Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Visit the Bookstore?

I know many readers of my blog visit book stores and very often buy books. I've lamented having no local independent store to shop in before on my blog.  There are a few used bookstores, one with lots of character though I don't care for the location.  They even serve terrific, very expensive coffee and pastries like any Borders or Barnes and Noble.  I've bought some used books there including some very old ones from the 1800's.  I like how they look on my shelves.

The big news this week is the closing of lots of Borders stores.  The store closest to me is staying open but the other Borders in the area is closing.  I received an email advertising everything 20-40% off, except for selected items.  I've been to store closings before, though never for a bookstore, and I know those selected items are usually the things I want.  Still, I'm going to visit.  I heard from a friend that the cafe in the closing store packed up their Seattle's Best, mugs, beans and all the first day the news came out.  So I guess I'm not getting 40% off any flavored coffee beans or travel mugs.

I usually spend some time in the Borders' cafe each time I go book shopping.  Even if I don't buy a book, I'm likely to spend some money on a drink.  My daughter likes to spend hours in the cafe.  Why?  Sitting there recently, I jotted down some of the reasons I find sitting in the cafe so pleasant.

As I mentioned, I usually indulge in some fancy coffee drink and once in a great while, I'll purchase one of the treats behind the glass display case.  The stuffed pretzels are my favorite.  While I'm sipping my fine caffeinated drink, I can people watch.  There are a few people I see fairly often at Borders but there always some new characters to wonder about.

I always carry a few magazines and books to the cafe with me.  Reading the first chapter or even a few pages will either intrigue me or not.  I not only discover a hint of the story plot but also get a taste of the writer's voice and style.  Before I spend my money on a book, especially an author new to me, I can make a more informed decision.  I've used the time to look up something in a reference book or magazine.

Some of the people I watch use the cafe for different things.  I've seen students studying together, young people being tutored, and others meeting for reasons unknown.  Last week I saw a young couple meet their wedding planner.  At an earlier visit, I saw three friends planning a business venture.  They had a half dozen books on starting a small business piled on their long table.  Half the people in the cafe on any given day have their computers open, working or playing, but doing it with a cup of java on hand. 

In every bookstore, Barnes and Noble has the best, you find an interesting collection of journals, leather bound, lined and unlined, snap-together covers and even pens to match.  Every writer needs at least one.  Other cool things can be found, jigsaw puzzles, brainy games and calendars of every kind.  Borders also carries a selection of Burt's Bees products including my favorite lip balm. 

And of course there are books.  And book lovers.  Even though more of us are buying our books and reading them via eReaders, I still want those physical stores to stay open.  I want to visit, drink coffee and relax in the company of other bibliophiles. 

Besides buying books are there other reasons you visit your local bookstore?  Are you losing a Borders near you?  Do you see the future of brick and mortar stores as optimistic or limited?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One of Those

All members of the human race have them.  One of those weeks.  Then something happens to pick you up and get you back on track.  I slowed down this week after a visit to my elderly mother.  It's difficult to see her slowly fading into confusion.  Her world shrinks as her health issues grow.  It took me a few days to get back on track writing after pounding out almost 25K in the last five weeks.

Over the course of the last few days, I caught up on earlier seasons of a few of my favorite shows.  My daughter and I share a love of the USA network show, White Collar.  I think she loves it for Matt Bomer's blue eyes, and they are amazing, but I like watching a crime show where the crimes have to be solved by outsmarting some really clever thieves.  There are only occasional dead bodies.  We watching all of Season One.

Another show I discovered last year is FX's Justified. It has the clever dialogue and Raylin Givens is a modern day gunfighter masquerading as a federal marshal.  I grew up loving all those great western shows and Clint Eastwood movies.  I haven't watched the entire season yet, because I'm finally back on the WIP.  I also intend to catch up with my blogger friends I ignored for a few days.

So does anything throw you off stride from your writing routines?  What get you back on track? What is the longest you've ignored your writing or blogging?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bring Down That Wall

Some of you know my day job is teaching.  Schools have lots of issues with technology.  They don't have the money to keep up with the latest and greatest for starters.  It's also difficult to hire good people in fill their needs in technology areas because people really knowledgeable in that stuff can make so much more money elsewhere.  Sometimes the old guard teachers embrace new things with fear and reluctance though as a whole, the faculty at my school are begging for more training, more programs and continually sharing ways to use some of the wonderful things available to bring education out of the nineteenth century.

Another problem all schools face is the line between allowing students access to online resources and preventing undesirable use of the same.  Every school, even if you haven't heard about from your local school, has had issues with students finding their way to porn sites, texting inappropriate messages and pictures, and visiting places on the web the school and their parents don't want them to go.  Schools try to prevent this with firewalls able to stop nuclear attacks.  I'd like the burn down that wall but it does have a reason for existence.

Seriously, if I visit any website that allows shopping, I receive a warning the visit may violate my user agreement.  I'm not allowed, even as a teacher, to visit blogs or social network sites.  I'm not permitted to check my google mail.  As a teacher, I have a lunch break and one other break sometime during the day.  If I could use those breaks to visit some blogs I enjoy, I could expand my network of friends.  The only way I keep up with even half of my friends is by spending two to three hours per evening visiting and commenting.  On weekends when I can be online on and off through out the day, I can take small breaks from writing and check to see who has a new blog post.  It's so easy.

I've decided I have one or two solutions.  The first would be to quit my day job.  My children and I need to eat so that isn't likely to happen for a few years.  The second possibility is to spend the money to get a 3G or 4G phone or iPad(salivating) so I can get online at work without using the work network.  Less expensive than quiting the job but still a few dollars I hate to spend with two kids in college and another due to start in about eighteen months.  I have to price it out.

So how about you? Can you jump online during the day and go where you wish? Is your school embracing technology?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blogging Fun in the Spring

I hope you've all joined by now.  April is only a few weeks away and besides the spring flowers and hopefully warming temperatures.  April will bring the A to Z Blogging Challenge started by Arlee over at Tossing it Out.

Joining the challenge means you'll blog every day of the month, except for Sundays, using the letters of the alphabet to guide your blog topic.  I'm already brainstorming.  Not only will participating help me blog consistently but I'm hoping I gain even more wonderful followers.

You can join too.  There are many places you can put your name on the roll call.  Visit Arlee or Alex Cavanaugh for example.  The more the merrier.

Have you ever joined a blogging challenge?  Did it help you be a better blogger?  Did you build your following?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Romance by Susan Kelley

I have two writing lives.  In one, I'm an author or YA and epic fantasy.  My first published series, The Futhark Chronicles, has the first two books now available with books three and four coming out next year.  I have another fantasy series I hope to find a home for this year.

In my other persona, as Susan Kelley, I write fantasy romance.  I have five romances published already, another under contract to be released later this spring and one I'm busy working on right now.  I'm doing the second draft, something that for me usually means a total rewrite.  I managed nearly 10K words this weekend between laundry and cooking. 

This day reminds me of all the romance I'm lucky to have in my life beyond that I read and write.  My husband never forgoes a chance to shower me with gifts.  He buys me flowers at least four times per year and often he'll have a gift card to a bookstore attached.  He knows what I love.  (I love him most of all)
People ask me who I model my heroes after in all my books not just the romances.  My husband always jumps in and says they're all him. 

Well, he's not a great swordsman or an expert horseman.  He's never taken on otherworldly demons or evil witches to save me and our children.  But he has always worked long hours to see we have everything we need.  He sat for hours during my labor in the hospital holding my hand.  He's been a role model for our children and their friends, coaching their sports teams and playing games in the front yard.  He'll do the laundry or the dishes without being asked.  He is a hero.  And if some foul demon creature bursts into the house someday, I know he'll take up the fireplace poker and step in between it and me. 

Did you remember your every day hero today?  Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Here and Now

It took a while.  Distributer problems, I understand.  But Beyond the Gate if finally available for Amazon Kindle.  Though the release date originally was January first and the book could be purchased on many ebook retail sites, for some reason Amazon couldn't get it up. LOL

In other good timing news, Eugene Nelson Jr, at Night Owl Reviews had this to say about Beyond the Gate.
Her writing was smooth and effortless as she wasted no time hypnotizing me with her latest tale from Fuchark (Or it might be Futhark.) This second book compliments the first with a renewed flare as Susan brings to life old friends and new. Clear and focused, Susan knew what she wanted to say and I felt every word.

Thank you, Eugene.  You can read the entire review here.  He also gave me a wonderful review on the first book in the series, The Keepers of Sulbreth.  I'm hoping more reviews will come in soon.  Despite the wait to see my book available on all the major seller sites, I appreciate my publisher keeping me informed of the situation.

How about your publisher?  Do they keep you in the loop on all aspects of your book's publication?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Snail Trail

Last week I prepared my latest fantasy novel, First Dragon, for submission.  I polished my query pitch thanks to some help from my friends here.  I tweaked a few formatting issues.  So many publishers demand some little things be just so.  One wanted the entire manuscript.  Most wanted three chapters and a synopsis. I can handle that.  In an evening, I submitted to three fantasy publishers.  But two of the publishers I wanted to submit to took much longer.

I had to print out two hard copies of my query letter, synopsis and first three chapters.  One of the publishers strangely exact spacing on the title page as if they wouldn't be able to read it if my name and address were not a perfectly placed eight spaces from the top.  Neither of these publishers will return my partails even if I include a SASE.  They say on their website they just don't have time to go the post office to mail things back.  I would really like one of them to snap up my manuscript but I found myself becoming increasingly disgusted with the process as I wasted ink and paper to prepare the submissions. 

The thought running through my mind was, 'why in this day of internet ease do these publishers still not take electronic submissions?'  Why waste so much of my time and money?  Why fill their office space with packages? Why require their junior editors to tear open envelops and lug stacks around their offices or perhaps even take home?  Don't their people have laptops? IPads? Any electronic gizmo for their convenience of reading my prose?

I know my electronic submissions arrived within seconds of my submission.  What of the snail mail submissions?  First of all, we were inundated with two ice storms last week so it three days from the time I had the packages ready until I could make it to the post office.  Six dollars later, the postal worker tossed my big envelops into a bin with the rest of the outgoing mail.  Is it there yet? 

I doubt if it is.  One submission was going to Canada and the other New York.  If they decide they like my first three chapters, they'll email me and ask for more or tell me no thanks.  They can email me but I can't email them?  Now what if they do want to see the entire book?  Must I now stuff all four hundred double-spaced pages and take another trip to the local post office?  And all this adds up to time. 

A growing criticism of the big NY houses is how long it takes to take a book from acquisition to publication.  Add to it the time it takes to acquire it.  Even if one of these big publishers decide they want my book at some point, it is likely to be nearly three years from the time I first send it to them until I hold it in my hands.  Time.  And during that time the industry and technology are sprinting forward. 

What do you think?  Have you submitted anything by snail mail lately?  Do you think I wasted my six dollars? I have a list of small publishers I'm investigating.  I know many of you are published by independents.  Are you glad you went that route?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Smiles All Around

What makes you smile each day? Well, I teach high school so I admit teenagers make me smile hundreds of times each day and often I laugh out loud.  If you're a parent of a teenager, perhaps you can't believe that or maybe you understand completely. I hope it's the second one.

In my writing life, many of my fellow bloggers make me smile.  Nancy Williams gave me this award so I'm passing it on.  Some are so witty, I can't believe some major publisher hasn't grabbed them up. Their blog posts are clever and often informative.  Here are my candidates for the 'You Make Me Smile' award.

If you've never met a real live possum queen, visit Ava over at Tongue in Cheek.

Mary at Giggles and Guns is usually good for a few smiles.  Check it out.

And one more of a cast of over a hundred who will put a little upward curl in your lips. Visit The Golden Eagle for some amusement.

And let's hope for no more snow storms this week.  Hope you find a few new blogs.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Conference or Stay Home?

I'm debating going to two different writers' conferences in the next few months.  I have friends at both conferences and certainly the chance to meet more.  I've looked over the presentation offerings for both and found a few workshops I might attend.  I like agent and editor panels and the glimpse they give me into their personalities.  Most of them come off as witty and interesting speakers.  I could always sit in another workshop on promotion.

What really attracts me to a writing conference though are the agents and editors attending and the chance to pitch to a desired editor or an agent.  I'm debating the cost of attending, one of them I wold have to stay overnight, and whether it's worth it to pay the money for a ten minute face to face. 

I can't decide.  What do you look for in selecting a conference?  How do you way the cost/benefit ratio? How many of you found your agent or publisher at a conference?