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Siobhan Fallon | Author Olivia Boler

Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
March 3rd, 2013

Pour the House Wine

It’s so great to be in March. February was definitely a marathon, a brutal marathon. Maybe more like an ultra-marathon with endless days spent running for 26 to 40 miles with a pack of work and obligations on my back.

But March! March is a walk in the park. March is a leisurely hike. A stroll. Welcome, March.

And by the way, March 23, if you happen to be in San Francisco, I’ll be at the Noe Valley Authors Festival part of Word Week. Yes, I’ll have books for sale and I’ll be giving away candy and The Flower Bowl Spell bookmarks. If you buy my book at the Festival you’ll be entered in a raffle for a cool prize, TBD. The Noe Valley Authors Festival takes place at St. Philip the Apostle Church Hall at 725 Diamond Street, San Francisco, and goes from 2 to 5 p.m.

BTW, one awesome thing about February: I got to see my very good friend Siobhan Fallon, who was in town for a dramatic performance at Z Space Word for Word of two of the stories from her award-winning collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone. She also invited her good friend, middle grade author Anne Ylvisaker (Dear Papa, The Luck of the Buttons). Anne and I hit it off, which is great because it really is hard to find friends among writers, I don’t know why. (Insert snide joke about social awkwardness, backstabbing bastards, etc.)

Anne, Siobhan & Me at Z Space Word for Word
Anne, Siobhan, & Me at Z Space Word for Word


After the amazing and moving performance, Q & A with the directors and author, and book signing, we three ladies headed back to Siobhan’s sweet Union Square hotel. We got drinks at the Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel, which was an interesting experience since it was packed to the gills with party people. The photo portraits on the walls lent the place a Haunted Mansion for Grown-ups feel. The three of us, writers with kids who are often cooped up alone with our work, had a ball, staying up late talking shop and life over glasses of wine.

I highly recommend nights like these.

January 16th, 2013

Stories Come to Life

In 2011, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (Penguin) published my dear friend Siobhan Fallon’s debut short story collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone. (If you didn’t know, Amy Einhorn is the editor who gave readers The Help by Kathryn Stockett.) Siobhan is a U.S. Army wife, and her stories delve into the lives of military families at Fort Hood in Texas over the course of a year while their soldiers are deployed to Iraq.

A poster in my neighborhood for the Z Space Word for Word stage production of YKWTMAG

A poster in my neighborhood for the Z Space Word for Word stage production of YKWTMAG

And now, some of the stories from her collection, which are linked, have been adapted to the stage. If you happen to be in San Francisco from Jan. 1 through Feb. 24, 2013, get tickets to the Z Space Word for Word production. I saw an early version of it last year, and it was fantastic. Her stories are already powerful and moving—comparisons to Tim O’Brien and Raymond Carver have been made—and seeing them played out by this fine troupe of actors does nothing but enhance them.

For more information, check out the Word for Word webpage or blog.




January 9th, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Happy 2013! This post is a chain self-interview about my next book project. I’ve read the blog chain started on She Writes a few months ago. My author pal Dina Santorelli tapped me to take part, and I want to thank her for thinking of me. In return, I’ve asked my writer friends Siobhan Fallon and Roger Colby to post their own interviews next week, so be sure to check out their answers.

  1. What is your working title of your book (or story)?
    I have a few irons in the fire including a short story collection, an upmarket women’s fiction novel, and a sequel to The Flower Bowl Spell. I’ll talk about that even though it’s in the crappy first draft stage. The working title is The Flower Bowl Ghost.
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
    The idea comes from my first book about Memphis Zhang, The Flower Bowl Spell. She’s an intriguing character, and there were some unanswered questions in the first book. I think it’ll be fun to find out what happens next.
  3. What genre does your book fall under?
    Good question! I guess it falls under urban fantasy, although I’m not really sure. It’s too plot-driven to be magic realism, I suppose.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    A fun thought. I think Memphis could be played by Olivia Munn. Bradley Cooper could be Cooper! (Kismet!) Harry Shum, Jr. would be fantastic as Tyson.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    A young, powerful San Francisco witch discovers her dark side—and likes it.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    Um, too long? But I was able to get it all out with the help of NaNoWriMo last November.
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    A Discovery of Witches, the Sookie Stackhouse series.
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    My fount of inspiration bubbled up from my Wiccan research. I wanted to get to know that culture beyond what I had seen in TV shows and books. Then I decided to write my own fictional account of a Wiccan. It seemed fun, and it was!
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    I published The Flower Bowl Spell almost a year ago as an e-book and then later as a paperback. To celebrate the upcoming first anniversary, I’m planning a giveaway. Stay tuned!
June 2nd, 2012

Debut Author Dina Santorelli

My relationship with author Dina Santorelli is a shining example of the ways online social network can be awesome. I “met” Dina—though we’ve never been in the same room together and actually haven’t heard each others voices—through author Siobhan Fallon. I’ve become a huge fan of Dina’s blog, and I’m actually in the middle of reading her debut novel, the thriller Baby Grand. My Kindle has been glued to my hands in fact, but I pried it away for a few moments in order to post this interview.

Title of book, publisher, pub date: Baby Grand (Stonesong, May 23, 2012)

Dina Santorelli

Author bio: Dina Santorelli is a freelance writer/editor who has worked for many print and online publications, such as Newsday, First for Women, and CNNMoney.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her blog. Baby Grand, her first novel, is available on Amazon.

Give us your elevator pitch—What is this book about? In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, an ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who take her, and the woman who finds the strength to protect her.

What makes this book amazing? This is a toughie. Ask my agent: I have trouble tooting my own horn. I was trained as a journalist, so I’m accustomed to being invisible. Maybe the best thing to do is offer my latest five-star rating in place of my own estimation: “BABY GRAND is a winner! Dina Santorelli’s debut novel is a wonderfully written page turner. I couldn’t put it down — This is the kind of book that keeps you reading until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer… and the first thing you grab when you wake up! The characters are well developed and the story is gripping and well-paced. This one is destined to be a blockbuster! A fabulous start!” I almost burst into tears when I read that. I’m so, so grateful that the book is being so well-received.

Who will want to read your book, and does it fit into a particular genre? It’s a thriller, for sure, but there are relationship, crime, and political aspects to the novel as well. I wrote it to appeal to a both a male and female audience. So if you’re interested in a fun, fast-paced read, this book is for you. (So much for having trouble tooting my own horn…)

Who are your writing influences and why? Michael Crichton. Tom Wolfe. Tom Clancy. John Grisham. David Baldacci. James Patterson. I’m totally hooked on the Dragon Tattoo trilogy—The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is next on my reading list. I am drawn to edge-of-your-seat stories. Thrill rides. And I always wanted to write one. Always thought I could. It’s so gratifying to finally publish a thriller—to have others enjoy it as well is more than I could have asked for.


If you’re self-published, what made you decide to take that path? Ah, why did I self-publish? I actually wrote a blog post about this. In short, after securing an agent in January 2010, finishing Baby Grand in August of that year and editing a few times, we started sending the manuscript out to publishers last spring. By the end of the year, we had heard “no” from about 10 editors. I totally expected this. As a freelance journalist, I know that rejection is part of the writing business. What I didn’t expect was how antsy and frustrated I would feel. Although I’ve known for years that traditional publishing would be a long, arduous road, and I thought I was willing to wait it out, the explosive growth of self-publishing became very difficult to ignore. I started to question what exactly I was waiting for.

In the end, I think finding a publisher is a matter of finding someone who loves your book as much as you do, as much as your agent does. I believed that person was out there. Still do. But the question I had to ask myself was: Am I willing to wait? And the answer for me, and this book, was no.

The minute I made the decision to self-publish in January of this year, I felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. One of my former professors said to me when I told her of my decision: “A wise, brave choice”—exactly the kinds of choices I have been making, or at least have tried to make, throughout my professional career. As I told my agent, “Let’s just do it!”

What’s the best thing about publishing? The people. I’ve been a writer for more than 20 years, and along the way I’ve met such incredibly smart and generous individuals, many of whom have become good friends.

What’s the hardest thing about publishing? Without a doubt, marketing. Trying to get noticed in a sea of traditionally published and self-published titles. You’re not a needle in a haystack. You’re a needle somewhere on the planet. Google Earth would have trouble finding you.

What are you working on now and when will readers be able to get their hands on it? I’m currently finishing up my second novel, a stand-alone thriller, tentatively titled, In the Red. I hope to have it done by the end of the summer. Then I’ll be writing the sequel to Baby Grand.

Any secrets of success you’d like to share with our reading audience? Just be yourself and trust yourself. For me, it all comes down to what FEELS right. And that’s the path I usually choose. That little voice inside hasn’t let me down yet.

Anything else you’d like to add—words of wisdom? If you want to be a writer—I mean, really want to be a writer—you should never give up, never call it quits, never take no for an answer. Believe in yourself and your abilities. My husband—my wonderfully level-headed, pragmatic husband—likes to say, “Dina, be serious, you can believe and believe and believe, but the truth is that not everyone is going to become a successful novelist.” My answer to that? Well, somebody will. And who’s to say that somebody won’t be me? Or you?

January 24th, 2012

Olivia Boler gets a 7×7 Link Award nomination. Yay!

The 7×7 Link Award

I am happy to tell you, fellow bloggers, that my little blog that could has been nominated for a 7×7 Link Award (apparently not related to 7×7 Magazine). Thank you, The Flying Yenta, for this exciting nomination!  And I love your blog, too!

So, there are three requirements of the award, and here they are along with my fulfillment of them:

I. Share something about yourself that others don’t know.

Man, this is hard. I have so many personal secrets…just kidding. Not really. Um, something you don’t know that I’m not too embarrassed to share. Well, if you know me, you know that I am half-Chinese. If you don’t know me, then you think I’m “Mediterranean” or Latina or Jewish or Native American, etc. But no, I’m Chinese. My father’s Caucasian genes (mostly Austrian and maybe Italian with some English, Irish, and French) just really dominate. And here’s a bonus share: Even though it’s so uncool to do in my PC San Francisco community of foodies, etc., I sometimes take my kids to McDonald’s. Gasp! What can I say? I love me some french fries!

II. Link seven posts from your blog that you think are worthy.

1. The Scary Next Step

2. Can you feel the excitement???

3. The nit and grit of indie publishing—edit, draw, format, shoot

4. Getting down to the funky business of writing

5. Reading your stories aloud is a good thing

6. So, Olivia, what do you write?

7. Flower Bowl Spell cover revealed!

III. Nominate seven other bloggers that deserve the award and haven’t received it yet.

(Note: I’m not sure if these blogs have or haven’t been nominated. If they have, then they are surely deserving of a repeat nomination.)

1. Kana’s Chronicles —  Kana Tyler is “a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon (“bookworm” doesn’t cover it), a raconteur, a minister, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a cartographer, a joyful wife, a mom (and Granny), an island-girl at heart… A list-maker! :)” And she’s generous with her freelance writing tips. Thank you!

2. Olivia Everett — The blog of Karla Mouncey-Jaggers who is writing a series about Olivia Everett, “as she fights her way tooth and nail through the vampire politics that saturate London.” What fun!

3. Peter DentonPete is a writer chronicling his creative writing progress, which is so inspiring!

4. Making Baby Grand, the Novel — The blog of Dina Santorelli, who gives us regular writing tips as well as super-duper helpful and fun debut novelist interviews. I love it.

5. Sue Healy — She had loads of success with her writing in 2011, and she has writing advice and wisdom we can all use. Excellent stuff.

6. The Bird Sisters — The blog of author Rebecca Rasmussen, whose debut novel, The Bird Sisters is a soaring achievement (pardon the pun!). Read it!

7. Siobhan Fallon — Of course I have to include Siobhan Fallon, one of my bestest writing friends (and just plain old friends) whose debut short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone, published by Amy Einhorn Books (of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help fame) is taking the critical world by storm making major “Best of 2011″ lists left and right. So go buy it now!

Yay, recognition! It’s good to know I’m not writing into a black hole. Thank you, blogging community!

January 2nd, 2012

Of books and puppies

Happy New Year, people! Okay, it’s January 2, but it’s still a new year, and better late than not at all. Yesterday, I was busy cuddling up to my friend’s new puppies, Jem and Scout, who are adorable mini Goldendoodles, and here’s a heartstring-tugging picture of them:

Jem and Scout, photo courtesy of Theresa H.

Are you totally melting? Believe me, they are just as adorable as they look.

As you literary types know, Jem and Scout are characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, brother and sister, and Scout is the narrator. This is one of my favorite novels, so in honor of Harper Lee (and all of you who named your children after the esteemed authoress), I’m sharing a list of the books I read in 2011. I started keeping track of what I read each year about 10 years ago, when friends kept asking me to recommend books and I could not readily recall any titles off the top of my noggin. My mother-in-law also inspired me to try completing a book a week, for she sets herself the goal of reading 52 books a year. I’ve never reached that, although I came closer than I have since first having kids, reading 38 books last year.

I do wonder if my Kindle and e-reading programs on my iPad, iPhone, and computer have something to do with this. I’m certainly not less busy than I was in 2010, when I read 27 books. Far from it. A writing colleague, Claire Light, mentioned on her blog that reading on the Kindle had increased her speed of reading by about 100 percent, if my memory serves. And if you check out her blog, you’ll see her 2011 reading list reaches 130! How would reading on these electronic devices help? I’m guessing it’s their portability, or the fact that when I check out e-books from the library I have to get them back in 3 weeks. What do you think? Has e-reading made you a faster reader?

OK, here’s my list:

  1. *Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  2. Matched by Ally Condie
  3. *The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  4. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
  5. *Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  6. Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
  7. Evermore by Alyson Noël
  8. *Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy
  9. Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett
  10. The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan
  11. *The Genius in Children by Rick Ackerly
  12. †Octavia Boulevard by Yvonne Daley
  13. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
  14. *The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
  15. *I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
  16. †Family Poems by Larry Beresford
  17. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black
  18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  19. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  20. Switched by Amanda Hocking
  21. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  22. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  23. Torn by Amanda Hocking
  24. *One Day by David Nicholls
  25. *State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  26. The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer
  27. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
  28. †It Only Happens Now and Then… by Mary P. Hamilton
  29. *A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  30. †Roads Without Hills by Charles McKinnon
  31. *†Damascus by Joshua Mohr
  32. Ascend by Amanda Hocking
  33. *The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  34. *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  35. †Count Edweird Lefang’s Rhymin’ Halloween by Eddie Morales
  36. †Cold Comfort by Ellis Vidler
  37. Sleeping With Paris by Juliette Sobanet
  38. *You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

* Olivia’s Favorites  Read for a review or article

October 26th, 2011

Reading your stories aloud is a good thing

Two nights ago, I attended an unusual reading of two of my friend Siobhan Fallon‘s short stories from her collection You Know When the Men Are Gone. It was at Z Space, a gallery and performance venue in San Francisco, presented by Word for Word and part of their Off the Page series. They’ve also performed stories from other books like Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

An ensemble of actors read the stories while acting them out, complete with he said and she said, and all the description of internal thoughts, action, and place. The two stories, “The Last Stand” and “Gold Star” are linked by a central character, Kit, who is a wounded soldier returned from the Iraq War (all of Siobhan’s amazingly written stories are about the soldiers and families of Fort Hood, Texas during this war), and seeing them played out was truly an unforgettable, moving experience.

It also reminded me about the importance of reading our work aloud to get an idea if it’s working or not. Of course, once your story or book is published, readers will be living it out on the movie screen of their imaginations, silently (for the most part, one hopes!), but the hard work you do as the writer—and that includes going hoarse from mumble-reading drafts to yourself as you pace the floor in front of your computer—will make it come wonderfully alive.

August 6th, 2011

It’s no fiction contest

Since my early twenties, I’ve spent lots of money entering my short stories in contests. These contests are usually sponsored by literary magazines or universities with lit mags, and the entry fee is on average $15 to $20. I keep a little notebook recording my efforts under four columns: Date Sent, Story Sent, Forum Sent To, Answer. The Answer column is mainly filled with one word: NO. Sometimes, there’s a triumphant, YES!

None of the yeses come from contests. The notebooks contain records of submissions to agents or magazines and organizations that have called for stories. I’ve only ever been paid for one story, and that was a few dollars from St. Mary’s College for my short story, Unlit. Please read it!

I gave up on contests for many years (I can only take so much rejection, people!), but recently, inspired by my good friend Siobhan Fallon, who for some reason is one of my biggest cheerleaders and for every good reason is one of my biggest inspirations, tried again. I entered Crab Orchard Review‘s contest, one that Siobhan has won, with a short story my writing group and Siobhan both loved. I would be over the moon if I were a finalist or even in the honorable mentions. Well, guess what happened? Nothing. I recorded another NO in my notebook. A sensitive soul, I always take these disappointments hard in some way, either swooning, muttering bitterly, or with a glass of the house white. I’m thinking of giving up again.

But I am intrigued by Amazon.com‘s Kindle Singles, which are brief pieces (5,000 to 30,000 words) like essays, novellas, and short stories that are pretty inexpensive for Kindle users ($0.99 to $4.99). Yes, in addition to an iPad, I have a Kindle, which I L-O-V-E (so light to hold! no eye strain! built-in dictionary! note taking! stores thousands of books!), but it’s not perfect (can’t read it in the dark, can only read things downloaded from Amazon, can’t access library books with it) Admittedly, I haven’t purchased any Singles yet, but I wonder if this might be a good way to get some of my orphaned stories out there. There’s still a submission process that’s a bit more selective apparently than Amazon’s direct publishing requirements for book-length work. So, in my grand tradition, I’m not completely ruling out the rejection experience.

What do you think, dear bloggers? Is this a good avenue to explore? What’s your experience?

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