Eclectic (read: weird) Reading Tastes

Whenever I publish a new blog post, I spend inordinate amounts of time clicking back on the post, just to make sure nothing exploded, or to make sure I didn’t misspell the word “public” without the “l.” (Note to everyone: Never misspell “public.” Your spell-checker won’t catch it, and you will never live it down.)

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So naturally, this morning I clicked onto my own site yet again and glanced at it yet again. Then I saw it: my “Currently Reading” section on the right-hand side of the screen. What kind of freak reads Lake of Destiny, The Last Word, Not That I Could Tell, and Haunted at the same time? (Oh, and toss in Daily Rituals since I just started that one too.)

That’s largely a rhetorical question. Obviously I am that kind of freak.

Then I felt defensive that I had just called myself a freak, and my first thought was that I really oughtta cuff myself upside the head for calling myself a name. (Clearly people who work alone from home for too long must miss workplace bullying and start making up their own versions to compensate.)

But I got over the urge to beat myself up for calling myself names, and instead I made a trip to Home Depot to buy lumber and a nail gun to build myself a cry closet. Wayne won’t notice if I put it in the middle of his home office since nobody can see half the room anymore due to the boxes of ancient tech gadgets he never unpacked when we moved in … in 2012.

Anyway, one or two back-and-forth motions with a handsaw and I gave up on the cry closet (because the project itself was making me cry and because I already cry every time I go in that office) and sat down to take a coffee break. While I was sitting in the middle of the stuff I’d just bought, wondering how long it would take Wayne to notice large pieces of wood behind his desk chair, it dawned on me that I wasn’t really a freak after all.

No! In fact, I was a genius! I never read those sorts of books literally at the same time. I read them concurrently but not simultaneously. Well, okay, I just checked in the dictionary and it uses each of these terms to define the other, so maybe I’m not the wordsmith I thought I was. Anyway, my point is that I never quite know what mood I’ll be in when I read each day. Sometimes a fun Spellman novel is the right choice. Other days I want the creepy Palahniuk story. Still other nights, a love story set in the Scottish Highlands is the way to go. Or, that Strawser story that’s firing on all cylinders for me.

So, really, instead of being freaky for reading such disparate stories simulcurrently (ha ha, dictionary! I win!)… I’m brilliant for always having the right story to match my mood.

Do you do this? Do you juggle a Currently Reading pile of different genres? Are we all freaks, or are we all brilliant? Feel free to confess here. Besides, I really need the personal validation.

Can You Keep a Secret?

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Today I’m ordering a proof copy of this book—Secret Agent Manny—so I can make sure it looks pretty and beautiful and marginally correct. Wait, I mean, to make sure the margins are correct. We typesetters care about these things.

This book started as a dare (as most great books do) … by two writer friends of mine, Fara Linn Howell and Jim Watkins. The first line of the book (“There’s been an incident at the house”) was spoken to me over the phone by my electrical engineer husband while I was at a writing conference … and Jim and Fara thought it was a perfect jumping-off point for a story. Then again, bungee jumpers think high bridges are perfect jumping-off points, and I think they’re all insane.

That year, their idea turned into my NaNoWriMo novel, written on my IBM Selectric. And I’ve been tinkering with the story ever since. This past autumn I spent five wonderful days at Forest Edge Cottage in Kane, Pa. (in the Allegheny Forest), where I wrapped up the story on my Smith Corona Coronamatic.

Yes, I use typewriters to write fiction. Don’t get all up in my face about it. If these particular typewriters were good enough for Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury and Charles Bukowski and John Irving and James Baldwin, they’re good enough for me.

Plus, I have no real hobbies to speak of.

Anyway, now Secret Agent Manny is edited, typeset, and proofread. And it’ll soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website. (Don’t panic. I’ll post direct links once the book’s available. Take some deep breaths into a paper bag or something before you faint. I said, don’t panic!)

If you’re going to see me at a conference or festival this year (like this one, or this one), I won’t mind if you wait till then to get a copy (so I can sign it for you and make it worth ten or fifteen cents more than you paid for it).

Otherwise, watch out, world! Secret Agent Manny is coming your way—sometime in May!

Soon . . .

It’s almost here again. Not just Halloween—with its promise of fun-sized candy bars for weeks because I always conveniently over-purchase for our trick-or-treaters (#sorrynotsorry)—but also what I like to call NaNo Eve.
For the past 13 years, I’ve spent Halloween night watching bad horror movies (usually AMC’s Fear Fest) and prepping for the start of National Novel Writing Month in November. This will be Year 14. And, as usual, I’m so excited I can barely think of anything else. This one event, paired with my discovery of Alphasmarts back in 2004, has made November my favorite month each year.

 

So, just as I’ve done for the past 13 Halloweens, I’ll spend Tuesday night gobbling tiny Kit Kat bars and cute little Hershey miniatures, sipping coffee into the wee hours, waiting for midnight so I can start on this year’s 50,000 new words of fiction.
But, unlike the past 13 years, this time I won’t be starting a brand new project. NaNoWriMo now allows participants to work on a previous fiction project, as long as all the words written in November are new to the project. And since I have a few previous NaNo novels that aren’t quite done, this seems like the year to tie up some loose ends rather than unravel new ones.
In fact, I’m modifying even that new take on the old rules a little bit further. The past two NaNo novels have been upcoming books in my Red Ink cozy mystery series. Each one needs about 25,000 words to finish the story.
You can see where I’m going with this.
So, I’m hoping to finally see complete first drafts of both The Tell-Tale Heart Attack and Charlotte’s Website in about a month. It’s making me feel so grown-up and responsible. Pretty much new feelings for me.
And because I can’t just wing it from scratch this time, I’ll spend the next two days rereading what I have so far on both novels, so I can hit the ground running at midnight on Tuesday night. I’m nervous about doing NaNoWriMo this way, but then again, I get nervous trying out a new flavor of coffee creamer. Your mileage may vary.
Let me be clear that I’m not nervous about doing NaNoWriMo yet again on a typewriter. I’ve found it’s the best way to churn out new fiction. Been practicing on both the Selectric I and the Selectric II this past few weeks. I even bought a few new “golf balls” for each of them.
The fingers are getting itchy. I’m ready.

Train of Thought … right on track

Deadlines are often my mortal enemies. They hate me, and rightly so. I taunt them. I brush up against them in annoyingly familiar ways. I tell them their father was a hamster and their mother smelled of elderberries.
 
This behavior doesn’t make them go away. In fact, they seem to loom larger the more I harass them. They are angry, bitter little beasts that don’t appreciate my behavior in their presence. You see, I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. Was late for my own birth, and I’ve perfected the skill in the ensuing years. I had to run for the bus an unprecedented number of times during my school years. I had to stay up late in college the night before a paper was due. I left for work thirty seconds later than it would take the average person to get there. It’s almost like I don’t hear the clock ticking until the deadline is breathing down my neck.
 
Deadlines love this behavior. They start taking bets on me, that I’ll falter and miss the deadline this time. Sometimes they’ve thrown my self-imposed, internal deadlines at me as signs that I’ll likely miss a real deadline currently before me. But they don’t understand that I know the difference between a random, self-imposed deadline and a real, can’t-change-the-date deadline. I know because I routinely conquer the latter while allowing myself way too much slack on the former.
 
The proposed September release for my upcoming cross-country train trip book, Train of Thought, was a target date for my Indiegogo backers. I chose that month based on what seemed reasonable once I got home from my trip in mid-May. Setting the date with a month—but no specific date—gave me more than four weeks of leeway to keep that rather flexible, self-imposed deadline.
 
Meanwhile, the deadline demons know how crazy my summers are and were giggling with glee that this time they would win. What they failed to factor in was Beaver County BookFest on September 9. There was no way I was going to sit at a third BookFest table in a row with the same four books for sale. I needed a new book this year.
 
Add a real deadline I cannot change onto my self-imposed deadline and you’ve got one determined writer. Once I am up against a wall I cannot tear down, I always scale it just in time. Always. I procrastinate until the adrenaline kicks in, and then I dash ahead. The deadline demons keep forgetting that I have more than a half century of practice at this. Don’t try this at home, kids. I’m a professional.
 
They will never win.
 
I have approximately ten days to finish this book (including layout, which is already in place) in order to have physical copies here before September 9. That’s plenty of time, as long as I don’t clean the house or have a social life or get heroic with dinner prep for the next week and a half. Which is standard operating procedure around here even when I’m not on a deadline.
 
So, if you see me on social media sites at all over the next ten days, it’s only because I need to remind myself that the real world is still out there and hasn’t been nuked into oblivion by some little nutjob halfway around the world. Because that’s about the only thing that’s going to stop me from meeting this deadline.
 
Take that, deadline demons.
 
 

The Next Big Thing: A Blog Hop

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Ah, a blog hop! I still haven’t quite figured out what it is, but I’m participating anyway. Read here, then hop away!

Below are my thought-provoking and informative answers to some questions a bunch of authors are asking and answering right now. And, I really do hope to have Secret Agent Manny out by late spring. Yes, of THIS year. Why do you ask?

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What is the working title of your next book?

I’m most excited about Secret Agent Manny, a comic pseudo-spy novel (more comic than spy, although the pseudo part would probably be the best adjective of the three if I’m being perfectly honest).

I have a hard time getting into a project (especially a large project) until I have a good title, and although I’m usually open to suggestions for titles, I also know it when I hear it. And, at the end of the day, I’ve usually come up with it myself. And then I can move forward.

I’ve been told I’ve got a knack for coming up with great titles. When a previous project, Do-It-Yourself Widow, placed as a runner-up in a national novel contest a few years ago, I was told that my title was the best of them all.

Now, if only I could get similar praise for the other 75,000 words in that project.

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Where did the idea come from for the book?

Secret Agent Manny is my 2012 National Novel Writing Month project. The idea has to be credited to two writer pals of mine, James Watkins and Fara Howell Pienkosky. While at a writing conference last June, I got a disturbing phone call from my husband still at home, about a burglary there. As the writing conference progressed, Jim and Fara poked and prodded me into believing that my husband was actually living a double life as a spy.

Since Jim and I are both humor writers, and since Fara, though much more spiritual than I, has one of the best senses of humor in these parts, we escalated my poor husband’s imagined double-life to outrageous proportions the rest of the week.

By week’s end I knew I had to adapt their crazy (or not-so-crazy) ideas into a novel—a novel that starts out with a phone call strangely similar to the one I had with my husband that day: “There’s been an incident at the house…”

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What genre does your book fall under?

I’d be more worried if you asked me what table my book fell under. But, to answer your actual question: It’s a comic pseudo-spy novel. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?
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Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

See, I don’t think there’s enough real spy action for this to be a James Bond movie, and I’m not sure the comedy translates all that well outside of book form … but since you ask, I’ll have to go with Oliver Platt for Manny and Mary Louise Parker for Amanda—but only if she’ll eat a sandwich or something first. That woman is too thin.

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What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A bored wife with too much time on her hands begins to suspect that her quiet, mild-mannered husband is really a spy … and she inadvertently turns their lives upside down in her quest to discover the truth.

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Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

After years of telling myself that it was all right to self-publish the humor-essay books but not the novels, I’ve decided that God gave me a direct path to self-publishing even the novels: I’ve worked in the prepress publishing world for decades, and I have professional skills as a typesetter and proofreader. Why would I wait to see my book in print for years while going the traditional publishing route when I can wear all the prepress hats myself?

Life is too short to be traditional about this. Besides, within the next few nanoseconds, the term “traditional publishing” won’t mean anything anymore.

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How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on Secret Agent Manny, but the first 50,000 words are done—and now edited—and were originally written in November 2012, as part of NaNoWriMo. But, once I’m on fire about a project, I can churn it out quickly. I hope to have this ready by late spring 2013. Just don’t quote me on that.

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What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ha ha ha. Genre. Compare. You’re so funny.

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Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More kudos to those pesky friends of mine, Jim and Fara, for the inspiration. And once I went from just having fun coming up with reasons my husband is a spy during a writing conference to actively taking notes for a novel, the ideas just wouldn’t stop coming.

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What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You’d be amazed at how differently you’ll look at your own spouse when you see just how many common household items and common daily routines you can call into question. All you need is a paranoid, suspicious nature and a little creativity, and all hell breaks loose.

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Multi-Author Book Signing, Dec. 11!

Hey, gang!  Long time, no type! I’ll catch up on stuff later, but for now I wanted to announce this upcoming event (info lifted from the group’s Web site without a bit of guilt on my part):

LOCAL BOOK SIGNING!

The Beaver County Wordsmiths are holding their annual Christmas Book Sale on SAT., DECEMBER 11, from 11 a.m to 2 p.m., at Dej’a Vu Books in Bridgewater (222 Bridge Street).

If you haven’t been to Dej’a Vu yet, it’s a charming little book/antique store nestled inside of an old brick building along Bridgewater’s historic main street. The store features a unique selection of antiques, books, collectibles, paintings, prints, pottery, and more! Dej’a Vu is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  724.709.8246

THE BOOK SIGNING:  More than 10 local authors (including your favorite humor writer) will be taking part in the event, and we’ll all be happy to sign our books.If you’re local, come and get a personally signed book for that special someone!
If you’ve already bought my book, bring it along and I’ll sign it for you (or sign it again if you’re semi-stalking me). My books make great holiday gifts!  Buy two; they’re small!