Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meg's butterfly ring

So in Mariposa, there's a really special ring. I describe it like this:
It was not a big diamond solitaire. It was this yellow and white golden butterfly with raised wings, looking like it was basking in the sun. A scattering of rubies danced up each wings side, interlaced with diamonds and yellow sapphires. It was amazing. It was totally different, and exactly the kind of thing I would wear.
Some readers have wondered if that's a ring I own, or if I just made it up. It's not a ring I own. It wasn't a super fancy, super expensive one, but you can't seem to find it for sale on the Internet anywhere anymore. All the links I find lead to dead pages, or a store that doesn't seem to be selling it. Which is sad. I knew I should have bought it back when I first spotted it, when I was writing that part of the book.

I think it would be fun to own it.

Anyway, I'll post a picture. It was designed by a jewelry designer named Leon Popov, and it was called "The Color of Nature." It apparently used to sell for about 3100.00. Which, for a ring of that sort, isn't too expensive. If anyone ever sees it, let me know.

If you've read Mariposa, does this look like what you imagined at all?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top 10 Things I learned today! Autographed books edition

  1. When you're doing autographs for your book, it might sound like a great idea to do it with blue, fancy sharpie ink. But then, if you write big like I do, you'll scrawl all across the page and run out of paper. Oops. 
  2. Plan ahead for that sort of thing. Also, probably order more copies of the book soon. Because I can think of several people that I owe one to and I only have 5 copies left now. I might have done the math wrong. (That's such a shock that I stink at math.) 
  3. It's kind of fun to have a cute little drawing to include with your autograph. I won't give any spoilers, but it might be something in the insect community. 
  4. Oh, wait, are butterflies insects? 
  5. Darn. That was a spoiler. Forget I said that. 
  6. Padded envelopes at the UPS store are probably more expensive than you need. Figure out that system Hugh Howey uses and do that. He's good at that kind of thing. 
  7. The girl behind the counter will appreciate it when you don't take a picture of her completing your order. Even though she did have great eyeshadow and would have looked really fun. But self-control is a measure of virtuousness. And greatness. So do that, instead.  
  8. Make sure to have business cards so you can send the girl to buy your book later. I did well on that one. Check.  
  9. It feels really amazing that people want your autograph.
  10. This writing thing is kinda cool. (But I kinda knew that already.) 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Being SO CLOSE, Vengeful Ghosts, and what's next

I'm at about 95% done with Hoodoopocalypse, my projected 60000 word book right now. I wrote two very important final scenes yesterday, one of them going really well and the other being just informative stuff that I might need to re-do because it reads a little like a Wikipedia entry. (I might go with that, on the other hand, mixing up the media sort of... which is something I really like doing.)

I'm SO CLOSE to being done that it's natural to think of what next. I mean, not as far as plot goes, but moving from this novel to the next. Which will be more self-directed, doesn't really have any specific deadlines or anyone looming over me telling me to get it moving.

I've been enjoying my writing over the last couple of months. Since I stopped teaching, I can better focus on creative writing and it flows much better. I've also become more conscious of the crafting of the story-- being careful with word choice, eliminating words I use too much (REALLY!) and hitting backspace immediately when I notice I've just typed it. When I was reading Mariposa the other day for my final run-through before letting it go to print, I noticed a difference in the way I'm writing my current work and how I wrote that. Don't get me wrong-- Mariposa is still a favorite story, and I'm pleased with it. But I can see a growth in my craft since I wrote it. I believe this will show up significantly in my next work.

ID 33411295 © Katalinks |
A critique I have heard of Mariposa's content was that a reader did not like the men in the story. And yeah, the men who are "on screen" in that book are pretty awful. Something that I didn't intend to do when I sat down to write the book that happened was that a central theme to it is domestic violence towards women. It was, I guess, a bit of an accident that comes from writing about ghosts who are women. Most women who are murdered are killed by someone they loved. Which is something we don't really like to think about. I have a lesson plan when I'm teaching about La Llorona via the Sandra Cisneros story "Woman Hollering Creek" that points out how many of the ghost stories in multiple cultures are built around vengeful spirits, and they have a VERY GOOD REASON to be angry. Ultimately, I was happy that the theme showed up, because a ghost story should not have an ultimate "good" vibe. You should dislike those guys. I did that right, then. I'll have none of a creepy vampire guy who is really a stalker but girls think is dreamy in my story. No thank you.

Ghosts are, by their very nature, in a bad situation. They should never be thought of as an ideal, a good thing.

It might be that in having the subtitle "A Love Story" people are assuming it's a romance. It's really not. Yes, there is romance in there, but the actual LOVE STORY in the novel is not that romance. I'll give a billion dollars (as soon as I get it myself, offer not applicable before then) to those who figure out the real love story. It's not what you think.

So book two in the Mariposa series will possibly redeem, re-introduce the good guys of Mariposa. There are some men who were not at all redeemable*. The murderers, the bad guy in the hotel. But the three main guys, Tony, Demetrio, and Omar, will get their stories told. And maybe the guy who drew the mural, and definitely Earl. Earl will have a series of guest appearances. He kinda gets around.

In fact, I initially had as a title the Men of Mariposa but someone pointed out that sounded like a hunk-of-the-month calendar.  So now it's called Orpheus and the Butterfly, with maybe "Men of" as the subtitle, just to make it clear. It's not a sequel, really, but a book that illustrates what is happening with the guys while the women are onstage. Sort of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead moment in San Antonio.

The first thing that happens is Tony wakes up dead. So that should be kind of fun. Here, in fact, is a short tease of the first lines. (That link will take you to the song... I'll just wait while you listen to it.  Then come back here.) The cover art there is a maybe. I think it's what I'll be going with, but I had some critiques of the title going vertical.... so I'll play with it for a bit, too. 

Act One: Tony and the Lady
Poor Orpheus woke up with a start All amongst the rotting dead His lyre tacked safe under his arm His brains all down his head O Mamma O Mamma
“The Lyre Of Orpheus” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
I wake up face down on cold, hard concrete, no idea where I am or what just happened. There is a gun, my gun, in my hand, and the barrel is hot. Somewhere near me, I can hear a dog, or a wolf, a coyote or something, howling. It sounds, actually, like a group of them. I wonder, for a moment, if the sound is what woke me.
I push up to my knees and look around. I’m a little panicked at this point because the last thing I actually remember is a guy pulling a gun on Meg, and me shooting him. Seriously, did I just shoot someone?
And if so, where the Hell am I now? Where are the people I was just now with?

Meg is not here. The guy I shot is not here. Here is, well. . . weird. 
I'm hoping that I can get permission from Nick Cave to use parts of their song. I am willing to pay for it, so I'll have to work that out. It's quite an inspiration, actually, in some ways.

Anyway. This is what is happening now. Downhill slope. Soon, I'll be doing edits on Hoodoopocalypse. And lots of surrounding publicity as we come close to its drop date in March.

We're having fun with this writing thing around here. Let's go with the next big thing!

I hope you'll come along on the ride with me.

*offer will be carried out in Monopoly money or Simoleons.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hard-to-write scenes

So yesterday I was hanging out with the Zen Bear from my blog post yesterday, drinking hot green tea with honey (of course) and I was telling Zen Bear about the scene I need to write today in my novel. It's a hard scene to write. I know what I want to do with it and it's going to be COOL.

That's the problem with really cool scenes. You know what you need but before you write it, it's still up there in the head, being all cool. And if you put it down on words and the words are wrong, you limit it and change its potential. You turn it into something that really exists in the world other than your imagination.

And man, that's a lot of pressure. So I find myself dawdling. Lollygagging, if you will. I write a few words of description here and there. Go back and re-do a scene I already did, add some details. Check my CreateSpace folder to see if they've finally cleared my printed cover art for Mariposa.  Do a little Facebooking.

Research! Yeah! It needs more research!!

And that's when Zen Bear comes in with a cup of hot green tea (he didn't put any honey in it though. Said we were all out. Hmmm.)

And says: JUST DO IT. Write the scene. Go. Now. Stop blogging and get it done. You can rewrite it if it's not perfect, but you can't rewrite zero.

Sigh. He's so wise. Thanks, Zen Bear. I'm going. Right after I answer this Instant Message....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Some days the bear gets you

So you all know that old joke:
Two men are walking through a forest.  Suddenly, they see a bear in the distance, running towards them.  They turn and start running away.  But then one of them stops, takes some running shoes from his bag, and starts putting them on.
“What are you doing?” says the other man.  “Do you think you will run faster than the bear with those?”
 “I don’t have to run faster than the bear,” he says.  “I just have to run faster than you.”

Some days, you get the bear, some days the bear gets you, right?  That's what it's like, sometimes, being a self-employed writer. I've had a title published and available now since Nov 24. We indie publishers can look at our sales every day. On a good day, we look at them (say when we're running a promo) and squeal with delight. "Look how many people bought my book today! Yay!"   On another day you look at the little chart going up and down and mumble "Oh great. Look how many people 'bought' my book today. Grumble." Those are the days that you can feel that bear right at your heels.

I genuinely am not trying to get rich quick by writing (Snorts the sarcastic bear "Good thing, too!"). I want people to read my work and like it. That is happening, every day. It's a joy when someone contacts me and says "I'm reading your book and I love it!" That is a good moment. I want to hug everyone.

And I would write no matter what. I used to write creative-stuff when I was trying to write my dissertation (a totally different kind of creation). When I was in the midst of caring for twin infants, when I had a moment, I would think of writing and what I wanted to write about. Sometimes it would be just a blog entry about how darn cute they are. Sometimes it would be something more serious, and I would tell my muse "Just-- be patient. I'll get back to you."

The other thing about being an indie writer is that there are a lot of publishing-related things you DIY, do yourself, like putting Kimberly instead of Kim on your title page... big mistake.  "I guess I was feeling formal that day, sorry!"  Deciding whether to put the graphic before your chapter title, where it LOOKS cool, or after your chapter title, where it will look odd, but will get published by another distributor because they won't publish something with a picture before the chapter title. (Why ever this is an issue, I can't understand. I'm sure it's some editor's pet peeve, so they made a rule and a computer program and that's the way it works, no getting around it.)
© Sablin |
Asian Black Bear Photo
I imagine, if you were under the guiding wing of a big publishing house, they would handle this kind of stuff for you. Dealing with the printer's guidelines (which are really specific, and picky, and make no sense). Making sure you don't ever put the long spelling of your name (Kimberly) on your title page or copyright page by accident. The folks under a traditional publisher probably don't even know those issues ever come up. I'm sure that's nice. They also don't get to do some of the fun parts, though, and I have to remember that when I'm frustrated and yelling at my computer.

All of it distracts from the process of opening up that book file and writing. Being creative on the page, thinking about your story.... that's the bear racing alongside you, beautiful and wild and possibly deadly but so worth it.

Being chased around by rules that don't make any sense and told to consult a "how to" file that doesn't apply at all to the issue you're having, and the review process taking 24 hours every dang time so each delay means another day... that's the bear catching and eating you. Some days the bear gets you.

But maybe, even then, it's a cool, zen bear, meditating on a log. And it's kind of cuddly, and not too scary. It's just kind of enjoying the heat of the sun, chilling, thinking about having lunch. Perhaps the bear is just trying to catch you to tell you something funny, a really good joke it once heard about a guy walking into a bar.... yeah. That's what I'm gonna go with. That's the kind of bear I'm going to imagine hanging out with today. Hi, meditating, kind bear. Let's go have a cup of tea. You like honey with yours? Oh, right. Never mind. Of course you do. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

And I Feel Fine!

Originally featured on Bibliophilia, Please.
I've been fascinated with apocalypse stories for a long time. I don't know why-- I'm not any more misanthropic than the next guy-- I think. I actually genuinely like people, even though I'm a bit of a writerly hermit, too. I don't really want there to be any apocalypses (apocalypti?) but from an "interesting times" perspective, it makes for good story-reading/writing. 

I even bought myself a snowglobe of a ruined apocalyptic cityscape for Christmas this year. It's sitting on my bookshelf with the other snowglobes people have bought me from various cities, skyscrapers in ruins but oddly cute. The swirling snow might just be the detritus of a ruined civilization, or it might be evil robot sentient bats come to kill us all. It also is shiny like glitter, so maybe-- a cutepocalypse? Surely there were My Little Ponies involved in that one. The Four Ponies came riding and the glitter death was awful.....

I'm in the middle of two things right now-- writing a book about the end of the world, as it takes place primarily in New Orleans and I'm also getting back on the "New Year's exercise bandwagon"-- which for me means walking to the Zombies Run app on my phone (which is a great story, in itself, and a really good way to keep me from noticing that I'm exercising, to trick me into thinking I'm just playing in a nifty game/book on tape sort of thing.) 

So I am all about the Songs that Go With the End of the World  and I thought in the spirit of "end of the year" lists I'd share a list of some of my favorites, sort of as an "END ALL THE THINGS!" homage. Some are pretty obvious, but others are less so.  I'm going to post a list of my favorite ten,* here, and then I'll post a Spotify link to the big playlist at the end, also, so you can go listen to them all if you'd like. 

1:  The Man Comes Around is the best, first song for pretty much every reason there is. Johnny Cash was so interested in the more fire and brimstone brands of religion, and he honestly is just right out front when it comes to the Apocalypse.

He's a rock-n-roll prophet, our man in black, and in this song, the walking baseline makes it seem inevitable-- you're just being pushed along with the music, the whole way. Johnny literally quotes from the Bible, specifically the book of Revelation (6:1-2), and mentions the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And at the end, when the vocals sound like a scratchy radio with moderate reception, the voice of the time when all we'll have left are a few maniacal DJs saying "I told you so" and eating canned beans and the last of the Twinkies---- Oh, it just gives me chills it's so brilliant. 

And it's no secret that it's so brilliant for "end of the world" mood-setting; it's been in a dozen or so movie/TV shows as the penultimate vibe for a Christian-based destruction of everything.

2. Uprising by Muse is another great song for both writing about an Apocalypse yet-to-come and, (maybe not?) surprisingly, running from imaginary zombies as exercise. It's a revolutionary anthem of sorts about a future world where economic forces & the "Fat Cats" who have kept a youthful-seeming force of "us" down will finally see their just end in an uprising that changes everything.

When I hear the song, and really listen to the lyrics about a corrupt world government being finally taken back by its people, this one actually feels like not so much fiction but possible. And that both gives me terrified chills as a person and as a writer using it for inspiration makes me laugh with insane glee.  People who argue for radical revolutionary change to economic systems ought to think about what those revolutions would do for us all. It might be great, but it would be messy. Probably for a long, long time.

3. The Devil & Me by the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra is a song I hadn't heard of until I started researching for my apocalypse playlists. I really like it for a lot of reasons, not the least my oddly schoolgirl crush on Brad Pitt. The low, growly chorus in the beginning, and the growly backups to the lead singer's efforts turn it ominous, in spite of the somewhat hopeful ideas of trying to escape from a devil, and being saved by a "holy transfusion".  I'm sitting on my hands to resist putting a picture of Brad Pitt in World War Z in the blog post. It's a sacrifice, but y'all can picture him, right? Go ahead. I'll give you a minute. Mmmmmm.

I think this song is neat because it has a strangely positive vibe, in a way, but ultimately still sounds like we all lose out in the end. That hopefulness just gives way to the driving guitar and an a capella chorus that weaves through the lyrics, and the gentle cowbell (a la Blue Oyster Cult) that rings as a background reminding us all of the inevitable ticking away of time, every second. As it rounds out at the end with a hissing sound like a rattlesnake just got you, you're done. Just-- done.

4. Supernaturally by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds starts off with the lyrics:
Through the windswept coastal trees
Where the dead come rising from the sea
With a teddy-bear clamped between her knees, where can my loverman be?
It has that same kind of insistent guitar of the Cash songs mixed with an almost Flamenco vibe-- all to note that feeling of being driven along to the inevitable end of everything. And I love the vibrato of violin that swirls throughout; it reminds me a lot of the lead-in to Joss Whedon's series Firefly. (Which ultimately does read a lot like a post-apocalyptic story). And it just sounds cool. This song, of course, is some kind of lover-betrayal supernatural apocalypse.

The cover art and video feature teddy bears rising up to take us all down. Hey, they only look cuddly-- they are, after it's all said and done-- still bears. And supernaturally cursed bears? Oh yes. The cuddlepocalypse, here today.

5. Survivalism by Nine Inch Nails kills it. Like, really. At the beginning of the song, Trent Reznor gasps for breath and you can just see him running from the zombies at his back.... and he's clearly not a runner, and they're gonna get him.

Like earlier songs on this list, the song (and its video) both refer to the book of Revelations (boy that book gets into all the good Apocalypti).  Like Muse's anthem, this one criticizes a corrupt, bloated city-state (a Babylon) of savage economic and status inequalities, and predicts an inevitable ending based on an out of control push to destruction.

It's truly a great song for listening during your aerobics walk because it makes you feel like you're being chased and you're definitely not gonna make it if you don't move your butt. And while the extra pounds might help when food goes scarce and I finally burn my way back to a size 8, for now, I'll just try to focus on being ready to run as fast as I can away from whatever it could be chasing me. They can have Trent, but I'm getting away.

6. Burn it Down by AWOLNATION starts off with a  kind of bouncy Little Richard style R&B sounding guitar vibe, and lots of funky falsetto "WOOO"s, but as lead singer Aaron Bruno urges us over and over again to burn it down you don't know whether he's talking about the whole world or something less sinister, but it just sounds like whatever it is, there will be dancing. Bruno's singing is a cross between the aforementioned Little Richard, Sid Vicious, and the late great Sam Kinison

In the video, there's a lot of lightning and costume changes, and then we all dance to death because what else would happen?

7.  Oh Death by Noah Gunderson. I know I promised a top ten but this one needs to end it all, as it would in real life. Continuing the trend of mournful violin which I really love, backed up by a walking bass line, this one has the sweetly soft sadness of Gunderson's breathy lead asking "will you call out?" 
when death finally comes.   And dust you shall become.  In the end. From dust and ashes I have called you....

I guess that's why the list actually has to end here. The real reason we're fascinated by Apocalypse stories is that it's a way of looking at our own endings and imagining that without us, personally, the world won't go on. Surely the ending of my timeline has to mean no one can live without me, right? It's both the ultimate end and the ultimate ego-trip to think about the end of the world.

But we also like to think of endings as beginnings. No one ever really thinks the Apocalypse will be THE FOR REALSIES End. Every Apocalypse story has survivors (even when almost everyone has been eaten by zombies in Georgia and someone keeps the grass nicely mowed and the women keep shaving their pits anyway).

So on this first week of January, named after the god who looks both forward to the new and back into the old, I'll use this list, which could come out depressing, to say that we all made it through another year, another apocalypse-- the ending of 2014. As for me, with the year I had, I am glad to see it go. New, fresh starts, health, and happiness are all on my list of things to come. 

In my neck of the woods, 2014 ended with the somewhat disconcerting loud bangs of neighbors setting off ridiculously strong fireworks & scaring my cat, a sweet Jameson's based Old Fashioned with three cherries, and bedtime at 11. I just was too tired to stay up that last hour. 

Let the year go... I've had about enough of it. 

Here's the rest of my "Hoodoopocalypse" list of New Orleans based end of the world, should you feel like thinking what might happen in that lovely Big Easy city in the end. In my version, there are floods, fire, plagues, and magic. But it's still a big old party. Laissez the End Times Roulez!

*okay, so I lied. It's only 7. I am terrible at math. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Launch Party

My book launch party for Mariposa is happening on Facebook this afternoon. I'm giving away several copies of my books, and several of my awesome friends are giving away their books, too. I'm also giving away a free, brand new in box Nook reader. As well as a free book/artist promo trailer to one lucky creative type. 

Go on over to the Event and show up later this afternoon for virtual bean dip, virtual appetizers, and real fun & conversation. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

In Which I Was A Guest and Tried to Behave Myself

I'm featured today over on Bibliophilia, Please, with my friend Kayla, talking about my work-in-progress ....

Kayla's blog is a great book review site and source for the details on lots of great texts that you should add to your TBR list immediately. You should definitely go check her out, and read my excellent blog post in which I wax poetically about songs with which to end the world.

Oh, and there are GIVEAWAYS. FREEBIES. Swag. (Do the kids today call it that? Or have I just burnt your eyes out? Hello?  Is this thing still on?)

WHAT are you waiting for? ::looks at you impatiently::

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Ghosts of Mariposa & General Musings

So one of the questions that I got when I sent out Mariposa to beta readers was if the ghosts in the story are real ghosts. And part of me hates to say yes because then it feels like I cheated by using real stories but then again, the truth is the truth. But I took those stories and asked "What if? What caused them to become trapped? How did they die?" and then I wrote THAT story. I think it worked out pretty well.

And San Antonio, being such an old-world city in the new world, has a LOT of them. I wanted to do a whole scene with the entire cast of the Battle of the Alamo but then I figured that was probably out of my reach. I like to think some of them might have showed up in one of the big scenes (no spoilers!) but who knows?

So the answer is Yes.  All but two of the ghost characters in the story are based on "true-ghost tales" of San Antonio and parts otherly (some even north of the Mason-Dixon!). It was amazing researching that, and there are a few ghosts that I learned about in the research process that didn't make it into Mariposa that are going to show up in the sequel, tentatively titled Orpheus & the Butterfly.

There is also at least one mythological character who is based on a real life character, as well as some literary allusion mixed in there, too. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the book yet, but I'd love people to tell me your guesses for where some of the bigger characters come from.

I like to research. I like to find stories, and pictures, and songs, and all kinds of things that build the world in my head. And I know as a reader, I love it when an author tells me some of the "behind-the-scenes" moments to a story, like maybe a video that inspired them.  One music video that was intensely crucial to the writing of two of the creepier scenes is this one, from the Amazing band Coco-Rosie.
If you've read the book, you might be able to guess which character was inspired partly by these two immensely creepy ladies, and which character the handsome hanged man might have been a little bit like.

Then there's the Pinterest file.  Do NOT look at it if you are afraid of Spoilers, but if you're wondering if some of the places in the book are real, the answer to that is YES too. I love San Antonio, and the book became a bit of a love-letter to it. But I'm a Texpatriate-- a Texan living abroad from their home country. In search of good Mexican food and other Texans, we exiles long to return.... (which we will be doing probably in 2015, and I will be super happy). I make one of these for all my works-in-progress, so if you don't want spoilers for future novels, I urge you to NOT look at those, either. (So why am I putting it here? For those of you who HAVE read it.  Don't open that box, Pandora...... seriously.)

Finally, there's the Mariposa music playlist. I had a different one when I started writing but that web service went away eventually. Now you'll have to settle for the one I recreated. It includes the song that is in the intro, "The Ghost You Know" by Lauren Hoffman, who let me keep it in the book's intro and for which I am very grateful. As soon as the book is out in print, I'll be sending her a signed copy. :)  

And that's another bit of news: I'm well on the way to there being real print copies of the book for people to buy. When there are, I will post a link of how to buy it and how to get a signed copy of it from me, too. I'm just waiting to get the large file version of my book cover art. When it was created for me by my amazing cover artist Lawrence Mann, I flaked and did something weird with the folder he sent me the art in. It's on my computer somewhere, but heck if I know where I put it.  Anyway-- the point is: soooooon. Soon you can actually read a real live in your hands, pages smelling of old vanilla BOOK. With my name autographed on it, and possibly something pithy and Oscar Wilde-ish. I think I'll go practice the signature now....

Happy New Year, y'all! It's rainy, cold couch-weather here in Louisiana. I've had my black-eyed peas and am ready for another movie to watch. 2015 will be a big year, I hope, and I hope some of y'all will come with me!