Thursday, March 31, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
We've all met them. The ones that will give us the "advice" that they feel we need to hear. The ones that say "don't go to college, it's only a piece of paper" (my generation was the first of blue collar workers to go to college and this comment came from some of the older relatives). Or "you won't win that poetry contest, do you have any idea how many other kids are writing?"
Here's what I say:
I say "someone has to be an author" because that's reality. There are people who are authors, do it for a living, and do quite well financially. Once you realize that the world has within it people whose job description is "author" then the dream doesn't seem quite so unattainable.
The other thing about these statements is that they inevitably come from someone you love and respect and who you know has your best interests in mind. Because you know they love you, the arrow they fling goes deep into the heart of the dream.
Here's what I say: Stagger back at the hit if you must, but shake it off, right now, and continue forward. Because someone has to be an author. If you stop, someone else will take that empty seat at the table. And the seat is there. It's not easy to obtain, but it does exist. There are thousands sitting there right now.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I've been thinking a lot about going public-when you finally admit to others that you're writing that novel, play, screenplay, or crafting that poem. For me the process was gradual. My fiction writing career started with a creative writing night course at the University of Chicago chosen for its:
1. late evening start so that I could complete work and,
2. convenience of the commute on public transportation.
I'm a big fan of convenience when starting something new. It's just too hard to quit when the scheduling and transportation issues become a hassle. In my case, working as a lawyer three days a week and as a full time parent, scheduling was key and complicated.
It was easy to tell others about the course. I pitched it for what it was, a way for me to work on my creative side that I felt I had lost in the maelstrom of work, kids, and, in the winter, snow shoveling (I took the course in January).
Once I embarked on the actual novel, though, the disclosure issue became a bit more difficult. When I mentioned that I was writing my lawyer friends were encouraging. They know what it's like to write all day-albeit in a non fiction setting, so they understood that creative writing would be a huge relief from the often dry and technical brief writing that many of us do. When I told a publisher in Germany that I knew she was very encouraging and looking back I really thank her for that, because she had to know the odds of it getting published. Never once did she refer to them in my presence.
But not all people are this way. Once you announce that you're writing a novel, you should be prepared for eye rolling. Yes, everyone seems to be writing a novel. In fact, I have a suspicion that it's one of the entries on many individual "bucket lists" of things to do before they die. I don't have a bucket list, but if I did I think writing a novel is a great item to include. It My usual response to the eye roll was a shrug. I've never been one to expect others to share in all my passions, and if they didn't so be it. I just kept plugging away, asking for help when I needed it, and writing, writing, writing.
A turning point in the "tell" factor was a surprise gift from my husband. He had purchased a weekend writing conference ticket for me at the SEAK writing conference. Seak puts on writing conferences aimed at lawyers and medical professionals and they're located in Cape Cod. My husband joined me, not in the conference, but just for the weekend. He spent his time training for a marathon and I spent my time in the conference. On the third day we were forced to sit at round tables and pitch our novels to agents. The caveat: While you could sit at the table and listen in, only those with completed novels were allowed to pitch. My husband sat next to me and listened--it was a no training day for him-and we were both struck by the number of uncompleted manuscripts. Only two of us ended up pitching out of ten at my table.
When we walked away my husband said: "You tell everyone now not that you're writing a novel, but that you've completed one. It appears to be a tough thing to accomplish."
I never thought of completing an novel as tough, for me it's pure fun, but I'll never forget his comment. If you're writing and you're not done yet, keep going. When you're done you tell everyone that you've completed a novel.
And if they roll their eyes, ignore it. Those of us who have completed a novel know just how much dedication that takes. Kudos to you.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
by Libby Hellmann
Hi, all. I've been very fortunate to hook up with a group of fabulous authors (in addition to those on The Outfit, of course), and we're e-publishing a new anthology April 1. We're looking for reviewers to help it launch it in style. Here's what we're saying:
Hold on tight for a literary thrill-ride into the wickedly clever, frightening, and exhilarating world of Top Suspense, a sizzling collaboration of twelve master storytellers at the peak of their powers in thirteen unforgettable tales. Max Allan Collins, Bill Crider, Stephen Gallagher, Lee Goldberg, Joel Goldman, Naomi Hirahara, Vicki Hendricks, Paul Levine, Harry Shannon, Dave Zeltserman, and yours truly.
This unforgettable anthology – packed full of cold-blooded killers, erotic tension, shady private eyes, craven drug dealers, vicious betrayals, crafty thieves, and shocking twists – is coming out on APRIL 1 and is only a taste of the thrills you will find in the breathtakingly original ebooks by these authors at www.topsuspensegroup.com.
But you can get a FREE ADVANCE READING COPY...in your e-format of choice.
Here’s all you have to do:
1. Send me an email through my website with the subject FREE TOP SUSPENSE BOOK and give me your name and the address of your website or blog (don’t have one? That’s okay. Read on).
2. Agree to post a review, positive or negative (but with no spoilers!) on your blog, website, Goodreads page, Facebook page, or the Amazon listing for TOP SUSPENSE in the next 60 days. (You don't have to buy the book on Amazon to review it there, you only need to have an account).
3. Email me a copy of the review or a link to the post.
Each Top Suspense author has been alotted just 25 copies to giveaway, so if you're interested, you'd better hurry. And once you get your book, sit back, bite down on a piece of strong leather, and prepare to get hit by some gale-force suspense and writing so sharp it will draw blood.
Hope to hear from you! Thanks.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
I don't usually read fiction while I write, and definitely avoid thrillers and mysteries. I just don't think I'm free of influence enough yet, (though I'm told by other thriller writers that this will come with time). So, I end up reading a lot of non-fiction. Some relates to crime non-fiction and the rest to subject areas that I find interesting. Here's the latest batch:
1. Magnificent Mind: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential. Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
This book I picked up because I'm pretty much in for anything that will unleash my mind's "maximum" potential. The author, a clinical neuroscientist, runs the Amen Clinics, where he scans brains and helps ADD kids, anxiety patients, and treats depression and memory problems. A quick search on google revealed many critics of the brain scan aspect of his methods, but I like his "let's try a natural product before we bring out the big guns" approach. He has chapters such as: Ignite Your Passion, Light Up the Brain Circuits that Drive Success. You've just got to love that title!
He suggests things we've all heard: fish oil, gingko biloba, but also suggests other natural remedies like Phosphatidylserine, Vinpocetine and Huperzine A. Heard of them? Me neither, but that's what I liked about this book.
2. Life, Keith Richards
This book captured my interest, and while one critic complained that it was a MEmoir, I must say that I really enjoyed Mr. Richards' memories about how the blues influenced him. Especially his memories about the iconic Checkerboard Lounge here in Chicago and the blues musicians that cycled through that bar during the '60's and '70's. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, my mother was a jazz singer in Chicago during that time and knew many of the musicians mentioned).
While Mr. Richards keeps his drug fueled exploits to a minimum, and I'm sure there are many that never made it into this book, his description of America and England during the rise of rock and roll in the 60's is of interest to anyone who wants to learn about that era.
3. Tapping the Source: Using the Master Key System for Abundance and Happiness. By Gladstone, Greninger, and Selby.
I picked this book up on a whim. It's what I'd call the typical New Age book, but this one had an interesting twist. The authors are expounding on an older method recommended by a man named Charles Haanel. Mr. Haanel lived from 1866 to 1949, and in 1912 wrote a book that attempted to explain and teach a method to explain the Law Of Attraction.
I'm a non believer in certain new age claims, but I am seeing the sense in some of what this book is saying. For example, try not to think negative thoughts, because while you may be right and all is lost, it doesn't really add to your life to think in such a way. (I couldn't agree more).
I'm only a third of the way through, but I'm enjoying it. I think it's worth a read, and apparently the author of The Secret referred to this man and his master key system and we all know how many books that author sold!
I'm headed out tomorrow to get some more non-fiction, because between writing my own number four (number three is written, called The Ninth Day and launches in late October) and working on the Ludlum Covert One series, I'm pretty much writing all the time. I see no fiction in my immediate future.
If you have any suggestions for me do tell!
Friday, March 04, 2011
I was unable to write today due to the need to allow workmen in to replace our water heater. Bored and in a wish to drown out the banging from the lower level, I flipped on the television and found an old rerun of an X-files episode. I used to watch this show religiously back when it was new and I was working as a lawyer. Now, as a writer, I was struck by the broad, but classic, archetypes used by the creators.
There's Mulder, who believes in supernatural and alien forces, and who's mind is always open to the impossible and unique.
Scully, who's scientific and has an earthly explanation that not only makes sense, but is designed to give Mulder the opportunity to shine with his own, eccentric view.
And there are the evil forces. The Smoking Man, nameless government forces, and of course, the aliens.
What I loved about watching this show again was the character of Scully. She ushered in a series of smart women on television. She was pretty, worked hard, tough when she needed to be, but not shrill. She had a lot of sympathy for Mulder, and ends up loving him toward the end of the series.
The relationship between Scully and Mulder, before they hooked up, was one that I imagine most working men and women recognize. Friends, but not really, business colleagues, but a bit more, caring but not family in the traditional sense. They pulled together to get the job done.
This dynamic is present in a lot of buddy teams--Holmes/Watson comes to mind, but I'm sure there are more--the names are escaping me at the moment. I have teams in my thrillers also, although the main character acts alone, which is a key difference. A team with diametrically opposed characters provide built in conflict. It must have been a lot easier for the writers on the show to write the episodes week after week because they could count on a few minutes of Scully and Mulder battling it out over his, (to her) absurd take on the latest mystery. In fact, I found myself eagerly awaiting the moment when Mulder would go on an alien tear and Scully would start ripping apart his theory with scientific knowledge.
Great stuff, and I'm reminded to put this in my own writing.
Now if I could just remember those other teams in literature!
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Whatever you want to say about this man, he's been there, done that, and is probably fascinating to talk to. Like Keith Richards, I'll bet there's a whole lot of stories this man could tell. As a writer, I'd love to hear them.