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End of the line for this LJ

LiveJournal has been a good site for me. I've kept this blog up since April 2004. However, this will likely be my last post here. I have imported all my entries and comments to my Wordpress page. This account will remain open for a while -- maybe a long while.

I'm also shifting all content from werewolfsaga.com to my main site, www.stevenewedel.com. The Werewolf Saga domain name will remain active, but will now point visitors to my main page.

I was just feeling like I was scattered out all over the Web, double posting journal entries, keeping up with too many sites, not updating certain things when I should have, etc.

if you care to keep up with my doings, I hope you'll make http://www.stevenewedel.com a regular stop in your surfing.

Fantasy series

Before getting into horror fiction in about 1982, I pretty much read nothing but fantasy. I loved a good fantasy series, and would read them over and over during junior high and early high school. While poking around on Goodreads.com recently I came across an author name I hadn’t thought of in a while and it reminded me of just how much I enjoyed a trilogy of her books. So, I thought I’d list my top five fantasy series here, then ask you to discuss them, and add your own. Mine are in no particular order. Oh, and I didn’t include J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings because, like most people of my generation, it being the best ever just goes without saying.

imageRiddle-Master by Patricia A. McKillip – This is the series that inspired this blog. I have the three books in tattered old paperbacks that my parents had to special order back in the days when Enid didn’t have a book store. In 1999 the three volumes were collected into one book, seen here. It’s the story of a young prince with three star-like marks on his forehead. He travels from his island of Hed in search of adventure. You can see the Tolkien influence here, particularly with the emphasis on riddles (as in Bilbo vs. Gollum), but this series is easier to read. Also, the second book shifts the focus to the female heroine, something that was pretty unusual for it’s time. Even as a boy reading this series, I had no problem with the switch to a female perspective because the story was still just as interesting. This was a real comfort read for me as an early teenager and I would love to pick it up and read it again right now. If there was but world enough and time …

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The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander – As I recall, this was my first exposure to fantasy literature. Before this I read mostly dog and horse stories, but I was lucky enough to be put in an advanced reading class in seventh grade. We met in the library and were guided through our readings by the librarian and this was one of the first books she had us read. (Some of my all-time favorite reads date back to that class.) The first book, The Book of Three, is the only one we read in class; I read the rest on my own as fast as I could get them. This is where I learned about story arc, as Taran, the assistant pig keeper, longs for adventure, then is thrust into it. He meets a cast of unforgettable companions and has many adventures before … Well, I won’t give it away. This was also my first introduction to Celtic mythology. This series is aimed at a younger audience, but I love it still and remember fondly every turn and twist of the five-book story.

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Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin – Looking at Goodreads now, I see that Le Guin is still writing this Cycle. However, I only care about the first three books. That’s all there was for years, and when the fourth book came out in the mid-1990s I eagerly grabbed it up, and soon wished I hadn’t. So, my discussion here is only going to include The Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. This one is significant to me because it taught me that magic has to have a price. Also, like McKillip’s series, the second book shifts to a female point of view, and in this case it is that second book that is my favorite. In fact, The Tombs of Atuan might even be included in my all-time list of favorite books, and I can’t quite say why. Usually I don’t go for female-oriented books, books set in the desert, books that have an Egyptian feel to them … but this one has all of that and I love it.

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The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – This one is such a no-brainer that I almost didn’t include it here. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the same class where we read The Book of Three and was hooked on the series. I think this series is a little more uneven than Alexander’s, and I really don’t care for The Last Battle much at all, but there is so much good stuff throughout that this one is a must-read. My favorite of the series is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with The Magician’s Nephew a close second. It was with Lion that I first learned a story could be about more than what was simply on the page. I like the movies being made from this series, but really, you have to read these to fully appreciate them. Reading about Lewis’s conversion to Christianity and his relationship to Tolkien also deepens the experience of reading this series.

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Conan by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague De Camp, and Lin Carter – Filling in this fifth spot was a tough choice. Choosing to go with this version of the Conan cycle will be seen as controversial to many fans, too, so let me just say I went with nostalgia and importance in my literary development. For those not in the know, Conan the Barbarian is the creation of Robert E. Howard, a sad man who wrote pretty much invented the sword-and-sorcery genre before blowing his brains out when he was 30 years old. He wrote several Conan stories, and left many more stories and fragments behind, but there was much in the way of a chronological order. De Camp and Carter took most of what was available, sorted it, wrote new material to fill in the gaps, and came up with a 12-volume series that is out of print now. I was introduced to Conan through the first film, but the series became a bridge for me to move from fantasy into horror, as I went from Howard to Lovecraft without even knowing at the time that they men had been great friends. Darker and sexier than anything listed above, this was a series I enjoyed as a pubescent teenager and still appreciate today.

Honorable Mentions (because I just love them too much not to)

  • Dragonlance: Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • Dragonlance: Legends by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
  • The Iron Tower Trilogy by Dennis L. McKiernan
  • The First and Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson

Thoughts on becoming a YA author, part 1

As we slowly approach the Sept. 13 release of After Obsession, the book co-written with the awesome Carrie Jones, I’m seeing an increase in hits to my Web site and am getting a few messages from new readers. This is great. Mostly.

I’ve looked forward to this, believing that readers who like After Obsession will want to read more of my books, so sales of my werewolf books will pick up. But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Keep in mind that I was a teenager during the splatterpunk movement in horror. Shocking was good. Sex, violence, violent sex, sexy violence … that was the norm. And it carried over to the writing of Shara, which was originally finished in 1993. Shara, in wolf form, has sex with a wolf and I describe her being stuck on the the dogknot. That’s just one scene. Murdered by Human Wolves has the rape scene, which really isn’t that graphic; I’d compare it to the devil’s copulation with Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby. Call to the Hunt has one werewolfy oral sex scene that was graphic enough The Oklahoman refused to review the book, calling it pornography (which it certainly is not). Of course, the worst of the bunch is my ghost story Seven Days in Benevolence, where I really tried to be as shocking and gross as possible. By the time I got to Ulrik I’d toned things down, at least in the sex department.

I’ve let my high school students read my werewolf books. Mostly seniors, some juniors, and these are kids I know and can warn and sometimes check with their parents. Nobody’s been shocked. Nobody’s complained, and most of the kids claim to like the books.

The other day I was contacted by a young reader with many questions about the writing process. She found me because of After Obsession. Well, she’s only 14. This got me to thinking about crossover readers a little differently. I wouldn’t have let my own 14-year-old daughter read my books (if she’d asked). Now, because of Carrie’s huge following, there’s a possibility that many other young readers may pick up my adult books and find that they are not … well, not for young adults.

Two months after Bloomsbury releases After Obsession, Bad Moon Books will release Amara’s Prayer, a very sexual adult novel. By this I don’t mean pornographic. The sex isn’t there just to be there, and that’s never been the case with me. But there is a lot of sex, and there’s a fair amount of detail about the act because it’s integral to the story. It isn’t a book for the YA audience.

It’s an interesting scenario. Since the adult books are from small presses, maybe very few of the After Obsession readers will notice them. Maybe parents who let their kids read paranormal young adult romances are okay with their kids reading about werewolves with dogknots. I don’t know.

Maybe I’m being too uptight about the whole thing and it isn’t even an issue.

Soonercon 20: It’s a wrap!

I usually get around to reviewing conventions earlier than this, but there are reasons for the delay. First, my wife has been off work for two weeks due to foot surgery. Second, I’ve been busy trying to get back into a writing state of mind now that school is out. And finally, I messed up my back at the convention and that’s limited by time at the computer. I’ll get to that part later.

First, a big thanks to Sarah Basore (aka Sarah St. John) for securing a table we shared outside the dealers’ room. It’s always more fun to share space with someone, and Sarah is a funny and intelligent lady, so that’s even better. (Also a good writer, so read her books!)

Soonercon moved to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown OKC this year. Straight up, I didn’t like the parking situation and I don’t like driving downtown. I don’t like paying to park, either. However, that aside, this location was infinitely better than where the con has been the past few years. Everything was pretty well contained so there was no running from panel to panel in different buildings like at the old hotel. And, the Sheraton is just a nicer, newer facility. I don’t know the official numbers, but the convention seemed to be very well attended this year, and it got coverage on the evening news.

On Friday evening I was one of a handful of guests who had dinner with guest-of-honor Tim Powers, who wrote some little book that inspired a current film starring some guy named Johnny Depp. Tim proved to be very knowledgeable about a lot of literature and was a lot of fun to talk to and listen to.

At the first panel on Saturday morning I went to move a sound system-type thingy that was set up in the middle of the panel table. No biggie. I moved it to the end of the table, which seemed to impress some of the audience members, who then wanted a picture. So I picked it up again and acted like it was much heavier than it was. When I went to put it down, something twinged in my back and the rest of the con experience was colored by pain that has continued, though finally abated somewhat. Man, it sucks to get old! Anyway, the panels were fun and, until Sunday afternoon, very well attended. We had a discussion of Lovecraft’s influence that probably could still be going on.

As always, it was great seeing people who have come to be like extended family … Adrian, Sarah, Sherri, Joyce, the Wolf family, the Sinors, Jim Burke, Christophe, Dennis … Well, way too many to name. I hadn’t seen most of them since early last summer, so it was a lot of fun to get together with them again, and I hope to see them all again real soon.

Win an ARC of AFTER OBSESSION

Do you want to be first among your friends to ready After Obsession by me and Carrie Jones? Of course you do! How can you do that? By entering this Goodreads contest to win an advance reader’s copy of the novel!

Tornado Day

I remember working for The Oklahoman newspaper on May 3, 1999, when the F5 tornado went through Moore. It was city council meeting night, and that’s where I was, covering the meeting for the paper. For weeks afterward we did post-tornado stories. (In fact, I was kicked off my beat for a while so they could put a more experienced reporter on the hot spot.) Anyway, I did one story in which I was comparing that tornado outbreak to the movie Twister and the guy at the weather center at OU kept repeating that the movie was pure fiction and May 3 was an anomaly.

Turns out Twister might have been a harbinger. Since May 3, we have had several weather events that spawned multiple tornadoes across a huge area of the state. Today was one of those days.

We’re all okay here. There was a tornado very close, but it died before tearing up Moore. However, there are multiple communities dealing with death, destruction, and one case in Piedmont where a toddler is missing while the rest of her family is in various hospitals. I can only hope the toddler will be found unharmed like the baby from Bridge Creek was back in ‘99.

I was watching through the front door as the storm moved in. We had a lot of hail. More than likely the vehicles are beat up some. Lots and lots of rain came. The weirdest thing was when the wind went from pounding us from the south to suddenly coming to a dead stop, then ripping just as hard from the north. I was sure I was about to hear the roar of a tornado then, but it never came.

My wife and kids rode out a tornado in this house in May 2003 while I tried desperately to get home from my job in downtown OKC. I sure hope that’s something we never have to do again. We don’t have a storm cellar or basement in this house.

In other news, tomorrow is the last day of school for the year. It’s the last day for the class of 2011, the class I’ve sponsored for the past three years. It’s going to seem really strange to have those kids gone. However, with all the testing and some issues I’m having with a staff member, I have to say I’ll be glad when this year is over. I desperately need a break. The seven-period day with three preps and only one plan has been brutal.

My partner in crime, Carrie Jones, is at BEA promoting our After Obsession. If you’re lucky enough to be around the expo you should drop in and say howdy to her.

After Obsession is a Big Book

After_Obsession_by_Carrie_Jones_and_Steven_E_Wedel

After Obsession, the book I co-wrote with Carrie Jones, is an official Big Children’s Book of BEA. Being a Big Book at Book Expo America is a major thing.

Have I mentioned you can pre-order the book at Amazon? What’s that? You prefer Barnes & Noble? No problem!

Are you a member of Goodreads? You should be. It’s a great place to keep track of what you’ve read and see what your friends are reading. Also, I’m going to be using a new promotional feature they have to give away my final ARC of After Obsession. You can learn more about that here, but I also encourage you to go to Goodreads and follow me there. You can also keep up with Carrie on Goodreads, where she is the 25th most followed author. Pretty cool, huh?

Just a few more weeks of school. It’s been a rough year with way too much at-home work. I look forward to not having essays to grade so I can do a lot more writing. I have several projects I want to get finished before fall.

Also, I just want to mention that my past issues with Scrybe Press have been resolved. The Werewolf Saga books will continue to be in print for the foreseeable future. And yes, Nadia’s Curse is one of the projects I hope to finish by fall.

If you didn’t already know it, I’m a big fan of Jim Steinman. The man is just brilliant. And he’s a snazzy dresser. In my (not so) humble opinion, Steinman has written some of the best songs of the 20th century. Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, even Kiss can’t compete with Steinman, the mastermind who penned the songs on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, released in 1977. As C.S. Lewis would put it, Steinman’s music has a “northness” to it, a Wagnerian Nordic feel that makes you think of Viking ships, Valkyries, unrequited love, and heroic death scenes. You probably know about Bat Out of Hell, and probably even Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. He also released his own album, Bad for Good, in 1980, and wrote the song's for Meat Loaf’s mostly overlooked gem, Dead Ringer, that came out in 1981. He put together a girl band called Pandora’s Box that released the original version of his mega-hit “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” somewhere back there in the ‘80s, too. He’s a genius.

But this isn’t really about Jim Steinman, per se. I only mention him because he doesn’t get enough credit. What this is really about is how my wife and I finally – after a few decades of waiting – got to see Meat Loaf perform live this past Saturday night in Newkirk, Oklahoma. We were both fans before we met, which means we were singing along with Meat before 1980, when we were in our very early teens. Seeing Meat Loaf was always one of those lofty goals, one we never really thought we’d achieve, because the man just doesn’t come to Oklahoma and we’ve never been able to jetset to NYC or even Denver just to catch his show. So, when we learned he was playing two casinos in Okieland, going was a no-brainer.

Short of playing all night, the show was everything I could have hoped for. I mean, there were so many more songs I would have liked to have heard, but, you know, otherwise it was great. He played several songs off the first Bat and some off Bat II. He ignored Dead Ringer, Bad Attitude, Welcome to the Neighborhood, and Bat III, playing three off the (fairly) new Hang Loose Teddy Bear, and opening with “Hot Patootie” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The man is a hell of an entertainer. The casino’s hall appeared to be pretty well filled to its 1,400 capacity. We were toward the back, but still close enough to see the gleam in Meat’s eye as he sang to the crowd. He seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were. He sang, he told stories, he made jokes, he shot T-shirts from a weenie gun he swore was an exact replica of his penis, and he sang some more.

The icing on the cake? His female duet partner wasn’t a “stranger” he picked up for the tour. It was none other than Patti Russo. She has an absolutely amazing voice and really contributed to the show.

How does this show rate? Musically, it was one of the best I’ve seen. He doesn’t bring the pyrotechnics of Kiss or the volume of AC/DC, but song for song he put on one of the best shows I’ve seen.

Bullies

Several months ago I was asked by Carrie Jones to write an essay for an anthology she was editing with Megan Kelly Hall. The book was to be a collection of essays by authors discussing bullies. I thought it was a nice gesture for Carrie to invite me to submit, and I kind of felt sorry that she’d have to send me a rejection letter somewhere down the road.

I wrote about an early experience I had with a bully named Kevin. I was in the second grade at the time, and in my essay I touched on how that experience affected me for many years after. Unlike most essays I write, I spent a fair amount of time on this one, trying to pull off a bit of literary time travel.

Well, Carrie didn’t reject it. In fact, the essay somehow survived the cut of hundreds of submissions and made the table of contents. It is one of 70 such essays you’ll soon be able to read in Dear Bully, due out August 23 from HarperTeen. Here’s a link where you can get more information.

Want to see a picture of the cover? Sure you do! dear bully cvr_catalogIt’s a nice cover. If you look closely you can read the names of most of the authors. I’m so blown away to be included with the likes of R.L. Stine and Ellen Hopkins, among so many others.

If you want, you can already pre-order the book from your favorite retailer. Here’s an Amazon.com link. Proceeds from the sales go to help those affected by bullying.

This one meant even more than usual this year because many of my best current and some past students worked through Upward Bound last summer to form Stand for the Silent, a group dedicated to putting an end to bullying. The book and the group aren’t connected, other than sharing the same goal, but it was serendipitous that the two things would happen at the same time, I think.

I hope you’ll consider buying the book and helping the cause. I know I’m looking forward to reading those other 69 essays.

How things have changed

Over the past couple of months my writing time has been spent in ways totally alien to me before meeting and writing a book with Carrie Jones in 2008. I’ve learned a lot about working with a legitimate agent and a major publishing house, and about writing for young adults. I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned recently.

In the adult market served by small press genre publishers, pretty much anything goes in regards to content. That’s how I ended up with a possessed penis trying to rape an infant in Seven Days in Benevolence. In young adult fiction, you have to consider that the kids might go for such a scene, but the book has to get through gatekeepers … parents, librarians, teachers, etc. So, racial slurs have to be kept to a minimum (much less common than in a real life inner city high school). Editors want you to use politically correct terms, like Native American instead of Indian. Sex can happen, but in an off-the-page kind of way. And even demons have limits on the amount of cursing they can do.

With a major publisher, acceptance of a work doesn’t mean you’re finished with the writing. On the contrary, the hardest writing you’ll do comes after the acceptance and before the copy edits, as editors actually study what you’ve written in minute detail and point out how this scene could flow better, how this one really only repeats earlier information, and various other things you, the author, probably never thought about. In the small press, no editor has ever asked me to rewrite a single page after the book was accepted and the contract signed. With the exception of a few short stories, no small press editor has ever asked me change anything, which means Shara, Ulrik, and the others only had the benefit of my critique group’s input.

Here’s how copy edits work with my small press books: I’m sent a PDF of what the publisher is going to send to the printer. The PDF is always very, very close to what I originally sent to the publisher. I read through the PDF and make notes of any mistakes I find, sending my notes to the publisher when I’m done. The publisher makes those changes and sends the book to press. Major publishers have people who are experts at copyediting. I mean, I thought I was pretty good at it, but the copy editors at Bloomsbury found mistakes I’d looked blindly at more times than I want to think about.

Before hooking up with Carrie I spent as much time pounding the virtual pavement of the Internet studying markets and trying to place my fiction with publishers as I did actually writing. Now that I have a big-time agent, I can send my work to him and he’ll tell me how I can make it more appealing to editors who pay lots of money. Then he’ll do the selling. (Well, okay, I’m still in the process of incorporating his suggestions into the first solo book I’ve sent him, but presumably he’ll take on the job of selling it once I’m finished.)

It’s been a fun ride so far, and I hope it just keeps getting better. I can’t thank Carrie, Edward, Michelle, and Margaret enough for the changes in my career.

One last change I have to mention … My 16-year-old daughter is now a licensed driver. I’ve barely seen her since she got that piece of plastic. If you happen to be driving on the south side of the OKC metro and see a red Ford Focus driven by a grinning blonde, please give my little girl lots of space so she’ll make it home safely.

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