I’m excited to share this excerpt from my novel-in-progress, published recently in Philadelphia Stories. Their Winter 2018 music issue is the perfect home for this excerpt–I’m so happy to see it among other art and writing about music.
This summer Pale Hearts was featured on American Bookfest.
I’m so grateful to all the readers who’ve told me they enjoyed the book! Thank you for taking the time to read it and share your kind words. I always appreciate Amazon or Goodreads reviews too, if you have a few minutes to comment on the book. It helps other readers find the book, and it helps me as I continue to write!
This fall I’m leading another writing workshop at the Lawrence Branch of Mercer County Library. It will be on September 15 at 10 a.m., and the subject will be description. We’ll talk about how to use descriptive language to make your writing vivid.
Calling all central NJ writers and readers! Join me for a fiction talk at Mercer Country Library (Lawrence Branch) at 10 am on April 21. I’ll be discussing description: what does it accomplish, and how can you use it to make your own writing more vivid? My focus is on fiction, but similar techniques are applicable to non-fiction as well.
I am thrilled to share Compulsive Reader’s review of PALE HEARTS. Reviewer Ruth Latta had many kind things to say about the book. She also took the time to write in detail about some individual stories. The stories she focused on were somewhat different than the ones that occupied the greatest part of my attention, and it was refreshing to see the book through someone else’s eyes.
I particularly appreciated the assessment that “the fifteen thought-provoking stories in Pale Hearts are both literature and entertainment.” I’m starting to realize that I sit right in the middle of the great supposed “literary” and “genre” divide. I love Melville, Flaubert, and Faulkner. I also love Stephen King and Michael Crichton. I find a lot of so-called literary fiction pretentious and boring, while many great genre fiction books are overlooked by the literary world. Some of my favorite contemporary authors, like Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, and Donna Tartt, are people who don’t fit neatly into genre/literary distinctions. I hope I can achieve that balance in my own work.
Don’t wait for inspiration.
There will never be a perfect time to write. We’re all busy, stressed, and tired; these seem to be the default conditions for about 90% of life. Moments of inspiration are rare. If you rely on them, you won’t finish anything. It’s better to work steadily, even when you don’t feel like it. Often the feeling of being “uninspired” is actually procrastination in disguise. If you push through the first twenty minutes or so of drudgery, you will start to enjoy the work.
Set a daily goal.
This gives you something to work toward. Many writers aim for a certain word count or amount of time. Meeting the goal forces you to be productive. It also gives you a reason to feel accomplished at the end of the day.
Block the internet.
The internet is a pernicious influence. After writing for “a while,” I’m often tempted to spend “five minutes” checking email. Five minutes is never five minutes. Checking email leads to clicking on a blog update or visiting an online sale. Soon this becomes reading “just one” article, which ends up being more like five or six. Few among us can resist the internet once that enticing browser window is open. Save yourself by investing in an internet-blocking app. Freedom is a good option. Alternatively, back away from the computer and write longhand.
Join a writing group.
Even disciplined individuals benefit from having other people involved in the writing process. Writing groups provide valuable feedback, and they hold you accountable when your productivity starts to flag. This is especially important in periods of personal difficulty, when life events threaten to derail your writing. I went through a challenging time last year when I was in real danger of not writing a word. Instead, though I wrote badly and with great pain, I continued to produce new chapters of my novel—simply because my writing group required these chapters for meetings.
Be selfish with your time.
Writing takes time, and time is in short supply. Most writers have other responsibilities that come first, usually working and/or being a parent. With all the “real” things you have to do, it’s hard to justify spending some of your time alone, creating a document of questionable value that may or may not get published. It may seem like you “should” do the laundry first, or clean the house, or socialize. These things are important. However, if you always put writing last, it will never get done. If you really want to finish your story/essay/book, you must take the time to do it. No one is going to give it to you. Lock yourself away for an hour in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Ask yourself how you’ll feel a year from now if you don’t progress on this project. If the thought of not finishing your story/essay/book doesn’t bother you, then maybe it’s not worth it. But if the idea of not finishing makes you feel sad or disappointed, then you owe it to yourself. The laundry can wait.
It’s been a fun first month for Pale Hearts. My first reading was at Trident Booksellers in Boston. The atmosphere in this bookstore is especially nice because they have a cafe, so reading attendees can relax with a glass of wine or a snack. Although I had a cold, I forged through and had a great time. I’m so grateful to all the enthusiastic people who came!
Next up was a book signing at Richards Memorial Library in North Attleboro. I was there as part of their Local Authors Fair. It was wonderful to meet other authors from the area and see their books.
In other news, Pale Hearts is now available at Norton Public Library. Richards Memorial Library will also be adding a copy to their collection. I was so excited to see my book right in the middle of Norton’s new books shelf.
It’s great to see Pale Hearts listed in the library catalogs. (Also, how fitting that Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” comes up as a related result!) If your library is part of the SAILS network in Massachusetts, you can request Pale Hearts. But you’ll have to wait–the book is currently checked out!
Pale Hearts is out in the world! The books are printed, orders have shipped, and my first book signing went wonderfully yesterday.
I’m so grateful to the readers who stopped by! I was impressed to hear that someone already read the entire book on Kindle. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to say hello, and thanks especially for buying the book. I am truly appreciative.
In other great news, Pale Hearts made it to the shelves of Harvard Library! I’m very thankful for and excited about this development.
Putting a few copies on my personal shelf realized a lifelong dream.
Looking for a publisher? Here are some independent publishers that accept submissions of fiction. Note that for most of these publishers, you first submit a query, synopsis, and sample chapters. If they are interested, they will ask for the full manuscript. Some small publishers have started hosting contests with substantial reading fees. The winner of the contest gets their book published. I do not recommend this strategy, as odds of publication are low and the fees add up quickly (usually they are at least $25). The publishers listed below do not have submission fees.
For further research, Poets and Writers has a list of small publishers. Writer’s Market (published yearly) is also a helpful resource.
Black Lawrence Press — free open reading period is June 1-June 30
Coffee House Press — watch for their open reading period
Jellyfish Highway (UPDATE 5/4/18: Defunct)
Leapfrog Press (UPDATE 5/1/17: A commenter notes that Leapfrog now charges $33 for fiction submissions, which they’re only accepting through a contest. This is an unfortunate development. Once again, I don’t think writers should pay to submit to contests, as chances of publication are slim.)
Louisiana State University Press (Yellow Shoe Fiction Series)
Two Dollar Radio ($2.00 fee–I included this since the fee is small)
Vandalia Press (imprint of West Virginia University Press) — reopening for submissions in 2017
My long-anticipated short story collection will be available for sale on Amazon exactly one week from today! The collection includes 15 stories: some that appeared only in print, a few online favorites, and 5 all-new, never-before-published stories. In this book, I explore the idea of crime, from the newsworthy (arson, kidnapping) to the everyday (lies, betrayal). You’ll read about a young girl who poisons her best friend, a college student who steals a classmate’s ring, and a journalist who contacts the girl she once bullied. What causes these ordinary people to make such bad decisions? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
I am very excited to announce that my first book, a crime-themed short story collection titled PALE HEARTS, will be released by Insomnia Publishing later this year. Stay tuned for more specific updates!
In addition, I was just awarded my first artist residency. I’ll be spending a month at New York Mills Regional Cultural Center to work on my novel, a story about the rivalry between two teenage classical musicians.