Monday, January 31, 2011

Your Favorite Valentine

by Evelyn David

The first valentine I ever received was from Charlie Riggins in first grade. It read, and I can still quote it in its entirety. "Roses are red, Violets are blue, I don't smell, but you sure do.- Brianna Sullivan in Undying Love in Lottawatah

Do you remember your first Valentine's Day card or gift?

Like Brianna, my first Valentine's Day gift was in first grade. The teacher let all the kids exchange tiny Valentines. One special little boy gave me a ring that came from a gum ball machine. The fake stone separated from the setting before the day was over. Kind of like the budding romance. Another boy offered the actual gum ball and my affections shifted.

For centuries the idea of romantic love has been celebrated on Valentine's Day. In the Middle Ages this Saint's day was considered the optimum day to choose a lifetime mate. Today it is celebrated by the giving of cards, candy, and gifts.

Undying Love in Lottawatah is the fourth book in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries ebook series. A novella-length story, Undying Love in Lottawatah continues the saga of psychic Brianna Sullivan who planned to travel the country in her motor home, but instead unexpectedly ended up parking her home on wheels in a small Oklahoma town. In Undying Love in Lottawatah, as Valentine's Day approaches, Brianna is hired by the local police to help solve an arson/murder case. She's also got family problems. The ghost of her great aunt keeps pressing Brianna to find out what happened to Harry, her long lost love. In her spare time the reluctant psychic tries to figure out her own love life and her relationship with Detective Cooper Jackson. Is he reason enough to stay in Lottawatah?

Do you send Valentine's Day cards? Brianna has mixed feelings on the matter.

Anyway, my Momma always told me that Valentine's Day was a made-up Hallmark holiday and I shouldn't get swept up in the commercialization, yadda, yadda, yadda. To be honest, I often tuned out when my mother would get on her high horse about these issues. And let's be honest, the woman absolutely expected a card and an increasingly expensive present when the made-up holiday of Mother's Day popped up every May.- Brianna Sullivan in Undying Love in Lottawatah

___________________

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series

Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake
- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books
- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rachel Brady, Master Trickster


I’ve been reflecting on what motivates various people. This started about a week ago when I read a fitness-related article. Its premise was that some people are externally motivated to improve their health—lose weight for a wedding or reunion, win an office bet, etc.—while others are internally motivated. This second group simply likes healthy food and enjoys exercise. Our task (the article was written for instructors) is to try to encourage a shift, so that what begins as an externally motivated fitness prioritization will transform into an internally driven one, thereby resulting in a permanent lifestyle change and results that will stick.

All kinds of tips and advice exist to help with the initial change. I call these the “tricks.” Examples include:
  • Eat well for six days. Splurge one day a week.
  • Break up exercise into shorter sessions.
  • Reward yourself . . .
You get the idea.

Thankfully, I enjoy healthy eating and look forward to exercise. Where fitness is concerned, I’m internally motivated.

Thing is, I’m an externally motivated writer, looking for my own “tricks” to change me into an internally motivated one. You may remember this idea that, like most tricks, worked for a little while and then lost my interest. I have other variations. They go something like this:
  • Write for six days. Rest for one.
  • Break up writing into shorter sessions.
  • Reward myself.
Sound familiar?

I imagine that, for various reasons, almost all of us have played similar tricky mind games with ourselves at one point or another. It seems to me like it’s an attempt to identify an external motivation and practice it long enough that it becomes internal and habitual. Well. That is so much easier said than done.

Lots of writers say they love to write, can’t wait to sit down and get back into their story, and that their characters talk to them.

Not me. I want the story in my head to turn into a book by a means similar to a download. USB cable. Brain. Finished book.

Where is the button for this?!

In very special moments, I have experienced internal motivation to write and completed the task for the pure joy of it. Most of the time, I’m the “Mo-om, are we there yet?” kind of writer, but in those lucky writing sessions I’m the “It’s the journey, not the destination” writer. I’d love to be that person all the time.

I have a new trick this week. It’s very Franklin-Covey-esque and goes like this.
  1. Make a list of all the tasks that compete for attention in my head.
  2. Label them as important (long term goals) or urgent (short term requirements)
  3. Spend an hour each day on the urgent stuff first.
  4. Spend an hour each day on the important stuff second.
Why only an hour on each? Because the rest of the day is full of “life” and all that goes along with that.

Right now my list looks like this:
  1. Finish a writing project I promised to an editor (urgent, due 2/1)
  2. This post (urgent, due 1/28)
  3. Work on the WIP (important)
  4. Answer an email from a Blogger guy (important)
  5. Read the panelists I’ll moderate at Left Coast Crime (important)
  6. Send in my Malice Domestic Nomination form (urgent, due 2/7)
  7. Make a call about my credit card (important)
  8. Make a call to my bank (important)
  9. Make some CDs for my Spinning classes (important)
  10. Renew my driver’s license (important)
That is my head-noise, right there. When I list all my stuff out like this, I see that I only have a few urgent things and a lot of long-term stuff. Sometimes, the ratio goes the other way. My problem is that I can spend a whole night on one sort of task and never do the other. I put off writing the book because writing is hard and calling my bank is easy.

It’s just a trick. I keep looking for one that will flip the permanent external-to-internal motivation switch.

Anybody out there relating to this, or have I just revealed further evidence that I’m weird?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"I'll be back"

Ever have one of those days that just get away from you? How 'bout a week like that? Or a month.

This has been a week that has flown by, and at times I feel I'm hardly keeping my head above water. While I don't think I'm a complainer, I do occasionally find myself slipping into that "things are tough, life's too busy, woe is me" mode. I usually catch myself and stop; I don't ever want to focus on the negative and forget about the big picture.

But sometimes, I've learned, I have to recognize--and embrace--my limits. Which means sometimes making hard decisions. Just yesterday, I dropped my membership to a national organization, and consequently to a local chapter, because I just couldn't keep up, couldn't spend the money, and couldn't give it my all. It was a tough decision, but necessary, and while I don't feel relief and I think I'll rejoin at some point, it was definitely what I needed.

Leaving The Stiletto Gang is another such decision--very difficult, not what I'd choose in a perfect world, but necessary for me right now. I love this blog, these ladies, and the faithful Stiletto followers, but I'm recognizing my limits and realizing that with teaching at a local college, writing full time, mothering 5 kids, a husband in grad school (plus a full time job), a son with one foot out the door and into college, Books on the House, blogging, online teaching, and, you know, icky housework, some things just have to give.

I've been blessed to be part of this great grog, and have been doubly blessed by their open door policy welcoming me back as a guest. It's been great, and as the Terminator famously said, "I'll be back."

So this is not good bye, but adieu.

And I know I'll see y'all around!
Misa Ramirez

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Social Networking

Social networking comes under fire a lot in the media and is responsible for the downfall of Western civilization, from what I can gather. I’m going to take another tack here and make a confession: I love Facebook. Now granted, I don’t love it so much that I’ve allowed my 11-year-old to create his own page, nor do I allow my 17-year-old to have her own page to which I don’t have access. Her membership into the FB community came with a price: a “friending” by her mother which, if violated or revoked, would come with punishments that only Amy Chua—you know her as the Tiger Mother—could dole out.

This isn’t a love song to Facebook, but rather just some observations I’ve made since creating a Facebook page back in 2008. I started on Facebook just to see what it was like and because my publisher and many other writers recommended it as a great marketing and promotion tool, something at which I am woefully inept. You can do only so much marketing and promotion from the comfort of your desk chair in your attic, I came to find out. Obviously, it has reconnected me with a lot of old friends. Curiously, almost my entire high school graduating class is on there and getting to know many of them has been a blast. Many of them are excited that I am a writer and have bought all of my books, even suggesting them to their extensive friend lists.

My husband has remarked that I am perfectly suited to the world of Facebook because I am a social person by nature. If I were a dog, I would be a Golden Retriever. If he were a dog…well, we’re not sure what he’d be. He’s social, but not as social as I am. He likes the computer, but only for work. He is mildly curious about social networking, but not enough for him to explore this new world. “But still,” I protest when we discuss, “you’d find people you went to high school with!” to which he replies, “I wasn’t looking for them.”

True enough.

I still don’t know what kind of dog that makes him.

I wouldn’t say I post a lot of status updates, but I do post my fair share. For the most part, they are well thought-out; I try to avoid the “making pork chops now” posts which tell people just a little too much about the sorry state of my cooking and inventiveness on a given night. I try to stay away from politics, but there do come times when I just can’t keep my fat mouth shut, try as I may. Those instances are rare and hopefully, strike a chord among the majority of disgruntled Americans or those of us who aren’t writing manifestos in our cabins in the woods. Maybe not. I have been accused of leaning a little to the left, so who knows?

There are certain things about Facebook I don’t like. For one, I don’t like oversharing. Letting me know that your spouse is more-than-skilled in the boudoir makes my skin crawl, for some reason, as do posts about your viewing of people doing disgusting things in public places. If you found their behavior revolting, why would you want to share that? More to the point, why would I want to read about it? Better to try to wipe their actions clean from your mind. I don’t enjoy the hijacking of the comments section—you know what I mean, when one person comments on your status only to incur the wrath of someone else who read the status and the comments and who then feels compelled to take issue? Hate that. Your entire day is spent deleting comments from two angry commenters who really need to take their fight outside.

I also don’t like when a post that I actually spent some time thinking about and that meant something to me is then appropriated by one of my friends who says “Great post! I’m reposting!” without giving me credit. It’s called plagiarism and it applies to Facebook, people. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing that person’s comments section populated by “Brilliant!” “Wish I could have said it like that!” “Well said” and know that only two people know the truth about where the post came from and it wasn’t from the brain of your now-unfriended former Facebook friend. I’m a writer and writers are very proprietary of their words.

Maybe I could start a trend: Facebook status copyrighting?

Too much?

All in all, the same basic codes of etiquette and civility that apply in daily life should apply to social networking. In other words, if you wouldn’t want your mother to read it, don’t post it.

Tell me, Stiletto friends, some of whom may also be in my Facebook cohort, what do you think of social networking? How do you use it? And what are your pet peeves?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Photo and New Book


by Marilyn Meredith
http://fictionforyou.com/

This photo was taken at my grandaughter's wedding. We all had such a great time. And she having so much fun writing on Facebook that she's going here and there with her husband.

Now it's time for me to buckle down to work. I'll soon have a new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel coming out called Angel Lost and I just received the cover for it last night and I love it.

Here's the official blurb:

As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent out to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro’s can’t concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone’s imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug’s wedding take place?

While I'm planning the promo for this book, I'm also writing a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and I'm on Chapter 6. Though I know where I'm going, more or less, it's been hard to concentrate with all the wedding excitement going on around me.

I'm also in the process of reading the Rocky Bluff P.D. novel that comes after Angel Lost to my critique group, chapter by chapter. The group is always my first editor.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is different in that it's always about the officers and their families as well as whatever crimes are going on the small beach community. A book may focus more on one character than another and new characters are introduced, but the main group of people who inhabit the Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families are always going to have their lives chronicled in one way or another.

Of course, because Angel Lost will be available in March, I must get busy with my promotion plans.

I do have a blog tour planned, and several in-person events, but there's always more to do, so I'm signing off and getting busy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye Gracefully

by Evelyn David


I've always been intrigued by the paranormal (see our Brianna Sullivan series), so when Medium, a television series about a psychic who assists the Phoenix, Arizona police department debuted in 2005, I was quickly hooked. I followed the series from NBC, who cancelled it after five years, to CBS, who cancelled it last month. I looked forward to the series finale with a combination of sadness and anticipation of how they would wrap it all up. Sigh. What I got last Friday night was an unholy mess. *Spoilers Ahead*

Multiple time jumps, fake dreams, an airplane crash, a Mexican drug cartel, cars exploding, eight years of amnesia, seriously there wasn't a clich̩ they missed. There were moments when I expected Bobby Ewing to come out of the shower and tell Alison that all her dreams were just that Рdreams and not psychic revelations. Even the last few seconds in the episode where Alison joined Joe in the hereafter after forty-some odd years apart didn't work for me - instead of satisfaction that the couple would be together forever, it just felt like the writers were pouring salt on a wound. I didn't want to learn Joe died and missed his kids growing up. I didn't want to know Alison had to spend more years without him than she'd had with him. I didn't particularly want to know about the kids' grandchildren. I'd much rather have seen another episode that showed the characters doing the things they've done for the last seven years - Alison dreaming her dreams and waking up Joe in the middle of the night, Joe struggling to earn a living, and the kids fighting around the breakfast table. I wanted more of the same. Even if the series was cancelled, I wanted to be able to keep the family alive - well and happy - in my imagination.

Which got me to thinking about how authors treat the last book in a series. Lesson learned: You need to put the same amount of energy and creativity into ending a series that you put into that first book - the book where you were trying to engage readers into wanting to see more. Finales need to be respectful of both the characters and the audience. Do it well, and readers are anxious to read new books and new series you present. Do it poorly, and the bitter taste can wipe out all your earlier hard work.

J.K. Rowling understood the Herculean task she faced in ending the Harry Potter saga. While some readers might quibble with the length and events of the seventh book, most were extremely satisfied that she not only gave a powerful climactic battle between the forces of good and evil (the recurrent theme in all seven books), but she also provided an epilogue that gave a glimpse into the future of the main characters that her audience had grown to love. She didn't ignore the harsh realities of the world she had created, and in fact, killed off several beloved characters. But to her credit, she was respectful in her treatment of their deaths and their demises made sense in the context of the storyline.

Ending a series is never easy for authors or fans. Fans will always expect more than the writers can give. They don't want the series to end so any ending is often less than satisfactory. Most authors love the characters they've created and the line between fiction and a place at the kitchen table is mighty thin. Both halves of Evelyn David talk about Mac, Rachel, Brianna, and even Whiskey the Irish wolfhound, as if they were extended members of the Dossett and Borden families. So when we decide, if we ever decide, that it's time to bring a series to a close, we know what we need to do and what we absolutely shouldn't do. In the meantime, we're still enjoying their adventures and plan to continue plotting murder and mayhem with them.

Stiletto Faithful: what finales, in books or television series, did you think were handled well? Which sucked?

http://www.evelyndavid.com
------------------
Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake - Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books - Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mother Lode


by Susan McBride

Today is my mom's birthday, although we won't talk about her age (since she doesn't act like it anyway). As you read this, I'm doubtless at the casino with her, playing the penny slots, since we make a pilgrimmage every year to celebrate. Usually, she wins, and I don't. But I try to make up for it at the buffet (free coupon!).

I've always appreciated mothers, my own in particular, even more so recently (if that's possible). I'm not sure where I'd be right now if not for my mom's wholehearted endorsement of my doing this writing thing. I knew I wanted to be a novelist at 19, when I wrote my first grown-up novel in between transferring colleges. While my business-minded father bemoaned my even leaving college to write a book--and to figure out "who I am"--my mom was behind me all the way. "You have to do what makes you happy," she told me on no uncertain terms. "And no one can decide what that is but you."

When I knew what I wanted to do, she backed me up, and I watched her do the same with my brother and sister. My father clearly didn't understand the need to be creative (well, he was an IBM guy, through and through), but my mom did. Even though she wasn't any kind of artist, nor did she strive to be, she was one of the most creative people I've ever known. She made up songs as we drove to the grocery store or to the zoo (something I do to this day!). She helped me with school projects (never doing them for me, just assisting), and I had the best time creating Conestoga wagons out of shoeboxes and cutting up old encyclopedias to do a map of Big Cats Around the World.

You've probably even heard me mention her creative meals. I never knew what I was going to see when I opened my lunchbox. On holidays especially, it could get very interesting. I remember sandwiches cut in the shape of four-leaf clovers on St. Patrick's Day (and, that night, green milk and green mashed potatoes with dinner). One day, she packed cookies shaped like dog biscuits, which I loved and which freaked out my friends.

Christmases and Easters were incredible. Mom was--and still is--a decorating fiend. And, oh, did we get gorgeous Easter baskets! Each one hidden somewhere in the house so we had to find them. She dyed eggs, too, every color imaginable, and she hid them outside. There was always something to look forward to.

As I got older and as we moved around, I realized what a grounding force she was. No matter where we lived--or what kind of troubles we had adjusting--she tried to make things better, or at least remind us that we wouldn't be the new kids forever, that sometimes life sucked but that didn't last. Even when we disagreed, I respected her point of view. I'm pretty sure she respected mine as well.

Just the other day, I mentioned the idea that we all have a gift, even if some of us might not realize what that is for a long time. To which, my mom remarked, "I still don't know what mine is." And I said, "It's being a mother. You're great at momming." She laughed, but I meant it.

So much of what's in the novels I write involves mothers and daughters. I didn't do it consciously, but it's there just the same. Maybe it's because of the amazing complexity of mother-daughter relationships. They grow, they change, they evolve. They're full of push and pull and compromise. And they have a life-long effect on us.

When my grandmother passed, I could only imagine how hard that was on my mom. I want to think my mother will live forever and see me through whatever else life throws at me. On today, her birthday, I want to thank my mom and moms like her everywhere, who've taken on the hardest job there is and who do it with such passion. May you all continue to blow out the candles on the cake for many more years to come.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Belly Dancing Adventure

Beware of Groupon. You might find yourself in a Belly Dancing class in Irving, if you're not careful.

My Belly Dancing adventure began last October, or so, when a friend forwarded a Groupon offer for Belly Dancing classes. Sure!, I thought. I can do that. Easy to pay $20 for 4 classes with no specifics...yet.

Months came and went, and with the expiration date looming, we had to actually make a commitment to go to the classes. The problem? Tracy had major conflicts with her childrens' schedules, and Kym had a conflict with a meeting she was supposed to attend. But we'd committed to these classes and it was now or never. Learn to Belly Dance or we'd lose our certificate.

So we went.



We braved unexpected traffic along two highways as we went back and forth through Grapevine for Music Theater.











But no worries. I was prepared for the caper! I'd prepped with pre-Belly Dancing caffeine.



I was afraid I'd feel the coffee jiggling around in my stomach, but since we were late, I needn't have worried.




We couldn't find the address when we finally made it to Irving/Las Colinas. Class started at 11:00. Note the time!

We finally found it at 11:07. Yikes!

Of course, we paused long enough to take a quick picture so I could write about our adventure.


Which one doesn't belong?





The real Belly Dancer/teacher. 'Cause she knew what she was doing and we, most definitely, did not!




**As a sidenote, I was chastised for trying to take a picture during our 'break time'. No phones in Belly Dancing class so as not to waste the teacher's time. I managed this one, though, and then she was kind enough to take the group photo with us (above).**

Things I learned from Belly Dancing:
1. It's harder than it looks.
2. When I go "up" "down" with my hips, I feel the jigglies. The teacher has no jigglies.
3. Doing the combos in class was one thing; practicing them at home was quite another.
4. Belly Dancing is for people of all sizes, shapes, and ages. Really. The class was FULL!

It was fun.
1. It made me feel a wee bit sexy. Okay, maybe not, but it made me feel like I had the potential to be a wee bit sexy if I practice enough.
2. It is not like a yoga workout; yoga has no adorned hip scarves for one.
3. Graduation night for our class is called Harem Night. Yikes.

I may just continue Belly Dancing after my 4 weeks are up. We'll see if I get better. Regardless, it was a great experience, something different (which keeps the mind young!), and may be fuel for a book plot, who knows. I'm thinking Lola Cruz would have a lot of fun Belly Dancing, don't you?

If you happen to be in the Dallas/FW area and want more info on Belly Dancing click here:
Dana's Dance Academy
Blue Anjou(Flower Mound)

On another note, if you're interested in indie publishing, check out this brand new blog: The Writer's Guide to ePublishing. Real numbers, tips, and resources for every writer. I'll be writing about this awesome web site next week!

Misa

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Voices in My Head

I recently attended Crime Bake, a convention in Massachusetts for mystery writers and fans. I was fortunate enough to see Dennis Lehane, one of my favorite authors, speak about writing. Recently, after publishing several stand-alone novels, which unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve heard of: Shutter Island, Mystic River, The Given Day. But it’s his series featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro that I’ve been eagerly awaiting another installment of, and this past year, my wish was granted when he published Moonlight Mile, the sixth book in the series. One of the attendees at Crime Bake asked him why he a) stopped writing the series and b) why he returned to it. He answered that after he published the fifth book in the series, around ten years ago, Patrick stopped talking to him. And he decided to write a new book in the series a year or so ago because Patrick had started talking to him again.

I understood exactly what he was talking about, because Alison Bergeron talks to me constantly. If she’s not complaining about her pot belly, she’s itching for a new mystery to solve. So it has been easy working up a new story because Alison has a lot of stories to tell me and they are easy for me to transcribe. But lately I’ve noticed that I have a trio of new characters talking to me and what they have to say is very interesting. One is partially deaf, the other makes jam for a living, and another is an obstetrician. Yet another, whose role is yet to be determined, is a very handsome detective with his own secrets. All very disparate, all very much alive to me. And all involved in a murder.

With all of this going on, my head is a very crowded place right now. No wonder I keep forgetting to buy toilet paper at the grocery store.

I never anticipated that this would happen. I just assumed that Alison would keep talking to me and Crawford would whisper sweet nothings in my ear every now and again that he would, in turn, then whisper to Alison. Max would continue to screech about her issues, and Fred would grunt. Other people would cycle in and out of the stories I was told and they would provide new life for the next book. The nuns would make me feel guilty for thinking impure thoughts. So it’s very exciting to think that there are a bunch of other characters floating around in there, just waiting for me to tell their stories.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Writers write and there is so much potential in the world and the people around us to come up with new ideas and new characters. It reminds me of when people talk about having extrasensory perception: you just have to be open to the energy around you. It’s the same with writers. We just have to be open to what’s around us—and listen to the voices in our heads—in order to make a new story come to life.

I’m interested, most of all, from our Stiletto faithful if your characters talk to you or if there is some other way that your stories begin. What makes you want to sit down and write?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jessi and Jerry's Wedding



Jessi, the bride and her grandmother--me.

I am not the best photographer in the world, nor do I know how to crop pictures, but this is during the wedding, and my son-in-law is officiating.

Things didn't start well. The D.J. who had the music for the processional had a flat tire. Once he had that fixed, he got lost. He finally found his way about 45 minutes after the wedding was to start. Actually, that turned out okay because a lot of the groom's family and friends were late getting there. In fact, we were asked to move some of Jessi's family and friend to the other side because it was so empty.

Jerry's mom made all the food--Tri-Tip, rice and beans, tortillas, and salsa. Everything was delicious. Traditional things from our culture and the Mexican culture were intertwined. Members of the family and friends paid for various parts of the wedding. And everyone helped on both sides. (That's the only way it could've happened since the kids decided to get married so soon after the engagement--1 1/2 months planning.)


The first dance, with Jessi and her dad, our son, Matthew.








All my kids together, front row, youngest daughter, Lori, middle daughter, Lisa, back row, eldest daughter, Dana, and the baby of the family and father of the bride.

It was a glorious night. I know that Jessi was happy and that made me happy. I stayed up way past my bedtime.

One of my grown granddaughters came with her kids and the stayed that night with us. Genie and I talked far too long into the night.

I promise I won't talk anymore about the wedding, but I've had a great time showing off.

Marilyn

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Empty Nest


I'm the mother of four, mother-in-law of two, grandmother of one, and as of last Friday, an empty nester. Sigh. The last baby bird has flown the nest. Daughter moved into her first apartment in the Big Apple. I'm thrilled and delighted for her new adventure. I'm worried about all the things Moms worry about when their baby girl lives anywhere but home. And yes, I'm sad because an era of Motherhood has come to an end.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I see a difference from four years ago when we loaded up the minivan and took her to college, two hours away, and this move, when we loaded up the same minivan and took her to a high-rise apartment house less than 40 minutes away. Then, I knew that my home was her permanent home. School vacations, summers, would be spent here. Her room stayed intact, high school mementos still lining the walls, the Beanie Babies still safe on her bed.

Now she will visit us, but her apartment will be home. Her legal address. She'll get a New York City library card even! I'm pathetic, I know.

The thing is, I actually know I'll be okay. When we took her to college, hubby and I missed her like the dickens. But Murder Off the Books had just been published. Almost every weekend, and frequently weekday evenings, would be spent on the road promoting the book at signings and library events. And it was an adventure my husband and I shared. We called him my "roadie," driving to the event, schlepping books, handling sales while I gave the speech, and then spending some of the money earned on a nice dinner afterwards. We discovered anew that we had a lot in common, more than just four kids and a house.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that I need to work harder with Rhonda to finish the next Mac Sullivan book, write more Brianna Sullivan mysteries, and enjoy my time with my number one fan (and I his), John Borden.

And just so I don't get too lonely, daughter spent last night in her apartment, but is coming home this afternoon to get her hair cut, shop at Target with Mom and Mom's credit card, and meet up with old friends.

The times, they are a-changin – and maybe staying the same too.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

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Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake - Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books - Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, January 14, 2011

We Welcome Elizabeth Lynn Casey!


In the Strangest of Places

I realized something the other day, something I’m not sure I should admit out loud. But here I go, anyway…

With the exception of a few life-longers, the majority of my friends have one very specific thing in common.

No, they’re not all writers.
No, they’re not all chocoholics like myself.
And no, they’re not all from one specific location we all happen to have in common.

The one thing they have in common is…wait for it…I met them all via the Internet.

That’s right, the Internet.

And at the risk of having a large uppercase L emblazoned on my head, I’ll take this little admission one step further…

Some of these met-via-the-Internet friends have jettisoned themselves into my life-longer group. You know, the ones you wouldn’t trade for anything. Ever.

One such internet-introduced friend came while participating in a group blog just like the one you’re reading now. Only that one was called, The Good Girls Kill for Money Club (don’t bother looking it up, I imagine the url has been taken over by one of those—yes, those—sites) and it’s now defunct. Long story short, I think it was a full year before I met any of my fellow bloggers in person, even longer before I finally met Tasha Alexander (she was our Friday girl). But from the moment Tasha and I met, we hit it off. Going through similar things in our lives provided an instant connection, but it was our respect for each other that grew it into the friendship we have now. A friendship that has me eagerly looking forward to our girls’ weekend in Chicago that is just around the corner!

Another internet-introduced friend came via that same blog. Only this particular person was a reader—one who just happened to win a contest of mine. Since we lived in the same city, I suggested we meet at a local lunch spot for the prize handoff. Little did I know that before that particular meeting was over, I would begin a friendship with Lynn that has withstood a move (mine) across country. Now, when I fly into St. Louis for a doctor’s appointment or for a book signing, Lynn and I always get together. For a movie, dinner, or whatever else we can come up with. In fact, she’s a large part of why I look forward to going back home for a visit.

So there you have it. My big confession. One that, while weird to say out loud, makes me smile. Just like the friends I’ve met thanks to this crazy cyber world that has landed in our laps whether we like it or not.

As a writer, the Internet has opened up a whole new world in terms of research and opportunities to connect with readers. As a person, it’s changed my life in ways only true friends can.

~Elizabeth Lynn Casey


Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the best selling author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series with Berkley Prime Crime. DEADLY NOTIONS, the fourth book in the series, will release April 4th. When she’s not writing mysteries, Elizabeth’s alter ego, Laura Bradford, is busy penning romances. Two of Laura’s romances are RT Reviewer’s Choice nominees for Best Harlequin American of 2010. For more information on her mystery series, visit her website: http://www.elizabethlynncasey.com/. Or become a fan on her Elizabeth Lynn Casey fan page on Facebook. For more information on her romances, visit: http://www.laurabradford.com/.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Welcome Jessica Park!



“I Want To Be In Your Book.” “No, You Don’t.”


When you’re an author, everything around you is fodder for creative writing. The crazy characters you run into, odd experiences, etc. We get to take moments from real life and twist them into fictional fun, reworking them to suit our story needs. (Of course, not everything in our books comes from real life, and every writer will tell you that nothing is more irritating than having people assume that an entire book is based on reality. We have creativity, damn it!) There have been several occasions when I’ve been out with my mother and something offbeat has happened… and then both of us will simultaneously yell, “I get that one for a book!” Then one of us takes it and warps it to our needs. We’re all just power hungry.

People often claim that they’d love to be in your book. They ask you to write about them. They beg you. “I want to be in your book!” I always think, “No, you don’t.” The truth is that the fictionalized version of that person might not be so flattering. Writing about someone completely mentally sound, totally “normal,” or incredibly sweet is not always that interesting. So if we do want to write about you, there’s a good possibility that you should be offended. What we keep our eyes out for is quirky, complex, and bizarrely enticing. Weird. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but if you have legions of writers penning you into novels, you may want to grab a seat on a psychoanalyst’s couch. I may develop a character around someone that I know, but the fun in being a writer is that I get to then re-form that character as I want or need for my story. I have yet to actually put someone as they are into anything I’ve written, although some characters have hit pretty close to home. No, I’m not telling you which ones.

My son has asked me a million times to put him into one of my books, but I’ve never had a good opportunity to fit him in. But then, after doing a hundred Facebook status updates about funny things that he’s said, I started a blog called “What the Kid Says (And Sometimes What I Say).” I wish that I’d started keeping this record of our conversations earlier, because it’s going to be so fun to look back on this years from now. And use it against him when he has girls over. No, no, I wouldn’t do that. Fine, I probably will, but it’ll be funny and serve as good leverage when he’s in trouble.

Some of our conversations are sweet, some ridiculous, some sad, and others nonsensical. Here is a blip into life with my kid:

Love and Soda Hats
Kid: Mommy, I love you.
Me: I love you, too.
Kid: My heart is open.
Me: What does that mean?
Kid: It means that my heart has been taken.
Me: Where did it go?
Kid: My heart went to yours because I love you.
Me (trying not to sob over this adorably sappy exchange that is about to be unceremoniously cut short): I absolutely love you, kiddo.
Kid: Can we get one of those soda can hats?
Me: Um... what?
Kid: You know, those hats with the tubes so you can drink--
Me: NO!

And this one:

Ex-cuuuuu-se Me!
I walk into my bedroom and find the kid stretched out on my bed, watching his TV show, and using my laptop.

Me: What are you doing? You're supposed to be getting ready for bed.
Kid: Well, ex-cuuuuu-se me!
Me: Ex-cuuuuuse-se you for what?
Kid: Excuse a guy for wanting to hang out with his mother!
Me: Nice try. Go to bed.

And possibly my all-time favorite:

Lake What...?
So I'll confess that we were watching the best of the worst cheesy movies ever. But so what?

Kid: What movie is this?
Dad: “Lake Placid.”
Kid: “Lake Acid”?
Dad: “Lake PLACID.”
Kid: “Lake Flaccid”?
Me: “LAKE PLACID”!!!

What a difference one letter makes...

The kid is pretty thrilled and honored that I have a blog devoted to him, and that I put an expanded collection of these pieces together as an e-book. He has yelled at me on a few occasions for putting up what he considers embarrassing things, but like I said, I now have excellent leverage for those teenage years.

-Jessica

Jessica Park is the author of five Gourmet Girl mysteries (written as Jessica Conant-Park), the YA novel RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and two e-shorts, FACEBOOKING RICK SPRINGFIELD and WHAT THE KID SAYS (AND SOMETIMES WHAT I SAY). She grew up in the Boston area and then went to Macalester College in frigid St. Paul, Minnesota. During her freshman year, there was a blizzard on Halloween, and she decided that she was not cut out for such torture. So after graduation, she moved back to the east coast where, she'd forgotten, it still snows. Oops. She now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, son, bananas dog named Fritzy, and two selfish cats. When not writing, she is probably on Facebook, pining over 80s rock stars or engaging in Gleek activities.

http://yaauthorjessicapark.blogspot.com/
http://whatthekidsays.blogspot.com/
https://sites.google.com/site/conantparkmysteries/
Facebook: jumby24
Twitter: JessicaParkYA
http://www.cafepress.com/RelativelyFamous

Book links:

Facebooking Rick Springfield (and Other Musings of a Scattered Writer)

What the Kid Says (and sometimes what I say)

Relatively Famous

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can Dance if You Want to

Is the rhetoric responsible for what happened in Tucson over the weekend? Probably not; we’ll never know. Should everyone stop flinging blame? Yes; it serves no purpose than diluting the argument. Should we reevaluate what we say and how we say it? Absolutely.

End of subject for me.

This is a tragedy that I cannot even comprehend and my blog sisters, Rhonda and Marilyn, have already done the topic justice with their impassioned posts from Monday and Tuesday. Rather than try to chime in with a plaintive cry for more civility, which I’m not sure we’re going to get despite the loss of six lives, I would rather take a stab at another topic entirely and one that might make us smile: dancing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to dance and will do it anywhere. That means you may find me dancing in the toiletry aisle at the local grocery store, where they play particularly danceable music, or at Target, or even waiting on line at the DMV. I can’t help myself. And believe me, my kids wish I could.

In Sunday’s NY Times Magazine section, Deborah Solomon interviewed the Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin. The questions centered around her role as Surgeon General and today’s focus on solving the problem of our increasingly obese population here in the United States. Surgeon General Benjamin is no skinny minny herself, and readily admits that (after it was pointed out by Ms. Solomon), but says that everyone should find an activity or exercise that makes them happy and gets them moving. For Benjamin, it’s disco dancing. She doesn’t go to the clubs to get her exercise on, so to speak, but finds that after several hours of dancing she feels invigorated and knows that she has gotten some good aerobic exercise. She recommended that if you could do nothing else, you should dance. I couldn’t agree more. My kids are now running and hiding.

While I was reading this article, I was listening to my Ipod, set to “shuffle.” I’ve got a ton of disco music on there, but the song that began playing as I turned the page was “Dance Away” by Roxy Music, which implores the listener to “dance away the heartache…dance away the tears.” That got me thinking: What are the benefits, if any, to dancing?

I did a little research and this is what I found.

1. Dancing increases flexibility. As we get older, we get less flexible; that’s a fact. But by dancing when you can, you increase the flexibility of your joints, the elasticity of your muscles, and your ability to move overall.

2. Dancing increases strength. According to About.com, “Dancing builds strength by forcing the muscles to resist against a dancer's own body weight.” I think this applies to amateur, recreational dancers, like me, or professional dancers.

3. Dancing increases endurance. Because dance is a physical exercise, and exercise increases endurance, dance increase endurance. Any kind of dancing will do, but rest assured that as a result of your busting a move, you will increase your endurance.

4. Dancing gives you a sense of well being. Dancing is a social activity that usually—unless you’re me—takes place in the company of others. You may even dance with somebody, something I haven’t been able to achieve because I like to lead (but that’s a blog for another time). Being in the company of people who are having fun while exercising can help you build self esteem and give you a positive outlook. What can be better than that, really?

As I write this, I am seeing parallels between dancing and writing. Writers need to be flexible, something I’ve learned from years of revision of first drafts. You may be entirely committed to an idea, only to find that it doesn’t work, or so says your editor or writer’s group. The more you write, the stronger you become; just ask Stephen King who talks about developing “writing muscles” by writing every day. Writers need endurance; you’ve all felt this as you’ve approached a particularly tight and perhaps onerous deadline. But ultimately, writing gives you a sense of well being. Why? Because you’re able to express yourself creatively, just like a dancer, or a painter, or a singer.

The world is a scary place sometimes and this past week only serves to highlight that. Dance more; nobody is watching and nobody cares about seeing expressions of pure joy. Write like you’re the only one who’ll read your work. You can only control what you do and how well you do it, so as the old Mark Twain saying goes, “Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tough World

Yesterday's post put the horrific events in Arizona out on the blog. Even mentioning this is so different from the usual atmosphere of this blog, but it's something that really can't be ignored.

We are living in difficult times, and I do think that's one of the reasons people are reading more--to find themselves in another environment where things have a pretty good chance of turning out better.

My big problem with what everyone is saying about what caused this latest horror is that the shooter or shooters if they do find out it was more than one, was mentally unbalanced. Anyone who would shoot into a crowd and not care about who was killed, is not right in the head. That's all there is to it. What do we do about it? I haven't a clue.

Because a person who is crazy doesn't act normal and is usually not a comfortable person to be around, even family members shy away. No doubt there were plenty of signs that trouble was brewing with this man or men--but no one was brave enough to try and do anything about it.

Think back to the Columbine shooting, the parents of those boys professed that they knew nothing. Of course they knew something wasn't right, but they didn't really want to know the truth. Teachers and their fellow students had to know that these kids had problems--but instead they were ignored and probably shunned for being different when they needed serious help.

You can blame it on politics or any number of things, but the real truth is there are people in this world who aren't right. Years ago, they were put into institutions. Now a person who is mentally ill has rights, the option to take or not take his medication, the option to live on the streets if he's too deranged to hold a job. We see someone like that and we walk past with our eyes turned away.

In a perfect world, someone would intervene. Unfortunately this is not a perfect world. I have no answers, but it's too easy to blame what happened on someone else--politics, politicians, talk show hosts, news people--I don't think that's where the blame belongs. It belongs with all of us who do not pay attention to the people around us, who aren't willing to notice when things are going wrong with our friends and relatives.

It is a tough world and it'll probably get tougher.

I know this wasn't helpful, but it's how I feel.

Marilyn

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cost of "Some" Free Speech

We try not to write too much about politics on this blog. One reason is that the members of The Stiletto Gang all have different beliefs. Even a blog post by "Evelyn David," involves the views of two authors from two different parts of the country, from two different religious backgrounds, and from two different life experiences. Then when you factor in our readers' beliefs, talking about politics is tricky. We don't want to offend anyone, but sometimes remaining silent isn't an option either. This post is from the Southern Half of Evelyn David - I will "own" these words.

Words have consequences. Whether we like it or not, we own our words as much as our actions. On Saturday I was trying to come up with a topic for today's blog when the tragedy in Arizona happened. My first thought was that some of the heated rhetoric of the past year had finally exploded into violence. As I'm writing this, details are just being released about the 18 people shot, the six killed, and the gunman who was captured by those on the scene.

The best quote I've heard so far came from the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik. He's of an age and point in his career, that he can say what he really thinks, without worrying about the political consequences. The sheriff criticized the role of talk radio and television pundits in using over the top statements to push mentally unstable individuals to violence.

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," the sheriff said. "And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

I admit it. I don't have a favorable view of Arizona after this last election cycle. Instead of debating facts and ideas, each side tried to vilify the other with increasingly distorted facts and rhetoric. And the news organizations and talk show hosts rebroadcast those messages in sound bites packaged to stir hate. Of course it wasn't just Arizona politics that went off the rails, plenty of other states joined in. I'm from Oklahoma - the literal translation of "Oklahoma" is "land of the red men." That name still fits but now it's more for the state's politics. I live in a very conservative state and I'm not that conservative by Oklahoma standards. More often than not I'm voting for the politician who doesn't win the election. I usually cringe when I hear our U.S. senators speaking on behalf of Oklahoma. I think and say to those around me, "They aren't reflecting my views - they aren't representing me." But even then, it would never cross my mind to buy a handgun and try to change the political landscape with violence.

It doesn't matter what your political beliefs are, violence against those with whom you disagree is not justified or appropriate. Politicians and talk show hosts who inflame others into physical actions which injure or kill people need to be held accountable. Yes, it may be free speech. Yes, it may be the mentally unbalanced who are reacting badly. But real lives are lost. And the worst part of it all is that most of the individuals churning out the hate speech, don't believe it themselves. They are pandering to the uninformed, the undereducated, the unemployed and those terribly frightened of the cultural changes occurring in this country.

Note to politicians and talk show hosts - once your words have been recorded and posted on the internet, even if you hit the delete key and clean up your websites in the aftermath of a shooting, your words are still out there. They will come back to haunt you.

Rhonda
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Friday, January 7, 2011

The First Rule of the Writing Club: There Are No Rules


by Susan McBride

I was going through old files the other day and dug up notes for a month-long online workshop I taught to 65 aspiring authors a few years back when I was writing my Debutante Dropout series. The topic was “Making Mysteries Memorable.” I focused on choosing your protagonist, casting your secondary characters, dialogue, setting, plotting, and pacing. We covered a lot of turf, but most of the questions I got in the end--which I jotted down for posterity--had nothing to do with any of those things, not really. They had to do with the “rules," as in:

“Exactly when should the body be found?”

“How many suspects must I have?”

“Am I allowed to cross genre lines or will that confuse editors?"

“Precisely how many words should my manuscript be?”

“What kind of quirky job must my protagonist have in order to carve a niche in the traditional mystery market?”

To every one of those questions, I replied: THERE ARE NO RULES.

Look, the Big Guy might’ve scribbled His Ten Commandments on stone tablets, and every politician in D.C. has a different slant on what the amendments in the Constitution actually mean (depending on which lobbyists are footing his or her vacations). But there is no single Guru of All Things Written who has laid down unbreakable rules for composing a short story or book (save for format, though I’m not talking about fonts and margins here).

Let me repeat that in case you were distracted by Snooki Snickers hawking her, ahem, debut novel on TV (yeah, seriously! Like she even knows how to spell "Simon & Schuster"):

No one is God or governor of your novel but you.

I know Elmore Leonard has some wonderful rules floating around out there. They come from his experience as a writer and a reader. And good for him. I’ve heard other writers speak about their own rules, which dictate everything from a particular word count to acceptable number of suspects to what kind of first sentence you must have and on which page the body should be found.

My theory is this: if we all followed one set of rules, our books would seem eerily alike. Isn't the point of creative writing to be creative? Telling stories involves using your imagination, going boldly where no writer has gone before. You don’t want to be like everyone else. Think of books that really hit it big in recent years, or at least captured a good deal of attention from readers and critics (and I'm obviously including non-mysteries here):

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
THE DA VINCI CODE
THE HELP
TWILIGHT
All the HARRY POTTER books

What makes them stand out?

They’re unique. They're intriguing. They express a fresh point of view. They don’t limit their audience. Best of all, they don’t follow rules.

Here’s another place where rules don’t count: how long it takes you to get published (or in these days of publishing alternatives, how long it takes you to turn any kind of profit).

I've heard authors who give clear advice on this subject, too, namely that if you can’t cut the mustard within a handful of years you should drop out of the game.

If someone—anyone—feeding you arbitrary guidelines is enough to convince you to quit then, for Pete's sake, quit. Because you've got to be tough in this field. The publishing business will eat you up and spit you out if you let it. It’s competitive, it’s rough, it’s unpredictable. If you can’t hack it—and all you want is to be published as opposed to feeling a compulsion to write—cut yourself some slack and do it as a hobby. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you’re in this to establish a career, you will do it for AS LONG AS IT TAKES. You will keep writing, try your hand at new things, adapt to the ever-changing market, and never give in to discouragement. As my mom likes to say, "Nothing worth doing is ever easy."

A few more pearls of wisdom:

Don't let other people tell you what to do. Write the book you need to write. Use whatever messy, ungrammatical, un-rule-like methods you need to lay down the first draft of your opus. Nobody can do it for you. No one can instruct you on what’s best for your novel. Listen to your heart and your gut. (And then listen closely to the critique of at least one or two disgustingly honest friends who are voracious readers.)

The most important aspect of writing a novel is finishing it. Otherwise, you're just like, well, Snooki. Because, Lord knows, that girl probably can't write anything more complicated than "BUY MORE BRONZER" on her grocery list. Although I wouldn't be surprised if she even has a ghostwriter for that.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Self-Publishing a Book?

by Maryanne Pope

If so, be prepared for the pitfalls, plan accordingly for the strikes against you and then figure out how to optimize on the opportunities.

Let’s start with the bad news:

There is a pre-conceived notion that self-published books are of lesser quality than traditionally published books.
And frankly, for good reason…there are some really lousy self-published books out there! But there are also plenty of excellent self-published books in the marketplace, as well as a great deal of not-so-stellar books published by traditional publishers. Your job, as an author, is to write an outstanding manuscript. Without THAT key ingredient, it doesn’t matter who publishes your book – it likely won’t sell many copies.

Self-published books do have a strike against them from the start – not necessarily with readers, as many people simply don’t care who the publisher is, but definitely with both independent and chain bookstores as well as with the media. And this is not something an aspiring self-published author can take lightly because it will significantly impact how you market and distribute your book.

I self-published my first book in 2008. When we sent out a press release announcing that the book had sold 1500 copies, I followed up with a local independent bookstore down the street to see if they’d like to carry it. The owner advised me that although they very rarely take self-published books, there was something about my marketing materials that caught her eye, so she invited me to drop off a copy to review.

A couple of days later, I received this e-mail from her:

I did pop into the middle of the book and read a couple of pages. WOW. I was amazed actually. You are a very powerful writer. I didn’t expect that.

Hmmm…was she surprised because it was self-published or because of the subject matter (grief)? I e-mailed her back to find out. This was her response:

I just expected because of the loss in your life, and you are writing about a personal, painful subject, I went into it thinking it would be soft and heartfelt, which it is…but…you are also a writer who can put across those thoughts in such a powerful way. It took me by surprise.

Trust me, my manuscript was a soft and syrupy sentimental mess in the early stages and, if released into the world, would have been aptly placed into the category of ‘really lousy’ self-published books. Instead, I worked with three professional editors over a period of eight years to get the manuscript – and me – where it needed to be before self-publishing.

Here are a few realities to be aware of when considering self-publishing:

1. Self published books are rarely considered for literary prizes.

2. Self published books are rarely reviewed by mainstream media.

3. Many independent bookstores will not carry self-published books.

4. If a larger bookstore chain does carry a self-published book, it’s usually on consignment – which will likely mean it is not in the computer system.

Items one and two relate to marketing and public relations…think of these as the drivers of traffic to your book. Without them, it’s awfully hard to let a significant number of people know that your book exists. Granted, very few writers win literary awards – but a review in the newspaper is fairly standard operating procedure to reach potential readers.

Items three and four are about distribution. It’s all fine and dandy to raise awareness about your book – but if there’s nowhere for people to actually buy it, that makes sales somewhat difficult.

Thankfully, however, there are ways to navigate around these obstacles – especially with the internet and social media – but it still takes time, money and energy to determine which marketing methods actually work for your book.

And now for the good news about self-publishing…

The number one benefit, for me at least, is that I retain creative control over every aspect of the book – from the story itself to the book cover to the marketing strategy to where it’s sold and for how much. Not convinced this is a big deal?

An entrepreneurial friend of mine was commissioned by a publisher to write a book about her experience…a dream come true for an aspiring author. So she did.

And yes, she got her book professionally published. But she had no say about the book title (which she hates), the book cover (which she also hates), and where it will be sold (on a display rack at motor vehicle branches). She’s also footing the bill for the production of the book’s website, the launch party and all travel expenses related to marketing and promotion. I think she’s even doing her own PR.

Welcome to the new reality of working with some conventional publishers…you get their stamp of approval and a foot in the door of their distribution network but not a heck of a lot else. Having trod the path of flogging my self-published book for more than two years now, I totally understand why more and more traditional publishers are going this route. It is extremely difficult to sell a significant number of copies of a book!

If you do decide to self-publish your book, here are few tips to help increase the chances that you sell more than fifty copies:

1. Professional editing is absolutely essential.

2. Take a course or read a book on the ins and outs of self-publishing.

3. Find your niche markets and focus on reaching them.

4. Utilize local media to drive readers to your book.

5. Choose to tackle a few marketing strategies and do them well versus going off in a whole bunch of unrelated directions.

6. Consider giving presentations about subject matters linked to your book.
  • This is a good way to sell copies of your book after your presentation.
  • Be aware that public speaking can be very time and energy consuming, never mind nerve-wracking if that’s not your cup of tea.
If you decide to self-publish, be prepared to put in just as much time – or more – on promoting, marketing, distribution and sales as it took to research, write and publish the book in the first place. I have found self-publishing to be an excellent learning experience but the time, money and energy it has taken me to sell 1500 copies of my book could also have been spent writing. But that’s where the conundrum comes in: do I want to write books that aren’t read? Nope.

Then I shall continue to learn what does and doesn’t work in the big bad world of marketing self-published books. As such, I would like to end this blog on a positive note and share with you a mini-success story.

The owner of the bookstore down the street agreed to take two copies of my book on consignment for the Christmas season. So my marketing team sent the local newspaper a press release about tips for readers who may be experiencing their first Christmas after the death of a loved one. The paper interviewed me further, ran the story three days before Christmas and at the end of the article, directed readers to the bookstore.

Within a day, the owner had sold the two copies she had on hand. So I dropped off another three…then another six. She left a message on my voicemail:

“The article worked! And just to give you an idea of how good this is, we’re ordering the same number of your books that we do of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.”

I smiled. Tolle’s book has sold millions of copies. And it made me realize that perhaps I am on the right path – albeit a long, slow one – with mini-successes…for they do add up.

________________

Maryanne Pope is the author of the creative non-fiction book, A Widow’s Awakening. Maryanne’s second book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to How, Why and When to Pursue Your Dreams will be released in spring 2011. She is currently working on several other writing projects, including the book, Telling the Tale; the Art of Writing and Self-Publishing Creative Non-Fiction. Please visit http://www.pinkgazelle.com/ to sign up for her complimentary e-zine.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Book Is Done!

This is going to be a very short post today because at 3:43 pm yesterday, after working day and night for weeks, I finally finished Physical Education, the sixth installment in the Murder 101/Alison Bergeron series.

I think my fingers are bleeding.

Yes, I have a year to write each book.

And yes, I have a full-time job.

So, that makes for some very long nights at the end of the year, when most people just want to take some time to smell the flowers, or the needles from their Christmas tree. I was only five days late turning it in, but Kelley, my most wonderful editor, assured me that she wouldn't be staying up on New Year's Eve to read this latest--and presumably brilliant!--tome. (I jest, of course.)

Today, I will resume aforementioned full-time job and think about book 7.

Until next week, let me now wish all of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011, a year in which all of your wishes do come true.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Greetings, 2011!



Here's hoping for a great year for the Stiletto Gang and their families.

I'm not one to make resolutions, but I do have some hopes and desires for the coming year.

My granddaughter is getting married on the 15th. This is not my first grandchild to get married, but a very special one. Jessica lived with us at various times during her growing up years--first with her mom when she was a baby. She went to grammar school at the little school in town, staying with us during the school week. She was here when it snowed for three days (something that hasn't happened since). She invited me every year to speak to her class as an author. I had to come up with new topics as the kids were always the same. One birthday she had a slumber party at our house because it was bigger than her folks and she wanted to invite lots of kids. (That's when I knew I was getting old because I had to go downstairs and quiet them down.)

My hope for her and Jerry is that this will be the start of a wonderful life for the two of them. (That's Jessica and Jerry in the photograph.)

I have an Auntie who is turning 100 this fall--I'm hoping that she'll make it as long as she stays healthy.

I'm hoping for the rest of my big family to stay healthy and to be able to achieve their dreams for this year.

I'll change my hopes to prayers for our little church that we can continue to help out the less fortunate in our foothill community.

For myself and hubby, that we can remain healthy and able to do all the things I've already got inked into the 2011 calendar including another try at the ill-fated mystery cruise that we didn't get to go on last year. This time we hope to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary while on the cruise since it happens at the right time of year.

And that's just a few of my hope for the coming year.

What are some of yours?

Marilyn

Monday, January 3, 2011

Movies that Delight and Inspire

My criteria for a good movie has certainly changed from my angst-y teen years when there was nothing like a good Ingmar Bergman, "let's examine death twelve different ways" flick, to entertain me and my friends. We were interested in "meaningful" films, although I tended to keep quiet about my secret love for Pollyanna. I would have lost all street cred in the "I'm a deep person, you can tell from the black clothes I wear and the significant movies I see" crowd.

As I got older, however, I more and more wanted escapist movies. I no longer wanted to walk out of a film more depressed than when I walked in. I didn't want to be haunted by images of sad children or abused adults. One of the best things about having kids is that I no longer needed an excuse to see Disney movies. Even though I'm a card-carrying feminist, I have no problem with watching all those Disney princesses and the heroes who saved them. Bottom Line: I don't need to spend mega-dollars on a ticket and a bucket of popcorn to be depressed. I can do that for free on my own time.

I am, therefore, delighted to recommend two movies I saw over the holidays. They were well worth the ticket price (which as an aside is now getting ridiculous), and the popcorn calories.

Top on my list is The King's Speech. Wow, just wow. Colin Firth plays Bertie, second-in-line for the throne, who unexpectedly becomes King when his dissolute older brother, Edward VII, abdicates. Bertie, who takes the royal name of King George VI, is a stalwart, devoted husband and father, with a painful stutter (the result of child abuse by his nanny). England is on the cusp of World War II and desperately needs a leader who can guide it through the difficult years ahead. But Bertie can barely complete a sentence without a tortuous stutter. The story is about his transformation into an inspiring speaker, a result of the treatment he undergoes by the unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush.

This is a movie about the triumph of the human spirit, the friendship between two men from different walks of life, and the selfless dedication of men and women to a nobler cause. I walked out of the movie optimistic and energized. Bravo to Colin Firth (who, for me, is still the quintessential Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice), Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter whose portrayal of Bertie's wife, Elizabeth, is in stark contrast to the role of Bellatrix LeStrange which she plays in the Harry Potter films. Her range as an actress is remarkable. Oscar nods are expected all around.

At the other end of the spectrum, and I'm sure it had a good moral to the story, but I was just too enchanted to focus on it, is Tangled, the latest animated film from Disney. The songs aren't particularly memorable, and yet, on a cold winter's day, the tale of an independent Rapunzel who joins forces with a bad guy with a heart of gold to find her true family, is just delightful. It's not a movie I'd see a dozen times (like Aladdin or The Lion King), but like a good Hershey bar, it was sweet, without being saccharine.

I wasn't particularly impressed by the host of previews I saw, but I no longer expect to have a long list of films I've got to see. I'm just pleased that these two were such unexpected pleasures.

Any other recommendations from movie-goers?

Evelyn David

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Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake - Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books - Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords