Promotion of the Self

Shout-out to one of my fellow authors at Solstice Publishing, and to an article she has written about a little thing she calls New Authoritis. If you ever intend to be a New Author, it’s worth reading!

We authors – and all other types of creators, as well – just hate that whole “self-promotion” thing. Most of us are not very good at it, for one thing, and nobody likes to do things they aren’t good at. K.C. Sprayberry reassures us we don’t have to be one of those obnoxious salesmen everyone loathes – we just have to be ourselves. The thing is: you have do this “being yourself” stuff out in public, where people can see you, and you have to start doing it long before you want to see results.

I think/hope I’ve tried to do that. I started this blog and its associated web site the day after I finished the first volume in the Woodley story arc, before I even started submitting it for publication. I started my Twitter account then, too, and I’m still trying to get the hang of that beast. Ugh, just think if I had waited until the book actually comes out before getting started! I’m really glad I got the jump on that monster.

The main reason I did it, though, was because I thought: How fun would it be if social media had existed back when many of the novels we know and love today had first been written? We could, in hindsight, watch the adventures of our beloved stories from creation through Query Hell, to editing and release and onward. I would love it if I could do that, and I started this blog mainly to provide this experience for the people I hope will one day call call themselves fans of Callaghan McCarthy, and George, and Woodley, USA.

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Cover Art!

The nice folks at Solstice Publishing sent me a preview copy of my cover art! I must say I’m excited about it – and relieved. I had heard so many horror stories about people whose covers sucked and actually damaged their sales. I think this captures the atmosphere of the story rather well, thanks to the artist at Solstice who actually listened to my input on the matter.

Now all I’m still itching for is a release date! Patience, my precious, my love…

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Book Trailer

Did you know book trailers are a thing? Well, they are!

My publisher encouraged me to create one so I fired up my Windows Movie Maker, which I didn’t even know I had on this PC, and spent a week obsessing about every little detail. I am starting to suspect I’m actually a frustrated film producer at heart. I really hope to do a live-action one someday soon, with real actors and cats.

Anyway, here is my first crack at it. Doesn’t have the release date yet, of course, because I don’t know when that is, yet.

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Signed!

December 1, 2017 – I went ahead and did it!

After giving the other agents and publishing houses [what I thought was] a reasonable amount of time to make any pending counter-offers, I went ahead and signed on yesterday with Solstice Publishing to publish Seven Turns. They’re a small press but I like their business model and I especially like that they are willing to take a chance on genre-benders like me. Naturally, I’m kind of partial to the name of the company, as well, and think K.C. Sprayberry, the editor who contacted me, looks like a really cool person in her photo (who wouldn’t be cool, with a name like that?) Those are the the right criteria to weigh when making an important business decision, right?

I’m still at the point where I’m a little numb and not quite sure what to think . . . scratch that, I mean: not quite sure I even remember how to think. There’s still a lot of work to be done before I get the release date everyone is asking me about. I’m getting some input into the cover design right now and that’s kind of fun!

Oh, yes, I also finished NaNoWriMo yesterday, with 128 words to spare! Big day all around! I am exhausted. I will blog more when I can put more than two coherent thoughts together.

 

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NaNoWhatNow?

I was ‘way ahead with my NaNoWriMo word count! At the rate I was going, their algorithm predicted, I would finish by November 27. I plunked my lappy and latte down confidently in the coffee shop this morning, and just checked my email real quick to see if I had any new rejections to log before I started writing. And then I came to a grinding halt…

A small publishing house had sent me an offer of a contract on Seven Turns.  I went into Panic Mode, and got nothing done for the rest of the day.

Well, I did, after I calmed down a bit, take the rest of the day to send polite notes to agents and agencies who had requested my manuscript, telling them: “Hey if you like it you’d better put a ring on it pretty quick!” OK I didn’t use those words, exactly. It’s just a professional courtesy to let people know, just in case they were just about to send me an offer as well. (Well, it could happen, right?)

I’m not going to sign anything in any case until I have a lawyer look at the contract, though it does look pretty straightforward to my untrained eye.

Anyway, how’s your NaNoWriMo going? You ARE doing NaNo this year, aren’t you? If you want to Buddy me, my NaNo handle is SleepyMaggie. If you’re my Writing Buddy there you’ll be able to get a sneak peek at Moonlight and Moss. I promise I will get my word count back on schedule by the end of the week.

Alonz y, y’all.

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NaNoWriMo Preptober Exercise #28

Journal on What Worries You About Your Story World

What worries me is that I am still not sure what the deal is with the faerie city beyond the meadow. I really only know marginally little more than Cally does. In a very real sense, she and I are both figuring it out as we continue to press forward. (That’s another thing I should have said about her in Exercise #21: What You Love About Your Character(s). She generally doesn’t just get dragged along by the story, she pushes it forward, herself, with her inability to just turn her head and look away.)

I don’t think I’m a pantser. Not really. I guess more of a plantser. I do believe in the value of planning and of a rough outline and synopsis at minimum. At the same time, though, I have faith that the Answers to unsolved conundrums will come to me. I’ve seen it happen too many times to not believe this, so I just make note of these unsolved questions, take a deep breath of faith, and press on. I wish the Answers would come sooner, I guess, but they come in their own time. For instance, I finally figured out, after all these years, who Emerald is, after I finished Seven Turns. I’ve known of her existence for over twenty human years. Maybe it only comes when I’ve written whatever I need to write, first.

Would Seven Turns have been the same if I’d known all along? Probably not, though whether it would have been better or worse is a question I’ll never know the answer to, now. Certainly Cally’s confusion is palpable because mine was also real. Only, I fear this may come off more as “disorganized author” to a reader.

But I suppose there’s always that. Having started on Volume 2 now, there are things I want to change about Volume 1 to better support things I want for Volume 2. A dilemma Tolkien Hisownself famously may or may not have solved successfully. At least I’m in good company! And in truth I suppose this always happens to Real Authors, pants or no pants.

At least it’s not actually too late to change Vol 1. a bit if I want to. I had affirmed that I will have a contract in hand by next #PitMad and so not be able to participate this time, either, but in any case, I will (like Cally) just press on.

Things I don’t know yet that are worrying me
(but that I know will be OK!):

  1. The exact nature of why the Vale is so important; what would actually happen if it were breached, from either end?
  2. How the White Council opens or closes (or adjusts, like a tap) the Way In to Woodley.
  3. The nature of the Intrigue in fairyland; who the bad guy(s) is/are and what they want.
    (I always hate the Bad Guys part of any story, as a reader and as a writer. I wish I could just get away with dispensing with the whole concept. I would happily have watched 14 hours of The Lord of the Rings movie even if it were all scenes in the Shire: wandering through the village, a protracted Bilbo’s birthday party, and weeks on end of evenings spent in the Green Dragon. Why does there always have to be A Problem? That’s a Meta-Philosophical question about life in general, I suppose. And I’m not at all satisfied with the sophomoric stab the Matrix takes at the answer. Personally I’m going to blame a virus or parasite in the human brain. Or aliens. Maybe the aliens are a virus!)
  4. I am still not 100% sure whether Cally will go with Ben, or not, when he has to go. I think I know, sometimes, but…well, maybe I’ll figure it out when she does.
  5. Who Done It. Okay, I’m fairly sure. And I even think I know how we can satisfy the Rule about having to meet him/her early in the story. Just not sure he/she should really be all that bad..?

This whole thing is starting to feel more and more like a DC Comic every minute…

 

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NaNoWriMo Preptober Exercise #7

I’ve decided, since I’m working on Books 2 and 3 anyway, to make Book 2 my NaNoWriMo project this year. Working title will be: Moonlight and Moss.

The exercise for Day 7 of Preptober  is “Journal on what excites you about your story idea.” (Today is the 20th so I’m running behind, but aren’t we all? OTOH I already have many of the future exercises already complete. So there’s that.) Anyway here is what I journaled:

It excites me that my fans (yes! I already have some!) will be excited to get back to Woodley and re-visit some of the characters they love. I am looking forward to finding out more about George’s story and about who/what Emerald is. It’s not as if even I know all the details, at this point. I am also looking forward to actively exploring what lies beyond the meadow. I get a little short of breath when I think that at some point Ben will go with Cally into the meadow – it’s hard to get any privacy at Vale house. 🙂

Katarina will pack them a picnic basket and Bethany will insist they take a blanket with them “so grass won’t get everywhere” wink wink nudge nudge.

I do plan to delve deeper into faerie lore, and this makes me nervous. Faerie is not a thing in which one should go messing about without advance preparation/education, and even then, it’s still kind of perilous. I must trust to my allies, I guess, just as Cally must. I think Rum will look after me, but I am still more than a little apprehensive about meeting Ben’s mother, and I think his daughter might give me some gray hairs, too. Good thing I like gray hair!

I am excited, however, about meeting Ben’s son, who is something else all together, kind of like Adam Haritan of Learn Your Land, only with wings.

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WTF is my genre, anyway?

Warning: Rant ahead, with swear-words.

So I was having this nice twitter-chat yesterday with a literary agent, which was really decent of her – I know agents are busy people and she didn’t have to answer me. She’d said she was looking for adult fantasy, and I had asked her “Do ghost stories count as fantasy?” Her reply was, oh, no, that’d be horror, and I don’t handle horror.

What the fuck. I mean what the actual fuck, people? Ghosts don’t mean horror any more than having a cat in a story means it’s a cute children’s tale about a lost pet.

Mind you, I actually felt a sense of relief, because her reply validated something I had only been wondering about in a vacuum, up until that moment. All the queries I’ve been sending out over the past six weeks – all 76 of them (so far) – have tried to be honest about what the story is about, and have mentioned that there is mystery, magic, and a touch of romance, and I have feared all along that people who handle mysteries would stop reading at the word “magic,” because they don’t handle fantasy, while people who handle fantasy would stop at the word “mystery” because they don’t handle mysteries, etc. And since my abstract mentions that at least one of the characters is a ghost, well, I was afraid agents would automatically assume the story is a horror story. So hey, at least I was right about that. That’s good, right?

But…what the hell am I supposed to do? Lie about what my story contains, just to get a foot in the door? I wouldn’t feel right about that even if it would work, and I don’t think it would work.

I was advised by a writer of Regency Romances, once, at a writer’s retreat, that I just have to give up and toe the line. The Industry wants specific things right now in specific genres and, she cheerfully informed me, if I don’t follow their formulae, I’m not going to be accepted. Well fuck that. Just fuck that hard over a barrel. Literature is not supposed to be a fucking Industry. It’s supposed to be an Art! When this delightful young woman informed me that They are going to make me follow Their rules, or else, I looked off across the lake and said “I am going to defeat them” in a tone that made everyone back slowly away from the Crazy Lady and return to their keyboards.

I still stand by what I said then, but I am frustrated, and I am discouraged, and I am feeling more than a little murderous. Don’t get me wrong: genres are nice – they give readers more of something they had previously enjoyed. But if authors had always stuck strictly to genre rules, none of these genres that people are currently enjoying would ever have reached the market in the first place. The only novels we’d have would be Cervantes knockoffs. Of course, Cervantes would never have seen print, either, because the Novel was not even a thing before that.

What if Charles de Lint had listened when people told him “But, no, you can’t set a fantasy story in a modern urban setting. It has to be an imaginary, pre-gunpowder world, or at least some distant, rural part of England.”

(I’m not saying anyone actually told him this. I don’t know. Maybe nobody said stupid shit like that back in the ’80s. I wrote to @cdelint and asked about this once, but he never replied. He probably thought it best not to encourage dialogue with a Crazy Lady.)

What if J. R. R. Tolkien had listened when people told him “Grownups don’t read fairy-stories. Your sequel to The Hobbit has also to be written with the intent of it being a children’s story.”

I really love the work of Marly Youmans, and not just because it enchants me and makes me unable to put the book down. I love it because it Breaks All The Rules and still succeeds. I mean, Glimmerglass utterly defies genre. It was sent to me by the SIBA free book program because I had asked for “Gothic Romance” (a wonderful old genre that is increasingly rare these days) but it breaks all the rules of that genre, too. The romantic interest, for one thing, is not a maddeningly handsome asshole who suddenly becomes the hero by the end of the book due to the female lead’s sheer gorgeousness. But it breaks all the other rules, too. The entire first half of the novel is setup for the action that happens in the second half. And yet, though “nothing is happening yet,” you simply can’t put the book down because it’s that enchanting. (Psst: If you’re interested in reading this book, the rest of this paragraph is a spoiler, so you might want to just skip to the next…) Hell, the wedding happens right smack in the middle of the book, and that just plain ain’t legal in any genre!

Well, nowadays the word “gothic” requires darkness and gore, in addition to the dysfunctional relationship business. The magic and the ghosts are real, alright, in nowadays’ gothic fiction, but they have to be evil. I’m not a darkness and gore kind of person, and I’ve lived too long, also, to be able to suspend disbelief anymore about men’s ability to change if they just meet the right girl. Maybe I should write to @marlyyoumans ‏and ask her how she pitched Glimmerglass.

Anyway, getting back to my point, Seven Turns doesn’t qualify as Gothic Romance, not really, not to the people in The Industry nowadays.

Other genres that have been suggested to me, for which this story also does not qualify, include:

  • Fantasy, because of lack of pre-gunpowder weapons (unless you count a large flashlight,) wizards, dragons, or an acceptably anglophile setting.
  • Urban Fantasy, because of my small southern town setting but also, and mainly, because the once beautiful Urban Fantasy genre has, these days, been co-opted by a form of chick-lit that requires snarky werewolves, metrosexual vampires, and badass babes covered in gore and on whose cluelessness and inefficacy the entire plot depends. Charles de Lint would be turning in his grave, if he weren’t still alive.
  • Horror (as mentioned above) because my ghost is not evil and is not hell-bent on splattering as many humans as possible in as horrifying and gory a manner as possible. The evil in my story is, as in the real world, the product of human aspirations.
  • Cozy Mystery, because the body does not hit the floor by page fifty, and even when it does hit the floor it doesn’t die.
  • Paranormal, because, as in Urban Fantasy above, this genre now requires werewolves and vampires who are for some reason sexually attractive to the badass babe lead even though they are incurable asshats, and because this genre, also, calls for buckets of gore and mayhem.
  • Romance (or Paranormal Romance) because the romance is not the main reason for the story, and the story could stand perfectly well without it if it came right down to it. It just kind of happened. I didn’t intend it to be there at all when I started out. But hey, all the best love stories happen that way, don’t they?
  • Women’s Fiction, because apparently no form of paranormal or magic or anything not strictly scientifically real is permitted in Women’s Fiction.

Okay it bugs me to talk about what is not in Seven Turns. Let me conclude with what is in it:

There is a strong female lead. She is over forty and she has grown children. She is imperfect, but she is likable anyway.

There are lots of quirky, fully three-dimensional characters who are also likable (well, most of them are, anyway!)

There is romantic chemistry. It occurs between two grown adults who have left their codependency issues far behind.

There are ghosts. They are real and they act just like normal human beings because, as Nell says on the T-shirt she creates for Cally, “Ghosts are people too!”

There is a mystery to solve. I think it’s a tad too easy to solve, personally, but none of my beta readers were able to solve it before the Big Moment (I don’t think they were lying to me about this just to protect my “feelings.”)

There is a Villain who is willing to kill whomever s/he has to, if s/he has to, to achieve certain aspirations.

There are People living at the edge of the meadow who do not qualify as human, but you had better not dare call them Fairies.

There is a strong sense of community (though some residents tend to view it more as outdated isolationist secretiveness.)

There is moonlight and moss in the trees.

So, OK, people: What is my genre? How do I pitch this thing? Because this is the thing I am going to pitch, and nobody is going to talk me out of it, and I will not give up.

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Oh, yeah: Seven Turns

It occurs to me I have not actually told you what Seven Turns is.

I’ve been all through this on my Facebook page but I should begin at the beginning here, too.

Seven Turns is a ghost story. No, wait, it’s a love story. Well, it’s kind of a cozy mystery, too. And it definitely has elements of fantasy, but in a modern setting. I’m having a hell of a time pegging it to a genre. This tale doesn’t want to be good and get in the box. And, you know what? I love it so much, I’m not really trying very hard to make it do so.

This story is about Callaghan McCarthy. Her friends call her Cally. She’s an author, or, well, she was. She wrote a novel once, a ghost story that turned out to be very popular, but that was years ago, and she needs to come up with a sequel, soon, or else break down and go back to editing technical documents for a living. She has piled everything she owns into her car and set off across the country to seek inspiration at a bed and breakfast she’s been told is haunted.

She doesn’t actually believe in ghosts, mind you. The ghosts who haunt Vale House find this very amusing. They have been expecting her, and they need her help with a problem of their own.

As Cally comes to know and love the eccentric denizens of the run-down southern town the locals call Woodley, USA, she begins to realize she has wandered into the middle of a host of secrets nobody will talk about in front of people who are Not From Around Here. While a disembodied internet entity and the ghost of a teenage Taino pirate attempt to help her understand her new role among them, she must prevent a murder, a fire, and the exploitation the innkeeper’s sweet mentally ill daughter, all while navigating a world of ghosts and faeries without whose help she will not succeed.

All this she must do while struggling to hold onto – or must she let go of? – her sanity.

BTW: Here is some of my internal agonizing about how to title this tale.

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Working Title

Seven Turns is just my working title, and I don’t think (?) I’m going to keep it, because it’s the title of an Allman Brothers song, and I love them so I don’t want to piss them off. In fact I listened to this song over and over (and over!) while writing this, and I have attempted to build the tale’s entire atmosphere around Gregg’s beautiful, haunting descant in the chorus. Gregg Allman passed away around the time I was penning the story’s denouement. Somebody’s calling your name – rest in peace, Gregg.

Early on, I attached the subtitle “A Ghost Story” and then, as I approached the third chapter, I struck through the word “Ghost” and replaced it with “Love.” So:

Seven Turns: A Ghost Love Story

speaks reams to me, and the telling of the tale bears this out, as I am sure you will agree once you finally get to read it. Even though I will still probably have to think of a different title. Film at eleven.

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