Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Twooth about Twitter - Part 3

Hashtags, Lists, and Other Uniquely Twitter Things

  1. Hashtags (#) are an easy way of following tweets without following a ton of people. For instance, there is a hashtag called #queryfail where agents talk amongst themselves about the query letters they get that are a mess. They never use names, etc., but it is a helpful list to follow because (a) you may recognize that you’ve done the exact same thing in your own query letter and (b) you get an idea of what they like and don’t like. Any hashtags you follow are saved under “Saved Searches.” You can only have 10 Saved Searches at a time, though. Also, when you tweet add a hashtag or two (I invariably add #amwriting to my tweets because my tweets are almost always about writing (occasionally that’s a stretch, but you know what I mean). People who read those hashtags may become your followers.
  2. You can divide the people you are following into categories or lists and follow them that way instead of getting hundreds of tweets streaming into your Twitter home page. Like your Saved Searches, you’ll see the lists you’ve created in the right hand column on your Twitter home page. For instance, you may have a list where you put all the agents you are following. Using a list means that you won’t miss a single word they’re tweeting and you won’t have to sift through hundreds or thousands of other tweets to find them.

Pitfalls of Twitter

Like any social media outlet on the Internet, Twitter can be a time black hole. You may find yourself spending hours on Twitter. You’ll have to develop some serious discipline. You’ll have to be able to not feel the need to read every tweet sent by every person you follow - they could number in the hundreds or thousands each and every day depending on how many people you follow. You could spend hours reading each 140 tweet. Don’t do it. Yes, you’ll miss a few pithy remarks, but you’ll also be wasting a lot of time.

HINT: I check Twitter once or twice a day and I’ll read tweets for an hour. I’ll go to a recommended blog post or two and leave comments there. But I don’t fret over all the tweets I’ve missed. It is what it is.

I Don’t Have Anything Interesting to Say

You may think you don’t have anything to say that would interest anyone else. Tweet about an interesting book you’ve just read, an interesting article you’ve read in the paper about writers, an interesting interview you read (or wrote), an interesting blog that resonated with you. The possibilities are legion. Remember, though, that you’re building a following and an online presence. Keep your tweets positive and professional.

Another Opinion

For a more detailed take on Twitter, go here

This is another author’s take on the pros and cons of Twittering.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Twooth about Twitter - Part 2

Twitter Protocol

There are some who will tell you that if someone follows you, you must follow them. There are others who say, only follow those who interest you. I’m from the latter school of thought. I see no reason to follow the guy who wants to sell me a self-published book on how to write a book. If you don’t follow them back, you’ll undoubtedly lose a follower, but the only reason he’s following you is to (a) get you to buy his book and/or (b) to increase the number of people following him. When I first started, I’d check to see how many people a person was following and how many followers he had. If they were very close in numbers, I declined to follow them because they were merely trying to increase their number of followers.

How do you tell if someone is following you because they liked your tweets? Look at the number of people she follows and the number of people who are following her. If the two numbers are close, the person probably isn’t so much interested in you as increasing the number of followers.

There are people, celebrities, like Oprah, whose followers number in the millions. Obviously, there is no way they can read all the tweets from a million followers. They want to be heard. As long as that’s understood, go ahead and follow your faves. I have to admit a tingle of a thrill when Oprah added me to her list of followers. Do I think she’s intrigued with my 140 characters every day? No. But the thrill was there anyway.

How Much Should I Twitter?

That question has been the subject of many a blog post. Some say once or twice a day is sufficient. Others say, no, no, you have to tweet at least a half dozen times each and every day. The bottom line is that you don’t want to annoy people. Don’t tweet more than once or twice a day if you have nothing to say or share. If you don’t have something pithy to say, find a blog post you like a lot and tweet it’s URL with a comment that says what it’s about. Or retweet (passing on another’s tweet) a tweet to your followers. I needed an extra tweet one day so I tweeted the following:

To paraphrase Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 [queries] that won’t work.”

Blogging and Twitter

Blogging is yet another way to develop a following and help brand yourself. Blogging is a topic best left to another day. However, don’t forget to put a link to Twitter on your blog so you’ll gain a few more people as followers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Twooth about Twitter - Part 1

This is the handout I provided when I spoke to the local Romance Writers Association two weeks ago. I’ve divided the presentation into three parts to run consecutively on September 28, 29, and 30.

What’s All the Fuss? I Don’t Get Twitter

I’ve heard the above statement dozens of times. It is hard to easily explain the fascination that Twitter holds. Twitter is a social media tool that every writer needs because we all need to market ourselves these days (well, maybe not if you’re one of the Stephen Kings of the world, but the rest of us do). Twitter is one way of getting a following, staying in touch with them, and keeping your name alive. Twitter can be one more gun in your arsenal of ways to promote yourself and your books. If you aren’t Twittering, you are ignoring a valuable source of information about the publishing world and missing a valuable way of finding out what agents/editors are really looking for straight from the agents/editors themselves.

Twitter isn’t easy. You have to work at it. You have to be a consistent presence on Twitter. But once you start, I’m sure you’ll find it an interesting place.

Why Use Twitter?

  1. There are a ton of agents, editors, and publishers on Twitter. Your favorite author is probably on Twitter to say nothing of your favorite athlete (i.e. the Williams sisters are both Tweeting).
  2. Twitter is one way to brand yourself. Coupled with your blog and website, Twitter will help define who you are.
  3. Twitter helps your writing. By being limited to 140 characters (not words, characters), you learn to write succinctly and delete non-essential words (you know those pesky words such as “just”).
  4. Twitter is no longer used as someone’s diary (well, it probably is, but not by the people we’re interested in). When I first joined Twitter a few years back it was all about “I just got up” followed a few minutes later by “I just took a shower.” Those Tweets are boring to everyone but the person sending them.
  5. If you are not yet published, now is a great time to join Twitter. It gets your name out there. You’ll be able to connect with other writers in your genre and sub-genre, with agents handling your genre, and with publishers publishing your genre. When it comes time to submit your query to agents, you’ll know exactly what the agent is looking for. When your book is published, you’ll already have thousands of people you follow or who are following you and therefore, have thousands of potential buyers of your books.

How to Get Started Using Twitter

  1. Go to and set up an account. I would suggest that you not use the same Twitter account for your communications with family and friends. Reserve one Twitter account for your writing persona.
    1. Be sure to add a photo of yourself or use an avatar (check out for an avatar) or a favorite photo of something pretty. This will be something you will consistently use where ever you go online.
    2. Use a short biographical statement, such as, I am a “Published author, reader, late bloomer, and addicted to chocolate.”
  2. Choose some people you want to follow. Once you follow them, you’ll be able to see everything they tweet.
    1. Some agents you might want to follow are Janet Reid , Irene Goodman, Nathan Bransford, Deidre Knight, to name but a very few. Search for your top tier agents to see if they tweet, if they do, follow them.
    2. Publishers you might be interested in are Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin, etc.
    3. Athletes like Billie Jean King, Albert Pujols,
    4. Authors like Jodi Picoult, Judy Blume, Carrie Fisher, Anne Rice
    5. Misc., slushpilehell, queryshark
  3. After you are following a few people, look at who is following them, you might find someone else you’ll want to follow. Before you know it, you’ll have quite a few people to follow.
  4. Spend a week reading the tweets of the people you’re following. Notice how other people respond to them. Keep adding to your Following list.
  5. Start responding to tweets that you like. Try to avoid saying things like, “Me, too” or “awesome.” If you’re going respond to someone else’s tweet tell them why. And try to write a response like a writer, i.e. grammatically correct, spell checked, etc.
  6. Follow the links provided in tweets on topics that interest you. The agents on Twitter are especially helpful in giving the links to blogs they like or found interesting. If you go to someone’s blog, leave a comment behind. Again, do not say things like “I really like this. You’re awesome” on some agent’s blog. Instead, tell them why you found it interesting or helpful. Go to your favorite author’s blog and leave a comment.
  7. You’ll find your Followers list growing. Be patient. It will take time. The more you Tweet, the more likely you’ll gain followers.

HINT: If you need answers to questions about Twitter, try which is the Twitter-based help system. Click on the link to Twitter Basics.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fickle Fame

How many people have had a meteoric rise to fame and fortune only to become last year’s old news? How many of those people spend the rest of their lives publicly, and sometime embarrassingly, seeking that elusive fame again? Too many by all accounts. Otherwise we wouldn’t be obsessed with their antics.

Writing for Fame or the Need

Do authors write to become famous, to bask in the accolades of critics, or to spend 104 weeks on the New York Times’ best sellers list? Some undoubtedly do, but few achieve that distinction. Those who write to be rich and famous are, perhaps, among the 80% of Americans who say they want to write a novel. Those who start out writing for some reason other than the need to do so probably don’t make it very far in the business.

Suddenly More Interesting

Don’t we all aspire to some modicum of fame for having toiled to create a completed novel? Think, for a moment, how you felt with you told your Mom or best friend you’d finished that novel you’d been working on for what seemed like forever. Remember the glow that suffused when you told that stranger on the plane that you’re an author and how his eyes widened with wonderment and you suddenly became more interesting - right up to the moment when you admitted you hadn’t actually published anything yet. Even telling him that you finished a novel and had it out to agents didn’t rekindle his interest.

Your fame was fleeting, but it undoubtedly fueled your desire to feel it once again. It is only normal, after all, this desire to succeed, this need for recognition. In our case, success is generally measured by how many times we are published.

We Need to Remember

We all need to remember, though, Emily Dickinson’s deliciously rich imagery about fame.

Fame is a Fickle Food

Upon a Shifting Plate

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

This is the second in Todd’s Bess Crawford series following “A Duty to the Dead.” The book opens in 1917 with Bess accompanying a shipload of wounded soldiers back to England from the tenches in France. After turning her charges over to others, Bess sees a woman she knows, but only from the photograph pinned to one of her severely wounded patients. The woman is her patient’s wife. Bess is shocked to see the woman in tears talking to a man who was obviously her lover. When the woman is later murdered, Bess reports what she has seen to the Scotland Yard detective in charge of the case.

When the husband commits suicide, Bess feels she must investigate the woman’s murder instead of letting Scotland Yard conduct the investigation.

Todd has a rich cast of characters each met in his/her turn as Bess begins peeling back the layers of the dead woman’s life to find out why she was murdered. The obvious suspects are eliminated one by one. In the end, Bess’ life is in danger from the murderer.

This is not a fast-paced mystery. The reader is with Bess as she uncovers each piece of evidence and as she tries to puzzle out who killed the young woman and why. With each new piece of evidence, she gets closer to answering her own questions.

Unbeknownst to either Bess or the reader, each piece of the puzzle as it slips into place, draws her ever closer to real danger. When the killer attempts to kill another young woman, a cousin of the first victim, Scotland Yard arrests a wounded soldier whom Bess has spent time with. Bess is convinced that he is innocent which, of course, only spurs her on. Bess is not omniscient, she believes the people she likes who often withhold key pieces of evidence.

As the case evolves, Bess narrows the suspects to two. Todd has you, like Bess, wanting one character to be the killer and in a twist, finding out it was another character who was the real killer.

Todd draws you into the book slowly but surely. Toward the end, when Bess is desperate to save the young man accused of the murder, you’ll find yourself feeling the same urgency and will be unable to put the book down - regardless of the hour.

With each entry in this series, Bess becomes more fully fleshed out as a young woman dedicated to her patients on the front lines in France, a loving daughter, a caring friend, and someone you’d like to spend more time with.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Four Roads to Wisdom

A very wise person once said that if you were to seek wisdom, there are four sentences that you would need to learn and live by. I must admit that I scoffed (silently, of course, if wouldn’t do to scoff aloud at something a sage has said). If it were that simple, why wasn’t everyone doing it? Why isn’t the world a better place?

Why indeed. It doesn’t take monumental sacrifices in your life to achieve wisdom using these truths. You may have to set your ego aside in order to do them, but that would be a good thing if we had a little less ego involvement and a little more humility in this world. Right?

The truth of the matter is that the sentences are elegant, yet simple. If you think about each sentence, you can understand why there is great wisdom in it.

Here are the four sentences.

I’m Sorry

Have you noticed that there are far too many people who are unable to say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it? Perhaps if we were more willing to say, “I’m sorry,” it would significantly reduce hostility. However, in order to say,”I’m sorry,” we have to tamp down our raging ego. The latter is very hard, and presumably impossible, for too many people.

I’m Was Wrong

Some people stubbornly refuse to admit when they’re wrong. Why is that? I’ve noticed that people with even a modicum of power in their hands (bosses, supervisors, teachers, etc., etc.) are incapable of admitting they are wrong. What do they think will happen if they do admit being wrong? I suspect they think the world will fall apart. It won’t. An admission of wrong may stun some people, but the world will remain in tact - even their world.

I Need Help

This one is so hard for nearly everyone. Asking for help is tantamount to admitting a vulnerability, which, in turn, means we are weak, less than, not powerful. However, everyone needs help at some time. It takes a strong, confident person to ask for help when it is needed.

I Don’t Know

Too many people think that admitting that they don’t know something is admitting that they are stupid or ignorant. People don’t seem to realize that admitting that you don’t know something is being smart. How else can we learn anything new?

Easy to Implement

Didn’t I say that these roads to wisdom were simple and easy to implement? Well, maybe not so easy to implement, but certainly doable nevertheless.

Using These in Your Writing

I was trying to figure out how to get one of my characters out of sticky situation the other day. Then it came to me. How many problems between my characters can be solved or avoided by one of these sentences? So I had my character use one of these sentences. Voila! Problem solved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading Out Loud

Do you read your manuscript out loud before you submit it to your best friend, family, beta readers, critique group, or agent? No? You should. I can’t tell you how many error I’ve caught in my own manuscripts even after numerous line-by-line revisions, even after numerous other people have read it, even after I thought it was ready to go out the door.

Reading Out Loud

For whatever reason reading your manuscript out loud allows you to not only catch blips in the conversations between your characters, but it also allows you to catch grammatical errors, syntax errors, and even loose ends that haven’t been dealt with or caught by your many readers. More importantly than any of those things, though, is by reading aloud, you will catch misspelled and misused words.

Spellchecker is Not Infallible

Wait, you may say. I ran spellchecker. I caught all the misspelled words. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Let’s say that spellchecker did catch all the misspelled words in your manuscript. It did not catch misused words.

When you read your manuscript out loud, you will catch the misused words, assuming of course, you know how to spell. If you don’t, add that to your list of things you can do to improve your writing. Do not, I repeat, do not rely on spellchecker to catch misused words because it can’t. It is your manuscript and you are responsible for every word in it.

Misused Words

Misused words generally occur in the guise of your brain knowing the word needed, but because of a misfired synapsis, you type a completely different word. The two words may be pronounced similarly. The bottom line, though, is that one is correct and the other is not.

I’ve recently read two books published by big name publishers. Both had misused words. One used the word “bases” when the author meant “basis.” The second used the word “fowl” when “foul” was needed. In the latter case, it resulted in an amusing sentence, i.e., “the fowl weather.” My imagination immediately went to the possibility of chickens raining down from the sky.

Stopping the Reader

If your goal is to stop your reader dead in her tracks and you misuse words, you will have reached your goal. However, if you wrote a book that you want the reader to read into the wee hours of the morning, without pause, then you missed your goal by a mile.

There are so many things that can and will stop a reader from reading any further, at least for a minute or two. In that minute or two, the spell is broken. You and your reader are no longer in sync. If there are too many of these missteps, the reader may set your book aside or throw in the trash.

Isn’t That the Editor’s Job?

It used to be that a good editor would catch every little error you managed to put into your manuscript. Those days, I fear, are long gone. Today, with the publishing world in a turmoil, facing financial troubles, and changing so quickly that many editors have been laid off, I suspect editors are hard pressed to spend the kind of time they need in order to catch every mistake we writers are capable of making.

Do Your Reader a Favor

Do yourself and your readers a service, read the manuscript out loud and catch all those misspelled words, all those loose ends you forgot, and, perhaps most importantly, the misused words.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Daisy Whitney’s debut novel is an outstanding YA novel that addresses the issue of date rape.

The story is set at a boarding high school and features Alex, a junior music major whose one goal is to attend Julliard. The morning after she attends a concert with her friends, she wakes up in the bed of Carter, a member of the water polo team, and has no memory of how she got there or of what happened. It soon becomes evident that Carter had sex with her. Mortified that she had sex with a stranger and can’t remember it, Alex confides in her roommates. They put the name of date rape to what happened to her. They also urge her to seek out the Mockingbirds, a student group that metes out punishment to those found guilty of breaking the school’s code of conduct.

Whitney unfolds Alex’s story slowly. The reader is privy to Alex’s thoughts and, her memories as they slowly begin to return, usually at the worst possible times. Alex, at first, just wants to forget what happen that night, but eventually comes to understand that that she can’t forget the events that occurred. To make matters worse, she must deal with the whispers of her fellow students as Carter spreads his lies about her. She must also endure her self doubts about who she is and how this could have happened. As the last bit of her memory returns, she is horrified. An understanding teacher helps her come to grips with what Carter did was wrong because Alex had not consented to what happened. As she and the Mockingbirds move forward to the trial of Carter for date rape, Alex begins to understand that not saying no doesn’t mean yes.

While this story is about Alex and the effects of rape, it is also a story of the Mockingbirds and how they understand the mores of a high school campus. The Mockingbirds mete out justice in ways that the school’s administration wouldn’t even think of doing. How they effect the guilty party’s cooperation is clever and effective.

This is a fast paced book, a real page turner, that is hard to put down even in the wee hours of the morning. Young women will love this book because Whitney doesn’t sugar coat the facts nor does she dance around the issue of date rape. This should be mandatory reading for every young man.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's in a Title?

If you’re like me, character names come easily. But book titles? Forget it. I struggle with a title throughout the writing process. There are some titles I hate from day one, yet can’t come up with another that’s any better. I had one book title that, in my mind, was so awful, I couldn’t bear to send it out to agents/publishers. It languished on a shelf. When I returned to it, I found that I liked manuscript as well as I had when I was writing it. I also found that I hated the title just as much as I had the first time I put it on the manuscript. I finally came up with a brilliant title while I was in Thailand last summer. I couldn’t wait to get home and give my poor manuscript a name.

Every once in a while, a title will come easily as in it was a no-brainer to name the book after the lead character. I had chosen a Native American name for my character and, when translated, I had the title for my book.

A Formula? An App?

I wish there were a formula I could use as in A+B=Title. Or, at least, an iPhone app. There’s neither a formula nor an app much to my chagrin. So I struggle on. With each story and book I write, I struggle.

Name the Book after the Writing is Done

Someone said that everyone should wait until the book is completed before naming it. I tried that. And it meant was that I fretted the entire time that I didn’t even have a working title for the book. It was as if I’d had a child and never bothered to come up with name for her.

I’ve waited to name the book through the first draft, the second draft, and the third draft. All to no avail. Still no name, and the book was ready to go to my beta readers. I was reluctant to send the manuscript out with a title of “XYZ,” even to my betas.

So What’s the Answer?

I don’t have the answer. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the answer on how to find a title for a manuscript.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Naming Characters

Am I the Only One?

I have to wonder if I’m the only person who has trouble naming my characters. Do you, by chance, agonize over your characters’ names? Please say that you do (even if it’s not true).

Exotic Names

Part of the problem, for me, is that I’m drawn to exotic names. I have a character in one book named Genesis. Her friends, of course, call her Gene. She was told by her parents that she was so named because her Mom was studying Genesis in her Torah study group. But really! Who names their daughter Genesis? Thus far, I can’t seem to let go of the name and rename the character so the manuscript sits on a shelf waiting.

In another book, I have the main character named Milan. Yep, she was conceived in Milan while her parents were on their honeymoon there. At least they didn’t honeymoon in Rhinebeck. Come to think of it, that is a fine name for a character. Excuse me while I add that to my list of possible character names.

Or how about a police detective named Tai? It’s not pronounced Tay, but rather Tie. That book is currently being assessed by a publisher. What will happen if they like the manuscript but hate the name? Will I be able to come up with a different name any time in the next decade? Perhaps I should start thinking of alternative names right now.

Symbolic Names

For a while, I named every bad person in my book be they serial killers, megalomaniacs, or cheating husbands, etc., etc., with the initials of my ex. I had a lot of fun doing that. I only hope my ex recognizes the characters for who they are. I finally got over that because it became very limiting trying to find names to fit the initials. This is a lesson for those of you who love a writer - never, ever piss off a writer because you will be immortalized in every book he or she writes.

I recently started a new book and the name that popped into my head for this character is Tango Redding. Why? Maybe because I bought a car and the color of the car is, you guessed it, “Tango Red.” Why couldn’t it have been Rose or Roseanne?

Mundane Names

These days, I’m trying to move away from both the exotic and symbolic names. In my current work in progress, I have a male character named Jackson. Uh, that’s his first name not his last. Maybe I haven’t moved as far away from the exotic as I thought especially considering the story is set in 1903-1907. Maybe, I’ll change his name. To what though is the question. Lawrence is mundane enough, I think.

Do you see what I mean about not being able to name these people? I considered calling him Jason then Cotton (after Cotton Mather), settled on Jackson and am now searching for another name. Maybe by the time I’ve written the rest of the book, he’ll have a name he can call his own. In the meantime, I wonder if Rhinebeck would work for him. It’s a nice strong masculine name. But what would his friends call him? Rhine sounds silly, but Beck might work. Hmmmm.

Keeping a List

This is precisely why I keep a list of possible names. When I come across an interesting name, I add it to the list. I also keep an app on my iPhone called “Baby Names,” which is always a good resource when I become stuck for a name.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin

Jeannie Lin has written a historical romance set in 758 CE China during the Tang Dynasty. Shen Ai Li, daughter of the Emperor, has been betrothed to Li Tao to seal an alliance between the Emperor and his rival. Before she can be married, however, she learns that Li Tao was responsible for the death of one of her brothers and that he is amassing a large army to usurp the throne from Ai Li’s father.

Ai Li is determined to warn her father of Li Tao’s perfidy. First, though, she must travel across country, even as she is being chased by Li Tao’s soldiers, to the Emperor’s palace. When she gives a beggar a rice bowl, he turns out to be a barbarian. Her body guards are drugged and she runs into the forest. The beggar, a swordsman of some skill, is Ryam. He rescues her as Li Tao’s men try to capture her.

Ryam promises to see her safely to the Imperial city, no easy task considering Li Tao wants her back. On the way to the Imperial city, Ryam recognizes that he is deeply attracted to Ai Li. He also knows that there is no hope for a relationship between Ai Li and himself. Nevertheless, the attraction is mutual and continues to grow as they run for their lives.

Lin has written a fast-paced adventure story, a historical, and, above all, a love story. Her characters, Ryam and Ai Li, are strong, intelligent, well drawn, and come alive for the reader. She has included many historical details without overwhelming the reader and her story with minutiae.

If you love your romantic stories set in distant times and far away places, Butterfly Swords should be on the top of your list.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Author's Role

I’ve heard people lament that today’s authors are not of the same caliber as Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Maybe we aren’t, but Fitzgerald and Hemingway didn’t have to publicize their own books, their publishers considered that to be their job. They could afford to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until every word was perfect. Today’s authors are not afforded that same leisure in which to pore over every word. Today’s writers are busy writing blogs, updating websites, guest blogging, plugging their book on Twitter and Facebook, hand-selling their books to Indie bookstores as well as the big-box bookstores. When do they have time to pore over every word they write? Especially when they are expected to write another book or two by a time certain.

Your Work Doesn’t End with a Book

It is clear that these days authorship no longer ends when the writing is done. It seems that being a writer has become harder today than it was say, fifty years ago. Then, you wrote a book, found an agent, signed the contract, and returned to your typewriter.

Today, an author’s work continues on to include activities that publishers once handled. Today’s author has to be a skilled negotiator, a talented publicist, able to juggle not only a day job, but go to signings, conferences, and retreats. Then there is the problem of when does today’s author find the time to write her second or third contracted books? Today’s author knows that a missed deadline may spell the end to her relationship with either her agent and/or her publisher.

Heaven forbid that the author doesn’t sell well. Not selling well is the death knell for that author. Never mind that she doesn’t have the wherewithal, either financially or time wise, to do all the publicity needed to become an author with good numbers. Too bad for her.

Is There a Solution?

Probably not for the author. The publisher is trying to cut costs so they seem to be cutting back on editors and publicity. Who suffers from that decision? The author, of course, but then so does the publisher and reader.

Many authors are seeing the solution to the publishers’ problems in the emerging e-book market. That’s good for the publishers because books are cheaper for them to produce as e-books. It’s not any better for the author who is still expected to publicize her own book regardless of the form it takes.

So no solution for the author is in sight yet in the ever-evolving world of publishing. Perhaps some day authors will be allowed to do what do they do best - write.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Distractions Are Good for You

Have you ever been writing along and suddenly realize that you’ve become fascinated by your potted plant on the shelf across the room? Or a random thought flits through your mind about how many ladybugs it would take to save the world? Ah, sweet distractions.

Two Kinds of Distractions

I’ve discovered there are two kinds of distractions for me. They are

  1. The temporary kind, i.e., a cardinal sitting on my fence, a squirrel on my deck, or a bunny in the yard.
  2. The longer-term kind, i.e., a decision to create a database of some really esoteric information, i.e., writers’ birthdays.

I can recover from the temporary kind of distraction in a matter of moments or, at the most a minute or two, usually because the object of my fascination leaves my field of vision. Since I don’t feed the birds during the summer because I don’t want them to forget how to forage for themselves, neither the birds nor squirrels come around as often as they do when there is birdseed in the feeders (I keep three of them full the other three seasons of the year). The bunnies don’t visit often because of my four-legged kids.

The recovery time from the longer-term distractions is a little more difficult to predict. This current obsession with this database could go on for years - I have a database of 10,000 notable women that I started many years ago when I was writing speeches for a politician and wanted him to cite some forgotten women of substance. This new database has the feel of that one. However, I’m going to be sensible and spend no more than 30 minutes a day doing the research to build it. Yeah, right. It took me longer than that to decide what the headers should be in the spreadsheet I’m currently using while I create the database.

Distractions Are Good for You

I’m one of those people (perhaps we are a minority) who believe distractions are good for the soul and for the writer. I find that when I return to my WIP (work in progress), I can pick up where I left off and that momentary respite feels like a mini vacation.

The longer distractions work the same way. While I’ve been distracted with my database, a part of the my mind has been working on the WIP so that when I do get back to it, I’ve got a clearer idea of where the scene should be going as opposed to where it had been going.

How easily are you distracted from your writing? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Every once in a while a book comes along that keeps you reading into the wee hours of the morning and faster than you’ve ever read a book before and all the while telling yourself to slow down so that you can prolong the pleasure. This is such a book.

“Bury Your Dead” is Louise Penny’s sixth mystery featuring Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Surete du Quebec.

She has crafted a beautifully written mystery with characters so skillfully drawn they come alive for the reader. When this book ends, you’ll want to read more about the characters because they feel like friends.

The city of Quebec is as much a character in Penny’s hands as Gamache and the other who populate this book. Penny beautifully describes the city so much so that you can almost believe that you, too, know the city as well as Gamache as he walks the cobblestoned streets. As Penny describes the effects of winter on the city, you may find yourself drawing covers over you to quell the cold even as the the temperatures rise to the 90s outside your home.

Penny has written a multi-layered mystery with three story lines. She deftly intertwines each plot line. She is skilled at building and maintaining the tension in each story. The story opens with Gamache having gone to Quebec to visit with his mentor after having been wounded in an attempted terrorist attack on the La Grand dam. He is drawn into an investigation of the murder of an amateur archaeologist who is on a quest to find the burial place of Champlain. While Gamache tries to recover his equilibria, he sends his assistant back to the small town of Three Pines to reopen a case that Gamache solved and saw the murderer convicted. The author follows each of these plot lines with such skill and so seamlessly that the reader barely notices the switch.

The ending is satisfying and all the loose ends of each of the plot lines are niftily tied up without being contrived or rushed.

It has been many years since I laughed out loud when reading a mystery. Penny had me guffawing when a seventy-something dignified English woman tries to speak French and ends up speaking gibberish

Do not start reading this book if you have to work the next day. This is one of those books that we long for, but only comes along once in a great while - you know, the one you can’t wait to get back to, the one you’d miss your best friend’s wedding for, the one that you forget to eat while you’re reading it.