Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Sound of One Old Lady, reading

by Samantha Wilde

I am the opposite of the cutting age grandfather. I am the woman in her thirties who wears cardigans and rompers and occasionally sees a muumuu at the Vermont Country Store that she thinks is "pretty," much to the horror of family and friends who often point out that I ought to have lived in a different era.

I would have to agree. And here's a picture of me to prove it. (Actually, that's Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I think we look alike.)

I am one of many girls who grew up convinced of being Laura reincarnated. Wendy McClure wrote a fantastic book about this called The Wilder Life. As I grew, this translated into some other unusual practices, like being the only person at my graduate school who refused to get an email account. I wanted people to call me, even about official school business.

So when I write about the e-book world, you can know with certainty that I am channeling a curmudgeon and not a professional.

Still, there is something beautiful about a book that you can hold, smell, turn over in your hands. You can listen to the sound of the paper turning, gaze absentmindedly at the cover as you carry it around, flip effortlessly to the acknowledgements and back to cover and back to the page you are reading.

Personally, I don't like to read from a screen. I always print out my manuscripts to read because I find the quality of my attention to the screen is not the same as it is to the page. This holds true for emails and blogs as well. And while I may be unusually old-fashioned when it comes to high-tech gadgets, the negative effects of this "thinking" electronically and with screens is now well documented.

The Shallows is an excellent and highly praised examination of some of the deeper and more worrisome effects of our computer-tech infatuations. One of the first books out on the topic, Silicon Snake Oil, I wrote a passionate paper on back in college. A great line from the book: "Minds think with ideas, not information." Which makes me think of Sandra's post of yesterday and the power of having a premise, a really good idea. In that sense, the medium doesn't matter; the substance is what counts and that won't change. A good story is a good story no matter how or where you read it.

Perhaps what sets me apart in my pioneer, prairie thought processes about the whole situation is a love affair with the slower, truer, and deeper rewards of reading. They say many people now can barely sustain attention long enough to read a short magazine article! And what of a novel, then? Consider Henry James, who wrote epic sentences, sometimes a page long....

Some of the writers I love for their connection to a slower and more leisurely pace of life, Wendell Berry, as well as the slow movement which many of you have probably heard of. In the parenting world there is Simplicity Parenting, a book and a movement, in the adult world, The Thing Itself, a meditation on what is real.

It's snowing here tonight, our first real snow of the season. It is lovely and slowing. You can't go out; you must stay in. No frantic driving, no hurried rushing.

Perhaps I am reacting to the speed and chaos of my own life with three small children and too much driving, as well as to the overwhelming movement towards virtual connection. (Mothers of small children need real people to talk to, look at, hang out with.) But I am a person who goes to a bookstore when I am feeling down because the sight of all those tomes gives me infinite comfort.

When my oldest son was just a toddler he asked me what was "alive." He wanted to know if his bed was alive, if the wall was alive. I told him no and no. Then he looked at me earnestly and said: "But books are alive, right, Mama?"

Well, they are to me, they are to many of us, and probably it doesn't matter the format. I am certainly all for whatever means gets an author's work into the hands of the reader, and in that sense I am not writing this post as a writer, but as a reader, as a lover of books and the sort of sustained, deep attention they require, a quality of being engaged I want for myself, for my children, and for the world.

I think this matters for one important reason; I don't just want to be a grumpy Luddite refusing to catch up with the hip-trends. I want to show that there is some thought behind my outdated choices, and a lingering gaze towards a simpler time in the world. Which probably never existed--in which case, I so hope it is yet to come!

Do any of you find your ability to read deeply has changed with computer use? Any good books on these ideas you've read? Any ways in which you find yourself an old-young lady, too? I do hope I'm not the only one....

Sam Wilde has often wished to be Amish. The author of THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, her second novel, I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS, is due out in early 2013. The mother of three small children, she spends the great majority of her time mothering, occasionally uses her graduate degree and ordination to practice ministry, and teaches a weekly yoga class. She writes rather urgently during nap time with the hopes of completing a single page, and, if not, a single paragraph, before someone needs a diaper change, a hug, or a lecture. Visit "her" at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Premises? Today They are Like Flying Monkeys Coming Out of My Ass!

By: Sandra Novack

You know how the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz freak so many people out?  Today was like that--totally freaky.  As fate (or circumstance) would have it, the idea of 'premises' worked well with my day and is a great blog topic.  Why?  Well, I'll tell you.  I was writing today, when I suddenly smelled burning electrical wires. The smell was strong.  Smoke wafted down the steps, from upstairs.  I panicked.  I called 911.  The fire trucks came.  The police came.  Turns out the LED light in our saltwater aquarium upstairs was letting off sparks.  There could have been a fire.  Thank God there was not a fire.

I am usually home during the day, but tomorrow or the next day if this had happened, I would have been downtown, at a writer’s conference.  What if the wire went on the fritz tomorrow, and not today? What if my house burned down? What is the nature of fate, or luck? 

I was musing over all this as I posted about my LED incident on Facebook.  A FB friend wrote in saying, “I’d need a glass of wine after that!”  So my fictive brain adds this bit, because it’s always looking for sources of conflict.  What if because someone was drunk, an accident happened and there was a fire?  What if it was a woman, and her child died in the blaze?  This is where imaginative play adds life to a basic idea, or truth.  The aftermath of that could fill 300 pages.  Sure it could.  Fate.  Bad luck.  Personal blame.  Conflict.  Forgiveness.  It could go any number of ways.

What if?  The basis of all fiction is a premise.   Something that can withstand 250-300 pages of going over, or, in the case of short stories, 10-20 pages.  Ideas come in all shapes and sizes, after all.  Some have more stamina for long distance running, than others.

The truth is, I have problems with a lot of things when it comes to writing.  Sitting down each day to write?  That’s sometimes a problem, particularly with a new puppy in the house, or, hmmm…when a fire hazard interrupts my day.   Staying focused when writing for more than 5 hours?  I want to pull my hair out. Laboring over scenes and the ordering of information? My head wants to explode.  But ideas for a story or novel?  Look around, and they are all over, Friend.  Premises are the fun part of my writing.

Since I am lazy, I steal a lot of basic ideas from life.  You probably could tell that already.  My debut novel Precious takes place during a summer when a young girl goes missing.  Yes, I have a sister who left home when she was seventeen and didn’t speak to our family for 32 years.  That idea of sudden absences and the fallout in a family formed the basis of the book.  And the basis of all those therapy sessions, my God!

My story “White Trees in Summer” contained a premise that was also stolen from fact.  An elderly and distant relative of mine lived with his wife for years and years.  He loved her, greatly. She was very sick and senile in the end.  When he found out that he, too, was dying, he shot his wife, then himself.  Now, my story was quite different in the end, and also really influenced by Graham Greene’s “The Destructors,” a story in which neighborhood kids set out to dismantle one of the few homes left standing in war.  They tear it apart, from the inside out.  In that case, an event and preexisting story combined to form the basic idea of mine:  What if a man killed his wife but backed out of killing himself?  What if he were not held accountable in a court, but the neighborhood took retaliation? 

Which leads me to stealing basic story ideas from other writers, and other stories.  What if I told a known story from a minor character’s point of view?  Ahab’s Wife comes to mind.  That entire epic novel was based on an idea gotten from a very minor paragraph in Moby Dick.

I get story premises from newspaper articles, too.  I am in good company, in this regard. Robert Olen Butler’s Tabloid Dreams took titles from tabloids and turned them into stories.  The titles became not only the basic premises for the stories themselves, but also an organizing feature of the entire book. Two birds with one stone, there!  Boy, do I like that.

Likewise, my short story “Fireflies” was based on a newspaper article about a rich woman who lost everything.  She lived out on the streets, homeless and destitute after having millions, and ended up meeting the wrong people one night under a bridge.  There was also a fire in that newspaper article, come to think of it.  (See how the day affects my brain?)  How this article turned into a love affair story, one that is sparked on the same night a building goes up in flames, is beyond me. And how what was tragic (real life event) turned comic (my story), is still another thing.  But that’s what stories do, and good premises.  They take on their own life and vitality. 

And the list goes on and on.  I’d write more, but I’m kind of being hyper vigilant at the moment, with my fish tank.  And house.

So in conclusion: Premises?  Not a problem.  They are all around, and only rely on a writer’s biggest talents:  That of being observant, and sensitive.  Or as my friend always says to me, “You’re not even that observant.  This shit just falls in your lap!”

Perhaps.  God help me, if the fates have a target on my back.

On that note, I will leave you with a pic of fires and monkeys, which, thanks to the miracle that is GOOGLE IMAGES, I can find, together!   And one question:  Where do your story ideas come from?  Please do post, because tomorrow I'll be away, and unable to tend to this blog entry, or my house.

Sandra Novack still has a fat ass, drinks wine (but not today), writes books, and has fire hazards in her 1914 Oak Park home.  You can find her at

Guest Post: Kristina McMorris

Today we welcome Kristina McMorris whose novel Bridge of Scarlet Leaves  pubs today.

The novel is about a young women who secretly elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend on the eve before the Pearl Harbor bombing. 

"Radio Tour Nightmares"
by Kristina McMorris

At last, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves has been officially released, and I'm happy to report I've survived the promotional whirlwind—though just barely. And I mean that in a literal sense.

This past weekend, while at a mountain getaway with my family, I participated once more in a charming show called "Book and a Chat" on Blog Talk Radio. Due to blizzard conditions, however, in order to reach a landline for the interview, I had to abandon my car after it got stuck in the snow and trek (in my Pumas) to reach the administration office, where the landline didn't work, and I wound up doing the entire program on my cell phone while seated on a tower of clean towels in their bathroom.

If it weren't for Barry being such a wonderful host, I might have taken last year's mishap with his show as a precaution.

Last spring, preparing for a Saturday morning interview to promote my debut, Letters from Home, I'd chugged enough coffee to achieve coherence, loaded up my kids with diversions of food and cartoons, then locked myself up in a quiet room. I phoned in precisely five minutes before show time, as instructed, and dialed #1 to be placed in the host's queue, as instructed. (See how diligent I was being about following directions?)

As I waited, thrumming to the elevator music, the time ticked away. Nobody came on the line. Hmm. Odd. My concern grew until suddenly I heard Barry greeting listeners, touting how excited he was about today's interview with an author of historical fiction. (Yay, me!) But then…he announced another novelist's name. My mental red flag shot upward—until it dawned on me that, obviously, the show was featuring authors back-to-back and my turn would be next.

Thus, I waited as the two of them chatted away. Admittedly my mind went wandering. A good ten minutes into the show, a dead pause on the line seized my attention. The host was addressing me, but not in the way I'd anticipated.

"Caller, are you there?" he pressed. "Do you have a question for us?"

Oh. No.

All at once, it became painfully clear I'd been given the wrong date. My thoughts raced. Do I make up a question? Do I hang up?

I was mortified. I opted to come clean. After swiftly explaining there was a mix-up in schedules, I dipped into my experience as a former PR Director and spun the situation as best I could, by adding how thrilled I was, as a fellow historical author, to have listened in on their intriguing discussion. We all shared a quick laugh, tinged with a dash of awkwardness, before I hung up the phone, no longer needing coffee to wake up.

Although the fiasco was anything but amusing at the time, I can now look back and smile—the same as I'm now doing about my recent blizzard adventure. Why else would I have agreed to visit Barry's show to promote my next novel? Besides, after everything that's happened, what more could possibly go wrong?

Don't answer that.

For fellow writers, do you have any media mishaps to share? For readers (aka "normal people"), have you ever witnessed or experienced a media fumble that left you in shock?  

Kristina McMorris is a graduate of Pepperdine University and the recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, she penned her debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington Books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), based on inspiration from her grandparents' wartime courtship. This critically praised book was declared a must-read by Woman's Day magazine and achieved additional acclaim as a Reader's Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (March 2012), has already received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, among many others. Named one of Portland's "40 Under 40" by The Business Journal, Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she refuses to own an umbrella. 

For more, visit

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ebooks: The Good, The Bad, and the Worrisome by Sara Rosett

The first eight-track tape I saw was bright orange and had my grandfather’s careful all-caps lettering of song titles on the label. I was a kid at the time and didn’t quite understand his delight at being able to transfer his vinyl records to the tape, which he could play in his car. My grandfather was a techie when it came to music. He wanted to know how things worked and he kept up with the latest trends, but I don’t think he had any idea how fast the music industry’s delivery system would change. Records to eight-tract to cassette to compact disk to digital, all in the space of about fifty years.

Books, on the other hand, haven’t changed much. Before ebooks, we hadn’t had a new delivery system for books in, oh, about 2,000 years. Sure, there had been blips in the book industry—audio books come to mind—but nothing had changed radically since the first century when a new technology made it possible to go from storing the written word on scrolls to books, or to use the technical term, manuscripts.

As an aside, I have to wonder if the change caused some of the same near-apocalyptic hysteria we’ve seen recently with e-books. Did some people refuse to ever buy a book? Were books declared “not real reading material?” Were scrolls declared the only true format for the written word? 

I suppose we’ll never know if there were “scroll holdouts” because now we look back on the book format—thin sheets of paper bound between a thick, sturdy cover—as a positive advance that spread knowledge and allowed more “common people,” particularly merchants and the well-to-do, to own their personal copies of important works.

Fast forward a few thousand years and we’re at another turning point, digital books and electronic readers.

As an author, I’m thrilled about ebooks. I have had six books traditionally published. I write cozy mysteries and each book came out first in hardcover (at a whopping $22), then eleven months later in paperback (at six to seven bucks). The hardcover editions were wonderful for garnering reviews and library sales but it was difficult to compete in a niche dominated by mass market paperback originals. It’s not an easy sale to convince new readers to shell out almost twenty-five dollars for my book when they could buy around three different paperback books for the price of my hardcover. The paperback versions seemed to get lost in the wake of the hardcovers, never generating the attention of the hardcover.

My publisher was on the leading edge of ebooks and began bringing out ebook versions of my books with a competitive price point. My early series ebooks are priced around four dollars. The more recent books are more expensive, but I feel that I’m finally on a level playing field with other books in my niche. With my latest new release in 2011, my publisher dropped the price on one of the other books in the series to ninety-nine cents, then to zero for a few days, and I had the heady sensation of seeing it climb up Amazon’s Top 100 free, which lead to a surges in other books, one of which appeared on the Top 100 Paid list.

So I’m a solid a fan of ebooks, but it’s not all sweetness and light. There are a few drawbacks. Here’s my take on the benefits and drawbacks of ebooks:

The Good

Choice:  Readers and authors have more freedom than ever before, which is one of the best things about the ebook revolution. Readers are discovering authors who they never would have found in the traditional publishing model. Turns out, readers will give new authors a chance, particularly if the price is right.

Authors are reveling in their new freedom, too. No longer are authors constricted to working through publishers. Digital delivery systems allow authors to reach a wide audience, breaking the monopoly the big publishers held on distribution. Authors are free to create their own covers (often a sticky point with authors who disagreed with what “New York” thought would sell). Authors are also exploring new genres and/or genre mash-ups. Writing once labeled “unsellable,” including short stories and cross genre novels, can be viable markets for some authors. And probably the biggest change of all:  authors are making money. Paying your mortgage out of your royalties is a possibility, not a pipe-dream.

Speed:  The ability to instantly have a copy of a book is pure joy for bookworms. As a reader, one of my favorite things about ebooks is the sample feature. I think it’s wonderful to be able to read a few pages or chapters before I make my buying decisions.

Portability: Readers love the ability to have so many books at their fingertips. For serious book lovers, an ereader is a must for long trips, doctors’ waiting rooms, and carpool lines.

The Bad

Limits on Ownership: Unlike a physical copy of a book that can be passed on to a friend or donated to the Friends of the Library, when you buy an ebook you’re purchasing  a digital copy of a book, which is linked to the seller. If the seller decides there is an issue or problem with that book, the digital copy can be removed from ereaders. If a seller goes out of business, what happens to all those digital copies sold by that retailer? It’s hard to say because we haven’t had a huge retailer/epublisher go under.

Privacy:  In this age where personal information is the holy grail of business, you know that each digital book purchase is carefully tracked. I’d also venture to say that digital retailers are linking your purchasing habits to your browsing habits, at least on their websites, if not elsewhere around the web (i.e. recent tracking Facebook embarrassment).

The Potentially Worrisome 

Future Fees?:
When I first purchased books on my Kindle there was a little line that read, “Free delivery via Amazon Whispernet.” It makes me wonder if someday there will be a delivery charge, which could be passed along to either the author, the buyer, or both.

Price Trending Towards Zero:  I know Amazon is many author’s new BFF, but I have some reservations about Kindle KDP Select program. It allows Prime members who pay an annual fee to read certain books for free. Amazon has created a pool of money that will be distributed to participating authors to draw authors to the program. I can’t help but wonder if this is a good trend for authors. I completely understand authors participating in the program to broaden their readership, but I wonder if eventually readers will expect to read ebooks for free and be reluctant to buy ebooks. I think authors should be compensated for their work, even if it is a bargain-basement price. I realize the KDP Select program is the same principal as an author lowing the price on his or her book to zero. What worries me is that Amazon may eliminate the option for authors to lower their prices to zero in the future and allow only “free” books through their Prime program. And who knows if the pool for author payment to those participating in the KDP Select Program will continue. It could be phased out, but authors anxious for wider readership will still be eager to participate. Gloomy sounding, I know, and I hope it doesn’t happen.   

Books as Product: I think of Amazon first as a bookstore, but, in reality, books are only one product they sell. They’re more like a huge department store with every conceivable item. Their approach is to have all products ranked, reviewed, and linked to similar products. That’s fine, but people feel differently about books than, say, a stockpot or an edger. That’s the specialness of books. We connect with the characters, the setting, and, sometimes, the author. I’m not sure how well that connection fits into the Amazon model. Time will tell.

I don’t want to end on a downer note. I’m thrilled to be part of a revolution in the way we buy and read books. I’d love to hear your thoughts on ebooks—positive and negative. Have you found a new author you love through ebooks? Maybe a relative unknown? A new genre? How many books do you have on your ereader? Are you buying more or less books on your ereader? Do you have an ebook TBR (to-be-read) pile? 


P.S. In case you’re wondering, my eighty-five year old grandfather is still on the cutting edge. He now has a MP3 player and an ereader. :)

Sara Rosett is the author of the Ellie Avery mystery series, an adult “whodunit” mystery series in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Publishers Weekly has called Sara’s books, “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.”Library Journal says, “...Rosett’s Ellie Avery titles are among the best, using timely topics to move her plots and good old-fashioned motives to make everything believable.”
Visit for more information or connect with Sara on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, or Pinterest 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Girl with the K-Mart Tattoo

By Laura Spinella

I often pass on the suggested topics at The Club. Not because the query isn’t thought-provoking, but I am the girl with a racquet from K-Mart while most have been taking lessons from the pro for years. This time, for a few reasons, I felt like I had something to say, partly because of my new gig and mostly because I just turned in a manuscript. The latter has provided a good chuck of time to mull things over, including the effect of the changing climate in publishing.

Since last fall, when I’m not writing books or newspaper stories, I’ve been working as the editorial/content manager for AuthorBytes. They specialize in author websites, design and construction from the ground up. The owner thought an in-house author would make for a unique piece to the AuthorBytes puzzle. He was right. Well, at least from my point of view. Initially, the computer end was like being told I was working pyrotechnics for Metallica, but I’ve found I don’t have the aversion to flames that I thought I might. On occasion, I get to chat with A-list authors, which is a tough perk to find at most part time jobs. But the thing that’s been really surprising is the amount of time we spend integrating social media into websites. Even more surprising is how things like Facebook and Twitter have become part of a complete web presence. It makes the climate tropical in that social media is as much a part of publishing as the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. You just don’t want to miss out.

I recall a discussion about social media at GBC about a year ago. We all agreed it was an important tool, but the consensus was that social media wasn’t the main marketing artery leading to publishing success. But I don’t think publishing is the same as it was even a year ago, an industry that grows a new tentacle with every change of the tide. The steady trend of authors taking complete ownership their work is real, and I don’t see how wisely executed social media isn’t a path that leads to some level of accomplishment.

Not post related, just Happy Friday!
That path also takes me back around to my newly submitted manuscript. A year ago, I’d be all pins and needles, waiting for agents and editors to render an opinion. I’d be certain that life was doomed, culminating with a very off with her head moment if my book wasn’t well received. While I admit there are needles jabbing, and a positive response would be my first choice, it’s no longer my only choice. This, more than anything, is what I’ve seen evolve during the past year in publishing. The stigma that was once so thoroughly attached to self-publishing seems to have faded, particularly if you already own the credentials of published author. I believe it’s truer for non-fiction than fiction, though check back next week and that notion also may have changed. Along with several members of this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to observe other authors who, for whatever reasons, have chosen an alternate route to publication. Surely, you’ve seen the same, and I’d be curious to know if your ideas about self-publishing have changed or even come full circle. If you’ve done it, tell me what’s better about it. I have no idea if the concept would work for me, or if I’d be any good at all the parts required to be the autonomous ruler of my own book. On the other hand, in a business where more doors tend to close than open, it’s a window with an incredibly intriguing view.

Laura Spinella is the author of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, Best First Book, NJRWA, 2011;, Favorite Book of 2011. Visit her at or on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Opinions, Everyone's Got One, Except Me About This

*warning: there are F-bombs in this post and God's name gets taken in hypothetical vain.

I wouldn't call myself a know-it-all, but opinions? Oh, I've got them. I've got opinions about motherhood and finding Mr. Right and good marriages and restrictions on abortion and the lack of diversity in just about everything and the current state of feminism and work/life balance and the mainstream beauty standard and the best ways to lose weight, and, and ... I'm going to stop here, but understand I could do a blog that simply listed all the subjects I have strong opinions about and come in at a pretty hefty word count.

So you'd think I'd have a strong opinion about the current state of publishing. But the thing is I don't. I know/know of authors on pretty much all sides of the complicated argument: I see people writing about how e-books are killing print books. I've heard major authors rail against the $0.99 e-book craze. I've seen indie authors work themselves into a lather about what sheep traditional authors are for sticking with legacy publishers.

And the kicker is that over the Christmas holidays, I agreed to a two-book deal with Amazon's new women's fiction imprint. Which means that as of this writing my next two books most likely won't be available at Barnes & Noble or my favorite local indie.

Really, I should have an opinion about all of this.

And technically I do, it's just not as strong as my opinions about say, whether the Zooey Deschanael character should have broken up with the Justin Long character on NEW GIRL (answer: NO!!! I loved those two together. -- you think I'm kidding here, but I'm seriously still mad about it. Watching those two break up was like watching one baby seal club another one to death).

Actually, I think my non-reaction to the changing climate of publishing might be due to the fact that I've always had strong opinions, and you know what? They didn't matter. Zooey still broke up with Justin. Bella still chose Edward. Smith College still pretty much did away with all in-house dining after like 100 years -- poof, there it went bye-bye in the new millenium. Major networks are still green-lighting TV shows set in major cities with all white casts. TRANSFORMERS 3 still got made (and apparently we can now look forward to a TRANSFORMERS 4). My toddler still acted a straight fool at Target yesterday. Really, I could go on and on -- see my first paragraph and just insert that word count joke in here, too.

This is not a popular thing to say in an age when everyone is encouraged to give their opinion on every issue big and small. But most of the time, our opinions matter nada, especially when it comes to what other folks are going to do or changes that are definitely going to happen.

I mean, everyone should cast a vote, and speak up for what they truly believe to be right and wrong, for sure.

But as far as changes in publishing go, all these opinions being offered by all these people don't really feel (to me at least) like they matter. Like who cares if Jonathan Franzen loves print books above e-books? And who cares if Author A is upset with the quality of the work being self-published? And who cares if indie writers think traditional writers are mindless sheep? And who cares what I think about the Amazon vs. [name your other business behemoth here] battle(s)?

I remember the then-president of my undergrad railing against how many students were using the word "like" back in the 90s. That kind of used to be like, you know, a thing back then for smart older folks to complain about smart younger folks using the word "like" all the time. It's kind of similar to all these posts right now by my generation railing against words like "Amazeballs" and "Awesome Sauce."

Well, as far as I can tell, I've used the colloquial version of "like" in probably just about every one of my posts here so far, so despite the then-presidents opinion, "like" stuck like big time. And I'm not sure about "awesome sauce" (might be this era's "copacetic"), but I'm super-certain that "Amazeballs" is here to stay, if only because as a word, it is indeed, Amazeballs and lends itself well to my "Sticky Fucking Word/Phrase Hypothesis" -- simply put, if a word or phrase sounds even better with "fucking" inserted into it, it will stick like glue. Examples: "It was Amaze-fucking-balls" and "Oh, my fucking God" and "I was fucking like, 'Are you kidding me with this 'Sticky Fucking Word/Phrase Hypothesis?'"

But really if Zooey and Justin, the most perfect couple in the history of TV, could break up for such vague reasons as "timing" -- who knows what will and what won't stick. Who really knows anything about anything at all?

My overall point is that publishing is in a state of flux right now, and certain things are going to happen no matter what kind of opinion you or I have about it. And because of that my only strong opinion re the changes in publishing is this:

Instead of running around like Chicken Littles all over the place, let's stop wasting our energy on this subject and just wait and see what happens. Maybe bide our time, writing a few books until the dust settles. And then we can all talk about it.

I bet I'll finally have some really strong opinions about all of this when we do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Premise and Publish

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This cycle at GBC, we're talking about where our premises come from and the changes in the publishing climate. Being the Type A personality I am, I figured I'd tackle both.

"Where do your ideas come from?" is one of the most frequent questions writers get asked. My typical answer is: The Idea Fairy. Seriously, though, my ideas come from everywhere: from things that happen to and around me, from the news, from things that happen to other people. Something happens and lightning strikes in the form of: "I think there's a whole novel in that!"

A few examples:

- My debut adult novel, The Thin Pink Line, 22 books ago. Finding myself pregnant after 10 married years in which I never thought I'd be pregnant, rather than writing the predictable story that you'd think would result - married woman finding herself pregnant after 10 years and what ensues, told in an earnest fashion - my crazy mind said: "I know! I'll write a dark comedy about a sociopath who fakes an entire pregancy!"

- My most recent YA novel, Little Women and Me. My daughter and her best friend had just read the original Louisa May Alcott novel and we were discussing what they thought of it. What they thought lined up with my own memories of the book: that is was great but that That Thing That Happens To Beth was upsetting and that The Boy Next Door winding up with the wrong March sister was annoying. So I decided to write a novel about a contemporary teen who time travels into the classic novel only to discover that in order to get back out again she'll need to change one of those things.

- The Sisters 8 series for young readers, which I created with my husband and daughter. We came up with the idea for this when we were snowbound in Crested Butte, Colorado, back in December 2006. Well, if you were snowbound for 10 days with no TV, what would you do? You'd probably brainstorm a nine-book series about octuplets whose parents go missing one New Year's Eve!

- Finally, there's The Bro-Magnet, the ebook I released back in December about an ultimate man's man who's been Best Man eight times when what he secretly longs to be is a groom. Here's how that one came about: My husband, Greg Logsted, is a novelist by night and a window washer by day. One day he told me about washing some guy's windows with his crew and how every time he goes to this guy's house, the guy says, "Let's go skiing sometime"; "Let's do this"; "Let's do that." It occurred to me that this was not the first time in the 28 years I've known him that I'd heard something like this: some guy, barely even knowing my husband, wanting to bond and become buddies. This particular instance happened right around the time the word "bromance" entered the lexicon strongly - you'd hear people applying it to TV shows like "House" or films like the Sherlock Holmes version Robert Downey Jr starred in. Suddenly my brain went poof! like it always does when I have an idea for a new book. Those ideas always begin with "What if...?" In this case, it was "What if there was an ultimate man's man, a guy that other guys actually fight over to get him to be Best Man at their weddings, but he secretly longs to be a groom?" And of course the hero of this book would be THE BRO-MAGNET.

So that's where the premises for a few of my books have come from.

As for the current publishing climate, the other day Joe Konrath let me take over the megaphone at his popular blog so I could talk about my experiences with e-publishing and you can find that post here.

So how about you all? Where do your premises come from and what do you think of the new publishing climate?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Monday, February 20, 2012

6 Ways to Energize Your Writing Naturally

t's fun to take a break from writing and visit the Girlfriends Book Club blog! Thank you! I thought it would be fun to write about natural remedies since my new book Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery features a holistic doctor who dispenses natural cures. I also thought that readers might be interested in natural ways to boost energy when it comes to writing.  
I don’t know about you but the best time for me to be productive and hopefully brilliant! is in the morning from 9 to noon. But once I have lunch, I feel less energetic. However, if I’m under a deadline I need to power through less productive times and write throughout the day. That’s when I turn to my favorite natural remedy – coffee!  I buy mine from 7-11 because home brewed just isn’t strong enough.

I interviewed a doctor at Harvard Medical School years ago for an article and he told me that coffee at 7-11 and Dunkin’ Donuts is 8 times as strong has home brewed! Not only does coffee give me a much needed pick-me-up, I’ve found it also boosts my mood (recent research shows that coffee can help with mild depression) and helps me see things more clearly. In addition, these natural cures can make you more alert and focused, with writing or whatever you need to do!
1.      Sip small amounts of chilled water every 30 minutes. Studies show that when you consume small amounts of chilled water every 20-30 minutes during the day, it sends a clear and immediate signal to your brain to increase alertness and energy.
2.      Smell peppermint. According to a study in the North American Journal of Psychology drivers had more energy when exposed to this scent. Peppermint increases alertness and decreases fatigue. Chew a nice strong peppermint gum or peppermint mints while you write or drive to decrease fatigue and increase alertness.
3.      Use acupressure on your outer ears. Applying pressure to acupressure points all along the outer ear helps to clear the head, gets rid of dull pain above the neck and charges up your entire energy system.  Just take your thumb and first finger and go up and down the entire outer ear two or three times and give it a good brisk rubbing.   
4.      Drink green tea. Green tea has some energizing caffeine, but it also contains theanine, an amino acid that has a stress-reducing effect on your brain. It calms you while giving you mental clarity, leaving your mind clear and sharp and alert. 
5.      Inhale Eucalyptus or spearmint essential oil. The nose is the only part of your brain that extends to the outer environment is your sense of smell so it’s very charged. Volatile oils such as eucalyptus or spearmint stimulate a part of your brain that triggers alertness. For a natural pick-me-up place a few drops of eucalyptus or spearmint essential oil on a tissue and inhale deeply.
6.      Eat Dark Chocolate. Although it’s weaker than caffeine, the chemical theobromine in chocolate is a mild stimulant. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, (PEA) which is a feel good mood elevator. Choose a high quality, imported dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa content. It has less sugar and its rich flavor will satisfy you with less. Aim for 1 ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week.

About Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery:   

Dr. Willow McQuade, N.D., a twenty-eight-year-old naturopathic doctor specializing in natural remedies, has decided to take sabbatical and visit her Aunt Claire, the owner of Nature’s Way Market and Cafe in idyllic Greenport, Long Island. But the idea of rest and relaxation is quickly forgotten when Willow arrives from a morning meditative walk to discover her Aunt Claire dead in the store, a strange almond-like smell emanating from her mouth and a bottle of flower essences by her side.
Despite her Zen nature and penchant for yoga, Aunt Claire had a knack for getting into confrontations with folks. An activist, she held weekly meetings for different causes every week in the store. The police want to believe the death is accidental—but Willow thinks she may have been poisoned. 
Things get worse when Aunt Claire’s valuable recipe for a new natural age-defying formula, Fresh Face, is stolen during a store break-in, and an attempt is made on Willow’s life. Desperate for a way out of the mess, she turns to a handsome young cop Jackson Spade. Together the two set about solving the case the natural way—through a combination of hard work, common sense, and a dose of luck.
Praise for Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery:
“With a terrific premise and an interesting topic, Fiedler’s debut shows promise.”  - Library Journal
Death Drops is a gem! Entertaining, informative, and with a mystery that had me completely baffled! – Gayle Trent, author of Killer Sweet Tooth
"Fiedler's absorbing mystery is an entertaining debut, featuring a likeable menagerie of characters, filled with natural remedies, with all of it unfolding on Long Island's idyllic East End."  Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, author of the national bestseller Liberating Paris.
“An engaging investigative thriller…an enjoyable whodunit.” The Mystery Gazette
Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery is sale today! To order please visit

Chrystle Fiedler
208 Monsell Place
Greenport, NY 11944
Follow Me on Twitter: @ChrystleFiedler
Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery (Gallery/Simon & Schuster Feb 21 2012)
The Country Almanac of Home Remedies (Fairwinds Press 2011)
Beat Sugar Addiction Now! (Fairwinds Press 2010)
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Natural Remedies (Alpha 2009)