Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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the monster under the bed

Editing. Editing. Editing. Editing.

There I said it. It’s not such an evil word. The demons we don’t face are always scarier in our imagination than in reality. (Monsters Inc. does a good job teaching that lesson.)

I’ve been editing for what seems like an eternity.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Writing is not something one does for anything other than love. Or if they do, I’m quite certain they quickly stop once they realize that it’s not as glamorous as it’s made out.

But, it does scare me. It scares me because I wonder if I can make it shine, can I make it sparkle, can I do it justice? I’m not one to wallow in self-doubt, but editing does bring out the occasional anxiety in me. I suppose it’s because that every time I bring the piece (section) to a new level, I see that it can, and needs to go to another, even higher level.

A little while back I mentioned that my violin teacher told me that playing the violin is harder than writing. Well, I’m not certain I agree, but I’ve begun approaching my writing as I am my musical study. Phrase by phrase. Dissecting each note. The similarities are huge, but I won’t go into that analogy today.

I am currently breaking each paragraph down, and then each line. I ask myself the purpose of it, then I determine what I’m actually showing, and do my best to make them equal each other.

Purpose = composition.

I can do this only once I’m certain each piece has a place. Back-story must be weaved in without jarring the reader out of the story, characters must be stable, description has to be in the right quantity and location. Oh the list goes on. But even that is not enough.

Purpose = composition.

That’s where I’m at.

What about you?


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Confession

This morning I had the opportunity to write again. It was the first time in four weeks. Four weeks of sick kids, being sick myself, my husband getting it too (a rare occurrence), of sleepless nights and days, of doctors, and clinics, and antibiotics.

When I was a kid I remember being sick for 2, maybe 3 days. A really bad one was a full week. When did they become month-long events??

(Luckily, I had downloaded Linda Cassidy Lewis’s debut novel, The Brevity of Roses to my iPhone to read during all this. I encourage you to read it. She has delivered engrossing characters that struggle with life, love, and acceptance of self and circumstance. Although the characters are all adults, I almost feel it’s a coming of age story, because the MC struggles so much to come to his own. Plus, Linda’s prose is beautiful and elegant. I’m almost at the end of the novel, and although I’ve read it scattered in time due to my own circumstance, the characters remain in my thoughts.)

When my mom (aka, my knight in shining armor) this morning told me I could go write, I stopped still. I didn’t know what to do. I had buried the writing so deep inside me I wasn’t certain I wanted to pull it out again.

I analyzed: baby woke me about 12 times last night. We both are still drippy, but oh so much better. Yet, we have swimming lessons, one hour diving lesson, both kids have piano practice. I have violin practice. Dinner. Math and reading with the eldest. And the baby to appease during all of it. Write?? She must be nuts! How will I write and have energy to do everything else?

So, I sat down and watched a few minutes of a PVRd sitcom (happy endings), baby clambering all over me, and decided, yes I must go write, whether I want to or not. And, really truly, I did not want to.

I had decided I was a writer. So, that means pushing through moments when I don’t want to write.  Because, nothing is eternally blissful, right? Sometimes it sucks and is difficult.

I had no idea how to come back. I ordered my latte and chocolatine, took out my journal, wrote exactly that: How to come back?

Well, to my surprise and delight, deciding to do it was enough. (This time.)  I came back right away. I refreshed myself in my journal, reminded myself where I was by jotting down a few phrases, read without interruption the scene I was at, and dug in.

It was great!! Wonderful! Energizing!

So, I’m back. I have no idea what’s coming, but today I wrote and I feel restored.


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Keep shoveling

There’s mountains of snow that fell between last night and now. Spring break was last week, and my son went to school today with the hopes of building a snowman. It’s all part of life in Canada. I think we need to rename spring break, or perhaps we need to change the date.

My husband was late for work, shovelling, my son was late for school – you got it, because we were shoveling out the car. I missed baby group, yup, ’cause I didn’t feel like shoveling again. It just doesn’t stop falling.

I’ve been writing, and playing with kids while they were home for the week, and doing all the grown-up stuff required of me this last week, so there’s been no time for blogging. It also means my planned post about de-cluttering is not written, and will be next (I hope).

I recently began taking violin lessons again. I was chatting with my teacher about the language of music, and I happened to mention that I’m a writer. She said, playing the violin is much harder than writing.

The thing about writing is we can make it as easy or as hard as we want it to be. I choose to make writing very difficult. I like multitudes of layers, composition that is seemless. The more I work, the less you as a reader do. And you get more out of the read. I can get lazy when it comes to snow, but as for the writing, I won’t ever stop shoveling.

 

 

 

 


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Teresa Frohock talks about traditional publishing

Today Teresa Frohock is here talking about the path to publication of her debut fantasy novel, Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Last week, Cathryn Grant spoke about how Indie publishing has led to wonderful things for her. Two weeks ago Andre K. Baby spoke about his debut thriller, a story which shows that there are possibilites we never even imagined.

Raised in a small town, Teresa Frohock learned to escape to other worlds through the fiction collection of her local library. She eventually moved away from Reidsville and lived in Virginia and South Carolina before returning to North Carolina, where she currently resides with her husband and daughter.

Teresa has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. Miserere: An Autumn Tale is her debut novel and is scheduled for publication by Night Shade Books on July 1, 2011.

Welcome, Teresa!

I would like to thank Jennifer for her gracious invitation to me to write this post. I think Jennifer and I began blogging at approximately the same time, and it’s wonderful to see how both of our blogs have grown over the years.

Of course, after the invitation comes the hard part of deciding what to write about. Jennifer shot some ideas my way, and in a brainstorming e-mail session, we touched on why some writers choose to self-publish and why others seek a more traditional route to publication.

I thought since Cathryn talked about why she chose to self-publish, I would tell you why I chose to go the traditional route.

I’m a masochist.

Well, there is more to it than that; otherwise, this would be the world’s shortest blog post.

Going the traditional route to publication was very comfortable for me. One thing not many people know about me is that Miserere: An Autumn Tale is not my first novel nor is this my first time through the traditional route to publication. When I was in my early twenties I wrote a novel that interested James Allen of the Virginia Kidd Literary Agency. (There is a cool blog post about the agency here and yes, Jim really did smoke that much.) Jim knew I was unpolished as a writ-at.htmler, but he believed in my writing enough that he offered me representation. Unfortunately, I was too smart to listen to his advice, so my first novel never sold.

We eventually parted ways and I stopped writing fiction for many years. A few years ago, I saw an online class for writing fiction, and I wanted to see if I had what it took to become published. I signed up for the class and learned a lot about constructing a story. It was all the same things Jim had tried to tell me, but this time I was older and more teachable. I used what I learned in those writing classes to construct Miserere.

Once Miserere was polished and ready to submit, I examined my options. I thought about self-publishing, and although some people might not like what I’m about to say, anything less would be a lie. When I looked at self-publishing, I examined several self-published novels. In other words, I wanted to see the company I would be keeping. I wasn’t impressed.

The self-published books I found were riddled with spelling and grammatical issues, dialogue and setting were poorly executed, and each book would have greatly benefited from editorial oversight. The cover art was downright atrocious, which made the whole product look cheap and unprofessional.

That was two years ago. I’ve recently noticed that the cover art is getting better for self-published novels, and more and more self-published authors are turning to editors to get their books in shape prior to publication. I think that speaks well for all indie authors.

However, based on the works I was seeing a year or so ago, I decided I wanted to attempt to acquire an agent. I figured that if I could not interest an agent or a publisher in my writing, then it was possible that I didn’t have what it took to be a professional writer. If that was the case, I was perfectly willing to work on helluo librorum as a fan blog and let those who were more qualified tell the stories.

I submitted four queries and two agents asked for my manuscript. Of the two agents, I went with Weronika Janczuk of the D4EO Literary Agency, and I’m delighted with her as my agent. Weronika immediately saw the concepts I was trying to get across with Miserere, and she showed me ways to strengthen Miserere to make the story more marketable.

Within five weeks of Weronika sending Miserere out on submission, Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books made an offer. I was ecstatic, because I’ve loved Night Shade Books for some time. Jeremy picks the dark, edgy kind of fiction that I love to read, and the award-winning quality of Night Shade’s fiction speaks for itself. I am really honored to be associated with all of Night Shade’s authors.

Two things are going to rock a novel off the shelf, and those are the cover art and the story. Cover art is the most vital part of selling a novel. The art draws the reader’s eye and the story holds them there.

Night Shade is known for producing excellent cover art for their novels, but I was astounded by Michael C. Hayes’ interpretation of Miserere. He took the time to read the novel and he captured the entire story in their faces. He totally got the themes in Miserere.

So now we are moving into the final phases of constructing the finished work. I love being part of a team effort, which is exactly what traditional publication is all about—several talented people pulling together to create and produce a piece of art.

Have there been long waits? Yes.

Doesn’t it make you feel powerless while other people judge your work? Absolutely, but even if you self-publish, there will be readers judging the viability of your work.

Should everyone try and acquire an agent, then a publisher? Hey, everybody’s journey is different. Mine worked out great for me. My only advice is for you is this: examine the pros and cons of both options then roll with the option that best fits your lifestyle.

Thanks again to Jennifer for giving me this time! If you want to hang out with me, I’m in quite a few places. You can visit my blog and website follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook and I have an author page at Goodreads where I post reviews of books that I read and enjoy. I run mostly guest posts at helluo librorum, but I do pop in to give my two cents worth from time to time. Join us there where we talk about dark fiction and writing.

I hope to catch you all somewhere online or at a convention soon!


Thank you, Teresa, for the great post!!

We all look forward to this summer’s launch for you – a most exciting time, and can’t wait to hear all about it on your blog! And, I’m very excited to read Miserere: An Autumn Tale. From the bits I’ve read on your blog I’m certain it’s amazing!

Much success to you!!


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Cathryn Grant talks about going Indie

Today, Cathryn Grant will be talking to us about how going Indie with her debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, has “changed her life.” Last week, Andre K. Baby spoke about his debut thriller, and next week Teresa Frohock will speak about her upcoming debut novel.

Cathryn Grant’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Her short story, “I Was Young Once” received an honorable mention from Joyce Carol Oates in the 2007 Zoetrope All-story Short Fiction contest.

In her first Suburban Noir novel, THE DEMISE OF THE SOCCER MOMS, a provocative single mother permanently alters the lives of four Silicon Valley soccer moms. It’s available now as an eBook and in paperback at Amazon.com and Smashwords. Her second novel, BURIED BY DEBT, will be released in November 2011.

Welcome Cathryn!

49 Days as an Indie Author – how my life has changed.

The title of this post is probably a bit melodramatic and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a fiction writer, it’s to avoid melodrama. Well, there’s also show-don’t-tell, move the story forward, give your characters back story, interview your characters, read your manuscript aloud, use meaningful dialog, don’t open with the weather unless you’re brilliant, have a firm grasp of POV, ensure you have internal and external conflict, use telling details, linger in the scene. And there are three hundred things missing from that list.

Fiction is a mystical blend of craft elements from which emerges a story that resonates with readers. It feels like magic. It takes a lot of practice, as every writer knows.

Last week I was interviewed on a few blogs, and in my interview with Christi Craig, she asked me how long it took me to write The Demise of the Soccer Moms. I was too embarrassed to tell her, and just said it took a “very long time”. In retrospect, I think I was too coy because as was pointed out in the comments, everyone defines a “very long time” differently.

So how long did it take? I worked on that novel for six years.

In fairness to my part slacker, part stressed-out, part angst-ridden, perfectionist self, I wrote the first draft of two other novels during that time and quite a few short stories. But still, SIX years?

The reason it took so long is simple. I’d written several novels before this one that weren’t ready for prime time. As I started The Demise of the Soccer Moms, I still had a lot to learn (I still do, but the learning curve was steeper). I participated in a writers’ workshop, took classes, read books on craft, did exercises, and as I received feedback, I had to keep rewriting. Then, my ability improved, so of course I wasn’t satisfied and had to go back again. Some would have abandoned the project as yet another “practice” novel, but I loved that story and couldn’t let it go. So yes, six years.

At this point, I’ve learned enough about the craft and found my rhythm and a work style that I think will allow me to publish a novel every 11-12 months. So that six years of effort was worth every minute.

During those six years, the publishing industry went through enormous changes, leading me to decide indie was the best route for me. (I won’t talk about that since I’ve covered it in detail here and here.)

In the comments section of Christi’s blog, one writer said she wanted to focus just on writing rather than publishing and I responded that something strange had happened since I self published – I have more time to write. Another commenter wanted to know how that worked! It’s not that I have more hours in the day, and self-publishing does take a lot of hours, but I think what’s changed is my energy level and my focus.

I’ve always been an early morning writer and a slug in the evenings, but now I have a new-found energy after dinner. I think it comes from having my work out there, and from knowing I’m the only one responsible for my writing career. This energy lasts through the evening, allowing me to be productive during that time.

Even better, I know that I have to keep to a schedule in writing future novels and that’s helped me overcome most (not all) self-sabotage. Although I had a morning schedule for years, I can’t begin to describe how many ways I found to fritter away that time. Yes, step by step I did write stories and novels, but part of that six years was spent wasting precious weekend hours ranting to my husband about my novel, surfing the web during my writing time, doing projects for my day job that did not have to be done at 4:30 in the morning, moaning in my journal, more web surfing, staring at the wall, and checking email.

In addition to the energy that comes from taking control of my writing, there’s a freedom I haven’t felt for years. I never saw this before I self-published, although I should have. There was a subtle, undetected tendency to write for publishers, agents, critics, and the market. Now, I’m writing for readers. If you’d asked me before, I would have said emphatically that I was writing for readers, but there was that underlying awareness of working toward publication that I think restrained my voice.

Now, the words pour out of me with more freedom. I tell my stories with less concern for what others think. Of course it still matters whether readers will enjoy them. And I don’t mean to imply that I’m taking less care with all those details of craft and style. I’m just not trying so hard and that gives incredible energy and feels, strangely, like more time.

My life has changed in a very significant way. In another interview last week, Linda Cassidy Lewis asked when I started calling myself a writer. I said, when I started committing time every day to my writing. But now, I don’t just call myself a writer, I feel like a writer.

Thank you, Cathryn for your wonderful post!

We wish you continued success!! We look forward to future novels!

You can learn more about Cathryn, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, and her fiction at her website, Suburban Noir.

Cathryn loves talking about writing and her experiences, so please leave a comment for her!

Cathryn’s flash fiction has been published at EveryDayFiction.com and at her website under Flash Fiction for your cocktail hour.

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