Longtime readers of this blog will remember Melissa Olson from our Indy Challenge blog swap. She’s visiting again to talk about her new novel, Trail of Dead, the follow-up to her debut, Dead Spots. At the end of the post, find out how to win a signed copy of Trail of Dead.
Hello, and welcome to my Trail of Dead blog tour! A big thank you to Alex for letting me commandeer his blog for the day to do this. Trail of Dead arrives in stores and on Amazon TODAY, and it is the sequel to my first novel, Dead Spots. Both books fall into the urban fantasy subgenre, and they both follow a young woman with an unusual ability: Scarlett Bernard is a null, a rare human who cancels out any and all magic in a given area around her. As you can imagine, Scarlett has a complicated relationship with the supernatural community.
If you’re interested in reading more about me and my work, please visit my website. You can also find links to the other blogs I’m putting out this week in honor of Trail of Dead’s release. There are going to be exclusive excerpts, book giveaways, and much more. Each blog will be different, except for these first two paragraphs, which you’ll see in all of them.
Since I’m stepping in to Alex’s blog today, however, I’d like to talk about something he and I have in common: access to a pretty great town. My books are set in Los Angeles, because I needed a biggish city as my backdrop, and because the main character’s lost, hollowed-out psyche is right at home in the City of Angels. But I make my own home in the city of Madison, just down the highway from Alex’s own habitat, Mount Horeb. We don’t have any trolls here, but we do have a lot of great qualities that make Madison a fantastic city for writers. Here are a few:
1. Coffee shops and then also more coffee shops
Some writers work best in dark and dead silence, others need special music and an ergonomic chair. Me, I prefer having the steady background noise of one of Madison’s many fine coffee shops. State Street, of course, has an abundance of locations, from Starbucks to Michelangelo’s (literally – Starbucks is at the campus end of State Street, and Michelangelo’s is near Capitol Square), but I’m also a fan of Einstein Bros Bagels, Manna Café, and when I can get to Monona, Java Cat. Any coffee shop that also features gelato gets Melissa’s stamp of approval.
2. School of Continuing Education
UW-Madison is famous for its top-notch degree programs, but I’m more of a fan of the School of Continuing Education, which has a bunch of very cool writing events that feature classes, workshops, panel discussions, meet-and-greets, and even agent pitch sessions. I sometimes think I learned more about writing here than I did getting my masters degree. If you’ve never written anything but would like to dip a toe in, or if you’re just starting to really hone your craft, I highly recommend checking out the programs.
3. The Con Family: WisCon, OddCon, and GeekCon
If you write, read, or play in any of the science fiction or fantasy subgenres, Madison has some fabulous conventions and conferences where you can interact with the like-minded. The activities at these events range from serious panel discussions on feminist influences on modern science fiction, to madcap attempts to beat each other with foam swords. Seriously. It’s that fun.
4. Frugal Muse & Company
I don’t have anything personal against big booksellers, but it makes me happy that I live in one of the few places that still has those elusive, increasingly rare creations: independent bookstores. Frugal Muse and A Room of One’s Own are particular favorites of mine, but there is also the Rainbow Book Cooperative, the University Bookstore (yep, they’re an indie, too), and coming later this month, Mystery to Me on Monroe Street. And of course, The Prairie Bookshop is just down the road in Mount Horeb. These places often promote local authors with reading and signing events, and they interact with the community in ways that you just can’t get anywhere else.
5. Library much?
I don’t know how other mid-sized cities run their libraries, but I can tell you from much personal experience that Madison’s library system is excellent. I love how you can reserve books from any of the many satellite libraries and have them delivered straight to the one closest to you. Each branch also provides a number of quiet places to work on your writing, flip through some writing magazines, or research your next project. I’ve been a library nerd my whole life, of course, but our libraries also make me proud to be a writer.
Thanks to Melissa for stopping by. Leave a comment below (on, say, why your home town is a great place for writers) to be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Trail of Dead.