A Tribute to Anne Rice

In the mid-nineties, I was a creative, angsty, depressed teenager living on a steady diet of grunge and existentialism, feeling perpetually misunderstood—something familiar to many, I think, especially in my Xennial generation. Books were my only effective outlet in a childhood with shifting stability, and they shaped new worlds for me, ones I could escape to when needed, which was often.

When I came upon Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, subsequently devouring everything else available that she’d ever written, that escape took on more substance. Here were characters who were also perpetually misunderstood, but had found acceptance and clarity as lovable misfits. They were imperfect, sometimes evildoing, and often sympathetic in spite of their choices. Anne’s use of language as a lyrical journey painted the backdrop to a world I wanted to live in. I’d never wanted to trade places with anyone real, but I often dreamed of being a Mayfair.

Anne led me down the path to my writer’s voice. Though I had been writing since I was seven (saucy little shorts that were ahead of my time, but that’s another story, for another post), in her bold choices I saw a path I was meant to take; a place for my own dark and strange heart to find voice and audience.

Anne introduced me to New Orleans. A lush, wondrous world that sits within ours but somehow exists entirely separate of it. An old soul of a city, with a pulse that ripples through the live oaks and the upturned sidewalks, and the cities of the dead. Where second lines sing and dance the background of the culture of celebration, of the living, of the dead. A place where dreams are born, and live on forever, long after the dreamer is gone.

My House of Crimson & Clover series was a love letter to Anne, in many ways. I found my own words, my own voice, but both were birthed from her courage, her daring. I sought to bring New Orleans to a new generation of readers, as she once had with me, and for those who already knew it well, to feel as if I’d done their beloved city justice. That though I’d never lived there myself, I understood it to be a living, breathing thing that would outlive us all.

Anne gave me community. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to be a featured author at her Halloween-time Undead Con event two years in a row, of which her long-running Lestat Ball was part of. It was there that my world blossomed, meeting even more wonderful people, people who I bonded with because of our love for Anne, but who became something more than that, bigger than that. I discovered my best friend Shawn through this community. I met my soul sister, Raven. My co-writer and dear friend Becket, and his lovely wife Stina. Anne’s son, Christopher. I met the people who I would come to know as my family. They are too numerous to name, but they know who they are. We’ve all been holding each other extra close through this loss.

Anne gave me mentorship. Indirectly, as a result of this community, where she was so generous with herself, and her time, and her wisdom that could be summarized, quite simply, as “to be a writer, just write.” Directly, in the treasured moments I got to speak to her one-on-one, to try (and fail) to articulate the impact she had on me, and why I could never repay that.

Anne saved my life as a teenager. She gave it meaning as an adult. Now, coming into my middle age, these impressions have offered me the path I want the rest of my life to take.

The loss of Anne Rice is devastating. It’s total. It marks the end of an era that meant so much, to so many.

But, as a dear friend of mine said, Anne is timeless. She is bigger than the eighty years she gave us, and her work and impact will transcend whatever comes next.

This same friend also referred to Anne as my “Literary Mother,” and that felt right. Anne had many, many literary children, who are all feeling orphaned and unmoored at the loss, but we’ll find our way. We have each other. We have her words, which will live on forever, in all of us. Beyond all of us.

If you have ever enjoyed my books, know that they would not be here if Anne hadn’t opened my world up to new possibilities, almost three decades ago.

Thank you for reading.

Anne and I at St. Alphonsus Church in 2015

Anne Rice Undead Conference – New Orleans 2014

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All official and stuff.

This year, I was invited to be an author panelist at the Anne Rice Undead Conference. I could play it modest and act like it was no big deal, but… huzzah! Even before I left for New Orleans, I knew it was going to the trip to remember. An important moment in both my personal life, and my writing career.

Now, if you read my books you’ll know I’m no stranger to New Orleans. Quite the opposite: I am obsessed with this strange, decadent, architecturally and culturally incredible city. Really, all of South Louisiana, from the Quarter to the many beautiful bayous. I owe my writing inspiration to every smell, sound, and sight in that corner of the world. I make an effort to visit as often as I can, usually annually. Usually with my bestie, Laura.

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I very nearly chained myself to one of those glorious columns.

With four days worth of amazing events, I knew we had to pack in some R&R&R (Rest, Relaxation, & Research) time, so we added two days to the front of the trip, and two days after.

To start, we spent two luxurious nights at Houmas House Plantation & Gardens. We didn’t do a whole lot, and that was the point. Mimosas, bathrobes, good books, and the sound of cicadas set against a backdrop that could inspire any novelist. Oh, and this backdrop did inspire this novelist, as HH is one of the original inspirations for the fictional plantation in my books, Ophelie. *~The More You Know.*~

My brave and daring companions through the rest of this whirlwind adventure were my two dearest friends: Laura and Shawn. I seriously could NOT have done this without either of them. I am a very lucky gal.

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My #authorposse, prepping to keep me sane for the next few days.

Thursday morning, we packed up our tiny rental car with enough luggage for a royal progress, and headed into NOLA for the Meet & Greet at St. Alphonsus Church. Anne and Christopher Rice would both be there (Anne promoting her latest Vampire Chronicles book, Prince Lestat, and Christopher his new supernatural thriller, The Vines. Both excellent reads by the way), as well as Christine Feehan. Those of us invited as panelists were also guests, and were gathered near AR and CR.

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L to R: Raven Quinn, Becket, KL Bone, Me, Greg Wilkey

First off: if you’re a Rice fan, you already know how beautiful St. Alphonsus is purely from her vivid descriptions. But seeing it in person was absolutely stunning. On a prior trip I’d walked past it, but this was my first time inside.

As authors, we were among the first to meet Anne and ask her a few questions. I was relieved to have a question that was not entirely ridiculous. Honestly, I was surprised I could still speak English when sitting right in front of my dang muse.

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Also awesome was meeting and spending time with fellow authors, panelists, and friends, like Becket, Raven Quinn, K.L. Bone, Greg Wilkey, Alys Arden, CM Michaels, and more. We spent a lot of time posing for pictures, and looking otherwise glamorous.

After the Meet & Greet, we closed the night out with some vino at Patrick’s Bar Vin in the Quarter. Great choice, by the way.

Of course, we couldn’t stay out too late. Friday was scheduled to be RI-DIC-U-LOUS.

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The first of several botched selfies of Christopher Rice and me.

First off, we watched the panel with Christopher Rice, Eric Shaw Quinn, Christopher Buehlman, Christine Feehan, and Paul Koudanaris. So much entertainment (and talent!) in one tiny table.

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So many faves! Becket & I; our panel; CR and I; Greg Wilkey and I

Next up, was our panel. Becket, Raven Quinn, Greg Wilkey, KL Bone, CM Michaels, and yours truly. For as nervous as I was starting, I was quickly reminded how easily I’ve always found talking to crowds (a strange trait for an introvert, I know). The time flew by, and it was a blast. What an honor to be surrounded by so much diverse talent.

Brilliance happening.
Brilliance happening.

With both Halloween panels complete, that only meant one thing: Lestat Coronation Ball!

Well, no. First, we spent four hours getting our hair and makeup done. It may be enough to say that none of us had been this fancy since prom.

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KL Bone and I

The Lestat Coronation Ball was an event I’ll probably have trouble describing. From the music to the decor to the elaborate costumes and dresses, it felt like stepping into another time and place. And as an author, it’s absolutely stunning to witness the impact a character and a series can have on so many.

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That smile is me trying to keep my sh** together.

And the moment of the trip for me: taking a moment to sit down and thank Anne for the impact she has had on my writing. I suppose I could have asked her a thousand questions, but all I wanted to do was say thank you. And I did.

After the ball, we took a few spins around the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, and met a unicorn flirting and drinking his heart out. #Halloween in NOLA

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Eating lunch with “Adele.” RIP Adele.

We kicked off Saturday with a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 for All Saints Day, which included LITERALLY EATING FOOD ON TOMBS. I was skeptical, but this is apparently a tradition, and I love me some good NOLA traditions. We then hopped over for a late breakfast at Cafe du Monde, an afternoon in the Garden District (where we visited the location of my Oz Sullivan and narrowly avoided a restraining order) riding the streetcar, and then a fabulous dinner at Galatoire’s, our New Orleans favorite. Sunday was equally nice, from our jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace, to spending the last couple hours of the UC weekend saying goodbye to the other authors at the cocktail party.

By Monday, all our excitement caught up with us and we lazed about. We had a wonderful lunch with Christina “Stina” Barnett, and then dinner with new friends Alys Arden and Alex Rosa.

As with anytime I leave NOLA, a piece of me stays behind. But the rest of me is ready for next year!

An Interview with Christopher Rice

rice2I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, Christopher Rice.

Let’s all take a moment of silence for my inner fangirl.

Back on track, I was first turned on to Rice’s work when he released his first novel, A Density of Souls. Like many, I was curious what the son of Anne Rice could bring to the table, and I was not, at all, disappointed. I’ve been an avid reader of his work ever since. You can read my reviews of The Heavens Rise and The Vines, which are easily my two favorites.

In addition to being a talented and prolific writer, he is also the co-host of The Dinner Party Show, an endlessly entertaining live comedy variety show that airs on Sunday nights.

This week, he embarks on the tour for his latest supernatural thriller, The Vines. I’ll be traveling to New Orleans in a few days to participate in Undead Con as a panelist, an event Rice is featured at. I also suspect his mother has a secret plan to crown him as Lestat at the Lestat Coronation Ball on Halloween, and I wouldn’t miss that for all the world.

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An Interview with Becket, Author of The Blood Vivicanti

BecketI am pleased to welcome Becket, author of The Blood Vivicanti, for an interview. You may be most familiar with Becket on his Facebook page, where he talks about his job as Anne Rice’s personal assistant, his awe-inspiring years living in a New Orleans monastery, and his love of everything geek. Now, Becket can add “author” to his list of life experiences as he introduces us to the first of six installments in the serial novel, The Blood Vivicanti. The serial involves an entirely new and unique set of blood-drinkers, which were born of a collaboration between Becket and Anne Rice.

I hope you enjoy my interview with the charming and lovely Becket, who, on top of everything else, is just an all-around awesome guy to chat with. And thank you, Becket, for stopping by!

Stay tuned after the interview for my review of The Blood Vivicanti, as well as links where you can connect with Becket online.

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Becket (Assistant to Anne Rice) Reviews St. Charles at Dusk

So, something incredibly cool happened to me this week. And its just Monday!

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See below for the full size version.

It started a few weeks ago when Becket, who is the endlessly interesting and endearing assistant of Anne Rice, posted on his page that he was interested in knowing what other indie authors were working on. He is getting ready to publish his own stories, and has been very supportive of the indie community as a whole. I responded with some info about my novels, and a link to my Amazon Author Central profile. He replied that he had read the sample offered by Amazon (you can’t adequately imagine my surprise at that), so I offered to send him a copy, and he accepted. He was incredibly kind and gracious about the whole thing, and of course I was completely useless to the world for the rest of the day.

This morning, he posted on his page his final thoughts, and review of the book. I supposed I should say that, as kind as nice as he is, I never expected him to finish it. Or love it. Who am I, really, but just some random indie author in a sea of them?

Is this that small self-conscious jerk that still lives in my thoughts, coming out to play, telling me I am not good enough? Probably. Because Becket did enjoy it. Enough to tell his page about it. Enough that he compared me to a young Anne Rice, and that my characterizations where Dickensian. Enough that I have been just floating on cloud 9 all day, and not even the fact that I chose the wrong day to wear heels can bring me down from it.

You see, Anne Rice is my favorite author of all time. My favorite wordsmith, world-builder, and the queen of the visceral reading experience. Becket is not just her assistant, but is also her biggest fan. Like me, he credits Rice for gifting him with a lifelong love, and discovery, of New Orleans. Like me, he walked down the streets of the Garden District, dreaming of her characters and novels. So if this is the experience he took from my book, then I can think of no greater compliment, and no more meaningful endorsement. Humbled is the word I will use, for lack of a bigger, crazier, more descriptive alternative. This is the best writing gift anyone has ever given me.

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Here’s the direct link to the post as well: Becket’s Review of St. Charles at Dusk

By the way- review excitement aside-if you are not following Becket, you should be. He is charming, real, insightful, and has put his heart on the line to share his experience as a monk in New Orleans. He is also a Whovian, and and all-around geek lover. Oh, and he gets to hang out with Anne Rice.

He’s pretty okay in my book.