Time for this week’s BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award, and I’m happy to report that with the arrival of warmer weather buffoonery appears to be in full bloom across the nation.  Huzzah!

It started early, with something you may have heard about on The Daily Show the other night.  As many of you know, the Republicans lost a special election in Mississippi this past Tuesday, failing to hold a seat that had been in GOP hands for more than a decade in a district that George Bush carried in 2004 by a double digit margin.  This was the third time this spring the Republicans have lost special Congressional elections in strongly red districts (the other two races were in Louisiana and Dennis Hastert’s old district in Illinois).  In the wake of yet another special election disaster, the Republicans decided that they needed to change their image and fast.  So they unveiled a new party slogan:  “The Change You Deserve”  Okay, never mind the ridiculousness of touting yourself as the party of change when you’ve been running the Federal Government for the past seven years.  Turns out the slogan is already taken.  The good people at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals have used that slogan for their powerful prescription anti-depressant, Effexor (TM).  It also turns out that some users of the drug have been experiencing severe and unpleasant side-effects, including nightmares, anxiety, insomnia, and memory loss.  Actually, the GOP’s new slogan might be appropriate after all….

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Here’s the latest of my editorial cartoon collaborations with my friend Bryan Prindiville.  It’s called “Teetering”.  Enjoy!


As of this week, we’re now also posting our cartoons at CNN’s ireport web site.

Today’s post, “What Kind of Jacket Art Do You Want on Your Book?”, can be found at www.sfnovelists.com.  Come visit the site.  Check out the post.  Enjoy!

Today I post another interview with one of my buddies from sfnovelists.com.  I met Jeri Smith-Ready at RavenCon less than a month ago and we hit it off immediately.  She has an evil sense of humor and is lots of fun at “Koffee-less” kaffeeklatches.  She also has lots of interesting things to say about writing, as this interview reveals.  Her newest book, Wicked Game, is out as of today (Congratulations, Jeri!) from Pocket Books.  So read the interview and then check out her book!


1) What was your inspiration for writing WICKED GAME?
A song, of course. Not the song “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak—that came much later. Almost three years ago to the day, I was driving down the road flipping the dial and came to a classic rock station playing “Bad Company” by the band of the same name. I thought, Hmm, “Bad Company” would be a perfect title for a paranormal book with a shady main character.

By the time I reached my destination, I had a fully formed idea for vampire DJs who were psychologically and culturally ‘stuck’ in the era in which they were turned. I also knew the heroine would be “bad” in some way. (The punch line is that even though it all began with “Bad Company,” the publisher ultimately asked me to change the title.)

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

I tend to read widely rather than deeply and rarely follow series for more than a book or two, regardless of how much I enjoy them. I’m the opposite of an addictive personality. I’m pretty sure I’d be the world’s first casual crack smoker.
I was completely different as a kid, of course. I read EVERYTHING, especially books by Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, and Jim Kjelgaard, who each wrote continuing series about animals (and not talking animals, either—usually just plain old horses and dogs). I also loved the Trixie Belden mysteries. Trixie was like Nancy Drew, but with an actual personality. 
My all-time favorite book was DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones. It combined my love of animals with my passions for astronomy and mythology. Because of that book, Sirius became my favorite star (not to mention my eventual choice in satellite radio).
My current favorite authors tend to write stand-alone novels or loosely connected series: Neil Gaiman, PC Cast, Charles de Lint, Christopher Moore, James Morrow, Caprice Crane, and John Irving, to name a few. They also tend to be funny.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

To me, speculative fiction at its core is about what it means to be human. Often it does this by juxtaposing humans with other races or species (like elves or vampires or aliens), or by putting ordinary people in extraordinary settings. I also like the genre’s tendency to push the boundaries of humanity itself.

4) Why did you decide to make Ciara a con artist?

From the beginning I knew that the main character would have a shady past. Her current job is in sales and marketing (S&M, as she calls it), which is really just a legal form of con artistry. It sounds like a cheap joke, but the two pursuits both require an understanding of human nature and how to manipulate people’s emotions to make them cheerfully act against their own best interests. 
Ciara tries to save the radio station from corporate takeover by branding it as “WVMP: The Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” essentially hiding the vampires’ nature in plain sight. She disguises the truth as a marketing gimmick. I loved playing with notions of truth and lies, and I loved watching Ciara’s moral acrobatics in justifying her actions. Con artists are sociopaths with little notion of right and wrong; however, Ciara’s parents gave her a religious upbringing, which she’s rejected, but only on the intellectual level. She still feels guilt.
5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
I’m an avid pro football fan. It’s the only thing in my life that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, and I guard my time with it like a starving dog with a bone. I also follow politics, but that’s not fun—more like a form of sado-masochistic torture.
6) What sort of research did you do to write WICKED GAME?
For the musical aspects, the research came by osmosis over the course of months and years. I’d think of a band and then run to Allmusic.com (and more recently Pandora.com) to learn all about them. Then I’d surf the links to understand the connections among that band and its forerunners and followers. 
And of course I read books. One of my favorites was THE ROCK SNOB’S DICTIONARY by David Kamp and Steven Daly. Entertaining, informative, and an incisive look inside the mind of the cooler-than-thou rock snob. 
To learn about radio stations, I interviewed DJs and had them ‘vet’ the manuscript when it was in near-final form, to make sure I didn’t have any major mistakes. A highlight of my life was getting a cover quote from Weasel, who used to DJ at the legendary Washington, DC, alternative station WHFS. He said that, disturbingly, he could relate very well to my characters. 
7) Shane McAllister (the 90s grunge DJ vamp) loves Nirvana. Is that your favorite band, too?
Yep, though I was only a casual fan during the band’s actual existence. I was sad but not devastated when Kurt Cobain died in 1995. However, as the years go by and I’ve learned to appreciate the band’s incredible talent, I grieve his loss more intensely. 

I suppose the creation of Shane is my small way of honoring Cobain’s life and work and the impact it’s had (and continues to have) on my psyche. I feel a spiritual kinship with them both and wonder if but for the grace of good fortune I’d be in as bad a shape as they were in their lives.

8)  What are you writing now?
I’m working on the second draft of WICKED GAME’s sequel, BAD TO THE BONE (May 2009). That’s due to my editor in a few days, which explains the bags under my eyes. And probably the hallucinations.
9) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing? 
After three years of writing full-time, I’ve ceased to feel guilty for not writing first thing in the morning. My brain just isn’t wit-enabled before 10 or 11 am. 

10) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

Dialogue is by far the easiest. Maybe it’s my theatre background, but my first drafts tend to consist of characters arguing in living rooms and coffee shops. I keep forgetting that novels have infinite budgets for location shoots.
First drafts are the hardest by far. It feels like sculpting air. Once I have a rough draft down, no matter how crap-adelic, I can work to make it better. But that initial creation of the story is torment.
11) This isn’t your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?
I also have an epic fantasy series, the Aspect of Crow trilogy, which takes place in a world where everyone has magic bestowed by their Guardian Spirit animal. The first one, EYES OF CROW (Luna Books, 2006), won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award for Best Fantasy Novel. The second, VOICE OF CROW, came out last October (a favorite of mine because it was the Book That Almost Killed Me), and the trilogy will conclude this November with THE REAWAKENED.
I also have an older urban fantasy (REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL, Grand Central Publishing, 2001). It takes place in modern day Washington, DC, and Lucifer masquerades as a political consultant. For the first time in his ten-billion-year existence, he falls in love. It changes everything.
12) What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?
See answer to #3. I can’t be that earnest twice in one interview.

Today’s post, “Writing Organically,” can be found at www.magicalwords.net.  Please visit the site and enjoy!

Graduation Day

May 11, 2008

Today was graduation day at the university where Nancy teaches.  Sounds like it was a nice ceremony.  As always, graduation here reminds me of my own college graduation many, many, many years ago.  

I went to Brown, where the procession leading from the University green to the chapel where the graduation service takes place, goes through a complicated and wonderful marching pattern.  Basically the current graduating class is followed in the procession by older classes back for reunions, as well as by the administration and faculty.  They walk through the university gates and then line the road so that they can cheer as the others walk by.  But as each group walks by the last of the spectators, they themselves move to the roadside and become spectators.  In effect, it’s like continuously turning a sock inside out — each end gets pulled through; each group gets to watch every other group walk by.  Hard to describe clearly.  Suffice it to say that I’ve experienced Brown’s graduation as a graduating senior, as a five year alum, and as a twenty year alum, and eachtime it has been an incredibly moving experience that left me feeling that I was part of a much larger community.

So what about you?  What are graduations like at your colleges or high schools?  Any special experiences?

BOW Award

May 10, 2008

Last week’s BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award entry was a fun one.  Certainly it was lighter than most of those that came before it.  And, I’ll warn you now, it was far lighter than this week’s is going to be.

As usual, we have no shortage of nominees.  There’s John McCain, who during several appearances this week repeated his claim that Hamas, the Middle East terrorist organization, had “endorsed” Barack Obama for President.  There’s Hillary Clinton, who spent the latter half of the week talking about how Obama won’t get the votes of “hard-working Americans, white Americans” come the fall.  How is it that she isn’t accused of being an elitist and a racist?  Does “hard-working American” equal “white American”?  Do African Americans not count as “hard-working”?  And does she think so poorly of her low income white supporters that she thinks they’re incapable of voting for an African American candidate?  She should know better.

Then there’s the voter in Greenwood, Indiana who happened to be at an Obama campaign stop a day or two before the Indiana primary.  This was in a restaurant, and as the candidate approached his table, the man waved him away, saying, “I can’t stand him. He’s a Muslim. He’s not even pro-American as far as I’m concerned.”  News flash, dude:  He’s NOT Islamic.  He’s a Christian.  I mean, come on!  Did you totally miss the Reverend Wright craziness?  And while we’re at, did it ever occur to you that there are millions of Americans who are both Muslim and PRO-America?  Idiot.

But for all my griping about the stupidity of American politicians and pundits, the ridiculous tone of our political campaigns, and all the other buffoonery that I’ve described in this space on Saturday mornings, this week’s award winner makes most of our leaders look like geniuses.

If you’ve seen a newspaper or newscast this week, then you know that the Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma to everyone in the world except the United States government, which continues to insist on using the old name, was struck by a devastating cyclone on May 3.  Myanmar is desperately poor.  It’s also ruled by a brutally repressive and utterly paranoid military dictatorship.  Think North Korea without the quirky charm….  This week, as the United Nations, the United States, other Western powers, and countless NGOs tried to rush medical supplies, food, and other aid to the victims of the storm, the government of Myanmar refused to allow any outside assistance to reach the literally millions of people who have been displaced by this tragedy.  Tens of thousands are dead.  Villages have been flooded.  Drinking water is contaminated and food is scarce.  Soon the physical toll from the storm will be dwarfed by the humanitarian nightmare caused by disease and starvation.  And still the government is dragging its feet.  A few days ago it seized supplies intended for victims.

The Bush Administration’s response to Katrina was a travesty, caused by incompetence and negligence.  Some would claim (and I’d find it hard to argue the point) that had that storm flooded neighborhoods inhabited by wealthy whites rather than poor blacks, the Administration’s response would have been completely different.

But what the leaders of Myanmar have done to their people in the last week makes even that shameful episode in our nation’s history seem a minor offense.  I get absolutely no joy or satisfaction from this, but this week’s BOW Award goes to the government of Myanmar.  Take a BOW, assholes.  You’ve earned it.

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another political cartoon from my friend Bryan Prindiville and me.  This week’s cartoon is called (somewhat facetiously) “Avoiding the Issues.”  Enjoy!

Hacked Again!

May 8, 2008

So, for the second time in about three months one of our credit cards has been hacked.  Weird things about it:  First, it was the new credit card that we got after the last one was hacked.  (We have several cards, but this is the only one that seems to be giving us trouble.)  Second, the false charges put on the credit card last time were for about $2,000.00 each and were charged at bike shops in Europe.  This time the false charge was for about $1,500.00 and was charged (wait for it….) at a bike shop in Europe.  And both times, we had put in a legitimate charge at one online seller in particular about three weeks before the problem arose.  I can’t prove this last connection so I’m not going to give the name of the online merchant, but be careful who you order from, and if you can, place your orders by phone rather than over the net.

Tune in tomorrow for a new political cartoon from my friend Bryan Prindiville and me. 

Just Wednesday

May 7, 2008

Thanks to all for the great comments on yesterday’s post.  Woke up this morning and found that my newly-minted teenager was very much like the child who lived here yesterday and the day before.  One day at a time.  That’s the ticket.

I seem to be in the middle of another good writing week.  I’m making good progress on the book, and more important, I like what I have so far.  I’m even finding time to birdwatch every morning before I sit down to write.   Spring migration is starting to wind down.  We probably have another three or four days, but after that it’ll slow down and we’ll settle into a typical Tennessee summer — hot days, thunderstorms in the late afternoons, muggy nights spent sitting on the porch, listening to the crickets and frogs, watching the lightning bugs.  Sounds good to me.