01 September, 2014

The madness begins

With the contracts signed, I can now officially tell folks that SPORE sold to Samhain Publishing for release next summer.

I am utterly DELIGHTED and still swooning after more than a week. Wooohooo!!

However, with a book scheduled for release next summer, I now have roughly fourteen gazillion things to do ASAP.

I need a real website, something more google-able than this blog and my Facebook page, but I'm dropping Siler from my name, and there are already folks using TamaraJones dot com and dot net. I need a new site name idea. Not sure if I want to expand upon my actual name or go with something completely different, ala Chuck Wendig's Terribleminds. I'd better decide soon, though. Within the next week or so, at least. Get a domain name, find and pay for a host, get it designed, up, and running. Whee!

Marketing. Holy crapbuckets, there's a lot to do there. Like conventions/conferences. I've already contacted ICON (it's in Cedar Rapids Halloween weekend) and I'll be on at least two panels there. ComicCon is coming to Des Moines next summer, and I've contacted them, too. Plus there's DemiCon in Des Moines, Archon in St. Louis, Bouchercon, Minicon, ConStellation, and anything else I can scrounge up within reasonable driving distance. I hope Michele is ready to travel!

Along with cons, there are web ads, tweets, posts, some printed things, contacting book fairs, reviewers, blog tours, writing group visits, setting up interviews, and surely tons of stuff I haven't thought of yet .

I did a small round of edits this weekend - easy peasy formatting stuff - have filled out forms and questionnaires from the publisher, wrote back cover copy, and I'm staring at June 2015 penciled in on my calendar with a mixture of excitement and exhaustion. It's only nine months away. Nine months! It's gonna fly past.

But it's going to be freaking amazing. Everyone will finally get to meet Sean, Mare, Mindy, Todd, and Ghoulie.

Go Ghoulie, and GO SPORE!!

22 August, 2014

Surgered

Things here are going well - I should have official Not-Dubric book news SOON (it's very exciting!!) - but I've mostly spent these past couple of weeks recuperating from abdominal surgery.

I don't need to go into all of the gory details, but everything's fine. The surgery was planned and scheduled and all tests came back normal. I'm still a little sore at times, I still get tired easily, but the oddest side effect was how I had so much trouble typing. Typos galore! It's been aggravating, as if I had no idea how to use a keyboard. Just today, I'm back to my usual occasional transposed letters instead of utter gibberish. Yay for that!!

Since being plagued with insane typos, I've sewn some and actually finished a project - an appliqued pillow - I'd started a while back. It's super cute. It should go out in the mail Monday. Once it's arrived, I'll share a pic.

My short story ENDORPHINS is in an anthology scheduled to be released sometime in October. Once there's more concrete information available - and ordering options - I'll pass on the essential information. At this point, it's going to be print only. I think.

20 July, 2014

Public vs Private

I gave a presentation to the Two Rivers Romance Authors group on Saturday and it went really great. They'd contacted me months ago to set up the visit and told me I could talk about anything I wanted. Any. Thing.

This obviously opened up a staggering amount of possibilities and I've given talks on lots of writerly subjects, usually to newbies. These women, though, are published or damn near it and I decided they'd probably heard all about creating characters and story structure and pacing and revising and all the nuts-and-bolts writing topics that so often get presented. I didn't want to be repetitive or boring.

So, what to do?!?

I pondered a while (months, actually) and a few days ago it hit me. I could talk about the public nature of being a writer, specifically meeting readers, fans, other writers, etc. I thought it would be a different kind of presentation from the standard 'this is how you write shit' kinds of talks, which is good. I prefer to be 'different'. As I pondered some more, the scope of the talk took place in my head and I decided how to go about making it work.

It did, however take some preparation. At Dunkin' Donuts, to be precise, across the parking lot from where we were meeting.

I am, by nature, a rather introverted individual and I don't get out much. I'm usually home and, frankly, unless I feel exceptionally comfortable with a person, I rarely speak at all. Everything's internalized. I'd much rather type in a chat window than, well, actually talk. I'm better than I used to be, but it's still an issue for me, especially when I'm in 'pro author mode' which is EXHAUSTING.

Anyway. Dunkin Donuts.

I grabbed my fabric tote bag - the one I take to quilt days and classes because it's really big - out of the back of my car and headed into the bathroom. I stripped from my comfy driving clothes (I drove about 2 hours to get there and I'll be damned if I'll wear uncomfy dressy stuff during a long car trip). I completely re-dressed. Twice.

It'll all make sense soon, I promise.

Off to the meeting.

I went in, as me. Well, the 'me' in new situations. Closed up. Hiding. Hair back in a ponytail. My funky reading glasses on. Gray zip-up hoodie, ratty comfy t-shirt, saggy-baggy 'at home' pants. Me. I was greeted, and I was meek. I sat huddled in a corner and quietly fiddled with my note cards and watched the strangers and was polite but mostly silent. Everyone was exceptionally nice and friendly and welcoming, by the way, but a few seemed perplexed as to why this pitiful creature was there to talk to them.

Meeting stuff happened and it was time to talk. I introduced myself - very softly - and said I slaughter people on paper for money (my standard line of describing my job, ha ha). I showed all three of my actual books, gave a short description of each and how they did sales and award wise, tossing each aside afterward because, as I told them, I'm not here to sell books. I'm here to talk to you about, well, giving talks.

There was much obvious confusion in the audience.

I explained some of my issues, upbringing, etc, and how one of the toughest hurdles for me, after turning pro, was public events. How I had to learn to take off my outer shell and get out there.

I then unzipped my hoodie, peeled it off, and set it aside. My voice got a teensy bit louder and I lifted my eyes a little more.

They started to pay attention.

I told them I soon found that wasn't good enough, I had to actually meet and talk to - omg! - strangers and I had to start feeling exposed.

Off with the t-shirt (I'm sitting through all of this, by the way) to show the blouse underneath and the nice necklace.

EVERYONE gasped. My voice got a little stronger. Folks laughed when I mentioned I actually own two blouses. Just two.

I talked about how in book signings I had to cheerfully greet people but it, and panels, meant I could still hide behind the table, behind the table cloth. I talked about how panels were terrifying at first, because I was afraid to speak up, but I soon learned to be assertive (hand motions begin, head up consistently, voice steady) but never aggressive. Everyone wants to talk over you in a panel, most want to scream 'BUY MY BOOK!' (My voice got loud and I brandished a book at them) whenever they get a chance, but humor (they'd already laughed a few times at this point) seems to work better for me than being forceful. But be prepared. Men, especially, will want to talk over you. Don't let them. Be kind, be yourself, but engage the panel and the audience.

By this time, everyone's nodding and taking notes.

Then, I sighed, you have readings.  A lot of writers sit down behind the safety of the table and read and read and read until the time's done. I did this once. ONCE. Then Gay Haldeman, wife of Joe Haldeman and a really good friend, explained that a good reading is actually performance art. And the first step is to get your ass out of the chair.

I stand up - everyone's pretty much shocked at this point - and I grab a book, open it, and confidently say, Instead of basically, again, telling everyone to BUY MY BOOK! what you're really doing is engaging the audience, selling yourself and the story at the same time. So you pick a few short bits, a page or so printed, maybe two pages if you're reading off manuscript pages. NO MORE. Never more.  And you tell a bit about yourself and why you wrote this. You tell about what it shows or does in the scope of the book - character, plot, whatever. Talk a little, read a little, be open to questions. Always friendly and welcoming, never pushy. It's a conversation. Maybe move away from the podium once in a while. Engage.

But then there's more than readings. Sometimes you have to present things. Talks like this, classes, that sort of stuff. Sometimes for a few people, sometimes for a lot. Fifty. Five hundred. More. You're on a stage. And there's nowhere to hide.

Then I unzip my comfy pants and peel them off. Beneath are nice, fitted capris. The gals in the writing group are astounded and laughing and clapping. I get out of my comfy pants, make a joke about how I love them because I don't have to take my shoes off to get out of them.

Everyone laughs.

Have you ever seen a TED talk? I ask, walking around. Gesturing. Confident. In control of the room.  Do they stand still? Are they stiff? Everyone chimes in 'No!' Of course not. And they're not up there saying 'buy my book,', they're up there saying I know my shit and I'm gonna teach you to know your shit, too. You gotta let your hair down (off with the ponytail and my wacky curly hair does its thing). You have to move around. Back and forth, approaching, welcoming, making eye contact, being open. Because that's what people respond to. Open and friendly.  But you have to look professional (I pull my tidy blue sweater out of the bag and put it on) to be taken seriously.

Everyone laughs again.

And after I was all done, I did a Q & A thing where I remained (mostly) open and moving and engaging, but I'd make a joke about my shyness every time I noticed my hands in my pockets or my back pressed against the wall. Then I made another joke about forgetting my bling as I put on my swanky watch I pretty much never wear. It finally wound down, everyone clapped and exclaimed it was just about the best author talk EVER.

I REALLY hate having my picture taken,
but Terri was nice enough to help me.
So I put  my pony tail back up (because even when I'm in control, damn it, I still want some of my protective crutches) but before I sat I asked them how many wrote down my name to look up later to purchase my books. Five hands of eight members went up. I smiled and said, Exactly. And I never once asked you to.

More clapping, and that was basically it.

Btw, I didn't use the note cards. They were merely a prop at the beginning because when folks are nervous, they fiddle with their notes. I, however, know my shit and don't need notes. :)

09 July, 2014

Holy crap buckets, Batman, it's already July!

My life is so crazy lately, I feel like a pinball banging around the 100 POINTS! bumpers with all of the dings, whistles, and pops that go with it.

I'm working on three different novels - yes, one's the next Dubric book - and have been writing daily again. ENDORPHINS is going to appear in an anthology titled BLACKBIRDS (pretty sure it comes out later this year but I'm not 100% positive). SID will be the lead fiction short in the opening of a new lit/art/music/etc webhub next year (I'll post more details when I can). I've been contacted about the possibility of doing a screenplay version of SPORE (I'm still considering the idea and need to make time to discuss the particulars with my agent once conference season settles down) even though the book hasn't sold yet. I've ALSO entered discussions with an independent small publisher about various things (yet another matter to discuss w/ my agent when we both have time). That's about it for writing, but holycrapbuckets! Nothing on my radar for years then in a less-than-48 hour span my writing life explodes. After all of that, I'm off to talk to the Two Rivers Romance Authors on the 19th. Yay!

My faithful sewing machine started acting up last October and stopped being able to straight stitch last month. My husband and friends pretty much made me buy a new one, not that I resisted. Much. I am generally, well, cheap. At least if you define 'cheap' as reluctant to spend substantial sums of money. But I narrowed my choices to two different machines and decided to open up the checkbook and buy one. It's... wow. I've been sewing for about twenty five years now, and it's quite a few steps above where I am, skill wise, but I'm learning. It's also whisper quiet (so I can sew while everyone else goes to bed) and happily sews through whatever crazy thing I try to shove through it. I'm a happy quilter.

My new machine.
I think it can calculate orbit trajectories in its spare time.
So I've been scrambling to get caught up on all of the projects and quilts that have piled up since last fall. There are a LOT. Oy. I'm staggered by the amount of work staring out from my fabric closet. One thing is a dinky dresden quilt I'd started last year, in blues, greens, and yellows.

That's a regular U.S. quarter there on the left
to give a sense of size of these teensy things.
There will be 320 itsy, bitsy wedges. I have them about half sewn and pressed, just not put together in arcs and circles yet, and still have half yet to sew and press so they're pointy. Been burning my fingers a lot, but it's MARVELOUS to sew again!

Then there are the medical issues. Nothing's exceptionally serious, but I will be having two separate elective surgeries in the near future. One to remove a troublesome cyst, the other to clear a path through a blockage in my sinuses. Whee! Doctor visits galore! Btw, getting a CT scan of my head and seeing all the internal bits was oh so cool! Plus I'm babysitting my supremely awesome 2-1/2 year old granddaughter most days while our daughter works, and trying to diet and exercise (I am failing so terribly at that!), and generally run, manage, and clean the house (insert more laughter here) and other life stuff, including our local community's festival the weekend before last (I made popcorn for two days straight) and my 50th birthday party the weekend before that, plus off to Des Moines for 4th of July last weekend, then there's the upcoming fun-run and fireman's ball (guess who's selling raffle tickets and t-shirts again this year?) and, well, LIFE.

There's nothing bad, just lots of it. :) Have a great week, everyone!

04 June, 2014

World Blog Tour

I'd like to thank A.R. Miller for inviting me to participate. If you haven't read Amy's post, you can find it here.

---


What am I working on?

I'm in the midst of three totally unconnected novels. SLIPPAGE is a speculative fiction thriller about two special kids on the run from forces trying to kill them. LUCY'S LUCK, likely women's fiction, is about Lucy breaking free of her habits and making her own luck. Lastly, STAIN OF CORRUPTION is the fourth novel in my Dubric Byerly forensic fantasy mystery series. Magical corruption Dubric's fought his whole life gets loose and he has to stop it before it tears apart his team, his home, and his future.

How does my writing differ from other books in the same genre?
My work differs on a couple of levels. First, I can't seem to write a straight genre to save my life, they're always mish-mashed quirkily violent things that combine often very dissimilar tropes and expectations. Sometimes that's good - my novels have gobs of twists and surprises that readers often don't see coming - but sometimes it's bad because they are hard to categorize and market. The other way they differ is because I'm not afraid to 'go there'. I tend to write about very dark and violent topics and no character is sacred, I have never pulled a single narrative punch, and often the brutality is unnerving and realistic.
I don't flinch. Maybe that's what makes my work different.

Why do I write what I do?
Because someone has to shine a light on the bad things.

Um, yay? Go me?

How does my writing process work?
I'd love to say something cool like I brew a pot of tea every morning, put on some soothing music, and create marvelous prose, but that would be a lie. It's never like that for me. Most of the time, the words fight me as if they don't want to be drawn out into the light. I'll get an idea (I call them nuggets) and it'll sit and stew and get all slimy in my head until it's about ready to burst. Then I can, with a little luck and insistence, write it. I write mostly at night, when everything but my mind is still, and it'll come in fits and starts. Some nights I'll get 50, 100 words. Some nights I'll get six or seven thousand. It seems the more I plan or outline, the less words I'll get and the harder they'll come. Unearthing a nugget and getting it out of my head is the payoff for me. Once I know all about a story, it's done and fades away, so outlining usually messes me up more than it helps and, at most, I'll have a handful of squirrely notes. I wrote a women's fic novel, MORGAN'S RUN, about an adult survivor of childhood abuse off about three short statements in the margin of a grocery list. The Dubric novels all started with one sentence concepts and a couple of sketches. That seems to be my natural method.

The exception to my no-outline habit was my novel SPORE, which was partially planned. For it, knowing I needed  to keep it short (for me, anything under 140k is short) I broke the concept and plot into sections so that I'd hit the necessary word count limit at each major juncture. The first 25% (opening), to 33% (end of Act One), to 50% (midpoint pivot), to 67% (end of Act Two), to 75% (begin the final conflicts), and to the ending resolution. Since it took me far longer to write SPORE than any other novel I've ever finished, I can't say that it helped in much more than making sure it wasn't another 150,000 word monster (It clocked in at a nice, lean 95k) but there were several things I wanted to do storywise but simply didn't have room for. I do love the book, though. :)

That's it for me. Danae Ayusso is the next stop on the World Blog Tour. Be sure and visit her next week!

30 May, 2014

Almost June

As usual, life has been its regular crazy self. I've been writing, taking care of my granddaughter, and trying to get things done, especially decluttering, simplifying life, and figuring out where to go from here.

I'll be fifty in June, half a century old, and I'm starting to feel it in my joints and opinions. I'm not as... flexible as I used to be, both literally and figuratively, and it bugs me.

For example, I've always loved music, been surrounded with it my entire life. I don't really listen to music anymore, other than occasionally plugging in the iPod when I'm cooking. I rarely have the radio on when I'm driving unless there's weather news I'm trying to keep up with. It's not that I don't like music anymore or even that I think modern music is crap - I don't, and there's actually some I like. I'd just rather have silence.

Silence. Calm. Less distractions. Peace.

It's not just with music, but with everything. Simpler food. No TV. Nothing beeping. Nothing in the way.

Seems like there's so much chaos lately. I'm not a fan. I'm hoping it's just my age. {{hugs}}

26 March, 2014

Forward thinking

I never know how to start posts like this, mostly because my brain is going forty seven directions at once, yet stuck in the same place.

It's weird how life is like that, everything's always changing yet it always seems to stay the same.

Anyway, let's start with the books.

Two novels (SPORE and MORGAN'S RUN) are out of my hands and seeking the next stopping point on their journey to publication. I currently have no idea when, where, how, or any other details. It's just a whole lot of waiting. Waiting's tough. Having no news while waiting is tougher. But we writers just have to stick it out because that's the job. People keep asking me when they can get the books, and I have to shrug and admit I have no flipping clue. As soon as I know, you'll know.

I'm struggling with SLIPPAGE, the book I intend to follow SPORE with (it, too, is a speculative thriller, in no story-line way related to SPORE, but I am gonna stick in a very slight connection between the two - Go Ghoulie! ;) ). It's crazy, how stuck I am, especially since the whole book is laid out and glistening in my head and in my notes. I'm just got getting any drama on the page. Seriously, WTF?!? I always have drama on the page. Another issue is getting the main characters (two kids on the run) to open up with me. Both are closed up tight, not willing to divulge anything to me beyond bare bones story essentials, and I haven't been able to crack them open. Yet.

Since SLIPPAGE isn't going anywhere other than circling around an assassin of sorts named Huey, who is NOT the focus of the book dammit, I've returned to poking Dubric's next novel, STAIN OF CORRUPTION, with a pointy stick.

There are a lot of issues with STAIN, not the least of which is its commercial viability. The original three Dubric novels didn't exactly create new sales records, and, after all this time, I don't think it's likely to sell to a traditional publisher. I could be wrong, yes, but I kinda doubt it. But the fans wants it, precious, but it's gonna be a long, brutal, convoluted, layered kinda book, which will become the pivot point for the second half of the series and I just.... ARRGH.

ARRGH.

Anyway, I've griped talked with a couple of friends about it this past week, and have told them about the big twisty storyline shift in mid book. They've been consistently OMG!! This is, OMG!! So cool! OMG!! Fuck, yeah!! and they've helped me maybe figure out a way to pull off the big shift without cheating (I don't want to cheat, but I don't want to show my whole hand for the plot by the midpoint either) so, anyway, I'm kind of back on it. Again. With new hope I can make the big pivot work.

That's been the sticking point all this time, how can I pull off the pivot that turns the series from a set of murder mysteries (sort of) to political upheaval and war (sort of) while maintaining the integrity of the storyline, characters, world, and all those pesky ghosts and still keep it exciting, honest, and brutal, all while writing essentially two books in two separate times and storylines all at once? Gah! One of my pre-readers currently has what I've written and I'm hoping he'll have some useable feedback on the actual viability of the overall plan. The book's looking like it'll be crazy-long, a real doorstop of a book, and a whole lot of bodies and ghosts will pile up before it's over

I also have a Lars based novella which is about 1/4 done, ish, called Six Sides of Blue where Lars is called to a rural area to investigate the rape of a handicapped girl. I need to get some words in on it this week. No ghosts, no magic, just straight up investigation into some brutality that ends up being bigger than it first seems. Fun, right?

Okay, that's pretty much it in writing related news.

In other matters, I'm back on plan with Weight Watchers, and it's going all right. I'd pretty much fallen off the wagon this past winter and I decided to climb back on a couple of weeks ago. So far so good, but it's a slow, aggravating process. But at least it's working forward again.

Health is okay. I'm getting my troublesome-but-not-dangerous medical issue re-checked in May. Really, really hoping it's improved. *fingers crossed* Stupid mutinous parts! Get back to work and quit screwing with my life!

Here in Northern Iowa, Spring and Winter are battling for dominance and, today at least, Spring seems to be winning. We've had snow the last few days, but today it's wind and sun, so I am thankful. Since Easter is just a few weeks away and I'm helping out at our community's annual Easter Egg Hunt, I really hope Spring takes control. I don't want to be hiding eggs in the snow. ;)

My sewing machine is still acting up so I have done NO SEWING since I sent a couple of quilts out to friends. None. Zippo. It's beginning to feel alarming but I don't know how to fix it. Grr.

I've had some depressive issues, mostly feeling stuck (see books above, and the weight loss stall) but it seems to be lifting.

Marketing is just, blergh. Since I do have two novels out in the world seeking publication, I've been looking at marketing (insert gaggy noises complete with exaggerated facial expressions here). My preferred social media venue (Facebook) is limiting the exposure of business page posts to 1-2% of subscribed readership unless you 'pay to play'. I refuse to do that, so I've opened my personal FB page to friend request from everyone. I am not happy about this since I've had some issues with boundaries, but it seems to be the best option, considering. I've let a few fans in and so far so good. I'm on Twitter, but since I don't have a smart phone and only tweet from my computer I'm not very involved there, plus I am on G+, at least I check it a couple of times a week. And then there are my rare blog posts, which auto-post to Goodreads and Amazon (which also gets my tweets).

Gah, I need a better marketing plan. I am so not good at this stuff.

Pets are all fine, but Puufy is acting a little.... uncomfortable. He's ten years old this year and he's had some medical issues in the past. We're all worried he might be creaking toward the end and it bothers me. I loves my Puufums Baby. All of the cats want Spring, dammit! They keep begging to be let out, go out, decide it's still to freaking cold (and there are no birdies, bunnies, etc to chase anyway) so they want right back in only to want back out again 5 minutes later because, surely, Spring has finally come. Right? The dog, tho, is perfectly content to laze around the house and doesn't want anything to do with outside unless he has to potty. MeowMeow, the cat we rescued last fall, is finally fitting in. Mostly. She gets along great with Puufy, but there are occasional altercations with Abbie and Peanut, mostly because MeowMeow starts them. These altercations, however, have decreased dramatically in frequency and noise level, so we're taking all that as indications she's being accepted into the group.

I'm not a basketball fan (Go Steelers!!) but I've been watching the NCAA tournament some because Iowa State is playing. I almost went to ISU and my niece is currently a student there (plus we shop in and drive through Ames fairly often). So, Go 'Clones!

I'm also rooting for Kentucky, mostly because they were plating Kansas State, and I don't like the Wildcats, so Go Kentucky! Yeah, I'm weird. Other than Iowa State and Kentucky, I apparently don't care at all about March Madness. lol I think they're in different brackets. Maybe they'll play each other?? That'd be cool and give me more good reasons to cuss at the TV.

Bill has remodeling on his mind, which is awesome, but we can't agree on what to do to streamline the house, which is not awesome. We'd like rearrange the plumbing, get a better kitchen (while my kitchen is lovely, it's not very cooking-friendly workspace and layout wise) and a downstairs bedroom/bath. Plus no ceiling on the upstairs-stairs. All without doing a massive gut job of our delightful old Victorian farmhouse or spending a crap-ton of money on a 2-story addition. Is that too much to ask?!? Is it? I mean, really! Geesh! :p

Bill wants a second floor addition over the back end of our existing kitchen, so he can move the bathroom and get rid of the 'landing' over the lower part of the upstairs stairs, plus straighten the stairs, and simplify the household plumbing and stack. I want a lower level addition so we can move the kitchen and get the bedroom/bath. But if we do the 2-story addition it'll free up all kinds of space to do stuff and we can basically rearrange everything, but we'd end up with 5 or 6 bedrooms and make the house about 3,200 sq. feet (which is insane, we really don't need that much space for the four of us) so it's been a mental exercise in floorplans, cost issues, how to change the basement to accommodate all the support/plumbing/electrical/etc, how do we even get TO the basement with each plan, and what the hell are we gonna do with SIX Bedrooms?!?

I have to disclose here that Bill and I utterly LOVE remodeling. We'd essentially gutted and re-built our previous 2 houses by ourselves (well, we did hire out the furnace work at the previous place, but that's about it) so we're both finding this wonderfully aggravating and, frankly, encouraging. It's a GOOD sign we're talking about this stuff, even if our house is pretty much awesome just as it is. We'd both been feeling stuck for a long time, no idea what to do to move forward again, to hope again, and we are. Finally. We've even done some rearranging within the existing house, have ordered new living room furniture (it'll be here in about 2 weeks! YAY!!) and are making plans for stuff to do later this year.

I am so, so happy with all of this, now if I could just get one of the books to click together (or one of the finished books to sell!), everything would be golden! Have a happy Spring, everyone and many, many {{hugs}}