Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Four Way

We're doing a four way this week. Each of the four of us will tell you a little about what we've been reading. And we'd love to hear what you're reading, too! Marilyn starts us out.

Marilyn: Now that the hot, lazy days of summer are upon us, I have the perfect excuse to read mysteries to my heart's content. I've read three, and each and every one is a masterpiece.

To begin, I enjoyed Elizabeth George's latest, THIS BODY OF DEATH and was happy that Thomas Linley has formed a new romantic relationship after his wife's tragic murder.

Despite the less than rave reviews and the multitude of similar names, I devoured Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST. The book ended on a satisfactory note.

Last but not least, is the book I finished last night: THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley. I first heard about this book at Malice, where it won an Agatha. Like the other two books I've mentioned, this is a novel as well as a mystery, and part of a series -- in this case, the first book in the series. Let me tell you, the sleuth, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, is just as bold and inventiv in her own way, as Lisbeth Salender. Flavia's a budding chemist who creates poisons. In this debut book, she solves a thirty-year-old murder as well as a current murder her father's accused of having committed. I look forward to reading the next Flavia de Luce book.

Kaye: I loved THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, which I read before Malice Domestic, in April or May.

Lately I've picked up a couple of non-fiction books that have me hooked. One is THE ZEN OF ZOMBIE: BETTER LIVING THROUGH THE UNDEAD by Scott Kenemore. It's a motivational book based on, well, zombie behavior. The best takeaway so far is a single-minded focus (like, for instance on braaaains). Easy to read an hilarious. I have yet to see if it motivates to do great things.

I'm also reading THANKS, BUT THIS ISN'T FOR US by agent Jessica Page Morrell. I've just run across the best succinct definition of horror, thriller, mainstream, mystery, and romance genres that I've seen. I'm at about the half-way point in this book.

I started ISTANBUL by a native of that city, Orhan Pamuk, and was at first fascinated. It's rather gloomy though, dwelling on the past glories versus the present decaying of the place. I don't know whether I'll finish it or not.

And then I just picked up two by my guilty-pleasure author, Ann Rule. The Barnes and Noble clerk sold me on them (THE I-5 KILLER and SMALL SACRIFICES) when she told me that the two subjects, the man who was the I-5 Killer, and the woman in the other book who shot her children, started corresponding when they were in nearby prisons in Oregon. I just finished the I-5 KILLER and shuddered through the whole thing.

I have Stephen Liskow's WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF DEATH and Avery Aames' THE LONG QUICHE GOODBYE lined up next.

Peg: I haven't been reading all that much this summer--I've mostly been writing and working and babysitting my 5 month old granddaughter! But I did get to read a few things.

I started the season with CAUGHT by Harlan Coben. Wonderful surprise ending that I absolutely did not see coming. It's a great "beach" read, that's for sure.

I followed that with ACCIDENTAL BEST SELLER, a women's fiction book by Wendy Wax. As a writer, it definitely interested me. There are four protagonists--all writers--and they come together to help one of their own who is suffering from writer's block due to the stresses of her life. I would definitely recommend it

Marilyn: I love Harlan Coben. Have several of his novels here in my office among my other 300 books I've yet to get read. Will I ever get to them all? The trouble is, I keep on ordering my favorite authors' latest books from the library. I'm looking forward to reading Tana French's newest mystery, FAITHFUL PLACE.

K D: I'm behind on everything, and just finished the second of the Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl Who Played With Fire. The first pages almost made me stop reading: I could not read The Collector, for example. But I kept reading, and ended by liking the book and liking Lisbeth better than I liked her in the first book. She is just as crusty and annoying in this book, but she cares about people, too.

Of course, liking the book didn't mean that I didn't like Nora Ephron's satire on it in the New Yorker, The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut. I hooted with laughter!

I enjoyed Louise Penney's The Brutal Telling. It's a pleasure to read a book with descriptions of art, snatches of poetry, loving descriptions of French-Canadian cooking, and a good story!

I read John Lawton's Second Violin, a recent thriller that my son suggested I read. It was good, but I am beginning to think that the Second World War is over, at least for me in my reading life.

Kaye: I might be in the strange and unusual (for me) position of having no Harlan Coben in my TBR mini-mountain. Mountains, rather. I probably should put THE GIRL WHO books there, too, at least the first, just to see what all the hype is about. That Nora Ephron piece could be better than the book.

Happy summer reading, everyone!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freedom From...You Fill in the Blank

KAYE: I've been mulling over this blog entry from Dystel & Goderich agent, Michael Bourret.

In fact, I've already blogged on it once.

What I'm thinking about now is--deadlines. Here's a sample of the deadlines we pre-published writers (more on that later) strive to meet: We enter contests, we exchange chapters, full mss, we keep up with blogs and webpages, we hold down full and part-time jobs while doing that, we engage in email discussions, facebook, twitter, these last to make our presence known. And we generally answer emails.

KD: Well, there's a song, right? "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"? Janis Joplin, the same troubled woman who wanted a Mercedes Benz.

Apparently, the stress of deadlines is...stressful. Okay. Fine. How about the stress of thinking nothing I do matters to anyone? That nobody is going to read it anyway? That other people will leave their grandkids beautiful embroidered whatchamacallits, and my own grandkids will have to deal with boxes of manuscripts under the bed? What about that?

KAYE: Add in the stress of not meeting those deadlines that I mentioned, too. For instance, you and I are VERY late in our ms swap and my ms is nowhere near done right now. I haven't had a chance to write on it since April!

Here's my typical, planned day Monday through Friday (not that they ever go as planned): emails for an hour starting at 8:00 or 9:00, daily pages for fifteen minutes, then get dressed and try for some exercise. The rest of the morning is for errands, hair appointments, doctors appointments, stuff like that. I work on my work in progress (WIP) for 3-4 hours in the afternoon. Break for Jeopardy! During the ads I critique hard copy for the two manuscript critique groups I belong to, or one of the two short story critique groups. After dinner I write for blogs, usually ending up posting on Facebook and Twitter between 11:00 and midnight or 1:00. Except every other Monday, when my cross-genre writers' group meets, a fifty-five mile drive. And Tuesdays, when Austin Mystery Writers meets, a seventy-mile drive. Fridays I send out ten queries, five for each project I'm seeking publication for at the moment. In spare moments I look over critiques I've received and implement changes I think I need, think about plotting a sequel to the one project I'm querying. The current WIP is a sequel to the other.

Weekends are for short stories and trying to catch up on what I didn't get done. I don't know when is the last time I took a day completely off.

But occasionally I have a day when I just can't do it. What's the use? I don't ever hear back from most of the agents who receive my meticulously crafted query letters. I've taken several courses in how to write them and I get each one critiqued. I tweak each letter for each agent, looking up their attachment requirements. Then I get a request for a partial, or a full, and I come up fighting my black moments.

KD: Well, of course we fight it. We fight the feeling it is all worthless by having writing buddies. We write blogs, enter contests, send out manuscripts and query letter, all that stuff. We build our own support groups, set our own deadlines, read someone else's manuscript in the
hopes they will read and be interested in ours. We rejoice at any sign of hope (she requested a partial!) and eat cyber or real chocolate when confronted with despair (So I got this form rejection on a full. Can't believe it.)

KAYE: I've gotten those form rejections, even a Dear Author once, on a request for a full. Those are bad days. I never seem to get that free feeling. Funny, ain't it?

KD: Look. Somebody wants their freedom? You know, you always HAVE
your freedom. Start another book under another name. Refuse to write
the sequel. It's all up to you.

What the published have, what I WANT and the published HAVE, is the
knowledge that somebody believes in them.

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