Monthly Archives: February 2011

Getting down to business…

c.e. grundler

This post marks a turning point. As of today, I am now a full-time writer. No longer will writing be relegated to whatever hours I can salvage from the rest of my day. I managed to write an entire book that way, but it was a matter of constant, exhausting perseverance. I’ve been moving towards this gradually for years and though recent events put things on fast-forward, ultimately this was long overdue. And now, at last, it’s time to really get down to the business of writing.

Writing is about more than simply putting some sentences in a presentable order, and it’s more than getting from ‘Page One’ to ‘The End.’ Writing is about reaching readers – in every sense of the word. It’s about creating something that resonates with an audience in a way that entertains, informs or enlightens. But to achieve that, one must actually reach readers.  If no one’s ever heard of you and your writing, it doesn’t matter how brilliant or suspenseful or moving a story might be. If no one’s reading it then you’ve hit a dead end.

lonely minion

I’m happy to say that Last Exit In New Jersey has been selling steadily despite my random and limited attempts at marketing. I’ve been fortunate, a few review blogs featured my book and their remarks were wonderful, which had the happy effect of attracting readers. A number of these kind readers then went on to post glowing reviews of their own or mention my book in discussion forums, fueling sales even further. Still, my rankings weren’t as high as I would have hoped, and they were clearly lower than some books I’d seen with less than flattering reviews.  But why? Was this simply a case of anti-Jersey bias, was there something I was doing wrong… or something these other authors were doing right? A little research revealed one constant for each of these authors: they maintained a strong online presence. They were blogging, on Facebook, on Twitter. More surprisingly, most of them weren’t even mentioning their own books! They were simply out there, interacting with readers and other authors.

Although I’ve blogged for years, when it came to these social platforms I had no idea where to begin. Time was a limited commodity and I needed a way to get up to speed fast. A few books I found focused on social networking as merely new platform to throw the traditional “buy this widget” approach at the masses. Books aren’t widgets. Books are thoughts and ideas. There had to be another way… and then I found Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone.”

For a social-media introvert, Kristen Lamb’s book provided me priceless guidance I needed. Kristen shows the hows and whys of marketing in a light-hearted, often laugh-out-loud manner that makes her lessons a delight. These days a social presence is essential, but the type of image you project is equally as vital. Kristen leads you through the steps needed to properly brand yourself. (And if you don’t know what that means, all the more reason to read this book.) For any writer trying to reach readers, her book is a must-read and one I highly recommend. Trust me, it will be money well-spent. And above and beyond her book, her blog offers regular installments of insight, guidance and humor. And the best part, in my opinion, is that her entire philosophy is based upon the concept of the more we reach out, the more we help one another, (her barn-raising analogy the other day says it perfectly) the more we all benefit. It’s such a positive, uplifting approach, one that rewards you with new friendships and connections even as you reach new readers and gain fans.

I read We Are Not Alone nearly a month ago and I had been meaning to post a review sooner, but time constraints and a cranky computer delayed me until now. With my new schedule I’ll be able to devote more time to applying all I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from Kristen. Some of you may have noticed subtle changes in my blog and an increased frequency of posts. You can reach me and follow me now on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. And I’m reaching out to others, making new friends, and loving every minute of it. While writing itself may be a very solitary process, being a writer doesn’t have to be. We truly are not alone!


Please stand by…

We are experiencing operating difficulties, as in the display on my faithful little netbook has taken to flickering and rolling like an old TV in need of an antena adjustment.  It started a month ago and has grown progressively worse; Thursday night it had finally reached unworkable.  I’ve backed up all data and tried the ‘reset back to factory settings’ in hopes that it was just a driver issue, but now I have a computer that knows nothing AND flickers, which leads me to believe it’s a hardware issue involving a ten pound cat regularly napping ontop of a 3 pound computer whenever the cover was down and my back turned. *Sigh* Fortunately I have an older but still working laptop – I just need to reload all my email settings, bookmarks and a few programs.  In the meantime this post is it for me communication-wise. All should be back in order in another day or two but for now it’s hit and miss. But yesterday was my last day of day-job, so I’m not stressing anymore!  🙂

A new chapter…

For the last few months I’ve felt as though I have been falling further behind. I know of other authors who had published around the same time as me; I’ve followed their success as their sales have risen and they’ve moved on to second and even third books.  I know I may have mentioned my strange writing schedules; I’m regularly up by 4:30 a.m., and staying up until midnight or 1:00 a.m. isn’t unusual, but the fact is if I truly wanted to write those were the only hours available. Yesterday I posted on  Write On The Water how for years I’ve pushed ahead with my writing even as I juggled the demands of a full-time day job, a family, house and the perpetual project boat. (In fact due to my present schedule I’ve recycled bits of that post here.) Writing has been a matter of determination, perseverance and sleep deprivation, but ever since publishing Last Exit In New Jersey last summer, I began to re-evaluate where I was headed these days, where I wanted to be, and how I planned to get there. The conclusion was clear: if I wanted to be serious about my writing and take it further, the day-job was holding me back.

Well, as of tomorrow afternoon, that will no longer be an issue.  It wasn’t so much a bold move as a result of cutbacks at work but the end result is the same… no more day-job. But rather than seeing this as a set-back, I’m viewing it as an opportunity to focus on my writing. At home we’d already crunched the numbers and we agreed; we could quite happily make do with less and I could put my energy into being a full-time not-just-in-my-non-existent-free-time author. So, kind readers, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from me from this point forward as I move ahead on a new chapter in life. This should be fun!

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

It’s 3 a.m. and once again I’m up, just as I am nearly every night. No, it’s not insomnia, at least not any more.  It’s Moxy.

Years ago we found a puppy on the streets of Queens, tied by a rope leash to a fence in an industrial area, clearly abandoned. She was an unruly little monster, sassy, stubborn and smart as hell. She has a dominant personality and immediately tried to call the shots with Luna and Nova, our two very well-mannered older dogs. And among the puppy challenges was housebreaking, so to help the new addition alert us when she needed to go out I hung a cord with bells from the back door in the kitchen. Moxy quickly learned that nosing those bells would result in the nearest human letting her out; once she grew tall enough she also discovered the doorbell button on the outside would get her back in.

Nearly 14 years later and those bells still remain. Luna and Nova both passed away after long lives and now it’s Moxy who is the old-timer, pestered by Rex and Loki, who quickly learned the ‘bell =  yard’ system.  And in her geriatric state, Moxy tends to like an early morning visit to the yard… very early. Every night, somewhere between midnight and 3 a.m., I’m woken to the incessant ringing of the bells on the back door. I can yell for her to go lay down but she won’t listen, she’s deaf as a brick these days. So I get up, let her out, and sit checking my email while she does her business. Sometimes I start writing… and sometimes I’m still writing even after she comes in.

Not tonight though. I’m going back to sleep now.

Scandalized in Atlantic City…

Atlantic City Inlet 1904 New Jersey PostcardOver the years I’ve acquired a few vintage postcards from New Jersey; they’re charming time capsules both visually and by the amusing little messages they share.  This is easily one of my favorites,with two graceful gaff-rigged sloops under sail and three more waiting scandalized at the dock.

Scandalized? Did they do something immoral or shocking? Absolutely not. But reducing sail area of by lowering the gaff or raising the boom is known as scandalizing. As I understand it the expression originated from the term ‘scantelize’, from scantle or ‘make small’. See? You never know what you might learn on my blog.

The other amusing detail on this card is the message. Look close and you can read, “My dear little boy –  I hope you are being a very good boy and having a nice time. Be good to Mildred – Mother”

It sounds to me like mom got away for a few days and left Junior at home.

Surface Tension by Christine Kling – Book Review

For the last few weeks I’ve been doing battle with seemingly endless rounds of snow, freezing rain, and a reoccurring bout of bronchitis that have all left me under the weather in one manner or another. Between sore muscles and a sore throat I’ve spent more time than usual wrapped in blankets and resting, thought there is one positive to it all. Unable to do much else beside recuperate, (it seems these cold meds are playing havoc with the ‘writing’ portion of my brain) I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on  my reading. My TBR list had grown quite sizable and it’s been enjoyable to escape into the pages of a good story such as Surface TensionChristine Kling’s books had been on my reading list long before Write On The Water ever found me; I’d heard from several friends that her Seychelle Sullivan series would appeal to me. Here’s the description from Publisher’s Weekly:

In this strong suspense debut, Seychelle Sullivan owns a salvage tug near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and makes a precarious living piloting luxury yachts and sportfishing boats in the Florida waters. When her radio picks up a distress call from the Top Ten, she hurries to the scene, hoping to net a windfall. The luxurious yacht is skippered by her former lover, Neal, who seems to have abandoned ship and left a dead body behind. Who is the dead girl, where is Neal, why do the police suspect Seychelle, and how much can she hope to recover for salvaging the yacht? When she finds her modest cottage has been searched and her stash of emergency money is missing, she figures Neal must be alive, hiding from the police or from the girl’s killer. The Top Ten’s representative offers a paltry sum to settle the salvage claim, so Seychelle decides to find out who the real owner is and go to arbitration. As the tension and suspense build, Seychelle’s existence becomes increasingly precarious. Kling vividly portrays a characteristic dichotomy of the Sunshine State-native Floridians trying to earn an honest living in an atmosphere where anything and anyone can be tainted by loan sharks, drug money or worse. As a female tugboat captain, Seychelle is one of the genre’s more unusual amateur sleuths, and Kling makes her one of its more endearing ones as well.

Hmmm.  A smart, tough, believable female protagonist, a tugboat captain running a salvage business in Fort Lauderdale, that sounds like my kind character. The story wasted no time diving right into the action and I was immediately hooked. Seychelle comes to life on the pages as both capable and likable, intelligent and take-charge, and Kling does a superb job of presenting scenes in vivid detail, both visually and emotionally, without slowing the story for one second. Without question, Kling knows her territory, both regionally and with boats, and this knowledge made this story all the more enjoyable.  Her writing flows in a smooth, un-distracting way that draws the reader right in there with her characters, which is perfect as this is a highly-character driven story. The characters themselves, from Seychelle to her friends, foes and beyond, are all well-fleshed out and multi-dimensional. The dialog is natural and believable, with a subtle range that distinguishes each of the various characters quite nicely. The plot is well paced; it unfolds in layers that weave together in a way that kept me guessing, and though I had my suspicions there were a few surprises that did a nice job of sneaking up on me. And the end wraps everything up in a very satisfying way – there’s no question I’ll be reading more from Christine Kling!

The Red Album of Abury Park (Remixed) – Review

The Red Album of Asbury Park (remix)

Not long ago, I posted a review of Alex Austin’s book on Goodreads, though as the weeks pass since I finished the The Red Album of Abury Park (Remixed) I find myself comparing it to books I’m currently reading and my own writing as well. There are stories that are read and just as quickly forgotten and there others that seem to resonate over time, books that bear reading again and again over the years. The Red Album is written in a way that draws the reader in, the words weave through the pages creating mood and atmosphere that goes beyond simple story-telling. This is a memorable book I know without question I’ll revisit again.

The writing and imagery throughout this book is amazing. There is a certain lyrical bitter-sweetness to the story and you feel for the characters as their lives unfold. The dialog is flawless, and though I read mention of it in other reviews I didn’t see cause for offense by any of the language used. It all feels genuine and natural, completely convincing. The story progresses in a gradual, subtle way, slowly enveloping the reader, and though at first I had no idea where things were headed I was compelled to keep reading. I enjoy stories where the author reveals details in a natural progression rather than throwing an info-dump on page 1. The writing is smooth and fluid, drawing you in as it pulls you along. For example:

The marsh spread uniformly pale green, except where patches of snow packed tightly against the reeds, fixed there by the bay wind that now whistled through the cracks in the wraparound rear windshield. Along the creek banks, thin sheets of ice melted into winding olive streams where gulls foraged for soldier crabs and edible garbage, a hundred gliding now under a dull winter sky. To the east, past a string of sand-swept houses, the bay spread towards the Amboys, gray and wind-blown like wrinkled aluminum foil.

Though the story occurred in the late 1960’s, certain elements are timeless. I’m familiar with the locations, many of which remain to this day and that added a personal element of enjoyment to the story. I have no musical background and though music is vital to much of the protagonist’s character I had no difficulty relating, perhaps because dreams and ambitions, no matter their form, are universal The mystery weaves through the plot and through the lives it affects and all comes together with a satisfying conclusion. What resonated with me most days after I finished reading was the author’s voice and the moods he creates. This is a gripping and complex story that will linger in your mind long after you put it down and one I highly recommend.