Sunday, April 29, 2007

An Overnight Success

Todd and I just returned on Saturday from the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in Houston where we met up with some friends and acquaintances. One of those who we definitely consider a friend is Kate Douglas (www.katedouglas.com). Kate is just a wonderful person.

We first met Kate at an Epicon conference in Washington State in 2002 - soon after the organization started. Todd and Kate both have novels published with Hardshell Word Factory, an independent publishing house that has given many authors a chance to publish and in some cases start and build successful careers.

Kate's publishing carrer has begun to skyrocket as you can see from her website mentioned above. She is now published with Kensington and has a loyal and growing readership for her Wolf Tales and Sexy Beast series. Kate and Todd were marveling at the overnight success label that often is placed on writers and other artists who have suddenly made it big - or so it seems. The overnight success is often the result of decades of hard work. Both Kate and Todd have a long history in the field of writing to inlcude newspapers, academia, freelance work and corporate communications. They've both worked extremely hard and they both have loving and supportive spouses.

So what sets writers like Kate and Todd apart from some others? In my opinion both are hard-working professionals who've paid their dues. Despite many obstacles, they've persevered because they've continued to work hard until they found an outlet for their voice.

I often say there are two types of writers who will never be published - those who give up and those that die.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Passion or Disease?

Anybody who has been writing for awhile and been around other writers has to wonder at some point what is wrong with all of us.

Think about it!

We toil for hours if not days or even years to produce a written product, such as a novel that we desperately hope some editor will love enough to plop down a fat advance for and even request more future works. That's our fantasy.

Our reality is usually filled with rejection letters from both editors and agents and when we are rewarded with a book contract it usually means editorial corrections and back and forth negotiations over titles and characters. Don't even get me started about promoting the book, something I work hard with Todd on for his four novels and of course his non-fiction work, Novelist's Boot Camp.

So, what is wrong with us? I keep hearing the Church Lady on SNL say, "Well, aren't you special!"

Well, yes, we are. Writers record history, they record life and through their lens we and future generations just might espy scenes of life that might otherwise be lost. We are a camera in a way for current and future generations. But it comes at a cost.

Most of us work fulltime jobs - we have to. Most writers are not employed by a company with benefits. Writers typically are self-employed and 'freelance' whether it's writing articles or works of fiction or nonfiction. These commitments leave less time for family, friends and other pursuits. Still, most writers wouldn't have it any other way. They can't help themselves.

Todd and I - and the kid - are leaving towards the end of April to fly to Houston for the Romantic Times Book Lovers convention. I often tell people that my family doesn't go on vacation we go to writers conferences. We probably won't get outside the hotel much - Todd is presenting one of his Novelist's Boot Camps and I am assisting. We will try but we will also be very tired after long, long days of networking and doing what writers do at conferences.

We're lucky in that the whole family - all three of us at the moment - participate in this writing adventure. Otherwise, I'd look at my husband and consider him possessed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Writing - A lonely pursuit

Writing is often a solitary process and the internet has made it even easier to be isolated from people. Oh sure, there are the chat rooms, email, virtual gathering places such as My Space and more but that's not the same as actually meeting another person face-to-face. Yeah, there are pictures even sound files that someone can add to express their individuality but it's not the same as seeing someone in person, warts and all. While these aforementioned virtual communication tools make it so much easier and faster to conduct business they lack the multi-dimensional interactions with people that have both positive and negative results.

I'm all for taking advantage of these tools but much of what we bring to the table as writers is our ability to observe the many nuances of human nature that help make our characters come alive and feel real to our readers. People often present themselves differently in emails than they do in person. They can hide or take on a different persona or worse abandon all boundaries of human decency. They can even operate in the extremes.

In Novelist's Boot Camp, Todd discusses leveraging the senses to engage the reader. To do this it's important to be able to observe with all the senses, which is why it is so important to interact with others. So how does one find time to do this while maintaining a busy writing schedule and life? Most of us don't need to add one more thing to our already cluttered to-do lists. So, we draw from our own lives.

I would argue that writers can't help but draw from their own experiences, even in fiction. So, when does fiction cross over to reality? Well that's the million dollar question as we all saw with the James Frey/Oprah Winfrey debacle in 2006. There's also a crop of new fiction books out where speculation is running wild that these are really non-fiction tales wrapped up as fiction to expose the authors experiences working for well-known personalities. (See USA Today Book section article titled, Insider Novels Push the Envelope - April 3, 2007.) Just the idea that these stories might be true or even partially true is intriguing to all of us. Scandal sells but when it backfires it does so in a big way.

One of the ways I try to keep myself grounded and less lonely as a writer is by joining certain groups and attending certain writer's conferences. One of those groups is the Windy City Chapter of the Romance Writer's of America and one of the reasons I belong to this particular chapter (located in the Chicago area) is to keep the writing process less lonely. I feel fortunate to have found this particular group so close to home because it's a group of writers who are extremely supportive and we all fuel each other towards accomplishing our goals. We have many published authors and every year we seem to add more and more first-time fiction (and even non-fiction) authors which is exciting. I hope to be one of those first-time fiction published authors in the very near future.

I've been published in non-fiction (mostly articles and commentary) but am still revising my first novel which is a romantic suspense centering on a forensic linguist who is pulled into an international smuggling scheme when the client for whom she is analyzing documents turns ups dead. I'm currently going through the seven revision passes that Todd defines in Novelist's Boot Camp. At first I balked at all the hard work this seems to require but now that I'm in the thick of it I feel that I am making real progress with my novel.

So, stay tuned as I share more of my writing adventures peppered with my observations of other writers whom I know and the one I even sleep with (2 if you count me!).