Hey, Earth. Stop it now.

Today I’m thinking of my friend Yoshiko. She writes really excellent, elegant stories about young girls’ first friendships, lonely office workers and black kittens. She lives in Japan. I’m fairly certain that she’s alright, and almost equally certain that people she knows and cares for are not.

I’m also thinking of a kid I knew way back in the day. A kid I was never that fond of. Yesterday I heard that last month he was jumped by a group of idiots and beaten beyond recognition in Brooklyn. Because he’s gay.

Pretty maids all in a row…ARCS!!!

There are a few particularly nice milestones on the road to publication. Seeing the book in an early finished form is definitely one of them. At about 3pm, the UPS guy knocked at the door and said he had a present for me. Did he really know what he was bringing, or did my creepily excited face tip him off? Anyway, I opened the box to see these:

All the digital cameras in the house are dead, so I had to use the webcam. Things got weird and wrestly for a few minutes. But there they are. Shiny and new. And so much detail on Anna’s dress, and all the red on the back cover, which I didn’t take a picture of, because I thought I was going to break my computer setting up another shot.

What is this? A center for ants?!?

Oh Derek Zoolander. How I love your perky hair and sucked in cheeks. The screenplay for Zoolander 2 is in the can, penned by Stiller, with Will Ferrell’s Mugatu written in. It’s been a decade or so. But I’ll still see it.

In other random movie musings, what’s going in with The Dark Knight Rises casting? Is Anne Hathaway going to be Catwoman? Is Shia LeBeouf or however you spell his name going to be Robin? Is there going to be a Robin? Look, Christopher Nolan. I trust you implicitly. But there are limits to your power.

So, how excited am I for books this year? Probably more excited than I have been in years. It’s one of the coolest things about this biz, how plugged in you get to the flow of books. But it’s a double-edged sword. Let me explain. There are so many books coming out that I’m excited for. There are so many new authors that I’m dying to get acquainted with. But there are also classics that I need to catch up on. And perennial favorites that I need to keep tabs on. Really these are way too many books for me to afford.

But you know how Joey from Friends doesn’t share food? Well, I don’t choose between books.

So far I’m going with a three-pronged plan. I’m buying a Nook, which will reduce costs and slow the reproduction of bookshelves in my home, which is approaching rabbit-speed. When I do buy, I split my purchase between new lusts and old faves. For example, in a week or so I’m buying Courtney Allison Moulton’s Angelfire, and Holly Black’s short story collection The Poison Eaters, and the Andre Dubus’ collection Finding a Girl in America. And finally, I buy books as gifts now, quite frequently. Or I target reading friends who would enjoy a particular book I’m after, so they buy it. Then a few months later, I’ll discreetly borrow it. If I do too much of this, I’ll wind up looking like a bit of a D-bag. But I’ll be a reading D-bag, and that’s what matters.

When Writers Read

No quote today. I think because I just watched Cast Away, and it is films like that (and Brokeback Mountain) that remind me how much can actually be said with no words at all.

So I told myself that as I get along doing guest blogs and what not, that this journal wouldn’t go untended. We’ll see. Honestly, between Facebook and Twitter, and let’s not forget, actual writing, there’s only so much to say. And I think we all agree that filler sucks. Except when Willow sings it in the Buffy musical.

This post isn’t filler. It has to do with stuff that’s been going around lately, about bloggers and bad reviews and all that zazz. Now, I’m not going to weigh in on that because enough people have, with strong points. I’ll only say this to the writers out there, pubbed or unpubbed: Bad reviews are on their way. Of course they are. People are going to poke our babies with sticks and watch them cry. Occasionally, our babies will be fed to dingoes. But our babies are like Kenny from South Park. They just show up at the bus stop the next day with their kicky red hoods up. Moving on.

The thing that all this bad review talk and being a writer writing reviews talk got me to thinking about wasn’t about reviewing at all. It made me think about reading. And how different that experience becomes, once you’re also writing. Particularly if you’re studying about writing. Any writing students know where I’m going with this?

When I started studying writing I had a freak out. I didn’t like learning all these techniques and methods. Because I’m a reader. It was like seeing up the magician’s sleeve. I didn’t want to see the strings. Thought it would take the magic and the pleasure out of it, and pretty much turn me into a bitter a-hole. I didn’t want to understand the purpose of dialogue or tense. I didn’t want to see the virtues of minimalism and the calculation of a motif. I. Don’t. Like. Brushstrokes. Except on paintings. Those are fine. I noticed that when I read something, I’d be instantly critical of it. I was starting to see through.

And not through in the way that you notice every time Stephen King writes himself into his books, the same way he manages to pop up in all of the movie adaptations (and did you hear, The Stand is hitting the big screen! Fucking right! Or oh so wrong…) or the way that you noticed that Anne Rice took certain liberties with characters in the last Vampire Chronicles installment. (and no offense to either of these writers. I’m huge fans of both and say it with endearment.) But seeing through. To the technique rather than the story.

The fact of the matter is, once you study writing, you don’t read the same way you used to. But so what? On the other side of it, I wouldn’t trade the studies. Besides, reading is still kickass. The writers I loved I still love, just with a new dimension of appreciation.

If you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I’ve got time.

Thanks to Rachel for the quote. She loves her some Tommy Boy. But seriously, it relates. Loosely, but whatever. And no, not to the taking-a-dump-in-a-box part. To the "I’ve got time" part.

Because I’ve got time, people. Anna #2 is safely in the hands of the editor, and Anna Dressed in Blood’s first pass pages are there too. So she’s out of my hands. And since I’ve already written my hopeful option book, I’m using the in-between time to, not start another book, but to embark on some fun with bloggers.

Bloggers are awesome. They’re passionate, reading people. I love those people. Nikki over at Wicked Awesome Books described book bloggers and authors as a sort of extended family, and that’s a decent way of putting it. So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be stalking down book bloggers and racking my gourd for interesting guest posts, maybe throwing giveaway offers at them. Steph of Thoughts of a Book Junky did a great interview and tracked down pics of what Cas and Anna look like. I’d never really pictured them but the two shots she found make for a damn attractive couple.  In March I’ll post with the fricken sweet Shanyn from Chick Loves Lit to celebrate her 2 year blogoversary. It’ll be the very first Throwdown! With Kendare Blake. (And perhaps the last…) The prize will be a $20 BN gift card.

My goal with these blog posts is of course in part to spread the word about Anna. But it’s also because I love books and I love people who talk about books and it’s fun to get in on the convo. And because I’ve got time. So if you’re a blogger in need of weird content, contact me. We’ll talk.

End of blogger love, for now.

Random thing: The book-adapted film I would most like to see re-made: The Neverending Story. I’ve wanted to see a re-make of this for years. Never mind that I love the old school original. Never mind that I’ve seen they can butcher the novel with the two follow up editions, starring Jonathan Brandis and that d-bag from Free Willy.

Remember him? Oh, who does.

But just think how much cuter Falcor could be with the advances of CGI. 

Not that this isn’t cute. But you know what I mean. 
Unfortunately, I think M. Night Shyamalan might have done something similar already in The Last Airbender. Which once again gives me the occasion to say, God Damn you M. Night Shyamalan! God damn you. 

Got any adaptations you’d like to see? And please, oh please, someone say the rest of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

I’m in a lot of movies with all male casts. (And I’m on Twitter.)

Yeah, so now I’m @KendareBlake. Make of it what you will. So far, it’s been fun to expand my stalking of people. However, I suspect that the Internet has become sentient, and its present plan of domination is to make voyeurs and narcissists of us all. Still, I have to remember right after this to go follow The Daily Show.

Back to the all-male casts. It’s a line from Zack and Miri Make a Porno, probably my favorite Justin Long role (gay porno starring boyfriend of Brandon Routh). To the point: Cross-gender writing. How well does a female writer inhabit the head of a male character? How well does a male writer inhabit the head of a female character? I’m particularly interested to read a few of the Elevensie Dudes’ books with girl protags, such as Randy Russell’s DEAD RULES and Karsten Knight’s WILDEFIRE. And then there’s me, writing out of Cas’ head in ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD.

Personally, I think too big a stink is made over the issue at times. I hear complaints about dudes being written too feminine, with too many EMOTIONS or being too chatty. But hey. Some guys are like that.  I haven’t heard yet of anyone being accused of under-feminizing a girl, or making a boy too macho. Are there examples of this? Or do the negative traits that are singled out largely feminine traits? If so, extrapolate what that says about women.

Anyway, just a thought. First pass pages came in this week, so that’s what I’ll be up to. When I opened the file and started reading, it looked like a book. And my initial thought was, "I didn’t write this. Mine looks like a Word doc." Even though I’ve had that same response to seeing my writing in book form before, there it was again. Good.

There is the dumbest movie on in the background. Outlander, with Jim Caviezel. It’s like a mash-up of Alien, Grendel and The Thirteenth Warrior. Only it really, really sucks. All I want is for the dragon to pee on the princess and kick her off a cliff, then eat Jim Caviezel, lying down and smacking its jaws happily against its forepaws. Crap. Movie’s over and SPOILER ALERT! That’s not what happened.

It’s like I’m wearing nothing at all…nothing at all…Stupid Sexy Flanders!

A classic ep of The Simpsons (or as my friend Sus calls them, "Simpys") and oh so hilarious. Two things this post. One: Hey, Book Nightmares. I’m done with you. Thanks. Bye bye then.

That’s right, the book nightmares have arrived. In the past I’ve listened to horror tales from some of my fellow Elevensies about their own book nightmares, so I know this is perfectly natural. But still. I like variety in my subconscious. So repeatedly dreaming of something catastrophic occuring about or within the book is getting on my nerves. Strangely however, I have not yet had a nightmare about Anna herself. Dylan just had his first one this week. My agent Adriann had hers before even signing me. My editor Mel Frain has had two.

The other thing this post: Book Two is in the can! Still no official title, but it’s in the can. And by "can" I mean it is resting for a week, waiting for me to go through it and fix it one more time before it heads out to be prettied up by the professionals. I don’t write in drafts. A scene or two might have something added. There are lots of individual words that get cut. But that’s about it. I’d be interested to hear about a writer with a real, heavy first, second, third draft process. Is it just a writer realizing that they hate what the book turned out like, and saying F this book, I’m writing you over! I do that sometimes, but afterwards, only the barest plot bones remain, so I don’t consider it "drafting."

End of writerly things. The Dark Knight is on in the background. Did Christian Bale win the SGA for Best Supporting? Well he should have. Because he is sublime. SUBLIME! I cannot wait for the third, however the title, The Dark Knight Rises, definitely gets a fail. Come on. What happened to Gotham City?

There is no normal life. There’s just life. You get on with it.

Sometimes writing seems to me a fragile thing. The difference between writing well and writing poorly feels like a tightrope, and if I lose vigilance for even one second, I’ll forget how to balance and plunge off the line, screaming about how much I suck until I hit the ground. Don’t mistake this crazy sort of paranoia for modesty. It’s a real fear. Every writer can write like crap.  You throw words out across the expanse, stringing them along over nothing, and you hope that they’re the right words, and that there will be enough of them to find the other side. Even when it’s going well, when everything links up and you steamroll along and think foolishly delightful things like "Oh it’s so easy!" it’s still an act of daring. So don’t let anyone look down at you when you pause to hyperventilate alongside the tracks. Just keep a paper bag handy.

My version of the paper bag is a set of carefully observed superstitions. For instance, when actively writing, I never read anything with too strong a style, and one that I could potentially imitate. Because I totally will. Examples of things I can’t imitate: Bret Easton Ellis. Milan Kundera. Both safe. Two, I never read anything that could be remotely considered my genre. Because then I’ll compare and that’s a trainwreck laced with hostess cupcakes just waiting to happen.

I think everybody has their own set of quirks and rules. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. Hey wait a minute, is that phrase dirty? Anyway, aside from the common denominator of striving to write well, we all do it differently. I average 2k per writing session. Some writers average less. Some average 12k, and holy shit they’re going to put out seven books a year and I’m only going to manage one or two and that means they’re supreme rulers of the writing universe and I suck intensely! Nope. Although 12k is impressive and sometimes I do suck intensely, it just means we differ.

I love to hear about other people’s processes. It’s fascinating. I like to hear where ideas came from, and how problems get solved. But it’s good to remember that there is no normal writing. There’s just writing. We get on with it.

No Fate But What We Make. So Don’t Illegally Download Books.

Okay, so that’s not what Sarah Connor meant in T2. And illegally downloading books won’t bring about the rise of the machines. Actually, come to think of it, it might stop the rise of the machines all together. Stay with me a second. Have you seen Idiocracy? Extrapolate. If too many people illegally download books and music, the writers and musicians they love will no longer be allowed by the industry to write books and make music. So people stop reading and listening to music, and within several generations, they revert to cave people. CAVE PEOPLE! Am I being dramatic? Yes, obviously. But just don’t do it man. For a more….cohesive analysis, read this post by The Vespertine author Saundra Mitchell. She makes a real case.

Bought Michael Crichton’s TIMELINE yesterday, because I want that moment where the science builds up and then begins to unravel to reveal the monstrosity underneath. Most of his books have that moment. And I want it. So what if after that it’s pretty much just explosions and death and guy-movie carnage? It’s still cool, and nobody does that like Crichton. Sorta weird that he’s dead.

Thank you to everyone who commented on or shone a spotlight on the cover for Anna Dressed in Blood. It’s quite incredible of you, and I do notice, and appreciate it.

Now I must be off, to work on the completion of the novel formely known as The Girl From Hell. New title TBA. Maybe I should just make it a symbol and then turn that symbol into a guitar…no wait, Prince already did that.

Piano riff…WOO! Piano Riff…WOO! (Anna Dressed in Blood Cover Art)

If you’ve seen the "Three Kings" episode of Family Guy where they spoof Stand By Me, you’ll know what that title is about. If you haven’t, watch it. I died. Hilarious. But the elation has a reason. Anna’s got cover art!

I just opened my email and there it was, a lovely gift from the awesome editor Mel Frain and the Tor art folks. Mostly I think, a guy named Seth. I’m biased, but I think everyone involved with the cover is insane with talent. It’s so nice to see Anna, finally, looking so…dead. And pretty! I know the red flecks are probably supposed to depict rose petals, but I like to pretend they’re bits of her victims. Ah yes, it warms the cockles. Unless I don’t have cockles. What the heck are cockles, anyway?