Scribbles and thoughts ...

These are ramblings from J L Wilson, published author of romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal -time travel fiction....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dual personality me

Yes, there are two me-people. No, I'm not bipolar or anything like that.

I write novels (see the sidebar), and I am fascinated by The Train Wreck That Is Publishing (TTWTIP). There have been several meltdowns lately, all documented on our Information Superhighway:

  • Barnes & Noble up for sale
  • Borders' going bankrupt, or close to it
  • Joe Konrath selling ebooks like crazy and making more money than when in print
  • Other authors abandoning publishers and going to self-publishing
  • Publishers abandoning authors: Dorchester has gone totally e-releasing, and will only do selected titles in print. Plus they let most of their editors go. Going under? Or trying to stay alive?
  • Other publishers doing similar things, plus looking at that e-rights clause in contracts.
  • The fuss over literary vs. popular fiction (i.e., the Franzen/Picoult fuss. Just Google either and you'll find out, or read my previous blog on "Why I don't read literary fiction"). Note that there have been complaints about the lack of credibility for popular fiction since Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road, but I digress.

So that's one part of the world that I eagerly read about, tweet about, post updates about. It totally fascinates me because I am IN that world, albeit in a small part of it.

Then there's the other me: the Sane Me. The me who has nothing to do with that stuff. The Me who goes to work in the morning, has coffee with friends, shops at the mall, and is just another guy on the street. The person who has to meet deadlines in her Other Career, the one that really brings in the bucks, the one that pays for the medical insurance, the one that is still challenging and interesting but not as 'glamorous' as the TTWTIP.

There are days when I want to be fully in One World or the Other. I don't really care which one: just give me ONE life, please! Because I'm fascinated by one then am pulled to the other. Or I am in one and the other nudges me with a reminder of things to do.

So far I'm balancing them okay. I'm able to be productive in both worlds with little exhaustion and only the occasional snappish mood ("Leave me alone! I'm writing!") But sometimes ...

I push TTWTIP to one side and get on with the Real World. A snippet here and there may intrigue me, but I resist, focusing on the Paycheck Job. Then I spot a headline, or read a tweet and WHOOSH: I'm sucked in!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A walk through my home town

There is nothing like a long walk in a small town, especially one you know and love. I got in 6700 steps this morning in my home town. Let me tell you about my walk.

I start on the south side of town, where Mom's apartment is located. I head straight north, past a beautiful brick house that has a large maple where the birds are chattering briskly, getting caught up on all the gossip from the night before (who slept with who? who knows?) Roses line the sidewalks, losing their petals now, but still brilliantly pink and dark red where the flowers cling to the stalk.

You have to be careful walking on the sidewalk. There are so many old, mature trees lining the streets that the roots have poked the concrete in spots, so if you're not careful you can do a header. Roller skating is definitely not doable on some of these sidewalks.

As I pass in front of houses, in the space *between* houses, I hear the grain elevator on the west side of town, the fans busy with a rhythmic whooshing noise as they dry the stored grain. It's too early for harvest, so this must be grain that was stored over-winter. As I cross the railroad tracks, my guess is confirmed. I see fat yellow kernels of corn lying in among the creosote covered ties, left there when one of the freight cars pass. A mouse darts out from the shrubbery lining the tracks, his cheeks full of stolen corn. I'm guessing there's a lot of fat and happy mice living within mouse-distance of the tracks.

As I reach downtown, I turn left (west) and walk along the last residential street before the downtown begins. One corner has two churches, and a sign in front of one says "Free ice cream, every Wednesday, kindergarten through fifth grade, 3 to 5." That's after school entertainment, indeed. I pass a couple of other walkers, each with a dog, and we smile and nod and agree it's a beautiful morning.

I reach my old house, where I grew up and I take another left, heading south. A man on a bicycle passes me. He's wearing a tie and dress pants, has on a helmet, and is carrying a paper cup of coffee-to-go in one hand, and steering with one hand. No need to worry about traffic here, since it's only three blocks to town and that's probably where he's headed. We smile at each other and agree it's a beautiful morning.

I start to zigzag, going east and west along quiet residential streets, delaying the time I have to return inside. On one of my 'zigs' I spy a woman crouched over a tangle of flowers in her front yard, camera in hand. As I approach, she says, "It's a Hawkeye spider, see?"

I join her in peering and see that, yes indeed, there's a big black-and-yellow spider dangling in a web, highlighted by morning dew. The web broke in the night and the spider has repaired it, big zipper-like stitches gleaming whitely with spider-juice and still thick from where it was woven. The intricate precision is amazing, the delicate edges blending perfectly with the old pieces of web.

The woman looks at her camera. "I've been trying to get his picture every morning. I won't know if they are any good until it gets developed." I nod and agree, wondering when was the last time I talked to anyone who used film in their camera -- or who had a camera as large and clunky as the one she held. I wonder, too, if she'll wait with anticipation for those pictures to come back from the developer. In our town, pictures are 'sent out' and it may be three or four days before you'll see the result.

We watch the spider as it weaves, then I move on just as the seven a.m. work whistle blows. It has blown at 7 in the morning and noon every work day since I can remember. I thought it was used for the canning factory, but now that I think of it, the canning factory (long defunct) only was in operation in the summer, which made sense since we're in farming country. But that whistles blows at 7 and 12, summer and winter, so why do we have that whistle? I'm not sure. It's a mystery.

As I walk, I see someone has played Hangman on the sidewalk using brightly colored chalk. I pause to puzzle out the answer, agreeing that yes, it was a tough one ('suspend' -- who thought of that one? Was it a school fear, perhaps?) As I continue my walk, I critique landscapes, mentally removing a tree here, installing a flower bed there, trimming a shrub there or painting a house, perhaps.

Children start to appear, singly and in pairs. A young boy & girl pass me, probably in their early teens. They may be just friends, or maybe boyfriend/girlfriend. They appear to be close, but at that age it's hard to tell what that means. A young boy, probably 10 or so, passes me wearing his Cub Scout shirt, his backpack as big as his small back. He is apparently practicing something as he walks because his lips move and his hands make small gestures unless he tucks them tightly under his pack. After I pass him I look back and see him take a stance and pitch an imaginary fast ball before he hurries to catch up with friends waiting for him on the corner.

It's only after they leave my sight that I realize how odd this would be in a large town. The only school buses here are those that pick up the country kids and bring them into town. If you live in town, you walk or get a ride to school. It is not at all unusual to see young children, accompanied by slightly older children, meandering toward the schools, all of which now are on the south side of town. In my day, the schools were distributed in different spots, but now there is no more "East is least and West is best." Now all the grade school kids go to one big school. Progress, I suppose.

Dogs bark at me from their yards as I cross that dividing line that they have designated as their Protection Zone. I'm in the east side of town now, and the cemetery isn't far away. I consider going to visit Dad, but I think I'll save that for another walk. I head back to the south and west, hearing the calisthentic-sounding intonations carrying across the breeze from the high school. "On a six-count then turn -- AND -- one-two-three-four-five-six-and TURN." It takes me two or three blocks to realize it isn't physical education but the marching band, out on the football field as they practice before school.

As I head back to the apartment, I spy another 'good luck' marker on the sidewalk corner. These were printed into the pavement, indicating a junction of waterworks, just small circles or sometimes a small metal disk that showed the city maintenance workers where the pipes were. As children, we made sure to step on each one and make a wish, because they were Good Luck. So I do an awkward little dance to tap each one at each corner of the sidewalk square before going back into the nursing home to join Mom.

Tomorrow I'll go to the west side of town and explore those streets and on Sunday I'll probably visit Dad. I wonder what I'll see on those days? But I think I already know ... after all, this is my home town.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Once again: the power of a tweet

I've blogged about this in the past: how I tweeted about a problem and, lo, someone saw and I got it fixed.

Worked again! A friend found an orphaned kitten, she needed some help with feeding him, etc., and I tweeted about it, and another friend saw it, and that friend now may adopt the kitten. I mean, is that cool, or what?

Just imagine if the WORLD problems could be solved that way? Just imagine if a social network could be harnessed to get everybody thinking about a problem and how to solve it.

Oh, yeah.... I'm off to think about THAT one!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do all writers have this?

I was at a meeting with some aspiring writers; I was one of 3 published authors, talking to the group.

One of the other authors said something like, "I started working on a book but it was beyond my talents, so I stopped writing it. I worked on {this one} instead and I hope to return to the other one someday."

Her words really stuck a chord with me because I've been picking away at a book for a few years that I would love to have see the light of day. The problem is: I don't know if I'll ever be good enough to write the damn book. It's a multi-generational story, set in a post-apocalyptic America (sort of "Book of Eli meets the Stand with a bit of Gone with the Wind thrown in"). It's a BIG book: in fact, it will probably be six or seven books if I let it take shape the way I think it should.

I return to it every autumn, without fail. For some reason, winter's approach makes me want to work on that series.I read what I wrote and I wonder if it's good enough, but I keep writing on it, keep it moving forward.

I'll probably self-publish it some day on the Kindle or somewhere (that's the way publishing is going, isn't it? Will there be any publishing houses left?)

Does every writer have "the one that got away" from them? Do we all have that "Big Book" we want to finish? It's not necessarily The Book of My Heart, but it's a story that I just can't put down...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Don't Read Literary Fiction

I just read a review of the Newest Darling of the New York Times (article is here:

This may very well be a fascinating and well-written book, but I couldn't get past the turgid prose that described the book. Any book that can be discussed in such terms tells me that (1) it will be a struggle to read and (2) will probably be depressing and (3) will probably end up being talked about for months to come. The kiss of death came for me when the reviewer mentioned David Foster Wallace, another literary wunderkind whom I have tried to read and failed. Perhaps this commentary of mine will come off as an 'intemperate blog entry' but I have the advantage of anonymity so I'm not too worried.

None of the characters sound like people I would like to know. The conflict sounds mildly depressing. What is prose that is "visceral and lapidary"? It sounds dense, whether it is nor not. Maybe I just have a quibble with the reviewer, but that review meant that I wrote off the book. No way would I read it.

And that was when I realized that I have probably never read a book that was loved in a NYT review. I also don't read Oprah books. I thought about this for a while. Heaven knows, I'm not lazy. I'm a published author, I work full-time besides writing almost full-time, I have a busy social life. Laziness is just not in my genetic makeup -- ever. I have 5 college degrees, 2 of which are in literature and 2 of which are in computer science. I got those degrees while working full-time. Trust me: I ain't lazy. I've read and analyzed British and American fiction and I know how to do it. I know Good Literature when I read it.

I finally crystallized what bugged me about this (and about other aspects of our society. That's why I set up Blog-Think-Do, my other blog). It boils down to this:

I want to be entertained. I don't watch a lot of TV (maybe an hour a day) and I go to the movies about once every two months. I don't like passive entertainment, but I do want to be entertained when I have the time. I don't want to be taught. I don't want to be led. I don't want to join other people on their journeys of self-discovery. I live in the real world. I go through self-discovery every day. I can't toss my job aside and globe-trot, nor do I care to read about those who do. Nor do I want to read about people who "struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges." I *live* that, Mr. Reviewer. I'm *there*. I don't want to use my meager free time to read about people involved in the same struggles that I undertake.

I want to be swept away. I want a tidy mystery to occupy my mind. I want a romance, either historical or otherwise. I want real people I can identify with and I want to watch them as they encounter interesting issues and/or people and deal with them.

What do I consider 'great fiction' or 'keeper fiction'?

Little Women
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Family Man (Jayne Ann Krentz edition)
The Bond Street Burlesque
The Man with a Load of Mischief
Jack the Bodiless

Why? Because they have CHARACTERS I like, they have a SETTING that is unusual or well-drawn, they have a CONFLICT I can relate to and they have a RESOLUTION I like. The books are usually short, succinctly written with little florid prose and lots of dialog that shows me who the characters are.

I've rambled on enough but I have one last speculation: I wonder if those books were reviewed by the NYT and if so, what the reviewer said. You know, based on that review, I might have passed on those books, too.

Maybe I just need to quit reading book reviews. Now *that's* food for thought!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A week of blog talk

For some reason, the way it worked out, I blogged three times this week. I either set up blogs somewhere to be released, I blogged that day, or I had a scheduled blog release.

I was at a writer's meeting and we were talking about social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and I mentioned scheduling blogs and tweets. Most folks hadn't heard about that, so I told them how it works and many folks had a "wow" moment -- you can blog when YOU feel like it about something that you're curious about, schedule it, and let it go when you need a blog. What a great convenience!

I think people often feel tied to their computers because they "should" do something at a certain time, but scheduling makes life so much easier. In fact, I'm off to schedule some blogs right now!

In case you're curious, here's where I blogged this week:

Stay tuned. More are coming ....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Starting a new venture

I'm branching out into a new blog. I know, I know -- why? This one is perfectly fine, right?

Well, of course it is, but I wanted to try a new blog to have a chance to talk about things other than publishing. I've been peeved lately about people who are into the whole "Zen" thing (to be honest, I don't really know what that means, 'Zen', except it comes across as being sort of 'other-worldly' and 'far from the madding crowd' sort of thing).

So anyway: I started Blog Think Do, which is my way saying: I'll blog, you think about it, and maybe you'll do it. And if not -- well, it gave me a chance to write about something I find intriguing: how to cope with our stressed-out world.

Check it out: It's brand spanking new. I'll update it randomly, and we'll see where I go with it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Publishing Uproars (long post)

This is a repeat, with some links and some typos fixed

(Parts of this appeared on the Savvy Authors blog. Skip this if you read that (right here:

Two items in the news have the publishing world a-twitter: Barnes & Noble is up for sale and Dorchester is going to follow a small press model of “all books go digital with a select few going to print” (DMP: digital, maybe print). I’ll keep my opinions about B&N to myself. To be honest, I don’t know much about them because I seldom use a bricks-and-morter bookstore any more and I have no idea what their business model is like. I assume something is out of whack and that’s why they’re up for sale.

I can express an opinion about the Dorchester thing, though. I publish with 3 smalll publishers, and 1 of them follows this DMP model. The others all have a “digital then print” model (DTP) for books of a certain length (and mine always qualify). This gives me a chance to reach two distinct audiences: the digital and the print.

First off, allow me to offer sympathy to those Dorchester authors who didn’t expect this news and who signed a contract thinking their books would be on bookstore shelves. I can imagine your disappointment. I wish I could say that the model they’re following (DMP) is one that will offer you lots of success, but I can’t. The 2 publishers I’m with who do the DTP model have far better sales than the other, who follows the ‘maybe print’ model. Keep in mind that I write mainstream romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal books. If I wrote erotica, the story would be different. Erotica authors almost all do well in the DMP model. But if you write mainstream, I’ve found that it’s important to have that print book because many of our audience has not yet switched to digital.

What will this mean for you, the author or the aspiring author? As anyone who follows publishing knows, the business is in flux now. Joe Konrath claims to be making mega-bucks in self-publishing (and others claim the same). On the other side of the coin are those who refute what he says, and find alternate reasons for why he’s succeeding (no one doubts that he’s succeeding but there are some doubts about why.) Some long-time authors who have had decent sales are being dropped by their houses or are being shifted into other imprints. And many new authors get a one-book deal, not the three-book deal they might have had years ago, when publishers could take a chance on new authors.

For you, the author, much remains the same: write a good book. If you can, write an exceptional book. You’ll find an audience, whether it’s through your own efforts (self-publishing), a small press, or a big one. It may take time, it may take effort, but the readers will find you. And keep writing good books, because they’ll continue to find you. If you have books in a back list, I think giving the self-pubbed model a try is a good idea. Get the rights back and see what you can do with them, either through digital or print.

And for readers? I’m sorry, but your bookstore experience is going to be vastly different in the next few years. I don’t know what it will look like, but it’s not going to over-flowing shelves, lots of new authors, and choice-choice-choice. You’ll be able to find the tried-and-true but it may be short on the new and unusual. For that, you’ll have to go online. But many of you are doing that now (witness B&N’s problems), so perhaps you won’t have a problem with change.

My experience with small publishers has been good. I’ve had better experiences with 2 of my publishers then the third one, but that’s to be expected, I think. I’ve had 17 books release in 3 years, so I have a track record that lets me evaluate what works and what doesn’t work for me. And in terms of plots -- I write in 3 genres and I’ve seen which have better sales and better reviews. It’s given me a chance to evaluate my strengths as an author.

Why did I go with a small publisher? One word. TIME. I’ll be honest: I don’t write deep, mystical, wordy prose. I write light mysteries and romantic suspense (with a stress on the romantic). I’m able to write them relatively quickly because I think I’ve found a voice that works for me. I’m able to write several books a year, which fits in exactly with what I have in my life (more in the next paragraph).

If I wanted to compete in a big publishing house with other authors (and yes, you do compete for slots, etc.) I’d have to change how I write and what I write. Writing would become, well, hard, for me. Right now it isn’t. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I like what I write and how I write. I have a full-time day job that takes me out of the house for 40+ hours a week. I wedge my writing time in where I can. I love writing mysteries with funny and eccentric heroines and Beta males. I love my quirky romantic suspense books with heroes in their 50s and the women who love ‘em. And I love my paranormal series set on another planet, a planet I created because I was so fed up with what we’re doing to our own Mother Earth (hey – that’s a pitch for my latest book! I knew I could work that in somewhere!)

When I realized that—let’s be honest—I didn’t have what Big Publishers were looking for, I turned to small publishers and you know what? They welcomed me with open arms. They gave me multiple publishing slots a year. I have some rockin’ covers. And they support me in a lot of ways. Happy? You bet! Do I wish I was a Big Name Author on Big Seller Lists? Sometimes. But you know and I know that being on a list isn’t always the mark of success. I’ve got 5 books out this year, 5 next year, and I’m prepping 3 for 2012. I’m going to be around for a while. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a new Big Digital List someday and I’ll hit that chart.

I don’t think anyone can predict where we’ll be 5 years from now. If you had said 5 years ago that Dorchester would be going digital, and B&N would be for sale... So hang on, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.

Here’s a blurb for that latest book (set on the alternate planet). I have to warn you: Jak Exo is one of the best heroes I’ve ever written, all full of layers, and lies, and complexity (and damn sexy as well). I sort of fell in love with him myself...

Dru Delaney, one of the planetary Leaders of Delmorna, doesn’t quite trust Jak Exo, her co-Leader. Exo is too handsome, too kind, and too intelligent for the strong-willed Dru. When he announces he’s leaving to explore the uncharted Northern continent, Dru decides to go with him to keep a closer eye on the man. But what they find on that continent is more than just a lost civilization: they find passion, duplicity, and a secret that will shake the government and their society. Now Dru has to escape with her life – and her heart – intact …

Check out Living Proof, the second book in my New Human Intercession series. I think you’ll fall in love with Jak, too. It’s available in digital ( and print ( And if you wait a couple of days, it will be on Amazon, Fictionwise, etc., in digital (and print).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A new take on an old problem

Promo, thy name is Satan.

Or something like that. ::sigh:: I've whined about this before, but I really dislike doing promotions. I've tried all kinds of things: lists, blog 'tours,' posting here and there, and just ignoring promotion all together.

I'm trying something new. Every day I'm posting one mention/excerpt/idea to a Yahoo group, a different one every day. That's doable and it's something I rather enjoy. I'm also going to make an effort to find one or two places where I feel comfortable posting & 'hang out' there. I'd like to find one Yahoo group, one Amazon forum, and maybe one other spot on the web, and alternate chatting on those loops.

Why is this different? This time I'm focusing on something that might be kinda fun to do. This isn't a chore. It's something I would like to do. I'm no longer counting the hours that are subtracted from my free time. I'm making time for things I want to do. It's a change of attitude, more than anything. I used to resent having to steal time from my writing to do "Stuff." Well, I've found that if I keep my WIP percolating in the back of my mind, then the time I actually do end up writing is time that isn't wasted -- it's amazingly productive. So much so that I'm on target to finish writing 2 books by Labor Day, which is a goal I set for myself at Memorial Day.

I wasted a lot of time in June trying to wrestle my current manuscript onto a path that just didn't work. Now I'm relaxing, letting it write itself, and letting new plot ideas creep in. Consequently: I'm less stressed, the book is getting done, and I feel like I can spend time on other stuff: like promo.

Yep. It all comes back to getting the word out. I've got a new book coming out on Friday, I had one release in January, one release in April, one in June, and I'll have one in November. You counted right. Five books this year. That's a lot of promo.

So I'd better quit blogging about it and do it...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Testing testing testing

I'm messing around again with my blog, trying different settings.

I'll be curious to see if this works. Until then ... carry on as usual!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My 25th anniversary: let me count the ways

I was married 25 years ago today. We've had our ups and downs, but we're still together and I think we will be, into the foreseeable future.

How do I remember this? Let me count the ways:
  • 8 changes of address
  • 7 job changes for me
  • 9 job changes for him
  • 9 pets (4 still with us)
  • 16 books (me)
  • 3 more college degrees (me)
  • 1 college degree (him)
  • 8 sculptures (him) + many pieces of furniture
  • 2 fathers who died
  • 4 nieces, 1 nephew, 1 grand-nephew, 1 grand-niece
  • 50 lbs. gained; 40 lbs. lost (me). Sigh.
  • 2 states lived in (PA and MN)
  •  18 states visited
  • at least 20 home computers (I've lost count)
  • 2 total landscape make-overs
  • 8 cars (3 still with us)
What does that all add up to?

A life with someone who knows me as I am and can still tolerate me.