Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you.

O. Henry, The Ransom of Red Chief

"And get me the sales figures off your royalty statements."

My agent needed the stats on my publishing history. Denise Marcil and I have been together since she established her agency in a fifth floor Manhattan walkup and I'd traded my five floor climb in Boston's Back Bay for a drafty South Shore antique cape.

Over the past 20+ years she's relocated up & down the island. I've bounced between the head of the Ohio River, the Delaware & Massachusetts Bay. During one of her moves her agency sent me what they had of my royalty statements. During one of mine I packed and forgot about all but the most recent. (Who can make sense of them anyway? Perhaps here is the appropriate place to mention that the closest I ever came to divorce was my annual shoebox-0f-receipts-to-my-accountant/husband at tax time.)

Last week when 27 years of semi-annual reports proved too much for my office floor & lower back, I moved my project to the sunroom table. There I broke pencil points, tapped my calculator, recorded foreign sales, and thumbed through honest-to-goodness bound ledgers and green "eye-ease" three column accounting paper. I found 2 titles I forgot I'd written. Apparently I was huge in Hungary and Bulgaria in the mid-90s. 545,000 copies of DEREK in 6 months.

The day before I left for Thanksgiving, I gave thanks and sent Denise the totals. It seems I've sold an estimated 2, 745, 525 books in c.9 languages.

It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you~~the editor at Barnes & Noble's Nook First thinks so, too.

The best of times, the worst of times, a pinch of wisdom, a pint of foolishness...
during a simmering summer on Lake Allamuchy

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

And it was eleven years of rejections, revisions & revisiting.

It was cold readers & two critique groups pointing out too much of this (flashbacks); too little of that (tension). Hawking. Rethinking. Rewriting. And it was reminding myself of what I knew to be true: I had a story to tell.

It was also my agent Denise Marcil who agreed with me, loved the book & in all that time never gave up, and Katie Kotchman, a college intern when this all started, and now an agent in her own right.

Have I mentioned technology not yet invented? (They actually put that in your contracts)Well they invented it. And now THE CHICK PALACE is a December 26th launch title for Barnes & Noble's Nook First


The best of times, the worst of times, a pinch of wisdom and a pint of foolishness

during a simmering summer on Lake Allamuchy

Sunday, November 20, 2011


As we gear up for America's ultimate travel week, I'm reminded that I first searched for Goldbug in this beloved classic 30+/- years ago.

*So many times that when the Duxbury Free Library ordered a fresh one, our children's librarian gave my 2 youngest what they already considered their own tattered, dog-eared copy.

*So many times it was conversation fodder among us nursery school parents.

I was Mommy then. I'm Marmie now & on the hunt again.

Last Christmas our friend Bill gave a freshly minted edition to my favorite toddlers. Now a second generation of diminutive index fingers points and pounds. "There's Goldbug!" I tell them Mistress Mouse (my teenage nickname) in her pink tow truck is Marmie Mouse. (Oh that I were so car savvy!)

Personalizing picture books is one of the joys of reading aloud. We make them our own. We make them our stories.

This week when things that go get me where I'm bound, I'll give thanks.
*For parents who read to me
*For a country that supports a system of free libraries
*For Story Hours everywhere

and especially for family & friends who share the journey

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another inky evening's here...

the air is cool and calm and clear.
Brian Lies, Bats at the Library

As I am temporarily otherwise occupied, this seems a serendipitous moment to post:

It is never too early or too late to introduce someone you love to the joy of collecting books autographed by our current crop of extraordinary writers & illustrators.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Call Me Ishmael.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

All fiction worth the turn of the page has its ping, ping, pings that alter the rhythm & pace enough to make the reader take notice. I sprinkled in a merry handful but by Chapter Seven The Chick Palace needed a jolt. I knew what to add & into my head popped the perfect opening-line-from-a-novel as the chapter title.

I've never read Moby-Dick & I got to wondering about Ishmael so with a few taps on my keyboard I suspended my protagonists Johanna and Lilly in novel-in-progress-land.

I let Wikipedia transport me~~through Melville's first paragraph anyway. From there I thought about Ishmael as an unreliable narrator & Nathaniel Philbrick's riveting In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. And here we are a few years later. My novel's complete and Nat's come out with Why Read Moby-Dick? I intend to find out. Serendipity.

For reasons explained in my preceding post, Ishmael and his opening line will not appear in my novel. Instead it's plain old~~

Chapter Seven: Lilly

When Johanna called Tuesday afternoon, I was fixing to pull the pepperoni off Monday night’s half eaten pizza and call it late lunch or early supper.

My own unreliable narrator and her own snazzy way with words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If you really want to know the truth about it...

...the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

It seemed a good idea at the time.

Originally each chapter of The Chick Palace opened with the first line of a novel. Sometimes I had the chapter written and then researched novels. Sometimes I found great opening lines and wrote chapters with them in mind. (Not one of my better ideas)

Writers enjoy this kind of diversion, this writer especially. It’s writer-ly. It’s research, a sanctioned alternative to the butt-in-chair, writing-the-book business that tends to depress us when words won't come, or words fall flat.

Plus it got me back to a favorite haunt~~the book exchange at our local dump-cum- recycling/transfer station. Everything from bestsellers to academic texts to remnants of many a townsperson’s personal library stocks the shelves. More than a few of my books for kids have shown up in the ever-revolving children’s section.

I found some ideal first lines at the book exchange. Sometimes it segued right into a productive day at the keyboard. Alas, my agent nixed the first-line-from-another-novel concept so now I’m left with my sterling collection.

Perhaps a better idea, if you really want to know the truth about it, would be to start my blogs with them.