Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Months and Counting

The countdown begins! Three months until my second novel, BUCK FEVER, hits the streets. On October 27th. Yes, I am excited about this. I first scratched out the idea for this novel when I became fascinated by the many different points of view surrounding hunting. Because I grew up in a suburb of NYC until I was thirteen, I knew nothing about hunters and hunting. In fact, I’d only seen deer in zoos. When my family moved to a rural part of New Jersey, however, this changed. We lived on a dirt road and were surrounded by woods, fields and rolling farmland. I got to know hunters of all ages who loved and respected nature and the very animals that they tracked. This fascinated and intrigued me. Fast forward a few years, when I started flirting with writing: I scratched out a rough draft about a boy and his relationships with family (including a father who is a hunter), friends, and even deer. Through writing, I started exploring the different points of view on hunting, including my own.

Years later, after I married, my husband and I moved into a house with more deer than I can count living at the back of our property. We sometimes feed them (not because we need to) and it’s not uncommon to have fawns born in our gardens (their moms hide the newborns for the first few hours after birth). In fact, I recently came upon a little guy hidden in tall grasses beneath a pine tree. This spotted, long legged baby gave new meaning to the word adorable. Anyway, being up close and personal with these whitetails inspired me to break out the BUCK FEVER draft. After tons of research that included interviewing many hunters with a variety of points of view on hunting, watching lots of deer, reading everything I could on hunting, and even learning to shoot a rifle at a firing range (which should make any rational human being laugh and shudder at the same time), BUCK FEVER started taking shape. And now, there are only three months to go before this novel is out. Yes, exciting.

Now, if this blog entry has interested you in BUCK FEVER, let me know! I have three advanced reader copies to give away. If you would like one, you can contact me at and/or toss me a comment here. Hopefully you’ll win one of these ARCs. Fun, huh? I think so. . . I love giving books away!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009


Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was an editor of reading textbook materials for elementary schools. I loved my job in New York City and the people I worked with. So, when DOG GONE found a home with the wonderful Feiwel and Friends, I was determined to keep my job. Unfortunately, the increasing demands of being a textbook editor pushed me into a position where I had to choose between my passion for writing novels and the career I had built as an editor. I thought it would be really hard to walk away from corporate life, to give up an office overlooking Manhattan, to lose the daily social interaction. Now, I work at a desk stuffed into a guest room. My office mates went from the two-legged kind to the four-legged kind (the photo here is of my two most common office companions, lounging on the guest room bed behind my desk. Believe me, they’re like this even in meetings. It’s disgraceful.).

Anyway, recently, a company that I worked for had massive layoffs. I still stay in close touch with my textbook pals, so I heard about all the ugly details of how this went down. People fainted. People cried. People were and are devastated. This breaks my heart. But it also causes me to sit back and consider how down to my toes grateful I am to have something that I love to do and can do almost anywhere. Something that can’t be taken away. Sure, writing is painful. It makes me tear at my hair, whimper, whine, and mutter flamboyant curses that would make a truck driver blush. It can be lonely. But, it also brings me great satisfaction and joy. Nothing invigorates me the way that writing a novel does. Not even the hustle and bustle of NYC corporate life. So, for all of those devastated people who have lost their jobs, I wish them hope and success in finding paths and purposes that bring them joy and satisfaction. I wish for them a passion that will help them through the tough times. Something that can’t be taken away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers

I love reading books on and about the process of writing. Not just because I’m always interested in improving my own writing, but because I find the complicated and often maddening ordeal of creating a story fascinating. And sometimes never ending. And sometimes infuriating. And sometimes. . . Okay, someone stop me. Please.

Anyway, I wonder if there is any writer anywhere that feels that his or her writing no longer needs improvement. Someone who has perfected his or her craft. If so, I bow to that writer. Bravo! Assuming the answer is no (maybe with an added duh!) for others, I thought that I would share some of my favorite “how to” sorts of books from time to time on this blog. Today’s pick: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. This book is packed with great information. After each chapter, there is a checklist and exercises. Okay, I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of lists, but beyond that, I really did find these checklists to be kind of great. On the other hand, I’m not such a huge fan of exercises, but it’s nice to know that I have a book to go to should I ever run out of things to do on a Saturday night. And guess what? Even the authors did the exercises. They include their answers in the appendix, as a kind of FYI for their readers. How cool is that?

The guts of the book break down something like this: A chapter on showing versus telling. Hello, I’ve read this section more than once. There is another chapter on characterization and exposition, which discusses the importance of when and how to define characters so that they grow on the reader naturally. And there are also chapters on point of view, dialogue mechanics, character voice, interior monologue, and rhythm. I got out my highlighter for Chapter 8. It gets into how some types of paragraphs can and should add tension and momentum, while other paragraphs need to slow down and develop intimacy and/or suspense. There is also another chapter that discusses sophistication in writing. Interesting.

Okay, there’s my first pick. A well-written and succinct book that I have turned to more than once. A book that sits on my desk, waiting for when I’ll need it again. So, what do you think?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chapter Focus

Shall we chat about the importance of focus when writing chapters? I’ll assume you said yes.

Let me begin by saying that ever so selfishly, I love reviewing the work of other writers because it helps me to pinpoint issues in my own writing. For example, the other night I was reviewing a beautifully written story that I was really enjoying. However, after finishing a chapter, something didn’t feel quite right. Unfortunately, this was a familiar discomfort. Because I’d been having the same sense of ick after rereading a couple chapters that I’d rewritten in my own novel. The problem had to do with focus. The chapter I reviewed and those I had rewritten that day were not on track.

When I am writing a first draft of anything (even for a revision), I let my hair down and go with the flow. This is wild, crazy, big fun writing. Fine for a while, but sooner rather than later it’s time to grow up and get serious. Meaning, get focused. The hair gets pulled back and wrapped in an elastic and the work begins. When dealing with chapters, each and every one must be it’s own complete unit, right? The way every paragraph and sentence needs to stand on its own. Sure, they all need to be part of the greater whole, but each chapter needs to have a beginning, middle and end with some resolution. Otherwise, the focus gets fuzzy. I hate fuzzy unless it applies to baby animals. So it’s pure frustration for me to read my writing, already splattered with blood, sweat and tears, and realize that the intent is (gasp) blurry.

What to do when this happens? No, Windex is not the answer. Hacking is the answer. No matter how stellar the writing, if it does not further the forward thrust of the plot progression, I cut, chop, slice, dice. I rework and trim until the writing is focused.

What are your thoughts? As for me, I’m off to sharpen my knives and pull back my hair. I’ve got a couple more chapters that need my attention.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Writing, An Obsession?

Summer is a time when family and friends come to visit, picnics and parties seem like fine ideas, and vacations are scheduled, right? For me, though, summer is also a time when I quietly wonder if my writing is my obsession. According to my trusty dictionary, an obsession is “the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.” Exactly. As much as I love guests, parties, and vacationing (really, I do!), I get a bit nutty about giving up any of my writing, revising, or reading time. I do, of course, but that doesn’t mean that ideas stop barging into my head, whining for attention. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a lovely catch-up conversation, making potato salad, or enjoying some beach time, a novel thought is going to scream LOUD and interrupt. And it’s hard for me to not pay attention.

In addition, my brain won’t stop fast-forwarding to when I can snatch a few minutes here and there to jot down notes or develop one of the ideas that yelled at me. I start wondering if I could develop a character during a bathroom break or revise a scene while simultaneously husking cobs of corn. Would anyone notice if I went out to get the mail and brought my laptop with me? My fingers crave the feel of pecking at a keyboard. My eyes long to watch words appear, change and shift on a computer screen. If I go too long without putting together sentences on a page, I get jumpy, cranky, and even sad. My skin begins to itch and I’m sure that a rash will follow. I find myself lusting after the laptops of strangers and I openly envy people sharing quiet time with their computers in cafes.

Eventually, though, guests get dropped off at airports, our car pulls back into our driveway after a fabulous escape, and clean up duty after a successful backyard party is finished. Then, I bask in my obsession. Because I’m the only one not in complete let down mode because all the fun and nonsense is a memory. While others grumble about going back to jobs and workday routines, I swallow back goofy grins and do my best not to count the seconds until I can bond with my laptop again. Perhaps I should look up words like leisure and balance and mental health in my trusty dictionary.