Susan Dormady Eisenberg

Novelist & Arts Journalist

My Sixties' Olympia portable.

How the Blog Got Its Name


It was Ernest Hemingway who, in a conversation with his biographer A.E. Hotchner, coined the term "unsynchronized passion." He was referring to his love for Marlene Dietrich, though the pair never had an affair. But maybe there are benefits to be found in unsynchronized passions. It's a subject my blog will explore, but in the meantime I salute Hemingway for all the ways he influenced writers of his own century--and the current era, too.


UNSYNCHRONIZED PASSIONS: A BLOG

THE NEXT BIG THING

March 12, 2013

Tags: the next big thing, LUCKY FOR YOU, THE VOICE I JUST HEARD, novels in progress

Another indie author, Christa Polkinhorn, invited me to participate in a round-robin blog tour in which authors of various stripes would describe their next project. (See links for Lindsay Edmunds and Christa at the end.) I have been working very hard on my new novel which should be finished sometime this spring, and my personal Q&A is found below.

What is the working title of your next book?
LUCKY FOR YOU.

Where did the idea come from?
It came directly from my experience of being a mother. For a long time I’ve felt an artistic need to depict different states of parenthood, notably adoptive motherhood and temporary custodial motherhood. I think most people have fantasies about what it’s like to be a parent until you become one, and then illusions quickly dissipate. As a wise friend once told me, no other relationship takes you to the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. Yet it’s a watershed experience and a privilege, in my opinion, allowing us to mold and make way for the next generation.

What genre does your novel fall into?
I think my books cross genres. LUCKY FOR YOU is upmarket women’s fiction with literary elements. It moves along quickly; I hope it will surprise the reader. I think it contains astute observations about love, romance, infertility, adoption, and vocations.

What actors would you choose to play the major roles?
Hmm…that’s a good question. My two protagonists are Elizabeth “Liz” Benedetto, a sixtyish
Episcopal priest and single mom (who appeared at age 21 in my first novel), and Kerry Kerwin, an infertile journalist who is about to turn 40. Ideally, I would cast Sela Ward or Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Liz, and Keri Russell or Katherine Heigl as Kerry. I’d also choose Bradley James from TV’s "Merlin" to play a hunky British actor who improves Kerry’s fortunes, a bit of serendipity.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A female priest and would-be adoptive mother face reversals, road blocks, and serendipity in their careers and relationships as they try to save a small Episcopal school from closing.

How long did it take to draft the manuscript?
Roughly three years.

Will it be self-published like your first novel or will you be repped by an agent?
I’m not yet sure. I’ve been working on a third novel about American sharpshooter,
Annie Oakley, and I may finish both "new" novels and then decide how best to publish them.
In the meantime, my first novel, THE VOICE I JUST HEARD, is available at Amazon.com.

What other books are similar to LUCKY FOR YOU?
I think the comic novels of Elinor Lipman are similar. I hope so.

What other elements might pique the reader’s interest?
Readers seem to like my characters Liz Benedetto and Nora Costello in my first novel, and though my new book isn’t a sequel, I think it will be fun for people to encounter these women again forty years later. I hope the setting—suburban Maryland, just outside D.C.—is appealing, and I like the political angle when Liz attempts to rekindle an old friendship to improve her school’s PR profile. Once again, I explore the theme of vocation: do we choose our path in life or does it choose us? Both Liz and Kerry explore this issue against the backdrop of motherhood and their evolving friendship. Each of them meets two possible suitors in this novel, and their choices seem illuminating and life-affirming.

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Visit Lindsay Edmunds' blog at Lindsay's web site to learn more about her next novel, WARNING.
Visit Christa Polkinhorn's blog at Christa's web site to learn more about ner new novel, EMILIA. (more…)

My Unique Writer's Retreat

October 10, 2012

Tags: writer retreats, making lemonade from lemons, breaking a leg

During the derecho in Maryland this past July, I fell down the dark basement stairs and broke my right fibula. Even at the moment of falling, I knew I hadn't sprained my ankle because I heard the bone snap like a twig. A visit to my local ER confirmed the nature of my injury, but not its severity. "It's a simple fracture," said the P.A. "No surgery needed."

Two days later when I saw the leading ankle surgeon in D.C., I received surprising news. I'd given myself a spiral fracture requiring immediate repair. I had surgery the next morning and a day later I was home recuperating, sleeping on a hospital bed in my living room (since my bedroom is upstairs) and rolling around in a wheelchair since I was not adept at crutches.

I was amazed by my own upbeat reaction to this trauma. But quite honestly I felt I'd done it to myself by not taking a flashlight to the basement, and I felt incredibly grateful that I hadn't (a) died, (b) paralyzed myself, or (c) broken my arm and wrist too. Bottom line: I knew could sit in my wheelchair and write at the dining room table to my heart's content. And that's how I spent my summer.

By Labor Day I had completed half a novel in progress and done all the research for my third (planned) novel about sharpshooter Annie Oakley. So I made lemonade from lemons, and though I don't recommend breaking a leg to focus harder on writing, I was not in pain and I was given a golden opportunity to concentrate without the usual social distractions--lunches with friends or a vacation with my husband and daughter. For much of my recuperation, I didn't even have a television, which proved to be a good thing. It was my own version of a retreat in which reading and writing were my main activities.

As of today, the leg/ankle/foot are healing beautifully, and my second novel is coming along. Now if I could only persuade myself to walk down those basement stairs to the washing machine...

Meet Lindsay Edmunds: The Inventive Author of CEL & ANNA

June 20, 2012

Tags: Lindsay Edmunds, Kindle free days, science fiction novelist, CEL & ANNA

Lindsay Edmunds is an author whose work is fresh and original. She received excellent reviews for her first novel, CEL & ANNA, and is currently at work on the sequel. She’s been a successful medical editor for many years, plying her trade in Washington, D.C. and Greater Pittsburgh, and she's also launched an insightful blog called Writer’s Rest. She also writes about books for "Huffington Post," and when I caught up with her, she had just returned from a delightful week in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Lindsay, you’re participating in Kindle’s free giveaway for CEL & ANNA on June 21 and June 22. What’s the benefit?

To reach new readers. I know authors who have been very, very pleased with the results of Kindle’s giveaway program.

You cleverly devised a way for people to enjoy virtual sex in the Middle Machine Age. How did you come up with the particulars?

Oh the challenges involved in writing that chapter! The emotional and physical responses of the partners had to be filtered through a complex technological process—a process I had to invent. No one in the history of the world has ever had sex the way my characters have sex. Had I thought it through beforehand, I wouldn’t have set the bar that high. Readers have told me that the virtual sex chapter (“Bed of Stars”) works. This amazes me.

Some readers call CEL & ANNA a fantasy; others call it dystopian fiction. And still others describe it as science fiction. Where do you see the novel in terms of genre?

I see CEL & ANNA as science fiction with a romantic twist.

Your book features a computer who “ascends” to consciousness. You’ve written an article about artificial intelligence for Huff Post. Do you think computers will ever gain awareness of their surroundings and emotions?

Yes, I do. Some people predict doomsday when that happens. Others believe just the opposite: that the ascendancy of artificial intelligence will usher in a utopian world. I don’t buy either of those scenarios. I believe conscious computers will find life to be as much of a muddle as we do. Some may turn to religion or spirituality, an idea that fascinates me.

Lindsay, what was your main challenge in crafting a story about a world that exists solely in your imagination?

Imaginary worlds have to be invented in every detail. How is a Middle Machine Age apartment furnished? What do the cars look like? (Do they have cars?) When you go to a restaurant, what is on the menu? Also, everything you invent has to be simultaneously strange and recognizable.

What message do you want readers to take away from CEL & ANNA?

Life can deliver beautiful surprises.

You lovingly depict several “rebel outposts” in your book, some rural villages that fly beneath the radar of the totalitarian “Big Brother” society. Do these towns and their citizens represent the benefits of a free society?

The government doesn’t care whether these rebels live or die, which means they can pretty much live as they please as long as they stay nonthreatening. But their freedom comes with a high price tag. They do without many things the more docile classes of society take for granted.

If you could enter one scene in your novel and interact with your characters, which one would it be and why?

I would enter the final scene to give them a hug and say “well done.” Then we’d open a bottle of champagne.

I read you’re working on a sequel. Will Cel be a character? Can you offer some hints about the storyline?

The sequel introduces an entirely new race of beings: the Infimi, who live on the internet (now called networld). Middle Machine Age society is coming undone, and a war is brewing in networld. Cel will be back, with an even bigger role to play.

What kind of fiction do you enjoy reading? Have any authors influenced your artistic development?

I’ve been a fan of Russell Hoban ever since I found TURTLE DIARY in a used bookstore in Bethesda, Maryland. I love stories that bend reality—that suggest that our ordinary, familiar world is neither of those things. Shirley Jackson was good at reality-bending, too. An old favorite novel is Joyce Cary’s THE HORSE’S MOUTH. But my taste in fiction is inconsistent: I also like Evan S. Connell (MR. BRIDGE, MRS. BRIDGE), who is a master of realism. He wrote two terrific nonfiction books: THE WHITE LANTERN and A LONG DESIRE. They are about exploration and travel.

How do you juggle your editing career with writing fiction? Do you have a specific routine?

I write first thing in the morning and again in the late afternoon. The second session feeds off the first.

What advice would you give to others who may be thinking of publishing an indie novel?

Indie novels can be published cheaply and quickly, but they shouldn’t be. Self-publishing is hard work. It really is.

Who designed your book cover?

Dave Hunter, the Chicago-based graphic artist who designed the cover for THE VOICE I JUST HEARD. He got the look of CEL & ANNA exactly right. Self-publishing authors should look at his portfolio, and then they should hire him. To learn more, visit Dave's web site.

Please fill in the blank for the next question. “When I’m not writing, the place you’re likely to find me is…..”

The place you are likely to find me or the place I want to be? They aren’t the same. The place you are likely to find me is at home in western Pennsylvania. The place I want to be right now is western Scotland.

Lindsay, thanks so much for chatting with me. I love your novel!

Readers, you can discover more about this terrific book by visiting Lindsay's web site. To leave a comment, please scroll down. Thanks.












Print Vs. Ebooks from A New Author's Perspective

May 14, 2012

Tags: ebooks, publishing industry, THE VOICE I JUST HEARD

When I decided to go "indie" with my first novel, my dear friend Francine L. Trevens, author and former theatrical publicist, advised me to produce both a paperback and ebook version of THE VOICE I JUST HEARD. "Why deprive yourself of the pleasure of seeing the book in print?" she once asked in an email. But I wasn't sure I wanted to shepherd the book onto the page after working so hard with my ebook formatter to create an electronic version. So for a while after the novel's debut on February 2, 2012, I was satisfied to sell it via Kindle and Nook.

A couple of weeks passed, however, and I mulled over Francine's email. As I thought about the needs of book club members and readers who had not yet embraced the ebook trend, I spontaneously launched a publishing process that was more detail-oriented and arduous than I'd ever anticipated. I was a novice, after all, and I made major mistakes. My ebook cover was beautiful, but now I needed a spine and back cover from my marvelous designer, Dave Hunter. And what did I know about font sizes, fleurons, and other interior design staples that I had to choose? In the end, it took endless proofing of my book to achieve the quality I wanted; frankly, I grew discouraged. Then a small miracle happened: in the final proofing phase, I noticed two plot errors that slipped by me in previous read-throughs, and when I made those corrections it felt as though my novel was being reborn. And not a moment too soon because it was heading to print which seemed permanent. (After all, I can reformat the ebook as many times as I want.)

The paperback made its debut on May 3, 2012, almost three months to the day I released the ebook, and when I held the finished book in my hand I knew Francine's advice had been wise and almost prescient. I was so glad I'd taken the time (and spent the money) to produce a paperback that I could happily send to friends, book reviewers who'd requested it, and the dedicated readers at Goodreads who entered my recent book giveaway.

Would I publish again in twin formats? You bet I would. And if you're planning to send your "indie" book into the world, you just might want to do the same.

Visit www.amazon.com to see both versions. The paperback is also available at Barnes and Noble.

Published At Last!

February 4, 2012

Tags: first novel, self-published, indie author

I listened to Ron Raines, a great Broadway singer, on my Ipod today as I sent my first novel to Amazon: the tale of a grieving soprano and her affair with a washed-up Broadway baritone. Hearing show music, sung with panache, set the right "vocal" mood at I took this signal step as a writer. Earlier this week I received my final formatted ebook from the brilliant Ted Risk and my final cover from the brilliant Dave Hunter, but when I awakened on Friday, February 3rd, to another day of blinding unseasonable sunshine, I had no idea I'd find the courage to release my novel to the world, as one might release a captive bird.

Now that it's out there for all to read, I feel proud and also relieved. It no longer matters HOW I got published because the act of publishing lets me know I've achieved my goal. Now I need a few readers to complete my journey, and I happily look forward to the next chapter, pun intended. But tonight I think I'll take a deep breath and savor the moment, and say a quick prayer of gratitude for all the family members and friends who cheered me on during times of doubt. They were splendid, and today could not have happened without them.

The Truths in Broadway's "Seminar" Will Resonate With Authors

January 12, 2012

Tags: Alan Rickman, the literary life, Broadway comedies

(From left) Jerry O'Connell, Lily Rabe, Alan Rickman, and Hamish Linklater. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
If you’re planning to see Theresa Rebeck’s funny and disturbing "Seminar," now on Broadway at the Golden Theatre, prepare to be dazzled by Alan Rickman. The British actor doesn’t often appear on the New York stage, and his mesmerizing performance is reason enough to see this comedy of manners about writing.

Theatergoers unfamiliar with the difficulty of placing fiction in "Tin House" or "The New Yorker," or the competitive nature of admission to Yaddo, the prestigious artist’s colony, may not immediately grasp the stratospheric literary ambitions of four young writers (played with gusto and panache by Lily Rabe, Hamish Linklater, Jerry O’Connell, and Hettienne Park) who have paid $5000 for the honor of having their work critiqued by Rickman’s Leonard, a once-lionized author and editor with an acid tongue. But those who’ve taken a fiction-writing workshop may laugh at the play’s dark humor while recognizing its hard truths.

Rebeck’s opening conceit is that the students hand Leonard their work as he walks through the door for each session and he responds in less than a minute. In a real workshop, in my experience anyway, manuscripts are handed out a week ahead, so the professor and other workshop participants have time to read and assess their qualities before the class discussion.

The idea that anyone could read a page of a story or novel and glean its worth—and indeed predict the author’s entire future—seems incredible, until you go home and think about the play and realize that work you’ve labored over for years may be similarly read and dismissed as soon as it hits the slush pile at most literary agencies. One successful author recently compared landing an agency contract to winning the lottery, because the odds of being signed are so low.

Yet despite the humiliation of being torn apart by Leonard’s barbs, each writer in Rebeck’s play becomes more committed to his or her craft, and Martin (Linklater) wins the brass ring of Leonard’s praise and editorial savvy.

Like those four students, I’ve been criticized in workshops and lived to tell the tale. I’ve had my work dismissed by some agents and praised by others, and each time I went back to my writing room and asked the question, "Do I want to keep going?" The answer has always been the same: of course I do. Criticism is an opinion, and over time we learn to incorporate what’s useful and discard what isn’t, because everyone who reads our work can’t like it. As time goes on and one matures as a writer, this realization feels liberating.

Some reviewers called Rebeck’s comedy "slick," but I disagree. Her play gives a bird’s-eye view of what all writers encounter when they expose their work to those who will judge its merits. But when Leonard reveals his personal Achilles Heel at the finale, I realized one other sterling truth: we’re all in the same boat together. There’s comfort in Rebeck's denouement, and inspiration, too.









My New Year's Resolution: Embrace the New Paradigm

January 1, 2012

Tags: Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles J. Shields, ebooks

For as long as I can remember, I've been making the same three New Year's resolutions. Number one: lose weight. Number two: get fit. Number three: keep writing. And I used to place them on equal footing in no particular order of importance. (This year, I am thrilled to report, I lost 20 pounds between September and today, so I'm ahead of the game.)! (more…)

Why I Reread Capote's "A Christmas Memory" Each Year

December 22, 2011

Tags: Truman Capote, Christmas stories, Harper Lee

"Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago."

It's my favorite opening in fiction, the first two lines of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" (1956), which I return to each December the way someone else might revisit O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" or Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." I introduced this 27-page story to my daughter when she was only five, reading aloud from the 1996 Modern Library edition, a slim blue volume that also includes "The Thanksgiving Visitor" (1968) and "One Christmas" (1982). This collection was out of print for a while, but it has been reissued. (more…)

Hats Off to Andy Andrews

December 19, 2011

Tags: writing process, persistence, perseverance, writer's journey, unsynchronized passions

Launching a blog--or a web site--is an act of faith similar to writing an article or even a book. Will anyone read it? Will anyone leave a comment? Why bother adding MY voice to the millions of voices already chattering in cyberspace?

There are no easy answers to these questions except one: writers write. (more…)

FICTION and ARTS JOURNALISM

If you visit "My Works" on the green toolbar above, you can read more about my first novel and two novels in progress, and my arts articles for "Huffington Post," "Classical Singer," and "Opera News."