Wednesday, July 31, 2013
“How do you think Secret Sister ended?”
My dear friend Kathleen R. asked me this question when we were discussing my new book and the reviewer’s response to it. I was surprised at her question, and my first thought was, ‘what do you mean, how do I think it ended? I know how it ended. I wrote it.’
But of course her question was brilliant, as are most things Kathleen R. says are. And it got me thinking.
My opinion on how Secret Sister ends is just that, my opinion. I weaved hints, clues, and statements of fact throughout the 90,000 word novel. I ‘showed’, like all we authors try to do, what the various characters were thinking, mulling, and concluding about the very strange situation Cathy and Nick Chance found themselves in. And my opinion is solidly based on my reading (and writing) of this contemporary ‘trading places’ romance.
But that doesn’t make me the final word, or ‘right’. About any of it.
Authors tell their story, and if we do it well, the ending themes and situations are clear and factually grounded in the incidents that make up the story. Yet, I knew this but may have forgotten it, readers bring themselves to every story. The novels we immerse ourselves in reflect back into us, illuminating each of our unique life experiences. They let us confirm, and question, our positions on life and love, and innocence and guilt, and on all the wonderful complexity of the human soul.
How many wonderful arguments have each of us had over the years about a particular character’s true motives or emotional make-up? I’ve had several heated ones in my critique group about New Yorker magazine short stories, books and numerous films…some of the most heated about characters in each of our books! “What do you mean he’s a sniveling weakling, I think this shows he’s empathetic,” I believe is an exact comment I uttered. Possibly more than once. (My male characters are very in touch with their feminine side. HA!)
The reviews about Secret Sister have certainly proven this to me…I have been shocked at readers judging the book as ‘intense’ or ‘painful’. I’ve loved that most find the plot really hooks them and they can’t figure out how it’s going to end. But I’ve also been unhappy that some have pretty much hated my characters ‘at one time or another’ when reading. How could they hate these folks, I wondered? Yes, they are flawed and make mistakes, and are a bit self-involved, but… Okay, I just read that and realize, yeah, readers could hate them. Some of the time (the author wrote hopefully).
But why did some readers love these guys, and others not? But of course, Kathleen R.’s comment is the answer. The words of the story touched something in each of the readers, something unique and wonderful in their memory or heart, something I may not have intended, but something real for that reader. And real for the reader is real. Reading is a collaborative sport, and the author doesn’t get to complain about what a reader concludes. No matter what.
So, as for the ending of Secret Sister? Cupcake’s review on Goodreads and Amazon said, “The ending is not as neat as it appears, and you will find yourself asking "what if ..."
This, in my somewhat shocked opinion as a writer, is a valid take away. It wasn’t consciously designed to be an ending open to interpretation. But I realize that, if I tell the honest truth, a case can be made for Secret Sister’s final scene to prove almost the opposite of what I intended.
Ahhh…the subconscious mind. All those experiences in my life, rising up and ambushing my good narrative intentions. Or, fulfilling them?
The bottom line is ‘Yay readers’. They get the final say what your book ‘means’. It is what the reading experience is really all about. Thank you, Kathleen R., for reminding me of this.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
This week the Rockville 8 (http://rockville8.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-long-and-winding-road-to-being.html) welcomes Emelle Gamble! She's been an invaluable resource for me, personally, and I am thrilled about her new book, Secret Sister, hitting the virtual shelves. You can find her at www.EmelleGamble.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Emelle.Gamble
On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble went on sale at Amazon.
It's my first new book for sale in over a decade. I won’t bore you with the details of why this is (but it is spelled L-I-F-E), but let me say that, while it's just as exciting now being a ‘new author’ as it was the first time, it’s also a lot more nerve-wracking and challenging the second time around.
In my past life as Harlequin Intrigue writer M.L. Gamble, when I got a new idea for a book (always the ending first, then the title), I’d get a thrilling, chilling little ‘pop’ of excitement inside my head. Sharp inhale. I knew the creative process had begun.
Very soon after that I’d begin plotting, outlining, and note card noting…The evenings saw the first pages blooming on my computer screen, the next weeks would find me bundling those exciting ‘first three’ chapters off (surely they were perfect) to my critique group. This would be followed by hearing from my honest, supportive and encouraging critique group that the chapters were, in fact, not perfect. So I wrote and rewrote, suffered middle book malaise, last chapter loathing, and re-evaluation jitters, but completed the first draft. And the second draft. And the fifth draft.
A few days before the contract deadline (most of the time) I printed the whole thing out on paper. Addressed a big-ass envelope. Drove to the United States Post Office. Bought postage and insurance (“It’s a manuscript, I’m a writer.” This sentence was always worked into conversation with the postal worker). Watched the now impressed (surely) postal employee throw the package in a bin, giddy with the knowledge it was going to end up on my New York Editor’s desk in 48 hours.
Over the next few months, after a couple of exchanges of edits, and proofed copy checks, art approval (which meant saying, “Yes, I like it” even though my concept of a hot guy on a motorcycle turned into a psycho bowler - see If Looks Could Kill cover), the creative work was done.
Then four to six months later there would be a knock on the door and you’d get a box of books. Beautiful books. Your books. This was the reason for the long hours and hard work. (The reason you lived!)
Exhale. Delirium. My book will be read, my story will be shared. I’m a new author.
Now, ten years later, the creative process hasn’t much changed, except for the fact it’s done electronically instead of on paper. But everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else has changed.
Though I am still contracted with a publisher, albeit a smaller one, in this new publishing environment I immediately discovered that there was much, much more I had to do to give my new book a chance of success. For many publishing houses now no longer support authors as they did in the Wizard of Oz olden days when I was at Harlequin. Publishers expect you, as an author, especially a new author, to not only write a great book, but hunt down your prospective readers and introduce yourself..
On behalf of Secret Sister, I’ve personally contacted hundreds of blogs, review sites and readers with email pitches for review consideration. I’ve asked friends, family members, and fellow authors to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, and have offered to spend the time required to read others’ books and return the favor.
I’ve spent many, many hours working with a pro to set up a website, without a pro to set up a Facebook Author page, a twitter account, a Goodreads Author account. And a blog. (Worth the ten hours it took figuring that out just to see the look on hubby’s face when I explained what a blog was. HA!)
I’ve designed storyboards to help create a book trailer and put it up on YouTube. I’ve talked to half a dozen local book sellers, three librarians, and two newspaper columnists about Secret Sister. I’ve spent money on a website, book covers, copy editors, and a top notch review/ARC giveaway site, Netgalley. I’ve spent money on a Facebook ad campaign and a Goodreads ad campaign and a publicity Blog tour campaign with a highly recommended company named Goddess Fish Promotions. (And I have the surreal Paypal receipt for the IRS to prove it!) I spent money on an ‘expert’ social media consultant who advised me to do everything I’d already done. And frankly, I have no idea if any of this effort is going to result in my finding an audience for Secret Sister.
Which brings me back to Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Exhale. Delirium. My book is being read, my story is being shared. I’m a new author. AGAIN.
Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble is a romantic novel with a paranormal twist. It came to me (with that thrilling, chilling little pop of excitement) when I thought of a single question… “ What if everything about you changed, would your true love recognize you?”
It’s a contemporary story set in Southern California about Nick and Cathy, happily married. And Cathy and Roxanne, best friends forever. It’s about faith and friendship and true love, secrets and lies and the ties that bind. And an extraordinary twist of fate.
It’s a brand new book from a brand new author in this brand new world. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
What not to do at RWA in Atlanta?
Do NOT spill 10 pounds of shrimp on your shoes at Nora Robert’s party.
I’m sure you are nodding as you read the above, and thinking, “Well, what kind of dolt would do that?”
It was a few years ago, and Ms. Roberts had graciously invited her home chapter of RWA to join her and her many other guests for cocktail hour in her suite.
It was perfect…view out the windows glorious, delicious and varied spread of cheeses and dips and seafood, waiters with drinks on gleaming trays, fabulous clothes and sparkling party jewelry. The room was packed with well-known and much loved writers, very important editors, publicists and fans and fellow WRW members like me who were thrilled to mingle and have a couple of munchies and a fortifying drink before the Awards Ceremony.
I was nervous, as always, like most of us there, hoping to make an impression on those we wanted to do business with. I had my elevator pitch ready and my new high heels on and was keeping my eyes peeled for an editor I was dying to chat up. I decided I’d grab a drink, but realized sensibly it would be much smarter to first take a lovely little cocktail plate and grab a few bites. The line was forming, shoulder to shoulder hungry writers were starting to queue up, and I somehow, with a graceful step or three, managed to plant myself right in front of an amazing display of shrimp.
A gorgeous silver bowl of the plumpest, freshest, yummy little creatures sat on a table covered with crushed ice, the enormous bowl tilted just so one could poke a toothpick in and spear one without any effort at all. Plate in one hand, toothpick in the other, I first spooned on a tablespoon of lovely red cocktail sauce, then speared a shrimp.
I plopped it on the plate and frowned, not sure but wondering, did the silver bowl gently, oh so freaking gently, begin to turn on its bed of ice? I thought it might have, no more than a degree clockwise, if I remember right. The room was warm, the ice was melting just a bit, but no problem. Surely.
I speared a second shrimp. When I picked the thing up from the mountain where it perched with a thousand of it’s lovely pink buddies, disaster.
Like card 101 in a design that could only ever balance 100, the silver bowl of shrimp moved again. Wildly. The thing took a full, dizzying ninety-degree spin, and one second later tipped forward and spilled at least half its content onto the table, onto the table cloth, onto the floor of Ms. Nora Robert’s suite.
And onto my totally shocked and humiliated feet.
It made quite a noise. A crash, actually. Ice, silver, shrimp, glass. I don’t know what broke, but something did.
One hundred people fell silent. And then an anonymous voice from across the room asked gently, “Is everyone thinking, Thank god I didn’t do that?”
Which was hilarious at the time to everyone but the woman with seafood stuck between her toes.
In an instant a waiter in a black coat appeared at my elbow. He smiled at me and then spoke into a walkie-talkie, which appeared in his hand as if by magic.
“We have a shrimp emergency,” he said. Clicking sounds. Static sounds. Then a disembodied voice asked, “Is there sauce involved?” The waiter met my eyes. He looked relieved. “No, no sauce.”
Many more people in black coats appeared. The shrimp was cleaned up. Replacement bowls of the jumbo little devils arrived. The hostess was gracious and kind and did not have me thrown out of her penthouse window. She waved me to come over to where she stood, sympathetic and smiling, and had me sit down while people brought me drinks.
Later that evening, after all the fun, I had an excellent discussion with the editor I was chasing, but it centered on faux pas in public, not my book. I believe she said me vs the shrimp was the worst she had ever witnessed. Ha.Ha.Ha.
Yay! I made an impression!
Okay, so lesson learned and duly passed onto fellow Conference goers. “Step away from the shrimp”, as my dear critique partner, Elaine Fox, now whispers in my ear whenever we’re in a buffet line anywhere.
Especially if the sneaky devils are in a bowl on an ice display, intent on proving Al Gore is totally right about Global Warming.
Especially if the sneaky devils are in a bowl on an ice display, intent on proving Al Gore is totally right about Global Warming.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
I just got a royalty check for $2.29.
Break out the champagne! I’m not kidding…
I got my first royalty check in the early 1990s. It was for about $4,000. Celebration all around. Bills paid. A vacation with the kids. Feelings of euphoria…I had done it. I really was a professional writer, earning money for stories I’d made up!
All told, I sold about 800,000 books over ten years writing for Harlequin Intrigue, books made of paper. Books translated into French, German, Japanese, Icelandic (a surprise) and Turkish. The Turkish version was about 120 pages while the English language original was about 300, so I always wondered about how they’d so effectively edited…but I digress (not, alas, unusual for me).
My last royalty check from my life as M.L. Gamble was in early 2002. It was for less than the first, and was for the residuals on the seven novels I wrote for Harlequin Intrigue. Still a nice little amount, in my opinion. But as I’d taken a sabbatical from trying to publish new books and was concentrating on family demands and a new career, I knew it would probably be the last. For awhile, I told myself. I knew I had more books in me, because I was a writer. A professional writer. And, like the cliché says, writers write.
Now it’s 2013 and I am indeed writing for money, a professional writer once again. And money is part of why I write. Not the biggest part. I’ve gotten over the starry-eyed hope for huge money. But a part. My main focus is to do good books, develop a new following of readers who like my ordinary heroines who are confronted by extraordinary situations. But money is certainly an affirming, ‘professional writer’ component.
So, when I opened an envelope from the wonderful agency that represented my work as M.L. Gamble and found a check for $2.29, money earned for two e-versions of those seven paper books I’d written so long ago, my heart lifted. I smiled. I waved the check at the always-supportive-happy-with-any-success-at-all man I love and said, “Look, money!”
We laughed and hugged and did a fist tap. Told the beautiful daughter in London via g-chat, who woot-wooted across an ocean. Told the son in person, who grinned.
“You’re back,” he said. I am.
And that’s why we broke out the champagne.
Because after a decade out of the game, after a couple of years of researching and grappling with all this new, fabulously challenging and terrifying reality of publishing books NOT made of paper, I had earned $2.70. And I’d paid my old agent their cut, $.41. Happily. The new reality of what it takes to publish, and what form a book exists in when it is published, had changed completely. But that dear little check reminded me that I hadn’t changed.
I’m still a professional writer.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Kindle v Book…I’ve seen the future and it's kind of scary
Not liking it so much, that new lightweight high-tech pal of mine. Kindle.
'Kind' plus 'le'? Kindly? Is that what they were going for?
Let's Google it.
"Amazon Kindle is a software and hardware platform for reading electronic books (e-books), developed by Amazon.com subsidiary Lab126, first launched in the United States on November 19, 2007. Two hardware devices, known as "Kindle" and "Kindle 2," support this platform, as does an iPhone application called "Kindle for iPhone."
The Kindle hardware devices use an electronic paper display and download content over Amazon Whispernet using the Sprint EVDO network. Kindle hardware devices can be used without a computer, and Whispernet is accessible without any fee. These devices also provide free internet access to Wikipedia."
Okay, gut reaction.