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Showing posts from February, 2012

Crazy Cool Leonard Cohen "Darkness"

Writer/Moms are multi-tasking divas

In Anand Giridharadas' NYT op ed A New, Noisier Way of Writing , he reports that Jonathan Franzen is “doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” Maybe he should check out a few "her" workplaces. The writer/moms I know are multi-tasking divas. Fortunately, while I wrote my first two novels -  Crazy for Trying and Sugarland - I had no internet. All I had was two small children, various day jobs, bill collectors, a cross-country move and blood cancer. But twitter? Oh, no. Thank God, I didn't have to deal with the distraction of that. I’m such a hothouse flower. I wrote about becoming a writer and other strange side effects of chemo in my third book, Bald in the Land of Big Hair .

“Think Jane Eyre with rock’n’roll.” (new CRAZY FOR TRYING trailer)

Crazy for Trying “Think Jane Eyre with rock’n’roll.” Houston Press With the ghost of her infamous activist mother over her shoulder, Tulsa Bitters, zaftig, bookish and freshly orphaned, takes a westbound train, determined to reinvent herself. Mac White Wolf MacPeters, half Blackfoot and half raging Irish, hears her voice on the radio late one night, and before he can remind himself that he’ll never fall in love, he does. In Montana in the 1970s, people aren’t accustomed to hearing a woman’s voice on the radio. But to Tulsa, far away from all the people who loved and hurt her, midnight rock’n’roll feels like home, especially once she finds out who's out there listening. Crazy for Trying is a brave debut novel that fairly explodes with love-struck energy and sharp-tongued tenacity. Joni Rodgers loads up a tight circle of lovers, adversaries, dysfunctional family members and comically flawed friends, driving them down a fresh road through hard-earned love, a dangerous western solitu

What if Psyche & Eros were Texas trailer trash?

As children, Kit and Kiki Smithers performed and the Sugar Babes, but those glory days are long gone. All that remains are the blues the sisters sing as they cope with withering marriages, cheating spouses, lost opportunities, and the demands of motherhood. Sugar Land is a verdant novel about the healing power of forgiveness, the seemingly impossible task of loving, the resilience of family ties, and what happens when a tornado meets a double-wide trailer house. PMA Benjamin Franklin Award finalist (1999) “Every character in this novel resonates with life. This talented author knows how to bring pen-and-ink people to flesh and blood fulfillment…poignantly authentic.” Southern Living “Alternately wrenching and humorous…Rodgers’ strength is her knack for realistic characters…and a womanly wise, laugh-through-tears appreciation of life.” Publisher’s Weekly “Richly appealing…” Library Journal “Bittersweet…priceless…” Chicago Tribune  “Pure charm…compelling…full of humor and

Lisa Kudro captures COMEBACK vibe: "I Will Survive"

I've been watching Lisa Kudro's fantastic faux reality show THE COMEBACK with a lump in my throat. It's agonizingly hilarious and even more true to Hollywood than ENTOURAGE. I know exactly what it feels like. Trying too hard. Giving too much. Wanting nothing more than the opportunity to do the work, which is hard to come by. And even harder to come back to.


I am waiting for the bat. In July, when we moved in, he was here. He roosted in a corner of our screened attic window, wadded tightly, a velvet sock rolled into the lower right corner.  Sometimes he hung upside down, a hooded bulb. Smaller than the paper lanterns hanging above him, the two empty wasp-nests. Heavier than the dried leaves clinging in the spiderwebs. Little brown bat. I ran to the computer, looked him up.  Little brown bat.  That was his name.  Myotis lucifugus.  American little brown bat.  Male because solitary.  Sleepy because summer.  Works for four hours a day.  Flies and darts and catches.  But it's hard work, so he must rest much of the time.  I understand this.  I am a writer.   I fell in love. Although I knew I shouldn't, I visited him daily. I have never lived with a bat, and I couldn't help myself.  I opened the door, ducked under the beam, crept toward the eave to stare.  Often I couldn't see his face.  It was hidden li

Nihilist Words With Friends

Playing WWF with my niece who's on active duty in Kuwait. Not sure if this refers to the Middle East or publishing. Both can be hard on optimists like us.

Go with God, William Gay

Social networking for the antisocial

People keep pushing this whole agenda of auto-tweeting as a way to game the Amazon ranks, and I know it works. You do sell books, but... do you still have time to write books? (Do you still have a soul?) I get that twitter is about "building relationships," I'm just not clear on the quality of a relationship based on spam. My thought all along has been to use twitter with a less aggressive stance, using hashtags to insert my two cents into a conversation that actually interests me. Like this: For women in the 60s, life began at #contraception. BT Sissel on the bad old #aspirin days. I've been assured that this is pointless. But I remain hopeful that "teachable moment" marketing that links the right message with the right moment has an effect that is perhaps less obviously and instantly measurable but ultimately more powerful, because it's about building a culture instead of a terribly impressive house of cards. Twitter is an insanely

Does this book cover suck? #TellMeTheTruth and get a free book!

Does this book cover suck? Seriously. I need to know. So far I've gotten conflicting opinions from a variety of people whose opinions I respect. What do you think? Email me at jonireaders{at}, and I'll flip you the ebook free as a thank you!  (Ignore the funky framey thing. The blog does that.) Yes, you get a free book even if you say it sucks. And no, the book does not suck. (I'm pretty sure.) Here's what it's about: During the record-smashing hurricane season of 2005, a deadly game of cat and mouse unfolds amidst polarized politics, high-strung Southern families and the worst disaster management goat screw in US history.  As Hurricane Katrina howls toward the ill-prepared city of New Orleans, Dr. Corbin Thibodeaux, a Gulf Coast climatologist and storm risk specialist, struggles to preach the gospel of evacuation, weighed down by the fresh public memory of a spectacularly false alarm a year earlier. Meanwhile, Shay Hoovestahl, a puff piece reporter for the

The Success Trajectory

Is Amazon the Death of Literary Culture?

JA Konrath always puts me off with his blowhard tone, but everything he says in his blog post, "Amazon Will Destroy You"  is pretty much on target. A powerful example of the attitude he's decrying can be found here:  Six Degrees Left: Is Amazon the Death of Literary Culture? Here's my response to that dialogue (I guess you could say I'm "Konrath lite"): Thank you for this extremely interesting conversation, in which — for my taste — Laura Ellen Scott stands out as the voice of reason. (Aside to LES: Drop the Kindle in a Ziploc bag for bathtub reading.) Since my first novel was pubbed by a wonderful literary press (now called MacAdam-Cage) in the mid-90s, I’ve done over a dozen Big 6 books as an author and ghostwriter. During that time, I watched fiction acquisitions become increasingly constipated, while nonfiction acquisitions became increasingly obsessed with celebrity, and creative writing majors were pumped out of grad school with not a clue about ho

#FreeKindleBook BT Sissel on THE VOLUNTEER and life before #birthcontrol

"Shannon was a class beauty. She was a homecoming queen nominee. But it was the Sixties; nice girls—class beauties, homecoming queens—didn’t get pregnant..." In response to the recent political flap surrounding free access to birth control, author Barbara Taylor Sissel writes this timely post on her blog , relating some of the heart-wrenching stories she heard while researching her novel The Volunteer . "Regardless of our beliefs on the issues of premarital sex and pregnancy," says Sissel, "silence is not the answer. Neither is judgment against or consignment to hell. That was life before birth control." Sissel, who has a talent for putting issues into powerful context (a la Picoult and Shreve), is hoping to bring the message home, offering The Volunteer free on Kindle this weekend.

My publishing career as illustrated by my hair

This is me at the time of my first professional writing gig. In 1976, I was an 8th grade misfit at an academically boffo but ideologically stifling Evangelical school. Girls in my class consumed True Confessions Magazine every month. (Who loves porn more than Puritan's, right?) Reading the stories typically titled "My Father Sold Me" or "A Sophomore's Secret" or some such, I thought, "Heck, I can do that." Because I knew virtually nothing about sex beyond the vague "pulsing" and "engorging" alluded to in True Confessions and the "manroot" physiology of my book-a-day Gothic romance novel habit, my erotic tragedies relied heavily on witty dialogue and lush descriptions of locations, current pop music and fast food. For $1/page, I wrote customized stories starring a classmate and her made-to-order crush. In cases where the crush was a real boy who failed to live up to expectations, a brief epilogue featuring his un

Brainstorming Doesn't Really Work--Or Does it?

On twitter tonight, someone tweeted Jonah Lehrer's article from The New Yorker about the history behind group brainstorming and how 60 years of scientific studies have shown that the traditional style of group brainstorming just doesn't work. The whole article is fascinating, but what most interested me was Lehrer's discussion of Brian Uzzi's forty-five-year study of the collaborative processes behind Broadway musicals. Uzzi found that the more commercially and critically successful musicals were created by teams comprised of people with strong, but not too strong connections: According to the data, the relationships among collaborators emerged as a reliable predictor of Broadway success. When the Q was low—less than 1.7 on Uzzi’s five-point scale—the musicals were likely to fail. Because the artists didn’t know one another, they struggled to work together and exchange ideas. “This wasn’t so surprising,” Uzzi says. “It takes time to develop a successful collabora

Ron Charles: Sh*t Book Reviewers Say

Go with God, Jeff Zaslow

According to an obit in the WSJ : "Jeffrey Zaslow, a longtime Wall Street Journal writer and best-selling author with a rare gift for writing about love, loss, and other life passages with humor and empathy, died at age 53 on Friday of injuries suffered in a car crash in northern Michigan." Zaslow was one of the most successful people in my particular neck of the woods (though I don't think he called himself a ghostwriter), best known as the smaller name on the book jacket. He was the co-author of Gabrielle Giffords's GABBY: A Story of Courage and Hope, THE LAST LECTURE, THE GIRLS FROM AMES, and several other bestsellers. I'm a big admirer of what he accomplished and how he worked with his clients. This job is far more a personality type than it is a skill set, and "normal" writers (if there is such a thing) have no clue about the challenges it entails. After hearing Zaslow speak about how he approached this work, which is all about the personally creati

Get Your Free On: Spies, Lies and Innocent Deceptions!

Need some great, free weekend reading? Get Innocent Deceptions free for Kindle from Friday, Feb.10 through Sun. Feb. 12th. A historical romance written under my Gwyneth Atlee pseudonym, Innocent Deceptions is based on the fascinating true story of a Memphis belle turned Confederate spy who became engaged to multiple Union officers! Download your free copy of this Romantic Times 4 1/2 Star Top Pick and Multiple award nominee while you can and please don't forget to let your friends in one this sweet deal! Hope you'll help me get the ball rolling with a quick download! Thanks!

It's a book! Valerie Frankel's newborn scores with PW

Congrats to Valerie Frankel on her bouncing baby book! Delivered to stores this week, Four of a Kind , scored this rave from PW: "In this engaging novel, seasoned author Frankel creates four compelling female characters who lead wildly different lives but have one thing in common: their children all attend the same New York private school. Under the pretense of creating a Diversity Committee, blonde beauty Bess Steeple invites the three other women--Robin, Carla, and Alicia--over to her Brooklyn townhouse for a meeting. To break the ice, the women engage in a poker game where the betting currency isn't money but secrets. ...Three-dimensional characters, and fast-moving plot lines are solidly entertaining."

Jacques Brel "Our Deepest Fear" Poem animation in French & English

"My wish for you is that you have a never-ending series of dreams and a furious desire to realize a few of them..."

My response to "Publishing Ecosystem on the Brink"

There's been a lot of comments on the Authors Guild article "Publishing Ecosystem on the Brink" , and for reasons I don't understand, my comment was removed. Here's what I said: I'm frankly sick of all this sturm und drang. As a reader, I'm discovering independent authors who (like me) have come out of traditional publishing backgrounds with serious craft skills and are now free to take the creative risks traditional publishing can't afford. Seven of my top ten favorite books in 2011 were indies. As an author, after a dozen books at Big 6 publishers, I've started my own digital imprint, released my backlist and a new novel, and started gathering a coalition of seasoned, professional authors who are ready to stop bitching, take control of our careers, and build our brand in a way that brings added value to our continuing relationships with our agents and traditional publishers. Our goal is to make the most of the creative and financial opportunities

Flash forward 29 years

Groundhogs Day 1983. I went backstage to greet some friends after their performance of "Fiddler on the Roof." This strange guy told me he loved me. Then he introduced himself and asked me to go for a walk. I had a can of Mace in my pocket, so I figured what the hey. Flash forward 29 years...

Please get the facts about Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen for the Cure

First the Facts: During their last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood grossed $1 billion in annual revenues. The gross revenues of Susan G. Komen for the Cure were less than half that amount. Grants from SGK to PP were less than one tenth of 1% of PP funding. The perception that PP is somehow the pitiful stepchild of evil queen SGK is patently ridiculous. SGK has a policy that prohibits funding of any organization under investigation for misuse of funds. PP is currently under such investigation. Is the investigation justified? Personally, I don't believe it is. I think it's anti-choice politicos abusing the system. But that doesn't change the SGK policy, which is in place so they can maintain the highest level of accountability to the people who support the organization with their money, love and hard-earned 60-miles-in-3-days sweat. These are two very different organizations with very different missions, both doing important and largely thankless work on behalf of women aroun