Dana talks about writing her chapter of serial novel Inherit the Dead

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Fan comment on Inherit the Dead

Inherit the Dead

Last week Inherit the Dead hit #15 on the NYT ebook bestseller list, and #18 on the combined e/hardcover list. All due to fans of that amazing assembly of authors lining up to buy the book–I’m still sort of incredulous to see my name there.

David Pitt in Booklist says, “There are some stylistic variations between the 20 authors—John Connolly doesn’t sound like Charlaine Harris—but, for the most part, the story moves as though there were a single hand on the tiller. Not merely a genre curiosity, the book is a well-told mystery that stands on its own two (or 40) feet.”

Publisher’s Weekly agrees: “The chapters move seamlessly as clues and storylines set up by one author are expanded by the next.”

That, friends, is editor and contributor Jonathan Santlofer’s fine hand at the tiller. He was a joy to work with, and he didn’t even mind me standing the nanny character on her head in my chapter–in fact, he cheered me on. How can you not do your best for an editor like that?

And you didn’t think I’d leave out the buy links, did you?

Click here to buy on Amazon.

Click here to buy on Barnes & Noble.

Click here to buy on iBooks.

Click here to buy on Kobo.

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Sookie is the calm eye of this supernatural hurricane.

[from the stabenow.com vaults, 7/12/10, and in honor of the publication of the last Sookie Stackhouse novel tomorrow, Dead Ever After.]

An awful lot of books with vampires in them out there nowadays, I agree, but before you roll your eyes and groan let me steer you to some really good ones.

sookieSookie Stackhouse’s clairvoyance made her an outcast long before she started dating Bill the vampire. Sookie tends bar in present-day Bon Temps, Louisiana, where due to the invention of synthetic blood by the Japanese the vampires have decided to come out of their underworld closet, and that’s just the beginning. Over so far ten books in the series, Sookie is introduced to vampires, werewolves, werepanthers, weretigers, witches, fairies, maenads, and she takes them all in her stride. Beautiful, spunky, brave, Sookie is the calm eye of the supernatural hurricane swirling around her, and standing at her shoulder as she leans into this paranormal wind makes this world seem all the more real. Yes, this is the series that HBO’s True Blood is based on, but read Charlaine Harris’s books, too, because they’re a lot of fun.

changesHarry Dresden is a wizard living in present-day Chicago, where he advertises his services under “W” in the Yellow Pages. He’s got a good heart, a smart mouth, and a skull for a sidekick, and he goes up against some of the Biggest Bads ever to scare the socks off you. Among these are the vampires, organized into the Black Court, the White Court and the Red Court. The twelfth book in Jim Butcher’s series, Changes, features a finale smackdown with the Red Court that will have you on the edge of your seat, and the best hook I’ve seen set in the denouement of a work of popular fiction in a long, long time.

bloodA new entry into the vampire oeuvre is Blood Oath, the first book in a planned series by Christopher Farnsworth about a 163-year old vampire who under a voluntary voodoo spell (work with me here) has been working as a secret agent for the presidents of the United States since Andrew Johnson, and who sublimates his lust for blood by going to AA meetings, whenever he can fit one in between fouling dastardly assassination plots by zombie Frankenstein soldiers. His sidekick and our way into this world is the ambitious and cynical Zach Burrows, a young White House staffer caught in flagrante delicto with the president’s daughter, which explains his current assignment. A promising start for a buddy series.

draculaAnd let’s not forget the book that started it all, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read it a long time ago but I remember wondering even then how Stoker in 1897 got away with all that unspoken but nevertheless smoldering sexuality that underlays every line of the text. And Renfield still gives me the creeps.

Bad Blood’s moment of glory

Here it is, in Sunday’s print edition of the New York Times:

The asterisk means I’m tied for 13, with no less than George R.R. Martin.
Listen hard, and you can hear my editor chanting, “Printed list! Printed list!”

Again, this would not have happened without you, the people who bellied up to the bookstore counter and ordered your Kate 20/20 neat. I can’t say this enough:

Thank you!

The best comment I have received so far on Bad Blood (or any book ever) is from Charlaine Harris, she of Sookie Stackhouse fame. “Hats off to you,” she writes. “Dana, you have balls of brass.”

FYI, I’ll be chatting about Bad Blood with the Danamaniacs on March 27th at 5pmAST/9pmEST. And yes, I will talk about the ending,
but no hints about what happens next.

Autographed first editions from the Poisoned Pen.

on Amazon.

on Barnes and Noble.

on iTunes.

on Kobo.

Click on “See event details” below to watch the livestream
of the slide show I narrated at The Poisoned Pen.

And because it has been so popular, I dare again to include a buy link for the Kate 20/20 mug with the Tsunami blend coffee.
Tsunami Blend, you will remember, is Chopper Jim’s favorite coffee.
Here’s what it looks like.

More doodling and they rode into town, one of them even on a white horse.

[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2/26/10,
and because I just found out it was available in e]

Here’s my introduction to Powers of Detection, an anthology of short stories I edited about murder in a fantasy setting. It was published by Ace in 2004, and it was a whole lot of fun.

powers-of-detection This anthology is all Laura Anne Gilman’s fault.

A while back Laura Anne forwarded me an email from author Rosemary Edghill, who was putting together a murder-in-a-fantasy-setting anthology. The email came with a message from Laura Anne, which read, “You should do this.”

That’s Laura Anne, always big with the subtle.

I’d never written fantasy. I don’t even read that much of it, because after Middle Earth what is there? I like my speculative fiction hard, nuts-and-bolts, what happens next next door. I want to go back to the moon and on to the asteroid belt and Mars and the moons of Jupiter and from there to Beta Centauri. Sword and sorcery is a little too woo-woo for literal-minded me.

But I confess, I’m afraid of Laura Anne, so I doodled around a bit, so I could say “See? I tried!” and she wouldn’t hurt me.

And then these two characters showed up between the doodles. Both women. One wore a sword and the other carried a staff. They had magical powers, some of which appeared at puberty, some of which were acquired. More doodling and they rode into town, one of them even on a white horse. A young woman was strangled and by various magical means my duo discovered and brought the murderer to justice.

By the time I stopped doodling I had forty-two pages, and to add insult to injury it was a sword-and-sorcery tale. It was also twenty pages too long for the anthology. Rosemary asked me to cut it to fit. I refused. I guess I thought my prose was too deathless to be tampered with. Yeah, right.

So after all that, my story didn’t even make the anthology.


So, I thought, I’ll put together my own magic-and-mayhem anthology. (Can we spell “hubris”?)

I decided to ask for murder in a fantasy or science fiction setting, to broaden the appeal to both writers and readers. I went downstairs and looked at who was on my bookshelves. Hmm. Here we have Sharon Shinn. Writes the sf Angels-on-Samaria series. Also wrote that most elegiac of fantasy novels, The Shape-changer’s Wife. Over here is Charlaine Harris, who writes the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the best vampire series in the bloodsucking genre. And here is Anne Perry, who wrote me a short story for The Mysterious North. Could I go to that well a second time? (hyoo’bris, n. excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.)

I asked them each to contribute a story, and displaying a touching belief in my ability to get this anthology off the ground, they all did. Sharon has written a lovely little magical boarding school murder, not at all a la Harry Potter, and which she said might evolve into something a bit longer one day. Say a novel? Charlaine has written a story set in that same Sookie universe, and if there was an award for first lines her name would be on the short list. Anne takes us into the courtroom for a trial by magic, where the verdict isn’t what one might expect and neither is anything else.

I remembered talking to Donna Andrews about writing speculative fiction, and she was also a contributor to The Mysterious North, so I asked her for a story, too. She sent me a delightful tale of a mage with a cold, an apprentice with a clue, and a villain with neither.

Then there are the writers who live in Alaska and whom I can personally browbeat into writing for me, Michael Armstrong, John Straley, and Mike Doogan. Michael has written a modern take on an old Aleut legend involving seagulls, and there must be some kind of bird thing going on among the menfolk because John wrote a detective story from the first-person viewpoint of a raven. Mike was the only one of my contributors to weigh in on the science fiction side of murder, although I’m not sure it is murder in the end. You decide. Enjoy his character names while you’re at it.

Laura Anne offered a story of her own, based on characters who inhabit a series she just sold to Harlequin Luna, and recommended I solicit stories from Anne Bishop, Simon R. Green and Jay Caselberg. Laura Anne’s story is a come-hither into a world next to but not quite of our own, seen through the eyes of a cat burglar with, yes, special powers. Anne’s story is set in the world of her Blood novels, where a vigilante wearing a jewel of power exacts deserved if harsh justice upon a serial revenge killer. Simon has written a creepy little horror-ish noir story in which Sam Spade would feel quite at home, if Sam Spade was dead. Jay brings back the ancient Egyptian gods to modern-day Cairo, with a last line that will have you all diving under your beds.

I heard Roger Ebert say once that the true test of a good film was how well it sucked you into its world. Same goes for good writing. In this anthology you can smell the coffee on the streets of Cairo, walk on the ceiling with starspawn, and negotiate with extreme care the social intricacies of the world of the Blood. You can run from the raucous call of an Alaskan seagull, and you’d better. You can belly up to Sookie’s bar and order your blood at an appealing 98.6F. You can meet a gargoyle in a Savile row suit, go mano a mano with piskies, and sneeze striped bats. You can sweat out the verdict at a trial by magic, conjure a reflecting spell at the Norwitch Academy of Magic and Sorcery, and, I hope, hear the song of the Sword in Daean.

Enjoy your visit to these different worlds, but watch your back.

It’s not safe in here.