Naked Vestal Virgins On A Ghost Plane – Suzanne Tyrpak Takes The Stage

Day Fourteen

The middle of July and still the June Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blogfest continues.  The wonderful Suzanne Typrak is in the spotlight today, and if you think my headline was just a cheap attempt to ride the search engines, then read on. It gets worse!

Topless dancer doing yoga

Go-go dancers. Naked art models. Wild youth. Girls dancing topless. Strange letters from various men. All of that taken from the guest post! Running google images for those could take my hard-drive to whole new worlds!


First a reminder why the June blogfest is still going in mid-July. I’m on GMT here.

By which I don’t just refer to Greenwich Mean Time, though this part of West Africa is on that too. I refer to Gambian Maybe Time.

Imagine a world where even agents and publishers look fast. Yeah, you’re right. That’s asking the impossible.

Okay, imagine Greece or Portugal at their most laid back, mid-summer. Or the southern states, for those of you across the pond. Now slow that down ten-fold and you’ll begin to understand the pace of life here. When power or net access fails it seems there’s no great rush to fix either.

It’s a great life for a writer (providing the lap-top is powered up). And it brings me to the subject of the New Renaissance that is taking place as the e-publishing revolution unfolds.

I spoke about this back in May, but back then (a whole two months ago!) the debate about the e-publishing Reformation was that it would liberate writers financially.

Hocking and Locke were leading the way making money when the Big Six didn’t want to know, and Konrath and Eisler were showing they as paper-published authors could make more money as self-publishers than by sticking with the Big Six. Good luck to them all.

But the common theme here is money.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. We all have a living to earn, families to support, nests to feather, whatever. If we can make enough money writing maybe we can forget the day job and write full time like these guys. Every writers’ dream, right?

But now the debate is changing. Broadening out. Money is no longer the only factor in the equation.

Money is still, and will always be, an important part of the debate. But now writers are finding that not only can they make as much money, or even more, than they could before. But that they can do it writing for their readers.

Kris Rusch has a great post over at The Business Rusch exploring her new-found freedom. Apparently there’s a video about popcorn kittens (my African net server isn’t up to playing videos) but the post is about a new problem caused by the Reformation in publishing. It’s a big problem, and one we all face.

No, don’t turn away. I know you guys come here for inspiration, not to hear the downside of  the writing life. But Kris has this problem and as we all know a problem shared is… well, it’s still the same problem. It’s just great to know a long-standing and highly regarded author like Kris is having to deal with it. It’s not just us upstart wannabes.

What is this almighty problem? Here’s Kris:

It’s a great problem to have, and one that’s caused by a freedom I’ve never had as a published author:  I can write what I want, and it’ll be published guaranteed.  In the past, I could also do what I wanted, but I risked working for months on a project that never sold. As you can see from my mention of unpublished inventory above (sorry, MWi visitors will have to hit the link and read it for themselves) it happened to me often—especially in the last several years.

Granted, what I write and publish might not sell well by New York standards.  Or hell, I don’t know, it might all take off.  But I do know that I have thousands of fans per series who have been clamoring for the next book.  Those fans, at least, will be happy when the next book arrives.

I also get to stretch my wings and continue projects that I started for the love of them, but couldn’t continue because no publisher wanted to take a risk on them.  And I’m seriously considering side projects on existing works—things I know are not marketable in traditional publishing, but would be fun as hell to write.

And, and, and—

(Breathes deeply as she tries to control the popcorn kittens, suddenly springing up inside her brain—Squirrel!)

I’m not the only writer experiencing popcorn kittens.  Most writers who understand what kind of freedom this new publishing world gives us are also experiencing their own version of popcorn kittens.  Established writers are joyful and overwhelmed.  New writers are frightened, overwhelmed, and relieved that they no longer have to play games to get their novels read—and they’re worried about rising above the noise. (See my post on promotion to answer that problem. )

Be sure to check out Kris’s post in full.

Next month here on MWi I’ll be looking at the ramifications of the New Renaissance in more detail. For now, just to remind ourselves that we no longer have to write books that conveniently fall between 60,000 and 80,000 words and tick the gatekeeper’s genre boxes.

Contrary to popular belief there isn’t some reader mindset that says they will be left short-changed with a story of 50,000 words or will die of exhaustion with 100,000. Curiously Sugar & Spice is 120,000 words long. Agents and publishers tell us that’s unacceptable for a crime thriller. No-one seems to have told our readers…

Nor is there any reader mindset that says a romance author can’t write thrillers or sci fi. In fact Kris Rusch writes all those, and more.

The fact is, these conventions about what is and isn’t acceptable are to do with one thing. The publisher’s profit margin. In the New Model such considerations are becoming obsolete. During the Transition they still play a role, because paper is still significant, but that’s changing fast. In the New Model what counts is satisfying your reader, not the shareholders of the Big Six.

Which brings us to our guest in the green room, Suzanne Tyrpak. No, Suzanne isn’t a shareholder in the Big Six. At least, not that I know of. But she does have shares in the New Model, in the form of self-published books making money. Suzanne is another fine example of what we come to MWi to read about: inspirational success stories.

What’s more, Suzanne is doing what the big boys say can’t be done. Making money from short stories. Which is just outrageous. Hasn’t she read the rule book?

Apparently not.

Konrath Blow-Up Doll

According to the gatekeepers short story anthologies don’t sell. It doesn’t seem to have occured to them that perhaps that’s because they aren’t giving readers the option. When a writer does, as Suzanne has done, the readers suddenly remember they do like short story anthologies after all. It’s a funny old world…

So I dragged Suzanne across from her own blog, where she hangs out with big names I can only dream of attracting here. Once here I tied her to a chair and threatened her with a life-size blow-up doll of Joe Konrath unless she revealed all.

When I realised she was actually enjoying that (this is someone who knows all about fetishes!) I bribed her instead, and finally got the answer to the all-important question. Did anyone actually buy that crazy book you wrote called Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction)?

As Suzanne says,

I’m on the verge of selling enough books to support myself.What could be more fun than that?

And what better way to lead into the latest Girls Just Wana Have Fun guest post. Here’s Suzanne:

So…Mark asked me to write about my background, and although I’m not quite as ancient as the times-frames of my historical novels (ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt), I’m old enough to have fairly lucid recollections of the 1970’s. Okay, maybe more psychedelic than lucid, but that’s when I began my research as a writer. Not the research for historical settings—my major in college was Greek theater and ancient religions—but the emotional and psychological insanity I prefer to write about. In other words: I had a wild youth in New York City.

I spent my twenties pursuing an acting career, while supporting myself as an art model (yes, that means naked) and a go-go dancer—mostly in New Jersey, where they still got excited about girls dancing topless, and tipped well. This, as you might imagine, gave me lots of fodder for stories. My new collection of short stories, Ghost Plane and other disturbing tales (just released) includes a story called Pink inspired by my go-go dancing days. The first novel I wrote, Rosey Dreams, was also inspired by that period of my life. I plan to revisit the book and bring it out next year.

Funny how life supplies us with what we need. When I was writing Rosey, years after I’d moved to Colorado from New York, I stumbled across a manila envelope full of notes about my go-go dancing days. Many of the notes were scribbled on cocktail napkins during my breaks. And I had some strange letters I received from various men. The notes and letters brought everything back. So, back then, when I was dancing, I already knew I’d be writing a book about my experience.

Writers are like that. We’re always taking notes—at least mental notes. That’s why we can’t be trusted. We’re spies, and live outside of society.

My background as an actor, also feeds my stories. I love to write, because I’m the producer, the director and I play all the parts. My acting career included stints with Theater for the New City, Riverside Church, and the legendary Charles Ludlam Ridiculous Theatrical Company. I met a lot of interesting people, played a lot of interesting roles and attended some incredible parties. You can bet I drew on some of those wild days when I was writing Vestal Virgin–suspense in ancient Rome.

Aside from about ten years, when I was in my thirties and trying to be “normal,” my life has had a fairytale quality. I’ve had a number of interesting jobs: actor, dancer, tarot reader, radio, airlines, science museum, writer. I seem to fall into interesting situations. My experience with publishing continues that magical trend.

For years I pursued traditional publishing. I’ve studied with a lot of wonderful writers including Terry Brooks, Tess Gerittsen, Elizabeth Engstrom, John Saul, Dorothy Allison, and Karen Joy Fowler. They gave me great encouragement and accelerated my writing. I’ve also had two agents, but my books don’t fall into neat categories and my novels didn’t sell. Several years ago, Blake Crouch was introduced to me by a mutual friend when I was working at my job for an airline. We connected immediately, and I invited Blake to join our local writing group.

Last summer Blake convinced me to epublish, and it’s changed my life. I’m on the verge of selling enough books to support myself.

What could be more fun than that?

Okay…some things might be more fun. But not much!

Blake Crouch

So now we know. Blake Crouch is to blame.

And in case you’re wondering, Suzanne loved the blow up Joe doll so much because Joe described her book Dating My Vibrator as “Pure comedic brilliance.”

Scott Nicholson

Suzanne also got high accolade from Scott Nicholson, who said of Ghost Plane: “Enter this circus and let Suzanne show you why horror is the greatest show on earth.”

So what about you guys reading this? Before you rush off and buy Suzanne’s books, stick around long enough to tell us. Are short stories your thing? Are you planning on taking advantage of the New Renaissance and writing for your readers, and maybe experimenting with something different? Or will you be sticking with what’s tried and tested?

I leave you with this from Suzanne’s website about Dating My Vibrator:

Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) is a collection of nine true and almost true short stories all based (unfortunately) on my own experience: dating, divorce, desperation—all that good stuff. After nineteen years of marriage I was thrust into a brave new world of dating: online, offline, standing in line, listening to lines. And I have survived to tell these tales. CAUTION: if you’re contemplating divorce, these stories may convince you to consider marriage counseling. If you’re out there dating, chances are you will relate. OMG! Here’s a scary thought: maybe you’ve met some of these guys. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  1. Well Done, Suzanne! You know what? Before the advent of ebooks I wasn’t really even aware of short stories, never gave them much thought. That’s probably because, as you say, they weren’t being published. But since I got my kindle I have several anthologies on there.

    I find that I really enjoy reading a short story in between novels, almost like having a sorbet between courses. I have to admit most of the shorts I read tend to be sexy. It seems that there are more of those on the market at the moment, and lets face it, everyone needs a little sexy, every now and then. That’s why shorts are so fun, they take twenty minutes to read and you’re onto another adventure.

    Yet another great post, Thanks Mark!

    • Thanks, Alison.

      So many writers have short stories stashed away, many that may well be of publishable quality. But on their own short stories have little commercial value outside the one-off magazine markets

      Saffi and I are planning some multi-author anthology collections for later this year as part of our various projects to give new writers ways in to the New Model publishing world.

      If anyone is interested and has good short-story material sitting on their hard drives, you’ll find my email address on the about page.

  2. Just me again, I forgot to tick the follow up comments box… as you were. 🙂

  3. OK, I had to watch those stupid kittens, all the way through. This is how social media can really be a time suck. Yeah. They were cute.

    This resonates with me so much. I’ve had a non-career for almost 20 years because agents, then editors would “fall in love” with my books, but not be able to sell them because they blend genres. Actually, they blend genres in a way that men’s fiction is allowed to do, but not women’s. (See Carl Hiassen, Dave Barry, and Chris Moore.) Finally I got a UK publisher to publish two of them. But he had no idea how to promote them, and didn’t get me US distribution. Then inconveniently died.

    Back to square one, yet again. 5 years and over 500 queries later. Working endlessly to make my fiction less funny and more sentimental. But now with the indie revolution. I’m finally going to be able to get my comic fiction in front of readers. And it might even be fun. I call them screwball comedy-mysteries. Nick and Nora Charles meet Will and Grace in the 21st century. I think they might actually fit nicely on a shelf with something called Dating my Vibrator. Which I am about to check out.

    Thanks, Mark, for bringing all these fun, fascinating women writers over here!

    • Go for it!

      Agents and publishers still have a role to play as facilitators, but their role as gatekeepers is drawing to a close.

      “Five years and 500 queries later…” That sums up eveything that is wrong about the Old Model.

      As for publishers inconveniently dying. Once again an example of the gatekeepers putting their own interests before ours. 🙂

  4. Great Anne,

    I agree, the ebook revolution has been great for cross-genre writers–also cross-gender writers, but that’s another story.

    @Alison, It’s great that people are reading more short stories. I am. They’re perfect for reading on the phone. A couple of my stories in Ghost Plane are actually sexier than the stories in Dating My Vibrator. Bad dates don’t lead to much sex.


    • I haven’t even got a phone, let alone one to read books on, but dipping into short story anthologies is great fun for a quick break from a full length novel, or to change mood before switching genres

      I’m dipping into Ghost Plane at the moment, and may one day find the courage to buy Dating My Vibrator too.

  5. LOL, Mark. Really, Ghost Plane is racier (and scarier) than Dating My Vibrator–unless, of course, you are one of the men I dated!

    Thanks for reading my stories. I’m interested in your proposed anthology. Will it have a theme?

    • I think it’s the cover of Dating My Vibrator that puts me off. I feel inadequate enough as it!

      I’ll email you direct about the anthology.

  6. Mark, thanks for stopping by my blog. I did a short post about Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

  7. Girls definitely wanna have fun. So do guys. And I’m going to combine that brilliant aperçu with a bit about my experiences writing short fiction for the men’s magazines way back when. There were basically two subjects: Male Adventure and How To Get Laid. The first encompassed war, spies, combat and danger that took place anywhere from the Arctic to the jungles of Asia and/or South America. Bullets flew, fanged tigers and/or cannibals from head hunting tribes were about to attack our hero who was armed only with a knife or a gun running out of ammo. Sometimes, only his bare hands stood between him and death and dismemberment.

    The How To Get Laid articles were the male version of Cosmo & included tips about tidying up the bedroom, pick-up lines and plying her with booze. Innocent days, those.

    I didn’t know bleep about spies, combat & danger (& still don’t) but did that stop me? Oh, no. Was I a sex expert? Puh-leeze. I wrote one story a week of the purest fiction for years and I don’t have a single one of those brief epics left. Typewriters & carbon paper, baby! All of them are gone. I only wish they were still sitting on my hard drive.

    PS: A close friend used to edit movie magazines in those days and of course the Stories About The Stars were all made up. She knew that for a fact because she was the one who made them up and, still, she sometimes bought movie magazines at the newsstands (Remember those?). The lurid cover lines—the kind she herself wrote—got her every time.

    • Ruth, it was precisely these appalling options I had to read in yesteryear that drove me into so-called “women’s fiction”, where a hand grenade and machine gun were not standard issue. Did enjoy the cannibal adventures, though.

      As for those How To Get Laid articles… So it was you! They didn’t work. I want my money back! 🙂

      • What???They didn’t work? As John McEnroe, used to tell (scream at) tennis umpires: You cannot be serious! (Actually, Johnny Mac used this as a title for his…uh…memoirs.)

        Sorry, Mark, no refunds. All purchases are final.

  8. LOL, Ruth. That’s so great. Those stories would make an incredible collection. You sure you don’t have some magazines lying around in your achives? I want to read them!

    As always, you’re a wealth of information.

    • Suzanne, unfortunately, I’m sure. I’m fairly positive I could update them, fluff them up—you know what I’m getting at here lol—and repackage them. One a week for a few years! Added to my pathetic editor’s salary & taught me a lot about how to write. So it wasn’t a total loss…at least that’s what I tell myself.

  9. Suzanne’s an awesome writer….glad you’re featuring her!

  10. Thanks for jumping out of the ocean to say hello, Blake!

    Without Blake Crouch, I’d still have files of stories rotting in my closet and taking up room on my computer. Blake talked me into publishing my short stories last summer. He’s a slave-driver! Keeps telling me to work faster. 🙂

  11. Ruth, if there’s violence and sex involved, Blake will do his best–I’m sure!

  12. Late to the party, but what a GREAT read! Now I’m dying to read all about Vestal Virgins and Vibrators. (An author who was a go-go dancer? Sweet!)

    Since I am a total newbie and never went the traditional route (Though I did ride the query-go-round for awhile.), my plan now is what it always (perhaps naively) was. Write what I love and what my readers love. If I want to write cowboys in space, dadgum, that’s what I’m gonna do. And if I follow that up with post-apocalyptic cyborg dragons running amok through Little House on the Prairie…

    Well, you get what I’m saying. 🙂

  13. Thanks for stopping by, Shea.

    Writing what you love–and having others read it–is one of the great things about indie publishing!

    Have fun 🙂

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