Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
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Tuesday
Sep022014

I just destroyed Seattle. Oops, my bad

Hey kids, the second book in the Apocalypse Triptych, edited by Hugo award winning editor John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey is available...oh, you know...like right now! Book two features end of the world stories by Seanen McGuire, Jonathan Mayberry, Elizabeth Bear, and yours truly, wreaking havoc on Seattle, circa 1910.

As T.S. Elliot once said, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but by a comet, a zombie horde, a nanobot takeover, ah, screw this, I'm gonna drink some absinthe. Cheers." Something like that.

Saturday
Aug232014

Jamie's crying, Leesha's laughing

Yes, after hiding from social media all week, I was finally called out to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by the Pulpwood Queen herself, Kathy Murphy, Adele Macomber, and Jerry Jordan along with all the kids at the Great Falls Community Rec Center. The pressure was on! So I donated. I got soaked. And I nominated fellow authors Lisa See and Lisa Genova, plus Vanilla Ice (who else can bring this thing to an end?)

If you can, please donate at www.alsa.org, or to your favorite charity, or just do something nice today. Time for me to dry off...

Friday
Aug222014

You ask, I'll answer, no big deal

Hey, school is about to start in a week, which means it’s time for SUMMER READING. Which also means I get a lot of emails from students. So, to be your one-stop, summer reading answer shop, here are answers to recent questions. And if you have more, ask here and I’ll answer as soon as I can. Also, tell your teacher "hi" for me and that I said you deserve extra credit for not falling for this.

Brittney C – How do you like living in Montana? What city do you live in exactly? I’ve always heard it’s amazing up there! I live in Southern California. I’d love to vacation there sometime.

Hey B, I live in Great Falls, which is kind of like a 70s time warp, but I love it. Plus it’s close to the places I like to be when I’m not writing, like the Rocky Mountain Front and Glacier National Park. Here’s a photo of me not writing:

Jennifer S – I am in love with this book it is so captivating and the details of Henry running from the bullies and jumped into the radio flyer had me on the edge of my seat. I was wondering, where do you get your inspiration from and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Hi Jen, so glad you enjoyed the book! Henry and Keiko send their love. As far as inspiration, I guess I just geek out over historical things. I love little bits of history that most people tend to forget. Plus, everyone grows up with a certain amount of family drama. HOTEL touched upon my own father/son experiences, good and bad. As far as wanting to be a writer, I finally knew when I was surrounded by other writers and felt at home––I finally fit in!

Alicia R asks a gaggle of questions – My answers are below.

1. Are you parents living or deceased?  

They’re both gone. I killed them when they took my iPhone.

2. Do you have and siblings? If so, how many and what are there names?  

I do, their names are Michael, Lydia, Marsha, and Kirk. Oh, and also my Siamese twin, Andre who is typing this with his left hand while I help type with my right. 

3. Marital Status?  

Married on 8/8/08 at 8:08 PM. (Seriously).

4. Children?  

We have a house full of teenagers, many of them girls, so basically my house is an estrogen holding tank.

5. What are your interest or hobbies?

I like hiking, peakbagging, and climbing non-dangerous mountains. Also, I enjoy making up fictitious answers to serious questions.

6. What type of degree's do you have? When and where did you receive them?  

Oddly enough, my degree is in art and design from the Seattle Art Institute. I also attended community college when I was 14-15, but later quit. So basically, I dropped out of college before I graduated from high school.

7. Something interesting about you, your life, or your family? Maybe a short story or cool trip?

One word: Tanzania.

Renee L – I would like to know how do you feel about your novel being a huge part of the education system? I really hope to hear back from you.

I love that I’ve grown up and become someone’s homework! It’s really weird, strange, and flattering. I especially love seeing the tweets, good and bad.

Juan I – What gave you the idea to write about the struggles of growing up and was this novel written for young adults who had many struggles while growing up?

HOTEL wasn’t written specifically for young adults, but I’m glad so many students are reading it (or being force to read it!) And you could say that I relate to the struggles of youth—because in many ways I’m still growing up, still trying to figure out life and my place in it. Plus, those were the years of such crazy emotions. I had a crush on a set of twins. Life gets amazingly complicated. Those are wonderful times to write about.

Lanette H - How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It didn't happen all at once. By that I mean, I was editor of the school magazine in high school, but I still didn't think of myself as writer, I just liked hanging out with writerly people. Years would pass before I realized I was one of them. Also, later, an author friend asked me this, "What do you like more, writing, or the idea of being a writer?" It was (and still is) a very profound question. It was then that I realized that I just like the creative process of writing. If I just liked the idea of writing, I could wear black, ride a Vespa, and hang out at Starbucks all day--I could have all the affectations without doing the work. But, I just like writing.

Guillermina V – What shoe size do you wear?

Size 12, so it's really hard to find a pumps that fit. There goes my drag queen career.

Joshua J – I was wondering what your address would be to write you a formal letter and your early education information and any other interesting information you would like to give would be greatly appreciated.

No need to write. Save the stamp. Just email me or ask here. I answer all my emails (sometimes it might take a while, but I do). Also, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also on Tumblr and Google+ but I don’t keep up with those as often.

If you’re looking for me, I’m easy to find. Ask away!

Tuesday
Aug122014

Authors United, Readers United, and Stephen The Mad Irishman

Hmmm...apparently while I was getting lost in the mountains all weekend the battle between Amazon and Hachette Publishing has escalated from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 3. I'm not sure what happens when we reach DEFCON 1. Will Amazon launch drone strikes on NYC publishing houses? Will James McPatterson enlist his crack squad of ghost-writers to pen skeevy biographies about Jeff Bezos? Who knows? But it's sad to see the once beautiful and relatively harmonious publishing industry so divided.

On the one side, you have Authors United, representing 900 best-selling authors (and probably 10x that many who would like to sign but are afraid of reprisals from Amazon). And on the other side you have Readers United, which isn't really readers, but Amazon itself turing George Orwell's words upside down and urging their self-published authors to rattle some cages.

Where do I stand on all of this? Well, I'm on Hachette's side of the argument (for now), but with a fierce independent streak. Think of me as Stephen, The Mad Irishman in Braveheart"The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this publishing contract, but he's pretty sure you're fucked."

That being coarsely stated, here are some general thoughts:

  • I sell books on Amazon. But, I’ve been openly critical of them. I love America, but at times I’m openly critical of the govt. That’s okay. That’s healthy. The attitude of “Love it or leave it!” when applied to ANYTHING is lame.
  • Everything Amazon does is for the primary benefit of Amazon (and their shareholders). And they’ve never made a profit, so as Paolo Bacigalupi stated so beautifully, they’re a subsidized underseller. As a business model, that makes me sad because I have an affinity for mom & pop stores on Main Street America and they have a hard time competing with an entity that doesn’t need to make a dime.
  • With that in mind, everything Amazon does, PR wise, should be taken with a grain of salt. This is a company famous for hosting press events and showing bar graphs with no numbers (But look at our upward trend!) So when Amazon calls Hachette a $10 billion dollar evil, greedy corporation, they’ve ignoring the $150 billion dollar mote in their own eye. Amazon is in no way the underdog here. This is like a billionaire NBA owner doing battle with a millionaire NBA player.
  • That being stated, I didn’t sign the Authors United thing because, well, James McPatterson doesn’t write his own books and I have a hard time siding with someone who is basically the Burger King of literature. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, he doesn’t kick puppies and beat his child, but I’m not that impressed. Also, I like having my own voice and there’s the off chance I could do/say something crazy and then I’d sully Authors United with my big mouth.

  • Speaking of big mouths, many of the self-published mega authors who are always championing the little guy (you know, Amazon), they all have special deals and get special treatment like all-expense paid trips for them and their families, free goodies, and worst/best of all, non-exclusivity, so I find it disingenuous (and borderline unethical) when they tout Amazon as the Messiah to other indie authors who won't get the same treatment. It’s like Animal Farm, where all indie authors are equaljust some authors are more equal than others. They are Amazon’s “Golden Children” and Amazon’s de facto PR dept. There’s a saying, “If I tell you I’m the world’s greatest lover, that’s advertising, but if I ask a friend to tell you I’m the world’s greatest lover, that’s PR.” These guys are blog-happy, constantly saying, “Amazon is great in the sack” and for them, Amazon really is.
  • But what about the bazillion indie authors signing that petition at Change.org? *facepalm* When I think about Change.org, I think about altruistic things, not a lover-letter to a billion dollar corporation. They also changed the wording of the letter AFTER thousands of people signed it, which tells me that some indie authors could use a good editor.

  • There’s a lot of animus toward traditional publishing. No doubt about it. My agent receives 40,000 queries each year, so there are a lot of budding authors out there who’ve been told that their baby is ugly by the traditional publishing world. It’s easy to sell this group on the notion that Hachette is big and evil and Amazon is their new BFF. Hence the Readers United email which didn't go to readers, it went to Amazon's self-published authors.

  • But, it’s all about price! No, it isn’t. Seriously. It’s about making eBooks the preferred platform and giving Amazon total dominance of that market. Imagine how much easier it would be for the workers in Amazon warehouses if people stopped ordering physical books and simply ordered off their Kindles. This is about pushing the eBook platform over traditional books. It’s a win, win, WIN for Amazon. Traditional publishers are worried about that agenda, because the lower pricing will hurt their bottom line and give too much control to an entity that already controls 50% of the marketplace. Do you want that? I don’t want that. I like bookstores and I like balance. But I also live in Montana and there are communities that can’t sustain a bookstore, so Amazon and eBooks are great! But real books are more important. I’m doing an event with Bernie’s Book Bank in Chicago this fall. Bernie’s gives new books to poor kids in inner city neighborhoods. These are kids who don’t own a single book—not one! They’re certainly not going to have a Kindle lying around.

  • And lastly, it’s worth noting that a year ago I offered a free short story to anyone who pre-ordered SONGS OF WILLOW FROST from a traditional bookstore. Someone at Amazon lost his or her mind over this. They called my publisher and took issue with my tiny gesture of kindness to indie booksellers. And when I refused to include them in my free deal, it was intimated that my book was being considered for Amazon’s September Book of the Month and that status was now in jeopardy. I told them to go perform hideous obscenities upon themselves. I don’t like bullies, even if they do offer free shipping.

You know you've entered Crazy Town when Amazon starts quoting Orwell.