Monday, August 22, 2016

Giveaway!

You have until the next full moon to win 1 of 2 signed hardcovers of Spells of Blood and Kin:


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

Spells of Blood and Kin

by Claire Humphrey

Giveaway ends September 17, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Another Post from the Road

In my last post we'd made it as far as Los Angeles, mainly by plane.  The next phase of the tour began with a road trip to San Francisco!

Thanks to the generosity of new friends, we had a fun home base in a camper-van near Golden Gate Park and this author & entourage used our time off to explore the city.  Here's the view from Moraga Steps:



We visited the Castro on our day off as it was Pride Weekend.  It was an emotional visit due to the recent tragic crime in Orlando.  We made friends with some lovely folks at a bar near Dolores Park, and I felt like the heart of the community was sore but still so proud, so kind, and so alive.

Curtis and I got to sign books at landmark bookstore Borderlands, and then we had a great event at Laurel Bookstore (photo courtesy of my aunt Mia Stageberg):


Next stop: Portland!  On the road there, we began listening to the audiobook of Spells of Blood and Kin.  What a cool experience to hear my characters voiced so well by Vikas Adam (especially Nick and Jonathan--he really nails the stoner-speak!)

Powell's at Cedar Hills Crossing hosted another fantastic event.  No rest for the wicked though--we departed the next morning for Seattle to the University Book Store, this time listening to Hamilton along the way.  Both events had great after-parties too: a highlight was the Zero Gravity Football, a signature cocktail created by a friend of Curtis's based on a cocktail that appears in Waypoint Kangaroo.  (Before you ask... if Spells of Blood and Kin had a signature cocktail, it would probably not be a good one, since most of the drinking is done by immortal alcoholic Gus Hillyard, who doesn't have much money and tends to go straight for the bottom shelf.)

All the bookstores on this tour have been so amazing.  At every stop we're meeting people who are super-organized, enthusiastic, and supportive.  Some of them have already read our books and have their own copies waiting to be signed; some have given us fantastic recommendations of other things we'd like to read.  Without exception, they're proving to me, over and over again, the immense importance of booksellers to their local communities and to the wider community of readers and writers.  I'm so proud to be part of this community!


Yesterday the tour had a fun social media moment--Indigo is currently running a campaign to promote Canadian authors under the hashtag #ReadtheNorth.  As an employee I was fortunate to get my t-shirt a bit early so I could participate from abroad!  Expect to see it again, and happy Canada Day Weekend wherever you are:


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Road So Far

One week!  One week since Spells of Blood and Kin officially launched.  What's happened in that week?

First: the launch itself!  A power failure at the Yonge & Eglinton Centre meant the Indigo store had to close for the afternoon, but the amazing events team quickly found a solution--the courtyard of the mall.  Check out the amazing setup (and the long signing line!):

Curtis Chen and I are tag-teaming a lot of our events as his debut novel, Waypoint Kangaroo, is with the same publisher at the same time--what a great coincidence!  Curtis came to Toronto for this event and the next one--a day later, at the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. Here's a great picture Kelly Robson took of me at the reading series...right before I classily smacked myself in the face with the microphone:



Next up, a double-header of Indigo signings: Chapters Chinook in Calgary, and Indigo Granville in Vancouver.  Both stores were lovely!  Indigo Granville had an especially great location for a signing table:
I got to chat with not one but two different readers who were celebrating birthdays and decided to treat themselves to a signed copy of my book.  I hope they both had great days!  (There were a lot of people who bought my book for no particular reason, of course, and I hope they had great days too!)

From Vancouver, author & entourage flew on to LA and landed late enough that we could see the wildfires burning on the dark hills: a harsh and ominous reintroduction to a city I haven't visited since the year my father died.  Yet thanks to dear friends, we were welcomed warmly and put to bed in the guest room of a lovely house with mango trees in the yard.

Barnes & Noble in Torrance generously hosted the next stop, Curtis's official launch.  Both Curtis and I had the pleasure of seeing our high school English teachers at our respective events--how awesome to have been taught by people who remain so invested in their students' lives and in the literary community!

This super-long post is going to have to leave out a lot of the non-book-related details--pretending to be a runaway horse with our small cousin in Calgary; running on the sea wall to Dundarave; mangoes with chili and lime in Santee Alley.  By the time I get back home I'll have a whole library of new scents and tastes and views and accents to draw from... all ready and waiting for whatever I write next.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wiscon!

I've never been to Wiscon before and I just found out there's a time-travel-themed queer dance party! My rainbow leg warmers just got added to the packing list.

Will you be there?  Come to one of the panels or readings I'm in!
FRIDAY:
10:30 PM - 11:45 PM
Assembly: Let's Judge a Book By Its Cover
Science fiction and fantasy can have some knock-your-socks-off cover art. Art that draws you to the book and sticks with you later. (Sometimes even being reprinted on posters, t-shirts, etc.) At the same time, sf/f covers can be egregiously sexist or racist. They can be whitewashed and/or designed by committee to be as cookie-cutter as possible. Often, the author has zero control. We will look at classic examples of the good and the bad, and discuss current trends in book covers.


SATURDAY:
9:00 PM - 10:15 PM
University C: Introverts Rock! (Quietly ... Alone in Their Rooms.)
The hidden power of introversion! Let's talk about what's awesome about being an introvert and some of the challenges we face.
(I'm moderating this one!)

SUNDAY:
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Conference 2: Dispatches from the GlitterShip!
GlitterShip is a podcast and magazine of LGBTQIA+ short fiction. Come listen to a selection of works by authors whose stories have appeared on GlitterShip!

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM
Capitol A: How Not To Think About Women Characters
"She's such a Mary Sue." "She's only there to serve the story of a male character." "Her characterization is so inconsistent" or "She's too flat to be interesting." As consumers of media—even feminist consumers—we have a whole language at our disposal when we need to justify disinterest or dislike towards a woman character. But as often as these idioms are accurate criticisms of a work, they can also be ways to avoid actually talking about the character AS a character. Some questions to consider: Do the ways in which we critique women characters result in a denial of their agency? Is describing women characters as "inconsistently characterized" a way to avoid seeking out their motivations? Is being a "foil" or a parallel always a subordinate role?



I'm really excited about this con--seeing some friends, meeting some new people who sound fantastic, engaging in some next-level conversation and dancing.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Remembering Maureen Frost

Maureen Frost passed away yesterday.  Maureen was a writer: a new writer, with a few stories under her belt, as well as a history of the Mafia which will be in stores later this year.

Maureen and I worked together.  Sometimes we took breaks and walked out to get tea.  Maureen introduced me to genmaicha--green tea with roasted rice--and dragon pearls.  As we walked, we talked about writing.

Maureen showed me some of her stories.  At that time she had never sent them out, because she was sensitive, and feared rejections would crush her.  She asked me how I could bear it.  I don't remember what I answered, because it is a light thing to me; but it was a heavy thing to Maureen.

Watching her work up the courage to share her writing was so impressive.  Even showing a piece to just me--her colleague and friend--made her extremely nervous.  She took that first step bravely.  Then she began sending her work to magazines.  I remember her being so anxious that her voice was breaking when she told me.  And still she did it.

What Maureen faced, only she knew.  I feel like I saw the shadow of it now and then, in the intensity of effort she had to put forth to submit her work.  I do not know how much Maureen wrote, or how much of it she was willing to send out.  I do know there is no better way for a writer to remember another writer than to share her words.

Here are two of Maureen's stories which are available online: "Lugosi at Midnight" and "Battle in the Carpathians".

Friday, January 15, 2016

Non-Fiction for Fiction Writers: Irritable Hearts

Character and world-building: two essential skills for writers.  I'd submit that our invented characters and worlds are inevitably reflections of our real worlds and our understanding of ourselves and others.

Some of that understanding comes hard-won and first-hand.  I learn through falling down.

I also learn through shifting perspectives.  I need a sense of the wider context in which my own life sits, and I need it to believably write people who aren't me.

I also have trouble reading fiction when I'm working a lot on my own writing.  Something about the process, especially in the last couple of years, has made it very hard for me to get swept up in a novel the way I used to.  I get hung up on the craft of it, like having x-ray vision, seeing the skeleton too prominently beneath the skin.

Non-fiction also has its tropes and conventions, but since it isn't what I am writing, it's easier for me to read it wholeheartedly.  And I've read a lot more of it in the past couple of years.

So: this is going to be the first of a series of posts about amazing non-fiction that has expanded my understanding of people and the world.

Irritable Hearts by Mac McClelland



Irritable Hearts is the memoir of a tough, hard-drinking, seen-it-all journalist who falls in love with an equally tough soldier.  It’s also the memoir of a sensitive, vulnerable writer who lives through some of our worst fears and then nearly dies in the aftermath.

This book questions what it means to be strong.  Did McClelland start out strong and did trauma break her?  Did she start out more vulnerable than she knew, and did trauma put pressure on the cracks that were already there?  Did she start out in denial, and does she now show her greatest strength in resilience?

McClelland has been criticized--rightly, I think--for writing about someone else's trauma without permission, in an earlier piece that was the genesis of this book.  In this book she confines herself as much as possible to her own experience.  She does a great job of exposing the tangle of personal history, privilege, and politics that underlie both her own trauma and her imperfect response to it.

Irritable Hearts fascinates me because it doesn't give easy answers.  McClelland isn't a perfect victim, and she isn't perfectly recovered by the end of the book.  She isn't a perfect partner to her soldier husband, and he isn't a perfect husband either.  In all this imperfection is an irreducible optimism, a liveliness.  A more interesting story.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Setting Myself Up for the Win

2016 is going to be a huge year for me, with the release of Spells of Blood and Kin in June.  And 2014 was a huge year, too: the year I signed with my wonderful agent Connor, the year he made the sale.  A year of leveling up.

2015, then, was a bridge year in some ways: a year to consolidate my gains, to do all the work I could to make sure this next phase in my writing life will be a successful one.  Timelines in writing are very long compared to some kinds of work: even more than a year, in my case, between deal and launch.  I came to learn that it's very useful time!  Edits, proofing, and a lot of other associated tasks took a lot of it.  And of course, other projects need to be in the pipeline--my next book, plus some short stories, although the time I've spent on those has dropped a lot since the novel has to take priority.

Like most working writers, I also have a day job--which is understating it a bit; I have a career which I love, and which is sometimes demanding.  Between this, family events, and cons, 2015 saw an increase in travel for me, with the result that some of my writing work ended up being done in airport lounges during the inevitable delays and layovers. (Philly has good cheese fries.  Logan has a Starbucks that sells vacuum packed olives! Reagan runs out of beer weirdly often.)

So 2015 was a year of logistics, deadlines and checklists.  It was a year of anxiety, of getting used to new and higher stakes.  But it was also a year of marvels.  These things are inextricable.  I thrive on change, and one of the ways I do this is to give myself talismans and rituals, souvenirs of the new places I end up, new hooks on which to hang my new hats.  Lots of change = lots of new meaning in my life = more change, in a wonderful upward spiral.

My rules of resolutions are that they have to be measurable, they have to be consistent with my nature so that I might actually do them, and they have to be positive (I learned that from the epic Quitting Potato Chips debacle of 1997).  With that, here are some things I resolve for 2016! 
  • As many cities as possible on my book tour!  I have no idea of the scope yet, but as dates are confirmed I will post them here.
  • A different way to support causes.  For the past few years I've done charity mountain bike races, which is wonderful, but difficult to fit into a heavy travel schedule.  I might volunteer for same-day support of some of these events, which would allow me to help out but without having to train in advance.  Or I might choose something I can do online/remotely.
  • A new tattoo and/or frequent nail art.  It's really working for me to have a physical, personal talisman that I can look at often.  (If you're wondering, the past few rounds of nail art have been Pittsburgh black-and-gold, because Pittsburgh has been my biggest and most consistent talisman this year.)
  • Keep on working with the great writing productivity suggestions from Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k.  Huge win so far, guys.  I don't know how to carve out more time--but these tips are really helping me make the most of what I do have.
  • Keep on learning the world with my feet.  Some of my most shining moments this year, and many recent years, have been running or walking through the cities I visit.  Chicago's lakeshore trails; Pittsburgh's bridges; Boston's fens; San Antonio's river walk.  It's a glorious combination of fitness, tourism and meditation, and I'm going to have some new destinations to try out this year.
  • Post more of my reading here.  I have been reading a lot of nonfiction in the last couple of years, and I'd like to talk about it more--some of it is specific research for my own writing, some is related to my job, and some is just fascinating.
There you have it, friends.  May 2016 be powerful, prosperous and fun for all of us.