A few of my favorite things . . . from Ireland and England

A month long trip to Ireland and England and the most asked question since we returned to family and friends in the states is this: What was your favorite part? I’ve answered it differently, by simply throwing out whatever first comes to mind like a word association. 
What was your favorite part of the trip?
The Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. 
  
One of the many waterfalls we saw in Glendalough, in the Wicklow Mountains.
What was your favorite part?
Writing in Dublin. (I wrote better there than anywhere else.)
What was your favorite?
Introducing Spike and Genevieve to pate in Dublin. They have dubbed it smooth, creamy, spreadable meat butter. 
Your favorite?
Eating at Gordon Ramsey’s flagship restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, in London. It has three Michelin stars and now I know why. An amazing experience and will likely get a blog of its own later.
Favorite?
British Museum. Jonathon summed it up, “Every little emperor’s dream of avarice.” It was beyond amazing. It will also be getting it’s own blog later.
Fav?
Glastonbury Abbey, where the calling of crows led me to my first ever badger sett hidden under a huge oak tree. It turns out I followed the birds in the wrong end of the path. If I’d come in the proper way there was a sign to tell me the badgers were there, but honestly I prefer having found it the way I did. I followed the birds trying to see what they were fussing about, and then suddenly, badgers! I often find the most magical moments are the unplanned ones. 
?
That moment when I stood in a town I’d never known about, at a ruin I’d never heard about, and knew that my muse had been right. This was the place to put the monster. My imagination had whispered the name of this place to me when, to my knowledge, I had never known it even existed. I haven’t had that happen since the ninth Anita Blake novel, Obsidian Butterfly, when Edward insisted he lived in New Mexico, even though I’d never visited the state. I remember arguing with him, “I created you, how can you live somewhere I know nothing about?” I lost that argument, because he was absolutely right and I knew it the moment I stepped off the plane in Albuquerque. He still lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ireland took me longer to get my research feet under me, and I’ll be blogging in more detail about that process later, but once I got into the swing of things it was like that moment in New Mexico – this was it. I know where the monster is, where the bodies are buried, where the crime will happen, and who Anita follows to Ireland.  
Are the above really my favorite moments of the trip? Yes and no. They are some of my favorite moments, but not all of them. I’ll be blogging about more highlights and moments of inspiration, craziness, research, and sheer happy accidents over the next few weeks, but this gives you a taste of the trip. Yes, I have been deliberately vague about where the Irish book, as I called it for a long time, is set, because I’m not ready to share exact locations yet. I have a book to finish writing and it feels like if I give too much detail now on the blog that it will derail some of the energy that is driving the book forward. I need to be immersed in the fictional version of the town, countryside, ruins, etc . . . before I discuss the reality too much. In fact, I have pages yet to write today, a scene to complete, a fight to finish, but first, the reality of dogs and breakfast for them and myself and then back to my fictional world where dogs never interrupt and breakfast rarely seems to happen.

Ireland Here We Come!

Blog – Irish trip & research

I wrote this blog before we left for research, but security issues being what they are, I’m going to be posting some of the blogs out of order. It’s a shame a few bad apples spoil things, but there it is.

I’m sitting in my office, just after dawn. The sky is still all light and shining with the blue color only now fighting its way through all that LIGHT! The air feels cool and calm, the day stretching ahead full of promise and possibilities, and yet . . . but . . . There’s always an, and yet, or a but, or so it seems of late.
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We are supposed to be getting on a plane for Ireland today, yes you read that right. We are headed to the Emerald Isle. We’ll see you all in London in August, but we’re leaving early for research. The book I’m currently working on is mostly set in Ireland, and because I’ve never, ever been there I’d put off this story for years. Wait, I kept telling it, and it waited. Don’t push, I said, and it didn’t push. Other ideas pushed hard and fast and paid no attention to my orders, or my requests, or even my pleading with them, because they were ready to be born, so I wrote them as they clamored to be written. Story ideas for me are like baby birds in a nest, the loudest voice and tallest held mouth gets the worm, and will fledge first, but unlike real life where the tiniest nestling can starve and die while it’s bolder siblings thrive, ideas don’t die for me. They live, they wait, and they bide their time. 
This book has found it’s time. It’s eager, excited, demanding to be written, and the damn thing is set in Ireland. It’s set in a specific part of the country that I have never seen or even read about before the book decided it was set mostly there. I’ve only had this happen once before and that was with my book, Obsidian Butterfly. It is set in New Mexico, which I’d never visited. My character, Edward, insisted that he lived in New Mexico. In fact he insisted he lived somewhere between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I argued with him. “You’re a fictional character. I made you up. You cannot possibly live in a place that I’ve never seen or even read about. You’re part of me, how can you go some place I’ve never been?”
When I stepped off the plane in New Mexico and saw those low, black mountains, that desolate, near alien landscape, I said, “Well, son of a bitch, you do live here.”
I have no idea how Edward, alias U. S. Marshal Ted Forrester, decided he lived in a place I’d never seen or read much about. He’s always been a character that went off on his own, and then would come back and tell me what he was doing, and some of what he had done. He keeps his secrets, even from me. Which is a very peculiar feeling for a writer, since I’m supposed to be making him up as I go, but somehow he has enough life of his own that he tells me what he’s doing, and surprises the hell out of me, a lot. 
I should have known that Edward would be in a book that was insisting on being set in a part of the world I had never seen. I can’t say I haven’t read much about Ireland, because I have been a serious lover of this section of the world for a long time. I’ve read the myths and folklore of Ireland, Scotland, England, and though I know they are part of England now, Cornwall, Wales, and almost every part of these myth-ridden islands. I was a serious Anglophile in my teens and dreamed of visiting all of it someday, though I don’t think I ever believed I’d manage it. Traveling to such far off places was for other people, not for girls living in the middle of farm country, raised below poverty level, so it turned out. I knew we didn’t have money, but I never felt poor in the sense that the word, “poverty”, makes me think. I never felt impoverished, I just knew we didn’t have money. I’m not sure anyone I ever knew as a young child ever traveled out of the country for anything except military service.
I’ve been to England twice. I’ve seen Rome and Milan in Italy. I’ve been to Paris and found it as romantic as advertised, which I didn’t think possible. Admittedly, I was with Jonathon and almost anywhere I go with him is romantic. But we both really enjoyed Paris and look forward to going back and taking Genevieve and Spike with us. I could live for a few months in Rome, or Paris, but strangely didn’t enjoy London all that much. What captured me in England was the countryside. Glastonbury, Avebury, and all the Salisbury Plain area spoke to our heart.
The closest we came to Ireland on that trip was seeing it from the air. I remember thinking, wow, it’s so green. This time we get to see all that verdant green in person. I’m so excited, and a little intimidated. First by the flight, because I’m terrified of flying, and second, by trying to write about a country I’ve never seen before. There’s always a pressure to get it right on paper. I’ve already started making contacts with people I need to help me with researching the book I’m writing, the book you’ll read next summer, and research in England for a book after that. Though both of these books are Anita Blake books, I’ve also had Merry Gentry whispering around in my head, or rather other characters from her books. Merry is silent, content with her new babies and trying to find happiness after grief. But her world is moving around in my head as I look over the books on Ireland that I used for research in her stories. This trip might make the Merry fans get the next story sooner, might, I don’t know yet. All I know for certain is the two books I am absolutely researching while I travel across the pond. 

London Here I Come!

My first signing in England will be August 7, at Forbidden Planet in London from 1700-1900. See you all there! 

 

London , here I come

 
I will also be appearing at Nine Worlds on August 8 in London.  

 Saturday 8 August.  

  • 15.00- 16.00 – Kaaffeklatch
  • 17.00-18.15 – “The dead will rise again” (Resurgence of Gothic Literature)
  • 18.30 – 19.30 – Book signing
  • 20:30-21.45 – “The F-Word in Fantasy” (Sex in Fantasy)

So for all you fans that have been asking, “When will you do a signing in Europe?” These events are for you, so come out and see me, because I’m finally here and I don’t know when I’ll be back. 

Father’s Day 2015

​The photo with this blog is of my husband, Jonathon, and our daughter, Trinity. Sometimes I forget how very small she was when I divorced and was suddenly dating again. Jonathon was the only boyfriend I ever introduced her to, because he was the only one I was ever serious about. I think we married within a year of this picture. My second, his first, and he became a stepdad before he was ever a dad. He became Daddy-Jon because Trinity wanted a way to keep her two dads separate when she talked about them, so it was Daddy-Jon and Daddy-G. Trinity truly feels she has two fathers, and Jon felt that he had a great kid and there was no need for a second one, because biology doesn’t make you a dad. Being there daily makes you a dad. Jonathon watched the Barbie Nutcracker movie twelve times in a row when Trinity had the flu once. Only a parent does that for his sick kid. He taught her how to fence using boffer weapons so that she was so deadly in stage combat at drama camp that she had to bow out. “The other girl just kept dropping her guard, mom, I couldn’t help myself.” A dad is the person who comes limping in with the limping child after that infamous bicycle riding lesson. A dad is all that and so much more.

  
It is through watching first my ex, and then Jonathon, with Trinity that I began to understand what a father does because I never had one of my own. I was a fatherless child, and by age six I was a motherless one, too. My grandmother raised me without any men around the house, so I had no clue what a father, or a husband for that matter, was supposed to do. I always felt very left out on this holiday as a child. I think it was one of the reasons I worked hard to make sure my ex stayed invested in Trinity’s life, so that she had two dads where I’d had none. The three of us even went to parent-teacher conferences for Trinity. There was no fighting amongst us at school events, because my ex-husband and I both agreed that our daughter didn’t divorce anyone, that was us, so we vowed never to bad mouth each other in front of her and to act like civilized grownups at school functions or anything that involved our child. I am happy to say that with almost no exceptions we accomplished that. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it for our kid? Yes.
Trinity is twenty now, but she still has two dads for Father’s Day. I’ve now watched dear friends dance with their fathers at their weddings, and thanks to Genevieve and her father, I’m learning that even when you’re very grownup, a dad is still important to a daughter. Thanks to Jonathon and Spike I’m learning about sons and fathers, too. A dad is someone you can turn to for advice, someone you just want to keep involved in your life, because you love them.
People keep asking me why I haven’t shown my fictional character Anita Blake on stage with her dad, and the honest answer is because I didn’t know what a dad was for, or how a grown child interacts with one. I would take my character Jason back to visit his father in Blood Noir, but that father was dying of cancer and their relationship was strained at best, so it didn’t really force me to show a healthy father/child relationship. Then in Affliction we went back home with Micah and it was his father who was dying in the hospital of a mysterious disease. Micah loved his father, but the dad spent most of the book unconscious, so I didn’t have to deal with it on stage much. It would take me a year after I wrote Affliction and had fans complaining that I had another father in hospital like Jason’s father, before I both realized that it was similar and understood why I’d done it. The short answer is that I don’t know what a father is for, and I certainly don’t know what a healthy father/daughter relationship is supposed to be. I realize now that is why Anita’s family has never been on stage. I don’t know what a family is for like that, not a dad-mom-sibling kind of family, because I never had one of those. Maybe as Trinity gets older, I’ll understand it more. Maybe watching Jonathon, Spike, and Genevieve interact with their families as adults will help me understand what it’s supposed to be like to be a grown woman that still has a relationship with their family of birth – the family that raised them.

Zombie Day! 

​It’s zombie day! No, it’s not a new book, it’s the first day after tour. It was great seeing all of you across the country for the Dead Ice Tour! You guys let me know just how excited you were to have the newest Anita Blake novel in your hands, and that was a lot of excitement! I loved answering your questions in Atlanta, New York, Houston, Dayton, and Lexington. You asked for me to tour some cities we hadn’t done in a few years, so I talked to my publisher and we did it! You guys came out in amazing numbers in every city, and we took selfies so you could see yourselves being awesome! (Okay, I forgot to take a selfie in a couple of cities; my bad.) But thank you for showing us so much positive energy! Thank you for loving Anita and all the rest of my imaginary friends so much!
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​But no matter how wonderful the tour was, there is always a zombie day after we get back. What is a zombie day? It’s a day after some major event like finals week, or finishing that huge project at work, or typing, ‘The End’ of a novel, or coming home from tour. Shorter tours are easier to recover from but no matter what there is always a day when I stare off into space at nothing in particular, can’t concentrate worth a damn, and am more tired than I thought possible outside of the first few weeks of a newborn baby coming home. All important decisions should wait until this phase of post-tour recovery is past, trust me on that one. Sometimes I try to ignore zombie day and muscle through, or at least try to ignore it, but I’ve learned that’s a mistake, so now I just let myself be as exhausted as I actually feel.
​The best use of zombie day is to sleep in, maybe take a hot bath, and a hot tub is a bonus, drink lots of water and juice, take more Airborne and Emergen-C, and rest. Now, add that Jonathon and I both usually catch some bug on tour, so we’re actually sick on top of it all . . . and the only thing to do is nothing much. Dozing on the couch covered in sleeping dogs with a movie I’ve seen before playing as background noise is one of my favorite things to do when I’m this tired and sick. I usually do mysteries for the videos, but today a David Suchet Poroit, “Five Little Pigs,” actually had me crying, even though I’ve seen and loved the movie a dozen times. (Did I mention I can be a very emotional zombie on zombie day?) I needed a true feel good movie, so “Despicable Me” fit the bill. “Despicable Me 2″ is currently playing, because it’s one of the few sequels that’s just as fun as the original.
​I’m still occasionally trying to cough up a lung, but I’m feeling a little bit better than last night when I got off the plane. Happily, I didn’t catch whatever this is until after I hugged the last fan, shook the last hand, and answered the last question. So, whoever shared more than a hug with Jonathon and me, I hope you’re feeling better today, too. A lot of you asked why I’m not doing more cities, and the answer is simple: the longer the tour the more zombie days at the end of it. Shorter tours mean I can be back to writing pages on the next book, and that’s what all of you wanted the most on tour – the next-next book.

Dead Ice: Anita Blake

This is the last blog before Dead Ice hits the shelves here in America, you lucky fans in the U.K. already have your copy, but on this side of the pond we’re still waiting and in anticipation of that wait here is Anita. Because if there’s just one more blog left before the pub date, it’s got to be Anita.

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Question: How did you come up with the character of Anita?

Answer: The summer after college I read my first hard-boiled detective fiction, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, Sue Grafton, Sara Paratesky, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett. I’m sure there were other male writers in the genre I read that year, but that’s the list that sticks out in my mind. What stood out in my mind then was that the male detectives got to cuss, have sex, and shoot people pretty much without remorse. The female detectives rarely cursed, sex was either nonexistent or sanitized and off stage, and if they had to shoot someone they had to feel really, really bad about it. The difference between the two hard-boiled genders was so unbalanced that it pissed me off, and out of that anger I decided to create a female detective that could even the playing field. At the same time I read a short story with zombies in it, several articles on real life voodoo as a religion, one on Sanataria, and . . . the idea that Anita would be more than an ordinary detective began to take shape.
Secrets to Share: In retrospect I may have done a bit more than just evened the playing field, but then if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing? *grins* The seed that would eventually become Anita Blake, and spawn a #1 New York Times Bestselling series, began with that sense of outrage at the gender inequality in hard-boiled detective fiction. If I’d stayed with that original idea then I would have tried to sell a seriously violent detective series with a hard talking and sexy female detective, and respected editors in the mystery genre have told me that they love Anita Blake, but the series would never have sold if it had been straight mystery. We may have come a long way, baby, but apparently mainstream mystery hasn’t come far enough to have a female detective that can play as hard as the men. In fact, Anita gets to play harder than most of the men in the plain mystery section. If I hadn’t read the pieces about voodoo and zombies at nearly the same time as the mysteries, then I don’t know if I would have thought to have Anita raise the dead for a living. Adding the horror genre to the mystery was what allowed me to be as violent as the crimes Anita was investigating needed to be; and horror also lets women fight back right alongside the men, more even than mystery.
The zombies came from reading the right things at the perfect time, but I’d already decided to put the supernatural in the series because I thought I’d get bored with just straight mystery. I read a lot of mystery series after those initial ones, not just hard-boiled, but cozy, and everything in between the two. What I found was that most writers seemed to get bored with their series between book five and eight. You could watch them fall out of love with their characters and their worlds. Some authors rallied and were able to find renewed energy and fall back in love with their series, and some were selling too well to stop so they struggled on for more books, but the lack of joy in their work showed through on the page. I decided I’d give myself enough toys so I would never grow bored. I’d read fantasy and horror most of my reading life and I loved old horror movies, especially the old Hammer vampires films. I’d watched them as a child on the late night creature feature show and been enthralled. I’d read all the real life ghost stories and folklore that I could get my hands on from the time I could read, so I decided I wanted a world where everything that went bump in the night was real. More than that though, I wanted it to be modern day as if we went to bed one night and got up the next day with all the monsters being real and everyone knew about them. I wanted to see modern day America have to deal with vampires, zombies, and shapeshifters as a reality, not as a rumor or a ghost story, but real. I wanted to mix the fantastic with the mundane in a serious way and see what happened. That was one of the main things that interested me at the beginning and is still one of my favorite things to write about today.
The fact that I then added relationship tropes to the series just helped me push the writing in any direction the story took me.

Question: Will we ever meet Anita’s family on stage in a book?

Answer: I think so.
Secrets to Share:
I actually wrote the first chapter and planned the mystery plot for a book where Anita goes home for Thanksgiving. The original idea was she would take Richard to meet her family, but by the time I sat down to write the first chapter it was Micah and Nathaniel. Why not Jean-Claude? First, vampires don’t travel as well by car, and that was the original plan. Second, Grandma Blake is crazy religious and prays for Anita’s soul because she’s sleeping with a vampire. We don’t trust her not to do something like open a window so sunlight hits Jean-Claude. The original idea was that Anita would stay in the house she grew up in, like most of us do when we go home for the holidays. Nothing like being surrounded by family and staying in your old room to throw you back into old childhood mindsets. Not sure how much of the plot would change, but every time I try to make it the next book it just doesn’t work. My muse and I aren’t ready, or maybe Anita isn’t ready.

Question: Is Anita you?

Answer: No.
Secrets to Share:
I made Anita my size, because it was easier to choreograph a fight scene if my main character was my size. If I’d made her taller, or in any way that different from me physically, then I’d have had to find a friend the size of my character anytime I went gun shopping or looked at a shoulder holster. She’s my size because the hand I have is the hand I need to fit. It just made sense to me at the time. I gave her my hair because I like my hair, and I figured if I was going to screw her life up with terrifying mystery/horror plots that I should give her something that she might like, too. I’m told that Anita’s attitude is tough, strong, masculine, not very feminine, and in many ways, it is my attitude; but I didn’t think of it in those terms until readers and interviewers started telling me. Anita’s personality and mine were closer to the same at the beginning of the series, but it’s a first person narration so making her sound and think like me was easier as a new novelist. When I sat down to write Merry Gentry years later I would make sure she didn’t sound like Anita, which meant she didn’t sound much like me, and made writing her a whole lot harder. I think it’s one of the reasons that Merry writes slower than Anita, because I don’t think like Merry does, and yet she’s a first person narrator, too. Anita and I have diverged as people because our experiences have been very different. She’s gone on to have one of the highest kill counts in fiction outside of war novels, and I married, moved to suburbia, had a child, dogs, and did a much more traditional approach for the first decade I wrote Anita. She was anything but traditional by any standards. Anita is now decades younger than I am, because I read an essay by Agatha Christie years before where she complained that she’d made both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot too old, and if she could do it over again she’d have started them off much younger. I took that bit of advice to heart and Anita was twenty-four when she stepped onto the page, as was I when I wrote the first short story with her in it. Seven to eight years is all that’s passed in Anita’s world, while much more has passed in the real world.
Anita and I both lost our mothers in car accidents as children. She was eight when her mother died, I was six. Why did I do that? Because when I was twenty-four my mother’s death was still so traumatic that I couldn’t imagine understanding a character that hadn’t had a similar experience. That early tragic loss made me understand just how fragile life was, and took forever the ideal that the adults around me are omnipotent and could keep me safe, because they couldn’t keep themselves safe. That knowledge at such a young age has made me a different person than I might have been, and it’s so intimate to who I am that I gave the viewpoint to my main character, because again, first person narration. They say, write about what you know, so what did I know? I knew death and loss, monsters and lovers, small town American lost in the big city, I knew how to be a strong woman in a man’s world, I knew not to ask for mercy for there isn’t much to go around, save the mercy for someone who needs it more.

Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
Lita looked at me, head slightly to one side. “You didn’t worry that it’d make men not want you?”

“No,” I said.

“You didn’t worry that it made you look like a victim?” Kelly asked.

I frowned at her. “No, every time I look at my scars I think that I lived, and I killed what hurt me. These are victory marks, not victim,” I said.

Dead Ice: Micah

Micah blog:

Micah Callahan came on stage mid-way through the current books, almost literally half-way at book #10 Narcissus in Chains. The book was a game changer in a lot of ways for the Anita Blake series, but one of the biggest for her personal life was the addition of Micah.

Direct frontal shot of a Black Leopard snarling with isolated background,
Direct frontal shot of a Black Leopard snarling with isolated background,

Question: Why did the sexual content go up in the series once Micah was introduced?

Answer: It didn’t really go up that much.
Secrets to Share: The Meredith Gentry series was actually created, at least in part, to give me somewhere to put all that literary sexual frustration that wasn’t happening in the Anita Blake novels. I had written and finished the first Merry book, A Kiss of Shadows, and set a much higher sexual content from the very beginning. I think that’s why no one ever complains about it, because it was the dynamic from the start, but with Anita it wasn’t. She started out a very old-fashioned good girl, in that I’m-waiting-for-my-white-dress-and-picket-fence kind of way. So, after nine books where she had managed to have sex twice, three times if you want a more open definition than just intercourse, I’d decided to stop arguing with her. If Anita wanted to keep both Jean-Claude and Richard at bay and continue to cling to her commitment phobia, then so be it, I was done. Not done with the series, but done arguing with her, with Richard, with everyone. Merry didn’t argue about sex, or even commitment, because the whole idea was for her to find a prince/king to her princess/queen. Narcissus in Chains is a solid mystery with a villain that is still one of the most original ideas I’ve ever come up with for a bad guy; but to listen to the haters you’d think there is nothing but sex in the book. In fact, there is only one full-blown sex scene in the entire book. You could make a case for two, maybe three, if intercourse, or oral isn’t your sole criteria for definition of sex. One of those scenes amounts to metaphysical foreplay scene with Richard, Jean-Claude, and Anita, but the other two scenes are with Micah, who was a brand new character introduced in this book. There is actually no more sex in this book than in Blue Moon or The Killing Dance, but what is different is who the sex is with.
I had so many people complain about the sexual content in Narcissus in Chains that I almost accepted that there must be more sex in the book than I remembered writing, but no, no, there isn’t. It has only been recently that I realized the problem was that the first metaphysical foreplay scene was with Jean-Claude and Richard, the two men that Anita had dated for most of the preceding nine books, so fans had become wedded to the idea that this was it – her two guys. They were also convinced she would pick one guy to finally settle down with, and then suddenly Micah comes out of left field and wins the day, the lady, everything, because that’s what some fans seemed to think. They would have to wait for the next novel, Cerulean Sins, to discover that Anita hadn’t dumped both the other men. She’d date and still be lovers with both Richard and Jean-Claude, but she would also continue to date Micah. It would take me almost ten years to realize why some of the anger directed at Micah existed and by then it was too late to change things, even if I’d wanted to, which I didn’t. My series, my books, my characters, and they tend to date/sleep with who they want to with very little input from me, actually. Micah was supposed to be a bit player, in fact he was supposed to be a bad guy henchman for the main villain. He wasn’t supposed to date Anita, let alone have sex with her. Which leads us into the next question.

Question: Did Micah rape Anita the first time they were together?

Answer: No. Not to me, but to my great surprise this was one of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten over the years about that first scene.
Secrets to Share: This question totally caught me off guard at first, and the people who asked it in a hateful way, or were just haters in general, I pretty much ignored. If you want me to pay attention to you, be nice. Some very sincere women, who were very nice, were upset about the scene. It turned out that the scene had seemed like rape to them because Anita had not said a fully spoken, “yes.” I swear that I remembered her saying yes in the scene. I swear that I wrote her saying yes in the scene, but so many women were genuinely upset by the scene that I went back and reread it. One thing was true, Anita doesn’t say an out loud yes. *head desk* Sometimes when you write a book, things are so crystal clear in your head that you think they are on the paper; you actually begin to read them into the words, but that doesn’t mean they’re there. The problem is copyeditors and editors in New York can’t see what’s in my head, only what’s on the page, and if what I “see” in my head never got onto a version of the page, then they can’t help me remember it.
I went so far as to add a “yes” between the hardback and one of the paperback versions of Narcissus in Chains, but honestly I can’t remember which print run the change was in, and when the next print run came out the publisher had reverted to the master print file, and the “yes” was missing once more. *head wall* If I could do this scene again I would rewrite some of Anita’s interior dialogue to make it more acceptable to the women who saw/feel the scene as rape. All I can say is that I did not write the scene with that in mind, but having listened to enough polite fans explain their point of view over the years, I can see their point. My apologies to those that were genuinely upset by the scene as written, and I have endeavored not to fall into ambiguity in any other sex scene with anyone since then.

Question: Is Micah going to become king of the wereanimals in America, the way that Jean-Claude is king of the vampires?

Answer: I don’t know.
Secrets to Share: Micah is one of those characters that changed completely between character building notes and stepping on stage. The moment he interacted with Anita for “real” on paper he was someone new, someone I hadn’t planned. He was honorable, determined, as ruthlessly practical as Anita, and in many ways the near perfect helpmate that Anita had been needing. I had no idea he was a leopard king, a Nimir-raj, or that Anita would be his leopard queen, Nimir-ra. I had to come up with vocabulary for that, and so much more, after Micah announced who and what he was in the shapeshifter community. Since I didn’t know any of this when he first stepped into fictional reality I had no idea that he and Anita would create The Coalition for Better Understanding Between Lycanthrope and Human Communities, or that Micah would be called all over the country when there was a conflict between lycanthrope groups, or between humans and the shapeshifter community. Here’s a freebie insight, in Affliction I thought it was clear that Micah only interferes with out of state animal groups when those groups call the Coalition in to solve a dispute, or violence has already broken out, but not gotten to the attention of human authorities, but apparently not. Again, with Micah, people thought he was just traveling the country forcing groups to join our larger group – no. The Coalition goes only where, and if, called, but once you call in help if we pay in blood and pain from our people to solve your problem, then you and yours may end up joining the Coalition whether you like it or not.
Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
Micah came through the door like he came through every door, as if the room were his room, or at the very least he was thinking of purchasing it. It was a surety and security in himself that he’d had since I’d met him.

Dead Ice: Nicky

Dead Ice: Nicky

 

We’re only two weeks away from Dead Ice’s publication. This blog will be the first one that doesn’t have a graphic novel image to go with it, because Nicky is one of several major characters that didn’t appear in the early books which were later turned into graphic novels. I’m trying to get images to go with Nicky and the rest, but for now his traditional lion form stands in for the other two forms.

 

 Question: Did you know that Nicky was going to be a major character when you created him?

Answer: No.

 

Secrets to Share: I didn’t expect to ever see him again because I thought Anita was going to have to kill him. He was just another sociopathic bad guy when he walked on stage from my imagination. I had no idea we were keeping him around until the very last minute and even then I had no idea that he would be in almost every book from that point on. Even keeping him, I didn’t know Nicky would go from bit player to supporting character to main character.

 

Question: Why did you do the rough bondage scene with Nicky and Anita in Affliction?

Answer: Because they are lovers, and both of them enjoy rough sex and bondage with each other.

 

Secret to Share: Nicky was fast becoming a fan favorite until I wrote that particular scene in Affliction. After the scene, a lot of the women fans disliked or even seemed to hate him. I was totally surprised by the reaction. Anita and Nicky had had rough sex before on stage, but some fans thought this scene was too much. Why? We’d had Anita tied up during sex before, and I believe that Nathaniel was even part of that scene, too, just as he was with Anita and Nicky in Affliction. So why the negative reaction? And none of the fans are angry with Nathaniel, just with Nicky, again why? The only difference I can see is that it’s a more serious breath play scene, which Nicky enjoys giving, and it was his suggestion to add that to the scene. I was very careful and very clear to have Anita and Nicky discuss what she was comfortable with beforehand. Nathaniel was there as an extra safety monitor and not just as an extra lover. I talked about safety issues, because breath play of any kind is edge play, which means it can be more dangerous. I did my due diligence on paper and Nicky and Nathaniel both watched over Anita to make sure she was all right. I talked about it, rather than just glossing over the possible problems. All three of them care for each other, and they all enjoyed the scene and the sex, so why did some people freak about it and start hating on Nicky? I don’t know, I honestly don’t, but some people who were fans of his are now literally haters of his, so apparently the scene hit issues for people.

 

Question: When will see Nicky interact with more of the local werelions?

Answer: In Dead Ice.

 

Secrets to Share: My research into real lions helped me shape Nicky taking over the local pride and how he runs it in Dead Ice. Contrary to the old idea of male lions as the “King of the Beasts” presiding over their territory and their  harem of lionesses all by themselves, it’s rarely just one king.  One lone male lion would be hard put to defend against all commers, most prides are run by a coalition of male lions. More detailed DNA testing has disproved another well loved theory in that the coalitions were genetically related, brothers, or at least cousins, but DNA proved that some weren’t related at all. Male lions are kicked out of the home territories as they come into sexual maturity, so they won’t compete with their father, or mate with their mother, or siblings.  Theories are that the young male lions kicked out of their home territory meet up in their wanderings and find that hunting in groups helps them stay fed. They also fight as a group and that is a big plus among lions. In fact, prevailing theory is that the reason lions are social and live in groups is primarily to protect themselves from other lions. Also, if your lionesses like the lions in charge they will join the fight against intruding males. There have even been cases of lionesses banding together and fighting off males, so that they are a power unto themselves. It’s not common because the males are bigger, heavier, and just have more muscle to throw around, but the lionesses do most of the hunting. Males only usually come into their own on hunts when really big game is the main food source for the pride, like water buffalo, giraffe, and even elephants, on occasion. Real animals, and real science, helped me understand that Nicky was the muscle, but as a sociopath he emotionally couldn’t run a pride, so another male lion that was physically less able, but very good socially, joined him as part of his leadership coalition. By end of book we’ll add another, so he’s Rex, but it’s a three-for-one, not related to each other, just like a lot of real lion coalitions.

 

 

Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:

 

 

​Nicky asked, “Do you mean you have pictures in your head of what you want to do to us?”

​”Yes.”

​”Are they your thoughts, or is someone putting them in your head?”

​”I do not know, but even speaking with you now, it’s as if my pork dinner were talking back. I’d think I was mad, but I still want to eat it.”

​”Eat me, you mean?” Nicky said.

​”Yes, very much.” The southern drawl was thicker with every word, as if by the time he rushed us, or we shot him, he’d sound like Scarlett O’Hara.

​”Interesting, Nicky, but save it,” I said.

​”There won’t be a later for asking him questions.”

​He was right, of course, but only a sociopath could have stood there this close, watching the process, and asked the questions that might help us understand what was happening. It was good that we had Nicky with us, because I was so spooked my mouth was dry.

Dead Ice: Zerbrowski 

Here’s the next blog in the series leading up to Dead Ice. I thought I’d leave the leading men behind and go to one of my favorite supporting characters, Zerbrowski. 
  
Question: What is Zerbrowski’s first name? 

Answer: Sorry, but he’s keeping that secret a bit longer. He considers it pretty awful though.
Secrets to share: He’s Sergeant Zerbrowski now, moving up the chain of command, but he’s still making wisecracks and being Anita’s main partner when she works with the Regional Preternatural Investigation Squad, though most people call it the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, so they can use the acronym, RPIT, for the Rest in Peace Team.
Question: When will we see his entire family on stage?

Answer: “Dancing” is an e-special short story where we finally got to see one of the police barbecues at Zerbrowski’s house.  
Secrets to share: I’d been wanting to see Zerbrowski, his wife Katie, and their kids on stage in a major way for years, but there never seemed to be enough time in one of the main books. “Dancing” exists because I wanted to see him at home. I wanted to meet his kids, not just talk about them off stage. Zerbrowski and Katie stand up to any of the police, or their spouses, that are unhappy with Anita taking Micah and Nathaniel as her dates. They bring along four-year-old Matthew who they are babysitting. Seeing Anita dealing with a child at an event with a bunch of other children and parents was very fun.
Question: When will we see Zerbrowski in a major roll in one of the books again?

Answer: Dead Ice has Zerbrowski back at Anita’s side helping her track rogue zombies and evil necromancers.
Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
Zerbrowski made a face. “I bet. Nothing like coming to put flowers on Grandma’s grave and discovering she’s been scattered all over the place like dog food.” 

More in Love Than When We Started


I promised myself that I would write something different after I finished the latest Anita Blake book, Dead Ice, coming out June 9, about a month away. So, I wrote a short story set in a new world with brand new characters. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and strangely exhausting. I’d forgotten how tiring it is to forge my way through a brand new creation. It made me hesitate to do the novel that I’d thought I would do next because its also a new world with a brand new main character, magic system, and everything.  The story I just finished has made me rethink, so I decided I’d do the next Anita Blake novel, but which one?

 

I wrote a list of Anita plots that I’d been thinking about for a while. When I got to “Q” I stopped. I had more ideas to write down, but seventeen seemed like plenty to choose from. From the very beginning, Anita had a large list of potential book plots; I think I started with thirteen mysteries.  When I wrote that initial list I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to pursue them all. The fact that my initial Anita contract with Penguin/Putnam (now Penguin Random House) was for three novels had thrilled me, because I knew there would be at least that many in my series. My first novel, Nightseer, had been planned to be part of a four book series, but my first publisher, ROC, had only purchased one book.  When that one didn’t sell well, like most first novels, they weren’t interested in me continuing the series. Three books was a luxury after that.

 

So, why did I make a list of future plots when I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to write them? I’m not sure, but the ideas came to me and I’d learned years ago to write down all my ideas. You think you’ll remember them, because they’re so great, but you won’t.  Write the ideas down, all the ideas, so you don’t lose them. Maybe that’s why I did it, and that would make sense, but in retrospect it seemed terribly optimistic.

 

I’ve actually used all the original thirteen ideas that I wrote down, except for a couple. Those plots went away because of character growth, or just the logic of Anita’s world, and my magic system. By the time I got that far into the list I knew that certain creatures of legend just didn’t exist in her world, so some ideas went away on that basis alone. 

 

Yet, here I am with seventeen new book plots, and more I could have listed. Some of the list is just intriguing as hell. Example – Olaf’s return. That’s all, but those two words are enough to make me wonder what a fan favorite serial killer will do when he’s next on stage. There’s The British book, set in England; The Irish book, set in Ireland, where Damian’s maker is waiting; Nathaniel’s book, which is going to be a long, complex mystery; Jean-Claude’s story, but so many ways to structure this one that I haven’t even started an outline; Nicky’s book, where he goes home for his mother’s parole hearing and asks Anita to go with him; New Mexico and Edward’s Wedding, will he actually walk down the aisle; Peter’s first hunt, three bland words with so much pain and possibility; and so many other ideas and characters that want more of their stories told.  I know other writers that struggle for ideas, even novelists with their own successful book series that have fallen out of love with their main character/s. I find that idea leads onto idea and that a finished book will often give me ideas for new books. I feel about Anita, and all the people in her life and in her world, the way I feel about my real life marriage – more in love now than when we started.