Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

Posts tagged “author

Third Life: Fool’s Gold – Week 1: Gilding the Gauntlet

Is it better to be pretty or smart? Welcome to my poorly contrived social experiment.

As my professional and life experience grows and I become entrusted with more responsibility, I can’t help but feeling more left behind. I’m in my mid-30’s, never been a ‘girly girl’ and most often wore the badge of ‘nerd’ in my academic days. I have a mind for problem solving, and enough social skills to get me through some of the most complicated business meetings (Smiling through clenched teeth should be listed on my resume under special skills or maybe additional languages.)

This bad idea started as most bad ideas do. At the bottom of a glass at the end of the bar, at the end of another long, confusing, frustrating week. “… you know, I have a push up bra too, maybe I need to wear it to start getting some recognition around there…” And that’s all it takes for an idea to bloom in the prickly garden of discontent.

I wish I could encapsulate the montage of identity crisis that followed.

“Maybe I should dress nicer… maybe I should wear make up… maybe I should keep my mouth shut…” this would go on for a few minutes before the angel on the other side chimed in.

“Screw them! Your cup size has nothing to do with how well you do your job. Big hair and bad perfume shouldn’t dictate who gets more attention.”

“But….” the other side would whisper “… it does.”

I was vexed. After some serious rationalizations and my friends evenly dividing between “No, you don’t need it!” and “Do what makes you feel best.” I decided to hit the warpaint store. I don’t even know how to shop for make up right. It all looks the same to me and all costs 3x more than I think it should. My goal, however, was fairly simple. Start testing out new looks. Simple, understated and professional. Going full on clown college was not going to get the right response for my goals. (Well, we may revisit that later…) I am the type that gets funny looks when I show up in something other than boots and dockers. I hate being cold and uncomfortable, and I have to be able to go crawl through a muddy basement or a dusty attic at a moments notice. It’s hard to wear a wiggle dress and climb up on a roof, no matter how dedicated you are to looking fabulous.

While I do sometimes envy the women that can run a 5k in stilettos, I don’t often have issues with the fact that I’m not one of them. (Though being able to wear a pair of heels for more than 5 minutes without an oozing blister or calf knotting foot cramp would be nice.) I do my job, I do it well, and I’m usually pretty well prepared…but… BUT…. not being polished and prissy in the process sometimes holds me to a disadvantage. I don’t get dragged in to extra important meetings (well maybe this isn’t exactly a disadvantage…), and I don’t get invited along to the quick lunches with the clients or consultants when they pass through town. (I’m rethinking this ‘disadvantage’ thing…) And while I hate wasting my time on the social niceties, it still… stings.

So my bargain with myself is thus: Start presenting myself as a stereotypical female, for a month, and see what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But then I’ll know.

It was grey and bleak this morning. I took my time getting out of bed, so I didn’t have a lot of extra time on my hands getting ready. My hair was done (takes 5 minutes) and I turned to leave the bathroom.

“Oh… shit… that’s right…” I stared at the medicine cabinet longer than I should have, trying to dismiss this whole idea as silly so I could just be on my way. It only takes a few seconds…the other voice chimed. “Fine.” A few swipes of neutral eyeshadow, enough to claim I did it.

The gauntlet has been thrown.

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Under Cover!

Very excited to be starting off the new year with a little bit of cover design for Houses of the Broken. Preferences have been put on record, sinister visions have been transmitted via the interwebs, and now we wait for the magic to happen.

Always curious to see what a fellow artistic type comes up with as a vision. It’s not always easy working for/with creative types.

Designer, draw thyself.

Not sure if I’ll get some teasers to share or if we have to wait for the big reveal, but I look forward to sharing the process!

 


2014 in Review. AKA – Things I never thought I’d do.

2014 has been a strange year. On paper it doesn’t look so bad, but to many of us it has been a mind numbing, soul crushing sequence of days. For me, this year has seen a lot of unrealized potential. Small flashes in the pan that keep a person spurred on, perhaps. While not much came to fruition, there are a number of things I didn’t realize I even had on my bucket list, that I can now cross off.

The year started with a new job. In the middle of the polar vortex. In a very old building. Nothing like starting a new job and immediately having to notify someone that the plumbing was frozen.

In lighter events, here is a simple list of highlights, there are a million emotional roller coasters that happened as each item played out:

  • Started a new, higher profile job.
  • Pitched a reality TV show.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Joined roller derby.
  • Auditioned for a different reality TV show.
  • Got a book contract for my first novel.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Survived a season of roller derby and actually played a bout (at my age!)
  • Covergirl for a photography business.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Got unintentionally published in a magazine.

This was not a year of travel and adventure for us, it was a year of change and keeping things close to home due to such a shaky job market. Realignment of priorities, establishing some aggressive goals, and keeping ourselves sane. It didn’t always work, and it was never really easy, but we’ve made it so far. I’m still not sure where summer went.

Overall, I wish the word ‘perseverance’ didn’t come up so often, but there’s not much of a choice if you want to change your stars. 2014 started the trend of letting go, and I suspect 2015 will include some of the same. It’s a challenge not to give in and quit when things are hard. I’ve dealt with some new people I hope I don’t ever have to deal with again but I’ve also met some new people I’d like to get to know better.

Pipe dreams were chased and many glass ceilings were revealed. Now all I need is a brick.

All I can say to 2015 is – Bring it on.


Third Life – Nothing.

In the silence, there are the voices of a thousand souls streaming through her head. Each begging for attention and thought and pointing out the wrongs she committed that day.

If she refuses them, they bark louder until the din is a symphony of chaos and are too much to ignore. Wave after wave crashing against her broken shores, eroding every bit of her self worth, breaking her will into finite grains of sand that slip through the fingers of her final desperate grasp.

“What are you thinking, dear?”

She bites her lip, the pinch returning her senses to the tangible world. “Oh, nothing.”


Seeking Substance – Is something better than nothing?

I was educated in the school of “Less is More.” Simplicity in design, God is in the details, what have you. Only produce and display the most refined product you can. Do not cloud the message with indecision.

While many times I can refine and revise before pen even hits paper, sometimes it puts me in to analysis paralysis. The ideas filter and loop but nothing quite breaks orbit. Then I start thinking: Well, practice makes perfect, right? To get better, you have to produce, produce, produce.

Where’s the balance? I find myself wanting to do everything and nothing, all at once. Nothing has been winning. Time and energy have been finite resources, and let’s face it: Nothing is a whole lot easier than something.

But I have more fun when I do something, even if it’s wrong. Ok… I’ll be honest…. especially if it’s wrong. (The right kind of wrong, of course!)

So here’s an attempt at something, instead of nothing. Now all I need is a kindred trouble maker to keep the something coming.


“The Call”

On Friday the 13th, under the Fullness of the Honey Moon… I’d like to announce that I got ‘the call.’

The call. THE call. The CALL.

I liked your manuscript! Tell me more!

An hour later, my head was spinning. Is this for real? Couldn’t be… my cautious nature waited for the other shoe to drop… and waited… and I reviewed the draft contract… and waited to hear that shoe go ‘thump’ and then… hard copy of the contract made out to me, notarized and in my hot little hands!

No thumps required.

Without fear and further ado, I’d like to announce my signing with Cliffhanger Press, for my debut novel manuscript Houses of the Broken.

I was thrilled to talk and work through everything with TJ Loveless, and can’t wait to see what kind of package we can put together. I just hope she doesn’t have to empty out too many red pens on my manuscript! *eep*

Buckle up for a new adventure! I still can’t believe it’s happening… But please, keep your shoes to yourself….

 


Technically Writing

I miss my woodchippers. I truly do.

I’ve been writing my fingers off in recent months but it doesn’t feel like it because it hasn’t been anything ‘fun’. Agent queries, product specifications, legal transactions… yes, I’ve been trapped in the world of technical writing and it just makes me yearn for the greener page all the more.

Some frivolity of tossing ne’er do well bodies in the ‘chipper could do me some good. Not to mention the question of what’s in the ‘meat’ that has everyone going crazy for it? The muse is demanding 80 degree days and fish bowl size tropical drinks heavy on the pineapple and rum. I would love to indulge her, but the Great Lakes region is not so forgiving.

In the mean time, the morning commute behind the local woodchipper service serves as a good reminder of what’s waiting for me on the other side.

Maybe soon I’ll be sharing exciting agent news! At least for now I know I’m official as the rejections come piling in. Until then… we wait.


Waiting for the Door to Close.

The submission deadline is almost up for those of us throwing our hat in to the ring for ABNA 2014. I’ve been curiously watching to see if the submissions would fill up early, but much like last year, it appears they’re not going to… or at least it will come down so close to the wire, we won’t know if they truly hit 10k or not.

I have lots of questions about the process of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards… but there’s no true way to really quantify things. How many submissions do they really get? What’s the initial break down in categories? From what I’ve found there’s no true way to know, short of taking a survey of people willing to post in the forums. I think knowing the raw numbers alone would be helpful in figuring out market segments, and where to focus effort as you craft future work.

This is probably why they don’t tell us.

But maybe it’s better that way. A little vague competition keeps everyone wondering and makes it harder to work the system. For now, tonight marks the beginning of the real wait. I’m more patient than last year because I have a better idea of how things go, but I’m still insanely curious to see how far my submission goes this year.

Once again, I submitted Houses of the Broken. Last year HoTB made it to the Quarter Finals, but no further. In truth, I was pretty pleased for it being my first attempt. With nearly the same material as I submitted last year, I am more curious about seeing if I get the same results, than I am hedging my bets on my chance at winning.

Will I get kicked out at the Pitch stage? Maybe never make it past the second cut? I have little illusion that I’ll go ‘all the way’ but… you never know. Good readers having bad days can send your submission into the circular file. And bad readers… well… we all seem to get at least one.

Last year the one that made me chuckle the most was the review complaining about my use of ‘language.’ Serial killers? No problem. Child abuse? Whatever. F-word? Oh my stars, you vile little girl…

We all have our triggers, I suppose.

So now… well, soon… we wait. In the mean time I need to try and keep busy with other things, because I officially have no control over my fate until the dust settles.

Patience is not my virtue.


Formatting a plan.

I pride myself on thinking ahead. It’s my blessing and my curse.

When I decided to self-publish for the first time, I had what many new writers had. A nicely formatted manuscript. Take the data from manuscript to print-ready resource took some time and effort, but in the end all was well. As I tinkered and tweaked, and caught typos, I reloaded the CreateSpace file more times than I can count before it was finally, truly, done. All was right with the world.

It’s a little less than a year later, and the need for a nice, clean manuscript has arisen. It’s now time for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – 2014 edition. But guess what… the final edits? They’re all in proper book print format.

Formatting a manuscript is hard enough. “Un-formatting” a manuscript is a a good way to drive yourself insane. It’s amazing how many things are just different enough between the manuscript and the print template. Reverse engineering into a publisher friendly format takes a methodical mindset and a chunk of time without distraction.

How do we combat this in the future? In truth, there’s no real good way I can think of. There are still going to be tweaks to the final print files. There’s no way around it. That means maintaining both a fully up to date manuscript AND a fully up to date print file. It’s a recipe for disaster but in the long run I think it might be better than reverse engineering things down the road. Of course, this only applies if you want to submit your work to something that requires a traditional manuscript format. If you’re content with self-publishing, problem solved!

As my next work in progress hits editing and formatting, I’m going to keep in mind the backwards slide that happened with the first one and strive to do as much editing as possible in the manuscript format. But I know there will be tinkers. And tweaks. And things that don’t look quite right once I see it in a proof.

But for now, the lesson has been learned. My manuscript is official in for ABNA 2014, and let’s hope that the effort to re-convert it can also be used for sending out queries. Yes, I’m taking the step of trying to find an agent, but I’ll still self publish if that doesn’t work.

File management has never been so important.


Rekindling the brain waves.

January is sliding quickly by and I’m getting back into the habit of being a working girl. It seems that a little bit of structure suits me. Or at least that the more structure I have, the more I want to break out of the box when I have a chance. It’s a passive-aggressive work habit at best but it seems to work for me. Deadlines help.

Speaking of deadlines… In an arbitrary discussion with myself it was decided that the summer solstice might be a good time to try to get my next work in progress out in print. It seems so far away but with the pile of editing I have to do, I know it will be here before I know it. And that’s not even taking time to format and tinker and perfect the look and feel of the product.

After the winter hibernation – which still calls to me in its fluffy, wooly tones – getting the brain back in the game is taking a little more effort than I’d like. But like any great training program, I need to up the reps and stick to a schedule. Don’t touch my chocolate though, I do have my limits…

The problem with having more ideas than energy is finding which one to focus the finite amount you have on. As much as I’d like to multitask when it comes to writing, keeping a linear process seems like it’s working out best for me – especially in the editing phase. I pause long enough to scratch down ideas for future projects, but diverting any real attention often just pulls the train right off of the tracks.

In the hopper now is the cannibal love story that refuses to follow any outline I put in front of it. If it, and I, survive through editing, it might just see an attempt at a screenplay as well. Because… why not? I’m not sure if I can make it in time for HorrorFest this year, but it is a far flung goal I’d like to attempt. If not, being able to have a second book at my table would be an awesome enough accomplishment.

I’m sure life doesn’t have any designs on innovative new ways to thwart me while I’m busy making plans…