Thursday, August 30, 2012

Transition is in the Air


Ah, transitions! There are so many kinds.

Writing transitions

How you get from one scene in a story to another. My personal writing philosophy is Just Don't Do It. As in, never write a transition scene.

Others may be brilliant at writing transition scenes but I am not. For me, nothing happens in those scenes -- DOH -- because they exist only to move my story from Point A to Point C. This is not the same as a scene that allows the reader to breathe between scenes of intense action while I also set them up for the next WHAM moment in the story. Those scenes are necessary.

What I do now is omit the transition. If ::gasp!:: I find myself writing one, I stop myself and delete it. Almost until the end, I ignore those abrupt breaks. By the time I have a complete draft that has been gone through a few times, one of these conditions exists:
  1. Through my editing and revising, I have much more subtly and elegantly transitioned the scene at the ending of the previous chapter or the beginning of the next. Sometimes that's as easy as a slug line at the top of the next chapter along the lines of "Two Weeks Later" or what have you.
  2. I discover I don't need any transition at all -- perhaps, for example, an abrupt change works.
  3. I write a transition because there's no other choice given the structure and arcs of the novel. So far, I've never done one longer than a paragraph or two.

Career Transitions of Writers in the Wild

I can only talk about mine, of course, but golly. I now have an completely amazing and self-serving example. (File in the Shameless Self Promotion department.)

Midnight Scandals

Midnight Scandals is a self-published anthology of historical romance by Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas and myself. All three of us have been RITA finalists for historical romance; Sherry has won twice. Both Courtney and Sherry have hit bestseller lists, Courtney made the NYT for a self-published novella.

So. Three traditionally published authors self-publishing. Two years ago this would not have happened. Period. Two of us are (so far) continuing to traditionally publish while self-publishing.

Welcome to Doyle’s Grange, a charming house near the hills of Exmoor, where the garden is beautiful in every season, and the residents are respectable year-round.

Except when the clock strikes midnight…
One Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel

Ten years away from Doyle’s Grange isn’t quite long enough for Viscount Northword to forget Portia Temple, or their passionate adolescent affair. Portia, however, is about to marry another man. Northword tells himself it is wrong to interfere in her life at this late hour, but interfere he cannot help, with his words, his body, and the truths of his heart.
What Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan

Fleeing the consequences of her father’s embezzlement, Mary Chartley takes a position as a lady’s companion, only to find herself a virtual prisoner at Doyle’s Grange, her employer’s house. And then the nightmare truly begins: the man she loves, who also happens to be the man from whom her father stole, shows up at her door seeking recompense. And not merely in pound sterling…
A Dance in Moonlight by Sherry Thomas

After losing her childhood sweetheart to another woman, Isabelle Englewood is heartsick. But then something remarkable happens: Upon arriving at Doyle’s Grange, her new home, she meets Ralston Fitzwilliam, who looks almost exactly like the man she cannot have. Come late at night, she tells him, so I can make love to you pretending that you are the one I love.

Little does she realize what she is about to unleash.

Places to Buy Midnight Scandals

All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
Google Books

Not Proper Enough

Not Proper Enough is my September 4th release from Berkley Books.

The Marquess of Fenris has loved Lady Eugenia from the day he first set eyes on her. Five years ago, pride caused him to earn her enmity. Now she’s widowed, and he’s determined to make amends and win her heart. But with their near explosive attraction, can he resist his desire long enough to court her properly?

After the death of her beloved husband, Lady Eugenia Bryant has come to London to build a new life. Despite the gift of a medallion said to have the power to unite the wearer with her perfect match, Eugenia believes she won’t love again. And yet, amid the social whirl of chaperoning a young friend through her first Season, she finds a second chance at happiness.

Unfortunately, the Marquess of Fenris threatens her newfound peace. Eugenia dislikes the man, but the handsome and wealthy heir to a dukedom is more charming than he has a right to be. Constantly underfoot, the rogue disturbs her heart, alternately delighting and scandalizing her. And when their relationship takes a highly improper turn, Eugenia must decide if the wrong man isn’t the right one after all.

Where to Buy Not Proper Enough in the US and Canada (Paper) (Kindle)
Find a store through BookSense
Directly from Penguin

But What about outside the US and Canada?

Berkley only bought North American rights. That means I can (and will) self-publish the book in those territories where I have the rights. There will be a bit of a delay since I have to prepare the files, but the cover is ready. I expect to be able to release outside North America within 30 days, probably sooner.

How about those Transitions!

A traditionally published author now has many more career options than she did just a year or two ago. Selling only North American rights might once have been cause for dismay. But now? Not so much.

My writing career has definitely transitioned. I can directly support my traditionally published books with novellas or short stories in ways that 1) increase sales for the trad pubbed books and 2) create an independent revenue stream that is more profitable to me.

This is a benefit to readers, too. They get more books to read and at different price points. Readers who might otherwise have had no way to legally purchase a book by an author they like can, in a situation like mine, now do so.

To me, this transition is a win.

Agree? Disagree? What do YOU think?


Hi Everyone!

So: the theme right now is transitions.  Sometimes the GBC theme o' the month does not, shall we say, speak to me.  So I talk about something else. Often my dog.  But I have to say, transitions: it's calling out to me right now.  I think because, finally, after a very long time waiting (months waiting, years before that, writing) my book YOU TELL YOUR DOG FIRST will be out soon.  In just about two months.  So, here, now is the time when I start transitioning from daydreaming about my day...being out in the world to gearing up and getting ready for the FACT that my book is about to be out in the world. 

Actually, the book itself is a transition.  After five novels, this is my first book that isn't fiction.  This book, instead of being all about my imaginary characters, is all about me.  It's a strange feeling and even though I spent years writing this book, it's hard to wrap my head around.  I've started to think a lot about what it will feel like when readers no longer wonder if something in a scene happened to me, but will rather know that it did.  I'm nervous.  A lot.  But I'm also really excited because I love this book and I worked harder and longer on it than I have on any other book.  Fingers crossed.

This, here, right now is always my favorite part of a book.  Page proofs are done and galleys are out.  No more changes can be made and it's that last, quiet moment before reviews come in.  This, here, right now is all about hopefulness and all the great things that can happen to a book.  And while it's a lovely time and I'm enjoying the shimmery calm before the storm, I'm also transitioning out of it, thinking of all the things to do for the book and to get the word out about it.  Readings!  Twitter!  Facebook!  Giveaways!  It's a big change from the much more quiet phase of sitting down day after day and writing.  

But I'm up to the task.  So let's get started.  I have a galley of the new book to give away. To you.  If you'd like to win it, please just leave a comment --it can be about anything: your dog, things you tell your dog, your book publicity advice, your thoughts on the cover-- and I'll pick a winner at random on September 4th once I'm back and fully transitioned from the end of summer.

All the best.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Self Promotion Basics: The Very Basic

Sometimes in this high-tech social media frenzied world we live in the most obvious low-fi thing is what works best. At our debut
Authors Unbound Event in June there were a number of people that none of the four authors knew in attendance. Could it be that some of our press push was successful? That would be awesome. And it was. Except that when the event was over, none of us knew how to get in touch with any of the newbies. Our friends dutifully printed out their Evite tickets, they were all accounted for, but save for the couple of people who emailed our individual websites, those new potential fans are lost forever. Later, it dawned on me, we should have had a simple pen and paper sign-in sheet by the cookies to get some info for our newsletter and collect names for future email blasts. And even though this is a series entrenched in the digital world-our mission being to provide authors who epublish events to share their work and connect with fans-an old school writing utensil and piece of paper will most certainly be at the next reading in October.
 I also work in promotion. Television promotion is my forte, but I have a real hard time promoting my work. I don't want to be one of those people whose every communication is "me, me, me. You're sweet buy my book. Please. Me." It makes me feel slimy. 
When I digitally published Momfriends in November of 2010, I had 2000 postcards printed up. The more I got the cheaper they were. I sent stacks off to friends in various parts of the country to put out where they deemed fit. After that, the remaining 1500 postcards sat in a box in the corner of my bedroom. My husband often reminded me to distribute them, but I always conveniently forgot.  When our family took a trip early this summer to Tennessee, he insisted that I bring a bunch of postcards and leave them around to publicize the book.
I didn't leave them anywhere.
But on our last day at a coffee shop in East Nashville (what seemed like the Brooklyn of Tennessee) he insisted. I couldn't bring myself to ask to leave them. It made me nervous. Thankfully, my husband wasn't having it. He grabbed them and put a bunch on a table with other people’s postcards.
That was June 1. I dread saying this, because I know I am jinxing myself but Momfriends has been having a really great summer, over a year and half after it came out. It can't simply be because of the postcards, but I think there is some merit in those things. I'm trying to diminish that pile in my corner and just get them out there. My husband reminds me constantly that wherever I go, I should have a stack. I'm starting to get that. The cool thing about postcards is leaving them is fast and anonymous. Drop and go. It’s kind of thrilling in a high school prankish way.
So these days I am trying to promote myself where I can and not do anything I regret. 
Oh and, um, thank you, Tennessee (and Mike).

What high or low fi things do you do to get more publicity? Are you wary of self-promotion? Any tips for what works best?

Ariella Papa is the author of Momfriends. She blogs at

Monday, August 27, 2012

Transitions, OCD, and a Giveaway

by Barbara Claypole White

August 28th 2012 is a date I’ll never forget. Yes, it’s my first blog for Girlfriends Book Club (yippee!), but it’s also the day I transition from daydreaming about becoming a published author to being, well, a published author.

In celebration, I’m giving away a signed copy of my debut novel, The Unfinished Garden. To enter, please leave your email address in the comment section, and a winner will be picked at random after 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 29th.

So. Big day. Swear to God, I want to enjoy it, want to imagine driving across rural North Carolina with my sunroof open, screaming, “I did it!” Everyone tells me I must be thrilled. And I am. In a terrified can-I-throw-up-and-crawl-into-my-writing-cave kind of way.

Here’s my problem—I’m focused on the doubts that could turn my inaugural reading into disaster. Will my legs shake so much that I’ll trip in my high heels and nosedive onto the podium? Will I open my mouth and talk rubbish? Halfway through, will I need the potty?

Harlequin MIRA, 2012
This is awfulizing, a word I've learned through years of helping my son navigate obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m not obsessive-compulsive—although, as a Virgo, I’m the next best thing. My son, however, has bravely battled the anxiety monster for most of his life. He’s brilliant, compassionate, and a published, award-winning poet. He’s also someone who, because of his OCD, struggles with transitions. OCD is all about control; OCD hates change. And this is senior year of high school.

Mom’s book launch + college apps + OCD = the perfect triumvirate of transition hell. But as Sir Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” And he should know, since he was simultaneously fending off depression and the Nazis.

Me? I’m fighting back with a pledge. Today, I will focus on the book and nothing but the book. After all, public readings are really tiara moments for my love story about grief, OCD, and dirt. Yes, there’s a little of my life in The Unfinished Garden.

The story seed came from two separate what ifs—both dark and morbid. I know, what is my problem? The first what if came from helping my mother retreat into her garden after my father died, and in the weeks that followed, watching her change from a wife to a widow. I kept thinking, “Suppose that were me?”

I’m a Brit married to an American professor. When my dad died, I was a stay-at-home parent with no income and no citizenship of the country I called home. My mind stuck on a horrid dilemma: What would I do if something happened to my husband? That thought led to my heroine, Tilly. And it still entertains my husband, who loves to tell people I killed him off in the backstory.

The second what if came several years later. James was not my original hero, but as I sought escape from the hell of sharing our home with OCD, my mind veered off on another sick tangent: What if, once my son grew up, no one could deal with his quirky behavior? What if no one could ever love him the way I loved my husband? There’s a reason James is estranged from his family: OCD destroys relationships.

I didn’t set out to make a statement about OCD. I just wanted to create a believable character. Popular culture is littered with stereotypes of obsessive-compulsives. I love Criminal Minds, but the words obsessive or compulsive often creep into the show’s profiles of serial killers. And then there’s Monk, the television detective with the wipes-carrying assistant. Did anyone see the episode when school kids were laughing at him? Man, that one kicked me in the gut.

Imagine your worst fears. Now imagine living with them every moment of every day. In stereo surround sound. That’s OCD. To force back the worry demands incredible courage, and James is the bravest person Tilly knows. He isn’t a victim or a psycho. He’s a successful entrepreneur who happens to be terrified of everything…except snakes. Which gives him one up on Indiana Jones.

I have no control over what happens as my book launches into the world, but James and Tilly will always be my first hero and heroine. And I’m so proud of them. I think I might get in my car, open the sunshine roof, and throw out one “Yay for The Unfinished Garden.”

When she’s not gardening, Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people and blogs through the highs and lows of OCD at To browse The Unfinished Garden, go to or amazon.

Promotion, Spomotion...

I’ve never been that great at selling myself.  No, not as a prostitute, but I imagine I’d suck at that too.  No, when it comes to telling people I’m an author.  I’m not good at that.

It drives my husband crazy.  He thinks I should tattoo it on my forehead (and I do have a rather large forehead).  He gets upset when someone asks me what I do and I tell them about my part-time day job.

Okay, yes, I’ve had four traditionally pubbed books and since them I’m selling those four and two others as ebooks.  And yes, I’m making a lot more money self-pubbing than I did with a trad publisher in NYC.  I still can’t bring myself to promote that.

Don’t get me wrong – I have a website, facebook page and blog as Leslie Langtry.  I guest blog and other such stuff.  I don’t know what my issue is.  I think I’ve always been this way.

When my first book came out in 2007, and I had great reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, I still couldn’t bring myself to tell folks to buy my book.  I should note – my husband has no problem doing this. 

I’m not an introvert.  I’m certainly not shy about…well…anything.  So what’s my problem?  I look at other authors and wish I could be more like them – so confident about their work.

To make this weirder – I work in Public Relations and Marketing for a nonprofit.  And I have no trouble at all promoting the agency and the good work it does.  But ask me to wave a banner for my alter ego?  No chance.

Which leaves me to wonder if there are other authors out there like me.  It certainly doesn’t seem like it.  Maybe I’m just weird.  That’s always a possibility.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

I’m always open to suggestions.  How do you deal with it?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beautiful, Difficult Change

Photo courtesy Flickr's  Orangeya

When Maggie invited me to guest blog with the Girlfriends Book Club this month, she mentioned that the theme was transitions. One topic that’s been on my mind lately fit that theme: a transition in belief, from authors seeing traditional publishing as the most attractive option for writers, to believing self-publishing may be as attractive—if not more attractive—an option.

I strongly support options for writers, and self-publishing is definitely one of them. Several author friends have found success through self-publishing new works or re-releasing books on their backlists. And I think self-publishing is a smart option for writers who either aren’t interested in traditional publishing or who have tried the trad-publishing route only to be told their work—while quality—would be difficult to define and/or place on a shelf. Traditional publishing is notoriously blind to books that don’t fill a specific niche, and self-publishing may be an ideal option for square-peg books, which are some of the best reads, in my opinion.

I’m all for self-publishing, but do you sense a but? Here it comes.

Last month, I spent an afternoon browsing titles at a local indie bookstore, positively in my element, because I collect books like some collect recipes. I picked up a beautiful-looking book and thumbed through the first few pages. Then an error leaped out at me. This wasn’t a typo, but a wrongness of speech—one of those I-know-you-meant-the-opposite-of-what-you-just-said type of errors.

I might’ve been on page three.

Disappointment filled me, and I’m not proud to admit that my first thought was, “I wonder if this is a self-published book?” It was.

I know that errors can be found in even traditionally published books—books that have been poured over by an editor and copy-editor; books that have been written by multi-published, NYTs-best-selling-superstar authors. It happens all of the time. So what is my problem? Why did I put that beautiful-looking book down and walk away?

Because the author-reader trust broke in that moment, and my faith shattered.

When you plunk down your money and commit to buying and then reading a book, you are allowing a writer to take your hand and guide you through a story. A tale that’s riddled with the literary equivalent of potholes is going to make for a jarring journey. Maybe it isn’t fair to judge an entire book on one early—if glaringly obvious (to me)—flaw, but life is too short and the TBR pile too teetering for meh reads.

“It wasn’t ‘meh!’ It’s a masterful story!” that author might have argued. “You didn’t give it a fair chance!”

And here’s where I’m going to sound a little bitchy, maybe. I don’t *have* to give any book a chance. It isn’t my responsibility as a reader to give any author a three-strikes read or consume a novel with one blind eye just to be nice.

The responsibility for quality lies with the author.

I know there are many, many writers out there who have self-published books, or who are considering self-publishing, who are doing their utmost to ensure polished prose. To those authors I say, “Thank you,” because here’s some truth, fair or not. Self-published authors have it harder, in some ways, than traditionally published authors—and I don’t mean the fact that they’re in charge of their own publicity and marketing. I mean they are claiming to be a Pro in writing AND in editing; that’s the pact they make with readers when they put a cover on a book and say it’s for sale. It’s done. Perfectly baked. Ready for consumption. They have that much more to live up to when they make that claim—that they’re expert in both writing and editing, that they’ve managed to conquer not just one but two huge mountains all alone and are ready to take readers on a tour. Early or frequent story errors injure that tenuous reader-writer/editor contract, and may be enough to cause someone to close the cover; they reveal a writer who didn’t do his/her due diligence, who didn’t take that contract seriously enough, who assumed maybe it would be just fine to be a decent writer but only a half-mast editor.

Here’s my truth. I don’t ever want to wonder if someone took a manuscript that didn’t work for craft reasons, that wasn’t ready for primetime, and decide to self-publish it to see if it might make money anyway. I don’t want to be slapped with the thought on page three that self-publishing was for that writer an excuse for settling on a lesser standard. I don’t ever want to think that self-publishing became for that writer the equivalent of stuffing an unready manuscript under the bed or in a drawer.

That may seem harsh, but the reality is that a self-published writer represents him/herself in all ways—and his or her story can fail in all of those ways.

Unless they don’t fail, of course. Unless they do their due diligence, and put in the hours, and revise and edit (and hire someone to help if necessary) until all of the splintery bits of their manuscript are memories. Unless they do everything in their power to make the difference between the level of craft in a traditionally published book and their novel insignificant.

Change can be beautiful, but it’s rarely easy, and this era of publishing is anything but easy.

What I’d like to see during this time of transition is for writers who decide to self-publish to become ambassadors for all self-publishing authors. I’d like to see a host of shining examples of how to do it right, with due attention to craft and a high level of respect for readers. That book? I won’t put down. I buy. I read. I love. I add to my keeper shelf.

Write that book.

What are your feelings about self-publishing, both as a reader and a writer, for worse and for better? 

Therese Walsh is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed and the author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Judith Arnold

         I’m a creature of habit. I like my routines, my patterns, my ruts. I eat the same breakfast every day. I’ve had the same good-luck tchochkes adorning my desk for several decades. My aging computer is beginning to lose its bytes—I mean, its bite—yet I keep putting off buying a replacement. I’m used to this machine. I don’t like change.
          For twenty-plus years, I wrote romance novels. I enjoyed writing them, I earned a nice income, and given that more than eighty of my romance novels were published, along with several women’s-fiction novels that had romantic plot threads running through them, I guess I had a feel for the genre. I would have been happy to continue writing romance novels until I retired or keeled over, whichever came first.
          Sometimes, however, circumstances force change upon us. In my case, the circumstances included publisher issues, agent issues and—most significant—the realization that after 80-something romance novels, I had nothing more to say. I’d written every romance story I wanted to write. My muse said, “Enough!”
          My muse is less insecure than I am, but much more temperamental. I’m generally mellow, but she rages and sulks and indulges in histrionics. I tolerate her because she enables me to write and, again, because she’s less insecure than I am. “Time to try something new,” she told me, and when I fretted that I might not have the chops to write anything but romance novels, she refused to listen. “We’re going to write a mystery,” she announced.
          A mystery? Don’t mysteries have blood and gore and death in them? I don’t do blood and gore and death.
          She insisted. So, rather than endure one of her tantrums, I settled down at my desk with all my good-luck tchochkes and wrote a mystery.
          To my surprise, it came out pretty well. I submitted it to an editor who also thought it came out pretty well but didn’t want to buy it. I set it aside and asked my muse, “Now what?”
          “Now,” she said, “you’re going to tackle that deep, dark, literary novel you’ve been trying to write for forty years.”
          No. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. It’s one thing to transition from romance novels to mystery novels, but quite another to transition from popular fiction to a novel with a Capital-T Theme, a novel that invites debate and analysis, a novel that doesn’t follow a predictable story arc the way genre fiction does.
          My muse howled. She wept. She held her breath and turned blue. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll write that book-of-my-heart.” And I did.
          A couple of weeks ago, I signed a two-book contract with my current publisher. I’d sent my editor the deep, dark book-of-my-heart—but being insecure, I was sure she’d hate it. So I also sent her the mystery, which does have blood and gore and death in it but is a comedy. She didn’t hate the literary novel. She didn’t hate the mystery novel, either. She offered to buy both of them. And now, much to my muse’s utter delight, I’m working on a sequel to the mystery.
          Somehow, I have evolved from a romance novelist into a mystery novelist who occasionally writes literary fiction. Not a difficult transition for some writers, perhaps. But for me, a woman who resists change the way children resist brussels sprouts, the whole thing is kind of unnerving.
          It’s not a change I planned, not one I eagerly embraced. But my muse gave me a sharp kick in the butt and here I am, transitioning into an entirely new kind of writer.
          My muse tells me she feels reborn. Happily, so do I.

Judith Arnold’s latest release is Goodbye to All That, which is not a romance although it deals with love and couplehood and relationships. It’s available in paper and ebook format at all the usual places as well as at the publisher’s web site:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Transitioning From One Genre to Another: Or, Sometimes Shit Happens and You Just Got to Write it Down

by Sandra Novack

Over the course of writing two books of fiction, I’ve experienced my share of transitions:  I’ve lost editor after editor as my publishing house downsized, I’ve gone through more publicists (all of whom seem to be named Megan) than I can keep track of, and my acquiring editor transitioned to a new imprint. Did any of this bother me?  Heck, yes.  But also, heck no!  I was undaunted and there were a few things I still clung to, the most important of which was this: Despite publishing transitions and changes, I was writing fiction, regardless.  I could control that--my routine, my focus, my raison d'etre.

So, during publicity periods and down periods and publishing transitions,  I wrote a new novel, tentatively titled Resurrection Fern.  That was good.  I had 200 polished pages last year (side note: it's a lonnnnggg book, however), and a bunch more messy pages.  As of today--August 2012--I still have 200 pages and not an iota more.  I guess I could call it a trunk novel at this point, but the thing is this: I still quite like that book partial and plan on finishing it.  Also, it’s never made rounds to be rejected, and until it gets to that point, get my thinking.

So what happened?  Life happened.  Transitions and changes happened. On March 9, 2011, I received a call from my brother, Tommy, one so frantic and breathless my first thought was that he was having a heart attack right there on the phone and had somehow decided it was a good idea to call his baby sister, because I only live something like 700 miles away in Chicago, and so of course I could be right over, to help. These initial thoughts were jarring enough, that he was dying, that my brother was dying, right there on the phone, that there was nothing I could really do but tell him everything would be alright, though clearly it was not alright, clearly something was very, very wrong.

It took a few chaotic seconds to make sense of what he was saying through those labored breaths, and to realize that no, he wasn't dying. He was quite literally shivering, because he had just jumped into bitterly cold water. What had happened, he explained, was that our father was missing.  Our father, Tommy knew, had been working that day down at the creek, trying to clear away storm debris that was caught under the bridge.  The waters were terribly high, turbulent.  So certain was my brother that our father had fallen in, or slipped, that he had jumped into the creek to search for him.  The water had shocked my brother’s system. He had to get out, he said.  There's no way he would have survived, my brother said. Sandy, he told me, it's bad.

Hours passed, and a search and rescue team came to my father's farm.  I waited for the phone to ring again with any sort of news. It was an odd experience to wait at such a great distance, while most of my family--brothers, oldest sister, mother, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, everyone but me and my estranged sister, Carole--gathered.  It was even worse to find out bits of new information not from family but from the television coverage of this very personal, and tragic event. While I worried the floors at my home in Chicago, helicopters flew low, overhead, at my father's farm, the reporters eager for a story. I went on-line and saw how flooded the creek was, how it had spilled over into fields and pastures. I saw the road that led to my childhood home—a home that would never again be the same. 

After five hours the search team found my father, his body tangled up in tendrils of a willow tree that had fallen across the creek during one of the many recent storms.  It felt fated, that downed tree that had fallen only a week or two before; it had kept my father on the property he loved, and kept his body from washing farther down the creek than it had. It could have been so much worse, I thought, the recovery efforts could have taken days then, and not hours.

There is a lot more to say on the subject of my father, his death, and my trip home for a funeral, the suddenly changed shape of my family, and how this affected all of the family dynamics.  I never cared to think how much my father held our family together--I don't think I ever gave him even the smallest amount of credit for that--but now I realize how the sheer force and presence of him somehow kept us all in check, for better or worse. When he was gone, it was a free-for-all. Tempers were high. Old sibling rivalries reared up. We simply didn't know how to be, without my father there to shape us, our actions, our words. We were like grown children again.   

And then:  My estranged sister, whom I have not seen in 33 years, came back into our family.  Suddenly things changed, and then they changed again.  

 I started thinking about all this, about family and fate and sudden changes. I had no choice in the matter. Life intervened. Shit happened. I needed to write, as a way to make sense of my life, my family, and those transitions that define our lives.   I've been writing about all this since, cranking out material that is, to my surprise, non-fiction.

Yet another change.  I'm going to stick with this for a while, until I hit "the end."  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  I currently have 160 polished pages, and I don't want any more sudden changes or necessary transitions for a while!!

(And don’t worry, my presently shelved other book.  I still haven’t forgotten about you.)

Sandra Novack's literary novel Precious was named a Booklist Top Ten Debut of 2009.  Novack also has a short story collection, Everyone But You, which was published September, 2011.  Both are available on-line, at bookstores, and through Random House.  Her website is: 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Novel Confessions

By Laura Spinella

The mess that pushed me over the edge
Is there a rule about using GBC as a confessional?  Hmm, perhaps I’ll start a trend. Since the current theme is transitions, I’ve decided to share the curious personal transition that occurred last weekend. To begin, I set a kid to the curb. That’s right. I had my fill of a bedroom floor I couldn’t find, clothes strewn about like the remnants of a church tag sale, and an array of fuzzy bottomed cups that I may donate to the local middle school for fall science experiments. I was done with all of it, so I packed up Jamie and her belongings put them in her car and said, “Laters, baby!”  As her vehicle inched down the driveway she offered a solitary backward glance.  I stood with Jamie’s much neater sister and her little dog, which we kept, and waved farewell.  Almira Gulch never felt such satisfaction.  “Maybe you should have let her keep the dog,” Megan said, a teensy hint of guilt riding her voice. “Tough love, kiddo,” I replied, heading inside to redecorate. 
Happy Jamie at School!
            Okay, here’s the confessionJ My interpretation of Jamie’s departure is somewhat embellished. No worries, I’ve not set her up for years of therapy.  Well, not with that episode anyway. We packed Jamie up and sent her 1,200 miles south, back to college where a comfy off-campus apartment with her own bathroom (she shares with three people here) awaited. I would have sent the dog too but no pets allowed. As a writer, I took a little literary license. As someone who writes women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance, I tend to gravitate toward a touch of drama. In truth, my kids trend more toward a PBS special than Jersey Shore.  So, for the most part, snippets of their lives must be overstated to achieve good fodder.  
The personal transition came with the redecoration—which was true.  I’d methodically plotted this all summer, and was ready with a paintbrush the moment she vacated the premises. Of course, before you paint, you have to prep. We set about corralling dust bunnies and filling a giant trash bag with whatever Jamie deemed unnecessary baggage. At one point, all but swallowed by a mountain of trash, Megan murmured, “Geez, if only we’d thought to call Hoarders first…” In her effort to clean sweep the room, she decided to pare down Jamie’s books. Jamie is a voracious reader. In part, I think this is because it avoids cleaning. We decided all the paperback James Patterson books could go to Good Will while the stacks and stacks and stacks of YA novels could be donated to the library. The rollaway bin in the closet, packed to the gills with cozy mysteries... Well, maybe the secondhand bookstore would be interested. Having worked her way to bookcase number three, Megan said, “What should I do with these?” It’s important to note that while Megan reads, she is not a book lover. She does not see books as keepsakes or memories or markers of time. She was asking about the Laura Ingalls Wilder series—including the lesser known hardback books. I guess it had been a while since I really looked at Jamie’s shelves. “Put them in my room,” I said, “they’re mine.”
I hadn’t forgotten the Copyright 1971 books, but I’d never really thought about how they related to me as a writer. Naturally, I was compelled to flip through, the stiff yellowed pages smelling of my bedroom back on Long Island.  Or at least I decided they did.  Inside the front cover of each book, glued to the page, was a mimeographed bookplate.  In meticulous third grade scrawl, under “This book belongs to,” was my signature: Laura Jean Wilson. At nine I was convinced Ms. Ingalls and I shared a past life because we share the same first name.  At ten I’d saved enough money in hopes that my parents would take me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Suffice it to say two East Coast parents never could see their way clear to a trip to the Midwest. While I never made it to the museum, I was, forty years later, struck by how obsessed I’d been with the words. It was all consuming, enlightening, and, frankly, a little weird.  In retrospect, I suppose it makes perfect sense. Excessive pride of ownership at nine or ten now seems like an appropriate segue, taking me from reader to writer.  How else could anyone justify the endless hours spent putting stories to paper, unless they’d first spent equal hours investing in them?
As for Jamie and her books, I stopped Megan at the top of the stairs.  Her blue eyes peered queerly over the top of the stack.  “We’re not getting rid of them, are we?” she said, deflated.  I shrugged, telling her to run to Target and buy another bookcase.  It would be a shame to get rid of Jamie’s books because, clearly, it may take decades for my voracious reader-hoarder to figure out what they really mean.   

Laura Spinella is the author of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, 2012 RITA Finalist, Best First Book, NJRWA Golden Leaf & Desert Rose RWA Golden Quill winner, Best First Book, Wisconsin Write Touch Readers' Award, Finalist, Best Mainstream Novel, A Favorite Book of 2011 at  Visit her at          

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Do You Spell "Transistions" Again?

by Ernessa T. Carter

It's funny that this cycle's topic is "Transitions" or as I like to call it before spell check gives me a red line, "Transistions." It's mostly funny because I'm currently going through so many transitions: second agent, second publishing company, second book edit, moving house, finishing up an almost promotion-free year of content generation -- that I don't think I could possibly do justice to this topic without having my post go obscenely long.

So instead let's talk about random words we can't spell without the help of spell check. As you already know, "transition" is on the list for me. So is "separate" and "paparazzi" -- the latter used to be much more frustrating back when I wrote about celebrities for a living.

The only thing worse than words you can say but not spell are the words you can spell but can't say. For example I once embarrassed myself but good while walking to lunch with a former boss.

"What do you want to eat?" she asked.
Me: "Oh, I don't know. Lately I've had such terrible food in-u-eye."
Her: "What?" Me: "You know, I haven't felt that passionate about eating food in general."
Her: [laughing rather hard] "Oh, you mean ahn-wee!"

And that's how I learned to pronounce "ennui."

While out to afternoon tea (yes, seriously) with a fellow black Smithie (because who else would heartily agree to a full afternoon tea with a straight face?) and voracious reader, it turned out she had the same pronunciation issue as well. It was like many of the words we loved were just waiting for us to use them in professional situations, so that everyone could see through our current polish to our backgrounds, which involved a bunch of people who didn't use words like "ennui" or "roman a clef" or "short-lived" or "mature" (with a hard "T").

We both ended up giving much thanks to audiobooks, which has been an absolute boon as far as learning the pronunciation of the words we love go. Or as my friend put it, "It's like 'Gotcha, word!'"

Also, it was nice to realize that I'm not the only one who can't spell everything I can pronounce or pronounce everything I can spell. Maybe I'm not even the only writer who has this problem. What do have say, Girlfriends?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Frisbee to Boomerang

I admit it. I am a Word Nerd. I like the sounds they make when spoken. I like the way they feel as they roll around in my mouth. I studied Latin in high school and college, partly to fulfill , and the dead don't talk. But even more because I loved dissecting words, breaking them down to their roots. Vocabulary, etymology, grammar - I'm a sucker for it all. So when I heard that this cycle of GBC is about transitions, I had two reactions. First, I thought about the word. "Trans" is easy - it is the root of lots of words having to do with crossing - and "sition" I figured was from "situ", which means place. Sure enough, the etymology dictionaries define "transition" as "a crossing over", from the Latin root transitio or transire.

The second thing I did when I heard the theme of this cycle was to laugh. Hard. Because I am the Queen of Transitions. Like Madonna, I like to reinvent myself every few years. I might be able to do always, but forever, no way. And because at the moment, I am going through possibly my most major transition to date.

Five months ago, I experimented with flying, using my attic ladder as a launch pad. I did fine in the air, but the landing, not so much. I now have an official card for airport security, to show TSA the bolt, metal plate and screws that the surgeon installed to put my Humpty Dumpty hip back together again. Three months of absolutely no weight on the leg, then six weeks of partial weight before transitioning to full weight, normal person walking.

That, however, is not the "transition" that made me laugh. Though I did try to find humor in the situation and made Facebook "Tales from the Crip" posts. My friends seemed to enjoy them - like when I said that I overheard my parents outside my door deciding that if a tornado was coming, they would just toss me in the bathtub - with wine I hoped. The posts also helped me feel connected to the world beyond my bedroom walls. But I digress (from the Latin dis (apart) + gradior (walk).

For the past four and one-half months, I have been convalescing at my parents' home. And over the course of that time, a seed (hopefully not one that will germinate into something prickly) was planted: that we make this living arrangement permanent. For a lot of reasons, it makes sense. I have underlying health issues, and getting even a little help with everyday stuff we hope will reserve energy for me to meet a friend for lunch or -gasp- get back into serious writing mode. On the other side, I can help my parents as they get old and decrepit, and I can take away the burden my mother has been carrying for several years- being my Fridge Fairy and worrying every time she pulls into my driveway that she'll find me dead.

But it is a big transition. Huge. Ginormous. I have lived alone since I graduated from college. I have a house that I love, a beautiful, tranquil nest. I abhor clutter while my mother is a candidate for "Hoarders Lite" or "When Collecting Goes Wild".  My father can be a real pain in the patooty. Living with my parents was not anywhere in my life plan. Yet, I am comfortable that this transition is the right decision. 
So, once again, I cross over, reinvent myself, from an independent adult to boomerang kid. Some of the synonyms for "transition" are transformation, evolution, and, a personal favorite as I picture a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, metamorphosis. Going bat sh*t crazy is not on the list, but I'll keep you posted. And save for another day my scatological question of how/why bat guano is crazier than other excrement.


Amy Bourret is the author of Mothers & Other Liars,
a Target Breakout Book. She has given up flying as a hobby.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Tips For Authors

by Sara Rosett 

Have you heard of It is a curation site designed to help you share interesting articles and links from the web. It’s like Pinterest for articles.

I’ve been using more and more as I try to simplify my online life. We’re talking about transitions here at GBC and I thought instead of focusing on the thing that comes to mind first —moving boxes and U-Haul trucks—I decided to explore another transition: how I shifted from traditional blogging to micro-blogging.

When my first book came out out way back 2006 (i.e. in the dark ags, pre-ebooks) I was blogging my little heart out at my own blog, Rosett Writes. I’d joined Girlfriends Cyber Circuit and happily blogged about friends’ books. I joined with four other mystery writers and created a “grog,” a group blog called Good Girls Kill because we were nice women writing murder mysteries.

And, oh yeah, while all this blogging was going on, I was also writing books.

Then one day I realized I was spending more time thinking about my blog posts than about my WIP (work in progress).

Not a good sign.

I closed down my individual blog and said a temporary good-bye to the Girlfriends. (I rejoined later after the Circuit was remodeled into GBC). My group blog died a natural death as we all reached a sharing saturation point and mutually decided it had been a great time, but we were tried of the weekly post commitment.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I had much left to say, either witty, funny or informative. Blogging had wrung me dry and I wanted to concentrate all my writing energy on my books. And I also had a feeling that I wasn’t reaching readers with my blogs. It seemed much of the blog activity was authors busily commenting and connecting with other authors—not a bad thing, but I wanted to reach readers.

I didn’t want to abandon all on-line activity and kept up with Facebook and Twitter. I wanted something a little more interactive, but without the huge time commitment of daily blogging.


I’ve always posted lots of links to book-related news and blogs, so I created a topic on last year called All Things Bookish, a topic broad enough to attract readers and writers. I love the magazine-style format and the easy integration tools.

I post pretty much anything that I think is interesting in a book-related way:  articles about writing, photos of amazing libraries, and publishing news. Recently, I posted an article about how to create a computer screen saver with your ebook covers as well as an article about swimsuits that resemble book covers, which was got some attention.

Five Tips for Authors:

Think carefully about your topic title— you can’t edit the title of your topic once it’s entered. Decide if you want to go broad (Publishing) or niche (Cozy Mysteries). You can create several topics and they will all appear on your account with you as the curator. 

Install the Bookmarklet—I use the bookmarklet to “scoop” an article or photo to my All Things Bookish page, then I edit the appearance of the scoop: pick a pull quote, change the headline, and even select which photo I want to run with the mini-post. has apps for the iPhone and Android phones, so you can update your site from your phone. 

Link to your other social media accounts—This is my *favorite* thing about I’ve linked with my Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts as well as my website through Wordpress. I can post the same link to them at once. Pinterest isn’t supported yet, but there is a workaround. Once the post appears on my All Things Bookish page, I can use the installed “Pin it” button on the post to send it to Pinterest.

Website Widget--There are widgets and buttons for your website and blog. I send my most recent posts directly to a section on the lower section of my website home page. It keeps it my webpage updated with fresh content.

Connect—You can connect with other curators and find topics similar to yours. emphasizes that they help you curate content, bringing you lots of articles and links related to your topic. You can create streams with info related to your topic. I haven't found their content that helpful, but you can just ignore it, which is what I do. 

If you want more control on the appearance of your account or more detailed feedback on visitors, you can upgrade your account, but the free account works fine for me.

You can check out my All Things Bookish topic or see the most recent posts on my website

I’m curious to hear from you blog? Why or why not? And, what tricks and tips have you found to save time with blogging and/or social media?


A native Texan, Sara is the author of the Ellie Avery mystery series and the On The Run travel thrillers--watch for the first in the series, Elusive, out in September. As a military spouse Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest travel thrillers. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling."

Sara loves all things bookish, considers dark chocolate a daily requirement, and is on a quest for the best bruschetta. Connect with Sara at or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Transitions: When It's Tough to Say Goodbye

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Elizabeth Bishop has an amazing poem called "One Art", in which the narrator recounts all the things she's lost in life, from door keys to a whole continent.

When you're a writer, you get used to the idea of losing things, of leaving things behind.

Over the course of my career I've left a lot of things behind: five agents (I'm on my sixth, I've been with her for seven years, so hush now); at least four publishers; and delusions of grandeur - goodbye, Nobel! Kidding. Kidding! That last was never in the cards.

And now, this past week, I've put the most joyful part of my writing career behind me.

Last Tuesday, my 25th book was published. THE SISTERS 8 BOOK 9: THE FINAL BATTLE...FOR NOW is the final book in the series for young readers that I created with my husband and daughter. For those who don't know, The Sisters 8 is about octuplets whose parents go missing one New Year's Eve. Each girl must then find her own special power and gift before they can solve the mystery of what happened to their parents, all while keeping the rest of the world from realizing that they're living home alone.

What with the books I've done for adults and teens, what with having had so many opportunities to simply stretch myself however I've wanted to creatively as a writer, I have nothing to complain about. I have had more than my share of luck and fun, and I am not ungrateful. But having to say goodbye to this? It is not easy to express how difficult it is. The writing I do for other age groups - each has its own rewards (along with one-star Amazon reviews). But what you get back from kids? Well, let's look at what was in my in-box today:

"I LOVELOVELOVE sisters 8! and I know you probably get this alot, but I am your #1 fan! I just got the last book today, and boy was it a winner! I was jumping up and down, and squealing like a 4 year old when I heard that your last book was out. I finished it in a record 7 minutes and 38 seconds***. When I started reading the series I was about 7, and I was hooked. I remember counting the days untill your next book came out. As the years passed, I got older, but I still loved them. My cousins would tease me when I immediatly started scanning the 6-8 section for more books! And now, here I am, age 11, bursting through the doors of chapters and running to the kids corner. I may have lost my dignity, but I gained an exellent read! I love to write, draw, and act, and the sisters 8 has given me so much creative inpiration that I may burst! So on behalf of all the 11 year olds who love it as much as I do, (even if they wont admit it) thank you. Thank you for providing an escape from reality, somwhere where we can let ourselves go and become 8 year olds again. Because your books taught me that no matter your age, you can still be as bossy as Annie, as motherly as Durinda, as sarcastic as Georgia, as energetic as Jackie, as smart as Marcia, as paranoid as Petal, as snarky as Rebecca and be proud of who you are like Zinnia. And above all... You can still eat pink icing from the can."
[***I'm thinking this is a misprint because the book is 145 pages long.]

And that's just the highlight for today!

Every day, the emails and letters come, as well as pictures of game boards kids have created, scrolls they've drawn...

And then there are the kids who write, especially since last Tuesday, asking if there can be *more* now that the series is over. And you know what? If it were up to me, I would go on writing these books forever.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 25 books and counting. You can find her at - well, maybe you won't find her there, but there's stuff about her plus an email link.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moving Right Along?

Sheila Curran waves stick defiantly at the whole IDEA of transition!

The topic for this blogging cycle is transition. This is a subject better left to those of stouter hearts and braver minds. I hate change. I hate moving. If, as the saying goes, you’re supposed to “be the change you want to see,” I’d most certainly be Lot’s wife, frozen in time, looking back nostalgically at my burning home.

Tomorrow I fly to New Hampshire to dismantle my parents’ household. My mom is still alive and well, but wise enough to realize that she “can’t go home again.” She moved to Atlanta shortly after Daddy’s death and has never returned to the place they made their home.

My siblings and I are meeting to organize the diaspora of their belongings. As a family, we moved often (which may explain my reason for loathing transitions). Still, the surroundings were always familiar, always comforting. The couches, paintings, French cookware and Mom’s pitcher collection. Persian carpets and antique side tables and my great-grandfather’s handmade desk, my father’s hutch, my mom’s vanity, grandmother’s empire sofa.

Mother will take a few pieces for her small house, but she wants her kids to take the rest or give it away.
It’s distressing for me to think of the objects leaving their familiar counterparts. Like in Toy Story, will they miss each other? Or maybe the centripetal force of love that held the family together presided over the objects. Once they’re sent flying off in different directions, is there any guarantee that whatever made my home so comforting can remain?

I know the Pollyanna response. Yes! Of course! It’s just stuff. It’s the memories you’ll cherish. And so forth and so on, as we skip down Hallmark Lane.

Maybe so, but I fear the undoing of the house. The intractable child in me doesn’t want to admit that those days, the ones in which I could go home to Mom and Dad, are done.

At this point in my blog, I got out of my chair to hunt for photos of that gorgeous house, to demonstrate to you its particular beauty. What I found instead, were only people. Flocks of them. So many you couldn’t see the furnishings, couldn’t see anything but smiling faces and arms wrapped round one another to usher yet another person into the camera’s frame. (if you'd like to see the rest of the photos, you must click this link, because BLOGGER (google) and Microsoft (Live Writer) are having marital spats, the likes of which, I'm not putting another six hours into trying to get around!)   for photos: My other blog
mom, dad, the youngest fourThe  youngest four, in Athens, Ga, four moves after the first photo was taken.

I found something else too. Many of the best, happiest smiles were captured somewhere other than home. The beach, visits to cities, vacations, elsewhere.
beach photo mac, dad et al 001At Holden Beach,
our home away from home

Maybe, I thought, it’s not the furniture I’m really upset about after all.


I think Dylan Thomas said, “After the first death, there is no other.” When my brother Tommy died, I took this as gospel. What, I thought, would ever hurt this badly again? I felt immunized now. I felt I knew grief.

Knowing something in its ferocious depth however, doesn’t innure you from suffering the bends the next time you fall into the well. Knowing your father was 92 when he died, that you had won the Grand Slam Lotto of family life, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot.
You still miss the “old fart”, as my dad called himself. You still mourn the fact that he won’t be on the other end of the phone when you call with news, he won’t be there to open the front door, or close it when you leave.

That being said, I think the thing I feared, the centripetal force that held our home together, it’s already left the building. Which is why my mom can’t bear to see such a vacant house, chock full of belongings. They, like the rest of us, keen for the gruff voice and welcoming presence that had made the whole place feel so alive.

So. Back to transitions. I realize now, much as I’d like to avoid them, it’s not an option. I can opt for paralysis but the world around me isn’t stopping just because I’d like it to cease its infernal spinning.

So maybe, instead of stalling, I can try to take the higher road. One that better resembles my parents’ unflagging courage. Maybe I can regard this as a chance to honor my parents by loving my siblings and treating them as delicately as the Waterford crystal we’ll be wrapping. Maybe I can take this opportunity as the gift it really is, a chance to pay my respects to a lovely mysterious thing. I can brush my hand along the family couches and burnished tables and to know that in this place, we experienced the extraordinary pull of two people who loved each other in such a way that anyone nearby could not help but be drawn into their comforting nest.

Sheila Curran is the author of two novels, Diana Lively is Falling Down, and Everyone She Loved.