Posts by lalber

MARTHA STEWART, HAH! | Secret Life of a Chaotic Writer

Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Writing | 10 comments

My mind is too full. It’s so full of novel stuff (page proofs! an upcoming conference to prepare for! what about the current work-in-progress?!?!?) and Debutante Ball debut author blog stuff (fabulous relaunch 9/1! brainstorming! getting organized!) that I’m in danger of short circuiting. In fact, the other night I turned on my bedside lamp because I couldn’t sleep, and the bulb flared, popped, died, and blew the circuit while it was at it. How perfectly symbolic. The ying and yang of all this brain activity is that I’m oddly blank too. For example, when the light bulb blew out the circuit, I whimpered because I couldn’t bear the thought of dealing with an electrician. I whimpered some more when I realized I had no Wifi and would have to unplug the television cable. It took me 12 hours–t.w.e.l.v.e. hours–to remember to flip the circuit breaker back to on. Uh-huh, that’s what I’m talking about. Oddly blank. Here’s another example: As of last week, I have ants in my house. I’ve lived in my place for three years, but NOW the frenetic little beasties show up. Again, how perfectly symbolic. Yes, OK, I’m too distracted to keep up on the cleaning. The place is a wreck, and my wee dog, Luna the One-Eyed Wonder, is a messy eater. So, yes, dried-up wet food crusts the linoleum. Or rather, crusted the linoleum because the ants cleaned it up for me. Now that they’ve discovered the Eden that is my kitchen, they’re here to stay. I gaze at the ants–my own little ecosystem–clean up new dog and human messes, and that’s about it. My brain blanks out when I think about the next step. Honestly, I can’t be bothered to buy one of those ant poisoner thingies. I don’t even know what they’re called, and I can’t be bothered to find that out either. So the little beasties and I shall live in harmony for the time being. I forgot about my toenails. No summery pedicures for me. In fact, I shouldn’t be seen in sandals. I forget to roll the pet hair off my clothes before I run out of the house. I discovered a mushy, practically liquified, bunch of asparagus in the crisper. A load of laundry has been sitting on the dining table for a month. It’s dusty with–you got it–animal hair, so I’ll need to wash it again. Someday. At a stop light, I sneezed and rolled into the car in front of me. I blew through a stop sign–whoops!–and received a $250 traffic ticket. I lost my keys and shelled out $150 for a locksmith… Now I don’t know how to end this post. I normally try to round them out, return full circle, but. My mind just went blank...

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I’m a Debutante! (I’m Serious. Really. I Am.)

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Writing | 4 comments

I’m in high-octane brain power mode this week. Practically twitchy, I’d say. I’m having a hard time focusing on one task for long, so let’s hope I finish this post before twitchy little authorial tasks such as plastering my new author photo everywhere or joining Google+ veer me away again. (Yeah, I know I poked fun at Google+ last week. Call me changeable.) Why am I twitchy? I’m a debutante, donning my metaphorical tiara and pearls in honor of all debut authors everywhere! I was accepted at a debut author group blog called THE DEBUTANTE BALL with four other fabulous and feisty debut authors. We’re shaking things up! A new website design, new and interesting weekly topics, the works. We’re a mighty team, and we’ve virtually known each other only since Sunday. My brain is on overdrive with ideas. The five us will be sharing our rollercoaster ride to publication with you, and we’ll also be helping each other out behind the scenes. Lots of moral support as we no doubt succumb to Author Overwhelmed Syndrome. (I stole this term from another great debut author group blog called BOOK PREGNANT. Thank you, Jessica Keener!) So here we are, the debuting author debutantes of 2014 as introduced last weekend on The Debutante Ball. We start blogging in September. HEATHER WEBB: Author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE (Plume/Penguin, December 2013) Heather grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time writing and editing. As a freelance editor, Heather spends oodles of time helping writers find their voice and hone their skills–something she adores. She may often be found Twittering helpful links, sharing writing advice and author interviews on her blog Between the Sheets, or teaching novel writing in her community. Other favorite haunts are RomanceUniversity.org, where she contributes to the Editor’s Posts and Writer Unboxed where she poses as Twitter mistress. LISA ALBER, Author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (Muskrat Press, March 2014) Lisa received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on Kilmoon, in addition to a Walden Fellowship. Her short story “Paddy O’Grady’s Thigh” appeared in Two of the Deadliest (HarperCollins), an anthology edited by New York Times bestseller Elizabeth George. In addition, Lisa was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for the story “Eileen and the Rock.” A Californian with a penchant for travel, animal advocacy, and photography, Lisa worked in international finance and book publishing before exchanging the corporate ladder (no more business suits!) for storytelling. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with a one-eyed rescue spaniel and an accident-prone cat. SUSAN GLOSS, Author of VINTAGE (William Morrow/HarperCollins, March 2014) Susan Gloss is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in English and Spanish, and the University of Wisconsin Law School. She lives on Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, young son, and a neurotic hound dog. She balances–-or attempts to, anyway–-writing and family time with working as an attorney, curating an online vintage shop at Etsy.com, and writing about food for Edible Madison magazine. NATALIA SYLVESTER: Author of CHASING THE SUN (New Harvest/Amazon Publishing, May 2014) Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance journalist and copywriter. Her articles have appeared in Latina, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines. Chasing the Sun...

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5 Things I Learned at the Willamette Writers Conference

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Writing | 6 comments

Last weekend I volunteered at the Willamette Writers Conference. I attended as an author rather than as a writer trying to snag the attention of a literary agent. Off the hook! But man, did I feel the miasma of desperation that hung over the place. I just looked up “miasma” … “a heavy vaporous emanation or atmosphere” and “a contagious power that has an independent life of its own.” Yep. That was about it. I waded through the miasma into the pitch-practice room, where the vaporous contagion thickened with dreams upon dreams upon dreams colliding into each other as twitchy writers readied themselves to meet their makers literary agents. What a relief to be on the other side of the pitch-practice table, helping the twitchy-eyed! What I learned on the other side of the table: 1. Despite the fact that I don’t know much of anything, come to find out that I do. I don’t retain facts. You ask me to talk in bullet points about the three basic elements of a pitch, and my mind will go blank. Yet, when I sat with the amped-up budding authors, I entered into a state of recognition. As they talked, I recognized what felt wrong about their pitches and what felt right. I’d put up a hand, interrupt them, “Right there! That’s your hook! Start with that. The rest is backstory, and the agent won’t care.” I surprised myself. I do know stuff, and I can help people out, and that felt great. 2. Forget Twitter and Facebook, apparently Google+ will endow us with super-duper powers of self-promotion. Yeah, didn’t get this…In fact, my head spun during sessions about nifty topics such as platform-building, tactical social engagement, and advanced keyword searches. The self-proclaimed web warrior guy (he knew his stuff…but oh. my. god) told us that to do it right we needed to spend hours a day online. SO WHEN ARE WE SUPPOSED TO WRITE, BUDDY? 3. So the thing about Google+? We’re supposed to be over there because when we’re using it, our posts automatically rise to the top of Google searches. Something like that anyhow. I think. See Martin Shervington on YouTube for more information. <shrug> I’m still getting the hang of Twitter. 4. Use a book landing page. One of the presenters discussed an experiment he performed. He had an Amazon book page, and he also had a dedicated book page on his website with a link to the Amazon page. He found that when he sent people to his dedicated page (say from Twitter, Facebook, a blog post, or a Facebook ad) rather than directly to the Amazon page, he was twice as likely to sell a copy of his book. Interesting, right? His theory was that Amazon is dedicated to selling anything–it doesn’t care whether it’s a “Dance the Macarena” VHS tape or your book–but your book landing page is you and only you, baby. 5. Last but not least, never leave home without your cajun spices. No one expects five-star food at a conference, but come on, Airport Sheraton, you could have done better than that! The food was–ready for another great word?–inexecrable (“deserving of being cursed”). Evan Lewis, an old-hand in the pitch-practice room (not to mention a fab short story writer) brought his cajun spice with him. Bland, runny scrambled eggs made from an egg-like liquid product? Cajun spice! Vegetables drowning in a suspicious-looking “cream” sauce? Cajun spice! I had fun. Just that. It’s grand being on the other side of the table–and with KILMOON debut novel postcards...

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AUTHOR PHOTO 101 | 5 Reasons I’m Not a Model (Besides the Obvious)

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in Writing | 14 comments

Last month, I rallied myself and three dear friends for an author photo shoot. For weeks, I’d been dreading it yet looking forward to ticking the task off my to-do list. I engaged the girly-girl talents of K and C to do my hair and makeup. One peek at myself with makeup on, and I couldn’t believe it. I looked damned good. I couldn’t help but lament my cluelessness all these years and vowed to start wearing a little eyeliner and mascara at the very least. Lesson learned: primer coats don’t only apply to house painting. J, the photographer, sported a camera with a portrait lens about two feet long. Poor guy had to contend with 90-plus degree heat (the hottest weekend this year as luck would have it) and me jabbering and fooling around. We were lucky to get a good image before my makeup started melting. By the end of the day, I discovered that even if I were 16 and a raging ectomorph, I could never be a model because: 1. I don’t take direction well. I don’t know how many times J told me to hold still and stop talking. The photo session brought out my inner six year old. 2. I goof off too much. Come to find out that I haven’t outgrown my tendency to ham it up. This, too, is a leftover from my girlhood. But hamming it up does not a good model make. 3. I don’t get makeup. After the primer coat, K put about five other layers of “naturalistic” makeup on me. She called her brush strokes “shading,” “contouring,” and good old “masking,” which was a nice way of saying hiding the purple shadows beneath my eyes. Don’t ask me what she did with eyeshadow. All I know it that my image in the mirror showed a woman with gynormous, popping-out-of-my-head blue eyes. Even the photographer said, “Whoa.” 4. I don’t slouch becomingly. When a model slouches, she may look like a contorted preying mantis, but she’s a bloody gorgeous, avant garde preying mantis. I just look like I’ve got scoliosis and no neck. 5. I refuse to take off my glasses. I like my glasses, but high fashion they are not. Drum roll, please…Here’s the winning photo that will appear on my cover...

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COFFEEHOUSE TIME | The Art of Showing Up

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in Writing | 6 comments

A few weeks ago, Ramona DeFelice Long, fearless leader of the How Many Pages Did You Write Today? Facebook group asked us when we write best. In an ideal world, I’d awaken when I’m well-rested (wouldn’t that be fabulous?), and with coffee in hand, write through the morning when my brain’s fresh and my inner critic is still asleep. Alas, my life isn’t ideal for writing at the moment. Too much day-job. I’m working on this–believe you me I am!–but for now I have to employ tricks to make time for fiction. One of my favorite tricks is the coffeehouse. Thinking about Ramona’s question, I realized that I have a special time called “coffeehouse time.” Actual clock time doesn’t matter. Settling myself at a coffeehouse automatically transitions my brain into writing mode. It’s equivalent to falling asleep as soon as I settle into an airplane seat. After oodles of travel, I’ve trained my brain to knock off. Same thing with coffeehouses, except I’ve trained my brain to fiction on. It’s basically the art of showing up. These days I’m doing my best to show up for my work-in-progress called GREY MAN. I feel sorry for it because between the day-job, my aged mom, life in general, and debut novel tasks, I’ve been neglecting it. Here’s an example of coffeehouse time in action: It’s the end of the day, and all I want to do is chillax in front of the telly, maybe watch an episode of “Dexter.” After that, the novel I’m currently reading beckons. There’s nothing wrong with going to bed at eight to read for two hours, is there? Naaah…And that’s how it goes. Maybe I’m fundamentally unfocussed or distractible or lazy or undisciplined, but at times like that there’s no way I’m going to write if I stay at home. Once I force myself out the door, into the car and then into a coffeehouse, fancy that, I’m fine. I may need to stare out the window for a bit, but that’s OK. I’ve shown up. That’s coffeehouse time. It works for me. And we do whatever works to get our writing in, don’t we? Any time’s a good time to write when I’m in a coffeehouse. No ideal world...

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