Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recent Great Reads

What I've been reading and enjoying lately ...

A Study in Sherlock, Edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
This is a collection of short stories "inspired by the Holmes Canon" by authors who don't normally write of Holmes. And they're extremely entertaining! What was fun was the diversity of ideas, from stories of Holmes himself and Watson, to stories that told other points of view of famous Holmes cases, to stories of different characters acting Holmes-esque. Loads of fun for the Sherlock fan!

Northwest Angle, William Kent Krueger
The latest in his series featuring Cork O'Conner, a part Irish-American, part Ojibwe former county sheriff in Northern Minnesota. Cork's no superhero, but he's good and just, and you want him to be your friend and champion. Northwest Angle is a gripping story that starts with a natural disaster and ends with a man-made one. It'll have you short of breath and appreciating how Krueger makes you feel part of the action.

The Albuquerque Turkey, John Vorhaus
This is slapstick in book form. Radar Hoverlander has vowed to go straight from his life of cons, but his father reappears in his life and sends his plans and resolutions packing. The ending is grand, hilarious, over-the-top, and totally entertaining (as is the entire book). You'll laugh out loud, roll your eyes, and enjoy it immensely.

Ghost Hero, S.J. Rozan
The latest in her Lydia Chin/Bill Smith PI partnership, Ghost Hero is told from Lydia's perspective and concerns the world of Chinese art. As always, Rozan gives us an excellent mystery to (try to) solve and introduces us to a fascinating world we (probably) didn't know much about. I always learn something from reading her books, both about whatever topic she's covering and about how to tell a great story. Jack Lee, another PI who works with Lydia and Bill, provides a touch of the silly and absurd, while contributing to the resolution of the mystery. A great addition to the series!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

10 Things I Learned Along the Way to Publication

I developed this list of tips and lessons for a session I led at the Avondale Writers Conference in Avondale, AZ, last weekend. The concepts aren't original; you'll hear them from other writers. But though I understood some of them intellectually, it took some doing to accept them in practice. I hope they help you learn some lessons and avoid some heartache and/or mistakes.

1. Take every opportunity to talk to people who know stuff. Whether it's stuff about writing, stuff about your special interests, or stuff about life. Talk to people.

2. Write what you want to write. Not only what you know already or what you think will sell.

3. Have an elevator pitch. You'll use it trying to find an agent, trying to get the book sold to a publisher, trying to spread the word about it, and trying to sell it one-on-one. It's indispensable. Practice it endlessly.

4. Find a support group. Online, in-person, whatever. Have a group of writers you can talk to who will eat chocolate or drink wine with you in sympathy and celebration. (A shout-out to Christine, Wendy, Tracy, and Cary, as well as the SinC Guppies!)

5. Get involved in any way you can. You never know what connections you make will help you write or sell a book later.

6. Cultivate patience. Make sure you have to be doing this.

7. The perfect haircut won't make your life unicorns and rainbows, and neither will publication ... but it's pretty great. Writing doesn't get easier, and now you have to learn to promote and spend lots of energy on that. But it's still a gift.

8. Plan your public persona as carefully as you plan your prose. You will be a living, breathing, speaking representative of your book.

9. Accept that you can't do it all. Do what you enjoy and don't bother with what you don't like.

10. Enjoy every step. It really is magic. Don't get so wrapped up in promotion that you don't stop and smell the new-book-smell.