Friday Fare

Friday Fare: 1/26/18

What is Friday Fare? As a recap, on Fridays I post link love to the various bits of arcane shiz I discover on the Interwebs.  I liken it to a glimpse into my mind, but without the 80s song lyrics or mental cobwebs.

Sign me up.  Has it really been two years since we’ve lost David Bowie?  His son Duncan found a beautiful way to memorialize him by setting up a David Bowie-inspired book club.  (Bonus content: Bowie’s 100 favorite books.)

Publishers Weekly posted their list of 2018’s most anticipated books.  I see some good reading in my future.

I’ve previously discussed my love for Agent Pendergast, the fictional character created by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  And in an amazing “six degrees of separation,” Liz Gatterer from Killer Nashville interviewed Preston and Child in advance of the upcoming release of “City of Endless Night.” (I met Liz last summer and she’s. amazing.)


Listening: A lot of times when a well-known musician dies, there’s this outpouring of memories for one segment of the population; while another part of the populace scratches their heads and asks “Did you know them?  Why are you sad?”  I don’t have a great answer for that, but in the case of Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries and her untimely death at 46, it’s a combination of factors.  The rise of The Cranberries basically tracks the tail end of my junior high and the beginning of my high school years.  There was nothing like her voice – that glorious, unabashedly Irish brogue – when I was growing up in the middle of nowhere Iowa. In hearing the song below, I remember drives in my 1988 Pontiac Sunbird and cranking this song when it came on the radio.  Whether I was pissed off at some stupid choice I’d made or happy to have dodged some sort of karmic bullet, there were so many times that this was my personal anthem.

Ms. O’Riordan’s death leaves a hole in the creative universe and in the case of this talented musician (only about six years older than me), it’s grieving a loss of what could have been.

Ms. O’Riordan, this angsty girl-woman from the middle of nowhere Iowa thanks you.  Safe travels on your final journey.

Reading: Cate Holahan’s “Lies She Told.”  I met this woman last summer at Killer Nashville and was intrigued when she told the panel about her upcoming novel release.  Apparently, Kirkus Reviews agreed with my perception that Holahan’s book is a stunner.

Writing Life: Earlier this week I talked about how 2018 is the year of “measurable progress.”  So I’ve been measuring progress, namely by tracking word counts and how much time I’m spending per week on my writing.  This week was a major project week for my day job and so far this week, I’ve spent about three hours on writing.  Luckily the majority of that (2.5 hours / 1800 words) was for fiction.  Unfortunately, that nice little burst of creativity happened on Sunday and wasn’t replicated during the week.  But I netted over 2,000 words this weekend and the trends I’m seeing for January make me wonder if I need to maximize my potential on weekend mornings.  I’ve been getting some good work done during that time (and that’s even between getting up from my desk to switch cartoons for my kids.)  More on this next week!

That’s it from me – have a peaceful weekend!


Monday Mayhem: Looking Ahead – 2018 Goals (1/22/18)

2018 is going to be the year of “measurable progress.”  What does that mean?  Do I even know?  Keep reading.

Assigning an intention for the new year is a trend I’ve watched my friends and acquaintances participate in over the past couple of years.  Like the yoga practice this trend emulates, these intentions usually center around a word, like “2018 is going to be the year of less” (less stress, less stuff, less … whatever).  Or “in 2018, I’m going to spend more time reading actual books and less time on my cell phone.”  (<– That may be a thought that I’ve kicked around from time to time.)

I’d like to denounce this as a bunch of new age hooey, but I’ve been writing down my yearly intentions since 2015.

2015 was the year of networking.  And it was – at the tail end of 2014, I won the Hugh Holton Award for promising new writers from Mystery Writers of America – Midwest Chapter.  I decided to take that shiny designation and travel to Printers Row Literary Festival in Chicago that summer.  That’s where I met folks like Lori Rader-Day, Julia Lightbody, Clare O’Donohue, and Susanna Calkins. These writers have been incredibly generous with their time and their expertise over the past few years.  It was a weekend well spent.

2016 was the year of actual.  I actually finished a draft of Dragonfly.  I found out that a short story of mine was accepted for publication.  (It was also the year we lost Carrie Fisher and there was some election that occurred.  I’ve banished a lot of those memories to the darkest recesses of my mind, so … yeah.  That’s about all I have to say about that.)

It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek (but not really), but despite the aforementioned governmental tides of 2016, personally and professionally – 2017 was my year of awesome.  The recap is here.  Briefly, the runner-up for the Claymore award at Killer Nashville; my first publication; the connections I was able to foster over the year.  Incredible and invaluable.

What will 2018 bring?  I’ve started referring to 2018 as the year of measurable progress. Oh. God.  What the hell does that even mean?  This is what I’ve jotted down; in 2018, I want to:

  • Create a sustainable / measurable writing routine.
  • Finish edits to Dragonfly so I can start querying in earnest.

So, gut check:  I’m embarrassed when I think that I’ve been writing Dragonfly for an untold number of years.  (A quick check of my computer tells me that a first draft dates back to 2012-13.  I think it goes back even further than that …)  And I’m also embarrassed that I’ve been editing the damn thing for over a year now and that I’m not finished yet.  Now, keep in mind – editing isn’t an everyday occurrence and that’s probably my Waterloo.  But life gets in the way.  I’m a mom and I’m a worker bee in the everyday world.  I also happen to like my husband and do things like visit my family and read books.

I can understand when writing gets derailed by a puking kid that needs my attention or when work is crushing me with the deadlines that result in a paycheck.  But the tail end of that last paragraph?  All of those things are true – but they are also excuses that don’t take into account the fact I have more arcane knowledge stuffed in my head about the UK’s Royal family than is probably healthy.  (But may secure me a spot on “Jeopardy” someday.)  I can also tell you the unusual moniker belonging to Kim Kardashian-West’s youngest daughter.  Folks – I don’t even watch the Kardashians.  WHY DO I KNOW THAT KIMYE’S CHILD IS NAMED CHICAGO??

So 2018 is the year of measurable progress.  And yes, that means more books and less time scrolling on my phone.  It means using word trackers to try to gauge how many words I’m averaging a day and how I can increase my word count over the course of the year.  (J.T. Ellison is the author who turned me onto word trackers.  She also does an amazing job of doing an “annual review” that discusses the same things that I’m talking about here … a recap of the year before and action plans for the next.)

In terms of Dragonfly, it means that I’m aiming for the current round of edits to be done by April.  Then it goes to beta readers.  (And then I have to figure out what comes next … baby steps, people!)

I’ve also sketched out some goals and identified some potential opportunities I may want to pursue to help me achieve my publication goals for Dragonfly.  One of them is trying to consider whether I want to participate in Pitch Wars.  (Read more about PW here.)  Another is leveraging my existing writers group to polish some existing short stories that I have with the goal of finding homes for these stories – an ongoing attempt to make myself more marketable and attractive to future agents.

Measurable progress.  Not perfection, friends … because at the end of the day, we’re all only human.  But one foot in front of the other in achieving our goals and dreams.

Thanks for being part of my journey!

Friday Fare

Friday Fare: 2017 Recap (1/12/18)

Is it my imagination or did 2018 sneak up on us like some stealth ninja?  I have a post-it note on my desk that I wrote in November with my year-end wrap-up ideas and … it’s still there.  But I’m just getting around to writing this post.  I get props for the effort, right?  Right?

Well, without any more of my lame excuses, I need to start out by saying that 2017 was a pretty damn incredible year.

I broadened some horizons.  I met some incredible people.  I was gobsmacked to win an award for my novel “Dragonfly Lake.”  I attended a book signing … where I signed books!  I think I had about a million “pinch me” moments throughout the year that defied my expectations.  Here’s a bit of a recap:

In January, I announced that the Sh*tty First Draft (SFD) of Dragonfly was done (finished in December 2016.)  Guess what … still editing that SFD.

February – Attended the Minnesota Writers Workshop and pitched to two agents.  It was nerve wracking, but helped me to polish my pitch.  Money well spent.

I spent March working on a short story.  And my children seemed to be sick for most of the month.  (Note to children … please do not schedule a repeat.)

In April I moderated my first panel that featured some kick-ass Minnesota mystery writers that I admire immensely. I also started (and apparently I subsequently abandoned) a feature that I called “Book Dump” that featured AAAAALLLLLL of the screenshots of books that have caught my fancy on social media.  The sad part?  I could revive this feature in a heartbeat, because I screenshot books “To Be Read” (TBR) on a daily basis.

May … the only thing of note in this month is that I changed the Friday Fare logo to reflect what my children call “dandi-flowers.”  Man, I miss spring.

What I lacked in May, I made up for in June.  I read “Jane Steele” by Lyndsey Faye and have subsequently nursed a girl crush on both Jane and Faye since then.  Lori Rader-Day and Kristi Belcamino kicked some arse at Subtext Books in St. Paul.  The night before that, I got to worship at the Church of Neil Diamond and I even made time during June to take a class at the Loft Literary Center from Tamara Hogan.

[Insert Gratuitous Neil Diamond Picture Here.]

Aaaaaaaaaaaand then I didn’t post anything in July, which … shame on me.  Two important things happened though in July.  OK – a few things happened in July.  I turned 39.  (<– I love birthdays, because … well, cake.)  I got to see the final cover proof of “Cooked To Death II: Lying on a Plate.”  (I’d announce my involvement in the anthology later, but trust me – there were squeals of joy when I saw the back cover.  Especially when I saw a blurb from William Kent Krueger.)

Another crazy thing happened – I got an email from Nashville, informing me that my unpublished novel “Dragonfly Lake” (why yes, the novel of the SFD) was nominated for the 2017 Claymore Award:

I may have shrieked a little bit.  May have run around my basement a couple times like a total loon.

AUGUST. There was a lot of August and only one of me.  And that particular me drove 1,500+ miles at the tail end of the month to Nashville, Tennessee and back.  I got to cross rivers and see landmarks that I had only read about in books and heard in old country songs.  And I found out that I’m really, really, really bad at speaking in public when I’m caught unprepared:

First Runner Up for the 2017 Claymore Award.

I also made some lifelong friends and tribe members.  So. Amazingly. Blessed.

September.  Finally wrote a recap about my Killer Nashville weekend.

October. Finally lifted the lid on my story’s inclusion in CTD.  Was surprised and thrilled that my parents drove 3+ hours to come to CTD’s first book event.

November. Got to spend a girls weekend with two of my favorite writers.

December.  My blog presence was the equivalent of a lump of coal, apparently. 🙂

Man alive … sorry for the longest blog update ever, but considering I personally know the majority of my blog readers – I gotta extend my sincere thanks and my appreciation for being on this journey with me.  I hope that we all have a peaceful and productive 2018.