February 15, 2008

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Writers on Strike! posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken Well, I guess the writers' strike is over. I admit it: I have very little idea what it was all about, except it boiled down to money. The writers wanted more. I say to them, Right On! And I'm glad they got what they wanted, I truly am. But really--if most of us went on strike, who'd notice? Oh, sure, after a few years some fans would be clamoring for a new Jeff Resnick or a new Thea Kozak, but I'm guessing they'd suck it up and settle for one of the 3000 annual James Patterson titles, or maybe a Grisham thriller. My writing partner suggested that instead of writing a new blog this week, I should repeat an earlier one, with the explanation that I was thereby supporting the striking writers. I wasn't convinced, though, that blogging would constitute crossing picket lines, and in all honesty I doubt that those suffering from "Lost" withdrawal are surfing the blogging world looking for alternative entertainment. They're still glued to the tube, just watching game shows and reality series. I like game shows as well as the next guy. "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" are my secret vices, the sine qua non for a peaceful evening at home. Even on Saturdays. Friends know not to call me between 7 and 8 pm ET. But some of the game shows that the networks have "cooked up" (seen the Food Channel lately?) to replace the dramas and sitcoms the writers weren't writing are pretty lame. I admit I will watch "1 vs 100" and "Power of Ten", but I would rather tear out my fingernails one by one than sit through an hour of Howie Whatshisname, the skimpily clad models and the briefcases. Enough! When the "action" breaks for a commercial before the Next Number is Revealed, every sane person in TV Land goes to bed or switches to wrestling. Deal? No, Howie, No Deal! And "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" started out as barely OK and somehow became a network phenomenon. Some of the questions were inanely simple, others more puzzling, but really: do we NEED to hear every thought that passes through the contestant's mind on the way to choosing a letter between A and D? Answer the question, already! I watched one of the lyrics contests once--ugh! It turns out the only songs I really know well are Protestant hymns, and you can imagine how many of them turned up on the program. I also learned fairly quickly that I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader (although I think I could take Jeff Foxworthy in a pinch). So...all the dramas and sitcoms are reruns. Over to Reality Shows. I used to say that my reality was dramatic enough, thank you very much, and I didn't need to watch other people make fools of themselves. I was wrong. As previously admitted, I got hooked on "Survivor" and that program dominates many of my Thursday evenings--right after "Jeopardy". Then my daughters introduced me to "Top Chef", and I was surprised how much I liked it. But of course, since I occasionally have to prepare a meal that doesn't involve a slow cooker, I did learn a thing or two from the show. Still, I knew things were getting desperate when I got hooked (thanks a lot, daughters!) on "Project Runway." My idea of fashion is matching denims, and I don't achieve even that look very often. It's a sad evening, though, when I miss an episode of the designers agonizing over their challenges and the startling results. (I can sew better than some of them, and I'm not that good.) But no "Star Trek" generations for me (sorry, Lorraine!), and I refuse to watch episodes of "CSI: Anywhere" more than once--and sometimes I can't even stomach that. I don't know what the rest of the TV world did during the strike, but I will confess my secret: I turned off the tube and read a good book. Lots of good books. Written by writers. That's us--and we're not going on strike any time soon.
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When Your Writing Career Goes Wrong By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Becka They say the path to true love does not run smooth. Well, screw true love. I say the path to publication does not run smooth. Not in my case nor, I suspect, in anyone’s. I am not complaining. I’ve been lucky, and I’ve succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation, so I’m not complaining. But since you ask, this is how it went: In January 2004 I got a two-book deal with Hyperion to publish Trace Evidence and a second book. The hardback was to be published in August 2005, and the paperback of Trace Evidence and the second hardback would be published in August 2006. Everything was peachy. I had already spent eight months in revisions on with my agent and then got a seven page, single-spaced letter with revisions from my editor. That was still okay. The only thing I felt unhappy about was having to rewrite my killer and give him a whole new backstory, because neither my agent nor my editor liked scenes from the killer’s point of view. I thought he was a lot more realistic and creepy in my original version, though perhaps not woven into the story as tightly. Anyway, while I was doing that I was also writing the sequel. I assumed that the publisher would want something different, that perhaps America had had enough of serial killers killing beautiful young woman. Foolish mortal! Publishers like serial killers. Serial killers sell. And the book had problems as well, I’m not denying that. My complicated plot involved a child murder and an old high school rival of my heroine’s and for whatever reason it wasn’t working. I walked around with this bundle of worry at the pit of my stomach for a year. The publisher agreed, and said it wouldn’t do. I would have to sit down and write another. At that point I was so bloody sick of the thing that I did not protest. I had been forming some ideas for the third book, which, coincidentally, involved a serial killer, so I simply moved number three up to number two and put the original number two on a shelf. Unfortunately this delayed the whole production schedule, so that the book that should have come out in August 2006 would not appear until February 2008. The paperback of Trace Evidence was not produced until December 2007. I had the uncomfortable job of trying to keep myself in the public eye for a year and a half. This whole thing soured Hyperion on me. They looked at my third book, Takeover (actually the fourth, but who’s counting?) and passed on it. My agent had seen this coming and warned me. This time it was not a problem with the book—which she loved—but the numbers from Trace Evidence. It had sold nearly half its print run, which I did not think was too shabby for a new author, but apparently it is because in shopping Takeover to publishers it was important to keep them from realizing that it was written by the same person who wrote Trace Evidence. I had to change my name and keep any identifying details out of my bio. But the story has a happy ending. My agent sold Takeover in a two-book deal to William Morrow, so now I have a great publisher and a great editor. And there’s a chance—just a tiny, fragile, puff of a chance—that the rejected second book could be picked up by a foreign publisher. Tastes vary…a lot. That foreign publisher didn’t want Takeover. And the publisher that loves Takeover didn’t want Trace Evidence. You just never know. Unknown Means is about to be released. According to the reviews so far, it’s even better than Trace Evidence, and yet I’m constantly debating with myself how much work a lazy person like me wants to put in to promoting a name that will disappear after this book. Plus, I still have the day job. I work twelve-hour shifts, plus overtime. But then, of course, I realize that my troubles are not Unknown Mean’s fault and pledge to redouble my efforts and do the best I can by it…and try to keep my fan base during the transition from this persona to the next. So I’m not complaining. I’m happy…delirious, actually. But also exhausted. ------------------------------------ Elizabeth Becka is the author of TRACE EVIDENCE and UNKNOWN MEANS. Visit her website at www.ElizabethBecka.com.

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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