Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Everyone Buy Brew or Die! (or at least enter the Raffle)

I’m very excited to announce that my friend Caroline Fardig is releasing the fourth book in her Java Jive mystery series today!!!!

BREW OR DIE! (I know a lot of people who live their lives by this axiom.)
Nashville’s perkiest private eye—coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley—goes undercover in the party-planning industry to solve a suspicious death in this thrilling cozy mystery!

Inspired by her past sleuthing successes, Juliet Langley has officially joined the ranks of Nashville’s licensed private investigators. Her best friend, Pete Bennett, doesn’t worry that her detective work might interfere with her full-time job running his coffeehouse, Java Jive. He just wishes she would spend her free time rejoining the local music scene instead of tailing cheating spouses. But when one of Java Jive’s baristas, Shane, asks Juliet to look into the suspicious death of his fiancée, Pete encourages her to plow full steam ahead.

Since his fiancée died on the job, Shane suspects that her party-planning colleagues are up to something criminal—and will do anything to keep it quiet. After Juliet recruits Pete to go undercover with her at a wedding showcase, she discovers that white lace and black satin have a way of hiding big, fat secrets.

If that weren’t enough to fill her plate, her latest P.I. job has her crossing paths with her ex, Detective Ryder Hamilton. They’re barely on speaking terms, but to solve the case, they might have to cooperate. No matter where Juliet goes, she’s brewing up trouble.

Buy link for BREW OR DIE

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About the Author:
CAROLINE FARDIG is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig's BAD MEDICINE was named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.



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Monday, April 17, 2017

Goodbye "Girl"… Another writer turns in her pen for motherhood

Sunday night, we said goodbye to Girls, the program that has been as controversial as its star, Lena Dunham, since her character Hannah Horvath said those famous words, “I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or a voice of a generation.”

I loved Girls, and I’ve written about it before. In 2014, I appreciated Hannah’s body acceptance. When the show first came out, I applauded its accurate look at the job prospects for millennials.

That realistic look is the main reason I was so disappointed with the show’s conclusion. As a writer myself, I found Hannah’s efforts at making a living through the written word illustrative and realistic. When the show debuted, Hannah was working at an unpaid internship. Later, she got a contract for an e-book that was then locked up after her editor died. She was successful as an advertorial writer for GQ, but so spooked by how that job channeled her creativity that she quit. After teaching high school English, this season she parlayed a "Modern Love" essay into some high-profile assignments. But rather than going after a staff writing position, somehow pregnant Hannah ended being offered a teaching position at an upstate New York college, complete with benefits. Here’s an article about how unrealistic that is. And it doesn’t even mention that Hannah, who dropped out of Iowa’s highly regarded MFA program, only holds a bachelor’s – one of the many reasons she’s unqualified for the position. But it does allow the series to wrap up nicely, implying that it’s not a career that turns a girl into a woman, it’s a baby.

It’s the same conclusion that Gilmore Girls’ Rory achieved at the end of the Netflix series revival. Although Hannah had often been compared to Sex and the City’s writer Carrie, that comparison never worked for me. Yes, both characters were New York writers, but SATC was always intended to be a fairy tale, and much was made over the value of Carrie’s apartment and shoe collection versus her probable salary at a staff writer at the New York Star. (Later Carrie published a book of her columns, which may have made her lifestyle slightly more realistic. Being bailed out by millionaire boyfriend Big also helped.) Rory, at least in the revival, was also trying to piece together a life in between writing assignments, before throwing in the towel to become the (unpaid) editor for the Stars Hollow paper.

The famous last words of the revival were “Mom, I’m pregnant,” thereby completing Rory’s de-evolution from a college graduate taking the job of a lifetime (seriously, covering candidate Obama’s presidential campaign is a direct path to the White House press corps and Rory’s dream of becoming the next Christiane Amanpour; what the hell happened to that?) to a self-absorbed, floundering millennial whose unintended pregnancy might force her to grow up as it apparently did Hannah.

I understand that the life of a writer isn’t nearly as compelling as other professions portrayed on TV and in movies, such as doctor or lawyer or fire fighter or lifeguard. But for those of us who are writers, seeing the profession realistically portrayed is heartening. When you’ve spent your childhood being applauded for your pithy turns of phrase, only to reach adulthood and find out that your creativity and self-direction are worth only a few freelance gigs on Fiverr, it’s shaming. It’s now impossible for a writer to support herself in today’s gig economy, with articles worth fifty dollars and copy editing maybe ten bucks. We’re the ones who are told to write for free because the exposure will be so helpful. Exposure doesn’t pay bills. I’m lucky my husband does. Seeing Hannah flounder, then succeed, sent a message to every writer that if we just keep writing, eventually the New York Times will publish that "Modern Love" essay. (And yes, we are all working on "Modern Love" essays. All of us.)

Hannah’s mother yelled at her for being a quitter, telling her the one thing she cannot quit is her son. But before last night’s episode, Hannah had never quit at being a writer. With her teaching job and single parenthood, is there any room left for Hannah to be the voice of her generation? Or, like Rory Gilmore, has the voice silenced herself because writing and “adulting” just no longer mix? And how many real-life Hannah Horvaths have made the same decision?

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Skin of a Writer

A few years ago, when I was editing a manuscript for the agent I worked for at the time, I came across a line that described the protagonist as “standing taller in her high heels.” I laughed and flagged the description with: “It’s not like she’s going to stand shorter in them!” Then I advised the writer to either cut the line or expand it (“Her heels made her an inch taller than her date.”)

My joke earned me a terse note from the agent: “Don’t ever make fun of the writer!!!” She went on to say that writers were very sensitive creatures and I must take special care with every suggestion I made, thus I break their tender little hearts.

I found this surprising for two reasons. One, had I written the line myself, I would have appreciated the editor’s joke and admonished myself for writing such an obvious description. And two, because ever since I started writing, I’d been told over and over again that writers needed thick skins.

I’d certainly spent years developing one. Otherwise, I’d never been able to survive the years of harsh notes (like the friend who told me over and over again how much she hated my protagonist), the hundreds of query rejections, and, even more painfully, the dozens of manuscript rejections I’d received after the initial query had garnered requests. It takes a thick skin to keep going when all the signs around you point to taking a different direction.

Yet I also think it’s possible for writers to have skins that are too thick. After all, it’s our deep empathy for our characters and the world around them – and us – that allows us to create stories to begin with. If our skins are too thick to feel what our characters feel, then they won’t feel. And neither will our readers. And our thick skins may make us oblivious to changes we need to make. We all know writers who greet notes by disagreeing with every point their readers make.

And our skins need a certain amount of thinness during the editing phase as well. While it’s painful to hear that our stories don’t work, we need to feel that pain. How else will we know when a note is worth following? Many writers I respect – and this is true for myself – know that a note is the right one when they feel it in their guts. Although Stephen King advises writers to show their work to three readers, and only take the note if all three mention the problem, most writers I know prefer more than three. And they know the note is right when they get that gut check. For me, the right note lands in my stomach like a plummeting broken heart. It’s not only the right note, but deep down inside I feel like I knew all along it was a change I needed to make. Other “right notes” land more lightly, like fluttering wings on my arms. These are changes that I did not know all along were necessary, but insights from the editor that open up new possibilities in scene work or more. For instance, in a draft of my fourth novel, the developmental editor I hired questioned the location of a first date scene. I realized this tied in with a nagging feeling about the climax, which took place at a new location. I changed the location of the first date and made it the location of the climax as well. All thanks to those fluttering wings, which I would not have felt had my skin been too thick.

When rewriting our own work, our skins need to be something Goldilocks would appreciate – not too thick, not too thin, but just right. Thick enough not to burst into tears at rejection, but thin enough to appreciate the changes that need to be made. And we must always have a sense of humor. If we can’t laugh at our own mistakes, someday they will make us cry.