The Definitive Story Of My Uncle Tommy

Some of you have been around long enough to know about my Uncle Tommy, who was my best friend as a kid. Others know him only as one-half of a dedication in my book.
But I have one story that sums up my Uncle Tommy, and was glad to get an excuse to tell it at one of my favorite blogs: Lawrence Schoen’s Eating Authors, which each week asks a different author “What is the best meal you ever had?”
For me, my Uncle Tommy brought me to the best meal that I ever ate – a definitive meal, one that made me a gourmand.
But he didn’t mean to.  He did it by mistake.
And then he made that mistake legend.
You can read about that story over at Eating Authors right now, and I pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy it.  Go take a look.

The Most Exciting Flex Preview I Have To Offer: A PodCastle Audio Production!

So of the many events I created to preview my novel Flex for you, what I am finally happy to announce to you today is the most exciting thing.  Literally every morning I have woken up and gone, “Is it up yet?  Is it up yet?”
And it’s up now!  And yes, this is even more exciting than the book tour.
This is a special audio production of Flex, done by the greatest audio short story podcast in the whole wide world.
And you can win a copy of Flex, if you somehow haven’t purchased it by now!
If you’re not familiar with the ‘pod network – that’s PodCastle for fantasy tales, Escape Pod for science fiction, and PseudoPod for horror – they are a loosely-run cabal of sites that find the most brilliant tales and have even more brilliant people read them out loud.  I have been honored to have over ten of my stories appear on their site, which is no mean feat – try “‘Run,’ Bakri Says” on Escape Pod, “A Window, Clear as a Mirror” for PodCastle, or “Riding Atlas” for PseudoPod – and so when I asked them to work up a super-special promotion for Flex, well…
Dave and Anna delivered.
There is, as of now, no news of a Flex audiobook, sadly.  But you can hear Dave read a chapter of it (along with discussion of said book) over on PodCastle right now, and Dave does some excellent goddamned emoting.  (If you’re curious, this is also the chapter I’m reading on my book tour, specially edited for audio productions.)
I have always been a fan of old-time radio.  To hear my words in someone else’s mouth has always been a special kind of magic.  And now it’s here, so please!  Go hear them do it!  It’s the fun chapter where they brew magical drugs in a seedy basement, and things go horribly wrong!

So What's It Like To Go On A Book Tour?

I have now been doing the Flex West Coast Book Tour for nine days.
It feels like nine hundred.
I do not know how other authors do book tours.  My book tour is a ragtag set of signings stitched together out of sheer will and a determination to say “hello” to people, and so it’s probably different.  I suspect other book authors don’t say “Hey, you’re all awesome people, I can vouch for your most of your good natures personally, so let’s all go out to a bar afterwards and hang out!”
But I do.  So the tour is like a series of mini FerrettCons, where every Saturday I haul twenty people out to a bar with me and I get to know some of them and others I get to hug people I’ve known on the Internets for years and they all meet and mix.  I know friends have been made at my book signings already.  That’s awesome.
And every time, before the signing, I have the exact same three fears, as predictable as Alexander Dane before the Galaxy Quest signings:
Nobody’s going to show up.  Thus far, I have yet to play to an empty house.  People are wonderful.  I keep calling this the Chekov’s Gun Tour, because honestly?  It’s going well only thanks to things I did years before this tour, with no understanding that it would help this tour.  I’ve been blogging for years, so people show up to meet me because my words have touched them.  I’ve gone to cons for years, so writers show up to show their support for me.  Basically, when I look out over the crowds of people, I don’t see An Audience, but rather ZOMG, that’s my LJ friend from 2007, and that’s someone I haven’t seen since World Fantasy in 2010, and that’s that FetLife girl I have such the crush on, and who is that person? I bet I know them.
I usually know them.
Wearing this suit is so ridiculous.  I change into The Italian Suit in the bathroom, which should feel like a superhero… but The Suit is awkward to put on, and requires not dropping The Suit in the toilet while I try to put my boots on, and when I stride out people go, “Oh, that’s Ferrett!” and so it’s like a superhero outfit.  If you aren’t sure that’s Ferrett, look for the nails and the electric blue suit and the hat.  You can always talk to me when I have this suit on.  Promise.
This tour is fucking absurd.  It’s an ego trip.  You had one novel published, and who the hell do you think you are to go out on this tour for that?  And it is, really.  It’s a four-week celebration of Me, and by God how fucked up is that?
Yet how fucked up is it that people actually want to celebrate me?
People are happily picking up my novel, shaking my hand, eager to have me sign their books – I number every book I’ve signed, and I am at #196 now – and while I’d expect an indulgent smile, some of them are even more psyched than I am.  They’re going out of their way to drive to me to say hello, and what kind of a schmuck would I be if I didn’t look ’em in the eye and tell ’em just how awesome this is?
Still, I remember Ian coming up to me at my first book signing.  “Lemme see your hand,” he said.  I held it out. “Yup,” he told me.  “It’s trembling.”
My hands are always trembling, but somehow it never gets easier, and it never gets less awesome.
All this terror and happy confusion.
And yet I’m never quite anchored, on tour.  I show up, crash at a friend’s house for a few days, learn how to work their shower, put in a new Wi-Fi password, buy them dinner.  We’re always doing dinner.  Or lunch.  Or breakfast.  Because there’s someone in town who we just gotta see, a friend or a writer or a friend who’s a writer who I need to steal a few hours from, so our bellies are always full.  We’re gaining weight, such weight.
But it means that every day is like a three-act play, sometimes four acts.  We do breakfast with someone in one side of town, drive madly to another side of town to meet up with another dear friend, meet a third person for dinner.  Sometimes they come back to our hotel room and we talk until two in the morning.  Then we do this again.
Did I say the events were like a FerrettCon?  Hell, every day is a FerrettCon on the road.
And all the while, I keep getting notifications that Flex is doing pretty well.  Not bestseller well.  Not even well enough to pay off the meal expenses we’re incurring in one day on this damn thing.  But for a debut novel from a nobody, it’s exceeding expectations…
…and most people who read it are digging it.  Not all; a couple of people have legit complaints.  But the signings, well, I expected them to be “people showing up to have The Ferrett sign a book,” and in fact some of them are “people who’ve loved the book who want Ferrett to sign it,” which is an entirely different experience.  I’m getting questions about Valentine, about Aliyah, about what the hell happened to Europe, and you’re going to tell us all what happened to Europe in the next book, aren’t you?
….sure, he says, looking over the next manuscript, which doesn’t really.
(The third book does deal with Europe.  Let’s see if Angry Robot wants it.  But right now, Paul’s got bigger problems right here in New York City.)
And Gini and I will return to normal.  Eventually.  But I’m so glad she’s here.  I hate meeting people without her.  She’s such a part of my life that I don’t feel like people really know me until they’ve met her, and now they can meet her too and have her laugh at them and be all sexy and clever and smart in that Gini-way that Gini-does.  And you’ll know exactly what portion of my smarts comes from her.
And this Saturday, is another signing in San Diego, and then San Francisco, and I go home.  Which is fine.  But the busy stuff starts now – I have so many friends in the Sans of California, and I’ll try to see them all, and some I’ll fanboy squee at and others I’ll just hug and ZOMG.
It’s good.
It’s so fucking good.
I can’t wait to see you.

On CleanReader: Seriously, Guys?

So there’s an app called CleanReader out there that censors the filthy words from author’s books so that people can read them.  And a lot of authors are very upset that someone would dare to change their words before reading their book, because they put those fucks in and there they demand those fucks stay.  Those are artisanal fucks, hand-placed, meant for impact, and how dare you delete the fucks.
And speaking as a guy whose debut novel features the word “fuck” roughly once every three pages and features a lead female character who’s really into fucking pretty dudes up the ass with her strap-on, I have this to say about CleanReader:
Did you buy my book legitimately, so I get paid?
Are you presenting this bowlderized version as something I approved?
Are you posting it to a larger audience in some attempt to usurp the original content?
If the answers are “yes, no, and no,” then do whatever the fuck you want.
Mind you, it’s not that I think well of the tremulous parents who must scrub all the profanities personally from their children’s eyes.  It’s just that to my mind, when I hand you this novel of mine, it is then yours to do with personally as you please.  Wanna write fanfic where Paul Tsabo plooks a goat while filling out barnyard animal forms?  Go right ahead.  Wanna draw pictures of Valentine (who is specifically presented as a beautiful, plump woman) as some skinny anime figure?  Hey, I dropped my book into your imagination, and though I find it distasteful you’d remove a significant portion of her description, it’s yours now.  Wanna cosplay?  Sure.
Once the book’s in your hands, you can tear up the pages and use them to make a papier-mache idol of Newt Gingrich that you then marry, for all I’m concerned.  I made the words, my publisher helped put ’em out there, and now how you enjoy the book?  Is up to you.  Judging any fandom of note, “What the author wanted” becomes a shriekingly marginal portion of how the fans slice ‘n’ dice their reactions to it.
I once had a post up here where I asked, “Hey, do you read prologues to a book?”  A small minority – about 5% – said they skip all prologues because they’re boring.  Nobody got their undies in a twist over that, and they’re skipping more of my book than stripping all the profanities there.  They can read it however brings them the most enjoyment.
Read the chapters from back to front for a Memento groove.  Read every other sentence.  Gender-flip the protagonists.  Make the magic system a virus inflicted by aliens from the planet Mars.  Get creative.
Just don’t say I wanted that, is all.
And again; I swear a fucking lot in my journal, and in my fiction.  I disagree with people who think that a book is better without all those fucks.  I do, in fact, think less of you for such an opinion.  But if it makes you happy and you are not trying to say, “This is what Ferrett’s book is!” then sure, go nuts.
Now, I’ve heard some rumors that CleanReader is actually not paying all its authors for the books, in which case I’ll quote Goodfellas and say “Fuck you, pay me.”  But otherwise?  I’ve got a big “meh” there.  I think the folks at CleanReader are too Ned Flanders for me, and offensive in different ways (“bitch” to “witch”, fellas? Pagans count), but they can consume my book in different ways.
If you disagree? Well, Chuck Wendig has some instructions as to how to get your book off of CleanReader, and he really fucking hates it.  And do so if the urge strikes you.  Every author’s going to react differently.  You may disagree here, and that’s another aspect of how I approach this: I made this essay, I tossed it out there, and now y’all can tell me how I’m wrong.
Me?  I gave it to you.  I may not respect the way you read my book, in the end, but by God it’s your right.  Just as it’s my right to go, “What Star Wars prequels?” and ignore their very existence when discussing things.  It pisses off George Lucas, but it makes me so much happier.

Wanna Hear Me Yammer On About Obsession? Like, With A Voice?

Well, you’re in luck!  For I am on Daniel M. Bensen’s most excellent podcast The Kingdoms of Evil, and while we ramble most amiably on about a variety of topics, I discuss how the Internet’s relentless focus on things helped shape my approach to the magic system in Flex.  I’m totes chattery, so go check it out if you’d like to hear me talk!