Being and Doing

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Before I pick up where I left off (about my mystery man, Lazarus, and publishing my book), I just have to share something that’s struck me funny. Publishers Lunch Deluxe is a weekly (or whenever they feel like it) report on all things happening in traditional publishing (like what publisher bought what book, and for how much, and which pubs and/or literary agencies are merging or quitting (aka running for their lives).

Okay, so here’s a direct quote from their November 9th bulletin: Amazon announced three more authors who have each sold a million Kindle ebooks or more, but we’re really not going to report on these releases any more.”

Serious? You’re really not going to report on “these releases” anymore? Here’s what I hear: “You Amazon people and this so-called new age of publishing (read: indie, who are over-populating the Kindle play list) are major pissing us off, so we’re not going to play with you again, ever. So there.”

Moving on . . . the three newest authors to join the Kindle Million Club are David Baldacci, Amanda Hocking (indie–you go, girl), and Stephanie Meyer. 

And now back to me. *smile* And Lazarus Bening (his spy name). But, first, a question:

How many of us, do you think, are doing/being what we pictured ourselves doing/being when we were, say, 17? Or 21?

I knew Lazarus Bening while I was still in high school. He was four years older, in college. He wanted to become a commercial pilot—he didn’t. He became a teacher instead (what I’d believed I’d end up doing, though I was never excited at the prospect). Because I was so unmotivated by the career choice picked by my parents, I became more of a “fritterer” than a serious college student, trying on all sorts of mindsets and people, and having way more fun than was legal. Along the way, Lazarus and I parted.   

Come to find out, Lazarus began writing. Essays and short stories at first, in-between teaching classes. He published a novel. He published two more. Fiction for men. He gained a following (while I was still frittering), all unbeknownst to me.

And then we met again after an embarrassingly long time, at a signing for his latest novel that my writer cohort-friend, Josh, dragged me to. And the first stupid thing I said to Lazarus was:

“I didn’t know you were a writer.”

He laughed a little (very little).

And the second stupid thing I said was (because this event was about his book, not mine, duh): “I have a book too!”

I explained about my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, and how my agent had left the book business for a new career in finance, and how I was now thisclose to going indie.

Lazarus’ expression had turned—quizzical, maybe? I couldn’t read him. He said, “I have two words for you.”

Uh-oh. Was he still that ticked over what had happened between us a thousand years ago?

I swallowed hard. I was a “grownup” now—I could take what was coming (and what, truth be told, I probably deserved). But I moved in a little closer to Josh anyway.  

“Telemachus Press,” Lazarus said.

“Excuse me?”

“Telemachus Press. Best there is.”

And then, “Steve Jackson’s the guy you want to talk to—a good guy; he’ll steer you straight. He’ll get your novel out there, and it’ll be done right; a class act.”

And that, my friends, between my writer friend Josh, and my computer guy, and old flame Lazarus is the more or less true story of how I came to know Steve Jackson at Telemachus Press. Steve Jackson is truly Mr. Wonderful. Every phone call and email is responded to quickly and thoroughly—and Steve makes me laugh. A BIG plus-plus.

Two big thumbs-up for Telemachus Press.    

The Angry Woman Suite will be out in a couple of months—I think. Maybe longer. Depends on how the editing goes—I think. And how the cover goes. (I’m picturing a black and white cover, because The Angry Woman Suite is largely a period piece, taking place between 1915 and 1968.) An amazing review of The Angry Woman Suite goes public on the Kirkus Reviews website 12/15/11, but you can read it here— it’s a link in the right column. 

And Lazarus?

Well, like it or not, first loves leave lasting marks on us. Maybe not big fat scars; maybe only scratches—but, whichever, we’re changed forever.    

But this is what grownups do when assessing our scars and scratches: we notice the parts we played, or didn’t, in all our relationships. We forgive others and ourselves, and we heal. We keep evolving—otherwise, the point would be??–and we stay open.

We make the positives a part of us, and store the negatives for future reference.

Reference for—what, you ask?     

Whatever comes along next—and, well, in this case, you’ve got to know that every player in my life story, and every take-away, is going to end up in a book someday (or a post)—or maybe already has. *smile*

Thanks for coming by! More later in the week. . . .     

 

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A Million Good Words

Finishing my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, was bittersweet (the sweetness was crossing a finish line—and the bitter was actually about finishing too, as in now what?), but solidifying an agreement with a literary agent was a total woo-hoo. Big-time woo-hoo. Huge. I’d made it. Parteeee. . . .

But—and there’re a hundred but’s in any story—subsequently learning my agent was about to change career paths entirely, just as we were revving our engines and doing well, was the anti woo-hoo.

A big timewaste hiccup on the road to traditional publication. It was back to now what?

Dang. See, I really like The Angry Woman Suite. And not just because I wrote it. I’ve written plenty of crap, so trust me: I recognize crap.

A million good words . . .

If losing an agent is the anti woo-hoo, The Angry Woman Suite is the anti-crap (now that sounds a little Eddie Haskell-ish, ugh)—but (I know, another but) as a story about family and misplaced trust, and losing and winning freedom, The Angry Woman Suite has my heart because it’s the kind of meaty novel I’m always looking to read, like The Great Santini, A Prayer for Owen Meany, or A Thousand Acres—my favorites. Plus it got a million good words from Kirkus Reviews (and they’re tough), who deemed it “exemplary” and “a superb debut.”

It’s a story that spans the early 1900s to the 1960s, in Pennsylvania, and I want it out there—but not just because it’s mine. You know how it is when you meet a new person, and this new person is so interesting you can’t wait to introduce him or her to your inner circle?

It’s like that.

I love this novel’s characters—I love the young Elyse Grayson. She is strong and complex, but resentful (she has good reason, but anger could be her undoing). Her inner journey has been shaped by three men: a wise immigrant grandfather; a troubled stepfather, Francis—and, yes, I love Francis, too. Even when I wanted to bean him, I loved him, because there’s a reason Francis can be so dang weird. And the third is commitment-phobe Aidan Madsen, who knows everybody’s secrets, including the ones about murder.        

They’re all interesting people. So I want to share them. I want to talk about them.

I thought about Query Hell; of again shopping myself and The Angry Woman Suite to agents —oh, don’t make me, my inner put-upon self wailed. Ever see a movie about dancers/singers/actors hitting the pavement (who hasn’t?), going to audition after audition, putting it out there, and often “it” is very good, only to be told, “We’ll let you know”—though maybe no one even made eye contact, and maybe everyone talked during the audition, or worse (I imagine), took phone calls? Oooh, ouch.

It’s not the same in the book world, but it feels like it.     

Writers don’t have to get up on a stage and sing and dance—yet. But debut novelists do face daunting hurdles. Plus, as everyone knows, the publishing industry has changed. Like the weakening of our once healthy newspaper industry, the weakening of traditional book publishing didn’t happen overnight either (and for those who already know where I’m heading with this: Yes, Amazon is actually the leader of the free world). *smile*

I know what I don’t want to know. . . .    

When I was writing The Angry Woman Suite, I didn’t want to know about changes in book publishing, not really. I just wanted to write. So that’s what I did: I wrote and revised for eight years. And when I finished The Angry Woman Suite, a whole different pulled-together world of publishing was looking at me—and I turned away from it. The indie publishing world wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted my original goal: traditional publishing.

I wanted the stamp of approval that going “trad” meant to me. I wanted to be wanted, accepted, and told my work is good. Who doesn’t?

So, when my agent left the business, I dinked around wondering which direction to go next—the old way (wasted time) versus a new way (but I’d no clue where the road to a new way actually started, let alone how to navigate it if I found it).

Then something happened. A friend—probably sick of my whining—recommended I have lunch with a writer he knew, and even set up the blind lunch date for us.  

I’ll call this writer Josh—

Josh is a can’t-sit-still, potty-mouthed traditionally published (and successful) non-fiction writer. 

Over Mexican, Josh told me point blank that the publishing industry’s glory days had ended. As in ENDED.

“You know it’s true,” he said, wiggling all over the place. “You can believe what you want to believe, but fact is that agents—like yours did—are looking for greener pastures. Oh, there’re still those banging the drum of trad is the right way, the only way, and that if you don’t do the so-called right, the only, your finished product will reflect badly and you’ll end up in some ditch with a big ol’ stupid loser tattooed on your forehead. No—wait, make that f’ing stupid loser. But, look, there are always diehards in anything—like what happened in the music industry when that whole world shifted—diehards right and left there too, even after all was said and done.”

Established authors, Josh reminded me, have stuck their feet in indie waters as well. Stephen King’s done it; also Steig Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Michael Connelly.

And everybody knows what indie writer Amanda Hocking did, and then indie author John Locke, selling one million books through Kindle, Amazon’s ebook distributor.

Can every author do that? Whoa—can everybody do everything?

Uh, I don’t think so. The point is, the Internet and the indie mega sellers made the trads sit up and take a look back at their rear flanks, at the indies closing in.    

“And why wouldn’t authors want to call their own shots?” Josh went on. “I’d do indie, except I write for a company that’s not interested in rocking our publisher. See, going indie, authors get the lion’s share, instead of the smallest share of profit, for their work—makes sense.”    

I hadn’t said a word, my mind’s eye too busy watching a lifelong dream flushing itself down the john.

“So,” Josh summed it up, making it sound easy-peasy, “you need to be part of the indie world, Lee—it’s now, and it’s the future. And then you promote your book via social media—start a blog, for one.”

Really, do I hafta?

That lunch was probably the time to tell Josh he was scaring the shit out of me, and that one of my most humiliating childhood memories was of being afraid to sell Girl Scout cookies—too agonizingly shy. So how’s a shy kid supposed to promote anything when it just feels so ick?

Oh, grow up.

But I wanted to go home and pull the covers over my head and commence bemoaning the apparent fact I’d been born in changing times (as if there’s ever been anything else).  

Besides, I’d no idea how to go indie—is it like going native?   

And then I remembered Kirkus Reviews.

“Okay,” I said to Josh, feeling my way through my brain clutter—actually, what I was about to say, “I hear you, and here’s what I’m thinking,” was a stalling tactic.

I’d read that Kirkus Reviews—the premier book critiquing company since the 1930’s—was now making reviews available to indie authors (I’ve recently read that Publishers Weekly also is, or will shortly).

“I’m going to Kirkus,” I told Josh. “I’m going to send The Angry Woman Suite to them. And if there’s even just one teensy positive word in their review, just anything at all, something I can use on a cover, I’ll consider it a sign. . . . ”

To be continued . . .

Okay, this is getting way too long, and it’s late, so I’ll wrap things for now—but please stay tuned. I have so much I want to say about this journey I’m embarking on (as in, help!), but I’m just getting started (and the story’s going to take longer than one post anyway). More than that, I really, really want company on this trip.

Next post I’ll tell you about the surprise, and building the blog, and the search for the best “author service” company out there—but in the meantime I’d love any feedback—thank you!  

I post on Mondays and Thursdays or thereabouts; and sometimes more, but sometimes less.