Thursday, June 28, 2012

106 degrees and Counting Plus a Poem

It's too hot to say anything, but coming up in future blogs are reviews of Heid Erdrich, Kathleen George, Paul Doiron, and Julia Spencer-Fleming, among others, and an interview with Joy Castro.

Try to stay cool! And if you're anywhere near the wildfires in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, or on the Northern Cheyenne Rez, sending you blessings. Please stay safe!

A poem for these hot times.


that I smile too widely,
grinning really, and laugh
too loud and often; that I walk
with spring and sensual sway;
that I stretch myself and twist
like a cat
baking in the backyard
brightness; that my brain is sun-bleached,
all rule and thought boiled away, leaving
only sensory steam;
that my feverish eyes see strange dancing
flames in afternoon shadows
along the sides of streets and Bedouin oases, fragrant
with dates and goats and acrid desert waters,
in every suburban garden we pass
while you argue and drive
and I stare, heavy-brained with heat
and too aware of my own body
and every other;
that I take a lover,
brazenly, crazily,
too sun-stupid to be careful,
in my dreams.

Published in Heart's Migration (Tia Chucha Press)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Great Fun!--Peregrine Falcons, Germans from Russia, and Tourists at Readings

Amelia Montes and me

I was invited to Lincoln, Nebraska, as a visiting writer by Amelia Montes, director of the Ethnic Studies Institute and professor of creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The visit was scheduled to begin with a dinner with faculty members and graduate students. Ben and I were late arriving because of unexpected road construction delays, so we parked at the hotel, checked in, and ran across the street to the restaurant with Amelia, who was patiently waiting for us.

Even with such an inauspicious beginning, the evening was a stimulating experience—brilliant company and conversation that ranged from crimes of passion in Mexico City to Russian Orthodox monasteries. Professors Joy Castro, James Garza, and Jennifer Garza, and Ph.D. candidate Bernice Olivas joined Amelia, Ben, and me for that very best kind of wide-ranging intellectual conversation that lasted late into the night.

Ben at the Museum of Germans from Russia
The next day, Saturday, was packed with activities. We woke early and were joined at breakfast by our dear friends, Allison and Travis Hedge Coke, who had driven two hours from the University of Nebraska-Kearney where Allison holds the Reynolds Chair of Creative Writing and coordinates the incredible Sandhill Crane Migration Literary Retreat and Festival. Travis was on his way to the airport, and Allison intended to join us for the day’s activities and my reading that evening. As always, it was so much fun to see them and talk with them, even if it was just for a short while with Travis.

Amelia arrived to interview me for a chapter in her book, Corazon y Tierra:  Latinas Writing on the Midwest, Amelia’s critical book on contemporary writing by Latina authors who are writing either about or from the Midwest. I’m honored to be in this book, which is such a fascinating exploration of different kinds of Latina identity. Amelia’s questions were probing and perceptive, and she was massively prepared for the two-hour interview.

While Amelia interviewed me, Allison and Ben went exploring in Lincoln, visiting the Museum of Germans from Russia and the university campus, which has been beautifully landscaped with native plants, always a strong interest of Ben’s and mine.

The old Senate chamber at Nebraska Capitol
We had lunch with a discussion of some of the initiatives both women were working on at their respective universities and the newest work of other writers with which we are all familiar. After lunch, Amelia had a special treat for us—a guided tour through the Nebraska State Capitol. It so happens Ben and I love to visit places like state capitols, but even those who don’t would have enjoyed this tour. Nebraska’s capitol building is a true original. All its components—from floors to ceiling—are pieces of art with symbolic meaning. Just wandering through it would be a delight because of the beauty, but the tour enhanced that with an understanding of the philosophical concepts behind everything. And our tour guide, Jameson, a student of history at the university, gave us such a dramatic rendering that it added to the pleasure.

The cap of our tour was a trip to the rotunda where a soldier’s poignant wedding was taking place. He and his best man were in uniform, and I’ve never seen such a starry-eyed groom. When the couple finished their vows to each other, the groom made his own vows to her three young children that left not only the kids wiping their eyes. We kept hoping he was not scheduled to leave for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

Breathtaking beauty in flight
The balcony section outside the rotunda offered an incredible view of the whole city. But even better, it offered… peregrine falcons! They nest on the top of the building, and during our whole time out there, the parents flew back and forth, bringing food to their constantly crying children. Of course, this was a great treat for me since I’m such a lover of raptors.

As the tour ended, Amelia announced my reading that evening to the rest of the people in our tour group. This is exactly what I would have done in her place, so it’s interesting being on the other end and feeling embarrassed about the fuss. She was right to do it, though, and one lady said she intended to attend. After all of this, we went back to the hotel to rest and prepare for the reading and book signing.

Reading from Every Last Secret
I was excited about the bookstore where I would read. Indigo Bridge Bookstore is a bookstore, a coffee shop, and a nonprofit community development organization, all in one. This is quite unusual for a bookstore, and I was interested to see how well it worked. Located in the historic Hay Market district, Indigo Bridge Bookstore is cheerful and bright with plenty of customers, so I think it’s working quite well.

Since some people had come for the mystery and some for the poetry, I mixed them in the reading, which worked well—I think because many of the same subjects and obsessions inform both areas of my work. I spoke about Every Last Secret and read from it briefly. Then I read a couple of poems from Heart’s Migration and a few more from my newest manuscript, Dark Sister. We had a lovely audience for the reading, including fellow writers Allison Hedge Coke and Joy Castro, students from the university, and townspeople. The woman from the Capitol tour showed up halfway through the reading, having wandered downtown Lincoln lost and missed the mystery part when that was what she came for, but she liked the poetry so much that she bought both books. It turns out she was a tourist from Iowa. And another woman of obvious maturity declared it was her very first reading, as she bought a book, and she thought she'd make them a regular thing from now on. So I felt I'd done my part for literature that night!

Joy Castro, me, Amelia Montes, Allison Hedge Coke, Ben
After the reading, we went out for a late meal and good conversation with other writers until midnight. So we wandered up to our hotel room, sleepy and happy.

The University of Nebraska has been wise to hire gifted writers, scholars, and teachers, such as Amelia Montes, Joy Castro, and Allison Hedge Coke. Somehow, after having seen the state's quirky but beautiful Capitol building, I'm not surprised.

In other news, I am a weekly blogger for the group blog Writers Who Kill on Saturdays, as most of you know. I have now also joined the group blog, The Stiletto Gang. (Ben said, "You'll have to use a knife for your photo since you can't wear heels.") I will be blogging there on the fourth Friday of each month. I hope you'll come visit me at both places.

I want to bring this blog back to twice a week, alternating between my two series, Books of Interest by Writers of Color and Literary Mystery Novelists, with occasional posts in the series, Balancing Writing and book Marketing, and posts about my own work. It will be a little bumpy for the next couple of weeks trying to get back to that, but then I think I'll be back in the groove. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Books of Interest by Writers of Color—Red Weather by Janet McAdams

Click here to buy the book!

Janet McAdams, Red Weather Sun Tracks: An American Indian Literary Series (University of Arizona Press) 192 pp., ISBN: 978-0-8165-2035-0

Janet McAdams’ suspenseful debut novel is a lyrical portrayal of a woman’s search for herself in the guise of her search for long-missing parents, who had fled imminent arrest for their involvement in a 1970s nonviolent Native American protest action that went wrong. Her protagonist, Neva, has lived in the South all her life, passing as white in fear of what might happen to her if those around her realize she’s part-Creek. Even her controlling, abusive husband never knew until the one person in whom she confided told him.

As her desperation to be free of this narcissistic husband and her loss of self grows, Neva discovers a clue to the possible whereabouts of her parents and flees her life in Atlanta to seek them in the tiny, war-torn country of Coatepeque in Central America. She finds work teaching the children of the wealthy elite, love with a sensitive man of shadowy  connections, and friends for whom she can care and make a commitment. As the chaotic war around her escalates, Neva faces danger and heartbreak on all sides. Surrounded by violence and havoc, she begins to remake herself as a whole person.

Within Neva’s perspective, we move back and forth in time and space from her memories of her parents’ increasing commitment to activism as they learn of the heartrending forced sterilization of Native women in the United States to the constantly escalating battle the wealthy elite wage against the surrounding Indigenous populace in Coatepeque to memories of her husband’s selfishness and cruel domination, the personal version of these other large-scale attacks on Indigenous peoples. Her eloquent prose guides us through these transitions, and her beautifully rendered characters and places lure us on in this journey from grief and longing to the potential of a new life.

One of our most compelling and imaginative poets, McAdams weaves a spell of loss, forgiveness, and redemption that will grip the reader’s mind long after the last page is read.

Janet McAdams Bio
Janet McAdams is the author of two collections of poetry, Feral (Salt 2007) and The Island of Lost Luggage (Arizona, 2000), which won the Diane Decorah First Book Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and the American Book Award. With Geary Hobson and Kathryn Walkiewicz, she is co-editor of the anthology, The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing after Removal (Oklahoma, 2010).

In 2005, McAdams founded Salt Publishing's award-winning Earthworks book series, which focuses on indigenous  poetry, and has since expanded to include contemporary Latin American poetry, translated and edited by Katherine Hedeen and Victor Rodriguez-Nunez. More about the series can be found at Salt Publishing.

Of mixed Scottish, Irish, and Creek ancestry, McAdams grew up in Alabama, has taught in Alabama, Central America, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, and the U.K. She now lives in Gambier, Ohio, and teaches at Kenyon College, where she is the Robert P. Hubbard Professor of Poetry.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

5 Tips On Social Media For Today’s Author—Guest Blog by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Please welcome Bryan Thomas Schmidt as a guest today. Bryan is a writer, a musician, and a professional at social media, so he's going to give us  some valuable information on how to handle social media and book promotion while still writing our books.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt
If you’re an author today, chances are, social media has become a big part of the way you communicate with people. Modern authors often use it for communicating not just with fans but fellow authors, their editors, publishers and other professional contacts as well as family. In fact, many publishers and agents expect a commitment to social media from authors before they’ll offer a contract or as part of one. With the publishing industry in flux due to ebooks, downsizing of bookstores, the explosion of online sales, etc., more and more the marketing of books has come to fall upon the shoulders of the author.

For many, this can be very daunting. Artists by nature are often introverts. Authors, in particular, spend lots of time alone in a room with their computer, working. Social interaction is a distraction and drain they don’t seek. And certainly to do social media well, you have to learn how to come out of that shell. I’ve been building my online platform since 2009 and grown my author blog from 30 hits a month to over 3000 in that time. I’ve had success nationally marketing my novels and work through social media, and it has opened doors I never imagined. So Linda graciously asked me to share some tips with you.

First, social media is social. It’s not about you, it’s about the community. If you’re going to get involved, you must remember that above all else. The surest way to ruin your efforts is to be all about yourself. If your tweet stream is nothing but ads and links to your work, then you are going to chase people away. Your goal should be to build relationships, first, buyers second. People who like you and enjoy your conversations will, eventually, become interested in your work. That will lead to sales. While in the past, readers found a book, liked it, and then started contacting the author to get to know them, this is not how social media works. So you must approach it that way from the start or you’re very likely to fail before you begin.

Second, go with what’s comfortable. There are so many options it can be daunting. Experiment and find the ones you can get into and stick with those. You don’t have to be everywhere. It’d be impossible to keep up. For me, outside of my blog, I use Facebook and Twitter primarily. Google+ is there for me to distribute links from my Twitter and blog and that’s about it. With Twitter and Facebook, I get into comments and discussions a lot. I promote other people’s stuff as much as my own. I started a Twitter chat, in fact, called Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat (hashtag #sffwrtcht) to promote others and regularly interview authors, editors and others live on Twitter, every Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. This has opened up a huge name recognition and network of relationships which have definitely helped my career. Many people in the business know my name now who otherwise never would have, including some legendary authors I’ve admired for years.

Yes, it’s hard to talk about yourself for most of us, despite our egos. I get that. But once you get into the flow of a conversation, you can get over that. For example, there are ways to support each other without saying much.
RT @rodriguez_linda: #FF these tweeps! @beatsbooknook @laurabenedict @lilithsaintcrow @richyanez @BryanThomasS @thebookmaven @BenoitLelievre @thrillerchick
This is Linda’s Follow Friday (#FF) recommendations. When I RT (ReTweet) them to my followers, I help her and I don’t have to add a thing. Of course, I’m mentioned which is rather kind of her. But you get the idea.

Someone may post blog links, book links, or links to interesting other posts from blogs, news, etc. Perhaps it’s something you have thoughts on which you’d want to discuss. Pretty much anything is fair game but I’ll make two warnings: politics, religion and language are dangerous. Social Media is not private, no matter how low your follower count or what your security settings say. Twitter and Facebook both save copies of everything posted and reserve the right to post it how they wish. Past Twitter conversations can be found via Google Search, for example, so you never know who’s going to see it. I’d say avoid foul language to keep from alienating potential readers. Avoid religion and politics for the same. This is hard. We are passionate artistic people. We have strong opinions. We have strong emotions. But stories are legendary about people who have lost publishing contracts, sales, relationships, etc. over this stuff. Yes, freedom of speech is a constitutional right. But discretion and common sense are personal virtues, so use them.

Third, use variety. I post about my novels, short stories, etc. The kinds of things I tweet are: daily writing goals and what I accomplish, upcoming events, key news, links to blog entries, reviews and books, humor, general thoughts about various things. Blog and buy links are limited to one or two a day. I post at 8-9 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Those are the busiest times. That way I hit the night crowd. I try and let other people speak for my book rather than myself. For example:
@BryanThomasS: Hours left to win a signed ARC of my 2nd novel. @Paulskemp: "A page-turning story that takes off like a rocket" #scifi
Paul Kemp is a bestselling author. People know him. His recommendation goes a lot further than me saying something like this:
@BryanThomasS: Hey, my awesome new novel, THE RETURNING’s out for preorder, so you should buy a copy now here

Of course I think my novel’s great. But I’m not exactly unbiased. Let others recommend it for you. Write a tweet that’s good enough, and people will retweet it to spread the word:
RT @talekyn: RT @BryanThomasS: Hours left to win a signed ARC of my 2nd novel. @Paulskemp: "A page-turning story that takes off like a rocket" #scifi
Hearing it from other Tweeps (Twitter users) is much more influential than from you, at least until you’re a big name. So that’s why relationships and networking are so important.

For blog entries, interviews, and book links, my rule is twice a day. Other stuff can vary. I also try not to send more than three of these at a time so as not to drown people who follow.

Fourth, use hashtags. Hashtags are important. People follow @myname, yes, but they also follow hashtags. #scifi #fantasy #mystery #writing #mywana #amwriting #science #publishing #marketing are just a few. You can click any hashtag in a tweet and pull up a list of all tweets with that hashtag to follow along. It’s incredibly helpful. #sffwrtcht (my chat) wouldn’t work without it. By selecting appropriate hashtags, you are reaching out to interest groups which hopefully represent your audience of potential readers. So take the time to learn hashtags and use them.

Fifth, use shrinkers. Shrinkers are helpful because tweets have a 140 character limit. Shrinkers will take a tweet that’s too long, especially hyperlinks to websites, and shorten them so they’ll fit with everything you’re trying to say. I know it’s not proper grammar. Get over it. The fact that younger text-addicted generations haven’t learned that they have to talk differently in correspondence than texting doesn’t mean you’ll be the same. There are common shortcuts people use and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about conciseness as well as clarity. Syntax and etiquette for Twitter are a bit different than other mediums.

For example, say I want to tweet this:
@BryanThomasS: My schedule for @conquestkc is going to be much fun. Check out the panels and other stuff and join us if you can. #scifi #fantasy #mywana
It’s too long by 78 characters. But with a tweet shrinker, it might work like this:
@BryanThomasS: My schdl 4 @conquestkc is gng 2 B mch fun. Chck out the panels & other stuff & jn us if U cn. #scifi #fantasy #mywana
Looks like nonsense? Not really, because as with copyedits and typos, your brain will fill in the gaps with the most logical missing letters to make sense of it. Once you’re used to it, it’s automatic and you can fit a lot more into 140 characters.

Well, this post is getting lengthy, and, as Linda will tell you, this is a subject about which I can go on and on. Perhaps she’ll have me on later for a discussion. I do post Write Tips every Monday, a popular series which you can find on my blog here: And I’d love to respond to comments and continue the discussion. I hope these tips are helpful. I’ll end with a brief bit about my latest novel and myself.

In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancĂ©e, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.