Friday, June 24, 2016

Planar Scars, Winged Outcasts, and Mad Scientists

Okay, to me, the elements in that title sound like a delectable cocktail. Am I wrong? Pff, of course not.

Over the last couple of years I've determined to broaden my reading scope. I had gotten into a rut of reading and (re-reading) about three authors, and so I started collecting books and collections by authors whose names I knew but whose work I hadn't taken a chance on.

I'm one of those people who is afraid of "new" and "spontaneous" and "change." So it felt like a risk peeking into some of these covers and seeing what words lay inside. Like peeking down someone's shirt. What the heck is in there, and do I really want to know?

Some time ago, my writer-friend Brian Fatah Steele (who has had so much influence in pushing me in new directions) suggested China Mieville's novels, so last time I was perusing the book store shelves (yes, I still prefer actual physical bookstores) I picked up the only Mieville novel I could find (sad, but selection is dwindling on store shelves), and it happened to be The Scar.

Reading this novel was like wallowing in stellar energy comprised of colliding words. Gah! Never mind that the story, that the world-building, that the characters were utterly magnetic, grotesque, gritty, and unique. I'm a sucker for a beautifully turned phrase. I will sit paralyzed by a startling combination of words for minutes at a time.

Because there is so much to savor in The Scar, it took me a long time to finish reading it, then I sacrificed everything else that needed doing to finish the last third in about three days. Point is, I am utterly in love with Mieville's writing. The dude's a poet, and the words themselves are as delectable as the world and characters they describe. They are a pleasure in and of themselves. (Isn't it a shame that this isn't usually the case?)

So now I've moved on to Perdido Street Station. Yes, I'm reading the "series" out of order, which I hate to do, but the novels seem to be standing well on their own.

How does a single brain come up with all this stuff? It feels like walking into a banquet hall and being surrounded by unrecognizable and tantalizing dishes, and where does one begin? At the same time, that description doesn't fit at all, because most of Mieville's inventions belong in slimy gutters and underworld sewers, but these are your dinner guests. Steel your stomach, grit your teeth, and wade in. Beauty in the ugliness, ugliness in the beauty, and all that, but often things are just downright freakish. 

Refreshing. Fabulous.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

So ... how did the book signing go?

I survived! My first book signing event is under my belt, and I'm so proud. The event took place in the La Vergne Public Library in La Vergne, Tennessee, which is just outside of Nashville. A beautiful building with wonderfully friendly people.

At six o'clock I began my presentation, talking about how I got into writing fantasy, when that genre wasn't my first choice. When I first started writing, I intended to be a historical fiction author instead.

The presentation led into the reading. For two months I practiced and practiced reading my selection aloud, and I'm so glad I did. I rocked it.

After the reading we did a brief Q&A and was offered some wonderfully insightful questions -- which I could actually answer in an intelligible manner (mostly).

All the while, there was a cameraman from a local station filming me. But did that shake me? Pff, never.

I learned several things:

1. I can present myself with confidence and poise, even despite a "disaster" that shook me badly right before I had to begin. (my biggest worry was that I would crack and my brain would go blank at the worst possible moment, but that didn't happen. Not even close.)

2. Do not expect loads of people on a first signing. (I prepared myself for this anyway, having heard this many times before, and it's 100% true.) I read for 8 people and signed for 3.

3. Do not expect your venue to do enough (or appropriate) marketing on your behalf. (A writer-friend warned me about this, and I saw it in action. You must do marketing yourself, if possible. Take your own posters/billboards and have them set up at the venue in obvious places an hour or so before the event begins. Make sure the posters point visitors in the right direction, especially if the venue is large. One of my guests got lost looking for me and missed half the presentation.)

4. It's going to take a LOT of signing events, swallowing a LOT of pride, and exposing myself to potentially humiliating situations to push my books effectively. (But it's all for the art, right?)

Overall, the trip was wonderful. In addition to the new experience, I got to see a new city, just as Nashville was kicking off the CMT Awards, so visiting downtown on Tuesday morning was like going to a festival. Just too bad all those people were there for country singers to sign stuff instead of my books, right? LOL. If only I could have snuck a booth in there ... ah, well.