Monthly Archives: June 2007

Book Review

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
a novel by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, Anne Stuart

How did I end up with three copies of this book? Well, I bought two copies as I always do when I’m being supportive, one to keep and one for the local library, and then to my surprise and delight one showed up in the mail. So it seems appropriate that I reacted to this book on three different levels — as a reader, a writer and a sister — and that this post consists of three parts. I guess you could say my review is an anthology of sorts: three separate stand-alone opinions written by one person, of a single novel written by three people.

My opinion as a sister (and I have three of those, as well; none of whom arrived by mail):

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front, as it is my only complaint about this book. When I heard Jenny Crusie was writing the character Mare, the youngest sister, I was dubious. Crusie’s style is more in line with a bossy, know-it-all, pain in the ass oldest sister. Did I mention I have an older sister? I know of what I speak. There have been times when I would have sworn the woman IS my older sister, except that I’ve met her. She isn’t. Nevertheless, and I don’t care how talented a writer she is, I figured writing a character who was anything other than the oldest sibling would be a huge stretch of her abilities.

I was right and I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Eileen Dreyer out-bossed the hell out of Crusie and that Dreyer’s character, Dee, is the perfect oldest sister. Gave me shivers how well she pulled that off. But I maintain that Crusie’s Mare is mis-cast as the youngest. Anne Stuart’s character Lizzie is such a perfect youngest sister — the non-confrontational peacemaker, with teeth — while Mare is clearly the rebellious second child, with her need to be different from her older sister. Ahem. Did I mention that I am a second child?

However, the mixed-up birth order of these siblings is a minor quibble and does nothing to detract from the story. All three writers did a wonderful job of conveying the true nature of sisterhood, from the squabbling amongst themselves, to the united do-not-fuck-with-us front when challenged, to the unhesitating selfless combining of powers to defeat a common enemy.

My opinion as a writer:

When I heard these three writers were collaborating on a novel, I was highly skeptical about how they were going to make that work. But I was also curious. So I attended the workshop the three of them presented last July at the RWA conference where they talked about their collaboration. I learned more than I’ll ever need to know about collaborating — hey, I don’t play well with others, I doubt collaboration will ever be an issue for me — but I also learned a great deal about the craft of writing. And I came away with a huge amount of respect for the talent and experience and wisdom of these three writers.

But I was still skeptical. Why? Well, let me tell you, they acted just like sisters at that workshop. They disagreed and they argued, they sniped and pouted — they stopped short of hair-pulling, but it was a near thing. Probably too many witnesses. They were entertaining as hell, but I was convinced this book would never make it to publication because they were going to kill each other first.

And how nice it is to be wrong about that. This book is an awesome display of talent and coordination. The three voices are distinct, yet complement each other beautifully. The three unique styles are woven together seamlessly to form a coherent whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I have a feeling these women could discuss the contents of their refrigerators or their lawn watering schedules and it would be fascinating. Luckily for us, they chose instead to tell a story of magic and transformation and love. With really hot guys. Really.

I have to say, I absolutely love the use of the stylized butterflies as harbingers of impending head-hoppin– um, I mean, to cleverly signal a change in point of view. How Stuart and Dreyer got that past Ms. One Chapter/One POV Crusie, I’ll never know, but it works beautifully.

From a craft standpoint, reading this book is like watching a brilliantly choreographed ballet or listening to a richly complex symphony. They make it look easy when I know for a fact it was anything but. This collaboration shines. It is a triumph of three incredibly strong writers who are all obviously at the height of their careers.

Now for part three. If I had posting privileges on three blogs instead of just two, I’d split this up accordingly. But I don’t. So if you want to read part three (my opinion as a reader), go to the CB Bar & Grill, which is HERE. Or better yet, just go buy this book.


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The one constant

Have you ever had one of those times in your life when everything around you seems to be changing? Some good changes, some bad, some welcomed, some dreaded. Just changing. A time when you know with inexplicable certainty that things are going to be different, when you sense that even those things that remain unchanged won’t seem the same. Because you realize you are changing as well, only you’re not yet sure in what ways.

That’s how I’ve been feeling today. I’m in a meditative, reflective mood. Sort of sad, but not really. Thinking about the past — events and people, both recent and distant; and about the future — what and who it might hold.

And then I received very sad news about the death of a friend’s father. On a day when I have been thinking about my own father, who died more than ten years ago. And how at times like this, times of great change, I wish I could just talk to him. Just listen to him. And I am swamped with empathy and sorrow for my friend who, ten years from now, will no doubt have days like this as well. Days when she still feels that same void.

The present is the only place where things happen, the only place you can live. But my thoughts today seem to be wandering between the place where things can’t be changed and the place where things can’t be predicted, somehow unable to focus on the thin fragile slice that is now.

Probably I’ll feel different tomorrow. Because everything changes, eventually.


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Baby Steps

Some of you might remember that back in mid-April I announced a hiatus, of sorts. I had good intentions, though it turns out that any effort to keep my mouth shut in blog-land is one destined to fail. Some of you might also remember I mentioned working hard to meet a self-imposed writing deadline as a reason. Well, that deadline was yesterday.

First, let me explain something here. It is considered Bad Manners and a Waste of Time to pitch a manuscript to an agent if said ms is not substantially complete. For instance, you want to avoid a scenario where an agent gets all excited about your ms and asks to see the thing, only to have you tell her it’s not done. Agents don’t appreciate that. So I’ve heard.

Oh, you want the short version of this tale? I pitched my book to an agent yesterday.

I think it went fairly well, given it was my first time and I was scared to death. I didn’t get sick. Or pass out. Words did not logjam in my mouth and refuse to exit. I was somewhat coherent. The agent asked a lot of questions, mainly about my book but also my career aspirations. I’m pretty sure I answered them. I’m almost positive I didn’t give in to the urge to laugh hysterically at the concept of a writing career. Then she said she really liked my idea and asked for a partial (the first 75 pages and a synopsis).

Now, before anyone gets all overly excited, let me tell you that, as far as I know, everyone who pitched yesterday was asked for a partial. So while this is very cool and very exciting, it did not happen because my fabulously wonderful talent for writing impressed the hell out of anyone. It happened because three agents and an editor participated in a Q&A panel discussion at our chapter meeting yesterday and each of them very graciously agreed to listen to pitches beforehand. I guess they figure that every once in a while it’s a good idea to scout out new talent.

But this is an opportunity. A huge opportunity to get my work in front of a highly respected agent.

And before anyone gets all impatient, the agent said there is no hurry to send anything. She’ll be traveling for a while and then Nationals is coming up. So I figure I’ll be sending something to her around mid-July. She said her turn-around time is roughly three to four months. At which point I will receive either a nicely-worded (I hope) rejection or a request to see the whole thing. And then I’ll wait some more. Publishing is a very slow business.

Actually, while I’m waiting, I’ll be writing the next one. But first I have to finish cleaning up and polishing this one, because I want it to shine. I still have to re-write the beginning. And tighten the middle. And make sure the ending has an emotionally and intellectually satisfying payoff. And try not to think about the infinitesimally small odds of a first book obtaining agent representation, let alone publication, after just one pitch. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

But I’m making progress. One foot in front of the other, one little step at a time.

And to those of you who have been taking turns holding my hand or giving me a shove in the right direction or standing there cheering me on, please know that if it weren’t for you, all of you, I never would have had the guts to do that yesterday. Thank you.


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It finally rained here over the weekend. All night Saturday and most of the day Sunday. Cool, steady, drenching rain. Washing away a springtime worth of dust and pollen.

It was the kind of rain that comes sometimes after a long dry spell and makes you want to stand out in it, spreading your arms wide in invitation, letting your head fall back while the soothing drops run over your face and through your hair and down your back.

I love when it rains like that at night, slow and soaking. When I can lie there in bed with a window cracked open, drifting off to sleep, listening to the rhythm of it on the roof and in the street, hear the wind-blown rush of it through the tree branches, the occasional rumble of distant thunder a muted accompaniment to the soft snores of the dog at the end of the bed.

We all need that sometimes, those things that are good for the soul.

What calms and soothes your inner beast?


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