June 30, 2011

Made It Moment: Jacqueline Seewald

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:50 am

The Truth Sleuth

As soon as I saw the cover of Jacqueline Seewald’s latest book, I knew I had to write and tell her how lovely it was. Encounter led to encounter and soon I’d asked Jacquie to contribute a Made It Moment. How funny when I read it and found that a much earlier cover both figured into her ideas about making it–and one of the inevitable disappointments that often lie along this making it path. Many writers have said here in this forum that they haven’t fully “made it”–and some don’t even want to. To paraphrase one recent author, What would I do once I had? But Jacqueline Seewald has a slight different take–one I think many readers may relate to. I know I did. Please read on.

Jacquelyn Seewald

Never too early, Never too late

You never forget your first experience as a published author. What can I say? It’s definitely a “made it moment.”  When my gothic novel was accepted, I was thrilled. I recall bursting into tears of joy. I was finally an author. I had been recognized. I had arrived!

I had stopped working as an English teacher several years before and was spending my time as a full-time house frau, mother of two toddlers, and part-time writer. My dream had always been to write a spectacular bestseller. The fact is, I started writing way back in elementary school, winning several school essay contests. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. And I thought this was the start of making that dream become a career reality.

I was delighted when my book came out in paperback. It even had a tasteful, beautiful cover.  Unfortunately, my “advance” of $500 as promised in the contract was never paid.  Worse still, I soon discovered that the publisher had gone into bankruptcy.

My husband and I visited the publisher’s office in Manhattan. The editor-in-chief met with us and offered 50 copies of my novel.  We loved the cover art and he promised the original copy would be included as payment as well—but no money.

I did receive the copies of the novel, just not the painting of the cover.  The experience turned out to be a disappointing one overall.  But I never lost my enthusiasm for communicating the written word, never gave up on writing, or trying to get my work published. There is great satisfaction in seeing one’s words and ideas in print.  It’s a unique and special experience.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with many forms of written communications: essays, articles, novels, plays, short stories and poetry.  The creation of each work is much like giving birth to a child.  There is pain but also pleasure not to mention pride.

It is not possible to get everything one writes published—nor should writers consider all their work worthy of publication. I for one am not on that kind of ego trip. I’m still trying to write something outstanding, still attempting to produce that best-selling novel, still hoping to be “discovered”.  Truthfully, it will probably be my last thought on my deathbed.  But I have no regrets. I could no more stop writing than I could stop breathing. I write because I can’t not write. It’s simply what I do and who I am.

I’ve had a great deal of work published since that first experience. Every time something is accepted, published and paid for, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and elation.

One of the benefits of retirement is that I can now indulge myself. I have time to write professionally which I was denied when I was working full time as an English teacher and later on as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist while raising a family.

When my husband convinced me to take an early retirement so that I could start writing full time and also spend more time with him, since he was already retired, I insisted on only one thing.  The condition for me leaving my job was that we immediately buy a new computer with internet capability for our home. My retirement has given me the opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, namely become a dedicated, professional freelance writer.

My latest novel, THE TRUTH SLEUTH, third in the Kim Reynolds mystery series, was published by Five Star/Gale this month and is starting to appear in libraries all over the country. Have I succeeded in making my dream come true? Well, let’s just say that it’s still a dream in progress, but I’m working on it!

Multi-award winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught creative, expository and technical writing at the university level as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Eleven of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories as well as poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies. Her paranormal romantic mystery novels, THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL, have been widely acclaimed. The third romantic mystery in the Kim Reynolds series, THE TRUTH SLEUTH, is a new release. Her recent historical romance set in the Regency period TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is available in both hardcover and large print editions. A young adult novel, STACY’S SONG, was also published to excellent reviews.

June 28, 2011

Guest Post: Jim LePore

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:57 am

Blood Of My Brother

I’m very happy to welcome back author Jim LePore to the blog. For one thing, Jim wrote the very first Made It Moment almost exactly two years ago! Since we have now passed 75 Moments I feel as if Jim is a little part of history, at least the history of this blog. For another, Jim writes some of my favorite psychological fiction. His debut, A WORLD I NEVER MADE, still ranks as one of my all-time favorite novels, one I recommend to everyone who reads, and he has now gone on to release two more, all with the same interesting-for-these-times small publisher, The Story Plant. Today Jim muses about the role of naming, something that inspires him as he begins a new book.

Jim LePore

The Myth of Naming In Fiction

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
 by any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

My Basic Premise

There are no ideas or emotions unless first there is a human being (Character 1) who thinks something or feels something. That human being cannot exist of course without context, that is, time and place. Character 1 must be placed in the world (or a world if you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi) at some point in time as we know it. Action does not necessarily follow. Another human being (Character 2) must first be added to the context, someone present, past or future, who has done or said something that motivates Character 1 to act.

What I Do

I start with a name. I know this sounds crazy, but getting the right name for my central character somehow triggers the mysterious process of writing a novel or a story. I suppose that starting with a place, like a medieval castle or a colony on Mars, would work as well, but you will quickly need a person, a person who feels and thinks. That person will have to have a name. The story, for me, is in the name.

Let’s say Character 1 is Jane Scardino. The first thing that comes to mind is that her friends call her Scar. Does she have a scar somewhere on her body? Maybe. Will it be integral to her story? Maybe. Does she like her name? Is she Italian?

What does Jane look like? Is she young, old, beautiful? What is she wearing? Let’s say she’s in her mid-forties, worrying about her fading beauty and not happy to be so vain. She’s wearing something comfortable, but fashionable, yes, attractive, a black high-collared sweater, black slacks, funky shoes decorated with faux gems and sparkling rhinestone (or are they diamond?) earrings. Vanity wins, it seems.

What is Jane doing? Perhaps she’s getting ready for work, putting those earrings on, thinking about her mother’s boyfriend, who she’s worried is stealing her mother’s money. Yesterday she saw her mom going into the bank with Harry, her charming, silver-haired, Cadillac-driving beau. Jane is going to see a lawyer after work to talk about this, a lawyer she met at work last week who asked her out. She had declined, but why then did she pick him?

I think I might have the beginning of a story here, a story that started with a name, a name that somehow has a story in it.

Shakespeare was using things as metaphors for people. Could Romeo Montague and Juliette Capulet have gone down in history as John and Jane Smith? We’ll never know, but something tells me the answer is no.

I practiced law for twenty-five years before retiring in 1999 to write and take pictures. I have written a number of works of short fiction that have evolved from my novels. After each novel was completed, its characters continued to live in my head, telling me, it seemed, that they wanted to go on living on the page. The stories that grew out of A World I Never Made will be published in February, 2011, in a volume entitled, Anyone Can Die. My second novel, Blood of My Brother, is available now at Amazon and all other online booksellers.

June 27, 2011

Made It Moment: David Harris Ebenbach

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:42 am

Between Camelots

I’ve said it once but, hey, I’ll say it again, because I love to: meeting authors, writers, and readers on the web seems to me just possibly the reason the whole thing was invented. OK, maybe that’s a little solipsistic, but the internet really has enriched my life invaluably in this way, and I’m so grateful for it.

I’ve gotten to know so many people who write great books, using ways and techniques from which I learn, or who read with an insight and perspective that makes my jaw drop. Some of these people I may just get to meet in person before too long as we begin our second annual cross country trip.

And today on Suspense Your Disbelief appears an author whom I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting F2F. I still recall hearing David Harris Ebenbach read from his work for the first time, at an event in NJ, and hearing that his short story collection had just won an illustrious prize, one which, I was to learn, everyone in the literary world had heard and dreamed of.

It’s funny when you meet a writer AS (After Sale, or in this case, After Award). You think of that person as an established, successful author and even if you later hear–as I did–about the many years of struggle to reach that point, that time somehow seems…less salient. This is a writer who’s Made It–that’s how you know him or her.

But as David will tell you in his Moment, making it is far more complicated than that. Please read on.

David Harris Ebenbach

When I first sent my short story manuscript out to publishers, I wasn’t even sure that it was really a book. I had written a bunch of stories by then, and I liked some of them, and some of them did seem to get along with each other, so I had put some selected pieces side by side and started them off with a table of contents and a title page – Between Camelots, I called it – and the pile of paper had started to seem like something more than just a pile of paper.Still, sending Between Camelots out was a kind of test: “Hey, publishing world,” I was saying. “Is this a book, or not?”

I was so unsure of myself that I didn’t know what to think when Ed Ochester called from the University of Pittsburgh Press. At first I wondered if maybe he just wanted to give me a personal rejection, or maybe even to denounce my manuscript at length. Instead he told me that the manuscript had won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize – a prize that was on the very top of my I-wish-I-had-that list – and that it would be published in the fall. When he asked me if I had any questions, I said, leaning on the wall for support, “Yes – are you calling directly from heaven?”

Working with the University of Pittsburgh Press was a tremendous pleasure – this is a press that seems to employ only immensely thoughtful, talented, kind-hearted people. And when I talked with them about my book – my book! – I definitely felt like I had made it. I continued to feel like I had made it when I went to Pittsburgh to collect my prize; when I listened to Stewart O’Nan (who had been the contest judge) on stage, saying nice things about Between Camelots; when I went from there to do readings in bookstores, coffee shops, at colleges and universities; when I found out that the book had won the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writer Award in Fiction.

I think, however, that I had things wrong in those heady days when the book was first out; a published manuscript, I now believe, is not really a sign that an author has “made it.” First of all, publishing one thing doesn’t necessarily make it easier to publish the next. More importantly, the writer’s real job is to write, a job that’s never complete, and getting into print doesn’t change that. Yet publication does mean something. Above all, it means that people can read your work, and in that sense there’s some “making it” there – but it’s the book, not the author, that has made it. Your book is now out there, finding its way in the world. For the author, on the other hand, it’s time to get back to work, to take on the pleasure and challenge of writing, all of this in the hopes that soon enough there’ll be another manuscript, another book that might, with your help, make it. Right now, for example, I’m sending another short story manuscript around, along with a collection of poems that just might be a book, too. And of course I keep on writing – fiction, poetry, writing about writing.

Meanwhile, Between Camelots continues to find its way. Earlier this year at a conference I ran into Lowell Britson, the Marketing Director of the University of Pittsburgh Press, and he asked me if I was open to them making an e-book version of Between Camelots. It wasn’t a hard decision. For one thing, I’m old enough to remember when Atari first released the video game “Pong,” so I’m easily impressed by technological advances. More importantly, though, I just care very much about what I write and I’d love to see it reach as many readers as possible. If a book gets around more easily via the Whispernet than on the back of a delivery truck, I’m up for it. I guess we’ll see!

And on and on it goes.

David Harris Ebenbach’s first book of short stories, Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press), won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and the GLCA New Writer’s Award. His poetry has appeared in, among other places, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Subtropics, and Mudfish. Recently awarded fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, Ebenbach has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.

June 23, 2011

Made It Moment: Rick Murcer

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:24 am

Caribbean Moon

Rick Murcer is having real success navigating the unknown waters of authordom in this brave new publishing world–much as his hero navigates the Caribbean waters of Rick’s exotic setting. I’ve recommended Rick’s novel in a cruise ship mysteries thread, one on travel mysteries, and on several that involve cops. Today Rick talks about that line between being a “real” writer and not–sometimes it’s thinner than we think.

Rick Murcer

Obviously, Made it Moments are a tad objective; everyone’s moment will be unique. But after reflecting on the question Jenny presented, I boiled it down to two no-brainer answers–my favorite kind. (Because we all know authors never overthink anything. By the way, is my picture good enough? How about the cover to Caribbean Moon? How about the blurb? Does this article make my butt look too big?)

Alright, enough of the fooling around, for now…maybe.

Back in 2002, my best friend died of a heart attack. Big Herb had some genetic problems, but my large buddy loved food more than his mortality and he left us far too early. A few months later, I wrote my first short story ever, Herb’s Home Run, trying to resolve my grief with his destiny.  The story was published in Writers’ Journal Spring of 2003. At that point, I thought maybe I had something to offer. But work and family took precedent, so the writing became a Sunday morning ritual.

I was about halfway through my first novel, Berserker, when I lost my job. It took a few months to find another ball and chain, but during that time, something happened and I decided to see how I would do in the suspense/thriller genre.  I wrote the first draft for Caribbean Moon in less than four months. Then another real job got in the way. I picked at writing for a few years, and then, surprise, I was out of work again! Crazy stuff here in Michigan.

I decided I’d better do something, so I finished Caribbean Moon. My wife and I edited it eight times (she does that stuff for a living) and then we were ready.

The first week we sold 35 books, the next week, 77. A couple of five-star reviews later and I floated away from my computer embracing that euphoric state that makes life worth living. I told my wife, “I think I can do this.” She smiled and said, “You already have.”

I remember saying to God that I hoped He wasn’t joking.

So far so good.

I live in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University. I’ve been married longer than my wife likes to admit, and have two grown children, three (almost) grandkids, and a blind black Lab named Max, who serves as my “writing” dog. He pushes me hard to get to the writing room each morning so he can snore on his rug while I do all the work!

June 21, 2011

Made It Moment: Nancy Naigle

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:52 am

Sweet Tea and Secrets

Nancy Naigle’s Made It Moment is so vivid, I could see the action on the screen–there really is a screen in her Moment–and feel the prick of tears on her eyes. It’s one I think we all have probably dreamed about, envisioned, at more than one point. May the same thing come to many–and may Nancy’s be the first of many such for her!

Nancy Naigle

The cool thing about “made-it” moments is that you can have a bunch of them in your lifetime, and my advice is to embrace each and every one of them.

SWEET TEA AND SECRETS is my debut novel and it’s available right now in trade paperback and e-formats. This book is the first of several that tie to the small fictional town of Adams Grove. The day I was contacted by Turquoise Morning Press with a contract was thrilling. A made-it moment for sure, but let me tell you, seeing the cover of SWEET TEA AND SECRETS begin to pop up on the websites was no comparison to that day.

I’d expected that my book would be available on its release date of May 2nd, but I was shopping on amazon.com on April 30th (like I do on so many Saturday mornings) and I’m not even sure what made me type my name into the search bar, but I did, and there it was. Spring-time green and cheerful, my cover stared me in the face from the amazon site. I could hardly breathe as the tears tickled my nose and filled my eyes. Of course, then I pinged my best coolio writer chick friend online to share the excitement. She was just as excited as I was…that’s how friends are J

I’d dreamed of this for years, and worked tirelessly for it, but holding my book in my hands and then seeing it on a booksellers website still felt like a surprise.

Every tweet, every facebook mention, every note about the release of SWEET TEA AND SECRETS has been so sweet—better than the finest chocolate.

I appreciate you sharing my “made-it” moment and hope you’ll find a little escape from the hectic day-to-day for a few hours in Adams Grove.

Hugs and high 5s.


Nancy Naigle writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense. After spending most of her life on the Virginia coast, she and her husband left Tidewater for greener pastures a little further inland in Southampton County. They now live on a 76 acre goat farm where Nancy spends every spare moment working on her next book.

Do you know the Virginia state motto? If you answered VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS, you’re right! Perfect for someone who writes love stories, don’t you think?

June 17, 2011

Made It Moment: Lenny Kleinfeld

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:24 am

Shooters & Chasers

Congratulations to Karyne & Arthur who have won hardcover copies of Lenny’s novel, SHOOTERS & CHASERS!

As soon as I saw Lenny Kleinfeld’s incredible book cover I knew I had to ask him to write a Made It Moment. It’s a bonus that Lenny turns out to be funny, gracious, and warm, and that his book looks well worth a read. (My Pile is the size of Pittsburgh, a wonderful thing overall, and Lenny’s is on it).  What I didn’t realize is that Lenny has had so many tantalizing carrots dangled that I would read his Moment with my heart in my throat. I think you will, too. And then you’ll probably get back to writing–Lenny is that kind of inspiring guy.

Lenny Kleinfeld

I specialize in Made It Moments that turn out to be trap-door moments.

It’s December 1971. Chicago. My first professionally produced play has just opened.

A friend from school who founded a theater company had called and asked if I’d co-author a sci-fi trilogy. He’s a director who has great ideas but doesn’t write. So we outline the shows together, and I write the scripts. Or, so far, script; there’s no guarantee we’ll get past Episode One.

The opening night parties are over. It’s about 5 AM. My wife and I are in a booth at a diner having breakfast. There’s a news stand outside. It’s drizzling; the pavement is glistening. A Sun-Times truck pulls up and dumps bales of newspapers on the sidewalk. It’s an anachronistic image, something out of a black and white Warner’s gangster movie. I half expect the headline to say DILLINGER SHOT. Probably because we’re across the street from the Biograph Theater, where Dillinger was shot.

But apparently no one’s dug him up and put another bullet in him, because there’s no Dillinger headline. There is a rave review for our show. First of many.

The trilogy is a huge, coolest-show-in-town, must-see hit. Cover stories in the arts sections of the Sunday papers. A year-long sold-out run.

It’s headed for New York. Off-Broadway.

There are no suitable Off-Broadway theaters available.

But Broadway is having a dismal season; half the Schubert theaters are dark. The Schuberts love our show. They offer us a theater for half-price.

We fly to New York to look at the space. I walk out on the stage and have a literal gut reaction, a falling-elevator sensation in the stomach: It’s too big.

But we are young. As in, ridiculously impatient.

Plus which we’ve been making about $150 a week. Our royalties in this barn would be north of two grand a week.

And, even better: We are 24 years old and will have three plays running on Broadway. Imagine that.

Oops. Our raucous, physical, luridly lit production, which cascaded over the audience in a 140-seat theater, becomes a bite-sized gulp swallowed by the combination of a huge stage and a minuscule budget. And my commedia-on-acid script is nobody’s idea of a traditional well-made play. It closes after six performances.

We return to Chicago, broke. Our producer claims rights we say the contract clearly says he hasn’t earned. He sues us.

We learn civil suits have less to do with factuality than with one fact: Whoever throws the heaviest bricks of money wins. Or at least produces years of stalemate.

I dashed off another couple of plays. They failed, partly for different reasons, but with a shared underlying reason: I wrote them too fast. I decided not to write another until I could carve out at least 6 months of undivided, undistracted time. I began freelancing magazine pieces, and reviewing theater for a weekly paper.

After four years we ransomed our way out of the lawsuit by giving up a slice of future earnings.

We revived the trilogy at my friend’s theater. Another hit. We moved it to a slightly larger theater, as a commercial production. It did well at first but some bad business decisions were made. It closed. And some money disappeared.

We sued our new producer. I got super busy. Put it this way: I was making 100 dollars a review. My lawyer was making 100 dollars an hour.

One new way I got busy was writing the theater column for Chicago magazine. After three months it had the highest readership of any front-of-the-book item in the magazine’s history. Mainly because it was the de facto humor column in a humor-challenged publication.

I received unsolicited offers to review theater in New York. Non-starters;  I wasn’t up for spending my life writing about other peoples’ writing.

We settled the suit. I quit my column and stopped reviewing. The Chicago Tribune called to do an interview. I told them my retirement from the reviewing biz wasn’t news. They insisted it was. So that was a Made-The-Wrong-It-And-Walked-Away-From-It Moment.

I wrote a screenplay. On a typewriter. The night I finished the rough draft I went to a bar and knocked back a few with friends. Came home and found a message on my answering machine from a woman who said she was Michael Douglas’ director of development.

I called the next day. They were looking for someone to adapt a tricky black comedy novel. I told her to send the book and I’d whip up a treatment. She said sure, and asked if I’d ever written a screenplay. I told her I’d just finished what wasn’t even a rough draft—more like a Rorschach draft—torn pages, cross-outs, hand-scribbled dialog, coffee stains. Thing didn’t even have a title page.

She said send it.

A month later I was having my first movie meeting, at Michael’s estate in Montecito. After lunch we went for a swim in a large black tile pool. There was a pair of goggles. I put them on, dove to the bottom, and scooped up three small objects. Swam over to Michael. Said, “Now I know you’re a real producer—these were in your pool.”

I handed him what I’d found: two pennies and a screw.

He laughed.

I didn’t get the adaptation gig, but he bought my screenplay. Turned out he was a real producer, but despite that an honest, consistently stand-up guy.

The script went through three more drafts, then was announced in a front page Variety story as the debut production of Michael’s new company—a Hollywood Made It Moment. Then the project fell apart. But that’s a whole other story.

My next five scripts were never filmed either.

One day producers stopped buying scripts from me to not produce.

I didn’t have a good idea for a play. Wrote a novel.

It was repped by a serious agency. Novels by this agency’s Seriously Made It authors are in airports across the globe. I believe a couple of them own airports.

My agent believed Shooters would be the next summer’s big beach book. An About-To-Make-It Moment.

One morning in 2004 the agency simultaneously messengered manuscripts to a dozen mainstream publishers, hoping to provoke an auction.

It provoked a rejection tsunami—even at four places where editors wanted to acquire the book, and were overruled by their superiors.

In 2009 Shooters was published, by a small little tiny publisher. A Made It Moment? Nah. More like a Just Barely In Print Moment. 1500 copies. And no publicity.

But nearly every copy sold, due to a handful of good reviews and the efforts of my wife, who’s a reformed actor, and some unreformed actor friends who showed up and did readings. Which was a treat for the audiences. And a mercy, considering how lousy I am at that.

We were also immeasurably aided by Leighton Gage, author of the superb Inspector Silva series. Leighton was on the Edgars nominating jury for best first novel. He was displeased when Shooters received only one vote, so he started some online brushfires.

These days the book is a modest Kindle creature, who mainly naps, but wakes up from time to time when there’s a new ebook review.

I’m writing a sequel anyway.

Lenny Kleinfeld began his career as a playwright in Chicago, where he was also a columnist for Chicago magazine. His articles, fiction and humor have appeared in Playboy, Oui, Galaxy, the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In 1986 he sold a screenplay; he is now twenty-five years into a business trip to Los Angeles. Shooters And Chasers is his first novel.

June 16, 2011

Made It Moment: Doug Carlyle

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:30 am

In Search of the Fuller Brush Man

This is a poignant Made It Moment that drives right into the heart of two different concepts: family  & success. It’s a somewhat rare occurrence when a Moment makes me decide to read the book–I usually know whether it’s my kind of thing as soon as I contact or hear from an author–and as you all know, I feature a wider range of books on this site than reflect my particular tastes. But after reading Doug’s words, I know I will be buying this not-my-usual read. I have to know the mystery of the Fuller Brush Man!

Doug Carlyle

I self-pub’d In Search of the Fuller Brush Man last December in memory of my mother and my high school girlfriend of…well…let’s just say a long time ago. My mother kept a journal while she had cancer. Her last written words 23 years ago were, “Fuller Brush Man.” Finding the meaning to those words became my obsession. I am satisfied that I solved the mystery. My release from the burden of my quest is fictionally represented in this novel. Of course, the lines between fiction and reality are very blurred.

That aside, I can imagine no greater moment than when my father paid me a compliment on my novel. It wasn’t that he enjoyed my novel. He did. But rather, townspeople where I grew up, and where he still lives, now come up to him and congratulate HIM for MY work.

We’re from a relatively small town where my father was the manager for what was really the only pharmacy. In that capacity, he literally knew everyone, and they knew him.  Now eighty-seven years old, there are few things that get my father excited these days. He’s traveled to 80-plus countries. He takes three big trips a year. He drives a Corvette! I can honestly tell you nothing has stirred his juices as much as bragging about his son, and his son’s debut novel –set in our hometown, no less.

He earned this moment. He did a great job raising me. He put me through college. I landed a great job and had a spectacular career. I delivered on my end of the bargain by getting married, having children, and now grandchildren of my own. Those objectives, he expected me to achieve. Writing a novel? That was a complete surprise. Soon, I’ll have my next one out for him to brag about.

Doug Carlyle grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He is living proof that geeks can write good fiction. Having left the semiconductor industry after 26 years, he now focuses on the second part of his dual-career. He is a paramedic/firefighter, fulfilling a childhood dream. He raised his family in Texas where today he lives on his ranch with his wife, youngest daughter, horses, and goats. His creed: Writing Fiction and Saving Lives…All in a Day’s Work.

June 15, 2011

Made It Moment: Dorothy McIntosh

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:52 am

Witch Of Babylon

Dorothy McIntosh deserves kudos for having beautiful artwork, both on her book and her website (a must-check-out if you’re having one built…or even just if you have one at all). After that, she deserves mention for winning some of the more illustrious prizes an emerging writer can win–including one I tried for during my own journey. Yet Dorothy still puts a premium on one thing every writer needs–and it can’t come, as she wisely points out, before the book has been read. Enjoy this Moment! I did.

Dorothy McIntosh

In truth, my made-it moment hasn’t occurred yet; that will only happen when (if) readers embrace my novel – The Witch of Babylon – and tell me they found it hard to put down. The reader is, after all, judge, jury and, sometimes, executioner.

But my journey from having a kernel of an idea to published author is full of smaller made-it moments. Not that they’re minor, in fact, each was an occasion for fist-pumping joy.

The first memorable event was learning The Witch had made finalist for the esteemed Crime Writers Association (U.K.) Debut Dagger competition. I quickly began working with a literary agent after that and one year later the manuscript won the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished Crime Novel.

When Penguin Canada bought, not just the first novel but the entire Babylon trilogy, I was thrilled. And there have been many great moments since, as we’ve sold the book in over fifteen countries around the world.

The journey to getting published has, for me, taken on the image of a necklace, each moment along its length, a diamond in my eyes. Lest this seem like it’s been a smooth ride all along, there have been lots of rough spots. For one, it has taken many years from starting the manuscript to publication but made-it moments are about the wins and even the gentle satisfaction of seeing your writing in print. I am most grateful for those.

I can’t close without saying how much I admire Jenny’s own journey. Her good judgement and perseverance is a model for us all. You have the first big diamond on your necklace Jenny, may there be many more.

D.J. (Dorothy) McIntosh is the former co-editor of the Crime Writers of Canada’s newsletter, Fingerprints, and is a Toronto-based writer of novels and short mystery fiction. Her short story “The Hounds of Winter”, published in Blood on the Holly by Baskerville Books (Toronto, 2007), was nominated for the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story. “A View to Die For” appeared in Bloody Words: The Anthology, also published by Baskerville Books (Toronto, 2003). McIntosh graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto.

June 14, 2011

Made It Moment: Kristie Leigh Maguire

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:22 am

Desert Heat

This Made It Moment achieves two things I love. First, it’s by an author I met in an online writing (reading) forum. I enjoy spending time in such places second only to bookstores probably. Second, Kristie Leigh is one of the kindest, gracious most people I’ve ever met in one, and her attitude toward this crazy business is both realistic and affirming. Read on and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Kristie Leigh Maguire

I am my own worst enemy. I am tougher on myself than my harshest critic is. Even though I am a multi-published award-winning author, I hesitate in saying I have made it as an author.

Is any writer ever satisfied with their work? I am not. I always think there is something else I should have done, or something I did that I shouldn’t have done. When I reach a goal I have set for myself, I set new goals. I constantly push myself to do more, to climb that next rung of the ladder.

I hesitate in saying I have had a Made it Moment. It’s like a gambler carrying a rabbit’s foot in his pocket to keep from jinxing himself. If I say I have had a Made it Moment, will I be jinxing myself? I will take the risk (and cross my fingers behind my back).

My Made it Moment came after the publication of my first novel, Desert Heat. Desert Heat won Romance of the Year and I won Best Up and Coming Romance Author of the Year in the Affaire de Coeur Magazine Reader Poll.

That didn’t stop me from setting new goals though. Could I do it again? Could my next novel also be a hit? It was. Cabin Fever, my second novel, placed in the Top Ten in Romance at the Preditors & Editors Poll.

New goals set and reached. No Lady and Her Tramp, my third novel that I co-authored with Mark Haeuser, also placed in the Top Ten in Romance in the Preditors & Editors Poll.

I am still setting goals, always striving to go higher on that ladder in my mind. As I said, I am my own worst enemy…but I can finally say I am a real author.

Kristie Leigh Maguire is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her current titles are Second Chances, Affairs of the Heart: Desert Heat and Cabin Fever (Collector’s Edition), Desert Heat, Cabin Fever, Emails from the Edge: Memoirs of an Expat Wife, and co-author of No Lady and Her Tramp.

She was voted Best Up and Coming Author of the Year and her novel Desert Heat was voted Romance of the Year by the Affaire de Coeur Magazine Reader/Writer Poll. Her novels Cabin Fever and No Lady and Her Tramp placed in the Top Ten in the Preditor & Editor’s Poll.

Although Kristie Leigh Maguire is originally from the South and will always remain Southern at heart, she and her husband now live in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. During her expatriate years she lived in St. Croix, Aruba, Thailand, Japan and three times in Saudi Arabia and visited many other countries.

June 13, 2011

A Book that Shakes the World, or Helps Right a Shaken One

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 7:37 am

Shaken: Stories for Japan

Last summer Tim Hallinan, author of the Poke Rafferty series, among others, wrote his Made It Moment. I still remember sitting outside a Barnes & Noble in Spokane, WA and putting it up on the blog. Today, just before my family is about to embark on another cross country odyssey, Tim returns to Suspense Your Disbelief with a very special book, a book that takes this enormous planet of ours and shrinks it down to a community of people helping people.

Books can change the world–or at least transport the reader to a different one. This book, which Tim is about to tell you about, has the power to help fix a world that quite literally was torn apart. Read on and see what happens when some of the most talented people writing today got together and decided to help Japan.

Tim Hallinan


I knew I’d made it when I read, “He had not yet seen her, but he knew when she brushed her hair, took a shower and went to the toilet. He knew when she was home, cooking some strong smelling meat, and when she was speaking on the phone with her lover.”

I knew I’d made it when I read, “My mother was destined to die on the sea.”

I knew I’d made it when I read, “Tom Hickey batted smoke away and caught a breath.”

And I absolutely knew I’d made it when I read:

hung on a nail
a cricket

The first three quotes are the opening lines of short stories by, respectively, Naomi Hirahara, Vicki Doudera, and Ken Kuhlken. The poem is a haiku written by the 17-century master Basho and translated by Jane Reichhold.

All of them appear in SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, a collection of twenty original stories by twenty terrific writers, with one hundred percent of all royalties going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund administrated by Japan America Society of Southern California.

I had the idea for the collection while watching the coverage of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, pretty much at the moment I teared up at the site of hundreds of people waiting patiently in line, those at the end fully aware that it would run out before they got there. I asked myself why writers couldn’t pool their talents in a good cause the way musicians and actors can.

And, of course, I realized we could – thanks to the fast publication turnaround of e-books. Within twenty minutes I’d contacted 30 writers to ask for a donated story, and almost everyone had said yes.

But I didn’t know what I’d get, and I didn’t know whether I was capable of editing the collection.

And then the stories began to come in, and I had my made-it moment. I’d made it because we had a great book, and I’d made it because these particular stories needed so little editing that even I could do it.

The book is available for the Kindle on Amazon, and it’ll cost only $3.99. The Japan Relief Fund have pledged to turn over ever penny to nonprofit organizations already at work in the disaster area, without retaining so much as a penny for overhead or supervision.

The writers are a great mix – every one of them tremendously talented and individual, and with very different styles and subject matter. Alphabetically, they are Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, Jeri Westerson and me. Among them, they’ve won Edgars, Anthonys, Barrys, Shamus Awards – you name it. And they’ve sold hundreds of thousands of books.

I had three other made-it moments during this project.

First was when I saw Gar Anthony Haywood’s cover design. Gar is one of my favorite writers in the world, but I had no idea he could do this.

Second was when Jane Reichhold gave us permission to use her translations of Basho’s haiku. Reichhold’s beautiful 2008 volume, Basho: The Complete Haiku, has been praised by poets and scholars alike. We now have a haiku linking each story with the one that follows it, and I think it adds greatly to the book.

Third was when I saw the final e-book, as produced (for free) by Kimberly Hitchens at booknook.biz. It’s just beautiful.

SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN may be the first e-book ever designed solely as a find-raiser. I’m thrilled to have played a part in it, and I’m looking forward to one more made it moment- when Japan Americe Society tells me it’s raised a whole bunch of money for the families in the north of Japan.

Tim Hallinan has lived, on and off, in Southeast Asia for more than 25 years. He wrote songs and sang in a rock band while in college, and many of his songs were recorded by by well-known artists including the platinum-selling group Bread. He began writing books while enjoying a successful career in the television industry. Over the past fourteen years he has been responsible for a number of well-reviewed novels and a nonfiction book on Charles Dickens. For years he has taught a course on “Finishing the Novel” with remarkable results – more than half his students complete their first novel and go on to a second, and several have been, or are about to be, published. Tim currently maintains a house in Santa Monica, California, and apartments in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy-Hallinan.

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