"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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to busy-ness

Now that my cold is better, I can tell you all how truly great this year's Southern California Writer's Conference, LA Version, was. Good workshops, good speakers, good information, good inspiration. If you are in the southern California, I recommend these conferences. (Major Caveat: If you require that life be taken seriously, the SCWC will be too casual for you.) If you live elsewhere, find a conference, dang it.

Conferences are a great source of face-to-face networking with other writers, which you need to meet even if you think you don't, because you can't just sit in your little room typing-typing-typing all day. You need to find your tribe. You can also meet experts at things writers need, like publishers and agents, media manipulators, etc. Someday your manuscript will be ready for these things, so start making your connections now.

Some of my own personal highlights of the weekend:

1. Marla Miller and Jennifer Silva Redmond gave two great workshops on how to fix what's wrong with your pitch or query letter. I love to go to these workshops, even if I have nothing to read, just to hear how Marla and Jennifer approach the problem with each pitch/query. (And nearly everyone has problems - that's why they're there!) I am currently having a problem with the pitch for my humor books, so even though I didn't read anything, I got a lot out of listening to other people.

2. Scott Sigler, along with Back My Book gave an excellent workshop about some of the things the entreprenurial author should have in their tool box. I couldn't write fast enough, and now I have a big To Do List of things for my website.

3. Stacey O'Brien had a really nice workshop on writing memoir. It was fun, in that her workshop mirrored her own writing process. Stacey is a scientist whose specialty is owls. She lived with an owl for nineteen years, and after his death, wrote her grief in large, disorganized clumps, after which she started organizing in the most scientific of ways, until she had a book. It is Wesley the Owl and it is a gem. Her workshop followed that pattern of being a little disorganized at the start, then snapping into focus. I ended up learning A LOT.

4. In Judy Reeves' Read and Critique, I got to read the first chapter of my third mystery. I hadn't read it aloud for anyone but myself and I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Thanks to Judy and the rest of the writers, I found it. The read and critique format at these conferences is the best I've ever encountered; they are constructive, they are helpful, and you walk away feeling like you want to get to work on your changes, not like your back is still bristling from the arrows.

In between the workshops, I hung out with my old friends and made new ones. We laughed at the bar, then went to dinner and laughed there, then went back to the bar and laughed some more. Of course, when we weren't laughing, we were talking books, publishing, and where we all were on our paths. It was glorious, and I can't thank the directors, Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers, enough.

So, what's on my list of things to do? Among other things, these are three things I want to put into place on the website as soon as I can:

1. Put the Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds back. When I was building the site, I didn't like where they were, so I removed them and never re-installed them. What was I thinking?

2. Add a form for people to sign up to receive news about new books, appearances, etc. I put that stuff on the front page of the site, but maybe people want to be told, instead of going to the site. Never know. Could happen.

3. Podcasts. Free podcasts. Scott does a free podcast of one chapter of his latest book each week, along with a little four-minute sales pitch. Four minutes sounds a little harsh - I promise not to take that long, but I could start with Freezer Burn and give people a chapter a week. I'm actually really jazzed about this one.

How does any of that sound?

I'm the chosen one

The neatest thing happened last week. LJ Sellers, a prolific writer who I got to hang with at Bouchercon two years ago, contacted me. In addition to her own blog, she contributes to the Crime Fiction Collective blog. They need a new contributor, so she asked me!

I'd like to thank the Academy and all the voters for this honor...

Okay, I'm back from my little fantasy moment. Starting today, I'll be blogging every other Thursday at the Crime Fiction Collective, which reminds me of Star Trek and the Borg for some reason. I only wish I looked like Jeri Ryan.

So go on over to the Collective and join the cult.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Benjamin Wallace comes to my rescue!

I just spent the weekend at the Southern California Writer's Conference (L.A. version), where I was amazed and amused and inspired and motivated. I came home with a big To Do list for my website and my readers and my work. In addition, I was going to share all my AHA moments with you, because, as you know, I'm a giver.

Then on Sunday, I woke with a scratchy throat, which bloomed into a full-force cold by the evening. There would be no sharing of nothing, since I can barely put a verb and a noun together. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I read this post tomorrow morning and it said, "Bprlmf ltijekis. Firkdk."

Enter Benjamin Wallace, humor writer extraordinaire, who contacted me about a guest post. Talk about the cavalry riding in to save me. I'd tell you all about Ben, but I think I'll just turn it over to him. Or, as my cold would say, "Jtleims, Vid Eiklsdna!"

* * * * *

First, I want to say thank you to Gayle for letting me post here today. Then, I’d like to talk about writing comedy. More specifically, I’d like to talk about the most abused, overused and awesome foil for any writer, the dumb white husband.


In all of his forms, God, bless him. We all know him. We all hate him in that derivative sitcom. We all love him in that other “fresh” sitcom. It’s demeaning what they do to him in that commercial. It’s cute what they do to him in that other commercial.

Personally, I’ve hated the Dumb White Husband in that stain remover spot where he doesn’t have the courage (or respect) to stand up to his wife or daughter. Personally, I’ve taken shots at him in TV and radio commercials.

How can I be such a hypocrite? Because the Dumb White Husband is all we’ve got. He’s not organized. He’s not going to march. He’s not going to start a letter writing campaign. He probably doesn’t even know who his Senator is. He’ll just sit there, in his recliner with his beer, and take the abuse we heap on him.

I myself am a Dumb White Husband. I’m college-educated. I’m well read. I function well within society. I was competent enough for somebody to give me an office. But, I’m also white, married and I have kids. Demographically, I’m incapable of changing a light bulb without ending up in a body cast.

Here are some of my other traits that I apparently possess as a Dumb White Husband:

1. My family is struggling with finances but I will sink a small fortune into more Christmas lights if it means showing up my neighbor.

2. I bemoan having to drive a minivan but I keep a vintage Mustang in the garage that will only be used to show my son how to change the oil in a car. It’s green.

3. I could be a top executive at a fortune 100 company but I cannot dress myself without injury.

4. I golf, like sports and will lie to my loved ones to feed this habit.

5. I know things about cars, guns and power tools but cannot be trusted to do the dishes or laundry.

6. I will shoot myself with a nail gun, but only in a non-lethal location.

7. I will spend a million dollars to win a $1000 sweepstakes prize.

8. I only eat food from a grill… that I cannot be trusted to light.

9. My teenage son is a genius. But he too will one day be a Dumb White Husband.

10. My wife is hot. I’m fat.

11. I don’t get along with my in-laws, PTA or squirrels.

12. Oh, and I almost forgot that I’m forgetful.

The Dumb White Husband is the only person that legal departments deem man enough to take a joke. And, even if we do hurt his feelings, no one will care. They are just dismissed.

This dismissal is the true brilliance of the Dumb White Husband. That’s right. The Dumb White Husband is a bona-fide genius. Even if his wife can trick him into eating a whole grain muffin, it is by his design.

He put an addition on his house, but is no longer trusted to wash the whites.

He rebuilt an engine block in his garage, but can’t be trusted to get instructions right for Hamburger Helper.

I am in awe of this man.

I’ve always felt it was best to be underestimated – to under promise and over deliver. This may all sound surprising. This idiot we’ve all watched fall off the roof, ruin the dinner party, embarrass the family at the homeowners meeting? Him? Yes. That’s him. The man that will never have to mend a roof, attend a dinner party or be present at a HOA meeting again. That’s him. My hero and me. The Dumb White Husband.

Benjamin Wallace is a Dumb White Husband and the author of the bestselling action/adventure comedies Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors and Tortugas Rising. Also look for his latest short story Dumb White Husband vs. The Grocery Store.

Learn more about Benjamin at benjaminwallacebooks.com.

* * * * *
Ben, thank you so much for helping me out today. And to my readers, please check out Ben's books and stories.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Contests! Contests! Contests!

I was almost going to be contrary today and say "Contests!" twice, because you know how I love to do things in threes. In the end, I couldn't get away from it, because I have three contests to tell you about.

See? There's a REASON for the rule of three.

First is Michele Scott's contest to name her first book in her new Dead Celebs mystery series. She's giving away a $40 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (your choice), and she's letting the readers vote on which title wins. She's a braver soul than me. Go here to check it out and enter the contest.

The second contest is just for fun, I think - no prize was mentioned. But it was fun, so I tried it out. Go to Janet Reid's blog and read the rules. Basically, you take a bunch of books from your library (or somewhere), stack them up and write a poem using their titles. Here's my entry:

Finding What I Knew

In search of MIRACLES,



IT'S A MAGICAL WORLD, after all.

Last, and most importantly, is my contest. I was going only run the contest for a week, but I think I'll keep it going until I get back from the Southern California Writers Conference, happening Sept. 23-25 (still time to register and join us). To recap, I'm having a helluva time picking a title for my second book of humor columns. This one will be much like the first one - several columns accompanied by readers' emails, editor's notes, and generally what was happening while I was trying to write. The rules are:

1. Either vote for one of the titles listed below or enter your Most Excellent idea in the Comments. (This is important. I've had people list titles and vote in the comments on my Facebook postings. I cannot go hunting through my wall posts to find your entries. You must give me your opinion in the blog's comments!)

2. If I get a bunch of votes for a title, everyone who voted gets a free copy of the new book.

3. If someone submits The Most Amazing Title Ever, that person gets a free copy AND their name in the Acknowledgments.

Possible titles:

1. I'd Like to be Self-Absorbed But I Don't Have the Time

2. In My Spare Time, I Juggle Horses

3. In My Spare Time - Wait, I Don't Have Any

4. Wolves Mate for Life Because They Don't Speak English

Current synopsis (rough draft): When Gayle Carline got a job writing a humor column for her local newspaper, she knew it would be a fun assignment. What she didn't know is that her son would begin every conversation with, "This is off the record." But that didn't stop her. Join her continuing journey of balancing her life as a wife, mother, and occasional juggler of 1000-lb horses with writing a column about her husband, son, and everyday events. Her husband and son may object from time to time, but the horses don't complain.

Titles submitted so far:

1. Fodder for Thought (submitted by Chrissie Barnett)

2. Jen Eldridge, prolific gal that she is, submitted ALL of these -
"A Horse of different story"
"Hold your Horses"
"The Gift Horse"
"The Art before the Horse"
"The Dark Horse Chronicles"
"Now Hold your Horses..."
""Behold, a White Horse"
"Straight from the Horses Mouth.."
"Off the record..."
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.."
"A begining makes an ending.."
"Wild horses in my living room.."
"According to Carline (or Gee)"
""For Whom Gayle Tolls (or toils)"
"Just a click away..."
"The Writing Muse"
"I'm just sayin...."

3. Missed Congeniality offers these -
"Get this book now, dammit"
"Billionaire Secrets"
"Don't Be What You See" with a pic of a horses behind
"Just Enough to be Dangerous"
"Thundering Herd"

4. And Anonymous submitted - "Between Balancing Acts and Juggling Horses" (quite frankly, I'm not sure how I mention Anonymous in the Acknowledgments)

Vote for something or submit another one!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pure (bred) silliness

This is a short post today, and entirely silly, but I didn't want to leave yesterday's post up. It feels both like I'd be dwelling on the day and like I let the whole thing get stale by keeping it. I don't know if that makes sense, but if you think I'm just wasting pixels, stop reading and come back when I'm not being whimsical.

Yesterday we went to El Cholo in Los Angeles (the original, since 1927!) and celebrated our cousin Robert's birthday. Robert is 48 and is developmentally disabled.

As we were leaving, I saw the following store across the street:

I admit, a storefront selling puppies disturbs me, although I wonder what kind of business they're doing. "Puppy House" could mean a host of activities, only a few of them good. But then, I looked closer at their sign:

"Give Love for Family and Pretty Puppy" - What the hell does that even mean? Are they selling companion dogs for your pretty puppy? Is this an admonishment for parents who work too much? Or ungrateful kids? Aren't they a little presumptious to think you already have one Pretty Puppy? Someone decode this for me.

If you haven't entered the contest yet - put on your thinking caps and visit last week's blog here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Me and Benny are at Dino's today

I know you're all out there, consumed with trying to help me with a title for my next humor book, but if you want to take a break, stroll over to Dino Martin Peters' blog and read about Benny Needles' eternal love for Dean Martin.

I've been writing journals for my characters for quite awhile. As a matter of fact, I've published a couple of journal entries that were "written" by my characters. It's a great exercise (thank you, Michele Scott) for developing each character's voice.

For Mr. Peters' blog, I wanted to capture Benny's voice to try to explain his deep devotion to Dean Martin. It turned out to be difficult. I tried many times in many ways to write an entry in Benny's diary, but I failed miserably each time. Finally it dawned on me: Benny doesn't keep a diary.

Benny is not a writer. He feels no need to analyze his day, or his life. He probably doesn't even remember his dreams. So, what to do?

I decided the only writing Benny would do is school-mandated. When Marcus was in third grade, I remember his teacher talking about the challenge she was facing with one of the boys in his class.

"He's so into Pokemon, every paper he writes is about Pokemon," she said. "I have to be really creative to get him to write about something else."

That's when I knew: every paper Benny wrote had to about his hero, Dean Martin. After I finished his essay, not only did I know Benny even better, I felt even more sympathy for my annoying little man.

Go on over to the I Love Dino Martin blog and read what he had to say.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If I can't just request it, I'll bribe you for it

I consider myself a fairly nice person, but I'm also an impatient one. It is one of the qualities my P.I., Peri Minneopa and I share. So in the previous post, I asked for some input on what to call my second humor book. There were no answers. So I tried posing a Question on Facebook. I got three responses. Three is not enough, people.

So now I'm going to do what any author in their right mind, or at least right brain, would do: offer a prize.

Here's what I'll do. Help me come up with a title and you'll get a free book.

The rules are as follows:

1. The contest will be open for 1 (one, uno, un) week.
2. During that week, you can either vote for one of the titles listed below, or submit your own brilliant idea in the Comments.
3. If I get a bunch of votes for a title, everyone who voted will get a free copy.
4. If someone submits something so amazingly brilliant I wish I'd have thought of it, that person gets a free copy AND a mention in the Acknowledgments.

Are you willing to help me now?

(Rough draft) Synopsis: When Gayle Carline got a job writing a humor column for her local newspaper, she knew it would be a fun assignment. What she didn't know is that her son would begin every conversation with, "This is off the record." But that didn't stop her. Join her continuing journey of balancing her life as a wife, mother, and occasional juggler of 1000-lb horses with writing a column about her husband, son, and everyday events. Her husband and son may object from time to time, but the horses don't complain.

Possible titles:

1. I'd Like to be Self-Absorbed But I Don't Have the Time

2. In My Spare Time, I Juggle Horses

3. In My Spare Time - Wait, I Don't Have Any

4. Wolves Mate for Life Because They Don't Speak English

5. Fodder for Thought (volunteered by Chrissie Barnett)

6. Two Years Before the Masthead (Okay, I know this one is too erudite, but it still makes me laugh)

Let the voting/suggestions begin!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The only thing left to do is everything

There are lots of experts and analysts who know why Borders failed, but from my perspective, it looks like their biggest problem was they didn't want to read the writing on the wall, much less follow the directions. When Amazon became The Place to order any book you want at any time you want it (and at a cheaper price), it should have been a warning bell for all booksellers. When they created the Kindle, that bell became a siren. Barnes & Noble heard it and answered with an updated web presence and the Nook. It may save them.

I'm talking about this because, no matter what business you're in or life you lead, you need to pay attention to the signs. If you see changes to your industry, figure out how to get in front of the curve. If you see changes to your neighborhood, your family, your health, get out and do something about it.

How far do you want the flames to crawl up your leg before you call the fire department?

In a weirdly coincidental manner, when I released Hit or Missus, the Kindle sales of my humor book, What Would Erma Do, shot up. They tripled in May, then doubled in June, and continued to rise significantly through July and August. What Would Erma Do is now consistently in the Top Ten of Amazon's Humor/Family & Parenting Kindle books. I can't explain it.

But I can capitalize on it.

My original plan was to complete the rough draft of the third (as yet unnamed) Peri book, then put out a second humor book, and perhaps another short story, before returning to edit the draft. I've rearranged my schedule, instead, to put Peri aside now. I'm assembling a second humor book.

It's very similar to the first book - I've selected fun and interesting columns from the next two years and inserted readers' comments and editorial amusements in between. They're not filler, you understand. They add to the context of the columns. The rough draft is complete. All I need to do now is edit.

Oh, and think of a good title.

The first one, What Would Erma Do? Confessions of a First Time Humor Columnist was just so perfect. How am I going to get people's attention with this new book?

My first thought was actually Two Years Before the Masthead, although I think it's too snooty and literary. It still makes me laugh, because when I read the book Two Years Before the Mast, I thought the title referred to an event. You know, two years before something happened, something called "The Mast." HA HA HA.


I looked through the draft, searching for That Phrase to serve up to readers, the words that would jump off the page and create a title people would find catchy. There are quotes, but I couldn't think of how to make them title-worthy. For example:

"I could justify my love of cookbooks if I actually cooked."
"The pursuit of beauty is not a speed event." 
"Wolves mate for life because they can't speak English."

After a day or three, I started thinking about my bio - both the one in the newspaper and the one on my website. The newspaper says:

"Longtime Placentia resident Gayle Carline tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, computer whiz and horsewoman."

My website bio says:
"Gayle Carline is a typical Californian, meaning that she was born somewhere else. She moved to Orange County from Illinois in 1978, and landed in Placentia a few years later.

Her husband, Dale, bought her a laptop for Christmas in 1999 because she wanted to write. A year after that, he gave her horseback riding lessons. When she bought her first horse, she finally started writing.

Gayle soon became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine, and in March, 2005, she began writing a humor column for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times. Every week, she entertains readers with stories of her life with Dale and their son, Marcus.

Believing that she should experience reincarnation while she is still alive, Gayle has been a software engineer, a dancer, and even a flying angel for the Crystal Cathedral’s Glory of Christmas.

In her spare time, Gayle likes to sit down with friends and laugh over a glass of wine. And maybe plan a little murder and mayhem."

I start thinking about my spare time. In my spare time... hmm... what could I do with that?

Using that train of thought, I've come up with two ideas:

1. And In My Spare Time, I Juggle Horses

2. And In My Spare Time, Wait, I Don't Have Any

What do you think about any of these? Or do you have any bright ideas?

I absolutely need a title so I can contact my cover designer and get him started on a cover. Please, if you've got any notions at all, let me know.

Don't misunderstand - I'm still going to write mysteries. But that genre is very competitive and I'm going to be working a long time to get a bigger share of the pie. In the meantime, I can see that humor is a smaller field and more lucrative, at least for me. I'm changing course only slightly, because I've heard the warning bell.

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