February 8, 2011

A Reviewer Comes to Suspense Your Disbelief

Filed under: Great Reads — jenny @ 4:58 pm

I was very pleased when author and reviewer Carl Brookins asked if his book reviews could be linked to from my blog.

As most of you know, I don’t do reviews myself (because reviewing is its own stellar talent and I simply don’t have it), but I love the idea of Suspense Your Disbelief readers getting to see some of the great ones I come across.

So without further ado, please check out this post by Carl, on KIND OF BLUE, a not-your-usual police procedural by Miles Corwin. If you’re interested in the real world of cops who are neither heroes nor foes, but sometimes a little of both, I hope you’ll keep reading.

Kind of Blue
By Miles Corwin
ISBN: 978-1-60809-007-5
From Oceanview Publishing
323 pages, November, 2010

A few years ago, this author wrote a couple of serious non-fiction books about the Los Angeles Police Department. He spent a lot of time with cops in that city and wrote books that became best-sellers, “The Killing Season” and “And Still We Rise.”

Now he’s back with a powerful persistent novel that draws from the same source material. “Kind of Blue,” is not your ordinary police procedural. It constantly reminds readers that the cops involved are no super beings, rising above the worst humanity can offer to save their city; nor are they all thugs, wife beaters and abusers. They are ordinary citizens, sometimes corrupt, sometimes honorable and brilliant, often prejudiced, but too often willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the citizens they serve. And, occasionally they violate the rights of criminals.

Author Corwin bends a keen and discerning eye on this stew of varying humanity to fashion a fascinating novel of human relations. Asher Levine, a dedicated, mostly honest cop, is one of LA’s best homicide detectives. But as the book opens, Levine is a former cop, having abruptly resigned after he was unable to protect a vital witness from being murdered. The death of Latisha Patton, never solved, devastates the detective and causes him to question his abilities, even though it is clear that apart from his dedication, he is a brilliant detective. So he resigns.

A year passes and a decorated officer has died, murdered in his home and the special homicide squad needs Levine’s help solving the case. More to the point, certain key executives in the LAPD hierarchy need the case solved or at least put to rest. Levine has had that year to discover his resignation hurts him more than it does the LAPD. With clearance from the top cops, Levine is fast tracked back to the force and handed the case.

The problem, of course, is that Levine won’t just concentrate on the current case and thus all sorts of actions that need to be buried along with the ghost of Latisha Patton. Traces of other earlier activity begin to resurface as Ash Levine winds his way through labyrinthine police and social structures of the street until he comes to the shocking final solution.

The title is apt, a riff on a 50 year old Miles Davis studio piece, the cover fits the mood and the attitude of the novel. All the elements fit and it was a pleasure to read this excellent book.

Posted by carl brookins at 2:15 PM

We Have a Winner!

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 12:28 pm

Wait, no, this isn’t more backstory :)

Instead, after some delays due to illness, we’ve selected Rebecca Cherba as the winner of Peter Golden’s debut novel COMEBACK LOVE.

Congratulations, Becca, and the book is in the mail!

February 7, 2011

The Big, Bad Middle of Your Novel

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:00 am

If you’re stuck at any point in this labyrinth, I wrote a piece about it that was published today in Writing Raw. It’s a gig New York Writers Workshop set up–just one more indication of how committed they are to their teachers and building a writing community. (Yes, I love these guys.)

Check it out and find your way out of the middle of your manuscript and back to dry land!

February 6, 2011

Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 10:24 pm

For some reason, I feel compelled to keep the backstory coming. In part because I actually have readers asking for it–and how amazing does *that* feel. But also because a crossroads is coming. I can sense it. One way or another, something is going to happen.

It might be a triumphant victory. Or a quiet acceptance that I have to face another path. Maybe a leap into a great unknown.

But either way, whatever way, I want you guys to know what got me to this point before I get to it. If that makes any sense.

So there I am, dropped by my agent, a novel that almost sold to Knopf (so it had to be decent, right? Decent enough that I didn’t want to give up on it), in the game now for long enough that I have a bit of Concorde fallacy going…

No, that’s not it. None of those are the reasons why, after I’d all but demanded my husband take a day off of work so I could both panic, and stew in the juices of being dumped, I brushed myself off and kept going.

It’s because I love this. I love writing stories. Novels. I love it with a passion, and I want to find readers who will love it, too.

You know that haze you acquire after you’ve been dumped? Everything takes on a sort of not-quite-real aura?

The first thing I remember doing in that hazy time is reaching out to my friend, author Debra Galant, who had recently read my novel. Debra had a good friend who was a literary agent. Maybe she’d be willing to take a look?

Authors are some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met, and oh, did Debbie extend herself for me. She called up her friend. She told her she’d been riveted by my novel.

So of course the agent was excited to see it. It was all going to be OK. I breathed a faint sigh of relief. I let my husband go back to work.

What came next, and at least it was in a blessedly short amount of time by industry standards, was my biggest blow yet. In kind-considering-what-she-really-felt words the agent told me, I’m not surprised your agent hasn’t sold this yet. Sure, it’s good. But it isn’t great.

We need an awful lot of self-delusion to survive in this business.

I deluded. I got up. I did *not* demand that my husband come home from work. I brushed myself off…again.

And I did two things. I majorly revised the good-but-not-great novel, which indeed was flawed–that’s why the team at Knopf had ultimately passed. And I signed up for New York Writers Workshop Pitch conference.

This experience, in addition to being the most exciting, American Idol moment yet of my pre-career, not only refreshed my battered ego (all three editors I pitched to were interested), while a little later leading me to a teaching spot I still feel grateful for every night…

It also led me to my next agent.

Ms. Right.

February 4, 2011

Which Old Pitch? The Wicked Pitch!

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 2:16 pm

You guys know that I usually do this at the unsurpassed  New York Writers Workshop Pitch conference, but if you live in the Montclair area, and don’t get into the city very often, here’s a cool alternative that writer and blogger Stacey Gill sent my way:

The Book Doctors, aka, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, will be making a house call at the Montclair Public Library in partnership with Watchung Booksellers.  They want YOU to pitch your book at their acclaimed event, Pitchapalooza, which was recently featured in The New York Times. Pitchapalooza is like American Idol for books–only without the Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to an all-star panel of publishing experts, including Dominck Anfuso (VP & Edior-in-Chief, Free Press), Liza Dawson, agent extraordinaire (Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency), and Pamela Redmond Satran, bestselling author/blogger (How Not To Act Old) and founder of MEWS. The winner receives an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher for his/her book. Plus, anyone who buys a book gets a free consultation worth $100.

February 10, 2011 at 7:00 at The Montclair Public Library, 50 S. Fullerton, Montclair, NJ, 973-744-0500

So, haul out your manuscripts, get cracking on those pitches…sure, they’re beasts tantamount to the worst of the winged monkeys, but here’s a great opportunity to put them to use!

Parenting: A Long Walk Through the Woods

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:13 am

There are some people for whom parenting is pure joy. The smiles and the screams; the Valentine hand print painting brought home from school as much as the sticky fingerprints on the wall.

OK, maybe there’s one person for whom it’s pure joy.

The rest of us probably never experienced such a roller coaster–from bliss to boredom to total, gut-wrenching self doubt–before we became the keepers of these new little souls.

Sometimes I think of parenting like those Tom Cruise movies that never should’ve been made. Your mission? Usher these small beings through the minefields of child predators, weird ass accidents involving umbrellas in eyes and falls down stairs, drugs, premature sex, and whatever Sony dreams up to corrupt youth in ways we of another generation can only stare, slack-jawed at, until they are big enough to usher a few little beings along themselves.

Parenting is a long walk through deep woods.

Except when it’s not.

Except when it’s a picnic by a sunlit stream. That’s why we keep doing it, isn’t it? For those picnic moments?

Just the other day my little one was hugging me and he murmured, “I could do dis forevah,” and I thought, One day he’s going to be able to pronounce t-h, and I wanted to hold him by the sunlit stream–forevah.

As parents we know that what feels like a marathon will really be over way faster than it would take me at least to run twenty-six impossible miles.

Writing a novel is a lot like parenting.

It has its peaks, the moments when the words are coming and you feel like you could do this forevah. It has its times in the middle where you can’t believe you will ever get through.

And then one day you’re done, you’ve written that exciting climax, and now it’s time to pen the words ‘the end’.

They’re off, to college, to homes of their own, to points unknown.

We’re out of the woods.

But oh, those trees were beautiful.

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