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New kid here

This is completely bizarre because I'm staring at a computer screen, not a person, but right now I'm feeling nervous because I'm about to introduce myself to a stranger. 

Hi.

My name is Kevin Hearne, and I'm a high school English teacher. There isn't much I like more than a good read—the kind with characters that homestead in your brain and live there happily ever after. Once I'm through with a great book, I'm always grateful to the authors for creating a wonderful place to visit. I've visited Pern an awful lot; I've been to Dune quite a few times; and I've also enjoyed taking trips to Hogwarts with my daughter.

I got the writing bug myself waaaay back in college. Kind of wrote on and off for many years, but I finally surprised myself and completed a novel once it was clear we weren't all going to die from the Y2K bug. :) That book was (and is) an unsalvageable mess, but it taught me the all-important lesson that I could write a book and still keep a day job. So I wrote another one. It was better, but still not ready for prime time. While that was out on submission, I wrote a third novel. It was an urban fantasy about an ancient Druid—the last of the real Druids, in fact—hiding out in modern-day Arizona. That book got picked up by Del Rey, along with a couple of sequels (insert Ode to Joy here!), and all three will be published back to back this year, starting April 19 with Hounded. Here's the cover—what do you think?

If you're at all like me, then you're thinking this guy on the cover looks unspeakably cool and you'd like to know more about him. I have several ways for you to do just that for the low, low price of FREE. First, there's a free short story on my website that takes place ten months before the events of Hounded. Second, you can enter a contest to win a signed Advance Reader Edition of Hounded until January 15, simply by stopping by my blog and commenting. Third, on this particular page of my website you can see all three books and find out about each of them by clicking on the covers. The series follows the adventures of 2,100-year-old Atticus O'Sullivan, an ancient Druid who's mastered cold iron. As a result, he has plenty of enemies among the Fae, but he also has some unlikely allies—some fanged, and some furred.

Book two in The Iron Druid Chronicles is called Hexed, coming out May 24, and book three is Hammered, coming out June 28.

I'd love to hear from you anytime—I'm on Twitter (@kevinhearne), I have a Facebook page, and you can always reach me on my blog. (Fair warning, though: I often let my geek flag fly.) Easiest of all, comment below! And thanks for making this such a cool community—I'm honored to be a part of it!
One again the holidays approach and soon they will be kicking us swiftly in our fruit cake and before you know it we will be hurrying on into the new year.

But for four magical weeks, my Grinchlike heart grows three sizes, they say, and I get giddy with holiday love.  So now is the season for giving and getting, I'm all sentimentally commercial like that, and to that end I extend an offer to you up through the holidays.

If you plan on giving any of my books as a gift this next month, email me at anton.strout@gmail.com and I will send a holiday-themed bookplate to go along with your gift giving.  Aside from a personal bit of written rambling from me, I am also quite prone to drawing some pretty mean snowmen, reindeer, candy canes, what have you.... as long as it's in the US of A.  Sorry, both of my international fans!

Please spread the word to those you might think want to give the gift of ME and my Simon Canderous urban fantasy series for the holidays. Retweet and Facebook it at will.

Four weeks(ish) to go!  Happy holidays, all!

Hello mister tall, dark, and terrifying

(Blog X-posted)
October is moving right along which means creepy costumes and sugar highs are just around the corner. Or is that just my plan? Surely not.

Halloween is nearly here, and it's a good time for the things that go bump in the night. Many creatures which once would have been relegated to horror stories and movies are now featured as heroes and romantic leads, but let's forget them for a moment and talk of the terrifying.

What flavor do you prefer your horror stories/movies? Do you like an oppressive atmosphere that keeps your shoulders hitched as you wait for the worst? Do you like the monster you never quite see so he's worsened by your imagination? Perhaps your horror preference is the gore and the gritty details. Or maybe the psychological horror tale that worms itself into the back your mind and then begins to twist. Or perhaps your horror tastes lean toward the destruction of all hope in the face of insurmountable and unstoppable odds? (Zombie Apocalypse anyone?)

From the ghost story to the slasher film, horror is a genre with many faces and many elements. Which work for you? Do you laugh off a scary tale, or do you sleep with the lights on after a good horror flick?  It's the month for spooky stories and frightening monsters, so please share your favorite horror movies and books! (We could all use a good scare, right?)

The People who influence you

(This post x-posted from the Grave Witch Release Party going on now on my Blog)

As previously mentioned, I just returned from Dragon*Con, the largest Sci-Fi/Fantasy Con in the South East. The guest list for Dragon is always impressive. Big name TV/movie stars, best selling authors, and some of the best underground musicians are pretty much par for the course. Lines for events are sometimes blocks long and many rooms fill to capacity (and beyond, though then the fire marshals tend get rather irate). You'd pretty much have to be living under a rock (or, I guess, just not be a geek) to have never heard of at least a few of the guests. Whatever your particular flavor of geekdom, there is probably someone there that you're dying to hear speak and maybe get a signature and a photo. I'd almost guarantee that there is a guest in attendance whose work you respect greatly, and maybe there is someone whose work has influenced or inspired you.



This Dragon*Con, I had the opportunity to see one of those people who influenced and inspired me. And not only see her, but to talk to briefly and get a picture with said influential person. Who was this person? Well, you might have already recognized her from the photo, but for those of you who didn't, the person I'm referring to is Laurell K Hamilton, the author of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and one of the forerunners of the Urban Fantasy genre as it exists today.  (NOTE: I know there is a lot of fan controversy about this series, but this blog post is not about that, so please keep comments positive and on topic.)

I discovered LKH and the Anita series when I was fourteen (this was in the mid-nineties, so the series wasn't yet highly inappropriate for a fourteen year old to read--well, unless you object to violence and language, I guess) and before discovering LKH, I was strictly a high fantasy girl. Oh, I'd read gothic paranormal novels like Dracula and Frankenstein (which were pretty much UF for their day) and I'd read Ann Rice's Vampire Chronicles, but nothing inspired a hunger for more of the genre in me like LKH's books did.

Of course, there really wasn't much more of the genre out there at the time.

P N Elrod's Vampire Files and Tanya Huff's Blood Books were on shelves, but that was about the extent of the genre that would eventually be called Urban Fantasy (and is even now mutating to a new name). Buffy didn't start airing until a year or two after I started reading LKH (and I actually didn't see any of it until years later when my college roommate decided it was all but blasphemous that I hadn't seen Buffy and arranged several marathon viewings.)  The show Forever Knight (which I was a huge fan of and is probably another influencing force behind me writing UF) had come and gone, but as far as I could find as a fourteen year old, that was the extent of the genre.

I was dabbling in writing by that point, but only high fantasy. In fact, prior to finding the Anita books (and I received the first three by mistake from the Sci-Fi Fantasy Bookclub--I wouldn't have picked them up on my own) I would have told you I wasn't interested in any book set in contemporary times. Give me castles and dragons--technology as advanced as a car or wrist watch was a deal breaker. Then I devoured the first few Anita Blake books and I was hooked. I wanted more, and it wasn't out there.

So I started writing my own.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I didn't stop writing high fantasy at that point. In fact, I still focused primarily on high fantasy until I finished college. (And like those high fantasy novels, I didn't finish any of my early UF stories.) I didn't begin focusing on UF until nearly a decade later when I wrote the novel which eventually became Once Bitten, and by that point, other UF giants such as Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, and Kim Harrison were already established.

But if I had to point to one single influential writer who hooked me on the genre, that writer would be Laurell K Hamilton.

I saw LKH at Dragon two years ago and attended almost every one of her panels (including one memorable panel where I thought she was about to throw down with one of the romance writers), but at that time I couldn't work up the nerve to talk to her. This year I saw her on several panels and even passed her in the halls a couple times, but I was too afraid I'd make a fool of myself to approach her.  Then, on the very last day of Dragon, probably two hours before I left, I saw her in the hall and finally worked up the nerve to talk to her. (Or maybe it wasn't nerve. I'd literally just walked out from giving blood when I spotted her and was a little light headed so 'just go for it' sounded plausible.)

I asked if I could get a picture with her, and told her that her books had inspired me to write and that I have an UF book (Grave Witch) being released from Roc next month. Then I gave her a very nervous hug and ran away, even more light headed--either from blood loss or nerves. I hope I didn't scare her and come off as a crazy fan girl, but how do you act and what do you say to someone whose work influenced you (especially during those formidable teenage years)? 


So, here is my question for you: Who has influenced and inspired you and how? (In any aspect of your life.) What would you say to them if you had a chance to meet them? Or, have you met that person? What did you do/say?
As  you know, I'm a giver and a sharer, so I thought I'd pass along the cover for book four in my Simon Canderous urban fantasy series, which we all have a long wait for as it's out on 2/22/11. 

Please note that he has a retractable steel baton in his hand, and not a giant glowing silver pen as I first thought.  Although I'm sure stabbing a werewolf through the eye with a silver pen would work in a pinch.  Enjoy!

Haunted by My First Love

There’s something about your first love that seems to haunt you for life. It’s the first time that you let yourself completely go. You open your heart and soul in such a way that you are completely vulnerable and exposed for the first time in your life. There is a sweet, once-in-a-lifetime naivety to it that will never come again that you will look back on with a wistful smile of different times.

After that first love is broken and lost, you go through life with more experience. You love again, but almost never with that same selfless abandon. You never fly quite as high again and you never trust again with the same overwhelming blindness.

There are so many things about my past that have become blurry with time, but I remember my first love with a startling, frightening clarity. I remember the first meeting with absolute confidence. I can recall his smile, his smell, the color of his eyes, the touch of his hand, and the gentleness of that first kiss. I don’t look back with regret, but with a sad smile of a lost, perfect moment in time that will never happen again.

I’ve loved again, but the intensity has always been different. The lightning bolt is gone, replaced with a slow, gradual burn. The new loves are not less in value, only different.

For me, that first love extends to books as well as men.

Last night, I revisited the first book that I ever wrote. It is an epic fantasy novel that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I started writing it when I was a freshman in high school. I have extensive notes, maps, and character lists to keep track of all the details. Amazingly, it’s as long as any of my Dark Days novels and if not more complex in its storytelling.

I sat in the dark in my office last night, lit only by my computer screen, staring at the start of that book. I told a friend about the plotline of not only the first book, but the second book, which is more than half written. As I spoke, I recalled how much I loved this book and these characters. It was the same selfless, blind abandon of a first love. There were no worries about rejection or failure. There was only the story and me.

Time passed and I wrote other stories. I moved on to urban fantasy after I was filled with fears that the epic fantasy wasn’t original enough. I got published with the Dark Days series, but I never forgot about my first love. I envy now those early days of reckless abandon behind a keyboard without deadlines and editors.

Most of the time, you can’t go back to that first love. It’s lost to life and time and experience. But I plan to go back to this epic fantasy one day. I will have a wealth of experience to bring to it and stronger storytelling skills that will only help her. However, despite my new view and knowledge of writing, I will say that the one thing that hasn’t changed is my love of this story. The electricity is still there. That first kiss. Those startling blue eyes and crooked, unsure smile.

First loves leaves us, but they almost always help define us.

The what and the why


Posting this a bit early because I will be in LA all day tomorrow.

 
I’ve had my head down, writing a series since the day before my birthday in 2006, when I sold the first three DEAD IS books on proposal. During that time, my agent also sold two stand-alone contemporary yas, one finished and one on proposal. After the first DEAD IS book was released, the publisher signed up for two more books in the series.

Fast forward to 2010 and I just turned in the last book in the series, DEAD IS NOT AN OPTION, which will be out in the spring of 2011. During that time, I wrote six books and will have had a total of seven novels released. I know that many writers have had periods of even greater productivity, but my husband and I also added twins to that equation. I’ve always had an exquisite sense of timing.

So the past few years have been busy, but now, suddenly, it is less so. It’s not like I have found an extra twenty-four hours in a day or anything, but I do not have a contracted manuscript, or a deadline, or any requirement to write. It’s just me and a blank page and I’m a little bit lost.

What do I do now? Ideas come fast and furiously, but as fast as they arrive, I tire of them. What would you do? I have written over fifty thousand words this summer, which would equal a nicely sized first draft. Unfortunately, those words belong to four separate novels and even more unfortunately, I’m still continuing to write two of those manuscripts at the same time.

Do I sound confused? I AM confused. I keep hoping that a little voice will kick in and say “THIS is the manuscript you should be writing.” Instead, my little voice inundates me with ideas, each one more tempting than the last.

Has this ever happened to you before? Can it work? I’ve worked on different stages of two manuscripts before. For example, a first draft of one and copy-edits on another, but never two first drafts at the same time.  How do you decide what manuscript to work on when?

It's my birthday and I'm in Peru

Please excuse this message going up early. As of late on the 26th, I'll be in Peru and won't have internet access to do this post in the morning. So let's pretend it's my birthday. I think maybe it actually is in Australia, so there you go. I think this is the most exciting thing I've done for my birthday, this trip to Peru.

When I'm writing, I do my best to visit every location I write about. Sometimes it's not possible and so the internet helps a lot. But when I wrote about Catemaco in SHADY LADY, I totally went there on vacation. It was fabulous and really allowed me to enrich the setting. Oddly enough, SHADY LADY also has some scenes in Peru, so I will be taking good notes while I'm there. That way, when I get copyedits, I can add specific writer-observed details. I'm really excited about being to do that with all of the third Corine book. And we'll be taking a research trip to the UK in 2011, so I can write the fifth book, which is set in England. (Yes, you get to meet Booke at last.) The fourth book will involve some travel in Mexico, and I'll be exploring, as much as is reasonable, the deepest caves in North America. That novel could easily be entitled CORINE GOES TO HELL, but that doesn't fit the "tequila cocktail" title format, and so I'm calling it DEVIL'S PUNCH. (You may have seen the notice about the sale for the next two Corine books on PM. I was very stoked.) The fifth one, while I'm giving titles, is tentatively named BLOODY MARIA. And yes, there's a reason for that; it involves Ian Booke. I think y'all are going to be quite delighted and surprised when you find out what his deal is. In 2013. I know. I'm sorry.

So anyway, back to the subject of research trips. How do y'all like to handle it? Book research, net, or do you like to go and take your own notes? To make it interesting and open the discussion to non-writers, I'll also add this question: What place is at the top of your must-visit list? Machu Picchu was high up there for me and I will be there this weekend! Random commenter wins any book in my list; if the one you want's not out yet, I'll preorder it for you. I'll check back on this post next week and name a winner. Happy b-day to me! (and you).

Lesson Learned--A convention story

(Still buried under deadlines, so this is x-posted. By the way, before I get started, I currently have a contest on my personal blog and one of the things the winner will receive is a sampler from Ace/Roc which includes several FF&F authors. Check out the details HERE. )

While I've attended conferences and conventions for nearly a decade, this year marked the change from attendee to guest, from audience member to panelist. In the years and years I sat on the other side of the table, listening intently to the writers on the panel, I picked up on a lot of things I didn't realize I was learning at the time, and which the authors probably didn't know they were teaching. As I sat there, hoping to learn some secret of craft or business that would help me reach that golden goal of getting published, I was also subconsciously learning what I, as an audience member, responded to. That information became invaluable this year.

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Monster of the Moment

(I'm buried under deadlines at the moment, so this post is  cross posted.)

Several of my writer friends recently returned from the RWA National conference. I've never personally been to the conference, but from what people tell me the con is an amazing place not only to learn about craft, but to check the pulse of the writing business. Most major publishers and dozens of top notch agents attend every year. Trends in publishing inevitably come up at the conference and the RWA loops are always buzzing with what was said once the conference ends.

What's hot? What's selling? What's out and overdone?



This year Donald Maass (from Donald Maass Literary Agency) was quoted as saying that Vampires were dead (again). In contrast, the editors on the Pocket Books spotlight said that there is something timeless about vampires. The trend they think is out? Fallen Angels. (I didn't know fallen angels were in. I can only think of one or two books with fallen angels. Anyone want to recommend some as I apparently missed the trend?)



I haven't heard yet what is supposed to be the next 'hot' monster this year. (BTW, I'm using 'monster' as a catch all phrase here. It could mean traditional horror monster, or much more human or non-monstrous beings.) I know a couple years back the hot monster was demons, but I've heard mumbles since then that agents and editors have seen too many demons.

When I first started shopping Once Bitten back in 2005/2006, I was told vampires were done. No one wanted any book that touched on vampires. Then Stephanie Myers happened, and regardless of your opinion on her books, it is an undeniable fact that vamps were suddenly in high demand again. Now? Well, I refer you back to the earlier paragraph about Maass and Pocket.



Trends in publishing come and go. Monsters become 'hot' and then get overdone or simply fall out of favor. I don't think any monster will every completely fall away--we love our monsters too much. Our interest in monsters does tend to ebb and flow though.

So let me ask you, what is your monster of the moment? What is the monster you currently can't get enough of? Or what is a monster you haven't seen in a while that you'd love to read about? No monster bashing please! Just talk about monsters you want to see more of, not less.

(Images in this post from the following movies: Interview with a Vampire, Constantine, and Pan's Labyrinth)

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