Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hatching Day

I'd like to add that I wrote this story in 2011, and that it was originally published on the #amwriting blog by Johanna Harness, more than THREE years before Steven Moffat released his version of the Moon-turned-bird in the Doctor Who episode Kill the Moon. 

They said they didn’t know earlier because it came out of the sun.

Well, not OUT of the sun, but from that direction, and that was the reason it could not be seen.

Personally, I don’t think it matters. Even if they had seen it earlier, no one would have believed them. I mean, a bird, flying through space? What is this, a really wonky Star Trek episode?

I remember when it was first mentioned on the news. Marcia had gone out to buy bagels for breakfast, and I was nursing a hangover from the night before. It felt like a regular Sunday morning, boring, a little slow, as undecided as cold pasta, and there on TV was this blurry image of a huge black mass moving through space. They said it seemed to be alive, not a spaceship, and it was coming closer.

Uh oh, I thought, what, are we playing Independence Day? You know, the movie and all? Are we going to be invaded now by slimy aliens?

But no, they said, this thing is huge. Huge, as in, bigger than a planet. Way bigger. And it’s coming our way. Coming our way from…somewhere out there. Silly me, when they said that, this Disney song popped into my mind, the one from “An American Tail”, and I went around humming it all day until Marcia threatened to clobber me.

I remember looking toward the sky every so often, and out on the street there were others doing that, too, as if we would be able to see the dark speck of whatever getting closer, as if a rent would open in the sunny blue sky and there it would be, the THING, the stranger.

Marcia and I sat in front of the TV all the time. It was like watching an ongoing SciFi movie, like one of our Christmas DVD marathons when we would watch all six seasons of the Sopranos in one sitting, ordering pizza and Chinese food and otherwise just, well, watching. We even started talking like the Sopranos, and every third word would be…you know, the four letter word starting with “f”. Marcia really does a good impression of Pauly.

Only this wasn’t a DVD, it was the news. I made her switch to CBS, knowing they would not screw with us too much and would report what was really happening, at least that was what I hoped.

Then three weeks ago, things changed. Man, did they ever change. No one could have made this up. I bet Roland Emmerich is biting his butt right now because HE didn’t think this up. What’s Independence Day compared to this? What’s a freaking space ship hovering over New York and pouring its blue stuff OUT over Empire State Building compared to THIS?

That bird - and yeah, we now know it’s really a bird - reached Pluto.

You know, Pluto? That rock that used to be planet and now is something else, I forget what, but definitely not a planet? Well, Big Bird reached Pluto. We saw the images on TV. And Pluto, planet or not, popped. It popped, and out came another bird or whatever of the same kind, smaller, but the same shape. They hovered there for a while, and then moved on.

They went off in a different direction, and for a couple of days things calmed down. Hey, the Invasion of the Space Birds passed us by!

I have to admit I was a little sad. At long last something really momentous is happening, and it’s not coming our way.

Only, yeah... They were heading toward Neptune.

Now Neptune IS a planet, right? No discussion there. A pretty big planet too. But it cracked just like an egg, and out popped hatchling number two.

Big Mama bird and Big Brother bird were there to welcome the little beast.

I had this moment when I thought I was really on something weird and not just high on coffee when I saw those telescope images on our TV, and I was really, really glad we hadn’t bought that 3D set the other day. Man, that would have creeped me out big time, seeing those planet pieces drifting through space like egg shells. Which they are.

It seems as if life has stopped here in New York.

I mean, it really stopped when those critters started to make their way toward Uranus, and then Saturn. Same thing there. New birds.

By now the pictures make me giggle and come up with really stupid chicken jokes.

You should have seen Jupiter go. All that gas and stuff? It drifted apart like egg yolk when you put your fork in it. Left a spot like a bled-out pimple in the darkness of the universe. You can see it hanging there even without a telescope, good binoculars will do the trick.

Today when I woke up I looked at Marcia, lying asleep beside me, her hand curled on the sheet, her mouth open and her hair a mess on the pillow. I’ve loved her for five years now, ever since we met at the hot dog stand at the corner of Broadway and 42nd. She was just another starry-eyed kid from the boonies who had come to make her fortune in the big city. Hell, she didn’t even know how to order that stupid hot dog.

So I looked at Marcia and thought about the kids we always wanted and now will never have, the book I always meant to write, the career on stage she wanted and will never get. We won’t even be getting the Playstation 3 I coveted.

I’ll take her out today. I’ll take her out to a really nice lunch in a very, very expensive restaurant, and then maybe I’ll book us into a luxury hotel and order the best champagne they have with our room service. And I’ll make love to my girl and hope that right then, right when we’re at it will be the moment when it happens and we go out in glory.

Because last night, just when we had turned off the TV, the knocking inside Earth started.

The birds are here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Child, Alone.

"Goodbye," I called after my daughter as I left the playground, "Be good and play nicely with the other kids! I'll come back to pick you up when you're ready for college!"
She stared after me, my lonely, scared child, but I didn't care. I had other things to do, more important things, like getting pregnant again as soon as possible, and having another baby.
I love having babies, and I really, really love giving birth. That's the greatest experience ever, though I have to admit that deserting them on the playground is a very close second. I'm sure my kids will be found by someone. Anyone. And those strangers will take them home and treat them well. That's what they're there for, after all, aren't they? My kids? Because I sure don't need them once they've left my womb. New adventures are waiting for me!

Does this sound familiar to you? Have YOU done this to your kids? Are you still doing it?
Do you think your kids are safe and will be loved by strangers if their mom or dad aren't around to proudly introduce them, share their abilities or quirks with those curious strangers?
Don't you think those strangers would like to know how your kids like their breakfast, which TV show they love, if they need a bedtime story, and how they spend their Christmas Eve? Won't those foster parents be so much happier if you were there to introduce them to your child? If they see you waving happily after them as they walk away with your baby?

You think this is a weird story, right? Well, yeah. It is. If you're thinking of human children.
But it's not if you think about the books you've written, and that you want the world to read. 

What I'm trying to say is, don't desert your book the moment it's published. Like with any infant, the first two months are crucial for it's survival. It's a well-known fact that books sell best in that time period after release, so why would you want to let it sit on that imaginary swing on the imaginary playground all on its own, when you as a parent should be protecting and nourishing it, and, like any good parent, tell the world how fabulous your book-kid is?

So here's my publishing tip of the day: Promote your book. Promote it not only before it's released, but also once it's on the market. 
I know, the urge to return to your writer's chamber is great. You've just finished a book, you've edited it one more time than you really care, and you want to move on to new, exciting things. 

Promote your released book! Help it grow into that wondrous, shining adult who goes on to–who knows!–win the Pulitzer or the Nobel Prize, or will be made into a Hollywood movie.
Don't desert it the moment it's born.

Promote your book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Behind the Scenes – What It Really Means To Be an Author

Ever wondered what an author does when he/she isn't winning awards, traveling around the world for research, or posting funny pics of cats on their Facebook wall?

What's that you're saying? They WRITE?

Well yes, there's that. But there's so much more to this job, stuff they never tell you about before you sign that book deal. Let me tell you a bit about that part of being an author.

Book Covers: You write a novel, and while you do that, you see the story unfold in your head. You see scenes, images, and when you're done writing, you have a very clear idea of how you want the cover of your book to look. If you're a self-published writer, fine. The cover is all yours, knock yourself out! But what if you're one of the lucky few who manage to capture an agent or publisher?
I have news for you: there are people who know better. There are those at a publishing house who do nothing else but design book covers. They know the market, and they know what will catch the reader's eye. And trust me, it will not be what you, the author, thought would look best.
There's only one thing you can do in this situation: submit. Shut up, nod, and move on. Let them do their work. They know. Their sole interest is to sell your book, not to make you happy. Of course, in the long run, they'll also make you happy, when the money begins to roll in.
But here's the truth: authors do not get a say on book covers. End of story.

Promotion and Marketing: Oh heck yeah. Those many hours you spend on twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or whatever social media platform turns you on: those hours are work, believe me, and a necessity these days. There's no cheaper way to make your name as an author, and no other place where you can do it as easily. In fact, I think this should be part of any book deal. Of course, while you're on it, you can have as much fun as you want. This is a great opportunity to make new friends, find great ideas for that next Easter lunch, or learn something about a new writing tool or method or whatever tickles your fancy.
But promotion is part of the deal, and there will be plenty of it. Trust me.
And here's a hint: Your publisher will love you even more if you're already internet-savvy when you sign that first contract. In fact, they might just check how active you are already. And it might make that little difference between being accepted or getting a rejection slip. (Of course, if you're reading this, then you already know what I'm talking about, and you hardly need this hint.)

The "Inner Rejection": Publishers are people. When everything's said and done, they are partial to some things, and hate others. Also, they know the market. Be ready to change your plot line, scenes, conversations, even characters and book titles, to toss endings and rewrite… be ready to do anything at all to make your book marketable. When you submit your book, you're not submitting a finished product. You may think so, but it's not true. Don't be afraid of the editing process. Embrace it. Your editor isn't criticizing you. Honestly. Your editor is your friend. They want to make your book better, and not let you look like an idiot.
You'll also find out that with every book you get to publish the editing gets a bit easier, and less. It's a learning process, and it makes you a better writer.

Be prepared for the fact that the book that eventually gets released is different from what  you originally wrote. In a good way.

Oh, and one last thing.
You totally, totally need to be able to sum up your book in two or three really good sentences. Why? Because you'll be asked this one question over and over again: "You wrote a book? What's it about?"And you better have a good answer. THIS is the ultimate marketing moment! You'll never get a better chance to win readers than in face-to-face conversations.
And no, you can't use the book blurb from Amazon. Your answer has to be personal, it has to convey that you know your book inside out. Who else is going to tell people about it if not you?

So–I've had my say for today. Now I'll go back to my writing cave and write book #8 for my publisher.
Have a great day!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hop Hop Along With Faye!

Hello, and good morning! Today it's my turn to be a part of Faye Rapoport DesPres' blog hop to celebrate the release of her memoir, Message from a Blue Jay.

To be honest, I've never figured out what memoirs were good for… after all, if you don't have to say how it really was, would you still do it? You can call it a memoir and make up all kinds of stuff.
I did read Faye's memoir though. I did it mostly because she's a fellow author at Buddhapuss Ink, and I was curious to see what kind of author my publisher had signed.

And I fell in love. No, I hadn't planned it.

I fell in love with Faye's fluid prose, with her gentle insights and beautiful descriptions.
So, to celebrate the release of Message from a Blue Jay, here's my review. 

A Memoir to Enjoy

Normally, I don’t like reading memoirs. They seem full of self-pity, half-lies, and extenuation. People who write memoirs want to make money by telling their–more or less–exciting life story. I've never understood the concept of writing a memoir. 
Why would anyone want to read someone else’s life story, unless that someone is Henry Kissinger or Kofi Annan?
What could there be in a normal person’s life that would make it so interesting that someone else would want to buy and read it? Why would I read how a stranger travels to London, visits a dying mother-in-law, or tries to save a feral cat? What is the allure?

Here’s the thing:
Faye has written a memoir, and it’s about all those things: traveling to Europe, dealing with uterine cancer too early in life, watching her mother-in-law die, and yes, talking to a blue jay in the middle of a downpour on a lonely road.
She writes about growing up and feeling ugly (don’t we all!), and about herself as a young woman, trying to find herself in a world full of turmoil and imponderables. 
What sets Faye’s memoir apart though is that she looks beyond what meets the eye, is apparent, and finds meaning. She is not afraid to learn from what she encounters. Every essay in this collection tells a small story, but each is also a lesson that Faye learned, and shares with us.
That blue jay on the road? It teaches acceptance. We don’t have control. We don’t control our deaths, we don’t control much in our lives. We need to accept them as they come. Life isn’t about control; it’s about letting go, about gracefully and patiently accepting what comes our way.

Faye Rapoport DesPres is an excellent writer. 
In fact, she’s one of the best writers I’ve read. Her style is poetic, lyrical, observant, and lush, but never excessive, never florid. Her sentences have a lovely cadence, a natural flow, that make them dance easily through the reader’s mind.

A memoir? Yes, Message from a Blue Jay is a memoir. A memoir I thoroughly enjoyed.

Born in New York City, Faye Rapoport DesPres was raised in a rural area of upstate New York. Her maternal grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and settled in the South Bronx, where her mother was raised. Her father, a Holocaust survivor, arrived in New York as a teenager after World War II.

This was the eighth stop on Faye Rapoport DesPres's Virtual Book Tour. 
Don't miss the next stop on 5/26 at This Is Who I Am!

The publisher is offering a personalized, signed copy of Message from a Blue Jay plus swag to the winner of their Virtual Tour Giveaway.
We invite you to leave a comment below to enter.
For more chances to enter, please visit the Buddhapuss Ink or Message from a Blue Jay Facebook pages and click on the Giveaway Tab!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spillworthy – A Book Release

Today is the release day for Johanna Harness' YA novel Spillworthy, I'm proud and happy to be part of her blog hop to celebrate this release.

Johanna is an amazing person; she is generous, supporting, always fun, always kind. She has helped many a fledgling writer to find their way into publication, and she was always patient, loving, joyful, doing it. 
Johanna has sheep. And she has chickens. And she's a homeschooling mom. She also has very curly blond hair. And she lives on a farm in Idaho. She loves cowboys, and the history of the Wild West. She adores her coffee!

And we love Johanna. So – many, many congrats, you sweetheart girl! 

Here is the interview I did with Johanna, and my review of her book, Spillworthy.

Hi, Mariam.  Thank you for inviting me to your blog today.  I’m so happy to be here.

Mariam: Tell us about yourself, Johanna. What’s your favorite drink, TV show, computer game, your favorite song, and which cake do you like best? Which color is your car? And what do you most like to do on a summer evening?

Johanna: Right now on my desk, I have a coffee mug filled with dark roast, and a juice glass full of milk.  Caffeine wakes me up, but protein helps me think more clearly.

My favorite television show would be either Justified or Longmire, depending on which one I’m watching at the moment.

I don’t play a lot of computer games, mostly because they’re addictive and I can blink and lose a huge chunk of my day. Right now I settle for quick games of Creepy Crawley Solitaire. The best part about playing is the meditative effect. It’s a great escape when I need to empty my mind.

 Song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” is like gospel for me. I close my eyes and cry.


Car color. Hmm. We can’t really agree what color it is. It’s sort of a silver-beige thing. It’s not a color you can remember when you close your eyes. If The Silence were a color, it would be the color of our car.

My perfect summer evening includes time spent around a campfire with my family. That’s where we tell our over-the-top stories and laugh until we fall out of our chairs.

Mariam: Why YA and not an adult novel?

Johanna: I write middle grade and young adult novels as a way of including more people. Neither type of novel excludes adult readers, but adult novels do exclude kids. I really enjoy writing stories my kids can read.

Mariam: What makes your YA novel different from all those others out there?

JohannaSpillworthy is on that border between middle grade and young adult.  The language and characters are accessible to a middle grade audience, but the subject matter can be pretty serious. It’s really up to parents to decide when this book would be right for their kids.

A couple things set the book apart.  One is that it respects the intelligence of kids. The main characters are smart people with limited life experience. They’re not dumbed-down versions of adults or silly images of kids the way adults think they should be. 

In my experience, kids see the world much more clearly than adults realize. Spillworthy is different because it opens up discussion points for many difficult topics—everything from homelessness to abuse to human trafficking—but it does so without ever feeling hopeless.  It’s a great starting point for parents to discuss issues with their kids by talking about characters.

Mariam: Why did you decide to go the self-publishing way?

Johanna: Spillworthy is a different book and I wanted it to stay different. Big publishers are risk-averse right now. That’s okay. They have to think about the bottom line and whether accepting the book the way it is would bring a return on their investment. They can’t take into consideration all the intangibles that make a book worth publishing.

As a self-publisher, I get to consider all the intangibles.  I believe this book will reach the people it was meant to reach.

Mariam: Please tell us what Spillworthy is all about!

JohannaSpillworthy is about a homeless kid who loves to write. He usually fills journals and throws them away when they’re full because he has no way to save them all. When he does have an idea so good he wants to share it with the world, he copies those thoughts onto used pizza boxes, leaving them in public places for others to read.  These thoughts spilled into the world are called spillworthies. The story itself begins when Ulysses is pulled from the streets and sent to live with his grandparents in Idaho.

Mariam: What’s next on your desk? Another YA novel? A sequel to Spillworthy? Or something entirely different?

Johanna:  During my time out on sub with big publishers, I wrote a few books, so I have some options. My daughter says the next one I should publish is DisasterMinds. It’s about a social misfit who is so smart he’s convinced he was created in a top secret lab. He convinces his childhood friend, a girl who was conceived in the same IVF lab, to go on a road trip with him, to either prove or disprove his theory.

Mariam: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Johanna: The power of writing resides inside stories and individual voices. When weighty topics scare us, we should try leaning into that discomfort, letting it instruct us.  The value of our profession as storytellers lies inside these intimate moments, shared between the reader and the characters.  Through stories, we can change the world. 

Following Johanna's directions on how to release her book, I gave my copy to my best friend's daughter Connie, who is a Middle Grade English teacher, because I think that Spillworthy belongs in every school library, and in classrooms.

Here's what I think of Spillworthy:

"A note rolled up inside a note, left in the fence: 

Some truths are kept hidden in the basement of our souls. We should never stop trying to find them."

Spillworthy by Johanna Harness has left me baffled, surprised, speechless, and with the deep wish that all schools all over the world put this middle-grade novel in their libraries, and not only one copy, but fifty. Or maybe one-hundred. Or maybe enough copies so every child can take it home and then "release" it into the world so it becomes a real Spillworthy, a piece of writing set free into the world. 
I just know that kids will devour this book, and maybe not only kids. When I began reading I had a text marker in my hand to highlight notable passages, only I gave up a few pages into the book. Every page is noteworthy, full of observations, insight, philosophy.
This: "Maybe we're all supposed to be making music together whether it feels like we belong together or not. Maybe it's not enough to live your own lives with quiet respect for others. Maybe we're supposed to be reaching and connecting – even when it seems like there's no way that's possible."

This novel reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird; the kids are of about the same age, and sometimes the tone is similar. Then again, it's something completely different, something not attempted before, both in style and form. 

Buy this book. Read it. Share it. It's a wonderful book!

You can buy Spillworthy here: Spillworthy
Find Johanna here: Homepage

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who Wins the Prize?

It's that time of the year again, when every independent publisher and author ( who submitted a project) keeps checking for the announcements of the Independent Publisher Award committee.
It must be happening right now… today, or maybe tomorrow… the excitement and anxiety is nearly palpable on twitter.

Twice now, books that I've written were among the winners, in 2012 and 2013, so you can imagine that I'm not expecting to win anything this year. In fact, I don't even know if my publisher Buddhapuss Ink even submitted Song of the Storm. After all, no one wins three times in a row.

But that's not really what I wanted to write about.
Both times, when my books were winners, my publisher told me, "It's all YOUR achievement! YOU wrote the books!"
And every time I replied, "Yes, but they'd never be published if not for you and my editor at Buddhapuss!"
They never accept the credit. And yet, I know I'm right.
If Buddhapuss Ink hadn't literally grabbed my first book, The Distant Shore, out of my hesitant hands, I'd not be an author today, and even less, an award-winning author. They turned a messy, much too long something into an award-winning novel. They designed the cover, they put the book on the market.
And they did the same for my other books, Under the Same Sun and Song of the Storm.

So what I'm trying to say is, those awards, they're not only my achievement.
They are just as much my publisher's achievement. If anyone deserves to put that award certificate on their walls, it's them.
I can hold those two books in my hands and run my fingers over those award stickers on their covers, and I smile, because I know how lucky I am, to have been signed by the publisher who is just right for me.
And today, on the eve of the 2014 Independent Publisher Awards, I want to give a big shoutout to my editor at Buddhapuss Ink, MaryChris Bradley, and say thank you for an amazing and fun time together.
I hope we'll work together for many, many years to come, my dear!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring Rains, Chapter One.

Here's a simple truth. 
You can't force writing, and even less, force the beginning of a new project. But you can't wait until you "feel" like it, either. I firmly believe that successful writing happens on the narrow path between those two, and that narrow path is called "routine and discipline, and a good measure of brash  boldness". You need to be bold as a writer. You need to take those words and stare them in the eye, and tell them that you're the master, and they better get in line, or else.
You'll also have to tell them that they don't have your permission to stray from the project you're working on into a new one before you tell them to.
THIS project is the one that needs to be finished!
You all know what matters if you want to be a successful writer: finish your projects. I believe, I firmly believe, that many writers out there never make it to publication because they never finish what they start.
And I also believe that it's less a matter of discipline than fear of finishing. Because what happens when you finish? You have to submit. You have to let go of your project and let others read it, judge it, and not everyone can take that. 
You'll also have to do all those other things that come with publishing a book: market and promote it, and be the public person you'll have to be, as an author.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today.
I want to talk about beginnings. About that first word, the first sentence, that you put to paper when you start a new project.

I'm at that pivotal point once again. I'm starting my 8th. novel for Buddhapuss Ink, and I'm staring at that blank page, at the beginning of all things.
Once the first word has been written, the story will gain impetus, it will grow into the avalanche of thoughts and images that in the end, at the very end, will tell a story.

I love this moment. I love standing on the brink of the wide ocean of possibilities, and marvel at where it will take me. The journey through the story is as exciting for me as it is for you, my readers.
Like my characters, I'll fall in love, be happy, unhappy, shocked, I'll grieve and cry, and I'll do all those things they do. 
I will grow, as they will, and in the end, I'll release the story into the world, and into your hands.

And I'll hope that you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So, here we go. First words, first sentences.

                                                            Spring Rains

Chapter One.

When I was a child, New Year’s Even always followed the same routine.
My mom made her famous German potato salad, my dad would fill the fridge with bottles of cheap champagne, they’d argue over the amount of money that would be spent for firework and crackers, and they’d invite their best and oldest friends over, the Bihari family living on the floor below us.

As always, my dad would complain that they couldn’t have the filled doughnuts that he knew from home, from where he grew up on an island in the German North Sea, and as always my mom would shake her head and tell him to go down to Dunkin Donuts and get a box of the fatty things, they were just as good as the German ones from his childhood. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Void

Is there a sadder state for an author than being between books?
I think not. I think there is nothing more bored, more vacant and vapid than an author's brain between books.
At least that's how it is for my brain. Maybe mine is exceptionally small to be that way, but it's true.
It's small enough to enjoy a few hours playing Farmville:

Picture this:
there she is, that elderly woman with too many pounds on her frame, sitting in the corner of the couch, her laptop on her knees, and her eyes are straying across the room, out of the window, into the middle distance, into the nowhere of not-writing.
On her headphones, she's listening to Mike Batt's Caravan Song, performed by Barbara Dickson, and images and ideas flit by, too small to be a story, too big to ignore, but her brain is in vacation mode.

Me, that author without a project, I'm that woman: a heart without a purpose, fingers in search of a keyboard, an imagination running wild.
The exhaustion from finishing the last project lingers, but somewhere deep inside, the drive to write is simmering, a small flame, but too close to the well of oil that's creativity to stay small for very long. All it needs to do is reach out one fire finger, and we'll be off, that imagination, my heart, my fingers, and I.

I wonder if there are writers who really feel well between books. Writers who can step back and enjoy what others call "life", that state that happens when you don't write.
But me, I'm not happy. I'm not unhappy, either. I'm just… not.

Last night, lying awake in bed, I heart Jon Stone talk to me.
You know who he is, I'm sure: the hero of my Stone Trilogy, the husband of Naomi, the rock star.
He said, "The heart has two chambers so that you can love more than one thing or person at the same time. If it had only one, I'd never have been able to love my children, because my love for my wife is so overpowering. Yes, you can love more than one thing, and without stealing from it."
Strangely enough, nearly at the same moment, my hubby asked me if I ever got up in the middle of night to write.
Little did he know that just about then I was nearly ready to do that, afraid that this likeness about the chambers of the heart would be forgotten in the morning.

It's true; I came to writing late in life, at the doorstep to the winter of my life. It doesn't change a thing, though. The pull is strong, and enticing enough to make me want to write nearly all the time.
And… I guess I must end the vacation mode soon.

There's only so much Farmville I can take.

Monday, April 7, 2014


The Follow the Baton blog hop is well underway!

I caught the baton from author friend Wendy van Camp.
When Wendy invited me to take up the baton from her, I immediately agreed. A writer should grab every chance at getting some exposure, and this blog hop is one of the nicest ways!
Let me introduce you to Wendy.

Wendy Van Camp is the writer behind No Wasted Ink. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband and an Australian shepherd. Wendy enjoys travel, camping, bicycling, gourmet cooking and gemology. Currently, Wendy has published two short stories in literary magazines and is working on a steampunk science fiction trilogy.
You can find her here:

So here's my contribution to the Baton Blog Hop!

1.  What am I working on? 

I just finished a new project today, my first mystery, sort of mystery; it’s really more of a romance. After finishing the Stone Trilogy and its prequels Waiting for a Song (release: June 3rd.) and The Rosewood Guitar (release: September 2nd.) I was ready for a fresh setting, fresh characters, and for a new subject.
The Snows of Sunset Bay has a tie-in to the Stone books though. I couldn’t completely let go of Jon and Naomi. It’s fun to look at them through an outsider’s eye. They come across as nice people, fun people, but also as a couple that really doesn’t need anyone else in their dance of love. I’m forever lured to have normal people meet rock star Jon Stone in an everyday setting away from the stage, where he’s (of course) a more glamorous version of himself.
Sunset Bay is set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which is totally different from my earlier settings, like New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. It’s also written in 1st. POV, which was a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one.
The ideas for the sequel are all there, all I need is to open a new Scrivener file and write them down. I want to finish the sequel before I travel to Vancouver Island and the US in September.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

When my publisher and I had our first lunch together we talked about the genre thing. 
I said, "The Distant Shore isn’t really a romance.” My publisher nodded sagely and replied, “No, it isn’t.”
I also said, “It’s really hard to write a synopsis for it,” and again she readily agreed. So—we know what my books are not. They’re not romance, not mystery, not crime, and somehow, not even women’s fiction. They’re less than each of these pieces, and yet, taken together, more than all of them combined.
We never managed to really define my novels, however. They still run under the label “Modern Romance/Contemporary Fiction”. I think that’s as good as it gets, genre-wise.
Why aren’t my books Romance?
Because they aren’t. They are more than just romances, which follow a basic formula: people fall in love, they overcome some sort of problem, and then they get their happy ending.

Mine don’t. Mine don’t get their happy ending—or at least not always—and love is a hard, often painful, sometimes even destructive thing. They have to wrestle with it, endure it, and even abandon it, before they understand it. They also have to realize that what they thought was love often is just an illusion, and that the love that’s waiting for them is something else altogether.
There are no sex scenes in my books, at least not explicit ones.

I prefer to stop writing when the first pieces of clothes fall. I respect my characters too much to intrude on their intimacy. 
Don’t get me wrong—I can and did write erotic scenes. But I find that my novels are better without them, so I leave what goes on behind closed doors to the reader’s imagination.

3.  Why do I write what I do? 

Oh gosh, I have no idea.
I’m one of those writers who writes what pops into their minds. I don’t think or plan what I write. There’s a story idea, sometimes just an idea for a setting, and I start to write.
While I do enjoy writing the occasional SciFi short story, when I write a novel, it’s always about real people, and their real problems, dreams, and wishes.
When I began writing The Distant Shore, I wanted to examine the disparities in a celebrities life. I wanted to take the stage image apart and show a very famous, very adored rock star in the solitude of a dressing room before and after a show, and the loneliness that comes with having to live behind high walls to keep the fans away. And I wanted to show him as a vulnerable man with dreams and yearnings, battling with loss and depression. At that moment when he’s ready to give up on life despite all he has, he receives a letter that changes his life and gives him a chance at a new beginning.

I think in the end all stories and all novels are basically about this: new beginnings, new chances, and how they change a person.
The German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki once said, “All novels are only ever about two things: love, and death. Everything else is humbug.”
I think the man has a point.

4. How does your writing process work?

Easy: I make coffee, open a Scrivener file, and write.
Really. That’s all. I don’t like making a drama about it. I wrote Distant Shore while I was supervising the detention room at a local middle school. Whenever I had a free moment, I added another sentence or paragraph. At home, after school, after doing my household chores, and cooking for my family, I’d write. Back then I didn’t have an office. I wrote on the couch in the living room, my laptop on my knees, headphones clamped over my ears, while my family watched TV, or the boys played on the xBox… if that’s how you start writing, nothing at all will ever bother you again while you write.
I’ve written chapters in the boarding area at the airport, on the train, at my publisher’s dining table, on an Airbus 380 en route from JFK airport to Frankfurt, Germany. 
I’m writing this on the couch, like my first novel, listening to Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
My hubby brought me an after-lunch espresso a moment ago, and while I’m writing, he’s doing his Saturday afternoon Sudoku.

And as soon as I’m done with this interview, I’ll open that new Scrivener file and start writing the sequel to The Snows of Sunset Bay.

I'm passing the baton to two amazing author friends.

Please meet Faye Rapoport desPres, who's a fellow-author at Buddhapuss Ink LLC, and whose first book,  Message from a Blue Jay, will release this April.


Faye Rapoport DesPres was born in New York City, and over the years she has lived in upstate New York, Colorado, England, Israel, and Massachusetts. She has spent much of her professional writing career as a journalist and business/non-profit writer. In 2010, Faye earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College’s Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, where she studied creative nonfiction.

Early in her career, Faye worked as a writer for environmental organizations that focused on protecting wildlife and natural resources. In 1999, after switching to journalism, she won a Colorado Press Association award as a staff writer for a Denver weekly newspaper, where she wrote news stories, features, and interviews.

Faye’s freelance work has since appeared in The New York Times, Animal Life, Trail and Timberline and a number of other publications. Her personal essays, fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, damselfly press, Eleven Eleven, Fourth Genre, Hamilton Stone Review, Necessary Fiction, Platte Valley Review, Prime Number Magazine, Superstition Review, The Whistling Fire and the Writer’s Chronicle.

Faye currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul, and their four rescued cats. She is an Adjunct Professor of English at Lasell College. 

You can find Faye here:

And please meet Cindy:

Cindy Zelman is a graduate of the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals including Tinge Magazine: Temple University’s Online Literary Journal, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Feminist Studies, Sinister Wisdom, The Whistling Fire, The Huffington Post, TMI Project.Org, and Cobalt Review. Her chapbook: What’s in a Butch’s Purse and Other Humorous Essays is available for pre-order in print or instant download for e-book from Winged City Chapbook Press Her short story, “The Cross Dresser,” was recently accepted for publication in Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review. To read her blog “The Early Draft” and to find a list of her publications, see

Twitter: @cindy2zzz

Her chapbook What’s in a Butch’s Purse and Other Humorous Essays will be up for pre-order soon!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine's Giveaway!

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and we've got a link to a great Valentine's Date giveaway with chances to win a $250 pre-paid Master card, $150 pre-paid Master card, or a Kindle Paperwhite eReader!

Want more chances to win AND get a great read for next to no cash? Get 10 extra chances by buying a copy of Mariam's award-winning bestseller, The Distant Shore, AND for the next two days you can get it for just $.99! WOO HOO

It's a breeze to enter, just follow the link for more information!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Michelle4Laughs- It's In The Details: Getting the Call: Mariam Kobras

The Story of my Life: 

"Some things in life happen when you least expect them.
When I woke up on that cold and dreary November morning in 2010 and decided to write a novel, I had no idea that only two years later, it would be published, and go on to win a Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award."

Read the whole story on Michelle Hauck's blog, where I'm a guest blogger today.
Thank you so much, Michelle! 

Michelle4Laughs- It's In The Details: Getting the Call: Mariam Kobras: Call stories come in all forms, but this one takes an unconventional path.  See how Mariam Kobras befriended her way into showcasing her talent for a publishing contract…

Monday, January 6, 2014

For the Love of Small Things

The other day, taking out the trash, I met one of my neighbors out front.
We said "hi" to each other, I asked her how her kids were doing, she asked me about mine, we chatted about the weather for a while, and then she looked at me thoughtfully and said, "Are you still writing books?"
"Yes," I replied, and told her about what I'd written in the past few months, and about the upcoming releases. I told her about my books on the shelves of our local bookstore, and how I'd won two Independent Publishers' Awards for The Distant Shore and Under the Same Sun.

Picking up her trash can, she emptied it, and said, "But you're only with a small publisher, aren't you? I mean, not a real publisher."

I laughed.
Yes, I answered, I'd signed with a small publisher, an indie house in New Jersey, and it was the best decision of my life. Well – maybe the second best, after saying "yes" when my hubby proposed, some thirty-five years ago.

And yes, Buddhapuss Ink is a "real" publisher, I said. Size doesn't always matter. Quality, though, always does.

I told her how from Moment One my publisher had taken care of me, how they weren't only interested in my book, but also in me, as an author, and how they gently and patiently guided me through the many pitfalls of suddenly being a public person.
I tried to tell my neighbor how being an author is more than just writing book, that it means marketing your product, giving interviews, doing book signings, and that from now on I'd have to watch what I said, and not offend anyone, and all this while staying myself.
I told her how, that day when I signed with Buddhapuss Ink, my publisher and I celebrated on twitter, how we laughed together about the serendipity that had led us to this point in our lives, and how I'd never regretted my decision for one single moment.

She grumbled something and walked away.
I called "Have a nice day" after her, but there was no response.
What a shame; I'd so have loved to explain to her what quality in a publishing house means for an author, and it certainly isn't size.

Here's my little list of important attributes for a good publisher, regardless of small or big, from an author's point of view:

A good publisher has excellent expertise. They know everything about publishing, they have experience, they follow the market sharply, and all the time.

A good publisher will know which marketing strategies are the best for their authors' books, and they'll develop them, together with their authors.

A good publisher takes care of their authors; they don't let newbie authors stand in the rain, or let them figure out their new job on their own.

A good publisher involves their authors in every step of the publishing process, including the cover design.

A good publisher encourages their authors to write more, get better, expand their skills.

A good publisher will let their authors grow, and develop their own personal and writing style, and not ask them to be someone else.

A good publisher will celebrate with their authors when things are going great, and they'll support them when things are rough. But they won't drop you.

A good publisher will be fun to work with!

A good publisher will even help you design the new header for your blog, because they want it to be perfect.

And: a good publisher (a REAL publisher!) will never, ever ask the author to pay for any services, because a good publisher is a real publisher, and not a vanity press!

My publisher is a small publishing house. My publisher is an excellent publishing house!

Take that, neighbor!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

you were a good year.
You were also a long and often boring year, but that's okay. I missed traveling, that's why you seemed to drag a bit. But the good things far outweigh a few days of boredom. Really.

Let's see.
You started out as always, with a nice party and lots of champagne, and with disappointingly mild weather, when we all wanted snow for Christmas and NYE. You heard us ask for that, and you brought us the coldest spring in history, only you forgot the snow. I'm telling you, icy cold without snow just isn't fun!
The one thing that made your tantrums bearable – except hot chocolate and heating – was this:

My second book won the Silver Independent Publishers Award.
I'll not lie. It was totally unexpected. Under the Same Sun was my second book, and I felt totally insecure about it. My first book, Distant Shore, had been ripped out of my hands by my publisher before it was even properly finished; I'd written it for myself, and never thought of publishing, and there I was, in May 2013, with two published books, and both of them with awards.

In July, my third book was released by my publisher Buddhapuss Ink.
In a moment of quirkiness I'd asked them if the launch day could be my birthday, and they readily agreed. So that's what happened: we had double reason to celebrate!

My mom made that marble cake. The cream cake is a caipirinha cake, made by my daughter-in-law.
And yes, that's a theme cake, with my book cover on it! For those who want to know: there was chocolate cream cake under the marzipan.

I took a huge risk writing Song of the Storm. My publisher wasn't very happy when I first told them that I was going to write about 9/11, but once the book was written and the good reviews started rolling in they breathed a breath of relief, and I knew I'd done the right thing.
Readers posted pics of themselves, reading Song of the Storm:



and this is how my copies arrived: with the IPPY certificate, and the medal for Under the Same Sun as an extra-bonus!

And the coolest EVER for a writer is to see their books at the bookstore!

While all this went down, I wrote two new books.
They're prequels to the Stone Trilogy, and they'll be released next year.

No, wait. THIS year! It's 2014, and that makes THIS year the year these two will be published:

So all in all, you were a very good year, 2013.
I have a lot to be thankful for: my family is healthy and doing well, we live in a country where it's peaceful and we don't have to worry about bombs, persecution, hunger or repression.
I have wonderful friends, both near and far, and some of those far away I'll be seeing again this year.

This is what I wish for all my friends and family for the new year:
stay safe, stay healthy, have a lot of fun! Thank you for being in this world!