Posts Tagged ‘Ann Anastasio’

When Writing What You Know Works

December 9, 2019

The short story “SeeApp” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2019) is a brilliant illustration of why we are advised to write what we know. James Van Pelt taught for 36 years; he may have never been in a school like the one in his story, or met anyone like his characters, but everything feels right. The descriptions are in his bones, and the words flow off his fingers. This is why my co-author Ann Anastasio and I set our first book in a quilt store, and grounded all our books in the quilting world. We know those places like our own kitchens, and we know the people in them. It was easy to create the settings and characters when we had our combined lifetime experiences to draw upon. Once that was on paper, the stories took off on their own. I’m convinced everyone has at least one story to tell, so give it a try. Put the world you know best in words, and see where that takes you.

Luck and wisdom!

Sharing and Self-Promotion

November 11, 2019

Forgot to take a picture of us at the boutique, so here’s one of my book covers

I rented a booth at a holiday boutique to sell my books. Knowing that I can promote other people’s products much better than I can my own, I invited two friends who write in basically the same genre to share my table. To my great delight, the scheme worked. We all sold books, and we all had a great time. To me, the moving target that is self-promotion is easier to vector in on with friends. It seemed that even the shoppers who didn’t buy our books spent more time listening to our pitch when there were three of us at the table. You might think bringing in competition would hurt my chances of making a sale, but it didn’t work out that way. Next time you’re planning a book event, consider helping another author and see how it helps you.

Luck and wisdom!

PS – Shameless self-promotion alert, you can buy The Chenille Ultimatum here.

Gifts of Inspiration

May 27, 2019

Last week I was at Art Quilt Santa Fe, reveling in fabric and paint, when the Chenille series came up in conversation. I gave a brief synopsis of the first novel – quilters saving the world from space aliens who disguise themselves as as bolts of beige fabric – and my co-author Ann Anastasio added, “They kill the aliens with chenille, thus the title Death By Chenille.” One of the group then gave us the title of our yet-to-be-written fifth book – The Chenille Bearer.

This is why you need to talk about your writing whenever you can. I don’t mean hustling sales at every opportunity, or blathering on about your book even when people are clearly bolting for the nearest exit. I mean using your 30-word synopsis and ending with a hook. If the audience isn’t interested, someone will change the topic of conversation and all will be well. If you are lucky, the audience will ask more questions, maybe even ask where they can buy a copy of the book. If you are very lucky, someone will give you a nugget of inspiration. Take the gift, be grateful, and keep writing.

Luck and wisdom!

Marketing Advice I Can Use

May 20, 2019

Like all independently published authors, I am entirely responsible for marketing my novels. While I am more than willing to talk your ear off about my books should I corner you at a party, I’m not so great at finding bigger venues. I’ve organized a couple of book launches, but they turned out to be more tea party, less launch. I read as much about marketing as I can, but most of the advice I’ve found applies to younger, wealthier people living smack dab in the middle of New York, the kind who don’t have to factor in grocery shopping and the laundry between sessions on social media and schmoozing with influencers and trend-setters.

Still, the universe does provide if you wait long enough. My quilt guild is planning a holiday boutique. Since the key to all marketing advice is always ask if you can join in, I asked if I could participate. As far as I could tell, the only requirement for vendors was that all the items for sale must be handmade.

“Could I sell my books?” I asked. “Ann Anastasio and I wrote them ourselves, so that’s kinda sorta maybe handmade.”

The committee agreed that my books qualify as a handmade item, and I slapped the table fee down before they changed their minds. This boutique might not appear on the international book festival calendar, but I’m grateful for any chance to meet potential readers.

Luck and wisdom!

World-Building Through Cheese

September 17, 2018

Cheesehenge

The local paper ran an article about cheese not being the source of all evil for anyone worrying about cardiovascular issues. My inner cheese-hound yipped and yapped and chased its tail, because I adore cheese but there is a history of heart disease on both sides of the family. While rescuing my recipes for cheeseballs, cheese sauces, fondues, savory pastries, souffles, and quiches from the dusty corners of the cookbook shelf, I thought of how I’ve used food in my sci fi stories. Ann Anastasio and I have featured food in each book of the Chenille series. We’ve also made a subplot out of Earth foods that are similar to products on our imaginary planet, Schtatik. Reading the article about cheese reminded me of all the nutrition advice I’ve followed only to be told later that the studies were wrong, which illustrated a hole in my world-building. When I think of what my aliens might eat, I’ve always envisioned their diets as an ideal, or bound by ritual. I don’t think I’ve ever given my aliens a chance to cheat on their diets, or indulge in comfort food, or visit the junk food aisle in their groceries. I’ve never even considered what their groceries would look like. Ever. From now on, however, I’m going to spend a little time imagining what my aliens think they should eat as well as what they do eat, and why it matters. World-building through cheese – yeah, that’s a thing now.

Becoming an Author

May 21, 2018

My writing club offers a scholarship at the local community college. The president of the club and I went to the awards ceremony and met this year’s recipient. She is planning a career in teaching, and hopes to encourage her future students to write well. She said she had no plans to be a writer, but she asked about the process. When we described all the ways one could bring one’s work to readers, she changed her mind. Here are some resources for you to become an author.

Smashwords.com

This is for ebooks only, but it is free for authors and offers a boatload of tutorials and help. I convinced my co-author to publish Death By Chenille on Smashwords. We were so energized by having a book on-line that we wrote a second book, then a third, and now we’re working on a fourth.

Small Publishing Houses

Just because you don’t have an agent to shop your manuscript to the big publishing houses doesn’t mean you’re done. A small publishing house might be interested. We published our third book (shameless self-promotion, that book is now available here) through Russian Hill Press.

My books, on my bookshelf – woo hoo!

Createspace/Amazon

Createspace is the go-to place for many independent authors. My uncle, Philip Gordon McGirr, just published a book of short pieces. He is another who never thought about being an author until a friend of his started writing and inspired him.

Booktrack.com

Booktrack lets you score your work. Yup, you can put music, ambient sounds, or special effects sounds together with your written word.

Local anthologies

Not sure your work is ready for a large audience? Check around and see if there are any groups in your area that publish an anthology. Our community college publishes annually, and you don’t have to be a student to submit. Julaina Kleist-Corwin, a local writing teacher, published a book of her students’ work.

All authors struggle to find readers, so don’t be discouraged that your book might sell only enough to buy you a really good lunch. This has been my experience, but I’m okay with that. Becoming an author, even at my level, has been worth it.

A Sci-Fi Crazy Quilt

April 4, 2018

When Ann Anastasio and I wrote our first novel, Death By Chenille, we planned to create patterns for the quilts mentioned in the book. I volunteered to make the crazy quilt we described. I thought it would be pretty, and I love to embroider. Well, our third novel, The Chenille Ultimatum, has just been published and I’m finally getting started on the blocks. I have them pieced, but not embellished.

I believe this one will have yellow chevrons

Although we have mentioned this quilt in all three books, we haven’t described it lately so I had to go back and read the description. I’m one of the authors–you would think I could remember my own words. Not so much. “Self,” I said, “this crazy quilt idea is getting crazier by the minute.”

We described one block bisected with an embroidered ribbon

The quilt plays an important role in getting the aliens to trust the humans. The embroidery stitches tell the story of the first time they visited Earth. I had worked out what each stitch meant. Unfortunately, I succumbed to the worst lie writers tell themselves: “I’ll remember this later. No need to write it down now.” Of course I don’t remember what I had in mind and now I have to come up with embroidery patterns that fit.

The cross-stitch tells the story of the first time the aliens visited Earth

Our books are cozy sci-fi, which means the science is wibbly-wobbly because humor is more important than equations (our aliens disguise themselves as bolts of beige fabric, for Pete’s sake), so I’m hoping our readers are the cozy and forgiving sort. I am counting on the kindness of quilters who will agree that a finished quilt is beautiful, even if it doesn’t entirely fit the description in the book.

Luck and wisdom!

Finished Enough to Celebrate

February 14, 2018

Despite an accumulation of small medical woes that have irritated me (who knew toothache could be so debilitating?), I brought two projects close enough to finished that I intend to celebrate.

This is what I made from the collection of blocks I received from The Progressive Party. I decided I didn’t want a classic setting, so I put black strips of varying widths along one side of the blocks. The horizontal sashing includes a flamingo on a skateboard because I found it in my stash and it wasn’t going anyplace else.

The second project is the third novel in the Chenille Series, The Chenille Ultimatum.

Book 3 with Ann Anastasio

In the latest adventure with our quilting heroines, Susan travels to the distant planet of Schtatik to save her mother and daughter, and stop a civil war. You can find it on Amazon here.

Of course, I still have to quilt the top and promote the book, but that is going on another To-Do List. Today’s list is long enough.

Luck and wisdom!

First Discovery of 2018

January 10, 2018

The Progressive Party will start a new round soon, and I resolved to design my project rather than throw a random block in a bag with some fabric that I could reach (which is what usually happens). I hauled out my bags of tree fabric, and made the first happy discovery of 2018.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t make this landscape. I think I got it from Ann Anastasio in a pile of fabric she didn’t want to move to another state. In any event, my Progressive Project once again will be a random piece in a bag with fabric I could reach. So much for new year resolutions.

My replacement iron arrived, and revealed the second discovery of 2018 – ironing is a lot easier with an appliance that works and a clear space to stand.

I must admit that the space around the ironing board is clear because for yet another week I have left the bags that once lived there in the hiding places I stashed them before Christmas. Eventually I will have to bring them back to the sewing room, but that’s a chore for another day.

For now, I will admire the last project I got back from the Progressives. I started with a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired fabric, and they made this.

The new year may bring many more new discoveries and challenges, but one oasis of stability is the creativity of my quilting friends. I hope that 2018 will find you surrounded by creative, supportive people.

Luck and wisdom!

From Orphan Blocks To Art

December 20, 2017

My art critique group challenged itself to transform leftover quilt units – orphan blocks – into another piece. Since I have a boatload of orphan blocks (some of which I inherited from other quilters, don’t ask me how), I was overjoyed by the project. I pulled out some leftovers that Ann Anastasio gave me and started cutting. One of the units looked like it could make a great house. I searched through the pile and found something that I thought would be a blue tile roof. It didn’t turn out that way, but the yellow triangle made a nice capstone for a mausoleum, so I continued with the theme. I call the piece The Road To Quilters’ Heaven.

While I was searching for other orphan blocks, I ran across the center to a space quilt that I never finished. The robot blocks were still on the design wall, so they became part of the new space quilt.

I used Alexandra Von Burg‘s technique for making trees to make a spaceship.

I think using up orphans, scraps and unfinished objects to make new art really is the road to quilters’ heaven. I know it’s made me happy.

Luck and wisdom!