Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Hi, all. The February edition of “1 Question 20 Answers“ is posted over at Women & Words. It’s a really fun game that we’re going to be running regularly. Each month, 20 authors will be asked the same questions. Their answers are funny and thoughtful and quite varied. Yours truly was a victim this month. Come check it out.
Friday, February 1st, 2013
I was at a writers’ event this past weekend and I wanted to pass on a couple of stories from one of the speakers.
The speaker was a literary agent and was talking about her experiences with hopeful authors. Let’s call her Ms. Smith. Like other agents, Ms. Smith goes to writers’ conferences, where writers get an opportunity to pitch their projects. (By the way, I did an “agent pitch slam” once. That’s when you get a 3-minute session with an agent. You get exactly 1.5 minutes to pitch your project; the agent has 1.5 minutes to respond. It was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.)
One woman came up to Ms. Smith to pitch her book and said, “Jesus already told me that you’re going to be my literary agent, so I’m not nervous at all.”
Ms. Smith replied, “That’s funny, I had lunch with him this afternoon and he didn’t mention you at all.”
Then there are the heartbreaker moments, like the time an elderly couple approached Ms. Smith. The husband gave his pitch and as he did so, his wife moved her mouth, silently reciting it along with him. Obviously, he had rehearsed it over and over, with his wife’s help. Unfortunately, Ms. Smith didn’t feel that it was a good fit for her agency. She told us, with regret in her voice, how she had to sit there and tell this man in front of his soulmate that she couldn’t take his project. I guess it’s times like those that make an agent’s job really lousy.
But I thought the Jesus story was hilarious!
Monday, January 14th, 2013
At long last, after years of work, my novel, Twice Bitten, has been published. I received my author advances about a month ago, but seeing it up for sale on Barnes & Noble and Amazon makes it really real.
The debate among authors about the pros and cons of print books versus digital is one that’s been hot and heavy for a while and probably will be for a long time, but one thing is for sure: There’s absolutely no feeling in the world like holding a copy of your first novel in your hands. Looking at it on a Kindle or Nook or as a PDF is just not the same. I’m not saying that it’s not exciting, but it’s not the same.
I was just watching Star Trek: First Contact the other night and there’s one scene in which Jean-Luc Picard reverently puts his hand on the Phoenix (the first ship in history to engage warp speed). Data observes this and asks, “Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of the Phoenix?” Captain Picard replies, “Oh, yes! For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way, make it seem more real.”
So simply put and I couldn’t have put it better. Touching something, having it in your hands, connects you to something concretely. It’s like a relationship—talking to someone on the phone or texting them—or even Skyping them— can’t compare to holding them in your arms. Phone calls and text messages and video chats can enhance a relationship, connect you when you can’t physically be together, but they do not replace the physical contact.
Am I making too much of this? Is my comparison of holding my novel to holding my lover ridiculous? Well, maybe. But in a world where physical contact with anyone or anything is becoming more and more endangered, I will enjoy it whenever I can. Ebooks are a wonderful thing; but give me my printed book any day.
Twice Bitten is available at:
Barnes & Noble
Allied Triangle (ebook only)
Bella Books (ebook only)
Monday, December 31st, 2012
Hi, all. I just want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope everyone gets to enjoy good health, good fortune, and the greatest prosperity in the coming year. And for you writers, I wish that we all get lots of work accomplished and lots of sales.
Like any year, we’ve seen some good things and some bad in 2012. Let us reflect on the bad things if only to remind ourselves that our struggles as humans are ongoing and that we must never become complacent. Let us take strength in the good things to remind ourselves that change is possible, that happiness and joy are within our power, and that life is what we make of it.
I made some really good friends this year and I also learned a few things about myself. Because of some things that happened, I had face some old demons and lick some old wounds. It’s distressing to revisit things that once caused you pain, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. The good thing is that it gives you the opportunity to really look at the situation with new perspective. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20, and you’d be surprised at what you see that you didn’t before, and it allows you to take the necessary steps to deal with it once and for all.
Anyway, I hope to see more of you in 2013 and that you see more of me. And if you’re still wondering what to make for dinner, here’s a recipe for a lucky New Year’s Eve dinner, as well as a lucky New Year’s Day lunch, Hoppin’ John.
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Well, it’s just a couple of more weeks till January. Hard to believe. I don’t know where the year went. It seems like the older I get, the faster the time goes.
While I don’t like that, in this case, I’m excited for January to come because my novel, Twice Bitten, will be hot off the presses and ready for my adoring public. Well, a public. It will be available from Regal Crest enterprises through all the online outlets (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.). Anyway, I thought I’d give you a little sneak preview. So, if you’re inclined to read it, here’s the opening scene of chapter one of Twice Bitten. I hope you like it.
© All rights reserved.
Susanna glanced nonchalantly at the long blade glinting in the moonlight. The ivory-inlaid handle was almost obscured by Fiona’s trembling hands. Susanna’s lips twitched into a small smile.
“You won’t do it, Fiona. You love me.”
Fiona flinched at the word love. “I used to. I used to love you with all my heart and soul.”
Fiona looked around Hyde Park and wondered how to tell someone who had meant the world to her that she no longer wished to be part of her life. They were in a place where they’d spent so many happy hours together, walking, laughing, reading. Now, they stood face to face, and Fiona was ready to…to do what? She still wasn’t sure.
The winter had stripped the trees of their leaves, exposing their graceful skeletons that spider-veined the sky and reached across to one another, as if they would help one another brace against the season’s harshness.
In that moment, Fiona let go of all she had left of her devotion to Susanna.
“I accept the fact that the woman I loved no longer exists. You are just using her body. She is dead.” Fiona said this to shore up her own resolve more than to explain her actions to Susanna. She’d given up trying to reason with her former lover.
“Of course I exist. And I’ve always loved you. Dead is a word that can be interpreted in different ways.” Susanna stepped closer to Fiona but stopped when Fiona moved backward. “All I ever wanted was for us to always be together.”
Fiona straightened her back and set her jaw. “You did it for yourself. You weren’t thinking of me.”
Susanna frowned and Fiona thought she saw a glimmer of pain flicker across her face.
“I did it for both of us,” Susanna said. “I wanted both of us to enjoy all that life has to offer and for as long as possible.”
Fiona had heard all of this before and wondered how Susanna could have such a limited understanding of the damage she had wrought. Quietly, Fiona said, “You didn’t give me life. You took my life and love away from me. And you’ve given me no choice.”
“You won’t do it,” Susanna repeated with a short laugh.
In the time it took for Susanna to laugh, Fiona sprang forward and thrust the dagger into her chest. Susanna’s laughter abruptly stopped and the night seemed deeper and harshly quiet. She slowly brought her head forward and looked down at the blade plunged into her body, Fiona’s hand still gripping the handle tightly. Susanna managed to lift her head up one last time to look at the woman with whom she’d shared so many years. Wide-eyed, she uttered her last word, “Fiona,” and slumped backward, pulling free of the knife.
Under a waxing crescent moon, Fiona stared at the lifeless body crumpled on the ground. She clutched the long dagger, the blood of a thousand humans dripping from its edge. As she watched, Susanna’s flesh disappeared from her frame, revealing dull, grayish bones. Those, too, began collapsing in on themselves as they thinned, layer by layer, and Fiona mourned the woman she’d lost, not this evening, but all those years ago.
A breeze picked up and blew bits of the dust across the dirt road, bringing a lump to Fiona’s throat. Susanna may have betrayed her and Fiona had come to hate her over the years, but she’d never wanted this kind of ending for her.
The familiar voice beckoned her to turn around but she couldn’t. There, disappearing right before her eyes, was the love of her life―the only person whom she’d ever loved, and who’d loved her―becoming nothing more than a pile of cursed, abominable ashes. At least, it had been the physical semblance of the woman she’d loved. Something had changed, and Fiona stood now, knowing that she’d murdered her. Destroyed her.
“Fiona,” the voice repeated. Ramon stepped to her side and gently took the weapon from her hands. “It’s all right. Sometimes, these things must be done.” He patted her on the shoulder and paused to watch the remains of what had once been Susanna, his protégé, mingle with the dirt.
He stepped into her line of vision. “Just remember what I told you,” he said. “You are destined to find your true love. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that destiny. But you are. You will find The One some day. I cannot tell you when or where, but you will.”
Ramon’s words dissipated into the night. Fiona couldn’t take her mind off Susanna. She shut her eyes tightly and remembered the beautiful, dark-haired woman she’d once loved. The smiles Susanna would bestow on her, the sparkle in her brown eyes when she murmured sweet things to her, the lilting laughter that sang in Fiona’s ears. Images of their life together flashed behind her eyelids as remorse stabbed at her chest.
“Why did she make me do this?” she whispered hoarsely. “Why? Why did she do this to me?”
“My dear,” Ramon said, “Susanna fought her own demons and we shall never know what drove her to do things she did. But you cannot let someone else’s decisions dictate your life. She brought these circumstances on herself. You did what you felt you must.” He stepped closer to her and lifted her chin with one well-manicured finger. “Now, go home and get on with your life.”
He turned and walked away, wiping the blood from the blade with a handkerchief as he did so. “Even this life has no guarantees,” he called back quietly.
Fiona looked down at the clothing on the ground—all that remained of Susanna. A blue silk dress, gloves, a hat—things that any fine lady might have worn. But sitting there, laid out as if Susanna’s figure might be drawn into them, they were death clothes, a shroud of betrayal and regret that would cover Fiona for the rest of her days.
She kneeled by the dress, carefully folded it into a compact bundle, and placed the gloves and hat on top. She picked up the clothing and walked to a big beech tree. After digging a hole with her hands, she placed the clothing in the grave and reverently arranged stray ribbons and lace. As she filled in the hole with dirt, she realized she knew no more about the secrets of life and death than she had before.
Her sobs filled the cold night air with unspoken heartache and a longing for something she’d never have again. Even if she did find love again, as Ramon had promised, it would never be what she’d had with Susanna. Her first love, her only love. Love that had been given and taken in its purest form. She stood up.
May God forgive you, Susanna, and allow you to rest in peace.
Fiona shook the dirt from her skirts, brushed her hands together, and walked away.
Saturday, December 8th, 2012
Hi, all. I had an entirely different blog ready for today, but something happened that made me change course: The arrival of my advance copies of my novel, Twice Bitten! I walked into my house and saw a box sitting there, waiting for me. I thought, “What is that? I didn’t order anything.” I opened up the box and there they were—the fruition of years of work.
It was very exciting, to say the least. Mind you, I’ve had a book published before but that was non-fiction. This is my first novel, and there’s something very special about that. I’ve also received copies of the anthologies I’ve been in, as well as a box-ful of Skulls & Crossbones (very exciting!), the anthology I co-edited with Andi Marquette. But, again, there’s something special about your first novel. A novel truly is like a child: you conceive it and it grows inside you, slowly forming into the entity that it will one day become, and, finally, you send it out, fully formed, into the world to interact with others. Your hope is that it will make you proud.
My non-fiction book was a labor of love, too, but it was somehow different. But like any mother, I have plenty of love for all my children.
Twice Bitten will not be available to the public until January, but that’s approaching very quickly (a little too quickly, actually). As soon as it’s out there, I will definitely make that announcement. Until then, I’ll enjoy my beautiful books. (Maybe I’ll bronze one.)
Ciao for now.
Sunday, November 25th, 2012
The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Aside from the holidays, I went out of town for a few days, but the day before I left, my publisher sent me the proofs for my novel, Twice Bitten, due out in January. I tried to work as much as I could on the road, but that’s not the easiest thing to do. So, when I got home, I had to go through the pages as quickly as I could. But quality is very important to me, so it probably took longer than my publisher would have liked.
Well, with that done, I can focus on getting back to writing. I’m working on my second novel and some other projects. I was preparing a blog for Women & Words where I talk about using the holidays as inspiration (check that out on Thursday, 11/29/12), and I remembered that I had a holiday story that’s been sitting around for a couple of years. It’s too late to brush it off for this year’s holiday collections but I think it’s time to dig it out and finish it up for next year.
So, I’m calling out to all you writers to dust off old manuscripts that have been collecting dust (virtual or real), and revisit those stories in your head. The holidays are an inspirational time to do that, too. Our world at this time of year is quite different than during the rest of the year, isn’t it? This gives us a different, fresh perspective and new ideas for old projects. In with the old, I say.
Many people have time off from work/school—why not spent it on your art? Or make a New Year’s resolution to finish those incomplete works. Let’s do it, people! Let’s make 2013 a year of bylines!
Friday, November 2nd, 2012
As writers, we all have to deal with rejections. Some of us more than others. But it helps to be reminded that some of the most respected and/or beloved works in publishing history were rejected multiple times.
Publishers Weekly pulled some such examples from Rotten Reviews Redux by Bill Henderson. The book is a collection of some of the meanest reviews of classic books. I wanted to share them with you because it shows that everyone, even the most acclaimed writers, have dealt with rejection. Being told that your writing is not good enough for that publication or editor hurts, no matter who you are. So, remember that you are in good company.
“The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent.” -The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
“Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.” -The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
“That this book is strong and that Miss Chopin has a keen knowledge of certain phrases of the feminine will not be denied. But it was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked field of sex fiction.” -Chicago Times Herald, 1899, on The Awakening by Kate Chopin
“What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only…” -New York Herald Tribune, 1925, on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.” -James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, on Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
“That a book like this could be written–published here–sold, presumably over the counters, leaves one questioning the ethical and moral standards…there is a place for the exploration of abnormalities that does not lie in the public domain. Any librarian surely will question this for anything but the closed shelves. Any bookseller should be very sure that he knows in advance that he is selling very literate pornography.” -Kirkus Reviews, 1958, on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Her work is poetry; it must be judged as poetry, and all the weaknesses of poetry are inherent in it.” -New York Evening Post, 1927, on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
“An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists…Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen.” -Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
“Its ethics are frankly pagan.” -The Independent, 1935, on Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
“A gloomy tale. The author tries to lighten it with humor, but unfortunately her idea of humor is almost exclusively variations on the pratfall…Neither satire nor humor is achieved.” -Saturday Review of Literature, 1952, on Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
“Middlemarch is a treasure-house of details, but it is an indifferent whole.” -Henry James, Galaxy, 1872, on Middlemarch by George Eliot
“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls; please leave stories of the Spanish Civil War to Malraux…” -Commonweal, 1940, on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
“Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” -Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Friday, October 5th, 2012
As unbelievable as it is, September has drawn to a close and we enter the witchy autumn month of October. I love October, not just because it’s my birthday month, but because it’s the month of Halloween. That means a month’s worth of classic horror movies on TV, fat pumpkins and multi-hued leaves adorning porches and stoops everywhere, and rogue zombie sightings. The weather is glorious—not too hot, not too cold—and delicious aromas begin filling the air. We know that it won’t be long before we can enjoy the scents and flavors of apple and pumpkin pie, cranberries and chestnuts, and roasting vegetables. The last week of the month heralds the fall/winter holiday parties, and we get to dress up as anyone or anything we like. (And let’s not forget that October also means the season premiere of The Walking Dead!)
Those of us who love horror and paranormal stuff are in our glory this month. Aside from the movies, the paranormal TV shows crank up their marathons, and the ghost hunters of the world get more than their 15 minutes of fame. Witches, vampires, black cats, bats, jack o’lanterns, scarecrows, ghosts, zombies…we have some kind of weird fascination with them. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but who cares? There’s inspiration to be had there.
I’ve written in different genres, but my first novel, Twice Bitten, coming out in January 2013, is a vampire novel (in case you couldn’t figure that out from the title). The second one, which I am currently working on, is a gothic romance and a riff on the Jeckyll and Hyde motif. I’ve always been drawn to gothic and horror and the Halloween season always stokes those coals for me.
I have an odd assortment of horror/paranormal/other-wordly books, from Alfred Hitchcock collections, to old collections of “tales of terror and suspense,” to an encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft. At some point, I saw a collection of Louisa May Alcott short stories that were on the macabre side, and I had to have it (it’s called A Double Life). When I was a kid, Time-Life Books started a series called The Enchanted World. Each volume told the lore and legends of different supernatural creatures, such as wizards and witches, fairies and elves, vampires, water spirits, and so forth. Mind you, I was a kid and knew that my parents wouldn’t pay for them, so I had to find a way to pay for them myself. Not only did I send cash through the mail, I sent coins. Lots and lots of coins. I don’t remember how or why I stopped getting them, but I think they cut me off.
Anyway, I get a little thrill when it’s time to turn the calendar to the page with the pumpkins and gold and red flower arrangements, and I can’t wait to see what new form of fright I will get to enjoy. How about you? What gets your ghoul going?