Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jenny Lawson is Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson (perhaps better known online as The Bloggess) wrote one of the funniest books I have read this decade Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir.  

At best, a book will get a few smiles out of me.  Maybe a chuckle here and there.  Lawson managed to get me to laugh out loud on more occasions than I bothered to try and count.  She is that freakin' funny.

Hers is a strange world, one that might have weirded-out most mere mortals.  Perhaps it did so to Lawson as well, but it also gave her a wicked sense of humor and a bizarre outlook on life in general.  Even better, she's able to write about it all in a way that both honors the insanity around here while making her reactions seem normal.

Well, almost normal.

And that's part of the fun of her writing.  Somewhere you know Lawson must know that what's going on around her is more than just a little odd (if nothing else, her husband is quick to point this out) but that doesn't stop her from treating her subjects with an understanding that most of us would shake our heads at and slowly back away from.

The only problem with Let's Pretend This Never Happened is that it ended.  Now, with Furiously Happy, the fun might just begin all over again.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Book: Now Appearing in a Publishing House Editor's Inbox Near You.

Rhymes With Orange
March 09, 2015
© Hilary Price

Two weeks ago my agent (the wonderful Caryn Wiseman) wrote to me saying how much she liked the most recent revision of The Book.  She said she wanted to give it one more read-through, but she thought it was ready.

Ready.  As in, "No more revisions (for the time being)."  As in, "I'll start submitting it to Editors at Publishing Houses any day now."

Despite being a cynical person under these circumstances, I did allow myself a brief, tentative sigh of relief.  I called my wife.  I emailed a few friends who had helped me through the last round of revisions.  Still, I didn't relax.  I've been tossed back into the Deep End of the Revision Pool too many times to even consider celebrating.

Then, today, came the news that Caryn was giving The Book the go-ahead.

Now I know it's likely that any publishing house editor is likely to want to see some revisions as well.  But, for now, I'll take a moment to revel in the notion that the many years of revising The Book are at an end.

* whew! *

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Book Birthday to Anna Staniszewski!

Happy Book Birthday to Anna Staniszewski for her picture book, "Power Down, Little Robot"!  It's an I-Don't-Want-to-Go-to-Bed book that the Wall Street Journal described as, "…a fresh take on an old topic."

Anna is a prolific MG author.  Now that's she's a mama-to-be, it's no surprise she's adding Picture Book Author to her list of credits as well.

If I was a nice guy I'd recommend you go to her blog entry about the book to enter a Goodreads contest to win an autographed copy, but if you do you'll lower my chances of winning.  So, nevermind.

-- Tom

Monday, February 23, 2015

While Waiting

This Infinity Scarf is actually a dark green.

Thanks to several very helpful ├četa readers (especially SteveHeather and Anna) I was able to get Rev 2.0 of The Book out to my agent in early February.

Now, if I was a disciplined writer I would be jumping right into The Next Book.  After all, that's how people like Anna write and get so many books published.  However, if I was a disciplined writer I wouldn't have taken close to a year to get Rev 2.0 back to my agent.

Or maybe that first 'disciplined' should be 'less cynical.'  The last time I submitted The Book I jumped back into the sequel that I had written a while ago.  I was in the midst of expanding the story and making other revisions when it was suggested that I hold off on any sequel writing until we had an idea of sales figures from the first book.  Oh, and there was a list of revisions needed on The Book, too.

If my agent wants a Rev 3, I don't want to stop work on The Other Book and jump back into The Book.  So, instead, I've decided to do something else with my time.

Handmade Chainmail shirt (front)
Back during our Craft Show Days I was making a lot of wire-wrapped bangles and handmade chains.  At some point I decided to make myself a chainmail shirt.  I referred to it as 'knitting with metal' which, I knew, wasn't exactly true.  Knitting is a series of interconnected slip knots, while chainmail is a series of interconnected closed metal loops.  Still, people understood the idea of repeating pattern work.

Besides, I had wanted to learn how to knit for a long time.  My body doesn't hold in heat well, so working with a warm material (wool yarn) to make warm clothing (scarves, hats, sweaters) sounded like a good idea.  My wife, however, made me promise to finish the chainmail shirt before I learned how to knit.

Which was a wise thing, because finishing that shirt was a bear of a job.

After that project was completed I still had Rev 2.0 looming over me.  I imposed the "Finish Rev 2.0 before learning how to knit" dictate upon myself, knowing that watching Doctor Who episodes was distraction enough from writing.

So, with Rev 2.0 out to My Trusted ├četa Readers, I was finally free to take up knitting.  First up, a scarf for my wife.  Second up, a better scarf for my wife (above).  Third up, a scarf for myself.

I'll hang up the needles when it's time to work on The Next Revision.  Or The Next Book.  It all depends on what news I get from my agent.

-- Tom

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sharon Hale on the Money Writers Make

Autumn Leaf
Chapel Hill, NC  12/14

Author Sharon Hale has a great entry over at her blog on the nitty-gritty realities of making money as a children's book author.  Or, rather, not making that much money as a children's book author.

Here's a sampling:

"Case study. A children's author and an adult SF author go to a book signing. They spend two hours there and sell the same number of books. 
The adult SF author has a 700-page tome that sells in hardcover for $35. Writers get higher percentages for adult books, usually at least 15%, so each hc sold earns the author about $5. Sell 50 and he's got $250. Paperback prices vary (mass market much less than trade) but let's say it's about $15 for a paperback. He makes about 10% on that, sells 50, earns $75. For two hours plus travel, that's decent. He'll also get to meet many fans, which is another bonus of doing events. 
Now the children's book author. The hardcover sells for $18. Children's writers make about 10% on a hardcover, so if she sells 50 that's $90. For a paperback, $8 with a 7% royalty is common. For 50 books that'd be $28. 
Adult author total: $325. 
Children's author total: $118 
Plus agents take 15% off the top, and then authors are self-employed and so pay higher taxes.
Now these are big numbers. Selling 50 hardcovers and 50 paperbacks at a signing is a great signing for most authors, so this is just an example. I've done signings where I've sold zero. All authors have. And even though a 100 book signing is tremendous, I have to sells tens of thousands of books to make a living at it, so even having a few great signings several times/month wouldn't enable me to write for my job."

Will I continue to write what I love?  Of course.

Will I be giving up my day job to do it?  Of course not.

-- Tom

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Methodically Chewing Through a Handful of Corks

Mosaic Flower
Pittsboro, NC  2014
From the author's Introduction to "Dawn of the Dumb" by Charlie Brooker, © 2007

     Thanks for buying this book.  I hope you enjoy reading it more than I enjoyed writing it, because I hated every minute of it.  Well, almost.  It's fair to say I don't write for pleasure.  To me, writing is like methodically chewing through a handful of corks.  Thanks to the voices. 
     One voice tells me to stop typing because I'm rubbish and about to be rumbled; the other tells me to stop typing because its' too much like hard work.  And recently they've been joined by a third voice -- one that continually whines about a worrying, worsening form of RSI in my right arm which feels like a constant headache in my elbow.  As a result, I'm often in a pretty sour temper during the writing process, and this occasionally comes across in print.  Sorry about that.  Hope it doesn't sully your enjoyment of an otherwise jubilant sunbeam of a book.

It's probably little surprise that I'm a huge Brooker fan.

-- Tom

Monday, October 13, 2014

Writing Advice from Neil Gaiman

Two great things from this interview:

So, when people come to me and say they want to be a writer, "What should I do?'  
I say, "You have to write." 
And sometimes they say, "Well, I'm already doing that.  What else should I do?"  
I say, "You have to finish things...because that's where you learn from.  You learn by finishing things."


If you only write when you're inspired you may be a fairly decent poet but you will never be a novelist because you're going to have to make your word count and those words aren't going to wait for you whether you're inspired or not.  You have to write when you're not inspired and you have to write the scenes that don't inspire you.   
And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you'll look back at them and you can't remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.

-- Tom

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Working on Cracking the Mystery of Me

Self-portrait in Rocket Bot
Pittsboro, NC   Sept. 2014

There's no improving upon this, so I'm just blatantly reposting it from Kate DiCamillo's Facebook page.

SOME FAVORITE WORDS ABOUT WRITINGFrom Daily Rituals, How Artists Work, edited by Mason Curry

The writer Bernard Malamud: “You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it---and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you.”

I have read these words over and over again: “You write by sitting down and writing . . . the real mystery to crack is you.”

I am sitting down. I am working on cracking the mystery of me.

I have read these words over and over again: “You write by sitting down and writing . . . the real mystery to crack is you.”
I am sitting down. I am working on cracking the mystery of me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten Books

Downtown Raleighwood Parking Deck
August 2014

I was tagged in a FB posting by writer, adventurer, and all-round amazing hero Jill Gleeson to "List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes, and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great books of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag at least 10 friends, including me, so I can see your list"

Here's my list, with annotations.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I had no idea what science fiction was when I read this book, but the idea of truths and concepts beyond the everyday reality resonated with me.  It's a great story about not fitting in, heroism, and the strength of great love.

The Motel of Mysteries / Black and White by David Macaulay
David Macaulay is best known for his The Way Things Work book and/or his books that deconstruct buildings (Castle, Cathedral, Pyramid, etc).  I prefer his take on future archaeology (Motel of Mysteries) and his picture books, especially Black and White.  Black and White is a series of four stories, told simultaneously and with different art styles, that all intersect at some point -- and won the Caldecott in 1991.

Mortal Engines / Larklight by Philip Reeve
These were two books I wish I had the imagination and creativity to have written.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Astonishingly fine writing that I didn't want to see end.

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
The first Brautigan book I read.  He had a very gentle way of writing that has stayed with me.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Urusla K. LeGuin
The first of the Earthsea books and still my favorite.  In fact, it might be the only one I'll go back and reread again.  (I've read the series 6 or 7 times)  The original hardback series had some wonderful woodcuts at the start of each chapter.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
A book that challenged my way of thinking in my early twenties.  

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Writing humor is difficult.  Incredibly difficult.  Douglas Adams made it look easy.  Any book that can make me laugh out loud deserves recognition.  That Adams did it three different ways with the same-ish story (Radio, TV, and the book) earns a trifecta of appreciation)

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka
I have read this book (and the first two sequels) to at least 600 kids.  Very good times.

Bird By Bird by Annie Lamott
My go-to book for people just starting out with their writing.  And for myself when I need to remember such things as the importance of writing a $%#$%^&) first draft.

The Friendship by Mildred Taylor
Another book I read to hundreds of kids.  It's the story of two men, one black and one white, during the 1920s in the south.  It required some considerable background with the kids before reading it so they had a clearer idea of segregation.  Taylor's writing, as always, is powerful and the kids loved it.

-- Tom