The weekend that was in pictures and snark

Saturday morning Mari Adkins and I did the Morris Book Shop’s ‘Homegrown Authors’ thing at the Lexington Farmer’s Market. Please forgive the filter used on the photos, it didn’t mean to suck.

(bunch of photos below the cut…)

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Upcoming Appearances and miscellany

We’ve reached the time of year where I have a crazy amount of things happening.

The Farmer’s Market/Morris Book Shop Booth
June 7th, 9am-Noon, Saturday
Lexington, KYMari Adkins and I will be signing. Come get your fruit and your book in the same trip! Buy my book and I will buy you a strawberry.
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/675620412475597

The Morris Book Shop
June 8th, 2pm-4pm, Sunday
Lexington, KY
Mari Adkins will be signing copies of her new Apex novel Midnight. I’ll be present to help coordinate, to serve snacks, and to keep Mari out of trouble.
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/309159969208854/

Beaumont Public Library
Adult Summer Reading Event
June 9th, 7:00pm-8:30pm
Lexington, KY
I’ll be presenting on behalf of Apex Publications. I’ll also discuss Irredeemable.

I’m also recording a podcast Sunday evening, but that won’t come out until July. I’m positive I’ll be out of social spoons by Monday night. I like doing these types of things, but the shyness in me likes to sap my constitution.

So, if you do show up at any of these events, if you bring me coffee, I will give you a hug and smile.


Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, creativity at its peak

Even the damn artwork is amazing.

Even the damn artwork is amazing.

Jeff VanderMeer could have stopped writing a year ago before he finished his Southern Reach trilogy and I would still have called him one of the most interesting and original authors of our time. He’s an amazing world builder, and he’s my go to guy when I teach workshops and tell students to “be like this guy when creating your worlds.”

I’ll send them out to buy Annihilation and challenge them top that.

Yes, I like sending students on fool’s errands.

Even his nonfiction books overflow with originality. Have you checked out Wonderbook? Or what about Booklife? Two tomes about the craft of writing you can’t top in terms of knowledge AND entertainment.

His work with Hugo Award-winning editor and spouse Ann VanderMeer has been outstanding. He and Ann make a powerful editorial combination. The New Weird is considered by many the definitive bible of weird/interstitial short fiction. Another definitive anthology, Steampunk, edited by Ann and Jeff is required reading for authors considering trying their hand at the sub-genre.

Now, it seems, Jeff VanderMeer has taken a step into mainstream acceptance based on the strength of his work. Stephen King has been quoted as loving the Southern Reach trilogy. Short of James Patterson assigning one of his lackeys to write a version of ‘Southern Reach’ under the Patterson byline, you can’t get more mainstream than Stephen King.

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Letters to Cleo, Kay Hanley, and Ben Wyatt

During my youth, I had an incredible amount of…innocent…crushes on alternative female musicians. My college years spanned 1992-1996, a fantastic time to be following the nascent alternative scene. And I probably had a crush on every single one of them. Except for PJ Harvey…she frightened me (though I love her music).

For example…

There was Juliana Hatfield:

And Tanya Donelly of Belly:

And Shirley Manson of Garbage:

And Heather Nova:

But none of these alterna-chicks had my heart like Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo.

The pig tails, the blue eyes, the pop candy flowing from her lips…I am still smitten. “Here and Now” is a prime-cut relic of the mid-90s rock grrls era. My adoration of Kay Hanley and Letters to Cleo was cemented when a group of friends and I went to see the band at EKU in Richmond, KY at a cramped, small venue. Letters to Cleo rocked it for two hours. Kay Hanley was the real deal, she could sing like a champ. She sported a black T-shirt and black leather pants. That night remains one of the most fun evenings of my life.

I bought a signed CD (that I still have). And I bought this shirt (or one similar to it…that I don’t still have, sadly):

ltc

That’s Ben Wyatt (played by Adam Scott) from the NBC show Parks & Rec. In the season finale of Parks & Rec, Kay Hanley and the band make several appearances. Kay even gets a few lines. She gets to sing a few bars from “Here and Now.” My nostalgia meter shot through the roof. I’m still buzzing from the experience.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Sometimes it can break your heart. Other times, it can create elation.

Kay Hanley. She creates elation.


Read Irredeemable, Win Cain’s Blood

Cain's Blood by Geoffrey Girard

Cain’s Blood by Geoffrey Girard

Hello! This is Lesley Conner. *waves*

I’m an editor at Apex Publications, and when Irredeemable was released, Jason asked me if I’d help him spread the news since I do a lot of the marketing for our Apex titles. One of the most important things for an author when a book comes out is getting reviews. Whether they are on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog, reviews are a recommendation to other readers. You have the chance to say what you loved and what you didn’t, and by expressing your opinion, you’re helping someone else decide whether or not they want to take the time to read a book.

And by book, in this case we mean Irredeemable.

That’s right, we want your thoughts and opinions on Jason’s short story collection and to get them we’re willing to offer an incentive*.

Geoffrey Girard wrote a fabulous introduction for Irredeemable (read Geoff’s intro here). He also wrote a remarkable book called Cain’s Blood. Jason just so happens to have a couple signed hard cover copies of Cain’s Blood sitting around. Want one? Here’s how to have a chance to win one:

Between now and June 30th, read Irredeemable (if you’ve already read it, you’re ahead of the game) and post a review. Your review can be on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, your own blog, or any of the countless places where people can read your thoughts on Jason’s collection. After you’ve done that, email me a link to your review at lesley@apexbookcompany.com. That review is worth one chance at winning a copy of Cain’s Blood. Want another chance? Post your review on another review site. For every site you post review on and send me a link, you’ll earn another entry in our giveaway.

So all you have to do is read Irredeemable, write down your thoughts about it on places like Amazon, and let me know, and you’ll be entered into a giveaway for another fantastic book. It’s that easy! Winners will be announced on July 1st.

*US only.


Book Review: Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

Shouldn't a book with hackers be more exciting?

Shouldn’t a book with hackers be more exciting?

Thomas Pynchon and I have an odd relationship. I’ve read most of his books over the years. To this day, I can’t admit to liking any of them. Yet, when Pynchon releases a new volume of words, I inevitable go out and buy it and place it on the top of my reading queue.

As I finished Bleeding Edge, I started to wonder why I do this. I’m not being entertained in a conventional sense. There is something deeper going on that Pynchon is providing. I suspect that his work appeals to me intellectually as a writer and editor. Of all the authors I’ve read, he tops the list in his ability to create realistic settings that are just off-centered enough to keep the reader askew. His word play is astoundingly good. I often harp about creating a narrative rhythm in the workshops I teach, and Pynchon is the master of this form of prose.

Where Pynchon typically fails for me is that his plots are (intentionally, I suspect) too loose. Think of plot as a tightly wound ball of thread. Pynchon’s plots is that same thread, except unwound, crumpled into a messy ball, and placed back down on the table. It’s usually all there, but the pieces are floating around and it is up to the reader on how those pieces are put together.

Enough about Pynchon theory. So how was Bleeding Edge?

Eh, not bad.

The synopsis of the book sounds great. An independent fraud investigator gets a tip that a dot com company ran by a villainous CEO is embezzling money. She sets about investigating and runs into the CIA, hackers, virtual reality, and plenty of conspiracy theories. The setting is that odd period of time right after the dot com bust and just before and after 9-11.

As they say, that plot sounds crackerjack!

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Candy Crush Saga has taken over my life.

There’s this app game. It has a deceptively sweet name. Candy Crush Saga.

What is Candy Crush?

It’s a puzzle game in the mold of Bejeweled. There are five or six different types of candy shapes. You can move these shapes around to make a vertical or horizontal line of 3 alike shapes to make them disappear and earn yourself point. Get four in a row, and you get a fancy striped candy. Do a five piece L shaped alignment and you get a candy bomb. Do five alike candies in a row and you get the mother of all candy, the ‘disco ball’ (as my son likes to call it).

Stupid candies

Stupid candies

Puzzle games are addictive (at least, good ones are). That doesn’t make them bad. The evil inside of Candy Crush is their in-app purchases options. Think you only need five more moves to get that last jelly? Pony up 99 cents and go for it. Want to crush a candy piece in your way, spend $1.99 for three lollipop hammers.

That alone probably would draw plenty of purchases. Make levels hard enough, and many casual gamers will become frustrated enough to pluck out a buck or two in order to get to the next level.

The delirious evil inside of Candy Crush is that they limit your plays each day. A player is given five free lives per day. You run out, you can wait to recharge your lives at the rate of one per 30 minutes.

This noose around the number of plays adds to the pressure of beating levels. It has the effect of greasing the wheels of desperation so that you’ll pluck out a few bucks for in-app assistance.

Don't fall for the bright happy world. It is a land of tears and heartbreak.

Don’t fall for the bright happy world. It is a land of tears and heartbreak.

There are ways to “game” the system. You can adjust the clock on your tablet or phone to trick the game into giving you more lives. But who wants to do that? If you sign in to your Facebook account with the app, you can have free moves and free lives sent to you by your friends.

And just when I thought I had conquered the game, beating all 500+ levels, they go and release a ‘night time’ world series of levels that are even more frustrating (I’ve grown to despise owls). Because I’m an addict, I’m making my way through these night levels.

So my Christmas wish this year is to come up with a frustrating, evil way of making millions of dollars. It only takes one idea. Come on, anybody? Anyone???


IRREDEEMABLE Signing: Post Mortem

The official kickoff event for my collection Irredeemable happened this past Saturday at Joseph Beth Booksellers. As you might recall, I was a bit nervous.

How did it go?

Rather well.

photo 1

I’d guess around 30 people showed up. The crowd was a mix of family, friends, Apex supporters, and even a couple of strangers. My publisher, Stephen Zimmer, opened the event by giving away a whole bunch of free books from Seventh Star Press. Free stuff is cool.

After a blush-inducing introduction by Stephen, I took the mic. I made jokes. A couple of the jokes even drew laughs! I proceeded to talk briefly about an English teacher I had back in high school named Mr. Jones. Then I proceeded to read “Yellow Warblers” as it is the only story in Irredeemable that wouldn’t upset the children. Nobody wants to upset the children.

photo 4

I was very excited to be there!

After the reading, I gave out some door prizes from Apex Publications: mugs, T-shirts, and books! Free stuff is cool!

Then the fun part happened. I sat behind a table and people lined up to have copies of Irredeemable signed. After I signed their book, they got a free homemade chocolate chip cookie (made by Janet Harriett).

Finally, the activities at Joseph Beth ended around 6pm. A small group of ten of us went to Giuseppe’s and enjoyed some of the best Italian food Lexington has to offer. We drank grasshoppers and talked writing until 9:30pm.

I get home. Take my shoes off. And by 10:30pm I’m dozing off on the couch.

My cousin TJ who I hadn't seen in over 10 years.

My cousin TJ who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years.

What did I learn from my first signing?

1) Chocolate chip cookies are POPULAR!

2) People seem to appreciate the door prizes.

3) I have work to do regarding shifting intonations in my reading. I’m still a bit flat. I might take a workshop at the Carnegie to help with this.

4) You’ll never know who will show up.

5) About 1/3rd the people who promise you they’ll come won’t.

6) People love the cover of Irredeemable.

Overall, I had a blast. I hope to do one more signing in Lexington later this summer.


IRREDEEMABLE: Release Event Final Call

Irredeemable_Cover800X600IRREDEEMABLE book release event! LAST CALL!!!

Where: Joseph Beth Booksellers, 161 Lexington Green Circle, Lexington, Kentucky 40503

When: 4pm – 6pm

I’ll be doing a reading, a Q&A, and a signing in support for my first collection, Irredeemable! My publisher, Seventh Star Press, will be on hand and will be giving away tons of goodies.

If you don’t have a copy of Irredeemable, plenty of copies will be on hand at the bookstore.

After the event, you’re welcome to join us at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant for dinner with the author (unfortunately, author is not wealthy enough to pay for the dinner). The dinner starts at 6:30pm.

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A few notes…

If you’ve never been to Joseph Beth, you’re about to be impressed. It is a beautiful bookstore. Super nice staff. The coffee there is pretty darn good.

Stephen Zimmer, my publisher, said for me to bring some Apex freebies to hand out. So I’ll have some mugs and some shirts. :)

This is my first signing as an author. For some reason, I’m a bit nervous…very unlike me. It isn’t like I’ve never done signings before (I’ve edited 5 anthologies and have signed for those). If you asked me to pinpoint what it is that has me nervous I don’t think I could provide an answer.

Back when I started Apex Publications, I was a terrible public speaker. But I worked through the issues I had. Nowadays, I’m a veritable ham in front of people. I do lectures, workshops, panels, and anything else that will get me in front of people for money or marketing. It’s been years since I’ve suffered a case of pre-event jitters.

I was thinking about all this last night while trying to fall asleep. The closest thing to a reason I could come up with is that my confidence as a writer is still a work-in-progress. I expect (hope) to see in the crowd a lot of people who are important to me: family, friends (old and new), my favorite coworkers, publishing/writing colleagues, and so on. To have them reading fiction I’ve written is a bit intimidating.

Over time, I expect these type of jitters to fade away. And about 10 seconds after I’m behind the microphone, I figure I’ll be my usual hammy silly self. Despite the jitters, I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Now, let’s hope Joseph Beth doesn’t throw us out when I start reading one of my horror shorts to the crowd…


Irredeemable — An Update

I’ve been busily promoting Irredeemable at all sorts of places. The first three can be found here:

Accents Radio on WRFL 88.1 interview — I talk about writing, editing, publishing, and I read ‘Caspar’ and an excerpt from ‘City Hall’. This is a link to an mp3 file.

Allways Unmended — An essay concerning the process of selecting cover art for Apex Publications books and Irredeemable.

Upcoming4.me — My essay detailing how the book came to be.

I always try to write my guest essays and do interviews in a slightly askew fun manner. Because, let’s be frank, most interviews and essays are boring. Throwing in a bit of weirdness is my way of *trying* to be more interesting than a standard interview/essay.

Feel free to let me know if I’ve failed. Or succeeded. Positive feedback never hurt nobody.


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