Monday, February 21, 2011


Sometimes an agent will ask for an essay to include with a manuscript submission. It's usually a short explanation of why this book, why now. I think the personal introduction has become more popular in these tough publishing times and it's utilized for both fiction and nonfiction. If done correctly, it can set up the book and trigger an editor's interest.

This is the essay I wrote for The Orchard:

May 2010

I spent years dreaming about writing The Orchard, but I knew switching from genre writing, my only means of support, to memoir, would be a financial risk. I constantly talked about the project as something that would happen in the future, while worrying that the opportunity to write it might come too late, or might never come at all.

When I suddenly found myself with no deadline and no contract to fulfill, I made one of those big life decisions. If I sold my home in St. Paul and purchased a tiny cabin in the north woods, I might be able to live on the proceeds from the sale for two or three years. It was a huge gamble, but it would give me the solitude and freedom to write The Orchard.

I sold the house and began looking for a secluded place to write. In an odd twist, my real estate agent had a listing he thought I should see, but it was located nowhere near my search area. Another negative—it was located in farm country, a landscape and culture I’d avoided since moving from the farm. How could I possibly live in a farming area again? Ignorant of my history, the agent talked me into looking. Just looking.

The property was a prairie-style church built in the late 1800s in a now non-existent village called Perley Station. Perley Station was the brainchild of a lumber baron, philanthropist, and horticulturalist named John Perley. In 1905 the village burned to the ground, and the only thing left in the middle of fields, woodland, and prairie, was a church. And that church was selling for the price of a cabin in the north woods.

I still questioned whether I could immerse myself mentally and physically in a setting that brought back so many painful memories, but in the end I bought the church and moved to a remote and beautiful building in a town that no longer existed.

The church studio is surrounded by Perley Lilacs, courtesy of Mr. Perley’s horticultural skill.


In the backyard is an apple tree. As I write this, the tree is loaded with blooms, and I’m anticipating the apple pies I will bake this fall.


I like to imagine that the tree was planted by John Perley. I don’t know if this is truth, but I can say the tree is very old, and it doesn’t have many years left.

In this setting, surrounded by history and farm fields, an apple tree just beyond my window, I wrote The Orchard. The writing of the book, the farm fields that I walk past daily, noting what has been planted and how well the crops are doing, have led to a reclaiming of a life I left behind.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I wrote romance for thirteen years, but it wasn’t until I changed my name to Frasier and started writing suspense that the snickers stopped. Really. The change was night and day. From ridicule to respect. Romance-friendly venues and bookstores were the only places a romance writer could go and not be treated poorly. After thirteen years of being looked down on, it was refreshing to walk away from that and start over. I remember taking ARCs of Hush (Frasier) to bookstores expecting the same old reaction. But no, I was treated as a legitimate writer! It was like finding and removing the kick-me sign from my back. So I’m experiencing anxiety over returning to the Weir name because it rarely elicited a positive response outside the romance world. I’m reluctant to let go of the Frasier name because I associate it with validation. So weird. Both are the same person, and yet they don’t feel the same at all, but I think that’s more about public perception of the two names rather than anything internal.

Of course it makes sense to use my real name, and even though The Orchard is considered literary memoir, I drew from those old romance roots when writing it. It's kind of a twisted romance.

I've seen a mockup cover of The Orchard and I hope to have the final version to show off soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It’s all been said before. A hundred times, a thousand times, and yet my mind circles back to the same topics, the same concerns, the same thoughts. I worry that writers are putting the cart before the horse. I worry that they aren’t spending enough time on the craft of writing. I’m guilty. When I first started blogging in about 2003ish, my writing time dropped to almost zero. I often wonder if I would have written my first book if the Internet had existed back then, but that’s another topic for maybe another day or never.

Writing is all about time.

There are no shortcuts.

I’ve been writing for thirty years (what?), and I still have so much to learn. You never get there, you never reach that place where you can sit back and say this is how it’s done, now I know and I can go forward and do it. The uncertainties are always there. You do this, then you close your eyes and open them again to see how it looks. You rearrange. You toss out, and start over. (But too much tossing out is another form of procrastination. Anything can be fixed.)

Four years. That’s what I think it takes. Four years of writing every day, submitting, getting feedback, revising, rewriting, starting a new project, putting an old one under the bed, pulling it out again, seeing the mistakes you made when you were young and foolish three months ago.

It’s hell. Especially for a lazy person like me.

A bachelor’s degree takes four years. And then you might go on to get your masters and a Ph.D.

Time. You have to invest the time. There are no shortcuts.

“I just lost my job and need to learn how to write a book fast. Where do I begin? I need to start making money in a couple of months.”

Yes, I get emails like this. But I’m not talking about this person.

And yet it is about him, because this is about time. The more time you spend learning the craft of writing, the better your writing will be. The more time you spend writing that book, the better it will be. As simple as that.

I grew up in the world of romance writing. In the eighties and nineties there was a real push by editors, agents, and writers to get books out as quickly as possible. Publishing houses noticed the writers with the biggest readerships were also the writers with the most books published in a year. So it turned into quantity over quality. Some writers could do both, but not many. We were always thinking about the next book before we even finished the current project. We didn’t have the luxury of time.

It took me a while to get myself out of that mindset, and I think a lot of genre writers are still struggling to step back and give themselves permission to make their current project the best it can be. We didn’t grow up like that. We wrote it in a few months and we mailed it in, very often with no feedback from anyone. Maybe take a day off before jumping into the next book, always that need to hurry, hurry, hurry.

Part of it is just age. I can’t write with that kind of intensity and fervor and drive anymore. I want to enjoy writing. I want to savor it. And sometimes I do.