Friday Five, I’m Still Alive

1. I wish I could blame my bloggy-slackiness on a crashing laptop. But that happened just yesterday, & I’ve gone a month of Fridays with no posts. So I’ll blame something else. Summer! The heat! Too many good books to read! No imagination! Take your pick. It’s a buffet, so have a little of each if you like.

2. Homes surprised me with a car stereo for our anniversary. The CD player had been broken for about three years, so it was a huge surprise to get in the car on Wednesday and have Daft Punk (old stuff, not new stuff) blast from the speakers. A huge & awesome surprise! (A little Daft Punk goes a long ways for me, and it’s been switched out with pouty Lana del Rey, and some oldschool Cake. Next up is Sublime because summer isn’t complete without that. Then some Black Keys, then some Florence + the Machine…the drive to & from Z’s summer session just got SO much more fun!)

3. Plugging away at my surfing novel and trying to ignore the rat novel. It’s frustrating because I want to fix all the things in both stories, like, RIGHT NOW, but am limited by Maverick’s naptimes and my own mother-of-a-habitual-five-a.m.-waker-upper fatigue.

4. I should just do Friday Threes, because I run out of steam before I hit Four. Scrambling for something to say. So.

5. Books! I can always talk about books! Some new favorites: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (protagonist I love to love, antagonists I love to hate, and PERFECT balance of historical detail to story), Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (creepy! Gothic! Just really…fun, & well-written to boot), Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (seriously one of my favorite books of ALL TIME), The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (love the piano, love a main character who is a tad harder to like than your average main character), Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (much creepier than Disney, and no, I’d never read it). And that is all, happy Friday.

Danger. Have Book. Will Ignore. Everything.

Long, long, long ago, when I was a little munchkin, I loved to read books. Fast forward through the awkward middle school years, the dark teen angsty years, the wow-I-can-sleep-in-every-damn-day college years, and into the I-will-never-get-to-sleep-in-ever-again years of parenting. And I still love to read books.

It isn’t always as easy to find the time, and I almost never have the peace I used to have for it. But I still sneak books in wherever I can. While I’m fixing lunch, I might take a little extra time than usual. There might be one or two unnecessary trips to the bathroom during the afternoon. For the excruciating weeks when I had to stand in Z’s doorway as she fell asleep, I listened to audiobooks.

But it’s always a risk. If the book is terrible (and again and again I wonder how these things are even published, but that will always remain one of the world’s unsolvable mysteries)…where was I? Oh yes, if the book is terrible, and I read the whole thing (as I almost always do, because even if I hate the main character or think the plot is completely contrived or will scream my head off if another teenage protagonist LOVES the library)…where was I? So if I get through it, I’m grouchy because I wasted time on a dumb book.

The even bigger risk, though, is a book that sucks me in. With a short one, like Elizabeth Scott’s The Unwritten Rule, where the main character is totally completely forever in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, I’m pretty safe. I can get through the book in a couple of hours, quickly unload the dishwasher, read Z a story and jet to the park, and I feel like a good stay-at-home mommie.

But if it’s a suck-you-in book and it’s big and fat, like Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, and I have to get to the end of the story and it takes me more than a day, and I let everything go – housework, play dates, personal hygiene…those are the dangerous books. It’s a safe bet that we will eat, but the meals might be a little later than usual, and perhaps less involved. And heaven forbid if Z’s potty breaks don’t coincide with my own. “You have to what? But I just sat down with my book!” Suddenly I regret potty training.

If you want to get sucked in, here are some recent favorites. I’ve reviewed some of them here in my blog and helpfully provided the links…but why waste the time on a review when you can go read the book?

So it’s the weekend, you’ve got plenty of time. Get thee to a bookstore!

NiFtY Author: Sunny Frazier

For today’s NiFtY Author I give you…drum roll…Sunny Frazier! Sunny has published two mysteries, Fools Rush In, and Where Angels Fear, as well as contributed to numerous anthologies. She’s also active in her publishing house, and works to help other authors promote their work. Keep on reading to learn more about this nifty author!

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the first Christy Bristol book, Fools Rush In?

SF: Astrologer Christy Bristol is egged on by a former boyfriend to do a horoscope for a drug dealer and finds herself the one with a precarious future.

BH: Can you tell us a little about your path to publication? Did you go the traditional “agent” route, or did you use some other scheme?

SF: I won a spot as one of the seven authors chosen for the Seven By Seven anthology. The publisher liked my flash fiction so much that he offered me a contract for my book.

BH: Ah, that’s the kind of success story we unpublished authors salivate over. What are some of the challenges you faced by not working with an agent? Were there benefits as well?

SF: I only experienced the benefits. I got not only a lot of say with how my own books were published, but both my past publisher and my current publisher have looked to me for input on picking manuscripts for the publishing house. They also picked my brain for marketing ideas.

BH: Your publisher, Oak Tree Press, is an independent publisher. What are some of the benefits of working with an independent publisher?

SF: Trust and immediate access. We communicate constantly, by e-mail and phone. I am now acquisitions editor for the Dark Oak mystery line. I also introduced two new lines: Wild Oaks Westerns and Mystic Oak for paranormal novels.

BH: Are there any disadvantages to working with an independent publisher?

SF: It’s never easy to get books into brick and mortar book stores. However, many are closing and the reading public is ordering on Amazon. Also, e-readers are finally finding acceptance with Kindle and the I-Pad. Aggressive Internet marketing is leveling the playing field for authors with smaller houses.

Sunny standing with publisher Billie Johnson at a pitch session in Las Vegas

BH: I tried to write a mystery—once. It quickly turned into a (not very good) thriller/suspense novel because I couldn’t figure out how to give just enough information without making the killer’s identity obvious. Do you have any tips on this for aspiring mystery writers?

SF: I think the definition of “mystery” has blurred considerably. The “puzzle” type mysteries such as Agatha Christie wrote are not common these days. Instead of being plot driven, we are seeing more character-driven story arcs. I don’t write whodunits, I write whydunits. In fact, I tell you who the victim is and who the killer is on the first page—the “Colombo” formula. The reader keeps reading to see how my character Christy uses astrology to her advantage.

You should have stuck with your suspense novel.

BH: Oh, I did. Unfortunately the premise wasn’t a wowzer, so I’ve moved on, and I read other peoples’ mysteries now.

Every unpublished author thinks all her problems will be solved as soon as she gets her name in print…even though published writers tell us this isn’t true. Did you have any unfortunate wake-up calls?

SF: What I try to instill in writers is to start promoting as soon as you decide you want to write a book. Name recognition is very important. Getting people accustomed to your “voice” through blogging, learning about the industry by monitoring group sites, getting comfortable with promotion. People want to make it a chore and it’s more of a mindset. I work on promotion on Sundays. I have 35 sites I belong to, all are professional sites for writers, readers and publishers. They each give you your own page, so it’s like having 35 websites. I developed what I call “the posse” to teach people how to effectively promote. All I need is an e-mail and attentiveness to my nudges. It takes years off people’s careers, unless they want to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel.

BH: When you first wrote Fools Rush In, were you already planning a sequel?

SF:  I had six books in mind: titles, plots, characters.

BH: What was the most enjoyable part of writing the sequel, Where Angels Fear?

SF:  I didn’t realize that Fools Rush In was one of the hardest types of mysteries to write. My protagonist was stuck in a room for most of the book. In the sequel, Christy and her sidekick Lennie get to traipse all over the Central County uncovering clues to a sex club. There’s more humor as well. I had a hard time keeping a straight face while writing.

BH: Is a third book in the works?

SF:  Slowly but surely, A Snitch In Time is making its way on paper. I’m so busy speaking at conferences and conventions as well as reading query letters for Oak Tree Press that my own work suffers.

BH: Can you compare your series character, Christy Bristol, to anyone you know in real life?

SF: Uh—me. I worked as an office assistant with an undercover narc team for 17 years in the sheriff’s department and I’ve done astrology for nearly 40 years. Christy is much like I was in my earlier years.

BH: What is your writing schedule like?

SF:  My computer is on for 12 hours a day. I write in small clumps, fitting in the novel when I get tired of reading manuscripts and conducting business via e-mail. My eyes get so tired staring at the screen, sometimes I just hit the couch and close them. My brain keeps going over the story until I’m ready to tackle the keyboard.

Oh, and I don’t have kids, a husband or a job to interrupt me. Just a bunch of cats who give me space when I’m at the desk. If not, they have to go out in the yard and play.

BH: What does your writing workspace look like?

SF: It’s usually a mess with notes scattered all over. I have a rolodex, a Victorian calendar, and a pen carousel with a fake raven stuck in the center. For some reason I work well in chaos.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

SF: Self-Editing For Fiction Writers—How To Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. I checked it out at the library and loved it so much I ordered a copy from Amazon.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

SF:  Early on I heard authors say “Enjoy the journey, not the destination.” That’s the truth. If writers fret too much about publication they will miss the whole point of writing. It’s all about the people you meet, the sharing of minds, the art of creating, giving your ideas to the world. Money is usually lousy, hours are bad, solitude wears on you and there are no health benefits. But still, it’s a wild ride.

BH: Any words on advice to unpublished writers for keeping the hope alive?

SF:  Small presses are worth taking a chance on. I always tell writers “You can’t promote what doesn’t exist.” Get that first book out there and get the machine rolling. Don’t think the first book you’ve written is the only one you have in you. Start another right away.

Sunny, thank you so much for the interview, and for sharing your books and insights. To our studio audience: don’t forget to check out the links below to learn more about Sunny, her books, and her publisher! Simply click on a description to reach the site.

Sunny’s website. This is where you can find The Murder Circle.

Oak Tree Authors are assigned blog dates. Meet us!

Order Oak Tree Titles, learn about our contests, get the latest info on what we’re doing in the publishing world.