January Black: My Interview with Royalty

I met Wendy Russo through Six Sentence Sundays. She’s been sharing parts of the history she’s chronicling about the Kingdom of Columbia and I’ve been enjoy them very much—especially the parts that include King Hadrian.

So when I heard that she had a book coming out, I wanted to ask her if she would agree to be interviewed.  I couldn’t reach her, but somehow, the Palace switchboard forwarded me to His Majesty’s private number. I’m not sure how it happened, but I was invited for morning tea on the East Lawn and a brief interview!

As the media is strictly controlled on The Hill, as the capital city is called, the interview was carefully transcribed and sent back to me in this format.  None of the photos I took seem to be on my camera, either . . . so I did the best I could.

 I’ve decided not to rock the boat, but you might want to see what Wendy is up to elsewhere.

I will add, though, that the gardens were gorgeous and tea was lovely—those little sandwiches they served were amazing. 

And King Hadrian lives up to his reputation, in several ways:


SW:  Thank you for granting me an audience today, Your Majesty.

H: Sir, if you must, but I prefer Hadrian.

SW:  Really?  All right, Your Ma—Hadri—Sir.

H: You are, in fact, doing me a favor. I have a standing appointment with my cousin and this interview gave me a reason to cancel.

SW:  I’m glad to be of service, Sir.  [shuffles notes] Excuse me, I’m a bit nervous . . . Here it is:  I understand you were recently voted the sexiest man in the Kingdom by Spark! Magazine—


H: No. I apologize for interrupting. I nominated Conrad and he was voted the sexiest man [gestures to the nearest Kitsune, who rolls his eyes]. That was seven years ago. He’s still trying to get off that list.

SW:  I can understand why he might be having difficulties . . . And I’m surprised you’re not on the list yourself!

H: [shrugging] It’s kind of you to say, Ms. Wesson. Unfortunately, being sexy doesn’t get me out of meetings, so it’s not worth much to me.

SW:  It could if you—have you tri—I mean, is there anyone special in your life at the moment?

H:  Wendy tells me that you’ve written a story about militant librarians.

SW:  Um . . . yes, Sir, but I’m sure my blog readers are more interested in you.  Have any of the lovely ladies you appear to have escorted over the years objected to the constant presence of the Kitsune, your personal guard?

  H: [lip twisting]  None.

SW:  The Kitsune wear white at the Palace, as they are now, black while you’re acting as CEO of Steer Industries, and gray when you appear as president of your Assembly. What do they wear when they accompany you on a private romantic evening?

H: I supposed they would wear white, as I’m the king even when I’m not working elsewhere. Honestly, though, it’s never come up.

SW:  It hasn’t?

H: I don’t date.

SW:  You don’t . . . But that’s . . . Really? [crosses off several more questions and surreptitiously slides wedding ring back on]*

H: You see, Ms. Wesson, I work 14-hour days, during which I’m shadowed by armed guardians—at all times. I enjoy the few hours I have to myself in the mornings and evenings.

 SW:  So do I, sir—so do I.  Rumor has it that your ward has been courting a young lady employed by the palace.  

H: Ward?  Oh, you mean Matty Ducayn. He’s not really a ward…more of an experiment. Brilliant young man. And yes, his relationship with Iris is definitely going in a courtly direction. I’m not sure if they realize that yet.

SW: Does she have ties to the aristocracy?  Or to Steer Industries?

H: None. She’s a member of the kingdom’s labor guild. The Regency has a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. Most of the people on The Hill look down on them, but they do work that Regents won’t do, like gardening.

SW:   Do you approve of their relationship?

  H: If not for me, Matty would still be sulking in my library thinking his sweet gardener hates him. Teenagers are so sensitive, are they not? She called him a stalker and the world may well have ended.  

SW:  They certainly are, sir.  I’m not looking forward to my own children’s teenage years!  I understand that your ward is taking some, ah, unscheduled time off from his studies and is traveling abroad. Is this for business or pleasure?  Is the young lady with him? Are you worried for his safety?

H: Mostly rumor. Iris and Matty have ventured about a mile past the front gates, to The Bazaar, but for the most part, they stay on The Hill. Matty may be distracted from the project I have him working on, but Iris has a labor contract to honor so travel’s rather out of the question just now.

SW:  May I ask about this project?

H: Your timing is excellent, Ms. Wesson, since we are on the subject of Matty rumors. You may have heard that he’s a troublemaker, which is how he ended up at my mercy. In truth, The Hill has very low tolerance for mischief and thus it is not really a place for someone who is both brilliant and bored. He reminds me of myself at his age, so when he was expelled, I exercised the liberty to give him a second chance. If he answers one question—What was January Black?—he graduates a ‘master’.

Of course, he’s finding that question a lot harder than he thought it would be.

SW:  Isn’t it always?  Your official Chronicler and my good friend, Wendy Russo, has been sharing short excerpts from her compilations of your reign each week through Six Sentence Sunday.  These have proved very popular. I understand that the palace has permitted her to release a book-length portion?

H: The palace has approved no such publication. Wendy’s book was aided in its release by The Cowboy.

SW:  I’m sorry [frantically searches notes] Wendy never mentioned a Cowboy—

H: I’m not surprised. Wendy’s fond of dropping things. Letters. Punctuation. Pronouns. Et cetera. The Cowboy is a rogue programmer. He’s been eluding the Aventine Police for years. One of his illegal activities is slipping books past Regent oversight. As a result, January Black is now available for your reading pleasure.

SW:  But you’re allowing it?  [nervously eyes Kitsune] You won’t, um, stop her or anything?

H: [leans forward and speaks softly] I’ve encouraged her from day one.

SW:  Oh.  I see.  I mean, I don’t, really, but that’s . . . reassuring?  Um.  How long has it taken her to compile the book?  

H: [sits back in his chair] I believe it took her five months to write and more than a year of editing.

SW:   Why did she think this particular story should go public?

H: Reynard Times-Courier, the Pressman from your novel. I’m unclear. Is he a fully robotic being, or a type of cybernetic organism?

SW:  [hastily swallows a bite of sandwich] Cybernetic.  You see, once someone is accepted into an apprenticeship in the Press Corps, they agree to a basic installation of—but that’s not really relevant  . . . [clears throat]  Wendy Russo has been traveling on an extended tour promoting the upcoming release—where can readers find her?

H: [Turning to the kingdom’s sexiest kitsune**] Conrad. Wendy’s schedule?

Conrad: Brazil, sir.

H: [raises an eyebrow] Brazil?

Conrad: It says here “Amazon”. She is also mentioned visiting some author acquaintances …SusanLouann, and Sherry.

H: She’s almost as busy as I am.

Conrad: [grinning in his hot, bad boy way***] That’s just today, sir.

SW:  Actually, Amazon is . . . never mind.  One more question, Your Ma—sir?  What was January Black?

H: [sitting back in his chair with a smile] Why are your pressmen named after archaic newspapers?

SW: [giving up]  Well, you see . . .

January Black Cover

As the son of The Hill’s commandant, sixteen-year-old Matty Ducayn is expected to conform to a strict, unspoken code of conduct. Small acts of defiance over years—such as walking on the grass—have earned him a reputation for being unruly. When sarcastic test answers finally get Matty expelled from school, King Hadrian offers him a diploma if he can answer a deceptively simple question.

What was January Black?

The challenge takes Matty, and his girlfriend Iris, beyond The Hill’s walls and tightly controlled media into a gritty world kept in check by riot police. There, the young couple follows a path through old books and clandestine news pages that becomes a collision course with a deadly royal degree.

As he realizes he’s been set up to fail, Matty must make a choice: walk away from the challenge with Iris and his life. Or call the king’s bluff.


*Darn it, they noticed.

**Wendy?  Who transcribed this?

***No, really.  It’s not like I disagree, because, whew, but seriously?


Bouchercon Aftermath

So . . . I arrived home from Bouchercon  (“Oh,  is that where you were?”) early yesterday evening, having achieved a truce with the GPS.*   I hugged and gifted and babbled like only an exhausted woman hyped on adrenaline and four bottles of diet Pepsi who is me can.

My homecoming, for those of you who didn’t see it on Facebook, went a little like this:

‎”So, how was the conference, honey?”
“I loved it! I learned a lot and met all these great people–”
“–Aaand I’m back.”

After baths and babble and a little Internet catch-up, I faceplanted into my own pillow and slept until 9:30 this morning, got up, and started doing laundry.  I swear, I didn’t pack this much . . .

But while I wait for the second load to dry,  I thought I’d do one final post about the experience.  I promise.

What I learned:

Pack something extra to wear just in case the weather gets nastier—or nicer—than it’s supposed to be.  And an umbrella.

Do not attempt the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without sensible shoes, moleskin-lined fab shoes, or a blister-care kit.   Watson just reminded me that moleskin packs flat, so go with that.

Don’t skip lunch or a  substantial snack just to squeeze in one more panel—even if you had breakfast four mornings straight and screwed up your hunger cues—and remember to stay hydrated, or you, too, will get seasick during that last afternoon panel because your blood sugar tanked and the gentleman in front of you kept swaying fore and aft to see the speakers.

Speak to almost everyone you meet—some won’t want to go past hello or a remark about the lethargy of the elevators, but the others will turn out to be interesting people: librarians and readers and tattoo enthusiasts, writers whose books you love or will love,** and a few who are wondering what’s going on—I had a couple of great conversations with the server at my hotel bar, where I dragged myself every afternoon to have a very late lunch.

Writers and agents and editors are real people.  Most of them are really nice people.  And they really, really don’t mind you telling them how much you love their work, clients, new releases, or blog posts.

You don’t have to worry about finding something to read at Bouchercon, but you may have trouble finding time to read.

Take in everything—while eating and staying hydrated—it’s only for a few days, sleep is optional, if you’re gonna do it, do it!

And take a day or two off afterward to recover—if I’d gone to work today, I’d have died.

What I brought home:

Eleven swag books; three first chapter sampler books; three books I bought for me; five books I bought for other people; a charge on my Amazon account for four more and a DVD; two tee-shirts, five buttons, and six pencils for friends; seven new e-mail or phone contacts and three Facebook friends; something fun for Mom, who reads this blog so enough about that (Dad, you’re getting one of the Amazon-purchased books); clinical exhaustion ; and my new favorite necklace:

I collect tiger’s eye jewelry (it’s rare enough to make it interesting, but not expensive enough to make it impossible) and friends have sort of made me into a collector of skulls, so the combination was irresistible.

The book room was a treasure trove, but there were other hunters out there and I lost out a couple times.  I managed to snag one of two copies of Jaden Terril’s A Cup Full of Midnight, but couldn’t find any of Mike Cooper’s books for love or money—same with Duffy Brown and R.D. Cain (whose books, as I think I mentioned, were stopped at the Canadian border).

As for those swag books, I’m planning to mail one title to each of the four people who wrote me poems lamenting the lack of a Poetry Wednesday—and don’t think I didn’t notice that no one complained until I offered a bribe—Averil, independentclause, Odie, and Kev.  E-mail me your first and second choices and a mailing address (Averil and Kev, send me a reminder, because I don’t know where I put yours).  And thanks for humoring me.

From top to bottom (cat not included):

Vision Impossible by Victoria Laurie

The Stranger you Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Pain Scale by Tyler Dilts

Life Without Parole by Clare O’Donohue

Road to Nowhere by JimFusilli

The Bubblegum Thief by Jeff Miller

Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

Murder at the Lanterne Rouge by Cara Black

It was a great time.  I highly recommend this conference for anyone who likes mysteries, cozies, thrillers, crime fiction, and general insights about writing and the business thereof—or who just wants to have a terrific time mingling with people who do.

The next Bouchercon is in Albany, which is probably not within solo driving distance for me, but if I can, I will.***  And if anyone would like to carpool, I can always pick up people along the way.


*She did lead me slightly astray on my way to meet Sherry Stanfa-Stanley for lunch—which really deserves its own post, because the whole trip was worth it just for that—but it wasn’t her fault, really, or mine, as her maps are four years old and the restaurant had moved.

**True story: twice, I ended up chatting to people for a while, only to find out that they were quite well-known authors.  I already mentioned Libby Fischer Hellmann, but Saturday night, I was talking with a friend of Alexandra Sokoloff and found out twenty minutes later that she was Heather Graham.  My patrons, who read anything of hers we can find, are going to plotz.

**I don’t mind flying, but I dislike airlines and airports (in general, not specifically) and loathe their business models.

Random Thursday: Library Edition*


funny pictures - You have some overdue library books

On the first of November, our library patrons will have the option of receiving automatic notices—about available reserves and overdue notices—via text instead of e-mail or phone.

Our e-mails go out at 6am, so the question was whether the issuing of text messages could be adjusted to a more reasonable time.

It can . . . which made me wonder about the possibilities—and the subjective definition of reasonable:

“This is the Public Library.  How may I help you?”

“You people texted me at two-thirty this morning!”

“I see.  May I have your library card number please?  Thank you.  Ah, yes, sir. You appear to have  several books that are months overdue.  I’m afraid we’ll be calling you bright and early each and every morning until they’re returned, or you pay to have them replaced.”

“You can’t do that!”

“It’s in the terms and conditions you signed when you registered for our texting notification service, sir, right under the warning that your carrier’s usual text fees will apply.”

“I never agreed to that!”

“You initialed both boxes, sir.”

“But . . . but this is harrassment!”

“You could always return the books, sir.”

“My taxes paid for those books—and they pay your salary, too!”

“I see.  Well, I suppose we could make an exception in your case.  How’s this—you return three of the five books and pay all of your fines, and we’ll move up your daily reminder to one am.  Agreed?”


I love this bookcase . . . but where do you start shelving?

epic win photos - Moebius Books WIN


Library Principles for Students, from the Old Testament
(adapted from Ian Frazier’s “Lamentations of the Father,” by librarian extraordinaire, Jim Farrington)

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the Library.

Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the Library.

Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the Library.

Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the Library.

Of the round pies of baked dough, topped variously and wondrously with goodness of the Earth, especially with extra garlic and double cheese, you may eat, but not in the Library, neither may you carry such therein.

Of quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but not in the Library.

Of the juices and other beverages, you may drink, but not in the Library, unless it is that drink of two parts hydrogen and one of oxygen and only then should the mixture be held in a container of the prescribed shape and nature that miraculously do not spill even when uprighted.

Indeed, when you reach the place where the Library carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

Laws When at Table, in Carrel, or in Wingback

And if you are seated in your comfy chair, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even though this might be something you would do in confines of your own domicile, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.

Draw not with your pens or pencils or other implements of writing upon the table or the books before you, even in pretend, for we do not do that; that is why. Yours shall not be the last eyes to gaze understandably upon the words so written, and they should be as fresh for your followers as for you and your antecedents.

On Vocal Discourse

Do not speak loudly with thy neighbor or study mate within the Library; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you find a troubling idea foisted upon your eyes between the bindings of a book, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not; only remonstrate gently with a knowing nod, that you may correct the fault of the author in your own essay.

Likewise, if you find your mind wandering from the soulfulness of your studies, again I say, refrain from conversing with whoever be at hand so that others might not be so distracted.

Play not the electronic gadgets fitted to your ears at such a volume as to cause others to march to your drum machine.

Though the need will eventually arise that you must give in to your ignorance of a matter bibliographic and throw yourself prostrate to the all-knowing ones behind the Great Oaken Desk in the Campbell Reference Center, wail not despairingly nor gnash the teeth loudly, for the sound carries great and far in that part of the Library, and then many of your peers will know of your misfortune; behold, I whisper myself, yet do not die.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Attempt not to repair broken word carriers with your own tape, for these are matters better left to our specialists.

Forget not that to steal is one of the original sins, and you will be punished woefully, if not now then in the fullness of time.

Although the Library’s computers are capable of seeing many wondrous sites in the World, look not upon the lascivious or unscholarly among them, nor print endless reams of things of which those who pay your bills would not approve.


New technology has always required some adjustment . .  .


* Downith started it by sending me this article—it’s not overly funny, but it is important!

In which a hypocrite bibliophile cleans her room

Janie is just as much of a clutterbug as I am, and it occurred to me last night that complaining about the state of her room is useless as long as my side of the master bedroom is worse.

Plus, you know, I have three chapters of Fun Project to finish and needed an excuse for not sitting down and getting to work.  Cleaning is traditional for this and hooking it up to parenting makes it sound noble.

It took me two hours.  Not because I’m unhygienic—all the laundry piled on and around the rocking chair was clean, thank you—but because I’m a good candidate for Hoarders:  Bibliovore edition.

Seventy-six books.  On my nightstand, on the floor by my nightstand, under my bed, on the back of the commode in the bathroom.  Both bathrooms.

I was strong.  I weeded out the forty I could bear to part with and put them in a bag for donation.  The rest are stacked neatly by my alarm clock or have been released into the general population. 

A general population that is about to call the Literary Civil Liberties Union to report severe and harmful overcrowding.   I’m not exaggerating by much—our books don’t have opposable thumbs, phones, or Internet privileges, but most of our shelves are bearing double rows of paperbacks and a couple lower ones have flat stacks of hardbacks six high.

We can’t keep all of them—okay, we can, but it’s not fair to the books (or the bookcases, if we’re going to go all anthropomorphic).  We don’t read half of them—we can’t see half of them.  So starting next week, the family is going to hold a good old-fashioned weed ing. 

If we can’t see reading it again, out it goes.  If we’ve left a series or author behind, out it goes.  If it’s an occasional reference book owned by the library, if it’s a duplicate or something I don’t mind reading on a screen, it’s gone.

This is going to hurt.  A lot.

But maybe they’ll find good homes, right?  Someone will want the 1980 The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (gorgeous cover) . . . or my spare copy of Police Procedurals: A writer’s guide to the police and how they work (1993)Or maybe Gerald’s Game by Stephen King, or Laurell K. Hamilton’s Blood Noir—both in hardback with dust jackets.


Tell you what:  pick one, leave a comment, and I’ll mail your choice to you for free.  If I don’t have any takers, these poor titles will have to take their chances at the library book sale.  And if they aren’t adopted sold within a certain time period . . .

Do you really want that on your conscience?