Thursday, June 13, 2013

The time has come

I've had this blog since 2009, and it's been fun.

I've had a lot of fun vomiting out my thoughts and fears and questions about writing and the publishing world. I've interviewed some awesome people and I made some really good friends and I learned a lot.

Most of all, I had really kind people leave comments and engage with me (YOU!). That was best part.

The time has come to migrate to a new blog on my newly-designed website, however. I've gone Wordpress.

So please come visit me there:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sometimes it takes a while

The other night my 11-year old cat, Max, caught his very first mouse!

He caught it in our garage and then brought it up to the living room where he could watch it/disembowel it/be praised for it in comfort. Alas, we removed it.

Here he is, post-mouse removal, but still very much in the glow of satisfaction:

What a handsome, splendid kitty! See? Sometimes it takes 11 years to realize your dreams! But did Max ever give up? No! It's in his blood to hunt mousies.

As it is in my blood (and hopefully your blood, too) to write until you reach your goals.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fortitude, Bird Style

There's been a sweet married birdie couple living in my backyard for a while. Mr. and Mrs. California Towhee, ground-hopping birds who have a nest in a tree on the side of my yard. They've been there a while, and they often come hopping right up to the sliding glass door to peek in and see what we're up to. (My cat does not like this and has bruised his forehead lunging into the glass like an idiot.)

A sweet little brown California towhee. He has a high chip-chip sound.

They've also raised a nest of little baby towhees, and although I suspected they had babies nearby -- the grabbing of an earwig and then flying off with it was a sure sign -- I didn't know where they were.

Last week, I heard a bout of mad cheeping, baby-style cheeping, and I got to the window just in time to see two large shapes falling from the tree, and a marauding scrub jay fluttering in the branches, and mama and papa towhee screaming and flapping at him. Twice they chased him off; twice he returned. Finally, from across the yard streamed a third towhee, and he aided his friends in chasing off the scrub jay. I ran out and did my best to chase off the jay too but I thought my presence stressed the towhees so I went back inside. (Also I did not want my head pecked.) The scrub jay, if you haven't guessed, had pushed the two babies out of the nest in an attempt to have a snack. I'm not a birder, so this was all high drama for me.

The babies sought cover under leaves, and they had feathers although they couldn't fly. I let them all be, not knowing what would happen to the babies.

A pretty, but very evil, scrub jay.

Four days later, we arrived home from Memorial Day weekend up at my mom's house, and again I heard a mad bout of cheeping. In a different corner of my yard, probably the same evil scrub jay was hopping around and he flushed out a towhee baby. The parents were again beside themselves. But this time, the jay managed to push the baby into the creek that runs through our backyard (really a glorified storm drain). I ran out, screaming, and the jay flew off. I got a shovel to get the baby out, but it was too late. Mr. Sierra put him on the grass so the parents would see him.

The awful jay came back and to my horror at the baby. The mama and papa towhee had to stand nearby and watch, and their soft chipping as they watched broke my heart.

It's a good thing I'm not a towhee.

I was pretty upset, but Mr. Sierra reminded me that this is nature. The towhee parents saw the dead baby before the jay returned to feast, and there was nothing they could do. They displayed an admirable amount of love and sorrow and protective instinct, but in the end, they understand that as birds, you've got to move on. Wikipedia tells me that towhees can lay eggs and they'll hatch pretty quickly; babies leave the nest in 8 days or so. That seems like a pretty quick turnaround and I don't know how often they lay eggs, but maybe they'll move on and lay more. They appear to live in my tree year-round.

After watching this awful drama, I had to think what it must be like as a bird to watch your baby survive being kicked out of the nest only to be drowned and then eaten by a mean scrub jay. Do they move on? Can they? Certainly humans would have a horrid time doing so, but do birds?

I don't know, but my guess is that Mr. Sierra was right. They have to move on and lay more eggs if you want anything in the world.

Naturally, I'm going to compare this kind of fortitude to how it is to write a book and see it through to publishing, either traditional or self. This is not to belittle the poor birds or to suggest that losing a baby to a nasty scrub jay is at all the same, but certainly if you want to make it, fortitude is in order. You get rejected, you've just got to go on. You get a nasty review, you've just got to go on. You've just got to keep doing what's important. And pray that the scrub jay gets his.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brand Ambassadors

Years ago, I worked with a guy who had worked for Apple, or so it said on his resume. His position was "brand evangelist." I remember thinking, an evangelist is a real title? WTF is that?

I don't know if he got paid for it, or if it was just an arrangement with Apple. But it was smart on Apple's part. What is was is someone who recommends Apple products--and not just recommends, but enthuses, and loves, and sings the praises of.

These days, we use the term "brand ambassador," which sounds much nicer than the religious overtone of evangelist. You might be wondering why I'm writing about this here. It's because anyone who is selling books needs to know about it.

We are told that blogging and blog interviews and blog tours and even book signings don't sell books long term. That is, they don't grow your readership. We are told it's really all about word of mouth. But how on earth do you get your book to be spread by word of mouth?

A story: at my local farmer's market there's this wonderful Afghani food vendor called Bolani. Bolani makes really delicious sauces and breads. Healthy, low fat, and drool-inducing. I've been a fan for a long time. A few weeks ago, I was at the farmer's market and stopped by the Bolani booth. The guy there offered me a sample, which of course I took (I'm not an idiot) and he asked me if I'd had it before. I launched into an enthusiastic account of how I've been buying their stuff since last summer and how much I love them, blah blah blah. I mean, I'm a brand ambassador for them. I tell everyone how good they are.

What does the guy do?

He turns, in the middle of me talking, to someone else, and starts speaking to them. He shut me off.

I closed my mouth with a snap. Wow, I thought. What a way to treat a customer standing right in front of you, telling you how much they love you. It was like telling me to go $#@%& myself.

Because now I had a bad feeling. I was made to feel like an idiot and that he didn't care at all that I spent money on his products. There was no way I'd be a) telling other people about them now, or b) buying their stuff when I had the choice.  Notice how I'm blogging about it, too. Now everyone gets to know how they treat their customers.

I was no longer a brand ambassador for them. Which was too bad, because their sauce is tasty.

This has happened before at book or CD signings when I've met authors or musicians. The experience has been so disappointing that I haven't bought further books or music from them. Pet Shop Boys are famous for being utter dickheads (Chris Lowe, at least), but it's different when he's a dick to you. I went off them after meeting them. Two authors at a signing couldn't care less that I was there--and I can't say I ever read another word of theirs. It's why I no longer go to book signings--invariably, the author will turn away just as I get there or scribble in my book and shove it aside like it's on an assembly line. I don't want that. I've read their work and I want to see the person who's behind it all. I don't want to be treated like cattle.

I think authors are really missing the boat on readers as brand ambassadors. If you have published a book and a reader contacts you and enthuses and gushes and says "I adore you!" then you know you have a future reader in them. Don't ignore them. Don't turn them off. Make it a priority to answer them. (I am not speaking of anyone I know here.) Don't take my word for it. Social media expert Scott Stratten has harped about this for a long time.

So, what are you going to do about it if you have a book and  enthusiastic readers? There are endless possibilities. Next week I'll do a post giving some ideas.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to remember stuff

Some place, some time ago (we're doing good so far, aren't we?), I heard some person (I know, already) say that they write 5 things down each day. That's it. No long paragraphs that require thought and concentration (if you have kids you know you're bubbling your lips at 9 pm). No flowery paper and wood-paneled pens that you nicked from your boss's office. No rules. Just something.

I loved the idea, and I started doing it. Mainly because I feel like I'm missing the minutia of life. When I do my epic (only to me) end of year posts here on the blog, it's fun.  But last year? I had a really hard time remembering anything. This is partly because I have a child under two, but that doesn't make the loss of my mind any less horrifying.

So, I opened up a Word doc ad typed the date. And then:


And I wrote 5 things, however silly, that happened that day. Because I didn't want to think about it too hard, I saved the doc and then opened it again and added to it the next day, with the new date and list above the first one. That's it. Maybe I'll save it by month, but likely by year. 

Here's what I wrote that first day:

March 8, 2013

1. Older son (6.5 yrs) had a screaming meltdown on the playground before school because he didn't have a sweater to wear (in addition to his coat). I realized later it was about the lack of options that upset him. He ended up having a good day once I left. 

2. I’m reading the Maeve Binchy book today, her last book before she died, and it’s so good. It’s not even written in a very modern style but it’s like falling into a comfy chair.

3. In Target, toddler (Rainbow Puppy, 23 months) heard a baby crying and was very concerned. He told me there was a baby crying and his mama should pick him up (“Pick up. Up.”) I asked him if I should go pick the baby up. He decided that would not be preferable. 

4. I had a dehydration headache and was amazed to see that water really does take headaches away (in such cases). 

5. I vowed (re-vowed, actually) never again to shop at JC Penney for refusing to stock 529 Levi’s jeans in size 12, curvy fit for large asses.

Remember, there's no rules here. I miss some days, so what. How do you journal? Do you journal at all?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My desk

Look at that pile of fur. Even though he is taking up my mouse space, I love it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Truth in Words Essay Contest

A good friend of mine is a lifestyle publicist and she handles PR for a lot of nonfiction books, including the really cool book, Nothing But the Truth. It's a collection of essays written by women and makes for a great gift/bathroom book/book to read while waiting for something, because the essays are short but pithy.

My friend asked me to pass on the following information about an essay contest. It's a pretty good deal because the essays are 1200 words or less.

Here's the info:

The winner of this year’s Truth in Words Essay Contest will rub elbows with big names in the publishing world, including ICM Talent, Random House and O Magazine. Notes & Words, along with its new partner, Nothing But the Truth, is serious about finding America’s next great essayist.

This year’s topic will be “transitions.” Organizers will be looking for 1200 words or less on stories ranging from starting a family, recoveries, graduations, aging, career changes/promotions, marriage and divorce.

Big Incentives: The Grand Prize Winner of the essay contest will receive a once in a lifetime opportunity:  one-on-one consultations with representatives from ICM Talent, Random House and O Magazine. In addition, up to 30 semi-finalists in the competition will be published in the next Nothing But the Truth anthology available in bookstores and online December 2013.

The essays are due on March 18th, the same day tickets go on sale for Notes & Words 2013, an annual benefit that puts authors and musicians on stage together at the historic Fox Theater in Oakland. This unforgettable evening of live entertainment benefits Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, Northern California’s only independent not-for-profit regional medical center for children. Details of the event can be found at

Nothing But The Truth is a series of anthologies chronicling women’s stories and voices co-edited by Christine Bronstein. The first in the series, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection, included well known writers such as Jane Ganahi, Joyce Maynard, Deborah Santana, and many more. You can learn more about Nothing But The Truth at

All essay submissions will be accepted at  See or for official contest rules.

Note from Sierra: The A Band of Wives website doesn't actually allow you to view the official contest rules without first registering, but Notes and Words has it. You should check that, but here are the salient rules:

Contest entries must be emailed to
 as a Microsoft Word attachment. Please attach a 100-word biography.

This year’s topic will be “transitions.” Organizers will be looking for 1200 words or less on stories ranging from starting a family, recoveries, graduations, aging, career changes/promotions, marriage and divorce. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

3 Quick Ways to Relax

I was talking with a friend of mine who leads a hectic life--I know, we all do, but hers takes a toll on her physically. She's supposed to relax. Trouble is, how do you do that in a busy world?

Oh, we all know ways, right? Stretch more, sleep more, read more, do pilates. But those are long term things, and you can't do them right now today. (The irony of right-now-today isn't lost on me or her, as we are people who do too much and then wonder why our shoulders are hunched up around our ears.)

We brainstormed and came up with three immediate, short-term fixes.

1. Rainy This is a gem. It's a super simple website: you go there, and it rains. Sometimes it rains hard, sometimes it thunders. It's wonderful and relaxing and perfect for when you need to buckle down and write or work or whatever it is.

2. Chai tea lattes. The spice in these things is so comforting--as is wrapping your hands around a warm cup of something. Starbucks does a good one but you can get these anywhere, and often the little independent shops do them best.Something about the spice just helps.

3. This is a great website that teaches you to relax more, take it easy on yourself more. They have a series of great guided meditations that you can do--and if you're the crazy busy type like me, meditating isn't something that comes easily. This is a nice quick way to get back into the groove.

Hope these help and please leave your own quick-fix method in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Solid Ground article published

I'm so excited to announce that my article, Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance, was published today on!

This article deals with my experience being laid off from my corporate job at seven months pregnant--a time that I'm sure you can guess rendered me nearly unemployable until after I'd had the baby--and my subsequent jump into the one thing I'd always wanted to do but was too chicken to: freelance graphic design and writing.

Now, I have a burgeoning business and it's been everything I could have hoped for.

My freelance website is:

Read the article: Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Godfreys Walk Into a interview with Linda Godfrey!

I am so excited today to bring you an interview with author Linda Godfrey. Linda and I are not, despite our superior surname, related. Oh, possibly somehow--I mean, we haven't discussed family trees, but as far as we know, there is no relation. But it doesn't matter because Linda is a dear person and you're in for a treat today.

She's recently released an ebook called God Johnson, and she's here to talk about that and how it got published.

Before we begin, long time readers of this blog (I say that like it's anyone other than myself or my mother) might remember that Linda once wrote my name on a Chinese take out menu and fashioned it into a fetching book cover and then stuck it where my book would go in general fiction in a bookstore. (Here's the post if you're interested.) I still treasure this picture.

Sierra: Your new book, God Johnson, is about unknown gods, hidden worlds and orange scones. Tell us about those hidden worlds and unknown gods, and don't skimp on the orange scones, please.

Linda: It came from thinking about how weird so many of the gods of antiquity were, and wondering what a lesser god would have to look like in order to make it today. I decided that a god resembling our most trusted national figure, Abraham Lincoln, would stand the best chance of netting a disciple. That's how he draws in my protagonist, Liberty Abbott -- along with promises to catapult her to superstardom and stock her pantry with unlimited orange scones. She learns, too late, that he is only one of an entire alternate universe of lesser gods left over from creation. They hang out mostly in their own space, which they call the Whetherworld, but intrude upon humanity as they like for feeding, entertainment and dating purposes. Even worse, each god has a secret Major Rule, and Liberty breaks God Johnson's just as she is starting to fall for him. To their mutual strong dismay, she must suffer a diabolical form of punishment the gods call "Wrath." The book is set in Madison, Wisconsin, a free-wheeling city affectionately known as the Berkeley of the Midwest - a place where humanoid scarab beetles, shapeshifting sphinxes, Lincoln doppelgangers and other odd gods can blend right in.

Sierra: That is such a coinkidink because I live close to Berkeley, California. And, I may have seen a humanoid scarab beetle or two before on Telegraph Avenue. Anyway, you mention on your website that God Johnson is three years in the making, and that's co-published with your literary agent (Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich and Yassine Bukacemi also at D&G repping the ebooks). Take us through your process. How does your agent play a part in the co-publishing? Does he take a author credit?

Linda: I've been writing novels for about 10 years, and have three not-yet-pubbed fantasies lounging in a drawer to prove it. I came very close to representation and/or publication for two of them. I think my chief problem was figuring out the difference between nonfiction and fiction. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer - - one involves researched facts and the other you just make up, right? Wrong. They involve two different mindsets and to some extent, skill sets, and it took me a decade to begin to get it right. 

When Jim offered to represent my nonfiction, I was reluctant to mention that I had penned several novels, as well. I had previously submitted one of them, however, to a genre publisher which kept it for a year and then wrote me a really great rejection letter. I couldn't resist showing it to Jim, and he agreed with the publisher the novel's time leaps needed some strong tweaking. I said, well I have another one that might take less work - -God Johnson! It's the sort of book Jim calls a genre-buster, though; urban fantasy meets paranormal romance and maybe a few other shady things. I suggested that we try an e-book format, especially since D&G now has a digital publishing division. They receive the traditional agency percentage but it's for formatting, uploading to vendors, placing meta-tags, updating, and fund collection and disbursement. These are all things that I suck at. I'm still the author, and my part in the process involved the costs of cover design and copy editing. (I'm a professional commercial artist so I did the cover myself.) Of course, there are so many publishing options available now that my route wouldn't work for every writer, but for me it was a perfect solution.

Sierra: If the agent/agency offers a co-pub ebook option, how does that affect traditional publisher submissions? For example, would my agent only push me toward that or both or whatever made the most sense for my career/genre?

Linda: I really did not feel steered toward epub at all and I know that Jim gave it his best shot at finding a traditional publisher. If the book does well I think he'll try another round. I was the one who suggested the e-book, actually. I'm very excited about it for a lot of reasons but a big one is that I get to keep a whole lot more of the sales. 

Sierra: In the 1990s you wrote a newspaper article about an upright canine thing known as Manwolf. That article hit a nerve and took off. Where has it led you in your writing? What are your plans for future work covering the creature and others like it, like Bigfoot?

Linda: The Beast of Bray Road is the newspaper story that never dies. Stake it, shoot it with a silver bullet, it just keeps snarling back. My first book, however, was a historical true crime saga, still in print, The Poison Widow; a True Story of Sin, Strychnine and Murder. It's about the 1920s trial of a Wisconsin woman who fell in love with a college student boarding in her home. Between the two of them, they killed her husband by putting strychnine in his prune juice. Then she tried to kill her four beautiful children and things went crazily awry. Their trials were followed nationally. I spent six years researching the events and discovered she had a second life with people who never knew what she did. 

"The Widow" found a regional publisher very easily and when they asked me what else I had, I replied,"werewolves." I also had a blog chronicling odd and unusual things, and all of this brought me to the attention of the Weird US series editors at Barnes & Noble who asked me to co-author Weird Wisconsin and author Weird Michigan. 

I started my first novel, The Blue Grasshopper Lady, before I began any of the nonfiction books. One well-known agent liked it and asked me to revise it and send it back to her but I had no clue how to do that -- online writing resources had not yet blossomed to where they are now. I later ran into this kind agent in a bathroom at a writer's conference and, as we washed our hands at the sink, I couldn't help but commit the ultimate gaffe by introducing myself right there in the ladies room. She did remember the book and was very nice about it! I still didn't know how to fix it, however. By then I was busy writing nonfiction about strange things, people and creatures for various publishers, so I just kept going and continued to stuff my drawer with unpublished novels on the side. 

As for future coverage of unknown creatures, or cryptids, that will depend on where my research takes me and whether I continue to receive enough reports from eyewitnesses to continue to make new contributions to the field. I must add, though that every time I think I've written it all and am about to hang up my investigative hat, something new always seems to come along. That factor and the mystery of these beasts are what I love about this field.

Sierra: Tell us about your work on Monsterquest (which I got to see you on while flipping through channels one night -- I was SO excited. My husband said, "Look, there's a Godfrey." And I said, "OMG I KNOW HER! That's LINDA!").

Linda: Yes, I've sort of become the national go-to person for werewolf documentaries in print and film even though I prefer to call them unknown, upright canines. I don't believe in actual, traditional werewolves! I do a lot of TV and radio appearances to keep people updated on the latest sightings and developments, and Monsterquest is one of my all time favorites. I was in the first season episode titled American Werewolf which was based on my book, Hunting the American Werewolf, and also in the fourth season episode on the Michigan Dogman. I've also been on shows such as Inside Edition, Sean Hannity's America, Lost Tapes, and William Shatner's Weird or What. It's something I never could have imagined when I was writing that original newspaper article as a small-town reporter back in 1992.

Sierra: What projects are next for you?

Linda: I'm working on another book about strange creatures for Tarcher/Penguin and also the sequel to God Johnson.

Sierra: What are some recent books you've read and loved?

Linda: My current favorite author is Daniel Abraham and I have loved everything I've read by him, especially the four books in his Long Price Quartet series and most recently his Dragons Path series. I'm also making my way through the late, great Kage Baker's The Company novels, and I'm always engrossed in nonfiction on the science/paranormal edge such as DMT: the Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassmann. For comfort reading, I revert to anything by Thomas Hardy.

Sierra: Thank you so much, Linda. You're a delight. To quote you, here's a Godfrey fist-pump!

Linda's bio from Amazon:
I was born a poor, freckled child. Now I write books about strange creatures, things and people, and sometimes illustrate them, to boot.

This is exactly what I told my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Ione Kopitzke, I wanted to do when I grew up. I remember she replied, almost crying, "Oh Linda, I think you can do better than that." Her picture is now in the front of my book, "Strange Wisconsin: More Badger State Weirdness." Right next to freckled little me in my "L" initial blouse. That book won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers 2008 Best Book Awards, and a Midwest Book Review's Editor's Choice. See how neatly life shakes out sometimes?

Before I started writing books, I received an art education degree from UW-Oshkosh, taught art and was a cartoonist and newspaper reporter. I live in southeast Wisconsin with my husband, youngest son and Lhasa Apso named Grendel.

You might catch me on an episode or two of HC's Monster Quest and other TV and radio shows. Check out Linda's website for updates.

Check out Linda's books:

Connect with Linda:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Superstastic Winter Writing Challenge Final Check in!

So! It turns out that there's a reason you don't see many December/holiday writing challenges around and that would be because most peeps are too busy to do it. I certainly was. I really got back in the saddle this past weekend. So I sure haven't done much, although I will say I'm as driven as I ever was. But I'm glad I took a break.

So, how did you fare? If you entered the challenge and posted here on the first post, check and in and say how you did and I'll choose a random participant to receive the cookbook cache!

And if anyone wants to host a January one, I bet you'll have more takers :)