Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There's Something Special About Ink on Paper

What follows is a rerun of an earlier blog. I thought I'd dust if off after receiving a thank you note in the mail from the Southwest Louisiana Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Because there is nothing quite as special as ink on paper...I'll rerun this blog in honor of the Pulpwood Queens.

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.


It's 1995 and I am working as a financial analyst in the strategy and marketing division of a major greeting card company. When people first hear that I work for this company, they smile and say, “Oh, are you a writer?” I shake my head. “No, an accountant.” And their smile instantly fades.

I am corporate, which is to say I wear a suit to work every day. I wear a silk blouse, gold earrings the size of half dollars (because it is the 1990s) and pantyhose. The corporate men wear the comparable uniform—blue suit, red tie, starched cotton shirt. We represent the business cogs—accounting, purchasing, sales, inventory control, the jobs that are no fun at cocktail parties. And then there are the artists and writers and the sculptures who design the Christmas ornaments. They wear jeans, even those with holes in the knees, let their sideburns grow long and wear sneakers. They go on retreats to country estates where they find inspiration. We corporate types find our inspiration from inside a 6X8 cubicle where we drink vending-machine coffee.

Occasionally, these two worlds meet so that the artist and writers can present their upcoming product lines. Sitting in the back of the room during one of these meetings, I watch as various designs of gift wrap are displayed. The artists are excited about a brown and gold fish design. I think it’s rather unattractive, but I’m an accountant, and my opinion doesn’t matter. Instead, I concern myself with brand equity and product placement, branding and breakeven points. As the artists begin a parade of the latest greeting card designs, I wonder about the cost of the flocking, flitter and gold embossing on the front of the cards. Each process will drive up production costs and down profit margins. One of the cards that is held up with pride pictures a tiny yellow bird nestled in a patch of long, green grass. The women in the audience smile and a few oooos and ahhhhhs leak out. The copy inside the card reads….You’re One Cute Chick. A few chuckles and on to the next card.

The products are beautiful, creative, born from the very best artists and writers in the industry. They are the company’s best hope of fighting a trend we all fear is coming. More and more people are beginning to use email, and even a few are starting to send their thank you and birthday greetings via internet cards. Cell phones are more common. One day, they might be small enough to carry in our pockets. People seem busier, more haggard. They don’t take time to write anymore. Some don’t even bother sending anniversary cards or thank you notes. Units are falling. Costs are rising. Not a good trend.

After the gift wrap and greeting cards have been presented, the merchandisers show-off a new plan for product display that is sure to entice our customers back to the card aisle. Next, we see the expertly coordinated party goods line, but is it enough to draw our customers out of Wal Mart and back to the card shops? We accountants think about our forecasts and our profit and loss statements and we consider what these lovely products might mean to our shareholders’ equity. We are sad to think that greeting cards might go the way of typewriters and record players.

As the meeting draws to an end, one of the blue-suited accountants sitting in the back of the room raises his hand. “Can you go back to the card with the bird on the front?” he says. He is a tall, handsome fellow, broad through the shoulders, sharp square jaw, clear blue eyes. I can say these things because he is my husband. The artists and writers fish around for the card, and one of them lifts it proudly. He shows us the art work and then reads it to us like a teacher reading to his class. The handsome fellow grew up on a farm in western Kansas. He knows about birds. “That’s a baby duck on the front of your card. Not a baby chicken,” the handsome fellow says. The smiles fade, replaced by pinched brows. “It’s a cute duckling,” he says. “Not a cute chick.”

It’s many years later, and I haven’t worked for that company since shortly after the chicken and duck debacle. I’m the writer now, no longer the accountant. Sometimes I even wear jeans with holes in the keens. I suppose the greeting card industry has continued to suffer as E-vites and E-cards are now commonplace. But over the last several months, I have found myself in the position of thanking a good many people as my novel has worked its way through the publication process. These are important thank yous, ones that I know I can’t properly express, but I do know they belong on a heavy-stock greeting card or crisp sheet of stationery—handwritten, signed and addressed. A lithographer does not design an email, a text has no flocking and a facebook posting will never have a handcrafted beveled edge.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Nurse

It's the middle of the afternoon. I pick up a text. It's The Nurse asking if I have time for coffee. Since 7:30a.m., I have sat at my desk, accompanied only by multicolored post-it notes, timelines scribbled out on a whiteboard and a 1958 Sears catalog. I could use some fresh air and human contact. Writing is a lonely business.

I meet The Nurse at Panera. It's Monday, the day she works as school nurse for her kids' school, so she wears royal blue scrubs and gray Nike tennis shoes. Before leaving the house, I managed a shower and to change out of my yoga pants into a pair of Levi’s. We order coffee, and I get a shortbread cookie. Nothing sweet for The Nurse. Behind us, a heavy wooden door opens and in walks a woman with her daughter. The girl is five, maybe six, and wears a green short-sleeved polo and a khaki skort. It's her school uniform, the same uniform The Nurse's children wear. The same uniform my children wear. The girl tugs on her mother's wrist, waves at her to bend down and whispers something in her ear. The Nurse waves at the girl and gives her a wink. The girl first dips her chin and then smiles up at her mother. Her cheeks take on a red glow. The girl is blushing at the sight of a celebrity.

Literature, film, television and history have all given us famous nurses. Ken Kesey created the memorable and enduring Nurse Mildred Ratched in his ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, and we have Hemingway's Catherine Barkley. There is Major Houlihan, all those nurses from ER, and Gaylor Focker, the male nurse brought to life by Ben Stiller. There are also, and most importantly, real life nurses to consider-Florence Nightingale, Helen Fairchild, Margaret Sanger, Clara Barton and Walt Whitman, who was a volunteer nurse. Each of these nurses rises out of different setting and a different point-of-view. Perhaps we meet him or her on a battleground, at a wounded soldier's bedside, visiting the suburbs, working the overnight shift in the emergency room or ruling McMurphy's ward in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. We know these nurses by what we are told. We know them because of what we have read, what we have seen on the big screen or the little screen, what the history books have reported. We know them because someone with a point-of-view--a patient, an inmate, a soldier, an author, a historian--has told us.

The little girl still holds her mother's hand. The Nurse gives a second wave as we pass by with our coffee and my cookie. The little girl knows The Nurse is the one who can best wrap an icepack in a white towel before pressing it to a tiny forehead that aches. The little girl knows The Nurse can swap out a green polo that smells like puke for one that is fresh, clean and just the right size. The Nurse is the one who talks in a quiet, sweet voice even when blood drips from a banged-up knee or a finger bends the wrong way after a fall from the swings. The Nurse knows when to call Mom and when the stomach ache will feel better after a few minutes spent laying on a cot. The little girl smiles again and says to her mother, "That's the school nurse." A celebrity to be sure.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Schedule

I'm looking forward to a couple of great events this fall. I'll be appearing at the Festival of Reading in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida in October and at the Book Fair in Miami in November. Both are wonderful events that I have attended several times as a reader. This year, I look forward to attending as an author.

St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading
Saturday, October 22nd 10:00a.m. - 4:00p.m.
Free Admission
140 Seventh Avenue South - at Bayboro Harbor
St. Petersburg, Florida
(Visit link for a schedule of events)

Miami International Book Fair
November 18th - 20th
Miami, Florida
(Visit link for a schedule of events)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kansas Bound

I'm very excited to be traveling back to my hometown this weekend. In addition to appearing at the Kansas Book Festival in Topeka, Kansas to discuss and sign BENT ROAD, I'll be speaking at the Manhattan Public Library in Manhattan, Kansas. Go CATS.

Kansas Book Festival
1:00pm - Saturday, September 24th
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, Kansas

Manhattan Public Library
1:30pm - Sunday, September 25th
Speaking and Signing
629 Poyntz Avenue
Manhattan, Kansas

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grandma's Tarantula Revisited

Hello all,

It's back to school time around our house and as such, I'm returning to a regular schedule. Or a somewhat regular schedule.

I'm thinking quite a bit about voice these days. For any novel, I think it's one of the most defining factors. And in thinking about voice, more specifically, about what voice I am hoping to achieve, I re-read this blog that originally appeared over at The Divining Wand.

Grandma’s Tarantula
(Originally ran 3/15/2011)

I’m eight, maybe nine-years-old, and am running through Grandma’s backyard. But really it isn’t a yard. It’s all dirt—brown, loose dirt that blows in the wind—no grass. Kansas summers are dry. My hair is parted down the back, a crooked part I made myself, and tied off in two ponytails that hang over my shoulders. I wear sneakers, no socks, because sand spurs are the only things that grow.

Two metal posts stand in Grandma’s backyard. They were once painted white but now the paint has chipped away in large chunks and the posts are stained with orange rust. Grandma’s clothesline is strung between them. The line sags when she hangs out her sheets and towels. At the base of the pole nearest the house is a hole in the ground about the size of my fist. When I stand over the hole, I can see that it has no bottom. I might stick my hand down in it just to be sure but I don’t because Grandma says her pet tarantula lives down there.

Grandma says the tarantula comes out mostly at night because that’s when he does his hunting. The tarantula is a he. But sometimes, Grandma says, he’ll poke his head out in the daytime. He’ll hang two of his eight furry legs over the edge of his hole to sun himself. She visits with him when she hangs out her laundry.

At night, we play kick-the-can—my brother and I and the girls who live next door to Grandma. I run in a wide circle around the hole, afraid I might stumble upon that giant spider while he is scurrying about, doing his hunting. Even if it means someone beats me to base and I am “it,” I run in a wide arc to avoid that hole.

During the day, we play in the sod garage—my brother and I and the girls next door—because it’s always cooler there. Sometimes I help Grandma dump coffee grounds on her garden or spread the carrot and potato peelings that are good fertilizer and might as well not go to waste. While we work, I look for those hairy legs to tap along the rim of the hole, but I don’t ever see them. Grandma says the tarantula can feel us moving about and he won’t come out as long as we’re causing such a raucous.

It’s many years later, won’t say exactly how many, and I have a book coming out soon, my first. BENT ROAD. A few pre-publication reviews have been published, probably more by the time this is posted, and as I start to read what others have to say about my book, I’m thinking more and more about voice. My work, like all writers’ work, has a voice. It bubbled up, as my first writing instructor said it eventually would, about five years ago when I wrote the short story that led to BENT ROAD.

Now that I have this voice, I am inclined to wonder where it came from. Thinking about my Grandma’s house and that tarantula, about her garden fertilized by day-old coffee grounds and table scraps and the cool, dark garage made of sod bricks, I think my voice started to bubble up there. It started with a giant bull dog who lived down the street and daily sent me running for cover on Grandma’s concrete front porch. My voice started with the giant mama catfish Grandpa Doc hauled out of Tuttle Creek. He kept them alive in the backyard by sticking a hose in their mouth and letting the water run through their gills. Then, after a time, he smacked their whiskered heads on the concrete sidewalk. Knocking them out is the only kind thing to do. And then he cut out their hearts and put them in a jar of saltwater so we could watch them beat on. My voice started with the squirrel stories my father told every Christmas Eve and with the old Grandfather clock that chimed every fifteen minutes, reminding me that I wasn’t asleep yet and would be very tired at school the next day. It started with the sweet potatoes my mother made every Christmas and Thanksgiving—brown sugar, butter, cream and cinnamon. My voice started to bubble up a long time ago.

I never saw Grandma’s tarantula. That only occurs to me now as I think back on those summers when the girls next door were my best friends. And while the bull dog who lived down the street was definitely real, I think, perhaps, my fair-haired, gardening Grandmother was pulling my leg.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What's up this fall

I'll be busy this fall, taking BENT ROAD on the road and traveling to a few book festivals.

September 24, 2011
Kansas Book Festival
Topeka, Kansas

October 22, 2011
St. Pete Times Festival of Reading
University of South Florida - St. Petersburg Campus
St. Petersburg, Florida

November 18 - 20, 2011
Miami International Book Fair
Miami, Florida

Checkout for specifics or head on over to my FAN Page on Facebook for more details as these dates approach.

Happy summer to all.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How I Found An Agent...

I'm guest blogging over at Jenny Bent's website. Jenny is my agent and we've been working together for a couple of years. She has started a great series of blogs in which her clients recount how they got an agent and/or sold a novel. I had great fun recounting the experience. Click on over and take a look...

From Spreadsheet to Book Deal

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Do You Say...I'm Sorry

I'm thinking today about the different ways a character I'm writing about might say..."I'm sorry."

This thought occurred to me while reading the newspaper over the last few days. As many of you will have seen or read, a devastating tornado recently hit Joplin, Missouri. In the aftermath of an event like this--where the death toll continues to rise, where homes have been shattered, where cars and trucks, crushed like tin cans, clutter the roadways and fields--a person might say..."I'm sorry this happened to you. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am this happened to you."

Contrast this tragedy to an another event I recently read about in the paper. A young woman, after consuming a considerable amount of alcohol, climbed behind the wheel of a car and killed a 64 year old man. In the aftermath of this tragic event, she was quoted as having said, apparently to the gentleman's family, "I'm sorry this happened to you." And this is what got me thinking.

Does the young woman say ..."I'm sorry this happened to you"...because she's not brave enough to say..."I'm sorry I did this to you." The difference between these two statements is considerable. Or does she not say the latter because she can't or won't understand the difference?

I wonder, does she not connect her own hand to the death? There is no hand attached to a tornado-"I'm sorry this happened." There is a hand attached to a steering wheel-"I'm sorry I did this."

I'm not sure yet how my character will apologize, but he will choose one of these statements, and the choice will define him.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Boys of Spring Return

For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you will know I am, among other things, a baseball mom. And here we are again--post season is well underway. As such, I would like to re-run one of my favorite blogs in honor of the BOYS OF SPRING. Photo: Marty Heath

In the Majors, they are called the boys of summer. But for a mother of a high school baseball player, deeply embedded in post season play, they are the boys of spring. They are the boys, young men, who juggle school work, final exams, college applications for some, homework for most, jobs for a few and X-box for all. Once, twice, maybe three times a week, I sit on metal bleachers, the sun burning through the number silkscreened on the back of my gray team t-shirt, and cheer on the Chargers.

Hopefully, it is fair to say I am not a “crazy” baseball parent. But like the tree that falls in an empty forest, does a crazy parent know he or she is crazy? Perhaps not. But I try not to cheer an overthrow at first made by the opposing team, unless, of course, the game is close. I try not to yell at the umpire, unless he calls a ball that sails across my son’s collarbone a strike. After all, he is 6’5” and isn’t a ball that sails that high clearly and evidently outside the strike zone? Doesn’t a mother of such a son have an obligation, perhaps a deep seeded ancient right, to protest such a call? Under these specific circumstances, I’ll admit to yelling at the umpire, but by this point in the game, I am certainly too hoarse to be heard over all the other crazy parents yelling about the same call.

I am a parent who tries not to wince when a ground ball rolls under an infielder’s glove or when all the dads in the crowd yell “can of corn” as a pop fly sails into the outfield and the fielder runs in instead of out, allowing the ball to drop on the warning track with a thud. It’ll be mine making the error next time. Don’t they all make their fair share? No, I won’t wince, lest they all wince when it’s my son hanging his head and kicking at the dirt.

I try to be a parent who will text updates to my friend who can’t bear to watch a game that has taken a bad turn. I try to be a parent willing to change positions on the bleachers if that will mean a change in “mojo” so the team will start to hit. I try to be a parent who lets her daughter, who has been dragged to baseball games since she was one year old, have a hot dog from the concession stand, and…okay…an ice cream sundae, too. I try to be a parent who cheers until she is lightheaded from a lack of oxygen, who is brought to tears when her son hits a walk-off single, who takes pictures of another mother’s son hugging his father and then tossing that father aside when the sophomore girls appear, offering hugs of their own. I suppose all we parents try to do the same, and if one of us is crazy, we’re all crazy in our own due time.

Good luck to Chargers baseball as they advance to the regional finals

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BENT ROAD Comes Alive...

Thanks to the Reading Between the W(h)ines Book Club.

The rocking chair Daniel hopes to rescue from Mr. Brewster's old house. Jonathan says Mr. Brewster will probably take a bottle of bourbon in trade. (accurate right down to the red checkered seat cushion)

The sewing machine where Mrs. Robison, Eve and Ruth sewed all those lovely dresses. And the mailbox Daniel checks every day, hoping for letters from home.

The rifles and shotguns Daniel will heft in search of a target, and the patchwork quilt Aunt Ruth shares with Evie. The pink satin square is from Aunt Eve's first Sunday dress. The denim scrap is from Arthur's favorite pair of jeans. He wore them until his belly was bursting through the buttons.

And the strawberry pie Aunt Ruth shares with the Scott family on their first day in Kansas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

South Florida...Coming Your Way

I'm very excited to be visiting two terrific book stores on Florida's east coast later this week. On Friday, I'll be appearing at MURDER ON THE BEACH in Delray, Florida. Following this event, I'll travel a bit farther south and stop in at BOOKS AND BOOKS in Coral Gables. If you're in the area...hope to see you there.

Friday, April 22, 20117:00 pm
Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore
Discussion and Signing
273 Pineapple Grove Way ( NE 2nd Ave )
Delray Beach, Florida

Saturday, April 23, 20115:00 pm
Books and Books
Discussion and Signing
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33154

Monday, April 11, 2011

The New York Times

From The New York Times
"Writing with a delicate touch but great strength of purpose, Roy creates stark studies of the prairie landscape and subtle portraits of the Scotts as they struggle to adjust not only to their rural surroundings but to their troublesome relatives and taciturn neighbors."
Read entire review here

Next Event:

Saturday, April 16th 9:00-4:30
University of Central Florida Book Festival
UCF Arena
UCF Main Campus
Schedule of Book Festival Events

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Few Pictures to Share...

I've posted a few pictures from my first signings. Many thanks to everyone who came out. For more information about future events, you may visit

Thursday April 7th - 7:00pm
Discussion and Signing
Inkwood Books
216 S. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, Florida

Haslam's Bookstore - St. Petersburg, Florida

Barnes and Noble - Clearwater, Florida

Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Sale

BENT ROAD-ON SALE. for a list of events.
And on another note...I am guest blogging today over at
Quest for Kindness.

This weekend's events

Saturday 4/2/11 Haslam's
3:00 Signing
2025 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, Florida

Sunday 4/3/11 Barnes and Noble - Clearwater
2:00 Signing
23654 US 19 North
Clearwater, Florida

Thursday 4/7/11 Inkwood Books - Tampa
7:00 pm - Discussion and Signinng
216 S. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, Florida

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Timing is Everything

I happened to stop by Haslam's Bookstore to touch base before my signing on Saturday and this is what I found.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blame Lori Roy - by Julianna Baggott

Here’s my take on one of the things that’s going on in contemporary publishing. A blur of genres. Literary novelists are storming the previously genre-fied outposts – some might call them ghettoized literary landscapes like noir, the gothic, mysteries, thrillers.

You want evidence? Look at Lori Roy’s reviews for BENT ROAD. “Like Michael Chabon’s work, which sometimes crosses genres, Roy’s novel could be called literary fiction or mystery.” Chabon’s another great example of the genre blur. (In fact, with Summerland, he joined a fine influx of company into the world of kid-lit – Isabel Allende, Walter Mosley, Anne Ursu… ) How else do we explain Justin Cronin’s masterful first installment of his vampire trilogy after two literary titles? How do we explain Jeff Vandermeer’s high-art sci-fi? How do we explain Roy’s debut?

I love this movement. It breaks down walls. It allows novelists from both sides of those walls more freedom. We’ve been categorized and, contrary by nature, we buck.

My new novel, THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED, under my pen name Bridget Asher, could surely be called chicklit, except it isn’t. It pushes too hard at the edges of that narrow container and breaks out of it – with tougher heartache, lyricism, and insight (at least that’s my great ambition for the novel). THE ANYBODIES (under my pen name N.E. Bode) could be seen as just for kids – except I wrote a lot of it with read-aloud adults in mind. THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK could be called whimsy, except it’s really about racism.

My upcoming trilogy PURE – is a post-apocalyptic, dystopic, thriller- romance-mystery with revisionist history and science that’s YA except it’s not because it’s being published by an adult house, and, to boot, I push the language. What the hell is it?

The answer I want to give is: Don’t ask. Just read.

Let the blur continue. Let writers like Roy break down those walls. Let’s keep the terrain of all-things-written wide, wide, wide open.


"Fans of Under the Tuscan Sun will adore this impossibly romantic read."
-- People magazine

"Readers who enjoy ... Lolly Winston's Good Grief and Jane Green's The Beach House or travel-induced transformation books like Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love will find common themes ... and become quickly invested in the lives of the deftly drawn characters."
-- Library Journal

"Unabashedly romantic ... a real charmer about a Provencal house that casts spells over the lovelorn."
-- Kirkus Reviews


Julianna Baggott is the author of seventeen books, most recently THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED under her pen name Bridget Asher, as well as THE PRETEND WIFE and MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS. She’s the bestselling author of GIRL TALK and, as N.E. Bode, THE ANYBODIES TRILOGY for younger readers. Her essays have appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times Modern Love column, Washington Post,, and Real Simple. You can visit her blog at and her website at

You may purchase a copy of THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED here

Monday, March 21, 2011

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict

I'm thinking a good bit about conflict today. This is one of those rare days when I find myself able to work uninterrupted until late in the afternoon. I've been determined to make great progress on all of the many things I must finish. I am a protagonist with a want...I want to get some work done. But, as in all great fiction, there is something getting in my way. Namely, the guys on the other side of the canal who are apparently cutting down a palm tree.

Now, it must be a very large palm tree, gigantic even, given the amount of time the chain saw has been running. I'll pause here to point out that the buzz of a chain saw apparently carries well across water because it sounds as if the saw is slicing through my kitchen pantry. All morning and well into the afternoon, two gentlemen have vacillated between running their saw and yelling at one another. I have closed every window, a terrible shame on such a lovely day, and turned on the drier. All of it, to no avail.

But no great fiction is great with only one conflict. Toss in a white heron who insists on landing on a piling just off the seawall. It perches there, lovely to look at for you or me, but an affront to my Jack Russell. Every time the bird lands on the piling, BEN (Jack Russell) races down the stairs and begins to bark. He can't hear me yell at him to stop because the chain saw is running. My only course of action--throw a piece of ice at the bird. I will pause again to tell you I have poor aim and not much of a throwing arm anymore. But this has happened so many times today, I believe the bird can hear me (even over the chain saw) push the ice dispenser. Before the ice leaves my hand, the bird takes flight. Then, I entice BEN with a cookie (dog treat) which he hears despite the chain saw, and he comes inside.

This episode has repeated itself about a half dozen times today, and at 2:26 in the afternoon, I have yet to cross anything off my to-do list. But I still have a few hours and I am a protagonist intent on success. Now BEN must bark at the heron from inside and I believe I have become numb to the buzzing saw. Not a very active protagonist, but perhaps it will be enough.

On a brighter note - some very nice reviews for BENT ROAD have come in.

"A cruel calculus drives Lori Roy’s impressive debut novel, “Bent Road.”...Like Michael Chabon’s work, which sometimes crosses genres, Roy’s novel could be called literary fiction or mystery. Whatever the label, “Bent Road” is written with the care and craft of stand-out storytelling."
Read entire review here

"Bent Road, Lori Roy's debut novel is a winner. A suspenseful example of American Gothic, its shocking twists and turns will keep you turning page after page to conclusions both surprising and inevitable."
Read entire review here

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Writer's Voice and Grandma's Tarantula

Where does a writer get her voice?
I'm guest blogging today on this subject at . Click on over and take a look.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Final Books Are In...

"Like" my fanpage for a chance to win a signed copy of BENT ROAD. (If you have already "liked" my page, you're already entered in the drawing.) Send me a message or comment that you have shared news of this drawing on your facebook page, and I'll enter you a second time. Drawing to take place Saturday, March 12th.

Thanks to all

Monday, March 7, 2011

Maggot Art

The title of the lecture is "Maggot Art - Make pretty pictures with your friend, the maggot."

We walk into the room, the Swede and I, and choose seats a few rows from the front. One other gentleman is also seated in the room. The lack of participants makes me wonder if Maggot Art is a literal title for our lecture. Seated behind a conference table at the front of the room is another gentleman. He wears a UF polo shirt. Our instructor. A cardboard box rests on the table in front of him alongside a small plastic tub, tightly sealed with a lid. Next to that, a smaller colorful box. Because I have children, I recognize the label on the box. Crayola.

The maggot has various cycles to its life. It begins as an egg, which has been deposited by a fly. Once it hatches, our maggot feasts on the material in which it was deposited. Given that this lecture was part of Sleuthfest, a writers’ conference for mystery writers, the maggot was most likely deposited on a dead body. After feasting for a good long time, the maggot enters a "wandering" stage, during which it wanders away from our dead body to find a nice quiet spot to begin its transition into a fly. The maggots that are sealed in the small plastic tub next to the box of Crayola paints are all in this "wandering" stage.

The instructor tells us these facts as we three participants rise from our seats and join him at the table. Any omissions or errors are my own as I was too distracted by the plastic tub filled with maggots to take notes. After explaining that each and every maggot that swarms the bottom of the tub is in the "wandering" stage, the instructor plucks the quarter inch long, creamy colored critters from the tub with plastic tweezers and drops them one at a time on an appetizer-sized paper plate. We each receive five. Pick your color, he says. After demonstrating how to pick them up without squishing them, he tells us to dip them in the color of our choice, drop them on the sheet of white construction paper we were each given, and watch the art appear.

I dab my first maggot in a dollop of magenta paint. He won't come off my tweezers, so I tap him gently on the paper. Once free, the maggot is still for a moment, and I worry I have killed him. But after a deep breath or two, which is what I imagine he is doing, my wandering maggot begins to wander, leaving behind a colorful trail—a strand of hot pink silken thread draped across the paper. Next, I choose turquoise. Lastly, purple.

I manage about ten minutes before sliding my rainbow-colored maggots back to the instructor. They'll be fine, he tells us. Non-toxic, water based paint. He'll rinse them off and they'll go onto become houseflies. The Swede holds out a bit longer than I do. When we are both done, we pack up and go for lunch. No calamari to be sure. While I probably won't participate in maggot art again, I am happy to know that should I ever have a dead body in one of my books, and should maggots be present on that body, they will appear first in a mouth and nose and any open gaping wound because that is what maggots like best.

See for an updated list of events. BENT ROAD on sale 3/31/11.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Upcoming Events

With BENT ROAD's publication date fast approaching, I thought I'd share a few of the upcoming events I have planned. For more information and regular updates, you may visit . You'll also find me on Facebook under Lori Roy-Author.

March 3-6, 2011
Sleuthfest - Mystery Writers of America
Hilton Deerfield Beach / Boca Raton
Registration required

Saturday, April 2, 2011
3:00pm - signing
Haslam's Bookstore, Inc.
2025 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, Florida

Thursday, April 7, 2011
7:00pm - signing
Inkwood Books
216 S. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, Florida

Saturday, April 16, 2011
University of Central Florida Book Festival
UCF Arena
Orlando, Florida

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Inspiration...

Because BENT ROAD is set in Kansas, and because I am a graduate of Kansas State University, I must open today's blog by posting the following basketball score.

University of Kansas (#1 ranked)68

As we writers often don't tell.

I also thought I'd share a few more pictures that inspired the setting in BENT ROAD.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

It’s that time of year again. Those who have read my blog for a while will know what I mean. Today kicks off the high school baseball season. Those who have read my blog for a while will also know that my son’s team—The Chargers—advanced to the state finals last year. So, of course, there is already much talk about a return trip. But what, I wonder, should the team be thinking about as this new season begins.

Should they be remembering the excitement of the playoff games, the bus trip across the state, the impressive stadium, the press coverage, the televised game? I wonder about these same sorts of questions for a writer who has sold one book and is working on a second. Should the writer be thinking about the phone call she received on auction day, the flowers her husband sent her, the glass of wine she shared with her new editor?

Or instead of these things, should the team think about the hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice they put in. Should they remember the laps they ran to the foul pole and back, the endless grounders they dug out of the dirt, the countless times they practiced that turn at second to field a double play, swing after swing in the batting cage? Should the writer remember the endless edits, the spreadsheets, the diagrams, the rewrites, the adverbs she cut, the prepositions she deleted, more edits, more rewrites, the five times she read the entire book aloud?

I’ve written before about some of the best advice I ever received…if you ever write a book that sells, remember how you did it. I wish the same for this year’s Charger baseball team. Remember how you did it. Good luck 2011 Chargers.

Photo credit Marty Heath

Monday, January 31, 2011

Answering My Own Questions

OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck has always been one of my favorite novels. I read it, on average, once a year. Studying this novel in high school is one of my more vivid memories. I remember debating the morality of George’s decision to shoot Lennie and what specific traits were illustrated by each character. I remember discussing conflict, theme, symbolism and universality. But mostly I remember wondering if Mr. Steinbeck considered any of these things as he wrote his novella, or did he write the story he wanted to read? Did those characters rise up to him and tell their story without regard to the definition of a traditional tragedy or with those boundaries firmly in mind? Did he plan the symbolism and know before writing the first sentence that George would never realize his dream?

I’m thinking of my favorite novel and those high school questions as I write discussion questions for my own book—questions that I’ll post on my website for readers to consider. What is the significance of the title BENT ROAD? Surely, as the author, I have an answer for this question. And, in fact, I do. But did I consider that answer when deciding on the title? What are the similarities and differences between Celia (the daughter-in-law) and Reesa (the mother-in-law) and how do those similarities and differences account for the conflict between them? Again, I know the answer, but did I identify and specify each character trait to support the mounting tensions between the two women or did they bubble up on their own? What is the significance, if any, of placing the story in the Kansas plains during the late 1960s? Did I choose the setting and place in history to support the plot, or did it just feel right?

In late April, my own reading group will be reading and discussing BENT ROAD. Perhaps we'll use the discussion questions that I am writing today. Just in case, I'll make sure to have my answers well rehearsed before the first cork is popped. Watch for more discussions questions—to be posted soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Never a Good Answer

One of the questions I am often asked, for which I really have no good answer is...Where did you get the idea for BENT ROAD? It would be simple if I could point to a single newspaper article or recount an old family story passed through the generations. But I can't. The truth is, I don't know where the idea came from, but I do know where it began. It began with setting. So today, I thought I'd share a few pictures taken from the setting that inspired BENT ROAD.

On another note, I will be appearing at the University of Central Florida Book Festival, April 16th. More details here and at my website

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writers in Paradise

This week, in the St. Petersburg area, writers have come from across the county to participate in the Eckerd College Writers in Paradise writers' conference. In honor of the conference, which has been very good to me over the years, I would like to repost a blog that originally ran back in May. And to all of my WIP friends, have a great week. Enjoy.

The air is decidedly cooler and lighter on a June morning in the Boston area than in Florida. This is my thought as I sit in the orientation of my first Solstice Writers’ Conference. I am also feeling oddly unencumbered, as if I have forgotten something. I didn’t have to wake anyone this morning, didn’t have to start a load of laundry, didn’t have to field breakfast requests. Instead, I rolled out of my lumpy dormitory bed, ate eggs and sausage prepared for me in the campus cafeteria and left my dishes for someone else to rinse and stick in the dishwasher. I sit back, flanked by two friends that I met at an earlier conference, and wait for the conference director to address the group.

Writers’ conferences are a bit like wandering through a bar in a college town. What’s your major…the college bar. Which class are you in….(novel, short story, non-fiction) the conference. When do you graduate…the college bar. Have you gone yet…(meaning has your work been critiqued in class yet?) the conference. Where you from…the college bar. Where you from…the conference. And like in college, when attending a conference, a participant has an assignment. Each writer must submit 25 pages that will be read by eleven or so classmates. For many attendees, this is why they have boarded a plane, hired a babysitter, purchased new luggage. They have hopes of finding a cure for their weary manuscript.

When a particular writer’s turn to be critiqued rolls around, he or she will sit quietly, (we’ll call her she) barred from speaking during the discussion, and the others in the workshop will talk about and debate what is wrong with her work and what is right. But mostly what is wrong, or maybe it just feels that way. When it is over, usually lasts about 45 minutes, the writer takes a deep breath and says thank you for the flogging. (Another thing I’ve learned along the way…if this process doesn’t sting, at least a little, it probably isn’t working.) Later that night, while sipping wine following the nightly readings, people will ask, have you gone yet? The writer will say yes. How did it go? I learned a lot, the writer might say. And drink another glass of merlot.

The conference director arrives at precisely 9:30. She begins by announcing a room change and goes on to remind us that coffee cups and silverware are not to leave the cafeteria and that the library will close early on Sunday. Lastly, she welcomes and introduces the teaching staff. The morning lecture will begin shortly, the director says, but first she has a bit of advice. We students think we have come to the conference to share our work with our peers, to have our teachers comb through our pages to instruct us on how to fix our plot lines and round-out our characters. But if you want to learn, if you really want to learn, the director says, fall in love with another writer’s work. Love it like you love your own. Make it your mission to lift up that person and ensure that he or she leaves a better writer. Fall in love with someone else’s work and good things will happen. Fall in love with someone else’s work and you will leave a better writer.

Sadly, the Solstice Writers’ Conference doesn’t exist anymore, though Pine Manor has a fine MFA program. And while that conference may no longer take place, I count that advice among some of the best I ever received.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Car Line and a Starred Review

Many of you know all about car lines. It is the line of cars that stack up when parents arrive on a campus to pickup their children from school. I am the Mom who arrives early, so I am in the front of the line. As such, I sit for quite a long time, waiting for school to be dismissed. This is when I do my reading. Other Moms--Dads, too--prefer to arrive later and end up at the back of the line. Either way, we wait about the same amount of time. Six of one, half dozen of another.

Such was the case the other day when I sat in car line waiting for school to be dismissed. I was the sixth or seventh car in line. The line behind me stretched more than twenty cars long. The bell sounded, ending school, and the line began to creep forward. However, the driver directly in front of me wasn't paying close attention. The line moved forward, but the car in front of me did not. A gap opened up. A black SUV drove past the other twenty or so cars in line, past me, past the car in front of me, and swooped into the gap. The black SUV CUT in line.

There was a moment, a very brief moment, when I thought to get out of my car and point out to the driver of the black SUV that there was a line twenty cars long and that his or her place was at the end of that line. But I didn't. Instead, upon realizing that I knew the driver of that SUV, I began to wonder what it says about a person when they cut in line. Does it reveal their character? Did the driver have an appointment that day and though she felt badly for cutting, she really had no choice? Did the driver have no intention of cutting, but when the opportunity presented itself, she took it? Did the driver feel she did not have to wait in line like the rest of us?

The writers out there will understand these questions and they'll understand why I spent the rest of my time in car line and during the drive home considering them. These are the details that build and illuminate character. I am thinking again about these questions as I begin to formulate another group of characters for another novel. Is a particular character a line-cutter or not? Will he or she cut only under extreme circumstances? Does he or she feel entitled to cut? Ashamed to cut? A line-cutter or not a line-cutter--a very good litmus test. So thank you to the black SUV for cutting in line, though I'm not sure how the other twenty or thirty cars felt about it.

On another note...I am happy to share that BENT ROAD received a starred review from Kirkus Review. More details at

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions for the New Year

I've never been much for New Year's resolutions. Too much pressure and too much visibility. Instead, I prefer to undertake new goals in the months leading up to the New Year. October and November are generally busy for me.

I joined a gym in the fall-didn't wait until today like most of the city seems to have done judging by the number of new people in my step class this morning. I also resolved to finish writing another novel in 2011. Technically, I finished it in 2010, so I'm not sure if I have reached that goal, or if I have to finish a third by the end of the year. I'll probably decide when October rolls around again.

Resolutions are generally a big deal for writers. We set word count goals, submission goals and we promise ourselves that we'll finally finish that manuscript and quit tinkering with it. So to all my writer friends who have made such goals, I wish you success as you work toward them in 2011.

On another note...EVENTS have been updated on my website. You will find those updates HERE. I have been invited to speak on a few panels at SLEUTHFEST, which takes place in Fort Lauderdale this March. This is a great event and worth a look. More info HERE. Additionally, my first two signings have been scheduled.