Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You know you're a writer when . . .

You know you're a writer when . . . you receive a rejection letter (or email).  After working hard on my query letter, which introduces a writer and his/her project to the agent or publisher, and fine-tuning the first few pages of my manuscript, I emailed my first query letter for my historical novel on Monday.  Tuesday I received a form email rejection letter.  Ouch!  That was quick.  My husband tells me it's good thing, because now I have narrowed down my options.  My youngest son tells me when I do publish and become famous this agent will regret rejecting me.  Here is the first line from the email: 

"Thank you very much for your query, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, the project does not seem right for this agency, and we are sorry that we cannot offer to serve as your literary agent."

It reminds me of my first published piece.  When my two oldest sons were very young they both suffered with pretty severe asthma.  My middle son was hospitalized four times in six months.  I was working very little, and thought I'd like to try  my hand at writing.  So I followed the advice of "write what you know" and wrote an article on "Coping With Your Chronically Ill Child."  I interviewed Leo Buscaglia, a well-known psychologist, and several parents of chronically ill children, and also used personal examples.

After working for months on the article, I began to send query letters to various magazines - Parenting, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, etc.  Rejections began to arrive, one after the other.  Then one day, I remember it clearly, my husband called me at work; at the time I worked at the American Lung Association of Queens.  He told me a letter had come from American Baby Magazine.  I told him to open it and read it to me.  They accepted my article and wanted to pay me . . . wait for it. . . a whopping $250.  I was elated, ecstatic, euphoric.  This was my first published piece.  Actually, this was more exciting than when I got a contract for my first book, which I co-wrote with my former boss.  Knowing that someone found value in my work, and wanted to pay me for it, was the most fantastic feeling.

When (not if) this novel gets published, which I have labored over for six years, I think my feelings will eclipse the joy I felt when my first article was published.  But maybe not.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What makes a book good?

I love to read.  I read every day -- both the bible and a novel.  In the morning I read the bible, and in the evening I read a novel.  My tastes range from contemporary novels, to Victorian novels, romances, historical fiction . . .  Lately I've read some contemporary Indian fiction:  The Invitation, and Miss New India, among others.  I enjoy learning about modern-day India through novels.  However, I go back again and again to my favorites - Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte.

Recently, I read A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar.  The title intrigued me, and the book was pretty good, though long on narrative description and short on dialogue.  It violated the 'show, don't tell' rule fairly regularly.  I did take exception to the negative portrayal of missionaries.  There were two story lines, which I enjoy, as my own novel has two story lines.  When they intersected I was very surprised at how they met up. 

But the king of surprise endings and twists is Jeffrey Archer.  He is a master of leading readers in one direction, and then careening off in the opposite direction, with no advance notice.  He has written several short stories and many novels.  One of the best short story anthologies is A Twist in the Tale.  Every single story has a twist that will leave you with your eyes bulging and your mouth hanging open.  Trust me.  He has a new series out, and I've read the first two books:  Only Time Will Tell and The Sins of the Father.  The setting is early 20th century England.  I can't wait for the third book.

As with many books, it is the plot that makes Jeffrey Archer books so engaging and readable.  He does not attempt poetic or lyrical writing, which is another aspect that can make a book 'good.'  I've also read some John Grisham lately.  His books are very plot-driven.  Those few authors who manage to construct a great plot, believable characters, some of whom you love and some of whom you hate, but even the ones you hate you find some redeemable qualities in, and who also write beautifully . . . those are few and far between. 

Send me a comment - who are your favorite writers, and why??

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kindle or book?

My husband bought me a Kindle for Mother's Day, and although I have stated in a previous blog that I prefer real books, I have to admit a Kindle is pretty cool.  It is light, and convenient, and I can have 5, or 50 books on it.  However, when I took a recent trip to Austin to attend a conference, I was so looking forward to reading a Jeffrey Archer book on my return flight . . . and the Kindle wasn't working.  What a bummer!  That never happens with books.  When I got home, I told my husband and together we couldn't figure out what was wrong or how to fix it.  Charging it all day didn't help.

The next day my 14 year-old son came bounding down the stairs and proclaimed "I fixed your Kindle Mom."  And indeed he had.  Apparently all you need to do is hold the power button for 20 seconds and jiggle it up and down -- I kid you not! 

So yes, I have a Kindle, and I'm using it.  However, I have discovered they are dangerous and seductive.  Once I finish a book, it is so easy to search for a new one, and one click later I have spent $7 or $8.  So I took myself to the library and checked out four books. 

Kindle or book?  I'll use both.

In my next blog I'll tell you a bit about the books I have just read.  What does make a good read anyway?