Three Turning Points and a Tremendous Book Giveaway

The Three Turning Points

the endTwo weeks ago I turned in my second novel, FINDING IZZY LANE, to my editor at St. Martin’s Press! I’m pleased with the book and eager to hunker down with edits and get this novel out to readers, hopefully Spring 2015. But this is publishing folks, so of course, that could mean winter or summer or fall! I’ll write more about the book as time goes on, but for now, here’s the lowdown on Izzy!

Lies, love, and the internet collide when divorced mom Izzy Lane moonlights as a dating expert for a popular website, even though she hasn’t dated in years. In real life, Izzy has moved back to her childhood home with her five-year-old son, is still hung-up on her unemployed ex-husband, and spends weekends hanging out with an eighty-five-year-old neighbor who harbors secrets of her own. When Izzy discovers some lies can last a lifetime, she must decide if telling the truth to avoid that fate, is worth risking the friendships, love, and job she’s come to count on.

50Today, I turn FIFTY! Yes, that’s 5-0 and I’m fine with it! I bought myself a new pair of earrings and matching necklace from Etsy (I heart Etsy). Last weekend my daughter and my son came home from their respective colleges just to celebrate with me. I’ve had, and am having, celebrations with friends. In early March I’ll celebrate with my immediate family and a few cherished (I won’t say “old”) friends during a weekend away. Now, if random strangers would be kind enough to say I don’t look old enough to have a 22-year-old son graduating from college, that’d be super. I may be fine with fifty, but I’m not above a little flattery.

blogIn March, Women’s Fiction Writers turns THREE! I’d already been blogging for five years, but it took me six months to get up the gumption to start Women’s Fiction Writers in 2011. Then, WFW took on a life of its own. Thanks to all the authors who’ve participated and all the writers and readers who welcome it into their inbox and swing by once or twice a week. In 2013, WFW had over 37,000 views from over 137 countries. That, my friends, is another reason to celebrate. Want to see all the authors who’ve been here (and some to come)? Click here.

The Tremendous Book Giveaway

surpriseIn honor of these three turning points, and because I don’t yet have my new book to give away—as a thank you for hanging out here, and supporting me in all kinds of awesome ways, just leave a comment and 13 of you can each win one of 13 books by 11 amazing authors. You have twenty four hours to enter, and prizes will only be mailed within the United States. Tweet it or FB the link and add another comment for a double or triple entry (but that’s it, tweet it a gazillion time, still only one Twitter entry). You can also *like* my FB page and sign up for my newsletter (but if you’ve already signed up, please don’t sign up again, just tell me you’ve done so) to enter as well. Winners will be chosen and books awarded randomly (unless there’s one you’re dying to have, make a note of it, and if you win, I’ll do my best!). You can only win once. If you can’t be reached via email someone else will be chosen right away. Winners will be announced on the blog and emailed by Friday morning.

It’s easy. Leave a comment, tweet, like, or click to win a book. Good luck!

Amy xo

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Four Authors Walk Into A Bar

Okay, it was a restaurant, but still.

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany, Nicole Lynn Baart

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany & Nicole Baart

Last weekend I attended the Heartland Fall Forum in Chicago, an annual trade show where Midwestern booksellers get to check out the latest books from big, small, specialty and regional publishers and meet with authors. That also means that authors get to spend time meeting those booksellers and talking about books.  And as you can see, authors also get to hang out with each other.

The lessons I learned at Heartland are lessons for any writer who wants to be out and about talking about his or her book, either now or some day.

Four Lessons I Learned At Heartland (Before I Got To The Bar)

1) Wear comfortable shoes. My shoes were very comfortable when I walked around the house, got in and out of the car and went out for dinner, but hoofing it all over a conference hotel was a different story. I also learned that Band-Aids in hotel gift shops cost about 50 cents a piece. And are worth every penny.

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A New Year, A New Post, And A New Look For Women’s Fiction Writers

In honor of forging ahead with my new novel (untitled), jumping into my new stage of life (empty nest), celebrating the Jewish New Year (5774) and scheduling many new book events (calendar to be updated), Women’s Fiction Writers has a new post by me and—a whole new look (but no more parenthetical phrases)!

I hope you like the new digs as much as I do! 

Amy xo

A Writer’s Ring Of Truth

photo (13)It’s been a while since I wrote my own post on my own blog.  I’ve spent the summer promoting The Glass Wives, writing my next novel (still untitled), working on freelance editing projects, looking for a job outside the house (I’m “opting in”) and mostly, getting ready to send both kids off to college. No, it didn’t take all summer to shop and pack and prepare the kids. It took all summer to prepare me.

And it will probably take a little longer.

It’s not like I’m new to life-altering changes, but each one seems to be like the first.  Except for one thing.

This time I know I’ll be fine.

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Seven Lessons From My Debut Book Tour

Two months ago when THE GLASS WIVES was published, I started my career as a published author by celebrating with friends. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I did my first event. It’s counterintuitive at times, to realize that I spent years writing a book alone, chatting with writers and authors online, and now, part of taking my career to the next level meant standing up in front of real live people and talking. I was nervous but excited by the prospect of doing it. I’m not shy, nor am I an introvert. But this meant being fully responsible for the experience of the audience. Yes, people are responsible for their own happiness—but book events almost transfer the author into the role of entertainer.

Don’t let that deter you or scare you. The things I learned on what I loosely describe as my “book tour” which consisted of eight events in the Chicago area, ran the gamut. I spoke to a high school creative writing class, a crowd of two, a crowd of fifty, and I participated in a group reading, and a panel at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. My one “out of town” event was in my own hometown of Philadelphia, where I knew, or knew of, all seventy people in the audience. I was related to some and had known others since elementary school. I had not seen many of them in thirty years. Or more.

And while these lessons were based on my experiences over the past two months, and your mileage may vary, I’m thinking that the debut author experience is a somewhat universal one.  I’ve also been told that every book feels like a debut, so I’m going to make sure to read this list in 2015 when my next book comes out! (More on that soon!)

Amy xo

SEVEN LESSONS FROM MY DEBUT BOOK TOUR

1. People are not there to see you fail. 

This was kind of a revelation for me. Not that I ever thought I’d have hecklers, but the acknowledgment that everyone was there because they wanted to be, with an expectation that they would walk away pleased, kind of freed me from feeling pressure. I’m not sure why. Just remember, the people in the audience are in your corner, whether you know them or not.  Unless you have a nemesis who attends book events, of course. But really, look around. People are smiling. (So smile back!)

BOOK LAUNCH CHLOE CLASS

2. Don’t feel compelled to read.

What I mean by this is—read your audience. If it’s filled with people who’ve read your book, you might be able to refer back to certain scenes when you talk. If your audience is mostly people who’ve not read your book, or there’s a mixture, read a bit, talk a bit, then read again. I’ve been to readings where I’ve thought “I can read it myself, talk to me.” And there are times I was riveted by an author’s audible rendition of her own work. Know your strengths. We’re all storytellers so remember to tell a story.

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3. Leave plenty of time for questions.

People are curious by nature, and if your book talk touches on different topics, you’ll spark the audience members’ imaginations. And moxie.

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4. Serve snacks.

Even if you go home with most of them, it emits a generous and welcoming vibe. And fully bellies make for happy listeners. Will some people just come for the cookies? You bet. Maybe next time they’ll come for the cookies and the book!

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5. This is a celebration. Don’t forget it. 

It’s easy to let nerves get the best of you sometimes. Remember this is a celebration of a book and its author. Go out before or after. Toast with friends and family. Don’t shy away from letting it be all about you this once.

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6. Every event and sale is worthwhile.

I drove an hour and a half to a book store and there were two readers in attendance. I’d been alerted by many author friends that this happens. But if you add in my daughter, her friend, and two booksellers, there were six people in the audience. I sat in a chair, talked about my book, read a bit, and talked some more. Then the readers and booksellers asked questions. Books were sold. Then I spent an hour talking to the booksellers about books and publishing. I knew it was a worthwhile trip, even if we did get lost on the way home.  And just the other day I was invited back to speak to this store’s in-house book club. Why? Because the book sellers read and talked about my book. And probably because they could tell I was happy to be there even if we didn’t fill the room.

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Two! These are the two! There were four people behind them. My daughter deftly took this photo to hide the fact that there were so few in attendance, but I’m coming clean!

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A crowd of seventy from my point of view!

7. And my most important lesson of all? The one I can’t deny any longer no matter how hard I try? (And I do, believe me!)

I talk with my hands. 

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Back To Women’s Fiction Writers Business-As-Usual. Almost!

On Tuesday on WFW, I’ll start once again posting interviews and guest posts from some of your favorite and new-to-you women’s fiction authors. Oh yes, along with my own news and views on occasion (one perk of hosting this site).  

But today I wanted to tell you about Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. It’s June 8-9 in the—you guessed it—Printer’s Row neighborhood. I’ll be on a panel on Sunday, June 9th at 3pm with Henriette Lazaridis Power and Thea Goodman, moderated by Parneshia Jones. You can find out more about Printers Row by clicking here. It’s all free, you just have to register for a ticket to attend!

In preparation for the Lit Fest, I was featured in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday and again in the Trib’s Printer’s Row Journal today. 

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 7.07.51 AMI have to say it’s very strange—yet I feel very fortunate to be included in the Tribune and to have THE GLASS WIVES celebrated so publicly.  

Something else going on that you may have caught wind of on Twitter or Facebook, is that I’ve signed another book deal with Brenda Copeland at St. Martin’s. Yep! I get to write another work of women’s fiction, FALLING INTO PLACE. This one is about Izzy Lane, a divorced mom and anonymous blogger whose lies about a wonderful (fake) boyfriend land her a job as a relationship columnist with a popular website. The problem is, she hasn’t dated in years. FALLING INTO PLACE explores not only the way one’s online life can intrude on real life, but why someone lives with ‘life lies’ and what has to happen to make her come clean and deal with the consequences. In Izzy’s case that’s not only her family and friends, but her readers.  

And in addition to all the book hoopla, today is my daughter’s high school graduation and on Friday my son heads to New York for a summer internship. We are a very busy family! 

I hope you’ll stick around for the next part of the writing and publishing journey and lots of new interviews with women’s fiction authors. WFW is scheduled through October 2013—but just let me know if you or someone you know should be included!  

Thanks for everything!

Amy xo

Recipe For The Perfect Launch Party

When it was time to think about celebrating the arrival of The Glass Wives, I thought I didn’t want to have a party. Then I realized that you only have your first book come out ONCE (although author Melanie Benjamin tells me every launch feels like a debut).  A fabulous friend generously offered to host a party for me at her home. I made a list of the people I wanted at the party. The list was short. Yes, her house could have accommodated a larger crowd, but I did not want to celebrate with a lot of people, only the people, for the most part, who were real friends and had be truly supportive through the process of writing and seeing my book through to publication.  The people who were there before the book and would be there after the book. The people who would have been there if there were no book. And that’s what made it perfect for me. And for the first time in a long, I did allow it to be about me. Actually, most of my friends insisted upon it. 

I knew were the right people to invite.

Amy xo

Recipe For The Perfect Launch Party

(as seen on The Debutante Ball)

First, you’ll need two packages of the best napkins on the planet.

napkins

Then, you’ll want to find a wonderful friend and host.

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Slowly add her homemade tea cup candles to the table-scape.

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Then, add one BFF who flew in from 800 miles away.

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Mix in one critique partner you met online, but now count on in real life.

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Stir in a huge stack of books to sign. Approximately thirty, or to taste.

launch party signing.jpg

Sprinkle with great friends and one amazing daughter. 

launch party bunch.jpg

Top with wine and food (and rugelach favors tied with a bow) and enjoy!

Twelve Things I Learned My First Week As A Published Author

1. People you never expected to contact you will do so with kindness and enthusiasm, and sometimes with chocolate. 

2. People you expected to contact you, will not.

3. Urgent Care Centers will be open in the middle of the night even when your book has launched just in case your 21-year-old cuts his finger on a broken glass at 1 am.

4. Photos will pour in from all over the country with sightings of the novel you wrote. Sometimes you won’t even know the people who snapped and sent the photo. 

5. Someone will criticize your story and then say she read it in one day because she couldn’t put it down, making your head spin. 

6. You will check Amazon rankings even though everyone has said the numbers don’t matter.

7. Amazon rankings will delight and/or destroy you (sometimes in the same hour) even though everyone has said that the numbers don’t matter. 

8. Washing machines will leak. Because they can. 

9. Sleep will elude you, except in the middle of the day.

10. Speaking to a group of high school creative writing students (daughter included) will be the highlight of the week. 

11. You will receive many teacup gifts, and hope that your publisher puts jewelry on your next book cover (fingers crossed). Or a tropical island. 

12. You will realize that this is the best job for you, just like you imagined. 

Best book launch napkin ever!

Best launch party napkin ever!

Writing Words and Book Banter With Author Erika Robuck

I think this is one of the most fun interviews I’ve done for Women’s Fiction Writers.  Why? Because not only is author Erika Robuck a friend of mine, but she bounced right back at me with questions of her own. We were discussing how authors who write historical fiction are sometimes just perplexed at how authors who write contemporary fiction come up with their stories and how the reverse is equally true. How do writers of historical fiction intertwine fact and fiction. And all the research?  And that’s what we’re discussing in today’s volley. I mean, interview. 

Erika’s latest novel, CALL ME ZELDA, was released on May 7th. It’s  a big part of the Zelda Fitzgerald craze—so you’re going to want to jump on this bandwagon and read about Zelda after her days in the limelight. 

Please welcome Erika Robuck to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Writing Words and Book Banter With Author Erika Robuck

Amy: Writing historical fiction, the way you do (with such skill) means taking a real person from the past, real places, events, and times, and fictionalizing them. Meaning, you take creative license, tweaking the truth for the sake of the story you want to tell.  I find that fascinating!

Who was the first person (historical or otherwise) who sparked your imagination enough to make you decide to write a story about him or her?

Erika: My first historical inspiration came when my husband and I were thinking of planning a trip to Nevis in the Caribbean.  A friend told me it was paradise, and as I read about the history of the island, I was fascinated to learn that this tiny place of which I’d never heard was known as the ‘Queen of the Caribees’ for its sugar cane production, and that Alexander Hamilton was born there. Observing the way the slaves were treated on the island led Hamilton to become an abolitionist. Then I read about a haunted plantation there called Eden Rock. This rich and intriguing history inspired my first self-published novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING.

As one who writes historical fiction, I’m in awe of writers of contemporary fiction. Where do you find your plot and inspiration?

Amy: It’s usually a question I want to answer that leads me to the idea for a novel. For THE GLASS WIVES the question is “what makes a family?”  I also sometimes note interesting people or situations and think they’d make great stories.  So that saying, “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel” is totally true in my case.

To me, research seems daunting. What’s your favorite part of the research process?

Erika: I’m a research junkie. It feels like amateur detective work, and I’m always pleased when the story that wants to be known asserts itself in my searches. My favorite part of the process is visiting sites where my characters lived years ago. From the Hemingway House in Key West, to Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s haunts in Baltimore, there is nothing like walking the streets and paths in the present to transport me to the past.

I write about real and imagined people from the past. Do you ever use real people to inform your characters?

Amy: I do, but not in the way most people think. For example, one day when my daughter was in junior high, I was waiting in the carpool line and the woman in front of me got out of her car. She had on a long skirt, boots, and a either a leather or wool coat (I forget). But she had the kind of vibe I imagined that my character Laney would have, so I thought of that woman whenever I wrote about Laney.  I do have a friend who is sprinkled into both Beth and Laney in the book. We’ve been friends for over twenty years, she was one of my early readers, and I’m sure she doesn’t realize. And that’s the way I like it, even though it was all good things sprinkled in.  I’ve decided that if people I know want to see themselves in THE GLASS WIVES, I hope they’re flattered by what they see. If they’re not flattered, then they probably have some soul searching to do! ;-)

I look around me for characters. You look into the past through research for yours. How do you organize your research? Or do you not?

Erika: I do organize my research. I take copious notes from site and archive visits and my readings, and once I know the exact time period I’ll represent, I make timelines. Though I write fiction, it is important to me to stay as true to the history of my known characters as possible.

Do you use any story structure models or outlines? Do you know how your book will end once you get started?

Amy: I always know the beginning and the end. It’s that darn middle that gets tough, isn’t it?  But that’s the fun of writing fiction, you can take your characters on whatever journey you want to take them on to get them to the end!  Right now I’m working off an outline for book two, but I already have gone “off track” so to speak.

Do you have criteria for people you write about, or is it just however it, or whomever, strikes your fancy?

Erika: Place was my initial inspiration: the Caribbean, a visit to the Hemingway House in Key West. From Hemingway, I’ve been led to Zelda Fitzgerald. From Zelda and Scott to Edna St. Vincent Millay… All research roads seem to lead naturally to others.

Amy: Are there ever readers who don’t realize you’re writing fiction?

Erika: I’m clear on jacket copy and in Reader’s Notes/Guides that I insert a fictional character into the history. I haven’t yet come across any confused readers, though I’ve been flattered to hear people say how real characters become to them.

I sometimes think it is a prerequisite for writers to feel misunderstood. What is the biggest misconception the non-writers in your life have about your job?

Amy: I think “regular people” think it’s easy to write a book. I know people don’t understand the amount of time that goes into it, and that’s okay, I don’t understand medicine, law, or how to be a chef.

Who have you not yet written about that you’d like to (unless that’s a secret)?

Erika: I have to admit that I have a little post-traumatic stress about discovering that there were so many novelizations of Zelda Fitzgerald coming out around the same time, so in the name of superstition, I will respectfully punt the question back to you. What is the subject of your next novel?

Amy: Oh, aren’t you tricky! The novel I’m working on now is about a blogger who gets all caught up in the lies she tells online, making it hard for her to distinguish between her real life and her online life. She takes a job based on those lies, which only digs her in deeper.  When I look at the bigger question posed by the novel, it’s really about those “life lies” some people tell—or even lifelong secrets people hold close . What makes that happen, and what has to occur to make someone come clean and deal with the repercussions of their actions. 

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Erika Robuck self-published her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING. Her novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (NAL/Penguin), was a Target Emerging Author Pick, a Vero Beach Bestseller, and has been sold in two foreign markets to date. Her next novel, CALL ME ZELDA (NAL/Penguin), publishes on May 7, 2013, and begins in the years “after the party” for Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Hemingway Society.

A Promise, A Win, And A Beach Read

beachreadI’m not a competitive person. I met one of my closest friends about twelve years ago during my short-lived attempt at golf, when we were both taking group lessons at a local country club. We’d met before, so when we were paired up for the morning, nothing seemed amiss. Except, this was a competition. Someone had to win. Someone should have wanted to win.

“You can win,” I said. “I don’t really care about winning.”

“Me either!”

We’ve been friends ever since.

I do compete with myself, with assumptions, and with naysayers.

That was, until this morning when I started feeling like a politician. You know, the imaginary honest kind.

THE GLASS WIVES is listed as a Best Beach Read for 2013 on Goodreads and OMG I want to win. I don’t even know if there is a way to win. But I find myself on social media asking for votes.

If you are on Goodreads and so inclined, here’s the link: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/35381.Best_Beach_Reads_2013

If you’re not on Goodreads or not inclined, that’s fine too. I hope you’ll read THE GLASS WIVES and pass the word the old fashioned way.  You know, on Twitter.

Debut authors like me need help from readers. Word of mouth = help. Voting will increase the visibility of THE GLASS WIVES on Goodreads where a gazillion (precise number) of readers gather to learn about books. Learning about an unknown author opens up readers to the possibility of giving the book a try.  And that’s all we can ask for right?

So, while I promise, promise, promise NOT to fill your in-box with daily travails of a debut author, as you can see, there’s a lot going on and sharing the journey makes it more fun.

Yep, even more fun than winning.

A Debut Author’s Target Practice

target pracice

If you’re a writer like me, and you are trying to get published like I was (and am, because there are always more books to write and sell), then you know that publishing comes, free of charge, with a barrel full of waiting and disappointments.

But while we’re waiting, and even while we’re waiting to be disappointed, we must get on with our lives.  So I did.

One day while THE GLASS WIVES was out on submission with editors, even though I knew I might hear from my agent that day, I headed to Target. What better way to pass the time than to look at dog beds, towels, socks, shampoo, and depending on the store, fresh veggies? Truly! It’s all my divergent dreams within the same four walls (nail polish, lawn art, small, colorful appliances, and hot popcorn), which serve as a procrastinator’s writer’s best coping mechanism.

So there I was, walking the aisles of one of my Target stores (I have three), and my phone rang like I knew it would the way you know that you’ll find the missing ingredient in your cabinet as soon as you buy a new one pound bag. I stopped in the middle of the decorative/throw pillow aisle, off to one side, and answered.

Bad news. An editor had passed on the book. Along with the no came comments that were inconsistent with other things we’d heard from interested and non-interested editors. Was this editor the ONE who was right? Or was this editor the ONE who was wrong? The fact that authors know in their heads that acquisitions are subjective has no bearing on the emotional upheaval that comes with someone telling you your work isn’t good enough for them.

My agent and I chatted.  There were kind words and consolation.  We were sallying forth. I hung up the phone, checked my list, checked the time, checked around me—and burst into tears.

I wasn’t simply teary. It was rejection waterworks. Unstoppable. Unconscionable. Unbelievable. Then I started coughing to mask the crying. I mean, coughing up a lung is much more preferrable to crying hysterically when you’re in Target. My literary life passed before my eyes, lost in the cotton and silk, embroidery and tassels.  I couldn’t see a future amidst the fluff.

I don’t remember what was in my cart (no throw pillows, they now give me nightmares) but know I went straight for the check out and drove home.  Lesson learned. When waiting for a call from your agent, my best advice is to renege on your responsibilities and stay the hell home. Or at least carry tissues so you don’t have to open the rolls of Charmin and say, “Oh, it’s allergies, really,” to every shopping, staring stranger.

Needless to say, not long after my “unfortunate Target incident,” that same novel sold to the right editor at the right publishing house—Brenda Copeland at St. Martin’s Press.

And on May 14th, THE GLASS WIVES will be available, DRUMROLL PLEASE…in Target stores.

Bullseye.