Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Xe Sands Interview/Giveaway Winner

I know I'm a day late posting the winners of the THREE DAYS TO DEAD audiobook giveaway. My apologies (if it helps any, my copies still aren't here, so I can't mail them yet anyway).

So, I've added together the commenters from both Organized Chaos and The League of Reluctant Adults, and Random Number Generator has declared the winners are:

Erik and Moishe Moose!


Please send your mailing info to mail(at) and I'll get you set up!

Thanks to everyone who commented! Xe has been amazing about the entire audio process, and I can't wait to settle in and listen to her narrate some of my favorite scenes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Roundup

First: HAPPY SUMMER!!!!!

It's strange, but knowing that it's finally, officially summer kind of makes it okay for the weather to get hot and humid. And it will. Because it's already been pretty gross. The temperature has bounced between 75 and 102 over the last few weeks, as I've tried to take advantage of spring. I'm much rather have my windows open than my air conditioning running, but I think the days and nights of open windows will end very soon. And I'm okay with that. Because it's summer.

As I'm sure many of you are aware, author LA Banks is battling cancer, and two different charity auctions have been set up to help with her medical expenses. I've donated here, and the auction is for a signed set of my first three Dreg City books (Three Days to Dead, As Lie the Dead, and Another Kind of Dead). I'll mail the books to the winner as soon as my author copies of AKoD arrive. There are lots of amazing things up for auction, so head over and check it out!

The audiobook version of AS LIE THE DEAD is now available from Tantor Audio. The Audible site has an interesting alternate cover (winged hawtness is there, but poor Evy looks like she thinks she holding a sword, rather than a knife). As always, Xe Sands has done an amazing job narrating.

Pre-order links for WRONG SIDE OF DEAD (Dreg City 4) are going live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which is awesome! And there is a sales rank, so you lovely folks are already ordering the book. *love* I just want to warn folks DO NOT READ THE COVER COPY YET!!!!! The cover copy for WSOD has a few big spoilers for ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD, so don't read it if you want to avoid being spoiled before AKOD releases on 8/2.

A little reminder to folks in the Baltimore area: I'll be attending Shore Leave as a guest this year, July 8-10. It's a fun multi-media SF/F convention that I've been going to for ten years, and it's always a blast. Actor guests this year include the amazing John de Lancie, "Warehouse 13's" Eddie McClintock, and "Battlestar Galactica's" Tricia Helfer. So if you need something to do that weekend, check it out!

And it tickles me to end this blog post with some fun news. The first review for ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD is in, and it's from Romantic Times:

"Meding brings back her indomitable heroine Evy for a third installment in her fast-paced, memorable series. The bonds of friendship and love can be uplifting or devastating as these protagonists learn. This mad scientist-run-amok tale will grab you by the throat and never let go. -4.5 stars"


This was a difficult book for me to write, because it was a difficult book for Evy to endure. Her strength and love is tested to the limit, and she's not given any easy answers to the questions she faces. So it's a great relief to see those four-and-a-half stars, and to know the story did what I hoped it would do.

I can't wait for you guys to get this book. Six more weeks!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Narrator, an Actor, and a Superhero Walk Into A Bar....

A few weeks ago, I asked folks what they wanted to know about TRANCE, the first book in my MetaWars series with Pocket. I've combined some of the questions, but hopefully this gives everyone something to look forward to.

But before we get to that, a few housekeeping things:

My interview with audiobook narrator and voice artist Xe Sands is here, and I'm running a giveaway. And since everyone loves free stuff, go forth and comment!

I spent some time on the super-fun site, where you can cast your favorite books. I've put up my dream cast for THREE DAYS TO DEAD. Check it out, and then add a cast of your own. You have to register, but it's free and it's fun!

I feel like there was a third thing I wanted to add, too, but it's slipped my mind. Oh well...on with TRANCE!



*Who's the heroine? What is special about her? Is there a hero?*

The heroine of TRANCE is Teresa "Trance" West, and the book is told from her first-person perspective. She was raised by superhero parents and trained to one day become a superhero herself, but she lost everything (including her parents and powers) before she was able to fulfill that role. After growing up alone, tormented by what she sees as personal cowardice during the end of the MetaHuman War, she's basically skating through her life—until her superpowers unexpected return. But while Teresa's original powers were telepathic in nature, her new powers are telekinetic, and much more violent. She can create power orbs strong enough to blast holes in walls (and in people). She's tasked to not only deal with these new, strange powers, but also to in discover why she and her former classmates lost their powers to being with, all while being hunted by an old villain out for revenge. (*cue dramatic music*)

And yes, there is a hero. This series is heavier on romance than my Dreg City series, without actually being romance books. Gage "Cipher" MacAllister is the guy that Teresa had a childhood crush on, and the crush is still there fifteen years later when he comes back into her life—older, hotter, and with a lot of his own inner demons. And it's the battle between her personal life and her duty to her teammates that challenges Teresa the most. She never wanted to be a leader, and she never wanted to fall in love—now she's on the precipice of both.

*Why did you create this world? Why did you write it?*

Various incarnations of this world have been swirling around in my head since I was a teenager, but most of the specific world-building (especially the violent history between the Rangers, who are the heroes, and the Banes, who are the villains), came about in the last couple of years.

Mostly I created this world because of my love for superheroes. The first real comic I picked up and read was "The New Teen Titans #9".


I remember digging it out of a box of comics, looking at the cover and thinking, "Dude, Robin was part of a team of heroes?" I had no idea what reading that book would spawn, but the issue hooked me on the Titans and I began hunting down every issue I could find. I loved the concept of a team book, and I've always been a fan of the "family you make" theme, and I use that a lot in the MetaWars books. These heroes aren't related by blood, but they're still family.

When I was fourteen, I decided to create my own superheroes. I still have a notebook full of character ideas and costume sketches that will never be used, and storylines that are more soap opera than novel-ready. But pulled out that notebook around….2006, I think? Because I needed a new novel idea, and I figured I could scavenge some parts and put together a new book. The original draft is pretty different from what will be coming out from Pocket, but the overall concept is the same, and I truly love writing in this world.

*What troubles lie in the world? Does she [Trance] seem to find trouble, or trouble find her?*

One of the major troubles of this world is something that always irritates me about big Hollywood spectacle movies: the collateral damage. Homes and businesses get blown up, bystanders get crushed, lives are ruined by whatever catastrophe strikes next. And I wanted to really touch on that in these books. The battles between Rangers and Banes have ravaged the country—major cities are devastated, thousands of innocent people have been killed, water sources are contaminated, the economy is in the toilet. People are angry and scared, and they blame the Metas for it all.

So when all of the Meta powers suddenly return, the new Rangers are not immediately embraced. There are political ramifications. Even Trance and her friends are reluctant to reveal themselves, because they don't want to be attacked by terrified citizens. It's not a happy world to be a MetaHuman in.

Personally, Trance is not a trouble-magnet. She tries hard to maintain a low profile, and she spends most of her time working three jobs just so she can eat and keep a crappy apartment. So she's pretty unbalanced when her life turns on its head, and she's suddenly forced to confront not just old Bane enemies, but also federal agents.

*The process from idea, to characters, world-building, outlining, planning, pantsing, etc*

I think I touched on some of these in the paragraphs above. Because I created the initial world so long ago, and because it's been about 4 years since I wrote the first draft of what became TRANCE, it's hard to remember the process anymore. I didn't outline, which became a bit of an annoyance when it came time to write the climax, reveal the villain, and tie up the loose ends. Plus the original the Meta powers changed between initial draft (don't ask what it was, because in retrospect, it was pretty silly) and what finally went on submission to publishers.

The characters were, I think, the most fun to create. Since I was writing a team book, I needed several unique people, and I think I settled on an arbitrary number of six. Trance was easy enough to figure out. She goes from the timid girl with somewhat useless powers to the mega-powered leader of five other people—and she isn't happy about that. Leadership isn't her strong suit, and she leans heavily on Gage for advice.

Of all the characters, Gage gave me the most trouble. Gage has enhanced senses—he can see farther, hear better, smell stronger, etc…than the average human, and he has to learn to control his senses again. He was also a very private character, and as much as he disliked discussing personal issues with Trance, he wasn't much better with his author. It sounds goofy to say a character won't talk to me about his past, but Gage really wasn't talking. It was several rewrites before I figured him out and finally understood why he acted the way he did (some secrets are worth waiting for, let me tell you).

My other favorite of the group is Renee "Flex" Duvall. I love her because she's bubbly, big-mouthed, not afraid to say what she's thinking, comfortable in her sex appeal, and very proud of her boob job. She also has blue skin and can bend, stretch and contort into crazy lengths and shapes (think Mr. Fantastic meets Angelina Jolie). But she's also very fragile inside, and while we don't get to see a lot of that side of her in TRANCE, Renee will have her moment in the spotlight if the series is picked up past book two.

Rounding out the sextet of heroes are Marco "Onyx" Mendoza (shapeshifter, able to take the form of a raven, a panther, and a black house cat), William "Caliber" Hill (super-strength), and Ethan "Tempest" Swift (control of the air, including tornadoes and windstorms).

*Is the series YA or adult?*

The series is definitely adult. While the main characters lose their powers as children, they regain them and come together again as adults (twenty-five to thirty is the age span). There has been a little confusion about that, so I wanted to clear that up. :)


So that's what I've got so far. Feel free to ask anything else that's on your mind! October is only four months away! (I can't believe I just typed that....)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Interview: Xe Sands, Audio Narrator

Cross-posted to the League of Reluctant Adults.

So before reading this post, who knew June is Audiobook Month? Anyone?

I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been recently been involved in the creation of audiobooks for the first three Dreg City books (although when I say involved, that mostly means signing the contract, helping my amazing narrator with pronunciation questions, and then pimping the project here and there). The books are with Tantor Audio, and THREE DAYS TO DEAD is currently available for purchase. AS LIE THE DEAD will be available June 20, with ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD releasing August 2 (same day as the print version).

My absolute favorite part of this whole process was "meeting" Xe Sands, who is the voice behind these audiobooks. She's a fabulous lady and her enjoyment of my books has meant the world to me. And since the process of audio narration is brand new to me, I decided to pick Xe's brain and share the results (kind of sounds like I'm inviting you to a zombie buffet, doesn't it?). Xe was kind enough to do an interview with me, and the results are below. Stick around to the end, too, because there will be a giveaway!


First off, how did you get into this kind of work?

You know, so many narrators come from an acting or performing arts background, but me? Well, I didn't. Although I do have experience with public performance, what really shaped my entry into the field of narration is my daughter's love of reading - specifically, how much she enjoyed me reading aloud to her. I joke that she's my harshest critic, but it's actually true, because as she matured, so did her taste and her preference for a more nuanced and authentic performance of the stories we shared together. Now how did that shared experience and love for storytelling parlay into a career as an audiobook narrator - ah, bit more complicated, of course. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just wave a magic microphone, utter a few choice words and suddenly be imbued with the necessary training and a contract in hand? Right.

What really happened is...after reading to my daughter for nearly ten years, I began to realize that I derived an immense sense of satisfaction from performing for her, from her emotional reaction to the experience. At that point, a fire was lit inside me and once that happens...well, there isn't much to be done except move forward really! I began researching how narrators get their professional start, and at the same time, found and starting recording for, which publishes audio of work in the public domain. Such an amazing learning experience in an incredibly supportive community! After volunteering for several years, I realized that raw talent was the foundation, but that professional coaching/training was the walls of the house of my dreams (hey, did I say I was a writer? No I did not). Fortunately, I was granted a scholarship to attend a working session with the amazing Pat Fraley, then followed that up with ongoing coaching with Carrington MacDuffie, and attendance at my first Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) last year. I made several invaluable connections at APAC 2010, one of which led to my initial work with Tantor Audio, an ongoing relationship which eventually led me to recording the Dreg City series :)

But the short answer? I am where I am because of my daughter's love of ,and relentless appetite for ,storytelling...and her belief in me.

Was it something you always wanted to do, or that you found later on in life?

I would love to say that I was caught reading aloud to an audience of stuffed animals, using rudimentary accents and characterizations at the tender age of 5 - ha! But reall, until I realized how very much I loved doing it, and more importantly, how much she and other children enjoyed it too, I just didn't view myself that way. However once I had that epiphany, I realized that *this* was the passion I had been waiting for all these years, the one you always hope you will find. It's what I want to do until I'm physically incapable of continuing.

How do you get jobs? Are they assigned? Are they offered and you can say yes/no based on the material?
(Let's assume you mean after you are established with a publisher)

Getting the job/job assignment: In my experience, this happens in one of two ways: (a) I'm asked to audition for a particular project, based on a short sample of text; (b) I'm sent an offer to narrate a particular project sans a custom audition. I find this completely depends on the publisher. Some prefer to audition narrators for each project, send those samples on to the author/agent/client, and then base their decision on client feedback. Some prefer to do the casting internally, based on demo samples and prior experience with a particular narrator (and perhaps author/client request). I've experienced an equal mix of both approaches to casting.

Can I say no? Yes, I can and I have - although I have not yet had to turn down an actual offer. I have, however, chosen not to audition for a particular project based on concerns over the content. I'm a bit of a "method" narrator and tend to really "live with" the characters of my projects and the worlds they inhabit pretty thoroughly, so if there is material that is truly offensive to me or with which I truly cannot connect, I may turn down the project. That said, I do not reject projects based on genre preferences. I feel that being open to many genres, even those outside my personal comfort zone or interests, encourages me to grow and open myself to new experiences...and bring my discoveries of new worlds into my narration.

Can you briefly take us through your process for narrating an audio book? From receiving the manuscript to final editing?

Sure! Course I'm laughing about this because I can't imagine I've ever been able to be brief about anything - but I will try! Going to number these to keep myself honest in the length department. Let's use the recording of Three Days to Dead as our model, shall we?

1. I receive the text from the publisher and begin my pre-read (pre-reading is a MUST! No cheating!)
2. Pre-read the book, taking notes along the way - specifically for characterizations, pronunciation questions, accent questions
3. Contact the publisher (and/or author, depending) for confirmation on any pronunciation and/or characterization questions
[Intermission: time permitting, I let the book percolate a bit, come together in my head/heart/voice*]
4. Head into the studio (usually my home studio) to begin initial character studies and narrative voices. Play around with character voices and narrator tone. Meet/conference with coach to go over tone, any tricky characterizations, etc.
5. Begin recording the book in earnest (using one of two recording methods, depending on the publisher I'm working for). Proof each day's work the following morning, paying special attention to narrative flow, characterization consistency.
6. Finish initial recording and go back for final round of proofing and tweaking
7. Send files back to publisher (most publishers do not want any processing on the completed files; if they want editing/processing, this is when that happens).
8. Complete any corrections reported back to me once final proofing is completed by publisher, and send the corrected version back to the publisher.

*And as in the case of one of my other recent projects, meet with a dialect coach in order to develop a specific accent for the project.

What were three of your favorite titles to narrate?

Thank you for not asking me to name only one! That's impossible, really, as they are all so different and I almost always fall in love with them in some way.

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, by Sarah Braunstein
Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding (and I'm not just saying that - there are three powerful scenes that pushed this into my top three)
Fire and Ice, by Anne Stuart (bad boys, simply can't resist them!)

Is there a book you wished you could have done, but someone else got the job?

Yes. I auditioned for a poignant memoir...first person narrative, tortuous, darkly humorous - my favorite thing! And although I was disappointed upon hearing that I wasn't selected, I was blown away by how perfectly suited the chosen narrator was for the project. That was actually a very lovely feeling in the end, and a great reminder that the perfect casting is so essential. Yes, I wanted it...but someone else was perfect for it. And I can respect that.

Is yours a competitive line of work, or are you guys pretty supportive of each other?

Such an interesting question, and one that came up at APAC just a few weeks back. You know, when I first started, I assumed it would be a very competitive business...but it just doesn't feel that way. The casting is so individualized and each of us has a unique sound and "thing" that we're perfectly suited for, that I don't feel I am in competition in the same way I assume other performing artists might feel. The community of audiobook narrators feels much smaller and more tight-knit than I expected it would, as well as feeling incredibly supportive. I have been very blessed by the generosity of time and spirit of more established narrators - offering their guidance, sharing their experience, and introducing me to various individuals in the industry. I hope to be able to do the same for others that come into the industry after me.

Do you do any other kinds of audio work, other than book recording?

I have been fortunate to have worked on several video games, the last of which had me playing a sexy, ancient vampire created by Charlaine Harris. Character was essentially a sexier, snarkier, more confident version of Evy (like that's possible!) and it was a blast. I really enjoy working on video's like performing only the emotional dialog from a novel :)

What do you do for fun when you aren't working?

Believe me when I tell you that now that I'm narrating full-time, work IS my fun. I'm completely addicted to it and find myself sneaking into the studio at every opportunity. The medium combines all of my interests - emotional performance, inhabiting other worlds and characters, reading, creative expression. But when I do manage to surface [read: am dragged kicking and screaming from the booth], I merge back into the life of my family and friends. Recording projects require my full attention and energy, so when I come up for air, free time is spent reconnecting with loved ones. And of course, no big surprise, I love to read! The only downside to my work is that I no longer have as much free time to read books outside of project to-be-read pile is seriously going to topple right over very soon...and with all the amazing bloggers I interact with on Twitter, it grows daily.

Is there anything you'd like to add? Plug? Chat about? Warn against?

I suspect this is where I'm supposed to be extraordinarily clever and "WOW" you with my witty banter, isn't it? Sigh. Well I'm afraid that between you, Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman, all the charming witty banter the world has to offer has been just about used up and I will need to leave it up to the characters you create to be charming, snarky and witty in my stead. Me? I'm just the narrator ;)


Thank you, Xe, for taking the time to do this!

And if y'all have made it this far, I'm giving away two copies of the THREE DAYS TO DEAD audiobook! All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment. You can enter twice by leaving a comment on both blogs (here and the League). The contest is open until June 27, so there's lots of time! Winners will be announced on my blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This 'n That

I'll start this one off with a bit of good news. I found out that the release date for WRONG SIDE OF DEAD, Dreg City #4, has been moved up! Instead of being Spring 2012, it's now scheduled for release on January 31, 2012! I hope this makes up for the long wait between books two and three, with book four coming only six months after three.

I also have a contest coming up on June 13th. Stay tuned for deets. The contest itself will be posted on the League of Reluctant Adults blog on Monday, and it has to do with June being Audiobook Month.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Rockville, MD to hang with some of my awesome writer friends. There will be food and fun, and probably crabs. Er, the kind that come from the ocean, folks (gutter brains!).

I also learned a very important lesson today: don't assume all restaurants make fish tacos the same way. Despite the name on the menu, what I had for lunch today was not a fish taco. It was depressing.

See you Monday!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Buffy/Angel fan trailer

I found this video via a tweet from Karen Mahoney. As a long-time fan of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," this video just rocked my socks off! I had to put it here for posterity.

If you haven't seen these shows yet, maybe this will convince you!

Edit: Blogger seems to be cutting off the side of the vid, so here's the link to the YouTube page where you can probably see it better.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Dialogue: Talking about the Darkness

I sometimes wonder if adults forget what it was like to be 11, 12 and 13 years old, teetering on the cusp of childhood and being a teenager, and wondering how to make sense of it all. If adults forget that insatiable curiosity they had about all things "grownup" and how anything that your parents told you was off limits was something you wanted More Than Anything.

It's been eighteen years since I was in that group of awakening tweens, and the kids who are in it now are so different from me that it's kind of scary. They're smarter, they're more tech savvy, they are more connected. They were raised using digital technology, so they know how to get the answers they want. And if Mom and Dad won't talk to them about things, they'll get those answers from friends or from the Internet. Or from books.

Books were my life force as a kid. I was always very shy (and still am, to some degree). But during those awkward adolescent years, I had very few books to help me transition, to help me face those darker times ahead. I had Sweet Valley High (hard-hitting stuff there, /sarcasm). I liked those books well enough, but I wanted more. Which is why I loved the books by Norma Klein--books that touched on sexuality and teens. I still remember reading "It's Okay If You Don't Love Me" as a twelve-year old and being shocked that the author was writing an actual sex scene, and that the girl was the experienced one!

That book was pretty risque for me at the time. And in just a year, I was moving on to adult authors like Stephen King and John Jakes. I was hungry for books and for information, and my parents encouraged me to read.

Did they always like what I was reading? No. Did they say I couldn't read certain books? Yes. Did I read them anyway? Absolutely. (Sorry, Mom and Dad)

Teens are going to do what you tell them not to do. How is it that we grow up and forget that little tidbit of information?

So why the sudden long post on YA and reading? Because of a Wall Street Journal article that's been making the blog and Twitter rounds since Saturday. "Darkness Too Visible" made me laugh, and then it made me angry. Because the author seems sincere in thinking that our children should be shielded from difficult topics like sexuality, rape, and self-injury. Hello?!! That stuff is happening RIGHT THE HELL NOW in our schools, to our children, and your answer is to pretend it's not? To hide these scary facts from tweens and teens, and tell authors to write happy books?


There is a lot going on in YA literature right now, but you only have to look as far as "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson to understand why it's important that authors write about these topics.

Graphic violence/sex is not new to adolescents (sorry, parents). It's all over television and movies, and it's in every magazine and billboard. It's there. So rather than trying to cover up their eyes and pretend it isn't, talk to your kids. Ask THEM questions, instead of waiting for them to come to you (because they probably won't). It's easier for teens to talk to other teens, instead of talking to a grownup, so you need to start the dialogue. Not the lecture. Not the "don't do this/don't read this."

The dialogue.

A few other great blog posts have popped up in response to the WSJ piece, and I want to link to those.

The awesome Jackie Morse Kessler has a piece, as her book "Rage" was mentioned in the article. Leave Jackie a little love on her blog, and then go buy her book. You won't regret it.

Booking Through 365 has an article, written by an actual teenager. Good stuff there.

And from Publisher's Weekly. From that article:

Teens are committing suicide because of bullying, eating disorders are common, even kids in “nice” neighborhoods have drug problems, and kids sometimes get pregnant. And sadly, some kids grow up in abused households with alcoholic parents. Reading about kids with alcoholic parents can make a kid feel better. Kids reading about cutting will not make them cutters. It might, however, make them recognize when one of their friends is cutting and could use help.

We can't hide our kids from the darkness in the world. But we can talk to them about it. And that, dear parents, starts with you.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

(I couldn't resist the thread title. It's one of my very favorite Christmas songs.)

It's finally June. June means summer, my birthday, Father's Day, and (most importantly), it means only two more months until ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD finally releases! Can I get a WOOT!?

It also means that THREE DAYS TO DEAD is available for purchase from Tantor Audio. It's narrated by the fantastic Xe Sands (if you don't already follower her on Twitter, go follow her. It's okay, I'll wait....). I'll be posting an interview with her later in the month, so look out for that.

TDTD is currently 50% off at Tantor's site, so go order! They also gave the book a super-sexy cover!


I like this version of Evy and Wyatt. It's true to the original cover, while still being original and sexy. For some reason, the model makes me think of Kate Beckinsale.

June is also Audiobooks Month, which I only learned yesterday. If you want to learn more, search the Twitter tag #JIAM. Help me celebrate the month by listening to an audiobook or two! I'll be doing a giveaway for audio copies of TDTD soon, so stay tuned.