Friday, April 18, 2014

Out of phase

Michael W. Davis

I was talking to a young computer wizard about problems with my laptop other day when I used the term CPU. It was clear from her response that I was talking a foreign language. See, our language evolves. Terms, phases, slang is born, tossed into social chit chat for a decade or so, then dies out. Least for the new generations. Not for us old timers. We are accumulators of out of phase terms that latch onto our brain, travel with us for sixty or seventy years until we transfer to the next realm. Here’s a few examples. See how many you know, without cheating and using a web search. I’ll give you the answers later.

CPU, CRT, Peanut galley, Ah che wa wa, Gams, Pluck you magic pwanger froggy, real Mc Coy, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle, Juke joint, Gig, big brother, groovy, the man, tripping, Acid, Lucy in the sky with diamonds, get down, pump iron, a man’s guns, wicked, SWAK, hang tough, fuzz, diss, five finger discount, PDA, rinky dink, skirt, peeps, watching the submarine races, ape, zilch, paper shaker, fox, Chinese fire drill, moon, crash, take a whiz, boomer, rug rat, grubs,  Smokey, chalk time, church key, Crocked, deuce and a quarter, deb’s delight

Okay, had enough? Here’s what they mean. Sure, there can be many meanings for different areas, but these are what they meant from my memory:

CPU – Central Processing Unit, as in the computers active memory
CRT – Cathode Ray Tube, as in your TV or computer screen
Peanut galley – The kids seated in the audience of the buffalo Bob show
Ah che wa wa – Refers to a hot, I mean steamy hot woman
Gams – a ladies legs
Pluck you magic pwanger froggy – An old kids show of the 50’s had a bullfrog that would say it all the time, have no idea what it was supposed to mean
Real Mc coy – as in the real thing, not a fake
I’ll be a monkey’s uncle – Sign of disbelief
Juke joint – a place where you could go to socialize, drink and dance
Gig – a job
Big Brother – Someone of authority is watching you. Came from Orwell’s book 1984. Seems with our current government it’s come back in vogue (g)
Groovy – Hip, cool, excellent
The man – an authority figure
Tripping – Consuming drugs to get high
Acid – In the 60’s reference to LSD
Lucy in the sky with diamonds – Again a reference to LSD. From the Beatles song. Seems my generation did a lot of tripping
Get down – Dance
Pump iron – Lift weights
A man’s guns – reference to the muscles in a guy’s arms
Wicked – Excellent
SWAK – Sealed with a kiss
Hang tough – To endure
Fuzz - cops
Diss – show disrespect
Five finger discount – something stolen
PDA – Public display of affection
Rinky Dink – Something that’s trivia
Skirt – a girl
Peeps – friends
Watching the submarine races – Parking, as in making out
Ape – as in being hysterical
Zilch – zero, nothing
Paper shaker – Cheer leader
Fox – hot babe
Chinese fire drill – when you stop a car and everyone gets out to exchange seats
Moon – Driving down the road, sticking your butt out the window toward another car (yeah, I did this one)
Crash – sleep
Take a whiz – go to the bath room
Boomers – those born after the war (46-64)
Rug rats – little kids
Grubs – old comfortable clothes
Smokey – cops
Chalk time – lecture in school
Church Key – A device to old beer cans before pop tops
Crocked – drunk
Deuce and a quarter – A Buick Electra 225
Deb’s delight – Eligible bachelor

There’s hundreds more out there and I know you’re thinking, “what’s this got to do with writing.” Well, if your setting is in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s,  then grab a few oldie out of phase terms , toss ‘em in, and add some realism. Oh, you want to know which generation they’re from? Oh no. You have to figure that out for yourself. However, I do go way back and was a hormone driver dude in the 60’s so most are from that era.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Directions and New Opportunities

What a difference a month makes!  Last month, I talked about Saturn Retrograde and its lessons.  I talked about letting go of one path, and being faced with having to let go of something else.

In the interim, I accepted a job that is a career path.  Oh, I’m still a full-time writer -- but now I’m also a part-time librarian (what better calling for a bibliophile?)  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years and have actively pursued this type of job for months.  I landed one I really wanted, in a lovely local library with strong community support, and a terrific staff.  It’s a steep learning curve, but I love it.

The day after I started this new job, I also landed a script-writing job I really, really wanted, and am very excited about.  Two major jobs starting in one week -- during a Saturn retrograde and right before a lunar eclipse.  Intense, much?

A few days before those jobs came together, I was hired to write some magazine articles on gardening.  Due on May 1.

I have to wrap up a few commitments -- I have a couple of smaller freelance jobs I will see through and then not take on more until the end of June, although I’ll start pitching again mid-May for other freelance gigs in the summer.  I wound up a three-month workshop.  Other than guest-lecturing at a college at the end of the month, where they’re teaching one of my plays this semester, and teaching a workshop at a writers’ conference in early May, I don’t have any other teaching gigs on the agenda for the next few months, and I’m going to stick with that.  My new play opens next week (I even got a grant for it), and then I’ll be quiet on the local theatre front for awhile, focusing on the left coast script writing gig.

I have four releases coming out between April and August - -three novellas and a novel -- under a different name and with a different publisher, so I can’t talk about them here -- and the next manuscript I need to get to them is in July.  Another novel I’m working on, I’ve pushed back to an October deadline to finish a draft.

Somewhere in this, I have to buy a new computer -- my darling Macbook is limping along, doing the best it can, but pretty soon Apple will no longer support it and I can’t updgrade any more.

The next three weeks will be challenging and amazing and terrifying.  I believe I am up to the challenge.  Hopefully, I’ve understood Saturn this time around!  ;)

And to answer Big Mike’s question from last month, what do I do with the pumpkins?  Decorate!  There’s something wonderfully satisfying about carving a jack o’lantern you’ve grown!

--Annabel Aidan publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction.  Her paranormal romantic suspense release with Champagne is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT.  Visit her on the web at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Your Life as a Writer: Is Failure an Option?

Over the years I’ve read many book on how to be a success, faithfully applied what I learned and kept on going until what I refer to as mega-disasters tossed so many boulders on the road I was traveling that I got stuck in potholes and took forever to climb out. I sometimes think as a basically cynical melancholic personality, I would have been better served by books on how to be a failure rather than the success books in the world. Thus I am rearranging my blog writing schedule to write about how to be a failure so we’ll all know what to look for and avoid.

As I began my list of things that induce failure, I came up with eight right away then added a few more. All of them have subcategories and of course I excel at most of them and must constantly guard against allowing them to drag me down.

My list begins with arrogance. More people are done in by conceit than this world dreams of. (Okay, I ended that on a preposition. Go figure. A famous man can do it but me?) The moment the ego reigns education ceases, experts are not consulted and the personality grows moldy. I have an aversion to mold and to people who want to tell me of their successes from thirty years ago when the point of their story is to hear themselves talk and bore me. What’s worse, I’m often arrogant and don’t deserve to be. So first trait on my how not to be a failure list that I must bash is arrogance.

The next item is beginning a project at an unfavorable time. This involves not only reading the market, but also physical, family and other obligation that may interfere at the time. “There’s no time like the present,” doesn’t always apply.

My next failure factor is being out of step with the times. The days of paper submissions and sludge piles are gone. Without some technologic skills, it’s difficult to succeed, not just as an author, but in any field. This is also one of my biggest problems because I would do better with vellum and quill.

Extravagant living can do anyone in. One shouldn’t live beyond their means at any time. In this day and age, it is considered criminal and can ruin a life, a family, a business or employees. I used to be angry when I did home health and would go into “front homes” or beautiful high-cost mansions with a couple of Mercedes in the garage. It was all for show. Once inside, there was little furniture and sheets covering windows because people couldn’t afford the house note. Then when a child got sick, they couldn’t afford medical care, but didn’t want colleagues to know. I got called in to provide home hospice care for children that would have had a chance if they had received treatment sooner.  This will happen more now that Obama Care is in place, but that’s not the point. Let’s make a point with Fritos. In 1976, I could buy a family bag for $0.78. Now I can buy one for$3.99. So based on Fritos the cost has gone up 311% in the last 40 years or so. Now the COL pay increases I received have varied from 1 to 3%; around 89% overall. So if I’m not tightening my budget, I can’t afford to keep buying Fritos. They have moved into the realm of extravagance for me. I must decrease my spending or increase my income. Debt is not an option. Debt is a quagmire that’s killing the American Dream. So take a close look at what you spend and what you can afford. If you want something to worry about, let it be how you’re going to snatch your next character from the jaws of death, and not how you’re going to pay the utility bill.

Reckless speculation and failure to plan come next. I am not saying not to speculate. Without it, we would rarely achieve any of our dreams. I am saying not to speculate so irresponsibly or uncontrollably. Study the market, take inventory of your assets, and proceed wisely. Plan your future and speculate on via a smart goal plan. Don’t bury your talents but do not cast them away with no thought to tomorrow. So you may want to write the great American novel. In this day and age, I don’t think it can be done. But you can make a living as a writer if you don’t mind the risk and plan wisely.

Over-expansion or over-taxing of resources, time and abilities has been the fall of many self-employed people. When I was twenty-four, I could work a double shift and double-back for another double shift, sleeping little and staying alert. At this point in my life, I doubt I’d make it through a single shift and I would probably need to a few days off to recover. My physical resources aren’t what they used to be. I have a habit of being well on the way to completing a novel when another story idea pops into my head. I write it down so I can go back to it later but before you know it, I’m writing two books at one time and not making sufficient progress on either due to the infraction I make against sound time management principles. And who can deny that Peter Lawrence didn’t hit the nail on the head when he said that in every organization leaders often rise to their level of incompetence (paraphrase)? Assess what you have to work with and work with it wisely.

Dishonest or unsatisfactory associates bear contemplation by us in all phases of our lives. Depending on what type of writing you do, certain associates can harm your career. If you write Christian or Inspirational works, it isn’t wise to hang out at a bar with the drug crowd. By the same token, if you surround yourself with people who belittle your talent or career choice or are negative about your future as an author, they can destroy you if you don’t put them aside or find a way to keep your perspective focused on your goals. There are also sharks swimming in the overcrowded publishing pool who will put your career in the slug to make theirs surf the high waves. I always heard it’s best to avoid shark infested waters, but if you can’t avoid the occasional one that swims by, it is said the a swift hard punch to the nose will let them know you mean to retaliate and they’ll usually leave you alone. But no matter what, if a shark is near, don’t bleed.

Without a lot of comment outside disasters beyond one’s control and acts of God made the list. I have a friend in NY state, bless her pea-pickin’ heart, whose laptop froze this past winter because she left it in her car while shopping. The data was irretrievable and her book was late. (And people say I’m crazy for writing my books by hand). Plan for disaster. Back up everything you write.

Lack of perseverance has killed more careers than any other item on the list. Writing is hard work. It can be lonely work and it can be frustrating at times. But plugging away at it will accomplish more than anything else you can do. When you’re frustrated just reread The Little Engine that Could and get back to plugging and chugging along.

And last but not least, I must include in a category all its own: failure to dream. Yes, we need measurable goals with target dates. But rather than a simple task of goal setting, start dream planning. Flex your imaginations and step by step your dreams will come true.

Until next time, happy reading and writing.


Mary McCall is a best-selling author of historical romance and writing instructor. Visit her at Her next Developing Dynamic Characters class is scheduled for May 2014.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Husband and Wife - A Writing Team?

Husband and Wife, Writers in the Same House

It’s been thirty four years since we both decided we preferred writing to volleyball or hiking in the woods. Writing became our togetherness hobby.

We even received our first checks on the same day, his from Dog World, mine from Readers Digest. Through the years since, we’ve learned a few lessons.

  • 1.      The most important lesson of all: critiquing one another’s work is exactly that. In the beginning we had to be careful not to personalize our critiques; we had to focus solely on the written words. It wasn’t always easy. I’d write something I thought brilliant and he would suggest major changes. I took offense. Sometimes he would pout. In time we came to understand that the critiques helped our writing and by understanding they were not personal attacks, helped our relationship to grow.

  • 2.      It is still best to have separate writing spaces. I have always had my space close to the center of activity in whatever house we were in. At first we were in the same small office. I’d hear his keyboard clicking away while my mind was blank. Very annoying. Or I’d want to play a game while thinking but felt guilty if he worked assiduously on his story. Our next house gave me an office just off the living room, which worked well as that was our Bed and Breakfast era, so I had to be able to see people arriving at the front door. His office was on the opposite side of the house and then later moved upstairs to an unused bedroom. Now, he uses a spare bedroom and I am in the front room which used to be the dining room.

  • 3.       Because of what we learned in Number 1, we can now complete in the same contests, celebrating each other’s wins. Over the years our books and stories have won or placed well in many competitions. We both enter the Florida Writers annual anthology competition. His stories have been in every issue, mine in three.

Where are we now? We plan to put together a book of our short stories, continue writing our novels and continue to hope for one another’s huge success.

Veronica Helen Hart is an award winning author. Her humorous thriller, The Prince of Keegan Bay, is now part of a series about a group of senior citizens who call themselves The Blenders. Their next adventure, The Swimming Corpse, is scheduled for release in October, 2014. She is currently working on the third book, Safari Stew. These books are published by Champagne Books of Canada. Her publisher, Double Edge Press, Scenery Hill, PA, produces her more serious novels, also award winning, Elena – the Girl with the Piano, now available, and The Reluctant Daughters, being released May 2014. She makes her home in Ormond Beach, Florida with her writer husband, Robert Hart.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Calling All Authors: Can You Relate?
…Here are a few questions to ponder when thinking of scenes for your novels that people can relate when reading your stories because we all know that even though we write fiction, our fake stories are based in some form of reality, or maybe we just wish our heroes in our stories were real. HmmmmmmmmJ
…Question 1: What is the least/most romantic thing that ever happened to you on any Valentine's Day?
…And since authors are supposed to write what they know, sad or happy as the event may be, you could put the experience into your story. I know my husband actually came to me on Valentine’s Day 2010 and told me he was leaving me for my best friend of thirteen years. Hmmmmm. In retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the time we had a teenage daughter in high school, and I knew things would be both better and worse for her. And they have been. We read in our romance novels all the time about horror stories of romance gone wrong, and how people decided they never want to marry again, etc etc etc, and I have sworn off marriage, and it’s been four years, and I’m still swearing off marriage. It would take A LOT to make me change my mind, like the perfect man, and…well, let me know if you fine one, lolJ
…When I asked writer friends of mine to respond to Question 1, Allison Harris said, “My husband and I seldom celebrate Valentine's Day. We both feel it is commercialized. I have flower beds and roses, and when the first roses bud out, my hubby cuts them and has on them on the table in a vase waiting for me. He almost always says, ‘Here's your Valentine's Day roses. I'm sorry they're late.’”
…Now that’s cheap and romanticJ The best kind of romance, in my humble opinion. It means just as much as spending bunches of dollars on meaningless nothing.
…Writer Andrea Downing said, “It was both the least and the most romantic thing:  my husband and I aimed to get married on Valentine's Day.  Unfortunately, Valentine's Day that year was on a Monday and we had to opt for a Saturday so working friends and relations could attend.  Bit of a bummer.  Bad start so maybe I should have seen what was coming...”
…I can definitely relate to thatL
…Question 2: What is the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on St. Pat's Day, or how do you celebrate it? Writer Allison Harris said, “For years my kids (in high school band) marched in the St. Louis St. Pat's Day parade, and we went down to watch. Sometimes it would be snowing, and sometimes it would sunny and warm, but it was always a fun time seeing our small-town school marching and looking good in the parade. Now that my son is older, he usually signs up to run in the 5K race which is before the parade, so we go down to watch that, too.”
…When writing a sweet romance, this would be perfect for a scene of family outing and getting to know the family members of someone a hero is trying to become a part of the family unit. 
…Author Andrea Downing said, “I'm in NYC so St. Pat's Day is a big deal.  I've been to the parade--by accident really--traffic is snarled and buses re-routed so I'm not a big fan.”

…In Rolla, Mo, St. Pat’s is the biggest event in town, every year, because the University of Missouri, Rolla, MS&T, revolves their yearly events around this day, and even their school colors and shirts and such. So the day is crazy, and if you are writing as teacher or professor as your hero, or a business owner, or bar tender…you’ve got your settingJ

…Question 3: What is your sign, and if you are an author, do you think the characteristic of being that sign affect your writing style? Writer Allison Harris wrote, “I'm a Gemini (twins). I write erotic under one name as Allie Quinn and paranormal under Allie Harrison, almost as if I'm two different people!”

…I know several authors who write under multiple pen names for multiple genres for branding purposes. I’m one of them. I write under Rebecca Savage for Romantic Suspense, and I write under Rebecca Draco for dragon shifters. And you should hear my answering machine messageJ Multiple personalities galoreJ

…Author Andrea Downing said, “I'm Aries, known for dynamism, energy, charm and charisma, as well ramming (no pun intended) their ideas down people's throats.  So I doubt I'm a typical Aries--something about having a parallelogram in my stars---and the only pioneering spirit I have is that of writing about the West.”

…I’m a Taurus. Enough saidJ

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Published, Published or Published

Recently I read an article on Writer’s Digest when the title of another article caught my eye: Don’t Give Up Until You Have Queried 80 Agents or More. Basically the advice to aspiring authors was “if you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents.”

Hmm, getting published. It seems to me that there are a variety of ways to do this (many of which don’t involve querying a hundred agents) depending on what your definition of “getting published” is.
If your dream is to attract the attention of a major New York publishing house, win a multi-book contract, and publish the next number one bestseller, I suspect you might need an agent and much more to do this. I didn’t go this route so I can’t say.

In today’s electronic world, if your goal is simply to have a book for sale, you can e-publish it yourself using Kindle Direct Publishing or a similar service that costs you nothing. However, if you don’t put a great deal of effort into creating a quality product and then promoting it, no one outside of your family is likely to buy and read it. Likewise, if you want to hold a book in your hands, it may cost you a bit but there are always vanity publishers. Either way, you will be published according to the basic definition.

If each of these scenarios defines the ends of the spectrum but there is a vast area in the middle. With many smaller, publishing companies emerging in our digital world, I decided it might be easier to get noticed by one of them. I did my research and found publishers of my genre who accepted queries directly from authors. I looked for companies that produced a high quality product and had a good reputation among their authors. I found a great one.

Does signing with a small press mean you won’t have a shot at that bestseller? No. Your book sales are in your hands. If you read nothing else, read this. I am assuming that if you seriously want to be published, what you actually want is to sell your book—to get it in the hands of readers. If that isn’t important to you, don’t waste anyone else’s time; simply self-publish. The reality is, if you want to sell your book, regardless of whether you self publish, sign with a big New York house, or something in between, you must be willing to put the effort into promoting it. A midlist New York author recently told me that when she started writing, she thought it was her job to create a great book and the publisher’s job to sell it. Only recently has she realized that to truly be successful, she must take an active role in promoting her books. She is learning how to establish a social media platform and find effective promotional tools.

So, like skinning a cat, there is more than one way to get published. However, no matter how you do it, your success as an author rests largely with you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Freedom of a Pen Name and other Musings…

According to Wikipedia, “a pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author”. I decided a few months back to embrace the concept never guessing what a journey of words would follow my entry into this world. I came to the decision because as a teacher, even writing a simple sweet love scene, I felt the hard breath of critics standing behind my shoulder. It was such a fine line between acceptable and not acceptable it was stifling. Hence the pen name. But a curious thing happened after I introduced my new ego onto the internet, she began to collect more friends than me! And it was without a personal photograph because I can’t show “me” or I lose the anonymity. That I found strange. Here I am as my first self, January Bain, with smiling photo and “she” gets more friends and hits. I think I’m jealous!

I have been driven for some time now by my characters and my books. A day without some time spent writing feels wasteful and I have fully embraced my need to tell stories. I keep thinking I won’t have enough time to get it all down. (Possibly because I lost two precious brothers so young.) Time spent doing other things feels like just time getting ready to go back to my writing fresh again and sometimes it’s just annoying that other things need to be done. I’m going to assume this is normal for writers because a lot of us are an obsessive Type “A” personalities. I’ve blogged about balance in life before and how hard it is to achieve. I’m still working on it. It’s helped that my wonderful husband is aware of my obsession and encourages me to keep control of it. With just a few words he can remind me that having a life is also valuable and will only help my writing. J

Which gets me to my main point to muse about today. I’ve heard it said it’s the third point in a letter or discussion that is the one a person is really trying to get around to. I have been blogging about my writing journey for a few years now and just recently began to wonder if I had anything fresh or new to say. I find it easy to write about the journey of writing, especially in a new genre. When I began my first science fiction book I think I wrote as much about the journey of writing it as words in the book! But this time round I’m writing in a new genre that January Bain cannot blog much about as she is a teacher, if you know what I mean, so that’s out for fodder for blogs. So now I turn to my fellow artists and will read even more of what they are blogging about and hope for inspiration to hit in those wealthy veins. So I’m thanking all the writers, entertainers, actors and comedians out there well ahead of time for being my possible new muse. Thanks a heap!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day!


January Bain

The Forever Series

Champagne Books


Monday, April 7, 2014


Last month, we discussed the purpose and mechanics of posting to Yahoo Groups HERE. Used effectively, Yahoo Groups can become an important element of an author's marketing program. I use Yahoo Groups regularly for marketing my books. It’s an easy way to connect with readers and introduce yourself and your books. Today, we’ll discuss connecting with readers, open days vs scheduled chats, individual vs. group chats, and making the most of your chat time.

CONNECTING WITH READERS REDUX. As we discussed last month, Yahoo Groups refers to internet communication that combines an email list and an internet forum. Group messages can be read and posted by email or on the Group's webpage. Yahoo Groups address specific interests and vary vastly in size, so it’s important to select Groups to join that will be interested in what you have to offer and of a size that make it worthwhile to participate. Best source for selecting your Yahoo Groups? Other Authors. Visit the group page, check on the number of members, member interests (General romance, paranormal, Regency), and heat level allowed (multi, sweet, erotic).

YAHOO GROUPS IN PUBLISHING. Yahoo Groups offer authors opportunities to connect with readers and other authors. Many publishers operate one group for its own authors to share info and support and another for its readers for marketing books. ALWAYS participate in those, even though the group might be small (or not). Readers who visit the publisher groups are actively looking to see what the publisher has available and are more likely to buy, if they’re interested in what you have to offer.

OPEN DAYS VS. SCHEDULED VISITS. Every Yahoo Group has posting rules – what can be posted when. Regular days may be set aside for anyone to post. There may be specific days scheduled for specific genres, event promos, new releases, or excerpts only. The posting rules are listed on the front page of the Yahoo Group and are usually published weekly. If you post outside the scheduled times, you may be placed temporarily in moderation or, if you're very naughty, have your posting privileges and Group membership revoked. If you look at the day’s posts, you can usually tell it it’s a general day or if a specific individual is visiting (in which case posting is a No-No). I keep a list.

SCHEDULED CHATS. There are two types of chats – those scheduled with a group (often by a publisher) and individual chats. These are scheduled well ahead of time and are generally free. They may be scheduled for all day or a few hours. Advertise (webpage, Facebook, Twitter) where you’re going to be ahead of time and during the chat. Non-members must join ahead of time, since the moderator may not be available throughout your time to approve their membership.

Depending on the Group, there may be a representative checking in at intervals to facilitate the event by chatting with the scheduled author or posing questions. Readers might visit in real time, but often readers check in later and zip through the messages and read the ones of interest. Your posts need to address both.

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR CHAT TIME. Individual or group chat, plan ahead to get the most value out of your time. If you’re in a group, it’s fine to plan to meet another participant at a certain time and chat about books et al– but not about the weather ad nauseum, after the first check in. In addition, have several posts planned ahead. Posts about your books, including blurbs and excerpts can be recycled, but go beyond there. I’ve posted recipes that my characters cooked in the books with a related excerpt. Consider preparing short background posts about the period as it relates to your story. Contests that require participation will let you know if they’re lurkers, but don’t focus too much on the present because many of the readers who will check in later. Make your post titles interesting to attract attention.

A POINT OF ETIQUETTE. For new posts, go to the Yahoo Group page and begin a new thread. It’s much easier to post from another author’s posted work, but it confuses the reader, particularly if there is a conversation in progress. I personally wouldn’t post a new thread until a conversation is completed.

I’ve gone way over my self-imposed limit of 500 words, but there just aren’t any shortcuts. The marketing aspect of publishing has to take up a portion of your time. This month, I’m participating in my first blog tour through a company. Next month, a report on what happened.  Bye for now.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Signing Presentation

This year I set New Year's goals that included a certain amount of speaking engagements and attending a specific amount festivals or sales. This picture is from a few months ago, but today I am attending a children's festival and my preparation had me thinking about visual presentation.

Step 1: Be Prepared
-Make a checklist of the things you will need. In addition to your books, you may need a table, chairs, table cloth, promotional items, cash, pen, maybe a cooler with water and food. Outdoors? Hat, sunscreen, bug spray.

Step 2: Set Up
-Make your area warm and welcoming. A table cloth is homey, perhaps a battery operated lamp. I have props of a stuffed dog, a haunted house and Noah's Ark. Each item has something to do with a  book I wrote. 

Step 3: Vertical
-To catch someone's eye, use picture easels to showcase your books. Posters of your book covers, banners and signs catch the eye.

Step 4: Engage
-This is not the time to work on your computer. Stand, greet people, smile. Give the log line for your book. Even if it is slow, talk with the other vendors.

Step 5: Keep things in perspective
-Even getting one book in the hands of a potential fan is more than you would have sold sitting at home being a hermit.

I'd love to hear your ideas or tricks for book signings. Please feel free to visit me at

Friday, April 4, 2014


Z:  (If someone looked at Zi , they would think that after a long stretch of working without looking up he was coming up for air,  or most likely a snack.  He would have fooled all, for the philosopher had taken hold, or was it just one of those sporadic thoughts that sometimes popped into the not-as-young-as-used-to-be heads) Most writers begin by writing cathartic experiences.
A:  (Blinks as she looks up, having been in her own writing marathon: figuring out lunches for the week) I starter with a journal recounting my life.  A good part of it was in code.    Mom thought I was a good writer and didn't make it a secret that she wanted to read my journal.   But mothers are like that, their kids are geniuses.  I wanted to keep my personal thoughts private.  And, yes it was therapeutic.
Z:  There are risks.  How does one transcend from a journal to exposing their thoughts and feelings to others?
A:  What risks?  (She wondered what other risk there could be then Mom figuring out the code.  Which she did, and was so disappointed her daughter wrote about food not boys.)  I believed I wrote well enough that others might enjoy my thoughts.
Z:  When we are in our own minds we have shortcuts that we take with our writing.  So just being cathartic could be confusing for a reader.  (He paused, stroked his beard, found Jamie's tiny toy caught on a few whiskers)  Going from confusing shorthand is grown from painstakingly describing feelings or events via the ideal of placing the audience as the purpose of the writing.
A:  We write for others.  My journal was for me... and... well... I guess a little for Mom.
Z:  Should a writer use experience to create or pure imagination?  (He did the eyeball bounce as if in tune to a ticking clock and hummed that Jeopardy song)
A:  Trick question.  Both is the correct reply.
Z:  Yes.  Nose on.  (He touched his nose)
A:  (For a moment she wondered what gesture would have happened if he said balls on....)  But what about the author's privacy.  So many people believe authors are what they write and that is so far from the truth.  We are not murders... scallywags... world travelers... fantastic lovers.
Z:  Speak for yourself about that last one.
A:  Ego---ago-go!
Z:  Writing cathartic or living within the characters...the balance between the two is how an author protects their privacy... if the work is all cathartic then the writer is vulnerable...but if the written pieces are about the characters and the scribe uses their own life experience to act as if they are in the shoes of the dramatis personae [story characters]... the final product is personal but personal to the characters not to oneself or even sometimes skewed memories.  We write about pain knowing pain.  Not that we had ever been kidnapped and knew such fear. 
A:  “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.”  This was written by Madeleine L'Engle.
Z:  So apt!  The fear of being vulnerable is why writers hold back.  So separating the two forces of character driven feelings that the author can relate, is the key.
A:  Can you write while stirring the stew?
Z:  It is your turn to make lunch.  (He thought huh, but let it go.  Ang oft marched to the beat of a different toe tapper) Stew?  Stirring?  Literally or figuratively?
A:  (She read from her screen)  “They saw it like they lived it .... this was an ugly stew sprinkled with glitter, sugar and wax drippings, gasoline or fire, somewhere over an underpass, along the 101 freeway, bouncing between skyscrapers, 22-hour days cooled off by Coronas or some such piss at 7:30 in the morning in an old '50s Ford with religious crap scattered on the dash, chipped bones, fat lips, bruises, broken glass, sunshine-baked brain, dirty-sock-in-the-mouth-hangover.” was written by Keith Morris.  Was he anal retentive... detailed-oriented... ditzy... stirring stew or was this an outline or not?
Z:  Morris wrote from some place within his spirit and soul.  He knew it and shared it. 
A:  Should one wear cologne while writing a love scene?
Z:  Do I?
A:  Maybe you should.  (She spritzed herself)  “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”  I don't know who wrote that.  Wish I had.  But as writers when we give of ourselves we know the telltale residue of each idea.   I remember moments a washed within the perfumed scents.  It helps get in touch with a place I need.  I wrote more sensuous if I feel sensuous.  I suspect you do as well.
Z:  “Flattery is like cologne water, to be smelt of, not swallowed”   I feel Josh Billings thoughts.  “Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment”  ...  “Sex appeal is the keynote of our civilization.”  This was written by Henri Bergson.  So in order to communicate such depth of emotions one has to have felt them as well as imagined them ripening into glorious moments.   To emote we have to have felt.
A:  Artists must suffer.  (She held the pained, breathy look for a beat too long)
Z:  Then write for others about it.

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