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Archive for January, 2008

Today, January 29th, is the release date for the trade paperback edition of Patry Francis‘ debut novel The Liar’s Diary. What makes this release different? Unlike most authors, Patry doesn’t have the time, energy, or probably the money to market it herself. That’s because she’s undergoing treatment for an aggressive form cancer.

If I were dealing with this, I’d want my friends and acquaintances in the crime fiction community to come together for me too. Book promotion is hard enough as it is. To work so hard on a novel, to be trying to make a career in a business that’s increasingly stacked against us, and then to have book sales jeopardized by something completely out of one’s control…. So, even though I don’t know Patry personally, I’d like to join 300+ other blogging writers to ask my readers to check out her book. It looks like a good one, going by the Publisher’s Weekly review –

A case study in the explosive effects of extreme denial, Francis’s debut relies completely on its very unreliable narrator, with mixed results.

– as well as the publisher’s promotion:

A chilling tour of troubled minds, THE LIAR’S DIARY questions just how far you’ll go for your family and what dark truths you’d be willing to admit—even to
yourself.

Also, watch The Liar’s Diary book trailer here.

Good luck Patry!

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Not long ago, author and freelancer Mark Terry gave me an interview about his writing. This week, he’ll be doing a series that goes in-depth on freelancing. As I wrote him in a comment, I’m thinking about trying to do more with my job, so I’m really looking forward to the series. Go check it out – his first post is all about the different types of writing there are (more in the comments section too).

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Giddy

For the first time in over a year, I can say it: I have the house to myself.

Rain Dog took both boys to his mother’s house for a visit. Originally I was going to go too, but I have so much work and he could see how frustrated I was getting with the regular morning routine. His words: “All you’ll be doing over there is thinking about what you’re not writing, or you’ll be on your PDA.” I love that man!

I nursed Puck before he left, and he has his sippy cup and whatever food is available over there. Although I was a bit at a loss for what to do – deadline work, fiction, or yes, even some housework! – I’ve settled on the deadline stuff. If I can make a dent in that, I’ll be in much better shape for the coming week.

So here I sit at my desk with my hot chocolate and my favorite work music. It’s allll good.

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Art vs. creativity

Forgive my silence, folks. I’ve been tinkering with a sort-of new writing schedule per my conversation with Miranda at Creative Construction: not expecting to work during the day, getting most of it done at night. Some days it works better than others, and so I continue to tinker….

On to today’s topic. On a parenting forum I belong to, we recently had a friendly debate over the best ways to “teach” art to 4-year-olds who don’t seem very interested in it. I was surprised to see replies that told me (to paraphrase), “Art is about creative expression. You can’t teach that, and you shouldn’t try.”

To some extent, I agree–for children who seem naturally inclined to express themselves artistically. For Hamlet, however, the issue is a little more complicated. He’s a literal kid who needs to be led. He wants to know how to do things, but he also wants to be able to master them right from the get-go. (He is his mother’s son.) And when we sit down to paint or color together, he often ends up watching me–or finding something else to do.

Not that I’m any Van Gogh. But I do paint pictures rather than scribbles: a moonlit field, a blooming cactus (all in tempera, mind you). Having decided he “can’t,” Hamlet seems interested in learning, but not trying.

Back to the debate. I worried that my pictures somehow stifled his desire to create, to scribble something on paper and declare it a mosquito or a volcano. It was disheartening to find that my friends agreed with my fear. And yet, I wondered, was there a way for me to teach Hamlet some sort of basics–the structure he could then break through to create whatever he wanted?

Because at that point, I wasn’t just thinking about him and me. I was thinking about the pervasive teaching that says “creativity” is all that matters, not spelling or grammar or punctuation, or even story structure. (See this article for an interesting perspective on the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite NCLB, Rain Dog continues to see papers that have no sense of structure or rules–but of course, his students were in elementary school before NCLB. I hope teachers are achieving better balance as my boys get ready to enter school.)

The creativity-first argument makes even more sense when viewed in light of genre, and literary, purists who sneer at blurred lines. A spec fiction author can’t write crime fiction; romance writers must retain their credibility only by following strict guidelines. And the artists rebel.

But those are arbitrary rules, not fundamentals of language. When our words don’t make sense to those who read them, then we fail to communicate. And, while true that the work of abstract artists is sometimes hard to interpret, even those artists first learned the rules before they broke them.

One mother suggested helping Hamlet practice basic shapes. Ah, I thought. His Ice Age: The Meltdown video has a short bonus segment in which animator Peter de Seve describes how he uses basic shapes to draw Sid. For my literal kid, that may be just what he needs.

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Pondering a career

Ten years ago this June, I was hired for my first full-time job: tech support on the Help Desk for the University of New Hampshire.

It was a job that taught me a lot about myself and most definitely led to the place I’m at now (including in one very unexpected way, which I’ll explain in a moment). By 2000, I’d started to think I didn’t want this career path anymore. The office politics were getting me down. My new husband and I were starting to talk kids, and I knew I didn’t want to have to leave a 6-week-old in daycare to commute two hours every day. A lot of people I knew had given up on their dreams to follow the stability of a steady job. My boss’s boss, for one, had a Ph.D. in Forestry. He’d been in computing since I’d been a student. I can only assume he stayed where he was to support his family.

Meanwhile, a couple of guys I knew were still actively pursuing their dreams. Martin England worked part-time on the loading dock, stocking computers and peripherals for the campus store. With the other part of his time, he was writing songs for his band, Pondering Judd. Likewise with two of the workstudy students on the Help Desk (Short Bus band member Pat Curry now plays with The Whatnot).

By then I knew I wanted to write for a living, so I began to look for a way to go part-time. Miraculously, a part-time coworker was looking for a way to earn more money but keep her mother’s hours. My 80% time job fit her needs. Her 50% job fit mine. We switched, and I started to write. A year later, I decided to quit for good and write full-time.

In a startling example of things coming full circle, Pondering Judd has once again led to work for me. Last month I submitted a story to Shroud Magazine, a new horror market. Editor Tim Deal checked out my website, where my bio notes Marty’s influence. It turned out that Tim had been involved in the Seacoast New Hampshire indie music scene. Not only did he know Marty, he also knew at least one of the workstudy students I’d worked with. Also, he’d worked as a cop, and we share a fascination with zombies. So, he asked, would I consider working as Shroud’s assistant editor? Absolutely.

It strikes me that most of my jobs have come about because of people I know. A former associate editor I once worked for recommended me to the PR agency I work for. Editing for New Leaf came about because of a friend who worked with the owner. And I can’t count the number of contacts I’ve made through the crime fiction community.

This year, along with my PR work, I’ll be blogging for a startup Maine parenting site, writing articles for its companion magazine, and working on Shroud. I’ll also continue with fiction, and, of course this blog. In fact, another one of my contacts recently invited me to join a WordPress community of other creative moms. (It’s live – come join us!)

It’s funny, because as introverted as I am, I’ve still met a lot of people whose help has moved my career along nicely. I’ve even been able to make recommendations for people I know, to pay forward all the favors I’ve received. If there’s one thing besides talent I would want to mark my career–that would be it.

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