Tag Archives: books

Being ‘Damned’ with Chuck Palahniuk

On October 18th you’ll have your chance to journey down to hell with Madison Spencer, a thirteen-year-old girl whom regardless of the putrid scenery is determined to make the best of things. Unsure of how and why she is there, she befriends what has been labeled as ‘the Breakfast Club in hell’.

Palahniuk’s clever and often humorous portrayal of hell and all the ways one can find themselves there will keep your turning pages, wondering how a girl like Madison could possibly end up in a place inhabited by a myriad of demons from various cultural mythologies, a waterfall of shit, a vomit pond, a river of hot saliva, and other foul landscapes. Everyone worth knowing ends up in hell, but what Madison has that none of the other inhabitants have is hope. Despite being the chubby cast off to boarding school kid of celebrity parents, she is determined to make her death better than what her short life turned out to be. By making friends, discovering that she’s not in hell because of an overdose of marijuana, like she had previously guessed, she is able to muster up the strength and candy (the currency of hell) to storm the gates. ‘Damned’ is a fun ride, and once you’ve read it come back to me so we can discuss the end. Seriously.

You can pick up the book on Amazon.

There is a short/small tour planned, which kicks off for those of us in the Portland area on the 18th (the book’s release date). It’s a ticketed event, hosted by Powell’s Books at the Bagdad Theatre at 7pm.  The cost of admission gets you a pre-signed copy of the book, and Mr. Palahniuk will be giving a talk and answering some questions.

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Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series

I just recently read the ten (yes ten) books that compose the Sookie Stackhouse series. And I have the collection of short stories on the way. These are the books that make up the True Blood television series. The gaping differences between the books and the show make these a worthwhile read. Yes, it’s bubble-gum fiction, but the voice is a lot of fun, even if while reading the last book I couldn’t shake off a Dukes of Hazzard narrator, and Sookie started sounding to me like Daisy Duke (hopefully your brain doesn’t do that) it was still a good time.

A quick and enjoyable read, with my personal favorites being book four and book ten. What can I say? I love Eric Northman. Yeah, he’s douchy on the show (although still charismatic and hot, thanks to Alexander Skarsgård), his character is a lot more likeable in the books.

Some of my friends have complained and thus have not wanted to pick these up because they heard that Lafayette dies early on. The first thing I have to say about that is Nelsan Ellis really did a remarkable job bringing that character to life, because honestly there’s not much to him and you don’t really care as much  in the books when he’s knocked off. But, I would be pretty upset if we lost Ellis’ Lafayette. Don’t let the differences like this dissuade you, if it was completely the same as the series it wouldn’t be as entertaining to read. I was glad I gave this a go.

The Discouragement of the Publishing World

A few months back I wrote a novel called The Dark Hours. The idea simmered in my head for months, then pushed forward into endless nights without sleep or eating. And months of obsessive editing and tinkering. I let two of my friends read this book once I felt I had reached a place of completion. One of them works in a very well known bookstore and reads a lot of popular fiction, so I had her read it for marketability. The other friend has probably known me the longest and I just wanted a general opinion. Now I know that turning to your friends is not the best way to get feedback on something you’ve written. They are going to be way nicer and all that. But, I really wanted some extra eyes for typos, inconsistencies, logical flaws, et cetera. I was meant to write this book I felt, and everything kept clicking together so perfectly.

I finished the book, crafted a query, synopsis, and a bio. I did a ton of research about the publishing industry. And then put together an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the agents I was querying, what they requested and how quickly their responses were.

At this point I have queried 39 agents. Yes. 39. But, that doesn’t mean I sat through 39 pages of elaborate rejection. No ma’am. The first agent I queried was around the 20th of February and the 39th agent I queried this morning. I saved him for last because he was the one I was most hopeful for, the one I wanted everything to be most polished for. I sent my query at 10:13 this morning and he replied to my query plus five sample pages at 10:20 this morning. This was the fastest rejection I have received thus far. Seven fucking minutes. But, hell—at least he addressed me by name instead of ‘dear author’…right?

One of the biggest faux pas of querying agents is supposed to be addressing your query ‘dear agent’ or something equally impersonal. But twelve of the agent replies I received addressed me as ‘dear author’. I get it. They’re busy. I’m busy too, though. And it’s not that fucking difficult to add in a name. I’m busy writing another novel, plus a sequel to this book I can’t sell, plus trying to sell this book and various short stories I’ve written plus trying to find jobs that actually will pay my bills. Plus raising a kid, a dog, and getting in time to see my friends and drink plenty of wine to keep my sanity throughout this whole life process.

I’ll let you in on something. The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do is be a writer. I started writing stories in the fourth grade and have never stopped. Sure when I was a kid I wanted to be an actress, but I was still writing. Sure I picked up guitar in high school and wanted to write music for a while. But, I was still writing. And now here I am. Remember in ‘Big Fish’ when he takes the path through the woods and ends up in Specter? Well, I’ve been lost in the woods a few times along the way.

The Dark Hours isn’t the first novel I’ve ever written. When I was seventeen I wrote a novel about what happens when you die. It wasn’t very good, and it took me a year to write. I finished it right after I turned eighteen and was in Montana with some friends. I don’t think I let anyone ever read it. I don’t feel the same way about this book. I know it isn’t going to change the world. But, I’m proud of it. I don’t think it’s terrible.

Okay, lemme get back to agents. Out of the 39 agents I queried, 13 didn’t even bother to reply to me. Meh. Guess they weren’t interested. I only had one request for a full, and she was actually very helpful. I made a lot of edits after I received my response from her. To be honest only two agents I queried offered any advice. Most were generic rejections without seeing any of the manuscript.

Thinking mathematically about the situation, each agent only takes on a couple new clients a year (if that), and the large publishing houses won’t see your work without an agent. An agent is human and therefore subject to all their human bias plus what they think they can sell, because after all this business is not about making sure good books get out there, it’s really about money like everything else.

I kept data on all the agencies I queried and if anyone wants additional information on how they replied, wait times, et cetera…feel free to email me at ANiceschwander@gmail.com

Now, I’m sitting here wondering if a sequel is worth it, and yet overrun with the idea of it, so I’m still persisting. I want to keep pressing forward with The Dark Hours. I really do. But how many more agents do I really want to go through. I’m considering shopping publishing houses directly. It’s worth a go, right?

We always want the best for our babies.

My signed copy of ‘Snuff’ !

‘We have such sights to show you…’

It’s raining, and I only have about a month to go (maybe two, not sure yet) before I leave Washington. Weird. And everything here just found its way to green. Everything is lush and alive right now, the cherry blossom trees are in bloom, and all the other sky-reaching trees are all full of all shades of green leaves. We took my dog, Trotsky, to the park a couple days ago and all the miniature daisies were abloom in the grass, and there was a river on the side of the park. It was quite lovely. I know I won’t be taking my dog places on par with that in California. I’m already worried about where the hell I’m going to take him to go swim. I’m sure I’ll find somewhere, just need to do some exploring.

Anyway, I guess my point is there’s some really pretty shit up here, and I’m going to miss that. And I guess this is sort of the year in recap, you know–with all the boring shit left out. One of the first outdoorsy places we went was Deep Lake:

You know, the science center was entertaining, and there would be no need to go twice, except for the butterfly room:

Fremont fair, Folklife festival, and Kent Cornucopia days were fun. The Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Aquarium were both so-so when I went. I really liked the Seattle Farmers market off Broadway. And my favorite coffee shop will always be Dilettante (also on Broadway):

We also took my dog to Redondo Beach (WA), which is nothing like a ‘beach’ in Ca:

One of our favorite places is Redlight on Broadway. It’s basically a thrift store with a basement that is all costumes (do you see the appeal??!! This is Deirdre on different trips w/various sparkle hats):

But, my dog’s favorite places are Lake Meridian & Clark Lake (the first one is Lake Meridian, Dee made his a dress out of a rain poncho):

And also Green River is super awesome:

I also really fucking loved Snoqualmie Falls (also famous for Twin Peaks):

Other places of interest in Seattle were (or are?): Charlie’s Bar & Julia’s (which has live drag shows) are both on Broadway and lovely. The Elysian was cool, lots of beer, but lots of people too. I usually prefer smaller places. Oh and McMenamins on Roy Street (Queen Anne area), they have Cajun tots. I love bookstores, so I was pretty keen on Half Price Books, Twice Sold Tales, Elliot Bay Book Company and Revolution Books. And there’s a comic book shop I love downstairs at Pike’s Place Market. I also like the Harvard Exit Theatre. I also really like this park off Braodway:

And of course I’ll miss my friends here. This has been an amazing year of discovery & rain.

Catching Up On My Palahniuk: Rant, Snuff and Pygmy

Getting ready for the May 4th release date of Chuck Palahniuk’s new book, Tell All, I had realized I sort of dropped off after the Haunted book tour. My friend Richard and I saw him read from Haunted in Hollywood, where we not only left with our signed books, a picture of Richard and Chuck, but also Meat scented air fresheners and a fake bloody arm.

As soon as I got home that night I read that book all the way until morning, when I finished it. It had suddenly replaced Choke as my favorite of his books. So, what happened? Every book of his I had picked up before that one was pure gooey awesomeness. And I did buy Rant when it came out in 2007 (gulp, yes 2007), but it has for some reason sat shelved all this time.

So a few weeks back I read the first chapter on Tell All, after which I put in a pre-order at St Helen’s books for an inscribed copy. I’ll just say when I finished that first chapter; I wanted nothing more than to keep reading that damn book through to finish. But, I have to wait. Only a few weeks left of waiting. So, what better to fulfill my waiting time than to getting caught up on the last three books of his I had somehow missed out on. I stacked the three books up, and started with Rant:

Rant is filled with all the cleverness we have all come to expect of this writer. You get:

“You study any pretty democracy, from the ancient Greeks forward, and you’ll see that the only way that each system is with a working class of slaves.”

“In a world where billions believe their deity conceived a mortal child with a virgin human, it’s stunning how little imagination most people display.”

It’s the story of Rant Casey told as an oral history. He plays with the idea of social classes in an interesting way, turning things around on themselves. I finished this book in one night, and when I closed the book, I said, ‘Fuck’…because as soon as I was done I wanted to read it again. There was so much I didn’t see coming, having not read a lot about this before going into it. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a nice ride through the city in a wedding dress, then someone ploughs into your fender. Seriously. I enjoyed this as much as Haunted.

Snuff: I fucking love Snuff. Just consider the premise of this book. Basically this porn actress wants to end her career by breaking the world record for fucking. Six hundred men on camera. The story is told from the perspectives of three of the men in the waiting room, and the assistant. Brilliant. It’s researched, clever, perverse and awesomeness. It’s like this book was written just for me. Also, did I mention, fucking hilarious.

Pygmy: It took me about fifty pages in to get used to the way this book is written, but after that I didn’t notice it as much and the story seemed to flow much better for me. It was clever and funny. I didn’t love it like I loved Rant. But, worth a go if the way it’s written doesn’t drive you nuts.

Now that I’ve read all his books I can’t tell you how anxious I am to get my hands on Tell All. I’m very fucking excited.