As I wrote this, I was not sure I was going to share it. What happened in Orlando this weekend is too big and too terrible for words to wrap around. But at the same time, it feels terribly wrong let it pass without comment.

These random acts of violence and terror just keep happening.

It happens so often they start to blur together—how many died in that one again? Was that the one in Texas or Colorado? Which one was Navy Yard again?

Within a matter of just years, there has been a shooting incident near where each of my family members live, including two separate places that I have lived when the shootings occurred. One was just blocks from my home in the Navy Yard neighborhood of D.C. Right now I live about an hour from Orlando.

But this isn’t about me. The point is, there have been so many shootings at this point that most of you are probably nodding your heads right now because they’ve happened near you and your loved ones, too.

It has happened so many times I don’t know that I can take them all in anymore. When I read of yet another mass shooting, it no longer feels real. (Did it ever feel real?)

At the same time, each one chips away at me.

Every time, i see myself more in the horrific first-hand accounts. I see my husband, my siblings, my friends. Because the more it happens, the more likely it is to happen again.

As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I see something else, when these things happen—and really, perhaps this has nothing go do with spending half my time in alternate and possible future worlds. Perhaps we’re all thinking it. The big question is, what does everyday life start to look like when every time we go out to a club, every time we go to a movie, every time we go out on Saturday night, we have to start accepting that we might be part of the next random act of violence?

In my mind, it looks like people becoming more closed off. It looks like trust between neighbors eroding away. It looks like people who shut themselves into their houses, and joy and celebration fading from public life. It looks like empty streets, bleak greys and hooded figures who don’t dare get close to each other, who always know where the closet exit is, just in case.

This is not a world I want to live in.

When Monday’s TODAY Show took a break from Orlando to recap of the Tonys of all things, it was a shock—oh yeah, that. Other things are happening, too. The rest of the world keeps spinning.

So to go from the Orlando shooting to a recap of the Tonys, well. It’s strange. It feels odd. It makes “who wore what” a ridiculous question, and it makes “how many nods get Hamilton get” feel silly.

And then Lin-Manuel Miranda stands up and recites an incredible poem that reminds us that “Love is love is love is love is love.” That love and—and does—still win.

Then OneBlood in Orlando has to start urging people to come back later to give blood for the shooting victims, because they are over their capacity thanks to an overwhelming response of support from the community.

And a thousand other swells of support.

And I think—yes, this was a terrible, unimaginable act of terror. For the 49 people who died and their loved ones, things will never quite set right.

But there is still something stronger and bigger than hate out there. As Miranda declared in his poem, “Hope and love last longer.”

Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s full poem here.

My heart and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.

1

books

Golems have not gained the massive popularity that, say, vampires and zombies have. But they still get around, a lot more than we notice most of the time. Golems and other golem-like beings of inanimate materials brought to life with magic are easy to find within fantasy worlds.

Here are some places you can find golems in books:

golemjinni

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker
In this story about immigration in 1899 New York City, a golem is left alone after her master dies on the ship on their way to America. Meanwhile, a jinni is set free after being locked in a copper flask for 1,000 years. As each struggles to find their place in a new world, these two supernatural creatures stumble across each other.

feetofclat

Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett
Part of Pratchett's renowned Discworld series, this story combines quality fantasy with sharp humor. In a city teeming with vampires, werewolves, dwarfs, and, yes, golems, a reluctant Head of the City Watch must hunt down whatever is murdering people all over the city, and determine whether it is responsible for its actions ... or if someone else is.

golem wiesel

The Golem, by Elie Wiesel
This novel offers a retelling of the traditional Jewish folk tale of Rabbi Yehuda Loew and his golem (more about that here), as seen through the eyes of a village gravedigger who witnessed the golem's deeds as a child.

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Mud (Chronicles of the Third Realm War Book 1), by E. J. Wenstrom (A.K.A. me)
Adem is a golem whose maker bound him to protect a small box at any cost, even murder, and Adem can't bear it anymore. When an angel offers Adem a soul in trade for a favor, he agrees to take on a quest to break into the Underworld and steal back the soul of the angel's long-dead human love--and could drag the entire realm into an ages-old war along the way.

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The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink
In this enigmatic twist on the same folk tale about Rabbi Yehuda Loew, the golem recreates itself every 33 years in a room without a door, has the same face as the narrator, and haunts the people of Prague--a city that manifests in this story as an eerie, claustrophobic and fantastical underworld.

 

Join my email list--In the coming weeks, we'll delve into golems in television, movies and comic books.

Last night, ABC delivered the heartbreaking news that it is cancelling Agent Carter after two seasons.

Two amazing, butt-kicking, heart-melting, retro-adventurous, red-lipsticked seasons.

carterpuzzled

We're all puzzled, Peggy. We all are.

And we're also quite upset.

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Agent Carter has been an incredible bright spot in TV's darkest, bleakest time of year. The gaping hole that exists between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons between January and March.

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It's been a thrilling ride of witty banter, Bond-worthy spy gadgets, S.H.I.E.L.D. history, and colorful retro fashion.

carter death

Yes good point also the occasional death.

But more importantly, Agent Carter has put the spotlight on women in star roles and powerful positions, in male-dominated fields, while leaving men in supporting roles.

carter crowd

It's shown us how times have changed ... and the ways in which we still have a long way to go before we reach real gender equality.

carter fem

Also, Peggy is just badass. More than any other pop culture figure, Peggy Carter is my hero.

carter value

carter help

carter punch

carter gun little

carter gun

carter gun big

And can we also just relive this for a minute?

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I was so looking forward to this relationship in Season 3.

Goodbye, Peggy. I miss you already.  

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dire wolf

1. They’re not just fantasy creatures.

Dude. Dire wolves were real. Not to be confused with direwolves (one word), which only exist in Westeros.

2. These guys are hard-core wolves, as in Big Bad.
Both the real and the fictional versions of the creature are much like normal wolves, but larger and more ferocious. The Game of Thrones kind is also more intelligent.

3. Game of Thrones’ direwolves grow to be as large as a small horse.
The real life dire wolves were about 25 percent larger than modern grey wolves.

4. Real dire wolves lived right here in the Americas from 1.8 million years ago up until about 10,000 years ago.
They are believed to have died out during the most recent Ice Age, most likely due to the extinction of their most common prey.

 5. The dire wolf’s classification name is perfect.
The dire wolf is classified as “Canis dirus”—which means “fearsome dog.” Someone in the science naming department (that’s a thing, right?) does NOT beat around the bush.

 6. Additional science words for the dire wolf include “hypercarnivore” and “megafauna.”
Which are awesome words, first of all. But in addition to sounding badass, hypercarnivores are animals that get more than 70 percent of their diet from meat. Megafauna is science for animals that are really freaking big. Think: Elephants.

7. Even Westeros, most average citizens believe them to be mythical or extinct.
Direwolves only exist in the most northern parts of the kingdom—even the Stark’s region of Winterfell is more south than they typically venture. Most, reportedly, live outside the wall.

 8. After Sansa’s direwolf Lady was put down to appease Prince Joffrey in season one, Sophie Turner adopted her furry on-screen counterpart.
She’d always wanted a dog and her parents didn’t, she said. And hey, it’s sure to scare off intruders.

 9. Dire wolves are also the topic of a Grateful Dead song.
Which was aptly named “Dire Wolf.” Take a listen.

 

Learn more:
io9
Game of Thrones wiki
Wikipedia
About.com

 

2

EJ_RTCon_OldVegas

  1. Your stomach is filled with butterflies for eight continuous months between registration and the event because this is your first event as a legit, actually published author, and that's just crazy.
  2. You debate for weeks over what constitutes appropriate types and quantities of swag for your author table, and then just slap your name on a bag and order a ridiculous number of them.
  3. Your husband discovers he has a ton of traveler reward points, and he can totally come along and help you at the signing events if you want. (You want!)
  4. Then, because "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" laws apply to everything, your husband invites a couple of your friends along too, books you for some Vegas shows and extravagant dinners, because its Vegas and neither of you has been before and IT'S VEGAS, and you get super excited for every second of this trip but secretly know that it is going to totally destroy your little introverted soul.
  5. You spend a full week trying to come up with the best solution to get those damn swag bags into a larger bag so you can get them to RT Con, because you can totally do this and you are NOT paying for shipping, damnit, just to have an extra item on your to-do list when you get there of figuring out where they are being stored.
  6. You also needlessly pack your new Rayban sunglasses and perfectly-bright-blue Kate Spade purse, because Vegas seems like the type of place you can shamelessly rock them, and when you work from home and live at the beach there are not many opportunities for this type of thing. It's worth it.
  7. After you register you take a picture of your badge like the geek you are, because it has your name and also the title "Published Author" on it, which is a BFD.
  8. You attend sessions run by badass bestselling authors who know their shit and tell you their secrets, and your brain explodes from all the awesome.
  9. You meet all the peeps from your publisher in person for the first time and they are just as wonderful and awesome as you imagined.
  10. You try snow beef, just because Vegas is one of only four places in the country where you can. It lives up to the hype.
  11. You have random talks with a slew of authors at every point in their career, including a few you know from Facebook, writing for blogs, and more. They are all full of passion for the craft, and it's wildly invigorating.
  12. You do your first book signing. Although you feel like a total fraud setting up your booth, people seem to (amazingly) be really into the concept behind your story, you get to talk to tons of readers who love the same stuff as you, and you sell more books than expected. You leave exhausted, but glowing.
  13. You never actually adjust to the time change, wake up way too early every morning, and thoroughly confuse your body about when to eat. (Answer: Every time. Now.)
  14. You make the poor choice to take the last direct flight out from Vegas the last day of the event, which means packing up from the last day book signing as fast as humanly possible and booking it straight to the airport, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
  15. As a result you end up throwing $75 at Southwest needlessly because your bag is 10 pounds over the packing limit, and your brain can't cope with this extremely complicated life puzzle at this particular moment.
  16. You get home at 1 a.m. and most as little as humanly possible for the next two days in an effort to recover. which somehow still falls short.
  17. As you start to recover and feel like a person again, you flip back through your notes, remember all the people you met, and think hey, I should totally do this to myself again next year.

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EJ_RTCon_Signing
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Next week, I'm hitting Vegas. But instead of hitting the casinos, I'll be partying at the biggest book-lover event of the year: the RT Readers Convention.

Will you be there? Hit me up! I'll spend most of the week geeking it up in sessions about the craft and business of writing, but I'll also be taking some time to enjoy the con as a reader myself.

I'll also be making my first author appearances. On Saturday, you can catch me signing and selling books at the Giant Book Fair, and on Sunday, I'll be doing it all over again at the RT Roundup. Come say hello and grab yourself some E. J. Wenstrom swag 🙂

Wenstrom_EJ

And hey, if you've been to the RT Booklovers Convention before, either as a reader or an author, help a newbie out and leave me your tips in the comments!

Golems are not particularly well known fantasy creatures.

When people ask what my novel is about, I say "It's about a golem," and then I pause. When someone nods and says "Oh cool, go on," I know I've got a real die-hard fantasy fan on my hands. More often, people don't know what they are.

I didn't either, before I started writing Mud. I only found out about golems because I was actively looking for lesser-known creatures--something to get me away from the vampires and zombies and werewolves that have dominated the pop culture monster market for the last several years (not that there's anything wrong with those, I love that stuff and consume it constantly).

But the golem captured my imagination as soon as I found it. My take on golems in Mud is about as closely related to the classic golem folklore as Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series is to classic vampire lore, but it's some seriously cool, sometimes dark stuff that is worth knowing all the same.

mud

Here's 14 things to know about golems:

  1. Golems originate from Jewish folklore.
    Traditionally, they're creatures made of inanimate materials like clay, made animate with magic.
  2. Golems are made to serve their creators.
    Most accounts indicate that animated golems follow the commands of their creators.
  3. Well that's handy.
    Yup. Especially since golems are extremely strong. Maybe I should make one to carry my groceries from the car to my apartment.
  4. The term "golem" is only used once in the Bible.
    In Psalms 139: 16. "Thine eyes did see my golem, yet being unformed; and in Thy Sefer (Book) all the yamim (days) ordained for me were written down, when as yet there were none of them." FYI, it's being used here to mean "unformed," so in this case, a fetus. Most modern interpretations don't use this word anymore (see several different interpretation here).
  5. But the Talmud's a whole different story.
    This is a book of Jewish laws and legends. It refers to Adam as "golem" for his first 12 hours of existence, meaning "unformed/imperfect" or in this case, a body without a soul.
  6. That's only the beginning.
    Another legend implies that the prophet Jeremiah made a golem.
  7. You, too, can make your very own golem!
    Just follow the steps laid out in the Sefer Yezirah, the Book of Creation. Unfortunately, some of the details on these steps are a little murky--different rabbis have interpreted the instructions differently.
  8. Give us the SparkNotes version.
    First, create the shape of a person out of clay or mud. Then, you either dance around it chanting specified letters of the Hebrew alphabet, or write "emet" (meaning "truth") on the golem's forehead, or write God's name on parchment and stick it in the golem's mouth. Invoke God's secret name, and voila, you got yourself a mud-slave. Pro tip: When using the parchment-feeding method, don't give your golem teeth.
  9. Mud slave? Sounds messy.
    Right? Still waiting on the followup magic to keep dirt from trailing through the house.
  10. What's God's secret name?
    Sorry, can't tell, it's a secret.
  11. As a note, golems have a tendency to run amok after a while.
    The one Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel made in Prague around 1580, for example, was supposed to protect against a Blood Libel, guard the Jewish town from a group of bad-egg, Jew-hating Christians, and/or  help with physical labor (conflicting sources on this). But after a while it started threatening innocent lives.
  12. Why didn't you tell me that before I made this thing?
    More practical, less fun. But I can tell you how to get rid of it, at least.
  13. Please do.
    The way to "kill" your golem depends on how you made it. If you opted for the dance, now dance around it in the opposite direction, while saying the letters in the opposite order. If you opted to write "emet' on it, erase the "e" to change the command to "met," or "death." If you went for the parchment, just stick your hand in that golem's mouth and remove the parchment. I told you, you didn't want teeth on that thing.
  14. Modern stories have taken more techie takes on the golem.
    As in robots. Another creature made of inanimate pieces and brought to life by men to do their bidding. No serious running amok so far, but we've all gotten in a fight with a copy machine before, so you tell me. See also: Frankenstein.

P.S., Mud is still only $.99, but only for a few more days! Grab your copy now before the price goes up.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Kobo   |   iBooks

I am double-geeked to be featured on my writing hero Chuck Wendig's blog this week to share "5 Things I Learned While Writing MUD."

Hop over to the Terrible Minds blog and check it out!

In case you missed it, last week I was featured on Janice Hardy's Fiction University blog. Pop on over and learn "How to Tap into Writing Mode Anywhere."

sidewalk-luck-horseshoe

Around this time of year, as I become surrounded by green for a day, I can't help but reflect on luck.

It's a funny thing, the way random things seem to just line up as if by magic. Sometimes you look back at something that happened to you and realize just how perfectly everything had to align for a particular something to roll your way with just the right timing.

This is how I feel about my writing career.

I feel it's important to talk about things like luck in relation to writing. There are so many incredibly talented writers out there, and with so much competition, it can be easy for a writer to slip through the cracks and get discouraged.

But not finding your opportunity to get published does NOT mean you are less talented than any other writer. It just means that you haven't snagged your moment of luck yet.

To show you what I mean (and in belated celebration of St. Patrick's Day), here are my luckiest moments I've had in my writing career (so far):

1. My college writing internship

When I look back at my college internship, it blows my mind to think about how unlikely this was to happen, and how drastically it changed the course for my life.

I did not want to do an internship. And I especially did not want one that would force me to write. No lie. I actively fought against this at every turn.

Alas, the senior honors course I took my final semester of college required an internship. But even once I resigned myself to applying for internships, I was focused on finding editorial internships at book publishers. I only applied to be a writing intern at a local magazine as a very last resort, because I had not been accepted for anything else, and my time was running out.

Turns out that luck can often look like failure. I am so, so lucky I didn't manage to get what I wanted for this internship.

Because before this internship, I did not believe I could write. It's only because this internship forced me to that I even tried. And it's only because I had an incredible mentor in the magazine's managing editor that I learned that I could have fun and be creative with my writing. And I absolutely fell in love with it.

This writing thing opened doors that changed my entire adult life trajectory. My entire career has been built on the writing skills I discovered and the clips that I got from that internship. And then, later on, it led to an interest in fiction that's become my hobby, my passion, and when I get frustrated with the world, my saving grace.

This thing that I dreaded and fought tooth and nail against was easily in the top five things that have ever happened to me.

2. Proximity to The Writer's Center

About two years into my progress of writing Mud, I moved to Washington, D. C. I moved there not becuase my family is there (though they are) and not because I love the city (though I do), but because my husband got a pretty random but great work opportunity. As it happens, this put me within spitting distance of The Writer's Center.

The Writer's Center is among the country's top resources for fiction writers, and offers a plethora of high-quality courses, workshops and networking opportunities for authors at all stages of their career. Naturally I quickly found a course intended for writers at my level and signed up.

In that class and others after, I met other writers in the area, was challenged creatively, and learned a ton about how the industry works and how to get published. I met successful authors who have since offered me critical advice regarding key decisions. And I've made wonderful friends.

In short, I could not have sought out a more perfect growth opportunity if I'd been specifically looking for it.

3. Landing the Best Critique Group

After the end of my first writing course at The Writer's Center, I emailed the entire class asking if anyone would like to continue meeting as a critique group.

Luckily (see what I did there), there was a lot of interest. Over a few monthly meetings, the group pared down to just four of us--a great size for us to get to know each other, offer each other frequent constructive feedback, and support each other as we navigate our way through the publishing process.

I guess it makes sense to some degree, but this group offered a wonderful balance of likeminded writers who cared about investing in their writing, wanted to improve, and had publishing ambitions, while also offering a lot of diversity in genres, styles, and approaches to building a fiction-writing career.

Lucky me to land myself in this incredible group of writers.

4. Finding an Amazing Publisher

When I queried agents last summer, I was getting just enough promising responses from agents to not give up. But while I was getting interest, no one was biting. Then I stumbled onto a little Twitter event for writers called #adpit, which connected authors, agents and publishers on a website and backed it up with 140-character mini-pitches on Twitter. I thought, what the heck, it's a few hours of my time, and who knows.

That's where City Owl Press found me.

I'll be honest, I was dubious at first--there are a lot of groups out there preying on aspiring authors under the guise of "small press," and my first response to the editor's outreach was Groucho Marx' famous quote, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” In other words, if this press is so exciting about my little book, it's probably not very good.

But I researched them anyway, and even reached out to some pros I know who could lend some perspective. They were young and somewhat untested, but the team not only had a strong track record, but also were incredibly open and patient with me as I asked a number of intrusive questions, weighed options, and got a lawyer to review the contract. All good signs.

So I went for it. After all, I figured, even if it turned out to be a disaster, it would be a huge learning experience, and hey, who knows.

The people at City Owl have been nothing but wonderful since day one, always willing to offer sound advice, to hop on the phone and time I have questions, and give me their quick attention any time I ask for it. On top of that, they've gone above and beyond what I've heard to be "standard" at major publishers when it comes to investing me as an author--they actively sought out my input on my book cover, and showed me a strong marketing plan for my book without even being asked. These guys are just champs.

I knew this step was a gamble going in, but it was one I was willing to take. So far it's met all of my highest hopes. You just can't get luckier than that.

5. Financial Stability

About a year ago I read an article from an author about how socioeconomic status played a huge role in one's ability to have a career as an artist, and why it was so important to bring this hush-hush topic to light. I wish I could link to it, but I can't find it anymore. But that author was right, so I'm going to do my part and talk about it now.

I've been financially comfortable my entire life. This is incredibly lucky just in general, but it's played a huge role in my ability to write. In college, I didn't have to rack up debt or work a job, which is how I was able to take a low-paying internship in the first place. In D.C., I had the free spending money necessary to take part in The Writer's Center opportunities. And the free time and energy necessary to write every day, and contribute to a writing group. And the freedom to be able to take a risk with a small press I didn't know.

In a way, being lucky enough to be financially well-off my entire life has been the essential foundation to all my writing success. We need to have our eyes wide open when it comes to the utter disadvantage this gives to less fortunate artists, and societally, support changes that afford opportunities for artists of all kinds.

Luck Doesn't Knock Twice--Be Ready for It

There's no denying the large amounts of luck that have played into my writing success so far, and I'm sure that will continue to be the case. Don't think I ever forget it for a second.

But if you're out there feeling like you're helpless until your dose of luck drops into your lap, here's a bit of good news. There's a lot you can do to be ready for luck when it comes your way. All the advantages in the world can't help you if you're not willing to put butt in chair and do the writing, or listen to feedback, or take the risks. But if you put in the work in good faith, contribute to the writing community near you, and keep your eyes open, it's eventually going to come your way.

Go out and actively look for those lucky moments, and I'm confident you'll find yours, too.