Friday, March 31, 2006

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle

I believe that's from an old song ... I often rant on this blog about not having enough time to get it all done. For some reason, I subconsciously think that by writing about the time I don't have, a few extra hours will mysteriously appear in my day. Silly me.

Michael and I have come up with a list of priorities ... but just looking at the four pages is daunting because, in fact ... it all needs done. We've been working steadily this week securing a book distributor, setting up our trip to New York in April and D.C. in May ... the BookExpo (Southern Fried Women will be on the New Title Display at the BEA), preparing for the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) trade show, among other promotion and publicity things we have set out to do, (touring, speaking, and meeting the public.) Thank God for our publicist. This will be the beginning of ramping up to a good-sized job for her.

I told my layout artist just this week, "You know, I do believe writing it was the easy part." She laughed and agreed with me.

And it really doesn't matter who your publisher is, or whether you’re self-published ... authors must carry most of the burden of publicity on their own shoulders. (I've ranted about that, too.)

When you add up all you do in twenty-four hours that doesn't pertain to writing ... eating, sleeping, showering, driving, etc. etc. how much is left for family, friends, and work?

The slices of pie keep getting smaller.

So if I really could save time in a bottle ... I guess I'd write just for the fun of it, because I'd be rich and would never have to think about paying bills again.

Silly me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Drop In A Bucket

I think sometimes, we writers feel like that. We're just a drop in a bucket ... an insignficant drop ... like all the rest of the drops made up to fill the bucket of books written for public consumption.

You can overwhelm yourself by looking at all the other drops out there. Where do we all fit in? And are all drops created equal?

I've been consuming blogs the past few days, blogs by authors as well as agents. Some blogs go right over my head. Just like ... whew! Over the top of my understanding. I can pick out sentences and certain paragraphs of interest ... hoping to learn some small nugget of truth that will set my writing world on fire, and then ... I think ... wow, they're way smarter than me. I don't know stuff like that ... they must've taught this stuff on the college level somewhere. For years.

And of course, there's the agents blogs that I ranted about yesterday ... and I'll not go into those again. Just that there are some interesting agents out there with high opinions of what they know ... let's leave it at that.

I begin to feel small, minute, and insignificant in the world of writing and publishing. I realize there are so many in the business that have been at it for decades, and are still waiting for their mountain-top experience. And then there's all the published and well-known bestselling authors that continue to fight to stay on top. (I think that's the most stressful place to be in.)

I go to the book expos and the writing conferences, and everyone is wanting a little piece of the fame and the recognition for their years of work.

.... all of us ... drops in a bucket.

But then, I realize ... I just finished a book, it's going to be published, and if I never do anything else with my writing career ... I'll have something out there that I wrote with my name on it that I'm proud of.

Let's hope this drop makes one hell of splash.

That's what we do it for in the end anyway ... because we have something to say, we want to write what matters to us, to be read. Not because we think we know so much more about writing and want to "prove it."

Besides ... they may have a blog with a thousand hits a day, or teach at writing conferences across the country ... but they're still (when you get down to it) ... just a drop in the bucket.

We all are.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My Sister Also Remembers ...

Hi Pam,
Enjoyed your blog. Brings back memories. When I close my eyes and think about Waterloo Road-- I think of lilac bushes, cement, and trees come to my mind. Cement? Yes! All that cement Dad poured throughout the years ... the big block patios in the back where I practiced cheerleading because I could see myself in the basement windows. Remember the sidewalk to the back that we used to run up and down?

The above is just a little snippet from my sister after reading my blog. It's fun to compare memories. I'm sure we would all find something different to add to the memory banks. All things to draw from when writing great stories.

A writer's life is made up of different parts. Parts of their past, present, and their hopes and dreams.

Remembering your past ... talking about it with your family ... you'll be amazed at the stories you'll spawn just recalling the good and the bad.

Remember the blessings.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I'm not sure just how funny I am ... but last night, I'm lying in bed thinking about my life growing up ... and I start laughing and laughing at all the hilarious stuff we did as kids. Growing up in a blue collar, middle-class world - we were sheltered. Poor but sheltered. Hicks from the suburbs.

I should've kept those memories fresh. I could've used them later. During the years (before, during and after) 'the divorce from hell' - I forgot how to laugh. I remember thinking, after several spring times, that it'd been years since really listening to the birds sing. I had traveled a road with lots of potholes and had forgotten that life needs to be laughed at once in a while.

So I'm laying there, thinking about how much fun it was to put things in layaway! My gosh, we couldn't afford to buy crap, but we knew how to use layaway! Just looking at the ticket from time to time, got us excited. It was like saving dimes in a dime book. You knew ... eventually ... the day would come and you would be able to make that last payment at Montgomery Wards, or JCPennys, or K-Mart ... and you could take your forty dollars worth of purchases home. Man-o-man, those were the days. It was Christmas time in the suburbs!

Buying school clothes at my house was first a trip to Goodwill, then maybe K-mart. Occasionally, JCPenny got our business if they had a good sale. But my poor sisters usually got my hand-me-downs. Mom could go to Goodwill and buy a carload of clothes for twenty bucks. She was pretty proud of that.

I just laughed as I thought about living with no toaster, using the oven instead. No such thing as a microwave in my house. Not until years later, when we bought an old model of the Amana Radar Range, remember those? It had to be the biggest, honkin' piece of metal microwave ever invented. Took up the entire countertop next to the stove. Eventually, Daddy installed it over the oven. As far as I know, that thing is probably still in use.

And of course, Mama bought us shoes at the grocery store. She'd make us lie down in the Produce Section, "Here, try these on!" Cheap pieces of plastic, tied together with string. You couldn't try both on at the same time and get up and walk around. Lord, no ... you tripped all over yourself! It was about that time you'd see somebody you knew from school walk past with their Mama and stare. You knew that girl would never buy shoes from the grocery store. Hell no. They wore shiny penny loafers with new pennies in the slot. Bought from Nobles Shoe Store ... right next to Isley Brothers Ice Cream Store where they would be rewarded after buying their new shoes.

Going to the grocery store was a trip. Daddy drove, because my mama didn't have her license. He'd sit in the car and wait. And wait. For hours. And we did too. It was either that, or follow Mama around in the A&P and get yelled at. "Don't ask me for nothin'!" Sometimes, we'd just pray she'd buy a cool cereal. Like Lucky Charms, or Cocoa Puffs. But it was always ... oatmeal and maybe Cheerios. Damn.

Mmm-mmm - But when I think about ice cream, I think about Isley Brothers where I had might have had the privilege of eating there once or twice. Too expensive! Mama would wail. But we were lucky, because Daddy loved ice cream from Stricklands. This famous "soft custard" stands out by the Akron Airport. We'd get our baths and wear our pajamas to Stricklands. Course, Mama would make us all get SMALL cones. But it was the best around. Still is, as far as I know. We'd hang out the car window, drooling. Daddy would walk back with six cones in a cardboard container ... it was heaven. And the first one done had to sit and watch everybody else eat. That was miserable. So you tried to lick your cone slow. But hot August nights, it was a challenge not to let that chocolate cone drip on your clean pajamas ... you could get a whippin' for that.

Remember when McDonald's opened? My mom was in heaven. She could feed the whole fam damily for six bucks. Every Sunday after Sunday School. Just like clockwork. We'd head to McDonalds on Market Street in our blue LTD station wagon. Cheeseburger, fries, and a coke we shared with another sibling. We were rich, we thought.

Ahhh, the list goes on. Drive-in movies ... Playgrounds at the drive-in movies were the best. Walking trips up to the 'store' for candy and bottle of pop. (Pop you bought from hauling a wagon full of empty bottles back for return money.) Playing on the school playground during the summer when nobody was around. Man, it was cool ... you never had wait for your turn on the monkey bars. Fried bologna sandwiches. Butter and sugar sandwiches on white bread. (What did moms of the 60s know about nutrition? NOT MUCH.) PopTARTS! Omigosh ... we ate them raw. (Not toasted.) Just opening the bag and smelling them today, brings back memories.

Cool whip ... when that came out, we thought we died and went to heaven. Mama would bitch and moan because somebody's finger had always made a gouge in the cool whip container. Usually mine. Of course, all our meals were either fried, or made with soup. Casseroles were the things during the late 60s and early 70s.

We had a grape vine in our back yard. And cherry and mulberry trees. Those were the only sweets we got sometimes. And we'd climb those trees and that grape vine and eat until we were sick. Our clothes and shoes would be stained ... and we'd be covered with bug bites, but we didn't care. It was better than sitting in the house. We didn't have computers, or TV games, or videos. No such thing. If you stayed indoors, you better be sick or prepared to work, because my mama would put your lazy ass butt to cleaning floors, scrubbing bathrooms, or ironing piles of clothes. No kidding. (Man, I hated the smell of Comet, Clorox, and Murphy's liquid oil soap. I still do.)

Rolling down the hill, especially before bed, was always fun. Then we'd lie in bed and itch for hours. Did you ever use cardboard to slide down a hill? We did. It was sledding without snow. And if we ever had the good fortune to get a huge box to play with ... the things we didn't do to and in that box would amaze you. Making tents over clotheslines ... hiding from boys ... begging to go swimming at Jindra's Landing. Now there's one for the memory books.

Jindra's Landing was a stinky lake made into a swimming hole. Complete with lifeguards (all of the Jindra kids) and a Concession Stand. It's where I got hooked on Reese's Peanut Butter cups. But every summer, all the way into high school, it was the hang out for kids from school during the summer. You wore your best bathing suit. And that's a story for another day. My religious mother would not let me wear bathing suits below my belly button. Oh no. But then, me being the rebellious teenager, I pulled them down anyway. Then there was the day she caught me. Ha! My ass was grass for a few weeks. (The rest of the summer was devoted to heavy labor and being up to my elbows in Comet and Clorox.)

And of course, those days you were on your period ... how did you explain that to the boys who wondered why you weren't going in the pool (or lake - as it was)? But you were a pretty cool chick if you could dive off the high dive like the boys. Oh man, I remember sitting on beach towels listening to the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and catching occasional news reports of the latest casualties from in Vietnam. (I guess that's not humorous ... just a memory.)

I could go on and on, I suppose ... the list is endless. I'm still laughing at some of the stuff we did. I need to think of fried bologna sandwiches next time I get a rejection letter or feel my bones creaking.

I may not be a funny writer, necessarily, but I can sure think of some funny crap we pulled as ignorant hick kids growing up in Portage County, Ohio and weekend trips to West Virginia, or Marietta. Those were the days, my friend.

I believe writers need some humor to draw from ... there's enough pain in ones life to write about.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Next Question

Do I seriously need to attend a writing conference? I despise name-dropping, how critical is it to meet important people in the business? How connected do I need to be?

A. Yes.

B. Semi-critical.

C. Depends on how fast you want to be noticed.

How's that for answers? Okay, okay ... it's not as cut and dried as all that. But the first question is a no-brainer. Every writer out there will benefit to one degree or another by attending at least one writing conference a year. And I don't mean three states away. Every state has a Book Festival, or even writing classes available at the local community college. There's really no excuse to not attend a weekend retreat or writing conference. Even if you have no Internet availability, your local writing guild or group should be able to give you information on local conferences in your state.

And if you want to know the benefits of a writing conference, there are numerous blogs on this site, as well as other writing sites, that list them. Networking, honing your craft, networking, open mic opportunities to read your work out loud, networking, meeting agents/editors, networking, finding your niche, networking ... you get the picture. Even if all you want to do is write letters to your grandchildren on a regular basis, taking a class on memoir writing is invaluable to you. So go to a writing conference ... they're everywhere!

Do you need to meet and know people in the business? Well, it doesn't hurt. Just don't be a pest. Meeting an agent at a conference, following up with a 'thank you' email later, and submitting your work to this agent, doesn't guarantee representation. But you become more rounded in your ability to network. The way I figure it, is these people in "the know" are just like you and me. They have dreams, goals, and faults. They put their pants on one leg at a time ... (sorry for the cliché') but damn it, they're just somebody's son, daughter, husband, wife ... they need you too. What they don't need are leaches. But if you're sincere, and you like to meet people, meeting and getting to know a few agents, editors, successful authors, teachers, and booksellers ... it doesn't hurt. Some of them even enjoy the mentoring process. Just be smart about it. Query them, but don't expect them to jump at your work just because you "know" them.

Being connected always helps. It may even get you past a slush pile or two. It can get you a great blurb for your book, or an invitation to joining them for drinks or dinner - where inevitably discussion about your work comes up. Will it get you published any faster? I doubt it. Will it get you noticed? Maybe. Then why do it? Because of the outside chance you DO get published, noticed, and hooked up with the right people. Give yourself every chance you can. There's nothing wrong with that. The competition is tough enough. You need every break you can get. Just be sweet about it. Don't hurt anybody, and be kind and courteous. Don't be a jerk, there's enough of those.

I think really, when it all boils down, the best thing you can do for yourself to get published, noticed, and receive representation, adoration, and validation is one thing.

Write a damn good book.

The rest will take care of itself ...

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Freaking Out

What do you do after your book is done, at the printer in fact, and you see something on the manuscript you want to change? Nothing glaring, or even blatant. Not a typo or spelling error, or anything like that. My God, after twelve pairs of eyes pouring over these stories, you'd think we would have found everything.

But then you see something minor ... a missed comma, or a word that would make more sense to change to something else. How many times do you go over something before you can say it's finished? I begin to imagine some hot shot editor or agent reading my work and thinking ... What an idiot, she used rural and country in the same sentence! Geesh.

I start to sweat and wonder ... who will notice this? But I remember why I did it. I remember thinking that small towns in the middle of nowhere - to me, are rural. But in my story, I was referring to a rural spot in the country - meaning farmland, countryside, few houses - not a rural spot in a country town.

But, I'm just sure somebody - somewhere will look at this and say, "Yeah, and I'll be she says she writes novels of fiction!"

I wonder if Nora Roberts labors over her work like this? I wonder if Dan Brown spends hours and hours proofreading his work? Somehow, I doubt it. They've already "made it." They have a staff for stuff like this.

It's the little writers like me that sweat the small stuff.

Oh well, there are a few things I'm confident about. The stories are solid in their structure, they hold the reader, and they're full of conflict, twists, turns, and good old-fashioned storytelling. The characters are wonderful, you'll love them and even hate a few. They are great stories, I admit.

So, if they want to point fingers at this word, or that missed comma, they need to put it down and go read the perfect novel ... I'm sure it's out there.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Going Forward ...

Blogging has been a weekly struggle as of late ... but I'm hoping now that my book is on its way and out of my hands, finally ... I can move on down the road and get things done.

But I'm tired, I want to crawl back into bed, and sometimes this blogging site moves as slow as dial-up! I just want to lie on a beach somewhere ... hmmm. Whining aside, I'm going to tackle my next question asked to me by writers. They ask it timidly, as if they don't want to hear the answer.

How perfect does my writing really have to be to land a book deal? In just one area or all of them? What kind of help can I really expect from an agent or editor?

The answer is easy for me, and should be a no-brainer to every writer out there. It has to be damn perfect. As perfect as you can get it. You better know your grammar, punctuation, and keep that dictionary close by. But besides that, you need to have a good basic knowledge in the craft of writing. Sure, you can hire an editor, and join a critique group ... but I hear so many people say, "I think I'll write a book." Not that easy, folks. Art is a craft like anything else. As much as one studies painting, or sculpture, or photography ... a writer must study the craft of composing words to create articles, memoirs, novels, short stories ... you get it ... it's a craft. The human mind has been so conditioned to writing for school, or business writing, or letters to Aunt Josephine, that we automatically think we can write a book.

Cracks me up.

It's why people hire ghostwriters. They don't want to take the time, usually, to worry about the structure of their story.

But without knowing the craft, you can submit to agents and editors until you're purple in the face, and you'll get nowhere. Don't expect much help from them either. They haven't the time. It's a different world we live in. You may get constructive criticism if you're lucky, in the form of a carefully crafted letter, or in a class at a writing conference, but all in all - editors and agents are in the business to make money. Not to teach. Bottom line.

So take classes, GO to writing conferences, join a writing group/critique group, network with other writers ... and the best thing to teach you the craft of writing is.... READ.

That's my advice on being perfect in your writing. But as we know, nobody truly is ... perfect. Sometimes, it's a matter of opinion, I think. Ah, but in the end ... it's the public that decides - your readers.

In the meantime ... we keep on trying. Never give up. Not for a second.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Next Step In The Process

It's done. SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN is done. Well, about 98.5% done. As far as I'm concerned, it's done. All the changes in the final draft went out in Fed-X last night. I made my deadline just shy of an hour. Now it's one more quick overview to make sure the changes were made, (maybe adding one or two more) and then WA-LA, the book will be off to the printer, and I just may have a finished book in my hand by somewhere around April 15th. The last three weeks have been unbelieveable day and night editing, back and forth with my layout artist, and five hours a night of sleep.

But, whew. I must say, it's a beautiful book. It's 256 pages of stories to be proud of. I'm very happy with the way it's turning out ... impressed with my layout artist- beyond description, and the printer seems to know exactly what we're looking for. A kick-ass looking professional piece of fiction (including galley copies.) Mmm-Mmm.

It's been a long ride, from 1985 when I wrote the first story in this collection. The next step in the process? There's so many, I hesitate to think. I'm backed up on so much ... I need to meet with so many people ... my book launch is planned for June 1st, and there's a ton of work that needs done for that.

But, for today, I think I'll go to the next step in the process ... take a shower before noon, put on makeup so my husband doesn't forget what I look like, make my bed, find my desk again, organize my piles, eat out (a novelty) and then maybe ... take a nap. Yeah, that's my next step.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, March 10, 2006

In A Perfect World

In a perfect world, I'd have time for coffee every week with friends ...

In a perfect world, Dena and I would meet each week and go over the lists of accomplishments for the week, rather than our "to do" lists ...

In a perfect world, I would have already met with Deborah, and would have our strategy mapped out entirely ... it would cover speaking and selling books in every major city and small town in the South ...

In a perfect world, I would have my talks to book groups and women’s' groups down to a science ...

In a perfect world, I'd be able to make every writing conference, event, and author appearance in my region ...

In a perfect world, I'd get up at 5, work out, get to a networking meeting, have breakfast with my husband, write for five to six hours, and spend a leisurely evening relaxing with my family ...

In a perfect world, I wouldn't be so damn anal and have to rewrite sixteen times ...

In a perfect world, everyone I love would live within an hour of me ...

In a perfect world, I'd live in the mountains with a condo on Fripp Island ...

In a perfect world, the Panthers would win the Super Bowl (I threw that in there for my step-son, Christopher ...)

In a perfect world, Mike and I would be grandparents by now ...

In a perfect world, I'd never have to put anything off, especially thank you cards ...

In a perfect world, my family would be closer ...

In a perfect world, I'd never have to use spell check, a Thesaurus, and my clever mind would not labor over every sentence--it would automatically know the correct sequence of words ...

In a perfect world, I'd write a column, send fabulous articles to a few magazines every month, and have time to spit out a novel every ten months, of which all would hit the bestseller lists ...

In a perfect world ... I am a size 6.

In a perfect world ... I'd never need Botox.

In a perfect world ... I could drink all the margueritas I wanted.

BUT THIS ISN'T A PERFECT WORLD ... and my soul cries for more time ... what I wouldn't give to add an hour or two to every day. But if I had the option for perfection, I'd have to look past all of the above and say because I've had hardships in my life, challenges every step of the way, and because I've struggled ... my imperfections are where the richness of my stories originate ... so in a way ... I guess I don't want a perfect world.

But, a size 6 would be nice.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Do You Think I Died?

I'm still up to my armpits and eyeballs in work but I'm afraid if I don't write in my blog, I'll lose my readers! I tune in everyday to my friend Dena's blog, and everyday, she's like a ray of sunshine, writing a clever little blogspot ... one thing about Dena, she's never at a loss for words, and she's always there for her readers ... I aspire to her daily blogging!

I have so much to blog about, but no time. Last Thursday night, I spoke on an Author's Panel for my Sisters In Crime Group, I'm going to Chair the Sisters In Crime table at the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) convention in Orlando this year, and I spoke at a writing conference in Lincolnton for the International Women's Writing Guild this past Saturday. I've so much to report. It's been crazy busy.

And I'm still working on the final edits of my book.

The deadline is nearly here ... (the Sunday deadline was pushed back) so I apologize for the sparse blogging. I do love to connect with my readers. But hold on, because I'll be back ... with bells on!

Ah, the life of a writer ... I wonder if Capote had these problems. Somehow, I doubt it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Back's Against The Wall

If you write and publish, you'll understand when I say ... my back's against the wall, my deadline is Sunday, no more time to spend on anything other than having the book ready to be turned in on Sunday to my layout artist.

No more nothing until after this Sunday.

Sunday, Sunday.

Yet, I'm scheduled to speak tonight at my local chapter of Sisters In Crime, and on Saturday in Lincolnton at the International Women's Writing Guild Conference for the Carolinas.

And I'm chomping at the bit to answer all the questions in my previous blog about the writing process and publishing. I've got some great answers.

And I've got to get with my publicist, my speech coaches, plan my launch, etc. etc. etc.

And the list of things to do is as long as my arm and then some.


But everything has to wait ... it's all on hold for now. This is the life of a writer, folks.

Now to stop blogging ... get to work. The pay off is a finished first book ... and a hopefully - a great one.

Fingers and toes crossed. And say a little prayer.

Talk to you next week ... if I'm not in the hospital from exhaustion.

Blessings to you and yours.