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: http://nowastedink.com

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: http://fayerapoportdespres.com

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 http://www.wingedcitychapbooks.com. 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 www.cindyzelman.com.

Twitter: @cindy2zzz

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