Monday, October 24, 2016

Jolly Fish Press Closes (kind of) and SONGBYRD Goes AWOL

I've been avoiding this.

But I promised a post by the end of the week, and now it's the start of the next week, and I feel like a
heel if I keep stalling.

If you follow me on Facebook, or follow JFP on Twitter, then you likely know by now that my publisher, Jolly Fish Press, has announced it is closing.

Of course, this very public announcement was swiftly followed by a series of tweets and vagaries hinting at a possible life raft, though that has yet to be confirmed. There is a host of speculation, surprise investors or a buyout, but only time will tell. Well, that and their Twitter feed. Because if you have been following their Twitter feed, then you may have caught on to the fact that many of the authors found out through the same social media routes as the general public. JFP has apologized for this oversight, but as one of the authors who was blindsided, I can assure you that it didn't make it sting any less.

Part of my reluctance to post this week was that I didn't want to come online and whine at you about this, the latest in a series of disappointments that have pockmarked my writing career. Though, if I've learned anything, it's that you don't get a flawless writing career, pockmarks come with the territory. I wanted to wait until I had good news to share, or at least something more definitive for you about SONGBYRD's future.

But at this point in time, a lot still remains to be seen. I can tell you my agent is on it like Donkey Kong. And really, she's among the Donkey Kongiest of literary agents around. (I'm not sure that last sentence makes any sense at all.) And I can tell you that there's a lot of reason to hope this will turn out well for SONGBYRD. And I can tell you that all the tarot readings I've done on this issue, and I've done plenty, are pointing to good things. But I still can't tell you what those things are. Not yet.

You'll have to bear with me.

That said, I'd like to eulogize my publisher of the last year. Though we didn't get to travel long together, I am grateful for the company. Writing is lonely work. The opportunities I get to share it with someone are like gold to me. My editor at JFP was phenomenal, full of vision and encouragement. She will be sorely missed. And anyone who is willing to take a chance on my work is someone who's made a positive impact in my life. For that alone, I am sincerely thankful. JFP was a small press, but they made a sizeable splash in their time, and it's always sad to see a reputable publisher close its doors. Fewer publishers means fewer books and less diversity in the market. And that is truly a tragedy for all mankind.


I wish you all the best. May your investors have deep pockets, should they choose to carry on your good name. And may the authors who remain, as well as those who move on to greener--or at least equally green--pastures, meet with big royalties, high rankings, great reviews, and enthusiastic readers.

*dabs at eyes with tissue*

With that out of the way, I'll sign off for a bit. But remember, keep posting reviews of SONGBYRD while it's up. Amazon will save and relink those for me. EVERY REVIEW COUNTS.

As soon as I have further news about SONGBYRD's future whereabouts, I'll post an update.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About SONGBYRD

1. The original title was FREQUENCY.

In my initial draft, SONGBYRD had a bit stronger sci-fi + action/spy vibe, and the working title was Frequency, which fit that tone. But my dedicated editor fell in love with the women of SONGBYRD and their family history, convincing me that playing that side of the story up would serve it better in the end. The revised, final edition with its gothic undertones and mythological foundation begged for a new title. We brainstormed and threw some ideas out there to see if they'd stick. In the end, Songbyrd won out.

2. Tempest was not a character in the original draft.

My original antagonist was male, older, and related to Innocence in a totally different way (10 points if you can guess who it was!). Revising SONGBYRD led to the birth of one of my favorite characters, Tempest. Restless and deviant, she represents everything Innocence fears about being a Siren. She owns the predatory nature of their lineage and has allowed her shadow side to fully take over, making her a delightful character to write.

3. Stonetop is not a real place, but the Texas Hill Country is.

My parents lived in a little Hill Country town called Blanco for many, many years. When I was looking for a place to set SONGBYRD, I was tired of the Houston setting, which is where I live and therefore easiest to write about. I wanted something different, something that would create a stark contrast to the moody ocean landscape Sirens have long been associated with. The Hill Country came to mind and seemed perfect. With it's decade-long drought and arid landscape, it fit the bill. Plus, after countless weekends there, I could write about it as easily as I would my own city. But I decided a fictional town was best. So Stonetop was born.

4. Summon was inspired by a real name.

My daughters had a friend named Summon (same pronunciation, different spelling), and I thought it would make a wonderful character name, but spelled like the verb. That was the beginning of the names of the Byrd women. After Summon, I decided they all needed to have similar names that hinted at their underlying personas. Of course, Innocence's name was intended to be contradictory, just like her past.

5. Originally, Dalliance disappeared of her own volition.

In the original version, Dalliance wasn't taken into custody for the death of Ray, but chose to turn herself in to a mystery antagonist in order to protect her daughter, leaving Innocence alone and abandoned. Likewise, she doesn't get returned to Innocence in the end, but remains aloof as the story closes with Innocence and Summon hunting her down.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Women Gone Bad

In my last post I mentioned towards the end that I like to write about "bad women".

I should clarify. I like to write about women doing and saying things our culture has been trying to tell us for centuries are inappropriate for women to say or do. I like to write about women making mistakes, showing self interest, and coming into their power. I like to write about the complexity of their relationships. I like to write about their independence, their sexuality, and the complicated and dynamic way in which they interact with the worlds to which they belong.

I grew up loving women which were singled out as representatives of how the fairer sex should not behave, such as Jezebel, Anne Boleyn, and '80s Madonna. I believed there was more to them. That they could not be summed up in the seedy, one-dimensional drafts I was being given. I found their stories the most compelling, the most curious. I was hungry to know more about their motives, what drove them.

Every one of my characters is born out of these women. Some aggregate of their parts.

Certainly, the women of SONGBYRD are no exception. Someone recently asked me which of the characters on SONGBYRD I relate to most. And I answered that it was Innocence's mother, Dalliance Byrd. Not because I am half so deadly or interesting as Dalliance, but I can relate to the mother in her, the I-would-do-anything-for-my-kid syndrome. I am a bear when it comes to my cubs.

But I love something about each of the Byrd women, even Tempest. They are all fierce in their own way. Innocence is so deeply conflicted and unsure of how to trust herself, her mother, or the world at large. Dalliance, a blaze both tragic and ferocious. Summon is a powerhouse, bright as the North Star, at the command. And Tempest is the storm brewing in every woman, the fury that hell cannot match.

Writing about how they interact with one another and each with their deeper selves, their fears and desires, was a constant joy. I never tire of my characters, of diving into the cogs and wheels that churn at their core.

But then again, I like to write about these things in generalcomplex relationships, conflicting emotions, multidimensional personalities. For me, it just comes easier and more naturally in regards to female characters. Maybe because I am one. Female, I mean. And a character, or so I've been told.

It even extends beyond my writing to my reading. I am almost prejudice in my book selections. I rarely choose books with a male protagonist. They just don't lure me in as often. Maybe because I can't relate as easily.

Overall, I adore complicated and conflicted temperaments, male or female, both in reading and in writing. I don't see the world as black and white. And so I don't reflect that in my work. We all carry the potential for good and bad within us. And from one circumstance to the next, those roles can change.

I usually give my protagonists an edgea juicy flaw or bad habit, something that makes them real. And I give my antagonists a vulnerability that will trigger the reader's empathy. Because I think that hits closest to home and makes a story more plausible, and therefore more influential on the reader. And after all, that is my goal. To sweep you up in the flurry of experiences that are my character's stories, where your own troubles will pale in comparison. To have you feel as they do, to love and rage as they do. And to embrace your own complexities as you do theirs. So that in them, you may come to know yourself as so much more than black or white, good or bad, but as the dazzling, baffling, ever shifting Jackson Pollock masterpiece that you are.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Real Sirens

I love greek mythology.

I discovered it serendipitously in my elementary school library and I was instantly hooked. I read through every book I could find on the subject, wherever and however I found them. By the time they started teaching it to us my freshman year of high school, I was already thoroughly versed in all things centaur, satyr, and nymph. I was weird like that.

So it's really no wonder I ended up drawing from my love of mythology for my fiction. SONGBYRD was inspired by the mythical Sirens of ancient Greece. I wanted to bring them into the modern world and make them so real we'd never even know it if we passed one on the street.

What might be surprising however, is that the real Sirens from ancient myth have diverged in pop culture somewhat from their classical origins. And while my book is contemporary in setting, I stuck to the Greeks' vision of the Siren, not today's twist on it.

So what's the big difference?

Well, it's a matter of parts. Animal parts, that is. (Minds out of the gutter. Keep it clean, people.) Today's idea of the Siren looks something like this:

Sultry half-fish women who lure men to their doom with the promise of forbidden sex.

And then eat them. Or something.

Now don't get me wrong. I love a mermaid as much as the next author. Probably more. Don't even ask me about the impact the movie Splash had on my malleable, innocent, child's mind. But the true Sirens weren't mermaids at all. And they weren't necessarily beautiful. The ancient Greek version looked something more like this:


Deadly half-bird women who lure men to their doom with their hypnotic singing voices.

But don't kill them—not directly anyway. They just kind of watch as their ships crash to smithereens.

Of course, when you think about it, birds make more sense. Fish don't sing. At least, I don't think they do. Unless you count whale noises. Which are eerie and haunting but hardly alluring enough to lead to certain death. Birds, on the other hand, are the most beautiful vocalists on the planet. And we have a history of associating feathers and wings with heavenly and spiritual messengers. Just think of angels and fairies. And while angels and fairies may seem benign, in older folklore they quite often were considered dubious if not outright dangerous.

I'm not sure the ancient Greeks were getting all hot and bothered over Sirens the way we do today. But then again, that's our culture. We hypersexualize everything, especially everything female. And to be honest, I did draw on that tendency in SONGBYRD, raising questions (and eyebrows) about female sexuality, about where the ethical line in the sand is drawn in regards to women using their attractiveness and appeal to get ahead, and whether our romantic idea of one woman to one man is the only viable one.

So in all fairness, I guess you could say I drew inspiration from both wells. That of the winged minstrels of ancient Greece and the femme-fatal fish women of today.

I love both takes because, as I so recently replied to a reader's question at the reading/signing I did earlier this summer, "I love bad women." You know that saying, women who behave rarely make history? Well, they also rarely make for interesting characters. But give me a woman of ill-repute, someone who breaks all the standards her culture and society place on her, someone who lives by her own rules, trashes her reputation, and torches the family's good name. Someone infamous, or dangerous, or at least moderately offensive. And I can spin storytelling gold with that. One thing all my books have in common are "bad women". Or bad girls one the verge of becoming bad women. And SONGBYRD is no exception. In fact, it's the gold standard. Every woman in this novel is questionable at best. And that's exactly how I like it.

You can see why the Siren mythology was irrisestible to me. I hope you find it equally delicious while reading SONGBYRD.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Paperback in Hand

SONGBYRD has finally had its print release!

After a couple of setbacks due to distribution issues, one of which pushed us more than a month beyond our original release date, I can at last announce gladly (and truthfully) that SONGBYRD is available in paperback as it has been in ebook. No more "Preorder" status on Amazon. You can buy and expect to receive your copy promptly!

And my own paperbacks came in only days before ...

This is my first experience with a genuine print release, so it's been a learning experience in many ways. I'm so grateful to my publisher, Jolly Fish Press, for giving this read a chance. And also to my agent, Thao Le, who has been by my side through the whole process.

Most of you will not know that SONGBYRD began its journey quite differently, including having a different title, and underwent extensive revisions to become the speculative gothic treat it is now. While it was always dark, my novels typically are, there was a very different angle to the original manuscript which we exchanged for a richer family history and more sinister female lineup. I love the finished product. I hope you agree.

The delays we experienced on my paperback release took the wind out of my sails a bit, and made the actual release date feel a little anticlimactic. But I'm ready to get on board with promoting this work now that it's out there. Keep your eyes peeled for some up and coming event dates as well as afingers crossedrigorous blog tour.

If you're a blogger interested in reviewing SONGBYRD, you can contact me via my contact form on my website.

For all other readers, do me a solid and hop on Amazon once you're finished to leave a reader review! This is truly the highest compliment you can pay an author you like. And I love chatting books and characters and all manner of book geekery with anyone who will listen, so you can always contact me with questions or comments about any of my novels.

If you want to hear more about me, my work, my writing process, and then some, be sure to tune into Joy Ride on RADIO BRAVE next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. for my first-ever radio guest appearance!

Monday, July 25, 2016


I have recently dived in to Netflix's new series, Stranger Things. I will try not to spoil anything, but all I can say is ...

What's not to love?

This tromp through '80s nostalgia is just rich enough in plot to work, with the perfect amount of predictability and vintage cheese to balance it--all told through the acting of old faves like Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine as well as plenty of new faces.

Imagine E.T., Goonies, and the more recent Super 8 all rolled into one delicious rice ball. Plus, a few shout outs to Poltergeist and Alien mixed in for flavor. There's a troupe of adorable Dungeons & Dragons nerds (I use that as a term of endearment. We've played D&D with our son. Sadly, I am not cool enough to be any good at it). An orphan girl turned LSD lab rat. A classicly down-on-her-luck single mom. A gaggle of good-for-nothing teenagers, a la Brat Pack. A blue-collar small town. An elusive government science lab. And a missing boy. Did I leave anything out? Oh, and an unidentified predator from another world lurking in the shadows.

Toss in a dozen LOTR references, memorabilia from my early childhood, bad fashion, good music, and credits with a font that looks like it was ripped straight off the cover of a vintage Stephen King paperback. As well as all the obvious tropes like man-pain and slut-shaming.

If you aren't entertained by the mysterious monster/psuedo-alien plotline, then you will at least be titillated by the best '80s version of seek and find since Hot Tub Time Machine. I've already spotted a Dark Crystal poster in Mike's bedroom. And I'm pretty sure Steve's bedroom might be the same set from Weird Science. Just sayin'.

And then there's Will's older brother, Jonathan, who is like the love child of River Phoenix, Christian Slater, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe with a little of that Terminator kid thrown in for good measure.

My favorite quote thus far? "Science is neat, but I'm afraid it's not very forgiving."

Favorite '80s find? Barb's stirrup pants as she sulks on Steve's diving board. Don't believe me? Rewind that mother and look again. You'll see 'em. She slipped the stirrups off her heels.

My favorite character? Steve's hair. It deserves its own Twitter handle.

If you haven't binge watched it yet, scoot it up on your to-do list. But don't blame me if you don't like it. They had me at the Dark Crystal poster.

Friday, February 19, 2016

SONGBYRD Cover Reveal

The journey to realize and manifest a book is like nothing else I know. You spend months (at least in my case) dreaming up these characters, making them so real in your mind that they are as close to you as any of your friends. You pour emotion into them. You decide things like what their favorite color is and what they snack on or watch on t.v., what kind of music they like, what makes them cry. And then you tell their story. Day after day, you sit alone and listen for their voices. And you write exactly what you hear, seeing it all unfold in your mind and trying desperately to do the whole thing justice. Because, godammit, they chose you. And that feels important and blessed and fragile all at the same time. Even if you're not going for a Pulitzer.

And once your book is done, you go through it all over again in some twisted, other-dimensional reality known as "rewriting". And then you do that a few more times because it always feels like you only get one shot. And then you beg, and maybe pay, friends and editors, or editors who are friends, or vice versa, to do it with you and for you. And then you give it a final once over. And this will be the last time, you promise yourself.

This is where it should be done, right? Wrong.

Now you begin the long process of submitting. Maybe you have an agent, maybe you don't. You try to sum up all the glory and emotion and gruel of your novel into one page called a query letter. And again, you go over and over this thing until your retinas bleed because it always feels like you only get one shot. And you send this to dozens of strangers and hope and pray and wait. And wait some more. And wait until you feel like your head is going to cave in on itself with the emptiness. And you try to write other things and do other things. You take up knitting or join a critique group pretending you are moving on and have let it go. But really, it's all just more waiting.

A 1,001 ways of waiting.

And then you land said agent, if you hadn't already in some previous version of these same crazy events. And guess what? You start over at the beginning. You get to read and write your whole story all over again, a few more times if your agent is good and as invested as you are. They call it revising this time, but deep down you know it's all really the same. And why do you do this? Because it always feels like you only get one shot.

By now, you know your novel cover to cover by heart. Your patner catches you reciting passages in your sleep. And you are tinkering over details like, "Do I really need to mention the flats she's wearing in this scene?"

And when your agent feels confident you have polished that novel to a high, undeniable shine, you start over at step two. Now they get to send out the letters, but you both go through the waiting. Again, you write other things. Make up other characters. Take up hobbies like watching paint dry. And then, if all goes well, you land a deal. And now it's finally done, right? Wrong.

Go back to step one. Only this time, with an editor. Which is kind of like revising it with your agent if your agent was the love child of Edward Scissorhands and Howard Hughes (Bring the milk. Bring the milk.). You write the flats out. You  write them back in. You change the color. Twice. You change them to heels. And then you write them out again, this time for good. And you labor and you love and none of it is in vain because it always feels like you only get one shot.

And somewhere out in the universe, some other stranger is going through a similar process with your cover. Dreaming up concepts. Mocking up concepts. Asking rhetorical questions to an otherwise empty room, "Is she too pale?" Handing it off, getting it back. And so on and so forth.

And then one magical day these two labors of love come together, and a book is finally born. And the pride and joy are overwhelming.

Today, well, technically a day a couple of weeks ago, is one of those days for me. We went through three other covers before settling on this one. SONGBYRD wasn't as easy to capture in pictures as it was in words. But I think this cover does a solid job. It's dark, mysterious, and alluring. And that really sums my story and my characters up. I hope you love it as much as I do!

SONGBYRD releases June 7th. It is available for preorder on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.