Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Living the Dream

This is what it's like.

For weeks and weeks NOTHING. HAPPENS.

You agree to the deal. Bring on the contract, you say, I'll sign the fucker.

And you wait. No contract. Keep waiting, no contract.

"Is this not a standard contract?" you ask the agent. "Is their printer broken?"

"It takes time," she says, and she's not lying. Apparently it's not as simple as agreeing that you'll write the books and they'll publish them. They're going to do a whole lot more than that.

How much more? Beats me. I'll let you know when I see the contract.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Patricia J. DeLois

As a library intern, I conducted a focus group with a certain group of elderly ladies to find out what they wanted from the library.

"We like authors with three names," they said. "Write that down."

Mary Higgins Clark. Anne Rivers Siddons. (I suggested Joyce Carol Oates, but no, they didn't want her.)

Valuable information, and duly noted in my report.

When my boss found out that my book was being published, he asked if I was going to use three names, like Barbara Taylor Bradford.

"No," I said, "I'm going to use my middle initial, like Homer J. Simpson."

My middle initial has been part of my signature for longer than I can say. At some point I ceased to remember that I had a middle name; I had nothing but an initial. It was only when Joanne told me her middle name was Patricia that I remembered my middle name was Joann. Now we work together, and we call each other Joanne Patricia and Patricia Joann. We're like a bad comedy act. We are a bad comedy act.

But I'm Patricia J. on the dotted line. Always.

Now I've got powerful and influential people in the publishing industry telling me I should drop my middle initial, to "simplify" my name.

Seriously? Is it that complicated? I don't think people are confused by it. I meet people at book groups, and they call me Patricia, until I say, "Call me Patti." No one's ever called me Patricia J.

I told the agent I hope this isn't a deal breaker, because I'm not inclined to change my signature. Maybe if my middle name were Coreghessan, but...no, probably not.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Never had 'em. Plans, sure, and schemes, and half-baked ideas, but not goals. The only goal I ever had was to finish library school, and that wasn't even my idea. I was on the tail end of a string of people who inexplicably took advice from Georgia.

"I think you should buy that house," she said to Jeff Curtis, and he bought the house.

"I think you should buy that car," she said to a co-worker, and he bought the car.

"I think you should go to library school," she said to me, and I said:

"I'll apply. If I'm accepted, I'll go."

Of course, applying is always easier said than done. I had to take the Miller Analogy Test, which involved registration and bus schedules and whatnot. I scored freakishly high, which means absolutely nothing except that I happen to be good at word games, but those percentiles were the reason I got in. It couldn't have been my interview, because that didn't go well at all.

So there was the test, and then the interview, and then classes and papers and whatnot, and it was one thing after another until it was over. The process was complicated by the fact that I got kicked out part way through, but that's another story. Basically it just meant more hoops to jump through, which I did, and I got back in and finished the program, and I've got the damn degree in a closet somewhere if anyone ever asks to see it. So far, no one has.

This is my one experience with a goal, and what I learned is that you have to keep the goal in the back of your mind and focus on the task in front of you. Finish that, and then finish the next one, and keep doing that until you get to the end.

So I'm kind of at a loss with this publishing thing. In publishing, it seems, the goal is always more--more books, more readers, more sales, more money. You don't ever get to the end.

It's been freaking me out this past week, but with a shedload of help from my friends, I think I've got it back in perspective. My goal is to finish the second novel.

After that, I'm going to steal all Jodi Picoult's fans.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Role Model

People ask who my favorite authors are, but no one ever asks about my role model.

It's Jerry Seinfeld. Thanks for asking.

This is what I've heard: when the network executives tried to push Seinfeld into a more conventional sitcom--everyone sleeping with everyone else, presumably, followed by someone getting married and having twins--Seinfeld would say, "I don't have to do this. I can go back to doing standup."

The beauty in this is that he wasn't bluffing. He would have been perfectly happy to go back to standup, just as he was perfectly happy to do the show, on his own terms.

If you've seen the movie Comedian--a documentary about standup comedy, Seinfeld's in particular--you may remember a scene in which a young comic is bemoaning his lack of success. All his friends are established in their careers, he complains, while he's spent years working as a comedian, and what does he have to show for it?

Seinfeld puts a stop to the whining with a simple question: Is there something you'd rather be doing?


The agent contacted me a few days ago to report that there's been "some interest" in the two-novel package.

"But they have some questions," she said, and one of the questions was: do I intend to keep writing?

Seems like a funny question. Why would I stop? Why would I write at all if there were something I'd rather be doing?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Know. Your. Market.

Just came from a Better Site Than This One, and there was a discussion going on about the market. Not THE market, YOUR market, as in, "You have to know your market."

Study your readership, they say, so you can provide the kind of writing they're used to, pace-wise, character-wise, plot-wise. Give your audience the genre it wants.

This seems backwards to me. "My" readers are people who read my book. They're not part of my audience before they've read it, are they? And if they like it, then isn't it fair to assume they like my pacing, my characters, my plots? The question isn't whether I know what they want, but whether they like what I've got.

Several people in the industry have advised me to pick a genre and write for it. Failing that, write something first and then be prepared to classify it.

Not. My. Job. I write it, I don't categorize it. If you sent it to me at the library, I would classify it as fiction and shelve it alphabetically by author. Which would put me somewhere between Don DeLillo and Charles Dickens. Not a bad place to be.

I've met members of my audience, and it's hard to see them as a market. They're readers, is what they are, and God bless them, every one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bigger Better Faster

Tonight I'm drinking champagne to celebrate the arrival of a new computer. May not seem like a big deal to you, but hey, I wasn't even online a week ago. Now I'm looking at a SLICKASS 22 inch widescreen monitor, thanks to Jim DeLois, who set me up with a system that's faster than a speeding bullet. "No one's ever complained that their computer was too fast," he says, and he's probably right.

This is a huge upgrade from my former computer, which was a library-used model. I paid 25 bucks for the hardware and the operating system, and I loaded a word program on it and not much else. Not sure it could have handled more than that. The poor thing made such awful grinding and screeching noises every time I saved something to the disk drive, I found myself apologizing to it.

It's gone to a happier place now. Jim is using it to set up a server. Old computers are the arena in which he pits one virus against another and watches them fight to the death in true gladiator fashion. You think it's fun being me? Imagine being Jim.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Vicarious Living

There's been a growing trend in recent years, and living vicariously through Patti has become a common phenomenon. Even I'm doing it.

It's kind of fun. I have a great job at the library, in the audiovisual department. I miss the river of books that used to flow past me at the circulation desk, but here's the payoff: I buy the movies. Fun? Are you kidding? Best. Job. Ever.

The other thing that's fun about being me is that I've recently entered the magical world of authorship, where people publish your books, and other people buy them and ask you to sign them. I'm at a very comfortable level of celebrity--I get recognized standing in line at the movies, but so far I've had no trouble with the papparazzi.

The best part is that at the end of the day, I come home to my little apartment, which is mine-mine-mine and to which no one else has a key, and nobody comes in unless I invite them. Which I sometimes do. And that's fun, too.