June 8, 2015

Made It Moment: Alex Dolan

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:29 am

The Euthanist

Some of you already know that I have accepted a Board position for International Thriller Writers–it’s one of the cooler things that’s happened to me since becoming a published author. And one of the cooler parts about that cool thing is getting to meet and support the new authors joining our organization. When you combine that with a Made It Moment, you get, well, a really good feeling. Of things coming together, and also of how this writing life is a circle. So long as we all link hands and support each other, we will stand strong. Come be a part of the circle as you read Alex Dolan’s Moment. He’s a writer who really did everything right…and deserves to be living in the Moment. Plus…his book looks creepy as heck and I can’t wait to pick up a copy on the road.

Alex Dolan

I wish I had a “made it moment” plucked from Kanye West’s diary, something along the lines of: as soon as my frozen cocktail dispenser started humming, I knew I could call myself an author.

The truth is that it’s been a long process.

Before The Euthanist was sold, I’d hit a wall. Over the previous three years, I wrote two novels that were lucky enough to land agency deals, but despite their best efforts, the agencies couldn’t sell either book (for the record, I blame the quality of the writing, and not the quality of my agents). Both of my agents decided to leave the business for different reasons, and that left me without representation, or a viable project. Creatively, I hit a low, with many ideas squirreling around in my head without a clear understanding of what I needed to become a published novelist.

Both my former agent Jessica and novelist friend Renée suspected that my frustration meant I was close to a breakthrough. So I kept scribbling in my ideas notebook for an interesting premise. One of the ones that didn’t make it: “A man dies at a candy factory. Becomes man-dy.”

I’d just experienced seeing a loved one on life support, and I started thinking about the euthanasia movement. As I researched physician-assisted suicide and the right-to-die movement, I thought about who would do this kind of work. And I embellished a lot. My central character ended up being a combination of an outlaw and a caregiver. Once she was sufficiently weird enough for me to find her interesting, the title came to me.

I poked my head out of the bedroom at one in the morning. My wife was reading on the living room sofa.

“The Euthanist. Right?” I asked, providing no context to this statement.

She nodded. “Yep. That’s it.”

That was probably my first “made it moment” for this book, because at that moment, I felt like I had something viable. When I pitched the concept to Jessica and Renée, they both told me to drop everything and focus on this story.

To make sure I did it right, I tried to fix the holes in my own writing, the things that had gotten me agency deals but not publishing deals. I studied various curricula of MFA programs, and pieced together my own reading list to fortify the problem areas in my writing. Two books that have been indispensible for me were Story, by Robert McKee, and The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler. I’m happy to share a fuller list with anyone who asks.

I spent a lot more time than usual sketching out all of my characters, getting to know them before ever attempting a first draft. I also bumped up the amount of research I did, which was both fun and helpful. I knew I needed a real mentor in the form of a good editor, and after scouring the web for people who would be a good fit, I found Jennifer Skutelsky, who gave me the professorial feedback that I needed.

So, my second “made it moment” was more a general awareness that, after all this work, I was starting to understand how to put a novel together. For me, it was a systemic approach to improve my sense of story, my characters, and my writing voice. It was finding mentors and the right sort of peers to give me feedback on the work. When it was all done, I had the sense that I’d completed a project that might be taken seriously by publishers.

All that being said, once I have my platinum toilet installed, I’ll write a follow-up post.

Alex Dolan was raised in Boston, lived in New York City, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to writing for several publications, he has recorded four music albums. The Euthanist is his first novel.

April 14, 2015

Made It Moment: Susanna Calkins

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:26 am

Masque Of Murder

Susanna Calkins has an unconventional path to publication, and an unconventional Moment. Perhaps there is no such thing as convention when it comes to this writing life. In any case, I think the words below will speak to anyone who ever questioned his or her “right to write”. How many of us have kept this passion of ours secret, at least for a while? I certainly did, and I can admit now that it came from a sense of shame. Why wasn’t I succeeding? Susanna’s secret–that sounds like a title for a novel!–had different origins, but when she finally let it go the same thing happened for her that does for us all. We become writers.

Susanna Calkins

My made it moment may be a little different than that of other authors Jenny has so generously hosted on her blog. I spent eight years working on a PhD in European history, and a few more years after that as an assistant professor of history. I always enjoy telling people about how when I was a graduate student I first discovered the murder ballads that prompted my first historical novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but the reality is it took me a very long time before I began to write that story.

It wasn’t so much that I felt pressed for time, although that was certainly the case, or that I wasn’t sure I could even write a full-length novel (let alone one that anyone might want to publish), which was also true. I just did not feel free to write creatively. I was supposed to be writing for other academics, not for readers. Only after I took a different academic job did I begin to feel freer from those constraints.

And even when I did finally begin to write that first novel, I did so in fits and spurts. A scene here. A scene there. Never knowing how those pieces would connect, but always so happy to indulge in what I called then my little secret hobby. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel—not even my husband—for years (years!), until I had written about 300 rather oddly constructed pages. At that point I let him into the secret, and a few other trusted souls after that.

But even after I got my agent and my contract with Minotaur a short time later, I was still very hesitant to let my academic colleagues know about my books, especially those from my graduate school. It was hard to let go of the feeling that I had failed as a historian because I write historical fiction.

However, a funny thing started happening after my first novel came out. I started receiving nice emails from readers, saying how much they had learned about 17th century England from reading my books. That they had hated history in high school and college, but that my books had kindled a real interest in the social, political, cultural events from the period. I’ve been teaching at the college level for nearly 20 years, and there is a good chance that I have reached more people with my novels than I ever did in a classroom. That is both humbling and empowering at the same time.

So my made it moment?

When my former professors began to congratulate me on my writing—on my decision to do something unconventional (at least for them!) with my knowledge of history. It’s not that I needed their validation to feel proud of my novels—it was more the realization that they understood that I had used the graduate training and knowledge they had provided me. It was just not as anyone had expected. Indeed, the research I did for my dissertation, which focused on 17th century Quaker women, grounded my third book in the series, THE MASQUE OF A MURDERER. So for me, the very act of incorporating my research into my historical mysteries, and seeing my stories in print, and hearing from my readers about what they had learned, all make me believe ‘I made it.’

Susanna Calkins has been intrigued by murder ever since she first stumbled across 17th century murder ballads in grad school. The idea that people used to sing about murder and other strange tales became the premise of her historical mysteries featuring Lucy Campion. Set in 17th century plague-ridden England, her second novel–From the Charred Remains–is short-listed for the LCC Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award.

April 10, 2015

Made It Moment: Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:49 am

Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café

I love welcoming Tilia Jacobs to the blog because the two of us have been engaged in a rousing conversation about indie and traditional publishing over the course of several years now.  (Here is Tilia’s 2014 Moment). Now with her second novel just released, the conversation continues, this time about the perennially stimulating issue of cover art. Many indie authors feel that this is a special part of the self-publishing process, and as you’ll see it literally became Tilia’s second Made It Moment. What was eye-opening for me was that the experience Tilia describes had more in common with what I’ve seen on the traditional side than I ever expected. I think you’ll agree that both Tilia’s Moment and her cover make you want to check out her new book–they certainly did me. Here’s to Moments all around!

Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Question: Is a picture worth 36,000 words?

Answer: Sometimes! But it has to be the right picture.

One of the true joys of indie pubbing is the creative control it affords. Far from praying I will like the cover my publisher provides, I’m free to choose it myself.

After my publicist told me the cover of my first book stunk, I hired Asha Hossain for my new book, Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café. It quickly became apparent that working with her was going to be a dream. She wanted to know everything about the book—practical things, such as the release date and eBook requirements; and artistic, such as genre and specific imagery I wanted. This too was layered with practicality: “Please keep in mind imagery should be ‘clean’ and easy to translate at thumbnail size, as that’s the size potential buyers will first see on sites such as Amazon.” Thus do both font and font size matter, and the cover can’t be so visually cluttered that lettering gets lost in the background.

Clearly, a multitude of factors contribute to a great cover, which is what makes the process so exciting. How will the verbal translate to the visual? Although every aspect of the story is limned in my own mind, right down to the scruff that’s not on my hero’s jaw (he’s clean-shaven), no one else can see those pictures. The perfect cover visually conceptualizes an invisible story—not plot, but mood, themes, and setting.

Asha sent me six covers, and I narrowed it down to two immediately. One showed empty chairs at a sidewalk eatery; the other, a blue-green cup on a cracked saucer, marked with lipstick. I posted them on Facebook and asked people which they preferred. The response was rapid and gratifyingly opinionated.

“My book cover intuition says the one with the blue cup and cookies is more eye-catching.”
“The one with the chairs makes me wonder about the place and the people who might come or might already have been there. The cup of coffee makes me wonder, ‘Do I need a cup of coffee?’”

“My vote goes for the turquoise cup version. The photograph speaks of physical desires and something slightly wrong, and the line breaks in the title make it easier to comprehend. The spoon even highlights the word ‘HELP,’ which is a nice touch.”

“I like the one on the right.”

“I like the one on the left, and I have left-leaning tendencies.”

Despite the voices of an impassioned minority, a near-consensus surged to the fore: the coffee cup was more eye-catching, the lipstick mysterious, and the cracked saucer hinted at doom (and who doesn’t love doom?). I told Asha, and in short order she sent me the hi-res image of the cover. I took a deep breath and clicked on the attachment.

It was perfect. I could see what the artist and others saw in my story: its mystery and romance, its lyricism and dark fear. The perfect cover gives a pow as satisfying as a tennis ball hitting the sweet spot.

And that was my Moment.

Tilia Klebenov Jacobs holds a BA from Oberlin College, where she double-majored in Religion and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She earned a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Secondary School Teaching Certification from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Tilia has taught middle school, high school, and college, and has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction writing. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and she teaches writing to prison inmates. Tilia lives near Boston with her husband, two children, and two standard poodles.

March 24, 2015

Made It Moment: Jill Meniketti

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:08 am

Welcome To Groove House

I’m fascinated by the parallels between the music, film, and publishing worlds, but I don’t know that the Moments have ever gotten so close to that juxtaposition before this one by Jill Meniketti. Jill is a genuine manager of an arena-playing, world-touring rock band. But more than that, Jill is an author now, and her Moment shows, as all Moments do, that when it comes to being writers our similarities connect us beyond any differences.

Jill Meniketti

After being thrilled that Jenny had invited me to participate in her “Made It Moment” feature, I realized that I didn’t actually feel like I had made it, whatever “it” is. But as the manager of a popular rock band, I understand that there are many little “made it” milestones along the path in every artist’s life; so if I look at it that way, writing this feels perhaps a bit less pretentious.

For most of my life, I’ve written in a variety of capacities, but had not made significant progress in tackling a novel. I first became serious about writing a book in the late ’80s. Married to a rock star, I’d decided then to write a rock ’n’ roll novel. After much preparation, I had copious jottings and index cards, and I assuredly put pen to notebook. Then something devastating happened. Jackie Collins released a novel called Rock Star. I was crushed. I had released my idea into the ethers and she’d somehow nabbed it (completely subconsciously, mind you). I bought her book. It was shallow and trashy and nothing at all like what I’d been writing, but hers was also steeped in the rock music world and I was certain that I’d be labeled a copycat. So I tucked my tail and buried my unfinished manuscript in the depths of a desk drawer.

Back then I was young, and though mightily determined in other things, I’d naively let Jackie Collins (well, her novel) deter me. Flip the calendar to 2003. After a brief hiatus in the ’90s, the rock band that I now manage was on tour again, playing arenas throughout the UK before hitting the major rock festivals in Europe. I was so delighted to see them on the massive stages again, and when an idea struck me, I knew I had to follow it. Screw Jackie Collins, I thought; I’m going to write a rock ’n’ roll novel. I had my writing mojo back.

I credit that illuminating instant on the Monsters of Rock tour in England, looking up and seeing my guys on the big stage again, as the moment I made the decision to write my first novel—albeit, an entirely different story than the one I’d crafted in the ’80s. That was my first “Made It Moment” in my lengthy journey to becoming an author. Several drafts and many world tours later, I’m thrilled to have birthed my debut novel, Welcome to Groove House.

There have been many little “made it” moments en route to authordom, but the most gratifying has been hearing rave reviews from the fans—how much they loved the story, their favorite scenes, how they wanted to hate the protagonist but he’d won them over just as he’d charmed the characters in the story, and the requests for a sequel and a prequel.

In hindsight, the timing may not have been right for me back in the ’80s, but now I’m ready to rock. Thank you, Jackie Collins.

Jill Meniketti manages a popular rock band that tours the world annually. She takes pride in belonging to an elite set of women who double as band managers and rock star wives (Sharon Osbourne, Wendy Dio, Denise Martin, Susan Tate, April Malmsteen, to name a few). Jill lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her rock star husband.

Her debut novel, Welcome to Groove House, released in March 2015.

March 13, 2015

Made It Moment: Debbi Mack

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:14 am

Deep Six

I wonder how many of the writers here have struggled with what to do in the face of rejection? I can hear my tween answering me now. “Duh, Mom…all of us.” Debbi Mack has been through it all–nibbles from literary agents; should I keep knocking at the traditional route door? questions; only to decide to indie publish, then landing on the NYT bestseller list! Her journey is as inspiring as it is relatable. AND she has a new book about to come out in her bestselling Sam McRae series…one she never expected to publish at all.

Debbi Mack

Thanks, Jenny, for the opportunity to post on your blog!

My latest Sam McRae mystery has taken years to make its way into print. Ironically, this was the first novel I wrote with this protagonist. I got such encouraging feedback on it from a professional writer that I shopped it around to several agents. Despite the occasional nibble of interest, the book never found a home with any of the literary agents who considered it.

After striking out numerous times, I decided to write another Sam McRae novel. My intent had always been to create a series of Sam McRae mysteries. Thus, I wrote a second book, Identity Crisis. After trying to find an agent for this book, I ended up publishing it through a small press that folded nine months later.

Years went by after that book went out-of-print. During that time, I continued to write and seek a literary agent or a new publisher. In 2009, I decided it couldn’t hurt to self-publish Identity Crisis, just to have my book available for readers. It was at that time I learned about publishing ebooks. While I hadn’t intended to do so, it seemed logical to publish my book in as many formats as possible. Since publishing ebooks involved no strings and little additional cost, I found the decision to do so a no-brainer.

There have been a few “Made It Moments” since then, the most exciting probably being the day I found out that Identity Crisis made the New York Times ebook bestseller list. Writing and publishing the third book was also a “Made It Moment”, in that I’d finally realized my dream of having a mystery series published.

However, my latest novel has particular significance for me. The story explores Sam’s personal relationships and delves into the subject of land use, local politics, and corruption. It was greatly informed by my experiences as an attorney practicing land use and zoning law with a firm, as well as my stint with the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I’d come to think of Deep Six as my “practice novel” – one that would likely never be published. While it’s had to go through many revisions over the years, I’m happy and proud that I could finally whip this book into shape and keep the Sam McRae mystery series going.

Deep Six will be published on Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Debbi Mack is the New York Times ebook bestselling author of the Sam McRae mystery series. She’s also published Five Uneasy Pieces, a short story collection that includes her Derringer Award–nominated story “The Right to Remain Silent.” Her short stories have appeared in various other anthologies and publications. Her most recently published short story is “Jasmine”, appearing in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. Debbi is also a screenwriter and aspiring indie filmmaker. A former attorney, Debbi enjoys walking, cats, travel, movies, music, and espresso.

February 3, 2015

Guest Post: Sandra Hutchison

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 2:00 pm

The Ribs And Thigh Bones Of Desire

Sandy Hutchison knows an awful lot about indie publishing; in fact, if you have aims in that direction yourself, you couldn’t do any better than to get to know how Sandy is pursuing her own career, and why she chose this approach. (Here is Sandy’s 2013 Made It Moment). But below, she writes about something a little different. Why she wanted to be a writer in the first place, no matter how she ultimately published. Why we all write, really. And why we all read.

Sandra Hutchison

The dark secret in the heart of every writer

Jenny and Diane Cameron and I gave a talk to a full audience at the Troy (NY) Public Library a little while ago, about the three ways to publish (traditional, hybrid, and indie). A lot of what we discussed were the nuts and bolts of moving beyond that need and desire to write (which all of us had experienced from early childhood) to actually reaching an audience.

As Diane wrote so movingly on this blog, it can take a real breakthrough just to give yourself permission to try.

As Jenny’s biography shows, it can take incredible persistence (and grace) to reach your goal.

My story? I’m still in early days with two novels out via my own Sheer Hubris Press, but the first has done well enough to demonstrate that there are many different ways to reach an audience.

And oh, how important that audience is!

Jenny wants to thrill hers to the marrow.

Diane wants to help hers live fuller, happier lives.

And me? I like to make my audience think (in my other life, I’m a teacher). I like to make people laugh (who doesn’t love the sound of laughter?). But I’m also going to cop to that evil, selfish desire that I suspect lives in the black heart of every writer on the planet.


When you’re reading my book, I want you to miss your subway stop. I want you to miss meals. I want you to put off cooking dinner for so long you have to order pizza for the family instead. I want to keep you up so late you’re useless at work the next day. I want you to read for so long you have to put a heating pad on your poor stiff neck. Hell, I want you to cry.

Those are my made-it moments. (And yes, those are all things readers have told me.)

I feel no pity, either, because I know you want it. I’m a reader too, after all, and that’s what I want. I want to be TAKEN HOSTAGE by a book.

My fellow readers and writers, here’s wishing you many future hours of glorious captivity!

Born and raised in the Tampa Bay area, Sandra Hutchison survived a transplant to snowy Greenfield, Massachusetts in high school and eventually stopped sulking about it, although she may still be working it out in her fiction. Her debut novel, The Awful Mess: A Love Story, was one of five general fiction semifinalists for the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Her second, The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire, was just released late in 2014. She is also the author of a FREE (in the US) romantic comedy single called The Short, Spectacular Indie-Publishing Career of Matilda Walter.

January 22, 2015

Made It Moment: Chris Allen

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:42 am


Wow! Have you ever read a Moment where you felt as if the author was writing expressly for you? I hope you have–that’s one of the purposes of this forum, to make us all feel a little less alone in our journeys and struggles as writers. Another purpose is to lead readers to great new books. Chris Allen’s Made It Moment, or rather, his perspective on the phenomenon of “moment-ing,” hit both nails for me. I found solace in his words as I work toward the release of my own third novel. And I found a new book to try in Defender. I hope the following words do as much for you. Enjoy your Moments, every one.

Chris Allen

Where do you start on a topic like this?

I think many authors understand and often share the soul destroying frustration of rejection. Writing is such a deeply personal thing, you are literally sharing yourself, your thoughts, your imagination – committing it all to the page and then laying it bare for all the world to see – and criticize. The hardest thing, I think, is accepting that not everybody is going to like what you do. But that’s OK. That’s life. We’ll never all agree on everything. So, you dust yourself off, remind yourself about what made you decide to become a writer in the first place and step off the cliff again.

Like many of us, I’ve been through the rejection phase, but I’m a pretty impatient person so there’s only so much of it that I was prepared to put up with. I had confidence that there was a market for what I was writing and so I focused on that: the reader (what a concept!) Besides, I have an innate disregard for gatekeepers. So, when I finally managed to put the finishing touches on my first novel, my wife Sarah and I decided to take control and self-publish. We’d done all the research, including our own market research on my writing, and one day (after having received an offer from an independent publisher to publish my book) we stepped off the cliff and we’ve never looked back.

My ‘made it moment’ has so far lasted about four years.

It began with the successful launch of the first book of my INTREPID series Defender of the Faith in late 2011. With a solid commitment to engaging with reading communities online, we built a groundswell of support from hundreds of people we’d never met all across Australia. Every one of them was incredibly supportive and encouraging and have remained loyal fans (Defenders!) to this day. On the strength of Defender of the Faith’s success, I was subsequently signed by Pan Macmillan’s new (at the time) digital imprint Momentum, which led to a redrafted version of the first book, released as Defender, and a second novel, Hunter. It was at this time that my INTREPID series came to the attention of a US film producer who read my self-published version and subsequently optioned the entire series.

Over the past two years I’ve done the writers circuit of festivals and writing groups, attended film and TV production meetings in the UK and US, and completed the third book in the INTREPID series Avenger, which will be released by Momentum on the 22 of January. Right now I’m working on the fourth book, Helldiver, and planning a new crime series.

I guess my point is that the moment hasn’t just flashed by. It’s been steadily building up steam over a number of years with the odd explosion of heightened activity here at there. I feel like I’ve lit the end of a very long fuse and I’m happily watching it burn.

A former paratrooper, Chris Allen served in three Commonwealth armies across two decades and four continents. He left the military due to injuries, retiring at the rank of Major. In addition to his military career, Chris has served with three law enforcement agencies in Australia, led security operations for an international aid agency in East Timor during the emergency in 1999, and was headhunted to take over the protection of Sydney’s most iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House. In 2008 Chris was appointed Sheriff of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most historic law enforcement appointments. Today, he continues his career as a writer and government senior executive. Chris and his wife, Sarah, live in Sydney. They have two small boys, Morgan and Rhett.

January 9, 2015

Made It Moment: Diane Cameron

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:33 am

Out Of The Woods

This Saturday at 1pm, Diane Cameron and I will join another former Moment-er, Sandy Hutchison, at the public library in Troy, NY. We’ll be talking about three different approaches to publishing today, and after reading Diane’s Moment, I have to say that I am even more excited for our conversation. I mean, Diane actually has a sentence in her Moment that opened every single one of my college essays! (“I started writing before I could write.”) If that’s not a sign of a kindred spirit, I don’t know what is. But even if you never penned that particular cluster of words, I think you’ll all feel a certain kinship with Diane as she writes about the struggle every writer faces when beginning to own this passionate pursuit. What makes us writers? When do we become such a precious beast? And how, in the end, do the words mark us–and we them?

Diane Cameron

Writing all those years. Like being locked in a dark room. Keeping my writing a secret until I sobbed for an hour in a therapist’s office, “I want to write. I want to write, and I think I can do it.” Snot running down my face, crying so hard I was choking. The secret was out. I dared to think I could write.

In fact, I had been writing for years. Many years. I started writing before I could write. I wrote a fake newspaper in fake cursive script when I was five. My parents read three newspapers a day; I knew what was important: words on paper. And then little poems and longer poems, a novel that made no sense and had no plot. In the Sixth grade a play that was performed.

But I couldn’t call myself a writer.

Years later the therapist told me that she had no idea whether I could write or not. She suspected not, but she figured she had to get me past this sobbing fantasy so we could get on to what ever was inside of me. So she said, “So why don’t you write a little piece for the local newspaper? What do you feel strongly about?”

At that time I was being torn apart by my experience as a stepmother, and it was early May, so I wrote about the pain of step mothering and I sent it to the local paper for Mother’s Day.

Two days later the OP-ED editor called me. He spoke to me as if this was no big deal. “I’d like to use your piece about being a step-mother. We can pay $50.00. Would that be OK?”

Somehow I channeled this other self, and calmly said, “Oh yes, that is fine.”
And the editor said, “Great, and send me any other pieces, any time.”

And I said, “Thank you so much.”

And then I laid on the floor and cried so hard my husband thought that someone had died.

Diane Cameron is a writer, speaker, teacher, development consultant and advocate for family caregivers. She has a long career as a newspaper columnist and writing teacher. Diane’s columns are published in the Albany Times Union, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, PIttsburgh Post-Gazette and many more. A selection of the most popular pieces are collected in the book, Looking for Signs. Diane is also the author of Out of the Woods–A Woman’s Guide to Long-term Recovery, and Never Leave Your Dead–War, Trauma and Family.

December 24, 2014

A Special Holiday Made It Moment: Carolyn J. Rose

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:28 am

The Devil's Tombstone

Hello, dear readers and friends. Thank you for being here today, and on so many other days throughout the year. This blog and all of you kept me going through some very bleak years of struggle and rejection. Together we found joy in the Moments, and it’s a gift I hope might propel along anyone who might be weary or struggling right now.

This holiday season, I offer to you one of Suspense Your Disbelief’s favorites authors and guests, Carolyn Rose. (Here are some of Carolyn’s past selected Moments and Guest Posts.) In addition to writing mysteries across a wide spectrum–from dark to humorous–and even achieving the mighty task of collaborating on books with…wait for it; I didn’t get to the mighty party yet…her own husband, Carolyn knows from writing ups and downs and career changes and transformations. Today she gathers some of them up, and offers us a chance to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished, even when we’re not sure we’ve accomplished anything at all.

That’s the spirit of the Made It Moments. It’s the spirit you’ve all shared with me. Thank you. And happy holidays!

PS: There will be physical gifts, too! Leave a comment reflecting on your own moment of made-it-ness, and Carolyn and I will offer up digital and print copies of her books with only a little less largesse than Santa (or Chanukah Harry)!

Carolyn J. Rose

A Round of Made It Moments for the House!

Back in 2010, Jenny Milchman graciously gave me space on this blog to write about Hemlock Lake and its long road to publication. (Short summary: years of queries, rejections, close calls, near misses, a traditional-publishing sale, rejection of a second book, reversion of rights, and self-publishing.)

Since then, I’ve followed her blog and the stories shared by hundreds of writers who broke through, broke out, broke away, broke new ground, or went for broke.

Congratulations to all of them.

And congratulations to every writer out there. Chances are you had at least one moment of made-it-ness this year—whether you realized it or not.

Did you keep a promise to yourself and finish the book you always wanted to write?
Did you give it all you had?
Did you refuse to set aside your dream and go on even when you were discouraged?
Did you help or encourage another writer?
Did you get your work out so readers could discover it?
Did you get a positive review from a stranger?
Did you get a negative review, get over it, and go on?
Did you participate in a community of writers?
Did you savor each success no matter how tiny?
Did you learn something from each setback?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then in my mind you had a made it moment.

Now, I’m not saying “Lower the bar for made it moments.” Not at all. I’m saying take a look at that bar. Ask yourself who set that bar, when, and why. Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t been able to jump as high as someone else. Consider how high you have jumped.

And consider this—the mental images for “made it” that we conjure up at age 20 may be far different from what we envision at 40 or 60 or 80. As we age, accomplish, and adjust, we may neglect to revisit and revise those images. The world has changed dramatically in the past few decades and the rate of change seems to be accelerating. There have been many shifts in the publishing landscape as well, and many more books now available through different channels.

And consider whether there may be more to “making it” than grabbing that big brass ring, winning a national award, getting another zero on a contract, or reaching a stratospheric sales goal. Having a spotlight beamed on achievement is awesome, but without an inner light, it might be pretty darn dark when you leave the stage.

Competition is healthy and energizing. Crossing the finish line ahead of the pack is a terrific achievement. But without the ability to appreciate the race you ran and be satisfied with the effort you put forth, victory may seem hollow.

Now, some will contend that staying hungry is the way to go. They’ll argue that being satisfied and content is the same as being willing to settle for the status quo and maybe even lapsing into a state of languid laziness. They’ll say that won’t get you to the next made it moment.

But for me, contentment is a secure place that offers shelter, food, drink, a launch pad, and a safety net all at the same time. Contentment is the payoff for a made it moment. Contentment is what allows me to savor the journey so far and gather my energy for the next leap. It’s the flame that powered the books I wrote after Hemlock Lake, including the sequels, Through a Yellow Wood and The Devil’s Tombstone (coming in the final days of 2014) It’s the well I’ll draw from for the project I’m beginning now, the fourth in my Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy series.

How about you?

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone – due out at the end of 2014). Other works include projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

November 30, 2014

Guest Post: Kathleen Kaska

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

Murder At The Driskill

Kathleen Kaska is no stranger to the blog; she wrote a Made It Moment in 2012. But with the release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill, Kathleen decided to do a blog tour about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital of Austin–a city whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.”As a big fan of non-virtual touring, I can tell you that Austin is one of my favorite stops–Go, Book People! Go BookWoman! Go Bobbi Chukran and the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime!–and a place I don’t find weird at all. But let’s see what Kathleen has to say…

By the way, at the end of the tour, Kathleen will give away a signed copy of her book. To be eligible, just leave a comment below.

Kathleen Kaska

I relocated to Austin at the right time. In the mid-seventies, the Capital City was beginning to thrive. I remember an article published in a national newspaper that proclaimed Austin the most inexpensive place in the county to live. Soon after, the city of near 300,000 began to grow to the tune of a thousand people a month. Almost forty years later, that growth continues. But back then, Austin was a laidback town and Sixth Street, which bisects downtown, running east/west, was considered a bit seedy. A few bold entrepreneurs recognized the area’s potential and opened bars, restaurants, and pool halls. Among a few were Maggie Mae’s restaurant and bar, Paradise Café, Esther’s Follies, and The Old Pecan Street Café, an eatery not much wider than a hallway, which had a courtyard in back and served exquisite desserts. Italian Cream Cake was one of their specialties. Soon locales began to brave the downtown area and it seemed as if a new place opened every week.At the time, I was waiting tables and working my way through college. After work, my friends and I often found ourselves on Sixth Street to check out a new venue. Even through Sixth Street was becoming trendy and safe, I remember venturing into a popular dive called JJJ’s, or the Triple J. In Murder at the Driskill, I modeled the Blue Mist after it. The story opens with my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, dressed as a guy, on stake out to discover which bartender had been dipping his hand into owner, Jelly Bluesteen’s till. Here’s a short excerpt:

It was my third night at the bar. My sleuthing required that I dress in male disguise and smoke and drink while trying to keep a low profile, which was easy since most folks came to the Blue Mist to do just that, except for the dressing in disguise part. But, hey, I might be wrong. After all, it was 1953, and weird things happened in downtown Austin, Texas.

I suspected this particular bartender the first night. He had a pattern to his pilfering. Once the joint became busy, he’d move to the far end of the bar where the overhead lights failed to reach. When someone paid for the drink, the guy pretended to stuff the money into the register, but instead he executed a quick flicking motion with his fingers, and the bills slid up his cuff.

Tonight had been busier than normal and I watched as a small fortune filled the bartender’s sleeve. At closing time, Jelly came out from the back room and caught my eye. I nodded toward the guilty party. The bartender noticed our sly communication and he suddenly became twitchy. Jelly hurriedly ushered the last drunk out the door, flipped off the neon open sign, and reached for his billy club. In one swift motion, the bartender snatched a wad of cash from the register and my coat off the rack and made a beeline for the door. Since Jelly was too fat to run, I took up the chase, alone.

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.

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