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Once, again I went to my trusted neutral third party to pick winners for my audio book giveaway, and the winners are …

Marla Milrad (who entered on this here blog)

Kell Donaldson (who entered on Facebook)

Marla, I don’t have contact info for you, so drop me a line.

I have a few things to get caught up on, and then there’s likely to be a poll about what deleted scene you want to see first …

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When the audio book of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things went on sale, Audible sent me the ten promotional copies that were promised in my contract. “Use one for yourself and the rest to promote your book with giveaways” their overly cheery email suggested. I promptly did a couple of little giveaways and passed out a handful of the promotional codes.

audible-coverI didn’t plan to listen to the audio book, but then people kept asking me if it was any good. Writer friends were curious how the narration of sixteen different narrators turned out. So I downloaded it, intending to listen to a few snippets. Instead, over the course of the last week, I listened to the whole thing.

It is weirdly compelling. The narrator, Jorjeana Marie, did an amazing job, particularly in light of the fact that the sixteen narrators span from a five-year-old boy to a seventy-year-old woman, and include college girls, old men, drug-dealing heavies, and half a dozen random strangers. She makes it compelling. Nothing weird about that.

The weird part is to find myself compelled by my own work. I have been over this book so many times, I couldn’t give you an accurate count. A few hundred at least. I’ve read it aloud at least a dozen times, because that’s one of the best ways to do revisions. Read it out loud and really listen to the rhythm of it. I was sure that at this point in time there weren’t any surprises for me, but I was wrong. Hearing someone else read it reminded me of details I’d forgotten and introduced me to beats I didn’t even realize I’d written. Weird.

All this to say that I still have some promotional codes to give away, and if you’re willing to take my biased opinion, it is weirdly compelling. To enter to win, leave me a comment with your favorite audio book. Now that I’ve taken the plunge, I’m curious.

(Because Audible is world rights, this is open to international folks, too.)

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Today, it’s less than two weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things releases into the wild. In the vernacular of my youth, I’m pretty stoked.

I am also starting to fill up my dance card with a lot of events. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve got events at four Kansas bookstores in the week after the book’s release. More details here.

There are also two giveaways currently in effect. One on Goodreads and the other on Go Fug Yourself. (Please note I pulled the link for that by Googling Go Fug Yourself Bryn Greenwood. Yep.)

So while I’m totally open to ideas about what I should talk about at these events, I’m not very nervous about them. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, much of it involving talking to giggling teenagers about sex. Far more unnerving is the fact that I’ve also got two television appearances scheduled. I used to do some TV spots when I worked for Planned Parenthood, and a few times I made quick talking head appearances when the real PR person wasn’t available. I’ve never actually been asked to talk about my own personal shit on TV, though. Still, I was okay until I read my refresher on TV appearances and was reminded that one should never wear black, white, red, or patterns on television. My closet:

Black like my soul

So, that’s black, black and white, red, black, leopard print, black, and a blue muumuu. After I stared this down for ten minutes, I started to wish that I were going to appear on a German naked newscast. I’m not, though, so pinky swear that I will be on TV, wearing something that isn’t black, white, red, or patterned.

Of course, as soon as I ventured into the world to shop for clothes, these are the things that jumped out at me:

Awww yeah. I love shopping at thrift stores, but aside from reassuring myself that the world is full of truly fantastic prints, I didn’t find anything. Guess that means I’ll have to break the old admonition about avoiding any activity that requires one to buy new clothes.

One thing I do know I’ll be wearing for at least some of these events: these super fantastic Fluevogs.

Fluevog Odettes

 

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First order of business: announcing the winners of my book and book swag giveaway. Congratulations to Sue S. and Evann A.! Check your email for information about claiming your prizes.

Second order of business: quietly freak out that it’s only 5 weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is loose in the wild. Today, at least, I’m opting to quietly freak out. We’ll see if I can continue that level of calm as the day approaches.

I have finalized four events that I’ll be doing in the two weeks after the release. If you’re in or near Kansas, these are the places you can come to watch this introvert try to pass herself off as a professional writer. Try not to laugh too loudly and I’ll try not to be too drunk.

August 9, 2016

Official release day for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Hosted by The Raven Book Store, the event will be held at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. August 9, 2016, 7:00 pm.

August 10, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. August, 10, 2016, 6:30 pm. For more information, visit Rainy Day’s event page.

August 15, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Bluebird Books in Hutchinson, Kansas. August 15, 2016, 6:00 pm.

August 16, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas. August 16, 2016, 6:00 pm.

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As always, I’m trying to give away some signed advance copies of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Go visit my giveaway to see all the ways you can enter to win. In addition to ARCs, I’m giving away some of my homemade penny book swag keychains.

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I’ve seen a lot of writers lately who are bemoaning their failure to write “what publishing wants.” They keep writing books that they can’t sell, and they’re feeling like it’s because what they’re writing doesn’t appeal to agents or editors. I empathize with them, because I am something of an expert on this.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things followed the same path as all my other books. A whole lot of people said, “Hey, that’s something you’ve got there, but I don’t think anyone will buy it.” That continued until two people decided, “Yeah, I think people will buy this.” Completely random. Completely unexpected. A book that was unsaleable for three years became saleable.

I’m not saying what you feel is invalid, when you’re staring at another rejection and shouting, “WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE WANT?” That feeling you have is totally real, and it fucking sucks. What I’m saying is that publishing is a.) random, b.) cyclical, c.) not always great at figuring out what people want to read, either. If they were always right about what books will succeed, you’d never see books flop.

The other thing that I’m saying is you have to love the thing you’re writing and love it in secret. This is particularly true, because maybe nobody else will ever love this book you’re writing. Maybe you’re the only one who will ever be capable of looking at it and feeling joy. You have to love it like a monster baby hidden in the attic. You can’t look around and think, “Oh, look at all these kids on the playground. They’re so much prettier and smarter and less monstrous than my baby.” So what if that’s true? It’s still your baby. Love your monster baby. You gave it life and it needs your love. Maybe it’s never going to see the light of day, or maybe 5 years from now, monsters will be popular, and your hideous baby will be class president.

This is true even when we’re talking about own voices stories from diverse authors. It’s popular lately to complain about how agents and editors are treating diverse books like a trend, but if you already have diverse, own voices novels sitting in your drawer, how is this trend not a bonus for you? Break out those monster babies and send them to all the agents! Don’t dismiss this opportunity as a trend. After all, I used to hear people talk about vampire novels as a trend, but they haven’t gone away, have they? That door is still open. If you don’t have finished books in your trunk, that’s on you as a writer. Don’t wait to write your masterpiece until someone publishes the book that will open the door to your work. Have your work ready when that door opens.

(This post brought to you with love, by analogies gone wrong. And remember, on The Simpsons, they kept the wrong twin in the attic.)

Hugo

Hugo

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We’re now less than three months away from the official release date of my novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things! August 9th has gone from seeming impossibly far away to terrifyingly soon. Three months away, but twenty years in the making.

True story: When I was about 35, around the time I’d been writing and trying to get published for nearly a decade, I made myself a promise. It was one of those weird, desperate vows that you mostly can’t share with people until either the goal has come to fruition or you’re ready to laugh at past you for making such a crazy oath.

I’d just received yet another rejection on yet another novel, and I thought, “Why am I doing this? Is there any value to me continuing to write? What’s the meaning of life?” If you’ve stared down a form rejection for your third novel while in the middle of writing your fourth novel, you know what kind of existential crisis I’m talking about.

Rather than sink into a depression and quit writing, I said, “If I’m not a published writer by the time I’m 45, I’m going to give it all up and do something meaningful with my life.” Having made such a promise, I felt like I was making a contract with myself, and in true contractual fashion, I had to define what all the terms meant.

I’d already had some short stories published, but I decided that for the purposes of this oath, becoming a “published writer” would require me to have a novel published by one of the big New York publishing houses.

And what would “giving it all up” mean? For the purposes of my promise, I decided that “it” was my comfy, safe life. If I hadn’t published a book by age 45, I would sell my house and quit my day job.

As for “do something meaningful,” that was about as amorphous as “published writer.” After a few days’ consideration, I concluded that something meaningful would require me to commit myself to a greater good, such as joining the Peace Corps or taking a position with a non-profit aid agency that was on the ground, making a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve always said that I work best under deadline, but I’m notorious for cutting it close. This completely ridiculous promise to myself is no different. People, I’m literally coming within three days of having to quit my job, sell my home, and set out upon the road to do good works like some befuddled Midwestern introvert Grasshopper. Close call!

The_wellIt’s not that I’ve given up on doing something meaningful with my life, but I’ll continue to try to do it closer to home, and I’ll keep writing. Now, if I hadn’t made this completely arbitrary deadline, would I have really abandoned life as I know it to travel to a developing nation and dig wells? I don’t know. I’ve done stranger things.

What about you? What is the strangest promise you’ve made yourself? Did you keep it? Best answer wins an advance copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

As I continue the countdown to release day, my publisher is also giving away more copies. This is a HUGE giveaway on Goodreads: 50 copies! And it doesn’t require you to give me a little piece of your soul like my giveaway. (But I’m only asking for a tiny piece. Very small. You’ll hardly miss it.)

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Okay, I’m not really a star, but my book got a star, which is in many ways far more exciting. Kirkus Reviews called All the Ugly and Wonderful Things a “powerful, provocative debut,” and “intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.” To me, that’s high praise, and much appreciated.

You can read the full review here.

Now that we’re into May, it’s time to do a May giveaway! That’s a signed ARC of the book, plus book swag. The April winner was announced in my newsletter, chosen from among my newsletter subscribers. For May, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Any suggestions?

 

 

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I’m kicking off my April giveaway for an advance copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and a piece of book swag.

This month I’m keeping it simple. To enter to win, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. That’s it. I’m going to choose one winner from everybody who is signed up for my newsletter by April 25th, so if you already signed up, you’re entered. (All 7 of you. Seriously, the odds are in your favor for this drawing.)

If you haven’t signed up yet, just click here to do so.

About All the Ugly and Wonderful Things:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

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The only thing I do with the kind of commitment and zeal I have for writing is home projects. That ranges from repainting all my kitchen cabinets to single-handedly sistering in six sixteen-foot ceiling joists. As with writing, some of my home projects are crazier than others, and some turn out better than others.

Then there are those projects that are borne out of love. Like the ramp I just built for my dog, Josey. About two years ago, Josey had to have surgery to repair a torn ligament in her left knee. I was prepared for the likelihood that she’d need the same surgery on her other knee eventually, and that day has come. The last time she had surgery, which involves four months of restricted activity, including no stairs or jumping, I built a big ramp to surmount my front porch steps. Inside the house, I did something I’d been dreaming of since my divorce: I got rid of the bed that I hated. For the duration of her rehabilitation, we slept on a mattress on the floor, like a pack of dirty hippy dogs.

Now that I have a new bed, though, I knew I’d need a ramp inside the house. Writing is like this. Sometimes you just *have* to write. Sometimes there’s some unseen force compelling you, and sometimes there’s a clearer motivation. Like the desire to sell a book or be published or make a point. Or somebody giving you sad puppy eyes. Not that my agent gave me sad puppy eyes, but she did send an email inquiring about how the next book was coming.

IMG_5131

If, as a writer, you like to make plans, perhaps you start with an outline. Or a fancy spreadsheet. To build a dog ramp, I started with a few sheets of graph paper, and the measurements that delineated the space I had available for a dog ramp at the foot of my bed.

Graph paper! It's practically engineering.

Graph paper! It’s practically engineering.

Now, the truth is: I’m a pantser. In all things. I can draw as many plans as I like on graph paper. I can make as many outlines as I want when I start a writing project. In the end, though, they will all come to naught. I cannot plan a dog ramp any more than I can plan a novel. They just happen.

My first stop for the dog ramp was the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself here: if you’re remodeling a house, ReStore will have everything you need. On a long enough timeline. You may have to show up every Saturday morning for a year to get 42 matching sets of antique copper kitchen cabinet hinges, but eventually, you will. Writing is like this, too. On a long enough timeline, you will figure everything out. Eventually, all your research and your work will pay off, but you have to keep showing up and putting in the effort.

When I went to ReStore on Saturday, with my roughly sketched plans, the playing field changed as soon as I saw this:

Game changing chair

Game changing chair

That is one of about ten solid oak, mid-century reception chairs from either a doctor’s office or the local university. This one had some damage to its back, that’s why I chose him to be sacrificed. More importantly, he was basically identical to the original sketch of what I imagined I’d need as a platform for my dog ramp. Sometimes, but not as often as I’d like, this happens with novels. In the midst of struggling with plot or character, you stumble across something that fits perfectly and requires almost no alterations to work. Maybe you’ve got an old short story with the perfect plot twist or a character that ended up being cut from a different project. Note I didn’t say no alteration, but almost.

Chop and chop, and voila! The damaged back is removed and the ramp platform is complete. It shaved about 3 hours of work off my project. After that, I returned to my sketches and ferreted out the basic math needed to cut and attach my ramp struts. And then I had to revise my math. A few times. And I had to change a few other things. And I had to sleep on it–not the ramp, but my understanding of how it was going to go together. My novel drafts work like this. I find myself rearranging parts, rethinking how characters interact, changing dynamics, settings, and doing an awful lot of just wandering around, thinking.

You’ll notice that the two intermediary legs of my ramp don’t look the same. It’s because a.) I tried out two different methods for attaching the supports, and b.) I had two different kinds of hardware available to me. (That’s what happens with home projects made out of scraps–which most of mine are–and novels, which are almost entirely made of brain scraps.)

In true form for me, I also made the ramp (novel) a lot sturdier than it had to be. It has to hold up under a 60-lb. boxer. I made it strong enough to hold me at more than three times that weight. My first drafts are always way too bulky, because I’d rather include redundancies and details that I don’t really need. It’s easier for me to cut stuff later than to try to add things.

Even in a first draft, even knowing that you’ll have to come back a hundred times to reconsider, rewrite, reassess, you want the first draft to look respectable. After all, it has to be functional, and you want it to look as good as you can get it before you send it to your beta/crit partner/agent/editor. For me, that often means making sure my chapter headings are all squared away. (Oh this hot mess here, where it’s not totally clear whose POV it’s in? Don’t worry about that. I’ll fix that. But see how my chapters are neatly labeled and organized?)

IMG_1129

In the case of the dog ramp, well, the parts don’t exactly match. You’ve got the chair base and the raw 2x4s and the random scraps and the mismatched legs, and the ramp itself built out of discarded kitchen cabinet doors with the hinges still attached, but look! It’s covered in fancy (and on clearance) area rugs!

Luckily for me, I don’t think I’ll need to do a second (or third or fourth or …) draft of the dog ramp. The first draft of the novel, though, that’s just the beginning of the work. I’ve been known to churn out a first draft in a very short time, but after that … It took me three weeks to write the first draft of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, but nearly two years to finish revisions.

Speaking of, there’s another giveaway going on at Goodreads.

 

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