25 Facts About SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS (the series)

1. Gail's original last name was actually Petersen. It didn't change until I submitted the manuscript to Impulse during the open submission. It was between Godwin and Goodwin, and those choices were because I wanted her to have an alliterative name.

2. I picked Muncie IN as Gail's hometown because my best friend went to grad school there. I've spent a few weekends in Muncie. Sorry to residents, but I can see why Gail wanted to escape so badly.

3. Gail does have a backstory and a mom, but she doesn't think about them. I borrowed them from a now defunct series of mine. I don't think they'll ever show up in the series itself. My next series, however, I made the deliberate choice to have more than one mother as part of the picture, as nobody in SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS seems to have actual parents.

4. Guy's original last name was Bookerton. I changed it because boogers. Enough said.

5. Jeremy was originally Jamie. I like Jamie Orcutt in SECRET SOCIETY GIRL too much to give him such a jerk of a name twin.

6. Guy's birthday is the same as another best friend's. It's October 28th. You can see all of the birthdays listed on the profiles I posted when SUPERVILLAINS ANONYMOUS came out.

7. Gail's hobbies in high school were working three jobs and playing softball. She's always been a workaholic and lacking in self-esteem, but damn if she can't knock you out with a beer bottle from 20 feet away if she should choose to.

8. Gail's original middle name was Alexandria. I changed it when I chose Lexie as a penname. Her initials were GAP. Now they're GOG since her middle name is now Olivia. This is 100000000% because of Olivia Dunham. I am not ashamed of this.

9. I finished SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS the day before Nikki was born.

10. Naomi Gunn was created on the second draft and replaced a reporter who only existed for one scene. She is biracial. Her mother is white and her father is black. If anybody in my series is truly Lois Lane's spiritual successor, it is her and not Gail, even though I describe the series as "Lois Lane becomes Supergirl."

11. Between drafts of SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS, I amped up social media use by 300%. Portia and Naomi's texts are my favorite to write. Neither capitalizes. I hope I haven't driven my copy-editor or Maximus to drink.

12. There was originally a secret baby plot. I dumped this when I got rid of a character named Layla.

13. Spoiler: Kiki originally had Villain Syndrome. Cooper was going to be a fall guy and not the villain.

14. Writing Gail 'porting for the first time was terrifying because it meant I had to commit to her changing powers, which I wasn't 100% sold on.

15. Vicki's middle name is from the Babysitters Club. Kristy was my fave, but I liked Dawn because like me she'd just moved from CA to the east coast. North Carolina instead of Connecticut for me, and we moved because of Papa Dunne's work and not divorce. BUT IT STILL COUNTS. Babysitters Club actually remains a strong formative influence on my life. I brought it up at a panel at PHXCC.

16. Portia's powers were a very late addition and had me outright crying with laughter every time I wrote about them. She is, by the way, pansexual and she is not the only queer character in my series.

17. Kiki and Angélica were inspired by real people. "Kiki" has an identical twin. "Angélica" is a bodybuilder. You can't make this up.

18. My mental image for Eddie Davenport is always Aaron Eckart. You can blame Thank You for Smoking.

19. I wrote the first draft of SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS while living in the Hamptons in the winter. You know what there is to do in the Hamptons in the winter? Absolutely nothing. Hence writing the book.

20. My working title for HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD was SUPERPOWERS ANONYMOUS. Not as great as SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS 2: ELECTRIC POWERS BOOGALOO, which is probably took us several people and a lot of time to come up with the title. And yes, I'm sad that "Not a Guide" doesn't appear on the cover.

21. HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD is not a guide.

22. It is, however, available in e-format on October 4th and in mass market paperback on November 1st.

23. It's not Gail on the cover but Angélica. I figure with everything she's done to save Gail's butt, she deserves her own cover. Isn't she great? I love Angélica.

24. Pre-ordering gets you more SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS the series.

25. All of my readers are fantastic people. It says so right here on my fact sheet.

Stay sexy!

Tuesdays with Lexie: Beth Cato

Welcome to Tuesdays with Lexie, the feature where I invite other authors and/or interesting people onto the LexieCon to answer very important questions. Today's guest is a woman who happens to commit battery with breadsticks (limp ones, at that), and a good friend of mine. That's right, I nagged Beth Cato, author of the fantastic BREATH OF EARTH (out today), CLOCKWORK DAGGER, CLOCKWORK CROWN, and multitude of short stories and novellas (including WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE), into visiting.

Obligatory Tell Us About Your Book, Beth! *shiny plastic smile* here:

It's steampunk alt history set in a 1906 San Francisco. The United States and Japan are allied as a world power and taking over China, and much of their steampunk military might arises from energy trapped by geomancy. Well, my heroine is Ingrid. She's a darn powerful geomancer, and women aren't supposed to inherit geomancy. When most of the city's geomancers are assassinated, she may be the only person who can hold back a major quake, but she's forced on the run to stay alive, too.

Obviously the 1906 earthquake was a real thing that really happened, and (slight spoiler) Teddy Roosevelt—or a variation thereof—is a character that’s obviously based on a real person (maybe; I’m not convinced he wasn’t a nationwide hallucination). Where’s the line on using a real person/real events in an alt-history like BREATH OF EARTH? For you personally, I mean, not for the entire world. Unless you want to give a firm directive for everybody to follow. I won’t seek to limit you.

My personal directive is to be as historically accurate as possible, especially with as public and charismatic a person as Theodore Roosevelt. I have read thousands of pages on him and typed up a 2000-some-word character guide with citations to the source material. As for where the line is for using people like him, I'm not sure, but I can say it's actually very eerie how well he fits into this world. He believed in the holiness of America and had many cautionary words about Japan and its rising power. He has a pretty big role in the sequel to BREATH OF EARTH, and I hope people actually learn something about the real dude by reading my fictional take.

Are there any absolutely fascinating tidbits that you’ve come across in your research that just didn’t make it into the book, that you want to share? It’s a safe space.

I think the fascinating bits that I haven't used have more to do with my hometown and Central California as a whole. I have read extensively about the Chinese experience in California around the start of the 20th century. It's ugly stuff, and it was completely ignored when I was in school. I found one bit that referenced my hometown newspaper in about 1893 posted an op-ed imploring the women of Kings County to learn to do their own laundry so that they didn't support the vile Chinese. I mean, wow. This is my same hometown that today is so proud that it still has its China Alley and Taoist Temple. That kind of thing feels personal for me, even though my grandparents' families didn't get there for a few more decades.

Your other delightful series, CLOCKWORK DAGGER and CLOCKWORK CROWN, is also based on actual historical events, but unlike BREATH OF EARTH, it takes place in a built-from-the-ground-up world. What was it like doing the worldbuilding between the two? Was it more or less difficult? And since I’m a sadist, which do you prefer overall?

The two worlds have their own unique challenges. CLOCKWORK DAGGER is inspired by the World War I era, but I made my own geography, my own history, my own cultures. That is freeing in a lot of ways. BREATH OF EARTH has the advantage/disadvantage of Earth and its full burden of history. Which is nice, because I can talk about familiar things--like reference the Bible and Shakespeare and Basho--but it also means there are endless ways I can muck everything up, too. Between the two, CLOCKWORK DAGGER is an easier world for me to write in--but I say that because I've lived in that space for years and I know it well. It was agony to create from scratch!

BREATH OF EARTH has a lot of different, intertwined magic systems that I don’t want to spoil, other than to say they’re all amazing. What was your inspiration for making it so wide-range and varied? Do you have a wall full of index cards and red string about how each magic system affects the other? And care to share any of your inspiration/where readers of this most esteemed blog could go to find out more information about any of them?

I think my initial inspiration for geomancy as an actual job comes from Final Fantasy Tactics, which is a classic strategy game using various magical and warrior classes from the Final Fantasy series. When I decided I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake from a steampunk angle, I knew I had to use geomancy as the central magic because duh, earthquake. From there, it was the matter of asking a lot of practical questions. How could geomancy be a job? How would it be useful in the economy? How would someone train for this? Dull, gritty world-building stuff. Once I had that established, I began to develop the cooler aspects.

The other magic in the book wasn't quite so planned. I didn't intend to have healing magic at all because I explored that so deeply in CLOCKWORK DAGGER. Then as I wrote the BREATH OF EARTH rough draft, I needed to heal Ingrid, and suddenly Reiki became an integral part of the plot.

As for how I keep all of it straight, I type up Word documents for all elements of the world, including the magic. That's something my/our agent advised that I do when I first started on CLOCKWORK DAGGER and it's very helpful, especially as I am first figuring everything out.

What would you name your personal airship?

I was stumped by this so I asked my husband. He helpfully suggested Airship McAirshipface. I love this man. I really do.

After giving this more thought, I think I would name the airship for my dream horse, a palomino Paso Fino named Golden Melody. I imagine the airship with have a copper-toned orichalcum gondola, so it would suit the craft well.

Your blog is the reason I will probably never go hungry again and ALSO the reason I am perpetually hungry. Are we going to ever see a science fiction baker from you? Or, more importantly, what would a science fiction baker protagonist bring to the table (other than awesome space bread)?

I HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS. BWA HA HA. Seriously, I had a short story in Nature Magazine last year that is all about the importance of baking for far-future humanity.

Are you going to be okay if I write Ghostbusters/Breath of Earth fanfiction about Fenris (aka my favorite forever and ever) and Holtzmann hanging out and being engineering bros?

I haven't seen the new Ghostbusters yet, but I have witnessed much love for Holtzmann and I think there would totally be chemistry there for Fenris. You have my blessing.

Speaking of Fenris, if his fanclub (of which I am President) were to get badges, what do you think we should put on them so we could recognize each other in public and know to perform the secret handshake? Also, any recommendations for the secret handshake? I'm thinking it's just grunting as we walk by in the middle of fixing things, and never making eye contact.

Well, Fenris isn't keen on physical contact. He has bad associations there. A grunt and a nod would probably work well as the "handshake" in this case. As for badges, Fenris would love it if badges depicted his beloved airship Palmetto Bug but it would need to be ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE or he would have a conniption fit.

Finally, and this is the most important question of them all, walk me through the PokémonGO strategies of all your major characters. Who grinds Pidgeys for candy? Who walks a crazy long distance to get that beloved Pikachu? Who’s got a naming system in place? Who doesn’t quite get it?

Ingrid would grind Pokémon for candy or other goodies. She has a stubborn streak a mile wide. Cy would walk distances to get what he needed, especially if he were playing the game for someone he was devoted to. Ingrid would set up a naming system. She was a secretary, and any incompetence with organization would really bug her. Fenris wouldn't get Pokémon Go at all. He wants physical, tangible results for his labor... though he would probably watch over Ingrid and Cy's shoulders and offer lots of advice on how he would play the game in a much more efficient way.

If someone did fan art of my characters playing PokémonGO, I would love them forever.

Corey Ralston Photography (2013)
BREATH OF EARTH is available in stores TODAY. I've already read it (and you can see what I thought on my reading log—spoiler: I LOVED IT SO MUCH AND FENRIS IS AMAAAAAZING) so run out and get your copy ASAP. Links are below.

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Breath of Earth

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off…

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome…and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Buy BREATH OF EARTH: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powells | Books A Million | Poisoned Pen

Not-Actually-A-Con Report: Kansas City Daytrip!

If you follow me on social media, you probably saw that my weekend tweets were not the nonsensical musings of a bored Lexie, but rather I DID STUFF. That’s right, on Saturday I drove across Missouri to Kansas City, home of my high school band trip. With a five minute stop and no construction, it’s a three hour and twenty minute drive—the perfect amount of time to listen to one podcast, two albums, and half of In The Heights. Mercifully, I arrived before any of the songs that make me cry could begin.

Kansas City was home to WorldCon or MidAmerica Con or whatever the real name is, and my original plans were to take some vacation from work and spend the week attending non-stop panels and readings. A closer look at my budget said that’s probably a bad idea, but I could swing a day trip. I packed an overnight bag in case a migraine or exhaustion hit, but the plan was to drive out in the morning and return in the evening, weary but satisfied.

First up was the Meet and Eat with Beth Cato and Becky Chambers, both of whom I got to hang out with at Phoenix Comicon and who are each the living embodiment of awesome. I may or may not have been late, but I still wore my FENRIS FAN CLUB PRESIDENT crown. They spoke about political messages in science fiction, the misconception that golden age scifi is apolitical, longevity, historical and technological accuracy, outlining, and a bunch of great subjects. Plus there was food, which my undergrad days taught me makes any event special.

While they signed books, I said hi to some author friends and got to meet others in person for the first time: Brooke Johnson (whom you may remember from last week’s Tuesdays with Lexie), Auston Habershaw (Bostonian with a Boston, the next level in Boston), Tina Gower (agency sibling! Soon we will rule the world), Becky’s wife Bea (who wins for “Best Last Name”), C. Stuart Hardwick, aaaaaaaand a writer whose name I can’t remember (which is terrible because I ended up having lunch with him, Tina, and Stuart). Hanging around after the event proved fortuitous, as I got to tag along on a tour of the library, which started life as a bank that could print money.

Keeping with the random, I tagged along with some others from the tour for lunch, where I learned more about short fiction writing (seriously, the people that can do that are wizards) and, interestingly enough, the Scientology writing contest my mom forbade me from entering in high school. God bless Yelp, which led us to a Mediterranean restaurant not far from the library and the convention.

Since I had a few hours before dinner, I headed up to the World War I Museum. I’ve written things that took place during the Great War, so it was neat on many levels to see facets of my research in person. Bonus: the museum’s not terribly expensive and the surrounding area is stunning (plus a lot of people were walking dogs nearby, and dogs always make my day).

You walk into the museum on a transparent floor about twenty feet over a field of poppies, which gave me a brief bout of vertigo, and the first thing you do is watch a short video about the tensions leading up to WWI, which did better at explaining the war than any of my history classes. The museum is split in two by another video that projects onto a giant screen over No Man’s Land, depicting the entry of the US into the war. The central wall is a textual timeline pre- and post-US entry, and you can wander in and out of sections that display uniforms and mess kits and things soldiers carried with them. Actual size renditions of trenches can be viewed by sticking your head into a foxhole and each little alcove contains its own niche about the different countries. I can see why it’s regarded as an excellent museum. I took a lot of pictures of things that I’m not going to share for reasons, but I can say that if I had a reason for visiting the museum, it was definitely satisfied.

After the museum, I wandered up to the memorial and spent a few minutes gazing upon the Kansas City skyline, a short rest before dinner. The tower is open to the public during the day, but after discovering in Prague that I don’t really like narrow, dark places, I elected to stay out in the sunlight. Unfortunately, somebody inside fell and the paramedics were called.

Dinner was an affair made interesting by the fact that 98 Degrees was performing a few hundred feet away, so there were a lot of people my age standing outside and that was a trip. At dinner, I was knighted with my own floppy bread scepter by Beth Cato, High Priestess of Churromancy, and I feel like if I ever win any awards, it won’t even come close to this feeling of limp euphoria. Jen and Mike (now #HusbandMike thanks to Twitter!) were at the convention and came to dinner with us, which was fantastic. Plus, I got to sit next to Bishop, one of my all-time favorite people in the writing world. I couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on thanks to the noise level, but gosh, I had so much fun. There’s a reason writers are the best people to have around, and that dinner proved it.

Unfortunately, either the food or the headlights gave me a migraine on my way home, a slight letdown to the end of the trip, but I spent yesterday napping and reading to make up for it. Still: calling Saturday a win and definitely worth even more than a migraine to see my friends.

Tomorrow: come back for my hilariously awesome interview with Beth. In the meantime, check out the Reading Log! I’ve added a couple new books that I think are splendid and you should read them ASAP.

Stay sexy!

Let's Get Out of Here Before One of Them Kills Guy!

Greetings, all!

I’m lazy and I don’t feel like coming up with an official blog post today. Right now, the Twittersphere is going nuts naming Seven Faves. Seven favorite movies, TV shows, series, episodes, seven first jobs, etc. etc. I participated in movies because I’m super-cool like that, and also I’m aware that a lot of people would consider my taste basic or silly. Yet I can’t bring myself to care. So the movies I listed:

1) Legally Blonde

In college, I had two majors: German and Video Production. Not a whole lot of crossover there, except for my European Film class (I wrote about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and I still have a lot of feelings about German expressionistic film that I’m willing to unload on anybody equally willing to listen), and one of the hallmarks of being a video major was lying about all of the movies I’ve seen and haven’t seen. I can talk intelligently about so many movies I’ve never watched because they’re about subjects that never interested me (primarily: men, angry men, violent men, racism, sexism, men). So it used to be that I’d lie about my favorite movies and never say what my true favorite movie is. HOWEVER, those days are over, and it is indeed Legally Blonde and will likely remain Legally Blonde for a long, long time.

2) Ocean’s Eleven

Give me a good heist movie any day, and this one is top-notch, in my book. I don’t think either of the follow-ups worked just because they were trying to replicate a once-in-a-lifetime formula of that cheesy glamour that Vegas provides. I love every single character in this movie, I love the montages and the music, and how it’s not an action movie. A lot of movies want to put you right in the middle of the action and keep your heart beating, but the cinematography deliberately takes a step back and keeps you out of the protagonist’s shoes. It’s an excellent choice for characters that pull a heist in the film because it avoids the narrative cheating that comes along with a lot of plot twists. These characters are conmen. We see them when they aren’t being observed, but there’s enough of a distance that it doesn’t feel like we were lied to, also.


3) Shawshank Redemption

My next door neighbor, the first friend I made when my family moved during my high school years, adored this movie and I watched it with her a few times. It’s only in the past five years moved onto my all-time favorites list. I like how the prison itself is a character in the film. And I love Morgan Freeman’s entire character arc and the use of the voice over.

Needs more women.

4) Mulan

We quote Mushu DAILY.

5) Jupiter Ascending

I don’t care if you don’t like this movie. I love this movie. I went to see it by myself in theaters while I was struggling with anxiety over SUPERVILLAINS ANONYMOUS (I’d never written a direct sequel before, it was a book that was almost an entirely new genre from SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS, there were a lot of big pay-offs I wasn’t sure I was equipped to handle). And for over two hours, in that theater, I saw a movie that had been made precisely for me. It was like every book I’ve ever wanted to write, come to life. It had the kickass heroine who was allowed to fail, it had wonder and a gorgeous aesthetic, and a battle that the main character could fight without being overwhelmed. A lot of people asked “Is this how teen boys feel when they see action movies?” Because that was how I felt, for the first time. This was a movie for me.

And I went home from that movie, sat down at my computer, and beat the ever-loving tar out of my writer’s block. That movie and the feelings it inspired got me through the rest of that damn book.

6) Galaxy Quest

We ALSO quote this movie daily. It is my favorite Star Trek movie.

7) Ghostbusters (2016)

I included this one on the list to piss everybody off, but it’s true. I like the older Ghostbusters, but there’s some seriously gross shit in that film that turns my stomach. This, however, was a movie I grinned all the way through. I like the characters, I love the dialogue, there was just the right amount of nostalgia, and most importantly: this movie is fun without dragging me down with other problems, and that’s really all I need from a film.

So that's my list. I guess this is the part where I say "Come at me, bro." But you're not gonna change my mind so maybe go read a book instead. And review it! Because authors like nice things like food and shelter.

Next week I've got an interview with Beth Cato and maybe something about my possible trip to Kansas City this weekend! Until then, stay sexy!


Tuesdays with Lexie: Brooke Johnson

Welcome to the first installment of Tuesdays with Lexie, a series where I talk to people that I find interesting and ask them inane deeply insightful and award-winning questions about their books, their jobs, or just prettttty much anything I want. My first sacrificial guest is Brooke Johnson, steampunk aficionado and all around cool person whose hair consistently shocks and amazes.

Obligatory Tell Us About Your Book, Brooke! *shiny plastic smile here*:

The Guild Conspiracy continues the story of Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, as she tries to stop the conspiracy she uncovered in the first book, The Brass Giant. The British Empire is on the brink of war with the anti-imperialist French, and she’s determined to do whatever it takes to prevent it—even going so far as committing treason to keep the conflict at bay. Throw in the complications of a long-distance boyfriend, the excitement of an underground mechanical fight ring, and the watchful eye of a Royal Forces soldier, and Petra has more than enough to contend with in this book.

THE GUILD CONSPIRACY is your first full sequel in this series, though there’s a spin-off novella (THE MECHANICAL THEATER, starring Petra’s older brother Solomon) available for readers as well. What challenges did you face when coming up with a sequel? And what surprised you the most?

When I first started writing The Brass Giant, I had no idea there would be a sequel. I thought the story would be wrapped up, a simple one-and-done standalone novel. I was obviously very wrong. I got about 75% into my outline before I realized that I couldn’t wrap everything up by the end. So it was about that time that I started thinking of what would happen next. And that’s where I ran face first into a megaton of bricks. It took me literal years to iron out the details of what would happen in the second book. I went through several unfinished half-drafts before finally settling on a story that made sense and felt right as a successor to the first book. Some elements from those early attempts remained: the mech fights, the final airship battle, and the addition of the best friend character. But only traces. (There’s a reason I never finished a draft before this.)

Really, the hardest part was coming up with a compelling plot, a high-stakes conflict to top what happened in the first book. I went through several different outline revisions before settling on the final plot. I wanted something new, something different enough that it wouldn’t feel like the same plot as the first book, but something familiar enough that people who enjoyed the first book would hopefully enjoy the sequel. And I think that’s where I ran into the most trouble. I was very reader-conscious when I wrote this book. The Brass Giant, I wrote for me, to see if I could write steampunk. The Guild Conspiracy, however, I wrote for literally everyone but me. So that was crippling at times, constantly thinking of how it would be received, instead of just writing the damn thing. But I got through it. Eventually. And with an acceptable degree of sobbing.

As for surprises, I did not expect to hardcore ship a certain pair of characters like I did. In my outline, there was not going to be a romance in this book. Then suddenly, there was a romance subplot. When I had these two characters on the same page, I could not help but want to shove them together and make them kiss. I fought it. I cut every single iteration of romance. I put it back in. I scaled it back. Removed it. Revised it. The final result is very different from any of the early drafts I conceived, and I only came to a decision on how exactly to resolve things after a long talk with my editor. A good surprise, at least. :)

Because I’m a sadist, who’s your favorite character in your own work?

Oh, this is tough, but if I have to choose… I’d say Rupert, the best friend character introduced in The Guild Conspiracy. He’s just that steadfast, really thoughtful kind of friend who will always be there for you no matter what kind of shit goes down—even if it means helping your best friend to commit treason. He’s the kind of friend you call when you have a dead body and need someplace to bury it, the friend who shows up with a shovel at 3:00 am, no questions asked. That guy. Everyone needs a Rupert.

You’re a hybrid author, publishing both indie and through Harper Voyager Impulse. Everybody can read your DARK LORD IN TRAINING series free on Wattpad (Note to my readers: you should do that immediately, the premise is hilarious and charming). Do you find that there’s a lot of crossover between the two? Are there different skillsets you need to bring for each?

I started with self-publishing, so I have a soft spot for the DIY attitude that comes with going indie. As far as crossover, the writing is the same. I put just as much thought and attention into both when it comes to writing the actual story and trying to entertain my readers. The biggest difference is that I very much go solo with my indie stuff. Some people prefer to hire editors and cover designers and ebook formatting services and publicists. I don’t, so all of those tasks fall to me. Whereas with my traditional stuff, all of those things go to the art department and a team of editors, so that I can focus on whether or not my sales rankings have moved since yesterday. There’s a lot more work involved in self-publishing, but really, for me, the biggest difference comes down to the format. With Dark Lord in Training, I’m writing the story one chapter at a time, (irregularly) posting each chapter as I finish it. That’s a challenge in itself, very different from writing a first draft, editing the whole thing twelve times over, and then publishing a novel in its entirety. And being able to get instant reader feedback is something you just don’t get whenever your chest-deep in your second round of edits and can’t figure out what words are anymore.

What would you name your own personal airship?

Probably something containing “pickle” or “turnip”. I don’t know why. They’re funny words. I like them.  

The Indomitable Turnip.

For somebody looking to read steampunk for the first time, where would you recommend starting?

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. That’s where I started, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to get into steampunk. If you’re already a big fan of romance-driven young adult or paranormal romance, then I’d recommend Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series, starting with The Clockwork Angel. For urban fantasy readers, Viola Carr’s Electric Empire series, starting with The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

Most important question of all: walk me through the strategies your characters would employ when playing D&D. Is there a min-maxer? Who’s the drunk bard? Does anybody accidentally derail the campaign? 

Oh man… okay:

So, Emmerich would be totally into it. He’s the guy who spends three hours building his character and figuring out just how to roleplay properly without being too annoying. He’s the one who brings props, plays in costume, and talks in a weird faux-medieval accent during each game session. He plays the studious wizard who multiclasses into bard.

Petra would be the min-maxer, analyzing the rules and gameplay in order to make the most overpowered character possible. She’s the one who would always be trying to “win” against the other players, despite being told numerous times that the game doesn’t work that way. She’s the fighter, duel wielding swords.

Braith would be the rules lawyer, keeping Petra in check and letting Emmerich do whatever the hell he wants because he doesn’t try to abuse the game. He’s always looking stuff up in the player’s handbook to make sure that everyone is playing their characters right. Braith ends up as the dungeon master.

Rupert is the tagalong friend who comes to hang out but doesn’t really care to learn the rules, so Emmerich tries to make him a character because he just loves making characters, but it’s way too complicated to play well, so Braith steps in and gives him the simplest character possible. Petra takes over and helps him max out his stats. Rupert ends up landing the killing blow in his first epic battle and starts to actually get invested in the game, and afterward, he ends up veering the group on the weirdest side quests because he still doesn’t really know how to follow a quest line from beginning to end. Also, it’s fun wrecking Braith’s carefully laid plans and forcing him to go off-book. He plays the curious, yet deadly accurate ranger.

Yancy is the guy who always plays the rakish swashbuckling rogue, drinks and flirts too much in-game, and pretends not to care about the game at all, but secretly he loves it.

And Selby is the guy that got dragged into the group because they needed a fifth. He thinks Braith is a terrible dungeon master, he constantly gets into fights with Petra over who should be the leader of the group, he finds Emmerich’s roleplaying annoying, and he can’t stand Rupert’s complete and total obliviousness of the rules of the game. But he still comes to every session because he doesn’t want to be left out and hear about all of their crazy shenanigans after the fact. Begrudgingly, he enjoys it. He plays the high and mighty paladin of the group.


In the face of impossible odds, can one girl stem the tides of war?

It has been six months since clockwork engineer Petra Wade destroyed an automaton designed for battle, narrowly escaping with her life. But her troubles are far from over.  Her partner on the project, Emmerich Goss, has been sent away to France, and his father, Julian, is still determined that a war machine will be built. Forced to create a new device, Petra subtly sabotages the design in the hopes of delaying the war, but sabotage like this isn’t just risky: it’s treason. And with a soldier, Braith, assigned to watch her every move, it may not be long before Julian finds out what she’s done.

Now she just has to survive long enough to find another way to stop the war before her sabotage is discovered and she’s sentenced to hang for crimes against the empire. But Julian’s plans go far deeper than she ever realized … war is on the horizon, and it will take everything Petra has to stop it in this fast-paced, thrilling sequel to The Brass Giant.

Buy THE GUILD CONSPIRACY: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | Harper Collins

10 Rules for Fiction Writing

Writing for the market is like chasing the bus from Speed. It's going too fast for you to keep up with on foot and if you do catch it, there's a high chance it'll blow up in your face. Also, it's controlled by sadists. This is why I recommend having a network of equally sadistic people on your side, who will help you understand those other sadists.

Every single idea you have, you'll discover somebody's already written it. That somebody's not you, however, and you should listen to your ego and go forward anyway.

Once you release your writing to the world, it is no longer yours. That doesn't mean you should let other people put their names on it, but it does mean that others have just as much right to interpret your text as you do. Even if they're completely wrong.

Read stuff. Especially the instructions for things with blades. That's not really a writing rule, but it can be applied in this situation, so I'll include it in my list. Read in your genre, outside your genre, signs on the highway, train station signs, terms and conditions for sketchy-looking sites asking for your money, and my books.

On the use of cliffhangers and twist-endings: be advised that though doing this might make you feel clever and powerful, there are sacrifices to be made for a properly shocking twist ending or cliffhanger. Notably, these include the idea that there is anything else in your story besides the ending, as you'll find that's what most people talk about. If you have something you feel is more important inside the story, it may be wiser to play it safe.

Ha, who am I kidding? Safety lights are for dudes, and playing it safe is for people who probably have happy, healthy hobbies and careers that don't give them a statistically higher chance of developing anxiety and depression.

You're not a real writer until you've made a 10 Ten Rules for Writing Fiction List.

Know your audience. Study them deeply. Know what they want and decide if you're going to give it to them. Move in with them. Live in their house. Eat all of their food. Be ready to run when the police arrive.

When visiting museums of writers you admire, be sure to warn your friends about how strange writers can be. For example, and this is ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICAL, if you were to say, drag three friends to the Kafka Museum in Prague, it might be wise to point out to them the meaning of Kafkaesque before they enter the museum and experience it firsthand. In the same vein, you are not a writer until you have developed a weird shtick for yourself, so get on that. Ferrets are a small and cute shortcut that probably won't bite you more than a couple times a day.

If you wanna be a writer, you should probably write. Just a thought.

Look, ma, I'm a real writer now! Stay sexy!

HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD Cover Reveal and News!

Hello, all! News:

I just released the cover of HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD on the LexieCon newsletter. It was a fun process to get to this cover; I’m pretty sure my editor only wanted to strangle me a little rather than the usual amount. Thank you to all of my Impulse friends, who got to see and comment on the covers in progress. I really like this one. I like the model, I think she really works for Angélica (the book’s in Gail’s POV, but Angélica gets her moments to shine again), and if anybody’s going to teach Gail to save the world, it’s probably going to be her. Why it’s Gail saving the world, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

For two weeks SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS is going for 99 cents on Amazon. Which is less than even a cup of black coffee, never mind one with all the bells and whistles. So if you want more Gail in the future (and trust me, I do, too), tell all your friends and neighbors and strangers on the street. And maybe consider leaving a review on any of the sites where you can purchase the book. Any bit of word you can spread to help an author out gets you more content, provided I can put down this racing game on my phone long enough to pen my new project.

Starting next Tuesday, I’ll have a semi-regular feature on this blog starring other authors, industry people, and those whom I just find fascinating. I’ll be interviewing people about books, all sorts of subjects, gaming strategies, so on and so forth. This will be a series called Tuesdays with Lexie and I hope to have a lot of great authors, editors, and subject matter experts show up and provide you with bits of brain candy since I’m terrible about keeping up any consistency in blogging.

Soft news: the MM paperback for HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD miiiiiiiiiiight be on shelves right in time for the holiday season, so plan ahead for that.

If you missed it, there’s a synopsis for HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD on the Overview page, too. I’m going to attempt to do a Facebook Live Q&A as the book approaches, so if you have questions, leave them for me in the comments and I’ll answer them with my face. Also probably with Nikki on my lap. I know why you’re all here. I don’t blame you. It’s pretty much the same reason I’m here.

Anyway, I hope your August is a really great one, that you’ve found at least one reason to smile today, and that you have the best week you can possibly have. See you on the other side!

Stay sexy!

How the GBBO Got Me Blogging Again...Sort Of

A few weeks ago, I fell down a hole and began watching non-stop episodes of The Great British Bake Off, which appears to be the United Kingdom’s (on the surface) gentle admonishment of American cooking shows. You know, the ones that typically have whips and strobe lights and force their contestants to relive every traumatizing experience in their lives just in order to get a plate of spaghetti and meatballs on the table. I’m sure you’ve seen these shows.

GBBO is exactly like that, minus the whips and chains. The sobbing still exists, the baking is still intense, but everything is viewed through the Stiff Upper Lip Filter, which means that you get confessionals with people saying, “Well, that was a bit of a disaster, innit?” while the tent is on fire behind them.

Mary Berry, cookery writer, judge, and half the reason every baker gets jittery. Just put alcohol in your bake and you'll be fine.
My favorite bits are watching the judges in their own tent cut each other lovely slices of pie and daintily drink their tea, while laughing lightly at the difficulty of the challenge they’ve created for the bakers. This is usually juxtaposed with a smash cut to the baking tent where at least four people are running around in a panic and somebody is on the cusp of a complete meltdown. All the while, Sue and Mel nick sweets from the benches and do their best to keep the bakers from falling into pits of despair.

It’s such an uplifting show, you should all watch.

Blackberry Crumb Bars, my own attempt at baking
 Anyway, one of the benefits of marathoning this show, apart from always being hungry, is that I’ve started to cook again. This is something that’s difficult to keep up, especially when I’m deep in a project like HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD. The truth of the matter is, there’s a great deal I can’t eat anymore thanks to my migraines (going to dinner with me is a blast, trust me) that I do need to cook pretty much all the time. And getting knocked out of that habit because the kitchen’s a mess or I have five thousand words to get through and I’m too exhausted to do anything else can lead to upswings in depression and anxiety. One of these side-effects of those periods is that I never have any idea of what to say and therefore this blog gets neglected. It’s a vicious cycle and one that’s difficult to break out of.

So, really, we have the GBBO to thank for me being back here, is what I’m saying.

July’s been a pretty busy month. A couple weeks ago, I drove up to Chicago with my mother to go watch the USWNT play against South Africa. I’d splurged a bit on the tickets since I adore the USWNT, so we had field-side seats in the middle of Soldier Field, which is very persnickety about what they’ll let you bring into the game. Luckily we had a clear bag so Mama Dunne could spend the game knitting, and I was able to get my extra charger in my back pocket, what with the way PokemonGO drains the battery so badly. How else would I get blurry shots of Kelley O’Hara if my phone battery died??

Spoiler alert: I completely forgot to look at my phone and therefore did not get any hilarious shots of Carli Lloyd facing off against a Pidgey. I know. I’ll live in this shame eternally. I did educate our waitress on the way home about how to play PokemonGO, to the eternal amusement of my mother. Out of all of her kids, I’m the least likely one to explain anything about Pokemon, but here we are. The world turned upside down.

I figured Captain Marvel was the way to go.
But the game itself was a lot of fun and very exciting. The score was a lot closer than I’d anticipated, but then, I knew very little about the South African team beforehand. They’ll be one to watch in the Olympics, which are my favorite sport of all time and I cannot wait. I plan to spend the entire month of August glued to the TV and I’m unashamed of that.

Before that, though, I’ll be even busier, as I’m flying in to San Diego Thursday night to spend the weekend catching up with friends and other authors. If you’re going to be in San Diego, give me a shout! I’ll be doing some things with the Nice Girls, for whom I occasionally write, and with other friends I’ve made throughout the years. I’m excited to see everybody, even though I don’t have passes to the con itself. I have a couple of research trips planned during that time, so if you’re in the area and want to tag along, let me know.

Other Announcements: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD has been moved back from September 20th to October 4th. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’ll get to see the cover before everybody else. I’ve already seen it and it’s prettttttttty. Also, I’ve updated the information on the book page about it, so I dunno if you wanna see what HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD is really about, but…you can click here, I guess.

(Reminder: preordering helps me write moar books for u)

Until next time, when hopefully I have other cool anecdotes to share with you: stay sexy!

PHXCC 2016 Con Report

Con Report

If I were to detail every awesome thing that happened to me this weekend, we’d be here for a week, so I put together a brief con report that I’ll probably use from now on.

Event: Phoenix Comicon 2016

Location: Phoenix, Arizona.

Location Details: External events seemed to be located on a hellscape version of Arrakis where the sandworms were Deadpool cosplayers and there was not a stillsuit to be found. Internal locations were also a piped in form of hell: Dante’s ice hell. No middle ground: either it was sweater weather or it was full on face-melting from Indiana Jones.

Goals for Event: Not embarrass self. Meet awesome authors. Sign more than two books.

Goals (See Additional Notes): Achieved / Inconclusive / Failed

Additional Notes: Embarrassment on the scale of 1-10 never reached higher than a 4. No major faux pas committed. Awesome authors met includes Jamie Wyman and her lovely family, Becky Chambers space nerd extraordinaire, Ryan Dalton the magnificent (his magician stage name, shh), Rachel Thompson (you’re gonna be published one day, you totally count), Joe Nassise, Adam Christopher, Django Wexler, Paige Orwin, Alexandra Oliva (go read her book, it’s AWESOME), Austin Aslan, and many others. Also, more than two books signed!

The fun of doing conventions before your paperback is out!


Panels Participated In: Fantasy Draft League, Writing Bad Ass Women, Harper Voyager Spotlight, Superhero Something Or Other, Brighter Tomorrow

Panels Attended: Mixed Media, Evil as Heck, Would I Lie to You, Worldbuilding, Drinks with Authors, Annual Taco Guild Meetup

Austin had dinosaurs on his shirt and did a Kermit the Frog impression. A-okay in my book.

Additional Notes about Panels:

Fantasy Draft League write up is here.

Writing Bad Ass Women turned into a panel on writing diversity and that makes me a little uncomfortable because we were three white women and a white man. Not that we didn’t have good things to say—or I hope we did. We also talked about the “strong female character” (somebody who is strong because she can punch things) vs. the nuanced female character. They can be the same thing, but they rarely are. I broke the unspoken con rule when I ventured outside of the genre to talk about well-written female characters that I love.

THEY HAD T-SHIRTS and look it's Caroooo!

Harper Voyager Spotlight Panel kicked off an amazingly full day on Saturday in phenomenal fashion. My grandmother and uncle flew in from LA, something they didn’t tell me they were going to do. I wrote about that here. I got to pimp both Gail and Mae from WOODWALKER, which, if you haven’t read it, you should pick that up ASAP. It was neat to read a book that’s so loving to and of the forest.

Beth and her flaccid breadstick at Drinks with Authors
Superhero Something Or Other is the first panel where I experienced the Smurfette principle by being the only woman. That made me nervous, but nobody played gatekeeper. Adam Christopher, who writes freaking ELEMENTARY, is delightful and we ended up having a great conversation on stage. I remember at one point I groaned about the new Spider-man movie retreading Uncle Ben’s death yet five minutes later went into a long soliloquy defending origin stories. I am a woman of contrasts. I also used Gail Simone’s logic to point out that Superman should be in skimpy clothing by Starfire logic. That’s right. I used the term “butt window” in front of my grandmother. Granted, I said “bitchin” multiple times at my grandfather’s funeral, so nobody should be surprised.

Brighter Tomorrow: the panel where I nearly passed out! Not sure why I was on this panel. I definitely felt like the class clown among all the smarter kids. Luckily, it was the second-to-last panel time on Sunday afternoon, so hopefully nobody noticed. The subject was about hope in fiction/dystopian fiction, and we discussed that there’s no single pat way to portray a story. Also I used Tumblr arguments at some point. I think.

Team Raging Kittens vs. Team Sparkle Pony Genocide

For attended panels, Would I Lie To You remains a highlight. Beth Cato was on the panel. It’s a game show where each member of a team is given two truths and a lie to read. The other team determines which it is by asking questions. I don’t think either team missed one until Team Raging Kittens threw the game (the trophy was a 3-D printed statue of Dickbutt, named Philip K. Dickbutt, and they very much DID NOT WANT). I will say that whoever wrote Beth’s lie for her maaaaay have sabotaged her because it was “This is a lie you would write for Beth and Beth alone.” But she defended it well!

Signings Attended: Got books signed by Scott Sigler, Brandon Sanderson (though I didn’t get to talk to him, a very kind fellow took mine with him when he went to stand in line), Jamie Wyman, Ryan Dalton, Joe Nassise, Alexandra Oliva, Adam Christopher, and Christina Henry, whom I was delighted to see again after C2E2.

Signings Participated In: Six. Which is about how many books I sold (probably more). They were…I won’t lie, they were hard on the ego because it was a lot of watching people walk by. Rothfuss and Sanderson and Sigler had lines but the rest of us had a few trickle in and out. I sat next to Christina Henry and caught up with everything going on with her (Red Queen’s coming out soon!), and got to have long conversations with Joe Nassise, Adam Christopher, and Becky Chambers that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Company Rating Overall: Half the reason I asked to go to Phoenix was to see Lucky, with whom I traveled to Europe a few years ago. Her life’s a little hectic right now, but it was downright amazing to see her again. I love her attitude and the fact that she never complained about the hectic pace of the schedule. Even when we kind of broke her (I hope her ankle is getting better). Seeing her again was the best part of my weekend.

Overall Status Report

11/10 Con. Would con again. Recommended for every author who doesn’t enjoy standing still. Also, go eat the Taco Guild. You won’t regret it.

Stay sexy!

That Time I Made Up a Story and Somehow Won?


I plan on writing up a full con report because if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve been about 500% more active than usual with pictures and tweets and jokes and making new friends. This weekend I was at Phoenix Comicon, which has probably been my favorite con to attend to date. There were so many authors present, there’s an actual Taco Guild restaurant in an old church, there were signings and panels and game shows and friends and lots of alcohol. But I’ll talk about all of that in my Con Report. Today I just want to throw something on the blog that happened last Thursday because it was a neat experience.

That’s right:

Fantasy Draft League


For those of you that haven’t heard of it, David Pomerico did a write-up about it on the Harper Voyager blog. Basically, two judges are selected (Beth and Scott) and four panelists attempt to put together an RPG adventuring-style party assembled from pop-culture characters. The five types are the Warrior, the Cleric/Druid, the Wizard, the Rogue, and the Wildcard. Each person gets a chance to pick first at least once. I received first pick for the warrior round.

After the teams were assembled, Beth and Scott called upon audience participation to choose 10 locations, 10 disasters, and 10 villains. Luckily we were a room full of nerds and somebody in the back had a 10-sided die, so we did a random encounter roll. The results:

Location: Inside an Ikea
Disaster: A replicating horde of robot-rabbits is attacking
Villain: Zoom is trying to kill us all

Panelists were given a 5-minute window of time to argue WHY their team would defeat Zoom. By luck of the draw and prolific-ness (I had the most books of the panelists, with 2.5), I got to go last.

My team ended up being Xena Warrior Princess, Menolly and her 9/10 fire lizards from the Dragonriders of Pern books, Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey Mouse (as opposed to Nicolas Cage's character in The Sorcerer's Apprentice), Felicity Smoak, and Rachel from Animorphs (which played in really well because Austin Aslan initially said he wanted the bear from The Revenant as his warrior, so we were making bear jokes. A bear is Rachel’s primary morph). Austin also really played up the nostalgia and went with The Dude, some wizard I don't know, Marty McFly, Indiana Jones, and Kermit the Frog. Alexandra Oliva assembled a team of really cool characters that I didn’t recognize—and Buffy, which in my book makes her the automatic winner.

My notes during the panel

Ryan Dalton, who is a sweetheart, had Dr. Strange and a buuuunch of others on his team that sounded awesome and seemed to come from Dragonlance. He spun this story that involved a force bubble and time travel and alternate dimensions, and altering reality, and it was all metaphysical and amazing. Alexandra used Ragnar character to read the IKEA packaging and her plan was also amazing, but I was trying to think of my own plan, so I admit I only heard bits of theirs. Austin's plan involved going back in time repeatedly to stop the whole thing from happening in the first place so that the Dude could Abide. Being somewhat of a supervillain myself, I may have poked holes in it by pointing out that you can't get the DeLorean up to 88 INSIDE the Ikea. He more than made up for this by doing an amazing Kermit impression.

And finally, it was my turn. And I shall share with you my ultimate plan to defeat Zoom using five very random allies.


1. Menolly uses the Fire Lizards to dive-bomb the replicating robot rabbits. One of them is literally named Diver, they're good at dive bombing things, and they're the perfect size. Meanwhile...
2. Xena has the time of her life going YIYIYIYIYIYIYIYIYI and fighting the robot rabbits. This allows for...
3. Mickey to use his magic and create more and more brooms and buckets, spreading soapy water all over the floor and thus enabling Zoom not to be able to run fast because he's slipping and sliding everywhere. While...
4. Felicity Smoak uses Rachel as a dogsbody since her powers are absolutely no good to me on this plan. Through the strength of girl power and teamwork, they use the furniture around them assemble a portal to send Zoom to another planet—with at least two spare bolts and a weirdly shaped allen wrench left over.
5. In the end, Zoom gets slowed down enough for Xena to chakram off his head. And as a non-Animorphs but still really cool Rachel pointed out, Felicity could hack the robot rabbits, ending their dominance over the Ikea.

Guys dressed as Green Lantern and Green Arrow try to poke holes in my plan by pointing out JUST HOW FAST Zoom runs and would he really be stopped by soapy water? To which I replied, “MAGIC soap. Mickey Mouse is MAGIC, therefore the soap is MAGIC.” And every time they argued, I just repeated the word “MAGIC.” This, dear readers, is called committing to your premise. Or just my stubborn Norwegian blood coming out.

The judges got together and declared me the winner, which was a huge surprise since I thought every other plan was better than mine! Ali’s had Buffy! Austin did a mic drop! Ryan obliterated the Ikea! But while Ali got an honorable mention for incorporating the Ikea language, every other plan used the characters' abilities amazingly, but because Felicity built the portal out of the furniture, I was the only one who used the world, too. Which evidently showed great world-building and wasn’t just me throwing concepts at a wall until one of them stuck. Totally.

If you get a chance to do a Fantasy Draft League panel in the future, definitely sign up. It’s so much fun. We lucked out with a location and a villain I could actually understand, though. Maybe I should read Dragonlance.

More about the con coming later, but for right now, I have to go edit a book!

Stay sexy!