Talking about writing (and more) on TV

Writer interested in everything

A couple of months, ago, I went into Rochester to tape a segment of Carol White Llewellyn’s fun interview show, Conversations With Creatives. Carol is a colleague of mine, a wonderful creative herself, and one of the nicest women you’ll ever know.

So it all felt very comfortable (if not a bit chilly — the studio was cool and the weather outside arctic), sitting with her in the RCTV studio, working with her crew, and having a chance to talk about writing, publishing, the background of What You Don’t Know Now, and all the things that publishing a book now involves.

You can check out segments of her show here .

(I think I did a great job. But I struggled with stopping myself from being hyper-critical of Me. It’s not easy to watch yourself on TV. You see things like: “I never realized my bottom teeth show so much when I talk” and “Why did I sit that way?”… and other picky, hurt-y  things we do to ourselves.)

I had to remember that some of my favorite actresses have said in interviews that they hate watching themselves on screen for the very same reasons.

I had fun doing this interview! Carol is an excellent director, producer. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share things about writing, about the story, and what it took to get here.

Got comments? I’d love to hear them. Have you ever done an interview on TV? What did you think? Fun or torture?

The best part about a book signing at Barnes & Noble

WYDKN on sale at B&N SYR

I had to drive to the east side of Syracuse, NY last week for my first book signing in a Barnes & Noble store, and the clock was ticking. I left ‘way ahead of time for the event, but an unexpected traffic circle threw me off course. Now I was cutting it too close.

I started to feel the stress building. Late for my own signing? NO! Then I thought: Calm down. It’s not like there’s going to be a line of people waiting.

I made it just in time. And there wasn’t a line.

In fact, it turned out to be the slowest night the staff had seen for store traffic. They kept apologizing for the quiet, as they passed by.

But you know what? I was happy. I was in a bookstore with my stack of novels featured. I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore! My publisher was there, and there was a big sign at the door announcing that I was there. The B&N manager got me a big cup of ice and a Diet Pepsi from the cafe. It’s the little things.

And I did have one reader waiting! We had a fun conversation, and I signed her copy.

One book sold.

Then another lady came along. She stopped to look at the book display. “This isn’t a book for teenagers, is it?” she asked.

No I told her. It’s actually women’s fiction… She asked me a couple of questions and picked up the book to read the back cover description.

“I like the cover,” she said. “I think I’ll buy it.”

Two books sold.

Crickets chirped for a while. (Not really, but you get the idea.) Merge Publishing’s Don Stevens handed out WYDKN postcards. We greeted everyone within smiling distance. Don was upset that there was so little traffic that night. He’d done everything right to promote the signing and got nice publicity.

But I’m an unknown novelist at this point, and this is my debut novel. So you do what you can do, and hope for the best. It was January — in Syracuse.

Luckily — I have a secret weapon. I love talking to people. I’m very good at it.

Then the best thing happened. Two young readers came along, out shopping with their dad. Audrey and Ben — about 9 and 10 years old. They approached the table like two little deer, kind of fascinated but shy. “This isn’t for kids, is it?” they said.

No, it’s for more like your mom’s age, I explained.

But you’re the author?

Yep!

And we were off and running. Audrey and Ben are big readers. They like chapters books. Ben likes mostly fantasy, like Harry Potter. Sometimes authors come to their school and talk. How long did it take to write my book? Where do I get my ideas? Is it my first book? They had lots of questions! They were so bright and smart and sweet — and interested!

“I want to be an author when I grow up,” Audrey said. She loves to write at school.

That’s awesome! I told her. (A little writer in the making!! Yes!) Keep reading! Keep writing!

I gave them two postcards for the book. “Would you sign them?” they asked. (Absolutely! Anything I can do to keep these young arts lovers encouraged!)

Their dad came along and joined the conversation. What You Don’t Know Now went home for their mom.

And finally, there was Chad. Chad, Don and I had a long and fascinating talk about writing and publishing. Chad was not a guy I’d think would be in my audience. He was more a type I’d create as a romantic character. He looked like he might be someone from Syracuse U, or a law firm. Or famous. But our conversation struck a chord with him — and he bought a book.

By then, it was time to pack up. My books (some of them) would be staying on at the Barnes & Noble, on the shelf.

I went to the ladies room before we all left for home, and as I walked back to the front of the store, I wove my way through the shelves and shelves lined with thousands of books.

Thousands of books… But mine is among them now, at that store [and on Nook]. I got to talk with two kids into the arts. I had great conversations with such interesting and nice people. Complete strangers, who decided to take a chance on my novel.

Four books sold at Barnes & Noble. A dream come true. It was an excellent night.

Next book signing: February 10th, 2015 at Barnes & Noble Pittsford/RochesterNY.

 

Authors don’t just write — they speak in public, too.

WYDKN RIT panel

That’s me, speaking at the Publishing Without Perishing Symposium held at Rochester Institute of Technology, by The RIT Press, and The Wallace Center at RIT. The symposium was for academics who want/need to publish their non-fiction, scholarly works. What am I doing there? I’m not an academic. And that was the point.

I was on the panel “Self-Publishing: Wonders and Woes of DIY” to talk about other options in “trade” publishing today. I was there to represent Merge Publishing, an independent publisher, and to talk about the difference between self-publishing and indie publishing. We had a good crowd.

Promoting a book also requires being able to speak in public: Something I’ve been doing for a long, long time before I ever wrote a novel. I kind of love it. (Although, looking at the photo, which was taken by RIT photographer Elizabeth Lamark, I’m not sure about the sweater-over-the-shoulders look I was sporting. RIT is one of the coldest campuses around – huge with sweeping winds, and it was in the ‘teens that day.)

In the process of gathering notes for my part of the presentation, I asked Don Stevens, founder of Merge, for some additional info I might use for the Q&A portion of the presentation, and he sent me answers to a few questions. They were so interesting, I thought I’d share them here, so you might know what else goes into producing a book.

What was the motivation behind the creation of Merge?

It was frustrating that besides the major publishing houses, vanity press seemed to be the only other option. There were a few small university presses, and some niche ones, but their image, marketing (or lack of), made me wince. Other small press publishing companies looked promising, but it seemed like they would just publish anything.

What was the learning curve involved for you as publisher?
I learned that even though there’s help, there is a lot to do. The expectations of writers are challenging, but the expectations of readers are just as challenging. Most of the times these two don’t correlate. Some writers want or think they need everything, expect to charge a lot for their books, and do not understand patience and the element of time. We are not a large publisher, we cannot offer the same services or give their results. Some readers want masterpieces for only deals, or even for free.
How did you decide on a printer/fulfillment? What options did you come across?

I asked around and used what other authors have used. I liked Lightning Source for their distribution, but knew I needed an extra printer for fulfilling orders for books signings/etc. So I use two printing sources.
How did you find The Librarian, La Literati?, etc. [online web and podcast shows that I have or will appear on as an author]
Research, research, research. Talked to other writers, and many publishers, to decide on what they were doing. Some ideas that I thought would be great were a disappointment. But everyone’s goals are different.

Book club in a blizzard

marci blizzard photo

Okay, it wasn’t quite a blizzard. But it did take me 2 hours to get to my first book club “appearance” on a drive that would ordinarily take me about 40 minutes. Was I going to let snow, wind and temps in the single-digits keep me from getting there? No way.

The book club had read my novel and was the first to ask me to join them to talk about it. We all live in the same 50-mile radius of Rochester, NY so we are well-seasoned at maneuvering through terrible weather. There were no cancellations by any members, and I was so happy to be joining them. (Disclaimer: One of the members is my best friend since the Iron Age.)

The wonderful thing about joining book clubs as they talk about a book — especially YOUR book (major thrill right there) — is finding out what they were most curious to know, and what struck chords with them as them read.

This get-together was pretty informal. Wine and great snacks were present, and there was no structured “agenda.” The first thing they wanted to hear about was the book’s background. How did it come to be? What made me write it? How long did it take? What were the “inside” bits that only the author can tell you?

The big question was: “Was there really an Alessandro?” (was there an Alessandro in my life and travel) — Since they knew that some of the book was taken from a real trip and there was at least one real person I based a character on.

I loved:

That my friend had marked a couple of passages she especially loved, to read out loud.

That one member confessed her great worry about the character Tilla, Bridey’s mother. At one point in the story, she feared for Tilla’s life.

That all the members worried about Bridey toward the end of the book.

That the process of writing fascinated them — all life-long readers of novels.

On a night so rotten weather-wise, the evening was filled with warmth and laughter and conversation. Would I have missed that? Not for anything.

If you have a book club that would like to read What You Don’t Know Now and have me join you — that can be arranged! Contact me and we’ll set something up — we can always use Skype and I can be there virtually! I’ll even bring my own drink and snacks.

And as for the answers to the questions they asked — you’ll have to read the book and find out the answers. Or talk to me.

Take Five by D. Keith Mano: A Goodreads review expanded

Take FiveTake Five by D. Keith Mano
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I met Keith Mano at a writers workshop when he was about to launch this book. I sat at a reading he gave and was blown away by the sheer genius and power of his writing. I was at a week-long writers workshop held at the University of Rochester in 1981. Mano was the other author there to hold fiction workshops — I was in the fiction workshop held by Helen Iglesias.

Mano quickly got a rep for being “arrogant” and difficult in his workshop — challenging the fledgling writers, being sarcastic at times, direct, giving them homework. The first time I saw him, he marched through an afternoon talk being given by one of the founders of the workshop, an editor from a NYC publisher, interrupting to address some problem (I think he felt his workshop was overcrowded). What a jerk, I thought.

At the end-of-day cocktail hour held each day, I sat with one of my fellow workshop members; both of us shared the rumors we’d heard about D. Keith Mano. He ended up wandering over to where we were sitting and struck up a conversation with Edie, my new writer friend. I listened to him talking about the pain of writing. “It’s like vomiting blood for me,” he said. I snickered. He noticed.

He turned and smiled at me, like a snake ready to strike. “And what is writing for you?” he asked. “A HOBBY?”

Although I was a grown woman with four children, I reacted to this in a way that surprised both of us. I stuck my tongue out at him, like I was in grammar school. But before I could feel embarrassed for being a dork, he burst out laughing. “OH my god — that was so cute! Do that again!” — And we three had a great time talking. He wasn’t an ogre after all.

Every evening of the 5-day workshop, one of the participating authors would give a reading from their work. I couldn’t miss the one by Mano — a group of us (all women) sat in the front row. Most of them were loaded for bear, ready to dislike him. (The Playboy aspect of his career had a bit to do with it, I suspect.)

I’ll never forget that evening. In his reading, I heard a voice like no other. The energy in the writing made my head spin. The comedic parts were brilliant and hilarious. It was outrageous. Raw and inappropriate. But I was seduced by Simon, the main character – a man raging against life and God, yet as vulnerable as a broken arm with a compound fracture.

Some women walked out of the reading, feeling his book was misogynistic and crude. I stayed for the whole thing. The room cleared when he finished, leaving just Edie and I to go up to Mano to comment. And this author (and senior writer for Playboy, and columnist for National Review, and author of 6 other novels) was feeling as rejected as a first-timer. The three of us ended up going out for drinks and having a fantastic time, talking and laughing.

Take Five is not an easy read — the fact that it is paginated backward, the loss of senses of his main character in fairly gruesome ways, and the particular style Mano used in using serial colons. At the end of it, you are left to wonder — if a man loses all five senses, how does he know if he still exists inthis world?

I loved this book. A work of genius.

View all my reviews

Playing favorites with characters in a novel

Writing - who you must be

I had finished one of the drafts of What You Don’t Know Now and given it to Cindy, one of my Early Readers. One of her questions in feedback gave me a lot to think about.

“Are you Bridey?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “But to tell you the truth, I’m a part of all the characters.”

Bridey, her mother Tilla, her Aunt Corinne, her cousins Sara and little Francesca. Her Aunt Maura. And yes — the male characters: Alessandro, Father Clement, Hugh, Riordan, and 5-year-old Ian. I speak for all of them and they speak through me.

I love these characters.

I think you can love or hate the characters you create in fiction. Or love or hate pieces of them. And yes, I think you can have favorites.

WYDKN blog2

Years ago, I read The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard and fell in love with this first of four books about the extended Cazelet family. We meet the characters in the summer of 1937 as they summer at their parents’ home in Sussex, England. The war looms ahead, but what I loved most was the way her child characters (four, I think) were written. And that inspired me to want to write my own child characters in this story.

I do love little Ian, bold and imaginative, looking for a father figure, all boy and too confident for his own good.

I love Alessandro for his pure heart and passion for his music and for his “Miss America,” Bridey. I loved writing in his voice.

But I also love challenging, arrogant, conflicted Riordan, I love his maleness and sexuality. I loved making him obnoxious and confusing to Bridey. And I love his heroic spirit and his gentleness with Bridey when she needed it most.

I love Sara. She’s smart, perceptive, funny, observant, and longs to be included. I love her shyness and loyalty to Bridey. I love that she writes her experiences and observations in her “log” but we never know what they are.

And I love poor, fearful, tiger-mother Tilla. I love her willingness to go out of her comfort zone just far enough to allow Bridey to get to Europe. I love her struggle to let go of her beloved daughter. I love how much she loves her husband at home in the States. I’m sorry I had to give her so much pain.

Are they my favorites? Maybe. My big hope is that in reading this book, readers will find their favorites, too.

And then tell me who they are. And why.

Blog Tour: 20 questions with Mary Pat Hyland

Mary Pat Hyland newcoverportrait2_750x1000

At the end of this post — look for a great giveaway to enter!

Welcome to a blog tour! What’s that? It a bit like a virtual “appearance” of an author on another author’s blog. We do this so our readers can find other authors whose books you might like — and I think you’re really going to like Mary Pat Hyland’s fiction. She’s also someone I consider a role model for her prolific, quality writing and knowledge of publishing. And she’s the only person I know who can tweet in Gaelic!

Mary Pat Hyland is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author and has published
six novels and a collection of short stories. Her short stories have
appeared in the anthologies Seasons Readings and Lost Love Letters: An
Indie Chicks Anthology. In 2013 the Arts Council of Yates County selected
her as an Artist in Residence. She is a graduate of Syracuse University
and has worked in the commercial/fine art, journalism, education and
culinary fields. Mary Pat resides in upstate New York, the setting for her
novels, and enjoys organic gardening, gourmet cooking, visiting the Finger
Lakes and teaching the Irish language.

You can find Mary Pat’s books on her website, Amazon.com, The Author’s eStore, and at Barnes & Noble.

I’ll be appearing on Mary Pat’s blog today answering my own 20 questions, so come on over and visit! And thanks, Mary Pat, for offering this chance to a debut author.

Today we’re asking Mary Pat 20 questions about herself and her latest book, In the Shadow of the Onion Domes.

Mary Pat Hyland oniondomes_cover_kindle

1) What’s your name?
Mary Pat Hyland

2) How long have you been writing?
I started writing a novel when I was in my early twenties. Never finished it. My first completed novel took ten years to write. Finished the first draft in 2005, published it in January 2008. I worked as a newspaper journalist for fifteen years, writing columns and editorials. The daily practice of writing for that job helped me immensely.

3) What genre do you write in?
I like to mix it up. I have a three-book chick lit series, a parody, a suspense novel, a family saga and my latest book is a short story collection.

4) What’s the name of your latest work?
In the Shadows of the Onion Domes

5) Why would these stories interest a reader?
The book is like a Whitman’s sampler of my writing styles. There’s drama, there’s humor. Some drift into Twilight Zone-ish magic realism. Others deal with real-life issues in a poignant way. The connecting factor is that each story is set in the same river valley along Upstate New York’s Southern Tier.

6) Where is the book available?
You can get the paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The eBook version is available in Kindle format now. Other formats will be available on Smashwords in late January 2015.

7) Who’s your favorite character in the book and why?
I get a kick out of Rosie, a fearless and spunky 80-year-old barmaid in The Rose of The First Ward. I’m also very fond of Maria and Angelo Caravita, a married couple whose love for each other is strengthened through an unexpected challenge in their lives.

8) What’s your website address?
marypathyland.com

9) Name three authors who have inspired your work.
Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and John Irving

10) What do you do to get through writer’s block?
Go for a walk. There’s something about the fresh air and change of scenery that helps re-charge the imagination.

I don’t do recommendations to follow people on social media easily — they have to be quality — but I love following Mary Pat’s entertaining, smart and fun posts, which often include some great music. Find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @cailinAolain. She’s also on Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway contest to win an autographed copy of In the Shadows of the Onion Domes, copies of her ebooks or a piece of original art created by the author.
In the Shadows of the Onion Domes Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: What A Kiss Can Do

Me & Kathy - authors

I’m lucky enough to know some excellent writers, some of whom have come out of writers workshops I’ve attended. Kathy Johncox is one — if you read my Acknowledgements, you’ll see my thanks to her in the process of writing What You Don’t Know Now. Kathy has her second book out right now — What a Kiss Can Do. I’ve read it and think if you like women’s fiction, romance and chick lit, you’d like this, too. A fun book to read! Available on Amazon:

I’ve been an admirer of Kathy Johncox’s writing for a long time. This is no “rookie” writing – the prose is clear, sharp and sophisticated. Rita Jensen is a thirty-something-year old writer for a local newspaper, no rookie at relationships, but inexperienced at real love. An unfortunate incident in her childhood involving her father’s much-too-long kiss under the mistletoe with a neighbor lady (and his subsequent abandonment of his marriage and family) has given Rita an edge (dangerously close to bitterness)about holidays and men in general. And the mistletoe keeps cropping up in her path, much to her distaste.

On assignment to cover a very weird Christmas party among her town’s artier set, she hears a thud on the steps behind her as she waits at the door to the party. What she mistakes for a fallen child turns out to be a brusque, very well-dressed man with a British accent — a dwarf. Since the party is populated with people out of a Diane Arbus album, Rita assumes he’s part of the group in town for a theatrical project. Rita’s fellow professional from the paper, the hang-loose, funny, commitment-phobic surfer-type photographer, Fergie, is there to capture the party for the story and — have you guessed? Fergie gives Rita a kiss to remember under the cursed mistletoe. And then he gives her a lot more than kisses. A LOT.

But Derek, the “person of short stature” — it takes Rita awhile to figure out what the correct, PC word would be for him — sets his eye on Rita, too. He’s unsettling, self-possessed, highly intelligent, challenging and perceptive, not to mention a well-tailored attorney. There’s a attraction there that Rita can’t deny to herself.

The story of how Rita figures out what real love is through her relationships with these two very different men is unique and rich. There’s humor, some mystery, and I’ve never read a romance like it. Think Peter Dinklege — Johncox did.

The only thing that didn’t ring true was a mention of mistletoe during a highly charged, funny scene that takes place in October — and yet a sprig of mistletoe hangs within Rita’s sight in a hallway. It felt forced. Not needed. But otherwise — a fun, thoughtful book that affirms love and life in all sizes.

A Room With A (Re)View: On Feedback

WYDKN tweet1

See that tweet? It’s like nirvana to a writer. Most of us — the ones who really want to know what a reader thinks – live for feedback.

I’m @writerdiehl on Twitter, and Ellen Comisar has been one of my longest-standing Twitter “peeps” — we met on Twitter and eventually (mostly through Ellen’s efforts) started a casual coffee group IRL [In Real Life] with some fellow communications professionals. We call it the ROC Lady Peeps. Ellen is very active in the book world, helping to producing the annual JCC Lane Dworkin Jewish Book Festival. She’s also a former writer for The New York Times.

Her opinion/review of What You Don’t Know Now is very important to me. And so is yours.

In fact, you, the reader, are the most important element in this new world of indie publishing. There are millions of books being produced now. Some are great and should have been picked up by literary agents and sold to traditional big publishing houses, but the market is too crowded. Some are so-so, some are downright terrible – yet they find readers, and it’s these readers who make or break a book in its sales.

You have the power.

So my request is this: If you have/when you do read WYDKN – please take the time to give it an honest review on a site like Amazon, or here on this blog in the Comments, or on Merge Publishing’s site, or in an email to me (writerdiehl@gmail.com), or on Facebook, your own blog, a pin on Pinterest… wherever you’d like.

By “honest” review, I mean what you thought, truly. It’s not about asking for a Five-Star review. It doesn’t have to be a book report. Did it resonate with you? Did you have a favorite character? Did you hate a character? Did something touch you? Were you disappointed by anything? — Things like that. Would you recommend this book to your friends?

I’m a big girl. I’ve been in workshops and writers groups where I received constructive criticism, so I can take it. I’ll appreciate any time you give to it.

What I love about writing and writing fiction is knowing that I’ve connected with you in some way, though we may never meet in person. You become part of my reading family.

You’ll also help send this book out in ever-widening circles of readers. Who knows where we may take it.