Summer Giving Way to Fall

 I started work on my first children's book on a whim, but it's grown into something, which happens with writing.

I had finished my next novel and was in the process of doing the writerly thing and sending it out to agents and publishers for rejection. My plan was to give them a few months time to categorically refuse to help my latest story get into print, say New Year's Eve, before doing what I've done in the past and going it on my own, with the help of Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP). At that point, I'll self-publish "The World Beneath the World" and get serious about writing the next one.

Until then, my plan was to noodle around with various side-projects: a collection or two of refurbished and expanded shorts and novellas, a website to help people on a semi-guided MFA-like experience, a serial for the new Kindle Vella program, a couple of articles about tortoises for reptile magazines, writing a grant proposal for an educational program I'd like to design, and connecting with local bookstores and schools and libraries... in addition, I jokingly talked with my wife Gail about writing a Children's book about Chili, the male Russian Tortoise that I live with.

It turned out that the story about Chili was first and foremost in my mind, and was apparently ready to come out. I did the artwork using a cool painting app and a few dozen of my photos of Chili and a few of the other tortoises that I live with, and ended up producing a nice little story, with a nice little message, that turned out to be a nice little book (if I do say so myself).

I've sold a bunch of them online via Amazon's website, and a bunch more signed copies through my home office. The book's gotten great reviews so far, from readers all over the place, and it's those reviews, along with pictures like the ones below, that have me working on the next book, which will deal with the Redfoot Tortoise that I live with, Darwin.

The first book allowed me to do something magical and fun, to blend a number of interests of mine into a cool package that can hopefully entertain and teach, or at least make people stop and think, at the same time.

That first book takes a look at Chili's grumpiness in a light-hearted way, but also makes the point that it's OK not to be happy (or to have to pretend to be happy) all the time, but that even when you're grumpy you can enjoy some of the things and beings in your life.

The second book is taking the same approach, through one of the tortoises that I live to examine a subject that some readers may experience and struggle with... in this case, sexual identity and its role and importance in placing you in society and the world.

My hope is to keep having a good time with the books, keep exploring serious issues in a fun way, and to keep producing children's books with lovely artwork of the gorgeous animals that I live with in my creep.

Besides that, I'm planning on moving forward with those other projects mentioned above, as well as pushing ahead with the second book in the new detective series.

Thanks for reading - Jamie


Chili, the Grumpy Tortoise

 My first children's book, "Chili, the Grumpy Tortoise", has gone live and is available on Amazon (or you can order it directly from me if you want a signed copy).

You can find it at Amazon, at the following link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B4F2KTG

It's the story of a very grumpy Russian tortoise with a past that he explores with the help of a friendly Redfoot Tortoise he lives next to in their outside enclosures.

On the one hand, it's a piece of speculative fiction that considers the possibility that Chili is one of the tortoises that flew around the moon and returned to the Earth in 1968; then filtered through a number of different hands and households in the global pet-trade... on the other hand, it's a meditation on compartmentalizing past outrages and suffering to avoid letting them rule your present... on a third hand (maybe a foot or claw) it's a lovely little story with gorgeous artwork, almost entirely my photographs, run through software to look like paintings, that anyone could enjoy reading with the little people in their lives.

I hope you enjoy the book! 

If you do like it, it would be great if you could leave a 5-star review and then tell five friends who might also like it.

If you'd like multiple copies, signed copies, or multiple signed copies, please reach out to me, and we can make that happen.

Thanks - Jamie


Books in Progress, update and reveal

 I noticed that it's been too long since I posted here, so here goes....

I reached out to 30+ agents and publishers with query letters, interested in trying out a more traditional publishing route for my latest mystery novel, The World Beneath The World, the first book in a series about a pair of detectives hiding out in New Hampshire with a greenhouse full of rescue tortoises. I've heard back with numerous polite "no thank you" emails, a non-committal (yet) expression of some degree of interest, and lots of silence.

I've been noodling with writing a children's book about my tortoises for a while, trying to find the right story and words and pictures to do such a book, and the tortoises, justice. I finished a draft of the book, Chili, the Grumpy Tortoise, today, and ordered a copy so that I can see how the artwork translates... I used my own photos almost entirely, running them through a "photo to painting" app to dial down the photo-realistic feel of the pictures.

I'm also working on a collection of short stories and novellas, Criminal Elements, that will gather some new stories as well as some renovated ones from the cellar, all of them looking at good and bad guys on both sides of the blue line. The impetus for this collection grew from a number of stories I'd written, or wanted to write, that hadn't made it into earlier collections or got shelved before they got written because of other priorities.

I'm excited about working on all three of these projects and hope to have more news about each in the coming weeks.

Thanks - Jamie



It occurred to me this morning that I hadn't posted to this blog in a while. and the best way to do it is to do it, so here goes....

I've always felt a bit as though I operated my writing life, and business, inside a bubble, but it's seemed even more so during the year of Covid. 

I've got a number of projects going, mostly because I like to bounce back and forth between different things, depending on my mood and energy and motivation. 

WIP - Mystery Novel
Beta-readers have helped me through a few drafts of my next book, the first in a new series of detective novels, The World Beneath The World. Once I finish going through it again, to work on the latest round of revisions, it'll be ready to go to the editor (I think). I'm still up in the air as to whether or not I want to send it to a list of potential agents I've been building this time around. I like the freedom, and speed, associated with self-publishing through KDP, but a friend of mine recently got picked up by an agent and I'm both jealous and wondering if that does actually make him more of a "real" writer than me.

I've just finished one article for a magazine that I've been back and forthing with for a while, and have a few other articles I've been considering writing. I have a wide array of interests that I tend to dive deeply, some would say obsessively, into, and I've found that I enjoy sharing what I've learned with other people.

I've continued working with a number of students throughout the pandemic, helping them with writing and organization and motivation in the face of a difficult time to learn and to be a student; I find that I love keeping one foot in the classroom, and hope that I can keep it up even when all of this is behind us.

I recently stumbled across a ghostwriting opportunity, and am working with a person who has lots of material but lacks the time/interest in writing the book they want to publish.

I've got a few dozen stories, both new and old, that keep bouncing around in my head and computer... I'm thinking about assembling them into a collection (or two) of short stories for release through KDP.

One of the things that's helped to keep me writing during Covid has been a series of mini writing retreats. I've done some solo-retreats in my mobile writing cabin, a small trailer that I drag around to pretty spots to write while basking in nature's green glow. A few times, I bubbled in with a friend from my MFA program and we spent a few nights writing and reading and sharing new stuff with each other at an AirBnB somewhere. A third way that I've been taking advantage of is by being a trusted housesitter, which basically means that I stay in someone's house and take care of their animals while they're away. All three of these flavors of writing retreat give me the chance to recharge my creative batteries and get some solid writing done.

I've been feeling the call from a fantasy novel that I began a number of years ago. I have about 80k words in a first draft, and although I wasn't feeling the project come together in the way I'd like back then, it may be time to dust it off and take another look at the project.

Even though it often feels as though I'm flying out of control in multiple directions at once sometimes, I'm excited about the various things I'm working on, and scared, and sometimes feel like an imposter, but I think that's what being a writer is like, a lot of the time, at least for me.

If you have questions, or thoughts, or demands, about anything you read in the blog, or something I wrote on FB or mentioned on the phone, please don't hesitate to get in touch via comment or pm or email.

Thanks for stopping in! - JS