contemporary fiction

updates: reading and readings, Pajama Girls

All kinds of little bits of information and commentary I’ve been meaning to post:

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be contributing a once-a-month column at Writer Unboxed. Please stop by and say hello. I would like to see some familiar faces over there.

The ‘tell me what happened in 1883’ experiment is going better than I ever imagined. Y’all have dug up some fantastic stuff… more on that when I close the post and do the giveaway drawing.

I just finished reaading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a novel I really liked for a variety of reasons. I’ll post a review soon.

Thank you for all the suggestions on how to resolve the when-is-the-book-coming-out question. I’m going to implement a couple of them and hope they do the trick.

On February 12 I’ll be reading and answering questions at the Burlington Public Library here in northwestern Washington State. If you are nearby, please stop in.  The session starts at 7pm.

[asa book]0425225917[/asa] The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square will be coming out in trade paper on March 3. If you do plan on buying a copy, please consider pre-ordering from your favorite book store or from Amazon. Preorders are one of those factors that really contribute to a book’s success. Pajama Girls needs to do well if I want to write another book.

The puppy mill saga is still ongoing. They’ve now seized more than five hundred dogs from mills owned by one family in two different counties. I offered to foster one or two pups when they get that far. This is a dangerous thing for me to be doing, as I will find it hard to give them up. But I do have experience with small-breed rescue, and I think my two monsters would be a great help at rehabilitating dogs who have been shut up in cages.

In my next post I’m going to talk about The Endless Forest and the publication process.

why contemporary instead of historical?

I had a short email from Joel, with a good question. It’s a good question because it keeps coming up, so I had better answer it.

Joel asked:

I’m confused about something and I’ll be honest… sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to make me confused.

Where does  Tied to the Tracks fit into your writing.

The two stand-alone contemporary novels I have out there (Tied to the Tracks and Pajama Girls of Lambert Square) are a departure from those novels I am best known for — the Wilderness series — in a whole slew of ways. In fact, it’s hard to think of things they have in common.

Lemme see if I can tease out the questions within the question.

1. why the change from historical series to contemporary stand-alone?

I’ve been writing the Wilderness series for 10+ years, and while I’m not tired of my characters, I still need a change of pace. And I have other stories I’d like to tell.

2. why Tied to the Tracks in particular?

The idea behind TTTT simmered in the back of my brain for years. Many years. I wanted to set a novel on a college campus, in part I think to deal with a lot of my own unresolved issues about my twelve years as an academic (or twenty years, if you count my education post high school). I wanted to tell a story about a couple who don’t fit the traditional mold.  That is, if you were to rewrite the book and switch gender on the characters (John as Angie, Angie as John) it would be a pretty standard approach to telling  a love story. Or at least, that’s how it feels to me. I wanted to set a story at least partially in Hoboken, a city I really like. And I wanted to be able to use my cousin Tom as a model for a character. He says no way is he like Tony Russo, but trust me, he is.

2. why the Pajama Girls of Lambert Square?

One of the things I like about writing fiction is the way it allows me to explore things I chose not to do with my life. I have always been interested in retail sales. I still think all the time about opening a shop of my own. There’s even a space I have my eye on.  This is a shop I would love to frequent if it really existed, and my guess is that if I had the time and money to get it started, it would in fact do very well.

So I’m a frustrated retail person. Here’s an example. Our grocery store is fairly small. It has a little cafe with about a dozen tables set into the middle of the deli area. I’ve had this idea for a long time so I finally approached the store manager about it. I said, You know, if you invested in six or ten general cookbooks and left them in the cafe area for people to use (along with paper and pencil for making lists), I think people would really take advantage of that. And you’d sell more groceries. She said, wow, that IS a good idea. I’ll bring it up to my supervisor (this is a local chain of about six stores).

That was over a year ago, and so far, nothing. I doubt it will ever happen, but I don’t understand why it won’t. We’re talking about an investment of (tops) $150. Is that not worth a try? It seems not.

To the same manager I said, you know, if you put one sm all section of your books/magazines aisle aside for local authors, you’d get a lot of appreciation and attention for that. Because there are a lot of local authors, and not everybody makes it to the local independent bookstore, so they just wouldn’t know.

Again, nothing.

So to get back to the original question, Pajama Girls was a way for me to explore all the various ideas I have had over the years about retail sales.

The other, more important impetus for PG was my interest in writing a novel about people with phobias that restrict the way they live their lifes. I wanted to really explore Julia’s mindset and her understanding of what she had to do to keep herself safe. The same was true of John, of course, but Julia was the most interesting phobia to me. I think because I worked through all of those issues with Julia I have a special affection for her in the long list of characters born out of my subconscious.

3. why not stick with historicals?

I love writing historicals, but they take a lot out of a person. The research is rewarding but demanding. And I need to pick up my pace and put more books out there if I want to keep writing full time.

Have I missed any nuances of the original question? Please let me know.

And I was doing so well…

Well, hell.

This sometimes happen towards the end of a novel. 200,000+ and I realize I have to start all over from scratch. Dump the whole thing.

I’ll try to get it done within a year.

Okay, I’m kidding. But I do have to rewrite three chapters. That’s better than the whole thing, no?

In the meantime, the trade paper release of Pajama Girls is just around the corner, and the marketing people are starting to rouse themselves. If you plan on ordering it from Amazon at some point, why not preorder it now? It would certainly help if folks showed an early interest.

Click the cover to be magically transported to Amazon:

[asa book]0425225917[/asa] I realize that this cover does not show up well on a white background; when I have a chance I’ll give it a frame.

my druthers

In response to my question (a couple posts ago) about what you’d like to see me write next, someone asked what I really want to write, what I would write if marketing and mortgages and tuitions were not an issue.

First, let me try to wrap my head around that idea.

Okay. Here’s the thing. Historicals take a long time to write, and the research — which I love — is a drain. It took me about a year to write Tied to the Tracks and then another year for Pajama Girls, because they are (a) shorter; (b) less research intensive. Note also that I was working on those novels part time while I kept banging away at the historicals.  I don’t remember ever bogging down while I was writing either of the contemporaries.

So for the present, if I didn’t have to think about sales, I would write another contemporary. I have a pretty good outline for one in my head, and it already has a title: The Swing of Things. I do hope to write it, some day, but probably I’ll have to write it without a contract up front.

I’m not done with historicals. I am very enamored of my plot outline for the Rhode Island novel (good thing, too, or why would I write it?). But I’ve been working on these big fat historicals for 10+ years, and I could use a change of pace.