Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post ~ Laura Alden

Musings of a debut author

My first book came out in early October, making me what they call a debut author. Which is as close as I’ll ever get to being a debutante. Not that I mind; high heels were never my best friends and I’m not overly fond of being the center of attention. (More on that later.)

Being an writer is an odd thing. You sit in front of your computer for hundreds of hours, writing and editing and rewriting and then rewriting some more. You read your dialogue out loud. You make the movements your characters make and try to figure out how to describe them in a way that makes sense. You worry about plot arcs and character development and verisimilitude and wonder how on earth you could have written the snipe hunt into the same manuscript twice.

You do all this stuff in the privacy of your own home, and then your book is published. Hooray!! You’ve achieved a lifetime goal and it’s so incredibly cool that you can hardly believe it’s happening.

Acquaintances stop you on the street. “I hear you have a book out.”
Friends ask you to sign their copy. Family members wonder which character they are.

Then you go to your first conference as a published writer and things get ever weirder. You get an official author badge. You get to be on panels. Weirdest of all, people actually listen to what you have to say.

For someone who doesn’t even like to open birthday presents in front of her family for fear of saying the wrong thing -- “Oh, a new pair of slippers. Thanks. They’re just like the ones I bought last week,” -- having a roomful of people hanging on your every word is disconcerting.

Do they realize I have to take deep calming breaths before opening my mouth? Do they realize I have no clue what I’m talking about? Do they realize there’s no guarantee that anything I say will make sense? Do they realize I have a solid reputation for sounding like an idiot?

But you do the panels and people don’t point at you and laugh, so you go away thinking that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t make a complete fool of yourself.

Home again, you think about what you learned, the people you met, the shoes that hurt your feet, and all the books you bought. What you want to do most is flop on the couch and read for a week –bliss! – however, there’s the day job and a book contract to fulfill and laundry to do, so you sadly put all those luscious-looking books onto your To Be Read pile.

And start writing. Writing and editing and rewriting and then rewriting some more….

About the author ~ 

Short Version ~ I grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan, where I spent summers picking blueberries and winters falling down on skis. In the early 80's I graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science degree in geology. While my pursuit of the degree was interesting, a knowledge of how biaxial crystals behave in convergent polarized light has proven completely useless in my various careers. Ah, well.
Except for a year spent in Connecticut, I've lived in Michigan all my life. Currently, I live on a lake with my husband and two cats. Which means I now spend winters and summers falling down on skis.

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My Life as a writer ~ Once upon a time, I won an elementary school poetry contest. The prize was getting up in front of the entire school to read my poem aloud. If the intention was to frighten me from publicly admitting I wrote, it worked like a charm.

The B minus in my college creative writing class didn’t help.

Despite a lifetime of rapacious reading, writing my own novel didn’t occur to me until the ripe old age of thirty seven. I’d just left a management job and taken a position in which I had very few responsibilities. Within two months, I was writing daily, devouring books on writing, soaking up Julia Cameron’s three pages a day advice and following Robert Ray’s schedule in The Weekend Novelist.

A year later, I had a novel in hand – a romance with elements of mysticism. I told the tale of Cinderella after the ball. I wrote of disparate cultures and loneliness and hard-won joy. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

And it was rotten. But, hey, I’d finished a novel! And I don’t read that many romances, anyway. I chose that genre only because I thought it would be easier (hah!) than writing what I love to read. Mysteries.

So I wrote book number 2. A mystery. That, too, sucked. Not as badly as my failed romance, but a sucky book is a sucky book. Next!

(For books number 3 and 4, see above paragraph.)

Numbers 5 and 6, a thriller and a mainstream novel, did not suck. However, I couldn't find an agent who agreed with that assessment. Onward!

Book 7 is Murder at the PTA, released in October of 2010, a mere twelve years after I started writing fiction seriously. Some might call me stubborn; I like to say I'm perseverant :)

Visit Laura's website 
Friend Laura on Facebook
Find Laura on Good Reads HERE
 Email Laura at lauraalden42 AT gmail DOT com

Her book ~

Murder at the PTA

A brand-new series in which murder is anything but elementary

After Tarver Elementary School's unpopular principal is murdered, PTA secretary and mother of two Beth Kennedy puts aside bake sales and class trip fund-raisers to catch a killer. And when members of the PTA become suspects, she realizes solving this murder will not be as easy as ABC...


Beth Kennedy, mother of Jenna and Oliver, has been divorced for a year now, and her BFF Marina thinks it’s about time she got off her butt and got out some more. It doesn’t seem to matter to Marina that Beth thinks she gets out plenty. Hello - she does own a children’s bookshop in town and has two children – all of which keep her plenty busy. Unfortunately for Beth, that is not what Marina has in mind. She thinks that Beth should run for secretary of the PTA. What Beth doesn’t know is that there are no other “candidates”. She’s it, and she has just volunteered for the position. There go her Wednesday nights alone while the kids are with her ex.

Granted the PTA meetings never go easy, but had Beth known what was about to happen at her very first meeting as secretary, she never would have “volunteered.” Agnes Mephisto, the much despised principal of Travers Elementary School, has decided that, thanks to a very anonymous and very large donation, there will be a new addition to the school. And not only has SHE made this decision, she already had the plans (they were hideous) and the builders are ready to start. Since it was a private donation, there needed to be no discussion about it, as there were no taxpayer dollars involved. WELL….let me tell you, this news did not sit well with the parents. And not to long after the meeting, Agnes ends up dead.

The gossip blog, WisconSINS, starts printing not so nice information about the locals and soon Marina (the not so anonymous author of the blog) starts receiving death threats warning her to back off. With her friend’s life in jeopardy, and having gotten a better understanding of Agnes’s life after speaking with her sister, Beth sets off to track down the killer. With a list of parents/suspects a mile long, it takes some clever sleuthing on Beth’s part to whittle down the list. But will she find the killer before he/she finds her or Marina? Is it a parent hoping to put a stop to the ugly addition or someone that has nothing to do with the school itself? Or just maybe it’s the handsome, mysterious man that has reappeared in Beth’s life? A man she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. While it was fairly easy to figure out who the mysterious donor was, it wasn’t so easy when it came to the killer. There are lots of hints that will have you thinking one thing, only to find out they mean something completely different, and those things having nothing to do with murder and mayhem. Laura Alden’s Murder at the PTA is a fun, fresh, and exciting addition to the cozy genre. It’s great start to a new series by a new author. Just don’t let the teacher catch you not reading it.