Crunch Time!

Ack!  I should be baking. Or possibly cleaning my filthy office.  Or writing any of the multiple stories I’m supposed to be completing. It’s crunch time for me.  I’ve got a sci-fi novella that is due back from the editor at any second (more info to come after the holidays!), a Christmas short story that needs completing ASAP, and mystery novel that is supposed to be way more underway than it is. And my business partner at my day job is about to go on maternity leave at any moment. I could use a holiday.  Oh, wait, one has just turned up.  Now I get to add baking to the list.  So excuse me, if I just complain for a minute and then dash off to put a pie in the oven.

But in the spirit of the holidays, how about a chance to win a print copy of Shark’s Instinct?  Reviewers are calling it an “amazing mystery with loads of action.”  Click the link below to enter! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shark's Instinct by Bethany Maines

Shark’s Instinct

by Bethany Maines

Giveaway ends November 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter Giveaway

Incoming

Absolutely

Today I’m discussing the absolutes of art.

Absolute number 1: artists must sell.  So toward that end, please consider purchasing my latest book! It’s a five-star, “highly-satisfying, high-speed thriller” that readers are calling “hard to put down.”

Shark’s Instinct: Fresh out of prison and fresh out of luck, twenty-something Shark wants back into The Organization. But when Geier, the mob boss with a cruel sense of humor, sends Shark to the suburbs to find out who’s been skimming his take, Shark realizes he’s going to need more than his gun and an attitude to succeed. With the clock ticking, Shark accepts the help of the mysterious teenage fixer, Peregrine Hays, and embarks on a scheme that could line his pockets, land him the girl and cement his reputation with the gang—if he makes it out alive.


$2.99 on sale today! BUY NOW!



Absolute number 2:  Nothing is absolute and artists spend a lot of time thinking about that.

In our current climate of politics, disasters, and protest, I’ve been listening to what a lot of artists are feeling. And by artists I mean everyone from fellow writers and graphic designers, to fine artists and poets. I know from the outside that most people think of the creative set as a homogeneous mass of weirdos. Which, weird, I’ll grant you, but homogeneous is not, in any way, accurate.

Like any family there are fractured in-fights, cultural differences between the “cousins” of fine art and design (or poets and novelists), there are fights over pecking order and definitions and what it all really means. But most artists when pressed will say that although they have their preferences, their set rules that they use, that most of the time, there is no absolute. Don’t ever pair two serif fonts, don’t ever write a novel in the first person, don’t use Papyrus for a logo (ever, no seriously)… Unless it works, in which case, you should absolutely do that. Absolutes in art and artists are few and far behind.

Which is why I think our current political climate is striking artists particularly hard. It’s as though we’ve all been toddling along enjoying the gray areas and we’ve run smack into the thirty percent of our population that only believes in black and white. Not that they live in black and white (because no one can). But they only believe in black and white and they want everyone else to bow before the almighty absolute and give them the peace of mind of being right. Arguing with someone who refuses to see the gray is pointless. Showing art full of color to someone who doesn’t see the subtle shades of the rainbow only makes them turn away. Many of the artist’s I listen to feel despair. They feel like their art has become frivolous when they see the colors being eradicated around them, but they can’t seem to make the leap to protest art. Nine months into a presidency that does not see the value in anyone who isn’t male, straight, or white, I would like to say that all art is protest art. To create joy, beauty, and harmony, to paint with many colors instead of the ones that have been chosen for us is protest art. I encourage my artist friends to follow their passion, take action, make art, refuse to go away or step back. Use every damn crayon in the box.


Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. —Oscar Wilde

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. —Oscar Wilde

Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity. —Oscar Wilde

Food for Thought

By Bethany Maines
 
 
Last weekend, I participated in a local author program called Food for Thought.  Put on by the local business district in partnership with a local literary group, CreativeColloquy, the program hosts different authors each week at a farmer’s market for a minimal fee ($5).  These type of events are great ways to connect with readers, brush up on my “elevator pitch” for books, and see what’s resonating with the public.  The elevator pitch is essentially a one to two sentence synopsis of a book.  And with that many people visiting the booth, I can try out different versions and wording to see what pitch makes people look interested in a book.  For my Carrie Mae Mysteries, slightly older ladies resonate with “It’s the story of what would happen if Mary Kay ran an international espionage organization.”  But the younger women and men do better with “If James Bond was a woman.”  Even if I didn’t end up selling a good amount of books, that kind of market research is pretty invaluable.  But, of course, being out in the public is also a way to connect with the… um… unique individuals that walk among us.
 
My favorite unique person this last weekend was the gentlemen who told us a series of stories about his experiences with ghosts including some “Indians” because he had been staying at a house built on an “Indian Burial Ground.”  The problem was that as he meandered on about his experiences, the Native Americans he described
sounded straight on out of the movies, and lacked any resemblance to the actual tribes that populate the area.  Not all tribes wear “leathers” crazy face.  Our tribes used capes woven from cedar bark and a type of fabric woven from the hair of a now extinct type of dog.  <LEARN MORE HERE>  So… try being more educated before doing drugs. Also, and not for nothing, if a housing developer were to find human remains, archaeologists and police would have to be called and the local tribes would claim the bodies.  Nobody wants to build on top of human remains – they disintegrate, leaving cavities in the ground and make foundations unstable.  It’s unsound construction, OK, nut job?  And also, also, you’re scaring people away from my booth.
 
But he’s just the tiny fly in the ointment. The majority of people at such events are at minimum polite and usually excited about talking to an actual author.  And in the end, talking to such enthusiastic readers and writers are what keep me coming back to these type of events.  So if you see me out and about, stop by to say hi.  Just
don’t tell me about your ghost experience… unless it’s historically accurate. 
 
 

Virtually IRL

I laughed when I read AB Plum’s recent post about unhooking from the virtual world.  It has been a long time since I didn’t enhance my RL (real life) experience with some sort of virtual interaction.  Photos on Facebook, the occasional witty comment on twitter, blogs and websites, they are all part of my life. Partially this is simply a function of my life and jobs.  As a graphic designer and a writer, social networking is part of the must do list. As a designer, it’s important that I be able to design ads for Facebook and other social media platforms and understand how the platforms function.  As a writer, it’s important that I use those platforms to reach an audience.

Which is not to say that I’m an expert.  As a designer, I get to create content and simply walk away.  The writer half of me definitely has it harder.  I have to remember to post (you wouldn’t think this was hard, but…), to come up with valuable and interesting content, and then not waste all of my writing time on marketing and social media.  On the other hand, for the last six months I’ve been swinging very much the other way.  I have not been doing a lot of marketing.  I have in fact been writing.  A lot.  A ton.  Lots of tons.  So much so that I’ve planned out my releases for 2018 and 2019. 

So, stay tuned for tons of updates later this summer.  Crime, sci-fi, a touch of fairy tales, and of course more than a little bit of romance are heading your way.  And strangely, I can’t wait to start marketing ALL of it.  If you want to get in on early give-aways (print and digital!) and announcements, join my mailing list at: bethanymaines.com/contact

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE STILETTO GANG 6.14.17

Parent Traps

A recent trip to the grocery store reminded me that Valentine’s Day is upon us.  As I cruised down a particularly pink and red aisle I saw wall to wall sets of movie themed Valentines for kids.  Which made me realize that as my spawn starts to become an actual kid certain things are barreling down on me.  Valentines.  Birthday parties.  Teacher gifts.  And all of them cause me to think – what the hell?

When did teacher gifts become a thing?  I don’t remember my mom having to essentially tip any of my teachers.  Teaching is an arrangement in which someone gets paid to show up and tell things to small people.  It was a nice arrangement with very clear cut guidelines – show up, learn/teach, go home.  Now all of my friends with older kids are dithering about teacher gifts around Christmas.  I recognize that teachers aren’t paid enough, but crappy set of lotion at Christmas is not going to make up for that.

And suddenly if you have a birthday party for your kid there have to gift bags for the children who attend. Birthdays are the day when everyone shows up and gives the person celebrating a gift.  Why are we now bribing people to attend?  If I have to bribe you to show up then you are not my friend.  I suppose the alternative theory is that the small children cannot handle the sight of someone else receiving gifts.  But… Isn’t that the entire point of parenting – teaching your kids to manage their own emotions?  So wouldn’t gift bags just be me supporting your poor parenting?

Valentine’s  Day has now become a flashpoint for grade school bullying.  Better give a Valentine to everyone or you’re a bully.  Sounds lovely.  You know what that means in reality? It means that I have to buy Valentines.  A kid can make four or five Valentines, but no grade schooler is going to hand-craft an entire classrooms worth of Valentines.  So now I’m stuck supporting the Hallmark industry?  Swell.

Can someone figure a way out of this for me?  Can I just carbon freeze my kid at three?  Or can I start a social revolution for those of us who are anti-social?  Somebody help!


Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang 02.08.17

Resolution Failure

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions always seem to be negative statements.  They pit the resolver against something.  I resolve to lose weight, spend less, give up every fun thing ever, etc.

I much prefer to make goals. Goals take aim and move toward a change. I want to write more, be more healthy, learn French, wake up later.  I don’t think that last one’s going to happen, but it’s more of a lifelong goal.

And then there’s the artificial time construct of the New Year’s that tricks people into waiting to start a change until January first actually rolls on the calendar.  Of course, if I were resolving to do something horrible, I’d put it off as long as possible too.  But if I want to change my life for the better, then why would I wait? Now is always the perfect time to start.

Which is not to say that the turn of the year doesn’t cause me to reflect and take stock of how things are and how I would like them to go. Like a lot of people, I like to assess, predict, and then I make goals.  At the end of December, I jotted down some notes, made some plans and felt good about myself.  I’m usually pretty good at sticking to my plans and I didn’t expect this year to be any different.  But then I didn’t expect to be struck by inspiration that would send me furiously typing down the rabbit hole of a new story.

And now here it is the end of January and I feel like one of those people who’ve managed to blow up their diet and their resolution two weeks after starting.  I mean, I feel guilty about not sticking to the plan, but not really that bad as a shove another chapter in.  In fact, that chapter was delicious and really would it really hurt if I had another?

I can always get back on the plan later, right?

***

Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang Blog 01.25.17

I Swear…

The title of today’s blog is not facetious.  I do swear.  Kind of a lot.

fbombI try not to in public.  Much like public displays of affection, I find it inelegant to be assaulted by profanity that I’m not participating in.  I think keeping a lid on my foul mouthed habit is only polite and try to reserve it for private situations and friends who have known me long enough to not take offense.  As a result, a few of my acquaintances have been surprised to find themselves on the receiving end of a periodic f-bomb.  (Yes, I’m the person who should receive this paperweight as a gift.) In the past curbing my tongue has not particularly onerous, but since my child has moved into speaking and comprehending, you know, actual words, life as a purveyor of profanity has become more difficult.  Now I can’t even swear in my own home?!  Word swaps and humming the Star Spangled Banner do not really help.  (Son of a goat monkey, keeping my swearing on the inside is hard!)

In most of my books, I’ve minimized the swearing to a solid “hell” or “damn” because well, my grandmother likes to read my books.   But recently, I’ve begun working on a story that moves my swearing habit to the forefront.  Rather than really “messing some stuff up”, I am straight  “f***ing some s*** up” for a change.  And ooooh, does it feel good.  Ah profanity, how dost though trip lightly off my off my keyboard and onto the page?  Very lightly indeed.

fuckingladyMany comments on profanity seem to insist that profanity is the crutch of mind unable to think of something else to say.  I completely disagree.  To correctly use profanity one must have an understanding of language that allows you to use the f-word as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. (Yes, it really can – see examples here).

Will my completed manuscript stay chock full of profane goodness?  I don’t know, but I’m sure as **** interested to find out.

Dystopian Games

You’re stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 8 strangers and no food or water, who do you eat first?

Dystopian novels have held a prominent place on our national reading lists for the last few years and while I occasionally enjoy a jaunt into the horrific futures that we could create for ourselves they don’t really speak to me.  To me they frequently seem like the ultimate lifeboat game. While occasionally it’s fun to work through the logic of how to survive in a treacherous situation, the real answer to any lifeboat game is to not get stuck in the lifeboat in the first place.

zombie-id

I was reminded of this principle recently when I visited a conference for my day job (graphic design). The conference was for public works personnel (AKA everyone who keeps your city functioning) and their lunch speaker spoke on how their department had handled an earthquake.  From personnel rotation, calling in reinforcements, clearing roadways, reviewing housing safety, clean up – this department moved swiftly with the goal of maintaining safety and returning their town to normal in the shortest amount of time possible (and they did a great job).  But having just read a dystopian novel I was struck by the realization that not one person in the room was thinking… “Bob, I’d eat Bob.”  They weren’t playing the game – they were strategizing about how to not get stuck on the lifeboat.

All of this led to four thoughts.  One – I’m incredibly grateful for our public works personnel.  From sewer maintenance, to bridge engineers, to water management, they deserve more recognition than they get.  Two – All of you great public employees are screwing up a perfectly good dystopian plot line RIGHT NOW.   We’re not supposed to be coming together to overcome a natural disaster and working for the common good!  Come on, people.  Where is the divisive hatred and the reaching for the shotguns? That’s it; I’m breaking out the zombies.  Bob is going to be dinner if I have to have three plot contrivances before breakfast.  Three – We as society need to invest more in infrastructure.  And four – Because we don’t invest more in infrastructure we all need to have 3 days to 2 weeks of supplies on hand depending on where you live.  Be prepared. Don’t let a dystopian novel happen to you.

zombie-e1305310249480

The Dingbat Approach

This month at the Stiletto Gang we’ve been talking about transitions and how moving to a new stage of life can affect writing. But I have to admit that as I sat down to think about the topic all I found myself pondering was the actual literal transitions of writing. One of the primary tasks of a writer is to choose not just what to include, but what to leave out. There are very few (if any?) novels that are told in one long continuous stream of time. And every time the writer skips over the trip to the bathroom or the drive from point A to point B she must choose how to indicate that transition.

Chapter 1
The Hard, Fast Break

Some writers like to make each new location or time switch a new chapter.  It’s concrete. It’s self explanatory. And pretty hard for the reader to get confused. But others like to the soft break.

***

In the typography world those little asterisks are called dingbats. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be themed to the text. Karen Harris Tully‘s series The Faarian Chronicles is a sci-fi young adult adventure centered on a planet that was settled by Amazon warriors of Earth. This gives the featured culture of the planet a Greek historical context (and strong feminist heroines) and makes the transition dingbats of the omega symbol fun and appropriate.

blank space

The softest break of all is the extra space.  As a graphic designer, I’m not in favor of these. It’s far too easy, in a longer work, for the extra space to get buried at the end of the page. Then what does the designer do? Force the text to start lower down on the next page? That looks awkward and can lead to confusion on the part of the reader. Not to mention the fact that coding these for the e-readers and online is more than a little bit difficult.  In other words, if I see these in a book I immediately think the writer is a jerk who doesn’t care about how much extra work their designer has to do.

im_a_designer_not_a_screwdriver_poster-rcc06134967db4a5d92aae443a039d1e6_wvx_8byvr_512Foolishly, when I first got into the publishing biz I found myself incredibly surprised when my layout manuscript came back for proofing that the designer had kept all of my transitions as I had typed them. Somehow I genuinely thought that I would send off my MS and somewhere out in New York someone would do something clever with my transitions.  I was kind of sad.  I didn’t want to manage my own transitions – I wanted someone else to do all the work for me.

Which when I think about it, is about what I think about life transitions as well. How unfortunate that there’s no magic wand or designer to outsource those problems to.  I guess I’m just going to put my lifestyle setting on “dingbat” and see what I get.

 


Originally published at the Stiletto Gang on 09.14.16