Cheap Alchemy! Blackwood’s On Sale!

It's Strange Chemistry's first birthday and they're celebrating with an excellent e-book sale on a slew of their first titles, including…

BlackwoodcoverBlackwood! $1.99 for the Kindle and the Nook here in the US and $.99p in the UK for Kindle. The Kindle prices already seem to be live, and the Nook should follow suit on Monday, if not before.

Handy links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Nook

If you haven't read it yet, purchase away. If you have and enjoyed it, now's an excellent time to recommend it to someone else. Book sales like this are a fabulous way for lesser known authors — like yours truly — to get their books in front of new readerly eyeballs. 

And if you haven't checked out the other Strange Chemistry titles included, well, get cracking. You can buy ALL OF OUR BOOKS for less than a hardback — for less than some trade paperbacks, even! Whatta a deal. It's only on for a while, so do not delay.

p.s. You could also add The Woken Gods to your cart while you're there and/or leave Blackwood a review if you enjoyed it and haven't. These things make authors happier than you know.

p.p.s. Psst…told by a friend that if you buy the kindle edition of Blackwood on sale, you can add the audiobook for $3.49 — a steal!

Cheap Alchemy! Blackwood’s On Sale! Read More »

Context Is A Gift

Last night was my birthday eve, and today is my birthday, and most of you know how much I enjoy birthdays in general. Christopher and I were supposed to be in Boston, but the universe pulled a neat trick in making it all right that we ended up staying home.

Joseph-Beth, bookstore extraordinaire, just happened to be hosting one of the last event's on the epic Neil Gaiman final signing tour. Now, here's the thing, Neil is one of my oldest friends. I've known him since I was a teenager. And another of my oldest friends is Sunshine Ison, who I've also known since I was a teenager, and is actually how Neil and I met. Because we are all busy and far-flung and a host of reasons, we haven't been in the same place in more than a decade.

But here we are last night, in the green room before the event.


Green room hijinks!


That was a birthday gift.

So many memories I have with both of these guys (late nights watching Jerry Springer and snarking on beauty pageants, discovering screwball comedy and books that remain favorites). It was absolutely lovely to see them both, especially at the same time, and steal a little catch up. (And, holy moly, I do not know how Neil is doing this–well, I do, because he held up his hands side by side to show us the swelling in the signing one. Yeeouch.) I'm lucky to have so many people I've been friends with almost as along. And I'm lucky to have friends who are dear to me who I haven't known nearly as long, like Laurel Snyder, who the universe is bringing through town tonight, randomly; I couldn't have wished for better birthday serendipity. My storehouse of memories is constantly growing.

The point I want to make with this is my problem with the way we're supposed to feel about getting older. We're supposed to hate it, especially us ladies (what good will we be when we're oldies and our looks go? goes the dumbdom–the opposite of wisdom). But I have rejected that since I was a teeanger. I know there are bad parts about getting older–I imagine this is especially true when people you know and love start to pass away, and illnesses strike with greater frequency. But.

What you get back in return is the context of yourself, of your life lived. All the things you learn, all the things you still have to learn. All the people you've known, and still know, and will come to know. Every dear friend I have is part of who I am today, this minute, this second. Relationships change over time, just as we all change over time, and we can hope and try to make it for the better whenever possible. Birthdays are to be celebrated, because life is to be celebrated. All these days we get are gifts. Recognize the bad and let it go, and embrace the gift instead.

Speaking of embraces… One of my favorite books of all time is Eduardo Galeano's The Book of Embraces–I'm not sure if I discovered this first or if Sunshine did, but I do know we both loved it, way back in high school. The other night, on a lark, I searched tumblr for Galeano quotes, and found disappointingly few. One that kept turning up was this one: "We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine."

Which is nice (though hardly his most important work), but which seemed wrong to me. So I pulled down my copy and found the context. If you haven't read The Book of Embraces, do yourself a favor; it's a unique mix of the universal and the specifically political; it's got strange, ironic, wonderful illustrations, and brief pieces that sometimes tell a story and sometimes don't. It all adds up to something special and magical. Here's the short piece that quote came from in its entirety, because it also seems birthday-appropriate:


The sun was gentle, the air clear, and the sky cloudless.

Buried in the sand, the clay pot steamed. As they went from ocean to mouth, the shrimp passed through the hands of Fernando, master of ceremonies, who bathed them in a holy water of salt, onions, and garlic. There was good wine. Seated in a circle, we friends shared the wine and shrimp and the ocean that spread out free and luminous at our feet.

As it took place, that happiness was already being remembered by our memory. It would never end, nor would we. For we are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass, which is something everyone knows, no matter how small his or her knowledge.

It's better with the context, isn't it? Yeah, of course it is, and so is life.

This book also has my favorite dedication ever, one that makes me tear up every time I read it: "Cedric Belfrage died shortly after finishing his translation of my work The Book of Embraces. We had already worked together for many years. Each one of his translations increased our certitude of mutual identification. I would recognize myself in each of his translations and he would feel betrayed and annoyed whenever I didn't write something the way he would have.

"A part of me died with him. A part of him lives with me."

My birthday can only be happy because of all the people in my life, and so thank you, all of you, and most especially Christopher. Go out and do something happy today that your memory will already be remembering.

Context Is A Gift Read More »

Wrangling the Wild Year

Last night I started thinking about where I was this time last year and how much has changed since then.

We were in Vieques, on the only real and true vacation we've ever taken (thanks to Kim O'Donnel and Russ Walker for that, and a fabulous trip). I was just about to finish up a major revision of the novel that's now called Blackwood, and I was feeling a bit at sea about where I might be headed. Would I ever sell a book? I wasn't sure, but I knew I'd keep writing them regardless. I already had a little bit of a beginning of a new book to work on next, but I wasn't sure about it. And so, mostly, I was just trying to make that book–then called Strange Alchemy–as good as I possibly could at the time.

I'd been on my own with the dogs for the week before and hadn't slept much and had developed a theory that maybe I didn't need to sleep anymore, or only a couple of hours a night, something I refer to as "becoming Bill Clinton" (get your mind out of the gutter: this was because he famously didn't need much sleep; I envy people with this evolutionary advantage). Luckily, this insomniac mania wore off after a day at the beach on island time and I did not go insane and start believing I was Bill Clinton.

Anyway, my birthday was the following week, and I'm coming up on a birthday this week (Thursday, to be exact), so maybe that accounts for the stock-taking. But, also, sometimes I have a tendency to just keep working nonstop, which means not pausing to appreciate Something Big Happened.

It's hard not to notice, though, comparing this year and last year. I did sell a book (thank you thank you again to superagent Jenn and supereditor Amanda), and it will be out in two months. I'd be spending a lot more time worrying about whether or not people will like it (yes, okay, I'm still spending too much time doing that), but I have a second book to turn in soon. And I'm just about to start revising it, so that will happen. I love this book and it's sooo scary trying to make it what I want it to be and believe it can be (and on time). Both the love and the fear are necessary, and planning. Pause for gratuitous shot of desk prepped for revising (click through for annotated photo):


Anyway, long way of saying, I'm in a much different place this year…in some ways.

But the main thing I'm worried about now is the same thing I was worried about then. The focus is exactly the same: on making the book the best I can at this time, and then once that's done, writing another one. The focus is on the writing.

And when I think about the future and what I want for my career, sure, there are more specific things I'd like to happen. But mainly I just hope that I will be able to keep telling stories and that some of you (and some people who aren't you! total strangers who don't know I exist!) will get something valuable out of those stories through that magical collaboration of writer and reader.

I also want to say to those of you still in the query and/or submission stage that you know as well as I do the important thing is to keep working, because you never know. The imprint I'm being published by didn't exist yet at this time last year, but I feel SO incredibly lucky to have landed there. I pinch myself daily. And when I think, Hey, I sold a book and it will be in bookstores! Holy crap, Something Big Happened! what I also think is that it wasn't magic. It was something I worked really hard for, for a really long time. And, honestly? That feels like the biggest achievement. Giving up is easy. But it's not for writers, mostly. Writers risk failure and rejection every single day. It's not for cowards.

And at the end of the day I truly believe what matters most* is the same for all of us, sold and unsold, beginners and those well into their careers**: one word in front of the other. Keep moving. Keep writing. Keep trying our hardest to get better.

Meanwhile, I hope the surprises this year has in store are as good as last year's.

*'What matters most' is chosen carefully here. Obviously, we all have lots of concerns based on our careers and individual circumstances, but from my vantage this is nearly universal. It's the only part we truly have control over, so it better be.

**Although I could be wrong about this. It's entirely possible once you get further into your career you worry about bears or clown attacks.

Wrangling the Wild Year Read More »


I know, I pretended there would be no posts here and then parade! of! posts! But I'd feel terrible if I didn't point to The Carol Emshwiller Project, coordinated by the wonderful Matt Cheney, who invited many people to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of SF's–and literature's, natch–true doyennes.

Watching Carol navigate Wiscon as a VIP, hearing her do amazing readings there, and being lucky enough to serve with her on the Fountain Award jury have all been great, but I'd be happy with just her books and stories. If you haven't read her, well, do. You're in for a treat. A writer as daring and fabulous now as she's ever been. (Which is to say: A great deal daring and fabulous.)

(Also: The fact Carol Emswhiller turns out to share a birthday with Beverly Cleary is too perfect.)

Anyway, head over and wish her a happy birthday yourselves.

CarolGras! Read More »

News on the Radio, Sirens Far Away (updated)

For those of you who don't know, I feel compelled to explain (though I feel I must have done it before) the reason I tend to make such a big deal about my birthday.

Having a summer birthday when you're a kid SUCKS–or at least it did for me. Too much pressure. If your birthday falls during the school year, you can have cake with the whole class if you want to. There isn't the same level of angst–no need for invitations, for worry about who will or won't show up. This is not the case with summer birthdays, especially when you live in a rural place where there are no common neighborhoods to meet up in…and when you're surrounded by budding sociopaths like I was.

I had a bona fide Mean Girl in my class throughout my elementary school career. On one of my better summer birthdays, which I believe was seventh grade-ish? Possibly sixth? Anyway, I had a pool party and it was fun; some of the kids from my class showed up, including the Mean Girl, and my brother's older friends who I tended to idolize and develop crazy crushes on. All was well until afterward, when I–I suppose for having had a good day–became the target of said Mean Girl for a three way call of doom. For those of you who don't know, in the days of three-way calling, it was seriously easy to "trick" someone onto the other end of a phone line. In this set up, one of the girls tighter in the Mean Girl's orbit convinced me to listen in on a conversation between herself and Mean Girl–in which, OF COURSE, Mean Girl said terrible things about me. Even then, I knew I'd been made a patsy. And I had to endure a sleepover with the traitorous assistant sociopath. So, birthdays? Sucked.

In college, I decided to reclaim birthdays as a good thing. Hence, GwendaGras was born. It doesn't last the full first 12 days of July anymore, but I do my best to make it count. And I see it as not unrelated to the recent Women Declare Their Awesomeness movement. We all deserve good birthdays. (And it's not like anyone forgets them anymore with Facebook to the rescue.) Embrace your BirthdayGras.

I also hatehatehate this societal message that getting older is an awful thing–particularly if you're a woman–and reject it utterly. Every year of my life has been a gift. Why wouldn't I want more gifts?

Sappy moment: It's because of all you guys–my dear friends and family, offline and on–that I feel this way. If you were ever tricked onto my three-way call, you'd only hear me say the best of things about you. To another year better than the last.

Updated: Several of you have sent me emails about how SAD the three-way call story is. Seriously, it's not that sad or I wouldn't have posted it here. That which does not kill us makes a killer anecedote later, etc. Also, thanks for your lovely b-day wishes all across the network of social–it was a fun day.

News on the Radio, Sirens Far Away (updated) Read More »


Another note from the weekend: You have not lived until you have eaten one (or several) of MAS’ gluten-free cupcakes. Oh. My. God.

Best. Cupcakes. Ever.

Happy (day after your) birthday, chica!

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