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.


  

The Woods Were Lovely, Dark and Deep . . . 

I’ve gone from 80s & a warm Caribbean Sea to below freezing and snow, from tropics, to the buckle of the Bible Belt, to the East coast, back to the Bible Belt, to upper west coast, all within two weeks.  We’ve been home about 96 hours in those last two weeks. Jon has been with me throughout & we were even able to keep the dogs & our other significant others, Spike & Genevieve, with us until this last trip to Seattle, which helped a great deal to make everywhere we went feel like home. But now with them back in St. Louis with the dogs, I am feeling more cut adrift.

This year is an experiment in travel, in saying yes to adventure & new places. Its our daughter Trinity’s first year in college, in the dorms, so Jon & I decided we’d travel like we’d been wanting to but couldn’t because of being tied to her school schedule. It’s an experiment & Spike & Genevieve have agreed to try it with us for this first year of cohabitation. Thanks to technology their jobs can travel with them and it’s a telecommuting fest.  We also decided to do a major remodel in the St. Louis house, because Jon & I had been planing to anyway & now the space will be our space, all four of us have picked the colors & style of everything. One of the reasons we went to the tropics for me to finish writing Dead Ice was to have a working kitchen, TV room, and living room, while the remodel happened. It’s still not done. We’ve been eating take in, in the Solarium on a table meant for leaning on in the summer, but we’ve done it cheerfully and with a lot of laughter, which bodes well for many things.

We all liked the two months in the tropics, and I may try finishing every book somewhere else from now on, because wherever I type “the end” I want to runaway from it; I seem to need a change of scenery. I think it works better wanting to run to home rather than away from it. I was so happy to walk into my office in St. Louis. It looked beautiful & sunny, surrounded by trees at the top of my three story eyrie.  I miss my ocean view terribly, but I was still very happy to be home.  Usually, I finish a book and don’t want to see the office for weeks afterward.

I’m typing this in Seattle, Washington in our room before my first panel of the day here at MythicWorlds.  It was FairieCon West once upon a time, but they’ve changed their name to reflect a more diverse myth and folklore interest.  All wee and not so wee beasties are now welcome from all walks of the between spaces, not just the wee folk of the fey.  The vendors area is fabulous here.  I’m wearing a necklace I bought yesterday from Touchstone Runes.  We have already committed much commerce! Fairecon East, that we did earlier in the year, had a fabulous vendor’s room, too.

All the huge, dark trees here in the NorthWest make me think of the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  Especially the line, “The Woods are lovely dark and deep . . .” indeed they are here, so the poem’s title was more appropriate than ever.

The edits for Dead Ice come back from New York on Monday, maybe a few hours before we land in St. Louis, and we finally get home.  I’ll have a week to see what the copyeditor, and my editor, Susan, have noted in the book.  I know that I’m already reaching out to my police friends that help me keep my mistakes to a minimum, because I know I didn’t do one of the police scenes exactly right.  I’m just not sure what I missed, but I finished the scene and then had that niggling feeling I’d dropped a ball along the way.  That’s what edits are for, to catch the dropped balls and put them back into play

Genevieve has sent us pictures from St. Louis of the fish pond frozen so solid the big dogs can walk across it.  Jon says, he’s never seen a pond frozen that hard there in twenty years, and he’s lived in Missouri all his life.  We keep telling her and Spike that it’s never this cold in St. Louis, I think they’ve stopped believing us. *cross my heart* I say, and Genevieve gives me that look, you know the one, your wife/girlfriend has one, too.  The one that says, she loves you, but . . .  We’ll be home Monday and do our best to make it up to her and Spike.  We’ll find ways to keep them warm through the long winter nights, but first – edits.



Down the Rabbit Hole and into the Maze:

The White Rabbit from 'The Nursery Alice' by John Tenniel, Held and digitised by the British Library, and uploaded to Flickr Commons. A higher resolution version may be available for purchase from BL Images Online, imagesonline.bl.uk, reference 065443

The White Rabbit from The Nursery Alice by John Tenniel, Held and digitised by the British Library, and uploaded to Flickr Commons. A higher resolution version may be available for purchase from BL Images Online, imagesonline.bl.uk, reference 065443

I fell down a rabbit hole this week, not a literal one, but a literary one. No, I didn’t reread ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carrol, but that’s where the original idea of following a strange rabbit down it’s hole and falling into something, or someplace, totally unexpected came from. I first heard the term ‘rabbit hole’ used for writing by Emma Bull on a panel at Archon, a science fiction convention here in St. Louis. I was in the audience back then because I had yet to sell a single story of my own. I had read and loved Emma’s book, “War for the Oaks,” and listened to any bits of writer wisdom from her with great attention.

She and her husband Will Shetterly both explained that for a writer to fall down the rabbit hole meant an idea, or subplot, that led you off your plotted path. They seemed to think rabbit holes were always a distraction and the writer should climb out and get back on their plot path as soon as possible.

Years later with my own writing group, The Alternate Historians, we continued to use the term in much the same way. If you are a writer that plots and outlines heavily then rabbit holes are truly a bad thing, but if you are an organic writer like me, sometimes the rabbit is right. I believe George R. R. Martin calls them gardeners as opposed to architects.

What does it mean to be an organic writer? For me, it means that sometimes all I know is the first sentence of a short story, but I’m going to sit down and write that sentence and see where it leads me. It means that once the world building is done, or sometimes in the midst of it, I’ll often start writing the first draft of a book because I learn things about my world and my characters by actually writing. What I learn goes into the character building, or even the world building. I often find that what looks good in notes, or plot outline, doesn’t work at all when you are in the middle of the story. I’m very much a throw it out if my characters have a better idea that comes more naturally to them and their world. A word of warning here: do not edit heavily as you write your first draft, especially as a beginning writer. You do not know how your process works yet, so don’t do what I do, be cautious, save everything, and edit once you have a complete draft.

For an organic writer chasing rabbits down their holes can lead to new ideas that help grow your world, your characters, and just make it all into your own Wonderland. Or it can be just a distraction that wastes your time, energy, and derails your book just like I was warned all those years ago. The problem is that you can’t tell the difference from the outside of the hole. You have to crawl inside and risk falling down and down, before you know if you’ll be talking to a hookah-smoking caterpillar, or just trapped in the dark, covered in dirt.

In other words, the hole could lead you to things you need to discover as a writer, or it could just get you lost and covered in rabbit poo. To find out which way it will go you have to chase the rabbit and be willing to climb into the dark and follow where it leads.

The Anita Blake novels, and the Merry Gentry series, have both benefitted greatly from me chasing rabbits through their tunnels. It has led me to some of my most creative and innovative ideas, or most poignant scenes, but it’s also led me to the dark end of a lot of tunnels, where I had to dig my way out, or back track and cut out all the writing I’d done while I was in that particular scene “tunnel”. I’ve lost a week, or more of work this way. Hundreds, if not thousands of scenes, characters, all useless in the end, but I’m still not certain that writing out the useless bits doesn’t shake something lose that I need.

When I was in high school, I read an article by Ray Bradbury, I believe it was exerts from, The Zen of Writing, but I’m no longer certain. I do know that I translated his wonderful, and much more poetic advice into this, “Every writer has about ten thousand words of crap in them, so you better start writing early and get the bad stuff out, so you can get to the good stuff.” I think sometimes books are like that for me, I need to write the stuff that doesn’t work, then cut it, to find the stuff that does work. I can’t prove that this is true, and maybe I just tell myself that to feel better about all the lost pages, but I can’t prove that isn’t true, either. I’ve written over thirty novels this way, so I’m not going to change my creative process, it works for me, but I’ll admit it’s imprecise. I think all creativity is imprecise, if you could measure it out to be precise it would be science, not art, though there is more than a bit of art in most good science.

I don’t mind following the white rabbit when I know that’s what I’m doing in a book. I’ll run the new idea, or scene, up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. If they don’t then I delete it, probably put it in an outtake file, and go back to the original plot point where I diverged and keep writing. What I do mind is when I don’t realize it’s a rabbit I’m chasing and I think its more unicorn. For a unicorn, which is an amazing idea that will make the book even better, I’ll drop everything and give chase, but I hate it when I see a horn and think unicorn, but it turns out to be more jackalope.

Last night when I finished writing I began to suspect I had fallen down the rabbit hole. I was hoping I was wrong, because my deadline was upon me. I went to bed hoping I’d wake up and it would all make sense, but instead I knew it didn’t. It wasn’t a rabbit hole, it was a rabbit warren full of tunnels and it was all dark, dirty, and even the rabbits had fled. I had to own that I would be throwing out about twenty-five pages, or more. Days worth of work when I honestly can’t afford to lose the time, or the pages, if I am to make my deadline, but there it was, the brutal truth. I was trapped in the maze in the dark, and the only thing I could do was try to find my plot thread in the dark, and follow it back to the last point where the book really worked.

As a beginning writer it was easier for me to tell when the plot thread broke, because the writing wasn’t as good, but as I’ve had more practice, I’ve gotten better. In fact, I’ve gotten so good that my writing is great even when the character development, plot, or world building, has derailed. It all reads well, but that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it the best the book, the characters, the world, can be.

I had to go back through this morning and read, painfully, where that character wouldn’t have done/said that. Oh, there’s where the magic system that I have so carefully built and explained to the reader totally imploded. Yes, it was an exciting scene, riveting, but it isn’t the way the magic works, so out it goes. Okay, so that whole scene goes. Wait, that entire plot line is out. It’s far too late in the book to throw in something this big; it will distract from the mystery which we have to solve in ex-number of chapters. I’m not an obsessive outliner, but I do plot my mysteries out in broad strokes, the closer to the end of the book, the more that outline is filled in and eventually becomes fixed. This close to the end of a novel I have to keep my eye on the goal, which is to solve the mystery in a fair manner that helps the reader feel that all the clues were there. I dislike other writers who cheat by pocketing clues and just almost lying to the reader, so I try to play fair myself. Yes, I am aware that some really big names in mystery hide clues from the reader all the time. I adore Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, but Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie are both guilty of hiding clues to keep the reader in the dark. Sometimes it works brilliantly, but it’s still a bugaboo for me as a reader myself, so I try not to do it to other people.

So here I am in the maze, which is the worst possible kind of rabbit hole. Not only am I in the dark, covered in dirt and maybe worse, but it’s not just a straight tunnel. I can’t just back up a few pages and keep writing, because there are tunnels leading off the main tunnel, so many lefts and rights that I’m not entirely certain which is the main tunnel, or if I came this way, or that.

I begin to suspect it isn’t rabbit droppings on my shoes, but Minotaur crap, and that’s much worse for the book, and for my deadline. My plot thread has broken off in the maze somewhere. I only know it’s not ahead of me, so I can’t keep writing the book from here, I must go back. How far back? I’m not really sure, but I have to find where the thread broke, so I can follow it back and rewrite from there, because the thread still in my hand leads to the heart of the maze and the ruin of the book.

I know I will find my way out of the maze, because I’ve been lost in here before. I know I will find my broken thread and trace it back, and then write myself out of the maze. I know, because I’ve done this before, and that means I can do it again. That’s really what an experienced writer has over a beginning writer, we know that we can do it, because we’ve done it. Success is like a shield to protect you from the monsters, both the outside obstacles and your own self-doubt.

So for all you fellow writers out there both experienced and not, if you find yourself lost in the dark take courage. First try to just back up, if it works, then it’s a rabbit hole, and you’ll soon be out. Dust the dirt off and keep writing. If you realize that some of the tunnel was great ideas, then dig your way up and out, and keep writing from there. If the worst happens and you realize you’re standing in the middle of the maze with a broken thread in your hand, and Minotaur crap on your shoes, then keep moving. You will find the other half of your plot thread, eventually. Once you find it, grab it and drop the other end, because the other end only leads to the heart of the maze where the Minotaur waits to smash you to has-been, or never-was pulp, and dance with castanets on your creative soul.

Celebrating being #1 on the New York Times List!

The newest Anita Blake novel, Jason, is #1 on the New York Times List! Thanks to everyone that bought the book and showed how much they loved Jason the novel, and Jason the character! Thanks to all the booksellers virtual and brick and mortar!

When I sold my first story, my first husband took me out to a fancy dinner. When I sold my first novel, Nightseer, it was my Dungeons and Dragon group that surprised me with a party to celebrate.

When Guilty Pleasures, the first Anita Blake novel, sold, my writing group, The Alternate Historians, made me a cake shaped like it’s cover and we had a party.

When I hit the New York Times List for the first time I was alone on tour for A Kiss of Shadows. I thought I was being calm, cool, and collected until the room service waiter brought my hot tea. I had about an hour before I had to get ready for the signing that night, so I’d ordered tea to relax. I was so calm about the news that I accidentally gave the waiter a fifty dollar tip. I caught my mistake and fixed it explaining I’d just learned about the Times List, and then added, “If you came back with a fifty dollar tip they’d think you did more than just deliver tea.” He didn’t think I was funny. My media escort took me out later to a very nice restaurant with a view of the sea.

When I cracked the top five with Narcissus in Chains, my second husband, Jonathon, was on tour with me. It was our first tour together. In fact, it was the first time I’d brought anyone on tour with me. We used up the cell phone batteries in his phone, my phone, and our media escort’s phone calling his family and my writing group to tell them the news. We were in San Fransisco, because we went into China Town there and bought a necklace to commemorate the event.

When I made #2 for the first time with Cerulean Sins, I went to a wonderful local bakery and bought three to five cakes of flavors that they didn’t make cupcakes in, so we could finally taste them. We invited Jonathon’s parents and other friends over and had a cake tasting party. This was before I started exercising again, or watching my nutrition. Though honestly, I have a serious weakness for cake, not sweets, but cake is yummy.

I made #2 with A Lick of Frost for the Meredith Gentry series. There were other times that the Merry books hit the List, but I honestly don’t remember what I did to celebrate for each book. But there was only one Anita Blake novel, Incubus Dreams that hit #2 before Micah brought home the gold medal.

How did I celebrate that first #1 with Micah? Which, incidentally, was my last original paperback novel; like Jason, it was a shorter piece featuring the title character though it was a mystery complete with zombies and mob connections and background on Micah that even Anita didn’t know. Years before this I’d told my friend Joanie that if I ever made #1 I’d take her family and we’d all do a trip to Disney World. When I called to tell her the news, she reminded me of the promise and that’s what we did. Joanie, her husband Jim, and their daughter, Melissa went with Jonathon, our daughter Trinity, and me to Disney. Yep, that’s right, I celebrated my first New York Times #1 book by going to the Mouselands.

I can’t remember precisely what I did to celebrate my first hardback #1 Blood Noir. I know we did dinner somewhere nice, but after going to Disney World for Micah, it was just hard to top that, especially because I was deep into writing the next Meredith Gentry book, so there wasn’t time for a trip.

So how did I celebrate Jason hitting #1? I got the calls from my Agent, Merrilee, and then my editor, Susan, while I was changing for gym. I continued getting dressed, and when I got off the phone the first thing I did was tell Genevieve and Spike. This included much jumping up and down, hugs and kisses. Jonathon wasn’t at home. I debated on texting him, but waited until I could tell him in person, much kissing ensued. Then . . . then I went to gym. I had a great workout, came home, showered, and celebrated with my happy polyamorous foursome. My real life has become special enough that my normal plans are a celebration. Realizing that truth made Jason being #1 a very special milestone.

The flowers in the picture on this blog are from my U.S. publishing team at Penguin Random House, thanks guys!

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