November 25, 2014

Thankful


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I’ve been thinking this week about the many things I’m thankful for. One of them is and always has been this: I’m thankful I survived childhood.

Your childhood experience depends very much upon where you grew up and your parents, and being raised on a ranch made my childhood more dangerous than some. Sure, I wasn’t an orphan on the streets of Bombay, but there were lots of things that could have killed any one of us. And the fact that all seven of us survived ~ though there was another sister who died at birth ~ is a miracle.

What immediately leaps to mind is the time my cousins were going to take my two brothers and I repelling. We have never been a safety family. In fact, quite the opposite. You were supposed to stare in the face of danger and laugh. Or at least grit your teeth in a pleasing way. I am and always have been afraid of heights, and I spent the whole trip up there praying fervrently to get out of it. The funny thing was, our car overheated or vapor locked or something, and I did get out of it. If there was ever a moment in my life where I would have become ultra-religious, that was it.

And the two times my one brother got majorly injured. Once, he was climbing some cliffs with a cousin, and the cousin rolled a rock down on top of him that swept his feet out from under him and he fell from the cliff. And the time both brothers were playing around a dragline, and the dragline bucket fell and the one brother pushed the other brother out of the way and got buried under the dragline bucket. My father had to dig the dirt out from his face so he could breathe, and he ended up in a body cast, chest to ankle with a bar between his knees. Which my cousins would hang him from.

Breaking horses. A stick came up under the belly of a green-broke horse that I was riding and I flipped forward, riding the saddle horn, and then back off the horse’s rump. Knocked the wind out of me but I wasn’t otherwise worse for the wear. My other brother was roping on a rainy day and his horse slipped and went down and broke his leg. It was three hours to the hospital, and he gritted his teeth the whole way. Oh, and chasing cows in freak late-spring storms when you’re just in tennis shoes and light jacket and it’s so cold the horses’ breaths are freezing in mustaches on their faces.

One of my sisters had a thing with her hips where as a baby she could sit on the floor and swing her legs all the way around her body. Another kid in the area had to be in a body cast and he died from it, but since my family never goes to the doctor, apparently the condition corrected itself.

We regularly drove trucks without brakes, and there was even a jeep that only turned one way. Driving up to summer pasture was quite a feat. And you’d get stuck in mud or snow 90 miles from anywhere (think the Draggin’ S Ranch Cow Country Cartoons) and have to figure out how to get out. People would push and it’s a miracle no one was run over. I’ve been in pickups that drove into ravines or kicked by horses and lost a wheel that went bounding across the prairie. The bus took us to and from school every day, an hour each way, rain or shine, and it’s a miracle something didn’t happen there.

Childhood diseases. I had pneumonia. I even had this strange disease that gave me circular spot rashes all over my arms and body and took away the tan I’d gotten during the summer and made me look like a reverse leopard. The doctor had no idea what it was. I broke my leg on a motorcycle and burned it on the tailpipe. I broke my collarbone by falling out of the back of a truck. A cousin got nicked by a chainsaw and another cousin got his arm shot off at Thanksgiving while turkey hunting.

I could go on and on. But I won’t. You get the picture.

This year and every year, I am thankful I survived childhood.

November 18, 2014

White-Knuckling It

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about systems.  How they can work for you or against you. 

Take, for example, making breakfast for the kids in the morning. They say it’s the most important meal of the day, and so we make sure that the kids have breakfast before school.  In fact, they often get two breakfasts because they’ll eat one at home and then go in to have the breakfast at school.

So I’ve worked out a number of shortcuts, systems, that help with breakfast. I make sure I get up early enough. I try to serve a bread, a protein, a fruit, and some milk. I precook sausage so that I can just microwave them.  Cheese is quick and good. So is yogurt. Lots of eggs and toasted things like bagels with cream cheese or toast with butter and jelly.  Sometimes some hot cereal or milk toast.  A parfait, which is nothing more than fruit, yogurt, sometimes cereal, and chocolate chips in a cup.  Sweet rolls sometimes. Every week or two they have cold cereal, or they’ll go on kick where they request it every day.  If I’m feeling froggy I’ll do egg-in-a-hole or pancakes or waffles or French toast.  And some hot chocolate or hot tea with cream and sugar to go along with it. You get the idea.

The point is: I have a system worked out. I try to vary enough to keep them interested.  Balance the bad-for-you with the good. I get up while my husband is in the shower, go downstairs, let the dog out, start making tea for me and my husband, and then lay out what they’re having. Often I’ll have decided the night before.

Life is like that. You need a system for it all to work smoothly.  And if you don’t have a system, it makes it a lot harder than it should be.  If you don’t have a system for keeping the house organized ~ a place for everything and everything in its place ~ you’re hosed.  If you don’t have a system for getting the kids to their practices and school and yourself to work, it’s a scramble. 

And even what system you have makes a huge difference.  This is definitely related to habit.  It’s much harder to be on a diet when you are in the habit of eating lots of unhealthy foods and you eat out a lot and you’re on the road and you don’t cook.  You have to build your life around making it easier for you to make good choices. If you don’t, if you try to white-knuckle it, you’re setting yourself up for failure ~ because as the psychologists say you only can stay strong through so many resistances and decisions per day.

And this brings me to writing.  One of my problems on getting the writing done is that I don’t have a system that makes it easier for me. I often have to white-knuckle it.  This, I think, is what people mean when they say write every day.  It’s not a matter of forcing yourself ~ it’s a matter of having the space there that you just slide into.  It’s making it easy for yourself because that’s what you expect and what everyone around you expects.  You don’t have to carve that creative space out of solid rock. Rather, it’s been hollowed out for you, and all you have to do is walk through the door.

Must carve a cave!!

November 14, 2014

A Game You'll Love


Do you love laid-back but challenging puzzle games that are beautifully designed and touch your heart? I love this game: Monument Valley!

November 13, 2014

'There Is a Warrant Out for Your Arrest'

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I was almost arrested yesterday. Or at least I thought I was going to be.

At about 4 in the afternoon, I get a message to call a policeman, a Lieutenant Johnson, right away. And so I dial the number.

“Hello, this is Tamara Linse,” I say. “You wanted me to return your call?”

“Yes,” the man says, “thank you for returning my call.”  He sounds like a young man, with a slight southern drawl, and he forms his words like policemen do: formal, precise, deep-voiced.

“Is there something I can help you with?” I say.

“Yes, there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”

Adrenalin shoots through me. What?!  What?!

“You were called to jury duty and you did not appear, and therefore the judge ruled you in contempt of court.”

“I was supposed to be in jury duty?!”  All this while I’m thinking, in my heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted to be on jury duty. Something about the access to secrets, the drama, everything.  It’s the same reason I read Ann Landers. I’m a fiction writer after all, and we’re evesdroppers and purveyors of horrible crimes.  But, alas, no, I’ve never been called.

“Yes. You should have received a written notice in the mail last week.  It was definitely sent, and the post office is really good about these things.”

“But I did not receive it.” At this point I’m totally freaked out. I want to protest my innocence.  I never received it! I’m innocent, I swear!  How can it be legal for a warrant to be out for my arrest if I did not receive the summons?!

“Well, you’re lucky,” he says. “It’s just a misdemeanor, but …”

At this point, my self-preservation brain kicks in. Everything doesn’t seem to be adding up. Would I be arrested for not showing up for jury duty? I mean, how many people probably miss those summons?  Lots, I’m sure.  And now that I think about it, it was not local number. And he just answered without a “this is a police officer” until I said something.

And so I interrupt him: “I’m sorry. There’s been a lot of scams going on lately. I’ll call you back.  I’ll call the number for the police department and they’ll transfer me back to you.”

“Uh, oh, okay,” he says.

I’m shaking as I call the police department. I ask for Lieutenant Johnson, and the lady dispatcher transfers me back. I get voice mail. That nails it for me: the voice on the message who identifies himself as Officer Johnson has no southern accent and is not the same voice.

I want to confirm, so I call back again a bit later.  The dispatcher transfers me to another person who will know where Officer Johnson is.  At first he says that there is no Lieutenant Johnson, just an Officer Johnson. I explain what happened.  He confirms: “Yes, it’s a scam, and it’s been going around for a while.” He’s really nice and tells me I did just the right thing. And the reason I thought to call them back? Because the police department had posted a notice in the paper a couple weeks back saying that’s what to do if you suspect a scam.  The system works.

After I get off the call, a coworker says she’s gotten the scam a couple of times in the last couple months too. And so it’s all over, but the shadow of adrenalin is rushing through my body. Plus, all during this, my daughter has missed the daycare van, and I have to run out to get her.

And my takeaway from this?  There are many parts of the world, for many people, where this would be real.  They are justified in believing that they are going to be arrested ~ because they are arrested, if not killed, for “driving while black” or because the guy in authority wants a bribe. 

I am aware of my many privileges that I get just because I am who I am and I live where I live.  And all my life, since I was a little girl up to this very day, all I’ve wished for was that everyone got along and loved everyone else. I say this without shame.

November 12, 2014

Sun Dog


Not the actual sun dog I saw (via)

What a beautiful morning!  It's 19 below without wind chill ~ 30 below with wind chill ~ but it makes the world so stunning.  There was a sun dog along the mountains to the north of the sun this morning, which made my day, and as I walked across the parking lot into work the ice crystals hung and flitted in the air like tiny stars. The light, too, when it's this cold takes on a pink glow that can't be matched.

I'm just glad I'm not someone 150 years ago living in a tent.


November 11, 2014

I Want to Create!


Humans are such desirous creatures. And so creative. Maybe the two are related.

It’s 2 degrees and snowing, and I’ve taken two days off from work to get some creative stuff done.  Haven’t, though, really.  With these kinds of vacations, I tend to collapse for the first couple of days, just relaxing, and so if the vacation is only a couple of days long, it’s over before I get any real work done. I really need emotional space, generally, to get creative work done, and I don’t generally get that in my day-to-day life.  The kids don’t stop needing to be picked up from school and taken to basketball and play practice and, you know, eating.

First-world problems, I know.  But it remains.

There’s so much I want to do!  I’ve written two children’s books, and I’m starting to work on the illustrations.  One is a picture book called ZoLilly and the Feeling of Impending Doom, and the other is an alphabet book called A Blush, a Giggle, a Smack. It’s so much fun!  I’ve always loved art. I took every art class I could, in addition to writing classes, as I was growing up.  So there’s that.

My narrator partner P. J. Morgan and I have just come out with an audio version of my short story collection How to Be a Man. And so there’s promotional kinds of things to do for that.  That takes a lot of creativity not to come across as an ass.

I’m finishing up the design of the next book that’s coming out in January. It’s historical fiction set in 1885 Iowa and Kansas City called Earth’s Imagined Corners.  All I need to finish is the Dear Reader letter and I can send it out for reviews.

I’ve really been into the chef aspect of cooking lately, and so I’ve been trying all kinds of things. I made cheddar and mozzarella for the first time, and I’ve been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain.

I have this blog, but I’ve been thinking a lot about a couple of other blogs.  One I have created but haven’t launched. It’s called Family Confessional and it’ll be a place where people can anonymously send in their confessions about family. I love this idea! The idea came from Julia Fierro’s Parenting Confessional. But I haven’t had the chance to launch it yet.

And there’s the blog that I created a while back and then ran out of steam. It’s called Native Home of Hope and it’s about contemporary writers of the American West. I still believe in it very strongly, but it became prohibitive to post every day. My goals were too ambitious. But I’ve been toying with the idea of bringing it back as a less dynamic but no less valuable resource for contemporary writers of the west. I could do video interviews every once in a while, and I could put up the list of contemporary writers of the American West (that was rejected by Wikipedia).

Oh, and, you know, the YA novel I’m supposed to be finishing. And my on-again off-again photo Project 365.  And, you know, work and stuff. 

But I want to do all these things!  I want to be able to create nonstop! I want, I want, I want!  But that’s a good thing. Dream big.

November 7, 2014

Cool Person P. J. Morgan

Today I am thrilled to post an interview with my partner in crime P. J. Morgan.  She voiced the audiobook of How to Be a Man. She's an amazing person, and I'm glad to be able to chat with her.  That's why I love doing interviews, especially with writers ~ you find out such interesting things!

What’s an interesting thing people don’t know about you?

Hmm, good question! I've probably only told one or two people in my life that one of my dream stage roles is Mary Poppins. There's just something so whimsical and powerful and enigmatic about her character. The great music doesn't hurt, either!

Where did you grow up?  What were you like as a kid?

I grew up in a little town about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, right on the ocean. I was very much enamoured of storytelling from a very young age. I read voraciously, and had many imaginary worlds I inhabited at play time. I wrote my own short (and often unfinished) tales, and everything was an opportunity for me to make-believe I was living some other life. I was quirky and a dreamer and full of crazy ideas that no one else thought were very funny. I guess not much has changed. ;) My sister and I made a pact that someday we'd create our own cartoon show, where she animated and I did the voices. She got her degree in animation, and here I am as a voice talent, so I think it's time we got to work on that dream!

Your degree is in linguistics and phonetics. Wow!  Tell us about that.  Why did you choose that?

My favourite subject in school was always foreign language. I absorbed language books as quickly as I could, reading about ancient and modern Greek, Mandarin, German, etc. before they even started us on Spanish in school. I was just fascinated with other languages - the way they sounded, the mystery of them, how the sounds felt in my mouth, whether people who spoke another language still thought in English (yes, I really had to wrap my mind around that one as a kid!). Linguistics was just a natural fit in college. My favourite subject was Phonetics, particularly the articulatory branch, which looks at how speech sounds are actually produced in the vocal tract.

Who’s your favorite linguistic theorist and why? (I was pretty taken with Saussure.)

I'm going to kind of cheat on this one and talk about my favourite linguistic phenomenon, though I did indeed enjoy learning about Saussure! The one thing that stuck with me the most from my undergraduate studies was the study done by McGurk et al. in the 1970s (about the McGurk effect), and shed some light on how important visual cues are to speech perception. We tend to think that most of verbal communication is auditory, when in fact most people rely heavily on visual input to make sense of what another person is saying. This is why many people are so uncomfortable on the phone, where those visual cues are missing. As a voice actor, this is a very interesting thing to think about, especially when narrating audiobooks. You have to use your voice to convey so many things - emotion, tone, action, setting, on top of enunciating in a way that is intelligible, without sounding stilted, and still tell a story in a way that a listener can easily understand and stay connected with.

You’ve done a lot of fabulous things ~ acting, voice acting, puppets, and writing.  What do you think those have in common and why are you drawn to them?

The underlying thread for me is storytelling. There's a bit of it in everything I do. I love to bring others' stories to life, as well as tell my own. Each medium has a slightly different appeal, but I've never been able to decide which one I like best. I hope to keep doing all of them throughout my life. Storytelling for me is one of the ultimate acts of creation, and an essential part of what it means to be human.

Do you have an origin story?  In other words, can you think about something that happened in your childhood that fundamentally shaped who you are and what you do?

My mom taught me to read and write when I was three, by having me narrate and then trace the letters of a story about my stuffed toy mule. She also read to me before bed every night - The Hobbit and James Herriot come to mind - and instilled in me a great love for words and stories. I've never been able to stop reading and writing since unlocking that magic.

Talk about creating How to Be a Man. What were your first impressions? What did you enjoy about it?  What challenged you?

I'm fascinated by gender roles and norms - how they've changed, how we obey and break them, the effect they have on people and their relationships with others. I stumbled on the synopsis for How to Be a Man while shopping for a project on ACX, and bookmarked it for about a week. I had only done public domain work for the past five years, since leaving my job where I worked with a lot of commercial voiceover, so I wasn't sure how I would fare in the realm of commercial narration. How to Be a Man seemed like a project that would keep me interested through the long hours of recording and editing, and that maybe needed a voice more like mine, instead of the seductive, sometimes over-the-top tones of many commercial voice talents. I submitted an audition on a whim one night, and was completely overjoyed to find a recording contract in my inbox not long after. I really enjoyed the long, intimate evenings spent huddled in my recording booth with the manuscript, getting to know the characters inside and out and connecting with them and what they were saying. I loved the diversity of the stories, and how each one took me to a different place. I found by reading them aloud, they came to life for me in a way that stories don't always do when read silently off the page. The biggest challenge was probably having to edit all that audio! For each finished hour, it takes between six to ten hours of work. I learned a lot of tricks in the process to speed things up, but it was a real process! I've certainly come out the other side a much more proficient audio editor, though.

You’re a writer too.  What do you write?

Most of my writing is done every November during National Novel Writing Month. Writing sadly slips to the back burner for me all too often, with all my audiobook, theatre, and film projects. It's still such a driving force in me that I keep returning to it, though. When I'm not penning a novel in thirty days (or making half-hearted stabs at editing them), I also journal somewhat allegorically about my life through the adventures of a pirate lass named Captain Pen.

Finally, if someone wanted to get into voice acting, do you have any advice for them?

If you have an interest in narration in particular, I highly recommend Librivox (www.librivox.org). It's the audio book version of Project Gutenberg (an enormous digitised collection of public domain books at www.gutenberg.org). Volunteer readers from around the world narrate public domain books and put them up for free download in the catalogue. The wonderful thing about it is, anyone can sign up to read, regardless of experience. There are very active and helpful forums to help you get set up with a basic recording environment, learn how to read aloud, edit audio, produce it, etc. It was a wonderful and supportive place to get my feet wet. If you have any specific questions, I'm more than happy to help, as well. I'm on Twitter (https://twitter.com/listentopj), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/authorpjmorgan), and at listentopj.com, where I hope to start some blog content soon about my adventures in the world of VO!

Thank you so much, P. J.! You rock!

November 6, 2014

Dear Reader ...


So what's How to Be a Man about? How did it come into being? Here's the Dear Reader letter to let you know more about it. You can get the new audiobook version read by P. J. Morgan at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.



Dear Reader,

The stories in How to Be a Man were written over the course of the last fifteen years. Some came hot and fast and did not need much fiddling (“Men Are Like Plants,” “Oranges”) and some were the result of years of revision (“Nose to the Fence,” “Mouse”). The oldest story in the collection is “Snowshoeing,” and it’s flaws make me uncomfortable, but I love the striving to capture something inexplicable that motivated it. The youngest story is “Dammed,” and it’s a good example of my writing process now—I tend to revise extensively as I go and write a lot in my mind before I put it down on the page. Once I get started, it only takes me a session or two to get it all down.

Author’s often get the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve never had a problem getting ideas, and I mourn the loss of the multitude of ideas that have come and gone, unfulfilled. I think there are lots of ideas out there—it’s just a matter of recognizing them for what they are, and when I’m writing—not blocked—the ideas come thick and fast. I may start with a voice, which happened with “Men Are Like Plants.” I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, and her voice came to me so strongly I risked my husband’s displeasure—he hates it when I stay up late—and got up to write it down. I wrote most of that story in one sitting. What prompted “Revelations” was a contest a couple of years ago that had to include the year 2010. It got me thinking about the end of the world and Revelations, and so I wondered what a modern-day devil might be like. “Snowshoeing” started with the idea of conveying that feeling of separateness that sometimes comes upon a couple, that realization that you can’t always take your partner for granted. “Oranges” arose in one sitting on a plane coming back from a writer’s conference, the result of guilt over abandoning my kids for a week. “A Dangerous Shine” is based on a real incident that took place at the Buckhorn where I bartended. And on it goes.

Putting together a collection is tough. The idea of revising so many stories at one time and the nakedness that will result from other people seeing them all together is enough to stop the hardiest souls in their tracks. And what order do you put them in? Do you treat them like a mix tape—starting with an attention grabber, turning it up, taking it back, orchestrating peaks and valleys? Or do you arrange them on merit only, putting the best ones first? My protagonists are of different ages—should they be organized by age? I ended up putting what I think of as my best stories first and last, but then also taking into account the mood of the story. I tried to start with some positive stories and then place some of the darkest stories toward the end. I also tried to group them tonally, thematically, and by protagonist, so “Mouse” and “Oranges” are together because they’re about young girls dealing with their parents. “The Body Animal,” “Revelations,” and “Dammed” are together because they’re about the body and violence and alienation. “Wanting” is last because it’s a strong story but it also is historical, while all the others are contemporary.

I’ve always loved when authors tell the story of the story, and so I thought I’d choose a few and talk about how they came into being. “How to Be a Man” was written in response to “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” by Junot Diaz. I had long resisted writing a second-person story because it seemed so cliché—the young writer thinking herself so edgy, taking such an avant garde point of view. Then I read a couple of kick-ass second-person stories, and it began to work on me: Why couldn’t I write one? Then I heard Edwidge Danticat read Diaz’s story and I was hooked. The story wrote itself fairly quickly until I got to the ending—well, the first ending where she becomes a whiskery-chinned old batty. I stopped there. But I didn’t like that ending. I didn’t want her life to end that way. I wanted her to have a chance at happiness. Then I thought, why can’t I have two endings. I’m the god in this little world. I can do whatever I want. So I added the second ending. “Wanting” is another story I wrote in response to a story. Growing up in the West, I had strong Hemingway tendencies—clipped sentences, withheld emotion, huge psychic distance—and so to try to remedy that, I decided to take a great story that was a little more lush to imitate it in sentence construction, paragraphing, even down to where the dialog rests. The story I chose was Karl Iagnemma’s “Children of Hunger.” So I tried to maintain the feel of his story and mimicked it as closely as I could in my own story. It was a very helpful exercise, I think, and I really like the results. “Mouse” began as a writer’s exercise at a conference workshop presided over by Steve Almond. He had good advice about the mouse-killing scene: “A little blood and gore goes a long way.” I later expanded the scene into the story.

I will always write short stories. They are harder than novels, in a way, because they require the precision of a diamond cutter. They have to be so much more concise, clear, compact, and well-written than a novel. In a novel, you can get away with pages of loose extraneous stuff, while a short story must have no fat. And I love reading short stories. I think we’re in a renaissance of good short-story writing, and for that I’m very thankful.

Happy reading!

– Tamara Linse, Laramie, Wyoming, 2013

November 5, 2014

Try a Sample!



Would you like to hear a sample of the brand-spanking new audiobook, How to Be a Man?

Click ~ or double click ~ here to hear a sample. Your browser should pop up with a player, or you can right-click on the link and save the file down.

And if you would like to purchase it, you can get it at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Thank you from P. J. and I! We hope you like it!

November 4, 2014

How to Create an Audiobook

via



How does an author go about creating an audiobook?  Well, before the last AWP conference, I had no idea either.

I was wandering the fabulous and overwhelming floor at the last AWP in Seattle and I saw the booth for ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange).  (To be honest, I was showing off a little, flashing the print and kindle versions I had created next door at the Amazon booth.)  I talked with the nice folks there and they were tremendously helpful, and they gave me a pamphlet to follow up online after the conference.

So what ACX is is a dating service for authors and voice actors.  You put your project up, voice talent offers auditions, you choose each other, you agree on terms (either a flat fee or 50/50, usually), and then the site guides you through the process of creating the work.  It’s also connected with Amazon and Audible and iTunes, so your work automatically has distribution ~ that is linked to the listing you already have.

So I put up my short story collection for voice actors to audition for, and right away ~ within 24 hours ~ P. J. Morgan auditioned.  I was nervous about it.  I mean, I didn’t want someone who was going to have the traditional radio voice.  HEH, YOU OUT THERE, MY VOICE IS ANNOYINGY LOUD AND PERKY!!  That is not the Wyoming sensibility at all.  We’re laid back and laconic and understated.  But P. J. just nailed it right out of the gate.  She’s amazing that way.  When I first heard her voice reading the words I had written, I got tears in my eyes. Not only that, she’s just a really great person and very professional and I am so lucky!

I didn’t wait.  I immediately accepted her five-minute audition and we agreed to work together. I didn’t get any other auditions ~ but I didn’t give anyone time either.  And so over the next couple months I gave P. J. a script with any clarification I thought she might need and she produced the audiobook. And did such an amazing job.  I had to only offer a few pronunciation corrections ~ which she made ~ and she made me realize I’d been pronouncing a few words wrong. Who knew the weed kochia is pronounced “ko-KEE-uh” rather than “ko-CHEE-uh” as I had been doing for years?

I have to tell you: I went down the hole of depression in the middle of the process and I did that horrible thing ~ I was unresponsive for a while.  I apologize now and forever to P. J. for it! She got the production done and I didn’t give her feedback for a couple of months. Sorry, P. J.!!

Let me see if I can describe how I felt.  I’m predisposed to be social phobic when this happens.  For whatever reason, it’s email that gets me.  I think about responding to someone who needs someone from me via email ~ even if it’s just a note saying, “Got your email. Everything’s good.” ~ and I have a bout of emotional anxiety.  So I had that going on, plus hearing your words spoken is a wonderful but also nerve-wracking thing.  I can’t tell you how amazing it was to listen to it, but then, because of my frame of mind, I got very nervous. Something about the concreteness of it all.  I don’t know how to describe it.  It’s as if I don’t deserve to take other people’s time and why would I have anything to say anyway? All that childhood angst came back and heaped upon my head. 

So, in case you had any illusions about my stability …

Anyway, I eventually got past that and P. J. made the changes and here we are!  We have this amazing voicing of the words I set to paper, and I can’t tell you how wonderful that is.  P. J. is such an amazing professional and I am so lucky. Thank you, P. J., and thank you ACX for the service.

November 3, 2014

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: 'How to Be a Man' Out in Audiobook!



I am so honored to announce that the fantastic P. J. Morgan voiced my short story collection How to Be a Man!

P. J. Morgan, voice actor
P. J. is amazing.  She has a bachelor's in linguistics ~ English Geeks Rock! ~ with an emphasis on phonetics. She is fascinated by speech sounds and language as both a phenomenon and a science, which you can really tell by the way she expresses narrative and dialog.  You see, I was worried going into this process that the voice professional would try to have that forced over-the-top commercial quality to her or his voice, which would be so wrong for the Wyoming characters in the book.  Wyoming is understated and laconic.  P. J. nailed it!  She even made me realize I've been pronouncing a few words wrong all these years. Who knew?!

She also has years of stage and screen experience and is a puppeteer and an author with six novels under her bed. I'm confident that one of those novels will be published (ahem, publishing industry, take note!). She's done NaNoWriMo since 2008 ~ talk about your stamina.

I have a confession to make, though.  Her excellent voicing of the project coincided with me falling into a bit of a hole, which I apologize now and and forever for! P. J. was so patient and wonderful. She must have been very exasperated, but she never showed it.

But, to the project!  If you remember, How to Be a Man is about what it's like to live in the West today.  
A girl whose self-worth revolves around masculinity, a bartender who loses her sense of safety, a woman who compares men to plants, and a boy who shoots his cranked-out father. These are a few of the hard-scrabble characters in Tamara Linse’s debut short story collection, How to Be a Man. Set in contemporary Wyoming—the myth of the West taking its toll—these stories reveal the lives of tough-minded girls and boys, self-reliant women and men, struggling to break out of their lonely lives and the emotional havoc of their families to make a connection, to build a life despite the odds. How to Be a Man falls within the traditions of Maile Meloy, Tom McGuane, and Annie Proulx.
So, are you about to take a long car trip? Looking for some Christmas presents?  Need something to distract you while you're doing data entry?  Here it is!  Hear what it's like to live in today's Wyoming.

And in case you're swayed by what others have said about it:

“Linse writes as if flexing her own ranch-toned muscles, creating intense, original characters and letting them loose. The result could fill a novel—or two. All bodes well for Linse’s future work.” ~ Kirkus

“In this winning debut collection of short stories, Linse presents a vivid portrait of life in the American West.” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Linse’s wide array of believable characters, and her ability to return to the same set of themes without becoming repetitive or predicative, makes her a notable literary force. ... HOW TO BE A MAN is a notable debut from a very promising writer.” ~ IndieReader
  It's available from Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Get your copy today!

October 31, 2014

Undead Obsessed!

Today we have the lovely, amazing, and talented Jessica Robinson, aka Pembroke Sinclair, talking about her book Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies, which is out today! An ideal Halloween read, and you can get it at Amazon (kindle or paperback), Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere. All the cool zombies are doing it!


What is Undead Obsessed about?

Undead Obsessed is about my desire to find meaning in zombies. I’ve always wanted to write about them and figure out their deeper meaning, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say. After watching World War Z, it all became clear. Horror films are not nice to science and scientists, and this is evident in zombie films, so that was where my focus took me. If you want the blurb from the book, here it is:
Jessica Robinson’s obsession with zombie films started when she was in junior high. Horror films are a great lens to examine concerns society has about modern science. Let’s face it, when it comes to horror movies, science has a bad reputation. Blind ambition, experimental serums, and genetic experiments are often blamed for the giant monster terrorizing the city or the reason aliens are taking human prisoners or the cause of the dead rising from the grave to consume living flesh.
Using film, literature, and interviews with experts, Robinson examines how zombies portray real-world fears such as epidemics, mind control, what may or may not exist in space, the repercussions of playing God, and the science behind the fears. Robinson’s goal is to explore how zombies become a metaphor for our fears of science and what could happen if science gets out of hand.

Why Zombies?

Why not zombies? I have been fascinated with them since I first saw Night of the Living Dead, which was when I was in junior high. At the moment, they are the demon du jour. But it’s more than that. One of the things I find so fascinating is that they attempt to answer the question: what makes us human? And let me tell you, according to zombie films, the answer isn’t pretty.

What is your first scary memory?

Oh, man. That’s a tough one. One of the most vivid memories I have is centered on Gremlins. My sister and I used to share a room, and we had trundle beds. They used to be set up in an L shape, with my bed really low to the ground, and there was a space under my sister’s that was pitch black. I always imagined Gremlins would come out of there in the middle of the night and eat me.

You and I have talked a bit about your fears. How does your experience of the world differ from others, do you think?

Ha! Tamara always likes to joke that she doesn’t understand how I function in the world because of my fears (or neurosis, however you want to classify it).

I’m what you could classify as a nervous person—some people might say cynical. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, my mind instantly goes to the worst-case scenario. For example, when my family and I first moved into our new house, I was distressed that my kids’ bedrooms were at the front of the house. I had visions of cars losing control on icy streets and slamming into their bedrooms and killing them in their sleep. I always hang onto the rails when I go downstairs for fear I will trip and die. When I’m in a high place (doesn’t matter where, building, nature, wherever), I have visions that something will give way and I will plummet to my death—even if there are windows in front of me.

But I come by these thoughts honestly. My mom tells stories of how my grandmother would call randomly to tell her things like: make sure the girls don’t twirl their hair around their fingers because she just heard somewhere that a girl had done that and her finger fell off.

What is the single best book or movie about zombies and why?

I wish there was ONE book or movie about zombies that was the best, but there’s no way to narrow it down. There have been so many different people that have influenced and shaped the genre. I have some of my own favorites, which I will happily share.

First and foremost is Night of the Living Dead. This film changed how the zombie was portrayed (before they were created by Vodou magic) and gave us the shambling creatures most of us know and love today.

I’m also a huge fan of Day of the Dead (third film in the Romero triology), which gave us Bub, the zombie who remembered pieces of his humanity and used a gun to get revenge. This film is also a fantastic social commentary.

Then there’s 28 Days Later, which introduced the world to the fast zombie and allowed the creatures to evolve.

Book wise, I would say The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks took zombies out of the realm of fiction and turned it into a real threat. It also gave us practical ways to combat them.

I like zombies, so I can always find something to like about zombies.

Thank you so much for having me and asking these fun questions! I’m always down for chatting about the undead.

Thank you, Jessica. You rock! People: Pick up your copy today!