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Archive for September, 2012

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Lucky Number Seven – Noir At The Bar L.A. Strikes Again!

Do you know that we’ve had six Noir At The Bar events? SIX.

How the fuck did that happen? And why are you people letting us do it again?

For those of you who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Noir At The Bar is a reading event that Eric Beetner, Mystery Dawg (we can’t use his real name on account of he’s in witness protection) and I put together every couple of months where we have crime writers come into a bar and read their work to a bunch of drunks.

We’ve had kick-ass authors like Megan Abbott, Duane Swierczynski, Christa Faust, Eric Stone, Sara Gran, Denise Hamilton, Hilary Davidson, Lisa Brackman, Gary Phillips, and more. And we have the bookstore Mysterious Galaxy on hand to sell their books.

Seriously, we’ve had some really fucking impressive talent reading to a packed room full of drunk people in the last year.

And now comes number seven.

October 21st at The Mandrake Bar, ladies and gentlemen. Join us as we welcome Johnny Shaw (BIG MARIA), Owen Laukannen (THE PROFESSIONALS), Greg Bardsley (CASH OUT), Katherine Tomlinson (L.A. NOCTURNE), and Eric Beetner (A BOUQUET OF BULLETS).

Mark your calendars. Sunday, October 21st from 8:00pm to 10:00pm at The Mandrake Bar (2692 S La Cienega Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90034).

We get started around 9 so all y’all can get nice and toasted before we open our big, fat mouths at ya and we’ll have an intermission partway through for those of you with weak bladders.

If you’re in L.A. on October 21st, we’d love to see you out here. It’ll be a blast. It always is.

Number SEVEN. Jesus fuck how did that happen?

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As A Matter of Fact, We ARE All In This Together

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about success, and how you get to define it yourself. And that poked a little bit into this weird sort of competitiveness that some authors seem to be exhibiting.

Competition. I don’t like that word. Never have. It tastes like mud-covered pennies, feels brash and angry against my skin. Not that it’s a bad thing, it keeps our economic engines running, it drives us forward, makes us better, stronger, faster, bionic. Hell, it’s essential to survival.

I don’t have a problem with competition. I have a problem with when it brings out the worst in people.

More…

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Playing The Game You Want To Play

A couple things happened recently, one really, really good and the other laughably bad, that got me thinking.

The first was The Hugo awards held over the weekend at Worldcon. Fandom anointed a handful of people with a mark of favor that says “You do good work.”

The other was that an author who I don’t feel deserves the airtime so I won’t name him was caught not only writing positive reviews of his own work, a practice which has been popping up in the news quite a bit lately, but trashing other writers’ work in the process.

I think I understand where that’s coming from. I don’t agree with it but I understand it.  To some people a book is a product and nothing more. And that’s fine. If that’s how they want to see their work who am I to tell them differently?

Now, let’s be clear. All writers advertise their books. Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, at a signing, whatever. No one will read it if they don’t know about it (Case in point, DEAD THINGS is available for pre-order. Just sayin’). Looked at one way a book IS a product. But it’s more than that. And I think some people forget that bit.

The thing about seeing your work as just a product, like a can of beans or a new car, is that now you start seeing it as a thing to advertise and, this is the important part, to protect. It’s your business after all, right? It’s capitalism. Crush the competition! Grind them beneath your bootheel!

So, even though I don’t believe it’s a competition (more on that in a different blog post) I understand the thinking.  Which leads to people purchasing reviews, or writing their own, or trashing other people’s work.

It’s like watching a runner in a marathon who not only juices but drops caltrops behind him to slow down the competition. If he wins, it’s not because he’s a good runner.

So what do these two things have in common? The winning of the highest SF/F awards that fandom can bestow and the wild flailings of panicked authors on Amazon?

Success.

These are both a mark of, if not success, then the drive for it.

How do you define it? It’s different for everybody. Is success winning a Hugo? Is it making a lot of money? Being in bookstores? Getting a movie deal? Getting better reviews than the next guy?

My idea of success isn’t yours. Might look similar, but it’s not identical. And it changes. Yours probably does, too.

The thing about success is that you get to define it. No, really. I don’t care what your mom thinks when she asks why you’re still doing that writing thing when it’s not making you any money. Doesn’t matter when your uncle gives you shit about getting a “real” job.

Winning is up to you. This isn’t Monopoly where the rules are laid out and success is getting Park Place. Hell, even that doesn’t define winning.

I don’t play games to “win”. I play games to have fun. If those two things happen to coincide, great. But if I’m not having fun I’m walking away.

For me writing’s the same way.

How about you? Are you playing according to your rules or somebody else’s? Do you even know? A lot of us don’t.

Some of us are in it for the money. Some for the art. Some to tell stories or get famous. All of those are fine, by the way. This is your deal, not mine. How you define winning is entirely up to you.

Pick the game you want to play. Don’t let somebody else do it for you.

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Burning Chicago

LAX is like an 80-year-old whore who thinks she’s still got it with a wink and a smile and a mouth full of busted teeth. Its better days are behind it. The paint is peeling, its pipes exposed. Every time I go though it feels like looking at one of those Visible Man models plastered together with Elmer’s glue and monkey shit.

But it’s home and I’m here and I have survived Chicago.

Lovely town. Even the hobos are well dressed. They like their pizza heavy there. It anchors them, weighs them down with its cheezy heft. Reminds them of their mortality.

Worldcon was a blur of people I’ve known only online. It’s nice to put faces to people. So often when you meet someone you know in real life you realize that they’re not really the person you thought they were. This wasn’t the case here. Everyone was fantastic.

I roomed with Chuck Wendig (@chuckwendig) and his Eldritch Beard. It sang songs of madness in the dead of night, promising a lingering death and a world made of fire. A lovely fellow nonetheless and a great friend, even if his body is nothing but a meaty husk filled with sawdust and the despair of the souls he’s consumed.

Did a panel with him and author Adam Christopher (@ghostfinder), who is a snappy dresser in his Dalek cufflinks, on New Pulp (more on this later) that, though not nearly as profanity laden as I had hoped, was a lot of fun. Moderated a panel the first night on the intersection of crime and fantasy and flailed like a cockroach going down the drain (also more on this later).

Got to hang with some of the DAW crew. Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire), who WON A FUCKING HUGO AWARD (which will be the first of many, I’m sure) is, as always, wonderful, kind, and my kind of crazy. Diana Rowland (@dianarowland) has proven without a doubt that she can take me in a fight while I scream like a little girl. Jim Hines (@jimchines) is a fantastic man who I wish I could have spent more time talking to. And Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) who is both a wonderful human being and a remarkable writer.

Spent many hours talking to my editor at DAW, Betsy Wollheim who also WON A FUCKING HUGO AWARD (Best Longform Editor – Woooooo!!!). We talked books and THE FUTURE but mostly about New York, Hawaii, family and our dogs. Lots of fun. And makes me very glad that I am with DAW.

And there were a lot of Angry Robots! SO MANY ANGRY ROBOTS!! Who turned out to be neither robots, nor particularly angry. Much to my disappointment. Lee Harris (@LeeAHarris), Ramez Naam (@ramez), Anne Lyle (@AnneLyle), Kim Curran (@kimecurran) and Emma Newman (@EmApocalyptic), who I suspect will one day take over the world with her mad networking skillz. And many, many others.

Hung out with many cool Twitter peeps, like Matt Forbeck (@mforbeck), Laura Anne Gilman (@lagilman), Myke Cole (@mykecole), Kat Richardson (@katrchrdsn), Jennifer Brozek (@jenniferbrozek), Stacia Decker (@staciadecker) and Monica Velentinelli (@mlvalentine).

Seriously, it was like real-life Twitter. And every time I met someone new I wanted big Follow stickers I could plaster them with.

That or a Follow paintball gun. You know, for long-distance.

All told it was a hell of a ride. I didn’t get a chance to mingle as much as I would have liked, but I got out of it what I went there to get. Meet some people, talk to my editor, see what all the fuss is about. Fandom is a weird and wonderful thing and I’m glad I had the chance to be a part of it.

Thank you Chicago for letting me sully your streets and hang out in your concrete mazes. Don’t worry about that string of grisly serial killings. I’m pretty sure you won’t have that problem for a while.