I admit it, the internet is my crack but hey, through on-line resources for writers such as Publishers Marketplace, Zoetrope Studios, Lit Park, and Backspace, I have formed some amazing cyber relationships with other authors from literally all over the world. Even better, because I'm lucky enough to be an hour or so away from New York City, I've had the chance to meet a lot of these writers in person as they pass through for readings and signings and too cool, they've ended up becoming my real world friends as well.
A lot of us started our careers at the same time. I joined Publishers Marketplace around five years ago and started reading a blog by a writer named Patry Francis called "I'm Really Not a Waitress". Is that the greatest name for a blog or what? At the time, I Was Really Not a Paralegal so I identified with Patry in a big way. And isn't she beautiful?
Anyway, after years of working as a waitress and raising four children while dreaming of being a published author, Patry got a book deal for her incredible novel, The Liar's Diary. When she made the announcement and I read her blog post about it, I threw my fist up in the air and shouted "Yeah!"
So imagine how thrilled I was to meet her in person last May at the Backspace Writers Conference in New York City...I hung out with Patry, Tish Cohen, Jessica Keener, Robin Grantham and Susan Henderson, and even though I'd never met Patry, Jessica, Robin, and Tish in the flesh before, we instantly bonded and it was as if we'd been friends for life. Susan and I had clicked the same way when we met back in 2002.
It was so cool -- six neurotic, hyperventilating women writers all about the same age (give or take erm, ten years) -- who connected like only six neurotic, hyperventilating women writers can. It was truly a beautiful thing.
Okay, I was the only one hyperventilating. The others were calm. I swear. Alright, maybe not Jessica. And maybe not Tish. Yeah, maybe not Robin G, either. Possibly Susan was calm, but she's sneaky, she could have been acting. But Patry - definitely calm, and one of those people who have a calming presence on others.
And so a few months ago, just a couple of days after after Thanksgiving, I gasped when I came across this entry in Patry's blog:
"Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Then the news got worse: a cat scan revealed spots on my liver, a possible metastasis.
So how does a lifelong neurotic and avowed hypochondriac deal with that kind of news? Initially, not too well. The day I got the scan results I went home, drank too much wine, cried, yelled at the wonderful husband who was as anxious as I was, and avoided calls from friends and family members. I preferred to sit in the dark and drink my misery to the last drop; thank you very much.
But the next morning I woke up in a different frame of mind. It was a bright November morning; I had work I love to do; and after only twelve hours, I was already tired of my own despair and fear. I couldn't change the fact that I was ill; I couldn't make the road ahead pain or anxiety free, but I could get out of bed and take the dogs to the beach. I could pick up a common, translucent shell and hold it up to the light until it revealed just how uncommon it was. Then I could put it in my pocket and take it home to remind me--just in case I forgot.
Fortunately, last week an MRI revealed no sign of metastasis; and I'm optimistic about my surgery next Thursday. Still, it's been a difficult time. The other night I was watching a British movie called Greenfingers. In it, a character says, "You have to learn to make adversity your ally." I knew exactly what he was talking about. I may not be ready to call adversity my ally yet, but it is certainly my teacher.
One thing I learned was that for every ounce of trouble I was forced to drink, I would counter it with two ounces of bliss. Not the cheap bliss I attempted to find in a wine bottle, but the real thing. The kind I saw in that thin shell when I held it up to the light. The kind we all have inside us if we choose to draw on it.
I really think this is where we so often go wrong . When bad things happen--whether it's disease, rejection, mistreatment, percieved or otherwise--we allow it to control us. In other words, we pour ourselves another glass of poison when what we really need is the antidote--a double shot of BLISS!
My grandfather, who I called John, said it more succinctly: "No kick." (Translation: No complaints.) I've written about his two word exhortation here and elsewhere, but it has never meant more to me than it does right now. When asked to expand on his philosophy, he said, "Once you give in to complaining, you're all done."
Well, John, I'm not done yet.
Peace and love to all--"
I fell apart when I read that and, completely freaked out, I fired off emails to Karen Dionne at BackSpace and Susan Henderson at LitPark. Just as I knew they would, they both sprung into immediate action along with authors Laura Benedict and Jessica Keener. And so thanks to those remarkable, tireless women and their coordinated massive campaign via email, their websites, and other various on line and real world networking, January 29, 2008, is officially PATRY FRANCIS BLOG DAY, with approximately three hundred (300!) authors participating, and I'm going to deliberately list them all below, and with good reason, which you will find out shortly.
Here is the official press release put together for this day:
"Writer Patry Francis published her debut thriller, THE LIAR'S DIARY, this past spring; this fall, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Long before THE LIAR'S DIARY was published, readers flocked to her blog. There, she writes about her life with inspiring, unsentimental candor.
The paperback release of THE LIAR'S DIARY, is January 29th. Given that Patry won't have much energy for promoting the release, a few of us writer/blogger types thought we would try to give the book a boost.
We're planning a THE LIAR'S DIARY blog day on January 29th, asking folks to mention the book and link to Patry's website (www.patryfrancis.com) and/or the book's Amazon page right here.
Now you might be asking yourself, okay, but where do I come in? Well, it's quite simple, really. What we are actually asking that you click on either of the above links and purchase one paperback of The Liar's Diary for yourself and one for a friend anytime between today and February 1, 2008 (or beyond if your finances do not permit an immediate purchase). Our goal is to not only get the word out about Patry's brilliant debut novel and help her promote it while she recovers from her surgeries, we want to send it to #1 on the best seller list.
So, what else is in it for you besides owning an amazing, amazing book and helping out an amazing, amazing author in need?
Well, here's where I come in, along with the list of 300 authors below. The first ten people who send me proof to my email address at Robin81700@gmail.com that they have purchased two copies of The Liars Diary are going to have their choice of gifts. I will either mail you one of my books, autographed...or, okay, okay, I realize you might already have all of my books (har har) or I simply may not be your cup of tea. Therefore, I have decided that since there are three hundred authors so generously giving their time and participating in today's event, if you would rather have a book written by one of them, just say the word, and I will forward you, by email, an Amazon gift certificate for any one of their paperback books. Just looking over the list of names, you cannot go wrong.
And next up is my challenge. After you read The Liar's Diary, I would like you to write a review, to either post on Amazon, your own blog, or to send to me so that I can post it here. If I receive enough reviews, I will have a dedicated day where I publish them all though I would still ask that you forward them to Amazon as well. The upshot of this whole challenge is that in my "humble" opinion, whichever one of you writes the most compelling review, well, you will win a $50.00 gift certificate from Amazon for books by any of the below authors.
I think this is a pretty fair deal, don't you? Buy two books to help out Patry, get a third book of your choice free...write a review...and quite possibly win $50.00 worth of books by incredible authors.
So let's get back to Patry and her book.
Here's the synopsis of The Liar's Diary, as eloquently written by Patry herself -- or at least I think so, since that's the way it appears on her website. Gah! I know, I know, I'm a writer - I should fact check before babbling. Anyway...
"What would you do if your best friend was murdered—and your teenaged son was accused of the crime? How far would you go to protect him? How many lies would you tell? Would you dare to admit the darkest truths—even to yourself?
Jeanne Cross is an ordinary suburban wife and mother with a seemingly "perfect" life when Ali Mather arrives on the scene, breaking all the rules and breaking hearts. Almost against her will, Jeanne is drawn to this powerfully seductive woman, a fascination that soon begins to infect Jeanne's husband as well as their teenaged son, Jamie.
Though their friendship seems unlikely and even dangerous to their mutual acquaintances, Ali and Jeanne are connected by deep emotional needs, vulnerabilities and long-held secrets that Ali has been privately recording in her diary.
The diary also holds the key to something darker. Though she can't prove it, Ali is convinced someone has been entering her house when she is not at home-and not with the usual intentions. What this burglar wants is nothing less than a piece of Ali's soul.
When Ali is found murdered, there are many suspects; but the evidence against Jamie Cross is overwhelming. Jeanne's personal probing leads her to the question none of us would ever want to face. What comes first: our loyalty to family—or the truth?"
To further entice you, here is the official trailer for the book:
Come on. You know you want this book, and you know you have someone in your life who would love a surprise gift as well. Let me make it easy for you and post the Amazon link again right here.
And now I'd like to give you some more of Patry and her brilliant and self-depreciating wit. Here's the blog entry she made when she first sold her book:
"HOLY COW! WAITRESS GETS A BOOK DEAL!
originally posted: November 14, 2005
I bought these shoes a couple years ago on sale for $14.99. A deal! I called a few of my waitress friends who came out and bought two or three pairs. But not me. See, I didn't plan to wear those ugly black clunkers much longer. Back at home, I was writing my little heart out (mostly in secret, lest people think I'm crazier than they already do). But also in secret, I believed something great was going to happen to me. Something miraculous. I was going to find an agent who had faith in me; and somewhere, somehow I was going to get a book deal.
This summer, when the soles sprung their first official hole and rain or every gooey gross substance on the kitchen floor leaked through saturated my socks, I refused to buy another pair. Nor did I replace my yellowing tuxedo shirts. This, you see, was going to be my last season as a waitress. Those who had heard I found an agent, asked almost daily if I'd sold the book.
"We're revising," I said. "Maybe we'll go out with it in the fall."
People gave me the kind of looks reserved for escapees from the asylum. "Better get a new pair of shoes, hon," they said as they walked away.
Meanwhile, the holes in my shoes got bigger and the soles got thinner. But I was not buying another pair. Well, at least not till next spring. But worse than the problem with the shoes, my backaches required more ibupfrofen to quiet them, and my feet ached so much that sometimes I still felt them in the morning. Everything was telling me that the work I did was too physical for my ectomorph body, and that I'd been doing it for far too long. And yet the only Plan B I had was a miracle.
Then last Thursday around 11:30 a.m. the phone rang as I was wandering around the house with a coffee cup in my hand thinking about my work in progress. On the other end of the line, the most amazing literary agent in the known universe, Alice Tasman of JVNLA (Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency) greeted me cheerily.
"I have some very exciting news for you," she said. "Dutton has made an offer on your novel."
While she gave me the details of the offer, my eyes drifted toward my waitressing shoes which were sitting in a square of light in the middle of the floor.
"You mean I can hang up my waitress shoes?" I said.
"You can burn those babies," she replied.
What happened next and for the rest of the day can only be described as the five stages of happiness. In the countless times I imagined getting this call, this was not how I thought I would feel.
Stage 1. Weeping and shaking. Tears of joy? I'm not sure. They felt more like tears of shock or of something shattering inside me. When I called my husband to tell him the news, I was crying so hard that he was certain someone had died. "What!" he finally screamed on the other end of the line, giving me the kind of response I thought I would have.
Stage 2. Numbness. I proceeded to call everyone I know, everyone who believed in me, or didn't believe in me, and tell them, it happened. The words, the call I was waiting for since I was eight years old and first dreamed fo being a writer had been spoken. And yet, as I heard the happy responses of friends and family, I felt surreal. Who got a book deal? Me? It couldn't be true.
Stage 3. Drunkenness. Remember that good champagne I said I was drinking the other night? Well, it wasn't for nothing. It was then followed by a celebratory dinner and a bottle of pinot noir.
Stage 4. Crashing. When I came home from dinner, I went up to my room and fell into an exhausted, intoxicated sleep with my boots on, the pointed toes directed toward the ceiling like the wicked witch of the west. For a full hour, I slept the sleep of the dead.
Stage 5: Bliss. When I woke up, I found myself in the middle of the most beautiful room in the world. Who cares if the walls were still a pukey green and I had been planning to get new curtains for about three years now? It was my room. My life. And it was an amazing place. As I wandered around the house at midnight, I opened random windows and shouted out them. I did a victory lap around the lonely streets of my neighborhood. At 1:30 my cousin Ali called and the two of us laughed giddily the way we did as adolescents when a cute boy from school smiled in our direction. I noticed that all my animals, who are usually asleep at that hour, were up and trailing me around the house, wondering what was going on. The two dogs had dragged their toys out, obviously sensing the aura of celebration that I exuded. Whatever game I was playing, they wanted to play too.
I know that this kind of happiness cannot last,and probably shouldn't, because it's pretty much a full time job. "You gonna do the laundry, Mom. I need some jeans," my son asked a day or two into my bliss. To which, I answered, "Sorry, I'm too busy being happy. Maybe next week."
I also know there's lots of hard work ahead. But this has been my week for singing. For doing little dances in the middle of the grocery store. For my first sip of good champagne."
And then a year later, Patry could not resist the following equally poignant journal entry:
"10 THINGS THAT HAVE CHANGED SINCE I SOLD MY BOOK
A year ago today, something incredible happened to me. Let me set the scene: It was around eleven in the morning, and I was in my study writing when the phone rang. I shambled toward the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, a defiant bunch of characters still carrying on a spirited dialogue in my head. I was still wearing my pajamas.
My first thought? Maybe it was my agent calling to say she'd sold my book! An amazing coincidence maybe? A sign that that I possessed the gift of prophecy? Nope.
Actually, that thought has passed through my mind every time the phone rang for years -- even before I had an agent. In fact, I've probably been dreaming about that phone call since I was nine years old and I first started writing stories instead of multiplication problems on my papers during math class.
The only difference was that this time I was right. This time it was my agent. And this time she wasn't calling to say hello, or to suggest a revision or to tell me that we'd gotten a pass. This time she began the conversation with the words, "I have some very exciting news..."
What happened next, I recorded in detail last year. This year I want to talk about the expectations those words carried for me. (The illustration above may give you some idea of my modest hopes.)
While I waited tables and dreamed and scribbled by moonlight, I'd come to believe that if I ever sold a novel, I'd never have another moment of self-doubt, the grouchy old man in the deli would smile when he saw me and toss in an extra quarter pound of smoked turkey, and it would never rain on my birthday. Slowly, in the course of the past year, I've been disabused of nearly all my out-sized expectations.
In actuality life has both changed immensely -- and not at all.
Ten Things That have Changed:
1. I eased my way out of my waitress job -- with baffling reluctance, I might add.
2. When I told people I was a writer, they didn't do that funny thing with their eyebrows, or sneak each other sidelong glances, like they had in the past.
3. On my tax form, I wrote WRITER all in caps, instead of waitress. I wonder what the IRS thought about the row of exclamation points at the end.
4. I worked more hours than I ever have in my life and I loved every minute of it.
5. I learned that in today's market, the success of any given book depends as much on the writer's efforts as it does on the publisher's.
6. I became an enthusiastic promoter.
7. I threw around strange terms like "my publicist," "my editor," "my galleys," like I'd been doing it all my life.
8. I made some amazing new friends.
9. I went to New York for only the fourth time in my life -- and this time I went "on business."
10. I realized that self-doubts, rainy birthdays, and grouchy guys at the deli never go away. And what's more, I wouldn't have it any other way. If life was perfect, what would we write about?
And the one thing that hasn't changed? This morning, around eleven O'clock I was in my study, talking back to a troublesome character, and sucking on a cold cup of coffee. And yes, I was still in my pajamas. In the end, that's still what it's all about."
Finally, here's a really cool article I found - an interview with Patry, which blew me away, especially since she talks about the Backspace Conference in May of last year where I finally met her:
Diary of a First Novelist
"Two weeks ago in New York, I had the privilege of appearing on a panel at the Backspace Conference. It was my first experience at a writing conference, and one I'd recommend to anyone in our solitary profession. During my four days in the city, I made friendships that feel destined to last, impressed the hell out of myself as I sipped martinis in the Algonquin bar, and attended crowded literary cocktail parties. I also had a chance to speak to an audience about my experience as a debut author.
But the highlight of the week was one I almost missed. A writer by the name of David Morrell was scheduled to give the keynote address. From the brief bio included in the schedule, I quickly decided that Mr. Morrell wrote the kind of taut male thrillers my husband sometimes reads, but I never do. (One of his early novels was First Blood, the basis for the Rambo series.)
I'd met the author during one of the "mixers," and he seemed like a nice man, but I doubted he had much to say to me personally. After all, we were different kinds of writers. Or so I thought. I will always be grateful to the friend who convinced me to stay for his address.
By the time it was finished, I realized that there is only one kind of writer worth being, and David Morrell had given us a living demonstration of who that was. As the writing cliche goes, he didn't tell us how to captivate an audience, he showed us. And he did it so powerfully that many people left the room in tears--and everyone left inspired.
He began with a simple question: why do you want to be a writer? Then, after eliminating all the easy answers, he moved on to a statement that has stayed with me. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was something like, "I'm going to tell you my story, but as I do, you're going to hear your story."
And as he spoke, sharing a story that held us entranced and left us deeply moved, that was exactly what happened: He told us his story, but in the universality of the emotions it evoked, we heard our own. And strangely, miraculously, we understood it better than we ever had before.
That, I realized, is the storyteller's art, the purest form of literary magic. It's what every reader or moviegoer hungers for when we open a book or enter a theatre. We want to go on that mythical journey that will not only entertain us; it will expand our hearts, illuminate the dark places inside us, and ultimately enlarge our vision of what it means to be human."
I was in that room with Patry while David spoke and when he was finished, we both left the room totally choked up. But sadly, being a hopeless fan girl, I had to go back in and try and talk to him afterwards, anyway, and yeah, yeah, we already know what a dork I am courtesy of my last experience trying to have a conversation with a world famous author...argh...Neil Gaiman...I still turn purple just thinking about that debacle...but fortunately with David I was totally unable to speak and merely burst into tears instead.
Here's a picture of Patry at the GalleyCat Party held in connection with the Book Expo in NYC which was held concurrently BackSpace Conference and which party I got to attend for a big five minutes with Jessica Keener before the two of us had to jump in a cab, ridden with high anxiety, because the BackSpace banquet was unfortunately being held the same exact time as the GalleyCat party.
Outside the GalleyCat party: Susan Henderson, Bethanne Kelly Patrick, Bella Stander, Patry Francis & MJ Rose.
That's okay, we had a blast at the banquet. So what if we didn't get to hang out with Bella Stander and MJ Rose...sniff..sob...
Oh, I'm kidding.
And now, without further ado, thank you so much to the many, many authors who are participating in today's event (and a huge thanks to Susan Henderson for providing me with all of the below links) and remember, all you have to do is buy The Liar's Diary for yourself and a friend, and you can select a paperback written by yours truly or anyone listed.
Laura Benedict, who came up with the idea. Patry's editor at Dutton, Julie Doughty. Her agent at the Jean Naggar Literary Agency, Alice Tasman. Her publicist, Laurie Connors. Eileen Hutton at Brilliance Audio. Dan Conaway from Writers House. Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. Eve Bridburg at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth literary agency, The Red Room, where I am proud to be a participating author. And...
Gail Baker - The Debutante Ball
Carolyn Burns Bass
Susan Breen - Gotham Writers Workshops
Eve Bridburg - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
Rachel Kramer Bussel
Austin S. Camacho
Karen DeGroot Carter
Cynthia Clark - Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
Oline H. Cogdill - Sun-Sentinal
Eileen Cruz Coleman
Laurie Connors - Penguin
Bill Crider - Pop Culture Magazine
Ann Mare Cummins
Alma Hromic Deckert
Julie Doughty - Dutton
J.T. Ellison - Killer Year
Sheila Clover English - Circle of Seven Productions
Kate Epstein - the Epstein Literary Agency
Rachel Fershleiser at SMITH Magazine
Michael A. FitzGerald
Connie May Fowler
Jane Ganahl - Red Room
Erika-Marie S. Geiss
Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Susan Helene Gottfried
Bob Gray - Shelf Awareness
Nancy O. Greene
Melanie Lynn Hauser
Maria Dahvana Headley
Heidi the Hick
Eileen Hutton - Brilliance Audio
International Thriller Writers
Jen Jordan - Crimespree
Jungle Red Writers
Kristy Kiernan - Southern Authors Blog
Jeff Kleinman - Folio Literary Management
Rebecca Laffar-Smith - Writers Roundabout
Judy Merrill Larson
Julie Anne Long
Amy MacKinnon - The Writers Group
P. A. Moed
Joe Moore - Inkspot
Marcia Peterson - WOW! Women on Writing
Anthony S. Policastro
Janet Reid - FinePrint Literary Management
M.J. Rose - Buzz, Balls & Hype
Harris Salat -Visual Thesaurus
Maria Schneider - Writer's Digest Magazine
Sisters in Crime
BPM Smith - Word & Bass
Charles R. Temple
N. L. Valler
Barbara Vey - Publishers Weekly
Therese Walsh - Writer Unboxed
John Warner - Tow Books
Kimberly M. Wetherell
Dan Wickett - Emerging Writers Network
Thanks, Patry, for being an inspiration to us all -- and a huge, huge thank you to Laura, Karen, Jessica, and Susan for arranging this extraordinary event. Now here's hoping all of you will take me up on my offer...and if the above list is too daunting, I will be only too happy to assist you with a recommendation for the gift book of your choice.
(Oh God, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Tish Cohen's Town House? Ellen Meister's Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA? Terry Bain's You Are a Dog? Lauren Baratz-Logsted's Vertigo? Maryanne Stahl's Forgive the Moon? Jordan Rosenfeld's Make A Scene? Neil Gaiman...like, everything he's ever written?)
ETA: I just learned by reading other blogs celebrating Patry today that you can also order The Liar's Diary directly from her publisher, Penguin Books. If you order that way, you can get a 15% discount. Just add the book to your cart and type the word PATRY into the coupon code. Here's the link!
Finally, I know a lot of you also hang out at LitPark with me so you probably all read this on Monday, but in case you missed it, here's a link to Susan's post of yesterday which includes a note from Patry's husband. Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.
P.S. Wow! The response so far is overwhelming and it's not even 9:00 a.m. yet. So let me tell you about the emails I've received. Thus far, Tish Cohen, Ellen Meister, Jessica Keener, and Laura Benedict have written to me and offered copies of their books to send to you as gifts once I have fulfilled my initial offer to the first ten of you who buy a copy of The Liar's Diary for yourself and a friend. Patry's agent, Alice Tasman, has offered ten copies of the book as well and I'm trying to figure out how to work that in...perhaps someone would like a third copy for a Christmas gift or maybe you already bought a couple copies and would like books by one of the wonderful people who have organized this event. So I'm thinking that if you bought, say, a book by Tish Cohen and a book by Karen Dionne, I could send you an extra copy of The Liar's Diary courtesy of Alice. Keep checking back here and at LitPark - I will figure this out and I already know that the list of authors contributing is going to grow and grow as the day progresses.