Hello, reader friends.
(Because I don't have enough reading projects already...)
I want to be a more well-rounded mystery/crime/thriller reader, and to that end have decided to put together a must-read list of 100 must-read titles. I'm looking for books that are the backbone of this genre: probably classics and modern classics, formative titles, and/or huge and important bestsellers that have changed or evolved the genre when they were published.
Will you help me out by making suggestions for my list? My hope is to collate a list so that, if someone were to make their way through the whole thing, they could come to the end and say, "Why yes, I AM well-read in that genre!"
Your help is much appreciated :) I'd love to hear your title/author suggestions, and, if you can be persuaded to share, a little about why you suggest that title/author.
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I work in publishing and I like to read things. Herewith: free association on books, nice things I ate, publishing, editing, Japanese pop, and other nice things I ate.
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Hello, reader friends.
Since I have ascertained there are still people who stop by these parts, I can't resist sharing these stories. I feel like you guys would appreciate them. They shouldn't go to waste.
On Monday or maybe Tuesday, a delivery guy came who was from neither FeEx nor UPS. Everyone in the office (which is small and open; your business is my business) flocked around the reception desk to see what was in the GIANT box the mysterious delivery guy had brought.
Guess who it was for? Well, obviously me, or I probably wouldn't find this story as hilarious. I asked the guy who it was from. "Maybe the card will say," he said cryptically.
So I signed, the guy left, and we all looked at the box, which was the size of a mini fridge. A large one. Or maybe a small dishwasher. No, I was not expecting a package. No, I did not have another Amazon binge. No, I wasn't in denial again. No, I couldn't think of anyone who would have a reason to send me a bomb, a severed body part, or a diseased monkey (we've all been reading a lot of thrillers lately).
It turned out to be an Edible Arrangement, and a VERY large and chocolatey one. At first I didn't recognize the name on the card, but the message revealed it was from an author I had rejected. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Apparently my rejection had totally changed her life and helped her get herself on the right path. This made me happy, and taught me a valuable lesson: reject people more often. (And no, the arrangement wasn't poisoned; I live to tell. As does everyone else in the office, those grubbing vultures.)
Toward the end of the week, maybe Thursday, I had an email from someone whose name I didn't recognize and whose subject line made me think it was an unsolicited query. I admit I don't love getting unsolicited queries from unagented authors; my press has a firm and easy-to-find policy about the correct way to submit to us, and it sometimes irritates me when people go around this process.
So I opened the letter, prepared to be irritated, and read savagely through to the third paragraph of introductions and reminding us how we were connected to each other (apparently we had met at an event many months ago and I had been very "charming") before I realized there was no manuscript pitch. Only the author pitch. Although there was no mention that the man was an author, only an invitation to dinner or a concert. Oh. I was being asked out.
This is an ABSOLUTE FIRST for me. There was that one time that I went on a business lunch date and apparently the person I was meeting took the "date" part of it more seriously than the "business," but that was only once. But this was proper, courtly, old-fashioned asking out. How he could remember me, I'm not sure, since I only vaguely remember even being at the extremely crowded event he referenced. But hey. The email was complete with delicate flattery and a catalog of all the possible things we could do if I would meet with him.
I wish I could post the whole thing here, it was so amazing. But that would be infringement of copyright (impromptu copyright lesson: the copyright holder of a letter is the person who wrote the letter, not the person to whom the letter was addressed, nor the person in physical possession of the letter).
If he is reading this now, I will be very embarrassed, but I'm just going to have to take that chance. It's too special not to share.
Does anyone still check in here?
Six months later and I still miss blogging...
The RM has just started a new job--he has been trying to switch careers, going from being an auto mechanic to an elementary school teacher--and teaching the 4th grade involves being out of the house by 6:45, which involves getting up at 5:30 (he's a primper). Getting up this early means morning jogging has fallen by the wayside. But today he dragged me out of bed at 5:20 so we could do the two-mile loop we used to.
Let me tell you, this running-in-the-dark proposal did not thrill me. But I'm glad I got my begrudging heinie in gear. (Yes, btw, I checked, and that's how heinie is spelled. Who knew?) For once, the busy streets in my part of town were almost completely empty, and on our home stretch we got to watch the sun rise over the Bronx.
While I was jogging quietly, I finally thought of what I wanted to say here. I've been procrastinating about posting, because it's hard to undertake a big decision. But I haven't really been fair to the friends who come here looking for me. Thanks to everyone who's sent notes asking if I was ok--I'm perfectly ok, in fact, the best ever. I've just been stalling, and I apologize for making people worry.
The short story, where this post is going, is that I have decided to stop posting here at EdAss. There are a variety of reasons--the biggest one is that I don't really have anything fresh to say anymore. I find increasingly people ask questions, and my answer is some variation on, "Well, let me refer you back to July 2007 [or whenever]..." Sure, the industry has changed, and I've sure as heck changed over the four years I've been blogging, but somehow most of the things I said I still agree with. Fancy that.
Another reason is time--sure, I've always been busy, but suddenly it seems like it's costing me a lot more energy to maintain an anonymous advice blog than it used to. I find that everything I want to write about lately is, well, personal, and not of relevance here. I don't want people's opinions of my personal life choices to affect the perceived quality of the publishing information I have here, you know? So it seems like maybe the best thing to do is make a clean break--leave the publishing stuff here, in hopes that it will someday aid others. (I'm already blogging at a completely unrelated and unlinked place, a place that will never be linked here, so if you're one of the folks who comes here less for publishing and more for insane gossip and are interested in knowing that address, shoot me an email.)
But before I close up shop, I do want to come clean about something. As you might know if you've been reading for a while, I started EdAss as an outlet for my frustrations with the publishing industry. I knew I would always read books and love reading books, but there was a lot not to love about the machine that produces books. In the beginning, my only desire was to air my grievances, but over time, as I joined a community of bloggers interested in publishing, it seemed like maybe I could be more proactive than just complainy--maybe my opinion could help other people. And so the content evolved.
What I got out of the blog, though, didn't change much. I came here to post when I was frustrated and had no where else to go, because when I came here there was a dynamic forum of people who were willing to trade opinions--something one unfortunately cannot count on in real life. There were some really rough times, but when I posted here, you guys made me feel like the time I put in was worthwhile.
The truth is, not all of the four years I've been blogging here have been easy. I'm a person who takes my job very seriously, and professional successes and failures become very, very personal for me--I like to think I'm the kind of editor an author would hope to work with for that reason--so when things weren't going well, I was pretty deeply affected. During the two years of ups and downs, I tried to leave my identity out of my content. "Characters" are composites, stories amalgamations, time lines very heavily fu
Meant to post. Too much going on. One more wedding and we're over the hump.
The other day, I received a sad email from a reader who has decided to go the route of self-publishing. This person wanted to know why I--and others in New York publishing--had so little respect for people who chose to self-publish.
When I got this note, I realized we had some clearing up to do. I haven't talked about self-publishing much here lately, so perhaps that is the origin of the confusion, but I personally have nothing against people who self-publish, nor against the self-pub industry. In fact--if you can keep a secret--I freelanced for a large self-pub company for a long time, helping authors polish their books, etc. I know a lot about who chooses to self-publish, why, and what advantages and disadvantages they have. I also know the huge amount of work they undertake. But certainly I respect their choice, and respect the people who make that choice.
But publication is a choice--if you're in the throes of the submission process, this is sometimes hard to remember, but do remember you always, always have a choice whether or not you publish. You also have a choice how you're going to publish, and what kind of publication to pursue.
So I've compiled this list of the pros and cons of each of several publishing options (and trust me, each has pros AND cons). I have worked, as you now know, at big companies, small companies, and self-pub companies, and thusly declare myself a creature without bias (or pretty darn close). Of course, every publication experience is different. These are just generalizations culled from the best and the worst of my observations.
I have, rather snobbishly, lined up these options in the order of what (mostly) everyone starts out hoping for, then what they hope to settle for, etc. But I hope this pro/con list illuminates that all such distinctions are relative.
BIG HOUSE PUBLICATION
*Huge, powerful sales force. I put this first because it's perhaps the most important quality of a big house, whether consumers realize it or not. The reason most bestsellers come from big houses is because big houses have the most comprehensive and powerful sales teams, which have the best marketing sponsorship and thereby the biggest laydowns (first printings) and sell-ins (stocking numbers in national chains). So by default, they also have the best track records for numbers of copies sold--book buyers tend to buy what they see in stores. So chicken-egg-chicken etc. If you want your book to be a bestseller, your best bet is the big house route.
*Money, money, money. The big houses are giant corporate cash cows, often with private company or bajillionaire overlords (::cough Rupert Murdoch cough cough::). This means a lot of things:
*The possibility of a substantial advance (although these aren't universal, so don't get your hopes too far up).
*More personnel, so more people working on publicity, marketing, production, etc, with all the benefits that come from crack specialist teams.
*These personnel are usually paid more than their indie counterparts, which means (in theory) they may be the top of their game.
*Bigger possibilities for publicity and marketing budgets.
*Don't assume you're going to be allocated those publicity and marketing budgets. Only the "big books" will. All big companies have a way of stratifying each season's titles to indicate which ones are important and which are, essentially, quota-meeters. These two types of books are, respectively, Lead Titles and Midlist. If people are interested, I can talk about why the midlist exists elsewhere. But the fact remains that you may not want to be on it, unless you have the kind of book with a built-in niche audience (in that case, this may actually be a really good place for you). But for everyone else on the midlist, the publication experience can be harrowing, frustrating, and
So for those who still care about my bridesmaid saga, I only have one more wedding left this summer! This one, for some reason, has proved itself the most stressful, though. I can't quite put my finger on why, but this is the one that's been giving me anxiety dreams.
A month ago, I had the anxiety dream in which I showed up at the wedding and still hadn't bought the correct shoes (I ended up marching down the aisle in combat boots; my brain decided to add the creative detail to the dream of having all the bridesmaids carry candles instead of bouquets. "Just don't let the candles blow out," the bride's mother warned us as she sent us down the aisle. Of course mine kept blowing out and I in my combat boots would have to scurry over to the sconces on the chapel wall and relight it several times during my short journey. None of the other bridesmaids had any such difficulties.). This was the dream that inspired me to go out and buy the damn shoes, which of course almost gave me gangrene (so did anyone want me to post the pictures I took of my foot infections?).
I thought I was done with anxiety dreams after that. But this week, they came back. I guess we're just getting to close to the actual day.
In the first, on Tuesday night, I showed up--late, of course--for the wedding and realized I wasn't wearing the correct EARRINGS (because yes, in real life, the bride has mandated matching earrings as well as eye shadow--so maybe the dream isn't totally without relevance). I needed a pair of pearl studs, and the bride was SO disgusted with me that I hadn't managed to by them already.
But then, saving grace! my friend Karen--who, by the way, the bride doesn't know in real life, and who had no logical reason to be at her dream wedding--showed up. Karen happened to be wearing EXACTLY THE CORRECT EARRINGS!!!
"Karen, you HAVE to give me those earrings!" I begged.
"If you want them, you have to earn them," she said.
"How?" I would have done anything.
"Well, for the left earring, why don't you give me a verbal essay about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and your opinion on the best global strategies for moving forward." Maybe I should mention Karen is a high school teacher.
"But Karen," I protested, "I'm not really up on current events! I haven't read much about it since--"
"You're just going to have to do your best," she said.
Luckily I woke up then. I don't think I could have delivered that essay.
The next night, I had another dream. In this one, I realized on the Thursday of the wedding week--as in, the night of the bachelorette party--that I had actually commited to being a bridesmaid in two different weddings that same weekend, one in DC, one in Vermont. I just hadn't realized until that moment that they overlapped. Woops.
After mulling over my options--could I somehow teleport between duties?--I realized I would have to cancel on one of the brides. My dream-self opted to cancel on the fake bride (ie, the one whose wedding I'm not actually in). This turned out to be a girl who'd sat at my four-person lab table in 8th grade science, although I hadn't seen her since then. My dream self didn't remember her name; I had to look her up on Facebook the next day.
Science Girl cried when I lied that family obligations had come up. It turns out I had made the right decision, though, since all the bridesmaids were wearing elaborate theater costumes for Roman-era tavern girls. There would have been extensive make-up required. As the bride sobbed about how much my participation would have meant to her, I woke up. Phew.
Anyway. That's where I'm at right now. Off to get me some pearl studs. Have a great weekend!
Two books featuring Mormon Fundamentalism/polygamy: Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist, and David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife. My double review here. Anyone else read either?Display Comments Add a Comment
So I've been getting a TON of submissions in the present tense lately--normally, they're speckled throughout (maybe a 1:4 ratio, present to past). But lately EVERYONE seems to be writing in the present tense. So I felt the need to make a public service announcement.
First off, let me say that present tense is not a reason I categorically reject a novel submission. But it often becomes a contributing reason, because successful present tense novel writing is much, much more difficult to execute than past tense novel writing. Most writers, no matter how good they are, are not quite up to the task.
I'm not just being conservative here. It's true that historically, most novels have been written in the past tense. This is not purely convention--there are practical reasons for narrating in the past tense:
IN THE PRESENT TENSE, YOU MUST KNOW AND INCLUDE EVERY TINY DETAIL--there is no room for skipping forward. By placing the narrative in the immediate present, you're investing every moment and every breath with importance. Using past tense allows us to glibly skip forward and cut out of scenes easily once they have been milked for their interest. But in the present tense, you've already chosen the importance of, well, the present, which makes it much more difficult to escape artfully from the many boredoms that pad the interesting parts of our day-to-day life. This means that unless you are very, very skillful indeed, the format of your narrative may force you to include content that bores your audience, either directly or gradually.
THE PRESENT TENSE IS VERY STRESSFUL FOR YOUR READER. The flip side of the above point: if you haven't bored your reader, you've probably stressed them out. Think of the incredible tension of following every moment's move and thought and emotion--either there's not enough going on, and it's boring, or there is enough going on, and it's totally exhausting for the reader. Actually, this technique can work really well for high-energy thrillers, but if that's not your genre of choice, think about the unwelcome side effects. Frankly, life is exhausting to live--that's why we seek escapism in a nicely written novel--so don't make your book exhausting to read!
So present tense narrative is very difficult to execute. Can your story support moment-to-moment narrative? And if it can, can your reader handle it? Two questions to ask.
THE PRESENT TENSE CAN JAR UNCOMFORTABLY WITH SUBJECT MATTER. Somehow, present tense narration has a very modern feel to it. So I can put my finger on no more scientific reason for my aversion to reading certain stories in the present tense than that sometimes it can make the writing seem to contemporary (or too edgy) for the subject matter in the book.
ARE THERE NOVEL GENRES WHERE IT'S OK TO USE PRESENT TENSE? Yeah, actually--playing off the subject matter point, I've read a couple scifi and crime novels/thrillers where the author pulled off the present tense. However, that does not make it a less difficult feat to accomplish.
CAN SHORT STORIES BE WRITTEN IN PRESENT TENSE? Sure! In fact, many great short stories are present tense. The reason the shorter genre is ok for present tense: you're sustaining the narrative for a shorter period of time, and often focusing on tense moments or short but deep plot arcs. A short story is a great place to explore moment-to-moment action or emotion.
DO NOT FLIP-FLIP TENSES. This is like flip-flopping perspectives. You may feel you NEED to do it to best showcase the drama or action in your story, but eventually it's just laziness: if you had worked a little harder, you could have figured out how to say something as powerful in the same tense that you started writing in. Remember that above all things: flouting many conventions is actually laziness. Sometimes it's not, but try to be your own harshest critic here.
In summary, when you embark on a writing project, the present tense may seem like a good idea. But please think carefull
Today's guess post is brought to us by AL Sonnichsen.
Here's my entry -- a work of nonfiction. I'm sorry I'm not including a picture. I think I destroyed them all.
I was angry. I admit it.
They’d known each other for three months. He was my brother-in-law. She was a stranger wearing the tiniest diamond ring I’d ever seen. She was also barely nineteen.
Five minutes after I met her she pulled me into a back room and asked me to be a bridesmaid.
“Um … don’t you have any, uh, friends you want to ask?” I desperately hoped I didn’t sound mean.
“But you’re part of the family,” she said.
The urge to smack her was strong. Heck, yeah, I was part of the family. I’d been a part of the family for a whole lot longer than she had been. Technically, she wasn’t even part of the family yet.
Reluctantly, I said I would, you know, bridesmaid for her. What else could I do? Feeling roped into this was an understatement. I’d been hogtied, strung up, and dangled over quicksand. Escape was futile.
And that was before I saw the bridesmaid dresses.
Horribly askew. The work of some poor beginner seamstress in the bridesmaid dress assembly line at the Walmart Factory in darkest Borneo.
And dyed-to-match shoes. Oh, please don’t forget the dyed-to-match shoes.
When I put on the dress and stood in front of the mirror, one boob came close to popping out. And I hadn’t even walked down the aisle yet. That one boob threatened me through the entire two-hour ceremony, a ceremony complete with foot washing, off-key singers and long-winded pastors. Oh, and did I mention the very long kiss? Because they waited until their wedding day to kiss – so, of course, all the old ladies and prepubescent girls in the audience were oohing and ahhing at the romance while I stood there, one side of my dress hanging drastically low, wondering if I puked behind the alter if anyone would notice.
The crowning glory of the day was when I went to drive my SUV to the reception hall. Someone took a picture of me in the driver’s seat, and if you hadn’t known better, you’d think I was straight out of a nudist colony. The obscenely low strapless was indeed obscenely low.
Nine years later, I can come pretty close to cracking a smile about my participation in the wedding from hell. At least they were in heaven. I guess, in the end, that’s all that matters.
Today's guest post is brought to us by Cyndi Aleo
It all started with the dress.
It was a two-piece, pink, shantung suit. With lace trim, naturally. Expensive. Even more expensive when the damn thing showed up at least three sizes too big for her rapidly shrinking frame.
When she took it to the seamstress, she was met with a shake of a head.
“I'm going to have to take it all apart and remake it from scratch. There's too much to just take it in at the seams.”
Who would complain about a dress being too big instead of too small? The bridesmaid paying an extra seventy-five dollars for alterations, that's who.
She'd never questioned her response when they asked her to be a bridesmaid. After all, she was the one who fixed them up in the first place. The beautiful best friend and the boy she would never have. It was a perfect match, and the upcoming wedding was proof, right?
Wrong. She was going to watch the boy she'd never even kissed marry her best friend in a glorious wedding. The rest of the bridesmaids were married or engaged or at least in a long-term relationship, while hers was the only invitation that read “and Guest” just to be polite.
Now here she was, a veteran of three showers (one requiring a four-hour drive each way), a bachelorette night, and now this wedding that featured a huge band and real brass candlesticks as favorites. The “and Guest” was her gay best friend. And even though she'd been the one to fix them up in the first place, she wasn't the maid of honor.
They climbed into the limo to head over to the church after pictures at the house. The rest of the bridesmaids studiously avoided her skeletal frame in the re-made suit. No one spoke to her, and she counted the hours in her head until she could get back to the hotel. She accepted her bouquet, said all the right things, and tried not to roll her eyes at the matron of honor, who'd decided to not only not brush her hair, but not wear make-up that day in some backward bid for attention of her own.
She stood through more pictures, watched the bride and groom dance, and tried not to think that she'd thought that would be her dancing with him one day. She waited for her gay friend to show up after his waiter gig just so she'd have someone to dance with, and kept drinking, even if she didn't touch the specially-prepared vegetarian meal they served her.
She watched the bride and groom leave, waving and throwing whatever ecologically-approved item they'd pushed into her hands. She poured her friend into the car and brought him back to her hotel, far too drunk to drive. And she spent an hour in the bathroom once he was finally done puking trying to get the vomit off the shantung suit, totaling her losses. Two-fifty for the dress. Another seventy-five for alterations. Forty for the shoes. Three shower gifts totaling two hundred. A hundred for the wedding gift. Four hundred for the hotel room. Another four hundred for miscellaneous things like gas and restaurant meals during her two trips out here. And god only knew how much it would be to clean the vomit out of the ridiculous suit and cut the hem so she could wear it again.
She realized it cost her fifteen hundred dollars to watch the boy of her dreams marry someone else.
Only a masochist would be a bridesmaid.
Today's guest post is brought to us by Amie Cousins.
Oh boy, do I got one for you.
I've got a bit of bridesmaiding experience under my belt, and I've dealt with all the usual mishaps -- the time the flowergirl stripped naked and hid her dress, the time the car drove over the bride's dress and left a huge black trackmark, the time it was appallingly hot and all the flowers died. For all of these problems, I found solutions. Then came the Day of the Blue Dress.
The bride had gone through the usual routine of explaining that she'd chosen a dress that she was sure her bridesmaids would be able to wear for lots of other occasions. That's fine, I did the same thing myself, and I'm sure the dresses have never seen another day of use. Good intentions do count, right? Our bride had the dresses made for us by a terrifying Hungarian seamstress, who used to bark orders at us at the top of her voice. They all began with "You will..." You will turn. You will lift the arms. You will hold still. You will, you will. And boy, did we. She was scary.
About two weeks before the wedding, we had our final fitting. She strapped and pinned and sent us on our way. That's when I get sick.
While the doctors tried to work out what was up, I spent a week and a half in bed. Burning up with fever, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to get out of bed if the house was on fire. I wasn't even sure I'd know if the house was on fire.
I recovered and rose from my sick bed when the big day arrived. We had our hair done, we fussed over the bride, we got her fastened into her gorgeous dress. Then came the time to don our own dresses
I pulled mine on.
I zipped it up.
I let go.
It hit the floor.
As the strapless cocktail dress pooled around my ankles, I contemplated the damage (or the favour, from another angle) a week and a half of deathly illness had done to my figure.
What happened next to keep me in that dress is the sort of thing that should only have to happen between very dear friends. Luckily, we all were. It involved several yards of double sided tape and generous use of what we in Australia call "chicken fillets" -- they're highly artificial, filled with some kind of gel, and they're the best friend of those amongst us of modest bustline.
Strapped in, held together, relatively confident of my structural integrity and fairly glowing with fake tan, I escorted our blushing bride to the ceremony. It was absolutely beautiful, except for the part where my dress started to slowly but inexorably slide downwards. Hissed instructions to the nearest groomsman garnered the necessary assice, as he grabbed the back and indelicately hoisted it into place.
Did I mention the wedding was in a garden? We won't dwell too long on the way my heels slowly sank down into the lawn, so I nearly left my shoes behind when I walked across to the lecturn to give the reading I'd never laid eyes on until that minute.
Another several yards of double sided tape saw me through the reception, and if I've got my arms clamped firmly against my sides to hold the dress in place in every photo, well. That's how they pose these days.
The day of the disappearing dress. Just another one to add to my tally. (And it was a fabulous wedding.)
Today's guest post is brought to us by Linda S.
I flew out to be in my sister's wedding two weeks before the ceremony. A local dressmaker was sewing the bridesmaids' dresses, and we all drove to her shop that night so that I could have my first fitting. I had given her all my sizes and measurements by phone a month before, so I worried a bit when not only was my dress still in pieces, so were those for the other bridesmaids.
I didn't think anything, at the time, of being required to come after the shop had closed. And to use the back door.
After two more fittings and more than a week, only a couple of dresses were anywhere near finished. We started thinking we would have to sew them ourselves. Then, the day before the wedding when no one could contact the dressmaker, we all, including the groom, drove to the shop to see what was up. Alas, the door was locked and there hung a notice of seizure of property for non-payment of rent. It turned out we were coming for fittings so late and the dressmaker was spending so little time at the shop sewing because she was avoiding the landlord. In a panic, we contacted the property manager and he allowed us to go in and pick up the dresses, still mostly in pieces.
Just before we left, wondering what the hell we were going to do with bits of dresses and what the hell we were going to wear the next day, the woman showed up with money to pay her rent and re-open the shop. (She took a little time to rant at us because we hadn't trusted her and were taking the dresses away!).
The next day we showed up at the shop early to find the dressmaker and her assistant feverishly sewing and hemming. They had stayed up all night, and--miracle!--were almost finished.
We arrived 30 minutes before the wedding was to start, threw on our dresses and makeup and ran next door to the church, just in time for me, the maid of honor, to walk down the aisle. I was so relieved not to be naked.
Sorry, guys. Schedule has run amok. I even forgot to continue posting guest posts that others did to save me from having to post myself. Isn't summer supposed to be a quiet time?!
Anyway. Resuming anon. My apologies. Hope people are staying air-conditioned.
Today's guest post is brought to us by Andrea Coleman.
Dearest Bride (who made me consider suicide/homicide/kicky combination of both),
I remember your special day as though it was yesterday. Probably because I still have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and nightmares. You, lifelong best friend of mine, were under a lot of pressure. I get that. Truly, I am all over it. When you announced your engagement with the words “My Depo failed, I’m five weeks pregnant, and we need to get you a bridesmaid’s dress” I was prepared to cut you some slack. I mean, that’s a lot of life changes. I could harp on backup birth control but it seems silly since you’re a pre-med students. How’s that going, by the way? Gotten to gynecology yet? Really hope not, because if you have, it didn’t take.
Do you remember the schedule you brought me? Think back; the schedule you brought to my front door at 5:30 in the morning. The one you stapled to my door when I wasn’t awake to receive said schedule personally. No worries. I got it! I had to use a filleting knife to pry it out of my door, but that’s okay. You were stressed out. It happens. I mean, I suppose you could have left it in the mailbox 7 inches to your left, it seems to work fine for sending and receiving letters, but I'm sure you had your perfectly sane reasons. As you might recall, I arrived at all the designated places well before the designated times. I even continued being punctual when I found out you’d padded every, single blessed event with a built-in two hour grace period. I wondered about a rehearsal dinner beginning at 3:00. You sneaky little thing, you. At least I got to hang out with your creepy cousin. The one whose hand popped right down my dress because he was certain he’d dropped a shrimp in there. Even though you weren’t serving seafood because it made you vomit. How is he, by the way? Really, despite the fact he’s the singular reason I had to get my phone number changed twice, I hope he’s well. And out of jail.
I heard it mentioned recently that it would be very useful for brides to have managing editors. You know, just to keep things on track. But you didn’t need one, dear friend. No, no. You would have made a managing editor cry. Of course, to be fair, you would have made a seasoned drill sergeant cry. You had everything under control. Including my bladder. And looking back, I’m sure you were right. Who really needs to pee twice in twelve hours? I was being selfish. Thank goodness you were there to keep me and my bodily functions in line. Besides, I got to spend plenty of time in the restroom. I guess being three months pregnant and wearing Spanx does make a person “have to piss like a racehorse.” Boy, did you glow with a sweet, soon-to-be-mother charm when you uttered those words. It. Was. Precious. And your Scarlett O’Hara-esque gown with enough petticoats that we could have tented your crotch for insects? Very becoming. Sure, it was a little difficult to stand on the toilet seat behind you and hold it over your head, more so when you asked me to hand you the toilet paper, but we got through it. Just me, you, and your Spanx-squashed progeny. Please don’t worry, I’ve completely forgotten the little bit of tinkle on my shoe. I’m sure you’re not the first bride who literally peed on her bridesmaid.
Oh, and before I go, I want to thank you once again for your choice of bridesmaid’s dress. As I am well aware, I’m never going to be a backup singer in Vegas. Without you, I would never have had the opportunity to wear a gold lame dress with asymmetrical hem and gauze overskirt. The rhinestone belt really set the whole thing off. I know you said we’d have lots of opportunities to wear it again but I haven’t found just the right occasion, yet. But you’ve fixed that now, haven’t you?
The reason for my letter, sweet friend of mine, is this. I’m very excited to h
Today's guest post is brought to us by Nancy Carroll.
When my friend Grace (not her real name) asked me to be her maid of honor, I didn't even know she was dating, let alone engaged, but I hadn't seen her since commencement. Grace graduated magna cum laude with a dual major in Latin and English. She was the devout only child of Italian Catholic parents. When she told me she was converting to her fiance's religion, I almost fell off my chair.
Chris (not his real name either) was a stumpy, bearded Jehovah's Witness. The ceremony was held at his church, a one-storey brick building that looked like a dentist's office. It stood across the street from a bar called Robin's, where live rock-and-roll bands played every weekend. The church had tried to get the bar's liquor license revoked, but the bar was there first and the license was grandfathered. I didn't tell Grace some of my friends played at Robin's.
I was glad when the wedding was over. Every time I saw the two of them together, Chris ordered Grace around in a way that looked habitual. He looked at women as if they should be grateful to do what he wanted, in the way short, ugly men always seem to act. I hoped he didn't find out his new bride's maid of honor was an atheist. I didn't want him shoving me out the door and calling me an infidel. The church was two miles from my apartment and I had ridden there with the wedding party. I didn't want to wind up walking home in a long dress and heels.
The week after they got back from their honeymoon, Grace called to arrange the return of a box of books she'd left with me for safe keeping. She said she and Chris had bought them together. The box was neither sealed nor tied shut. Inside was a copy of The Joy of Sex and two "artsy" books of sex photos. Maybe I wasn't the only one who wasn't what she seemed to be.
Today's guest post is brought to us by Marissa Virtuoso.
I have been a bridesmaid twice in my life. The first time, I was nineteen and well, that just wasn’t fun. You can’t drink when you are nineteen. Oh, I tried to coax a young, legal-aged boy to sneak me a spiked Seven-up but the mother-of-the-bride wouldn’t have it. She kept tabs on me and the contents of my glass. I never much liked her. I suppose I did have a reputation as a teenager. I digress.
The second time I was a bridesmaid, I was twenty nine and six months pregnant. You can’t drink when you are pregnant. This is one of the reasons pregnant women and bridesmaids shouldn’t collide. Everyone knows stressful situations call for alcohol. Here are some more reasons I shouldn’t have been a bridesmaid; it was a June wedding and it was outdoors, our dresses were far too short and we had to wear heels. All of the above should be considered a pregnant woman’s worst nightmare. To be fair, the bride-to-be didn’t plan on my pregnancy. And neither did I. But even worse than the short hem of the dress was the pleating around the waist. It made my ass look just as pregnant as my belly. I’m not joking, attached is a picture. (don’t be distracted by the serious man in tinted glasses)
As any bridesmaid knows, the role is accompanied by all sorts of activities; engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, parties to assemble gift baskets, parties to craft favors, parties just to have parties. Then there are the chaotic activities on the day of the wedding; last minute sprints to fetch the bride’s shoes, trips to the closest drug store to buy forgotten deodorant, searches through endless totes to find the bride’s Spanx. I made it through all of this. Pregnant. And I was exhausted before the wedding even began.
When I did finally make it through the nuptials of the lovely couple, I thought I could at last plop my bloated self down and gorge on stuffed chicken and wedding cake. But oh no, not yet. We had to wait in the sun for forty-five minutes to take pictures. I was perspiring, had swollen feet, and was hungry. Very hungry. I scanned the perimeter and eyed a waiter with a tray of egg roles, and like a tiger in the jungle, I pounced. I snuck an egg roll and hid behind a tree. I bit into the hot, steamy goodness and splat! Grease trickled down the front of my dress. Wonderful, I was the fat, sweaty pregnant lady who now adorned grease droppings on her satin bridesmaid dress. Picture time! Luckily, I used the oversized bouquet to hide the mishap and didn’t tell the bride till after her third glass of champagne.
By the end of the night, I was barefoot and pregnant, and standing well past my bedtime. But I watched my best friend get married and it was all worth it. Almost.
Today's guest post is by Joseph Selby, who CLAIMS it is purely fictional:
The following account is purely fictional and has not been altered in any way:
The year is 2000. I have quit my job as a Denver milkman and moved to
St. Louis to rescue from bankruptcy a lawncare company my collegiate
best friend purchased but could not manage. I have no money, plenty of
bills from college, and a job mowing lawns. I sleep in a sleeping bag
behind the recliner in my collegiate best friend's apartment. This
continues for three months whereon I come to two conclusions: I need a
second job; I need a place of my own.
The latter of these is nonnegotiable because the landlord is throwing
me out. That is a whole different story. I get a job as a wedding DJ.
To which, I am required to own my own tux. I go to a used tuxedo store
with discount in hand (we all bought our tuxes from there and turnover
is high because wedding DJing sucks joy from your life). I splurge a
little and buy a nice vest rather than the cummerbund, a red thing
with black feathers or whatever those things are. You've seen them.
They're standard issue vests.
Worldly possessions in hand along with my prized new tux, I move into
a 200-sq-ft efficiency apartment, paying first month's and last
month's rent. I remain with $6 to my name. This, I tell myself, is
better than sleeping on the floor behind someone's recliner. Dating is
difficult when one can only finish with, "Hey baby, want to come back
to my sleeping bag?" And joy of joys, in six days my last roommate
from college is getting married. I'm in the wedding party! A
One problem. I have to rent a tux. I just bought a tux. Do you think
they'd let me wear that one? No one pays attention to the groomsmen.
They'll never notice I'm wearing a different tux. Sadly no. Wearing a
different tux would ruin the day. I must wear the assigned tux.
So I go to the different tuxedo place and they pull out the tuxedo,
having already received my measurements. My jaw falls open. A miracle!
A miracle I tell you! He has chosen the exact same tux that I
purchased. Exact! The vest with the feathers and everything!
No, not exact. Almost exact. The only difference is that his coat has
tails. Sure, whatever. How much to rent a coat with tails.
You can't rent a coat with tails.
What do you mean I can't rent a coat with tails. The motherfucking
thing is right there. I just tried it on.
You have to rent the entire tuxedo. We don't rent the coat by itself.
BUT I OWN THIS TUXEDO AND I ONLY HAVE $6 TO MY NAME!!!
It's his special day. This shouldn't be about you.
How much is the entire goddamn tuxedo that I already own but this one has tails?
$116. We accept credit cards.
Goddammit. I hand over my credit card and forgo buying a wedding
present. These tails are my wedding present. Wag wag, motherf****rs.
Just briefly, because I am up to my tailbone in manuscripts.
Heaps and heaps and heaps of manuscripts. At the moment, all of them fiction. 90% of them debut novels. All of their authors hoping desperately for a book deal, for a home for their beloved novel.
When I read submission after submission after submission--which, let's face it, is everyday--my mind starts to dull. My eyes begin to glaze from all the white on black. My butt begins to hurt from sitting. I'm pretty hungry (because I'm always pretty hungry), and this is making me cranky. As the day wears on, I get irritable. The reading gets faster, and the disappointments stack up more quickly.
I don't want to reject books--I want to buy them! But I can't buy something that I'm not passionate about. So many of these manuscripts are only 60% of a book I'd want to read. There are different reasons they don't fit the bill--maybe the content doesn't interest me personally; maybe I don't like the writer's style; maybe there's nothing special about the book, it's just adequate. Maybe the agent didn't do a great job of pitching it, and I was expecting something other than what I got.
Or maybe it's a beautiful, perfect, exquisite book, exactly the book I've always dreamed of publishing. But I'll never know, because the first page was CRAP.
There are different ways to create a crappy first page. Boringness. Cliche. Too many fancy schmancy words. Immersing your audience too quickly into the action. Immersing them too slowly.
Yeah, I know, it's basically impossible to win at this game. But YOU MUST TRY.
Above all things, YOU MUST BE SPECIAL.
Assume whoever is reading your submission is going to be in a terrible mood when they look at page 1.
You just don't have until page 2.
I passed! The iron test, that is. My iron count was just over threshold, and I gave blood successfully!
Then I ate a giant cheeseburger and had a peanut butter milkshake. Yar.
So glad to tell you the sacrificing caffeine seems to have paid off! Or at least it didn't hurt.
I got a note:
My book is coming out from a lovely indie publisher. Since they're small, I know I'm going to have to help out with book publicity. Any recommendations for where to start?
Um. Ok. How to tackle this?
I have been working in publishing now for... at least three weeks, let's just say. I have seen a lot of people trying a lot of things to make books sell. I've seen companies and authors spend tons of money and sell zero books, and I've seen no-name midlist books that no one believed in or stood behind totally take off. So what's the secret to book publicity?
Ok, but besides magic, do I have recommendations for what you can do to help your own book? Sure.
Successful book sales are a combination of two factors (and this is literally all it comes down to):
1) Accessibility of book
2) Word of mouth
Accessibility is something that you can't do alone. You need your publisher to help you as much as possible, which means helping your publisher as much as possible. If you can, get your agent to request a publicity meeting with your publisher a year to six months before publication. This shouldn't be a "what are you going to do for me?" conversation, but rather a brainstorming session--remember that ultimately you all have the same goal (selling your book) and sometimes a meeting/conversation like this will help your company think of new ideas based on your personal connections and experience, and maybe also help you realize you have connections and experience you didn't realize you had. Good for all. Also, it's always good to show you are smart, positive, and enthusiastic.
Now if all things line up well and you start way in advance, your publisher will have more ammo to go in with when they have to sell the books in to the accounts (the chains, indies, etc). The more your publisher knows about you and your publicity plan for the book, the more copies they'll be able to get into stores, and the more successfully they'll be able to target the right market for your book.
Now, for more personal things you can do, I'd offer the following bits of advice:
Make a website
If you don't already have one. In case people want to come to you for publicity, they need to have a place to go. Your blog will do just fine, as long as there are clean and accessible pages of info about you. Just... don't leave yourself without go-to internet presence. Make sure there is contact info there, and make sure you don't put up anything time-sensitive (because nothing looks worse than logging onto an author website and seeing "Wow! Can't believe 2007 is here already!").
How do I create that "word of mouth" thing you were talking about?
Well, people have to talk about your book. Ultimately, if we really want things to take off, people you don't know have to talk about your book to other people you don't know, and then THEY have to talk to people you don't know. But this chain of events can start with people you know; for this reason, remember your family and friends.
For authors publishing with small or indie presses, or self-publishing, or who know for whatever reason there are not going to be a whole ton of copies of their book going out, I recommend a book party as a good starting point. Even if it's intimate, it's nice to celebrate your accomplishment while reminding people you've been published. It's also a good way to get the ball rolling. We talked here about throwing a good launch party.
You can also give stuff out. Cheap and nice solutions include bookmarks, buttons, pens, and postcards; you can get fancier, but usually the cheap stuff works just as well. Don't be shy about asking your friends to give your thingies out at work, too. That's what fr Display Comments Add a Comment
So I'm having a fun summer, during which EVERYONE I KNOW IN THE WORLD is getting married. The reason you haven't been hearing from me much is because most weekends between June and August have been devoted to either showers or engagement parties or bachlorette parties or the weddings themselves.
Thanks, guys. Way to stagger the schedule.
What all these brides need, I feel, is a managing editor. Managing editors control project schedules, make sure deadlines don't bottleneck, and check that there are either personnel or freelancers to cover all the work needed. I feel like no one is coordinating my various brides with one another at all!
But anyway, I love weddings. These should be interesting, too. One bride has selected a barn as her venue, and she and her groom will roll in as man and wife on a tractor. Another bride, who is an outdoorsy sort, is having her reception in a field, and guests are encouraged to bring sleeping bags. (YT, who is perhaps less outdoorsy, will be trundled very comfortably in a nearby hotel, don't worry. I'm not sleeping with any spiders, thank you very much.) But there will be much dancing and speechifying (and thank God, breaking announcement, an open bar! one of the weddings was looking hairy there for a while) and, if all goes well, the RM won't offend too many of my friends' parents with his, erm, off-color sense of humor. Actually I'm still debating leaving him at home. The last time I took him to a wedding... Never mind.
So I'm actually really excited about all this. Well, to be totally honest, there are one or two facets of being a bridesmaid I'm rather less excited about. But generally the pros way outweigh the cons.
Speaking of weighing. Being a bridesmaid is a physically hazardous prospect, for those of you who haven't tried it before. For example, say one is in a wedding overseas, and the international bride of yours has sweetly bought you a bridesmaid dress in a mystical British size.
"What British size are you?" asked the bride. Because I was going to know the answer to that question. Because I can even tell you what American size I am. (I can't. Really. The only reason I go to work clothed in the morning is because periodically people like the Rally Monkey or my mother go out and by me load of items from consignment shops. So my British size? Your guess is as good as mine. And you don't even know what I look like.)
The bride was not chagrined. "I'll just buy you a dress in my size," she said. It almost sounded rational.
So the short story is, I won't know until the week of the wedding itself whether the dress will even fit or not! To prepare, I went on a diet (I figured it's better to be too skinny for the dress than too fat, right?). However, for me, dieting amounts to starving sadly all day, then going home and eating trays and trays of cookies baked by the evil Rally Monkey. And sometimes also cheating and having dinner in Chinatown when no one is looking. And sometimes having milkshakes or giant cupcakes at Crumbs. But only sometimes. In the end, I am probably only one or two pounds heavier than I was at the beginning of my wedding diet, which, all told, is pretty good.
Will the dress fit? I will let you know how that all plays out anon. I have fairly long hair, so if the dress won't zip up the back maybe I can just let it hang and cover. It's good to have back-up plans!
Elsewhere in the "physical hazards of being a bridesmaid" column, we have "gangrene" and "limb amputation." Another bride of mine gave her maids delightfully flexible rules for shoe-buying; this means we can wear whatever we want, as long as the color is right, the heel size is low enough, and they are not made of plastic. Which actually turns out is pretty specific. I found two pairs at DSW that matched the description, and being a cheapo, went for the pair that only cost $25.
I chose to break these shoes in the weekend I was going to one of the enga
Hello from sunny, temperate England (utterly unlike the New York I left, which was somehow both overcast-muggy and 8,000 degrees). And apologies again for the neglect in this time of Busy. But in the meantime, I have tons of things to announce.
First, you still have until midnight tonight to enter the contest! And let's be totally honest--I'm not going to be back at my computer again until Sunday, so if you're running a little late--like three days late--I'm probably not going to notice. No one has suggested a prize yet, either, so I'm still open for suggestions.
In other mischief, lots of of old friends have great news!
Ebony McKenna's debut novel, ONDINE, a fairytale-mystery, was just released in Canada. Congrats, Ebony, and I can't wait to see it in BNN as well as Indigo :)
Anita Laydon Miller, our friendly Colorado book reviewer, has landed a literary agent--she's just signed with Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. You go, Anita! Let us know how your adventures unfold!
It's a hot day in Colorado. Stephanie Blake (also known as Colorado Writer) has just landed a book deal! Robin Benjamin at Marshall Cavendish has bought Stephanie's debut, THE MARBLE QUEEN, for publication in 2012.
I feel a special victory here because all three of these ladies have been online friends for a long, long time. It's, like, victory for everybody. Congrats, everybody! Keep making me proud :)
...at what turned out to be the most beautiful wedding in the world (apologies to those hoping for horror stories! Better luck next time ;). It was seriously like being in a regency-style remake of Pride & Prejudice. 1100-year-old English church, seven miniature flower girl cousins in shades of pinks and purples, groom in top hat, barefoot Scottish dancing in a hayfield late into the night. Everything (everything!) was done by hand in an incredible show of teamwork by the bride's family and friends (her mom made the bridesmaid dresses and grew the sweet pea flowers, which her grandmother arranged and used to decorate the church; one extremely talented family friend made the professional-looking cake, did the bride's hair and make-up, and slaughtered the cow from her own herd to cook the steaks for the rehearsal dinner, etc). It was really incredible to see all those people come together.
As you know, I'm a big sap, and basically cried the entire time. Except while dancing. The only major casualties of being a bridesmaid for me were tearful dehydration and majorly sore calves from reeling and romping for eight hours. Definitely, definitely both worth it.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the Aunda was also at a wedding--a traditional Afghan-style Muslim wedding, quite an exciting experience for her. Many years ago, when my brother and sister were babies, my mother hired as a babysitter an Afghan woman, whose family had evacuated under extreme duress--they had to ride camels through the desert to Pakistan before finding asylum (Fatima, the mother/wife, was six months pregnant at the time--an incredible story). The Afghan family was still getting their start in America at the time--they are quite prosperous now, but back when my bubbies were babies they were in a position where it helped a lot for Fatima to watch children. We are still family friends with them, but we aren't as close as the Aunda, who, as everyone knows, is a major meddler, and is now so involved with the family that she scores invites to all these awesome parties. She said the reception--300 people--was like nothing she had ever seen before, and she was extremely impressed with the food (hard to believe, but they didn't serve pasta! instead they had rice! how interesting!) and everyone's dresses. This morning she chatted to me for a very long time about all the points of Muslim weddings she had learned about--the most surprising part to her was that the bride has to pretend to be sad during the entire wedding. The Aunda, however, was NOT sad to be there, and a good time was had by all.
So all in all, an extremely positive weekend for weddings. HOWEVER, while I was away, I received THE MOST amazing horror stories about OTHER people's wedding experiences! So fear not, entertainment will commence anon.
I'll probably post a story a day for the next week. Thanks to everyone who submitted, despite the fact that I never officially even announced a prize. I couldn't pick a winner, because all the stories are hilarious. If you entered, send me your mailing address and I'll send you a little treat as a token of my esteem :)
Guest post by Kerry, who gets major bonus points for added visual aid :) Thanks, Kerry!
Last year was MY year of weddings - five in total, but only in one...
We were all instructed to purchase Navy Blue bridesmaid dresses from JCrew. Being the cheapskate that I am, I joined the mailing list and waited for a 20% coupon, which meant I waited until (gasp!) April to purchase my dress for a September wedding. Also being the cheapskate that I am (read: I work in publishing, and I am therefore underpaid) I decided that this nice, simple, navy blue cotton cocktail dress would be a perfect dress to wear as a guest at a wedding in London in July. After all, I am a clean, neat, spill-free person... and this way the dress would only cost $100/wear instead of $200.
The dress was backordered. It would be shipping in May. No, June. No, arriving late August... now we're cutting it too close. Angry, irate, irritated, spitting phone calls to JCrew ensue. JCrew helpfully offers to send me the same dress in a Petite size - maybe that will fit.
Dress arrives 4 weeks later. It is mid-June. I lie to JCrew and tell them I need the dress for wedding in July (ok, I didn't LIE, I did need it... just not as a bridesmaid). DRESS IS THE SIZE OF THREE OF ME. Strapless. Falls down. Wildly inappropriate for church. Problems, problems, problems.
Dress is not available in any smaller sizes until mid-September. I will be bridesmaid Sept 12. Now we are dressless for two weddings.
More irate, irritated, angry, spitting calls to JCrew, and they agree to pay for dress alterations to make sack fit me nicely. Nice tailor makes inappropriate comments about my hips, or lack thereof. End with perfectly fitting dress that was altered down four whole sizes. Go figure.
Turns out, it is "rude and unacceptable to even CONSIDER wearing the dress before the wedding." HOW DARE I BE SO INCONSIDERATE OF THE BRIDE'S FEELINGS, HOW DARE I. Wait, what? This is a rule? But the wedding is in New Jersey... and I'm going to wear it to a wedding at which the bride knows ZERO people because the wedding at which I will guest IS IN ENGLAND.
No, too late, cat's out of the bag, leaving for London in two days, must buy new dress to wear to wedding or rabid bride will swoop down and suck the everloving blood out of me, then stuff me and have me stand next to her at ceremony so the groomsmen and bridesmaid stay balanced.
Post-bridesmaiding in New Jersey with crazyface bloodsucking bride, I get dress dry-cleaned like a proper lady does. Dry cleaner loses dress. Dry cleaner looks for dress. Dry cleaner does not find dress. Dry cleaner has lost the single most painful and expensive piece of clothing I now own.
I find dress washed and folded with my (also navy blue) sheets that had gone to the same cleaner for laundry (I'm lazy and I send my laundry out). Dress is folded like a pillowcase, wrinkled to high heaven and now two sizes too small.
I threw it away.
And to add insult to injury, a really, really large headless picture of me is now in NJBride magazine. That shit's forever.
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