Virtual Author Tour! It’s Free! It’s Fun! Come join in

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I haven’t done an author’s blog tour before. Neither had my compatriot, Samantha Tiner. But she did The Next Big Thing; then, asked me to join in.  Sam saw it as a great way to promote her indie release  “The Secret of the Storm” which was released on Sept 1. You can find it on Amazon.

I figured I’d be game to do the same, if only to just get my thoughts clear on what I’m doing with this current work in progress. Also, the idea of this virtual mystery tour was fun.

This tour doesn’t require me or you to get on a plane, train, boat, with a goat or eating Green Eggs and Ham. Just to answer a few questions of interest, have you read them and then tag some fellow writers to participate in the same. It’s a great way to get to know all kinds of emerging writers.  For some authors what they are discussing will already be published (and those that I will tag will find that to be the case, too); but for me, it’s all about the next big thing — unpublished. But hopefully you’ll find it interesting and come back when it is at that magical place called “published.”

Next Big Thing Interviewer:  What is the working title of your book? 

Casz:  SECOND THOUGHT

TNBT: Where did the idea come from for the book?

C: During a rainy October day, I saw a flash in the alley of my small town. News events of the previous weeks coupled with some personal tragedies spurred the story. 

TNBT:  What genre does your book fall under?

C:  Someone asked me that the other night as I was vetting some hooklines via social media chat. It most certainly falls under the umbrella term of speculative fiction. It has some urban fantasy elements because it’s set in 2009(ish), but also has some horror elements to it as well. I just call it weird tale. 

TNBT:  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

C:  The Reverend (AKA Rolston Heyerdahl):  Keith David (aka Keith David Williams)

      Anna Ruby:  Alana de la Garza

      Sam Ruby: Seychelle Gabriel

      Wyatt Raines:  Paul Walker

     Abaak Lajjad:  Steve Buscemi 

TNBT:  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

C:  A small town is gripped by an malevolent creature and thrust into an epic battle of good versus evil.

TNBT:  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

C:  I don’t know yet.

TNBT:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

C:  30 days. It was my 2009 NaNoWriMo project. 

TNBT:   What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

C:  I told a friend that it’s like the second-half of THE STAND in some aspects, but doesn’t incorporate the whole of the country. It also feels a bit like THE RITUAL, but probably only because I just recently read that. 

TNBT:  Who or What inspired you to write this book?

C:  People who live their truth and do the right thing in the face of much diversity.

TNBT:  What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest?

C:  If they loved Twin Peaks, they’ll probably like this; also I turn establishments on its ear and I win, at least on the pages of this novel, a bit of social justice for the LBGTQ community. 

*****

So, now I get to tag authors to join this loop.

Stephen Matlock and his brand new release STARS IN THE TEXAS SKY.

Victoria Bastedo, who never ceases to amaze me with always having a smile on her face. She also has a new release.

Evan J. Peterson and Eric Andrews-Katz. Both Evan and Eric and I appeared in the anthology AT SECOND GLANCE.  Evan is teaching a class I would LOVE to attend, and has a new release, SKIN JOB. Eric also has a new release, THE JESUS INJECTION.

Last, but surely not least, Kymberlee della Luce. She’s done a one-woman show, UNBRIDLED, which I’m hoping gets more than its inaugural run, and writes constantly. She’s going places in the art world. Keep tabs on her work now. You’ll be glad you did.

Hope you enjoyed the tour and the interview. Go check out the folks that I “tagged.” They are muses to me in their own right.

Thanks for coming along on the tour.

 

It’s Just Story – Don’t Label It Anything Else

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Leading up to and following WorldCon, there was lots of discussion about genre mashup, new genre, new pulp, existential pulp, new adult, new weird, new Y.A. – just new, new new.

Discussions here, here, here, and here (with more here), made me think that I’m one of those writers that struggles because I don’t fit neatly into a box. Okay, I can hear an evil fey in my ear channeling Nick Mamatas throw a snappy response back about fitting into the “not published enough” or “not good enough” box…but that’s just that constant author’s shadow of self-doubt creating external villains. (For the record, I have much respect for Mr. Mamatas, and have great appreciation for his work, as well as his fiery honesty. Why his face is on the evil fey whispering in my ear…well, that’s just an author’s imagination.)

But, the bottom line is that most writers I know, including myself, just want to write what we write. We don’t want to fit into little boxes. The marketing professional inside of me says, well, sorry, kiddo you have to have labels so that the bookstores know where to shelve your product (book). This whole belief that consumers (readers) only read from a certain shelf is very limited. Are there customers like that? Sure, there is; but, the fact is that most readers read everything. They will read a mystery, they’ll read a collection of short stories, they’ll read science fiction and fantasy; they’ll even read literary fiction. What’s my evidence of this? My book shelves, the book shelves of my friends and family, what I see my community members reading in the library, and it seems some folks in the industry (especially the library side of the house) tend to agree. Oh, and don’t forget the internet – the internet’s bookshelves are endless, as the affable Chuck Wendig pointed out.

However, even when common sense prevails, there is a clear problem with the industry. I say this because I’m seeing such statements from authors trying to thrash themselves away from confining genre labeling and what the industry seemingly expects of them. Writers like Caitlin R. Kiernan or Myke Cole have to communicate – via blogs, interviews, panels at conventions, etc. – that they are only going to write one way until they are taken serious as a science fiction writer (Kiernan), or that men can write romance (Cole) in order to throw off the chains of genre or author branding. I see a problem when people say William Gibson is defeating his author branding by writing historical fiction as opposed to cyberpunk.  Hell, eventually, even the almighty J.K. Rowling has to write something else. Whereas other authors like Harlan Ellison,  Neal Stephenson,  Dan Simmons, and Jean Johnson write in multiple genres with relative ease and no one tries to clamp them down to one genre shelf. Even classics like Orwell and Adams wrote in multiple genres. Of course, then there are folks who seem to have their own genre, like China Miéville or Neil Gaiman. Other times, some folks just bend the language to make being trapped in a genre something good:  Be a specialist, they say. I say Bollocks! to the spin doctoring. Write what you want. If the story is good, it will sell.

Over the years I’ve written everything from non-fiction, fiction, creative non-fiction, and from horror to literary fiction. When I sit down to write a story the first thing on the forefront of my mind is not what genre it is.  I’m writing to tell the story that must be told. It is as simple as that. Nothing more. My protagonists certainly don’t whisper in my ear and say, “I must be on the hard-case crime shelf,” or ‘Hey, you, writer, you better make sure that I end up on the same shelf as Cronin, King, Neville, or Straub.” No, they grab the writer (me) and say, “Tell my story and let the world know.”

I may be being too metaphorical here; however, I despise when I read something that is just rehashed formula made to just sell and not stimulate (I will refrain from naming names, but many of them are sold at Wal-Mart check-out stands or liquidated via Costco). I bore of stories like that. I want to see the writer challenge me – both of us going out of our comfort zone. I seem to be quoting Kiernan a lot lately, but she’s got a fucking good point:  “I am not here to write stories that make you feel good about yourselves.”  Both as a reader and a writer, that’s not what I look for from my literature. Make me think. Make me feel. And for goodness sake, don’t coddle me. If I liked your science fiction story, I’m probably going to dig your historical fiction. If I liked your graphic novel, I’m likely going to dig your young adult project, too. I don’t want my authors to type-cast themselves; I certainly don’t want them to pigeonhole me as a reader.

Given that, I don’t expect anyone to do that to me either. Fuck the genre police. Write your story and don’t let the bookshelf labels hold the pen.

*Writer’s Note:  Thanks to the Twitter-verse for helping my frontal lobe connect more examples for my arguments here. @impropaganda and @chriswhitewrite were especially on point.

 

Dealing with Rejection: dive in, pitch again and don’t forget the bologna sandwiches

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You may have thought I skipped the internet-verse; but in reality I was stuck in — dun-dun-dunnnnn! The Editing Zone!

Well, more like the revision zone.  Between the end of July and mid-September, I was all up in the grill of my manuscript (mss.) I added many thousands of words to my current work in progress. But I also got rid of at least a couple of thousand, too. Deep, deep revision — you know like when you finally get the crevice tool on the vacuum cleaner and hit the family room sofa — truly allows you to know your work inside and out.  I (re)wrote a synopses; I redid an outline. Seemingly I worked backwards until I got back to page number one.  It felt incredible, exhausting, thrilling and draining all wrapped up into a white brick made of paper and the ink of my dreams and passions.

Part of that time, also, was sucked up in writing an agent query letter, too.  I swear it felt like I spent more time on that than I did the entire mss. Of course, first attempt, I pitched a ball. I’ve wound up and I’m pitching a second right away. I had a “top ten” list of agents. But even after a few weeks, it’s always good to make sure that your second- and third-round picks are still taking queries, want your genre, and that you generally get a good “vibe” from sending your query to them.  They are going to be your teammate, coach, fielder, etc. You want to make sure it’s a good fit.

I can’t say that oh these so-many rejections later (I’ve lost count, truly), that it still doesn’t sting. But it has that “oh quit being such a baby” feel to it. Kind of how I look at my heartbreaks during high school now. It’s just a necessary step to make you stronger, a better chooser of friends/lovers, etc. Same with picking an agent. You really have to take that “he/she’s just not that into me” approach. It’s nothing personal — at least not with you. It’s subjective (as even the rejection today said) and the right agent is out there. The one that will love and go to bat at the next tournament (Agents vs. Editors).

When all else fails? Pick a comfort food. Tonight’s rejection meal hearkens back to a simpler time in my life — fried bologna sandwich (on smashable white bread) and coffee. Of course there’s coffee.  See my month-long supply that I picked up at Costco this weekend? It’s below for your viewing pleasure.  If that is not a writer’s shopping load, I don’t know what is.

What’s your favorite rejection food?

Hoarding Paper and Coffee
What happens when a writer goes to Costco...

I am not Stephen King

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Over the past five years, the bubble of my life has thrown off any person who doesn’t get that I’m a writer. That it’s weaved into the cloth of my entire being. That telling the stories of the voices in my head is first and foremost what I must do each and every day. I have surrounded myself with people who are themselves writers, and only those non-writers that have taken a moment to realize that not every writer is Stephen King and still has worth and provides benefit to the greater global literary community.

This has been a theme even more pronounced in the last week or so — especially since Mercury went into retrograde. But when Chuck Wendig proffered this on his blog, I went all tunnel-visioned dream-sequence in my head and started reliving many of the moments Penmonkey Wendig details in his piece.

Like at age 13 when I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. She told me to take typing so I would have something to fall back on because the hookers on Eight Mile Road made more money than a writer.

So I took journalism in college. There I dabbled, too, in the literary arts school, who were none too interested in allowing someone from J-school to also be in the English Department. I got the same reaction from the Photography Teacher (fine arts major) when I tried to hand in assignments with a photojournalism slant. Everyone else was photographing the same stark tree or spiral staircase. I wanted to see the emotion in people’s hands and eyes. I flunked photography class, only later to win prizes and awards for my photography. Yes, I resisted mailing copies of the articles of those awards or certificates to that professor.  Us writers tend to be a humble lot for the most part. We save the revenge for the text.

Then I did a stint as a combat photojournalist for the Army. I experienced life for awhile, fully convinced by my dog-eared copy of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas or the well-worn On The Road in my rucksack, that you couldn’t write about the human condition truly unless you’ve had you’re own experiences to write about. I was so busy living, I rarely wrote, save for that which paid the bills. Exposition to break the band of fiction voices who were clamoring for me to tell their stories. It was my life. One informative article after another.

The lights and waving lines of the dreadful excerpts of my writing life didn’t quit there, no, I had to see flashbacks of the relationships where the people wanted the fact that I was a writer to somehow enhance their lives and reputation. Not love my stories or support me in any way to create it. No, I endured disdainful moments like a lover who wanted me to only write about him, or a now ex-husband who felt, again, if I didn’t churn out the checks ala Stephen King, any time spent away from him because I was writing was a bad thing. Or friends who just wanted me to write hate mail to creditors or edit their job resumes. But to understand that I didn’t want to go out to drinks and dancing because I needed to write was beyond them. Key phrases here:  Not wanted, mind you, but needed.

About 2003, I realized that I had an us vs. them theme in my life.  I hate to seem like writers and non-writers are like democrats and republicans, but like I pointed out earlier, you have folks who do not understand the difficulty involved in having a career or job as a writer. Everyone thinks that being a writer is easy. Many people say they are writers or say “I can write better than that.” You can? Why aren’t you doing so? Why aren’t you the next Stephen King? I mean do non-engineers go up to engineers and tell them how to do their jobs? Do you decide that the police in your town are doing a bad job, so you suit up and jump in the squad car and start patrolling? Yeah, I don’t tell you how to create a class-action lawsuit without ever having cracked open a law text. Don’t tell me you’re a writer because you scrawled a haiku on your kid’s lunch napkin. You’ve dabbled. Just like I dabble in gardening and landscaping.

By 2005 I was realizing that I needed to only have those in my life who were truly supportive of my writing life. It sounds harsh, but you know those hookers on Eight Mile Road don’t tend to hang with Priests or Police either. Although that gives me ideas for a story. Eninem doesn’t have the only license to set a story near Eight Mile Road.

But the horizontal lights and dark spinning tunnel of my writing life reflection didn’t stop there. Enter today, current time stamp. My husband claims he’s married Hemingway. It’s strangely impertinent and complimentary all in one. However, I can concede he has a point (that humility thing again). I get irritated because the neighbor is cutting firewood with a chainsaw when I’m trying to polish a short-story for a literary journal and can’t concentrate; but, all three of my children could be talking to me at once and I don’t hear them because I’m deep in the land of treasure keepers and robot toys come to life. He finds this both endearing and hugely frustrating all in one. But, he loves me and married me. I have all his stuff. And I think he’s sticking around to see where the story ends because it’s so damn interesting, crazy and thrilling. Well, and one day I could be Stephen King.  Or at least have as much disposable income perhaps? Yeah, hopefully that won’t be fiction.

What I think most writers would like, and what I believe Wendig was trying to point out, is the sage old advice that you don’t know what it’s like to be someone unless you’ve traveled in their world. Truly. Not dabbling. Writers are not all the same, save in the fact that oftentimes being a writer is part of who we are and not just a job. It’s kind of like having blue eyes or red hair. Writing callouses on your dominant hand are a tell-tale sign if you’re truly a writer and you wear it proudly. And then some non-writer comes along and tells you to put ointment on the callous.  Look, I don’t ask bookkeepers if they would  like some anti-itch cream for their supposed accounting rash.  I support them in their number-y goodness. Live and let live.

Tell me about your interactions with a writer, your own writing life or how you combat these moments where people scoff at who you are and what you do. Vent, send it out into the hollow snakes of the internet here on this page. Then go out and live your passion. Whatever it is.

 

Hitchhiking through the writing galaxy…

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It’s been 42 days since I stepped away from the corporate world to make a living as a full-time writer. Buoyed by my spouse’s health insurance and my entire circle’s belief that I could do it…I did.

Initially business was swift and I was dealing with things like invoicing. This month, I’ve cleared $120. That’s about 10 percent of what I would make in two weeks at my former soul-sucking day job. You don’t have to do the math to know I’m living the starving artist gig right now.

With three teenagers in the house, the cupboards have gotten bare quickly. Two days ago, I went and asked for help via our local food bank. My care package contained 42 items. I found that rather telling, you know the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Additionally, my goal for the next few months – my deadline list, as I call it, contains 42 different submissions. If anything, maybe I’ll win at the numbers game.

As of today there are 42 days until I finally earn my Bachelor’s of Arts & Literature, too.

Are you seeing a theme here?

I’m not completely going all Jim Carey in the movie 23…but, it’s definitely given me pause. So, like any good writer, I started to do some research.

In Japan, the 42 is a sign wearing misfortune. From what I could decipher, it’s something about a signal of death. Yikes.

Further research showed that Christianity might have it out for me and my number 42. In the Bible is seems to symbolize a time of suffering and test. The 42 generations from Abraham is when Christ showed up on the scene. The gentiles trampled the holy city during 42 months. The famine of the time of Elijah lasted 42 months. The Odes of Solomon are 42 (well that’s awesome, I love Solomon’s poetry).

Go back even further to the Ancient Egyptians – and they had divided their country into 42 parts. Additionally, Mesopotamian tradition says that the surface of the Tower of Babel occupies 42 agrarian measures. And we all know what happened to the Tower of Babel.

Just on a lark, I asked my youngest son what the number 42 meant. He said, “Baseball. It was Jackie Robinson’s number, Mom.”  That was more positive.

Jackie Robinson, a positive bearer of the number 42.

My daughter said it was a positive number in the ancient numerology beliefs.  She said it counsels and comforts others. It likes music, particularly rhythm. I’d like to get into a rhythm with my writing, that’s for sure. A rhythm of paychecks. Other research into numerology suggested that it means domestic struggle. Heh. So far my partner has been hugely supportive. He even went so far as saying this morning “Oh, you thought it would be easy?” No, I didn’t think it would be easy; but, I thought it would be easier.

However, anything worth having, is worth fighting for is what they wise people say, yes? So, I putting on my literary spacesuit and going where I’ve not gone before. Yes, screw you 42…whatever you mean. I’m going to keep on keeping on. Because tomorrow will be a different number, yes? And maybe that number will be my lucky one.