What Ms. Monkeythong Found
My buddy, Ms. Monkeythong, the librarian sock monkey, found a copy of my book at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Arizona. I thought that was pretty cool considering it's been out for almost a year. I was too afraid to ask her if she found it on the clearance table. Thanks for the picture Ms. Monkeythong!
I'm happy to report that I FINALLY finished my third book. I put that sucker in the mail on Monday and my editor got it yesterday. All I'll say about book 3 is that readers will get to meet Kendra's younger, actress wannabe sister, Allegra. I had a lot of fun writing it even though it took me longer than expected to get it done.
And speaking of books, when I got home yesterday there was a big box from my publisher waiting for me . It was full of the mass market paperback edition of The Company You Keep. Don't know what I'm supposed to do with all these books. So, I'm giving away 5 copies to people who leave comments on this post. I'll pick the names at random. But if only five people comment then hey, you get a free book! Free is good ; ).
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Memoirs of An Ex-Cootie Girl
Last night when I was watching CSI: Miami I noticed promos for Monday night's guests on David Letterman. Denzel was one guest, which almost had me staying up past my bedtime to gaze upon his georgeous face. But six o'clock comes pretty early. So I took my butt to bed. I was suprised to see that Lettermans' other guest was an author. I thought you had to be on the level of a Dan Brown or JK Rowling to be a guest on Letterman. Apparently not. You just have to have a good story. And Diablo Cody, who wrote a memoir called CANDY GIRL: a year in the life of an unlikely stripper, has one all right. Ms. Cody is college grad who did a stint as a stripper when she was twenty-four. I've heard of college girls stripping to pay for college but rarely hear about women who've already been through college shaking their asses for cash.
That got me to thinking. If I wrote my memoir, what would it be about? Unless I take up naked sheep herding, or start robbing 7 Eleven's dressed like Elmo, I got nothing. My only claim to fame was my stint as the cootie girl in the seventh grade, which might make a good young adult novel but, unless I embellish ala James Frey, is hardly memoir material. If any of you out there reading this blog were to write your memoirs, what would it be called? And I already got dibs on Memoirs of an Ex-Cootie Girl. Hey, it's better than nothing!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Launch Party Hell!
Ah, what to do if your bookseller-host calls on a Friday at 4:30pm when your publisher's staff is getting a head start on the weekend and are not in the office, to tell you there are no books for your launch party, and you're expecting 100 people--at least, and all the refreshments have been ordered, the details worked out, etc.
By the way, my newest book, Down and Dirty is available now. The reviews have been great and is a Recommended Read on many online sites, including Rawsistaz.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Ten Questions With Author David Fulmer
David Fulmer is the author of the award-winning novel CHASING THE DEVIL'S TAIL, JASS, which was named one of the best books of 2005 by Library Journal, and RAMPART STREET. His novels feature Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr and are set in New Orleans during the early 20th century. He's one of my favorite authors and has graciously consented to answer some questions about his books, writing, and difficult road to publication.
1. Q: What appeals to you about writing crime fiction?
I never intended to be a crime or mystery writer. It chose me rather than the other way around. I wanted to write about Storyville and about the birth of jazz, and bring Buddy Bolden in as a character. The setting I chose begged for a crime story. It was just that kind of place, with legalized prostitution, any drug anyone wanted sold over the counter, the overheated climate (literally and figuratively), and the eruption of this wild new music they called jass. Once I got into it, the drama and the mystery intrigued me. At their best, crime stories are life and death morality tales that are played out on a unique stage. So there are a lot of places to go with the stories and they tend to be active rather than reflective. They move from one place to the next.
2. Q: Was it hard for you to get published?
I had a very difficult time, and the way it happened will serve as a cautionary tale. It took me a couple years to find an agent for “Chasing the Devil’s Tail,” and a couple more for her to sell the book. All the major publishers in New York turned it down, and some of the rejection letters were scathing. Then Poisoned Pen Books took a look and accepted it. Once it came out, it took off. It received great reviews and was nominated for a LA Times Book Prize and a Barry Award and won a Shamus Award. Harcourt picked it up for trade paperback and two contracts for five hardcover books followed. The book continues to sell, modestly but steadily, three years after the paperback release. It’s been translated into Italian and Japanese and soon will be in French. The lesson being that cream rises and persistence wins.
3. Q: Describe your detective Valentin St. Cyr and how you came to create him.
Right frm the start, I knew I wanted a Creole in the role, because it reflected the New Orleans culture and having such a character opens up all sorts of dramatic possibilities, more than I might have with a fixed entity. Valentin is a Creole private detective who works off and on for Tom Anderson, who was known as “The King of Storyville,” and was one of the real historical characters in my books. Valentin’s mother is a “Creole of color,” which means she is of mixed African and French blood. His late father was a Sicilian who worked on the docks, and in fact Valentin’s birth name was Valentino Saracena. Valentin is able to pass for white, though he makes no particular efforts to hide his African blood. He slips back and forth over the color line, because in spite of the rigid segregation laws of the day, New Orleans was (and is) such a melange of color. He’s also is able to get involved with varied types of women, from a dark-skinned island girl to a quadroon prostitute to a white society woman. His character and his back story developed as I wrote and then rewrote the book. With each successive book, he’s taken on new dimensions.
4. Q: Your books are set in the early 20th-century. How much research is involved in writing your series?
I already had the basics on hand from research I had done for some newspaper articles and magazine pieces I had written. So I had a framework. One positive thing about having so much trouble getting published was that I had a lot of time to build on that initial research. I pored over books and old newspapers in order to pick up detail I could use to set the stage. I would add some more detail here and there through each rewrite. It paid off when the first book came out. The research for the most part has stood up to the scrutiny of the academic community, which is always a relief.
5. Q: Do you write in any other genre besides crime fiction?
I have a couple unpublished things that are outside that box. Another one that is more in the
thriller vein. However, I do have a contract, and so the next books coming will be within the crime/mystery field.
6. Q: What is your writing schedule like?
I get going as early as possible. Sometimes that means four o’clock in the morning. I have to vary that sometimes, because as a single parent, I’m dealing with my daughter’s schedule. One of the by-products of having multiple books on the shelves is that I now find I spend a fair amount of time working on business matters. So my goal is to get as much done as I can by midday and then use the afternoon to do the other stuff. When I come up on a deadline, though, I can be at the computer ten hours a day getting the last fixes done.
7. Q: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I just finished a book that’s a departure because I needed to step away from Storyille to keep it fresh. This one’s set in Atlanta in the 1920s, when it was a jumping city. It was a music center, and there was rampant crime and corruption. The title is “The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues,” after the Blind Willie McTell song. As I but that one to bed, I’m beginning the fourth Storyville book, which will come out in 2008. And I have a couple side projects going.
8. Q:Do you have a website or blog?
I have a website: www.davidfulmer.com. and I invite everyone to visit it. I do what I can to keep it current and interesting. For example, you can listen to a clip of Dion Graham reading the first chapter of Rampart Street. That kind of thing. By the way Dion will have a recurring role on The Wire on HBO this fall.
9. Q: What good books have you read recently that you’d like to recommend?
Well, I’m always in line when Walter Mosely publishes a new one, so Cinnamon Kiss is the first one that comes to mind. Also James Lee Burkes’ Crusader's Cross. On the non-fiction side, I just finished Bob Spitz’ 900-page biography of The Beatles, which is a fascinating narrative of the rise of this enormous cultural and musical phenomenon, and "A Left Hand Like God," by Peter Silvester. It's a history of boogie-woogie piano.
10. Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
It’s all about the work. There is no substitute for getting the words down, and then molding them into the best story you can tell. If you believe in what you’ve created, then hang on, now matter what anyone tells you. There are just too many stories like mine to give up just because editors or agents don’t jump into your pocket. If I hadn’t believed my first book was worthy enough to fight for, I wouldn’t be sitting here this morning writing this. With all that, understand that it’s a craft that is worth doing well for its own sake.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Valerie Wilson Wesley, Award Winning Writer, Visits the Crime Sistahs
(Interviewer: Gammy L. Singer)
This most prolific and multi-dimensional talented author crosses many genres and writes mysteries, adult fiction, and children's fiction as well as essays and short stories. She holds masters degrees in education and journalism. Her latest mystery is DYING IN THE DARK and her Tamara Hayle mystery series include WHEN DEATH COMES STEALING, DEVIL'S GONNA GET HIM, and THE DEVIL RIDING. Other novels include PLAYING MY MOTHER'S BLUES, ALWAYS TRUE TO YOU IN MY OWN FASHION, AIN'T NOBODY'S BUSINESS IF I DO. All of her novels have been Blackboard bestsellers. For a more complete list of her work and her many accomplishments check out her website at www.tamarahayle.com.
Welcome to the Crime Sistahs blog, Valerie.
First of all, tell me how you do it--please! You not only write mysteries, but you write other novels and children's fiction as well. Are you a workaholic? What's your writing schedule like? And how do you come about your choices as what to write next?
I only work on one thing at a time. For example, I'm currently working on a new book for my Willimena Rules series for kids. After I've finished that, I'll begin a new Tamara Hayle Mystery that I'll get into next year. I try to write every day and feel guilty if I don't. I've found, however, if I skip a day the next day's writing comes easier.
You write bestseller books. How did that happen? Did you work very hard to become a bestseller? We've all heard Terry McMillan's story, for example. Were you as driven? Or did you have good backing from a good publisher?
I try to write the best book I can. I've been fortunate in that I had very good support from my publishers for my first few mysteries and novels. I also try to promotoe my books to readers as much as I can. I have a website, and I answer all emails. I still believe that a good book will find its market, so I try to write the very best book I can, no matter the genre I'm working in. I also believe that good word-of-mouth still is the best seller of a book.
Speaking of publishers, you've dealt with several. Is there a way to effectively deal with them? What works and what doesn't work? How about editors? Any insights or instructions to new writers about dealing with editors--the good, the bad, and the ugly?
It's important to remember that publishing is a business and its purpose is to make money. One of my roles as a writer is to be as professional as I can, which means getting the book in on time, and working with my editor as effectively as I can.
Your favorite book? Your favorite author?
I have many favorite books and authors. Among my favorite books--Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Atonement by Ian McKeown--favorite authros include Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, PD James, Tina McElroy Ansa, Bebe Moore Campbell--the list goes on!
When does writing become hard for you? When is it the easiest?
It's always hard to begin, but once I start it gets easier. The main thing is to settle down and write.
You have a writer-husband. Does he assist you at all? What are writing conversations like in the Wesley home? Did any of your children catch the fever?
My husband is a playwright and screenwriter. He's also a chairman of his department at NYU, which takes up most of his time. We support each other as much, and he tends to be my main cheering section. My daughter is a screenwriter, and a very good one.
I just read an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled, Their Eyes Were Watching Smut, the subject being the new ghetto or street lit. Any comments about this latest trend? Advice to writers?
I think it's essential that people read. When I was a kid, my favorite books were comic books--and I went on to mysteries and then finally to novels. My hope is that readers who are into the so-called "street lit" will discover and grow into better books as they become more sophisticated readers. The main thing is to develop and nurture new readers in a society that tends to discourage reading. I also think it's been a boon for Independent Black Bookstores.
How have you managed to juggle career and family? Has it become easier?
My children are grown now, and it's not a problem. When I was younger, I wrote at night after they were in bed.
Did you ever want to do anything else but write? What was your training for this profession?
Becoming a writer was always my goal--but I've been trained as a journalist as well as an early childhood teacher--maybe that's where the Willimena books come from.
What are you working on now? And what should we look for next?
I'm working on a new Willimena book as well as a new mystery. In the new Tamara Hayle, I'm bringing back Basil Dupre--as well as Lilah Love from Where Evil Sleeps, my third Tamara Hayle Mystery.
That concludes our visit with Valerie Wilson Wesley. You are invited to visit her website at www.tamarahayle.com or email the author at Valwilwes@aol.com. As she said, she answers her emails.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Donations Sought For New Orleans Public Library
I saw this posted this morning on author MJ Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype Blog.
In an effort to restock its shelves after Hurricane Katrina, the New
Orleans Public Library is asking for donations of hardcovers and
paperbacks for people of all ages. Library staff will decide which
books should go into its collection; the rest will go to destitute
families or be sold to raise funds for the library.
Please send books to: Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations, New Orleans
Public Library, 219 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, La. 70112.
Apparently if donors mention to the Postal Service that the books are for the library in New Orleans, they will be able to send the books at the library rate, which is slightly less than the book rate.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Tangled New Web
In the midst of feverishly working to meet my March 30th deadline for book #3, I've also been working with talented web designer Heidi Mack of Xuni.com. Heidi has designed websites for authors such as Lee Child, Jan Burke, Robert Greer, and now moi. My new site still needs to have excerpts for my books added and the images on the homepage need tweaking but it's basically done! It's so colorful, quirky, and different! I'm very, very pleased with the way it turned out. I finally feel like a real author now that I have a professionally designed authore site and Heidi is a pleasure to work with.
I'm also posting the cover for my up-coming book, Tangled Roots, for those of you who may not have seen it. I was opposed to having people on my book covers because I want readers to make up their own minds as to what they think Kendra Clayton looks like. But this cover has grown on me and other people seem to like it. Though now when I write I get an image of this woman's face in my head. Not sure I'm liking that. Hey, if any of you with blogs would like a review copy of Tangled Roots to review on your blog, please contact me.