Laura's Lists of Twenty

*Twenty Things NOT to Say to a Writer
*Twenty Things TO Say to a Writer
*Twenty Tips for Writers
*Twenty Things I've Learned As a Writer
*Twenty Fun Facts About Voodoo
*Twenty Great Writer Quotes
*Twenty Fun Facts About Vampires


Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Writer
A Handy Safety Guide


1. "Have I read anything you've written?"

People ask me this all the time.

Come on, dude, how would I (or any other writer) have the faintest idea what you have read? I'm a novelist, not a psychic.

Recommended instead: "What's your latest (or next) release?" Or: "Can you name some of your titles? I read a lot, so maybe I know your work."

2. "Have you ever had anything published?"

Actually, this is a fair question, given that some aspiring writers call themselves "writers" when asked what they "do." But anyone who writes professionally is so tired of being asked that, they may remove your tongue if they hear that question even one more time.

So I recommend that you instead ask, "What's your latest release?" A professional novelist will answer this question. (And an aspiring writer who has not had anything published will presumably clarify the situation.)


3. "How much money do you make?"

Yes, people ask us this. Surprisingly often.

Try instead: "What sort of money do writers make?" Which is probably a lot closer to what most people are wondering when they ask invasive questions about my personal earnings.

There's a lot to say about money in this industry; writers discuss it often with each other and are probably willing to tell you a bit about how money works in publishing. But if your mother didn't teach you this, then I'll say it now: Asking someone whom you scarcely know how much money she makes is rude.


Poker Chips

4. "Where do you get your ideas?"

Probably the single most-asked question.

Pardon me while I yawn.

Getting story ideas is simply the way writers think. Some people can play the piano by ear, some people have perfect pitch, and some are natural athletes. Writers get story ideas; if we didn't, we wouldn't be writers.

But, okay, for some specific examples and anecdotes from me and from some other writers, see the "Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?" page of this website.


5. "Will you write my great story idea and then split the income with me?"

To clear up a couple of common misconceptions: (a) Ideas are not the crucial aspect of successful fiction; execution is. (b) Ideas are not the hard part of writing a novel; writing is the hard part.

In using her skills to write your idea for you, a writer has nothing to gain, and a great deal to lose—such as time, energy, career momentum, and income.


6. "If you help me write my life story, I'll split the income with you after we sell the book."

Unless publishers are already interested in publishing your life story (probably because your life is already being splashed all over the media, but possibly because you are a well-known expert at something unusual or important), the chances that anyone will pay you (or, more importantly, pay me) for your life story are remote.


7. "I'm going to write a book someday when I have time."

We hear this one all the time, everywhere we go. Statistically, there are more people in America who say they "want to write a book someday" than there are people who read books.

Realistically, if you're not already writing, the chances that you're ever going to start writing are marginal. Most people never get past just talking about writing.

Additionally, most people who start writing a book never finish it. (And most people who finish writing one whole book... never sell it and never write another.)

The only people who write, who stick with it, and who have a serious chance of becoming professionals are the ones who can't stand not writing. And you already know who you are. (Hi, there!)


8. "Will you read my manuscript?"

Aaaagh! Back—back, foul beast! Back, I say! Stay in your lair!

Now and for all time, if a writer is willing to read your manuscript, she'll offer. Because, believe me, she gets asked this so often (sooooooo often) than she knows you want her to offer.

But do not put a writer on the spot by asking. The list of reasons is very long (see some of them here and here), and includes, for example, this being a much bigger imposition than you realize (much), the probability of injured feelings (yours), and legal risks for the writer (yes, really).



9. "Will you read the manuscript of my offspring/spouse/sibling/parent?"

Remember what I just said about how awkwardly it puts the writer on the spot if you ask her to read your manuscript? Well, take that and multiply it by thirty if you're not even asking her for yourself, but rather for someone whom you love.


10. "Will you introduce me to your agent?"

This, too, really puts the writer on the spot. For a long list of possible reasons.

Your excellent work may not be suitable for her agent. Or your work may be unprofessional and unpublishable, and the writer is too polite to tell you so. Or the writer may have had a catastrophic experience with the last person whom she referred to her agent and been warned (by the agent) not to do it again. Or the writer may be having problems with her current her agent, and she neither wants to discuss those with you nor refer potential clients to an agent whom she's finding problematic. And so on and so forth.

So just don't ask. If the writer thinks it's a good idea, she'll bring it up. (Yes, really.)


11. "Do those [insert dismissive adjective here] books that you churn out sell well?"

If someone isn't deeply invested in her writing, then there are many much (much) easier ways to make a living than writing books, which is insanely competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult to do. So try not to slap a writer in the face with this sort of comment, which we hear more often than you would believe.


12. "How long does it take to write a book?"

This is a lot like asking how long it takes to have sex. I mean... it all depends, doesn't it?

"How long it takes to write a book" varies tremendously, based on the specific writer in question and on the specific book in question. So it can take two weeks or two decades. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.


13. "Do you get to choose your own book covers?"

Pardon my weary sigh of resignation.

Most writers have little or no say in how their books are packaged**, and any writer who's been working for a while has probably had at least one dog of a cover that killed her sales figures and/or embarrassed her. For more informaton on this subject, see A Book By Its Cover elsewhere on this website.

(**However, when it comes to the new and expanding practice of writers self-publishing their own ebooks, we do often have control over our covers, since we are, in effect, the publisher. On the other hand, writers also usually have more modest fiscal resources than major publishers do for creating the covers.)


14. "I bought your book at the second-hand bookstore."


Writers only earn income from new/retail sales, not from used-book sales. And not earning income makes it hard for us to eat—and we really like to eat. So we encourage you to buy our books from new/retail venues if you want to read them, not used/second-hand. Personally, I also encourage my readers to check out my books via their local library system.

(However, if a book of mine is no longer available in new/retail venues, and can only be purchased second-hand, then, by all means, buy it used. In addition to eating, I like to be read.)


15. "I'd like to try one of your books, but I'm waiting to see if any of them become available as free ebooks." [Or some variation thereof.]

If you're unwilling to pay for a writer's book, you're well within your rights (as long as you don't download or share a pirated copy). But perhaps you could omit telling the writer that you don't think his work is worth paying for.


16. "You should write [insert recommendation here]."

If you're a doctor, do I tell you what ailments you should treat? If you're a contractor, do I tell you what you should build? If you're truck driver, do I tell you what kind of merchandise you should transport?


17. "Here's what I didn't really like about your book..."

It's the editor's job to point out to a writer where a manuscript has problems, so the writer can fix them. And once a book is published, readers have lots of opportunity to post on websites and blogs what they think of a book (including what they didn't like about it), as well as to share their opinions in person with friends, family, and co-workers.

But you might want to seriously consider how you expect anyone, including a writer, to react when you say directly to him, without being asked or invited, "Let me tell you what I don't like about the way you do your job."


18. "Will any of your books be made into a movie?"

This is not a decision made by writers, it's made by movie producers—i.e. the people who brought you Porky's, Gigli, and Armageddon. So, realistically, the chances are always very remote.

However, if a writer has a movie deal, you won't need to ask this question—nor will you be able to get a word in edgewise.


19. "You must be rich. I just spent $7.99 on your book!"

Not really.

Writers only get a tiny percentage of the cover price (ex. 8%), and we only get it about two years after you buy the book, and we only get it then if (a) the book has earned-out its advance payment (most books don't), and (b) the publisher is maintaining accurate accounts (which is not universally the case).


20. "As long as my story's really good, an editor will be happy to correct my shaky punctuation and grammar, right?"

Reality check: If someone's going to pay you to write, then the very least they expect is that your written language skills will be immaculate.

(Unless, of course, you're a politician, a politician's former lover, a rock star, a movie star, a supermodel, a billionaire's widow, etc., etc. In which case, you don't even need to be able to scratch your name in the dirt with a stick to get a multi-million dollar book deal. But I digress.)



Twenty Things That Writers Like To Hear You Say
A Mini-Guide for Interacting Positively With Novelists

Some handy suggestions for making pleasant conversation if you happen to find yourself thrust into a novelist’s company and cannot escape…


1. "I read a lot. I love books. I've run out of places to shelve all my books."

Most people don't read books. But most writers began life as voracious readers, and now we make our living from voracious readers. So we love to meet voracious readers, and we enjoy talking with someone who loves books.


2. "I've read all your books, and I can't wait until the next one comes out."

Most writers will marry you for saying this. The rest will at least put you in their wills. Most of us only meet people who've never heard of us (which jibes with what our publishers tell us about our sales figures), and who, upon meeting us, tell us that they don't read the kind of trash that we write.


3.  "I shamefully neglected all my personal and professional responsibilities from the moment I started reading your book until the moment I finished it. So I blame you for the shattered wreck which I now see that my life has become while I was fully absorbed in your unputdownable novel.”

The writer's job is to remove you from your reality and put you firmly in the one we have created. There's nothing we like better than hearing that we succeeded to this extent!


4. "I tried writing once. It was so hard!"

We respect you for having actually tried writing, since most people never get beyond just talking about how they're going to write someday. And, yes, it's hard. We appreciate you for noticing that and saying so.


5. "I could never write a book."

Writers like meeting people who recognize that writing a book is a grueling process of skull-crushing endurance, and that not everyone can do it (never mind do it well). We mostly meet people who think they're going to write a breathtaking work of staggering genius someday when they have some spare time.


6. "My favorite writer is [enter name here]."

Most people don't read books at all. So it's delightful for writers to meet someone who reads, and who is passionate about a particular writer's work. (But keep in mind that if your favorite writer is this week's trendy “it” boy/girl, then it's a lot telling a chef that McDonald’s is your favorite food.)


7. "You are my favorite writer."

A writer will wed his children to your children for saying this. So only say it if it's true.

Wedding Bells

8. "I seem to spend all my money on books."

Most writers have fervent middle-class aspirations, such as living in some form of climate-controlled shelter, raising kids, and eating regularly. To achieve this, we must sell books. So we love meeting people who buy books.


9. "What are you working on now?"

In fact, I personally don't like to talk about my work. Read my books if you're interested in my work; stay off the subject if you're not. But most writers, if asked to tell you about their work at a dinner party, will still be talking when the sun rises. (I speak from bitter experience.)


10. "Tell me about some of your books."

See  number 9.


11. "What do you write?"

Asking this question is much nicer than saying "I've never heard of you" to the unshaven, bleary-eyed writer who's been seated at your table at a second-cousin's wedding. (And if you don't read the sort of book the novelist writes, responding with, "Ah!" is better than saying, "I don't read that kind of trash.")


12. "I just bought one of your books."

Have I mentioned that writers like to eat? In order to do so, we need to sell books. So we love hearing that someone has bought one of them.


13. "I just bought five of your books, and I intend to spend my vacation
reading them."

We like this even better.



14. "My kids are voracious readers."

In a society where most people don't read books, the best chance for the survival of my species (writers) is if more people start reading books. So writers like hearing that there's some hope of the younger generation saving our kind from extinction.


15. "There's a wonderful bookstore in my community that's always full of customers."

Writers love bookstores—which is a struggling species, much like writers themselves. We like hearing about successful, beloved booksellers, because we're unlikely to keep eating if too many of them shut down. And we really like to eat.


16. "My favorite book is [enter title here]."

Writers like talking about books—even books that we didn't write. So, sure, go ahead and mention your favorite books. (However, if your favorite novel is the latest trendy “it” book, that's a lot like saying to a chef that potato chips are your favorite food.)


17. "Now that I've met you, I'm going to go buy your books."

The hope of hearing this is the only reason most writers ever bother meeting anyone.   (Most writers are people who like spending their time alone in their offices with only their characters for company.)


18. "This is your editor calling. The new manuscript is your best work ever, and every penny of this house's promotional budget will be devoted to making you rich and successful beyond the dreams of avarice.”

What most of us actually hear is, "The new manuscript is okay. I'll send you my revision notes when I have time. What was that you just said? Promotional budget? Don't be absurd."


19. "I run a major movie company and want to acquire the film rights to your latest book. Money is no object."

Need I say more?

20. "Can I buy you a drink? Or dinner?"

We rarely turn down free booze. We even more rarely turn down free food.





Twenty Tips For Writers


1. Inherit wealth. Failing that, marry someone wealthy. Alternately, have a lucrative day job.

Having neglected to do any of the above is why my nerves are in such fragile condition.

2. Remember that when editors and agents reject your work, they are not rejecting
you personally.

Well, not usually.


3. The single most important quality for surviving as a writer is not talent, and it's certainly not luck, though talent is necessary and luck is nice. The most important quality is perseverance. Aspiring writers who don't sell and professional writers who don't sell again invariably didn't persevere enough.


4. Because everyone but working pros underestimates #3, I will reiterate. The one quality that always differentiates a working pro from a disappointed amateur or a former pro is that we keep writing and we keep sending our stuff out, over and over. Even more than talent, and certainly more than luck, that's why we get work.


5. The overnight-success stories you see in the media are just like the lottery winners and jetliner crashes you see in the media: extremely unusual. Most writers work for many years and many books to become successful; and 99.9% work their whole careers without becoming "household names."


6. You're only as good as your current book, and you've only got as much juice as your current sales figures. When your work's not selling, your publisher forgets your existence and your agent denies ever having known you.


7. You're not just an artiste, you're also a small business. One of the things that surprises newcomers to the profession is the extraordinary amount of time eaten up by paperwork and other non-writing work.


8. Always conduct yourself professionally. If you're a working writer, then 10,000 other people want your publishing slot. Every single day. And your editor or agent will turn their attention from you to a different writer if you behave like an overtired four-year-old on a sugar high.

9. You will, alas, deal with some editors and agents who act like overtired four-year-olds on sugar highs. They're in publishing because no other industry would have them. Fire the agents, and avoid the editors when possible. When you can't avoid these editors,
do a lot of yoga and/or drink heavily.


10. Experience has taught me repeatedly that you STILL don't get it, so I'm going to say it again. The most common thing that invariably separates a working writer from someone who's never sold or who used to sell is one quality: perseverance.


11. Some editors are excellent; cleave unto them, make them feel appreciated, recognize that they're worth their weight in gold. Some editors are overtired four-year-olds on sugar highs; avoid them. Most editors are mediocre, jaded, indifferent, and powerless; tolerate them until you find a good one.


12. Brace yourself for the inevitable discoveries that almost nothing in the publishing industry makes any sense, and that most people in the business will treat you—the writer—as a nuisance, a necessary evil, a shabby accessory, a mutant sewer rat.


13. No matter how tired, upset, overwhelmed, or hungry you are, always be nice to readers, except for the verbally abusive and patently dangerous ones. Readers are the only reason that anyone is paying you to write.


14. Don't complain, don't explain. Not in public. If readers don't like your book (or your speech, or your article, or your hair), they're entitled to their opinion. If you argue with them, you'll be a defensive jerk. If you explain, then you'll be known for your spastic tell-all fits, rather than for your work.


15. Whatever you do or say in public reflects on you as a writer and a professional; and if your comments are ill-advised, they WILL be repeated and reported. Remember that before you open your big mouth in front of an audience, whether at the podium, at the bar, or in your pajamas at the keyboard.

16. Schmoozing with other writers, promoting your book, attending conventions, doing book signings, giving interviews, posting on Facebook... none of this is ever as important as writing your next page, your next chapter, your next book. So if these related activities interfere with writing, shed them from your schedule.


17. You will have friends and family members who don't read your books. Not loving what you write is not the same thing as not loving you. Anyhow, you don't need them to read your books; you need them to provide love, friendship, and moral support when the publishing business is kicking you in the head daily.


18. Do try to remember that most people you know would like, at least on occasion, to talk about something with you besides your current book, your career, and yourself.


19. Educate yourself about the business. The single most common mistake made by aspiring writers and newcomers to the business is not to educate themselves about the highly competitive profession they aspire to enter and to succeed in.


20. No matter what I say, experience has taught me that most people reading this will underestimate the importance of perseverance, but I'll repeat this one last time, even so: It is the single most essential quality for a professional writer.



Twenty Things I've Learned As A Writer

1. Some of my ideas are novel ideas, and some are short story ideas. They just are. And this is why I'm bad at answering the perennial question: "How do you know which ideas would work for a novel and which would work for a short story?" The same way I know that I'm a woman and Garfield is a cat. We just are.


2. I will spend most of the current book, the next book, and the book after that thinking the book is a quagmire of unpublishable crap and that I'll have to give back the advance money I accepted for it. I know by now that this is simply part of my process, and I just have to keep writing through it. For months.


3. For the first half of a book, I'll cling to my outline in helpless terror. Then I'll start veering away from it, which will worry me deeply for weeks. When I finally finish the book, I'll suddenly realize I haven't thought about my outline in ages and don't quite remember what was in it.


4. Despite my good intentions (once AGAIN) to stay sane this time, the final ¼ of my book will be written (once AGAIN) during several weeks of ridiculously long hours, mostly from dusk until dawn, while eating inadvisable comestibles at irregular intervals, neglecting personal hygiene, and competely eliminating That Thing Called Life from my schedule.


5. The only viable reason for doing this is the work itself. Because all other "reasons" (publication, success, approbation, recognition, earnings, whatever) are beyond the writer's control and catastrophically unreliable. Unless you're compulsively driven to write, this is a Really Stupid way to live.


6. I am compulsively driven to write. I know this because, since it was never my ambition to live Really Stupidly, I've made several genuine attempts to quit writing. But I couldn't do it, and I've finally made peace with that. Sort of.

7. When this Really Stupid lifestyle provokes me into whining and self-pity, I try to remember something that I've heard my father (a writer for over 40 years) say to people. Which is, in effect, "Long hours, low pay, unfair practices, impossible odds? Well, you wanted to be a writer."


8. When the business kicks me in the head (which happens with tedious regularity) and I'm lying there in the dirt, too winded to move, I try to remember something else my dad has said often: "Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. The wheel never stops turning in this business."


9. Hardly anyone who isn't a writer understands what I spend most of my time doing. This is true not only of a writer's friends, family, acquaintances, and readers, but also true of most (possibly all) agents and editors.


10. Most people whom I meet will think that they can do what I do, and that they can do it better or more successfully than I. Like acting, writing is a profession that everyone imagines they'd be great at... without ever seriously attempting it. This is such a cherished illusion, I've learned it's better just to nod and smile, because being honest about this is too tiring, quite pointless, and offends people.


11. No matter what I think is going to happen to me next in this business, something completely unexpected that takes me by surprise is what actually happens. Learning this took years; adjusting to it... is still a work-in-progress.


12. My greatest strength as a professional writer is that no matter how many times I get knocked down, I always get back up. Over the years, my chief asset has not been my talent or skill, it's invariably been my ability to get up off the mat yet again. If I lose this ability, I'll have to find another profession.

13. Every cloud has a silver lining: Although some writers wrestle with being the object of envy, I've never had to deal with it; the blessing of my notoriously difficult career is that no sane  writer envies me!


14. I finally turned my back on "conventional wisdom" and abandoned the agent-author paradigm as a business model for my career. Many writers consider this idiotic; but I need to do what works for my career, rather than what works for everyone else's.


15. Now that I don't work with agents, my literary lawyer is an essential asset in my career. A publishing contract is a legal commitment that endures for years of my professional career; so it needs to be well-negotiated, and I need to understand every word of it before I sign it.


16. It's amazing how often something that someone in this business tells you is non-negotiable... turns out to be negotiable. Sometimes it's just a question of stamina.


17. Stress is so damaging to my writing process that, no matter what the cost (and it has so far always been less than I anticipated), the best thing I can do for my work and my career is just to get out of a professional relationship or situtation that causes me pointless stress.


18. Editors (at least some of them) are people, too. They deserve courtesy and professionalism. And when they're doing a good job, they deserve to be shown appreciation.


19. Nothing is more important in my job than writing the best book I'm capable of writing, every single time. And despite bad packaging, lousy distribution, and folding publishers, it's never a waste to write a good book. Sooner or later (sometimes much later), it always pays off somehow.

20. Readers are the BEST. Readers rock! Readers are The Man.




Twenty Fun Facts About Voodoo!
This list was inspired by my research for Unsympathetic Magic


UM cover


1. Voodoo is one of many syncretic religions that arose in the New World during the 17th-19th centuries. A syncretic religion is a belief system that combines two or more spiritual ideologies into a new faith. Examples of some other syncretic faiths are Santería (Cuba), Candomblé (Brazil), Brujería (Mexico), and Shango (Trinidad).


2. Haiti is the birthplace of Voodoo, which is a syncretic faith derived from various West African religions and the Roman Catholicism of the French slave-owners of 18th century Haiti—which European religion was usually forced on the African slaves, and ultimately became incorporated into their New World religion.


3. Creole, a dialect of French, is the vernacular language of Haiti and the traditional language of Voodoo. Being a dialect rather than a formal language, spelling in Creole is uncodified. Therefore, when researching Unsympathetic Magic, I found up to ten accepted ways of spelling various words, phrases, and names. (Ex. Voodoo, vodou, vodoun, vaudau, vaudaun, vodu, vodun, etc.)


4. As the religion of slaves—people who weren't taught to read or write—Voodoo developed as an oral tradition. There is no foundation text (such as the Koran or the Bible) in Voodoo, no written doctrine, and no centralized authority. Customs, rituals, and beliefs are transmitted orally by successive generations of houngans (priests) and mambos (priestesses).


Ogoun Vever

5. Until recently, Voodoo was dismissed as a superstition rather than respected as a religion. This is mostly due to racism (Voodoo is practiced primarily by people of African heritage), but also partly due to outsiders' misinterpretations of a religion which has no written doctrine. It is estimated that today, there are about sixty million followers of Voodoo worldwide.


6. Despite the popular concept of Voodoo as a religion of curses, black magic, and zombies (all of which are exploited mercilessly in Unsympathetic Magic—because I'm a novelist and have no shame), the majority of rituals and practices in Voodoo are about raising luck, seeking blessings, and ensuring good health.


7. Since the slaves who developed Haitian Voodoo couldn't read or write, they developed a highly visual iconography for their religion. Symbols that are often depicted in movies and sensationalist literature as "curses" are actually just "vevers," the beautiful symbols developed by a non-literate people to identify and invoke the spirits (including spirits of love, prosperity, and protection).

8. Catholic imagery also plays a major role in Voodoo, with various saints doubling as Voodoo spirits; and Voodoo altars often have a crucifix on them, along with (for example) spirit bottles, offerings of food and tobacco, silk scarves, dolls representing the spirits, stones, candles, divination cards, etc.
Madonna drapeau

9. New Orleans Voodoo arose from similar roots as Haitian Voodoo—West Africans enslaved by French Catholics; and there was some contact between Haitian slaves and mainland slaves, since there was contact among their masters. There are more similarities than differences between Haitian and New Orleans Voodoo, but the differences do exist (and are touched on in Unsympathetic Magic).


10. Voodoo spirits are known as the "loa" (which can be spelled various ways). The loa are a variety of gods, spirits, elements, and the departed. Probably the most "important" loa is Papa Legba. He guards the crossroads between the spirit world and the physical world, so a worshipper must petition him at the start of a ritual or ceremony, asking him to open the gateway between the two worlds.


11. The crossroads is a key symbol in Voodoo, representing the place where the physical world and the spirit world intersect, and also the place where good and evil intersect. Voodoo is practical about human nature, acknowledging that good and evil impulses both exist in everyone and are just part of life, rather than viewing evil as an outside influence or something to be "cast out."


Crossroads vever

12. There are various "families" of loa in the Voodoo pantheon. The three most prominent are: the Rada, who are benevolent spirits (and the ones most often summoned or petitioned); the Petro (angry, violent spirits, some of them genuinely evil; in keeping with Voodoo's view of human nature, most Rada spirits have a Petro "aspect" or counterpart); and the Gédé, who deal with death and the dead.


13. Zombies originate in Haitian Voodoo and folklore. Contrary to the popular film-and-fiction image of them, zombies don't eat brains. They don't eat anything. Because they're, you know, DEAD. They're also not violent unless specifically ordered by their creator to commit violence. They cannot act independently or react to circumstances; they are strictly the obedient slaves of whoever raised them from the grave.


14. In Haitian belief, a zombie is not a monster, it's a victim. Haitians don't fear zombies, they fear becoming zombies. In sociological terms, zombiism is a metaphor for slavery. In the context of a religion founded by slaves, slavery is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Hence, the fear of being raised from the grave as the living dead, for the sole purpose of being a sorcerer's undead slave.


15. Pharmacological theories of Haitian zombiism are discussed at length in The Serpent and the Rainbow by ethnobotanist Wade Davis, whose interest was attracted by the real-life zombie case of Clairvius Narcisse.


16. One of the most famous Voodoo loa is a Gédé loa: Baron Samedi, the Lord of Death and guardian of cemeteries. His vever (symbol) incorporates a cross (representing the crossroads between life and death) and a coffin (representing... you know). Baron Samedi is usually portrayed with a skull painted on his face, wearing a top hat and a frock coat with tails.


Samedi vever

17. As the Lord of Death and guardian of cemeteries, Baron Samedi oversees the process of changing the dead into zombies. If you (or the sorcerer whom you hire) want to raise a zombie, first you have to petition Baron Samedi and persuade him (ex. with generous offerings) to allow it.


18. If you want to raise a zombie or curse an enemy, you don't go to a houngan (priest) or mambo (priestess) for that; they don't deal in black magic. You go to a sorcerer—a "bokor"—when you want to mess with the dark side. Max and Esther's adversary in Unsympathetic Magic is a mysterious bokor who's terrorizing Harlem.

19. It's a sacrilege to invoke the Petro (angry, violent) loa in the same ritual space where the Rada (benevolent) loa are invoked; you go to a separate place to call upon the Petro. And as Esther Diamond discovers in Unsympathetic Magic, the ritual objects, the vevers, and even the colors used are different in a Petro ritual.

dantor vever

20. During a Voodoo ritual, worshippers invite the loa to possess them. As we see in Unsympathethic Magic, a Voodoo spirit trance can look frightening to the uninitiated, but it's actually a sign of great favor and blessings from the spirit world. Voodoo loa also enjoy indulging in physical sensation when they manifest, including drinking lots of rum.


Twenty Great Writer Quotes

1. “Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn't writing, doesn't.”
                                                                                         —Ernest Hemingway


2. “The readers who want fiction to be like life are considerably out-numbered by those who would like life to be like fiction.”
                                                                                         —Sarah Caudwell, The Sirens Sang of Murder


3. “The artist’s two-headed bogey: the hope of being discovered and the fear of being found out.”
                                                                                         —Dawn Powell


4. "The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."
                                                                                        —William Faulkner


5. “If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers.”
                                                                                         —Irvin S. Cobb


6. "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
                                                                                         —Andre Gide


7. “There is nothing wrong with writing, so long as you do it in private and wash your hands afterward.”
                                                                                        —Robert Heinlein


8. “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”
                                                                                       —Flannery O'Connor



9. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.”
                                                                                     —Richard Bach


10.  “Be persistent. Editors change; tastes change; editorial markets change. Too many beginning writers give up too easily.”
                                                                                    —John Jakes


11. “Think no evil, see no evil, hear no evil—and you will never write a best-selling novel.”
                                                                                    —Dan Bennett


12. “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector.”
                                                                                   —Ernest Hemingway


13. “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
                                                                                  —Red Smith


14. “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
                                                                                  —attributed to W. Somerset Maugham


15. "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."
                                                                                  —Robert Benchley



16. “I don’t want to create responsible shows with lawyers in them. I want to invade people’s dreams.”
                                                                                 —Joss Whedon, writer/producer


17.  “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
                                                                                 —Douglas Adams


18.  “Hard days, lots of work, no money, too much silence. Nobody's fault. You chose it.”
                                                                                 —Bill Barich


19.  "Writers of popular fiction are much more important than they're given credit for. It's not just that they entertain, but that they reflect their times."
                                                                                —Martin H. Greenberg, editor


20. “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”
                                                                               —Gene Fowler



Twenty Fun Facts About Vampires
This list was inspired by my research for Vamparazzi
1. Recognizable vampire mythology goes back as far as ancient Babylonia and the Sanskrit tales of classical India. There were blood-drinking demons (known as lamiae) in ancient Greece and Rome, in the medieval Islamic world (ghouls and affrits), and in Renaissance Europe.

2. Various forms of vampire lore exist in Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, Central and South America, and Australia. The Slavic folklore of Eastern Europe is where much of our own culture's concept of vampires originated. Eastern Europe is also where Max learned to hunt vampires, as is recounted in Vamparazzi.

3. In 1718, the Treaty of Passarowitz transferred control of large regions of Eastern Europe from the Ottoman Empire to the Habsburg monarchy. A decade later, the Austrian government started hearing for the first time about "vampire epidemics" in its newly-acquired eastern provinces

Balkans 1720
The Balkans, 1720

4. The vampire epidemics of Eastern Europe became so widespread and notorious, and the gruesome anti-vampire activities they inspired were so alarming, by the early 1730s the Austrian Empire sent government officials to investigate. (Translations of the officials' reports can be found in Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality.)

5. Unlike the witch crazes which had previously swept across Europe, vampire scares typically focused primarily on accusing the dead of evil behavior. So hunting and slaying vampires mostly involved digging up graves and desecrating corpses, rather than persecuting and killing the living.

Vampire victim

6. In Slavic lore (as well as that of various other cultures), vampires are undead, i.e. dead but mobile and active. In some cultures, vampires are instead demons or creatures whose origins are entirely supernatural. And in some cultures, they may be evil spirits that invade a living body.

7. In all mythologies, vampires prey on living people (sometimes specifically on women, children, or babies), and in most cases, they drink human blood. They also often eat human body parts. Which body parts depends on which culture is telling the story.

8. Although staking vampires to "kill" them was common in some Slavic regions, it was often instead used as a method of immobilization. By driving a stake through the torso of a vampire to pin it to its grave, you could prevent it from rising to hunt and kill. Max employs this technique on a vampire hunt in Vamparazzi.

9. In other regions, decapitation was considered the only truly reliable method of stopping a vampire. People in other areas considered cremation essential to prevent a vampire from rising (or from rising again), while still others believed that a vampire must be disposed of in water. Sometimes the heart of the vampire had to be cut out of its body.

10. Staking became widely (almost universally) considered the way to kill vampires because it's the method Bram Stoker decided to adopt for his 1897 novel Dracula, which became the most influential vampire fiction of all time.

Gorey's Dracula
11. Vampires in European folklore don't have fangs; this is an invention of fiction and film. Stoker's influential novel popularized the notion of vampires having protruding teeth (and then Hollywood really ran with the idea), which had previously appeared in some popular 19th century fiction. (Max, who knew Stoker, deplores such irresponsible inaccuracies.)

12. Stoker originated the concept, still popular in many vampire portrayals today, that a vampire has no reflection in a mirror. This trope doesn't exist in folklore or in fiction before Dracula. (Max, who certainly never encouraged Stoker to think such nonsense, also denies that Stoker based Dr. Van Helsing on him.)

Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker

13. Sunlight being fatal to vampires is also a fictional invention. Vampires are active by night rather than by day in Slavic folklore, but there is no tradition of them bursting into flames, melting, or turning to ashes if exposed to sunlight.

14. The detailed written reports of the Austrian officials investigating the vampire epidemics in Serbia in the 1730s were read and discussed with fascination, and their contents were widely disseminated and repeated. This was how the vampire folklore of Slavic villages started spreading through Western Europe in the 18th century.

15. During the rest of the 18th century, vampires started making appearances in German-language poetry, including Goethe's "The Bride of Corinth" (1797). They first became popular in English poetry via Lord Byron's "The Giaour" (1813) which was both a critical and commercial success. Byron learned about vampires on his Grand Tour of Europe.

Lord Byron

16. The grandfather of modern vampire fiction is The Vampyre, a gothic tale published in 1819. Its author, Dr. John Polidori, adapted it from a fragment written and abandoned by Byron at the Villa Diodati in 1816, where Polidori was employed as Byron's personal physician, and where Mary Shelley began work on Frankenstein in response to Byron's suggestion that everyone at the villa write a ghost story.

17. Polidori's Vampyre was the first narrative fiction in English about vampires, and it originated many concepts still in vogue today, such as its portrayal of the vampire as aristocratic and seductive. In Slavic folklore, by contrast, vampires were ordinary peasants, and they were grotesque, mindless, ravening monsters, like the creatures Max encountered during his days as a vampire hunter in Vamparazzi.

The vampyre

18. Polidori's Vampyre was a big commercial success, reprinted many times throughout the 19th century. It influenced other portrayals for the rest of the century, including Bram Stoker's interpretation of the vampire as a shrewd and manipulative aristocrat. In Vamparazzi, actress Esther Diamond is working in a (fictional) modern stage adaptation of Polidori's tale.

19. The vampyre in Polidori's story is identifiably based on Lord Byron, with whom he had parted on bad terms. Byron didn't want to be associated with the story's authorship and took active steps to correct rumors attributing it to him (despite how unflattering to him it was). Nonetheless, rumors persisted for decades that Byron was the author of this story which has so heavily influenced concepts of the vampire.

Dr. John Polidori
20. Her's an anti-vampire measure that I found in my research and really wanted to use in Vamparazzi, but I never found a good place for it: One of the ways used to ward off vampires at night during the Serbian vampire epidemics of the 18th century was to sleep beneath a cloth that was covered in human excrement. (I'm guessing that kept everyone else away, too...)