Writer, Author, Student

The Fabulous Four: my book group
The Fabulous Four: my book group

I passed a quiet weekend with my writing. This morning, it occured to me that I experienced my writer’s life from three distinct vantage points.

As Lisa the Writer, I, as you might expect, wrote. In fact, on Saturday I officially finished Act I of the new novel. I call it a step in the right direction that I wrote toward the first dramatic point, instead of winging my way toward it.

As Lisa the Author, I received a sweet surprise from my book group. After discussing Sue Milller’s The Senator’s Wife, my friends thrilled me to pieces by pulling out the Elizabeth George anthology that contains one of my short stories. They’d bought copies and insisted I autograph them–oh my! I was tickled to pieces, and, of course, froze up at the thought of signing the books. What was I supposed to write?

I wrote personal bits to them, but this fun experience got me thinking about practicing my signature and about coming up the quick autograph statement. “Enjoy!” is a common one. “Best thoughts!” “With every good wish!”

It’s fun to dream.

As Lisa the Student, I began a 10-week writing workshop. A writing buddy happened to mention the class, and within five minutes I railroaded him into emailng the instructor for the both of us (since we were at a coffeehouse and he had his Mac). We nabbed the last two spots. The author, April Henry, is a NYT bestseller who writes thrillers; and the class focuses on suspense, mystery, thriller, crime; and since I need to amp up my plotting and pacing skills; and since I’m starting something new…Serendipity!

My (Little) Taste of the Big-Time

Only one more left!
Only one more left!

On Friday night, C, K, and I went to a movie. It being C’s birthday, and because this was a girly-friend custom, C picked the movie (a creepy one, also a custom), which we ambled toward after happy-hour drinks and a little shopping.

It just so happened that we passed a Barnes & Noble on our way to the theatre. C and K were too cute, wanting to check out the anthology I’ve mentioned many times already (can’t get enough of it!) in its natural habitat.

I need to practice my signature -- this is the wobbly version
I need to practice my signature -- this is the wobbly version

Admittedly, I hadn’t thought to do this yet, so their enthusiasm grabbed me up too. We perused the “New Mystery” section, but, alas, we saw no sign of the anthology. We asked the information-desk lady, and she comfirmed that they had one copy left.

But where was this lone copy of TWO OF THE DEADLIEST? Answer: Up front on the “New Fiction” table! Too cool! I probably wouldn’t have said anything because of my horrifyingly dismal shameless-self-promotion skills, but K mentioned that I was a contributor.

And here’s where the little taste of the big-time comes in: Information-desk lady let me sign that lone book, and afterwards she slapped an “Autographed Copy” sticker on it!

Is that shameless enough?
Is that shameless enough?

I felt like a teeny, tiny star on the fiction horizon as C and K pulled out their cell phones to snap pictures of me and the book. We giggled like fiends, and the security guard watched us with a knowing smile. He’d lent me the pen I used to sign my story. I’m sure he’s seen local authors before, but this was a first for me!

Later, in the theatre’s bathroom, I called over the stalls to C and K: “If that isn’t enough to inspire me to get on with the next project, I don’t know what is.”

Maybe, just maybe, stuff’s starting to percolate again. Maybe, just maybe.

Hey, There’s My Name on the Back Cover!

The cover art is actually classy white.
The cover art is actually classy white.

I’ve had a few short stories published, and I’ve received author’s copies in the mail. But today I received a whopper of an author’s copy. A luscious, 460-page hardcover anthology that’s so fresh, it squeaks. And, ah, that new-book smell, my nose up against the spine from the inside, no doubt killing brain cells sniffing the spine glue…

Finally! Two of the Deadliest, edited by Elizabeth George, has arrived. I mentioned this book in this post. And now I’ll quote Elizabeth George, from her Introduction:

“Included in this volume is something a bit different. In the second portion of the book, you will find “Introducing…,” a section devoted to a group of writers who are either largely unknown or who have not been published before. These women come from various backgrounds — they are journalists, educators, and techies — and they have all been students of mine at one time or another, in one venue or another. I have asked them to participate in order to bring them to the readers’ attention and, perhaps, to the attention of editors and publishers. It’s a rough publishing world these days, and people of note are often disregarded.”

Kudos to Ms. George for inviting us newbies to participate. She could have offered the page-space to well-known novelists instead — thus attracting their readers. Thank you, EG!

Bark of a Pine

Tree Bark 2In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.            Great Law of the Iroquois

This morning a dear friend called me. She was concerned because yesterday I’d e-mailed her in angry, ventful fashion. I’m fine today — well, not fine, but okay, rallying, that kind of thing — but yesterday I was  bummed out but forced to set the emotions aside because of  j.o.b. deadlines.

This post isn’t actually about the rejection I received.

This post is about how funny life is sometimes.

The reason I vented in that particular moment was because my friend had sent me an e-mail first. I might not have vented at all, otherwise. In her e-mail she’d written,

Nice, eh?


That’s it. I had no clue what she was referring to, except I noticed the Iroquois quote at the bottom of the message, and having never noticed this quote before, or maybe having noticed but forgotten it so that it was new all over again, I thought she was making a point about the bark of a pine and being a writer.

Seemed logical to me, given my mood.  And apt, the thick-skinned thing, of which I need to grow me some, and what with the perfect timing of the message, reading it right after the rejection…You can see why I replied back in a verbal purge.

Okay, that was that. I went back to work. Then, this morning my friend called partially to check on me, partially to verify: Hadn’t I received a royalty check for my Elizabeth George anthology story? (My friend also wrote a story for the anthology.)


I was so preoccupied, I’d forgotten to fetch the mail! And indeed, the check awaited me. Yesterday, receiving the check might have balanced out my mood. Receiving the check today, I laughed.

“Outstanding Women of Mystery”

After so long, it’s great to see signs that Two of the Deadliest is sliding into the home stretch toward publication. It might be coming out in the U.K. first for all I know, because the U.K. edition’s cover art is available online. Good looking cover, isn’t it?

Check out that subtitle!
Check out that subtitle!

Many of the writers that Elizabeth George invited to participate aren’t mystery writers, per se. But that’s marketing for you, eh?

I’m smiling because I can’t believe how excited I am to see this baby in print! I wrote my story way back in August/September 2007. The original pub date was set for April, 2008. Then, we were looking at April, 2009. Next month! But, alas, no…July? This is what the HarperCollins site states, but I heard it might not see life until the fall — in hopes that the economy stabilizes, maybe even improves some?

I’m Getting Scared About the Election

9:00 a.m. here, Friday, Halloween…I should be revising the novel, but I can’t concentrate yet. I’m about to start crying over this darned election. I can’t take the suspense of not knowing the outcome anymore! I want it to be done!


As much as I want to hope, pessimism leaches into my thoughts. Pessimism because the Republicans are better at shenanigans than the Dems. What’s going to happen in Florida this time around, eh? And the poor, why is it the poor always seem to vote for the party that doesn’t give a crap about them? Why is there so much ignorance?

Actually, “getting scared” isn’t quite right. I’ve been worried for awhile, but it’s hitting me now. But of course there’s hope, there is. The popular groundswell is amazing, isn’t it? And if my diehard Republican brother-in-law is voting for Obama, doesn’t that mean millions more like him might be doing the same?

But what about the millions of closet racists? We know they’re out there. We know they’re nice people who would NEVER say a word about race but that will never vote for a black man either.

Why can’t people think LOGICALLY for God’s sake? Uhm, when was the last time we enjoyed a surplus, great economy, and global respect…uhm, wouldn’t that be under the Democrats?

LOGIC LOGIC LOGIC…Now I’m just getting mad. So I’m going to send you off to three websites.

1. I’ve been receiving position papers from novelist Elizabeth George. She’s a smart cookie, and she’s done her research, believe me. AND, I admire that she decided to publish these papers on her official author’s website.

Please, if you’re still undecided, check her papers out. Read the last paper for an overview (hopefully it’s posted now). She includes some very interesting statistics.

2. My friend Wendy is political, smart, and funny, and I like this post — which, in fact, got me thinking about the logic-factor. Her post about game-show Palin is spot on also.

3. Then this blog, which brought a welcome smile to my face. Two 80-year-olds saying exactly what it is they believe. I want to be that feisty when I’m 80!! As these two say: If you’re still undecided, you haven’t been paying attention.

On a personal level, I fear what might become of me should things not change. I’ve already had two freelance jobs postpone themselves into the indefinite future because of the economy…I wish I had some comfort food in the house…Why the heck didn’t I buy Halloween candy this year?!?!?!?

Practicing my Shameless Self-Promotional Skills

Earlier this week I Google-searched the title of the anthology that will contain one of my short stories. It’s called Two of the Deadliest, and I hoped to discover its publication date, originally set for 2008. You’ll see I’ve updated my sidebar: April, 2009. Sigh.

Besides the pub date, my search also returned results for many well-known novelists who have mentioned their short stories on their websites, only they do a better job of promoting themselves and the anthology than I do. They actually mention the titles of their stories, for one thing, and maybe a sentence or two about their stories. This got me thinking…

Self-promotion: A skill that doesn’t come naturally to me.

End result, I need to exhibit a little shamelessness. It’s not like I have oodles of fiction credits under my belt yet. I mean, really, the following tidbit is big news for a newbie like me:

Elizabeth George, New York Times bestselling novelist, sent me an email asking me if I’d like to write a short story for her anthology, edited by her. I’ll be one of a few newbies included in a section entitled “Introducing….”

Very cool, yes? I ought to fling the news about for the whole world to view. Look at me! Look at me! Which is what this blog post is all about (all the while feeling uncomfortable even though I can be as full of myself as I wanna be on my blog!).

Self-promotion: Not for the faint of heart.

The funny thing is that for the seasoned novelists, the anthology is probably not a huge deal. I imagine most of them pumped out their short stories in under a week while I worked my fanny off over quite a few months to get mine right. Once again, sigh.

Here’s the scoop on Two of the Deadliest: It will be an all-female collection of mystery and crime stories centered around the themes of lust and greed — “two of the deadliest” sins. My story is called “Paddy O’Grady’s Thigh” and features an inexperienced journalist, two Irish Travellers, and one dug-up corpse.


Self-promotion: Not so bad when I cringe and do it anyhow.

Disciplining Your Daydreams, Part II

My last post yielded more thoughts…Here’s my version of a quickie post because I’m digging the idea of a nap about now (didn’t sleep well last night).

The debate between just-writing versus outlining-first is a funny one. Many novelists advocate one method over the other. (I’m a ‘tweener, a mix of both.) I get the sense that “commercial” novelists tend to outline and “literary” novelists, not so much.

I don’t advocate outlining over letting the words flow (or vice versa). I’m uncomfortable with rules that seem to associate themselves with labels such as “commercial” and “literary.” However, I’ll always recommend character analysis to anyone seeking my opinion on the matter.

Character analyses are good for everyone! Even, I maintain, for novelists who don’t care much about character development. I propose that knowing your characters backwards and forwards before you start writing can help you pinpoint your story, generate plot ideas, and keep your characters real.

Knowing my characters means I know what they wouldn’t do, which is as important in my writing world as knowing what they would do. Characters ought to act in accordance with their worldviews, personalities, backgrounds and so on. Knowing all that stuff automatically helps me discipline away those oh-so-brilliant (but actually wayward) daydreams for the story.

For character development and analyses, check out Elizabeth George’s Write Away. I found her discussion illuminating.

Check in the Mail!

checkinmail.jpgLook what I received today! For the first time in my fictioneering life, I received dollars for my writing! I’m thrilled because this is a step in the right direction.

Alas, I suspect that by April 15th I’ll have handed off the money to our dear government…sigh…

But still! I’m smiley-faced today.

Addendum, 8-Apr-08: Taxes done, and the money I received is all mine, after all! Woo-hoo!

Bum Glue and the Devil Cat

devil-cat.jpgThis morning — resolute and annoyed — I stepped over drifts of shredded toilet paper and into my office. I would not let the mess distract me from my writing duties. I could clean the mess any old time; let it sit for awhile; let the devil cat from toilet paper hell have yet more fun with his kill if he desired.

I caught him in act last night. He woke me up. Yes, I laughed.

But this morning, giggles were beside the point. I mustn’t, I told myself, clean and vacuum; not yet. I could feel the procrastination mistress within, ever distractible she is, perking up at the thought of not turning on my laptop, not starting chapter 19, not settling into anything except the next chore or trip to the fridge.

I was reminded of a lesson from Write Away, One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life, by Elizabeth George. She mentions “bum glue,” a little something we writers must possess to keep our bums stuck to our chairs and in front of our writing implements. Ms. George quotes from one of her own journals:

…I suit up and show up. I sit down at the computer and I do the work, moving it forward a sentence at a time, which is ultimately the only way there is to write a book.

sleepy-cat.jpgAs of this moment (4:00 p.m.) the toilet paper is still adrift in the hallway. Amazing how big it gets when off the roll and shredded to bits. It’s the popcorn effect. But that’s okay, because I wrote my pages.

(By the way, I grabbed this shot just before I turned on the computer this morning. Looks like mauling the toilet paper tuckered the poor dude out, doesn’t it? Rough life.)