Monday, November 30, 2009

a new horizon

It's seems that I've shared an opinion about the Harlequin Horizons debacle everywhere but on my own blog. And although the conversation seems to have faded into the back of the fridge along with the leftover turkey, I thought I'd put my two cents here anyway.

In a nutshell, Harlequin, publisher of romance novels galore, attempted to get a piece of the self publishing action by partnering with Author Solutions to form Harlequin Horizons. Rejected by Harlequin? Well, for approximately 600 bucks, you could have your romance novel published through this press instead.

But wait, hold on. Apparently there was a little bait and switch going on. Because the moment you're roped into thinking you've got the Harlequin name attached to your book (and they've got your money), Harlequin fills in the rest. Oh yeah, but we won't distribute your book. And we won't support you at conferences, readings, etc. And we won't list you with our regular Harlequin authors. You'll have the HH name, but it's not really us.

In other words,
Come here come here come here...
Get away get away get away.

Suddenly, everyone went batshit. The literary agents went batshit. The Harlequin authors went batshit. The Romance Writers of America went batshit. Words like "slush pile" and "not good enough for the real Harlequin label" were being tossed around like Fabio's hair in an ocean breeze. Worse still, the words "self-publishing" and "vanity publishing" were being interchanged the way one might interchange the words "dinner" and "supper".

We even got into a debate about it on Stacey Cochran's web show "Book Chatter."

At the end of the day, it was literary agent Nathan Bransford who made the most sense:
Setting aside this controversy for a moment and the specifics of Harlequin's operation, let me just say that in principle I don't think publishers facilitating self-publishing is necessarily such a bad thing. However, there should be complete transparency, fair pricing, total disambiguation between traditional publishing arms and self-publishing arms, and every good faith attempt made to educate writers about the difference between the two. This industry obviously needs new revenue streams, and provided that the publisher's program is genuinely nonexploitive and transparent I don't see the problem, and I don't see why publishers should continue to cede ground to self-publishing companies when they have every capacity to provide the same service. It just has to be done correctly.
YES! Rock on, man.

P.S. Harlequin took so much flak that they removed their name from Horizons. But the damage has been done, and there are a few things that have left a bad taste in my mouth.

No doubt, Harlequin's model was flawed and unethical. But I can't fault them for doing what other publishing companies are failing so colossally at: trying to cash in on the independent publishing market. Sadly, they're going the same route as the music industry, having learned nothing from their mistakes. As my brother said about the music industry, "They are trying to respond to a way of life that doesn't seem to be controllable." I don't have an accurate source to back up this next quote, but I read that "For the first time since figures have been kept, print-on-demand titles outpaced traditionally-published titles in 2008."

And yet, the RWA, literary agents, and traditional publishers continue to marginalize independent authors like myself.

By interchanging "self-published" with "vanity published," this Web 2.0 model (as Stacey Cochran loves to call it), and authors who take advantage of it, continue to be stigmatized beyond measure. Nevermind that my Kindle sales of Faking It outnumber my print sales by 90%, and that I've been ranked in the top 2000 Kindle Store sales all month. Nevermind that two of last year's bestsellers in Japan were written on cellphones.

Agents constantly blog about how they turn down good writing all the time. One even recently wrote about how disappointed she was to turn down a high-quality piece of work because she had no idea how she would be able to sell it. And yet, in the midst of the HH frenzy, all I kept hearing about was "slush piles" and "authors not good enough for Harlequin" -- whoa -- double standard? Way to raise us up and smack us down! Despite the major success I've had this month, this little voice of shame echoed somewhere in the back of my mind, "You're still a sub-par author. Without a contract from a major publishing house, without your book in a brick-&-mortar Barnes and Noble, no one will ever take you seriously."

How wrong that voice is.

What does it say about the state of traditional publishers if they're turning down good work because they have no room for it, or can't sell it, and then resent those same talented writers for finding their own way of doing what the traditional publishers insisted they couldn't?

The music industry is down to about four major corporations trying to dictate what music product is most marketable, but fans aren't buying it anymore. Is seems that the publishing industry is stuck in this same hole.

I'm not saying that traditional publishers are bad, or anything like that. But more and more I'm questioning the validity of the notion that signing with an agent and a traditional publisher is far more preferable than independently publishing. If nothing else, it's six of one, half-a-dozen of another, as far as pros and cons go. Trashing either option is not wise, but I think criticism is important so that both can work to produce the best quality product that makes money for authors and publishers alike, and serves the consumer.

There are plenty of crappy, self published books out there. About as many crappy, traditionally published books, I'm guessing. The average run of a book isn't in the millions, like Stephen King novels or whatever Oprah's peddling. No, a successful run is considered 5000-10,000 copies sold. The average is probably even less than that, I'll bet. It no longer matters whether the book was published by Random House or

So here's my final word, in sum. I applaud every author who has landed an agent and traditionally published. The majority of you worked damn hard for that. But I also applaud every indie author who used a POD and then pounded the pavement to bring their book to the masses. The majority of you worked damn hard, too. Nathan Bransford said the rest of it for me, but dammit, every author, regardless of where or how he/she published, deserves some respect. And dammit, at the end of the day, every book, be it an e-book, a POD, or a traditionally published hardback, should be valued by the quality of its content, and not the place from where it came.

To all you readers, writers, agents, and editors: make it about that, and everybody wins.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thank-you notes

From The West Wing epsiode "Shibboleth":
C.J.: They sent me two turkeys. The most photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children’s zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.

BARTLET: If the Oscars were like that, I’d watch.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd devote this week's post to just a few of the things I'm thankful for this year.

I'll start with the superficial: my books. Faking It was released a year ago, and what a year it's had! I had a vision of how many copies I wanted to sell, and my vision was actualized in ways I never expected. I never expected that people all over the country (even out of the country!) would read my novel. I never expected to get messages from people I never met expressing how much they enjoyed the book, how appreciative they were for Andi and Devin, how they told their friends and family about it. I remember my hand shaking the first time I signed a copy of Faking It for someone who was neither a friend nor a family member, and that's when it hit me: My God, I'm a published author.

Ordinary World is having a fabulous debut on Kindle this month, and my vision for its success is already shaping up in a similar manner to Faking It. What's more, I'm already turning my attention to novel three. Oh, the possibilities!

Being a writer.
Every once in awhile, I experience a moment of pure presence and awe in which I look at what I've written and marvel at how it happened, where it came from, and if it'll happen again. My brother knows this all too well. In fact, it happens every time I listen to one of his songs. I'm moved by his ability to make something so wonderful, something that brings me instant joy--even the sad songs.

The act of creation is both mystical and magical. It requires skill, craft, time, patience, and practice, but there's always this X-factor, this thing that is odorless and tasteless and colorless and is part of every creation. The big bang, if you will. Writing is work, but it is a labor of love. I love being a writer.

Other writers.
You make me good at what I do. Nuff said.

For every blogger who hosted me during the summer, for every person who referred me to someone else, for Quail Ridge Books and Baker Books and Canio's Books, who said yes to stocking my novel, a thousand thank-yous! Independent bookstores need to keep breathing. Kindles are cool, but books are precious objects, and indy stores are run by people who love them so dearly. (And by the way, books make great gifts!)

Yes, you. You, the reader of Faking It and Ordinary World and "I'll Have What She's Having" and my undoubtedly stupid tweets or status updates. You, who leaves comments on my blog on a regular basis. You, who listens to me spout on and on about Aaron Sorkin and Duran Duran and Chris Noth and Gilmore Girls and pop tarts and my twin brother and chocolate chip cookies and the Yankees and coffeeshops and vanilla chai at Mirasol's Cafe and all the other things that exist in my own little playhouse in my brain. And you, who agrees to play along. I couldn't have come this far without you. I couldn't have had a reason to keep writing were it not for you. If I didn't believe you were out there to begin with, Faking It would probably still be sitting in a drawer. I may have originally written it for me, but I most definitely wanted to share it with you.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. But it's a start.
Thank you, friends. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

for what it's worth...

For what it's worth, Roberto Scarlato is a writer who is not only a witness to but a participant in life -- more specifically, the human condition.

Rob first contacted me about six months ago and invited me to appear on his blog, Tales and Troubled Times of a Hungry Writer. And believe it or not, I had been reluctant to accept his invitation. "I'm a chick lit writer," I quipped. "Your blog seems to appeal to a much different audience and genre."

Looking at Rob's blog and reading his posts, one could see that he had an affection for literary science fiction, the greats like Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury (my knowledge of Matheson extends only as far as the fantastic Twilight Zone epsiodes of the early 60s, and my twin brother fills me in on the rest). But I could also see something else: Rob Scarlato loves the craft of writing, and loves writers, too.

So, we gave each other a shot.
Since then, Rob has become one of the Faking It Fans, and always puts in a good word whenever he can. So it was without hesitation that I snagged a copy of For What It's Worth immediately after hearing of its release.

Ever thoughtful of my preferences, Rob directed me to particular stories in the collection. The first one I read was "The Subtle Teachings of Mr. Rifa."
Of course.
I connected with this character right away, but I don't think it was only because he was a teacher. There was something I understood about him, and I understood the construction of the story.

The next story I read was "Failing Upwards," a hilarious comedy of errors for a poor schmoe who, in the end, lives to see another day after a calamitous interaction with a staircase. Readers are also witnesses in Rob's story world, and one can't help but watch this guy without both feeling sorry for him and laughing at his expense.

But perhaps the most imaginative story for me was "Your Escape Plan Now" -- a set of directions for a corporate prisoner to make a break! Here, the reader is the traveling companion, even the participant, rather than the observer. Interestingly, Rob wrote the story in one sitting, and the reader certainly feels like he/she is on a rollercoaster. I couldn't help but wonder about this intended reader -- does he make it out (and it felt like it was written for a "he")? What if he is snagged somewhere? How do we know? It is up to our own imaginations to continue or end the story as we see it.

Don't like those? You have 16 more to choose from. The book even comes with author's notes at the very end, which I recommend saving for last, to give the reader an insight look to Rob's insights and inspirations. Overall, the collection is solid, and the mark of a writer who is well on his way.

Give For What It's Worth a try, especially if you are a fan of the short story genre, science fiction, or the human condition.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a conversation with Roberto Scarlato, author of FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH

Roberto Scarlato is a writer's writer. He loves being around writers, loves talking to writers, and loves talking about writing. He's also a reader's writer. He understands the relationship between a writer and a reader, or a reader and a character, and more often than not he is one of those readers.

Rob is currently promoting his latest collection of short stories, For What It's Worth. Please enjoy the following interview.

Tell us a little about yourself and where you're from.

Originally I'm from Dolton, Illinois. After a fire that took our house, which my family and I managed to escape unscathed, we moved to a small town. When I mean small I mean small town. It's a place where rumors are considered testament. Everyone knows, or thinks they know everyone else's buisness. I don't feel comfortable in saying the name of my hometown but I will tell you that it wouldn't be a place you would want to visit.

At what point in your life did you know you were going to be a writer? Was it something inherent, or did it hit you over the head?

I wanted to be a filmmaker at first. I had all these crazy cool ideas for movies and short films but I would run into problems along the way. No budget and not enough actors. Instead, the ideas fizzled out or never got made. I started writing in high school. My freshman year. Four different ideas hit me over the head. I figured, hell, if I can't make the movies that I want I might as well write them how I picture them in my head. Then see if everyone else sees the same picture as I do.

What do you like most about being a writer? What do you like least?

There are so many things I love about writing. I like threading stories together, getting struck by an interesting Idea, experimenting with characters, using real life dialogue and situations within my story, leaving clues for the reader to figure out. I can go on forever. I love being able to get lost in a story from a writer's standpoint. The thing I like the least is I have too many ideas and not enough time to write when I want to. Plus the paperwork. The paperwork always piles up.

I'm sure you get writer's block like most writers. How do you overcome it?

Whenever I used to get stuck on a story, I'd just quit and let the story percolate for a while. No need to shove when the door's not gonna open, right? I'd take walks, hang out with friends. Anything to get my mind off of the story. Now I've come up with different strategies. Music. Music is key. listen to one good song that represents the theme of your story, close your eyes and picture what the movie trailer of your idea would look like. Imagine the highlights, the best scenes and you'll come up with something. Or you can work on something else, go to the next idea in your stockpile. Also, pick up a copy of The Ultimate Book of Top Ten Lists. My girlfriend got me that book to help me with the block. It works! I don't know why, but it does!

Tell us about your writing process -- do you revise a lot? get feedback in the early stages or later stages? write during a particular time of day? Etc.

I revise as I write. It works better that way. When a story of mine is 90 percent to where I want it to be, I'll show my girlfriend. I'm glad to say she's been my muse from the very first moment I started writing. She likes it when I'm clever in a story. That gives me a high. Then I know my story has an edge. I used to write from the hours of 11pm to 6am. Those were the best hours. I'd write pages upon pages without stopping. Now I just write whenever I have time.

Do you have a specific audience in mind when you write?

My audience is a theatre of two. Just my girlfriend and I. I write a story to experiment, but I always keep in mind ways of surprising her when she reads something of mine. From the very first novel I started writing, she was encouraging me to write more. I only had nine chapters to start with when I was writing. She would ask almost every day what happens next? It just took off from there.

Who are your favorite authors and/or books, and why?

Richard Matheson, Brad Melzer, Jospeh Heller, Richard Bach, Ron Base and Stephen King. These guys are at the top of their game and I've been heavily influenced by their work. I love I am Legend from Matheson. He was so realistic with that story, it gave me chills. Matheson is also a master of short stories. Read "Button, Button" and "The Holiday Man." Those were very different. Brad melzer has snappy dialogue. Joseph Heller has remarkable wit. With Richard Bach, I just feel like his writing is very fluid. Ron Base, as far as I know, only wrote one book. But his book Magic Man was one I simply could not put down.

What are you currently reading?

My reading list is very large and always growing. But right now I'm in the middle of
13 Bullets by David Wellington
Schemers by Bill Pronzini
S is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

Tell us about FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH revolves around the theme of human survival and the struggle that we all face when trying to figure out who we are and what our place in life might be. I wrote these 19 different stories to experiment with different genres and different life stories. I wanted to know what would happen if fire became invisible. Or what would happen if a supernatural invention wound up in the real world where two misfits toy around with it. Mostly, this collection was a way for me to understand my characters better and to give everyone little tastes of what I want to bring to the writer's table. I'm always trying to make the experience different.

Do you have a favorite story in your collection (or would that be like asking a parent to pick a favorite child)?

I'd say the one I hold near to my heart would be Failing Upwards. That one was really fun to write. I just wanted everything in that story to be chaotic but at the same time laughable. Second to that would be Graveyard Shifters. I had to do some research for that one and liked how it turned out. I also learned a lot more about Edgar Allen Poe and the oddity of his death. Those are my babies.

Can you tell us about "Your Escape Plan" -- where did you get the idea for it? (It felt like something Ray Bradbury might have thought of -- very imaginative!)

If you are able to hear a thud, that would be me hitting the floor. I'm humbled that you would put me and Ray Bradbury in the same category. I got the idea by forcing myself to write a Sci-Fi story in one sitting. I wanted to make it different than everything I've read so I thought, why not make it a personal document? Why not instructions? But at the same time I wanted the reader to decide whether Allen Quixote made it out of that facility. It was thrilling to write but it played hell with my back. I wrote that story on my laptop, on the floor, laying on my stomach. I thought, I'm not getting up until this story is finished. I like to make writing challenging.

Tell us about the character Mr. Rifa from "The Subtle Teachings of Mr. Rifa." What goes into creating a character?

That character was a combination of all the teachers who inspired me throughout high school and college. One day I thought I'd write a story to pay tribute to them. What came out was a teacher who went a little too far while trying to kill a fly but, over the course of five chapters, while recovering in the hospital with a broken leg, learns some valuable lessons about life. I've already shown the story to one of my teachers and he loved it. Even went as far as saying, "I am very impressed. What gives you the right- at your age- to write so well about subjects about which you can not possibly have any experience?" I laughed my ass off. I guess it just goes to show that if your teacher is really interesting, you'll pay attention.

"The Nature of a SecondHand" was intriguing. I found it interesting that you wrote it in twelve parts. Tell us about that one. What is happening to the protagonist in that story? Who, or what, is the antagonist?

That one is sort of my twilight zone story. I'd like to sit in crowded bookstore with the lights dimmed reading this to people on Halloween. It's just bizarre. Don't know what I was thinking when I wrote it. But I knew it had to be in twelve parts. This may be different from other interpretations but I think that Cecil Weet is being haunted by an entity called Chronos. This particular apparition has the power to manipulate time. I wanted to toy with that concept, being haunted by time. Like I said, something different. When he gets up close to the clock he finds that Chronos is really two miniature men hiding in the clock. They are the specters of time. They wanted him to join him and he does. My girlfriend thinks that Cecil was going mad and having hallucinations echoing that his time was coming to an end.

What's next for you?

Glad you asked. Right now I'm preparing another book for release which will be a supernatural thriller. As soon as I get that one all polished up, I will put up the release date. It follows the life a writer who just moved to Wisconsin and is being haunted by a deceased serial killer.

As far as writing goes, I'm still writing short stories. I think there will be two more collections. Soon, I'll start posting them to my blog to see what people think. I'm also in the middle of writing a novel that has to do with the power of reading itself. It's code name is Epic Tale until I can figure out a title for it. But it is sure to be a lengthy book. It's sort of my love letter to self-publishing.

Finally, can you tell us about your blog, and where we can purchase a copy of FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH?

I started the blog to try and break my writer's block but now it has become something more for me. I like sharing my stories with others and encouraging people to be writers. I figure, writers go through some pretty troubled times. Why not give them a boost? Lord knows we all need one. Technically we're not starving artists. We have jobs, we have hobbies, we have support. We're just hungry writers. Hungry to get our stories told.

These were all really great questions. I appreciate you taking the time to read my book. You can purchase a copy on or you can order a digital copy for your Amazon Kindle

Thanks for having me here, Elisa. Keep writing, everyone.
P.S. Buy Faking It. Good book. Lots of snappy dialogue. :)

Why thank you, Rob!)
Tune in tomorrow for more about Roberto Scarlato and FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the world within

My good friend Elspeth wrote an excellent post on her blog, It's A Mystery, yesterday in which she presented the irony that many writers face.
"I find it amusing that many introverts spend their days (or nights) writing about extroverts with lives crowded with incident," she says.
Writing can be paradoxically a solitary act and a frenzy of social activity, only the activity is going on inside our minds or on the page. a writer's service can also be simultaneously selfish and selfless. (I write for you, but first I write for me. I can't persuade you if I don't persuade me.)

Here is the response I posted in her Comments section:
When I'm not writing, I want to be writing. When I have nothing to do but write, I want to be elsewhere, with other people. And yet, when the writing is working and I'm in the zone, I'm not alone. I'm immersed in the world of my novel.

Sometimes I want to be living my characters' lives (I agree with you, though -- not their problems!). Career-wise, Andi was/is much further along than me, and at one time I aspired to have her career. I also think Sam was the husband I had wished for.

In our current manuscript, the protag owns a cafe, and there's a part of me that always fantasizes having a place like that, almost like a home. But, in reality, I could never take the work ethic or schedule required to run such a business!

It's fun to live vicariously, but it's also important to have that alone time. I live a lot in my head, but I also live in the world. Sometimes I'm just not sure which is which.

Coincidentally, following my nanowrimo post, a novel started unfolding in front of my mind's eye. Characters are speaking, introducing themselves to me and each other, plots are slowly forming. What am I supposed to do with this? Should I start writing it on the page? Should I keep mentally composing? I'm already behind in my day job (my 24-hr day job, it sometimes feels like), trying to salvage the rest of the semester, trying to keep my students on track, serve them first, trying to get Ordinary World published in paperback before Christmas. Can I commit to beginning a new novel when the third one isn't finished?

I crave my summer vacation already. I crave the alone time, days like today, when it's gray and rainy, days when there are no papers staring me down, awaiting a grade, no lessons to be planned, no emails in my inbox to be answered.

When I'm not writing, I want to write. When I'm not alone, I want to be. When I'm alone, I go to the world within.

Writers, I'm going to steal Elspeth's questions and pose them to you: Do you cherish your time alone and wish you had more? Would you want the lives of your characters? Or is just the price we have to pay for being writers?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ORDINARY WORLD debuts on the Kindle!

Need I say more?

I am so excited about this. Click here to get your Kindle copy of Ordinary World for only 99 cents! (Don't forget that you can also download it onto your iPod Touch or iPhone, 'cause there's an app for that...)

Here's the description:
Six years after leaving New York, Andi has everything she wants: a tenured proferssorship at Northampton University in Massachusetts, a published collection of essays, good friends, and a blissful relationship with her husband. But what happens when tragedy strikes and the world as she knows it changes in an instant?

Author Elisa Lorello reunites us with Andi and has created a story of love and loss, joy and sorrow, heartbreak and hope, all the while keeping us hooked through the laughter and tears.

Not sure you want to commit? Then go to and download a free sample! (There's a free sample of Faking It as well!) I am looking forward to the paperback debut in the coming weeks.

Thank you so much for all your support!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Will's wisdom"

So, I didn't win the Best of the Best Ebook contest (see winners here). But, not to worry. A loved one passed this on to me via Facebook the other day. Whatever you're working on -- a new project (nanowrimo, perhaps?), an old project, the same project, or a blank screen -- this video comprised of clips of Will Smith interviews is inspiring. Allow yourself this ten minutes. Enjoy.