"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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Think fast!

My unending apologies, everyone. It has been a full week since my last confession blog post. I had some topics to spew about, and maybe a video here and there, but I'm not certain when I will get to them.

You see, I'm busy writing.

What's that you say, Gayle? How can you be ignoring your social media-city duties to write?

I'm at that Sisyphus stage of my third mystery, when I'm down to the last 20,000 words (don't ask me how I know, I just feel it in my bones) and even though I'm writing 1,000-2,000 words a day, I don't feel like I'm getting any closer to the end.

And I even have an outline this time.

So I've been writing and writing and subplotting and walking away to let the scene play out in my head before coming back and writing some more. Because I need to get this thing finished and let the yeast in it rise while I work on other projects.

I'll be back to posting, soon I hope, but in the meantime, here are two writing/publishing rules I live by:

1. Write a book that's better than your best effort. By that, I mean write to your own sense of perfection, and then hand it off to a professional editor at the most and beta readers at the least. Ask them to be honest, even if it means being brutal. This will make your work stronger. People who love your book because they love you are not helping you. They're just loving you.

2. Write the book you want to write, from your heart, your gut, your passion, but when it comes time to publish, take your emotions out of the equation. Look at what a publisher is offering you, not in terms of whether it's "industry standard" but in terms of whether it's worth it to you. (In these days, I'd look hard at what they'll do to promote and market.) If it looks like you'll be a pauper for the next three years, look at yourself and see if you have the drive for self-publishing. Examine it all, but don't self-publish out of anger or spite, and don't go with a publisher because you "like" them.

Hope these are helpful. See you soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A blog challenge: Lucky 7

Sometimes my friends like to play games with their Facebook statuses or blog posts. I do like to join in when I can, although I'm too busy to join them all the time. This of course makes me feel guilty. ("Oh, no, they won't love me anymore if I don't play with them. I'll fall off their A-list!")

But when Jenny Hilborne, author extraordinaire, named me as one of her seven writer buds to partake in the Lucky 7 Challenge, I had to try to respond. I don't think of myself as a lucky person, but the challenge appealed to me because being lucky reminds me of Las Vegas and Las Vegas reminds me of this guy:

Ah... Dino...

So here are the rules:

1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript (fiction or non-fiction)
2. Go to line 7
3. Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
4. Tag 7 other authors to do the same

So here are 7 lines from page 77 of my current manuscript (be gentle, it's in its first draft state):

At each statement, Skip watched Matt McHale's face turn a deeper shade of red as his shoulders slumped forward. Claudia wept harder with each fact.

"No," McHale said. "It's not true—"

His wife cut him off. "Stop lying, Matthew. It's true. All of it." She cried a little more, then spoke again. "Of course, my husband thinks Alex was a typical teenager. He was always at the office, while I was the one trying to get Alex to school, trying to get him to do homework, wondering where he was and when he'd be home."

Now then, my 7 authors to tag... hmm... stop hiding behind your coffee mugs. I see you.

Tag, you're all it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I am not a tease

It dawned on me that I posted some general statement about "learning a lot" at the panel I did in Santa Barbara and talking to Sheri Fink, etc. It also dawned on me that perhaps I should share some of that learning, instead of just hinting, then leaving you all hanging.

You know that's not who I am.

What I learned can be summed up in two basic ideas, both of which seem like no-brainers, but were taught to me in a new way. Because sometimes you need to see things from another angle.

1. Value yourself. I have about 20 copies of the old version of Freezer Burn, and I was musing with Sheri about what to do with them. "Should I offer them as contest giveaways? Or sell them at a discount?"

Savvy Sheri was decisively against this. "No. You pair the book with some kind of trinket, give it a special autograph, and charge more for it as a Limited Edition."

Whoa. Instead of trying to dump them, I need to treat them as rare birds. Interestingly, when I mentioned this to Marla, she said, "It's a girl thing. We don't value ourselves enough."

So now I get to figure out what to pair with my books and how to sign them. By July. No biggie.

2. Write your thank you notes. I'm always grateful for whatever breaks I get, whether it's a nice review or a chance to speak or whatever. I always tell them how grateful I am, thankyouthankyouthankyou. But I don't always put it in writing.

From now on, I'm sending them a note. If I don't have their street address, I'll email them. Everyone will have a written record of my thankfulness. Because I AM GRATEFUL.

One more thing I took away from the panel was not really a lesson, but more of a result, a by-product, a residual that remained beyond the day: we writers ARE a tribe. Our community shares its secrets, supports its members, and rejoices in EVERY success.

That alone was worth the drive.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Where do I start?

I know you're supposed to keep blog posts short and sweet because, God knows, no one has seen their attention span since the 50s, but I've done so much in the past week, it's hard not to tell you all about it in EXCRUTIATING detail.

But I'll spare you and give you the highlights.

On Tuesday, I drove up to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference to be on a panel of entrepreneurial authors. Marla Miller asked me to join her, and of course, I was delighted. My other partners in crime were Sheri Fink, Madeline Sharples, and Jennifer Aderhold. I love panels because I learn as much as I share.

Sheri contacted me before the event to see if we could carpool to Santa Barbara. She lives in Mission Viejo (or as we like to call it, "Bitchin' Viejo"). Normally, I like driving long distances solo so I can sing along to my iPod, but I wanted to get to know Sheri better. Two-and-a-half hours, each way, seemed like a great way to either learn about each other, or start a cat fight.

As it turns out, Sheri is The Sweetest Woman in the World. When she arrived at my house, she had to run the Doggy Gauntlet in order to use the restroom. Duffy immediately jumped on her bare legs and scratched her, to the point of needing first aid.

I'm SO SORRY, Sheri!!! (Note: abject groveling and apologies are the only grammatically correct time to use more than one exclamation point.)

The panel was wonderful. The workshop attendees were interesting and savvy and asked great questions. All of the panelists had insights and information, and Marla facilitated effortlessly, so what was not to love? In addition, Sheri is insanely savvy as a businesswoman. I learned as much from her on our car ride as from the panel.

After the panel, we all scampered down to the bar and met up with good friends Michael Steven Gregory and Jeremy Lee James, who were giving a workshop on the following day. I wish I could've stayed for that workshop, but I had places to go...

Like Tameri Etherton's house on Thursday. I met her at her home in Carlsbad, where I went with her and her darling daughter, Alexzandra, to dinner and a play. The dinner, the play, and the whole experience was beyond fun, but started with a bang - I got a present!

Such a pretty box, what could be inside?

For me? Squee!

I didn't expect it. I may not deserve it. But I'll take it - now I can rule the world.

Thank you, Tameri! Thank you thank you thank you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yes, Sirree, I'm going places

Namely, I'm going to the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference tomorrow (that's Tuesday the 12th). Apart from speaking on a panel, I've never actually attended this conference, so I'm going to recommend it with the following caveat: it's run by some truly wonderful writers/editors/publishers/word enthusiasts, so I expect nothing but excellence from them.

Sadly, it's too late to register (the conference started on Saturday and ends this Thursday), but put it on your radar for next year. It's expensive, mostly because it's almost a week long, but it looks like you get a lot of bang for your buck. Plus, it's in Santa Barbara, which is beautiful.

I'm going to be one of a few people talking about being the entrepreneurial author. I've been thinking about it recently, and I've decided I'm the accidental indie. Self-publishing was the furthest thing from my mind until I wanted to publish a book of my columns and no one wanted to touch it. After I published What Would Erma Do? I still vowed that my mysteries would travel the traditional path.

It took several months of cumulative information about the publishing industry to get me to walk out on that skinny limb and self-pub Hit or Missus. Was it a rousing success that catapulted me to stardom and fame? Yeah, not so much. It's been more of a roller coaster, up one month and down the next, as I try different marketing tactics.

But I wouldn't trade the journey for the traditional route now. I love having control of my covers, my titles, and my marketing. I don't want to "never say never" to traditional publishing, but for right now, this is the right path for me.

One of the things that seems to make a difference is offering a one-day freebie on Kindle. Sales usually rise for the rest of the month. This is why I'm offering Hit or Missus for free tomorrow (that's Tuesday the 12th). If you're smart, you'll grab it up for your Kindle. If you're kind, you'll buy it (LOL).

Mikey, RIP, a Corgi
Duffy, also a Corgi
In keeping with my embrace of self-publishing, I've decided to create a "home" for my books, as in an official press name. The first name I thought of was completely fitting: Dancing Corgi Press. I've had Joe Felipe hard at work designing a logo for me. So far, this is my favorite (but I still might want to mess with the font):

What say you?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Funnies

I'll keep this short. I felt like posting but didn't want to go all "blah-blah-blah-yadda-yadda" on you. So here's a little YouTube clip to amuse you.

Be back tomorrow with a third less blah-blah and twice as much yadda-yadda.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Death important?

Ray Bradbury is gone. I had met him exactly twice, after age had set him down in a wheelchair. It's interesting to watch people age. Some fight it with enhancements and surgery. Some literally run from it, as if staying physically active will make them ageless. Some kvetch and become bitter souls, as if getting older was Nature's personal vendetta against them.

Mr. Bradbury was none of those things. He aged because everything is born, grows old, and dies, and he knew this. But there was always a light in his eyes and hope in his voice. When I first saw him at a writer's association meeting, he seemed quite ill and could barely be heard, yet his words rang as bright as a bell. He spoke of his passion for writing and his youthful naivety, believing that if he wanted to do something, he could do it. Love what you do, he said. Love each other, love yourself, love is all there is.

At that moment, after reading and loving his books, I also loved him as a person.

A few years later, I met him at the Duarte Author's Festival. (CLICK HERE for the full report.) Although still in his wheelchair, he sounded much more hale and hearty (is hale ever without hearty?) and looked healthier. I gave him a copy of my first mystery. He flirted with me. It was heaven.

And now he is gone, at 91 years. Some might say it's a full and long life and others would like just a few years more. I'd like to think he had some special day at the end, some moment that allowed him to take one last, deep, breath and leave this earthly plane, headed for the next great adventure.

To me, nothing's more fitting than this paragraph from the end of Something Wicked This Way Comes:

The father hesitated only for a moment. He felt the vague pain in his chest. If I run, he thought, what will happen? Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts. And we've done fine tonight. Even Death can't spoil it. So there went the boys... and why not... follow?

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. We've done fine tonight, and even Death can't spoil it.

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