Archive for July, 2006
July 29, 2006
A Portrait of Dorien Grey
Being serious for a change, today’s blog is an interview with Dorien Grey, the pen name of one of the very best, most solid mystery authors I’ve ever come across. We’ve been friends for a long time now and I want to introduce him to those of you who may not have heard about him and read his books. You’ve been missing a great read if you haven’t. To those of you who do know him, perhaps you’ll get to know him a little better today.
Dorien’s website is at http://www.doriengrey.net
Dorien, tell us a little about your background in the writing field.
I was, of course, a prodigy. My first literary effort, at the age of between 4 and 5, and dictated to my private secretary (my mom) was a gripping ode to cowboys, the last line of which was “And the cowboys yelled ‘Whoopee’ and everything else.” And from that auspicious beginning, I’ve never turned back.
I spent most of my professional life as a book and magazine editor in Chicago and Los Angeles, and though I’d been writing in one form or another all my life, didn’t publish my first novel until 2001.
To date, I have eleven books in publication with a twelfth due out shortly, one making the rounds, and another in the computer.
I didn’t realize, although I should have because I started reading your books in 2003, that your first book was only published five years ago. That’s phenomenal, considering how good the series started out. Tell our readers today about your Dick Hardesty series, all of which I’ve read and loved. What’s going on with it?
Ah, the Dick Hardesty series. After ten books and an increasingly strained relationship with my publisher, who does not believe in the concept of monogamy for gay men, I was informed that I was being “untrue” to “real gay men,” thereby implying, obviously, that I could not possibly be a gay man, and that they therefore would publish no more of the series, despite a solid and growing reader base and the fact that four of the ten books were finalists for a Lambda Literary award.
So we parted ways amicably, and I am forever in GLB’s debt for giving me a start when the bigger houses would not give me the time of day.
I was subsequently told numerous times that for a publisher to pick up the continuation of a series begun by another publisher simply is not done–which, if true, would mean the series would end with book #10, The Paper Mirror—itself a Lambda Award finalist.
But I am far too fond of Dick, Jonathan, and the gang to let them go quietly into that good night. Despite the odds, I am writing Book #11 of the series and will do my best to find a publisher for it.
So am I. I love them all and I’d really hate to see that series end. What are you working on now ?
I currently have a new, non-Dick Hardesty mystery making the publisher rounds and hope to find a home for it before long. It’s a parapsychological mystery I hope my readers will enjoy. I also am awaiting the release of the print version of my western romance adventure/mystery, Calico, which has been considerably rewritten from its e-book version, still also available.
Your blog is about your experiences in the Navy. Tell us about it, what years it covers, and what you hope to accomplish with it.
Since I was very, very young I have been obsessed with the passage of time and with the knowledge that there will come a day, fight it though I may, when I will no longer be here. Writing is my attempt, if not for immortality, at least to leave a bit of myself behind for as long as my words exist somewhere. When I entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program after my sophomore year in college (to take advantage of the G.I. Bill, which was set to expire the following January), I decided to leave a written record of the experience via letters home to my parents. The end result is my blog, A World Ago. The url to my blog is http://www.doriengrey.blogspot.com
I entered service in August of 1954 and was, thanks to a few built-in loopholes in the system, honorably discharged in August of 1956. I have, I think, close to if not well over 200 letters which are, in effect, a trip through time. Every single word of every letter was put down, one after the other, on a then-blank piece of paper, and I hope the reader gets that feeling as he/she reads them.
These aren’t, as I’ve said, your average ‘I am fine. How are you?’ letters. They chronicle my time as a Naval Aviation Cadet with all the triumphs and trials attendant thereto, follow the details which led to my dismissal from the program, and progress through my being put aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga for an eight month tour of the Mediterranean at the height of the cold war. The reader is right there with me through it all, including my adventures in Naples, Rome, Paris, Cannes, Nice, Athens, Barcelona, Sicily, Rhodes, Istanbul, and the once-beautiful Beirut, which was known at the time as the Paris of the Middle East. Letters from Beirut detailing my visits with an American family also mention the even-then fermenting troubles between Israel and Palestine.
And while I hated the Navy while I was in it, I later realized it was a fascinating time filled with unforgettable experiences for which I shall always be grateful. I hope those who follow along (I add a new letter to the blog every day…to start at the beginning, you must go back through the archives to the first letter and then move forward) will share some of the same feelings.
The purpose of A World Ago is twofold: I wanted to share my adventures with others and hope that, by getting to know me through my long-ago letters, those who follow the blog will be more inclined to read my books if they’ve not already done so.
I hope so! When you were in the Navy, did the powers that be know you were gay?
Oh, dear Lord, no! Had they known I was gay, or had I been accused of it, I would have been thrown out instantly, either with a “Dishonorable” or “Undesirable” discharge. Few people have any real knowledge of the number of decent, loyal, honorable men and women thrown out of the various services for the unforgivable “crime” of being gay. Such untenable bigotry shames our nation.
You mentioned to me the other day that when you were in the Navy they found out about one of your buddies. What year was that, and what happened to him?
I mention it in one of the letters (actually, I mention two incidents, at different times) which will be coming up when the letters reach into 1956 (we’re in May of 1955 at the moment) but do not go into details which, briefly, were these:
I worked in the commissary office of the Ticonderoga. One of our bakers was a sweet but not overly bright kid named North, who for some reason always reminded me of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. One morning, while we were in the middle of the Mediterranean, North did not show up for work. He had simply disappeared without a trace. No one ever knew what had happened to him until some time later when we pulled into Naples. Suddenly, there was North, gathering his belongings. I discovered that the day he disappeared, the ship’s Personnel Officer, a prissy little nelly queen who I could have spotted as being gay halfway across the hangar deck…but he wore a wedding ring and therefore was above suspicion…called North to the Personnel Office and told him that “a homosexual” had been discovered in Norfolk and had given North’s name as someone with whom he had sex. “Now, we don’t want to do anything against you,” he assured North, “but if you’ll just sign this paper, we’ll have evidence against him.”
Dear, sweet, naive North signed the paper and he was flown off the ship in the middle of the night, lest he contaminate the crew.
Does this still happen in the service today?
Tragically and astoundingly, yes. Every day. Last year over 700 men and women, in this day of “don’t ask, don’t tell” were driven out of the military. There is no end.
How old were you when you realized you were gay? Did you fight it, or accept it from the beginning? How difficult was it for you, or was it difficult, given the mood of the country at that time?
Though I did not know the words or what they meant, I knew who and what I was by the time I was five years old. (There are gay children, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.) And never, for one single instant of my life, have I ever doubted who or what I was or that I had every right to be who and what I am. It did and does not matter what the world thought or what the world thinks. I am me, and no one can take that away.
How old were you when you finally came out to your family and friends? Did any of them give you a bad time about it, or were they all pretty cool?
I never had to come out to my friends, many of whom—especially from college on—were gay themselves. Of those who weren’t gay, they knew without being told. And anyone who might have disapproved were never friends to begin with.
I was blessed to have incredibly wonderful parents. They were not saints, but flawed human beings like everyone else, yet they loved me unconditionally from the moment I was born until the moment they died. Though they knew full well I was gay almost as long as I did, we never discussed it openly until I was in my early 30s, after breaking up with a long-time partner (with whom I am still friends). My entire family…cousins, aunts and uncles…have always accepted me totally, and always welcomed my partners into their homes and their own families as though we were any other couple, and therefore I have been spared much of the heartache and rejection so many gays and lesbians have to endure from those people they love and who are supposed to love them.
You were lucky to have parents like that. I love that your mother sat and played word games with you! How has being gay affected your life, overall?
That is a very difficult question to answer. Being gay is as much a part of me as having brown eyes. It simply is, and it has fundamentally shaped everything I do, everything I write, and everything I am. Am I “proud” to be gay? Are you “proud” to have brown (or blue or green) eyes?
Do you feel there’s still, today (or again, today) a backlash against gay literature?
Unfortunately, yes. Part of it is totally understandable. Gay literature tends to deal with an entire social spectrum that is unfamiliar to most people. It is very similar to the reaction to “black” literature, or “hispanic” literature, or the literature of any minority. And then, of course, there are those who dare to presume to speak for God, and who are themselves unspeakable.
But though I write of gay characters in gay surroundings, what I try very hard to do is to show the reader willing to take a chance with one of my books that these are human characters in human surroundings, and that those things which unite us are far more common and infinitely more important than those things which divide us. To let fear or ignorance or baseless, passed-down bigotries prevent someone from recognizing these similarities is truly sad.
And that, in a nutshell, is what I love so much about your books. It’s clear we’re more alike than some think and your books show that. Have you ever thought about writing a non-gay themed fiction novel?
Frankly, no. There are more than enough heterosexuals out there far better qualified to do so than I. I suppose I could write a non-gay-themed fiction novel if I wanted to…but why would I want to? (“But you could make so much more money writing for the mainstream.” Well, I do write for the mainstream—that’s my whole point. I love money, but I always take Polonius’ advice to Laertes to heart: “To thine own self be true…”)
What’s your all-time favorite book (from other authors)? Did it influence you to become a writer?
The one book that always comes to mind as having had the strongest influence on my writing is not, as I probably should say it was, one of the great classics of literature. It was a simple, hilarious little book by Robert Lewis Taylor written in the late 1940s, called Adrift in a Boneyard. I have read it more than a dozen times, I’m sure, and have loved its humor and its style every single time.
I can understand that. When I was twelve I read John O’Hara’s Come Fill the Cup, and even then I loved his clean, spare style and I’m sure it influenced my own writing. So Dorien, what’s your all-time favorite movie?
It would be impossible to name only one. Bambi, E.T., Schindler’s List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind…any movie that grabs you by the heart and leaves you with hope.
Your all-time favorite song?
Kate Smith singing God Bless America, perhaps? Anything by Tchaikovsky or the great romantic composers. Full, rich orchestrals that again pick you up and raises you above everyday life for a moment. Have I mentioned that I am one of the last of the die-hard romantics?
Your blog is fascinating, rich in world history. What do you think was the most important lesson you learned while serving our country and do you think the general mood of our men and women in the service today is the same?
That’s very kind of you to say. The most important thing I learned while in the service was that we can be a far better people than we are. I think altruism and patriotism and a belief in goodness and justice are far more than platitudes, but that they are treated far too often as though that’s all they were. Men and women today are dying to protect what they believe in their hearts to be right and good. That they are sent to die in hopeless money-driven wars by petty little men who do not have the balls to change places with them and take up arms themselves is an unfathomable tragedy.
Do you think the general mood of the country about the world situation we’re in is the same as when you were a young man?
It was, truly, a very different world. It was far easier to say “this is right” and “this is wrong.” The lines between “good” and “bad” were far more distinct. Today’s world has become a kaleidoscope of shades of grey. And there are far too many of us, with more every second. One maniac, one serial killer, one terrorist in a hundred people was bad enough in a world of 3 billion people. But in a world of 6 billion, which we are approaching today….
Your blog and your books are brilliantly written, with warm, believable characters and situations. I’ve never read one of your books where I came across anything that made me think, “Oh, come on, how far-fetched is THAT,” as I do sometimes with other authors’ books. Yours are totally reasonable and fun to read. Are your books a composite of people and situations you’ve known, or do you invent most of them?
Again, thank you! Of course my books are composites of people and places I’ve known (or read of, or imagined) and situations I’ve experienced in reality or in dreams. But most important of all, I truly feel that, to me, the people in my books, no matter where they came from or upon whom they might be based, are real. They truly exist for me in some alternate universe that exists between the lines and behind the pages of every book. And if I can convince a reader to feel the same way, I’ve accomplished something.
When did you realize you were destined to be a writer? What happened to punch that home?
I think one of the reasons I write…one of the reasons I have always written…is because I do not like reality. It is far too cruel and restrictive and capricious. After my cowboy poem, I went on, in third grade, to write a sporadic “Newspaper”… The Bugville News, in pencil, which I would pin to the front door of the Harry Morris School in Rockford, Illinois. In a way, I’m still writing it.
Another common bond! My very first gig, other than the love stories I wrote for my friends, was as a reporter on my junior high newspaper. Strangely enough, I did the gossip column. I’m not sure my mother even knew about it, but how did your family feel about you becoming a writer?
My mother was responsible for urging me to express my imagination; to make up stories; to read as many books as I could get my hands on. We would play “Dictionary”, wherein one of us would open the dictionary to a page at random, close our eyes, and point to a word. Whoever could define that word won. How can one possibly express how profound an influence one’s parents have? My father often disagreed with things I did, choices I made, etc. But never for one instant did I doubt that he loved me with all his heart, as did my mother.
What do you think is the biggest problem authors face today?
The primary one is, as it always has been, endemic: finding a publisher. Regrettably, people just don’t read as much as they once did, so there are fewer readers out there and fewer publishers willing to take risks. The higher cost of books has a negative impact on readership, as well.
What do you want your tombstone to say—although no time soon, I hope.
The one I’d really like has already been taken: “As you are now, so once were we: as we are now, so shall you be.” So I have a couple alternatives: “He tried.” or maybe “Come sit and talk to me.”
Are you EVER going to write a book that revolves around Tondelaya O’Toole, one of the most loveable, colorful characters I’ve ever read about in any book? I LOVE him!
I’m so glad you like “T/T”…I do too. He’s a tremendously strong character. But I think building an entire book around him would be like serving a meal with too much salt. Still, I won’t rule anything out.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your readers, or prospective readers, or young authors just starting out?
To those who have read some or all of my books, I’d like to say thank you for your support, and hope we can enjoy each other’s company for many books to come. I am nothing without you.
To prospective readers, I offer a chance to explore a non-threatening world with which you might not yet be familiar, but which is populated with real people you can care for and around whom you can feel at home.
And for not yet published authors, one simple word of advice: it’s not how many times you’re knocked down that matters…it’s how many times you get up.
Thank you, Hotclue/Beth.
You’re so welcome, my friend. Come back and chat any time.
Love and smoochies to y’all on this blistering hot Saturday American morning. I hope it cools off wherever you are today. Count Babbalallapaloozo asked me if I’d like to fly to Minnesota with him today, erroneously thinking it might be cooler there. I told him the last time I pulled that shot it was hotter there than it was here. I’m staying in today with Beth, thankyouverymuch, and helping her with revisions. God knows she needs all the help she can get, but come back soon, ya hear me? You never know what you’re going to find me up to, here on Hotclue Live!
July 19, 2006
Hotclue Does Dancing Lessons
Ohhh, I’m (Tap, tap, tap.) puttin’ on my top hat,
Tyin’ up my white tie,
Brushin’ off my tails. (Tap. Tap. Tap.)
I’m dudin’ up my shirt front,
Puttin’ in the shirt studs,
Polishin’ my nails. (Tap, tap.)
I’m steppin’ out, my dear,
To breathe an atmosphere
That simply reeks with class; (That’s ME!)
And I trust you’ll excuse my dust
When I step on the gas, (Which I do!)
For I’ll be there,
Puttin’ down my top hat,
Mussin’ up my white tie, (AND my hair!)
Dancin’ in my tails. (Tap! Tap!)
Okay, look, I know there’s a lot of terrible things going on in the world right now, but I just thought I’d bring a few minutes of fun into your life, then you can run right back to CNN, which I also will. But it doesn’t hurt to laugh just a little, right? When you hear what all happened to me during my dancing and singing lessons, you’ll laugh, I know you will.
Anyhow, I thought you’d like to see what I learned from the choreographer in New York last weekend. I know, I know, it’s all very basic, but man, you should SEE me in that cute little outfit with the top hat and tails, which, since it’s me, is only the top part with these little teeny black shorts and THEN, because I’m TRYING to be circumspect, black fishnet stockings. (The Count LOVES me in fishnet stockings, isn’t that CUTE?)
So here we go: Start by tapping your toe to the beat. Do this faster and faster. Eight, ten times should do it before the music starts. It tells the musicians when to start playing. Well of COURSE “musicians” is plural, the Count hired an entire ORCHESTRA for my lesson, isn’t that the SWEETEST thing?
Next, brush the ball of one foot forward and then back to shuffle. (Oh, first you have to learn what a shuffle is. Kinda hard to follow instructions to the beat of an orchestra when you don’t know what they ARE, right?) Somehow, I shuffled. Not well, but I shuffled. I think that’s called Wingin’ It.
Okay, now, step back on the ball of your right foot and step on your left to do the ball change. Now this one got kinda hard because I had an awful time trying to decide which was right and which was left, not to mention that I wondered about stepping with my right foot onto my left foot. I mean, that sounds awfully dangerous, doesn’t it?
All this is kinda like trying to play Blackjack in a big casino, they play so fast it’s hard to know what to do next and I always have trouble doing that knuckle rap thing when I’m playing Blackjack. I can’t TELL you how many times I’ve done that and hit when I was JUST trying to say “Don’t give me any cards, NONONO, NO MORE CARDS!” And then, just because THEY’re in a hurry, I lose.
It’s no wonder I always lose at Blackjack. You’d think they’d slow it down a LITTLE for a blonde, wouldn’t you?
THEN, brush forward with the ball of your foot and step on the ball for the flap. NOW I’m getting sorely frustrated. What the hell does THAT mean? Step on what ball? What flap? Here I am, looking around the dance studio for a damn ball with a FLAP and the bloody orchestra is playing along, completely IGNORING my plight…
OKAY, they slow down a little, FINALLY. Then (catch THIS!) I’m supposed to do a do a cramproll by jumping up and landing with my feet. What else would I land with? (Don’t ask.) Okay, the jumping part I got all figured out, it’s the landing part that stumps me because here’s what you’re supposed to do next: Land on the ball of your right foot, then the ball of your left foot, then your right heel and then your left heel.
Are they frickin’ KIDDING? There I am, that cursed band’s playing, flat out IGNORING me this time, they wouldn’t stop playing that bloody Fred Astaire music if you put them in front of a Haitian FIRING squad and pounded bamboo SPLINTERS in their nails! Yeah, they’re really grooving now, the hell with me. Count Babbalallapaloozo is doubled over, I can see him although he’s trying very hard not to in front of me, the sweet thing. He can’t seem to help himself, though, poor guy, it must be something he had for lunch. To add to all this, my choreographer, the sadistic twit, has fallen into a foaming faint, making it even HARDER for me to finish my damn camproll if I could even FIND one. WHAT is a CAMPROLL? Something you frickin’ COOK? With or without mustard? I’m lost. LOST, I tell you!
To make matters worse, next I’m supposed to step with my right foot and touch my left toe behind it for the step toe.
THAT was the final straw! Not only could I not find my right foot OR my left toe, by that time the Count was shaking so hard I was afraid he’d fall to the floor by the choreographer. Naturally, I had to rush to his aid.
THAT put an end to my first dancing lessons, and I didn’t even get to sing one song because somehow the sheet music I was going to use mysteriously disappeared. Sniff sniff. If I didn’t know better I’d think the entire orchestra AND the choreographer AND Count Babbalallapaloozo were laughing at me. But I know the Count wouldn’t laugh at me. He’s too thoughtful for that.
Love y’all, thanks so much for stopping by and listening to my hour of infamy. Come back again soon, ya hear me?
Hotclue Herself, waiting for the Count to come rub scented warm oil on her blistered toes.
July 12, 2006
Play It Again, Sam!
A friend recently asked me, “What do I do when I disagree with my editor’s revision requests?”
There are several things you learn pretty quickly when you get into the novel writing business, if you want to STAY in the novel writing business. Let me count the ways (with abject apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning):
1. First, you’ve gotta lose the attitude and the ego-trip you’re on right now because you sold a book, especially when you’re dealing with your editor or agent. (Family and friends are fair game, at least until one of them mops up the floor with your mouth or jams the ten thousandth promo item you’ve been bombarding them with, straight up your–oops, forgive me, I almost forgot this is normally a G-rated blog.)
Agents and editors talk to each other and word will get around fast if you’re dubbed The Author From Hell. You don’t want that baggage following you around, trust me, you don’t, so play nice. You might as well, because they have all the good cards.
2. There are almost always going to be revisions of one kind or another if you have a good editor (or if you’re lucky, often a good agent). Contrary to what your ego has been beating into your head for several months (or maybe years), almost no book written is so perfect that it can’t benefit by having something written differently. A lot of how you handle this depends on your attitude. You can make it fun, and learn a ton from doing it, or you can make it hell for everyone concerned. You get to choose.
3. Most of the time revisions are not up for discussion. These people are giving you money up front (if you’re dealing with a traditional publisher) to give them a publishable book. Once they’ve made that investment, the book is no longer yours. Surprise! It’s theirs! (Another big surprise: It’s theirs even if they didn’t give you money up front but you signed a contract.) If they ask you to revise something, you have to do it or give them back their advance money (or contract) because it’s not really *your* money until their final acceptance of your final product.
The manuscript you originally sold them is usually not going to be your final product no matter how many times you’ve re-written it before they bought it, no matter how many printers you’ve worn out re-printing it, no matter how many reams of paper and containers of toner you’ve used on it, no matter how many friends and family have read it and loved it.
So if they give you money at the git-go, if you have any misconceptions at all that your will is going to prevail over theirs, you’d better not spend a dime of your advance yet, because you may be giving it back. Again, it’s up to you.
4. Revisions can be fun. The truth is, I like doing revisions better than I like inventing the original book. I’ll explain why below. Nah, on second thought, I’ll explain why right now.
Forgot to add this the other day when I first posted. Blame it on a huge gas explosion in my brain. 😉 The really good thing that happens when you have to revise–for instance, changing a whole scene in some way, or adding more scenes for a character you originally felt wasn’t all that important–is that it forces you to accept possibilities that you hadn’t thought of until an editor or agent–who DOES see the possibilities–pointed them out to you. This is the real value of revising your book. The sum of its parts becomes multiplied. Revisions add layers that weren’t there before. That’s the main part I love about revising. You have a second chance to enhance your book.
Also, one of the things you learn is that at the beginning of any association which may generate a fair amount of money for all parties concerned, editors and some agents generally like to have a little input into the process. It makes the book feel a little more like theirs, therefore they have a vested emotional interest in it. Here’s a thought: There’s a world of difference between an editor who loves your book and will go to the ends of the earth to help you promote it, and an editor who grudgingly allows you a few minutes of her time and then lets your book tank because she doesn’t care one way or the other. So the smart thing to do is, let her feel like part of the process. If she wants revisions, give them to her.
And here’s another thing to consider. As someone smarter than I said, this is not rocket science. It’s a book. Face it. It’s just a book. Not your baby, your own flesh and blood that you’re going to hold and nurture for the next eighteen years, going goo goo over it the whole time, so don’t let your attachment to it run away with your common sense. It’s a book. The world’s full of books. If you’re lucky, yours will be among them.
5. Revisions can also be excruciating. Yes they can. You had one concept. They have another. Remember the money they gave you? Guess what. Their idea will prevail.
After my very first mainstream novel sale, I learned that the fast-moving suspense I had submitted was not really what the publisher wanted. What they really wanted was a glitzy lifestyle, a heroine who was working in an industry heretofore dominated entirely by men, and they wanted her to age eleven years throughout the duration of the book. They chose the book I submitted because they could see I was already a strong writer and most of it was fine. They just had a different vision than I had for the last third of the book, that’s all.
Now. The hard part, for some. A lot of authors would go up in smoke at the very idea of compromising the integrity of their heroine and her lifestyle, as well as thousands of other reasons why new authors protest changes requested by the publishing house. And a lot of authors are still unpublished because of that unprofessional attitude. But it’s your choice.
I figured out fast that my editor was a lot smarter than I, and I wanted to change that equation some if I could, so I sat down and learned how to revise a novel that I loved as it was, but which now belonged to someone else. Another surprise: In doing so, I learned how to write a publishable mainstream novel. Imagine that. I learned how to pace from that editor. I learned how to insert scenes, move them around, age a heroine, keep a hot love affair going for eleven years. I can’t begin to tell you what all I learned from revising that novel. It was an education in itself, the same as when I wrote my first romance and had to do revisions there, too. You can’t BUY a writing school like that, and I knew it. So I did it, and I learned.
With each book I’ve written I’ve learned something new. How to avoid that middle of the book sag when you think everything’s going straight down the tube and can’t figure out how to haul it back up. How to pull out emotions much, much deeper than you ever imagined were there. What I mainly learned, though, was (and is) that editors and agents know what sells, while authors don’t. We don’t, not really.
Some write to the market, always a mistake because the market changes so quickly and there you are, left with last year’s flighty chick lit heroine who mainly only thought about her next pair of Manolos, which has changed substantially by now, or maybe last year’s serial killer with first-person murder scenes so ugly that the first time one came out and was successful, there was a big rush by the industry to find more of them, but now, if you watch the big email lists, there’s a backlash against that now, so to sell one, it had better be great. Or maybe last year’s Nascar romance. But that was last year, when they were selling to the publishers and are just beginning to come out now. Next year, when your book comes out, they might not be. Then again, they might. I don’t know and neither do most authors. We’re not the ones looking at the stats day by day, trying to figure out what to look for in a hot new book. That’s a crapshoot, and guess what. The publishers hold the dice.
Some brand new authors write a book, think it’s a masterpiece, and then find out their entire manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors they never spotted, and they didn’t know until someone told them. If they’re lucky, at least one of their rejections will point those kinds of problems out, and they’ll listen and fix them. If not…well, you know.
My point (and, as Ellen DeGeneres says, I do have one), is that people intimately connected with the publishing industry pretty much know what they think will sell to their customers. That’s one reason why the category romance industry has such strict guidelines, in case you were wondering. They know for sure what their readers want, and they’re going to give it to them or else face losing a lot of money. So when category publishers ask for revisions, there’s no compromise. You have to give them what they want.
The same is pretty much true of other publishing houses. They have a pretty good handle on what their customers want, and if you’ve noticed the termination of certain lines or types of book sales recently, it’s because they they see the stats and we don’t. So the same is going to be true of mainstream publishers. They know what they’ve just published and what they already have on board to be published. If you’re lucky and have a great book that needs re-wiring to accomodate their needs, they may ask you to revise, maybe even before they offer a contract. I’ve had that happen. I did the revisions. I sold the book.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who winds up with a contract, it’s a good idea to just go ahead and give them what they want even if you have to rewrite the majority of your book, and you may have to do exactly that to fit into the market they want to hit with your book.
Even if you have to change the personality of your heroine or hero. Even if you have to add new scenes or delete scenes you love, because publishers and agents don’t ask for revisions just for the hell of it. They ask for them in order to make a book that they see great financial potential in more marketable.
So in answer to the original question, “What do I do when I disagree with my editor’s revision requests?” my answer will always be: Do them. Sit there and cry while you do them if you must, but do them.
On a lighter note, Count Babbalallapallozo read my 100 Things page a couple of months ago and found out I always wanted to be a Broadway singing and dancing star, so he’s arranged for a big NY choreographer to spend the weekend with us in NY, teaching me how to sing and dance. It’s obvious, even to the Count, that I need some serious help there. We’ll be heading for New York, staying in a luxury hotel, seeing a couple of shows, dining out at some five star restaurants, and in general having a great time. We would have left sooner, but Beth is working on…yes…revisions, and you know how she is, she wants me here every minute of the time she’s working. Well, somebody’s got to do it.
So ta ta for now, I’m sorry it took so long to get today’s blog up, but you know how it is when you’re…gasp!…Doing…Revisions.
I Love Y’all, and thanks SO much for stopping by. Come back soon, ya hear me?
The Hotclue, who will soon know exactly how to at least do the soft shoe shuffle. Or whatever they call it. Don’t y’all just LOVE the Count for thinking of this?
July 4, 2006
UPDATE–Fourth of July in Chicago, Illinois!
Last night I sat and watched the Fourth of July fireworks here in Chicago. From the other side of the lake, the Chicago skyline was bathed in deep, deep red and orange, fading to black, the perfect backdrop for the most spectacular fireworks I’ve ever seen here or anywhere else up to this day. Chicago really outdid itself this year.
The red and blue stars shooting up, drifting down, the gold chrysanthemums–my personal favorite–so large that one could fill the entire skyline, the white streaks shooting across the water, the purples blazing up into the red skies, incredible, and THIS year they had a brand new type of fireworks so beautiful that I could only sigh. They exploded against the night and floated out over the lake in what appeared to have been a thousand huge three-diminsional multicolored balloons–truly a gorgeous, gorgeous sight. I thought I’d seen everything before, but those new ones were incredible because they looked so round and SO real. Kudos to whoever invented them. They were the work of a genius.
When you look at photos of our Chicago skyline, especially those shot by the young photographer who took the photo that heads up this website, Jon Massie, they are definitely real. Chicago absolutely does look like that in the summer evenings, and when you see his beautiful photos that show red and gold streaking out in the water at night, that’s real. Those red streaks truly do shimmer with the kind of reality and beauty only a great photographer can catch at that moment.
And then to see all the boats out there on the water while the fireworks are going on–I’d never have nerve enough to do that if I owned a boat, but it must be a beautiful sight. (I’ll have to speak to the Count about that next year. I’m willing to try it on HIS yacht. 😉
Anyhow, it was beautiful enough for me to want to blog about it, sitting on the Opposite Side of the Water. Long live Chicago, a city I love more than any other city in the world.
Have a safe one tonight, folks. They’ll be shooting off more fireworks in the smaller towns around the USA. Hope you all have as wonderful a time as I did last night. Stay safe, stay cool, and come back soon, ya hear me?
July 2, 2006
Fourth of July, USA
Come on, sing along with me, I know you know this tune if you live in the USA:
“You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love,
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev’ry heart beats true
Under Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag;
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.”
Love that song. Love the Fourth of July. And I love this United States of America. I often think how lucky I am to have been born here.
Not that I don’t love other countries. Most all countries have their beautiful spots and their wonderful regional food and their lovely people. But I’m always glad to come back home.
It’s the little things I love here in the USA. Listening to Sinatra when he sang “The House I Live In” has always, all through my life whenever I’ve heard it, touched me. I rarely hear that song without feeling tears well up, because it described life in the USA so well. But guess what. It still describes life in the USA.
Small-town USA Fourth of July parades, where everyone salutes when our American flag passes by, and everyone winds up in a park or a field on the outer edges of town where American families, no matter what their original nationality or race or religion, sit at long wooden tables for their Fourth of July picnic. We still do that, you know. We do. You don’t see it very often in the bigger cities, but they’re still here, and we’re still laughing at hilariously sloppy watermelon eating contests, scarfing down grilled hot dogs and corn on the cob and lemonade, kids still run around with their sparklers after it gets dark. It’s all still here. For you guys and women overseas, wherever you are, it’s all still here, waiting for you.
I love driving through my town on holiday weekends like this one and seeing American flags hanging from their poles in front yards everywhere. We still do that. We’ll always do it.
I love watching the fireworks on Fourth of July night. They’re so beautiful. SO beautiful! And even listening to the Boston Pops with fireworks in the background on television is beautiful if I’m not able to get out that night. My emotions are just as stirred.
I once drove back up to Chicago on Fourth of July night and every town we passed was having their fireworks display, almost as if they’d timed them so we could see almost all of them. Magic nights like that don’t happen very often, but they happen.
They’re still here.
I even love the constant political arguments in Washington, D.C. because it says, to me, that at least we can still argue like one big dysfunctional family, because that’s what we are, you know. And dysfunctional though we may be at the moment, we’re still family, and while we all get riled up at times, at least we can say we’re riled up without being afraid of getting arrested or shot for it.
One of the most touching Fourth of July events I ever attended, which kept me in tears the entire time, was in a very small town further down in Illinois where the parade couldn’t have been more than three blocks long, if that. It wound up in the middle of town at a statue, where all the older men who belonged to the VFW took part in a ceremony that ended with them all standing, even the ones in wheelchairs, and saluting our flag while the small band played America the Beautiful. That song always makes me cry. They played it at my stepfather’s funeral, so eloquently appropriate, because he deeply loved this country and wasn’t ashamed to say so.
We have our cherished traditions, and like Tevya, who describes it so well in Fiddler on the Roof, we know what they are and we continue them. We always will. No matter who objects to our American Flag, we’re still going to fly it whenever we want, wherever we want. As long as it still flies, that’s all that matters.
It’s still our Grand Old Flag.
Well, y’all, I’m going to hop into my itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini and go lie out in the sun a while, sipping lemonade, occasionally rolling into the shade under my red, white and blue beach umbrella.
Goofy as I am most of the time, I’m still one of the most patriotic people you’ll ever meet in your life and I love this country with a passion. So ta ta for now, thank you so much for stopping by, and don’t forget to keep humming the song at the top of this blog post.
I know you will. You won’t be able not to. That’s why I put it there. 😉
Love y’all, come back soon,