Author: D.A. Bartley

Staying the Course with New Year’s Resolutions

Week three is always the toughest for me. The first week, I glide on intention and hope. Week two? I can muscle through with determination, but by the time week three hits, temptations beckon. Whether or not I keep my resolutions—to do “x” or quit doing “y”—depends on how I get through that third week. So, I’m dedicating this Week Three of January 2019 to staying the course to victory. I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions since some time in high school. As a teenager, I made very serious ones. They were almost always too difficult for me (learn Russian, this year) and were usually inspired by who I thought I should be (lose ten pounds) rather than who I was. It probably goes with saying that I was rarely very successful. Still, I kept making resolutions diligently every year. No, I haven’t mastered Russian (ya ochen’ plokho govoryu po russki) and I don’t think I ever lost that ten pounds (I decided to stop weighing myself). In fact, it’s been years since I set those as goals at all because in the midst of all that falling short, I refined my process for resolution making. That’s the good thing about failure, it’s a great teacher.  I […]

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Suggestion 3: Don't Let the Demons Win

I’m sure there are writers who don’t suffer from self doubt. There may even be some writers who never write a terrible sentence, let alone a terrible paragraph, or a terrible entire middle of the book. If you are one of these writers: good for you!  I’m not.  A variety of demons live in my head. Some whisper, some shout, some just drone on and on. I used to fight with them, but I’ve discovered that simply identifying them for who they are and accepting what they say lets me get on with things. Somewhat counterintuitively, my acceptance has softened their voices. When Overwhelmed Ophelia (that’s what I call her) screeches there is no possible way I can make all the PoV changes I need to make before my deadline, I accept her anxiety because it’s realistic, but I remind myself that I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. Here’s what my wise (and very kind and supportive) fellow Miss Demeanors say on the subject of those pesky writing demons: Paula: Writing really is rewriting for me. Because for me, the first draft can be an angst-ridden slog. But once I’ve pounded out that first draft, I can relax a little and enjoy the process of making it better. Now I have […]

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Suggestion 2: Plan Your Re-write Attack

This is hard. Even writing about it is hard. I’m not going to lie. When you have eighty thousand words, give or take, and editorial pages critiquing what works and what doesn’t, making a plan can seem overwhelming. Don’t let it be.  For me, there are four basic steps to the rewriting process.  Step 1: Check the calendarCount the number of days you have until your deadline. Be honest about how many days in the week you can work. Is Sunday impossible for you? Take it out of the rotation. Is there a family wedding? Be honest about how much time you can sneak away from family obligations. There is no right answer, there is only a truthful one.  Step 2: Attack the big stuffBy “big stuff” I mean the major plot issues. In Blessed be the Wicked, my editor had wanted a minor story line to become more central. She was completely right. I ended up writing a handful of completely new chapters developing the relationship between Abish and her brother. I had always adored her brother and I knew Abish and her brother John were close, but none of that made it into the first version of the book. My editor was right to push […]

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Suggestion 1: Get honest feedback

If you’ve written the perfect book, congratulations! You’re done. If you’re like me, and you haven’t written the perfect book, here are my suggestions for managing feedback. You must take time to process, but you don’t have time to wallow. Remember: right now I have twenty-five days. Step 1: Take time to digest. When I get comments, I read through them once and then set them aside for a day or two. I let my subconscious process what’s there. I don’t judge myself or my editor. I just take it all in like a neutral observer. Step 2: Get detailed. After my self-imposed time out, I go through the comments again. This time, I underline sentences, circle words, scribble notes in the margins. I do this as many times as I have to in order to understand the critique. There may be big themes like pacing and PoV. There might be issues like the number of characters or the setting. Perhaps–maybe–your dialogue sounds stilted. Whatever is there in the comments, make sure you understand it, even if you don’t agree with it. Step 3: Decide what resonates with you. I happen to think my editor is right on over 90% of her suggestions. That leaves less than 10% to be ironed out. If that […]

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The Art of the Rewrite

 “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”  This oh-so-famous Ernest Hemingway quote has been on my mind lately. You write, polish, revise, and edit. Then, you pass on your manuscript to another human being. The moment of truth. If you have a publisher, this is when you get your comments. If you’re breaking into the business, it’s when you hear back from your beta-reader, freelance editor, or agent. No matter where you are in your writing journey, it’s the time when you see your book in the harsh light of day through someone else’s eyes. Why am I obsessing about the Hemingway quote right now? Because I just got comments back for Abish Taylor #2. I have exactly twenty-six (26!) days to incorporate my editor’s thoughtful critique into my manuscript. There aren’t any shortcuts. No app. No Ted Talk. No podcast. Just me, her critique, and my computer.  As I’ve been contemplating the art of the rewrite, I realized I do indeed have something resembling a process. It’s not perfect, and it certainly may not be for everyone, but because I’m in the middle of crunch time, I’ll share what helps me not only get through rewriting, but actually helps me (pretty much) enjoy the process. Feel free to take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. For those of you who are […]

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CritiqueMatch: An interview with CEO Mike Cavaioni (and how to find your perfect writing critique partner)

Drum roll, please. Today, I’ve managed to corner Mike Cavaioni, the CEO  of Critique Match, a new platform that allows writers to find critique partners. It’s a beautiful website, but, more importantly, it’s easy to use and fills a gap in the writing universe: how to find yourself the right critique partner. Alison: Providing a community for writers to swap work is simply genius. How did you come up with the idea for CritiqueMatch? Mike: I’ve been a blogger for a couple of years now, writing ontechnical subjects, such as artificial intelligence. I can’t tell youhow many times I’ve edited a blog, passed it throughGrammarly, and yet, my lovely wife still caught errors! Irealized one always needs a second pair of eyes, someone whocan give honest, constructive feedback. Yes, one could rely ona professional editor, but a critique partner goes beyond a professional service transaction. Writing is such a solitary journey. The encouragement and companionship a partner can provide are crucial to keeping one’s momentum going. So I knew critique partnerships were crucial to writers. The next question was: where do you find the right critique partners? And how do you know if they are any good? Hence, the idea of creating a […]

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Three New Yorks, maybe Four?

E.B. White’s observation can’t be bettered: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. … Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. ” My husband and I moved to Manhattan in August of 1998.  I have lived here longer than I have any other  place on the planet. I feel very at home, but, as E.B. White would point out, I am a settler. My children are natives, and I am not. This whole city–in all its wonderful madness–is normal to them. To me, it is amazing. It’s amazing that I have a favorite bakery for sour dough (Orwashers) and a different one for focaccia (Agata). I love that the brother-sister team who run my favorite handbag store, […]

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Carrie Smith on New York, Detective Claire Codella, and Edgar Allen Poe

Alison: First of all, congratulations on winning the Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award and being a Silver Falchion Award Finalist for 2018! Unholy City is the third in your Detective Claire Codella mysteries. Like the first book Silent City and then Forgotten City, your books are set in New York. What about the city do you find makes for a compelling background? Carrie: There are endless hidden pockets of the city to explore, and an abundance of characters to cast. Nowhere else, at least in this country, do you find so much diversity—socio-economic, ethnic, religious, gender—and I have always been compelled to explore the interactions among characters with different passions, perspectives, beliefs, and motivations. Alison: For those who don’t already know Detective Claire Codella, can you introduce us? Carrie: Claire Codella is a tough, tenacious NYPD detective who earned her spot on a central homicide squad after solving a series of high-profile cold case homicides. Shortly after her promotion, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent ten months fighting for her own life. When readers meet her in SILENT CITY (the first novel in the series), it is her first day back on the job after cancer. She’s under pressure to prove that she still has what it takes to […]

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L.A. Chandlar on The Gold Pawn and New York City

Alison: Congratulations on the release of The Gold Pawn! In your first book in this series, The Silver Gun, I feel you portray New York City almost as a character as much as a setting. How does the city feature in this second book? Laurie: Thank you! In The Gold Pawn, the main mystery takes place in New York City, but Lane Sanders, aide to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, must also face the ghosts of her past as she discovers a disturbing link between her family’s secrets and the current mystery she’s embroiled in. Lane continues to soak up life in NYC, and she witnesses the unique and magical things that the city spontaneously provides. So YES, New York is a major character! But you also have Detroit and Rochester, Michigan added to the story this time. The history in both the small town of Rochester and the industrious Detroit of the 1930s is delicious. There are some fun cameos and real history with the restaurants, vintage cars, and other establishments that gave the cities their special personality. Alison: For those who don’t already know Lane Sanders, can you introduce us? Laurie: Lane Sanders is the twenty-four-year-old vivacious, clever aide to one of […]

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An Interview with Cathi Stoler about Books, Murder, and a Good Cocktail

Jude Dillane runs The Corner Lounge, a bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As we soon discover, though, the protagonist in Cathi Stoler’s new series Bar None:  A Murder On The Rocks Mystery,  has a lot more to deal with than food and drink.   Alison: Thanks so much for taking time out to talk about your latest, Cathi. I was lucky enough to read the ARC, so I know that you give the reader an insider’s look into the food business in New York. Can you tell me what exactly was the inspiration for BAR NONE? Cathi: My husband was in the bar and restaurant business for a long time, first as an owner and later as manager and bar manager. He worked mostly near our home, so I visited often. I got to know all the employees from the bus boys to the cooks, to the wait staff, and bar tenders. It was an education. Some pretty crazy things happened and they stuck with me. I thought using some of these incidents in a novel would be fun. And, it was, especially the scene in which Jude’s now-famous actor friend, Vin Pell, visits The Lounge and causes quite a commotion. Alison: What abut Jude Dillane? Is she based […]

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Recent Posts

First pages.
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First lines.
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How Do You Even Brand?
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The Power of Yes
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Embracing My Brand
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How to Deal with Change
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