Saturday, May 23, 2015

Last day for best book bargain of the summer: #WomenWritingWomen ends at midnight!

This year I collaborated with six other authors around the world on an extraordinary publishing experiment. Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is a box set of seven critically acclaimed novels by seriously established women writers, writing across all genres. The theme that unites the novels: the main characters are strong, idiosyncratic women characters.

The box makes a powerful statement about the universality of women's stories and about the independent women who write and read upmarket fiction. We were featured in media around the world, including a great article on publishing's glass ceiling in Guardian's book section, in which we were referred to as "the real superstars...storytellers dedicated to their craft... ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women..."

Just wanted to thank everyone for supporting and spreading the word. It's been an amazing experience on many fronts, but I think my favorite part was reading the six stellar novels by my boxmates. I was in fabulous company!

So this is it. Last chance to load your Kindle for a full summer of excellent reading, one the best reader bargains I've seen in a long time-. Seven stellar novels for the price of one.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I talk about books because books are my life. Pardon the F**K outa me. (Rant Alert)

Something that really got under my skin this week: an author friend of mine was erased from Facebook. Both her personal account and author page were yanked without warning and apparently without an opportunity to appeal.

Facebook has yet to offer any explanation, but there's been speculation that it had something to do with her being an author who uses FB and Twitter to network with readers and fellow authors -- just as we've all been trained to do, whether we're mainstream, indie or hybrid.

[Update: FB eventually responded that my friend, author Jessica Bell, had identified herself as "Author Jessica Bell" and "author" is not her real name. Here's her new FB author page.]

Facebook played the perfect crack dealer, luring us in with the free sample, and now that we're hooked, they want us to pay. Over the past 18 months or so, they've made dramatic changes to the way posts are seen on your timeline, and if it smacks of self-promotion, they want to force it into an arena where the poster pays for every eyeball. And that's fair. That's their bag. Facebook is not a charity for artists or anyone else. What isn't fair is the jackbooted way they've gone about it, especially if that includes the instant elimination of a network the author built over five years of following the rules.

That network is not all about self-promotion. Writing is, of necessity, a lonely profession. Online networking gives authors more than a place to advertise. It gives us a community, colleagues, a worldwide water cooler we can gather around. Yes, we talk about our work, because our work consumes us a lot of the time. Our work is important to us. Not every word we say about it should be cast as "self-promotion," but authors seem to be subjected to some heightened sense of propriety in this area.

A few years ago, I did a self-actualization/empowerment meditation thing via I enjoyed getting all thinky thoughtsy and participated in various discussions about it until there was a call for everyone to post something about a moment when she felt empowered and specifically listed "starting your own small business" as an example. Many posts were about women selling arts and crafts, catering, consulting and breaking away from a big company to freelance in one way or another.

So I posted something about stepping outside the mainstream publishing arena, recovering rights to my backlist books and starting my own indie imprint. I did not mention any book titles or offer a link to my website, even though all the freshly empowered cupcake caterers, jewelery distributors, handbag refurbishers, etc offered links to Etsy and other sales venues. Within hours, my account was shut down and I received a brusque email scolding me about "our policy against self-promotion" but not offering any insight into why my small business endeavor was any different from the other artists and entrepreneurs whose posts remained.

When Amazon instituted new censorship algorithms into their review system, they deleted many of the book reviews I'd posted along with many reviews posted on my books. Only positive reviews, of course. Reviews by people who state right up front they haven't read the book and the lady who gave my book one star because her credit card wouldn't go through -- oh, those stay put, because Amazon is all about "preserving the integrity" of their review system.

I know there have been a lot of authors who paid for or bartered reviews on Amazon and abused publishing etiquette in general, but I have never been one of those authors. I came up in old school publishing, which is positively Lutheran in its sense of propriety. I have yet to receive any explanation of this supposedly incestuous relationship I have with the reviewers who gave me positive reviews or the authors I've reviewed positively, most of whom were total strangers to me. Meanwhile, among the reviews I posted that stayed intact are several for authors with whom I do have relationships. But those three authors are published by Amazon's own imprints. The kindest word to describe Amazon's integrity is "selective".

The net result is that my books have very few reviews, and those are mostly from the old hardcover and paperback editions. It's hard to quantify how damaging that's been to my book sales, but I have no doubt it's hurt me financially. It's prevented me from participating in certain promotions, and it's made me afraid to post reviews supporting books I love because I don't want to risk damaging other authors by association.

The time-honored incestuous blurbing and reviewing that goes on every day in the legacy publishing world makes Amazon's integrity algorithm even more infuriating/laughable, but beyond that is the general web-wide lack of concern about people in any other industry talking about their businesses. Disdain for the crass stench of self-promotion seems to be reserved for authors. People who talk about plumbing, law, medicine, basket weaving and teaching are somehow immune.

I talk about the books I'm reading a lot more than I talk about the books I'm writing. I do far more to promote others than I do to promote myself, and I'm sick of being scolded, censored and shamed because I happen to speak about books -- or about my life -- from the perspective of a writer and editor. It reminds me of high school, when I was called "Miss Dictionary" and told I might get asked out on dates if I wasn't always reading.

Yes, my Facebook page has a lot of posts about books. I eat, sleep and breathe the art of setting words in rows. Books are a huge chunk of my life, on and off the social network. That's not me bragging or hyping or advertising. That's me being passionate about what I do and advocating for other passionately creative people.

So Facebook: 1) Thank you for the opportunity to engage online with folks who share common interests, because I go for many days -- most days, in fact -- without talking to anyone but myself, my husband and my office mascots, Venus and Data.

And 2) Pardon the f**k outa me if us and our durn literacy occupy valuable space that could have been devoted to another cat video.

That is all.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

First 50 Words: BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross

Buy BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross

"A complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery — and surprise...John McGahern meets Maeve Binchy." ~ IRISH INDEPENDENT

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Free-spirited freelance editor Jerusha Rodgers on adventures in publishing and life

Bestselling author Dr. Wendy Walsh calls her "an author's dream date." I call her The Plot Whisperer. Today's guest blogger, freelance editor Jerusha Rodgers, offers a snapshot of her life and bookish times...

There was cheering and shouting, a general riotous din, when I clicked ‘Save and Publish’ from poolside at Eighty8 Backpackers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On the other side of the high whitewashed wall and down a street narrowed with street vendors, huge furls of barbed wire blocked off a park where Cambodians protesting unsafe working conditions and unlivable wages in factories came dangerously close to men and women decked out in full riot gear.

The protests and riots had been ebbing and flowing (mostly flowing) for a year, and the cause had already had casualties. It was a tumultuous time in the country and in my life—I was, well, let’s just say I was between visas, between jobs and holed up in the only hostel I could find that took credit cards. One year later and on the other side of the world, people cheered and shouted to celebrate Mexico’s totally unexpected victory in the Battle of Puebla (most people were just celebrating tequila and sombreros).

I’m drinking to the victory of a different battle this week: The one-year anniversary of publishing my first (and presumably not last) book. If that doesn’t sound like a hard-won victory, you’ve probably never written a book—but after you buy mine, you’ll totally be able to. With everything that’s changed—menus and conversations are in English, but no more sparkling pool—everything sure has stayed the same—perpetually working on a new book and still don’t have A/C even though it’s hotter than Hades—and I love this strange little life I’ve lived.

Most of my book was written in Colorado, where I spent hours a day at the corner gastro-pub when I didn’t have heat, but some of it was written in Texas. Some final tweaks were added between bites of Pookie’s pad thai in Koh Lipe, Thailand, and it was polished in Cambodia in a bustling movie theater/restaurant where I worked.

I kept thinking about what advice I would someone to give me when it came time to write the story of my year abroad. What would I look for to guide me through a process that’s about discovery and hard choices and advertising and self-reflection and more discovery. And the hardest part: Putting all of it together in a way that means as much to the agent/editor as it meant to you when you lived it.

YOUR TITLE HERE: How to Craft a Killer Nonfiction Book Proposal takes a tried and true formula that NYT bestseller Joni Rodgers has applied to dozens of successful book projects and makes it accessible for writers of all levels. I break it down so you can easily access exactly the info you need, and it isn’t bulked up with a bunch of boring, out of date junk about the publishing industry (which has changed since I started writing this post).

And because I was always the one asking for an example to make sure I did everything just right, I’m even including two sample proposals with notes. Swoosie Kurtz, Joni Rodgers and the team at Perigee Books were kind enough to lend Swoosie’s actual proposal for her book Part Swan, Part Goose, so you can see exactly what it takes to seal the deal with a publisher.

Jerusha Rodgers is the founder of Rabid Badger Editing and author of YOUR TITLE HERE: How to Craft a Killer Nonfiction Book Proposal

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

#BookClubBesties Part Swan, Part Goose is out in paperback!

Swoosie Kurtz's memoir Part Swan, Part Goose is out in paperback this week, and I'm lobbying book clubs to read it. We Baby Boomers need to talk about how we relate to our aging parents, and Swoosie did that with huge heart, soul and wit in this book, candidly discussing things that have gone wrong and what she and her mom have gotten enormously right.

Swoosie has been a Broadway icon since the 1970s--a Tony, Emmy and Obie winner--and a lot of people love her from the family television drama Sisters in the early 1990s. These days Swoosie's slaying audiences weekly as Melissa McCarthy's mom on Mike & Molly, and she talks about all that in this book, but her main gig is caring for her 99 year old mom, author Margo Kurtz, and that's the heart of the story.

Margo is a stitch and a poet, still tenacious and vivacious, but living in a world of her own. Getting to know her was one of the great perks of working with Swoosie on this memoir. Swoosie was on a mission to breathe new life into Margo's memoir, My Rival, the Sky, published by Putnam in 1945 and rereleased as an ebook by Perigee last year.

Swoosie and I wove excerpts from Margo's book throughout Part Swan, Part Goose, so readers get to know Margo up close and experience some of her life with Swoosie's larger than life father, Col. Frank Kurtz, the most decorated fighter pilot of WWII. What emerges is the story of an extraordinary family and how they formed a fortress of love and support around each other in the best and worst of times.

I'm incredibly proud of what Swoosie accomplished here and thrilled that I got to help her. This book was a gift in my life as I cared for my mom, who was dying of Alzheimer's while Swoosie and I were working together. I think it'll be a gift to a lot of people. But (as they say on Reading Rainbow) you don't have to take my word for it!

“Part Swan, Part Goose is a brave and riveting book about family, fame, theater and life. It is witty, wise and irresistible. I loved it." —Tom Brokaw

"...spontaneous, irreverent but always kind, independent yet deeply rooted to her family. Swoosie has put her heart and her humor into these pages.” —Melissa McCarthy

“I laughed and cried (sometimes at the same time) reading this extraordinary story... Her observations about love and loss had me dog-earing several pages to re-read again and again.” —Carol Burnett

"...a remarkable journal about Kurtz’s extremely close relationship with her parents...a compelling saga about her recent journey as a loving caregiver for her mother as she’s slipped into depths of dementia." —Chicago Sun Times

“I thought I’d browse (Part Swan, Part Goose) and write a quick column. I couldn’t browse. Swoosie kept dragging me in with another anecdote, and she writes in a freewheeling style... yet it all makes perfect sense. The piece of her heart left on the pages is impossible not to love.” —Bob Fischbach, Omaha World-Herald

Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir of Womanhood, Work and Family is indeed uncommon. Unlike some show business memoirs, it’s neither a scandalous tell-all, nor an exercise in self-aggrandizement. Instead, it’s a candid, engaging look at Kurtz’s life and work, and especially her relationship with the two most important people in her life: her parents, Frank and Margo Kurtz.” —Trudy Ring, SheWired

“Filled with entertaining stories, gut-wrenching experiences, and touching memories, actress Swoosie Kurtz’ thoughtful memoir, Part Swan, Part Goose, celebrates her loving parents while documenting the formative events that shaped her stellar acting career.” —Tolucan Times

“Don't miss this book of collected praise for parents who had it all together. ...There is not a saccharine note in this delightful memoir.” —Liz Smith

60 Second Review: WHITE LADY by Jessica Bell

Sonia, unfaithful wife of a Melbourne drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and math teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats. Easier said than done.

 “Edgy, pacy, and chillingly real.” JJ MARSH, author of The Beatrice Stubbs series

 "...strikes at the heart of families in turmoil...a painfully honest portrayal of flawed humanity." ~C. S. LAKIN, author of Innocent Little Crimes

Jessica Bell is an Australian novelist, poet, singer/ songwriter /guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. She is Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and author of the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series.

 Visit Jessica's website

60 Second Review: THE CENTAURESS by Kathleen Jones

 Bereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict after she uncovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal.

 "Utterly gripping. I didn't want it to end." ~ DEBBIE BENNETT

 "An engrossing read, hard to put down." ~ LINDA GILLARD

Kathleen Jones lives in Italy and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. In addition to many books, she's written extensively for the BBC.

 Visit Kathleen's website

First 50 Words: CRAZY FOR TRYING by Joni Rodgers

Buy CRAZY FOR TRYING by Joni Rodgers

"Refreshing and provocative... Think Jane Eyre with rock and roll." ~ HOUSTON PRESS

I come to mourn Charlie, not to praise him

Watching with great interest as the painful “to Charlie or not to Charlie” conversation emerges in proximity to the controversial decision to give Charlie Hebdo an award for “freedom of expression courage” at the $1,250/plate PEN American Center literary gala last night and the recent attack on a significantly less tony Dallas conference featuring a contest for cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

When the whole #JesuisCharlie thing was sweeping social media, I was uncomfortably certain that most people either didn’t know what “Je suis” means or they didn’t know what “Charlie” was about. I was horrified and heartbroken when I saw the news about the massacre, but I cringed at the cartoons, tweets and op eds canonizing the people who died that day. Of everything I saw in the subsequent outpouring of support, this illustration by Lucille Clerc was the most appropriate, because it spoke to the brokenness of our violent world and not the ideology of the people involved in the shooting.

Having spent a bit of time in France, I was vaguely familiar with this magazine. My French is tres mal, but I understood enough to know that it was firmly based in hate. Southern France has a lot in common with the southern USA: a lovely climate, gorgeous scenery, overwhelmingly pleasant people, a gracious love of gracious living and way way way too many racist and xenophobic SOBs per square mile. The stuff I saw in my admittedly limited exposure to Charlie Hebdo was the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a publication from the KKK.

I want to believe that the people who gave Charlie Hebdo a standing ovation last night were standing up for the spirit of free speech. Had I been there, I'd have stayed in my chair, picking at my $1,250 broccolini, because to me, that award feels like a resounding endorsement of exceptionally well done hate speech.

I cried about the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. It broke my heart that such a thing could happen in this city I love so much. But I would also be heartbroken if someone sprayed gunfire on demonstrators from that infamous “God Hates Fags” Southern Baptist church as they protested at a soldier's funeral. (I refuse to feed that beast by typing their name or linking to their twisted website.) I'd be sad and sickened to see that happen, but I would never post #IamGHFBaptist on Twitter or express any other kind of solidarity with them or hand them an award for their courage in expressing their hate.

Je suis a to-the-last-breath defender of free speech, even though I despise what some people do with it, and I abhor violence, even when it’s done to someone I can't stand. I mourn the people who died at Charlie Hebdo, but I can’t praise the work they did. Without drawing any comparison to what happened in Paris, I also mourn the young gunmen who stupidly sacrificed their lives in Dallas for the hate of old farts on the other side of the world. I keep wondering if we'll ever wake up to the reality that hate itself is the real enemy.

Je suis sick of it all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

60 Second Review: ONE NIGHT AT THE JACARANDA by Carol Cooper

 The trouble with speed dating is that three minutes can last a lifetime. Diagnosed with cancer, Sanjay doesn’t have a lifetime to waste. Laure is a successful lawyer, Harriet is a struggling freelance writer, and Karen is a single mother of four. All are looking for a soul-mate, but first they need to confront who they really are.

 "A blinder of a tale” ~ THE SUN

 "Contemporary fiction for intelligent grown-ups. The characters are real, the medical details are spot on... An absolute joy" ~ CHRISTINE WEBBER, author and psychotherapist

Carol Cooper is a London-based journalist and award-winning non-fiction author. Her debut novel was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Awards 2014. In her spare time she’s a doctor.

 Visit Carol's website

First 50 Words: An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis


"An extraordinary level of emotion... superb storytelling." ~ THE CULT DEN

Monday, May 04, 2015

60 Second Review: AN UNCHOREOGRAPHED LIFE by Jane Davis

 An unflinching, gracefully written novel from the winner of Daily Mail's First Novel Award. Alison gave up the chance to be a prima ballerina when she became pregnant and turned to prostitution to provide for her child, but the tempting hope of a better life may come at a terrible price.

 "A brilliant and cleverly-written story about the relationship between a single mother and her daughter." ~ BOOK MUSE

 "An extraordinary level of emotion... superb storytelling." THE CULT DEN

Jane Davis is an award-winning author who isn't afraid to tackle the trickiest of subjects. She lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, and a growing piles of books, CDs and general chaos.

 Visit Jane's website

60 Second Review: BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross

Mercy stands accused of killing her elderly and tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she needs Star, the daughter she fought to protect, to know what really happened that fateful night.

 "A complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery — and surprise...John McGahern meets Maeve Binchy." ~ IRISH INDEPENDENT

 "Skillful …infinitely rewarding...It’s superb." ~ THE BOOKBAG

Orna Ross writes novels, poems and the Go Creative! book series. The Bookseller called her "one of the 100 most influential people in publishing" for her work with The Alliance of Independent Authors.

 Visit Orna's website

First 50 Words: WHITE LADY by Jessica Bell

Buy WHITE LADY by Jessica Bell

“Edgy, pacy, and chillingly real.” ~ JJ MARSH, author of The Beatrice Stubbs series

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Leading Irish Indie Author Orna Ross announces Secret Rose: unique crowdfunded tribute for #Yeats2015

So excited to be traveling to Sligo, Ireland this summer to help celebrate the publication of WB Yeats short stories, The Secret Rose, and Orna Ross’s novel, Her Secret Rose, in a special edition replica of Yeats 1897 publication, which is being created with the help of Yeats fans, including yours truly.

Secret Rose, a crowdfunded tribute to WB Yeats’s fiction by bestselling Irish author Orna Ross, Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), will launch in Sligo at the Yeats International Summer School 2015. This specially crafted replica of Yeats’s 1897 first edition — blue-cloth bound, intricate gilt impress, printed on laid paper equivalent — will match the original design by Yeats friend and fellow mystic, illustrator and designer Althea Gyles. It’s set to become a must-have souvenir of Yeats2015, Yeats’s 150th anniversary year.

The double book contains Yeats’s short stories from The Secret Rose (1897), and Ross’s long awaited new novel, Her Secret Rose (2015) that tells the story behind those stories, centring on the relationship between the Irish poet and his long time love and muse, Maud Gonne. An amalgamation of in-depth research, Ross’s award-winning writing and her reverence for Yeats’s poetry, drama and fiction (“I’m a super-fan,” she says), Secret Rose will launch at the Summer School at Yeats House, Sligo, on August 3rd 2015 at 5pm.

Says Orna Ross: “As an indie author, I work mainly in digital but for Yeats2015, I wanted to create a special print book and to bring these neglected stories to the attention of Yeats fans. It surprised me in researching the 1897 book’s publishing history to find out that WB Yeats was an indie author too, as we define that at ALLi: working closely with his friend Althea Gyles on the design and seeing himself as the creative director of the book, all the way through the publication process.”

Running until 31 May 2015, Ross’s crowdfunder offers a variety of rewards from £5 to £1,000, to satisfy all Yeats’s fans and book lovers. The project gives readers the opportunity to move closer to Yeats through attendance at the famous International Summer School programme in Sligo, or closer to Ross through her popular creative mentoring program. Also on offer is attendance live or online at the book launch in Yeats House, Sligo; a special night out and dinner with Ross and friends at the house of Damien Brennan, President of The Yeats Society; and a first edition of Yeats original book, with illustrations by his brother, Jack B Yeats. All supporters also receive copies of Secret Rose and a grateful acknowledgement of their contribution in supporting this unique literary project.

“I’m excited to be resuscitating these important stories for a new generation,” Ross says.

60 Second Review: MY MEMORIES OF A FUTURE LIFE by Roz Morris

After ghostwriting a dozen books with 4 million copies in print, Morris makes her literary fiction debut with the tale of a brilliant pianist whose career is ended by injury. She turns to a mysterious healer and faces the possibility that her life is someone else's past incarnation.

"...dances between plausible reality and the shadowy realm of interpretation, underpinned by evident intelligence. A real corker." ~ WORDS WITH JAM

"Stylish, classy writing...profound ... page-turning." ~ FOR BOOKS' SAKE

Roz Morris teaches creative writing masterclasses for The Guardian in London, hosts a radio show, rides horses and was once hit by a train.

Visit Roz's website

First 50 Words: ONE NIGHT AT THE JACARANDA by Carol Cooper


“Sassy and classy in equal measures. A must.”


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