Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Faceless Voice

Laptop on lap and a steaming coffee mug held up that says: One More Chapter. In the background, curled up on a pillow on the floor with his fluffy white tail over his nose, is Ullr the black and white husky pup.

This week we’re supposed to talk about how to respond when a fellow party-goer learns you’re a writer and asks: “have I heard of you?”.

I would have so much fun with that question, but since my first release came out during a pandemic there hasn’t been options for going out much less any parties. If I were to be asked that my gut reaction is like Jeffe’s, I’d find out if they’re a reader. 

I absolutely love recommending books to people and when they end up enjoying my suggestion I walk on clouds for the rest of the day! Yes, I’m a bookworm and I’m not afraid to read what I like or tell people about it. 

I’m on a roll getting people to read my fellow author’s works. High-five to myself! But I’m not very good at suggesting my audiobook. Why? Aren’t I proud of it? Don’t I want to shout it to the sky that I have an audiobook out in the world? 

I’d rather be the faceless voice that transports you 
out of the mundane, 
into heart-pounding adventure. 

So I’ll do a little practice—for, you know, that day when I eventually get invited out of the house. Let’s see…if we were to strike up a conversation this might be a good starting point:

Do you read? (note: the correct answer here is YES, but reality is most people choose watching tv over reading) 

Which leads to the second question: Do you like movies like The Martian and The Day After Tomorrow? (the correct answer would again be YES, because what’s not to love?!)

Do you like a little romance in the storyline? If they give confusion-face, follow up with: Romance like Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck in Armageddon or Aragorn and Arwen in Lord of the Rings? (the correct answer would of course be YES)

Do you like medical thrillers—Outbreak, Kay Scarpetta series, Forensic Files show? (again—YES)

Then you’ll like my audiobook about a lab girl fighting to put a stop to an alien organism that’s wiping out Earth—The Mars Strain! 

Whew! Maybe that won’t be so bad after all. Now, if I can only remember what it’s like to get dressed up and go out. 

How about you? How do you answer “have I heard of you”?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Are You a Reader?


This week at the SFF Seven, we're posing the question: How do you answer when people at parties ask “have I heard of you?”

I confess that I posed this question of the group, since I get this question frequently and I'm usually at a loss as to how to answer. So for a while there I was going around asking other authors how they handle this.

My friend, Jim Sorenson, master of the witty comeback, suggested Sam Malone's line from Cheers, "Not many people know this, but I'm kind of a big deal." I couldn't find a gif of that one though. The line is a good litmus test for how much someone is paying attention. 

But in actuality, I've ended up going with a tiered response, much like KAK suggested yesterday, only a bit less... snarky. Most of the time, I've found, people are asking the question as a rote response to discovering the person they're talking to just might be famous in some way. Where writers are concerned, the answer is almost always "no."

I have, however, found another litmus test response. I return the question by asking if they're a reader. This small-talk gambit works for a multitude of scenarios. Most of the time, the person is NOT a reader, and asking this question will elicit a - sometimes long - explanation of why they don't read. It works really well for the principle that the easiest way to engage someone in conversation is to ask about themselves. People who don't read will often talk about the last book they DID read, or how they hated being forced to read in school, or how busy their lives are. This gives rich fodder for letting them talk about their lives. If they're not actually interested in the fact that I'm a writer, this lets them gracefully never return to the topic and saves me the painful sorting of the fact that, no, they haven't heard of me.

If they ARE a reader, well! Now the conversation gets interesting. I can what genres they read and we talk books. We drill down pretty quickly to whether they read my genre and, if they haven't read my books, they usually end up by whipping out their phone and buying one. Happy outcome!

Speaking of buying books, I'm happy to report that I've finished the draft of my novella for the upcoming FIRE OF THE FROST anthology! I still need to settle on a title, but it takes place at Convocation Academy in my Bonds of Magic world, taking place at roughly the same time as DARK WIZARD. You can preorder the anthology now to have it slip into your eReader in December! (Print will be available, but you can only preorder through my website right now. Print will be available via the usual retailers on release day, just not for preorder.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Party Season and *That* Question

: How do I answer at parties when people say, "Have I heard of you?"

teehee, bwahaha, muuwahaha

It totally depends on my mood. Usually, I'm somewhere between polite and cheeky, fully aware that 99.999% of the population has never heard of me or my works. Here are my three answers and associated moods.

Polite: "Probably not, but life's about trying new things, right? Can I interest you in some meddlesome modern gods, a horde of dashing dragons, a grenade-eating goblin, or a fire-warrior out to destroy a kingdom?"

Cheeky: "Highly unlikely, but you look like the adventurous sort. You should give my books a try. How about spending the night with some meddlesome modern gods, a grenade-eating goblin, or a fire-warrior out to destroy a kingdom with the power of mind control?"

Raging Bitch On Shutdown Mode: "Depends entirely on whether you allow the mainstream to dictate your personal preferences."

Monday, November 8, 2021

Do I know you?

 This week's subject is "How do you answer when people ask, 'Do I know you?'"

My usual answer, if I'm being honest, is "I don't know. do you read fantasy, science fiction, or horror?"

I believe in properly chastising non-readers. :)  I will forgive them even if they only read non-fiction because at least they are reading. 

Seriously, I probably know as many people because I work at Starbucks (Several in the last fifteen years) as I do as a result of my writing. It's hard to say which pays better over the years, but I definitely enjoy the writing more. Okay, I likely have a few more readers than regulars at Starbucks. I've had over 40 novel-length works in print over the years. 

That said, anyone who does this for the ego boost is likely going to get an unpleasant surprise. It's about telling tales and having a good time in the process, and as I have said before,, I'd likely be writing these stories even if I'd never been in print. It's how I express myself. 

I did have a rather unexpected surprise today, a new t-shirt from a fan (I have a few of those). 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Pandemics, Politics, and Face Plant

This photo is 100% representative of the past two years of writing for me. The picture is from July 2021. I'd just face-planted on a downtown Austin sidewalk. Fat lip. Broken nose. 

So yeah. Pandemic. Politics. Face-plants. I've been a mental and emotional train wreck since January 2020. I've finished nothing. I've barely managed to put one word in behind another on a book that should have been finished in late 2019. 


1. Lock down and unrelenting introvert exhaustion. Don't get me wrong. I love my family. Most of the time. But I need serious alone time. THERE'S BEEN NONE FOR TWO YEARS AND I'M ABOUT TO CRACK. Four adults and too many cats in one house has been crushing to this introvert. 

2. Living with someone who's immune-compromised. If you look up 'COVID-19 comorbidities' you'll find my father's photo. That's a lot of worry and a lot of pressure. It meant living in several months of fear that one of us would bring illness home and kill my father. As a result, no one went anywhere. For a really, really long time. Even past being vaccinated. To this day, no one goes anywhere unless double masked. It also means that while I used to be able to leave the house to get some alone time out in the world, you can see how THAT stopped.

3. I picked up a day job. Initially, when I picked up the technical writing gig, there was plenty of time and brain space for fiction. Then the projects at work kicked into high gear and ate my brain. 

Now, there are parts of life in these times that I cannot impact. I can't do anything about a pandemic. Nor can I do as much about politics as I'd like. But I can change how work happens and the day job is scaling back in January. I can't change the fact that life has fundamentally shifted. The parental units both need extra help and I'm having to adjust to the fact that alone time is going to be thin on the ground for the foreseeable future. 

Adapt or die. I thought it was a movie slogan. I'd never expected a bit of Jurassic Park to apply to me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

2021: A Good Year for Me

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: "It's Been A Year: Pandemic Year 2, Vaccines, New Political Administration, has it affected your writing? Better? Worse?"

I confess, this has been a good year for me. As James discussed on Monday, it's been a huge relief to me to have sanity in the White House again. Yeah, there's a lot of political stuff that's still not where I'd like it to be, but it's so much better than it was. I feel like we're at least working to solve the problems we're facing rather than digging ourselves deeper. 

I'm really happy we got vaccinated early in the year, too. My hubs and I took the opportunity to drive to Amarillo, TX to get ours. (A four-hour drive each way.) We got our second dose by March 8. That was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience (I hope!), knowing that sheer, sweet relief of being vaccinated against COVID-19. It restored a sense of safety and wellbeing that I'd missed for pretty much exactly a year.

Also, I'm one of those who became more productive in my writing during the pandemic, largely because I wasn't traveling, I think. I talk about this a lot, but having a daily writing habit carried me through even the worst of the anxiety. That habit is the foundation that allows everything else to be stable. I know this can be aggravating to people who can't write every day for various reasons, but I'm such a huge believer in the magic of ritual and building a habit that carries you through the rough patches. Still, I say this as a writer who spent many, many years not being very productive. 

This is way better.

So, though we're only 84% of the way through the year so far (and yes, I'm counting today, since it's morning for me), I'm calling it a good year for me. In particular, I'm thrilled by this graph of my income from royalties and book sales. As you can see, 2021 has been my best income-from-writing year ever, and that's with two months to go. It also doesn't count income from other sources, like teaching workshops and author coaching. 

I'm really proud of myself for the work I put in to make this happen.

How about you all - are things looking up in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

New #Fantasy #Romance Release: THE WITCH COLLECTOR by Charissa Weaks

🎉Today we celebrate our very own Charissa's debut novel, The Witch Collector, a thrilling romantic fantasy that's sure to get your pulse racing for the right reasons. So, as the weather turns, grab a snuggly blanket, a warm drink, and your copy of this can't miss new release! 🎉

Witch Walker, Book 1

Every harvest moon, the Witch Collector rides into our valley and leads one of us to the home of the immortal Frost King, to remain forever.

Today is that day—Collecting Day.

But he will not come for me. I, Raina Bloodgood, have lived in this village for twenty-four years, and for all that time he has passed me by.

His mistake.

Raina Bloodgood has one desire: kill the Frost King and the Witch Collector who stole her sister. On Collecting Day, she means to exact murderous revenge, but a more sinister threat sets fire to her world. Rising from the ashes is the Collector, Alexus Thibault, the man she vowed to slay and the only person who can help save her sister.

Thrust into an age-old story of ice, fire, and ancient gods, Raina must abandon vengeance and aid the Witch Collector or let their empire—and her sister—fall into enemy hands. But the lines between good and evil blur, and Raina has more to lose than she imagined. What is she to do when the Witch Collector is no longer the villain who stole her sister, but the hero who’s stealing her heart?

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | Nook | Kobo | & More

Monday, November 1, 2021

n this our time of plague...

 Our subject this time around is: It's Been  A Year: How has the new administration and the second year of the Pandemic affected you?

Simply put on the change of presidents: I no longer dread what the previous president is going to say or do to make this country look bad or fall further into disrepair. You may not agree with me, but I think President Biden has already done far more to help this country than Trump ever managed. I'll do you one better. I genuinely believe that the current plague we are enduring would have been under control by now if Trump hadn't actively made it worse. 

It's nice to have a president who takes his job seriously, and who doesn't want to alienate every ally the United States has made in 200 years. It's so nice, in fact, that writing is easier for me. I can let my imagination focus on stories, instead of the next disaster waiting to drop on the nation where I live and work.

I say that despite having endured Covid-19 myself and dealing with a critically ill spouse who spent seven weeks in the ICU on a respirator. despite having had THAT discussion with her at one point, via text message because she could not breathe well enough to speak,  Which discussion? Funeral needs. What to say to her family members when the time came to announce her death. That discussion. And folks, if you don't think I blame our last president for the disease spreading so casually around the country and causing huge numbers of deaths, then you weren't listening to the man rant about how Covid-19 was little more than another strain of the flu. 

If I need to go to a dark place in my writing, I just think about the last administration's efforts to ignore all of the safeguards we had in place in case of a pandemic, and I get just as dark as I need to. Whether he is simply a buffoon or actively went out of his way, I firmly believe that the last administration did everything possible to ruin this nation and was only stopped by the people around him who stopped his worst actions. The fact that he seriously considered raining nuclear death down on China when he lost the election is enough to chill me to the bones, and I write horror for a living. I don't scare easy. 

So,m yeah, I think I'm in a better place now than I was a year ago. I think the future is brighter than it was.  My wife is home and in a better state than she was at the beginning of the year.  I have lost people to Covid, but she was not among them. The current president is working hard to repair the damage caused by a blithering clown, and trying to crush Covid. 

I can see light in the distance, and I can imagine a world where the US is not the laughing stock of the free world. 

It's a good thing. 

And now back to the novel in progress. 

Have a great day.