July 8, 2011

Westward Ho!

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:16 am

Westward Ho!Hi, Suspense Your Disbelief readers! (I need a pithier greeting–any ideas??)

We are off on our second annual trip west, this time with the added benefit of being able to stop at bookstores along the way, spread the word about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, stock up on some car reads, and even–drop off some early, early swag for my novel!I’ll share what we did in case anyone’s planning something of the same.

I’ll also be visiting friends I’ve met through this blog and the web for some F2F meetings…an added, added bonus.

Please stay in touch here as I’ll be posting updates and tales, and if you have big news of your own, just write me and ignore the away message! I’ll be back in touch as soon as I can–you know those long expanses in the west.

Oh, am I excited for that emptiness again. 10 months in my beloved east and I am ready.

Be well, Disbeliefers! (Nah, don’t like it. The person who comes up with a winning idea gets three free books in the mail).

And here’s the route we’ll be taking, more or less:

Driving West

July 7, 2011

Made It Moment: Randy Susan Meyers

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:28 am

The Murderer's Daughters

It’s always special to have an author on the blog whose book I loved. THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS was on my mental Best Of list for 2010–a sobering, thrilling read (and those aren’t adjectives you normally see paired). The other reason that I’m thrilled to have Randy share her Moment is this. When her novel launched, Randy gave all the proceeds from sales at her release party to an organization that helped victims of domestic violence. Through her inauguration as an author, talking to readers affected by this issue has been something where Randy’s commitment has shone. Her novel is not just a great read–it’s something that can change a life.

Randy Susan Meyers

There are many moments which pinched me and said: “Yes, you really did publish a novel!” but the moment where I could barely breathe and left me saying, Thank you, God, was the moment I read the first reviews posted in the Amazon Vines Early Readers programs

These were strangers who’d been touched by my book. Not professional reviewers (which were wonderful and for whom I will be eternally grateful—but writing reviews is their job, right?) No one paid or forced these Amazon reviewers to write about The Murderer’s Daughters. None of them was my sister, best friend, husband, agent, daughter, writer’s group member, editor—all of whom has a vested interest in cheering me up and letting me know they love me.

Amazon Vine readers helped me believe that perhaps I’d done what I’d set out to do, what I believe writers should do when writing a book that uncovers a secret truth. I wrote a book that broke my own heart. It seemed that, at least for these reviewers, I’d also written a story that touched deep inside someone else.

That is my ‘made it moment.’

Books have been my lifelines since I first recognized what magic the ABC’s could make. Reading gets me through the best of times, the worst of time, the most boring of times, and everything in-between. I read widely and I read across genres. I read fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and biographies—anything and almost everything except manuals on fixing things, and marooned on an island, I’d read those.

I was raised by books, enhanced by books, taught by books, and rescued by books and the ones that meant probably dug deepest into the author’s nightmares, dreams, and exposed their raw places. That’s the gift that writers can offer: an “oh, me too, me too,” that might leave the reader feeling a little less crazy.

It’s a present I’ve been given by so many. My hope is that I will give a bit of that gift back.

Randy Susan Meyers is the author of The Murderer’s Daughters, released by St. Martin’s Press in January 2010. Her family drama is informed by her work with batterers and victims of domestic violence, as well her experience with youth impacted by street violence. The Los Angeles Times deemed the books, “A knock-out debut.” The Murderer’s Daughters was recently chosen the Target “Club Pick” for February/March and chosen as a Massachusetts Council for the Book as a “Must Read.” The Murderer’s Daughters was just named a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award.

July 6, 2011

Made It Moment: Lyn Horner

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:55 am

Darlin' Druid

What can I say? The getting-published process is on my mind right about now. You all know why. So when Lyn Horner sent me her Made It Moment I knew I had to feature it. Lyn faced much of the same roller coaster I did, you did, so many of us did. And her ultimate decision is a choice for these changing times–one that more and more writers will be considering, I suspect, in the months to come.

Lyn Horner

What was my “Made it Moment?” Have I experienced such a moment? That depends on how you look at the question. I’m not making big bucks from my writing. Maybe I never will, but from time to time I have received a boost that made my little old heart flutter.

The first moment that comes to mind was actually a big disappointment. I’d placed in the semi-finals of the Orange Rose Contest, one of the biggies in the romance genre. While my historical romance didn’t reach the finals, one of the editors who judged it asked to see more of my work. She couldn’t offer to buy the book I entered in the contest because her publishing house had recently contracted for a trilogy with a setting similar to mine. Bummer! Timing truly is everything.

With high hope, I shipped off a synopsis and the first three chapters of my western/paranormal romance, Darlin’ Druid, to the friendly editor. Anxious to make a sale after years of rejections, I assured her I was willing to dump the paranormal elements of the story if she preferred it as a conventional western romance. And then I waited. One month, two months, three…all authors know the drill. When at last I heard back, it was another rejection, but this one was different. The editor said westerns really weren’t her cup of tea. (Why she agreed to read it, I don’t know. Maybe she was just being nice to me.) However, she advised me NOT to take out the paranormal part because that’s what made the story unique.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She didn’t want my book, but she didn’t think I should change it. Go figure! My hopes were crushed again, but later, when I got to thinking about her comment, I realized it was really a backhanded compliment. I had written something unique. How ’bout that!

Long story short, I took my friend the editor’s advice, and eventually I decided to self-publish Darlin’ Druid as a Kindle book, and later as a Nook book. My sales are far from great but they are improving, and DD has received wonderful reviews. One, penned by Todd Fonseca of Tag My Book on Amazon, compares the book favorably to Steig Larsson’s books. Another, written by Harlequin Historical author Tori Phillips, declares, “DARLIN’ DRUID by Lyn Horner should be made into a movie!” Boy, those two really made my day!

As I see it, one upside-down “made it moment” can lead to several thrilling moments. Like precious gems, I keep them tucked away in my memory, to be brought out whenever I need a lift on the occasional dreary day.

Lyn Horner is a baby-boomer born in San Francisco, raised in Minnesota, and now residing in Texas with her husband and an ever-changing band of cantankerous, beloved cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn first worked as a fashion illustrator in Minneapolis, and later as an instructor for Art Instruction Schools (famous for their “Draw Me” heads.) After quitting work to raise her children, she took up writing as a creative outlet. This hobby grew into an enduring love of historical research and the art of crafting passionate love stories.

July 5, 2011

Guest Post: Carolyn J. Rose

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:01 am

An Uncertain Refuge

I’m so happy to have Carolyn Rose back again–Carolyn is practically a mainstay of the blog! Her Made It Moment appeared here and her last guest post here. And today she is sharing her thoughts on how math might really help us in this writer’s life–hint: it’s not just the ole balancing-our-checkbooks saw we heard as students–and concluding with a decision she made that is so in-the-news right now, the Wall Street Journal recently weighed in.  Please read on–and leave a comment if you’ve been considering the same momentous leap, or possibly have made it already.

Carolyn J. Rose

Why the rules of math don’t apply to the past – and how that will change my future as a writer.

Okay, so I wasn’t much good at math back in high school. Math didn’t allow for much of what I call the BS or fudge factor—an answer was either right or wrong.

I’ve always been fond of the gray areas, of arguable choices, the morally ambiguous questions, those fascinating either/or situations.

And let’s face it, math has changed since my cheeks last hit a classroom seat. And so have the tools. Adding machines and slide rules are gone, replaced by calculators so complicated that you need an owner’s manual to find the “on” button.

A few days ago, while trying to help a student, I ran aground on the reef of parentheses and the order of operations. Because I neglected to perform the multiplication function before addition and subtraction, we arrived at the wrong answer. By performing operations in the order they appeared, I got an answer of 14. With parentheses setting aside the multiplication function, I got 18. Only four points off, but the answer was as wrong as if I’d been off by 1000.

Pondering that later, I wondered how different my life would be if I could set aside portions of it inside parentheses and divide or multiply by other portions. Where and who would I be today if I had been able to minimize or maximize specific episodes or incidents?

For example, I might take a particularly embarrassing episode and divide by a letter of recommendation or an award. I might multiple disappointments by glorious vacation days.

How would that affect my writing?

Let’s say that I could take the trauma of the day the elastic broke on my underpants in second grade and divide that by the exhilaration of bobby-pinning a silk scarf to me head in third grade when I was chosen to play the coveted role of Maid Marian in a spontaneous playground production of Robin Hood’s adventures. Would that leave me with less empathy? Would that, in turn, affect my ability to create complex characters?

If I took the experience of watching my father die and divided that by a sunset at the ocean or gentle snowfall in the mountains, I might reduce the pain of losing him. Would that make me less sympathetic to others’ grief and loss?

Conversely, if I multiplied the experience by other losses, I could intensify the agony until my nerves were raw and my mind was a swirling vortex of torment. Would that give my novels a more bleak and hopeless tone?

If I took my first teenage crush and multiply that emotion by the thrill of getting a news crew to a breaking story before the competition, would I be able to write a love story that would resonate with all readers?

If I took my one frightening rock-climbing experience and multiplied it by that terrifying white-water canoe trip and then by the day I hit 130 in my grandfather’s Buick on a straightaway in Texas, I might produce the excitement level necessary to craft a nail-biting thriller.

Now, say it was possible to take the short stories I published and multiply that small success by my PNWA prize. Would I then be more devastated by rejections, or would I have so much confidence in my writing that the slings and arrows of rejection rolled off my psyche like water off a duck’s back?

Going a step further, if I could take the skills I developed as a writer and multiply those by my work ethic and determination, would I have a  bestseller by now?

But the rules of math don’t apply that way, so none of that is possible.

Yes, some experiences outweigh others, but each experience remains unique and alone, the memory of it painful or thrilling, satisfying or unfulfilling, delightful or tinged with guilt.

Experiences accumulate, memories pile up. Time, like drifting snow over a long winter, obscures some memories, softens the shape of others, and leaves a few bare. And time, like a relentless wind, scours those memories, dulling and smoothing the jagged edges of loss and disappointment, polishing small successes until they gleam like silver, and honing needle-sharp points onto betrayal, remorse, and regret.

I can change nothing in the frozen landscape of my past; I can only learn from the landmarks and make different choices in the future.

This spring I re-examined my goals and found # 1 was the same as ever—to have the thrill of sharing my stories with readers, ideally with many readers.

With that in mind, and with the realization that time seems to be passing at an ever-faster rate, I made the choice to break the cycle of hope-submission-rejection-despair-wound licking-ego healing-hope again. I self-published a suspense novel, An Uncertain Refuge, and put it up for sale at a bargain price.

Was that the right decision? I don’t know. This isn’t black-or-white math, this is the gray area of real life. All I can say is, “It was a different decision.”

Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, and spent 25 years as a television news writer and producer in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She has published many mysteries and lives in Vancouver, WA, with her husband, radio personality Mike Phillips, and a motley collection of pets. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

July 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 3:37 pm

“God-given ability only takes a person so far…From there, where one goes is a witch’s brew of intangibles–will, opportunity, desire, timing, commitment, personalities, vision, and luck.”– Scott Gummer in PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY

July 1, 2011

A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky-yyy

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:04 pm

The line reads like this in my mind:Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly again…

…but goes like: Last night I went to Random House.

It was actually two nights ago, but who’s counting?

I am. The first time I got to walk through my new publisher’s doors will be imprinted on my brain, and all days will for at least a while be counted from it: Two days ago I was there; a week ago today I was there; one month ago…

When I arrived I waited outside to meet my agent (and for this event, hand-holder) and across the street I saw several silver hanging signs with one word on them.


Why yes, it is, I felt like saying aloud. My dream, that is. But how’d you know?

Turns out Dream is a hotel right near the lofty offices I was about to enter. Or at least it was there for that night, now two days ago. In the way of dreams (and eerie novels) I have the feeling it might’ve been plunked down to make the point and now if I called to make a reservation, someone might answer and say, “No, there’s no hotel called Dream in the city, and there never has been…”

The lobby of RH, which must be forty feet or higher, has wall to wall and floor to ceiling bookcases, with just some of the books all the imprints have published stored behind glass.

I used to spend play dates and birthday parties curled up in front of the host child’s collection of unknown books , and so you might understand how strong my impulse was to just sit…and read.

Instead we took the elevator up to the 25th floor. Dozens of people were milling about, mostly women, some in the kind of nice garb I never wore when I was part of the working world, and others (the romance authors for whom this party was held) in colorful frocks like a bouquet themselves.

The cocktail of the night was champagne with strawberries and rose water tinting it scarlet. Wait staff circulated with plates of finger tidbits that looked oh so tempting (beef with caramelized onions on toast? coconut shrimp with a chili dipping sauce?) except that I was too nervous to eat.

My new editor is one of the most gracious people I have ever chanced to meet, and she–who was something like the bride at this shindig and by now had maybe upwards of a hundred people to greet–managed to come over and speak to me at least three times during the night.

I met some lovely RH employees, and could’ve stood around listening to details about their jobs all night.

I even got to say hello to Tess Gerritsen, one of the shining stars there, an author who was kind enough to answer a letter and offer her agent’s name back in the days when I hardly knew what an agent was. It’s fantastic when someone you’ve had a mental image of for a long time surpasses it in person. Tess was interesting–and interested. A wonderful combination.

One of the best things to happen since I got my offer has been getting to spend more time with my agent. Now that the initial leap has been made, we can talk at least some of the time about other things, get to know each other on other levels. That made the night special as well.

It was, as the sign proclaimed, a dream.

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