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We’re entering the home stretch. The Pleasure Merchant will soon be here, and I’m very excited. It’s gotten some great write-ups and received to killer blurbs, so I figured the time was nigh to actually round them up and promote this beast. Oh, that link goes to the Kindle pre-order, so please do so! Paper won’t be available until November 17th, but feel free to set up an alert in your iCal and order it next month (too).

I’ll write more later about what the book is actually, you know, about, but here’s the back cover copy, in case you don’t follow me on social media and thus aren’t quite sure what the book is about yet:

“Forgive me, but I’m having some difficulty ascertaining exactly where magnetic north lies on your moral compass.”

London, 177—:

Apprentice wig-maker Tom Dawne’s dream is to complete his training, marry his master’s daughter, and set up a shop of his own. Unfortunately for him, when one of his greatest creations is used to play a cruel prank on a powerful gentleman, Tom is dismissed—and forced by fear of poverty and the need to clear his name to serve the very man whom he suspects set him up.

Tom quickly realizes he has bitten off more than he can chew… though as it turns out, it’s not actually more than he desires. As Tom becomes less of a servant and more of a surrogate son, his ambitions change, and so do his pleasures, until it’s no longer easy for Tom to tell if he’s pulling the strings… or trapped in a bizarre web of someone else’s making. Matters become no clearer when Tom meets the mysterious professional libertines who seem to lurk at the center of all his troubles: a man willing to procure anything for anyone, so long as it gives them pleasure, and his obscure assistant, whose past has been irretrievably lost.

Some might even say it was stolen…

Oooh. What could it mean??

Well, the people who know, AKA those who have read it, seem to think it’s pretty cool:

In Tom Dawne, Molly Tanzer gives us what might be the most engagingly ruthless social saboteur since Steerpike brought Castle Gormenghast to rubble… just one of the many dark and bawdy joys to savour in her latest, The Pleasure Merchant. —David Nickle, author of Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism

Note classy Canadian spelling of “savour.” You know it must be good! Also, Eutopia was probably the grossest novel I’ve ever read, and I read it in a day… so yeah I highly recommend it.

The crime writer who made me want to write a crime novel also weighed in…

The Pleasure Merchant is a hilarious, sensuous, and ultimately ferocious quasihistorical novel about that most crucial of periods: the dawn of the modern era. The merchant class flexed its muscles, scientists turned their attentions to the workings of the human mind, sexual mores were challenged in public and in secret, and in every corner of society the unseen hand of the marketplace dominated all. Tanzer’s clever slicing of the era reveals every social stratum of her world—their conflicts, their compromises, and their kinks. Read this book to learn what you’ve been soaking in your whole life.” —Nick Mamatas, author of Love is the Law and I Am Providence

Ferocious! Clever. Like a border collie! Who uh writes novels. Grr! Also, please note the second link is also a pre-order link. I was lucky to read the ARC of I Am Providence and it’s really good, so I’d advise anyone who likes crime, Lovecraft, or murder mysteries to pick it up.

The Monitor really liked it:

Covering the course of a single year, this fascinating novel subverts Pygmalion, rags-to-riches and boy-meets-girl tropes to memorable effect, turning Tom into a tragic figure whose increasing rage against people on the margins of respectable society turns against him in the end. The narrative style is a delightful pastiche of Georgian and Victorian suffused with striking sensuality and modern sensibilities, as if Charles Dickens and Jane Austen had a child together and raised her on shojo and yaoi manga. The voice of the Pleasure Merchant’s apprentice will stay with you for days.

It’s stayed with me for over a year, so one would hope so!

The website Horror Novel Reviews also had some lovely things to say:

Tanzer’s thematic fundamentals are consistent to one degree or another throughout her entire oeuvre – the malleable nature of gender identity, both natural and forced; class stratification and the difficulty of social mobility; and pervasive eroticism and sexuality expressed in a wide variety of… er, shapes, sizes and methods. But some readers may be surprised to find that The Pleasure Merchant eschews overt genre components in favor of a more traditional Georgian morality play. Given that style and structure, the author’s voice is pitch perfect, particularly with dialog. Her characters are driven by impetuosity, false assumptions, and inflated egos. With The Pleasure Merchant, Molly Tanzer continues to cast a wide net over scattered genre tropes, and appears to be doing a damn fine job.

A damn fine job! I’ll take it.

Finally (for now!) the site The Novel Commentary was also down with the weirdness:

Above all, I was impressed with the mystery. Again, I can’t help but compare it to Jane Eyre or a Charles Dickens novel. The mystery builds slowly, against a backdrop of … upper class manners and fringe science theories.

At times funny, at times creepy, and in the end, profoundly touching, this book is definitely worth picking up.

The Novel Commentary also called me “the modern Brontë sister” so, you know… depending on how you feel about Villette, you might like?

I’m really excited that people like this weird little book so much so far. It’s probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written, so the impending release is a little nerve-wracking. Keep your eyes here for more updates!

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 LFP. 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 LFP 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!

npr booksMy cat woke me up at 5 AM this morning, for no reason whatsoever, and while I was feeling pretty groggy and annoyed at him and life in general, because what the hell, man, I clicked over to Twitter… and wow! Maybe my cat knew that I’d discover some really amazing news!

I couldn’t be more excited to tell you that Vermilion was reviewed on NPR. And holy mackerel, what a review it is:

Lou is one of the most delightful and charismatic fictional creations in recent memory. Her compelling blend of world-weary wryness and wide-eyed vulnerability makes for some firecracker dialogue, but it also reflects Tanzer’s kaleidoscopic view of the Old West, a place that’s far more dazzling and diverse than most history books have led us to believe. There’s lace with this leather, and there’s grace with this grit. … Vermilion is a unique, hearty, thought-provoking romp that rewrites history with a vivacious flourish.

I am truly humbled and excited by the enthusiasm Vermilion has been garnering from critics and readers. On one hand, it’s a bit bizarre, seeing how quickly people are reading it and writing about it—I’m experiencing a sort of Thanksgiving Dinner syndrome. The dang thing took me 5 years to write, and people are just tearing ass through it! But of course, on the other hand, I wrote it because I wanted to write something that would give people joy, so achieving that is wonderful and cathartic. The excitement is making me excited about the book all over again, and that feels amazing.

If you’ve yet to pick up Vermilion, you can now do so via Weightless Books, either in .mobi (Kindle), .epub (Nook, iPads, maybe Kobo?) and .pdf (???). If you prefer physical books, as Vermilion is distributed and returnable it would be delightful if you requested your local Barnes & Noble or indie bookstore get in, and bought it that way. Libraries can also get it—I know a few have done so already, but the more the merrier! You can also enter the Goodreads Giveaway; Word Horde is giving away three copies.

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed Vermilion, please consider reviewing it on Goodreads or on Amazon, and tell your friends!

 

Photo on 4-9-15 at 9.37 AM #2It’s here!

I guess this means I can’t do another revision.

The cover is deliciously matte and silky smooth, the paper feels good on the fingers. It’s nice and heavy. It is beautiful and my name is on the cover because I wrote it. So basically what I’m trying to say is… it’s my first novel!

The early reviews are good. I’ve noted the (starred, ahem) Publishers Weekly review, and The Monitor’s high praise. Another site, Crows n’Bones, said:

“Every time I thought I had the book pegged as a specific thing, it would swerve into some wholly new and entertaining territory: Chinese mythology- flavoured occult yarn, picaresque western, opulent vampire chronicle, etc., etc. There are dragon fossils, inept monster slayers, pansexual brothels, snake oil salesmen in possession of the elixir of life, jackalopes, tobacco- obsessed talking bears and a general penchant for gender- bending. I totally approve.”

My Bookish Ways liked it as well, and their thoughtful review made me smile, especially this part:

Ultimately Vermilion calls to mind Joe Lansdale’s The Magic Wagon and Ricky Lau’s slapstick horror film Mr. Vampire along with Cherie Priest’s recent works. Fans of grittier Steampunk novels, urban fantasy, and weird westerns will likely find themselves very comfortable here and enjoy the ride.

Photo on 4-9-15 at 9.41 AMThe Magic Wagon was one of the best novels I read when researching the genre of the weird western, so I’m very excited to have Vermilion compared to such a fantastic expression of the genre!

Anyways, Vermilion is a book, and it’s beautiful, and I’m very, very happy.

Critically, the book is doing well, which is very exciting. That said, if you’ve read it and liked it, or if you want to read it, you can help Vermilion do well commercially, too! Ask your local independent booksellers to carry it (heck, tell your local Barnes & Noble about it, and while you’re being a chum, maybe mention to any bookstore you talk to that yes, the book is distributed/returnable by Ingram). Tell your local library about it, add it to your to-read pile on Goodreads (and any other lists you care to), tell your friends.

Anyways! Ebooks have gone out to pre-orderers, and physical copies should be arriving soon. I hope you all enjoy it! And stay tuned for more news…

VermillionFrontCover_030415Wow, last week was a whirlwind when it came to my weird little debut novel!

I finally put Vermilion in the bag (good thing, too–as it’s out next month!). I have confidence it’s as good as I can make it, which is a wonderful feeling, moving forward with the project.

Also, the cover was revealed… and what a cover it is! Gaze upon the glory. The majesty. The font! I’ve seen a draft of the back, and it’s astonishing as well. That’s still being worked on, however. I’m really grateful to the time and attention put into this fabulous piece of art by Dalton Rose, the artist, and Osiel Gomez, the designer.

Finally… okay, I’m still kind of jittery and excitable about this… but Vermilion got a STARRED review in Publishers Weekly!

Tanzer’s first novel is a splendid page-turner of a Weird West adventure. Elouise Merriwether is a psychopomp, tasked with escorting newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Half Chinese and half English, with a bizarre job that few people understand, she struggles to find a place for herself in 1870s San Francisco, often vacillating between pluck and self-effacement. When her mother asks her to investigate why young Chinese men are going missing after being offered jobs in Colorado, Lou agrees to turn detective, but she’s bitten off way more than she can chew, especially once she runs up against the mysterious Dr. Panacea and his possibly fraudulent Elixir of Life. This hugely entertaining mixture of American steampunk and ghost story is a wonderful yarn with some of the best dialogue around.

Vermilion has been a long time coming, but I’m very proud of it, and I’m really glad the first review in the world is so enthusiastic. It seems like the reviewer “got” Lou and the project itself, which is wonderful, and hearing that the novel is a “page-turner” ain’t bad.

So! Vermilion is off to a pretty good start, I think it’s safe to say. If you’re interested in helping keep things going that way, consider pre-ordering. Pre-orders count towards crucial first week sales, so it’s a lovely way to show your enthusiasm for an author and his/her work. Plus, the bundle via Word Horde includes a signed copy, and an ebook in the format of your choice! You can keep one for yourself and give one as a gift!

You can also keep the enthusiasm in the air by adding the book to your “want to read” pile on Goodreads (and reviewing it there, and on Amazon of course, once it’s out).

So! I’m off to do weekend things. Starred review means I get to treat myself to breakfast at Dot’s Diner. Mushroom gravy slathered breakfast burrito… here I come!

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!

I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m not a huge fan of Tsui Hark’s films.

I should like them, I know. Hark directs lavish kung fu/wuxia epics (yay) with lots of female kung fu masters in them, very often female kung fu masters dressed as men (a favorite of mine, which should come as no surprise to anyone), but something about them just falls flat for me. I didn’t bother finishing Green Snake (1993), wasn’t impressed by Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame (2012), which despite having (1) a lady kung fu master dressed as a boy and (2) friggin Detective Dee, a favorite literary character of mine, was a disappointing mess of bad CGI plus “and then (gasp!) and then (gasp!)” plotting. Once Upon a Time in China (1991) was totally good, and it’s probably my favorite of his films that I’ve seen, but it can’t keep up after the initial OMG FUCK YES of Jet Li (as Wong Fei Hung) saving Chinese New Year from evil English imperialists by lion dancing up the rigging of a ship to pluck the greens.

DragonInnAnyways, so yeah, Dragon Inn. Accuse me of drinking a big glass of Haterade, or perhaps baking up a nice fresh batch of hater tots, or whatever, but … I just didn’t think it was all that great. I know it had audiences cheering at the Sundance Film Festival, but like Detective Dee and Once Upon a Time in China, it’s a film that I came away from feeling like it was far better in theory than in execution.

The premise is totally great: An evil, power-crazed eunuch (is there any other kind in film?) murders an uppity minister and the minister’s whole family save for two kids, whom he saves to lure rebel general Chow to him. Members of Chow’s army, including Chow’s awesome cross-dressing lover Mo-yan (Brigitte Lin, I looooove you!!) free the kids, and then take them to a desolate inn near the Dragon Gate Pass to try to smuggle them over the border.

Then they get to Dragon Inn and … oh dear. Maggie Cheung is there, being a shady brigand and a sort of … desert-criminal-kung-fu-master-Mrs. Lovett (again, good premise!) called Jade, but unfortunately, she’s super-duper obnoxious. Her cook Dao is pretty tight though, with his ability to flay anything ruthlessly. At any rate, Jade figures out that Chow’s girlfriend is a girl through your typical Perceptive Feminine Wiles™ and then sets her cap for Chow when he arrives. And by set her cap, I mean that, even after seeing how much Chow loves Mo-yan, Jade aggressively and frequently attempts to seduce Chow, up to and including trying to force him to sleep with her to obtain her help once the eunuch’s hit men show up. Uncool.

Anyways, so yeah, it’s a great setup! Genderqueer-ish stuff! Sword battles! Handsome Tony Leung Ka-Fai being handsome! Wuxia action sequences!

And yet … the by-the-numbers catty nonsense between Jade and Mo-yan is a boring entanglement that really doesn’t make the star, Jade, particularly endearing. So that set my attention a-wandering … plus, the directing is sub-par. There is little artistry in the filming of Dragon Inn overall, despite the beautiful sets and costumes, and action sequences are often wasted due to poor framing. What should be tense desert battles are a zoomed-out mess of people stampeding around on horses with no discernable purpose; other sequences that would have benefited from a wider angle feel claustrophobic and cheaper than they should. Many of the kung fu battles feel simultaneously crowded and disjointed, with the exception of the Maggie Cheung vs Brigitte Lin sequence, which was definitely the best part of the film.

For me, Dragon Inn gets 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. I’d give it a solid 4 but for the annoying ending. Ah well! I’m glad I saw it, and it’s certainly worth watching. It just didn’t quite live up to its reputation, which is common enough with 90’s Hong Kong films.

Next time: Probably Golden Sparrow. Yay for Cheng Pei-Pei!

MileHiCon was really fun, mostly! Mostly. But rather than dwell on the things that weren’t altogether rad, here’s a quick roundup of the highlights:

  • My reading went well! I did a few selections from A Pretty Mouth, including the entire first chapter of the novella. People seemed to enjoy it, so huzzah. My co-reader, Travis Heermann, also read, but he was way more high-tech, as he read off his iPhone and had like, actual bookstands for his book. Well played, Heermann. Well played.
  • I moderated a panel on Victorian/19th c. sexuality, which went pretty okay! Things got a little rowdy, which yeah of course. I particularly enjoyed the direction Cherie Priest’s vast knowledge about prostitution in Seattle took the discussion. It’s possible I got a bit verbose on various 19th century pornographic texts, but looking around and seeing many people scribbling titles was a cheap thrill. Victorian porn for the all!
  • I saw many people I knew and many more that I didn’t. It was fun reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, as always!
  • I ate some amazing Indian food at Masalaa with Jason Heller and Jesse Bullington.
  • I dressed up as Herbert West—Reanimator. Not a single person knew who I was!
  • Jesse and I, in a fit of madness perhaps, picked up a bottle of “Scoresby’s Very Rare” blended Scotch whiskey for 7 dollars, to bring to the con … mostly as a joke. Really! But it all got drunk at an extremely rowdy party on Saturday night that left me crippled for …
  • The panel on “Humor and Horror” which I barely made it through, honestly. That I was upright and didn’t say anything too embarrassing is a miracle.
  • But at least I’d (mostly) recovered by the time I lurched my way onto the “Strong Women in SF” panel. I may or may not have spoken passionately, and somewhat at length, about how essentialist notions of gender are wrong and obsolete and hurtful. I won’t laundry-list some of the more eyebrow-raising things said on that panel by other participants, because water under the bridge and all that. Let’s just say I left feeling like there’s still a serious need for those “Strong Women in X Kind of Genre Fiction” panels.
  • Also, I sold every single copy of A Pretty Mouth that I consigned to a local bookstore, so fuck yes Team A Pretty Mouth, and thanks to all of you who bought the book.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it! And if all that wasn’t rad enough, A Pretty Mouth has been getting more (extremely kind) reviews.

The Next Best Book Blog, whilst I was at MileHiCon, posted a meaty and wonderful review. The summation was very flattering indeed (many thanks!):

If you think A Pretty Mouth sounds like a lot of fun, it is. Molly’s got a style unlike any other’s. It’s one that doesn’t take itself too seriously while at the same time impressing upon the reader not to take it too lightly. Beware the enemy, even when it turns out to be you.

Next, Jamie Grefe posted his review over at The Carnage Conservatory. There’s something about my book that seems to induce people to become almost … poetic when they review it. It’s really awesome, frankly, to see people responding in literary ways to my writing. Much more than I was hoping for, which was to give folks a few chuckles and inspire them to revisit, maybe, Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories. But instead, more awesomely:

You are entrenched in a family history much stranger and more gruesome than your own: Calipash, octopus, blood-soul, Roman.
You need a drink.

Last, but certainly not least, my friend Elise (E. Catherine) Tobler reviewed my book on her blog. In epistolary format. That alone would be the highest possible compliment, but she goes on to say:

I write to inform you of a book which has crossed my hands–a book that will disrupt your working hours and most certainly your nights, because once you read these…we shall call them stories, though they seem rather to be historical transcriptions, if you take my meaning…you will never find sleep’s seductive embrace easily again.

AND

The voice of this book–this is what may capture one, draw one in. I think of all the readers who have yet to discover this lady’s works (surely there are more, as there are stars in the heavens) and I shudder, sirs. I shudder. That they shall encounter these worlds, and “characters” for the first time yet–oh, to have that pleasure again. Our world slips away under a veil of fog when one opens this tome; one is drawn wholly and effortlessly into these tales and it is an effort to come back to what we know to be true. (Or do we? I confess to confusion on that point.)

I’m seriously swooning, but that might be old age creeping up on me. Yes, my friends, I am turning 31 in only a few days! The stars are right and all that jazz. I don’t want much, just to be a modestly successful indie author (you can help make that happen!) and possibly get a new tattoo.

Oh, and cake!