Alone in the Publishing Wilderness

Alone in the Publishing Wilderness

All the advice for writers on the Interwebs has been making my head spin the past year or so, and lately that advice is really getting on my nerves. Advice such as the following:

Blog 3 times a week or more.  The more you blog, the more people will come to your website.  Twitter twice daily, for at least fifteen minutes each time, but be a real person. Facebook is the way to make friends and informally chat. Become a book bloggers’ best buddy, and they’ll be happy to push your book for you.  And don’t forget to comment on every blog you can, every day. Give, give, give your time and energy to your fellow bloggers/authors and they’ll give back. Push your brand!

Self publish, but do it the right way. You don’t want to be a publisher, you just want to write? Grow up, be a big girl, pull up your panties and get over it. With the internet revolution regarding the written word, writers have to do it all now in order to be successful.

Some more tidbits of the revolutionary “truth”: Don’t bother with New York Publishing anymore, they’re the Titanic and they don’t see the iceberg in front of them. Agents? Who needs agents? Please, agents are so Twentieth Century.

All that advice gives me a headache.  Plus it makes me feel very alone. I long for the years when it was simpler; when a writer’s job was to write a damn good book, then get an agent, and the agent found you a publisher, and you were half way to a career. Note that I said simpler, not easier.

Is it wrong for me to still want a contract with a big New York publisher? Is it wrong for me to want an agent, someone who will help me, guide me in this new and confusing world? Is it wrong for me to want to work with those professionals who have so much to offer? That’s the message I’m getting from bloggers that I like, trust, and care about, that what I want is wrong – and that makes my stomach hurt.

I’m not denying there’s a revolution. I just want to have tea with the Queen, just once, before her crown is crushed underfoot by the internet.

I feel there is no way I can measure up to the “new” way of publishing and the social media expectations. Thinking about all the things I “should” be doing (other than writing) is draining, especially since I have a full time job and a family (and no assistant, no trust fund, no financial safety net, and most importantly, no backlist).  Doing all the social media stuff has become a chore, where it used to be fun. (I miss my 1k1hr buddies on Twitter!)

 Even writing became a bit of a grind for awhile. In a fit of desperation, I talked to

“…a fierce, take-charge Aluna is the kind of heroine who is easy to get behind.” Publisher’s Weekly

Jenn Reese, a lovely writer who was one of the very first to encourage me, all those years ago. I had a story that I liked that I was working on, but the plot seemed to be missing (maybe because I was trying to squeeze writing in between bouts of Facebook and Twitter).

She asked me why I was drawn to write in that world. And she gave me a homework assignment, to write a list of everything about that world that I was passionate about, that I wanted to write about.

The list flowed. Writing became exciting again. After Tai Chi on Saturday, and over yummy sandwiches at Bun Me, she pressed the point home to me. Write what you’re passionate about, she said. Don’t write to the market. Don’t force a genre on the book. If you know the book’s ending, you’re half way to a solid plot (so many books don’t follow through on their opening). Most of all, keep going!

In thinking about her advice, I realized it could also be applied to social media for the writer. So here’s my personal Writer’s Manifesto, that I’m sure will get tweaked as I go along:

Be passionate about your work, and that includes social media. Don’t do what you’re not comfortable with. If you get in too deep, excuse yourself and get back out (this includes participating in group blogs, volunteering for your writer’s group, or anything else that doesn’t focus you on your own writing).

Follow your dreams, whether that is a contract with a New York publisher, getting an agent, or self-publishing a book every other month.  Make sure those ARE your dreams though, and not dreams thrust upon you by well-meaning bloggers that you  know, like, and trust. (Because their dreams ARE NOT your dreams, though they may look similar.)  Above all? Focus on writing that you are passionate about, and then send it out into the world.

I realize I’m probably in the minority, wishing the publishing world wasn’t changing so rapidly. Like so many other big businesses, it’s an effed-up industry and has been for a long time; but it was effed up in a way I understood. This new world is one I don’t fully trust, and while I’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months, I am still going to reach for my personal brass ring.

I don’t want to be my own publisher; I want a knowledgable partner to help me through the publishing business. If that makes me seem like an ostrich with my head in the sand, so be it.

thanks to Peter Hall “Ostrich Dance”

 But I’d much rather believe I’m an ostrich, dancing.

Down Under Shiraz, plus a California Chardonnay

Down Under Shiraz, plus a California Chardonnay

Happy Friday!!!  In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

I picked up a couple of Australia’s best last week. Here they are:

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz, 2008  Barossa Region, Australia   Alcohol, 13.8% by volume. Regularly $14.99 at Vons, on sale for $10.49

On the front Label: “South Australia’s Barossa region is famous for producing outstanding Shiraz wines. Our Reserve Barossa Shiraz is no exception with its full body, dark berry and rich chocolate characters.”

On the back Label: “For this wine, we reserved selected parcels of grapes grown int he Barossa region in South Australia, a region famous for producing high quality Shiraz wines. Here the warm days and cool  nights allow for optimal development of intense flvor and complexity.

“2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz exhibits typical regional characteristics with fruitcake and plum aromas with a hint of spice and oak.  The palate has complex flavors of mulberry, plum, chocolate and spice with excellent fruit length.

“Excellent drinking now and will continue to improve over the next five to ten years.”

My Take: What a lovely wine. Juicy and with that spice kick, it made a perfect accompaniment to our steak dinner. I’ve had Jacob’s Creek in restaurants before, and was delighted to find it in my local grocery store and at a reasonable price as well. I will definitely be buying more Jacob’s Creek Shiraz (on sale, of course).

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Anthropology Shiraz 2009  Pure Estate, Central Ranges, Australia  Alcohol, 13.9% by Volume Regularly $14.99 at Vons, on sale for $8.99

On the Label: “Anthropology, by definition, is the study of culture and traditions. Remarkably, one of the oldest social customs on record is the enjoyment of a great glass of wine. With this in mind, we use sustainable vineyard practices to craft a rich, elegant Shiraz which is perfect for all occasions.

“Anthropology Shiraz shows rich berry and plum flavors layered with a hint of mocha and spice.”

My Take: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine, too, and have come to believe that Australia makes terrific Shiraz. It was a tad lighter in weight from the Jacob’s Creek, but that also suited the meal – I believe that night was a melange of leftovers (chicken tikka masala and rice, salad, pasta, peas and corn plus a good Italian bread), so this wine paired really well.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Especially if you like a bold wine but with a lighter touch. Plus the price – Nice!

Benziger Family Winery 2009 Chardonnay Carneros, California  Alcohol 13.9% by Volume On Sale at Vons for $8.99

On the Label: Chardonnay, Carneros  For more than 25 years, our family has sought to capture the distinctiveness of Carneros by handcrafting wines of authentic varietal character. We use a sustainable grape-growing program with certified standards to cultivate intensely flavorful grapes. Our methods enhance soil vitality, increase biodiversity and create healthy vineyards. The result is an exceptional Chardonnay, rich and with ripe peach and pear flavors, and soft notes of vanilla oak from barrel aging. Learn more on our website at, or better yet, come visit our Sonoma Mountain estate.

My Take: Three for three. I really enjoyed this Chardonnay. Last week, when the sky was impossibly blue here and the sun warm on our backs, after we did some gardening we rewarded ourselves with a glass of Chardonnay. A lively, lovely wine terrific for sipping or to go with a meal of bacon seared scallops (that’s how we finished the bottle, lol). This is a good bottle to keep on hand for you Chard drinkers.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ I’ve put this on my summer to-buy list!

Well, there you have it, this week’s wine roundup. My hubby is happy because I can now recycle the empties!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

My rating system: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Relationship Longevity

Relationship Longevity

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who either have never married, or have been serial marriers – and divorcers – or just divorced “the once” and never remarried. As I’ve watched their lives, it has occurred to me, many times over the past three decades, how lucky I am (yet I am sure they wouldn’t trade places with me!).

thanks to

I’ve been married 32 years today. Yep. 32 years ago, Tom and I stood at an altar in the church where I was baptized, and under the teary gaze of my mother and the shocked gazes of all my ballet friends, we got married. I was the tender age of 20 plus 8 days; Tom was 26-about-to-be-27. Many of my contemporaries were sure that a) I was pregnant or b) I was certifiably insane. That day feels like it happened a month or so ago; certainly not 32 years ago.

Tom has been asked our secret to a long and happy marriage. He told a girl on set yesterday that it takes two things: good sex, and knowing when to lose an argument because it just isn’t that important. He related the story to me with relish; said the look on the girl’s face was priceless, as if she seriously wondered if she wasn’t getting/giving good sex.

I would have to toss in there a third ingredient – patience. When we married, I was like a horse bolting its reins…eager to explore a brand-new adult world. I had a lot of growing up to do, and luckily Tom was patient enough to allow me to do so. Bumps and bruises along the way but nothing too terribly stupid (to my vast relief). As our first decade waned, we decided to have a couple rugrats…and by my 30th birthday I was pregnant with our first son.

So our second decade was filled with babies and teething and school and soccer and living the suburban life while working (me) and working on a tv/film career (Tom). That decade flew by; the only way I knew I was getting older was by the height of my children.

The third decade was more of the same, with the usual teenaged stuff that happens when you have teens. A change in dynamics – hubby with the day job, and me home, writing novels and trying to figure out how to be successful at it. (Still working on that one.) This decade was another one filled with patience…I think, after so many years of getting up and going to work, that I drifted into a depression. I still wrote, but when I look back, it feels like I was only half there.

thanks to

Now onto the fourth decade. The first two years have been rocky – um, brain surgery – but it all seems to be smoothing out now. I’ve got a book contract and am working on new projects; I’m working for 5 hydrogeologists and having a blast; and Tom’s back to doing what he loves, working on carving a career out for himself in TV and film.

32 years? It doesn’t seem possible. I’d swear my heart, at least, is barely 21. (And yes…the sex? Still good!) Now excuse me…I’ve got some celebrating to do!

thanks to

Two Cupcake Wines

Two Cupcake Wines

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10.

birthday cake

http://birthday‑cake.png via

Because its my birthday, because I didn’t tackle this post yesterday, and because the hubby is making me a scrumptious birthday breakfast, this is going to be a two-bottle posting.

Today I’m featuring two wines from Cupcake Vineyards. Mainly because I finally decided not to hold their Red Velvet blend against them, lol.

Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay 2010 Central Coast Alcohol 13.5% by volume; less than $9.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Our vineyards work hard to bring you the biggest, richest chardonnay from California’s desirable Central Coast, where the sun-drenched grapes create full and elegantly-textured wines. Decadent flavors of butter cream, bright citrus and vanilla melt into a balance of oak and subtle spice. In other words: Sinful. Serve chilled with crab cakes, seared Ahi tuna on waffle crackers or fresh-baked French bread and cheese.”

My Take: I’m glad I took the chance with Cupcake Vineyards. I really liked this wine. It has the buttery flavor that I prefer, but it’s not a heavy wine. We had it with roasted chicken and rice, and it was the perfect accompaniment.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Cupcake Vineyards Pinot Noir, 2010 Central Coast Alcohol 13.5% by volume, under $9.99 at Vons

On the Label: “Our vineyards work hard to bring you the finest, brightest, most elegant Pinot Noir from California’s desirable Central Coast. Here the bright sun is paired with the cool maritime fog, which develops these elegantly structured berries. The bright aromas of cherries carries through the palate with a touch of red currants and a hint of spices. Its reminiscent of a cherry cupcake with currant coulis. Serve with lamb kabobs, smoked sausage, or your favorite mushroom risotto.”

My Take: Pinot Noir is one of my very favorite varietals, and I have two very good go-to Pinots so it takes a lot to impress me now. This – well, it doesn’t, sorry to say. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this wine; it is a perfectly good Pinot Noir. It just doesn’t beat the Smoking Loon test.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Absolutely! Many will find this wine perfectly enjoyable; I kept looking for something that wasn’t there. I think that’s my issue and not the wine’s fault!

So, there you have it; two wines from Cupcake Vineyards. If there’s a vineyard you particularly like, I’d love some suggestions – I’m planning on doing more spotlights this spring.

May the weekend be kind to you, and may your glass never be empty. Cheers, all!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever-popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!


A Valentine’s Day Dinner From Hell

If you’ve seen this post elsewhere from me, good! LOL…if not – enjoy!

Some of my friends swear that the only good way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to go out to dinner. Um, no! I’ve been there, folks. Done that. Got the rubber meal to prove it. For all that is holy, do NOT go to a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s night. Here are my reasons:

1. They’re overbooked. Your party won’t be seated on time, no matter how far in advance you got reservations. Plan on waiting an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the bar, on your feet, and ladies, this means in those impossibly high heels you bought to wear and haven’t yet broken in.

2. They’re understaffed. A line cook is out maybe. Or a sous chef. Quite possibly the only knowledgeable wine steward. If you’re really lucky, not only will all three be out with the flu that night, but two waitresses and the dishwasher will be out, too. Enjoy your water, because that’s it for quite some time.

3. By the time your waiter has finally arrived to take your order, the two couples you and your sweetie are with are squabbling, and you’ve forgotten and/or changed your mind as to what you want to order. Instead of ordering wine, because none of you can agree on red or white, a desperate chant goes up for “martinis, and keep ’em coming”.

4. Your meal has arrived, your party is sloshed, and suddenly no one wants what they ordered. Bickering continues as meals get swapped across the table. Food flies.

5. The staff, in order to make you all feel better, give you the same dessert they’ve given every other table in the place – tiramisu that looks like it’s been attacked by kittens. You eat it anyway, needing something besides bread and cold eggplant parmesan in your stomach.

6. You all stumble out of the quieting restaurant, each party sure that they paid more than their fair share. The women all hate the men; the men all hate each other. A fistfight breaks out, and is quickly quelled because one of the women starts vomiting.

7. The most romantic night of the year ends up with your honey passed out on the couch and you tearfully sitting in the shower, wondering how to explain that traffic ticket you earned.

So, trust me. Stay home, make an easy yet delicious dinner for two, follow up with a sinful dessert, and include wine or champagne or sparkling cider along with candlelight and beautiful, romantic music. Not only will you enjoy yourself and have sex that night, but you will still be friends with the other two couples in the morning. What’s not to like?

And here’s a recipe, even…

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon and Spinach for Two

This is a fabulous recipe but totally depends on the right scallops. Go out of your way to a fishmonger and get two to three firm, absolutely fresh ocean scallops (the big ones, not the bitty ones) per person. No, not cheap – but tasty! Make sure you’ve got the champagne or chardonnay chilling in a wine bucket.


3 slices bacon

2 – 3 jumbo sea scallops per person (4 – 6 for two)

kosher salt

black pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped fine

6 ounces fresh spinach

lemon wedges, optional

1. Cook bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, coarsely chop and set bacon aside. (Leave ALL the drippings in the pan!)

2. Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle scallops evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add scallops to drippings in pan; cook until a crispy golden crust forms, then flip to the other side. Roughly 2 – 4 minutes per side (depends on how hot the pan is when  you initially put the scallops in!) Transfer to a plate and cover immediately with foil to keep warm.

3. Add onion and garlic to pan; reduce heat to medium. Saute onion and garlic until fragrant, stirring frequently – don’t let the garlic burn!

4. Add half of spinach; cook until wilty. Add the rest of the spinach and cook down (about 2 minutes total).

5. Remove from heat – stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Divide spinach between two plates; crumble bacon on top and then put the scallops on. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

That’s it – add a lovely crusty baguette, a fantastic Chardonnay or a sparkling wine, and you’ve got a perfect, simple (and TASTY) meal.

Enjoy…and have a perfectly wonderful Valentine’s Day!