Friday, December 31, 2010

Random Cock-Eyed Optimist Encounter

Why, yes, I DO run across truly outre declarations while surfing the Net for things to do with writing and publishing.

As a matter of fact, I would be delighted to share!

Here you go, someone's endeavor to become a writer:
I quit my job to write a novel. If you agree to buy it, I'll find a publisher. If not, I have to sell my soul to an agency.
Okay, cookie--quitting your job to write a novel was your first mistake. Just about every successful writer I know has a day job to support their writing habit, myself included. Writers don't have health insurance, dental plans, or weekly checks to cover those pesky monthly expenses like groceries and bills. One hopes you have an understanding partner willing to support you while you write.
If you agree to buy it, 
You want me to agree to buy something you've not written?  Are you on drugs?  What if you're a stinky writer?  Pull the other one, I'm not having fun yet.  On the other hand, it's not too likely you'll ever finish, much less sell a book, so sure, okay, why not?
I'll find a publisher. 
Um, you do that whether or not anyone ever agrees to buy it.

Another newsflash--just because you have a book to sell, doesn't mean a publisher wants to buy it. I know your teachers might have given you extra credit in school, but the real world doesn't operate like that. Your words have to be worth money to someone before they invest in them.
If not, I have to sell my soul to an agency. 
And how is THAT a bad thing?  My agent has done wonderful, amazing things for my career, what with selling my books to half of Europe, landing one anthology deal after another, and now I have 3 steampunk novels to write in 2011. She translates complicated contracts into something I can understand, snags cool things like audio-book deals, and sometimes buys me lunch. Oh--checks. She sends me checks for REAL MONEY so I can continue doing something I love.

I'm not seeing a down side here.

On the other hand, if you don't put some time into learning your craft, write every day, and--oh--put some TIME into learning your CRAFT, it's not likely any agency will want your writing, never mind your soul.

How about this for 2011?  Start with keeping your day job.
  1. Write a book.
  2. Get it workshopped within an inch of its life and your ego's life.
  3. Shop it to agents and publishers who sell/publish similar books you see in the stores.
  4. While it makes the rounds, write another, even BETTER book.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have a career.
That's what real writers DO, yanno--whether they sell the books or not.  You might give it a shot. Just a thought.

See you in 2011, gang.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meet "Arielle" -- the Sex Doll Literary Agent!

Not an agent who represents sex dolls, but a sex doll who is the public face of a literary agency.

I wish this was a joke. I really do. I'm anticipating weird links to show up in my email, but it's too hilarious not to blog about.

Or too creepy. You decide.

You know how some websites will have a little animated person to walk you through things? I don't care for those, finding them annoying, but some people like them.

However, those cost money to make. I suspect the genius behind this epic fail of a sales pitch took a look at his resources--pics of a sex doll  posed against various backgrounds--and a little light went off. "Hey, I can have something like those animated things and it won't cost nearly as much!"

I'm not worried that writers will actually go to this--um--agency. Anyone with working braincells knows that paying an agent a fee to sell one's book is only slightly less productive for one's career than flushing the cash directly down a toilet.

The Mocknick Productions Literary Agency is a fee-charging entity. The fees have gone from 450.00 to represent a writer to a whole 500.00 according to my source.

Fee-charging agencies are no friend to any writer.

For instance, MPLA have no pics up of any books they've actually sold.  But Mr. Mocknick seems to have plenty to say about himself through his "representative," Arielle.

Who is a sex doll.

Okay, nothing wrong in that, lots of people date sex dolls. But you'd think that when it comes to business that Mr. Mocknick would keep his personal life separate. Or at least have a pro in to do Arielle's hair and makeup. Must have been a hell of a weekend!

Instead of displaying books sold to commercial publishers, this single-page website sports a series of slide show videos starring this doll--again, I am NOT kidding! Melodramatic music plays in the background as we're treated to stills of the doll with informational captions.

Now if one has even one working braincell on crack this should scare the living crap out of you because you could die laughing. Seriously, you could. I almost called 911 to get some oxygen in, and the phlegm is still making me cough.

Oh--bonus fail points: you can't watch the vids on the website. When you click play, you have to click again to go to YouTube. Doesn't that just fill one with confidence?

Beverage alert people. I MEAN it.

Hello again! Back from the hilarity? Do you need a spork, eye bleach, or a blanket to hide under? Are you laughing or creeped out? Both?

Are you even remotely tempted to toss your hard-earned money over to this person and his lovely date?

If so, then let me conduct an autopsy on some of the claims made. Gather close, gang, this should be FUN!

Mocknick: We like all potential clients to know we don't charge reading fees, but if we represent them, there's an annual contract fee of 450.00 (now 500.00).

Mighty generous of you! It's also a certainty that you're motivated (to the tune of 500 bucks a pop) to "represent" anyone who bothers to send a manuscript. While I'm sure you might reject the ingredient list from a cereal box that's been repeated for 300 pages, everything else is a potential income stream and not likely to be rejected.

Mocknick: The covers pitching, submissions, phone calls, contract negotiations (in the event of a sale) and all aspects of representation.

You mean all the stuff that other literary agents do without collecting a fee until AFTER they sell a book.

This motivates them to sell work to publishers, not sit on their thumbs collecting checks from writers. "In the event of a sale?"  Yes, I'm sure a sale IS quite an event for this outfit! There's no evidence you've ever had one.

Mocknick: We inform people of this upfront, so there are no games or surprises.

Other than the slide show itself. Put up a beverage alert, why don't you?

Mocknick: According to certain websites, it is not a "standard practice" for an agency to charge upfront fees. 

Yes, that would be those annoying agencies that actually sell books to publishers.

Mocknick: In reality it is a standard practice.

Indeed yes, for other fee-chargers.  Oh, look--there's YOUR name on that Thumbs Down list from Writer Beware! How did that happen?

Mocknick:  Most agents that don't charge fees are members of organizations that forbid them.

You mean like the Association of Authors' Representatives, a well-respected non-profit group that has standards to uphold and a quite reasonable Canon of Ethics?

Or perhaps you prefer the short-lived IILAA that rose and failed back in 2006? Isn't it funny that all the members of IILAA are also on that Thumbs Down list from Writer Beware? Hysterical.

Mocknick: What they don't mention is that these agents generally will not accept new writers unless they're already bestsellers.

Writers on any given bestseller list usually have a literary agent and are quite happy with that person's work, thank you very much. 

New writers are not likely to be bestsellers, since they're looking for representation to help them sell a first book in the first place. Duh.

Mocknick: The reason?

Moving my drink well out of the way...

Mocknick: The time, effort and expense pitching a known author is minimal, while pitching an unknown in a skiddish industry requires much more.

Much more what? Horse hockey? Is that what you mean by skiddish? Is that a word? Let me look it up. Hmm. Apparently not, according to WordKeeper: Made up words : Skiddish (skittish).  Maybe you meant "Scottish!" No? But I like the idea of guys in the publishing industry running around in kilts. It sure would add fun to those board meetings and long lunches!

If I am any example, even authors who have been in the industry for years can have a hard time selling a new book. My most excellent NON-fee-charging agent Lucienne Diver worked her butt off selling not one, but two different book proposals for me. It took her months, but she came up trumps. Checks are in the mail. She does this every day for all the writers she represents.

Newsflash, bub, it is not unknown for an unknown to land an agent and sell a book. 

Agents are always looking for the Next Big Name lurking in their slush piles. They live in hope.

Of course, if a fee-charging "agent" can get a desperate idiot to pay 500 clams from the get-go, then the fee-charging "agent" hardly needs bother to work. That's 10% of a 5,000.00 advance--though new authors are usually given much lower offers than that.  Yes, indeed, fee-charging agents are highly motivated to collect a check from writers and do nothing at all to earn it.

Mocknick: An agency that doesn't charge some type of fee for new writers will not stay in business long, so they have no choice.

You mean agencies like Spectrum (34 years), Donald Maass (20 years), JABerwocky (16 years), and The Knight Agency (14 years)? Yeah, that's some stack of epic fail, what with all those books they've sold and new authors they've discovered over the years.

Mocknick: If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Why don't YOU have any sales proudly displayed on YOUR site?  Don't you have any? To real publishers, that is, not vanity houses.

Oh--wait--here's the slide show with his girlfriend, I mean dollfriend, I mean--er--uh--oh, never mind.

Arielle: (dramatic music in background) My name is Arielle. I'm just a doll, right?

You nailed that one, you ARE indeed just a doll, and considering today's job market you're lucky to have a place doing slide shows like this instead of working in specialized porn videos! (Unless that's one of Mr. Mocknick's other income streams.)  I must say that you seem to be a fine product from one of the higher end manufacturers. So many others are just full of hot air!

Arielle: (forcefully, in an aggressive pose, hand on hip) Better think again!

Gasp! What DO you mean??

Caption card, supposedly from Arielle, since it's evident the voice actress will charge more for extra lines not copied from another video: I provide information to potential clients of the Mocknick Productions Literary Agency. 

You do? Seriously?

They're in deep trouble then.

Caption: We accept fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, children's books, memoirs, and any works of any genre

 How focused. (Not.)

--except pornography. 

The last one is wonderfully ironic considering their front office face is a sex doll.

The caption goes on to provide details, ending with a picture of the sex doll wearing sunglasses. Just as well, the eyes don't match up.

At least she keeps her clothes on. Not all literary agencies who use a sex doll as their spokesperson--uh--spokesdoll--uh--whatever--are so considerate!

But let's see what the CEO has to say about himself. Why he bothers with YouTube slide shows when it's less time-consuming to just put info on the website is beyond me. I suppose he's in love with Arielle or something.

The slide show claims Dave Mocknick has been writing since the age of six, and is a produced and published author.

A "produced" author? What the hell does that mean? And how much did you pay to get published, Dave?  Why aren't your vast credits and many sales listed on the website? Come on, show us your writer's resume!

He "has contact with" many large publishing and production companies. 

So do I. 

It's called Google.

He claims he's made the process as simple as possible; I can believe that, as instruction captions are displayed across pics of a (still fully clothed) sex doll.

If he sees potential in your work (and I'm sure a credit check is involved at some point) he sends a contract--which you return.  With your fee. 

Giddy galloping grannys, what did you say?  A fee??

Hauling ass out of here, bub. 

Violating Yog's Law is not the done thing for any writer.

Mocknick: Once you return your contract with the annual contract fee....we'll take it from there.

THAT I can believe! Straight to the bank while the check is still good--though I understand he also takes plastic for those writers in a hurry to get to the literary poor house.

I DO have other things to do today, but when on a riff, I tend to check things until my eyes bleed. I was not disappointed.

I clicked on another video featuring "Arielle" -- who is really a 4-foot tall terrorist fighter.

Um, yeah. Who works for a fee-charging literary agent.

So I'm 11 seconds into this slide show vid and there's Arielle posed cross-legged in a chair, wearing ruffled kiddie panties, a kid-sized shirt, her hair in pigtails, cutie socks on her feet, holding a stuffed dog.

A 4-foot tall sex doll dressed like a kid tripped my "DANGER, PAT ELROD" trigger, so I hit the stop button before I reached the gagging point and vomited.

Since no real child is involved in this creepy display, reporting it to the FBI is not a likely to be a productive option. I'm sure others have tried.

I will offer the opinion that this Mocknick person--if he's "beetleboy2007" --should probably not be your first choice to have as an agent in charge of your literary career. Worse things may be going on here than just charging fees.

If you're that desperate, write me, I'll help. It won't cost you a dime.

Or your self-respect.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Use It or Lose It: Support Your Local Bookstore!

For those keeping up with this sort of thing, you'll already know that like every other business, bookstores are suffering under a tight economy.

If you've not been in your local store lately, you'll immediately notice they're selling a lot more things than mere books. I was annoyed to see my favorite store had created new aisles for educational toys, converted their bestseller and new release section to selling e-readers, and the "employee's recommended" tables were altogether gone to make room for overpriced  e-reader accessories. Some stuff has been there for ages and become part of the background I ignore, but this year, it's really in-the-face.

I get irritated, but the stores have to diversify to stay in business.  Books are no longer enough.

Online ordering has cut into profits. Why buy a new book when you can get a used one for a lot less elsewhere? I can't argue against that; I have to do it myself when my poor battered bank account is screaming in pain.

Sales of e-books are also taking a bite from their profits. Why go to a store when you can download it more cheaply from your computer? Save some gas and a tree!

I'll likely do that too, though I won't get an e-reader for some considerable time. I have 300 hard copy books I need to read first. Plowing through them will allow time for those reader prices to drop.

But bookstores have other things to offer--especially to me. I use mine as part of my writing routine. When I get stuck, I go to my favorite and just hang out. All those millions of words can't help but have a positive effect on me, whether it's inspiration from a much-loved writer or another internal declaration "I can write better than THAT!" when glaring at hack work that somehow made it to the bestseller list.

I love my local store, though it is part of a mega-chain. They have good people working hard there, most know who I am, and they keep my books in stock. Certainly I don't want that to go the way of the dodo just yet! I browse, letting my mind soak in images and titles at random, not something I can do on a computer. I bring a notebook and jot stuff down for later, hoping it will develop into a new story.

Which has happened!

My glimpse for a half a second of a book cover in the mystery section sparked the idea for the new steampunk series I'm now writing. That couldn't have happened had I been at home staring at a screen.  I need that store. There are few in my area, and the indie-stores I used to go to have vanished, unable to compete.

Now the mega-stores are in danger. The warning signs are as clear as those brightly packaged toys that are filling shelves that once held books.

Let's not wholly give up buying books in stores in favor of convenience. Get out this week and visit a bookstore. Check the bargain bins for Christmas presents. Meet a friend there, have some overpriced coffee, cruise the aisles.


Buy something

Use it -- or we ALL lose.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dark and Stormy Cover Art Awards!

This is almost too cool!

The cover for DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS  by CHRIS MCGRATH has been included in the ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY 2010 Cover Awards.

I hope everyone will go vote and that the votes will be for my book in its category, but please---do filter out the text and names of your favorite writers and focus on the ART.

In this venue, it's all about the ART, not the words, so vote for your favorite image!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Busy-Busy, and--um--BUSY!

Much as I'd love to post about my adventures at OryCon 32, I'm a bit busy today, so this will be a drop in, drop out update, just so you all know I'm not still in Portland.

Though goodness knows, the Voodoo Doughnuts there are so good they should be illegal and are certainly enough to tempt me to set up a permanent base!  I'll post more on that after I clear today's workload!


I've just signed two NEW book contracts!!! They've been in the oven since last summer, but only arrived this week. Yes, commercial publishing grinds slow, but very fine!

First--a new anthology!!!  HEX SYMBOLS for St. Martin's, an urban fantasy collection, is now a reality. Its contributors are a stellar lot:
  • Ilona Andrews
  • Jim Butcher
  • Rachel Caine
  • Carole Nelson Douglas
  • Simon R. Greene
  • Lori Handeland
  • Erica Hayes
  • Carrie Vaughn

---and your faithful editor!

No release date, sorry--the writers have to turn in their stories first!

The next contract is a long awaited project of mine--my first foray into the land of steampunk!

My excellent agent, Lucienne Diver of The Knight agency (shameless plug) closed a three- book deal with Tor for


Titles have a tarot card theme: 1) The Hanged Man; 2) The Tower; 3) The Empress--and yes--of course the fate of the Empire is in dire peril!

In 1847, in reaction to increasing paranormal activity, Queen Victoria orders the formation of the Psychic Service, whose duty is to investigate such phenomena and either confirm or debunk it.  Of course the best psychics, physicists, and magicians in the realm are agents! 

This is an alternate history of England as well as a steampunk urban fantasy!

What's alternate?  Women get the vote in the 1850s.

Here ya go:

When informed at the age of ten that she was likely to be queen of England, it was reported that Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent replied, “I will be good.”
What she actually said was, “I will do good.”
Sometime in 1835—it is a well-kept secret—the sixteen-year-old princess escaped her highly managed routine and spent two weeks walking among commoners. The revelation of how ordinary folk lived and died made a profound impression on young “Drina.” She resolved to improve the lot of her people, especially that of women.
During this taste of freedom, she met the dashing Lord Arthur Godalming, who was in the right place at the right time to rescue her from street ruffians. It was love at first sight for both, and when she became queen two years later, iron-willed Victoria defied custom and changed law, allowing her to marry a peer rather than a prince.
The love match of Victoria and the Lord Consort Arthur marked the beginning of a new era of Enlightenment for England, and her progressive “Time of Women” policies changed the world.
The young monarch made her childhood declaration a reality.
Victoria’s Empire circles the globe, but the brass and steam progress of the Industrial Revolution has disturbed dark forces. Reason and science are in vigorous conflict with fear and superstition. The empress would not ignore the fact that something was supernaturally rotten in the state of England. In 1847 she called for the creation of a new department under the Ministry of Science.
This special branch, Her Majesty’s Psychic Service, is dedicated to investigating all matters supernatural, using the psychical gifts of those who serve in it to protect and preserve the realm.

The first book takes place in the winter of 1879.

Major players will be the Queen's god-daughter, Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (psychic forensics), Captain Claudius Miracle (airship pilot/mechanical engineer) and Alexander Humboldt Sexton (scientist/illusionist/debunking squad).   

They fight crime!  ;)

And now I have to WRITE this!  The first book has an April 2011 deadline.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Portland Bound!

I love going to science fiction conventions. Even after all this time, since discovering them soon after high school, they are still FUN.

My very first one got me hooked for life. By my standards today, it was amazingly lame: the dealer's room was about the size of my living room, there were no media guests, if local writers were on panels I didn't attend since I thought that sort of thing was only for published writers, not Mr. Spock fans. The media track was a tiny room with a screen and a projector clattering away with a Marx Brothers movie, The Big Store. The costume contest had three entries, all of them bad.

It was magic. Life-changing magic. Thank you Larry Herndon, not the ball player, but the much missed owner of Remember When in Dallas. It's all his fault! So thank you, Larry!

Soon as I learned there was to be another convention in the area in a few months and that they'd have a costume contest with cash prizes I went on a money diet to save up for the event.  While sewing my first Star Trek costume I was unfairly dubbed a "tightwad" for not spending money at home, but a "spendthrift" for blowing it on stuff at the convention. (You can't please some people. Ever. So ignore them.) 

My attempts at costuming were rewarded over the years. My impersonations of Harpo Marx, Wonder Woman, Red Sonja, Princess Ardala, and Princess Leia all grossed cash or other coolness in the end. I worked a job to earn enough to pay for the next convention and had a vague idea I would someday be a writer. In the meantime I had to save and save for my next fannish fix.

That was ***** years ago and the habit is still in place. These days my convention budget is less focused on buying pictures of favorite actors and more on books or an occasional bit of art--oh, yeah, minor things like hotel rooms, food, and transportation, too.  I came to learn that those panel talks with writers were fun and instructive, and a danged good chance to find out how things work in an alien world.

By that I mean the publishing industry, not Mr. Spock's home planet, which has the hot climate.  (Hot? You call that hot?? Vulcan summers are on a level with a Texas winter when it comes to optimal heat stroke conditions, baby, so don't shake those pointy ears at me!)

I'm not sure just when I traded going to guest actor panels for panels featuring guest writers. There was nearly a decade where I was busy working for a wage and not writing at all, and didn't have money to go to conventions.  But there came a tipping point at a local event when I was informed it would be a really good thing to check out a specific writing panel. Robert Asprin and a publisher would hammer out a book contract deal right there in the room.

It was a bit less life-changing than seeing The Big Store on a big screen, but still made an impression.  Somehow, my thick skull absorbed the fact that people DO actually get paid for writing and can get paid a lot. The idea of making money by sitting alone in a room talking to myself seemed pretty danged nifty.

Even better--I found out writers could get into conventions for FREE. Okay, that got my attention. 

The equation was published writer = free pass to fun at a convention. Hot puppies, where do I get in line?

If you're reading this, then you know that worked out.

And tomorrow I get another "free" pass to a big convention as guest of honor at the 32nd OryCon in Portland.

Wow. Had anyone told me while I was on my way to see that Marx Brothers movie that something like this was in store, well, I was a moron back then and wouldn't have known what to make of it.  I am glad it happened, though!

It ain't exactly free, hence the quotes. I'm well aware that a number of people I've never met are busting their butts to put together a very complicated event. Their efforts are paying and paving my way in, and I don't forget it for an instant.

I expect to have an amazing amount of fun, but will be doing my best to earn my keep and justify their trust. They didn't have to invite ME to their convention. There's plenty of other writers out there, so I'm grateful for the honor. I've a busy panel schedule, but guest relations people are already looking after me like I'm visiting royalty.

Conventions are a working vacation to me but that's okay. I'm danged lucky to have a job that where the work is a joy. I love this part of it. Were I to just fly to another city and fend for myself as a tourist, I could manage, but it is more fun to hang out with other fans and talk shop.

Toward that end, I have much prep to do today. It's been a few years since I've gone so far from home base. I've a house-sitter to hold the fort and am cleaning the place up since it's a nasty shock to come back to a mess. No one wants to clean after a long trip.  I have to figure what to take, keeping in mind weight limits for baggage and my own strength limits. Experience has taught me that trying to sprint across an airport while carrying 75 pounds of gawd-knows-what in EACH bag is a bad idea.

Don't know if I'll be able to blog or make FaceBook posts while there. I'm no tweeter. But maybe other guests less technically-challenged can keep everyone filled in on events.

And no, I absolutely will NOT behave myself!  ;>)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Writers Call Shenanigans on Editor Judith Griggs for Theft

If any of you have seen my FaceBook page, The Smart Bitches Blog, or any of a growing number of writer  / blogs / today, then you know that Judith Griggs, editor of the grammatically-challenged Cooks Source Magazine, is getting a serious public drubbing as a thief.

Yes, I know, innocent until proven guilty, but this one sure walks and quacks like a duck, whether roasted or trolling the pond for snacks--or copyrighted articles to reprint, minus permission and payment.

Author Monica Gaudio was tipped off that her 2005 piece on apple tarts was in the latest issue of Cooks Source.  

Ms. Gaudio contacted the editor. How could her article be available when the magazine had not gotten permission to reprint and perhaps pay for the privilege? 

(I tried to put a link to the original page with the recipe, but it has been disabled on the site, which is too bad.)

An e-mail exchange followed, with the author making wholly reasonable demands to compensate for the theft of her copyrighted material:

"I wanted an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism." -- Monica Gaudio [Quoted from Ms. Gaudio's LiveJournal blog as are the excerpts below. -- P.N.E.]

Instead of a groveling apology, Griggs shot back a patronizing mail:
"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. [Evidently NOT!] 

It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.  [Like proofread and use the spell check?]

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" [W-T-F???]  

and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it!   [ I'm sure she's thrilled to bits that this is theft, not plagiarism. Yes. I imagine her lawyer will be thrilled, too.]

If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally.  [Apparently Griggs-the-Bleeding-Oblivious was unable to grasp that the original site's Medieval spellings were intentional. Now that this has broken and gone viral, she's likely experiencing the joys of countless writers, editors, and readers going Medieval on her arse. In public.]

We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!  [All together now: W-T-F????]

I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

Which seems to be how she prefers to acquire her articles. A number of energetic google-fu surfers have found LOTS MORE apparently stolen articles.

Chances are good that Cook's Source will remove their FB page, what with all the ultra-negative wankage that's up, so here's a few links to give you all a taste: and and and
The article on "Food Frauds" is lifted wholesale from

The "Healthy Eating Part 2" article is lifted from a Martha Stewart site.

The Great Plastic Bag Plague was lifted from Alternet.
And another swiped from Paula Deen:

Spicy Pumpkin Bars here!/photo.php?fbid=439516966748&set=a.439514776748.238553.196994196748 are these Pumpkin Bars here:
I'll stop now. You get the idea.
Too bad for her that Griggs didn't.
Shame-shame. What were you thinking, Ms. I-Have-30-Years-of-Experience-and-Apparently-Didn't-Learn-a-Damned-Thing?
Griggs--most of us learn in *kindergarten* that one may experience instant social ostracizing by one's peers for being a "copy cat."  Crayon thieves may be sent to the principal's office.
After this debacle, one might hope you'll be heading for the unemployment line.  While you're qualified for work in the food services industry, I would suggest the only keyboard they let you near is on a cash register where you may ask customers whether they want fries with that burger.
It's gonna be a bit before I pay off my karmic debt for this intense bout of Schadenfreude, but really, I can't help myself. 
Griggs, you brought it all on yourself, so don't blame me for joining the crowd that's pointing you out as a bad apple.
 Late entry, excellent reading:
The stolen article:
Late in--apparently Griggs has a travel magazine, either out or pending, I'm not sure. Round two may be on the way.
For those who have been contacting the magazine advertisers, be assured they are as horrified as the rest of us and have lost income by trusting Griggs.
Please show your support of those merchants by purchasing their products if that is possible.  Many of them paid in advance and won't be getting any refunds.

Monday, November 1, 2010


What do Rachel Caine, P.N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, Laurel K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison have in common?? 
We're nominees for The Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy!
Thanks to my agent Lucienne Diver for letting me know!!!
Glad I'm not on the judging committee. I wouldn't know who to pick.
I'm going to go faint now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallow's Eve Tales

With all the theme specials on Discovery, History, etc. Channels, my Spidy-sense tells me that Halloween is...uh...tonight?!?!

This is sad. The 31st of October was once 2nd only to Christmas in my kid calendar when it came to getting loot.  H'ween was more FUN than Christmas, since I wasn't expected to behave. If I got food on whatever I wore it was of little import and usually added to the effect.

I recall a few memorable Halloweens. Ancient family pictures show my younger self dressed in some kind of gypsy gear with a long skirt and beads, my face smeared with lipstick raided from Mom's makeup table, eyes mascaraed, and an underlying expression of annoyed anxiety. Clearly the connection between dressing up and getting candy had not quite filtered in. I may have been wondering when I'd get spanked for getting into the makeup--which was forbidden at all other times.

Another picture was from one of the more profitable years in our family finances: I'm wearing  a store-bought boxed costume. If it's the one I remember, the costume was okay (except for the being flammable part), but the mask--a witch--was just too scary. I could wear it, but not look at it.

At 5, I survived a freezing cold H'ween in my first and only ghost costume. Mom refused to cut up an old sheet--apparently we USED those--but somehow I got something sheet-like with eye holes that looked similar to what I saw in a Little Lulu comic book.  Only the comic didn't go into the impossibility of keeping the eye holes over my eyes. Bundled into a parka--we were in Wisconsin and a blue Norther was blowing in just then--someone threw the sheet over me, and I spent my first real I'm-gonna-get-candy-and-party! Halloween running blind with a batch of other kids from house to house. 

The damned eye holes would NOT stay in front of my eyes, and I kept tripping on the hem and falling.  I should be grateful I wasn't left head first in a snow drift by the stampede of howling, freezing kids.  I recall being disappointed that there was no party with magicians and apple-bobbing. Little Lulu, my oracle for all things cool for kids my age, had got it wrong.

Another Halloween in Wisconsin was somewhat warmer. I was about 8 when my dad took me around. My big sister was 18 and elsewhere, attempting to get a social life. That year we actually had a house in a real neighborhood with sidewalks--just like Little Lulu!!

My haul of loot that year was legendary. The neighbors were generous, giving out real store-bought chocolate bars, not just cheap butterscotch hard candy and popcorn balls.

The area had a ginormous mansion in the middle, standing on its own grounds surrounded by a fence. It looked like something out of the scary movies I wasn't allowed to watch yet.  At my insistence, Daddy escorted me toward the place. In my kid's mind I was certain the size of the house was indication of the size of the candy. This joint would have to yield a full-size Mars Bar at least!

Dad waited on the sidewalk gate--there was a long, looong walkway, with stairs every few feet, leading up to the house, and I expect he was pooped and ready to head home to a well-earned beer. I made the climb, the house looming taller and scarier the closer I got. They'd gone all out for the holiday and had a loudspeaker with a creaky voiced woman talking about the kids she'd trapped in her cellar and would eat tomorrow.  Meh, I knew it was all crap. They had candy, dammit. I wanted that chocolate!

I reached the door. 

Rang the bell.

And waited. 

And waited.  

Annnnnd waited.  

If it hadn't been for the voice on the speaker I'd have gone back down. Other houses didn't answer, but those were always quiet.  There was candy here--ring the bell again...

The door silently opened. You'd think a creaking door would be scarier, but a silent door opening into blackness beyond the screen is much more scream-worthy.  

I couldn't see anything inside the darkness at first, then...a bit of movement--a bowl--yes! A big bowl! 

In a hairy the end of a hairy arm...of a gorilla.

Not a real one like I'd seen on those Three Stooges short subjects.  If this gorilla looked like THAT I wouldn't have been scared, but this was clearly a man in a cheesy monkey suit wearing a bad mask--and that was far creepier than any I'd ever seen on TV.  What the heck was wrong with this guy? Didn't he know Halloween dress-up was strictly for KIDS??

He bumped open the screen door, not saying a word.

I held my ground, wanting whatever mega-candy he had in the the bowl.  I held up my battered paper sack and said, "T-t-trick or treat?"  I didn't know my own voice. It sounded small and uncertain, as though the house had sucked away my gumption.

He slowly and silently reached into the bowl, picked up the treat, and dropped it into my bag.

As it fell in, I noted with much annoyance that it was a lousy penny-size bubblegum. A PENNY BUBBLE GUM??  I could have bought THAT myself!  After that long climb, facing up to the gorilla, with these clearly wealthy people living in such a massive house, and THAT'S all they give out?!?!?!??

Had the phrase "WTF" been around then I'd have likely said it. Instead, I looked up at the gorilla. "Gum? That's it?"

The gorilla was in no mood for lip from a crabby 8-year-old and ROARED.

I got his point and ran screaming down the long-stepped walkway and by the grace of God did NOT break my neck on the cracks. I slammed into my startled dad's legs, weeping and snarling about gum and gorillas. Dad was ready to go up and deck the ape, but I demanded to go HOME, and go home NOW. 

Just to show I'd not entirely lost my nerve I hit a few houses on the way back and collected more (and better!) loot. It sort of made up for the cheapskates in the big house, but from that point on I developed a great suspicion about the pretensions of the rich.

Yes, I chewed the gum, though I'd never been a fan of the stuff. It was hard as marble and likely left over from last year's half-price sales. Bloody cheapskates. If you can't do Halloween right, then don't do it at all.

It was also my first lesson that massive and sincere efforts often do not yield the reward one expects. It served well when I began sending out my first submissions to publishers.

Other Halloweens were less memorable. I turned to tricks over treats in one neighborhood when I dashed about with plastic fangs, my face covered with green eyeshadow, and a badly-made cape over all. I couldn't make up my mind whether to be Mr. Spock or Barnabas Collins that year and settled uncomfortably in-between. Knowing I was too old for the silliness, I hunched down and kept pace with the younger kids in order to get lost in the crowd. They ditched me, the scum, and more than one annoyed adult told me I was too old to be out.  Big deal, there were some teen-aged boys not far behind me, also demanding candy. Convince them, and then I'll go home.

Of course my real reply to that ageism observation was to paint their door knobs with bacon grease. I had a can and a brush artfully hidden in my loot bag. Houses that were shut tight and dark got that treatment along with the handles of their car doors. Clearly someone was home and ignoring the need to hand out candy to all us sweet (ahem) kids!

I'd just swabbed down a door handle and was petting a little kitten lurking on the porch when the homeowner drove up. Busted! I was ready to bolt, but he called that he had candy. He'd gone out to get more. He generously dropped some in my bag, and I felt bad about the greasy door handle. 

Which he didn't connect it to me.  How could he?  I'd been petting the kitten.  I'd get away with it!  

He climbed the steps, the kitten mewed, cutely, and he growled and kicked it off the porch.

WTF???  How DARE HE?? Poor teeny kitty!

He had more to be irritated about when he grabbed that greasy door handle and cursed. I melted into the shadows and waited. When I was sure he was well inside, I repainted the doorknob, gave his car handles the treatment, then dumped the rest of the can of grease onto his porch and smeared it around using the newspaper he'd not yet picked up.  THAT would teach HIM to kick helpless kittens!  Grr.  Hoping he'd break a leg, I scampered off.

That was my last Halloween as a door-to-door moocher of sweets. I didn't want to be too old for the fun, but it had finally happened. At least I went out on a high note as an advocate for stray kittens.  (No, I couldn't take it home, we had dogs who would eat it.)

I mentioned that this is kind of a sad holiday for me now. I'm home, but I leave the porch light off, choosing not to play. In my head and with my job it's Halloween every day. I leave official observances to the talented amateurs.

Anyway, there's not a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and the ones who come by are clearly MUCH too old to be running about. Here's a clue, kids, when you have to shave, legs or face, it's time to retire.

A few streets over, across the main road, is a playground park that the cops have to patrol, since the wilder unsupervised teens run loose there tonight. They're armed with things more dangerous than toilet paper and bacon grease. In past years they'd get drunk, do drugs, and shoot/knife each other. The cops are prepped for them, so it should be quieter now. It does spoil things for the little ones, who won't ever know the kind of Halloweens I had.

Some part of me DOES want to put on a costume and run out into the cool fall night, but I can usually sidetrack it with chocolate. The one good thing about being a grownup and answerable only to myself is I CAN get as much of the really GOOD candy as I like.

And hey, it IS Halloween. I shall indulge!

Do thou likewise!

I ain't 'fraid of no gorilla! Not this kind, anyway!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Rachel Caine Video!

My longtime friend and gleeful partner in crime, Rachel Caine, has a new Morganville Vampires video out.

There are NO vampires in Morganville!

We do NOT use the "v" word!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Ya learn something new every day

What I have learned this week is what one of my characters thinks about me.

Um...yeah...straying into strange territory here, but I assure you I'm not putting on my crazy hat so I can talk about them like they live next door. That kind of thing makes one's readers wince, so I promise I'm not throwing birthday parties with prezzies for the characters; that would be silly.  

A simple greeting card is just fine! They've told me so.

Okay, never mind.

What sparked this blog was my having to do a thousand words for the OryCon32 program book. They wanted a short fiction from one of their guests of honor, and I was going to just have my vamp PI drop in for a short, hopefully amusing conversation. 

Those are usually fun!

But the con has reminded me that it's 20 years since Jack Fleming popped out of my brain to stalk across the pages of Bloodlist and 11 other books, and somehow I wound up addressing his moment of creation--but from Jack's point of view.

The piece has his byline, and he tells how he was born. If you think that sounds weird, imagine how *I* felt writing it! I've been taking dictation from him for 20+ years now, but it was unsettling. In a good way. I think. Still wrapping my head around it.

After the convention next month I'll post the piece on this blog, then this post will make more sense.  The thing that sticks with me is that after all the crap I put the guy through in the books he still likes me.

It's nice to know that no matter what, Jack Fleming has got my back.

Which is pretty cool. Bizarre, but cool.

Right, blog entry completed. I'm outta here.

NOW I'm going to put on my crazy hat and---

---get nekked at the airport! Wheee!

Have cabana boys and lots of chocolate standing by for after I make bail!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let us remember, mourn, and prevent.

Let us wear PURPLE today in remembrance of those poor kids bullied into suicide by gay bashers and other total effing assholes.

If you've ever been a target of bullying, you know what it's like. 

Wear purple. Remember those poor kids and their families.

KNOW that it is STILL going on.

How to change your FB and Twitter to purple for the day:

Compassion to the victims, zero tolerance to the perpetrators.

Dah Winnahs!!

Here are the winners of the drawing for a signed copy of Dark and Stormy Knights!

I decided three would be more fun than one, so surprise!

Your numbers came up at, congratulations!

Send an email to mystikmerchant  -at- sbcglobal-dot-net  with a delivery addy and who you want it signed to, and I'll get those out!

Realms of Fantasy Closes

Well, DAMN.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dark and Stormy Drawing for Free Signed Copy!

Everyone loves a freebie!

Leave a comment and I'll have a drawing for a free signed copy of DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS.

If you already have one, perhaps you have a friend who might enjoy an early Christmas prezzy.

Have at it!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Twenty Years of The Vampire Files-- YIKES!

Holy cr@p!  Has it been that long?

Um, yup. Calendars don't lie. Not that much!

I'm going to be the writer guest of honor at OryCon 32 next month and they wanted to know if I wanted to mention in the programming that this was the 20-year anniversary of The Vampire Files

Really, I was in too much shock to think about it much less give an answer. That's a big chunk of my life.

Original 1st edition from Ace

The first book of the Vampire Files series that I began writing in 1986 (YIKES AGAIN!!!) and sold in 1988 and which hit the shelves in 1990 is now technically a year past the legal drinking age. I signed the contract with Ace in the spring of 1988, the first book hitting the shelves in 1990.

But we'll keep it simple and call 2010 the 20-year anniversary of my partnership with vampire PI Jack Fleming. I can't say it's been easy--he's a tough guy to work with--but it's never been dull.

The series almost never happened. Back then, the Big Name writer was Anne Rice, and I was told that her style was the only style readers wanted. I was told repeatedly that the vampire genre was sewn up in its shroud and dead, not just undead, and that a cross-genre book of any kind had NO chance at all for publication.

I am not known for taking no as an answer. Besides, all the how-to books I read about writing asserted the importance of not giving up. When a rejection comes (no writer escapes!), you take it on the chin, put on your game face, and start all over again--which I did.

Ace reprint edition
That book, "The List", which became Bloodlist, was sent out about 24 times, collected rejections, rewritten, and sent it out again. And again. And again. I got feedback from some very brave people, and kept rewriting.  In the meantime, I began another book in the series, then another, and I wrote gaming modules, selling them to TSR. Professional credits! Pay checks! Cool!

It took two years to sell that first book. 

I made all the rookie mistakes. I sent terrible queries, worse proposals, a rotten synopsis, and they went to the wrong publishers. Back then I thought a mystery house would love to see a dark fantasy--that's what they called vampire books when they were being kind. The rest of the time they lumped them into horror which was and still is dominated by Mr. King.

But the book I wrote was not horror! 

Sure, it had a vampire as the main character, but he was a GOOD GUY. He had a bit of a food allergy, but he usually tried to do the right thing, had a sense of humor, a wiseacre mouth, and even sent money home to his mother. Back then it was too alien a concept for the black cover crowd.

My inspirations came from Fred Saberhagen and Dark Shadows and Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and Conan Doyle and The Shadow and countless movies from Universal and Hammer Films. I watched anything with Bogart, Cagney, Karloff, Chaney, Lugosi, Cushing, and Lee in it.

I can thank author David McDaniel and his Man From UNCLE book, The Vampire Affair for stirring up my imagination!

I can thank author Jeff Rice for inventing Carl Kolchak and the books, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler and the TV series with Darrin McGavin owning the part.  

It is NO accident that Jack Fleming started out as a down at the heels reporter. Carl Kolchak is his spiritual godfather.
Audio book

I read the pulps when I could find reprints and searched for books to feed my appetite for supernatural good guys--who were thin on the ground! 

Certainly you could include Barnabas Collins, so ably played by my first crush, Jonathan Frid. He and the writers for Dark Shadows turned him from the heavy of that six-week story arc into an ongoing anti-hero vampire with a conscience long before Joss Whedon stepped in with Angel and Spike.

Thank them for the Vampire Files, not me.
Thank the slush pile reader who liked my first 50 pages and kicked them upstairs to the senior editor who sold the series to the bean-counters who okay'd an offer to me of a 6-book contract and an advance. 

Thank friends like Teresa Patterson, Bill Fawcett, past agent Donald Maass, and present agent Lucienne Diver.

Because of them I got to meet many of my heroes: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Lois McMaster Bujold, and whoa! -- Jonathan Frid!  (You still make my knees go weak, sir!)

Because of them, I got to meet thousands of really COOL readers at countless conventions.

Because of them, stellar talents like Rachel Caine and Carole Nelson Douglas are my good friends.

I've been able to edit some of the best writers in the business and co-write books with the amazing Nigel Bennett.

I'm leaving too much and too many others out, and I apologize. My point is I didn't do any of it on my own, and I'm grateful to everyone who ever traded words with me about my job.

So happy 20 years, Jack Fleming.
Now--let's see what we can do in the NEXT twenty!

Three book omnibus

German Edition
French Edition
Italian Edition