Friday, May 27, 2011
I'm sitting on the balcony of my hotel room at Ocean Isle Beach, looking out over a calm ocean, as the sun slowly rises on another perfect day. The last few days have been exactly what I needed, completely unproductive. I've sat on the beach until my skin is pink and tingling, walked until my legs are sore, body-surfed until my muscles ached, ate fish and shrimp until I'm stuffed, read my Kindle on the beach, made love in the afternoon, laughed, slept, and let my thoughts wander.
I needed this more than I realized and it will be over long before I've had enough. Too soon I will be back to work, back to life, back to stress. The days of surf and sun and lazy afternoons will drift away like a dream at waking and the stack of bills, the daily chores, and yet another crisis will fill my world again. But today I will pack my towel, my Kindle, my bottles of lemonade, and throw myself back into the never ending rhythm of crashing waves and lose myself in the monotony of just being.
I came here to write, to finish the final edits on The Collective for release in June, and get away for awhile. Writing and editing hasn't happened. Maybe if I had more time, this balcony would be a perfect place to write, but even here time passes too quickly and I find myself in a hurry to relax before it's gone and life grabs me by the throat again. So the editing is thrown back on the stack of things not getting done this week and production comes to a halt for an all too brief vacation.
When I post this I'll be back, doing all the things that must be done when returning from a trip, all the little things that pile up and stand waiting patiently to smack me back into reality. After the long drive home there will be bills piled on my desk, food to cook, clothes to wash, and another work week to prepare for. Life doesn't take a vacation. The manuscript still hasn't been edited and my son's car is still a lifeless piece of scrap metal in my driveway. All the things that need to get done while I sit on the beach haven't.
But today I fiddle as Rome burns. Today I throw myself in the ocean. Today I don't give a damn what needs doing, or what the motel costs, or what CNN says. Today I relax. Let the cares of the day be sufficient, the evils of tomorrow will tend to themselves. Today I live, laugh, love. Today there is sun, sand, and surf. If only today could last forever.
Back home -
Unfortunately all good things come to an end and I'm back home staring at my keyboard. At least it's a long weekend, I'll need it to recover. The vacation was a blast, the beach was perfect, the ocean was just warm enough to swim in, and the breeze just cool enough to be comfortable. I came home to severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and massive power outages. Today was spent shopping for and buying a new car, so again writing/editing gets pushed to the back burner.
Tonight I post this, then try to catch up on a week away from social networks. Right. Like that will happen. Anyone have a brief summary? Tomorrow I'll write bills and hit the chores. Perhaps by Sunday I'll get a little editing done. My new work in progress is an ongoing web series - Entangled Pair. I've decided to run it on a dedicated blog and link it here. I will also be continuing the series of Book Reviews. Next week is Follow the Money - a novel by Fingers Murphy. So stay tuned.
Friday, May 20, 2011
When I began reading Empty Chairs by Stacey Danson I was completely unprepared for what I would find. If it were a novel, I would have put it down. The matter-of-fact narration depicting extreme sexual exploitation of a small child by her mother turned my stomach. But Empty Chairs isn't a novel. It is Stacy Danson's life story. I read on through tears; my heart filled with horror, sympathy, and anger. But I read on.
In her superbly written auto-biography, the author unfolds a vision of hell that few can imagine, but is the life of far too many innocent children in our society. Stacy was beaten brutally and repeatedly. She was forced to service a stream of men who paid her mother - not occasionally, but every day. When her mother wasn't pleased with her performance Stacy was locked away in a dark closet where claustrophobia threatened her sanity. Stacy was only three.
Her earliest memories are of abuse. Stacy was only five when her mother sold her virginity to the highest bidder and she was brutally raped. The daily torment continued until Stacy, in an amazing act of defiance, at last said no and ran away. She had only been allowed to attend three years of school, between six and nine years old, and at eleven was alone on the harsh streets of Kings Cross in Sydney, Australia. But Stacy survived.
In her short time attending school she learned to read. Her love of reading, and her hunger for knowledge, has continued for over forty years, as is apparent in her masterful writing. Horrific details of her life are delivered in almost emotionless, matter-of-fact clarity, and her dark humor is equally dead-pan. Yes, I laughed at times, in a very somber way. But without that detachment and humor the story would be too tragic to read.
I am friends with the author on facebook, as I am with many fellow writers. We rarely interact, but I saw a post that her blog was nearing two-hundred followers and she was giving away copies of Empty Chairs once she reached two-hundred. I went to her blog and followed it. I was number two-hundred. She emailed the book and told me it was her auto-biography and might be hard to read. I never imagined. It was the hardest thing I have ever read. I can not possibly understand how hard it was to write.
Though I think this book should be read by every adult on the planet, I must warn you it is a glimpse into hell. Stacy carries the emotional and physical scars, some severe, to this day, but I am amazed she even survived. It is far more unfathomable that she grew into such a strong and beautiful human being, and equally wonderful writer. I am quite honored now to be on her friends list. But as she says, she didn't just survive, she choose to live, and she choose to speak out and shine a light into the dark corners of our world that most of us chose to ignore.
Friday, May 13, 2011
While Nick Gardner's family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot's final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot's father. There's just one problem: the Scoot's father walked out years ago and hasn't been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck's life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him. Characters you'll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
I generally read adult fiction. I haven't been a teenager since the seventies, and even my children are no longer teens. Normally I would hardly give a YA or teen novel a second look. But lately I've been reading, and reviewing books outside my usual reading list. I'm glad I gave The Pull of Gravity a chance.
In her debut novel author Gae Polisner shows an uncanny ability to capture the heart, mind, and voice of a teenage boy. Nick Gardner is an average teen who finds himself caught in a whirlwind of life changing events. The first-person narrative proceeds in such a natural, true, and believable fashion it's hard to imagine that it isn't taken directly from the mind of a fifteen year old boy.
Nick suffers all the normal angst of puberty, but he also has a best friend who is dying and a father who literally walks away. Throw a quirky older girl into the mix, Jaycee, who has an interest in Nick and an adventurous plan to help the Scoot, and Nick can do little more than 'trust the force' and cope as best he can. When the couple take a road trip in search of the Scoot's absentee dad, Nick soon experiences how far the best laid plans can go awry.
I well remember how difficult those teen years can be, and how it often seemed the most intimate thoughts and emotions were plastered like a billboard for all to see. The author beautifully embodies that exposed feeling with Jaycee's apparent ability to know Nick's every thought. He is both intimidated and enthralled by her seeming fearlessness and self-sufficiency while he suffers from quite normal adolescent insecurity.
I opened The Pull of Gravity and quite literally read it in one sitting. I never put it down, from cover-to-cover. I was drawn into the life of Nick Gardner and felt such a strong connection that I at times read through the blur of tears. It is an emotionally charged novel that is one moment hilariously funny and the next heart-wrenching and tragic. Ms. Polisner has burst onto the literary scene and shown herself worthy to be shelved with the likes of Steinbeck.
I recommend Pull of Gravity to all who love literature, and as a must read for teens. If my sons were still teens it would be required reading in my home this summer.
Buy it, you will, and master writer you'll see.
Friday, May 6, 2011
I recently had the opportunity to take part in a blog tour over on The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog for debut author Steve Ulfelder and his upcoming novel Purgatory Chasm sponsored by Fine Print Literary Management. To be honest, it didn't sound like a book I would normally read - Steve is a motor-sports guy and his protagonist Conway Sax is a reformed alcoholic and failed NASCAR driver. I'm not into NASCAR.
I took the assignment, however - writing an interview and book review as part of a blog tour for a major agency, for a book published by a major publisher, is not something to pass on. Steve Ulfelder turned out to be a great guy, very down to earth and easy to interview, and the book was a delightful surprise. Conway Sax is somewhere between Sam Spade and the Punisher with a little Die Hard thrown in. Read my review, and interview, on The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog.
The assignment gave me the chance to interact with some awesome people and inject my name into the aether of NY publishing. It's doubtful anything will come of it, but the more one gets their name out the better. The best part was meeting a very professional, very skilled writer, and reading a damn fine book. So it was a win-win situation.
It all started me thinking about what we do, as writers, to promote ourselves. We all want to be published, want to sell books. I spent years chasing after agents, trying to be noticed, and now I chase after readers. It really is a very different game. On the query-go-round we actively seek connections with other writers, agents, editors, publishers in an attempt to sell our work. It is all about the big publishing industry in NY. But that's not who really buys books.
When I switched over to Indie publishing, my market changed. Now it is all about the readers. They are the ones buying my books, and the ones I need to have notice me. All authors make that switch when they finally get published. The focus goes from landing an agent, to landing a publisher, to courting book sellers, to attracting readers. Each market is different and requires a unique approach.
The new publishing - eBooks, blog tours, et.al. - is changing the way writers promote their work to readers. The days of a writer going from bookstore to bookstore signing books and shaking hands with readers is all but gone. With eBooks there is nothing to sign, and with online bookstores there is nowhere to sit. Markets are growing online and shrinking at the local mall. Even print books are selling online better than in bookstores, and eBooks are surpassing paperbacks.
Social networks are becoming the new place for authors and readers to meet. Readers go online for their books and to interact with their favorite authors. Authors have blogs, FB pages, twitter accounts and readers flock to sites with book reviews and industry news. But it is even more difficult to be noticed online than at the local bookstore. There is so much static on the network an author's voice is hard to find, unless the reader knows what they are looking for.
That was the beauty of book signings and personal appearances. Someone went to a bookstore to find a book and there was an author they may never have noticed otherwise sitting at a table signing books. The author just got noticed by a potential new reader. Enter the blog tour. Readers go online to find new books. They frequent literary blogs and review sites. So authors go there to be seen. They write reviews, give interviews, convince book bloggers to review their work. It's all about connecting with readers.
I'm in a transition right now. I have hundreds of writers and publishing professionals on my friend-lists from my old strategy of finding an agent, an editor, a publisher. I have made some awesome connections with some wonderful people. I wouldn't give up my friend-list for anything, but now it's time to connect with readers. My focus going forward is to seek out those readers.
I write/blog a lot on the business and craft of writing, but I'm changing gears and writing more for readers. I'll be posting more short fiction, poetry, and reviews. The writerly stuff will still be here, but the main focus will be on the readers.