The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Makes a Stop Here

3D Man Holding Perigee MoonThanks to Carol Fragale Brill of 4 Broad Minds for tagging me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Carol’s new novel, Piece by Peace is coming out very soon and I am excited to read it. I have read all of Carol’s thoughtful reviews of other books, and I have a feeling her novel is going to be a good reading experience.

As part of this exercise, I am to answer 10 questions about my latest work:

  1. What is the working title of your book? Perigee Moon (Just typed “perogee”, isn’t that some sort of Polish potato treat?) But a definite maybe for the title of an oncoming new novel. Perogees at Noon.
  2. Where did the idea for the book come from? One night, in Clearwater FL, I was awakened by the full moon shining in the window. I got up to go outside and look, and take pictures of it. It was so bright that the sky appeared burnished, more brown than black, and the moon glowed a bright gold and little wispy clouds floated past it. Later, I learned the reason it seemed so ethereal (fancy-schmancy word which means “real purty”) was because it was one month before the Perigee Moon, when the moon appears much larger to us earthlings. It was a nature phenomenon when one thinks about how we are all pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of the solar systems. I got the idea of a character feeling that same way. Later it evolved into him having an “oh I get it now” moment when he views the Perigee Moon. Then the idea of the controlling woman, the bad marriage, the change in lifestyle the character wants to make and finally, the reconnection with a woman from his past.
  3. What is the genre of the book? It is women’s fiction, and as a sub-genre it is baby boomer lit, since the character grew up in the fifties/sixties. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Big boom in boomer lit these days!
  4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition? For the main character, Bradley Cooper. Demi Moore for Kate,  since she did such a good job of sexually harassing Michael Douglas in Disclosure. Perhaps Diane Keaton for Abby. Think these actors are up for this challenge?
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Perigee Moon is the story of a man who has a life crisis, who comes to realize that he must be true to himself and makes the changes necessary to remove himself from a ruined marriage and the “should do” world in order to have the lifestyle he craves.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher? Self-published. I have neither the time nor the patience to do otherwise.
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? About one year.
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My other two, Second Stories and Whatever Happened to Lily? No really, I’d like to say works by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler but that is a privileged society of which I am merely one of the unwashed who elbows her way to the front of the line in order to get a closer look at the limo.
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I was inspired to try humor. I tried to inject it in certain places, although to say it’s a real thigh-slapper would be frugal with the truth. Whether the attempts at humor worked or not, I am not sure. Like everything else, humor is personal. What’s funny to one is inane or misunderstood by another. There are a lot of my own reflections in it, especially the “workspeak” where Luke has his second epiphany about where he should direct the rest of his career. Things that became intolerable to me, found their way into this novel. Sometimes we need to step back, take a look at what we’re doing, decide if it is providing the satisfaction we crave, or whether we’re like the proverbial hamsters, doing what we do because it’s what we do and what we’ve always done.
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It’s a nice story. It’s a character-driven novel, and those characters are, I think, believable. And everyone can relate to what happens to Luke. We make choices when we’re young and sometimes they aren’t the correct ones. We turn left, but a right turn would have been better. (No pun intended. Ah. The English language, so ripe for punnery.) We can watch a character become true to himself, and instead of doing what others want, he learns to do what he wants.

Now it’s my turn to tag three great authors. I’d like to pass this opportunity on to Jenny Gill, Johanna Van Zanten and June Collins. These women have become good cyber-friends of mine and I have read an reviewed all their books.

 

 

The Baby Boomer Reviewer?

I’ll drink to that!

This post started out as a whiney, complainy, bogged down piece of crap-writing that I started weeks ago and then decided never to publish. And I keep whittling it down, taking out the Poor Me stuff until this is what remains.

I’ve been on this marketing project for several months now, and not getting anywhere with it. As a matter of fact, it’s downright discouraging. Many of the new writers I have come to know are having a lot more success than I am. I am beginning to suspect that there are a lot of folks out there who have no interest in what I write, which is fine. Not everyone likes the same thing.

However! It might be time to ask, “Hold up a minute here! What’s the problem?”

So far I can’t figure out what the problem is. Whether I am not reaching my target audience or whether my target audience really would rather read the Twilight series or Fifty Shades of Grey.  

Photo by saratogajean

Where did everyone go?

Recently, I did a free giveaway of the Kindle version of Perigee Moon and got less than 200 downloads and no reviews out of it, the reviews being the main point of the giveaway. So what good did the whole exercise do? I went to all the book free day sites and made the announcement. I don’t see any positive results in doing any of it, although maybe it will take time for reviews to come in. The more good reviews a book has, the better it does. 

On a more positive note, I believe I have learned a lot about the writing craft in the last decade or so. I know what I perceive is good writing. I know whose voice I love and whose I don’t. I can recognize good writing, believable characters, and excellent stories. So I am thinking very seriously of becoming an “official” book reviewer.

I wrote a post recently about trying to find sites to get my own book reviewed, about the criteria I used to determine if a site would be a good fit. I wrote about the overabundance of people willing to review books about vampires and monsters and other foul creatures, but there were very few, make that none, that I could be absolutely positive would be a site that would want to review books about baby boomers finding their way at last, determining who they want to be later on in life, finding love.

One thing I have always believed, and still do, is that our generation is one of readers. We didn’t have video games and computers and other electronics to distract us when we were growing up, we had television and books. And while many of us have embraced the technology that makes our lives more connected and more interesting, we still basically love to read. As we start to retire, we have more time to read, and what better subject to read about than our own generation?

What if I become the Baby Boomer Reviewer? Books by and/or about that generation? They wouldn’t all have to be in my exact genre, but if they are written by baby boomer authors who just want to get reviewed then I’d be willing to do it. Hell, you don’t even have to be a baby boomer. Just a new author trying to get a start. And, of course, these reviews will be given with no currency exchanging hands.

If I can help to spread the word, help a new author, then why not?

Here’s the catch. I’d have a very hard time telling an author that I didn’t like his work. I’d have to be really honest and that will be hard for me, but a review isn’t worth anything unless it’s genuine. And who’s to say, I might not like it but someone else might love it? I’ve sure noticed that all people don’t like the same thing myself.

I’d be reluctant to give 5 star reviews. I have given them in the past, but really, I think 5 star reviews are reserved for truly great pieces of literature. Prose where I marvel at the beautiful sentences, and the exquisite phrasing. You all probably know by now how I feel about Scott Spencer and Jonathan Franzen. These men have both written books I would consider 5 star quality. But for the rest of us, well, we can’t all be authors of that caliber. We just can’t. It isn’t possible.

I’ve written quite a few reviews lately. Few of them were 5 star, but some of them were really, really good books. I’m including a link here to my Amazon reviews.

I’d post each review on a new My Reviews page as I do them, with a link to Amazon (or wherever the author would like the review directed). Here are some of the genres of books I would review:

  • General Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Baby Boomer Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Mystery/Thrillers
  • Short Story Collections
  • Non-fiction (as long as I have some knowledge of the topic)

No genre romance, no inspiration, no erotica. No urban fantasy, no vampires, werewolves or drudges. No steampunk — and if anyone can explain to me exactly what this is, would you please comment? None of these interest me and I wouldn’t be able to give a satisfactory review of that material.

I’d love to hear if there are any new authors who would be interested in having me review their work.

Perigee Moon Available on Amazon!

This past week was spent in the final editing of my third book Perigee Moon, and formatting of both the print version and the Kindle version, which went relatively smoothly. The Kindle Direct Publishing Nice People have now provided us with basic instructions on how to do it, and it is easier than it used to be.

You can get the print version of Perigee Moon here.

I learned that making use of the Styles in Word can make ebook formatting a whole lot easier, so I did that. I fixed my styles and created a Table of Contents and had relatively little trouble getting it published. You can get the ebook version for Kindle here for a mere $2.99.

I can’t decide which I prefer. I still like to read a “real” book once in a while and I go back and forth, between the Kindle and printed books, Amazon and the Public Library.

Once I got the Kindle version published and it looked very good to me, I decided to do the same with my other two books, which had a couple of formatting issues, due to my relative inexperience back then. Well wouldn’t you just know, wouldn’t it figure, that sometimes it works one way and sometimes it works another. I blame Word for this, there is so much crap under the surface of Word, so many options and it seems needlessly complex to me.

I got Whatever Happened to Lily formatted just fine, and is available here in it’s new format, but when I did Second Stories the exact same way, it didn’t quite work. Well, it worked okay, but put an extra space between the paragraphs which I didn’t want. I still haven’t figured it out. It looks okay, but not perfect, so I haven’t uploaded anything for the Kindle for that book yet.

Maddening, that’s what it is.

I check and compare and look at the HTML and can’t find out why it would do that. There are other ways to do it, through other software but the instructions supplied by KDP seemed so straightforward that I had hoped my ebook formatting issues were behind me. Ack! Not so.

Another surprise was in store for me. It takes a few days for a new print book to be listed on the Amazon site so I kept checking each day to see if it had appeared, and guess what I found? Another book called Perigee Moon. This I would have to describe as seriously suckage because I had specifically searched for books with that title when I selected it.

Perigee Moon by Tara Fuller. After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret. As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained. The truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die. Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

We’ll call it “The Other Perigee Moon” but I think I will plug it anyway. You can get that book here.

It’s about witches so I guess we won’t be in direct competition but still, it is disappointing.

In other news, next week (Tuesday, May 22) the six finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 will be announced. I like to read the excerpts from the books chosen and last year I blogged my reviews of each and tried to predict the winner. I wasn’t too successful. Maybe this year will be better.

Perigee Moon – Beta Reader Results Are In

An abbreviated post this week. I had a wonderful response to Remembering the Pankcake Man. Thanks to all who read and commented. My father was remembered at his memorial service on April 20, 2012. Many people came to honor him, to tell us what he had meant to them, and there were quite a few tears and even some laughs as we remembered the good days. I will always be grateful for everyone who came and shared their memories.

My husband reminded me of something funny that my father had said to him. We asked him, will you be buried here, next to Mom? And he said yes, he would be. And he had purchased additional plots for my brother and me, to be buried there too, but he guessed that probably wouldn’t happen. Those plots wouldn’t be used, so he was considering “turning them into a family room”. That was so typical of his sense of humor.

At my father’s funeral, the pastor read two poems my father had written. I had no idea. He wrote one poem about golf and another about retiring. They were funny, and witty, and everyone enjoyed hearing them. I never knew he wrote poetry.

The reviews are in from my Beta Readers. I got lots of thumbs up of Perigee Moon (between one and twenty per person). Even though these are my good friends from high school, still they all said they thought Perigee Moon is my best work yet. Every single one of them said it, and it is very gratifying to hear it.

They asked me if these characters are based on anyone, and I had to say no, these characters are truly made up. Maybe some of the characters in my first two books were based (loosely) on people I had known. In this case, that isn’t true. I thought a lot about the characters and how they would interact and what they would think and say. They are fictional, yet I suppose there are people who are just like Luke. Kate and Abby.

I will be fixing up the remaing typos and releasing it for publication in early May.

The GIMP, CreateSpace and a Great Basketball Euphemism

Yes, last week’s post is really not happening until this week. I could make excuses, and say, but wait, I heard that more people read blogs on Monday than any other day of the week although I’m told they share more on Friday. It makes sense. Monday is a reading day (quiet, introspective, Monday-blues and can’t quite get into the workweek yet), and Friday is happy time. Time to party! Time to be free and share!

Maybe that’s not it, just one mad women’s assessment. I use the word “mad” to mean both crazy AND angry.

Someone I am close to, well, okay it’s my daughter, is opening up a new salon in Chicago. It’s to be the Savon Spa and is on Halsted St. in the heart of beautiful Lakeview. They will offer a variety of services, (things I never do) like spray tans, and facials, and something called micro dermabrasion (doesn’t that sound painful?), nail care, massage, stuff like that.

At one point I must have had a weak moment, or a moment in time when I needed to inflict intentional pain on myself. I can help you! say I. I have some photo editing experience, I’ve designed book covers, and cards, and even tee-shirts. Maybe I can help with your computer-related needs. Okay, says she (and her partner guy). How about helping with business (appointment) cards and a flyer?

Sure, say I. I can do that.

What was needed was a full blown graphic artist (not me) so I quickly learned that my sophomoric little package wasn’t going to work. Not to worry, I’ve also got The GIMP.

GIMP is not for everyone, and probably not for amateurs like me, but it is open source and it does everything except bring your pipe and slippers (two items I do not need anyway). It’s a great package. Here I am again, plugging great software. I can’t believe that The GIMP is available for a free download, it does everything that other sophisticated graphic design tools can do.

What a learning curve. What frustration. What a drag. Here is a picture of the finished flyer.

I have been tweaking and YouTubing and reading documentation and trying things for several days now, so while I like to write funny posts, I don’t feel particularly funny.

More optimistically (see, I could have said “on a lighter note” and that would have been a cliché), I have five copies of Perigee Moon coming, and will mail these out to my Beta reader group. They will arrive in a day or two. I did the final formatting over the weekend, when I wasn’t working on the freaking flyer and trying to figure out why my image couldn’t be moved, or the clone tool wouldn’t work, and trying to understand layers, and alpha channels, and a myriad of other stuff.

This stuff is all in my brain now, but if I don’t use it, it will disappear, as I make room for more subjects that I am required to learn.

Back to the novel, when I did the final preparation of my internal file, I had to go back to a post I wrote, about how to use Word to do your formatting and then create a pdf file, which can be directly uploaded to CreateSpace. So simple, to do, these fine CreateSpace people have made it easy on us poor not-worthy-to-be-published-in-any-traditional-way authors. Yeh! Here’s to CreateSpace.

I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so it’s a good thing I wrote that post, so I could go look at it again. This is the second time I’ve done that, so it’s valuable to me, if to no one else.

So on to my third topic. I heard a great basketball euphemism I thought I’d share.

This was back a couple of weeks ago before we were at Final Four, it might have been Elite Eight, when the interview took place. OU (Ohio University) hadn’t gotten so far in many years, since back in the 70’s and here they were. Finally! We people in Ohio were happy that our Ohio teams had survived.

OU has the dubious distinction of being The Biggest Party School in the Country. If you want to major in binge drinking, go there. A basketball player was asked about a previous win and if he had celebrated and here’s what he said.

“I must apologize that i didn’t contribute more to the elimination of distractions.”

That’s a very nice way of saying he drank himself silly, I guess. Got wasted, gooned, toasted. I thought that was a very nice euphemism. He is certainly a very politically correct young man.

Yeah. I don’t feel funny. Instead I feel like I’m getting the flu.

Two Good Tools for Writers

I had hoped to talk about four writing tools today, but only have time for two. It’s Sunday at 4:00 and I want to get my post out. It’s the dreaded Daylight Savings Time day when we get screwed out of an hour of the weekend although it will be nice to have the hour of light at the end of the day. I wrote a post about DST on the Boomers and Books site, and am reminded of what the American Indian said:

Only the government would believe that you could cut one foot off the top of a blanket, sew it onto the bottom, and have a longer blanket.

But on to the writing tools.

The Cliché Cleaner! I had written a post a few months back about The Cliché Finder which had obvious limitations. It must be a common problem because this post is still being read, and recently, a woman posted a comment which said she was an editor and it was a big part of her day just spotting clichés and she was in the market for something that could cut down on the time spent. I said I hadn’t heard of anything better and she responded that she’d found The Cliché Cleaner. I investigated. What a great tool it is.

I first downloaded the sample and after one try, decided to buy it. It’s only $12.95 which doesn’t “break the bank” (bet that’s a cliché, what do you think?). This tool examines a text file and matches it against more than 16,000 clichés and their variations.

But wait! There’s more. And this is even better, it counts the number of repeating phrases. How many times have you been reading along and you start to think, I’ve read that before? And I’m sure getting tired of reading the same words over and over. Now this problem can be fixed.

The Help File recommends that the files to be examined shouldn’t be too large, and a complete novel should be broken up into four or five chapters per chunk. This seemed like a pretty severe limitation. If it has to be broken up then the results of each file will have to be manually compared to the results of every other file. Didn’t like the sounds of that, so I thought I’d give it a try using the complete file. What could possibly go wrong? I’d run out of memory or some equally horrific computer event and I’d have to reboot. Big deal. It worked fine, took only a few seconds, so I’m not sure why it was suggested that the files be smaller. 

The software opens up a response window once it’s through searching and creates a very nice report, sortable in a number of different ways. I chose to sort on number of instances found, so my list will be ordered in such a way that I can address them from the most to the least problematic.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is no way (that I can see) to save the report so it can be accessed later. It can’t even be swiped to copy/paste and this is because of other functionality that it has, which I didn’t care about, that is, being able to click on the instance of the phrase and be redirected to the portion of text where it is found. It’s a TEXT file, not a Word document, so if I made changes to a text file, all my formatting is gone. This isn’t good at all. I don’t want to make changes to that file, I want a nice list of my offenders so I can go back into Word and do the corrections there.

Not possible. Because of a certain issue which I will explain in greater detail, I found myself writing the phrases down. Yes, all of them, and there were quite a few phrases too. I was forced to take pen in hand, and while I was pleasantly surprised to note that I am still able to pick up the pen and put it to a piece of paper and form words and phrases in cursive writing that are legible, still it seems rather like going back to the nineties.

It is a terrible option and I couldn’t figure out a way of bypassing the manual written list because when I tried to examine the report and type directly into another text editor, I had problems. When the cliché report window is clicked on (to move down the list) the window where you are typing disappears. This is a computer thing, having to do with which window has focus and response windows and a few other computer-related anomalies that no one needs to understand, other than it is hellishly annoying.

With the manual labor behind me, it took almost no time to type the phrases in.

The Cliché Cleaner, even with its faults, is better than anything else I’ve found. It is efficient (yet humbling) to see so many problems displayed in a list.  

But now I that I have it, I can go through each one, search for it in my Word document and decide what to do about it.

Four stars (out of five) for The Cliché Cleaner, and if I could print or save or copy/paste the report, it would have been five. But zero stars out of five for Customer Service because when I wrote (twice) and asked questions I have been ignored.  

Wordle! The Wordle website describes this writing tool as a “toy” and it is fun to play with but it provides some valuable insight into repeated words. It creates a “Word Cloud” and the words that appear more frequently are given greater prominence. Once the cloud is created by Wordle, adjusting the font and color will change its appearance.

I have a problem with word repetition and usually have a lot of editing to do to remove extraneous words. Words like but, that, just, so. Meaningless, throw-away words. Using too many of them says “amateur”. Of course, sometimes, these words are necessary. Wordle will point out if certain words appear more often than would be expected.

Then tedious it is, but doing a Find in word on the word in question is the only way to look at each instance of it to determine if it can be removed or not.

Wordle cloud for Perigee Moon:

Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro

This morning I designed a book cover using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro. This is the third book cover I have done, and it was super easy. Yes, it is a very simple, basic book cover but I like simple and basic.

I took some photos of the Perigee Moon this past March, but I didn’t love any of them. I decided to search iStockPhoto.com to see if I could find something I liked better. This is a very good site to check out if you are in the market to purchase photos, illustrations, audio or video files. People submit their work to iStockPhoto and if the work is accepted it can be purchased by anyone with a need. The owner of the work gets a percentage of each sale.

The purchaser can use the item for any purpose and there is no danger of copyright infringement. So my rule is, for a cover, I either use my own work, or make sure I get it from some place that can’t complain if I use it.

I bought the big one (more pixels) because I didn’t want to scrimp on the cover. If it were a blog or something, then it’s not such a big deal, but in this case, more is better.

This is the photo I downloaded from iStockPhoto:

I mirror-imaged the photo and cropped it so the moon would appear to be closer to the edge of the cover.  This can be done with any photo editing software. I used PhotoStudio which is a subset of PhotoShop.

I use a simple package called BookCoverPro. This software is not free but won’t put you into bankruptcy either. It’s maybe $100 or so. As long as the market trends towards eBooks, I wonder about the necessity of having a book cover professionally designed. If I were a New York Times Best Selling Author maybe, but if that were true, someone else would be doing the design of the cover who would be a lot better than I could ever hope to be at it.

I want simple. Straightforward. Contrast and maybe a little mood setting. This is actually a picture of a normal full moon but who’s to know? I thought it portrayed a certain feeling. This is the moon Luke looks at, the night of his great epiphany.

I recommend BookCoverPro, but I didn’t find the Customer Service all that great. It is simple enough to learn, so you don’t need Customer Service anyway, but trust me, in this case, “Service” is only a name.

Here are the simple steps I did to create this cover, which will be used for the print version of Perigee Moon.

Select the size. My book will be 6 X 9 so the size is 12 X 9. Six inches for the front and six inches for the back. Then the spine is sized, and this can be done by specifying the number of pages. That’s good because it’s difficult to size for a spine, and with this package it is done for you.

I selected a background color, black, because my picture is dark and even though there isn’t background to speak of, there could be a sliver where the photo doesn’t cover and I don’t want it to be white.

I then added my moon photo and stretched it a little to fit over the entire cover.

I then added the text fields: the title, the author name on the front and on the spine.

On the back of the book is a photo of the author, and some other text with other novels I have written. In addition, there is the back blurb which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago which I have yet to perfect so that part is Under Construction.

Now that I have this book cover created, the package will allow me to create a .pdf file of it, which is what gets uploaded to CreateSpace along with the formatted pages of the novel. They print both the cover and the pages, and assemble the book.

It would be very cool if you would comment and tell me what you think of this cover. Even if you don’t like it, or have suggestions, I would love to hear them. It’s very easy to change. I designed this cover in about three hours. The greatest amount of time was spent picking out the photo to use.

I’m sure there is someone out there who is thinking, you designed the cover in three hours? I can believe that, because it sucks, it’s amateurish and ugly.

I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while though, so maybe that counts for something.

How Not to Write a Novel Back Blurb

I thought I might see a lot of interest in the subject of independent adoptions yet there were only two comments, and those from people who read this blog faithfully. Thank you loyal supporters, you know who you are!

Not even the friend who suggested I write it and to whom I submitted it for an accuracy check commented, so I guess everyone is otherwise occupied with more important matters. Even though it seemed the readership was quite substantial and a modest increase from my usual traffic, still not much comment action.

I did receive some “likes” though which is always fun.

WordPress sends a congratulatory email when someone “likes” a post. Congratulations! They say. Someone liked your post well enough to press the Like Button. Pressing the Like Button isn’t exactly a physical challenge, now is it? And it’s not like they brought me a Chili Macaroni Casserole or anything. But still, WordPress considers it a moderately big deal.

I’m back to writing about writing.

I finished up my novel, Perigee Moon, this week so I’m on to the next task, that of designing a book cover. To do this, I must write a “back blurb” and I’m not sure why I need it since the book is self-published and is never going to be sitting alongside the likes of books with cover pictures of Fabio on the bookshelves at Wal-Mart. The blurb is to sum up your novel, to “sell” it and, much like the headline at the top of a sleazy tabloid magazine, is supposed to tempt you into picking it up and tossing it into your shopping cart.

“Bill Clinton Dying!” Yes, probably. Aren’t we all?

“Nick & Jessica’s Sham Marriage: Why Are They Still Faking It?” Who’s this again?

“Jen Tells Pals: Angie’s a Monster!” Really, Jen. Get over it.

“Possible reconciliation between Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush?” Could someone please remind me why we should care about these people?

Based on your willingness to give the teeniest of shits about any of the above topics may in fact influence you to purchase the magazine in order to get the true scoop. Of course, you could be really tacky and stand there and browse through the magazine while the clerk zips your cat food through the scanner, but he’s trying to engage you in conversation because 1) you are incredibly good looking, 2) you are incredibly interesting, or 3) he’s bored. Any bets?

Back to our subject at hand. The title has to grab you enough that you want more. The headline “Bill Clinton Suffers Sniffles” isn’t quite as compelling as the fact that he might be dying. And while this is not a dissertation on Bill, I suspect many people might be interested in what the Old Guy has done now to put him in such ill health. One can only imagine.

The back blurb of a novel has to grab you, make you want to read it. So it needs to contain lots of good keywords and it should be true to the type of novel it is — only more so. It should be exaggerated, and enticing, and earth-shattering. But it’s a PITA to write one and I’m not very good at it.

If I said something like “action packed, tense suspense and drama on each page”, this would not be indicative of what my novel is all about. The people who don’t want action packed won’t buy it and the people who do want action packed will be pissed off because it’s not that kind of novel.

I found five pieces of back blurbs that I find tempting:

Compellingly written, running the literary gamut from menacingly dark to hilariously funny, this is an epic saga of one family’s trials and triumphs in a world of sin, guilt, and redemption.

I’m hooked on all of this. Compellingly written (although, says who?) and menacingly dark and hilariously funny and epic saga always grab me. Not to mention sin, guilt and redemption. It isn’t any wonder that I found this paperback in my possession.

…a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Brilliantly crafted, I like that. Is that better than compellingly written? I love the idea of parallel lives and familial secrets. And you can’t beat the redemptive power of love.

But for his wife, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges, “walking away from it all” is not a premeditated act, but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting and unimagined life…

I love that she feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges. This portends to be about a woman who feels diminished, unimportant and I’ll just bet she does something really cool and then her family takes a second look and says, Well, I guess Mom wasn’t as much of a loser as we thought she was.

An extraordinary, moving story, this novel explores the complexities of love — how it survives time and heartbreak, and how it transforms us forever.

Ah, the idea of the complexities of love and how it survives time and heartbreak. How it transforms us forever. The romantic in me can’t resist this.

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about — until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present.

An “intense” novel, that sounds good. A middle-aged man, I like it that the character is the same age as the ones I write about, and I really can get into the idea of a past he never much thought about, and childhood friends returning with a vengeance, and from the grave. Wow, that’s got to be great.

Here’s how I might write my back blurb:

A compellingly written, beautifully crafted story. Menacingly dark yet hilariously funny, an epic saga which crosses the boundaries of four generations, of a man who feels as unimportant as a mosquito being batted outside the familial edges as he attempts to remember the complexities of love yet fears it can’t survive the test of time. A heartbreaking story of forgotten pasts and uncertain futures emerge as his closest childhood friend returns with a vengeance from Buffalo.

What do you think? Pretty good huh?

No?

Back to the writing board. Back blurbs are killers to write.

Oh, and one more thing, Bill Clinton is not dying.

The Mystery of Intersecting Events

It’s about time I start to hype my new novel (Perigee Moon) which I hope to have out by Spring, 2012. I have four weeks to work on it, then I’m committed to a babysitting gig until the end of May. I’m thinking I might not have a whole lot of time to devote to it while taking care of an 8-week-old. I’ll probably blog about that experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve changed a diaper.

In the past, people (make that one person) has said that my female characters are “mean”. I was shocked to hear that because I didn’t intend them to be considered mean, just strong women, or women who have put up with less than perfect relationships (through no fault of their own) and take a stand about what their futures will hold.

There is a character in the book, Abby, who couldn’t be called mean by anyone. She is the kind of person many can identify with, not overly sure of herself, second-guessing herself along the way. Many years ago she had a crush on Luke (the main character) and she finds that when their paths cross again, decades later, she still pretty much feels the same as she did back then.

She’s just seen him again and she thinks about how coincidental it is. Is it coincidence or some kind of predetermination which causes events to happen the way they do? She thinks of it as intersecting events where all along the way a different path could have been chosen. But because one path led to another and another, she’s ended up here, and it’s precisely where she wants to be.

Here is an excerpt:

She thought about her Aunt Maude — who’d been dying for the last thirty of her ninety-eight years (or so she’d told anyone who would listen) — and how Aunt Maude had picked this particular time to succumb. But of course, Aunt Maude hadn’t picked the time of her death, it had just happened that way. And what if she, Abby, hadn’t come back here, for the memorial service? She would never have seen Luke Koslov again, and would never have had the chance to talk to him, and here he was asking if they could go together, to the dinner dance, tomorrow night. It made her think that somehow events are planned to coincide and intersect in such a way that it alters the course of a life, or what’s left of a life, as if the person or persons whose life might change because of a chance meeting, might be in the eye of an almighty somewhere and deemed important enough that He has designed it for the sole purpose of having them reconnect.

Interesting thought. She liked to think of it. What if. What if Aunt Maude had died last Tuesday, a week ago, instead of this Tuesday? What if she hadn’t arranged to meet up with her cousin, Anne, for lunch at Applebee’s on Thursday? What if she hadn’t run into her old friend Dorie Wester, whom she hadn’t seen in decades, just as Dorie was pushing her 90-year-old mother in a wheelchair past the table where Abby sat? What if they hadn’t recognized each other? What if Dorie hadn’t mentioned the reunion? What if Dorie hadn’t suggested she come? What if Dorie hadn’t insisted that she come? What if Abby hadn’t said she would come?

And, most important, what if Luke hadn’t been there?

I’ve thought about this, as it equates to my own life. I’m sure others have done the same. What if I’d done it differently. What if I’d done A instead of B? What if I’d gone here instead of there? It’s an interesting thought, and sometimes, unfortunately, tinged with regret. As if it might have been better if I’d gone here instead of there, or done A instead of B.

Nevertheless, we end up where we are because we choose a number of paths along the way. We come to an intersection and choose one way over another. This is what Abby thinks has happened, and for her, it’s the best outcome she could have hoped for. A little like March Madness, you have to choose correctly and keep on choosing correctly and if you do, in the end, you might be a winner.

A Novel Field Trip

Occasionally I like to write about things about which I know not much (or nothing) and when this happens a field trip becomes necessary. In my new novel, Perigee Moon, the main character, Luke, becomes very attached to a place, a park in Columbus, Ohio, called Highbanks. This park is located in the midst of urban sprawl just off US 23 between Worthington and Delaware, Ohio in the midst of suburban housing and some rather forgettable urban development, strip malls, car dealerships and the occasional abandoned home.

Luke is especially enamored of the wetlands area which can be viewed, but to which there is no access. There is a trail to an overlook deck which is built on stilts such that the park goers cannot access the land, but can only view the natural protected area.

I decided if I wanted to write about it I better not just assume it, but should go there and take a look for myself. A field trip. Unfortunately I waited until December to go but needed to get there because the book is nearly completed. I couldn’t afford to wait around for spring.

We had an unnaturally warm December this year, no white Christmas, and days that felt like late March. On December 21, 2011, the high temperature must have hit 60. It had rained earlier but the sun appeared at noon and I thought, this might be the last chance I have to do this. So I went to Highbanks in order to walk the trail to the wetlands overlook deck. I packed up my camera because I figured it might be blog material and I wanted to include some pictures.

The park has two main paths and the wetlands trail veers off from one of them and continues for .4 mile to the deck. I started down the path, got about twenty steps and thought, hmm, this might not be as easy as I had hoped. Because it had been so wet, the trail was covered with wet, soggy leaves with standing water in places.

Since I am a bit of a little old lady when it comes to slippery stuff, I was not a little apprehensive. But I really, really wanted to see it so I trudged on, thinking all the way, this is dumb, what if I fall down here and break something (and around my house we joke about falling down and breaking a hip, but really, that seems as if it could be more of a reality these days), and there I’d be on a trail where sane people are nowhere in sight. I figured I could always call someone as I lay bleeding on the ground but it would be a case of hindsight at that point and a realization that I had just done a really dumb thing.

With every step I thought, I have to do this all again on the way back, but for some reason I kept on with it. At points I had to stop and figure out my strategy for the next step. How do I get over this little stream of water which is surrounded on both sides by roots of trees that are slimy with moss and other miscellaneous park debris? Each step was a new hazard.

Finally I reached my destination. It was worth the trip. Here is what I saw there:

 

The wind kicked up and I thought I really need to get back and not get stuck in a rainstorm which would only add to my precarious situation, so I picked my way back the .4 miles of slime to the main trail. Once safely back to the main (much more civilized) trail, I notched up the pace because the changeable weather was now kicking in to windy, going-to-rain-any-minute mode. I was a little disappointed in how this picture turned out, that it didn’t capture the drama of the day. While overhead the sky was still blue, I could see ominous black clouds at the horizon through the trees.

 

Sure enough, it rained and the wind became very gusty and those trees, so tall because they have been there since the beginning of time and denuded of their leaves, swayed and cracked. I could hear the occasional limb let go in the distance and a new worry surfaced. What if I get clocked with a piece of a tree?

I made it back okay without breaking anything and nothing breaking me, but not in time to avoid the downpour. After I was pretty thoroughly soaked it didn’t seem to matter much any longer. You can only get so wet but a bad hair day for sure.

It might not make a bit of difference, but I feel by being there and seeing what Luke saw I can write about it with a little more confidence.

Here are a couple more nice remembrances of my outing.

Up through the trees:

The wetlands: