My novel is finished – now what?

I had every intention of submitting my finished novel to a small press I heard about a few years ago that publishes American Jewish Experience fiction. I kept checking back and kept checking back to see if they were still around over the years. But when I pulled up their website again yesterday, I found a new note pertaining to their guidelines - they will only look a fiction works that are represented by an agent. That of course stopped me dead. Now I am on the lookout for a small press that will be interested in coming of age/immigration/feminist themes and maybe willing to go with the American Jewish Experience theme as well. Looks like a very tall order to me. I'll also make friends with the agents I've met through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, whom I've heard on panels many times. Maybe I can persuade one of them to represent me. In the meantime I want to thank all of the people who helped me with the book along the way. The following  is what I wrote for the … [Read more...]

The Pinochet Plot – a must read

I never read mysteries, but I sure gobbled up David Myles Robinson's new one - The Pinochet Plot. It's smart, fast paced, well narrated, and full of interesting characters. So I'm very pleased to have the opportunity today to share Robinson's book and my thoughts about it with you.   About the book Successful San Francisco attorney Will Muñoz has heard of the brutal former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, of course, but it's not until he receives his mother's suicide letter that he has any inkling Pinochet may have had his father, Chilean writer Ricardo Muñoz, assassinated thirty years earlier. Her suspicions spur Will on to a quest to discover the truth about his father's death–and about the psychological forces that have driven his mother to her fatal decision. His journey takes him deep into unexpected darkness linking his current step-father, the CIA, drug-experimentation programs, and a conspiracy of domestic terrorism. The Pinochet Plot is not just a story o … [Read more...]

Where was this when I needed it?

As I finish my tenth and last draft of my novel, I've come across this Checklist for Authors. I don't know how it came to me, but I do know it's a product of WritersWrite, a site that is all about writing and writing advice. Check it out. I know I will the next time I write a book. And, you know, in going through this list again, I think I've covered most everything on the checklist already - especially Number 21: Have I rewritten my novel at least five times? I guess I'm in good shape to stop at ten. … [Read more...]

Now, there’s a poem

If you've been here a time or two, you know I’ve always believed there is a poem out there everywhere. So many of my ideas for poems come from people I see and places I go that I’m really never at a loss for something to write about. I’m constantly saying, “Now, there’s a poem.” Still I like to work with prompts. I keep a list of them that I get from the Writer’s Digest’s poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog. He posts a prompt every Wednesday. Sometimes he’ll combine it with a request that we write in a specific poetry form, e.g., Haiku, Nonet, Luc Bat, Tanka, Ekphrastic, Quatern, Tritina. So I get a prompt, but a poetry lesson as well. Robert writes about things he knows and loves. The words are simple, homey, about his wife and children. I relate to that. He also conducts two poem-a-day challenges a year in April and November. I’ve participated for the last several years. At the end of the month he asks us to submit a chapbook of our best few poems … [Read more...]

Our guest today is Mary Maurice. Welcome!

I'm happy to host Mary Maurice today, author of Burtrum Lee, a scientific mystery, during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Also, Mary has shared her thoughts on "keeping readers engaged," especially for our Choices readers. Thanks so much, Mary, for your interesting ideas for engaging your readers. Keeping Readers Engaged by Mary Maurice First and foremost, I try to get the reader’s attention with a good title, and then I reel them in with a semi-hypnotic rhythm, while making sure that there are no stump-words. (words that are complicated, making the reader stop and go over the sentence again, losing the momentum that you’re trying to achieve). Speaking from experience, when I come upon a word I have to think about, most times I set the book down soon after, and sometimes never return to it. Simplicity is a key, as well as colorful and spicy words. I have a box of Crayola’s on my desk which I use for descriptive detail, as well as fruit colors, and anything else to c … [Read more...]

Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He’d been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members – especially such close ones – and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view. Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I’m not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it – marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte – he’s a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts – each starting with a date in story’s history) and inconsist … [Read more...]

Traditional or self-publishing: that is the question

  It’s time to report back about the status of my novel. First of all, I’m happy to say I’ve completed revision nine. The purpose was to cut out unnecessary words and bring my word count more in keeping with the number agents and publishers suggest. After I added a lot of needed new material, as suggested by my critical assessment editor, my word count grew from 85,000 to 103, 052 words. So, my goal was to cut at least 5,000 of them. I’m happy to say I exceeded my goal, and cut 5,675 words. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything that I’ll have to put back later. My next job is to break up several long chapters into smaller ones. That is an easy fix. And now I feel I’m at a point to think about getting my book published. The question is, should I shop around for an agent or publisher or should I self-publish? That’s a question I never thought I’d be asking. I’ve always said I didn’t want to self-publish. I didn’t self-publish my memoir, so why go t … [Read more...]

How my novel is progressing

I haven’t written about my work on my novel for quite some time. So, I thought I’d bring you up to date. Yes, you’re right. I’m still working on it after all these years – about seven at least. However, I think I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, I'm working on draft number eight. A few months ago, I hired an editor to do an assessment critique, and after a thorough reading, he provided me with ten pages of single-spaced notes, with many rewriting assignments. Before I embarked on any of it I asked him to honestly tell me if I should put the book on a shelf and forget about it, or keep on working. He suggested I keep working, and that’s what I’m been doing. For the last several weeks I’ve been working steadily to accomplish the editor’s suggestions. And while I work on the novel, I totally ignore social media of every kind. That was hard at first, but it gets easier with time. The first thing I did was abide by the editor’s … [Read more...]

The jazz age, Chicago, and murder – read Sugarland

I’m happy to introduce Martha Conway and her new book, Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery, to my Choices readers as part of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book (blog) tour. About Sugarland: In 1921, two women, a black jazz pianist named Eve and a white nurse named Lena, join forces after a drive-by shooting nearly kills them. Eve is looking for her missing stepsister, and Lena wants to find out who murdered her brother, a petty bootlegger killed in the shooting. Sugarland recently received a Reader’s Favorite Book Award. Genre: Historical Fiction Hardcover: 314 pages (also available in paperback and e-book) Noontime Books: June 1, 2016 ISBN: 978-0991618552 About the author: Martha Conway’s debut novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award while Thieving Forest won an Independent Publishers Book Award, the Laramie Award, a Reader’s Choice Award and the 2014 North American Book Award in Historical Fiction. Her short fiction h … [Read more...]

My Name Is Wonder by Ronald Chapman

It is may pleasure to showcase another book by Ronald Chapman during his WOW!Women on Writing blog tour. Ronald's latest book, My Name Is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure, will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wise cracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach. Praise for My Name Is Wonder: “…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…” - Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes “…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how t … [Read more...]

Review of Ronald Chapman’s A Killer’s Grace

I'm pleased to have read and written a review of Ronald Chapman's book A Killer's Grace in time for his WOW!Women on Writing virtual book tour. Today, September 1, is the publication of the book's second edition.  As you'll read, A Killer's Grace is a wonderful work. I hope you'll all get your copy (see the links below). You won't be disappointed. *** My Review of A Killer’s Grace A letter from a serial killer awaiting execution changes New Mexico reporter Kevin Pitcairn’s life. His investigations into the content of the letter drag him into his own dark past, that of a never-convicted murderer and an alcoholic. His journey draws the readers of A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and the close relationships Pitcairn made there, his love for Maria Elena who stays by his side even when she disagrees and fears his involvement with the serial killer’s story, how walking with his dog companions in the early morning hours calms him after … [Read more...]

Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a stor … [Read more...]

A little novel excitement – short-lived

I was on two panels last weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference – one on memoirs and the other on building a platform. After getting much kudos I was feeling pretty good, so good that I jumped at the chance to present a short pitch to a literary agent about my novel. I had a synopsis with me and I knew my story cold, so why not? When it was my turn I told the agent about my book. He smiled and told me to tell my story without a lot of details. When I finished, he nodded his head and said, “I like it.” He then asked me to send him a synopsis by email. He didn’t want the hard copy I had with me. I was stoked. When I got home I decided to rewrite my synopsis. And thanks to Jane Friedman I found a wonderful resource: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis by Sooz. The outline was easy to follow. And in most cases I was able to use some of the synopsis I had already written. I also wrote a cover/query letter that included a recap of my meeting with the age … [Read more...]

Another novel milestone met

I just sent off draft seven of my novel to another reviewer. I very much value this person’s judgment because of her experience editing books for the Oxford University Press and that she helped me revise and edit my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   I spent the last two and a half months working on this draft, looking for repetition, places where I told the story rather than showed it, and rewriting in response to some earlier review comments. As a result I cut out almost five thousand words. It’s now down to 85, 485 words. It’s still a little heavy for a novel, but in the right range. I’ve asked this reviewer to especially assess the content - are the story and its characters worth even pursuing at this point. My problem is the more I read and work on this material these days, the less confident I get. I said I don't need her to edit, except for giving me possible suggestions on where to delete/add stuff. After I sent my manuscript off to my reviewer t … [Read more...]

Theep and Thorpe – what a great title!

When my Facebook friend, Lillian Nader, announced the release of her book Theep and Thorpe, the title so intrigued me I had to learn more. With that I asked her to be my Choices guest and tell our readers how she conceived and wrote her new book. Thank you, Lillian, for accepting. I'm so pleased to introduce you and your book here. My BIG Announcement! by Lillian Nader I am so happy to announce the release of my book, Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space, on March 25, 2016. It is available now in paperback at Amazon.com. It’s a book for young readers and for those who are young at heart. The kindle version will also be available soon. The Story Behind the Story. The concept of Theep and Thorpe began many years ago when my artist friend, Angelo Divino, created images of two space beings. I asked if I could write about them and he said yes! Their names came to me first as I pondered the idea of how space beings might communicate. I decided they would know one another by their … [Read more...]

My Choices guest today is: Jennifer-Lynn Keniston

My Choices guest today is Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, author of Afta-U. Here she tells us how she balances the fear and thrill of writing dark novels. Like Jennifer-Lynn, I believe that balance is the key to success in all our live's undertaking. I welcome Jennifer-Lynn, and I wish her huge success in all her writing. How to leave the rollercoaster of emotions on the page/computer screen when stepping away from writing a dark novel by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston As a child, I could ride all the rides in an amusement park including the big rollercoasters with daring declines and twisting turns. From what I can recall, a rollercoaster ride can be both thrilling and terrifying. When I sit down to write more dialogue and piece together a dark novel, it is like I am sitting on an amusement park rollercoaster all over again. And I’m hoping I haven’t eaten too much cotton candy and fried dough before the ride starts. Emotions begin to battle one another. Now a days though, I have vertigo s … [Read more...]

A progress report

In John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” he sings: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_j-tpmdPlI My mother always said something similar: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, life was sure happening to me last week. I worked diligently on my book, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, for the first three days, and I actually made some great progress. Then boom! It all fell apart. My husband, Bob, woke up early last Thursday morning with shortness of breath. I took him to urgent care and he got an EKG. With those results the doctor there said take him to emergency at our local hospital. And we were off and running. Two and a half days later and tests to rule out a heart attack, pneumonia, blood clots in his lungs, and congestive heart failure, he was feeling better. So they sent him home. Less than 24 hours later, he was short of breath again – even worse. This time we called his … [Read more...]

Time to put my ass in the chair

I’m a little late getting started this year. Two much movie going I guess. Last week we saw three more movies: The Big Short, Concussion, and Brooklyn. All great – I’d give them all an A. But now it’s time to get back to work. I told myself – I guess the word is resolved – to open up my novel again and see if I can bring it back to life. I put it aside at the end of last April when I went to work my consulting job in Colorado and sent it off to several beta readers. I was also devastated by one particularly scathing review that literally stopped me in my tracks. But, enough is enough. I’ve put a lot of work into that book. I cannot just throw it all out. I was also encouraged by the movie Brooklyn. Like my novel it’s about immigrating to America. Of course our stories are very different but it makes me feel that immigration stories are still alive and well – not like the scathing reviewer said. Plus there are several boarding house scenes in the movie that … [Read more...]

I love The Handmaid’s Tale

I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I can’t even wait to finish it to praise it. Atwood’s imagination and writing are enthralling. She makes me want to study with her to learn how she does it. This is a book about an imagined time, yet the story is so believable – how a woman who once had a job, money, a husband, and a child now is no longer even allowed to read. Her ovaries are her only redeeming feature. She now must lie with the Commander and his wife once a month, hopefully to give them the baby she conceives. Atwood writes: “But isn’t this everyone’s wet dream, two women at once? They used to say that. Exciting, they used to say.” The Handmaid is the narrator. In a particularly beautiful passage she discusses time: “There’s time to spare. This is one of the things I wasn’t prepared for – the amount of unfilled time, the long parentheses of nothing. Time as white sound. If only I could embroider. Weave, knit, something … [Read more...]

The Yiddish language is making a come back

An October 2013 article in the Huffington Post discusses the revival of training in Yiddish that is helping to keep the language alive for the next generation. This is of great interest to me since I chose to use Yiddish words in my novel, Papa’s Shoes. My resources were online Yiddish to English dictionaries and a wonderful old book called  The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. My mother gave my husband a copy back in 1970 when we got married. I think she was trying to entice him to convert. One of my novel’s beta readers, who is also not Jewish, did a study of the words I used in the book, dividing them into three categories: Words he uses in his own vocabulary, for example: Goy – a person who is not Jewish Kibitz – to offer unsolicited advice as a spectator Mazel tov – good luck Mensch – a special man or person, someone respected Nebbish – a nobody, simpleton, weakling Schmooze – talk, conversation, chat Shtup – push, vulgarism for sexual inter … [Read more...]