Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview with Laurie E. Boris!

Full disclosure: Laurie is a good friend of mine. I have friends who can't write for shit. Laurie can write for shit, so she gets interviewed. Hate the game, not the player.

What do you dislike most about doing these kinds of interviews?

I can’t hide behind that little giggle-hair-flip-cross-and-uncross-my-legs-like-Sharon-Stone thing. And often the questions are the same. “Tell us about your book.” Jeez. Like I haven’t seen that one a hundred times already.

Tell me something that you are too embarrassed to tell most people…

I read the Twilight books. Every single one of them. Of my own free will. I even paid for them. Okay, let the mockery begin.

[JD here; I am appalled.]

What writers are you jealous of?

Well, you, of course. And the guy who writes the Richard Castle books. That’s one cool gig. Also Joyce Carol Oates, because she can write three-quarters of a brilliant novel while she’s at Jiffy Lube waiting for her oil change. She writes the rest during the ride home, on an iPhone using her left foot.

[We should totally kneecap her...she's too good.]

Who would you rather spend eternity with: Mark Twain, Michael Chabon, or Sue Grafton and why?

Hard one. Twain and Grafton probably have mad survival skills. But I can talk about comic books with Michael Chabon. So I’d choose him.

[Always the pragmatist!]

You have to eat one meal for the rest of your life, day in, day out. What is it?

Pad Thai. It has a little bit of everything, and I never get tired of it.

How important is writing? How high would the stakes have to be for you to quit?

Considering the lengths I’ve gone through to continue writing despite multiple and recurring health problems, pretty darned high. It has literally saved my life. I try to repay that gift by moving heaven and earth to continue writing and “giving back” to other writers. So. Not quitting. Ever.

How is writing like the first day of school?

When I start writing a book, I don’t know any of the other kids. I don’t know who will end up being my best friend and who will try to stuff me in a locker. Everything is so big and confusing and overwhelming. Mainly I want to run away and hide in a drainage pipe.

[You just need to do more locker-stuffing yourself.]

Do you write barefoot? Why do you think I asked you this question?

Because you want to know if I’m secretly multitasking using Joyce Carol Oates’ foot-operated smartphone? Or if I wear a toe ring? The answers are no and yes.

[WRONG! That's not the reason I asked. You lose five interview points. Go back to 'When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?']

Would you rather be a super-rich, mediocre writer or an outstanding, poverty stricken writer?

I am a recovering perfectionist. Being told I’ll have to settle for mediocre at anything horrifies me to the point of cutting myself and eating my hair. Besides, if I win a Pulitzer, I can pawn it, right?

[Cool, you take the high road, I'm selling out at the first opportunity.]

What would you write if no one else could read it?

There are a few people I want to put through fictional woodchippers. One day…one day…

Have you ever smuggled illegal lollipops across international borders?

Yes, but the evidence is gone now. By the way, you owe my mother ten Euros.

[I have no idea what this is all about. But I do owe lots of people stuff.]

If you could get any one person to sit down for a day and savor your book, who would it be?

Now, I can’t mention any names, but there’s a local author, much revered, much sought-after, with about a zillion FaceTwit friends and a ton of contacts in Hollywood. When she likes a book, she will tell EVERYONE. Repeatedly. In italics. With jazz hands. But it’s really hard to get her to sit down and do anything. So that would be a major coup. Or, if this author is totally unwilling, I’d choose Oprah.

[You don't CHOOSE Oprah, lady. She chooses YOU. Tell your local author to buy 7K copies of my novels please.]

Where do you feel you are in your development as a writer?

Somewhere between a giant tree sloth and a small primate. I’m starting to become sentient, but I don’t always remember why.

Do you think Twilight gets a bad rap?

I think it does. Okay, it’s not Shakespeare. It’s not even Anne Rice. But somebody loved the idea of sparkly, vegetarian vampires enough to write a series about them; a huge audience waxes rhapsodic about the romance. It has power. It’s hard to deny that. Twilight inspired a friend’s dyslexic daughter to read for the pure enjoyment of it. So I gently make fun of it, but not too hard.

[Stop the 'Twilight' propaganda. When Stephenie Meyer interviews you, you better be pushing my books on her.]

Do you like soup? Do you feel it can compete with chewable foods?

I have an uneasy relationship with soup. It’s often disappointing, and I spill frequently. No comparison with, say, a pastrami sandwich and curly fries.

Writing is hard, what’s harder for you?

Writing a synopsis. It’s a vital part of marketing, to actually be able to articulate what your book is about, to talk about grown-up things like theme and metaphors and story arcs. But it’s so frustrating. Steam comes off the top of my head when I draft those things. Mainly because I don’t normally write tidy books with neat little plots. I would rather hand the book to someone and say, “Here. Just…just read the flippin’ thing.”

[You got that right lady. Fuck a synopsis.]

Is the creative process like a voyage or an escape?

For me, it’s an escape. I feel no pain when I write. All the lousy stuff no longer exists once I escape into a novel I’m writing. The rest of my life is like a voyage, sometimes a bad one, with big waves and seasickness and manatees that look like mermaids.

[Can you hook me up with your 'novel' connect?]

Who do you think would win in a fight between me and John Grisham and why?

Oh, he’ll totally kick your ass if you’re not careful. Just ask James Patterson. It’s that southern-gentleman lawyer thing. Those guys fight dirty. Bring a knife and hide it in your boot.

[You are wrong. I am offended. And I always have a knife.]

Why should people read your books and what will you do to them if they don’t (be as graphic as you like)?

Read my books because the dialogue is pretty good and the characters are real and honest, with heartbreaking flaws. I’ve made grown men cry. Plus if you don’t read by books, I will send JD Mader to your house and he’ll mess you up.

[It's all too true. I'll cut you.]

Laurie! Thanks for the interview. And for plugging the author that doesn't need plugging over and over and over. Read Laurie's stuff people. You won't be disappointed. She bleeds writing.

Bio: Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She is the author of three novels: The Joke's on Me, Drawing Breath, and Don’t Tell Anyone. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she enjoys baseball, cooking, reading, and helping aspiring novelists as a contributing writer and editor for She lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her illustrator husband and a lot of dust bunnies.

Links and stuff:

Friday, January 11, 2013

B is for Bitch.

I don't know a whole lot about Sue Grafton. I have never read any of her work. My mom likes her books, but I don't know her, her chops, or how she sees her role as a writer. Because I am not familiar with her writing, I will not comment on it. Grafton would have been wise to take a similar approach instead of disparaging indie, self-published writers when she said:

"To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.”

Well now...that sounds bitter and conceited. 

I am an independently published author. I have been writing professionally since I was 14. I have done the HARD work of writing and editing and publishing stories, novels, songs, and essays. I studied Creative Writing at SFSU, where they take writing VERY seriously. And all this time, I was disrespecting Sue Grafton without knowing it! I feel like such an asshole. Me, a wannabe...the nerve! Sue Grafton has every right to be outraged by something she knows nothing about. I mean, she is an 'official' writer type author person...hero to tepid mystery lovers everywhere. SHE EVEN KNOWS THE GODDAMN ALPHABET!

Self publishing a shortcut? Why did it take me so long then, Sue? Why? I mean, I spent like seven minutes doing research, wrote for a couple hours and uploaded my novel straight to Kindle, but it still took the better part of a day. Or is that not long enough for you?

Grafton's assumptions that indie writers don't do research or learn about their craft is offensive and small-minded. And the arrogant world of literature is one of the only places this shit happens. There are amazing indie don't see bigger artists calling them wannabes. Graffiti artists have become famous, but they get shown and praised. Art, produced by the artist, is a beautiful thing. But writers are insecure and elitist. Or are we? See, these generalizations are slippery things, Sue.

I bet I've written as many words as Sue. I've also worked with at-risk and learning challenged kids, introducing them to the written word. I wrote for years before I ever submitted a short story. I have studied the craft of writing for two decades. I have read the greats (sorry, I never got around to you, Sue). I was too busy reading Walt Whitman, Stephen King, James Joyce, Mark Twain and other self-published, wannabe hacks.

Writing is hard. One might even argue (listen carefully here, Sue) that writing, editing, promoting, and selling a book all by yourself is a more impressive feat than giving a draft to a team of editors and then letting the focus groups and editors/marketing gurus take your words and, let's say, 'improve them'.

I've been a writer for a while. I actively try to help other writers because I see this all as a team effort. But there is no 'I' in team. I is for individual. I is for ignorance. I is for idiocy.

Not only is Sue Grafton out of touch (some of the best writers working today are self-published), but she has the audacity to sit in her glass house and cast aspersions on 'wannabes' like me. One would think, even if she believes that all self-published, indie writers are hacks, that she would have the class to enjoy her success and not denigrate others - a whole group of people who are trying to achieve success in a field which has been good to her. She could have just written another groundbreaking novel. She could have kept her mouth shut. She should have kept her mouth shut.

I don't know anything about you, Sue. Maybe you're a nice lady. Maybe you're a bitch. Given the above arrogance and superiority complexing, I'm leaning towards the latter. For now. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that your writing is not quite up to the level of the masters I listed above - those self-published assholes like Twain. That's right, I'm going to make a blanket statement generalizing your work based upon one answer to a question in an interview. I would look into this more, but that would require research, and I have a book to finish - I started it yesterday...I want to have it up on Kindle by this afternoon.

Anytime you want to see what an indie writer can do, I'm easy to find. Sue, you're a wealthy lady. I'm not (wealthy or a lady), but I'll bet you $50 that, in ten minutes, I could write a better story than you. So, bring it. Ten minutes, two pens, and as much paper as you need. I'm ready when you are. Put your money where your mouth is, Sue. I'll be waiting, looking for shortcuts that lead to the cathedral of hypocrisy where I can badmouth an entire movement because, well, E is for ego.

PS - I know you apologized (of your own free will and with no encouragement from your publisher, I'm sure), so I'm sorry I called you a bitch. There. Friends again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

'I told you so.' by Yvonne Hertzberger

Another friend (and another outstanding writer) grabs the mic today. Give it up for Yvonne Hertzberger, everyone. Enjoy the story and check out her books. (Thanks for classing up the joint, Yvonne!)

“I told you so.” She could hear them say it now; smug, grim, condescending smiles on their faces. And they had. That was why she had never been able to go to them, to ask for help. Now she pressed her back into the cramped crawlspace under the family room floor, in the dark. She barely fit her body around the pipes leading to the second powder room.

The family room had been added after the fact, so it had no basement. She knew he couldn’t be bothered to come and drag her out. He didn’t need to. She’d have to extract herself at some point. He’d gloated about it aloud from the top of the stair, enjoying taunting her.

She shivered in the dank cold and placed protective hands over her distended belly. Would she make it 'til morning? If she left her hole now she doubted he would leave her alive this time. How had she come to this? A cramp seized her, making her hitch her breath. Be still, baby. Hold on. Just 'til morning.

A drip fell on her knee from the ceiling. How could that be?  There was nothing wet there.  Oh, yeah, that’s what it was. Piss. He had pissed on the mat over her head. The walls, too, laughing, “Now, clean it up, whore.” She’d never been unfaithful. He knew that. 

This was the first time she had directly disobeyed him, refused to submit to his favourite ‘punishment’.  She’d done it for the baby. It would kill the baby. She shuddered as she replayed the scene.

“Stand up whore. Spread your legs.” He stood there, arms akimbo, feet set firmly apart, waiting – waiting to kick her there. She’d almost obeyed. He usually let her be after that. But the baby had kicked. So she’d turned and run. He had managed a flying kick at her belly as she ducked away from his grab for her hair. She’d made it as far as the stairs, to this hole, just out of reach under the stair - unless he put in some effort – effort she wasn’t worth.  

Another cramp assailed her. Not now, baby, Wait. Wait 'til morning. Wait. Could she hold on?

“How long do you think you can stay there bitch?” Then he changed his tone, laughing as he sang, “Come out, come out wherever you are...” 

She almost cried out as another contraction hit her hard, biting her knuckle to hold back the sound. It might be enough to make him come down after her. She thought about what had triggered him this time. Oh, yeah. Supper. He’d come home late and the chicken had dried out. He’d thrown the searing thing at her, hitting her across her neck. She could feel the burn, now that she remembered. Good thing it hadn’t been the beans. They were sitting in scalding water. 

When another hard cramp called her attention to the trickle of dampness that went past her panties and onto the floor underneath her, she could deny it no longer. Likely caused by that kick to her belly.  Labour. Four weeks early. Not now. Not yet. Oh, baby, hold on. Just 'til morning. 

Morning.  If she could make it 'til then. He’d go to work. He never missed work. He always left, confident that she would be waiting for him when he returned, supper cooked, pretending nothing had happened. He knew she didn’t have anywhere to go; didn’t have the guts to leave him either. It was why he had bought the old farmhouse, far from anywhere. 

They had soon lost contact with her parents. Who had given up first? Them? Had she? Had they ever really loved her? Or only when she was their good little girl? Did they have any idea how she lived, now? Would they care? A lone tear slipped down one cheek. 

Another contraction, stronger than the last brought her back to the present. How long had her reverie taken? Things were quiet upstairs. Had he gone to bed, secure in the belief that she would have his breakfast ready when he woke? How had she missed hearing that? She tried to stretch into a better position. It only caused her to scrape the skin off her left shoulder. 

She listened - and listened. Nothing.  Another contraction. No time to lose. She had to act now or they’d both be dead. Hold on baby. Biting her lip against the pain of extracting herself from her hole, she eased first one, then the other leg out in front of herself and waited for the pins and needles to stop as circulation returned. She crabbed on her rear, feet first, across the small space to the stairs. Holding her breath, praying there would be no noise, she pressed one foot against the door to open it. Good. It hadn’t latched. She listened. Nothing.  Light still seeped out from the living room. Not gone to bed then. Now what? Was he waiting, watching? Panic almost sent her scuttling back into her hiding place. A movement in her taut belly stopped her. 

She eased out further. No sound. Was he asleep in the chair? She levered herself onto hands and knees. Silence. She crawled into the kitchen and reached one hand up to the counter, grabbing hold of it to heave herself to standing. Another contraction made her double over, but she managed to keep one hand on the counter top so she didn’t fall. That’s when she realized where she was. In the drawer below her hand - the knives.  No, she could never do that. Another contraction.  The baby. She had to, for the baby’s sake. Slowly, ever so slowly, she eased the drawer open.  When no sound came from the living room, she let out the breath she had been holding. There it was. The carving knife, the long curved one, the sharpest one. In her hand. How had it got there? She didn’t remember picking it up. She slid one foot in front of the other. She needed to see where he was. She didn’t want to kill him. Only to get away. If he was asleep she had a chance. He was a sound sleeper. It took a lot to wake him.

She peeked around the door. Yes, there he was. A light snore emanated from his throat. His head lolled back into the corner of the wing of his favourite chair, the green one.  Maybe she could sneak out.

A gasp of pain escaped her when the next contraction hit. She froze in panic. Had he heard?

His eyes opened. He regarded her with a laconic, lazy smile. “Now, you don’t want that thing,” he drawled. He rose out of the chair, lithe and alert, like a cat on the prowl. His tone changed to a snarl and he lunged for her - for the knife. “Give me that.”

She jabbed as hard as she could. 

A slow look of surprised crept over his face. His hands went to his stomach where blood oozed around the handle of the knife. 

She backed away. 

He tried to follow but stumbled and fell in the doorway to the kitchen. 

So much blood. She had never seen so much blood. He made it to the counter and gripped it with a slippery, bloody hand. She watched him slide to the floor, a pool of blood spreading under him.

Did I do that? She tried to remember. Had she stabbed him? Had she? Her mind went blank. Another contraction brought her back. She looked at her husband. He lay unmoving, pale. Was he breathing?  She waited, watched. No movement, no rise and fall of his chest. Dead then. My god, what had she done?

The phone. She needed an ambulance.  He had grabbed it and knocked it to the floor when he fell. She sidled over to it and managed to dial 911. “Which emergency service do you require?” 

Help me,” she sobbed,please help me.” The phone, slick with blood, slipped from her grasp. Before she could retrieve it the next contraction cut her short. This one doubled her over and she had to sink to the floor.  The next one came right on top of the last, making her cry out.  She put her hands on her belly. No. Not yet. Wait. We’re almost there. Wait. She forced herself to her knees and began to crawl to the door. Not knowing why, she lifted her skirt to check between her legs. The head. The head was there. Too late. 

She rolled onto her back just before the next contraction. The rest of the baby slipped out. She heard a cry. I’m here, baby. Mama’s here. She gathered the last of her strength, reached  down to lift the wet little body onto her stomach and cradled her hands around it.

That’s how they found her, a drying pool of blood around the placenta on the floor between her thighs. 

The female ambulance attendant took the baby from her lifeless hands and, ascertaining that he was alive and appeared well, quickly cut the cord and wrapped him in a heated blanket. That done, she knelt down beside the still cooling body, the baby in the crook of one arm. She studied the ashen face of the dead mother, then reached out one hand and stroked the hair back from her forehead. “It’s a boy,” she whispered. “He’s going to be fine.” 

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is married with two grown children, (one married) and resides quietly in Stratford, Ontario with her spouse, Mark in a 130 year old, tiny, brick cottage, where she plans to live out her retirement. She calls herself a jill-of-all-trades and a late bloomer. Her many past paid jobs included banking, day care, residential care for challenged children, hairdressing (her favourite) retail, and customer service. She enjoys gardening, singing, the theatre, decorating and socializing with friends and family.

Hertzberger is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, first with a B.A. in psychology, then and Hon. B.A. Sociology and stopped ½ a thesis short of an M.A. in Sociology. She has always been an avid student of human behaviour. This is what gives her the insights she uses to develop the characters in her writing.

Hertzberger came to writing late in life, hence the label ‘late bloomer’.  Her first Fantasy novel “Back From Chaos: Book One of Earth’s Pendulum” was published in 2009. The second volume in the planned trilogy “Through Kestrel’s Eyes” is available currently and the third book in the trilogy “The Dreamt Child” is pending.