Monday, April 24, 2017

Short post

This week is an exciting week for me as I will be awarded the MWA Raven Award on Thursday. I have to give a speech. Too frightening for me, but I’m going to do it. I wrote it. I read it out loud. Made changes and I hope I don’t ramble when I get up to the podium. All my life, I shied away from public speaking. This will definitely be a stepping out of my comfort zone moment.

So, tell me, how do you cope with stepping out of your comfort zone?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Life Lessons

by Linda Rodriguez

I’ve been around for a lot more than a few years. And, stubborn as I can be, I’ve learned some things along the way. Oddly enough, it’s not the big lessons that have made a difference in my life, but a series of small rules for happy living that I’ve learned to make a part of my daily life. 

  1. Do at least one thing a day that gives you pleasure. 
  2. Live your life in chapters. Focus on the chapter you’re in now. You don’t have to do/have/be it all now!
  3. Don’t get overwhelmed. Break everything into baby steps. One page a day is a book in a year. Fifteen minutes a day on any overwhelming or distasteful task adds up and eventually will lengthen on its own. The ordinary kitchen timer is your friend.
  4. Always clean up your messes.
  5. Be kind to yourself and others.
  6. Give something back.
  7. Use it, appreciate it, or lose it. Your body, mind, belongings. Remember, unapplied knowledge is wasteful (f not tragic).
  8. Make time to do often what you do well and enjoy. Spend time with people who think you’re great. When the world isn’t noticing you, notice and reward yourself. Give others recognition, in turn.
  9. Make quiet time for yourself alone every day. And a corollary is have a place, even merely a spot, that’s just for you. Use it for devotions, meditation, journaling, or just reading. Give yourself 10 minutes of silence every day.
  10. Pay attention to your breath. Conscious breath control can help you control stress, worry, and fear and replace them with calm and peace.
  11. You create the path you’ll walk on in life with your words. Think before you speak. Remind yourself that, to a great extent, you are creating your reality when you speak.
  12. Pay attention to your own emotional needs and desires.
  13. Decide what you want your life to look like. Write it down. In detail.
  14. Act “as if.” Imagine if your desired life were here now, if you could not fail. What would you do? Do it.
  15. Conserve your energy. Rid your life of energy thieves—negative people and habits.

What about you? What rules would you add to my list?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Taxis, Uber and Career Path Choices

By Cathy Perkins

I had to go to LA for the day job this week. At LAX, I trotted out to Ground Transportation. I’d heard LA didn’t allow Uber drivers in the ground transportation aisle (where the nine million shuttles and taxis wait), so I grabbed a taxi to head to my meeting. The driver shot away from the curb before even asking my destination. 

Who knows, maybe he was afraid his fare would escape.

After pulling up the street address from my email and sharing the location with the driver, I opened an app to track our path to the destination. The driver was livid and told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want me telling him where or how to drive. Or that I thought I knew better than he did how to get where we were going. There might have been a few other “rules” thrown around, but I’d quit listening by that point.

I’m still not entirely sure what his actual objection was, but I muted the sound and left the app running. Okay, part of the reason I run the route app is security. I’m in a city I don’t know well, with a person I don’t know the first thing about.  And he’s not exactly making me feel safe as he drives like a maniac, squeezing into non-existent gaps in traffic, alternating between sixty and zero in shoulder wrenching seconds. (Yes, I put on my seat belt!) The other reason for running the app is to put names to the streetscape flowing past my window. Oh look. That’s Marina Del Ray with all the fabulous boats. I didn’t know Loyola Marymount University had a campus here. It’s lovely.  

Somewhere along the way this driver ranted about Uber. By this point, I’d tuned him out and looked at the window (while keeping a surreptitious eye on the app and the route). When the meeting concluded and I needed a ride back to the airport, who did I call? You got it in one. I tapped the Uber app and a driver appeared within minutes.

The Uber driver’s car was new and spotless. The driver himself was charming. In spite of what you may have read about some disgruntlement among Uber drivers, this guy loved his job. He drove full time, but set his own hours and avoided the late afternoon crush of LA’s notorious traffic. I got the impression he spent most afternoons at the beach before returning to the streets for several more hours of evening driving. (Great way to get home from a club or restaurant if you’ve like to have a glass of wine with dinner.)

The other information he freely shared was his business structure. Because he’s been with Uber for over four years, his percentage of the fare has increased from 80% to 90%. With his portion of the proceeds, he covers all his own expenses, including the decision to upgrade (and afford) the car he was driving. His positive ratings from passengers apparently also move him up in the ranking for notifications in his area when he’s looking for his next fare.

In the waiting area at LAX, I couldn’t help but compare the two transportation modes to the evolving status of publishing. Taxis and traditional publishing seem established and “safe” while Uber and independent publishing seem riskier. That risk level in the newer technologies drops, however, as the concept grows and evolves.

So how does transportation compare with publishing? While a few big names still pull in significant advances from traditional publishers, midlist authors have been cut left and right. Royalty rates are puny and print runs are decreasing. On the plus side, the publisher covers most of the production costs for the book. Likewise for the taxi driver, the rate of pay is reduced, but the cab company pays more of the expense—which sometimes means a sleek towncar and at others, a rust-bucket you hope makes it to your destination. The author may be assigned a top notch editor and talented cover artist, and receive superb marketing placement. Or he or she may end up with a new untested editor and little publisher support.

Like the Uber driver, the independent author can potentially earn a much larger royalty but also must cover his or her business expenses. The author has the choice of where to spend and how much capital to allocate. New car/clean up the existing vehicle? Hire a top notch editor/ask a friend to beta read? What can the author competently handle and where is it better to hire experienced assistants? Each step has financial repercussions. And each person must make the career choice they feel is correct for them.

The most important decision the author (and driver) must make however? What will give the passenger/reader the best experience?

Because isn’t that what it’s all about?

By the way, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that next time I’m in LA, I take Uber rather than stepping into that taxi.

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

Visit her at her website or her Amazon author page.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Libraries I Have Loved

By Kay Kendall

Last Saturday I celebrated National Library Week by giving an invited talk at the Bellaire City Library. This fine facility is located in an incorporated city located within the Houston metropolitan area. The occasion presented the opportunity to ruminate on what libraries mean to me.
My small hometown in Kansas had a Carnegie Library, a place that played a prominent role in my
Carnegie Library, El Dorado, KS
life, especially in my grade school years. Like most other writers, I’ve always been an inveterate reader. I cannot recall a time when I was not surrounded by books. Each summer saw me in the cool confines of the old stone building, selecting books to take home and devour. Mother would be upstairs checking out books for grownups and I would be in the basement where the children’s books were kept. It was cooler there, and in the early years that was important, before our home was air-conditioned.
As background for my talk last weekend, I researched details about the vast number of libraries across America that Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated. Between the years 1883 and 1929, there were 2,509 Carnegie libraries built, both in public and in university library systems. Of that number, 1,689 were built in the United States. By the time Carnegie made the last grant in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie. He also underwrote construction of many libraries across the English-speaking world, as well as numerous non-English speaking countries. I cannot imagine a greater legacy to have than his.
“My” Carnegie Library in El Dorado, Kansas, was built in 1912 in the classical revival style. I am pleased to say that it still exists, being now repurposed and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. A survey made in 1992 of Carnegie Libraries in America found that 1,554 of the 1,681 original buildings still existed, with 911 still used as libraries. Two hundred forty-three had been demolished, while others had been converted to other uses, like “my” library in Kansas. For a time when I was in high school, it had even served as the city-funded hangout for teenagers. I remember dancing to an Elvis tune in that place (dubbed The Cage), and it felt almost sacrilegious to me.
Strahov Monastery Library, Prague (see below)
I have used more grand and extensive libraries, but clearly this—my very first—library means the most to me. It offered the thrill of countless books to read—ones I could check out as fast as I could read and return them. (My eight-year-old grandson is like that now, reading three to four books each week. He taught himself to read at age four. I had heard of that but had never seen it with my own eyes. I was amazed).

Libraries have been important to the advance of human knowledge for many millennia. Babylon is credited with having the first known library, and ancient Egypt comes next. Of course the industrious Romans made improvements with their libraries. Benjamin Franklin founded a subscription library in Philadelphia in 1731, a precursor of public lending libraries. Carnegie’s American libraries pioneered open stacks, thus enabling the joy of browsing.
In closing I want to salute the most beautiful library I have ever seen—not in photographs but in real life, in person. Twenty years ago I visited the Strahov Monastery in Prague, situated on a hill high above the city’s famous castle. I walked down a corridor in the monastery and peeked in an open door, marked by a satin rope across its threshold. And what I beheld made me gasp out loud. The vision I saw was the Philosophical Hall, one of two vast rooms built in the 1700s for the monastery’s ancient collection of books. This was a veritable temple to written human knowledge.
If you are ever in Prague, I suggest you go out of your way to visit this splendid place. A photograph is included here to give you a hint of its beauty.
What libraries have meant the most to you? Do you have a favorite? Were you able to study in the stacks in college? I could not. Whenever I heard footsteps, my head would pop up to see if it was someone whom I knew.

Read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery, RANY DAY WOMEN here! 
That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book.  Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing, DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery at Killer Nashville in 2014. Visit Kay on Facebook