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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"I bet you have a really good camera..." and other things not to say to a professional photographer

So I was asked for a head shot for advertising at an author reading upcoming at the end of July.

Crap. I desperately needed a haircut, I wasn't sure where my make-up ended up, (or even the last time I wore make-up.) and there was no way that any studio was going to be someplace I could go and get a picture taken with two small children in tow.

Luckily, the master stylist at the Regis Salon had an opening in her schedule, and the only downside was having to occupy the children for 45 minutes beforehand. She cut, she styled, she pretended my children were delightful. (They were fairly well-behaved, but still. An eight month old and a three year old? Not cool.)

And I took a picture with my phone! (Just to record what it looked like fresh from the stylist.)
Hey look, I'm a mommy sitting at the playground in the mall taking selfies! (I hate myself so much right now..)
Okay, I think we can all agree that a) I need to wear make-up, and b) I have no knowledge regarding the art of taking pictures.

Luckily, I know a VERY talented photographer named Charlotte Hayes of Shutterbug Creations.  If you need a head shot in the Raleigh-Durham area, call her. You will be soooo glad you did. Experienced, professional, and amazingly relaxing to be around.

We chatted about some of the rude things people say to professional photographers. 

"I bet you have a really good camera."  - Translation: Skill, experience, talent? Pfui. Just get a really expensive camera, and YOU TOO CAN BE ANSEL ADAMS.  Don't say this. A good photographer can get a good shot with a dollar-store click-n-point. They're not GOING to, but they COULD.

"Well, it's not like a real job." - Translation: Why are you charging me so much money? This is a real job, with a real skill and a real talent. You know this, that's why you called the professional in the first place, remember? If you can't afford the professional photographer at their valuation, then you can't afford the professional photographer.

"How about you come do XXXX for free? It'll be (say it with me class) GREAT EXPOSURE."  Translation: I don't want to pay you, but I want better pictures than my Aunt Louise can take with her phone. News flash: Photographers can not pay the rent with exposure. And Harris Teeter won't take it, even on triple coupon weekends.

No. It is not the camera. It is the person behind the camera who knows how to position you so that the background provides the right light and shadows, which side to shoot from so the uneven features of your face somehow look normal, how to catch that second where you relax from rictus-grin into normal smile. And that is worth paying for.

Hey, I look NORMAL. And my lips have reappeared. No one would say, "Hey look at that poor woman, I bet she hasn't brushed her hair in two weeks." about THIS person.

And, the other fantastic thing about Charlotte? She came to MY house, where my children could occupy themselves without damaging incredibly expensive lighting equipment, gave me advice on clothes and makeup for the photo, scouted out her shot location, and from start to finish, she only needed fifteen minutes of the minimum hour to get the perfect picture. In fact, I would have been ecstatic with any of the pictures she took.

She also cropped and centered the photo properly, cleaned the lipstick off my teeth and softened some of the frizz in Photoshop, and probably did a lot of other titchy, fiddly things that made this photo so amazingly good.

So yes. If you need professional pictures for anything, call Charlotte of Shutterbug Creations.

...What do I normally look like?

While I'm not always in armor, I usually do eat with my hands. Who has time for plates and forks?! Getting a plate is enough time for a toddler to get into the play-doh and try to fill the holes in the door knobs because "They're broken mommy!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

First Publication Credit and Book Signing Party!

11 of the 19 authors - I'm the second from the right in the back row, next to Polly Iyer. Photo courtesy of Robin Mizell
So this last Sunday was the book Launch party for Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, in which my short story, The Bad Son, can be found on page 10. Margaret Maron wrote the introduction to the book, and selected my story to be the first one, as well as mentioning it in her introduction.


The husband had to work, but thanks to a VERY good friend, who ended up mostly watching my three year old and seven-month old for me, I was able to attend. It was a very well attended party, with over 80 people there!

Karen Pullen introduced the book, (our fabulous editor and fellow author AND President of the Sisters in Crime chapter), and the three-year old blew a pigtail and started to freak out. I was trying to put it back in place when I heard, "And our first reader is Britni Patterson!"  Everyone turned around to see me fumbling with a pigtail and a deer-in-headlights look.

Luckily, I have much practice in reading aloud, since I do it every night, so I introduced myself, bounced about it being my first publication credit, and read the first page, since I wasn't sure how long it would take. (Karen had asked everyone to time their "speech/reading" for five minutes. I didn't have time to practice beforehand, so I decided to go short rather than risk it.)

Then there was a poopy diaper, so I missed the next two readings, but got back in time for the rest. It was so cool meeting everyone and putting faces to names. Afterwards there was a chaotic signing of books, with 11 authors and various readers all trying to get all 11 signatures on their books and trying to remember who was an author and who wasn't! There was also a carrot cake of much deliciousness, and a lot of food including a cheese board, smoked salmon platter, wraps, crudites, and a fruit plate. Also some Prosecco of deliciousness.

WOOO HOOO! I'm all published! Now to get the novel published...