Last week, I wrote about the relevance of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in modern day society. As we said before, WNW believes that, to understand the literary industry, you need to know the classics. To make this happen, we have decided to take a step back in time and examine the books that made us want to become writers, and perhaps more importantly, realize the significance of these works today.
Our mission to appreciate the classics will begin this week, when Edward Correia takes an insightful look at the American classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Edward’s review of this classic, which is posted in Book Reviews, compares the decision maker on the Pequod to the decision maker in the United States. Whatever your political stance may be, there is no denying that Melville’s portrayal of leadership, power and victory parallels the position our country is in today. After reading his review, the staff here at WNW feels inspired to re-read Moby Dick with our new lenses on, and to garner a new appreciation for this classic.
For those who haven’t read Moby Dick, consider this question: If Ahab does succeed in his quest for the whale, what next? What else do you think there is for him to conquer? For those who have read the novel, what do you think Melville would say about the current situation our country is in? As you are reading (or re-reading) Moby Dick, I ask you to consider these questions. Do you agree with Edward’s critique of Moby Dick? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Many times we look at people around us and think how happy and contented they are. We form this opinion by glimpsing images of these people getting into a fine car, dining at upscale restaurants or because they are dressed in such a way that expresses success and contentment. Then we look into out own life and find all these problems: Someone you care about may be sick or has lost their job, there are financial problems and a lot of stress all around. The conclusion when this happens is pretty easy to guess. We feel “they” are happy and contented whilst our life is filled with chaos, making us unhappy. First, the thought that ‘they’ are happy and contented is in itself an image we have created and in fact may not be true at all. It is a known fact that some of the happiest and most contended people around are the ones we never notice! That’s right, they have nothing to prove, nothing to express and are not trying to make a statement by driving the right car, wearing the right clothes and being at the right places. To be truly happy and contended means that you are okay with your self and thus do not need to be someone you are not hence, you do not seek others’ validation and approval. This also means that some of the people we think are very happy because they project that state may actually be concealing their deep discontent. The fact is, the images we see of others never do tell the whole story. This might explain why one of the commandments is not to covet others’ possessions. Secondly, everyone goes through phases in their life, periods when things are going well and periods when we are struggling with problems. What we see really is a snapshot of one phase; therefore we really cannot tell what season waits for anyone around the corner. So focusing on whether “they” are happy is not only redundant but quite destructive because our real focus should be on our self. This means we have to accept who we are and our circumstance, warts and all! Being rich or poor, sick or in good health has nothing to do with real happiness, because this exists within the self, the soul. The soul does not get sick nor is it attached to material wealth. You see, each one of us comes into the world and is allotted a certain time. In this time we have to complete our very unique and beautiful tapestry. The circumstances that enter our lives are the stuff from which we discover the pieces and colors. That’s right; all the struggles, problems and good fortunes come to us for a reason and hide the lessons that will allow us to finish the picture. Just remember, in the same way that we often see the beauty and light from stars that are long dead, our legacy should be to complete our own special tapestry whose beauty will stay and inspire others long after we are gone. This happens when we learn to give, inspire and help others, no matter what obstacles are placed in front of us.
Anil Giga Bsc is the author of The Invisible Way (USA Best Book Award) and an Investment Professional in Calgary.
What makes Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, one of the greatest American novels? It is rich, almost too rich, in detail. When the rowboats are lowered, we feel the tension as the crew rows madly to the hunt. When the whale is lashed to the side of the Pequod and sliced apart, blood splatters over us. We see the blubber melted down and the whale’s head drained to make candle wax. A short rest and the voyage goes on.
But we do not read Moby Dick to learn about whaling or to feel the rush that comes when a harpoon is launched. We read it to watch obsession from a distance. Ahab, entangled by harpoon lines, reaches out in a death wave and beckons the crew to follow. They care nothing about the white whale but they are pulled down, too. We know there is a tiny dark spot in our psyche that could, under certain conditions, lead to an overpowering desire that might produce tragic results. But we cannot let obsession destroy our lives, can we? Relieved, we close the book and walk away. Our life goes on. We are not insane.
Call us the public. We see President Bush’s obsession with Iraq. Does he walk the halls of the White House at night imagining the victory we were promised years ago? Thousands of lives lost, madness in the streets of Iraq every day, no end in sight. Ensnared in his legacy and past promises, Bush beckons us to follow. Surely, he is not insane, like Ahab, is he?
Tess Gerritsen is a New York Times bestselling author of medical thrillers.
Q: Your experience as a physician is reflected in the landscape of your books. What advice can you give writers who want to parlay their expertise into a book?
A: Never assume that your own life occupation is uninteresting to anyone else. Every job has its little secrets, details that the general public would be fascinated by. They will give your story a true sense of reality and atmosphere.
Q: What are the challenges a writer faces when they opt to write a series of books featuring the same character?
A: The real challenge is how to keep those characters interesting and changing. You can't tie up all the loose ends in a book; you have to leave a few conflicts dangling. . . . what keeps a series going isn't the plot, but the characters.
Q: How does a writer balance historical data within the plot so that it complements rather than overshadows the entire book?
A: The historical data must always be secondary to the plot and characters. I happen to love history, but when I wrote THE BONE GARDEN, I didn't want it to overwhelm the story. History becomes the background, rather than the story itself.
Q: What have been the most successful promotional events for your books?
A: National radio interviews have been the most successful for me. The most readers I ever gained at one swoop was from an interview on the Art Bell show. I picked up many male readers who subsequently told me, at book signings, that they were introduced to my books thanks
Carlotta Holton has just received her second award for Touching the Dead from the National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest. Click here to purchase the book.
Carlotta Holton is the author of Salem Pact and Touching The Dead, and is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
Two gray-haired ladies walked up to my table at a recent book signing. They stopped and stood side by side in front of me, each picking up a copy of Ruby Rest. After the usual scrutinizing of the title and compulsory scan of the back cover, one announced she would read page forty-five to see if she liked the book. Her friend explained that she was born in 1945 and always read page forty-five to decide if a book was worth purchasing. The sixty-three-year-old opened Ruby Rest and started to read.
I immediately realized that not only did the page have to be good, but it needed to sound good too. Page forty-five was put to the test aloud, with others listening in. It is a strange thing to have your words suddenly read back to you in an unfamiliar place by a person you don’t know. I sat there wondering what it was about writers that made them willing to open up their minds for anyone to gaze in. Taking off layers physically isn’t nearly as intimate as inviting people into worlds you’ve created from the inside out.
The woman only got through the first sentence of page forty-five. When she read, “My eyes wandering over the surfers” she stopped and smiled. Her friend said, “Well now you have to buy it.” They both did. Surfers win again.
I haven’t experimented in a bookstore yet but I did try the technique at home. First I chose all my best-loved books, took them off the shelf and turned to page seventy-eight in each one. I was disappointed. Not once did I discover a favorite passage. Next I tried again with my stack of books to read. I wasn’t intrigued by page seventy-eight in any of them. While this method of book buying still fascinates me, it must not work if you’re thirty. Maybe other birth years will have better luck than 1978.
Since in the end I couldn’t accept that seventy-eight was a total waste of a book page, I had to find an exception. Lisa See’s Peony in Love saved me. As I read about a lovesick maiden taking several trips carrying the best books from her father’s library back to her bedroom, I wondered what those books entailed. Although I’m sure there was nothing about surfers in them, I still couldn’t help imagine that one of those books in her arms held the 17th century Chinese equivalent.
Tyler Oaks earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from California State University, Stanislaus and her Master of Arts in Spanish from California State University, Sacramento. Tyler lives in California's Napa Valley with her husband and twin daughters. Tyler is presently at work on her next novel.
By Lisa Martin
Martin-McLean Literary Associates LLC
"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."
A week doesn’t go by without another hopeful, yet frustrated writer asking me what it takes to be published by a commercial publisher. My answer is always the same: persistence and the capacity to learn.
Persistence, the strength and skill to move beyond adversity and thrive is an invaluable trait. For every yes, there is an accumulation of no’s, and overcoming rejection is a principal part of persistence. Diligence and passion often motivate a writer to persist, and that determination and perseverance are indicators of success. Any endeavor, no matter how great, has its moments of apprehension and uncertainty, especially when editors continue to reject a writer’s work. Because of this, it’s imperative that an author keep trying to perfect his writing, always putting forth his best effort. The persevering writer doesn’t give up. He keeps producing and submitting new, improved manuscripts. This is the crux of persistence.
Of course, it’s true that the odds against placing a manuscript with a commercial publisher are great, and the competition is fierce. Editors receive hundreds of queries and submissions each month, but fortunately, manuscripts are not pulled out of the stacks at random. They are eventually reviewed, and rejecting the majority of submissions is simple. A considerable portion of the queries are written by individuals who are sending in their first attempt at professional writing. When they are rejected a couple of times, they quit. Writing, after all, requires an irrefutable combination of tenacity, constancy, foresight, and conviction to persevere. Few people can withstand the strain when facing rejection.
Editors also receive a significant number of poorly written query packages. The inferior writing exposes itself in the first couple of pages, and necessitates no more reading. Strong writing skills don’t come effortlessly to most people, and even enormous progress won’t advance many writers’ projects to the strict standards utilized by commercial publishers.
Composing publishable work involves considerable experience, in addition to the constant desire to learn and improve writing proficiency. Too many unpublished writers use the same old skills in new manuscripts, believing that their past rejections were due to uninteresting or off-base storylines. What should have been improved was not the subject, but the writer’s capacity to make definite changes and enhancements in style and composition.
Lisa Martin owns Martin-McLean Literary Associates LLC. She represents established authors as well as new writers.
Literary agents are bombarded with requests for their services each and every day. To assure the cover letter gets read and not just skimmed, it is advisable to begin the letter with a hook. A hook is something that is exciting that grabs the reader by the throat. It may be a quote, an anecdote, a joke…something that compels the agent to take a nibble. The following are two examples. The first was used successfully with a self-help book and the second with a novel.
“A gentleman anxiously looked on as the fortune teller passed her hands over the crystal ball. She abruptly stopped, frowned, refocused, then again passed her hands over the magic sphere. Next, she scrutinized the message within the inner core of the crystal ball. Then, in a deep, husky voice she professed, ”I see in your future sadness, depression, unhappiness, discontent…but wait...don’t get alarmed…I see you getting used to it.”
People want to do more than just get used to it. They want more than to just cope. (The book) helps people.”
(The remaining portion of the cover letter lays the foundation for the self-help book and introduces the enclosed proposal.)
“As you have done every day, you retrieve the stack of junk mail crammed in you post office box, but today there is a seductively pink envelope sandwiched between the Wal Mart flyer and the L.L. Bean catalog. You hurriedly move to a nearby table and slip out the alluring envelope, raise it to your nose to savor the scent of lilacs. Pavlovian response-like, you open the envelope to find a card that reads:
I need you. I want you.
Lunch, Friday, Noon, Coffee Bistro.
Your heart flutters, you sigh, then you wonder who? There is no signature. Inquisitively you return to the outside of the envelope to find it addressed to Current Resident.
What a turn off. The proposed novel,(title here) turns on and engages the reader.”
(The remaining portion of the cover letter introduces the book and the enclosed proposal.)
Most beginning authors fail to craft their cover letter with the same talent, thought and skill that they use in writing their proposed book. Cover letters that begin, “I am seeking an agent to assist me in finding a publisher for…”attempts to inform or communicate rather than persuade or convince. A cover letter is the first thing the agent sees, and a good hook with the right bait has snagged many an agent. Preparing to fish is precursory to successful fishing.
Dr. James Payne, a nationally-recognized scholar, educator and speaker, is a professor of Special Education at the University of Mississippi and a Fulbright recipient. He is the developer of the PeopleWise Event Management System and the PeopleWise Profile System.