It’s Fiction, Not Memoir

New business: This photograph is under consideration for the cover of The Angry Woman Suite. Like it/don’t like it? Don’t be shy . . . first thing off the top of your head—good? bad? Do you feel the “wistfulness”? Feedback appreciated!   

Penquin’s online community Book Country has launched a plethora of tools for authors to digitally publish, with distribution to all major outlets that Penquin distributes to. . . .

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet is making its appearance sooner than initially announced (sharing the love with Amazon’s new Fire).

Old business: Some time back, a non-writer friend, an avid reader, was looking over a very rough first draft of The Angry Woman Suite for me, a story with a double murder at its core (emphasis here for a reason), told by three narrators in different time zones.

One of these narrators is Elyse Grayson, a young girl at the start of The Angry Woman Suite, and eighteen at its conclusion. The other two narrators are males. Now, as I’ve written before, Elyse Grayson had me from the beginning of the story. She is the glue of this book, and the character I relate to. I didn’t want to leave her when the novel ended.    

Is that because Elyse is female and has understandable issues? (rhetorical question)    

Francis Grayson, on the other hand, her stepfather, was the most difficult character to move forward from a first-person point of view. First off, it was über difficult being male when I’m not, and, second, having to stay in Francis’ head for any length of time made me a little nutty—is that because he’s male (redundant) and has issues?

So this friend (the one who’d read the first draft of The Angry Woman Suite) and I were at lunch one day, menus still in hand, when she leaned over and asked almost conspiratorially, “Lee, did all those things really happen to you when you were a child?”

I was speechless—seriously speechless. “But this isn’t a memoir—”

“But what about Francis? Isn’t he—?”   

Since then, as The Angry Woman Suite has grown, and been read by more people and critiqued and commented on, I’ve heard again and again, “How much of this story is you; is any part of it true?”

Okay, so here’s the deal: other than writing these blog posts, I write fiction. Stories. I make things up. 

There is no double murder in my background.

Are you kidding? If there were, I would write a memoir—and a sequel.

As for creating characters with foibles and neuroses, well, ever since I can remember, I have watched and listened to people and wondered, “Really, is what you just said truth or bullshit? And if it’s bullshit—and you are looking like you’re believing your own shit —then which hat did you just pull that one out of?

And this, seriously, is the genesis of my storytelling. I make up stories to explain the otherwise (to me) unexplainable.

So, yes, there are people in my stories who are reminiscent of many real-life people I’ve either appreciated or puzzled over. We all work with the tools we have, what we can lay our hands on, what is familiar; what we know. And, like everyone else, I’ve had good and bad influences in my life—those influences are my tools.  

But, again, excepting the historical references to the American Revolution, The Angry Woman Suite is fiction.

And fiction is an art form I’ve loved from the very first Louisa Mae Alcott “big girl” novel (Rose in Bloom) my mother gave me when I was eight, to the novel we talked of as she lay dying (The Last of the Mohicans).        

Thanks for coming by—oh, and one other thing, and yes, it is about me *smile*: I met my Telemachus editor today. Her name is Karen, and she’s brilliant. She turned 40 pages back around to me thisfast—so there’s much to do (but it’s fun). Except I haven’t quite figured out the sleeping thing, as in where it fits in. I’ll be back on Monday—comments appreciated!

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. . . .     


Publishing Revolution and Lazarus

Barnes & Noble

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“There’s a revolution going on and we’re watching it happen.”

“You sure?” I ask.

“The old paradigm has already vanished.”

This was my thousandth back-and-forth with Josh, a well-known non-fiction writer who’d prodded me—and, no, prodded is not too strong a word—into taking the digital/indie route with my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, after my agent made a career switch. He’d convinced me that digital/indie publishing is the future. But he’d yet to reassure me that I’m prime revolutionary material.

Not to say printed books are going to vanish, or that a revolution needs me to thrive.

Just like many of us online news readers still read newspapers too (albeit skinnier ones), there will always be print books via Amazon (I hope!)—also, hopefully, Costco will keep its little book section going—otherwise, I’m just gonna have to plop myself down in an aisle and cry. And, yes, I do have a Kindle and am currently salivating over the Amazon Fire (to be released 11/15), Amazon’s answer to Apple’s ipad—

—BUT I do love the feel and smell of paper and binding—love, love, love. There is almost nothing better than a paper book, Baby Rae, and a muffin on a rainy day, all together on my bed.

Now Josh has many fine qualities, but none are patience, especially when I keep repeating the same thing over and over about going indie: “Am I doing the right thing?”

He read the opening of Mark Levine’s The Fine Print to me, over eggs and hash last Sunday morning:

“Amazon’s rolled over onto B&N and is now the largest book retailer in the land . . . Borders laid off 900 people in 2009 . . . in 2010 Borders announced the closing of 185 WaldenBooks, and Borders stores . . . Barnes and Noble closed the remaining B. Dalton bookstores . . . by the summer of 2010, B&N announced it was up for sale.”

Levine had also written, “Toss in the brewing ebook turf war between Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and wow—this industry is changing fast.”    

“So there you have it,” Josh said, also for the thousandth time, turning off his ereader. “You pacified for the next 15 minutes? Also, don’t forget, in one year alone, ebook sales went up 213% . . . what’s that tell you?”

His tone told me I was on his last nerve—but I was needing something else before my first jump off the high dive; maybe another sign?

That sign presented itself.

It arrived in the form of someone I hadn’t seen for a very long time—a Lazarus, so to speak; rising from the “dead,” back into my life. He wants to remain anonymous for now, so Lazarus will be his spy name.  

Lazarus and I met my last year of high school, when he was in his third year at SDSU. I was ushering at a theater—my first night on the job—and he was parking cars at the same theater. I saw Lazarus before we actually met, walking toward the theater, and thought—well, let’s just say it was a good first impression—and then I forgot him until intermission when he came looking for me.

Lazarus was going to become a commercial pilot—and everybody thought we’d eventually marry—and I was going to become a teacher.

But we went our separate ways, and I eventually married DDF (best decision of my life). I’d no idea what became of Lazarus, but when I did think of him, I imagined him flying off to Paris and Singapore and what-have-you. As time went on, Lazarus faded in importance, even in memory, part of another time, another me, long gone. 

Until I was standing on my metaphorical diving board, looking down into the scary waters of indie publishing (or, better, the scary waters of marketing), and Josh said to me—still over eggs and hash—

“Lazarus Bening is signing at Mysterious Galaxy (one of our remaining book stores)—you interested?”

I knew who the author Lazarus Bening was, but in a very murky, corner-of-my-brain kind of way—so murky I couldn’t come up with the title of his latest bestseller if Baby Rae’s next meal had depended on it. Bening’s niche is fast-paced adventure thrillers, and I mostly read slow, character-driven literary, so Bening wasn’t in my stack of books to read before I die. But he was Josh’s top pick, and apparently every other red-blooded American male’s as well.

And that’s when it hit me: Lazarus Bening.

Could it be? No, it couldn’t be . . . but, maybe—but how could that have happened, Lazarus and I both ending up fiction writers when he was supposed to be piloting a plane to Singapore?  

I’m running late for the office, but I’ll pick this up next time out . . . next post: more about Lazarus and Telemachus Press and Mr. Wonderful. . . .

I post on Mondays and Thursdays, and sometimes more, but sometimes less. Thanks for coming by.