"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A letter from the front

Dear Writer Friends Who Struggle to Get Their Books "Out There",

Next weekend, I will be releasing my 11th book. With each release, I've done about the same amount of release-style advertising. I've used social media, I've run Goodreads giveaways, Amazon promotions, blog tours, etc. It seems like each thing I do is less effective the second time around, which is frustrating.

You want to believe that your books will become more well known if you have more books out there to find. So I made the decision to try something different with A MORE DEADLY UNION. 

I hired a publicist.

My few friends who had used them gave me mixed reports, from "I love mine," to "she kept sending me places where I couldn't possibly sell anything." But I met Paula Margulies at the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego, took her workshop, spoke with her briefly, and filed her name in the back of my mind.

When it came time to start planning this release, I visited Paula's website (http://www.paulamargulies.com/) a bunch of times, spent several days wrestling with indecision, and finally contacted her. We laid out a plan, a price, and a timeline, then I took a deep breath and a deep drink of good wine. As usual, I stood atop my personal roller-coaster and looked down at the frenzy that awaited.

It's a view I'm used to.

How's it going? So far, she's sent out press releases, given me two lists of book reviewers and book contests, a sample query letter for book reviews, and set me up to sign at bookstores (3 confirmed, 3 pending), and talks at libraries (1 confirmed). That's two weeks' work.

In two weeks, I've learned two things:

1. Having someone else tell everyone I'm the bomb makes it easier for me to say it. My friends and I discuss this often -- we can sell someone else's books better than our own. You all know me. Even a couple of blog posts ago, when I was promising to be the Big, Talented Fish, I was wondering how I was going to do that. Apparently, when I read my publicist's press release referring to me as "acclaimed author Gayle Carline" and talking about my "thrilling new mystery", I can start talking about this person, Gayle Carline, and what an acclaimed author she is.

I'm either getting better at promoting myself, or I'm developing a split-personality disorder.

2. Author Gayle Carline may be acclaimed, but little Gayle Sue still wants to recoil from the spotlight. After 11 books, as hard as Paula is pushing me forward, there's still a hefty chunk of me that says, "No, wait! If I start getting noticed, and people start taking me seriously, then I'll have to get serious about this." 

So what? *in a teeny whisper that only you and I can hear* "if i become a serious author then i'll be a bigger target for people who hate my books and my writing and i'll probably have to write more and give up something that i like doing now and Life. Will. Change."

Maybe it will. If it does, I just have to suck it up and enjoy success. 

What's next? My launch party is next Monday. It's going to be My Big Fat Book Party, semi-expensive and hugely fun. In the meantime, I'm having a good time working with the fabulous Paula. I'll report back with more gigs and results!

Love you and keep writing,

P.S. For some reason, every time I think of a publicist, I picture this clip:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Save the dog!

There's a certain hesitance in writers to include pets in their stories. The reason to include a pet might be to disclose something about the character, but if you're not careful, they can be treated as an afterthought, or even forgotten. 

If you are a pet owner, you know that neglecting a pet makes you a bad person, so if you are a writer and your nice character has a nice pet that they love, you have to make sure they don't forget them.

Even when I put the fat orange tabby in HIT OR MISSUS (aka Mr. Mustard, renamed by Benny to Matt Helm), I knew I was taking on the responsibility of virtual pet ownership. When Matt Helm went to live with Benny's friends, the Nickels, I had to make sure the readers knew he was being taken care of...through every one of the remaining Peri Minneopa Mysteries I'd ever write.

"Forget me? Don't be ridiculous."

Having had some success in keeping the cat alive, I ventured to put a dog in MURDER ON THE HOOF. It seemed natural to have Willie Adams owning a dog, since she spends a lot of time at a horse show, and horse people tend to have dogs. It's just a thing we do. Rudy the miniature schnauzer held his own as a character, even helping Willie at various points in the story.
"Don't let her kid you - I solved that case, all by myself."

For some reason, I decided at the beginning of writing A MORE DEADLY UNION to add a dog to the story. I could give you a calculated and creative answer about why, but seriously, who knows why writers do anything? We just get a wild hair and go with it. 

My couple, Jared and Willem, needed a dog, perhaps to anchor them to the idea of being a settled, monogamous couple, ready to legally tie the knot. Their dog served as a baby for them to dote on. A sweet, fluffy, little...


I've never owned a pitbull, but I have friends with pitties (is that how you spell it?) and they are a much-loved dog. A mystery author has to be thinking of dangerous situations for her characters, so it seemed that owning a pittie would open up a world of danger, more so than a Chihuahua. 

"Really, I'm lovable!"

Yes, a pitbull is sturdier than a toy breed, but they're the most often assumed to be aggressive. Anyone with a weapon, facing a pitbull, is probably going to shoot first and worry about it later. If ever. For the hundreds (thousands) of pitbulls who are big babies, pussycats, sweethearts, this is a danger they face too often.

Any danger Jared and Willem face would be doubled with a pitbull at the end of a leash.

Anyway, I'd like to introduce you all to Miss Moonie:

(Peri) spotted a black and white lump staring at her from the porch. An American Pit Bull Terrier sat askew, its back legs jutting at awkward angles, and a goofy grin splitting its broad face. One eye had a black half-moon underneath and the other had the matching half over, giving it the look of someone who’d been in a fight but was still too dazed to remember who won.

Hey, Moonie.” Peri rubbed the dog’s head as she passed. Moonie’s tongue rolled sideways, the grin widening.


I've been looking all over the internet for a pittie that looks like Moonie, to no avail. Perhaps you could help a girl out. Anyone got a pittie, or a picture of one, who looks like my little Moonie, as I've described her? 

Post it in the comments below - I'd love to meet your babies!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Channeling my inner trout.

Well, here comes that damned Universe, trying to tell me something again. 

Say what you will about astrology, but I'm slowly realizing I was born a Pisces for a reason. It only took me 62 years. Look at the symbol for The Fish:

Not that one. I can't read, well, whatever that is. What language is that?

Look at this one, which happens to be the constellation:

Two fish, pulling against one another constantly. A perpetual state of yin-yang, yes-no, pushme-pullyou. I could tell you the entire story of my life, or I could just save everyone's time and point to the fishes. Gayle wants A, but gets B. 

Let's have an example: There were two very strong female influences in my life, my mother and HER mother. 

My mother was a passive-aggressive narcissist who wanted me to be soft, sweet, passive, and blameless, but beautiful, brilliant, and talented, too, as long as I didn't REALIZE I was BBT. Her favorite sayings for me came from Proverbs, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," and Romans, "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Then there was my grandmother, who sang on the radio, entertained family and friends, was loved by many, and was fond of telling me, "If you don't toot your own horn, no one else will," and "Don't hide your light under a bushel."

So... I'm supposed to be beautiful but not self-aware and brilliant but self-effacing and talented but retiring and light up the world without broadcasting it. 

I've never really worried about being beautiful (we've had this discussion). I know from my grades at school (and my at-home Jeopardy playing) that I'm at least smart, which is brilliant enough for me. As for talent? As soon as I started writing, I knew I had a talent for words.

Talent can get you started, but you also need the wisdom to develop it. I've taken classes, attended workshops, and tried my best to write a better book each time I sit down at the laptop. I have a writing family (http://writersconference.com/la/), a tribe, whom I think respects me and my work. Their motto is, "Aim for excellence. Settle for exceptional." 

Excellence is always where my rocket launcher is pointed.

But once I have a book release, my mother's Bible verses come out to haunt me. Don't be too proud of your work. Don't think too highly of yourself. You're just a sinner, like everybody else. 

I get right to the edge of shouting, "Hey, look at this book! You gotta have it!"  And instead I whimper, "I kind of like this one. Maybe you should try it."

Not. This. Time.

I love this book, as much as I love my other books, but this time, the world will know it. I'm actually hiring a publicist to help me spread the word about my book, and how much the world should love it. It's a big step, a hot stack of money, and it may not work as well as I'd hoped. But this week, my Free Will Astrology horoscope said:

"A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home." That's from a Coleman Barks' translation of a poem by the 13th-century Islamic scholar and mystic known as Rumi. I regard this epigram as a key theme for you during the next 12 months. You will be invited to shed a host of wishy-washy wishes so as to become strong and smart enough to go in quest of a very few burning, churning yearnings. Are you ready to sacrifice the mediocre in service to the sublime? 

I'm heartened, and ready to sacrifice the mediocre. In fact, I may just build a bonfire and set it aflame. Okay, Universe, I'm listening. When A MORE DEADLY UNION comes out in June, be prepared for the positive, beautiful, brilliant, talented Fish to take the reins. 

Meet my role model, my heroine, my inner Talented Fish.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... in the eyes of the beholder

Last year, I participated in August McLaughlin's "Beauty of a Woman Blogfest." There are two categories to this cyber-festival, beauty in general and the beauty of sexuality. Last year, I was in the mood to go big or go home, so I wrote a piece that took TMI to new levels, all about sexuality and growing older.

This year, I thought I'd take it easy on myself and just talk about beauty in general. As it turns out, that's harder to discuss than sexuality, at least for me. What is beauty, and do I ever feel like I achieve it?

I have a confession to make: I am a nerd. A geek. A no-frills, non-prissy, jeans-and-tees gal. Oh, I began life in lace and ruffles. Mom wanted a girlie-girl who flounced about in ribbons and organza. God knows she tried.

Of course I was cranky - what kind of cowgirl wears a skirt?

But by 3rd grade, I knew I felt more comfy in a plain wool skirt and a sweater. When jeans came into fashion, I had found my style. Jeans and a sweater, or a tunic, or a silk shirt, or a tee. Dress them up with heels or down with tennies. The thing about them is, I didn't even have to check myself in the mirror. I felt good. Did I feel beautiful? 

Here's the thing about beauty: I'm in my 60s and still not sure what it means, or why it's important. The definition of beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. As a former engineer, my first question is: define "pleases". 

I was a pre-teen when the Beatles hit America. Here they are, in all their glorious youth:

Who did I like? This guy.

I've never been attracted to pretty boys. Tom Cruise? No. George Clooney? Not for me, thanks. Chris Hemsworth? Seems like a nice guy, but I'll pass. Give me Ringo over Paul, Spock over Kirk, McGee over DiNozzo. The combination of qualities that pleases my aesthetic senses is obviously not on the same page as the rest of the world.

Actually, I've always had a crush on Ducky, even when he was a Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I can't be the only one... can I?

Recently, I attended a horse show in Las Vegas. It was a huge show, over 700 exhibitors, and there are probably a dozen reasons why my horse and I should never have gotten to participate, beginning with the fact that he broke his leg as a 4-year-old and every day that he is healthy is a blessing. 

While at the show, I bought an outfit to wear for the competition. There are more expensive outfits, but this one felt like it cost an arm and a leg. My trainer took a picture of me before we faced the judges.

What I see when I look at that picture is an old gal who could lose a few pounds. What my trainer said to me was, "You look so beautiful." Did I feel beautiful at that moment? I felt good. I felt happy. Beauty was not on my list of needs. 

I wish I had some kind of wisdom to impart about beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Don't misunderstand. Just because I'm a geeky girl doesn't mean that I don't enhance my eyes with a little makeup, or wear a little bling from time to time. None of it makes me look in a mirror and say, "You look beautiful."

All I want to see when I look in the mirror is someone who feels happy. Maybe that's the quality that pleases my senses.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

You do not write away heartache

My fingers drag across the keyboard, typing, then deleting. When you are a writer and you experience sorrow, your first impulse is to write it all down. You believe that, if you get the feelings up and out of you by writing them, the pain will lessen. 

I won't try to tell you differently. There is a release, a bit of steam off the top. But feelings are wordless. Getting them "up and out" is not a job for the brain. It's a job for the heart, the gut, the body. Typing words is just one piece of the healing process.

We lost a friend this weekend. I say "we" because it's not just me, it's a network of people I have grown to love and trust and enjoy. She had cancer and fought it and just couldn't overcome it and all we are left with are memories of this bright, strong, beautiful young woman. 

Alyssa Barnes was 23. She lived several hours north of us, in Sacramento, but I saw her often on Facebook and once a year when we'd gather for a vacation together. I miss her already. My days did not always include her, and yet there is a black patch in the corner of each hour now that she is gone.

Before she died, she had wanted to be married to her love, RJ. For their wedding, I got her and RJ stars with their names -- something you can do via starregistry.com. Alyssa loved the outdoors, so I thought having stars with their names would, well, ground her memory in this world. On Friday, I rushed to Sacramento to give her the certificate, but I was too late.

This is the constellation, Lyra, and the coordinates of their stars. 

It reminds me of the line in The Little Prince: "If you love a flower who lives on a star, it is sweet, at night, to look at the sky. All of the stars are in bloom."

Alyssa Barnes was a warrior nymph, at home on earth or in water. She was as sturdy as an oak, with many branches for stray birds, and as deep as a mountain lake, with secrets known only to a few. She was grounded and rich as the soil of the earth, and her smile was as clear and open as the sky. She was a rock for her family during life's storms. And she picked her friends like flowers, and pressed them in the pages of her heart.

I will look for her spirit where my feet touch the earth and I can see the heavens above me.

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