Post One: Torreybird’s a Writer

14 Aug

“There’s no secret handshake.”

This is the phrase that most sticks with me from my first professional event as an author. I had written a novel, gotten it published, and now I’m trying to get people interested in it. Gathering Grace has its own website, it’s listed on Amazon, and available from bookstores and the publisher – but it’s not enough! Not by a long shot.

I’m finding that selling the book is harder than writing it.  Gathering Grace’s independent publisher has a respectable non-fiction catalogue, but Grace is their first novel. It’s been a learning process all around! Reviewers would have preferred to see it pre-publication. Some booksellers wonder why they’ve never heard of it before. Others are having trouble getting it from the distributor. Some think the cover is poorly produced, and others wonder where to shelve it: with SF? Fantasy? YA? Adult?

There is a definite limit on what I can do. The distribution issues are up to the publisher. I can promote to different reviewers, but it is up to them to read, enjoy, and write about my book. I can do readings, signings, attend conventions and conferences, write this blog… and get the book in front of people as often as possible. If people enjoy it, terrific! Hopefully they’ll recommend it to their friends, give it as a gift, and review it on a public site (like Amazon or GoodReads.)

But there is still “no secret handshake” when it comes to being a successful author. So what can I do? Well, all of the above – but that leaves out the most important part. I started writing because I love to write. Grace was written as part of NaNoWriMo 2006, at a time when I desperately needed to be doing something I loved. My next novel was written in 2007 – and it’s terrible, and part of it I wrote in a post-surgical haze of pain and medication. (It is still in hiding, dreadfully ashamed of itself.) As I write this post, I’m working on a SF novel involving interplanetary travel, a disaffected chemistry teacher, and an alien wall.

Why SF (science fiction)? Because my earliest experience with novels was the “juvenile” novels of Robert Heinlein, and I’ve never lost my taste for them. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell a good story when the reader has already suspended disbelief. Sometimes, it’s easier to reveal a truth when it’s surrounded by the comforting cocoon of this can’t happen here.

More importantly, though: when I go to read a book, I want a story. I don’t want high-falutin’ narratives, or vivid descriptions of undulating hills (see Thomas Hardy), or most fiction that I’ve had handed to me as “literature.” I want dialogue, action, and character transformation. Often, I want heroes and villains and the compromises that each will make. Relationships, opportunities, and conflicts drive the plots, and there should be a satisfying ending – even if it makes me cry. So that’s what I try to write, when I’m writing fiction.

So what will be in this blog? Here’s the plan:

  • Progress notes on my current project(s), when the story is soaring or crashing
  • New ideas about what might make it into a story, someday
  • Answers to questions like, “Doesn’t Heisenberg preclude…?” or “What would be involved in marketing to both YA and adults, simultaneously?”
  • News about when, where, and how I’ll be making professional public appearances
  • Thoughts on current bookly and writerly happenings
  • (Perhaps I should include thoughts on the misuse of “-ly” in adjective creation…)

I’m planning on writing at least weekly, if not more frequently. Please feel free to email (torreybird at gmail), visit my other websites (,, and comment on posts.

Thank you for reading,

and please buy my book,

Victoria “Torrey” Newcomb


2 Responses to “Post One: Torreybird’s a Writer”

  1. Werner September 4, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi Torrey,

    I’m enjoying your blog.

    You mentioned how you’re marketing your novel against millions of others. The beauty of it is that so few authors actively market themselves or their own work.

    Publishing and book marketing is changing rapidly. However, old-style publishers are slow on the uptake when it comes to using new media to promote books and novels.

    Michael A. Stackpole is a prolific author, known best for his ‘Star Wars’ books. He’s had his work published through traditional houses for a long time, but he clearly sees the changes coming. To hear what I mean, give a listen to his podcasts from April 30th and June 18th :

    You might also want to take a look at Scott Sigler (Earthcore), J. C. Hutchins (‘7th Son’ trilogy) and Mur Lafferty (Playing for Keeps) to see what they did to build a following for their work.

    Actually you can hear Mur interviewing both Scott and J.C. about new media. Go to her site and listen to show ISBW #99.

    I’m sure this info will help you come up with all sorts of ideas for your own work.

    To Your Writing Success,

  2. torreybird September 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm #

    The marketing scene is challenging, but you’re right: it’s made much easier by all those authors who don’t pursue readers. Thank you for the links!

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