"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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guess who came to visit?

Author Regan Black is guesting on my blog today. She is a paranormal romance writer, which is very exciting, since I hardly ever get anyone of another genre on my blog. Actually, I don't remember EVER having someone of another genre here. I'd better get out the tea and fairy cakes, or she won't think I'm any kind of hostess at all.

So without further ado, take it away, Regan:

* * * * *

I'm excited to be here today at Gayle's invitation. When she posted a 'cross-pollination' request I jumped on it. Then wondered over how to do it, since humor and paranormal romance are at rather different places on the publishing spectrum.

But Gayle's a brave person with bright ideas. She said, "Well, I could talk about how to write funny (no, not funny peculiar, funny ha-ha), and you could talk about how to write abnormal - I mean PARAnormal. LOL"

In all honesty, I wanted to be Gayle. And not just because she has horses. When I set out to write, I wanted to write humor. But while (folks tell me) I'm hysterical in conversation, the more I wrote, the more I smothered any humor in my writing voice with dark characters, mysterious skillsets, and wicked twisted plot lines.

So here I am, happy to talk about why and how I write abnormal/paranormal.

It took a few years, but I accepted that if I can't write funny ha-ha, I'd better follow my twisted story strengths into the paranormal realms. I tried to fight it, tried to write to the 'standard level of darkness' most publishing houses would accept, but I just couldn't reel it in. During a conference mixer one of the speakers asked me what I was writing when the words flowed effortlessly. I admitted to her (and finally to myself) it was some really dark and edgy stuff. (Yes, I did let loose a rather evil little chuckle just thinking about it). She told me to follow those words, to embrace those scenes, and let it out.

It worked. When I gave myself permission to tell the rather abnormal - I mean PARAnormal - story swirling around in my head, Justice Incarnate was born and became my first sale! Hooray!

Writing paranormal and combining it with romance serves my innate curiosity about storytelling. I love my process when writing the story offers up big and little surprises and connections along the way. For me, writing paranormal romance means combining a great adventure with the discovery of a great love. Fantasy? Sure! But that's the point. The paranormal angle sets my imagination free. When I started out, using real places in real time made me feel obligated to use them correctly, even as I admire those writers who can use a known setting with literary license.

As my writing skills continue to grow and improve with every book and writing effort, I feel readers can expect the same imagination and fantasy escape reading from me, no matter the setting. Though I've put out stories that are more lighthearted (The Hobbitville saga) my imagination still insists on applying a paranormal element. But that's okay, it's my strong suit. When authors find and embrace their strengths (Gayle's humor, my PARA-normalities) they tap into the real magic of writing and readers are in for a treat!

Live the adventure!

* * * * *
Isn't she fun? I urge you, beg you, ask you most politely, to check out her books. I've provided the links above to Justice Incarnate and The Pixie Chicks, but here's the link to her entire list of Kindle titles - http://tinyurl.com/regan-kindle.
If you want to know more about Regan, visit her at http://www.reganblack.com.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A nouvelle post

One of the blogs I mentioned in my last post, when I was doling out Memetastic Blogger Awards like a drunken rider on a Mardi Gras float, was Synch-ro-ni-zing. I actually discovered this blog by investigating the Blogs of Note listed in my Blogger account.

(If I say the word blog-blogger-blogged-blogs one more time, it may activate my gag muscle.)

I don't know very much about the author of Synch-ro-ni-zing, except her name is Ruth and she writes beautiful poetry and takes pretty photos, and lives where she can have chickens and a lot of space to wander around and think. Hers is the one blog that makes me long to leave southern California for more space and real seasons, except I've already told Dale we can't buy a farm in the middle of nowhere because as we grow older, we'll need to be close to the pharmacy. And I still recall having to dig my car out of the snow and scrape the ice from the windshield, so the whole "real seasons" thing is only a theoretical wish.

Ruth recently posted a Nouvelle 55 on her site, based on an Edvard Munch painting. A Nouvelle is what the French call flash fiction, and someone challenged her to write a piece in 55 words, so she made up a genre: Nouvelle 55, flash fiction of 55 words based on a piece of art. She then challenged her readers to do their own.

How could I resist? I love flash fiction. I even have some of my scribbles posted on my website, under the category Fiction in a Flash.

So I took one of my favorite paintings, Woman with a Parasol, by Monet (which I've actually seen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).

And here's what I wrote:

You use more than paint and canvas.
You consume lives.
"Stand just so - hold it! Don't move."
In the glow of evening, we expect the same fire
Of passion in your arms
But we cannot receive any because it isn't yours to give.
It belongs to Art.
Hurry, finish! I grow tired here.

Your turn. Find a piece of art, a sculpture, a photo, something that makes your mind tell a story. Then share it with the rest of us.

Well, go on. What are you waiting for?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

All the news, in fits of print

Well, it's a rainy Sunday here in Southern California, even if it is the first day of Spring. No one told El Nino, I guess. Or are we in La Nina this year? I can't ever tell, but those Weather Babies sure are cranky. Maybe they need a nap. All I know is I've got a couple of news items to pass on this morning.


My delightful friend Marsha Toy Engstrom, who offers wonderful book club tips on her website, Book Club Cheerleader, gave me an award on Friday, that I was supposed to report and pass to some other lucky bloggers, except I've been kind of busy and didn't get it done. So here it is (insert trumpets blaring):

Yes, it is the Memetastic Award. If you didn't know, a "meme" is a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through email, blogs, forums, image boards, social networking sites and instant messaging.

May I just say I should be so lucky to have ANYTHING I do spread rapidly across the Internet. Please. I'm out here shouting as loud I as I can, people.

Now then, the rules of accepting this award are simple:

1. Display the rather interestingly-childlike-in-a-creepy-way graphic. Check.

2. List five things about yourself, four of which must be bold-faced lies. Your readers are to guess which one is the truth by posting a comment on your blog. This will be difficult, since my life is such an open book, but I'll try.

3. Pass this award on to five deserving bloggers. Okay, really, I don't know of anyone who has time to do this on their blog, but I'll give it a go.

* * * * *

Five things about myself, one of which is actually true:

1. Learning to skydive is on my bucket list.

2. When I was 14, I told my mom I was staying the night at my girlfriend's house, and hitched a ride with a bunch of high school girls to go to St. Louis to see The Monkees in concert. My mom found the ticket stub, I was grounded for two weeks, and I'm still deaf from the experience.

3. I can play the accordian.

4. I have two degrees, one in engineering and one in French Literature.

5. My favorite way to spend a Sunday is to get up early, go down to the marina and take the sailboat out for the day.

Okay, Peeps, which one of those is the truth?

Now then, who should I pass this award to? Stop looking away from me, it won't keep me from picking you. Seriously, is this a pyramid scheme or something? Any-whoooo, here are five of my faves. If you're the blogger, you know just what to do with this honor:

1. Adventures N Writing

2. The Lipstick Chronicles

3. Always Coffee

4. Montana For Real

5. Synch-ro-ni-zing

Look them up, Gentle Readers. I think you will be entertained, amused, moved, and most importantly, fans.


My book trailer for Freezer Burn is featured today (3/20) on Mary Pat's The Hyland Diner. Stop by and leave your comment - it looks like you're supposed to rate it from one (boo-hiss) to five (bravissimo) - of course I'm hoping for fives, but I'd rather have honesty. Honestly.

And Happy Spring to everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing as a writer

I thought I'd do something a little different today and print a little piece I wrote several years ago. I've done a little polishing to it, but not a lot. I think it's interesting because the style seems so different from my style today. It's more descriptive, more passive. I remember writing it (and remember feeling like it was good), but I hardly recognize it as mine. Perhaps I'll re-write it and post that, too, just to show you the evolution of a writer.

* * * * * * *

The Hitchhiker

First of all, I'd just like to say for the record that the guy was too far out in the road…

It was mid-November in Decatur, Illinois. November is mostly a gloomy, depressing month in the Midwest. The sky is grey and the temperature is cold, but not grey and cold enough to snow. Just grey and cold enough to dig out your winter coat and gloves and convince yourself that it's not quite cold enough to try to find your boots and wool pants, even though walking from your car to the front door causes you to brace against the icy gusts wrapping around your legs and up your skirt.

I was nineteen years old and driving down 22nd Street in my navy blue '67 Mustang. This street branched off of Pershing Road, where all of the new car dealerships were located and then curved softly south. There was a drive-in and a bowling alley on the west side of the street, and the Firestone, Caterpillar and General Electric factories on the east side. It dipped underneath a train trestle, then rose again to some small businesses, a gas station and a used car lot, before ascending over the middle of the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company. Staley's was a corn and soybean processing company. It was a large concrete lot covered in tall buildings, drying vats and smoke stacks. The smoke stacks hacked up brownish grey clouds of industrial gunk pretty much constantly. On a good day, it smelled like French fries. On a bad day, it smelled like old socks.

The speed limit over most of 22nd Street was 45 mph. I'm not certain how fast I was going on that particular November day, but I'll guess that it was at least 45 mph, since I never went under the speed limit. As I was coming out of the curve onto the straight stretch in front of the G.E. plant, I saw a hitchhiker standing on my side of the road. He was a young guy of medium height, medium weight, medium everything. He looked like every other young guy in Decatur, from his pale Germanic features to his uniform of jeans, tee-shirt and lined flannel shirt. I remember thinking he looked pretty cold out there on the side of the road, with no hat or gloves.

As I got closer to him, I also remember thinking there's really no shoulder on this road. The side of the pavement dropped off in a kind of cliff, and I always worried that my tires would fall off the edge and I would spin helplessly out of control until I hit something solid and wrecked the car. Of course, I never worried enough to slow down; I just continued to drive at the speed limit and let the fear and risk run through me like an electrical current. That day was no different. I maintained my speed and stayed on the road, whipping by the hitchhiking boy.

The first thing I heard when I drove past was a strange, THWACKING noise. Looking over at my radio antenna, it was vibrating quite out of time with the forward motion of the car, and making a little "wubba-wubba-wubba" sound. Puzzled, I did what you're supposed to do every ten seconds; I looked in my rear-view mirror. The hitchhiking boy was behind me at the side of the road, holding his hand and jumping up and down. I had hit the hitchhiker with my antenna.

The guilt was immediate and severe. A little white-robed teenager sat on my shoulder and scolded me for my physical attack on this poor stranger. "You should have been going slower," she told me. "You know there's no shoulder there. I'll bet you were exceeding the speed limit!" Then her evil twin showed up, in a red suede mini-dress that was much too short for her. "He's not lying in the street. There's no blood. He'll be fine. It serves him right for being too far out in the road!"

I drove another block, then turned on a side street and circled back around to the dancing young man. Guilty or innocent, I felt the least I could do now was offer him a ride.

Okay, before everyone howls about how dangerous that was, may I remind you that I was a nineteen year old Pollyanna who let teen angels and demons duke it out on her shoulder?

So I pulled over and asked where he was going. It turned out that he was trying to get to the intersection of Route 36 and Nelson Park, which was about halfway to my house, so I told him I'd give him a lift and he got in. It was mostly a quiet, slightly awkward ride. Every once in awhile, somebody said something about how cold it was, or made a remark about the scenery. I noticed that the guy kept rubbing his hand, and I couldn't decide whether to open my mouth and confess… or not.

Suddenly, he said, "Man, before you picked me up, some black car drove past and hit my thumb with the antenna."

Black car? My car was blue, not black. He didn't recognize me. This was where I could tell him. I could confess and make my peace and remain a good girl.

"That's too bad. Were you hurt?"

He shook his head. "No, no. It just stings a little."

"Oh, that's good." I believe I heard the slightest thump as my Teen Angel fell over in shock.

I pulled up at the stoplight, and he said, "I'll just get out here. Thanks a lot for the ride."

"No problem." I sped off, down Route 36. I may have been a Pollyanna, but I wasn't stupid.

You'll be relieved to know that I've never picked up another hitchhiker since that gloomy November day. Of course, I haven't hit any, either.


* * * * * * *

So... recognize me? How about your own writing? Ever go back to things you've written a while ago and wonder whose mind created that?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why buy the cow?

If you're a writer and you haven't checked out Scribd.com, do so as soon as your tush hits the chair and you read this blog. Because, of course, the first thing you do when you fire up the laptop is check for a new edition of my blog, right?

Okay, I couldn't type that with a straight face.

Anyway, Scribd is an online resource for posting your writing and gaining a readership. When I first tried it, I wasn't that convinced. I started by posting a few chapters of Hit or Missus, my as-yet-unpublished follow up to Freezer Burn. I thought, well, let's see if I can get anyone's interest, or even critiques of what I've got going. For those of you who are saying, wait, what publisher will want your material after you've published it online?

First of all, I won't put the whole thing on Scribd. Second, if I can show a publisher that I've got this audience anxiously waiting for the end of the story, how is that going to hurt me?

The results were slow at first, and then picked up to a nice, if moderate pace. I find that I have to re-readcast my work every once in awhile to re-generate interest.

The real interest came when I posted a few files of What Would Erma Do? I began with a simple teaser, then posted the first chapter, and finally an excerpt dealing with a topic I had addressed recently. My audience increased immediately to over a thousand reads. It seems like one more way to reach readers via the Internet.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that one of the items I've read is a paper by Jacqui Murray called How to Publish Your Blog on Kindle. Apparently, people give Amazon a link to feed their blogs to a subscription service for the Kindle. Readers can subscribe for a nominal fee.

Pay for a blog? Are they nuts?

I can't honestly figure out why anyone would buy a subscription to what they can get for free, unless, as Jacqui points out, they don't always have access to a computer but do carry a Kindle or an iPad and must have your blog right now. Seems like a pretty flimsy excuse, but she's making a little money off her blog. Not enough to buy the private island with a jet, but a few bucks every month.

You know me - I figured, why not? My blog is now available for the low, low fee of $1.99 a month, delivered to your device automatically. FYI, Amazon set the subscription price. Some blogs are $0.99, some are $1.99, and a few are higher. I don't know how they figure the rate, but I get a cut of it.

I'll let you know how the experiment progresses.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh what a tangled website we weave

You need a website.

If you are a writer, an artist, or a business owner, this has become a physical law. I was given this pearl of wisdom years ago, perhaps in the Jurassic Era, when I was just starting out, writing articles for Riding Magazine.

So I went looking for a website tool, and found one where my email account was - on Yahoo. They had something called PageBuilder, which was pretty easy to use, and more importantly, pretty easy to update.

I confess, I'm a tweaker. Just as I like to tweak my manuscripts before I send them out to agents/publishers, I also like to tweak my website as I think of cooler things to do with it. So I built my site with PageBuilder and played with it constantly, until...

Yahoo came out with a new, improved tool called SiteBuilder and stopped supporting PageBuilder. This meant, if I wanted to continue to fiddle around in my webpages, I had to convert to SiteBuilder, which was only a little less complicated than converting to, say, Islam.

Still, once I learned SiteBuilder, it was again easy to manipulate and I was happy in my playground, until...

Yahoo came out with a new, improved tool and stopped supporting SiteBuilder. You'll notice I'm not naming this tool, mostly because at that point, I snapped and refused to rehost anything to a new platform. I dug in my heels and continued to play in SiteBuilder, even though I had to reinstall it every time I wanted to edit anything, which is at least once a week, due to updating my newspaper column pages. I still enjoyed SiteBuilder, but I constantly worried about the day when I couldn't make it work anymore and my website was frozen forever, just like that face I used to make that Mom warned me about.

Enter Jeremy Lee James, riding to my rescue on Write Click Web Hosting. I've known Jeremy for a long time, from the Southern California Writer's Conferences, and knew he was a webmaster extraordinaire. I also knew 1) he charged, quite rightly, a fee for designing a website, and 2) I needed more control of my website than he might be able to grant me.

However, Jeremy's newest invention, Write Click Web Hosting, allows a user to create their own site using Wordpress. Now, you can do this yourself by just going to Wordpress, but he gives your website a more hack-proof security system and provides daily backups, all for a small monthly fee. Yahoo was already charging me a small monthly fee for all the work I was doing for them, so I thought I'd try it out.

Working with Jeremy was a very good experience, in that he was ever-so-patient with my occasional lapses into idiocy. He has a bunch of video tutorials explaining how to do things, and I'd kind of watch them, then try things on my own and screw up. It's how I roll. Jeremy was always on the other end of an email, explaining calmly how to back myself out of the latest mess.

Things were smooth until we got to the part where I'm almost ready to go online with the new site. I had pared down my pages, cleaned things up, but my new site looks very similar to my old site. Here's the thing: Jeremy is a very elegant, classy guy who thinks that websites should look elegant and classy. And mostly, I think he's right. So when he sent me the email saying, geez, did I really want my new website to look so much like my old one, meaning kinda goofy and casual and distinctly NOT elegant, my first response was, wow, maybe not...

Then I looked in the mirror and said, "Who are we kidding?"

I explained to him that, while I agree in theory, in practice I am not elegant. I am a humor writer, even in my mysteries. I need to be a little goofy and irreverent and casual. My website needs to reflect that sense of whimsy.

God love him, he understood my point, and agreed.

My new website is now up (http://gaylecarline.com) and ready to be picked apart by the rest of the world. I'm always looking for comments as to how I can make it better, so don't just placate me with kindness. But don't slap me, either.

I'm going to end this post with links to websites of a few of the many authors I like, so you can see how their sites support their genres.

Andrew Peterson - thriller writer. His site points you exactly where you need to be at all times, kind of like you're the sniper's bullet.

Michele Scott - mysteries, women's lit, let's just say multi-genre. Her website is being redone, but even the temporary page gives you an idea of who she is.

Alexandra Sokoloff - horror, suspense, paranormal, creepy (her books, not her). You know you're not getting "light and fluffy" when you click on this link.

Christina Dodd - romance. Okay, I've never read a single thing she's written, but I love this website. I want to live there. Don't kvetch at me, I'm not a romance reader, unless you count DeAnna Cameron's The Belly Dancer, which is mostly historical fiction and really cool.

**OH, and for the record, I am NOT being paid or recompensed in ANY way for recommending Write Click Web Hosting. It's just something I'm using with a great deal of satisfaction. And none of the authors mentioned have ever done a darn thing for me in exchange for mentioning their books and websites. I'm just a giver.

Monday, March 7, 2011

There's really no excuse

Remember when I was kvetching about no one wanting to download my book for free? Oh, wait, that was my last post. I was trying to give away some free books to get some word-of-mouth going about What Would Erma Do?

After all, a lot of my other author friends do that and end up with even more people who want to buy their books.

So I planned for a free giveaway through Smashwords for a couple of weeks, ending this Wednesday. Oddly enough, Smashwords was preparing their own promotion...

This week is Smashwords' "Read an e-book a week" week. They are offering participating books at greatly reduced prices, from 25% off to just plain free. Since I already had the free thing going on, I tagged on to the end of their campaign.

This means you now have until March 12th to download
What Would Erma Do? Confessions of a First-time Humor Columnist for free. They offer SEVERAL formats, including Kindle, Nook, Sony, pdf, html... you can even download it to your computer and read it there.

So what are you waiting for? Go get it! NOW, before you have to pay $2.99, which is totally still worth it.

If you're wondering if it's any good, here are a few reviews from Goodreads (here's the
link in case you think I'm making this up):

"I absolutely loved this book. It started with me laughing out loud at "...unless you count my Christmas letter of 1995. I have to admit, it was a killer." and continued through out the whole book. I love reading the columns and now I can't help but wonder if someone has changed any of the title or left out the good part of columns that I have read. Nothing like reading a humor columnist columns and laughing. Great fast read!"

"I enjoy these types of books, a slice of life thing. This is a fun read and I'm now following Gayle's blog."

"Gayle has a saucy sense of humor like Erma Bombeck and makes me laugh out loud at several of her columns. I won this copy through the giveaways program. I plan to pass this one around among my friends - especially those who have a similar way with words!"

In the meantime, I'm in the middle of rehosting my website and the webmaster has to do some behind-the-scenes wackiness that involve DSNs and nameservers and domains. So my website is in limbo until all that's done. I'll let you all know when it's back up so you can critique it.

Because I suspect you, like myself, love to give people your opinion as often as possible.

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