Showing posts with label Jan Grape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jan Grape. Show all posts

24 January 2022

Seven Steps


Nancy Pickard is a U.S. crime novelist. She has won five Macavity Awards, four Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, and a Shamus Award. She is the only author to win all four awards. She also served on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America.

I don't remember exactly when I met Nancy Picard, sometime in the early 90's is my guess. That was when I began to first be published and Elmer & I opened our mystery bookstore in Austin in 1990. I remember she & both were very early members of Sisters in Crime and Nancy is a past National President of S-in-C. I do know I've always admired her mystery novels. Reading Nancy's books are like peeling an onion back to  add to the story and destroy your early guesses. Naturally, you must keep turning pages and peeling layers until you get to the end & the solution. 

When I read this article about Nancy's book: Seven Steps on a Writer's Path, I knew I wanted to share this information with all of you. Her book is available in both Paperback & Kindle formats. Page numbers refer to the trade paperback edition.                                                                                                                — Jan Grape

As Nancy Pickard looked back over her own career and that of her many writer friends, she saw herself and most of them struggling through stages of unhappiness, of wanting, of commitment, of wavering, of letting go, of immersion, and of fulfillment. It looked very much like a path to her, and it felt true, in the way only actual lived experience does feel.

"And thus was born the Seven Steps on the Writer's Path. At first it was a workshop given   by me, then it was a retreat presented by Lynn, and now it is a book written by both of us." p. xii

SEVEN STEPS

by Nancy Pickard

Starting Out

"Writing is a path as full of darkness as it is of light, and so the way ahead is hard to see. There are so many ominous shadows, unpredictable gusts of wind, unexpected blinding shafts of sunlight. It’s easy to get lost, to trip over our own hidden roots, or plunge unaware into unexplored caverns in our psyche. As writers, we hardly ever know where we’re going. The only thing most of us know how to do is to keep putting one foot after the other in the darkness and trust that eventually we’ll get there." p. 1

When Lynn and I each started our own writing careers, we didn’t even know there was a path, much less that there are steps along it. We hope that knowing these things will give you an advantage that writers who came before you didn’t have.

Step One: Unhappiness

"Call this step in the creative process what you will, according to your own experience of it. Name it the 'creative urge,' if you like. Call it an 'itch' or 'creative tension' or 'restlessness' or 'discontent.' Regardless of what label any of us gives this step, it’s a common state and the first step for all of us.

"Unhappiness, to one degree or another, is where all creativity begins." p. 9

What a way to start a book, with unhappiness! But we had to, because that’s where the writing starts… or the drawing… or the music… or any other form of creativity. We discovered early on that the steps in this book apply to any creative person, not just to writers.

Step Two: Wanting

"It sounds so simple. All you have to do is want. But it must not be that simple in real life, or else why wouldn't more people be writing what, where, when, as much, and as well as they want to? Instead, they're still languishing in a state of unsatisfied desire. They're stuck back in step one, Unhappiness, and they can't seem to get out of it, no matter how bravely they face it or how honestly they acknowledge what they want from writing.

"The trouble may be that most of us tend to assume that wanting is only about feeling. Certainly, depth of desire is part of the answer, but what we're missing when we stop there is the second part of wanting, the action part…" pp. 38-39

This chapter required Lynn and me to be excruciatingly honest with ourselves and our readers about what we really want in our lives and our writing. It was good for us. It'll be good for you, too.

Step Three: Commitment

"Some people might joke that writers need to be committed, rather than to have commitment, and sometimes we feel as if we can only agree with them. It’s probably true that we're all at least a little bit crazy. But then, truly committed people usually look a little-or very–crazy to the outside world. If you don't look just a little bit nuts, you’re probably not committed enough. Writers like L. Frank Baum -- whose The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was rejected dozens of times -- who keep sending their manuscripts to publishers look like crazy fools to people who will be only too glad to tell them so." p. 70

Step Four: Wavering

"Wavering tends to arrive when it’s least expected and least welcome. Certainly, you'd never willingly invite it, but surprise, here it is. Such as when you're forty pages into a book and you thought it was going to be smooth sailing from here on out, but now you’re stuck. Or like when you’ve submitted your poems to magazines and you're feeling really good and hopeful about them–and the rejection letters start coming in. Or like when you've arranged to write for a couple of hours every day, and then other responsibilities crop up, just when you thought you had them beat down." p. 103

This is one of those steps where it's truly wonderful to know that you have lots of company. You're not alone. You're not the only crazy one. I'm there with you many days. So is Lynn. So is every writer we know and all of the ones we don’t know. We all waver. We all hate it. We all get through it, one way or another, and having each other's hands to hold is a big help and comfort.

Step Five: Letting Go

"Letting go is the magic moment when you step off into space, trusting that you won't fall on your face. As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, when we make a leap of faith, it is the actual act of stepping out that creates a bridge to see us safely to the other side." p. 137

This is my favorite step of all. I adore this step. This is where miracles happen. This step sometimes terrifies me. A lot of times in my life I have wanted, oh how I have wanted, to take this step, but I just couldn’t do it. And then sometimes I do take it, and oh, the joy of that!

Step Six: Immersion

"… be loyal to your writing. Be just as loyal as you are to your dearest friend or loved one. If your friend or your child really needed your attention, would you let your attention wander? Or would you ignore the telephone, put everything else on hold, and turn fully toward him or her? Your writing deserves that kind of loyalty and attention, too. If you can't or won't manage to show as much loyalty to your writing as you show to your friends and family, we guarantee that while you may experience moments of writing bliss, you'll never experience the satisfaction of going all the way.

"Be loyal." p. 177

It's hard for a lot of people, some women especially, I think, to be loyal to their writing, or even to think of it in that way. They let everything and everybody pull them away from it, as if they couldn't care less. But they do care, we know they do, and they suffer for it. If only they knew, their writing wants their love and attention, too!

Step Seven: Fulfillment

"So we have to ask you: where’s your cart, and where’s your horse?

"Here are some telltale things that writers say that alert us to improper horse/cart placement. You'll have to pardon us if our answers sound a bit jaded; we've heard these more times than you'd care to know: 'Should I copyright it first?' (You should write it first.) 'What if I send a query to several publishers and they all want it?' (You should only have such problems. Just worry about writing it.) 'What if somebody steals my ideas?' (Just write the damned thing. If you're worried about burglars, get a gun.) 'I've written three chapters of a novel. Should I start sending it out to agents now?' (No, you should write Chapter 4 now.) 'I was thinking of sending my poems out now and waiting to do my rewriting after I hear what the editors have to say.' (We're thinking you should rewrite them now, or you will never hear from any editors.)" p. 208

Dare to dream big, we say in this chapter, but keep dreaming small at the same time. Go ahead and visualize your name on a best-seller list, but also visualize yourself writing that next sentence, paragraph, and page.

28 December 2020

Sister to Sister



In Casablanca at Sid's (Rick's) just short decades ago,  I met this mysterious lady who has more names than I can usually remember, but the one which finally showed up in my '90s bookstore more often was Toni L.P. Kelner. I actually fell in love Sid, her skeleton character. Humphrey Bogart could have carried the part off masterfully.

This wonderful interview with my friend, by Hank Phillippi Ryan, has been reprinted here with permission from Toni L.P. Kelner and the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. 

-Jan Grape

If you want to find Toni L. P. Kelner, go where the laughter is! For so many years, she’s been such a stalwart to Sisters in Crime in every way. Full of fun and jokes and a marvelous sense of humor, sure. But behind all that is the hardest-working woman in showbiz – – with a pedigree of bestselling mysteries and short stories, an Agatha win, an RT Lifetime Achievement Award, an acclaimed partnership with Charlene Harris, and a glorious and talented and loving family. (Including her wonderful husband Steve, another pillar of the SinC community.)

 She’s never afraid to take a writing risk, including one super successful series (written as Leigh Perry) starring…a skeleton. Yes, that’s the brave and brilliant brain of Toni Kelner.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you remember the very first time you thought: I’m going to write a book, and I can do it. What was that moment?

TONI KELNER: I first started trying to write when I was in junior high school, and wrote short stories and even a novella along the way, but the first time I really felt pretty confident that I was going to finish a novel would have been late 1988 or early 1989. That’s when I really got going on my first book-length manuscript, and I was sure I’d finish. I didn’t know if it would sell, but it would be an actual manuscript gosh darn it!

HANK: Wow, that’s thirty-two years ago! That’s astonishing. Did that first book sell?

TONI KELNER: Eventually. I wrote it, shopped it around for a year or so while writing another manuscript, then got some great feedback and rewrote the first one. Once I’d finished the rewrite, it only took a few months to get an agent and then a publisher. (I’ve never rewritten or sold that second manuscript, but I will someday.)

HANK: I have no doubt!  And that’s so inspirational. How many of your books have been published since then? What do you think about that?

TONI KELNER: Seventeen novels, seven co-edited anthologies, and one collection of my short stories. So I guess that’s 25.

 I’m astonished and pleased, but not ready to stop yet!

HANK: Well, of course not!  Gotta know, got to ask. Do you outline? Has your method changed over the years?

TONI KELNER: Only if I have to. I do write outlines when editors require it, but find it constraining. Plotting that works in outline just comes off as contrived in the actual writing. When an outline is required, I write it and get it approved, but then stick it in a drawer and ignore it while I write the book.

HANK:  That’s wise advice. But I wonder if it gets your brain going, you know? Gets the muse listening? Even if the final book is totally different. Getting that core idea is the hardest for me—how about you?  What's the hardest part of the book for you?

TONI KELNER: Getting my tail end writing to get up to speed. Once I’m going, I’m quite fast, but it’s hard to get going. 

Once I’m writing, I try not to repeat myself in terms of plot lines and bits of business. That gets harder each book.

HANK:  Well, yeah, since you’ve been wring for 32 years! (No pressure.) Is your first draft always terrible? Has it always been?


TONI KELNER: My first drafts are much better than they used to be. With the first few, I started too early. I had to cut out a whole first chapter with my first book, then half a chapter with  my second, a few pages with my third… Now I start pretty much where I should start.

HANK:  I love that you learn from yourself.  Very reassuring.  How often in your process do you have doubts about what you’re doing?

TONI KELNER: Almost the entire time except for when I’m rolling down the hill toward the very end.

HANK:  What do you tell yourself during those moments of writing fear?

TONI KELNER: I whine to my husband Steve, who reassures me as best he can.

 I did recently see something inspirational on Facebook. Another writer—and I can’t remember who—quoted something a friend told her. “You’ve written X number of books and stories. Trust yourself to be able to do it again.”

This came at just the right time, because I’ve got a short story due and have been having a hard time writing during Plague Times.

HANK:  Oh, I hear you. If ever there was a time to tune out reality while in the manuscript, this is it. But it’s always safe inside your pages, right?  Do you have a writing quirk you have to watch out for?

TONI KELNER: My characters used to grin all the time, but I’ve gotten better at that one. Now I develop a new one per book that I have to catch while editing. Thank goodness for beta readers.

HANK: True. And so funny. Mine shrug and grin. And it’s hilarious--no one in real life does that, right? What’s one writing thing you always do—write every day? Never stop at the end of a chapter? Write first thing in the morning?

TONI KELNER: I write in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t want to—I’d rather get my work done earlier in the day—but for some reason, I usually can’t settle into work until the world quiets down.

HANK:  Well, you understand your brain, and let it lead you.  How do you know when your book is finished?

TONI KELNER:  If I’m editing and change “said” to “asked,” then in the next pass change “asked” back to “said,” I know it’s time to let it go.


HANK:  Perfect. Has there been one person who has helped you in your career? (I know, it must be difficult to choose just one, but...)

TONI KELNER: So many, but I’m going to say Charlaine Harris. We had been beta reading each other for a while when she invited me to co-edit anthologies with her. That led to a new very visible stage of my career, a new agent, introduction to an editor and publisher, and so many other opportunities. Thank you, Charlaine!

HANK: Well, she’s a total rock star. And so many sisters have her to thank!  Do you think anyone can be taught to be a better writer?  

TONI KELNER: I do. I’ve always liked this philosophy from Gideon in All That Jazz:

"Listen, I can't make you a great dancer. I don't even know if I can make you a good dancer. But, if you keep trying and don't quit, I know I can make you a better dancer.”

I think if a writer keeps trying and doesn’t quit, they’re going to get better. Maybe not great or even good or publishable, but better.

HANK:  Bird by bird, right?  How do you feel about…stuff? Writing swag handouts giveaways that kind of thing. Do you think it matters? Do you have it?

TONI KELNER: I really like creating it but I’m not convinced it works, so I try to restrain myself. I hand out bookmarks, and I’ve got a bunch of microfiber wipes that have original artwork and my book cover on them. Neither are expensive, and both can be mailed with regular postage, so I can still use them during the Plague Times. 

Since lots of conventions and charities ask for auction donations, I also buy skeleton-based items on sale to have on hand so I’m ready to do a gift basket at short notice.

HANK:  You’ve seen so much change in the publishing industry, what do you think new writers need to know about that?

TONI KELNER: Expect change! Keep an ear out to try to predict what that change will be, but don’t assume the experts are going to be right.

Years back, I was at a Berkley Prime Crime dinner when everybody was buzzing about those new-fangled electronic books, and the editor-in-chief told us that we had nothing to worry about. Ebooks were going to settle down and just be a small part of the field, like audio books. Not only was she wrong about ebooks, but she didn’t expect audio books to become a huge market because of downloading services. 

That’s the scary part. On the good side, every change can lead to opportunities. I’ve got books that were long out of print in physical editions, but which are available as ebooks and audio downloads.

HANK:  Yeah, you never know.  You've been so successful, why do you think that is? What secret of yours can we bottle up and rely on?

TONI KELNER: I don’t think of myself as overly successful, just moderately so, but thank you. 

My only secret is being ornery. I just won’t leave. When a series dies, I start a new one. If one story doesn’t sell, I write another one. If I have a dry spell—and I’ve had them—I stick around until it ends. Winning awards, big sales, high-profile deals—those are all great, but staying in the game is the real way to win.

HANK: Yes, yes, yes! We should all print out your advice. (And yes, you are successful!)  What are you working on right now?

TONI KELNER: I’m writing my first Family Skeleton short story for an anthology of mysteries inspired by the Marx Brothers, edited by Josh Pachter. 

HANK: Oh, Josh is great. He has such perfect ideas! Eager to read that!  What book are you are reading right now? 

TONI KELNER: The Art of the Con by R. Paul Wilson, which is research for a new series I’m playing with.

HANK:  Oh, cannot wait to read that, too! You’ll have to keep us posted. Until then, give us one piece of writing advice!

TONI KELNER: Especially in these times, when sales are sparse because of the world at large, write what you’ve always wanted to write. Even if you don’t sell well, you’ll have a great time.

HANK: Aw, that advice is perfect. Thank you! And sisters, how are you doing? My writing went off the tracks a bit at the beginning of the plague times, as Toni so wisely calls this. Did yours? How did you regroup?   

Leigh Perry/Toni L.P. Kelner is two authors in one. As Leigh, she writes the Family Skeleton mysteries, featuring adjunct English professor Georgia Thackery and her skeletal pal Sid. The sixth, THE SKELETON STUFFS A STOCKING, was published in 2019. As Toni, she’s written eleven mystery novels and co-edited seven urban fantasy anthologies with Charlaine Harris. She’s won the Agatha Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award. Her most recent publications were short stories in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and in the Nasty Woman Press anthology SHATTERING GLASS, and forthcoming is a contribution to an anthology inspired by the Marx Brothers.   

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, winning five Agathas and the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and 37 EMMYs for TV investigative reporting. THE MURDER LIST (2019) won the Anthony Award for Best Novel, and is an Agatha, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. Her newest psychological standalone is THE FIRST TO LIE. The Publishers Weekly starred review says "Stellar. Ryan could win her sixth Agatha with this one."

30 November 2020

Earth's Future?


Back in March when the idea that this Covid-19 was contagious and we all needed to quarantine at home, my thoughts turned to space. Yes, first to Isaac Asimov's robot books, then to thinking about our astronauts. Ever since the space program started the astronauts had to be in quarantine for two weeks before going out into space. They didn't want to take some earth germ to the moon. Then when they came  back from the moon, they once again had to go into quarantine  in case they picked up some germ from space and didn't dare give it to earth and cause a pandemic. They didn't necessarily like it, they wanted to see their families to assure their family they were still the same person. That space had not changed them into some weird "outer space creature." 

As the days and weeks passed people began to learn Zoom meetings for business because many  people were now working from home. Before long folks learned Zoom for personal visits. My side of the family who never have reunions had one by using Zoom and our computers. I have two sisters, we all live in Texas but each of us have grown children and some of those grown children have children. One niece lives in NM, one nephew in MO, my daughter anher sons live in TN so it was great fun to at least see everyone, even if it was just in and out on the computer via Zoom for a few minutes. My daughter had taught me how to Zoom and it was great to see her. Actually on Thanksgiving afternoon she and I visited for a couple of hours and even played a dice game. 

In my little town, I'm on the Parks and Rec committee and we had a couple of  meetings on Zoom. There are eight of us and this was a great way to discuss our  projects and plan what to do next. 


This all brings me to Asimov robot books and he writes about the planets of Aurora and Solara where people NEVER "see" each other in person. They "view" each other on large screens in their home. Even married people. They go for walks "together" but they are holographic images not together in actual physical contact. This has gone on for so long that people have become afraid to actually touch each other. Some people actually can become physically ill to even be in the same room room with a human being. The idea of being in the same room with a human from that nasty germ filed planet Earth can cause such a mental upset can be even as bad if not worse.

If this pandemic can't be controlled will earth ever become like that? Will people who are not afraid of science and technology eventually be the only population left in 2050 or 2075? What about the people who won't take the vaccination? Will they just eventually die off? Could visitation by computer only happen on Earth even sooner than 2050? Say 2035? 

07 September 2020

The Boy From The Woods


I met and became friends with Harlan Coben several years ago at the first Private Eye Writer's Conference in St Louis, MO. He'd just had published his first Myron Bolitar, private eye, Play Dead. Through the years he has written thirty-plus mystery and thrillers, becoming a New York Times Best Seller and an International Best Seller, in the process. His books have also been made into Netflix Original Series, beginning with The Stranger. His most recent novel is The Boy From The Woods and just released in paperback.


From the North Jersey Gazette,
                April 18, 1986

Abandoned "Wild Boy Found In The Woods"

Huge Mystery Surrounding Discovery of "Real Life Mowgli"

Westville, NJ --In one of the most bizarre cases in recent history a wild-haired young boy, estimated to be between six and eight years old was discovered living on his own in the Ramapo Mountain State Forest near the suburb of Westville. Even more bizarre, authorities have no idea who the boy is or how long he had been there. 

"It's like Mowgli in the Jungle Book movie," said Westville Police Deputy Owen Carmichael said.

The boy--who speaks and understands English but has no knowledge of his name--was first spotted by Don and Leslie Katz, hikers from Clifton, NJ. "We were cleaning up from our picnic and heard a rustling in the woods." Mr. Katz said. "At first I worried it was a bear, but then we caught sight of him running, clear as day."

Park Rangers, along with the local police, found the boy, thin and clad in tattered clothes, in a makeshift campsite three hours later. "At this time, we don't know how long he's been in the state forest or how he got here," said New Jersey State Park Police Chief Tony Aurigemma. "He doesn't recall any parents or adult figures.  We're currently checking with enforcement authorities, but so far, there are no missing children who match his age or description."

In the past year, hikers in the Ramapo Mountain area have reported seeing a "feral boy," or "Little Tarzan" matching the boy's description, but most people chalked up the sightings an urban legend. 

Said James Mignone, a hiker from Morristown, NJ., "It's like someone birthed him and left him in the wild."

"It's the strangest survival case any of us have ever seen," Chief Aurigemma said, "We don't know if the boy has been out here for days, weeks, months or  heck, even years."

If anyone has any information on the young boy, they are asked to contact the Westville Police Department.

"Someone out there has to know something," Deputy Carmichael said. "The boy didn't just appear in the forest by magic."

Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memories of his past. Now as an adult, he still doesn't know where he came from, and another child has gone missing.

No one seems to take Naomi Pine's disappearance seriously, not even her father--except Hester Crimstein, a criminal TV attorney. Her grandson, Mathew tells Hester that Naomi was bullied at school relentlessly and although he had one time tried to take up for the girl, back in elementary school, he was beat down and never tried again. This time he wants to stand up for her. 

Wilde can't ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to do that he has to  walk back into the community where he was never accepted or fit in.  A community that harbors secrets that Wilde must uncover before the girl's disappearance brings them all disastrous consequences.

Jan's extra note: These days Harlan is an extra busy young man, with his multiple projects for Netflix, next spring will see the publication of the first novel featuring Windsor Horne Lockwood lll, seen many times in the Myron Bolitar Novels, titled If You Lose You Die. He of the "Articulate Baby" way of answering his phone. 

I also had to know if we would ever see Wilde again? Harlan wrote me this morning that book was in progress. I'm thrilled by that news. Wilde is a wonderful character and there is still much we don't know about him.

18 May 2020

Promoting Anthologies


Jan Grape So many of my fellow SleuthSayers are appearing in anthologies I thought it might be a good time to talk a bit about promoting them. It's been many years since I owned a bookstore and promoting has changed a lot but maybe a few tips here can help.

Some of us are a lot better at promoting than others. Many of us sit in our cubical and write and write and never give a thought to promotion, We really don't want to think about that now. We have to finish this book OR our publisher will promote it, right?

Sadly, NO. Unless you're already a best selling author, your publisher sends your book out with very little promotion. I never could understand that reasoning. They'll spend $500,000 on X's book when you have two other very fine books coming at the same time, say one new and one mid-list. Why not spend $400,000 on X and $50,000 on the other two. You get the idea but most publishers don't. Could be why so many indie presses are doing very well, thank you.

Okay, I digress. Back to anthologies. No one is really going to push an anthology you happen to have a short story in so, it's all really up to you.

But Jan, I don't like to promote my short stories and I have no idea how to do it and really could care less about it anyway. Fine, go back to your computer and work on your next story or book. But if you want just a tip or two, please continue reading.

I was blessed because the majority of my stories were in books edited by Ed Gorman and Marty Greenberg (RIP both of you) and books they edited sold very well. Even to markets like Japan and Germany and to audio book publishers. But to promote your own stories in wonderful but somewhat unknown anthologies you have to always include them on your Facebook page or twitter account. And also on your own author page.

Okay, but I already do that, you say. Great, then this is just a gentle reminder for you. But when you do signings for your books, promote the heck out of your stories in an anthology, too.

You will meet people who'll say, "I never read short stories. I'd much rather read a whole book." I really get into the character of someone like Jack Reacher or V.I. Warshawski or Charlie Harris and Diesel. Remind them that an anthology is a great way for them todiscover new writers. Or even to discover their favorite author namely YOU, just happens to write other characters or even in other genres.

The other reason people say they don't read short stories is they don't have time. Everyone is still pressed for time even though they might be working from home now. They have children to teach or occupy them with things to do or meals to cook or laundry to wash. Remind them that short stories are great for them because, each story is only a few pages long and it starts and ends in those few pages. You won't have to stay up past your bedtime to finish. It only takes 30 minutes so so to read a short story.

Tell them the geniuses behind the anthology or behind your story. Time Travel edited by Barb Goffman. If you have a story there, find out why Barb did this anthology or tell why you found the idea so fascinating you just had to write a story for it.

I wrote stories edited by Robert J. Randisi for Lethal Ladies I & II, because they were to be Female Private Eye Stories. For his Deadly Allies I & II, they were stories by members of Sisters In Crime and members of Private Eye Writers of America. Of course, all the Cat Crime anthologies all feature a cat. I loved doing those because I had two cats, Nick and Nora and could relate.

I'm sure each of you can come up with a good way to promote your own short stories in the great way you also promote your books but maybe I've sparked an idea or two with you for your short story.

Now start Promoting.

17 May 2020

PROMOTING ANTHOLOGIES


Promoting Anthologies

So many of my fellow Sleuthsayers are appearing in anthologies I 
thought it might be a good time to talk a bit about promoting  
them. It's been many years since I owned a bookstore and promoting has changed a lot but maybe a few tips here can help.

Some of us are a lot better at promoting than others.  
Many of us sit in our cubical and write and write and never give a thought to promotion, We really don't want to think about that now. We have to finish this book OR our publisher will promote it, right?

Sadly, NO. Unless you're already a best selling author, your publisher sends your book out with very little pomotion. I never could understand that reasoning. They'll spend $500,000 on X's book when you have 2 other very fine books coming at the same time, by say one new and one mid-list. Why not spend $400,000 on X and $50,000 on the other two. You get the idea but most publishers don't. Could be why so many indie presses are doing very well, thank you.

Okay, I digress. Back to anthologies. No one is really going to push an anthology you happen to have a short story in so, it's all really up to you.

But Jan, I don't like to promote my short stories and I have no idea how to do it and really could care less about it anyway.
Fine, go back to your computer and work on your next story or book. But if you want just a tip or two, please continue reading.

I was blessed because the majority of my stories were in books edited by Ed Gorman and Marty Greenberg (RIP both of you) and books they edited sold very well. Even to markets like Japan and Germany and to audio book pulishers. But to promote your own stories in wonderful but somewhat unknown anthologies you have to always include them on your Facebook page or twitter account. And also on your own author page.

Okay, but I already do that, you say. Great, then this is just a gentle reminder for you. But when you do signings for your books, promote the heck out of your stories in an anthology, too.

You will meet people who'll say, "I never read short stories. I'd much rather read a whole book."  I really get into the character of somone like Jack Reacher or V.I. Warshawski or Charlie Harris and Diesel.  Remind them that an anthology is a great way for them to 
discover new writers. Or even to discover  their favorite author namely YOU, just happens to write other characters or even in other genres.

The other reason people say they don't read short stories is they don't have time. Everyone is still pressed for time even though they might be working from home now. They have children to teach or occupy them with things to do or meals to cook or laundry to wash. Remind them that short stories are great for them because, each story is only a few pages long and it starts and ends in those few pages. You won't have to stay up past your bedtime to finish. It only takes 30 minutes so so to read a short story.

Tell them the genises behind the anthology or behind your story. Time Travel edited by Barb Goffman. If you have a story there, find out why Barb did this anthology or tell why you found the  idea so fascinating you just had to write a story for it.

I wrote stories edited by Robert J. Randisi for Lethal Ladies I & II, 
because they were to be Female Private Eye Stories. For his 
Deadly Allies I & II, they were stories by members of Sisters In Crime and members of Private EyeWriters. Of course, all the Cat Crime antologies all feature a cat. I loved doing those because I had two cats, Nick and Nora and could relate. 

I'm sure each of you can come up with a good way to promote your own short stories in the great way you also promote your books but maybe I've sparked an idea or two with you for your short story. 

Now start Promoting. 


23 March 2020

Introducing Mr. Block


Jan Grape
My guest author today is Lawrence Block. Better known to most of us as Larry. I've known him for a number of years and spent many hours reading his fiction and his non-fiction. He's an author with so many books published that I am not sure he even knows the number.

He's a teacher of writing as well, with articles and books and essays and workshops on writing. In fact, if you've ever wanted to take a workshop with Larry, you are in for a treat, right here and right now.

A couple of weeks ago, Larry mentioned that he was going to pull the plug on his April workshop. I contacted him and he gave me permission to reprint this message and well, just continue reading.

— Jan Grape

by Larry Block:
  1. In an uncharacteristically prudent move, I've pulled the plug on A Time & A Place For Writing, the workshop I was scheduled to lead Tuesday & Thursday nights in April at @Center4Fiction in Brooklyn. Want to take it at home? For free? No problem.

  2. Thu April 2 @ 7pm—Turn off phone! Sit down with pen/pencil & legal pad set a kitchen timer, & do 15 minutes of free writing as explained in Write For Your Life. This is a warm-up exercise, nobody's going to read it, and as long as the pen is moving you're doing it perfectly.

  3. When the timer goes off, stop. If you're my age, go to the bathroom. If you're young, stay where you are. Boot up your computer. If you've got a work in progress, open the file. If not, open a new blank document. Set the kitchen timer for an hour. Take a deep breath.

  4. Start writing.

  5. When timer goes off at hour's end, stop immediately—or finish the sentence you're writing. Take a few deep breaths. Go to the bathroom. Pick up phone, put it down again w/o turning it on, & congratulate yourself for your resolve. Set timer for a half hour and resume writing.

  6. If you want, email me at lawbloc@gmail.com & say you want to participate. That'll get you an opening sentence each Tues & Thu for your free writing exercise, and may help foster the illusion that you're doing more than sitting home & writing on your own. #pandemicpandemonium

This evening, I went to Larry's Face Book page to look for a photo and title of his latest book or story and found that Mystery Reader's International Journal had a wonderful guest essay by Larry about his latest book. I spoke with Janet Rudolph, the journal's editor and since it's just out right now she sent me a link and photos. Please read. It's a wonderful article by a master author in our field.

LAWRENCE BLOCK:
DEAD GIRL BLUES
How My New Novel Came About and Why I’m Publishing It Myself

Sometime in the late fall of 2018 I started writing a short story. It began with a man picking up a woman in a lowdown roadhouse. A lot of stories, true and fictional, begin that way. Few of them end well.

This one didn’t end well for the woman. I’d have to finish writing it to find out how it would end for the man.

Lawrence Block


28 February 2020

What are the Odds?


Jan Grape
The night of February 27th, 1948, I was 8 years old, but the next day would be my 9th birthday. Not only was I excited about my birthday; that night my mother was having a baby.

I wasn’t exactly sure how the doctor was going to get that baby from my mother’s tummy. And I could tell the grownups weren’t going to explain anything to me because they were sending me off to a neighbor’s house. Yes, my mother would have the baby at home, but with our doctor in attendance. Post was a small town, which didn’t have a hospital. Mother definitely didn’t want her and my step-dad to make a crazy 40 mile trek to Lubbock to the nearest hospital. Besides we knew and trusted our wonderful young doctor, Glenn Kahler.

Late afternoon came and I was happily sent off to my girlfriend’s house to play and do a sleepover. My girlfriend’s mother went to my house to help the doctor make the delivery. Thank goodness I had learned the stork didn’t really bring babies. Doctors, nurses or midwives took on this major task.

Sometime in the wee hours, a knock on the neighbor’s door woke up the whole house. It was my Daddy, Charles. The plan had been for him to wait until morning to come get me but he was excited. “Your baby sister is here and I want you to see her right now.”

The excitement in his voice captured me while I pulled clothes on over my pajamas. But I couldn’t find my shoes.

Daddy Charles said, “Don’t worry about your shoes. I’ll carry you.”
And carry me he did. Diagonally across our street and two houses down. It wasn’t far and at eight years old I was skinny and not that heavy.

It was a cool, February night. The 28th, to be exact. My birthday. But I was too excited to even think about a birthday. I was going to see my new little baby sister, Sharla.

We got to our house and he set me down on the cold concrete porch and led me by hand inside the warm house to the middle bedroon to the beautiful bassinet (like a cradle but with no swing or rocker) my mother had lovingly made for the baby to sleep in.

I crept up and looked inside and there she was, my brand new baby sister. Big brown eyes looking up at me and looking all around. A big beautiful baby doll. I just knew she was thinking, “Hello world. Look out cause here I come.”

“Happy Birthday,” my mama kept trying to say. Then she said, “Take this,” as she held out her hand. I touched her hand. Nothing was in it. “Take this needle,” she said. Daddy Charles said, “Pretend to take it. The doctor gave her medicine and it made her a little loopy.” I didn’t understand exactly, but I pretended to take the invisable needle. “Thank you,” Mama said and closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Still to this day, after all these years, I still can feel that wonderment and excitement and the overwhelming love I felt for this little sister.

Now comes the one in a million odds. The year was 1950, and again it was the evening before my 11th, birthday, February 28th,. My mother was having a baby. Of course, it wasn’t planned.

Once again I was sent to my neighbor’s house to play with and do a sleep over with my friend Toni. Doctor Kahler was again there along with my friend’s mom to assist the doctor.

Jan, Patsy, Sharla
Jan (13), Sharla (5), Patsy (3)
This time Daddy Charles did wait until morning to come and get me. A second sister, Patsy had been born again on my birthday. The excitement, wonder and love once again filled my heart. A big eyed beautiful living doll lying in the ruffled yellow trimmed bassinet. Happy Birthday, Janice.

These two sisters are always part of my life and we always, always talk about our special connection. Not twins or triplets but the shared birthday is always thought of as the 28th, of February rolls around. Patsy likes to tell me, “I was the best birthday present you ever got.” She’s right but I have to then say, “Both you girls were the best presents I ever got.”

No more sisters or brothers born on 28th, of Feb. But my mother’s sister had a boy, named Michael who was born on Feb 28 a year or two later. He was my aunt’s second child and that made four out of five Grandchildren born on February 28th,.

Someone want to figure up those odds?