Wednesday, August 31, 2005

through the past darkly

I've been out of town for almost a week, but am now back in the land of 10,000 lakes. Here's the deal. Everybody knows how bad the book market is. Most writers I know are either unemployed or have taken a pay cut. I fully expect things to get worse before they get better. I'm already making plans, bracing for an even bigger crash. I'll be putting my house on the market next spring, and moving to cheaper digs. This isn't as pathetic as it sounds. This house was supposed to be temporary - and I've somehow been here five years. New neighbors have built a towering monstrosity next door that has robbed my house of sunlight. My block used to be mostly singles and geezers. The geezers have died off, and the yuppies have moved in. Now I know how the crackheads feel when their neighborhood gets gentrified. Time to pack up your shit and move on....

But I digress. Kinda.

A few months ago, after a book signing in my hometown, I got the bright idea that I should move back there. I could own a Victorian mansion overlooking the Mississippi River for the same monthly payment of a studio apartment in St. Paul. So last week I returned to Iowa to scout out some possible nesting spots. This is where the big WTF moment happened. Visiting for fun and visiting with the idea of living there - two different things. How had I even considered it? Was I insane? And how had it seemed such a perfect solution one minute, a total head trip the next?

As I tried to analyze the dark pull of beautiful dying towns and that kind of nostalgia, I got even more confused. I posted my confusion on a message board - just to get it out there, not expecting a single person to even understand what I was talking about. I couldn't believe how many people responded, telling me they'd almost done the same thing. One guy returned to a ghost town after twenty years, saw his old house for sale, found a real estate agent, and was almost ready to buy it when he came to his senses. Another person moved into the actual apartment where his father had died, but couldn't get a job because the town was dead.

The past is never really the past.

What's the Faulkner quote? The past is never dead. It's not even past.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

book video

i've decided to have a video made for my next book -- which won't be out for a year. the video will probably be ready around the end of this year. that's eight months before the book comes out. that's seems way too early to put the video on the internet, but i know nothing about these things.

Monday, August 29, 2005


i love to shop. not for shoes and purses, but for things like this:

formaldehyde generator

these were used in sickrooms to combat scarlet fever, whooping cough, malaria, yellow fever. they emitted formaldehyde gas.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

restroom ratings

from the suggestion box:

links, links, links!!!

you asked for it; you got it.

restroom ratings

Friday, August 26, 2005

suggestion box

my blog suffers from severe lack of focus.
there are several reasons for this.
1. i'm lazy.
2. i'm not a talkative person. i tend to try to get my point across in one short sentence -- which doesn't work well here.
3. i don't feel i should talk much about writing, because that's already being done so incredibly well by many other writers on many other blogs. that doesn't leave a whole lot. music. my cat. i could talk about my neighbor -- aka ***** ****** -- but he might read this.
as you exit the building, please leave suggestions in the suggestion box located to the right of the door.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

here i go again

i can't quit talking about the hold steady. just ignore me if you're sick of hearing me rave about this band.

the hold steady on npr:
songs, explained -- everything dissected with footnotes.

hill house trees

the blogger header image was taken last winter at the james hill house, located on cathedral hill in st. paul. we'd had a heavy, wet snow, so i cruised around town taking pictures. i live fairly close to this place, but had never noticed the symmetrical stand of trees. james j. hill built the great northern railway. history lesson of the day. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

writers writing right right now, right?

An editor once asked me this question: What do YOU want to write? I couldn't give her a truthful answer, because the truth would have meant the end of my stint at that house -- a house I eventually ended up leaving. Her question was unrealistic and idealistic. I think most writers at some point end up writing things they don't want to write. It's nice to be employed and put food on the table. This has nothing to do with selling out, or compromising my ideals. I write pop fiction, for chrissake. And yet I bend, and I turn, and I throw myself into something I'm not totally committed to. And in the process, I convince myself that this is what I want to be doing. This is good. I actually believe the lie until I look back and see it for what it was. I call it stepping into another person's life. I create characters all the time, so why not create a character I can wear? One who won't chafe too much. Someone similar, but probably nicer. And let's make her wittier while we're at it. Ah hell. Let's make her an adult.

What do YOU want to write?

A better question: What do YOU want to write that publishers will want to buy, and people will want to read?

It's a tough one.

I wonder what percentage of writers are writing exactly what they want to write right now. Say that three times very quickly.

Monday, August 22, 2005

thriller readers newsletter

since my blog is in limbo, i probably won't be posting much until it gets straightened out. but here is a link to sign up for the new thriller readers newsletter:

thriller writers

Sunday, August 21, 2005

is there a blog doctor in the house?

i wanted something purty. is that a crime?

apparently these templates aren't mac compatible. but that doesn't seem to be the only problem. people are telling me the new page itself is either too small or too big. the too big requires scrolling back and forth in order to read the text. also the header image doesn't show up on some browsers or older computers.

do you see a black frame on the left, plus a thin black frame line on the right?

are there weird symbols in the text?
i have the sinking feeling it can't be put back the way it was because the glitches and problems are now embedded. Ugh. I really don’t want to have to start a new blog. maybe this can be corrected.

Friday, August 19, 2005

and how does that make you feel?

Most people who read this will probably think I need my meds tweaked.

I had no idea writers did so much self-promotion. Over the past couple of months, I've been reading blogs and have joined lists that focus on promotion. Some people are saying they spend up to $40,000.00 per book. It boggles my mind. They hit 300 bookstores, and pay for their own travel expenses. It exhausts me just reading about it. But then it dawned on me that many of these people are fairly new authors.

In the early years of my career, I drove all over the country in all kinds of weather in order to sign books. I spoke at conferences and workshops. I talked to libraries and clubs. I bought ads, I did bookstore mailings. I even hired an ad agency for a couple of books. One thing I never did was the personal stuff. I never went around to stores and introduced myself. Well, not the truth. I tried, but it made me feel like a whore.

How do you get over that????

And what if the store CRM hates me – which has happened. If the store CRM hates me, then I've actually screwed myself and hurt my sales. Here’s where I'll admit that I once got into a physical hair-pulling fight with Mrs. Streable, my high school PE teacher. Those kind of women – the Mrs. Streables of the world -- still hate me.

I grew up in the sixties and to the point of self-detriment still refuse to kiss ass. I wanna be Bob Dylan, not Britney Spears. Then again, maybe I'm just a bitch.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

an acid trip down memory lane

That was weird. I decided to dig out a couple of my old books to send to Bonnie in Georgia and now a whole day has been shot to hell. I opened a book I wrote twenty years ago, and it was like getting lost in a box of high school mementos. Kind of a head trip, because I hadn’t expected the book to plant me so firmly in my past, in my old life.

My God, I was naïve. I wrote some things that were lame and dishonest, more focused on getting the friggin' book sold than saying what I really should have said. But a lot of it was real. Most of it was real. But I was still a naïve idiot. :D The writing was dramatic and sappy, leaning too heavily on things I’d read in other books, thinking it was expected of me – and maybe it was.

I experience this recall whenever I look at old book covers. I remember where we were living at the time the book was written, what we were doing. The books become markers that coincide with life events. But I never actually picked one up and read it until today. Weird as hell.

Friday, August 12, 2005

reversion of rights

I was thinking about rights today, did a little googling, and found this article written last year.


It emphasizes why it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the reversion clause of your contract. I have 13 books that have reverted back to me, but it didn’t happen without diligence. Some contracts stated that rights would revert seven years after the book was out of print. For others, it was only three or four years. So I had to keep track of the approximate date the books went out of print. Which happened to be almost immediately for most of them. :D Once the time period was up, letters requesting the reversion of rights were sent to the various publishers. For some, this process took months and required several signatures. Others went fairly quickly. I think one publisher signed off early.

I have no plans for the books. I haven’t made any attempt to sell them to another publisher. But I like the idea that they are once again mine and in my control. I prefer to have them languish and grow old at my house rather than at a publishing house.

spam -- tasty, easy, nutritious!

order an extra box for the fallout shelter!!

all the recent talk about blog spam made me think of this place:

spam museum

i live in minnesota, but have never been to the spam museum. :( i'm so ashamed.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

weird things you find when you're doing research


on the stereo

we shot the world is without a doubt the best song on the most recent ponys release. wow. another of my favorites is she's broken. the album was recorded in chicago by Steve Albini -- so it also sounds amazing. comparisons have been made to the cure, my bloody valentine, and the velvet underground.