Change in Title of Novel, New Beginning

Clouds by Jennifer Ellison at freedigitalphotos.netYou haven’t heard much from me, but I’ve been working away. Today I’m pleased to share with you my new title for the novel formerly called GREAT WHARF. Going forward, the title will be TOWN OF SECRETS. People kept looking at me funny when I said the word “wharf,” and I finally got the point that it’s too odd a word in everyday life. The town named Great Wharf may evoke many emotions in me as the author of its existence, but it wasn’t doing anything for a potential reader.

And now, if you will, settle back and read the following new beginning to the novel TOWN OF SECRETS. I’m about to embark on a new round of agent-hunting.

Image credit: Jennifer Ellison | freedigitalphotos.net

Chapter 1

The hater didn’t mean to kill the woman. But then there she was, climbing the outdoor stairway toward this antagonist obscured by a black poncho in the hurricane-whipped night.

The woman had her head down, testing each step before putting her full weight on it. The yellow warning ribbon she had just fastened across the first step snapped up and down, in and out. The hater’s intention changed as the woman got closer. Warning her off wouldn’t work. Why talk to this obstacle?

Lightning whacked something two streets over. The stair-tester’s whole body jerked with the instinct to escape danger. Then she spotted the stiletto-heeled fashion boots on the landing and lifted her gaze.

The hater acted on impulse. She grabbed the railing with one hand and the outer doorknob with the other, drew one foot back, and swung the heel full-force into her obstruction’s jugular. Blood spurted sideways and splayed in the high wind.

The victim fell backward, tumbled down, broke through the warning tape, and lay with her head and body at rest on two flagstones. Her ankles held onto the first step.

The hater looked around but saw no one on the street. No face peered from a window in awe at the weather or the murder. She edged her way down the steps on tiptoe, avoiding what blood she could see. She hopped over the body as though it were a mound of dirt.

Back in her apartment, a steaming-hot bath treated with vanilla oil released her smile. She lay back, closed her eyes, and let the aroma of her aphrodisiac waft around her. While pleasuring herself she imagined the man of her dreams freed from that other woman to rediscover her. The storm’s frenzy against the building added to her euphoria.

Three Months Earlier

Empty nester Mallory Cook left the house twenty minutes early for her doctor’s appointment. Her detour to Byways Gift Shop would add ten minutes to the walking time. Another ten minutes in the store should accomplish her task, which was to form an impression of the proprietor, a woman named Angie Weller.

Mallory’s neighbor had been after her to do this. This neighbor watched the townspeople of Great Wharf the way some people watch soap operas. With a vengeance, Mallory thought. She hated the gossip mill that Doris Hillobenz ran. But she’d hate it more if Doris decided her immediate neighbors were the ones needing scrutiny.

On her way out, Mallory took a steak knife from the kitchen drawer and slid it to the bottom of her purse. She probably should buy a switchblade. What if she grabbed the wrong end of the steak knife while rummaging for her cell phone? The thought of bright red blood dripping into her purse, let alone coming from her own finger, gave her a shiver.

Blood was on a lengthening list of things that made Mallory queasy. In fact, it headed the list because the sight of it actually made her faint once. Usually it just disabled her, like when Dwight, her husband, cut himself last week and asked her to get a Band-Aid. Her gaze fixated, instead, on the crimson bubble and she couldn’t move from her chair.

Dwight got his own Band-Aid. Later he said, “You didn’t used to freak at the sight of blood, Mal. You used to handle the kids’ accidents just fine. What happened?”

“I don’t have a clue.” She avoided his gaze.

Dwight, sweet man, dropped the subject.

***

Three blocks from home, with four blocks still to go, Mallory’s progress slowed …

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A Little Levity, Please

On the heels of receiving a rejection from a major agent who loved my query and synopsis (“very intriguing,” she wrote) but then didn’t get hooked after all, I’m in need of some levity today. The following tweet and picture from author Melissa Harrison in my Twitter feed helped. When I first learned to proofread, my mentor told me not to forget to check titles and headings. Good advice.

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Book Review — Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs

If you plan on reading Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, I’ve included a brief personal commentary in the “Book Reviews” tab (above). Take a peek. (Scroll down and click on the link in the alphabetical Contents list.) Tell me, have you read Isaacson’s book on either Einstein or Ben Franklin? Did you enjoy it? Wondering if I should put it on my list.

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Two Writing Associations and a Cool Video

Typewriter - old, FreeDigitalPhotos.net SurachaiSplitting my time between Maine and Florida, I maintain a membership in both the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance (MWPA) and the Florida Writers Association (FWA).

MWPA was founded in 1975. It is, according to its website, “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization that works to enrich the literary life and culture of Maine. We are the only statewide organization solely devoted to supporting and promoting Maine’s writers, publishers, booksellers, and literary professionals.”

A visit to FWA’s website reveals a different type of organization. Its initial and continuing purpose is “as a trade organization for writers of all genres–to share learning tools and writing advice as well as to provide members with an incredible networking system … [It] is focused on the beginning and the advanced writers within a professional atmosphere.” However, FWA has also formed Florida Writers Foundation, “a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation committed to promoting literacy throughout Florida.”

I love that FWF’s web page ends with this reminder: “To quote the immortal and practical words of W. Fusselman, ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’.” Ain’t that the truth!

I also want to share with you something in the most recent newsletter from MWPA’s Executive Director Joshua Bodwell. He wrote: “Many authors who write on their computers have a small ritual of beginning each fresh writing session by first selecting their favorite typeface. It’s almost as though we believe the typeface will somehow help set the tone for our work.” There’s some truth to this, for sure. When I’m not limited to Times New Roman, for instance, which publishers still prefer to see in submitted manuscripts, I’m partial to Palatino, Schoolbook, and Calibria depending on either my mood or my audience. In truth, I’m partial to a lot of other typefaces as well, but those three are probably the most readable among my other loves.

Bodwell made his statement about writers and favorite typefaces as lead-in to the cool video below, created by Ben Barrett-Forrest. Enjoy.
(If the vid doesn’t embed, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOgIkxAfJsk)

Typewriter image credit: Surachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Yikes – Two Months without Posting

Some artists, brave souls, create in full view of their audience.

Some artists, brave souls, create in full view of their audience.

I would be ashamed of myself, except the main reason for my absence is that I was writing/revising/reading toward a better manuscript. No excuse, you say? You’re probably right. But I’m still on the blog-learning curve. I find that my more automatic go-to spot for communicating re book stuff is my Yours In Books Facebook page (click on the “Facebook” button in right margin). It’s quick, noninvasive, and ties directly/efficiently to my Twitter feed. Writing the lengthier blog posts not only takes a different mindset, it assumes one’s readers want to spend more than ten seconds with your topic. I try not to be presumptuous. Too often. Yet I must get better about presuming, lest my non-Facebook/Twitter followers decide I was a figment of their imagination after all. So, here’s an update, and thank you for your patience!

The greatly improved manuscript for Great Wharf is now in three others’ sets of hands: a good friend with a critical eye; a fiction editor with a critical eye; a selection of #PitchWar mentors (click here for contest description)with critical eyes. In the latter, my current pitch and first five pages are competing for the selected mentors’ attention with upward, I estimate, of 50 other aspiring novelists. Some mentors have reported about 30; one has reported 2,000 (really). It is highly doubtful my work will compete successfully at this stage, but I’m in the game!

By having the material in different hands for critiquing this month, I have freed myself to start writing something new (and get my holiday cards out!). I have an idea too, but daren’t share it with you just yet. Suffice it to say that while I’m working hard with Great Wharf to enter the authorial portals (can that be a term?) of traditional publication, my new work will test the waters of Kindle Singles. Very different product; very different timeline; very different royalty terms.

In the meantime, happy December days to you all. Are you creating during this month?

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Really? No One’s Talking about How Tom Clancy Died?

“The only way to do all the things you’d like to do is to read.”—Tom Clancy (Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. / April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013)

“The only way to do all the things you’d like to do is to read.”—Tom Clancy (Thomas Leo “Tom” Clancy, Jr. / April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013)

This may be practically unheard of, you know? How did Tom Clancy die? Why is the public being kept ignorant on this one? I’ve already read a couple tweets suggesting conspiracy. That would be in keeping with his books, of course, but it’s also in keeping with the fact that it’s a rare bird indeed whose cause of death isn’t spoken of these days, especially a famous author’s. Even if the cause isn’t known by anyone (e.g., doctors, family) there should be a statement to that effect at least. AIDS and suicides are no longer taboo topics, not that I’m saying either applies here. I have no idea what applies here, and that’s the problem.

In the meantime, hoping more will come out eventually, here’s a quote of his I relate to as a fledgling fiction writer, followed by two links you may want to check out.

  • “You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.”–Tom Clancy
  • The only Clancy book I read was The Hunt for Red October, which was excellent. I didn’t read more of his because my interests didn’t match his, and therefore I found them a little hard to comprehend… For an annotated list of his books (Wikipedia provides an annotated list of all his books and also a (major characters) Jack Ryan/John Clark universe chronology. Click here.

    Entrepreneur magazine has a brief article titled and including 5 of Tom Clancy’s Most Inspiring Quotes.

    Image credit: biography.com (don’t know if they hold the copyright)

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    Results of My Ad Campaign to Increase Facebook Likes

    Anything useful is constructed one piece at a time and sometimes with a lot of shifting of pieces to get it right.

    Most useful things are constructed one piece at a time – and the pieces shift before they’re finally right. (Image (c) Meredith Ann Rutter)

    Last weekend I sprang for $120 across two days for a Facebook ad campaign to increase the Likes on my Yours In Books FB page. The true felt-cost was really only $65 thanks to a $55 “windfall” check from my brother a few weeks ago, tying up a loose end from our deceased father’s estate otherwise distributed years ago. It seemed appropriate to use the found money toward improving the reach of my book-oriented social network, since one of the last things my dad said to me was that I shouldn’t question my ability to write and get published. His belief rings in my ear like church bells, full of hope and support. And now a little wad of money, too.

    I started the ad campaign with 46 Likes on my page, of which 72% (or 33) were personal friends/family. In the more than two years since I started the page, it had attracted only 13 Likes from people who weren’t already in my network. Pitiful, except for the silver lining, namely that my errors got only limited visibility while I learned the ropes. This is why “they say” you should get started early on these things, well before any book of yours might be published. But now, as I’m hard at work on a near-final draft (please oh please), it’s time to nudge the Likes upward a bit.

    Facebook makes it very easy to create the ad you want within the budget you specify. Very easy. It even allows you to easily create one-offs of the basic ad in order to learn which image or wording attracts more attention. Thanks to this option, I used the same wording with four wildly different images: (a) my bathrobed arms typing on my laptop, (b) my picture – the same one you see in the right margin near the top of this page, (c) a friend’s precious gray kitten, and (d) a sepia photo-studio print of three siblings ages 8 mos to 6 yrs sitting next to each other. Care to guess which caused the most clicks? The least clicks? I’ll give you a moment to think through a rationale for your guesses.

    One of the images was far, far, and away the most effective, to such a degree that midway through the test I put a permanent pause on the other three images. As of that moment, the least effective in garnering clicks was the kitten (just barely less effective than the picture of me)–in fact, you could say that both were completely INeffective. The most effective, by far, was the sepia photo of the children.

    Of course, the true test in this sort of campaign is whether, when the clicking-people reach the FB page, they like what they see and say so by clicking on the Like button. I’d say I had good results. Over the weekend my total Likes grew from 46 to 179, which was a 289% increase in page Likes. And it kept growing a little, now at 190 Likes, perhaps because a few people have recommended the page to some friends. (I do see a few of my friends have recently joined in, too, unrelated to the ad campaign. Thanks, guys!)

    If you’re on Facebook but haven’t yet been to its Yours In Books page, click on the button near the top right-hand margin here (the Facebook label associated with my picture) and take a look. Any posts I make to this blog are automatically linked there, but I also post items that aren’t on this blog at all. For FB users, I think that’s the best way to stay abreast of what Yours In Books finds useful or interesting in the book biz on a more daily basis than my relatively far-between blog posts.

    So, did you guess the most/least effective images correctly? And if you’re on Facebook have you Liked the Yours In Books page?

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    My Manuscript Is in Shambles

    splattered wood Just2shutterYou know how, when you’re doing a major housecleaning, there comes a moment when you look around and see everything in shambles? You think your place will never be nice again. But you keep at it, and the next time you look around (it seems), everything is gorgeous. Well, that’s where I’m at with my novel, Great Wharf. The reason it’s in shambles is that I hired a former Random House editor to take a look and give me some feedback. Six single-spaced comment pages later, I knew I’d hired the right person. Now I’m about three months into absorbing her comments and about sixty percent done incorporating them. Summer travels, etc., have kept me from making faster progress, but I’m looking at a couple weeks of concerted effort now. And I’m hopeful.

    The umbrella concept for many of the changes is that the novel currently straddles two genres and therefore won’t satisfy devoted readers of either (general fiction vs. suspense fiction). I’ve now committed to general fiction with a lot of suspense. Toward this end, I’m making two of the characters suffer more than they did before, which will create more intensity for the reader. I also need to pay more attention to the main protagonist’s character arc and to making sure she is somehow key to the resolution of the plot – which is perhaps my biggest challenge with the way I had structured the plot to begin with. Other changes include replacing certain summary descriptions with actual scenes, and switching from an omniscient point of view to multiple third-person point of view.

    All told, I’m pretty much revising every single page to some degree or other. Thus, my manuscript is in shambles. I look forward to a clean printout down the road.

    What’s the shambles in your work these days?

    Photo credit: Just2shutter

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    Book Review — David McCullough’s 1776

    Today I have added to the “Book Reviews” tab (above) my brief review in Goodreads of David McCullough’s history book 1776. It’s a rare event for me to read a book of history, and I do highly recommend this one if you are interested in that year of U. S. history and know as little about it as I did. (Having finished the book, I think there are many of us!)

    I just found this video of an excellent interview with David McCullough. (If the below “embedding” doesn’t work, try this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N64v5STEPCs.) The interaction focuses less on 1776 (the book McCullough was promoting at the time of the interview) than it does on writing and on teaching. It’s worth watching especially if you’re a writer or teacher and, of course, want to spend a half hour on it… It’s a great way to wake up in the morning.

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    “Loneliness is not much written about.”

    So said Stephen Fry (actor, writer, and more) in a June 24 excellent post on his suicide attempt last year.

    Fry in "Happy Birthday to GNU" (2008), photo from Wikipedia entry

    Fry in “Happy Birthday to GNU” (2008), photo from Wikipedia entry

    Intrigued by his statement that loneliness is not much written about, I did a quick run-through in my own mind about books I’ve read and whether or not loneliness was in there.

    I’ve come up with these so far:

    A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
    The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (thinking Boo Radley)
    In a singular way, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

    Was there loneliness in The Hours by Michael Cunningham? Or in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway? It’s been too long since I read those two, but I suspect loneliness was in them.

    Do you recall a book you have read where loneliness played a role? Please tell me in Comments here or on my Yours In Books Facebook page or as a tweet. I’m truly curious!

    By the way, I learned about Fry’s post in one of Dave Pell’s NextDraft emails, always full of cool bits about doings out there in the world. If you’re interested in getting on his list, visit this site and subscribe. You’ll enjoy his wit and can click through on the links that interest you from there. Now, any books where loneliness figures in?

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