A Hollywood Cautionary Tale

gravity_ver7Writers who dream of selling their work to Hollywood someday should click through this link to read this latest blog by internationally bestselling author and medical doctor Tess Gerritsen – along with any of you in the blogosphere who might have watched the recent film, GRAVITY, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Pretty shocking stuff.

The opposite side of this lawsuit, of course, is that everything is unfounded, and the Hollywood spin naturally takes this angle. The latest court ruling seems to support the studio’s side. You can read about that side here… in a much more balanced-sounding article than the one you can read (also from a Tinseltown source) here, which uses the obscure quote from Gerritsen from several years ago out of context.

Writers be aware!

(Un)Happy Endings?

hulsebus-unhappy-ending-thumb-250x386-33965I’m a bit stumped. I admit it…and so I’m reaching out to any of you in the blogosphere who might want to comment, to get your opinion on this.

Here’s the short version of what caused the controversy that has erupted in my mind:

I had a conversation with a colleague today. She is someone who loves books and is well-read. We were discussing my upcoming Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, and I was telling her about how it was a different genre from what I’d written before – Women’s/General Fiction rather than Historical Romance – and that is would therefore be appropriate for most age groups, as it has no explicit content, unlike my historical romances.

Here’s where the turn of the conversation kind of made my mind bend.

She says (and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close): “Oh, I read your first two books. I like historical fiction, so I liked the history in them.”

I think I see where she’s going here, and so I interject, admitting, “I know the love scenes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.”

But she shakes her head, adding, “No, I didn’t mind the romance – I can skip over some of those parts if I want.” She looks vaguely uncomfortable. “It’s just…the happy endings! You know, at the end, everyone goes off happy…” She makes a wry face. “I read historical fiction.” (which I’m surmising she added to try to make it clear that historical fiction books DON’T have happy endings and therefore are her preference).

I was floored, I admit it.

I’ve had people tell me they don’t like historical romances because they’re not “historical enough”.

I’ve had people tell me they don’t like historical romances because of the focus on the romantic relationship, which often includes some explicit love scenes between the hero and heroine (who BTW are monogamous, according to the traditions of the genre).

I’ve had people tell me they don’t read “those” kinds of books (which basically means they won’t read romances because of the stigma attached to romance, as books that are somehow less worthy/well-written/complex/”real”…you can supply your own negative adjective).

But this is the first time anyone has ever said to me that they basically objected to/disliked historical romances because they ended happily.

So…what’s your take on happy endings? Please enlighten me, as I really, really want to hear from everyone, regardless of your perspective. Of course I’m a reader before I’m a writer, and I have my own opinions, but I’m interested in hearing about this issue from other readers’ point of view.  So please, chime in! 🙂

Moose Tracks Sneak Peek #3 – Meet Jen and Zippy

This sneak peek comes from part-way through a chapter during which the novel’s 30-something year old protagonist, Elena, and her whole family (which is comprised of her mother, six other sisters, and some of their husbands and kids) are sitting in the hospital’s waiting room for Pa to come out of aneurysm surgery. Only their seventh sister, movie star Alexandra “Zippy” Wright, is missing, being late to arrive from out of town. Elena is desperate for a distraction from her worried thoughts, so she’s delighted when Jen takes matters into her own hands to liven up the waiting….

Actual Final copy with endorsement“Just as she had since they were little girls together, whispering from the dark confines of their bunk-bed, Jen seemed to possess an uncanny ability to click into Elena’s renegade thoughts, whether or not they were saying anything aloud. Now Elena made a goofy, eye-rolling face at her, and Jen’s half-smile shifted to a full-blown grin.

Her sister was out of uniform for the moment, her shoulder-length, dark hair loose from the usual clipped-up knot that was necessary for police protocol, and both her arms and her jean-clad legs crossed casually as she leaned against the doorjamb. She had long limbs, strong and toned, though Elena knew that even now Jen didn’t consider herself attractive in a physical sense. Too many years of more popular classmates taunting her with names like “Granny Oakley” and “spaghetti legs” had prevented that.

But Jen had grown into those legs eventually. By the time she was out of high school and the eighties were in full swing, braces had straightened her buck teeth and she’d cut her thick hair into a spiky, punk-style, ala Prince and The Revolution. She’d been a force to contend with then, tough as nails (especially to any guy who tried to get a little too cozy with Elena when they’d go out together on college breaks) but still the same funny, irreverent, insecure-on-the-inside Jen that she’d always been.

Elena couldn’t help wondering, sometimes, how Jen might have been different if she’d been gorgeous from birth, the way Zippy had been. Zippy, who’d earned her nickname for Continue reading

Hot Tea and a Good Book

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Snow coming down outside my classroom window

It’s a snowy winter morning here, and I’m at work rather than home, but I have a lovely blending of the two worlds today in that my teaching job will also allow me to do some reading…because the students have one of their very important “Free Reading Fridays”.

Such activity is based in scientific and educational evidence…the practice of sustained silent reading, of material students choose, increases student skill and promotes the possibility not only of creating life-long readers, but also life-long learners. Here’s a .pdf document about the practice, if anyone is interested in learning more about the pedagogy behind it.

I’ve been teaching for 26 years. In that time, I’ve seen stress, anxiety, and demands for students go up (in part thanks to high stakes testing) and the ability to focus not only on content but also on the joys of learning (and reading!) go down. This is one way of providing students with a bit of time away from academic demands that carries with it some good educational benefits simultaneously. And part of the process is that they see their teacher reading along with them – so I benefit as well (and heaven knows I have precious little “free reading” time of my own in my life outside of school). 🙂 Many students have thanked me over the years for these opportunities, as they find books they never knew about (I maintain two large book shelves of free-reading novels, non-fiction, and poetry for multiple reading levels in my classroom), a love of reading they didn’t know they had, and/or a little break from the constant pressure to perform in the classroom eight periods a day.

So it’s the best of both worlds for a few class periods today.

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Advanced proof of A PLEDGE OF BETTER TIMES by Margaret Porter

My tea this morning is Twinning’s “Winter Spice”, and my book is an advanced reader copy of an historical novel by friend and fellow author Margaret Porter – her upcoming title A Pledge of Better Times (the link is to the Goodreads page for the author and book). It’s set at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, and follows the political and emotional worlds of Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans. It’s fascinating and enjoyable reading. The novel will be publishing in April, and I’m sure I’ll post another reminder then.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Preorder on Google Play!

Actual Final copy with endorsementOnly 26 days to go and Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven is now up and available for preorder at Google Play (just click on the cover or this link to go there).

The special preorder price is still $3.99 – but it looks like Google Play has their own promotion on that has the price knocked down to $3.03!!

Just a friendly PSA for those who might be interested. 🙂

Moose Tracks Sneak Peek #2 – Meet Jesse

Actual Final copy with endorsement

From Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, available for preorder now for Kindle and Kobo, and for sale in print and all other venues on February 3, 2015.

Diary entry #1: June 30, 1981

This is Elena Elizabeth, and it’s my first time writing even though I got this diary five months ago when I turned twelve. I’ve been feeling a little guilty cuz Ma says I should be using it, so here goes. I met a new kid near Caveman Rock today. He seems like a jerk. . . .

      The first time Elena saw Jesse James Wilder she was up to her elbows in

dirt and a rotting layer of last autumn’s leaves. She was a definite outdoors

girl, tall for her age and in the habit of running free all day each summer—

sometimes playing with Jen (less often Zippy or Patricia) or maybe the

across-the-field-neighbors Lisa and Debbie. But lots of times she just

rummaged around in the woods by herself.

      She could spend hours looking at plants, collecting feathers,

pretending to be a pioneer or an Indian, and finding dead birds and other

animals to bury in the little animal graveyard Pa had helped them lay out

behind the camp’s outhouse. She’d be the first to admit that with only one

bathroom at the homestead, the outhouse could be useful in a pinch, even if

it was stinky and dark.

      She felt safe playing outside by herself all day. Ma had never had

to worry about weirdos trolling the streets and byways for kids to pick up.

Not in rural areas like Moose Junction, and certainly not out in the acres of

woods behind their house.

      On the rare occasions when Elena went with her sisters on the ten minute

bike ride down the highway to the lake (from which the nearby

town of Lake Pines derived its name), they’d all stuck together. The older

girls watched out for the younger ones, and bad drivers were more of a

concern than kidnappers.

      All in all, Elena relished those summer days of freedom, coming

home at dusk and covered in dirt, and, more often than not, with twigs and

even burdocks tangled in her hair.

      As it was already nearing suppertime on that particular day, she

looked quite a sight as she crouched in the dappled light, trying to scoop a

half mummified chipmunk carcass into an improvised Maple bark coffin.

She’d been concentrating so hard that she hadn’t been paying

attention to her surroundings. So when Jesse Wilder surprised her by

stepping into her little clearing with his size thirteen feet, snapping twigs

like a black bear, she’d lurched to a partial stand and nearly clocked him

with the stick she’d been using to dig at the dirt around the dead chipmunk.

In fact, she swung her improvised weapon within a few inches of his head

at the same time that she pretty much growled at him.

      Both of his big hands shot up in front of him in a fist-clenched,

defensive pose as he yelled, “Holy shit!” But the terrified look on his face

immediately made her feel a little better, considering her temporary lapse

of attention to her surroundings.

      “What the hell!” he added as his fists slowly came down, but his

shock was still apparent by the way his voice cracked on the last word.

Elena’s mouth turned down at the double profanities. She gave him

a quick onceover, none too impressed. First of all, he was obviously a city

slicker, and second of all, he was a boy (a.k.a. an alien species). A tall,

wiry boy, sporting a shock of honey-colored hair streaked with blond, and

staring at her through narrowed blue eyes.

      She finally let out her breath, standing up out of her stooped

position. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to use that kind

of language?”

      “My mother died when I was six.”

      That kind of set Elena back on her heels. “Oh . . . sorry.”

She didn’t really know what else to say. The truth was that she

didn’t know anyone on a personal basis who didn’t have a mother. The

thought of what it would be like not to have Ma, with her soft hands, sweet

smile, and gentle voice (except when Trish, Zippy, and Elena had been

squabbling so much that they’d driven her up one wall and down another)

took away some of the sting of indignation she’d been feeling.

      But the temporary peace lasted only as long as it took for the tall,

scrawny blond kid to open his mouth again, right after he returned the

favor Elena had given him with a disdainful onceover, his expression

having shifted by now from his initial shock to a look of cool mocking.

“What are you, some kind of crazy mountain girl?” His sarcasm

was only fair considering the way she looked, she supposed, but she didn’t

much care for logic at that moment. She snorted, taking in his Jordache

jeans, Nike sneakers, and perfectly pressed Ralph Lauren shirt.

      “Yeah. Just like you’re a walking billboard for name brands.”

      He did something Elena didn’t expect then. He laughed.

Writing’s Dirty Little Secret

gossip-aug16_jpg_1097337557That sounds luscious and gossip-y, doesn’t it? 🙂

Of course there are far more than one…but today I’m going to spill about one in particular that’s been giving me fits over the past several months. It’s this: The most beautifully written words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages the world has ever seen won’t matter a bit, if you can’t get a handle on the business side of being a writer.

It’s the dark horse truth that’s always been a factor in any author’s career, but it’s particularly apropos in this newer age of professional self-publishing (i.e. self-publishing that will approximate in quality and form what traditional publishers produce).

creative-brainVery few will mention this dirty little secret. Most “writerly” discussion is about the work, the words, the characters, plot, themes, message…of writing from the heart and bleeding onto the page (represented by the colorful half of this brain). And all of that is good and necessary for the first leg of the writing journey that ultimately results in pulling a completed novel from an author’s head and placing it into a reader’s hands.

But it’s only the first half. The whole second half (represented by the not-so-colorful half of the brain in the illustration…since I don’t like the second half and I want it to come across as plain, boring, and uninteresting 🙂 ) is glossed over, like it doesn’t exist.

And maybe that’s because it really didn’t used to exist – at least not very tangibly – for authors during the era when the only path to publication was through the great gatekeepers and traditional publishing. Back then authors relied on their agents to do the work of negotiating and managing financial issues (for 15% of all gross earnings, beginning with advance and continuing through royalties), and the publisher, with its vast employee list, took care of all of all the nitty-gritty elements of bringing a book to market (for the measly fee of 100% of the profits, shifting down to 92% of profits, once the author’s advance was earned back for the publishing house). Even so, there is something to be said for the trade-off.

This business side of writing is not something that makes me comfortable and all cozy, like I prefer to be (reference my warm and fuzzy posts like the one here and here. Or venture over to the search box just above my picture up on the left toolbar and enter in words like “cozy”, “love”, “nostalgia” or “warm”. You’ll see posts about the things that make me happy). But it’s a necessity.

Actual Final copy with endorsement

This cover art is the result of months of work gathering and trying various images and text placement and styles – probably nearly 50 – before settling on this one

Having to set up accounts at Amazon, CreateSpace, B&N, Kobo, Google, AllRomance, and iTunes, complete with tax ids and all sorts of technical information – having to think about a business plan, building and maintaining an online presence and platform, and keeping track of all the miniscule aspects that go into a book being available for purchase, like hiring out and working with a cover artist, editor, formatter, and conversion expert, and then reviewing e-files and formatted files, while also keeping track of how much money it costs to complete all those processes without getting into a financial hole one can never dig out of unless one’s book becomes a bestseller (which would be great, Universe, if you’re listening!)  – all give me figurative hives. And it all takes a large amount of time, which as a person who really inhabits all of the roles listed under my picture up a bit and on the left, is in short supply.

But unless I’m going to be the only person who is ever going to read my book, it has to be done.

So there you have it. One of the dirty little secrets of being a (self-)published writer. I’m not very good at keeping secrets (I’m a “wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve” kind of gal), so I feel better already, having shared it, LOL.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – or even one of your secrets (it’ll be like a self-help program!) Anyone have any (rated PG-13 or lower, please) to spill – whether as a writer, reader, artist, employee…heck a breathing human being? Join the fun in the comments. 🙂

Only 30 Days Left!

Actual Final copy with endorsementIt’s been a great couple of weeks of Holiday celebration, but it’s winding down now and the grind of regular work/teaching is going to pick up again tomorrow.

Writing and all things book-related will have to take a back seat…so it’s a good thing I’ve got just about everything in place for the February 3rd release date of MOOSE TRACKS ON THE ROAD TO HEAVEN! Just 30 short days left, so place your pre-order now and secure the eBook version at it’s introductory price. Go here for amazon/kindle preorder or here for preordering from Kobo!

B&N doesn’t allow preorders of all books, unfortunately, and we’re working on getting it up at Google and iTunes – though preordering isn’t a guarantee there either. It will be up on all platforms by February 3rd, though.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a few little sneak peeks, reviews, and other little tidbits from the novel, the inspiration behind it, and the process of writing, but until then, you can read an excerpt from the first three chapters here if you’d like.

It’s a different kind of book – set up in the style of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café –  but I hope anyone who ventures to read will enjoy it. 🙂

Cultivating a Healthy P.O.V.

its_time_to_be_inspired_640_high_04This resonates with me on a personal level. What I bring to the table supersedes the rest, for good or for ill.

It’s also useful in my life as a writer. It’s why there are so many opinions and reactions to various books, writing styles, themes, subjects etc. What is moving, meaningful, and amazing to one may seem trite, pedantic, or corny to another.

As a writer, it’s far easier to remember and be affected by criticism – by those who didn’t like one’s work – than by those who offered positive feedback, review, or praise. This quote helps me to keep it all in perspective.

ALL reactions to creative work are valid…but because of the intimate and subjective nature of any creative work, those reactions, positive or negative, often speak more about the person reading/viewing/hearing the work than the work itself.

When a review seems firmly based on the book – characters, plot, setting, background etc – it’s still true. Have you ever seen the reviews on amazon and the like where a reviewer who gave a blistering, one-star review is questioned by others who liked the work with something along the lines of, “Are we even talking about the same book – and did you even read this one?” It’s all in each individual reader’s perspective.

When the reviews are clearly personal – whether sweetly gushing or sarcastically slashing – having little to do about the work itself but seeming to be more emotional, the quote above is doubly true.

In the 13+ years since my first book was released, I’ve had reviews of all kinds, and it takes a while to develop the thicker skin required of anyone who hopes to have a long-term writing career…especially when it can seem as if those with negative reactions are the most vocal. But it’s a necessary skill to cultivate if you intend to put your work out there for public consumption.

Not everyone will like your baby. Some will even call it “ugly”. But others will adore it and treasure it. It’s all part of a writing career, and it’s a good idea to try to cultivate a healthy perspective about it. 🙂

 

The Reason I Write

inspire

This is what I repeat to myself with all of my fiction.

I don’t have any kind of agenda to “enlighten” anyone about anything (heaven forbid…no, I’m trying to entertain, provoke some thought, and perhaps provide some sense of connection or, on occasion, comfort).

My fiction is not for everyone (and I don’t expect it to be). But I do hope it will find those who need it, who want it, who might enjoy it, or who will gain something from it.

With Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, I’m hoping to cross a bridge that couldn’t be crossed when I was writing medieval romances, because of the tight niche of that historical genre; let’s just say medieval readers are not a thronging horde (though I continue to appreciate every one of mine). 🙂

I hope to reach a broader audience with this more mainstream tale about real, poignant, humorous, and sometimes bittersweet life – my story about confronting loss and living through it, and about coming out stronger and with more understanding and peace on the other side of it.

Since it’s dressed up with some pretty funny material from real life, from having grown up as one of seven sisters living in a little house in the foothills of the Adirondacks in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, I hope it will provide some chuckles and entertain as well.

But it will only reach those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’, and I know that, like I’ve known with all my other books.

If that happens to be many people, that will be wonderful, but it’s not the reason I write.

Bestseller lists are great, and I’d love to be on some with this book, once it’s published on February 3rd – but only because that will mean the tale encased in those covers “spoke” to enough people and was meaningful, entertaining, and memorable enough to get me there.

For me, it’s about the meaning in a story…the sharing, reaching out to connect with other people, their challenges, tragedies, hopes, and dreams in a way that resonates and has meaning to them.

That’s the reason I write.