books

Vote On My Next Novel

I’m ready to start my next writing project, but I just can’t figure out which one to do. I have several ideas. It’d probably be good to start something especially since I’m trying to find an agent for my memoir and that’s super depressing to say the least. The search for an agent is depressing, not the memoir. images

A few years ago I asked you dear readers to choose the book I would write and post as a blovel. The result of that was ‘Tunnel Vision’…which is (I think) one of the best things I’ve ever written. So I thought I’d turn to you again. Can you help an unfocused writer focus?

It’s possible I could post this next piece as a blovel too, if there’s interest.

So. What book would you like me to write…or…which of these would you be most likely to read?

THE CONTENDERS: 

1)   A sequel to “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage” called “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Bad Curry” in which Pepper and her friend attend a dinner party when people start dying. They’re on an island so Pepper must solve the crimes before she’s dead too. It’s sorta like a “And Then There Were None” but with more food and less British stuff.

2)   A sequel to “Foodies Rush In” in which the characters from the first book celebrate the holidays. We’ll meet new characters, see multiple layers of disfunction and bad holiday sweaters. This would, hopefully, be a comedy and a feel-good type of book.

3)   A suspense/action novel in which a young girl discovers that her chemist father made her resistant to drugs so she’s the only one that can see that the happy world she lives in, isn’t really happy. She goes on an adventure to stop the poisoning and mind-control of her people. Lots of running, explosions, and a little darkness.

So. Help a girl out. Which book should I write? And if you know of an agent who wants a memoir called “Popsicle Toes” that’s in a similar style to “The House on Mango Street” lemme know.

POLL CLOSED

Thank you for voting!

#3 wins with 63% of the vote! Let the writing commence!

!!!!

Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.

 

Review of "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

For the summer, I've committed myself to my own plan to "Slow Down And Read" and I have a list of ten books I'm working on. They're a combination of romance, literary, mystery, historical, and just plain entertaining. This morning, I finished reading "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Here is my review (as posted on GoodReads)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (P.S.)We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a brilliant novel. I don't say that lightly. I mean it. It's brilliant. And I think Lionel Shriver is a genius. Her work is like reading a mixture of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Parker. She is relentless, fierce, and writes about the underbelly of the psyche. She is also lyrical. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is not an easy read. The subject matter is daunting (a woman reflects on the signs in her son's life that would lead him to committing a massacre at her school); the voice is ruthless (with lines like when my son was born "I felt nothing"); and still, the piece is utterly compelling.

It leads one to look at the root of evil. Is evil incarnate or is it created? Is a sociopath born or made? Should a child (essentially) be held accountable for his own monstrosity?

It also echoes fears every mother possesses from gestation to the adulthood of a child: What if I give birth to someone who is damaged? Is it my fault? How much of a child's behavior is because of the mother?

The novel plays on fears, but it also explores our own humanity.

A few years ago, I was booked to narrate Shriver's "A Post Birthday World". It was, like this novel, challenging but in the end, thoroughly rewarding both intellectually and emotionally. I haven't been booked to narrate another of her books (though I so wish I would be), so instead I'm vowing to read everything she's ever written. She is not a writer that makes you feel good. No. She challenges you. She gets in your face and makes you uncomfortable. She demands that you analyze your own life and your own choices. For this reason, I can't seem to put her work down. I'm completely, reluctantly, enthralled.

View all my reviews

Insomnia Causes Epiphanies. Big Ones.

It’s no surprise that I’ve been having (what I lovingly refer to as) an existential writer crisis for about, oh, a year. Well, I think it’s hit its precipice. At least I hope it has. It’s 12:57 AM and I can’t sleep. All I can think is ‘It’s time to do my work’. A rather annoying thought to have when what I’d really like to be doing is sleeping. I know what my brain is telling me. It’s telling me to quit whining, grow up, and write what I should be writing. (I keep thinking of the end scene in Uncle Vanya.)

These last two years on my own with the kids have been pretty chaotic. I’m constantly busy with teaching and narrating and then writing and more recently endlessly promoting my three small books that are out there. You can do a lot of things at one time, I’ve discovered, but you can’t do a lot of things well. I’ve given my all to my kids, my students, my audiobooks, and what little is left over, I give to my own work. There isn't a lot left over, actually. There's hardly anything left over.

Here’s where things get touchy.

I have a huge chip on my shoulder about why my work isn’t catching on, and why I can’t get an agent, and why I can’t get that elusive big New York publisher. Originally, I just thought the world was against me. Now I realize it’s actually more personal than that. My work isn’t good enough. I’m not saying this for pity; I’m saying it because it’s true.

I’ve thrown a tantrum over a colleague of mine and the accolades that he’s rightly receiving. I’ve thrown a tantrum because my alma mater GVSU said they wouldn’t let me do a reading there because the type of stuff I write (romantic comedy) isn’t supported by their department. I’ve thrown a tantrum as I’ve watched other writer friends get agents, book deals, readings at Schuler’s, etc. I threw a tantrum this week when the two agents looking at my new manuscript passed on it, even though they said I’m a good writer with a keen imagination. And I nearly threw a tantrum last night when I googled my college boyfriend, and discovered that he was on The Daily Show in January talking about his critically heralded second book on Detroit and the auto industry. The man is called a genius, and the truth is, he is.

What do any of these tantrums really accomplish? Why am I being such a baby?

Here’s the truth. I have a smidgen of talent and I’ve always floated by on that. I’ve never really tried at anything. Good grades came easy in school. I was a mostly A student. The same in college. Papers came easy, and later so did stories. Now if I’m being really honest, I’ll take it a step further.

Writing is a joy to me. An escape. So I don’t like to work on it. Work is, well, work. My three books out…they’re pretty much 1st drafts. Sure, I fix the typos and I add things here and there, but you’re pretty much reading the 1st draft. Why? Because I’m sort of just floating by.

So while I throw tantrums all over the place about the ‘world not recognizing me’…what kind of effort and work have I put into making them listen? Are my books the best work I’m capable of? No. They’re not. They’re just parlor tricks.

What would happen if I really took some time and energy and put it into a novel? What would happen if I stopped complaining, stopped looking at everyone around me and what they have, and just focused on my work? On those novels that I want to write? On the novels I need to write, but haven't had the energy for? What would happen?

I’m hoping for magic.

This is what I’m going to do. I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel loved and supported and safe. It has taken all my life to get to this point. (My childhood is the stuff of pained memoirs.) I have great kids and a wonderful fiancé and a wedding to plan. I don’t have to fight anymore to be who I am, or struggle emotionally or financially. Things are in place.

So now it’s time to shut up and do my work. I’m returning to a literary novel that I started a decade ago and didn’t want to put the time and energy into it because it was too hard. And I’m also going to rewrite “Tunnel Vision” and see if I can add depth and texture to it. If no one bites on “Foodies Rush In”, I’ll self-publish it and I’ll move on.

I’m tired of my own tantrums. It’s time to get serious about this.

It starts now…

Or, okay, it starts after I get some sleep.

Don't worry. I won't lose my sense of humor in my work, but I'm going to widen the scope a little. There are characters still waiting in Rusty's Bar and Grill, and a fortune teller has moved in above the restaurant. This is what I'm going to work on. Everything else around me is just noise.

Rah.

 

Question #4: Any Bites From Hollywood?

Bob Caustic also asked the following question: “Any nibbles from Hollywood yet? Who do you think should direct "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage"? Who should star in "Pepper"?”

 

TANYA: If anyone knows anyone in Hollywood, please send them my way. Especially if it’s Drew Barrymore and her company because I really think she should direct one of my books and make it into a movie. And then she and I should go out for drinks and appetizers and then she could pay for it because I'm just a struggling writer. And then if she could buy me a gift basket stuffed with wine and gourmet food products, that'd be great. Could someone get on that please?

Sigh. Well, since we’re talking dreams here, I DO have some of the characters in mind. I could see Pepper Wellington as Susan Sarandon and Sausage as Amy Adams or that Alison chick from Buffy and How I Met Your Mother. Actually, you could take the whole cast from How I Met Your Mother and put them in the movie. Pepper just needs to be played by an older actress who has sex appeal and a pair of balls. (One of those things is just figurative.)

Patricia Heaton would be great in one of my books-as-movie. She's doing a new web series called Versailles so surely around doing that she could have time to produce a TV series around "Blunder Woman". She'd be a great mom in that.

OR for something really fun, I'd ask Martin Scorsese to direct my online dating romance "Easy Does It". Joe Pesci could play Dan the Man and Meryl Streep could play Julie, but play her with a Slavic accent, and then they could just randomly kick stuff and it would all be filmed in a single long shot with lots of smoke and violin music.

Yep. I have great ideas on how to turn my books into films. Just waiting for that call.

And waiting.

And waiting.

 

Screw it. I'm going to go eat some cheese.

 

My Slow Down and Read Summer List

I’m sitting in my Intro To Lit class while students are writing. I’ve graded all my papers, prepped for next week, and suddenly realize, I don’t have anything to do. Is this true? Is this possible? HOLY SHIT!

 

Let me just breathe for a second here.

 

To look busy and smart, I’m blogging instead.

 

Remember when I talked to you about my Slow Down and Read idea? It’s shimmering just before me. I can almost touch the time where I will have real, actual time to read again. FOR PLEASURE. I have one more week of narrating to go and on the days I don’t teach, I’ll be reading. That’s right. Me, a book, and if the kids are at their dad’s then I’ll have a mojito sitting next to me.

Here’s my list of books I’m going to try and read this summer and why I chose them:

MY SUMMER READING LIST (so far)

1. “Sucker for a Hot Rod” by Joselyn Vaughn. I’m actually almost finished with this. The writer is in my writing group so I wanted to check out her work. So far it’s fun with great characters and it makes me wonder why you can’t find her work next to other bestselling authors that I narrate for like Susan Mallery and Debbie Macomber.

2. “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. A couple of years ago I was booked to read Shriver’s “The Post-Birthday World”. I don’t know if I did the book justice, but it was a beautiful story. I still think about it. So I want to read all of her books, and I’ll start with this one.

3. “Sarum: The Novel of England” by Edward Rutherford. Someone suggested this one to me and it seems like a perfect summer read. I’ll read it while drinking a Pims. Huh. Maybe I should put a drink with all these books.

4. “Punished” by Brynn Paulin. She’s another writer in my group and is one of the topsellers of erotic fiction. No joke. Like #1 or #2. So I’m going to read Punished because every good girl likes to feel naughty.

5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee because it’s been a good decade since I’ve read it and I’m curious how the nearly-forty-year-old me will compare to the twenty-something and the teenager readers I used to be (you know, the other times when I read the novel). I should probably revisit “Anne of Green Gables” too.

That’s it for now. I still want to read “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo, and another classic novel, and stuff by C.S. Lewis, and there’s a couple new ones out, but I’m going to start with 5. Five books I can handle.

So what’s on your summer Slow Down and Read list? Have you made one yet?

And if you're wondering the drinks...

1.) Beer

2.) Scotch

3.) Pimms

4.) Any heavy alcohol served as a shot

5.) Long Island Iced (sweet) Tea

 

 

Six Sentence Sunday 5/1/2011

And it was at that precise moment that the florid man with the enormous eyebrows made a peculiar sound like “Hrrrrrrrrrr”, clutched his chest, and pitched forward, straight into a rather large slice of prime rib that was so rare it seemed to be still pulsing with life.

The man, however, was not pulsing, with life or anything. In that brief moment, he was knocked stone cold dead.

“Well, I never!” cried Melody, as if angered that the man dared to behave so poorly at the dinner table.

Pepper Wellington jumped up, took the man’s pulse, and shook her head. “He never will either,” she said. “He’s expired, I’m afraid.”

 

 

 

From "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage" by Tanya Eby

Melodramatic Writer Meltdown

I’m having an existential writer moment. At least I think it’s existential. Hell. Basically, I’m just throwing a tantrum. I get so tired of promoting all the time and then when I see my sales report (abysmal) it’s really hard not to take it personally. It reminds me of auditioning…even dating…where somehow you’re never quite good enough. To wax old-gold-digger: Tarnation!

I guess this is the modern life of a struggling writer, or any artist really. You have to produce work, believe in your work, constantly put it out there, and hope that it catches on. I wonder though, sometimes, at what point do you just give up? Not that I’d ever give up on writing, but I do think sometimes of giving up on trying to get a big publishing house, or even promoting my current work.

 

I just sent out a dozen free books to people in hopes that they’ll help spread the word about my work. There’s no telling if it will work. That all comes out of my pocketbook. I had to buy the books to give them away. Ouch. And I paid for some advertising. Promo stuff. Etc. etc. And now I’m looking at doing a reading/signing at St. Cecilia. I couldn’t get Schuler’s to call me back. A reading is a great idea, but it will probably cost me about $500 with food and promo materials. And there’s no guarantee that anyone will show up. (See the onion spoof  here. It’s funny because it’s true.)

 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been swept up in some massive scam that gets writers to pay for promotional material and even their own books. Then I immediately stop thinking about that because it’s too sad.

 

Wah. Wah. Wah.

 

I think this is just another temporary setback. I’ll get over it. It just comes at a time when I still don’t know if my teaching contract will be renewed and I’m not sure how many more voice over gigs I’ll get. If teaching tanks and I’m not selling books…dear god…what will I do then? It scares me. Deeply. Probably not the best time to watch the first episode of Mildred Pierece where she’s all starving and looking for work. I do not want to be a waitress again. I really don’t.

 

I’ll get over this and my tight pants. I’m not dieting, exactly, but I am upping my workouts. I probably need the endorphins. And I have wonderful friends and family who read my work and love it. And, of course, I’ve got my kiddos and Kealoha. It’s just sometimes I get tired of all the work and I want to see the fruits of my labor. And by fruits I mean ‘income’ and by labor I mean ‘writing’. That’s my dream, I guess. To one day see my writing pay off, literally.

 

It might never happen. So…guess I’ll just continue doing what I do. I might bitch about it every now and then, but sheesh, I’m endlessly flawed and human. And my zodiac sign is Cancer, so what can you expect really?

 

And Mildred Pierce eventually made some kind of fortune out of pies or something, didn’t she? I haven’t watched the whole thing. I’m afraid maybe she has some kind of confrontation with her daughter involving wire hangers. (I could be mixing up old movies here.)

 

I’m hoping all this will blow over when it’s finally sunny outside and I can get over my angst and put on a sundress and a pair of sandals. That’s all I really need. OR…I could pretend I’m in a 1950’s melodrama. I sort of like that idea. Let me go get a hanky so I can flit it around while crying dramatically, and without tears.

I leave you with some melodrama. Enjoy.

 

 

Win a book! For real! April 11 only.

Did you see the interview this morning with Emily Richett on Fox 17? If not, here it is:

To celebrate that interview and the release of "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage" I'm giving away TWO BOOKS for FREE! That's right. I won't include any ginzu knives though.

How do you enter? Simply leave a comment on my blog today (anywhere works) or tweet me, or send me a message on my author page on Facebook: Tanya Eby Narrator, Novelist and Numskull.

At the end of the day, someone wins. It's that easy. Winner chooses which book they want.

What I Learned at the Algonkian Conference

There’s so much to blog about, I don’t quite know where to start. I could start with our trip back and the turbulence in the plane, my sudden birth as a Catholic where I tried to pray and say Catholicly kind of things, or when our connecting flight was delayed because Frontier Airlines couldn’t find their 2nd Officer. I mean, he was missing. Gone.

But let’s go back a little bit. My trip to New York was mainly to attend the Algonkian Pitch and Shop Conference. Five days to work on a pitch for your novel and then about three minutes with four different editors to sell yourself and your work. And I do mean sell yourself. One of the main things I learned about the conference is that publishers aren’t just looking for a great story. They want a whole package. (More on that in a minute.)

The conference was intense. The first day my group of sixteen spent all day listening to each other’s pitches and offering criticism. My pitch was well liked, so I felt good that I had sort of pre-pitched it online with you guys (whoever reads the blog). The next day we met with our first editor.

For other writers out there struggling to sell a novel, I thought I’d share some info with you. Would I recommend the conference? Yes. Absolutely. But you’ll need to be tough and have your work together. It’s not a love fest that’s for sure.

So. Here’s what I learned at the conference:

1. Shorter pitches are more successful.

You really need to condense your entire novel into one of those back flap pages you read when trying to pick a book. You need to get through a sense of your voice, the uniqueness of the book, and hook the reader with wanting them to read more. Save long explanations for your novel. The pitch is more advertising than anything.

 

2. Begin your pitch with one or two ‘comps’, that is, comparing your work to someone similar.

I compared mine to Jennifer Crusie and Nick Hornby.

 

 

3. Publishers want writers with established platforms.

What does this mean? It means they want writers who are not only serious about craft, but about promoting themselves. In the first pitch, we listened as a group as each person talked to the agent and I noticed she got a little exasperated when people didn’t have a blog or were networking. On the final editor pitch, I was able to say that I narrate audiobooks, have two books published through the small press Champagne Books, and have a social networking following on Facebook, Twitter, and through my blog. The editors want that. So do what you need to to start building a following. Promote yourself. Have confidence.

 

4. Don’t defend your work.

When you defend your work to an editor, you sound confrontational. Accept what they say. They know what they’re doing.

 

5. They might like your pitch, but if they don’t represent your type of work, they won’t choose you.

So, focus your pitch to the right editor or agent.

 

6. Editors know within about thirty seconds whether they want your work or not.

It’s true. They either like you or they don’t.

 

7. If your story is amazing, then none of the above rules matter.

Truly. There was one woman in our group whose pitch was so engaging and the story so interesting, that I think every editor asked for her manuscript. It didn’t matter that she’s a new writer with no publishing credentials or platform. Rightly so. She has a great story. Her story also crossed a few genres. It could go into mainstream or multicultural or into a literary market.

 

I actually made some new girlfriends at this conference and that was also a benefit. Writing is such a lonely endeavor, that it’s nice to have a little support group. And if you read my blog, then you know I’m all for therapy and support groups.

Next blog, I’ll talk about the fun things that I did in New York and my adventures with Kealoha. Let’s just say I was serious quirky writer by day, but by night, I was full-fledged awkward (and slightly intoxicated) Tanya.

Would You Read This? UPDATED

Busy week for me. It’s supposed to be spring break, and I guess it is, but I’ve spent the week narrating and bemoaning that I feel tubby. It always happens when I narrate. I have to sit still for three days and eat gigantic meals and it makes me crabby. Ah well.

I’m also prepping for this conference I’m going to in New York. I’m going to meet 5 editors, and pitch my story to them. It’s a commercial fiction conference, and they’re looking for work that will sell. But how do you condense a novel into a one-minute pitch? You know those little back flaps on a books? They’re fucking hard to write. I hate to swear, but sometimes, you’ve just got to.

My question is…is this a book you’d want to read? 

Here’s my pitch:

Foodies Rush In

Dana Kupiac is a single mom and certain that love has passed her by, especially since her husband left her over a year ago. With the help of Dana’s eternally-lactating sister Valerie, Dana takes a once in a lifetime trip to a food conference in Las Vegas where she learns a lot about her new foodie business, and also has a wild weekend with a quirky gentleman. Their adventure ends in an impromptu ceremony where they’re “married” by Elvis.

Dana returns home, thinking that what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Life, though, has other plans. What happened in Vegas actually knocks on her door a week later, proving that maybe life has a few more surprises for Dana.

Dana's whirlwind romance is awkward and real and warm. “Foodies Rush In” is rich with quirky characters and realistic moments. It’s a story that proves that love can happen for anyone, even if your heart is broken. Even if you’re starting over. Even if you’re a mom with two kids. Even if you have a name like Theodore Drimmel.

***

I don’t know. It’s a quiet kind of novel. Funny. Awkward. Quirky. But I don’t know how to sell it. I’m hoping I can get a little more confident with it, and convince an editor to take a chance on a tubby girl from Michigan.

Although I’m hoping by next week, I’ll feel a little less bloated. I’ve vowed no salt or ice cream or salted ice cream until after the conference. Drinking wine or mai tais with my man, well, that’s another story. I’m not crazy. I’m not giving up everything that’s good. Just stuff that makes me feel pudgy. Of course, I could probably get on the treadmill too. Man, if only spring would get here...

I got a little sidetracked. Sorry. If you have any thoughts on my pitch, let me know. I'd love to get some feedback before walking into the scary NYC writing conference. And if I can't have feedback, then I'd at least like to learn some wrestling moves to force an agent or editor into taking me on.

UPDATE

After reading the great comments, I updated the pitch. Here's the new one:

Dana Kupiac is a single mom and certain that love has passed her by, especially since her husband left her over a year ago for the wilds of Ohio and a woman named Allyssa. With the help of Dana’s eternally-lactating sister Valerie, Dana takes a once in a lifetime trip to a food conference in Las Vegas where she learns a lot about selling her spicy chutneys, and meets a man whose name suggests more nerd than knockout: Theodore Drimmel. Their weekend together ends in an impromptu ceremony where they’re “married” by Elvis.

Dana returns home to Michigan, thinking that what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Life, though, has other plans. What happened in Vegas actually knocks on her door a week later. It seems Theodore isn’t sure if he’s legally married to Dana or not, and if he is, then his fiancée might be a little upset.

What happens next is awkward and real and warm, and involves a broken leg and a Michigan Guard father who is so intense he can carve a canoe out of a tree with just a toothpick and his bare teeth. “Foodies Rush In” is a story that proves that love can happen for anyone, even if your heart is broken and you’re starting over. Even if you have a crazy family. Even if you’re a nerd more comfortable with the recipe for a great chicken piccata than a recipe for a real relationship. Can a single mom and an awkward entrepreneur find love? If Iron Chefs can create delicious onion-flavored ice cream, then maybe two eccentrics can find the right recipe for love.