Friday, November 30, 2018

Willington Library Author Trail and Crafts Fair

Join me (Eileen Albrizio) and several other CT authors tomorrow, Saturday, December first at the Willington Public Library's Author Trail and Crafts Fair. Speak with an author, find out what motivates them to write, learn what other books they plan to publish, perhaps even gain an insight into how you can also become a published author. A signed book makes a great holiday gift and a one-of-a-kind, personalized memento. 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the Willington Public Library, 7 Ruby Road, Willington, CT, 860-429-3854, www.willingtonpubliclibrary.org


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Upcoming Author Events with Eileen Albrizio



Saturday, December 1: Author Trail and Crafts Fair at the Willington Public Library from 9:30 to 2:30.
I will join fourteen other authors from the CT Authors and Publishers Association for a book signing, along with local craftspeople at 7 Ruby Road, Willington, CT, 860-429-3854.
Sunday, December 2: Holiday Pop-up Meet the Authors Shopping Event at Book Club Bookstore from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
I will join author R.C. Goodwin for a book signing at 869 Sullivan Ave., South Windsor, CT,
860-432-7411.

Friday, December 7: Holiday Pop-up Meet the Authors Shopping Event at Book Club Bookstore from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
I will join author Mark Dursin for a book signing at 869 Sullivan Ave., South Windsor, CT,
860-432-7411.

Thursday, December 13: Meet the Author Event at the Enfield Library from 6:30 to 7:30.
I will be reading an excerpt from my debut novel THE WINDSOME TREE: A GHOST STORY. An author talk and book signing will follow at 104 Middle Road, Enfield, CT, 860-763-7510.

Thursday, February 21 (with a snow date of Thursday, February 28): Meet the Author Event at the Wethersfield Library from 6:30 to 7:30.
I will be reading an excerpt from my debut novel THE WINDSOME TREE: A GHOST STORY. An author talk and book signing will follow at 515 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, CT, 860-529-2665.

Monday, April 1: Roar Reading Series at UConn Barnes & Noble, Storrs Center from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 
I will join two other CT authors for a book signing and conversation at 1 Royce Circle (Dog Lane), Storrs, CT, 860-486-8525.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Novel-Writing Class


Write Your Story the Right Way

Do you have an idea for a novel, but don’t know where to start? Or have you begun writing, but are stuck moving forward? This is the perfect class for you. In this eight-week course, we will explore what genre of novel is best for you, how to outline a plot, develop scenes, build three-dimensional characters, develop tone and voice, learn techniques in pacing, hurtle that troublesome writer’s block, and even explore publishing options. You can start a new project, or work on one already in progress. This class is open to writers of all levels. Bring writing materials, whether it’s a pen and notebook or a laptop, as this will be a hands-on writing class in a friendly, non-judgmental environment.

Meets Wednesdays 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting September 26th and runs through November 14th at the Wethersfield High School in Wethersfield, CT. Room 221. Course fee $60


      Instructor: Eileen Albrizio – Author of
      The Windsome Tree: a ghost story.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Grief and Writing

My brother passed away on May 15, 2018. He is my third brother to pass from illness. We were five siblings. Now we are two. I started writing a poem after Fran died. I worked on it almost every day, and couldn't get through it.

My father passed away yesterday, July 29, 2018. I finished the poem today. I never post writings that haven't been read by an editor or member of my critique group, Artemis Rising. But I am posting this because I don't know what else to do.


Grief
by Eileen Albrizio

In dark of night, unseen by living things,
she weaves a web with silken strands of grief
that spreads across the attic like the wings
of dragonflies: the workings of a thief
who targets mourners trying to persist
each hour without the ones they love. We're just
survivors of death's casualties, who missed
the touch of one who renders life to dust.

I am among them, laden in my gloom,
existing in a garret without light.
I feel the grief that hangs inside this room.
It clings to lashes, flesh. With all my might
I try to swipe away the deep despair
but still feel death is crawling through my hair.




Saturday, July 28, 2018

Understanding Genre in Fiction

I put a call out for ideas for a blog article and I got a great response from Claire Donohue Roof, poet and assistant professor of creative writing at Ivy Tech Community CollegeShe  asked about the different genres of fiction. Great topic. Thank you Claire!

Genre is a category of literature that was first created by the Ancient Greeks and comes from the Greek word genos, which means kind or sort. The term was created to differentiate between prose, poetry, and performance. Today, the term defines a wide variety of literary styles, including comedy, tragedy, horror, science fiction, romance, thriller, mystery, etc. The Greeks set out to simplify the literary and theatrical arts by placing them into genres such as comedy and tragedy. However, as time went on, the genres of literature became more and more complicated, and at times, convoluted. But it is important to never underestimate their importance. Genres help readers understand the style of a book BEFORE they read it. That is one of the major things that help them pick a book to read. So, writers, when you choose to blend one genre with another, it's important to always keep the reader in mind.

Writers love to mix genres, splicing one into another, known as cross-genre or hybrid genre. Examples are historical romance, paranormal romance, science fiction Western, literary horror (my favorite), young adult fantasy, and techno-thriller. There are also hybrid genres that have become so popular, they've been rewarded their own genre name, like steampunk, which is science fiction in a 19th-century setting, incorporating the design of steam-powered machinery.

Is it okay to mix genres? Absolutely, but be careful not to cross so many lines that your story becomes confusing. I find this is the case with the fairly new category of genre called speculative fiction. This is a genre with a wide umbrella, covering horror, fantasy, science fiction, superhero fiction, dystopian, supernatural and any other fiction that is outside the realm of reality. By having this as a separate category of genre, it gives writers freedom to cross into several main genres in one novel. Not that it's bad or wrong, but it could cause some fundamental problems. One is, it could make the novel hard to place. Editors, agents,  and publishers are specific about what markets they are targeting, and if they can't target a specific market, they will likely pass on your multi-hybrid novel. Second, readers are essentially the same as editors and publishers. They love to read a specific genre and may avoid your book because it doesn't fit their niche, or they may be disappointed if they expect one thing from your novel and get something completely different. I found this with Peter Straub's Ghost Story



Don't read the next paragraph if you haven't read the book and wish to do so.

Peter Straub's book is called Ghost Story. So, just by the title, I expected a ghost story. And, for the most part, it was. It's about a group of older men who are part of a kind of secret organization called The Chowder Society. They meet occasionally to chat and share ghost stories. Then one of them dies and they all become haunted in dreams by a murdered girl from their past. It was creepy and I loved believing all the way through the book that the ghost of the murdered woman had come back to haunt these old men. But, in the end, she's not a ghost at all, but an immortal shapeshifter. UGH! I was so disappointed! So, if you're writing a ghost story, don't give me shapeshifters, or vampires, or zombies. It's just not the same thing. And, with the exception of his collaborations with Stephen King, I've never read another Peter Straub story. (Althuogh I will if someone recommends one.)


I know we all want to be unique writers and we don't want to shove ourselves into established norms. But as new writers, it's important to understand and be practiced in those norms before you can start breaking the rules. Therefore, I advise that you know the genre in which you want to write, have read and thoroughly enjoyed the genre in which you want to write, and commit yourself to that genre. If you've never read the genre in which you are choosing to write, you will likely not enjoy the process and ultimately give up. Or if you've finished it, but don't love the genre, then you can't expect your reader to love your book.

Perfect example. Sometime around 2003, my mother Connie read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.


It was getting massive press for it's fast-paced action, but more so for it's controversy regarding radical speculations about the history of the Catholic Church. Now, if you look up Catholic in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of the Pope and then a picture of my mother. She had never read a suspense novel, but read this one solely for the controversy. When she was done, she was hyper critical about the content, but also enamored with the books mad crazy success. So, she decided she was going to write a suspense novel. I told her, "You don't read suspense novels. How will you write one?" She said, "You'll teach me." I said, "I'm not versed in suspense novels. I like horror." She said, "You'll learn how, then you'll teach me how." She's my mother and she's Catholic. I couldn't say no. It would have been a sin. So, I went to conferences, workshops, took how-to books out of the library, read numerous suspense novels, including all of Dan Brown's at the time (which I loved), and set out to write a suspense novel for the sole purpose of teaching my mother how to do it. It took me a whole year. When I was done, the novel was horrible, but I went to my mother to at least teach her what I'd learned. She said to me, "Oh, I'm on to different things now." I love her despite this.


Final words: Write in the genre in which you love to read. Pick a genre, devour as many books in that genre as you can, learn the pacing, the level of characterization, the tropes, the plot construction. Then write.

Good luck! I'd love to hear what you're writing!

Eileen

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Advice for New Writers


As an author, I get interviewed often about the writing process. I think one of the most frequently  asked questions is "what advice would you give to new writers?" So, I thought I'd share my answer with you.

The best advice is to write every day, even if it's garbage. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. I think the biggest obstacle that keeps writers from writing is fear. Stephen King put it well when he said, "I'm convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing." We are afraid that what we are writing isn't good, no one will want to read it, the story will be hurtful to family, or it's a waste of time. But remember, when you're scribbling out that first draft, no one will read it but you. So, really, you have nothing to fear by writing it and everything to gain. For some great insight on writing, I strongly suggest reading Stephen King's memoir appropriately titled On Writing.


My advice is to just write and don't worry about it. But you will worry about. I know you. You're a writer, just like me. So, when you throw something down on paper and it feels like you've just vomited up last night's salmon all over your writing desk, consider what Ernest Hemingway said, "The first draft of everything is s**t." And look what he did! You will never get to the good stuff until you write the crap first. I wrote two whole novels--that will (hopefully) never get into the hands of a reader--before I wrote my now published novel The Windsome Tree: a ghost story. I never would have been able to accomplish that without barfing up some salmon first.

As hard as you try, though, you will inevitably run into writer's block. There are a rare few who can avoid it. One thing I do is take a break and read. When I give that advice in my classes, students sometimes bring up the fear that what they're reading will influence their writing and they could unintentionally plagiarize. The likelihood of that is slim at best. Reading someone else's work will help clear your mind from your own for a short time. It will allow you to see that each word on the page isn't a masterpiece on its own. The story forms only when the words are put together in sentences and then paragraphs. You may see that often the prose is simple, not overly flowery or complex. When you return to your story, you will not try so hard to be perfect, knowing that simpler is often better. 


Having said that, you should be reading all the time. You should be a voracious reader. The more you read, the better you write. Again, to quote Stephen King: "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time to write." Plus, reading is fun. So, there you go.

A surprisingly overlooked bit of advice is to get yourself out of your room and into the world. Writing can be a solitary and lonely business. Break down the walls of solitude and go to conferences, public readings by other authors, anyplace where writers and readers connect. I met my agent at a writer's conference. I pitched my novel The Windsome Tree (then called Without Mercy) to her and she rejected it. I went home and revised it and the next year pitched it to her again and she eventually signed me. Join writer's organizations. The annual fees are usually small and the benefits, great. I belong to a wonderful organization called The Connecticut Author's and Publishers' Association. They have monthly meetings in all four corners of Connecticut with great speakers. There, I have a chance to connect and socialize with people of like minds. Additionally, they offer workshops and other events throughout the year. Join a writer's group. Libraries often have them, but they are open to the public, and sometimes the input is more damaging than helpful. Find a closed group that suits your needs and ask to be invited. Or form your own. I belong to a group called Artemis Rising and we meet at my house once a month. We've been together for twenty years!

That's my advice for today. If you think of anything that helps you to be a better writer, I would love to know!
~ Eileen

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Cumbersome Climb of the Indie Author

Hello Friends!

Now that I've published my debut novel, The Windsome Tree: a ghost story, I am quickly discovering how hard it is to get people to take me seriously. Because I'm under the umbrella of "indie," big-box booksellers and small-town booksellers alike refuse to put my book on their shelves in favor of more established authors with celebrity or a large following. When an independent bookstore says they support indie and local authors, but reject me because I'm a debut novelist published under a small imprint, that's not really supporting independent authors. 

Many independent authors have or have had agents guiding them through the quagmire of traditional publishing houses, only to find that smaller, independent presses are their "starter home." That's what happened with me. Independent can mean published through the help of an agent but at an independent press, or it could mean self-published. And there's nothing wrong with that. There are some brilliant self-published authors out there who deserve all the recognition they can get. John Grisham was a lawyer when he wrote his first novel A Time to Kill. The book was rejected 28 times before he went to a small, independent press and published 5,000 copies on his own.  In 1931, Irma Rombauer wrote Joy of Cooking with her daughter. It's said she used half of her life savings to pay a local printing company to print three thousand copies. The company had printed labels for St. Louis shoe companies and for Listerine, but never a book. Five years later, Bobbs-Merrill Company acquired the rights. Over the years the book has sold over 18 million copies. There are countless accounts like this.



So, Barnes & Noble may say they don't have the shelf space for every independent author out there. But the local bookstore down the street should certainly carry the book of an author who lives around the corner. That author will do a public reading at the store and potentially bring new customers in. It's a win-win.

For the past 29 years, I've owned with my husband a comic book store in Rocky Hill, CT called Heroes & Hitters. Whenever a local author comes in with a self-published comic, we happily accept it on consignment. We've dedicated a whole corner to indie comic book writers and artists. We place them right under the super popular Walking Dead trade paperbacks to give them focus. It costs us nothing and helps a local talent showcase his or her work. 


My additional concern is that some "independent" bookstores charge authors to do readings at their store. I won't mention their name, but a well-known Connecticut indie bookstore charges authors $50 to read at their store, and that's only if they approve the author, which they won't if said author is unknown.

An acquaintance informed me that he knows an author who turned to doing "library" tours, because he couldn't get into the local bookstores. He was quite successful and went on to publish over 20 books.

My goal now is to find alternate ways to get my novel out to the public. I've contacted my local newspaper, and they are publishing a small article on my "success story" as an author.  I will be going to the Big-E in September--one of the top-ten fairgrounds and trade show venues in the country--where I'll be selling The Windsome Tree alongside other authors at the Connecticut Authors' and Publishers' Associations' bookstore in the Connecticut Building. And I will be teaching an eight-week novel-writing class beginning in September as part of my local Wethersfield, CT adult education program. So, that's a start.


The Big E at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds in Agawam, MA
If you have ideas for how independent authors can promote their books outside of the bookstore environment, I would love for you to share that with us. Let's work together to lift up the independent author and the independent presses out there!

Thanks for reading. 
Eileen 


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Preview the new novel "The Windsome Tree: a ghost story"


My novel "The Windsome Tree" (formally titled "Without Mercy") is now available on Amazon for both paperback and Kindle formats! I will also have paperback copies at my comic book store by next week should anyone like to buy a signed copy! Or should you get a copy and want a signature, just call my store (Heroes & Hitters in Rocky Hill, CT) to see if I'm there (I am most of the time), and stop in! Thank you to everyone for your support throughout this long, sometimes arduous, often exciting adventure. Click on the link below for a free preview.


The Windsome Tree: a ghost story

Monday, April 10, 2017

Read THE BOX UNDER THE BED for FREE!

I just enrolled in KDP Select on Amazon, so for all you Kindle Unlimited people, you can now read THE BOX UNDER THE BED for FREE! Limited time, as I'm just trying out KDP Select and don't know if I will re-enroll when the ninety days are done. You must be enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program to read the book for free. That's a paid program through Amazon. If you do read the book and enjoy it, please leave a favorable review. This is a book of poetry and short fiction. Thank you, everyone!

The Box Under the Bed

Haunting tales and tidbits pulled from under the bed. These compelling little poems and stories explore the dark side of the human psyche and the ghostly side of life.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Know What Happens, but Why?

Spoiler alert, not that many will need one as most of you likely have already read this story. But I didn't. So, here it is.

I just finished reading Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery. Yes, I know. Many of you read this when you were in junior high, but for some reason the Catholic School I went to didn't think this was appropriate reading, so I never had the advantage of all that dissecting that was offered in sixth grade English class. I know what happens in the end--and here's the spoiler--every year a random lottery "winner" had to be stoned to death by the entire community in the town square. But what I don't know is why? Furthermore, I don't know why Shirley Jackson wouldn't fill us in on that. I mean, isn't the motive an essential part of the story?

I've read some analysis on this, but not of it makes sense, as it seems to all be speculative. Even Shirley Jackson had trouble explaining her intentions. Responding to complaints, she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1948, "Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult."

Even the scholars who translated the meaning had to decipher code throughout the story to come up with an explanation. I understand why the story is revered, as its shock value alone is worthwhile. But as a writer and a reader, I am always disappointed in stories that end on a speculative note. Simply put, I as the reader don't want to have to do the work of the writer. I would love to know what you think.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

My New Year's resolution is to read great books and write amazing things!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing is a Lonely Business

Stare out the window. Wait for inspiration. Nothing happens. Stare at the computer screen. Wait for the words to appear. That doesn't happen either. Get up. Get a snack cup of jello with pineapple tidbits. Sit back down. Type out a few sentences. Delete. Go to the kitchen. Open the refrigerator door. Mull over the the leftover burrito, wilted celery, processed cheese spread. Shut the door. Sit back down. Repeat.

Such is the life of a writer. But then we have a moment when something does happen. The words do come. The sentences form. Paragraphs grow. A scene is created. A chapter. A first draft.

We revise. Rewrite. Revisit. Show it to an agent. Get rejected. Revise. Rewrite. Revisit. Show it to another agent. Get rejected. Repeat.

I'm just here to tell you, it's okay. Stock up on the jello and ramen noodles. Stare out the window. Put down a word. Delete and repeat. Don't give up. I mean, what else are you going to do? Watch Law & Order marathons? Spend half a day going through Facebook feeds, wondering how that meme about the drunk friends is really so funny it makes Janet from telemarketing cry, as the emoticon suggests?

Being a writer can be a lonely business. Until the characters develop. Until the story evolves. Until our minds are so full of souls whom we've created we can barely move. We stop craving the wilted celery and processed cheese spread and rejoice in the company or our characters. That's why we write.

Get a coffee mug, a pin, a desk mat that has printed on it the adage "A successful writer is just an amateur who didn't give up." Every time you think it's not worth it, let your eyes fall on that cliche and get back to work.

That's what I've got for today. I would love to read your comments.

SOMETHING WRITTEN
by Eileen Albrizio

When the new day comes,
reward yourself with words,
invent fantastic worlds,
travel to phantom places,
embrace all that seems impossible,
rejoice in who you are.


               ~ From The Box Under the Bed

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to Break through the Fear of Writing a Great Poem


Perhaps  the biggest problem for poets trying to write a great poem is that the poet doesn't really know what poetry is. How do you distinguish between writing a poem or writing a piece of flash fiction. One of the characteristics most significant in defining poetry is its inability to be defined. But if we can't define it, how can we write it?

What makes poetry different from prose literature can be found in its concise language. It uses a heightened, yet more economic vocabulary. Other characteristics of poetry are its use of literary devices such as meter, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, metaphor, simile, assonance, line and stanza breaks and formal structure. If you are writing FREE VERSE, don’t ignore the fundamental techniques that make poetry substantial.

Most importantly, every poem must have an emotional heart. Even within haiku and its observations of nature, the poet delivers an emotional experience through what she's witnessed.

Perhaps intellectually you understand the fundamentals of what makes a poem a poem.. So, what is keeping you from writing great poetry? The biggest obstacle that keeps us from writing a great poem is FEAR

* Whether we've defined poetry or not, we’re afraid we’ll get it wrong.
* We fear we’re not good enough writers to write one.
* We fear what we want to write about isn’t that interesting.
* We fear what we want to write about is too personal.
* We fear we will be judged by our peers.
* Because poems are personal, we fear we will hurt someone’s feelings.
* The desire to be published creates a fear of writing a poem unworthy of being published.
* We fear we will never get to the point of perfection, so we just don't do it.
* We get intimidated by people who say the words just spill out of them, that poetry comes to them like a muse in the night, that they just wait for the perfect time and the poem comes. We know that doesn't happen for us, so we fear we are not true poets.

How do we break through the fear and write a poem:

* Be active readers of poetry. Pay attention to the way words work together, or don't work together. It is not only important to read poets that speak to you, but also to read poets who you find out of reach or who challenge you.
* Think of creative writing as traveling without a map, or driving a car at night. These metaphors illustrate that writing is seldom a linear process with a known destination. Instead, it involves learning to love language—its tastes and shapes and sounds—and then to go wherever the writing leads.  NOTE: If you do this, it’s just the first step. Once you get to your destination, then go back and revisit the poem and think creatively about what it says and what you want it to say.
* Practice writing often, as you would if learning to play the piano or shooting free throws. Instead of expecting a "great" poem every time you write, write in a way that feels "raw and messy."
* Find the emotional core of the poem and connect it to concrete objects: something that can be seen, touched, heard, smelled and tasted by readers and listeners. Every time we feel something, it has a tangible connection. Find that connection and work with it.
* Don't get bogged down in the facts. The only significant truth in a poem is its emotional truth. Don't be afraid to blur the facts in order to get to the heart of the TRUE EMOTION.
* Write without fear. It won't be great when you first throw it down. It will be like the clay on the potter's wheel--a shapeless mass of brown, wet, glop. Get that glop on the wheel. No one will see it but you!
* Once you write, you must revise. Genius comes in the editing. In the revising, don't be afraid to throw away that first line that sparked the poem in the first place. Often that line isn't worthy of the poem, it's just the inspiration. Be your toughest critic. Just as you would write without fear, you must edit without mercy.

Bottom line: The best way to be confident as a poet and write a great poem is to:
1. Read poetry. Read lots and lots of poetry from a variety of poets. Not just today's poets either. Read yesterday's poets. You don't have to like all of it, but you do have to read it.
2. Write poetry. Write lots and lots of poetry in a variety of forms. Copy the forms of today's poets. Copy the forms of yesterday's poets. You don't have to like all the forms in which you write, but you do have to write them.
3. Always remember, you are not alone. All great writers have a fear of writing something great. It's persistence and an unrelenting desire to write that makes us successful.


I WRITE
by Eileen Albrizio


I write, but what I’ve written isn’t right.
Rewrite, but it comes out wrong.
You say don’t stop. Keep writing.

With sound advice and insight,
I go back to the start and be strong
and write again, but it just isn’t right.

Maybe all it needs is a slight
tweaking to help it along.
You say no, it needs more. Keep writing.

New eyes on the lines to shine light
on what might turn what I wrote into song,
but what I’ve written still isn’t right.

An edit won’t make it tight
if the words aren’t where they belong.
You agree and say keep on writing.

I’m not good enough for this fight.
Can’t stop crying when I think of how long
it took me to write what’s not right.
You say I’m awesome because I keep writing.


  ~ From The Box Under the Bed, available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
 The Box Under the Bed


I would love to read your feedback. Drop me a comment!



Monday, January 5, 2015

BARE WHITE LEGS ON COLD WINTER EARTH
by Eileen Albrizio
(A short-short story from The Box Under the Bed)


Christmas Day.

She was driving, making up time on the Mass Pike. They were heading to her parents’ house in Newton—maybe it was Shrewsbury. She was chattering on about something. He tuned her out. Or he was at the wheel, laughing at her jokes, playing with the radio. They were going to his sister’s in Bedford. The children were bickering in the back seat. A boy, ten, and a girl, twelve. Their SUV had a TV in the rear. The son, possibly older, had an iPad, was playing video games. The younger daughter quietly watched a movie. Might have been they weren’t rich, didn’t have the trappings. So they bided their time singing medleys the way families did before satellite radio.

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling Clementine—I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad.

Perhaps it was just the two of them, only wed a year. He had a few drinks before hitting the road. She told him not to drive. He said he was fine. They were arguing when he changed lanes. He was yelling at her when he swerved. Could have been they weren’t arguing, but enjoying the ride as she drove on that crisp, clear afternoon. It was another driver, drunk, who clipped them while passing. Sent their SUV off the road. She overcompensated, struck the guardrail. The SUV went airborne. And there were children, and they were screaming when it hit the ground, flipped again. Crashed and burst into flames. The children were trapped. Parents unconscious. Pray there were no children. They were staying at their grandparents. It was conceivable the children were only a plan—for someday.

Fireman put out the blaze. Pulled the man and woman from the vehicle. Their clothes were smoldering. EMTs cut off their pants, pulled off their shoes. Laid their bodies on the median. No hurry putting them in the ambulance. A white sheet draped over their heads, down to their thighs.

We drove past them on that Christmas day. You said, Don’t look. I looked. Saw the burnt-out vehicle on its head. And the bodies on the ground. Dear God. What went wrong to stretch those bare white legs out onto the cold, dead earth?

The Box Under the Bed - Available at Amazon.com
The Box Under the Bed - Available at B&N.com

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Nice Article on "Possibiliteas!"

I'd like to thank Karen Rider for interviewing me for "Possibilities: Master-Brews for Creative Minds."


Interview on "Possibiliteas: Master-Brew for Creative Minds"

Authors and other creative people, research blogs on the Internet that focus on your talent. If you have a product or service that makes you interesting as a creative person, these bloggers may want to interview you! It's a great way to get the word out to a broad audience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Get a Literary Agent

Hello, friends.

You've written a manuscript and now you want to sell it. You don't want to self-publish, as that requires too much money up front and an intensely difficult marketing campaign afterward. Publishing through the conventional avenues means getting a literary agent, as no major publishing house these days will accept unsolicited manuscripts.

You've labored tirelessly over writing the perfect query, did your research online and through various Writer's Market volumes, and sent out your query to dozens, and for some, hundreds of agents. Most responses come back as a rejection form letter. The rest don't bother to respond at all.

Why? Don't they want fresh new talent? Other people get agents, so you ask yourself, "What am I doing wrong?" The answer: Nothing. The problem: Agents receive hundreds of queries every day, and unless yours is so out-of-this-world fantastic in the very first line, they will likely throw it in the discard basket and tell their intern to send you a form rejection. Some do take the time to read the whole query, but again, if it's not stellar, in the basket it goes. If you are exceptionally lucky, the agent will write you a short personalized note letting you know why your manuscript was rejected. That's a good thing, because then you can revisit the manuscript and make improvements.

The bottom line, however, is you've been rejected. What do you do?

You get out from behind your desk and go meet the agent face to face. That does NOT mean you drive to the agent's office and walk in with your manuscript, plop it on her desk and ask her to take a look. (If anyone has ever read John Irving's The World According to Garp, that's what Garp's mother did with much success. Remember, that was fiction. This is reality.)

The best way for you to meet an agent is to check around your area for writers' conferences. Many areas hold writers' conferences that are within a reasonable driving distance from where you live. See if those conferences offer a "meet-and-greet" segment with a literary agent. Some conferences charge a little more to take part in that. But some don't. If there is a conference that does offer such a segment that doesn't charge extra, sign up, follow the rules, and go. If there are only conferences that offer such a segment at an additional charge, I still recommend you go, but those have pros and cons. The pros are you will get honest, priceless, professional feedback that will only improve your manuscript, and you may actually get interest from an agent. The cons are, some of these agents may not be as interested in picking up new talent as they are in getting paid to do the conference.

Either way, the advantages are numerous.

1.) You are showing the agent you are active in the literary community by actually going out and attending conferences in order to improve your craft and advance your writing career.

2.) You are attending workshops that will actually help you grow as a writer. You will not only get creative writing tips, but tips on how to publish and promote your book.

3.) You will make a more lasting impression on the agent by meeting them in person and talking with them. That is something that isn't possible by simply sending out a query letter.

4.) You are getting critical advice on how to improve the manuscript. They know the market. They know what works and what doesn't. They read hundreds upon hundreds of manuscripts. They are not just giving you an opinion. They are telling you exactly what you need to do to get published. It may sound like a rejection, but it's not. It's a postponement. Once they tell you what needs to be done, do it! Which leads me to the next benefit.

5.) Once you make the suggested improvements, these agents are more likely to revisit the revised manuscript. That is not something an agent who rejected you letter query will likely do.

6.) If the agent rejects your revised manuscript, she will more often than not give you further advice on how to improve it, and she may keep the door open for you to resubmit.

At the end of the experience, the agent may sign you on, she may not. If she doesn't find, out why. She would have invested enough time with you at that point to be honest. The reason may simply be she thought she had a place for it but discovered she didn't. That will allow you to market it to another agent with more confidence.

It may sound daunting, but this method does work more effectively than sending out letter or email queries. And a wonderful benefit is, you have improved your manuscript in a way you never would have been able to otherwise. So, if you do decide to go the self-publishing route, you will have a much better product.

I hope this helps you. The best advice I can give you is don't get discouraged, keep writing, keep revising, take the advice of these professionals gracefully, and never, ever give up. It takes time. But it's time worth taking.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spreading the Word

Hello writers and readers!

I would first like to give you an update on The Box Under the Bed, my new collection of haunting short stories and dark poetry. It is available on Amazon.com and now also available on Barnesandnoble.com. For a sneak peak, go to Amazon.com. To view my cool new video, just click the button below!


Secondly, this weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to share some of the poems from this collection with my fellow poets, Mary Elizabeth Lang and Suzanne Niedzielska. We were at a charming Tea House in Bristol, CT called The Artist Tree. The walls were covered with paintings from local artists, and the tea was delicious.


Sharing this news with you brings me to an important point. Reading at local venues is a valuable way to get the word out about your work. It gives you opportunities to advertise not only the event itself, but to advertise the work from which you will be reading. Facebook and Twitter are great social sites to spread the word. Reading at local venues also brings in a new audience. People who frequent the Artist Tree Tea House were not my social connections, but now they are!

If you have print books, always choose selections from those so you are holding the book in your hand for the audience to see. If you have only an eBook, create a business card, as I show above. Hand that card out to everyone in the audience and let them know they can get a sneak peak of your book on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, or any other place where they can access it. That brings them to the site and one step closer to purchasing your book.

Lastly, if you want me to discuss certain aspects of writing or reading on this blog, drop me a note. I would love to hear from you.

Have a great day and keep embracing the written word in whatever fashion you choose!
Eileen :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Box Under the Bed

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I've posted anything, and it's high time I started again. My book, Without Mercy, formerly known as The Rope the Tire and the Tree, is now in its editing stages. I am working with an agent, and we are cleaning up some trouble spots. This needs to be done before she can attempt to sell it. That's a good thing, and hopefully it won't take too long.

In the meantime, I have a new book of short stories and dark poetry, which is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. It's called The Box Under the Bed and it's filled with haunting tales and tidbits pulled from under the bed that are sure to steal your breath and chill your blood right before you sleep. These compelling little poems and stories explore the dark side of the human psyche and the ghostly side of death.



This is an eBook, and you can download it to your Kindle or Nook device.

The Box Under the Bed on Amazon.com

The Box Under the Bed on Barnesandnoble.com

If you do not have a Kindle device, you can download a FREE app to be used on your computer, tablet, or phone. Here's the link:

Download Your Free Kindle app

Check out a FREE preview of the book on Amazon.com. (Barnes and Noble offers a free preview as well, but the Amazon preview is more extensive.) If you like what you read, the book is only $3.99! I would also love it if you would write a brief review of the book, whether it be on Amazon.com or on Barnesandnoble.com, as reviews help give the book greater search presence. A five-star review is a wonderful way to promote a book on these sites, and as an author, promotion of a book is exceptionally cumbersome, so every little bit helps!

Thank you for following me through my various projects. Please leave a comment, and if you have a book, I encourage you to promote it here!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Person vs Third Person – Present Tense vs Past Tense

As a reader and a writer, I know that third person past tense is the best approach to writing fiction, but for some reason I felt compelled to mix things up in this novel. I thought it would be intriguing if the chapters that centered on the characters that would become ghosts was set in the past tense, while the chapters that centered around the present day protagonist would be written in present tense. Briefly, I even considered changing the perspective from third person with the ghosts to first person with the protagonist. I thought that by using first person present tense in the protagonist sections of the novel, I would create a sense of immediacy that could be effective with a haunting. All the main action would be happening in the now and the reader would experience the frightening circumstances at the same time as does the protagonist. It sounded reasonable, but I didn’t know how the reader would feel about it. Additionally, I didn’t know if switching the tenses or writing in first person was considered stylistically acceptable in fiction writing.

Acceptable. An odd concept for the creative mind. As artists, do we really want to attach ourselves to what’s acceptable or do we want to expand the boundaries of acceptability, even break through them, and create something completely unique. That’s what Herman Melville did when he wrote Moby Dick. In trying to understand the process of creativity, I took a closer look at Melville’s process of creating.

The now classic author and one of the founding authors of the American literary canon began his career garnering modest success with short novels known as travel logs. They were exotic tales that followed the adventures of some sort of sailor who either traveled to or got stranded on a far away island. The average income reader of the mid 19th century had little opportunity to travel, so they would live vicariously through these travel tales of adventure. When Melville was deciding to write what would become Moby Dick, he was embarking on yet another travel log. When nearly finished with this latest book, his friend and contemporary, Nathaniel Hawthorne, encouraged him to change it. His reason was he recognized Melville’s potential to break down the barriers of the acceptable and create something unique, something that went beyond a step-by-step account of a traveler and delved into the exploration of the human condition. Trusting his friend, Melville went back to the beginning and completely rewrote what he had originally been called The Whale, a simple tale about a sailor on a whaling ship. When finished, he had created the allegorical masterpiece, Moby Dick. He wrote not only in differing tenses throughout the novel, but in differing perspectives, genres, and switched from “fact,” or what was thought to be fact at the time, to fiction. There’s even a section of the book that’s laid out like a stage play. So, you say, if Melville can do it, and to such an extreme, well, so can I! Well, yes, he did do it, but it was an unadulterated failure! It was panned by readers, critics and the public at large. It was such a disaster, it made the sinking of the Pequod a metaphor for his career. His public expected one thing and got another, and they weren’t happy about it. Although he continued to write, he never recovered from the failure of Moby Dick, and instead of making a living as a writer, as he did with his travel logs, he ended up working for the New York Port Authority and when Herman Melville died, the one and only obituary notice in New York spelled his name wrong. True story!

Sure, we’re glad now Melville ruined his career to create his magnum opus, but I’m not certain he was so thrilled about it. He would never know the success of Moby Dick. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that scholars decided to take another look at Moby Dick and with a new more “contemporary” eye, found its brilliance. Unfortunately, Melville died in 1891.

So, what’s the moral of the story? That’s what I pondered for over a week before making my decision and my decision ultimately rested in the answer to this next question. Am I looking for monetary success with this novel, or literary success? Well, both would be nice, but if I had to choose, I would most certainly choose literary success. I’m not being lofty and I can prove it. I’ve been writing for 35 years and I still keep my day job!

Keeping in mind the literary value of the work, I reasoned that using past tense for the ghosts could be effective in defining them as characters of the past, living lives that have already happened. When the reader gets to the protagonist’s present situation and the tense switches over to the present, it could make the action more exciting. To tackle this, however, would take tremendous effort, and that effort would likely be felt in the writing.

To analyze my dilemma further, I decided to think logically instead of creatively. We think in past tense. Our thoughts are reflective. Logically, a novel is most effective when it reads like we think. To force the reader to alter the way he or she thinks would be cumbersome. Do I really want to alter the way a reader thinks when going from page to page through my entire novel? Will the reader be willing to do that? Unlikely. If the act of reading becomes cumbersome, then the words are lost to the style. Style takes precedence over content. In Melville’s situation, his novel was all about style. That was the point, and that’s what makes it work. The novel wasn’t necessarily about a specific plot. Yes, there was a definite plot, several actually, but the main point of the creation was to explore the human condition.

Is that what I am writing, a grand exploration of humanity? NO! I’m writing a fiction story about ghosts. Hardly the place to go crashing down the gates and driving over the well-manicured lawns of acceptable writing styles. I want the reader to focus on the story, not the style of writing. It is the plot of the story that is important, and there is only one tried and true way to get the reader engrossed in the plot, and that’s to write in a style in which they are familiar. But what about the perspective? Should I write Mercy Amoretto’s chapters in the first person while keeping the ghosts in the past?

Well, having blocked out my chapters already, I know that as the novel progresses, most of the chapters become Mercy Amoretto chapters. Therefore, I would essentially be writing the entire second half of the novel in first person perspective. That could be limiting, considering there are other characters at play: her husband, Donovan, and her three children, not to mention her best friend Mary Beth. I would have to relate everything that is happening through the perspective of Mercy. Would that be effective? I think not, mostly because the scary parts of a ghost story often happen when the reader sees something that the main character does not. The scope would be too narrow, less three-dimensional. Plus, switching back and forth would, again, force the reader to change his or her way of thinking throughout the novel. Getting settled into one tense, just to be thrown out and into another one. It could be quite painful, intellectually speaking, and I don’t think I want to torture my reader.

Giving it one final thought, I asked myself, does it really make the novel better to change from the traditional style of writing to something considered unacceptable? The answer again was an unequivocal no!

So, third person past tense it is, all the way through. I’m not caving to convention, ladies and gentlemen. I am simply writing the best novel I can possibly write at this point in my life. If this particular piece works best in the traditional style, then that’s what works best. Period. There’s no need to mess with what works!

Thanks for following along the process. I will come back shortly with my next update on my progress. Until then, happy writing!
Eileen

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Writing is On!

Hello again!

I have now officially begun writing my novel, The Rope, the Tire, and the Tree. After completing the lengthy, yet necessary prep work (refer to my previous post for the details on that), I have written the first pages of my novel.

I already blocked out my chapters, so I already had an idea in mind of how to open the novel. However, once I wrote the first lines of my first chapter, I realized this was not how I wanted to begin the story at all. It just didn’t feel right, and if it doesn’t feel right to the writer, then it won’t feel right to the reader! I did a little research, a lot of pacing, and a whole lot of thinking until I finally realized the problem.

When we think about a story, we think of a series of events that starts here, then goes there, and ends someplace else. So, when we start to write a novel, we often feel a need to begin at the beginning, at that place where the story starts, and that’s exactly what I did. So, why didn’t it work? It didn’t work because, * gulp *, it was boring. In my first post of this blog titled "Taking the Labor Out of Starting a Story," I talk about this very problem, so I am surprised that I didn’t follow my own advice when blocking out my chapters in the first place. However, I quickly, and thankfully, recognized the error of my ways.

Think about it for a moment. What happens at the beginning of things? Not much. A person or a group of people are sitting or standing around doing mostly mundane things and it isn’t until that extraordinary something happens that the action starts. Why do we feel the need to start with the mundane and work our way into the action? The answer is, we shouldn’t feel that way. If we don’t start at the beginning, then where do we start our story? Answer number two; en medias res, in the middle of things. More specifically, in the middle of the action. The opening lines of your story should directly connect with the core or your plot.

Using the examples from my first post, if you are writing about a college football player who dreams of being a pro, then start the story on the football field. If your story is about a town threatened by deadly forces from outer space, then begin the story with a spacecraft crash landing in the middle of a Midwestern town. If the plot of your novel circles around finding a serial killer who preys on college women with long dark hair, then open your novel with the murder of one of these women. From there you can either flashback or move forward. It’s up to you. Notice that in each example your story is opening with an action. It isn’t a student sitting at his desk in World Geography class dreaming about being a football player, or a Midwestern family gathered around the dinner table in prayer not anticipating any kind of danger to their existence, or the young woman primping to go out for the night hoping someone will buy her a drink. That all may have a place later, but right at the start, jump into the action!

I’m writing a ghost story. So, why did I start the story with the woman who will later be haunted oblivious to that later development and living her somewhat troubled, yet otherwise boring life? I DON’T KNOW!!! After I realized my error by boring myself with my own writing, I knocked myself in the head with my knuckles a few times and started over. And where did I start the second time? With the ghosts, of course! Already dead things in a less than dead space doing spooky ghostly things. Which brings me to another point. Your opening lines, paragraphs, pages and chapter at large, must set the tone for the entire novel. If you are writing a comedy, don’t open the book with a graphic death scene. If you are writing a literary drama, don’t open with Three Stooges slapstick or talking puppies. I’m writing a spooky ghost story, so I open with spooky ghosts.

Another problem solved. I will keep you posted on my progress and obstacles, so stay tuned. Until then, happy writing!
Eileen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Preparatory Work is Finished. Now on to the Fun Stuff!

Hello Everyone!

I finished all of the pre-writing for my new novel, The Rope, the Tire, and the Tree, and now I am finally embarking on the actual writing of the story. If you have been following my blog, you know what that preparatory work entailed. For a bit of reinforcement, I will briefly recap.

The first, and arguably hardest part of beginning a novel is coming up with an interesting and unique story. In my case, I was pondering an idea for a short story for my compilation of short fiction. The genre of the compilation is supernatural fiction, so I was trying to think of an interesting tale to write that had a supernatural twist. I had completed about six short stories and several poems for the volume, but when thinking of a new story to tackle, I found myself simply rehashing old themes. I was literally starting from scratch. I had to make something out of nothing. For many of us in this position, that seems like an impossible task. What I did to conquer that obstacle was surprisingly simple. Instead of asking myself what story do I want to write, I asked myself what story do I want to READ. Well, I know what I want to read. I want to read a story that has a sympathetic, yet, terribly flawed main character. The flawed heroes are always the most fun and the most relatable. I don’t want gore, but something dramatically supernatural and fundamentally frightening without overwhelming me with horror. I want to explore the “lives” of the supernatural forces and get to know them on an intimate level, just as does the protagonist. I want something classic in nature placed in contemporary times.

As I do with my poetry, I took these somewhat abstract ideas and I tried to find an image to make them concrete. I wanted something I could see. If I can see it, I can write about it. If you’ve ever taken my creative writing workshops, you know that working with concrete imagery is fundamental to great writing. I found the image lingering in the back of my mind. It came from a poem I wrote called An Accidental Meeting that is published in my first volume of poetry. In the poem, I describe an old tire swing. Bingo! That was the image, classic, yet easy to fit into contemporary times. And, of course, I had to attach the supernatural element to that tire swing. Thus, the germ of my story was born.

Next, I developed a plot sentence. What is a plot sentence? Some have called it a cocktail party description. That is what you would say if a friend came up to you at a cocktail party and asked what your story was about. You need one maybe two sentences tops that briefly, precisely, and compellingly explains the main protagonist of your story, her conflict and how the antagonist prevents her from overcoming that conflict; in other words, the plot of your story. So, I had the image of the tire swing and the general idea of the story, now I needed to incorporate a character in order to develop the plot. I picked a main character with whom I could easily connect, a woman in her forties. Well, that’s me. I, however, am rather boring, so, I started with me and expanded outward. I developed a crisis or conflict for the woman, placed her in a situation where that conflict appeared insurmountable, and then entangled into that conflict the supernatural element (antagonists, if you will), which would ultimately bring the story to its climax.

I didn’t want the tire swing itself to be supernatural, but rather to harbor something supernatural, that is, the spirits of lives past. I also didn’t want the spirits to be pure evil, as that would create distance between them and the reader. So, I made the spirits into characters, real people who lived, then died and found themselves trapped in the properties of the tire swing. They are restless, confused, and in need of home. I wanted more than one spirit, because there is power in numbers, but not too many for fear of convoluting the story. Two spirits coming together in one tire swing and a protagonist faced with a crisis that is exacerbated and blown into the stratosphere by the manifestation of these spirits. Aha! A plot sentence is born.

“Mercy Amoretto, in an attempt to mend her nearly destroyed family, decides to clean out the garbage of her life and in doing so discovers an old rope and tire and fashions them together to create a tire swing that she hangs from a maple tree in her back yard only to discover that the connection of the rope, the tire and the tree has released the restless spirits of lives past, spirits that if not cared for, could bring Mercy and her family to eternal ruin.”

OK. That’s a long sentence. I could break it into two, but that’s it in a nutshell, my plot sentence, my cocktail party description of my story. In thinking about my plot, my protagonist and the two spirits, I realized that this was much bigger than a short story. There was a novel here, and so with the birth of my plot sentence came the growth of my novel.

From here, I began developing my characters. I will not go into detail because I have already done that in an earlier blog. But, essentially, I interview my characters by asking them a series of about twenty questions, then I take the answers to those questions and write a page or two narrative. By narrative, I mean I write a “chapter” that essentially describes each character, interweaving each answer into that chapter. For example, instead of simply saying Anastasia is eight years old with blue eyes and blond hair, characteristics that are in my list of answers, I write her description into a narrative. Here is the beginning of that narrative. The numbers represent each of the answers in my questionnaire, and notice I don’t necessarily write the answers into my narrative in the order the questions were asked.

“It’s 1970(4) and eight-year-old(2) Anastasia Madison(1) was riding in the way back of her parent’s 1967 Chevy Chevelle station wagon. There was no seat in the back, just a blanket covering a cold metal floor. Anastasia sat cross-legged facing the rear window daydreaming. The air that swirled through the partially opened window tangled through her long, sleek blond(3) hair, lifting it to fly like the tails of kites behind her.”

By doing this, I am developing Anastasia into a three-dimensional character before I even start writing the novel. I develop a relationship with her. I am thinking about her creatively, not just analytically. Again, I teach this in my creative writing workshops. It’s a fun and invigorating exercise!

Next, I drafted the ending to my story. Yes, the ending. Don’t think your story will tell you where to go as you write it, because it won’t. If you do not have an ending before you start writing, you risk rambling down dozens of digressive dirt roads until you find yourself standing over a massive precipice in where the only way to go is straight down! Figure out where you want to go before you start writing. You can change your mind later, but it’s always best to write knowing your destination! Draft the ending like you draft your plot sentence. WRITE IT DOWN!

Next, I blocked out my chapters. I took index cards and dedicated one index card to each chapter. I started, of course, at the beginning, and one-by-one, I found the heart of each chapter as well as the movement of the story. I asked myself, where do I want to go from here, and then I blocked that out chapter-by-chapter until I reached my already drafted conclusion. The exciting part of this is that I discovered by the time I reached chapter ten that I needed to introduce a new character. I needed a bridge character, someone who would serve to take the main character from here to there in a more realistic and interesting way than what I had originally drafted out. Because I have the chapters on index cards, I simply went to chapter one and wrote down the new character’s introduction on the back of the card. Then at about chapter 15 I realized I needed a stronger connection between Mercy and the spirits, a connection that stemmed from some intimate and devastating occurrence in Mercy’s life that makes her susceptible to the spirits’ influence. So, I introduced some foreshadowing and a subplot on the chapter three index card. THEN, when I reached the climax, I realized I needed a more dimensional and dramatic climax than I had drawn up in my original conclusion. So, I expanded the climax to include this added drama, and incorporated that into the draft of the conclusion I had written earlier. Consider the amount of labor I am avoiding by taking care of all of this now. If I just started writing without any preparatory work, any pre-write, and had written ten whole chapters before realizing I had to go back and introduce a whole new character in chapter one, then I would have to go through the entire ten chapters and make sure that character was accurately and flawlessly incorporated in order for the plot to move smoothly. That is an enormous rewrite that we avoided by doing all of this preliminary drafting and blocking. AMAZING!!

Now here I am. I have my plot, an in depth understanding of my characters, all of my chapters blocked out and my ending drafted. Imagine, having all of this work already done before you even write the first word of your novel! I don’t have to worry about facing that horrible, ugly monster called writer’s block. The hardest of the hard work is over. All of that anticipated badness is alleviated. I no longer have to ask, “Can I do this?” because I’ve already done it. Now I just have to write the story. And that’s the fun part, right??

Right!

So, I am at that wonderful point of writing the first line of the first chapter of my novel. I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I will go into detail about that in my next blog.
Until then, happy writing and happy Thanksgiving!!
Eileen