Monday, September 15, 2014

Big Idea Book Bloggers - Dorris the Loris

Y'know, I'm still learning about this whole "how to be an author" gig.  How to ask for publicity.  How to manage my time.  How to present myself as the kind of person who totally doesn't make dick jokes at a conference meeting.

But in this business, one thing you learn really dang quick is that the book blogger is your almighty benevolent e-Jesus.  For those of us trying to get people to pay for something we were dumb enough to write for free, there is nobody more potent than someone who's made it their mission to 1) read a metric shedload of books and 2) tell the world about them.  

So in the spirit of gratitude, community, and helping you find books that don't suck, I'd like to spotlight some of my favorites.


As book bloggers go, Dorris (alias Kelly Rennie) is an odd one. For one thing, there are not too many tiny primates doing book reviews - and for another, her blog is not exclusively book-focused.  She covers what she calls "the four Fs": food, fashion, fantasy fiction, and feminism.  Now there's a mixed bag!

dat face!
And actually, One Night in Sixes was something of a mixed bag for her too. Which is more than fair!  Here's the wild part, though: not only was she game for talking to me and my editor about it on Twitter afterwards (which is NOT a traditional post-review activity!) but she then went out and wrote a whole new blog post called Diverse Fantasy: Five Great Reads to Get You Started, with this bewitching premise:

On the one hand, a common statement made in support of fantasy fiction is that it allows us to escape the every day,  the familiar, the humdrum. But if we settle for the same formulaic plots involving white farmboys saving the world with the help of greybeard wizards that spells aside could have walked out of an academic basement at any time in the last 100 years or so, don’t we deserve to feel bamboozled when something new comes along?


Can't lie, guys - that was kind of a mindbender moment for me. I'd never thought of that before - or rather, I'd never considered how easy it is for ANY of us, in any sphere (not just bookworld!) to get accustomed to business as usual... and consequently, to feel as lost and uncomfortable as a road-tripping hobbit when suddenly we find ourselves on the Path Less Taken.  (Exhibit A: me at every non-chain restaurant ever.)

I saw a great post once, which I wish I could find now, about political and social activism.  Basically, it spoke about how important it is to not get so caught up in your cause that you forget the enormity of what you're asking your listener to do - which is to say, to leave behind their old, comfortable point of view, and think in a totally new way.

I expect that's true of books as well.  Like, I don't believe for a minute that we should make that a reason not to reach for the stars and push to the limits... but I can definitely, definitely attest that after you've spent years tromping out in the metaphorical wilderness, it can be hard to come back to civilization and understand why all the comfortable couch-people don't want to come out and skin squirrels with you.  It's not that they're lazy.  It's not that they're chicken.  It's that what you're asking them to do has ZERO relation to any of what they're used to... and it's so, so much easier to get haughty and bitter about that than it is to wash out your beard-fungus, grow some empathy, and think about what you could do to help sweet-talk them out of their comfort zone.

Anyway, back to Dorris!  I'm so glad that she reviewed my book, not just because of the great discussion that it touched off, but also because I might never have run across her blog otherwise - and one glance at her archives proves that when it comes to tussling with big ideas, this ain't her first rodeo.  Some of my belated favorites:

Are we too hard on those upset by the death of public figures?

A rant about folk crafts

'Chubby' chick lit - for bigger women or bigger profits?

So there you have it, folks. I'm confident you've got a dozen awesome book-bloggers already on your RSS feed - but I'm plumb positive that you don't have any fashion-forward, body-positive, librivoracious members of subfamily Lorisinae... and isn't it about time you corrected that?

(I was going to post two more blog-folks here, but this is already so epic that I think we'll let it stand its own.  Tune back in next time - maybe we can make this a regular thing!)


The first key to love is the four L's: love, loathing, listening, and lemurs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview: Beth Cato and The Clockwork Dagger

All right!  So today y'all are in for a treat - because today, I have the pleasure of interviewing the unrelentingly fabulous Beth Cato, author of... well, here, she can tell it better than I can.  Make sure you're sitting down for this, because it's gonna get real.  Real awesome.



Beth Cato
author of The Clockwork Dagger
High Priestess of Churromancy
and fearless corseteer
TT: So I'm obviously at an advantage cuz I already know a little bit about the book, but just to help get the rest of the world up to speed: how would you describe The Clockwork Dagger to a brand-new listener?

BC: I originally pitched it to my agent as MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS on a airship, with a healer as the lead character, and I think that's still accurate. Just add in espionage, a dash of romance, and a temperamental world tree.

TT: Haha, amen to that - if I had a dollar for every time Yggdrasil got on my case...!  But I'm really interested in this idea of having a healer as the main protagonist - it's definitely not something we see very often.  What inspired you to make Octavia a medician?

BC: Healers/white wizards/clerics have been my Mary Sue since I was 11 years old. I fell in love with Final Fantasy II (now best known as the Japanese FFIV) for Super Nintendo and bonded with Rosa, the white wizard. My grandpa had died of a terminal illness a few months before, and the idea of healing magic hit me in a very profound way. Whatever I wrote--or tried to write--from then on tended to explore that kind of magic. I wanted novels with that kind of lead character and never found them. I wrote the kind of book I wanted for a very long time.

(This is Rosa, but also my love letter to Yoshitaka Amano.)
TT: Oh, man, let's hear it for those of us who had our minds permanently altered by 16-bit epic sagas.  But one thing that really impressed me in reading your chapter 1 is that Octavia would not be mistaken for any kind of "quiet gentle hero's girlfriend" archetype.  It's clear that she cares about people and is dedicated to her profession, but she can also be brusque, fearless and direct - definitely nobody's squishy back-row wallflower.  What was your biggest influence in shaping her personality?

BC: I wanted to defy the healer stereotype that you see in so many games and books: the supportive character. The one you keep in the back row, because if the boss monster hits them, they die in one hit. Octavia needed to be passionate. This is a woman who is 22-years-old, but she's spent the past decade in training as a healer, and most of that as a medician and doctor at the front lines of a war. I was inspired by tales of battlefield nurses and doctors from World War I and II. If you're not strong at the start of that job, by golly, you better find your gumption at some point.

TT: Boy, ain't that the truth!  But the other thing that occurs to me is that in fantasyland, you usually just wave your magic wand and everything's all better - no need to dirty your nice white robes.  I see that's definitely not the case in The Clockwork Dagger: the healing process seems to be as ugly and visceral and real as the wounds themselves.  Was that a big factor for you in crafting your magic system?

BC: Yes. I'm big on realism. My agent and editor can attest to that, as they asked me to tone things down a bit and reduce the details!

TT: Holy mackerel.  If the "puppy misunderstanding" in chapter one is the toned-town version, I'm not sure I could handle the rawness of the original!  And speaking of the editorial process, I was reading about how you nearly followed your beta reader's advice cut out the gremlins - and yet they were ultimately what ended up selling the book!   What do you reckon people love so much about cuss-ugly little flying cat-monsters?

BC: *laughs* People love rex cats and pug dogs and all kinds of critters that are called ugly. I just rolled them all into one, made them green, and added some wings. I think it's how gremlins act, too. Leaf the gremlin chirps, purrs, and says a lot without actual English. He's based in part on my belated cat, Palom, who managed to be obnoxious and endearing all at once.

Ah, memories.
TT: Ahh, so he's got some of that "Toothless" magic in him, then - not a cat, and yet totally cat-like in all the best ways!  (Virtual fist-bump for naming your cats after the FFIV Wonder Twins, BTW.)  Actually, speaking of endearing, I also wanted to ask you about your school visit - I know you were super nervous about it, but ended up having a really great time with the junior high students.   How did the kids' interest in you and your book differ from what you usually get from adults?  Was there anything that especially surprised you?

BC: There was a lot of common ground in the questions asked by these kids, grades 6-8, and adults. They often ask what the book is about and where my ideas come from, and everyone asks if my novel will become a movie. I was very surprised and pleased that the kids connected so strongly with my book cover and my character of Alonzo. No one asked about Octavia. Alonzo is described as having nutmeg skin, and bless the folks at Harper Voyager, but they fully supported having him on the cover exactly as he should be. My son's school has varied demographics and strong Hispanic representation. You could see these kids' eyes light up when they saw Alonzo--he looks strong and positive! They need to see more people of color like that on covers.

LOOK AT THIS COVER.  LOOK AT IT.
TT: Beth, there's not a "Like" button here, but even if there were, I couldn't hammer it hard or fast enough.  That definitely stood out to me too, and I'm so glad to hear that you didn't have any trouble getting a cover that's as forward-looking as the book itself.  One more bookish question, while I'm thinking of it: with both Alonzo and the gremlins, we've touched on this idea that you-the-author can't always know what will resonate with your audience.  But if you were going to make a conjecture, what do you think people will really remember about your book?

BC: If I go by the blurbs thus far, the two stand-out elements are the magical system and the gremlins. The cover gets a lot of reactions, too. At Phoenix Comicon, I had lots of high fives because of it!

Beth's Churro Shortbread Cookies. 
Carbohydrometry at its finest!
TT: AS WELL YOU SHOULD!!  (And I would add that I am definitely looking forward to this new post-World-War-I steampunk world you've devised!)  Last question, cuz it's not every day that I get an audience with the High Priestess of Churromancy herself: did any of your legendary baking passions translate into your book?  Any dirigible donuts or clockwork croissants?

BC: *laughs* Food certainly plays a role. Gremlins love cheese, and that's definitely a projection of one of my great loves. There's also a country named Frengia to the north that's inspired by Canada, and in my kingdom of Caskentia, the Frengian immigrants often manage bakeries that feature maple.

TT:  Oh my gravy.  Well, folks, you heard it here: if you want to see cheese-eating cat-monsters, butt-kicking (and butt-healing!) medicians, airship whodunits and the steampunk answer to Tim Horton's, haste ye forth and pre-order THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER - coming September 16th to a war-torn kingdom near you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Your Words. Let Me Help You Love Them.

"Okay, Tex. You did the book launch. You did con season. You did the big sequel reveal. Can we stop being excited now?"

HahahahaNO.

Why?

Because I have to live with this level of heart-breaking, bowel-cramping excellence EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE - and I'll be damned if I'm going to suffer alone.  Trust me: you have not yet begun to know your capacity for enthusiasm. 

So let's talk about writing.  More specifically, about YOUR writing - and how you and I can make it even more awesome.  Here's what I got on the docket:


Tuesday, September 16th - "Punching Up Your Prose" (express edition!) at the Benbrook Library

Hey, DFW peeps - you know that DFWcon class that you were so annoyed you missed?  Well, it's like I always say: if you wait long enough, the circus always comes back to town - and this time, the town in question is Benbrook, just southwest of Fort Worth.  They have a wonderful library, complete with an endlessly delightful librarian named Cullen Dansby - and just look what he's made for the occasion!


Is that not toe-curlingly fabulous?  I would submit that it is.  Here's the full class description:

If your book were a movie, it would be an instant classic.  A stellar premise.  Unforgettable characters.  Mind-blowing plot turns.   But somehow the words on the page aren’t fully conveying the tension of the tight parts, or the loveliness of the pretty parts, or the shocking-ness of the shocking parts.  In this class, we’ll study the art of changing your writing style and word choice to complement the mood of any given scene – and also reveal handy techniques for turning every chapter of your manuscript into a lean, mean, page-turning machine.

And here's the best part: this version of the class NOT ONLY free to all comers, but also adjoins the Benbrook Library critique group meeting.  Yes, exactly! You come, I do the dog and pony show, we all sit down, you share your work, and we talk about it.  If that sounds like a good time to you, head over to the Benbrook Library's Writing Critique Group page and check out the "Group Rules and Guidelines" to get the whole scoop.  I would love to see you there!


Saturday, September 20th - "Dialect to Die For" at the NTRWA Meeting in Colleyville

Yes, it's that other DFWcon class that you've been kicking yourself for missing!  And this time, it's being brought to you by the letters N, T, R, W, and A.  Here's the deal:

When it comes to dialect, we often hear that ‘less is more’.  So how do you render a good Scottish brogue, or Southern drawl – and for that matter, how can you give a non-English-speaking character a voice that’s distinct but still readable?  In this class, we’ll examine how to represent accents and speakers of other languages in a way that captures their voices without reducing them to verbal tics, gimmicks, or stereotypes.

But who is this mysterious NTRWA? Why, it's these fine folks here!

(and with a posterior as magnificent as that, you KNOW you're going to have a good time.)
And here's the best part: the North Texas Romance Writers of America are offering this presentation at their monthly meeting - and guests are welcome to attend up to two meetings at no cost before being asked to join.  And there is lunch. 

I know, right. NOW you're interested.  So head over to the NTRWA Meeting Info page to get all the specifics -  because as excited as I am to have been invited to speak there, I would be even more enthused to bring some friends!


"Oh!" I hear you say.  "Those sound like fun - but I'm not lucky and special enough to live in the earthly paradise that is the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  What do you have for me?"

LET ME TELL YOU.

Perfecting Your Prose - the supreme interactive unstoppable kaiju granddaddy of "Punching Up Your Prose" - is going live at Loft.org on Monday, September 15th

Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched about that.  The online format is awesome, for one thing, and the prospect of getting to actually sit down and work with folks on their writing is super cool.  (Can't do much of that with the traditional drop-the-mic-and-walk-offstage approach!)

Anyway, this class is of the non-free variety, and I realize that six weeks and $200 is not a small chunk of anyone's anything.  So here is a tasty morsel, speared on a toothpick for your sampling pleasure: the video syllabus for the class, illustrating the tempting wonders that await you!



And there you have it, folks.  If that sounds good, head over to Perfecting Your Prose and sign up to put my face in your space. We still have a few slots left, and I would love to fill them up with your fine selves!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Medicine For the Dead - Cover Reveal!

All right, you guys.  We've done "ludicrously excited."  We've done "ecstatically exhausted."  We've even done "unexpectedly sad."  Now it's time to set your dial for impending awesomesauce, because Medicine for the Dead, the sequel to One Night in Sixes, now has a cover, a blurb, and a date.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Here it is!

cover by the devastatingly talented Tomasz Jedruszek!

Aw, just look at Vuchak - what a cheerful ray of sunshine he is!  But what's that?  Are those blood-stains on that rock there?  And who's that curled up in the wagon?  Here's the official scoop:

Two years ago, the crow-god Marhuk sent his grandson to Sixes. 

Two nights ago, a stranger picked up his gun and shot him. 


Two hours ago, the funeral party set out for the holy city of Atali'Krah, braving the wastelands to bring home the body of Dulei Marhuk.

Out in the wastes, one more corpse should hardly make a difference. But the blighted landscape has been ravaged by drought, twisted by violence, and warped by magic - and no-one is immune. Vuchak struggles to keep the party safe from monsters, marauders, and his own troubled mind. Weisei is being eaten alive by a strange illness. And fearful, guilt-wracked Elim hopes he's only imagining the sounds coming from Dulei's coffin.

As their supplies dwindle and tensions mount, the desert exacts a terrible price from its pilgrims - one that will be paid with the blood of the living, and the peace of the dead.


"My face!" I hear you cry.  "Damn you, Tex, you've rocked my face off again!"

Well, re-stick your kisser and limber up your left-click, because Medicine for the Dead is coming out on March 31st.  You know what to do.

 Add to Goodreads
http://www.amazon.com/Medicine-Children-Drought-Arianne-Thompson/dp/178108307X/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1AQ0K7PX6097XC6MJEHX

(No B&N or Indiebound yet, but hopefully the wait won't be too long.)

"March?" you may say. "What am I supposed to do until March?!"

Well, I have no doubt that you have a rich, fulfilling inner life, but I will do my best to keep you busy!  This week, you can find me at:

Mary Robinette Kowal's "My Favorite Bit" - in which I wax ecstatic about language, alternate history, and obscure video game references

Melissa Lenhardt's Author Q&A - and yes, I DO have a superhero alter ego, and no, it has nothing to do with fried haggis!

The North Lake College News-Register - because I don't know if you know this, but NLC raised me up from a tiny Texan sproglet into the planet-smashing success I am today.  Go for the article! Stay for the secret writing tips, and my not-so-subtle love-on for the community college lifestyle!


In seriousness, though - you know, maybe I will get to be a big somebody someday (planet-smashing or otherwise).  Maybe someday putting out a book will be business as usual, and reviews will come pouring in, and I'll have people @-replying me so hard and fast that I won't hardly be able to keep track of them, much less stop to answer them all.

But right now, today, I'm still small and new - and that's its own kind of wonderful, because it means that I can see, notice, and appreciate every little thing y'all do to light up my life.  At this stage of the game, every book-photo you post is a joy.  Every "it was awesome!!" tweet is a delight.  Every review is a milestone.  Thank you guys - ALL you guys - for sharing me and my fictional friends with the rest of your world.  I am so excited to add to it!


Don't be too hasty. I can get you better revenge. This one has already killed one of their most valuable men, and these two have been fooled into taking him home to Atali'Krah. Sell our goods, but let us go on our way: we will take him to infect the children of Marhuk in their own home, and begin a new plague.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Trans-Continental Table Tour of 2014

"Right," I thought, around this time last year.  "Gotta do something for the book launch.  Gotta go take myself on tour.  Gotta get some debut-authorial INITIATIVE up in here."

Yes, but how?

"Oh, I know!  I'll go hit up my family hot-spots right after the book comes out - see the whole clan, sleep on all the couches, and do book-signings while I'm at it.  Promote it as a signing tour and make everybody think I'm some kind of hot-shot professional!"

Fun fact: book-signings rev up the fans you already have - they don't get you new ones.  (Really, when's the last time you went to a signing for an author you'd never heard of?)  Which means that if you are a new author with zero track record, the world's bookstores are not going to be clamoring to get you on their calendars.

So, okay, I didn't manage to land any gigs.  So I didn't end up promoting this giant Portland-Seattle-London-Glasgow mega-tour as such.  Here's what I did do.

I hung out with these people:


And these people:


And these people:
Word to the wise: do not make Gramma arm-wrestle you for the check. She will end you.
And these people: 


And these are haggis bon-bons and not people - but trust me, there were people here too, and they are terrific.


And I did actually end up doing author-y stuff after all, because at WorldCon, Solaris threw me a launch party for the UK edition of the book!

Historical re-enactment, because I forgot to take pictures.
The pile of books was much bigger and grander.  And yes, there was beer -
because that's how the Rebellion rolls.
And I'm ashamed to say that I can't tell you anything about all the wonderful programming at WorldCon, because I saw almost none of it.  (Though if you want to hear about the great speculative biology throw-down or crying at the What's New in Maths panel, I have friends who are happy to oblige!)  Instead, I spent pretty much the entire time hell-bent on hanging out as hard and thoroughly as possible.

I'm not sure what combination of air currents and atmospheric pressures caused this massive social super-typhoon.  Maybe it was the excitement of finally getting to see so many of my long-distance friends in person.  Maybe it was all the great new friends I met there.  Or maybe inviting criticism from thousands of indifferent strangers (like you do when you put a book out into the world) just makes it really tempting to immerse yourself in the company of people who already like you.

And at the risk of hyperbole, getting all of these people in a room together
kinda feels bigger and more important than anything I've ever written.
Regardless, it was really hard to leave this particular tour-stop - not only because I'd had SUCH a great time, but also because I could pretty much guarantee that this particular permutation of people would never happen again.

It was even harder to go back home. 

Y'know, a few years back, I became legendary life-mates with a gal I worked with.  We had all sorts of food-service adventures together.  Staying out until 1AM cutting fruit as pineapple-acid dissolved our fingers.  Running carts full of china down the hallways like a low-rent catering version of Speed.  We spent one of the best birthdays I ever had driving 200 pounds of thawing chicken breasts down I-20 in a ratty old van, hustling to get them to a functional freezer before they turned into a festering bio-weapon.

Anyway, one average Tuesday, she called me up and said "Hey, what are you doing this weekend?"

And I was like, "Nothing, why?"

And she was like, "Wanna help me get married?"

So that Saturday, on the spur of the moment, I made a wedding cake, put on my fairy-princess prom-dress, and trooped out to Iowa Park, Texas to maid-of-honor my great buddy and the love of her life.

It was a family cake, see, cuz they had a baby on the way.
(He's starting kindergarten today.)
This Saturday, I went to his funeral.  Which was as beautiful and well-attended as the wedding, and almost as unexpected. 

And this is going to sound ridiculous and bizarre, but like... you know, after spending a month out in every far corner of my social world, ripening relationships with my oldest friends and germinating new ones, I kinda feel like I neglected my own backyard.  Even after three weeks doing pretty much nothing but seeing people, it is appalling to think about how many people - how many legendary life-mates! - I haven't talked to in months.  That's probably not going to get any better as I get busier and meet even more fabulous folks... but boy, I tell you what: the utter impossibility of keeping up with all the wonderful people in my life is without a doubt the best problem I'm ever going to have.

Well, regardless - I'm glad to have been there for the wedding, and glad to have been there for the funeral.  Mostly we all just wish they hadn't been so close together. 

Anyway, I guess the tiny little thesis statement in this whole giant post is that it wouldn't be so hard to leave our friends if we didn't have such a great time with them.  Here's a song I like about that - about that unhappy feeling of having to get up from the table, when everyone else is still having a good time.


So after a whole summer of tables - thanks, y'all, for having me at yours.  And if you have a second, raise a glass for Chad and Celeste.  Every one of us is a one-of-a-kind limited-time offer, and as sorry as we are that he's gone, we are so lucky to have enjoyed his company while he was here.

 
But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise, and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
"Good night, and joy be to you all!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Launchmas Index

Oh, hi there, Internet.  How are you?

As for me, I'm broadcasting from an Undisclosed Location (okay, not really - I'm in Coneland again).  And I'm still too much in the middle of everything to tell you anything about it, but here in the meantime is a master-list of all of last month's fun extracurriculars.  A huge, huge thanks to every one of these folks who hosted me - I couldn't have asked for a better launch, or more generous launchmates. 

(Quick plug for all you writer-types, BTW: the discounted rate for Perfecting Your Prose ends tomorrow.  Sign up, write on, and get ready to rock out!)


PODCASTS

The Kingdoms of Evil #66 - Creating Cultures

The Kingdoms of Evil #67 - Tradition and Modernity

The Kingdoms of Evil #68 - Clashing Cultures


INTERVIEWS

GeekChicElite

The Author Visits (scroll down)

Beth Cato

My Bookish Ways

The Qwillery


GUEST POSTS / ARTICLES

Upcoming4.me - The Story Behind "One Night in Sixes"

TerribleMinds - Five Things I Learned Writing "One Night in Sixes"

The Author Visits - Book Launch Bingo: Debut Author Edition

Whatever / The Big Idea - Arianne 'Tex' Thompson

Loft.org - Positions of Emphasis: the Rhythm of Killer Prose

Dan Koboldt - Finding the Love in One-Star Reviews

Erin M. Hartshorn - The Freshwater Fishmen of Tucumcari, New Mexico

JK Cheney - Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List


BOOK REVIEWS

The Author Visits

GeekChicElite



OTHER

Contest - The "One Night in Sixes" Hashtag Shenanigans Sweepstakes

Book Launch - Barnstorming the Nobles

Monday, August 11, 2014

Auntie M's Guide to Greaseless Self-Promotion

"You know what's great about writing?  The marketing.  I tell you what: nothing makes me want to leap out of bed like the prospect of spending hours and hours flogging my book and talking to a whirling virtual maelstrom of indifferent strangers about how amazing I am."

Said nobody, ever.

Obviously, this whole book-pimping thing has been my personal ground zero for awhile now.  And you wanna know something?  I'm actually having a pretty good time.

Yes, I do worry about whether my friends and family aren't rolling their eyes and thinking "man, will she EVER shut up."

Yes, I have dropped a significant number of balls through technical incompetence, disorganization, and social burn-out.

But if you are trying to figure out how to promote your own work without acquiring that sort of filthy, greasy, need-to-brush-your-teeth feeling that you get when you have to leave off crafting beautiful, deathless prose and take up carnival barking to get people to look at it ...I got some ideas.

1. Don't make it all about you.  Make it about them.

My Auntie M is amazing at this.  (I'm staying with her for a few days just now - you may remember me waxing blissful about her place at this time last year.)  She's kind of like everybody's professional mom: when you come over, she is ALWAYS thinking about what you might like to do, or eat, what would be fun for you, who you might want to visit with and how to arrange that.  She is simply phenomenal.

And I think that's a good way to look at your own work, too.  It's so easy to feel gross when you're  looking out for #1 and trying to boost your own bottom line.  But if you believe in your own work, and think about the people who will enjoy it, then it gets easier to make your efforts about YOU helping THEM.  Sometimes that will involve you connecting them with your work.  Sometimes that will involve discussions about other people's work, or the big ideas and issues in your genre.  Rarely should it be a one-sided monologue.  But if you keep your focus on the other person, rather than yourself and your product, it is so much easier to leave feeling like you did something good for somebody - and leave them feeling like you are simply phenomenal.

Or at least, that's how I'm telling myself I suckered two dozen people into showing for a
9PM Saturday night reading - and 'phenomenal' doesn't begin to describe them.
2. Figure out where and how you shine.  Then be there.

Auntie M's secret mutant power (aside from awesome mom-ness) is people.  She wants to hear about your job, your hobbies, your spouse and kids and friends and relations.  She wants to know your whole life, and help you with the parts you might be struggling with.  But she also knows that the really important stuff can be hard to talk about in a group  So she has a real knack for putting herself in situations where she can have some one-on-one time with you: in the car, at a restaurant, going for a walk around the lake or through the park or to the corner store.  Those are the places where she can use her empathy-powers to the max, and give you her whole attention.

And you know, I know a lot of writers who are frustrated by all the work they're expected to do these days: social media and advertising and blog tours and the whole nine yards.  After this past month, believe me - I totally, TOTALLY feel that.  But the up side is that there are now so MANY ways to connect with people that you can focus on the ones that work for you.  Full confession, y'all: I am never going to be a Twitter superstar.  My brain-waves just don't oscillate that way.  But I am a *bad-ass* public speaker, a pretty good blogger, and I think I'm shaping up to be a fairly entertaining podcastee.  So I'll hold down the fort on Twitter, but most of my effort is going into blog posts (here and elsewhere) and getting my fabulous self in front of as many live humans and active microphones as possible.  And I'm enjoying it!

3. When you can't do it for yourself... do it for your posse.


Okay, so I'm traditionally published.  That means I have an agent, an editor, and a publisher, all of whom have a financial stake in this book's success.  But I also have people like Auntie M in my life, who have a huge emotional investment in this thing.  She's been cheering me on for years, raving to all her friends and coworkers and book-club buddies about her niece's great new novel, buying a whole box of copies for me to sign before she gives them out - I mean, really going the whole nine yards to help me make this thing a winner.

This is not only a map of my first week's sales, but also a remarkably accurate
picture of my social network's geographical distribution.

And I know not everybody has an Auntie M (cuz she really is one in a million, so statistically it just doesn't work.)  But I also think it's pretty rare for any of us - trad-pub or indie or whatever - to get to the finish line without somebody backing us.  Probably a whole slew of somebodies.  And although it's taken me a dickens of a long time to realize it, these backers really aren't just doing it to be nice, or to turn a profit, or because they feel obligated.  They're doing it because they are really, actually excited and proud and happy to see this big, long, slow-as-snail-snot project finally come to fruition.  So even when it's hard to feel like YOU deserve to be up on stage, it's really, really easy to feel like THEY deserve to see a return on their investment, and use those feelings of gratitude and indebtedness to push you forward.

So that's what I know about self-promotion so far.  Think about your readers.  Think about your strong suits.  Think about all the people who have helped you get this far.  Then get your ass out there and sparkle.


Now you go feed those hogs before they worry themselves into anemia!