And just like that two months have flown by since my last post. It happens like that when you’re stupid busy. So now with a moment to breathe (briefly), here’s a quickie version of happenings.
Feb 8 was the talk and signing at the Bangor Public Library in Bangor, Maine. The icy weather the night before hindered travel a bit, but brave folks still turned out.
It was a load of fun, and everyone had a good time.
Work on the second book in the Echoes Trilogy is charging forward. My final draft was completed early-ish December. The editor took his magic red pen to it (late December). I finished my post-editor updates and re-read with my own red pen (January into February). And it goes next to the proofreader early March while I continue to chase down leads (started that process in January) to hire a cover artist.
In between the short lulls of activity on the second book, I’m back to chipping away at book three. If it sounds like madness, yes, it most definitely is. But this is where I thrive by having multiple balls being juggled at once. It’s fun in a rather twisted way–I do realize that fact, but I’ll take crazy busy over bored any day.
Alexis Marie Chute is a SparkPress sister that releases her third book in her series The 8th Island Trilogy in 2020. Below are a few questions and answers to get to know the author behind the books.
What was your greatest challenge in writing your books?
My greatest challenge in writing any book is getting my bum in the chair, overcoming that procrastination. Once I’ve gotten over the initial hump, and am in the flow, I’m good to go—until, that is, the end. Endings are just as challenging as beginnings. Then the next struggle is when to stop editing. I am a relentless, picky, and perfectionist kind of editor. There comes a point, however, when I need to hold back and declare a book, “FINISHED!!”
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned that books are hard to make and yet tremendously rewarding and fulfilling. Creating books, for me, is akin to getting tattoos. I am terrified of needles, and thus do not have a tattoo of my own (one day!!), but my friends who get tattoos always tell me it’s addictive. You can never only get one! That’s how I feel about writing books. I’m addicted!
What inspired your stories?
My memoir, Expecting Sunshine, arose out of the anxiety and introspection of my own life. I wanted to survive my pregnancy after loss and not go crazy in the process. Coming out of it on the other side, sane and with a living baby gave me hope that perhaps I had done something right. I wanted to share that hope with others who struggle with loss and growing their family in the midst of the storm of grief.
My 8th Island Trilogy was inspired by the belief that we go to extreme lengths to protect those we love. The three unlikely heroes learn that their past selves do not define their present bravery. They rally against insurmountable odds and discover that they possess strength they never imagined. In many ways, the trilogy is a fictionalized look at the resiliency of the human spirit. That is a topic I am obsessed with and optimistic about!
A good story has characters that are simultaneously loveable and deplorable. The plot is unexpected and varied. There is a lot at stake, and the risks and rewards are always in flux. I can always tell a story is good when it keeps me up at night, lingers long after the last page, and I wish I had thought it up!
What is the one book no writer should be without?
A dictionary and thesaurus. Though I use these tools online now, I am constantly referring to them while writing my books.
Is there a message/theme in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
The resiliency of the human spirit is what percolates up in most
of my work. It’s the dogged determinedness that I see in so many people, no
matter the hardships they face. They inspire me, and because of them, I want my
work to inspire others.
All images provided by and property of Alexis Marie Chute
I grew up in the Deep South where the chickens (yard birds) roamed (not where the deer and the antelope roam). Turkeys and geese always struck me as overgrown yard birds. My family never had turkeys or geese on the farm, and for that, I am thankful. They’re kinda creepy looking to me being the small dinosaurs that they are. When they tilt their heads to look at me, all I see is the freakin’ Jurassic Park Raptor tilting its head before it pounces on its prey.
When I was living in Orrington, Maine, there were, and still are, wild turkeys aplenty. It was common to be driving on the back road where I lived and have to stop while the turkey train proceeded across the road. One at a time. For all 20+ birds. One year they frequently blazed a path from the woods behind my house, across my side yard, and over my front yard, to cross the street to go to my neighbors’ home and feast on the droppings from their bird feeders. They were fun to watch after they finished grazing and re-formed their tiny dinosaur line to enter the woods behind the neighbors’ home.
So in the States today, many people will be doing the grazing on the giant yard bird. I will be hanging with some of my Maine family today, but I will skip the bird.
In January of this year, I spent a lot of time with friends that are frequent meat eaters. I was eating it with them, but after a while I noticed I felt like shit. I wasn’t sure if meat was the cause, but I figured an experiment wouldn’t hurt. I stopped eating all meat and within a week I felt some better. Maybe meat was the cause? Wasn’t sure so I kept it going. By two weeks I felt WAY better. Easy solution to continue forward – go vegetarian (mostly).
I can’t deny that I love salmon sushi. And I do mean LOVE. So I made a sushi clause that I would only eat it or other fish only once a month, if that often.
Now, I realize that claiming to be mostly vegetarian is silly. Kind of like being mostly pregnant. You either are or your aren’t, honey. I still declare myself as mostly vegetarian even if it’s a misnomer. And to be extra clear, no, I’m not pregnant and never will be. Just used that as an example.
A few months into me being 98% vegetarian with my sushi clause, I was showing signs of anemia by late Spring. My healthcare provider asked me about recent changes in my routines. Turns out the slashing of meat from the diet was having a bit of a negative impact on me. But I wasn’t ready to go back to a carnivorous lifestyle, so I made some other changes to beef up the iron intake without the beef. It helped.
I kept that routine for a while, and over the last two months have started trickling a little chicken back into the diet mostly to change up my protein sources. I really like tofu, but damn, even I need to take a wee break from it now and then. At the family reunion in October, for the first time since Jan, I had a few bites of beef from a slow-cooked pot roast my dad fixed for roast beef po boys. The taste was catastrophically good, but my gut had a giant WTF moment as a result. I have not had beef since, but I did create a family reunion clause to use once a year if needed, knowing there could be another gastrointestinal WTF event as a result. Pop’s roast beef po boys are worth the risk–they’re THAT good.
So today, if you eat yard bird, overgrown yard bird, pig, cow, or whatever you choose today or any day, knock yourself out. I culled meat from my routine as an experiment and noticed I felt better for it. I’d never try to convince someone to give up meat just because. But if you want to change things up, add or remove stuff from your diet. I mostly eat gluten free bread now. I tried it to see if it changed how I felt to go gf. It didn’t change a thing, but I still eat it because I got used to the texture and I don’t mind it as much anymore.
If you are carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore (or mostly herbivore like me), go for it. People can get crazy this time of year with shopping frenzies, family dynamics, and other weirdness. Don’t be a nut bar. Stay happy, healthy, and kind as the holiday season ramps up.
After a busy October that turned into a blur, the leaves have come and are just about gone in Maine. There are a few stragglers left here and there with most of the vibrant colors vamoosed until next year. Personally, I’m ready for some snow. I’m always ready for snow.
In the mean time though…
My sabbatical wrapped up at the end of September and I have been back at the IT job. I immensely enjoyed my break, but I was glad to get back into the technical realms of work. Yes, I’m a geek. Yes, I missed it. Yes, it’s further proof I’m not cut out to be a full time writer. I mean, I was already about 97% certain I wasn’t cut out for it, but now I’m 100% certain.
This isn’t a bad thing; I certainly don’t see it that way. My brain is wired so that I need to be actively juggling a few different balls at the same time for me to operate at peak performance. I haven’t been clinically diagnosed as ADHD, but there are a lot of indicators that support my self-diagnosis. It’s all about managing the juggling game and developing coping skills. Hell, I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with a reading disorder until I was in my last semester of grad school. K-12 plus 9.5 years of college to get a diagnosis? Sure. That works. Took a while, but that’s fine. I just finally had a “name” at that point for what I’d always had and worked around. So my attention span issues fall into the same bucket.
I’ve learned to cope.
I thrive when I’m doing multiple projects at once. And I’m not talking about multi-tasking. What I’m referring to is picking up on giant task/project (like a novel) and working on it for a while then changing gears. Since going on the road with IT, I learned to compartmentalize my days of the week. Monday through Thursday, I’m all IT. The technical brain gets its fill.
Friday becomes a split day with the morning being IT and the rest of the day busywork like errands and mindless stuff with an occasional sprinkling of creative pursuits.
Saturday and Sunday are my creative days.
I get the best of both worlds each week. So by being away from IT for three months, the geeky part of my brain was a bit deprived. It is now happily monkeying around in databases and picking data apart Monday through Thursday again. And my creative brain gets to mull over writing and other creative outlets until sometimes Friday but goes into overdrive on Saturdays and Sundays.
Can’t say my system would work for everyone with attention span issues, but it works for me. And since today is Monday, the geek is in and the creative brain gets a break after writing and editing over the weekend.
Photo by me, Abol Bridge, Maine, near Mt. Katahdin. I forget the year.
Apparently a month has flown by since my last post. I was truly baffled on how that managed to happen until I looked back at my calendar and went “Oh. That’s how.”
The photo I took of my rucksack was done when I was in Wick, Scotland. That photo was taken a few days before a wild mishap at the Wick train station before I left the town.
Weather created some issues in the UK that week, lots of rain, wind, and flooding was starting the day I was leaving. Wick hadn’t quite gotten the rain and flooding yet, but it was getting the wind. It’s easy to imagine this given the rugged (and gorgeous) coastline of a town situated very close to the far northernmost tip of mainland Scotland.
While hanging out in the train station waiting for my train that would take me to Stirling, I started transcribing notes from my paper outline on Echoes #3 into my laptop. See, I scribble notes of the entire novel to one piece of paper. That gives me a high level outline and I carry that paper everywhere. I had the paper filled out finally and decided it was time to put the notes into my Scrivener software. Great plan.
The wind from the storm blew the station doors open and took the paper right out of my hand and blew it up over the wall between the waiting area and track area. My notes landed about 15 feet up on a net over the track area. While I was chuckling nervously about the absurdity of what just happened, I was also kinda losing my shit. I NEEDED THAT PAPER!
The Wick station staff came to my rescue with a stick, a ladder, three station employees, and a cyclist that was also in the waiting area when my paper took flight. They were able to knock the paper off the net and back over the other side of the wall where I could reach it. I thanked them profusely and wrote a note to ScotRail to thank them again.
Stirling was a beautiful visit for a few days, and from there I went back down to Glasgow before flying to Ireland. I spent a week there to attend WorldCon Dublin 2019 and was completely blown away with the volume of sci-fi and fantasy fans and big names at the convention. George R. R. Martin, yeah, saw him a few times. Naomi Novik, check. There were lady astronauts, artists, and so many other amazing people. But my author hero, Martha Wells, was the high point.
I got to attend her reading and got so starstruck that after the reading, when I had a chance to speak to her, I froze. My throat suddenly didn’t know how to work, nor did my lungs. I forgot how to swallow. I managed to bob my head and make incoherent noises though. Yep. It was beautiful.
So while I kinda wanted to crawl into a hole after that mishap, I still managed to croak out a few words to her when I got her autograph.
Following that moment of brilliance, I saw her a few other times around the convention, but I didn’t try to go speak to her, knowing I would just clam up again. I worked as an ER and ICU nurse for 10 years. I have helped bring people back from the dead without breaking a sweat. But put me in the presence of Martha Wells, and I turned into a frickin puddle. Oh well.
Next time, right?
I made it back to the States after the convention, found and apartment in Augusta to move my stuff out of storage finally. In between shuffling boxes, I went to a Portland Sea Dogs game where they did a Field of Dreams throwback. Even though I’m not a baseball fan, this was really cool to see.
I’m using the apartment more as a glorified storage unit. I didn’t really bother to unpack too many things. I actually have only one plate, one bowl, and one cup in the kitchen cabinets. I’ll still be traveling for work though not as often as before. Still, this is a landing pad where I can enjoy being in Maine without being in a housing scramble in the winter when camping is a no-go.
And then THIS happened!
The book release was this week, and I’m slated for two interviews already, one podcast and one a TV show. Check the website for updates on those as they get closer. I’ve also been entering book festivals/contests and working on both Echoes #2 and Echoes #3 at the same time. It’s getting kinda crazy. So, yeah, I can see now how I lost an entire month without realizing how quickly the weeks were going by.
I have just under three more weeks left of my sabbatical. Part of me is ready to go back to work. I’m certainly not bored, but I miss my IT stuff and my IT friends. Just more proof that I wouldn’t do well as a full-time writer. I need to be moving in a few different directions to operate at my best level. It certainly helps keep my attention span issues from running amok. 🙂