Tag Archives: publishing

A Book Birth Announcement–My New Fat Friendly Novel, Bride of the Living Dead

Lynne Murray says:

It’s been eight years since I had a new novel published. If I did “happy and proud” like normal people, I’d say I was thrilled to my new book in print. Bride of the Living Dead, a romantic comedy for women who love horror movies was officially published June 1 by Pearlsong Press. The actual emotion I’m feeling is closer to relief (whew! a book in print again) and anxiety (Eek! Must do book promotion again).

Bride of the Living Dead cover

I’m still somewhat shy about promoting my own work. I have come a long way since 1994. That year I went to a women’s Fat Fest conference with the goal of attending Laurie and Debbie’s workshop on how they published Women En Large and body-positive books in general. When I got to the conference I froze and couldn’t bring myself to go to the workshop or even introduce myself to Laurie and Debbie, even though they were approachable and their workshop was designed to encourage. Such is shyness.

Over the years since I have got a little bolder. Women in the mystery world literally reach out through Sisters In Crime, an organization that that helps women writers to find our inner Brazen Hussy and dare to put ourselves forward despite conditioning not to shamelessly self-promote. I learned that people who may like your book are not mind readers. They won’t know your book exists if you don’t spread the word. I did that with my mystery series featuring Josephine Fuller, sleuth of size who doesn’t apologize, right up till it was cancelled.

I must have relaxed a little because I’m about to tell you how Bride of the Living Dead was conceived.

In 2002, for a raft of reasons I won’t go into to avoid ranting, most of the major New York publishing houses drastically cut the ranks of their so-called mid-list authors–i.e., non-bestsellers. I had a deadline to submit a fifth Josephine Fuller book for approval or rejection. I felt tremendous pressure to produce a book a year to stay in the publishing business and I ended up submitting a book that didn’t meet my own standards.

To give you an idea of that book’s flaws, I’ll just say that at one point in the novel a giant sinkhole opened up, swallowed several buildings and forced all the characters to run for their lives. Such things can happen in real life with enough rain, unstable ground, etc. But when they happen in a work of fiction, it says something about the author’s mental state.

I felt surprisingly relieved when St. Martin’s Minotaur rejected the book, even though it meant I had to get off the carnival ride of the publication biz with little hope of a return ticket.

My agent at the time made an interesting request: could I turn the rejected book into a women’s novel?

“What is a women’s novel?” I asked.

She pointed me to Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed, which I had already read and liked. It had a likably big, beautiful heroine. It was funny. No giant sinkholes.

The word my agent was trying to avoid saying was “chick lit”—the latest incarnation of romantic comedy. Humorous novels in general get little respect. Often, those of us who put humor in our books do so because we can’t help but do it, an irresistible compulsion. Romantic comedy has none of the intellectual allure that hovers around mystery novels. But I’m a hopeless humor addict, so I read a bunch of books reputed to be similar to Good in Bed. I re-examined my rejected book. It was resolutely wet and muddy and could never be retooled into anything sparkly, frothy or even funny.

But maybe I could write a romantic comedy if I could do it on my own terms.

Chick lit comedies revolve around a smart-mouthed, young woman dealing with self-esteem issues, snarkily competing with other women for a mate, shopping for shoes, and/or dreaming of an ideal wedding drama.

I get the self-esteem issues, but share absolutely none of the other obsessions.

The wedding idea made sense. Mating of one kind or another is the basis of comedy. “Tragedy you die, comedy you get hitched,” literature professor, Dustin Hoffman, explains when trying to puzzle out whether Will Farrell is trapped in a comic or a tragic story in the movie Stranger Than Fiction.

At last I wrote a book about a big, beautiful, rebellious heroine who gets dragged reluctantly through paths of rose petals when her wedding is planned by her perfectionist, older sister. I thought it was funny. It said some things about marriage and family and it contained no giant sinkholes.

No major publisher wanted to invest in the book. One editor from a publisher famous for its romances rejected it with the comment that they had just published a book where the heroine lost weight before the wedding and didn’t want another.

Say what?

If even a casual reader could imagine that my book endorsed weight loss, serious rewrites were in order. I polished the book, then called A Guide for the Dysfunctional Bride, until I had it where I wanted it.

Every possible publisher in New York rejected Bride, but finally it found a home with Pearlsong Press, a publisher committed to Health at Every Size in fiction and non-fiction. Pearlsong’s founder, Peggy Elam, and I have established the kind of working relationship with that is only possible with a small press where every book is a labor of love. Brainstorming email sessions batting ideas back and forth led to a new title inspired by the indie film critic heroine’s love of monster movies: Bride of the Living Dead.

And now the book is born, the Bride is out in the world, now we’ll see where she goes. I’ll be available at during several telephone and on-line events on my virtual book tour, plus we’ll certainly be announcing another book tour stop right here at Body Impolitic. Come learn more about the book!

Laurie says:

It’s really hard to do romantic comedy well.  Lynne does it fabulously. I read the galleys of Bride of the Living Dead;  It’s clever,  funny, and I love the politics.

Plastic Surgery and Kids’ Books in Newsweek

Laurie and Debbie say:

A lot of people have been up in arms since this story about a book for young children justifying their mom’s plastic surgery appeared in this week’s Newsweek:

What’s the market for a children’s picture book about moms getting cosmetic surgery? No one specifically tracks the number of tummy-tuck-and-breast-implant combos (or “mommy makeovers,” as they’re called), but according to the latest numbers from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation was the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure last year, with 348,000 performed (up 6 percent over 2006). Of those, about one-third were for women over 40 who often opt for implants to restore lost volume in their breasts due to aging or pregnancy weight gain. There were 148,000 tummy tucks—up 1 percent from the previous year.

We decided it was another of those stories which we couldn’t say anything about except how horrible it was, and blogged about something else.

Today, Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light picked up a very different slant:

You’d think that somewhere in those three pages of titillating handwringing, [reporter Karen] Springen would have gotten round to mentioning that My Beautiful Mommy is a self-published vanity-press book available only from its “publisher”—or, presumably, from Dr. Michael Salzhauer.

Big Tent/Dragonpencil has the usual problem of vanity presses: zero to lousy sales and distribution. They’re a lot better at making books than they are at promoting them. Only a few of their titles are even listed at Amazon, and those are listed badly—half the normal publisher-furnished information is missing. Sales are minimal.

My Beautiful Mommy is not one of the books Big Tent lists on Amazon. It has no ISBN that I can detect—and this close to its publication date, I should be able to detect one. Clearly, this book is not destined to make its way to the shelves of your local bookstore.

Teresa is on a tireless crusade to save authors from publishing scams. Read the whole article both for the publishing information and how well she skewers the reporter and Newsweek for neglecting to do their homework.

We also see something else, however. Why is Newsweek devoting any ink at all to this non-story? Why did they ever even think about publishing it, research or no research?

Because My Beautiful Mommy sounds like a real book, from a real publisher. Because it’s a very small stretch to believe that you could walk into your neighborhood Barnes & Noble and find it in the children’s section. The book may be a vanity exercise, but the message is in the air.

The first paragraph of the original article actually says it all: in it, a young boy calls his mom’s post-weight-loss stomach “pruney,” and the mom and the author make an instant jump to “ugly.” Twenty years ago, that would just have been, “Hey, your tummy looks like the prunes you made me eat last week,” observation, rather than value judgment.

But plastic surgery has reached a tipping point, moving from something a minority of people have done and don’t mention to something mainstream and extremely acceptable. This is inextricably connected with the expectation that every comment on the body is a value judgment (as if every adult was still living in teenagerdom, where every comment is a value judgment). The folks making money want us all to feel criticized, and feeling criticized makes us want to spend money to fix it. If you’re not restoring your hymen, or botoxing your wrinkles, you can have your stomach de-pruned, and it will make you “feel better about yourself.”

This makes it seem plausible that someone could write and sell the same kind of book that parents buy to help children manage normal experiences like having a new baby brother, or moving to a new city, except this one is about mommy’s plastic surgery.

Newsweek and Springen should be ashamed of themselves. By fabricating a news story that pushes the edge of everyday experience, you normalize it, and amplify the pervasive power of the toxic message.

Thanks to Lynn Kendall for pointing us at the original story.