Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Two Martini Night

My bio speaks the truth. I do enjoy evening gowns and I do dance with cats. I've been dancing with cats since I was four or five. I've just been drinking martinis since about 1997 when Cindy Brehm, one of those awesome nurses you've heard about lately, taught me by example to order one properly. "Bombay Sapphire martini, straight up, one olive," she'd said with a sexy smile. I ordered the same along with spicy oyster sliders. But, even though the Bombay Sapphire is encased in sea-aqua colored bottle (my second favorite color) I realized right away that in my future I would be ordering Tanqueray martinis, straight up, no olives. I'd graduated from mixed drinks (gin and tonics, daiquiris, and Mai Tais) to the real stuff--shaken not stirred. 

What I really want to talk about is writing, not alcohol. My single martini with dinner is a time to celebrate and relax with my husband from our busy day as authors. But last night I stewed in the down side of writing. Nothing would relax--not my body, not my mind, and surely not my emotions. 

The last two weeks have been exciting: I won third place for my essay, A Flash of Blue, in a writing contest called, Hard Times, sponsored by The NC Writers' Network and a week later published my fifth novel, All The Voices In My head, well a novella this time. I gave away too many books to count in my promo and then sat back to watch the reviews come in. First a TWO (2) star titled, "Depressive Reading", then a FIVE (5) star titled, "What a Great Read". Guess they balanced each other out. I write literary fiction and that means that I write about the human condition so my stories aren't all fairy lights and rainbows and happily ever after endings. I took a risk with 'Voices'--it shows the human condition in a codependent, horrifying way. To me it's the ultimate love story or the ultimate downfall to the woman's movement, I'll let my readers decide for themselves. My two reviewers have taken sides and conflict is always positive in any novel or in any rating system.

Searching for a publisher for my essay has not been fun despite my copy editor friend, Susan, who is sending me leads. I've also searched for appropriate anthologies or maybe even a big magazine like Cosmo or Woman's Health Magazine. It didn't take long to realize that I'm too old and my essay is too personal for Cosmo--they are busy representing the Kardashia's love lives and weight gains and losses. Surprisingly, Woman's Health isn't into the kind of suffering my essay exposes. They like kinky problems that are only vaguely health related. But I suppose the biggest cause for my second martini was the realization of how many people make money off of me! I had to pay to enter the contest and the majority of online magazines charge a reading fee and if one does get published the "pay" is one free issue of the magazine in which their article or essay or short story appears. Many people make money off writers. Yes, I realize that people need to be paid to read contest entries and submissions but eventually, if I write something good enough, I would like to be paid!

Alas, today I read an article titled, "When It Comes To Book Sales, What Counts As Success Might Surprise You", by Lynne Neary (on NPR). The gist of the article is that publishing companies no longer give advances, pay to promote their writers, pay for articles, and that writers will write and publish even if they don't get paid. According to Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, "You used to be able to make an absolute living wage as a writer. You wrote essays and you published them in journals. You wrote magazine pieces and you got paid very well for those. And you wrote books and you got good advances. So, being a writer, it didn't usually mean you would be rich, but it had meant, in the past, that you could support yourself."

What I always find amusing or annoying is the comment section. One responder (Danny DeGuira) summed it all up when he said, "Years ago when asked what I did, I answered, "I am a writer." Their reply, "Oh, you are unemployed!"

"We can't tell people not to write for free," Robinson said. "But if they want to do it they will do it.

"And maybe--just maybe--next time they'll get paid," Lynn Neary said in conclusion. 

So I'll stop stewing and keep hoping that someday I will get paid.

An afterthought about another comment to the article by David Kulczyk: "Correct me if I'm wrong but the NY Times Best Seller list goes by units shipped not sold...that's why you see Kim Kardashian on the list. They'll print 100,000 units, after six weeks, they go on the discount table at B&N, then the discount stores, and the rest go back to the printer where they get pulped...usually 40-60% go back to be recycled."


  1. I'd love to hear your response. When I found this article I knew I was not alone,

  2. I raise my glass to you, Shelia. Great post. I just ordered your new release and can't wait to read it. Best of luck on All the Voices in my Head and congrats on placing with your essay.

  3. Thanks Judy! Let me know what you think about 'Voices'. And thanks for visiting!

  4. Commented, but I believe it went off into Never, Never land.

    “It’s a hard knock life.” But it’s the life we choose. I don’t regret it.

    -Rick Bylina

    The only rule: writers write! Everything else is a guideline.