Shameless: Or, How to Promote Your Debut Novel on Goodreads

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My debut novel, Hot Season, comes out on November 1st this year. Which means that June officially kicks of my Season of Hustling, which is closely related to (and overlaps with) my Season of Asking.

Over the last three months, I’ve asked for ongoing support from my friends, family members, and fans through Patreon, and I’ve asked for blurbs and endorsements from authors I admire, including Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins (as well as a host of other great books).

Jess Walter is a nice guy. I discovered this when he came on as an instructor in my MFA program; he spoke of his abject love for Kurt Vonnegut during one of his craft talks, so of course I had to accost him afterward.

I’ve been a fan of Vonnegut since I was a teenager, which is one of the reasons that when I sat down to write serious literary fiction in college, I found myself writing something like comedy instead–something that eventually turned into a book called Hot Season.

I later ran into Jess during the Tin House Writers Workshop at Reed College here in Portland. I’d walked out of a lecture feeling out of sorts–not because of the lecture, but by because I was back at Reed, the college I dropped out of in my freshman year.

I’d say later I was feeling haunted. Jess would later say, in an email, that I had “the look of someone who has found herself at a party standing in her ex’s kitchen.”

Jess, being a nice guy, was nice enough to listen as I attempted to explain the way this place made me feel. Nice enough, even, to encourage me to write about it, which I did.

That story wound up being a kind of ghost story, and it wound up in Forest Avenue Press’s City of Weird anthology, which is coming out in October.

Jess was not only nice enough to blurb the anthology, he had nice things to say about my story. Which led me to a question: Should I ask if I could quote those nice things he’d said about me in promoting my book? Even if they were not technically about my book?

As the title of this post suggests, I did. Of course I did. This is not the Season of Modesty, is it?

“Sure,” said Jess, “I hope it helps.”

So when I launched my first Goodreads giveaway on Friday, I had to lead with that. After all, if a New York Times bestselling author says even a grocery list you have written is “terrific,” that’s just what you do, right? 😉

(Want a free Advance Reader Copy of Hot Season? On Goodreads? Enter the giveaway!)

The ARCs Have Arrived!

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Today marked a major milestone in my life as a writer: the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of my debut novel arrived in the mail.

No matter how long it’s been since you actually submitted the final manuscript, no matter how mired you may be in the minutia of publicity and booking a book tour, there are few experiences that can compare to holding your first published book in your hot little hands at last.

Of course, that new-book high of mine was harshed just a bit when I discovered that my name had been misspelled on the copyright page and headers–but, hey, that’s why they say: ADVANCE READER COPY–UNCORRECTED PROOF!

Proof nonetheless, is it not? 😉

If you or someone you know would be interested in reviewing the novel for a print or online publication, feel free to drop me a line.

If you’re not a book reviewer but would still like to get your hands on one of these fine-looking ARCs, I’m launching a Goodreads giveaway for two copies starting soon. More info on Friday!

 

The Story Behind the Story: Hat Trick

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Magic lurks at the margins in the short story I’m releasing to my Patreon subscribers this month–the margins of society (a Rainbow Gathering), the margins of civilization (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), and in the margins between day and night.

“Hat Trick” is one of a series of linked stories I’ve been exploring over the last year that are built around a mysterious personage named Darius, who may or may not be a Brother From Another Planet (to cite a seminal, if kitschy, bit of Afrofuturism).

Darius is one of a number of individuals in these stories who can do something very much like magic, who aren’t quite human but pass as such, especially in marginal spaces such as Gatherings–which, for the uninitiated, are sort of large-scale anarchist campouts that occur in National Forests across the US (and in other wilderness areas around the world).

Like most of my fiction, this story hews closely to my lived experience, in this case, as a young woman of eighteen on the road with my best friend, “wild girls, footloose and fey.” At that age, I loved the creativity and spirit of community I found at Rainbow Gatherings–the way people made so much out of so little, using donated goods and labor to create an alternative society in the woods, one that really did seem to welcome and accept nearly anyone.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to understand some of the criticisms leveled at “the Rainbow Family of Living Light”–first, from Native Americans who don’t appreciate that hippie penchant for cultural appropriation, and second, from those associated with law enforcement, who’ve pointed out the ways that Gatherings can harbor those who are mentally unstable, addicted to hard drugs, or on the run for one reason or another. (In one high-profile case, someone actually got stabbed.)

Undeniably, Rainbow folks tend to borrow indiscriminately from any spiritual tradition that suits their fancy (as does much of the New Age), and that whole thing about being free and open to anyone (and serving free food as well) cannot help but attract–well, people at the margins.

But that’s part of what I always found so fascinating about Gatherings, and part of why I chose to set a story here centered around what you might think of as sorcerers in disguise. A Celtic werewolf, priestess of Ishtar, or African trickster god might stand out in mainstream modern society, but in a place like a Rainbow Gathering, I imagined, they’d fit right in.

These stories are still quite new, but here’s what I know: All of them take place in liminal zones (think festivals, warehouse squats, in transit). All of them feature Darius as a main character but not a protagonist; his role is to appear at a moment of significant change in the protagonist’s life. Darius, being a kind of god, is both moral and amoral; he’s concerned with achieving his own objectives, but often acts as a benevolent force in the lives of others.

This story has taken me longer to release to my subscribers than either of my previous two stories because, unlike them, it is brand new and has never been published and releasing such raw, fresh stuff, as any writer knows, is utterly terrifying. But come what may, I’m sending it out on Friday–so if you’re interested in reading it, there’s still time to sign up via Patreon.

 

You’ve Finished Your Novel. Now What?

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Many beginning writers believe that completing the first draft of a novel means completing the novel; experienced writers know that once the first draft is finished is often where the real work begins, and it sometimes it can feel like falling down the rabbit hole.

Which way’s up, and which way’s down? What started off so clear and urgent in your mind seems to have become unimaginably complex, and it can be all but impossible to see through the details of the novel, the tangled lines of its characters and its plot, to the core issues that will make or break the book when it comes to publication.

There is only one shortcut I know of when it comes to this long process, and that is to work with an editor. That’s why, on Saturday, June 11th, I’m offering the second installment of my popular 2015 Indigo Editing class, Advanced Novel Revision.

I’m passionate about this class, and so are many of the people who attended it last year. One attendee, a writing coach herself, said “I can say with confidence it was the most useful writers workshop I have ever attended.”

This class is for you if:

  • You’ve got the plot and the characters right, but it still feels like there’s something missing
  • There’s an issue you’ve wrestled with in your novel, over and over, and you’re still not sure you’ve got it right
  • You’ve revised your novel to address one issue, but now it feels as if you may have created another
  • Your beta readers don’t quite see your novel’s characters the way you do
  • You feel like your novel is done, and all your friends rave about it, but the manuscript keeps getting rejected from agents and editors
  • You’re ready to send your novel off for consideration by agents and editors, but you want to make sure it is as strong as it can be, in terms of its commercial potential, before you do

This class is not for you if:

  • You have not yet finished the first draft of your novel
  • You are reluctant to revise, worried that you’ll harm the work in the process
  • You’re reluctant to talk about your work
  • You don’t like to think about how stories work and why

There are still a few slots open for this class, which runs from 1-3pm on Saturday, June 11. For info and registration go to Indigo Editing.