Category: News

Esther-DiamondThe next Esther Diamond novel–in which Esther, Max, & friends confront Evil in its natural habitat, Wall Street–finally has a title: Goldzilla.

Quick refresher, the previous series titles are, in order: Disappearing Nightly; Doppelgangster; Unsympathetic Magic; Vamparazzi; Polterheist; The Misfortune Cookie; and Abracadaver.

And frankly, coming up with a fantasy pun for every Esther Diamond title is a bitch. There are times I could hit myself with a brick for having started this pattern in the first place. But by the time I realized around book #4, Vamparazzi (and I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to come up with that one), that this was going to be hard to sustain, it was too late. The pattern was already established, and my publisher-and-editor Elizabeth (Betsy) Wollheim of DAW Books was by then adamant and exacting about it.

I spent weeks (maybe months) flinging titles at Betsy for books #5 and #6, all of which she kept rejecting as not clever enough (and sometimes deplorably lacking in even the faintest glimmer of cleverness). At one point, frustrated by how long the work was getting stalled by this problem (because the ED plots arise from the premise implied in the titles), I blurted, “I can’t be clever all the time!” To which She Who Must Be Obeyed replied, “Yes, you can. We pay you to be clever all the time.”

(And, well, speaking from experience, that’s still easier than being paid to clean kennels, wait tables, clean houses, make cold calls, take orders from martinets, or deal with the public during the holidays.)

I finally thought up Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie during the World Fantasy Convention one year, which Betsy and co-publisher Sheila Gilbert were also attending. So I hunted them down, said each of these titles, and got the right reaction–a quick laugh. (And, finally–thanks be to Fortune!–got title approval.)

That’s how I know an Esther title works, or at least has potential to pass muster with La Wollheim: When I say it to someone, they laugh. (The real challenge, then, is to make my editor laugh.) If I get a puzzled frown or a politely wan smile from my test case, then I know I have to keep searching for a title.

That’s also how I know if someone is a potential Esther Diamond reader: When they ask the title of something I’ve written recently and I tell them, they laugh. That’s someone who might go look for the books now.

In contrast, there are people–including a few dear friends of mine, so this doesn’t mean they’re “bad” people or dumb or anything like that–who look puzzled and say, “What?” And I say, “Doppelgangster” or “Vamparazzi,”  or whatever. And they again say, “It’s… what?” And I repeat the title, and they say, “It’s what?” And when I explain (ex. “it’s the word doppelgänger combined with ‘gangster,’ so the story is about mobsters who are dying mysteriously soon after seeing their own perfect doubles–which is what a doppelgänger is”)… they look at me with pity and doubt. Experience has taught me that that’s someone who’s not likely to become an Esther Diamond reader. (Humor is very individualistic, and the author’s own notion of what’s funny isn’t ever going to hit everyone’s sweet spot–not even the sweet spot of every person she counts as a true friend.)

Anyhow, Abracadaver proved to be an even steeper hill for me. I spent weeks sending titles to Betsy, who never cracked a smile (phosphorically speaking). And after a few weeks, I kept hearing this title in my head, but I didn’t know what it meant, and it had nothing at all to do with the plot I’d been working on, so I ignored it and ignored it and ignored it… Until eventually, in weary desperation, I sent it to her–and got a prompt response indicating, That’s it! That’s your title!!

Which was great, except that… I had no plot idea for the phrase “Abracadaver,” and I had a plot started that didn’t go with it. Arrrggghh!!

However… the exact same thing had happened with The Misfortune Cookie, and I actually wound up with a much better story, as well as a better title, by going along with Betsy’s exhausting standards. Which is why she’s the editor and I listen to her. Every time she has insisted a title wasn’t good enough, then after we finally settle on a title… I look back and see that, yep, she was right, my previous suggestions weren’t very good, and this is the right result. I also don’t even really remember the story ideas I was working on for Misfortune Cookie and Abracadaver before getting final titles, so probably those story ideas weren’t that good, either.

But when it came to Esther Diamond #8, I was really stuck. Even I hated all the titles I was coming up with, most of which I never even showed to Betsy. Finally, since I had to get a move on, I started sending her a few titles, none of which worked. Aware of my ill-concealed desperation, she asked me for details about the story, in which Esther and Max get involved in a Wall Street caper and encounter greed, riches beyond the dreams of avarice, greed, bankers and traders and brokers, greed, corruption, greed, gold and loot and money, greed…

And it was Betsy, praise be upon her name, who came up with Goldzilla, which perfectly fit the still-vague vision I had for this book which is pretty much about (in case you didn’t catch it) rapacious greed–and where it leads. So this, too, is an example of why it’s good to have an editor who really gets what you’re doing. (Compared to some publishing houses I’ve dealt with, where I worked with editors who didn’t even know who I was or why I was bothering them when I tried to discuss my contracted projects with them.)

So that’s where we are–we have a title! And I’m working on the book. I hope that the brilliant Dan Dos Santos will again do the cover (he’s done all but one of the previous Esther covers), but I don’t have information about that yet. I also don’t have a firm release date yet–will post it when I do.

Meanwhile, in related news, I’m very happy to say that Abracadaver made SciFiChick’s Best of 2014 list! Sci-Fi Chick is a reviewer who reads an extraordinary number of books each year, in addition to interviewing authors and maintaining a cool website.

The 7th book in the Esther Diamond series, Abracadaver was released in November. I’m grateful to DAW Books for acquiring the series from me after it was dumped by its previous publisher after one badly-published book (DAW subsequently reissued Disappearing Nightly, the first Esther novel), believing in this series, and doing such a great job with it. And I’m so happy that readers enjoy the books–which I love writing!

So, my thanks to everyone who has been enthusiastic about Esther Diamond!

My newest short story, “Dave the Mighty Steel-Thewed Avenger,” is currently available online for free, for a limited time, at Urban Fantasy Magazine!

Check out this month’s mag cover (based on the story).

UFMv1i4-smIn this story, a disenchanted law student leaves a bar late one night and realizes he may have had one too many drinks when he meets a talking opossum, a Valkslayer, and the Dread Grzilbeast!

You can also order this edition (epub or Mobi) for $2.99 or subscribe to the mag for a year.

I’ve got a short story in the February edition of Urban Fantasy Magazine. I love the mag cover, which is based on my story.

UFMv1i4-sm

 

In “Dave the Mighty Steel-Thewed Avenger,” a disenchanted law student leaves a bar late one night and realizes he may have had one too many drinks when he meets a talking opossum, a Valkslayer, and the Dread Grzilbeast!

You can order this edition (epub or Mobi) for $2.99 to read the story now (or subscribe to the mag, if you like), or/and you can wait for them to post it in the online edition.

Just back from ConFusion in Dearborn (Detroit), Michigan, where I had a very good time, visited with old friends,  made new friends, talked craft and business (two of my favorite subjects), and did not get enough sleep. Same old, same old. 

Came home to find that the interior illustrations are all completed for BLACKGUARDS, an anthology in which I’ve got a new short story set in Sileria. Here it is!

Friendship
This is for a story titled “Friendship,” set two or three years before In Legend Born (Book 1 of the Silerian Trilogy) takes place. In Valdani-occupied Sileria, two powerful waterlords in the outlawed Honored Society are competing for dominance in the lawless mountain regions where the empire’s Outlookers have only tenuous control of the volatile and perpetually feuding population. When someone offers Kiloran friendship–always a very loaded term in Sileria–in exchange for his help with a problem, the shrewd old waterlord sees a chance to outmaneuver his ambitious younger rival, Baran, and so he sends one of his most capable assassins on a dangerous and secretive mission…

This story was commissioned by Ragnarok Publications for their upcoming anthology, Blackguards (for which I don’t yet have a firm release date, but it’s apparently going to be this spring). Funded by Kickstarter, the project raised so much money that all the stretch goals got funded–including commissioning an artist to do an original illustration for every story in the book. You can view the whole set of drawings here.

It’s going to be a very cool anthology with a lot of great stories, and as soon as we have a firm release date, I’ll let you know!

Esther Diamond: Abracadaver by Laura ResnickAbracadaver, the seventh Esther Diamond novel is out (as of Tuesday, 25)!

As readers may remember, at the end of Esther Diamond #6, The Misfortune Cookie,  Esther and her friend Alberto “Lucky Bastard” Battistuzzi suddenly suspect something is mystically suspicious about Quinn, the new police partner of Esther’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, Detective Lopez.  They’re alerted to this by the peculiar reaction that contact with Quinn sets off  in Dr. Maximillian Zadok’s trusty familiar, Nelli (a dog who is the size of a small moving van).

Confession: When I wrote that scene, I had no idea what was strange about Quinn or what Nelli had sensed. I delivered The Misfortune Cookie to Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books and started pitching titles for the next book, still not knowing what was “wrong” about Quinn.

In writing him as a minor character in The Misfortune Cookie, Quinn had come across to me as a quintessentially regular, ordinary, standard-issue guy. So I wound up feeling his very ordinariness meant he must be really out of the ordinary in some way. Nelli can sense what the rest of the characters can’t, so she would be the obvious candidate to notice something “off” in a seemingly ordinary guy about whom Esther has no suspicions whatsoever. And since Nelli can’t talk, Max, Esther, and Lucky can’t simply ask Nelli what’s worrying her about this person. So they’ve got to determine how to find out on their own—and to do so without arousing Quinn’s (or Lopez’s) suspicion, since it’s possible that whatever Nelli has sensed about him makes him very dangerous.

Editor Betsy Wollheim

Betsy Wollheim of DAW Books accepting the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Editor.

So that was as much as I knew about Esther Diamond #7 (ED7) when I started pitching titles to La Wollheim.

Although the way I usually write most books (and short stories) is to start working on a story and wait for the title to emerge from that process, the ED titles are all paranormal puns, and these are such a bitch to think up (made all the harder by a monstrously cruel demonic demanding editor who keeps turning down proposed ED titles until we come up with one that’s good enough), I usually start an Esther Diamond novel by trying to find the title first, then I plot the book.

Before I have a title, I already know certain things about the next book, such as the main events that will occur in Esther’s personal and professional life, probably which of the series’ regular or semi-regular characters  will be in it, and probably what sort of setting the book will have (ex. Chinatown, or an Off-Broadway theatre in the Village, or Harlem, etc.). But I usually figure out the story’s specific supernatural menace and the storyline based on the title that’s finally approved.

However, since it can take weeks to come up with a title that She Who Must Be Obeyed approves, I often start thinking about a plotline before I have a final title. And this usually goes badly. I had to throw out my plot ideas for both Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie after I finally got title approval—because those titles had absolutely nothing to do with the ideas I was working on. (This was meant to be, obviously; the final stories I came up with are better than what I was working on, which stuff I barely even remember now. And this is an example of why, even when I want to drum my heels, I let Betsy have the last word on my Esther Diamond titles.)

Well, we went so long without a workable title for ED7 that, behind the scenes, the book was becoming known as Erectile Dysfunction #7.  And then after a while, this word—abracadaver—kept popping into my head. It had nothing to do with the story idea I was working on for Erec… Esther Diamond #7, and I had no idea why it kept coming to me. But since it did, and since I was getting desperate, I emailed it to Betsy one night around 2AM—and got an immediate reply indicating THAT’S IT! THAT’S YOUR TITLE!

Cool! So now I had a title! At long last!…

And absolutely no freakin’ idea how the hell I was going to get a story out of the word “abracadaver” that would explain why Nelli thought something was alarming about Quinn.

I finally figured it out about two weeks later. And when I did, it was one of those forehead-slapping moments. It seemed so obvious to me, I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t seen it instantly.

But as my friend Mary Jo Putney often reminds me, if this job were easy, everyone would do it.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy Abracadaver!