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!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Terrible Minds, Evil Corn, and Big Ideas

All right, happy people!  Today, we have not one, not two, but three awesome new entries in the blogosphere.

First and more belatedly, the good folks at Upcoming4.me were kind enough to invite me to submit an article for their "The Story Behind" series, titled (naturally) The Story Behind "One Night in Sixes".  That was a hard one to write (because the only thing less cool than crying in the library is writing about crying in the library), but one I'm really proud of. They have some ace talent in their stable, and being invited to contribute is a huge honor.

Then - as if that weren't enough! - GeekChicElite posted their interview with me about the book.  And like, I've said it before, y'all, but it's as true as ever: GCE has some terrifically talented staff, and I'm really stoked about their enthusiasm for all things pop culture.  Don't click for me - click for the Judge Dredd cosplay!

And today, hot off the presses, I'm wildly stoked to have a guest blog up at Terribleminds.com, called Five Things I Learned By Writing "One Night in Sixes".  Fair warning: linguaphile geekery, rat-based cosmetics, and horse testicles lie within.

Maybe she's born with it.  Maybe it's mouse skin.
Actually, I wanted to talk a little more about that one, though – not so much the article specifically, but Chuck Wendig, the Terrible Mind himself.  Full confession, you guys: I have been the BIGGEST pain in his ass over the last couple of weeks.  Like you would not believe.   I won't go into all the details here, but suffice to say that I have somehow contrived to turn the simple act of submitting a guest post into a Sisyphean orgy of miscommunication and follow-through failure.   It's a hell of a thing, even by my standards.

Anyway, those of you who know of The Wendig probably know that he's legendary for his "ululating shitwizards of epic beardomancy" writing style.  Which is totally cool (because hey, you don't get to be Taco Pastor for nothing.)  But the thing I keep wanting to shout from the rooftops is HOLY SHIT Y'ALL HE'S SUCH A NICE GUY.   It was true when I first met him at WorldCon last year (while I was wholly consumed with trying not to barf on my shoes during my first-ever stint on a panel), and it's absolutely true now (while I have been frantically failboating o'er the Seven Seas of So Not Ready For Prime-Time). 

More productively, though... y'know, guys, I've been doing a LOT of these guest posts and interviews and what-not.  And most of my talking points are about one or more of the big ideas behind my book.  But man, the big ideas behind ANY book are so interesting to me.  Whether it's H.G. Wells and his "hey, colonial assholes, how would we like it if somebody came and colonized US?" War of the Worlds, or Richard Matheson's "well, what if the whole rest of the world turned into vampires and human beings become the monsters?" I Am Legend, or Isaac Asimov and his whole "at what point does a machine become a person?" oeuvre (yeah, I used 'oeuvre' in a sentence – hands up if you're sorry)... like, I am just wildly in love with this whole idea of using speculative fiction not just as fun fantasyland escapism, but as a way to look at our own world with fresh eyes. 

Which is why, even though I am embarrassingly late to the game here, I am totally stoked to read Under the Empyrean Sky.  And I know what all you incorrigible biblio-hipster-philes are thinking.  "Oh my god, dystopian YA?  Why not just hitch up your mom-jeans and do the Macarena?"  


Two words, guys: evil corn.  Corn that's been bred to choke out everything else that used to grow.  Corn that takes everything the groundlings have to control it, tend it, and harvest it to the satisfaction of the indolent elite in their floating cities.  Corn that dominates not only the land, but the people who work it – and ultimately drives one particular person to push back. 

Is that not neat?  Is that not immense?  In my head it's Snowpiercer and Les Miserables and Little Shop of Horrors – you know, all with a cool bleakly-futuristic flyover-state aesthetic.  I love the idea of using a dystopian setting to explore economic tyranny, crop monocultures, and the whole idea of slaving away to serve people you'll never even meet - of taking something so traditionally wholesome and essential as farming and perverting it.  That is SO COOL, and I can't freaking wait to get into it.  If that sounds even remotely good, check it out on the quick side, because the second book, Blightborn is just now out, and I for one aim to be ready when the last book hits the shelf!

Anyway, that's the short story: kickass author writes book that cannot fail to kick ass; film at 11.  And it's always exciting to me to get to know the author AND the book, because I really do believe that at its heart - at its best - this whole fictioneering business runs on love and enthusiasm.  So if you're reading a book you are just totally over the moon about, shout it out here - I would really love to hear about it!


Know your place. Accept your place. Be a shoe.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The End of Launchmas

It is here!  We made it!  (Actually, we made it four days ago, but it's taken me this long to get my act together.)  Here's the wrap-up:

1.  The #OneNightIn contest has a winner!

I did a random drawing of all the entries posted before midnight CST on Saturday, and here is the winning tweet:


(And my god, if ice cream isn't a reason to blow the speedometer, I am sure I don't know what is.)  Big congrats to Helen, and a big thanks to everyone who entered!

2.  I continue to plaster myself all over the Internet.

...and today, Upcoming4me is kind enough to post my entry in their "The Story Behind" series.  Not going to lie, you guys: The Story Behind "One Night in Sixes" was a tough one to write.  

Even now, I am still just desperately anxious for random people on the Internet to like me, and I feel like the more I write about the tough subjects - especially the historical and more racialicious aspects of the book - the more opportunity I'm giving random people on the Internet to decide that I am Not Very Good - perhaps Actually Quite Terrible.  

Then again, the intellect and judgment that's gone into these posts are the same as what I used to write the book itself, so it's a fair free sample, regardless.

And speaking of free...!

3.  You have 12 hours left to win a free copy of the book!

Kristin over at MyBookishWays is still running an (international!) drawing for not one, but three copies of the book - and there are less than a hundred entries so far! I assume most of you are not hurting for copies of the text (fabulous die-hard supporters that you are), but if you know anyone who could use a handy 100% discount, tell them to scroll to the bottom of this interview and enter before midnight (CST) tonight!



In the meantime, our map is just about done (bar those one or two little fixes, which we'll correct in post-production), and legendary cartographer Gillis Bj√∂rk deserves all praise and adulation, not only for his phenomenal artistry, but also for his superhuman patience in corresponding with me over the last few months. 

We'll close out the book-previews with one more little snippet:  Elim is pretty sure that going out after dark is a terrible idea, but he's absolutely certain that that red-lit house at the end of the road has Sil somewhere inside - and it's not going to give him back without a fight.

Elim made his tracks quickly, hat down and eyes forward in accordance with the errand-boy's creed: you were less likely to catch a hassling if you conducted yourself as if someone important was expecting you directly. He did not stop to look at the fire-lit festivities up on the roof of the eastern promenade, or listen to the shouting and laughing of the people up there, or smell the rich cedar-sweet aromas of their cooking.

But he couldn't avoid the boarding-house at the end of the road. Stately and sinister and old, the two front windows glowed luminous and alive with red light, its double set of sharp-curving porch steps dug like claws into the foundation, and high up above, lording over the upper story and even over the town itself, the twisted rails of the balcony exalted the house with a black-iron crown.


It was an evil thing, and not only because of its business hours. You could forgive people the need to do their sinning sociably — shoot, you could hardly expect them to make any less of a congregation in dirtying their souls than they did in cleaning them afterwards. No, what made Elim's hairs stand up was that the boarding-house was
still here, unburnt and unbastardized, having apparently either out-fouled the conquering native powers, or else struck them one hell of a deal.

And now it had gotten hold of Sil.


That thought alone pushed Elim forward as he climbed the steps and knocked at the mouth of hell.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Barnstorming the Nobles

Well, we did it.  On Saturday, we trooped out to Barnes and Noble and had us a book launch.

And oh my cheese, y'all.  I was NOT prepared.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN.  WHAT IS LIFE.
Like... okay, I used to work in catering.  I know a thing or two about event planning.  So I ordered the refreshments, confirmed logistics with the store's events coordinator (her name is Carol, by the way, and she is FABULOUS), put out invitations, made a Facebook event, strong-armed my friend Brooke into doing a blog writeup about it, added it to my website, harassed all my workshop buddies about it for a month straight, and pulled together a rough sequence of events (little talk, Q&A, prize drawings, signing, done.)

So what I mean to say is that yes, I did expect people to show up.  And yes, I did expect them to be wonderful (because I have amazing taste in people, so it's their general M.O.)  And the small part of my brain not busy suppressing the urge to barf on my shoes expected that it would probably be a pretty fun day.

But man, you guys.  I was not expecting to blow through a hundred books.  I was not expecting to sign for an hour and a half.  I was not expecting to go home and find 50+ Facebook and Twitter alerts. (I definitely wasn't expecting to go out have one of the best meals of my life in a gutted-out gas station restaurant in Watauga, but that's a story for another time.)

And to say that I wasn't expecting my very own official
"One Night in Sixes" night-light would be the understatement
of the century.  Thanks, Denise - you literally light up my life!
Anyway, the short story is: if you were there on Saturday, please know that you are just excruciatingly fabulous.  Thank you so much for making that big-ass drive.  Thank you so much for waiting in that big-ass line.  For you to lay down even more of your time and money and enthusiasm, when you've already given me so much already, is just unbearably kind.

And if you WEREN'T there on Saturday but wished you could have been - seriously, don't even worry about it.  Because A) we totally would have broken the fire code if all y'all had come out, B) I'm actually kinda glad there are still a few people in my life who haven't seen me cry in a bookstore, and C) we're gonna do all this again when Medicine for the Dead comes out in March (and your help will be especially helpful then, cuz y'know the world never gushes as much for your second kid!)  Really, though: it is a special thing to have so many folks in one place at one time - but it is even more special to feel the love pouring in from five time zones simultaneously, and to know that I have more wonderful people in my life than any single bookstore can hold.

And for anyone who's interested in the highlights reel, here is the text of what I said (or meant to say), along with a few more pictures from the happy day.

Friday, August 1, 2014

On the Eleventh Day of Launchmas...


... a Charity Megastar, a Death Writer, and an Apocalyptic Redhead walked into a bar.  And then blogged about me.

And I hate that I'm posting this on Friday afternoon when absolutely no-one is looking, but I just can't not tell you about these three fabulous ladies, all of whom have gone out of their way to sing my praises this week.

Jodi Thompson is not a relative of mine.  And that is a damned shame.  Because, like a cheerful freckled Visa card, she's everywhere you ought to be: writing grants, volunteering for school events, doing charity drives and collections, you name it.  Right now, she's running the DFW Teen Writers Workshop (a phenomenal success-in-progress!) and organizing birthday parties for homeless children at her local church.  Yeah.  Kind of humbles your day-planner, doesn't it?

Anyway, she's a future-megastar you need to keep an eye on, because while you might guess that anyone with a heart that big would likewise write stellar, Grinch-bustingly wonderful protagonists, I've read enough of her work to tell you for a fact that she does.  Check her out at TheJodiThompson.com (and if you like, get squishy with me when you read all the nice things she said about me.)

And if Jodi is sweetness and light, Pamela "The Death Writer" Skjolsvik is a hearty dose of gin and vinegar.  Humble, introverted, and sweetly pessimistic, Pam is one of those rare few people whose friendship has genuinely surprised me.  Like, seriously, y'all.  This lady has worked in a prison.  Interviewed a man on death row, literally days before his execution (and kept up correspondence with his partner ever since.)  Talked with grieving parents, ridden with firefighters, and owned a party bus.  She is realness incarnate.  And while I'm continually amazed that someone with so many notches on her belt wants to be friends with a soft-bellied Shire hobbit like me, I am so glad that she invites me to her death-parties, delighted that she lavished love on me and my little book this week, and SO excited that her memoir, Death Becomes Us, is now being actively shopped for publication.  Go get to know her before she blows up!

Lastly, I don't know if you Texas folks know this, but the Four Redheads of the Apocalypse dwell within our borders - and Rhonda Eudaly is the Reaper Herself.  What you might not know is that she is also a hell of a good time, and will not actually kill you on sight!  I'm so flattered that she decided to spotlight me on her blog today, because not only did we literally just meet like, last weekend, but  by the time we did, I was a dozey space cadet.  But now we are firm DFW buddies, and I'm so looking forward to hanging out and seeing what she does when she's not out harvesting human souls.  Huzzah!



In other news, the map is nearly done - and while Sil is busy playing a high-stakes game, our man Elim is making a risky gamble of his own.

But even after that, even after he had loaded his rifle and snuffed out the lamps and holed himself up in the hayloft to watch the moon rise, there was no getting to sleep. The moon climbed and little fire-lights burned more brightly, not only inside the adobe houses and the back of the eastern promenade, but on top of them as well. Brightest of all were the red and yellow lights of the boarding-house at the end of the road.

Sil would be there; Elim would have guessed it even if he hadn't been told. Whether Sil would come back, on the other hand...

...
Elim leaned forward and drew his knees up, threading his fingers through his hair, and immersed himself in the smell of wood and straw and his own dirty clothes.


He liked hay lofts, generally. They were high and safe and shut-in, and there was none better than the one at home. He'd been used to play in it with Merry and Clem on rainy days. It remained his favorite spot even later, when the girls had grown out of that and he'd played just with Yellow Kelly, the barn cat. At some point, he'd left off playing altogether.


But that was all right. He'd grown up, that was all, and although it hadn't left him much time for play, it meant that he could handle harder things. In his braver moments, he thought he could even face whatever native gods or animal-men or nameless night-striding demons might be waiting for him out there.


Couldn't face Will Halfwick.


That went double for Nillie.


Elim climbed down from the loft.