I can’t read what I want right now

Right now I’m working on Blood Rock, the sequel to Frost Moon, my novel about Dakota Frost, a magical tattoo artist who can create tattoos that come to life. It’s an urban fantasy novel set in Atlanta, where werewolves and vampires are real, magic was hidden by its own practitioners, and the counterculture of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s dragged it all into the light. Each book in this series focuses on one new monster and one new alternative culture practice made magical: Frost Moon focused on werewolves and magical tattooing, Blood Rock focuses on vampires and magical graffiti, and the upcoming Liquid Fire focuses on dragons and magical firespinning.

I recently completed the revision of Frost Moon, and am trying to get back into my groove on Blood Rock. I heard an author (I think it was Steven Barnes) recommend that you should read about ten times as much as you write, and while I don’t strictly follow that I do believe you need to expose yourself to a lot of writing to prevent yourself from falling into your own linguistic ruts. (You should do a lot of living too, and observing that living, but how to do that is something you must discover for yourself).

SO I went to pick up a new novel to read. When I started Blood Rock, I had recently picked up Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. A few pages into it I saw the beginnings of a plot thread similar to one I’m exploring in Blood Rock and immediately put it down. I don’t like to read things similar to what I’m working on “because stuff can sneak in even when you don’t know it’s happening” – a sentiment by Oliver Platt that’s as true about writing as it is about acting. I wrote a story once about a man fighting a crazy computer, and later found entirely unintended similarities to an episode of the Bionic Woman that I hadn’t seen in more than a decade.

So, no Fool Moon for you, not right now. I read Ayn Rand, H.P. Lovecraft, Steve Martin and many others, but finally wanted to roll around again to urban fantasy. So I picked up T.A. Pratt‘s Blood Engines. I didn’t start it right away, and in the interim I attended a fire ballet at the Crucible out here in the Bay Area, and decided to set a scene in Liquid Fire out here in the Bay Area. So I open Blood Engines … and finds out it opens behind City Lights Books in San Francisco.

So I put that one down. I then said, hey, let me get out my copy of Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Lieber, which people have recommended to me as a classic precursor of the urban fantasy genre. Flip it open: a reference to Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Dangit! What about this other book in my pile, the Iron Hunt by Marjorie Liu? Also features a magic tattoos. Dangit! Dangit! Dangit!

So I’ve given up on reading urban fantasy right now.

Instead I’m reading Severance, by Robert Butler, a series of flash fiction stories each 240 words long – the estimated number of words that someone could pass through someone’s head after they’ve been decapitated.

After that, hopefully I’ll be done with Blood Rock, and I can pick back up with the always dependable Anita Blake series by Laurell Hamilton. I love Anita Blake and think she’s a great character, but Dakota Frost is my reaction against heroines that start off as uber-tough chicks before the first vampire shows up. I’m more interested in telling the story of how the uber-tough chick got that way, of showing how meeting vampires and werewolves and magical misuse would force someone to toughen up. Anita, of course, has been through that, and is more like a Dakota Frost t-plus ten years in the trenches. So it should be pretty safe to read Cerulean Sins.

Just no magical tattoos, graffiti or firespinning. Please. At least till I finish these three books.

-the Centaur