Archive for February, 2010

Sue Lange has two books of science fiction satire out: Tritcheon Hash and We, Robots. Her multimedia extravaganza, The Textile Planet, was published by Book View Cafe (BVC) in 2008. BVC also recently put out her collection, Uncategorized, and they will be publishing We, Robots as an ebook in March.

Thanks for the interview, Sue! Why don't you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it?

My latest book is actually, "Uncategorized," a collection of my previously published short stories. The collection is aptly named. There is no one genre that they fit in, except, maybe slipstream. There's an air of weirdness to each one, but other than that they are pretty much unrelated. Each story was inspired by a different thing, so there's no easy way to answer that question. Interestingly enough, though, I included a paragraph or two before each story to talk about what it was that inspired each story. That was a nice thing to be able to do since, for the most part, it didn't get done when they had been published in the magazines or zines or wherever they were first put out.

Have you ever suffered from writer's block?

I've never had this problem, but that's mostly because I've never had to write to a deadline. I don't have a contract to write three novels by the end of the year. It would be nice to know someone is waiting for my work, but on the other hand, I'm not a fan of pressure so it's good that I don't have that sort of contract to work under. I like things to happen in their own sweet time. So if I don't have something to write about, I don't write. I don't consider it a writer's block, I just don't have anything to say. People with writer's block either have no deadlines or have nothing to say. Or maybe they have something to say but something like fear is preventing them from saying it.

What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?


How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I've never looked hard for a publisher. I've worked with two different ones now. The first one, Metropolis Ink, I happened upon because a friend of mine had just published with them. I asked her about whether or not they were taking on new authors and she suggested I send them a manuscript. They were in a position to accept it so it all worked out. I didn't really know about agents or anything, I just contacted the publisher directly. I came across the second publisher, Aqueduct Press, when I was doing an event with Nancy Jane Moore after Tritcheon Hash got published. I got to know the publisher, Timmi Duchamp, and eventually sent her the manuscript for We, Robots. I do try to get agents interested in my work, but so far I have not been fortunate in that area. It's hard to find agents for weird, slipstream type stuff. I guess. The only advice I have is if you can't find an agent or a publisher, hire an editor before you self-publish. And absolutely do not self-publish is you are not a salesman before you are a writer.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

For book promotion, I like live events, but it's harder to get people out for live events than it is to get them to buy books so I'm not sure it's a cost effective method of promotion. I just like doing them. I enjoy performance. Other than that, I like writing my blog because I like to write. I despise talking about my books and trying to get people to buy them so I don't do it well, therefore it doesn't seem to work for me.

Share with us some writing tips!

Read what you like. Steal ideas from what you read. Rinse and repeat. (Oh, and when you get caught for plagiarism, please don't tell anybody Sue Lange told you to do that.)

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

I love Stansilaw Lem. And I'm trying to concentrate on short stories in my own writing so I've been reading a lot of anthologies. I recently discovered Brian Evenson and Dan Marcus. Dan Marcus suggested I check out a slipstream collection edited by James Patrick Kelly so I'm enjoying that. I like anything that's intellectually funny. Garrison Keillor. I'm not overly fond of slapstick or farce. I think fart jokes are overrated. I'm done with scatological humor. But anything else is fabulous.

Do you think a critique group is essential for a writer?

These days yes. There are so many people writing nowadays, you can't just be talented. You have to be polished and perfect. Besides writing is a lonely undertaking. Best to get out and meet up at a bar or bookstore or somebody's house and share a cup of coffee or a shot of whiskey or a bag of pot.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Website: http://www.suelangetheauthor.com

blog: Singularity Watch: Rapture of the Nerds: http://suelange.wordpress.com

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I'm working through some short stories, a novel entitled The Perpetual Motion Club, and a non-fiction memoir-type thing called RTFM: My life and times in tech. By the time this interview is published, I'm sure all of this will change.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Buy an ebook reader and enjoy the future.

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My special guest today is Lauren Kate, author of Fallen. Kate grew up in Dallas, sent to school in Atlanta, and started writing in New York. She's also the author of The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. She's currently working on the sequel to Fallen, Torment. Kate was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Thanks so much for the interview, Lauren! Tell us, what was your inspiration for Fallen?

I got the idea for Fallen from a line in Genesis that describes a group of angels who were cast out of heaven for falling in love with mortal women. I started thinking about what it would be like to be a normal girl–suddenly the object of an angel's affection. What kind of baggage would an angel have? What would her very over-protective parents think? From there, this whole world unfurled in my head. Fallen angels, demons, reincarnation, and the war in heaven were all battling for a piece of the action.

I found the atmosphere in the book deliciously dark. How conscious do you have to be of language to create such an effect?

Thank you! It took me until the second draft of Fallen to realize that the setting was really another character in the story. At times, I struggled with those descriptions—like, how many times can I use the word “humid?”—but then, once I started to see how integral Savannah and Sword and Cross were to Luce’s storyline, I started to have more fun with it. Torment is set in an entirely different place, but I like to think the setting is just as relevant and important, and just as much fun.

Did you plot the story in advance or did the story and characters develop as you wrote?

I surprised myself by meticulously plotting out Fallen before I wrote it. Character descriptions, paragraph long synopses for each chapter, “big” endings, the whole deal. The outline (along with a few chapters) was shared with writer-friends, agents and/or editors at very early stages. And because the story was larger and more complicated than I’d first realized, I actually did revisions on the outline. Way more plotting than I’d ever done before.

At the end of plotting, when I was ready to plunge into the story, it was comforting to sit down every day and know I had to write a chapter where x happened, followed by y, and then z. But sometimes, it was also uninspiring. Suddenly, Y bored me, and Z felt really predictable. But it was in the outline, which fit together like a puzzle! What to do? Eventually, I realized there were days when I would have to loosen my leash from my outlines, to let the story adapt and change organically as I went along. This was a very good decision, and I think the book is stronger because of both my plotting and my plot-straying.

Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?

I love Arriane. The crazy ones are always the most fun, aren’t they? She is crazy, but she’s also smart and loyal and funny and will be very important to Luce over the course of the series.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?

This is the first time I’ve written any kind of series and it was very, very different from my experience writing my first novel, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. Because Luce’s story is so far-reaching and will take so long to tell, the challenge of the first book was doing all the work setting up the world of these characters. There were so many rules to invent, so many back-stories to keep straight, and so many plot twists to withhold from the reader for later books! All of that was a challenge, but I *think* it paid off for me as a writer. Because so much is already in place, Torment has been vastly easier to write than Fallen.

Did you keep a disciplined schedule? How long did it take you to write it?

I’ve become a strange sort of writing machine this year. It’s bizarre. In the past it’s taken me six years to get one draft of a novel out. I wrote Fallen in two months. Then, after my editor looked at it and gave me some suggestions, I spent another month revising it. That’s also been the case for Torment. There’s something about the urgency of Luce’s story that gets into me, and it all sort of tumbles out. It’s clumsy and at times agonizing, uninspiring work, but I do so much work in between the first and second draft that I’ve started to realize it’s okay. I have to get it all out first, and then I go back in later and make everything better—make the story more like what it wants to be.

Please share with my readers a bit about your road to publication. Was it easy or difficult?

Both! At first it was very difficult, and then it got a lot easier. I’ve been writing stories since high school, sending them out with hopes of publication since college. I published a story online here and there, never with much consequence. I moved on to write two novels that do nothing but gather e-dust on my hard drive, and I definitely had moments where I thought it just was never going to happen. Then I started writing The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. It was the first time I had a clear idea for a full story arc in my mind before I started writing, and I think that was an important shift for me. Because, um, the book actually went somewhere. After that, I hooked up with my former boss who is now working as an agent and we started talking about Fallen. I wrote about five chapters of the book and he helped me structure a proposal for the rest of the series. I left it in his hands and hoped for the best—and we couldn’t have done any better than the folks we ended up with at Delacorte. They’re a dream team.

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

Sometimes staying in a scene long enough to do it justice is a challenge for me. Especially with the Fallen series, when I know so much about the exciting things coming up in later parts of the novel, I’m so eager to get there that I sometimes forget to take my time and really make the most of every moment I’m writing about. My editor and agent are always telling me “Slow down!” “Give up the goods!” This happens a lot with the steamier scenes in the novel. Sometimes I try to skip over them or write around them because I keep thinking about my grandmother reading them or something. But when I force myself to sit down and stay a while, to write about that kiss for three whole pages and really ‘go there,’ it makes all the difference in the world.

What is the single most important tip of advice you’d give new writers?

Live your life as curious person. Try to see the entire world as your muse. Ask questions. Dismiss nothing. Eavesdrop. Always eavesdrop. You’ll have more fun, learn all the time, and when the time comes to sit down and write, you’ll have a whole lineup of stories, just waiting to be told.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

“Finish your novel. Just so that you know you can.” It sounds like the most obvious thing to say, but I was about to give up on a bad novel I wrote in college. The friend who gave me this advice said it so gravely that I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wrote the rest of that awful book, and when the time came to start another one, a better one, I already knew I could do it.

When is the second book in the series coming out?

We don’t have an exact date yet, but sometime in October of this year! I’m so excited about this book. I hope it’s worth the wait.

Thanks for the great interview, Lauren, and good luck with the series!

Watch the trailer!



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Aurora Anaya- Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, is an active member of the East Harlem community as a participant and supporter of cultural and educational events. A graduate of UCLA, Ms. Anaya-Cerda has a double Bachelor’s degree in History and Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Education. She was awarded the Juanita Centeno Leadership Award and the UCLA Women for Change Leadership Award, both for outstanding dedication and service to her community. Aurora recently received a scholarship from the New Start Fund, awarded to women entrepreneurs in New York City.

What compelled you to open your own bookstore?

The idea of opening a bookstore came while I was in college. I contemplated the idea briefly, but did other things first before making the decision to open La Casa Azul Bookstore. It wasn’t until I moved to East Harlem from East Los Angeles that I decided to make the dream a reality. I enrolled in a business course and immersed myself in the book industry world; soon I was so motivated and determined to open the bookstore that there was no going back. I chose East Harlem as the home for La Casa Azul Bookstore because there are not enough venues in the community that promote Latino literature.

When did the bookstore officially open it’s online doors to the public?

La Casa Azul Bookstore opened as an online store in April of 2008. Customers nation wide can purchase books, DVDs and CDs via http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com. Opening as a virtual bookstore has served as a stepping stone towards the opening of the bookstore as a brick and mortar. Since the launch of the website, I have partnered with a local venues to host author readings, book signings and the monthly Barrio Book Club.

What was the most difficult aspect of the process when you first started? the most rewarding?

As an entrepreneur there have been many challenges, but it’s important to learn from all mistakes and face each difficulty head on. An entrepreneur wears many hats and has to know about all aspects of their business ..marketing, accounting, industry trends, even real estate and lease negotiations!

There have also been many moments in this journey that have been incredibly rewarding… for example, meeting bookstore supporters who are introduced to new writers because of the my events, meeting great writers, and seeing a child open a book and be excited about reading. Receiving positive feedback and support from people who attend the events and buy the books I sell is also a great reward, it keeps me motivated and makes all my hard work worthwhile.

Your bookstore has been getting a lot of exposure lately. You’ve been featured in major newspapers and radio stations. Has this happened naturally or are you constantly trying to find news ways to promote your business?

I think the media coverage is a result of both my dedication to promoting Latino writers with the work that I do (book club, readings, newsletters), mixed with the need that there is to highlight and showcase Latino literature. Marketing and media attention are extremely important, and I am grateful for the articles and interviews that have featured La Casa Azul Bookstore.

What type of books are most popular with your readers?

Fiction is definitely the most popular genre, but it’s great to also see customers buying books featured in the Barrio Book Club that include poetry, memoirs and mystery titles. I write a monthly newsletter with book recommendations and author interviews, and my customers purchase those as well.

Tell us about the author events you often host and how people can learn about them.

There have been over 30 author events since April 2008, with book readings, launch parties, book signings, open mic events and children’s story time. There is also the monthly Barrio Book Club that meets on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, which is the reader’s opportunity to have an intimate conversation and book discussion with a local writer. Barrio Book Club has featured authors such as Mirta Ojito, Marta Moreno Vega, Daniel Serrano, Sergio Troncoso, Josefina Lopez and Junot Diaz.

What would you like to tell our readers?

Here is a list of ways to support La Casa Azul Bookstore:

• Shop online for your books and DVDs, http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com
• Be a part of the Founding Familia, be a bookstore investor!
• Purchase books for your school library or classroom from La Casa Azul Bookstore
• Host a book reading at your school, organization or club.
• Invite La Casa Azul Bookstore to your school book fair or parent/teacher night
• Attend the Barrio Book Club, held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at El Museo del Barrio
• Sign up for the store newsletter online
• Tell everyone you know about La Casa Azul Bookstore!


Aurora Anaya-Cerda
Website: http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com
E-mail lacasaazulbookstore@gmail.com
Phone (646) 413-5251

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Please welcome today’s guest, Christian Usera, poet and author of the anthology The Four Corners. Usera grew up Washington, D.C. and graduated from New York University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. He has lived in four states as well as abroad in Spain and Bulgaria. While living in Sofia, Bulgaria he wrote a poetry compilation, entitled, Bulgarian Nights about his travels. In addition, Usera also wrote an earlier book of poetry cataloguing the years 2002-2008 called, Then Came The Rain.

He has also written four illustrated novels contained in the anthology The Four Corners. He has been featured in “Voces del Caribe,” an online scholarly journal sponsored by City University of New York, The Gypsy Art Radio Blog, Northern Virginia Magazine and The Midwest Book Review. Usera was also the subject of Marassa 2007, a presentation sponsored by the Comparative Literature Department of New York University and Kamau Brathwaite, a world-renowned Caribbean poet. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.

Welcome to the Dark Phantom! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about The Four Corners and what inspired you to write it?

The Four Corners is an anthology of four graphic novels regarding the themes of light, love, truth and wisdom. They were originally intended for children and to a large extent can be appreciated by them. Each work was crafted using different media: "The Ones" was constructed using spray paints on canvas, "Gate to Eden" was an acrylic on paper project, "Power of Three" was also completed using acrylic (however it was applied on gesso board) and lastly "The Elders" was made using a combination of watercolors, pastel w/ water (which infused the color) and crayons on watercolor paper. The collection is meant to be highly interpretive, however I will say that there is a spiritual component to the work. It is not intended to be dogmatic nor point to one particular religion. Instead the work poses some philosophical questions such as:

“Does anyone marvel at the fact that the universe was at one point ‘Nothingness’? For that matter what is ‘Nothing’? If Nothingness is theoretically the potentiality of being, what would one create out of that? Isn’t it a wonder that consciousness (or rather self awareness) wasn’t here, then appeared on the planet sudden? What is the nature of perception and reality? Are rules better for society or are ideals? Is there more to existence than the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure?”

The work is at its core a series of folktales designed to be a rorschach test for the soul. It is not meant to proselytize people or berate anyone, rather to interject some intellectual inquiry. Its target audience includes artists, speculative thinkers and children of all ages.

Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job?

I do a little of this and a little of that. Odd jobs.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It’s a funny story. I actually created the image “Mother Nothing” for the book, The Ones at which point my friend said that the work looked like an image from a Gerald Mcdermott novel. This was the launching point for the anthology: to create a new mythic story. I got hooked creating illustrated books and haven’t stopped since.

As far as structure I usually create a “skeleton” and then add/subtract from there. I usually have an “Ah ha!” moment where I either make a specific addition or subtraction that makes the work complete. So to answer the question, a little bit of both: I outline the book in my head, write down a general idea and then ‘tinker’ with my work.

Do you use index cards to plot your book?

I don’t use index cards, rather once I have a completed working draft, when the major scenes of the book are solid, I compile a list. I describe the scene and then try to mentally map out how I am going to go about illustrating the work. Sometimes I choose not to work from a ‘linear’ platform. (I.E. I end up painting a scene from the middle, then the beginning then the end for example. )

How long did it take you to write the book?

Believe it or not it took me a LONG time! From the end of 2006-2009! So about three years. I completed “The Ones” and “Gate to Eden” in 2007, “Power of Three” in 2008 and “The Elders” in 2009.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Of course! ? Doesn’t every writer! My biggest advice would be to STOP what you’re doing and go about life. The biggest mistake one could make would be to push beyond the limits of the frustration. It’s akin to an athlete trying to play through a broken bone or torn ligament. Take time away from the work then come back with ‘fresh eyes’ or better yet go over your ideas with a friend (or an enemy for that matter. 😉 )

What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Life itself. I know it’s corny, but creativity is linked to one’s infinite imagination. There isn’t a shortage of ideas rather but perhaps an inner blockage which writers should try to detour around.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Share with us some writing tips!

Conducting interviews with very generous hosts is always great! 😉 I recommend obtaining book reviews and contacting local magazines/papers. Also, if you have any professors from college willing to back your work, that’s incredibly helpful. (Especially if they’re famous writers.)

I’d like to add that I’ll be promoting this book at New York University in the late spring of this year sponsored by Kamau Brathwaite and the Comparative Literature Department of New York University. (April 2010 tentative date)

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

Mostly books on alternative spirituality: Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Carlos Canstaneda, Neal Donald Walsch, Osho etc. I also love Palahniuk, Kafka, Kundera, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Neruda, Borges and many many others. I am a bookworm. I don’t really read too much ‘fad fiction’ you won’t see the author of “Twilight” on my bookshelf anytime soon. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just not my flavor.)

Do you think a critique group is essential for a writer?

I wouldn’t know I’ve never attended one. I do have a degree in creative writing so I’m familiar with the workshop setting. It can help, but I wouldn’t use the word essential. Critique is good- developing an insecurity about writing is not.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Absolutely! www.myspace.com/theonesbook is the official website of “The Four Corners” as well as any future updates to my work.

You can follow me on Twitter as well @ CNUtheAuthor to get a week by week status check.

I’m also on Facebook, but that’s predominately a personal site.
You can however become a fan of CNUtheAuthor – which has just recently been posted.

Also one can purchase the book at this site: Https://www.createspace.com/3394262

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Yes! I am currently working on project entitled, “Mascaro.” It is another illustrated work. It centers around this tribe, which becomes immersed in a game of building masks in order to pretend they are monsters. However after several generations they forget that this event is just a game and thus believe themselves to be these creatures. Can they discover the truth? Well we shall find out in about a few months. ?

I also have a side project that’s a spirituality paper, entitled “The Vertical Spirituality Manifesto” although I think I might just post that for free via social networking sites.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

No sincere dream is laughable. Persevere and you will see how funny doubters truly are. I’d like to thank you for your time. Blessings.

Thanks for the interview!

Book Info:

The Four Corners is an anthology of illustrated folktales by Christian Usera. Each story is an inner journey into the heart of Light, Love, Truth and Wisdom. Although written in a childish voice, the style belies these complex surrealist proverbs.

Publication Date: Sep 01 2009
ISBN/EAN13: 0615313191 / 9780615313191
Page Count: 112
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
Language: English
Color: Full Color
Related Categories: Comics & Graphic Novels / Fantasy

Purchase the book HERE.

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Please welcome my special guest Gerald Elias, musician author of the mystery novel, Devil’s Trill, recently released by Minotaur. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about writing and publishing. Visit his website at www.geraldelias.com. To read my review of Devil’s Trill, click HERE.

Thanks for the interview, Gerald. You’re a concert violinist, conductor and composer. What got you into writing?

I remember in second grade we had an assignment to write a comic strip, and I did one of a horse doing pushups for JFK’s national physical fitness program. My teacher, who seemed to be impressed with my work, asked “Is this original?” I didn’t know what the word meant, so I somberly shook my head and said, “Oh, no!” My father loved writing as an avocation and in his later years became famous for writing letters to the editor of his local newspapers. He also enjoyed writing poetry–only the kind that rhymes–so I guess writing is in my genes.

Tell us how your inspiration for Devil’s Trill came about? I understand the story was based on lessons you had developed for your violin students?

Some of the most boring stuff I had to read as a violin student were pedagogical tomes about music and the violin. I decided I wanted future generations of musicians to be able to stay awake while learning about some of the challenges thrust upon us in the music world, so while each chapter of my book was a violin lesson of sorts (it included subjects such as how to choose a violin, how to audition for an orchestra, and the esthetics of music, there was an interweaving, fictional story about a legendary Stradivarius that had been stolen from Carnegie Hall. Initially “Devil’s Trill” was called “Violin Lessons” and the story line was somewhat superficial and the main character, the blind violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, not fully developed, but as years passed the book was transformed into a full-fledged who-dunnit, maintaining those aspects of violin-playing and music necessary to move the story along.

Was the story fully plotted and outlined before you sat down to write it?

Quite the contrary. I had a general idea of where I wanted it to go, but being my first book, it was only after many rewrites that everything came together. In the meantime, more characters were added, more plot twists, and of course everytime you make a change like those, everything else that came before has to be reconciled with the new material. I’m just glad that I had a full-time job as a musician while I wrote the book, which gave me the luxury of learning as I went.

The protagonist, Jacob, is quite quirky and volatile. It is certainly a distinctive character. How did you go about creating him?

Initially he was much less so, though I always conceived him being blind. There were two reasons for his blindness. First was the notion that when lacking one sense, the other four are enhanced. This of course enabled him to hear music and perceive the world around him with greater clarity. The second reason was more metaphorical. Music, obviously, is something that is heard, yet so often in the music profession the visual takes primacy. By being blind, Jacobus had the ability to perceive the “truth” of the music in a way those with sight couldn’t. His more cantankerous qualities, however, were the result of conversations I had with friend and author, Katharine Weber, who suggested that a character like Jacobus needed to be not only multi-dimensional, but also to develop throughout the book’s course. You may notice that his crotchetiness is slightly less edgy at the story’s close.

I love the way you include bits of information about violins and violinists in the story. Was this a conscious decision? Was your purpose to educate as well as entertain the reader?

I think the mark of a good mystery writer is to welcome the reader into the author’s own special world. Whether it’s a story by Walter Mosely, Donna Leon, Dick Francis, or John LeCarre, the reader may learn a great deal about that world, but it’s not a conscious effort. I tried to write “Devil’s Trill” in such a way that even people who have never experienced the world of classical music can enjoy the story. Certainly I hope that millions of people will buy and enjoy the book, and I don’t mean to sound like a missionary, but if after reading “Devil’s Trill,” people take the opportunity to go one step farther and listen to the music discussed in it, they’ll have a far more enriching experience for having done it.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Ten long years!

How was your schedule like while working on the novel?

I began the book in 1997 in Italy while on sabbatical leave from my job with the Utah Symphony, so that year I had plenty of time. Thereafter, I did most of my writing in the morning before going to work and spent the rest of the day daydreaming for improving it.

Would you share with my readers a bit about the publishing process? How was that like? Did you find the agent searching stage easy?

When I finished the first draft of the book I knew absolutely nothing about how to get it published. Some people told me you had to have an agent. Others said the hell with the agent; go directly to the publisher. Others said self-publishing was the way to go. I ended up sending the manuscript to random agents and publishers and the response was unanimously negative. I was about to give up when one day I read “The Music Lesson” by Katharine Weber and saw on the jacket that (at that time) she was teaching at my alma mater, Yale. So I wrote her and asked if she would be kind enough to read my book. Miraculously, not only did she consent to do that, she offered wonderful constructive criticism, and between her and MJ Rose, I was connected to a wonderful agent, Simon Lipskar, at Writer’s House.

That’s not the end of the story, though, because even though Simon and I reworked the book, we still received unanimous rejections from publishers, at which point Simon, also a musician, felt he was too close to the subject matter and handed me over to his mystery specialist, Josh Getzler, now with Russell and Volkening. After further rewriting we resubmitted “Devil’s Trill” to publishers, and voila! a positive response from St. Martin’s Press. That was a nice day.

I hear you play the Devil’s Trill in your book signings. Tell us about that and what you’re doing to promote the book.

I thought it would be a novel experience (no pun intended) for readers who took the trouble to go to the book signing to get a special glimpse into the book, and I was delighted to be able to provide that. The Devil’s Trill Sonata by Giuseppe Tartini is one of several pieces I played at the book signings, and I explained how each of them played a significant role in the plot. Tartini’s sonata is given the title for the book for a very special reason. Back in the 18th century he told of how, when he woke up in the middle of the night, the devil was sitting at the foot of his bed. He gave the devil his violin who then played with such astounding virtuosity that Tartini was dumbfounded. He tried to write down what the devil had played and ended up with the Devil’s Trill Sonata, perhaps the greatest thing he ever wrote, though he felt it was inadequated compared to what the devil had played. So, whereas Tartini confronted the devil at the foot of his bed, Daniel Jacobus, 250 years later, confronts his own personal demons in the form of the diabolical Piccolino Stradivarius.

When is book II coming out?

“Danse Macabre” will be released the beginning of September 2010. It will again feature Daniel Jacobus and his friend, Nathaniel Williams, as they try to unravel the mystery of beloved violinist who, having just performed his swansong at Carnegie Hall, is brutally murdered by a young rival. Or was he?

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Having devoted most of my life to being a professional musician, I feel deeply honored and blessed to have received such a positive response to my writing. There is a common thread here. Both music and literature as forms of communication can bring us together in a world where more and more barriers seem to go up daily. It is my goal to help bring us together.

Thank you and good luck with your book!

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There are people I know who really enjoy exploring the dark side of life. They are interested in really understanding the psyche and figuring out what makes people tick…particularly bad people.

I’m not one of those people.

Serial killers, depravity, warped sensibilities, scary people… If I’m being honest, I don’t like seeing the dark and twisted side of things. The dichotomy between the extremes of dark suspense and happily ever after, while highlighting the importance of love and the renewing spirit of humanity, still illustrates the evil that permeates our everyday lives, even on the periphery. It can be so disturbing that it sucks the happiness right out of me. I begin to fear who lives next door, wonder if there’s a lunatic watching my kids’ schools, worry that something dark and awful will befall someone I love.

I don’t like those feelings. At all.

Enter Lola Cruz. She’s a black belt in kung fun, a detective who sees bad things happen in her job. But she believes in love, is sassy, sexy, and smart. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Writing Lola inspires me, and helps me see that darkness doesn’t have to be overwhelming. She gives me a unique lens to view life through and I love it! From the looks of it (4 1/2 stars from RT Book Reviews, and sparkling reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist) http://misaramirez.com/the-countdown-is-on/, I’m not alone.

I know evil exists. I know misfortune exists. I’ve been touched by it. What I’ve found, as I grow older, is that I don’t particularly like being reminded of it in the books I read. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t live with my head buried in the sand. I’m socially conscious, believe in serving, and put myself out there to help and be part of the world around me. I work hard to emphasize social awareness and servitude to my kids so that they understand the lottery they won by being born in the United States, the privilege they live with, and the fact that they are blessed in a world where not everyone is so fortunate.

One thing that every human wants is love. That’s why the Lola Cruz Mystery Series has love as a key ingredient. It’s equal parts mystery and romance, and love and romance, after all, make the world go round.


Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (February 2, 2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, has developed a middle grade series, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published.


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