"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, April 28, 2011

A little of this, a little of that

I thought I'd go completely off the wall topic today and just get a few things out of the way.

First of all, let me put a common misconception to rest. Here's my birth certificate:

I'm from Illinois, people. Stop saying I must be from outer space or something.

Second, while I'm thrilled for the happy couple and all of my friends who are glued to the news and agog at the spectacle, I will not be watching The Wedding. I don't even like to go to weddings to which I've been invited. I go because I want to show my respect for the people who've invited me. I live in jeans and t-shirts. The idea of spending several hours in my Spanx is not appealing. Plus, if you ask me, most people plan their weddings with more enthusiasm than they plan their marriages. Just saying.

Third, but most importantly, my prayers and thoughts are with the people who experienced the horrible storms in the South. Six states, dozens of tornadoes, around 250 dead. Please know that we are thinking of you, that there are people willing to help in any way they can, and that you are resilient. You will make it to the other side of this tragedy, even if we have to carry you.

Finally - Moses in the bulrushes, I understand, but how exactly do you accidentally leave your baby in the bushes?

I've got to run, now. There are still a couple of last minute tasks to complete before my whirlwind weekend. On Friday, hubby and I are attending the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music (CSULB) Vocal Jazz Concert, featuring Pacific Standard Time and Jazz & Tonic (of which my son is a member). Pacific Standard Time won the 2010 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards for best Collegiate Vocal Jazz group, so word on the street is that the theater will be packed to the gills and we'll have to get there early to get seats.


Then on Saturday and Sunday, you know where I'll be. Booth 903, USC, LA Times Festival of Books. I'm in the Murder We Wrote booth with a lot of other cool authors. Come by and say hello!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Proof that I'm not yet a Jedi master

Well, damn.

I got my proof copy of Hit or Missus in the mail today. The cover looks great. I haven't gone page-by-page on the interior, but the first pass looks good. Print font and size are good. So are the margins.

But the back cover, oy, the back cover... I wrote up a jacket blurb that I thought would be interesting, would be compelling, would pull you into reading the rest of it. When Joe sent me the finished product, it looked good. The real thing, however -

There are too many words, aren't there?

Please, be honest. I know you probably won't be able to read the cover (see this entry to read the words - Jacket Blurb #2), but there are too many words on the back, aren't there?

It's not too late to re-do it. I could instead put the jacket blurb as this:

"How far would you go to help a friend? P.I. Peri Minneopa finds out when she takes a case spying on a cheating wife and ends up being hunted by the wife's circle of pals.

After all, a friend will help you move - a good friend will help you move a body."


Any of you Peeps got any ideas?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tweedly-deedly deet, tweet, tweet!

In pursuit of readers, I try to be out on the social network, working it every day. Facebook, Twitter, Kindle Boards, Amazon discussions, Scribd, I'll go any where I can find people. The trick is, of course, to not look desperate. You don't get readers that way, any better than you catch a spouse.

So you talk about your personal life, and ask people about theirs. You recommend and encourage other writers. You post something interesting you saw somewhere else, or ask a dumb question. And every so often, you say, "hey, I got a book here you might like."

The tool I have the worst time with is Twitter. I spend some weeks with multiple daily Tweets, then I kind of fall off the map for awhile. It's been a hard groove to get into; however, I have learned some Twitter-Tips I'd like to pass along.

1. Don't over-tweet. If you're tweeting once an hour, I'm okay with that. Even a few times within a single hour is okay. But when I see multiple tweets in a row from the same person, I'm convinced they must have gone off their meds. If you do this, call your doctor immediately. I worry about you.

2. Say something interesting. I don't want to know that you just brushed your teeth, or that you hate your job, or you bought new shoes. I'd want to know if you bought new shoes for me. I also don't care what you just had for lunch, unless you say it in the most amusing way.

3. If you feel the need to tweet and can't think of anything interesting, find an interesting tweet from someone else and re-tweet that. In the Twitterverse, it's not plagiarism, it's a trend.

4. Don't just constantly tell me to buy your book or your product or sign up for your service. The only personality I get from you when you do this is that used car salesman with the plaid jacket and the slicked-back hair. It's like staring at frickin' billboard.

5. DON'T TWEET IN ALL CAPS. IT'S ANNOYING (see this for why - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vRiA91O14U&feature=related). I can read you perfectly clearly when you use lower case. If you use caps all the time, how am I supposed to tell when you're excited about something?


6. Reply to people's Tweets. If you just keep typing those tweets without any interaction, it's like, hmm, like that other activity people do alone that gives them intensely personal pleasure. You know - eating chocolate.

7. Follow folks. I mean, come on, Mr. Look-I-Tweet-But-I-Don't-Read Celebrity. If you want me to read your brilliance, have the decency to follow me back. It's not like I'm gonna stalk you. I've got a few more things on my to-do list first.

8. #Don't #put #a #hashtag #in #front #of #every #word #just #in #case #one #of #those #words #is #the #trend #for #the #day. Gah.

9. Don't put the hashtag trend word in every Tweet, even if the Tweet has nothing to do with the subject. That's needy.

10. Do give your followers a shout-out on #FollowFriday, #WriterWednesday, whatever #MM stands for, etc. 

Those are ten that came to mind pretty easily. Did I miss any? If I did, just Tweet me - http://www.twitter.com/GeeCarl 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

She can be taught

To use engineering terminology, when I wrote Freezer Burn, I spent about three months in design, then about four months writing. Most of my design time went into the plot. I was so worried about leaving clues hanging in the breeze and having the wrong person in the room when a bombshell was dropped. If you've read or watched any bad mysteries, you know what I'm talking about.

But the people... the people I knew. Apart from a few notes on their physical characteristics, I knew who they were, what they liked, where they lived. I did end up changing the killer halfway through writing, but basically, all I had to do was take these folks and plop them into the story.

I approached Hit or Missus in the same way, but it turned out completely different, for a number of reasons. One is that I was trying to make the crime uncomplicatedly complex, if that makes sense. Dale's comment, when he read Freezer Burn, was, "Peri needs a harder case to solve." So I wanted it to be clever without needing a Powerpoint presentation to explain it all. After months of thinking and writing and talking to people, my story outline still seemed shaky, but I went ahead, hoping the plot would be pulled out of the writing.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, I was writing a scene and realized it was boring. Peri is investigating, blah-blah-blah. Or maybe I was bored. It doesn't matter why I did it, but I hit Peri in the head with a golf club. At that point, I threw the outline away and went rogue.

The good/bad news was, my seat-o-the-pants writing exposed a fatal flaw: I hadn't really "met" my guest characters. Sure, I knew Peri, Skip, and Blanche. I even brought back Benny, due to popular demand. But the new men and women Peri was meeting were like paper dolls. It took me months to go back and figure these people out.

Months of re-writing. Months of doing what I should have done before I even started plotting. Gah.

I've started the third book (as yet untitled). It has a basic premise: what would happen if I burned down Benny's house? I began the book during NaNoWriMo and learned something very important: I can't write a book during NaNoWriMo. I got about 7500 words written and hit a wall. I needed more research, more confidence, a better idea of who done it and why. After finally writing several rambling essays on the original crime, I began putting the outline together. And yet...

What was I missing? Come on, class, let's say it all together:

Gayle hasn't met her guest stars yet.

So although I'm antsy to start writing the book, I need to go back and put the time into my people. I'm using Michele Scott's worksheet, "Interview With Your Character" to define the folks who'll be helping/sabotaging Peri in this story. Yes, even the dead people. BTW, I highly recommend these worksheets. Michele's a good storyteller who loves to help other writers. She loves horses, too, so naturally we've become friends.

The good news is, once I get all these ducks in a row, the writing will be a snap.

Writers, out there, does this sound familiar to anyone? Or am I doing it all wrong?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Because I have to

I wasn't going to post anything today, except I posted a very particular Sample Sunday blog yesterday and if I leave it, it will just look old and stale. Who wants stale words?

So I'll give you a quick peek into my family's Easter traditions. Yes, we are Christians, although we mostly worship at the Church of the Comfy Pillow. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd think I was Jewish in a former life - I am constantly drawn to their traditions. Either that, or I may have been a cat.

ANYway, I grew up in the very middle of Illinois, where Easter weather is unpredictable. My new spring dress had about a 75% chance of being hidden under my winter coat, and forget the pretty white sandals. I needed boots to slog through the slushy, dirty snow, or skate across the ice. The year I left Illinois, we had an ice storm on Good Friday that paralyzed the city. Power lines down, roads too slippery to navigate, in April!

The result of all this wacky weather was that we held our Easter egg hunts in the house, instead of the yard. We would hardboil the eggs, then color them and leave them in a basket (plastic eggs had not been invented yet). The Easter bunny would hide them around the living room, and leave chocolates and jelly beans in the basket. It was a good arrangement, until the year we let Duchess stay inside that night.

Duchess was my Samoyed, a breed that is equal parts hard to train and hard to keep at home. She loved to roam the neighborhood and thought it was a huge game when I tried to get her to come to me. I'm not certain why my parents let her stay in the house that night. And I really don't know why they didn't think of the consequences.

She found and ate all of the hardboiled eggs. Two dozen. Shells and all. Then she found the candy. She left the jelly beans, but ate a pound of chocolate. It's not necessarily true that a dog WILL die from eating chocolate. She didn't. She might have wanted to - she was pretty sick. But after a day in the yard, eating any grass that poked up through the frozen tundra, she was back to her old ways of escaping from the fence and visiting the neighbors.

The tradition has kind of morphed for my own family. We leave empty baskets on Saturday night, along with a bag of plastic eggs. The Easter bunny (who doubles as Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc, wink-wink), fills the baskets with chocolates and jelly beans and usually a small gift, then fills the plastic eggs and hides them around the living room/dining room/foyer area. The eggs used to contain small candies. Now they have quarters.

Here's the fun part: on Easter morning, it's my son AND my husband who hunt for the eggs. It's a contest to see who can amass the most wealth. My job is to keep count of how many eggs they've found. Even though I hide them, the cat often rearranges them during the night. The dog is not allowed near the eggs or the baskets. Unlike my parents, I can guess what might happen.

After the hunt, and the obligatory basket sampling, we usually get dressed and walk down to IHOP for breakfast. That's it. Easter's over and done for the year.

What are some of your traditions?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sample Sunday

In my attempt to both be a social butterfly and to meet people who might like to read what I write, I do the social networking thing, like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is pretty easy and I find myself updating my status often. Twitter is harder for me. I just can't think of that many interesting things to say every minute of every hour of every day. Most of the time, I just re-tweet things that interest me, or I reply to other people's stuff.


In my deepest, darkest, most dastardly dreams, I'd like to tweet "LOOK AT MY BOOK! BUY IT!" I'd include the link and keep re-posting it until someone replied, "SHUT. THE HELL. UP." Then I'd know I'd hit my saturation point. But I digress...

Sundays, on Twitter, are now "Sample Sundays." You post a sample of your work on your blog, then you point to it with a Tweet that has a hashtag of "#SS". (For those of you who don't Tweet, putting a hashtag in front of a word or abbreviation lets everyone find all the Tweets with that hashtag.

So here's my sample for #SS. It's from my short story, Clean Sweep, now on Kindle and Smashwords, for only 99 cents.

* * * * *

Either Grant Franklin was getting better with his aim, or he hadn't been using this toilet for at least two days.



Peri pushed a strand of blonde hair from her eyes and looked around the bathroom. The jaunty seaside d├ęcor seemed at odds with the teenage boy who used it. It also seemed unusually clean. She recognized the wispy swipes from her towel that remained after she sanitized the room two days ago. The faint smell of Lysol still clung in the closed space.


A small sigh escaped her as she pushed herself to a standing position, her right knee creaking like a rusty hinge. The beveled mirror was to her left, but she avoided looking at it. That reflection was never correct, anyway. Today she would see a face that looked younger than her muscles felt. On other days, when she felt young and sassy, the creases around her eyes and mouth reminded her that she was forty-eight, not twenty-eight. Mirrors were useless.


I know what I look like, she thought. Blonde, blue eyed and getting too old for this job. Gathering her bucket of towels and cleansers, Peri headed downstairs. As she entered the kitchen, she heard the garage door open and a hearty engine rumble to a stop.


"Oh, good, Peri, you're still here." Mrs. Franklin plopped two grocery bags on the counter. "I just went to the gas station, Good God, the pump actually stopped when it got to one hundred dollars and my tank still isn't full but I wasn't about to re-swipe my credit card." The tall brunette sighed. "You are so lucky to drive a smaller car. My Hummer just sucks the gas down as fast as I fill it up."


"Yes, I'm quite lucky," Peri told her, choking back her desire to say she wasn't stupid enough to buy a four-wheeled Goliath. "Do you need help with the groceries?"


"No, thank you, dear. It was only these two bags." Mrs. Franklin began taking items out and setting them on the island in the middle of the large kitchen, her hands flitting like small birds. Juice from the free range New Zealand steak seeped out of the packaging, onto the dark granite countertop Peri had just cleaned.


The housecleaner sighed. She knew she'd have to wait until Mrs. Franklin put the groceries away, then re-wipe the counter. Skylar Franklin wasn't really into cleaning up after herself.


"Peri, dear, I need to give you a check today, and I'm afraid I've lost your card again." The homeowner dug her checkbook out of her purse and began scribbling. "How do you spell your name again?"


"M-I-N-N-E-O-P-A."


She looked at the check before handing it to Peri. "Min-ew-paw?"


"Minn-ee-oh-pah."


"My goodness, dear, it's such a mouthful. Perhaps you should change it."


"Perhaps." Peri smiled and changed the subject. "So, where's Grant these days?"


"He's around." Her voice sounded light, but Peri noticed a momentary rigidness in her employer's toned shoulders, and the muscles in her slender neck strained for a heartbeat.


"Oh, I thought he was gone. His bathroom was so clean."


The brunette laughed a high, nervous twitter. "Maybe he's just growing up, getting neater."


Peri looked at her, one eyebrow cocked. "Boys or men, they never grow up that much. There's always a little 'aimlessness' around the toilet, if you know what I mean."


Mrs. Franklin blushed, but her narrowed eyes and tight lips told Peri to back off. "What time will you be here on Friday?"


"Ten, if that's all right."


"Oh." Peri saw a look of near-terror cross her employer's face. "Could you make it eleven? Grant likes to sleep in, and the vacuuming bothers him."


"Not a problem, Mrs. Franklin."


Peri threw her cleaning supplies back into her car trunk, then opened the driver's side door. She looked at the Franklin house for a moment. Two stories of Orange County magnificence, with a large front yard and the hint of an even bigger backyard, always kept beautifully maintained, from the rooftop down to the flowers. Beams of warm April sun erupted from the clouds, making it look like Heaven smiled on the Franklins.


And yet, something seemed out of place.


* * * * *

Like it? Go buy the rest of it! I'd stay and discuss it more with you, but I've got a date with Twitter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Look fast! A guest flashes (fiction) by

Seriously, if you haven't checked out Kindle Boards, you need to. I don't care if you don't own any kind of e-reading device. I don't care if you're not an author. Kindle Boards is a forum where you can join in discussions about books and blogs and publishing and all kinds of topics that appeal to readers.

It's where I found Thea Atkinson, who writes psychological thrillers and historical fiction. This month, she's doing a fun sort of blog tour, where she streaks through 30 blogs in 30 days, posting flash fiction in each and linking them together so you can follow along. At the end of her piece here, you'll find the link from yesterday's post, and a link to tomorrow's blog.

Feel free to leave a comment to let her know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through Twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak.

And now, take it away, Thea:

* * * * *

Elspeth

By Thea Atkinson



http://theaatkinson.wordpress.com/




Elspeth sat on the floor arranging and rearranging her cheesies. Tiger-orange in perfectly straight stripes against plush green carpet pleased the three-year-old no end. One after another, she popped them into her mouth and watched her mommy clean.

 
By the time she was 15, Elspeth couldn't stand wrinkles in her sheets, or kinks in the elastic band of her panties. She wore gloves to school because the janitors were lax. Her best friend constantly sullied her room with paper when she came to visit, so Elspeth had to stop calling her.




Chris seemed perfect when she met him: clean cut, respectable. He even lined his french fries up like little soldiers before he ate them. Elspeth married him after only three weeks.




She shined his truck for him when he complained she wasn't good enough for him to shine his shoes, made his bed with toe corners because hospital tucks wouldn't do. She popped birth control pills for fear he'd hate the fat collecting on her midriff, but still it kept collecting there and she had to stop popping bread, and then meat, and then stale crackers, and then, finally, food altogether.




They invited guests for dinner parties and Elspeth did her best to cook calamari, crisp, like he wanted so he could be proud of her, of himself, and what a trophy he’d found in Elspeth.




Her friend Lise said, "You've outdone yourself."




"They taste like rubber bands," Chris said, throwing one to the dog.




Elspeth swallowed down the bit of calamari she'd managed to force into her mouth. She slipped into a polite smile the way she’d slipped into the silk cocktail dress earlier that evening, and then she excused herself to the restroom where the eyes that met hers in the mirror were strained and red.




She heard him through the door, laughing with his guests, his nasal snort a sound that made her stomach squeeze and her throat burn until she had purged every stale thing within her stomach.




For one moment, she felt clean. Blissfully clean. And no one could take that away from her.


* * * * *
april 13 flash:
http://jpgwriter.com/

april 15 flash:
http://jarrettwrites.blogspot.com/

Thea's ebooks: http://www.amazon.com/Thea-Atkinson/e/B0046DIT0U/




Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's NOT all about me!

This is a quick and dirty post today, because I believe in supporting my fellow authors, especially the good ones.

My friend and mentor, Gordon Kirkland, has released his first novel. He was a syndicated humor columnist for years, but this is first foray into fiction (according to him - his wife Diane might tell you something different). Described as a marriage between Fargo and darker parts of the Old Testament, Crossbow, is a mystery with funny overtones, or perhaps a comedy with mysterious undertones.

It is, at any rate, on sale NOW at Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle. To learn more about the book, go to Gordon's site.

To give you a little inkling as to Gordon and his sense of humor, I've included a snippet of him on a morning news show, promoting his last book, Holly Jolly Frivolity. Enjoy.



And tune in tomorrow for some flash fiction from a guest blogger!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hit or Missus - It's all quite a process

When I decided to go ahead and use Createspace & Digital Platform services for my second Peri mystery, there was a little timeline in the back of my head that went:

1. Cover - one week
2. Format manuscript - one day
3. Publish - one day

Which sounded good, except that this timeline is totally bogus and an example of why I try not to schedule anything that doesn't involve my frontal lobe.

It took me a full day to just figure out how to make my manuscript's headers and footers look correct. Then I read the story again, and actually changed a couple of things in it. Joe has been working on the cover art, but to do a paperback, I also need a back cover, so I need to write a jacket blurb.

If you are an author, you understand how much I hate to write jacket blurbs. They are like query letters and synopses - you'd rather write a 110,000-word saga than that 250-word Reader's Digest version. Every time you think, "But that information is important," you have to ask yourself if it is needed. Will it tempt a buyer to pick up your book?

And more often than not, you don't know the answer to that question.

So I have two versions of the blurb. The first one was more or less what I used in my queries. For kicks, I submitted it to a website that likes to tear apart queries, where it was savaged. (I didn't have the heart to tell them it got me four requests for a full manuscript.) The second one is more like some of the blurbs I see on famous mystery authors' books (except for John Lescoart, whose jackets just have a picture of him surrounded by a bunch of glowing reviews).

Here are your assignments for the day:

1. Which blurb do you like best? (See below)
2. Should I try to get some reviews to quote? Or do you care, when you're cruising a bookstore, who liked the book you're holding?

Please help me. Otherwise, I shall be left to choose by myself, and I'm afraid the back of my brain will keep my frontal lobe out of the loop. We've seen how that turns out.

Jacket Blurb #1:

Peri Minneopa thinks she's taking a typical case: a rich businessman suspects his wife of cheating. Snapping pictures and collecting hotel receipts should be easy money. So color her surprised when she is suddenly being threatened, possibly by the woman herself, along with her gang of wealthy BFFs.



Her boyfriend, Skip, is worried, but as a detective in the Placentia Police Department, he has his own case to handle. Peri's elderly neighbor died of a heart attack, which wouldn't be unusual if her husband hadn't died of the same thing two weeks earlier. Skip doesn't believe in coincidences, and his suspicions prove correct.


Peri's cheating wife case soon collides with his murder case, and Peri finds it hard to keep her nose out of everything. The deeper she investigates, the more dangers she encounters. She's willing to ignore the threats on her life to get to the truth, until the bodies start piling up…


Skip's concern for her safety has led to constant fighting, leaving Peri feeling insecure about their relationship. Her self-doubts couldn't have come at a worse time, as a younger female officer is pursuing the handsome detective.


And in the middle of completing her case, defending herself against the vengeful wife and her friends, and protecting her relationship turf, her former client Benny Needles comes to her, needing a job.


Peri must decide what's worth keeping, her boyfriend, her career, or her sanity. Can't she have it all, with a dirty martini on the side?


Jacket Blurb #2:
 
COINCIDENCES HAPPEN…



Private investigations may be a new career for former housecleaner Peri Minneopa, but she's done a few surveillance assignments already. They're low stress - take some pictures, write a nice report and collect the fee. Her new case is a routine one, a rich husband suspects his wife of infidelity. Just because bad things start happening to her when she takes the job doesn't mean anything. It could be a coincidence.


Peri's boyfriend, Detective Skip Carlton, is investigating the death of Peri's elderly neighbor. It looks like a heart attack, which is how her husband died two weeks ago. It's not unusual for an elderly couple to die within a short time of each other. It could be a coincidence.


Skip's elderly couple had left legal papers lying out on the table, involving a year-old real estate purchase. An attached note from Peri's client, a real estate developer, doesn't mean anything. It could be a coincidence.


BUT IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK AND TALKS LIKE A DUCK…


Peri doesn't believe in coincidences, any more than Skip does. When their cases collide, she begins poking her nose into police business and immediately butts heads with her boyfriend. She wants to know who is harassing her, and what happened to her neighbor. Skip wants to keep her out of danger and keep his case from being compromised.


Getting to the truth will require help, and Peri gets it from an unlikely partner, an annoying little man who is obsessed with Dean Martin.


If she can keep her sanity and her life -


SHE MIGHT JUST SOLVE THIS CASE.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wow, there's someone else at the door

In the spirit of making new friends in the writing community, I've been hanging out on Kindle Boards. Even if you don't own a Kindle, you'll find a lot of discussions about books and by authors. I encourage you to wander around.

One of the authors I met is Steve Drennon, a writer of both fantasy and poetry. Like most of us, he's been writing forever, and has three volumes of poetry as Steven R. Drennon, as well as a fantasy novel under the pen name Scott Dennisen.

When I saw he was looking for authors to guest on his blog AND he was a poet, I thought, how fortuitous. I need to get around more and guest on blogs, and it's National Poetry Month. Who better to have on my blog than a poet?

So here are Steve's thoughts about poetry and its celebration. I think you'll find him quite exuberant.

* * * * *






Okay, a quick show of hands! How many people knew that April is National Poetry Month? Two people, just as I expected! Talk about an image problem!


So why is it that so few of us read poetry these days? Are we still traumatized by the required reading in high school? Is it because we associate poetry with stale, old-fashioned literature that has fallen out of fashion? Is it because we view poets as these elitist isolationists who expound on ideals that most of us don’t care about? Or maybe we just don’t get it? Seriously now, when was the last time you read a poem, or checked out a poetry book from the library, or even more importantly, actually bought a book of poems? Yeah, that’s what I thought!


Poetry has long been considered an art form. Personally, I think that was something drummed up by a bunch of poets who were trying to get people interested enough to buy their work! It really doesn’t matter if it is an art form, because people just aren’t buying poetry these days.


What would it take to get you to read a poem? Would it have to feature young vampire lovers, or maybe a scintillating murder mystery? What if it was all about faeries and other magical, mythical creatures that only existed in some far off fantasy world? Or maybe alien life forms that are trying to colonize the farthest reaches of space?


I think that is exactly part of the problem. I believe most people tend to focus on a specific genre and then follow authors who write in that genre. When you go looking for something to read pertaining to the paranormal, you don’t think about a poem. Maybe there are a lot of great paranormal poets out there, but I suspect not. As a writer we just don’t generally put our poetry into a clearly defined genre.


I think another part of the problem is that none of us really tend to speak or think in rhyme. That’ s not to say that all poetry rhymes, but admit it, the first thing that usually comes to mind when it comes to poetry is “does it rhyme”? If not, then isn’t it “just” prose? Even then, does it really matter?


Okay, so what can we do about this under-appreciation of poetry? Well, did I mention that April is National Poetry Month? Oh good, you were paying attention! In recognition of that fact, I’d like to encourage everyone to read at least one poem this month. Heck, if you like it, you might even end up reading two! More importantly, if you find a poem or a poet that you do like, tell somebody about it! Send an e-mail, send a tweet, or even blog about it! Spread the word: poetry lives!




* * * * *

Just so Steve doesn't think we're all Philistines over here, I follow Ruth's Synch-ro-ni-zing blog just because of its beautiful poetry, and I have dabbled in verse my own darn self. But I agree with Steve - if you haven't visited a poet's land in awhile, or even ever, this is the month to try out the wonders of Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, or, hey - Steven Drennon.

His books are available on the Amazon Kindle, as follows:
http://www.amazon.com/Beginnings-Selected-Steven-Drennon-ebook/dp/B004URS84O

http://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Selected-Steven-Drennon-ebook/dp/B004USPA3U
http://www.amazon.com/Enduring-Selected-Steven-Drennon-ebook/dp/B004UW00DG

Thanks for stopping by, Steve, and good luck with your writing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Out of the frying pan...

I don't know what kind of fire I'm leaping into, but it can't be worse than the dance I've been doing in the Teflon.

For months now, I've been shopping my second Peri Minneopa Mystery book around to agents. Several asked for a full manuscript, which was heartening. Knowing agents (from other author tales), I knew I could have a long wait before they responded.

In the meantime, the publishing world has gone - wild? off-kilter? broken the chains of its corporate oppressors? I don't know how to describe it. If you live under a rock, you haven't heard that Borders declared bankruptcy and will probably pay pennies on the dollars they owe publishing houses. Barry Eisler, thriller-writer-extraordinaire, turned down a $500,000 advance in order to self-publish. Amanda Hocking, self-published-wonder-kid, who sold over a million books, was offered a $2 million deal from a publisher.

It's a crazy time to be a writer, with lots of columns on the menu of publishing choices.

I self-pubbed What Would Erma Do? because the agents/publishers I approached didn't think they could sell it, due to my lack of fame. I knew I had a platform, and an inkling of how to get the word out on the internet, so I thought I could just do it on my own. I hired the wonderful Joe Felipe to design my cover, worked with Createspace and Amazon's Digital Platform services, figured out how to upload to Smashwords, and started working the Inter-Network. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon discussion boards, Kindle Boards, other blogger's blogs, you name it.

The worst part of self-publishing is watching your book languish, and fall, in the Amazon rankings because no one is buying it. I swear, I could hear crickets chirping every time I logged into my account. But Michele Scott told me it takes time, so I'm attempting patience.

Now I'm starting to see one Erma e-book sale a day. No, it's not an avalanche. But it's one more than yesterday. Color me optimistic.

Back to the subject at hand: my second Peri book. While waiting for agents and listening to more than one person ask when the second book will be out, I began thinking. I have a cover artist. I know how to use the tools. Why not self-pub the second one?

As you can imagine, the entrepreneur angel and the traditional-book-deal angel started an argument of epic proportions in my head. My little traditional heart wanted to be able to say, "Why, yes, it will be released by Penguin next February," in that smugly humble way of authors. My desire to keep the Peri stories going said, "Screw that. Michele Scott's not afraid of being self-pubbed. Neither is Eisler, or Konrath, or a host of other really good writers. Get your work out there."

I was almost convinced to go ahead and self-publish, but there was one more avenue I wanted to try. There is a boutique publishing company that I admire a lot. I decided to submit to them. If they said no, I'd go it alone, and forget about the agents.

They said no. Not because of my writing. They really liked my writing, and thought the book could do well. They're just booked for the next 18 months or so and didn't think I'd want to wait until 2013 for a release, which is true. They've been nothing but kind and I'll continue to support them.

So right now, I'm working with Joe on cover art and giving the manuscript yet another scrutiny, mostly because I always think I can do better. I will keep everyone in the loop about when Hit or Missus will be available, and yes, I'll make it available in paperback and e-book format.

In the meantime, got any opinions about the cover? I like these two samples, for different reasons (forgive the horrible quality of the pictures - Joe and I work from pdf versions first, and the only way I can get them into the post is to scan a printout - lame, I know).

I like the block color format of this one, and the title in red. My only issue with it is the crack in the martini glass isn't AS vivid as the cover below.

I like the dark, edgy quality to this, and the way the crack in the glass is easy to see. I think my name needs to be smaller, and one of my friends thought the red slash was a red carpet and it didn't make sense to her.

Would anyone like to give me their opinion? About the covers, I mean. Actually, I guess you can give me your opinion about anything. But I could use some advice about the covers.

Is it warm in here, or is it just me?

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.