The Next Next Big Thing

December 6, 2012

As with last week, I’m blog hopping or perhaps, hopping blogs. I was tagged to share the answers to the following questions about my forthcoming book, and will tag another writer to share news about her new book.

My tagger was my good friend Dana Cameron. We beta read for each other, meaning that we read the other’s works-in-progress to make suggestions. I’ll confess that Dana has kept me from making many bad writing choices. (I’m not having her beta read this post, though–she’s taking it on faith.) One thing I beta read for her was her upcoming novel Seven Kinds of Hell, so I can brag that I was one of the first to read it. Don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to catch up very soon, and you’ve got a treat in store for you.

Before I get started, I want to explain something. In her blog hopper, Dana referred to my forthcoming book The Skeleton in the Armoire. That was indeed the title last week. But the publishing world is a dynamic place, and yesterday it morphed into A Skeleton in the Family. With either title, the book will be coming out under my pen name Leigh Perry.

Now for the questions:

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is when.

In May of 2004 I sent an email to Dana telling her about this idea I had for an ambulatory skeleton named Sid who would solve his own murder. Dana patiently  gave me background information about skeletal specimens in universities and museums, and I wrote a few passages. About two weeks later, I sent a note to Charlaine Harris, my other beta reader. “I’ve got an idea for a new story or book–don’t know which, yet–and want to see what you think.  It’s probably too silly for works, but since you and Laurell and Dean and Maria have the vampire market by the throat, I thought I’d try something new.  Would you read this snippet and see what you think?” Then I pasted in a piece of what has become A Skeleton in the Family.

Obviously, at some point there must have been a moment when I said, “I think I’ll write a mystery about an ambulatory skeleton,” but I don’t know what led to that moment. Maybe too many daiquiris?

What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery, or to be really specific, cozy woo-woo. In other words, it’s a traditional mystery with paranormal elements. Sid the Skeleton is the paranormal element.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The only way A Skeleton in the Family could make it to the screen would be as animation or using serious CGI. So I’m going to pick Andy Serkis, famous for his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. He’s the only one I can imagine playing Sid.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Georgia moves back home and has to deal with the family skeleton–an actual skeleton named Sid. He walks and talks and makes bad jokes, and now he wants to solve his own murder. (I know, that’s two sentences. I suppose I could have faked it with really creative punctuation or CGI…)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A Skeleton in the Family will be published by Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m represented by Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Eight years. Or eight months. It depends on what you count. You see, I wrote bits of the book in summer of 2004, but got pulled away to work on other projects. In February of 2011, I pitched the idea to my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, and included an excerpt an synopsis. But it wasn’t until March of 2012 that I really sat down to write. I finished the first draft in October.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think I’ve got the skeleton mystery market all to myself. In terms of a ridiculous person in a normal world, I think A Skeleton in the Family is more like the Francis the Talking Mule movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and TV sitcoms like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the above overly detailed explanation of where the idea came from. Once I got started, I was inspired by stories I heard of adjunct faculty members and how it can be a precarious way to make a living.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Georgia, the protagonist, is a single mother with a teenaged daughter who works as kind of itinerant academic. She’s just started work at a New England college, and in the course of the book visits an anime convention and a carnival, fights with her perfect sister the locksmith, reluctantly adopts a dog, and has a romance. So there’s a lot going on. But the fact is, if the walking, talking skeleton doesn’t grab you, I may as well give up. Ditto if it puts you off.

These are the fascinating people that Dana tagged along with me:

Kat Richardson’s novel Seawitch was #3 on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller list for November! She lives on a boat, which is just nifty.

Christopher Golden is the award-winning, best selling author of (deep breath!) fiction, non-fiction, adult and YA, collaborations, and comics. I don’t think he sleeps.

Elaine Viets has two ongoing series: the Helen Hawthorne “Dead End Job” mysteries, and the Josie Marcus “Mystery Shopper mysteries.”  Elaine and I are both members of the Femmes Fatales (as is Dana), and she’ll be posting her Next Big thing blog there.

And here’s the writer I’m tagging next!

Deborah Meyler and I met online through mutual friends–one of the joys of the internet. The Bookstore, Deborah’s first novel, will be out in August 2013, and sounds like tremendous fun. If you read both The Bookstore and A Skeleton in the Family, you will note that we both use the phrase “enamel chili.” I don’t think we’ll say why that is…

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The Next Big Thing

November 29, 2012

Have you heard about The Next Big Thing blog hop? It’s a chance for authors to let the world know about their newest writing project, whether it’s something already published or coming soon to a bookseller near you or even just in the works. I was invited to participate by the effervesecent short story author Barb Goffman, who blogged as one of the Women of Mystery, and now I’m answering the same batch of questions here.

What is your title of your story?

My most recent short story is “Pirate Dave and the Captain’s Ghost,”, which appears in An Apple for the Creature, the fifth anthology I’ve co-edited with Charlaine Harris. Ace published it in September, just in case back-to-school sales weren’t scary enough for you.

Where did the idea come from for the story?

All my stories tend to be Frankenstein-monster-like in their creation–I sew on a piece from here, and a piece from there, and eventually there are enough pieces for a story. In this case, the initial inspiration was the anthology theme: supernatural creatures and school. You’d think that since Charlaine and I were the ones to come up with the theme, I’d already have a story in mind, but no. Apparently my editor brain is completely separate from my writer brain.

Anyway, I started with schools. Then I remembered my story “Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park”, which I wrote for a previous Charlaine-and-me anthology (Death’s Excellent Vacation). I really enjoyed the characters, and since the protagonist Joyce had only recently been turned into a werewolf, I thought she might well attend a seminar about lupine-American life. As for the Captain’s ghost, I was at my daughter Valerie’s drama class, and the teacher said he’d love to be in a story. His name is Bob, and I figured that would be easy enough to fit in. Then he said, “Can it be my nickname: Captain Bob?” That was going to be a pain, so I killed him. Not the real guy, but the character, and he became Captain Bob, the really annoying ghost.

What genre does your story fall under?

Mystery and/or urban fantasy.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Nathan Fillion of Castle and Firefly for Pirate Dave. Not that he looks like Pirate Dave in any way, but (1) he can do anything and (2) I might get to meet Nathan Fillion. Nicholas Brendon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Captain Bob in his younger form–he’d need makeup for the older form. No idea for Joyce, the newbie werewolf. I don’t have any female actors I’m dying to meet, so that limits me.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your story?

It’s hard enough to make friends when you’re a newly turned werewolf, and having a vampiric boyfriend doesn’t help, but it’s being haunted by a cranky ghost that really keeps Joyce from blending into the pack.

Was your story self-published or represented by an agency?

Whether wearing my editor hat or my author hat, I’m published by Penguin and represented by the JABberwocky Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About three weeks, or a bit more if you count sitting-staring-at-the-wall time.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Favorably or not? I’d love to be compared to Charlaine’s Sookie Stackhouse series, but I’m not holding my breath. I tend to compare it more to the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Deadlines! Seriously, part of the deal of the anthologies is that I contribute a story. So once the school theme was set, I had to be inspired.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Speaking of the whole anthology, and not just my story, we all know how scary school can be. Adding a vampire, demon, or werewolf isn’t that much of a stretch. Even if my story doesn’t sound like your favorite class, check out this honor roll of contributors: Charlaine Harris, Ilona AndrewsAmber BensonRhys BowenMike Carey, Donald Harstad, Steve HockensmithNancy HolderFaith HunterMarjorie M. LiuJonathan Maberry, and Thomas E. Sniegoski. Talk about the cool kid’s table in the cafeteria!

Thanks again to Barb Goffman for inviting to participate in this blog hop. You can read her blog hop post here.

To keep the hop going, here is another author who’ll be blogging next week about his next big thing: Stephen P. Kelner, who is working on a 10th century Viking mystery! (Yes, that last name does sound familiar, doesn’t it?) Steve will be guest blogging right here. 


Easter Egg Hunting

February 2, 2011

Yesterday was the official release date of Blast from the Past, the third of my “Where are they now?” series, which is always a happy event.

Normally I make a point of visiting a bookstore on Release Day to see the new arrival on the shelves, much as you’d go to the maternity ward and peek through the window at a newborn baby, but the weekly snowstorm up here in Massachusetts meant I couldn’t make it this time.

Here’s a shot out my back door, which shows why I decided to wait until later in the week. Or possibly next month.

That is a full-sized swing set, by the way, just to give you a sense of scale. So on the whole, I think it’s better to stay home for the day. And while I’m here, I thought I’d take y’all on an Easter egg hunt.

No, not a real one, because (1) it’s the wrong time of year and (2) the eggs would sink into the snow and not be found until July, given the way the weather has been. The kind of Easter egg I’m talking about are the private jokes hidden in my books and stories.

I confess that I have a weakness for inserting Easter eggs. In “An Unmentionable Crime,” which was set in a lingerie store, all the characters are named for people known for their connection to underwear: a man named Fredericks as in Fredericks of Hollywood, a woman named Vicki as in Victoria’s Secret, and so on. In both “Marley’s Ghost” and Mad as the Dickens, it’s Dickens character names, and in “Lying-in-the-Road Death,” characters are named for types of whiskey. (I was surprised by how many kinds of whiskey there are!)

I put in these private jokes because (1) they make me giggle and (2) I think they’re fun for readers who notice them. But I allow myself to do this if, and only if, it doesn’t distract or detract from the story.

Normally I don’t even tell anybody about them, but since I’m snowbound anyway, here are some of the Easter eggs in Blast from the Past. (And don’t worry–there will be no spoilers.)

  • The action star Tilda interviews at the beginning of the book is John Laryea, who is named for three of the leads in The Bugaloos. (You don’t remember the show that IMDb.com describes as “a rock-n-roll band with bug wings who live in a magical forest.”?)  I.Q and Courage were played by men named John–John McIndoe and John Philpott–and Harmony was played by Wayne Laryea.

  • The fictional Laryea got his start in a kids’ TV show called The Blastoffs, in which was about a pair of  brothers named Sid and Marty Blastoff. Sid and Marty Krofft are best known as the producers of a number of  kiddie shows, including H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, and The Bugaloos. (And a tip o’ the hat to Bill Crider, who recognized that pair of names and mentioned them in his review of Blast from the Past.)
  • One thing I do in the Tilda books is to put epigraphs in front of every chapter, pulling snippets from books, web sites, and all kinds of sources. The thing is, not all of those sources actually exist. In Blast from the Past, I quotefrom Teenage Mutant Ninja Artists: The Best of Indie Comics by Jerry Frazee and  Saturday Morning Spree by Charles M. Luce. Neither book is real. The guys are real, more or less, and I drew on their expertise in comic books in researching the book. So I stuck them in as a real cheap thank-you present. By the way, in addition to being good friends of mine, both Jerry and Charles (who goes by Mike) are extremely talented artists and I’ve got plenty of work by both of them hung in my house. Just check out those links for a sample.
  • One of the producers of Pharos, the movie John Laryea is filming, is Joni Langevoort. The character is fictional, but there really is a Joni Langevoort, who I met via the convention Malice Domestic. Malice has a charity auction each year, and twice Joni has paid for the right of naming a character in one of my books. The first time, in Curse of the Kissing Cousins, I named a gospel singer after her daughter Katie. This time was Joni’s turn. (By the way, Joni’s name is misspelled in the acknowledgements for Blast from the Past, which was my mistake, but her name is correct in the text.)

That’s just a sample of what I hid in the book–I spent most of a year writing it, so there was plenty of time to sneak stuff in. I could tell you more, but I think it quit snowing and sleeting. Maybe I’ll make it to a bookstore to see the new book after all!


Countdown to True Blood

September 1, 2008

I want to announce publicly that I am not obsessed with True Blood. Okay, maybe I’ve been marking the days off on my calendar until the September 7 premier, but that’s totally reasonable because show is based on the book Dead Until Dark by my pal Charlaine Harris. Yeah, some dude named Alan Ball is involved and some other Oscar winner is starring in it, but the important part to me is…

based on Dead Until Dark by my pal Charlaine Harris!

So of course I’m pretty excited. After all, I’ve been a huge fan of Sookie Stackhouse since the beginning. In fact, I’ve been a fan since before the beginning. I read Dead Until Dark in manuscript. (Yes, that is me mentioned in the dedication to the book.) I loved it immediately–the voice, the characters, the setting, the action, the world, the sex, the mystery–it has everything. Charlaine being one of my favorite people on earth doesn’t hurt, either.

But that doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. Okay, sure after over twenty years without cable in my home, I had it installed primarily so we can watch True Blood. We have been watching other stuff, I swear. The Discovery Channel and BBC America and of course, the HBO specials heralding the making of True Blood. That’s not being obsessive.

Admittedly, I did annoy my daughter Valerie. Yesterday, I said, “Hey, you know what next Sunday is, right?”

“I sure do!” Valerie said. “I can’t wait!”

“Me, either. That’s when True Blood starts!”

“Anything else?” she replied frostily.

“Well, it’s a month before Wolfsbane and Mistletoe hits the shelves. That’s the anthology I co-edited with Charlaine Harris. But True Blood starts this week!”

“Anything else?”

“Um….”

“It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!!”

“I knew that. How about a vampire birthday party this year?”

“Dad!!!!”

I tried to explain that she has had nine other birthdays, whereas this is the first episode of True Blood, but she didn’t buy it. You know, maybe I am obsessed…