My best reads o’ the year
I’ve read some dang spiffy books this year. Some of them I’m still reading, like THE MIRROR EMPIRE by Kameron Hurley and THE PERIPHERAL by William Gibson. They are rich and chewy stories and are taking me longer to read (I read multiple books at a time) but I’m digging them mucho. So many rad stories out there.
But some o’ you ask on occasion about the bestest thingies I’ve read because you want to read ‘em too, and so I’m happy to share with the understanding that of course your mileage may vary. Everybody’s tastes are different and that’s cool. These three books, in no particular order, really worked for me this year.
CURSED MOON by Jaye Wells
The second book in the Prospero’s War series sees Kate Prospero grow quite a bit and continues to delight me. This series begins with DIRTY MAGIC and will continue next year—I think there’s a novella coming out too, so now’s a great time to dive in. ALCHEMY and BADASSERY and A LITTLE HOMUNCULUS IN THIS WOMAN’S CHEST DEAR GOD
MAPLECROFT by Cherie Priest
I genuinely believe this is a fucking work of genius. I’ve always loved Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for its story and epistolary structure but both I and the students I taught it to occasionally got bogged down in stretches of excessively Romantic language. Really gothic sentence structure and pages of emoting, you know? And like many people I’ve enjoyed the tentacle-faced monsters of Lovecraftian Elder Gods mythos while completely loathing both the author’s execrable bigotry and his prose. So what Cherie has done here is an astounding feat: She’s given us Lovecraftian horror the way it should have been written (that is, WELL) in an epistolary structure that retains the flavor of the Romantic era while not diving so deeply into it that modern readers drown. Uh. Forgive my excessive metaphors? I’m not a genius like Cherie! Y’all should read this and tell everybody else to do the same.
CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett
Lots of books start off BAM LOOKIT ALL THIS BLOOD and then dial it back because yeah, that kind of narrative hook often works and that’s in vogue now. This book is different. Starts off pretty chill and stays there a while, and then you find yourself saying, “Holy crap!” and then a few pages later that’s not good enough so you say, “Holy shit!” and then it escalates to “Holy rivers of shit!” and then ALL CAPS WHAT THE FUCK AND THEN OH GOD I NEED A NEW PAIR OF SHORTS THAT WAS AWESOME.
Please enjoy these. Happy reading to you all!
Author homeslice Chuck Wendig was sharing his old Nerdtivity scenes from a few years back and I instantly loved ‘em. They’re nativity scenes except with action figures and pop culture goodness. And I was reminded of my Nerdscape photo contests in the past and how much fun they were, and then that reminded me that I haven’t run a contest in quite a while.
So I saith unto Chuck: “Lo, we shouldst hold a photo contest, and we will see that it is good.”
And he saith, “Fuck yeah we will.”
We put it together FAST. And Chuck has all the details on his blog right now so you should go there and enter. Because the prizes are rad.*
I made my own Nerdtivity with more than a little haste to give you an example. My photography leaves much to be desired, but lookit, there’s a theme here: Morpheus. There’s Neil Gaiman’s Morpheus (morphed into Daniel), The Matrix’s Morpheus, and a figure reminiscent of the Roaring 20’s Sandman from Sandman Mystery Theatre, helpfully warning you about the dangers of syphilis. (My syphilis lunchbox NEVER got stolen from the employee refrigerator. Just saying. Kept my lunch completely safe.)
I know you guys can make far better ones. And you have a bit of time to put them together. Have a blast with this, okay? Also, if you haven’t read Chuck’s work, he’s one of my favorite authors for reals.
*Some very rare prizes are being given away here. Complete signed set of UK-edition IDC, books 1-7. That doesn’t exist anywhere else. Also a SNACK OF THE SEX MANTIS mug, which is turbo scarce. And the last two embroidered Rula Bula polo shirts. Plus MORE STUFF that Chuck is giving away too. Y’all should really enter because just entering is fun. Everybody wins. :)
To win NaNoWriMo you gotta write 50K words.
So I guess I didn’t win.
Except I TOTALLY WON. During a month designed to derail you at the end (which it most definitely did) I still got my monthly 30K because I worked so much on the front end. My November total: 30,157. If I hadn’t pushed myself at the beginning I wouldn’t have had such a respectable output. And though it’s not 50K, they’re all words I’m happy with. I mean, lookit:
I finished an Iron Druid short story and a novella even got some edits done on both.
And my epic fantasy is now at 73K words. If I keep my 30K pace for December-April I’ll finish it before I head off to Poland and other points in Europe. So yay! This is doable! (And incidentally, 73K would mean I’m almost finished with an Iron Druid book, but for an epic that’s not even halfway).
Wherever you wound up, as long as you’re closer to the end of your book, you won. Keep at it. Distractions will and do happen, but the end won’t happen unless you type your way there.
So cheers! Keep writing! It’s Adventure Time!
Maybe a Thriller?
Hope November’s treating you well! Mine’s fun so far. I have learned that SNOW HAPPENS but in Colorado people don’t freak out about it and actually know how to handle it so the roads are cleared efficiently and everyone goes about their business and it’s cool. No troubles!
Plus I have a warm Broncos beanie thingie* and a super cool sugar skull mug painted by my homie Delilah S. Dawson! Apparently there are these places where you get drunk and paint stuff and that’s their business plan. So I’m grateful for their genius and D’s because now I can enjoy my FESTIVELY PAINTED DEATH TOTEM HOT CHOCOLATE when it’s cold outside.
I finished an Iron Druid novella and a short story, both of which will be out next year! Details on release dates when I have them! Waiting on cover art and such. :) And now I’m working full speed on the first volume of my epic fantasy, A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. About 70K into it so far. If that was an IDC book I’d be almost finished but yeah for an epic that’s not even halfway. But PROGRESS! YES!
I donate to Worldbuilders every year. It’s Patrick Rothfuss’s charity that benefits Heifer International. They help hungry people become self-sustaining agriculturally. Lasting positive change, in other words.
Besides simply donating some dinero, I also send them lots of signed books that you can win by donating on the Team Heifer page. You can also win a buttload of other signed books too—definitely check out the rundown here.
BUT! I also send them turbo-rare signed foreign editions. Know how many signed Hungarian editions of HEXED there are in the world? The one you can buy in the Tinker’s Pack—that’s it! Buy any of these and the proceeds go entirely to Worldbuilders. You score a rare signed edition for yourself or a friend and help hungry people eat at the same time. Win-win!
This screen cap is just a few of ‘em—they have more if you go to the Tinker’s Pack, and what’s more there will be more soon because I can’t use the word MORE enough in this sentence. I need more MORE. But there will be Polish editions and Czech editions and MORE—
YOU CAN MAKE ME DANCE!
Every donation to Worldbuilders gets added to the pile and once that pile reaches a certain point I will be forced to make the absolutely worst Michael Jackson tribute video ever. I will both dance and sing “Thriller” if the stretch goal is reached. Since my dancing will resemble a twitchy walrus more than Michael Jackson, I have recruited some actual dancers to help me salvage the video. The Pulse Dance Company, all of whom can dance, will be doing the Thriller thing with me. But only if you donate! Rope all your friends into this! Win some books, help hungry people eat, and make me dance!
Love n’ tasty tacos,
*Lest ye think I have “suddenly” become a Broncos fan, I will say unto thee: Nay. I’ve been a Broncos fan since I was a wee lad. For when I was wee in Arizona, there was no local NFL team. My nearest choices for fandom lay in either California or Colorado. I liked horsies, so boom: Broncos fan since kindergarten. Added the Cardinals when they moved into town and sucked for a really long, long time. I am still a fan of the Cardinals—they’re my NFC team and the Broncos are my AFC team—and it’s weird to think that my two fave teams have a chance of meeting in the Super Bowl this year. GO BOTH Y’ALL!
So there’s this thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s in November, along with Movember, when dudes grow mustaches for men’s nads or something. The two are probably not related but they could be if you wanted. You could get ontological about it and wonder what came first, the mustache or the novel?
(I cannot speak for others, but in my case, it was the mustache.)
I don’t know why they chose November for this, honestly. With Thanksgiving and the orgy of consumerism immediately afterward, it seems like a torpedo heading your way at the end to sink your progress. BUT. Ours is not to wonder why: Ours is to write. And what is the goal?
50,000 words in one month.
That breaks down to about 1,667 words a day. About five or six typed, double-spaced pages.
There’s an organization for this and you can sign up and all that (get thee to Google if that is your desire). The purpose of that is just to be accountable, I think? I’ve never signed up because I’m contrary that way and for me, every month is novel writing month. But I think bangin’ out 50K words is a great idea. I’d like to do that and be accountable for it, tap into that group energy out there. SO WHADDAYA SAY? Wanna write with me and all the other peeps doing this? You can join the thingie and be official if you want, or you can just be accountable on social media, which is what I’m going to do: Every day in November, I’ll Tweet and Facebook my word count, both daily and cumulative. You can follow me on Twitter @kevinhearne or on FB here.
I may throw in some writing thoughts on my FB page—stuff I’ve picked up that works for me. Your mileage may vary, of course, and PLEASE realize that there is no single right way to write a novel. Every book is unique because we are all unique beings and work differently.
A couple of things to put out there now:
1. The Focus view in Word or Scrivener works great for me. Keeps me from getting distracted by stuff happening on my desktop.
2. Freedom for Mac, an app which turns off your internet access for a specified amount of time (usually one hour) also helps. Very few messages/tweets you’ll receive require an instant response. They can wait less than 60 minutes while you get your words in.
So write your novel. Or novella. Or short story collection. But get those words in and make it a productive month! Let’s do this! See you out there!
The genius you should be reading now
I had the very great privilege of spending a couple of days with Cherie Priest recently, who is a goth genius and a lover of doggies. We went into a bookstore in Chattanooga and there was a rat terrier in there, so of course in about two seconds this is what was happening:
We also took a walk through a cemetery because it’s October and it’s foggy and you instantly lose all your goth cred if you don’t lurk and/or skulk in a foggy cemetery when you have the chance. I took lots of pictures but I love this one the most because I can imagine just about anything coming out of that fog to attack me and shiver me timbers, etc.
BUT LOOK. Besides being an awesome human being, Cherie can flip a switch and write beautiful, haunting stories. And she wrote my favorite book of the year. It’s truly genius, y’all, and you should be reading it—right now, during the spooky season! It’s called MAPLECROFT. I think of it as a combo of Lovecraft the way it should have been written (that is, well) and the structure of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without the florid prose. This is what it looks like:
And dudes! Do NOT go thinking this is some kind of historical romance. THERE IS A BLOODY AXE BEHIND HER BACK FOR A REASON. LIZZIE BORDEN KNOWS HOW TO USE IT. I’m telling you this book is so delightful. And gory. And horrifying. And so very cleverly done. I think it’s an instant classic.
You can win a signed copy of MAPLECROFT plus a signed copy of any one of my books (your choice!) by merely following Cherie on Twitter. Her handle is @cmpriest. Follow her between now and Thursday, October 30, and Cherie will pick one new follower at random. And yes—only new followers, because I want new people to discover Cherie! She is one of my favorite writers—she’s written twenty books or so—and introducing you to her is my Halloween treat for you. (If you already follow Cherie you are One of the Cool People and probably already have MAPLECROFT anyway.)
Cherie will pick one new follower and let me know. I’ll announce the winner on Halloween and mail him/her a signed copy of MAPLECROFT and a signed copy of one of my books too. But everybody wins, really—following Cherie and reading her books is a win, period. And if you ever get to meet Cherie’s pooch, Grayson, he will give you kisses like this:
Run! Follow Cherie if you don’t already! And read MAPLECROFT and thank me later! :) Here are handy links:
A novella and stuff
Some quick news!
1. I have a couple of Iron Druid goodies coming out next year while I’m working on the epic. One is a novella and one is a short story, and both will be featured in small collections. The novella’s in a bundle of three novellas, which should be out early-ish next year, and the short story is in a wee book of four short stories. More details on those as the release dates get closer!
2. I’ll be in the Atlanta area on Saturday, October 25 at 1 pm at FoxTale Book Shoppe! I’m appearing with Cherie Priest, Delilah S. Dawson and Molly Harper! It’s a cornucopia of awesome, I’m tellin’ ya! If you can make it I’d be delighted to see you! (I have it on pretty good authority that there will be an epic Granuaile cosplayer there with a badass Scáthmhaide replica AND EVERYTHING.) If you can’t make it, you can still call FoxTale at 770-516-9989 and order signed books from any of us, and they’ll ship ‘em to you!
3. This website is five honkin’ years old. That’s like 83 in Internet years, long past its expected lifespan. Soon it will look different, for a redesign is in the works! And there will be NEW THINGS on it too!
Peace n’ hot sauce,
Oberon for the holidays
I have TWO spiffy deals for ya! First up, an ebook deal for US/Canada only. (It was put together by my US publisher so I can’t do anything about it not being available overseas, sorry. Orbit UK would need to put together a similar package if you’re overseas.)
It’s the first six books of IDC, plus two novellas and two short stories for $37.99! If you were to buy the paperbacks and the novellas you’d pay $53.92, so that’s a huge chunk o’ savings, and a great gift for peeps in your life who dig ebooks! Links here: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks,Google Play, and Books-A-Million.
SECOND DEAL (extended bonus intro): Ever since SHATTERED came out I’ve been getting requests to write THE BOOK OF FIVE MEATS, Oberon’s magnum opus on his favorite subject. I admit that the project has appeal to me but I have little time to devote to it when I still have Other Books to write. Still, a wee bit o’ fun might be had. Oberon has certainly begun to work on it, and maybe he’ll finish it before he gets distracted by something else. Would you like to see the introduction, before his first recipe? Here it is:
The Book of Five Meats, Vol. 1: Sausage!
By Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound
(with a tiny bit of help from Atticus because he has thumbs)
Okay, I’m going to write this, but writing a book is hard—especially with Atticus as your editor. NO, ATTICUS, YOU LEAVE THAT IN BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.
I’m going to tell you the truth about meat now, and it’s the undisputed truth among people who aren’t vegetarians! Are you ready? Here it is: Meat is delicious!
But some meats are more delicious than others. Some meat is overcooked; some meat is spoiled; and some meat is served in 24-hour waffle joints, and it is my duty as a hound to help you avoid the terrible fate of eating any of it. I know that pedantic people—and I should totally get a snack for using pedantic properly—pedantic people could argue with the details of my classification system and say in a snooty voice, “Well, actually, Oberon, blah blah blah,” but I’m not going to listen to them because they said actually with an unacceptable amount of snoot. Even if they’re pedantic butchers, I won’t listen. Humans are omnivores, so what do they know? The way this hound sees it, there are five basic kinds of meat, and I classify them like this: Beef! Poultry! Seafood! Deli! And Sausage!
You are not allowed under any circumstances to leave off the capital letter or the exclamation point when talking about these meats as one of the Five Meats. This is vitally important.
For example: When speaking of beef bouillon or ground beef or other recipe names or ingredients, leave out the capital letter and exclamation point. But when you are in the mood for Beef! for dinner, you capitalize and include the exclamation point. You will be excited and enjoy your dinner more: I promise. You will sit down with your family and say, “We are having Beef!” and there will be joy.
I will delve into the other four meats in other volumes—and yes, I am including freshwater creatures in Seafood! because there wasn’t a single human in charge of dictionaries who had the foresight to call it Waterfood!—but this volume is dedicated to the meat nearest and dearest to my heart: Sausage!
In this volume, I’m going to share with you some Sausage! wisdom and recipes that Atticus and I have accumulated over the years and I hope you will find them delectable and filling and maybe you will even have some hot poodle dreams after you eat them like I do.
A warning before I begin: Follow all food safety rules that humans say you should follow. Humans are very good about establishing rules so I will direct you to one of them if you don’t already know how to keep food safe to eat. All of the humans who follow cooking rules are on TV and have bad haircuts.
And TURBO WARNING: You should probably not share these recipes with your own hounds unless you are giving them Immortali-Tea like Atticus is giving me. Hounds will eat almost anything, of course, but human food is not always good for them. Excessive fats in Sausage! could give them pancreatitis, onions can poison their blood, and so on. Enjoy these recipes with your human friends and family and then give your hounds a belly rub and a safe snack to eat.
I should probably also mention that my recipes will have two different settings:
1) “I can do that!” in green text and
2) “GODS BELOW, OBERON, ARE YOU SHITTING ME?” in red text and said in the precise tone of voice Atticus uses when he feels his boundaries have been violated. And yes, I made Atticus do all of these things for testing. You have to test recipes before you print them and we conducted extensive tests because I wanted this book to be good.
Shall I give you an example of these settings from my ingredients?
1) A stick of salted butter from your local store, or
2) A stick of salted organic pasture butter made from the milk of Brighid’s personal heifer and churned by an Amish bachelor named Jedediah on a Pennsylvania homestead. I’m not kidding about Jedediah. Atticus had him whip up a batch on a Tuesday and the man knows his butter; he’s like a Butter Wizard. He might sell you a pound for three ancient Roman denarii or a favor to be named later.
And why do I do this? Better ingredients, better Sausage! Oberon’s!
Heh! Good times.
Oberon wrote his first recipe after that and I’m including it as a freebie for those who’d like to give the gift of IDC for the holidays. I work with an indie bookstore in Arizona called the Poisoned Pen that ships signed editions anywhere in the world. Since I’ve moved to Colorado, though, I’m not quite as close to the Poisoned Pen as I used to be, so it’s not as easy to sign books as needed like I did before. I have to plan. So here’s the plan AND THE DEAL:
I’ll be in Phoenix on Nov. 24 to sign & personalize books. Order between now and Nov. 15 (to give them time to order all they need) and the Poisoned Pen will ship ‘em out to you before Thanksgiving so you’ll have them before Christmas or Kwanzaa or Damn Let’s Just Eat a Lot!
They have some in stock and you can get signed copies now if you like. But if you are okay with waiting until I get there, say so in the Instructions field (“Please hold until Kevin signs on Nov 24″) and then ALL OF THIS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU ORDER SIX OR MORE SIGNED IDC BOOKS:
1. I’ll sign your books and personalize them too if you want (you leave that in the Instructions field also)
2. I’ll throw in a signed Oberon bookmark
3. I’ll also send you Oberon’s first sausage recipe in THE BOOK OF FIVE MEATS, including the two different difficulty settings and photos.
Doesn’t matter to me which six books you order. You can order six copies of Hounded to give away if you want—great stocking stuffers. :)
And if you just want one or three signed books and don’t care about the rest of it, that’s cool too! You can still have the Poisoned Pen hold on to them until I get there on Nov. 24 if you’d like them personalized, just say so in the Instructions field.
1) Ebook bundle deal in the US/Canada where you get six books, two novellas, and two short stories for cheap, bought wherever you buy ebooks
2) Order any six autographed IDC books from the Poisoned Pen, have them hold it until Nov. 24, and I will sign them and also send you a signed Oberon bookmark and his first Sausage! recipe from THE BOOK OF FIVE MEATS.
Hope one of those deals appeals to you, and thanks as always for reading & spreading the word! Peace & sausage~
Read for Pixels
Spiffy peeps, I’m participating in a campaign to end violence against women (VAW) and I hope you’ll join me. I agreed to join Read For Pixels (part of the Pixel Project) before the very high-profile case of Ray Rice became public, but that case certainly underscores the need to focus on this. Broadcaster James Brown said something about it during Thursday Night Football and it shouldn’t be missed:
I like what he said there about “healthy, respectful manhood.” If you get a Y chromosome at birth that’s your ticket to manhood, but what kind of manhood it turns out to be depends largely on the values one learns while growing up. And there are an awful lot of men out there who could stand to grow more respectful of women—and, by extension, of humanity. Because women’s rights are human rights. And being a feminist is not in any way emasculating—it means you support equal rights for women. Period.
It’s been said before: Just because you have a dick doesn’t mean you have to be a dick.
So I’m doing a Google Hangout (simultaneously broadcast on YouTube) on September 28, 8pm EST, during which I’ll be reading a Granuaile chapter and taking questions and so on. I’m not the only author doing this, either! Here’s the full schedule of hangouts, including mine. And lookit, a picture!
We will, of course, ask you to support the Pixel Project, for which you can win goodies. I and some other authors wrote these 100-word stories called Drabbles, and mine is a scene between Leif and Atticus that will give you a sneak peek at book 8! The drabble pack is available if you contribute either through IndieGogo or Razoo. Also through those same links, you can snag a 30-minute Skype chat with me, which can be either a one-on-one deal or a group like a book club, and a signed, personalized copy of SHATTERED. Please join me for the hangout! And please donate! If nothing else, talk with dudes, especially the young ones, and change this culture.
Where does your money go? To the Pixel Project and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The full breakdown is here.
Here’s how your support helps, from the Pixel Project:
Your support will help make an impact on 3 levels:
Level 1 – Helping efforts to shift the Global Perspective on Violence Against Women:
“Read For Pixels” is held in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign through which we are working to accelerate the end of Violence Against Women (VAW) by re-characterizing it from a “women’s issue” to the human rights issue that it really is. VAW impacts families and communities regardless of gender. Men may be responsible for most violent acts against women, but decent, non-violent men far outnumber them and have largely remained silent on the issue. For VAW to end, these men need to be involved in efforts to end the violence.
The Pixel Reveal campaign intends to do just that by triggering conversations about VAW worldwide and inspiring men and boys to take action to stop VAW in their communities.
Level 2 – Keeping anti-Violence Against Women work alive and kicking, grassroots style!
Anti-Violence Against Women is a cause that is chronically underfunded despite the global severity of the issue.
The $1 million we are aiming to raise via the Pixel Reveal campaign will be shared between The Pixel Project and the U.S.’s National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
It’ll help keep both organization’s respective anti-Violence Against Women campaigns, programs, and projects alive and thriving.
Level 3 – Helping Reach Your Communities To Get The Conversation Started
We’ve listened to many folks over the years who wish to help stop the violence but don’t know where to begin.
Therefore, as part of the outreach efforts of “Read For Pixels”, we’ll be providing all “Read For Pixels” donors with a special virtual toolkit – a set of links to resources for you to learn more about violence against women, how to start the conversation in your communities (and with the men and boys in your communities), and how to help victims and survivors of domestic violence and rape.
You can check out these links here to learn more:
Old story is new again!
Back in July of 2013, I had an Iron Druid short story appear in a nifty anthology called CARNIEPUNK.
It’s nifty still—it’s an anthology of dark urban fantasy written by awesome authors & available wherever you snag books. YAY!
However, you can now snag “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” singly for nine-nine cents. Links below.
This story is set just a couple weeks after the events of the novella Two Ravens and One Crow—during Granuaile’s training period, in other words—and Granuaile alludes to it briefly in Shattered. As you might guess, it’s set at a carnival. Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon visit Kansas, where they meet some ghouls that aren’t nearly as refined and polite as Antoine and his boys with the refrigerated truck. Lots of blood and guts and creepy stuff, a demon named Gobknob, and to make it extra tragic, absolutely no barbecue.
And in case you missed it, I’d like to throw in a plug for “The Chapel Perilous,” another Iron Druid short story that’s available for ninety-nine cents (except in the UK and affiliated territories, where it’s bundled with the anthology UNFETTERED).
Featuring beautiful, perfect cover art by Galen Dara, “The Chapel Perilous” tells the story of Atticus in Wales in the year 537. It’s the events of this story that inspire him to make his cold iron amulet and silver charms, and it’s full of juicy Grail legend geekery.