Sunday, January 6, 2008


Epiphany: A sudden intuitive perception of or insight into reality or the essential meaning of something often initiated by a simple commonplace occurrence.

****The Random House Collegiate Dictionary

RO: I also refer to epiphanies as St. Paul moments. Not that I'm religious - I just like the image of someone falling off his jackass and "getting it" whatever "it" is. In this past year leading up to the publication of my first book, I've fallen off my jackass a bunch of times. I'm not sure what I've learned, but here are a few possibilities.
1.I'm thrilled to be getting published, it's a start, not an end.
2.If things work out for me, great. If they don't, it isn't the publisher's fault. Or Barnes & Noble's. Or Dan Brown's.
3.I love everyone who takes the time to read my book.
What have you learned this year?

That....1. Opportunity comes when you least expect it.
2. Whether you call it prayer or positive energy or simply intention, it can make a difference.
3. Whether its writing, music, tennis, baseball or even buying the right gift, for me, it's all about the story.

1. You never know if something that happens is "good" or "bad" until later. And even then it can change. So I try to just decide it's a good thing and go from there.
2. Worrying never helps.
3. My books mean so much to me it's impossible to have predicted or explain. Even my books that don't exist yet.
4. Ditto to Rosemary's number 3.
5. My hair doesn't always have to look perfect.

I'll believe Hank's #5 when I see her with a strand of hair out of place.
The big epiphany for me is the one that whispers, "Move on already!" until you can't outshout or ignore it. This is especially difficult when you've done something really hard, like write a novel and sold it to a mainstream publisher, and then written another in the series, and another...and then a) the novels are a) good but not remarkable, or b) so-so successful or c) you just get tired of writing that same-old same-old but-slightly-different, or... it's time to grab yourself by the earlobes and yank. "Same" is safer and easier, but "different" is ripe with possibilities. It's especially hard because the mantras that got many of us where we are is "stick with it" and "don't give up"--it's true that a main difference between a published and unpublished writer is that the published one refused to cave in the face of rejection. But there is a time to move on, to step off into the abyss. Then dig in, pat yourself on the back for your courage, and hope you won't live to regret it. This year I took that leap--look for the results, "Baby, Baby," a psychological suspense novel from HarperCollins in Winter 2009.

First of all, hooray for Hallie! Okay, here are some things I may have learned.
1. It's the job of bookstores to sell books, but not just MY books.
2. Push hard, but also know when to back off.
3. You've got to have friends! Truly, that's the gift I never anticipated when I started this whole crazy business--the number of smart, funny, dedicated (driven even), lovely writer types I would meet and enjoy along the way. Not to mention the lovely people who have bought and read my books!

JRW: So what have you all learned? Or hope you've learned?


Face Time, the second in Hank's Charlotte McNally Mysteries, has been named a Book Sense NOTABLE BOOK for January 2008! Thank you so much to Dede Gallagher of Book Ends of Winchester MA for nominating Face Time--she called it "a fast moving and tense mystery" and said "Ryan tells the tale with highpowered energy." (Yay for the independent booksellers and Book Sense. And Hank is beyond thrilled.)


  1. I call them "light-bulb moments," usually accompanied by a "well, duh!" Love Ro's #2.

    I assume we all want to write great books. But we also want to entertain people (translation: we want them to buy our books). It's a constant juggling act. Is it "good enough," whatever that is? Would one more edit make it better?

    If I've figured out one thing lately, it's "take the ball and run with it." Just do the best you can and enjoy the process.

  2. Congrats Hank on Booksense!

    And Sheila, I agree, it really is about the process. (although, right now I'm an insane woman on deadline so "enjoying" the process feels more like "surviving" the process.)

    Now, back to the coal mine...

  3. My epiphany.

    A good agent is like a good bra:

    knows where to put your material,
    gives consistent support,
    and keeps things going in the right direction.


    Big Congratulations Hank!
    and Woot! Woot! Hallie!

    Way to set the bar for 2008!

    (on p. 105 of Preaching to the Corpse)

  4. 1. You do know when you're finished. It's when (assuming you've done the necessary amount of serious, multi-layered revision) you decide you can't do one more thing on this story without your head exploding. At least not until your agent/editor asks you to.

    2. Submission feels good. (Okay, in a sick way.) I thought, when I was ready to send queries and manuscripts around, that I'd be nothing but impatient, antsy, and generally hard to live with. But the thing is--it makes the whole thing feel REAL. Professional. Sure, yes, getting a call will be even better, but its not the horrible time I expected it to be.

    3. Writers are just the coolest, kindest, nicest people. Oh, wait, I've always known that! :)

  5. 1. I can't control most things in life, only how I respond to them.

    2. Many smart people have left the world worse off for being in it. I can't think of any kind or generous person who has.

    3. A writer must read, but reading is not writing.

    4. If I don't sort and toss my stuff, my kids and in-laws will complain about having to do it later.

    Congratulations, Hank and Hallie - and Ro and Sheila, waiting for their first "babies" to be born!


  6. Yes, Hallie, exactly, explore the possibilities. And huge congratulations, Hank. It was one of my favorites of 2007!


  7. The Jungle is ripe with success. Congratulations to Hank on the nomination and Hallie, can't wait to read your BABY, BABY.

    1. You really only get one ride. Make it count.
    2. If a story is loved by even just one person, it has fulfilled its purpose.
    3. I'm at the beginning of my story.
    4. Writers are a communion.
    5. Hank's hair is always perfect!