Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book 2 in the Justice & Mercy Series!

Mercy Givens, feisty genius behind the Givens Detective Agency, is determined to win the San Antonio Chili Chompers Cook-Off Competition Her motivation? To stick it to Marlene Givenchy, reigning Chili Chomper Queen and world-class local diva. Justice, Mercy’s long-suffering twin sister and agency partner, has humbler goals: to get through the competition without strangling one or both of the competitors! 

When a Cook-Off judge, who also happens to be Marlene’s lover, dies after sampling her chili, Marlene and Mercy take center stage as suspects number one and two. Marlene hires the twins to find out who poisoned her chili, but it’s not long before she’s arrested for the crime. Mercy, frankly, isn’t sure whether Marlene is innocent or guilty. But it soon becomes apparent that the twins have taken over first place on the murderer’s To-Do list! 

Justice and Mercy pull out all the stops to do what they do best – find the truth, dodge bullets, and catch a killer! 

Print version is coming soon, (as soon as I get my proofs! Digital versions available on Nook, iBooks, Kobo (soon! There appears to be an error), and Amazon. Print versions will be available as soon as I get my proofs approved. (Darn Christmas mail slowing down the world!)  Also, look at that fabulous design by The Brand Box

Thank you all for your support, and if you have any questions or want to talk about the book, feel free to post in the comments!

Monday, October 27, 2014

"How did you write your book?"

"How did you write your book?"

October 9, 2009:

I was RIF'd from my job as an accountant. I decided to seriously try writing as a career. The husband was a new paramedic, we had no children, we could survive on his salary while I tried.

December 17, 2009: 

First draft of the novel was finished. 45,202 words. I realized that this was too short. I also had the first 100 pages or so dedicated to one case, which I closed and wrapped up before embarking upon the next case. And NEVER came back to the first case or tied the two together. And I got called on it, by multiple readers, but I didn't know how to fix it. So I ignored it. (Not a good decision.)

February 8, 2010: 

I make a fictional blog for my MC's, intending to put fiction on it as "samplers." A month later I read several blogs advising NOT to do this because it is excessively harmful to your publication journey. I take it down again.

April 15, 2010:

I decide to go back to school for a publishing degree, because I was stuck. I couldn't start on something else until I had finished that first novel, and while I couldn't justify the fine arts degree, the publishing degree seemed awesome as a second choice. I discover that there is no such thing as a degree in publishing. I decide to go combo English / Business.

May 2010:

Got pregnant. Freaked out about everything.

June 16, 2010:

Got unpregnant. Fetus never developed a heartbeat.  I was far more disappointed than I thought I'd be. Lost a few months to vague mourning and depression. But I am accepted to UNC Chapel Hill, and I start classes in August!

September 2010: 

Get re-pregnant.

November 2010:

Figure out how the hell I can FIX the glaring issues of the split-personality novel, and all it will take is a complete and total rewrite, and insertion of about 30,000 words. No biggie!

December 2010:

I post hopefully on my class forum about starting a writing group. Two people respond. I am disappointed at first, but we start meeting. And they are fantastic. They start reading chunks of the novel and providing MASSIVELY AWESOME feedback.

January 2011:

I get a new job!

June 2011:

I am RIF'd for the second time due to a larger company buying mine. The baby is born. Life is ridiculously complicated.

August 2011:

I manage to write 2,000 words on the novel for the first time since the baby showed up, and I practically throw myself a party. With chocolate chip cookies.

September 2011: 

I happily note that I think my rewrite is about 1/5 of the way done. I am not correct.

March 15, 2012:

Re-edited new version for Janet Reid's Liz Norris Pay it Forward contest. I should note here that the contest was the kick in the ass I needed to get the damn thing done. (Thank you Liz & Janet!)

April 22, 2012:

I am selected as finalist #8 out of 10 in the JRLZPIF contest, and I pretty much pee myself for like a week straight. This could also be because giving birth weakened all my uterine muscles permanently and one good sneeze caused wardrobe changes.

April 24, 2012: 

I do not win. But the person who does gets published shortly thereafter, so I am heartened!

I stagnated here for quite some time. I continued querying. Sort of. By which I mean like two or five over six months.

September 2012: 

I joined Sisters in Crime after re-reading through Janet Reid's and other people's blogs where they emphasized how important it was to join your professional organizations.

September 2012:

I enter a blog-Hop Query Contest called GUTGAA. I get two agent requests, and I am over the moon.  Both reject it later, one for language un-befitting a primarily Christian press, and the other for reasons I don't remember right now.

BUT TWO AGENTS LIKED MY QUERY. THIS MEANS IT MUST BE PERFECT NOW.  I really believed that too. I am so freakin' funny.

I keep querying, about five or six every few months, usually after I read a post by Janet screaming, "KEEP QUERYING. GET BACK TO WORK."

March 2013:

I'm pregnant again. Really?! .... REALLY!?!?!?

August 2013:

My short story is accepted into the local Sisters in Crime chapter's anthology. I am ecstatic as it will be my first publishing credit. Since I am in charge of submissions, I am also in charge of sending out acceptance letters. You're damn right I sent one to myself.

My husband leaves his job. We decide to take the chance to move to Canada and see if we can pursue a better life for us there.  I spend the next three months fixing up the house, getting ready to move, and purging everything we own.

October 2013:

We move to Canada. Right in time for what the Canadians describe as one of the worst winters on record.

What the actual F%@k, Canada. That is 8-12 feet of snow.

November 12, 2013:

My son is born. We are currently living in a friend's basement in Toronto.

December 2013:

I join the Toronto Sisters in Crime, because I am convinced it is a fantastic program. I go to the joint Christmas party between the T-SinC and the Canadian Crime Writers association, and win a door prize of thirty books. Which I carry home on the subway.

February 2014:

After enduring "one of the worst winters on record", we decide to move back home thanks to a job offer my husband received from from an employer he part-timed with previously and the fact our house hadn't sold yet.

March 2014:

Put the house back together, celebrate the lack of snow.

April 2014:

The anthology my short story was accepted for is published! WOO HOO!

June 2014: 

BOOK SIGNING PARTY! My very first one.  Karen Pullen, the President of our local SinC Chapter encourages me to submit my novel to Five Star Mysteries. I decide what the hell, and do so, because I'm so frustrated at the fact that it takes me an hour to craft a single query letter, and I have about two spare hours a day to work on writer-stuff.

July 7, 2014:

I get a reply from Five Star. They are accepting my book and I can expect to hear from a contracts manager shortly. My husband is annoyed by my lack of enthusiasm, as I have read far, far too much online about the increasingly worse contracts being offered new authors. Especially those without an agent.

And to date, I do not have an agent. I start going through and cleaning up my query spreadsheet, and send an "update" email to all the agents who I had yet to hear from on my query.

August 5, 2014:

I hear from the editor who will be handling my book, and receive a sample contract! Janet Reid recently posted a blog post with resources for authors who don't have agents. I bought the book she recommended, and started going through the contract with book in hand and notepad on my knee.

Why I didn't accept the contract is a whole separate post that I will never make. Business deals are like dates. What may completely turn you off may be exactly what someone else is looking for, and that someone else might be you in five years.  It should not be taken as a denigration against Five Star. Their contract terms were not ones that I considered acceptable for me in the current publishing climate, but I went into the negotiations prepared to walk away if certain things were not on the table and with a contingency plan. In fairness I don't consider most of what apparently passes for customary contract terms in publishing to be acceptable.

Their reply letter made it clear that they weren't interested in negotiating the points that I considered deal-breakers, so I chose to walk away. I have since wondered if perhaps I gave up too easily, but I don't have a lot of free time and I find negotiating stressful as hell, so I chose not to go through it.

Side note: I do believe very strongly that if you sign a contract for a deal that you aren't happy with, you only have yourself to blame. If you sign a contract and you ARE happy with that deal? Don't let anyone else tell you differently. What's right for you is up to you to decide. I'm notoriously touchy about contracts, and I read EVERYTHING. Several times if I must.

I hired a professional layout and graphic design artist. She did an amazing job building a cover, custom dingbats, the internal layout and kerning, and all the good meaty stuff that makes a book a pleasure to read. She did a fabulous job and I have no hesitation in recommending her to any other writers looking into self-publishing.

I looooooooooove this picture. 

September 2014

I read business books, (Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Freelancer's Survival guide? Must have.) built a business plan, opened a business account, worked with Jennifer on the layout and cover decisions, opened accounts in all the online and print vendors I chose to work with, bought a domain name.

October 15, 2014

I start uploading files to all the vendors. Easiest and fastest? KDP Select. Most irritating? Kobo. We had four days worth of error messages to try and repair and their customer service has a 24 hour turn around time with at least two layers of "well, keep doing what didn't work the first time." We eventually solved it ourselves. Sort of.  iBooks is maddening in that you MUST be an Apple user or have access to a mac in order to download the software required to upload a book to their store. Luckily, Jennifer is an Apple user and was willing to help out.

October 15, 2014

My book is officially for sale on Amazon as an e-book. I don't want to announce it until a print copy is available.

October 16, 2014

I order proofs from Createspace. They ship the same day. (What?! Damn yo.)

October 17th, 2014

My book is awaiting proof approval with IngramSpark and Createspace, but is for sale on  Nook, and Kobo,

October 23, 2014

I ANNOUNCE. I spam, I blather, I sob, I open a bottle of champagne I forget to drink. And then I get back to work on the second book, tentatively titled A Thousand Deadly Kisses, to be released in December 2014.

Friday, October 17, 2014

*cough* Look to the right.... your other right..

Why yes, that is a book cover. And it is linked to, *GASP* The sale of my first mystery novel available now on AMAZON.

(Also available on Nook and Kobo, iBooks is pending, the print versions are also pending the proofs hitting my hot little hands so I can roll around on them. And check for issues, but mostly the rolling thing.)

This isn't the official release notice, and giant blather post with tears and blubbery platitudes. I just figured if anyone came to my blog, perhaps the first thing they shouldn't see is the previous post, cheerfully entitled, "THE DAY OF PEE."

First impressions and all that.  SPEAKING OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS, by the way, I also made a mailing list button. Feel free to sign up if you want to know when the next book is out. [December 2014]

Now back to writing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Day of Pee

9:00 a.m. - The three-year old, henceforth known as Bugbug wakes up screaming. Because her diaper is wet. I change her diaper, and discover that the bed is also wet.

10:00 a.m. - Bugbug drinks some apple-juice. The 10-month old brother, herein known as Pickle, wakes up. Also in a puddle. I wonder if the excess humidity was somehow absorbed through their skin.

11:13 a.m. - Bugbug says "Mommy, I think I'm going to have an accident!"

11:14 a.m.- Mommy carefully explains the difference between "going to have" and "already had".

11:15 a.m. - Mommy finishes cleaning the floor.

11:48 a.m. - The Pickle loaded up in the Pickletank manages somehow to ram the training toilet that the Bugbug had just used despite it being tucked in the furthest possible corner.

11:53 a.m. - The toilet, floor, and the couch are all clean again.

12:23 p.m. - Pickle needs a diaper change. There is a tiny poop, of the sort that I have named the "Cork".

1:03 p.m. - The Pickle needs another diaper change, of a far more voluminous sort.

1:29 p.m. - BugBug gets a glass of ginger ale for going pee in the potty.  She didn't quite manage to get her dress out of the way.  Mommy does not discover this until after she picks up the soaking wet Bugbug who requested a hug.

1:47 p.m. - Mommy and the Bugbug are out of the shower and dressed again. The floor is Swiffered. Mommy has resolved to steam-mop the floor again tomorrow.

2:23 p.m. - Bugbug again informs Mommy that she thinks she's going to have an accident. Mommy, wise to the misuse of tense, checks the butt and discovers that indeed the panties are wet. Upon inquiring where she already had an accident, the Bugbug says, after some careful thought, "In Mommy's room!"

3:05 p.m. - Mommy's room is now clean, and Mommy is throwing laundry in the washer.

3:06 p.m. - Bugbug wanders up.

"I'm not having a good peepee day, Mommy."
 "No, you're not," agrees Mommy. "You've had two accidents."
"Three accidents." says the Bugbug, who is very good at counting.

3:17 p.m. - Mommy breaks open the Mike's Hard Lemonade.

4:23 p.m. - All known pee puddles have been identified and cleaned. Including the footprints going up the hallway and into the kitchen.

5:02 p.m. - Mommy tries to go pee. Pickle knocks over the Bugbug's milk cup, as reported by the Bugbug at the top of her lungs. Mommy decides that it's just because the Pickle is trying to help by denying fluids to his leaky sister, and tells her to chill out and Mommy will fix it after she's done going potty.

"Hang on Mommy! I'll clean it!"  Mommy gets her pants back on in record time, but still not fast enough.

5:03 p.m. - Bugbug tries to help clean up the milk. By taking the cloth that Mommy carelessly left within reach after the last pee puddle, and using it. On the Pickle. Mommy resolves to get another cleaning rag bucket - with a lid and a padlock.

5:58 p.m. - The Pickle has been re-cleaned. The Pickletank has been re-cleaned. The floor has been re-cleaned. Mommy is out of Mike's Hard Lemonade. Luckily, Mommy still has tequila.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm Too Desperate to take a Bad Deal.

I finished my novel. I read and researched. I read the entire Ms. Snark archives. I read the entire Query Shark/Janet Reid archives. Multiple times. I have read the entire Rejectionist, the Editor Anonymous, Victoria Strauss' Writer Beware, and various agent blogs around the internet. I painstakingly researched agents and shopped my novel. A couple partial requests from blog contests, and one shiny "You Don't Suck" button from Liz Norris' Pay It Forward contest, but otherwise, nothing. I joined Twitter. I am an introvert. I hate Twitter. But that's where agents and editors live, so I joined. I made Twitter friends.

I joined Sisters in Crime, and made good friends. One of those friends recommended I submit my novel to a small press. I did, and they accepted it.

I was elated. I got validation that someone thought my work was commercially viable!

They sent me a sample contract. I also read Chuck Wendig, and John Scalzi, and I bought Mark Levine's How to Negotiate a Book Contract book. I spent four hours writing a changes requested letter.

The entire time, my heart was in my throat, because I was afraid that I would offend them. But I was more afraid that they would refuse the changes I considered non-negotiable for me based on all the advice I had read. I dithered, I fretted, I cried once or twice out of sheer helplessness. I asked my friend what she did. She had accepted the contract as was because she wanted to be published. But she also has a successful career to "fall back" on if the writing doesn't pan out. I don't.

While I was waiting, I stumbled across Kris Rusch's business blog. I started reading, and I didn't stop. Because here for the first time that I had found on the internet was a prolific, recognized writer saying that any writer who didn't take responsibility for their writing career was asking to be screwed financially, ethically, and artistically. That even if you have an agent, you STILL need to be in charge of managing your business. You can't just go be a sheltered artist in a delicate cave of writer happiness protected by your agent. I'm sure others have said it, but this was the first time I found it.

She made a painfully-accurate point about deciding whether you wanted to have a book published, or if you wanted to have a writing career. Because if all you want is a book published, then you can take whatever horrors are called a contract. But if you want to have a writing career, then you can't afford to take a bad deal. And you can't wring your hands and blame your agent or your editor or even the publisher. They have their own businesses to care for, and if you don't take care of yours, that's your fault. Not theirs.

The $1000 advance glittered in my dreams. I wanted it so badly. But it came on a hook that I couldn't swallow. All of my requested changes were rejected, and with condescension and lack of sensible explanations that told me exactly where I stood with the people who were supposed to be a business partner with me. I'm too desperate to take a bad deal.

For me, the deal was the wrong choice. If I took the deal, I wouldn't see the first book in my mystery series until 2016. I write fast, and I will have finished the next four books by then. They would all have to wait for the first one. And then what. They come out two years apart? I'd end up sitting on a pile of unpublished manuscripts all delicately waiting their turn, while they slowly either sold or faded away.

Or I can self-publish the books myself. And the first one will be out this month. The next one will be out around Christmas if I can get my editing done by then. By the time that first book would have been published, I'll have received royalties on several books for three years.

I did the math. To make more than that $1000 advance, my break-even numbers are smaller than the numbers of my Facebook friends, while maintaining all my rights, and publishing sooner so as to start ticking royalties up sooner. This is the right choice for me. I'm willing to shoulder the belief in the quality of my own work and take the risks.

Two years ago, if you'd told me I'd be turning down my first book deal, I'd have laughed hysterically. Now, I only regret that I didn't start this process two years ago.

I'm not afraid any more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Three Week Plan for Going to the Movies...

Recently a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go see a movie. I stared blankly at her, and she said, "It's not that hard a question."

Oh yes. Yes it is. Let me explain.


"Want to go to a movie?"
"Sure. Let me see if Husbosaurus is working and wants to go."


Movies must be discussed by both spouses for a sufficient time to determine whether both people want to see it badly enough to make it the monthly movie date.  (We go once a month because once you have kids, you have no money. We can afford it once a month.)  In the event of there being two different movies both parties want to see, negotiations which may or may not include fisticuffs, whining, bribery, or sexual favors will commence. Once negotiations are concluded, usually with one person throwing up their hands and yelling, "FINE! We'll go see _____ if you want to see it so badly!", then the planning stages begin.

Planning Stage 1:  (At least three weeks away from movie release date.)

A) Pick a date. This will be the first available day that the husband is not working, and the wife is not already pre-committed to another activity.  You have five available days a month for this.

B) Check the date with the babysitter.

C) When the first babysitter isn't available, check with the second baby sitter.

In the event that both babysitters are unavailable, go back to step A. Repeat until a single day appears to be compatible with all schedules.

Planning Stage 2:  (One week out from chosen date.)

A) Check supplies of diapers, wipes, baby food, toddler kibble, butt paste, and other miscellaneous items required to keep children alive and acceptably clean for three hours.

B) If supplies are low, go to store specifically to obtain said items.

C) Make sure said supplies are carefully stocked in the respective changing tables / cupboards.

D) Confirm again with all parties that this date is still good.

Planning Stage 3: (Three days out from chosen date.)

A) Monitor carefully at all times for any sign of illness, up to and including the use of the phrases, "Mommy, I don't feel good."  "My tummy hurts." "My toe hurts."  "I want to cuddle."  "Mommy, pick me up."  "WAAAAAAHHHH"
"Mommy, I want to cuddle." = "I want to puke all down your back."
Twenty minutes later. Do not trust the sad pathetic limp thing or the happy jumping on the couch thing. 

B) If children spike a fever, start Tylenol regimen and put the babysitter on standby.  If any puke, diarrhea, or major mood instability appears, cancel the movie date and go back to Stage 1. If you have a two-year old, major mood instability must meet the "purple face" criteria.

Planning Stage 4:  (One day out from movie date.)

A) Children still healthy? Good. Check that there are clean clothes available for when they inevitably blow poop up to their necks to demonstrate their colon health to the babysitter. Double check supplies of wipes, food, diapers, bottles, and toys.

B) Make a milk bottle. Moo.

C) Spend four hours cleaning up so the babysitter doesn't report you to Children's Services because her shoes are stuck to the floor. Clean up again after the toddler drops her bowl of cereal all over the floor you just mopped.

D) Call the babysitter to double confirm they're still willing to babysit your spawn. Try not to mention the cereal incident.

Planning Stage 5: (MOVIE DAY)

A) Screw with children's schedules to try and arrange nap time to fall during the three hour block. Succeed only in irritating children.

B) Feed children so they can demonstrate Poop-Bomb for the babysitter.

C) Deprive children of favorite toys so they'll play with them extra-long for the baby sitter.

D) Clean again, because apparently yogurt for breakfast means "Mommy wants to see about painting the wall Blueberry-Banana. Try to smear evenly on the furniture as well so I can see if it coordinates."

E) Take a shower and get dressed at the speed of light. Save thirty seconds of hot water for your spouse so they can luxuriate while you chase the baby in the tank around the house to try and change its diaper.

You'll never take me alive!
Ramming speed! Your ankles are forfeit!

F) Spend the last two minutes worrying that the babysitter is going to be hit by a truck on the way over.

G) The babysitter arrives. Run. RUN YOU FOOL.

H) Enjoy movie. Try not to twitch every time someone's phone buzzes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Reading #2 - More Disaster, But! Margaret Maron!

So, my poor husband is a paramedic. And he was working Saturday night AND Sunday night. Needless to say, he needed to sleep Sunday afternoon during the book signing at Quail Ridge Books. So my FIRST PLAN(tm) was to get a friend to go with me, ply her with sushi to bribe her into helping me wrangle kids while I did authorly things, and then go home, having let the husband sleep a full four hours in a row without any toddler or baby noise.

What Paramedics look like if they don't get any sleep. 
The plan went swimmingly along to the point that we were halfway through a third of an ocean's worth of sushi, when my three year old daughter, (who had been uncharacteristically quiet and laying down on the bench.) sat up, and vomited. I took her to the bathroom and cleaned her up, changing her clothes, and quietly panicking. I had promised to attend the signing, and I take my commitments seriously. I was hoping that perhaps she just choked, when the second wave hit. Hope died with the forth wave.

My friend and I start hashing out SECOND PLAN(tm) where she would take my car (because car seats), drop me and the eight-month old off at the bookstore, drive my daughter home to my soon-to-be-crushingly-disappointed-husband, then drive my car back to the bookstore (a forty minute round trip at least) to take over baby wrangling so I could use a pen without my son adding drool-marks to people's books.

She is a very, very good friend. I do not deserve her.

There was more vomit. (PLEASE HURRY AND BRING THE CHECK BEFORE WE ARE ALL BURIED IN VOMIT!) There was more cleaning.  I left a massive tip and apologized about ninety times to the waitress. The Font of All Things Gross threw up in the foyer on the way out, in front of the owner. I insisted my friend smell me to see if I smelled like puke. She said I was fine.

I am still hoping that she was correct. I put on perfume anyways. I never wear perfume, but I carry a tiny perfume roll-on. Just. In. Case. We proceeded with SECOND PLAN.

I arrived at the signing, and no one got strange looks on their faces after standing next to me for a few minutes, or started sniffing. The reading went well, if not very well attended. But among the attendees were Margaret Maron and Molly Weston!

Back row, left to right: me, Joanie Conwell, Margaret Maron, Calvin Hall, Toni Goodyear, Linda Johnson, Marjorie Ann Mitchell.  Front row, left to right: Antoinette Brown, Tamara Ward, Karen Pullen - Photo courtesy of Molly Weston

I did my reading, enjoyed my fellow authors' readings, and then I made a beeline for Margaret Maron to ask if she would be willing to sign a book if I went and bought one very quickly. She kindly agreed, and I ran for the shelves. One of my most beloved friends is a Maron fan, so I bought the latest one and got it signed for her. :D
Hey look, I'm an author! (Photo courtesy of Joanie Conwell)

I also had a chance to chat with Ms. Weston, even though I put my foot in my mouth a few times. At this point I'm surprised my accent isn't described as Pedestrian. She was very generous with both information and suggestions for a budding author, and it was a pleasure to meet her!

When I got home, I found out that the baby girl had gone straight to bed, so the husband had gotten a little sleep. When she woke up, she was fine and ate three peanut-butter and honey sandwiches and three ice pops and two glasses of ginger ale. So all's well and all that jazz. WHEE BOOK SIGNING #2.

Number three is coming up August 9th at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.