It’s Alive!

After working on the website for just shy of a month … worrying all the details like font and imagery … writing all sorts of copy, and then bashing my head into a wall, and rewriting it again … exchanging e-mails with an amazing designer in a far away place … it’s ALIVE.  My website, my formal “how-do-you-do” is up and running.

It’s sort of whimsical … very beautiful … and it speaks of my dreamy nature.  Scarlett nailed it down perfectly, and I really don’t believe I could be happier.  Actually, I know I couldn’t be happier.  It was exactly what I wanted.  It’s very “author” and equally user-friendly.

I’m excited to formally introduce you all to my professional door step …

www.ashleymacklerpaternostro.com

The site will be slower than my blog … I won’t be frantically updating it unless there is something important to say.  It will be … above all … professional.

 

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Writing The “Bio”

I am sure this is not a universal truth … but for me, I’ve found writing about myself is one of the hardest subjects to approach and to actually do well.  I think it’s always been that way — I don’t exactly find myself an “riveting” person — my life is and always has been exceptionally normal minus the hiccups of growing up.

But, as it turns out, when you’re getting ready launch a book or website or even a blog … you need a bio that speaks not only about you but does so in such a way that it becomes a learning experience for anyone reading it.  And, to further complicate things, you need several bios, one for each individual aspect of marketing yourself.

Blog bios can sillier, more tongue and cheek and can touch on the lighter side of life.  Books need to be truncated and smartly worded, generally limited to a few well thought out sentences.  Websites should be interesting and cover the key points of you while remaining fresh, current and above all else, interesting.

So, I did what I always do, I asked for advice.

You know what people told me?  Write in third person, make it interesting … and … lie.

Before I dive into how I wrote my bio and all of that, I want to touch on the lying.

As a literary fiction author, I lie a lot.  I create houses that don’t exist, build drama where there is none, invent people simply because I can, travel through time at the speed of of a page turn.  Lying is part of the job description, it’s expected in my genre.

But, lying in a bio?  All I can think about is James Fry with his MILLION LITTLE PIECES debacle.  James Fry wrote a great book … it’s still a great book.  The only problem was, he tried to pass it off for truth.  And then, because that was his “so-called reality” … he had to fish around and make this his personal history as well.  It wasn’t true, not from the beginning … and he got caught.  He went into his writing knowing this is a lie … and still, he never stopped to weigh the consequences of that … he just tried to outrun them and was publicly shamed for that.

So, in good faith — boring though I may be — I refuse to LIE about who I am and where I come from.  Sure, it might make me more interesting … it might even sell a few more copies of my book … but, we live in the age of the internet, and there are people out there who love to do nothing more than dig up your past and watch you fall.  All things considered … that is simply SO not worth it.

Instead, for my website, I tried to take what is true and make it read like a really great interview.  Writing in third person felt silly, so I tweaked it to fit my style.  I included little sentences and then “answered” them with personal quotes of my own …

WEBSITE BIO

Ashley Mackler-Paternostro was born in Naperville, Illinois, where she still lives with her husband Mark and their three dogs.

“We have such a normal life.  And I’m really so lucky, my husband Mark is absolutely the biggest supporter of my writing.  It’s … amazing.  I have no right to be this fortunate … and yet, I am.”

A hairstylist by trade, Ashley will often say that some of the best stories she has ever heard were told to her while working behind the chair.  A life long reader with an insatiable appetite for good books, she decided to merge her love of great stories — both told and written — into her own brand of story telling.

“Life is so strange … people can do some really crazy things when left to their own devices. As a stylist, I was privy to that, people just want to still down and talk — and they all have something to say.  Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s just hysterical.  But, that’s real life — it’s kind of messy.

As a reader, I need to lose myself in the book, I cherish the sort of story that you can really invest yourself deeply in, the kind that has an unforgettable character who pulls you to the point where you can viscerally understand them and the lines of real and unreal get blurry.  

When you take all that normal stuff and blend it with the edge of fantastical, you can really find yourself in a beautiful place.  When I write, that’s what I’m looking for–that beautiful place. I have no problem walking away from a book if the characters aren’t telling me their story.  They have to flesh themselves out, I have to believe in them in order to work with them.  My books are absolutely character driven … just like real life.”

When she’s not being held captive in her home office by words, Ashley fancies herself a flea market hunter with a weakness for Japanese glass floats and repurposing vintage goods.

“There is such bliss in the things from once upon a time.  I can’t walk past a piece of furniture without wondering how I can change it.  I can’t see pretty glassware and not want to own it.  I see these ordinary objects and wonder — what’s the story behind this, how did it end up here?  Where has this been?  Who loved this?  I can really get swept away in that sort of wondering.”

Writing was always in her blood from the time she was a little girl always eager to say something, but until a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in the spring of 2011 she never had the vision.

“You know, it’s sort of cliche how this all started.  I just turned 28 and my husband took me on vacation.  I wasn’t at a crossroads in my life — at least, not that I was aware of, but I came home from Washington and was inspired, that place changed me.  I had this story inside me and it was so loud … I couldn’t quiet it down, I simply had to tell it.  

So, I sat down and just started writing.  I didn’t even think about it.  Once I hit 30,000 words I was like … oh … this is pretty serious. It felt really natural, as though this was just how it was supposed to be for me … so I let go and let the story unfold. I didn’t really worry about outlining, or plotting … now I know better.  I ended up with this book about life and death and love and even I couldn’t believe it.”

Ashley wrote her entire first novel with only three people knowing about it. She had no idea where this journey was going to take her or how she would finish it … or even if she would finish it.

“I’m a big believer in wild dreams.  My Dad used to call me an enigma, which I suppose is very true. I was a hairstylist … the last person you’d ever think would ‘write a novel’ let alone publish a novel — I mean, really–a writer?  Even I wasn’t so sure how this would turn out.    

And, at the same time, I was always the type to just ‘blurt it out’ (I’m not the best at keeping big, life changing secrets)… those sort of loud proclamations usually lead to expectations.  I knew that if I was going to write authentically, I had to play it close to the chest.  I needed to know where I was going — gather my answers and figure it out — before I let too many inside.  

It was hard … but not impossible.  I think it was the best gift I ever gave myself.  It worked.  And when I finally was at the point when I knew this book was absolutely going somewhere, it was an exciting thing to share with the people in my life.”

Ashley’s writing style reflects the sort of books she herself enjoys reading.  Never one to shy away from the uncomfortable or heartbreaking, her novels often ping into the defining moments of life in the middle of great conflict.

“I’m a writer a of real life, I actually really like real life.  I enjoy putting my characters into very hard situations and I like seeing how they figure it out — much of the time I have no idea how they’ll do it, but in character driven pieces, they usually give you clues. 

Good endings aren’t always as simple as ‘boy and girl live happily ever after’ … that happens sometimes, sure …. but it’s not always genuine.  If bad things happen, my characters need to be able to figure out how to adjust and live within them … you can’t force that to fit a mold.  That’s what I’ve figured out about my writing.”

Before the launch of her first book, THE MILESTONE TAPES, she is already hard at work with the follow up.

“There is a lot of downtime when you’re working on the publishing part — a lot of hurry up and wait.  I couldn’t help but to be forward thinking — excited about how I’ll follow the first one up.  I’ve found a rhythm to my style.  My second novel, STRAY, definitely pings into same emotionally whirlwind I touched upon in THE MILESTONE TAPES while being totally different — it has a very different vibe and undercurrent to it — it’s a special story of hard yet totally self created circumstances.” 

Ashley is set to debut her first work of literary fiction in early 2012 with much excitement and enthusiasm.

“THE MILESTONE TAPES is more than a book … it’s a year of my life and a whole new chapter.  I am beyond thrilled to be in the position to share my words.  This really is a dream — a wild dream — come true.”

***

In the end, writing a bio is a very personal experience … and an exercise in writing.  It should be fun … and it should be truthful.  I don’t think you should ever lie about who you are.


Picking A Quote To Define Yourself

My web designer, Scarlett, e-mailed me this evening asking for a quote … something to put under the header of my website that would speak either from me or about me.

I was stumped.  That’s the truth.  As a writer, we say a lot of things and we write a lot of words.  We talk about the craft and the experience of being involved, we talk about our books and our passions and the things that make us tick.  But, unlike my blog which is for other writers — my site is for readers.

What could I say that was important?

In some ways, my readers will never get to know me.  I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought that … but for me, as a blogger, it’s kind of heavy.  They will simply know me as the woman who wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES.  But, that’s very … one note.  They won’t know nearly as much as my blog followers.  And what I put on my site, I do want it to mean something to them.

So, I thought a lot about the life of a reader.  I write, lets just face it, a very specific sort of novel.  I deal with real life.  I don’t create worlds or mythological beasts or other times in distant places.  My readers will … to some extent … be asked to bring a bit of themselves to the table.

So, I chose …

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

I wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES for my mother based on our lives and my curiosity about the other side.  And I’m sure some reader, some day will sit back and think “that’s my story … we lived that” … and that’s okay.  That’s what I want.

So, if you were asked to pick a single quote to define yourself … your work … your stories … what would it be?

 

A Writer’s Holiday

I woke up this morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and immediately checked my e-mail.  I’m working with a few people overseas right now on my website and my communication with them often happens at odd hours of the day–either late at night or early in the morning.  It reminds me very much of when I was actually writing the book, as those magic hours amounted to my “author work day”.

Normally, I wouldn’t notice such a thing as it is almost common place now, but, this is also the morning before Thanksgiving.  In years past, I would have made a cup of coffee to go, deposited myself in my mother’s kitchen and been up to my elbows in potato peels by now.  I would have stopped along the way for a newspaper, removed all the Black Friday ads and started scouring them for the best deals.  I would have been setting the table and boiling pumpkin and running to the store to join the droves of the other just-like-me last-minute and frazzled shoppers hoping all they need hasn’t been picked over yet.

This year is decidedly different.  I have to work.  I no longer have the luxury of free time.  Just because I’m not going to my day job doesn’t mean my other job isn’t clamoring and chiming for my undivided attention.  I anticipate bring my laptop along to Thanksgiving tomorrow and either blogging, answering e-mails, working with my team across the globe or simply staring at the open Storyist page while going glassy-eyed without the benefit of a globed glass of red wine (if I drink while I write, it looks a lot like a mess 🙂 ).

It’s a writers life…and this is a writers holiday.

When I compressed my book into a neat little word document and mailed it off to the editor, I blissfully believed this would be an easy month, a nearly free month.  I figured that I could lose myself in my second book and that when the holidays crept around, I would be able to kick back and really just decompress.  Uh…no.  Not at all.  Silly me, I should have know, holidays are for people with normal lives, people who aren’t running towards publication and people who have the good sense to realize publishing around the Holidays is an almost certain disaster.

I’m busier now than ever, November has officially knocked me on my ass–I can’t wait for December (can you see the sarcasm dripping from the page?).  As the book comes to completion, I’m scrambling.  I have to write a dedication, table of contents, blurb–and that’s simply for print.  For my site, I have to do all of that and then some.  Not to mention to aligning the next steps for THE MILESTONE TAPES and making sure those people are in the know.  Somewhere in there, there is a second book that would like to be written and of course, this blog begs to be updated (thank you Jesus for giving me the foresight to do a blog party!).

It’s finally clear, my time is no longer my own.  Writing the book was a cake walk compared to this.  Writing was my time, if it didn’t get that done perfectly each day–oh hells bells–eventually I would.  Not now, now my time belongs to several other people and projects and plans, each one needs to be given 100% of my effort and focus–I’m no math savant but that seems highly unviable.  If I don’t get-right-on-that I slow them up.  That’s not fair–especially to the people who I have commissioned who would like that final cheque.

So, I work.  And that means–yes–over the holiday.

This is a brave new world…a writers one 🙂

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Websites

One of the very first things I do if I discover a product I love or a person in a profession I’m curious about is type the I have information into Google and hope that a website jumps up.  My favorite authors, actors, or personalities…well, I could spend hours on their sites playing around overcoming information and reading excerpts and background information.

Before Twitter or Facebook or blogging…all we had were websites…it may smack of the dark ages of the internet, but it’s still very relevant.  They were the place we went to connect with our favorite things and people.  A good website is like a virtual storefront, greeting folks and welcoming them inside.

Still, I never thought I’d “have a website”–it all seemed very, very above me.  But, after blogging a lot and hosting a bunch of interviews I noticed a common theme…everyone had a site. Couple that with the fact that on this blog I’m been fairly candid…something I wanted to do for all of you, but maybe not for a reader since a lot of what I’ve discussed is, well, industry mumbo-jumbo. It was then I realized, while I love to blog–and hope to continue doing so for a good, long while–I needed a professional doorstep as well.

I discovered Scarlett Ruger’s on the Kindleboards.  She was introduced to me as a cover artist, but after visiting her website, I realized she does far more than that.  She makes websites, too.  Warm and affable, I knew I really wanted to work with her in some capacity or another.  After e-mailing her back and forth and discussing the price with Mark, I decided to jump right in and have her do the heavy lifting of website design.

Since I don’t have a lot of “me” to share…no backlist, no previously celebrated accolades…I knew the site would be small, but I wanted it to have a heart.  I wanted to capture the Olympic Peninsula in pictures, let you all inside the world I write and give someone a place to go to if they want to connect.

And, I’m very excited.

There are many moments when writing a book becomes bigger than you are as an individual and amounts suddenly to the sum of its parts.  The first time you hold the manuscript in your hand, the first time you see your cover, the first time an agent takes you seriously…and now, for me, it’s having a domain name that is my own.

So, blog buddies…my question is this…do you have a website?  What do you do with yours?