Tuesday, July 31, 2012


by Julie L. Cannon

This is not about a song by The Byrds. It’s not about a trunk novel. Believe me, I have a good number of those, along with a trunk short story I’m thinking I ought to re-name “Humble Pie.” Several months back, I needed some money really bad because my daughter was getting married, and as it happened, one afternoon, my daddy dropped by the house with a page torn from a woman’s magazine. “Your mother sent this, gal,” he said. It was a short story contest and the prize was three grand. I was certain it was by divine appointment, as I’d been praying hard for some income. Never mind that I’ve only written two short stories in my life (I’m almost 50). I was confident I could knock out 3,500 riveting words in a couple of days and rake in the needed cash. So I wrote a short story and sent it off with absolutely no doubt I’d win. I watched my in-box like an eager vulture on the day the winner was to be notified.

I did not win. I didn’t even get second or third place. After some despondency and espresso and fried onion rings, I returned to writing my novel. A few  days ago, I steeled myself and decided to read that brilliant and compelling work. “Aaargh, this is pathetic!” I screamed. I had a strong desire to fling the story into a metal can, pour gasoline over it and toss in a lit match.

I realize now that I did a lot wrong. I wrote hastily, I sent my story off without letting it rest and looking at it with fresh eyes. I didn’t edit it one little bit, and after seven novels, believe me, I know that good writing is re-writing. Thus, I’m a little chicken to dig out one of my trunk novels and confront myself just now. I figured I’d use this post to come clean with you about something else - Jesus is in my novel “Twang” which releases today.

My first published books were written for the general market, meaning they did not have to have any intentional spiritual component. In fact, seems my editors at Simon & Schuster and Penguin discouraged that kind of plot thread. Though, in hindsight I see I was incorporating the faith elements all along, in a way my current agent calls ‘organically spiritual.’

I was happy when I decided to jump the fence to the inspirational market with the release of I’ll Be Home for Christmas in 2010. I said to myself, “Now I can write the way I want!”

But after I read my new publisher’s guidelines, I had a whole new concern. I worried this market would be too restrictive. Therefore not like real life, which I am living, and like to write about. Plus, when I mentioned to my pastor that I was writing an Inspirational Romance, she laughed! “What’s that?” she asked. “When he rips her bodice off and discovers she’s got on Long Johns underneath?”

I was scared she was right. I didn’t want a pious little story, churchy and dull. I didn’t want to deny very real feelings. I wanted edgy and gritty, a book which showcases human frailties. I wanted my stories to expose souls, which we all know aren’t always pretty.

My soul wasn’t very pretty way back when I had my first ‘encounter’ with the supernatural. I was in college and it happened when the bicycle I was on collided with a car. Some of you may’ve read my mini-memoir about my accident, the accompanying head injury. That was when I met Jesus. This was a brand new, earth-shaking experience that blew the door wide open to my soul. I started asking a lot of questions. I’m sure you’ve heard people say it was their suffering that drew them closer to God, that it was while in the depths of despair they discovered God was all they needed. This was true for me. While undergoing therapy, visiting various neurologists and seeing folks sitting in wheelchairs, staring vacantly with drool running out of their mouths, I knew, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Today is the official birth of Twang, published by Abingdon Press in Nashville, Tennessee. Jesus appears in the book, but so do gritty people and themes, because happily, my new editor gave me lots of creative license and not many constraints as long as I made sure the heart of my story is full of grace and hope and healing and peace and joy and all those other good things.

What amazed me when I went to Nashville for research is that there are many so-called ‘gentleman’s clubs’ there, and then someone told me that a lot of wanna-be female singers work there to pay their rent. So I put that in, and I added a lecherous father, a beautician with a tattooed past, as well as a manager who’s hungry for blockbuster hits at the expense of his client’s emotional health. In other words, real people.

A lot of readers who got an advance copy of Twang have commented on the surprising grittiness and power of this ‘inspirational’ story.  Several wrote “Bravo!” in their endorsement. I don’t know what’s brave about the story except that I did wrestle with some thought-provoking, controversial issues. I wanted to show how God can redeem the seemingly unredeemable things in a person’s life.

 Today, as my story is released, I wonder, did I get it real enough? Will even non-Christians appreciate Twang? If you like spiritually daring stories and you’re not turned off when Jesus shows up, I hope you’ll consider checking out Twang.

Julie L. Cannon is the author of the award-winning Homegrown series, published by Simon & Schuster and described as ‘Southern-fried soul food.’ Her novel I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Summerside Press, Sept. ‘10, made the CBA Bestseller List as well as Nielsen’s Top 50 Inspirational Titles. Abingdon Press will release Twang  in August 2012, and Scarlett Says in October 2013. When she isn’t busy tending her tomato patch, Julie can be found listening to country music or teaching memoir-writing workshops. She lives in Watkinsville, Georgia. Visit her website at www.julielcannon.com and connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/julieLcannon and on Twitter at JulieLCannon.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trunk Novels: The Long Road to Happily Ever After

By Marilyn Brant

I know a number of writers that drafted and sold their first manuscripts -- often with the help of insightful critique partners, lots of revision and a great willingness to work hard at marketing their novel to the right agent/editor in the right genre at the right time.

Sadly, I wasn't one of those writers.

I didn't know what the hell I was doing twelve summers ago when I began my first manuscript. Really. I hadn't even read a how-to book on novel writing until after I'd drafted my first (embarrassingly dreadful) 627-page manuscript -- written by hand, by the way, on lined yellow paper because I didn't own a computer then. And, of course, I hadn't yet joined a helpful writers' organization like RWA or begun working with a critique partner or six, like I do now. My first manuscript has so many unresolved issues, it needs therapy. And it's not sitting alone with its problems on my hard drive. I wrote four full-length books before beginning my fifth one, According to Jane, which became my debut novel. (And I wrote two more novels after I finished 'Jane' but before it sold.)

So, not everyone's process is the same...and this roundabout, meandering, trying-to-get-the-big-picture-before-you-learn-the-details approach to storytelling just happened to be mine. Which is to say, when it comes to "trunk novels," I have a few.

Here's what I've learned about them in the past decade or so, though: They were not entirely awful manuscripts. Not even my first one. But they were different than what I write now. Different in a way that, when I'm being honest, is certainly less skilled and sure than my current writing, but not always poorer by comparison.

It reminds me in a way of when I first started teaching. What I lacked in experience, I made up for in enthusiasm. The kinds of projects I was willing to try with my classes early on were sometimes ambitious activities that I was years away from having the skill to pull off without a hitch. But I didn't know that then, so I did them anyway. And some of the students from my first few years later told me how much they loved those goofy plays or weird radio shows or huge murals that we did. Imperfect as they might have been, they were memorable and, in their own strange way, maybe better than if I'd known how to avoid every potential glitch -- at least in light of what my goals had been at the time.

I know my voice and myself as a writer better now -- and I know oh-so-much more about story structure -- so I approach my choice of novel premise and point of view and escalation of conflict with more mindfulness than I once did. BUT those early books also had a freedom and an openly experimental, throw-the-rules-to-the-wind flavor to them that I'd be less quick to replicate these days. I'm not even sure I could pull it off. And in three cases, those trunk novels were close to selling to a NY publisher. SO CLOSE!! But the timing wasn't quite right and, for years, their day in the sun didn't come.

However, thanks to the recent digital revolution, I was able to test out releasing two of them online last year -- editing them with the more professional eye that I now have, but striving to retain most of the youthful writer exuberance that had been woven naturally into the storytelling.

And it's been so fun!

Such a delight to discover that these shorter, romantic comedies have an audience and have brought joy to a group of readers. I can't tell you how appreciative I am. Are these books as complicated or as thoughtfully structured as my traditionally published women's fiction? Oh, heavens, no. But they are, in their own way, exactly what they should be, and there's something extremely satisfying about that. On Any Given Sundae was a top 100 "Bestseller in Humor" on Kindle last year, and Double Dipping just finaled in the contemporary novel category of the 2012 International Digital Awards, both of which pleased me as much as my Golden Heart® win for According to Jane because there's nothing like the right story finding its right readers at long last.

Not every manuscript I ever wrote should be foisted upon the world (trust me, you should be very grateful I'm keeping that first one to myself), but I do believe it's true that nothing we write is wasted. Sometimes, it's put away but becomes the springboard for a later, better idea. Sometimes, it can be heavily revised and substantially improved. But, sometimes, sometimes...it just needs a little polishing, the right timing and a receptive audience to find its proper home. In those cases, patience is indeed a virtue and persistence will one day be rewarded.

Moral of the story? You just gotta keep writing and revising...revising and writing...and keeping hope alive as you press onward. A happily ever after is possible for us all. :)

I've posted chapters from both of these novels on my website:
On Any Given Sundae is excerpted here.
And Double Dipping is excerpted here.

I hope you'll enjoy them. And, because you've probably guessed from the titles that I'm a big ice cream fan, I'd love to know, what are your favorite flavors?!

Friday, July 27, 2012

T.V. Trunk

Like many on this blog, I don't have a trunk novel. I've only written two novels and they are both out in the world. Right now I am in Spain at an artist residency working on the third and fourth.

For me, my "trunk stories" have been more in the realm of television, the world I used to inhabit. I wrote on many shows until I eventually created my own. This was all well and good, but after that ended I could never seem to sell another, despite numerous ideas and pitch meetings. There was The Downsizers - the rich family who loses everything in the financial crisis and has to downsize from their mansion on Park Ave. to a little house on the prairie, so to speak. Then there was The Brat Pack - a kid's show spoofing the Rat Pack. And my all time favorite, Pete's Feet, a show narrated by a kid's feet (I still have hope for this one).

Well, it's a good thing I moved out of television and into the much more reliable and profitable industry of writing novels. NOT. But this job does allow for wonderful experiences like moving to Spain for a month to travel - er - write.

I can't remember if I posted this in an earlier blog, but won't you please take a look at my book trailer, and feel free to spread the word to your cat-loving friends?

Gracias, and Adios.

Melissa Clark is the author of Swimming Upstream, Slowly and Imperfect and is working on her third novel, Bear Witness. She has recently discovered the joys of the siesta.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Junk in the Trunk

by Ellen Meister

I have, alas, passed onto two of my three children a Jewish body type of the tush-less variety. I don't know why we evolved this way. Perhaps my people survived by being less appealing to the Cossacks they were running from.

And so I had to explain to my daughter that, sadly, girls like us do not make the rockin' world go round.

There's a line in one of my novels in which a female character misses an appointment and says, "I got a little behind." The man she's speaking to looks at her ass and says, "But you make up for it with your sparkling personality."

We certainly hope so.

At any rate, there's a parallel in my writing life, as I don't have much junk in the trunk there, either. There are certainly plenty of false starts—novels that began with great enthusiasm and died before crossing the finish line—but no complete manuscripts.

Still, there is a book that has been haunting me for years. I've attacked it again and again from every possible angle. Each time I show it to my agent she gently tells me it's just not working. Not that I plan to give up on this book. In fact, it may well be my magnum opus, waiting for the day when I'm wise enough to understand the real story.

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you the prologue that got dropped during the last rewrite. The tone is probably all wrong for the book, but it's one of those darlings it pains me to kill, and since this may be my only chance of publishing it, I'm happy to present it here. I hope you enjoy it ...

©Ellen Meister

            People called her Fitch, at least to her face. But if the deceit bothered her it never showed. Beryl Fitch was not ruled by anger. Anger knew better than to try to get anywhere near her.
            So she was as cool as an early frost when she read that morning's Snark Angel, the book publishing industry's dishy daily blog:
            In an interview in this month's Vanity Fair, Mitchell Krum, author of runaway bestseller THE GEL KING, is quoted as saying "Seven publishers turned the book down, including the infamous Beryl Fitch, who laughed at my proposal, saying it was as interesting as the back of a can of hairspray. Who's laughing now?"
                Beryl Fitch, as readers of this blog know, is publisher at Litton Press, and is as famous for her uncanny ability to spot potential bestsellers as she is for her acid tongue, earning her the spooneristic nickname Feral Bitch. THE GEL KING was purchased by her protégé, Emily Bashe, who left Litton two years ago to join Apollo with her own imprint. Snark Angel imagines Ms. Fitch is sharpening her claws as we speak.
            Fitch closed the tab and sipped her coffee. Slowly. It wasn't the claws remark that made her jaw tighten. And God knows it wasn't the nickname. Hell, she'd been called worse by her own family. No, it was that she had been so wrong about that project. But seriously, a memoir from a mogul of 1980s hairstyling products? How could she have anticipated that a whole generation of readers would trip all over the kitschy appeal of that piece of crap? And how had Emily Bashe been keen enough to see it?
            Her trusted assistant, Travis, knocked lightly on her open door. She looked up.
            "I guess you read it," he said, sashaying toward her. People in the office often said Travis was yin to her yang, the feminine half of her team.
            Fitch put down her coffee and grunted.
            "I have a present for you," Travis said, tossing a perfect bound magazine onto her desk. "It's a special edition of People—Celebrating the 70s." He did a mock disco dance move, a la John Travolta, as he said it.
            Fitch, as Travis knew, was on the prowl for a memoir from an iconic 1970s figure—something that would make THE GEL KING look like yesterday's floor sweepings. But she was seeking something under the radar. Let the other publishers feast on the remains of Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Beryl Fitch wanted to break ground—to define the pop culture gestalt of the seventies in a way that hadn't yet been done.
            "For inspiration," Travis said, pointing to the magazine.
            Fitch absently leafed through the pages—barely paying attention to the boring photographs of Burt Reynolds, Mark Spitz, Suzanne Somers and other seventies celebrities—while she grilled him on the work she had assigned him the day before. Yes, he had postponed the marketing meeting. No, he hadn't heard back yet from Frankfurt. Yes, he had confirmed her lunch appointment and followed up with production about the budget screw-up.
            Suddenly, Fitch froze, captured by an image before her. She raised her hand to get Travis to shut up.
            "What is it?" he said.
            "This." She put a finger on the page and Travis stood to get a better look. It was a reproduction of an iconic poster from the early 1970s. At the top it had the headline, HOW TO RECOGNIZE A J.A.P. (Jewish American Princess). The visual was a full-length photograph of a prototypical Long Island teenage girl circa 1973. The poster, she recalled, had been massively popular, following on the heels of the Jewish princess stereotype that Phillip Roth had written about a decade earlier. He may have identified her, but this poster brought her to life and even changed the lexicon. The word JAP became part of the English language. The persona became an icon.
            "I know her," Fitch said. "I know the woman who modeled for this. Crazy fuck. She was one of the biggest publicists in New York. Haven't heard from her in at least a dozen years." Fitch stood, almost unable to contain herself. "The first JAP," she said, and closed her eyes as if she were picturing the book jacket, the tour, the months on the bestseller list. "God, she'd better not be dead."
            "What should I do?" Travis said.
            "Find her," Fitch said. "Find me a way to contact her. If I know Sherry Diamond, she's been waiting her whole life for this call."

Ellen Meister's new novel, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER, comes out from Putnam this February, and she hopes you'll want to read it. In the meantime, please follow her Dorothy Parker page on Facebook to receive daily quotes and quips from the mistress of the verbal hand grenade. For other info, visit Ellen's website.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Game of Seven

Hi All!

So, the topic-of-late here has been Tales from the Trunk Novel.  And I'm into, really.  That said, I'm also into the fact that my favorite yoga teacher (j'adore) suggested at Memorial Day that all his yogis spend the summer looking forward, not backward.  True story.  So, there's that and there's also the fact that while I'm not always good at moving on from things, I'm actually really good at moving on from my trunk novels.  I'm over them.  That's not to say that I don't want to post an excerpt of my unpublished writing.  I in fact DO want to post an excerpt of my unpublished writing.

To that end, there's a game going around Facebook that came my way via girlfriends Brenda Janowitz, Ellen Meister and Karin Gillespie (fine writers all.)  It's called The Game of Seven and here's what you do:

The challenge is to post seven lines from an unpublished work. Specifically, you:
Go to page 7 in your manuscript
Go to line 7
Post the next 7 lines exactly how they are (no cheating).

Here's mine:

Sometime before my last such excursion a couple had moved into the apartment, unbeknownst to me.  They also hadn't locked their door and it was, I would say, embarrassing for everyone when on my way home from work one evening I walked into their apartment while they were having dinner.  I felt at the time that it would best not to say anything, and so I left their apartment, perhaps no more stealthily than I had entered it and spent the remaining year that I lived there anxious that I would "run into" them again.

My favorite part about that?  It's from the first essay in my essay collection, YOU TELL YOUR DOG FIRST.  That's the cover up yonder.  And while it is at present unpublished, it will in fact be published on November 6. Just about four more months. Can't wait.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Wanted: Tall, Dark & Handsome Man to Sell My Book by Lori L. Tharps

Hi Girlfriends,

I don't have trunk novel. But I have a good story about a story of mine that never sold. Well, it wasn't really a story as much as it was an idea and that's why it never sold. Here's what happened.

I was young and idealistic when my first book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America came out in 2001. I co-wrote the book with a friend and we were so proud of ourselves. Hair Story is a cultural history of Black people's hair in the United States. Slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, Reganomics. We re-visit them all through the lens of Black hair. The book got rave reviews and even though I was six months pregnant when the book hit store shelves, my co-author and I hit the road to promote it, hitting at least 10 cities before my son was born.

Considering our publisher only prepared for a modest first print run, we sold out of our first printing rather quickly, but that didn't mean we hit any bestseller lists. We knew our book was good. And important. But it wasn't sexy. No, sexy books at the time were being written by a lot of men. I was working at Entertainment Weekly magazine at the time, and I even wrote an article about this trend of men being able to write even the crappiest pieces of fiction and women would buy it. It was infuriating. At one book event my co-author and I attended, we were seated at a table next to a famous male author who had just come out with yet another one of his bestselling books. Another sexy romantic thriller. Yawn! Six people came over to our booth to inquire about Hair Story. Six hundred women lined up to see Sexy Author Man. And that's when we hatched our plan.

My co-author and I decided we could probably write something at the same level as these upstart male romance writers. We figured we could probably do even better. But we knew that even if the writing was just as good, we wouldn't get the same play as a hunky dude. So, rather than sit down and plot out our story line, we went through our contact lists to see which one of our guy friends could we convince to pose as the author of the book we were going to write. We planned the photo shoot for his author photo (We decided on bare-chested with a beach background), how we'd prep him for the book tour, and of course we calculated just how much we'd have to pay him to be us. That was the tricky part. But my co-author was friends with a wanna-be actor who also happened to be ridiculously good-looking and we thought he might just do it for the experience. And maybe a nice dinner.

We were giddy with the idea. So sure that it would work. And we consoled ourselves by saying that we were only doing this for the money. It was a necessary evil. Then we could then write the important books we really wanted to be working on instead. Plus, we would be proving that the literary industry was just as sexist as the rest of the world. Did I mention that both me and my co-author went to women's colleges?

Anyway, my dear girlfriends, here's what happened. Nothing. After we found our fake hunky author, my co-author and I realized we really had nothing we wanted to write about. Every time we tried to sit down and spit out this easy, breezy novel, we came up blank. Eventually, the idea fizzled, and our fake author moved to Switzerland and got married. Moral of the story? Writing for money will never get you through to the finish line? Cheaters never win? No, I think the moral of that story is just that we should have tried harder and we'd probably be rich today. After all, it worked for Richard Castle. Yes, a fictional character from an ABC TV show is writing New York Times Bestselling books. What's the secret to his success?

Decent story + Good looking guy pretending to be the author = Multi-book Deal.

Live and learn. Live and learn.

Lori L. Tharps is the author of the novel, Substitute Me. She blogs regularly about parenting and pop culture at myamericanmeltingpot.com

Poetry? Bah, humbug! . . . Not Really.

By Jacqueline E. Luckett

Novel in a trunk? Nope. Don’t have one.

What I have is an unpublished collection of poems. Last time I checked, they were stuffed in the back of my file cabinet, bound in a three-ring binder. Whether my poems are good or bad—and I’ve been told this is not the proper way to describe poetry—I’m not sure. I do know that they need work, and that’s why they were rejected for publication.

As a young girl I loved writing poems. A few were published in a local newspaper. Somewhere, in a scrapbook stuffed in one of my mother's closets, there’s even a photograph of me receiving an award for my poetry. For a variety of reasons, as an adult, I put writing aside and pursued a corporate career. When I decided to get back to writing, I was filled with fear—of failure, of a lack of skill, of the proper understanding of what it took to write

A little over ten years ago, after daring myself to take a writing class. I stomped on that fear and started writing. I fell in love with poetry again. Not the “Dead Poets’” poetry that had baffled me in college English classes, but poetry that allowed me to have fun. I wrote to laugh, to cry, to share my joys, understand my pain, and to help me share my thoughts in a way that I didn't think I could do with fiction. I’d be willing to bet that this is what the “Dead Poets” intended, but to me they were, for the most part, inaccessible.

Eventually, I worked up the nerve to submit a few poems to journals and contests. My hope was, of course, to have my work published. My intention was to put my work out in the world. A judge in one contest sent me the nicest note: “I’m pleased to report that you were a semi-finalist in the … competition … Only about 200 entries out of more than 1,200 made it as far as the semi-final round, so you should be proud.” And I was.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my book of poems. But first, I need to figure out what poetry is all about. It seems so complex: villanelle, rhyming schemes, sonnets (know that one, thanks Mr. Shakespeare), meter, and iambic pentameter (Didn't our junior high school English teachers pound that one into our heads?). Someday, I’ll go back to my file and rework those poems. In the meantime, I’m allowing poetry’s rhythm and imagery to influence my fiction—and that’s a poetry all its own.

Here’s the poem that almost made it to publication, and is still a work in progress (One down, fifty-seven more to go.).

Hail, Mary--a poem

the virgin mary dropped by my house last night.
she did not knock on my door or ring my bell
or leave a sleek benz purring in the driveway below.
she strutted into my room
sat on my lavender scented duvet
wrinkled my sheets
smoothed her ‘fro
and winked.

the hazy, holy apparition shone with silver intensity
neither gilded turquoise lady of guadaloupe
nor sweet huddled madonna with child
but a bold black mama
dressed to the nines in a mini-skirted dolce gabbana suit and prada heels.

with a smile as intense as my hotflash hell
she extended her leather-gloved hands to me.
i slipped from the covers fell to my knees
lowered my head and let go with my prayer

hail mary full of grace
who will want me now that i am gray-haired
no longer fruitful
or nubile
or trim

holy mary mother of us all
can i find new love despite puckered thighs   
this listless bosom   
crow’s feet and back aches?

such foolishness she said, youth is highly overrated
just be yourself.

i waited there beside my bed kneeling on my good knee
no sacred waters of Lourdes or
holy mud of Fatima to purge my midlife fears.
just be myself i said and climbed back into bed
the open space on my left
cold as the moment she appeared

as my virgin girlfriend began to fade
i smelled incense in her wake
like myrrh streaming down the aisle
at high holy mass

she pressed her palms upon my cheeks
her skin was warm and smelled of spring.
you are one hot sister she said
and faded into the night.

Jacqueline E. Luckett is the author of two novels, Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner, both of which she proudly says have their own poetic moments. Listen to an excerpt and trailer for both novels at www.jacquelineluckett.com. Stay in touch through Facebook and Twitter. http://www.facebook.com/Author.JacquelineLuckett
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jackieluckett

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Post: Amy Sue Nathan, author of THE GLASS WIVES
By Brenda Janowitz

We’ve been having so much fun taking those old unpublished novels out from under the bed that we decided to ask some of our friends to do the same! Today, I’m thrilled because we’ve got Amy Sue Nathan, whose debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES, is being published by St. Martin’s in 2013.  She’s also the force behind the popular blog, Women’s Fiction Writers.  She’s got an excerpt from her unpublished novel, PICKING DAISY, which I think you’ll love.  The story behind it is pretty interesting in its own right, too!  But, enough of what I think.  I’ll let Amy take it from here…

Picking On Trunk Novels

by Amy Sue Nathan

For me, the best part of an having a novel I’ve tucked under the bed, is that I can tear it to bits, bully, and shove away again without feeling guilty.  There’s a certain amount of power I have over it because no one else is going to read it. The expectations for that book have been tempered. I have nothing to lose.  It’s kind of…freeing.

Somewhere between finishing my upcoming novel The Glass Wives and it selling, I wrote a novel called Picking Daisy. I got the idea for the novel when salespeople and wanderers kept showing up at my front door.  I thought: what would happen if some long-lost relative showed up one day?  We never really know who’s knocking, do we?  And what if there was someone who knew something about me even I didn’t know? Would I let them in? Shoo them away?  I loved the characters in this story: a dark and artist teenager, an eccentric aunt, a workaholic father, and insecure step-mother.  I loved playing with points of view. I loved writing a family who celebrates Christmas -- since I’m Jewish and never have. I only went two rounds of revisions on this book before realizing, with the help of my agent, that it just wasn’t what it needed to be.  The story was scattered and the way to corral it, was to change the focus, and the main characters.  That would change the story so exponentially that I wasn’t interested in doing it. I wanted to tell Daisy’s story and it just wasn’t her time, my time, our time. 

Still, Daisy holds a special place in my writing heart.  She’s a girl who has been kept from her father her entire life and all she wants is to be part of his family – and she’s willing to do just about anything to get it. Even dye the pink out of her hair.

Below is the opening to Picking Daisy. I hope there’s a smidgen of room in your heart for her as well.


by Amy Sue Nathan

For eighteen years and three months Daisy thought of her father as a test tube specimen. Now, she was standing at his front door. 

It was freezing outside, probably way below zero.  She didn’t lick her dry lips, afraid they’d freeze together and she wouldn’t be able to talk.  With fist raised and drawn, Daisy was ready to knock then the door clicked and opened about eight inches. Daisy saw a petite woman in a pink T-shirt with a white Nike swish and fitted black Lycra shorts.  She looked like Martha Stewart, only sweatier. 

“I’d like to speak with Elliot Evans,” Daisy said.  She smiled, opened her black-lined eyes wide and then chided herself for trying to look cute, like a kitten someone would want to bring in from the cold and keep for her own.

“He’s not here. Can I help you with something?” The woman opened the wooden door wide but stood behind the glass storm door holding the handle.  Daisy didn’t know if Martha was unlocking it or keeping it closed. 

“I’d like to meet him,” Daisy said.  “I’m his daughter.” No need pretending she was there to sell cookies.

“Very funny, young lady. We don’t have a daughter. I should know. I’m Maggie Evans, his wife.” 

“Then you are my step-mother. Nice to meet you.”  Daisy held out an invisible skirt and curtsied.

Step-Martha smiled with a closed mouth, looked at the floor and stepped back, pushing the door closed. 

Daisy held up her right hand. She spoke without taking a breath. “My name is Daisy. My mother is Olivia. Olivia Cooper.”  

Maggie opened the door.  Her eyes shot up and she stared at Daisy.  She turned away, wrapped her arms around herself and faced Daisy again. “How do you know about Olivia?”  

“She’s my mother.” Was Maggie Evans deaf?

“Elliot hasn’t seen Olivia in over twenty years.”

“According to my mom, and when she says he moved out, it’s nineteen years, not twenty.”

Maggie rolled her eyes like a teenager. “Yes,” Maggie said. “And they divorced before they had any children.”

“That’s true, but my birthday is August twenty-second.  My mother was eight weeks pregnant the February he left.  What’s so hard to believe? He was her husband.” 

Daisy knew all of it was hard to believe.  She’d been saying it aloud for seven days, since her mother’s cell phone confession.  Daisy was not a Donor Conceived Offspring. Her mother had not been artificially inseminated because she’d always wanted a child but never wanted to marry.  Her mother had been married to her father for five years when Daisy was conceived the old-fashioned way. During break-up sex.  As if the reconfigured story of her parentage wasn’t bad enough – Daisy could no longer boast being miracle of modern technology.  She could no longer daydream about the comprehensive daddy database from which her blue eyes, black-brown hair, long legs, athleticism, temperament and medical history were chosen. She was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. And a very big secret.

“Look, can I come in?” Daisy asked. “It’s fucking cold out here.”  So much for the cute kitten effect.

“Watch your language, young lady.”

Daisy shoved her bare hands into the pockets of her not-meant-for-Pennsylvania-in-winter fleece jacket.  “I‘ll take a DNA test,” Daisy said again. “If he wants proof.”

“If you don’t go away I’m going to call the police.” Maggie's short, well-manicured fingernail tapped a rapid beat on the “No Solicitors Invited” sticker on the sidelight.  The tapping matched Daisy’s pulse both in tempo and tone. “This means you can’t knock on my door unless I give you permission,” Maggie added through a clenched jaw.

“I’m not trying to sell you something.  I’m your husband’s daughter.”  The final word caught in her throat and Daisy swallowed the last syllable. She shivered and turned away, blinked and tipped back her head to retract the tears and to sort through her thoughts. She looked at the brick driveway and the cobblestone path that had been cleared of snow, and then looked up at the two story French-style house. Chateau.  Mansion.  “I don’t want any of this,” she said, facing Maggie while removing her hands from her pockets. She didn’t. She wanted a family. “I just want to meet my father. He didn’t even know my mother was pregnant. God, I just want him to know he has a daughter.”

This was not going as planned.  The imagined tears of her still-imaginary father replaced by the scowl and disbelief of his wife.

“Elliot doesn’t have a daughter,” Maggie said.

Daisy crossed her arms, lodged her hands under her armpits for warmth and effect, and poked her left eyebrow so high it hid beneath her pink-streaked bangs. 

“He does now.”  

Daisy watched the door close and stared at the engraved brass knocker she hadn’t noticed earlier.  Evans. Daisy hadn’t heard that name until the week before. An internal twist, an unfamiliar blend of cramps and exhilaration. Her birthright was on the inside, not outside standing on the oversized unwelcome mat.  She turned and ran to the idling taxi in the driveway.  Good thing she hadn’t paid the driver and told him to come back later.  Daisy climbed into the back seat.  She wiggled her toes, stretched her fingers and began to thaw.  She looked at the drawn curtains but knew step-Maggie was watching her.

The cab backed out of the driveway.  Unaccustomed to the crunchy sound of snow dust beneath the tires, Daisy listened with intention and heard every crackle, crunch and squash.  When the taxi sat parallel to the house the driver shifted the car into park. Daisy fumbled in her pocket.  Gum. She held out a stick of Juicy Fruit to the driver.  He turned and accepted it, smiling.

“You okay, miss?”

“Not really,” Daisy said.

“You’re prettier than her,” he said. “That woman at the door.”

Daisy sniffed and smiled. “Thank you.” 

“We can just stay here if you like.”

“No, that’s okay.  I’m ready to go.”

Daisy watched the too-still curtains of her father’s house and beauty-pageant-waved as they drove off. 

New and old money mansions rose out of the snow like castles on clouds. Remnants of well-manicured, gardener-tended bushes draped icicles like pearls on a string around a graceful neckline.  Who knew it snowed in November?

Daisy pictured the house she grew up in tucked into the current landscape.  She smiled.  That house was pale and bold with sharp lines like her mother and sparse like their time together.  It was a rectangle that sat over a cliff and overlooked the beach -- nothing like the brick and mortar monstrosities with turrets, bay windows and chandeliers overlooking the road and more houses.  Daisy’s lifelong backyard was the beach, her view, the horizon.  People flocked to La Jolla to escape the cold and the heat. Daisy had fled La Jolla the day after high school for a summer French immersion program in Paris.  She met her mother at Reed College for move-in day at the end of August.  She had planned to spend Thanksgiving with her mom and favorite aunt, but when Daisy arrived at the Portland airport, she booked the redeye to Philadelphia instead.

She had to admit, aside from the front door fiasco, she liked Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.  It was a touch gaudy and a tad pretentious, but the premature twinkle lights were strewn with good intentions.

Her mother would have disliked it for the same reasons.

Daisy paced her hotel room, no bigger than an inside cruise ship cabin.  She dumped her hobo bag contents on the bed, hoping for an escaped candy bar at the bottom, or her uneaten honey-roasted airplane-peanuts, but all she found was chewed gum balled and half wrapped in paper. Gross.  She took two steps to the bathroom, threw the gum in the trashcan under the sink.  She unwrapped the small cake of soap on the ledge and washed the stickiness she knew would never be all-the-way gone. Daisy pictured the vending machine down the hall, next to the ice machine.  Her stomach growled. Five-star hotels had five-star snacks.  Hotels like this had vending machines.  The best vending machines.  But the snack would wait. She dug for her case of graphites, and drew.

First short strokes, then longer ones, straight and curved and then round, creating her own rendition of step-Martha.  Just a rough image of a woman barricading a door.  Daisy could finish it later, adding the subtle lines around the eyes, revealing the slight twitch in the lip, the sweat on the décolleté.  Daisy guffawed. If she had been speaking to her mother she would have speed-dialed the office and joked about how French language had permeated her thoughts – just like Olivia had wanted.  But she wasn’t speaking to her mother.  Daisy focused on the page, the shadowy bricks, the mullet-shaped snow drifts, the tire tracks, the dark beyond the door, the abyss that was her father.

Daisy struck a pseudo-yoga pose and stretched her feet to her head.  Her back cracked and she got down to the business of piecing together the life of her brother, laying papers in front of in order of importance, not chronology.

She wanted to already know Chase Evans when she met him, like an older sister should. She was only two years older, but still.  Her personality was classic first born.  She had assumed it was because she had donor-siblings scattered across the U.S. or at least California. In reality it was because she had an unintentional sibling on the other coast.

Daisy laid down her head atop the papers.  They were cool and smooth.  She tucked her hands under the pillows above her head and closed her eyes. 

She wanted to make a good impression on her newfound family and was not off to a stellar start. The sarcasm would probably have to go, along with the cursing.  Her mother wasn’t sarcastic at all, it didn’t suit her.  Daisy figured it was just her nature but now she wondered if it was Elliot Evans’ nature as well.  What else about herself she would see in him when she met him? She grabbed her purse. To hell – to heck – with step-Martha. It was time to find out.


Amy Sue Nathan’s debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2013.  Amy’s stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo.  In 2011 she launched Women’s Fiction Writers, a blog focusing on the authors, business and craft of traditionally published women’s fiction.  Amy is also a freelance fiction editor, and a reader for literary agents. She currently serves as secretary for the RWA-WF Chapter.
Amy lives near Chicago and is the mom of a son in college, a daughter in high school, and two rambunctious rescued dogs.
Find out more on Amy’s Website and Blog, or contact her via email (AmySueNathan@gmail.com or WomensFictionWriters@gmail.com), Twitter (@AmySueNathan), or Facebook.

Here’s a peek into The Glass Wives, coming from St. Martin’s Press in 2013:
When a tragic accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it upends the lives of ex-wife, Evie, second wife, Nicole, and their children. Still, there’s no love lost between the ex and the new widow. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in the heartache—the chance to move forward without Nicole in their lives. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby brother, and she certainly wasn’t counting on Nicole hanging on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. And anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Evie and Nicole, both emotionally and fiscally spent by Richard’s death, agree to share living expenses—and Evie’s house. The arrangement, purely financial in Evie’s mind, has its benefits, such as a live-in babysitter. But it also exposes secrets and causes rifts between Evie and her closest friends. Then, when she suspects that Nicole is rearranging more than her kitchen, Evie must decide whom she can trust. More importantly, Evie must decide what makes a family. And if two Glass wives can be stronger than one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Girlfriends Share Tips on How to Be a Productive Writer


The hardest thing for me by far is the distraction of the Internet. I
can think of a thousand things online to tweak or check or join, when
I'm supposed to be writing. I went to a writers’ conference a couple of
weeks ago and heard a novel suggestion: Turn the Internet off when
you're working! So I'm trying:).

Lucy Burdette

Write dreadfully

I definitely use mental tricks. One of my favorites when I'm stuck on a scene is to tell myself that I have a set amount of time (about 10 - 15 minutes) to write the *worst* paragraph imaginable. That the actual goal is for it to be really bad and I will not have succeeded unless it's absolutely awful. That helps to remind me that it's perfectly okay to scratch things out. Most of that paragraph will, indeed, be dreadful, but there's usually some phrase that's worth saving and, often, by more clearly defining what I don't want in a scene, I'm better able to see what I do.
Marilyn Brant

Time is Money

I pay a babysitter to watch my kids so that I can write.  Her hourly rate usually motivates me to get right to work!

Brenda Janowitz

Stay Away From Savage Chickens

I totally have to trick myself into writing - which is a little weird, I think, and sad because I guess that makes me a bit gullible.  If I can get my butt in the chair and turn on the computer, I can get myself to write.  The hard part is not checking email, facebook, savage chickens, etc.

Leslie Langtry

 Change Your Location

I typically set a word count goal or scene goal for myself no matter where I am. Yesterday I checked out a new coffee shop downtown and took my iPad and bluetooth keyboard and used Omm (writing app) with the goal to start the first scene of my new short story. I didn't have long to stay before I had to go do "mom stuff" but I ended up writing 800 words and getting to try their mini-cinnamon roles and Americano, which was divine. When I'm at home, I typically write first thing with the goal to write either 1 or 2K. If I write before I start anything else, it gets done. Writing in new locations feels like a treat, too.  Besides the new coffee shop, there's a very modern library that opened on the other side of town I'm looking forward to visiting. As long as the place has wi-fi I can write, use Omm and headphones for quiet, and write, write, write. 

Malena Lott

Every Writer Needs Rules

Here are my rules.  Each of which I'm prone to break.  Still.
"Seat of the pants to seat of the chair."
No internet, except Wikipedia if I need to check a fact.
9-12 is writing time.  I don't meet people for lunch because that means the whole time I'm writing I'm thinking about getting to my appointment, dressing, showering, all that stuff.
If I think of something that needs to be done, desperately, I can write it on a list instead of hopping up to do it.

And if you want something from a really prolific writer:
Henry Miller's writing commandments
From Henry Miller on Writing, his 11 commandments:
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to "Black Spring."
3. Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can't create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don't be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it -- but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Sheila Curran

Two-Thousand Words Per Day
If I need to get my butt in gear, I set a word count goal and refuse to leave my computer until I've reached it.  To jump-start my new manuscript, I decided I had to write 2000 words a day.  Knowing there are other things I want to do--but can't do until I hammer out those 2000 words--keeps me going.  I may not be able to sustain that pace for the entire manuscript, but it gets me going when I need to get going.  Pick a number--word count or page count--and stick with it.  No play, no food, nothing but bathroom runs permitted until you reach that number.
Judith Arnold

Small Blocks of Time

I write much better if I know I only have a limited time--an hour or two as opposed to five or six. I think it comes from writing during nap time and Barney episodes. 

Knowing I only had 25 minutes to get words down on paper was a great motivator to get with it! 

Now that I'm not limited by the purple dinosaur time limit I do read over what I've written the day before and that always pulls me back into the story. Before I know it, I'm back at it. 

Sara Rosett

Bag of Tricks

I've talked about Freedom and the Pomodoro technique in an earlier post.

I've used writeordie.com.  

I've done sprints with another author, challenge them on Twitter or via email to see who can write more in a given amount of time (20-30 minutes).

I've had other authors hold me accountable for getting something done by a certain day.

April Henry
Bribery Works Beautifully
Hmm, I have minimal advice in this area as I'm so easily distracted when I'm working!  So how about this:

I'm lucky that I write full-time as I need every hour in the day to get anything accomplished. Since I'm easily distracted, it's hard work to keep my butt in the chair (especially now that I'm nine months pregnant!  I can't sit in the same spot for long).  I usually start with a review of what I wrote the day before, tweaking and polishing, which gets me more in the mood to write fresh pages. Then I tell myself, "Just get so many words done in the next hour, and you can stop for lunch."  So, yes, a little bribery helps. The best days are when I just sit down, and I'm chomping at the bit to get the words out. Then I can't type fast enough. But since that doesn't happen all the time--rats!--I just have to push myself little by little, page by page, until the whole story comes out.

--Susan McBride

Timing Is Everything

I do the 45/15. I turn off the Internet and email and set the timer on my iPhone for 45 minutes and do nothing but writing. When the time is up, I get off my butt and take a 15 minute break and then I go back for the next 45/15 session. It's really helped!

---Wendy Tokunaga