Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
By Ellen Meister
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dina Santorelli for her cable television program, The Writer's Dream. Dina asked such insightful questions about craft that I thought readers of this blog might want to have a look. Big thanks to producer Linda Maria Frank for granting me rights to use the video, which I've posted here in two parts ...
Thanks for watching! If you have any questions, feel free to post below. Happy writing!
Ellen Meister is the author of three novels. Her most recent book, THE OTHER LIFE has appeared on many best fiction of the year lists and is in stores now. For more information, visit ellenmeister.com. You can connect with Ellen on Facebook and on Twitter. She hopes you will also join her Dorothy Parker Facebook page for daily quotes from America's most notorious wit.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Publishing is changing. Yes, I too, like most readers still enjoy the tactile sensation of a book in my hands. I love the smell of the ink, the crush of paper against my fingertips, and the flipping noise as I turn pages to return to the spot where I last left the story.
I was a resistant ebook reader--at first. Now I am a Nook carrying member of the revolution. Why? What turned the corner for me? Well--a couple things.
First I got a cover for my Nook. In the beginning I had a horrible time with my Nook because I missed turning the flap back on a book. This also impacted how the Nook felt in my hand. My new Nook cover made the sensation of holding my Nook more akin to what I'd grown accustomed to the last 35+ years of reading.
(This isn't my actual cover as they no longer make the one I have but I do like this one.)
Second I can keep 10,000 books at my fingertips. I don't like to give away books once I read them. I like to keep them--like little trophies. On my Nook these little lovelies don't take up nearly the space and my husband thanks me as he no longer has to pack boxes of books up and down stairs.
Third, ebooks are cheaper. I know as an author who makes my living writing this isn't necessarily something I should rave about but hey, it's true. Cut out the paper, ink, shipping, fuel, packaging and at least some of that savings gets passed onto the consumer. I love that I can get 2 and sometimes 3 fantastic books for the price of 1 trade paperback.
Finally, ebooks publish faster. My latest book Can't Buy Me Love releases today! I've worked on this book for a very long time in fact the first chapter was runner up in the Harlequin Presents contest ages ago. But when I finally decided to indie pub Can't Buy Me Love it took a mere 3 months to get the book ready for distribution. The process remained the same, with a substantive edit and a copy edit but everything took less time.
So yes, publishing is changing. With the publication of Can't Buy Me Love today I am now a traditionally pubbed author and an indie author. What a lucky girl am I!
Everyone knows that Cole Jackson is lethal--in his charm and in his reputation as ruthless media mogul and one of the world's great CEOs. A fact his former executive assistant Meg Parson has learned firsthand. He's the one who banished her from his executive suite with no explanation.
Determined to secure her long awaited promotion within Comnet, Meg Parson is back and can deliver the one deal Cole Jackson has always wanted and could never get. This deal is Meg's ticket to the top. Now Meg must juggle this high-stakes deal with her unfathomable attraction to her former boss--an attraction Meg has denied for three years. An attraction which raises painful memories from her past. An attraction that Meg's boss Cole seems to share. If Meg can't pull off this multi-media merger, not only is her career at stake but also her heart.
Maggie Marr is an author living in Los Angeles. You can follow her on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and her latest obsession Pinterest. She asks that you please buy her latest book Can't Buy Me Love so that she can continue to feed her children, cats, and husband while writing down the stories that bounce around in her head.
But the real bugaboo, the tragic little secret is that, after several years as full-time writers, most of us transform from being thin, neurotic artistic types to… how should I put this delicately?…downright robust artistic types.
In other words, we become chunky monkeys.
I’m speaking from experience. And I know I’m not the only scribe who has far too much junk in the trunk, a bit too much butter on the bean.
Fact is I no longer resemble my author photo--taken in those lean, hungry pre-publication months—and I refuse to replace it with a more true-to-life Jabba the Hut version.
The weight snuck up on me. I kept telling myself I was retaining water, or pre-menstrual or post-menstrual or that my pants had shrunk in the wash. Unfortunately denial finally had a head-on collision with reality and I was forced to go up a couple of sizes.
That’s when I tried to accept my bloat: So what if I’m a little round, I’d rationalize. Life is short! Who wants to give up red wine, chocolate and the occasional Krispy Kreme run? Bring on the BLT.
But in truth I was a fair weather friend of my newly “enhanced” physique. Some days I’d strut around like Jennifer Hudson before she got skinny; most days I felt like the dumpiest woman on the planet.. There were times I didn’t recognize myself in photos. Do my arms really look like twin loafs of sour dough? When did I get that extra chin?
My weight issue started occupying far too much space in my mind. I was constantly touching my belly as a gauge. Am I having a fat day or a thin day? Would I ever lose weight? Where would I get the motivation?
It was an unforgiving hotel mirror that finally prompted me to take action. I had ways of tricking my home mirror (standing in front of it only while wearing head-to-toe black, high heels and Spanx) but this mirror bounced back my image just before I was getting into the shower… Enough said.
So I started a diet. Truth is I’m a pretty healthy eater. I love veggies, salads, fruit and fish. And I’ve always exercised, Most days I run four miles and two times a week I lift weights. But the combination of being in my mid forties, having a sedentary occupation, and coming from a less than svelte gene pool all added up to a couple of Michelin radials around my middle.
I decided to cut out all starches (except for fruit and yogurt in the morning to give me energy for my run) all sugars and… this was the hardest for me by far… all alcohol.
I LOVE red wine—how it smells and tastes—the way it looks in the glass like liquid rubies. I love the curve of the bottle, the wide-mouth goblets, the velvet feel of a Cab, the delicate bouquet of a Pinot and the slap-you-in-face, jammy taste of a Zin.
I thought I’d only last a day.
But here I am nearly THREE WEEKS later, and I’ve already dropped a size. (Not a real size mind you,. I went from a loose size eight to a tight size six. I’m five foot two and very fined-boned so a size eight is big for my body type.)
Do I miss the wine?
Every day when five o’clock rolls around the drum beats start up, growing more insistent with each passing minute; I swear I’m going to race to the liquor store, grab the first bottle I see (a screw top bottle; cork takes too long) and chugalug in the parking lot.
Instead I shush the drums and drink a diet Snapple instead. Eventually Dionysus’s siren song dies down.
I made a vow I’d go without the sauce for six weeks. When those six weeks are up, I’ll be less Chunky Monkey and more Skinny Minnie.
I’m hoping to lose ten pounds, and if I do…well, I will definitely drink to that.
P.S. One of my favorite reds is a Zin called Writer’s Block.
It’s about fifteen bucks and worth every nickel.
Monday, March 26, 2012
So, we've been talking about coming up with good story ideas and I have a few things to add to the discussion. First and foremost, I'd like to say that my kids provide me with an endless supply of things to write about, both as a magazine journalist and a fiction writer. As a mother of three, I have a rich fantasy life about live-in help, luxurious vacations, and spa-days. If I ever find the time to pen another novel, it might have all of those elements in it because it's clear I won't be experiencing them in my real life. (sigh)
The idea for my first novel, Substitute Me, did actually come from my own trauma surrounding the search for the perfect nanny. I never found one, but the protagonist in the book does and drama ensues. These days, given the fact that my life seems to be on a permanent replay of work, feed the baby, laundry, grade papers, repeat, I'm not feeling another domestic drama. But that's okay.
When I'm not on duty as a human cow, I teach journalism to college students. This semester I'm teaching a class called Ripped from the Headlines: Using Journalism's Tools to Write Fiction. One of the main things I'm teaching my students to do, is scour the news media to find great story ideas. Because we all know that truth really is stranger than fiction. For example, my students just handed in an assignment where they had to research a recent story they discovered in the news that they thought would translate well into fiction. I received a slew of great stories -- from a female PhD candidate in chemical engineering who moonlights as a dominatrix, to a man who was rescued from a deadly shark attack by a group of friendly dolphins. Besides the fact that I felt like I must be living under a rock for not knowing about some of the more outrageous stories, I felt completely smart for creating this class.
A person doesn't have to go any further than their local paper to come up with clever, intriguing, unbelievable story ideas that they can spin into an amazing work of fiction. From natural disasters like the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan, to the recent lottery winner who is 85 years old, dramatic stories happen every day. This is not to make light of or profit from other people's misery. On the contrary, sometimes by unraveling the truth in fiction, we can give tragedy a happier ending, or at least sort out some of the complicated feelings involved. I just read such a book, the bittersweet Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, which revisits the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
So, rather than 'writing what you know' or wracking your brain for creative ideas that may or may not be in there, open a People magazine and get inspired.
Lori L. Tharps is a magazine writer, college professor and mom. She blogs at MyAmericanMeltingpot.com.
Friday, March 23, 2012
“Nonsense,” his father admonished. “We are chemists, not poets. Our job is to mask the stench of the streets, to cover the scent of the flesh and relieve the senses from the onslaught of smells that are unpleasant,vile and infected.”
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Thanks for stopping by, Lynn!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Over the past two years I’ve been able to enjoy a career as an indie author, publishing my work digitally direct to Kindle, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and such, and have grown to love the freedom this provides me. For instance, there was a time when you really had to focus on one specific genre to “brand” yourself, which makes sense on many levels--find readers who like you as an author of historical romances, for instance, and they’ll follow you far and wide and buy/read all of your historical romances. But I tended to be all over the map, with non-fiction memoir, creative non-fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, I even pitched a self-help book which I was told I could only sell to a New York house if I had a profile on a national level as an expert in that field. Natch. Oh well. And yeah, lurking in my laptop were a couple of straight-out romances as well, books I figured at some point I’d publish but only once I’d gotten my brand established enough to be able to veer away from it and not leave the “professionals” in New York to wonder what to do with my books.
But with indie publishing, I’ve been able to publish my novels and get them to readers. With the beauty of digital, I can categorize them to reach various audiences, and leave it up to the reader to decide if they like this book enough, maybe they’d like to try another of my novels as well. So that meant I was able to dust off those lurking romances and bring them out into the light of day (and, um, er, yeah, my kids might not be too thrilled, but more on that in a minute). And the thing about my romances is they’re a little too edgy usually to fit in the normal confines of “romance”, so all the better that I can publish them myself and let my audience figure it out! The first romance I published, ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, is a lighthearted story of a woman tired of waiting for Mr. Right to come along. She wants kids, so she takes matters into her own hands (turkey baster, anyone?!). Unbeknownst to her, she’s then hired to be the photographer for her “donor’s” high society wedding. Mayhem ensues, etc.
My next romance, COMPROMISING POSITIONS, could almost be accused of being romantic suspense, but not really. It’s about a woman determined to get hired for a public relations job on Capitol Hill despite rampant sexism working against her. When she lands her dream job against her boss, the press secretary’s, wishes, it’s only because her other boss, a Viagra-sated Senator, wants to add her as another notch on his bed board. Sparks fly as my heroine falls fast for her press secretary (yeah, he falls for her as well) while having to dodge the aggressive moves of the horny Senator. Embezzlement, corruption and yet more mayhem ensue ;-). Oh, and those steamy sex scenes? Yep, I sucked it up and tried my hand at it (I’d originally written this book to enter into a contest sponsored by a New York Times bestselling author in which hot sex scenes were a must). I just decided to not tell my kids it’s out there. Oh, and I published these two novels under the pseudonym Erin Delany. Well, sort of. Jenny Gardiner writing as Erin Delany is more like it. Everyone asks me why I did it this way and I figured it made sense. Readers of women’s fiction are not always interested in migrating to romance, so I didn’t want to confuse those readers into thinking these were straight-out women’s fiction, but romance readers are often happy to straddle those lines, so I wanted them to be able to find my other books if they enjoyed these two romances. Make sense?
Anyhow, so I guess I am a romance writer. Well, sort of, at least sometimes. I like to say I'm a varied author. Whatever it is, I am definitely still a crazy mixed-up kid in publishing. But the great thing nowadays is that this confusion can work in my favor, rather than being a detriment. I hope you’ll go check out these books, as well as my others: #1 Kindle Bestseller SLIM TO NONE, American Title III winner SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, WHERE THE HEART IS, ANYWHERE BUT HERE, WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME, and I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP (a humorous anthology of dog stories in which I’m a contributor).
Oh, and to show you how I love to jump all over the place, writing-wise, I'll be publishing a collection of humorous essays in the next week or so. Here's a preview of the cover:
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
EDIT: I don't mean to imply that I laughed at the homeless woman urinating on herself in public. That's actually horrible and not funny at all.
There are two kinds of marketing methods for authors emerging in the "new publishing climate" - the octopus and the goat.
The other type far below the mountain, working the depths of the sea, with a solid center, eight arms and three hearts, is the octopus. The octopus swims to opportunity, builds tribes and utilizes all eight arms for outreach and community building. It's equipped with a funnel to ensure the best decisions are made for its marketing efforts and uses all three heart: two hearts to pump blood through each of its two gills (one for the heart of the story and the other for marketing), and a third one to pump blood through its body - to care for itself.
The octopus invests time and money in its enterprise and understand publicity and traditional marketing still have its place and face-to-face time is more important than ever. The octopus thinks to answer, "what's in it for me" for the reader so the octopus can provide value to the reader with its events and promotions. Those suction cups come in handy, too.
Face it: it's not easy being either an octopus or a goat, but as authors in this day and age we are expected to market ourselves and be a part of the action. But one invites people in, spinning the person into his world, while the other has readers turning them off or never heard them in the first place. Which one are you? How can you make the dive off the rock and learn to swim?
The Stork Reality: Secrets from the Underbelly. She's invited 40 mamas to blog about pregnancy and motherhood over at StorkRealityBook.com. She's a brand strategist at her creative and media firm, Athena Institute, and the executive editor at Buzz Books USA. She is currently working on an ebook, "The Octopus and the Goat" to assist small businesses, and her next novella, The Last Resort, set in Maui.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Learning the secrets of writing a great novel is not as seductive as learning the secrets of a Geisha. But I digress.
Last week at the Hofstra University Writer's Salon, I had the extreme pleasure of hearing uber-selling suspense writers, Andrew Gross and Michael Palmer, spill their secrets on how they have managed to turn out one great thriller after the next. They were joined by debut novelist, Kira Peikoff, who also had much to say about keeping readers engaged.
What are their secrets to success? Developing memorable and compelling characters first... and then sending them off on mysterious journeys where anything can happen. And does.
It got me thinking. Regardless of genre, aren’t all novels mysteries? Shouldn't their chapters be brimming with suspense? Unresolved issues? Unpredictable characters? Shouldn't readers be kept so invested in the outcome of the hero that they not only wonder what happens next, but care what happens next?
I teach novel writing through Hofstra University's Continuing Ed program and encourage students to inject endless suspense in their novels, whether they are writing a police procedural, a romantic comedy or historical fiction.
It's not about using gimmickry, it's about making sure that the beam supporting their story structure is solid with intrigue, secrets and conflicts.
If you are an emerging novelist, here are a few ideas I recommend to keep readers turning pages:
Make something BIG happen IMMEDIATELY.
Forget back story. Readers have zero attachment to the hero in the early chapters, so whatever happened to them in past means less than what is about to happen to them when the #$%%^ hits the fan.
By creating an inciting incident within the first few pages, readers will be drawn in. Then back story can be weaved into the narrative so that readers understand the high stakes and become more and more invested.
As those iconic Clairol commercials asked, does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.
Stories that don’t pose questions and raise issues leave little to our curiosity and imaginations. From the start, have readers wondering: Will John ask Mary for a date? Will Mary say yes? Will John and Mary go cliff jumping on their date? Who will cry at their funerals? What would possibly possess them to do something so dangerous and out of character? Or was it out of character at all? Keep 'em guessing! That's the key.
You could plotz from all the plots
Novels need to explore multiple story lines in order to build suspense and conflict. But inherent in each story line must be more surprises, questions and drama. Even more important, each storyline must raise the stakes for the hero so that tension is always mounting.
One way to do this is to give a minor character(s) an unusual hobby or occupation so that they can complicate matters with their knowledge. But just when readers think they get where you’re going, throw them off-balance by having the character's involvement mean little to the outcome.
Reveal, Reveal, Reveal
Every chapter should offer the writer a chance to share something about the character that the reader did not already know. Or, something that the character did not know. Or something that the character has known all along but kept a secret (or so they thought). Or something that the character thought they knew all along but turned out to be mistaken.
The key is to let the secrets out slowly, like air in balloon.
Go West Young Man
Choose a setting that adds to the intrigue either because of its unique terrain, climate, environment or time period. If the location is well described and well defined, it can take on the same level of importance as a mysterious character.
Speaking of mysterious characters, we don't call our protagonists heroes for nothing. Challenge them from the start and keep increasing the odds of failure. Then we'll root for them and follow them to the very last page.
I so admire novelists that can grab readers within the first few pages and keep us guessing until the end. No easy feat, though there are techniques and strategies that when properly employed, do make a difference in the storytelling.
As for the secrets of a Geisha? How they put up with so many men remains a mystery to me.
Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four novels from Avon(HarperCollins) including DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD; FATE AND MS. FORTUNE; CLAIRE VOYANT; and A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE. She is finishing her first novel for girls, HOTLINE TO HEAVEN. visit her site.www.saraleerosenberg.com
Live on Long Island and interested in learning the craft of novel writing? Check out my courses at Hofstra University's Continuing Ed program. Each semester I lead hands-on workshops and classes that will get your creative journey off to the best possible start. https://www.hofstra.edu/Academics/CE/ce_jbar.cfm?offeringid=352858