Author Q&A: Arianne “Tex” Thompson talks ONE NIGHT IN SIXES and her superhero alter ego. Plus, a GIVEAWAY!

 

texToday on the blog, I’m welcoming one of my Workshop peeps and debut author of the rural fantasy ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, Arianne “Tex” Thompson. During the day, Tex is a master teacher for an academic and tutoring prep services company. In her free time – which you’ll see she doesn’t have much of – she’s a regular at libraries, writers’ conferences and conventions, as well as being the editor for the DFW Writers’ Conference website. And, she writes, natch!  Somehow, with everything she has going on, she found time to answer a few questions about her alter-ego, time management skills, and the future of her hero, Appolosa Elim.

 

Okay, when I Googled your name to get to your website, I discovered a DC Comics superhero named Tex Thompson. I know I’m totally showing my comic book, superhero ignorance here, but I had no idea your nickname came from a superhero. I mean, it makes sense, of course. As Truvy from Steel Magnolias would say, “There’s a story there.” Spill. How did you get your nickname, and what made you decide to use it in your pen name as well as your given name?

Would you believe that I didn’t actually know about Tex Thompson the DC character?  Thompson is my maiden name, and “Tex” was the pronounceable part of the AOL screennames and message-board handles that I used to play online games, lo these many years ago.  As for how that particular virus mutated and spread offline – well, you know that feeling you get when you walk into the DFW Writers Workshop to read for the very first time?  That kind of sweaty, queasy, five-out-of-six-on-the-Pepto-Bismol checklist terror?  That was pretty much it.  I decided that I could handle getting my life’s work eviscerated by a roomful of strangers – but not without a secret identity.  So Bruce Wayne became Batman, and I became Tex – and you know, I think it’s worked out pretty well!  (Except for that third-string superhero guy.  Mark my words, Google – I WILL UNSEAT HIM.)

sixes

I wish I’d thought of the secret identity before reading at workshop. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me six months! Have you ever gone to a con dressed up as superhero Tex Thompson? And, if there was a Tex Thompson superhero movie, who would play your doppelganger?

You know, I am actually a really terrible cosplayer!  If I don’t look pretty much exactly like the character, I’m usually too nervous to even try (which is why my one and only cosplay alter ego so far has been the exquisite Pam Poovey, who is not only my body double, but everything I aspire to be.)  I tell you what, though: if I ever get to be in the movies, I’m going to ask Robin Weigert to channel her Deadwood-edition Calamity Jane and get in there for me.  She can drink, fart, cry, cuss, nurse the sick, bury the dead, kill a man, and love a woman – and if those aren’t superpowers, I don’t know what is.

Rumor has it you started writing ONE NIGHT IN SIXES in high school. Tell me about the genesis of Appaloosa Elim’s story and it’s journey to publication.
It is truly a long and sordid tale!  And anyone who really wants to is welcome to hear the whole thing, visual aids included.  But here’s maybe a shorter, neater, cleaner way of saying it: I did indeed start writing a book when I was in high school, starring a guy named Elim.  He was a horny, goofy, sword-wielding idiot, because the anime I watched was full of horny, goofy idiots, and the fantasy I read said that fantasy heroes were kickass sword-guys.  And that didn’t really change until I grew up, got an education, got to see some of the world, and decided that what I really wanted to write about were people we don’t get to see as often – the ones who might be relegated to villains or sidekicks or victims, or who are just plain not included.  So even though all that’s left from that original 11th-grade novel are a few character names and traits, this does in many ways feel like the same book – because for me, the process of writing (and rewriting, and rewriting!) this one single thing over the past 15 years was also the process of figuring out what I really cared about, and what I wanted to contribute to the world’s bookshelf.
Where does Appaloose Elim go from here? Tell me everything you can about the sequel! You’re website very slyly slipped in a “s” at the end of the word “sequel,” I noticed. Is SIXES going to be an epic on par of Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Narnia?
Oh my cheese, no!  Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing but love and respect for the folks who can pull off a ten-book saga, but I don’t have those chops (yet!)  One Night in Sixes is the first third of a 300,000-word megastory I wrote from 2007 to 2010.  Medicine for the Dead is the second part, tentatively scheduled for March 2015 – and Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll have a name and a publishing date for Part 3 soon afterward, which will finish the story.  I tell you what, though: as much love and sweat has gone into building this particular fantasyland sandbox, I *definitely* mean to revisit this world and some of these characters.
Full disclosure: I read your Appearances page on your website then promptly took a nap from exhaustion. When do you find time to a) write, b) read. More importantly, what are you reading now?

Well, here is a shameful secret: I am TERRIBLE at time management.  I feel like I’m always doing everything badly and at the last minute.  So my TBR pile looks like a giant, dusty game of bar Jenga, and my book revisions are two months behind schedule, and I have so many emails rotting in my inbox, it’s like a digital zombie apocalypse.

And speaking of zombies and what I’m reading now, LET ME TELL YOU:  Daniel Bensen’s New Frontiers has completely eaten my brain.  It’s a story about near-future Earth, where aliens have come in and done to us pretty much what Europeans did to indigenous Americans – and here to try and save our species is Harry Downs, an “exo-erotic diplomat” (aka interspecies gigolo), who’s convinced that one good orgasm is all it’s going to take to get humanity an equal seat at the table – or, you know, at least keep us from being enslaved and/or eradicated by the alien gangsters currently strip-mining the Amazon.  It’s basically Men in Black with a Debbie Does Dallas twist, and you are going to SCREAM in frustration when I tell you that not only is it not available in bookstores, it still needs a publisher!  (He’s got the agent part handled, fortunately.)

But as schlocky as it is for me to take up page-space here with an unpublished work, whose author is a friend of mine, the point that I really want to make is this: as a reader, every time I get bored and cynical and start to feel like I’m drifting on a sea of been-there-done-that books, I find something that totally pushes every one of my buttons, feels dazzlingly smart and fresh and relevant, and fires me up all over again.  I LOVE that feeling.
I don’t know about you, but I have books I re-read on a regular basis. I call them comfort reads. Do you have a book(s) like that or are you one of those weirdos who only read a book once and think, “That’s that! On to the next book!”?
Ha!  Would it redeem me at all if I told you that I didn’t actually *mean* to be a one-time-only weirdo?  To tell you the truth, what I’ve noticed happening is that I actually have TWO piles these days: Books I Want To Read, and Books I Want To Have Read.  The former is pretty much the same as it’s always been.  The latter is made up of important new releases in my genre, books of fellow author-friends, “touchstone” books (things like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones that are too big to ignore), and books that are assigned reading for my tutoring students.  As long as those lists are, going back to a book I’ve ALREADY read feels like an unfathomable indulgence.  I tell you what, though: whenever the nightmare-clowns find me or I’m up at 3 AM with a bad case of the pork sweats, the Calvin and Hobbes books always come out again.  I definitely hear you on the importance of having comfort reads close to hand.
For a chance to win a signed copy of ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, click on the Rafflecopter link below!

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient earthly gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner before they do. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth that lives in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

From The Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

 

 

Six Query Tips I’ve Learned from Compiling Friday Twitter Tips

Since I started compiling #pubtip tweets, I’ve noticed a trend. Most of the tweets from agents are about poor queries. Most of the poor queries are bad in the same way. All of the mistakes could be solved by the writer doing one thing before querying: research.

I get it. You’ve finished your MS and you want to get it out there ASAP. You want the money and fame to start rolling in as soon as possible. Before you rush in and send out a query let me tell you a secret of the publishing industry. You ready?

The publishing industry is slow.

tidewater-glacier

Tidewater Glacier – faster than the publishing industry.

From the moment you query an agent, even if everything goes perfectly, you still might be 3-4 years away from seeing your book on a shelf. If you query an small press directly, that might be shortened to 1-3 years. I’m not telling you that to discourage you, or to push you toward self-publishing. Though I understand why writers go that route, I still think traditional publishing is the best path to success. I’m telling you that to bring home this point:

The one or two months it will take for you to thoroughly research potential agents and to perfect your query letter is a blink compared to the rest of the publishing process.

If you send out a sub-par query you aren’t making progress anyway. The problem is, you think you are. The reality is your bad query and lack of research has zero chance of landing an agent. Take the time to make your query the best it can be. Are my tips below the last word on querying? Heck no. But, it’s a start.

1. Make sure your MS is POLISHED.

  • Find a beta reader.
  • Or, if you don’t have one, hire a professional editor to edit the whole book. If your book isn’t polished past fifty pages, the agent will probably stop reading at fifty-one.
  • Don’t let your MS get rejected because of typos and poor grammar.

2. Research: Make sure agents are:

  • open for submissions
  • represent your genre

3. Research: Know your genre.

  • Know the standard word length for your genre. Don’t pitch a 100,000 word MG, or a 16,000 word novel.
  • All books are cross genre, pick the dominant genre for your book and query it as that. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know which one to choose. Discuss it with your beta reader or editor. (For the record, I made this mistake.)

4. Research: Follow submission guidelines.

  • I know, I know. They’re all different. It’s annoying. But, it’s part of the deal.
  • If you can’t follow submission guidelines, you will automatically be rejected.

5. Research: There is a right way and wrong way to write a query.

  • If you don’t know how, Google “How to write a query letter.”
  • Yes, writing is creative. You can be as unique and quirky as you want and no one will judge you. We embrace the quirk in creative arts. That’s why we’re so good at what we do. But, a query letter is a business letter, not an opportunity to be cute. Don’t write it from your main charcter’s POV. Of course, use your own writing voice, but don’t be gimmicky.
  • Join a query critique group or site and get your query critiqued before sending it out. (For the record: the first query I sent out was horrible. Truly. I should have joined a critique group.)

6. Be professional.

  •  Writing is creative, but publishing is a BUSINESS! Agents and editors are professionals. Accept rejection with grace. If you want to rail about how unfair it all is, scream into a pillow. Sending nasty email responses to a rejection will not get you an acceptance.
  • You’re going to get rejected. Everyone gets rejected. You may want to query the agent who rejects you one day and do you really want to take the chance he/she will remember your nasty email? Or the chance they’ll mention it to their other agent friends?

This information isn’t hard to find, which is why it’s so puzzling when writers make same mistakes over and over. As I noted above, I made some of the same mistakes! (I apologize to the agents I queried.) The biggest problem with research is there is so much information it can make your head spin. Some advice may be contradictory. But, here’s the thing: if you read enough articles, you will see the through lines. When in doubt, listen to what the agents and editors have to say. They’ll be receiving your query, after all.

I will give you one suggestion: buy THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED. It’s a great starting point, just don’t get so sidetracked by creating your platform you forget to query.

I could probably add ten more suggestions, but IMO, these are the ones I see over and over while compiling this Public Service Announcement. If there are any agents and editors who read this and have additional suggestions, please put them in the comments.

Friday Twitter Tips: Round-up of #Pubtips from Agents and Editors

All About Queries

Lots of GRAMMAR GURUS on Twitter. Still, sometimes we need reminding.

But, sometimes it’s hard! (See what I did there?)

Oops! She inadvertently spoiled the first Game of Thrones book, here.

Rant alert. I imagine getting the same questions/problems from queriers over and over is frustrating.

A very insidery look at book PR.

Ha! This.

This is depressing.

#PubTip Tweet of the Week

Previous Friday Twitter Tips:

#PubTips for January 22

Book Review – Longbourn by Jo Baker

longbournIf ever there is a novel that suffers from false advertising, it’s Longbourn. Promoted as Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, Longbourn has none of the wit of P&P nor the soap opera fun of Downton Abbey. I wondered about halfway through the novel why Baker even bothered to frame her novel around Austen’s classic. Then I rolled my eyes at such a stupid, rhetorical thought. She placed her servants at Longbourn because Austen inspired fiction is a lucrative market. Longbourn, as good as it is, wouldn’t have received half the press it did if it was a standalone novel about servants in Regency England. And, that’s a shame, because Longbourn (★★★) is a good novel.

Let’s get the Pride and Prejudice connection out of the way: with the exception of one scene with Elizabeth, Darcy and Sarah, Baker’s fictional housemaid, Baker is true to Austen’s characters for the most part. Of course, Wickham is the bad guy, made even worse at Baker’s fingertips. However, making these characters ones we know and love distracts from the story she is telling, instead of illuminating it or making it more interesting. There isn’t enough of our beloved characters to make us happy and what there is makes us like them less. Though, if pushed, I suppose I prefer Baker’s vague characterizations to other fiction which paints their personalities outside of Austen’s lines.

But, to the story. Baker illustrates well the day-to-day grind of servants, from the backbreaking need to haul water, to the hand destroying work of laundry day, to the stomach churning chore of dumping chamber pots. Where Longbourn excels, though, is how disheartening working for others could be when you want more but have no way to achieve it, how trapped people of the lower classes were in their lot in life. Unlike Carson and Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey, these are not servants who take pride in their place in society. They are conscientious, do excellent work and do not shirk from responsibility but, Sarah especially, long to be free of other people’s demands.  At times, Baker’s prose strives a little too hard to be literary, but I appreciate her style nonetheless. She doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out, but instead trusts her readers are intelligent enough to figure things out.

Red John is dead. Long live The Mentalist.

the mentalist tunneyWell, thank God that’s over.

When I learned the first six episodes of season six would deal exclusively with resolving the Red John storyline, I assumed I would be posting weekly episode recaps. Then, the episodes aired and I found I had nothing to say. Kirkland was on his own vigilante quest? Shrug. Red John has a tattoo of three dots on his left shoulder? A pretty stupid tattoo for a serial killer who is supposed to be extremely intelligent. The Blake Association? Sounds like a homeowner’s association. Bertram is Red John? I’m supposed to believe Michael Gaston has the charisma to inspire such rapturous, love-like devotion of Lorelei, Rebecca and all the other acolytes who have done Red John’s bidding for so many years?

Turns out, no, I’m not. The Mentalist couldn’t resolve the storyline without one last feint, without trying desperately to illustrate Red John’s superior planning and intelligence. Sheriff Macalister is Red John. A character who resonated with absolutely no one, ever.

You know what? I’m not going to pick apart this resolution. Other people are doing it for me. I’m just thrilled The Mentalist is no longer saddled with overarching storyline. The original idea was good, great even. But, the execution was sloppy because it dragged on for too many years and probably because Heller didn’t have a clear idea who Red John was until a couple of years ago. Maybe if the Big Bad had been fully formed, the overarching story would have been, too.

But, it wasn’t and now it’s over. Good riddance. The Mentalist becomes what it should have been after the end of season three – a straight up crime procedural. CBS does these shows very well so there is no reason why The Mentalist shouldn’t keep chugging along for a few more seasons. As a long-time, dedicated fan, one who has flirted with abandoning the show but has stuck around despite major issues, I hope Heller and Company take this reboot – which is exactly what this is though no one has said the word – and make the show better. To do that, they need to do one thing, and one thing only:

Make the law enforcement professionals competent.

It has always been my biggest complaint that Lisbon, Cho and company couldn’t investigate their way out of a paper bag. They went through the motions and did the legwork, but it was always Jane who “solved” the crime. I get it; the show is called the mentalist. But, sometimes I wondered why the others were there at all. It seemed Lisbon’s sole purpose was to apologize for Jane’s actions, threaten him with consequences, but still let him do whatever he wanted. This was perfectly illustrated in “Red John” when she half-heartedly tried to talk Jane out of meeting Red John, gave Jane her gun(!), then gave Jane her car. Jane fulfilled his vow to kill Red John. Lisbon rolled over and failed to keep her promise of stopping Jane. The worst part was she didn’t even try. It is very nearly a complete betrayal of the character. I wonder how they will redeem her, or if they will brush Lisbon’s failure under the rug and instead focus on Jane’s new life. For Lisbon, her failure to stop Jane should have very nearly the same effect on her psyche as Jane’s causing his family’s death did on his. But, I’m guessing it won’t. Why? Two reasons. One, this show struggles when it doesn’t focus on Jane. Two, it is easier to explain it away with feelings. The romantic in me would dig a good love story. The part of me that wants Lisbon to be a strong, independent female character would be pretty pissed.

I hope the new iteration of The Mentalist has a better balance of competence. I hope they give Lisbon the backbone they imply she has. I hope it takes longer than one episode for them to pull the team back together. I hope Jane feels the consequences of killing MacAlister for longer than one episode. I hope the new people they bring in aren’t just Ribsby and Van Pelt clones. I hope they expand the world beyond CBI and give the characters a life, friends and family outside of work. I hope Heller has talked with Robert and Michelle King, the creators and showrunners of The Good Wife, on how to write a procedural with rich characters and a rich world that is just as interesting outside of the case of the week as it is inside.

Writing ADD or, Melissa’s complete lack of focus

normal_tech_typewriterkeys

This month for NaNo, I intended to branch out, to write short stories in different voices, experimenting with tense, POV, stream of consciousness. I was going to rock it! What have I done?

Nothing.

Granted, writing 30 different stories in 30 days was a ridiculous goal, even for me who loves ridiculous, barely achievable goals. I should have known better since these days, I can’t even finish a blog post.

I’m forcing myself to finish this post instead of vacuuming the stairs. That’s how bad it has gotten. I’d rather vacuum dog hair off the stairs than write.

I had my version of a panic attack about this last night before I went to bed. What if I’m done? What if I have no more good ideas? What if I can’t ever start or finish another book? I almost got up right then to go write. Instead, I rolled over and went to sleep. See, my version of a panic attack is thinking about it, worrying a little, deciding I can think about it tomorrow, then sleeping.

Now, here I am, barely restraining myself from vacuuming.

I hate housework.

Housework over writing has got to be rock bottom.

When my husband asked me what was on my agenda today (isn’t he sweet to pretend I have anything resembling a professional agenda? I’m still in my pajamas) the first thing I said was, “the floors.” Then I realized how pathetic that sounded (though not as bad as yesterday when my big accomplishments were “cleaning the ovens and polishing the stainless steel”), I said, “A new story. I have to settle on one. I need a single focus, something I can…”

“Obsess over?”

“Exactly!”

He knows me so well. And, he still loves me. He’s a keeper for sure.

So, today, while I’m vacuuming the dog hair off the stairs, I’m going to focus on the first line of my new story. I’m going to hone it in my mind until it is polished to a bright shine. It has to be good enough to inspire me to write the second line, then the third, then the fourth. I think if I can get to the fourth line, I’ll be on my way. But first, the opening line. Maybe,

Vacuuming dog hair off the stairs always settled Melissa’s nerves.