"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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Raising a glass to a mom

Mother's Day is long gone, and I think you know how I feel about my own mom, but I need to give a shout-out to my mother-in-law. 

L to R: Dale, Me, Marcus, Barbara, Traci (cousin)

Barbara is an amazing woman. She raised four boys, all a year apart in age. Consider this: there's 11 months between Dennis and Dale, 13 months between Dale and David, and 11 months between David and Daryl. So when Barbara brought baby Daryl home from the hospital, she also had a 1-year old, a 2-year old, and a 3-year old. And she survived it all.

Impressed? I am. But wait, there's more.

Those four baby boys grew up to be four stellar men. Upstanding, responsible, family guys who support each other. They even show up at each other's kids' events. 

I'm sure Barbara takes a certain amount of this for granted. In the Carline household there were expectations and consequences. She and Al had the support of their family. It's a proud family, every member proud of the accomplishments of the others. Even when they fight, it's not big or long, and it leaves no unmended riffs.

Still, I've seen good families with the best intentions end up with kids who lose their way. Four out of four successes should be celebrated.  

Thank you, Barbara, for raising such a fine family.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Refreshing and rewarding!

I wrote my story into a corner last week, Peeps.

My characters are wading through the mire of secrets and lies, an election that could hinge on someone spilling the beans, and desperate people willing to do unsavory things to keep the lid on everything, at least until Mr. Popular gets elected.

The problem? For various selfish reasons, I want the story to be set in February, but with an election in November, that's a long lead time to be stalking/threatening/kidnapping people. I mean, if you're serious about getting this guy elected, you gotta pace yourself.

Yesterday, I stepped into my shower, and as I scrubbed my hair, I thought. Kind of like this:

And it dawned on me, slow and steady as the sunrise. Kind of like this:

What I need is a Special Election - in June! That would make February the filing time and make perfect sense for someone (no spoilers here) to want to protect a candidate. And instead of kidnapping a person - let's face it, four months is a long time to hold a person captive - what if it was a beloved pet? A sweet and loving pitbull named Moonie. 

And just like that, I knew what I needed. Kind of like this:

Oh, oh, never mind. Not like that at all. But I could scream with happiness. I know exactly how to wrap this thing up now.

Where do you get your best ideas?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Growing pains

I'm desperately trying to finish the fourth Peri Mystery and it's not going as fast as it needs to go. Sure, I'm down to the last third of the book, but it's like being in that dream where I'm running toward a door and it keeps getting further away. I was blaming a lot of things for the delay, from too much outside interference to illness. 

Then my friend Michael Steven Gregory wrote a blog post for the Southern California Writers Conference titled, "How Good is Good Enough?" You can read it here - http://writersconference.com/sd/sd-group-blog/how-good-is-good-enough-2/ but basically, Michael is asking the question all writers need to ask, and that's "why am I writing?" Depending on your answer, your final product ends up on the sliding scale of quick-read-entertaining vs word-as-art-beauty. 

I commented on the post as follows: 

This post makes me wonder where my goal is on this scale of "how good do you want to be." I realize my stories are what publishers call "midlist." To be honest, I'm more interested in my characters and in writing well. A part of me would love to write a literary tome, except I need my books to go somewhere and do something. In the meantime, I want people to enjoy my imaginary people and travel with them on their adventures, and I want to know that each book is better than the last.

And there's my problem: "...each book is better than the last." I want each book to be better, and that's good, except that being better means I must grow my writing skills. Growth is hard and it takes time and patience.

In the past, I moved from one scene to the next in my own very natural way. The good news is that my writing hand has a voice, one that people recognize. But now, I want the words to be more right, more lyrical without sounding like writing. I want to tell the story that makes people enjoy both the story and the telling of it.

I thought writing novels would get easier. Turns out, if I want to always improve, the work gets harder. Good thing growth requires persistence. 

I'm going to leave you with this interesting promo for a show I remember liking, even if it lasted barely a season. 

If you'll excuse me, I have to go persist.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The call to post

I'm over at Equestrian Ink today, describing my recent horse show and how it was completely different from how I imagined it would be. Go ahead and check that out here - http://equestrianink.blogspot.com/2015/05/every-time-you-think-things-will-be-same.html.

If you're not into horses, well, that's unfortunate, because today it's all about the Derby. The Kentucky Derby, mint juleps, big hats and everyone singing "My Old Kentucky Home" even if they don't know the words.

Here's the rundown on all the horses. I picked this video because there's a woman and man team evaluating the field. I like the balance.

And here's "My Old Kentucky Home." If you watch the Derby, it will pain you to see all these folks stumbling through the words and music because they think they know the song and they don't know nothin. Listen to John Prine a few times and you'll be better prepared than these yahoos.

P.S. I don't care who wins as long as everyone stays safe.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A stranger in a not-so-strange land.

I went to the L.A. Times Festival of Books yesterday. In years past, I schlepped books down there and shared a booth with my buddies under the moniker "Murder, We Wrote." This year, I hadn't planned to go at all. I don't have a new book out, and I had noted on my calendar that the Del Mar Nationals was that weekend, which made it look like I was busy.

I wasn't.

My friend Terry is sight-impaired and needed a ride to the festival on Sunday. No one else could oblige, so I stepped up and decided to do it. I figured it was a great opportunity to wander about the festival and look at what people want, what attracts their interest, etc.

It was an eye-opening, thought-provoking experience.

First, what attracts people? The longest lines and biggest crowds (if you don't count the lines to have famous authors sign their books) were for either free stuff or book sellers. McDonald's was there, giving out free McCafe samples. Some fruity drink company was also giving samples. There were some companies with a wheel-of-fortune that you'd spin and collect your prize. Free was crazy-popular.

The booksellers that attracted were the large ones that were offering deep discounts. I can't imagine what kind of money they were making, as it looked like they had slashed everything to the bone. Perhaps they were trying to get rid of some bloated inventory. Didn't matter - everyone was flocking to their rows and rows of hardcovers, paperbacks, plus all the little doodads like book lights and pens shaped like penguins, etc.

Second, what looked like it worked the least? Single authors in bad locations. The festival had a row called "Self Published Authors." It was as pitiful as it sounds. Even the authors there looked pitiful. They were all alone in a kind of back-street on the way to and from the food trucks. Of the lot of them, only one author was out in front, greeting people, trying to engage them and possibly buy his books. But the displays were all colorless, lifeless, hand-written-on-cardboard at times. It reflected the attitude I'm sure the LA Times has toward self-published authors.

Single authors with one book did not tend to engage my interest. By the way, these booths are crazy expensive, so paying for an entire booth to sell one book seems insane to me. Even when they were decorated and eye-catching, the author (I'm assuming that was who was in the booth), was deep within its walls, sitting around.

No, no, no, folks! You stand outside, yes even in the blazing sun, and greet people! Hand out bookmarks! Or swag of some kind!

The only one I saw who was rocking it was Stacey Evans Morgan, who has a children's book called COCOA PRINCESS and had her booth totally decked out in tiaras and butterflies and shiny-glittery-happiness. Her table extended out of the booth so she could sit and be seen signing books, giving out butterfly stickers, and basically enticing more people to come and buy her books. Color her awesome.

It did give me some ideas for being at this kind of event. One idea is something I should have known. It's about enticing a reader. I'm always prattling on about how everything about your book has to draw the reader into it, from the cover art to the jacket copy to the first page, sucking them through to THE END. The same should be true of the booth. It should entice the reader to come and look at your display, look at what you've got, even maybe talk to you.

The Romance Writers of America did an interesting thing with their booth. They set it up so the table was sideways and you went inside to check out books and things. Free stuff on one table, author signings on the other. They said that it was a fact in retail, that men in particular don't want to get "stuck" in an enclosed space. By making their booth a pass-through, I believe they got a lot more traffic, because they took advantage of both sides of the road.

Lastly, free stuff. I know, who wants to give stuff away? Yes, but if it's clever, useful stuff with my name on it, every time the person uses it, they see my name. Maybe someday they buy one of my books. Maybe someday someone is talking about getting some author to speak somewhere and they say, "Hey, how about Gayle?" because WHY????

Because they know my name. 

For not selling any books, it was a very productive day for me. And Terry was able to have a good time. Win-win, just the way I like it!

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