Monday, September 1, 2014

Time to Regroup

My cousins & their families after rafting
So much for summer, eh? It flew far too fast and I resent its ending. I know. Petty of me. But since moving to Michigan I have never felt like I got the chance to get TIRED of summer. In my past I loved the beginning of EVERY season and no small part of that was that I was just ready for a change. Each on brought new, great stuff and I could get excited about it. But Michigan's winters are just SO LONG that all fall says to me now is “Winter is coming.” Damn Starks.

BUT there is something about September that IS good. It is my second “new year” of the year. I have two times of the year I am pretty good at saying , “Okay, time for a fresh start” and this is one of them. And it is TIMED well, as I FINALLY published the last installment of A Shot in the Light last week, so I really CAN take up projects without the lingering “what about this?” or the knowledge in the back of my head that I will have to take a break on what I'm working on to dive back into something that is on a deadline. I am DEADLINE FREE.

That is NOT to say I am starting a new book. On the contrary. September and October are going to focus on revisions of a few nearly dones (formerly done, but not so done as I thought?) books for traditional submission (then I will write a new story in November) and get back to revising nearly dones for submission to agents/ABNA in January/February:

What Ales Me

In August one of the main things I managed to accomplish was some READING and some THINKING about how to really strengthen this. I've decided a couple things. Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich's heroine) is WAY too silly for a role model (funny, yes, but the plot falls into campy and that isn't what I'm going for). She also needs rescuing a lot more than any of my heroine's will EVER need rescuing. I like to write rescuers, not rescuees. Damsels in distress sort of piss me off to be honest. I mean I GET the appeal of her two hot guys and I want some of that HEAT. But how much more satisfying to RESCUE the hot machismo man than to have him rescue you, yes? At least much more ME. But I CAN learn from the dysfunctional family, past mistake baggage, and a goofy sidekick or two. So I am giving my MC a more colorful backstory with more mistakes along the way and parents and siblings to occasionally cramp her style. I'm looking forward to the rewrite.

Kaholotus Disposal Site

This one went as far as formal submission previously, but I think my MC lacks spark. Most of my MCs are feisty or funny or smart... Helen (who's a ghost) is timid and scared. I need to figure out a way to infuse her with a spark in spite of it. I ALSO need to revisit my changes made when agented... they all made a lot of sense at the time, but I'm honestly not sure all of them work in retrospect—like I think some of them may be where I lost a bit of the original story. I also maybe need to be a bit more horrible. Erm. Edgy YA calls for it.

Medium Wrong

I have some feedback I need to infuse here and maybe a rethink on pieces of it. I love the concept here, but think it may need an underlying structure overhall.

Also Appearing

This only has a first draft, but I am thinking it is a cornerstone to a SERIES of YA books—each with a big issue, all set in the inland empire of the Pacific Northwest (the border between the Idaho panhandle and Washington State). The series title I've been working with is Chatcolet (a lake that comes up in a few of the stories including this one) but if I can expand it about, I can absort Kahlotus and Medium Wrong under this umbrella, as both have significant story in this area (where I grew up).

As for my November Project:

I actually plotted a lot on my vacation and have worked up a lot of details for my Cozy Lingerie series. The MC for this is based on a real (amazing) woman—she worked at the Moscow Police Department (was a cop when I was growing up—her youngest son is a friend of mine) and then she retired when I was in high school and opened up a lingerie shop. I love the complexity here—a woman who is smart and tough and still embraces the soft, sexy side. She was always no-nonsense, but also very kind and very funny. She really is a perfect heroine for a cozy. I just wish she'd lived to see this series take off—it has had to ferment for a while before I felt ready for it and she passed away about a year ago. I have Mike's blessing though, so I am going to go ahead. It will be my first story fully set in my home town, which will be a little strange, but I think a small town with a college and where any long-timers know the local names—that whole slightly incestuous feel of it all is really good for cozies.

Because this plan wasn't working...
The NON-writing Fresh Start

At the start of 2013 I was doing really good with an eating and exercise plan, but then my job changed, my location changed, and all of it went to hell. I had lost 50 pounds... I've gained back 40. I had NOT lost an additional 30 I wanted to lose... which means I REALLY have 70 pounds I need to get off to put me in a healthy weight range. That said, if I can lost 50 I will at least FEEL healthy. It will be slow, but 'new years' is the time to do it. My mind set is ready for 'fresh start'. I made a big batch of my 'all veggie' soup today (if I can supplement a small lunch with a big bowl of 'free' soup, I feel much less cheated) and I bought some La Croix water things (it said no sugar, no sugar substitutes, but flavor) to fill in for any midweek soda or wine urges—soon it will be herbal tea season, and then I am good with that, but I wanted a cold option. I loaded up on OTHER veggies and also went through the Busch's Olive bar. When I am having a savory craving (which is my weak spot) I've found olives, artichoke hearts or roasted garlic can satisfy that spot. I know all have some fat, but at least they are NOT potato chips. And all of them are the better sort of fat.

A couple of my ABNA buddies are doing it, too, and then my exercise buddy wants to start Couch to 5K again (we've only been successful at this once, but we are DETERMINED).

And FINALLY... I've been blurg with the blog for TOO long—this schedule for publishing the serial has really taken it out of me, but I am vowing here and now to START FRESH, enthusiam for it returned... I've got some topics... gunna shake things up a bit, get back to SILLY me sometimes and a few times a month may do a bit of analytical reading discussion (Game of Thrones is currently in my sights)--my reason is I feel like I LEARN a lot about plotting and character when I do that, and the blog is probably the best spot for it. Always best to reengage the brain, eh

So there we have it. Fresh start for fall 2014...

Any of you make new plans with the new school year? What are you writing this fall?

Monday, August 25, 2014

To Lose a Friend: Tina Downey You Will Be Missed

A bit of an unconventional return from a fairly lengthy break, but I saw this news yesterday and nothing else seemed appropriate to post about. Tina is one of my long time blogger friends—very early in my list of blogger friends—and we have been friends on Facebook, including my personal profile, which indicates a personal, rather than only professional friendship. This is what her family member posted yesterday:

On behalf of the Downey family, we want to let Tina's friends and followers know that she went to be with the Lord Saturday night, August 23rd. As many of you know, Tina struggled each day with pulmonary hypertension and had been in and out of the hospital all year. She was admitted Tuesday and appeared to be getting better. Saturday evening she took a turn for the worse and doctors discovered she had sepsis. She fought valiantly but when they attempted dialysis, her body gave out. 

We know how much you all meant to her and filled her life with joy every day. We truly appreciate the special way each one of you brought significance and meaning to her life. No arrangements have been made at this time. We will provide updates as details are made known. 
Friends and Family of the Downeys

I knew Tina had some health problems. She didn't make a secret of them. But I know I didn't really understand how serious they were. She was always so positive. (I loved her ability to put a humorous spin on things) She lived with pain and had run across a number of life obstacles, but she had such great details about her that made getting to know her so fun. Born in Sweden, she moved to the US in grade school, so she had a unique outlook that didn't quite fall into typical US patterns.

She was my age (far too young to be gone) and I always find those shared cohort things create a little extra bond (plus the math love, gymnastics history, bad habit of stacking...). It was just so shocking to learn she had passed—made me so sad.

Tina, you will be sorely missed—you always brightened my day and my heart goes out the The Engineer and your boys.

If any of you would like to celebrate Tina, I'd recommend exploring her blog--there is a ton there to get to know her better, especially about her big heart and her amazing ability to laugh at herself... Or you could watch Super 8—her favorite monster. Or if you'd like to do something more tangible, donate to the American Lung Association, a cause dear to her heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's Ten Years?

So the past few weeks, in addition to working full time and theoretically writing full time, I also volunteered for a piece of planning my class reunion. I am confirming emails and finding people. Facebook makes this a little easier, but it is by no means the no-brainer I somehow thought it would be.

But it has gotten me to thinking about how different things were when we did this ten years ago... 2004... I was at a different job—one coming to an end because a grant was running out, so life was up in the air a bit. But you know what I was NOT doing in 2004? Writing.

I had NEVER finished a book. (I'd started several, though the last time I'd tried had been 1993—the summer between my first and second year of graduate school when I managed half a novel.

Since that time I've written fifteen novels (plus three novel length fan fiction works—they were my start). I have two more significantly started and an idea file so deep I may NEVER get them all written.

In 2004 I'd NEVER made a friend online.

All you amazing mind-meldy people that help make my life so rich were SCARY to me (con artists and dirty old men in basements trying to lure in innocents, though I suppose I had no worry in that realm).

I've not only written, I've published. A mystery series and a serial book (all but the very last one—coming next week, I hope). I've published traditionally and self-published...

While the writing life has been good—a whirlwind of crazy wonderfulness... there have been repercussions... I'm significantly heavier... My house is a DISASTER. We've lost some family... But overall I think the triumphs outweigh...

In Other News

My writing has stalled a bit... I am trying to revise What Ales Me and decided I needed to put in a little time READING some things that hit the tone I want. I've talked about this, yes? Not COZY, more SASSY? I want to keep the humor and quirk, but want darker plots and and boost in the spice. It is good timing, as vacation looms.


I am LEAVING next Wednesday for a two week trip, so this is my last post until at least August 21. But by THEN I should have been rejuvenated and ready to dive back in...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Consumption: An Interview and review with Allison Dickson

Halo, fine friends! I have a special treat today... Allison Dickson is one of those authors I got to be friends with on Facebook, though common friends. We just kept finding ourselves in the same conversations, usually the non-writing sort, and I found myself agreeing with her often and entertained by her even more. It is ALSO fun to find out one of your writer friends you've made this way writes the dark twisty stuff that I like to read, so when she picked her publication day for her latest book and asked for interested readers, I about pulled a muscle throwing my arm I the air.

Consumption is actually a trilogy of related novellas, all about really distorted love (I will give a bit of a review after the interview). So after I read, I offered to interview Allison, and here we are!

Tart: So I just have to say, this is one twisted tale. Where did the seeds of this one sprout?

Allison: I’m fascinated by lovesickness, that giddy preoccupation with someone when you feel that unmistakable attraction and you wonder if they feel it for you, and that knife-in-the-pit-of-the-stomach feeling that happens when it doesn’t go as you’d hoped. It’s when the chemistry between two people feels most like an illicit drug of some sort, and it has an element of danger to it, like if I have too much more I may lose myself. I’ve been on that precipice a few times in my life, and I wanted to explore it. A lot of times, I like toying with the idea of strong emotions manifesting themselves in some physical way. The part where Marah talks about how her feelings were taking up actual space inside her was probably one of the truest expressions I’ve made as an author. It makes your chest hurt, like it quite literally is a matter of the heart.

Tart: So in spite of the R rating I would give this, there was something about it that reminded me very much of the X-Files. And I KNOW you have some pop culture LOVES. Do you have pop culture references you feel like have influenced your writing?

Allison: Interestingly enough, I didn’t really make myself part of many pop culture fandoms until only a few years ago, which was when such things really started taking off on the Internet. I was a Harry Potter freak back when it was most popular, but that was before Tumblr and memes in general ruled the day. It was my daughter who got me into Doctor Who, for instance. Now I’m a total Whovian and Sherlock fangirl, and it’s been fun exploring that side of myself and being a part of that cultural conversation. It’s made me feel like a kid again. Breaking Bad is also a more recent influence, but honestly there is SO much great material to draw from these days that I think just the fact of it being there at all is an inspiration, even if I don’t draw directly from it. But I guess if I could throw out two of my favorite cult hits I’ve loved quoting and referencing for most of my adult life, it would be Fight Club and The Big Lebowski. And the polarity of those two things pretty much demonstrates what I deal with inside my head on a daily basis, and what more or less gets splattered onto the page.

Tart: Follow-up—what about more traditional influences—authors or genre classics?

Allison: I know it’s probably cliché, but Stephen King is my biggest literary hero. He’s the reason I wanted to become a writer from a very early age, and reading The Dark Tower series as a teenager was particularly life changing. Before then, I read a lot of epic fantasy, but the Tower showed me that rules could be broken, that genres could be expertly bent and woven into something completely wondrous and original. Classics that rate very high with me include Orwell’s 1984, and a lot of things by Robert Heinlein that showed me how fiction can teach valuable lessons about people and societies. But I’m acquiring new heroes and influences every day. Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and Gillian Flynn to name a few.

Tart: So this set I would classify as horror, and I know you write some thriller—tell me about the various genres you write in and why.

Allison: Yeah, these Consumption stories really call to my horror side. I’ve always dabbled in the darkness, whether that took the form of traditional horror, science fiction, or mainstream/commercial suspense stuff. I love speculating on future scenarios or presenting the reader with something fantastical when I can, (my upcoming novel THE LAST SUPPER deals heavily in those elements) but I don’t like limiting myself to that. What I’ve learned is that there is plenty of darkness and horror in the real world without really having to go there (though it’s often more fun when you do). Themes about secrets – whether in individuals, marriages, or families – really attract me. I feel like we all live behind a façade of some sort, and my goal as a writer is to get behind those facades and show the ugly along with the good, and force the reader to really question their sympathies and natural tendencies to side with a “white hat” style of hero. I think that kind of exploration tends to happen in darker stories, be they psychological horror tales like my novel STRINGS, or my darkly humorous short stories like “George’s Tonic” or “A Concealed Hand.” At the end of it all, I want to make you feel uncomfortable, like I changed one particular ingredient in your favorite dish, and you have to try and figure out what it is and whether or not you like it (I hope you do).

Tart: And I ALSO know you've recently acquired an agent... You blogged about the process, yes? So maybe share that link? But also tell us a little bit about the book that earned you the agent...

Allison: Oh absolutely! People can read all about the whole agent-getting experience here: KUDZU is a southern suspense novel that centers on the lives of three cousins from rural Georgia and what happened to their lives after the accidental murder of a little girl that they all covered up. Tonya committed the act, Amanda helped her hide the body, and Abel confessed and went away to prison. But there is so much more to it than that. We learn the circumstances behind the murder and really nasty secrets (again with the secrets) this family has been keeping for so long, and the detrimental effects they have had on all involved. The story turns the tables on the reader several times throughout as you jump from one POV to another. I received a lot of agent attention from this one, but Stephanie Kip Rostan at LGR Literary really loved it, and it worked out perfectly because she was the first agent I wanted to query, due to its similar feel to her client Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. That it all worked out according to my deepest hopes and wishes is still unreal very to me right now. Anyone who works in publishing knows things almost never work out like you hope they will, and though I know we’re really just at the beginning of the process and that this book might not sell, I feel like I have good reason to hope now.

Tart: And finally... what would you say keeps you going as a writer—the dream or inspiration, or relief, or support... whatever it is... what keeps you working hard and striving?

Allison: About eight years ago, my husband and I were going through a trial separation while I worked out some personal demons, but after two years, I decided enough was enough, and I needed to get my head screwed back on straight. The demon I most struggled with was not having a creative passion to fuel me. I’d abandoned my writing, and I had no direction, but I knew if I started nurturing that talent again, I might have a real future. My husband has supported me all the way, and we’ve sacrificed a lot to make it work. I’ve taken jobs outside the house over the years and have also run a freelance editing business to help bring in money in addition to any meager writing income. After seven years, I could have earned a Master’s degree in a field that provides a steady paycheck, but I set out to make myself an expert of sorts in this craft and this business, because I love it so much. Every year has brought me closer and closer to where I want to be, and I’ve also done my best to help others along the way, which has made it especially rewarding. I go through periods of doubt and uncertainty, but I’m too damn stubborn to give up. There is no way I can quit now. It’s who I am. It’s in my DNA.

Review: I really enjoyed (in a twisted way) this story—one of the clever things about it is you get two versions of the same tale, and get a view of where people think they are being clever or tricky, but the other person knows what's going on. It's a nice study in human nature that way. The first part is told in mostly dialog—the MC telling her story to a friend, and I enjoyed it, but my entertainment really increased when I got the second version of the tale. The last third however, is the best—a true, chilling view of the wake of destruction set in motion. It reminded me (as I mentioned) of a rated-R version of an X-Files episode, so if that appeals to you, I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SHE: Jessica Bell and a Chance to Give Back

Halo, fine friends!  Today I'm featuring someone you all know and love (or at least should). Jess has written a book in prose about abuse and is donating proceeds... but I should probably let HER tell you about it...

Did you know that in the U.S., 16,787 people have said that they were abused as children by priests between 1950 and 2012? (Read more about this here.) That’s a shocking statistic.

In light of this, author and poet, Jessica Bell, has written and published SHE (a short story in verse), and has decided to donate 100% of the profits made on SHE, until the end of 2014, to SHE is only $0.99 cents on Kindle. The cost of a few sips of coffee.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle Reader App onto your computer or your Android phone, tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone.

I hope you consider purchasing and spreading the word.
SHE by @MsBessieBell—an exploration of religious institutions & #ChildAbuse—100% profits go 2 @ISPCAN. $0.99 #poetry

About SHE:

Note: This short story is an experimental work of fiction written in verse. Page count: 30. Word count: 1500.
A girl’s brief encounter in limbo, following a suicide attempt, after being sexually abused by a priest. God in limbo is represented by She. She has been misinformed about how faith is advocated on Earth, and sends the girl back for another chance at life, in the belief that she must repent for her sin.

*Disclaimer: This story is not in any way a direct criticism of religion, or a representation of the author’s beliefs, but simply a creative exploration of the concept.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/ guitarist, is a the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

So isn't a book for a good cause a good idea?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ann Arbor Area Authors!!!

An opportunity for Ann Arbor Area authors!!! Want your first 20 pages critiqued by a published author?

This is for a face to face critique on Sunday, September 7, so you need to be able to be here and there are limited slots, so first come first serve (they are asking for a donation to the Kerrytown BookFest, but whatever amount you feel you can donate), but it's a great opportunity.


Writer Tim O’Mara, author of two novels published by Minotaur books, with a
forthcoming title in 2015, will evaluate manuscripts the day of the bookfest, Sunday,
September 7.

Mr. O’Mara requests an advance submission of your first 20 pages, and he will offer a
twenty minute one-on-one critique. Contact Robin Agnew, 734-769-1114 or at, to schedule an appointment and submit your pages.

This is a unique opportunity to talk with a published author and see what advice he has
to offer from the real world of publishing. The cost is sliding scale; free to those who
cannot afford to pay, or a donation in any amount to the Kerrytown BookFest.

Tim O'Mara, our writer in residence, has been teaching math and special education in New York City public schools since 1987. He has written several short stories and his second Raymond Donne mystery, Crooked Numbers (Minotaur Books/St. Martin's Press), hit bookstores October 15, 2013. O'Mara's top-selling debut mystery, Sacrifice Fly (Minotaur, October 16, 2012), was nominated for the 2013 “Best First Novel: Barry Award. For the past 13 years, he has hosted and co-produced a bi-weekly reading series of poetry and prose in New York's East Village with We Three Productions. He lives with his family in Manhattan, where he currently teaches in a public middle school and is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and several teacher unions. O'Mara's third Raymond Donne Mystery, Dead Red, will be released by St. Martin's/Minotaur Books in early 2015.

The Kerrytown BookFest takes place at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market Sunday September 7, from 11 – 5.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2nd Quarter Report Card

So we are into July, and while I'm wondering where the heck the year has gone, it is ALSO time to hold myself accountable. But first... a piece of current events news:

No Finals For Me

They announced finalists in the Amazon contest yesterday. I wasn't one of them. I knew, or at least was pretty sure, last week when no call came, but I kept mum, all in the spirit of the contest. The Mystery/Thriller finalist is called The Dead Key and is fabulous (the excerpt available for the contest, anyway, and I assume the whole thing, since it won the category and all.) The others are I'm sure excellent, as well. I encourage you to go read them all and vote: Amazon Finalists

And Now for the Stuff More in my Control

Only not.

I mean it is to the degree life doesn't throw me a wrench...

What I was MEANT to do 2nd Quarter (and whether I did it):

Finish Writing 10, 11, and 12 for A Shot int the Light, but keep in mind this REALLY was meant to happen 1st quarter.  DONE

Polish same, plus 9. DONE (though 12 needs a tiny bit more)

Publish all of the above. Mostly  (11 published 7/2 and 12 is coming)

Revise What Ales Me:  Yeahno...

Revise one of my YA books: Um. No.

Write something in June: HA! Yes!

My analysis is A Shot in the Light took a lot LONGER and MORE WORK than I expected. I will probably always be a person who overestimates what I can get done, but life really can get in the way with these huge projects, and it seems much more noticeable than with 'just a book'.

As for my PLANS for A Shot in the Light... When I am done, I am going to query Amazon's serial arm... I think they may be willing to take it. I have proved quality in their own arena and I think with their promotion, it might do well. We'll see.

I published 11 last week, by the way. Did I tell you that?  12 is with 2nd readers.

So what are my 3rd Quarter Plans?

1) Revise What Ales Me

2) Finish first Undoing Book

3) POLISH Kaholotus and Medium Wrong

4) QUERY Kahlotus OR Medium Wrong

5) Amazon Query Shot (publish in other venues if rejected)

6) Finish publishing Shot and format 3rd paperback portion