Win a Copy of Through a Dusty Window at Goodreads

There’s a giveaway on! Who doesn’t love the chance to win something? Especially an easy to read book full of New York-centric short stories written by me? Hell, I might even enter… I love winning stuff!

I’m still off enjoying holidays, but I’ll be back this week. Hope a happy turkey day was enjoyed by those who celebrate it! Now my favorite time of year – time to get out the holiday decorations!!

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Taking the Leap

Today I published my short story collection: Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001. The experience is terrifying. I should say that the experience was quite gratifying, but I am having all these feelings of potential regret, like — now that it’s out there, I’ll never be able to take it back. eek! Terrifying was sending the carefully phrased email to my friends and family and finally coming out of the closet on this whole writing thing. Not that those close to me were in the dark about it — that wasn’t the case. But putting yourself in front of everyone whose opinion you respect, stripping off all your figurative clothing and saying, “do you like me?” is not the easiest thing to do. I am, however, wise enough to know that if I don’t mention the book to anyone I know, the odds of anyone at all dropping by Amazon to buy it are pretty flippin’ slim.

So it’s out there. My first child, sitting up there all alone on the cold white reviewless page at Amazon under my adopted name. Currently it’s just a Kindle version, but I did create a paperback in Createspace, so that should pop up in the next day or two. Thanks in advance to anyone who heads on over there to buy a copy, and double thanks to anyone who takes the time to write a review. I’m kind of dumbfounded at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll have more nonsense to post on this over the coming days…

My Newest Crush

I fall in love a lot. I’ve already discussed my fascination with Channing Tatum, I believe. Nice to see that People Magazine agrees with me. (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, pull the sack off your head for goodness sakes!). Anyway, today I’m not talking about that kind of crush.

Today I’m talking about writerly love. I read far more than I write. Which is saying a lot. Lately I’ve been churning out around 1500 words a day (no, I’m not doing Nano… that’s another topic.) But that takes an hour or so, and I read for at least that much time daily. My only point in saying that is to demonstrate that I get to pick up new books on a fairly regular basis, and I usually have a few going at once. (This I cannot explain. I don’t do it consciously and am actually kind of turned off by the idea of not giving one book my full attention and yet, I do it.) Anyway, I’m falling precariously far from my point.

My new crush is probably familiar to most other authors – those working in the thriller genre certainly, perhaps YA. She’s the author of Gone Girl, which everyone but me seems to have read. Gillian Flynn is her name, and I’m enamored. I’ve just begun reading Sharp Objects… and I’m enthralled. I love her description, the tight but poetic language she pushes across the pages in a voice that is dark but relatable. Even the “about” section on her site has me wanting to emulate her.

I wonder what it is that makes this happen. I’ve read a lot of good books lately, but most of them were by more forgettable authors, with voices that are less haunting, less infatuating. What makes Flynn stand out to me? I aim to find out. I’m starting with her debut novel and I’m pretty sure I’ll be through her third by the time Thanksgiving is over. My only gripe is the Kindle book prices. I guess that’s what I get for falling in love with a New York Times Bestseller instead of one of my usual indies… more power to her. Hope my nine dollars goes to a good use.

Do you have author crushes? Who are they?

 

There is no “right” way…

I read a lot of author interviews. I think that as a fledgling writer (at least that’s what I am if I’m considered from a published fiction standpoint), I like to read the “how I did it” stories offered by authors these days. There are as many routes to publication and potential success as there are genres in which to write. And that is heartening.

Yesterday I wasn’t wildly busy at my day job and found myself reading an interview with R.L. Stine, the ridiculously successful author of the Goosebumps series, among other things. The writer of the article estimates that Stine has written “between 300-400 books” — can you imagine having written so many books that the estimate spans one hundred?

Beyond Stine’s prolific backlog, which he attributes mostly to his work ethic, I was most impressed by this statement:

“Well, I hate it when authors come into a school and they say to kids, ‘Write from your heart, write from your heart, only write what you know, and write from your heart.’ I hate that because it’s useless. I’ve written over 300 books—not one was written from my heart. Not one. They were all written for an audience, they were all written to entertain a certain audience.”

The problem with such advice, Stine says, is that if you tell people to write from their hearts and to write only something they know, they get blocked totally. Instead, he says, it’s all about the imagination. (Hey, it worked for him.)

This makes so much sense to me. I’ve told my husband — since the day that I decided to “write for real” — that I thought I would write in two ways. My initial goal would be to write something that had a shot of being commercially successful. I’ve worked in marketing my whole life; I know how to segment an audience. I’ve conducted informal focus groups, studied the competitors, evaluated demographics. I have a decent shot of finding a responsive audience based on the research I’ve done into my target demographic. But approaching writing like I approach business saps some of the wind from my over-romantic sails, I’ll admit. So the second objective is to write something else. The thing. The big book. The one I’ve been thinking about for years.

And it’s nice to hear someone as successful as Stine admit that it’s not pure luck. He uses a formula (as, I would argue, do all authors who turn out book after book, all aimed at the same audience). Though I’m well short of finding any success (as measured by, um, money), I’d guess that my greatest potential failing is lack of dedication to one genre. I’m dabbling right now. There is a smart part of me that is pushing me to focus. Find success in one area, it argues, before you try to spread to others. Wise advice, inner self. But I think I’m coming to realize that I’m not quite there yet. I’m still forming my opinions about where I’m going to find that focus, and so I’m writing lots of different kinds of things right now. And I can feel the end of that process approaching.

I think, despite my belief that R.L. Stine is correct and that writing for commercial success is a business proposition more than an artistic one, the artist in me is pushing to have some say in the decision. And maybe that push and pull is what makes writing such a complex effort. I’m willing to let both sides have a say.

Oh HI there…

So you still stop by here now and then, do you? Well, I’m glad. Because although I’ve been quite absent, I’m far from dead. And I will have you know that I’ve actually been writing, like a good writer should.

However, I don’t have much of value to say on that topic at the moment. Oh, well, there is this: I went to the Maryland Writers Association annual conference in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. It was a good day. I learned that it’s fun to get together with other writers, but that in general, unless you’re there for one of the specific reasons I’m about to list, there isn’t a great reason to go to too many of these. The lectures, though always interesting, are generally the same. You’ll get one on building an author platform, one on writing a query, one on pitching an agent and one on plotting or first drafts, etc. And those are always good to hear, and in fact, I very much enjoyed the two part lecture I attended by Kathryn Johnson on writing a first draft in eight weeks. Her main point, which I used to know intuitively, was that you have to actually write to get a draft written. I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning to do that. Then kids started school and schedules got all wonked up, and I started sleeping in. Which was nice, but not very productive. So I have been getting up at 5:30 lately (since the conference), and lo and behold…I have 20,000 words completed in the first draft of my new novel.

Beyond the lecture content, here are some great reasons to go to a writing conference:

  1.  To bond with other writers and learn that you are, in fact, not alone
  2. To pitch a particular agent (if you’ve done your research and you’re ready to pitch, face to face beats email query any day)
  3. To meet a particular speaker (who could be an agent, an author you admire or plan to stalk, or a publisher)
  4. To market your own recently published book (in the case of the MWA, they allow members to sell books at their conference)

There are other reasons, too… It’s definitely fun to spend a whole day or weekend surrounded by others who don’t think your dreams are silly or frivolous. But these things are expensive and usually entail a hotel room, so for me, there probably won’t be more in the near future unless one of the four reasons listed above comes into play.

I’ll do my best to drop in here on a more regular basis. Thanks for hanging around!