Ten Years of People

For the past ten years, I have been so blessed to travel all over the country, but stop!

Better than travel?

All the people I’ve met.

I have been so lucky to meet so many people! Who have helped me. Who have loved me. Whom I have loved. Writers are strange creatures, part dreamer, part warrior, neurotic, powerful, but so wonderful. And so I’m going to haphazardly jot down some of my favorite people (not all mind you).

Before I started seriously down the path? Before 2006?

I only had three fans: Peter Chittum, Don Bauman, and Steve Jankowkski. But they were lovely fans, and they read my books before I knew what I was doing. Peter emailed saying Disney would buy up the rights to one of my books just ensure a scene never, ever saw the light of day. I took that as a grand compliment.

Don, ever the idea guy, gave me enough ideas to write stories for the rest of eternity.

And Steve, oh Steve, one time told me I gave just enough information to fire his imagination into a frenzy.

Becky Hodgkins read every word of my epic 500K epic about every person who had ever lived and every place possible. She was nice enough to critique me, and when I fought back, she said, “Fine, don’t change it, but you’re going to bore your readers.” She was right.

And then, 2006.

My first critique. A cold night in January of 2016. A Monday night. Afterwards, I couldn’t sleep. Tuesday morning, I had to call someone because I was so shattered. And who did I call? Lucinda Gerlitz. I haven’t spoken to her for ten years, but Lucinda was so kind. She said, “Aaron, sometimes people have to say something, so they talk about stuff that really doesn’t need to change.” And she said, “You are going to be published. The quality of your writing will ensure you a future in publishing.”

Lucinda Gerlitz. Thank you.

Well, Lucinda and bunch of the Evergreen Critique group split off and left me alone with Diane Dodge and Jan Gurney.

And they made me a writer. Lucinda thought I was good, but undisciplined. Diane Dodge put me on a leash while Jan Gurney cheered me on.

“Aaron,” Diane would say, “you only get to say something once. Not three times. Pick your favorite, I don’t care what it is, but write what you want to say once.” I’d glance at Jan, who would nod and wince and say, “Sorry, Aaron. But Diane’s right.” She was.

And then I went to Big Sur in March of 2006.

Andrea Brown told me the publishing world is always on the brink of utter ruin. Always. It is today. It was ten years ago. It was a hundred years ago. It will be in a thousand years.

Barry Eisler told me I needed to study story structure. He was right.

Laura Rennert was chosen by God to be the hammer of destiny. It was bound to happen to me. I’m glad it was her.

David Spieselman, told me he wasn’t going to stand around and watch me talk shit about my writing. I was saying how shitty of a writer I was, and he said, and I quote, “Why are you fucking yourself? I don’t want to stand here watching you fuck yourself.” It was the Holy Spirit talking through him. It was the divine voice of the universe trying to jostle me out of my selfish self-loathing. Sorry, Diane, but I just said the same thing twice.

If Laura Rennert was the hammer of destiny, Linda Rohrbough was the valkyrie who delivered my broken soul to Valhalla, and to the houses of healing there. She gave me her rules of writing. She told me the secrets of the game. She literally taught me how to dress to be a writer. Now her name is Linda Houser, and it’s a better name. Linda is safe, as safe as houses. She has been my mentor and will always be my friend.

At the Evergreen II critique group, I met Andrea K. Stein. She became my roommate, my road dog, and now my co-author. I thought for sure she was a vampire because she has packed in several lifetimes of adventure in this one. And still we room together. And still we walk this road.

Since I was in an RMW critique group, I needed to go to the RMFW Gold Conference. There I met Chris Devlin. Sister. Comrade. Cheerleader. Task master. I use her for all my copy-writing. I don’t feel right if Chris Devlin doesn’t usher a book out into the world. If I had to choose one person in this world to watch over my soul, I would give it to Chris Devlin. She would take good, good care of it.

RMFW changed my life in a lot of ways, but it really started with Jeanne C. Stein. She is a very patient woman. Every year, I would ask to join her very illustrious critique group. Every year, she would smile, shake her head, and shrug. Sorry. And then? In 2011, at RMFW, I asked, and she said, “Maybe, send me your stuff.” I sent her the first chapter of The Never Prayer and that was it. I joined the PSG Critique Group, where I hung out with Mario Acevedo, who’s like the wise-old uncle, who taught me there is only one rule to be a writer, and that is to be gracious. He’s right. And Warren Hammond. I’ve been with the PSG Critique group for five years. For five years, I’ve had access to the one of the sharpest minds in Colorado. I am awed by Warren, and I feel lucky to have him look over my writing.

While being a part of that critique is amazing, it’s because of Andrea K. Stein and Chris Devlin that I got published. I entered into a contest with each of them. Whoever got to fifty queries first won. I won. Crescent Moon Press found me.

Christine Ashworth talked to me on the phone all about CMP. She wanted me to make sure I knew what I was getting into. Out of all the authors I approached to talk about CMP, Christine was the one who agreed to talk to me, a total stranger.

Lin Browne – she was the first editor to take a chance on me. She loved my book. We would rejoice in each other as we went through drafts. I loved her comments. She loved my writing. It was the best possible first editing experience. And she wrote to me, “Of course your book is going to do well. You’re such a good writer.” We never talked on the phone. We only emailed. To think, one of the most pivotal people on my writing journey is someone I’ll most likely never meet.

Marlene Castricato and Steph Murray, the women behind Crescent Moon Press. Thank you.

So my first book ever was coming out.

And who did I meet at Pikes Peak Writers? Bree Ervin. She was my first publicist, my only publicist, and she is my friend. And she is now editing some of my Indie stuff. She has helped me with every aspect of my writing life. I feel so blessed and lucky to know her. If you haven’t met Bree, look to Longmont, Colorado. That light you see? That is Bree.

In 2012, at the RMFW Conference, my ribbons nearly reached to the floor. I got a Pen award. First sale. I was a finalist in the RMFW Gold contest. It was a night of miracles. And there I met Giles Hash, Emily Kay Singer, and Michelle Graham. You know them as the Beyond the Trope podcast. But for me, I’ll always think of them as new authors, on a mission, to pull down the stars. Giles and I would go out to breakfast, early morning on Colfax, eating grease and talking about publishing. Emily took a turn as my personal assistant, which is a wretched job. And Michelle, man, I hope when Michelle becomes reach and famous, she’ll return my calls.

I was out in the world. I had my books being read by like, real people. I started doing events and starting speaking, but you know what? I wouldn’t be speaking at all, anywhere, it if hadn’t been for Linda Houser and Sue Mitchell.

Linda talked me into submitting my Writing Success through the Twelve Steps workshop for PPWC, but it was Sue Mitchell, faculty director for PPWC, in 2011, who, agreed to give me a try. I got a precious Friday afternoon slot, and it was probably one of the best days of my entire life. I killed it. Then Karen Albright Lin gave me the ultimate compliment. She said, “You were one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen. You could totally be a keynote speaker at a writing conference.” I was flying. Karen travels all over the world teaching classes, she knows about such things.

Through another gig, I met Cody May, a young man publishing books and selling them by any means necessary. Basically, he’s a good-looking guy, and so he stands by his books, young women flock up, buy his books, blush, and fall in love. Cody May and I started the Colorado Author Interview Circle together, and man, I can’t wait to see what he does next. He is a firecracker, that guy.

Kara Seal and Leah Parker? Yeah, they are crazy librarians who I met at PPWC along the way. We have breakfast. We dream entrepreneurial dreams. And we are fellow Penny Dread Tales authors.

So I’d been doing events all over Colorado, but I needed to expand. I needed to go to the show, the Romantic Times Reader’s Convention.

If I talked about the all the amazing people I met at the Romantic Times Convention, I’d be here all day and night. Again, I have to do a few.

Karina Cooper taught me steampunk. It has very little to do with the color brown.

L.A. Witt reduced me to tears, telling me a story about someone who is transgender who read one of her books and it changed their life

Elizabeth Cheryl. The minutes I’ve spent with you in this life have been so precious to me. You have no idea.

And then, hold it. Kendall Grey, Heather Savage, Jenna Barton, and Rie Warren. Hold on a minute, you slags. I’m getting there. We met in the spring of 2012 (most of us), and I’ll get there.

Angie Hodapp. Also in the spring of 2012, with my book about to hit the world, Angie Hodapp joined Chris Devlin and I at a Village Inn off Wadsworth, and Angie said, “Everyone is afraid. At the three in the morning, if you’re awake and terrified, you are not alone.” Those Tuesday nights at the Village Inn, flirting with the waiters, will live forever in my memory. And one of the best classes I ever taught at RMFW was with Angie. We talked about theme. She brought all the content. I brought the color. It was epic! She is one smart cookie and a great teacher.

So my first book was out. Now, I needed a second one.

Deb Courtney and I talked at PPWC in 2012, and she asked about a suicide book I’d talked about years before. I asked her if she’d like to take a look. She’d opened Courtney Literary, and I thought she might help me get something published. She loved the book. She gave me brilliant edits. Long Live the Suicide King lives (pun intended) because of her. Thank you.

But first…but first, Quincy J. Allen happened to me. Thanks to Rose Beetem, who has been so kind to me, got me on a panel at Mile-Hi Con. She let me do a talk with Jason Heller about the movie and music of Heavy Metal, and she let me do a god panel. I love talking about Him, Her, It, They. God(s) that is.

Real quick, first, that talk with Jason Heller about Heavy Metal will be one of the high points of my convention life. Without a doubt. It’s a one way ticket to midnight…

Quincy J. Allen showed up to my God panel, and he said I did a good job moderating. We talked. And though I was scared of his success and Mohawk, I had the idea we might become friends. What happened? We became not just friends, but road dogs.

His girlfriend, Kathryn S. Renta, gave me another break that changed my writing career. It was a Sunday night, and I was checking Facebook, when she messaged me. She suggested I write a story for the Penny Dread Tales III, which Quincy edits. I wrote “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” which garnered praise and solidified my standing in the local Colorado writing community. It’s because of Kathryn, who quotes the exact same lines of Shakespeare that I do, that I wrote that story. And Quincy loved it. He wants to write a screenplay. I’m open.

In 2013, Jenna Barton, one of my RT friends, reached out to me and suggested in 2013 I write a story for Fiction Vale, a new fiction magazine. So I wrote two stories and the pay was good. Jenna Barton is a true artist, a wonderful writer, and an adventurer into the realms of the soul. And while I didn’t have a book come out in 2013, I did have several short stories thanks to Jenna and Quincy.

I gotta say, 2013 was rough. Odd-numbered year. In 2014, Long Live the Suicide King was released and I did a little book tour. In Minnesota, I signed a contract with Staccato Publishing, run by another of my RT friends, Heather Savage. Heather Savage has a passion for writing and books, and once again, I had a great editor to work with. I loved our phone calls. Elizabeth’s Midnight is such a good book because of her insights.

Wait a minute, 2013 wasn’t such a bad year. At Mile-Hi Con (thank you, Rose Beetem), I talked with Peter J. Wacks in the smoking section. I told him about a new series I was working on. It was this crazy idea about cowgirls with machine guns on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive. He told him to send it to him. In June of 2014, I signed a six-book contract with WordFire Press. I used to go over to Peter’s apartment, bring him Thai food, and we talked and planned. He told me that as an editor, you want to make the smallest changes that will give you the biggest results. He didn’t believe in re-writing whole books if you didn’t have to. One sentence can change a book for the better.

Which swirls us around 2015 and my first Superstars conference and my foray into a new adventure. I started working local booths. And I have to say, when I think of working a show, I think of Travis Heermann. He’s in New Zealand. He’ll come back. Colorado will be better for it.

Working shows, going to Superstars Writing Seminar, I met Lou J. Berger. More about Lou in a minute.

In 2015 I also went to South Carolina to hang out with Kendall, Rie, Heather, and Jenna. Working there, watching Rie work, it’s so nice to know there is someone else in the world who writes like me. Rie doesn’t just write, she bashes words until they beg for mercy. She writes like a force of nature.

While I was enjoying some success, three books, and a series on the way, the terror and sorrow I felt on a daily basis threatened to crush me.

And so I started doing something magical. If I was hit with an emotional bomb, and the writing/publishing world drops bombs often, I would call three people and talk about it three times. I would feel better and sleep that night.

Who are the first people I call to get my three? Kendall Grey is one. She is my sister from another mister. She is so much like me, but more brave, and far stronger. You don’t want to mess with Kendall Grey. And yet, when we talk, she understands me, and I understand her. Together, we are Kendaaron. She’s the better half.

Lou J. Berger is another person I call to talk through my feelings. And he is so esoteric, in the best sense. People tell me my mind works differently. No. Lou’s brain works differently. Wonderfully different. I call him and he helps me see things in a new light. He wrote me a wonderful note that I read every night before I go to bed. It has become a kind of mantra to me. Thank you, Lou.

Mile-Hi Con also gave me David M. Daniel (I’m seeing a theme here, Rose Beetem). I meet and read a lot of new writers, but David’s writing actually made me search for more pages to read because I couldn’t get enough of his Sebastian story. And his editing eye is sharp and merciless. I don’t like to talk on the phone. But with David, I can talk with him for hours. Generally, we talk and I’m either on a stormy highway going seventy or I’m in a King Soopers, so afraid, so tired of the despair. And David says, “Every writer has a sucky part of their story. You’re just in the sucky part right now.”

The Penny Dread Tales anthologies gave me Kathryn and Quincy, but it also gave me Jason Evans. We wrote a story and sold it. We wrote another and got a rejection. We eat breakfast. We talk. He is a wonderful beta-reader and an even better friend. And he’s Catholic. When I’m down, he says, “All suffering is redemptive.” We are both going to heaven. We’ll write books there.

Another new friend, a writer, a seeker, is Jennifer Rose. I met her at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference and we hit it off. Then we saw each other, again and again, and we had breakfast at Breakfast on Broadway, which is the best breakfast around. I look forward to us working together.

Again, Mile-Hi Con. I met Sheila Hartney, though we are also Pikes Peak Writer friends. Sheila beta-reads, but more than that, she gives me such hope. There is something about Sheila that makes me believe in the dream. And sometimes believing in the dream is hard. Real hard.

And so, in a few weeks, Dandelion Iron will be released, book one of The Juniper Wars series. It won’t have an acknowledgement section, but the second book will. And dang, a lot of people will show up there. People like Melissa Jankowksi, David Myers, Leah Cary, Mia Kleve, and of course Vivian Trask.  All were vital in helping me shape the book. And of course all the folks at WordFire.

I’m at three thousand words. I’m at fifty people. Ish. And again, this isn’t everyone. I have so many more beautiful friends I could talk about. Ian Thomas Healy. Deanna Knippling. James Sams. David Boop. Betsy Dornbusch. Natasha Brown.

Two more.

Dave Butler. I’ve spent three days in your company. I’m hoping this is the start of a beautiful relationship. Anyone who sings my name, well, I dig that.


I told my wife I was going to quit writing forever, one day, one of many. And she stopped me. She said, “You have lived most of your life in a fantasy world. Writing and publishing books is the most real thing you can do.”

She didn’t let me quit. She believed in me. She is my partner in crime, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

To bring it full circle, I told Becky Hodgkins I was going to quit, one day, one of many. She said words that still haunt me. She said, “You can’t quit writing if you haven’t really tried.”

I’m trying, Becky. And the thing about the writing game, trying means for the rest of my life. Trying means until they throw dirt on me.

That’s fine. I got my road dogs. I have a path, and I got lots of books in me.

Let’s keep trying together.








I Get Giggly and High School Poetic With Romance Writer Marne Ann Kirk PART I

Yes friends, Romans, countrymen, this author and I had so much fun talking, I’m doing a two part series.  Today and tomorrow, me and Marne Ann Kirk.  Today is Part I.  I used a Roman numeral for one.  Because I’m classy like that.

And poetic.  This blog post has real like poetry on it.  You lucky people.

Marne Ann Kirk and I are both Crescent Moon Press writers and we wrote together one weekend, and I’ll never forget how stately she looked in a rumpled old chair, leaning back, typing on her computer. She looked positively regal. Me? I type. I rage. I type some more. I hate the words, like I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Helpless to stop, I pound more sentences down to spite the shattered pieces of my own misbegotten, hopeful genius. And Marne, stately, works.

At least that’s what I saw. But then, she is the Vice President of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, she has 9 brothers and 2 sisters, and she is raising a gaggle of her own kids. And she has dogs, including several puppies who get themselves into a variety of messes. With all of that going on, her serenity is humbling. As is her kindness. Am I eulogizing? Don’t let me eulogize. To learn more, and come up with high praise of your own, click here.

Marne has a series with Crescent Moon Press. The Fae Dragon Chronicles: Love Chosen is already out, and she has a paranormal romance set to launch this summer. We’ll talk about both. And Montana. And woodpiles. And how romantic fiction might have saved her life, though when she started writing, she wanted to write hardcore, thought-provoking literary fiction.

Here is the Amazon.com link for Love Chosen, not literary, but a fantasy romance. This is the skinny:

For millennia, dragon and fae have peacefully co-existed, but the fae themselves have lived segregated and very different lives. Now a malevolence threatens to separate them all permanently. Can a Queen’s guard and a rebellious outlaw join forces to defeat this common enemy?

So we talked, it was fun, and here it is:

AARON: So, Marne, tell us about the woodpile people in Montana. Everyone loves to hear stories about woodpile people.

Marne: True story: I was a weird child. I know, I know, so hard to believe, right? But, like most writers, my imagination began as this raging beast within my psyche, battling with the child I was for supreme control over my life. Luckily, I beat it back enough to fool others into believing I’m normal; but there for a while in my early development, it was touch and go. I was afraid of absolutely everything (and a few of my brothers might have preyed on those fears, just a titch).

When I was eight, I lived on a beautiful piece of land bordering the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Preserve in Montana. On this amazing property we lived what you might call a rustic life…I believe it would be more accurate, though, to say dirt had more monetary value than we did. Anyway, poor was an understatement. We lived in a run down, two-and-a-half bedroom, no bathroom, no electricity, no water or plumbing, cozy trailer home for seven, with one more on the way. At eight, though, I saw it as an adventure. Seriously, best camping trip EVER.

The only downside…I was afraid of the dark. And without electricity, it was a dark winter indeed. One of my chores was getting wood, but it seemed I always had to get it at night. Always. In the pitch black of the darkest night. And for the longest time, I remember standing against the trailer with my eyes scrunched shut, just praying my daddy would magically forget he needed that wood. I was pretty sure if the bears or mountain lions didn’t eat me, the deer and bunnies would (thanks to said brothers).

And then the woodpile people came to my rescue. At first there were two, a brother and sister, who convinced me to come over to the woodpile. They kept me company and performed silly antics while I got wood. If they had a problem, I’d help them resolve it. Once they trusted me, their parents came out of the woodpile to meet me; and as I gained their trust by solving issues or keeping secrets, they brought friends out to meet me until I had an entire small village of woodpile people, complete with a little mayor and officer, for friends.

Crazy, I know, but isn’t there a bit of crazy in us all? Please, Aaron, for the love of all I hold dear, say it’s so.

AARON: Okay, so in high school, I wrote bad suicide poetry. A lot of bad suicide poetry. You want a sample? No, I couldn’t…okay…if you insist…

Darkness lives like a beast in my soul,
Life has no happiness for a mongrel like me
I slip the razorblade under my flesh and bleed my truth:
I was never meant to live.

Hey, that was pretty good. Okay, my bad suicide poetry from high school had more angsty, less poetry.

Now, Marne, what kind of poems did you write in high school? And Marne, on the phone, we agreed, you’d give us a sample.

Marne: It’s kind of funny to me, how time distorts one’s memory. When we spoke, I told you I wrote poetry (very bad poetry, I might add) about nature and God, and not really angsty stuff at all… Boy, was I wrong. I pulled out an old journal and, lo and behold, I was a pretty typically angst-ridden kid. Ick. But I promised you some bad…er, I mean fantastic, amazing, poetry. So…

Tickle the tongue
Soft, tiny; slow drowning
Life, hanging by its perfection

That one wasn’t too angst-filled. And, because I actually like this one…

Tell me
Why do we die?
Just to make room for more?
Death mocks mankind’s every success.

Why, yes… I do know they’re terrible. But I was a teenager. You should read the angsty stuff. Horrible. Depressing. And did I mention horrible? I hope fiction was the right path…

AARON: From your bio, you are child of the west. So am I. I was born with the soul of a coyote and a love for the wind. In Love Chosen, though, you include more exotic settings. However, in the sequel, you bring it all home. Tell us a little bit about how your life in the west has colored the settings of your novels.

Marne: “The soul of a coyote and a love for the wind,” I like that… Personally, I hate the wind—strong winds make me so cranky and I don’t know why (yet Delta has many wind-filled Spring days. Ick). I think I’ll put a horrific wind storm in the black moment of my next book. Thanks for the idea, Aaron!

Anyway, when it comes to setting, I write what I know or I write what I’d love to know about. First, to set things up a bit, I wrote LOVE CHOSEN, book one in the Fae Dragon Chronicles, after I wrote LOVE DARED, book two in the Fae Dragon Chronicles. Why? Because I wrote LOVE DARED as a stand-alone story and then realized there was so much more story I could tell, so I wrote LOVE CHOSEN.

So, we’ll start with LOVE DARED, which takes place in coniferous mountains, in desert canyon lands, in cliff-dwelling homes…all of these areas are places I’m intimately familiar with. I spent a great portion of my youth living on oil rigs with my family, all over the hills, plateaus, and canyons of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. We found cliff dwellings, old homesteads, caved-in mines, all kinds of amazing artifacts, and those things influence a young mind. I think this comes out in the imagery of LOVE DARED.

By the time I’d written LOVE CHOSEN, I’d had a chance to travel a bit more and I’d even seen an ocean or two. The internet had also become a much more significant resource. So I felt comfortable placing LOVE CHOSEN in a seaport kingdom. The funny thing about that, though, is the Ierocks mountain range separates the fae from the humans, and it is present in both books. Why? Because I guess I never got too far away from home after all… Ierocks= Rockies…

Just to be clear, it’s like a love\hate thing with the wind.  But thanks Marne.  Part I ends here, but part II begins tomorrow!  It’s all Marne, all week! Or at least Thursday and Friday.

Talk to you cats tomorrow.

I Get Psychotic and Bloodthirsty with Lynda Hilburn

I was there, ground zero, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2007 Gold Conference, at the First Sale Panel. And who was there? Lynda Hilburn. Talking about her novel that follows a psychologist who begins to treat a vampire. What a great idea. High concept. Brilliant. I was a little jealous. And so intrigued. Imagine my dizziness, when Lynda agreed to an interview. I was dizzy, dizzy I tell you. And her bio is amazing. We had so much to talk about! Music, writing, mental illness! Maybe she could help me. She did. We chatted. Wonderful.

Taken from her website, she’s been a rock-and-roll singer/musician, a typesetter/copy editor for various newspapers and magazines, a professional psychic/tarot reader, a licensed psychotherapist, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, a newspaper columnist, a university instructor, a workshop presenter and a fiction writer.

Yeah, pinch me, I’m dreaming.

Want to know about The Vampire Shrink? Here is a little teaser. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. Now about the book.

Kismet Knight, PhD, doesn’t believe in the paranormal. She especially doesn’t believe in vampires, but she begins to wise up when she is introduced to a handsome man named Devereux who claims to be 800 years old. Kismet doesn’t buy his vampire story, but she also can’t explain why she has such odd reactions and feelings when he is near. Then a client almost completely drained of blood staggers into her waiting room and two angry men force their way into her office, causing her to consider the possibility that she has run afoul of a vampire underworld. Enter FBI profiler Alan Stevens, who warns her that vampires are very real, and one is a murderer—a murderer who is after her.

On to the interview, my pretties.
Aaron: Lynda, when we chatted, you said writing and publishing were harder than being a musician. How so? I mean, I know we’ve had authors who have flamed out as grand and as soaked in gin as Jim Morrison in a Paris bathtub, but I was so surprised at your comment. We writers are such dapper, sophisticated, conservative types of people. Dang, no sarcasm font. How is being a writer harder than being a musician?

Lynda: Thanks for interviewing me, Aaron. I really enjoyed our telephone conversation. Maybe being a writer isn’t harder than being a musician, but my experience of writing and publishing has proven to be much more ego-denting, neurosis-stoking and challenging than singing/performing in front of large crowds. And that’s saying something, because I suffered from severe performance anxiety for years when I started singing as an adolescent — stomach-twisting, cold-sweat-pouring-down-my-chest, can’t-stray-far-from-a-bathroom panic and fear-of-impending-death performance anxiety. I really thought nothing could be worse than that. I was wrong.

Spilling my guts onto appropriately formatted pages and sending them off to hostile aliens (agents, editors) to read and critique, in hopes of getting “the deal,” makes vocal performance feel like a day at the spa. As a singer/musician, if I had an off night and flubbed a performance, it was over. I didn’t have to revisit it. Unless, of course, some sadistic soul recorded me and my sub-par performance was immortalized on You Tube forever. But writing a book means my work is constantly available for the reading pleasure – or displeasure – of potentially millions of people (hey, an author has to dream big, doesn’t she?), most of whom aren’t shy about sharing their wide-ranging opinions. The stuff of nightmares, to be sure. I don’t believe authors who say they don’t read reviews and/or have sufficiently tough skin, so therefore they’re unaffected by the opinions of others. Right. We writers have elevated the quest for outer validation to an art form. Give me a drunk and rowdy crowd at the local VFW Hall anytime.

Aaron: So The Vampire Shrink has seen it all. It’s been small pubbed, e-pubbed, and resurrected again, coming out in April 2012. It’s been shot up, stabbed, burned, put under the bed, drug back out, tortured, nearly staked by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yet has emerged, victorious. It is the Rasputin of books. And, keep in mind, a bestseller. Tell us all a little of that book’s journey. I find it jaw-dropping.

Lynda: LOL, Aaron. That about sums it up. I started writing The Vampire Shrink in 2005 just for fun after meeting with a young client in my counseling practice who talked about wanting to join a non-human group. I’ve been a vampire book fan forever, so listening to her story made me wonder what it would be like to find a gorgeous bloodsucker sitting in my waiting room. I went home that night and started typing.

Being relatively new to fiction writing (I’d mostly focused on nonfiction previously), I had little knowledge of fiction/publishing rules. So, with the encouragement of my various critique groups, after I completed 3 chapters I began sending out query letters. It never occurred to me that I needed to wait until the manuscript was complete. The response was good. Many agents/editors asked for the full. Yikes. I had to come clean and say the book wasn’t finished. I was told to get back in touch when it was, so I wrote like a fiend, completing a draft within months. Several agents held onto the ms, saying they were “thinking about” the book. Finally, one agent – the jr. agent of a big NY agency – offered representation. I was on my way!

Despite multiple rewrites and initial enthusiasm from the jr. agent, nobody wanted the book as it was written. At that time, “blended genres” wasn’t happening. I was told to “pick one genre, take out all the others, and resubmit.” My jr. agent’s boss told me to “put the book under the bed and write something else and we’ll start over.” What? You’re kidding, right?

Soon a critique partner told me about a small publisher seeking submissions. Without talking to my agent, I subbed to this small pub. They wanted to buy the book yesterday. My agent wasn’t happy. He asked me to investigate their distribution, which made no sense to me. Why did I care if their books were actually in book stores? Yeah, I know. LOL. Silly me. After months of contract negotiations, I signed on the dotted line. I was ecstatic! I would be a published author!

Uh-huh. Problems began immediately and continued. The small pub released Shrink in 2007 and Dark Harvest, which used to be book #2 in the series, in 2008. Then we parted ways. My agent and I also said good-bye.

After those endings, I spoke with many agents. They all told me it was “impossible” to move a series from one house to another. I was devastated and certain I’d had the shortest publishing career on record. Confused and depressed, I stopped writing for months.
At the end of 2009, I began noticing people like JA Konrath blogging about self-publishing. Self-publishing? Really? I thought that was a last resort? Apparently not anymore. In early 2010, with Joe’s encouragement, I had the books (I retained the e-rights) re-edited and uploaded on Amazon and Smashwords. Within a month they became Amazon bestsellers and I was making more money from my books than from my work as a psychotherapist.

My bestseller status drew the attention of an even bigger NY agent (Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group) who offered representation. He said he was sure he could sell the series to another house. He did (and got me an amazing advance). After nerve-wracking legal wrestling with the previous small pub to get my print rights back, I finally signed a joint 3-book deal with Quercus Books, UK (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s first publisher) and Sterling Publishing (Barnes & Noble) USA.

So now there’s the old trade paperback from the small pub, the UK hardcover, the UK kindle edition, the USA trade paperback, the USA Nook edition, an Australian trade paperback and soon a UK mass market version floating around out there. Yikes. Oh, yeah. And a German version I sold myself.

Whew. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Aaron: How did you survive the roller coaster of believing in The Vampire Shrink, and getting traction in the publishing industry, and yet, having to survive setback after setback? Was there fist shaking at the heavens? Midnight binges of cookie-dough ice cream? Trips of oblivion into the abyss of reality television? What pulled you through?

Lynda: Lots of fist-shaking, temper tantrums and chocolate eating. During the worst time, I pretty much gave up and felt sorry for myself. I wallowed in the best solitary, junk-food-fueled pity parties. My wonderful writer friends kept encouraging me to hang on, and without their emotional support, I probably wouldn’t have experimented with self-publishing in 2010, which changed everything.

Aaron: You and I, very different. You wrote a book and courageously tried to get it published, while I wrote thousands of books and hid them under my bed. Where they gnashed their teeth in the darkness. Knowing what you know now, would you suggest braving the treacherous waters of the publishing industry earlier rather than later? Wait, or don’t wait? What do you think?

Lynda: You’re so funny. The treacherous waters of the publishing industry continue to churn. These days there are more options for authors, although it does seem true that fewer large, print deals are being offered. I think if getting a print contract is important, an author should pursue that. If not, or if that desire hasn’t happened, looking into self/indie publishing is a great idea (even though that arena is changing by the minute). One of the main complaints about self/indie publishing is that some of the books aren’t ready for prime time. I’m an advocate for sending a book through as many appropriate and helpful eyes (critique partners, critique groups, beta readers) as possible, along with having it edited professionally at least once, before taking the next step on your chosen path. Everyone needs an editor. But, simply because a print deal hasn’t been offered yet isn’t a good enough reason to hide your book under the bed. (Get those books out of there, Aaron! Or get them night guards for that gnashing problem.)

Aaron: As a psychotherapist, and that is one word for Lynda. My mom is a psycho therapist. Two words. Kidding. Anyway, Lynda, as a psychotherapist, would you see a vampire as a client? With the understanding that it wouldn’t try to eat you. Or get all sparkly. Do you think you could help a vampire? Professionally.

Lynda: My son says the same thing about me. I’ll give the disclaimer that I still HOPE to meet a real vampire (which is why I created my vampire lust object, Devereux), while not believing they actually exist. I think real vampires would be a separate, alien species. Unless there were strong remnants of humanity present, I can’t imagine I’d have a clue as to how to connect with such an exotic creature. I’d probably be much more helpful as a snack than as a counselor.

Aaron: Have you met vampires? And no, I don’t mean actual long-toothed denizens of the night. But more like psychic vampires.

Lynda: Absolutely. Psychic vampires abound. And there are many varieties. My favorite is the sociopathic emo psychic vampire. These individuals stalk their prey with cold dispassion, both drawn to and afraid of authentic emotion, draining the feeling essence from their victims, leaving empty husks behind (metaphorically). I’ve met several gurus and self-proclaimed masters who fit this description. Then there are the drama queens who generate so much emotional chaos that we’re forced to either fortify our boundaries to the point of exhaustion or risk having our energy sucked to feed the gluttonous monster. If you spend time with someone, then feel depressed and fatigued after they’re gone, you’ve likely encountered a psychic vampire. For some reason, lots of us choose psychic vampires for mates, and it’s virtually impossible to live with one without becoming physically or mentally ill. But they’re so entertaining. Maybe we all have a drop of the psychic vampire in us.
Aaron: For you, what is the absolute best part of writing? What is the absolute worst part? And if you could, would you give up writing to be a world-famous singer\songwriter? Like Lady Gaga. Kidding, kidding. Everyone knows that Katy Perry is THE firework to follow.

Lynda: The absolute best part of writing is having written. Seriously. I love looking at the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last page. I’m not one of those writers who revel in the writing process. For me, it’s manual labor. And I’ve discovered that I function best connected to others during the siege. If I’m too isolated, withdrawn, my creativity suffers. About the world-famous singer question? I don’t think so. I really gave that a good shot a couple of times when I was younger. That lifestyle brought out the worst in me in every way. Bad habits, etc. I miss singing but not enough to hang out in bars to do it. Besides, in my car, I’m the greatest singer in the universe. Why mess with perfection? LOL

Thanks so much, Lynda!  And I gotta point out the awesome blurb from Kelley Armstrong on your book.  You go girlfriend!  All you vamps out there, check out The Vampire Shrink Today!  And the sequel, Blood Therapy.  See  below.  Awesome!

Cover for Lynda's new book

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