Inexpensive Research Travels by Henry Biernacki

Henry Biernacki has traveled to more than 120 countries and continues to travel as a pilot for Virgin American Airlines. A four-sport letterman in high school and a two-sport letterman in college, Biernacki holds a Bachelor of Arts in romance languages and international affairs. He lived in France, Germany, Taiwan, the West Indies and Mexico before settling in his current home in San Jose, California.“Global Henry” (Traveler to over 120 plus countries)

You are not eating local unless flies are eating with you! It was a grass hut fully equipped with generous mosquitoes, willing to suck the life out of any exhausted traveler. The room was unfurnished with nonexistent grand necessities, except the broken lamp in the corner, sitting on the floor next to an empty toilet roll left by the last traveler who probably gazed out the small window all night at the one big palm tree, leading to the beach on Penang Island. The ceiling was the ceiling for the entire guesthouse with only a piece of green synthetic material separating each room, a convenient way to hear people snoring. The curtains were old lungis.1 Ideally, by traveling away from the luxurious comforts of common basics, a traveler realizes the process is the destination and continuously redefining the destination is what feeds the journal when writing a story and ultimately pulls off inexpensive research trips. Most importantly, while traveling do not fall back on the pseudo comfort of money.
Airline tickets are set, that fee expected, and no way to dismiss that. Beyond the ticket, the rest of the journey is up to the traveler on how much is spent each day. When traveling without the reassurances of home, you immediately slash costs, while being on the road. Are you willing to stay in a guesthouse like this or even sleep on the streets to grab a story? This is the sort of traveling where you are going to question several times, “Why for the love of God do I travel?” Hotels, restaurants, cafes, and taxis know people will pay for the closeness, even for the slightest recollection of home. However, from those tension-free-easy-to-map-out-experiences you never draw an image, with words, that inevitably make you hunger to write and the reader is certainly never going to feel what you are attempting to create.
Extend yourself and learn by taking public transit anywhere you go, ask everyone questions, get lost in the confusion of a new city, and ultimately most of your day is consumed without spending money, but modestly gathering experiences. That is the reason why we travel: to grasp hold of the newness in a nation where people are going to offer you to sit, visit, and finally may request you to meet their entire family. The only important part of any trip to a destination is the entire process of going through a country.
Carry more books than clothes, which is admirable, since you are going to be in need of words, describing a situation, then you can sell the books to the guesthouse. Travel with things you do not mind getting stolen. Assume anything you have will be stolen. You are going to be distracted, lost, and trying to find your way around a capital. You are going to be asking a lot of questions and touts 2 can sense who is lost. Travel with a medium size rucksack. You will not be tempted to buy anything. Be sure to take a few Ziploc bags to keep your things dry.
Many people arrive at a destination to research their topic when research is in the travel itself. Tourists have a destination. That is why there is always somewhere to go for a tourist always paying for something else. A traveler knows that the somewhere does not matter and somewhere can catch up anytime, knowing a story is being cultivated.
The test of ones character is not doing something, an action, which you know you can perform; but rather having the sureness of undertaking something of which you are wholly naïve and still making it all work in your favor.
The flies circling dinner and the seedy mosquito-infested rooms reveal a classy charmed guesthouse. Do not mind the bloodstained synthetic walls marked by once living bloated mosquitoes. Blood skillfully runs down the walls as if an artist stayed in the room to paint his masterpiece only to leave it half completed with his blood smeared. Just before the light goes out, make sure you give one good smack to kill the last bloated mosquito buzzing around your head. You did save money.
When words make sense, time is in the hands of humans.

1 Bright colored cloth worn around the waists, as a piece of clothing, by men in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

2 Touts are local people who solicit business for hotels, bars, or markets, receiving a payment for the tourists who come to purchase items.

NoTime, No Privacy, No Self-Discipline ~ The Literary Ladies Blast Through Excuses ~ Nava Atlas

Though Nava Atlas is best known as the author of many books on vegan vegetarian cooking, she also produces visual books on women’s issues, most recently The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life (2011). This lavishly illustrated book explores the writing lives of twelve classic women authors in their own words, with commentary on the relevance of their experiences to all women who love to write.

by Nava Atlas

Too much to do and too little time, no room of one’s own, and no willpower to simply sit down and write—those are the Big Three of “why I’m not writing” excuses. Those obstacles were as true for women writers in earlier generations as they are for today’s writers, as I discovered in researching the writing lives of classic authors of the past for The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life.
Sure, you’re busy, but you may feel less overwhelmed when you learn that Harriet Beecher Stowe had seven children, and was in charge of all the household duties, aside from being responsible for bringing in at least half of its income. Still, she somehow found the wherewithal to complete Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that’s been credited with shifting public attitude about slavery when it was published in 1853.

In times past, a writer was truly alone with the blank piece of paper. Now, with most of us working on computers, fully wired, a new daily battle is fought against the constant distraction of the Internet, that sneaky demon lurking behind the blank page on the screen. How did writers past, the ones who ultimately succeeded gloriously, find time, privacy, and the will to write? Here are some nuggets of wisdom from several Literary Ladies:
Don’t take an all or nothing attitude. Some of the authors in this book, including Willa Cather (author of My Antonia, O Pioneers!, and many other works), worked a mere few hours a day: “I work from two and a half to three hours a day. I don’t hold myself to longer hours; if I did, I wouldn’t gain by it,” she said in a 1921 interview.
Don’t wait until you have the perfect private, quiet place. L.M. Montgomery (best known for her Anne of Green Gables series) got nothing done in her silent room before or after work as a working girl in 1920. But when she snatched odd moments in the bustle of the newsroom where she was employed, “The impossible happened … Every morning here I write, and not bad stuff either.” Similarly, Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “I must seize opportunities,” and found that she got good work done on planes, as well as in airports and hotels.
To get work done, think of small chunks. Some authors of the past found their will to stay put and write was aided by just focusing on that day’s work. Edna Ferber (hugely successful in her time for cinematic novels like Cimmaron and Giant), thought it better to think of “any long piece of work as a day to day task,” and not become overwhelmed by the big picture, otherwise, “one can drown in a morass of apprehension.”
So, while today’s writing women might battle the temptations of Facebook and Twitter, it was little different for George Sand, who complained in 1869, “I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies.” No doubt, those were her myriad of lovers, but that didn’t stop her from writing more than seventy novels. See excuses for what they are, and don’t let them get the best of you. The Literary Ladies all found strategies to overcome the very same issues, and you can, too.

How Editors Make a Difference ~ Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers Life Support, Bloodstream, Gravity, and The Surgeon. Tess lives with her family in Maine. (PHOTO CREDIT: Paul D’Innocenzo)

How Editors Make a Difference

Tess Gerritsen (reprinted from Murderati)

It’s called a death spiral, and I was in one. The year was 2000, and I had just turned in my fifth thriller, The Surgeon. In the U.S., my first four books had hit bestseller lists. In the UK my career was, if not dead, barely twitching. In publishing, “death spiral” describes the steady decline in an author’s sales over time, a decline that’s almost impossible to reverse. With each new release, the orders are smaller. With smaller orders there’s less visibility and poorer distribution, leading inevitably to even poorer sales.

Eventually, no bookstores will order your books. And no publisher wants you as their author.

That’s the position I was in back in 2000. My sales had all but crashed and burned in the UK. I’d already failed with two different publishers, and now no one there wanted to touch me. The Surgeon, it appeared, would not be released in the UK at all.

Then a plucky new editor at Transworld Publishers picked up The Surgeon and decided she had to acquire the book. The author’s track record was dreadful, getting the book into stores would be a battle, but she was damn well going to do it. She forced (that’s the description I heard!) all her colleagues to read the manuscript, and now they were getting excited too. She was the cheerleader, the taskmaster, the evangelist for The Surgeon. I was only vaguely aware of her efforts at the time; after all, I’d failed miserably in the UK before, and my hopes were no higher this time. She sent me the cover design that she was so excited about: a sink drain with splashes of blood.

I just didn’t get it. She assured me it would work in the UK market. Anyway, what did I know about the UK market? I was already deemed a failure there, and I was sure to be a failure again. When the book was released in hardcover in the UK, I paid little attention because it was just too depressing to think about.

But this editor wouldn’t leave me alone. She kept sending me cheery emails and sales figures. While The Surgeon wasn’t hitting any bestseller lists, it wasn’t a complete flop. The corpse of my UK career actually took a breath — if only a shallow one.

The following year, with the publication of The Apprentice in hardcover and The Surgeon in paperback, Transworld invited me for a UK book tour. It was the first time I’d been asked overseas, and I still have one vividly depressing memory of a group booksigning I did in London.

I was sitting next to a bestselling crime author who had a line of fans to buy her book. One man came with a whole box of books for that author to sign. Then he looked at me, shrugged, and said: “I have no idea who you are.” He bought one of my paperbacks, but I could see it was only out of sheer pity.

The Surgeon, in paperback, miraculously made it to the top-ten bestseller list.

In the years that followed, as my UK sales continued to climb, this editor and the entire Transworld team never stopped flogging my books. They continually re-packaged the series. They brought me over again and again for tours. They invested in publicity and promotions.

In 2006, I finally hit #1 on the London Times paperback bestseller list with Vanish. And last year, I hit #1 on the hardcover list with The Killing Place.

Transworld not only breathed life back into this old corpse, they got it up and walking and then sprinting ahead of the pack. It demonstrates that even a career that looks dead can be reanimated — given the right team with the right book. It’s a lesson that authors and publishers need to take to heart. If an author writes great books, even if his sales are moribund, he deserves a second look, a second chance. Because he just might be your next #1 bestseller.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about how authors don’t really need publishers anymore because we can self-publish with e-books. Hey, we can do it all ourselves, make more money in the long run, and have complete control over our destinies. To some extent it’s true; we can publish our own books. The question is, can we publish our own books well?

(Even in the world of self-publishing, publishers will still play a vital role as gatekeepers. Spam now clogs online booksellers with 99 cent e-books that are either junk or blatantly plagiarized. A publisher’s seal of approval can help separate the worthwhile books from the fake ones.)

Over my twenty-five career, I’ve worked with some truly gifted editors. Every single one has been a pleasure to work with, and my books are all the better because of their input. True, a self-published author could hire a private editor to help polish a manuscript, but the fact is, editors do a lot more than edit. They advocate. They strategize. They even harangue, all on your behalf.

And sometimes, they become your dear friends. This is something we don’t talk enough about: how important friendships are in the publishing business. It’s not all about sales figures and bean counting. Long after our business associations end, long after we stop needing each other for deals, the friendships remain.

Last month, it was announced that my wonderful UK editor, Selina Walker, is leaving Transworld to take an impressive new job as publisher for Century and Arrow Books. I guess that’s what happens when you do a smashing job — you get promoted. I’m thrilled for her, of course, but I’m also sad that she’s leaving. She was the one who pulled me out of my UK death spiral. And that, I will never forget.

Bleeding on the Page by Ginny Yttrup

Ginny L. Yttrup is the author of Words and Lost and Found (releases February 15, 2012). She is also a mother, pet lover, friend, life coach, and child of God.

Bleeding on the Page
“You don’t need your brain to write, Ginny.”
I laughed. Yeah, right. What does he know? He’s a life coach, not a writer. But he didn’t laugh with me.
Then a sense of knowing came over me—one of those moments when you know the words spoken didn’t come from the speaker, but from the Spirit through the speaker. I stopped laughing and listened.
“Write from your gut. Write what you know. Write out of control.”
I recalled words he’d spoken the week before. “Don’t edit your life as you write.”
I felt my heart clench like a fist and tears came to my eyes. I’d simply stated that I was struggling with brain fog following three surgeries in six weeks. I was concerned about the impending deadline for my third novel. I didn’t need a challenge, just a bit of sympathy.
Yet again, in that mystical way of the Spirit of God, I knew the words were not his own. Still, I argued with him. I thought back to my last novel, the one pending release. Scenes I’d written flashed through my mind, and with them came the agony I’d felt as I’d written. The names and places had been changed, but otherwise, they were scenes from my own life—scenes dug from the depths of my emotional pool. Just like the first novel, the second bore my tears and blood on the pages. “That is how I write.”
“There’s more. There’s more of you. Give it all.”
I curled into myself on my bed as I listened to him through the phone. You’re asking too much of me. The thought wasn’t directed at my coach, but at God.
Since that conversation, a familiar writing quote has nagged: It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. The quote is attributed to Paul Gallico—but there are similar quotes attributed to other writers through the centuries.
That, I believe, is what’s asked of us—writers who also happen to be Christians—believers in Jesus Christ. We’re asked to sacrifice as He did out of a heart of love for those we serve: our readers.
That’s an opinion—mine.  It’s not a Biblical mandate for writers.
But loving others is a mandate, and in my experience, I only love well when I’m honest. Transparent. Vulnerable. I love completely when I open a vein and bleed for another. When I’m willing to lay down my life for my brother or sister.
It requires the humility of exposure.
The risk of disclosure.
The pain of judgment.
Ironic. I chose to write fiction so I could hide behind a story. Novelist’s clad in pajamas sit behind computer screens, sip coffee, and craft stories. We don’t tell the truth. We tell a story.
And no.
That is the dichotomy of the storyteller. The circumstances are created, but the emotions are our own. And in that way, we are challenged to tell the truth.
To love.
And to lay down our lives for others.
Lost and Found
It appears Jenna Bouvier is losing everything: beauty, family, and wealth. When her controlling and emotionally abusive mother-in-law accuses Jenna of an affair with her spiritual director and threatens to expose them, Jenna also risks losing her reputation as a woman of faith. Will she capitulate to her mother-in-law’s wishes again or fight for what she holds dear? As Jenna loses her life, will she find it?
Andee Bell has found exactly what she wanted: fame, fortune, and respect. There’s also a special man in her life—Jenna’s brother. Despite her success, a secret quells Andee’s contentment. As memories torment, will she find peace in a relationship with God, or will she sabotage herself while also taking down the only person she cares about? As Andee finds her life, will she lose it?
Moving between San Francisco and the Napa Valley, Jenna and Andee form an unlikely relationship that leads them to a crossroad. They can follow familiar inclinations, or risk it all and walk in faith.