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...]

Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I'm happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.   Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son's death in 1999. But enough about me. Here's Susan. Writing As a Way of Healing By Susan G. Weidener In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past. The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite … [Read more...]

Lily Iona MacKenzie and her views about poetry

Please welcome Lily Iona MacKenzie on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. Her new novel Fling! was just released and can be purchased through her publisher Pen-L Publishing as well as the Amazon link given below. Lily also writes reviews, essays, memoir, short fiction, and poetry. Here she relates her thoughts about poetry and perception and exploring the world from various angles like we do in photography. I find her ideas very interesting since I like to write poems that reflect the scenes I photograph. Please take a look at her poems in the collection published in 2011, called All This.               POETRY AND PERCEPTION by Lily Iona MacKenzie Many of my poems reflect a continuing interest in perception and how we try to capture fleeting moments with language. The art that comes closest to what I'm trying to do in poetry is photography, the exploration of things in the world (and in ourselves) from various angles. The attempt to pene … [Read more...]

Meet Eric Trant – author of Steps!

Please welcome Erik Trant, best selling author of Steps. He's here for his second blog tour stop with Women on Writing - WOW! Eric's subject is very dear to my heart since I spent a lot of years squeezing  my creative writing aspirations in between the proposal deadlines I had to meet working my day job in the aerospace industry. Even now, my writing life has gone by the wayside for a few months while I work a consulting job. I can barely eek out a journal entry each day. However, I truly believe my work as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager taught me the discipline I needed to become a published author. Eric's insight into this topic teaches us how we all can benefit from a second career. Here's Eric. Part-Time Authors: How a Second Career Improves Your Writing by Erik Trant I suppose the dream is to begin writing around year ten, publish somewhere just north of puberty, bang out a Masters of Fine Art at the local institute, and scoot your way onto the best-se … [Read more...]

Why reading is important to writing

I'm thrilled to host Ava Louise while she tours her Intergalactic Matchmaking Services series with WOW! Women on Writing. She discusses one of my favorite topics - how very important it is for an author to read. I'm always reading something - lately books by Philip Roth and John Updike. I'm notorious for buying a new book or two before I've finished the to-be-read pile on my bedside table. Before I introduce you to Ava, please make sure you enter to win the Intergalactic Matchmaking Series by commenting here about your own reading list. Here's Ava: Thank you, Madeline, for having me as a guest. I feel safe in saying that for most authors, the road to writing is paved with books. As my bio says, I came to this writing life much later than many authors. While I joke that it took me over 40 years to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’ve always known I needed books in my life. I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t an avid reader. Reading allowed me to esc … [Read more...]

John Updike writes love

I’ve been reading John Updike’s Rabbit quartet since December 2014, and I’m finally about finished with the fourth: Rabbit at Rest. I’m dragging the last fifty pages out because I know Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom, the main character, is going to die before I turn the last page. However, I’m happy to say I have one more Rabbit book to go – Rabbit Remembered – a 2001 novella still there on my book shelf. I’ve learned a lot from reading Updike. He’s a master of description – and very long and detailed descriptions at that. His characters are perfectly drawn. I’ve gotten so I can almost predict how each of them will react to certain situations. He also knows how to write about love and sex. While he can be very graphic at times, I found the following passage quite lovely and tame. I’ve always felt we can write erotically without having to go into all the gory details.   From Rabbit at Rest by John Updike: “…Her eyes widen in the dim face inc … [Read more...]

Another novel character revealed

I've been missing my characters while my novel is in the eyes and hands of my beta readers. So I thought I'd share another one of the four main characters with you. I've patterned this character after my father, who in the novel is: Charles: son of Ira and Ruth Schuman. Ava Schuman's older brother Name – Chaim/Charles/Charlie Benjamin Schuman He appears as a little boy in the beginning. Physical appearance: As a grownup he is short – only 5 ft, 7 in. (only an inch taller than his father), slim, has dark curly hair – lots of it, very large brown eyes, olive complexion. Looks great in a business suit and tie. Wears rimless glasses Learns English very quickly – while he is on the ship coming over from Poland. Speaks pretty much without an accent though has trouble pronouncing Vs The deaths of his little brothers nag at him. He is very protective of his little sister and mother and father as a result. A good brother and son Very inquisitive and outgoing. He … [Read more...]

I’m writing poetry this month

I'm writing poems while a group of beta readers reviews my  novel draft. And I'm loving it. Again this April I'm taking the prompts from Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day challenge, though not especially concerned about entering the challenge. I'm a little poetry rusty after spending so much time this past year revising my novel. I'm satisfied just to have a poem prompt to write to every day. I'm in it for the practice. That said, here's a couple that might pass muster (with Brewer's prompts). I'd love your thoughts. 4. Write a departure poem. Many people depart to school and/or work every day, and they depart on a plane, train, or automobile–some even walk or ride a bike. Of course, that’s keeping things rather physical; there are also emotional and psychological departures. You may even decide to make a departure from your normal writing style in tone or structure today. The Long Departure On the platform she, in a flowing white dress with gloves, shoes, an … [Read more...]

Writing about places we can’t personally visit

Please welcome Karen Mann. I'm so happy to have her with us today because I very much resonate with her topic. When I was writing my novel I couldn't travel to Poland or have first-hand knowledge of the time-period in which  my novel takes place - the early 1900s. Karen's novel, The Woman of La Mancha, takes place in the sixteenth century Spain. Here's what she did instead of personally visiting Spain and having a direct experience of the time period she writes about. When You Can’t Do Seat Research, Then What? By Karen Mann Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, talks about doing seat research for her historical novels. Sit where your characters sat, live where your characters lived, and you can write about how it smells, looks, sounds, tastes, and feels. But what if you can’t do that? When writing my novel The Woman of La Mancha, I was unable to go to Spain or even more specifically, I was unable to go to sixteenth-century Spain, yet my readers tell me I hav … [Read more...]

Draft five of my novel is with five beta readers

  Last June I sent Draft Four of my novel-in-progress to five beta readers. This past Sunday I did it again. I sent Draft Five to five different beta readers. I also sent the manuscript to one of the first five beta readers and asked her to let me know if she thinks I created any damage as a result of all the cuts, changes, and rewrites I made to this latest draft - to comply with current guidelines for lengths of novels, I cut almost 9000 words. Hopefully, I left enough in tact that I didn't ruin anything. However, I have a safety net. I have saved every single draft of my novel. I can always add something back in if necessary. You can probably tell from the above, I consider getting my novel out in public both scary and exciting. However, it gives me a much-needed break from it. I've asked my readers to send me their comments by June 30 or sooner, so now I have time to blog, write some new poetry (I plan to participate in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day C … [Read more...]

What are you afraid of?

I'm very pleased to welcome Karen Jones Gowen during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Her book, Afraid of Everything really got me thinking about fears and how hard it is to overcome them. When I was a young girl I was terrified of heights and flying, stemming from my favorite uncle’s death in an airplane crash. As I grew older, I rationalized that if I continued to have these fears, I couldn’t see and do the things I wanted to. Especially because I had to fly to most places I wanted to go. So I clenched my teeth and whitened my knuckles and flew until my fears grew less and less. However, I also encountered freeway phobia in my mid thirties. I got over that by telling myself I had to drive on the freeways – they were essential routes for someone living in Los Angeles. Therefore, I was gentle with myself, promising myself I could exit a freeway anytime I wanted to. I also opened the car’s window and let in a lot of fresh air. Of course the main antidote for all my fea … [Read more...]

Making my product perfect

In Joe Bunting’s "The Write Practice" piece, The Ten Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers, dated February 27, 2015, I resonated with these two lessons: 6. Be a Perfectionist: It took Dr. Seuss nine months to finish The Cat in the Hat, a book that only contains 236 unique words. He would often spend as much as a year finishing just one book. And these were not long books! Each sentence, each word is important. Don’t rush. Keeping molding your writing until it’s just right. (Share that on Twitter?) 7. Cut Your Book Down to Its Essence: Longer is not better. Cut your book down to its essence. #SeussLessons (Share that on Twitter?) As he worked on a book, Dr. Seuss would sometimes discard ninety-five percent of it before he was finished. “It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book.” *** These points verify how important it is to edit and cut. My goal was to cut 9,000 words from my manuscript, and I’m happy … [Read more...]

Introducing Shirley Loeb and her debut novel

I'm so happy to welcome Shirley Loeb today as she tells us how she created her debut coming-of-age novel, The Y Sapphires. First a brief synopsis of The Y Sapphires: It is a coming-of-age story that will satisfy adolescents and adults. The 12-year-old protagonist, too tall and too fat, is lost in the new world of high school. She's funny, lovable, and reads people accurately. She joins the Y Sapphires, a club of the "not-so-popular" and begins a friendship with a sophisticated but troubled classmate. Can she remain true to herself and still fit in the club she loves? Here's Shirley: "The process was lengthy. I started writing this book about 25 years ago. I always loved the protagonist but somehow could not sit down long enough to complete it. It was left languishing for years at a time. Funny as it might sound, I felt I had abandoned Sylvie, the 12-year-old protagonist, and that I owed her the debt of completing her story. I was in a writing class where the members e … [Read more...]