Between the Pages: One Author’s Tribute to Her Influential Storytellers

In keeping this blog fresh with the #LifeBookWriting Challenge–yay, me for consistency, which should really roll over into my other blog on Publisher’s Marketplace–I was supposed to do the 6 Book Marketing Tips entry, but for several reasons I won’t: I’m not a rule-follower by nature (eat a dick, gravity and not being able to breathe underwater!); I’m still learning the finer points of marketing, most especially leaving the salesy ickyness out of it; and blogs all over cyberspace are teeming with information I’ll only repeat, since in indie publishing, a one-size-fits-most approach doesn’t work. And recent events changes this entry’s course, which was one where you DON’T see this all over the publishing angles of the Internet: Storytellers and authors who influenced my writing, fueled my imagination, and one author friend who talked this novelist down from the edge more than once kept me going when it seemed pointless.

This post is for the authors who died within the past fifteen years. Their works will live on, but having them in this plane is much more sweeter.

TOM CLANCY
Not one for military novels–his works like Rainbow Six, Patriot Games, and The Hunt For Red October were all optioned for movies and had great runsthey’re loaded with details the former servicemen-turned-author always put in his books. Clancy had found a niche, but never backed off telling thrillers that shone the United States government and its military in a scrutinizing light. But if the movie’s any indication why Red October was so widely received and popular, I can appreciate why his fan base will still readers long after his passing. (1947-2013)

MADELEINE L’ENGLE
The Newbery Medal and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award Winner for a book beginning with the love/hate line in storytelling world:–“It was a dark and stormy night …”–sure made A Wrinkle In Time a staple novel among sci-fi and fantasy fans. I haven’t read this book in a minute, but it’s not so much worth a revisit for research as it is for the sheer imagination of how L’Engle took a dreaded line, made a novel hers in a men-dominated science-fiction and fantasy genre few women authors broke ground in successfully, and set the foundation for young adult books when few then existed (mid 1960s). During a time in the industry when women authors were expected to put her initials on a book–S.E. Hinton, J.K. Rowling, H.A. Rey, et al; need I say more?–L’Engle, to put it simply, “did it her way” in a big way. She’ll always on my literary landscape. (1918-2007)

VINCE FLYNN
I first heard of him in the mid 1990s, roughly around the same time I’d heard about  Jurassic Park. After enjoying the rush of Memorial Day, Flynn hadn’t been on my TBR list in a time. Other authors crept in. Until cancer took him too young in 2013. But from how I understand it, the author’s novels were loosely parallel to the wildly popular Fox series 24, and Joel Surnow gave him several screen and script credits. I don’t know if Flynn’s books will re-appear on my TBR stacks, as I’m not a big fan of 3rd POV, but if he had some say in 24, he has some level of literary street cred. (1966-2013) 

ESTHER AVERILL
This American writer/illustrator was the one who sparked my renewed love for reading when I was eleven and hacked off nothing good was around to read. Known for her Jenny and The Cat Club stories, she also did The Fire Cat and “The School for Cats”  (I’m sensing a cat theme here, are you?). Set in New York City, the author sets up a clever way for the neighborhood cats to get together to socialize, and a perfect story for a shy child to express himself or herself in ways that begin a deep and adventurous friendship.  (1902-1992)

MICHAEL CRICHTON
When my mom first began reading The Andromeda Strain, I liked the title (c’mon, Andromeda? That name alone’s badass, but her mother was kind of a control freak bordering diva. Greek mythology, goddess of beauty whom Perseus had to save from the kraken–and how FOINE Harry Hamiln was in Clash of the Titans?  And speaking of Perseus, is Logan Lerman is a super-cute hottie from the Percy Jackson movies, or what? Ohhhh … right, Crichton. Sorry. Get me on cute guys, I’m like a squirrel on a ripe walnut :). ). But it wasn’t until hearing about this crazy scheme to build a park out of actual dinosaurs from DNA pulled from in a suspended mosquito in amber that got me curious (Jurassic Park).  A former MD, Crichton used his medical expertise to spin tales of what if in a biological sense–an unstoppable strain wiping out the planet, but it’s onboard your distant space station, too–or is it? He wove his stories with a balance of literary, ethics, imagination, theme, and wasn’t scared to go there with the antagonists–like Clancy, he saw them as the United States government–who thought they were good guys righting the world as it should be from their view. Another gone too soon.  (1942-2008)

PAULA DANZIGER
If Judy Blume put her stories on the literary landscape dealing with questions of life from a kid’s point of view, but sometimes left  more questions unanswered than resolved–and the first author to have her characters engage in sex as teens in Forever, as well as tackle a violent loss and moving on in Tiger Eyes–then Danziger was the one to put humor bordering on the ridiculous to serious topics (being overweight, popularity and peer pressure, divorce, standing up to what you believed in, managing family dynamics, dating somebody out of your circle, etc.). She, through her stories based on her niece’s experiences, made it okay to be different, her protagonists bold, truth-telling nonconformists, and struggle with it until they, and thus, the reader dealing with similar issues, had to find the courage in their own convictions–and stand on them, even if they stood alone. Just do it with gales of laughter through the sometimes tears. SCBWI definitely made a good choice in naming their Amber Brown Grants after her character of the series. (1944-2004)

SHARON CUPP PENNINGTON
And … we’re here.

I honestly thought I was fine up to this point–but then again, I didn’t personally know the aforementioned authors. All those were NYT best-sellers at one point or another, or won awards, honorary degrees, accolades to the Moon–which Has No Atmosphere, BTW :-)–and back.

I knew Sharon from a writing group I’d gotten involved with in 2008. One book rewrite, a few revisions, and hundreds of edits later, I’ve a product I’m not only fiercely proud of, but she graciously, diplomatically, and unbiasedly talked me down when other authors could take the shine off the sun with their feedback. I’m sure she felt like she was herding cats in this online group more than once over the years, and just had more heart, soul, charm, and prudence to know the difference to say what needed saying to parties involved.

But, privately, she told me how much she truly liked my Casebook characters, and, after reading the final draft in December 2013 and her final contact with me this November past, she realized how special they were and the story was. How excited she was for me the (now dead) book deal happened, and the book would see the light of day. She even liked the cover I detested. How’s that for a big-sister/writer-friend liking your refrigerator artwork when you don’t?

She died this past March after an extensive illness and complications rising from a car accident some years back. I only found out in early May. Time passed. I thought I was fine. I’m not. As with grief, some days are better than others, and each person works through it differently. But what really punched this in my throat for me: she was one of the rare, decent souls in this industry. I liken her to Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, where all she had was heart. Soul. Gentleness. A soft-spoken honestly in, like Scarlett didn’t know how much she’d need and miss Mellie until she died, I didn’t know how much I’d miss Sharon until she had gone.

Grief sucks, especially losing one of the few and far between kind authors this business could use much more of. But all I can do is somehow find the laughter in the tears, find the insanely ridiculous to grin at, and press on in my bold, truth-telling, nonconformist way. Her quiet power helped me do this. I’m forever grateful to do her this honor and the others on this #MemorialDay2016.

Much love, #BlueSkies, and tell hello to those other authors for me, Sharon!,
~ Missye

Latest Reads In My Kindle & Hard Copies

I’ve way too many books to read–like a girl with too many pairs of shoes, or handbags, or watches (guilty of this, too!)–but I’ve been a reader since I was three, and writing seriously thirteen years later. So it’s a given when writers write, they’re readers who

2016-05-20 21.03.30
From http://www.sonlight-design.com. Price: $30 + s/h. And you can buy these for families in need for lights at night to read by–or keep dangers and nightmares away.

read, too. And this post will be long, the next one, too. If you’ll indulge me, fantastic and I’m glad you’re reading. If not your cup of tea, thanks for stopping by and vaya con Dios.

On my Kindle Shelf:
• The Trials of Apollo
• Evicted
• Who Censored Roger Rabbit
• The A to Z of You and Me
• Right to Write
• Little House in the Big Woods

I’m thoroughly enjoying Riordan’s latest, called The Trials of Apollo. We’re following Apollo, twin to Artemis, the moon goddess to his sun god. Evidently, he did something pretty rotten to piss off his dad, Zeus, so he’s a four millennia-old god deemed to live out his existence as a sixteen-year-old guy. No powers. No gifts. And he’s befriended a quirky demi-god (in service, more like). Love it so far, despite its rife with pop culture and checked-box references, but I’m sad to see it end. I’m eager for Book 2 (releasing May 2nd, 2017 and ALREADY available for pre-order; YIKES!!!)–we don’t know why he irked Zeus, so there has to be a follow up. So while waiting on this–and the 8th Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, set for a July release in time for the play this story’s based on–I’ve moved onto other reads in varied stages of completion. Evicted highlights several low-income families during the author’s fourteen month, 2008-2009 study in an inner city of Wisconsin. I think this encapsulates what’s happening around the United States regarding housing, frankly.

Yep, kids, that Roger Rabbit movie was based on Gary K. Wolf’s book! But only the characters and the name are similar; the book’s VASTLY different from the movie. I’m only less than thirty pages into Who Censored Roger Rabbit, but that could be this book, written and published in the early 1980s, was done during a somewhat slower time: no computers, no cell phone, no Internet. As an author studying craft, it’s important I read things like this to let me know what NOT to do for every mystery or other story I pen. It’s a bit of a bore, I won’t lie, but I’ll get through it and report back.

Speaking of slower, but in an enthralling, nostalgic, reference-point way: Little House in the Big Woods.  Who’s NOT a fan of the Little House on the Prairie TV series Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are based on. After having read Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch in 2013–I highly recommend this, BTW–it was a lovely surprise to find Laura’s actual stories available on this gizmo we call an e-reader. Gadzooks! Pa’s playing his fiddle by lamplight, we’re reading about it by soft, mechanized backlight! I learned trees have blood (sap), her dad made sugar snow (you’ll have to read the story to know what that is), and I cracked up laughing at the picture of Laura and Mary playing with a blown-up pig bladder the girls had fun with as a balloon!

There’s a quietness about the stories, and how Laura managed to tell about her adventures in third person close is even more special. I think it said for the time a level of modesty about who she was and how she’d grown up with the Bible as their guide in everything they did from sun-up to sundown. I’m still on the first of the five books, and a nice visit to them from when I read these when I was a girl.

Hard Copies Shelf:
• The Book of Lost Things
• The Merchant of War (Pendragon, Book 1)
• 179 Ways to Improve Your Novel
• The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
• Writing with Quiet Hands
• Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us

See that neat lit cube? It’s called a Sonlight: a solar-powered, 10 LED-watt light source. Now I can read my hard copy books at night! And those copies, I’ll only summarize three of the six on my Hard Copies Shelf.

Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us tells writers across every aspect of their careers what not to do in their manuscripts. In many, many instances I agree with Jessica Page Morrell’s assessments in making sure my work runs like a fine watch in plot, story, characters, voice, setting, style, imagery, dialogue, no logic holes in said story, etc, etc. But I’m reading this from an editorial standpoint without having to pay for her services, as I’m indie publishing, I’m on a tight budget, and I’m just a friggin’ cheapskate. :). Her take-no-prisoners approach to the industry, be one seeking a traditional book contract, an agent, or going in the indie route like me, can benefit from this. Because at the end of the day, it’s the reader that’ll be discerning enough to share this product–which our works are–to keep reading me as an author or move onto another. Since I can edit pretty tight, I’m handling that role in my projects (a shoestring budget, indie publishing author, remember?), but when I have funds for an editor, no question she’ll rip me and work a new one. In a loving way where she “gets” my message, but puts a spit-shine on it of tidiness, naturally. When that day comes, get ready to call me Missye-San.

Like Julia Cameron’s amazing The Artist’s Way brand, in THE RIGHT TO WRITE, it’s much like WRITING WITH QUIET HANDS, but with gentle belief in the questioning reader/doubting emerging writer: “Can I really write, too? Who’s interested in my story? And, when all’s said and done, so what?”

The difference in Cameron’s book: You can write, so do it. You might not find commercial success, but don’t equate the art and the beauty of writing to that, because that’s why you shouldn’t begin/have begun writing in the first place. Focus on the JOY writing brings, the release, the catharsis. While Paula Munier’s WRITING WITH QUIET HANDS leans toward Cameron’s thesis in a pro-product, geared-to-the-business-side-of-selling-the-written-word POV–and there’s nothing wrong with that–Cameron’s arguing even if you might be a tone-deaf writer, like a tone-deaf singer won’t ever get a recording contract, that singer’s voice, and writer’s voice, though still terrible on a commercial level, isn’t any less valuable. Its sheer existence brings that value. And writing comes in a bazillion forms: topiary, ice sculptures, graffiti art, song-writing, poetry, flash fiction, plays, limericks, even meme posts, blog posts, copy-wrighting, ghost-writing, sky-writing, non-fiction, children’s books, speech-writing, haikus, travel writing, editorial cartoons. Not everyone can be a novelist, nor should they be. Not everyone can be a vocalist–but you can tune instruments, or conduct, or write sheet music. Find which way to write through the best medium in which you’re soulmates to, and do it as best you can.

My final read, I discovered in a FB book group I was sacked from (yes, again!), but I’m glad I left aware of D.J. MacHale‘s new to me Bobby Pendragon series. As a fan of series’ long reads, and still Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and The Olympians hungover, THE MERCHANT OF WAR opens promisingly for me. I’ve still got to make time to read this, but the story premise blends my love of fantasy, mystery, adventure, a male protagonist, first POV, interdimensional intrigue and possible espionage, and–my personal favorite!–ORIGINALITY! NONCONFORMIST WRITING! Writing what MacHale wanted to read, not what the market said to do, and he listened to his sister’s nephew’s feedback, too! Oooah!!!

Time to go, and thanks for reading this far. I’ll be back next time with SIX BOOK PROMOTION TIPS, according to the #LifeBooksWriting challenge. This is a good thing: keeps this blog fresh, I’m writing consistently again, and you get to know more about me without my coming across as an arrogant bitch of a windbag. #360Win.

Later, y’all. Stay awesome.

~ Missye

 

My Attic Bedroom: Where the Writing, Reading, and Dreaming Magic Happens–on a Casper®

Playing–and on repeat–on Spotify: “Dawn” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Okay. It’s been a minute since my last post. Sorry for that. I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to write anymore and I got tired of topics to talk about that didn’t involve #DonaldTrump  or #KillaryHinton or endless talk about my book, the writing life, blah, blah :).

This week’s post–actually, since I’m behind on a challenge called #LifeBooksWriting which should keep this portal fresh for the rest of 2016–will be two for the price of one. So grab your favorite cup of green or Darjeeling or dark blend roast, sit back, and enjoy!

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My room isn’t much to marvel at, to be honest. I do love it’s an attic bedroom; I hate hiking two flights of stairs to get here from the ground floor. I workout in here, dream, sleep, read, and write in here. I watch TV in here–when I’m procrastinating on my next writing task, like updating this blog, for instance–make love with my husband in here, yell at talk radio cuts in here, yell louder during workouts, and cuss harder than that paying bills the stupid things still won’t obey and pay themselves.

And my Casper‘s got all of this. (No, this isn’t a shameless schill for a company with a fantastic product I’m not seeing a dime in profit for, but when you get some badass REM sleep from your bed, it’s definitely worth bragging about. And all the money in the world can’t pay for a great night’s rest. Did I also mention I’m almost name-orgasming over the name Casper? And Logan? Okay, that’s a shameless plug for my #Casebook suspense mysteries, but you knew I had to slip that in somewhere.)

I compose in this attic bedroom. I pray in this wee alcove in the sky with its should-be condemned status, moments I’m as close to God in here as I would be atop Mt. Everest. I dance to awesome beats from iHeart Radio’s ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, Prince tribute, AT40 tunes, or Spotify jams blasting from my harmon / kardon wireless.

I sing in here, dress and undress for a time in the shower or a bubble bath soak–downstairs, not in here!–and I plan to play clarinet and acoustic in here. But for the acoustic plans, I might not get to play that in here; I may be moving before they finish my custom build. Oh the damnation of being a southpaw!

The walls: White. Covered in my roadmap for my second Casebook mystery, a Looney Tunes poster of a pool hall scene, an LED sign advertising “Casper’s Bar” (No, I’m not making that up. Still don’t believe me? Here you go. You’re welcome.), and a framed picture of the central “Classic 39” Honeymooners cast. Floor: institution gray, wooden slats seeing better days. Space in general: Crammed with crap semi-bordering on hoarder’s status, but I didn’t want furniture here. Furniture equals groundedness. I’m a transient, and I live that way.

So, that’s my room. Again: not much to look at, but this is the place–be it sitting, writing, singing, praying, paying bills, stretching, reading, thinking, sleeping and dreaming atop my Casper–where the magic happens. Thanks for the visit. One thing I’ve yet to do in here: entertain other company. Now you reading this, are my first. Welcome, and I’ll have for you a refreshing drink shortly. You’ll definitely want to stay a while.

~ Missye