"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, May 30, 2011

My tail is waggin'

I uploaded the files on Saturday afternoon, then spent Sunday checking Amazon and Smashwords every, oh, ten minutes, to see when my book would be ready. Smashwords finished first, then the Kindle version late Sunday, and finally, this morning there was a pretty little paperback for purchase on Amazon. Barnes & Nobel will get it into their system within the next 30 days or so.

It was the best feeling in the world. Monday was a whirlwind of email messages, Tweeting, and Facebook posting. I also packaged up: copies to send to reviewers, a copy won in a drawing at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and a copy a friend/reader bought from my website so she could get it autographed.

Now I can sit back and tell myself it's a marathon, not a sprint. This is useful information when your books aren't selling and all you hear are crickets in cyber-space.

Here are all the links you can follow to buy Hit or Missus at the moment (in addition to the PayPal button at the right for an autographed copy.

Other e-formats

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm releasing it now, dag-nabbit!

I spent today running amok. My tasks ran from posting my newest PNT column to taking my son's new car to be serviced, trying (but not succeeding) to get the title changed, checking on the status of my vendor booth at this summer's Concerts in the Park, and stopping by the store for groceries.

The result of all this is that my brain is amok. But for you, my peeps, I'm going to rein it in.

This morning, I read Helen Ginger's blog post, "Are You Kidding Me?" in which she shares an article she found on the internet stating the reason the Barnes & Noble Nook is so popular is because women hate technology and want simple gadgets, if they want any gadgets at all. Adding insult to injury, the article is written by a woman.

You all know I was a software engineer in a former life. I know lots of other women engineers. I know women who do all sorts of smart, techy stuff. Hell, I've met Sally Ride. So that article was like throwing gasoline on a fire, so much so that I was going to lead the charge into the ezine's cyber-offices and make them issue at least a balanced rebuttal.

Instead of prattling on about it, though, I'm going to take my fight to Facebook. If we got Betty White to host SNL, what else can we accomplish?

In the meantime I've been waiting to hear from my local library to set up a launch party for Hit or Missus. Once I had the date, I was going to release the book, along with details about the party. The problem is that my contact at the library isn't. Contacting me, that is. People get busy, I get it. But I can't put my book on hold while I wait for a phone call.

Perhaps it was my scattered brain trying to focus. Or maybe that article snapped me into taking strong, womanly action.  But I've made a decision.

I'm releasing Hit or Missus this Saturday, rain or shine. It will be available in paperback on Createspace, or in ebook format. I'll start the ebook on Kindle and Smashwords, so it'll migrate to the Nook, Kobo, Sony e-reader, etc. within a couple of weeks. I'll also offer autographed versions on my website.

Stay tuned for free Goodreads giveaways, contests and more!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ach der lieber! It's Robert Stermscheg!

My guest today, Robert Stermscheg, does something I can't even imagine being able to do: he translates books from German to English. Specifically, he is translating the works of Karl May into English. He's got two finished, and is working on a third. Because he wasn't busy enough, he wrote a memoir of his father's life, from his childhood through his confinement in a German POW camp, and his subsequent life in a corrupt post-war Yugoslavia. POW#74324 is available on Amazon, in Kindle format.

Robert has offered up the prologue to POW#74324 for my readers. It isn't often someone stops by to tell us a story, so please enjoy:

* * * * * * PROLOGUE - POW#74324 * * * * * *

"Attention! I need six volunteers," a voice shouted, interrupting the quiet morning.

Under ordinary circumstances, that might have been a harmless-sounding statement, yet what followed was anything but harmless, or ordinary. The reality of the situation was that the sergeant wasn't asking for volunteers. It certainly wasn't a request, judging by his sharp, cutting tone. I was used to taking orders, having been trained in the Yugoslavian military, so these shouts sounded strangely familiar, albeit for one thing—they were in German.

"Macht's schnell!" bellowed the guard, telling me to make it quick. That brought me back to reality. I realized, along with the rest of my barrack mates from Blockhouse G, that the German sergeant didn't care who the six volunteers were, or how they were selected. We knew all too well what would happen if we hesitated too long… He would absolve us of the chore and pick six random faces.

Life as a prisoner of war(POW) in a German Stalag was no picnic, despite how Hollywood depicted the experience through a weekly dose of Hogan's Heroes. By now, we had become used to little food, crowded living quarters, and hard labor. The rewards were one more day to live, followed by more of the same.

An opportunity to 'volunteer' for a job was a reprieve from the daily grind and sometimes proved beneficial. If luck was on our side, the work detail would take us out to one of the nearby farms. The work would be just as arduous, but perhaps we would be fed real food for a change. I stepped forward with five other men. As I did so, I could nearly read the faces of those around me: He's young enough. Hopefully he'll survive what the Germans have lined up today. I'm glad I don't have to go this time.

The camp was situated on the outskirts of the city of Greifswald. The main building, an unfriendly and cold concrete steel structure, had been transformed from a former military warehouse that at one time had been used for the storage and maintenance of tanks. The inside perimeter of the structure was subdivided into smaller units. Each compartment was separate, divided from another via concrete and steel. I suppose this was done for safety reasons. With the presence of machinery, fuel, and other volatile liquids, even ammunition, a fire could be contained and prevented from spreading. The tanks were no longer there, but the space had been allocated and converted into a camp for housing military prisoners. Where at one time tanks, machines, and spare parts had been kept in storage, row upon row of bunk beds, stacked three-high, now housed flesh and blood people. In the center of the vast warehouse were rough-hewn chairs and tables, where we would eat our meals.

Next door to this huge concrete mass, and separated by a manned barbed-wire fence, was a two-story administration building. Placard signs were placed on the fence at 50 meter intervals in the five main languages—French, English, Russian, Serb, and German—warning us that any prisoner approaching the fence would be shot. The camp Kommandant's office was situated on the second floor. The rest of the buildings were out of our view and, of course, inaccessible to prisoners.

By 4:30 in the afternoon, after working hard all day to the point of exhaustion, we were released from the work site. Our guards marched us back to camp, situated near a railroad yard. Around 5:00, we arrived hungry and exhausted, only to learn that the evening 'meal' had already been distributed to all the barracks. Everything had been consumed, right down to the last crumb. We were told that it was customary for prisoners on work details to be fed on site, and so they had assumed this was the case with us.

The news hit me like salt being poured into an open wound. A couple of my co-laborers complained, and one man even ranted about the unfairness of it all, while the rest collapsed onto their bunks. What could I do? The food was gone and no amount of pleading or cajoling with the sergeant would bring about a change of heart. Famished, exhausted, and despondent, the others withdrew and crawled into their bunks, angry, yet wiser for the experience. As for me, I was more than disappointed. I sensed such a feeling of injustice rising up within me that I couldn't ignore it. I decided to take matters into my own hands and left the safety of the barracks.

I hadn't formulated a plan. All I can remember is that I was driven by an inner determination that went beyond reason: Hunger! Our barracks were situated near the administration building, and a short wooden gangway connected them to the perimeter of the compound. In the center of the massive fence was a narrow opening, fortified by razor sharp barbed wire, and complemented by an alert and armed sentry.

I approached the German guard and called out that I wanted to see the Kommandant. This in itself was a risky endeavor, since a prisoner didn't just walk up to a sentry unannounced. The Germans were sticklers for rules and regulations, and breaching them was dealt with harshly. The guard watched my approach and challenged me right away.

Halt! Geh zurück!" he ordered.

Although I am fluent in German, I ignored his command to stop and go back. I kept walking. The soldier removed the rifle from his shoulder and pointed the attached bayonet at me. Thinking back on it later, I realized what a foolish decision this had been. He had every right to shoot me. I repeated over and over, in German, that I wanted to see the camp Kommandant. Perhaps my German stopped him from shooting me in the head.

"Halt! Mensch, bist Du verrückt?" The guard's eyes widened in surprise when I stood my ground. "Man, are you insane?"

Not about to be deterred, I repeated my request. The sentry motioned with his bayonet for me to back up. I don't know what came over me. Perhaps it was the futility of my predicament or my feeling of injustice over the way we had been treated—in any case, I simply reacted. I grabbed the bayonet, ignoring his instruction, and committed myself to an uncertain outcome. This act in itself should have been ample justification for the guard to have me shot. As bizarre as this was, the sentry didn't fire, but tugged back, trying to retrieve his bayoneted rifle from my grasp. I hung on with all my strength, now realizing that if I let go, he probably would shoot me. We were now in a sort of tug of war, with both of us shouting at each other. The sounds of the ensuing commotion drifted up to the open window of the nearby administration building. I didn't know it at the time, but the open window led to the Kommandant's office.

By sheer providence, the Kommandant was not only in his office, but must have heard the verbal exchange. He poked his head out the window for a better look. At this point, I let go of the bayonet and came to attention. The guard, relieved to have his weapon back, presented arms for his superior.

"Was ist los?" the Kommandant, a major, called out austerely. "What's going on?"

The guard was duty-bound to reply. "Major Zimmermann," he replied, in German. "This prisoner has gone mad. He insists that you listen to his complaint about food rations."

"I will come down myself," the major said.

While the Kommandant made his way down, the guard looked at me with an air of finality. "Mark my words, you are a dead man." There was the faintest trace of pity in his voice.

When the major arrived, he was in full uniform, which included his forage cap and tunic. Even though it wasn't the dress uniform, his pants were clean and pressed, the boots had a high gloss, and his tunic was immaculate, decorated with pilot wings and the iron cross with oak leaves. He made a formidable impression as he approached with a slight limp. Although he was only in his late thirties, he was known to be a no-nonsense officer. It was rumored he had been shot down in his Messerschmitt, which explained how such a young officer had come to be a camp commander and was no longer 'in the field.' The major, though not ruthless, didn't put up with incompetence from any of his men, his officers included, and was thus feared by all.

I saluted and waited for the major to address me. He looked me up and down, as if deciding whether or not he was going to make short work of me.

"Your number?" Zimmermann asked.

"74324, Herr Major," I replied in German.

Perhaps hearing his own language, spoken by a prisoner, softened his approach. "State your complaint," he ordered a little less gruffly.

I related my story, short and to the point, without laying any blame on the guards or embellishing my part. He seemed to listen attentively, and a furtive smile crossed his lips. Once I had finished, he turned to the guard and ordered him to fetch the subordinate in charge of the work detail. Not two minutes later, a sergeant came running. He stopped in front of the major and saluted smartly.

Feldwebel!" Zimmermann addressed him, pointing at me. "Was this man in your harbor detail this morning?"

The sergeant, well aware of the officer's penchant for authority and discipline, assumed I was about to receive some of the same. "Jawohl, Herr Major! He was there, one of six men assigned to the task."

"Did they work all day, and to your satisfaction?"

"Yes, Major."

"Were they fed?"

"No, Major. They received only water."

"Why only water?"

"I don't know, sir."

The Kommandant turned to me and said. "You, come with me."

The sergeant's mouth dropped as he stared at me in disbelief. Taken aback, I followed the major directly into the officer's mess. He approached one of the cooks, startling him by the impromptu visit.

"Get two pails and fill them to the brim—no leftovers," Zimmermann instructed the cook. He then addressed the sergeant. "Make sure this man gets the pails, and then escort him back," he instructed. He then turned and abruptly left the mess.

I stood there mesmerized, watching as the cook followed the order. Once I had my two pails, filled with what smelled like heavenly cuisine, I was escorted back to the gate. The former sentry, not believing his eyes, this time allowed me to pass without a challenge.

"Mensch, Du has ein Schweinsglück," he murmured incredulously. "Man, you don't know what luck is!"

In the meantime, the nearest barrack house had emptied, the men having been alerted by the earlier commotion. I walked back to my barracks, amongst the shouts and well wishes of all. I entered our blockhouse, heralded a fool by some and a brazen hero by others. Naturally, I shared my newfound rations with the other five men of my detail. I still remember dozens of arms reaching out toward me, hoping to get a small morsel from the pail. Naturally, I gave much of it away.

For once, there was ample food for the starving men of German Stalag IIIC.

 * * * * * *
Gayle again: Thanks for sharing, Rob. That was great stuff. You can find Rob's books on Amazon. His author page is http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Stermscheg/e/B004C2RIWA/, which will lead you to both this stunning memoir and his translations of two of Karl May's books. You can also visit his website, http://www.robertstermscheg.com/. I'll be visiting his site this week, talking about the differences of writing historical fiction and writing in the contemporary age.
Rob's Bio:
Robert Stermscheg, born in Europe in 1956, was exposed to many wonderful writers – Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alexandre Dumas, and of course Karl May. He appreciated how they opened up a whole new world to our imaginations through their portrayal of life. His parents were of Austrian descent, and as a result of his father’s occupation as an electrical engineer, he moved several times in his early childhood. His father kept a steady supply of books to broaden his son’s education, including a repertoire of Karl May books.
The entire family moved to Canada in 1967, eventually settling in Manitoba. Robert was involved in chess, hockey, flying, but always kept up his interest in the German language. His passion to share the works of Karl May, largely unknown in North America, resulted in the search for English translations. After retiring from a satisfying career with the Winnipeg Police Service in 2006, he had the opportunity to pursue his dream—translating one of Karl May’s novels into English. His wife, Toni, embraced his dream and encouraged him in the writing process. She supported him in this new venture by being a proof reader.
In 2006, Robert consulted with Nemsi Books, a publisher willing to take on new authors, and embarked on his first book, The Prussian Lieutenant, based on an earlier work by Karl May. His first book was well received, encouraging him to continue with the sequel, The Marabout’s Secret, and then followed up with Buried Secrets. This third book, shifts back to France, enveloping us with tension, as the ruling authority under Napoleon III prepares for a war with its neighbour, Germany. A highlight for Robert has been to collaborate with his father, a former POW during WWII, and write his memoir, entitled POW #74324.
Robert resides in Winnipeg and is currently working on his fourth book, Captain Richemonte.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Like the new look?

A woman gets bored. To un-bore herself, she changes her hair, buys some new shoes, and goes on a bank-robbing spree across seven states.

Or she just changes the look of her blog. Like it? Do these bookshelves make me look fat?

Although I had a very busy weekend, driving to the ends of the world and back, something good was waiting for me at each destination. On Friday, I had a very good riding lesson at the ranch. Then I went to Long Beach and picked up my truly delightful son and all his crap belongings from his dorm room. He's home for the summer and I can already tell I've got another adult in the house, not a teenager anymore (although he's still technically a teen at 18). I ended Friday back at the ranch with a sweet little seven-year old who did a very good job focusing on riding her horse. Afterward, she got to pet the ranch's Macaw, Rio, which was a definite highlight for her.

On Saturday, I was back at the ranch and gave another lesson to an eleven-year old with a few issues. Nothing insurmountable, but sometimes it's hard for her to stay on task, and she has some quirks about horse saliva. She arrived in a rather foul mood, shuffling her feet and grooming the horse in fits and starts, only when prodded. I could have just gone down that black hole with her, but I decided to try for something better.

"You can have a good attitude or a bad attitude," I told her. "It's completely your decision. What would you like to have?"

"A good attitude," she said, scowling.

"Okay, then, look at me." (She has trouble making eye contact.) When she looked up, I threw my hands out and over-smiled, in the geekiest, most over-the-top way possible. "My name's *blank* and I'm gonna have a GREAT lesson!"

It worked. She started laughing and repeated my words. And we were right - we had a great lesson.

I ran home and changed clothes, then hit the road for Los Angeles. Not just the southern corner, but the furthest corner of L.A. from my door. Traffic was amazingly light on the I-5, then ground to a standstill about ten miles from my destination off the I-10. When I pulled into the Palm-Rancho Park Branch Library on Overland, I thought my journey had ended.

Instead I found no parking spaces, partly because several cars had decided they were feeling a little bloated and needed two spaces, a minivan blocking one aisle, and another completely unoccupied minivan blocking the exit. After two trips around, I exited, found a side street to park, and ran across Overland in my little heels. May I just say that Overland is a big, freakin' street with lots of traffic and no cross-walks?

But I did it all for Marla. I've mentioned her before in my posting. I even mentioned her in the acknowledgments for Freezer Burn. Marla Miller has a knack, a gift, a talent, for reading your query letter or synopsis and telling you what's not working. Her website, Marketing the Muse, offers Quick Query Critiques, where she videos herself reading and critiquing queries that are submitted. It's very much like sitting in one of her workshops at the Southern California Writer's Conference, except that she's able to get the audience involved in the critique process as well.

She was speaking at the GLAWS meeting (Greater Los Angeles Writer's Society), doing her quick query thing and pitching the idea of writers helping writers. Networking is not just about meeting someone who will buy or promote your book. It's about reciprocity. Each meetup should result in a win-win, which I'm hoping is happening with my cross-blogging.

I may not have hundreds of followers, but I probably have followers that my guest does not have, and vice versa. And I believe it makes no difference if we're in the same genre or not. Although I read lots of mysteries, they're not the only thing I read. I'm guessing my followers are the same way. For example, maybe someone follows me because they're a friend of mine but they really like historical romance. I get an author on my post who writes historical romance and my friend hasn't heard of them. Suddenly, the author has a new reader and potentially more, if the reader likes their book and recommends them to others.

Of course, I'm hoping that author has some friends who like mysteries and humor...

Marla really hammered that point home on Saturday, along with displaying her awesome skills at identifying the problem with each query. I was happy to have battled the traffic and parking just to hear that I'm on the right track, by offering something of value with my schmoozing.

I support Marla so much that I've added links to her sites on my right-hand column. You can find the link to Marketing the Muse, as well as her new venture, Women Over 45, Speak. This is a fun site for Women of a Certain Age to send her a 3-minute video (vlog) where they talk about anything. Truly. Anything. You can promote your business. You can prattle on about the new grandbaby, or your family or friends. You can rant about something unpleasant. It's a good place for you to speak your mind, and it's a good place for men or women under 45 to go and listen to what we have to say.

I did it. It was fun.

And, in true Marla fashion, for supporting her, she has offered me a couple of neat opportunities. She's going to interview me for her blogtalk radio show (tentatively June 18, but I'll post details). She's also invited me up to the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference for an afternoon to be part of her panel of Entreprenurial Authors. Hopefully, I'll have something insightful to offer. I'll at least have my experiences to share.

I'll end this post with a vlog from Marla - take it away:

Friday, May 20, 2011

A drive-by post

Good morning, Peeps!

I have so much to do today, my head is spinning. It's not always the big things, you know? Sometimes it's trying to remember all the little pieces that go into the big things. For me the big things today are:

1. Go take my riding lesson.
2. Drive (from Chino Hills) to Long Beach and load up my son's stuff from his dorm room. School's out!
3. Drive back to Chino Hills and give a lesson.

Sounds like three things, right? Except it's more, because in between these things I have to:

a. Get some money from the ATM.
b. Get gas in the car.
c. Grab lunch.
d. Fight traffic.
e. Figure out what to do with the dog. (Usually he comes to the ranch with me, but should I take him to Long Beach? Should I leave him to play with the other dogs? Should I just leave him at home?)

It'll all get done in some kind of order, but it did get me thinking that sometimes my writing feels like this. I know what needs to be done, but I have a hard time sorting out the order, so I end up doing a little research here, then a little plotting there, then a smattering of actual writing - gah.

Can't life be a straight line?

In the meantime, here's a video of my friend, Michele Scott, talking about the writing revolution. I love Michele because she's a peach, but especially now, because her enthusiasm for the changes in the publishing industry keep me from being afraid of what's around the corner.

Michele was speaking at the Southern California Writer's Conference in San Diego. Their next conference is in Newport Beach in September. Check it out, and check out her blog.

And off I go. Keep reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Helen Hanson shows you how it's done

I've been hosting horror writers and paranormal writers and it's been so much fun, being scared and abnormal, that when I met thriller writer Helen Hanson, I thought, "Cool! She'll tell me how to thrill people!"

Helen had other ideas, though, and wanted to talk about formatting your beautifully written, wonderfully edited, soon-to-be best-selling manuscript into the various e-book formats. This is a great idea, since I've never given any instructions on anything - only my (big fat) opinions.

So, let's give a warm welcome to Helen Hanson!

* * * * * *

An Ebook Formatting Primer - See Jane Format. Format, Jane, Format.

As indie writers, we’re inherently do-it-yourselfers. But between time, talent, and resources, it’s nice to farm some jobs out to experts. In my case, I was quick to offer happy cash to a talented artist for my cover. But formatting my novel, 3 Lies, for the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks platform was as natural for me as fetching was to Spot.

As Gayle’s guest blogger for the day, I’m here to provide a primer on the main ebook formats, the process, and the tools used to format ebooks for the dominant self-publishing sites. After reading this, you may decide you want to format your own ebook, or you may decide that you’d rather remove your own spleen. If the latter, at least you can feel good about the money you spend on a professional.

The ebook world for indie authors is split between two main format types. Amazon uses the .mobi (aka .prc or .azw) file format, while Barnes & Noble and iBooks use the .ePub file format. While the tools to create these ebook files are different, the skills you need are the same.

Most formatters agree that you get the best ebook results if you start with an HTML file of your manuscript. Doing this by hand may be beyond your comfort level. Mobipocket Creator is a free program that takes your .doc file and converts it into HTML. From there you can add the table of contents, embedded cover, or the formatting of your choice to generate the final .mobi file.

If reading the letters HTML didn’t send you directly to a bottle of scotch, you can also generate the .mobi file using Kindlegen, another free program. If you go this route, you create your HTML file, a toc file (table of contents), and an .opf file (build file) then turn the crank on the Kindlegen program to generate the .mobi file.

Whatever you use, or even if you pay a professional, verify the final .mobi file using the Kindle Previewer before you release it to the public. Keep all your files for future clip-and-paste purposes with your next book.

For Barnes & Nobles’ Nook or the iBookstore, you need an .ePub file. The .ePub format is a set of files , like a .zip, where each of your chapters becomes a separate file, along with the toc and others. Once you have a clean .mobi file, many people use a free program named Calibre to convert this file to an .ePub.

Try Calibre first. It’s a simple conversion, and if you’re happy with the output, it’s all good. You can verify your .ePub file by downloading the Nook reader and checking out your file.

If your head is gemstone hard, like mine, you can dig into another free program called Sigil to create your .ePub. In my defense, I didn’t know about Calibre at the time. But I was satisfied with my product using Sigil, and I earned enough war stories for a multi-part series on ebook formatting, so all was not lost.

Even Fun with Dick and Jane seemed challenging the first time I read it. And when you need to format your next book, clip-and-paste is your friend. Like anything, it’s always easier the second time.

Thanks, Gayle, for sharing your corner of cyberspace!

* * * * * * *
Gayle again: Thank YOU, Helen, for all the great links to these formatting tools. I didn't know about most of them, and definitely plan to put them to use. You can find Helen's book, 3 Lies, at any of these locations (so there's no excuse not to find it and buy it):

Barnes & Nobel

Amazon UK


At CIA headquarters, a young officer discovers that terrorists may have commandeered their computer systems to launch an unauthorized mission. Elsewhere, conspirators abduct nine people to manipulate the rules of their game. Two disparate ambitions — Clint Masters becomes the reluctant link in the chain of danger.

Ever since Clint’s almost ex-wife dumped him, he bobs along the Massachusetts coast in a sailboat with his black lab for company. He avoids all forms of technology, a counterintuitive effort for the burned-out founder of CatSat Laboratories. Tired of clutching the brass ring, he needed to untether, step off the corporate treadmill, and smell a flower. Fortunately, he met one, a beautiful, unspoiled woman who doesn’t treat him like a commodity. His relationship with Beth offers more promise than his marriage ever did, even if she is on dialysis for her recovering kidneys, until she disappears.

In spite of the evidence, her family refuses to admit she’s in danger. Without routine dialysis, she won’t survive. As Clint realizes that he loves Beth, damn-near ex-wife Paige sashays back into his life with disturbing news.

While the CIA young gun tracks his quarry, Clint enlists the help of two men to find Beth, a blithe Brit named Merlin, and Todd, his playboy partner-in-tech. But Clint must find Beth before her kidneys fail. And before someone unloads a bullet in his head.
And be sure to visit Helen's website.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Save the women and children - Todd Russell's in the house

I offered my blog up for human sacrifice cross-posting and got a few more responses, one of them being Todd Russell, who loves all things scary. He's also got a sense of humor - a manly, scatological, bathroom-giggly, sense of humor. Todd's entry for today has to do with visiting an establishment that has two restrooms, one for men named Richard and one for everyone else.

Take it away, Todd.

* * * * * *

No Dicks vs. Dicks

Check this out, I'm in the women's room and Gayle's in the men's room. Yeah, yeah, we've all done this by accident, but we're doing this intentionally. I get to talk at her blog about Dicks and No Dicks while she is stuck at mine working through her deepest, darkest mind-numbing fears. Who has the lighter gig today?

It's refreshing to come out of the dark and into the light today and say hello to the fine folks following this blog. Please don't take this as being abrupt but I'm going to get right to the story.

Recently I was out with a friend and he wanted to go throw down a beer and we stumbled upon this ramshackle bar in the middle of a town neither of us knew. I mean this place might have been new forty years ago. The only thing fresh there was the grass growing on the leaning roof and the beer bottle caps stuck in the ceiling.

The writer in me was drawn to their curious bathroom labels.

Creativity can be found in the strangest places, huh? But my mind wouldn't stop here, I started thinking about other labels they could have used. I mean, really, why stop at the Dicks thing. So I started making a list of her / him alternative bar bathroom labels:

1. In / Out

2. Hole / Moutain

3. Pink-green / Blue-green (for the eco-conscious)

4. Tidy / Messy

5. Sit / Stand

6. PMS / NFL or NBA or MLB (your choice)

7. Tampon / Temper

8. Romance / Sex

9. Wine / Beer

10. Earth / Wood

This was becoming so much fun that I flirted with asking my twitter friends to help me come up with more but thankfully common sense took over.

I'm going to leave Gayle's bathroom now. I am tidying up on the way out and yes, lifted the seat and washed my hands. I do appreciate the opportunity to come over here and say hello and at resist all temptation to pitch my book. A writer's promotional constipation: we want to promote and it is right there at the surface. But. We. Just. Can't.

Where is the paper towel dispenser, Gayle? No, no, not one of those hand dryers when we have to touch the germ-ridden door handles anyway?

I exit and try to leave behind those brain stealing alternative bathroom labels. It's not working, here's another: Hello / Goodbye.

Todd Russell started writing fiction immediately after he learned how to go to the bathroom on his own. Mental Shrillness, a collection of six twist ending horror stories, is his first book. An Amazon reviewer writes: “I was appalled … the stories are horrifying, disturbing and nauseating at times. I recommend Mental Shrillness to adult readers to challenge themselves on how strange a story they can handle.” You can follow Todd’s work at http://toddrwrite.com/

* * * * * *

Gayle here: Todd may not want to pitch his book, but here are ALLLLLL the sample and buy links to it, even those of you in Germany who are reading this now (Ach!) -

 Amazon US Kindle


Barnes & Noble NOOK

Apple iBooks

Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Amazon UK

Amazon DE (Germany)

Thanks, Todd! Now, please just get out of my restroom. By the way, did you eat the potpourri?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beware the Corgi

My son sent me the following link today:


 The article describes how corgis (the dogs, not the die-cast company) are taking over the world. All I can add to this is, "Well, of course. Haven't you been paying attention?"

The biggest sign of this is that, when I bought my first Corgi, Mikey, and Googled the word "corgi." The first few hits were for the Corgi USA Classic Die-cast Company and their products. The dogs weren't usually found until the second page. Now, the dogs are at the top of the page.


As for me, we're on our second Corgi, and they couldn't be more different. Mikey would charm you out of the world. Duffy just takes it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Even bad moms teach you something

It's Mother's Day and everyone is talking about their moms, and so I feel compelled to do a Mother's Day post because, well, you're all doing it. I might as well do it, too.

Yes, your mom was right: if you all jumped off a cliff, I'd probably be there with you.

I don't talk about my mom. When my friends talk about theirs, and they sooner or later look for me to add to the conversation, I just mumble, "My mom and I didn't have a good relationship," and leave it at that. My friends, God love 'em, don't press me any further.

My mom was a great room mother when I was in elementary school. She made wonderful treats for all the kids. She loved to make Christmases special, and made great Easter baskets. She fussed over us when we got hurt. She taught me to write cursive, and to do arithmetic.

She was also extremely self-centered. The world revolved around her, and I slowly came to understand how everything she did for us was really done for herself. If there was no one there to applaud, it wasn't worth doing. She'd make thirty hand-painted cookies and goodie bags shaped like clowns for our class, but wouldn't pack a lunch for me to take to school. Everyone knew that she was the one who taught me to write cursive and do arithmetic. The epitome of her behavior was when I married Dale, and she told my sister-in-law that she knew I married a black man to spite her

And if you ever did anything she didn't like, it was as if the planet stopped rotating. The TV, which was always on, turned off, the house was dark, and she took to her bed, where she would remain until sufficient groveling had been accomplished. I don't know how long she took to her bed when I married my hubby, but while I was at home, it was an eggshell life.

She lived vicariously through me for years, attempting to control not just my actions but my thoughts, until I finally moved 2,000 miles away. I could never establish a healthy relationship with her, so I kept her at a distance, both in mileage and in emotions, until her death several years ago. I hate to say this, but I felt a huge weight lift when she passed away.

It's possible she had some kind of issue - depression, bipolar, etc. They didn't have those diagnoses back in the day. I know a lot about her childhood that explains her behavior. Unfortunately, none of that understanding helped me when I was a child.

But still, she taught me a lot. These are the things I've learned, and tried to do, for my son:

1. Love the child you have, not the one you want - and let them have their life.

2. Say you're sorry when you've messed up. If you don't teach them how to do it, how will they learn?

3. Doing a bunch of stuff that you want to do for your kiddo is nice, but if you're doing it for the attention, be honest - it's not for them. Be willing sometimes, without martyrdom, to do ONE thing for your child that you'd just rather not do. And, for Pete's sake, don't rub it in! Just show them that people sometimes make sacrifices for their loved ones.

4. Give them a hug even when you'd like to feed them to the neighbor's python. They need to know you'll always love them.

5. Respect them, especially as they become adults. Yes, they're going to make mistakes and do stupid things. So did you. When you're giving them advice, ask yourself: would I say this to a friend? If the answer's No, keep your mouth shut. (This is the one I'm working on!)

The biggest thing I learned was what I understood the moment I held Marcus in my arms: he was a treasure I wasn't supposed to keep. I think that one realization is helping me the most as he transitions into adulthood and independence. (Okay, he's a music major - we're HOPING for the independence.)

What did your mother teach you? Oh, BTW, go to the alwayscoffee blog today for a beautiful, upbeat, uplifting post on a mother who is a jewel.

And if you haven't voted in the poll, I'm always interested in your opinion.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's ready. Now what?

Dear Readers and Mystery Fans,

I received my proof copy of Hit or Missus yesterday, and I must say, it's really just damn fine looking. Writing the second book in my Peri Minneopa mystery series frightened me. I was afraid of the sophomore jinx. I tossed and turned, worrying about the plot, then fought my way through the writing. I can't even tell you how long it took me to write the last 20,000 words. All I can compare it to is that dream where you're running toward the door and it's getting further away at each step.

You've never had that dream?

Trust me, it sucks. No matter how much I wrote, I kept looking at the storyline, thinking, damn, I'm not done yet.

But now it's here and I actually love it. At the LA Times Festival of Books last weekend, I got to practice my elevator pitch, until I found one that worked:

"In Hit or Missus, my private eye is hired to spy on a wealthy, possibly cheating, wife, but the wife's girlfiriends have other ideas. Because, as you know, a friend will help you move. But a good friend will help you move a body."

How's that sound?

So Hit or Missus is ready to go. The paperback looks good. The e-book files are ready for upload to Kindle Direct and Smashwords. I could green-light them all right now.

The question is: Should I? Or should I hold back a little, until I've got the celebration planned, so that I release the book during the release party?

I've got the question up on Facebook, and I'm putting a poll on this blog. What say you?

Warmest regards,

Author (of multiple books!), Columnist, Maven-in-Training

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I had a moment and I liked it

I can take credit card payments!

April 30th - May 1st: Where were you on the weekend in question?

I was at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held on the USC campus for the first time ever. The bad news is, I didn't see any of the festival. The good news is, it's because I was in a booth, selling my books.

I've been to the festival once, two years ago, when Karen Syed of Echelon Press called and said, "I've got 20 copies of your book handy. Want to come and sell them?" (See that post here.)

Last year's festival came and went without much fanfare in my household, mostly because I didn't have a new book out yet, and partly because I was buried in obligations to two booster clubs at my son's school, plus that whole, pesky, He's Graduating business.

Imagine this with one more author!
When Pam Ripling emailed me this year and asked, "How about a bunch of us renting a booth at the festival," I answered in a heartbeat: "I'm in."

There were supposed to be six of us: Pam (aka Anne Carter), Jen Hilborne, Tee Burrell, Joel Fox, Jeff Sherratt, and me. At the very last minute, Jeff had to cancel due to illness (we all hope you're on the mend, Jeff), which left five. This was probably a good thing, although I love Jeff's company and of course don't want him to be sick, but five authors in a booth is a little tight. Jeff's got a lot of books out there, and a big presence.

We might have had to put an author in the tree next to the booth.

L-R: Alyssa Montgomery, Sydney Fox, Pam Ripling
 When you're selling your books, you are constantly talking to everyone who comes by the booth. "Hi, how are you today? Do you like mysteries? What kind of books do you read? Weather's a little warm isn't it? Let me tell you about my books…"

Yadda yadda yadda blah blah.

You also learn to profile people. You somehow instantly recognize That Person Who Likes Mysteries, as well as That Person Who Wants You to Shut Up. And, sooner or later, you learn to recognize people who are just "different."

In my youth I thought of these people as "crazy", "clueless", "avoid-at-all-costs" folks. Now that I've been around the block a few times (mostly because I can't follow directions), and thanks to the world of behavioral analysis, I see these people as just being different than me, in terms of how they process and respond to the world around them.

A man wandered toward our booth. I hadn't paid much attention to his stops along the way, but he was coming toward me, so I greeted him. He was a pudgy man, dressed too warmly for the day, and although he was not odiferous, he had that look about him that said his hygiene was casual, at best. He wore thick glasses over slightly-crossed eyes, and had bad teeth. And when I say "bad teeth", I'm talking spectacularly, intriguingly, bad. Not only were they brown, every other tooth appeared to be missing (at least in the front), and they were skewed in his mouth, as if they were half-a-tooth off from where they should be located.

He spoke quickly, in a kind of thick-tongued way, all about his obsession with movies of the 30's in general and Republic Pictures in particular. He attended their 75th anniversary celebration and got to meet some of their stars, including Peggy Stewart. Within the space of ten minutes, he told me all this and more, about the movies he liked and the stars he recognized in other movies that are now doing bit parts in TV shows. I also learned he has a girlfriend who he likes to talk to using Red Ryder quotes and when she "gets out of line" he threatens to marry her.

Yeah, I'd straighten up and fly right, too.

His eyes had a way of focusing upward as he spoke, so that he never made eye contact for more than a wisp of a second. After about ten minutes, he kind of ran out of steam and moved down the booth to the next person, until he'd exhausted himself and all of us, before moving on.

In the old days, I would have labeled him "odd", or possibly even "crazy." Now I saw a man within the autism spectrum, and understood. No, I didn't want to stand for ten minutes and listen to his turbo-talk, especially when there were people coming up to the booth wanting to know about my books. But he's a human being, and he's socializing the only way he knows how, and I'm a Christian who believes in karma. Either that, or I'm a doormat.

Karma blessed me the very next day. I was driving to Palapas in Fullerton to have a drink with my hubby, thinking about my experiences at the festival, and all of a sudden, it dawned on me:

This weekend, I met Benny Needles.

No, I don't picture him physically like this man, but this is the awkwardly social man who is obsessed with something. Benny has actually been able to rein in his desire to tell everyone everything about Dean Martin. Unless something happened to him, something that caused him to retreat into the only thing that matters: Dino-world.

And in my third Peri Minneopa mystery, that's just what's gonna happen.

Life is good. As Will Varner said, "I feel so good, I might just live fo-EVAH."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Be nice, everyone. David Hesler's our guest today.

As part of my scheme to take over the world generate interest in my books, I've been trolling both Kindle Boards and Kindle discussion groups on Amazon. I met a lovely man, L. David Hesler, who is attempting to do the same... I think. Either take over the world or generate interest in his books. He writes fantasy/horror, so I told him to feel free to write about his genre, as it would expose my readers to something new. Instead, he chose to write about writing, which is also wonderful, because I love to read other writers' thoughts on why we do this crazy thing called story telling. 

Take it away, David:

* * * * * *


I'm no good at it, so let's get that out of the way. Reading a blog post by me is like going to see a blockbuster at the movie theater: you have to lower your expectations enough so that you can come out saying, "Well, those actors certainly were great at breathing!"

I want to thank Gayle for this opportunity. Though I don't know why she was kind enough to ask me to write a guest post for her blog, I am here to honor her request. And one word of caution: just because I tend to write horror doesn't mean I'm a navel-gazing Goth who likes rainy days and graveyards. I prefer to stare at my navel on sunny days.

What I offer you today are three reasons I choose to write (none of which, despite what many would argue, involve clinical insanity).

3) I will never be a doctor or lawyer.

As a kid, I was lucky to have parents who never hoped I would someday pull organs out of abdomens or send rapists to prisons. They never said, "We want you to be a *insert occupation here* when you grow up." Some might suggest this means my parents had low expectations of me. To that I say, "Could be."

I tend to believe, however, that they knew I was the creative type. I was the kid who, while suffering through Cub Scouts, wished there was a badge for making comic books.

Impractical? Maybe. Fun? You bet your biscuits.

So my parents always encouraged me to do the things I liked (within reason). I didn't like blood and judges always frightened me. But, man-oh-man, did I love making up stories.

2) I enjoy being godlike.

That sentence could get me in trouble, so let me explain. I embrace the omnipotent nature of authorship. Since I'm the creative type, I enjoy world-building. I get tickled when I create a character who could seemingly step off the page and shake my hand (or, punch me in the face). I take great pride in developing towns that somehow merge all the best and worst of the places I've lived.

And isn't it wonderful that I can plot a sequence of events simply with my imagination? Or, I can press the backspace key and destroy worlds on a whim. It makes me kind of warm inside.

To be honest, I find it fascinating that I, as an author, control the fates of so many made-up people and places. Though, the more I think about this, the more certain I am that a therapist could retire from my sessions alone.

1) Creativity is my oxygen.

When I don't create, it feels like my brain gets the flu. I don't think straight, I get anxious and my mind aches. If I get caught up in something that keeps me from creating, then I turn into Debby Downer's burly older brother. On these occasions, you can call me Daryl.

I think most creative people feel this way. The artist's mind is like a spiritual lung and it breathes by creating. Fine, in my case, the spiritual lung wheezes and makes occasional bubbling noises. But as long as it's at least breathing, and I'm doing something creative, life is good.

And nothing fills my spiritual lung as much as writing some heart-stopping fiction.

* * * * * * *

Gayle again: Great post, David, although I'm envious that you get to play God in your fantasy worlds. My characters often refuse to do as I've asked, and make me re-write my plot instead.

You can stalk follow David on his blog, http://www.ldavidhesler.blogspot.com/, which also has links to join him on Facebook and Twitter.

Prismatica Description:

1993 - Michael Duncan is a rural police officer. He meets a mysterious young girl during a routine search and rescue mission in the woods of Soldier Creek, a haunted stream on the outskirts of Mason's Post, Missouri. His encounter with this tortured girl has consequences that reach nearly twenty years into the future, when a madman possessed by something dark and primal threatens to tear apart a family... and the fabric of reality itself. As Michael's story unfolds in four different sections, the mystery only becomes more maddening. Why was he chosen? And where will he go when he's fulfilled his destiny?

Are you curious to know more? Find it here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Prismatica-ebook/dp/B004SHEWSC

Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Prismatica/L-David-Hesler/e/2940011262821

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/48669

Also available on iBooks.

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