Inspiration from the waters

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

Every summer of my life I have visited Keuka Lake, a Y-shaped lake in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. On its vineyard ridged hills, the area’s world-renowned wine industry took root, first being heralded as a center for sparkling wine.

Keuka is a supporting cast member in four of my seven published novels, with four more to be published as part of the Caviston Sisters Mystery Series. Why is it so important to me?

First of all, it’s the crystal lake water. Spring-fed, the lake follows a glacier-carved path through beds of shale. Its waves smooth stones into prized skipping tools. You could watch its surface the entirety of daylight and never be bored by the constantly shifting colors and patterns. Glasslike in the morning, roughed up by breezes and boats during the day, then gently calming as the world slumbers — it’s mesmerizing. Even storms are magnificent on the lake. Curtains of driven rain billow across the lake from the south, churning muddy swells that lash through spaces between rickety wooden boards on the dock. When the wind shifts from the north, the lake turns chilly blue as it froths up whitecaps.

Keuka has always been a place of conversations. In my early childhood, it was a place for listening to my great aunts and uncles recall their childhood stories. It was where my siblings and cousins sat around bonfires on its shore listening to my parents and aunt and uncle sing in harmony. It was a place of happy memories as well as retelling tales of catastrophic floods and tragic drownings.

We’d stay there in August with my aunt. In the mornings, “guns” of hot gases shot off repeatedly throughout the vineyards in an effort to keep birds off the ripening grapes. Most of the day would be spent swimming or wandering up a creek to find salamanders and frogs. It was an ideal location for a child’s imagination to bloom.

As adults, we have enjoyed watching the wine industry grow from major operations to smaller, “indy” wineries. We’ve seen the trends shift from savoring native grapes to trying to earn worldwide respect for wines made with vinifera grapes, and now a shift back to appreciating what grapes always did well here.

final-logo-fulkersoneventOf course I am not alone in being inspired to write by the Finger Lakes. On October 21, I will join four other women writers to celebrate Finger Lakes Litspiration at Fulkerson Winery on Seneca Lake. Kristan Higgins, Laurie Gifford Adams, Roz Murphy, and Katie O’Boyle and I will discuss how these lakes inspire us, we’ll read samples of our work and then meet with readers to sign books and answer question.

For complete information, visit Fulkerson Winery’s Facebook page or its website. The event will benefit the Humane Society of Yates County – Shelter of Hope.

Checking in, tuning in

wardrumHi there, blog readers. Remember me?

Sorry for the long silence, but I am busy with the current work in progress. When it’s completed, this will be my eighth published book and my seventh novel. As you may remember, this book is the first of what I’ve planned for a five-part mystery series.

As of today, corrections have been marked on the first draft and I’m busy making the changes to print out the second draft. I’ll repeat the process and then hopefully send off a third draft soon to my editors.

Life has been pretty busy with work (you know, that struggle for the legal tender stuff that Jackson Browne sang about). And speaking of music… I’ve just written my first liner notes for a song!

Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was as strong a pull on me as art was growing up, and in one point of my early career I’d hope to illustrate record albums for a living. Well, we know how that story ended up being written, don’t we.

Anyway, it was an honor to be asked by progressive rock great Magellan to listen to the band’s new release, “War Drum (This Ain’t America)” and write my interpretation of what I was hearing. The process included plugging in headphones (a true necessity for total immersion) and just replaying over and over an early version of the song. As I listened I jotted keywords that came to mind about the imagery Trent Gardner‘s music and lyrics conjured up. Soon patterns of ideas jelled and I began writing the piece. The ideas flowed, then I edited them back like a returning tide. Again, I repeated this process. Before submitting it, I slept on the final version and waited until the next morning to see if the cadence—the music—was still in the writing from the night before. There was a bit of last minute tweaking before the final shipping.

Today I got to hear the completed song for the first time. Wow! Chicago‘s lead guitarist Keith Howland added a smoking riff to what I’d heard before. LOVED it!

You can listen to “War Drum (This Ain’t America)” at Soundcloud HERE. Tomorrow (Sept. 9, 2015) it becomes available worldwide at iTunes and Amazon.

So, back to this editing…

All quiet on the wintry front


It’s bleak midwinter. Snowstorm after snowstorm have been dropping white post cards from the heavens. Winds that skied down the Canadian Rockies and across the great plains have plummeted this area into a frozen state. No better time to stay inside and work on the second draft of my new novel. Right? If only it were that easy. Relentless snowfall requires constant shoveling. My writing den is chilly, so layers of clothing are required to sit here for long spells. Outside there is the sound of snowplows dropping their iron walls on the pavement and scraping along as they shove white walls across my driveway’s recently cleared entrance.

I take long walks with the dog when possible to seek inspiration. Most days I note the different birds chattering. Bluejays seem to grouse the most about the cold weather, I’ve decided. Once we were watched by a peregrine falcon atop a telephone pole. It was hungry, just like the cottontail rabbit in the back yard who has been gnoshing on the Indian corn that adorned the front door in the fall.

This second draft entails typing the handwritten first draft as I edit, but I also end up adding more text. So far I have about five thousand more words in the second draft, and I’m barely a third of the way through the manuscript for this new suspense novel. Once this draft is done, I imagine the third draft will reduce in size. The process is not unlike building a clay bowl on a potter’s wheel. Build, take away; build, take away.

And so I plow along in my small creative world, awaiting the coming spring thaw. Soon, I whisper, soon.

SHARE: Age of Greatness

fyodorI love this chart on Blink Box Books’s blog. It shows the age of famous authors when they published their most famous works. How do their ages compare to where you are in your writing career?

andrei_photo1. Name: Andrei Guruianu

2.How long have you been a writer?
I began writing in my early twenties, so about 15 years, give or take.

3. What formats do you publish in?
Mostly traditional print, though some of my books are available as eBooks. All can be found via

4. What genres do you write in?
At this point the majority of my published work has been poetry, though I have also written a collection of short stories and a memoir. I am leaning more towards prose these days, especially short essays, and have been working on a novella for some time now.

5. What social media do you use?

6. How do you want your readers to feel after they’re read your book?
Unsettled. Caught in a brief moment of recognition, questioning, of seeing the world as it is, re-imagining it as it might be.

7. What’s your current book?
The most recent publication is a pair of poetry books titled Made in the Image of Stones and Portrait Without a Mouth (BrickHouse Books, 2014). The books are meant to be read together, in sequence, essentially creating a larger dialogue. I like working on “projects” such as these, something more beyond a single book, though each one can certainly stand on its own.

8. What’s your next book about?
I am currently working on putting the finishing touches on a book titled Dead Reckoning: Transatlantic Passages from Europe to America (co-written with Anthony Di Renzo, professor in the Writing Department at Ithaca College). Dead Reckoning is a dialogic and ekphrastic exchange composed of pairings of prose poems with short essayistic commentaries and reflections that aim to place the language and sentiments of the poems within a larger cultural framework. The book explores such topics as war and genocide, art and history, nationalism and immigration, commerce and communication.

9. What types of jobs have you had other than writing?
I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist, had a short stint as a cook, as well as several retail gigs to help pay bills through graduate school. Writing has never really been my job, and I think that has saved me from looking at it as a chore, as something that “needs to be done”.

10. What did it feel like when you were first published?
Nerve-wracking, exciting, a bit disappointing. The world did not stop at that moment. It was a wonderful lesson in humility and one that keeps me pushing myself to always do more, get better, if only for myself.

11. What’s your go-to song when your writing muse needs to be recharged?
I don’t listen to music when I write or for inspiration necessarily. I prefer quiet when I write, or looking at artwork – photography, paintings. But if there are musicians whose work and lyrics I find overall inspiring it would have to be Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

12. What do you do when writer’s block strikes?
Try not to force it. I used to do that when I was younger, try to get something, anything onto the page when it didn’t want to be there. I found that it leads to work that is trite, didactic, and overall mediocre.

13. What’s the best compliment your writing ever earned?
Anything to the effect “I never thought of it this way”.

14. If you’re stranded on a desert island with a solar battery recharger, what would you be reading on your Kindle?
I don’t own a Kindle. But if things really got desperate I bet it would make for a pretty handy digging tool in case of an emergency.

15. If you could have dinner with three other writers, who would they be?
Hunter Thompson, Milan Kundera, (we tried calling up Bukowski but he hung up as soon as I mentioned the word “writers”).

16. Describe the setting and food at that meal.
Coffee. Bourbon.

17. Cats or dogs?

18. What’s your blog and/or website address?

19. What fictional character do you identify with most?
I don’t. Trying to identify with one’s self is difficult enough.

20. What’s the closing line of your latest book?
From the novella in progress:
Eventually it lifted cleanly off into the night, drifting on the breeze, until all that we could see was a fist of light, trembling.

Andrei Guruianu was born in 1979 in Bucharest, Romania. He is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, and currently teaches in the Expository Writing Program at New York University.

I was led to this wonderful post through a link on the Twitterverse. Guy Bergstrom writes how authors can learn techniques of great storytelling by reading weird news accounts.

Bergstrom says:

marlboro-lightsThe same thing is true for trailer park ninjas robbing 7-Elevens in Florida, because smart, normal people think the only time they could imagine dressing up like a ninja is if they were an actual trained ninja, you know, in Japan, knocking off something worthy of their skill and trouble. Say, stealing $30 million in diamonds from a jewelry store in downtown Tokyo, then retiring from a life of crime.

Nobody with working brain cells thinks sure, let’s dress all in black, grab a cheap sword-like object and risk insane amounts of prison time for $186 in the till and a carton of Marlboro Lights.

He makes the point that “Great storytelling comes from the gap between expectation and result.”

Read the entire post HERE.

Guest Post: Deborah Nam-Krane

If you haven’t already read Mark Coker’s excellent post on the Smashwords blog about the changing environment for ebooks, do yourself a favor and do that now. There’s a lot, but it all points to what many indie authors have noticed for the last year and a half: the industry has matured. For me, that leads to a corollary: the traditional rules of a small business are going to apply to us even more than they already did.

If you haven’t been living in your own fictional world for the last five years, you’ve seen politicians fall all over themselves to talk about the small business person as the driver of our economy. There’s just one thing: eighty percent of small businesses will fail according to Forbes and Bloomberg, and that’s within the first eighteen months. Books may be special things, but I have no reason to believe that indie authors who write them are going to be exempt from that rule.

Take a look at the Forbes and Smashwords articles to get a sense about how you can be one of the twenty percent that keeps writing. While I don’t presume to put myself on their footing, here are some of my suggestions.

  • The e-book market is new enough that all of us, even the most successful among us, can still be considered to be in the early stages of our careers, even if we’ve been writing for decades. Think of this as the period in which you’re establishing your reputation. If you take nothing else away from this, it’s that you should be as good as your word. In other words, keep all your promises, whether it’s to your readers, writers or anyone who provides you with a service. We all have good reasons to bail on something; the person people are going to want to work with time and again are the ones who get the job done in spite of them.
  • While the industry is still new and rules aren’t going to be more than anecdotes, from what I’ve seen, the more you write, the better you do. But that doesn’t mean that the writer who has five titles out there is going to do better than the writer who has one; that means that you shouldn’t start thinking you’re going to take off until you have as many as ten titles out there. Are there people who have done really well within their first two or three releases? Sure- but they are the exception not the rule. Your best bet: be productive.
  • …But also be consistent. Can you publish five books in one year? Sure- but can you do it every year? And will all of those be both well-crafted and -edited? If not, don’t bother. What we should be focusing on is longevity, not quick splashes.
  • Whether you’re catering, running a fitness studio or selling books, it’s highly unlikely that whatever you’re going to make will be enough to support you in the first few years of operation, no matter how much buzz you might have (and most of us won’t have any). Don’t live off of your business these first few years; for this period, the majority of your funds should be saved and then reinvested into your business. That might mean you’re spending a little more on your editing and cover (two things you should NEVER skimp on), or it might mean you’re going to give yourself a marketing push. Regardless, this isn’t money you should spending on lattes, no matter how much writing you’re doing at your local café.
  • Use social media wisely. This is worth repeating: social media isn’t the best place to advertise, but it is one of the most effective vehicles for public relations. In case you don’t already know, public relations is your best way to influence how other people perceive you. Whether you’re going to stay tightly focused around your books or publishing or you want to share your opinions with the world about anything that strikes your fancy, BE SMART. That means don’t be inflammatory, insulting, whiny or repetitive. Trust me, everyone is already seeing too much on their social media feeds, and if they can find an excuse to filter you out, they will. Instead, strive to make yourself someone your contacts want to keep.
  • Finally, look forward, not backward and be smart about what you see. There’s a saying that most diplomats know exactly how to prevent the next occurrence of the last war, but most don’t have any idea about how to prevent the first occurrence of the next war. And while our environment is maturing, that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to see a lot of changes in the next year between subscription services like Kindle Unlimited and Oyster, new e-reader devices, expanding markets, changes in service agreements and the always unpredictable changes in reader’s tastes. (Another rule: don’t write to the market; it changes too quickly for you to always be on top of the latest trend.) Be aware that every new year- if not every season- will bring both new challenges as well as new opportunities; the author that stands the best chance of writing for the long haul is the one who can best figure out how to avoid the former and take advantage of the latter.

Please check out these links for more of my thoughts on how authors can use social media and how we can be more productive in the internet age.


Deborah Nam-Krane is a writer in Boston proper who has been writing novels since the age of thirteen. When she’s not homeschooling her sons or making sure her daughters get their work done, she’s writing, reviewing and editing.

The best way to keep in touch is to follow her blog Written By Deb and subscribe to her newsletter (only publishing announcements, never spam).



Guest Post: Author Lindsay Edmunds

Author Lindsay Edmunds

Author Lindsay Edmunds

I published two novels, CEL & ANNA: A 22ND CENTURY LOVE STORY in 2011 and WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING in 2013.  I put heart, tears, sweat, and labor into them, but now I wonder who wrote them. Such an odd feeling—not to feel familiar with your own work.
It is not that I am ashamed of the novels. Far from it. They both have wonderful readers. CEL, especially, got great reviews. I had to write them to get to where I am now.  But I could no more write them now than I could flap my arms and fly to the moon.
Early in 2014 I published a “single” with an A side and a B side. Both stories feature characters from the first novel, CEL & ANNA, but I was a different writer when I wrote them.
bloodpsychics_mediumThe A side is a story called “Blood Psychics,” about the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter, both of whom are clairvoyant. The daughter used her gift to better herself. The mother is trapped in a backwater of poverty and promiscuity.
The B side is titled “Joan Holland.” It is about a pregnant, terrified young woman whose husband, a man of relentless goodness, has welcomed enemies of the state into their home.
Blood Psychics is available at Amazon.
The next project is a story cycle. Like the others, it is set late in the 22nd century. There was a second civil war, so the country has a new name: The Reunited States.
Networld e-beasts run the world. To learn how that happened, you need to read the second novel, WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING.
The new stories feature a beautiful and remarkable place: Green Town. For the first 236 years of its existence, Green Town was named New Albion. As New Albion, it strongly resembled Chautauqua, New York.
The stories are about the adventures of a sixteen-year-old who grows up in a loving, prosperous home in Green Town. She wants a life outside the town gates. She gets it, big time.
With this project, I invented a new genre: Chautauqua science fiction.
Publication is set for early 2015.



Lindsay Edmunds lives a mostly quiet normal life in southwestern Pennsylvania, although upstate New York has her heart and always will. In the last three years, she has visited Chautauqua, Chicago, Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and Scotland.


nano2014Just a quick shout out to all of my fellow National Novel Writing Month participants. It’s crazy and right now you probably think you’re never going to make that gray bar of “words to write” disappear, replaced by the turquoise bar of accomplishment.

The great thing about this contest is how it instills the daily habit of writing. And as you see through the duration of the challenge, even writing just a few pages a day can add up quickly.

Over the past six years I’ve marveled at people who could get done so early. Now I know how they have accomplished it: by piling on a big number of words at the start. That decreases substantially your daily word count goal number, making the finish more easily attained.

This is the tactic I took in 2014 and it’s paying off. Right now I’m within reach of the 40K-words mark and we haven’t hit the midway point of the month. Things look bright for a finish.

Wishing you all the best!

~ Mary Pat

The Daily Tip: Six words says it all

tipsCATEGORY: Writer’s prompts

DESCRIPTION: Six-Word Memoirs

Oh how I love Six-Word Memoirs.

SMITH Magazine has a standing invitation to everyone around the world: tweet a personal memoir to their Six Words Twitter page. Condensing your life into just six words? It’s more difficult than you think. They also run specially themed memoir contests from time to time. The past two years they have also sponsored a six-word fest, inviting the public to interact with celebrities.

The word for Six Words: FUN!