I Love What I Do

If you follow me on Twitter, or you’ve been exercising your keen sense of observation by looking on the left side of the blog at my Twitter feed, you’ve noticed some recent announcements about upcoming interviews.  I’m now booked into November and the spots keep filling up.  I spent a goodly portion of my day yesterday talking with authors, reading press releases, and coordinating book reviews with publishers.  

I love my job.

It’s not a job where there are health benefits, or financial security, or even finances.  I’m not opposed to finances, however.  There just aren’t any at the moment.  When you get up every morning and do something because you love it, you know you’re in the right field.  I got into this by accident.  I wrote a book and the book got published.  (Hooray for publishing!)  If I had a better idea of what I needed to be doing at the time, I would have created my online presence well before I ever sent the manuscript out for consideration.  I had no clue what I was doing, and in some things I still don’t, but I am constantly learning.  (Hooray for learning!)

Once the book was accepted and work got underway for that, I started trying to create a platform for myself.  It wasn’t until the book had been out for three months or so that I repurposed an old blog.  We’ve come a long way since then.  The blog was for my multimedia writing class, and an author platform was perfect for it, so Erindipity was born.  One of the things my blog needed to have for the class was a weekly feature.  Recommend It Monday seemed a perfect way for me to get recommendations from people and explore new authors.  I’d read a recommended author/title, and then do a review.  Then, I started reviewing titles I wanted to read for my own interests.  Now, I’m working with authors and publishers to formally review their works.  *squee*  Sorry.  I’m better now.  

My first few interviews as an author were for the blogs of other authors I know.  I enjoyed being interviewed and decided to try my hand at interviewing other authors and helping spread the word about their current releases.  It was a blast.  It seems I know more horror writers than can possibly be healthy for any single individual.  One day I woke up and there was a corpse oozing on my furniture.  He had a note pinned to his chest that said his name was Charlie and admonished me to take good care of him.  Of course, the note failed to mention that he’s also a bit of a perv and likes to eat the middles out of my pies.  Just the middles, mind you.

Before I knew it, I had a new interview lined up every week.  They are great writers and great human beings.  Some of them I am privileged to call friends.  There are others I am just now meeting, and still more that I am waiting to meet in the future.  They make me laugh and cry.  They inspire me to work at my own craft.  They teach me things I didn’t know.  I hope they have as great a time as I always do having them over.  I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger writer for having met them.

So, here we are.  I have interviews booked until almost the end of the year.  I have books waiting in queue to be read and reviewed.  I’m helping to spread the word of these talented people and I’m having an absolute blast doing it.  I don’t get paid for this, but I will get up tomorrow morning and check my email.  I’ll respond to inquiries and schedule dates.  I’ll write up interviews and pull books out of my mailbox.  Because I love what I do and you can’t buy that.

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Changes Make Life Interesting

At least, that’s what they say.  I actually have lots of tidbits to share today, so lets get started.

First, you might have noticed there was no Author Corner this week.  Tuesday was moving day for me, so I’ve put a hold on them for the next week or so more.  Moving went great.  I’m very tired, incredibly sore, and I have lots of bruises and blisters, but I’m all settled in and ready to get down to business.  In related news, I bought a 7 qt. Crock Pot for $25.  If I’ve never mentioned it, I’m addicted to kitchen stuff.

Author Corner will be returning September 3rd.  I’ve got a great new batch of authors stopping by to meet Charlie.  Ok, they’re not really coming to meet Charlie.  Just, don’t tell him that, ok?  He’ll pout, and if you’ve never seen a corpse pouting…well, it’s not an easy image to purge from your brain.

Speaking of interviews, I was recently interviewed.  I stopped by The Undercover Reviewer and chatted with Amy.  She also reviewed Celia.  If you haven’t read it yet, her review is a spoiler so you might want to hold off checking that out.  I can tell you she gave it 5 stars.  On September 27th, I’ll be appearing on Newbie Writers Podcast.  If you’ve ever wanted to hear my dulcet tones, make sure to tune in.  Oh, and by dulcet, I mean juvenile.  I sound like I’m 12.  I’ll be sharing that around when the time comes.

Now that I’ve moved, I’m going to have a lot more time to devote to Enraptured.  I’m ready to get back to the grindstone with that.  So far, I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out.  I have a lot more work to do, but that’s true for a lot of things.

I have some books coming in for Recommend It Monday.  I’m pretty excited to be checking out some new-to-me authors.  You can look for those in the upcoming weeks.

I’m going to be adding a new page to Erindipity.  It occurs to me that, seeing as how I do interviews and book reviews, then perhaps I should have a section about those things.  You know, in case anyone wants to pop on in and get molested by my corpse.  No, that’s not a euphemism.  Sorry.  It’s not up yet, but look for it by the end of the day.

I dusted off the website a bit and spruced it up.   If you’re new to the blog, mosey on over to the site and have a look around.  The newest interview is posted and there are two short stories available.  Yes, I said mosey.  I also say “fixin’ to,” “done” as in “I done started it already,” and “caterwauling.”  I just try not to say them in public.  Much.

Grad school starts next week.  I have orientation tonight.  I wouldn’t go, but they’re going to have food.  I always go where the food is.  I’m excited to be starting my advanced degree and getting this next piece of my plan going.

I have a guest post for Rainstorm Press coming up on September 10th, and I’ll make sure to have links to that handy.  I have no clue what I’m writing about yet.  It may have something to do with pie.  I once rewrote Psalm 23 and started it out, “The pie is my pastry; I shall not want.”  I’m relatively certain there’s a special circle of Hell reserved for people like me.

I’m the webmistress again for the Indiana University-South Bend Creative Writing Club, so if you know people who would like some writing inspiration, you can send them over there.  Writing prompts can be anything from world building to character creation.  New posts go up on Wednesdays.  You don’t have to be a student at the university to participate online.  Post your exercises in the comments and lets discuss.

And hey, cheer up, Buttercup.  It’s almost Friday!

Recommend It Monday–The Deepest Blue by Kim Williams Justesen

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted for Recommend It Monday.  I meant to post this last week, but my grandfather had passed away and last Monday was his funeral.  So, I’m posting it for this week instead.

The Deepest Blue is a YA novel that deals with grief and loss.  I’m not sure if reading this before my grandfather’s funeral was the best thing for me to do, but I was able to very easily connect with all of the emotion in the book.  The narrator is Mike, a fifteen year old who lived with his father and had an absent mother.  The book explores what happens to him once his father dies.  As far as believability goes, Justesen convinced me I was listening to a teen boy and experiencing his world through his eyes.  He’s impulsive, he makes mistakes, and he can be rather myopic when it comes to dealing with the loss of his father.  In short, he’s a teenager.

The plot is straightforward, and in this case, I think that’s a good thing.  It allows you to focus on the emotion and the nuances without being distracted by sudden plot twists.  In the end, the book is less about (in my opinion) what happens to Mike physically, such as where he will live, and more about his psychological transformation and feeling that pain.  I’m not going to lie, there were tears from me.  If you don’t at the very least get a little misty, you should have your heart looked at.  It wasn’t an author contrivance, though.  She really does a wonderful job of honestly looking at all of the emotions and putting them out there, warts and all.

What I like the most about this book is that it will appeal to any reader.  I enjoyed it very much, and my son would also like it.  Well, he would like it if I could manage to get him to read something more substantial than the back of a cereal box.  I mean, I’m an author and I have a degree in English for crying out loud.  It’s embarrassing.

This book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.  If you grab a copy, be sure to let me know how you liked it.

Paying The Bills

One of the goals I have is being able to support myself and my children with writing.  Now, I’m not going to lie.  When I originally thought this whole thing out, I was picking out who I wanted to play what roles in the movie version of my books.  Just so you know, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

However, I am earning money with my writing, so I will consider this a step in the write direction.  (You see what I did there?)  I’m writing SEO copy for a local business.  It’s very different from the writing I’m accustomed to doing, but it isn’t horrible.  Like anything, it’s going to take me a minute to get into the swing of things, but I’m optimistic.  Of course, there’s still Celia.  I mean, I’m just throwing that out there.  I’m also expecting a round of feedback about Enraptured, so in the next week or so I’ll be back to working on that.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the book trailer for Celia.  This SEO copy isn’t writing itself, you know.

Use Your Words

Once upon a time, before I decided to be an English major, I was an English Education major.  I wanted to teach kids about the wonder that is language.  And then I realized I would have to actually be around kids.  So, here we are.  While my degree changed, my sense of awe in language has not.  

The first words I ever read completely on my own were “No Parking.”  The street I walked to and from school on was lined with them.  Every few feet there would be another sign, “No Parking.”  The day I read them alone, I stood at the first sign.  I sounded out all the letters the way my kindergarten teacher was teaching me to do.  I smooshed all those sounds together until I had something I recognized, and it was like the Hallelujah Chorus exploded in my head.  I admit, they weren’t that impressive.  It wasn’t what they had written on them so much as what they represented that made me tingle with all of the possibilities.  You see, I could read.  I. Could. Read.  The days when my mom could write little notes to keep me in the dark were over now.  Well, except for that whole cursive thing.  The devil really is in the details, I guess.  At five years old, I began to understand the power of the written word. 

If you asked me what I consider the greatest human invention ever, I would tell you that it is the written language.  Babies will learn how to speak all on their own, provided they are exposed to language.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak.  Expose a child to that language, and the brain will start filtering out all of the human sounds not used for it and chucking them in the bin.  Can’t trill your Rs?  Your native language probably doesn’t use that sound.  But no matter what language you speak, you must be taught to read and write it.  People came together and agreed that when you make this squiggle, it represents this vocal sound, and if you put a series of different squiggles together, you now have a graphic representation of a word.  This entire post is nothing but a series of squiggles smooshed together and we, as English speakers, have all agreed that these squiggles make sense and that we will all read the same series of words, even if we read different meanings into them.  

Here’s the awe-inspiring part for me: language allows communication across centuries.  When I pick up my copy of The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English because I’m hard core), I’m reading words that someone who has been dead hundreds of years wrote.  I don’t just mean Chaucer.  Even the scribes who copied the different manuscripts have been long dead.  When I read the diary of Anne Frank, I’m reading the words of a young girl who died decades before I was born.  If I am lucky, maybe in two hundred years, when I am dead and everyone who ever knew me is dead, someone might find a copy of Celia somewhere, dust off the cover, and start reading.  Just the thought gives me chills.

But what about language itself?  Have you ever thought of all the different ways we have of saying something.  

  1. I dislike prunes.
  2. I hate prunes.
  3. I loathe prunes.
  4. I detest prunes.
  5. I despise prunes.
  6. I abhor prunes.

If this broad verb “to hate” is, oh…lets make it the color orange, then every synonym for “hate” is a different shade of orange.  Maybe “dislike” is a cheery light orange.  “Detest” might be a bright day-glo  shade.  Perhaps “abhor” is the most obnoxious shade of orange you’ve ever seen.  This…this right here is what turns language from awe-inspiring to magical.  The shading, the nuance, the ability to paint word pictures, this is the greatest human creation.  I often picture words as a box of crayons.  I want the biggest box of crayons I can have.

Author Corner–Tommy B. Smith

E: Hi, Tommy!  Welcome to Erindipity.  In honor of the cooler weather, I’ve baked us a pumpkin pie.  Sorry about the bite out of the middle of it.  Charlie only likes the middles and he got to it while it was cooling.  I didn’t even know corpses liked pie.

T: Reanimated corpses usually like brains and/or human flesh, don’t they? This is what I’m told, at least. These same creatures like your pumpkin pie? That’s…interesting.

I don’t think I like his tone.

E: Your book is Poisonous.  What can you tell us about it?

T: It’s the story of a girl, Lilac Chambers, and the deadly force inside of her, the Living Poison, which brings her to acts of violence and destruction. The focus is also on a retiring detective and the ringmaster of a circus, both of whom attempt to stand against the Living Poison. As indicated, there is a heavy dose of violence in the book. Besides the obvious external conflicts, the story also explores the conflict that exists between Lilac as a human girl and Lilac as a deliverer of destruction.

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E: What inspired you to write it?

T: Those who are familiar with my short stories of the past years will know that I’m not one to shy away from blurring the genre divide, but with Poisonous, the intent was to write a full-on horror story. It draws some influence from some of the classic slasher horror movies. There are also some more personal motivations. In many situations of the past, I’ve had a lot of venom and negativity directed my way. After so many such experiences, it’s sometimes difficult not to retain some portion of that, but the way I react to it, the way I deal with it, is my choice. Lilac never had a choice. This is where one form of horror becomes another.

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc?

T: I’ll be a guest at Konsplosion, which is a multi-genre convention held in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Last year was its first year, but I wasn’t able to attend. I’m gathering that a lot of people will be coming from some distance around for this one, so I’ll be looking forward to a sizable number of people showing up there.

E: Are you currently working on anything?

T: I’m writing another book, also a horror story, but its direction is of a different sort than Poisonous. It does revisit St. Charles, where Poisonous is set, but it actually takes place in the seventies. Besides that, I’m still writing short stories.

E: What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to books?

T: Guilty? Does this mean something I like that everyone else thinks is awful? Reading things that other people wouldn’t expect me to read? I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed ice cream on occasion. Does reading the ingredients on the back of the carton qualify as a guilty pleasure, or is that just making an informed choice?

E: Who has influenced you the most as a writer?

T: When I was younger I had access to a large storage room filled with tons of books by different authors. That was my early introduction to genre fiction. I read numerous and varying books of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and anything else, except for romance, as long as it interested me. It isn’t easy to pin down one particular influence, but one that I remember piquing my interest and stimulating my imagination was J. R. R. Tolkien. This is going to be a confusing answer for the people who read Poisonous, but everyone should keep in mind that question, “Who influenced you?” is very different from “Who do you write like?” I’ve seen and heard some other authors out there ask questions such as, “What author do you aspire to be? Which book do you wish you wrote?” but it’s a mindset I don’t relate to. I view it as important for an author to find her or his own voice, if at all possible. I’m not going to pretend that authors don’t have their influences, because they must, and there is nothing wrong with paying tribute to those influences, but to make a primary goal of emulating what another person has already written seems the antithesis of creative progress.

E: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

T: The writing itself is where it all begins. There is a lot of bad writing out there. That’s just the truth. Being familiar with the fundamentals of writing will provide you with a foundation that will help you to climb above the slush pile when sending your work out to a potential market. If you’re new to it, you should find others who have some level of experience and might be able to provide you with helpful feedback on what you’re doing. Joining a critique group is one option that might be available for a newcomer. Whichever way you choose to go about it, you should learn where you stand in your abilities, and work to improve. You should become aware of your weaknesses so that you can overcome them.

You can find Tommy on his website or on Facebook.

Author Corner–Tammy Maas

Author Tammy Maas finally accepted my invite to visit.

E: Hi, Tammy!  It’s nice to have you on the blog.  Would you care for refreshments?

T: I would, thank you. This is my favorite! Ham salad with Chicken in a Biskit crackers. Did you know that for some odd reason people in Kentucky don’t eat ham salad? They look at me like I have three eyes every time I ask for it. And at one grocery store I asked the clerk, “where’s your pop?” He replied, “my pops home in bed lady, you know my pops?!”

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What? The lady likes these crackers. Don’t judge her!

E: Your first book is A Complicated Life in a Small Town.  What can you tell us about it?

T: The book is darkish (is that a word?) it tells the tale of writer (Lydia) who discovers she has a step-sister (Lily) with Prader-Willie syndrome, an unusual eating disorder. Lydia falls in love with the Chief of Police (Tommy) in small town Monticello Iowa. The book is a novella so you can easily read it in one sitting. There’s lots of body fluids in this book; blood, urine, feces and tears too.

(Wiping cracker crumbs off my shirt.) Ya know, this ham salad kind of resembles a body fluid now that I think about it.

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E: Your second book, God Save Us All, is a continuation of the story, right?

T: Yes. God Save Us All follows Lydia though some hard times. She struggles to keep her sanity as she attempts to care for Lily, a new baby and a paralyzed husband.

God Save Us All Cover

E: Do you have any more books planned for the series?

T: Yes. There will be one more book in the series and I hope to have it completed by the end of the year. I recently moved from Iowa to Kentucky and haven’t had a lot of time to write lately but I plan on making some serious progress as soon as the kids start school next week.

E: Prader-Willi Syndrome features heavily in your books.  How did you choose it and what are some things you’ve learned through your research?

T: I found Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) by accident online when hunting for a disease for a character. I was completely fascinated when I began researching it. PWS affects different people different ways so it was fairly easy to create a realistic character. People with this syndrome suffer greatly. We know what it feels like to be hungry. Imagine having that feeling no matter how much you ate. Imagine not being able to think or function without having food constantly on your mind. Most people with PWS have to have their cupboards and refrigerators chained shut and they have to have constant supervision. In the wrong hands these people are exploited as they will do anything and I mean anything for food.

E: Do you have any other projects in the works?

T: Yes. I’m also working on a full length novel about an exterminator who stumbles upon an unusual situation. This one also involves a medical condition.

E: How did you start your journey as a writer?

T: At the time my daughter was three and we were living in West Virginia. We asked her if she wanted to go to Disney Land or to visit her Grandma’s in Iowa, for vacation. She choose visiting her Grandma’s. That broke our hearts and we decided to move back home to Iowa. I applied for a job online and after two telephone interviews they asked what my husband did for a living. I told them he was managing the distribution center I was working in. They then interviewed him and eventually hired him. They then told me they had a nepotism policy and couldn’t hire me. The bastard took my job! So that was it for me. I said fine “job stealer” I’ll be a domestic Goddess and I’ll stay home and write books while you work at the job you took from me. It actually has worked out quite well – so well in fact that he was promoted and transferred and now here we are far away from Iowa again. His goal in life is for me to become rich and famous so that he doesn’t have to work anymore. He pushes me pretty hard most of the time which is exactly what I need. His name is Terry but I call him Peatie or Little Man.

E: What is the best piece of writing advice someone has given you?

T: There is a saying that sticks with me. I don’t know who said it or where it came from;

              Don’t read book reviews. If you read a bad review you might believe what they say, and if you read a good review you might believe what they say.

It makes sense. I was terrified about getting my first bad review and Lyle Perez (Rainstorm Press) told me that I would most definitely get bad reviews. Now that I’ve gotten a few they don’t sting nearly as bad as they did at first. It’s like getting a shot. It hurts for a little while but you know that in the long run it’s the best thing for you.

 

Thank you for having me. This has been so much fun and the pie was divine. Because we all know that an interview with Erin would be nothing without pie!

You can find Tammy on her blog, Twitter, or on Facebook.