Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thou Shall Not Resolve!

I've never really made a New Year's resolution and 2012 will be no different.  But despite the rumor the world is going to end before 2013 rolls around, I do have some goals.  Some are personal and I'll keep those to myself.  I'm a pretty self-motivated person so I don't need to post them to the public to keep myself going.

But by talking about my writing goals I know I'll get some good advice and encouragement from my wonderful readers.  Perhaps one of my goals will even strike a spark and influence someone else's plans.

My writing goals are few and simple.  One is promote more.  Two is polish up books #3 and #4 of my Futhark Chronicles and get them up and for sale.  Three is find a home for the first book in my second epic fantasy series, The Dragons of Morbunda, or publish it myself. If I get to all that, I intend to complete a new romance book for my publisher, New Concepts. 

I read somewhere, that goals are things you work for and dreams are things you wish for.  Well, in the dream category, I hope to attend the Pennwriters Conference this year.  I hope to develop a steady income with my self-published books even if it's a small amount. I wish to get a new laptop and maybe even an iPad.

So are you making resolutions? Goals? Or having dreams? What does 2012 hold for you if the world doesn't end?
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


At the start of December, I shared my excitement that a BAM was moving into the large store standing empty after the demise of Borders. I spent so many hours in Borders, writing in the cafe, browsing through magazines and enjoying ice coffee.  Even after I owned an eReader, I would purchase some books and carry a stack to the cafe where I would peruse the first chapters to decide if I wanted it as an ebook.

The first time I visited BAM, they had hurried their opening to attract customers on Black Friday. It was a mess and the cafe wasn't open.  Books were stacked sideways on the shelf and often in the wrong genre sections.  I reserved my judgement.  The second time I went in, the shelves were better organized though not very full.  I couldn't find a single book on my list of 'want to read.'  The worker in the cafe didn't understand how to make an ice coffee and called a manager.  I eventually asked for just an ice tea but they didn't have any.  Settled for a bottled juice.  I still didn't write them off. 

I went in before Christmas to get a requested book for my daughter.  Finally found someone to help me.  It was a new release by a successful author.  They had two copies on the shelf and none on the new release tables up front.  Okay.  My dear husband bought me a BAM gift card for Christmas so I spend a few hours in there yesterday.  I'm still disappointed at the number of books on their shelves. (They don't even have mine! LOL)  They have large, messy tables of clearance books that remind me of Sam's Club.  I walked around most of the storm to find an employee to ask a question about their calendars. 

My daughter and I spent an hour or so in the cafe while she decided which book to buy with a rare 50% off coupon.  We didn't buy a drink from the limited menu.  We went to Starbucks after ward for our favorites.  The cafe has too few tables, giving it a cold, empty feel.  And it is empty compared to how it was when Borders ran it.  And so was the parking lot, relatively speaking.  Borders at Christmas time was packed with the checkout line snaking to the back of the store. I usually had to park at the very end of the big lot.  Not the same for BAM.

I want to have a local bookstore, but I'm not a fan of BAM.  I'll still go on occasion, but it won't be a can't miss destination for me.  And as with my last post, I wonder if it can survive.  The service and atmosphere provided by BAM isn't comparable to B&N or the now-gone Borders.  Will they last? I'm not going to hold onto my gift card for long, in case I don't get to use it.

Some of you lovely readers shared your opinions on BAM when I first mentioned they were moving into my neighborhood.  I know BAM has taken over more Borders than just my own.  Any thoughts on your new stores? I already know L. Diane Wolfe's.  She's a smart lady and I'm starting to agree with her.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Lesson Perhaps?

My daughter and I went to the movies together, the first time I've been to the theater in a while.  Though I like the movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I remembered all the reasons I haven't indulged in a visit to land of the big screen for a while.

Even though we went to a matinee showing, the price for the two of us was still three times what we would have to pay on demand.  We skipped over the food stand, not only because the selections are so unhealthy, but because the prices of the fatty, sugary, salty snacks, are ridiculous.  The theater itself was uncomfortably cool requiring us to keep our jackets on and despite the stadium seating, a few people managed to walk in front of us during the movie.  The two couples sitting behind us talked through all the previews and the lady directly behind bumped my seat dozens of times during the show.  And did I mention, we sat through nearly twenty minutes of commercials mixed in with the previews.  The movies was supposed to begin at 3:10 and didn't start until 3:33 Though the seats weren't uncomfortable, they weren't my recliner either.  Then when the movie was over, I had to go out in the cold rain and drive home.

I've read numerous reports in the paper and online about the declining revenues at the movie theater. I wonder why?  Why should I pay the price to watch a movie I can get so much cheaper ondemand in a few months? Why should I waste money on horrible snacks when I can eat healthy in my own home and perhaps even indulge in a glass of wine during a movie? Why put up with rude strangers when I can watch a movie alone or with my family? Why drive out in the bad weather when I can set a blaze in the fireplace and wear my slippers?  Except for a screen bigger than my TV, what does the theater experience offer me? Nothing. 

There are still some movies I like to experience in a theater or that I just can't wait to see, but my movie going days are becoming fewer and further between.  I think the book industry needs to take a lesson from the slowly dying theater world.  What can physical book stores do to draw people in their doors?  Over priced coffee? Probably not.  Most people won't go in a bookstore just for the coffee when there's likely a Starbucks within a few blocks. Discounted products?  Borders offered some good coupons but BAM and B&N are less generous.  If their product isn't cheaper than ebooks or getting it from Amazon, why will people shop there?  If there are no workers to help me find things in the store, I may as well stay home and investigate it online myself. 

I've been reading lots of blogs in the last few days and smiling at the rave reviews by new owners of eReaders, tablets and the like.  The numbers show digital books sales are sky-rocketing. I love shopping for my books with a click here and there.  What are brick and mortar stores doing to make my experience there better than shopping while sitting at home? I don't have the answers but I wonder where booksellers will be in two or three years. 

Have you been to the theater lately? Do you shop at bookstores as often as you have in the past? Do you think either of those business will still be there in five years? Ten years?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Writer's Christmas

I hope everyone had a terrific Christmas.  I'm exhausted from all the fun, games, food,(preparation and eating), staying up late catching up with everyone and non-stop cleaning up after everything and everyone.  In other words, it was wonderful.

But now it's the day after and time to make plans for the coming year.  A few changes I've incorporated already into my writing life I intend to keep.  For the last few months, I have stuck to my plan to exercise at least thirty minutes a day, five or more times per week.  I'm going to keep that up, for lots of reasons.  The second thing I've been doing lately is reading more.  I will keep that going.  I have a stack of books from the library I'm attacking at a steady pace of about one or two per week.  In between those two things plus my day job and my family, I'm concentrating on my writing. 

My wonderful family gave me some assistance in my plans.  My youngest son gifted me with an iTunes gift card to update some of my running music. I've been working out to the same songs for a few months so hopefully the new tunes will keep the old legs moving, maybe even a little faster.  My second son bought me a leather bound journal so beautiful I don't know if I can bring myself to write on its lovely pages.  My daughter bought me a multi-disk set of old John Wayne movies.  What better background for writing my fantasy novels filled with action and heroes?  My oldest son bought me a candle for in my office and a bottle of expensive amaretto to help me through editing.  My husband, bless him, bought me a BAM gift card.  There are so many things I can use that for, I don't know where to start.

So this next year, I'm going to strive for balance with family, my health and the advancement of my writing career.  How about you? Planning on more of the same?  Keeping what's working or changing things up?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cover Gratitude

Many authors know the feeling of helplessness when it comes to cover art. When you self publish you have control over what cover represents your work but even with small publishers, you may be at the mercy of the powers that be.  I've been lucky and liked all my covers but one.  My complaint about that one was the heat level.  The extremely risque cover wasn't equal to the sensuality level of the book and I thought it mislead readers.  Some probably purchased it expecting something erotic in nature and others probably didn't purchase for the same misconception.  I'm over it, though that book has been my worst seller of my romance line under the name, Susan Kelley.

Viola today, I received the cover for my newest romance novel, A Tiger's Courage.  The artist, Alex DeShanks, got it exactly right.  Hair color and length for the protagonists is correct and the overlapping pictures capture the desert setting of the story.  To top it off, the title and my name are both in this exceptionally cool font.  I love it!

Do you have a great cover story, good or bad?  How much say do you have in the final appearance of your book cover?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hell Week

I don't say much about my day job except to mention when it's cutting into my writing time. This week there are some exceptional things going on. For instance, out of six people in our department, three are going to be absent most of the week. It will be challenging and hectic, not good for coming home and jumping right into another job.

I also must do some Christmas shopping this week. My husband is taking some of the burden off and buying some things for the adults on my list.  I also did some shopping online and the gifts should arrive on my doorstep before the end of the week. 

I'm trying to get Beyond the Gate, Book#2 of The Futhark Chronicles, up on Smashwords and am running into the same situation as before but now I realize it's not all my fault. If a lot or people are trying to upload at the same time, it does strange things and claims you've made an error.  I still get frustrated.

This Friday, New Concepts Publishing, my romance publisher, is releasing my latest fantasy romance, A Tiger's Courage.  I had work to do for that. Sorry to complain but I needed to vent a little.  I do need to stock up on the wine this week and perhaps even the strong stuff. 

Is holiday planning or the day job work load infringing on your writing time? Any big events happening with your writing before the end of the year?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer: Read More=Write Better

I don't know any writers who also don't love to read. Probably lots of writers even enjoy reading more than writing, especially when they're stuck on a plot point or in the middle of dreaded editing. Like many writers, I have numerous projects going.  I have a book coming out in about ten days. I'm busy getting my second book in my epic fantasy series out into the world of online retail.  I want to make even more new friends through insecure get it. Lots of stuff. And that's only my writing work. Lets not get into the coming holidays and my house being the only one on the blog with no outdoor lights up yet.  Or the day job.

But I have a stack of books from the library I want to read.  I have friends putting out new books nearly every week I want to read. My son bought the first two books in a fantasy series I'm dying to read. And yet there's the guilt of all those hours with my nose in a book instead of my fingers on the keyboard. We all feel it when we indulge when work awaits.  But we also all know that to be a good writer, we need to read. 

I believe we need to read alot and widely.  I write epic fantasy and fantasy romance, yet I read all kinds of stuff.  I love suspense. I'm a bit of a science nerd so I like to delve into scifi.  I really want to travel to the stars especially since I read in the paper today that scientists are pretty sure there are lots of other worlds out there capable of sustaining life as we know it.  I like historical fiction. Some of my favorite authors write mystery and keep me up to all hours reading.

I know reading these various genre, reading famous authors and newcomers, reading YA and adult, all this will help me in my own writing.  So put the guilt away and think of reading as a form of study and education, making you a better writer.

So how big is your TBR pile and will you be pulling a book off of it anytime soon?  Do you feel guilt when you read during your writing time?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Absent For a Few Days

Sorry I haven't been around much this week to visit blogs despite my intention to use that new smartphone to keep up with you all.  I'm been deep into getting Beyond the Gate, Book #2 of The Futhark Chronicles, ready for publication.  Some of you were with during my last attempt to self-publish the first previously published book in my epic fantasy series.  Now I'm about to delve into those same frustrations again.  Yes, I bought a few bottles of wine today. Just in case.

I can't help but dread it despite all I've learned from the first time. Hopefully by next week at this time, it will all be behind me and I can start on the promotion for my next romance coming out in a two weeks.  A Tiger's Courage is the third book in The Tigers of Salubria fantasy series from New Concepts Publishing.  My publisher is hosting a chat and lots of contest giveaways next Saturday. More on that later this week. 

So think of me now and then over the next few days as I pound my head on my desk and use words not usually heard in my writing office. If you notice me visiting your blog everyday, it means I'm too distressed to work on what I should be doing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Excuses

I finally upgraded to a smartphone.  But owning one of those clever little devices isn't making me feel smart.  Most of the time I feel pretty dumb when I use it.  Thank goodness for children. My son also has a droid so he's been helping me learn my way around the touch screen. 
from FB

I'm getting much better at using the touchscreen keyboard so now I have no excuses for running around the blogsphere on my lunch break and catching up with my friends.  Not only when it give me a fun break during the day but it will free up my writing time at night.

My writing time is usually split between blogging, promotional junk and writing/editing in the evenings and weekends.  But there are so many wonderful blogs out there, I have no trouble spending two or three hours just hopping here and there.  And it is taking from my writing time.

So hopefully, my smartphone was a good business expense.  So a few questions.  Do you think I can deduct my phone as business expenses?  And how much time do you spend on blog visiting? Do you do it from you computer or an other device?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vampires Come, Vampires Go

I visited the new BAM store yesterday but I'm not going to let my first visit form my opinion.  I know they were in a hurry to open for black Friday so I'll give them a break.  It was chaos. I can't say even one part of the store was organized except perhaps for the magazine displays.  So I gathered up a few writing magazines and headed to the cafe to enjoy a cold drink and skim through some articles while I waited for my silly daughter to finish fighting the shopping crowds in the surrounding stores. 

The cafe workers, three of them, had no clue what was going on.  There were no price lists on the wall but I didn't hold that against them.  But between the three of them, they didn't know how to make an ice coffee.  I would have settled for a regular coffee but I had gone running about an hour before I left the house and I needed something cold with ice.  So I ended up buying an overpriced drink from their cooler.
I'll visit them again next week and see how the store is shaping up.

But I did read an interesting article about mistakes writers make that will hold back their efforts to get published.  One I read with interest was the advice to not write only what is currently hot in the market.  Not long ago, vampires were everywhere, every new book, all of them competing with the few authors who had made it big with their series about big-hearted vampires.  Now we have an influx of zombie books and movies.  What will it be tomorrow?  Who knows.  It's better to write the story you want and have passion for than to try to write something copying today's flash fashion. 

I love epic fantasy with lots of swords and some sorcery.  But even with the popularity of the LOTR rings movies and the HBO series of Game of Thrones, it's not an easy genre to sell and only a few authors are making it big time in this niche market.  But I will continue to write what I love and feel comfortable doing.  I'm not going to add vampires or zombies to my world of magic, men with swords and elves. 

Do you agree about writing what you're passionate about or do you believe you need to get in on the current trends?  Do you feel your particular genre or field of interest is booming or bust in the current market?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks All Around

Hope you have a little piece of Eden today.
Where can one start to give thanks.  I have a wonderful family, live in a free country, have a great day job and a growing career in my second job as a writer.  My children are special and very appreciative on this day of all the work I do to get the meal ready.  I only had to drive a few miles to shop at a store for last minute things unlike other places in the world where no feast would be possible.  I love my students at school no matter how much the trends in public education irritate me.  I'm nearly ready to self-publish my second fantasy in The Futhark Chronicles and have a romance novel coming out from my other publisher in the middle of December. 

So on this day, despite rising college tuition and concerns about the economy, I'm thankful to live in the US of A.  Thank you to the men and women serving in the armed forces, the policemen and firemen pulling duty on holidays, and the teachers who will spend part of this weekend grading papers and making lesson plans. 

I wish all my bloggy friends safety, love and happiness.  I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


from FB
I haven't been getting much new writing done lately. I've been distracted by numerous things which hopefully will be worked through soon. 

Not all distractions are bad things. I'm taking the plunge to update to a smart phone though I can't really afford it. Of course, I wanted an iPhone but I'm not getting one.  Still, it should be a fun new toy, I mean tool, in my busy life. I can't wait until it arrives.

Another distraction I don't mind is preparing for Thanksgiving. I always have a big dinner at my house with my six kids and husband.  My oldest stepson brings his wife, the best daughter-in-law in the world, and my other stepson brings his daughter, my only grandchild.  My oldest natural son is bringing his latest girl friend.  We tease him about how many different girls he's brought over the years.  My third son will bring his girlfriend of four years and fill out the table along with my other son and daughter.  It's a great bunch and we're a lucky family with no drama going on, only lots of food, laughter, and football.  But I still have a lot of work to do. 

The day job has been distracting me because I'm teaching a new unit this year.  We added some lessons on character education, hoping to build the personal strength young people need to make the right choices, set goals, and all that stuff we wish kids learned at home from their parents.  There's so much to be done and there's no way to tell how much you're helping them, if at all.

On top of that, I'm worrying about my mother living alone and struggling a little with every day things.  I have to plan a visit to her over the holiday though it's many miles away. 

On another brighter note, the BAM opened in our old Border's store, and I must get there.  I remember all the conflicting opinions about BAM you shared when I mentioned they were moving in to fill the void of our Borders.  I can't wait to see for myself and let you know how our store measures up.

So what things are distracting you lately?  Will you get any work done over the Thanksgiving holiday or will it be all play?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Never Grows Old

I know I'm not alone in loving the movie, The Princess Bride.  It happened to be on TV while I was baking cookies.  Two of my sons, both in their twenties, drifted into the kitchen, drawn by the scent of fresh baking.  But the movie held them there to watch the last half hour with me.

We know the lines by heart and have our favorites.  Can such a relatively, silly movie be called a classic? It is for us.  I promised by boys I was going to buy the book for all my grandchildren if they ever get around to giving me any.  We watched together when my boys were small and still love it.  There are a few other movies we all like but not quite like The Princess Bride.  I can't wait to watch it with another generation.

What movies are 'classic's for your family?  Who is your favorite Princess Bride character or quote?  Mine is pictured above.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Series Titles

Covers and titles can draw in readers is you're not an author known everywhere by your name alone.  I write my books in series and I try to make the titles not only indicative of the book content but also somewhat connected to the previous books.  Lots of authors do this and much better than I do.  For instance, does anyone doubt Alex Cavanaugh's upcoming book, Cassafire, is in a series with Cassastar?  The titles let you know the books are related without seeing the author's name.

I tried that in my very first romance series, The Chronicles of Solonia.  The series started with The Greater Good, followed by The Lesser Evil, A Ruthless Good and the wrap up novel, One Good Woman.  The titles weren't perfect matches but they were connected enough to seem like they went together.  

Today my clever publisher is running a special on that last book, One Good Woman, at $1.99, as an early promotion for the my next Tiger book coming out in December.  One Good Woman is the featured book today at New Concepts Publishing.  I hope you can check it out.

Do you write in series and try to give your book titles similar titles?  Do you know an author who is exceptionally clever with titles?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And So We Said...

The writers' panel at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore was great fun.  We had a full house of listeners and lots of great questions directed our way.  It was gratifying to watch people scribbling down notes when we spoke.  Not so long ago, that would have been me in the audience and it is still me when I have the chance to hear a speaker on writing.
Susan Gourley, Franklin Kury, Cate Masters, Lorrie Myers, and
Don Helin

The wonderful Don Helin led our little group.  He worked with Catherine from Midtown to get us all together.  Don writes thrillers with a military setting, taking full advantage of his background in the US military and at the Pentagon.  Now he's retired and does lots of traveling with his wife.  He started his writing career as a travel writer.  His first thriller, To Kingdom Come, is a great read about some domestic terrorism. 

Lorrie Myers not only has hundreds and hundreds of articles published, she teaches a class on writing for the magazine market.  She gave some great hints on writing a query letter and emphasized its importance.

Cate Masters is multi published in fiction with novels and short stories available.  She shared her knowledge of the ebook market and made mention of the quickly changing business of writing.  Cate knows her stuff and is my 'go-to' girl when I have a question about blogging, promotion and even my venture into self-publishing.  You can read the details of her talk on her blog.

Franklin Kury, a retired state senator, spoke on his journey to publication.  Franklin worked on his novel for quite a while before someone suggested his write a nonfiction novel on his years as a politician.  His book isn't really a biography so much as a story about his fight to pass legislation to protect the environment in Pennsylvania.  He's a real hero for our state.

Don asked me to speak about writing fantasy and romance.  It was a great opportunity to make people aware of the benefit of looking at small publishers if they get rejected by the big NY houses. 

The questions continued well beyond our scheduled time.  I could tell many members of our audience were writers in the making. 

So the panel was fun and I would do it again if an offer arrives. 

What do you feel you could speak with expertise on if someone asked you to present a workshop or be part of a panel? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Author Panel Today

Today I'm appearing live, from Noon until 2:00 pm at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore second annual bookfest.  Catherine, the owner of the store, was kind enough to ask me back to be part of an incredible panel of authors to answer questions and share information for the reading and writing public. 

I'm also looking forward to the all natural granola snacks and a tall drink of something cold and caffeinated.  I'll have a chance to purchase a few books from my fellow panelists and pick up a used book my sister admired last time we were at the Scholar.  It will be her Christmas surprise.

My daughter and a few of her friends may attend.  There are great places for customers to lounge in the lovely building housing the bookstore. It's a book lovers dream.

Does you local area have any kind of bookfest? Have you attended or been part of it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You

From FB
Today, let's salute all those who have served our country in the armed services. My father was a WWII vet.  He dropped out of high school and joined up as soon as he was old enough. Like so many of the brave men who left home behind to protect their families and country after Pearl Harbor, he's passed on from this life.  I miss him everyday.

From FB
In our modern world, somethings about war have changed but one thing has stayed the same.  There are still brave men and women doing all they can to protect their country and families.  They're far from home, under lots of stress and in my opinion, underpaid.  They're heroes. I hope we all remember that today.

Thank you, veterans, for what you've done and the sacrifices you've made.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Support Your Local Independent

I've been very fortunate to be invited back to the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, PA.  I'll be part of an author panel on Saturday, November 12th, from noon until 2:00 pm.  Nearly all genres of writing will be covered by our panel.  I'm every excited and we'll be signing our books for anyone interested after our presentation. 

The owners of the Midtown are hoping to make this book festival an annual thing.  Though this is only the second year, I have high hopes that it will be going on for many more years.  You can check out the flyer at the Midtown's website.  I know most of the readers of this blog don't live near Harrisburg but hopefully you have an independent store near you.  Visit them.  Support them.  With the demise of Borders and the current struggles of B&N, we may soon see the last of the 'big' stores.  As readers we'll only be able to get our browsing through the stacks 'fix' at those wonderful independent bookstores and libraries.  Even though I'm now making almost all my book purchases as ebooks, I still love being in a bookstore.  As an author, I have an even bigger interest in keeping the stores alive.

For authors like me, published with small independent publishers, those small, owned by real people, bookstores, are our only avenues for booksignings. So though I don't expect you to introduce yourself to me in Harrisburg on Saturday, I hope you visit a bookstore today.  Buy a magazine, a cup of coffee, a muffin or even better, a book. 

I'll report next week on all the good advice my fellow panel experts share.  Have you ever been part of an author panel? What was the toughest question a member of the audience asked you? 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blood and Guts

Have you ever read a book and just skipped over passages? I like to read many different genres and one of them is historical fiction and mysteries.  I also have a few acquaintances who write horror so I support them by reading their books, admiring their writing though I'm not usually a consumer of horror.  Contemporary suspense also draws my interest.  All these books usually have some violence involved, death, war, serial killers or even supernatural means of knocking off a few characters. 

I like the mystery and working through the clues along with the protagonists. I like watching the heroes and heroines form their battle plans, knowing it won't go smoothly.  I love the tension the authors build chapter by chapter, creating so much suspense I can't put the book down. I know people are going to die along the way when I read certain types of books.  But I don't want to read the gory details.  I find myself skipping over torture scenes and descriptions of gruesome murders. 

Obviously, some people don't mind the blood and guts or we wouldn't have all those movies series that go on forever.  I always tell my kids they'll stop liking movies that are so scary as soon as they have to live by themselves.   But I look away from the violent fights or gruesome killings on the screen. I might like the story but I don't like to see that part or read that part.

How much violence is too much? I guess an author or filmmaker have to know their audience.  I like books that use violence to create tension not to try and gross me out or make me ill.  Where is the line between the two?

As an author, I use descriptions of fights and battles I'm comfortable with. If I tried to insert more violence and bloody descriptions, I don't think I could do a good job.  Some authors paint such vivid pictures of death with their words I worry a little about how they can describe it so well. Just kidding.  I don't think you have to be disturbed to write horror or about evil people.

from FB
Do you have to write violent scenes into your books? Do you get turned off watching films or reading certain books because the blood and guts seem to be gratuitous and not something that moves the story forward?   

Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing From the Mind of the Other Planet

Are men from Mars? I've been married for decades and raised two stepsons and three boys of my own. I teach high school and interact with teenage boys all the time.  Do I believe men and women think differently? Do they see the world through a different lens? I bet everyone knows the answer to that, be they male or female.
From FB

So how do you write from the POV of the opposite sex? Carefully. All my books have scenes from the POV of male and female.  Am I making my men to 'metrosexual.' How's that blast from the past term? LOL.  In epic fantasy, the men need to be manly men. Does that mean he must not only be able to ride wild horses, slay dozens with his sword and eat red meat for six meals a day?  Must he be confused by a woman's tears, afraid of discussing his feelings, reluctant to get deeply involved? 

How can I get this 'man' brain thing correct? I listen. I watch. I laugh. Teenage males are really amusing as they swing like a pendulum between being boys and young men.  One minute they're trying to impress the girls and the next minute they're arguing about some video game with their buddies.  And adult guys tend to do the same thing except the topics change a bit.

I often wonder if I'm doing it right. The real test is if men enjoy reading my epic fantasy books. I've had some positive feedback from the male audience, so I hope I'm doing it okay. 

Do male writers worry about the same thing? Have you ever read a book where the author didn't hit the mark writing from the POV of the opposite sex?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer: Torture the Hero

My children and I read a lot of the same books and often they recommend those same books to their friends.  My daughter, oldest son and I shared a laugh two days ago when one of their friends complained about one of our favorite books.  They came to a part where a favorite character died. Died horribly.  Died and left behind a mess for the grieving loved ones to deal with as well as dragged the fantasy kingdom into more chaos. I won't give away what book it was, but the author knows how to make his readers scream.

This was something I had to learn to do in my fantasy novels.  If you want to write epic fantasy, people have to die.  The ultimate goal is to have the reader so emotionally invested in the characters, that they fear the good guys might lose.  Everything can't go the way of good in the classic battle of good versus evil.  Sometimes evil wins.  Sometimes heroes make mistakes and pay for them.  If an author can't stand to make their protagonists suffer, they may as well write children's books.
Demon killer from
The Keepers of Sulbreth

I started the first book in my current fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, with some important people dying.  Not everyone makes it through the second book either, the third book buries more people and well, you get the idea. 

Even in my romance series, bad things have to happen to good people.  Otherwise you can end the book after the first chapter and type, happily ever after, on about page twenty.

So, do you have a favorite author who knows how to torture their protagonists for great reader entertainment?  Have you ever read a book that was too kind to the hero or heroine? Does the superman in your novel have his kryptonite?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Great Trip

From Facebook
My daughter and I had hours of fun on our trip to visit UNC.  I believe she's decided to be a Tarheel unless Boston University or George Washington University come up with some big bucks in scholarships.  Even during the horrible traffic around DC there and back, we managed to laugh and keep our spirits high. And we got home in front of the Halloween snow storm.

Hopefully, I'll catch up on blogs and get some editing done today before this wet, heavy snowfall brings down the powerlines as predicted.  We have enough firewood in to keep the chill off one room if needed.  Usually I found the first snowfall of the season lovely but getting it in October kind of takes the charm off the experience.

The only good news is the weather will keep me at my writing work. 

While in Chapel Hill, my daughter and I did our usual routine of investigating any local independent bookstores we can find as well as Barnes and Noble.  We found a terrific store called Flyleaf Books.  My daughter invested in two thin books of French poetry published in the 1920's and I found an early book by an author I've been meaning to sample.  If she decides to attend college at UNC, that store will see us again.

We also made our tour of the coffeeshops. She's of the Starbucks generation but I was thrilled to find a Caribou Coffee shop.  I like Caribou better and their cafe was very comfy.  I wish we had one of their places around here.  Today though is a hot chocolate day.

So Caribou or Starbucks for you? Snow or sunshine today? Hot chocolate or hot coffee or wine?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

From FB
So much to do, so little time. The housecleaning will have to wait. I'm traveling to University of North Caroline today with my daughter for a college visit.  We did a lot of visits this past summer and this is the last school on her top three list for us to check out. Financially it's the best fit as compared to George Washington University and University of Boston.  And it is warmer.  I'll be out of blog touch for two days until Saturday.

When I return, I have to jump on my edits for my next fantasy romance. Courage of a Tiger will be released in mid December from New Concepts Publishing.  I hope to have the edits done by Monday. Then I need to dive back into the edits for Beyond the Gate, second book in my epic fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles. 

Two weeks from Saturday, I'm part of an author panel at a local independent bookstore, The Midtown Scholar.  I'll be speaking on writing fantasy and romance. I'm excited but I have to put together a 5-7 minute talk and be ready for questions. I'll also get to sell my books. (Remember all those remainders)

It's the end of the grading quarter at work so I have some extra work at the day job.  But I love being busy and having deadlines.

How busy are you for the upcoming month? Have you visited your local independent bookstore lately?

Monday, October 24, 2011


A little while ago, I reclaim my rights to my fantasy series from the publisher who had broken my contract. I know I did the right thing by taking them back. I decided to self-publish since the original publisher had already released the first two books and I didn't expect to be able to find a new publisher for a series already started.  By next year at this time, I'll let you know if it's worked out in any financial way.

One of the ways my first publisher broke my contract was when they decided they wouldn't publish my second and third book in The Futhark Chronicles in mass market paperback as well as ebook.  The first book, The Keepers of Sulbreth, received excellent reviews and sold rather well.  After I took my rights back, the publisher offered me an opportunity to buy the 'remainders' of the print run of my first book.  I'd heard or remainders but didnt' realize my book would have any. 

Of course I had to purchase huge quantities to get the massive discount and pay a big shipping bill.  They had over a thousand, but what did I need that many books for? What could I do with them? I purchased a much smaller quantity to use as prizes, send out for reviews and even sell a few at the rare booksignings I have at independent stores.

I've compiled a list of reviewers to send some free books to and today I thought of my blogger friends. I know some of you have already purchased my book(thank you, I love you all) but for my bloggy friends who would consider a review, I'm offering three FREE print copies to the first 3 people(in the USA) who email me at:

No strings or promises required. Hopefully, you'll like The Keepers of Sulbreth enough to say something good and maybe even purchase the second book.  I'm waiting to hear from you.  In the meantime, I'm almost done with the edits on book#2, Beyond the Gate.  Then you all can read about my exploits with Amazon and Smashwords again. LOL

So, have you ever had any of your books go out of print? Have you purchased remainders? How many of your own books to you have sitting in the corners of your house?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Simple Problems

Sorry for dumping frustration after frustration on my bloggy friends. I actually keep personal problems to myself but I know my blog readers will understand the issues I have with my writing career.  Most of you have been there, done that, and offer advice and sympathy. 

Some things I've been working on are taking much longer than I expected. Much, much longer. There are other projects I'm anxious to restart and really dig into but I can't until I've dealt with my current frustrating work.  It keeps me awake at night, but today I took a deep breath.

I'm not as successful or prolific as some authors I know.  I don't have a 'big' contract with a traditional publisher.  No writing conferences are asking me a year ahead of time to be the keynote speaker. My laptop is old and slow, my desktop older.  My printer has some trouble pulling the paper in. It really doesn't like the expensive stuff.

But, I have numerous contracts for my romance books with a pretty great small publisher, New Concepts.  I have been invited to be part of an author panel at a local independent bookstore. My laptop is still kicking and I'm buying more memory for it.  And I don't really need to print out much stuff so I'm not investing in a new printer anytime soon.  Things are going okay. 

Sometimes I overthink problems when the solution is simple.  My new mind set is to keep it simple, step away when I get frustrated and ask for help more often. 

On the good news front, I read in our local paper today that a 'Books A Million' is taking over the location of our late Borders.  I've never been in a BAM, but I'll be thrilled to have a bookstore close to my house again(and a coffeeshop).

Can any of you tell me about BAM? What's your most recent simple solution?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Words I Need

I hate Smashwords. It's official. I spent a half an hour today with one of our school's tech teachers asking her what the heck a 'field code' is and how did it get into my manuscript?  Smashwords told me I need to fix it, but I don't know what the heck it is and can't see it.

So I've interrupted editing work on my next book to try and figure this out.  Major frustration and headache.  I enjoy the funny pictures and quotes I find on facebook. How am I relieving my stress?

Watching 'Revenge' helps. I love that quirky,creepy show. I'm feeling a little vengeful  A little exercise.  The last few weeks of stumbling through self-publishing has really increased the intensity of my workouts.  I feel so good about the weight loss right until I sit down at the durn keyboard again. 

Tonight I'll be putting on some music, perhaps the soundtrack for 'Lord of the Rings' since I feel kind of like the guys on the horses trying to break the siege of Gondor.  A little fight music, some hot coffee and I'll be ready to tackle the mystical problem Smashwords has told me I have.

Anything frustrating you lately? Have you ever heard of 'field code?'


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Give Away

I write in two different genres.  My first love for reading and writing is epic fantasy. I love the medieval settings and the combination of swords and magic.  But I have found it more difficult to market my fantasy books than my romance books.

Most of us know the numbers.  Over half of all genre fiction being sold is romance.  Romance writers do lots of promotion and there seem to be more places to buy or request exposure for your book.  Coffeetime Romance in a great site and my favorite it The Romance Studio.  An author can join TRS and do lots of free promotion.  One of the promos involves giving away one of your books and gaining a list of names to add to a mailing list should you want to keep one. 

I've promoted my romance books on TRS and Coffeetime.  Did it help sales? I don't know.  I also don't know of any such promotional sites for my fantasy books.  So today I'm giving away a print copy of The Keepers of Sulbreth at TRS.  It's the first book in my epic fantasy series but I'm searching out all avenues of promotion and hoping for the best.  You can hop over to the book-a-day giveaway page and sign up for a chance to win it. 

Do you know of any promotional or review sites that do for fantasy books what TRS and Coffeetime do for romance?  Have you ever paid to promote your book. Was it worth it?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh, we have another great day of sharing and networking. Today a whole bunch of bloggers are 'paying it forward' by linking to three other bloggers who have helped us along the way in our career paths.

I'm sure many people are having the same difficulty with this as I am.  So many people have helped me, how should I narrow it down to three?  There are a group of people who helped me early in my career and a large number of people who have helped me recently.   So I'm going to combine some of the old and the new friends.

Natalie Damschroder is my 'go to' girl for so many things.  She really knows her way around the publishing world. I've sent her lists of questions and she gets back to me right away with the answers.  She's a multi published author, a busy working mother and a good friend.  I met her through my local chapter of RWA back in the days when I was a member.  You can meet her at Indulge Yourself.

In my recent venture of reclaiming my rights to my fantasy series and self-publishing it, I again turned a fellow, local writer.  Cate Masters might be the most prolific writer I know.  She has self-published some of her novels and was indispensable to me.  I might have sent her a dozen emails to ask her advice and help.  She also finds time to blog nearly every day.  I can't say enough about her knowledge and willingness to help other writers. She's also the driving force behind a group blog formed by numerous writers from central Pennsylvania, The Susquehanna Writers.

Someone who might not even know how much she's helped me is L. Diane Wolfe.  If you have a book to promote or want to know anything about blogging, publishing or just read some speculations about where this crazy business is going, you need to visit Spunk on a Stick.  And you'll get a good laugh at least once a week.  Probably Alex and Diane gave me the most clues on how to grow my blog audience.  Thanks.

I hope you find some more great blogs to follow with this little blog fest.  I'll be visiting lots of new blogs but I won't catch up to everyone until Saturday because I'm going to visit my son at college(PSU) today. Can't wait to meet some new friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It Takes All Kinds

Not all writers are the same.  We have different processes, work at different speeds and certainly write different stories.  We're different in lots of ways, age, sex, political beliefs, and even our nationalities. Yet when we get together either online or in person, we usually find lots of things we have in common.

Promotion, editing, character development, sagging middles, time management, and oh yeah, promotion. We give each other advice, encouragement and help each other promote.  Yet we're all different people engaged in similar struggles.  This Friday, October 14th, lots of us are going to thank some of those who help us by participating in Alex Cavanaugh's Pay-It-Forward blog day.

Perhaps you can join in and thank some people who have helped you.  Even if you don't join in, please visit and perhaps find some new fun blogs to follow. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Magic: Do You Believe?

I write fantasy so I have to incorporate some magic in there.  Many readers of fantasy want magic to be the center of the story and to some degree it has to play a role large enough to distinguish my created world from this one.  But how much magic?  How powerful should the magic be?

I first fell in love with the fantasy genre in junior high school when one of my teachers lent me her copy of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  I didn't think about it then, but now that I write my own books, create my own worlds and define the laws of magic, I wonder about that story.  How did the Rings of Power work? Why couldn't the elves and wizards combine their magical powers and take on the Dark Lord? How did the One Ring rule them all?

I can still enjoy the books without knowing these things but I do wonder.  I've read other fantasy novels where the magic of one side seems so powerful it seems they should be able to win with a wave of their hand.  But that would make for a short book.  There must be some limitations to the magic or at least to the person or persons using it.  The author gets to determine those limits. 

Is the magic limited by the strength of the wielder?  Or is the use of magic limited by the damage to the entire existence of life if it's overused?  Is the magic limited by some force on the opposing side? Is the magic limited by the knowledge of the magician?  What is the source of the magic? Can it be used up?  Can its use injure the user?  Are there moral reasons for limiting its use?

I would think writers of science fiction have to ask similar questions about technology in their novels.  There have to be limitations or it's no fun. 

Have you read a novel where the magic or technology was so overwhelming in its power it ruined the novel?  What limitations have you used or seen used in an effective way?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rain, Snow, Sleet and Hail

One thing I have learned through the terrible weather of the past year, the mail doesn't get delivered during floods or ice storms.  Not that I blame anyone.  Roads were impassable and too dangerous for anyone to be traveling. 

But after our last natural disaster, the flood, we've been enjoying some lovely fall weather.  It's been tough to sit down at the old writing desk and get to work when I want to be outside and soak in the sunshine.  I do love the outdoors but for the sake of my writing, I'm almost looking forward to the gloom of winter.

I don't mind spending hours at the keyboard when it's cold out and the wind is howling around the corners of our country home.  Give me a hot cappuccino and a fire on the hearth and my creative side gets rolling too.  December, January and Febuary are my most productive months.  I usually start a new book around the first of the year.  This year I'll be finishing the one I started last year. My new work has been side-tracked by my venture into self-publishing.  Now that I've navigated the ropes once, I hope to get my next three books in The Futhark Chronicles up and available with fewer headaches and many fewer hours.

The need to rake leaves, bring some wood in for the winter and do late season weeding are going to distract me for a few more weeks, but then the season of writing will move in with a frigid howl. 

When is your best season for writing? What seasonal chores distract you at this time of year?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Out of Touch: Insecure Writer

October already.  There's no end to the subject matter I can pull up to address my insecurities. One thing I've felt a lot of in the past three months is being out of touch with other writers.  Starting in July, I've had on and off computer issues.  Viruses, malware, unidentified issues that have kept me off line or forced me to use the old slow desktop.  Some days I only had time to visit three or four blogs and my posting fell way off from about five times a week to one or two times.  I felt out of touch with the writing community I've come to count on over the past twelve months.   I felt alone.

I don't mind being alone 90% of the time but even when I am, I know other writers are out there, just a few clicks away.  When I didn't have a computer, I was cut off.  I couldn't visit the blogs that make me laugh, the ones that teach me something, the ones I can just totally agree with it and maybe even add something to it in the comments.  It was a temporary situation but there are still moments when I feel I need to do more to keep in touch.

A few of the local members of the statewide group, Pennwriters, meet once a month at a local library and have a critique session.  I've only made it once since I decided I must have some actual face time with other writers but I'm determined to get there more.  By joining this fun blog idea of Alex Cavanaugh's, I'm making more friends and being comforted by learning I share the same problems in my writing career as other authors.  Sign up and share your insecurities.

I have a few friends I know I can email when a specific problem or question arises. Many people gave me advice and pointed me to the information I needed to self-publish my book on Kindle. (Nobody had been able to tell me yet how to get through the logjam on Smashwords any quicker though).

There are ways to keep in touch even if you can't attend meetings in person.  I'm still building an online circle of support and hope I provide a little to others.  So stay in touch.  When you feel frustrated and all alone, check out your bloggy friends or other online groups.  Investigate writers' groups on your area, usually they have notices in the paper or maintain a website, and try to get some face time.  Even attending booksignings can put you in touch with other local writers.

What do you do if the isolation of being a writer starts to get to you? What's your favorite way to stay in touch with fellow authors?

Friday, September 30, 2011

For Better of For Worse

As many of you know, I recently re-released The Keepers of Sulbreth on Kindle after having a falling out with my publisher.  It hurt when my publisher made the decision to break my contract.  With my first book released and doing pretty good in mass market and the next two under contract, I felt my career was really taking off and the next big step with a sale to a major publisher was around the corner. 

Then the phone call came.  My publisher wanted to release my second book, Beyond the Gate, in ebook only.  I was crushed.  My spirits were low for nearly two months as I tried to make the decision.  I made the wrong one.  I allowed them to release my book and they made a real hash of it.  No promotion, no reviews, and they didn't even get it to the retailers on the release date.  So I divorced them.

It's very strange.  I was angry, beyond angry, with the publisher when they told me they would only be doing ebook, but I hid it and held on.  I tried to work with them on promotion and pin them down on what they would be doing.  They did nothing despite their promises.  But once I told them to forget it and give my rights back, I felt free and energized.  I no longer felt my writing future was out of my control.  I no longer felt so helpless before the cold-hearted decisions of a corporation.

Being contracted with a publisher is something like a marriage but it can turn into a bad one.  An abusive one where the party holding the power takes advantage of the other member.  I'm happy with my separation because I decided I didn't have to put up with the 'Worse.' I deserve better.

Have you had a bad experience with a publisher?  Do you know someone who has?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Keepers of Sulbreth Release

Yesterday I came home from work and powered up my computer.  Couldn't wait to check. And there it was.  Kindle had my book up for sale with its new cover and new price.  Nothing like seeing your book for sale to get you inspired to work on the next one.  I am busy working on the edits for the second book, Beyond the Gate.

The Keepers of Sulbreth introduces the island kingdom of Futhark where a small group of sorceresses called, Keepers, have used their gifts to contain the denizens of hell behind a magical gate.  But something is slowly going wrong and more and more of the demons escape into the human world.  Working with the young king of Futhark, the Keepers find a gifted warrior foretold in prophecies to help them close the magical seals. Cage Stone reluctantly gets pulled into the dangers facing Futhark.  The otherworldly foes force him to reveal his secrets and his heritage.  As he bloodies his sword in demon blood, he slowly realizes the dark mind behind the troubles have been controlling his destiny from his birth.  He vows to take back his life and save Futhark at the same time.
Cover art by Gayle Bower

Keepers recieved many excellent reviews when it was first released, including from Publisher's Weekly and Booklist. Now my goal is to remind readers of this and restart my promotion. 

I have a lot still to learn about self-publishing and the best way to promote the book.  The price is another thing I've had to make decisions on.  I priced the book at $2.99 to start.  I've read JA Konrath's blog many times and absorbed his advice.  It's a tough decision.

The price of ebooks is a controversial issue in and of itself.  I buy lots of ebooks.  Some of the reasonably priced ones written by my friends but I also purchase ebooks from 'famous' authors and I do resent paying the same price as for a mass market paperback.  Why should an ebook cost that much when there is no shipping, no manufacturing or storage costs?

What do you think is a reasonable price for ebooks? What royalty rate should authors receive from ebooks?  The same as print?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Begin Again

A little over a year ago, the publisher of my fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, called me to say they were breaking my contract and not releasing my book in mass market paperback.  With my permission they would release my book as an ebook only.  I considered requesting my rights back to all three of my books like many of the other authors contracted with them did.  I believed even then the way to go in the future would be ebook though the disappointment of not having my book in print was huge.  In the end, I stayed with them, mostly because they had already released the first book in my series, The Keepers of Sulbreth, earlier in the year.  I feared I would never find another publisher.

Though uneasy about the company's commitment to making my book a success, I dove into promotion and did everything I could to prepare for the release of my second book, Beyond the Gate on January 1st, 2011.  The big day came, although my first book was available before its due date, and tada....nothing happened.  It was up for sale on Amazon, B&N, or any of the other ebook retailers.  I called my publisher on the very next business day.  My publisher had the nerve to blame it on the booksellers.  Weeks later, Beyond the Gate, finally was available.  Some blips still existed like a few days of bleary cover art.  So many long days after my blog tour and all the online promotion I did, readers could purchase my book.  Was it any wonder word didn't get out? 

I nearly pulled my books right then, but I thought I would wait for my first statement.  You can guess how it looked.  So at the start of the summer, I asked for all my rights back on the three books my publisher had contracted.  It was simple since they had broken my contract.  Now my options were to either find another publisher who would be willing to take on a book series where the first two had already been on the market though not marketed or to take the plunge and publish them myself.

I dove into the self-publishing chaos storm.  I love reading books on my eReader and believe thousands of other people do also.  The first obstacle I face was my lack of computer literacy.  I read the directions on Kindle self-publishing and felt a little overwhelmed.  I lingered over editing, spreading it out over the entire summer months.  I talked to colleagues and friends, gathering information on the steps I needed to know before I could get my books back into the hands of the readers.  I compiled an entire folder with dozens of emails, blogs and printed instructions from Amazon and other retailers to help me find my way. 

So I'm now in restart mode and very hopeful.  I realize I had lost confidence in my publisher long before I pulled my rights from the dark pit of their possession.  I have lots of people to thank for helping me renew my dreams of a successful career as an author.  Let me start with Cate Masters.

Cate answered my call for help.  She answered no less than five emails filled with questions, general and specific.  And she responded every time within a day and she added encouragement each time.  More than a few of her books are in my ebook library.  She's a production machine just not in producing new material but in keeping an up to date blog and promoting her books 'every' where and how.  Her work ethic shames me when I whine about how little time I have to write.  Somehow she gets it all done.  So thanks, Cate.

In the next few weeks, I'll be doing a lot of posts on my experience wading through these new waters including introducing the talented young artist who designed my entirely original cover.  During that time, I'm hoping to not only pass on what I've learned but also to receive even more tips and advice from my followers. 

Has anyone in particular helped you recently in advancing your career or getting over a bump in the road?  Have you helped anyone?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What It Means

My local Borders lingers still.  It has a few shelves of books.  The adult fiction section would fit in my living room.  I often do some shopping in the center where the store is located so I go in and check it out.  And then I walk out empty-handed.  The best buy I've found in the last few weeks of its slow demise is the stack of AP study guides my daughter needs for her current high school classes.  The store is filled with cheap, but still over-priced, towels and other things that have never belonged in a bookstore.

I miss sitting the cafe and if it was still open, I would  likely be writing this blog post there with an iced latte sharing the table with me along with a stack of books I was considering purchasing.  Instead, I've visited my local library on a more regular basis.  Nearly every two weeks I stop in and see what new releases they have and prowl the aisles in search of new authors.  Their fantasy/scifi offerings are limited and they seldom updated but I've discovered some mystery/thriller writers I've quite come to enjoy like CJ Box and Jonathan Kellerman.  Of course the library doesn't carry their earlier books so I've turned to online sellers.

My husband bought me a Kobo eReader for Christmas last year and I was thrilled with it though I often wish I'd asked him for a Kindle instead.  But it's easy to purchase books on and I like reading on it.  So I'm still buying books and spending less gas to do so.  I make a lot of ice coffee at home and do nearly all my writing at my own desk. 

So though Borders is gone, I'm not reading less though I've bought no physical books for my own reading pleasure in the past few weeks.  I'm probably going to buy the next Preston and Childs book tomorrow to read at lunch at work this week.  I'm over my sadness at the end of Borders and only worry that I've adjusted so well.  If all brick and mortar stores go extinct, will I get over it so quickly?  Will you?  Do you see the end in sight?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Up and Running.

I finally got my personal laptop back in the game.  It's running faster than ever thanks to some simple advice from the great guy at the computer fix-em-up shop.  I wish I could tell his boss t give him a raise.

After a few days of using my slow desktop, I really came to understand how irritating word verification can be when visiting blogs.  It's just one more step, but that one more step cuts into the time I've set aside to visit blogs.

On the other side of the coin, I've heard lots of chatter lately about malware and spam finding its way unto blogs and disrupting or even destroying lots of work.  I guess having the word verification can help prevent some of that.

I use Norton protection on my personal computer, but the guy at the fix-em place told me it does really slow down a computer.  He gave me some advice on what to use instead when my subscription expires.  It's amazing what talking face to face with an expert can do for understanding something that usually causes me lots of confusion.  In the world of writing, we call that networking.

I wish I had the time to network a little this fall by attending a big writers' conference.  But I have neither the money nor the time.  Face to face can really help clear the fog of confusion at times. 

At least I still have all my bloggy friends to network with online.  They've helped me so much by answering questions and providing links to even more information.  And now that I have my laptop back, I'll be cruising along at high speed to visit them more often.

What was the last memorable face to face networking opportunity you had for your writing?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can't Get There From Here

The phrase, 'can't get there from here,' is a running joke in our family.  But over the course of the last few days it has become reality.  I live in central PA where we had a flash flood on Wednesday bringing nearly six inches of rain to our locale in a few hours time followed by another four inches over night into Thursday.

Wednesday got ugly really quick and our school tried to send the students home early.  Teachers were asked to stay in case the buses had to return before delivering their students.  Lots of buses did return and by the time I helped check all those frightened kids in, the roads had flooded enough that I couldn't get home either.  After about three hours, the flash flood eased off enough for some roads to clear and I made it home to a flooded basement.  Then the real flood started and overflowed the creeks and again inundated the roads again.  For more than a day, we couldn't go anywhere.  We really couldn't get 'there' from here.

Now two days after the flood, many roads are still closed, schools are closed  and some areas are going to get worse as the flood moves unto the Susquehanna River.  But my basement is nearly dry.  I've washed the floor with bleach again and cleaned the baseboards with mildew cleaner.  It even smells nice.  Some roads are open again so we can go to the store if need be.  We can get 'there' again.

So after cleaning the basement floor, I propped my feet up and opened my laptop to visit some more Insecure Writer Blogs, and low and behold, MY LAPTOP HAS BEEN ATTACKED BY A VIRUS! AGAIN!!!  This one is my work computer so I can't download any programs such as a security feature.  It relies on what they've installed on it.  So for the second time in as many months, I can't get to the internet on my laptop.  Can't get there from here. 

So I'm back on my trusty old desktop, a little slow, but protected by Norton.  It's too slow to visit all the blogs I wanted to today so I'm sorry I won't get to meet all those Insecure Writers just yet. 

What do you think is the best security program to protect your computer with? I have to get something different on my personal laptop this time. Did you ever pickup a virus and know exactly where it came from? Are there particular sites you avoid because you think they might infect you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writer in September

We all have some things in this business that makes our stomachs a little queasy.  For me the list is pretty long and I'm sure I'll have more than enough material to keep up with our monthly sharing of what causes us stress and discomfort.  Thanks, Alex Cavanaugh, for getting out all together.

If you're not interested in my problems, here is a link to the list of other insecure writers sharing their headaches, woes and also the expertise to help each other.

My insecurity this month isn't a little thing. It's a huge one.  I'm getting ready to publish my first book using Kindle Direct Publishing.  Though I manage to do lots of basic things on my computer, I really don't know my way around it. I'm extremely intimidated by the task in front of me. 

A few writer friends have given me starting points and I've ran off copies of the instructions from Amazon but I'm still dithering about jumping into this project.  Do I have my manuscript formatted correctly? Have I done enough editing? What have I gotten myself into? Should I pay someone to help me with the first time?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Power of Pen

Jack Hillman is a PA writer I first met through my membership in Pennwriters.  This past July, I spent a few hours with Jack and some other authors at the Saucon Valley Farmer's Market.  Jack not only arranged the booksigning event with the management of the Farmer's Market, he provided the shade.  We didn't sell lots of books that day, but we had a chance to network and share our ideas, our frustrations with the industry and our speculations of where the world of books is heading.

But let me tell you a little about Jack Hillman.  First of all he's a clever man of great wit.  It's just plain fun to talk with him.  His broad spectrum of knowledge ranges from writing, publishing, marketing and other areas not related to being an author. 

His recent experiences with his publisher reminded me a bit of my own, so we had lots to discuss about that.  His trilogy called The Giant's Wars, is set in the Saucon Valley and connected to a local legend of a lost river.  The young hero, Eric Johnson, encounters all kinds of legendary characters and creatures in his adventures.  As you can tell from his cover art, Jack's book is filled with great fantasy action.  It's just the thing for young readers, especially those reluctant boys.  Buy it here!

Booksigning opportunities are become rarer and rarer.  I'm grateful to Jack for sharing this chance with me.  Where have you held booksignings? Do you expect more venues for writers published with small presses to close? Are booksignings going to become a thing of the past?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Work Desk vs. Work Desk

A few authors, I'm not sure of the numbers, make enough on their writing to work only at their career of choice.  But most writers are like me.  We work another job to help pay the mortgage and put food on the table.  For school teachers like me, summer is over and I'm back at work. 

While preparing for the start of classes a few weeks ago, I thought about the two different desks I maintain for my two jobs.  My school desk is of the old metal variety, probably nearly as old as I am.  The floor of my office is painted cement and is in the center of the girls' lockerroom so I have no windows to the outside world.  It's a very cold setting, especially when there are no students around.  The chattering teenagers do wam the place up a little.

My writing desk at home is in the front room where I get the morning sun.  The window overlooks the front porch and the surrounding flower beds.  The floor is carpeted, the walls lined with bookshelves and I even have a fireplace.  I have two cheap desks I put together to form an 'L' so I can spread out all my 'stuff.' The desktop computer is on one desk and I set my laptop on either.  Everything is right at hand. I love that work space.

At school, I have one wall covered in the senior photos my students have given me over 25 years of teaching.  I have two different pottery dishes made just for me by students in their pottery class and a few other keepsakes and gifts.  I can't count the coffee mugs given to me over the years.  If I could retire tomorrow, I wouldn't miss that old metal dinosaur-like desk but I would miss those kids.

If I hit the big time and can spend money on a new, bigger fancier desk where it all matches, I'm not sure I would give up those two mismatched, $99, desks I've spent so many hours at. 

Both my school desk and my writing desk have one thing in common.  Somewhere on both of them is a folded paper towel where I set my ice coffee.  Sometimes hot coffee or tea claim the spot of honor.  My favorite drinks help make my work areas comfortable and welcoming. 

What makes your workspace a place where things get done?  Would you change anything is you could? Is your environment conducive to getting a lot of work done?

Monday, August 29, 2011

At My Best

Summer's over and I'm back at school and dealing with a new crop of freshmen and returning upper classmen.  The kids are fun but I'd rather retire.  The odd thing about being back at the day job is the amount of writing work I get done. 

Perhaps because I have fewer hours I work with more intensity during those precious minutes.  Today at lunch I ate my ranch chicken wrap while polishing my one-liner and blurb for my latest fantasy romance, A Tiger's Courage.  I was thrilled last week to receive a contract offer from New Concepts Publishing for this book but of course I received it just in time to be back at work.  But today at work I managed to get it done and send it out tonight.  I even stopped by the post office on my way home to put the contract in the mail.

I've always liked working under pressure with time constraints.  In the summer when I should have hours and hours to write, I seem to get less done than when I'm teaching school for eight hours per day.  Why?  I do get distracted when I'm working at home by laundry, cooking, yard work but I still have more hours than during the school year.  I can't figure it out but there it is.  So for the next ten months, I'm expecting some of my best work.

Are you a pressure worker? Do you find time constraints inspire you to work more efficiently?