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Well, I've written about 4300 words today - filler stuff, Logic Spackle (so to speak) as I try to stitch back together this book that I've pulled apart. Some structural re-ordering needed to occur, and I can do it - but it's tricky. It means leaving myself a million and one notes in Track Changes, trying to keep the continuity from going sideways.

It's not the most exciting part of the process, but this is what's on deck. I've got at least one more day of patchwork lined up, and after that...I can start smoothing it all together. I really think this is going to be a solid draft of a very fun book, if I can pull it off.

We'll see, won't we?

* * *

Training with Lucy continues apace. She is not too charmed with the structure, and doesn't like the work yet; but we have to spend at least thirty minutes a day, reinforcing the trainer's lessons. For now, they're kind of boring - reinforcing basics like "sit" and "come." She's very smart and she understands just fine (trust me), but she doesn't like being told what to do. Even if she wouldn't mind doing it, otherwise.

Next week, the trainer says it'll be more fun - learning some things that are more dog-interesting. I hope so, because right now I feel like I'm mostly just annoying the crap out of her.

* * *

Tomorrow I'm going to lunch with my cousin, and I might drive out to the big used book store to unload a bunch of stuff I'm not likely to read again. It's always a little weird when I go there - I worked there nearly twenty years ago, and it ended badly. Let me put it this way: Toxic working environment x1000.

But it's nice to sell redundant books and get money. I have three big bags, and my insider knowledge suggests it'll be enough to cover lunch and then some. Hey, we've gotta do something to offset the cost of Dog School.

No, I never look for my own books there.

Speaking of, I found a box of I Am Princess X paperbacks in the garage. No idea what I'll do with them. Maybe I'll put them up for sale here - with signatures and whatnot. Maybe I'll move them to the attic and forget about them for another six months. Hard to say. I'm very tired right now.

* * *

Quinnie is super IN to shoes.
Like, she won't let you have them back.

She's also been stealing my makeup, lately.
I don't know why.

* * *

Anyway, that's enough of me for tonight. I need a drink and some downtime.
Thanks for reading...
New Year's resolutions are for shit, and this one is no exception: I will become a more regular blogger in 2017. I'm not saying every damn day or anything, but I didn't mean to let this go for so long. There's no good reason, except that things got crazy and I got distracted and this wasn't a priority. I'd like to make it a priority again. It helps me focus. Kind of. For lack of a better way of putting it.

Let's see...what's been up since November 22nd, the last time I posted here?

Pet news is a mixed bag. The ElderCat's kidney numbers are declining, and her fluid schedule has been upped to twice a week. I don't honestly know how much longer we can expect her to be with us, but we will keep her here, and keep her happy, as long as she's interested in remaining. For now, she is feisty and funny, and in command of the entire household - even though she's lost almost two pounds in the last four months. At present, she is literally half the size she was when we first adopted her in February of 2002. (Back then she was described as being "several" years old, so her precise age is unknown.)

Over Christmas, we took the dogs to my dad's place in Kentucky and left the cats at home, to be house-sat by my cousin and her boyfriend - as well as our friends/neighbors around the corner. The cats were fine, but the dogs...had issues. Rather, Lucy had issues.

It was all too much for her, being taken to a different place with Big Dogs in Residence...and she got turfy. She got resource-guardy. She got Very Rude, and we ended up having to relegate her to "dog jail" when we couldn't keep one solid eye on her. She simply couldn't be trusted. (Dog jail was a 2-story sunroom with all the amenities. She wasn't exactly locked into Alcatraz.) When we got home, we signed her up for behavior/training classes at a local place that has a good reputation for dealing with these kinds of issues. She had her first class today, and she did very well.

When all is said and done, Lucy will have four weeks of general behavior training, and then four weeks that address her nervous aggression. Actually, we're hoping that the general training will take the edge off it - and we might just go on to the advance course. The trainer thinks it's possible. Training will give her some confidence.

Fingers crossed.

Greyson continues to do well, but then, he always does. He's an easy dog - laid back and lazy, with no interest in oh, say, stealing a bowl full of beef stroganoff and shattering that bowl for funsies and eating some of the contents while slinging the rest around your husband's office. Or taking a big dump in your office. Hypothetically.

He's just cool like that.

Quinnie is also doing great. She still gets along well with both dogs - mostly playing with Lucy, mostly cuddling with Greyson. Once in a blue moon, she gets the little old lady cat to play with her a little. But more often than not, she's napping in an outrageously posh fashion that interrupts my ability to make up the bed in the morning. All in all, it's a pretty good life.

* * *

I got a new piercing. I had one cartilage hole on my left ear that's been bugging me for twenty years - it kept trying to close up, and sometimes got infected (even after all this time). Yes, it was done in a mall with a gun, because I used to not know any better. Now I do.

Rather than get it re-done properly, I've decided to let it go - and I got the right side pierced instead.

A friend recommended Monarch Body Piercing, and I'm very glad she did. If you're in the Chattanooga area, trust me - it's worth the drive to Hixson to have Kelly do the job. She was a total pro, and entirely pleasant. Go check out her shop!

* * *

In writing news, I wrote another 53,000 words on - and finally finished a (truly terrible) Draft Zero of - The Toll, bringing my 2016 fiction word count to approximately 156,500 words. Not my best effort, but not my worst, either. I hope to to better in 2017, but I have a lot of production stuff in the queue - so maybe I won't be able to.

Rewrites for The Agony House are breathing down my neck, and likewise so is cleanup for a good Draft One of The Toll (which is already decidedly late). After that...perhaps by March?...I'll start working on something new. I'm not sure what yet.

Or, hell. Maybe I'll just give up and take a break.

* * *

In publishing news, I only had one novel released in 2016 (The Family Plot) - plus a couple of short stories: “The Knoxville Girl” – in Out of Tune II from JournalStone, and “The Mermaid Aquarium” - in Scary Out There from Simon and Schuster.

2017 is going to be a whole lot busier on the publishing end of things. Depending on how publishing schedules do or do no shake out, I should have at least two books appear on shelves - Brimstone in April (Ace), and The Agony House sometime in the fall (Scholastic). Perhaps three, but I'd be a little surprised to see The Toll squeak in under the wire at this point. Still, you never know.

I'll also have several other projects hitting the streets - a contribution to the next Wild Cards project (Mississippi Roll, slated for December - via Tor) called "Death on the Water," as well as another collaborative project with Christopher Golden and others called Indigo (slated for June, from St. Martin's Press). Throw in another short project ("Good Night Prison Kings", in Dark Cities from Titan in May)... and that's a pretty decent showing to come.

* * *

Right. Well. I've spent over an hour sitting down to write this, so I'll just wrap it up. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you'll tune in again. Stick with me. There's more to come.
Okay, so...progress over the last couple of days has been crap, but in my defense there's a very good reason: I tripped over a concrete step in my backyard while bringing in the dogs, and busted up my foot. Like, sprained the shit out of it and dislocated a couple of toes...that kind of busted up. I lost half a day when it happened, trying to convince myself that it didn't hurt that bad and it would be fine - while simultaneously texting pictures of my increasingly gross foot to my dad and stepmom (a CRNA and RN, respectively) trying to get them to tell me I didn't need X-rays. Then I lost half of yesterday surrendering to the fact that I did, in fact, need X-rays.

Anyway, it's not technically broken. But it's eaten up a great deal of my attention in the last 48 hours, as these things are wont to do.

Ergo, here's progress on my rural gothic monster story about small-town secrets, old family lies, accidental legend-tripping, and a missing newlywed in the Okefenokee swamp - where you can drive SR 177 from west to east and cross six bridges...or take it from east to west, and you might hit seven. (But you’d better hope not.)

    Project: The Toll
    Deadline: January 1, 2016
    New words written: 1254
    Present total word count: 26,793

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Successfully dragged self out of bed at an ungodly hour after a night of too much drinking, so as to meet a cop and a K9 unit and keep looking for the missing wife.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: [Today] No neighborhood jaunts with dogs - husband is on jaunt detail for at least the next week; no yoga, either, because I can't place any real weight on the ball of my left foot or any of its toes; made a quick, limpy trip to the grocery store for milk; answered some business emails and so forth; tried to get back into the groove again.

    General Other: My foot hurts and everything is terrible.

    Pet Other: Quinnie-face is my everything.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 99,363

In closing, as per usual - please feel free leave reviews for any spooky books you might have hypothetically read recently. Amazon, Goodreads, you know. Wherever.

The Family Plot at Amazon.com
The Family Plot at Goodreads
The Family Plot at B&N
Things have been quiet here, I know. The truth is, I couldn't write a word for awhile - not since well before election night. I was paralyzed with anxiety for a week or more before it, and I've been blocked with stunned horror ever since. Now there's nothing to be done except fight like hell for damage control, and the fight will be uphill, both ways.

That's all I have to say about that.

Today, finally, I was able to get some writing done. I don't know when this book will ever be finished, but it'll wrap up when it wraps up. Maybe it'll even be on time. Or rather, late...but drafted in time for New Year's. I feel like I'm not being fair to this story, to let it straggle so badly. I am very fond of this book, and its characters, and the gothic southern weirdness of it. I'm not dragging my feet because I don't care, or it's not compelling, or I can't be bothered to noodle on it... I just haven't had the focus to give it the attention it deserves.

But I think I've got it now. I think I've re-located the thread I'd been pulling.
Anyway. here goes nothing.

Here's progress on my rural gothic monster story about small-town secrets, old family lies, accidental legend-tripping, and a missing newlywed in the Okefenokee swamp - where you can drive SR 177 from west to east and cross six bridges...or take it from east to west, and you might hit seven. (But you’d better hope not.)

    Project: The Toll
    Deadline: January 1, 2016
    New words written: 2109
    Present total word count: 25,539

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Awkward conversation with a barfly who may or may not be delusional; followed the light to a dollhouse, and hid there until the danger passed. More or less.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: [Today] Neighborhood jaunt with dogs; a 16-minute yoga routine that I'm trying to make a habit again; went to lunch; did some housework.

    Pet Other: I don't know what day of No Dog Crime our little Lucy is on...but it's probably about the same as I last reported: a couple of weeks. (She did pee on a rug last time my husband was out of town, but that was a bit ago.) All in all, good progress. Here she is in the backseat of the car, on the way to the groomer - and not the gallows, I swear to God.

    In related news, Lucy and Quinnie are still good buddies.
    Ditto Greyson and Quinnie, but you could have guessed that.

    Bonus Pet Other: Lucy still loves sticks.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 98,109

In closing, once again - please feel free leave reviews for any spooky books you might have read recently. Amazon, Goodreads, you know. Wherever. The feedback on The Family Plot has been great, and I am tremendously grateful for all the support! But the algorithms must be fed.

The Family Plot at Amazon.com
The Family Plot at Goodreads
The Family Plot at B&N
Yes, it's been awhile. I feel like I say that a lot, but during this particular lull I've had deadlines and book releases and a lingering antibiotic-resistant illness and Lucy to socialize/housebreak and several more in-person events and a couple of interviews and several Skype chats with school kids and also Halloween.

In short, I've been swamped. So swamped, that I've formally submitted notice that the first draft of my next book is going to be a bit late. It was originally slated for November 1, but I figured out a few weeks ago that it just wasn't going to happen - so I gave my editor and agent a heads up, sucked it up, and now I'm shooting for New Year's Day.

That said, I hope to post progress much more frequently than I've been blogging for the last couple of months but shit happens - so don't hold me to it.

For now - here's progress on my rural gothic monster story about small-town secrets, old family lies, accidental legend-tripping, and a missing newlywed in the Okefenokee swamp - where you can drive SR 177 from west to east and cross six bridges...or take it from east to west, and you might hit seven. (But you’d better hope not.)

    Project: The Toll
    Deadline: January 1, 2016
    New words written: n/a
    Present total word count: 23,430

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Jesus, I don't even remember.

    Other: Who even knows.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: [Today] Neighborhood jaunt with dogs; cleanup in the wake of last night's kickass annual Halloween bash; took down all the Halloween decorations outside and most of the decorations inside, then convinced the husband to hoof it all up to the attic until next year; took a nap after meds made me sleepy.

    Dog Other: Lucy is on day 13 of No Dog Crime* - which is to say no inappropriate indoor pottying, no catfood sneaking, no pillow disemboweling, etc. This is the longest she's ever gone in a single stretch, so our fingers are properly crossed! Mind you, once in a blue moon, she'll disagree with Greyson about something and they'll have a little spat - but it's never serious. It's just Lucy gaining confidence as she settles in here, and begins to behave more like a little sister than a nervous guest. 99 times out of 100 they are best buddies who hang out, play chase, and share toys. And one time out of a hundred, Lucy gets turfy about a treat. Greyson will have hurt feelings for half an hour, and then they're off to play again.

    Cat Other: The eldercat continues to do well, and her vet says she'll outlive us all. Quinnie had her 1-year checkup after the spay surgery, revealing that our little house leopard is up to 15 pounds. God help us. In other news, she's decided that Lucy is pretty darn all right, so now she has TWO dogs to snuggle with.

    Bonus Pet Other: The eldercat is STILL the ruler of the roost. I love the pic below because she's eating a sprinkle of cat treats, and the other 3 animals are hovering to see if she'll leave any behind. That's 15 pounds of cat and about 150 pounds worth of dog...all hanging back to let the 18-year-old, 8 pound cat finish her business. Even though that business is delicious.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 96,000

In closing, please don't forget to go leave reviews for any spooky books you might have read recently. Amazon, Goodreads, you know. Wherever. The feedback on The Family Plot has been great, and I am tremendously grateful for all the support! But the algorithms must be fed, so I beg anyone who feels compelled to venture a public opinion, kindly consider stopping by the following and leaving a few stars and a few words. It helps put kibble in bowls and pay vet bills!

The Family Plot at Amazon.com
The Family Plot at Goodreads
The Family Plot at B&N

* She peed on the bedroom rug last night, but that's our fault - we thought she wanted to go outside and woof at the trick-or-treaters. So we kept her inside too long. That one's a mulligan.

The Family Plot - all week, baby!

The book is out! In ebook, audiobook, and hardback via your preferred retailers around town or online. So far, reviews are smokin', and as a matter of authorly duty, I'm going to do a quickie roundup here. Ahem.

  • Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi/Fantasy blog - "A ghost story lives or dies on its creep factor, and Priest absolutely nails it, spinning a Southern Gothic tale of family secrets and avenging spirits with just enough humor sprinkled throughout to break the tension before racheting the suspense back up to heart-pounding levels...."

  • Pop Culture Beast - "The Family Plot, like all well crafted ghost stories, slowly creeps up on you. Somewhere in your peripheral vision, it unsettlingly teases, dropping chilling clues. Then, in the dark, it pounces...."

  • No More Grumpy Bookseller - "I have to say this particular element - the fact that they all believe in the possibility of ghosts and that they even refer to ghost hunting shows and such as proof that nothing bad will happen was extra fun...."

  • The Arched Doorway - "I don’t usually get scared while reading books, I’ve never had any issues reading Stephen King books for example, but when I stopped reading The Family Plot for the night I decided to watch some late night cartoons before I went to sleep. It really didn’t help, I still woke up from a nightmare in the middle of the night...."

  • Perpetual Reboot - ..." just the right note of HGTV spiced up with a little Southern Gothic mystery and charm."

Okay, that's enough horn-tooting. If you want to read a little sneak peak, you can click over to the Tor/Forge blog and read the first chapter.

And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has retweeted, cross-posted, reviewed, and shared the love. You are all awesome! I appreciate it more than I can tell you. Seriously, those reviews and recommendations matter.

* * *

In other news, Lucy continues to settle in to her new life as a family dog, and not a pound pupper/foster momma/shelter resident. She's 100% healthy now, no more infections - and she's filling out a bit. Can't see her ribs anymore, and her coat is just lovely.

She and Greyson have bonded in the most adorable fashion; she lures him into playtime half a dozen times a day, they hang out and share toys together in their downtime, and they often nap side-by-side or nose-to-nose.

Meanwhile, the ElderCat has quite thoroughly accepted the newcomer, and Quinn has begun to bring Lucy her stuffed mousies in an invitation to play.

Lucy also gets on famously with other dogs - in particular, she's fond of our friend's 4-month-old puppy, Sophie. She had many puppies of her own, and nursed a number of orphans...and she still loves to gently play with little ones.

We aren't quite at 100% with the housebreaking yet, but we're almost there. Once in awhile, if we leave her home alone (alone...I mean, with Greyson and the cats) she gets anxious and goes to find a rug to pee on. We don't intend to crate her every time we leave the house, so we're just cleaning up the pee and bringing home treats, toys, and the like. Eventually she'll get the idea that yes, sometimes we leave. But we always come back, and everything is fine. There's no need to fret about it.

She is a very smart girl. She'll get the hang of it, and if she doesn't, well. It's only a little bit of pee, every now and again. We will survive.

* * *

Right. So. That's all for now, and thanks so much for reading. I'll be back with more book news and pet pictures soon.


The Family Plot has arrived!

The Family Plot is upon us! IN HONOR OF THIS OCCASION or probably just by way of coincidence and generally awesome timing...please click over to Books, Bones, & Buffy and while you're there you can ENTER TO WIN a copy of this book for your very own! (Also, there is a kick-ass review that I totally want you to read. Seriously, go on. It's amaaaaaazing.)

Next! Here at the Qwillery you can find ANOTHER giveaway and review.

Likewise! Here at Dark Faerie Tales you can find YET ANOTHER giveaway and review.


Meanwhile, here in meatspace ...

TONIGHT, 9/20 - 7:00 p.m. - At the Hamilton Place Barnes & Noble (Chattanooga, natch), I'll be signing a fresh spanky batch of books for you, yours, and whoever the heck else comes by. The Family Plot will be Officially Out and the nice B&N folks will have a fat stash on hand; but of course, I'll sign absolutely anything else (that I wrote) which you happen to bring or buy.

Same rules apply on THURSDAY, 9/22 - from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Star Line Books (downtown, across from the Choo-Choo). I'll add this, too: You do not have to buy your books at the venues, but I would strongly encourage you to buy something. Booksellers go to a lot of trouble to host these events, and it is very good form to show them that you appreciate the effort!

So that's where you can find me this week, and I need to hurry up and post this - because I still have work to do today. But in closing, if you'd like to summon The Family Plot to your door via clicks and postage, then I would like to help:
Thanks so much for reading, everyone.
You are awesome!
Hahahaha well it's been another month, almost, and I'm only just now getting around to posting again. I feel like I say this a lot, but "In my defense"... it's been a crazy month. Between wrapping up my Wild Cards project, setting up interviews/filling out interviews/lining up the launch for The Family Plot, adopting a sick dog, and the week-long mayhem of DragonCon...we've really had our hands full over here.

Wait. Lemme explain.
Um, okay. In that order (because why not):

1. I have finished up a novella for one of the upcoming Wild Cards projects, and GRRM is happy with it, and it only took one massive rewrite and a small clean-up pass. I'm relieved and chuffed and proud, and when the release details and final line-up are public information, you can safely bet that I'll post all of that information here.

2. The Family Plot officially drops on the 20th of this month, so it's been all ghost stories, all the time over at Chez Cherie. Fortunately, with (more than a little) wrangling from Wonder-Editor Liz and the good folks at The Missing Volume, we were able to sneak an early box to DragonCon - so if you were there, you might have gotten an advance copy like this nice fellow did. Go you! I hope you will be kind enough to post and cross-post reviews to all the usual places. It's terribly helpful to authors, I swear, and we appreciate it more than we can ever adequately express.

Speaking of, early reviews for The Family Plot have been very good. As previously noted, Publishers Weekly gave it a fancy red starred review and added the shiny red box to the print edition, so they must have really, really liked it.

Other people are digging it, too. Booklist likewise gave it a starred review, declaring (in part) that it's "Highly recommended for fans of contemporary ghost stories."

Here, let me give you a short secondary link roundup:
3. We adopted another dog. You know this, if you follow me on Twitter. There have been....many dog pictures. It's kind of a long story, but to sum up: We'd been idly in the market for a second dog for awhile now, sort of waiting for the right pooch to fall into our laps. Then two weeks ago, we went to Petsmart for cat supplies during an adopt-a-thon. My husband lost his shit over this sweet little lady, and she came home with us.

Her name is Lucy. We were told that she was about 3 years old, fully vetted and spayed, housebroken, crate-trained, good with cats, and good with all other dogs/people, too. And hey, some of that was true.

I'm not mad at the rescue; they pulled Lucy with 9(?) newborn puppies (her second litter) from a kill shelter before they could be put down in all in a batch. This rescue operates on a shoestring, and they're doing the best work they can. I am not complaining about them. I absolutely appreciate that their mission is an underfunded and overwhelming one.

However...this rescue was, shall we say, not 100% correct on all those points.

My vet thinks Lucy might not be much more than a year old, perhaps a year and a half - if she did in fact have two litters. Lucy was tested for heartworms and spayed, and that's it. Never dewormed, given shots, etc. She was not housebroken. She was not crate-trained, though it's apparent that she's familiar with crates and - generally speaking - doesn't mind them.

She was also quite sick. She had a UTI and a bowel infection that made housebreaking her tricky as hell. We couldn't in good conscience crate a dog who legit had to pee/explode with poop every twenty minutes - even at night. That's just mean. So the housebreaking has been an exercise in patience and puppy pads and vinegar spray and enzyme cleaners and throwing away a very nice rug that simply could not be salvaged. And so forth.

That said, she really is good with everything and everybody - and her cat manners are superb. The ElderCat accepted her more or less immediately(!!!) except for a brief stand-off re: whether or not cat food was an acceptable snack for dogs. Quinnie was more dubious, but has warmed up fast. Greyson is a little jelly sometimes, but overall seems quite happy to have a baby sister.

She's definitely jacked up his activity level, which is good because he's become a total fatty. They love to play chase and wrestle, and sometimes play tug with a toy. They're good together on walks, and the neighborhood kids have already figured out that our yard is a two-for when it comes to dog kisses at the gate.

Before anyone asks, Lucy's puppies were weaned, spayed/neutered, and put up for adoption. I think they're all gone off to new homes now. (At least, I know most of them are.) As the story went, someone bought Lucy as a puppy thinking (for whatever dumbass reason) that she was a purebred husky - and tried to breed her (too young) and sell her (not pure) puppies. By the second litter, her original owner realized they'd been taken for a ride ... and surrendered her with the babies because they "didn't need that many dogs."

I don't know what the hell is wrong with people.

Anyway, Lucy is feeling much better now, after almost 2 weeks of antibiotics and other assorted meds. She hasn't had any daytime accidents since Tuesday, but she's been surprising us with some magnificent gift of excrement or mayhem every single morning since her arrival ... except for last night, when we finally felt she was well enough to handle a crating. She took it like a champ and even let us sleep in until 8:30 (beating the hell out of her usual 5:30-6:00 a.m.). This means it's been a full day (and change) since there's been any inappropriate pottying in the house! ::throws confetti::

Did I mention mayhem above? Somewhere in that paragraph? Yes, I think so.

That's because Lucy is - in no uncertain terms - very, very smart. Much smarter than Greyson. Much more ambitious. Far less food-secure. Considerably more mischievous. When she thinks no one's looking, she likes to bounce on the couch and fling the cushions around the room. When we put the cat food out of her reach, she waits until we're gone and counter-surfs. One night she dragged out a full bin of kibble at 3:00 a.m., hauled it into the foyer, dumped it all out, and helped herself.

She is a character (and sometimes a challenge), but we wouldn't have her any other way :)

Look, I don't want to break anybody's heart, but she's got a real tough life here.

Right, so. That's Lucy.

4. I went to DragonCon, three days after we adopted Lucy. So my husband was left behind for a week with three rounds of meds at different times every day, plus a geriatric cat who needs medicine every night, and Greyson and Quinnie, to boot. He did good! At least, when I got back home everyone was still alive, and that's the important bit.

In a nutshell, DragonCon was magnificent, as always. There were SO MANY PICTURES. I can't even. But what I can do is excerpt a few of my favorites. (For many more, see the media tab at my Twitter Account and scroll around. Also check out Kevin Hearne's feed and Fran Wilde's, too because I bet/know they also have jillions...)

Fran Wilde and I may have done some drinking.

We also have killer kind-of-matchy tattoos.

With all-around amazing human being Kevin Hearne.

With Tiffany Trent! Who I hadn't seen in ages!

With Delilah S. Dawson, who was definitely not possessed or anything.

With Leanna Renee Hieber, having Serious Opinions re: the Penny Dreadful finale.

One more with Kevin, and the inimitable Myke Cole.

With Lynn and Caleb Beatty, my roomies for Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

Look, Kevin is awesome, okay? And so is Micheal J. Martinez, too.

And Eugene Meyers! Who I also hadn't seen in ages!

With the always-handsome and awesome Tony Ballard-Smoot!

And one last shot of me with Derek Tatum, the horror track director who I've known about 20 years :)

Now, for item #5. Okay, so there's no item #5 in my initial thesis statement at the top ... but that's only because I forgot. You see, I came back from DragonCon with the most ferocious con-crud of my life. The doc said he'd write down "pneumonia of the face-holes" if there was any such thing, if that gives you any idea.

On the upshot, it doesn't appear to be strep throat. On the downside, I've had cases of strep throat before that weren't this bad. But I have antibiotics and STEROIDS now and the STEROIDS kicked in this morning, so I've been a busy (if hoarse and drippy) lady today. To wit: I've done the dishes, made the beds (been sleeping in my office to prevent spousal contamination), walked/fed/medicated the dogs, watered the yard, paid some bills, filled out an interview, sent some emails, and spent about 90 minutes typing up this blog post.

Steroids are GREAT. This is the most work I've gotten done in a day since I left DragonCon.

At any rate, thanks for reading, and thanks for being patient with me. I'll post again soon, because I have a couple of local events for The Family Plot's release, but I don't want to post them right now - lest they get lost in the shuffle. Besides, this has gone on long enough, don't you think?

I do. Let's wrap this up with a critter picture.

A couple of years ago, a neighbor called me over to the fence. He'd seen workmen start excavation in our back yard, where we were restoring a set of failed retaining walls and adding a patio.

"You're new here," he noted. "So you might not know the rules." Rules? Yes, rules. "It's like this: When you start digging back there, you're gonna find things...mostly little things. Buttons and buckles, old glass. Bullets, probably. You keep that. That's for you." He looked around to make sure no one else was in easy earshot, and added, "But if you find human remains, you put that shit back where you found it - and you don't say a goddamn word."

Wait. Let me back up.

Four years ago, my husband and I bought a Victorian house in a historic district at the foot of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

During the Civil War, this land saw plenty of fighting as the armies went back and forth, arguing over the mountain. After the war, it was subdivided into lots and sold off to fugitives from a yellow fever epidemic in downtown Chattanooga, a few miles away. (They escaped it with, shall we say, limited success.) In 1885 the neighborhood incorporated into its own town, and in 1920 it was annexed by the city.

A lot of people have lived here and died here, is what I'm saying. I'm also saying that if these blocks aren't haunted, there's probably no such thing as ghosts. But that's another post, for another time.

At any rate, I knew my neighbor was trying to get a rise of out of me - but I'm harder to worry than that. I went ahead and asked him if Surprise! human remains turned up with any regularity. He pointed back up the hill. "It happens often enough. And you see that road up there? Just beyond that, the property belongs to the National Park Service. You do not want them thinking you've got dead soldiers hanging out on your lot. They might come dig 'em up."

Can they do that, I asked? He said yes. I had my doubts, but I didn't argue.

I won't leave you hanging. We did not find any human remains when we dug up the old retaining walls. Of course, if we did...I probably wouldn't mention it here. So you'll have to take my word for it, even though I'm telling you that you maybe shouldn't.


Our neighborhood is a hoot, in no uncertain terms. I picked up a few books about it, and made friends with a few neighbors, and chatted up a few of the old-timers who love dogs. (Greyson is the main reason I ever got to know anybody around here.) Along the way, I picked up a few stories.

Like, stories even Faulkner would call Weird South.

One of these bits of oddball lore stuck in my head, so I did a little research. I found documentation re: some of the details here and there (but not all of them), and a couple of the original players are still in the area (but not all of them, either). So here's my disclaimer before I fill you in: This is partly how I heard it happened, and partly how I bet it happened. I only guarantee that maybe 20-30% of the following is completely true.

But some of it is.
Got it? Okay.

Sometime in the 1980s, a dude bought a run-down house that needed a whole lot of work. This house was set back on the mountain, so he went to the city and asked for a permit to put in a driveway - in order to bring heavy equipment up to the property, so he could restore it.

The city said "nope."
There was a cemetery in the way.

Dude was confused and upset. He knew of no such cemetery! It didn't exist! The city insisted otherwise, and showed him paperwork saying there was a private cemetery on the land. It had been open since at least the 1950s.

He ran back to the house, grabbed a weed-whacker, and sure enough - soon turned up a good number of tombstones beside and behind the house...all of them fallen over, half-buried, and completely overgrown. And much older than the 1950s. So he called up the house's previous owner (or rather, the representative) and threw a fit about this revelation. The explanation he got was a real corker: Contrary to all appearances, what he'd found was not, in fact, a cemetery.

The house in question had been built by a fellow who'd owned a large monument company back in the late 1800s/early 1900s. This company had specialized in statuary, plaques, and...tombstones. One Halloween in the 1920s, apparently this guy grabbed a bunch of unclaimed stones from the family business, set them up along the house, and threw a big party. But tombstones are heavy, right? He never got around to putting them back.

The whole neighborhood knew about it for a long time. Everyone laughed about it. Nobody cared. Nobody thought it was a real cemetery. But decades passed, the stones fell over, and newer residents had no idea they'd ever been there in the first place.*

Relieved but still kind of confused, the new owner went to the city and explained the situation. But he couldn't prove there were no bodies present without digging up the "graves," which he wasn't allowed to do, because it was a legally open cemetery...and round and round and round he went.

Eventually, he got the family's representative to go downtown and legally close the cemetery (which wasn't a cemetery), making it legal for him to collect and discard the tombstones and/or get the permits to put in a driveway. So that's what he did.

And then, on the second day of work, he turned up the first set of human remains.

I KNOW, RIGHT? So many questions!
Writer brain went into overdrive!

Before long, this idea collided with another one during a marathon of Salvage Dawgs on the DIY Network.

One of the salvage guys said something - I don't remember what - about a cool old building they were breaking down, and I had the thought, "I bet they have some good ghost stories." I mean, renovation/remodeling work supposedly stirs up the spirits, right? Surely a good demo/tear-down would do likewise...?

Mind you, I know just enough about old houses to be dangerous - and most of what I know comes from the restoration side, not the salvage side. But I did some due diligence homework, held my breath, and got started on a draft of a southern gothic haunted house story about a small family salvage company taking a week to break down a big ol' estate on the side of Lookout Mountain...and poltergeists ensue.

When I was about 2/3 of the way through this draft, I may have hypothetically been drinking and watching Salvage Dawgs again. (My husband was out of town. I was bored. I love old stuff. Don't judge.) At the end of the episode, there was a little blurb about checking out their website and sending them email and I was like AW SHIT, MAN. I CAN TOTALLY DO THAT.

So upon my phone, I looked up their website and sent what - in retrospect - was probably a wildly rambling message that was equal parts earnest and tipsy, asking if I could pester somebody there with a few VERY SPECIFIC questions about the salvage business for a book I was working on and I PROMISED that I would not ask anything stupid like, "How do I start my own salvage company?"

Then I hit "send."

Lo and behold, I logged on the next morning to find an email from the general manager of Black Dog Salvage. Not only did he not make fun of me or point and laugh, but he offered his phone number and told me to give him a call. I waited until lunch, when I had perfected my ten-second pitch, and I dialed him up - then talked his ear off for about an hour.

So Grant Holmes, if you're reading this - thank you again for being so indulgent, patient, and an all-around class act. Also, please forgive me for not sticking precisely to the letter of (some of) your feedback. For the sake of narrative convenience, sometimes spooky contrivance must prevail. Rest assured, dear readers, if you find any improbable factual errors in The Family Plot, they are not Grant's fault. They're all mine.

Right. So.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that The Family Plot comes out next month - on September 20th! (You might actually be able to find it early at DragonCon, but don't quote me on that just yet. It's not in the bag.)

HOWEVER. You can enter this Goodreads raffle to win a copy, and you can click over to Tor.com where you can read an excerpt. Yes, we're ramping up to the big release. It's all The Family Plot, all the time. I do hope you'll pardon me, but this is my job and here's my hustle.

If you'd like to preorder The Family Plot, then I would like to help:
Thanks so much for reading, everyone - and stay tuned! There will be more pet pictures soon, I promise. And also some more hustle, but like I said. A girl's gotta eat.


* It would seem that a non-local census worker in the 1950s had made note of the cemetery and entered it into the public record, not knowing of its party-time origins.
Well, I'm back. It's been a crazypants month over here, and blogging got lost in the shuffle - but that's just how it goes. Quite a lot has happened, though! I had some lovely overnight guests who were headed west from the Carolinas; enjoyed a visit from an old friend (who prefers to remain nameless); finished up my part in a group project (also a secret for now); I wrapped up a major rewrite on The Agony House; watched all of Stranger Things and loved it; voted in the TN primaries; fell in love with the lady Ghostbusters; licensed some official murdery jewelry; bought some hilarious and relevant merch; kind of died at the season finale of 12 Monkeys; spent a week fighting a medical billing error that got sent to collections; did so much yardwork you would not freaking believe; kicked around with a hell of a guy who was passing through; gave an owl a new hairdo; got a new fence; got a replacement gate for the new fence; and probably a bunch more stuff that I'm totally forgetting.

It's been a long month.

And now...I'm back to working on my rewrites for the next Wild Cards project (due at the end of this month), and then I will probably get back to work on The Toll (due November 1), and meanwhile I will continue to work on production for The Agony House. And do DragonCon. All while trying to promote a new book.


You guys, The Family Plot come out NEXT MONTH. And because LIFE IS GOOD it has garnered a starred Publishers Weekly review! ::Kermit flails::

    When Dahlia Dutton’s father sends her and a small crew to salvage a house near Lookout Mountain, Tenn., she finds that what you don’t know can hurt you in Priest’s spectacular modern haunted-house story. Dahlia is no stranger to ghosts, whether she’s being emotionally haunted by a failed marriage or by the metaphorical spirits that linger in old buildings. The concept of home salvage disturbing ghosts is brilliant, and while common elements of haunted house stories are certainly present (a mysterious owner with family secrets, locked rooms, unnatural storms, etc.), Priest (Boneshaker) handles them with tremendous skill, putting the pieces together to keep the reader guessing and more than a little scared. The characters are given a compelling reason to stay (the family business will fail if this job falls through) and their interpersonal dynamics humanize them, making them more than just cannon fodder as the hauntings increase in severity. Priest has written an excellent modern house story from start to finish.

The early Goodreads reviews are smashing, too - though there are a few complaints with the ARC's flap copy. It's drawn from an early proposal, and though it kind of contains spoilers, most of those spoilers are wrong. (For the draft evolved and deviated from the original pitch.) So...yeah. Just ignore that! Think of the PW review instead! I've been describing it as "the DIY Network meets Ted Raimi," so if that works better for you, feel free to come at it from that angle.

SPEAKING OF GOODREADS. If you are the sort of person to participate on that fine site, you can ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY BY CLICKING THIS-HERE LINK! So get clicking! Throw your name in the hat!

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In other news, as (briefly) mentioned above - our fence finally got finished. It took about twice as long as we hoped, and when it was finished, the gate crapped out on us within about a week. It was just too heavy; the entrance to the yard is fully five feet wide, and the hinges were stretching and bowing (even though the fence guy added an extra set). So we had to order a custom black aluminum number. It took a couple of weeks, but now it's installed and looking great.

The whole fence line looks marvelous, if I do say so myself - for I added half a dozen rose bushes and a coral bark Japanese maple. In the rain. Because it's too damn hot here to do any work in the yard when the sun is either up, or out.

On the left: That used to be a privet hedge covering a twisted chain link fence. (Some of those roses were present already; I cut them back before the fence work.) The privet was about 9 feet high and six feet wide. It was awful. On the right: That's what it looks like now, from the back door. SO MUCH BETTER.

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All pets are doing well. So well, in fact, that the other day we achieved a milestone - deliberate, voluntary cuddling on the part of the cats.

I, for one, was stunned. And delighted. But mostly stunned. The "ladies" get along pretty well - they hang out a lot, and take turns on the bed, and even play a game of whappity-paws every once in awhile. But this is the first straight-up snuggle that we've seen.

* * *

Greyson gets his share of Quinnie cuddles, too. It's adorable, but not so surprising. She likes to follow him around and use his feet for a pillow.

Greyson also had a number of playdates with his best friend Luna. Their playdates all end the same way: two happy, tired dogs...covered in each other's drool.

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And on that note, I believe I'll wrap up this post and call it a night. Thanks so much for reading, everybody - and I will try to be a little better about my updates, from here on out. Pinky swears!