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16 posts categorized "Tuesdays with Friends"

06/08/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Dorothy Francis

EdenPalmsMurderfront  Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Dorothy Francis. Dorothy is a teacher and a musician from Iowa by way of Kansas and California. She's the author of 74 children and adult books and has no plans to stop writing any time soon. Visit Dorothy on her website dorothyfrancis.com and join Kdblog as Dorothy's shares with us her first steps into the world of publishing. Thanks Dorothy for being a Tuesday Friend.


MY FIRST STEPS IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD

One September many years ago school was starting WITHOUT ME.  I was no longer a student.  Or a teacher.  I was about to become a stay-at-home mom.  Only such women weren’t called that in those days.  Housewife was the word.  My husband had recently been discharged from the army and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck.  This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.

 I picked up a magazine from a reading table. “The Writer.” I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write.  I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor.  I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to “The Saturday Evening Post,” “The Wall Street Journal,” The American Magazine.”  I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.

 And today in the public library, I learned that people GOT PAID for writing this kind of light verse.  Hmm, I thought.  I can do that.  I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied down the market listings that the article mentioned. That night after supper I started writing.

  “What are you doing?”  My husband asked.

  “Writing a poem,” I replied.

  He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”

  “Really?” 

 TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.

 We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced.  That was one of the rules I gleaned from “The Writer.”  Write on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.

 So I mailed the quatrain in to “The American Legion Magazine.”  In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10.  I thought that was the way the writing world worked.  You sent something in and soon you received a check.  No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract.  No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.

 I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before someone changed their mind. My husband’s comment was “hmmmm.  Better write them another one.”

 And so I did.  But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from “The Wall Street Journal.”  When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him.  He said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the “Pepper and Salt” column.

 Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, gave up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing.  But that’s another story.

 Please let me add that the writing world had changed since I began back in the 1950s.  So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract.  And now my author’s handbook tells me to promote my own books.  The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag.  It’s unbecoming.  It’s an embarrassment.  If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.”  I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the wonders of my writing.

But that, too, is another story.

05/25/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces J. Michael Orenduff

Author 1.53MB  Okay you guys, this is my favorite Tuesdays with Friends guest ever. He says such nice things about me, and I'm telling you right now, flattery might not get you everywhere, but it will get you on KdBlog any time. Well, that and he has such a cool writer name. J. Michael Orenduff. I mean, seriously, it's like Julia Spenser-Fleming. Why didn't I think up a cool writer name like, K Danton Fields, or K Dillon Blacktooth. Man, I can never come up with cool stuff until it's too late. Anyway, KdBloggers, please welcome J. Michael Orenduff. (Can't you just hear James Earl Jones saying that name?) I'm so jealous.

 

I knew I was going to like Kadi’s blog when she wrote that the year 2010 has “such a cool name and deserves something special.”  So she started Write On Mondays for her tips on writing or other thoughts and Tuesdays with Friends for others to chime in.  So if it’s Tuesday, it must be a friend writing today, which I hope I am because I read the blog and like cats. 

           

I write humorous “cozy” mysteries.  The first one in the series was The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, published in 2009.  The paper version won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest, and the Kindle version won the “Eppie” this year for Best eBook Mystery. Then came The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, 2010, which hasn’t yet won a prize, but I remain hopeful.  The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein is forthcoming this fall.

My publisher is a small independent press which means I have to do most of my own publicity.  After the first book in the series came out, I organized a book-signing tour.  Other small-press authors were skeptical.  Bookstores are interested only in big names that can draw crowds, they told me.  That’s true up to a point.  Any store will choose Dan Brown or Janet Evanovitch over Mike Orenduff or KD Easley.  But most stores don’t get those authors.  Remember they are in business to make money.  It costs them nothing to host you.  All you have to do is convince them you can sell a few books.  So I spent six months contacting bookstores in the Southwest because that’s where my stories are set.  It’s also where I grew up and spent much of my life.  I have friends and family.  Some of them know their local bookstore.  I sent free examination copies to any bookstore who would agree to accept one. Almost all did, and almost all ended up hosting a signing.  I sent review copies to small community newspapers.  Since I was coming to their town, many of them reviewed the book.  They rarely get asked, and I think they appreciated it.  I sent posters ahead of my visit so the store could drum up interest.  Needless to say, the tour was a great success.  I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it had failed, would I?  Because of that signing tour, I have been asked to present workshops on signings, including one last month at the Houston Writers Guild.

 

I’ll tell you my favorite event from my tour.  I showed up at Gallup, New Mexico just days after the infamous raid on artifact collectors in Blanding, Utah, not too far up the highway from Gallup.  My protagonist illegally collects ancient pottery, so the topic created quite a buzz in town.  One person asked, “Is this book about what happened last week in Blanding?”  ‘Yes,” I said with a straight face, “print on demand publishing is really fast.”

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05/18/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Welcomes Randi Black. Drop in and Win!

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 This week's guest is single mom, and amateur sleuth, Randi Black. Randi is the star of the new Randi Black Mystery Series and book one, Murder at Timber Bridge, comes out June 1st. It's the first of her adventures to be released upon the world at large. Randi's not real well known yet, but everybody dies famous in a small town, and to that end, Randi is pretty well known in the little corner of the world known as Alden, MO. Welcome to KdBlog, Randi.

"Hi KD. Wow, great to finally, meet you in person, so to speak".

"Good to have you here, Randi. Ready to tell us all your secrets?"

"Ha, secrets. There aren't any secrets in Alden, I promise you."

"Okay, well then, tell us a little about yourself to get us started."

"There's not really much to tell, I'm not forty yet. And that's all I'm going to say about that. I've got twin teenage boys. They're fifteen and seriously, I don't know if I'm going to survive the next three years, but that's another story and one that anyone who's raised a teenager already knows, so I'll just let that go. I tend bar part time at the Jolly Roger. It's a local watering hole where all the cops hang out, so we really never have any trouble out there. I keep telling my mom that, but she still thinks I should be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary or something. It's a great job, Mom. Oh, um. Sorry. A little less of the personal family dynamics would probably be better, huh. So what I was saying was, I'm a bartender. I work for my ex husband, Morgan. And, before you ask, yeah, that's kind of screwed up, but I'd rather work for him than live with him, if you know what I mean.  And that's really all there is to tell. I'm a mom, I work, and I might be dating AJ Weleski. The jury's still out on that."

"Well, then tell us a little about Alden, Mo."

"Alden, what can I say, it's smallville. We have a daily newspaper that probably should be a weekly. If it wasn't for the AP it wouldn't be two pages long. Um, I guess it's a pretty little town. Lots of turn of the century architecture and brick streets. There's one cab, he works days, so if you need a ride somewhere after six p.m. you'd better have a friend with a car. We have the normal number of town characters, and a diner that has out of this world food. It's called Mabel's and it's right across the street from the courthouse. If you stop by Alden, make sure you at least drop by Mabel's for a piece of pie. It's worth the trip all by itself. And my Granny works there. Granny Bert. Her name's Bertie Mae Jennings, and she's been at Mabel's forever. She might actually count as one of the town characters, but don't tell my mom I said that. Granny Bert would think it was a hoot, though.

"Okay, we know about Randi, and a little about Alden, what else do we need to know before we read about your adventure in Murder at Timber Bridge?"

"Gosh, I guest a cast of characters would be helpful. Let's see, there's Lex. He's also a bartender at the Roger. He hasn't been in town long, and I don't know a lot about him except he's nice looking in a James Dean bad boy kind of way. He's also the scourge of my Jolly Roger existence, but I won't go into that right now.

"Then there's AJ. He was the love of my life, once upon a time. He would like to be again, but you know, sometimes it's good to know when to say no.

"My brothers, I guess I can't leave them out. Steve is the oldest. He's a retired Army Colonel. He generaly treats me like an especially annoying private. I mostly ignore him. I've had years of practice and even though he was in the Army for twenty years or so, I was able to put that skill right back to use almost the minute he and his wife Sara Beth hit town. Then there's my twin brother Chad. He's in the Navy reserves. He was a Navy SEAL until he got hurt, then they made him ride a desk for a while and now he plays weekend warrior once a month. He was gone for a long time, and I'm glad to have him back. He's a nice man even if he is my brother. He's kind of scary looking. He's a vice detective and he does a lot of undercover work and he looks the part. Big brother Steve's a detective too. And AJ, they all came back from the service and fell into the police department almost the minute they returned. I missed them when they were gone, but damn, sometimes, I kind of wish they'd disappear again, and whatever you do don't let that get out to my mom. I would never hear the end of it. She thinks her boys walk on water."

"Okay, Randi. We've met you, some of your family and friends, and we've found out a little about Alden. Now tell us how you ended up in the middle of a murder investigation, because unless you left something out, you're about the only one in your family that's not a member of the police department."

"Well, you see, I went out with my brothers, AJ and my boys, Devin and Travis for a nice little weekend outing and well, tell you what, rather than try to explain it, why don't you click the link and read the first chapter. Really, KD. You told the story a lot better than I can."

"Well, thanks, Randi. That was very sweet. And to my KdBloggers out there. Check out chapter one of Murder at TImber Bridge and find out how Randi managed to get caught up in the madness of a murder investigation. It's a fun story. And on June 1st, you can pick up a complete copy of Murder at Timber Bridge or one lucky KdBlogger could win a signed ARC of MaTB. Just leave a comment. I'll have Randi draw a name from all the commenters and I'll get the ARC to you so you can win it before you buy it. And, if you'd like to meet Randi before June 1, check out Nine Kinds of Trouble and read the story Nothing Much Has Changed.

NKoT
 

 

 

05/11/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Welcomes back Stephen Liskow

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KdBlog welcomes back, friend of the blog, Stephen Liskow. Stephen's book, Who Wrote The Book of Death? Will be in stores on Saturday. We're tickled to help Stephen introduce his baby to the world. Welcome back to KdBlog, Stephen.

Scene of the Crime                        5/11/2010

 

My first novel, Who Wrote The Book of Death?, comes out Saturday, and I hope you’ll buy it, love it, and tell all your friends about the cool cover and even cooler story.

 So far, three people like it. My cats are still waiting for the reviews.

 A friend challenged me to write a romance novel and this started out as one. Once I had a romance novelist as a main character, though, that seemed like overkill so she became a stand-in for a romance novelist. The real writer is a man, but who ever heard of a romance writer named Norman Roberts, Dan Steel, or Jeffrey Crusie? That’s why he needs someone to appear at book signings.

 Literary New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston have so many PIs on call that you shouldn’t find a criminal within a hundred miles. On the other hand, few mystery writers have used Connecticut so I decided to use New Britain, just south of Hartford. I taught there for years and heard stories about where the bodies are buried.

 Called the Hardware City since the early 1900s, New Britain once housed 15 manufacturing firms, including Stanley Hardware, and the technology grew faster than rust. Natives held nearly 1500 patents for machine parts, window sash pulleys, various tools and door hardware, and the prototype for the wire coat hanger.  The Stanley Works employed half the population and funded two parks—one designed by Frederick Olmsted—a library, a museum, and a hospital.

 The demographics and the economy have shifted over the last 40 years, but the town still boasts two community theaters, a symphony, the ConCora vocal group, an industrial museum, the newly-renovated Museum of American Art (Which I mention in the book), and the largest public high school in Connecticut, alma mater to two of the state’s governors. Central Connecticut State University, originally Connecticut Normal School, the oldest teachers college in the country, resides on Stanley Street.

 The industry spawned wealth, and the older architecture can still make you catch your breath. I spent a weekend taking pictures of houses that would bring seven figures in Palm Springs or Beverly Hills. Now, alas, they provide office space for realtors, dentists, and lawyers. I decided that my male writer lived near the museum and invented the house’s floor plan from studying the pictures I took. The Hospital for Central Connecticut looks downhill at that house and over the band shell of A. W. Stanley Park.

 All this local history gave my characters places to go and things to do when they got there. It also gave my killer places to lurk, handy when you’re stalking a woman who can’t even tell her bodyguard she’s not really writing a book.

 But if she’s not really writing a book, why does someone want to kill her? Well, since you asked…

 Like I said, so far, three people like it.

 Kate Flora, who has encouraged me since critiquing an earlier novel says, “A great book...really fast out of the box and the pace never lets up. You won't be able to put it down."  I hope she’s right.

 Jeremiah Healy, author of The Only Good Lawyer and Turnabout, says "… Steve Liskow has injected a major booster shot into our genre… I highly recommend this debut." My detective, Greg Nines, shares some traits with Healy’s John Francis Cuddy, and they could definitely follow each other’s conversation.

 The third person is my publisher.

 I hope you’ll be the fourth.

 

Who Wrote...Cover concept - Copy

 Steve Liskow has published stories in three collections of New England crime writing and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. He is currently researching another novel set in New Britain. Learn more at www.steveliskow.com.


05/05/2010

Welcome Blog Guest, Rob Walker

After much delay, some confusion, an email snafu, and a small blog glitch, KdBlog is finally ready to introduce very special blog guest, Rob Walker. Rob, thanks for your patience and welcome to KdBlog.

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                       E-Books and On Becoming an Indie Author/Publisher

                                             – Your Ticket to Success in Authorship

 

 

E-books and the electronic readers like the kindle are suddenly legion at schools, at writers conferences, even at ironically enough bookstores. I will never forget at a book signing when a lady pushing a baby carriage by stopped long enough to reach into the carriage to pull out her kindle to proudly flash before me to ask my wife, Miranda and I, “Are your books on Kindle?” We were ready for her, both of us replying, “Yes indeed.”

3 Million kindle e-readers have been sold since December of this year, perhaps more; this is the number I keep seeing in articles in The New Yorker and Newsweek. ,; the future is upon us and traditional publishing has reason to be concerned even if they don’t know it.  More and more authors are taking control of their content and making decisions that impact the content—what they create.

Traditionally, the working arrangement between publisher and writer has always been one of you turn over your creation and the publisher “takes all the risks” as if you are taking no risks in spending months if not years on a manuscript. However, since you are taking “no risks” like those faced by the publisher—business risks—the notion is you are now passive cargo and worth about 8 to 10 percent of each “unit” sold. Now all decision making is out of your hands, and you are supposed to go write another book in the event the first one sells well. Meanwhile, the publisher’s team—all of whom have pensions and paychecks—make the important decisions of pricing, placing, marketing, packaging, title, down to the font and colors on the cover.

In other words, all decisions made by committee, all of whom are making more money on books being pushed than the author. Think totem pole and the author is at the bottom, and wasn’t a camel a horse designed by committee? My point is when the book fails, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole is the one blamed as his/her numbers of unit sales is too low. So the business model for the author is pretty bleak, and has been since Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press; ninety nine percent of all novelists in the world cannot live on what they earn as writers. Could you live on eight percent of what you sell without health benefits or pension?

That said, let’s turn now to the business model for the author who is now an Independent Author/Publisher—and for starters, the Kindle contract is not an 8-10% cut but a 70/30 split with the 70 going to the author! Aside from this, the author makes all the decisions to package and price the book, no title fights, no arguments over hardcover vs. trade vs. mass market as none of these designations apply in e-books. The added attraction to doing e-books is control and a sense of freedom.

Publishers are as interested in change as glaciers, and for good reason—as they “take all the risks” and they take the lion’s share of the profits.  This is no more evident than now with the sudden growth of e-readers and e-readership as the big houses like Random House and Penguin and others are warring with Amazon.com over price-setting. They have always controlled the prices, and now suddenly millions of avid readers, rabid readers if you will (as kindle readers can go through forty books in a week) want their books at less than ten dollars—as Bezos, the head of Amazon promised them—“You buy a kindle, no kindle book on Amazon for more than 9.99.”

Fact is, Bezos wants the world to have access to any book you or I want “at the moment” or as close to NOW as Whispernet can make it happen. This is why Bezos named his device “Kindle” to “kindle the passion in readers and non-readers alike.”

By using the A-B-C directions at www.dtp.amazon.com, I now have some 43 novels for sale online via Kindle Book Store on Amazon.com. The e-books for out of print titles may require getting a company like www.blueleaf.com to convert an actual book to a scan to doc, and once you have a doc file it must be converted to HTML—which can be the most difficult part of the steps involved. If you already have a doc file of the book in question, you won’t have to send off a book to be scanned. I used Blue Leaf because their prices are three times cheaper than anyone else doing book scanning.

The most trouble involved in the process is converting the file to html and then in reviewing it, correcting the errors that will inevitably come up in the process of conversion—sometimes quite time consuming; however, once done and placed up on your kindle dashboard, the rest is smooth sailing. The results in terms of sales are astonishing.  In the old business model with traditional publishing wisdom has it that your price the book at the top end—as high as the market will bear. However, in the e-book model, the readers expect and demand low end pricing, very low end pricing. They are savvy readers who know that putting a book onto Kindle is a snap compared to printing on paper, paying for paper, warehousing paper, overhead for paper, paying PR people, paying marketing director and his staff, etc.  Since all of this “goes away” in e-book world, the readers expect far cheaper books in the manner Bezos envisioned – and why not?

It is for this reason that I listed most of my forty plus books on Kindle as 1.99 and 2.99. These books at this low end rate are selling like a river flowing, while my three titles placed up by Harper Collins—priced at exactly the same price as the paper books at 6.99—are sitting there like three stones (no sale) while my novels like Children of Salem at 2.99 are my bestselling titles. I earned 400 dollars last month on books priced at the lowest end of the scale, while my hardcover novel in the same month earned zip.  In one year, I earned a mere 141 dollars on my traditionally published hardcover DEAD ON, while in one month, I earned 400 dollars on my lowly 1.99 and 2.99 specials.  What does this kind of economic comparison say about the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things?

The really disheartening thing that drop’s an author’s hopes and heart like a stone are a thing called “Returns” – and a writer does not earn out his advance and royalties until “returns” are “returned” from the booksellers. This is an old and out of date business element in book publishing and bookselling.  It is the only business wherein the product can be returned for full or close to full price if the buyer cannot sell the product. Until all “returns” are in, the author is kept in the dark about sales numbers, and even if he or she can get the sales numbers, there is always the warning that this is “before” returns. After returns then you can “believe” your royalty statement. That and AFTER everyone else—like the distributor of said units—gets their cut. Then the agent takes his or her cut. Pretty soon what trickles down as leftover change makes its way to the author.

In e-books, a disappointed reader returns a book, not the bookseller; Amazon.com will never “return” a book to you, the author/publisher. Essentially, there are no returns—perhaps eleven in a year, maybe twelve, but it is all done electronically as in credit to the account.  Now  then, once the traditional publisher is DONE with a book or a series and declares they will buy no more titles in a series or they will discontinue selling a title, what happens to the book or series? They go out of print; they become Ops which can only be found in used book stores or via Amazon cooperative used book stores. Out of prints pretty much means the book is dead and it was believed, up till now, dead forever—except in used book stores or on “remainder” tables.

In the world of e-books, guess what. There is no out of prints until which time the author decides to deep six or kill a book (once again the author decides). No author I know wants a beloved title to be out of print. No one wants his or her book to be “Remaindered” either. This is when a book is overstocked in a warehouse when THEY decide to sell it off at ten or five cents on the dollar to rid it from the warehouse, so it winds up at Costco or Wal-Mart with a big discount slapped on it while Costco pays ten cents a book and charges the reader five or seven bucks, and the author gets zero on such sales. In e-book world, there is no such animal as a “Remainder” e-book. Next to no returns, no “stripped” covers, and no remainders, and no warehousing, and no need of a lot of the flotsam of traditional “dead tree” publishing.

We need a Beetles song for e-book publishing; something along the lines of Imagine…Imagine a world without rancor between author and publisher as he is the same person! The sense of control and freedom comes with “If the book fails, I have only myself to blame.” Whereas in traditional publishing, “If the book fails, we have no one to blame but the author (as we put up the advance funds, the costs of printing, costs of salaries to committees, cost of distribution, cost of mailings, costs of returns, and eating the remainders—so it must be that the reading public just does not like this author, so in the end it must be his fault we did not sell enough units, and 50,000 units is not enough!).

So how can you get started in becoming an Indie Author/Publisher? Take a close look at www.smashwords.com and give it a shot; put up an article like my RN wife, Miranda Phillips Walker did on Kicking the Migraine Monkey off Your Back. She placed it up on Smashwords and then onto Kindle. The process for each is similar, and working with a short document is a good way to get a feel for the protocol of becoming your own publisher. It may at first be frustrating, but go at it a second time, and try to do it when you are not tired. Go to www.dtp.amazon.com as this is where the real action is and most readers! Finally, if you are having too many problems and the confusions and frustrations are too many, go to your son, daughter, nephew, niece or neighborhood computer geek for a spot of help. There are also folks online popping up daily who will help you for a price.

As for cover art, this too can become a problem if you are not proficient with images and placing lettering over images. I am not, so I get my son onto this project, and he is a genius with creating cover art (see any one of my titles for example: Killer Instinct, Disembodied, Children of Salem). Stephen’s found at www.srwalkerdesigns.com but there are many others online who do this for a price as well.  In the event you want a POD paper book option as well as an e-book, you might want to work with www.wordclay.com for a print on demand paperback version, and there I found creating a cover using their template relatively easy once I got the hang of it. If you approach all of it as “practice run” with the expectation it may take you at least two runs at this, you will not become so overly upset with yourself as to quit on it before you are successful.

Oh my…I just earned $100 more in the last twenty-four hours from my ebooks! Well enough of that! This about covers it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Robert W. Walker


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Award-winning author and graduate of Northwestern University ROBERT W. WALKER created his highly acclaimed INSTINCT and EDGE SERIES between 1982 and 2005.  Rob has since written his award-winning historical series featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom with CITY FOR RANSOM (2006), SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY (2007), and CITY OF THE ABSENT (2008). This history-mystery hybrid straddles the Chicago World’s Fair circa 1893, and has had enthusiastic reviews from Chicago historians and the Chicago Tribune, which likened “the witticism to Mark Twain, the social consciousness to Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere to Poe!”   Rob’s most recent book is DEAD ON, a PI’s tale of revenge as a reason to live—set in modern day Atlanta. An unsold but completed novel entitled CUBA BLUE features a female detective in Havana who investigates a multiple murder of three doctors from America and Canada (co-authored with Lyn Pokabla).  The current work in progress is CURSE of the TITANIC, another theory of why Captain Edward Smith sank the Titanic as I put a plague-spreading monster on board (two concurrent stories of present day and historical suspense and horror). Rob’s completed, next historical suspense is CHILDREN of SALEM, while an historical romance and suspense novel, it pulls no punches in exposing the evil and the many sad truths of any theocracy— this one surrounding the court and people who allowed neighbor to hang neighbor in the Salem Witchcraft episode in grim 1692 New England, which one professional editor remarked on:  Only Robert Walker could make this work—romance amid the infamous witch trials. For more on Rob and his published works, see www.robertwalkerbooks.com , www.HarperCollins.com , www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com , www.makeminemystery.blogspot.com , www.dirtydeeds-advice.blogspot.com

04/13/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Howard Sherman

This week's Tuesdays with Friends guest is Howard Sherman. Howard runs a business, an IT consulting company and manages to write and donate a blog post to KdBlog. I feel like a total underachiever, but his post is about something I'm really interested in. I love my Kindle, but I wish it had a touch screen and I'm a total Apple geek. I own an iMac, macbook, macbook air, and waaaay to many iPods. I need an iPad. No really, I need one. Okay, Okay, I really, really want one. Let's check out what Howard thinks about the new iPad. Maybe it will change my mind, but I doubt it. 


Is the iPad Any Good? I guess.

Will the eBook market bear a $499 "Super iPod"?

 

by Howard A. Sherman, Interactive Fiction author and eBook maven from Malinche Entertainment.  Visit them on the web at http://www.malinche.net

 

The public launch of the iPad is just a few days away and with all the hype and hoopla it's high time we take a hard look under the hood of Apple's next market-morphing product.  As a writer and publisher of interactive fiction I'm one part author . one part technologist and one part entrepreneur.   The writer in me is thrilled with Apple's adoption of ePub making it a snap for publishers who have an existing ePub catalog to publish their entire catalog to the iPad.  Ditto for authors who want to side-step the middle man and take their published works directly to the public.  The geek in me is stopped cold in his tracks by the "not newness" of the iPad.  If we turn down the volume on the hyperbole (e.g. "It's hard to believe we could fit so many great ideas into something so thin" - taken directly from the iPad section of Apple's website)  and look at the iPad offering objectively it's really nothing more than a "Super iPod".  Seriously.

The iPad doesn't bring any new technology to the table that you won't find in an iPhone or an iPod Touch.  And with pricing coming in at $499 for the entry-level model with just 8GB of storage and WiFi access going up to a heady $829 PLUS monthly (optional) data plan fee for the 64GB model with 3G capability, I just don't see the iPad being a game changer. Please don't think I'm slamming the iPad.  I'm not.  It's a sweet-looking piece of technology but I'm not entirely sold.  But I want to be.  That's because I'm an Apple fanboy of the highest order.  How high? I'm proud to say that an iMac sits next to my Windows 7 PC on my desk while under said desk are two laptop bags - one holds a Windows Vista laptop and the other a MacBook Pro.  My iPhone is linked to my Me.Com (formally known as Mac.Com) account syncing my email, contacts. iDisk storage and calendar with my iPhone and I happily pay $99 per year for the privilege.  My company, Malinche Entertainment, is licensed to display the Universal Apple Logo on every interactive fiction title we sell and we were also early entrants in the Apple iPhone developer's program.  I'm all-in when it comes to believing in the Apple.

As a businessman I must admire Apple's strategy; the entry-level iPad at $499 is just $10 more than Amazon's Kindle DX.  Brilliant.  In a side by side comparison the basic iPad model blows the Kindle DX clear out of the water and several miles inland.  However, as iPad storage capacity and wireless capabilities increase so does the the price tag.  Let me play devil's advocate here; if I'm an Apple consumer looking at an $829 Apple iPad why shouldn't I take things just one step further and spend $999 on a full-blown Apple MacBook computer?  Getting back to my Windows roots I'm obligated to point out that a very respectable Acer laptop with Windows 7 and mighty fine system specs (like 500% more storage than the top of the line iPad) can be had for just $499.

And, again, it's not just a super-sized iPod - it's a full-fledged computer capable of doing everything an iPad can do and so much more.  Bring the new breed of netbooks into the picture and the price comparisons get reallyinteresting.

Melding together my three split personalities  as a geek, a writer and an entrepreneur into a cohesive whole, let me say that the iBook application on the iPad is a very impressive piece of software.  It fully leverages the technological capabilities of the iPad delivering a reading experience that's going to be hard to beat.  What's easy to beat about the iPad? The price vs. performance comparison. 

04/06/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Jenny Milchman

The Mysterious Journey of a Mystery Novel

or,

What Happens AFTER You Write the Book

 This blog post should start, as many stories do, with “Once upon a time.”

 Once upon a time, I wrote a mystery/suspense novel.

 Wait. Actually it should start with “Once upon a time, a long, long time ago.”

 I didn’t know it would be this long between finishing said book and having it actually land in a reader’s hand—which it hasn’t yet—but as every fan of mysteries and suspense knows, a good story depends on lots of twists and turns.

 My story—and I don’t just mean the fictional one—has its fair share of them.

 Writers will tell you that the middle of a book is rife with opportunities to get bogged down. And when that happens one of the things to do is ask, What happens next?

 After I finished my novel, I asked that very question. And the answer I got was, find an agent.

 So I did. It took me about eight months to receive my first (and second) offers of representation. I knew that wasn’t a terribly long time in the scheme of this industry, and so I was feeling pretty good.

 You remember the “long, long time ago” part, though, right?

 Once I decided on an agent—which, after the writing, was the best part yet; getting to talk to these wonderful people, and hearing their plans and ideas—I thought the next plot twist would be simple.

 So predictable, in fact, that if it appeared in a book, you’d have to edit it out.

 Sign with agent, book sells. Right?

 Not right.

 I had chosen a wonderful agent. I will always have very fond feelings for this early believer in my work, and have read with excitement the news of her many sales since we came to an amicable parting of the ways.

 A good suspense novel depends on surprise. The reader should be surprised by the ending and also by events along the way.

 This business has continually surprised me. I’m surprised by the level of subjectivity, how one editor’s “languid and literary” is another’s “fast-paced.” Or even, “too fast-paced.” I’m surprised by how incisive those editors’ eyes can be, how they can completely turn around a manuscript I thought was in great shape.

 That’s what happened with my novel. It needed to be completely turned around, which I think most writers would agree can take quite some time. It’s taken me a long time anyway. Luckily, I went on to sign with another terrific agent who has helped with it all.

 And so maybe, just maybe, I’ll soon be in for a surprise myself.

 

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.

03/16/2010

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.

03/02/2010

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
 

02/23/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces NJ Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist s  N. J. Lindquist is an award-winning writer, inspiring speaker, and popular writing teacher. Like fellow-Canadians Louise Penny and Giles Blunt, N. J. has an engaging writing style and a unique worldview. Her choice of setting is the city of Toronto, whose multi-cultural, eclectic nature is wonderfully reflected in her books.

Publishers Weekly called N. J.’s first Manziuk and Ryan Mystery, Shaded Light, “captivating,” and said she “updates the Golden Age template with modern police techniques. ” In reviewing Glitter of Diamonds, her second mystery, Library Journal called Lindquist a “master of plotting.” Midwest Book Review said, “Humor, complications, and characters so real that you can just about touch them and smell their sweat.”

 N. J. is currently working on her third mystery. She also has a number of short stories, several of which you can read on her website.

 Welcome N.J. and thanks for being my guest on Tuesdays with Friends.


 Tell me something about N.J Lindquist. For example, what do you like to do when you’re not writing, or conducting workshops?

 Read. Mostly mysteries of all types, but some fantasy, books by friends, books about writing… Use my Wii Fit programs. I love Wii Fit! Shop (for clothing, not food. My husband took over the meals about 9 years ago. So nice… J ) Watch baseball, curling, basketball. Listen to music. Watch the odd movie…especially comedies… the old ones.  

 Tell us a little bit about your Manziuk and Ryan mystery series?

 I’m a big fan of many of the “Golden Age” authors – Allingham, Christie, Heyer, Marsh, Rinehart, Sayers, Tey, Wentworth, et al. Basically authors who wrote in the 1920’s and 30’s. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of all types of mysteries, but my favourite are the classic style, where there’s a puzzle to be solved and the reader tries to guess “whodunit” before the author reveals the truth. So, when I started writing a mystery, it seemed sensible to try to write in that style, but in today’s world.

 My first mystery actually started with my walking through a Japanese garden many years earlier, and thinking it would be a perfect setting for a body to be found. (Why I thought that, I don’t know, but I’ve read mysteries all my life, so….) Years later, when I decided to try my hand at writing a book, I remembered that garden, decided whose body would be found.

 I set the garden on an estate north of Toronto, owned by a successful corporate lawyer. I added a team of detectives I felt were realistic for the city of Toronto at that time—Paul Manziuk, a somewhat tired career cop, and Jacquie Ryan, a young black woman with an MA and a chip on her shoulder. I spent hours and hours and hours figuring out all the clues and alibis, and so forth. And when it was published, under the title Shaded Light, many reviewers, including Publishers Weekly, compared it to the best of Agatha Christie. What more could I ask for?

 For my second mystery, I thought about the phrase, “Write what you know.” Well, I’ve been a baseball fan all my life, so I decided I knew enough to write a mystery set in the world of baseball and the surrounding media. So Glitter of Diamonds, which also has Manziuk and Ryan in it, is about baseball and the influence of the media and the lure of fame. And it, too, has been compared to the Golden Age novels, by Library Journal and many other reviewers.

 You can meet Paul and Jacquie and read the first chapter of each of my mysteries at http://manziukandryan.com

 I saw on your website that you also write coming of age stories for teenagers. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

 I honestly don’t know why, but when I first sat down to write seriously, many years ago, the voice that came out was that of a teenage boy. I’d been teaching high school and I’d worked with teens in other areas, so I really was interested in them. Why a boy and not a girl, I’m not sure. I think it may have been because I thought boys were more interesting. Or maybe because I’d read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys so many times.

 Anyway, I wrote two novels and a bunch of short stories, all from teen male perspectives, between the time I got married and the time the first of my four sons came along. And then my writing kind of ended for a while.

 Years later, when my youngest son was five, and I’d become frustrated trying to find really good books for my older sons—especially books with good role models—I pulled out my old stories. My first novel has actually never been published, but my second became the book, Best of Friends. It’s about a very average, ordinary teen who discovers that who you are inside is more important than who you are on the outside. I eventually wrote three more books about the same characters.

 My other teen novel is In Time of Trouble, and it’s about a very different teen who has really messed up his life and is wondering if everybody would be better off if he wasn’t around. My site for them is http://comingofagenovels.com/

 What’s the biggest difference between writing for the adult market and writing for the teen market?

 I’d say it’s probably harder to write for teens. Adults are more forgiving, more willing to make excuses. Teens tend to have a shorter tolerance.

 Do you have a favorite character? Come on you can tell us. We won’t think badly of you if you like one of your creations more than the others.

 Well, I have four sons, and they’re all my favourite, although for different reasons. But, to be truthful, I do have a favourite character: Shane, in In Time of Trouble. I modeled him after several students I taught in high school, and so in one sense he reminds me of those days. But a bigger reason is that there are so many people like Shane, who don’t really know who they are, who put up barriers (humour, rudeness, toughness, smart answers, indifference, etc.) as shields to protect themselves; who won’t allow other people to get close; and yet who have all kinds of talents and abilities. I wrote In Time of Trouble for those people, as well as to show that just because someone acts like a bully or a jerk doesn’t mean there isn’t a hurting child inside.   

 Who’s your favorite mystery author?

 Oh, there are so many! I’ll go by writers whose books I collect: Dead: Tie between Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie. Living: Tie between P. D. James, Donna Andrews, Robin Burcell, T. Jefferson Parker, and Peter Robinson. But I’ve read thousands of books, and there are many more I love.

 What do you like to read?

 Mysteries and more mysteries. I prefer those closest to the classic style. Not really into the very hard-edged or the very cozy. But if it’s well-written, I’ll read almost anything that’s called a mystery or a thriller. I also like some fantasy. My second son is a huge fantasy reader and he loans me the ones he thinks I’ll like. He’s also writing and one of these days he’ll have books out. I really like what he writes, too. J

 What authors have influenced you most in your writing career?

 Louisa may Alcott is number one. I read Little Women when I was eight, and I totally identified with Jo.

 I first read the stories of Hans Christian Anderson and the brothers Grimm when I was seven. I continued to read them through the years. Alice in Wonderland. A Child’s Garden of Verses. Peter Pan. I had very few books, so I read them over and over and over. I can’t say specifically how they influenced me, but I know they did, and I don’t know how I would have survived without them.

 I recently wrote an article about the importance of books in my life and got two awards for it. You can read it online at http://hotapplecider.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/The-Diamond-Ring.pdf

 I started reading mysteries when I was about 9 or 10. Julie Campbell (who wrote a number of Trixie Beldon, Ginny Gordon, Cherry Ames, and other youth books) definitely made an impact. I related to those books in ways I never did to Nancy Drew. I identified with Trixie – believed she could be real. That’s how I try to write.

 I read all of Jane Austen’s books when I was about 12. Then Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardner, and John Creasy. Then on to Emilie Loring, Dorothy Sayers, P. D, James, Desmond Bagley, Josephine Tey, Dick Francis, P. G. Wodehouse….

 I learned much of my history from authors such as Thomas Costain, Pierre Berton, and Louis L’Amour. Loved the plays of Anton Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw. Blown away by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment which I read just after my first son was born. I’ll never forget the “oranges” story in John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath or the true story of David Wilkerson in The Cross and the Switchblade.…

 I know they’ve all influenced my writing, but in subtle ways. I like to incorporate a mixture of everything. Life is never all somber, or all funny, or all deep, or all mundane. It’s a mixture. And I try to put that mixture in my books. So you have “real life” with it’s mixture of the simple and the complex, the profane and the sublime, the gritty and the humorous. And always, deeper meanings if you look for them.

 Believe it or not, many of the writers I’ve studied and loved are poets. I double-majored in English and psychology, and my area of choice was the 16th and 17th century! So Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Herrick, Herbert, and many others. Totally into the metaphysical poets with their complex metaphors! J But I also loved Robert Browning, Robert Service, Robert Louis Stephenson, e.e. cummings…

 And I’d have to add Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Ian Tyson, and other songwriters. Blows me away how they can put a whole novel into two lines! Songs like “Kawliga,” “Apache Tears,” “Irving Berlin is 100 Years Old Today….” To get more recent, Johnny Reid’s “Kicking Stones.” Wow! I get a lot of ideas from songs. And I write with music playing. Songs, I mean; not just the music.

 What is the best writing advice you ever received?

 Way back in first year university, I got something like 45, maybe less, on my first essay in English and thought I was doomed. No one had ever taught me how to write an essay. I honestly had no clue. But in addition to the mark, the professor had written what I had done wrong, what I hadn’t done, what I had done right, etc. on the sides and back of the pages. On my second essay, I got 50. More writing. The third was 60. More writing, explaining to me what I was missing, and what was good. The fourth essay mark was 75.

And I never looked back.

 At the end of that year, I tied with one other person for the highest mark in first year English; and when I graduated two years later, I got the medal in English. All because someone showed me what I was doing wrong and encouraged me to do more of what I was doing right. So I learned that if I wasn’t doing something right, I could find out what I was missing and fix it.

 Later, I always asked to see the changes editors made in my work when they published it, so I could learn from them.

 What advice would give to a new author?

 1. Read good writing, books on writing, and whatever it is you most want to write.

 2. Try all kinds of types of writing. Don’t limit yourself out of the gate.

 3. Start small. Short stories, columns, articles, etc. Build up a resume and learn what you’re doing before you start a book.

 4. Join a professional organization for writers and get involved. You can learn so much more from people who are successful than you can from people who are also aspiring writers.

 5. Find someone you respect who can point out what you’re doing wrong and encourage you in what you are doing right. You might have to pay for this, but it’s usually worth it in the time and energy it saves you. An objective person who knows what to look for can spot things you might never see on your own: because we “know” what we’re trying to say, it’s very hard for us to see we haven’t quite said it.

 I blog on writing at http://www.writewithexcellence.com/

 What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

 "You’re a very good writer and you need to just keep writing, and try all kinds of things.”

 I was “writing” in my head before I went to school. But my English teachers throughout elementary school and high school, with (thankfully) a couple of exceptions, were quite rigid and had no appreciation for creativity. So I was the quiet, obedient student who never made waves, but locked my “real” self away. Later, as an English teacher myself, I tried so hard to encourage and excite my students. My parents were supportive, but I was an adopted child and they had no framework to understand me, so they couldn’t help in practical ways.

 If you were shipwrecked on a desert island and you could only have five things, what would they be and why?

 Well, besides lots of food and water, and things like combs and tooth brushes, and clothes, and blankets, and tools, and a first aid kit… A Bible. Maybe an AlphaSmart, because it runs on batteries. And some way of playing music. I could live without books (because I can make up stories all day), but I can’t live without music. And some way to exercise. A treadmill or stepper or a stability ball or at least a couple of handweights.

 Tell us a little bit about your newest book and when it’s coming out?

 Good question. I’m currently working on a memoir. Or I should say “trying to work on a memoir.” I’m hoping it will be done some time this year. I think this is the book I “have” to write to just get it done so I can get to all the other fun things. It’s basically about growing up gifted and creative with people who had no clue who I was or what to do with me. 

 I also have a fantasy for children that’s nearly done, and which I have no idea what to do with. My younger granddaughter, for a solid year, kept asking me to write something for “her age.” So I did. And now she wants a second one! 

 And I’m working on my third mystery, Opaque Rays—and I ache to just get lost in it. It will be another Manziuk and Ryan mystery, and it has another unique setting—a floor of a high-rise where a group of individuals live. All are over 75, and all have been involved in some aspect of the arts. In their retirement, they wanted to control their own destinies, so two of them built a high-rise with one floor designed with individual apartments plus a large lounge and dining room, with a live-in staff and other daily or weekly staff. When one of the residents is murdered, Manziuk and Ryan have to follow a trial that leads to events from the past. Or does it?

 I have a page on my Web site where you can check on my Works in Progress and see how they’re going. http://www.njlindquist.com/wips/

 Okay, last question. What’s something you’ve always wanted to talk about in an interview, but no one’s ever asked?

 Perhaps the role my husband plays. He’s been a huge support. My biggest fan. My first (substantive) editor. I’d likely have given up years and years ago, except he wouldn’t let me.

GD TP Sept 200 2 inch

 

02/16/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Stephen Liskow

Steve Liskow 9 Small  This week's Tuesdays With Friends Guest is Stephen Liskow. Welcome to KdBlog Stephen and thanks for stopping by.


Short and Sweet?

 “Well, short stories are easier because they’re shorter, right?”

 I wish.

 Most people probably think of a “writer” as someone who writes “books,” whole-length suckers you can put on the shelf and sort by title.  I do, too.  But I worked as hard on each of my published stories—and the novella coming out this summer—as I did on Who Wrote the Book of Death?, the novel which will appear in May.  I probably learned more, too. 

 That’s why I love short stories.

 By virtue of their brevity, I can try out a new idea or technique and see if it works in a few pages.  If it doesn’t, maybe I can learn how to fix it.  And that knowledge carries over to everything else, including novels, but without having to dump hundreds of pages that took a wrong turn.

 Every short story re-invents my personal wheel.  Whenever I think I’ve found the One Absolute Rule for short stories, the next one shatters it to dust.  But it always teaches me something else, even if it’s something as simple as “Don’t try that again, dummy.” 

 The one constant is SAVE EVERYTHING YOU WRITE.  My first published story languished for over two years because the opening telegraphed the ending.  When I finally found a better finish, I just changed a few details along the way and sent it out. 

 That story followed an early rule: no more than four scenes and characters, and it only covered a few hours in real time.  Hold that thought, OK?

 My next attempt needed ten scenes and eight characters.  It covered about two weeks, too.  The idea came to me in the voice of a mentally-challenged young man who blunders into the wrong place at a bad time.  I’d never tried writing in present tense, but the character insisted that that was how he talked.  The first draft was like pulling my ribs through my flesh, one at a time.  A year later, when my ribs healed, I sent it out.  Contest judges and—later—an editor agreed that it worked and I had two more tools on the bench: present tense and a new voice.

 That new voice told me to try a child’s vision next time.  That story returned to two scenes, four characters, and a time-lapse of less than two hours, but the eight-year-old narrator’s tale relies on his not understanding what’s going on around him.

 That little boy taught me irony.  He made me decide what I had to leave out—which meant that the details that I kept had to be specific and evocative.  Looking at a story in a new way taught me more valuable lessons.  By the way, that story is the only one I’ve ever written that seemed to work from the very start.

 In writing, you learn what you need to learn when you need it in order to write the story you want to write.  Say that five times fast. 

 The novella hammered home some of the same lessons: a story creates its own rules when you give it room to grow.  It started its life as an oft-rejected mystery with too many characters, too many scenes (Does this sound familiar?) and too many words for most of the markets.  Trying to cut scenes or characters to shorten it worked about as well as treating a bleeding head wound by putting a tourniquet around the victim’s neck.  The story violated all my shibboleths, but until the novella contest came over the horizon, doubling its already extreme length never occurred to me. 

 Making the story longer meant it needed more complexity, too, which is my most recent lesson.  If the reader knows where he’s going to end up, he won’t watch the scenery along the way.  Make him enjoy the whole evening instead of just cutting to the goodnight kiss.

 I’m now revising several stories that have hung around so long they smell funny.  Two of them have more complex endings and others have more texture.  They all work better. 

 Who Wrote the Book of Death? has two POV characters, and they both live in present tense.  Both have ironic facets and both hold back (or leave out) information as long as possible. How did those things happen?

 Like I said earlier, I love short stories.

 And I’m still learning.


Stephen Liskow resurrected his love for writing in grad school and wrote five unpublished novels, one of which is currently in rewrite and will head out into the agent world in the spring. He's experimented with romance, comedy and somewhat mainstream material but most of what he writes is crime fiction in one form or another. Three years ago he was challanged to write a romance that somehow morphed into Who Wrote the Book of Death? that will be out in May of 2010 from Mainly Murder Press. 


In Who Wrote The Book of Death? someone is trying to finish the author instead of the book.  When PI Greg Nines agrees to protect a woman from death threats, he assumes that her name isn’t really Taliesyn Holroyd.  Unfortunately, he also assumes she’s really a romance novelist with a book in progress.  She assumes he’s no longer drinking after his own wife’s murder.  What else they don’t know could bury them both along with the book.

Nines realizes he’s falling in love with a woman who doesn’t even exist, but unless he can find the truth hidden in a maze of suspects—an angry ex-husband, an asexual lottery winner, a college rapist, and a philandering politician with mis-matched eyes—nobody will have a happy ending.

02/02/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Helen Dunn Frame

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Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Helen Frame. Helen's a businesswoman with lots of experience in professional correspondence and today, she's going to share what it takes to write a successful business letter. If you are a writer in the 'search for an agent' stage, a successful writer corresponding with booksellers or editors, or just someone who wants to keep your family up to date on what's happening in your life, this is excellent information. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend for KdBlog, Helen.



CREATING LETTERS THAT GARNER RESULTS     

 by Helen Dunn Frame

Years ago a friend whose second language was English often asked me to write letters for her. Whether it was to her insurance company, some religious leader, or the Governor of Texas, she always received a reply, usually a personal one.  In her eyes I was an expert.

 Long before I met this friend and personal computers replaced typewriters, I composed letters to my family to keep them up-to-date about my life.  In essence they were blogs before the term was created.  I used to send one relative the original and the others carbon copies, rotating who won the more legible ones.  Now I plan to start a personal blog about my adventure living in Costa Rica.  The goal: establish myself as an expert before completing Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida.  Targeted readers are Baby Boomers who might find my “glimpses of life in Costa Rica” a helpful source for planning for retirement or at least for purchasing a vacation home.

 Writing a blog to get a following has become an important marketing tool.  Creating effective letters still helps to sell a manuscript or finished product, whether it is a query to a publisher, an appeal for a book signing, or a request for a review. 

 It still amazes me how many marketing letters or notices from organizations, often from a top executive, begin: “I would like to tell you . . .?”  Do you really care what the egotist wants you to know?  Frankly most of these letters end up in the trash unread.

 Bottom line, it can’t be emphasized enough that you keep the word “I” to a minimum.  Think in terms of the reader whose “I” is the most important one.  Not yours. Especially avoid starting a paragraph with an “I”.  Proofread the letter to make sure the number of times you use an “I” is minimal and absolutely necessary.

 For example, instead of opening the letter as mentioned above, hook the reader.  You may find that asking a question proves a fantastic beginning. “How do you get a book signing in June?”  Follow it with the answer, “You have a wedding in your book.”  This means, of course, that you thought ahead to logically include events in your book that enable you to market it more easily.  The wedding in my mystery Greek Ghosts was an integral part of the story, not contrived, and enabled me to have a book signing in June, the third event at the same store.

 Keep your letter to one page.  Write short sentences and paragraphs that keep the reader wanting to read the next one.  Use simple rather than complex words because not all members of your audience have college degrees.  Even educated people appreciate easily read and understood pieces. Finally, have an odd number of paragraphs.  For some reason, that incites the recipient to respond.   Don’t ask me why, but an even number psychologically suggests closure with no reply necessary.

 Just as you do in your manuscript, think action verbs and eliminate passive phrases like “There is . . .”   Use different words rather than repeat the same one, especially within one paragraph.  The title of your creation is different. After carefully devising it so it captures attention, repeat it where logically possible to promote recall.

 Also, check for certain words like “is” or “be” and other words you use a lot. Substitute action words wherever possible unless no other one makes sense.  Don’t create a convoluted sentence.  Finally, if you have a widow, a one word line, at the end of a paragraph, eliminate it.

 Set your letter aside for a couple of days after it feels finished.  Later read it like an editor.  You’re libel to exclaim, “Did I write that?”  Your response might indicate it was well done, or not.  Remember, even one typo can turn your reader off. Ask someone else to check it because another person is apt to catch errors. While computer programs have spelling and grammar check tools, keep in mind, you have to know grammar and how to spell to be sure you should change something.

 Finally, many good letters fail because the writer didn’t ask the reader to buy.  What results do you want?  Most likely a positive response like my friend received. Ask for it!



Helen Dunn Frame is an accomplished businesswoman whose professional writing skills and love of travel culminated in the fascinating mystery GREEK GHOSTS in which threads of her experiences have been woven.

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she has had a number of writing projects including creating a second book in the mystery series, and an anecdotal book to help baby boomers research retiring in the country. In 2008, Helen was Editor of Coldwell Banker Costa Rica's Vista Magazine that utilized her writing, public relations, and real estate experiences.

Living abroad and traveling extensively in 50 countries, as well as having a Master's Degree in Sociology from New York University, has given Helen a deep appreciation for the value of diverse cultures. A graduate of the Journalism School at Syracuse University, she has been published in major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany.

Email Helen at: helen@helendunnframe.com

Website: www.helendunnframe.com

01/26/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Susan McBride

41TRRD-Ip2L._SS500_  This week's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Susan McBride. I met Susan a hundred and two years ago (maybe not quite that long, but it's been a while) when I went to my very first writer's conference. I was nervous, actually terrified. I listened to her and the Deadly Diva's give a talk and managed to get up enough nerve to speak with them afterward. Susan was sweet, funny, and helpful to a newbie who didn't know enough to even know what questions to ask. I love her to death, I love her books, and I can't wait to meet up with her at another conference because wherever Susan is there's bound to be laughter.

Welcome to Tuesdays with Friends, Susan. Your book, The Cougar Club, comes out tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by KdBlog so we can help you celebrate. 

KdBloggers, Susan's giving away, that's right as in FREE, a copy of The Cougar Club to a lucky commenter so be sure and drop her a line. You might be a winner.

Joining The Cougar Club

 by Susan McBride


If you're reading this, it means The Cougar Club, my debut in women's fiction, has hit the shelves.  No doubt, my mother and mom-in-law have already invaded their local bookstores, buying armloads and telling their respective cashiers, "This book is amazing!  You must push it on customers!"  I've written mysteries and young adult novels, all of them dear to me.  But there's something very special about Cougar, and maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm an official member of the Club...albeit, an accidental one.


You see, I never prowled the city at night, wearing a tight mini-skirt and spray-tanned cleavage, hunting younger men (well, that's what I used to think a Cougar was--a contemporary and kind of frightening Mrs. Robinson with Botoxed forehead and a martini permanently attached to her hand).  Honestly, I was lucky whenever I found time to date at all, what with trying to kick-start my writing career and working part-time as a medical transcriptionist.  In fact, when I hit 40 and was still single, my mother started fretting that I'd end up a Crazy Cat Lady, cleaning litter boxes in my bath-robe and never leaving the house except to fetch the packages from QVC the UPS man left on my porch.


So it's my mom who inadvertently turned me into a Cougar, after submitting my name toSt. Louis Magazine and begging them to select me as a "Top Single" in 2005.  I can see her letter now:  "Please, help my workaholic daughter find a man.  She's not bad looking, has good teeth, and isn't any nuttier than anyone else in our family."  (Just kidding, Mom!)  When St. Louis Magazine ended up picking me and putting me in the November 2005 "Top Singles" issue, I knew my life was in for a bit of a change.  All of a sudden, I was going to parties sponsored by the magazine, letting myself be put on the auction block for charity, and turning into a veritable social butterfly.


I met a lot of very nice people in the process, but Ed stood apart from the rest.  I almost didn't go out with him at first.  I lost his business card, for one (though he cleverly emailed me through the magazine) and then someone freaked me out by telling me he was in his 20s (he does have a baby face). I had turned 41 a few weeks before the issue came out, and 30 was my bottom-line for guys.  I didn't want to have to explain what Smurfs were or how life existed before texting (or have to burp my date after dinner!).


Turns out, Ed was a mere nine years younger, which was fine with me.  I told myself, "Heck, have fun with him!  Enjoy yourself!  You don't have to marry him or anything!"  After he took me to my first-ever hockey game and purchased me at that charity auction, I realized I loved being around him.  He was smart and funny, and he knew a lot about so many things. He seemed quiet around others but he always had plenty to say to me.  I don't know quite what I expected about seeing a younger man, maybe that I couldn't keep up, that he'd be allergic to my having a few wrinkles, that his family wouldn't like me.  All fears were dispelled the more we got to know one another, and the more I understood, "This guy is great!  We're good together!  To hell with the age thing!"


Within about three months, I knew he was "the one."  We bought a house together eight months after we met, and Ed stood by me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that Christmas (which was when we got engaged!).  We'll be celebrating our second wedding anniversary on February 24, and I can't imagine my life without him. I'm 45 now, and Ed's 36.  Yes, he still has a baby face and frequently gets carded when we're out to dinner.  Does it bother me?  Let's just say, I'll be very happy when he starts to go gray!  But he keeps me young, he makes me feel good about myself, and he supports me in whatever I do (plus, he's darned cute!).  I believe that all things happen for a reason.  If I hadn't married a younger guy, I wouldn't have been asked to write The Cougar Club, and that was the most fun I've ever had writing a book. 


So when people call me a Cougar, I just smile and think, "They should be so lucky."  ;-)


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BioPagePhoto

 Susan McBride is the author of The Cougar Club, hailed as "a fun fantasy" by Publishers Weekly and a Midwest Connection Pick for February by the Midwest Booksellers Association.  She has also written five Debutante Dropout Mysteries, including the award-winning Blue Blood and Too Pretty to Die, as well as several novels in her Debsyoung adult series.  For more scoop, visit her web site at susanmcbride.com

01/19/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Peg Herring

Pegherring 5B(WinCE)

Author Peg Herring is first up in the KdBlog series, Tuesdays with Friends. She writes historical mysteries and has set a blogging schedule for herself that's daunting. I don't know how she had time to drop in at KdBlog but she's here so make her welcome.

Peg, thanks for joining us today.

What’s a Blogger to Do?

 Blogging is everywhere, and the joke is a twist on Churchill: “Never have so many written so much that is read by so few.”

 But writers have to blog; we’re told that repeatedly. Today’s readers want to know more than an author’s name. They want to know the names of her pets, the condition of her office, and most of all, the status of the next book. So for years I blogged five days a week, sharing my thoughts on writing, publishing, marketing, and lots of other stuff.

 Eventually, however, it began to sound repetitive. How many times could I explain how busy a successful writer is? How much depth could I get into on the irritations of plot-knots, characters who won’t behave, and unclear motives?( It’s all at http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/pegfish if you’re interested.) In 2010 I’m doing something new, blogging for readers on reader-friendly sites rather than those where mostly writers hang out.

 So what do readers like? I don’t know for sure. I’ve created characters whom I like, and others seem to like them, too, so I’m letting them do the work for a while. My Tudor protagonists get first shot, and they’ll be writing comparisons between their time and ours. Simon, a crippled apprentice gets Mondays. Hannah, a castle servant will be the Tuesday “guest,” and Hugh, a member of the king’s Welsh Guard, will offer opinions on crime and punishment on Wednesdays. Thursdays we’ll have a royal guest who prefers to remain nameless. Let me just say that she has strong opinions on many topics. Fridays will be either posts by me or an author/guest.

 Take a look at one of the sites below (the posts are the same) and see what you think.

Blogspot http://itsamysterytomepegherring.blogspot.com/

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1208844.Peg_Herring/blog

Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/Peg-Herring/e/B002JK5FKY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1.

 

It should be a relief not to have to write my own entries every day, right? J


HerHighnessFirstMurdercover

Peg Herring is a former educator who can’t stop writing books. Her first novel, a Scottish romance called MACBETH’S NIECE, was published in 2008. Her second, a mystery called HER HIGHNESS’ FIRST MURDER, begins a series with Elizabeth Tudor as a character. She also has an e-book coming March 25, 2010 from Red Rose Publishing, a Vietnam era mystery called GO HOME AND DIE. Peg loves to travel and speaks at libraries far and wide about writing, reading, and publishing.

 

01/12/2010

Write On Mondays and Tuesdays with Friends

In honor of Twenty-Ten (2010), and because a year with such a cool name deserves something special. KdBlog is starting a some new features. The first one is called Write On Mondays, where I share a writing tip, bring up something writing related that's bugging me or just blather about writing in general. If any of you have been watching you'll note that I've pretty much always talked about something writing related on Mondays, so that's not really something new for Monday's. Actually, the only thing new about it is the name, Write On Monday. 

Feature number two is, Tuesdays with Friends, and it starts next week. Tuesdays with Friends is the day I turn KdBlog over to a guest so they can tell us a funny story, share a writing tip, tell us about their book, or give KdBlog an interview. 

I've already made a bunch of new Tuesday Friends while bringing this feature together. I've also got a nice long list of new books to read. Some of KdBlogs Tuesday guests will feature book giveaways for commenters or maybe even a contest or two. So get ready for some Tuesday fun at KdBlog. And be sure and check out the books our Tuesday friends share. What could be more fun than a chance to find new mystery authors?

Wednesday and Thursday will continue on as usual. Blank unless something funny or absurd catches my eye or one of my family members or myself do something so stupid it has to be shared. 

What I like to Read will continue on Fridays and the weekends will be blog free unless, as noted for Wednesday and Thursday, I do something so stupid I feel I have to share.

Thank you all so much for spending time with me on KdBlog. I hope you enjoy what's going on around here this year.