Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A to Z: They Will Come

1000 today or bust!  Will the A to Z Blog Challenge get 1000 signups by the end of today? Will there be 1000 bloggers willing to commit themselves to this wonderfully hectic and rewarding challenge a full month before we start? I hope so.

If you haven't signed up yet, let me give you some reasons why you should if you're a writer.  Authors today must have a web presence.  Your name must pop up on top of google searches.  Readers will, hopefully, want to know what you're up to. What are you writing? What do you like to read? What is your process? Where do your ideas come from? Where will you  make personal appearances?

Being a writer means always learning more of your craft.  It means taking pieces of information and creating your own voice and style.  In today's world, you learn from many sources but the one with deepest well of expertise is as close as your computer screen.  Meet others of your ilk through your blog and theirs.  How do you find this other blogs?

Back to my first paragraph for the answer.  Sign up for things like the A to Z Blogging Challenge.  You will find many new blogs you want to follow and they will find you.  They will come to your blog.

Have you signed up yet? What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CassaFire Today!

didn't officially join the big party for the launch of CassaFire today, but I must mention the release of Alex Cavanaugh's second book in his space adventure series. If you go to his blog, you'll find a big thing going on.

CassaStar is the first book and a terrific, can't-put-down read. I've read some scifi novels over the years but sometimes I get a bit cross-eyed when the author goes on for pages about the size of a ship's engines and the power of its guns. No worries about his in Alex's books. It has enough action to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and characters with enough depth to hold your emotions hostage to the last page. You can bet I'll be buying the second book, CassaFire as soon as I'm off work today.

So do you like scifi? What book have you been looking forward to in 2012?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Evil Genuis

Wouldn't the good guys be pretty boring without any bad guys to defeat? Aren't we understood by whom are enemies are? Thanks to The Eagle for hosting The Evil Genius Blogfest.

This is so easy. My current favorite evil genius is blue and very cute. Megamind is everything an evil genius should be.  He has witting dialogue, an oddball and loyal sidekick, and a perfect hero to fight. He lives to destroy Metro City.  He has an endearing habit of mispronouncing words, a habit that will cause him lots of trouble.

Megamind comes from a troubled background.  He was exposed to a rough, morally-challenged crowd in his young life.  His role models directly influenced his decision to move to the dark side.  Rejected by his peers at every turn, is it any wonder Megamind grew up to take vengeance on those who had mistreated him and judged him.

But the best thing about Megamind is his journey, from society's reject to the saviour of his tormentors. Only a true intellectual superior could devise a way to save Metro City from an evil even greater than our intrepid bad guy.

 Visit The Eagle's Aerial Perspective and find more links dedicated to most respected of evil geniuses.  Are you a fan of Megamind? Who is your favorite evil doer?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Out There

The American Dream.  The recent economy has presented many challenges to the idea anyone can achieve their heart's desire if they work hard enough.  I wonder soon if that dream will be whittled down to being about to fill my car with gas.  My oldest son is wondering if he'll be able to afford the house he's going to look at tomorrow.  We both work hard, not only at our day jobs but at our extra jobs.

For him, that's coaching, painting with his father and just about any other odd job that comes up he can make money at while still attending grad school on weekends. During the day he is a teacher. I also teach and do a number of small extra duties that earn me a few dollars by tutoring.  But my biggest 'extra' job is my writing.

You can guess since I'm not retired from teaching, I'm not pulling in a big income from being a published author.  The business is tough, time-consuming and not for the faint-hearted or anyone who isn't very self-motivated.  And some days when I'm doing some blog hopping or checking out what my friends are up to on facebook, I wonder if I'm working hard enough.  As the publishing industry scrambles, stumbles, runs and trips over itself to keep up with the changes brought on by technology, opportunities abound for those ready to leap on the speeding missile of progress.  Am I running fast enough to make the leap or will I fall behind?  Success is out there somewhere, if only I can work hard enough and fast enough to grab the opportunities I'm told are available.

Do you feel like you're keeping up?  Or are the changes too fast for you? And guesses on the future?

Friday, February 24, 2012

So Many Stories, So Little Time

From FB
Busy, busy, busy. I've been trying to build my blog presence and am having fun getting to know online friends. My other big project is editing on the third book in my fantasy series, Beneath the Mountain. I enjoy it but it's going slower than I'd hoped.  In the meantime, I haven't worked on new material for a few months. 

I spent the end of 2011 getting the first two books in The Futhark Chronicles up for sale in the ebook market. After taking back my rights to The Keepers of Sulbreth and Beyond the Gate, I self-published them.  It was time consuming as I navigated those paths for the first time.  Now I have the third and fourth books to get ready. 

On the back burner is my second fantasy series of which I have the first book written and the second book started. I'm researching some small publishers to find a home for it. I long to get back to writing something new but feel I have to do the self-publishing on my other series first.

On top of that, I have a fantasy romance I want to polish up and send to my romance publisher, New Concepts Publishing. And circling around in my head is the plan for another fantasy series.  I love starting new projects but I'm swamped with the other stuff.

Do you enjoy diving into a new book or do you like getting that first draft out of the way and then getting into the editing process?  How long does it take you for a first draft?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A to Z: Some Not-So-Expert Advice

With the April frenzy only a few weeks away, I thought I would offer some small thoughts on building your circle of blog-world friends during the festivities.  Having been a newbie last year, I don't really qualified as an expert on blog challenges.  Like many others signed up (see list here), I've been visiting some of the blogs already and getting to know some of the other participants early.  Many of them, I'm quite excited to meet and have signed on as a follower. And that is my first bit of advice.
From FB
There are many ways to set up your blog and arrange your gadgets, including your followers.  But on some blogs I visit, the button to click for following is so far down the side of the page I can't find it or I have to scroll way down.  My advice is to make it easy for people to become your followers.

Another piece of amateur advice is about the word verification.  The new form of word tests with the ink splash is a big pain in the 'you know what.'  They are very difficult to decipher.  I can't count how many times I've guessed wrong and had to redo it.

My last piece of advice is to have fun and not stress out if you're having trouble getting around to all the blogs. Some days you'll make lots of stops, but there will be days when life interferes and you can't make the time to hop around for an hour or more. Don't sweat it. I used Sundays to do some catchup last year and suspect I will this year also.

If you want more advice, visit the A to Z Challenge Blog. It is filled with good ideas. 

So what part of the challenge is the biggest for you? Visiting? Posting? Something else?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tagged: I'm It

Thanks to the tag from D.G. Hudson at Rainforest Writing for tagging me last week. I learned lots of little tidbits about DG and was fortunate to be chosen by her to answer some questions of my own. As you will see, I'm a middle class working mother who love to write. Nothing extraordinary except my family.

1. How long have you blogged?
I've been blogging regularly for almost two and a half years. It's only been about the last 12 months that I've gotten a little more serious about it.

2. Do you have a pet?
We had the most wonderful Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He passed away over a year ago and I still miss him. Our cat, Merry, is going on 17 years old but hanging in there.

3. Do you like film noir?
Not a fan so much. I like movies that help me escape, not think or feel deep emotions.

4. Do you pick male or female protagonists the most when you write?
Whether I'm writing fantasy or romance, I tend to give equal time to the male and female leads though in my current WIP, the male protagonist has the bigger part.

5.What female actor would you pick to be in LOTR if offered the part?
I would of course want to be Eowyn and riding a horse and fighting beside the men.

6.What male actor would you pick to be in LOTR if makeup made it possible?
Eomer, because I would still be a king but without all the responsibility of Eragon. And I would be a great horse master.

7.Where do you write the most often and comfortably?
I have an office! The den is all mine with a fireplace, built in bookshelves and a window. Only bad thing is the doors don't lock and my kids are always coming in to hang out with mom.

8.What beverage is beside you when you write?
Iced coffee, hot black coffee, hot tea and in the evenings, a glass of wine or amaretto. But I always have a drink.

9.Do you listen to music while you write?
Sometimes I do the ipod thing but it actually distracts me.

10.What is your favorite city?
I'm a country girl but I enjoy visiting New Orleans. My daughter might be going to college in DC and I think I could grow to like that town for visits.

11.Is there a phone in your writing place?
I have no landline but my cell phone is always near by.

So there are my eleven answers as asked by D.G. Hudson. Stop by and learn a little bit about her and discover some new blogs with the other victims of her tagging.

I'm tagging these friends in turn.  They better give up the goods to these 11 questions:

1. Are you a Kindle, Nook, Ipad or other? Or none?

2. Who is smarter, you or your phone?

3. Do you like two story or one story homes?

4. Country born and bred or city slicker?

5. Cereal, toast, eggs or just coffee for breakfast?

6. What new show on TV has caught your interest this year?

7. Have you ever bought a celebrity book? About whom?

8. What is your favorite guilty snack?

9. What was your favorite cartoon character growing up?

10. Do you pack your lunch or carry it?

11. What book have you read over and over again?

These victims are now it.

Natalie Damschroeder

Ava Quinn

Cate Masters

Tina Crone

Jon Sprunk

And I'll let the tag list stand at five.  Stop by and see their cool blogs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Busy Weekend Ahead

It's a very writerly weekend for me. Tina Crone, one of those talented Pennwriters I'm lucky to know, arranged a booksigning at the wonderful Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, PA. I'll be signing The Keepers of Sulbreth and my romance novels. 

The Midtown Scholar carries new books and supports local authors but they also carry a large selection of used books.  The used books are not for the casual reader of genre fiction but rather a sprawling collection of books from decades and even centuries ago.  I've added a few of their old volumes to my keeper shelves.  One can browse for hours in their fiction and then drift downstairs to the nonfiction areas. Once you gather an armful of books to puruse, grab a great drink or snack from the coffee bar and climb the open stairway to the second floor and the comfy sofas that overlook 2nd street. It's really lovely.  Lots of customers move through the store though I don't expect tons of sales. It's always fun to talk to other book lovers.

Also on Saturday, TBR blog, started by Cate Masters, will feature a blurb fest where romance authors can post a promotion and links for one of their romance novels.  A few weeks ago, TBR hosted fantasy authors and it had lots of comments and visits. I'm hopeful it will be as successful this time. 

Will you be doing work or having fun this weekend? Do you have Monday off for President's day? Are you shopping for some new reads online?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

I've read some stuff recently on the actual chemistry of love.  There have been studies that have proven the brain releases certain chemical like dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is released when you do something pleasurable. People can get addicted to activities that cause the release of dopamine, like drugs, eating chocolate, and falling in love.  There's lots more chemistry involved but this isn't a science blog.  Today it's a blog about love or maybe love stories.

When an author writes a romance, there are some rules readers expect in a romance novel.  The 'happily everafter' is one of the things that make a novel into a romance novel.  Most readers want the main protagonists to be monogamous.  Even though some science claims men aren't naturally wired to be with just one woman, science also says they live longer and healthier if they pick one good woman and stay with her.

The romance writer also has to insure there's more to the attraction between two people than appearance alone.  Again science questions the role of scent but most of know what we like.  Is it that mystery called pheromones or are we borrowing that idea from the animal world? All of which the smart romance writer will include descriptions including more than height and weight.

So how does a romance writer get those demanding readers to sample her work?  Great cover art is a place to start.  That cover might convince someone to open that first page or read that free portion available online.  I believe my cover for my latest romance, A Tiger's Courage, is the best for showing two characters in love.  Happy Valentine's Day. Hope your romance is producing all the right chemicals for you.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I'm thrilled to be part of this one day blogfest, Origins, or 'where did it all begin.'  This brainchild of DL Hammons, asks us to describe how we started on this crazy, frustrating, wonderful journey to become a writer.  I'm sure there are some interesting stories out there.

Unlike many writers I've met over the years, I had no desire to be an author when I was younger. But I always loved to read.  I think I read every fiction book in the library at our small elementary school. Like lots of kids, I started with novels about animals. Horses (The Black Stallion), dogs (The Call of the Wild) and discovered The Lord of the Rings from Tolkien in junior high school.  It was still a few decades later when I first thought about writing a novel of my own.

At the time I started there were very few fantasy romances being published.  An occasional futuristic novel could be found but they weren't big sellers.  But it was what I enjoyed reading so I finally decided if no one was going to write them, I would do it myself.  I started out writing longhand in a notebook between taking care of four small children, teaching full time and finishing up my master's degree. I also taught aerobic classes in the evenings.  Where did all that energy go? Wish I still had it.
Eventually I convinced my husband we needed a computer and we bought an iMac. Loved that machine. But the smartest thing I did, when I had finished typing that novel into the computer was to join my local chapter of RWA.  Those wonderful people taught me so much about POV, what editiors wanted and even how to find out where to submit my novel.  It was there I also learned about Pennwriters, a state-wide group that hosts a first rate conference each May. It took many rewrites, but I eventually found a publisher for that first novel.

New Concepts Publishing, one the oldest and most successful of the small independent publishers who were at the forefront of the ebook revolution, took on The Greater Good.  I experienced the editing process and started the ongoing process of learning about promotion. Since then, they've published five more of my fantasy romances.  Even though they published The Greater Good a number of years ago, every quarter it continues to earn a good income. 

I think the origin of my writing career is rather mundane but I feel good about how far I've come.  I'm not making mega-millions or even one million, but I'm doing okay.  No one has made a movie of any of my books, but I've received some great reviews and nice letters from readers.  I feel good about my writing career though I hope to do better. If you want to know the stories behind more writers careers, visit Cruising Altitude 2.0.

Did you always want to be a writer?  Do you like knowing a little more about the authors you read or don't you read the rear flaps to learn about the writer?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Acquired Skills

I played competitive sports until my children were born and they all participated on numerous athletic teams in high school and college. My daughter has one more year of high school softball and they've already started indoor practices.  They practice a lot. Hours and hours.  They practice hitting, fielding and throwing.  They practice strategies for baserunning and defense.  Practice, practice, practice.  Sure, lots of the girls have natural coordination but they weren't born softball players.  They learned it.  They acquired the skills needed to play the game and they practice so they can play even better.
from FB

Yes, it's time for one of my comparisons of sports to writing.  People aren't born writers.  They learn how to write.  They practice skills they learn from one source or another.  Then they practice some more.  They attend workshops, take classes, and attend conferences.  They study the art in its successful forms by doing lots of reading.  They share information with others in the field and help each other.  They improve their skills as they go and learn you can never practice too much.  And even when they reach the championship level and have a book published, writers need to keep practicing. Writer is an acquired skill and is only acquired by those willing to practice endless hours and hone their skills to perfection. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Some estimates claim there are over 9,000 languages spoken in the world today and another 1,000 or more no longer used. Latin anyone?  Are all those written languages captured in books?  I get excited about my book sales, but in the scope of all the words ever written, my writings don't even qualify as a drop.  My books are less than a drop, perhaps as small as an atom in the body of combined works of all languages across the years since humans first created writing.
From FB

I've read books translated to English from their original language. It's not always smooth but even the strange phrasing adds its own brand of interest. Many of my author friends have their books available in other countries and other languages. I wonder how if the readers of theirs wonder at some of the phrasing in their books.

With the ease of buying ebooks and translating tools available, more people in more parts of the world will be able to purchase literary works formerly unattainable. I love it. 

But I also appreciate the feel and weight of a print book.  I love browsing through used bookstores where they have copies of books from a hundred years ago. I have my own small collection of aged pages that I've built over the years.  Most of them were given to me by family and friends.  They found them at estate sales or yard sales. On my next trip to downtown Harrisburg's Midtown Scholar Bookstore, I intend to add a volume of old prose to my meager shelf of antiques.  It will be fun deciding which one.

I will be buying a title written in English, though it might not be American English. The written word provides endless fascination for me and in nearly endless languages.

Do you own any books in a foreign language? Do you own any 'old' books?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monthly Health Hint

Like so many writers, I have a day job to pay the bills.  I'm lucky to be a teacher so I have weekends off from that job, holidays and about two months during the summer.  Of course, I have children so those hours off are filled with cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and doing everything to support my children in their endeavors.  So to find time to write, I have to sacrifice something.  For many years, I gave up sleep.  I learned to live on five to six hours a night, sometimes less.  It was a sacrifice, because I like sleep. I love sleeping in and my job doesn't allow it.

But if the health experts are correct, most people need a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep per  night.  Lots of people function on less, but more and more studies show there are health issues that develop over time when sleep deprivation becomes a way of life instead of an occasional thing. The risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stress-related illnesses all rise as the hours of sleep sink.  I read a factoid recently that said snails can sleep for three years.  But we're not snails.  So my health advice for the month is get more sleep.  You can write more tomorrow.  Catch up on your blogging tomorrow.  Get more sleep and maybe you'll have more tomorrows.

So is your writing interfering with your healthy sleep habits? How many hours do you need to function?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Low Pricing: Does it Work?

Does pricing your book at a very low price work? The small independent press who publishes my romance novels, New Concepts Publishing, is doing its best to help author sell their books.  A few months ago, they informed me they would be reducing one of my earlier fantasy romances to the low price of $1.99 in an attempt to stimulate more sales and hopefully some new readers for my other books. Sometime this week I should get my statement for the last quarter of 2011 and be able to see if there was a bump in my sales for that book and if it translated to more sales for the rest of them.  Of course, I might not see it until the next statement since it takes a while to get sales numbers back from third party ebook retailers.

Maybe then I'll have an answer to the question I started this blog with instead of guessing, hoping and repeating what I've read elsewhere.  There are many authors who have posted on other blogs of the thousands of dollars they've made by self-publishing and pricing their books at prices well below those decided upon by the big NY literary companies.  I know there are numerous examples of those hard-working and well-deserving writers, but I'm also sure there are thousands more authors trying to follow their lead and still only making pennies.  How can I join the elite ranks of those bringing home a real pay check from their books?

It's not a secret or magic.  Word of mouth, or word by blog, or by reviews, is still the best way to let people know about and want your book.  But readers won't spread the word unless they like your book.  So the secret, the magic, is writing a good book.  A great book with memorable characters and an intriguing plot.  Then make it available for a reasonable price.
Available for $1.99

New Concepts set my book, One Good Woman, at $1.99.  OGW is the fourth book in The Chronicles of Solonia, a fantasy romance series.  This fourth book is the shortest of the series with only about 80,000 words so it makes sense to price it lower than the others.  Of course, I think it's a good book and it received excellent reviews.  It will make you laugh, cry and cheer for the young couple who rise above their damaged pasts and find the courage to face the future.

One Good Woman, written under my pen name, Susan Kelley, is available for Kindle and all other ebook retailers. 

Do you wonder how the price wars will turn out? Have you tried offering one of your books for free for a period of time? Did it work out? Have you ever found an author you liked by sampling some of their free work?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday Special

Today over at the TBR blog you can catch some short glimpses, commonly called blurbs, of some recent and upcoming fantasy novels.  There will sampling of all sorts of fantasy, urban, paranormal, and my favorite, epic fantasy.  Epic fantasy is sometimes called sword and sorcery or high fantasy of a brand similar to JRR Tolkien.

I will be presenting a blurb for Beyond the Gate, the second book in my epic fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles.  This four book series follows the adventures of Marshal Cage Stone and Keeper Sabelline Shelton as they fight to save their world from an ancient evil working its insidious claws of destruction into the kingdom of Futhark. 

I've mentioned before on this blog that I'm hopeful the success of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series on HBO will be the first wave of an upsurge in epic fantasy sales.  And maybe some of those new to the genre or returning to it will take a chance on a new author named Susan Gourley.

If epic fantasy isn't your first love, visit TBR and find something you do like.  Have you checked out The Game of Thrones?  Did you read the books? Before or after watching the series?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Could Be Anyone

I had the pleasure of hearing James Rollins speak at a writing conference a few years ago. Among other things, I learned he was a veteranarian by trade and came to writing after establishing his first career.  I know another writer who retired from a medical practice to be a full time writer. Some writers are housewifes, business professionals, work in retail or any variety of careers in addition to their job as an author. 

A number of the writers I know are teachers as their day job. A few actually have language arts or journalism degrees.  Starting a seperate career as a writer doesn't seem like a long stretch from that background.  But not all writer have an education geared toward their literary endeavors. Though many take classes or attend conferences to learn the trade, only some go so far as to get that MFA or something similar.   A writer can be anyone.

As I sit in the BAM cafe preparing this blog I look around at the other patrons.  Three have laptops out, notebooks, papers and writing utensils scattered across the small wooden tables. Two others have stacks of books and magazines they're flipping through. Research? Idea search?  Are they writers?  How would I know?  Do writers look different than other people?

Thanks to required schooling, we are all writers though some of us are happier about than others.  But only a few lucky people get to pay their mortgage with their writing income.  Do you know a writer with a career you think is odd for a creative person? Is it you?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insecure Writers: Making Connections

It's all over the blogosphere.  Signups for the A to Z blogfest, coming this April, are now open.  I participated last year and made lots of new friends and connections. I thought long and hard before signing up and I was really nervous about my ability to keep up not only with visiting and commenting but with coming up with that many blog post ideas. 

I feared I wouldn't be able to think of interesting subjects to write about and still follow the advice of keeping it short and to the point.  I prepared my first week of posts and held my breath until the first day of posting. I couldn't access my blog from my day job at that time, so I couldn't get into action until I came home in the late afternoon.  Imagine my delight when I logged on and found dozens of comments on my post, a dozen new followers and it was only the first day! I spend all evening visiting all sorts of new blogs. It was wonderful.

It did get tougher near the end of the month when my life got a little busier and I didn't have all my posts ready.  But I learned from it and am jumping in with all ten fingers dancing across the keyboard. I feel more secure about my ability to be a blog people will like. I'm not so worried about keeping up and measuring up.  There will be more experienced and more interesting bloggers on the A to Z than me, but I feel like part of the community.  All because I took the challenge last year.

So if you want to increase your blog readership, make some connections and build your web presence, you have to take some chances.  Dive in.  Join A to Z Challenge or some other type of blogfest promotion. Like this monthly Insecure Writing Blogfest. Don't worry about being the best or the brightest. We're all in the race together.

Do you feel secure in taking on promotional challenges? Are you secure in your blogging or do you worry over your content and audience?