Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Win a Copy of Tremolo: cry of the loon

Hello dear friends and writers,

Will you forgive me if I do a little self-promotion today? I'd love for one of you to win a copy of Tremolo: cry of the loon. It's the best way of sharing what's inside me with you - that book came straight from my soul.

There's an interview of yours truly on Carrie Runnals Words-to-Mouth website today, and if you comment on it you will be placed in the drawing for a free book. Here are the instructions from Carrie's website:

To Win a FREE Copy of Tremolo:

  • Leave a comment on Carrie's site beneath the interview.

  • Call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message she can play on-air

  • Be sure to subscribe to her e-newsletter, so you're informed of the winning name

  • Deadline for entry - January 15th, midnight, EST

I've copied the gist of the article below, for convenience. But if you want to have a chance to win, be sure to click on the link above and enter a comment.

Carrie: Why don't you start by telling us a bit about Tremolo: cry of the loon?
Aaron: Tremolo is a coming-of-age mystery suitable for all ages, and it particularly plays to the nostalgia of baby boomers. This novel, third in the Gus LeGarde series, is actually a prequel to the founding book of the series, Double Forté, which begins in the current day when Gus is already a grandfather. The novel is set in the Belgrade Lakes of Maine, in summer 1964, when Beatlemania hits the States and the world mourns the loss of JFK. Eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde faces his first brush with evil against the backdrop of the most powerful events that rocked the nation. When Gus and his friends capsize their rowboat in a thick fog, they eventually clamber to shore, where they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the woods. She's scared. She's hurt. And she disappears. The camp is thrown into turmoil as the frantic search for Sharon begins. Reports of stolen relics arise, including a church bell cast by Paul Revere. When Gus stumbles on a scepter that's part of the spoils, he becomes a target. Compelled to find Sharon before the villain does, Gus-armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle-must dig deep for courage to survive the menace that lurks in the dark woods.

Carrie: Why did you choose "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the film that Gus watched in Tremolo?
Aaron: There are great parallels that link Mockingbird to Tremolo, especially the threads of evil that weave throughout both. My father took me to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" when it first came out in theaters, and it's remained my favorite movie to date. I remember coming home and sitting in the dining room with my father after the movie. He turned his forearm in the sunlight and said, "Wouldn't it be lovely to have coppery brown skin like Tom Robinson?" Dad worked hard to be sure I embraced life and people of all colors and nationalities. Gus and I have tried hard to live up to his example. ;o)

Carrie: Of your nine LeGarde mysteries, Tremolo is the only one that delves into Gus's childhood. What inspired this?
Aaron: I couldn't wait to revisit the glorious childhood summers in Maine at my grandparents' camp in the Belgrade Lakes. The memories bubbled within me, aching to be released for years. It seemed natural to plop my current day characters - Gus, Elsbeth, and Siegfried - into that setting. And thus Tremolo, the prequel to Double Forté was born.

Carrie: What do you think resonates with readers of Tremolo?
Aaron: One of the strong elements of the book involves the simple purity of living life without gadgets. Gus and his pals have no toys, no television, no computers, no video games. They didn't need them. They had each other, and the majesty of nature to entertain them. A walk in the woods, horseback riding, fishing, swimming, boating... all of these things are much healthier for us than the electronic cocoons with which we've surrounded ourselves.

Carrie: How long have you been writing? What stirred you to write?
Aaron: I've loved to write since grade school, when I filled journals with romantic musings and wrote zany stories. But the real call to write - that obsession that demands hours per day at the keyboard and holds me hostage until it's satisfied - started in 1997 when my father died. I was 44, and the loss crushed me. Dad was an energetic Renaissance man. He taught music and played piano, tended large gardens, cooked hearty soups, loved his family and dogs, and embraced life with unbridled passion. He was the model who inspired Gus LeGarde. I'm actually a lot like my father, so there are strong elements of me in Gus, too. It's an interesting amalgam.

Carrie: How has writing has impacted your life? Can you tell us how it changes or strengthens you?
Aaron: When life gets tough I turn to my writing for solace, borne of escapism.Family and friends help soothe life's woes, and are fantastic sources of comfort. Especially those hugs I get from my little grandsons. But there's something uniquely satisfying about turning to the parallel universe I control (when I can't control anything else) and "taking charge." Even if life wasn't fraught with its own problems, I'd still write. I have no choice. I need the stimulation of the creative process every day. I need to connect with readers. I live for that and I encourage my readers to contact me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com.
Carrie: Do you have a motto or favorite saying that guides you?
Aaron: "Take pleasure in the little things." When life becomes unbearable due to family illness or loss, I've learned how to self-comfort by enjoying what God has provided, such as a frosty field on a sunny winter morning, cornflowers growing wild by the roadside, the flash of love in my grandsons' eyes, or the taste of a fresh picked tomato. We must learn to savor these gifts, relish them, and soak them in to comfort us when things get tough again.

Carrie: Who are your favorite writers?
Aaron: In no particular order: John D. MacDonald for his Travis Magee series; Laurie R. King for her Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli series; Dean Koontz for his Odd Thomas series; Stephen King for his dialog (the best and most natural in the world); James Patterson for his early books' scenes with Dr. Alex Cross, Nana Mama, and his children; Clive Cussler for the delightful adventures of the Dirk Pitt series; Dick Francis (always wished he wrote a series); Tony Hillerman for his character development and scene painting; S.W. Vaughn (aka Sonja Bateman) for her face-paced, gripping fiction; and Marta Stephens for her newly debuted crime mysteries featuring detective Sam Harper.

Carrie: What's next?
Aaron: Mazurka, The fourth LeGarde book will be out soon through Twilight Times Books. Also, the debut novel of my new paranormal mystery series, Healey's Cave, will follow shortly thereafter. My current WIP is a standalone novel entitled The Aviary, about an obsessive-compulsive bird breeder and his pet parakeet, Ruby.

Okay, that's it. I need to get back to my manuscript edits that are due January 1st! I'm cracking the whip on myself and hope the next time we talk I can tell you I finished the darn thing! LOL.

Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rejection. Oh, how it stings. Most of us have been through it - plenty. Seeking jobs, college admissions, love, or publication for our books. It hurts. Destroys our self-image. For a while, anyway. And it tears at the thin fabric in which we cocoon with our fragile writer's ego, protecting the inner belief that our work is valid.A new writer recently emailed me after receiving a flurry of rejections from big agents. With a crushed spirit, she wrote:

"It makes no sense to me. If someone has written a book that is a good read, then why in the world would it not be recognized, published and read? The only answer that makes any sense is that it's not a particularly good read after all."

Alas, if it were only that simple. Let's step back and take a look at the situation.
You wrote a book. Your instincts tell you it's darned good. You envision an agent or publisher recognizing this and sweeping you up in their arms to share with the world. You dream of financial success, recognition, and that sweet validation that makes you feel you're a "real" writer.

That elusive dream haunts just about every new writer I've ever known. Then, after years of toiling, burning the midnight or early morning oil, sweating and suffering and bleeding onto the pages - most realize, in time, that they'd better not quit their day jobs.If every "good" book were accepted and published, we'd need a great deal more space to store and sell them. I've read that bookstores today stock only 2-3% of the published books in the world. Imagine all the "real" books that don't end up on their shelves? Now imagine all the good books that never get published. It's mind-boggling.

There are enormous quantities of books submitted annually to publishers, and only a relative handful of agents and editors to scan through the 0.05% that are accepted for the slush pile. They often receive hundreds of submissions per day. Imagine reading 100 emails every single day from authors who want to be heard? It wouldn't be hard to feel jaded in short order.

Publishers and agents have cut down their staffs, because of the economy, and it's probably even harder for them to get through the slush piles now, with the fear of job loss if their next pick doesn't bring in some cash.

There are plenty of horrible books submitted each year, too. But there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of very good books out there. Yours may be one of them. (If it isn't, keep on working on your skills until it is!)

Are you in this boat? Have you had your books summarily dismissed by the powers that be, over and over again? Have you hired or courted superb writers to help you perfect your story? Have you scoured your book dozens of times for typos or inconsistencies? Have you researched the heck out of every point that needs confirmation? Have you assured that your dialog is crisp and believable? Have you hacked away at unnecessary adverbs and adjectives? Have you just plain told the story in the same voice you use to speak? And your book has still been rejected?If not, count your lucky stars, for you are among one of the very few who got picked up at the starting gate. If so, let me share something with you.

Rejections may have nothing to do with the quality or value of your book. Most often, they have to do with the market, and what's "hot" this season. It could be the mood of the agent or editor who's reading your stuff, or the fact that your book slides between genres. Maybe it features young adults, but doesn't follow someone's blueprint for what a YA book needs to contain. Maybe it's absolutely perfect for a publisher, but they've already filled the slot for your genre on their list this year. Maybe the first level editor falls in love with your book, but her boss doesn't. Or you get all the way to the top of this year's short list, only to be told you didn't make the cut.

Sound familiar?If you don't get picked up in the first five years by high profile agents or publishers, I recommend seeking a high quality small press. It's not easy to get into their world, either. But you don't usually need an agent, and they can provide a nurturing home for you, as well as help you get your books out to the public.

And let me tell you friends, it's that public, those lovely readers, who will provide the validation you've sought for so long. When the first person (who isn't family or friends) comes up to you and gushes over your characters, or when you receive that unsolicited email from a stranger who NEEDS your next book or "they'll just die," or that lady who's been staring at you with stars in her eyes finally approaches you in the grocery store and says she wants to marry your lead character... that's when the validation just washes through your writer's soul. It's even better than the glowing reviews. Trust me.

So, the publishing game is tough. But it's not hopeless. There is still a place for us in this intensely competitive world. Acceptance by a high profile firm does not necessarily equate to a good book, just as rejection doesn't always equate to a bad book. Just look at the bestsellers out there. Some are quite odious, filled with plot holes, flat characters, and poor editing.

So, why bother?

Even with staggering odds in today's market, every year several "newcomers" are "discovered" and offered lucrative contracts. It does happen. We hear about it all the time. The next "hot" book will be discovered any day now. And it could be yours.My final bit of advice is this:

If you are a passionate writer, you need to write independent of what agent represents you, how many times your work has been rejected, what publisher has thumbed their nose at you, how many readers you have or don't have, how many books you have published or not published.

Okay. Group hug.Now just keep writing. And remember to write like the wind!

- Aaron

(author reading advanced release excerpt of Healey's Cave, release date spring, 2009)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at www.legardemysteries.com and www.mooremysteries.com and watch for the fourth book in the LeGarde series, MAZURKA, coming in January 2009 from Twilight Times Books.

Monday, December 01, 2008

LeGarde News - Dec. 1st 2009

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and we survived the usual disruptions of near-catastrophes and broken appliances, we can all gear up for Christmas. Every single year I make the lofty proclamation that we’re going to beat the rampant materialism that’s taken hold of our country, and simply exchange homemade gifts or letters. Usually I end up being tempted to buy far too much for everyone, and then the “even up” dance begins, where we ratchet up the total cost of Christmas to something we once again can’t afford.

But this year I really mean it. I’ve purchased a modest amount of art supplies and board games for our grandsons (they’ll be deluged in electronic gadgets from others), a few warm fuzzy outfits and simple toy for baby Isabella, and have worked for hours on photo gifts – such as calendars, puzzles, coffee cups, and a deck of cards. I hope I can stand by this noble practice. My fingers are crossed and my mind is set. I’ll report in next time so you can see if I caved or remained strong. LOL.

On the literary front, MAZURKA and HEALEY'S CAVE are due out in January and April of 2009. I’ll update you with a special bulletin when I get the print copies in hand. We’re still waiting for the reviews from the big review houses, such as Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, etc. But the time is fast approaching. If you’d like to reserve an autographed copy of either book, just let me know at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed corresponding with the students at Pfeiffer University who read
TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (the third book released and the prequel to DOUBLE FORTÉ), for their Mystery Writers class. We had a ball corresponding, the students loved hearing from a “real” author, and Gus LeGarde now has a new group of folks who plan to follow him through the series.

I’ve agreed to do several new radio shows, as well. The dates and links will be posted on my events page, on http://www.legardemysteries.com/ when it’s all settled. Hope you’ll stop by and join us. Some of the hosts include our own Kim Smith, Dr. Niama Williams, Renée Giroux, and Dr. Kent Gustafson.

The book signings are over for the season, and now it’s time for me to take a break from all that and luxuriate in writing during the cold winter months. But if you’d like to order some books for Christmas, I’m offering specials on all three books. And if you’d like to buy them as an autographed gift set, you can save over ten dollars buying through me. What a deal, huh?

Best wishes to all. I hope your holidays are splendid, full of love, and warm you to the core. And as I always say, remember to take pleasure in the little things.

- Aaron