Friday, December 27, 2013

I’m much younger when I’m writing romance novels.

My first book was published yesterday. It’s not the first book I’ve written, but it raced to the front of the line when a romance e-publisher sent me a contract, knocking what I thought would be my first two books out of the way.  I let it run, grabbed its tail, and hung on for the ride.

I used a pen name for my new book. I was told by some wise person that I’d have a better chance of finding a literary agent and publisher for my other books if I kept my romantic fiction separate from other genres. So I split myself in two.

I’d been posting fanfiction online for several years using the nic, Suki59. (Yes, we say nic in the fanfiction world. It short for nickname, I suppose.) When I created my fanfiction profile and had to give myself a name, I looked down at my feet and swiped the name of my Chihuahua, Suki, who was snoring on the dog bed in my office. Then seeing that many nics included both a name and a number, I tacked on the year I was born in a terribly short-sighted moment. I became Suki59, fanfiction writer.

When I decided I’d need to be two different writers for my books, I went through a list of pen names I thought sounded right, and later settled on the obvious. Everyone who had ever read anything I’d written other than a handful of close friends already knew me as Suki, and I plucked my last name from the man I married, since I’d never changed my name legally (and certainly didn’t hyphenate to become Susan McNabb-McMinn, although answering the phone that way produces a guaranteed laugh, which I love).

So I became Suki McMinn, writer of vampire novels. When my publisher asked for a bio and a photo, I paused. Wasn’t I supposed to be someone else? And wasn’t my white-haired fifty-something self plastered all over Facebook? And weren’t my model photos of a very young Susan “out there” on the world wide interwebs?  I quickly found a solution and posted a headshot of me at around thirty-five—not the current Susan and not the young modelly Susan, but truth be told, a Susan where I felt my best physically and complained the least about how I looked. Note to those choosing a new persona: pick your favorite age and keep it.

After carefully creating the illusion that I’m someone else, why, you might wonder, am I outing myself here? Because I can’t imagine that anyone really cares. And I’m just not very good at lying about myself. Will it cost me that big agent? Surely not. I’d imagine they have better things to do than worry about how many names I have and which headshots match up with which genres. Not to mention they’d have to take the time to find this blog post. I would think getting an agent will have much more to do with my writing. And I’m starting to think not landing that big agent might not matter anyway. With the shifting sands of the publishing world, we all have more options than ever before that might have nothing to do with getting an agent.

So yesterday, Suki McMinn was born when my first book hit Amazon. Ironically, last month, the real Suki, my sweet Chihuahua, died peacefully in my arms. She was a funny little dog and I got to love her and be her mother for the last sixteen of her nineteen years. She’s gone but never forgotten since I now answer to her name.

In the small town where I live, my friends know about my book, and last week, when I ran into one of them at a party and he said, “Hey, Suki,” I smiled. I thought of the real Suki, but not with sadness. Yes, the pain of her loss is still very fresh, but now I’m Suki too, and that feels good.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ode to the Robert Palmer Girls

I’ve been busy as a little bee with many writing projects, but everything came to a screeching halt a few days ago when I got an email out of the blue from a guy named Marc Tyler Nobleman.

He’s an author—calls himself a pop culture archeologist, actually. He writes about all kinds of things, but contacted me because he’s doing a second set of interviews with ingĂ©nues from iconic music videos of the 80s, and he wanted to ask me about the Billy Joel video I did in 1989, We Didn’t Start the Fire.

Marc finds and interviews women from 80s music videos who didn’t become household names and gets their story, which I love, of course, because I’m one of them. I was going through his list of “The Girl in the Video” women, and he found all five of the original Robert Palmer girls! It made me realize we went through years of emulating those women and never even knew their names.

For many auditions I was instructed to look like a Robert Palmer girl. When I was a trophy girl at the 1988 Emmy Awards, we were all dressed as Robert Palmer girls. When we shot the Weird Al Yankovic video, UHF, we were Robert Palmer girls only wearing Weird Al glasses and mustaches.

The prop guy brought reading glasses, so we all had Weird Al headaches by the end of the day.
For a solid decade, I sashayed to every interview in a tight black dress and gloppy red lipstick with my hair slicked back, and I sat in the waiting room of many a photographer and casting director looking at many versions of myself, all vying for the same jobs.

So, thank you to Marc for doing some digging and finding these women. And thank you, Robert Palmer girls, for setting the 80s beauty standard that kept me employed.

Julie Pankhurst, Patty Elias (Patty Kelly), Kathy Davies, Mak Gilchrist, and Julia Bolino, I bow to you. I shift my weight back and forth in black stilettos holding a guitar to you. Ladies, you rock.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Something I wrote is coming to life.

Of course, I knew it would be a good thing, but I guess I never realized just how good.

I’ve sent in the second draft of my first book to my editor. I noticed our work schedules differ, and asked where she was. Scotland. That’s pretty cool. My first book’s price will be listed in pounds as well as dollars. I feel quite continental.

I was nervous about getting her notes. What if we don’t agree? What if she wants changes that I don’t? After all, I’m under contract now. Will this get sticky?

So far, the answers are all good. I actually loved her first notes. She made suggestions I hadn’t considered and the results were improvements to the manuscript. I felt like she was on my team—helping me make the book better, rather than presenting the nitpicking I’d feared would come.

And today, she asked for my notes to the cover artist, and the whole thing became real in a way I hadn’t expected. Someone is making a cover for a book I wrote. Yes, it’s just a little paranormal romance on an e-publisher’s website. But I wrote it.

Creating art is often a solitary experience, and while that’s not a bad thing, it makes it unusual to share that personal experience with a team, even if’s just a small one. I have an editor. I have a cover artist. I hadn’t considered how fun this part would be, and I’m enjoying every minute.

For the handful of writers I know who are published, I know you understand. And for the gazillion writers I know who aren’t, I know you understand even better.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I got my first “yes” this morning. When people say getting published is hard, they aren’t kidding.

If you’d told me 4 years ago when I started writing that this was how I’d get my first opportunity to be published, I would have laughed. I’m still laughing, actually.

After some time and a fair amount of rejection, I set my “book book” aside and wrote my collection of nonfiction essays at the suggestion of an editor I’d met. She and I had been working together on the essays when my mother had her fall and my focus shifted to her recovery.

During this time, I decided to blow the dust off a paranormal romance I’d written and had hoped to publish as an e-book several years ago. I whipped it into shape and submitted it. My plan was to earn enough with the e-book to go back and finish editing my essay collection with my expensive-but-well-worth-every-penny editor, which would in-turn help me get an agent and finally get my book book published.

I’m starting to feel like the old woman in the nursery rhyme who swallowed a fly and then swallowed a spider to catch the fly, and then swallowed a bird to catch the spider, and then swallowed an e-book to finance the essay book, and then published the essay book to get a contract to publish her original fly. Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes, but you get the picture.

When I was featured in an article in The New York Post 3 years ago about writing a book as the ex of a famous person, I was told by a veteran in the publishing business that literary agents would be fighting over me. Instead, I heard crickets. Ironically, the e-publisher who offered me a contract today knows me by a pen name and anonymous fiction I’ve posted online, and is unaware of my former life in Hollywood as a model who dated a comedian who became a household name.

I never expected to follow a path to publishing in such a back-asswards way, but that’s life, isn’t it? I still have no idea what’s next, but today I got a yes—my first yes since I swallowed a fly. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My mother fell. While visiting for the weekend, she missed a step at my house and broke her left hip and her right knee.

It was open mic night for our literary guild at a local art gallery, and I was fighting my usual stage fright at the podium, reading a chapter from my essay book when the gallery phone rang. I tried to ignore it as well as the flurry of activity at the back of the room that turned out to be my husband taking off to meet the ambulance at our house.

Because this is such a small town, when my mother called 911 and said we were at some literary thing and not answering our cell phones, the operator knew just how to find us. Mom knew the name of our street, but not the street number, so my husband found the EMTs outside and went in to corral our big scary dog. I arrived moments later, just in time to hear Mom screaming as they loaded her onto the gurney, our dog matching every scream with a howl of sympathy.

Two surgeries and a stint in rehab later, my mother has recovered beautifully, and now curses the step in my house.

Who knows when I’ll be able to read aloud again. Not exactly comfortable with public speaking to begin with (yes, I realize I’m an actor-- it’s a long story), I was fully traumatized by the interruption of my last reading. I’ll always be known here as that lady who read on open mic night while her mother lay in the floor at home.

My writing, along with the rest of my life, took a back seat to daughterly duties and a great deal of worry. I was at my mother’s side every day she was here in the hospital and then in rehab, and focusing on anything else was out of the question.

But I’m back now. Mom’s doing well. She headed home, and I got back to work.

What have I learned? Life knocks you down. Get back up. Keep going. And watch your step.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy 2013!

So, apparently, this is the year Snake Plissken saves the President and Kevin Costner delivers the mail. Both Escape from New York and The Postman take place in 2013 in much drearier circumstances than our actual ones. So, even if you suspect this year might be a tough one, it could have been much worse. The President could be trapped in a pod among lawless thugs rather than simply hampered by Congress. And we might all be sporting tattered rags in dull earth tones that only the likes of Kevin Costner can pull off.
Kev's still a hottie in rags
The best thing about 2013: Arm porn

I, for one, am feeling pretty good about the New Year. You’ll think me mad, but I’ve already entered a photography competition, two writing contests, and am hoping to get a pottery project in to an exhibit by the deadline on Tuesday. I’ve also completed the first draft of my essay book. I don’t necessarily expect great success with any of these, but to quote a writer friend of mine, “I like to get my rejections in multiples.”
Honestly, rejection doesn’t faze me much after 29 years in the modeling and acting business. Good thing, too, because writers face the same stuff.

At this point in my life, I’m just happy to be doing, playing, creating, having fun. I highly recommend it.

And since it seems the Mayans were as mistaken as John Carpenter about the current state of our world, I suggest we keep frolicking forward for at least the next 6 years. Then, it’ll be 2019--time to race the Governator in Running Man. Apparently, Stephen King and director Paul Michael Glaser had a pretty dim view of the future as well. They might feel better if they threw a pot or took a pretty picture once in a while. I know it works for me.
Oh Ahnold! Lighten up!