Monday, December 20, 2010

On Vacation

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

I'll be back with the blog after the holidays. Have safe travels.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Characters

Had a local book signing yesterday and in the vast stretches between selling three books over a two hour period, I took advantage of the time to people watch. This is undoubtedly a writer's favorite occupation when out in public. So, here are the details.

Dazed and Confused

1. Two young women brought their dogs into the drugstore. Now, there's no sign against it, but common sense - what am I thinking here. Common sense isn't all that common. Anyhow, puppy shihtzu (I may not be spelling that correctly) got nervous when Gerard, the poodle, started snarling and growling at him. A puddle ensued. Much chatter from the witless wonders about how this was just what "little what's his name" needed - meeting all kinds of interesting friends. I think the FRIEND would have cheerfully eaten "little what's his name" for appetizers, if he'd been permitted. Meanwhile "little what's his name" is racing all about the drugstore, leaving little shihtzu puddles everywhere. His owner ran for paper towels and dabbed here and there, chattering loudly all the time about the great socialization aspects.


Finally they left, without having made a purchase. I bet the proprietor was furiously creating a NO PETS except for Guide Dogs sign in the back room. I would have offered to tack it to the witless wonders' backs for free.

Out of the West

2. A cowboy. A real cowboy. This dude was straight out of Lonesome Dove. Ma'am, Honey, and Good Lord Almighty. He bought a book. He was a talker and asked about my politics. I responded "God Bless John Wayne" which went over splendidly. I might add that it wasn't a stretch on my part. Lord I miss The Duke.

Hiccupping through Lit

3. The Serious Non Fiction Browser

This woman took every volume from the Current Best Sellers in Non Fiction shelves and read the covers, the back covers, the first pages, and then leafed through to the last page, which she read before replacing the book. Spent about an hour completing this task before leaving without making a purchase.

What I Learned

To be an Indie Book Store Owner you must have:

1. The patience of Job's wife
2. Excedrin Super Strength
3. Much stock in Pet Deodorizer companies
4. A really, really, really long fuse
5. A relative who has connections with organized crime that will allow you to create a hit list anonymously and give you an alibi when revenge for all you have endured finally comes to pass.

My hat is off - literally, actually, since I wore the 1940s black cloche I got in a heckofa deal on eBay - to these guardians of literature.

Blessings on them all.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Photo Credit:US Fish and Wildlife Service

This is probably one of Gladys’s relatives, although she’s estranged from her flock. Couple of weeks ago, I noticed a hen turkey pecking around the foundation of first the house and then the garage. Peck. Peck. Peck. Head down and fully engaged in her pursuit of food, Gladys had decided to venture into civilization. It appeared she had made this a permanent move, as day after day, she continued settling in. The reason for her decision was most likely a game leg. She was limping badly, and I suspected she hadn’t been able to keep up with the rest of the flock, when they moved on.

It’s December, and it’s been snowing hard off and on these past two weeks. Before that there was a spate of bitter cold temps, and that’s when Gladys, as we’ve come to call her, discovered that the foundation of the garage gave off enough heat for survival. The garage has radiant heat in the floor, and this makes the temperature of the foundation just warm enough to serve as a concrete turkey lure.

After a couple of days of serious pecking, it became obvious that the frozen ground wasn’t going to do it. So, up to the barn with a pan to fetch some of the goat feed for the newest stray that decided to call Breeswood Meadows Valley Ranch, home. Now John does an excellent turkey call, and his gobble gobble is famous. He can communicate whatever turkeys need to know, and I’ve taken notes, over the years, trying to develop some modest measure of prowess for myself.

Pan of feed in hand, I decided on the proper spot to establish the turkey feeding station. Morning seemed best, so at 7:30, I opened the door and began the first turkey training lesson. Since Gladys seemed partial to the front porch area and my flower beds by the house, I tossed out a handful of grain, and warbled my best gobble, adding “Gladys” to the mix, hoping to create a Pavlov-like association in her turkey brain.

First couple of days she waited to make an appearance until after I’d gone back inside, but two days ago, there she was, waiting on the snow by the fence, staring at the house. When she heard the grain rattle in the pan, accompanied by my soulful gobble call and the sound of her name, she came limping to breakfast – wings flapping. I’m making good progress. She flies in on time, keeping to a better schedule than most airlines, and I think she’s getting used to me. I opened the door and she didn’t panic. So we shall see.

Maybe an Easter turkey dinner, slow cooked with chestnut stuffing. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Exploding Turkey

A fairly new bride, I was planning my first Thanksgiving Dinner. The in-laws would be there, and so would our close friends. I was looking forward to the gathering with a mixture of anticipation and deep anxiety. Everything needed to be perfect. But as with most aspects of life, perfection is a goal, not a reality.

A good rule to follow is not to try anything new when you’re having company. I knew this, but turkey certainly wasn’t new, nor were the potatoes, corn, cranberries, and stuffing. What was new, however, was the method of preparation.

Space-age technology had found its way into the kitchen labs and the result was a marvelous cooking bag. You placed the stuffed turkey into the bag, placed the bag into the roasting pan, and then popped the whole affair into the oven. What could be simpler? No mess! No clean-up!

“When all else fails, read the directions.” Heard that piece of advice before? It’s easy enough to ignore when you don’t think it applies to you. This kind of arrogance can get you into quite a pickle, to use a food metaphor. I was no exception.

The procedure seemed so simple I didn’t think that reading the directions could possibly enlighten me any further. And so I didn’t. “Pride goeth before a fall.” Or in this case, an explosion.

Somewhere between the appetizer course and the ritual of setting the table, a sonic boom roared through the tiny apartment. This was accompanied by smoke. Everyone ran to the kitchen (not a long run) and watched with anxious faces as I nailed the source of the explosion. The turkey was plastered to the oven door, roof, and sides. Pieces hung from the broiling element like Cajun Christmas ornaments.

I had neglected to punch the appropriate holes in the bag. We silently turned back to the table, took up our plates, scraped the main course onto them and proceeded with dinner. Needless to say it became cemented into family lore and I still hear about it, every Thanksgiving. “Remember when Karen blew up her first turkey?” It’s been the stuff of legend for the past 40 years.

I had nowhere to go but up. And from then on, I read the directions, whether I thought I needed to or not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mary Montague Sikes - Monti!

Introducing Mary Montague Sikes - Monti

Monti is well along in her virtual blog tour and today she stops here to share some views on book trailers and news on her releases.

Book Trailers – Do They Help You Select a Book?

Book trailers have become pretty popular among writers. My two latest books, Night Watch and Dangerous Hearts, have book trailers. I just checked and Night Watch has been viewed 161 times and Dangerous Hearts has been played 185. Of course, some of the views counted are my visits checking to see how many other folks have come by to see it. I don’t know how many views an author can expect from trailers of his/her books, but I think that would be an interesting statistic to have.

As I thought about Night Watch and the connection of my book to the sea, I was pleased my trailer illustrates that dramatic link for readers who love the water and visiting places surrounded by it. Although I know that everyone who views a book trailer doesn’t buy the book, I wonder if some people do.

(Karen stepping in here to say she's intrigued by this, since she has a boat of her own)

Monti and The Question du Jour

If you are purchasing a book, will looking at a trailer influence you strongly for or against a purchase?

Will you even bother to take a look? Here are the links to my trailers: (Karen here again- Blogger is having a link attachment glitch this morning. Please copy and paste the urls to see Monti's trailers. I'm still working on getting them active)

More and more often now in order to be successful, published authors must become marketers. I wonder what promotional ideas work best for them. Please share your thoughts on book trailers as a useful marketing tool.

My virtual blog book tour for Night Watch is nearing an end. This is my last stop on the tour which seems a little sad. I’ve loved meeting lots of new people along the way. I hope I’ve picked up some new readers and blog followers as well.

Thank you, KK for having me as your guest. It’s fun to be a part of a different blog each day and discover different styles of blog interaction.

Please don't forget I have a contest going. The winner will receive an autographed copy of my new novel, Night Watch. Just leave a comment at each site where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Mary Montague Sikes The Official Bio!

Monti is an award-winning author, freelance writer, photographer, artist, and teacher who loves to travel, especially to exotic tropical locations. The settings for her books and articles include Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, and St. Martin. Her most recent research trips carried her to Los Cabos on the western coast of Mexico, to Yellowstone National Park where she took over 500 photographs, and to Carmel-by-the-Sea where she marveled at photo opportunities wherever she turned.

The Fredericksburg, VA native is author of seven award-winning books. She presents workshops on promotion and marketing to state and national conventions as well as to many local writers groups. Hotels to Remember, a coffee table book that includes the Jefferson Hotel, the Homestead, and the Hotel Del Coronado is illustrated with her artwork and photographs.

A founder of Virginia Romance Writers, she has served on the Board of Governors of the Virginia Writers Club and is a member and past president of the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Her poem and paintings are featured in Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln, an anthology of work by members of the National League of American Pen Women. She is included in Who’s Who in American Women.

Her paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Night Watch, her latest novel, was released earlier this year. Dangerous Hearts, a novella set in Virginia, was released by Red Rose Publishing in June.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dan Brown's Favorite Word

Not a Spoiler

I've just finished Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. It was a hefty paperback, somewhere over 500 pages, and I suspect the editor got tired of editing after the first couple of hundred, went out for coffee, and didn't return. This isn't going to be a book review - I don't do those but do admire those who can write good ones. I don't even read all that many reviews. Mostly I make up my mind by browsing, checking out the front and back covers and reading the first few lines.

I enjoyed The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons not so much. Didn't care for the blood and gore but decided to give this latest in the series a try. It was a good read but nothing spectacular.

It was a thriller with an interesting shortened time frame - everything taking place within 24 hours and mostly over the course of one night. What took away from the read was a word that first insinuated itself in describing one of the characters.


"The elegant African-American..." Odd choice for a descriptor, I noted, but read on. Then this was elegant and that was elegant. Everything was elegant. Elegant. Elegant. Elegant. After a bit, I wondered if Brown wasn't playing a game with the editors to see if they'd catch it. They didn't. It became irritating and a detractor and a distraction. Elegant. Ick.

I wish the editor had reported back to work after the coffee break. Just goes to prove we all need editors. You can't edit your own work.

Monti Visits This Week

I'll be posting, or rather Monti will, later on this week. Please stop back on the 19th to share in her virtual book tour.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Other News

Happy Monday to All!

I love NaNoWriMo - my house is never this clean otherwise. I am the Queen of Procrastination. I've been mulling over some plot problems but in the meanwhile, absent from the computer seat, I have:

1. Begun Fall Housecleaning. Some people clean thoroughly in the spring. Not me. Fall is the time to get this done. One room a day from top to bottom. That includes washing glass fixtures, cleaning out drawers and closets and making everything sparkle. Not windows, outside though. Do the outside in the summer.

2. Washing my insulators. Yep. I collect telephone insulators and while my collection is small, they can get dusty. Now they sparkle and shine. An inspiration to my writing muse. Maybe.

3. Washing my collection of antique milk bottles. Same thing here as above. Since all these collections are in my office, I expect they will now have increased ability to inspire my writing.

4. Canned the rest of the apples. Got 14 pint jars of smooth and 14 jars of chunky applesauce, along with 18 quarts of apple pie filling. Stored them in the cupboards for the year.

5. Cleaned the office. Actually found some stuff I was looking for, except still can't find my local grocery store discount shopping card.

6. Made a hundred flash cards for German words.

And now, with no further excuses, I'm off to check on my favorite blogs and actually rack up some words on the wip.

Happy writing everyone and see you next Monday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Apples and Autumn

Autumn, as I've probably mentioned before, is my favorite season. Perhaps it's because nights and early mornings are crisp and cold, so it's time for fires in the fireplace and wood stove. It's more than that, however. There's a sense of the need to finish outdoor projects before snow falls. We've already had the first dusting on the mountains around the valley and soon the snowline will reach the valley floor.

Days grow shorter and nights longer, and the season is a reminder of the fleeting, precious nature of life itself. The spectacle of red and yellow colors on the trees and the musty scent of leaves underfoot, crisp or sodden, mark this time as one of nature's most glorious.

This weekend we drove to our apple tree to gather a heaping boxful. The tree grows outside the fence of a farmhouse, abandoned long ago. The tree, planted many years ago, still bears a heavy load of fruit each fall. I can picture a family living here, children sent to pick the windfalls and the mother on a ladder reaching for the higher branches. The tree was smaller then. Now the highest branches are far above our heads. Armed with a cultivator to pull down a few of these branches, we fill the big box. Some apples have wormholes, some don't. It's not hard to cut out the damaged parts.

So far I've canned a load of chunky applesauce and a load of smooth. Today I'll do a load of apple pie filling. Should take the better part of the week to work through the box. The ruby red peels make jelly. The cut out parts and the cores go into the compost pile. Nothing gets wasted. The kitchen is full of the aroma of cooking apples, and I think that says autumn to me most of all.

And now, NaNoWriMo calls. Next post here will be Monday next. Happy week and happy writing to all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Odds and Ends and Why are Ends Odd?

I love words. I love the sound, the imagery, and the complexity of them. I love language. Not always the diva of communication, however, but I try. I've been known, in the midst of a conversational exchange to ask, "Where do you suppose that word came from?" This tends to make all but my close friends shy away as if I'm harboring some sort of communicable disease.

However, words are fun. I've just bought the entire Rosetta Stone program for German and am valiantly slogging through it. I've lost a great deal of my vocabulary over the years (one of the major problems of living in a country that parades English as the ONLY LANGUAGE WORTH KNOWING OR SPEAKING. Ahem...

When I was a child, Danish and German were spoken by the adults around me. I listened and learned the speech patterns, but children were spoken to in English. So now I am determined to reclaim the language I heard but couldn't use as I was growing up. It's tougher now but I've got a goal. Next year we're going to Europe (my first time) and I'm determined to have my German (Deutsch) up and running at top speed. Working on it every day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Toilet Seat

No, this isn't about the eternal male/female war over leaving the seat up or putting it down. This is about my major mechanical victory. This morning I uninstalled the old toilet seat in my bathroom and installed a brand new one. The entire job only took me half an hour and I am basking in the glow of my mechanical achievement.

If you are saying, "So what?" and "Half an hour? That's a five minute job." - you don't understand. I am not mechanically inclined. At all. My husband tells me I am mechanically absent. I don't understand how things work. He's right in some regards. I can do many things. Some things I do very well:

1. I am an excellent food preserver.
2. I sew very well.
3. I quilt like a pro.
4. I am one of the best gardeners of vegetables you will ever find.
5. I speak a bunch of languages.
6. I earned a Ph.D. at the age of 55 just because I wanted to.
7. I ....

Okay, running out of Major Accomplishments here. The point is, we're all good at some things, average at many others, and totally inept at a whole lot of the rest of the stuff there is to know and do in the world.

What's the lesson here? Humility for one. Admiration for people who have a skill and use it for the good of others.

Question du Jour: What's your greatest skill? What's the area of your life where you're not just challenged, but buffaloed?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Honest Scrap Award

I love the name of this award: Honest Scrap. It brings to mind all sorts of questions - Are there dishonest scraps? What is an honest scrap? Is there an organization of honest (or dishonest) scrappers? Regardless, it sounds feisty and that works for me. Thanks to my good blogging friend Nancy R. Williams who blogs honestly scrappy enough at: for bestowing the honors upon me.

I'm going to do this in stages. Today, as per the requirements, here are 10 things about me you may not know.

1. My illustrious ancestor, John Boyle O'Reilly, (the Irish poet, patriot, and orator) was on the last convict ship to Australia. He chose transport over hanging. Smart lad.
2. I love strawberry ice cream sodas.
3. I attended more grammar schools than there are grades in those things.
4. I hate my hair.
5. I still have my best friend from the 4th grade.
6. Been married to the same guy for over 40 years. He's a keeper.
7. I respect my adult children. They've turned out well and do me proud.
8. I cannot add a simple sum of numbers without making stupid mistakes. Math and I are sworn, eternal enemies.
9. I can get by in 4 languages. Especially if I use gestures and intense facial expressions.
10. I believe that faith is the strongest ally we have in this world.

For the next part of this award, I must inflict this duty on 7 other fellow and fellowette bloggers. That will happen Thursday. Beware, friends.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dated Books and Film

Yesterday's post took one of those bends in the road and got me to thinking about what dates books and movies. It's a problem I'm having right now with my work in progress. My characters have cell phones. They don't play a huge role, but difficulty in communicating does.

I don't have an iPhone, Blackberry, or anything of that nature myself, and I'm not sure exactly what these devices are capable of - except they seem to be capable of everything except molecular transport. I thought my wip was set in modern times, as in right now, but now I'm wondering. Do I need to begin with stating the date: 1990 or something of that sort? Seems like a cop out.

With technology moving so quickly now, things seem to be outdated the minute they're on the market. You can't wait for the technology to slow down so we mere mortals can catch up. So you write. When the book is finished and published, it's going to be dated.

Questions du Jour: Is that a bad thing? To have your work dated? If so, what's the solution?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Baby and the Bathwater

Traditionally published magazines and newspapers struggle to remain solvent in this new digital age. You'd have to be oblivious not to notice their dwindling numbers, when you're browsing the newstands in Barnes and Noble or Borders. Many of them are going online and that's convenient and inexpensive, but it's a loss for those of us who love the printed page.

Last week I read an interview, online of course, where the interviewee whose name escapes me, cheerfully predicted that traditionally published books will disappear within five years. It seems that there's a stampede on to embrace the new and erase the old.

Many years ago on an old Star Trek episode, Captain James T. Kirk was guiding the Enterprise through its weekly encounter with mayhem and evil. Bones was beside himself, as usual, trying to find the elusive cure for the deadly outbreak that was consuming the crew and several small planetoids. Nowhere in the vast stores of the ships computer systems that held the intelligence of the universe, was the answer to be found. So McCoy traveled to a musty library to search the tomes of the past. And indeed it was in a book that he found the answer.

Science fiction may become science fact. In this case, as with many instruments and technologies on the old Star Trek series, we're seeing life imitate art. Well, it may not have been art, but it sure was a fun series. There are lessons here, I believe. We'll need to read them. Perhaps in a book in a musty library somewhere on a distant planet.

And now, judging by my Dick Tracy wrist radio/television, I must be off to see what others are blogging about today.

Question du Jour: What marvels of the present can you trace to a past tv series?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Quickie

Just a short note today, on a rainy, dark, gloomy, morning. Lots of adjectives to describe these late fall days bereft of sunshine. Many of the folks I follow have those spam-foiler letter combinations in script and curves and other ingenious ways to keep the robots from crashing the party.

When I took the Blog Book Tours class last year with Dani, these final letters to be typed into your post were considered bad form. Guess with the increase in spam, folks have decided it's a necessary evil.

So...I still haven't added them to my blog, but I'm curious to find out what everyone's take is on this.

Question du jour:Do you mind typing in "nadtuern" or "gliblinks" before your comment is published on someone's blog? Do you have these critters on your own blogs?

Inquiring minds are inquiring.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Writer's Journey

Nancy R. Williams's blog is hosting a Halloween party. My costume is 1940s chic. Green shantung with a black cloche hat, ruby red lipstick, and nylons with a carefully drawn pencil line up the calf.

My treat is good wishes and good health for everyone. Tricks? I've got a bagful and they come from a book. I've just reread The Writer's Journey - Mythic Structure For Writers (Vogler) for the umpteenth time. Each time I do, I learn more about the craft of writing. It's a book that belongs in every writer's reference collection. It parallels Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey and explains in plain language the role of storytelling and myth in the human experience.

If you're stuck with an aspect of plot, this book will help you get unstuck. If you're looking for minor characters, you'll find them here as well. From the initial Refusal of the Call to the Return with Elixir, Vogler provides a template every writer can use to create a story worth reading.

Once again, Blogger is having trouble uploading links. The book cover should be right here: However, the empty space was my first clue something went awry. Hope they fix the problem soon. They were shut down for work on image stuff for two hours yesterday. Doesn't appear they've fixed the problem yet.

Question du Jour: What book is at the top of your list for writing help?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comfort Food - The List

Lists are Fun.

When I get stuck in my writing, when I'm feeling lonely, when I'm restless, when the Saints lose a game, I need comfort food. What I eat depends on the time of day. I've never been big on chocolate or sweets. You can put out an entire bowl of either and I'll ignore it. Here is a list of my favorite comfort foods - in no particular order.

1. Nachos
2. Meatloaf
3. Boston Cream Pie
4. Egg Nog Latte
5. Pumpkin Spice Latte (Yes, I love Starbucks)
6. Loaded baked potatoes
7. Blueberry pie
8. Custard filled donuts
9. Sweet yellow grapes
10. Burrito supreme (from Taco Bell)

It's an eclectic list, but it's mine. What's your favorite comfort food?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Patchworked Pieces of Life

She Quilts

Something a bit different today. One of my hobbies is quilting and I wrote this poem about two people and their life journey together. Each line is the name of a different quilt block.

Bachelor’s Puzzle
Farmer’s Daughter
Hearts in Motion
Love in a Mist

Hopes and Wishes
Lover’s Knot
Center Diamond
Wedding Ring

Broken Sawblades
Broken Dishes
Lover’s Quarrel
Contrary Wife

Rocky Road to Kansas
Road to Tennessee
Road to California
Wild Goose Chase

Prairie Sunrise
Bright Hopes
Baby Bunting
Homeward Bound

Hole in the Barn Door
Jacob’s Ladder
Log Cabin
House on the Hill

Goose in the Pond
Hovering Hawks
Corn and Beans
Melon Patch

Autumn Splendor
Northern Lights
Country Hearts
Sands of Time

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Noises and Things That Go Bump Anytime

I'm on an anti-noise campaign. I'm generally easy going, but I've been pushed to the limit. Enough is enough. Noise is the constant companion of everything we do and everywhere we go these days. Apparently, the Powers that Be have decided that Silence is the Enemy!

The Rant Begins

It's not just noise, but the level of the noise that's becoming intolerable. On the level of intolerable, the Loo gets the first prize. Here's the scene: You're shopping and Nature Calls. You locate the restroom and find the stall. After attending to business, the toilet (one of those water-saving monsters) decides you're finished and flushes at a decibel count greater than a rock concert.

You wash your hands and the dryer buzzes on, sounding like an enraged lion at the circus. Unlike said lion who limits the roar to a show of bravado, the stupid blow dryer keeps roaring and roaring and roaring until you've exited the store, gotten into your car, and driven out of the parking lot.

What about Stores Themselves!

Canned, blasting ersatz music blares from speakers above your head, guaranteeing you won't have to endure a moment of silence whether you're contemplating new underwear, a can of peas, or an oil filter. You can't escape it.

Once, while shopping for a gift for my daughter, I entered a store and the noise was so intense inside that I asked the clerk if she could please turn it down so I could think. (I was the only customer at the time). The clerk gave me a blank stare and informed me it was company policy to enhance the buying experience. I stared back, told her it had enhanced me out the door without making a purchase, and left.

Want to have some lunch? Be prepared for more of the same. Try to have a conversation while some woman screams or whines at you from speakers placed strategically to ruin your dining pleasure.

At Home

The clothes dryer is the worst offender here. I've considered taking a .22 to the blasted thing when it alerts me to the end of the drying cycle by bleating like a constipated bulldozer. I've timed the caterwauling at 11 seconds. It didn't take me that long to give birth. I'm getting one of the new models that I've heard has an Off option.

There's more, but I'm willing to let you have your say here. What noises drive you nuts?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dee's Blurb Party and The Chocolate Challenge

Around and About the Web This Week

Dee Julian's Blurb Party

This week I'm one of Dee Julian's Blurb Party authors. Please stop by, sample the blurbs offered, and leave your comments. You can find the Party at Sorry about that not being a live link but Blogger isn't cooperating today. Please copy and paste and I'll have a serious talk with the link function.

The Chocolate Challenge

Also beginning this week is The Chocolate Challenge. Sponsored by the Guppies (the great unpublished writers who belong to Sisters in Crime), the goal is to write as much as you can during a 30 day period or if you're editing projects or doing hour of editing equals 300 words! Peg is the moderator who provides motivation and encouragement. Once a week we'll post our word totals and cheer each other on.

The winner, the one who writes the most words (whether we end up keeping them or not!), receives chocolate from any of the participants who care to send some. No one really loses though because we all get a lot of work done!

Once a Guppy, always a Guppy. Many writers stay on with this group after they've published, to give moral support and mentoring. Just one more reason why Sisters in Crime is a class act.

And now, on to the writing challenge! Fingers to the keyboard, as I plow ahead with The Esposito Caper!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tit for Tat

Spent some time yesterday, after the walk in the forest, making sure I was following my followers. Reminded me of that old line "There they go! I must be after them, for I am their leader!" Ahem. Anyway, most of the time it was an easy process. I clicked on the photo and found the appropriate blog under links. Then I added the url to my master list for ease of clicking and commenting. I'm thinking that reading 10 blogs a day on a rotating basis and leaving a comment is manageable.


When a writer has more than one blog, time constraints force me to choose one. Decisions. Decisions. Have I selected the right one? Time, I guess, will tell.

Author Central at Amazon

While I was off meandering through the woods, the gurus at Author Central worked their magic. Book trailer, cover photo, my photo, and the blog are happily ensconced in their new home over there. Feels good to have one more item checked off on the To Do List for Headwind.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time Out

Stepping back from the trials and tribulations of doing all the stuff a writer has to do to get the world to notice she's written a book and going to inhale the fresh autumn air and take a walk in the woods today.

That may not be the longest run-on I've ever written but it comes close and it has the added advantage of being immensely therapeutic. Amazon? Go away today. I'll tackle you tomorrow.

I love late autumn in the Rocky Mountains. Nights are cold enough that a warm comforter pulled up to my chin and snuggling down into the covers feels wonderful. It's frosting every night now and by the time the sun peeks over Granite Mountain, the temperature is hanging tight in the low 20s.

Feeding the goats means breaking ice in the water buckets each morning. It's not time yet to put in the electric water heating ring but it's getting closer. My feet make crackling, crinkling noises in the grass as I carry the hay and grain to the goat pens. In my wake I see footprints. In a few weeks, those footprints will be in snow. For now, they're just in frost.

By afternoon, temperatures are in the 60s, but in the shade, ice crystals linger in water puddles and if I forget to stretch out the hose, I hear crackling noises when I turn on the water spigot. The force of the water sends a cascade of ice tubes out onto the grass.

There are some dragonflies along the river and in the marshy spots in the field. Red ones and blue ones. I haven't seen the smaller green ones for a couple of months now. Mostly the red ones are left. They hover and light on leaves and skim across the surface of the river, chasing smaller bugs.

Two Mallards are still cruising the river. Maybe this year's ducklings. They're two females and don't seem in a hurry to head for warmer climates.

Spider lines are a sure sign of autumn. Released by the females of some species,they float on the air, filling the sky with silken tendrils until they come to rest on some surface where they attach. I've never seen the eggs they must transport. The railing on the footbridge over the river is host to many of these strands and I fan them away from me as I cross over.

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, and since I hail from New England, he's an appropriate choice. "Whose woods are these, I think I know." One of my favorite lines. My woods are not in the village, though. They're rugged, lonely, grand, and deep. Young trees grow among the fallen giants. Ferns and wildflowers fill the meadows. All the reasons I left the city behind so many years ago. Perfect for a writer. Perfect for anyone who loves nature and what she can offer in a world that's become so complex, so busy, and so impersonal.

Still rejoicing in the miracle of Chile. Still grateful for nature in all her glory.
Still hoping the world learns to care for her resources - the water, the air, the earth.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amazon and Author Central and First Novel That Moved Me

How's that for combining topics?

In reverse order, Brad Jaeger's fun blog hop got me thinking about the First Novel That Moved Me. "" For me, it was a children's book, The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. This was part of a series that included The Saturdays, Gone Away Lake, and And Then There Were Five.

Enright wrote back in the 1940s and the books were set during the war. I loved those stories and can even today visualize the characters and remember the plots with fond affection.

Next Topic

Yesterday I finished up what I can do on Amazon for Headwind. I'm waiting for Amazon to agree that I'm  the author so I can move ahead with Author Central and also post the cover photo to replace the current "image not available" logo. To start the ball rolling, Amazon contacts the publisher for confirmation that KK Brees and I are the same person. Once this happens, it takes 1-7 days, they say, for this to be processed. Once that happens, I can work at developing my bio there and getting the process started for having this writing blog show up on their site. After it all gets in place, it should be pretty nifty.

Author Central will  allow me to upload a video. I'm thinking that adding the book trailer here would be good. There's also an Events tab where I can post book signing info and other types of upcoming appearances.

Amazon requires an RSS feed for the blog. I tried to add it but couldn't get it to work. Each time I tried, all that happened was that the titles of my recent blogs appeared in the top right corner of the blog. Had to admit defeat and decided to let Murray, my wonderful web guy handle this. Of course I'd changed passwords since we last talked, so that held him up until he got the new one. One more item addressed. He should have it working smoothly shortly.

So, will Author Central benefit the book? Hard to say, but at least it's one more way of expanding my web presence.  As with everything else in the book business, it's "hurry up and wait!"

Thank You

One last item: Thanks to Nancy R. Williams who blogs at She offered the Cherry on Top Award to those of us poor, awardless bloggers who need a boost. It looks nice on the blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Field Studies

Debated for a bit about the title and decided against "Cemetery Plots", although that one's probably more accurate for the purpose intended. I love cemeteries, especially old ones. They're important sources of historical information and provide a rich source of ideas for plots and subplots for a writer.

Last May I was driving the back roads of Connecticut and spied an ancient (by American standards) cemetery in a wooded area. It was possibly a family cemetery, now overgrown with shrubs and grasses, the wooden tombstones weathered beyond legibility. In the midst of this neglected and forgotten place, a patch of iris  poked through the ground. Who had planted the iris so many years ago? I wondered. Had it been a mother's favorite flower and planted there by a grieving husband or loving daughter?  A family story began to take shape in my mind.

At another cemetery in southern Massachusetts, I found the grave of a man. Nothing unusual here. He had lived a long life for the 18th century. His wives hadn't, though. Each of the four had died before the age of 20. I began to ponder that odd fact. Had he been terribly unlucky or was there a darker side to this tragedy? Serial killers aren't confined to the 21st century, after all. Had he gotten away with murder? We'll never know, but again, a story beckoned here.

Name that Character

If you're writing an historical, you've got to love cemeteries. Some of the best names you'll ever find are right there, waiting for you and they come with the dates when they were popular. Hezekiah, Isabel, Esther, and Patience speak to you from the distant past. Abraham, Ezekiel, and Nathaniel - their male counterparts.

Each generation has its popular names and a stroll through the cemetery will reveal them to you.

Question du Jour: Where do you find your plots and character names?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blogging Away

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

 First of all, many thanks to Patricia Stoltey and Sherry Gloag for hosting me yesterday. It was a fun time and I added several new blogs to my follow list from kind folks who stopped by to comment.

The Blog Progress

The other day I blogged about 10 Things, as a way to get jobs done - Think decimal, I guess you'd say. Even though I tend to be numerically challenged, I can handle lists of ten. So while I was bobbing and bopping between blogs yesterday, I spent time working on developing the blog to make it a better one.

I did get the links added for blogs and some for websites. I had fun adding badges and other decorative but useful widgets. Stepping back, or pushing the chair back rather, to examine the result, I'm pleased. It's looking good.

Visiting other writer blogs helped me confirm I made the right choice in the new template. So now, with a few adjustments here and there, I'm ready to rock and roll.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blog Hopping Monday

Today I'm on Patricia Stoltey's blog: and also guesting on Sherry Gloag's blog as well:

There's an interview with Katrin, my heroine, as well as a peek at the trailer and the glorious cover done by Sue Payne.  Come see what Headwind's about. There's also a bit about me there, as well.

Then  check out Brad Jaeger's Blog - The First Novel That Moved Me at
Brad's orchestrated a lovely blog hop for authors and you'll find his views there.

The first novel that moved me was The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. Written back in the 40s, it's the story of four children who move to the country. Might not sound like much, but to a lonely only, it opened the door to some possibilities beyond the inner city streets.

Please stop by and leave a comment. Thanks

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blog Turf Wars and Ten Things

Don't have a clue what the title means, but I like it. Been working at redesigning my own blog turf and thanks to Alex Cavanaugh (who blogs at or possibly Enid - we've been having some confusion over at the BBT Cafe, I finally made the artistic leap - lost the white ink and decluttered the background. I liked the old template but it really was too busy and distracted from my orts of wisdom. So, thanks Alex and/or Enid!

Got a bunch of goals for the week, relative to the blog. I need to add a gazillion blog and website links, for starters. Think I'll probably go back to the good old Rule of Ten - it's a great tool for writing down ideas, organizing the pantry, and developing a website.

The premise is simple: Do ten things. In this case, I'll add ten blog links and ten website links. When I'm done, the blog will be a better place. Tomorrow, I'll think of another ten things to do somewhere else - maybe on the blog, maybe contacting Indie Bookstores to beg them to carry Headwind. I visited many indies when I was back east in May and this will be the right time to follow up.

Ten Things. This trick can take the most onerous task and turn it into simple stuff.

Above photo is Fred the Emu - or possibly Fredrika - as I said, it's been kind of a confusing day.

 Question du Jour: What are your tricks for simplifying tough jobs?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hawthorn Bushes in the Valley

We haven't had the prettiest fall this year. Early on, the leaves on the hawthorne bushes turned brown and simply fell off. The aspens are trying to brighten the valley by turning yellow, but they're outnumbered by the varieties of fir trees around them. Valiant effort, though.

Many ranchers in the valley dig out the hawthorne bushes to get more land for growing grass for the cattle. We kept ours, as the amoung of land you recover for grazing is minimal and the bushes provide habitat and food for all kinds of wildlife. Also, in most years, the leaves turn a brilliant scarlet in the autumn, turning the valley into a picture worthy of the best nature painter's efforts.

The bears forage heavily on the berries, as they prepare for hibernation, and the birds also feast on them. I;ve been told the birds can actually get drunk on the berries and that could explain the lopsided flight patterns  several flickers, robins, and magpies have exhibited after dining on these dried fruits.

The hawthorn bush is indeed thorny and it's an excellent nesting place for the hummingbirds and other small birds who seek safety in its branches.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Moving Body Parts

Hope that title made you curious enough to keep reading. Today's post concerns itself with a little device writers use to break up chunks of dialogue. We're ever conscious of writing too much without pausing to let the reader digest (and savor) our words and so we look for interesting ways to make those text breaks. Conversation is linear but adding some motion into the mix can give more dimension to a paragraph. So what is this all about? Let's consider the face:


Eyes can stare and glare, peer and leer, glower or shine


Lift, arch, raise, narrow them


These can be pursed, parted, held firm, quiver, or tremble. They can be chewed upon, as well.

Creating the Passage

Now that I've got my moving body parts, let's see how this can work in a conversation.

"Jeeves," the old man glowered at the hapless servant. "Bring the brandy to the withdrawing room at once."
"Right away, my lord," the butler replied.
"Good help is so difficult to obtain these days," Lady Argyle said, narrowing her eyes and pursing her lips (a double use of the device here) as she spied a wilted rose in the vase next to the sideboard.
"Indeed," piped up Fauntleroy, glaring at the back of the hapless servant as he departed on his errand.

And so forth.

Question of the Day

Authors have pet expressions. One  British author's characters seem to be constantly "pulling a face."  I love Jayne Anne Krentz, writing as Amanda Quick. Many of her male characters spend some time "steepling their fingers" while they ponder what to say or do.

What pet expressions do your favorite authors use? Please share them with us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

People Watching

Coffee isn't a food group, I don't think, but it should be - along with nachos, really good wine, chocolate, and perfect peaches. If I were to create my own food pyramid, it would look wildly different from the USDA's recommended ingredients. But I digress. What I really want to talk about today is the fine art of people watching as a writer's tool.

If you've ever been stuck for the right bit of dialogue, needed a boost for a character who lacked interest, or were hunting for a viable subplot, people watching is the way to go to solve all of your dilemmas. All it takes is removing your seat from the seat of your computer chair and venturing outside to the grocery store, local coffee shop, hardware store, or any of the places people gather for whatever purpose.

 Coffee shops are great people watching places. You can sit with your computer on the table and sip your grande two pump skinny vanilla latte and munch your cranberry orange scone while your nimble fingers record all manner of personality quirks, tidbits of conversation, physical descriptions, and intriguing plot possibilities.

People in shopping mode are great assets for a writer. Sit down on one of those mall benches and watch the parade of humanity stroll by just for your viewing pleasure. Note the way people walk, carry their parcels, juggle packages and children, yammer away on their cell phones. It's Writers University 101 without any tuition fees.

And then there's the random stuff that springs out of the blue. For example: We had a wood stove installed in the house this week. That involved some masonry, drywall renovation, electrical work, and painting. The first thing the electrician did was pull a screwdriver out of his toolbox and straighten all the little screws in the faceplates so they were all lined up horizontally. An obsessive compulsive trait even Monk didn't think of. That got me thinking about murder, of course, and how a small clue like that could lead.......

Where are your favorite people watching sites?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Evening Out

Well, things have evened out here at writer central. The mistake review rating has been rectified and another nice one added. It was a difficult day and my stomach was tied up in knots for most of it. So, what's the lesson here? There's always a lesson, it seems. "Don't care too much." Reminds me of a Buddhist saying  I vaguely remember. The first necessity is not allowing the vagaries of life to own you. In the end, nothing really matters all that much. I don't mean that to sound nihilistic, but rather that the things we worry about don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. It's a humbling experience.

Today I'll work a bit on marketing, clean house, do some writing, and wait for my girlfriend to arrive for a short visit. I'll try to put things in perspective and not care too much about the things I can't control. It's a tough lesson. I got too caught up in the moment and let it control me. I'll try to not let that happen again.

I want to write well. I also want others to enjoy what I write. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To the Valley of Despair

Well, it's amazing how quickly one's fortunes can change in this brave, new techno world. I've just received my first glowing review on Amazon. Wonderful, wonderful words, and then the reviewer got confused and hit one star instead of (hopefully) 5. So here I sit at the keyboard, helpless until it gets changed - hopefully soon. The book is just out and I've been torpedoed by a fan. Sigh.

Promotion and marketing are necessary evils for writers today, and it's not something many of us are comfortable doing. We'd much rather be sequestered, writing away, creating our fictional worlds. Maybe that's the best antidote for me today. I'm not going to look until tomorrow and hope not too much damage has been done. Sigh again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Top of the World

Just found out that Headwind is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Still waiting for it to show up on Ingram, which is the distributor to Independent Bookstores. There's been a whole laundry list of stuff to do this morning and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Sent off an email to Murray, the best webguy in the universe, with additions, deletions, and changes to the website ( Going to add the book trailer and move some things around. I've been like a racehorse champing (chomping?) at the bit, waiting for this. And now it's time!

Now the promotion can begin in earnest. Plans are to contact all the independent bookstores I've visited over the past few months and let them know the book is now out in the world. I hope they decide to stock it. I'm gathering friends and readers for reviews to post on Amazon and B&N and that involves making sure everybody gets a copy to read.

I've ordered 50 copies from Chalet, in addition to the 5 freebies I get from them. Yipperooni!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In the Mood

Besides being one of my favorite Glen Miller pieces, getting In the Mood is also part of why I pick certain books over others. I like descriptions. I like leisurely introductions. A steady diet of blood and mayhem on page one, paragraph one, line one, gets tiresome and makes me long for a gentler, more easy-going opening.

Let's talk about the weather. Most experts will advise writers to eschew descriptions of the weather in the opening segment of their novels. It was a dark and stormy nightitis, I guess you'd call this tendency. However, if you're writing a gothic romance, weather is a character. Also, if you're writing about San Francisco, and ignore the fog, you're not writing about San Francisco. Maybe it's all about pacing. I dunno.

I like weather. It's capricious. A good writer can do a lot with the weather. Guess I'm just getting tired of the sound-bite approach to everything. Shortened attention spans require shortened introductions. The next step will be shortened middles and truncated endings. I can almost visualize the approved model of the novel of the 21st century as a Tweet.

Give me weather descriptions. Give me a leisurely introduction, when I'm in the mood for one. Take the time to build that fictional world. All good things take time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BSP- How Much is Too Much?

Most writers know they must be their own publicity managers - scheduling book signings, orchestrating blog book tours, and doing whatever it takes to get the word out on their latest opus. Unless you're the BIG NAME, you can pretty much count on a budget of zippo from your publisher to help you in the marketing. So, what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly here?

Websites and Blogs

If you're a writer, you need a website and one that showcases your interests, gives information on who you are, what you write, and how readers can contact you. You can spend a fortune or do this on a budget. The best time to get your site up and running is before the book is out. Building your presence takes time. Fortunately, with a website, the investment of time and effort is heaviest up front. All the more reason to get this job done before your book hits the market.

Spend some time checking out other writers' websites, noting what you like and what you don't. If you find what you're looking for, contact the writer and get info on who did the site. You'll need a domain name and for a small annual fee, this name is yours forever. Best to get it while it's still available.

Blogs are ongoing and can be time-intensive. They're a good way to connect with other writers and readers. Get yourself a good title that catches the eye and put yourself on a regular schedule - sort of like flossing your teeth. Find a niche you want to blog about and get going. Again, this is best done before the book comes out.

***Put Counters on Both Website and Blog -You want to see how many people have checked you out (hits)

***Link Your Website and Your Blog - You'll double your internet investment

Signature Lines

Use the Option function on your email account and create a signature line that includes your website and blog. Add the title of your upcoming novel with the projected release date.

Twitter and Facebook

If you tweet, keep it brief. Once you've told the world you have a new book out there, how do you keep from annoying potential book buyers? If you're writing nonfiction, you can post a helpful tip or hint on your subject every day. Provide a service and you'll get a following.

Include your novel's title or cover on your profile and consider having a page for the book itself. You can ask people to become fans.

And Now for the Question du Jour: How Much BSP (Blatant Self Promotion)  is Too Much?

My answer: When it's too much. Everyone has a different pain threshold, but some current practices cause me to grind my teeth. Some of my pet peeves regarding emails:

Including the cover of your novel in your email signature line
Snippets of reviews praising your book
Repeat emails to your Contact List, offering your book for X amount of dollars, plus shipping and handling

What's your biggest pet peeve in the BSP department?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Retreat Opportunity

Here's a great opportunity presented by my friend and fellow writer, Jennifer Sander. She's the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published (Alpha Books).
Women’s Writing Retreat Weekend at Lake Tahoe with the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published
“A room of one’s own,” Virginia Woolf once famously suggested, is what a woman needs to get any writing done.  Alas, even if you have a writing room in your house, the rest of your house is still there to interrupt you when you sit down to focus your creativity… Wait! Did you remember to start the dishwasher this morning?  Better get up and check.  Oh, is that the doorbell?  Look, a neighbor has arrived to chat.  And did you ever return those phone calls from yesterday? Better do it now before you forget.   Finally, a moment arrives when you can get back to your thoughts and really dig in… my, but how the time has flown and now you’ll need to get dinner started.
Sound familiar?  Instead, why not spend the weekend in Lake Tahoe in a quiet room at “Write By the Lake” with other women writers, lots of wine, and wonderful food?  I’ll be there too – Jennifer Sander, of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and some fifty other titles.  A former Random House editor and long time book packager and publishing consultant, I’m happy to build a cozy fire and chat all night long about the trials and tribulations of the publishing world. 
Other than drinking wine, what else happens on a Women’s Writing Retreat Weekend?  The schedule looks like this:
Friday: Arrive late afternoon for introductions, socializing, and weekend goal setting. Dinner will be served at 7:30
Saturday: Breakfast before 9, private writing from 9 until 12.  Lunch break and a short walk to the lake, afternoon writing time from 1:30-5.  Dinner at 7:30.
Sunday: Breakfast before 9, writing from 9 until 12.  Lunch break, another bit of leg stretching, another round of goal setting, and then writing all afternoon until it is time to head back down the hill. 
$345 fee includes all: a private room and all meals and drinks.  I hold this small event a few times a year at our South Lake Tahoe house, with a maximum of three writers each time.  This is your chance to get started on a new project, finish up an old one, or just sit quietly and let your thoughts and creativity surprise you.  Let me know if you are interested, I’d love to see you there!
Jennifer Basye Sander, co-author, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, founder, Write By The Lake, A Writers’ and Publishers’ Retreat.
New dates for Fall:  August 27-29, Sept 24-26,  a midweek retreat from Sept 20-22, and Oct 1-3.  If any dates work for you, book now, they do go fast!  Contact Jennifer at, or 916-791-2101. You can also find us online at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Book Cover

The book cover for Headwind is ready - almost. This morning's post covers some of the details of the process. How important is a book cover? It's important. Covers can make the difference between picking up a book or giving it a pass.  This is an area where self-publishing needs some serious guidance. I've seen some covers out there that curdle the blood - garish, off-putting, or just plain blah - some of these covers make me wonder if the book is worth the trouble of skimming the first few pages to see if the author can write. It's painfully obvious from the get-go that some of these folks are color blind and shouldn't be let loose with the clip art function.

So, what makes a good book cover? Readers have come to expect a certain type of cover for each genre (category). Here are two easily recognizable types of novels with their easily recognizable covers.


Romance novels generally feature some skin (or a lot of skin) along with bosomy females and muscular males. Thse folks can be in a liplock, serious level embrace, or she may be hoisted up in his capable arms.


Horse. Rugged cowboy on horse. Athletic woman on horse. Rugged cowboy and athletic woman on horses. Galloping. Stetsons. Crimson sunset. Rail fences. Mountains and plains in the background.

Art through Time

Pulp fiction is a great resource for studying cover art. Think gumshoes, rich women in trouble, gats, hard liquor, smokes, and danger. Some of these covers were downright lurid and often didn't have much relationship with the story or the characters in the novel. Their purpose was to grab your attention and they did it well. Nice to know they're having a resurgence.

My Cover

The cover is nearly done. We've changed Katrin's coat from dark blue to red and lightened the image. All that's left is to add the title and the wraparound information. Here's what the final version of the art looks like for Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen.

We wanted the cover to have a noir aspect and yet show determination and hope. Next time, I'll share the finished product and load the trailer. Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Defense of Adverbs

Adverbs have been demoted as a valued part of speech - sort of gone the way of Pluto as a planet. It's too bad, actually, as adverbs definitely have their place in the language. Mostly, their demotion is confined to dialogue tags, those parts of conversation peppered with "he said" and "she said." According to the industry standard today, writers are to use said as opposed to chortled, snarled, argued, growled, burbled, and a host of other verbs that indicate state of mind. The thinking is that readers tend to expect said  and pass over it as they read, while more energetic verbs cause readers to pause and digest your verbiage instead of plowing relentlessly onward through your characters' conversations.

Times change. Tom Swift, hero of a previous generation, liberally interspersed adverbs throughout. Tom Swifties became so much a part of the culture that people enjoyed bantering them about. Anyone out there have a favorite Tom Swiftie to share?

Anyhow, adverbs as a part of speech (there are eight of them, if you still remember your 8th grade English), have been relegated to the back shelf. I am violently opposed to the current practive. Definitely opposed. If this were a conversation, I'd state that over and over again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seven People You Meet at Writers Conferences (II)

Welcome back to the continuing saga of Seven People You Meet at Writers Conferences.


Writers are always looking for characters to populate their novels and the best places to find these creatures are where people congregate. Some good places to do people watching are coffee shops, airports, cafes, and Writers Conferences. For some reason, writers are some of the most interesting characters you'll ever meet, and if you do your people watching at these get togethers, nobody is going to even notice you're observing and recording, because everyone is walking around with notepads and pens and laptops. It's a golden opportunity. To illustrate, here are just two characters from the last conference I attended.

The Woman in the Parrot Hat

Writers go to conferences for a variety of reasons - networking and agent catching are the two principal ones. I believe this lady fell into the second category.She was determined to be noticed, and noticed she was. She was the only person wearing an oversized yellow straw hat adorned with a multi-colored stuffed parrot glomped onto one side and a smattering of gaudy feathers artfully cascading off the rim and tickling her shoulder. To say she was a conversation piece doesn't do this trooper justice.

For four days she wore this hat, accessorized with a pastel rainbow broomstick skirt. She was a credit to her genre. The headache she nurtured must have been of gargantuan proportions and yet she plowed ahead, a Carmen Miranda d'une certain age.

Was she noticed? You betcha. Was she a character? You bet your pinfeathers. I spent some time thinking about her and speculating. There's a character there, for sure.

The Balding Man in the Green Sateen Cape, Tennis Shoes, and Long, Gray Beard

In the interest of gender equity, this gentleman did himself proud. He was a tad scary, and if I were an agent, I might have been a bit reluctant to listen to his pitch. However, he soldiered on, cape and all, like a Green Hornet closing in for the sting. I don't know if he was successful in snagging an agent, but he definitely got their attention.  I believe his genre was fantasy and it was clear he was living the dream.

A character? Most certainly and one that had the potential for going in a variety of directions.


I was the only completely normal person there, with my 1940s cloche hat, rhinestone brooch and earrings, and evening dress. I don't understand the reason for the second looks. Must have been an inner beauty thing. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Seven People You Meet at Writers Conferences (I)

For any writer, but especially for writers who want to break into the market, a writers conference can be the best investment. There are about a gazillion of these affairs held at various times during the year, so finding one that fits your wallet and your schedule isn't all that difficult.

The Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) holds their annual conference in Seattle in July and I highly recommend it. I've been attending for about three years now and each time I connect with more fascinating people (writers are a neat bunch of folks) and learn more about the craft of writing. So, what can you find at one of these shindigs? Plenty!


Writers are nice people, and by and large they're willing to share everything they've learned along the path to publication. It's easy to strike up a conversation while you're standing in line (and there are lines beaucoup), having your morning cuppa, in the elevator, parking garage, the hotel lounge, corridors, and so forth. Every place your set your feet, you will find writers. They're easily identified by the name badge hanging around their necks.

PNWA conveniently lists the genre (category of writing) each person works in, so don't limit yourself to talking with people just in your area. Branch out! You'll learn much more about the craft and the process of getting published if you cast a wide net early on in your career.

Business Cards

Have a bunch of these to hand out to everybody who is breathing. If you don't have any yet, start collecting what other writers share with you and see what kind of information you need to have on these cards.

Here's my card for Headwind and I handed out over 200 of the creatures at the conference.
It's got the cover, my name, the ISBN, and contact info for me, along with the first line of the book trailer. A great source for business cards is Vista Print ( Check them out!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doing Everything at Once

When I first began writing, I expected the process to be a linear one. I'd get an idea, make some notes, mull them over, write a first draft, do a few edits, and be on my way to fame and fortune. Reality intruded early on in this process and so I'll share the actual journey with you. It's turning out to be much more complex and interesting than I'd thought when I started.

Today's Activities

I returned last night from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference - my head full of ideas, possibilities, and potential plots. Today, I'm sitting at the computer, researching and writing on the work in progress (wip), answering mail, and exploring publicity venues for the completed novel, Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen, that's scheduled for release this coming September.

All those neat and tidy ideas have been scrawled on three separate legal pads and the scraps and pieces of my mind have begun to litter my sewing room that doubles as my office when I'm writing. The room is getting messy, and that, I've discovered, is when my ideas take off. I can't write when stuff around me is neat and orderly. A clutterbug by nature, I'm at my best in a landfill.

Going back to work now. More shortly on the Conference and the process of writing.