The problem is…

Typewriter - Once upon a time…I don’t know how to not write. I go into a kind of fugue state when I finish the first draft of a manuscript. Intellectually, I know I’m done for now. I’ve reached the end of the story, and I know to tuck it in the drawer and come back with enough perspective so I can wave my little magic wand and rewrite the kinks out of it.

But in my heart I want to keep playing with it. I want to write the backstory to the big first kiss that started it all. I want to do more character work; I want to know MORE. I want to go back into that document and clean up those messy lines I left. Around ten thirty, eleven at night, I get this pang. Because that’s when Charlie, my protagonist, wants to sit down with a few fingers of scotch, play his Frank Sinatra albums, and tell me stories. I miss him. I know that I’ll be with this universe of characters for six, seven, eight drafts. It’s not like I have to say goodbye right now. And maybe when I do that rewriting I’ll need to write new material and I’ll need to call on him again. (I do love when that happens!) But for now, I need the separation. I need the break. My writing mind is tired and needs to do other things.

Okay, I cried. It feels that real to me.

Maybe the novel isn’t the only thing that needs perspective. Maybe I do, too. I love my work, editing and writing, and the three months I spent working on the first draft of this story have been intensely rewarding and a continual surprise. I learned that I can (sort of) work from an outline. That I can (sort of) write a sequel. And that (maybe) I can write from the POV of several people I will never be. Although sitting in front of the keyboard day and night not only makes this Jill a dull girl but also means forking out extra for chiropractic adjustments.

So I’ll take my break. At least from this story. And then I’ll come back to my people, pour a virtual scotch, and see where they take me next.

Advertisements

The Editing Myth

dreamstime_14649214On Indies Unlimited: Food for thought by Melissa Bowersock about her experience with being edited (or not, actually) by traditional publishers versus the editorial control she has as an indie author.

Although for most authors, I recommend hiring a professional editor, at the minimum, get your manuscript in front of beta readers who can give you honest, thorough critiques and fresh eyes to catch errors. As Martin Crosbie has frequently written in his posts and in his book, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle: An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook, we indie authors have a larger target on our backs than traditionally published authors. Therefore it’s up to us to ensure that we’re producing the best quality product that we can.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

Writing Characters Outside the Box

Fisheye Scorn - You're in Deep TroubleI hate stereotypes. I get why they exist; human brains like order. They process a lot of information, so they want to sort things into boxes and get on with the day.

But we—individual people—are not tick boxes on a form. We are not the sum of the things people claim we are. We are not X, Y, and Z because our skin is a certain color, or our grandparents were born in a particular country, or because of whom we love.

When I think about how stereotypes apply to writing, I keep coming back to an amazing author and professor I studied under years ago, who cautioned women writers never to write from a man’s point of view. It’s a topic I’ve tackled before but it still applies to so many situations. Continue reading

Are You Appositive About That?

dreamstime_14649214One of the trickier tricks with commas is figuring out how to use them around appositives. An appositive is a noun or a noun phrase in apposition (used to describe) another noun. Um…what? Here’s an example:

Professor Katydid, award-winning entomologist, will be lecturing tonight on the mating habits of Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Continue reading

Proposed Actionable Items to Take Under Advisement in 2014

gavel2-570x371The Board of Trustees of this writing/editing single proprietorship has convened, debated according to Robert’s Rule of Order, and agreed upon a list of proposed guidelines and actionable items for the upcoming calendar year. We agree to add these items into the public record and indemnify ourselves to be accountable for their delivery. Continue reading

Tell a Story and Win One

51Kh+3rEqfL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_I hated to do it, but the old, black recliner was falling apart. Not that comfy, a few-rips-and-tears-but-I’m-still-keeping-it-so-get-your-hands-off kind of falling apart. No. The years, along with abuse and the ravages of being the winter headquarters for a colony of mice, had eaten away its innards. The leather had hardened in spots; the wooden handles wobbled when gripped, and I was afraid to let anyone sit in it.

Out it went, into a borrowed van and driven to the dump.

The memories, however, stayed. My father read to us in that chair, when it lived in its first home, when my brothers and I were small enough to crowd in together and listen to Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, Ferdinand the Bull, or Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.

I don’t know what it is about the human experience that makes us like hearing someone tell stories. This could have gone back to the night Og gathered the cave children around the fire and entertained them with the one about the mastodon that almost got away. The generations of kids who grew up with radio became accustomed to hearing their favorite stories, a different sort of skill than watching a movie or a TV program.

When audio books were first available on cassette tapes (remember those, kids?) I couldn’t get enough of them. Not only were they good companions on long commutes, but they helped improve my listening skills so I could give better feedback to my writing group when we read our work aloud. It was also fun hearing my favorite books acted out a bit by a talented narrator.

These are some of the reasons that I wanted to release Drawing Breath as an audio book. And now that I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for those days—and, okay, a bit guilty about tossing the chair—I’d like to give away a couple of copies from audible.com. Also because voice actor Randi Larson did a fantastic job of bringing my characters to life, so I want to share her talent with everyone. [If you click on the link above, you can hear a sample of her pretty voice.]

Just post a comment below about a memory…of being read to, of reading to a child, your favorite books as a kid, your favorite audio book, when and why you listen. On Friday afternoon, I’ll choose the winners.

Thank you for reading!

And Now a Brief Word from Our Sponsor…

guinea-pig-computer-flickr-castawayinwales-369Okay, I know we’re all busy and people have probably been in your face to buy their things since…um…the invention of things. So I’ll keep this self-promotion short with a few holiday-type reminders.

If you live in the Ulster County area, you can buy print copies of my books at Barner Books in New Paltz, Inquiring Minds in New Paltz and Saugerties, and The Golden Notebook in Woodstock. I’m pretty sure that all of them have copies of The Joke’s on Me and Drawing Breath, and some have copies of Don’t Tell Anyone (which became an Amazon best-seller for a couple of hours a while back.) If the stores run out or you live too far away, I have it on good authority (Leland Dirks) that independent bookstores can order books. Also, I have a few books kicking around the house, so if you’d like a signed copy, I’ll be happy to oblige. Drop me a note here.

I’ll be at The Golden Notebook in Woodstock on Sunday at 1:00, talking about Sliding Past Vertical. Please ask the Snow Goddesses to cooperate, thanks, because GN has a TON of great events scheduled all weekend and I’d hate for Nan to have to reschedule them.

A couple of notes about Drawing Breath: if you like audio books or know someone who’d like one as a gift, it’s now available from Audible.com. Randi Larson did a great job on the narration. Also, the e-book will be on sale for $0.99 from December 26 to January 1 as part of a group sale with Awesome Indies.

That’s it. I hope that amid the craziness, you’re taking some time to live in the moment and enjoy what’s around you. You may now return to watching videos of cats destroying Christmas trees. Or this one.

Lessons Learned from Broken Characters

file5721279006391I’m a bit different from some authors. Instead of outlining and building a character from scratch, I let one fall into my head. I follow him or her around as we find the story together. So sometimes (oh, who am I kidding; it happens nearly all the time) I get to work with characters who are a little broken, a little damaged, or who don’t always make the choices I want them to.

This means I often hear the same comment from my early readers: I wanted to SLAP her! Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving: My Favorite Immigrant Stories

middlesex-a-novel-oprahs-book-clubGratitude is part of my daily routine, but on Thanksgiving and this year, on a Thanksgiving that coincides with Hanukkah, I’m especially grateful for my family history. Several generations back, my ancestors left lives and livelihoods behind for a better deal in America. I’m grateful for that, because between the cossacks’ pogroms and Hitler, who knows if I’d even be around to write these words?

Perhaps that’s why I find immigrant stories so compelling. Here are a few of my favorites. Continue reading

Book Tour Winners!

VBT_SlidingPastVertical_BannerRandy (Random Number Generator) and I have just chosen the winners from each stop on my recent virtual blog tour for Sliding Past Vertical. One commenter from each participating blog wins a copy of Drawing Breath; the overall winner from all the commenters wins a $30 Amazon gift card, just in time for holiday shopping.

Here are the e-book winners:

Rich Meyer
Andra Lyn
Nurmawati Djuhawan
Eva Millien
Rita Wray
Chelsea B.

And…drumroll, please…the winner of the $30 Amazon gift card is…

Mary Preston

Congratulations to our winners! Thank you to everyone for stopping by during the tour and thank you to Goddess Fish Promotions for throwing the party. They make the best margaritas… 😀