time to talk Marcy again – two months to go!

Not Your Mary Sue comes out June 7 – I can’t believe it’s only two months away! Two months and you can read about Marcy and Jay (and the characters you don’t even know exist yet) and we can finally talk about alllll the things I’ve been keeping to myself.

One thing that’s been obvious from the start: Marcy’s a knitter. Hence the Marcy Shawl pattern that I designed for her and wrote up for all of you. And that’s also why all of the backgrounds for her quotes are knit patterns. Let’s catch up on the ones I’ve posted over the past month.

So you probably know that there are, in fact, people willing to sit down and chat with serial killers, whether that’s from the Netflix series or the book Mindhunter. FBI Special Agents John Douglas and Robert Ressler decided that someone needed to actually talk to violent offenders so they could try to figure out how to identify people sooner and stop them before they actually committed violent crimes. They basically set up times to go in, meet with the men they’d chosen, and just … get them talking.

Some of them, like Ed Kemper, had a lot to say.

The thing is, those agents, and the ones who followed, all wanted to talk to violent offenders. They chose to be in those rooms (and sometimes had moments when they actually had to confront the fact that they were in fact violent offenders and this wasn’t just a chat with a friend). Marcy’s stuck on that island with Jay, the confessed Fresh Coast Killer, and he wants to talk … but she never agreed to listen.

Even though he keeps insisting that he chose her, that he somehow auditioned her and specifically picked her for this … she really doesn’t think she’s the right person.

Pattern: Campside Poncho by Alicia Plummer (Rav link)
Yarn: Gingerbread Rainbow DK from Dye Mad Yarns


Jay Michael Robinson wants to be the next Bundy. Okay, fine, maybe his victim count isn’t quite high enough, but he means as far as fame goes. He wants Marcy to write his biography in a way that’ll sell. Jay wants his name at the top of the charts. Whenever someone thinks of Bundy, they should think of him.

Later, when she’s alone in her room, Marcy wonders how often normal people think of Bundy. Which is a pretty good question. Clearly Jay thinks of Bundy quite frequently, and true crime fans are probably sick of his name, but what about your average Joe? Exactly how much is Jay asking from her? (And how much does he think he’s asking from her?)

Fun knitting fact: I wore my Enchanted Rose Hood for Halloween one year when I dressed up like Belle, and for a small photoshoot I had a book as a prop. That book was The Phantom Prince. It’s about Bundy.

Pattern: Enchanted Rose Hood by Amy Noelle Walker (Rav link)
Yarn: Knit Picks Paragon in pimento


If a magician tells you how a trick is done, you can never go back to seeing it as magic. You know the secret. You can’t Eternal Sunshine it out of your head to experience it again for the first time, like a kid who’s willing to be convinced there’s more to the world than just science and facts. Once you’ve learned something, it’s there. You can’t forget it.

Jay likes monologuing, partly because he wants to talk and partly because Marcy doesn’t exactly want to ask him clarification questions. Not trained to interview a serial killer, remember? Didn’t sign up for all this? So she’s got to talk that line between keeping him happy enough to let her live and keeping herself from learning too much and being tortured by the knowledge for the rest of her life.

Bad dreams are the least of Marcy’s worries.

Fun knitting fact: The Lady Russell Shawl was one of the first times I’ve knit a ruffle. It’s one of the reasons Marcy’s Shawl has ruffles on it.

Pattern: The Lady Russell Shawl by Joy Gerhardt (personal website)
Yarn: Candy Skein Yummy Fingering Superwash Sock in sage


When Psycho first came out in theaters, Hitchcock did something very strange for 1960: he had signs placed in the lobby saying audience members weren’t allowed to come in late. Movies were more casual – I can’t remember ever wanting to show up late for any during my childhood, even with the buffer of all the ads and previews – and people would come in halfway through a showing, watch the end, linger, and watch the start of the next showing.

You can probably guess why that wouldn’t actually work for Psycho.

Norman Bates runs a motel in California and Jay rents out a luxury cabin on an island off the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but you get the similarities. Each is a man left mostly to himself, and just about the one thing Jay doesn’t want to talk about is his mother. Even if you’ve never seen Psycho, I bet you know what happens to Marion Crane.

Marcy does, too.

Fun knitting fact: the shawl was designed and named for advice given in My Favorite Murder. SSDGM.

Pattern: Stay Out of the Forest by Natasha Sills (personal website)
Yarn: Madelinetosh twist light in no farewell, dead calm, Black Sea, and fate


So the countdown is on! You have until June 7, 2022 to be cool and preorder Not Your Mary Sue (Amazon – Kobo – Google Play) before it becomes a boring old regular order.

Seriously, preorders help authors a lot, so if you’re thinking about getting a copy … click now! Then we can all (finally!) discuss all the cool things I’ve been keeping to myself.

The Marcy Shawl – a knitting pattern

If you’ve been following my Instagram posts, then you know I’ve been working on writing something a bit different for me: a knitting pattern, known as The Marcy Shawl. And I’ve said I’m posting it on my blog for free. Which I totally am. It’s here. Download at will. But I’ve got a favor to ask.

If you download the shawl, please preorder Not Your Mary Sue on Kindle, Google Play, or Kobo. (Hard copy links coming soon.) That’s one book and one knitting pattern for $9.99 – or, if you like: five years of my life for $9.99. Less than $2/year.

The Marcy Shawl – DK weight version

Here’s the thing: yes, this pattern is totally part of my marketing for the book. Absolutely. I’d love to do something like “Show me you preordered the book and I’ll send you the free pattern!” but I’m kind of hoping I’d be swamped and not be able to keep up with sending out the pattern at top speed, so … honor system, everyone. I’m trusting you. Pattern immediately. Novel June 7. Low, low price of $9.99.

If you buy my book, then maybe I can keep writing books and make this “main character shawl” thing a series instead of a one-off. If the book doesn’t sell well enough for me to get an offer for a second, then … one and done. I really want to keep writing, and I’ve been putting out content on my blog for over a year now basically hoping that, if you like what I do, you’ll buy the book that goes along with the posts you like. So this is just me saying it outright.


If that’s enough and you want to go straight to the pattern, scroll down to the torn paper image. The download link is below it. If you want to know a bit more about Marcy – why a shawl? Why knitting? – read on.


The Marcy Shawl – sock weight version

Marcy is the heroine of Not Your Mary Sue. It’s her story. And we see here in the opening pages that she’s got a set of interchangeable knitting needles with her, since she’s a knitter and she’s going to be on this island for the whole summer. A woman needs her hobbies. But take a look at that link if you can’t picture what I mean when I say she uses the cord key to pick a lock – it’s one of those four little twists of wire. That’s what she pulls out of her suitcase to get herself out of the most immediate problem. (It’s probably not going to be all that helpful with everything else, but you never know. Knitters, like all makers, are resourceful.)

Like me, Marcy knits when she’s stressed. (Write what you know, hey?) And, um … yeah, I’m pretty mean to her. So she’s frequently stressed.

I learned how to knit when I was 8 years old. Nana – my dad’s mom – was the one equipping the family with knit dishcloths, and I asked if she could teach me. At the time I produced half of one (pretty awful) headband, but I’ve improved a bit since then. I’ve been knitting longer than I’ve been writing, and I made leaps and bounds during grad school simply because the stress meant I was knitting more. Every night. (Which is the way to improve on something, by the way – keep doing it. Breaks are fine, but if you quit, you’re not going to get better. And you have to make the pretty awful headband before you make anything good.)

Knitting’s a background thing for Marcy in the book, but it got me thinking about the sort of thing Marcy would knit for herself. Something that she, in her old life, would both be comfortable wearing and be allowed to wear.

Her father’s a televangelist, so she’s often on display with him and has to dress to his standards. In this case that means she’s frequently in a dress with a cardigan for modesty’s sake, a very specific idea of femininity. I wanted to design her a shawl that could go over her dresses, and I had a few steps here:

The shape – I love the shape of the traditional sontag shawl, which I can’t help but think of as a heartwarmer shawl because of the OG American Girl Addy doll and her nightwear. Apparently that was retired in 2010, but I liked the idea of a shawl that could stay on Marcy’s shoulders, cross over the front, and tie in the back to warm her. (You might know this kind of shawl from Outlander, proving it’s a useful shape no matter what era you end up in.)

The Marcy Shawl – basic schematic

The stitch pattern – I didn’t want something that was plain stockinette. Marcy’s quiet (her dad very much subscribes to the Little House on the Prairie idea of children being seen and not heard, which he extends to adult daughters, as well) and very much a background figure in her father’s life, but that doesn’t mean she’s plain. On the other hand, she’s not overly fussy or troublesome – she goes out of her way to be helpful – so I picked the ray of honey pattern from my copy of 750 Knitting Stitches. It’s an all-over cable pattern, but each cable is only 1×1, so it’s an easy one to do without a cable needle.

The ruffle – this isn’t just about the extra touch of a traditional feminine element, but about the weight the ruffle adds to the shawl. I really like the feel of wearing my Cambridge Shawl by Carol Sunday and how the ruffle at both the neck edge and along the bottom makes it feel more secure. It’s not a shawl that’s going to blow away.

The construction – Marcy’s the sort of person who would save all her scraps and use up as much yarn as possible. (Was it Pa or Ma Ingalls who emphasized “Waste not, want not”?) By starting at one tip of the shawl and working increases for half of your yarn before working the decreases, you can maximize what you have. The ruffles are made with short rows, which means no saving any yarn back and trying to calculate how much to leave for it and then how much to bind off along it. You cast on 22 stitches and bind off 22 stitches, and I had less than 4g left for each of my shawls.

I chose neutral colors for my two samples, since Marcy’s dresses are usually of the flower-print variety.

The DK Marcy Shawl

My first one, the larger DK shawl, was knit in two skeins of Blue Moon Fiber Arts silky Victoria – one of my favorite bases, and each skein is a whopping 695 yards (!!!). It definitely makes my winder work for it. I used the color “spores” and did the slightly risky thing of not actually alternating skeins. I just started with the heavier skein and switched at the middle of the back.

For the sock weight version, I used two skeins of Handmaiden Fine Yarns Casbah sock in the color “bone.” Casbah skeins come in at 355 yards, so they’re a bit under what sock skeins usually run and, as you can see, two skeins still makes a nice size of a shawl. That middle photo has the sock version on top of the DK version, for comparison’s sake. The difference isn’t as much in the depth of the back as it is in the length of the wings (and measurements of my sample shawls are provided in the pattern).

My photos are all taken in winter (or maybe at the very start of spring if we’re being generous), but since Marcy’s spending her summer on an island in Lake Superior, she’ll appreciate all the extra warmth she can get.


Errata and most recent file date below.

And, of course, since we’re at the download link, here are the purchase links again so you don’t have to scroll back up:

Thank you for helping me keep writing and keep blending my love of words and my love of knitting.


Errata – updated April 2

The original upload got mixed up and had the pattern out of order. It should be:

  • provisional cast-on
  • set-up rows
  • body increase row

The new upload has these steps in the proper order.

Introducing Jay Michael Robinson, the Fresh Coast Killer

You’ve already been introduced to Marcy, the main character of my upcoming novel Not Your Mary Sue (first Marcy postsecond Marcy post) but she’s not the only character in the book. For the first half, there’s exactly one other.

If you’ve checked out my reading of the book’s opening, you know a little bit about Jay already. Marcy’s spending her summer on a private island, in a luxury cabin, and he’s the caretaker. If something goes wrong with the amenities, or if she runs out of apple cinnamon cheerios, he’s the one she tells.

He’s the only one she can tell. The island happens to be in Lake Superior, out of sight of the mainland Upper Peninsula, and they’re very seriously isolated. No Wi-Fi. No cell phone signal. Just Marcy on her own personal retreat, and Jay, who’s supposed to be taking care of her.

Unfortunately, he tells her very early on that he’s got something else in mind. He happens to be the notorious Fresh Coast Killer, and he knows the police are catching up to him. Jay wants to tell Marcy his life story so that she can then write it down, publish it, and make sure he gets to fulfill his dreams.

“I want to be the next Bundy.”

This, by the way, is Jay’s dream: he wants to be the next Bundy. That would be Theodore Robert Bundy, American serial killer, most recently seen on the documentary Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and played by Zac Efron in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The title is from the judge’s closing statement after Bundy’s conviction, and no, I can never remember it, either. (The Deliberate Stranger, starring Mark Harmon, is much easier.)

But what does it mean to be “the next Bundy?”

Well.

Jay’s already a serial killer. What he wants is the fame. The book, like The Stranger Beside Me. (Or, yes, The Deliberate Stranger.) He wants to be a household name.

“Chance of a lifetime, you know. That’s what I’m offering you.”

The thing is, The Stranger Beside Me made Ann Rule‘s career. It was her first book, and the first thing she wrote under her real name instead of her penname. It’s also the reason she testified before Congress about serial killers and gave lessons at the FBI. So really, if Marcy accepts Jay’s offer, it would be the chance of a lifetime. Imagine writing a book about “The Serial Killer Who Kidnapped Me During My Summer Vacation.”

“Everyone fights the truth.”

Okay but maybe being stuck on an island with a self-confessed serial killer, without any way of contacting anyone else – and, say, passing along that confession – isn’t really the best scenario. He’s already killed nearly 20 women and Marcy is, after all, a woman, and incredibly vulnerable.

And then she’s stuck here with someone who looks steadily at her and says things like “Everyone fights the truth” when he’s trying to convince her that first, she really wants to listen to him, and second, she really wants to write it all up.

Take a look at that picture specifically, by the way – “Everyone fights the truth” was taken at Eagle River, Michigan, right next to the Fitz. If you’re ever up that way, make a reservation – the food is amazing. But I specifically took my letterboard there because of the rocks and the fact that, yes, Superior stretches to the sky. When I picture the beach of Jay’s island, this is what’s in my head, so now you can see it, too.

“I only want to come across as intriguing. You actually think I am.”

I should probably also point out that Bundy took some psychology classes. And he wasn’t the only serial killer to play with minds – Ed Kemper was trusted to give other prisoners various tests and therefore learned all the answers. So, being stuck alone with Marcy on this island for weeks on end, with his ultimate goal of educating her enough to be his biographer, Jay’s going to use every trick in his toolbox. He’s going to work on her and convince her that this is not only in her best interest, but that she honestly wants to do this.

To sit around and take notes as she listens to him talk about his life and crimes, that is.

In detail.

I can’t wait until June when you can properly meet Jay, although you should probably be careful. As Marcy can tell you, being stuck on his island can give you nightmares.

More about Marcy

It’s been a few weeks since we last talked about Marcy – the main character of my upcoming novel, Not Your Mary Sue – so I’ve got some more letterboards (and knits) to share. Marcy’s a knitter, so that’s why her musings get backed by knits – some of them very carefully chosen for the quote.

Note: all links to Ravelry are labeled. Not all of these designs are available off-Rav, since some of them are from years ago. If you don’t know about what the new site design and accessibility have to do with each other, there’s a good primer here.

It’s intended to be my private retreat.

Location, location, location: the thing is, everyone knows exactly where Marcy is, and that they won’t hear from her for months. She’s just had some pretty dramatic upheavals in her life and her televangelist father has rented this cabin for her so she can pull herself together without being in front of a camera. She’s on this private island in Lake Superior with no WiFi or cell phone signal, and … she’s supposed to be alone. (Cue dramatic “dun dun dun.” Thanks, Belt.)

The background: Wrap & Run by Casapinka (Instagram Facebook Ravelry). This is one of the front panels, since I haven’t actually finished the back yet so it’s not done, but I’m using Miss Babs Yowza in blackbird, daguerreotype, and beautiful dreamer. This is the first time I’ve used Yowza, and holy cow, it won’t be the last! If you like big, beautiful, squishy skeins, you have to try some.

“None of the reviews mentioned the chains.”

When Marcy first wakes up on the island (read the opening chapter here) it’s to discover that there happens to be a chain attached to her ankle. She manages to pick the lock (using the key from her interchangeable knitting needles) before she has her first conversation with her caretaker. This is one of the first things Marcy says to Jay. She’s snarky because she’s nervous and trying to figure things out, but it also throws him off, since he’s never had this sort of reaction before.

Background: Tempest Skies by Emily Wood (Payhip Ravelry). I knit this shawl in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Cake DK in everyday gray. (At this point you might guess that I have a thing for huge skeins of DK yarn. You’d be right.) I specifically picked this one because the gray cables made me think of chains.

Clearly he’s never kept a prisoner alive before.

Jay informs Marcy right away that he’s a serial killer – Michigan’s infamous Fresh Coast Killer, in fact. The Great Lakes are, of course, unsalted, so that name distinguishes their shorelines from either the East or the West Coast. The Fresh Coast Killer has murdered over a dozen women, all of them less than 24 hours after he abducted them. The fact that Jay has let Marcy live this long is already concerning … especially since, from the very beginning, she has reason to suspect that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Background: the back of my #13 Deep V Hoodie by Margeau Soboti (Instagram Ravelry). I knit mine with Stonehedge Fiber Mill shepherd’s wool worsted in white, denim, and raspberry (not pictured). And yes, that’s hedge, not henge. Stonehedge Fiber Mill is located in my home state of Michigan and offers some really amazing yarn. I picked this sweater for the background because the stripes make me think of “classic” prison uniforms.

How long has this man been stalking me?

So here’s the thing: Marcy has no idea who Jay is aside from “the caretaker on this island,” but he’s been auditioning her for the role of his biographer. He’s tracked her down across various websites, including Marcy’s twitter and Marcy’s tumblr, and Marcy starts to realize exactly how much she’s shared without realizing it. She doesn’t think anyone even reads her posts, but Jay’s read them all. He is, in fact, quite a student of her words.

Background: the Study Hall Shawl by Sarah Schira (personal websiteRavelry). I use Madelinetosh twist light in paper and Squoosh Fiberarts beefcake sock in the Eat.Sleep.Knit exclusive Rhodophyta. Twist light is my go-to sock yarn, and I just love how the design lets the hand-dyed aspect of the beefcake sock shine.

I am sitting here having breakfast with a serial killer.

The fact that Marcy isn’t alone on this island and that Jay is far more than just the caretaker is a lot to take in, so she has to run things through her head a few times. She is indeed having breakfast with a serial killer, but this is only day one. It’s going to take a lot of quick thinking if she’s going to make it through the summer alone with Jay, cut off from the rest of the world.

Background: Cahokia by Emily Wood (Payhip Ravelry), because I knit a lot of Emily’s designs. This one’s in Dream in Color classy in the Eat.Sleep.Knit exclusive New York City, because ESK is my favorite place to order yarn. I love the depth and complexity of the color, and the garter body of this shawl allows it to shine.


Not Your Mary Sue comes out June 7, and I can’t wait to share more than a single letterboard at a time. You can preorder your copy here: Amazon – Kobo – Google Play.

so you want to talk about flesh prisons (aka characters’ physical descriptions)

The other night at dinner, my husband was talking about Ready Player One. He read the book (in English) first shortly after it came out, then saw the movie, and now he’s reading the book in Italian. (Which he’s taught himself, because this is the guy I married.) He commented on how, since he’s seen the movie, he kept picturing the character Art3mis as her on-screen version and not the book version.

Which got me going about describing characters and using the phrase “flesh prisons” (yes, while we were eating) and he asked a) if I’d write it up, and b) if I’d use the phrase “flesh prisons” in my post.

So. Here we are.

I’m even going to throw in the asterisk that I gave him before going on my rant: this doesn’t work for all genres. If you’re writing romance, for example, you’re going to go right ahead and slow down while focusing on the love interest. There are times, be it in genres or just scenes, when more description matters. Just bear in mind that longer descriptions do slow down the action, so they’re more suited to certain places in your book than others.

Okay. Asterisk out of the way. When boiled down, my own personal decision on how much to describe my characters is this:

What do we decide to do with our meat prisons?

Bearing in mind that my characters are contemporary figures who get put into “basically today, usually Michigan” for their thriller settings, they’re humans. And human beings can be interesting, but part of what I’ve come to realize about myself is that physical appearance is most interesting to me when it ties into characterization.

Maybe also that I’m just not good at in-depth character descriptions. Anyway.

Let’s take Jay for a minute. I know, I know, only a handful of people have read Not Your Mary Sue so far since it’s not out until June, but you can meet him in the opening pages here. And most of the description comes when you first meet a character, right? So we can see some elements of Jay’s appearance: reddish hair (currently messy instead of purposefully tousled); blue eyes; tall; has a smile that lights up his entire face. I’ve even dropped in a clue about whether he’s right- or left-handed, but that’s not really a physical descriptor.

The thing is, in the first draft of the novel (from NaNoWriMo 2017) I did something that made me cringe a little when I went back over it: I described him based on which actor would play him in the movie version. It made sense within the book itself – Jay wants his story to be told and become a bestseller, so it’s not a stretch to imagine it then getting turned into a movie, the way both Mark Harmon and Zac Efron have played Ted Bundy – but I ended up cutting it.

Naming a well-known actor basically locks us all in to the same Jay, forever and ever, amen, the way my husband’s been picturing the Art3mis from the movie while reading the book. If I describe someone as “Avengers-era Chris Evans” (not my Jay model, in case you were trying to make it work), then we’re all stuck with Avengers-era Chris Evans in our head. We might not complain, but … we’re still all picturing the exact same thing.

I want to give you some leeway.

Pick whatever kind of nose you want for Jay. Imagine his eyebrows. Fill in the rest of his face.

You’ll learn later about why his smile maybe isn’t such a welcome thing, and Marcy has her own reasons to focus on his physique in the early pages of the book, but there’s enough to play with so that your Jay doesn’t have to be my Jay. And I’ve gone for sort of the low-hanging fruit: hair color, eye color, and height. Basically sketched in a roughly humanoid figure.

The rest of what you learn about Jay has to do with his character: who he is as a person. When Marcy describes his physique, it’s in comparison to what she associates with his favorite hobby. (Spoilers there, so that’s vague. No, it’s not serial killing.) His hair matters because it is messy instead of deliberately tousled, each of which says something different about a person.

What I like to describe about my characters’ physical selves are the things that tell us something about them as people.

It’s usually not something they had no control over – whatever genes blessed or didn’t bless them from birth – but the things they do: hair style. Tattoos or piercings. Hair dye. Clothing. Hobbies and learned skills that show themselves physically, like a guitar player’s calluses. Sometimes things they didn’t necessarily have control over, but tell us about their lives, like scars.

In the Ready Player One example, Art3mis is encountered first – and for the vast majority of the book – as an avatar. Cline spends a lot of time having his main character describe that avatar, in part for those romance novel reasons (Wade knows who Art3mis is before encountering her “in person” so he already knows she’s interesting) but also because the avatar was entirely created. Art3mis chose not only her screenname, but every element of her avatar. Everything about her appearance is therefore a deliberate choice that tells Wade something about her before he ever meets her.

And to be fair, I have wondered if character descriptions are one of my weakest points. (If you’re going to tell me I’m right, please be kind while you do so.) Maybe it’s something to do with being ace and just not looking at people the “usual” way. Or maybe I just think motivations and internal aspects of character are more interesting than flesh prisons.

How do you approach describing characters’ physical appearances? Do you have any favorite authors who seem to be really good at it?

Let’s talk about Marcy

Now that Not Your Mary Sue is available for preorder, I’ve started posting little teasers about the books – or rather, specifically about my main character, Marcy. I’ve had this planned for sooooo long (this whole publishing thing is a marathon, not a sprint) and I wanted to share some background that might give a little more information about my process.

First, we like images, right? Snappy photos. And I, personally, don’t like seeing the same image over and over and over in marketing, so “photos of my book cover” didn’t feel like the right way to go. You’ll see plenty of it, but … that’s not my current main focus. Except my main focus is words, so … how do we get those into an image?

Enter the letterboard.

There we go: words turned into an image with a specifically-chosen background. It’s short and to the point – the board’s not that big, and I don’t have an unlimited number of each letter, anyway – and hopefully eye-catching. The location of this one will get discussed more later, when we get to Jay, but that’s for later. Right now we’re talking about Marcy, and the first teaser is actually the first thing she says to Jay:

“Have you already written the ransom note?”

Let’s talk background on this one. Marcy’s a knitter, mostly because I’m a knitter. That’s part of the Almina’s Sister shawl by Lisa Hannes. (Those links takes you to LoveCrafts – it’s also available on Ravelry). The yarn is Gnomespun Eshu in the colorway “Sebastian.” It’s a triangular shawl with cables that, like many of Lisa’s patterns, can be knit with any yarn, at a suitable gauge. She provides percentage information so you know when to move into those final gorgeous cables with your chosen yarn.

There’s not always a specific correlation between the quote and the knit project I chose for the background – I started off with “Okay, which projects are large enough to work for these photos?” – but the second one I’ve shared was specifically chosen:

His audience is literally captive.

This one is Marcy thinking to herself instead of speaking out loud, but she’s thinking about Jay. Marcy thinks about Jay a lot. And check out the shawl in this one. It’s the Celtic Birds Wrap by the Munro Sisters 3 (which I don’t think is currently available anywhere other than Ravelry). I used cascade sock yarn in bark for the design and La Bien Aimée merino sport in quail for the background. It’s a fair isle wrap, knit flat, and it’s one of the most intricate projects I’ve ever made. Knitters beware: you have to trap floats on both the RS and the WS, but it’s so worth it, and you’ll have the skill mastered before you’re done.

And the birds fit so neatly around Marcy’s thought, although the birds themselves are neither caged nor captive. Their spacing is serendipitous, but it worked out so perfectly.

If you’re looking to use a letterboard in photos, I’ve got some helpful hints:

  • use a frequency counter to figure out how many letters you’ll need to free from the packaging (or if you don’t have enough of a specific letter to make your favorite phrases). I started out writing down a bunch of Jay’s quotes and used the frequency counter to list how many letters I had to cut free to make all of those quotes, and even then I did it in multiple sessions because it’s fiddly and annoying.
  • organize your letters in a plastic craft or jewelry case. I used a permanent marker to write the alphabet on the bottom of each square. Mine doesn’t have 26 squares so I doubled-up on the letters, but even doubling-up works just fine. Make sure it’ll stay closed in your bag, especially if you take it to the beach and have to change out phrases when, say, the wind is blowing off Lake Superior at gale-force speed.
  • if you’re taking it out somewhere, put the longest phrase on your list on the board first. Then you don’t have to wrestle with spacing out so many letters while sitting on the beach or a bench or a log.
  • be kind to your hands! Prying the letters up, especially if your board is new, can hurt your fingernails. If you’ve got a plastic guitar pic or some other tool that’s suited to the job, go ahead and use it. If you go out with four or five phrases, that’s a lot of prying to do.

Soon enough we’ll talk about Jay and the challenges of photographing something that isn’t so static.

Have you used letterboards before? Do you have any other tips you’d like to add?

Writing and waiting

As of yesterday, I can finally – finally! – announce that my debut novel, the psychological thriller Not Your Mary Sue, will be published in June 2022 by Aesthetic Press. *throws glitter confetti everywhere* I’ve been sitting on this news since this spring, and really, the entire backstory to the book story is one of waiting.

I drafted the novel during National Novel Writing Month in 2017, which means I was vaguely plotting the novel since the beginning of that year. I had the idea based off of one of my favorite Stephen King novels, Misery, where the two characters are stuck together in a house. The author character is held prisoner and forced to write. I substituted Ted Bundy for King’s captor and the novel just flowed.

(Fun fact: you can look back at any of your NaNoWriMo stats if you’ve entered the project into the site. I finished the draft on November 27 that year.)

So I’ve known this story and my characters, especially my main two, since 2017. In fact, the part where they’re stuck together – on an island instead of a house in Colorado – hasn’t changed all that much since 2017. I’ve known this story and these characters for years, but only a few other people had any idea about them.

So first there was waiting while I let the story settle so I didn’t still think it was already absolutely perfect in every way. Time to gain some distance before tackling the revisions on my own. And then more waiting when I started sending out queries.

Lots of waiting.

Do you get the waiting part yet?

I was seriously querying for over a year when I got the request for the full novel. (Queries generally ask for the query letter, a synopsis, and the first three chapters or so – check before submitting, but keep those documents on hands for when a rejection comes in and you need to send them out again. Getting a request for a full is A Big Deal. It’s not a guarantee, not yet, but incredibly exciting.) More waiting. Then the offer. Dancing! And more waiting.

I’ve been sitting on the news of the deal for months, because publishing is allllllll about waiting. You still don’t get to see the cover – not yet. You have to wait until mid-September. And the book itself? Wait until next June. (No, this isn’t weird for publishing. Yes, this is how it works. And yes, it’s hard to wait!)

But then – then! – I’ll be able to talk about my story and my characters with more than just my dad and my husband and a few friends. We can have more in-detail conversations about how Misery and Ted Bundy inspired things. Maybe argue about what happens.

I can’t share too much more right now, but I can leave you with this teaser from my publisher.

A not so classic girl meets boy story begins when a televangelist’s adult daughter, Marcy, journeys to a secluded island resort where she awakens a captive of the handsome, charming, notorious Fresh Coast Killer who requests she pen his autobiography explaining all of his intentions and crimes in detail. She finds herself horrified that she is intrigued by him and maybe even…infatuated by him. He has more control than she realizes as he slowly begins to brainwash her just as the autobiography is completed. Once she is rescued and he is arrested, Marcy begins to pull her life back together only for her captor to escape and her brother becomes a new suspect in a cold case that alters what she thought she knew about her family.

Oh yeah. I’m excited. I can’t wait!