2012: A Year in Review

I know, I know.  Every single blog and newspaper and TV show on the butterflyplanet is doing a “year in review” thing right now.  It’s not original.  I’m sorry.  But we do it because it’s a fine thing to look back on our accomplishments, our missteps, our joys and sorrows and mistakes.  Those who fail to learn history are doomed…yeah, you get the idea.

Besides, 2012 was a big year for me.  The only year I’ve ever existed, as far as most of you are concerned.  2012 was my year of recovery, of exploration, of risk and redefinition and reward.  It’s been one of the best years in my life so far, because I feel like after 25 years of desperately trying, I’ve finally gotten my feet under me…for the moment.  And that’s something to celebrate.

So here’s a list, in roughly chronological order, of some of the major happenings of the year.

• I spent the first three quarters of the year unemployed and increasingly anxious and strapped for cash.  While I kept my spirits up by doing a lot of creative things like crocheting and starting The Spoil of Zanuth-Karun in April (I think), there was a lot of uncertainty about my future and it was difficult to keep my spirits up about ever finding employment again.  Luckily, in October, I struck gold and began my new job after nearly exactly a year of being out of work.

• I also spent the first months of the year adjusting to medication for depression and working with my wonderful therapist to reconstruct the architecture of my thoughts to allow for a new and hopeful way to look at the world.  I learned that I needed to listen to myself, set my own boundaries when it came to dealing with other people, and take some chances while remembering that failure might hurt, but it wouldn’t kill me.  I’m still working on all of those, but the process led me to…

• …publish The Last Death in March, start my blog soon after, and really try to make a run at this author thing.  I’ve nearly completely overcome the reluctance that led me to hide my creative work for so long, and I’ve gained so much confidence, a couple of good friends, and a lot of opportunities by finally putting myself out there.  I got to see my words in print, and see other people enjoy what meant so much to me, which was the coolest thing ever.

• Throughout the year, I was giving away hundreds of digital copies of TLDTC, totaling almost 1600 at this point.  I gained a bunch of new fans and got to meet some truly awesome authors and readers, which had been one of the best things about this whole ride.

• October was a very busy month.  In addition to starting my new job, I found out that I won the Shelf Unbound contest (in case you haven’t heard), and I spent the whole second half of the month walking on clouds.

• In December, the magazine issue was released to much fanfare.  I sold a decent number of books, but more importantly, I was put in touch with some agents who were very interested in seeing where they could take TLDTC in the future.  I am currently waiting on pins and needles until the holiday season is over to hear what they have to say, so 2013 might be off to a crackerjack start, as well.

And here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish in 2013, because writing them down makes me more or less accountable for them:

• I will finish SZK by the middle of February and polish it up right after.  If I’m still self-publishing at that point, I’d like to have it available by April of 2013 at the latest.

• I will return to The Paper Flower right after that, because the first book is nearly done and it’s actually better than I remember it.  If all goes well, you might be seeing it in July or August.

• I will try to develop more in the way of original, stand-alone content for this blog, so it’ll become more than just a series of posts whining about writer’s block.

• I may be moving house in the spring, and if so, I will be getting a cat.  This will make my life nearly complete.

• I’d like to get more involved in doing guest spots on other sites, so if you know anyone who’s looking for a contributor, please send them my way.

• I’m going to try to read more.  I read deeply rather than broadly, and it’s nearly impossible for me to immerse myself in someone else’s work when I’m writing my own, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from getting my feet wet in the industry, it’s that there are more good books out there than I can ever hope to read in ten lifetimes.  But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

• I’m going to give up chocolate and run a million miles a day and eat kale every Wednesday and only buy vegan shoes and…oh, who am I kidding.  No one actually does any of that stuff past January 3rd, anyway.

So there you have it.  My past and future, all laid out neatly and tied up with a bow.  I hope that your 2012 was as generally positive as mine was, and that your 2013 is a time of happiness, excitement, love, forward motion, and lots and lots of good books.  Have a very, very happy (and safe and not-too-drunken) New Year, and I’ll see you on the flip side.


Top 10 Indie Books of the Year

Looking for something to read over the holidays?  Desperate to bury your nose in a book to escape your mother-in-law?  Finished The Last Death and left me a review?  Well, you’re in luck.

In addition to this month’s new issue, Shelf Unbound has put together a list of their favorite indie books of 2012.  I’m on there, naturally, but the other nine look pretty fascinating, and I’ll definitely be checking some of them out.

The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon, Bellevue Literary Press, http://www.blpbooks.org. The first English translation of work by Halfon, who has been deemed one of the best young Latin American writers. The Polish Boxer is based on the author’s grandfather surviving Auschwitz and, in a brilliant exercise in metafiction, centers on a Guatemalan literature professor named Eduardo Halfon. ReadShelf Unbound’s interview with Halfon here: http://www.pagegangster.com/p/Z9MYJ/#/page/1.

Glaciers by Alexis Smith, Tin House Books, www.tinhouse.com. glaciersIsabel works in a library mending old books. She collects vintage postcards and dresses found in thrift stores she frequents and dreams of other peoples’ lives and loves. And she dreams of her co-worker, Spoke, a quiet and enigmatic war veteran who seems just out of her reach. Glaciers is a dreamy book, in fact, soft and lyrical, to be read slowly, and savored.

True by Riikka Pulkkinen, translated by Lola M. Rogers, Other Press, www.otherpress.com. Troubled Anna spills wine on a vintage dress from the back of her dying grandmother’s closet. “Actually, it’s not mine,” says the grandmother, beginning the revelation of her husband’s long-ago affair with the nanny. For Anna, and for Anna’s mother, the truth brings into question their belief about the family and about themselves, about love and deceptive memory. Translated from the Finnish.

Ghosting by Kirby Gann, Ig Publishing, www.igpub.com. You realize from the first sentence thatGhosting is a novel you will want to read slowly, savoring its poetry.  Ghosting is a tragedy, a story of drug dealers and addictions that go beyond drugs. Wrapped in Gann’s lush language, the story and the characters resonate long after you read the final line.

Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell, Mudluscious Press, www.mudlusciouspress.com. Twenty-six small tales of the grim and grotesque, with grossly malformed babies and shockingly evil children. Bell’s brilliant use of language evokes real, relatable pain within his fantastical gothic construct. ReadShelf Unbound’s interview with Bell here: http://www.pagegangster.com/p/kiWjB/.

Hot Pink by Adam Levin, McSweeney’s, www.mcsweeneys.net. Adam Levin delivers non-stop dazzle in this short story collection, withHot_Pink_pink_lores characters like a precocious 15-year-old lesbian double-amputee with denial and mother issues and an art school dropout who entices strangers to injure her. But it’s not just spectacle; Levin also writes with affecting poignancy. Read Shelf Unbound’s interview with Levin here: http://www.pagegangster.com/p/iSu62/#/page/13.

The Law of Strings and Other Stories by Steven Gillis, Atticus Books, www.atticusbooksonline.com. From the author of the superb The Consequences of Skating comes this equally superb collection of short stories that inventively mine the complexities of the human condition. In “Falling,” for example, a professional daredevil preparing for a high-wire walk is drowning his lover, as she has become a distraction and therefore a risk to his life. In just a few pages, Gillis unfolds a fully realized, memorable story.

My Only Wife by Jac Jemc, Dzanc Books, www.dzancbooks.org.  A husband remembers his missing wife, trying to find her in his recollection. “My wife climbed staircases like a bull, but she descended them like a Duchamp painting, all blurred angles and motion.” Brilliant, beautiful, and thought-provoking. We can’t wait to read more work from debut novelist Jemc.

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by S.S. Taylor, illustrated by Katherine Roy, McSweeney’s McMullens, www.mcsweeneys.net. The first middle-grade novel from hip McSweeney’s, The Expeditioners has it all: secret maps, hidden treasure, villains, cool gadgets, plenty of adventure, and three intrepid siblings joining forces to save the day. Middle graders will love it, but this middle-ager couldn’t put it down. Look for an interview with Taylor in the next issue of Shelf Unbound.

BresnickMDBSCoverThe Last Death of Tev Chrisini by Jennifer Bresnick, AenetlifPress, www.jenniferbresnick.com. Winner of the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Bresnick’s enchanting Tolkien-esque epic fantasy captivated our judges from page one and held us in thrall through its conclusion 467 pages later. It is a book that basks you in the pleasure of reading it. Read Shelf Unbound‘s interview with Bresnick here: http://www.pagegangster.com/p/x0z9K/.

Cloud 9

Well, well, well.  What a week it’s been!  My Shelf Unbound release has been phenomenal, with a big jump in sales, a few more fans, and a lot of silly complements.

clloudsIt’s also brought something else onto the horizon: something that gets me all buzzy and fluttery and excited every time I think about it.  I almost don’t want to mention it for fear of jinxing the whole thing, but next week, I’m going to be speaking to a top agent in New York about my plans for my so-called career, and maybe sort of possibly if I’m very, very lucky, taking Tev to the big leagues with some representation.

We’ll see how it goes.  Right now, I’m just celebrating my huge increase in profits (I’ve made 12 bucks this week!  Literally!) and trying to savor the feeling of possibilities opening up in front of me, which is both extraordinarily stressful and kind of awesome.  The nerves tend to hit me first, but the boost in confidence this has given me, both as a writer and as a person in general, is totally worth the occasional anxiety dream.  Besides, those dreams are kind of funny.

What’s next?  Well, now that I’ve taken my post-NaNoWriMo shelcovervacation from writing, I need to get back to The Spoil of ZK and finish it up.  It needs a lot of editing, since it’s far too long and my word count desperation led to a lot of unnecessary chatter among my characters, but the core of the book is really solid.  I just have to work up the nerve to be as brutal as I need to be in the ending, but I’ll get there.

In the meantime, it’s smiles and butterflies and daydreams, which isn’t a bad place to be.  It’s also the beginning of Hanukkah tonight.  Amazon has really fast shipping, so if you’re still looking for a gift for Night 7 or 8, I know a great book for the latke lover in your life…

Shelf Unbound Self-published Writing Competition Winner!


Click here to read the issue!

Hey, guys.  Guess what?  I won something!  I’m the grand prize winner of the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-published Book!  For the first time since capturing the “how many candy corns are in this jar?” title in kindergarten, I’m a champion.

Shelf Unbound is a brilliant online publication featuring small press and independently published authors, reaching an audience of 125,000 readers around the world.  There were around 800 entries for the competition, but somehow I came out on top.

I’m absolutely over the moon about it, not least because Margaret Brown, the editor of the magazine, has been absolutely amazing throughout the entire process, and has put in some overtime trying to get my work some publicity and attention from the big leagues.  I’m incredibly indebted to her for her encouragement and effort.  I also need to thank art director Lauren Crispin for the fantastic cover art, awesome feature, and beautiful full-page ad that will run for the next year.

Please take a moment to flip through the magazine and take a look at the other finalists and sign up for future issues, because I’m in really good company.

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me thus far in my authorly endeavors.  Your comments, likes, follows, and cheerleading mean a lot to me, and I couldn’t do it without y’all.  I’m going to take a few moments to bask in my happiness before getting back to work.  Cheers!

Here We Go, Here We Go Again

Yay! Isn’t it purty?

My book cover saga is probably getting a little bit old by now.  I’ve made lots of changes to my designs, and you’ve all rushed out and bought up thousands of copies of each new iteration like good little fanboys and girls, right?  Right.

Well, this time the new covers signify something important.  They’re the product of a collaboration between me and a professional art director who’s done a totally bang up job of taking what I had been trying to express and turning it into a simple, elegant, attractive reality.  I owe a great many thanks to Lauren C. for her lovely design.

I can’t really make any official announcements about my other dastardly activities, since I’m waiting for December to roll around, but suffice to say I’m also deeply and forever indebted to Margaret B. for her faith in my novel and her tireless, amazing work in helping me secure some professional attention (spoiler alert: I’ve secured a bit of professional attention).  I think I use my yearly quota of exclamation marks in every email I send to her, because she always has something exciting and wonderful to say.  Big things are happening in Jen-land, and I absolutely can’t wait to share them with y’all.

I haven’t finished writing this yet, but that’s never stopped me from working on a book cover.

The new covers are available on all digital formats of TLDTC and the paperbacks, although at the moment, if you click to buy through Amazon, it still gives you the old version.  It just needs a few days to populate, but if you really can’t wait to get your hands on it, you can buy it through CreateSpace.  Same price, and the shipping is always much quicker than it says, so don’t bother springing for the expensive options.  These versions also include some typo corrections. Hopefully all the typo corrections.  Ugh, typos.

I guess this is less of an announcement than a teaser, but I wanted to share the new artwork with you guys if you haven’t already seen it.  All of these things (and NaNo) have kept my motivation high when it comes to writing The Spoil of ZK, and I really do hope to have the first draft finished by the end of the year.

It’s turning out to be at least as long as TLDTC, if not longer, so those of you who enjoyed the epic heft of the first one will be thrilled (those of you who couldn’t wait for it to end probably won’t read SZK anyway, I suppose).  You can always use the copies with the old artwork as doorstops, if you want.  I may do my own poor man’s version of an ARC and release a copy to a select few of you for opinions once I put it through an initial round of editing.  I’ll have to devise some clever way to make it enticing.

So that’s the news for now.  I’m about par with my word count, which is fine as long as I don’t fall behind over the holiday.  I wish you all a very happy second-and-a-bit week of NaNoWriMo, and hope you all had an appropriately mindful Veteran’s Day and/or Remembrance Sunday.  I write about soldiers a lot, but I wouldn’t be able to if it wasn’t for the men and women who made sacrifices I only dream about in fiction.

You Have Been Warned

Click here!

Just a quick reminder that The Last Death of Tev Chrisini is only free for a few more days!  I can’t tell you exactly how many, because Amazon works in mysterious ways, but let’s say two.  Or three?  Just go get it now, if you haven’t already, and save yourself the angst.

If you weren’t convinced that it’s worth trying before, I’ve picked up two more five star reviews this week.  You’ll like whatever anyone tells you to like, right?  Right.

So click the picture (or the convenient hyperlink below) and get it while it’s hot.

Update [10-25-2012] – Apparently by “a couple of business days”, Amazon meant “the next business day”.  Free copies are no longer available, but you can pick up the Kindle version for only $2.99.