September 30, 2010

They [Think] Like Me, They [Really Think] Like Me!

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 7:36 am

With thanks to Sally Field for the title.

But really. After reading this from Shelf Awareness today, my heart did an honest-to-goodness leap.

I’d been thinking. Could I (and a handful of other horse-loving, dinosaur-tending, old-school book lovers) be the only one for whom that smell of binding and tactile sensation of pages mattered?

Am I the only one who’s less in love with technology and gadgets, at least when it comes to pleasures like reading?

The only one who doesn’t have a cell phone, for crying out loud?

(Oops. Did I just say that to all my readers and for the digital record, may it last until the apocalypse at least?)

OK. Maybe everyone but me does have a cell phone and consider it useful. (Heck, even I acknowledge its use. I just don’t want one.)

But there are more people than simply the Luddites who might value a book over the supposedly new, improved, flat, electronically lit version that Jeff and Steve would like to shove into as many grabby hands as will take it.

I don’t mean to put down these innovators in any way. The fact that they stand to earn a buck from the genius that is Amazon–and Apple–is just the American way.

A’s for effort all around.

But leave me my B.

And acknowledge that for a good number of people out there, this B might forever come first.

September 27, 2010

To B Or Not To B

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:19 pm

“B” stands for book, of course.

I’m just going to continue the debate started in my last post by posting this great quote from author Margaret Coel, which appeared on Shelf Awareness today:

“I noticed during takeoff and landing that I didn’t have to turn off my book.”
–Author Margaret Coel, speaking at Saturday night’s Author Banquet for Literacy during MPIBA’s fall trade show in Denver. She shared a story about a Kindle-loving fellow airline passenger who told her that the book she was reading would soon be obsolete.

Then I’ll link to Joe Konrath’s latest pithy skewering of the major publishing houses.

I want to always promote a balanced atmosphere of non-volatile discussion on Suspense Your Disbelief. Well, some volatility can be fun, I guess. Go on, take out your blow torches–either side.

But I’ll just say that last Friday I co-moderated another in our series, Writing Matters, held at what I call the little bookstore that could, Watchung booksellers. This one was about children’s book publishing, and the audience was packed. With kids and adults. The kids asked as many questions as the grown ups, possibly more.

And while one four year old passed the hours (yes, hours) playing games on an IPad (I think it was), the rest stood in line to get their books signed by the authors.

To B Or Not To B?

For me there is no question.

September 23, 2010

Am I trying to ride a horse & buggy…

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 5:51 pm

…when the first Fords are rolling off the line?

Today I read this blog post by author Joe Konrath.

You all have heard me refer to Joe before here, and I’ve also been lucky enough to feature Karen McQuestion, whom Joe mentions in his list of Kindle success stories.

It’s all made me wonder. Am I trying to sell a radio show when television’s just been invented?

Here’s the reason why I think not. While Joe Konrath is happy about his ability to focus on writing and not having to spend countless hours on appearances–and I know plenty of writers who would similarly see this as a gift–I’m not one of them.

I have a dream of going to as many independent bookstores across the country as I can get to–the Declaration of Independents tour–and if the readers aren’t lining up yet, then I can meet the booksellers.

For this, of course, you need a book. An actual print book, which I dearly hope is not a horse and buggy, or the lovely Boylan sisters (were they even real?)

I love books, and bookstores, and I also love the prospect of meeting readers. In person, live, no matter how much the cost and effort required from me.

I can meet readers on-line–here, and on the blogs I recently rounded up (another list coming soon, I promise)–and other great forums and listservs. Those outlets aren’t lesser to me, but they aren’t the whole story either.

I long to shake a physical hand and hand over a physical book.

Now about to go on submission again, I guess we’ll see if I ever will.

If not, then I’m awfully glad that the Joe’s and the Karen’s and the Rob’s have proved something else can be done.

September 22, 2010

Oh, what a mysterious world it would be…

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 5:57 am

…if we all read the blogs I’ve been going to lately, as well as those I consider old favorites.

I thought I’d do a partial round-up in the hopes that some Suspense Your Disbelief readers will find their ways to new places. (But please don’t stop coming here!)

Also, this is a VERY partial list, born of my thoughts at the moment. It is a work in progress and I will add to it over the next few weeks. Please tell me in a comment or email if I’ve forgotten one of the places I’m always leaving comments myself!

The very first blog I ever started reading was headlined by two authors (whose work is vastly different, each startling entertaining in its own way) and now features a whole roster of headliners. They make a nice community over there and it’s still the first place I drop in when I want to remember what might just lie ahead.

I try not to miss a post at the terrific blog/neighborhood created by Kaye Barley. Kaye gets such an incredible line up of guest posters that you never know what you might read there. I will never forget author Cornelia Read’s literary world jokes from last year.

You all know how I feel about indie bookstores and that’s why Lelia Taylor’s blog, with the subheading: Tales of a Former Independent Bookseller always gets my attention.

There’s a handful of mystery-specific blogs I love: Murderati is one; Stiletto Gang another; the Lipstick Chronicles has one heckuva roster. And here’s a new one I just discovered, and which I’m looking forward to getting to know.

The internet changes everything…and nothing. We still stand around and gab–only now the group is a lot bigger. I have met people who are truly dear to me in this crazy web and I try to visit their blogs as often as possible: Hart, a loyal commenter here, for intimate thoughts and looks into one woman’s interesting–even when it’s not interesting to her–life; Megan Bostic’s for caustic analyses of everything I don’t dare think of till she makes me; author Sara Backer for more sneak peeks into her writer’s life; author Lisa Unger just because she’s one of my favorites. And author Stacy Juba has a blog with an interesting conceit: you–or your character–get to talk about what was going 25 years ago today.

Then there are the review sites. Ack, where to begin? With The Book Girl maybe. And I couldn’t forget Lesa Holstine’s–librarian and mystery adorer–site. Lesa does great giveaways and contests as well–it’s worth stopping by to see if a gift might be in store!

That’s where I’ll bow out for the moment, as I go trolling for links and urls I’ve missed. Just one more thing. For sheer comic relief, there’s no better than this lady. And I mean no better. If you’ve borne with me this far, you owe it to yourself to check her out. She will leave you laughing, I promise.

September 19, 2010

Murder We Read

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:11 pm

A legend in the book industry, whom I’m just getting to know, noted that seeing Raskolnikov in my dreams might just, um, suggest something.

We were discussing Russian literature, and it’s true–I really do dream of that ultimate scene of indecision on the bridge sometimes.

Actually, this man was far too kind and well-mannered to say anything, but after revealing the make up of my dreams, I decided that indeed it does say something about me.

But what?

I know I tend toward the dark side, not in my personality (which I think is rather sunny) or the day to day details of Real Life (which include soccer practice, making treats for two schools, homework supplementation, and time with my husband).

But when I write or read, it’s to the dark side I inevitably go.


A contributor on the greatest mystery listserv in the world offered one explanation for why she reads this type of fiction. It says a lot about why I do, too–and possibly you.

Or maybe not? Below please find Margaret Koch’s words. And whether you agree or disagree, please add a few of your own.

Perhaps you’ll even allow me to turn them into a post!

I read because after working several decades as a talk-therapist-type psychologist, regular conversation seems pallid…about the stuff of everyday life, and pleasant, but my attention wanders if the emotional content isn’t intense.  I read because if I try to watch TV, the commercial-to-program ratio drives me mad. I read about murder specifically because ever since Cain slew Abel (who probably was not an easy sibling to like), murder has been the standard for the one act that must be solved and resolved.  It’s more drastic than cheating on a spouse, more final than divorce, theft, bad taste, and in this shallow celebrity-clogged culture, more interesting than which Kardashian got a bikini wax.  And politics will make one crazy, and Dancing With the Stars will kill brain cells because of the inane hype.

Whether it’s a cozy or a dark tale of terror, it matters.  We still regularly kill each other.  Why?  That speculation and the stories spun about it are fascinating.

Margaret Koch is a recently retired psychologist, who’s an avid reader and who has recently turned back to her first love, writing.

September 18, 2010

The It Factor

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:59 pm

That was the name of a sorrowfully short-lived reality show that followed the lives and careers of actors trying to get their first break.

For probably obvious reasons, I watched this show voraciously.

Now, with a new submission coming up, I keep thinking. What sets people who make it apart from those who don’t?

I look to the Made It Moments forum for insight, and I hope it gives you some pleasure as well.

You hear the statistic/canard: Success is 10% talent and 90% persistence. A little Googling didn’t cough up whoever said every overnight sensation is ten years in the making, but just think about what those ten years of *not* being sensational were like.

They were like slogging through wet mud.

Mud is always wet.

Slogging through cement.

Knocking on doors and trying not to take the resulting slams personally.

Trying far-fetched plan B and C and D, and finally getting all the way to Z…and then starting over again with A.

They were filled with tears and doubts and rebel yells.

Who would put up with all that, and decide to keep going?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s the It factor?

September 6, 2010

Of City Busses & Baths

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 2:14 pm

That’s where we were when I last left off. In case anyone doesn’t remember (and really, why would you), a legendary editor had just called my first agent, who’d just submitted my first novel. (To make things a little extra confusing, my first novel was subbed second, after my second novel didn’t sell. Yipes.)

Heck, I’m just going to name Legendary Editor. Sadly, she has died, and I never got the chance to work with her. It was Leona Nevler, who discovered Jean Auel’s CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR among other hits, and was at Ballantine by the time she made it onto that city bus.

Getting Leona Nevler to stay up all night reading still counts as one my most precious accomplishments, even though this was now nine years ago.

I still remember hanging up the phone with my agent–before we knew this outcome–and her saying, “So that’s all the news I’ve got at 9:30 on a Monday,” and me replying, jubilant, riding a crest of adrenaline, “That’s pretty good for 9:30 on a Monday.”

But even Leona Nevler couldn’t get her board behind my first novel, and no offer was made.

I wasn’t heartbroken upon learning this for one reason. Not one but two other editors were also interested in my book. One was at Berkley and has since left to be a literary agent. The other was at William Morrow, and when she too couldn’t get permission to make an offer on my book, she asked my agent if we could meet.

Man, how this whole thing was dragged out, huh? It’s like Someone was having fun with it.

I was in the bath when my agent when called with this piece of news. “I’ve never had this happen before,” she told me.

Because publishing is a small world, it wasn’t possible for Jennifer Sawyer Fisher to take me to one of the typical spots the literati might dine at. “People would buzz,” explained my agent. “They wouldn’t understand why we were there when no offer had been made.”

My agent–a generous and devoted soul–offered to host us at her apartment for lunch.

Oh, how I prepared for this meeting. I spent hundreds of dollars on an outfit, exchanging my first, labored over choice on a second shopping trip. My husband drove me into the city so I wouldn’t have to stress alone over traffic. Except that we left early enough so that the most tangled, ensnared metro area traffic couldn’t have made us late.

A spring cold was coming on the day we finally met, so I had to hope my nasal intonation didn’t turn anybody off, but oh, what fun we had. I had, anyway. I got to hear the editor say things like, “So since my publisher would like this to be a big book, I thought about adding a subplot,” and then toss ideas around with her.

I felt creative.

I felt important.

I felt real.

I rushed right home and–cold or not–got immediately to work. Adding a subplot. Tearing the novel into tiny shreds, and piecing them back together again. Thanking the stars that the first version didn’t sell, since this one was oh so much better.

Way back when Jennifer Sawyer Fisher first contacted my agent, she’d told her there might be an issue with the title. (Which my agent put to me as: She hates the title.)

I first spoke to Jennifer–before we met–at 4:32 in the afternoon (yes, I remember the minute) and at the very end of the conversation she said something like, I hope you won’t mind me saying this, but if the title was less than perfect, would you mind…

Or words to that effect. Careful, almost tiptoeing words. In a business that doesn’t often scruple with the writer’s feelings, let me just say that Jennifer’s manner endeared me to her greatly.

So it was doubly upsetting, after I finally got that new version ready for submission, to hear from my agent that it had been passed on to a new editor at Morrow for consideration.

Jennifer had moved west to start a family.

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