Author Archives: Gerri

The Yellow Dress

Source: The Yellow Dress

The Yellow Dress

Easter

If you’ve read either novel in my Knoll Cottage Series, you know I’ve included a bit of mystic. In fact, there may be a ghostie in that sun porch. I do believe there are angels and spirits all around us.
My sister, Pat, died in November.
She was a devout Catholic, and had a magnificent voice. Singing mostly classical religious works was her passion. And she sang in every Catholic Church choir she could.
Pat didn’t worry about my far flung beliefs in many religions. She never doubted me when I told her my cardinal’s message story or other spiritual events in my life. She loved me dearly and I her.
The summer Missing Emily was launched, Pat and her husband came to Cape Cod to attend the book launch party some dear friends gave for me. Pat and I had coordinated our outfits for the party, but it turned out to be a killer hot day. Instead of the lined eyelet dress I’d planned, I wore a deep pink, print sundress. My sister came up the stairs in a bright yellow sleeveless dress. “It was too hot to wear the other one,” she told me. We laughed about both of us changing our minds.
I have a wonderful close-up picture of her in that yellow dress. The expression on her face is pensive, neither happy nor sad. It has an element of listening to something important. Since she was always smiling and laughing, when I saw that intriguing picture, I printed it out and framed it.
Just yesterday, I asked my brother-in-law if I could have that yellow dress. I want to hang it in my closet so she’s with me every day.
And then, this happened.
It was Easter and I hadn’t gone to Mass for some time. Most of our family knew how much Pat loved the church, and wanted us lost souls to return. I couldn’t yet. On the best of days, hymns make me emotional, and I knew if I went to church and heard the music, I would cry. But it was Easter, so my husband and I went to church.
I enjoy watching all the children dressed up in their Easter finery; one little girl with a wide brimmed hat made everyone smile. At one quiet moment, I looked over at a beautiful domestic scene. A Dad was tying the bow on the back of his daughter’s dress. Her dress was bright yellow and sleeveless. Her mother wore a bright yellow, sleeveless dress, also, with a deep pink sweater over her shoulders.
It took me a few seconds to realize, my sister was letting me know she was there. I cried in church!
My Dad died several years ago. I often think of them together in heaven. So you see, the tying of the dress bow was doubly significant.
In case I had any doubt about my sister’s presence, she drove the message home. As we lined up for Communion, two women went before me in bright yellow sweaters. Guess what the female Eucharistic minister was wearing. A bright yellow jacket.
Pat wanted to be sure I got her message. I did dear sister…

A WRITER IS TENSE ABOUT TENSE

Throw the book out?

I am revising one of my earlier novels with the plan to publish it as an eBook. It’s the story of a woman married to a DEA agent, who is abusive. How can she leave a DEA agent, who has endless resources, so he can never find her?

If you’ve read either of my published books, you know emotion is strong in my stories.

As I revise A Marriage to Die for, I don’t feel the inTENSE emotion I’d like to portray. I rewrote one of my protagonist’s (Jane) scenes using the first person, present TENSE, and sent it to my critique partner, author Sandra Fontana. She really liked the effect.

Valiant and daring as I am, I plan to write all of Jane’s scenes this way. The reader will be right in the moment with her, be in the throes of her TENSE situations, share her deep emotions.

On the other hand, I want some distance from the DEA Ace, Brock. Although, I’d like the reader to know what he’s up to—to know things Jane does not. All of his scenes will be in the third person, past TENSE. As will other characters in the story.

Wish me luck. I may be breaking some rules here. Since I’m planning to offer the book free on Amazon for a limited time, read it, and let me know what you think in a review. I’m aiming for a few months. Sign up on my website: http://www.gerrileclerc.com, and I’ll send you a newsletter when A Marriage to Die for is available. Then I will blog on your responses.

A WRITER’S FUTURE: Gender Neutral Novel?

Royal, not Queen or King

A good writer of fiction will attempt to be sensitive to their readers’ ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. But gender? Writing dialogue is an important part of a novel. The emphasis should be on the words between the quotes. Sometimes it’s necessary to avoid confusion for the reader by inserting he said, she said. It disrupts the meaning of the sentence less than: Scott said Jane said Scott said. But things are changing. Kids in school (notice I didn’t say boys and girls) are learning not to distinguish between male or female: he or she. How does this work out in a novel? Scott said Jane said Scott said Jane said. Or, the person in a chair, the person standing, the person cooking. Cannot say Prom Queen or Prom King—say the taller of the Royals?

Here you go: Three people talking in a diner:

“So, you’re thinking of ending your life? My God,” the server said.
“You can’t do that! There’s all kinds of help available—hot lines and stuff,” person in jeans added.
“I can’t go on. My life is finished. I have no one. No reason to live,” depressed person said.

Silly, I know. How do I describe a child in my book? A little girl or a tot with pigtails? What if said child poured a glass of water? The child poured a glass of water? Or, she poured a glass of water. Will the child’s mother or father be labeled parent only? “Don’t drink that water!” parent with the apron said.

Must writers beware of “gender normative” terms? Will there be a handbook on this subject?
I’m poking a little fun at our modern mores. Maybe though, just maybe, we might be trying a little too hard to be correct.

A WRITER’S FORTUNE (COOKIE)

Do You Believe?

Do You Believe?

I have to admit, every time I open a fortune cookie, I am waiting for those words a writer longs for. Something like: Your book will be a best seller, or: Your novel will skyrocket on Amazon. Even: You will be a great success; good things are coming your way. Right? Of course, you shake your head and smile, but when you get a good one, you slip that slip of paper into your pocket, pat it, and later put it on your bulletin board. Guilty as charged!
Last evening we went to a Chinese buffet with friends. An enormous buffet. On my last pass, I took advantage of the dessert assortment of ice cream, cookies, pastries, pudding, and fruit. Later, more than sated, we sat and chatted with our friends, sipping the last of our tea. The server came and brought the bill, along with four fortune cookies. Too full to think about eating one, I did focus on the possibility that one of those cookies contained the fate of my novel writing. I waited for someone to hand me a cookie. It wouldn’t work if I chose my own. Finally, my husband placed a cookie in front of me. I ate the cookie—yes I did—as full as I was, then unfurled the bit of paper.
Anyone who cared enough to research the origin of Fortune Cookies would have found the cookie is not a tradition in China. Several theories exist on how they became a staple in Chinese restaurants, but most likely they are based on a Japanese cookie—with a fortune inside. But who cares where it came from. Some of the numbers on the back of the fortune have been lottery winners. So, we all agree, the fortunes are true also.
This fortune was different from any I’ve seen before. A special message to everyone. As a writer, I love when my words come together to draw an emotion from my reader, so I particularly loved this fortune. All four of us felt it. Here’s what it said: Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.
Those lovely words are on my bulletin board. I am thinking of playing the lottery!

The Book . . . The Book . . . The Book!

Silent Grace

Silent Grace

It’s been a while since I put on my blogging cap. I’m back, having packed and unpacked a gazillion boxes, taken a million trips to donate stuff, and having finally found everything we packed . . . somewhere.
Yet, with all the commotion, I was able to progress with self-publishing my next book in the Knoll Cottage Series, Silent Grace. It should pop up on Amazon shortly.
Suddenly, I have time to relax and get back to a normal schedule. Do writers have a normal schedule?
I wanted to get back to you on my And the Agent Said: blog. While I waited to hear from her, I was actually feeling two ways about having an agent. I’ve been to panels of authors, agents, publishers, and they all have good points. Some traditionally published authors (which an agent would lead to) felt pressured. A book a year. Deadlines. Alterations in the story. I once attended a debut book signing by a mystery writer. She was traditionally published after years of trying with the same book. Her contract included seven more mysteries as a series to follow the original book. She told us this with deer-in-the-headlight eyes.
In the time I’ve waited for a response from the agent I met with at the writer’s conference I attended, I gave some good thought to which manner of publishing I’d prefer. The answer for me was: Being able to work at my own pace; being able to write in different genres; receiving a greater portion of the book royalties; hiring my own peeps to work on the book, was self-publishing. The caveat: One Must Market! But one must market even with a traditional publisher.
In spite of the fact that I met with the agent at a conference, which in the past meant a reply of some sort, I never received an answer on the two queries she requested. The agency’s website clearly said if you don’t hear in thirty days, there is no interest in representing your work.
Querying agents is hard. A negative answer, or no answer, is rejection. But a rejection doesn’t mean the book isn’t great. The agent’s choice is a subjective one.
After much thought, I am happy being an indie publisher. My book bravely heads to Amazon with a zillion other new books. The difference will be Marketing!
I’ll start here. If you go onto my website: http://www.gerrileclerc.com and sign up for my email list, you’ll be notified when I do give-aways of either Missing Emily or Silent Grace. They are two women’s fiction novels that stand alone, but are part of a trilogy. In about three or four days, check them out on Amazon, and read the great reviews!

A Writer’s Thanks Giving

Bitter Berries

Bitter Berries

It is the beginning of the Happy Holidays. When we eat bad food that tastes good; get together with distant family; go to parties and catch up with friends. Happy. But when bad things happen, these holidays make the pain worse.

I am always so grateful for my writing. I know I share this gratitude with other writers. The work of writing a novel is not about becoming famous, but for the ability to string together an entertaining book. The added gift of telling stories is the control you have over the lives of your characters. I am able to turn a bad diagnosis to a healing; send an abuser to prison for life; allow a poverty-stricken life to change with a lottery win. I’ve even been known to remove a bad person permanently from a good person’s life.

For those who have sorrow or worry on their plate, take heart in this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

And the Literary Agent Said

New friends; My red wine!

New friends; My red wine!


Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker

Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker


Last week I attended a terrific writer’s conference put on by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. If you write women’s fiction, you need to be a member of this great organization. The classes were fun and informative. The networking with new friends was enjoyable and educational. I took the opportunity to pitch an agent.
No matter how often I pitch an agent, I get sweaty palms. I told myself I am self-published with great reviews. I am about to publish the second book in my Knoll Cottage series. So, I had no reason—being the mature, accomplished woman that I am—to be nervous. And why pitch an agent at this point?
I wanted to chat about the new world of publishing. I came armed with a paperback copy of Missing Emily, book one in the series; comments from my editor; a synopsis of Silent Grace.
The young agent from Trident Media Group, L.L.C. was very professional and took notes. I told her I am self-published and I have done all the hard things right, based on the reviews and comments from readers. She asked me about sales. I said they aren’t good, which is why I am nervously sitting in from of her. I need guidance! All of the information I’ve read about marketing, driving sales, email lists haven’t helped me. And I wondered if, in this new world of publishing, I could still have an agent represent me.
And the literary agent said: Yes! She said having a published book would not stop an agent from representing the author.
I told her the stories of both Missing Emily and Silent Grace. She asked me questions, and I answered. I accomplished none of this with grace because my throat was a little tight. In the end, she asked me to query her on both novels. I offered her the paperback of Missing Emily and the literary agent said: Yes.
In truth, I’ve never pitched an agent at a conference who didn’t ask for more material. Even on my very first book. But the space between the query sending and rejection sending is a warm and hopeful place. I will let you know what happens!

That Darn Back Blurb

Aarrrgh!

Aarrrgh!

So you’ve written nearly 100,000 words. You’ve revised the manuscript 100 times. You’ve had 20 people read for you, then you revised it 50 more times. It’s perfect! It’s ready!
All you have to do is write down the 100,000 words to about 250 or less and slap it on the back of your book.
I struggled for hours yesterday and came up with a bunch of words that convinced me no one would ever read Silent Grace. Yuck!
Thank God for the internet! Today, I visited two websites: http://www.blurb.com, (who knew blurb would have its own website!) and http://www.digitalbookworld.com. Thank you to all the folks who bring writers such terrific information on the web. I highly recommend both of these sites if you’re struggling with your own blurb. No charge, just have at it and go back to work. I did. I rewrote the blurb based on the data I mined from the two sites. I am so much happier and confident it will intrigue readers.
Next, I send it off to my trusted and capable critique partner. If she likes it, it’s a go. And Silent Grace is one step closer to publication.

Labor Day and Watermelon

Long may it Wave!

Long may it Wave!

Today, most of us aren’t thinking about the origin of Labor Day. The Department of Labor says it’s meant to be a national tribute to the contributions of American workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being they bring to our country. If you browse around Google, you are reminded that the holiday was started by a boycott and a strike of workers. On September 5, 1882, low wages and layoffs by the Pullman company erupted in a fiery protest by the workers. The resulting boycott of the railroad caused a tremendous mess and inconvenience. The power of the people. The government made the first Monday in September a national paid holiday in 1884, dubbed as a workingman holiday.

Fun to think about the How of things. But for most of us, Labor Day now marks the official end of summer. We grab one more day to eat burgers and potato salad, before we wake up to pack lunches and get the kids off to school.

As a youth who hated school, I remember wonderful Labor Day cookouts with friends and neighbors. Potato salad is still one of my favorite foods, along with watermelon. Even when I dreaded a return to school, I loved the celebration.

Conditions for workers in the early days of the industrial revolution were pretty horrible. Labor Day celebrates changes in those conditions by honoring the workers of that age and on. But things change. My biggest regret is the change in watermelon. Remember holding a dripping hunk of watermelon is your hands, biting off a big chunk, then spitting out the seeds? No more seeds to spit—where’s the fun of that?

Seriously, thanks to all those workers, starting with the brave men and women who stood up to improve conditions at great risk to themselves, and right up until now, for the hard work they do to give us the most wonderful lives we live in America.