Can You Hear Me Now?

22 10 2012

Today marks the start of the official Plaguewalker week (I know it’s official because I wrote it down in my planner, right below “laundry.”) Things kicked off with my very first radio interview ever* this morning on WUWM’s (89.7 FM) Lake Effect.

[Technically, I’ve been on radio twice before, during my years as pop music critic for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The first time, I was a guest on a local rock show where the sum of my contribution was saying “absolutely” four separate times. The second was on a Top 40 station in Ohio or Iowa–one of those states that starts and ends with a vowel–providing thought-provoking, expert analysis on whether parents should let their tween daughters listen to Avril Lavigne. (Answer: uh, yeah.) The Lake Effect interview was, however, the first time I have said a full sentence on-air. And I said a lot of them.]

I was anxious about appearing on Lake Effect for a number of reasons. Wait. “Appearing on” doesn’t seem right. Sounding off? Voicing on? Whatever.

First, based on my previous radio moments (and they were moments) as well as my voicemail greetings past and present, I do not enjoy sounding like a sullen 16-year-old with a chronic sinus condition. I also hate that I ramble, that I use the word “and” the way Germans use “doch!” or as meaningless filler…aaaannd, oh, I could go on.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve listened to and enjoyed Lake Effect for years, largely because the guests always sound so smart and experty. I did not want to be memorable for being the first guest to, uhm, sound otherwise.

In any case, the Lake Effect studios are downright sexy. Everything is sleek and the lighting is as flattering as candlelight. Producer Stephanie Lecci made me feel like I was chatting with an old friend, and I almost forgot there was an enormous fuzzy microphone inches from my face.


I did remember what my high school choral director, Sister Mary Gomolka, used to say. Whenever you want to improve your voice, whether singing or speaking, smile. It prevents one from being flat (well, perhaps not in my case, based on the grimace she often sent my way during practice) and shapes your words in an attractive manner. During the Lake Effect interview, every time I noticed the mic, I would think smile, smile, dammit, smile! I believe this had the unintended consequence of making me look insanely happy to be discussing death, torture, interrogation and the plague.

In any case, I suspect a combination of Sister Mary’s words of wisdom and Stephanie’s impressive post-production skills made me sound okay in the end, so much so that I’m willing to post it here for you to listen.

I hope you’ll not only check out my gleeful ramble about pathogens, rotting corpses and a missing moral compass, but also that you’ll stop by either of the events winding up Plaguewalker week: my Friday reading at Boswell Book Company on the East Side or my Saturday afternoon tag-team of terror reading at the Wauwatosa Public Library over in, well, ‘Tosa.

And stay tuned for a Halloween treat I’ll be posting as we near that most wonderful day of the year.

Coming Soon: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

2 10 2012

I have some exciting news. But first, a confession. Upon returning to the States early last month after wintering in Antarctica, I discovered I have developed a severe allergy to heat and humidity. It’s tragic, really, but I’ll spare you the details of how I stretched out wan and lethargic on my friends’ couch for two weeks until I realized I was only a plane ticket away from relief.

A really neat professional opportunity presented itself in arctic Norway and I was bound for the northern reaches faster than you can “Snakker du engelsk?” which is one of about seven things I can say in Norwegian. It’s been a great adventure but I’m getting ready to return to Milwaukee for the launch of Plaguewalker and a few other fun things.

Check it out:

Reading and Book Signing, 7 p.m. Friday, October 26 at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee: This is it, folks, the official worldwide, dare I say galactic launch of Plaguewalker thanks to the fine folks at Boswell, who have been so supportive of local authors. As someone who is only slightly less introverted than Marcus, I am kind of dreading the actual public part of this, but I promise to drink too much coffee and be entertaining in a wild, rambly kind of way.

Tag Team of Terror Reading, 2 p.m. Saturday, October 27 at the Wauwatosa Public Library, 7635 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa: I’ll be doing another reading, another over-caffeinated ramble and signing any copies of Plaguewalker thrust in my direction, but this time I’ll be sharing billing with award-winning author Paul McComas, who penned Unforgettable, Planet of the Dates and Unplugged. Paul was an early supporter of Plaguewalker and has been a great mentor. His writing is an addictive blend of sci-fi, horror and comedy, with his native Wisconsin often featuring as both place and character.

I will also be migrating my travel and adventure blog Stories That Are True to here. Look for posts on my Norwegian Adventure shortly, including approximately 74,375 photos of dark mountains looming over fjords. For fans of STAT, don’t worry, all the old posts will still be there, and I may occasionally add a text-only post if warranted.

A few of you are dedicated followed of both blogs, as well as Plaguewalker’s official site, and for that I say thank you but also hey, I’ve simplified things for you by focusing on this blog and reducing the number of post updates you get in your inbox.

Stay tuned for those fjord photos and until then, thanks for reading! Please say hello at one of the events later this month if you’re in the greater Milwaukee area.

The Devil is in the Detailed Pre-Launch Planning

29 04 2012

One thing I know with great certainty: any creative journey will end up taking more time than I think it will when I set out. Which is why I am still toe-deep in the waters of indie publishing. Okay, by now I’m in probably up to my ankles. But this time last year, when I began seriously researching how to get my novels to readers, I figured that within 12 months I would have all three out on the market.

Instead, I’m waiting on a final piece to fall in place before pulling the trigger on novel #1, Plaguewalker. Written in the late 90s and filed away (I had to dig it out of storage, where it languished on a floppy disc, and convert it from MS Works 3!), Plaguewalker is actually one of my favorite pieces of writing. It’s a dark historical, however, and I knew it wouldn’t have broad commercial appeal (let’s just say Oprah would not have chosen it for her book club). But, at a mere 60,000 words, I thought it would be a good test case to learn the indie publishing process before trying to wrangle The War’s End to market. (The War’s End is, after all, three times as long, though I have put it on a strict diet and exercise program as I review the final draft.)

I personally love Plaguewalker,* and believe that someone inclined towards dark but ultimately redemptive historical fiction will enjoy it. The protagonist, the amoral medieval Bavarian executioner Marcus, is not an evil man. But his upbringing and circumstances–and his ignorance of the larger world around him due to severe social isolation–make him into a monster. At the start, at least.

(*”I personally love Plaguewalker“…wow, I sound pretty damn full of myself, don’t I? I wrote the thing, after all. But you have to understand. I am one of those writers who sits down at her keyboard with no plan, no thought to commercial appeal, no outline, no model. The voices in my head start talking and I basically take dictation. Sometimes the result is readable but not something I enjoy reading. And sometimes, as in the case of Plaguewalker, The War’s End and The Guardian, I love it not merely as its creator, but as a reader who likes a good story.)

If I can get all big-picture for a moment, Marcus, like Kharrn and Sventevit, the protagonists of The War’s End, are villains. But they are villains forged by circumstance rather than real malice or greed or even psychosis. Don’t get me wrong. All three of them do some rather nasty things. But what interests me as a reader (and, more to the point, as the person writing their stories in order to read them… crazy, I know) is how a villain forged by circumstance evolves (or not) when those circumstances change dramatically.

Anyway, I’ve been working on the official site for Plaguewalker and just added a post about the curious but encouraging world of indie publishing, in which I now reside. You can also read the first chapter of the book. The site is new and most definitely a work in progress, but I hope you’ll take a peek and let me know what you think.

The cover of Plaguewalker, available soon in paperback and on your Kindle. And yeah, I did the illustration. Because that's how I roll.

Back in Black

24 03 2012

Yep, it’s been a while, but updating all one’s blogs takes a bit of a back seat when one is in Antarctica, then New Zealand, then Tasmania, then New Zealand, then Wisconsin, then Ohio, then New Jersey, then Virginia, then Wisconsin and finally back in Antarctica.

I’ve also been a busy bee getting some fiction projects into fighting shape–or at least proofed and ready for the printer.

Watch this space in the coming weeks for some exciting news, including the re-launch of this site, the arrival of my first published novel, Plaguewalker, and my partnership with Grunaskhan Books. And thanks as always for reading. Without readers, after all, I’d just be the crazy recluse who spends a lot of time in front of her netbook.