“Shari’s Pick will be the cream of the crop, the stuff that sticks in my brain like flypaper, the books that if you have time for nothing else, you’ll want to read THIS.”
I’ve decided to launch a new, bookish thang here on my blog and for my Readers Club email list. I’m calling it, “Shari’s Pick.”
This week, I signed up for NetGalley to start receiving Advanced Reviewer Copies (ARCs) from publishers before they hit the bookshelves. And … (deep breath) … I bought a Kindle (yes, to this day, I’d refused to buy an e-reader). Not to mention, I began reviewing already-published books in several places:
Out of everything I review (both published and ARCs), I’ll pick a top recommendation once every few months. I’d love to do this monthly, but with my schedule, I only have time to read one book per month, on average.
Shari’s Pick will be the cream of the crop, the stuff that sticks in my brain like flypaper, the books that if you have time for nothing else, you’ll want to read this.
Why would you listen to little, old me?
Let’s just say I’m picky. OK, maybe that’s an understatement. Critical. Meticulous. Fastidious.
But I’m fair, too. I don’t believe in cruelty, but honesty, on the other hand, you will find.
I also write for a living. I’m a former newspaper reporter. I’ve written for national magazines. I’m a current corporate communications professional. I’ve edited three novels, corporate jargon, e-newsletters, and oh yeah – I’m also a published indie author.
So … my tastes are discriminatory—not by genre or author—but by quality. If you’re looking for quality, you’ll find it from Shari’s Pick.
Be the first to know Shari’s Pick!
Whenever I announce a new Shari’s Pick, my Readers Club subscribers will hear it first! Therefore, if you don’t want to miss the first Shari’s Pick (which I have yet to announce), sign up for my Readers Club now! 😉
The following is a guest post from a mysterious writer. You must read until the end to discover the secretive recluse …
Everyone has their secrets.
Mine is more complicated than most. Sure, I look like a perky twenty-four-year-old with resting bitchy face, but you’d be wrong. At least about the twenty-four-year-old part.
I’m actually older than Jesus and far more cynical.
So, you might be asking yourself, what’s it like to live for two millennia? Allow me to explain in GIFs. They’re the “in” thing now, right?
1) Like you simply can’t deal with the human race’s stupidity for a second longer.
2) Like you’re in a crowded room and completely standing still.
3) Like getting close to anyone is just another road trip to heartache.
4) Like times and technology might be changing, but really, that’s about it.
5) Like you’d rather slide down a banister of razor blades into a pool of alcohol—than be forced to make new friends.
6) Like you could totally ace any history test thrown at you.
7) Like whenever you meet someone without ulterior motives, you might just faint.
8) Like in all honesty, the majority of the time, it’s just…
This probably didn’t sell you much on the glorious lifestyle of being older than dirt—but deal with it. In all honesty, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Then again, maybe you’re a sadist. C’mon, I know at least a few of you reading this are. If that’s the case, feel free to linger a bit longer in my world. Check out Oracle by Carissa Andrews—but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Wondering who Carissa Andrews is now? Well, you can find her:
Now that we’ve cleared that, I do want to clarify that I love reviewing books. And discovering new books. And recommending new books. It’s kinda become my new thing. Seriously. And so much of that will be done on Goodreads.
So besides sounding like a desperate, needy, social media attention whore, I actually do offer some value on Goodreads and genuinely want to know what you’re reading, reviewing, and discussing as well. So what’dya say? Wanna connect on Goodreads?
Hey everyone! So since becoming an indie author, I’ve met some other FABULOUS authors who I’d like you to meet. You might see some of them sprinkled here on my blog, as well as in my Readers Club e-newsletter.
Today, I’m dying to introduce you to Cyana Scriptora, who wrote this fascinating fantasy/historical book entitled Lady of Justice (girl power, anyone?) Here’s the cool thing, Cyana is a teacher whose students helped kick-start her into the world of writing and publishing!
Below, Cyana tells us how she found inspiration to write her novel and overcame her fears of publishing (and she’s looking for some additional reviewers, so if you want to read her book for free, COMMENT BELOW with your email address):
A Story of Make-Believe
By Cyana Scriptora
Lady of Justice came to me while I was playing make-believe in a play tent with my daughter. It popped into my head and a ravenous desire to put words to paper consumed me. I spent one month writing the plot line and several more months editing.
My students are my biggest supporters. I write stories for our class, so they can understand biology. They are all too familiar with my writing. After a few of them read it, they loved it so much, they encouraged me to self-publish.
With no formal education in writing other than the general English classes I took in college, I was terrified to publish, but I had this unexplained passion to share this world and these characters with readers.
I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book that mothers and teenage daughters could enjoy together? A book that branches genres, utilizes perspectives from many characters (not just one), and uses flashbacks and dream sequences copiously to let the reader feel the emotions and become a participant in the experience?”
I’ve been told Lady of Justice has everything a reader could crave:
For my fantasy readers, it has immortals and magic.
For my mystery readers, a who-done- it? puzzle.
A little sci-fi.
Sword fights, evil empires, mysterious visions, immortal realms, and just enough romance to appeal to the fairy-tale lover.
Because it takes place in the present and past simultaneously, it reads like a contemporary too.
Can you really fall in love with someone through their journals? Can you truly change the past? What if a powerful goddess is willing to help?
Anna can’t stop thinking about Prince Audax. She feels like she knows him in a way that no one else does. She spends way too much time staring at his portrait and she’s even read his most intimate thoughts.
No, Anna isn’t a creepy stalker.
She’s a historian and her future career depends on discovering the truth. Her best friend Liz is convinced that Anna has brought her obsession to an unhealthy level, but she refuses to give up. She is convinced that the answers to the mystery of Audax’s death are still out there, and the clues lie somewhere in that dusty room.
Anna is willing to do just about anything to understand what happened, but to solve this enigma, she will have to travel a lot further than just her university library. As she delves deeper into the past, the twisted plot is unraveled and it’s worse than anyone ever thought.
If you’re into dystopias, science fiction novels, or young adult books (YA) … if your blood curls into your toes at the thought of defying “the man,” or asking questions when they’re dangerous, then The Apollo Illusion might be for you.
My debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, is now available for pre-orderfor just $2.99! A story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world, The Apollo Illusion may increase in price after launch. So grab it now while you’re only splurging a couple of bucks on an “unknown author” and the book that piqued your curiosity.
‘The Apollo Illusion’ Synopsis
The year is 2150, and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden.
When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.
Audience: young adults and millennials
Genres: dystopian suspense, science fiction, speculative fiction, YA
Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and occasional language
Ever wonder what those big-time New York City editors look for in a story pitch? Or how successful authors pulled off a great book deal?
Today, journalist and author Caitlin Kelly shares some of her secrets as a former senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York and a successful author of two books. Caitlin has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. She recently published her second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.” Briefly, here’s a snippet from her book’s opening:
My writing career had gone well from the day I graduated from college, whether I had a staff magazine or newspaper job or worked freelance. But by the fall of 2007 I was scared of the precipitous decline in my industry, journalism. I was also newly aware, after pneumonia landed me in a hospital bed from overwork, I needed a ready, steady source of cash, something solid. And so I decided to join a populous, if largely ignored, tribe – the fifteen million Americans working in retail.
On a personal note, I can relate to Caitlin’s situation. The year 2007 was also when I left my beloved journalism job. That seems to be the fateful year—of the housing market crash, the journalism crash, and the start of the Great Recession.
So, here’s my interview with Caitlin Kelly. Hope you find some valuable insights in these 10 questions, as I did!
1. SHARI: You’re a veteran journalist, having written for notable publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Hartford Courant, and Glamour. Journalistically, what drew you to the topic of America’s retail industry–for a book?
CAITLIN: I was amazed that this enormous industry — $4 trillion, 15 million workers, the nation’s third-largest and its greatest source of new jobs — had not been examined in book form in any serious way. There have been several excellent books on low-wage labor, but none focused exclusively on retail. Once I had spent 27 months working at its lowest level for a large and well-known retail company, I realized what inequities and absurdities the industry contains. They spend millions on new technology and software but most refuse to pay their front-line workers — who drive sales — decently. Since we’re a nation of shoppers, I wanted to explore this subject in depth.
2. SHARI: “Malled” is your second book. Your first was “Blown Away: American Women and Guns.” I have several writers new to the publishing world who follow my blog. What tips can you give them about the process of finding a literary agent and publisher?
CAITLIN: It’s not simple, quick or easy! Finding an agent means finding someone whose skill, experience, ambition, personality and stable of other writers matches your vision of what you hope to accomplish. My agent on Blown Away, William Clark, was then — in 2000 when we first met — fairly new to agenting and was eager to build his brand, so that helped me. He, like my current agent, Kathleen Anderson, was also extremely dedicated to the project — both books received 25 (!) rejections each before finally selling to major NYC publishers. You need someone who really cares deeply about the work, and gets what you are about: this is not a game for the easily deterred or fantasists. You must find someone who is utterly straightforward with you about every aspect of the process and demands excellence and professionalism from you. It helps if you like them personally as you must trust them with your work.Find an agent by: reading acknowledgments in books similar to yours (they always thank their agent); attending annual writers’ conferences like the ASJA where members can meet and pitch agents face to face; networking well and generously with accomplished writers who may share the name of their agent (or not) with you. The agent will find the publisher, not you.
3. SHARI: You spent time working as a senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York City. From an editor’s perspective, what do you look for in a pitch from a freelance writer? What will make you choose one story (and writer) over another?
CAITLIN: You want a feeling of authority, why this writer really knows the issue and can handle it well and stylishly. I want to see that they have a strong news sense and feel confident they will be able to both report accurately and deeply and write well, which is a rare combination. I would almost always choose a former or current newspaper writer over someone with no news background. There is too much PR puffery out there, and experienced journos know to ignore it and dig much more deeply when necessary. I’m interested in writers who think outside the margins, who may have lived a less conventional life, as they may ask different questions and see things from a less predictable perspective. I want someone who is culturally sophisticated and who understands the need for diversity when sourcing, for example.
4. SHARI: On your website, you have a whole list of “work tips” for writers. What are your top three favorite tips, and why?
CAITLIN: Hard to choose! In general: 1) expect and learn to handle rejection. It’s normal and awful and expensive and you are going to run into it at every stage of your career. Set aside savings for slow times and keep your ego in a box.
2) Remain (or become) intellectually voracious. Read fiction and history and biography and magazines and blogs and websites beyond what feels cozy and familiar or in your current specialty areas. Read Canadian and British publications and those in other languages to remember that we all do not see the world in the same way. That alone will set you apart from many of your competitors.
3) Rest, recharge, relax. We tend to run ourselves at an industrial speed and intensity that can easily lead to fatigue and burnout, or worse. Make time for exercise, friends, patting the dog, long walks in silence. Creative work demands a brain and heart that are both open and refreshed regularly.
5. SHARI: “Malled” has been written about by Entertainment Weekly, the Financial Times of London, and the Associated Press, among others. So tell me, what is “Malled” really all about?
CAITLIN: Work, identity, class struggle, corporate greed. What professional status means, and what happens when you don’t have it. The true underpinnings of easy catchphrases we never really question or challenge: “shareholder value”, “global supply chain”, “operations management.”These are the underlying/overarching larger themes of “Malled,” beyond its many anecdotes, interviews and statistics. I’m fascinated by how we work, and the trade-offs we make and why we choose to make or accept them.
6. SHARI: You guest-blogged on the Harvard Business Review about a lesson you took away from writing your book (why retail workers drive the customer experience). Overall, what is the top lesson/experience you took away from this project?
CAITLIN: That every single person working in retail can add value, from the invisible stock room clerk to the associates on the floor — despite the fact that most corporate managers refuse to pay them accordingly. The most productive, yet unrewarded, people are often effective and high-selling associates working face to face with customers, whose skill and warmth can make or break a brand.
7. SHARI: As a successful writer, author and journalist, what have been your keys to success? What advice would you give other writers to attain a similar degree of success in their careers?
CAITLIN: I’m flattered by your description. Thanks! Persistence is huge. I simply don’t give up; my first agent said I was the most determined person he’d ever met. Once I connect with someone who seems to find my ideas or work of value, I stay in touch, sometimes for decades; having a strong network of people who believe in you can help you achieve many goals, from getting recommendation letters for grants and fellowships to helpful tips.
One friend in Canada — who edited me when she was at a magazine years ago — told me about a Canadian lawsuit settlement for writers I knew nothing about; it netted me a healthy windfall!
Network, in a generous and helpful way, with accomplished writers, no matter at what level of their career. I’ve gotten help from some of my former interns (now doing well!) and colleagues 10 to 20 years my senior. Truly ambitious and talented writers with a heart know what it takes to excel; they’ll cheer you when you win and cheer you up when the going is tough — as you, of course, will do for them too!I’ve given away a lot of time and advice to total strangers who’ve emailed me…it all comes back eventually and in surprising and terrific ways.
I also serve on the board of the 1,400 member American Society of Journalists and Authors and on the board of the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund; I like giving back.Invest in yourself. Create and update a great-looking and informative website for your work and book(s); attend conferences, take classes, read books, hire professional help to maintain your edge and focus, whether researchers or coaches. I recently paid a speaking coach (I found her on LinkedIn, Christine Clapp) to help me prepare for the Diane Rehm show on NPR (2 m listeners, live) and her advice has given me much greater confidence for all media and public speaking. And I’d been doing it for years already.
8. SHARI: Tell me about a discouraging time during your career’s climb. Did you consider quitting? How did you get past this obstacle?
CAITLIN: There have been more than one. This is not a business for the faint of heart or easily bruised! I studied interior design in the 1990s and planned to leave journalism, but stayed in it. I’m addicted to finding and sharing compelling stories, so my enthusiasm for the content is undimmed, even as the mechanics of the field have changed substantially. I have multiple skills, from photography and interior design training to foreign languages, so I have enough ways to keep pulling in income that I don’t panic. I also maintain a low overhead and don’t have children, so living with lower costs allows me more creative freedom in my choices of when and how to work.I also think you have to be very clear with yourself in how you define “success”. I am thrilled knowing that readers in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ireland, to name only three, read my books — but am not (yet!) earning the sort of income some might wish or expect.
9. SHARI: Can you share a few recommendations of others experts in the writing field, whom it would be beneficial to follow?
SHARI: That’s a good question. I’ve recently started reading and enjoying Betsy Lerner’s blog and Kristen Lamb’s blog. I think once you’ve mastered your craft — through classes, practice, reading great writers’ work and analyzing it — it becomes a larger issue of finding and polishing ideas. I focus less on the mechanics of how to write and more on people whose thinking inspires me, so I read blogs that include Seth Godin and Design Milk, which is visual.Because I write only non-fiction, I try more to read great NF books and figure out why they’re so terrific: voice, language, tone, pacing, anecdote, etc.
10. SHARI: Anything else you’d like to add?
CAITLIN: Stay focused! The world is filled with a million ways to ding your confidence and/or to distract you, but only you and your computer can deliver the goods. If you want to produce a non-fiction book, read widely and critically to determine what place you might carve in that marketplace; “save string” — i.e. read and clip everything of possible use for that project; talk to people who might be able to help you.
Decide what you want to achieve and what is realistic, given your talent, time, energy and finances. It may not happen fast, or fast enough, but a life of ideas can’t be lived according to the clock or others’ dreams.