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.
My new book is coming out in a few weeks! I’ve been lucky and diligent enough over the past few years that I’ve had a new book out every fall. The newest is a change for me — chicklit. Love me some sassy singles looking for love. Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop (Booktrope 2014) is the first of several journalist adventures called the Hot off the Press series.
I’ve been a journalist for many moons now and those experiences form the basis for Veronika’s personality and adventures. She runs after firetrucks and sits through meetings, works hard with her fellow journos, and plays hard, too. When an international media chain buys her little weekly newspaper, she finds herself working for “The Man,” that is, the faceless entity of corporate journalism.
But you can’t take away her passion. When Veronika smells a story, she can’t help but chase it down. And it’s always a double-bind for her — she wants to reveal the truth (she has that tattooed on her wrist where she can always see it) — but she wants to beat the competition, too. Go, girl! Over the obstacles to the finish line!
And by the way, what would a chicklit story be without some sassy in the sheets? There’s that, and more (try the bar, the spa, and the hood of the truck…). Hope you like it! Watch for giveaways, contests and other funsies coming up soon.
Everyone says, “Oh, I’ve been so busy.” I have, too, but in a low-key way. In January of this year, my brother-in-law Dennis was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. I had just made a rigorous plan for my books, writing, and marketing for 2014, and had gathered full momentum already. But I realized that some things are more important than writing blog posts or tweeting about my writing projects. So I put most of my work aside and made myself available to help.
Dennis was a Vietnam veteran, in the 25th Infantry, 1969-71. He was just a kid, but he did his duty, was injured twice, earned two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. Along the way he was sprayed with Agent Orange. One of the most stunning things the VA man told Dennis earlier this year was that, because of where Dennis was on certain dates with his division, “That was the day you were killed. It’s just taken this long to catch up to you.”
I took Dennis to the doctor when he needed a ride. He wasn’t able to drive with his oxygen tank, and walking was also a challenge, but we sped around the open corridors of Kaiser Santa Rose popping wheelies in a borrowed wheelchair. I sneaked a few Playboys to him. Because of various health reasons, radiation was not an option, and neither was surgery. Chemo was brutal. He suffered multiple strokes that left him incapacitated and in a long-term care facility, was anointed by the monsignor and made a miraculous recovery to almost his former self. He was able to walk, talk and reason again, and soon was home. But there could be no more chemo. It was a matter of enjoying what time he had left.
I was with Dennis on his last day in early June, a scant six months after diagnosis, taking my turn at companionship, preparing food and tracking medicine. It was a very long day. He wasn’t himself, didn’t feel well, and the hours dragged. By the time my sister Carolyn got home from work, I was exhausted but it was clear he wasn’t well, so I stayed. The nurse came late that night, and we had him settled for bed. But when we went to give him his next round of meds, he had stopped breathing. That was it — life and death, just a breath between the two. We held him and said thank you and how much we loved him, and he was gone.
A few days later my sister asked if I would speak at Dennis’s memorial, and while I was honored to do so, I knew I had to figure out what to say, and for me — a lifelong writer — that was an assignment that, for once, kind of sent me into a tizz. I don’t get writer’s block, as a rule. Because I have been a journalist and have written to deadline since high school, on newspapers, in the heat of rushing to press, very little stops me from getting words onto the page. But this was a tough one.
During the springtime and early summer, my husband and I had purchased a fixer-upper, and I found that throwing myself into cleaning house, clearing garbage and weeds, and shoveling dirt — I could think again. So I wrote the short essay of my life, and delivered it at his funeral earlier this month. And after the sound of the gunfire salute, the playing of Taps, and the long memorial barbecue afterward, I found that I still have a writing path, I still have a career that needed my attention, and I kind of wandered back to my desk.
So here I am — and that’s where I’ve been. And I have news. Not fallen from heaven like a meteor, unexpected and surprising, but some things I have worked for over the years, with diligence, endless writing and earning my way up the ladder.
Last week, I signed with BookTrope, a new publishing company that is changing the way books get out into the world. I am very excited to be a BookTrope author, and the first offering will be my new chick-lit novel, formerly called Shell Game, but with a title change in the works. The heroine is Veronika Layne, a tattooed and pierced young reporter who stumbles on a mystery in her town, and has to race against real estate developers to save shell mounds from destruction. Drawn from my days as a weekly news reporter in a small city, this heroine is smart, rebellious, and persistent, has a crush on her rival reporter, and is determined to save the day. Sassy, sexy, smart — Veronika will steal your heart. First in a series, by BookTrope!
BookTrope will also republish both of my Doris Diaries books as well as my novel, Tongues of Angels; watch for that news on social media and links here. The Doris Diaries will become part of the “matriarchal legacy” line at BookTrope, and will be released together in March 2015 as part of Women’s History Month.
And last but not least, I got this letter in the mail yesterday:
It’s true! I will be appointed as Alameda’s Poet Laureate (a two-year term) in September at a City Council meeting. Very exciting! I will be leading poetry readings, visiting the schools and senior center, and judging contests. I will be using the hashtags #PoetLaureate and #whypoetrymatters on social media — look for them!
So I’m back on track, with lots to do. Thanks for hanging in there and know how much your readership means to me, today, and every day.
I spent April in a frenzy of family activities, spring break, out-of-town visitors, and then playing catch-up, but when May 1 rolled around, it was nose-to-grindstone time. I am working a 31-day fast-draft challenge to finish my WIP, a genre chick-lit novel that is sexy romantic suspense. It will be released under the Scarlet Letter Press indie imprint in early summer under my pen name of Jae Bailey. More deets to follow. But trust me. It will be fun.
One of my short stories, from my unpublished collection, Wedlock: A Fictional Memoir, won honorable mention, that is, fourth place nationally in the Women’s National Book Association short fiction contest in late April.
I taught three rounds of kids’ journalism classes in Alameda over the school year, and, in fact, just finished the final class today. Three sessions of four weeks each gave the kids exposure to news-writing, what makes a story, parts of the newspaper, and the difference between hearsay and fact-based news. With students from fourth through seventh grades, the classes were rambunctious, enthusiastic and ultimately dynamic learning environments, as we talked over animal rights, the Olympics, climate change and racism, depending on the prevailing winds. Good times for all, and a real newspaper of their own making in their hands at the end of each 4-week session.
I’m freelancing on some magazine work just now, and will have some stories up in the next few months. I have deadlines next week, and have been interviewing and gathering info along the way. My favorite kinds of assignments are literary, food and beverage, and arts, and that’s just what’s on the agenda for me. I’ll post links when the stories go up.
The other news is that I set aside Volume 3 of The Doris Diaries for now, which I had planned for fall release, and am focusing on Doris in San Francisco. The year is 1938, and I am working hard to get a manuscript together for a July 1 deadline — for a historical book award. The prize is publication, so I am writing hard and fast to make it happen. If that falls through, I will still shop the volume to regional publishers, and I have high expectations of success with Doris’s vivid writing and historical cachet. Go, Doris! I can’t wait for her fame flag to fly.