Such big news: my publisher, Cogwheel Press, is running a three-day giveaway of its entire catalog from April 28-30, 2013. If you have a Kindle, here's your chance to download a whole summer's worth of great reading, ranging from sci-fi comedy to epic fantasy to contemporary fiction to steampunk to urban fantasy! You won't want to miss this event. I've interviewed many of the current Cogwheel authors on this site, so be sure to check out those posts, too.
And in return for the freebie, please give back by posting a review of these great books on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews really help authors. Thanks in advance!
Other than perhaps starving, or pounding one's head on the keyboard, I don't think there's an activity more iconic of the author's life than the book signing. Think of the movies that feature authors as characters - pretty much every one of them introduces the character as an author by showing him or her at a book signing. It's like showing Big Ben to say, "Hey, we're in London," or maybe the loaf french bread sticking out of the shopping bag to say, "Hey, I just bought groceries." Most authors look forward to the idea of a signing as much as finally convincing your family that your writing career isn't a total waste of time, maybe as much as cashing the first royalty check. It's a milestone, a rite of passage, something that's expected, something that makes you a grown-up, "real" writer. Or, so we tell ourselves.
But, all you writers and authors out there, just how many book signings have you actually been to? C'mon, be honest. Maybe you stood in line for John Grisham, or E.L. James, or J.K. Rowling or Jim Butcher or Joss Whedon (I'd totally stand in line for them), but mid list authors? local authors? people you've never heard of? Unless the author in question is friend or family, you probably haven't shown up. I'm fortunate to live in a town with a vibrant cultural life, and I see listings in the newspaper pretty much every week of local author appearances, but I admit that the only one I've gone to was for a friend in my writing group.
I'm going to be doing an "appearance" (that's what they call these events, apparently) at Broad Street Books, the official bookstore cafe from one of my alma maters, on May 9, 2013 at 5:30. Having picked a date and begun the appropriate publicity, I'm now facing yet another existential crisis (jeepers, how many of these can creative people endure?): What on earth do I do when the actual event takes place? Do I show up, Sharpie marker in hand, and grin like a stupid idiot (yes, apparently)? Do I try to read from the book? Do I just drink coffee and try to blend in and hope no one actually tries to talk to me? We're told that readers want to "interact" with authors these days. They want contact, they want to know that the author is a "real" person. Except I'm not entirely sure they really want authors to be "real" people. I think they might possibly want authors to be more than real people with silly foibles and mixups and what did I do with my phone and why is there a stain on my sweater? I think that people want contact, yes, but they want contact with the magic-making that is storytelling.
Once upon a time, the bards and singers and storytellers of a culture were revered because they could weave magic into words and conjure reality out of memory or legend. They were thought to be a little odd, a little fey because they were in touch with the invisible, and formed a lifeline to the world of the past or that of the gods or ghosts or supernatural that their listeners craved to know.
Is it so different today? Think about it - if you could meet your favorite author or movie maker or actor for drinks on your porch, would you know exactly what to say? Would you want to know that this person who connected you with something outside of reality accidentally put a dark sock in the white laundry yesterday? Or are you really looking for a conduit to that magic that reshaped your perception and left a mark on your soul? Why would you collect that signature on the title page if it weren't some kind of totem, ensuring that you will always have that connection, no matter what else changes?
Pity us poor authors, who flounder and dread this moment when we come face-to-face with a reader. We don't know what to do or who to be in order to meet your expectations. I've gotten lost in a parking garage (on numerous occasions), so how on earth can I be your bridge to another world? I'm terrified that you'll come, and I'll be brutally disappointed if you stay home. I'll smile, and be shy all at once. After all, I put part of my soul out in the world for you. I hope you like the book.
Recently I had the pleasure of getting away from it all. (Well, away from almost all - I brought along my other half to keep things interesting.) Last month I went to When Words Count Writer's Retreat with the goal of finishing the sequel. At that point, I had 110,000 words written and I figured I was within 5,000 of typing "The End" on the first draft. Oh, sure, I knew I had weeks (months) of editing ahead of me, but I just wanted to get the darn thing done. Finite. So I packed up my laptop, farmed out the kids, and dragged my so-supportive spouse up to Vermont for good food, skiing, conversation, and wine in front of the fire.
And of course, the best laid plans mean something unexpected will happen.
In this case, it was a conversation with the founders of the retreat about the storyline I had in mind for the ending. Short version? It just didn't work. Too complicated, too diffusive of tension, too many characters in the climatic scenes. I'm a writer that listens to criticism, even if it makes my skin crawl to hear it, because the only time it ever bothers me is if it's got some basis in reality. I mean, I asked for their opinion on how to strengthen the ending, so I could hardly be surprised when they offered suggestions.
So, it was time to murder my children. Or, it was time to surgically remove the benign but rather unattractive growth that had appeared on my lovely sequel (it really is pretty good, by the way). Out came ten chapters and 30,000 words. It hurt, but I never hesitated. I already knew it was the right thing to do. I'd done it before. I could fill entire novellas just with my edits.
The only thing bothering me now is that I've just added a good six months if I'm lucky to my timeline. I haven't even had the launch party for Discovering Ren, but already I'm looking ahead to having the sequel out by the end of this year. Publish or perish, that's how it goes. The end was in sight, but now it's somewhere around a bunch of bends.
Am I sad? A little, I suppose, but mostly I'm back where I was before the retreat. I want to finish this thing. And I am relieved that when it is done, it will be a far better, more satisfying book than it would have been otherwise.