Thursday, February 28, 2013

3 Quick Ways to Relax

I was talking with a friend of mine who leads a hectic life--I know, we all do, but hers takes a toll on her physically. She's supposed to relax. Trouble is, how do you do that in a busy world?

Oh, we all know ways, right? Stretch more, sleep more, read more, do pilates. But those are long term things, and you can't do them right now today. (The irony of right-now-today isn't lost on me or her, as we are people who do too much and then wonder why our shoulders are hunched up around our ears.)

We brainstormed and came up with three immediate, short-term fixes.

1. Rainy Mood.com. This is a gem. It's a super simple website: you go there, and it rains. Sometimes it rains hard, sometimes it thunders. It's wonderful and relaxing and perfect for when you need to buckle down and write or work or whatever it is.

2. Chai tea lattes. The spice in these things is so comforting--as is wrapping your hands around a warm cup of something. Starbucks does a good one but you can get these anywhere, and often the little independent shops do them best.Something about the spice just helps.

3. Self-compassion.org. This is a great website that teaches you to relax more, take it easy on yourself more. They have a series of great guided meditations that you can do--and if you're the crazy busy type like me, meditating isn't something that comes easily. This is a nice quick way to get back into the groove.

Hope these help and please leave your own quick-fix method in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Solid Ground article published

I'm so excited to announce that my article, Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance, was published today on mariashriver.com!

This article deals with my experience being laid off from my corporate job at seven months pregnant--a time that I'm sure you can guess rendered me nearly unemployable until after I'd had the baby--and my subsequent jump into the one thing I'd always wanted to do but was too chicken to: freelance graphic design and writing.

Now, I have a burgeoning business and it's been everything I could have hoped for.

My freelance website is: www.sierrafong.com.

Read the article: Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Oscar Tale of Woe...and Sunshine!

Mr. Sierra, long before falling for my wiles and letting romance claim us, used to have a girlfriend (whom we sort of still know and I sincerely hope she doesn't find this blog, please God no) who loved watching the Oscars. Loved. Lived for it. Sort of. Watched them heartily at any rate.

So to annoy Mr. Sierra, I feigned great interest in last night's Oscars. But the truth is, I love them too. I love looking at all the dresses and the love and the hotness and the gorgeousness and the diamonds. I love the people and the movies and scrutinizing each actor or actress to see if they are likeable as real people or not. Just love it. I love deciding which dress I would pick were I them. (Jennifer Aniston's red ball gown was my favorite right next to Jennifer Lawrence's pink ball grown, both are poofy confections that work for me. And say what you want about Jennifer Aniston, but I think she would be great to have over for Sunday dinner and coffee. She would laugh and tell jokes and be very friendly. When my friends hear this, they scoff. "Oh no!" they say. "Jennifer Aniston? No way! I'd pick ..." and then they list a ton of other people, none of whom are Jennifer Aniston. But I stand by it. She'd be a great friend and dinner guest and I feel she'd bring good wine and very tasty cupcakes with her. So there.)

Anyway, imagine my HORROR and SHOCK when my BLASTED DVR stopped recording the Oscars at the commercial break right before Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director. Yes--it failed to record the whole program and instead stopped at the default two hours, and it didn't even ask me if I wanted to add extra time since it was a live recording. Imagine. If you can't, I will tell you. I was livid. I sat through two hours of crap, of Seth McFarlane laughing at his own jokes (don't do it man, you need to deadpan those jokes), only to be CUT OFF right before the stuff that matters. Yes! I missed Jennifer Lawrence's stumble! Yes! I missed the upset of Argo over Lincoln! Yes--I had to resort to my local news website to get the winners.

 I was so annoyed that I went and cleaned out the cat litter box. You know it's bad if I have to do that. There was a silver lining in this playbook, however. Mr. Sierra came and said, "I have a surprise for you."

Now, you're hoping it was recovered DVR footage of the missed Oscars. No. It wasn't. It was Fox Soccer Plus showing the entire game of a Scottish Premier League game and not just a paltry Celtic v Motherwell match, either. It was Hibs! Hibs v Dundee! Oh glorious!

You don't understand, I can tell. You think I'm crazy. But I'm a long time supporter of Edinburgh-based Hibernian FC and up until recently, it was nigh impossible to watch a Hibs match on my television in the United States. That's right. ESPN and Fox Soccer never deemed it ratings worthy (probably because Hibs're often shite), but some kind soul has decided to broadcast all the matches. This is a wonderful thing. You have no idea. It's so hard to support a team when you never get to actually SEE their matches. There was a dodgy pay-per-view service on their website that didn't work half the time, but this, this! This was nearly enough to make up for the missed Oscars. This was really something.

Now. If you've read this far, I appreciate it. If you have a link to the video of those missed Oscar acceptance speeches--and better yet--the announcements of the winners, PLEASE leave a link. I'd be grateful. Thanks.

The lesson in all this? Obvious. Set extra time on your DVR for long live events. And regularly check Fox Soccer Plus scheduling.







Monday, February 18, 2013

4 things I love right now plus 1 I do not

4 Things I Love:

1. This Paper Source peony wreath. Oh, it's so pretty. But let me tell you, you have to fold, cut, and curl each petal and it is, let's just say, an ongoing, long-term project. Here's the link. Yes, those are paper flowers! Aren't they pretty? I know. The second I saw it, I had to get it. I'll let you know when I'm done. Sometime next year, most likely.


2. My new apron from Sur la Table for Valentine's Day. Actually this is a post-Valentine's Day present, but a present nonetheless. Poor Mr. Sierra came home from work early on V Day with the stomach flu. Yeah. Here's the link to the apron online.


3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I'm reading it this week and I am really enjoying it. Fantastic concept. Growing-up angst  Although as a friend said, that preteen time, referred to in the book as the age of miracles, is actually the age of suck. But that doesn't make as nice a book title. More about it

4. This bird cloche, also from Sur la Table, and purchased as a husband-has-stomach-flu-on-Valentine's-Day consolation gift for myself. Look, I had to have it. LOOK AT IT. MEIN GOTT. The cuteness!

It only fits three cookies at a time, though. 




And the one thing I do not love:

1. The end of season three Downton Abbey. ARGGGH!! 


But then:




Oh, I say. Better buck up. Anyway, Game of Thrones is starting at the end of March, and Girls is still on, so.

Carry on!



Saturday, February 16, 2013

We write to express or understand the world


In this month's O Magazine, columnist Martha Beck says this:

If you're lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it's the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.

Well said, Martha.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Godfreys Walk Into a Blog...an interview with Linda Godfrey!

I am so excited today to bring you an interview with author Linda Godfrey. Linda and I are not, despite our superior surname, related. Oh, possibly somehow--I mean, we haven't discussed family trees, but as far as we know, there is no relation. But it doesn't matter because Linda is a dear person and you're in for a treat today.

She's recently released an ebook called God Johnson, and she's here to talk about that and how it got published.

Before we begin, long time readers of this blog (I say that like it's anyone other than myself or my mother) might remember that Linda once wrote my name on a Chinese take out menu and fashioned it into a fetching book cover and then stuck it where my book would go in general fiction in a bookstore. (Here's the post if you're interested.) I still treasure this picture.




Sierra: Your new book, God Johnson, is about unknown gods, hidden worlds and orange scones. Tell us about those hidden worlds and unknown gods, and don't skimp on the orange scones, please.

Linda: It came from thinking about how weird so many of the gods of antiquity were, and wondering what a lesser god would have to look like in order to make it today. I decided that a god resembling our most trusted national figure, Abraham Lincoln, would stand the best chance of netting a disciple. That's how he draws in my protagonist, Liberty Abbott -- along with promises to catapult her to superstardom and stock her pantry with unlimited orange scones. She learns, too late, that he is only one of an entire alternate universe of lesser gods left over from creation. They hang out mostly in their own space, which they call the Whetherworld, but intrude upon humanity as they like for feeding, entertainment and dating purposes. Even worse, each god has a secret Major Rule, and Liberty breaks God Johnson's just as she is starting to fall for him. To their mutual strong dismay, she must suffer a diabolical form of punishment the gods call "Wrath." The book is set in Madison, Wisconsin, a free-wheeling city affectionately known as the Berkeley of the Midwest - a place where humanoid scarab beetles, shapeshifting sphinxes, Lincoln doppelgangers and other odd gods can blend right in.

Sierra: That is such a coinkidink because I live close to Berkeley, California. And, I may have seen a humanoid scarab beetle or two before on Telegraph Avenue. Anyway, you mention on your website that God Johnson is three years in the making, and that's co-published with your literary agent (Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich and Yassine Bukacemi also at D&G repping the ebooks). Take us through your process. How does your agent play a part in the co-publishing? Does he take a author credit?

Linda: I've been writing novels for about 10 years, and have three not-yet-pubbed fantasies lounging in a drawer to prove it. I came very close to representation and/or publication for two of them. I think my chief problem was figuring out the difference between nonfiction and fiction. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer - - one involves researched facts and the other you just make up, right? Wrong. They involve two different mindsets and to some extent, skill sets, and it took me a decade to begin to get it right. 

When Jim offered to represent my nonfiction, I was reluctant to mention that I had penned several novels, as well. I had previously submitted one of them, however, to a genre publisher which kept it for a year and then wrote me a really great rejection letter. I couldn't resist showing it to Jim, and he agreed with the publisher the novel's time leaps needed some strong tweaking. I said, well I have another one that might take less work - -God Johnson! It's the sort of book Jim calls a genre-buster, though; urban fantasy meets paranormal romance and maybe a few other shady things. I suggested that we try an e-book format, especially since D&G now has a digital publishing division. They receive the traditional agency percentage but it's for formatting, uploading to vendors, placing meta-tags, updating, and fund collection and disbursement. These are all things that I suck at. I'm still the author, and my part in the process involved the costs of cover design and copy editing. (I'm a professional commercial artist so I did the cover myself.) Of course, there are so many publishing options available now that my route wouldn't work for every writer, but for me it was a perfect solution.

Sierra: If the agent/agency offers a co-pub ebook option, how does that affect traditional publisher submissions? For example, would my agent only push me toward that or both or whatever made the most sense for my career/genre?

Linda: I really did not feel steered toward epub at all and I know that Jim gave it his best shot at finding a traditional publisher. If the book does well I think he'll try another round. I was the one who suggested the e-book, actually. I'm very excited about it for a lot of reasons but a big one is that I get to keep a whole lot more of the sales. 

Sierra: In the 1990s you wrote a newspaper article about an upright canine thing known as Manwolf. That article hit a nerve and took off. Where has it led you in your writing? What are your plans for future work covering the creature and others like it, like Bigfoot?

Linda: The Beast of Bray Road is the newspaper story that never dies. Stake it, shoot it with a silver bullet, it just keeps snarling back. My first book, however, was a historical true crime saga, still in print, The Poison Widow; a True Story of Sin, Strychnine and Murder. It's about the 1920s trial of a Wisconsin woman who fell in love with a college student boarding in her home. Between the two of them, they killed her husband by putting strychnine in his prune juice. Then she tried to kill her four beautiful children and things went crazily awry. Their trials were followed nationally. I spent six years researching the events and discovered she had a second life with people who never knew what she did. 

"The Widow" found a regional publisher very easily and when they asked me what else I had, I replied,"werewolves." I also had a blog chronicling odd and unusual things, and all of this brought me to the attention of the Weird US series editors at Barnes & Noble who asked me to co-author Weird Wisconsin and author Weird Michigan. 

I started my first novel, The Blue Grasshopper Lady, before I began any of the nonfiction books. One well-known agent liked it and asked me to revise it and send it back to her but I had no clue how to do that -- online writing resources had not yet blossomed to where they are now. I later ran into this kind agent in a bathroom at a writer's conference and, as we washed our hands at the sink, I couldn't help but commit the ultimate gaffe by introducing myself right there in the ladies room. She did remember the book and was very nice about it! I still didn't know how to fix it, however. By then I was busy writing nonfiction about strange things, people and creatures for various publishers, so I just kept going and continued to stuff my drawer with unpublished novels on the side. 

As for future coverage of unknown creatures, or cryptids, that will depend on where my research takes me and whether I continue to receive enough reports from eyewitnesses to continue to make new contributions to the field. I must add, though that every time I think I've written it all and am about to hang up my investigative hat, something new always seems to come along. That factor and the mystery of these beasts are what I love about this field.

Sierra: Tell us about your work on Monsterquest (which I got to see you on while flipping through channels one night -- I was SO excited. My husband said, "Look, there's a Godfrey." And I said, "OMG I KNOW HER! That's LINDA!").

Linda: Yes, I've sort of become the national go-to person for werewolf documentaries in print and film even though I prefer to call them unknown, upright canines. I don't believe in actual, traditional werewolves! I do a lot of TV and radio appearances to keep people updated on the latest sightings and developments, and Monsterquest is one of my all time favorites. I was in the first season episode titled American Werewolf which was based on my book, Hunting the American Werewolf, and also in the fourth season episode on the Michigan Dogman. I've also been on shows such as Inside Edition, Sean Hannity's America, Lost Tapes, and William Shatner's Weird or What. It's something I never could have imagined when I was writing that original newspaper article as a small-town reporter back in 1992.

Sierra: What projects are next for you?

Linda: I'm working on another book about strange creatures for Tarcher/Penguin and also the sequel to God Johnson.

Sierra: What are some recent books you've read and loved?

Linda: My current favorite author is Daniel Abraham and I have loved everything I've read by him, especially the four books in his Long Price Quartet series and most recently his Dragons Path series. I'm also making my way through the late, great Kage Baker's The Company novels, and I'm always engrossed in nonfiction on the science/paranormal edge such as DMT: the Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassmann. For comfort reading, I revert to anything by Thomas Hardy.

Sierra: Thank you so much, Linda. You're a delight. To quote you, here's a Godfrey fist-pump!

Linda's bio from Amazon:
I was born a poor, freckled child. Now I write books about strange creatures, things and people, and sometimes illustrate them, to boot.

This is exactly what I told my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Ione Kopitzke, I wanted to do when I grew up. I remember she replied, almost crying, "Oh Linda, I think you can do better than that." Her picture is now in the front of my book, "Strange Wisconsin: More Badger State Weirdness." Right next to freckled little me in my "L" initial blouse. That book won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers 2008 Best Book Awards, and a Midwest Book Review's Editor's Choice. See how neatly life shakes out sometimes?

Before I started writing books, I received an art education degree from UW-Oshkosh, taught art and was a cartoonist and newspaper reporter. I live in southeast Wisconsin with my husband, youngest son and Lhasa Apso named Grendel.

You might catch me on an episode or two of HC's Monster Quest and other TV and radio shows. Check out Linda's website for updates.

Check out Linda's books:

Connect with Linda:



Friday, February 1, 2013

Congrats to Kristen Lippert-Martin!

I am beyond thrilled today to congratulate my friend Kristen Lippert-Martin on the signing of her book deal to Egmont. Kristen is one of those ladies who make you laugh even when she's sick and covered in baby vomit, who talks you down off a ledge while she's on one herself, and is an all-around good egg. She's also a kick-ass critique partner, a good friend, and a supportive writer. I adore her.

Here's the announcement from yesterday's Publishers Marketplace;

Alison Weiss at Egmont has acquired world English rights to debut author Kristen Lippert-Martin's Tabula Rasa. In this contemporary YA thriller, a 16-year-old girl held in an isolated research hospital undergoes a forced experimental treatment to erase all recollection of her past. But when the procedure goes awry, she must face off against mercenaries sent to eliminate her once and for all. The projected pub date is fall 2014; Molly Jaffa at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal.

Guys, if early iterations of Tabula Rasa are an indication, then you're in for a treat. The book is superb. When I read it, I went, Damn girl. This is THE ONE. It wasn't just me who said that, either. Lots of people have been going Damn girl about this book from the get. It's fast-paced, it's smart, it's gripping, and still manages to be sweet--all with a strong, amazing heroine that you will wish you had half the strength of.

So, congratulations, Kristen! I'm so excited for you! Here's how I feel about it:



and certainly this:


and definitely:




If you already know Kristen, then I know you're as thrilled for her as I am. Go congratulate her on her blog or twitter.

If you don't know her, please remedy that now.
Follow Kristen on Twitter -- she's hilarious: @KLipMart 
Read her equally funny blog: arockinmypocket.blogspot.com