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17 posts from March 2010

03/30/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Kevin Hogan

Today's Tuesdays with Friends guest is, Kevin Hogan, a single dad working to make it as a freelance writer. Today he shares with us the difficulties of breaking into the freelance writing market. Thanks for being our guest today at KdBlog, Kevin.

BREAKING INTO THE FREELANCE WRITING MARKET

There is a blank screen staring at me when I wake each morning.  It is usually around 4 a.m., a few hours before my daughters wake and are looking for juice and cereal or wondering where the red shirt I was supposed to wash is.  A year ago I was laid off from my job as a manager of a hardware store and my wife, their mother, had left us. I was a little lost as to what direction to take and how to go about supporting, financially and mentally, my daughters. I turned to the one thing that I had always loved and wanted to do, writing.

Ten years ago I graduated with an English degree from the University of Maryland.  The only problem I had was that the concentration was in poetry, possibly the only thing less marketable then a degree in philosophy. I had watched the internet become a boom for writers with the advent of blogging and online publishing, so a few months ago I figured that I'd give it a try. It's been hard trying to break into this new frontier and I've had more disappointments then triumphs.  The one thing I have found, the most important thing, is that you have to keep your eyes open and never stop writing if you want to have a chance at making it as a freelance writer

Subjects to write about are everywhere and I find that if I spend 2 hours a day, put down a thousand words, I am then at least remaining aware, even though I may not be making money. You hope as you send articles out and troll freelance job boards that you can make a couple dollars here and a few more over there, but most weeks nothing much comes in.  It becomes a labor of love and you just have to be willing to keep several plates in the air.  I am working on two young adult books, a memoir, and several poems while writing for my two blogs and keeping an eye out for an opportunity like Kadi has given me to guest blog.

All writers hope for the big break, to write a novel or movie script that propels you to the upper echelon of writers and frees you from the fiduciary responsibilities we have to our families and selves. This probably isn’t going to happen and the best I can hope for is to make what I would working a 9 to 5 somewhere.  Being a single father I have to hustle to make ends meet, but I am at least afforded the opportunity to be there for my girls (besides saving me the cost of before and after school care) by being a stay at home dad and writer.

I have joined several listserves to keep my eyes open for opportunities and to find from others what they are doing to farther their careers as freelancers. Some focus on mechanics, some on publishing, some are just like minded people who act almost as cheerleaders when you feel like you might not make it. These are great jumping off points but are in the end just that and it takes tenacity to keep your fingers tapping the keyboard and sending things out.

This is where job boards for freelance jobs come in.  They can point you toward opportunities but it is highly competitive and takes some marketing of yourself.  I have several articles about different subjects that are solely used to send out as examples of my writing. It also helps to have a presence on twitter and facebook, places where you can network without much forethought. There are also sites like Suite 101 and Factoidz which, if an article is accepted, will pay you a percentage of the adsense revenue.  No way is this enough to live on, but if you can bring in a couple hundred extra a year it helps.  The best thing about sites like these is coming in contact, networking, with other writers and editors.

Ultimately for me it has come down to weighing how much I am willing to sacrifice for the satisfaction of being self employed.  I work tending bar when the girls are visiting with their mother and will paint houses and do other handyman jobs to keep the electric on, but I still put in my time filling the blank pages each day and hope that if I can get a few books published the royalties will ease our burden a little.  If it doesn’t happen and I can keep getting my work out piece by piece, and my girls are healthy and happy, I guess I still feel that I have succeeded as a freelancer.

03/29/2010

Why I Write

I write because I must. Because it fills a need within me. If I can't write, I get cranky, it aches in my bones like the flu. It makes me jittery and anxious if I can't fill this need. 

I write because I'm shy and tongue-tied, self-conscious, and awkward. My characters are none of these things and for a little while, I'm the cool kid, you know, the popular one that is always surrounded by friend. I'm that person when I write. My characters surround me like a blanket. 

I write because I'm a people watcher. Happier on the outside looking in than on the inside interacting. An afternoon of people watching, or aimless wondering in a spot that would be awesome to find a body, (hey, I'm a mystery writer) is a day nourishing my muse.  

I write because story telling is hardwired into my brain.

I write because I can touch people. I can make them laugh, make them cry or make them flinch.

I write because it makes me whole.

Why do you write? 

Drop me a line and let me know. I'll send a copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble to one lucky commenter.

03/26/2010

What I Like to Read: Sandra Parshall

Psychological thriller, romantic suspense, whatever you call it, it's a good read. Check out Sandra and meet Veterinarian Rachel Goddard. This is a good story. There just aren't enough crime solving veterinarians around. I like Rachel. You should check her out.

03/23/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Stacy Juba

STACY JUBA6 5x7color web

This week's guest is my good friend Stacy Juba. I had the pleasure of reading her current book, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and her upcoming book Sink or Swim several years ago when they were still works in progress. I enjoyed them then, and I can't wait to read them again and see how the final product turned out. Welcome to Tuesday's with Friends, Stacy.

 Recently, I gave away two copies of my mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today in a Goodreads First Reads contest.  I trudged out in the pouring rain to mail the books to the winners. When I returned home, I checked my e-mail and discovered that by sheer coincidence, I had won a book in a Goodreads giveaway. Since I’m an avid reader as well as a writer, I had entered several giveaways for fun.

I chuckled when I noticed the title of the book: Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want by Ronald J. Frederick. What a perfect book for my collection. The phrases “power of your emotions” and “get the life you really want” reflect the positive mindset I have adopted over the past few years. One area I had focused on a great deal was my long, rocky journey in the publishing business and where I wanted that path to lead.

It all started so well – or so I thought. At 16, I wrote a young adult novel called Face-Off (under my maiden name Stacy Drumtra) and entered it in the Avon Flare Young Adult Novel Competition. To my delight, my manuscript won first prize and was successfully published by Avon Books my freshman year in college. I naively believed that selling subsequent novels would be just as easy. 

Not quite.

I wrote one rejected young adult “problem novel” after another, until I reached my mid-twenties. While working as a newspaper reporter, I outlined my first mystery book.  I finished that manuscript, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, shortly after I got married. I’d sit behind my desk, telling the story of Kris Langley, an obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant who stumbles across an unsolved murder on the microfilm. She grows intrigued by the cold case of Diana Ferguson, an artistic young cocktail waitress obsessed with mythology. 

After a couple years, I finally found an agent, but my books still didn’t sell. Editors had championed my novels before Publishing Committees, but my raised hopes always deflated with the inevitable rejection.  After our contract ran out, the agency didn’t renew it. Although they would be happy to see my next novel, I was only a few chapters into it. How could I sacrifice my time to pen another book that might never be published? 

Then, my novel-in-progress won the $1,000 William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant, and I couldn’t quit knowing that the grant committee believed in my work. I used the money to take on-line mystery writing classes and I pursued every opportunity for my completed manuscripts. For two years in a row, my novels finaled in the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Contest for the Best First Traditional Mystery – and when good news failed to come, I scolded myself for letting my hopes escalate yet again.

Frustrated at coming so close, I read inspirational books like Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, The Power of Intention by Wayne W. Dyer, Your Heart’s Desire by Sonia Choquette, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Every book was different and each supplied me with valuable information. I also created a vision board showcasing my personal and professional goals, and made lists of fears or doubts associated with achieving those goals. When I heard an exciting new independent publisher called Mainly Murder Press was seeking mystery novels set in New England, I sent off Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. 

Then the acceptance letter arrived and relief washed over me – relief that I had persevered and that I’d finally found a publisher willing to take a chance on my work. It took nine years to sell Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and a total of 18 years to hold my second published book in my hand. Mainly Murder Press is scheduled to release my third book, the mystery-suspense novel Sink Or Swim, in December 2010. The book chronicles a reality TV show contestant who is stalked after returning to her normal life.

Where this will all lead, I’m not sure. I have my goals and hopes, and view the road as wide open. I do know one thing with certainty. I don’t believe in coincidence…I believe in synchronicity.  In the jacket copy of Ronald J. Frederick’s book, it describes how the contents will help readers to break through old patterns, communicate better, and “be more present” in their lives.  These are topics that all of us can benefit from in this fast-paced world. You can bet that I’ll be reading carefully as I prepare for the next step in my journey. 

25 YearsFrontCover web version
 

Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and the upcoming Sink Or Swim. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit. Her web site is www.stacyjuba.com. Check out the Twenty-Five Years Ago Today book trailer here

03/22/2010

Plot Driven or Character Driven?

I'm not a writing instructor, nor have I taken many serious writing classes. My grammar is shaky, and if you don't believe me, you can ask my critique partners or my editor. I've never delved into what makes a book work, or how symbolism is used in literature. My love of words is completely untainted by education. That's not necessarily a good thing, just a fact. The first time someone asked me what the theme of my story was, I was taken aback. What is this theme of which you speak? Hmmm? After a little thought and a quick perusal of my manuscript, I found that there was one, but it wasn't intentional, I promise. 

But the title of this post is, Plot Driven or Character Driven, so whats all this drivel about theme and symbolism and your total lack of education, you ask? Well, after a lifetime of writing and the better part of a decade pursuing publication, I've learned stuff, whether I wanted to or not. 

What I've come up with is this, Thrillers, are Plot Driven. Robert Ludlum, Lee Child, Clive Cussler and James Rollins write thrillers. I love thrillers. The protagonist gets dropped into the soup at the beginning and every time it looks like they're about to get out of it, something happens to make everything worse. Robert Ludlum is fantastic at keeping his poor hero and the reader breathless until the last second. You don't have time to wonder if what's happening makes sense because you're too caught up trying to help the hero out of his jam and waiting to see if he's going to survive, save the world and get the girl. It's fun reading, but I can't imagine writing that kind of story. For me that would require tons of research and hours of outlining. For me, once the outline's done, the story is over and I'm ready to move on to something else. I just can't wrap my head around that kind of chaos. Maybe it's because I'm a Virgo.

Mysteries, not all, but a significant number of them, are character driven. The reader doesn't have to worry about whether or not the world is going to be saved, they're more interested in whether the heroine is going to get away from the kidnapper in time to get the kids to their dentist appointment. Or, if dinner's going to burn when the knife wielding idiot storms into her house thirty minutes before her guests arrive. We want to know if Granny is going to marry her sweetheart, if Mama is ever going to give up playing matchmaker and if Junior will make the high school baseball team. Okay, we want to catch the murderer and see him punished as well, but the crime is interwoven into the lives of the characters and we care as much about the characters as we do about solving he mystery.

I love action movies and shows like 24. I enjoy a good thriller. But when I turn on my television for some pure entertainment, or pick up a book for mindless enjoyment, I lean toward more character driven plots. My favorite television shows, NCIS, JAG, Highlander, Psych to name just a few, are all character driven. The interaction of the characters brings me back episode after episode. Oh, there's nothing wrong with a good sword fight, but is he going to get the girl? 

So, what do you like? What do you write? Are you plot driven, or character driven and why?

Tell me what you think, or what your favorite television show, movie or book is and how it relates to the plot/character discussion. I'll draw a name from all the commenters. The lucky reader gets a copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble.  

03/19/2010

What I Like to Read: Gregg Hurwitz

The premise behind the thriller, whether your main character is MacGyver or Plain Joe Smith, is to face him with a problem not of his own making, make it imperative that he solves the problem and keep throwing roadblocks in front of him until your protagonist and the reader are exhausted, then and only then, can you put Plain Joe in a position to solve his dilemma. Few do this as well as Gregg Hurwitz. If you like thrillers, give him a try.

03/18/2010

Thursday Bonus Guest, Roger Hudson

RH Photo  

This week's special Thursday bonus guest is Roger Hudson. Roger was supposed to be my first Thursday Bonus guest last week, but I am an idiot. I know I keep it hidden most of the time, but occasionally it sneaks out, usually in front of a large number of people so really it amazes me that the entire world hasn't figured me out by now. Anyway, After embarrassing myself last week, and a nice inquiring email from Roger, I'm prepared to admit my idiocy and finally welcome Roger to KdBlog. 

So, I formally welcome Roger Hudson, the first Thursday Bonus Guest at KdBlog. Welcome Roger and thank you for your patience.

THE MAGIC OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH

 

It’s strange how a novel comes together, especially a historical mystery novel set in a period when there is relatively little hard information available. Death Comes by Amphora, the first novel in my Lysanias and Sindron trilogy, is set in Ancient Athens in 461BC, which is some years before the serious historians started recording events.

The event that attracted me to the period was the assassination of Ephialtes, the politician who brought in the radical democratic reforms - or rather it was the lack of information about him. Well, I soon found out that’s because very little is known about him. He is reputed to have been killed by an assassin ‘under cover of darkness’ so that left me fairly free to speculate. But I needed a fictional murder as well and that came from two fragments: A fragment of pottery with a painting of a merchant ship and a military galley and a photograph in a book of a giant earthenware vessel with many handles and cracks where the broken pieces had been stuck together. A vase painting of a funeral procession, with wailing mourners and body on a cart, completed the bundle. I deduced that the vessel must have been used for carrying water on long sea voyages slung in a rope or leather harness strung through the handles. So what if such a vessel had fallen on someone and killed them? Where might that have happened? Who would they be? And away it went. And hence the title Death Comes by Amphora (even if the Greeks may have had a name other than amphora for such giant containers as opposed to smaller ones).

The need to have a hero who was a newcomer to the city of Athens and would see it through innocent eyes brought another use for the merchant ship as my young hero and his slave Sindron (he would need someone mature to advise him) travelled from a distant colony at the summons of the now dead uncle, crushed in his own shipyard by the falling amphora.

 In one history book I read that the Temple of Hephaistos (whose ruins still stand in the Agora in Athens) was actually started at this time but then delayed for some reason and not completed till considerably later. Bingo! Hephaistos, the heavenly smith, was obviously the workers’ god. The long war against Persia had clearly reached a truce, the troops had returned including lower class guys feeling they had played an important role as rowers in the navy and wanting some reward for their part in helping defeat the Persians, and they could well be the force that had enabled Ephialtes to get his reforms through the Assembly (their parliament).  And uniting this reform movement was a cult of Hephaistos, the god to whom the worker-rowers credited their victory in the war. OK, that’s my invention. No historian has suggested such a cult. But it fits the bits of evidence, it tallies with the sort of thing that happened in subsequent history with such power shifts, it ‘works’ and it fleshes out one side in the struggle that must have gone on in the transfer of power away from the wealthy aristocrats to the poorer classes that resulted in the Golden Age of Athens.  I went with it anyway and it helped make an exciting story.  I went even further and deduced from a very naturalistic sculpted bas-relief of smiths at work that the rise of the lower classes had given artists an interest in manual labour. The sculpture proceeded to leap the centuries and find its way into a dramatic scene in the novel. Ancient artefacts do have their uses!

Amphora Front Cover A4 

Roger Hudson is the author of Death Comes by Amphora visit him at www.rogerhudson.me.uk

 

 

 

 

03/16/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Diane Epps

This week's Tuesdays with Friends guest is Diane Epps. She's a funny lady and I'm tickled to have her here today. And this week on KdBlog come back on Thursday for a special Guest, Roger Hudson. He was supposed to be last week's special Thursday guest, but I'm an idiot and didn't get it formatted in time. So today, enjoy Ms. Diane and come back Thursday for even more fun.





The full back story on today’s blog topic is probably too long (or boring?!) to go into, but suffice it to say, our family prides itself on its rich meatloaf-making history. My mom always made a killer “loaf,” that we looked forward to immensely and it was always a “Sunday,” special dinner item, complete with potatoes, green beans and a scrumptious dessert.

I wouldn’t say I’m known for my culinary wizardry, but there are a few things I can cook well and meatloaf is one of them. (We can also add mac ‘n’ cheese, vegetarian lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti and enchiladas which represents my comprehensive “things I cook consistently well” list.)

My eldest even had a meatloaf birthday party one year and I thought we may be 
the oddest party-throwing family ever until I read an article about the fact that author, Jackie Collins, often throws meatloaf parties for her friends and they love it!

Woe was me when the aforementioned eldest child “went vegetarian,” rendering my meatloaf fixing days to even fewer, as even our youngest teetered between “to meat” or “not to meat,” that is the question. She finally landed on the former, so every few months I whip up this fabulous comfort food hearkening back to my childhood and it got me to thinking…

How Life is Like Meatloaf

You should be able to substitute the word “life” for “meatloaf” on each of the following, so try it out and see if it works. If you’re a vegetarian this list can still work for you, just replace “meatloaf” with tofu, bean curd, eggplant or any other taste treat staple you consider to be yummy.

1. Not everybody knows how to create a satisfying meatloaf.

2. The best part about meatloaf is when it’s had a chance to be savored. That’s the time when it’s fully appreciated.

3. You can’t “wolf down” meatloaf because you’ll miss all of the subtle, fully-flavored nuances of the experience.

4. Sometimes the creation of a meatloaf you want takes a few attempts before it is just right.

5. No one agrees on what makes a perfect meatloaf.

6. You’re either a meatloaf lover or a meatloaf hater.

7. Time can be the meatloaf’s enemy or the meatloaf’s friend. It just depends on what stage of meatloaf preparation you’re in.

8. Meatloaf takes a lot of work, but it’s always worth it.

9. Meatloaf needs spice, otherwise what’s the point?

10. Overworking the meatloaf can lead to disastrous results.

11. A good meatloaf will make you happy.

12. There is no substitute for meatloaf or the contemplation of its many rewards.

13. You either want to make your own meatloaf or you don’t, but to claim meatloaf as your own means that no one can do it for you.

14. There is no shortcut for meatloaf because it takes time to make a memorable meatloaf.

15. Though many profess to have the perfect instructions, none exist for meatloaf.


 

 Diane Dean-Epps graduated from California State University at Sacramento majoring in Communication Studies with a Broadcasting concentration, as well as completing a Business Administration minor.  After a diverse and rewarding ten-year career in television broadcasting, she wended her way to a Master of Arts in English, earning several publishing credits in the process, including her master’s thesis highlighting the work of author, Langston Hughes entitled, Changing the Exchange.  Dean-Epps lives and works in northern California where she is currently at work on her latest book of poetry, Quiet Boundaries. Though she has several books in publication; Maternal Meanderings (Humor), Last Call (Humorous Mystery) and KILL-TV (Humorous Mystery) her numerous essays have appeared in a variety of periodicals, including MORE magazine (on-line), The San Francisco ChronicleSacramento magazineAtonal Press, Eye on Life, The Union, and The Contra Costa Times.

03/15/2010

A Writer Wears Many Hats

I am a writer. I can say this with all honesty because I write, or at least I used to. Being a writer doesn't have anything to do with being published. It has everything to do with writing. But, since most of us equate writing success with publication, I'll include writerly hats that deal with the publishing side as well as the writing side.

So, what's the first hat the writer wears? The human hat. Seriously, you are a mother, daughter, son, father, sister, brother, uncle. You have some connection to other humans on the planet. Even if you are a solo act, with no one else in the world that depends on you, at some point you have to interact with other humans on the planet. Okay, you don't have to, but if you're squirreled away in your hermit's cave subsisting on roots and berries, and scraping out your writing in pictograms on the rock walls of your cave, your writing is going to suffer a lack. If you want to broaden your writing, you have to get out of your cave and interact with the world.

Hat number two is the family hat. If you're not living in a cave alone, you probably have some family. They are a rich source of writing material, but they can't always be relied on to leave you alone when your muse is speaking. Children want to eat, need rides to school and occasionally you have to keep them from leaping from tall buildings or killing each other. Husbands likewise want to eat and need help with simple household chores like finding the salt shaker or their car keys. Other family members expect you to show up for family gatherings even when your on deadline. 

The work hat steals a writer's time, and sometimes his soul. Unless your name is Stephen King, Janet Evanovich or one of a few other's that routinely sign for gazillion dollar advances, you probably have to work to provide the essentials. You know, just the little things, like electricity and running water. 

If you've managed to convince your family to give you writing time, and you've found a job that keeps the lights on and doesn't beat your muse down to a jibbering idiot, congratulations. You've written, you've slaved, you've queried, and wonder of wonders, now you are published. In your elation, your mind bubbles over with ideas for your next book, and a couple of short stories, but there are other hats you have to wear. Now that time you've carved between work and family isn't just for writing anymore. You have to put on a couple of other hats. You need a web presence.

You can hire a webmaster, so you don't have to personally wear that hat, but websites need content, and unless your webmaster is psychic, you have to provide that. It's still writing, in that you are sitting at your desk and typing on your keyboard, but it's not creating stories, it's basically creating ad copy. If you are a copywriter under your working hat, this part is easier than for most of us, but it's still time away from creating stories.

Your website is up and running. It's beautiful, but wait, you're not done with that web presence yet, your agent, editor and all the members of your writing group, say you need to have a blog. The blog itself is relatively easy to set up. Most blog engines are set up for people that don't code HTML for fun, but you have to post often. There should be at least three to five posts a week. Again, technically this is writing. And it can be about anything. What you're cooking for dinner, what you're going to write about, where you're going on vacation. It doesn't matter, but it needs to be compelling enough for people to want to stop in and read it. So that's five or six hundred words, three to five days a week or more. Thats five or six hundred words that aren't going into your work in progress, but blogs help sell books and you want to sell books, so you put on your blogger hat and do it.

Now your web presence is complete. The website is great, the blog is time consuming, but fun. You've got a few posts stacked up ahead and you're ready to get back to that work in progress. But wait, there's a new hat perched on your keyboard. It says social networking and a quick note from your agent assures you that if you want to sell books, and keep your publisher interested enough to buy the next two books in the series, you need to get on facebook. Oh, and while your at it, Twitter is a great way to connect with readers. You really need to be doing this. So, you pick up your new hat and go find your kids, or borrow one from a friend or neighbor and have them show you how to facebook and how to Tweet. It's takes a while to get the facebook thing set up, a couple of hours, but no big deal. The same with Twitter,and it's kind of fun. So now in the morning, you grab your coffee, open your laptop, check your email, send one back to your agent assuring her that your manuscript is going well, and you'll have the pages to her by your deadline, no problem. You post on your blog, tweet a good morning to the world. Check out the blogs of a couple of friends. Take a quick look at the news to make sure intergalactic war hasn't broken out, though you're sure you would have heard if it had. Someone would have tweeted about it. Finally you open up that file and start writing. Your stomach growls and you realize it's lunch time and you haven't eaten yet. That's okay, you grab a sandwich, sit back down at the computer, and write for a blissful few minutes, until you glance at the clock. It's after five. Hubby and the kids have just gotten home from their hike, and you realize, you have to take off your writer hat, because you have an event this evening. It's time to put on your promotion hat.

No, the website, blog and facebook aren't enough. You have to actually get out in the world, talk to readers, sign books, give speeches. Oh yes, that promotion hat comes in multiple colors and you have to wear them all. One for scheduling events locally, a different color for speaking to libraries, reader's groups, and classrooms. You need a hat for writer's conferences and book fairs. Because, you know, people can't buy your books if they don't know about them.

I won't even go into how many other hats you need if you're working with a small publisher, or are self published, but there are probably at least five more.

And what's happening to your next book as you frantically work, cook, blog, email, facebook, tweet, speak, sleep and eat. Well, it's just sitting there. Your muse has taken to curling up on the keyboard like a sleepy kitten while she waits for you to come back. Your characters have started yelling at you in your sleep. You're pondering waterproof pens to use in the shower, or installing a shelf in the bathroom so you can write while taking care of those mundane but important tasks. 

What's the point of this hat filled post? Well, what I've discovered is time management is the most important part of my writing life. I've been able to shelve a few of my hats. My work allows me months at a time to be home with my computer. My Children are grown, and I don't have the care and feeding of a husband anymore. I probably drove him nuts talking in my sleep. What have I found as my life has rearranged to allow me more time with my muse? I don't get near as much writing done as I did when the kids were home, and I worked fifty weeks a year. See, when I had fifteen different hats to wear, I managed my time better. I wrote during lunch breaks, while dinner was cooking, while the kids were at ball practice, and late into the night after everyone was asleep. Now I sit down at my computer in the morning with my stack of hats, check my email, blog, read the news, blog surf, piddle around Amazon to see if there are any books I want to read. I pet the cat, shoo my muse away, check twitter, turn on the weather channel, stare out the window at the birds and the squirrels. I return phone calls, set up author events, stop for snacks or a quick workout, and suddenly when I look at the clock it's time for the infomercials to start on television. My muse is snoring on the corner of my desk, I'm sick to death of my desk and my computer because I've been sitting there for hours. But it's okay, I'll write tomorrow.

03/12/2010

What I Like to Read: J.F. Englert

JF Englert is the creator of Randolph, that Labrador of exceptional intelligence. You, Randolph, the labrador detective. Yeah, you read it right, The Dog is the detective, and before you ask, no, he's not a talking dog, he's just a dog, that's a detective. Trust me, this isn't your grandmother's cozy talking cat mystery. You need to give Randolph a try in A Dog About Town. You'll enjoy it. I promise.

03/08/2010

Best Laid Plans

When Where the Dreams End was published, my idea was to have my short story collection, Nine Kinds of Trouble, come out at the same time. My thought was to use the collection as a sales tool for Where the Dreams End. I thought if people got a little taste of my writing in NKoT, they'd come back and purchase Where the Dreams End. It seems I had it backwards and people that have bought and enjoyed Where the Dreams End, come back and purchase Nine Kinds of Trouble. That's very cool, but unexpected. I'll take that kind of surprise any time I can get it. 

So, what promotional ideas have you had? Did they work they way you intended or did you get a surprising result like mine? Share your promotion ideas, successes and discoveries. I'll draw a winner from the comments and send you a signed copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble.

03/07/2010

It's Read AN EBOOK WEEK at Smashwords

Drop in at Smashwords for, Read an EBook Week, and pick up a bargain.

Use Coupon Code RAE50 for half price on Where the Dreams End.

Use Coupon Code RAE25 for twenty-five percent off of Nine Kinds of Trouble.

It's a great time to try out an eBook.

03/06/2010

Off to the Callaway County Public Library to teach a writing workshop. This should be fun. More later.

03/05/2010

What I Like to Read: Jim Butcher

I Heart Harry Dresden. Seriously, if you like a detective with a little magic, Harry is your guy. He's tall, he's smart, he's a smart ass, he's funny, he's humble, he's a wizard. What's not to like, oh, and he wears an awesome black leather duster and cowboy boots. When I grow up, I want to be Harry Dresden. Maybe Harriet Dresden. Doesn't matter as long as I get to wear the awesome black leather duster.

03/03/2010

Wow, I liked Beth's post so much I published it twice. I'm not sure why that happened. have to consult my guru.

Edit: Fixed it.

03/02/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Beth Solheim

Bs-awe-high final  This week's Tuesdays with Friends guest is Beth Solheim. Beth's mystery, At Witt's End, is a hoot, and I'm guessing from her blog this week, that a lot of her material comes from her family. Beth has promised to send a signed copy of At Witt's End to one lucky blog commenter today, so don't just stop by, make sure you leave a comment. It could make you a winner.


Humor! Or, more important, the humor of the situation.

 

I write humorous mysteries. When authors observe human behavior, or get caught up in those I-don’t-want-to-be-here situations, it often becomes fodder for a book. I’ll bet you didn’t know that some folks come into this world with a neon panel on their forehead that announces their frailties and vulnerabilities. I’m one of those individuals. One day this past summer my forehead announced my patience level hit minus twenty-seven. Actually, there were several of us with neon panels blinking a blistering red. When it happens to me, I have to step back and dig deep for the redeeming benefits. They always seem to surface.

 

I was the designated tour guide for the day, so looked on the Chamber of Commerce website and choose the Blueberry Festival. My husband’s brother and wife, my mother-in-law (aka Granny), my sister-in-law and a couple cousins-in-law came along for the adventure.

 

We left early (in a caravan of three cars) to situate Granny in a comfortable spot and get a good seat at the parade. The first clue that this would be the day from hell was my husband’s comment as we pulled into town, “It sure doesn’t look like there’s a celebration today.” He was correct. The streets were bare, several stores were closed, and after a stop at the gas station (all three cars), we found out the festival had been the previous weekend and the Chamber calendar was wrong. Dang!

 

OK, now what? Since Granny was sitting impatiently in the car, we were hungry, and it was supposed to be a day of fun and adventure, we huddled and came up with another destination thirty miles down the road.

 

We pulled up to a gift shop/flower garden/restaurant combo and gasped. Granny can’t walk well, and it’s all up hill. My husband said he’d try to find a better spot on the top of the hill near the restaurant. Off he went, circled our group twice, then literally drove over someone’s lawn to get up the hill. We don’t talk about the concrete gnome statue with the red hat he drove over and cracked in half. By this time, Granny’s eyes sparked dark with impatience and starvation. We scurried into the restaurant and were met by a waitress who said, “We’re closing in ten minutes.”

 

“Oh no you’re not! It took an act of congress to get us here and we’re going to eat.” We sat around a rickety picnic table in their open air seating section (because the other sections were closed), oblivious to the nasty stares coming from the staff. Granny looked at the menu and shouted, “Nine bucks for a sandwich. Are you nuts?” We ate with heads hung low as Granny drank a two-buck-eighty cup of coffee and took two bites from her hoity-toity sandwich.

 

Then, off to another phase of our tour, twenty miles north. The Amish Furniture store. Granny might like that. It was closed. Poopola.

 

Finally, we pulled in to a tiny town that boasted a fine Mexican restaurant. Granny agreed she could eat again, so we piled into the crowded building (after hoisting Granny up a set of stairs). Margaritas were in order. We’d earned them. Plus they specialized in yummy strawberry margaritas. Granny sipped hers, grimaced and announced, “This tastes like shit.” Of course, because she’s hard of hearing, she speaks twenty decibels above normal and everyone heard her. As Granny browsed the menu she stated she’d never heard of this kind of food and didn’t want any. I ordered her a Lil Gringo, which is an American hamburger and fries. When it came, she refused to eat it because she wanted food like we were eating.

 

When we delivered Granny home, she said, “I sure had fun. We should do that again sometime.”

 

Today, when I look back on this event, it’s fodder. Funny fodder. Would the relatives agree? Probably not, but I can guarantee it will make its way to my next book. By the way, I’ve been banned from being the tour guide.

 

Thanks, Kadi, for the opportunity to join you on Tuesdays with Friends.

Like the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series, Beth Solheim was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

If you'd like to learn more about Beth and the characters in, At Witt's End, stop by and see her at bsolheim.com or check out her blog mysteries and chit chat.  You can also catch her at Reading Minnesota. And don't forget, a signed copy of At Witt's End could be yours. All you have to do is leave a comment for Beth.

Bs-awe-high final
 

03/01/2010

Fill Up Your Writing Bank

Just the act of going about your daily life can drain the deposits from your writing bank. Kids need to be dressed and fed. The boss expects you to show up and actually get something done at work. Your spouse needs you to notice them on a regular basis. There are PTA meetings, school board meetings, board meetings, angry customers, angry drivers, fussy babies, interfering family members, and well meaning but annoying neighbors. All of those things suck you dry until at the end of the day, just getting into your PJ's is a major accomplishment. But, hey, now you're supposed to write. 

How do you keep your writing bank balance from going into negative numbers? Everyone is different, so there's no one right answer to this question. A massage is good for me, or a nice dinner out. A movie or a walk in a beautiful park. For me, nature makes the biggest deposits into my writing bank. A glass of iced tea on the deck, with squirrels chattering above my head. That's a deposit. A beautiful sunset. That's a deposit. A chatty email from a good friend. That's a deposit. Find your stress relievers where you can. Do something nice just for yourself at least once a week. Even if it's locking yourself in the bathroom with a candle and a romance novel and a bottle of bubble bath. That hour to yourself is a major deposit in the writer's bank.

They say for writers to be successful, there needs to be some angst in their life. I can't completely disagree with that. I've done some of my best writing when my life was a complete disaster. It's nice to have another world to disappear into for a little while, where the problems are all of your own making and the solutions are logical and sometimes fun, but you can't make that escape if you can't get away from the overwhelming stress. You have to have a nice balance in your writing account.

I sat at the computer last night with a kitty purring on my feet. That was the deposit in my writer's bank for the day. What about you? Have you made a deposit today? It's early yet. Make one and share it with the blog. Maybe we can borrow your idea and make a deposit of our own.