When I read THE GLASS WIVES, I found myself moved by Deb Amy’s writing, drawn to her protagonist (Evie) and emotionally involved in the story and its outcome. I read the book in a single day, which is testament to Deb Amy’s writing and character-development skills. Deb Amy’s novel took me on an emotional roller-coaster in which I alternately pulled for Evie’s happiness and shared in her frustrations.
But most of all, I was attracted to Evie Glass’s love for her family and her dedication to preserving it — even when “family” suddenly meant something very different than what Evie might have chosen for herself.
THE GLASS WIVES made me examine my own definition of family and ask myself “how far would I go to ensure the well-being of the people I love.” It also made me consider (yet again) how “family” means something different to every person, and yet none of those definitions is “wrong.” For some, “family” may include only parents and children, while for others it encompasses friends, lovers, cousins, and many others with whom we choose to share our lives.
And yet, for every person, the “family” is a foundation of incomparable importance.
Robert Frost once said that “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Deb Amy’s novel demonstrates that concept … and shows how very powerful a mother’s love can be.
I’m not as strong a woman as Evie Glass. Had I been faced with the situation Evie faces — an ex-husband’s second wife, showing up at the door with her baby in tow, asking to move in and share my life — I’d have told her to hit the road. And yet, as I followed Evie’s journey through THE GLASS WIVES, I came to realize that Evie’s ability to re-define “family” for her children’s benefit (and, ultimately, her own) gives her a special strength and a level of class that I now aspire to attain.
I’ve always believed that the definition of family is both individual and vitally important. THE GLASS WIVES brings that concept – and the costs of placing a family’s needs over the individual’s desires – front and center. And although the journey isn’t always an easy one for Evie Glass, she handles the twists and turns with strength and well-written grace.
How important is your family? Would you be willing to open your heart and home to someone you didn’t initially consider a likely friend?
When I signed my contract with Minotaur for the first three books in the Shinobi Mystery series, I accepted that my cover art was out of my control. And I made a decision:
Whatever my cover looked like, I would love it.
Many authors compare their books to children, and seeing my cover art bore many resemblances to the birth of my son. I didn’t know what my son would look like (in fact, I only learned his gender a week and a half before his birth) but I knew–without question–that I would love him, no matter how funny-looking other people might find his face. (As it turns out, he’s very handsome–but it wouldn’t have mattered to me.)
I made the same decision about my book.
Whatever it looked like, I would love it.
I told myself this over and over … and yet, some fear remained. Would I love it the moment I saw it, or would I have to learn to love? Would the emotion be instantaneous, like holding my son in my arms? Or would it come slowly, like learning to drink my coffee without added sugar?
I didn’t know.
I did know that series covers often share a style or a vibe, and that the cover of Claws of the Cat would set a pattern. The subsequent covers might or might not look similar – but whether or not that happened, I knew the first one would set the tone.
My fabulous editor sent me a concept sketch before the photo shoot for my cover. I was hooked from the moment I saw it. Minotaur’s decision to feature the neko-te – a weapon favored by female ninjas (“kunoichi,” in Japanese) delighted me beyond measure. For the record, the English translation of “neko-te” is “claws of the cat” – and that isn’t coincidental.
When my editor emailed me the finished cover, I actually cried.
I loved my “baby’s” face immediately and completely.
I carried my iPad into my husband’s office at once to show him my beautiful cover art. He took one look at me, in tears, and thought someone had died. (In fairness, the last time he’d seen tears in my eyes was several years before–and someone HAD died, so it wasn’t an altogether unreasonable assumption. Shows you how often I cry.)
One extra secret I haven’t shared about my cover before: my father died six months before I started writing Claws of the Cat. He knew about my passion for fiction, and writing, but did not live to see my work in print. In addition to books (he loved mysteries) and sailing, my father’s great passion was raising roses and also cymbidium orchids. Among the orchids, his favorite ones were green with reddish-brown spots at the center … exactly like the orchids which appear on the cover of Claws of the Cat. Orchids which didn’t appear in the concept sketch my publisher sent me.
It was the orchids that made me cry when I saw it, because they fit the cover perfectly and also because they remind me of my father.
He would have loved the cover as much as I do.
Have you ever had a cover remind you of something important, or something you love? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.
As a transactional publishing attorney and mystery author, you might say secrets are my stock in trade. Most of my work involves issues I cannot talk about in public, and much of my writing … well, yeah. Can’t tell that either.
Unfortunately, I’m also a person who likes to share things.
This creates a bit of a problem.
Not so much with work – the secrets there are not my own, and I’m good at keeping other people’s confidences. More than once, I’ve had people tell me something expecting that I would leak the information. Every time, those people end up disappointed – if it’s a secret, I never tell.
When the secrets are mine, however, I have a harder time keeping them close to the vest. That’s particularly true where the “secrets” are Things That Happen in My Novels. My sleuth, master ninja Hiro Hattori, has a highly developed backstory … none of which I can tell you (yet). He does something really cool to solve the murder in Claws of the Cat – but if I revealed it, I’d ruin the story. Even the title – Claws of the Cat – has a secret meaning. But please don’t ask.
And while we’re at it, don’t ask me to tell you the name of Hiro’s kitten.
You see my dilemma.
I love writing mystery novels. I love it so much I’ll forget to eat, forego my sleep, and put off just about any other non-client-related pursuit. I love to talk about writing, and Hiro, and all of the little details that lurk in the shadows where ninjas hide.
Except that I can’t, because most of them are secrets.
And although I would love to talk about them, the worst kind of party-pooper is the one who reveals the twist in a novel or gives away the killer before the end.
I did figure out one secret that I can tell you today, however:
If you’re reading Claws of the Cat and dying to know who the murderer is, don’t skip to the final page to find out.
Why not? Because the killer isn’t revealed on the final page of the novel – but I do reveal a different secret there, so you’ll spoil that one and still not learn the answer you skipped to find.
Does that count as a secret? I hope so.
Because the ninjas won’t let me tell you anything more.
Sometimes, life and news and the world at large whirl into a giant maelstrom from which there’s no escape.
Stress at home. Death on the news. Disasters on every possible level. It all becomes too much. I think about all the things that could happen, the things that must happen, the things that might happen … and all of a sudden I want to do nothing but roll myself into a ball.
Things look so bad that even cupcakes cannot make me smile.
On days like that, when joy seems very small and far away, I force myself to re-focus in smaller scale.
No one can do all the things. No one can process all of the fears, all of the “what-might-be’s.” All of the days between now and forever stretch out into far too much for any one person to handle. I cannot do it. I cannot manage.
But I can manage today.
The ones that cannot be put off for tomorrow.
These things I can handle.
And so, it’s these things – today’s things – that become my focus.
I turn off the news. I put down the paper. I refuse to think about “what might happen” next week or next month or next year. Those things overwhelm. Instead, I finish one contract. I cook one dinner. I go for a walk. And after that, when the sun goes down, I sit at my computer and write or edit one single chapter – more if I can, but always, always one.
Sometimes it’s difficult not to let my focus expand to include the myriad worries that want my attention. When it does, I sit myself down and refocus once again.
A thousand things, I cannot manage. But one thing, today’s thing – this moment’s thing – I can do. And slowly, sometimes painfully, the stress subsides, the ship rights itself, and the cupcakes once again can make me smile.
From the 2013 Debs…
Deb Dana is super excited for her event this Thursday with former Deb Sarah Pekkanen at One More Page in Arlington, VA! The event begins at 7:00 — come one, come all!
Deb Susan will be speaking at the Auburn Book Affair in Auburn, California next Saturday, April 27. Hope to see you there!
Deb Kerry will be at C2E2 in Chicago next weekend, and on Sunday she will be on a panel called FOES, FANGS, and FURY with Anne Bishop, Amber Benson, and Christina Henry.
Deb Dish – What part of your writing have you struggled the hardest to improve?
Deb Amy: I am sometimes pronoun challenged and often punctuation possessed. Meaning, I screw up the mechanics of things on early drafts, which makes for a lot more work on the revision front. Trying to temper my comma-love, keep track of he’s and she’s, and keep my em-dashes to a minimum. Maybe.
Deb Dana: Raising the stakes. I’m better at that now, but I often want to protect my protagonist, and that’s the wrong impulse for a good plot!
Deb Kerry: Plot. Oh, and apparently world building. I’m learning that if you’re going to write a trilogy in a complicated new world it would probably be smart to develop the world before you write the first book.
Deb Susan: I struggle with passive constructions, especially in early drafts. I have to stay on my toes to keep things active!
Your Turn!! Tell us what you struggle to improve – writing-related or otherwise!
Asking about “the best piece of writing advice I ever received” is a little like asking me to choose between coffee, steaks, and cupcakes. I’ve learned so much, from so many sources and on so many topics that it’s difficult to choose one at the cost of the others.
So, at the risk of rewriting the question, I’ll give you “the best piece of writing advice I ever received at a writers’ conference.”
I attended the Maui Writers Conference in 2004 as an aspiring author hoping to find my path to publication. I heard many fabulous speakers, including authors, editors, and agents, but one speech stands out from the crowd. Literary agent Kimberly Cameron addressed the conference to announce the winners of the writing contest. During her speech, she said something I’ve carried with me ever since:
“Writing for publication is a game of last man standing, and only you decide when you sit down.”
The message, for me and for every other aspirant in the room, was very clear: if you want this, and you’re willing to do the work, you can reach publication. You are the one who decides when it’s time to quit.
I believed her, and more than believed – I relied on those words as the years passed by, as I struggled to improve my craft, as I queried … and as those queries were rejected.
Through it all, I never forgot – I chose this road. I chose to continue. I wouldn’t quit until I stood in a bookstore and saw my work on the shelf.
Last man standing. I wouldn’t quit.
I’ve mentioned before that it took nine years, five manuscripts …. 500,000 words … to reach that goal. But I did it. I got there.
And so can you.
Remember Kimberly Cameron’s words – they’re no less true today than they were back then:
Writing is a game of last man standing, and only you decide when you sit down.
If you’re writing in the darkness, and struggling to find a light to lead you out – look inside yourself instead.
Last man standing. You can make it.
The dream that fires your words can be enough to see you through.
It’s Thursday, and we’re talking rejections, which means it’s time for a story.
Once upon a time, there was a tiny seahorse named Cygnus.
He lived in a beautiful reef filled with corals and fish, but no other seahorses. Cygnus was all alone.
He didn’t really mind, at first.
He swam around and looked at the corals.
He played with the sea fans.
He watched the fish.
He played seahorse games and dreamed little seahorse dreams.
Slowly but surely, Cygnus grew up. Eventually, he realized he was lonely.
He longed for a friend.
And then, one day, a miracle happened.
Two baby seahorses appeared on the reef!
Cygnus loved them and tried to make friends, but the baby seahorses didn’t know him.
They played with one another and hitched to a hoop too small for Cygnus to share.
But Cygnus refused to give up.
He watched the baby seahorses grow and took every opportunity to show them he meant no harm.
Someday, he knew, those babies would be his friends.
After several weeks, the baby seahorses realized that Cygnus wasn’t a monster after all. They watched him hitch to the corals and imitated his hitching style. They swam where he swam and slept where he slept, and eventually….
… many months later….
One of those baby seahorses turned into quite a special friend indeed.
The lesson Cyg learned from rejection is one every writer and artist needs to remember too. Sometimes rejection doesn’t come because you aren’t nice enough, or smart enough, or beautiful enough to succeed. Sometimes the time just isn’t right for you yet.
Be patient. Be friendly. Be steadfast. And just keep swimming.
Like Cygnus, your day will come.