Calico in Conversation: Getting My Name Out There with J.L. Gribble

Morgantown Poets SocietyWelcome to third and final installment of Calico In Conversation with J.L. Gribble. If you missed Parts One and Two, click below to catch up:

Part One: Boosting Confidence
Part Two: Monsters Are People

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through June of 2016.

***

One thing I’ve admired about your writing career, to date, is how well you seem to manage all the things required of you in addition to writing. You go to lots of conventions (well, more than one to me is a LOT, since I’m lucky to manage one convention per year). Can you talk about your experiences as a small press author at conventions?

Going to multiple conventions and events per year depends on a few different variables for me, such as the reasonable traveling distance (where reasonable can refer to time driving and/or cost of plane ticket) and the price I’m willing to pay for lodging and other necessities. Money is a huge factor in both of these, because I always know going in that there’s no way I will sell enough books to cover the entire cost of the trip. Most authors I know, whether small or large press, are in a similar situation, since we are long past the days of book tours paid for by large publishing houses. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to have a day job that covers these types of expenses (again, reasonably), along with a husband who shrugs it off as the cost of what could be any other expensive hobby.

So because I know I’m going to lose money at every convention I attend, I have a pretty specific criterion about whether I will go. I just have to have the chance to get my name out there. That’s it! I’d like to be on a panel, have a reading slot, have a chance to sign books at a scheduled time, and/or participate in a workshop. Pretty simple, especially since I’m not even asking for free registration, much less lodging, meals, or travel assistance. The drawbacks to this are, of course, that I don’t go to all the conventions I could. Ironically, this means I don’t even go to the two of the conventions closest to where I live, because despite my repeated attempts to volunteer, neither have expressed an interest in including me on their schedule. However, I’ve now been a multi-year guest at a few conventions, and I’m excited to add a few more to the list this year!

My schedule for 2016:

Continue reading

Writing Work Day #2

After a rather odd February, March has arrived, which means consecutive Writing Work Days will be had! For a refresher, here was the progress report from last official writing work day, and here’s the last progress report (Con Nooga doesn’t count since I wasn’t actively working on something).

So, a reminder, where am I in my official plan?

3) Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

I’d decided that in order to do this, and while waiting on feedback from my two readers, that I would go ahead and sit down and read Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days book as a means to narrow my focus on Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, because before I start cranking out revisions, I want to make sure I know what I actually want for the novel. That way, if/when I get conflicting advice from my readers (which has happened long before now), I know what direction to lean towards.

So after some errands this morning, I settled down and did a few things differently:

1) I moved myself into my husband’s office. I thought it would be good to work in a place where I’m not used to messing around on the internet, or where I watch television, or read, or get sleepy. So that was was useful.

2) I usually listen to the Writing Excuses podcast during the week in my car, and this week was no different. However, this week some of the advice (episode 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?) I wanted to hear again and take notes, so I think in the future, I’ll hold off listening to the podcast and start off my writing work days by listening to it. I know I’ve missed out on REALLY internalizing good advice because I’m not in a position to take notes when I listen, so this should be a positive change.

3) The BIG thing I wanted to do today was start character sketches. Now, mind you, I’ve already written this novel. The idea for character sketches is to make sure I understand at least my main three POV characters and make sure their character arcs through the book MAKE SENSE. Wiesner’s book starts with an introduction and then proceeds to glorify outlines. I’m not sold on that part yet, because I’m more of the Writing Excuses way of thinking, which is that outlining is a spectrum, and most writers do SOME form of outlining, but not necessarily the full-blown, rigid method we all think of when we hear the word “outlining.” But after all of that, the book settled down and talked about character sketches and things to fill in. Fortunately, I’d been informed that Scrivener’s 2.0 version offered these near-exact templates, so I started filling stuff in for my three POV characters. I’ll admit: some of this involved looking up pictures of models for my characters, and I have no shame in admitting it’s fun to look at the pretty.

But how useful was the act itself? Useful…. but not in a tangible way, not yet. In the past few weeks since my first official writing work day, my brain has settled down and I feel mostly confident that I need to do a very deliberate, very surgical rewrite. I need to make sure each scene is performing on all cylinders and doing the best it can for the overall story and themes. As a result of this, my brain’s been storming all over the place and I’ve been taking notes on things I can feather in, and I used those notes to help with the character sketches today. But sketching is different than actually breaking everything down chapter-by-chapter and making sure everything is operating at peak efficiency, you know?

So what does this mean for next week? I want to fill in what I can for the other secondary and tertiary characters in the novel to make sure I’m not missing something useful or obvious, so I think this character-sketching thing may take at least one more, if not two more weeks. Then it’s on to setting and plot, where I intend to break the book down chapter my chapter and really map it out and make sure it’s working the way I want. By then, I suspect I’ll have all of my feedback from my two readers and will have had ample time to pick their brains.

From there? Surgical rewriting, yo!

I will say, I didn’t get started as early as I wanted today due to early morning errands. That being said, I started around 11:00-11:30, and I found the day moved surprisingly slowly. Not in a “I’m bored!” way, but in a way that just surprised me. I suspect my sense of time will change depending on what I’m doing in the process, and when I get to a phase where I’m actually writing, I suspect if I’m in the groove, I’ll lose all sense of time and will need an alarm to remind me to eat. I’d tell the cat to remind me, but I don’t think he’s very dependable in such matters, unless he’s the one wanting to eat.

Today’s musical accompaniment was the following:

1) Chasing Ice Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by J. Ralph because the music is so very lovely, haunting, a Philip Glass-esque to my ears. Also, the setting is very close to my heart.
2) [Soul] or [System] by Skytown Riot: I picked up this EP at Con Nooga, and I saw them perform a few years ago when they opened for Filter. I’m officially in love with this band.
3) This Is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars because of course.

Con Nooga 2015

This past weekend I attended what I consider my very first convention. If you wanted to me REALLY technical, Con Nooga wasn’t my first: I attended Wizard World Chicago back in 2003, but that was a comic con before comic cons got taken over by television and film. Then in 2006, I attended less than 12 hours of Context in Columbus, Ohio: I wanted to meet Gary Braunbeck and take his workshop, and I also got to meet Catherynne M. Valente and get an autographed copy of Labyrinth.

But in terms of attending a full con and going to panels? Con Nooga was my first. And it was a good, safe con to have as my first: not overwhelming, but more than enough to teach me what I need to do and/or pack for my next convention. I’m already eyeing DragonCon in Atlanta this year. Cherie Priest! Carrie Vaughn! YAY!

So what did I learn? How was Con Nooga? Did I get to meet the magical Seanan McGuire? Talk to the legendary Timothy Zahn? Read on to find out!

Continue reading

Getting Into the Write Frame of Mind

Because last week wasn’t a set of four 10-hour days capped with a Writing Workday, it didn’t really occur to me until now that a progress report is due. I will say that anyone who’s wanting to follow 2015 progress can simply use the Progress Report tag to get the most recent report, or if you just want to hear whatever my rambling thoughts are on writing, especially if I change THE OFFICIAL PLAN, you can use the Writing tag to get the most up-to-date posts on that subject too.

So, for those of you keep track of my progress based on the Official Plan page, I completed items #1 and #2 on time. I’m now in #3:

Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

In looking at my goals from this point on, it’s occurred to me that I’ve gotten a little vague. How long am I taking to decide what this book needs? How long am I allowing for writing/rewrite? I can’t determine the latter until I determine the former, and the latter will then determine when I can start item #4.

So the question is this: how am I going to accomplish item #3?

If you’re reading this via email digest or on the main page, I’m putting a cut here, because I have a lot to talk about. If you’re interested, onward! Continue reading

There’s No Heat In This Winter Sun

It’s been a week of winter. Freezing rain, sleet, ice, and snow. I’m fortunate I don’t live in New England, where snow tunnels are the norm. And there’s a certain beauty when the sun comes out and shines through the ice-coated limbs of trees like diamonds. For the first time, I think I really understand why Christmas trees are decorated the way they are. The tinsel, the lights: all of it to re-create the natural, diamond sheen of nature when ice coats the world and the sun shines through. It’s beautiful.

But with that beauty comes a dangerous edge. People have been without power for days on end, and travel conditions, based on where you live, are pretty treacherous. We’re lucky: we’ve lost power only briefly, and we’re close enough to the main roads that driving conditions aren’t really an issue. Though it’s scary to be driving and realize your windshield is icing over and you need your defrost on the highest setting, in hopes that’ll be enough to get you home. My grandmother, while having power, can’t leave the house even if she wanted, because the hill at the end of the driveway is nothing but ice.

I remember worse. Down in my neck of the woods, you’ll often hear about the “Blizzard of ’93,” which hit in March. But this is the longest bout of winter weather I remember in a long time. And it’s been so very, very cold.

Next week is my next week of four 10-hour days, but next Friday is Con Nooga, not a Writing Work Day. I keep eyeing the weather suspiciously, and right now, it looks to be fine, but I don’t trust it, nor do I trust the weathermen who report it.

So I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be an issue. For me, or for anyone else who’s traveling for it, like my friend in Virginia.

###

Today’s headline comes from Tom McRae’s “Please,” from the album The Alphabet of Hurricanes. I know, I’ve already pulled from this album, but I’m kind of in love with it, and I love his lyrics. You can hear the song, which I’ve had on repeat all week, here.

A Day Like Today

Thus ends my first week of working four days, ten hours each. Friday is my official Writing Work Day, with a break to get my allergy shot.

How has the new schedule gone? I’ve seen some highs and lows. The week started rather badly, to be quite honest. The doctors think she had a mini-stroke and they discharged her Tuesday evening. I spoke to her Wednesday but wasn’t able to get in touch today, so right now I’m assuming no news is good news. We’re all glad she’s home, but I can’t fight the fact that given her age, she’s probably never going to be at 100% again. The important thing is to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

But after that, I realized pretty quickly: I like the longer day. Coming in early means I can turn on some music and get some necessary administrative shit done first thing in the morning without any distraction, and staying late means that I can finish whatever projects I’ve got going on without feeling super-rushed or stressed. Yesterday on my way home, I was contemplating how much I liked it, while my brain was heckling me with doubts.

Sure, it says, THIS week was good. But what about two weeks in a row? Three? How’s your body gonna like that?

Only time will tell there.

Okay, fine, my brain says. But what happens if you wake up with a MIGRAINE. Missing any time means either taking a bigger chunk of sick time OR having to divy up your hours and come in on Friday ANYWAY.

Shut up, brain.

So it did. Sort of. Until I woke up at 4:30 am with a migraine. Little bastard. It was an old school migraine, the kind that makes me worship the great porcelain god. How’d I handle it? Vomit once, decide I’ve had enough of this shit, and get ready to go to work. Hot water works wonders, and I took my prescription. Made it to work on time, sans headache, nursed an emergency Coke all day, and got in my ten hours. The day was full and crazy-busy too, but as of now, I’m not kicking myself over the extra time spent there during the day.

Then again, it’s only the first week. And tomorrow’s my first Writing Work Day, though given my current plan, there will be less writing and more reading, analyzing, and thinking about how to whip Codename: Telepathic Soulmates into shape.

In truth, the real test of this four 10-hour day experiment will be in March, because next week has a federal holiday, so I’ll be putting in eight hours a day due to the paid holiday, and then the week after, I’ll be doing four 10s, but instead of writing on Friday, I’ll be hooking up with a dear friend of mine and trekking to Con Nooga for all kinds of crazy shenanigans. But by time March rolls around? I should have a clearer direction for what I’m doing for revision, and that, my friends, is where we’re really see how this experiment works.

In the meantime, today’s blog post comes from Tom McRae’s “A Day Like Today,” from the album Just Like Blood. You can listen to it here.