Entries tagged with “novels”
posted by molly under novels, private stuff, vermilion, writing | permalink |
| leave a comment | Comments Off on death and taxes (vermilion is live)
Tax Day (in the U.S.) seems like the ideal release date for my novel about… death. I mean, I hear both are the only things we can be certain of, right?
Anyways, Vermilion is officially… official. It’s available on B&N.com, Amazon.com, and maybe even some stores (though the chances of you finding one in your favorite local bookseller are increased if you ask nicely!).
I’m excited. I feel kind of weird, actually… I began this book so long ago, and knowing it’s out there in the world is wonderful. But it’s also a sad moment for me. My father passed away when Vermilion was just a draft, before I even had an agent, before a single editor had looked at the manuscript. But my father believed in my writing, and was always so proud of my successes; I know one of his biggest regrets was that he would not live to see it published. I suppose these are weird, macabre thoughts to be having on the official launch date of my first novel, but at the same time, while I would not claim Vermilion is autobiographical, my grief helped me write about grief, and my loss helped me write about loss, and those are… I think writers call them “motifs” in the novel. Fancy.
But, grief is but one aspect of Vermilion. When I look out my window, I can see the Rocky Mountains, whose majestic beauty I tried to do justice to in the novel. The sight of them chills and enthralls me every single day, even though I’ve lived at their base for years now. The aspens are still ghostly and bare, as they are in Vermilion, but they’re putting out the weird little vegetative caterpillars that announce their imminent leaves. And this weekend I’ll be celebrating the release at StarFest/HorrorFest down in Denver, which should be a hoot—I’ll see people like Carrie Vaughn, Stephen Graham Jones, Mario Acevedo, and other authors whose determination and spirit inspired me to keep going throughout the process of writing and editing and shopping and whatever else.
Before I go, I’d like to thank again those whom I mentioned in Vermilion’s acknowledgements… but I’d also like to thank my readers. For those of you who pre-ordered, thank you very much for your support. For those of you who have ordered via an online retailer, I am really and truly forever grateful. Anyone who’s put it on their Goodreads list, entered the giveaway, or is just planning on reading it at some point when they have time/space/funds/whatever, your enthusiasm is much appreciated.
Okay… I’m off. But, thank you again, everyone! And yay, book release day!
In anticipation of the release of my Steampunk Weird Western, Vermilion, my dear friend and steampunk expert S.J. Chambers introduced me to the lovely Kevin D. Steil. Kevin is the creator/editor of Airship Ambassador, which hosts a yearly event called Steampunk Hands Around the World. This year’s theme is Steampunk: Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop. I’m a little late to the party (it’s the last week of the event) as my copy edits for Vermilion took quite a bit out of me, but better late than never! And if you’re interested in what other participants have been doing as I agonized over commas, you can check that out here.
Though I’m just writing about all this now, the theme “Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop” had me thinking as I poured over Vermilion, re-checking various historical details and knowing that in spite of my best efforts, I would inevitably miss something. And I’m not just talking about a clunky sentence or a dropped word… I mean something more akin to an anachronism, an incorrect detail, a bit of “common knowledge” I never questioned. I loved researching Vermilion, but it was an experience as intense and humbling as it was rewarding, and today I’m going to blog about why.
Vermilion is set in 1870, in an alt-historical America where ghosts, monsters, and talking bears are as much a part of the landscape as people, trains, guns, and purveyors of quack remedies. That said, certain familiar elements remain—the Transcontinental links the West with back East, road agents hunt down and terrorize travelers, diseases like tuberculosis are as dangerous as they are difficult to cure, and it’s hard to get a fair shake if you’re not white, wealthy, and male.
Lou Merriwether is none of those things. She’s half-Chinese, works for a living, and she’s a woman, even if she usually passes as a man while she tramps all over San Francisco, exorcising the restless dead. Lou does well for herself, but that doesn’t mean things are easy for her; in fact, where the novel opens, anti-Chinese sentiment in San Francisco affects her personally and professionally on a daily basis. In spite of this, she tries to maintain a sense of humor, but that doesn’t mean she’s not aware of how annoying (and dangerous) being different can sometimes be.
When I first began to draft Vermilion, then a very different novel with a very different title, I knew I wanted a protagonist who lived on the margins, and whose identity (and sense of that identity) would create difficulties for her as much as it allowed her to access interesting opportunities. Vermilion is very much about the marginalized—19th century racial and sexual politics are reflected in the action as much as discussions about sickness versus health, insider versus outsider status, martial prowess versus strength of a different sort—and I wanted the novel’s point of view to be someone flexible enough to negotiate with everything with… let’s call it “a varying degree of success.”
For Steampunk Hands Around the World, the theme of “Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop,” inspired me to blog about a little about some of the historical and cultural research I did for Vermilion. As with all of us, Lou’s childhood experiences inform her personality, her lived experience, her work, and her decisions, so I wanted to read and learn as much as I could in order to bring her (and her world) to life. One of the reasons I enjoy the challenge of writing historical fiction is I love to research! It’s exciting to lose myself in the past, whether it’s picking up a work of fiction from a different time and place, or looking up what are considered to be the best nonfiction books on a certain subject. While I might jot down random notes or ideas during the drafting process, reading is how I know I’ve really and truly begun a new project.
When I began in earnest to work on Vermilion, several books in particular were extremely helpful to me:
Iris Chang’s wonderful and detailed accounts provided much of the backdrop I needed to create my alt-history Chinatown, and The Children of Chinatown was a fantastic study that helped me imagine what someone like Lou’s early life might have been like. Given that Lou must do some detective work, supernatural and more traditional, the tales of Judge Dee gave me some insight into the specifically Chinese detective novel, and Yutang Lin’s treatment of the Tao Te Ching, which pairs the original insights of Laotse with commentary by his follower Chuangtse, was most informative when it came to developing Lou’s personal philosophy toward life, death, and undeath.
While I love reading, and curling up with a history book is one of my favorite things in the world, I also wanted to do some more “hands-on” research. To that end, my husband and I took an anniversary trip out to San Francisco a few years ago, to relax and hang out, but also so I could walk the streets Lou would have walked. We had a great time visiting landmarks and poking around in shops, and he was very patient as I spent several hours taking notes at the Chinese Historical Society of America‘s wonderful museum. I also consulted with an apothecary and got a TCM prescription filled at the Great China Herb Company.
Learning about language was also part of my research. A large portion of the Chinese immigrants who lived in San Francisco and worked on the Transcontinental came over from Toisan, called Taishan in Mandarin, and Hoisan by native speakers. I initially hoped to use Toisanese when I needed to use a Chinese word, but after a few conversations with a native Toisanese speaker, on his advice I ended up using mainly romanized Cantonese pronunciations. Negotiating with Cantonese was fascinating if frustrating, as I neither speak nor read any Chinese, but my Toisanese contact as well as my very patient friend-cum-scholar of Asian languages Raechel Dumas got me through it in the end.
I cannot conclude this essay without mentioning several wonderful films that not only initially inspired the project, but actually helped me in my research into what would become Lou’s profession. The truth is, my interest in Taoist necromancy and geung si began with a film: Mr. Vampire. It’s an awesome flick, and I followed it up with watching many more in the Hong Kong vampire genre. Here’s an incomplete list for any curious cinemaphiles out there:
- Crazy Safari (on YouTube, it’s amazing, you should watch it)
The Hollywood picture Big Trouble in Little China is also worth a watch, if you’ve never seen it. I once pitched Vermilion as being set in the historical past of that film. It made sense to me, at least!
Writing historical fiction requires all kinds of research, but as much as I wish I could share everything, I want to keep my focus in this essay. And on that note, I’ll conclude. Many thanks to Kevin for hosting and promoting Steampunk Hands Around the World, this was a fun opportunity and I’m so glad I got to participate!
Oh, and if any of this sounds intriguing… well, Vermilion drops on April 15th, and can be pre-ordered now. There’s even a fancy bundle offer going on right now!
posted by molly under novels, publishing, writing | permalink |
| leave a comment | Comments Off on announcing: the pleasure merchant
I won’t just have one novel out next year… I’ll have two!
Lazy Fascist, who did such a great job with A Pretty Mouth, will be putting out my second full-length novel, The Pleasure Merchant, in Fall 2015. The formal announcement is here, on Pornokitch. I’m really stoked. Here’s a short description:
The Pleasure Merchant;
Or, The Modern Pygmalion
“To truly know a man, you must know his pleasure…”
Tom Dawne is a modest boy with modest dreams that befit his modest station in life. An orphan, apprenticed to a respectable wigmaker, all Tom has ever wanted is to learn his trade, marry his master’s daughter, and become a full partner in the business.
Unfortunately, after a mysterious young gentleman calling himself Callow Bewit tampers with one of Tom’s most important commissions, Tom is summarily dismissed and turned out into the street. It’s as strange as it is unfair—Tom has no idea how the youth planted all those playing cards in the damn wig, causing its owner to be accused of cheating during a high-stakes game at a very fancy party. But he must have done it—Tom certainly had nothing to do with the affair.
Stranger still, in the wake of Tom’s disgrace, Callow Bewit’s father, the very rich and very unhappy Mr. Tiercel Bewit, offers Tom a new job… as his “cup-bearer,” whatever that means. Tom takes the position, even though it’s uncertain why Mr. Bewit feels any responsibility toward him at all—the boy in the wig shop was most definitely an impostor, for Mr. Bewit’s son Callow is away in Europe on his grand tour. Could it be the gentleman had something to do with the scandal? Or is he simply a kindly old man with a heart of gold?
Whatever the case might be, Mr. Bewit’s generosity initiates Tom’s meteoric rise in 18th century London society. But as Tom goes from disgraced apprentice to gentleman’s servant, and then from gentleman’s servant to gentleman-in-training, his desires change as much as his duties, and his pleasures even more than his station. Once, a small shop and an intelligent bride would have satisfied Tom’s every desire. Now all he can dream of is climbing the social ladder, even if he’s unsure what’s at the top.
When Tom meets a man who claims he can obtain Tom’s ultimate pleasure—for a price—what will Tom ask for? A secure life as an obscure tradesman? A fate more glittering and glorious? Or something darker, like revenge on those who have wronged him? Pleasure can take many forms, after all…
I’m sitting here eating Unfried Fried Rice from Appetite for Reduction, the low-fat cookbook I tested for last year, and it occurs to me that I should do one o’them end-of-year thingies I’ve been seeing all about the webz. It’s been a crazy year in general for me—as a writer, as an editor, as a daughter, and as a consumer of media, as well, so yeah. Some documentation seems in order:
As a writer:
2010 saw my first fiction sale ever, and then three others. In January I sold “In Sheep’s Clothing” to Running with the Pack, and the anthology—and my story in particular—got a bunch of really nice reviews and shout-outs. Then about midyear I heard “The Devil’s Bride” would be picked up by Palimpsest, and in October “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” was selected to be part of Innsmouth Free Press‘s forthcoming Historical Lovecraft anthology. Finally, Crossed Genres accepted “The Red Terror of Rose Hall” to be part of their subscriber’s content. I’m very proud of all of these!
As for non-fiction (or is it?!?!) my interview with zombie polka band The Widow’s Bane went up at Strange Horizons. That was a hoot, and I’m so pleased it found such a great home. Also this year, Jesse Bullington and I embarked on a quest to re-watch old movies from our childhood and blog about them. Right now “Films of High Adventure” is on hiatus due to both of us being busy (though our review of Dungeons & Dragons went up on Fantasy last week and I failed to make a note of it here—it was such fun), but throughout the year it’s been an interesting project to say the least. A hoot and a holler, yes indeed.
Since this is a rare writerly update from me, I’ll also talk about what’s up with my novel. Last year I typed THE END on the MS, edited it, and sent it on its merry way to an agent. That agent contacted me, and we talked on the phone about the book. While she didn’t wish to represent it at the time, she did say that if I wanted to rewrite portions of the MS, and do some other stuff with it, she’d be willing to give it a second looksee. All her suggestions made sense—total sense, actually—and so that’s where I’m at right now with my big project. It’s been difficult, but I’m starting to see a new book emerge that’s, I think, a better book, and so even if a revised manuscript is all that comes out of this, I sense it will be a net gain.
As an editor:
Last year I was already on board with Fantasy Magazine at the year’s dawn, but toward the end of the year, things started to get wild. It began with some changes for Fantasy: the editor and fiction editor announced they’d both be stepping down, and that John Joseph Adams would be taking over full editorship in March of 2011. In the wake of this, I was asked to take on managerial duties for John’s (now) two magazines—Lightspeed and Fantasy.
So far, this has been a total pleasure. Working with John is a lot of fun, and the Lightspeed team as a whole are awesome folks! I anticipate good things for Fantasy as 2011 progresses and we remodel a bit.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note a few of my favorite short stories this year, so in no particular order, my highlights for Fantasy (and a few from Lightspeed after I started) are:
And at Lightspeed:
As a daughter:
In the early months of 2010 my family found out that my dad was battling pancreatic cancer. This came as a shock to us all, as my dad is one seriously healthy dude. We had no idea just how much time we would have with him, but 2011 opens with my dad being healthier than he was this time last year, according to the doctors (I mean, as far as I understand it). His tumors, as of his last scan, were not particularly bioactive, meaning the hard-core chemo he was on did some damage to the cancer. He is working out, walking at least 10k steps every day, and eating healthy. It seems like he is baffling his oncologist and various other doctors with how well he is doing, so that’s awesome. I’m hoping 2011 holds even more remarkable health improvements for him. Big thanks to all who sent happy thoughts his way, in the form of prayer, well-wishes, emails, or anything else!
As a reader/movie-watcher/listener/video game player:
2010’s movie watching was largely “Films of High Adventure”-related, but there were a few others that rocked out and deserve a note. This year I actually saw a few movies that came out in 2010: Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and, um. . . Splice, but since that movie caused my first-ever film walkout, I dunno if it counts. The others were good! I also watched Hero, which was awesome, A Town Called Panic, which I liked far more than I thought I would, Moon Warriors, Mr. Vampire 2 AKA Crazy Safari, and the two late-in-the-year standouts, The Draughtsman’s Contract and The Prestige. Good stuff. I’m certainly leaving out a few, but those are what I can recall off the top of my head.
As for books, I think my Best Book of 2010 (that, shockingly enough, came out in 2010) would absolutely be Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard. I also read the first in the series in 2010, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, which was great—but I think Detective blows it out of the water. I actually participated in an inquisition of Herr Cabal around the time the book came out, which was a lot of fun, but the book stands on its own. It’s tremendous.
Also of note, I read Imaro by Charles Saunders in 2010, and that rocked my world, as did Elric of Melnibone and its sequel Sailor on the Seas of Fate. I also read Flora Segunda, which I loved, and a bunch of other stuff but I rearranged my books (read: put them on top of the bookshelf because I ran out of space) and now I can’t remember what I read this year. I’ll keep better notes in 2011.
I don’t ever listen to albums as they come out (I suck at keeping up with music) but omfg, Cee Lo Green’s The Ladykiller has been making doing the dishes actually fun.
And to round this out, as a gamer, motherfucking Cataclysm, nerds!
So that’s a year in review. I’m certainly neglecting things, like awesome new friendships made at World Fantasy and elsewhere, novels beta-read for my friends, things of note I’ll probably edit in later, and other stuff I’ve done/thought about/enjoyed/whatever (like, say, the fact that I actually typed THE END at the end of two manuscripts this year, but one will never-ever see the light of day), but I have to go to the bank to get quarters. It’s the first laundry day of 2011! Woo!