Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Stout

9781400067695_p0_v5_s192x300Lucy Barton is lonely and ill, missing her daughters and her husband in a sterile medical world when her mother arrives. The two women haven’t spoken in years, yet she has come to comfort her daughter. This story is about the personal growth and understanding Lucy achieves through her solitude and her illness and about the path to reconciliation with her mother and, ultimately, herself.

Strout’s narrative is an amazing blend of Lucy’s current thoughts and memories of her childhood. Lucy’s mother tells her daughter the local gossip about people Lucy remembers, and Lucy’s thoughts return to the painful experiences of her childhood and why she had wanted to escape to a better world as an adult. However, Lucy finds both comfort and clarity during the long nights of conversation and sleepless contemplation.

From a writer’s point of view, I found the book a study in style. The sentence and paragraph structure was literary, which I normally equate to a hard read, but this story captured my attention right away and held it throughout. The characters of both Lucy and her mother were rich with convincing strength, believable expression and realistic, nuanced interactions. Strout wove into the main character’s experience several “ah-ha” moments that delivered a powerful impact.

I thought this story well worth studying in order to use Strout’s method in my own writing. I will be adding this book to my list of books that writers should read to develop their craft.

 

Writers Have To Learn Marketing

books-985954_1920Most people who want to be writers don’t envision ourselves becoming master marketers, but we dream of seeing our books on the shelves of a bookstore. We see ourselves writing the “great American Novel” or the next New York Times bestseller or even a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. We dream of the day our name becomes a household word. We see ourselves traveling and signing our books for fans who stand in line for hours just to see us. That is the ultimate! We’re popular. Our books are loved and our fans can’t wait until the next one comes out. Then reality settles in when the first book contract is signed. You and I are responsible for 99% of the marketing for our book!

Where to start and what to do ?!?

Networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and what about the groups and hangouts where we’re supposed to develop relationships with readers. Oh, don’t forget Goodreads and Shelfari because that’s where the readers are.

Follow marketing blogs and make comments. Read marketing books and take their advice. By all means, you must have a website that is simple, clean, and easily navigated but includes all the information your reader needs and gets them to convert from browser to buyer. Don’t get pushy, just court them into a purchase.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? We’re just getting started.

STOP! Take a deep breath and relax. The way to learn networking/marketing is one step at a time. While you’re writing your book, start reading the books on marketing during your breaks from writing. Read a few blogs when you check your email and follow the ones that are the most helpful to you. Sign up for newsletters. After a few months, keep taking the ones you find the most valuable to you. Unsubscribe from those that are not as practical and useful.

Learn one thing at a time. Focus on a few things and do them well. It’s easy to get spread too thin and join lots of groups and end up participating in none of them or rarely showing up. I’ve learned that you have to cut down to the ones you can actually participate in and let the others go. You’ll feel better about handling the networking part of marketing and the people you talk to won’t feel used. You’ll be able to start relationships with other writers and with your readers.

Remember and take heart. Every New York Times Bestselling author started the same place you are beginning your writing career.

The Hybrid Authors’ Manifesto

typewriter-2325552_1920We, the hybrid authors of the world, believe that all writers are created equal. All writers, whether

traditionally published or indie published, are endowed with a natural talent and creativity for wordsmithing. We have the natural right to develop and explore our potential and exercise our right of free speech and publication as we see fit.

We have the right to choose any or all paths to publication.

We have the right to call ourselves indie published authors and enjoy the satisfaction of self-publication.

We have the right to call ourselves legitimately published traditional authors and enjoy the same recognition as other traditionally published authors.

We have the right to control as much of the publishing process as we choose.  typewriter-210640_1920

We have the right to choose who our publishing partners are.

We have control over the copyright and ancillary rights of our works as much as we choose.

We value equal and fair relationships with publishing partners who share the same ethics, interests, and goals.

We focus on good quality writing and professionally published books for our readers, no matter what the format or publishing path.

We are professionals and encourage each other’s success.

60 Days ‘Til Christmas

Can you believe that this year is sliding by so quickly? I know I can’t. I love Christmas books and some of my favorites are written by Debbie Macomber. Her newest holiday release is Merry and Bright. I know I’ll be reading it and suggest it to you and my other friends. Just click on the covers.

51rijapniFL._AC_US218_

In your Christmas shopping and reading, I invite you to include The Christmas Coach as well. We’re having our first chilly days in the Panhandle of Texas. We’ll be hearing jingle bells before we know it.

The Christmas Coach front cover

First Lines

highspeed-photography-2437729_1920

Grabbing your readers attention in a world where they are bombarded 24/7 is one of the most important lessons a writer must learn. That first sentence can make the difference between success and mediocrity. The gatekeepers in the publishing industry have told us repeatedly, “the first page will make you or break you when you try to sell your book.”

The key to setting your writing apart from the competition is to do something new when you start with the action in your story. Obviously stay away from the old clichés. When I teach a writing class, we discuss great opening lines from literature. My favorite examples of what not to use include weather, the protagonist’s reflection in a mirror, and the character’s startled awakening from a deep sleep. How many stories have started with “it was a dark and stormy night?” If you’re like me and a Peanuts cartoon fan, then you get an image of Snoopy sitting on his doghouse with his typewriter when you read any facsimile of the line. However, that isn’t where the phrase actually originated. The infamous phrase comes from the beginning of Paul Clifford, an 1830’s novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

One of my favorite first lines is from James Clavell’s, Shogun, “The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead.” The reader has to find out what happens. Start with the action and pull your reader in. Make them empathize with your main character quickly. Hook your reader in the beginning and then keep them turning pages.

What’s In The Future

grass-2597123_1920

For the past few years, I’ve had a second website thehybridauthor.com with an extensive list of resources for writers. It was originally intended to grow into a much larger resource, gathering place for writers, and a teaching platform for myself and others. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, my original plans have not been able to come about. After much consideration, I’ve decided that over the next few weeks I will consolidate both sites into this website, diannegsagan.com, which was my original website when I first started out. I’ll close down the Hybrid Author site. Certain things in my personal life are changing and I am no longer writing full-time. While I plan to continue writing part-time, I could never totally give it up – it is too dear to my heart and too much a part of who I am, more of my focus needs to be on family and elsewhere.

Nancy Drew Turns 85!

(copied from post on Facebook by “A Mighty Girl”) I just had to share this with you. I read and loved Nancy Drew as a girl and so did my daughters.

 

Nancy Drew's 1st book in seriesHappy 85th birthday to Nancy Drew! The first volume in the long-running girl detective series, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published 85 years ago this week under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. In a tribute on The Mary Sue, author Theodore Jefferson writes, “Agency. It is that which forms the foundation for any hero’s ability to save the day. In America, agency for teenage girls in literature made its debut in 1930 in the person of Nancy Drew.” This original Mighty Girl character paved the way for many more heroic female characters and inspired generations of real-life girls and women.

Ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson and later revised by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the first volume of Nancy Drew had a huge influence on young readers. Jefferson writes, Nancy Drew provided them with “stories of someone like themselves who had a positive effect on the world instead of passively sitting at home… She is a character with that magical ‘what if’ question woven into her identity, and one that effortlessly captures the imaginations of readers by allowing them to participate in a world where the answers to that question are just as entertaining as the stories themselves.”

Jefferson adds that the “echoes” of Nancy Drew can be seen in “Gidget, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Katniss Everdeen, Black Widow, Jessica Halloran and numerous other literary characters, television stars and comic heroes.” She also was at the forefront of a new literary idea: “the character upon which a universe could be created” for a series of related stories. For the first time, a whole world could be built around the adventures of one character, an idea that Jefferson notes was “powerful enough that Nancy Drew unseated many leading book series for boys in the process.”

At the time, some viewed Nancy Drew as a poor role model, “contradicting adults while she squared off with the villains… she is mechanically inclined and at the same time doesn’t act like most people in the 1930s would have expected a teenage girl to act.” In fact, many libraries and bookstores refused to carry the Nancy Drew stories. Despite — or because of — that disapproval, kids collected the books voraciously, and in the midst of the Depression, used copies were shared and traded like trading cards are today. As a result, “any kid, even those who couldn’t afford new books, would very likely get to read every adventure starring their favorite character.”

The tremendous influence of Nancy Drew continues to this day asserts Jefferson: “It is difficult to overstate how powerful Nancy Drew’s presence remains in literature and in other media. She has influenced film, comics, video games and animation for 85 years, and will continue to do so as long as teenage girls take the lead as our heroes in the imaginative worlds of adventure.”

Did you grow up reading Nancy Drew? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below. You can read Jefferson’s essay in honor of 85 years of Nancy Drew on The Mary Sue, visit http://bit.ly/1bk0r1o

To introduce a new generation to this classic girl detective, the Nancy Drew Starter Box Set featuring the series’ first six books, recommended for ages 8 and up, visit http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-box-set

Nancy Drew’s stories have also been brought to life in a wide range of Nancy Drew Video Games athttp://bit.ly/1c37uNp

Nancy Drew is also featured on a “Twisted Candles” t-shirt for teens and adults (http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-shirt) and in a Nancy Drew Paper Doll Set at http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-classic-paper-dolls

For more mysteries starring Mighty Girls — all for readers ages 8 to 12 — we recommend “The Case of the Missing Moonstone” for ages 8 to 12 (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-case-of-the-missing-moonstone), “The Fairy Tale Detectives” (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-fairy-tale-detectives), “Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes” (http://www.amightygirl.com/ruby-redfort), and “Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief” (http://www.amightygirl.com/sammy-keyes-and-the-hotel-thief).

To discover more Mighty Girl mysteries for readers of all ages, visit our “Mystery & Suspense” section athttp://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/mystery-suspense

Summer Reads

I recently read a great article about summer reads that would give you a tour of the United States without leaving home. Each book is about someone in one of the states or takes place in one of the states. It would certainly be a much more economical way of meeting one of the things on your bucket list if you’re like me. I’ve been to 36 of the 50 states, so I still have a few to see. It may take you a year to read all of them, but think of the places you’ll have been by this time next summer.

This list of books in the article includes book covers, and a short synopsis. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here is the link. Nonfiction Books about the 50 States.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wow, can you believe that it’s time for the holidays already? Here we are taking our place with the crowds at the grocery stores and markets getting all the things we need for Thanksgiving dinner. Family members are gathering and the familiar fragrances of the holiday drift from the kitchen. No matter how large or small our group, it’s a time we look back at the year and see those things we’re thankful for.

IMG_1719

Our celebrations take place around a bountiful table with shared stories, laughter and memories. We all know from school about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth. It was a feast to celebrate their survival. Did you know that the  holiday became official through a Presidential proclamation? In October of 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving in the middle of a Civil War. This official standing made it a nationally recognized celebration that had predominantly been observed in New England until then. Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the day to observe Thanksgiving.

During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, in 1939, 1940, and 1941, the holiday was moved back to the third Thursday to extend the Christmas shopping season and further stimulate the economy. A huge controversy ensued, as you can imagine, and Congress got involved. They passed a resolution in 1941 that set Thanksgiving as the third Thursday of November. All this did is cause more confusion and some states followed one way of deciding the date and some followed another. As a result in December of 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation that designated the fourth Thursday in November as national Thanksgiving Day, to take effect starting in 1942.

This may be more than you wanted to know about how we actually set the day for our holiday, but Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!