Tag Archives: readers

Pick a Scene

I’ve been asked to rewrite THE DIVORCE PLANNER and have narrowed down the opening scene to the following choices. Please pick one and let me know in the Comments section below.

Scene 1:

Darcy was thirty when she first thought of representing a client through a divorce. Not in a legal sense. But a supportive sense. A celebratory sense. A sense that evolved, after many years of dedicated effort, into a lucrative career. Until she left Southern California with its self-reflective gaze and moved to Northern California to be closer to Joyce, her only daughter, who lived and worked in San Francisco, a little over an hour south of Santa Rosa, where at fifty years old Darcy settled with roommates she hardly saw in a city where she knew next to no one in a life that felt even lonelier than the one she had left behind.

Scene 2:

Darcy sat in her roommate’s living room with her laptop propped on her thighs as she scrolled through the hotel listings, searching for the perfect spot for her client Cyril’s Freedom Party. Cyril was a thirty-five year old working woman finalizing a divorce after twelve painful years of marriage who had hired Darcy as her divorce planner. The hard work of attorney’s meetings, mediation, custody battles, distribution of assets, payment of liabilities, and personal counseling sessions would be over in six weeks, and Darcy wanted to surprise her client with a wonderful Freedom Party in Las Vegas, suitable for her client’s slim budget.

Scene 3:

Darcy realized she should have not picked up her phone when she noticed her daughter’s number, but she pressed the speaker button anyway as she drove in afternoon traffic to the attorney’s office to meet her client, Xavier, for the three o’clock mediation with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Joyce’s voice sounded tinny against the wind that whipped through the open windows of Darcy’s ancient Audi that lacked air conditioning, but Darcy wasn’t about to roll up the windows when her back stuck against the seat from Sonoma County’s summer heat.

“Mom, I need to talk to you,” Joyce said.

“Then talk,” Darcy said.

“I’m getting married and I want you to plan my wedding,” Joyce said.

Scene 4:

As an experienced divorce planner, Darcy was prepared for nearly every kind of emergency that might occur on the big day.

Except for reconciliations. That was a new one.

The distinctive moment when her client, Richard, barged into the Freedom Party to announce he was getting back together with the woman who should have become his ex-wife slithered up her spine like an eerie promotion. All of Richard’s remaining friends, family, and co-workers had gathered in the ballroom of the Vineyard Creek Inn around tables decorated with red, white, and blue streamers drinking colorful alcoholic beverages and listening to loud music while a Santa Rosa Junior college student dressed in an American flag bikini waited to jump out of an American flag cake to give the newly divorced man a lap dance of freedom. Darcy rushed into the kitchen nearly tripping on her heels. “Stop the meal preparations!” she shouted.

Practice Patience

Time business concept.

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” Proverb

I was born leaping forward into the doctor’s outstretched hands. Too impatient, I skipped crawling. At eight months, I took my first step and plunged head first against the corner of the coffee table, ripping a hole above my eyebrow.

By the time I entered elementary school, the teachers recommended I skip a grade. My father, however, refused. He said it was important to go through all the grades. I didn’t understand his reasoning. I was anxious to blaze through school. I wanted to make history as the youngest person to attend college. My father, however, knew skipping one grade would lead to other missed opportunities. He didn’t want me to become a twelve year old working with a bunch of thirty year olds. He wanted me to enjoy growing up one step at a time. The teachers compromised by supplementing my education through the Gifted and Talented Education Program, which allowed me to take lots of baby steps with others my age.

Over the years, I’ve adopted my father’s wise reasoning. It is important to not rush through anything, including the steps toward publication. That’s why I’m not anxious to hear back from my beta readers regarding my crime novel. Readers may pester me with questions, but I am firm in my response. I haven’t heard from all of my beta readers, so there is no news to report.

Every book’s journey is different. Some books are drafted, revised, published, and sold within a matter of months. Others take years from concept to bookstore.

I’m done leaping forward and stumbling backward. It’s time to take a breath and focus. By the time I get feedback from the beta readers, I will have had enough time away from the book to view it with fresh eyes for the next round of edits. When the time is right, I will start querying for an agent.

In the meantime, you can join me in practicing patience. Enjoy taking tiny steps in whatever is it you are working on…even if that means waiting to discover what your next step is.

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Daughter Knows Best

Trust a Teen or a Publishing Professional?

Last year, amidst the holiday celebrations, I received a letter from my literary agent stating she would no longer represent me. The New York publishers she had pitched my young adult novel to had told her the plot wasn’t engaging enough and the main character was too young.

My daughter tried to encourage me by telling me she would help me rewrite the book so it would attract the attention of another literary agent who would finally sell it.

She kept her promise, read the novel, and critiqued it.

While she was reading and critiquing, I researched current publishing trends. I read young adult novels from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to Smart Girls Get What They Want. I filled notebooks with magazine articles and blog posts detailing teen speech patterns, habits, fashion, and concerns. I volunteered to be near teens and chronicled first-hand encounters of student-teacher interactions, relationships between peers, and tensions between grade-levels. I witnessed teens sending secrets texts while pretending to pay attention in class. I overheard stories about how they pirate e-books and music for free from online sites.

When my daughter and I sat down to compare notes on how to approach the rewrite of my young adult novel, our views vastly differed. I wanted to set the novel in present time to use my research, but my daughter wanted to keep the historical context. “It would be fun to learn about a time before cell phones and iPods,” she said. I wanted to start over from page one, but my daughter wanted me to beef up the plot by deepening the romance between the main character and the boy-next-door.

“Rewriting the whole book is a waste of time,” she said. “You only need to change a few things.”

Changing only a few things in the scope of a novel seems daunting. I rewrite like an auto mechanic overhauling an engine. I do not know how to rewrite a book like an auto mechanic performing a tune-up on an otherwise solid engine. But that’s exactly what my daughter had asked me to do.

Of course, I don’t want to listen to her. After all, she’s a teen with limited experience, not a professional who can negotiate a lucrative publishing contract and advance my career. But she insists she knows what she is talking about, as a teen and as a reader. And, being a mother, I have decided it would be best to listen. Because even if the book never reaches hundreds of thousands of teens, it will reach my daughter, who is the only teen who really matters anyway, right?

Short Story Collection to be Published

A few posts ago, I asked readers which they would prefer to read next: a collection of short stories or another novel.

Most readers preferred to respond by email rather than publicly post. Ninety percent said they would prefer to read a collection of short stories.

I began the search of querying agents and publishers hoping to find someone interested in publishing an eclectic mix of stories written over a period of 20 years and spanning the themes of hope, love, grief, disappointment, and longing that are universal in the human experience.

I am proud to announce All Things That Matter Press has chosen to publish The Human Act and Other Stories for a tentative release date of Winter 2012.

Stay tuned for more information.

And thank you for your continued support. Without you, there would be no short story collection.