Archive for the ‘publishing industry’ Category

Zommmmmbies! (part 2)
November 5, 2010

Picking up where I left off on Wednesday…

Through a combination of staying out too late and being an Eastern Time zoner, I got one hour of sleep before meeting my friend Mary (who I know from Zihua) for breakfast at Pike Place Market. The one where they throw the fish. And get this — they threw TWO fish for me to take a picture but they threw them OVER MY HEAD! (the fish is the blurry thing right above the guy’s hands.)

I also ordered a dozen cookies. Through jail.

I got back to the hotel in time for Stacey’s 11am panel, which had been changed to 10am. From that point on it was referred to as the nanel (the non-panel) and we’ve affectionately renamed the entire weekend the Nanel Weekend. At least we got to see a group perform Thriller.

She got reeeeeally into it.

Their Sunday panel was also moved so I had the opportunity to lounge on a fancy couch at the front of the room and pretend I was important enough to be a panelist. Although one of the very helpful organizers (who looked JUST like John Malkovich) treated me as if I was part of their group, so I almost felt like an honorary member of their super cool club.

The rest of Sunday was a bit of a blur (one hour of sleep people) but I do recall the hottest tea I’ve ever been served and the best fish tacos I’ve had in a long time.

The whole reason we came!

My trip ended on a high note when Jesse and I ended up on the same flight to Chicago. We talked shop (and roofs) for the ENTIRE flight and I’m very excited to count her — and everyone else — as my new friends.

I did learn a few things worth noting:
– the publishing industry is hard even after you’re published
– “they” aren’t always right (in regards to writing/querying rules)
– George Romero is very tall
– Chuck Palahniuk (or Palucknucknuck as we kept calling him) is rather frisky
– it doesn’t rain EVERY day in Seattle
– people are rude no matter how polite you are
– little tiny cupcakes in the hotel lobby make everything okay
– fish don’t drip when flying through the air

And finally…
– zombies can’t talk because they don’t breathe


Zommmmmbies! (part 1)
November 3, 2010

I try to live my life by the mantra that if I go into a situation without any expectations — good OR bad — then more times than not I’ll end up having a good time. (Not that I didn’t expect anything but FUN with Jen and Stacey…)

This past weekend was no exception. After my four and a half hour flight to Seattle — during which I plotted my nano novel (yay!) — I galloped (yes galloped) into the arms of Jen!

(I swear I didn’t copy her post — I didn’t realize we used the same descriptions until after I wrote this. But check hers out for pictures.)

I hiked through the airport with her adorable family, then drove through a rainy Seattle (who knew?) to the Barnes & Noble where Stacey was signing books. Except she wasn’t there.

Turns out B&N had a booth at the actual convention. After much running in the rain and lamenting the jokers that kept moving the “you are here” dots on the directional maps, we found her!

That’s also when I met Scott, the author I interviewed last Friday. I attended their panel with writers Jesse and Scott, where I learned that zombies are people, too, then our entire entourage headed to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with the oddest menu I’ve ever seen. (Precious Nuts anyone?)

I was a little star-struck by all these published authors. And not just published — multi-published. We didn’t talk shop ALL night since half our group were non-writers, but it was fascinating to hear their stories. (I bought a book from each of them so my stash of autographed books doubled!)

We continued the evening at a couple places near the hotel where I learned that one person has been to Zihua several times (and lives a block from where I lived in Chicago), Stacey and Jen are super hugable and fun to take pictures with, and it is, in fact, today.

Tune in Friday for the rest of the story and more pictures!

Interview with S.G. Browne. Yes, There are Zombies.
October 29, 2010

Tomorrow I will have the honor of meeting S.G. Browne, author of the upcoming Fated, “a dark, irreverent comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans.” Kirkus Reviews calls Browne “one of America’s best satiric novelists.” I’ve only known him for a couple weeks, but from what I’ve seen, I’d have to agree.

Browne was nice enough to answer a few questions about Fated, his writing inspirations, and how I should behave at this weekend’s zomBcon. If this interview is any indication, I think I’m going to have fun.

You’ve said one of your writing inspirations is Chuck Palahniuk. Who—or what—would you say inspired you to cross over to the mayhem of the afterlife?

My first love has always been supernatural horror, having grown up on a steady diet of Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, and Robert McCammon, among others. From 1990-2002, that’s what I primarily wrote. Supernatural horror. Three novels (none of them published) and four dozen short stories (a dozen which saw print).

In 2002 I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, a dark comedy about an African culling song. I’d never read anything like it, the blending of the dark comedy and the supernatural. Having written a darkly comedic short story about zombies the year before, I was inspired to turn that into a full-length novel, which eventually became Breathers. So really, I crossed over from supernatural horror to dark comedy.

It seems the transition has worked well for you. Your second novel, Fated, comes out November 2nd. In it Fate has grown disillusioned with assigning and reassigning people their fates—garbage collector, drug addict, career politician—then things get worse when he falls in love with a human. You swear this isn’t a contemporary romance, so I’m dying to know why you chose the name Fabio for your main character.

Well, I was looking for a name that started with F to go with Fate, preferably Fa-, and so I made a list of possible names. Fagan, Falco, Farnam, and a bunch of Arabic names, none of which really hit the mark. The only one that stood out was Fabio. It just seemed like a perfect fit. I can’t imagine him being anything but Fabio.

A very reasonable answer. And now I have every name that starts with an F running through my head.

Breathers, your first novel, is about a newly minted zombie and his adjustment to his new existence. Who was your inspiration for the MC? Was this your first encounter with this character?

I don’t think I have an answer for the first question. My inspiration for Andy, the main character of Breathers, isn’t anything I can definitively point to and say “That one.” He was just a character and a voice that developed as I got to know him. While I’m sure there’s a little bit of me in him and in all of my characters, none of my characters are me. And although he didn’t have a name at the time, Andy appeared in my short story “A Zombie’s Lament,” which was the short story upon which Breathers was based.

What made you choose to write from the perspective of the zombie?

I wanted to write a zombie story and thought: What if I were the zombie? But instead of being a stereotypical Hollywood zombie clamoring for brains, I was just a reanimated corpse who was gradually decomposing, had no rights, and needed some serious therapy. What would I do? Where would I stay? How would society treat me? I wondered if I could make the reader sympathetic to the zombie’s plight so that if he gave in to his Hollywood urges, the reader would be cheering him on rather than screaming in horror.

I love that you’ve taken a different approach from most other stories. As someone who isn’t well-versed in the whole zombie phenomenon, this definitely appeals to me.

On your website you advise aspiring writers to “Write what you want to write, not what someone else tells you to write or what you think people would want to read,” (which I think is FABULOUS advice). On that note, what would be your advice to someone aspiring to survive life—or their undead life?—as a zombie?

Good hygiene is a must. It’s tough to blend in when you smell like fresh compost. Pine-Sol soakings can help, but ultimately you’ll need to make sure you get a daily dose of formaldehyde, especially if you weren’t embalmed prior to reanimating. Even if you can’t get hold of the heavy duty stuff, formaldehyde can be found in shampoos, hair conditioners, household cleaning items, and most brands of cosmetics. It can also be found in diet sodas as Aspartame converts to formaldehyde when it’s left out in the sun. Other than that, I’d suggest staying away from hot, humid climates and avoiding roving gangs of teenagers, rednecks, fraternity pledges, and bowling leagues.

So pack plenty of diet soda. Got it.

You’re scheduled to be a panelist at zomBcon in Seattle this Halloween weekend alongside our mutual friend Stacey Graham, and the Twitter conversations leading up to the event have been a tad… um… boisterous. Are you more afraid of the zombies or meeting us?

The zombies are probably easier to reason with, but I’m apprehensive about their dietary preferences. And I’m sure there’s an inappropriate joke about getting eaten alive in there somewhere.

You may be correct.

Speaking of which, I’m worried that I’ll walk into zomBcon and be devoured. What does a newbie like me need to know before risking life and limb with a bunch of zombies?

First of all, respect their personal space. Zombies don’t like it when you get up in their face and so they’re likely to bite off yours. Back off. Second, don’t stare. Zombies are a little temperamental, not to mention self-conscious, and will take your gawking as a sign of disrespect. Wearing sunglasses is a good idea. And third, if you’re bringing any brains, make sure you bring enough to share.

Zombies have feelings? I never would have known. Okay, so no looking in their eyes. Is there anything I should avoid doing? Licking my lips? Showing off my juicy delts?

Are you talking about zombies or have we moved on to speed dating?

Well… ahem. If my attempts to avoid contact fail and I’m confronted, should I just play dumb? I would think that coming off as overly brainy is just asking for trouble.

Playing dumb is, ironically, always the smart play. Hanging out with a bunch of zombies is kind of like being a Democrat in a room full of Sarah Palin supporters. Dumbing it down is the key to survival. And if all else fails, just grunt a lot. Same goes for the zombies.

I’ve had some experience with that lately, so I think I’ll be safe.

Finally, which goes best with humans? A1 or Bull’s-Eye?

Bull’s-Eye. Nothing beats a good Breather BBQ like the big, bold taste of Bull’s-Eye.

Thank you Scott! I’m more of an A1 girl myself, so maybe I should douse myself before I arrive. Either way, I feel more prepared for zomBcon and look forward to meeting you.

You can learn more about Scott at his website And be sure to check out his site for Breathers, Undead Anonymous. Or stalk him on Twitter like I do.

Another Thing I Picked Up at the Paper Show
October 20, 2010

That sounds wrong. Yes I picked up lots of paper, but I’m about to tell you about a conversation I had with two gentlemen and I neither picked them up nor picked them up.

The company they represent produces paper that many book publishers use, so you know my whole body perked up like a tuning fork when they said that. We talked about how many publishers have started using a lower quality paper in their books, and how that means books won’t have the shelf-life they used to. As I understand it, some of this is a result of e-readers playing a larger role in publishing, but some of it is plain old economics.

These gentlemen told me about a couple women in their company who’ve started a blog to protest this lesser-quality paper. That blog? Gutenberg Girls. How cool is that?

(Unless you’re for saving trees, etc, in which case I do understand that side of the argument. No, I couldn’t be more wishy-washy.)

They also have a website called Permanence Matters that states “Digital spreads the written word. Permanent paper preserves it.” It’s worth checking out.

Which way do you lean in the paper vs digital argument?

October 13, 2010

I just thought I should get that out there. I don’t plan to give updates here unless it’s something fabulous, but after all the build-up over the past few months I felt like I should let you know I’ve released my baby to the wild!

The Greatest Jewelry Salesman in the World — Guest Post by Stephen Parrish
April 26, 2010

I’d like to give a warm welcome to Stephen Parrish, a writing friend whose debut novel, The Tavernier Stones, comes out May 1st (although rumor has it you can already get it online and, as Stephen puts it, “in courageous bookstores everywhere”).

Stephen has helped me in the past when I was working on my query letter, and he’s one of two writers (the other being Erica Orloff) who pulled the internet together when friend-of-the-blog Travis Erwin‘s house burned to the ground in 2009.

Kinda makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, right?

But on to today’s business. Stephen is giving away a one carat diamond to the first person who can find the image of one he’s hidden somewhere on the web. A diamond! I don’t know about you, but I could use a diamond. Get the contest details at

Now on to Stephen’s post.

The Greatest Jewelry Salesman in the World

I started out with more or less the same attitude as most people: salespeople want my money, and in order to get it, will tell me whatever I want to hear. Nevertheless I needed a job in college and I’d always been fascinated by gemstones, so I responded to a newspaper ad for a part time jewelry salesman. To my surprise, they hired me; I guess you could say I’d made my first sale.

Naturally I wanted to do the best possible job, so when I finished my first month something like #37 on the ranking of all salespeople in the region, I thought, “That won’t do.” During the next four months I climbed to the top of the list.

I considered myself the greatest jewelry salesman in the world.

After college I wasn’t able to get into my chosen profession right away, so I bided my time selling jewelry. Now the job was full time, and I was working for a different company, one that catered to the carriage trade. Big ticket stuff. Customers with so much money you could smell it. The learning curve was steep once again, but I was determined to be #1 in this realm as well. After all, I considered myself the greatest jewelry salesman in the world.

The difference between a great salesperson and an adequate one is this: the great one recognizes that it is the customer who must make the purchase, not the salesperson who must make the sale. If that sounds subtle, well, that’s why there are so few great salespeople. A great salesperson knows how to read customers, even during the minute or so it takes them to enter the store. At some crucial point during the encounter he shows them exactly what they want, or what they think they want, and because he is a company employee and must earn as much money for the company as possible, they end up buying the most expensive thing they can afford.

That’s the part that eventually tripped me up. One day a young couple entered the store. Just getting engaged, looking for a ring. Since I considered myself the greatest jewelry salesman in the world, by golly they were going to buy one from me. We ended up settling on a diamond solitaire worth several thousand dollars. I’ve never forgotten a diamond, and I’ve never met one I didn’t like; this one fluoresced the most beautiful golden color under longwave UV light I’d ever seen. The young fiancée was captivated. As I knew she would be. This time it wasn’t the customer who made the purchase, it was me who made the sale. They put $100 down. That was normal.

What happened a week or so later was not: she came back to make a payment, handing me thirteen crumpled one-dollar bills.

That’s when something snapped. Like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes one day, I realized it was possible to be too good of a salesman. So good that the transactions aren’t win-win. So good that the customer gets taken for more than she can afford. So good it becomes bad. What these kids needed, as their wedding day approached, was a washer and dryer, not a rock.

I adjusted my attitude. My sales slumped some, and the store manager began admonishing me gently. The next big turning point came when a woman returned a sapphire ring to the store, complaining that the culet was broken. The culet is the sharpened point at the bottom of a round-cut stone.

The manager examined the stone through a loupe and judged the phenomenon to be a “natural,” an original part of the rough gem that the cutter left uncut. Naturals are often found on the girdle (outer rim) of a stone, and are considered fair by the industry. But they aren’t normally associated with culets.

The woman wasn’t satisfied. To her it looked broken. The manager asked another salesperson to examine it, and she also claimed to see a natural. “Nothing wrong with this stone,” the two women assured the customer, who was growing increasingly frustrated.

I reached for the ring to see for myself, and as I did so, I noticed the manager stiffening and pressing her lips together. Her body language was clear: “Toe the line, boy.”

The culet of the stone was damaged. The customer’s assessment was entirely correct. There was no mistaking the uneven fracture characteristic of corundum, the mineral name for sapphire.

“It’s broken,” I said.

The woman got her money back. I got the cold shoulder for the rest of the day.

They came just before closing time. The burlies, the men with eyes set too close together. There were three of them, and they approached from three different angles.

It was normal procedure. They had to make sure I didn’t try to pocket something, in retribution, at the last moment. One of them asked for my showcase key. I handed it to him. The others each took an arm and escorted me out of the store and into the mall.

“The company has no further need for your services,” the leader informed me. The men let go of my arms. I left the mall. I had to go home and explain to my wife that I’d been fired.

But I was okay with it. Because that was the day I became the greatest jewelry salesman in the world.

You can learn more about Stephen at his website Now go order your own copy of The Tavernier Stones!

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