28 December 2009

'Purple Heart' Available in Ebook Format

If you remember, back in August I interviewed Terry Gould, author of How Can You Mend This Purple Heart (read the two-part interview here and here.)  Print copies of the book are available at http://www.purplescribe.com/ but I'm pleased to inform you that Purple Heart is now available as an ebook through Smashwords

18 December 2009

Divine Dirt Quarterly, Issue 1

..... is live!  Check it out here.  It's a great collection and I'm honored to be among those chosen for the inaugural issue.  If you really want, you can go straight to my story here.   But I encourage you to read everything else too!  A couple I especially enjoyed were Persephone's Day by Nikki Loftin (poem) and Cinnabar and Catalpa by Kyle Hemmings (fiction).

Go have a read and let me know what you think.  :-)

14 December 2009

Kreativ Blogger Awards!

Posting Jean's Aspiring Author Profile reminded me of this.  Way back in the beginning of November, she was so kind as to mention me on her blog as a recipient of the Kreativ Blogger award.  I was so flattered, I completely forgot to do my part and pass it along!  (That's my story, folks.  Procrastination had nothin' to do with the delay, honest.) Apparently, these are the responsibilities that come along with the award:

  •  Copy the Kreativ Blogger Badge onto my blog.
  •  Thank the person who gave it to me and link to their blog.
  •  Write 7 things about myself that my blog readers don’t know.
  •  Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to.
  •  Link to those 7 other bloggers.
  •  Notify my 7 bloggers.
So, a big THANKS! to Jean Oram, whose blog you can read here, for bestowing upon me such a nice award.  I'm tickled that you'd think of little ol' Jello World when passing along the award. 

Now, for seven things my readers don't know about me.
  1. I still have baby teeth - Jean does too!  That's so crazy.  Never met anyone else who still has baby teeth in their mouth.  I had four, but had one pulled and replaced with an implant a couple years ago.  How many do you have, Jean?
  2. I was one lucky lady in that my first boyfriend turned into my only boyfriend, and he's now my husband of two and a half years.
  3. I lovelovelove British television shows - Dr. Who, Torchwood, Top Gear, Cash in the Attic, and just most of the stuff they show on BBC America.
  4. I'm half Puerto Rican.  I'm indoors a lot so my pasty ass (and the rest of me, for that matter) doesn't see a whole lot of sun.  So sometimes, especially in winter, you might not realize I have a bit of latin sabor just by looking at me.
  5. If it's green, I probably love it! Limes, apples, jello (duh!), pine trees. That goes for fragrances too. If they thought to make it green in color, it's probably a scent I enjoy.
  6. Despite #4, I can't dance.
  7. I have big feet. Wide. You don't even know.  If you ask nicely, I might tell you how big.
And now, to pass along the Kreativ Blogger honor, here are my winners.  Drumroll please........

In no particular order, they are:
My sincerest apologies to KJ, Max and Jason for the uber-girly award!  Hope you enjoy the honor anyway.

    11 December 2009

    Aspiring Author Profile: Jean Oram

    Name: Jean Oram

    Age…ish?: I was born in the ‘70s, baby. Yeah!

    Location/Country: Western Canada, eh?

    One thing people always find interesting about me: I grew up in an old schoolhouse and I grew up working on beehives as my parents were beekeepers. And yes, I got stung a lot, but there is nothing as calming as working on a hive of bees on a warm day. Sometimes, I kind of miss it.

    Genre(s) you write: Women’s fiction and chick lit at the moment. I have also written a nonfiction kids’ book. You can learn more about that one at http://www.itsallkidsplay.ca/

    Books/Authors you love: Meg Cabot, Jane Green, and Jennifer Weiner. Out of my writing genre, I also like Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. Basically, I will read just about anything. :) I’m a bit of a book slut.

    How long have you been writing? About 3 years. Although, I kept a diary as a kid—does that count?

    Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer? As a way to get free admission to movies, art shows, concerts, etc, in university, I wrote entertainment articles for the school paper. Other than that, nothing huge.

    Had anything published? Just newspapers.

    Agent status (please X all that apply)

    [X ] Need one

    [ X] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.

    [ ] Got one

    [ ] We’re “talking”

    [ X] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate bribes, gifts, wheedling, whining and…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.

    [ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

    Either/Or when you write:

    Pen and paper, or computer screen? Computer. However, I do have a pad beside the bed for when ideas, poems, etc, keep me up at night. And a whole other notebook full of story ideas.

    Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? You had to ask, didn’t you? Being a panster has gotten me into a heck of a lot of trouble. Can we say never-ending edits? However, the story I wrote as a true plotster bores the heck out of me. People say it is good though and the edits have been very reasonable. The last story I wrote, I tried a bit of both and I think that is working for me.

    Music on, or off? Depends. Mostly, Sirius Radio’s Coffeehouse. Lots of Jack Johnson. L7 and Garbage if I am feeling the angst. If editing, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra—they don’t interrupt while I am thinking.

    Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? SOLITUDE!!! However, I am a stay-at-home mom, so that doesn’t really happen. I can work anywhere—it just takes longer and sometimes makes me a frustrated, hair-pulling, crazy lady. I did do some writing in the public library for NaNoWriMo. That was heaven. I even made a library boyfriend out of a 70-year-old. (Don’t tell my husband.)

    Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? Spelling has to be right, but other than that, all systems full speed ahead! In my latest story, I simply put in things like [insert appropriate seasonal adjective] into my story as I wasn’t sure of the seasonal timeline—just that the story would take place over the span of a year. So, in order not to get bogged down in details, I left myself notes for later. It worked well. I wrote over 80,000 words in about 60 hours. However, I haven’t gone back and touched it since (it’s been 8 months and I haven’t had time), so maybe it is all a delusion dream that it worked well.

    Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it? Both. But when do I ever not want to play with words?

    Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process? Tea. Lots of it.

    Where do you get your inspiration? Uh. Hmmm. It’s just there, I guess. Let’s sing the song together, shall we? “You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration…” On our home network, my laptop is named “muse”. Does that count?

    What one thing do you really love about your own writing? When I go back and read my work and find myself pissed off because someone has come and written an amazing line in my story. Then I realize it was me. That feels good. After the anger and jealousy washes away, of course.

    What one thing do you wish you could do better? Faster edits.

    Anything else you want to say? Writing rocks! And come visit me on my blog: www.jeanoram.com/blog. I talk about writing, do book reviews and more. As well, thanks to Jen for having me. I love these kinds of things!

    Anything for us to read? Sure. How about the opening scene from “There’s No Place Like Home”. (This was the plotster story I was talking about.)

    Here’s how it starts:

    “It’s funny Beth, a year ago I expected to be putting you in a wedding gown for another man.” Her mother threaded another pearl button through its tight hole, stealing even more of her daughter’s diminishing breathing room.

    “Mom,” warned Beth’s sister, Cynthia.

    “Well, it’s true,” her mother said.

    “You promised.”

    Beth kept her back to the warring women and took a restricted breath, the scent of her bouquet assaulting her.

    “Cut it out.” Her mother gave Beth’s back a light tap. “I can’t do up these impossible buttons when you horse around.”

    Instead, Beth began taking short, unfulfilling breaths. The church’s tiny upstairs dressing room seemed to lack enough oxygen.

    Her mom squeezed the last button through its hole and spun Beth around, beaming, hand to her chest. “You look beautiful.”

    Cynthia strode over in a fluttering silk robe. “Your Nash sure can sure pick a wedding dress.”

    A stray chestnut tendril fell in Cynthia’s eyes and Beth brushed it away. Her sister’s hair was perfect in a sexy, tousled way making Beth think of movie stars and champagne and left her thinking she shouldn’t have bullied her own curly hair into a slick chignon. Beth dragged in a long, uneasy breath.

    “Cynthia,” said their mother, “go put on your dress.”

    “If you need me—for anything—” Cynthia shot their mom a warning look, “I’ll be down the hall.” She waggled a finger at her mom. “Don’t mess with her head!”

    Want more? Check it out here.

    I’m always curious to hear what you think. You can contact me at jean at jeanoram.com.

    Thanks for having me!

    No, thank YOU, Jean!

    01 December 2009

    Flash Fiction to be Published

    As in - MINE! 

    I've been digging around Duotrope's Digest, which lists magazines, journals, publishers, etc. of fiction and poetry.  It's a great resource for finding places to submit short stories and poems.  I figured I should try to break into some magazines with small pieces as a way to gain publishing credits I can use in my query letters.  Plus, I have a couple older pieces that I really love and felt were good enough to be published somewhere.  It can be difficult to find just the right outlet for your short stories/poetry because you have to read the actual journals/magazines to see what their tastes are, and not every one offers archives or samples on their websites.  And I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to spend $10 per back issue, or $20 or more per yearly subscription just to find out if that publication would be a good fit for me.

    So anyway, I started looking for outlets under the theme of religious/spiritual, because the two pieces I was looking to submit are spiritual in nature.  Unfortunately, they're not particularly Christian, or Jewish, or about the nature of Christ, or related to Scripture, or...... you get the idea.  Lots of the publications were overtly religious, and my pieces are not.  They're more skeptical and questioning of religion.  Finally, I came across Divine Dirt Quarterly, a brand new e-publication that describes themselves as "theology's tabloid, here to spread the dirt on the divine."  And I thought - perfect!

    So at one o'clock this morning, I was sitting with my laptop, doing one last fine-toothed edit on my two pieces (one poem, and one long-poem-turned-flash-fiction-story) and emailing them off to their respective editors.  I was all prepared to sit back and wait for a few weeks for a response, because the website said the slots for the inaugural issue were full and they were currently reading for the second issue.  Imagine my surprise, when I checked my email and saw a response from the fiction editor - he wants to publish my flash fiction in Divine Dirt Quarterly's inagural issue - which will be out later this month!

    I'm so freaking excited I can't even express it properly on screen!

    Aside from my high school literary magazine, I've never had anything published!  While searching for potential publications, I found myself giving preference to print publications (I mean come on, who doesn't want the satisfaction of holding pages in their hands??) but Divine Dirt Quarterly is online only.  And that's okay, because I felt it was such a great fit for what I'd written that it didn't matter.  Not only that, but the subject matter is something I would enjoy reading, and that I could write more about and possibly submit to them again in the future.  How awesome is that?

    So as soon as I have details - like a publication date - I'll post it here!

    18 November 2009


    The world seems to be in Christmas mode already.  Everyone sort of bypasses Thanksgiving.  No one ever decorates for Thanksgiving (except my mom), we don't have cool Thanksgiving songs on the radio, people don't go around saying happy thanksgiving for weeks before the holiday actually occurs.  And working in retail, it's even worse.  So I thought I'd take a moment to do a Thanksgiving post.

    Here are some things I'm thankful for:
    • My husband, who is supportive of me in all my quirky writing habits, even if he doesn't understand them.
    • All the rest of my family, especially my little brother who's a freshman in high school and just underwent his second spinal fusion surgery.  He's braver than me, I think.
    • Having a job that pays my bills, no matter how stressed it makes me sometimes.
    • My adorable dachshund Button who makes me smile every day.  Even when she uses the floor as a toilet.  And chews my clothes.  And wakes me up at 3am to go potty.  She makes me happy.
    • All of my old friends, people I went to high school and college with, who keep those lines of communication open with this slacker who never emails or calls.
    • All of the great writers I've met through Authonomy and AQC, who will encourage me when I need it and give critical feedback when I need it, and who inspire me to be a better writer.  I'd name names, but there are too many and I'd forget someone and feel bad.
    So those are some of the things I'm thankful for.  What about you?

    13 November 2009

    Review: From the Query to the Call

    I recently told you about the ebook I purchased, From the Query to the Call, by Elana Johnson.  This is my review, but first I wanted to mention that Elana has just snagged herself an agent!  Congratulations Elana, you definitely deserve it.  Can't wait to be able to hold one of your books in my hands!

    Okay, back to her ebook.  I absolutely dread writing query letters.  For Confessions of a Non-Believer, I actually formulated the basic query even before I started writing.  The whole concept just fit very neatly into query format.  I got lucky there.  But Sorry's Not Enough has been a very different story.  It's a very character-driven novel, and while the plot elements (such as the love affair between two people suddenly going very wrong when they're placed in the roles of student and teacher) certainly garner interest, it's really the emotional journey of the characters that's the most important aspect.  Every time I tried to get advice on my query, I got lots of advice saying "sum up the plot" and "cover the important plot points" or "what happens in the story?" and in trying to answer those questions, the query would end up bogged down in pointless details.  When I tried to focus on the emotional elements, people would say "but what happens?" or "too much psycho-analysis" and "do you really know what your book is about?"

    Well OF COURSE I know what it's about! 

    So, needless to say, query-writing is a high-anxiety activity for me.  I've read a few of Elana's queries before, and had seen her in action critiquing (very insightfully) other people's queries.  I had high hopes for her ebook, then.  And I can happily report that she did not disappoint.

    I expected 20, maybe 25 pages of advice on writing a query, but NO.  The book delivers 63 pages on everything from what a query is/is not, why you need one, and how to write one.  Then, it goes on to discuss researching the best agents for your novel, strategies for submitting and surviving the wait, as well as the rejections, and finally, how to handle "the call" when an agent is interested in representing you. 

    It is an interactive ebook, with links to the websites of writers whose query letters she uses as examples, websites to help with your query, and websites to help with agent research.  There's also a link to a set of worksheets to help you craft your query.

    The query advice is much more than vague statements about what each paragraph should include - which is much of what I'd encountered previously (e.g. Start with a one or two sentence hook, then give a brief summary of the plot.....etc.)  Elana breaks down the query into small, definable, non-threatening parts and dissects them - there's the hook, the set-up, the conflict, and the consequence.  She explains the purpose of each section, and gives examples from her own and other queries.  As the book progresses, you can see the query taking shape from the examples she gives.

    One of the best pieces of advice I took from the book is to write the hook last.  I've always tried to crank out a great hook first, which was stressful.  Using the worksheets, I answered the questions necessary to write the hook, but didn't write it until I had finished writing the rest of the query.  It was actually much easier to come up with a hook at the end.  I also had a major a-ha! moment when she pointed out the circular sense of closure that should come from the query - take the hook, add on your consequences sentence, and that should be your book in a nutshell.  Not sure why that never dawned on me before, but it was a great moment.

    This book also helped me realize 1. I need to do more research into the agents I submit to, and 2. I need to expand my potential agent list!

    So I still have a few minor tweaks to make on my brand new query before I send it out, but if I get a good request rate after I send some out, I'll share it with you all.  Meanwhile, I highly recommend From the Query to the Call for any writer who wants to craft a strong query and who need a little bit of guidance on what to do once you've got a killer query.

    Don't forget to check out Elana on her website, and her blog.

    24 October 2009

    To NaNoWriMo, or Not To NaNoWriMo....

    There's a mouthful for ya.  If you're not familiar, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  Thirty days of literary abandon.  The goal is to write a novel by midnight on November 30th.  They define "novel" as 50,000 words.  The focus is quantity, not quality.

    It's funny, because that's the exact opposite of how I usually write.  It takes me ages and ages to finish something, even when I have a pretty clear idea of where it's going, because I search painstakingly for exactly the right words to use, the perfect scenarios to accomplish what I want from a chapter, etc.  When I have a first draft, it's a pretty darn good first draf (in my opinion, of course haha).  But I suppose in the time it takes me to get a complete first draft, plenty of other writers have done the first draft and a couple edits already.  So maybe NaNoWriMo would be good for me.  It would force me to focus on simply writing the story, ignoring mistakes that can be fixed later, inserting some kind of filler when I can't figure out exactly what I want so that I can move on and keep writing.

    But still, a novel in a month?  It seems pretty daunting.  I'm not sure if I can put in the time and energy that would take.  We're heading into the holiday retail season, which means busier, harder, longer days at my regular job, which already takes a lot out of me.  Can I handle NaNoWriMo too?

    The other thing that makes me uncertain is that they ask you to start from scratch.  You can't include any previously written material in your 50,000 word goal.  And I don't really have any new ideas right now.  I have Confessions that I've been working on, as well as Marisol's erotica story.  I have ideas for the sequels to the erotica, but is really prudent to start writing a sequel when I've barely got 3 chapters of the first book? 

    I think I would like to give it a try, but I'm hesitant.  I still have next week to figure it out, since it doesn't begin until November 1st.  If I can come upwith even a half suitable idea for a new project, maybe I'll jump into NaNoWriMo feet first, sink or swim.

    Think you might be interested?  Everything you need to know is here:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

    20 October 2009

    Faces of the Future

    I'd like to introduce you to one awesome chica, and I thought she deserved more than just an aspiring author profile.  She doesn't even know I'm doing this, so it'll be a big surprise.  Her name is Elana Johnson and, short and simple, she rocks.

    I "met" Elana through a critique group on Agent Query Connect some time ago.  I was working on Charlotte/Sorry's Not Enough, and had just recently decided that I wanted to take my writing to the next level and attempt publication.  She was working on a YA fantasay currently titled Loves Magic.  I feel privileged to have seen the early stages of that book, plus early peeks at a few others.  You can learn about her books on her website.  Elana always had useful, insightful critiques, and her own writing improved leaps and bounds while she was part of group.  She's continued to improve and I can honestly say I'd gladly read any of her books as soon as they're in print.

    Okay, so being a great writer and critiquer is one thing.  But why, you may ask, does she get this special post?  Because she's fully invested in her writing and her future career.  In addition to maintaining a professional website, she blogs.  On more than one blog!  She has her personal blog, she's a contributor to the Query Tracker blog, and there's also Query Ninja.  That's three - count 'em, three! - blogs in addition to her regular writing to fit into her schedule.

    Oh yeah, did I mention she's a wife, mother, and has a full time day job?  I can barely handle my day job, one blog, a husband and a dog haha.

    To top it all off, Elana has written an ebook to help writers with their queries.  I recently purchased my copy of From the Query to the Call.  (Expect a review in the coming weeks!)  The Query Ninja blog is where Elana personally helps writers perfect their query letters - currently only available to those who purchase the ebook.  Elana will also be starting her next book during National Novel Writing Month in November.  NaNoWriMo is a fun - or crazy, depending how you see it - 30 days of novel writing.  The goal is to get 50,000 words in a month.  I'll blog more on that next week.

    Honestly, Elana is an inspiration and a role model for me.  I hope to step back one day and find myself engrossed in my writing - whether it's actual novel-writing, blogging, publishing, promoting, or whatever - the way she is:  with wit, grace, humor, and one heckuva great talent!

    So remember the name Elana Johnson.  I have a feeling she's going to have a great career ahead of her.  Check out any of the links in this post to learn more about her and read snippets of her writing and see for yourself how talented she is.  When she's on the best seller list, you can say you saw her here first!

    07 September 2009

    Author Interview: T. L. Gould, Part Two

    Here we are with Part Two of my interview with Terry L. Gould, self-published author of How Can You Mend This Purple Heart?  Last time we talked a bit about Terry's background and the story behind Purple Heart.  Now Terry shares some insight into the self-publishing process.

    JLL: Why did you decide to self-publish?

    TLG: In one word—impatience. I studied dozens of websites and learned as much as I could about the publishing industry and the publishing process. I followed that with an intense study of all the how-to advice on finding an agent, writing a great query letter, writing a powerful synopsis, the why’s of following agent submission guidelines and the dos and don’ts of just about every rule that should never be broken—and then what rules should be broken.

    To make a long story short, after twenty-some queries (very targeted to the genre), followed by nine rejections and the remaining no responses, I lost patience.

    I did as much research on self-publishing as I had on traditional publishing and decided it was the best option for “Purple Heart”.

    JLL: What can you tell us about the self-publishing process?

    TLG: If your writing is the ultimate goal—not the act of getting published—then self-publishing is worth a look. The best advice I can give is to do your homework. Research as many self-publishing firms as you can. Compare everything. Compare rates, options, marketing add-ons, design costs and copyright ownership clauses. Read every contract thoroughly. It’s time consuming, but every contract I looked at had some amazing obligations required by the author and some even more amazing “rights” given to the publisher. And don’t just visit the firms’ websites. Scroll down Google and look for any news about each firm. There are a lot of bad apples and thankfully there are a lot of dedicated people to point them out to you and tell you just which apples have worms.

    Access to the internet deprives anyone of an excuse not to know everything needed to make a sound decision.

    JLL:  How long did it take?

    TLG: The research process took about three weeks. Once I had decided on the publisher, it took approximately three weeks to see a printed book.

    JLL: Where/how did you find out about the service you used?

    TLG: Other than the internet search, the company came very highly recommended from a member of a writer’s group.

    JLL: Has there been a lot of out-of-pocket expense for you?

    TLG: The company I am working with, Published by Westview, charges $1,089 to format, change font throughout the book, set up table of contents, obtain ISBN for both paperback and hardcover and create a design cover. Two opportunities for review and revisions is included. The cost also includes the first five paperback and hardcover copies.

    JLL: Do you make a decent profit on the books you sell?

    TLG: The printing costs for Print On Demand, are very high compared to volume printing. A single paperback, 235 pages, black and white is $6.00. The “retail” price must be set at the time the ISBN is assigned and that dollar figure must be able to compete in the “big box” market, should the writer decide to go with full distribution. (Westview offers two options for the author; full distribution through Ingram, or “publisher distribution only” which is restricted access. The books are only available through the publisher’s or the author’s websites. The publisher must sell the books at the retail price, however, the author can set his/her selling price that is lower than the ISBN retail price).

    So, if an author sells the book for $15.00 on the website, and the book costs $6.00, the author’s gross profit is $9.00. However, if the author decides to sell the book on his/her website for $8.95 the gross profit is $2.95. Shipping and handling costs from the printer are additional and depend on the number of books being shipped.

    Self-published writers need to be very cautious not to price the book too high. As an “unknown” writer it is very unlikely anyone is willing to pay the same as they would for an established author.

    JLL: Are you your own editor, or are those services provided?

    TLG: This is the one area where I wish I would have/could have had a real editor (you Jen!). Self-editing is like asking a politician to watch your wife for a couple of days. (JLL: HAHA!)  I literally re-read, re-wrote and revised the story nine times. EVERY time I found mistakes. I was too close to the story itself to separate the emotional attachment from the technical requirements. I’m pretty good with English, grammar, quotation rules and sentence structure, but not good enough.

    I don’t care if you think you’re Webster, every book needs an independent, qualified, sincere and talented editor. If I’ve learned one thing it’s this; the editor is just as important as the author.

    JLL: What about cover art?

    TLG: The cover art was provided by the publisher, however, with “Purple Heart” I knew what I wanted on the cover and they obtained the photos and provided the electronic art.

    JLL: Would you self-publish again? As a last-resort option, or a first- or second-choice?

    TLG: I’ve been kicking around a book concept for some time. It’s a full-length memoir that chronicles the shenanigans of me and my two older brothers. It’s more of a family history story than anything else. That I might self-publish.

    As for the other stories I’m working on, well, I can only say I hope I have gained a little more patience as I’ve gotten older.

    JLL: I know you’ve been pursuing some marketing/publicity opportunities. Would I be right in assuming that you’re also solely responsible for marketing your book, or do you receive any help?

    TLG: The marketing falls squarely on the writer. If a self-published writer wants to sell lots of books, he/she better know the audience they want to reach. A lot of time and money can be wasted chasing the wrong group of readers. In the world of traditional publishing, not many newspaper editors will even consider reviewing a self-published book. It’s a closed community at this time, although I have read articles where that is changing a little.

    Marketing is very time-consuming and frustratingly slow. You have to make it fun, make it a game. The best thing I’ve learned is to be creative with ideas on how to gain awareness for the book—and don’t expect too much. (You know, it’s that low pay ego thing).

    JLL: Any advice for other authors considering self-publishing?

    TLG: Just like your writing, do it because you enjoy it. Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to be the next Tom Clancy or Steven King. Remember, 50,000 new book titles are printed in the U.S. every year. If you self-publish, do it because you love your story and you’re proud of your accomplishment.

    JLL: Terry, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!  I hope you have great success with Purple Heart and the rest of your writing endeavors.  And if you have acquired a bit more patience with the traditional publishing process, I'm sure it won't be long before you see success there.

    If you'd like your own copy of Purple Heart, please visit http://www.purplescribe.com/ .  Don't forget, not only will your purchase support an independent author, but also Veterans Airlift Command.

    16 August 2009

    Author Interview: T. L. Gould, Part One

    It's finally here!  The long-awaited interview with self-published author T. L. Gould.  So without further ado....

    Name: Terry L. Gould
    Location: U.S.
    Book: How Can You Mend This Purple Heart?

    JLL: Tell us a little bit about Terry Gould - the regular guy, not the author.

    TLG: The regular guy. Not much to talk about here. My childhood has had a tremendous influence on me throughout my adult life. We lived in very poor rural towns across and up and down Missouri, but through our childhood imaginations, we were oblivious to our “poverty.” During some periods the only food on the table was potatoes from the garden and oatmeal in every conceivable soup. We actually ate oatmeal for dinner quite a few times. This has given me such an incredible appreciation for all the people and places I have experienced throughout life. I despise greed and hoarding.

    The police showed up at our house one evening and my dad was arrested and taken to jail when I was four years old. That had a tremendous impact on me for a long time. Still does. I carried around a total of distrust for authority, both because my dad left us and because the police took him away. I’m still untrusting and suspicious of the motives and agendas behind a lot of “power figures.”

    I spent almost twenty-five years working for Fortune 500 companies in a variety of marketing and advertising positions. It was a great experience, with lots of travel to places I never dreamed of seeing, but it also changed me in ways that I regret. Without even knowing it, I became “corporatized.” You know, the stiff, button-down white collar, MBA know it all. It’s taken me nearly six years to rid myself of the rigid, “blue suit” personality with its dog-eat-dog commandments. I never really conformed to the corporate politics that stifle real creativity and thinking. Guess that’s why I changed jobs and companies every three or four years.

    I’ve been in and out of the hospital so many times, due to accidents and surgeries, I should be presented with an honorary medical degree.

    I love sports. Still playing ice hockey (two of the hospital visits) and play golf when I can. Not real good at either one.

    Family: Married thirty years to the most intelligent, caring and supportive woman anyone could imagine. Spend lots of time with our daughter and her two children, ages one and five. Kids are so innocent and open-minded. I try to learn from them every day.

    Last but not least, I believe if you’re going to tell your story, then tell it like it was. Don’t sugar coat it or wrap it with inhibitions or shyness. If you were a dope smoking, pill popping, anti-war peacenik, then say it and be proud of it. Don’t change who you were just fit who you wish you would have been. In the long run, it doesn’t feel good.

    JLL: Has writing always been a hobby or passion, or is it a talent you only recently discovered?

    TLG: Writing has been a step-child passion of mine. I wrote essays and short stories in high school that were considered “very good.” A couple of them were actually submitted by teachers for publication in the local paper.

    During my twelve weeks in boot camp for the Navy, I made extra spending money writing love letters for guys to send home to their girlfriends or wives.

    My writing ability helped me tremendously in getting through college. Term papers and writing assignments came pretty easy. I even made a little money “ghost” writing a few times.

    Then it was off to work for twenty some odd years.

    So, now I have adopted the stepchild writer in me and made it a full-fledged sibling.

    JLL: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

    TLG: For whatever reasons, excuses, I don’t read much. I’ve read a lot of business books, but haven’t turned a page on one of those in more than ten years. I now find them boring and full of look-at-me types.

    I used to love Mark Twain. The last book I finished was The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman and I’m currently reading Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.

    JLL: I ask my Aspiring Authors these questions, so let me give them to you, too. When it comes to your writing….Either/Or:

    • Pen and paper, or computer screen? The majority of my writing time is spent at the keyboard. I only write down on paper the “Aha” moments. I’ve tried the legal pad and pencil, but get bored and distracted too easily.
    • Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? I am definitely a seat of the pants writer. Outlines, scene cards, character notes…they are all too remindful of my “business days.” In my own humble opinion, that sort of structured process takes a lot of the creativity away.
    • Music on, or off? On line Sirius XM is a god send.
    • Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? By nature, I am a total people person. I need human contact. But in order for me to write, solitude is a necessary evil. I get tucked away in a little room with no windows, just the music, and a whole day can go by while I lose myself in two, three or four chapters. Then there are days when the words “hermit” and “recluse” keep repeating themselves on the screen and I know it’s time to get out.
    • Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later?  I’ve tried both. For whatever reason, contrary to my personality, the cleaner the first draft the happier I am. I don’t know how much good writing time I have wasted making all those damn corrections as I go. I tried to participate in the online nanowrimo where you write a fifty thousand word ms in thirty days. The spelling, grammar, punctuation, plot, character, etc. are of no concern. Just sit and write whatever comes out. I made it to 1,500 words. I wish I could just open up and let if fly, but I can’t.
    • Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it?  I am shackled to my new-found passion. I can’t wait to sit down and poke out a sentence, a paragraph, a page. When I do get away from the keyboard, I find people staring back at me in contempt while I make mental notes of their features, movements and mannerisms and how I might use them for a character or scene. And I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s fun and scary.
    JLL: Why did you decide to write Purple Heart?

    TLG: The story behind Purple Heart played its game on me for a long, long time. For some reason that I still cannot explain, I abandoned all connections to the hospital, my out-of-body experience, the war and my wounded friends for more than ten years following my discharge from the Navy. At some point after I met my wife, these quick, uninvited little bursts of memory would percolate through my brain and find their way into words. After telling my wife, brother and close friends about some of the experiences, through lots of laughter and tears, they kept saying “you should write a book.” I now know my retelling of those stories kept the memories alive and vivid. At some point, I realized it was a story that people should know and it was borne out of a long overdue and personal obligation I felt for the Vietnam veterans.

    JLL: How long did it take you to write the book?

    TLG: After retelling the story for more than ten years, I decided it was time to write the book. I started with a table of contents and zig zagged my writing through the chapters with no rhyme nor reason. That was nearly twenty years ago. I was able to focus on the story over the past three years and with the help of a terrific online crit group, ( yeah Jen!) [JLL: :-)] I got the first draft completed last year. In a general sense it took me thirty years to write. In a technical sense, probably three years.

    JLL: Sometimes writers are afraid or embarrassed to “come out” to friends and family about deciding to write a book and try for publishing. Sometimes we’re afraid people around us will think we’re nuts, or we think if we tell anyone else about our endeavors, they’ll put more pressure on us to succeed than we do on ourselves (as if that’s possible!) Was any of that true for you?

    TLG: I really didn’t feel any outside pressure to do a great job, or “we hope the book is as good as the story” sort of thing. A couple of good friends would chide me with “You’ll never get that damn thing written”, but that was mostly in jest and after a few beers.

    I think my own expectations kept me from writing it for a long time. I mean, who am I to think I can write a good story? That sort of self-inflicted mental pressure was something I still can’t shake.

    JLL: I know there are personal reasons for your wanting to publish Purple Heart, but I’ve also had the pleasure of reading some of your other writing. Do you have publishing dreams for future stories as well?

    TLG: Oh yeah. That would be awesome. I would love to have my YA fantasy and YA mystery works in progress published some day. The writing is so much more fun and light hearted than Purple Heart and I think the two have a much broader market appeal. But, it’s getting the first (perfect) draft completed and I’m haven’t visited the mss in over three months. As you noted in your question, it is a dream.

    JLL: As a writer, how will you measure your success? Dollars and cents? Number of copies sold? Number of different books published? Some other internal measure of satisfaction?

    TLG: I need to separate this into two parts. I have to go back to the reason I wrote “Purple Heart”—it was not a story I wrote to get published, or sell so many copies or make a certain amount of money. The primary reason was to “just tell the story” so people would know what happened beyond the combat that every one sees in the movies--on which they make their judgments about Vietnam. And, it’s a story I was encouraged to write by family and friends, some of them Vietnam Veterans.

    “Purple Heart” is a stand alone accomplishment for me. The day I finished typing out that last sentence was an overwhelming experience. Every emotion wrapped between the covers of that story came rushing over me. I literally sat and stared at the computer screen—crying with joy, sadness, relief and yes, a very powerful sense of accomplishment. When I started “Purple Heart” I never intended to be a “writer”, but after the joy of writing “Purple Heart” I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. So, the measure of success for “Purple Heart” was in the actual completion of the writing. Now, with my association with Veterans Airlift Command, success would be giving as much as I can to that organization through the sales of “Purple Heart”.

    [JLL: From the Veterans Airlift Command website: "About the VAC The Veterans Airlift Command provides free air transportation to wounded warriors, veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots."  Terry has pledged a portion of his sales from Purple Heart to benefit VAC.  Which is yet another reason for you to purchase your own copy of Purple Heart.]

    The writing that I am working on now would be measured in far more different terms. I want to learn as much as I can about the craft of writing. I want to constantly improve my ability to put together a really good story. When I started “Purple Heart” I didn’t know a plot from a theme from a premise. I started reading as much as I could on the internet about how to structure, how to outline, proper verb tense and good character development techniques. I purchased a couple of books on writing—the best was Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamont. At some point, I joined a fabulous, wonderful on-line critique group. It was the luckiest day in my life during the writing of “Purple Heart”.

    So now, my best measure of success would be the act of getting published—the satisfaction, that recognition by the publishing and reading universe—that would be the greatest measure of success. I don’t know about other writers, but with me, my ego gets extremely high indulgence from very low pay expectations.

    CLICK HERE for part two of the interview.
    Stay tuned for Part Two of the interview, where Terry shares his insight and advice about self-publishing.

    28 July 2009

    Aspiring Author Profile: Robb Grindstaff

    Robb Grindstaff


    Washington, DC

    Genre(s) you write:
    Literary, mainstream, upmarket women's fiction

    Books/Authors you love:
    Authors: John Irving, Dave Eggers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Amy Tan, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Mary Gaitskill
    Books: World According to Garp, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Love in the Time of Cholera, Kite Runner

    How long have you been writing?
    40+ years in one way or another. Told my teacher in second grade that I wanted to be an author. She said 'you have to be a writer first. After you've written something, then you are an author.' So I went home and wrote a one page short story. No idea what it was now, but my mom loved it and put it up on the fridge for the whole family to see. That's when I discovered the joy of being published and having readers. Wrote through high school, majored in English and journalism and continued writing through college. Somewhere along the way, a full time job, married, kids, a mortgage - the career in the newspaper biz and family life took over and my fiction writing stepped aside for 20 years or more. Then one day about 8 years ago, had an idea for a novel and sat down to write. Haven't stopped since.

    Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer?
    30 years in newspapers, much of that on the business side of the industry, but have been a reporter and editor and currently managing editor of a daily newspaper. So my professional experience is more involved in reading/editing other people's work, and not with fiction (at least hopefully not; we try to avoid that).

    Had anything published?
    Literary mag back in college. Now, regularly submitting and querying, but still looking for the big publication deal that will surpass my mom's refrigerator door.

    Agent status (please X all that apply)
    [X] Need one
    [X] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.
    [ ] Got one
    [X] We’re “talking” (manuscript of my first novel requested by an agent who is reviewing it. But I've had several agents request the full MS, have entered discussions with two agents, but no luck yet)
    [ ] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate sexual advances…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.
    [ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

    Either/Or when you write:

    Pen and paper, or computer screen? -- Computer screen absolutely. I can't read my own handwriting, and the words come much too fast for pen and paper. I type about 70wpm and that's not fast enough either, but I can read it and edit it on the fly.

    Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? -- Some of both. I generally have an outline of the story; I know what happens or is going to happen. Sometimes the entire story comes to me in one idea, and I outline the entire novel in one sitting, then go back to write it scene by scene. However, I don't let the outline lock me in. If, while writing, it takes off in a different direction, I let it go. Later, I'll decide whether to change the outline to match what I wrote, or vice versa. Othertimes, however, I just sit down to write with the barest kernel of a character, and let the character tell me about herself and her story. The story and the character develop slowly.

    Music on, or off? -- Off. No distractions. Silence. No movement, no sound, nobody walking in and out of the room.

    Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? -- See above. Solitude and silence.

    Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? Generally pretty clean first drafts as far as typos and grammar etc., and I'll go through and tweak and edit and correct as I go. But still requires a lot of editing later, more for word choice, scene construction, organization, etc.

    Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it? -- Unfortunately, the muse wins. I wish I was more dedicated and disciplined to writing XXXX words per day whether I want to or not. I try, but it doesn't often work. When I'm in the 'zone,' however, I can turn out 10,000 words or more in a day, and they're usually pretty good words. When I force myself to write as a matter of discipline, I invariably wind up trashing anything I wrote.

    Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process?
    No, not really. Often it's late at night, but then I fall asleep.

    Where do you get your inspiration?
    I don't know. Especially when a story comes into my head complete from start to finish in one thought. But the stories, the characters especially, in my work have been inspired by the people I've known over the years, the things I've seen and places I've been, and all the great writers I've read over my lifetime. But I usually don't see that until I'm done, other than the more surface, obvious influences. Carry Me Away, for example, I had finished writing it and out querying agents for a year or more before it hit me: as a parent, for years and years, my biggest fear was to lose a child or a have a child permanently disabled, and a car accident was usually the basis for that fear. Seems obvious now, but I didn't realize that in Carry, I wrote my biggest fear, but not from the parent's perspective.

    What one thing do you really love about your own writing?
    Oh, that's a tough one. What I love about my own writing, and what readers love, may be two very different things. Some things I've written and absolutely loved have wound up getting cut out during editing. "Kill your darlings." But overall, I think my strengths are building three-dimensional lead characters that engage readers, that readers can relate to as a real person; and doing description in very simple or subtle ways that tie to the story itself rather than stopping to describe something in great detail. I'd rather the description - whether a physical description of what someone looks like or the weather or what some scenery looks like just flow in naturally, in brief little snippets that don't interrupt the story, and help create an image in the reader's mind without ever making her stop to try to picture it. I don't like describing a character in such detail that I'm trying to force the reader to see her the way I do, but give just enough so the reader's imagination can fill in the rest.

    What one thing do you wish you could do better?
    Male characters. I tend to write in first person female, even though I've never been one. Go figure. I've tried to write a male lead character a few times, and they come out boring. Guys are boring to write. Women are much more complex and fascinating.

    Anything else you want to say?
    Haven't I said too much already?
    [Me: Nope, never.  :-)  Just to prove it, you get two snippets, because I love Carry and Hannah  both too much to choose.]

    A snippet from "Carry Me Away." Fifteen-year old Carrie, who has just learned that complications from internal injuries caused by a car accident two years earlier are inoperable, and doctors have given her a year or two before her body gives out completely, is visiting Mama Carissa, her grandmother in rural Texas. They're working in the grandmother's flower beds together.

    We sat in the dirt together for hours every day that week. I learned the difference between petunias and pansies, tulips and daffodils, marigolds and dahlias, seeds and bulbs, annuals and perennials. I learned when to prune the azalea bushes so they’ll have time to recuperate from the trauma to bloom again in the spring more brilliantly than ever. I learned there are more kinds of roses than I’d ever imagined possible.

    A butterfly landed on my glove, and I held very still while we watched it for the longest time before it flew off.

    “Butterflies are the most beautiful living creature, don’t you think, child?” she said. “An amazing creation of God. They have to be that beautiful to have the confidence to land on these flowers. You don’t see moths landing on these flowers, because they’d just embarrass their selves. God had to create something beautiful enough to visit these flowers without feeling ashamed.”

    “What about the bees, Mama? They visit the flowers, and they’re not so beautiful.”

    “No?” She seemed a little incredulous that I didn’t find bees beautiful. She reached over to a petunia bloom and caught a bumblebee in her glove, holding it just tightly enough so it couldn’t escape, but not so much that she’d squash it.

    “Looky here. See the stripes with the different colors? The light hairs covering his whole body? And look at the legs. Shiny, with tiny, coarse black hairs that collect the pollen, just like your grandma’s.” When she laughed at herself, her shoulders bounced up and down and her bosom jiggled.

    The veins formed supports in the transparent wings. The eyes seemed to see in all directions. The tiny antennae searched for a signal and the little tongue-like proboscis darted in and out to get a drop of sweet liquid from deep inside a flower.

    Its stinger slid in and out, trying to find a target but coming up empty. How could something so tiny hurt so much? I’d never been stung but had always heard that bees could cause some serious pain. I’d finally gotten used to needles, and it couldn’t hurt any more than that, could it?

    I slipped off one pink glove, and slowly extended a finger toward the bee. I wanted to touch it, to feel the silky hairs, the slick wings, to let him taste my skin with his little tongue.

    I wanted to touch the stinger, to feel it enter me, to feel its juice injected inside me like a nurse with a syringe.

    “Just what are you doing, child?” Mama opened up her glove and let the bee fly off to go pollinate another flower just before my finger reached it. “Don’t you know that thing will sting you?”

    “I wanted to touch it, Mama. Does it really hurt that much?”

    “I think we need to get you inside for some lemonade. I’ve had you sitting out in this heat so long your brain is getting sunburnt. Besides, there’s some clouds coming in over there, so I think our good weather is about to go to hell in a handbasket.”

    So we went in the house, drank some “fresh-squozed” lemonade that evaporated in my mouth before I swallowed, and shared the last piece of leftover strawberry rhubarb pie as the thunder rolled in the distance. The sky grew darker, and I napped on the couch while Mama Carissa watched TV. When I woke up, the sun was coming in through the window on my face, low and hot.

    She was telling the contestants when to buy a vowel, or criticizing them mercilessly for not seeing the obvious answer. Mama Carissa always seemed to have the answer.

    “Did it rain, Mama?”

    “No, not a drop.” She thought about something for a minute, something serious, then she just went back to my question about the rain.

    “Sometimes the darkest clouds can gather on the horizon, and you’ll think you’re in for a huge storm. Then it just goes away, and the sun comes out like nothing was ever wrong.”

    Mama Carissa always had the answer.

    To read the opening chapters of Carry Me Away, visit either http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=1389 or www.fbook.me/robbgrindstaff_writer
    Something from Hannah's Voice.
    Hannah, six years old, at home with her mother while a group of adults from church are visiting one evening, when a thunderstorm hits. Hannah is most concerned about the snowman she had built in the front yard a couple weeks earlier.

    The lights flickered twice before coming back on to stay. Everyone stumbled to the window to see where the lightning had hit.

    “Yup, it got your tree, Ruth.”

    I squeezed in beside Momma and peered through the blinds. Pitch black outside, I couldn’t see the tree at all until another streak turned the front yard to daylight for a couple seconds. Colors reappeared for that brief moment. The waxy green leaves of the magnolia. A silver car in the driveway. The blue door and shutters of the house across the street, with a red wagon in their front yard. A strange yellow streak down the middle of our tree. The lowest limb hung down at an odd angle, so low that the tire from the swing rested flat on the ground. Then everything went black outside again. Only dim shadows in gray remained, outlining the bright photograph etched in my brain. Another thunderclap pushed me back from the window even though I knew it was coming this time.

    I was halfway across the front yard before the screen door slammed behind me.

    “Hannah, where do you think you’re going? Get back here this instant, young lady. You’ll get struck by lightning out there. What’s wrong with you? What are you doing?” Momma stood in the doorway, her panicked voice screeching over the storm.

    Another flash and bang at my side gave me enough light to see where I needed to go. There, just beyond the tire. I ran as fast as I could while the light lasted. Giant drops thumped my head, pelted my back, stung my face. The rain seemed to go sideways in all directions. This time the thunder didn’t make me jump.

    I bent down in the wet grass and scooped him up in my hands, sliding my fingers under his icy belly and holding him close, bending over to protect him from the warm rain.

    All the women crowded in the doorway beside Momma, who held the screen open and yelled for me to hurry. The two men looked through the window blinds at me, horizontal strips of a giant and an elf. When the yard lit up yet again, my legs bolted for the door before I willed them to move. Momma stepped out into the rain to hold the door so I could get by her, while the others stepped back to make way. I didn’t stop until I got to the kitchen, with Momma following right behind me. She pulled open a drawer and grabbed a box of the freezer bags we used for leftovers.

    “Quick, child. Before he’s all gone.” She held the bag open while I lowered him inside. She zipped the seal shut and handed me the bag. She opened the small door on top of the refrigerator, too high for me to reach, and rushed to rearrange some leftovers and frozen packages of meat to make room for the new guest.

    She took the bag with my tiny, misshapen snow baby and set him between the ice cube trays and the gumbo, just in front of the catfish fillets.

    “There. Now he’s safe.” We looked at the little white blob for a moment before I reached up on my tiptoes and shut the freezer door.

    Read more of Hannah's Voice at http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=1915 or www.fbook.me/robbgrindstaff_writer

    24 July 2009

    Reading as Inspiration

    Reading a good book is often good inspiration for my writing. Not because I glean plot or character ideas, but because in reading a well-crafted story, I'm encouraged to craft my own just as well, if not better. I always want to improve my technique and skill, to tell my stories in the best way possible, to touch my readers with what I write, be that through humor, drama, romance, etc.  I like being able to read a good book and enjoy it not just for its entertainment value, but its educational value.

    In the past week, I've devoured 3 Laurell K. Hamilton books.  And I do mean devoured.  I first picked up one of her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels a few months ago, to research erotic elements in fiction.  It was one of the later books in the series, and from what I've read since then, it seems the sexual content in the later books is much more explicit than the first few.  But since I picked up that first book, I've been going back for more.  I read another.  Then I decided to go back to the beginning to see how the series started.  My library doesn't have all the books in the series, so I'm trying to read the ones it does have in the most chronological order possible.  Each one never fails to fascinate me.

    Her research is evident in every book.  From the types of guns Anita likes to use, to the science of vampirism and lycanthropy, to the myth and folklore of necromancy and more, it's obvious that a lot of thought has gone into each book.  She's also created such a vast and varied cast of characters, and yet they all come alive.  The bad guys are terrifying, the good guys are valiant and honorable, plus a whole host of ranges in between.  Sometimes the line is blurred between the good guys and the bad guys.  Sometimes you find yourself identifying with some trait in a character that Anita dislikes, and disagreeing with something Anita says or does, which ups the ante even more. 

    There's great imagination in her alternate reality where vampires, shapeshifters and humans all coexist.  Anita raises the dead and kills vampires for a living.  But while you might think her books are purely fantasy, or action, there's always so much more.  Romance, eroticism, moral debates, personal crises.  Laurell K. Hamilton weaves all of this into every book.  One minute Anita's hot on the trail of some preternatural serial killer that's ripping people to shreds, and the next minute she's debating the state of her psyche and mental health as a result of the kind of work she does.  She struggles with the men in her life, with love and sex and morals, religion, violence, keeping those she loves safe.  She's cynical and smart-mouthed, funny, smart, sexy, and yet flawed in her own way.

    Now THAT is the kind of book I'd like to write.  Granted, Hamilton has a few flaws, a few things that I don't love quite as much.  Like a slightly distracting tendency to repeat words in close proximity, or to overuse a certain word or turn of phrase.  And I think her dialogue can lean heavily toward exposition at times, which I hate, but hey.  Perfection is a goal never attained, right?  But the blend of characterization, the complex emotional issues laced with the action and plot, it's all tantalizing.  Once I pick up one of her books, I'm loathe to put it down until I'm finished.

    So the kind of inspiration I get from her isn't the kind that will make me run out and write a vampire novel.  It's the kind that has me searching for the right words to use, or ways to make my characters deeper and more complex, ways to draw the reader further into the story so they never want to put it down.  Here's hoping I succeed.

    15 July 2009

    Aspiring Author Profile: Chrissy Taylor

    UPDATE:  Chrissy has an agent!  Congrats!

    Name: Chrissy Taylor

    Location: Northeast, US

    Age…ish?: 37 (I think... I can never keep track)

    Genre(s) you write: Steampunk, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Historical

    Books/Authors you love: Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Tess Gerritsen, Nora Roberts, Martha Grimes

    How long have you been writing? Five years

    Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer? Nope.

    Had anything published? Nope, though I have a short that will be out in a zine shortly-- next month, I think.

    Agent status (please X all that apply)
    [ ] Need one
    [ ] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.
    [ ] Got one
    [X ] We’re “talking” (Though after Tuesday, it may be more of a Got One or a Need One.)
    [ ] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate sexual advances…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.
    [ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

    Either/Or when you write:
    Pen and paper, or computer screen? Computer screen

    Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? Definately Pantster.

    Music on, or off? Off for writing, on for thinking.

    Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? Where and whenever I can get a free minute, though it usually involves getting interrupted every couple of seconds by one of my two monkeys... er, kids.

    Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? Cleanest first draft possible, though I inadvertently leave out entire words from lack of sleep.

    Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it? Always writing... the muse never leaves me alone. Well, maybe she does take the occasional nap, but I write anyway.

    Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process? I just need my laptop and enough super strength tea to keep me awake.

    Where do you get your inspiration? The voices in my head, and the music lyrics to the bizarre songs I listen to.

    What one thing do you really love about your own writing? I don't so much love my writing, but i do love my characters.

    What one thing do you wish you could do better? Stop dangling my participles.

    Anything else you want to say? um... nope.

    Anything for us to read? Sure. Here's an excerpt about a just developed herbal drink with some curious side effects.

    “To yer success.” Seth raised his glass to her and then drank, the rest of them following suit.

    The taste was not bad, but being quite petite in build, it did not take long before Phoebe started to feel the herbal’s effects, though it was quickly becoming clear she would need to make adjustments to the formula. Curiously, her skin felt somehow electrified, and though her mood had indeed lightened, it also left her feeling light-headed, her knees threatening to give way.

    Seth must have realized, pulling her into his arms to offer the support she desperately needed, but his touch sent waves of desire through her, like nothing she had ever felt before. His arms wrapped tight around her waist, their bodies pressed against each other as the herbal coursed through them both. With their inhibitions gone, Seth leaned in and kissed her, his lips soft on hers at first, before his kiss deepened, setting her skin on fire, her desire no longer contained as she was overcome, and left quivering in his arms.

    When he spoke it was just a whisper in her ear, his breath sending a shiver down her spine. “I dinna ken if that was the effect ye were after, but I’ll be damned if ye couldna’ make yerself a fortune.”

    20 June 2009

    Letting Go.... um, maybe... not yet.... i don't wanna....

    I had a thought the other day... I might shelve Charlotte and Sorry's Not Enough for good.  Just set it aside and move on.  I'm still as in love with the story as I was from when I wrote the very first word.  But I'm thinking Charlotte may not be the one to launch my career.  I'm really excited about Confessions and Marisol's story, and I feel like one of those would be more likely to be picked up by an agent than Sorry's Not Enough.  They have stronger hooks.  A young woman grieving the death of her fiance, exploring her faith (or lack thereof), and falling in love with her dead fiance's brother.  Yeah, I'd say that packs more punch than Charlotte's story, which I can barely even sum  up in one succint sentence.

    Then there's Marisol.  I think Marisol could be my big ticket.  I was sitting down to gather my thoughts the other day (I need to sort out my ideas and figure out which book they belong to.  I'm thinking there will be at least 3 books in the series!) and wrote a nice little blurb to sum up the first book.  It goes something like this:
    With her sexy roommate Zane knocking on her bedroom door, a boss who likes a bit on the side, and the rest of Philadelphia's men to conquer, Marisol is having too much fun to worry about climbing the fashion industry's ladder.  But when her boss's philandering ways cost him his co-designer and fashion show coordinator, under-achieving Mari must rise to the occasion.  While pressures mount at work, Zane tests her boundaries in bed with an endless supply of techniques, locations, and partners.
    Sounds like fun, right?  Besides, show me another erotica novel with a bilingual, half Puerto Rican, sexy size 14 main character who enjoys porn, fashion, football, ice hockey, and safe sex?  And oh yeah, to top it off, she loves all things British (especially Dr. Who), blogs about sex, and will try just about anything once.  Mari is crazy.  CRAZY, I tell you!  If she doesn't land me an agent somehow, somewhere, I might as well stop writing.

    So anyway.  Back to Charlotte and whether to put her away.  I'm reluctant to do it.  That's my baby.  Plus, I'm not sure if my newfound "acceptance" of her non-publishability is just me being honest and market-savvy, or if it's just me being scared to go for it.  Because let's face it, I haven't exactly been querying my pants off.  Less than 10 queries, pretty much all form rejections.  But I know writers who have queried 20, 40, 50 or more agents for one project, and keep on trucking.  Am I just backing out because I'm afraid?  Could be.  It's a bit of a tendency of mine.  All bravado in words, but coward in action.

    Is it that whole fear of failure thing?  Or fear of success?  Fear of owning up to who and what I am and really living it every day, out loud, and not just in cyberspace?  I don't know.  I like to think I'm being smart and unemotional by looking at the black and white facts.  I find that as I continue writing and starting new projects, the quality of writing is getting better and better.   And no amount of revision can really bring Charlotte up to that level.  Or can it?  It could be that I'm just afraid of all that hard work.  Or impatient.  I want to move on and really immerse myself in these new projects, but a big part of my time is being spent worrying about whether Sorry's Not Enough is in the best possible shape.  Is my revising really finished?  Is there something I could do better?  I've even toyed with the idea of splitting it up into two books again, which would require major overhauling, and writing about 50,000 new words to make the second half long enough for its own book. 

    I've been working on it for so long now, maybe it just needs a long rest while I work on something else.  I tried to set it down - and managed to do that - for a while.  But it was only a few weeks.  Maybe it should be a few months or more.

    Am I just being a lazy coward?  My crit group likes it, and the few friends who've read it like it also.  But that doesn't mean an agent will love it enough to rep it.  Maybe I should stop rambling about it on my blog and make a decision.  I'll let you know as soon as I make it.

    06 June 2009

    Aspiring Author Profile: ME!

    So I'm rounding up some aspiring authors to profile in the coming weeks, but I figured it wouldn't be fair to them if I didn't also participate.  So here's my questionnaire:

    Name: J. Lea Lopez, not to be confused with a much more famous J.Lo, whose middle name happens to be Lynn

    Age…ish?: 26

    Location: Pennsylvania, US

    Genre(s) you write: Women’s fiction, Erotica

    Books/Authors you love: Dean Koontz. Absolutely anything by that man. Some recent books I’ve read that became instant favorites are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon, and Wetlands by Charlotte Roche.

    How long have you been writing? My memory’s pretty hazy before middle school anyway, but that’s about when I can recall writing down stories. In secret, of course, because I always based them on real people I had crushes on at the time. Like my seventh-grade math teacher. No joke. They were really cheesy and bad, but that need to tell stories (I now make up fictional characters, thank you very much!) has never left me.

    Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer? Nope. Wouldn’t mind getting some, though.

    Had anything published? Not unless you count my high school lit magazine, or that joke of a site poetry.com. They publish anything.

    Agent status (please X all that apply)

    [X] Need one
    [X] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.
    [ ] Got one
    [ ] We’re “talking”
    [ ] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate sexual advances…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.
    [ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

    Either/Or when you write:

    Pen and paper, or computer screen? Definitely pen and paper.

    Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? Major pantster. I get a hint of the plotster sometimes, but it’s usually overrun by the ADD tendencies of my pantster self.

    Music on, or off? On, most of the time.

    Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? Each has its benefits. I do enjoy my quiet, solitary writing time, though.

    Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? Cleanest possible. I think things over so long before I ever even write a word, I guess that’s why it takes me so long to actually get a chapter written sometimes.

    Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it? Total slave. Like whips and chains, it’s that serious. I get extremely frustrated when I’m inspired with a great idea and “real life” gets in the way of me sitting down and writing. And I don’t always have the self-control to make myself churn out a couple pages every day. My muse likes to jerk me around.

    Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process? I like to write in black pen. Even red pen sometimes. But blue irritates me. I don’t like using blue pen unless I have nothing else.

    Where do you get your inspiration? It just comes to me out of nowhere. I might see/hear/experience one tiny little thing, then my brain immediately shoots off into what-if land, and before I know it, a story is born. For example, Sorry’s Not Enough was borne out of the idea of ‘when might a student-teacher relationship not be so inappropriate?’ and it’s evolved into so much more. That student-teacher aspect is just a small part of the picture now.

    What one thing do you really love about your own writing? I don’t know. I like the feeling I get when I sit down to do some editing, and before I know it I’ve forgotten the editing part and just read 30 pages for the pleasure of it. That’s pretty special. But I don’t know what it is about my writing, necessarily, that I like. People compliment my dialogue. And my sex scenes haha. So I guess I like those. But that’s two things. Whatever, it’s my survey anyway.

    What one thing do you wish you could do better? Dialogue. Doesn’t matter how many people compliment it, I’m still my worst critic.

    Anything else you want to say? Fish tacos. That’s what’s for dinner. Soon as I make them.

    Anything for us to read? Aww, you want more? Haven’t you read enough? Well let me see what I can dig up for you….
    This is from Chapter 14 of Sorry's Not Enough:

    “So are you and this John guy serious now?”

    The answer to his question was a resounding no. She definitely wasn’t interested in anything serious. Not with John.

    “It’s not a big deal.”

    “You might want to tell him that.”

    Charlotte smiled. This was a new side of him. It was strangely flattering to know he was jealous, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

    “If I know anything about 17-year old boys, let me tell you that he’s looking for something definitely more serious than you are.”

    “He’s 18 already.” His birthday was in September.

    “An older guy, huh?”

    “Yeah, I seem to like the older ones,” she said.

    They locked eyes.

    “Do you?”

    “Didn’t you know?”

    His eyes glinted. “I might have guessed.”

    She wanted to tell him that the way he made her feel just by looking at her like that was a thousand times more remarkable than anything she ever hoped to get from John. Her smile faltered when she remembered what she was supposed to be talking to him about.

    “Is there anything I can do about my grade?” she asked abruptly, making sure her voice wasn’t nearly as soft or teasing as it sounded to her a moment ago.

    “I’m glad you’re thinking about that. I don’t know what’s been going on the past few weeks, but your work isn’t meeting the expectations I have for you. Not in the least.”

    She hated that authoritative tone and the way his eyebrows arched slightly, his concern almost parental.

    “Can I rewrite it?”

    “I’m sorry, but no. The requirements for the assignment were clearly spelled out, and you had plenty of time to do it right. Your overall average is a low B right now, but there’s no reason you can’t pull it up by the end of the year.”

    “I know I screwed up, okay? Isn’t there anything I can do about it?”

    “You can do better next time. There will be plenty of assignments between now and the end of the school year to balance that one grade. If you were in danger of failing, I’d be willing to discuss extra credit, but you’re not.”

    “Fine.” Charlotte stood up and stacked her books. She was already ten minutes late for Chemistry.

    “I don’t know what more you want from me. I can’t have a special set of rules just for you and not the rest of the class.”

    “I’m not asking for a better grade in exchange for sexual favors, I just want to rewrite the damn thing!”

    He jumped out of his chair and hurried to close the classroom door. He turned to her, his face flushed red.

    “What the hell are you doing? Are you trying to get me fired?”

    “No, I— I wasn’t trying—” It was just a stupid joke. He was supposed to laugh, to give her that knowing look like he had when they’d talked about John. She’d said it thinking of Steven, not Mr. Patria. She had to find a way to reconcile the two ideas of this same man, or she really would lose her mind.

    “I shouldn’t have said it. I didn’t mean anything by it, I swear,” she said, picking up her books and trying to maneuver past him.

    “Charlotte, wait.” He reached for her, sliding his hand all the way around to the small of her back.

    It was much too intimate a gesture, and she reacted much too boldly, stepping into him so that the only thing between them was her armful of textbooks. Reaching behind with her free hand, she found the doorknob and clicked the button lock with her thumb.

    “We can’t do this,” he said, but he made no move to walk away. She’d never wanted him more than she did in that instant when his hesitation proved to her that, though he was unattainable, he was not unwilling......
    Want to know how they got here, and what happens next?  You can read Sorry's Not Enough on Authonomy.

    06 May 2009

    By What Measure, Success?

    You may or may not already know that I have a pet peeve with Nicholas Sparks.  Mainly, I feel like the few books of his that I've read are transparent and predictable, lacking a mature depth of both plot and character, playing on base emotions for the sheer purpose of wrangling in yet another Almighty Dollar.

    I really don't feel too strongly on the topic, of course.  ;-)  Couldn't you tell?

    So anyway, I hear he's writing (or has already written) his next book, The Last Song, I think it's called, with Miley Cyrus in mind for the screenplay.

    Excuse me, but wha--?  Huh?  However much I dislike his books, I don't begrudge him his sucess (too much) but I mean COME ON PEOPLE!  How ridiculously commercial can you get?  When I write my next book, I might possibly consider the agents I'd like to query and what their preferences are.  No way in hell am I going to be considering who I want to play my characters in the movie version, much less actually writing the part with them in mind!

    Even more sad is that I will probably go see the movie just because I like Miley Cyrus.  Yes, I'm serious.  But I won't buy the book.  I've vowed never to buy a Nicholas Sparks book.  Ever.  If Grandma buys it and wants to loan it to me, though, well that's a different story.  I'll read it, bitch and moan about how predictable and ridiculous it was, then stew with envy that I don't have such a huge fan base that I can write crap and get paid for it.  Oh well.  Such is life.

    25 April 2009


    Third time this week!  Whew!  I've really outdone myself here.  So here are some updates:

    Looks like I'll have an author interview with Terry Gould (Purple Heart) for you guys in the next couple weeks!  I'm excited about that.  I also want to try to start a series of aspiring author profiles, if I can bribe some of my pals from Agent Query or Authonomy to answer a few silly questions and let me post the answers here. 

    [edited to remove poem for publication]

    24 April 2009

    Erotic Poetry: A Duet

    Over on AQConnect I belong to a crit group called Between the Sheets, which focuses on writing the best (read: least laughable) sex scenes possible.  Believe it or not, it's more difficult than it looks.  Another member, Max (blog here and website here) posted an erotic poem and offered a challenge for one of us ladies to write the counterpart from a woman's point of view.  This is what the two of us came up with:

    by Maxwell Cynn

    Legs spread before me.
    No flower so lovely as
    the folds of her labia.
    Her nectar glistening -
    drops of honey in the morning sun.
    The fragrant scent,
    her velvet cunt calls me.
    It fills my nostrils,
    dances on the tip of my tongue.
    There is nothing like
    this heavenly musk.
    Brine, acidic,
    the pungent taste of passion.
    The elixir of life,
    flowing from inviting womb.
    Her flesh is hot on my lips,
    searing folds of carnal delight.
    My tongue parts the Cleft of Venus,
    curling against her excited clit,
    cupping a thimble-full of her draught.
    She moans
    No sound so pleasing to the ear as this
    The soft whisper of pleasure,
    unsullied by words -
    emotion given voice.
    My senses reel,
    Sight, sound, taste, and scent -
    combine in an epiphany of Eros.
    My tongue seeks her depths
    hungry to be embraced by her.
    She arches.
    Her hips pressing upward
    to meet my desire.
    I bury my face in her,
    enraptured by her need.
    She shakes.
    Her body given over,
    controlled by primal passion.
    A muffled cry -
    silenced by clinched teeth.
    Her fingers tangle in my hair -
    pulling me to her.
    She spasms.
    All control is gone.
    My pleasure equals her desire.
    Her body contorts beneath me.
    I suck eagerly
    at her delicious clit.
    A deep guttural cry and
    she is consumed.
    My body pours its seed
    into the musty air
    overcome by -

    by J. Lea Lopez

    He is poised
    erect before me. I take
    pleasure in soft skin that does not
    betray the strength of his
    cock, firm and yet vulnerable beneath my
    fingertips. With my hands, I coax
    him to his full length,
    girth. Tonight I ignore the heat
    of my Delta and bow my head in
    worship of him, my phallic
    idol. His contented sigh
    deepens into a moan as my tongue snakes
    down, around. Head,
    up again. Insistent
    fingers tangled in my hair speak
    of desire, of urgent

    My lips close around the tip
    of him and suck
    slowly, to the rhythm
    of his breathing. He lifts
    his hips, pressing deeper, seeking
    more of my molten mouth and I open
    to him, slide my lips ever downward, taking him
    deep. My mouth constricts
    around his cock, slides
    up, slides
    down, faster, harder. I am
    consumed by the need to
    consume him to the end. His lustful
    groans are subdued, but the tension
    in his hips - struggling against the urge to thrust
    against me - tells of the frenzy
    growing within. I am
    relentless. He succumbs to my
    mouth in a hot
    flow. I lick
    the salt from my
    lips and savor the taste of