New Release Day: Moonborn

Moonborn is here. It’s in Kindle Unlimited and Amazon. I’m proud of this one, and the early reviews are excellent. I’ve already had a few readers pick out some DEEPLY hidden Easter Eggs (y’all are smart) and it’s been a fantastic week on twitter and across my social media in general.

Get yours here: Moonborn for Kindle

Tonight, I set up at Utopiacon in Nashville, where I’ll be immersed in All Things Bookish for the next four days. I’m stoked. So many writers. So many readers. So many people giving away candy, and not the kind you get in creepy vans (writers love chocolate. and booze. and coffee.)

Blogger friends– come by for your gift. You make my job easier, and I’m thankful.

If you’re around the area, stop by- there are some seriously talented people at the event. I’ll have book candles, books, bookmarks, and as a special treat, I’ll be wearing pants.

You’re welcome, World.

 

The most important full moon of my life.

It’s tonight. Here’s why: 336.

That’s the number of full moons I can expect to see if I live to be the average age for an American male. I run, don’t smoke, and I’m happy, so perhaps my lifespan will be extended. But based on the science and betting averages, I’m looking at 336 more.

I didn’t think of this until yesterday, when I did a little math and came to this rather shocking conclusion. I think that ninety percent of my life is convincing myself I’m not concerned with aging, but I am. It feels like these thoughts have stolen into my writing– two years ago, I wrote this line, and it means a lot to me now.

I’ve lived through 576 full moons. That seems like a lot, until I realize it’s gone by in a blink. My son is nine. I’ve been married for ten years. I have old friends, getting older, and new friends who are younger. We speak of things they can’t have seen, but that are real to me. My stories are a Venn diagram of their life and mine, a common ground made real by shared words over coffee and cheeseburgers.

336 more. I’m not sad– I’m not even really counting. But moonlight has a pressure, however soft, and I feel it.

Join my Pie/Cake/Running Challenge!

I love pie and cake and waffles and running, so this seems like a win/win/win/win to me. A bit of background- I got fat over the winter (gained 24 pounds), but I run in the summer, so it’s going to come off. Here’s where things get dicey.

I’m not giving up pie and cake and such. I may limit myself to reasonable portions, but I’m not going to give up the joys of life. I have some specific goals in mind, so let’s get down to some specific numbers.

  1. Current weight is 249. Tragically, my height remains steady (for now) at 6’1″.
  2. I’m going to eat an average of one piece of cake or pie per day. Waffles count as two pieces, because I rarely eat them without syrup.
  3. My running routes are fantastic, but for this specific mission, I’ll run at a nearby park. Here are the specs–

As you can see, it’s a nice, small lap. I had a strange hip injury, took six months off running, and then got a vicious summer cold.

In short, I’m weak.

So, two days ago I started in earnest. I was able to run two laps and walk two, along with eighty pushups. Oh– about the pushups– I’m going to do twenty pushups or burpees for every lap around the track. Today, I ran 2.75 laps and walked 2. I did 100 pushups. The goal here is quite simple. It isn’t so much a weight issue as it is changing my body to be more muscular and less. . . middle aged. I want to run with my shirt off in full Dad Bod mode later this year, but not necessarily with the Dad Bod. Does that make sense?

There’s something about this park that enables good, hard runs.

I think that within three weeks of good work, I’ll be able to see and feel some results. I love running in the heat, and this park has an added bonus– there are MASSES of blackberry bushes around the park. If I run around the exterior of the park, it’s 1.2 miles. By summer’s end, I’ll be running around the park rather than in it. I’ll also have eaten myself silly on all those glorious blackberries.

Now, on to cake.

It turns out, I’m a princess.

It’s true. My bride baked me a prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake) and I LOST MY MIND. It. Is. Magnificent.

There are layers of custard and home made raspberry jam and cream and OH LORD is it good. The outer layer is hand made marzipan and I’m not kidding when I say I’ll run in the sun ’til I drop simply to eat a slice.

You see? Totally worth it.

So, I’m keeping a journal of my running and such, to see just what happens over the summer. Send me a message if you’re running, too. I’m always up for challenges and buddies to join the grind, so to speak.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. The Princess needs cake.*

 

*Me, in case you doubted.

Cheers,

Terry

Ten Year Anniversary.

This week is our ten year wedding anniversary, and no one is as surprised as me. In a life filled with wild variations, mistakes, moves, loss, and questions, Missy has been a guiding star. We met fifteen years ago on a now-defunct Yahoo personal ad. Clearly, she swooned from my proper use of grammar.

And here we are. Ten years. My father told me, some years ago, that marriage got better with each passing year. I believe that. The people we are in year ten are a far cry from the people who married, and yet our complementary status only seems to grow. I’ve noticed a few things, too– liking someone is different from loving them, and it’s a critical part of building a life together.

It’s more than a house. It’s the feeling, and the kid (five feet tall and growing), the pets, the shared things. Details and fractions of details and the addition of things you never knew, all woven together into whatever it is you do every day without seeming to notice.

This is Missy in her element. There are so many parts to this picture that represent her essence.

Notice: Comfy socks. Diet Coke. Laptop, as she grades a line of interminable essays, ever the English professor. Her work ethic is unmatched, and yet, there she is smiling amidst *cough* a, ahh, representation of our pets. Cats love her, dogs adore her, and they all crowd around her much like the rest of the world, a guiding star and calming presence in a world of ceaseless uncertainty.

That’s one of her tricks. She removes uncertainty when it shows up, and the house- and our lives– go on at a wonderful, sedate velocity, filled with warmth and humor.

Ten years with my bride. Thanks, babe. All the love.

Why I Write, Summed Up In A Picture.

I love writing and I love pie. Given a choice between the two, I’m going for a third option:

My book friends.

Today, at the Louisville Author Event, my friend Cindy Calloway’s husband was kind enough to bake a pie, which Cindy brought me. Pecan. Home made. (delicious, by the way)

Background: Three years ago at my first signing, in Knoxville, TN, Cindy was a volunteer. She was fun, professional, passionate about books, and has turned into a wonderful friend.

Cindy and my other book friends are the reason I write. They’re readers, fans, friends, and allies. They show up. They support writers. They READ, a lot. They’re the best thing to ever happen to someone who decided to write a book at the age of 43, fell in love with writing, and sees no end in sight.

Without further ado, a few names of friends who were here today, and other days. I’ll update again and again as I naturally remember more people, but this is just a start.

Cindy

Lorie

Christine

Mary

James

Kenneth

Jen

Nova

Wren

Tasha

Kelly

Melissa

Nancy

Brad

Tim

Karen

Lile

Amy

Patricia

Grace

Tracy

Jonny

Kayte

Katy

Katie

Kelly

Cat

Net

Rebecca

Jim

Dan

Ronnie

Jo

That’s a representation of this week. I have an embarrassment of riches in friends, and I am incredibly thankful.

Cheers,

Terry

 

Fitbit: My Shamespiration

Oh, Fitbit. You may be small, but your ability to make me feel inadequate knows no bounds.

 

Let’s examine how an object that weighs an ounce can impact my day.

5:30AM: Get up.

5:31AM: Coffee

Repeat.

Repeat.

Feed cats and dogs.

Coffee.

6:22AM: Glance at Fitbit, smugly judging me as I pant from animal chores. 331 steps, Terry. That isn’t very good, Terry. I’m not laughing with you, Terry. I’m laughing at you,Terry.

7:50AM: Arrive at college, park. Begin lumbering across parking lot to go teach, recall I wore boots and boots are stupid because I’m not a cowboy or a guy in a disco in 1985.

7:55AM: 1273 Steps. Now we’re cooking. A mere seven thousand-ish steps to go for my lower goal. Nine thousand for something legit, and fourteen thousand if I want to feel smug.

11:15AM. Switch into running shoes and walk at a sedate elephantine amble around the trail on campus. Sweat. Squint. Do some pushups, but out in the distant parking lot so people can’t see me and think I’m a douchebag who wants to brag about doing 18 pushups. CROSSFIT, BRUH. #no

* The pushups are so that I don’t get man-boobies. It works.*

1:42PM Exactly Get out of car after parking in pickup line to get my son from school. Begin walking around school and neighborhood to get more steps on Fitbit, which is still blinking in a judgmental way. Realize I “fit the description” for every serial killer, make effort to wave and smile in friendly manner at every car that passes by.

2:36PM Get back in car. Drink water like I just got off a raft at sea for six days. Curse that my metal cup isn’t larger. Turn on car, air conditioning, continue to sweat like a train that has cut power but won’t quit chugging. Look at Fitbit, tap in disbelief. Tap again. Resolve to walk laps through the living room until midnight if necessary.

5:18PM Go get mail. 23 steps. YES.

8:09PM Son is in bed, singing, bouncing, and twirling covers like a member of a caffeinated color guard in a marching band. Look at Fitbit. 15,583 steps? Pump fist. Dad victory. Glare at Fitbit. Resolve to do more the next day, if I don’t fall asleep after eating lasagna.

The moral of the story?

Wanna be friends on Fitbit? #Shamespiration

Cheers,

Terry

 

Why Book Covers Matter

Looks matter. Book covers matter. Or don’t they?

“I looked across the bar and saw her standing there, glass of wine in hand and her head thrown back in a laugh. At that moment, I could tell: she had a great personality.”

You might live to be one hundred years old and never hear that sentence, partially because no one will say it and you’ll be too busy arguing about expired coupons and the Good Old Days with the staff at Denny’s. I know because I’m *this* close to my senior discount and am already hearing the siren’s call of Early Bird Specials and Double Coupon Tuesday. I’m also a writer, and when I was in college the first time, (ahem), I was an artist. I understand that we’re visual creatures, and for those of us who love books, cover art matter. A lot.

Without a great cover, you’ll probably pass over the book. It’s a simple, brutal truth that there are good (and even great) books with terrible covers. A cover should tell– but not over tell– the story. It can be simple, or complex, or an image. It can be a person, character, or object that’s critical to the feel and arc of the book, but under no circumstances can it be of poor quality.

Book covers should transport us in much the same way that words do– but in the blink of an eye. I use concept art to express wonder, mystery– even fear and danger. Here are the covers for Heartborn and its sequel, Moonborn. In the details, there are constellations that have meaning, giving the reader something to search for as they go further down the path to my world.

With Moonborn, I want the sense of wonder, awe, and wide open skies, but with the added danger of a world tinged red by uncertainty. Is it blood? We’re trained to fear red. What does the red sky tell you?

 

I love color and motion, which is obvious with these covers. With that being said, I don’t only write YA, which led me to one of the more unusual cover decisions I had to make. I’d written a short story that was– for lack of a better term– zombie smut– but thoughtful, and intended to ask some uncomfortable questions about human sexuality. Whether or not I’ve succeeded is left to the reader, but the cover captured exactly what I wanted (Thanks, Staci!).

 

Once again, you might not know what it’s about, but it’s colorful, there’s an element of mystery, and it’s crisp. I tell other writers every time they ask me for advice– spend money on your editor, and spend money on your cover. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

In case you’re in the mood for “Horrotica”, as my friend quipped, you can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Cool-Touch-Zombie-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00UKS4EW2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Moonborn will be available in three weeks, although the Grand Opening, so to say, will be at Utopiacon in Nashville. I’ll have plenty of copies, book candles, and swag. I highly recommend this event, check it out here: http://www.utopiacon.com/

Hope to see you there, and send me your favorite covers. What draws you to them? What turns you off? Let me know.

Cheers,

Terry

How to take a nap. With cats.

As a nap expert and college professor I feel like this is a real strong point for me, so allow me to share some fine tuned techniques I’ve curated over the years. I hate the word curated but since this is a tutorial, there’s a lot of pressure on me to make this feel exclusionary and elitist. Using words like curated and conserved really grants me that sense of unearned snootiness that so many writers crave.

Now then, let’s begin.

I’m going to present this tutorial in a simple series of steps which will yield an amazing (amazeballs, if you prefer) nap experience.

  1. Is the sun up? Congratulations, you can take a nap. If the sun is down, it isn’t a nap, it’s sleeping, which is a prohibited activity for parents, students, parents of students, and anyone who is not a cat.
  2. Lower the thermostat to 58 degrees. If it’s winter, you’ll want to raise the temperature to 66 degrees. Do not deviate. It’s science.
  3. Do you have any cats? If yes, go to step five. If no, go to step four.
  4. Visit your local animal shelter and select 5-20 cats to ignore your presence. Take the cats home, release into house and go to your bedroom for further instructions.
  5. Begin preparing your bed by layering a sheet, two blankets, and no less than six pillows. It is preferable that one of the blankets is fuzzy and/or a worn quilt. Bonus points if the quilt belonged to a deceased relative.
  6. Turn your pillows. Examine them for irregularities, then strike the pillows with firm, sharp blows in order to show them who’s boss. Restack.
  7. Turn back one corner of the bedcovers at a 45 degree angle. Any more will result in a temperature compromise in the Central Mattress Zone. This is unacceptable. Protect the heart of the Mattress Zone like your virtue, unless your name is Tiffani, in which case you protect the toasty area of the bed like it’s your Volkswagen Jetta.
  8. Slip under the covers carefully. Don’t cause disarray. The idea is to be a lump, not a tornado.
  9. Remain still for ten seconds while the cats begin to arrange themselves on your head, face, and shoulders. Bonus if you have any exposed skin that they can knead with their claws; you should steel your nerves so as not to move while they soften you for mattress material.
  10. Put your phone down.
  11. Seriously, put the phone down.
  12. FFS, Kelsey, get off twitter and put your phone down.
  13. Close your eyes.
  14. Don’t answer the text. The cats will get mad and since there are twenty of them and you’re basically a human burrito under the covers, they can eat you if they so choose.
  15. Quietly admonish the one weird cat who is eating your hair.
  16. Give up, since hair grows back.
  17. Quietly admonish the three cats who have chosen to give themselves full body baths while laying on your stomach.
  18. Remark that if you could lick your own legs, it would save a lot of time in the morning.
  19. Feel yourself drifting off to sleep, a sweet release of relaxation punctuated by toasty little lumps who begin purring because they sense your surrender.
  20. Wake up in a panic five hours later, groggy, disoriented and with a lowkey headache.
  21. Vow to never sleep during the day for that long, know it is a lie.
  22. Name the cats.
  23. Change three names of cats, change back. Look at phone. Plan nap for Thursday.

This concludes my expert advice. Naturally, you’ll want to tailor these steps to your own needs, but I don’t recommend it. I’m an expert, and I have over eleven college credits.

This concludes my public service for the week.

Terry

 

When books make you cry.

It can take seconds, but books have an emotional impact well beyond their weight. I get up, walk from the living room, see a hardback version of a favorite book— I’ve left it out from sorting my shelf. 

It’s filled with poems about a war (doesn’t matter which one, the truths are all the same, merely different uniforms). I flip it open, read. I sit down. I read. I think of the losses, and what the author was feeling. I’m not sure I can know, but I can try. I think of family funerals, and rain. I think of the chill of a grave and the life left over, forced to live in a place not of my own choosing where there’s enough pain that I am compelled to write the poem I hold in my hands. The book creaks as I close it, and I notice that there’s glue on the back from an old sticker.

The book has traveled, just like me. The poem is one year older than me. The pain is raw as the day it was written. I don’t know the author. Should I go type my own words now, freshly shorn by the ragged edge of a single page– the scent of someone else’s blood funneled into my own narrative? It feels like theft, kind of, but then writers are emotional vampires, building stories from borrowed hurt and joy.

I wonder if the author is still alive, and then decide I don’t want to know. They are alive to me, as certainly as if they were standing next to me, reading their poem and watching from the corner of their eye, just to make sure I’m listening.

“What are we watching?” I ask my son, averting my eyes. He’s nine, and I’m not sure I can explain how second hand pain works. Not at this age, and not yet. Maybe someday he will read something I’ve written and ask how someone like me could write something so bleak, and then we can discuss what it means to be an adult, but not right now. I look at the television and think of muddy fields and missing sons, and who wrote it down so that I could be thankful for the room around me, free of rain and fear.

I like big dogs. I cannot lie.

Actually, big dogs isn’t quite accurate. I like huge dogs, as well as medium, large, small, and smedium dogs. Case in point: Our basset hound (Jack Reacher) is actually a big dog– he weighs seventy pounds. But he has a low clearance, so we think of him as small, or small-ish.

There’s a particular method to having a giant dog live in your house. You begin by assuming that any and all couches are going to be destroyed. Let’s consider our Great Dane Bernadette, who loved with us for six glorious years and three couches. Great Danes are as big or bigger than a human, but with claws. Ergo, your couches are toast. Your bed is toast. Your chairs are toast. Bernie weighed just over two hundred pounds (not a bit of fat) and enjoyed, shall we say, a life of luxury.

By luxury, I mean naps.

But “big” is a relative term when compared to Bernie. Take our Great Pyrenees, Mabel, who is one hundred pounds. That’s a big dog, and yet she’s half the size of Bernie. Mabel, too, has the ability to kill couches. She also does so with a massive floof bomb of white fur that makes pollen season look like a charming joke. There are few animals on the planet who can produce more floof than a Great Pyrenees. It’s science.

But, Terry, you’re thinking– what if you lose your mind and purchase a light colored couch? Won’t that eradicate the issue of white fur?

Allow me to introduce you to Michael Dean Carr Maggert. Big Mike is a Newfoundland, also known as a Nuclear Chocolate Floofinator, capable of producing five bales of brown floof in two days. Once again, please don’t argue. It’s science.

You may be wondering, “But Terry, what about the drool?”

I’m glad you asked. Oddly, all of our big dogs have produced some drool, but not the gulley washer of saliva one might expect from a beast their size. Still, I am always living with the assumption that every article of clothing I have on will show the following signs:

  1. Hair. Short, long, light dark. Hair. Hair like every day is the early 1970s and you’re hairing it up at a production of Hair with someone named Hairy McHairison.
  2. “Geeze”, or the shiny, dried streaks from dog drool that are almost always on the front of your best item of clothing.
  3. Random tears/rips. “Hey dad, pay attention to me.”  RIP.
  4. Hair

The lint catcher in our dryer could supply an Irish fishing village with enough hair to keep them in sweaters for a century.

Also, one should prepare for giant dog tails breaking things– sort of like four legged Godzillas who are REALLY happy to see you every time you leave the room and come back. But without the nuclear firebreath.

So. Let’s see those big dog pics– whatcha got? Danes? Pyrs? Newfies? Wolfies? We love them all.

Cheers,

Terry