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?