Book Expo America 2015! I’m going, are you?

BEA-Book-Author-v2Nirvana comes to New York’s Javits Center for BookExpo America 2015 from Wednesday, May 27 – Friday, May 29, 2015. BEA offers three event-packed days, 600+ authors, hundreds of new titles, hundreds of exhibitors, four Author Stages, and access to the latest digital technologies at the Digital Discovery Zone (D2Z) brought to you by IDPF. Hop to it because the skinny is BEA’s traveling to Chicago next year.

BookExpo America is the leading book and author event for the North American publishing industry. It’s the best place to discover new titles and authors, network, and learn the latest trends during the BEA Content & Digital Conference. See you there, and see you in two weeks!

My Life in Text

Post-opThis is what happens when you spend life with your face either shoved in a book or a screen–you end up getting cataracts when at a (relatively) young age. It doesn’t help you’re born really near-sighted either, which, I’ve been told, is a contributing factor. In any event, yesterday I got the one in my left eye removed, and had a high-tech intraocular multi-focal lens implanted which will allow me to see at multiple distances. Right now, the day after, my eye is still dilated so the vision is still a bit off, not to mention stepping outside this morning was like–whoa! the sun!–but for the first time in my life I was able to see out of my left eye without correction. It was truly bizarre. As was the operation.

Let me say right from the onset–the fact that I was to have my eye sliced open and had to be awake during the procedure left me nothing less than…may I speak bluntly? FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Yes, it scared the crap out of me just to think of it. Not the pain–as I’ve had root canals where I’ve nearly fallen asleep in the chair. It was the fact I do not like anesthesia. I don’t like that feeling of being there but…not. Knock me out and I’m fine, but I don’t like that semi-conscious state where you can’t react. But this wasn’t like that at all. In fact, it was even kind of pleasant (for a medical procedure, let’s get real). Let me elaborate.

Above’s what I looked like two hours out of surgery. (The plastic shield is off and only has to be worn for a week at night.) My husband and I got there at 12:30 AM, and due to a glitch with an elderly patient (she was 95 and they couldn’t get her blood pressure down), I was stuck in the waiting room for two hours. But once they took me, it was really fast. I changed into a hospital gown then laid on a table where the nurse took my vitals and an EKG, then an anesthesiologist came in and inserted a stent in my hand and numbing drops in my eye. After they were through, I sat in a chair outside the operating room. Right before I went in the anesthesiologist asked me how I was doing. I said I was a bit nervous. He said he’d take care of that, then shot something with a needle into the stent. Within seconds all I felt was….really good. Not high, not loopy, just…good. He said it was called Versed, but to me it was just happy juice, as all it did was calm me and make me feel kind of nice. The surgery itself was truly bizarre. All I remember is a series of colored lights. In a way, it reminded me of pictures from the Hubble telescope, these brilliant multi-colored swirling shapes. TRIPPY!! Combine that with the happy-juice and it was quite an experience, and over before I knew it. NO PAIN AT ALL, and I walked out of the operating room awake and alert.  I go back today for and evaluation by the optometrist, but right now I’m writing this with only a contact in my right eye. The left is a little blurry, but then it’s still really dilated.
To all those who need to have cataract surgery let me  say: DO NOT FEAR IT. I’m not ashamed to say I was terrified–let me repeat that–TERRIFIED of that laser coming at my naked eye! But after going through what I did yesterday, it was almost easy, the actual procedure less than ten minutes. The hardest part for me was the fear of the unknown, as I allowed myself to imagine all sorts of scenarios that in actuality never materialized. I’m sure there’s someone out there about to have surgery who’d say it’s easy to feel as I do now that it’s over. Yes, it is, as I read similar accounts and I still arrived at the doctors’ office yesterday afraid. It anything, you can take comfort in the fact that when you do go through it, you’ll feel as I do now, and the worst part, if there is one, is everything your mind imagines beforehand. Remember that, because when you actually get to the operating table you’ll know the worst is past you, and there’s nothing but crystal-clear clarity ahead.

A face made for radio

Gwen Jones

Gwen Jones

Maybe this is why I’m a writer! Because my voice on paper sounds sooooo much more effusive. I don’t know, maybe you need to decide. That’s why you should go to this Livestream  link and see for yourself. It’s about a two hour video of the Words from In the Hole Internet radio show I was on, on Sunday, May 3 with fellow writers Gretchen Weerheim (who just happens to be my sister) who writers spec sci-ti, and romance writer Allison Merritt, who joined us from Missouri via Skype. It was a lot of fun, talking about writing and the process for two hours, and I even got to read from one of my books and some flash fiction, all 361 words worth.

Gretchen read an except from her work-in-progress, a speculative sci-fi series that will most likely make any fan of such drool with delight. Allison regaled us with a selection from her latest book, Her Heart’s Surrender, a juicy Viking romance. All in all it was a lot of fun to be able to talk about yourself. Thanks to host Karen Smith and her radio show “Words from In the Hole” that spotlights up-and-coming and established authors. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! And a big shout out to Liberty States Fiction Writers (which we plugged incessantly!) for giving us the platform to bring us all together. You guys are the best!

Karen Smith

Karen Smith

Gretchen Weerheim

Gretchen Weerheim

Turn that Sagging Middle into a nice comfy Hammock!

A Lover Finds His Lady Fair Swinging In A Hammock ThereYou know how easy it is to start a book? There’s that terrific premise you’re dying to get down on the page, plus those fabulous characters you’ve fashioned, to whom you’ll feed just the perfect opening lines. My books usually open right with the action. I hit the group running and it’s off to a rip-roaring start. But sometimes it happens I get to page 150, and my characters are metaphorically gasping for breath, not from where they came from, but in anticipation of where they’ll end up. It’s like their train is barreling toward the station, but I don’t know which track to send them on to get them there. So what should I do? For advice I like to turn to a book that’s helped me numerous times in the past, The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb ( Writer’s Digest Books, ISBN 978-1-58297-559-7, $14.99). She says to travel the length of your story grab hold of the throughline–the driving force of your book you can set up as soon as the opening line.

According to Nancy Lamb’s Tricks of the Trade: Before the end of the first chapter, make an effort to set up the primary throughline of your book. By creating a natural trajectory for your story’s development, the plot will unfold in a more organic way, and you’ll feel more comfortable in moving forward. This is also insurance against getting sidetracked. You can set up your throughline in an outline, or you can wing it. Either way, make the effort to establish this critical introductory plot point from the beginning.

Did I do that? Well, I know where my characters were in the beginning, and I know how I want them to end up.  Okay, let me adopt this theory to a well-known story: The Wizard of Oz. The only thing Dorothy really wants is to get home. So everything that occurs to her after she lands in Munchkinlad propels her towards Oz which, in theory, will get her home. So what’s my guiding force? And how does that guiding force contribute to the forward motion of the story? If it doesn’t, it should. Because if it doesn’t, then it’s quicksand. And it’ll keep me stranded in the sagging middle.

If you’re stuck, perhaps you’ve lost sight of that. Or perhaps you’ve just been too bogged down by the prose, trying to tweak wordage and phrases, when you should be concentrating on the story. Therein lies the danger of constantly editing: details can always be fixed later, but a main plot thrust should always command your attention. Not that a little re-reading isn’t in order, especially if you’ve lost the main plot point of my story. So in times like these, when we can’t see the forest for the trees, the only thing to do is go back to square one. Maybe it’s time to pay a quick visit to that magical beginning, and remember to drop bits of it like breadcrumbs on the way back and all the way through to the end.

Back to work!

On the agenda…

1930s-Fashion-Sourcebook-daywearIt’s Tax Day, and although I’ve already done mine (phew!), it’s made me think of the summer that’s fast approaching, and how I’ll spend it. Being in academia, that also means I have a month left of classes, and this year, I actually have part of the summer off before I’ll have to return after the Fourth for a sincerely easy summer class.

But before I do, I’ll have some time to write full-time, which is always nice. Up at dawn and nigh until the night I’m at the keyboard, and it really is the most marvelous feeling, the freedom to just have plot on the mind. Maybe one day I’ll hit that New York Times list and be able to do it full-time all year round, but until then, this slice of summer is pure bliss.

For those that follow this writer (I mean me, in case you’re wondering), I’m working on a new series. Don’t really want to say what it’s about yet, as I first want to see if it’ll fly, but I’ll say it’s based in Jersey like my other books, and, well, it’s got a mystery attached to it, and maybe even a bit of the paranormal. It’s not so much new for me as it’s returning to an earlier style. In any case, it’s keeping my interest, so I must be doing something right.

Oh, and as far as the picture above? It’s got nothing to do with anything that I’m writing about. If you’ve read me, than you know I’ve a thing for anything Parisian, though these two look like they’ve been living on Tic Tacs and cigarettes. Someone give them some French Fries–please.

Spring Illin’

popup-3_0Last week I was as sick as a dog. (Tell me: where did that analogy spring from anyway? Because if sick = dog, then my neighborhood should be a pandemic site.) My affliction ran the full gamut of misery: fever, chills, aches, head congestion and general all-over-shittiness, and from so much coughing and sneezing, this week I threw out my back. So it’s another week of not being up to a hundred percent, and now it’s thirty-eight degrees out and raining. Add to this one hell of a winter hangover which seemed to put all progress in reverse, and I’m finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone work on the book which I recently started. Put it all together and I’m decidedly in a funk, and wondering how to get my motor started when so much of the world is working against me.

(My goodness, I’m depressing. Now write yourself out of that hole, Gwen. Go ahead. I’m waiting.)

It’s very easy not to write when you’re feeling bad, actually too easy. Your brain gets preoccupied with everything that’s messing up your day, and it become almost mandatory to dis your routine for social media or TV, twin junk foods for the distracted mind. Kind of like when you have a bad day at work and you head right for the Doritos, a balm for the belly that actually works against you, especially after you realize you just inhaled 3000 calories, and you don’t even like Doritos. So how do you counter these counter-intuitive measures? How do you write when writer is the last thing you feel like? One thing I’ve found out about myself is I feel worse when I don’t write, that the act of writing itself gives me a feeling of self-worth unlike any other practice I partake in. The only thing that comes close is teaching, perhaps because both involve the dissemination of information uniquely my own. Maybe because as writers, we are innately messengers, and this need to communicate is what puts us in touch with our reality, giving us validation. Really? Is that what we need? Must be true, because why would I feel so bad when I’m not doing it? I mean, seriously, who feels bad when they’re not hitting their thumb with a hammer?

Man, writers are strange. But that’s why you love us so much, right?