Moonlight and Moss – Coming Very [Very!] Soon

It’s official! The release date for Moonlight and Moss is May 31, 2019. But you can pre-order it right now (see links below)!

Now, I’ve never understood authors who make their pre-order price higher than the regular price. It’s like you’re punishing your biggest fans for their enthusiasm. I think my Biggest Fans should be rewarded! Honestly, I’d make the Kindle version like 1 cent for pre-order but Amazon doesn’t allow anything lower than $2.99, so I did my best! The pre-order price is $2.99 – after June 1, the price will be going up to $4.99. Barnes & Noble has made the paperback available for $11.99; after release it will go up to the full price of $15.99.

My journey to deciding to self-publish was fraught with self-doubt and anxiety, but I’m glad now that I did it. The interior design stuff (especially getting the pagination to match up with my table of contents) was kind of a nightmare! But I really had a lot of fun being an active participant in the cover design. I’m really proud of the final product, and I hope you’ll like it, too!

Let me state unequivocally, here, for any other authors considering whether to self or traditionally publish:

Fear of “loss of creative control” should never be a factor in deciding whether or not to publish traditionally because, frankly, it’s a complete and utter myth.

Even with traditional publishers, the author retains authority (that’s where the word “author” comes from, peeps!) and has final say over any and all suggested changes. Fear of “loss of creative control” was not why I decided to self-publish Moonlight and Moss. I chose this route because it became evident to me early in the querying process that it was highly unlikely any traditional publisher would ever be willing to pick up the second book in a series. Once I finish Cally’s story arc in the Woodley, USA universe (this will happen when Rivers and Roads is released in 2020) I will begin a new series. It will probably also take place in Woodley, but since it will be a whole new series with a whole new main character, I will be ready to begin pursuing traditional publishing again.

Because I have other things to do besides going crosseyed formatting text for PDFs and .epubs. I have many books to write before I sleep!

Oh, and that reminds me: Who would you like the main character of the next series to be? Is there anyone you’ve already met whose story you’d like me to explore from their own point of view? Or would you like a new main character all together? Let me (as the YouTubers say) know in the comments below.

[Pre-]order Moonlight and Moss:

Somebody’s Calling Your Name…

New Year, New Story, New Plan

So I took a break, after finishing the final draft of Moonlight and Moss (working title – but probably actual title, too!) to clear my mind before diving into Query Hell once again.

During the month of November, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a little (for me) vignette about what Christmas is like in Woodley, USA. I really like how it came out! It’s been fascinating to find out why it snows every Christmas in Woodley, in a part of the country that ordinary doesn’t get snow at all. And, I found out what happens if you don’t have a wish to whisper into Santa’s ear at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Christmas at Vale House

I’m so pleased with it I’m going to polish it up and self-publish it as a gift to my readers. Someday I’ll also include it in the boxed set once the third Woodley novel comes out. The title is A Midnight Clear. Chronologically, it falls between Moonlight and Moss and the third volume which does not, yet, have a working title.

Now that I’ve got all the Beta-reader input back on Moonlight and Moss, I’m going to comb through it one last time to make sure it’s as perfect as possible before I begin submitting it for publication. I have received some great coaching on querying from people in the industry (particularly from Meg LaTorre at iWriterly, who gives a great online class on query-writing) and maybe I’ll have better luck this time finding good representation for traditional publishing.

That was my New Year Resolution for 2019: to find a new traditional publisher.

And here I must apologize to you, dear readers. Since I am, in fact, looking for a new publisher for “Moonlight and Moss,” this means it will take longer to hit the shelves than I anticipated, had I stayed with my current publisher. I feel terrible about this, because I know so many of you are clamoring for the next story. Believe me, I can’t wait for you to see it, either! But I really do feel these stories at least deserve a publisher which has distribution and marketing capabilities, and I must do right by them and find one.

To make it up to you for this delay, I’m going make the story I wrote about Luke, the proprietor of Motherboard Pizza, available for free. I can do this for the e-book version, anyway, though Amazon does require I put a minimum price of $2.99 on paperback copies. It includes a map of Woodley and the floor plan of the ground floor of Vale House, if that sweetens the bitter pill at all!

Also, I intend, in the interim, to give you some sneak-peeks at sample chapters of Moonlight and Moss, here on my blog. Stay tuned…

I know that’s not what you’re asking for, though, and I do promise to get “Moonlight and Moss” out there as soon as humanly possible. Without taking shortcuts on quality or on carefully reviewing publishers’ qualifications, of course!

NaNoWriMo Preptober 2018

Do you NaNo? If you’ve ever had even a hankering to try your hand at contributing something to the worldwide body of fiction, National Novel Writing Month is a good place to start. For one thing, you’ll get lots of support and encouragement, and afterward the whole idea of “writing a book” will seem far less daunting. It’s amazing, it’s true: you actually can do this. I am not kidding.

In addition, you’ll discover a community of writers you never knew existed all around you, and you’ll find out another thing I was amazed to discover: Writers, as a body, are really amazingly nice people! Most nerds are. (Oh, yah, if you’re a nerd, you’ll also find, among writers, a much higher percentage of nerds than you’ll find anywhere else. What’s your nerddom? Doctor Who? Night Vale? Local indy bands nobody else has heard of? Chances are, everyone in your local NaNo group will also have at least one of these interests – and some of them might share all of them with you. It’s mind-boggling!)

I started Moonlight and Moss as my 2017 NaNo project, though I knew it was going to run well over the requisite 50,000 words required to “Win” NaNoWriMo. This year, I am going to work on a short (well, short for me!) novella revolving around what it must be like to experience the Christmas season in Woodley, USA. I can well imagine that, at Vale House, Santa Claus really does slide down the chimney on Christmas Eve. He probably hangs around eating hors d’oeuvres (I wonder if Katarina will finally make tacos?) and drinking the special Christmas brandy.

This won’t really be part of the current “trilogy” featuring Cally, Ben, and Emerald, though they will be present for Christmas this year. Maybe someday I’ll include a bound copy of the story as bonus content with the boxed set.

Best of all, NaNoWriMo is for a good cause, whether your participate as a writer or by supporting an aspiring writer you know. Proceeds from donations to National Novel Writing Month provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page. Their Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of writing in K-12 classrooms by providing free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators from Dubai to Boston. For more information please visit their web site: NaNoWriMo.org

 

Writing is a Collaboration

Yesterday a lady said to me: “I think writing must be the hardest form of art. With painting or sculpture, at least you can see what you’re making but with writing you have to imagine it all in addition to writing it.”

My first thought was that writing is certainly easier for me than, say, basic arithmetic. Seriously, I get anxiety symptoms just thinking about adding two two-digit numbers! But I also found myself thinking that readers, also, have to imagine everything they’re reading.  Reading is not just a passive form of entertainment that is merely presented to you wholly formed: you are required, also, to imagine everything the written words are telling you.

I wonder why we do this? It sounds like work! Yet we eagerly take it on. It really doesn’t feel like work at all, to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t to you, either. We may be nuts, but we are happy nuts!

Storytelling, whether written or oral, is a collaboration between a storyteller and a listener. I don’t know about other forms of art, but this one, at least, requires input and the capacity to imagine from both ends, in order to happen at all. I find that very humbling. I recognize my responsibility to my readers – and I have complete faith they will not let me down on their end, either.

So I want to tell you flat out: Readers, I appreciate you! Without you, the art of writing would be incomplete. Your imagination, in addition to mine, is not just appreciated but necessary in order to make the story happen. Without you, your mind and your imagination, everything I write would be nothing more than a bunch of letters on a page.

 

Cats Never Cooperate

I have reached the Beta Reader stage with Moonlight and Moss! This means the story is complete and I have combed through it dozens of times, ironing out plot conundrums and making sure what I’m trying to say is clear to the reader. Probably. The only way to know for sure is to ask some actual readers.

Fortunately I have a wonderful group of highly literate friends who don’t mind being brutal if they have to, and who will absolutely tell me exactly what they experience as they read my, what, I guess it’s twentieth draft, now.

I’ve only sent them the first half of the manuscript so far, though. You see there’s this cat. I know this cat needs to be in the story, I just can’t figure out where it belongs. Should it come sooner in the story? But then if it does, what shall I do with it when the Really Bad Guy is on the loose? I don’t want it to get hurt! (No. I will never, ever, ever write a story where an animal or a child suffers. Nope. Ain’t gonna do it.)

It would also work just fine if it jumps in at the end of the story, but it’s just so darn adorable, I really want to see more of it. So, I keep moving it around. And, of course, every time I move it I have to change the scenery around where it was, and also the ones where it went later. It is this one, final detail that is driving me bonkers and keeping me from being able to say my manuscript is complete!

So, well, if you are one of my Beta Readers and you finish the first half and want to know where the second half is, all I can say is: It’s the cat’s fault!

Luke’s Tale

When I first created Luke, near the beginning of Seven Turns, I really didn’t mean for him to be anything more than a one-time walk-on character who would say a few lines, serve his purpose and exit stage left. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with a bit part, though. By Chapter 24 he had decided to stick around, and had developed a personality of his own. I discovered he was into computer repair, gourmet pizza toppings, bad jokes and winding up the town elders. Who knew? Certainly not I.

As I began work on Moonlight and Moss I learned that he also plays keyboards and that he, well, he understands a lot of things about Woodley that most of its denizens just turn their heads and avoid talking about. When I ran into a few plot conundrums, I decided to interview him to get his perspective on the story. (I had done this with Seven Turns, at this point in crafting that story, as well. That time, I had asked Foster to tell the story from his point of view and, let me tell you, I was constantly worried I would end up in jail if I ever got pulled over and the cops found that notebook on me!)

Turns out, young Luke had quite a lot to say. He’s really a remarkable young man, and Woodley is more fortunate than it realizes to have him around. He took the ball and ran with it, and he not only helped me find the answers to the plot holes that had been plaguing me, he gave me a lot of other insights, as well, into what makes Woodley tick.

The fact is, all characters will do this sort of thing if you let them.

I found Luke’s voice so delightful, though, that I decided to write it up as a short story to give as a gift to my beta readers and my initial fans. This was my first foray into Self Publishing and, I have to say, it was kind of a rush! I can totally see why everyone is so enthusiastic about it. I don’t have any intention of making a profit from it at all, of course, so I have priced it at the absolute minimum Amazon allows. Of course, if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free with your monthly subscription anyway. Oh, and if you were one of my beta readers, I’ve already ordered you a copy – look for it soon in a mailbox near you!

I also put a map of Woodley and a floor plan of Vale House inside the front and back covers, because I thought fans of the series would appreciate being able to see those. I hope you enjoy it as much as Luke enjoys wild mushroom and artichoke heart pizza with cave-aged gorgonzola!

It’s what they call timing…

On Wednesday I penned the last lines of the sequel to “Seven Turns” (working title: “Moonlight and Moss“.) Looking at my Twitter feed in retrospect, I found it a bit remarkable that this happened at about the same time as the Launch Party for Seven Turns, and I wonder, now: is it just me, or if there really is some kind of synergistic synchronicity that happens when we write, whether or not we are aware of it?

Probably it’s just me noticing things that happen to be coincidental if you look at them in a specific light. (You may recall my blue funk, about this time last year, over the passing of the mighty Gregg Allman at about the same time I was penning the dénouement to Seven Turns.)

The fact is, I am making a deliberate effort to have this arc of stories about Woodley, USA come out approximately one year apart. I still lave loads of editing and adjusting to do, and then the beta reader phase to go through, and then the very special hell of appealing to agents and publishers to please, please, please take on Moonlight and Moss as a project but, considering how crazy my life has become since the publication of Seven Turns, I’m really only a couple of months behind the curve here. As any writer will tell you: a novel takes exactly as long as it needs to take to be completed: no more, no less. I think this little coincidence is a definite sign that I am at least almost sort of meeting that goal!

And, after all, this is part of why I started keeping a blog and a Twitter feed and a Facebook in the first place: to document the history of this contribution of mine to the world of literature, so that I and perhaps others might look back someday and say, “Oh, hey, did you realize…?”

As the equally (perhaps, someday) mighty Johnny Sinatra has lyricized: “I’ve seen it a thousand times before – it’s what they call timing.”

Launched!

Well, it has happened at last! I thought the day was still a long time coming, but yesterday, quietly and without fanfaire, Seven Turns appeared on Amazon.

It was surreal to see it there, really, and after all the Hurry Up And Wait, now I am back to hurrying: I need to order copies to take with me to book signings. Oh, yah, I need to schedule those book signings! I need to create my author page on Amazon! I need to create a media kit! I need to update my blog!

Great time for Windows to do an update that completely took out my keyboard, right? *sigh!* Thank goodness I still have my tablet, and thank goodness WordPress is mobile-friendly.

So there you are, everyone. I hope you enjoy it. I mean that, really. The main thing I really want people to feel when reading about my fictional world is enjoyment. I mean, you’ll feel a lot of other things as you’re reading, but mostly I hope that when you close the book at the end, you’ll find yourself thinking, “I enjoyed that!”

The Kindle edition is available here.

The paperback edition is available here.

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.