Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chapter 42: In Which I Write About Books, Some of Them Written by Myself

Sooo...I read a good book recently. Full of magic and wonder and even some animals. Everybody likes animals. I think you'd like this book, in my unbiased opinion.

I just recently got my author's copies in the mail.

So sexy. Like, circa-1977 Stevie Nicks and Linda Ronstadt sitting together on the hood of a Dodge Charger sexy.

Right now I'm in the process of querying bookstores about consignment and sending press releases to different fantasy journals/websites. My goal is to send 10 press releases a day. The publisher wont be able to send review copies until next month, which doesn't mean people aren't already saying nice things.

"The Jack Daniels Sessions EP is revolutionary, riveting and remarkable. Elwin Cotman's prose grabs you from word one, and you don't want it to let you go. This book marks the unveiling of a major new voice in science fiction and fantasy." — Charles R. Saunders, author of Imaro

"Cotman has an amazing voice, and his fabulist descriptions are so vividly communicated, they almost lift from the page and become three-dimensional beings that are impossible images to forget."—Savannah Schroll Guz, author of The Famous & The Anonymous and American Soma

"Mr. Cotman’s interests are wide-ranging: Punk rock intersects with D.C.’s Dominican community, African American folktale intersects with Greek myth, Goth teen suburban angst in 1990s Ohio sits side by side with racist atrocity in the pre-Civil Rights South, and magic is going on. Yeah, there’s magic in some of these stories, but the real magic is in Cotman’s words themselves—stark and deadpan one moment, lushly descriptive the next."—Michael S. Begnal, author of Ancestor Worship

"In The Jack Daniels Sessions, folktales and modern landscapes collide, exploding and reforming in the form of an intriguing and intelligent collection. Cotman seizes the stories of tired tradition and galvanizes them, setting them to dance for us in wonderful, new interpretations."—Cat Rambo, author of The Surgeon's Tale

Wow. Being a lifelong sword&sorcery fan, hearing such a vote of confidence from the author of the "Imaro" stories is very cool. I had a great time writing the book, so I'm happy to see such incredible writers enjoyed reading it. Makes me even more hyped to get on the road again and start storytelling.

Still not convinced the book is aces? Just ask these people.

The launch party was a rip-roarin' good time. Good turn-out, read a little, drank a little. Many thanks go to Tomas Moniz, Madeleine Clifford and Carvell Wallace, who was a last-minute addition to the bill. Tomas read some of his poetry, as did Maddy, and Carvell read from a memoir. They're all powerful writers who say some real stuff and it was great to see them read again.

Prior to the event, much chillin' occurred.

Tomas Moniz (and my giant finger blocking the shot)

Every little bit helps

Mad Lines

This cake got demolished.

I read from "Assistant," which is not really the kind of story you read at a bar. It's my party and I'll read heavy Jim Crow era stuff if I want to. Thanks to everyone who came out. It was a lovely night.

Small press moment: Packing up party plates, plastic forks, Safeway napkins, a bag of nachos, a camera and tripod rented from school, a backpack full of books, and a cake that the goddamn people at Whole Foods did not box properly, but took two bottom parts of the box, held them together with stickers then told me I had to carry the shit from the bottom or else the cake would fall, then, once I had everything, politely asking my roommate to drive me to the bar in his recently fixed Toyota. After the reading, a good friend of mine helped me carry the stuff back to my house, the two of us doing our damnedest to conceal from the various night people that we had expensive equipment on us. He made the astute note that walking through Oakland is like a Super Mario game. "Okay, we got past the thugs. We got past the homebums. Oh shit, here's the skinheads. Whew, made it through. We keep it up and we'll get to Bowser's castle."

Sometimes when I do readings, people say: "You must feel like a rock star." And I honestly answer: "No, not really." Justin Beiber doesn't have to park in the middle of the lane with the blinkers on to unload a precariously packaged cake. I don't feel like a rock star. I am having fun, though.   

Joe Abercrombie

I'm practically salivating for Joe Abercrombie's new book The Heroes. He's risen to the top of the epic fantasy heap in a relatively short time, and it's easy to see why. People talk a lot about his cynicism, nihilism and negativity. I like how thoroughly unpretentious his work is. This is a guy who has graphic sex scenes where he writes out, phonetically, the sounds the characters make. I laugh myself silly reading his books. Also, he's a tremendous storyteller. His last one, Best Served Cold, was addictive. Abercrombie kept ramping up the dread, with adversaries gathering around his revenge-minded heroine, and her allies all ready to turn against her, and the heroine herself falling into drug addiction, until you just know things won't end well. I won't give a summary or spoilers for the book. Just go read it.

I did get a feeling that Abercrombie's dark world view might be painting him into a corner. In the First Law trilogy, the characters who try to do good are defeated, either by forces outside of their control or the fact that, well, they aren't really good at all. In Best Served Cold, only one character wants to do good, and by the end of the book he becomes a murderous sociopath. Harsh, yes. Brutal, yes. Realistic? Depends. Excessive darkness can be just as cartoonish as anything Tolkien wrote. Grit is fine but, as a reader, I kind of need someone to root for. It's interesting to think about the trajectory his work will take. His whole universe is based on the idea that everyone  are pawns in a rivalry between two megalomaniacal, ultra-powerful and straight up evil wizards. That's the way it's been, that's the way it will be, and changing this scenario would go against the "grit" of Abercrombie's world view. It will be intriguing to see if, down the line, he adds a ray of hope to his world, or if he actually finds a way to change things for the worse. I hear that The Heroes is not overly nihilistic (as his work tends to get sometimes), but simply realistic. I know it will be a great read. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

In a few weeks I'm going to see a favorite author of mine read in San Francisco. I have one wish: that when I meet her, my face stands still. I distinctly remember a time, not long ago, I went to a reading and the author I came to see was just sitting there by the bar signing books. I began to have a muscle spasm right above my lip, where I didn't even know there was a muscle. It had to be noticeable, since I could feel it go crazy when I touched it. So I went up to this author, looking like a woodpecker was trying to hammer its way out of my mouth. I couldn't stop it. She didn't care, but it's still embarrassing. Hopefully that won't happen this time. I hang around professional authors with some frequency, yet that "nervous fan syndrome" can still creep up.

Did I mention my book is on Amazon?  If you read and liked it, put up a review. All the sexy people are doing it. Also know that, for every time you log onto Amazon, I encourage you to log onto Wikileaks as well. Gotta have balance.

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