29 October, 2013

By George

Working on SLIPPAGE tonight and I took a little break from the still-not-right opening (Gak, I SUCK at openings!!) to follow a link or two and ran across this gem from 2010.

It's Louis CK giving homage to George Carlin.

And it's freaking awesome.

The middle of the video is absolute spot-on advice for writers, as well as comedians (and, most likely, any creative professional). It's from about 4:10 to about 8:20. It's the truth and, really, is the only way to get better at a crazy creative job like this.

Throw out the old.
Dig deeper.
Speak the truth.

It's scary as hell, but do it anyway.

01 October, 2013

What's up with Tam?


Life is, as always, its own brand of ups-and-downs-and-all-arounds here and I decided to give everyone a quick update.

To start off, I have a new agent, Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency. I am incredibly excited about this new phase in my writing career and Laura is going to shepherd me into becoming a major thriller author. She currently has two of my novels, a Mainstream/Speculative Thriller titled SPORE and a quirky New Adult Thriller titled MORGAN'S RUN. Since I've pretty much promised to stop screwing off and actually write two books a year, I've begun another Mainstream/Spec Thriller with a working title of SLIPPAGE.

Yeah, yeah, I know none of those are Dubric books. As much as everyone loved the series, it's currently considered non profitable and I just can't keep beating my head against a brick wall that doesn't want to get written and has virtually no hope of selling even if I can get it done. I am not giving up on Dubric and Co - there are a LOT of things I still want to do with the series and characters - it's just not happening right now in my head, my heart, or my life, and I really need to get moving forward again, instead of circling the same damn story. I mean, crap, I've been fighting Stain of Corruption for almost eight years now without making real progress. I need to move on. Maybe I'll get back to it, maybe not, but I'm not doing anyone any good kicking at it but not making progress.

SPORE has the potential to be a breakout blockbuster novel and, in fact, I had four agents wanting to rep it, and me, after my original agent decided it was time to retire. FOUR. This could be a very, very big deal here and I am happily writing totally new things. It's exciting and wonderful and if, someday, Dubric, Dien and Lars start banging on my brain again I will definitely write their next foray into the dark. Until then, I must move forward and write cool kick ass books (oh the twists in SPORE and SLIPPAGE!! *swoon*).

So, anyway, the writing is going pretty damn fantabulous! :)

I do have some great Dubric news, though. I recently agreed to an offer from a major German publisher for all three novels. They'll come out as three separate trade paperbacks, in German, with all new covers and everything. With one phone call I became an international author, and that's pretty damn cool. I shall do my best to keep everyone updated as news develops there.

I did my first ever 5k over the weekend and it was awesome, other than I've found myself with shin splints. I do not like these shin splints at all, but I'm stuck with them for the time being.

Before the 5k with a friend.
I'm the tall one. ;)
Our daughter got a job - YAY!! - which means I get to babysit my almost 2 year old granddaughter more. Which is also fun, but often exhausting.

I'm up for re-election for city council this November, but there are four of us running for three seats. Not sure if I'm going to make the cut or not, and, really, win or lose, I'll be fine either way. It's been an honor to serve and very eye opening.

My Write Your Novel class at the community college begins October 17th. It was originally slated to start in September, but not enough people signed up, so they've pushed it to a later date. Frankly, I think that most anyone who wants to take a novel writing class doesn't have the money for the tuition (I have absolutely no control over the price) but we'll see what happens in a couple of weeks. I don't want to push the start into November because there's too much likelihood of crappy winter weather and it's already a pretty long drive for me, let alone the potential students.

Sewing is going all right, when I can carve out time. I've been making smallish, sort-of-artsy quilts for specific people and they've turned out well. They keep me sewing, when I can.

It's about 22" square, if I remember right. All batik.
I'm still taking a monthly block making class at the quilt shop. Here's what I sewed in September.

Two six-inch blocks.
Yep, even that one with all of the diamonds. Six inches.

Frankly, it's the only guaranteed sewing time I have. Wish I had more.

Health is great. Been drinking protein and fruit smoothies every morning, exercising most every evening, and although my weightloss is still stalled - damn you plateaus!!! - I feel awesome. Other than my shins. They're still hurting.

We have a new cat, a rescue named MeowMeow (she came with that name). She's all black other than a few white hairs on her belly and is Very Friendly. I really need to take some pics. ;)

I don't like to end on a downer note, but this past month I lost my long-adored desklamp (it was a miniature draftsman's lamp that I could move around however I wanted) and my granddaughter dumped a full glass of Crystal Light on my Mac keyboard, shorting it out. I have had no luck finding a replacement lamp that I like (sorry, they're all fugly or too big) and I do not like the replacement PC keyboard I'm typing this post on. The command/alt/control/function keys are in the wrong place and, frankly, it can't keep up with my typing or the keys are a slight difference apart or something. I'm getting screwy ass typos which I never used to get and my shortcuts don't work, so I have to pause and find the right key combination. I know it's a nothing first-world kinda problem but it's still aggravating. But we'll be down to Des Moines at some point and I can get a replacement Mac keyboard.

All in all, though, I'm glad autumn is here. I like fall!  {{hugs}}

12 August, 2013

Crap! It's August already!

I've had such a busy summer. Been babysitting my granddaughter quite a lot, which is fun but exhausting (at 20 months, she's getting so big and, wow, is she BUSY!! Wears gramma out! lol), and I've been trying to find a good home for SPORE, plus working on a round of revisions on MORGAN'S RUN to better fit the market. I finished the revisions yesterday, so it'll go out into the world later this week, most likely.

I've received such lovely comments on both books, and I'm so excited to be working again!

I love both novels, even though they're vastly different from each other or anything else I've written. I think MORGAN has fairly wide market appeal and SPORE, good golly, the cross platform and interactive media potential is staggering. Plus both books totally rock. :) I am very, very happy with my work.

I do, however, worry about author branding. I'm not good at writing easy to categorize books, let alone able stick with one mix of genres for anything resembling category consistency. That's not a good thing for a writer to do, especially in this crazy competitive market. We're supposed to be romance writers or YA writers or political potboiler writers or whatever, slap on a label and call it good. I, however, am rather label-defiant, despite knowing it's gonna bite me in the butt. Probably really, really hard. Yet here I am, typing away, dancing about with my hands over my poor bitten butt. ;)

But I can guarantee that every tambobook (that's MY brand, dammit, tambobooks!) are fast-paced fun and violent and honest and darkly riveting with a splash of humor and hope. Whether it's Morgan running from her memories or Sean drawing his terror into his comic or Dubric staggering forward despite the burden of his ghosts, I write about real people facing very, very bad shit. I try to tell the truth, as best I can. I don't pull punches, even when it's a hard jab to the reader's gut. That's a tambobook (yes, with a lower case t. Sheesh! ;), by golly, regardless of what category shelf it lands on.

With that in mind, I've begun a new story featuring Lars as he investigates a string of rapes, and it's coming along nicely. It's currently titled SIX SIDES OF BLUE and will, I think, end up novella length. I'd like to write an entire Lars-centric book at some point, but neither of us are ready for that just yet, especially since my story idea is several years in Lars's future (should he survive that long, ha ha) and the main Dubric series is still in the 'now'. Speaking of Dubric, his fourth novel, STAIN OF CORRUPTION, is stalled. Again. I think it's because I am not ready to face the massive explosions that are about to happen in the story. It's gonna be brutal. For me, as well as the singed and charred characters.

I mean, shit. It's a fire mage, people. Massive. Fucking. Fire. Miles and miles of instant incineration. Ka-BOOM!! Everyone isn't only fucked, they're fried.

I look at it and think maybe I need to start drinking. Maybe a little tequila will help me get past the initial char-fest at least. ;)

But I don't drink, so I need to find courage somewhere else.

Seriously, though. This is a freaking brutal book. Damn. I just don't know if I have enough guts to go as far down the hole, as far into the dark, as I need to, but I keep poking at it and make a little, if sporadic, progress. It's the middle book of the series and everything takes a hard shift in a different direction. Just be prepared to lose a lot of characters.

In less stressful news, I've also been sewing. I started a block of the month sampler class at a nearby quilt shop from the Eleanor Burns' Quilts From El's Kitchen book a couple of months ago. Mine is the smaller version, in 6" blocks, with a hot pink calico as the primary fabric. Here's my center basket block.

Just look at the points on those teensy triangles! :)

In addition to the sampler, I've also been working on a series of small, artsy quilts. One, my jewel-toned take on a traditional Carpenter's Wheel block (only much, much smaller) is going out in the mail tomorrow along with an even more quirky adaptation of a Dresden Plate, all in pink, that I should mail out Wednesday or Thursday.

I'm really enjoying the smaller format quilts. I can do a lot of precision piecing (which I love gobs) without having the hard, heavy work of pushing a large quilt though my sewing machine (which I don't love much at all). I can complete them by myself, from initial fabric cutting, through piecing, quilting, and binding, unlike bigger quilts, which I usually send out to get quilted. I really, really don't like doing large quilts, but these small ones (less than 24 inches square) fit me nicely, plus they've so far been made right out of my stash, which is nice, too. And they're quick, totally doable in a weekend, even when the piecing is complicated. What's not to love?

As for super great OMG stuff, my friend Shirley Damsgaard's latest novel, The Widows of Braxton County came out a couple of weeks ago and, today, a reading group was at the quilt shop!! I got to plug Shirley's book for them and got them all revved up and excited to read it. Whoop! Go Shirley!!

That's about it for me. I hope you're all doing well and staying cool. {{hugs}}

16 June, 2013

Dr. Boyfriend

We have three cats - Abbie (Bill's cat, she's about 15 years old, rather rotund and likes to complain and have doors opened for her), Puufy (my cat, 10 years old this August, extremely fat and fluffy and frequently demands to drink milk or have his food freshened) and Peanut (also my cat, 2 years old, generally easy going, quiet, and playful).

Peanut is in charge. She has been since she was, oh, nine months old or so. She's, by far, the smallest cat in the house (a slender 8lbs or so while Puufy clocks in at around 24 and Abbie about 17). She's light, she's limber, she's very, very sweet.

But no one messes with Peanut. Maybe she's a ninja, I dunno, but I have seen her drop out of trees with a bird in her mouth, so she's super good at that, at least. And if Abbie or Puufy piss her off for whatever reason, she'll flip around and bat at them (looks gentle and playful to me) and they BACK THE HELL OFF RIGHT AWAY with much subordinate posturing.

The pecking order is well established, everyone is cool with it, and all is peaceful in our house of cats.

Enter Dr. Boyfriend, the neighborhood stray tom.

Dr. Boyfriend
We first met Dr. Boyfriend more than a year ago when he started coming around, mostly trying to start fights with a cat we used to have named Cooper (while very sweet, Coop was huge and prone to improper indoor pooping so he went to become a farm cat), and when our other 'went to the farm' cat Echo went in heat. (She was spayed but apparently had a second uterus and later spooged out four kittens and no local vet would re-spay her. Seriously. Off to the farm with you, crazy alien kitty!!)

Anyway, Dr. Boyfriend is homeless and hungry and, well, we're cat people who feed him and have on more than one occasion taken him in to give him a safe, warm place to heal after getting his ass handed to him by some other critter. He's reasonably friendly, cuddly, and all that, he just wants his freedom, by golly! Gotta woo the babes, don'tcha know?

But poor Dr. Boyfriend is rather small. Here he is with Peanut who is 'regular cat sized' instead of the super jumbo economy sized Abbie and Puufy.

Uh huh. You're not fooling anyone, Dr. Boyfriend!
Today, he has decided to take on Peanut. Who seems to find this humorous.

He is literally about half her length and, standing up, the top of his head barely reaches her shoulder. He's heavy and solid, but not very big. No wonder he gets his ass kicked a lot. ;)

She has spent the past half hour or so allowing him to sneak up on her, then she'll glance over her shoulder and give him a look as if to say, ''Seriously, dude? Are you really that stupid?" Then he'll flop onto the ground and chirp and roll to show that it's all play, really, until she turns away and he starts stalking her again.

I shall hide behind this anthill and grass for a few minutes
to give you a sense of safety, Dr. Boyfriend! Bwahaha!
I expect the ass kicking to commence any minute now, but it's currently all quiet out in our front yard. Abbie and Puufy, though, have filled up on Meow Mix and taken seats on the wicker furniture to watch the upcoming event. ;)

07 June, 2013

Adult Ed

It's looking like I'll be teaching a writing adult ed class this fall. I've been pondering the possibilities for a few days, and I think I'm going to go with Write That Novel! (or something close to that, anyway). I'm thinking a 6 week class, meeting a week for two hours a session. There will be handouts and, hopefully, much discussion. :)

I have to clear everything with the coordinator, but this is my current 6-week lesson plan of action! :)

Week 1: Decisions to Make Before You Actually Start to Type

  • Writing Isn't Easy, it's WORK
  • Creating Dedicated Time and Space to Write
  • Nailing down the Concept
  • Choose the Right Genre
  • Choosing a Workable Yet Sellable Length
  • WTF is POV?
  • Tense and Tension
  • Your Unique Voice
  • Daily Word Counts
  • Manuscript Format

Week 2, Part 1: How Much Structure Do You Need?

  • Building the Framework of Structure
  • Winging it vs Pre-Planning
  • Types of Outlines and Methods
  • The Hero's Journey
  • When it's Okay to Go Off Path
  • Where to Put Key Events, Inciting Incident, Etc.
  • Characters, Part One: Protagonist and Antagonist

Week 2, Part 2: The Opening

  • Where Does the Story Start?
  • The Opening Sentence, Paragraph, and Page
  • Characters, Part Two: The Supporting Cast
  • Frontloading Narrative
  • Keeping it TIGHT

Week 3: Getting Past the Hump

  • The Muddle in the Middle
  • Writing And Story Fatigue
  • Life Distractions
  • Getting Lost While Staying On Track
  • How Your Structure Can Help
  • Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard

Week 4: Finish That First Draft!

  • Keep Pushing, Even if it Sucks
  • Ratchet that Tension!
  • What Does A Climax Need?
  • Denouement, or Letting Go
  • Checking Your Story Threads
  • What if You Missed Something?
  • Set it Aside. Yes, I Mean It.

Week 5: Revision

  • The Read Through
  • Taking Notes and Making Them Work For You
  • Writing Groups and Taking Critique
  • Spelling and Grammar Check
  • It's Not a Baby, It's A Book
  • All Things Serve The Story
  • Kill Those Darlings
  • Tighten, Tighten, Tighten

Week 6: The Art of Getting Published

  • What do YOU Want?
  • Traditional, Indi, and Vanity Publication
  • Formatting Your Manuscript
  • Querying Agents
  • How New York Works
  • Submissions
  • Contracts
  • Marketing
  • Getting Paid
  • Start The Next Book!

That's what I'm thinking. There's a LOT to cram into a 6 week class.

Any thoughts?

06 June, 2013

Toddlers and Desk Lamps

I have a pretty cool desk lamp I've had for years. It's brushed nickel with a folding arm (I call it draftsman style) and uses a single halogen bulb. It's not too big, not too small... I really like my lamp.

So does my granddaughter.

She insists on playing with it, no matter how much I try to dissuade her. She wants to fiddle with the springs that hold it upright and in place. She wants to fiddle with the cord. She wants to move the shade up down and all round. Mostly, tho, she wants to touch the light.

It's an exposed halogen bulb. The lens broke years ago. Silly me has told her no countless times, slapped her hand a few, and done all I can to keep her from sticking her little hand up into the bright light. It's hot! I say. Burn you!

She's eighteen months old and fearless. Typical for her age. My words of caution mean nothing!

Today, while she was sitting on my lap (and after having been scolded away from the lamp several times already), she lurched sideways and went for it before I could stop her. Our girl is quick, crafty, and determined.

Sure enough, she scorched a finger, the back of the first joint of her left index finger, to be precise. She didn't cry (she merely made a startled 'Aahh!' sound and frowned at me while flicking her finger). Poor girl. She's currently bandaged with antibiotic ointment per her doc's office consultation instructions but otherwise fine.

Didn't teach the little-stinker-butt anything, though. She's still wanting to play with my lamp.

05 June, 2013


We have a toddler in the house. Specifically our granddaughter, who is 18 months old, right about three feet tall, on the slender side, and goes Full Speed All Of The Time.

We refer to it as 'Very. Busy.'

She's a climber (our little monkey) and she wants it all and she wants it now, as most toddlers tend to be. We usually try to burn off some of this excess energy and determination (which helps everyone in the house have a reasonable bedtime, ha ha) by going to the park just beyond our back fence, or by playing for hours on end in the back yard. Preferably both, several times, in any given day.

That's not always possible, especially since we can't seem to go more than a few hours without rain lately. So, what's a tired gramma to do on a rainy day?

Sometimes we go to the mall and I let her run while I scurry along behind (hey, that's exercise for me, too!!). Sometimes we go to the grocery store with all of the cool stuff to look at and taste and people to talk to (and a steering wheel to spin around as she pretends to drive). Sometimes I knock over grandpa's computer chair and she climbs up and over and around and through it, then we make a fort/tent with her favorite blanket, and we wrestle, and stuff like that.

Tuesday night, though, she was wound up after being cooped up all day, Grandpa needed his chair, I had no desire to spend an hour or more literally running around the mall, and we didn't need groceries.

So we went to McDonald's to play in the tubes with other kids.

She was fine, happy and squeeing and going up, down, and all around the kiddy tubes and slides, all while stopping at our table after every circuit to get a drink and something to munch on (my girl loves her unsweetened iced tea and apple slices!!) but some of the other kids... Not so much.

First, I'd like to say that I know boys will be boys and some climbing is gonna happen. When we got there, there were eleven other kids. Eleven. Two, a boy and a girl of, oh, 6-8 years old, were brother and sister and kept trying to figure out how to get past the fencing to behind the tube-maze. Their mother wouldn't let them do more than make feeble attempts, but she did let them climb a little on open areas. Mostly they played and laughed and were just fine. Regular kids.

The other nine? Not so much.

They were there in a group. Four moms, nine kids, seven of which were boys. One little boy was just walking, and there was a girl of about 12, but the rest were spaced roughly between 5 and 10 years old.

These kids, other than the barely walking infant and the nearly pubescent girl, climbed over EVERYTHING. Two of them repeatedly got on the top of the tube contraption, back beyond the fencing to 'off limits areas', and got themselves stuck in places kids obviously weren't supposed to go.

I really didn't mind the climbing much, and, like I said, boys will be boys and they do stuff like that, but, well, when an area is locked, fenced, and marked 'off limits', I tend to think the parents ought to discourage their little darlings from going there. Or their kids being about 20 feet in the air walking on a tube or pipe. But what do I know?

I could let the climbing and generalized naughtiness slide without too much of a second thought, but four of these seven boys (the four biggest) seemed to be trying their best to disassemble the whole dang thing. They jumped up and down on weak points (like a propeller on one of the pod areas). They tugged on the netting, swinging from it, obviously trying to get it to pop out of the bolts and fastenings (but if it had, they would have fallen about fifteen feet). They lay down inside of the tubes and kicked against the inside of view ports over and over and over trying to pop them loose. They kicked, pulled, jumped, wriggled, and slammed everything they possibly could, preferably if it meant they could get into a restricted area to do it.

All the while the mothers sat and watched and did nothing, until the little girl (she was maybe 6??) got stuck in a fenced off area about 10' up in the air. What did her mother do? Marched over to where her daughter was crying for help and told her to jump because it wasn't like she was gonna break her leg or anything. Then she went back to the table and her conversation with her friends.


And the barely walking infant managed to climb all the way into the tubes and get himself up at the top, but unable to find his way back out. They left him up there whimpering while they all walked to the counter to get ice cream.

Maybe I'm weird or old fashioned, but I cannot fathom allowing my kid to be willfully destructive like these kids were. I can't imagine letting a baby who's obviously too small to be in the tubes without assistance be in the tubes without assistance. And I also can't imagine leaving all of my supper mess (including spilled drinks, smeared ketchup, thrown food, and I dunno how many wrappers and napkins) just sitting there on the tables for someone else to clean up.

They all were nice enough to my granddaughter, gave her space to do her thing, smiled at her, told her 'hi' and other friendly things, and a couple of the kids even talked to me as they gleefully tried to jump on the propeller until it broke. So they weren't all bad, just... physically out of control, and no one seemed to give a damn.

04 June, 2013

Getting Fixed

I come from a long line of big, friendly people and, for much of my life, I was the smallest of my siblings, and even smaller than some of the extended family.

Since I'm tall, and 'extra cuddly' sized, that's saying a lot.

Other than sinus allergies and Rosacea, I've always been healthy, despite being heavy. My brother had his stomach done a few years ago, my sister has lost more than 100 lbs with the help of TOPS, but I remained basically the same weight, at least within 10 lbs or so, for more than twenty years. I also have extreme self confidence issues, part due to the introversion, part not. They all tend to compound and reflect back on one another. Overweight, introverted, depressed, fearful, avoidant, self loathing! Welcome to the family ferris wheel! Round and round we go!

Me, 2012, before I decided to wrestle the weight tiger.
Things started to change for me when we moved up here in 2008. Our daughter went off to college (she's back home now, with a daughter of her own) and it gave me what could best be described as too much spare time. I used a good hunk of it to change myself and my mindsets, starting with Lasik. I've always been dreadfully nearsighted (just like my mother), but when bifocals became necessary, I lost all depth perception and started falling/tripping. A LOT. Yeah, I'm introverted, but the necessity of staying home because walking out in the world meant tripping over the tiniest cracks and falling on my face was a very scary prospect. Anyway, I got lasered in 2009 and now only need glasses to read, which is pretty cool.

I like funky reading glasses. :)
It was astounding to me how much losing my glasses opened up my life and my mind. One of the many, many shields I'd manufactured for myself was no longer there to hide behind and it was a terrifying yet liberating experience. But, hey, it was a start! With that barricade destroyed, I decided to deal with the writing demon. Writing, for me, had never been a pleasant endeavor, always mired in angst and pain and anger. I used it to vent, to purge, to drain off internal poisons, and to let the darkness loose before it ate me alive. I stopped writing after Valley of the Soul for a lot of reasons, but pretty much all of them were, admittedly, psychological and based on fear. Once my eyes were fixed, I decided to stare at the writing monster once again and make it my bitch instead of the other way around.

In 2010, I wrote an amazing, twisty, hopeful novel called Morgan's Run. Almost everyone who's read it has gushed and raved about it, but it was, supposedly, 'unsellable'. I'm not exactly sure why. My only theory is it's because the MC (a child abuse survivor suffering with extreme PTSD) and her situation are rather nuts. Morgan's crazy, yes, but that's why I like her so much.

There's still hope for Morgan - YAY!! - and I'm trying to figure out how to tweak her into a NA book instead of a mainstream psycho-thriller. I'm so excited she still has hope. :)

While working on Morgan's Run, writing once again became a compulsion, but not a painful one. I considered this to be great progress. Unlike the Dubric books, she wasn't an endless trudge of pain and suffering and cutting my psyche open to slap the bloody mess onto the page while it lay there twitching and screaming. There was blood, yes, and pain and tears, but none of it was forced, and none hurt more than it helped. Morgan's Run was incredibly cathartic. And short. I think it's about 95,000 words which for me isn't much longer than a short story. lol

Anyway, I adore Morgan and I'm so, so glad she might yet find a home.

While working on Morgan, I kind of forced myself to become more outgoing. I served as Treasurer for our quilt guild, I worked part-part time at a quilt shop (talking to real people!! Aaack!!), I got onto FaceBook, I self published three short stories (all of the proceeds go to charity), and I joined the Des Moines chapter of Sisters In Crime.

I've cut back some on my responsibilities (SinC especially since time and gas are at a premium) but I'm still making myself be involved in things outside of my head and home. But, anyway, Morgan wasn't selling and I really, really wanted to get back to work as a writer, so I asked my agent what he thought I should write next. I gave him short synopses/concepts of several ideas I had. He picked SPORE, a book about a haunted comic book artist and people who are no longer dead, so in 2012, I began.

Also, around that time, I noticed my knees were becoming increasingly problematic, my feet hurt all of the time, and my energy level... Frankly it sucked. All of my medical particulars were still just fine, but I really needed to deal with the excess weight. I wrestled a long, long time with this because I was hiding behind my weight. It was just one more barrier. I knew it, my husband knew it, my physician knew it. Shit, everyone who knew me knew it. I, however, was reluctant to lose that last bastion of  safety. But I needed to. Having been overweight for nearly my entire life, I'd tried losing weight before, with almost every possible plan under the sun. Nothing had ever worked, or more accurately, nothing had ever 'stuck' because I'd slip up and throw in the towel. So, what to do?? My friends Jean and Wendy had found a good deal of success with Weight Watchers, and while I'd tried them decades ago (I think I was still in high school) my research showed that they were highly rated on successes, especially in the long term. I liked the idea of structure with flexibility, and I liked that going to meetings meant you weren't doing it all alone.

I kind of need some sort of real accountability.

So I talked it over with Bill and, despite the cost (oy, the cost!!!) I joined up in September, with meetings plus online. Also, contrary to my natural cheap nature, I'm all in. I buy the smoothies, I buy the fiber bars, I have the exercise DVDs, the whole shebang, even the ActiveLink fitness monitor, which has been a godsend at keeping me from sitting on my ass all day.

Me, today.
As of my last weigh in, I'm down 36 lbs. Not as fast as I'd like (it never is) but averaging a pound a week is pretty cool. Bill is ecstatic, my physician is ecstatic, and my clothes are all too big. My shoes are too big. It's insane. I'm looking at doing a 5k this fall, just walking it - my knees won't stand for a run longer than a minute or so - but Damn. Me. I still have a long way to go, but this is totally doable, long term, lifetime, forever. And it's making other things better, every lost pound lets in a little more light.

SPORE is done - it was a frustrating pleasure to write and I finished it right before Thanksgiving last year - and I'm currently awaiting another batch of changes from The Agent. It will, with luck, sell to a major publisher sometime this year. I hope it does. I hope he can find a publisher for Morgan too, assuming I can nudge her into the New Adult realm.

I need another book to work on, but so far my brain keeps downshifting back to Morgan and SPORE. I'm not sure why, exactly, maybe because they're still 'unfinished business', maybe because the true concept of the next great twisty story hasn't yet taken root in my brain (I have a few seedlings, but nothing strong enough to pull on yet). I'm not sure, but I'm also not worried. Frustration with writing is no longer about facing the pain, it's about trying to cram a pissed off bobcat into a gallon ziplock bag. Length. Good golly, I fight LENGTH. How the hell does anyone write a coherent book under 90k?? I struggle to trim to get it to squeeze in under 100 and would much rather have 150. It's a FIGHT I tell ya! That's the hard part, keeping it short enough to sell.

And for that I am ever so thankful. After Dubric, I honestly never thought I'd enjoy writing, but I do.

03 June, 2013

Three months

That's apparently how long it takes me to make myself write a blog post.

Too long, I know, but even after a decade of doing this, I'm still not a comfortable blogger.

I have a rather mundane, quiet, non-eventful life, and that's just fine with me. It does, however, make blog topics tougher to root up, since I doubt anyone cares about folding laundry, yelling at the dog to quit barking his fool head off because some other dog has dared to pee in his yard, or cooking porkchops. Which we had for supper tonight, mostly because they were in the front part of the freezer and Bill loves porky chops.

I'd asked a few friends yesterday about potential blog topics, and have decided today to talk about where we live. In June of 2008, we moved from the 'Des Moines Metro' (which in our case meant unincorporated almost rural dead-end dirt road nowhere a few miles outside of Des Moines) to a small town in Northwest Iowa, because of Bill's job. He works for the post office and he used to fix the mechanical parts of the mail sorting machines (belts, hoses, chains, etc) but the move came with a promotion to fixing the electronic parts (wiring, computery bits, switches, etc) and a pretty hefty pay increase.

To say we 'jumped on that puppy' would be an understatement.

So, anyway, we moved up here, and bought a pretty cool Victorian house on a large lot near the middle of a very small town. We went from an acreage to 'in town', and it's something all of us still struggle with, but for different reasons. For Bill, there's Not. Enough. Outdoor. Space. and he feels kind of fenced in and claustrophobic even though we have one of the largest lots in town. For our daughter, who grew up 10 minutes from movies, shopping, restaurants, and countless buildings taller than 2 stories, it's 'too country'. For me, it's just about right, other than All. The. People. which I'll get to in a moment.

Plus there's no good barbeque up here. The closest is more than an hour away. Seriously, that bites.

Anyway, there are less than 600 people here in our little community and it's, roughly, seven streets running East/West crisscrossed by seven streets running North/South in a sort of cockeyed, jaggedy-edged fashion. I walk the outskirts most evenings around dusk, and, including walking from my house to the west edge, then back to the house again after making the complete circuit, Google Maps says it's a 2 mile trek. So it's less than 1/2 mile on a side. Ish. That's pretty small. We have the stereotypical one church and one bar (plus a gas station/convenience store that sells chips, pop, candy and a few non-perishable staples at slightly higher prices than the grocery store 10-12 miles away) a feed store, a grain co-op, a post office (only open a few hours a day), a fire station, and a very small library which doesn't carry my books. The town is bisected by a N/S highway (in Iowa that means 2 lane blacktop) and an E/W highway. The next closest town is about 8 miles straight East and they have a quilt shop. I'm there quite a lot. Between us and any of the surrounding towns are miles and miles of corn and soybean fields. Oh, there are a few farm houses and a stream or two (and the occasional grazing cow or horse) but it's pretty much all crops. This time of year, and after our lengthy and very wet spring, the fields are pretty much all mud. Normally, everything would be planted, but not this year. Not yet, at least. And there's worry there may be no soybean crop at all.

You get the idea.

Our house backs up to the largest of three city parks - no close by neighbors that way - but we had single, retired women on each side of us, until one of them moved to Western Arkansas last year. Or maybe it was Eastern Oklahoma. I honestly don't remember. The gal on the one side is still here, and she's very much into lawn work and has a GORGEOUS yard. Manicured lawn, flower beds, decorative do-dah's. It's just lovely. She has a little Westie named Mookie. Mookie is quite cool, but he and our Gozer (big, gruff lab mix) do not get along. She has a friend a couple of blocks away who picked apples from our tree the fall after we moved here and is super nice. The other single gal's house was put on the market last year and had a renter, then a contract buyer, but it just sold this past week. I think the new owner and his teenage daughter mowed yesterday. We all nodded hello, but didn't talk.

Across the street is a couple about our age with grown children and a lot of dogs. They both work and aren't home much. They're on a corner. Across that street from them is the Lions' Club secretary and his family (I think he works at a lab. I think). Beyond him, I have no idea. Next to the gal who has moved's house (and across our street from the Lion's Secretary) was an older guy and his adult daughter. I believe he was an over the road truck driver, and she came back home after a divorce/breakup/job loss, but no one's seen them for a long time so I guess they've moved. They had a couple of big mixed breed dogs.

It's weird, I know people by their dogs. lol

On the other side of the middle aged couple with all of the dogs is an elderly man (pretty sure he used to work for the grain co-op because the trucks always honk as they pass his house) and his middle aged daughter. She works at the community gas station. They don't have a dog. Past them on that side of the street... I don't know anyone, but I know their neighbors let their dogs loose to potty and of course they cross the street and come over here to pee on our maple tree and drive Gozer bugshit insane. They are friendly dogs, tho.

Past the lady beside us with the Westie and the gorgeous lawn is an older couple with 2 Daschunds. He is a semi-retired teacher, and I have no idea what she does. We've actually only talked to them because last summer he fell off a ladder and she knew I was home so she ran over here asking for help. That's how we met. Really. Otherwise I'd have no idea. Their dogs are cool though and every time we walk up the alley they rush at the fence, barking, and we laugh about the attack of the ferocious wiener dogs. They're not ferocious at all, just wiggly and waggly and barking. Very cute. Our cats like to tease them. The house past them (on the corner) has two old retriever mixes and a wire haired fox terrier looking mutt dog. And a gorgeous calico cat. Across the alley from them (toward the park behind our house) has a LOT of kids, a different calico cat, and a friendly mixed breed dog. Across the street from the folks with the retrievers and wire-haired mix is a younger family with two gorgeous Dalmatians. I dunno what he does, but she works at the lab and is on the city council.

On the far side of the park, at the corner, is the Lions club president and his family. He's the only one we've ever met. A block or so west of the park is the city maintenance guy and his family. His son just became and Eagle Scout. A couple of blocks north and one block west of us is the mayor's house. He and his wife have two daughters (they frequently come to our door selling stuff for church, school, girl scouts, etc) and they have great danes plus foster cats for the humane society.

Oh! Right next to the park (across the street from the big house with lots of kids and the friendly mixed breed dog) is the house with the camper and two Boston Terriers, both of which are sometimes loose and running the town and have tried to bite us as we take walks. We do not like the Boston Terriers much. Gozer chooses to pee on them instead of opening the can of whup-ass like he does with little Mookie next door. It's actually kind of funny in a twisted kind of way to see the PITA terriers frozen in fear and getting peed on. But Mookie does talk a lot of smack while the Boston Terriers are pretty much silent, so I guess it makes sense in doggy logic.

That's pretty much everyone we know, usually via their pets, other than the other city council members and a couple of firemen, who we know on sight, but have no idea where they live in town. Oh! I've spoken a couple of times with the local Pastor, who is an incredibly nice man, and there's a house across from the library who have cut a hole in their garage to help feed and shelter the local stray cats, plus the couple across from the fire station who make a point to keep cat food out for the strays (we do too) so we sort of but not really know a few cat people too. And the gal who babysits and brings the kids to the park behind our house. My granddaughter and I go over to play with them most mornings.

So we've lived her five years this month and know only a handful of people. Which, frankly, was just fine with me. I am incredibly introverted, but, um, well, I'm also political. And apparently personable or friendly or something. Because in March I was, sort of appointed to the City Council, much to my introversion's terror.

Two people had just left the council, one in retirement, one because of moving to follow a job, and the council needed two more members, pronto. I was approached by our city clerk (she lives in a town about 10 miles north of us) asking if I'd be interested in taking a seat until the elections this November. I agreed, mostly because I am rather political (I go to caucus, I vote, and I try to pay attention to issues) and because I feel that as a citizen, there are certain things that, when asked, are duties and responsibilities. So I said okay.

Five of us apparently said okay, because five of us showed up for the two open seats and the mayor decided to put our names in a hat (actually it was a coffee cup) and draw them. I was drawn first, then the other new councilman (who I think, but am not certain, owns the troublesome Boston Terriers).

Then, at Easter, the Lions Club had their annual Easter Egg Hunt and, with the candy, included a note explaining they were down to a scant few members and if they didn't get more members they'd have to disband. I'm pretty much pro Easter Egg Hunting, and Halloween Parties, and Christmas Parties and, well, generally Pro Kid Activities, so now Bill and I both are also Lions.

While I'm delighted to help, I'm not sure I like all of this Public Exposure stuff very much. Just this past week, I found myself in the middle of an issue between the local bar, fire department, and Lions simply because I agreed to do someone a favor.

Sigh. I do not like drama.

Anyway, I love our little town, it's the perfect size for me, but I'm not sure yet if I'll run for reelection this fall, or how long I will be a Lion. Guess it'll depend on how much socializing I can take. When I walk into the gas station for a pop and people there greet my arrival with 'Hey Tammy!', it's a bit much.

So we'll see.

03 March, 2013


Yeah, I titled this Money.

Many of you might know that Amanda Palmer (aka AFP or Amanda Fucking Palmer), she who makes music, breathes art, and smooches Neil Gaiman on a regular basis, recently put out a TED Talk.

I love TED Talks. Just want to clarify that.

Anyway, AFP, in her Talk, explained how, to her, it's about connections. It's about trust. It's about believing the fans will be there, will help you, will let you sleep on their couch, and how they will support you (the artist) in all possible ways, including financially, even if (maybe especially if) you put the work out there for free.

Frankly, I believe this too.

Sort of.

Today, Chuck Wendig wrote an awesome blogpost (btw, it's actually very light on his usual conversational profanity) about AFP's TED talk and his own uncertain take on the whole trust/free concept.

Read it. Please. I'll wait. :)

Okay, y'all with me so far? TED talk about trust and connection, writery art versus musicy art, keeping food in your kid's belly, believing in fans, and so forth.

I am right there, in all of it. The good, the bad, the WTF is the answer?!? But my reasons and methodology (and internal issues) are, sadly, my own.

I, too, was raised to 'have a job' in a lower-income rural midwestern home. I absolutely am not saying I was ever told to put the art part aside. Heavens no, although while I was working as a graphic designer I was asked several times when I was gonna grow up and get a 'real job' as if dealing with clients and creating art on demand wasn't real work, but I digress. My dad was a professional musician on the weekends (weekdays he was a machinist) almost until his death, and my mother worked mostly in bookkeeping (the kind like accounting, not taking bets, ha ha) and other officey work until she finally retired a few years ago. My family is crammed tight with artists and musicians, even a comic. Some are professional (as in regularly getting paid), most are hobbyists (as in mostly not getting paid). I am, as far as I know, the only working writer, although my niece may have also been bitten by that particular bug. Time will tell. I do know that my daughter could be a far better writer than I am - she totally kicks my ass at storytelling - but has zero desire to sling words, just as I have zero desire to be a musician. Seen it, grew up with it. Thanks anyway, I'm not that crazy.

Ever meet my daughter, feel free to ask her if she wants to be a writer. That's pretty much exactly what she'll tell you. Hell no, I'm not that crazy.

Anyway, I came into this job - and it IS a job - knowing full well the pay sucks. Generally speaking, novelists put in months and months of work for little to no pay. Most books lose money, and few find an audience at all beyond close family and a few indulgent friends. It's a rarity to get the 'big advance' and rarer still to be a bestseller, let alone a consistently working, consistently paid writer.

I am blessed. I am. I've done the impossible, gone from rural nobody to published novelist. It can be done! But the being published part isn't why my work keeps showing me I'm blessed.

I'm blessed because my home life and my family is intact and flourishing, despite the madness of the job. I'm blessed because my husband makes enough for us to live on so I can chase this writing beast in my own oddball way. I'm blessed because I have fans and many - an astounding number - have become friends. I'm blessed because I'm working again (GoSpore!!) and it's looking pretty golden up ahead. I'm blessed that lots of people read and love my books. I'm blessed because I know that while plenty of folks have downloaded the free .pdf versions of my short stories (linky here) plenty more have paid a buck apiece so I can donate that money to charity. I've gone places and done things I never would have or could have done without writing the novels first. Made friends. Grew as a person. And on and on and on.

It's a grand thing. Truly. But - ain't there always a 'but'? - I struggle all the time with money issues. Not the money itself - shit, it's only money - but with, well, the morality of it all, especially me, my demons, and getting paid to slap them onto the page.

I listened to AFP's TED Talk misty eyed yet terrified because in some ways she's exactly like me, and in others totally opposite. I'm much closer aligned with Chuck overall, but I don't have his drive. I - through instinct or upbringing - find the concept of a KickStarter abhorrent. To me, it *is* like begging,  but also slimy and untrustworthy, like the character Wimpy in the Popeye cartoon: I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. My experience says, for most people, Tuesday never comes. Or it's like buying the 'mystery box', $30 value, for only $19.95. Yeah, the pile of lug nuts, disposable lighters, and clothesline rope might be worth $30, but if I don't need or want those things, you've swindled me out of twenty bucks.

It's like paying up front for a home repair only to be left high and dry with your kitchen gutted, or sending money to some guy from Nigeria, or that ever popular deed to the Brooklyn Bridge. That's how kickstarter feels to me. Always. Skeevy and just plain wrong, especially since my own output is often flaky, especially near a project's beginning.

That's not to say I haven't 'supported' a crowdfunding project or three - I have, for people I know, and only because I love them and want to help. I am a master at donations, got a PayPal button, count me in!!

But is that the way to run a writing business?

But, then again, when the pay is so craptastic and the chances of making a dime so low, why not? But what if the kickstarter doesn't produce the promised product? Or what if the project explodes and makes a crap-ton of money and everyone's thrilled? But it's gross and... eeew. But it's grasping the current social media fueled marketplace!

Round and round we go.

I don't write for the money, but it's nice when it comes. I fully intend to sell SPORE (under whatever title it ends up with) to a traditional publisher and I will do whatever I can to help it sell for enough to 'pay off' something. Anything. Shit, my Kohl's account even. I joke about Kohl's, but, still. The car. I'd love to pay off the car. Or my student loan (graduated owing more than I ever made in a single year as a graphic designer at a job I haven't worked in for a decade! Yay apparently endless student loan debt! Woot! You're awesome!!) Or even - gasp! - the house. OMG! Wouldn't that be amazing?!?

But, see, the book is done. I'm selling something that's finished, not a slippery concept I'm passing around like a vaporous collection plate at a fundraiser. It's a real thing that actually exists right now. Here it is! If you like it, make an offer! If you don't like it, that's cool, I'll schlep it across town for someone else to look at! Okthxbai! Sale or not, I would have written it regardless. The money comes after, not before.

Maybe that's my real problem with crowdfunding. Taking a bet the person on the other side will produce precisely what they promise to. Unlike the shady kitchen remodeler or the $20 bag of lighters and clothesline rope. Or me who still struggles to write the next Dubric book after seven freaking years.

I have to admit I have considered sort-of crowdfunding Stain of Corruption (should I ever get past the tangle in the !*@&$^% middle) but can you even do that with something that's finished? Hey, look, I have this thing and if you'd like to be one of the first to see - with maybe some special stuff tossed in before it's out for full release 2 months from now!! - here ya go, toss some coinage in my digital hat, okthxbai!  Shit, I dunno, I just do know I cannot fathom the regular crowdfunding way. At least not for me.

I totally understand why folks do it, why it works, and why it's a good thing. I do, so please don't send me hate mail. I just can't get myself past the 'eew' factor.

But, on the other side, I do give away the short stories and, frankly, I've given away gobs of books. I give away quilts. I share freely of my time and talents, which completely astounds and disgusts some people. I get that, too. We all have our quirks and requirements, I guess. We also have our own motivators and money is waaaaay down my list. In fact, it's likely to not even be on my list at all.

And, maybe, that's where I fail. I am much more prone to giving than asking.

So much to ponder as the marketplace - and distribution methods - rapidly change.

So how about you? How do you feel about asking for the money?

22 February, 2013


Just wanted to give a quick update on SPORE.

Things are going great!

I've had some input from NY and I'm very pleased with the direction the book's taking. Most of the suggested changes have been minor (there's a setting issue, a deployment of the spores issue, stuff like that, and I even get to add another character!! OMG!! YAY!!!! Do you have any idea how HARD it is for me to write tightly cast books?!?  I LOVE writing lots of characters!!) and while I have to admit I felt a momentary 'I'm not perfect! My book isn't perfect! Waaah!' sting (frankly who is perfect? It certainly isn't me or my books! lol) I'm absolutely on board with all of it. In fact, I'm excited!

Even including a potential likely title change.


There are a handful of reasons ranging from 'out here in the sticks I know jack-diddly about the market or what publishers are buying' to the knowledge that the book is really a product I create and my job is simply to write the best product I can, and all sorts of business-related reasons between. But the real reason is I know what few aspects of the book are really, truly important to me, and what grows behind Sean's house frankly isn't on that list. How the spores erupt isn't on that list. Even the title isn't on that list. Nope. Not even close. All of that stuff's just writer ego, and if I've learned anything it's to leave my ego at the door and do the damned job.

I've discussed my vital needs for this book with my husband and a couple of close friends and, so far, those few things are still included in the book. They will remain included because one character relationship issue and two story concepts are absolutely vital to the story I want to tell. Yup, just three things.

The rest is window dressing.

I'm thankful that the agent seems to love those things too - yay!! - but, really, his suggestions and questions just mean more typing, more thinking, and more research. So what? Fix it, make the story the best, shiniest, most profitable product it can be. That is a writer's job, after all: to tell a damned good story.

This weekend I'm researching ideas and brainstorming not only one more important character but a few other things that'll scuff off the remaining snags and make this book scream.

I'm so excited! So thrilled!

This is freaking awesome and I'm awed that it's going so well. {{hugs}}