Find Your Tribe.

Your tribe is the people outside your family who become family. That’s it. It can be simple to find them, or it can take years. For me, it took until I started writing as a serious pursuit, unlocking the years of memories about books, movies, comics, and art. All of these things fire my imagination like the inside of a star. It’s relentless and compelling and there is unalloyed joy in sharing it with people who not only like the things you like, but they get you.

So, back to back I’ve had two weekends with My Tribe. The first was Utopiacon, where fiction writers I know– and did not know– mingled with fans over three days of celebrating books. It’s a powerful sensation to realize that there are other humans who feel the same giddiness over books. Their imaginations share DNA with mine, and the overlapping areas of our fandoms are where we find common ground and bond (likely for life).

Then came LibertyCon. And this. . .headgear.

Your tribe foments creativity and laughter and thought. Your tribe makes you want to be better at what you do, and causes unabashed admiration for others who share your pursuit. It’s loud and grand and caring, and every minute of it flies by in a whirl of color and fun.

Something else happens, too. I’ve written five thousand words since coming home from the event, no small feat given my lack of sleep. Why is this? Simple. Your tribe stokes the boilers and makes creativity readily on tap. It’s a side effect of magical purpose, leaving you exhilarated and wide-eyed with the prospects of the coming days, eager to create and share.

I waited a long time to find my tribe, only to find that they were here all along. It’s up to you to find yours, but that’s the simplest part: find out where you can be weird, and revel in it.

Cheers for now. Gotta write. Maybe sleep. Mostly, write.

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 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

Now With 100% More Virginia.

I’m going back to Virginia this weekend for the Roanoke Author Invasion. It’s not, technically, an invasion, because none of us will be driving tank. Also, invaders rarely show up with candy and prizes, both of which will be on hand in good supply.

Some of the things I will have (but not limited to):

Books.

Books.

Postcards.

Books.

Bookmarks.

Candy.

A van.

This is totally legit and not creepy at all.

I will also have postcards with the TOP SECRET ART from Moonborn. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll see it today. If not you should join. I have little contests, giveaways, etc, and it’s a great way to share books. Sign up here: http://terrymaggert.com/get-the-newsletter/

In other news, I’m going to the eye doctor today to revisit contact lenses. I had LASIK seventeen years ago and my distance vision is perfect, but now I have to use reading glasses and it makes me feel like I’m one step away from clipping coupons and yelling at kids to get off my lawn. Do you wear contacts instead of reading glasses? Let me know what you wear, I’m open to product recommendations.

Halfway Drowned is at 18,000 words and it’s FLYING. I’ll post a snippet next week.

Cheers!

Terry

Book Candles. Editing. Fun.

Write a book. Now, go back and re-read the book  few years later. Edit your book while swilling coffee, ordering book candles, and bathing in the horror that you actually wrote that and thought, “Damn. This is art.”

This is my current place in life. I finished a novel last week (Moonborn) and then quickly wrote 8,000 words in Halfway Drowned. Then, in a crisis of conscience, I decided to begin a project that has haunted me like my fashion decisions from the 1980s. I began to revise my first novel, The Forest Bull, and to call it a humbling experience isn’t really accurate.

It’s more like . . .shamespiration.

By the third paragraph, I winced. By the fourth page, I considered deleting the book entirely. The fact is writing is a muscle. It gets stronger with use, and despite the clarity of our ideas, a lot gets lost in translation from mind to paper. I’m twenty-six chapters into this self-flagellation, and the results are drastic. Sometimes, I cut a sentence. Or two. I add a detail here, subtract a clunky phrase there, and a different book begins taking shape.

It’s clearer, smoother. I think part of my first book is that I tried to be mysterious and ended up being an idiot. You’ve got to give readers a clear path. I didn’t. I was. . .sort of clear. I’m thankful that the 2017 version of me is willing to change what could be a killer book with my favorite villain.

I’m keeping a running count of how many words are deleted, and what I add. I think, based on the first half of the revision, it might be about even. Sometimes,  less is more. In this case, better is more, and in honor of my newfound commitment to these characters, we’re issuing a new paperback version. Same art, new font, and smaller. Handy for carrying with, using as a weapon, or displaying on your book shelf.

The art is *really* nice. Amalia hit a home run four years ago, and I still love the way Elizabeth looks coming out of the forest, dripping evil and, umm, evil.

Okay, back to it, but not before we discuss BOOK CANDLES.

I’ve ordered custom book candles for all of my signings this year. They smell like waffles, have the label of the Hawthorn Diner, and the size is “adorable”. I think they’ll be five bucks each. More to come once they’re here– I’ll post pictures and you can imagine the wonder of waffles as you read.

Cheers for now!

 

Cats make me weird(er).

We have somewhere between five and seventy cats. I don’t know the exact number, but it seems to fluctuate based on things like “holding a can of tuna” and “trying to write a book while using a laptop”.

Outwardly, I appear to be a dog person. We have five dogs. I love dogs. I talk to them in silly voices, or as a colleague when they appear to be listening. I run with them, nap with them, and have not gone to the bathroom by myself in nine years. (True Story)

But it’s my cats that really bring out the weird in me. Granted, I’m a writer, so that wasn’t exactly a difficult task.

(side note: every writer lives in fear of dying without clearing their web browser. we call it research, but in truth, it’s generally unhealthy fascinations with things as varied as skin conditions, hiding bodies, and why a tiger might only eat half of a person. stuff like that.)

So when we have yet another litter of rescued kittens, they begin to attach themselves to us like adorable parasitic floofs, worming their way into my daily routine with shocking speed. Naturally, I have my favorites, and naturally, some of the cats only tolerate me– after all, they’re cats. It’s what they do.

Which brings me to my recent conversation with my friend and book advisor, who is also a cat person and thus understands what life is like with miniature, disdainful lions who poop in proscribed locations throughout the house.

“Jess,” I said, not thinking that I might be weird, “I like to nibble my cat’s ears while he sits on my lap.”

There was no recriminating gasp or shock on her end of the phone call, merely, “OH MY GAHD I DO TOO.”

So, there’s at least two of us, thought I think other people will admit it once they know OTHER people are willing to come forward. It’s a circle of affirmation for Cat Nibblers, or whatever the inevitable meetings will be called.

And despite, the efforts of Sugar (he’s the white one, getting fed by my bride, The Cat Whisperer), I can now proudly announce that my tenth novel, Moonborn, is complete. I’ll share the cover soon, and more sample chapters as well.

Cat hair and all.

 

WE LOVE TO BARK.

We have five dogs of various breeds. All love to bark. Barking is their favorite thing, other than sleeping, but barking has to take place in strategically placed time zones in order to maximize its effectiveness.

To wit: Barking before 7:00AM? Enthusiastic. Unending. Varying tones, pitches, and reasons. Early morning barking is, in some ways, a medical miracle. Consider the following– our basset hound, Jack Reacher, can go from a snoring, drooling sleep to fully awake and on the verge of insanity, but only if conditions are just so.

These conditions may include, but are not limited to:

Cars driving by.

Trucks driving by.

People walking by, with or without their own dog.

Clouds.

Squirrels.

A change in barometric pressure.

Ghosts.

Among the five dogs in our herd, Jack is consistently the loudest, but not at all times. That honor goes to Michael Dean, also known as Big Mike. He’s a Newfoundland, and his array of barks are topped by what we ominously call his Big Boy Voice, which is reserved for such existential threats as the UPS driver and/or roaming frozen meat salespeople. Generally, one of his window-rattling booms is enough to convince the people selling small, convenient pre-packaged meat that we’re good for this year, and maybe check back never.

Meet Big Mike: 

I write this because it’s Sunday, the traditional day of rest, and yet I’ve been up with the dogs for some time. You see, dog are true biological wonders; they can average fifteen hours of sleep per day, but very little of their rest is actually when we sleep. Rather, dogs prefer to lay on me while I try to write during the day, then rouse their chorus of howls at any time from 11:00Pm to whenever the sky begins to turn that subtle gray that lets them know their human has quite enough rest, thank you very much, and isn’t it time we started letting the neighborhood know that the squirrels are not only still alive, but threatening the very fabric of all that is American.

It’s their job, right?

 

Fifty Shades of Suck.

I’ve got three *species* of vampires, ranging from sexy to, well, gross. In history, each culture has their own version, and it’s here that I found my playground from which to draw ideas for how I’d approach the beasties. Vampires, like Christian Grey, might be considered predators, but to what extent?

There’s something visceral about a sexual predator– and vampires are, make no mistake– that dances on the edge of cultural conscience between fascination and disgust. Vampires scare the hell out of some people because their abilities remove control, and thus, agency. Yet, many of us think of vampires as elegant criminals rather than hideous beasts. Why?

I chose to give one of my vampires a single, thin fang that slips into an artery, draining away life as the victim is mounted in a tangle of sexual heat and confusion. Sure, two fangs seem balanced, but in biological terms, wouldn’t one do the trick? For me, it worked. For others, there’s an appeal to the symmetry of a beast with two fangs, eyes flashing with promise of things that are illicit and dangerous.

Does this mean we’re all, in a way, adrenaline junkies? Is this the ultimate risk, in terms of sexuality? You give in to the monster: you die.

Or worse.

I wonder how we let the violation of vampires slip through our collective mind, shifting from the ultimate predator into something to be desired, even sought out. It’s a long trip between those two states of being, or is it? Is this a question of domination and submission, or is it something even more simple: the fulfillment of sexual pleasure through fantasy?

I ask these questions because of erotica in general, and the film Fifty Shades Darker hits theaters. As a casual observer, the phenomenon of women– adult, independent, educated– embracing the concept of submission is nothing short of fascinating. Is it because we fear asking for what we want, and it takes a monster to give it to us? For that matter, how often is anyone truly honest with their partner? There’s a fine line between thrill and disgust, a vague demarcation that lovers may never cross in their hunt for the thing they want most.

Is it also tied to the appearance of the monster, so to speak? I’ve always thought that we tolerate far more brutal behavior from beautiful people. Is this true? Are we conditioned to forgive, based on an expectation of cruelty from that which is deemed perfect and beautiful?

In a sense, I think we are. That’s why vampires (and Christian Grey) aren’t shunned. They’re embraced. Desired.

I think it’s as good a time as any to ask yourself, “What do I really want?”. If you can be honest, then you’re with the right person.

 

Life Without Cookies

Or cake.

Or pie.

Or waffles, milk, flour, cheese, and joy, yes, there will be no joy, not in this house.

Bride is doing a really interesting thing known as the Whole Life Challenge. It’s kind of cool– focusing on better food, plenty of sleep ( a must!), stretching, meditation, and overall health.

In short, all the things we tend to ignore because of life, kids, spouses, bounty hunters, outstanding warrants, and existential crises. You know, the usual.

It has a lot of things to like in it– case in point, here’s a drink I would have never tried, but I did, and OH BOY is it good: Golden Latte Super Fancy Drink!

So here I am, day three without my usual inundation of junk food. I’m intensely curious to see what happens. I’m almost fifty— things start to break down. I’m no longer under warranty, so to speak, and one of the things that I hope to preserve is my mind. You know, no more ten minute search parties looking for my keys, or wallet, or sock, or shoes. Stuff like that.

I’ve written fifty thousand words in my current book, and this dietary change makes me ask the question: will I write better or more efficiently if I’m not standing at the sink, mindlessly chewing cookies like a very tall cow that wears underwear and a contented smile?

We shall see. I’m going to go two full weeks (also time to recover from the Man Flu, of course) and see what happens.

Between this, the pushups, and wearing a FitBit, I might not survive.

I have a cold. I will die soon.

There’s no getting around it.

My son, the World’s Largest Eight Year Old, has infected me with a virulent form of the rhinovirus, which may or may not be a combination of the following diseases:

The Bubonic Plague

Cooties

Ebola

A Random Tropical Fever

Boogers.

These have combined for the following symptoms:

Sneezing.

Producing more snot than my current body weight.

Headache.

More snot.

Snot.

Snot.

I write this as a farewell to you all, and only ask that you eat pie, waffles, and Oreo thins at my funeral.

Good day.

Terry