Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Author Post - Self Publishing, Bone of the Dead Cookies and Winston Churchill by Elle Newmark

The issue of my age came up shortly after Simon and Schuster bought The Book of Unholy Mischief. After I sent my new agent an overly-excited email, she asked, "How old are you?'

OMG, should I lie? No.

I shot back, "I'm sixty. Is that a problem?"

My agent is younger than my children. I considered emergency plastic surgery. I panicked because, frankly, I'm shocked to be over sixty. I feel like I'm thirty-five, only smarter.

I'm smarter, because I've lived. I've had jobs, marriages, lovers, friends, children and grandchildren. I've visited every continent and lived in on two of them. I've survived divorce, single parenthood, life-threatening illness, and even teenagers. And through all those heaving life experiences, I kept writing without ever publishing a word.

By fifty-five I had an epic collection of rejection letters, but I needed to write. At fifty-six, I finished my third novel, and I remember the surge of elation when that book caught the attention of a reputable agent who said, "This is a gold mine." It was finally happening!

Then it didn't.

One black day, I accepted that my work would never be published. It was crushing, and I spent weeks wallowing in the tragedy of my crucified ego. On my 60th birthday, I sulked on the sofa in rumpled pajamas and ate cold pizza.

Then I got angry. I'd given away control of my destiny, and the world had shrugged and given it back.

Fine. I'd do it myself. I took the humble route of self-publishing, because I thought just holding my book in my hands would be enough. I risked money and went through endless edits, and then my literary baby made its debut to a shrieking silence and a riot of apathy.

The book languished on Amazon, and that's when I decided that it wasn't only about holding a book but knowing that people were reading it.

One night, slumped in front of the TV, watching a glitzy book launch party on Sex in the City, I got an idea.

I gambled on a do-it-yourself website, took on an Internet marketing course, and threw a virtual book launch party. It was designed to generate a surge of sales on Amazon and catapult me onto the bestseller list.

I brazenly asked droves of website owners to help me. I sent letters, homemade cookies, and signed books marked on the page where those cookies appear in the novel. The cookies are called Bones of the Dead and so, with an aching back, I spent long days in the kitchen, shaping bone cookies -fifteen hundred of them.

Two days before my virtual party, my son said, "Mom, why not invite agents to your party?" Well, that would be a ballsy move indeed, but I figured I had nothing to lose. The night before the launch, I wrote personal invitations with a link to the party site to 400 agents.

By noon the next day agents were clamoring to read my masterpiece, asking me to overnight books to New York. Within 24 hours, I had offers from several impressive agencies-including William Morris, with whom I made an agreement at whiplash speed.

I did hit the Amazon bestseller list. Not that it mattered anymore.

Two weeks after my virtual party, my book went to auction. Bidding was due to start at 11:00 a.m. EST, but at 8:00 a.m. the phone rang. My agent said, "Are you sitting down?" I said yes, though I wasn't. She said, "Two book deal, Simon and Schuster." Then I sat down.

In the following heady days, the foreign sales started. It was a global feeding frenzy. As of this writing The Book of Unholy Mischief will be published in a dozen languages.

In all the excitement, I remembered a famous quote from Winston Churchill-with the sky over London littered with falling bombs and the city in rubble, the sixty-eight year old Churchill growled, "Never, never, never, never give up."

I didn't give up. That's really all I did. I have spent my life pursuing what I love, and every word I wrote was necessary to find my voice as a writer. And success is better later than early. Can you think of anything more depressing than peaking at the age of 25? Then what? Also, I feel profound gratitude, which I probably wasn't capable of twenty or thirty years ago. Being older makes it sweeter.

But here's the ironic part: Now that I'm published, I finally understand that the deepest satisfaction is in the writing itself. The best part is not holding my book or having other people read it-the best part was writing it. Writing is my passion, and passion is our consolation for mortality. Real success is finding something you love, and then doing the hell out of it.

My new book, The Sandalwood Tree, will be out in April 2011, and then I get to write another. And I am old enough to appreciate the hell out of that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review - The Book of Unholy Mischief

I saw this book at my local bookstore a while back and added it to my to-be-read pile.  When the chance came to get a copy to read and review, I was excited.  I can say that I wasn't let down.

I really enjoyed this story and found the book to be well written.  The descriptions took me into the story so that I was "seeing" everything as Luciano was telling it.  I think that Ms. Newmark brought these characters and this time to life for me.

I found it interesting how she wove the theme of hidden knowledge into the story.  It made me wonder about knowledge that has been lost over time both before it was written down or because people were afraid of it.  Using cooking to pass knowledge on is a unique twist on the secret society theme.

I look forward to reading more of Ms. Newmark's work.

I obtained this book from the publisher, Washington Square Press.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review - The Hunger Games

I decided to read this book after seeing that several friends were reading and enjoying "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

I have to say that I didn't like this book and would only give it a 2 1/2 star rating.  I can't put my finger on why I didn't like this book.   I had a hard time finishing this book.  It was well written, but didn't grab me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review - Anne of Green Gables

From the first time I read this book, years ago, I was hooked on Anne and the world of Avonlea.  I loved to immerse myself in this story and the other books that follow.  "Anne of Green Gables" is so well written that every time I read it, I find myself in the story living in Avonlea with Anne as she makes friends and lives with Marilla and Matthew at Green Gables.

I always feel as if I have rejoined old friends when I read this book.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review - The Jane Austen Book Club

I'm torn on this book.  I had heard and read a lot of positive reviews about it so I was excited to read it.  I found it interesting to read, but I think that I expected more from the book.

The premise is a book club that is formed to read the works of Jane Austen.  I found this interesting and enjoyed seeing how the book's characters interpreted Austen's work.  What I had a harder time with and wasn't that impressed with was the stories that revolved around the club members.  None of the characters really excited me and drew me into their story.

I've heard that the movie was better than the book.  I think that I'll have to give it a try sometime.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review - The White Queen

This is the second Phillipa Gregory that I have read.  The first one, for some reason, I just couldn't get into and put down within the first 50 pages or so.  I had a good time reading this novel and read it through fairly quickly about 2 weeks ago. 

I know, I'm a little late in writing this but it's been a busy month and I haven't been very motivated to write, but I digress.

This book captured my attention and was a delight to read.  Ms. Gregory did an excellent job of blending historical fact and fiction together to create a believable story.  I love reading history and to see story of Elizabeth Woodville and the Plantagenets and how their lives might have played out was interesting.

Ms. Gregory wrote a story that had me seeing what was happening to Elizabeth, Edward, their children and his brothers.  I love to read stories that pull me in and have me "living" the story with the characters.  This novel did that.

I'm going to have to read the other novels in this series, The Cousins' War.  Next up, is the story of Margaret Beaufort in The Red Queen.