HELLO Women and Words readers! Today I’d like to welcome nitty-gritty writer Tammy Bird to Women and Words. Here’s some before-the-good-stuff biz shizzle, so pay ‘tention! Tammy’s publisher, Flashpoint Publications is willing to give away a free e-copy of Sandman to one lucky commenter. Drop a comment blow and you’ll automatically be entered in the drawing! I’ll draw the winner in a week-ish or so (best not give any exact dates since I’m kinda hit and miss these days LOL)
Ready, set, GO!
Howdy Tammy! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing!
Is it too cliché to say I have always been interested in writing? Okay. That might be a lie. I don’t really know how it started or when. I think it is my dad’s fault. He did this thing where he would purposefully use words he knew we wouldn’t understand, and then he’d make us look them up and explain the sentence in our own words. He did it at least a few times a week at the most random times. I pretended I hated it, but I really didn’t. As I got older, the game got harder. He’d ask me to use the word in a sentence, or he’d ask me to give a description of the type of person who’d use that word. Would she live in a castle or under a hill? Would she have a lot of friends or a few? My sister eventually quit playing, but I never did.
I just love that. Good for your dad for stretching your vocab and imagination. Starting when I was about two, my mom used to tickle me until I’d say big words like aluminum or linoleum. She didn’t follow up and make me use them though, and I’m kinda bummed she didn’t! Such a great idea. Anyway, I know you have a tale to tell about your roly poly path to publication.
So. I’m a high school dropout who loved learning but thought she was too good to go to a new school when boundaries were drawn that ran right down the middle of her block. My best friend stayed at our old school, and I got bussed a pretty good distance away. I was pissed. The bus dropped me at the front door, and I walked out the back.
I got so off track back then. If I hadn’t, I would’ve likely published much sooner. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “But you were so smart,” and “I just knew you’d be an author before you finished college,” and “What a waste of great talent.”
When I divorced my husband at the ripe old age of 21, I waitressed to live and to support my kids. A customer saved my life the day she paid for me to take my GED. When I held that piece of paper in my hand, I knew it was time.
As I progressed through my education, I started writing for class and for myself. My teachers raved about my ability. My confidence grew. When I was working on my master’s degree (in my late thirties), I started writing for conferences. I eventually published some of that in academic anthologies.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Holy cow, that is a rollercoaster. And regardless the challenges, once you had that GED you really went to town. While you’ve pubbed on the academic side, Sandman is your first mystery. Congrats! Where did the idea for the book come from?
My wife and I were vacationing in Buxton, NC in November. We love it there when the air is crisp and the tourists are few. We stopped in one of the few open places along the beach, a small ice-cream shop. The owner was the only person there. We chatted while we ate our cones, mentioned how quiet it was everywhere we went. The owner said, “Yep. Quiet enough to hide a body in the dunes and no one would ever find it.”
Boom! Before we left for Buxton, I was playing with an idea for a love story about two women who worked in a male-dominated field. When we got home, I had an outline for a full-length novel about a serial killer who buries bodies in the dunes along the coast of the Outer Banks.
That’s a great “how I started” story! How do you go about spinning your tales? What’s your writing process? I already see you’re something of an outliner.
I do a rough, and I do mean rough, outline. I like to know I at least have an inciting incident, an arc and a secondary storyline before I begin.
I’m a researcher at heart, so once an idea crawls in and settles down in my head, I like to research the premise. The WIP I am working on now is set in Denver. My main character would kiss a girl at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I knew this because I kissed a girl there once and it was magical. I researched how it looks now, what bands are playing, how the acoustics work, and what kinds of dinosaur footprints were found nearby. I also knew a secondary character would work at an escape room, so I talked to an owner about how the rooms are set up and why. You know, all the fun detail stuff that can show up anywhere.
After I research a bit, I start my character sketches. Some of these are pretty extensive. Others are just super brief outlines.
This is usually where the writing begins, but I will stop and do more research or expand/change character sketches as I go, too.
You’re a research junkie! I love to research too. The only sad part is how much of what you find, no matter how cool, is left out of the manuscript because it’s simply too much info. The Outer Banks are part of the North Carolina coast, right? How did you research the area?
That’s correct! They’re barrier islands off the coast. For Sandman, we took several trips to the Outer Banks. We aren’t far from there, so it was easy to do. I needed to know how the ferry systems worked, what someone would see, who they would talk to, and what they would find when they reached their destination, so we took the ferry over to Ocracoke island. Then I had to put Ocracoke in the book. It is such a cool place!
I also talked to EMS workers in Dare County. Novels are fiction, but you want to get the basics right, you know?
I sure do know! What else?
I researched storm chasers. That was originally going to play a big part in the story, but it ended up only getting a walk-on appearance. I have a grandson who has autism, so I knew some about that, but I didn’t know nearly enough. One of my main characters is non-verbal. My grandson is verbal. So there was much to learn there. An autism mom’s group was very helpful. The moms talked to me via email and private messages. I could go on and on here.
Is this series book or a standalone? What do you have on tap for the next, because there’s always a next, right?
Sandman’s a trilogy. The second one, yet unnamed, will pull at some loose threads left behind by Sandman. It is on deck and should be well underway shortly.
Awesome! I love when great stories don’t end right away. Tell us more about your work in progress.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m working on the Red Rocks book, a standalone YA psychological thriller titled Book of Promises. A couple of girls from the coding club at their high school share their first kiss at Red Rocks. I started it while releasing Sandman, and and it’s in the editing stages.
A little bird (pun intended) told me you love to write psychological and gritty. Tell us about this love of yours.
Honestly, I don’t get it myself. Twice now I started with every intention of writing a pure love story, and the characters have taken on a mind of their own and started introducing me to psychologically dark counter-characters.
Maybe this is my dad’s fault, too. He was an embalmer with a wickedly dark sense of humor. He talked about his work at dinner, over coffee, everywhere. It was pretty cool. He was fascinated by serial killers and loved true crime. Must be in the blood.
Totally in the blood, Tammy. Totally. That’s so interesting. I’ll bet your dad was absolutely fascinating. Switching topics here a bit, have any writing organizations helped you on your writing and publishing journey?
Yes! Two that are my very, very favorites are Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) and Sisters in Crime.
GCLS is where I get my lesbian fix. I love these people so much. If you’re a reader or writer of lesbian focused fiction, I cannot recommend them enough. I went through the writing academy when I first decided that my idea for Sandman had merit. It was the best decision I could have made! I was a decent writer already, but I had no idea how to write a story. I learned something new every week in class. I also met a group of fantastic women who are now very dear friends.
Sisters in Crime is where I get my crime fix. The people here love to talk crime and books, and they offer a ton of free webinars for members. I have found beta readers, attended workshops, and participated in great sponsored author meet and greets. If you write stories where crime is involved, this one is a must!
Where can readers get a hold of your book?
If they want to support our community, I recommend Bella Books (https://www.bellabooks.com/product/9781949096040e/).
It’s also available at Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Noble online.
If you live in Wake county in North Carolina, the library system also has copies.
What else would you like our fantastic blog readers to know about you or your work?
Your questions have allowed me to say so much already! I always like to remind readers that if they love an author’s work, they need to tell others. Reviews on the platform where they purchased the book, word of mouth, social media postings when someone asks for a suggestion, all increase sales and allow us to keep writing.
I couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for coming to visit!
A group of EMTs with the Emergency Medical Services of Buxton Beach, NC, are among the first to respond after a hurricane rips through the small island community. As they search for survivors, they discover an evil that will haunt the residents of the tight community for years to come.
Lurking beneath the dunes is a sandy grave not connected to the storm, a grave hidden beneath their feet for over thirty years.
For one EMT, Katia Billings, it’s personal. She is intimately connected to one of the killer’s victims. Now she must enlist help from K-9 search expert Paige, and her own on-and-off lover, Zahra, to find the killer, dubbed Sandman, and stop him from killing again.
A little bit about the author:
Tammy Bird is a suspense/thriller author. She lives in North Carolina with her wife and two cats. By day, she pours her heart into helping students fulfill their educational dreams. By night she sinks into her own rhythm and voice, creating new characters and new stories for anyone who will listen.
Tammy’s work is rarely defined as sweet or cozy, and she likes it that way. She is not here for sweet or cozy. She is here for the beautiful swirl of hard and gritty fiction where good people are sometimes bad and bad people are sometimes good and no one is safe from the psychological makeup of those around them—or from their own.
You can connect with Tammy on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/tammybirdauthor/, Instagram @tammybirdauthor, and Twitter @Tammy_Bird. You can also visit her website at https://www.tammybird.com.