When I was in my twenties, I remember older women telling me “just wait until you hit 30, that metabolism will slow down so much that you won’t be able to eat a saltine without gaining five pounds.” I feared that statement so much because I valued my body like every other 25 year old does. I didn’t want to give up my youthful appearance and those delicious low-rise jeans that were so unbelievably uncomfortable and grotesquely revealing. I didn’t want to be out of shape and not be able to keep up with my future children. I love fitness-I love exercising and eating healthy, but I was so scared that once I hit 30, my body would spiral out of control and leave me lazy and hungry ALL THE TIME. I listened to these women and let their own stories affect who I was.
It wasn’t until I reached about 32 that I realized that I had to stop focusing on other people’s results and start putting the effort into my own personal results. So, I continued with my fitness obsession and because I learned what I am capable of physically, it made me yearn to discover what I was capable of on other levels. Which is why I set out to complete the first novel that I had started. Once I sent my novel out to the world and realized that I could write and possibly make a career out of it, I felt as if I conquered yet another thing that people had been telling me wasn’t possible.
In my twenties, I never gave myself the option of shouting to the world “I AM UNIQUE. I AM ME.” Instead, I hid from being unique and I altered my opinions and likes/dislikes so they were in line with those around me. One thing that is unique about me is that I love exercise-I love it so much that I feel all out of sorts if I don’t get my heart rate up every day. I used to get defensive when these older women would tell me that I’m destined to be sloppy and out of shape, simply because of age-now I smile and walk away.
Being in my 30s has taught me that I may not always be right, but I know who I am and I know what I’m capable of. It has taken me a long time to realize that I need to compete with myself, not with everyone around me. I no longer let anyone tell me how to feel or think-I make those decisions confidently on my own. So bring on the low-rise jeans and pizza in moderation, because I know what I’m capable of.
EJ Hanagan writes women’s fiction with a focus on strong female characters. Her second novel, Underwater Secrets, was recently released. Alternating between generations and intertwining the stories of Claire and her mother, Underwater Secrets teaches that sometimes the key to loving ourselves involves loving the people around us, quirks and all. Set on a lake in New Hampshire in the sixties, Underwater Secrets, provides a glimpse into the past.
I know I wrote on this topic about six months ago, but I’m working on new things, so I said yes to the invitation to share my WIP. I was invited by Laurie Baxter (click here to visit her blog post). Thanks, Laurie!
What is your working title of your book (or story)? Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News: #2 in the Hot Off the Press Series
Where did the idea come from for these books?
I wanted Veronika to have some more adventures, of course, but my friend Woody Minor told me a true story about a local Victorian house that possibly had Gold Rush coins hidden in the walls. I took that idea and ran with it.
What genre do your books fall under?
Veronika is a mystery. My Hot Off the Press series is suspenseful and romantic, but closer to NA mystery than anything else. You could also call them chick-lit but NA (New Adult) is the preferred term these days.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Veronika Layne chases a story about a Hollywood real estate house flipper, mysterious gold coins, and why someone is buying up old houses on San Pedro Island.
Will your book(s) be self-published or represented by an agency? Booktrope, a hybrid publisher, is representing my Veronika Layne series, as well as Tongues of Angels.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote this quickly, as a NaNoWriMo project — thirty days! But revisions took quite a bit longer. I revised for several months after that. it’s a short book, just 50,000 words, so it goes fast, both reading and writing.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think you can compare Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News with anything that Dick Francis wrote — it has the same steeped-in-her-occupation as Francis’s jockeys or other MCs. You could also compare Veronika with Bridget Jones, for getting into sticky situations and feeling like a flop.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My friend Woody gave me the idea, but I have been nurturing Veronika Layne inside of me for some time. She has the characteristics of my daughters — smart, feminist, fun — with the shrewd journalist I longed to be. She has some of my insecurities but she hasn’t yet attained wisdom. I’m enjoying watching her grow as a woman and as a reporter.
I also included a character named Flo who was a real-life sweet friend and neighbor of ours who painted beautiful florals and still lifes. I have several of her paintings. The story about Flo is mostly true. Here’s some of the real Flo’s work:
I still miss Flo today, and was happy I could include her in this sub-plot about a talented artist who acts as Veronika’s surrogate grandmother. These paintings are in my office and I see and love them every day.
You know how it feels when your child attempts to do something, and you know it’s going to be difficult, but you stand back and watch her struggle anyway? And maybe she’s not so successful? And then she tries again, a few years later, and struggles, and is still not completely successful? You cheer her on no matter what, even though you have the gut feeling that she might not make it?
That’s what it has felt like with my first novel, Tongues of Angels. This novel, TOA for short, was my creative thesis in grad school. My poor thesis advisor read it at least three times, and it was a ghastly 500 pages long at the time. I feel for her, I do. I pitched the novel to agents and to more agents, and got lots of maybes but no yeses. I took chunks of it to writing conferences and got a pat from Jane Smiley and a hug from Michael Cunningham, and I had a long correspondence with Ron Hansen in which he encouraged me to push onward.
I workshopped it and book-doctored it, had alpha readers give it thumbs up – and a librarian at the university took it home to read over Christmas break and showed it to her brother who’s a screenwriter in Hollywood. The novel became a story treatment that went the rounds, including landing on Salma Hayek’s lap. I have a check for $1 that is my movie option. If someone bought it I would have received $40,000.
And then – I got divorced, and putting food on the table for my three girls became priority number one. I struggled for a couple of years as an editor at two different weekly newspapers; at the latter one, the Alameda Sun, the owners decided that we should put out some books, to broaden the reach of the publishing company. Who had a book that was ready for prime time? I did. Scarlet Letter Press launched its first book with Tongues of Angels, but in order to broaden the distribution they decided that iUniverse would be the best bet for getting onto Amazon and around the world.
So we did that. Online selling was not huge yet, and ebooks were just a blip on the radar. The book sold some hundreds of paperback copies but not millions. The reviews were very good. The press was outstanding. I did several readings throughout California and got excellent coverage. But I spent most of my time trying to get independent bookstores to carry it, and when they would carry it, would they please pay me? I am still owed, to this day, hundreds of dollars from indie bookstores that never paid for their books.
Ten years later, in 2013, I was in a coalition of independent writing women and we were all publishing amazing work. The indie movement had taken off, had rocketed into the stratosphere, and I got myself a Kindle and had a revelation. Let’s redo TOA with a new cover and try it as an indie! A fantastic designer, Chelsea Starling, redid the cover for the 21st century, and away we went. Reviews were still excellent, and then I got picked up by Booktrope and they were delighted to republish my older books. They wanted TOA in their stable. So I sent this little baby back through the channels again – same cover, re-edit, proofing, and now, back into the world for a third time.
Is the third time the charm? Maybe.
Here’s the synopsis:
A lifelong vow. A Catholic priest with questions. A penitent woman with a secret past. A jealous friend. The fourth in this lover’s knot? God. A true love story that shocked the Catholic Church, and pulled back the curtain on the priesthood.
Average 4 ½ stars on Amazon.
And here’s what the critics said:
David Baker, Snapshots of A Marriage: “As erotically compelling as the Song of Songs.”
Dan Barnett, Chico Enterprise-Record: “Sexually charged: I was struck by [Park Tracey’s] lush, hothouse, erotic style.”
Christa Martin, Santa Cruz Good Times: “Tongues of Angels swings open the doors to the Catholic Church, lifts up the chasuble and exposes what’s underneath…Her novel talks about all the things [they] hope we won’t talk about.”
Kelly Vance, East Bay Express: “Hot under the collar…A scandalous yarn.”
Jordan Rosenfeld, Forged in Grace: “Julia Park Tracey brings wicked honesty and scathingly hot prose to this soulful novel; with crackling nuance, she seduces readers. Tongues of Angels is both sexy and spiritual.”
March 20: Release of Tongues of Angels (Booktrope). Watch for details online.
March 21: Alameda Museum Board of Directors Installation. Reading Alameda Poetry #PoetLaureate Noon-2 p.m.
March 25: Alameda Main Library. Poetry Film Series. 6-8 p.m. Free. Film: Dead Poets Society. Rated PG; suitable for middle school and up. 1550 Oak St. Alameda
March 26: Women’s History Month reading at Perch, Oakland. Contemporary fiction and feminism. Featuring Alex Langford, Judy Juanita and Julia Park Tracey. 6-8 p.m. 440 Grand Ave. Oakland. Free/cafe drinks available.
March 28: Pitch-o-Rama, Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco. Meet agents and editors; pitch your book ideas to them. Free coaching ahead of time. (I’m one of the coaches.) 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; 3543 18th Street, SF. $65/$75 prepaid; $90 walk-ins if space available.