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a pretty mouth


Vermilion is continuing to receive absolutely delightful reviews. I’m so very pleased readers and critics are enjoying it; it means the world to me.

Most recently, The Arkham Digest and Foreword Reviews discussed it, and both of them had very nice things to say.

The Arkham Digest:

The world building is excellent, and Molly has created a gritty Western world in which the supernatural exists alongside the normal. Bears talk and have their own civilization, co-existing with man despite tensions. Spiritual and undead threats are handled by professional psychopomps like Lou, while monsters are dealt with by licensed monster hunters. … Fans of fantastic adventure books and readers looking for something fun and different shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up, as it’s already one of the best books of 2015.

As for Foreword Reviews:

A well-wrought character, she dresses androgynously and often passes as a man; and as an Asian American, she handles Old West racism with humor and grit. Molly Tanzer’s steampunk world layers the rough Old West of gold-rush San Francisco with the influx of Chinese immigrants and the Victorian propriety and technology attendant with the genre. The dialogue in Vermilion is vibrant and playful, with a hard edge, and offers a strong rooting of place somewhere between Victorian English and rough-and-tumble western American dialects. … Sentence for sentence, Tanzer demonstrates a strong sense of language and place, and as a whole, the world is a place which definitely demonstrates influences (anthropomorphic bears call to mind The Golden Compass; Lou’s duster and shotgun, Pretty Deadly), but is wholly unique and pleasurable to become enveloped by.

I’ll take any review that compares my stuff to The Golden Compass. Dang.

I also did an interview, over at the delightful Angela Slatter’s blog:

1. What do readers need to know about Molly Tanzer?

As my mother would say, “need is such a slippery word!” I’d certainly like readers to know that I’m a writer of short stories and novels, and that said fictions are available online and for purchase via various retailer and e-tailers—and that I think they will please anyone who like things such as historical fantasy, picaresque, Lovecraftiana (sometimes), gender-bending, genre-bending, and sexy times.

I’d also like them to know that I mix a killer cocktail.

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, my publisher/editor Cameron Pierce released a preview cover for Thetpm Pleasure Merchant, which is forthcoming this November from Lazy Fascist. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love how it fits with A Pretty Mouth but is entirely its own thing.

The Pleasure Merchant; or, The Modern Pygmalion is the first of two books I’ll be putting out with Lazy Fascist over the next year. The second will be a reprint of the novella “Rumbullion: An Apostrophe” that debuted in my collection Rumbullion and Other Liminal Libations. This is great news, as I know the cost of the original collection was prohibitive to many, and the print run was obviously limited. I’m excited Cameron’s giving me the opportunity to present “Rumbullion: An Apostrophe” to a larger audience at a more affordable price, so watch this space for further news!

This weekend I’ll be in Atlanta at the World Horror Convention. Vermilion and A Pretty Mouth will both be for sale; Vermilion, at the con bookseller, Eagle Eye Books, and A Pretty Mouth at the Eraserhead/Lazy Fascist/Deadite Press table. I’ll be a part of the mass signing event on Friday night, dressed as Herbert West: Re-Animator, so if you would like a copy of Vermilion signed in the option of reagent-green pen, please come by. Rufus will be there, as well, and he just loves being petted, I assure you.

Here’s my full schedule:

Friday, 3-4 PM: TERRIFYING TROPES: H.P. Lovecraft in the 21st Century: The Problematic Legacy of the Great Old One of Horror and the Weird – SARNATH

Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s legacy in modern horror fiction has been cemented for more than half a century in his Cthulhu Mythos and exploration of cosmic, existential horror. More recently, the tentacles of Lovecraft’s more troubling legacy – as a voice for some of the last century’s most vile expressions of racism and xenophobia – have found their way into the center of the discussion of his work. Is it possible to untangle the two sides of Lovecraft’s work? Should we?

Moderator: David Nickle. Panelists: Jesse Bullington, Leslie Klinger, Usman T. Malik, Charles Rutledge, Molly Tanzer

Friday, 6-8 PM: MASS SIGNING – THE BARRENS

Saturday, 10 AM: DEAD IN THE MORNING (Room 710 unless you hear otherwise): If you would like to attend this event, I suggest you follow the Facebook Group for announcements. This is an unofficial/guerilla reading featuring myself, J.T. Glover, Selena Chambers, Orrin Grey, and Jesse Bullington. I will be reading from my forthcoming novel, The Pleasure Merchant.

Saturday, 3-4 PM: DEADLY DEFINITIONS: When the Weird Go Pro: Exploring the Parameters and Considering the Directions of a Literary Renaissance – SARNATH

Some would call it a Renaissance. Not your daddy’s Lovecraft mythos pastiche, the Weird in the hands of today’s writers owes as much or more to literary titans such as Melville, Borges, McCarthy and Carter. Others talk about the New Weird and consider it a global movement. What is Weird fiction? Does defining the Weird focus or limit its growth? Why now, why is this literary movement so exciting, and what does the future hold for the Weird?

Moderator: Anya Martin. Panelists: Nathan Ballingrud, Lois Gresh, Scott Nicolay, Molly Tanzer, Michael Wehunt

Saturday, 4-4:30 PM: Reading in INNSMOUTH (Vermilion)

So that’s where I’ll definitely be. I will probably put in an appearance at the Costume Ball (also as Herbert West, natch), and it’s a good bet that I’ll be in the bar at some point. Those of you who have met me in the past, my hair is a giant curly mop now, so don’t look for a Phryne Fisher bob or that bleach blonde buzz cut I was rocking for a while. Those of you who haven’t met me, I’d love for you to say hi!

Lots of news for Vermilion of late, but that will have to wait, because this weekend I’ll be a guest (!) at AnomalyCon, down in Denver. AnomalyCon is historically a Steampunk-focused convention, and many of the panels reflect that. If you’d like to come say hi, please do! Day passes range between $15-20, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The programming is extensive, you can check out a full schedule at the link, but here’s where you’ll find me, with descriptions of what stuff is:

Friday, 5 PM. The Future of Steampunk. “Steampunk isn’t dead, or even plateauing. New fiction, exciting ideas and where the genre is going beyond the world of written words.”

Friday, 6 PM. Sexuality and Gender Identity in Fiction. “A discussion of the good and bad ways that mainstream fiction is exploring gender identity and sexuality, and how we can do better.”

Saturday, 12 PM. The Science of Steampunk. “Steampunk might be considered “fantasy” to some hardcore scientists today, but the science of Steampunk looks a lot like hard science when examined through a Victorian lens.”

Saturday, 1 PM: Author Free for All. “Don’t miss this wild answer to every question you never thought to ask your favorite authors! Twitter meets steroids.”

Saturday, 5 PM: Steampunk World Interview with S.J. Chambers and Molly Tanzer. “Beyond the Tropes talks Steampunk with S.J. Chambers and Molly Tanzer.”

Saturday, 9 PM. Pornography and Underground Sexuality in the Victorian Era. “Later generations would have you believe the Victorians were prudes, but the truth is something much stranger. Examine the progression of the world’s favorite pastime (sex) from the perspective of the Victorians.”

Sunday, 2 PM: Beyond the 19th Century. “Steampunk Fiction is often categorized as analyzing the future by looking to the past. Explore works that go beyond this past concept and apply Steampunk ideals to other timelines.”

Sunday, 3 PM: New Fiction Now. “Writers Reading Cool Stuff that just came out.” (I’ll be reading from Vermilion, spoiler alert!)

I’ll also be checking out the dealer room, which should be full of fun treats, and seeing what libations the con bar has to offer. My books will also be in the dealer room—A Pretty Mouth, and maybe an extra-special copy of Rumbullion, but not Vermilion, sadly. I will, however, have some fun little promotional giveaways, including physical ARCs! So, come on over and say hi if you like, and make sure to check out the rest of the programming. There will be a lot of great guests, and fun stuff to do and see!

I have now officially completed and turned in the manuscripts for the two novels that will be coming out this year: my debut, Vermilion (in April), and The Pleasure Merchant (in November). But before that time, I’d really like to get A Pretty Mouth up to 25 reviews on Amazon. I learned last year that good things happen with Amazon’s algorithms when you have 25 reviews for a book, and as A Pretty Mouth is already at 18, I feel like this is… achievable.

If you’ve read A Pretty Mouth, whether you kinda liked it, or totally bazonkers loved it, I’d so appreciate it if you took a few minutes to put a review up on Amazon. (I assume if you hated it, you’re not reading this—but if you did hate it, and are reading this, go ‘head and review, I can take it.)

I am truly grateful for all the attention A Pretty Mouth has received since its publication back in 2012—new readers still seem to be reading and enjoying it, which is wonderful! I know books have an excitement life of six months to a year, so the fact that people are still discovering A Pretty Mouth is astounding to me. But, the sad truth is that while it’s always exciting and touching to hear personally from someone who enjoyed your work… it’s generally more helpful (if you’d like to see more from that author) if that praise is put into review form.

Anyways, I’ll keep this hat-in-hand begging short and sweet. Thanks in advance, no worries if you’re too busy or can’t even remember what A Pretty Mouth was about. Happy New Year, and watch this space for news about forthcoming projects!

John Langan, that illustrious author of quiet horror, was so good as to nominate me to be part of a Writing Process Blog Tour. I goofed and did not get to it in within a week, and as it’s sort of a chain letter, I guess I’ll be cursed or something. But, hey, first-hand curse experience isn’t such a bad thing in my field, I guess?

1) What are you working on?

Currently I’m working on a short novel. It’s been sold but not announced, so I don’t feel comfortable revealing the title yet. I will say it’s a period piece, and one with a limited speculative element. I hop it will please anyone who enjoyed the title novellas in A Pretty Mouth and Rumbullion.

2) How is your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

I tend to be a lot goofier, I guess. And I often write in historical settings. Horror/Weird/Lovecraftiana these days is very often Very Serious, or quiet and meditative, and largely modern. (I’m not dismissing any of the above; I love quite a bit of that stuff, most recently this story by Simon Strantzas, but you asked how I was different!) My most popular works, by contrast, tend to be ridiculous, and set in the past. For example, the first chapter of A Pretty Mouth (the novella), which is set just barely before the Restoration, involves a pudgy loser writing a poem honoring a schoolmate, not realizing it’s full of homoerotic entendre, getting shamed for it in front of his class, tripping, farting loudly, and then getting kicked in the ass by his professor. Not really deep, serious stuff. “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” got a lot of attention because it has twincest and… okay, probably because of the twincest. And “Herbert West in Love,” another story that has been reprinted and will be reprinted again (announcement when I can!) is just ridiculous.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write stories I’d like to read.

4) How does your writing process work?

With short fiction, sometimes a title comes first; sometimes an anthology has a theme that calls to me. Most often these days, someone asks me to write something for a project, and I try to produce something that I think will be different from everything else they’ll get, and that (again) I’d like to read if I picked up that anthology. I write so slowly it’s been a long time since I’ve just written a story “because.” I’m not bragging; I hope once I clear my plate of my current obligations I can write some short fiction just for fun, but I came up with an exciting new idea for a novel a few weeks back so I’ll probably go down that hole once I’m a bit more free.

I don’t know if I have a writing process, when it comes to getting words on paper. I sometimes just blart out things and then go over them, revising and reworking until the story I want takes shape. Sometimes, especially with longer projects, I’ll use Scrivener to organize myself. I wrote the first draft of Vermilion, my forthcoming novel, in Scrivener. But I wrote A Pretty Mouth in Word, so, who knows?

As most of what I write is historical, I tend to make a trip to the library to research before I put down a single word. Like with what I’m working on, I grabbed such books as Developments in the History of Sexualities, Disorderly Women in 18th Century London, and How to Create the Perfect Wife. (So that’s a clue as to what I’m working on!)

Then I just spit on my hands, pray to Dionysios, and hope for the best. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. I junk a lot of biz.

Okay! Thanks again to John Langan, whose trust I squandered. I think I’ll tag… Simon Strantzas, as I mentioned him above, and Ross Lockhart, who is a writer as well as an editor. Huzzah!

2013 was a strange year. I didn’t expect to have a book come out; instead, after being contacted by Egaeus Press, I wrote a weighty novella (“Rumbullion”) and subsequently held Rumbullion and Other Liminal Libations in my hands this last October.

I thought I hadn’t published much, but looking back over this year, I had a story in the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, a porny piece in Geek Love, a great, raunchy anthology that seemed to go largely unnoticed for various unfortunate/silly reasons, a zombie story in Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages, a mummy story in the beautiful anthology The Book of the Dead, and a tale of Chinese vampires and illegal betting in Schemers, which is (apparently) out. Also, “Herbert West in Love” was reprinted in the last ever volume of Icarus. I already have a few pieces scheduled to come out next year, so all in all, I’m pleased.

I also began and have subsequently written a substantial chunk of a new novel, something I have not done since 2010. Over the last three years I wrote and published plenty of short stories, and two novellas around 45k (“A Pretty Mouth” in A Pretty Mouth, and “Rumbullion” in Rumbullion). But the last time I set out to write anything weightier was a long time ago. I’m very happy with it so far, and hope to continue to be so…

In terms of things I read, which is also something (writerly) I finally read Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, and the subsequent volumes. Damn. So good! I think The Heroes was my favorite, but it’s difficult to pick. The First Law books were so smartly constructed, they really blew me away. In terms of other books I enjoyed, standouts ambling through a lot of Wodehouse, Astoria by S.P. Miskowski, both books out from Lemony Snicket’s latest series All The Wrong Questions, Diary of a Young Girl (which I’d never read), Showdown in Oakland, and the comics from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which were by and large better-paced and written than most of the third season. Oh, and  a friend got me American-Born Chinese by the same author (Gene Luen Yang) for Christmas, I devoured that already. It’s hard to remember everything I read… I need to get better about keeping track of such things. But I won’t.

Overall, I’d have to say that 2013 was a good year!

Tuesday, I was very pleased to hear that A Pretty Mouth has made it on to the final ballot for the Wonderland Book Award! I’m up against some stiff competition, including my own publisher Cameron Pierce’s collection, and another put out by my cover designer, Matthew Revert. Whew! It’s great: I’ll be happy pretty much no matter who wins!

I know it’s the standard line, but with this Wonderland Book Award nod and with the earlier news of my British Fantasy Award nomination, it really is an honor just to be on the list. Really, I can’t express how thrilled I am that A Pretty Mouth has received so much positive attention. Thank you to everyone who voted for me for both awards; your enthusiasm is appreciated!

That said, A Pretty Mouth could use some fresh reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. If you’ve read it, I’d love if you could take the time to say something about it, whether you enjoyed it, were meh on it, or even hated it. (I’m a writer—I thrive on any kind of attention.) I’d especially like to have a few more review over on Amazon.co.uk. Thanks so much!

As I snoozed in bed this morning I heard my phone beeping at me, but I ignored it because I’ve had an internet phone for four months now so I have learned to disregard any kind of sound it makes before 8 AM. Eventually, however, the ruckus became so serious that I got up to see what the heck everybody was push-notifying me of. It was important! Go figure. Thus, Lessons were Learned about always keeping my internet phone right by my bed forever and ever and ever because (inhale!):

The Guardian! (I know, what?) One of their columnists, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Damian Walter, held a contest of sorts, the point of which was to find out if indie authors/publishers had, amongst their numbers, “[a] book to rival the magnitude and sheer storytelling bravado of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones.”

Cool! Well, what happened?!

 “The brutal truth is that nothing I saw came close.”

Honestly … no surprises there. I have recently gotten in to A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s the best thing ever. Who knew, except for everybody except me? Since 1996? Anyways, the good news is that Mr. Walter went through 800 or so indie books and thought mine (mine!) was pretty good! Maybe more than pretty good, if I’m honest:

“My favourite novel among these five, however, is A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer. Imagine a history of 19th-century literature where the eldritch weirdness of Poe and Lovecraft had infected the mainstream drawing-room novels of the era … Molly Tanzer is a tremendously clever writer, with a remarkable knack for fusing the grotesque and the comedic. A Pretty Mouth manages the thing that becomes ever harder as the novel grows older. It does something new.”

Uh? Yay! What? OMG!

So, thank you to Damien and congrats to everyone else on the list, you can read the whole thing at the link above. And seriously? I am still kind of in awe. (My face! In The Guardian! And for a great reason!) I’d gibber some more about how awesome this all is, but I gotta go do stuff to my most recent batch of kimchi. Writerly life is glamorous, what can I say?

I’ve been slack on blogging, so I have a few A Pretty Mouth-related things to note here!

First: Tomorrow (2/15) begins a two-week Goodreads discussion about A Pretty Mouth, hosted by The Next Best Book Blog, those kind folks who liked my book and for whom I concocted the Infernal! cocktail. They hosted a giveaway about a month ago, and the participants have (allegedly) been reading my book and coming up with questions for me about the text. You, dear reader, may also participate by signing up for the group and asking your own questions. I can only imagine.

Second: Just look at this crazy thing, courtesy Sam McCanna at Scurvy Ink:

mockup-prettyMouth

Yes, that is a t-shirt of my book cover! Holy moly. I haven’t seen one in the flesh (cotton jersey?) yet but I’m sure they are going to be awesome. Go buy one and simultaneously support an independent shirt-maker and also rep my book!

Third, and finally: The Arkham Digest, a fine site indeed for those into horror, weird, and interesting media, was kind enough to review A Pretty Mouth, glowingly, and then interview me! The questions were very fun to answer. So, go check it out, and check out the whole site, too. Justin reviews super-interesting books and video games and movies and all that stuff, so it’s worthwhile to put it into your RSS feed.

All right all right. Enough! I must flee. Happy Year of the Snake to you all/Gong Xi Fa Cai!

It’s a new year! I intended to do one of those wrap-up posts that everyone does, but it’s already January 2nd so no one cares anymore. Suffice it to say that 2012 was a year of some pretty major ups and downs. On the ups, I published some stuff, including my first book, got an amazing agent which means my novel is now in excellent hands, and became involved with an extremely rewarding (and time-consuming) martial and cultural arts community. On the flip side of things, I lost a beloved parent, and as nothing else even comes close to that in terms of sadness, so that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

In re resolutions, one thing I’ve decided to do in this new year is blog more—but less about myself. To that end I’m going to start both posting my ongoing experiments with mixology, and also review kung fu movies. There’s nothing particularly thematic there, except that I like to mix cocktails and I watch a lot of kung fu movies. I’d love to inspire others to do more of both, so … okay!

But first, some (mildly hypocritical) housekeeping.

First! The Next Best Book Blog is hosting a giveaway plus an author/reader discussion of A Pretty Mouth. Basically you put your name into a hat for a free .mobi copy, then if you win it you read it and all through February I’ll be engaging in discussions/answering questions about the material. So pop on over and see what’s up! This reminds me to remind you that yes, the kindle edition of A Pretty Mouth is available, so tell any of your friends who mentioned being given Amazon gift cards for the holidays!

Next! “Herbert West In Love” is, as I mentioned, available for free along with the entire December edition of the Lovecraft eZine. But! You can also support the amazing work done by the eZine by either purchasing the podcast version of the issue or buying the ebook. I listened to the podcast of my story and it was an interesting experience! I’ve never heard anyone else read my work before.

Finally, I sold a story! “Tantivy” will be appearing in Steve Berman’s anthology Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages, out in 2013 from Prime Books. Mine’s about devious 18th century fops eschewing fox-hunting for hunting zombies. Well, of course it is!

Ho-kay! Now on to stuff not about me!

For Christmas I asked for a bunch of ridiculous wuxia/kung fu DVD sets, and my girl Raechel got me one that includes Vengeance is a Golden Blade, Have Sword Will Travel, The Water Margin, and The Wandering Swordsman.

I began last night with Vengeance is a Golden Blade, because great title. Too bad the title turns out to be misleading, just a bit. The golden blade is actually the MacGuffin of the film, and less the instrument of vengeance. Ah, whatever.

It begins with a bunch of shady fuckers, aka The Vicious Long Brothers, who are pissed at a marginally less-shady fucker and want to ambush/murder him because the Long Brothers provide “protection” for traveling merchants, but they rob their clients. The marginally less-shady fucker also provides protection but, you know, doesn’t rob his clients, so he’s gotten all their business. They are many but he is few, but he has the Golden Dragon Sword so he fights them and they lose and just get more pissed off.

This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Lead Shady Fucker of the Vicious Long Brothers has been carrying on a longtime affair with the wife of Marginally Less Shady. When Marginally Less Shady finds out about the affair, he tells his wife that because of her philandering she must kill herself. She doesn’t really think this is a particularly great idea (go figure) so instead she poisons Marginally’s eyeballs, temporarily, and he is forced to flee with his toddler-aged daughter Xiaolang. They take refuge with a crazy old herbalist and his son.

Fast forward to 18 years later, Marginally Less Shady is crippled and can’t do kung fu anymore so he has trained Xiaolang in swordplay and taught her that one day she must avenge him with the Hanglong Blade he’s been forging for 18 years, coincidentally. But he won’t tell her who will be the object of said avenging so she mostly hangs out practicing and flirting with the herbalist’s son in the bucolic Chinese countryside.

Then one day she begs to go to town and is allowed to for the first time, whereupon, because of course, she falls unwittingly into her now-a-Madam-of-a-whorehouse mother’s hands. But Madam Mother doesn’t know who Xiaolang is, so she tries to sell her body to a foppish magistrate who saw her doing kung fu against some dudes and was “impressed.” After a narrow escape from worse than death and learning that her mom’s a bitch, Xiaolang is pretty eager to wreak some goddamn havoc, and it’s a good thing too because Mom has realized that Xiaolang is her daughter, Marginally Less Shady is still alive and conveniently close-by, and her lover is still pissed about that shit way back when (even though he is in possession of the Golden Dragon Sword, quizzically). In the end, things get really real in the form of Xiaolang murdering improbable numbers of brigands with a sword, so basically my bread and butter.

I enjoyed the film, but I can’t give Vengeance is a Golden Blade more than 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. The herbalist motif is awesome, and Daughter Avenges Father is a favorite theme of mine … but the film is a bit slower than it needs to be, even for a Shaw Brothers kung fu epic, and the girl who plays Xiaolang isn’t all that great of a martial artist. Like, distractingly not that great. Still, definitely worthwhile!

Happy new year, everyone!

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