Go check out my chat with Faith Hunter!

That’s right, peeps. NYT bestselling urban fantasy author Faith Hunter sat down for a chat with me over at Women and Words.

You can catch that HERE.

And please do leave comments or questions for her. She’s more than willing to respond. Don’t be shy. I know, I know. NYT bestselling and all. But seriously. She’d love hearing from you.

Happy reading, happy writing!

The power of humor

Hi, folks.

I bring this up because I love humor. Especially the genuinely funny kind, that pokes fun not only at the world, but also at oneself. If you have the ability to laugh at yourself, you have the ability to change the world.

I say this because there’s a hilarious movement afoot over at Twitter. A rather mean-spirited personage over there was tweeting horrible and generally false things about a group of people. Which happens all the time, as you know. People say and do crazy crap on the interwebs on a daily basis, and get away with it all the time. But for whatever reasons, this time, somebody decided that the best way to deal with the mean-spiritedness was humor. Whoever that was got a whole bunch of other people to do the same. And they told a few people, and they told more people, and then before you know it, the mean-spirited hashtag became an absolutely hilarious celebration of the power of humor to derail nastiness.

Want to know more about it? Check here, here, and here.

So I thought I’d send you to some authors who have a similar kind of ribald, delicious, wonderful way of looking at the world. Because humor is generally subjective, and it can be a powerful tool in the right hands.

In no particular order, read Florida-based Carl Hiaasen. Start with his 1984 Tourist Season and go from there. His characters and dialogue will have you in stitches, and his sly grilling of the world in which we live only adds a delightful twist of the humor knife. Along those lines, Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series always has me laughing out loud at the antics of Jersey girl-turned-bounty-hunter Plum.

And for those of you who enjoy LGBT books, with strong and colorful LGBT characters, please do yourselves a favor and read Joan Opyr’s books. Idaho Code and From Hell to Breakfast are jaunts along the lines of the 1930s Thin Man series, with Nick and Nora Charles. Slapstick comedy, witty banter, mysteries, and very human musings from Opyr’s characters make this pair of books a must-read. And for another Opyr book, which contains elements of her amazing humor but in a completely different vein, catch her Shaken and Stirred.

And please do yourselves a favor and read Mari SanGiovanni. Greetings from Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer. I’ll sum it up thus: Large Italian family. Trip to Jamaica. Hijinks ensue. Need I say more? And the sequel’s out. Camptown Ladies, which I’ll sum up thus: Large Italian family. Sister buys a campground, hires sister as cook. Brother’s girlfriend is contractor who works on the camp. Hijinks completely ensue.

Laugh often. We could all use a bit more of that, yes?

Happy reading, happy writing, happy!

The productive writer…

is the writer who writes. I know, I know. You’re thinking: DUH. But there’s a lot that goes into writing, and putting your butt to the chair and clicking away at your keyboard doesn’t necessarily mean you’re productively writing.

I caught Ann Aguirre’s blog over at Writer Unboxed the other day, and dang, she’s right (or write, as the case may be).

She offered 5 productivity tips. I’ll paraphrase here:

1) Don’t multitask
2) Know your next scene
3) Writer’s block could indicate a problem
4) Set goals, be accountable
5) Turn off the interwebs

What does it all mean? Come with me, Grasshopper…

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Hi, folks–

I know, Thanksgiving has come and gone. But I’m one of those people who doesn’t really think about the historical context of Thanksgiving so much as the spirit of it, and the time to think about the winding down of the year and the things for which I’m grateful.

And that’s why I’m giving you this link to The Rumpus, and the amazing-ness of people offering their thoughts about what’s made them grateful. I guarantee, you will not be unmoved, whether by the stories themselves or the gorgeous prose that some of these people use to tell them.

Go. Read. And find within yourself that which makes you grateful.

Happy Monday, and many thanks to Kelley Eskridge for the link.

Yvonne “Miss Dixie” Fasnacht

Hi, all–

I came across this piece today via Twitter and The Advocate magazine. It’s a write-up by Dianne Anderson-Minshall about the death of Yvonne “Miss Dixie” Fasnacht, at the age of 101. I love stories like this, because I’m a history geek, but also because it’s characters like this that provide inspiration for writers like me.

Anderson-Minshall bills her as a legendary New Orleans gay bar owner. And it’s a great story. So read on…

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Sunday readin’ tip

Hey, folks–

Since it’s coming up on Halloween and some of you (myself included) like the dark, macabre edge of a good zombie movie or tale, I thought I’d direct you to this big-ass anthology of zombie short stories by some of the best writers in the horror/zombie biz, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Max Brooks, and Poppy Z. Brite. It’s called Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, edited by John Skipp, and it’s got you covered, regardless of whether you want funny/twisted, scary, creepy, weird…whatever. The link above is to Amazon, and you can check out the table of contents there.

source: Elliot Bay Book Company

TIP: I particularly enjoyed Robert Bloch’s “A Case of the Stubborns,” about a grandpa who dies but refuses to admit that he did.

32 stories here, and also some cool appendix materials about the origins of zombies and how they’ve infected pop culture. So for reals. Check this one out if you’re into zombies and short stories.

Happy reading!

Horror and apocalyptic Saturday! WOOO!

Hi, folks–

Skip on over to Women and Words if you haven’t already to catch my interview with horror/surreal writer Gina Ranalli. I call her a surrealist, too, because she seamlessly blends the macabre with comedy in a lot of her work, and the effect is a really cool juxtaposition of contrasting moods and emotions. Definitely give her a looksee. Here’s the link to that interview.

I had a dream last night that the world as we know it is going to end in September, 2015. WTF? I’m supposed to go to Milwaukee, according to my dream, because this is where I’ll be reasonably safe. I’m not sure what sort of apocalypse this entails, but there it is. Oh, and I’m supposed to introduce myself to the chief of police in Milwaukee so the force knows I’ll be coming.

source: Cafepress

Um…yeah. Milwaukee’s a great place, don’t get me wrong. Been there, too. Nice city. But as I’ve told people many times, in any kind of scary sort of apocalypse, it’s probably not a good idea to be near heavily populated areas, especially if it’s a zombie sort of meltdown because, as we all know by now, the more people, the more zombies. In other sorts of meltdowns, heavily populated areas will most likely become heavily lawless areas. I mean, think about it. People are going to be freaking out and trying to survive as best they can. And when that happens, in 2-3 days, all bets are off. So stay away from those urban areas. Even nice ones like Milwaukee.

In smaller communities (say, small towns) where most people know each other and it’s not a zombie kind of meltdown, you’ll probably have a better shot at staying put. Especially if you’re known in the community. That’s not always a guarantee — survival makes people go nutso — but you’ll probably have a better shot at weathering more storms in a smaller community like that than a larger. However, what people in smaller communities need to worry about is the so-called “outsiders” showing up. That is, people escaping larger cities and wandering around and ending up in smaller communities. Not all of them have bad intentions. But desperation makes for bad situations. This is pretty basic human behavior, kids. You cannot count on anything except yourself, pretty much, in a meltdown, and sadly, you cannot just trust that others aren’t going to do some crazy stuff in the midst of scary times. Bummer, I know.

Now, depending on how long the meltdown goes on, survivors will probably eventually empty the cities (leaving a few behind). At that juncture, you might be able to go into what once were heavily populated areas (if it’s not a zombie apocalypse) and scrounge for supplies or even set up housing for a while. But be aware that people, like animals, get a little territorial and that could prove a problem for you, the “outsider.” So always, always be cautious in your travels during a meltdown.

source: post-apocalyptic pictures

Something else to think about in a meltdown is that a situation like that invariably exacerbates existing ideological mindsets, layering them over levels of desperation and freak-out. So that guy who lives in the hills in his bunker railing about the government coming to get him? That’s only going to get worse in a meltdown, no matter what causes the meltdown. And, depending on the type of apocalypse (excluding zombie), you might see small groups of survivors forming new sorts of hierarchies in order to develop some semblance of control and order in a really out-of-control situation. I do not recommend dealing with groups like that. Remember, all rules are gone and all bets are off and groups like that will be making their own rules, regardless of how ethical they are. Think Lord of the Flies. But if that’s your thing — if you’re willing to do that for a sense of safety in numbers — good luck.

I’ll talk later about things you can learn now that’ll help you in a situation that — yikes — might be a major meltdown.

Comic book series proves to be awesome wine guide

So how groovy is this? A Japanese brother/sister duo has created a comic book series that includes a healthy dose of wine-ness! In other words, you’ll become somewhat of an oenophile from reading Japanese manga! Sweet! I’m late to the party, too. They’ve been at it since 2004. Not sure they’re readily available in English yet. You might need to search around. I’ve seen the cover in English, so perhaps I’m missing a link. 😀

The comic series, called The Drops of God, introduces readers to wine through the adventures of their characters. Tejal Rao tells us that

Brother-and-sister duo Shin and Yuko Kibayashi turn wine-writing into an adventure with their weekly comic, Drops of God. In their world, wine drinkers are either good or evil, depending on how they approach the divine juice, and blind tastings can pit brother against brother in an epic struggle to win the family fortune. It’s goofy, it’s thrilling, it’s educational, and it’s changing the entire industry and culture of wine in Japan and beyond.

So how does it work?

Rao says:

The hero, Shimizu, is a wine newbie who works as a beer rep for a Japanese drinks importer. When Shimizu’s famous wine-critic father dies and leaves behind a priceless collection, Shimizu must compete for his inheritance in a 12-part puzzle, which he plays against his adopted brother, a despicable young wine critic. Seriously, this is juicy stuff!
Source for both quotes: Gilttaste.com, article by Tejal Rao

High drama and fine wines. I am so there.

source: mydramalist.com

Happy reading, happy sipping!

Readin’ Tip (everything old is new again)

Hey, kids–

As some of you know, I read a ton of nonfiction in addition to fiction. I think it’s important to read widely and read often, across genres and across fiction and nonfiction. Not only if you’re a writer. Do it as a reader, as someone willing to expand boundaries.

At any rate, here’s another one of those nonfiction books that I found resonates even today. It’s called (in the spirit of those wonderfully wordy 19th-century titles) The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth, by journalist Matthew Algeo.

source: Powells

Why is this such a groovy read? Click on…

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