Two-Gun Witch – The Big Idea

One week ago today, Two-Gun Witch was released, as you know. On that day, John Scalzi was kind enough to give me a Big Idea spot on his blog. The Big Idea was the inspiration for A Story is Born on this blog. It’s essentially a spot for authors to talk about a book’s premise. Why didn’t I post that here at the time, you ask? Well, for two reasons. First, his blog gets roughly 23 trillion times the traffic mine does, so it felt a little unnecessary because it’s not like I’d drive a lot of traffic his way. As I’d hoped, this gave the book a nice boost in sales, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that some people may not know Scalzi or follow his blog. If that’s you, first I highly recommend both. There’s a reason he’s such a successful writer. Second, I apologize.

Click here if you’d like to know how Two-Gun Witch came to be, please to enjoy!

As ever, please buy the book. If you have already, many thanks, and now please buy a copy for a friend. If you’ve done that, many more thanks, and now please ask your friend to buy a copy for another friend.

Happy Book Birthday Two-Gun Witch!

#SFWAPRO
Today is the day I’ve been waiting for, for a long while. You can now own your very own copy of Two-Gun Witch! You’ll find links to all the usual places to buy the book at the end of this post, but I also wanted to share something special. Music is very important to me and my writing process. As I noted in an earlier blog post, one of the great ironies of life is that the sound of typing keys drives me crazy. Seriously, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. As such, music is vital to maintain my sanity while writing (or working for that matter). Add to that, I tend to visualize my stories and music does an important providing a soundtrack for my mental movie. That’s why one of the first things I do when I start a new book is I create a new playlist for it. The songs provide a nice emotional punch to keep me in the right headspace. With that in mind, I’ve decided to recreate the playlist I made for Two-Gun Witch on Spotify and share it with you. There’s some songs in there you’ve probably heard, and perhaps more than a few you haven’t. Either way, I hope you enjoy it! If you’d prefer, here’s the direct link. If you prefer to find the songs yourself, I’ll paste the names in the text below, with YouTube links.

Two-Gun Witch Playlist

Enjoy the music, enjoy the book, and like with all books, posting a review or spreading word of the book to others would be a huge help! Thanks!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Google Books

My local indie bookstore (they ship worldwide)
Fountain Bookstore – Paperback
Fountain Bookstore – Hardcover


Playlist

Against the Wind – The Highwaymen
Aint Going to Heaven – Gangstagrass
Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash
All for One – Gangstagrass
Annabelle – Gillian Welch
At Your Window – Trampled by Turtles
Ballad of a Lonely Man – Mike Ness
Banks of the Ohio – Gangstagrass
Big Iron – Mike Ness
Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound – Johnny Cash
Come Dance – Steep Canyon Rangers
Dear Sister – Claire Lynch
Don’t Take Your Guns to Town – Johnny Cash
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky – Johnny Cash
God’s Gonna Cut You Down – Johnny Cash
Hey Brother – Avicii
Highwaymen – The Highwaymen
Honey Babe – Gangstagrass
Hurt – Johnny Cash
In Hell I’ll be in Good Company – The Dead South
It Will Follow the Rain – The Tallest Man On Earth
John Henry – Gangstagrass
Long Hard Times To Come – Gangstagrass
I am a Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys
The Mercy Seat – Johnny Cash
Murder Ballad in G Minor – The Rosewood Thieves
Murder Song (5,4,3,2,1) – Aurora
O’ Death – Gangstagrass
Orphan Girl – Gillian Welch
The Outskirts – Trampled by Turtles
Peacemaker – The Steeldrivers
Ran Dry – Gangstagrass
The Recap – The Dead South
Remember Me This Way – Steve Martin, Edie Brickell
Renegades – X Ambassadors
Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
River Runs Red – The Steeldrivers
Six More Miles – Mike Ness
Take the Wheel – Steep Canyon Rangers
Walk the Line – The Tallest Man On Earth
The Way it Goes – Gillian Welch
We All Get Lonely – Trampled by Turtles
Whiskey – Trampled by Turtles
Wildwood Flower – Mike Ness
You Can Never Go Home Again – Gangstagrass
Your Rocky Spine – Great Lake Swimmers

Podcast Appearance

Ed, my friend since seventh grade, is a history teacher in Northern California. He also co-hosts a podcast called A Geek History of Time with Damian Harmony, a fellow teacher. They were kind enough to invite me on to talk about my writing journey, and my American Faerie Tale books. I’m a fan of the podcast and if you enjoy history and/or geekery, I highly recommend it, even the episodes I don’t appear in. The episode on Squirrel Girl is on of my favorites. Beware, if you dread puns, stretch your eyes before listening because Damian will have them rolling continually. And good news, the podcast is available everywhere I know of that you can get podcasts!

Home Page

iTunes

Spotify

Release Date!Cover Reveal! But Wait, There’s More!

#SFWAPRO
Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I’ve been excited to get Two-Gun Witch out into the world. I think it’s the best work I’ve done, which it should be as my latest work. Well, after literal years of working and waiting and working some more, we have a release date! Come May 31st, you can finally read the story I’m sure you’ve been chomping at the bit to read! That’s right, not even two months! It’s been great working with the folks at Falstaff books, and I’m excited to officially join the misfit clan. For those of you who don’t know, it’s been a long and winding path to get this story to publication. It got shopped around at most of the big houses and several smaller presses, but they all passed. Which was surprising because with two exceptions, all the editors who read it, really liked it. They said they loved the world building, the characters, and that the writing was strong. One was so sure his house would pick it up that he actually started editing it. The problem came from the marketing people. Weird\Fantasy Western isn’t a genre that tends to do very well. Which is one reason I push Two-Gun Witch as historical fantasy, but don’t tell anyone. All this to say, I’m glad Falstaff had the courage to take the risk with the book, and it would be really helpful not just for me, but for other authors of niche and stranger stories if you picked up a copy. Okay, right now it would be mostly for me, but it will also help Falstaff find other cool stories.

That done, here is the official cover reveal for Two-Gun Witch! I know, you already saw a thumbnail in the post or email, just play along!

Covers are always nerve-wracking. As an author, you typically get very little, if any, input. Which I’m mostly okay with because I’m a writer, not an artist/graphic designer. But you always worry you won’t like it and even if you can provide feedback, you feel guilty or like a prima donna. At least I do. That said, I couldn’t be happier with this cover! I love the tone and feel, the small details, and, well, everything! I think Falstaff knocked it out of the park and special kudos to the artists, Susan Roddey!

But wait, there’s more! I hired Kirbi Fagan (an excellent artist) to do the first art work of Talen, and as you can see, she crushed it.

Well, I also had her do the four main characters in the story, which I’ll have available as postcards at events.

However, she also did an image of all four of them together! If you order the book from The Fountain Bookstore (they ship worldwide and details will be coming shortly) I’ll include an 11X17 print of the entire cast image. Keep in mind, the post cards can’t be lined up to create the full image, so this is the only way to get all four characters in one image! But, Bishop, I hear you ask. Why would I care about characters I know nothing about? I’m glad you asked! Because you’re a cool and culturally interesting person who enjoys art across various media! And I’ll even cover any additional shipping costs!

Also, you’ll be supporting an indie bookstore that does great things in the community and is staffed by awesome people! It’s a win-win-win! That’s three wins! Twice as many wins as the next leading competitor! (excluding Brandon Sanderson)

At this point, you’re probably close to being overstimulated, because even super cool people can only take so much awesome. So, I’ll let you look over the artwork and tell you to stay tuned for more posts about the new book!

A Story is Born – Sarah Sover

Sarah Sover is a publishing sibling and the author of Fairy Godmurder, a noir fantasy. Even if we weren’t with the same publisher (Falstaff Books) though, I’d be all in for this kind of story, even if she did misspell faerie.


Some ideas stem from a wayward conversation, some from a turn of phrase, some from a life experience, etc. Fairy Godmurder originated from a single scene that popped into my head fully formed like some kind of silent film.

You know how there’s a kind of magic you can feel in certain places? I always felt that way about cobblestone streets. It’s as if magic oozes out from between the stones, well-worn from the feet and wheels and hooves that have travelled over them. I’ve heard that a house resonates with the energy of those who occupied it, and I think the same goes for roads and paths.

The scene that played in my head was of rainwater gathering in those crevices between cobblestones before a pair of combat boots breaks the spell by stomping through the puddles. The woman wearing the boots is in a suit, a pencil skirt and button-up blouse, and she’s got a wide-brimmed hat keeping the rain from her eyes. She’s young. And angry.

She splashes through the puddles to where a bunch of important-looking men are milling around. She takes over, ordering them to step aside. Then she stoops over a body splayed out on the cobblestone street, blood mixing with the rainwater reflecting the streetlights above.

That’s it.

From that scene lasting only a few frames came the idea for a noir fantasy centered around a pissed off fairy godmother hunting the killer of her first princess. The body became a brownie, and the woman became Gwen, a fairy with empathic magic and motivated by a need for vengeance. She’s a magical creature, but the horrors in her life and the decisions she’s made stunt her magic, which is ironic since her magic is the key to cracking the case. The boots breaking the spell of rainwater on cobblestone are, in a way, symbolic of Gwen’s struggle to forgive herself and move forward.

But Fairy Godmurder isn’t all angst. It’s also got touches of my trademark off-kilter humor strewn throughout. I adore playing with tropes, subverting expectations, and combining and contrasting unlikely elements when I tell stories. I think it’s something about the way my ADHD brain works, connecting things in strange ways. And, like all my books, it’s got a cast of characters I’d love to grab a beer with.

Fairy Godmurder the first in my Fractured Fae series, with Faed to Black releasing next year, and I’m having a blast digging deeper into some of the dark forces at work in Fairy Godmurder while adding in some truly self-indulgent elements along the way. After all, what’s the point of writing a book if it doesn’t satisfy some part of you? The Fractured Fae series is my unapologetic take on the magical noir genre, and it all started with that single scene. It’s not so silent now.


You can find Sarah at her website, which also tells you how to find her on all the usual places. I’d also recommend her YouTube channel here, where she competed with another author for pre-order sales and shows why faeries beat pirates.

Hey, Remember Me? Updates and Some Announcements

#SWFAPRO

The title is rhetorical. If you’re getting this, you’ll (hopefully) remember me. Been a while, hasn’t it? How are you? How’s your mom and them? Me? Well, like—I imagine—many of you, I’m still wandering through the pandemic weary world where every day seems to blur into the next. All while lasting roughly 150 years. I’m getting some words down, but never as many as I’d like and mostly just focused on getting from one day to the next.

Now, some announcements:

First, I now have a roommate. Well, it’s a kitten, so probably closer to a landlord.

This is Guinness, and yes, he is as adorable in person.

He is entertaining, a total goofball, and has fondness for human flesh. Specifically, mine.

I’ve had him a few months now and he’s been good for me. It’s my first time owning a cat and I assume it’s his first time owning a human, so we’re both figuring it out as we go.

Okay, now that I’ve hooked you with cat pictures, here is some other less adorable news.

Two-Gun Witch is being editing and should be released early next year. Those of you with good memories might recall me saying something similar about the released date last year. Well, Covid is a thing and it’s caused delays as do the normal, and not so normal, problems that existed before the plague hit. In short, expect to hear more from me as the release date approaches about special pre-order offers and teasers.

And lastly but not least(ly?), there is a new(ish) American Faerie Tale story available! Yes, you heard that right! The Greatest Gift was part of a novella collection a few years ago. Since then, it’s been re-edited, given a spiffy cover (see below), and made available on its own! If you want to know how Wraith spends her holidays, check it out! It makes an excellent gift for family, friends, strangers, the barista at Starbucks who always gives you a little extra whipped cream, or even your cat or dog.

Yes, I know they can’t read! That’s what they have you for.

Fair warning, it’s a Wraith story, which means it isn’t candy canes and hot chocolate, but it has heart. If you liked the rest of the series, I’m confident you’ll like this story too.

So, there it is, short and sweet. I hope you’re all faring well through this, well, this. Hang in there and keeping hanging on. Despite some people (waaaay too many) seemingly determined to drag this out for as long as possible and learn the entire Greek alphabet, we can and will get through it.

And just because it’s that time of year, here’s a short film staring Guinness titled “My Fucking Mouse”.

A Story is Born – Dennis Danvers

#SFWAPRO
Aside from having the same last name as Captain Marvel, one of my favorite superheroes (no relation) Dennis Danvers is also a truly magnificent author. I’m lucky enough to have him in my writing critique group where he regularly fills me with feelings of inadequacy. Today, he’s hear to talk about his new novel The Perfect Stranger and how the harrowing event that seeded it.
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Jeez Louise, where did this story begin?  Ninth grade, my first job, page in a Houston branch library.  Long before then I’d figured out I loved stories more than anything, and now it was my job to sort and shelve them.  All kinds of stories for all kinds of readers.  That’s where I learned what genre meant.  I also learned the title/author combo for countless books I’ve never read—which made me an awesome trivia player for a while.  Years later I worked some years in an excellent used bookstore in Dallas and actually got to talk to all the different readers that went with the different genres and came to appreciate their varied joys and pleasures and insights.

I have four degrees in English (B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D.) and the notion in those halls was too often that only English majors read, or allowing for other readers, only English majors read texts correctly.  That just ain’t so.  Genres have always liked to party with other genres, and that keeps the whole game going in the most delightful way.

So that’s the background story, but the seed was born a few decades later when I had a heart attack in my shower.  I didn’t know what it was at first, and it didn’t particularly hurt, but (and I understand this is not unusual) I was having bizarre thoughts, a story idea—about an author who died suddenly leaving a hard drive of work behind and what might become of it—when I realized that I  was potentially that dying author, and I had a more urgent crisis to deal with than whatever nonsense dwelt on my hard drive. I’ll spare you the details, but “inky abyss” became a recurring motif in my fiction thereafter (See especially the “Adult Children of Alien Beings” stories on Tor.com).

That was a dozen years ago, but the germ of the story remained behind of orphaned work and who might find it, and what they might do with it.  The result is The Perfect Stranger, a romp through the genres.  I usually have fun writing my books, but this was deliciously fun.  The dead author is Gene Sanders Wilkerson, whose five lost works are rescued by lifelong fan, now doctoral student, Genevieve Slidell, who is delighted to discover they are wildly different from his famous work, in five different genres.

She is even more delighted (as was I) when Wilkerson’s ghost shows up, not only to approve her plan to claim the work as her own, but to tag along as she reaps the resulting accolades.  Like Genevieve, I always longed to be an author but never felt good enough.  Like Genevieve, I could never feel quite at home in the loftier realms of academe.

Oh yeah.  I used to have a cabin in the Blue Ridge where this story opens when Genevieve finds five novels in the attic.  I’m fond of epigraphs, and Wilkerson gladly provided me one for my novel:

The novelist is the perfect stranger, the fellow who sits down beside you on some journey or other, and draws you into his world of words where he does the most marvelous things to you.  You might fly.  He might enslave you.  He’ll almost certainly fuck you, convert you, something intense.  Laws don’t matter, even those of the so-called universe, for one brief ride, a 1000 pages at most.  And then, here’s the best part, you part from the stranger with the world outside the journey unchanged.  All the changes are within, where the perfect stranger lives.

—Gene Sanders Wilkerson, Thoughts on the Novel

You can find Dennis on his own blog here

First Time Spoon Deficit or Plague Make Wording Hard

I never seem to update this blog as often as I’d like. Usually I just don’t have anything of import to share with the world. There’s an awful lot out there vying for our attention, and I feel like if I’m going to take up some of your precious time, I should have something to say.

That’s in a normal year anyway, and I think we can all agree this year has been anything but normal. This year has been (still is) a dumpster fire. A dumpster fire of flaming dumpsters. And those dumpsters are filled with bags of dog turds. And the turds explode. Explosions of murder hornets. With lasers that give you hemorrhoids and make pizza and chocolate taste like brussels sprouts.

In short, this year has sucked on a level usually reserved for Greek tragedies. As such, is it any surprise that so many us are dealing with low-key fatigue and/or depression? For me, it’s like a constant grinding. It’s subtle, and while sometimes it hits me like a brick to the face, most of the time it’s background noise. Regardless, it’s always there and I feel raw—as good a word as any—and tired. Additionally, everything takes more effort now, mental and physical.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hell of time getting any writing done.

"Scream" by anguila40 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
That book isn’t going to write itself

I don’t tend to get writer’s block so much as logjam, but of course I’ve had times where I struggled to get words on the page. Usually I could push through, put butt in chair and after a bit I’d find my groove and get my wording on. But now, it takes a concerted effort to get myself in the chair at all. And then, more often than not, I have to brute force every word. The energy that would produce 5000 words before, now gets me 1000. I’ve dealt with varying levels of depression since my teens, but this is different. It’s not depression. It sort of is, but not quite. Then it dawned on me what was going on: for the first time, I’m running out of spoons on a (near) daily basis.

For those of you unfamiliar with the spoon reference, it’s an analogy used in the disabled community. The premise is that every person has a daily allotment of spoons based on mental and/or physical limitations, or lack thereof. Every task, mental or physical, costs you spoons. Everything from getting out of bed or getting dressed, to hauling boxes of books up and down stairs, or doing calculus. When you’re out of spoons, you’re done for the day; your body or brain just can’t do anything more. This means that someone could only have a few spoons for the day. So, if they want to clean the house and do the things a person needs to do every day (eat, drink, move from one place to another) there are some things they won’t be able to do. Maybe that day they don’t take a shower, or they eat cereal instead of cooking. That’s every day for some people. A constant mental balancing of the spoon allotment. For those of us without a disability, we pretty much have more spoons than we’ll ever need in a day. Sure, some extraordinary circumstances might mean we do run out, but typically we don’t. As such, we don’t think about it. We don’t have to.

I think a lot of people that never had to think about it before, are finding themselves out of spoons on a regular basis. Maybe things cost more spoons, or maybe we just have fewer of them, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter, it’s the same in the end. I know for me, some days are better than others, but by and large, it’s hard. Everything is harder.

I didn’t write this to garner sympathy, or to shame you into “sucking it up” because others have it so much worse. I did it to tell you that you’re not alone. That you’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not weak, or a failure, or being overly dramatic, or just making excuses. What you’re feeling is real. More than that, it’s a completely reasonable reaction to *gestures wildly around at the world* this.

Life is hard right now. Really hard. If you’re lucky, you and those you love are safe at home and you’re “only” dealing with isolation. If you’re not so lucky, well, you’re not. Maybe you’re not able to work from home. Maybe you’re sick, or someone you love is. Maybe you’ve lost someone, or multiple someones. Maybe you lost your job and you’re not sure if you’ll have a place to live next month, or anything to eat tonight, or what you’ll do if you get sick.

So, go easy on yourself. Don’t berate yourself if you’re not writing (or whatever your art is) as much as you think you should. Don’t feel guilty because all you managed to get done is getting from one side of the day to the other. You made it. Right now, that’s enough. That’s a win. And I want you to know that I, at least, am proud of you for that.

Another reason I wrote this is because of a blog post Chuck Wendig wrote last month that really resonated with me. You can read it here, and you really should. You should also have tissues handy.

Speculative Chic

#SFWAPRRO

The really great people at Speculative Chic asked me to stop by and talk about some of my favorite things in Sci-fi/Fantasy. I decided to use the space to talk about some really excellent books by women of color. If you’re looking for something new to read, check it out (and the rest of the site too!). Even if you aren’t, you should check out the site.

You can see the post here.