didn’t try to pose him with books.

Brin, stretching, feeling grateful that I didn’t try to pose him with books.

If they don’t get attention from humans, they’ve also discovered that crying can get them what they want. This is especially practiced by Scalzi, who, according to my mother, is the biggest crier of them all.

If they don’t get attention from humans, they’ve also discovered that crying can get them what they want. This is especially practiced by Scalzi, who, according to my mother, is the biggest crier of them all.

The last big development this week was that they are now actively playing with each other. Previously they would sometimes sit on each other, but it was hard to say exactly how deliberate that was. Things have moved into the realm of hopping onto each other, nipping, and kind of rolling around in a puppy pile. It’s pretty fun to watch.

And that’s pretty much it for this week of whippet development! In non-puppy news, there’s a giveaway for three copies of Iron Night, so you can enter to win one of those. I’ll also be signing the copies, so that’s kind of fun. Iron Night was also reviewed recently at Fantasy Book Café and All Things Urban Fantasy, and there’s also a fantastic review of Generation V over at Bibliotropic that I strongly recommend checking out. Finally, for those puppy-philes in the Rhode Island area – I’ll be doing a signing and reception at Books On The Square on February 28th. Since I’ve been told very specifically that they are “taking a chance on [me]”, spread the word if you live in Rhode Island and let’s see if we can change this bookstore’s mind about out-of-state speculative fiction authors!

The first rule about puppy fight club appears to be: lick everything in sight as much as possible.

The first rule about puppy fight club appears to be: lick everything in sight as much as possible.

Whippets In Spaaaaace, Week 2

Here are the puppies pictured with their mother for size reference. Quite a difference from a week ago!

Here are the puppies pictured with their mother for size reference. Quite a difference from a week ago!

Back at the end of January, my mother’s whippet, Jessie, had her litter of puppies. Mom made the fatal error of letting me name the puppies, resulting in a litter named after some of my favorite living sci-fi authors. Since whippets usually have large litters, and Jessie’s first litter consisted of eight puppies, I had originally expected to honor (if you call having a puppy named after you an honor – which, really, shouldn’t you?) several more authors. Bad luck, to Alastair Reynolds, who didn’t make the cut. (honestly thought there was one more puppy in that womb – oh, well. a whippet’s uterus is apparently a harsh mistress)

That’s Tepper – look at those inquisitive eyes! She’s the biggest puppy.

That’s Tepper – look at those inquisitive eyes! She’s the biggest puppy.

I also learned from that blog post that apparently adorable puppies + the names of famous sci-fi authors is blog hit gold. Who knew? (okay, apparently everyone knew except me) So here is an update!

This is Asaro. Her coloring is a bit lighter than Tepper’s. She’s easy to pick out when you’re looking at the litter from above, since she has a white diamond on her butt.

This is Asaro. Her coloring is a bit lighter than Tepper’s. She’s easy to pick out when you’re looking at the litter from above, since she has a white diamond on her butt.

Since the litter is half the size of a usual whippet whelping (say that ten times fast), the puppies don’t have to fight too hard for their meals, so they seem to be growing like a science experiment gone awry. I first saw them when they were two days old, and at that time they could lie in one hand. Now they are about the size of guinea pigs, and they require two hands to cuddle, due to all the puppy fat. Seriously, these puppies are so fat that they can barely lift themselves up. The only one who can maneuver with any kind of real agility (and even that is really being graded on a curve) is Scalzi, because Scalzi is the smallest puppy right now. By smallest I mostly mean “least fat.”

Brin has the darkest fur pattern -- it's a dark brown brindle. Here he is attempting jump the side of the tub.  (unsuccessfully -- no Uplift for you, puppy!)

Brin has the darkest fur pattern — it’s a dark brown brindle. Here he is attempting jump the side of the tub. (unsuccessfully — no Uplift for you, puppy!)

Seriously, these puppies are pretty much fat bellies, superfluous legs, and mouths.

That’s Tepper sitting on Asaro – the puppies are starting to play a little bit in those rare moments between eating or sleeping. Mostly this involves sitting on each other, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. You can get a partial view of Asaro’s butt diamond in this picture.

That’s Tepper sitting on Asaro – the puppies are starting to play a little bit in those rare moments between eating or sleeping. Mostly this involves sitting on each other, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. You can get a partial view of Asaro’s butt diamond in this picture.

You’ll notice from the photos that their faces are changing a bit. They don’t have the long nose of their mother yet, but they definitely have more of a snout than before. I’m sure in a few more weeks they’ll have long and inquisitive noses, the better to counter-cruise like mommy. Fun fact – their noses have the most incredibly soft and velvety fur.

They have also matured a little from when they were a week old, and existed solely for the purpose of eating, then napping to get the energy to eat some more. They’re still very focused on eating, but after they fill their bellies there will be about a five second period where they will look around inquisitively before taking a nap. Their eyes are open now, and they seem to recognize people. If they see a person and their mother isn’t around, they will now start making little puppy whimpers until you pick them up and cuddle them – I think this is a heat thing, though my mother has the heat in her house pretty cranked right now, and their little tub is full of blankets and a few heating pads. Once you pick the whimpering puppy up, they kind of snuggle against you for a second, then begin exploring any exposed skin for the possibility of a nipple. You know, just checking about dinner.

And that’s Scalzi, taking a snooze. It’s tough work to double your size in a week!

And that’s Scalzi, taking a snooze. It’s tough work to double your size in a week!

Every time my mother or I walk into the room, their poor mother hops out of the tub (it’s one of those plastic swimmy tubs – it helps contain both wiggly puppies and their urine) and runs into the corner where her big fluffy cushion is. She’ll give the most hysterical, “Oh, thank god you’re here. YOU deal with them for a while,” expression.

So concludes another thrilling adventure of whippets..... in spaaaace!

So concludes another thrilling adventure of whippets….. in spaaaace!

Iron Night Goes International!

Meagan on plane

….air, that is. Check out this excellent action shot that my friend Meagan sent me of Iron Night as her in-flight reading choice!

Iron Night is getting some incredible accolades – check out these:

Lee at SheWolfReads wrote:

ML Brennan has created one of my favorite new urban fantasy series with it’s original world and compelling hero. If you want a fresh new take on the vampire mythos, you would do well to start here.

Gikany and Una at That’s What I’m Talking About gave Iron Night an A+ and wrote:

If you haven’t experienced the Generation V series, you really need to pick it up. The struggle of Fort as a somewhat rebellious child (or a black sheep depending on the perspective) is entertaining – the wit and charm woven into the character of Fort is endearing. The comic relief and romantic tension that Suzume brings just enriches the overall feel of Iron Night. We have no idea what lies ahead of Fort, but one this is for sure: we can’t wait to read about it!

And Tori at Smexy Books had one of my favorite comments *ever* about my character progression:

Fort continues to be an engaging mixture of sincerity, bravado, and self deprecation. His character is evolving at a comfortable rate; not an instant warrior but no longer apt to be the first one killed anymore. He’s now the second.

Hee hee hee.

Whippets…… In Spaaaaaaaaace!

Whippet puppies!

Whippet puppies!

Congratulations to my mother’s dog Jessie Bell, who over the course of a very long day has had four puppies! (we’re not entirely sure if she’s done — there might be one still left in there, but since Jessie is now taking a break to eat dinner, it’s kind of a Shrodinger’s Puppy kind of situation)

My mother has agreed to let me name them (always the first mistake), so I have chosen to name these puppies in honor of some of the best living writers of sci-fi. (how did I choose this genre? well, in the interests of not being a total puppy naming hog, I chose the speculative genre that my brother and I both have the most overlap of interest in)

At the far left, and the first puppy born (and the one who looks most like Jessie in her coat pattern) is Asaro (named of course for Catherine Asaro, physicist and author of the amazing Saga of the Skolian Empire series). At the far right with the really funny spot pattern is Scalzi (named for John Scalzi, whose Old Man’s War series my brother and I both really love).

In the middle are Tepper (named for the amazing and prolific Sheri S. Tepper, whose books I discovered in graduate school and which utterly blew my mind) and Brin (named for Davin Brin, whose Uplift fantasy series is so beloved by my brother that he very seriously tried to get me to shlep all the books in the series down to WorldCon to get them signed). All puppy genders match their namesakes.

If there does end up being a Puppy #5, then it will be named (regardless of gender!) Reynolds — not for Mal of Firefly, but for Alastair Reynolds, because in my brother’s words about his book Pushing Ice, “Long journeys are the best journeys.” Let’s hope so, Possible Puppy #5! (I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Alastair Reynolds at Worldcon, and he is such an amazingly nice guy that I really hope he will not be INCREDIBLY CREEPED OUT by having Possible Puppy #5 named in his honor. I feel like Scalzi can accept this canine naming tribute in the spirit to which it is offered, and I have no basis to make a guess regarding Asaro, Tepper, and Brin, so I’m going to figure that what they won’t know certainly won’t hurt them).

There will be more photos to come over the next few weeks, but I hope that everyone enjoyed meeting Whippets…… in Spaaaaaace!

January 22 Update: Potential Puppy #5 turns out to be… not. Sorry, Alastair Reynolds! If she ever has another litter, you’ll be Definite Puppy #1!

Here’s a picture of Jessie and her 1-day-old puppies!

Scalzi is having breakfast, Asaro is snuggled in Jessie's front paws, and I'm honestly still having trouble telling Tepper and Brin apart, but they're the puppies bookending everything.

Scalzi is having breakfast, Asaro is snuggled in Jessie’s front paws, and I’m honestly still having trouble telling Tepper and Brin apart, but they’re the puppies bookending everything.

Whippets…… in spaaaaaace!

Four Out Of Five Engineers Can’t Be Wrong

Four out of five engineers prefer Iron Night!

Four out of five engineers prefer Iron Night!

Like the picture? That’s from the release day of Iron Night — I went out with a bunch of friends and we bought out the entire supply of the Nashua Barnes & Noble, then went out for dinner. And, yes, all of those guys are engineers. (that’s how well crafted Iron Night is, people! believe me, engineers recognize good construction and materials!)

Let’s start with the fantastic news — Iron Night has ten reviews on Amazon, and Generation V is actually up to forty-one! This is just flat-out awesome, since the number of reviews apparently does something to the metrics that is good for me. Other authors have told me this. (what? I only KNOW engineers, people! you want an actual explanation of how site metrics work, you talk to Django Wexler, not me)

I’ve also been a busy little promoting author — two new guest blogs are up. You can read about how I designed the elves in Iron Night and also about how I developed the kitsune. Huge thanks to My Shelf Confessions and The BiblioSanctum, respectively, for hosting me.

Luckily it hasn’t just been me talking about the book — Justin wrote an amazing article about the publishing industry in general and Generation V in particular for his fantastic Under The Radar series at Tor.com. This not only gave me the coveted Landon Bump (seriously, two separate people have tweeted to me that they read the book because of this article), but also put me in excellent company, since Justin also wrote about Teresa Frohock’s Miserere .

What else fun is happening? Well, for one, I got a chance to be interviewed by one of my favorite bloggers, Julie at YM&KAC. Not only did we have a fun conversation, but she also got me to reveal seven hints about the upcoming third Fortitude Scott book, Tainted Blood.

Plus, new reviews!

Iron Night reaches Scotland! Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow wrote:

I love finding urban fantasy that reaffirms why I love the genre so much, and that’s exactly what the Generation V series is doing. Given that the only two authors of urban fantasy books who have gotten me as excited about a UF series as Brennan has are Jim Butcher and Seanan McGuire – two of my absolute favourite authors, no less – I can say with gleeful certainty that Brennan is absolutely one to watch.

Tabitha at My Shelf Confessions wrote:

Vampires, trolls, elves, witches, foxes and ghouls. Just put down whatever other urban fantasy you were about to read and pick up Generation V and Iron Night instead. You can thank me later.

Bridget Keown at RT Book Reviews also had wonderful things to say:

Brennan’s second Generation V novel is a pitch-perfect addition to this imaginative, funny series. Balancing precariously between his painfully realistic, underemployed life and the paranormal world that lurks beyond the shadows, Fortitude Scott is an earnest, engaging hero with a heart of gold. Fans will delight to see the return of his sidekick, Suze, in all her wild glory, as well as the rest of this fascinating cast.

And Generation V is also getting some extra attention. Two new GenV reviews at Speculative Book Reviews and Fantasy Cafe!

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