A Self-Publishing Writer’s Role Model. Introducing . . .

Posted by admin on Saturday Sep 22, 2012 Under Uncategorized


. . . Erika Robuck.

Three years ago when I was fishing around for what to do with my novels now that I was living so far from anything that could in any way resemble a publishing metropolis, I came across a few brave souls, pioneers, pushing forward on the vast prairies of self-publishing.

One of those very brave souls was the lovely young woman you see on the left. I read her very first blogs about her self-published women’s fiction novel Receive me Falling and ideas started percolating in my head. A voice started whispering, You can do this, Jane.

In those days before e-books, the perils of self-publishing were really daunting. Along with worrying about whether you were kamikaze-ing any future career you might wish to have or whether your book would ever be permitted to go onto the shelves of brick and mortar stores, you had to make several other decisions. Should you create your own publishing house? Should you go with one of the self-publishing firms? There were not a lot of people out there to help, and besides, you had to deal with utter contempt from anyone remotely associated with traditional publishing. And it cost big bucks.

My, how times have changed.

For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to write about the women who inspired me, who still inspire me. Today, it’s Erika.

After the birth of her first son, Erika’s life-long desire to write surfaced, and during her son’s naptimes, she completed Receive Me Falling , set on a haunted Caribbean sugar plantation.

Her son’s naptimes? Dear Lord. That in itself is inspiring, don’t you think?

After many revisions, she began the agent-query, request-for-partial, dead-silence-plus-rejection level of Dante’s Inferno that all writers are required to go through.

Her problem she began to realize from agent responses had less to do with the book than with the fact that she had no publishing credentials, no platform.

When her husband suggested she self-publish the book, she hesitated. That old stigma thing, again.

Long story short: she DID self-publish (see book cover on right). She did create a platform for herself by blogging and getting book clubs to read her novel and so on. She did create a path for other writers far away from the center of the publishing universe, so they could move forward. Thank you, Erika.

And it’s not just writers who benefit, it’s readers. There are stories you might never have heard, set in places that have never seen the light of day or the dark of printer’s ink—like my story set in Mexico, in the Condesa/ Roma neighborhood— had writers like Erika Robuck not done all this hard, scary work.

To tell you the truth, I have only recently started thinking about these women who’d inspired me. I’ve been caught up in learning to pod-cast and blog and completing all the tasks necessary to get an e-book on AMAZON. It wasn’t until I started to get close to the end that I began to remember that distant past before e-books, before iPads and Kindles, before all the wonderful writing sites and book reviewing sites.

In fact, I was reading one of my favorite book reviewing sites—Goodreads— when the book cover you see on the left popped up.

Well, I’ll be darned if it wasn’t Erika Robuck. The novel-in-progress she’d been blogging about when I last checked in had found a traditional publisher—Penguin/NAL. It was something she always wanted, and she made it happen.

If this sounds like an OPRAH moment, it is.

Anyway, you can Google Erika Robuck and read about her books and her story on her own blog. She also has lots of book reviews on that blog and interviews with writers, so if you’re looking for something to read you can get a recommendation that way.

There are going to be many, many new ways for writers and readers to connect in the future. This is especially important for voices that tend to be marginalized—women, minorities, people in rural and even suburban areas and even older people. Maybe ESPECIALLY older people. See next week’s blog about Elle Newmark who was 60 when she first published. You see, everything is changing, and I feel thrilled to be a part of this change. One small step for Jane . . .

What’s that dictum? Be the change you want to see in the world.

Okay, so what are you going to change?

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Palace of the Blue Butterfly: Chapter Nine Posted

Posted by admin on Friday Feb 3, 2012 Under Uncategorized

I love this picture of a bookstore/cafe in the historic center of Mexico City. I imagine, but I’m not certain, that the cafe is on the second floor, and that (if I were there) I could buy a book, climb the stairs, order an espresso and read a novel well above the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets.

But I’m not there. I’m sitting at my desk slooooowly proofreading my book. I remember a well- known mystery writer telling me he always held carrots in front of his nose at this point in the novel writing process. “Eight pages and I can get up and play with the cat. Eight more pages and I can make some tea. Eight more pages after that and I can check the mail.”

In order to speed things up, I’m forgoing blogging about life on the ranch this week so that I can put up another chapter. Since each one takes me about three hours to proof and post, and since life on the ranch doesn’t come to a dead stop just because I need time to do this, I’m going at a snail’s pace. But, I really want to get this book up on Amazon sooner rather than later, and in order to do that, I have to apply seat of pants to seat of chair and not drift off into some dreamy state. In my case, it’s eight more pages and I can go fill the cattle trough!

Writing is fun, but copy editing . . . uh, not so much. That’s why there were some glitches in Chapter Eight. I wandered off. The glitches have now been corrected. If you haven’t gotten that far, then just ignore this message. If you have, well I’m sorry for the pronoun confusion — there’s a reason that happened. However, now you can go back and take a look.

Rest assured that after I’ve gone through all this, a professional copy-editor will have a go at it. Then it’s off to the e-book formatter and up on Amazon. com.’s Kindle store.

I suppose this is always the kind of thing you see if you lift the hood up and take a look at the engine of any creative endeavor. All that sort of messy stuff. Still, the engine is not what I want my readers to see. Kind of breaks up the narrative dream. While that’s all very post-modern and stuff, it’s not my style. I’m a traditional women’s fiction writer through and through.

But, back to the chapters at hand . . .

If you’ve been to Mexico City, you’ll know the Plaza Tolsa where Lili is having lunch. If you haven’t been, well, here’s a photo on the right.

You’ll get the feeling.

And just to nudge your imagination a bit more, here’s the restaurant Los Girasoles on the left where she’s dining.

BTW—Fabulous food. Great margaritas.

Before I sign off here, I’ve got a little announcement. Any of you within range of KVRP Public Radio (FM 89) can listen to me read El Tropical, an excerpt from my novel Bird of Paradise. It airs February 8 at 7 pm. Hope you’ll tune in.

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Travel Advisory: Why Women’s Fiction Might Come in Handy

Posted by admin on Thursday May 5, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 7

By now you may have heard that the US State Department has released its current Travel Advisories, and its not good news for traveling to Mexico.

I’m aware that Mexico is seen as a dangerous place. Don’t think I have my head in the sand, but I’ve been there three times this year and have felt completely safe. It’s true that I speak the language well enough, and I have friends there. Maybe that makes it easier for me.

Anyway, it’s a perfect time for some armchair traveling. You can let Lili face all the danger while you are safe at home reading in bed, well in this case, listening to Palace of the Blue Butterfly.

Why, you might ask, did I choose Mexico City as a setting in the first place? There are two answers to that, really.

One is personal. When I was seventeen, my mother and I took off for Mexico City in her huge Buick Elektra. It was a road trip moment, and we were getting out of Dodge! Anyway, I fell in love with Mexico. It’s that simple, early imprinting and all that.

The second reason? Well, that has to do with the craft of writing, with the essential element of conflict.

One of my favorite types of conflict involves a woman trying to negotiate a life in a foreign country, and one of my all time favorite first sentences is from Isak Dinesen’s memoir Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

Once I had the setting for my book, I had the conflict. What was my character doing there? Whom would she meet? Where would she go? And I wanted to follow, to peer over the forbidding walls and get behind the high, iron gates, which is exactly what I did. People have been so helpful you can’t imagine.

If you’ve followed along this far, you know that Lili is invited to a residence in a super excusive part of Mexico City called San Angel. ( See photo left) Who wouldn’t want to be driven down this street in a Mercedes with smoke-colored glass, have the chauffeur hop out and ring the buzzer, and be allowed into a whole other world?

Well, click and listen and you can.

 

Episode 7 - click and listen

 

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Women’s Fiction: Why Women’s Fiction?

Posted by admin on Thursday Apr 28, 2011 Under Uncategorized


And does it matter?

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 6


Here’s a hint.

It doesn’t.

Not if you’re the reader.

However . . .

If you’re the writer, that’s a whole other story.

It’s all about the marketing. Not that that’s such a bad thing, really.

What happens is this: You query an agent who, if she accepts you, will have to submit to an editor who, if she accepts you, will have to present your book to a publishing house and so on. They need a kind of shorthand. At least that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.

Women’s Fiction is more or less this: Fiction, a novel or story, in which the woman’s emotional growth and change drives the plot. There may be romance, suspense and mystery, but in the end, it matters less who-done-it or whether the girl gets the guy than whether the woman is a changed, older, wiser, better person. Uh . . . Jane Eyre anyone?

I consider Anita Shreve to be a wonderful Women’s Fiction writer, but she hates the term and has lobbied to not have her books called that. I suppose it was ever thus. In the 19th century, women wrote under male pseudonyms in order to be taken seriously. In the 20th century, women wanted to be on the shelves with the men.

Ah, but in the 21st century, a 32 year old male filmmaker, Cary Fukunaga, has turned his talent to rendering what is considered the best version yet of what book? You got it. Jane Eyre.

Maybe things are changing. You think?

About her books, Shreve says,” [I write about love] because love is the central drama in our lives. [For love] we take enormous risks and make moral decisions we could not otherwise have conceived.”

Could not the same be said of the character Jane Eyre? Does anyone disparage this book now because it appeals to women mostly, because it is about risks and moral decisions made in the name of love, or because it was written by a woman?

Yesterday, I read Anita Shreve’s Body Surfing in almost one sitting, couldn’t put it down. Loved, loved, loved the way she handled the point of view of the protagonist. Loved the setting— a New England beach house in August. Loved the way she led the reader through the moral decisions the protagonist made, and I —not just the protagonist— came away wiser, more mindful of my own blind spots.

As Shreve says, “Love is a catastrophic moment that can change the trajectory of your life.” Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of that from time to time? I just happen to think the writers of what is called Women’s Fiction (whether they like it or not ) do a particularly good job of this.

So what do you think Lili’s catastrophic moment will be? Listen and find out.

Episode 6 - click and listen

 

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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link