Category Archive: Blog

Southern Living with True Grit

I’ve been asked to write something on the subject of “Southern Living” for what’s been titled The She Writes Southern Writers 4th of July Countdown Blog Tour. Phew, that’s a southern fried mouthful. But hey, here in the south we’re used to chewing on some real gritty morsels. And speaking of grits, let’s consider the southern love affair with that oh-so-misunderstood food group, the grit. It’s a group because it’s always referred to as grits (plural) and because it’s always accompanied by other foods. Which makes it a group. Grits and gravy, grits and eggs, grits and pancakes, grits and peanut butter, grits and foie gras.

Oh no, that just slipped out of my Mastering The Art of French Cooking and into my cholesterol busting Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. In her food bible, Paula Deen has some great grits recipes by the way. Of course Paula Deen does not hit you over the head with her grits. They do not, in fact, show up until chapter two, recipe number 97, Eggs Baked with Grits and Ham. But they do make a second appearance in chapter three, recipe number 149, Grillades and Grits and again in chapter ten they appear as recipes 233 through 235 inclusive under Original Grits, Cheese Grits, and Cheesy Tomato Grits.

In addition to grits, Paula Deen just loves cheese – with just about anything. Hey ya’ll try a tasty Cheddar, Pepper Jelly and Pecan Cheese Ball, or as a starter perhaps a Dr. Pepper Pecans Cheese Straw at recipe numbers 20 and 22 respectively.
Now for the grits uninitiated, it’s time to clarify just what the grits are. And here we turn not to Ms. Deen, although she is certainly the current doyenne of the full on fat fest that has always been synonymous with southern cooking, but rather to our friend Messrs. Wikipedia who explain grits thusly:
“Grits (also sometimes called sofkee or sofkey from the Muskogee word) (I hate to double parenthesize but who ever heard of SOFKEE?) are a food of Native American origin common in the Southern United States and mainly eaten at breakfast. They consist of coarsely ground corn, or sometimes alkali-treated corn (hominy). Grits are similar to other thick maize-based porridges from around the world, such as polenta, or the thinner farina.

Grits are usually prepared by adding one part grits to two-to-three parts boiling water, sometimes seasoned with salt or sugar. They are usually cooked for 5–10 minutes for “quick” grits or 20 or more minutes for whole kernel grits, or until the water is absorbed and the grits become a porridge-like consistency.”

Did you movie fans note the precise timing required when cooking grits in this invaluable scientific type Wiki document? If so you will no doubt be reminded of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Vinny vanquishes the prosecution with his cross examination of the grits cook who, Hollywood surprise-wise, turns out to be a real boon to the defense. So you see how grits turned into an American instrument for good and a cultural icon all without the fanfare and self promotion normally associated with becoming a legend.

I will add one interesting note from my extensively gritty research. Folk wisdom contends that dry grits, scattered near foraging ants, can be used as a pesticide by causing the ants to ‘explode’ as the grits expand inside them. Hmmmm. Food for thought, diet-wise. For more detailed info on grits please see wikipedia.org/wiki/Grits.

Now in case you were thinking that grits couldn’t possibly reach any higher level of notoriety, I’m here to tell you that you would be dead on wrong. Yes, you heard it here first (I hope). Welcome to The National Grits Festival. Yes. True. With pictures from past years, even. Giant tubs of grits. With people slopping around inside like babies in a kiddie pool. This is G rated folks so don’t go clickin’ around thinkin’ you can get off on grits. They are not that kinda food group. And shame on y’all’s for thinkin’ such a thang.

Now in its 27th incarnation, this year’s grits festival was held on April 13, 14, and 15 in St. George, SC. Past year’s recipes read like a glitzy who’s who of the grits world, including but not limited to Deep Fried Grits-n-Cheese, Low Country Shrimp & Cheese Grits, Fried Grits Cakes with Sausage, The Green Valley Spa’s Shrimp & Grits, and Gooey Butter Grits Cheese Cake. Yum, where’s my ladle?

With all that cheese and bacon and ham and deep fried whatever, I’m sure you’re thinking that for a healthy heart diet these grits are just about the worst food in our galaxy. And how wrong you would be. I would not be touting the value of grits as a southern staple if I did not feel perfectly righteous in my zeal for this misunderstood grain – is it a grain? Let’s see. According to our good neighbors at LivingStrong.com, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has grits as a low-fat, cholesterol-free food. Grits can be used as a breakfast or as a dinner entrée (replacing those other boring old entrées like salmon, pasta, or – gasp – tournedos). Grits are also a good source of fiber and full of many vitamins and minerals, namely iron, thiamine, folic acid, and niacin. Again, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, grits have only 0.5 g of fat per quarter cup serving and are not a major source of saturated, trans, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.

Which leaves unanswered the question of whether grits are (is?) a grain. So let’s see what popcorn.org has to say (remember grits come from corn). And I quote: Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product.

So that’s it. Grits are a grain. And if you don’t add sugar, butter, cream, cheese, bacon, ham, foie gras, or ice cream, and you don’t fry or do anything but boil your grits, you’re looking at a healthy food product that will provide you with good nutritional value. And if you add all that other stuff, grits will still provide you with good nutritional value and a lot of fat – and a calorie overload that would have sunk the Titanic before it ever reached the iceberg. But hey, who’s counting? This is Southern Living at its cholesterol-packed zenith.

One final word about grits comes down to pronunciation. In the north, grits – in the extremely rare situation that you find them offered on a menu – is a one syllable word. In the south, however, if you don’t order greee-itz, you’re likely to get a blank stare and a befuddled “What’s thayat y’all want, hon?” from your diner attendee.

Feel free to share this post with friends, or enemies, either one. And tell Paula Deen “Hey” for me when you see her.

A Confederacy of Authors

An article that recently appeared on HuffPo Sticks & Stones: The Changing Politics of the Self-Publishing Stigma by Terri Giuliano makes the case that a) self publishing (referred to by us Indie authors as Indie Pubbing) is growing fast, b) some authors published by traditional houses resent this, c) sales for ebooks are climbing, d) sales of paperback books are declining, and e) a bunch of other points too numerous to detail here. Just read the article if you’re so inclined.
While the article is well researched and full of juicy nuggets, it climbs like ivy all over the edifice that is publishing, making so many cases that it’s a bit like trying to identify one speck of dust in a maelstrom. But, among all the points tossed out for consideration, one struck me particularly and I’ll focus here only on that. It happens to be about a book I loved and found truly inspired. Here’s the salient paragraph:
In the old days, determined authors turned to self-publishing—or vanity presses, as they were called—as a last resort. Serious authors, concerned about being black-balled, dared not self-publish. As a result, talented authors like John Kennedy Toole, whose posthumously published masterpiece, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” won a Pulitzer Prize (1981), went to their grave believing their work did not measure up.
Now I do not know what fast track the writer of this article had to author John Kennedy Toole’s conscious, unconscious, or subconscious mind but to state that he went to his grave believing his work did not measure up seems a bit overstated and presumptuous. Not to mention, since she uses the pronoun “their,” other [unnamed] writers who, similarly discouraged by the lack of a publishing contract in New York, did themselves in.
The story of Toole’s many rejections by the publishing world are legendary. The story of his mother’s continued efforts to get his one book, A Confederacy Of Dunces, published after his death are also legendary. That’s what we know. We do not know what was in his mind before his death or why he succumbed to such despair that he gained an enormous amount of weight and consequently took his own life.
Did Hemingway go to his grave believing his work just did not measure up? Or did Sylvia Plath? How about Virginia Woolf, Jack London, Hunter S. Thompson, Jerzy Kosinski, Anne Sexton, and many others, all of whom had publishers solidly in their corners. They also had public adulation and big bucks in their pockets. Yet they still went to their graves by their own hands.
Does this tell us something? Is there a clue lurking in these tales of despair? Is the writer of this article trying to say – in some veiled way – that not getting a publishing deal and recognition by some agent or editor in New York can kill a writer? OMG, hopes dashed, nothing left to live for, no agent likes my work.
Reading between the lines of Toole’s book, and taking a lot for granted in making certain assumptions, one could – let me rephrase – I could venture to guess that John Kennedy Toole, much like his protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, felt very much the post adolescent outcast. Or at least he identified with that feeling enough to write about it in excruciating detail matched only, perhaps, by Holden Caulfield’s adolescent angst.
Ask any psychiatrist and you’ll find that adolescent brains are not fully formed and what’s there is kinda mushy (not especially technically accurate but apt I think). Anyone who’s observed a teen can see it. It’s not a great leap to imagine that Toole could have come out of his own adolescence severely depressed. No one who feels good takes his own life. A reading of William Styron’s Darkness Visible should make clear to anyone what depression does to a person’s brain function. Basically depression shuts off all but the worst feelings and makes life so unbearable that death seems like an appealing alternative. It is a mental process with the most severe physical manifestations including lethargy, sleeplessness, weight changes, drug or alcohol abuse, and others. But this has nothing to do with publishing houses.
So, while the article provides many fascinating and salient facts about what’s happening in publishing today, and shows readers that alternatives to a closed market are always better than a market that is controlled at the top by a select few, it also makes some assumptions that are uninformed at best and destructive at worst. The next time a writer feels really low, he or she should look not toward New York but much closer to home (even if home is New York). And get some help. Because it’s out there. And being a writer can be a lonely, self absorbing occupation that does not lend itself to simple self repair.
It seems to me, at this point in our collective culture as writers, there are two kinds of authors, whether self published or traditionally published.
The first is the group of writers who consider writing a profession like any other. Nuts and bolts, write because you have to make a living, satisfy a market niche, promote the hell out of your work, and deposit your checks somewhere safe because the work is too hard to risk the rewards on a hot stock.
The second is the group – Like Toole – who have something very personal to say, about themselves and the culture that influences and informs them. You won’t find them writing about vampires or shape shifters. You won’t find sex scenes every ten pages in their books. You won’t be inundated in their books by cutesy witches who fall in love with handsome hunks or lady detectives who wear provocative skirts and kick back with the boys in the squad room.
Sometimes the two groups overlap – Jack London comes to mind. So even though some writers, based solely on their writing, are more angst ridden than others, even the nuts and bolts genre writers can be depressed. But depression and suicide are not limited to writers. And I suspect that John Kennedy Toole’s problems pre-dated any rejections by New York publishing houses. It’s a sad fact that he was gone from our sight so early. It’s a sad fact that so many other writers took the same path. It’s a sad fact that the world can be a cruel and unfeeling place. Writing requires resilience. Emotional and psychological resilience. While writers are developing their skill set, they must keep this in mind and not allow the world to tell them who or what they are and how to value themselves. Because the sad fact is that the world just does not give a damn.

Joyce Carol Oates & Notes On The Failure Of Writing

Writers love to write. They have to because if they didn’t love the process, the rest would just be too damned disappointing. Writers also love to write about writing. Over the years, I’ve read many essays on writing – Annie Dillard, Margaret Atwood, Neil Simon, Stephen King, Daphne DuMaurier, Pearl Buck, Bob Bausch, and many others. I’ve learned from all of these essays, and come to appreciate each one’s unique approach to the blank page they fill with such life.

Earlier this year (or maybe late last year) I bought and read The Faith of a Writer Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates. The passage pasted below made so much sense to me that I rewrote it and pasted it on my writing wall. I’m sharing it here because I think it speaks to the particular essence of the writing experience. We don’t want or like to think of ourselves as failures; I know I don’t. Yet during the writing process, when you’re all ginned up and immersed in the work, you feel lifted above the ordinary as if you’ve been transported out of every day you and into super you. This state is intoxicatingly seductive. Like a drug. And then, in march the tagalongs. The sense that this is not quite right, not quite what you imagined, not quite what you meant to say, not quite the character you wanted to create, not quite the scene you had envisioned, not quite the book you intended to write.

Well, here’s what Joyce Carol Oates has to say on this subject. One of the most prolific writers of our time, if Ms. Oates can’t express what the process of writing feels like to the writer, then I don’t know who can – or should.

I hope other writers (and readers) find encouragement in the odd idea that it is completely natural for us to live within a feeling of failure. Not only natural, but correct.

And now, Ms. Oates …

The practicing writer, the writer at work, the writer immersed in his or her project, is not an entity at all, let alone a person, but a curious mélange of wildly varying states of mind, clustered toward what might be called the darker end of the spectrum: indecision, frustration, pain, dismay, despair, remorse, impatience, outright failure. To be honored in midstream for one’s labor would be ideal, but impossible; to be honored after the fact is always too late, for by then another project has been begun, another concentration of indefinable states. Perhaps one must contend with vaguely wearing personalities, in some sort of sequential arrangement? – perhaps premonitions of failure are but the soul’s wise economy, in not risking hubris? – it cannot matter, for, in any case, the writer, no matter how battered a veteran, can’t have any real faith, any absolute faith, in his stamina (let alone his theoretical “gift”) to get him through the ordeal of creation. One is frequently asked whether the process becomes easier, with the passage of time, and the reply is obvious. Nothing gets easier with the passage of time, not even the passing of time.
The artist, perhaps more than most people, inhabits failure, degrees of failure and accommodation and compromise; but the terms of his failure are generally secret. It seems reasonable to assume that failure may be a truth, or at any rate a negotiable fact, while success is a temporary illusion of some intoxicating sort, a bubble soon to be pricked, a flower whose petals will quickly drop. If despair is – as I believe it to be – as absurd a state as euphoria, who can protest that it feels more substantial, more reliable, less out of scale with the human environment?

Yet it is perhaps not failure the writer loves, so much as the addictive nature of incompletion and risk.

Joyce Carol Oates

My Life @ Amazon

It’s been eighteen months since I began my great experiment @ Amazon as an Indie author. In fact, my debut month coincided with the receipt of my first social security check. Both auspicious events that I hope will continue.
During that time I’ve seen the Kindle publishing experiment explode in popularity with both readers and authors. In a previous post I outlined the reasons for and against going Indie so I won’t repeat that here. But I would like to share some of my impressions of what has happened to other Indies I know.
First, “other Indies I know” can mean two things: some I know personally and some I know through social media. Seems this is common among writers these days. We meet online, share short snippets of our lives and consider each other “friends” albeit not in the traditional I’ll stop by later to borrow a cup of sugar or a lawn mower kind of way. One of the ways I’ve “befriended” other Indies is on Writer’s Cafe. It’s a lively, friendly, message board where you can find an answer to just about anything related to Kindle and/or Indie pubbing, writing in general, how Amazon works, and anything you might want to ask. You can lurk (browse) without signing in or start a thread or comment on an existing post after signing in.
What I’ve noticed on Writer’s Cafe over the past eighteen months is that quite a few of the writers who were writing at night after working their day jobs have been able to quit and write full time. Some have bought houses (YES they got a mortgage…) and others have reported sales figures that are quite respectable. Some who began as Indies signed with agents and got book contracts with traditional houses and there are the rare few who sold in the millions (of books or dollars take your pick) and have become, if not household names, very well known.
So there’s movement, change, momentum even.
About my real in-the-flesh Indie writer friends, I can report success at various levels as well. Everyone I know who has gone Indie is selling books and making money. And … they’re all happy with the choice they made. Okay, okay, in some cases it was a default choice because they couldn’t get an agent to take them on. I plan to write another post on that subject next. But for now, consider this: some who went Indie then got contacted by an agent and consequently decided to stick with being an Indie.
So that leaves me. One Monday morning about six months ago I realized that I was happy. After checking my pulse and looking in a nearby mirror to see if I was still me, I realized I was happy in a very specific sense. I had just checked my stats. For those of you who don’t know about Amazon and Nook and Smashwords and Goodreads and all the other ways you can sell books online, stats are your sales figures and your book rankings and your starred reviews (these last are the most troublesome as the public tends to be quixotic and completely undependable).
Stats are like the weather and the stock market. Up, down. Windy, calm. Cloudy, sunny. Rainy, dry. But NEVER fixed. So good stats can make you happy. I’ll admit I’m not a pure at heart ascetic and I do respond to external encouragement in the form of sales of my books. Okay call me shallow. But that’s really what all writers want. People reading their books.
And that’s why my life @ Amazon makes me happy, Because I get feedback about my books right away. And I know that people are reading my books and that’s what brings a book to life. Not who the agent is who represents it or the publishing company that brings it to the market. Writers and readers make a book.

Thoughts On Pros & Cons of Going Indie


I’ll be on a panel at AWP in February (2012) so I’ve created this little handout for whoever attends. I thought I’d share it with others who won’t be there. It’s a list of the reasons I had for becoming an Indie author. And then a list of the reasons I came up with against becoming an Indie author. Hint: that list is shorter.

By the way, I’ve now published five books as an Indie. One with co-author Karen Cantwell. And two under my pen name L B Swan and co-author’s pen name Hope Chandler. I leave it up to her to share her real name with you.

My short story collection Maybelle’s Revenge is pictured here.

Here’s a brief list of the reasons why I decided to go Indie:
1. Didn’t want to wait for someone else – an agent, an editor, the marketing dept. of a publishing house etc. – to give me permission to sell my book.
2. Didn’t want to waste the time to wait for the traditional process to take hold. I’d rather be writing my next book.
3. Friends who have books with traditional publishers are not always happy with their situation or outcomes (no matter what advance they got, even the huge ones).
4. Takes years to get an agent. Then takes months (or more) for the agent to sell it to an editor. Then it takes at least 1.5 yrs (and many longer than that) to come out with the hardcover.
5. Publishers promote a book [sometimes lackadaisically] for about 2 months and then move on leaving the author to do the rest of the promoting on his own (or not at all).
6. Everything the authors do to promote their own work is what I would be doing anyway for a Kindle edition.
7. Kindle (or other apps like Nook & iPad) sales are growing rapidly while bookstore sales are declining.
8. Readers purchase more Kindle type books because of the price & recent stats say they read more/buy more books.
9. The author gets immediate feedback on sales figures and can have an impact on sales through promotions of all kinds.
10. Publishers keep authors in the dark about sales except twice a year when they send out royalty statements so authors never know how their book is doing.
11. Kindle costs nothing to publish, although that depends on the amount of work you pay others to do pre-pubbing.
12. But the biggest reason for me is the control issue. I feel I’m in control of my future to the degree that is possible.

And here’s an even briefer list of the downside of going Indie (IMO):
1. No advance. But realize that the average fiction advance is somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. And that is against royalties so if your book doesn’t sell enough to cover that, you will never see another dime and not likely publish again.
2. I’ll never get a traditional review but writers who get published by small presses or in paperback won’t either and there are fewer and fewer book reviews in the traditional print media or anywhere else anyway.
3. Never [except in small numbers if you also put your book out in a print version] have bookstore sales.
4. Never have the caché of being with a traditional “house.”
5. You must be prepared to handle all the business elements of putting a book together on your own. This includes but may not be limited to copy editing, proofing, cover design, formatting, and promoting.

Finally, no matter how they produce their books, more authors than ever are reaching their readers over the Internet. Blogs, Facebook, message boards, Twitter, and all the other media are great ways to reach potential readers. If a writer is willing to put the time into connecting with readers through social networking, there is great potential to develop an audience.
There is a fairly steep learning curve to going Indie. But tens of thousands of writers have done it so it is certainly possible, doable, and can be rewarding – psychically as well as financially.

Some Sites Of Interest
Kindleboards/Writers Cafe

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php

Of particular interest here is Writers’ Cafe within Book Bazaar where you can lurk or participate on the threads. Any question you have has probably already been answered on some thread but there are thousands by now so you can also start a thread and you’ll get lots of feedback. A very friendly, helpful, and expansive writing community of mostly Indies but some crossovers in both directions – Indie to trad pubs & vice versa and sometimes both at the same time. Generally cordial and supportive. If anyone gets snarky the moderators jump in & quiet things down again. BTW, moderators are also very nice and helpful.

A Newbies Guide To Publishing

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Joe Konrath is well known. He’s been published for years. Read his blog. If you’re new to Indie pubbing, go back to his blogs in 2009 & 2010 to see how the early adopters started to figure out the momentous changes in publishing. Joe is very entertaining. Opinionated but he backs up his opinions with facts & #s. And he works damned hard as do all Indies. As Joe points out all the time, this is a job. Don’t expect long lunch breaks and incentivized vacations.

My Website & Blog
www.thenovelette.com
I’ve posted a few of my own experiences with Indie pubbing and also done a few author interviews. One in particular with John Locke who’s fame is that he sold a million e-books through Amazon. By now it’s way more but that was then. It’s an interesting interview titled Wanna Sell A Million Books?

Amanda Hocking’s blog
amandahocking.blogspot.com/
Personally I hate this site & it’s mostly a huge collection of promos for her books etc. And it’s painful to scroll through but, if you look at the blogroll on the left side you can go back to when she began in 2009 & see her progression when she started as an Indie. It’s interesting. Not that anyone else is going to duplicate her experience. But good background and info.

kdp.amazon.com
Speaks for itself. Everything you want or need to know about Indie pubbing @ Amazon.

www.barnesandnoble.com/PubIt
Everything you want or need to know about Indie pubbing (epub or print) @ B&N.

http://www.smashwords.com

Everything you want or need to know about Indie pubbing @ Smashwords, a site where you make your book available to any/every e-reader device.

www.createspace.com
Everything you want or need to know about Indie pubbing in PRINT @ Amazon.com. These people are great to work with and the only cost to you (unless you hire them to do something for you) is the cost to order one proof of your book – about 5 bucks +/-.

My contact info:
Email: LB@thenovelette.com
Twitter: @L_BGschwandtner

An Interview about The Naked Gardener

Here are a few questions readers have asked about The Naked Gardener

How did you come up with the idea of a naked gardener?

A: At a certain point in my life, I knew three women who gardened naked. They all had different takes on why they did it but all of them felt it was really important to them. So I began to think about a woman who goes to her garden naked and what that might mean and in what ways it was liberating for her and important in her life.

Is the concept, um, autobiographical?

A: No. Except that I love to nurture and grow living things. I must be a positive enabler.

Gardening naked is Katelyn’s little secret, something she only does when Maze isn’t around.  Do you think all women have things in their lives that they don’t share with men, even men they love?

A: Everyone has secrets. I don’t think there’s a woman alive who tells her husband everything. Many husbands aren’t interested. But many women don’t make their voices heard.

and is this part of Katelyn’s desire to remain independent?

A: Katelyn’s need to remain independent is, I think, a defensive posture. She’s afraid of feeling betrayed, of feeling she missed certain signs, of making a mistake that makes her feel bad about her own judgment. I think she comes to find that real independence is an interior state rather than a matter of a piece of paper or a commitment to another person or even a community.

The women floating down the river are kind of a collective.   They even paint themselves and swap stories around a campfire, lots of tribal things.  Do you believe that women have a greater need for this kind of bonding than men do?

A: Men paint themselves up. They just do it to root for a team. I think men are highly tribal. I included this in the book because I think women are reluctant, in our society, to truly let their hair down and bond with other women. I wanted to explore what might happen if women really changed the way they look to themselves and each other, without the standard make up and clothing we rely on to cover ourselves. I wanted their tribal experience to be transformative, which I think it is in more so-called primitive cultures.

Through the course of the book Katelyn changes from a loner to someone who is part of a town, a group of women, and a person who is willing to consider marriage.  What’s the turning point in the story, the place where her sense of herself begins to shift?

A: It’s a slow change, organic like growth in her garden. But it’s during the canoe trip, when she has the lives of the other women in her hands, that she feels her real power. And when she goes back to the garden, it’s with a new determination to bring that power to her everyday life.

A NEW (and exciting) Paranormal Romance Series — All About Wishing

Well, Shelly’s Second Chance, The Wish Granters, Book One is now available at www.amazon.com.

(hint: My co-author and I are both writing under pen names for this series but it’s still us, and I’m still LB from TheNovelette.com)

We’re so excited, especially because we’re looking forward to hearing from all of you. Share YOUR wish by entering The Wish Granters contest. All about that below. And pick up your copy of Shelly’s Second Chance. Let us know if you think Shelly made the right decision (after making a whole bunch of wrong ones…)

And now, on to the contest.

Win A Girls Night Out Gift Basket (a $98 value)
It’s Easy! Just Make A Wish.

After a pair of accidents suspend their earthly lives, The Wish Granters, Alanna and Joe, find themselves in Transition, a nether world between life and death where they learn they’ve been teamed up to help grant a wish–one woman at a time. Depending on how well they perform their task, they could earn their way back to earth or beyond to heaven.

In Book One of the new series, Shelly wishes for a way out of her financial problems but that wish just starts the ball rolling.

After Joe and Alanna show up, Shelly’s life starts to resemble a roller coaster ride. A whirlwind trip to Vegas gives her everything she says she’s always wanted but, when her fiancé, Ben, shows up unexpectedly, events take such a drastic turn that Shelly realizes she may have been wishing for the wrong thing all along. Is Shelly doomed or will Joe and Alanna help her squeak through? And, once they grant her wish, will she truly be able to turn her life around? One thing though, Shelly must abide by The Wish Granters code: They’ll grant your wish, but the rest is up to you.

So what’s YOUR wish?

Share it by emailing us at thewishgranters@gmail.com and start wishing today! (Please include your name.)

There’s just one rule.* You can’t wish on behalf of anyone else. Women are always trying to make things perfect for the people they love, but in order to evoke the Wish Granter magic, you must stop for a moment and think about what you’d like for yourself.

Visit us:
Blog:TheWishGranters.net
FB: The Wish Granters
Twitter: @TheWishGranters
Email: thewishgranters@gmail.com

With Very Best Wishes,
The Wish Granters

*All entries will be posted at http://thewishgranters.blogspot.com and The Wish Granters Facebook page. Winners chosen at the sole discretion of the authors. Upon notification of winning, the winner agrees to supply a street address for delivery.

To Genre or Not To Genre

In a blog post at The Millions, my friend and co-author (more about that later), Kim Wright, has posted an eye-opening piece about the switch going on in publishing these days. What switch? The one from writing literary novels to producing genre works. You know, thriller, mystery, romance, suspense, YA … the list goes on.

The point of her post is simply that this switch is happening for one very good reason. Genre sells. So why didn’t this happen before? How come the so-called “literary” novel has been on the new releases table for so long if it didn’t sell? Hmmmm? Lots of reasons. For one thing, agents and editors like well written books. And much of what you find on the genre shelves is — to be frank — mediocre writing. Not all, mind you. Not by a long shot. So how about those literary tomes that make you want to close your eyes and nod off? They may not excite the reader but they do aim to elevate prose. Bottom line is that no genre work is ever going to win the National Book Award or a Pulitzer (I won’t even mention the Nobel Prize — oops I just did).

These days publishers are pulling in the reins on advances for literary books at the same time they’re scouting for genre gems. And genre writers are popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Just take a look at the Indie field on Amazon and you’ll find genre writers by the thousands while literary works are as hard to find as a diamond in a cornfield. There are, to be sure, a few literary works on the Indie roster — mine included — but literary writers have decided that it’s no crime to write a mystery, albeit using some of the same prose techniques that elevates their literary writing.

Kim Wright (see above) and I have co-authored a paranormal romance that will be released on Amazon & B&N by early October. It will be my fourth release as an Indie. It will be Kim’s first, although she has previously published one non fiction work with Random House, one literary novel with Grand Central, is about to release The Path To Publication with Press 53, and her first historical crime novel is in the hands of her agent who will be shopping it to publishers this month.

And that’s how a writer makes a living these days. Writing. All kinds of writing. When you think about it, maybe that’s not really such a break from the past. Writers always had to be flexible and able to use their skill set in many ways just to stay afloat. After all, one of America’s greatest writers — Faulkner — wrote scripts in Hollywood to pay the bills. And he wasn’t alone.

So, without sacrificing the quality prose we all deserve, let’s all climb off the literary high horse and write what pleases readers.

A Beautiful Student, Trouble for a Teacher

Robert Bausch – seasoned writer and beloved teacher of writing, has just published a heartfelt novel about a teacher becoming overly involved with a beautiful female student who has a reputation for trouble. What kind of trouble? Well, that’s the story.

I spoke with Bob about writing his latest book, In The Fall They Come Back. It’s his seventh book, BTW. I’ve included a list of his books at the end of this post. And another BTW, Bob wrote the novel, Almighty Me, which became the movie Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey. Yep, that’s Bob Bausch.

Bob has seen the writing and publishing world go through many changes. He’s won prestigious writing awards and continues to teach aspiring writers the craft he knows so well. From working with one agent for the past – oh – twenty-some years, to last year signing with a new agent, from publishing with a few of the big 7 NY houses to the publishing venture known as Kindle, it’s a new world for writers and readers and Bob hopes to connect in different ways. He wants what most writers want. To be read. To contribute to the wonderful wealth that is art. And to share his art with readers who hunger for meaning through a good story.

Take a look at In The Fall They Come Back. Now here’s Bob.

When his first book, On the Way Home, was released, the press was more than kind.

“It was amazing how that book did. Newsweek came to my house to take my picture and it appeared on the same page with Elmore Leonard and Ruth Gordon. I got all kinds of attention for that book so I thought the second book (The Lives of Riley Chance) was the one where I would really be established. I put everything I thought I knew about what I could do as a writer at that time into that second book.”

Bob has had ups and downs in his writing life. A great story teller with a gift for engaging his writing students, Bob recalls his frustration in the middle of writing that second novel.

“It was very painful to write. I had a pass where I was trying to write the third section of it and I got so frustrated I took the whole five hundred and twenty page manuscript and went out on the front stoop and threw it outside. Papers everywhere. Then I went to a 7-11 and played Pac-Man until two in the morning until I had no more coins. When I came home, I found the manuscript on the table next to the typewriter. My wife (we were not married yet at that time) had picked it all up and reassembled it, even with tire prints all over it. After all that, it got a really good review in The New York Times and the L.A. Times said a lot of good things.”

What was it like for books in those days? Well sort of like it is today, only different.

“A book would stay in the stores for three months. That was it. After that if you wanted it you would have to go to the information desk in the store and order it and they would call you when it came in.”

Today, of course, a book can live on the Web forever thus Bob – and a lot of other fine authors – are turning to Kindle and Nook and CreateSpace and other delivery systems.

Even so, nobody can predict or even explain why some books become best sellers while others don’t, or even why some continue to sell and others just disappear.

“It’s kind of crazy. One of the best examples of that is a really complex, hard to read, almost scholarly novel by Thomas Pynchon called Gravity’s Rainbow, was on The New York Times best seller list for weeks. I’m convinced it was because it was by Thomas Pynchon and because of the title. And I’m pretty sure the thousands of people who bought that book and made it a best seller couldn’t read it. It’s a nice book to have on your coffee table.”

I’m reminded that William Faulkner loved to read mysteries. We’ve all heard the reports that books are dying and reading is disappearing. Hmmm …

“I don’t think people read any less than they did fifty years ago. I think there are people who love having the language going on in their head and they’ll read no matter what. There are people who can’t eat their cereal in the morning without reading the text on the box or a newspaper. It’s not so much that we don’t have readers anymore but that we have an industry that has handled the reading public – an audience that’s already there – as if they didn’t count. As if they could be manipulated into doing almost anything. It’s an industry that does the worst job of selling books. If any other industry in America tried to operate the way the publishing industry does, they would all go out of business overnight.
“The business has become market driven as opposed to in the past it was at least editorially driven. Which is to say, editors acquired books and took them to marketing and said, ‘We’re buying these books. Figure out a way to market them.’ So it isn’t that there aren’t readers. It’s that the people who should be serving readers are serving marketing departments who don’t care about readers. They only care about market breakdowns and making numbers.

So what do readers want?

“What they used to get from literature. A good story. That is human beings being caught in the act of being human. Meaning well but creating trouble and pain anyway. People who love each other harming each other with their love. That’s what good fiction gives you. The truth. Not factual truth but the truth about what it means to be human.”

In his first Indie book, Bob writes about real people suffering in real and emotionally true ways.

In The Fall They Come Back takes place in a school. The protagonist is a teacher who in the beginning of the book is thinking of going to law school. But because he’s influenced by what he does as a teacher, there’s a place in the book where he says: ‘Maybe that’s all a teacher is really. Someone who means well, who’s bearing gifts.’ It’s a book about finding out that what he thought was a temporary job is really where his heart is. At one point the character says: ‘If you could give somebody as a gift movies or music or art or literature, if you could give that only by talking to them a little bit every day, wouldn’t you want to do that?’ To him it’s the magical realization that what he’s doing is offering the world. All the things that are worthy of having in the world as a gift to these unformed young students. The book is also about the limits of benevolence. He becomes too involved with his students and gets into trouble because of it.”

Bob says he’s happy when a reader reports that his book was a great read. In fact, when one reader said Bob owed him fifteen dollars because he was so engrossed in Bob’s book that he missed his train stop, Bob was happy to send him a check.

“I want readers to be moved to tears and laughter. I want reading my book to be an experience they carry around for days, to move them enough that first it feels real to them and that they feel like they’ve come to understand a little more deeply what it means to be human and alive here and now. What it means to be a teacher; what it means to be a friend; what it means to care.”

Books by Robert Bausch

On the Way Home, 1982 – LSU Press
The Lives of Riley Chance, 1984 – St. Martin’s Press
The White Rooster and Other Stories, 1995 – Gibbs Smith Publishers
Almighty Me, 1991 – Houghton Mifflin
A Hole In The Earth, 2001 – Harcourt, Inc.
The Gypsy Man, 2002 – Harcourt, Inc.
Out of Season, 2005 – Harcourt, Inc.

Can Two Writers Create Together?

Hi There Noveletters:

If you’ve ever wondered if writing could be a collaborative effort, or if you could even find a compatible writing partner, here are two writers who can say, been there, done that. And happily. In this guest post straight from the pens of Liz and Lisa (check out their fab site chicklitisnotdead.com) you’ll learn just how a fiction partnership can work to write a better book. And now, here are Liz and Lisa to tell  you all about their collaboration on …

The D Word

A Better Book Because We Wrote It Together

By Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

There are many benefits to having a writing partner- especially one  who’s been your BFF since peg leg jeans and AquaNet hairspray were popular. Over the past twenty some odd years we’ve been there for each other through it all. Through break ups and make- ups and marriage and babies and premature mid-life crises. And all of that history comes in handy when you decide to write a book together. Because you just know things- important things you need to know when you collaborate. Like how you should never, ever, under any uncertain terms approach the other before she’s had caffeine. Which is why we feel The D Word is a novel neither of us could have written alone. Or would have wanted to write alone. Or would have been as good had one of us written it alone.

Of course it’s not an overnight thing to suddenly be able to come up with 100,00 words that someone will (hopefully!) want to read. And to be able to do it with your type-A control freak mirror image other wise known as your BFF? Even harder!  But like anything, it takes practice to learn how to tell someone when her idea, well, for lack of a better word- sucks. And it definitely takes practice to be able to take criticism when you think you’ve just written what you think is the best damn chapter, but your partner thinks you need to hit the delete button faster than you can say, no one should ever have to read that-ever.

But we figured it out. We quickly realized a dual-narrative was the way to go. That we would write a book where the story is told from the alternating points of view of two main characters and we would each write one of those characters. (In The D Word, Liz wrote the ex-wife, Jordan and Lisa wrote the new-girlfriend, Elle). Of course we still edit each other’s work and at the end neither of us really knows who wrote what. Which we feel makes the book even better.

Not to mention it’s damn fun to write a novel together. And we feel the fun we have as we LOL until we snort when we’re trying to meet unrealistic deadlines we’ve squeezed in between midnight feedings (Lisa) and Girl Scout meetings (Liz) translates into our writing. And so does our passion. We’re best friends who are lucky enough to be able to pursue our dream together and that makes the stories we choose to tell even better. And when you read The D Word, we hope you’ll agree.

And here’s a tiny nibble from The D Word (& you can find the book here)

Spring-Jordan

It has been exactly 350 days since I decided I’d be better off without him.

But even a year after our split, seeing Kevin move on with his life while I seem to be the one sitting in a holding pattern is painful. I thought I’d be living an incredibly exciting life rather than the same monotonous one I had with him. And that scares me. What if the problem wasn’t with Kevin, but was with me? If he was truly my barrier to happiness, why am I still unfulfilled?

“Mommy! Come on!” Max tugs on my hand and leads me down the flower-lined, cobblestone path toward the condo that Kevin moved into a few weeks after he agreed to leave me. Even I have to admit that it’s nice and cozy and most importantly, Max loves it and feels safe here.

“Are you excited to see Daddy?” I ask, even though I already know the answer.

“Yes, yes, yes!” he exclaims.

I’m glad someone is happy to see him. Personally, I’m hoping to avoid conversation during the “exchange”.

My heart aches as I think of what we’ve put Max through this past year. Trying to explain complicated adult issues to someone who thinks SpongeBob should run for President is exhausting. Kids think in black and white, and this has been a year of gray. But, thankfully children are incredibly resilient and after a rough couple of months, he has started enjoying the fact that he has TWO rooms full of toys. His acceptance has slightly eased my guilt. I still feel so much pressure, though, to pursue the life that I wanted so badly that I was willing to put his happiness at risk. Didn’t I owe him that?


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