Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Writing Gods Are Messing With Me

After the sting, the antidote. Case in point: Shortly after I got a bit of bad literary news (okay, fine--a rejection), I received this new, five-star review of my book by a British reader:

"It is so refreshing to see the issues raised in this book - Alzheimer's - dysfunctional families, etc not done in a syrupy American way. Well done. The characters did not go out of their way to be liked which gave it a more realistic quality."

Did this reviewer just insult the syrupy state of American Letters? I don't bloody well care. The man has impeccable taste and insight.

Point is: Sometimes when you most need it, you're reminded of why you write. Thanks, British Reader. Cheers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

You Search for It Until It Finds You

When I was a young hormone, I once asked my father for advice on winning a girl's heart. I must have really liked that girl, because broaching such a topic with my father, at that age, was about as uncool and desperate an act I could imagine.

He started well.

"Chase her," he said. "Until she catches you."

That took me a minute. Gradually, strategies no doubt completely at odds with my father's meaning started  taking shape within the lines of my one-track mind. Show interest, but not too much. Call her, but a little later than you said you would. Look cool, not needy. I thought that maybe the old man was on to something. Then he blew it. He suggested I ask her to meet me at the library. 

The library? A girl? On a date? Um, right. Thanks, Dad.

I was reminded of this scene the other morning when something I'd been pursuing finally caught me. For weeks, I'd been trying to nail down the premise for a story. My efforts included exhaustive lists of themes that I find most interesting, the things I most like to read: relationships, betrayals, redemption, coming of age, death, change, sex, character development, endurance, individualism, families, friendships, loneliness, regret, hope, fear, triumph, defeat. Nothing seemed to be working. I started paging through my advice books: Lamott, Lerner, King, Zinsser, Burroway, Truby, Brande, Goldberg, Gardner. I outlined Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces, Vogel's Writer's Journey. I started and abandoned outlines, made notes on plot, character, conflict, inciting incidents, climaxes, cute meets, story beats, red herrings, beginnings, endings, middle acts. Created and discarded dozens of index cards. Scribbled madly in my writer's-block journal. And with each attempt, doubt grew. I saw the road ahead. Depression. Surrender. The writing on the ash-filled urn: Close, But No Cigar.

And then, as I stared out the window after staring at the blank computer screen after staring at my empty coffee cup after waking that morning convinced I was the Sahara of Inspiration, the Death Valley of Compelling, the Blue Hole (Ohioans will understand) of ideas: Boom. It slapped me a few times so that I could see it clearly. And in answer to my question, it said, "Been here the whole time, dumb ass. You were just too needy."

So wish me luck.  Bon voyage. Safe trip. Happy trails. Here we go.

And thanks, Dad.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My response to the review I didn't read

I don't read reviews of my book. Honest. I just happened to be on one of the sites that reviews books and accidentally clicked on my book and in trying to get back to the previous page I inadvertently clicked on "Review This Book" and then to make sure I didn't make another mistake I paused and happened to read one of the latest entries. The reviewer game me three stars out of five, making the very important point that this was very generous gesture on his or her part. Imagine the waves of gratitude that washed over me. We don't know each other (I don't think!), so this random act of incredible kindness has affected (effected? No, affected) me deeply. The thought and consideration involved here ranks right up there with the reviewer who so thoughtfully gave the book one star, writing that she didn't read the book because the main character suffered from the same disease as her own, real-life father. Wasn't that nice? She took the time to give it the lowest possible rating, even though she didn't read the book? My cup runneth over.
(There. That felt pretty good, actually.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Oh, man. Ridiculous how long it's been. Shame on me.
So what's shakin'? Me? Just finished my fumpteenth revision of my new novel.
Will it see the light of day? Will it keep some keeper of the keys interested past the first chapter? Will there be a long night that passes quickly, a regretful turn of the last page? Will there be an excited phone call, an auction with the Big Howevermany clamoring, a champagne cork popped, multiple translations and editions and talk of Justin Timberlake in the lead role?