Monthly Archives: January 2016

We Have Everything to Fear from Fear Itself

DO IT ANYWAY from Marie DuessQuestion: What does most damage to a writer’s career?

Answer: The simple answer to that is FEAR.

In my experience the biggest boulder in my writing career path – and probably yours too – has been FEAR. I write the world bold and in solid caps because that’s how it arrives in my psyche. Pulsing as well and emitting a ratchet sound.

What is the most common source of this very unpleasant experience? FEAR that I don’t know what I’m doing. My story isn’t good enough. My writing isn’t good enough. I’m not good enough.

I have plenty of voices among my memory circuits ready and eager to echo the sentiment. “Alice you’re just not good enough!” First soloist in my personal negativity chorus is my mother. You can fill in the blank with yours.

I generally keep on working despite those voices because I love to write. This is your best defense against FEAR in all its forms. Immerse yourself in the work. Get lost in the words and the fun of coming up with them. Pull the wonder of the writing experience over your head like a blanket. Stuff it in your ears. Reduce the negative nigglings in your head and gut by remembering We Write for the Joy of It.

The FEAR of not-good-enough rises to an even more powerful decibel level when it’s time to submit our work to an agent or editor. Or for us Indies – to upload onto Amazon. Each of these is a terrifying leap. We’re delivering our precious creations and our tender psyches to the world. The response could very well be yet another “You’re just not good enough.” In a deafening and debilitating roar this time.

Do It Anyway Sign -- from 1990sThis is what I call a Do It Anyway Situation. I shall illustrate with an anecdote. Way back when there were only hardcopy manuscripts I was building a collection of my own. Partial manuscripts to be exact – every one just short of long enough to constitute a submission which of course I never made.

My collection grew to such volume my husband was forced to build shelves for it across the walls not far from the ceiling on both sides of a long hallway in our apartment. My partials sat there gathering dust and turning yellow until a therapist friend of mine asked a dreadful question.

“What are you planning to do with those?”

She listened almost patiently while I recited my litany. I’d abandoned each project because a better one came to mind. The characters weren’t whomever. The plots weren’t whatever. The market had shifted. The cats ate my mailing labels. In other words I was too frightened to make the leap or – even more scarily – to take the risk of venturing into judgement territory.

After I’d laid my lengthy litany on her my friend said simply this. “You have two choices. Pick the best manuscript and submit it. Or ask Jonathan to build another shelf.”

The image engulfed me. Shelf after shelf of brittle yellow pages from ceiling to floor until the hallway was filled. Then along the walls of every room in turn until we were entombed by my not-good-enough work. The absurdity of that vision – like something in a New Yorker cartoon – triggered the kickstart mechanism in me. I began to submit. I was eventually published. I’ve been published many times since.

Do It Anyway SignOvercoming fear. Relegating it to non-bold lower case. That is a Do It Anyway Situation. Period. End of commentary – almost. If you’d like a Do It Anyway! reminder sign to tape to your computer or staple to your forehead. Email me at aliceorrbooks@gmail.com. I’d love to send you one. Or several if you prefer.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my work – including Books 2 and 3 – are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/

 

Life is a Blizzard Where I Come From

Me in My SnowsuitWhen I was a little girl I thought everybody lived in blizzard country like I did. I thought every child wore a snowsuit for nearly half of the year. This is me in my snowsuit in a few old photographs.

That was life growing up in the North Country. Blizzards and snowsuits. Sleds and ice skates. Double-knit mittens and hats created on Grandma’s needles. The memories of those years are sharp and reside in all of my senses.

I see the snowbank so high in front of our house that there was a photo of me standing on top of it grasping a power line. We’d had a power outage of course. Wires were down somewhere nearby – snapped by heavy ice.

Outages happened often in winter but we were cozy at 439 East Avenue because we had a coal furnace fed by my father from a bin in the basement. I feel the rush of heat when he opened the cast iron door and threw coal into the fiery center.

I hear the chuck of his shovel pushing into the bin and the whoosh of release when he let the load fly into the flames. I smell it too – the not unpleasant char that scratched my throat just a little until the furnace door was closed and latched again.

The most vivid flavor of my blizzard season memories comes from outside the house – the snow I ate despite my mother’s claim I’d contract a terrible disease with a long name I’ve forgotten. I taste the strangely satisfying hint of brackishness as snow crystals melted on my tongue.

Memories urge me to give them life on the page. Tire chains clanging down a quiet street at night. Young ears pressed to morning radios for school closure bulletins after a four-foot overnight snowfall – as a white wonderland waits to be explored and enjoyed.

I offer a glimpse of North Country winter in  A Vacancy at the Inn – Book 4 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series. There’s a blizzard near the end but this is a novella and an intense personal situation. Not much page space remains for weather in detail.

Or maybe I held back. Cherishing the magic of my private memory winters in a silence as deep as the silence of a snowscape after a storm. Still I sense a Riverton Road story in my future – and I hope in yours as its reader – where life is a blizzard big time.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.

 

How Marketable is Your Manuscript?

Ask Alice image 1Question: I want to be traditionally published. How do I get started?

Answer: Ask yourself this. How marketable is my manuscript?

Is your goal to be published by a traditional print publisher? As opposed to a strictly e-publisher or yourself as independent publisher? If your answer is yes you must FIRST evaluate your manuscript in terms of what the the traditional marketplace demands. This is the savvy way to start. Skip this step and your chances of publication diminish drastically.

At the same time you must also function as best you can on your own behalf – personally as well as professionally. Be aware of the realities of your choice. Do that for the sake of your own psyche. Otherwise you leave yourself vulnerable. To loss of effort. To loss of energy. To loss of hope which can be most psychically disastrous of all.

The first reality to be aware of is this. The publishing market is super cautious right now. Even more skittish than has always been the case. In MOST cases – work that veers very far from customary publishing expectations for your genre and subgenre will have a rough time finding welcome – especially if you are previously unpublished.

I did say “in MOST cases” however. The exception. A manuscript that is a truly extraordinary market-buster blockbuster bestseller masterpiece. Does this describe your work? Eliminate ego. Eliminate parental pride in your creation. Be hard of nose and heart and make a clearheaded answer to that question from an objective place. Not easy to do but imperative.

Submitting your work at this point in time – or any point in time really – is looking for a job in a low-availability environment. Looking for the job of published author. Think in terms of making yourself and your work as attractive as possible within a narrow avenue of possibility. Your quest for attractiveness always begins with the work itself.

You must always submit only your very best work. That is extra valid now. Don’t expect an agent or editor to see through your imperfect manuscript to your possibly more perfect talent beneath. Editors are looking for perfection visible – not perfection possible. Agents are the same because they look for what editors want.

Your first marketplace search is most likely for an agent. Ask yourself “What does this agent prefer to represent? Does my work fit those preferences?” Research those answers online. Go to the agent’s website. Google her name. Look for articles she’s written and statements she’s made. Find out who she represents and what they write. Figure out what all of this tells you.

I’m assigning you a sleuthing exercise. You must Investigate – Investigate – Investigate. You have your own sleuthing tricks. You will come up with new ones along the way. Please share them when you do. Share them everywhere and in every way and with everyone you can. Don’t forget that all boats rise together.

Your next sleuth project. Editors and the publishing houses where they work. Check out publisher websites. Google individual editors. Remember that the reception of an unsolicited – as in not agented – manuscript will usually be less welcome than a solicited – as in submitted by your agent – manuscript.

Some publishers declare they will not consider unsolicited manuscripts at all. My response to that is this. Send it along anyway. What have you got to lose? Except maybe that time and energy and psyche strength I mentioned. So be aware this is a Hail Mary Pass and adjust your expectations accordingly.

In the meantime – through all of the sleuthing and planning – you are making Lists and Lists and more Lists with your manuscript always in mind. Where might my work be most marketable? Who might find it most intriguing? What should I pitch most prominently to each target in order to maximize my chances of luring them into my lair?

Do all of this with high ambition and a courageous heart and you will also maximize the marketability of your manuscript. Next assignment. Always always always – Keep on Writing Whatever May Occur.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/

 

I Think I’ll Go Indie

Indie Spirit 1Sometimes I remember that title as my decision process. Think it. Do it. Done. But of course it wasn’t. The seeds were planted – the deep planting anyway – at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. I was there to present a workshop called The Art of Agent Stalking. Nothing Independent Publishing about it. Traditional Pub all the way.

I was watching the Indie movement for sure but from a poolside seat without as much as a toenail near the water. I was a curious onlooker. Nothing more. However before I even reached the convention hotel my toes and my attitude had begun to shift.

The airport shuttle van was packed with authors and guess what they were talking about. Indie Publishing. Some wanted to know more about making the leap. Some were thinking of making the leap. Some had made the leap and spoke of what had happened to them.

I mostly listened. Especially to the story of an author who’d long written for the same imprint I’d published with in the past. It didn’t take long for someone to ask her about money. She answered that her Indie earnings were approaching her Trad earnings and others said the same.

Those stories got everyone’s attention including mine. But they weren’t what impressed me most about the author themselves. What impressed me most was their enthusiasm. I’d been in writing and publishing for years by then as editor/agent/published author attending many writers’ events.

But I had never heard published authors – who were beyond the first euphoric blush of their careers – positively excited as these authors were about being Indie Pubbed. By the time we reached the conference hotel I understood why.

They had retrieved their writer selfhood from the control and manipulation of others. They owned their work. They owned their decision-making. They owned their careers. And they not only felt empowered – they were overjoyed.

During the next several days in one extraordinary session after another I learned the downside of the Indie life as well as the up. With total control comes total responsibility. The buck stops with the Indie writer and often the other kind of buck – the green one – doesn’t stop with her anywhere often enough.

I heard that. I comprehended it. Most of all I appreciated it. Whatever choice I made would be an informed choice not an emotional one. Or so I thought.

The truth on the other hand was that by the time I took the hotel van back to the airport I’d made a decision that was very much about emotion. I longed to experience the enthusiasm and – I barely dared imagine it – the happiness of those authors in that earlier van.

I wanted to be a full adult fully in charge of my own work life. I’d had that experience as a literary agent. I wanted it again as an author. One Indie memoir and three Indie fiction books later I very occasionally second guess my choice and only when the money issue arises.

I do not make as many of the green bucks as I did in my Trad Pub years. Not yet anyway. But I’m more content with what I do and how I go about doing it than I ever was back then. So – for now and I hope for a long time to come – I think I’ll stay Indie.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.

Bad Cop – Bad Cop

A Wrong Way Home - Final Cover - 200x300 px version“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton could have been talking about Riverton, New York. The smallish town setting of my Romantic Suspense Series is a lovely place to live. So lovely – on the surface at least – it may be too good to be true.

Anything that appears too good to be true probably is. I have no idea who first said those words but I believe them. Lift even a slight wrinkle at the corner of a too-good surface and see what creeps out. Among those creeps in Riverton is the local police force.

They’ve been nicknamed the Grays for their precisely tailored gray uniforms. With creases so severely pressed “you could cut your fingers on them,” Matthew Kalli observes in A Wrong Way Home. Matt has personal experience of how cutting the Grays can be. That experience goes way back. Especially with the Gray in this scene.

Matt grew up with scary stories about the Grays. The scariest stories were always about one cop in particular. His name was Joseph Prozin­ski, but everybody called him Joe Pro. Prozinski was a police sergeant back when Matt was a senior in high school.

His younger brother Luke was the third in the Kalli boy line. Luke was just about out of middle school then, but he was already growing into his own nickname. The one he’d picked for himself from the title of an old black and white movie called The Wild One.

He loved to quote a Marlon Brando line from that movie. Luke would challenge anybody he could talk into it to ask what he was rebelling against. He’d plaster a wide grin on his face and answer.

“What ‘ya got?”

There was no way a kid in Riverton with an attitude like that was going to avoid trouble with Joe Pro. The trouble Matt remembered most happened late on a spring afternoon. That was the time of day Luke came home from school to grab a bite to eat before heading out again with his friends.

The gang of them would roar up the Kalli driveway crammed into whatever pickup truck or broken down car was available to whichever kid had a legal driver’s license at the time. Luke was too young to be licensed, but his friends tended to be older than he was.

They’d slam on the brakes inches short of the massive doors to Gus Kalli’s garage with Kalli Contracting painted in tall letters across the front. Luke would jump out from the seat where he always insisted on riding shotgun because it was the cool place to be.

Luke wasn’t riding shotgun on that afternoon, and he wasn’t in a friend’s pickup truck either. A police car brought him home, and when he got out it wasn’t with his usual swagger. He was pulled out of the car by Joseph Prozinski.

Matt was already working after school for Kalli Contracting in those days. He’d been crouched on the roof of the house replacing asphalt shingles when he heard the police cruiser pull into the driveway and roar up to the house.

He dropped his tools and climbed to the roof peak just in time to see Prozinski kick the car door shut and shove Luke hard up against it. Joe Pro slapped Luke then, not once but three times, back and forth across the face. Bam. Bam. Bam.

Luke’s head snapped from side to side like a punching ball on a stand. Joe Pro did that slapping with his back to Matt, but he could still tell that, for this cop, beating up on Luke was no different than punching a ball would be.

“Get your hands off my brother,” Matt bellowed from the top of the roof.

Joe Pro turned away from Luke and directed his nasty sneer straight up at Matt. He’d never forgotten the chill that sneer sent knifing through him or how small and powerless it made him feel. Like a bug crushed into the gravel driveway by Joe Pro’s heel.

Matt forced himself past that feeling and scrambled down the back slope of the roof to the ladder. By the time he reached the ground and ran to front of the house, his mother was there and Prozinski had backed off. Even Joe Pro knew enough not to tangle with Angela Kalli. Otherwise, Matt might have ended up in jail after all, with his brother Luke for a cell mate.

There it is. The corrupting influence of power and what may lie beneath an apparently too-perfect surface. The trouble right here in Riverton makes it a fertile setting for suspense. As in the nasty things folks sometimes do to each other and how all of that turns out.

The trouble in Riverton has a lot to do with power. Who has it and who doesn’t and how that mix can erupt when the two factions collide or when they try to coalesce. Those eruptions can be murder. That’s what makes Riverton more interesting than “too good to be true.”

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.

Going to Ground

Question: Where have you been Alice?

Answer: There are times we cannot – and should not – work or write.

Animal in burrow imageWith animals we call it going to ground. They burrow in somewhere out of the flow of their usual lives to rest and heal because rest and healing are required. People go to ground too. We also experience times when recuperation – physical and mental and spiritual – is more crucial than work. Even more crucial than our precious writing work.

This has happened recently to two writer friends and myself for different reasons. I’ll begin with the stories of my writer friends.

In Elizabeth Meyette’s Blog she recently wrote. “I have abandoned the manuscript I’ve been working on for over a year. Making the decision to abandon my draft came after much soul-searching and feedback…” Loss takes us to ground. Elizabeth’s words are a gracious understatement of what she’s lost.

All of us who write understand this. We live with our stories as close companions that preoccupy our hearts and minds and reside in our souls. For a writer the loss of a story is almost as deeply felt as the death of a friend. Mourning is required when we’re forced to set aside such a relationship.

The places within Elizabeth – or any of us – once occupied by that story must refill and come back to life. Until then healing and loving self-care are needed. My hope is that one day her story will return more rich and full than ever and more rewarding too.

My other friend is also a talented writer. Irene Peterson has interrupted her work while she devotes her efforts to someone else. My favorite book by Irene is Glory Days. My favorite aspect of Irene is her giving heart.

She has slowed her writing roll to become caretaker to her husband who suffered a serious injury. How many of us have been halted by similar commitments to help others in our lives? Whether it is for partners or children or aging parents or friends. We recognize the need and sacrifice our time and our energy and our work as Irene has done.

My personal work obstacle is more mundane than Elizabeth’s or Irene’s. I caught a cold that progressed to laryngitis and a wracking cough which won’t let me sleep at night. Medications fog my brain. For days turning to weeks I’ve gone to ground. My comeback is on its way but in the meantime healing is my priority.

Whether the healing is our own or someone else’s we must make room for it to happen until our bodies and our lives return to us the capacity for working and writing again. Until we’re able to emerge into the light of the page once more. I wish us all Godspeed with that.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

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A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at My Amazon Author Page.