"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

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Having a lovefest

If you don't know Jenny Hilborne, author extraordinaire, get your tush over to her website and check out her books. I read and loved her first one, Murder and Madness, and I just downloaded No Alibi onto my Kindle, which I will read as soon as I finish John Locke's How I Sold A Million eBooks Neener Neener (or something like that).

Jenny read Hit or Missus and left THE LOVELIEST review on Amazon and Goodreads. She wrote:

"This is the second book in the Peri Minneopa mystery series and the first one I've read. I loved it. Peri is not your typical wise-cracking PI, which adds a refreshing touch to the story. I enjoyed all the characters, especially Dino fan, Benny. The author brings them to life and creates wonderful relationships between them all. Her villains mingle dangerously close to her protag to where you experience the tension first hand. Clever plot and subplots. I'm off to check out Freezer Burn, the first in the Peri series. Excellent job, Gayle."

Thank you, Jen!

I thought I'd share a little Benny (and Dino) love by posting an excerpt from Hit or Missus. Enjoy.

* * * * *

When they got to the easement, she saw a large metal box, one that might house controls for power or phone lines, locked into the narrow area by a large gate. She studied the lock, and considered the climbable nature of the wrought iron. It was unfortunately not as ornate as the homes' fencing, being about six feet in height and mostly straight up, with few crossbars. The vertical bars were punctuated by arrows pointing skyward.

Peri considered the possible outcomes of trying to climb over. At five-feet-nine, she could probably heft her body over the fence, but not without a struggle, which would attract attention. Plus, she really didn't want to snag her clothes, or her skin, on those points. The view she needed was on the other end of this narrow aisle, if she could only find a way in.

She turned to Benny. "Dean Martin ever pick locks?"

"Of course. Matt Helm picked 'em all the time."

"I don't suppose those Matt Helm movies taught you how to pick them."

He laughed. "Don't be silly, Miss Peri." He reached into his pocket and took out a Swiss Army knife. "I learned how to do that in jail."

Peri stepped aside and used the back of her hand to lift her chin and close her gaping mouth, while her new employee proceeded to poke about the inside of the lock with one of the knife's many attachments. He closed his eyes and hummed a little tune as he adjusted the pin and tugged. Finally, she heard the click of victory and Benny handed her the open lock.

"I gotta say, Ben, I'm impressed."

His smile reminded her of when he was a boy and his mother would brag about him while Peri cleaned her house.

"Okay, you stay by the gate," she told him, and handed him her cell phone. "Act like you're busy, fiddling with the phone, texting or checking email or something. If someone comes, whistle."

"I can't whistle, Miss Peri."

"Well, then, cough, or sneeze."

"Which one?"

"I don't care. Sneeze. Loud, though. So I can hear you." She slipped in, past the power box, and crept to the gate at the opposite end.

There were a few well-placed shrubs, which weren't quite tall enough to hide her, but could offer some camouflage for her gray sweats and oatmeal cap. She knelt down, took out her camera and looked through the telephoto lens at the grounds. The grove of trees where Nikki and Tyler hooked up yesterday was easily visible from here. It was a perfect place to rendezvous; too far from the trail to be noticed, with the trees close enough together to hide anyone behind them, unless you were looking for them. Peri leaned back against the fence and waited.

Ten minutes later, she saw a small blonde walk along the cart path, then take a detour, up to the grove. A tall, tan form approached from the opposite direction soon afterward. Peri raised her camera and focused her telephoto lens. It was Nikki and her boy-toy. Peri kept her finger on the trigger and clicked a freeze-frame report of the meeting.

Tyler reached out to hug Nikki, who responded at first, then pushed him away. She appeared cross. Tyler questioned; Nikki whined; Tyler apologized; Nikki pouted; Tyler appealed; Nikki softened; Tyler caressed; Nikki embraced. They kissed, made up, and made out, all to Peri's adoring lens.


Peri whipped around to see Benny in a rigid stance. She heard footsteps on the sidewalk, so she scooted around to the side by the power box and crawled behind it, just as a man's voice spoke.

"Good morning."

"G-g-g-ood morning, Mister Officer." Benny's voice was about three octaves above normal.

Shit, a police officer, she thought. If Benny doesn't go into Dino mode, he's gonna have a freaking heart attack.

"Someone called and said you'd been out here for awhile. I guess they were worried that you were lost or something."

Benny giggled like six-year old girl. "No, no. I-I-I was out for a walk, see? And, I started messing with my new phone, and I wasn't - um - sure of some of the buttons and then I got it stuck in some kind of mode and I forgot about walking and just kinda stood here playing with it."

Peri was surprised. It was a halfway decent explanation. She heard the officer laugh.

"Yeah, I've done that too."

"Hey, at least I wasn't driving." Benny's voice had returned to normal, and Peri detected some Dino-swagger to it.

"Good point. Well, I was just making sure you were okay. You have a nice day, sir."

"You, too, Officer. Thanks for checking up on me."

Peri listened for the footsteps to diminish. The sound of an engine meant the officer had returned to his patrol car. She watched the black and white sedan pass Benny, then turn around in a driveway and leave, before she exited, making certain to lock the gate behind her.

"Let's go," she said.

* * * * *

Now then, go buy the dang book. LOL!

Go see Laurie - I hear she has cookies

In the whirlwind of discussions on the Internet, or perhaps because I'm having a toddler moment ("ooh, a shinier toy"), I can't remember whether I met Laurie on Kindle Boards, or in the Amazon Discussion Forums. But meet her I did, and she offered to let me guest on her blog.

Go visit Laurie's Interviews & Guest Blog Spots today. She asks fun questions.

As a matter of fact, put her on your regular reading rotation. A lot of nice people show up to talk about books.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dragging my feet... until I jumped

I did not want to be a self-published author.

In the old days, I saw what self-published authors produced. God love 'em, for all their good intentions, there was a sea of poorly written, badly formatted, cheaply bound dreck out there, all with hideous covers. My dear, departed uncle wrote a few books like that. He was a really good artist, but not such a good writer. I loved him, but couldn't bring myself to buy his books.

Thank you, no. I'll find a real publisher. Which I did, for FREEZER BURN. The book turned out really nice and I'll always be grateful for the experience. But for the next book, I decided I wanted to try something different.

Back when I was slogging my way through the writing of HIT OR MISSUS, I had this idea for a book of my newspaper columns. I wanted to write a kind of memoir around them and talk about how I got the job, the ideas for some of the columns, feedback from readers, etc. I'd call it WHAT WOULD ERMA DO? Referring, of course, to the great lady herself, Erma Bombeck, with whom I share a birthday.

I approached agents and publishers, who all said, "That sounds interesting. The thing is, you're not famous. Call us when you're Dave Barry."

First of all, I'm pretty sure that's identity theft. Second, I don't think my husband wants to be married to Dave.

When I had almost given up, I met up with a friend who is a prolific and very traditionally published writer. She had recently gotten the rights back to some of her titles, so she threw them onto the Kindle for consumption and was selling a lot. I mean, A LOT. Like, in a very short time, she was able to pay bills with her monthly income.

Hmm. Think-think-think. I already had a readership for my columns. My book of columns was a departure from my novel. I've already been published by a legitimate publishing house. What would it hurt to do my column book on my own?

I researched the online tools, hired an artist to do the cover, and threw WHAT WOULD ERMA DO to the masses as a paperback and an e-book.

And just like that, I was self-pubbed.

In the meantime, I finished HIT OR MISSUS and shopped it around. The entire time I was trying to find it a home, my FREEZER BURN readers were tapping me on my cyber-shoulder. "When's the next one coming out?" was their common question. Agents loved my story. They praised the pacing, the dialogue, the characters. However, it wasn't "right" for them at the moment. I knew what this meant. Agents need to sell to the big houses, and the big houses aren't buying midlist authors because they're only interested in The Blockbuster. I'm no idiot. HIT OR MISSUS is a good, solid, midlist mystery.

So, once again, I took the reins in my own hands. It was easier the second time around. I knew how to do pre-promotion work, how to format the book better, etc.

Suddenly, I wasn't just self-pubbed, I was an Indie Author.

As I prepared for the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference, I thought about how far my thinking had come and what it meant to me. There is still a lot of dreck out there, and the hope is that readers will discover the non-dreck, but in the meantime, the indie authors who want to not only succeed in the business but also raise self-publishing out of the mire and into the mainstream must push themselves constantly toward perfection. Our books must be high quality, in both content and form. We must write better than our best work, to show the world that Indie Authors are serious about their craft.

And then I thought about my life. I won't get embarrassingly personal, but I was raised in a very co-dependent home with a closet alcoholic and a family full of people who wanted to be in the middle of my brain at all times. Psychologically, people raised this way spend their lives trying REALLY HARD to appear NORMAL, which means they end up as overachievers.

After that, I worked as an engineer for years, in a field populated by a lot (not all) of men. Our employer made certain our pay was equal and harassment was treated seriously, etc. But there was an understanding about what women could do versus men: the guy sitting next to me could be an aggravating slob and they'd call him assertive. If I did it, I was a bitch.

So I've learned to work harder and smarter, just to be considered equal to those around me. Do I have to continue doing this to convince people my books are as good as the authors at Random House?

Bring it on. I'm not afraid of a little work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flotsam and jetsam

I so love that phrase, I used it two or three times in HIT OR MISSUS and had to go through and rip out all but one occurrence. Damn.

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to drive to Santa Barbara to be Marla Miller's guest panelist at the SB Writer's Conference, I had a Really Big AHA Moment about being an Indie author (which makes me want to wear a fedora and buy a bullwhip, BTW). I drove home thinking, gee, what an excellent blog post that will make - I'm gonna write that as soon as I get home!

Except that I got home after two-and-a-half hours on the freeway and thought, well, nothing, because my brain had turned to oatmeal. Instead, I watched last week's episodes of So You Think You Can Dance with my hubby and tried to point out where my friend, Megan, and I had been in the audience. We were waaaayyyyy off-camera, but when Cat Deeley is in the upper aisle behind the judges, there's a lady's hands in the lower left corner of the screen.

We're in her row.

So the Indie-AHA will wait for another day, while I turn my attentions to writing my weekly column. I usually write it on Tuesday nights, but we're going to see Les Miserables at the Ahmanson tonight, so I will probably NOT want to write about the spider in my shower when I get home from being thrilled. I also need to wash a few clothes. Like, all of them.

In the meantime, I'm going to post a video of my dog chasing the water spraying from the hose. Just because.

Later, Peeps.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Now I'm over here.

Geepers, I'm everywhere these days.

I woke up this morning to find myself on Babs Book Bistro, being interviewed. Thanks, Babs, for such entertaining questions! Unfortunately, we were advertising the HIT OR MISSUS Goodreads Giveaway - I didn't know when my interview was going to be posted and I thought the giveaway would go through the deadline.

(Note to self: read the fine print.)

Then I did the Blogtalk Radio interview with Marla Miller. Before the interview, I was completely obsessing about my morning allergies. I describe it as "morning gunk" that makes me sound stuffy and nasally, and I cough until the sun comes out. But once the interview started, I think I only coughed once. Not too bad. Here's the interview:

Listen to internet radio with MarketingtheMuse on Blog Talk Radio

If you listen carefully, you can hear me playing with Duffy in the background. Dogs are like children - they never want your attention quite as much as when you're on the telephone.

At 2 p.m. today, I'm at the Placentia Library, launching HIT OR MISSUS (the other books will be available for sale, too). Someday I'd like to do a book launch by shooting my book out of a cannon. That'd be cool.

In the meantime, I'm packed and ready to scoot to the library. Cookies are baked. Lemonade and ice have been purchased. Booker & Hatch are rarin' to go.

Life is good.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm not here

Well, I am, but I'm not. I'm really over at another blog today, sharing a few laughs with a new friend, Karen Cantwell. She and her friends, Barbara Silkstone and L.C. Evans share a little corner of the Internet called "A Moose Walked Into a Bar." It's a serious examination of alcoholism in the moose population.

Just joking. It's a comedy blog. (Really? You thought I was serious?)

I met Karen through, hmm, either the Amazon Discussion groups or Kindle Boards - I don't honestly remember which, but we hit it off and she invited me to be her guest. Karen also writes humorous mysteries. Her Barbara Marr Mysteries are about a suburban mom who, like so many sleuths, is constantly in hot water because she can't keep her nose out of things.

Karen has four books out: Take the Monkeys and Run, The Chronicles of Marr-nia, Foxy's Tale, and her latest, Citizen Insane.

Check her out at www.karencantwell.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What are you doing on June 18th?

Listening to Marla Miller's Blogtalk Radio Show, Marketing Our Muse? Because she will be interviewing me at 9:30 PST. I have no idea what I'll be saying, but I'm hoping I'll at least be awake.

If you miss the live version, you can always click on the link above and hear the broadcast later. She's always got fun and interesting things to talk about, so set your cyber-dial to her station!

In the afternoon, you could be at my book launch party. Oh, yeah, that's right - HIT OR MISSUS will be feted at the Placentia Library from 2-3 p.m. on June 18th. My plan is to offer some cookies and lemonade, talk a little bit about the book, Placentia, and the library, then autograph away. I'm putting together a basket to raffle off - the proceeds will go to the library. In it, you can win an autographed copy of HIT OR MISSUS, a gift card to a local restaurant (not sure which one yet), and a Joe Sample CD.

I've included the Joe Sample CD because it is referenced in one of the chapters of the book. The chapter is below, just to whet your appetite for more:

 * * * * * * * 

Two steps into her kitchen, Peri's shins made contact with a soft but immovable object. She stuttered forward, trying to stay on both feet and hold onto the bag of Chinese food she'd just bought at Pick Up Stix. The object yowled as her foot came down on it and she fell to her knees, sending her chicken teriyaki bowl and egg rolls dashing across the floor and into the wall, where the container tops exploded.

"Ow-ow-ow." Pain pulsed from her hands to her elbows, her knees to her hips. She eased back onto her heels and rubbed her palms, looking at the chaos that was supposed to be her lunch, now splashed on the wall and floor.

Her new guest wandered over to the mess and sniffed. He picked up a piece of chicken and proceeded to shred and eat it.

"Damn cat, I forgot about you." Peri stood and limped to the paper towels.

Mr. Mustard sat and licked his paws while she picked up the food, then bolted away when she got out the spray bottle of cleanser.

Later, as she curled on the couch and ate a peanut butter sandwich while reading her notes, she felt a warm prickle on the back of her neck, as though she was being watched. She looked up to find two large, yellow eyes staring, unblinking, at her.

"Finding everything you need here?" She reached out and rubbed his ear. "Poor kitty, losing Bob and Dottie within a month. Don't worry, I'll find a good home for you. Someone who loves kitties."

Peri finished her sandwich and thought about Bob and Dottie. It wasn't unusual for elderly couples to die within weeks, or even days, of each other. Still, she thought it was curious.

She wadded up her napkin, and heard a strange, giggling sound. The cat at her side leaped to attention, staring at the paper ball in her hand. She held it up.

"You want this?"

The cat's tail vibrated. Peri threw the napkin across the room and watched him run after it, capture it, and return to her, the napkin in his mouth. She laughed and threw it again. The tabby gave chase, then dropped the napkin at her feet and waited. They spent a few minutes in this game, until the cat suddenly walked away and curled up in the window for a nap.

Peri thought about their game, and remembered the morning's events.

The paper Mr. Mustard gave me – "DECIDE NOW" – what was that phone number? She closed her eyes and visualized the note. It had been written in bold, dark print, making it easy to recall. Five-five-five, oh-six-two-four. She reached for the phone and dialed.

A woman answered, her voice low and words enunciated. "Keller and Patterson, how may I direct your call?"

"I'm sorry, I think I misdialed - is this 555-2624?"

"No, ma'am, it's oh-six-two-four."

Peri apologized once more and hung up. Why would Dottie have a note to call her client's office?

Forcing herself back to her own case, she logged on to her laptop and did a preliminary hunt for Nikki Simms Keller. A pass through the woman's internet presence was enough to give Peri indigestion. According to Classmates, Nikki Simms enjoyed life as a high school cheerleader before attending the University of Southern California as a communications major.

She checked Facebook next. Usually, people had their privacy settings so no one could read their information, but updates to the online social network sometimes reset preferences. Nikki's privacy settings were in the middle of the road, so Peri could see some of her information, such as her friends, her photos, and her notes.

Looking at her friends' photos, Peri saw one that looked familiar, Carol Hanlon. Carol was a woman she had once cleaned house for and was now in her Facebook friend list. She guessed Carol was Nikki's friend because they both belonged to the Alta Vista Country Club. Clicking on Carol's name, Peri was able to read some of Nikki's status updates.

"Party time tonight for all my Bettys," was the latest.

What are Bettys"? Peri searched the Internet, trying to figure out the meaning. Google was of no help; all of the pages were about businesses with 'Betty' in the name.

"No, I don't mean Betty's Baked Goods," she told her computer.

She printed basic information about her client's wife, including her previous addresses and criminal history. Peri glanced at them as she put them into a large purple folder with a number on the top. Apart from a few recent traffic citations, Nikki had no criminal history, and it didn't look like she had spent any significant time outside California.

The question of Dottie Peters and Don Keller's development firm tugged at the back of Peri's brain, so she decided to take a break and do a little digging in another direction. She was still wandering aimlessly through Dottie and Bob's histories when she heard a key in the back door, followed by the sound of the hinges, a simultaneous thump and cat's scream, and then Skip's growling expletives.

"Watch out for the cat," she said.

An orange streak flashed by her as the cat ran toward the bedroom. Skip walked in a few moments later with a bottle of beer.

"Thanks for the warning." He reached down and kissed her before collapsing into the couch.

"Rough day?"

"Not bad, except for Dottie. Death just leaves me feeling kinda… spent."

Peri put her laptop aside and wrapped her arms around him. "Sorry, Babe. Even when someone's older, it's hard." She kissed his neck. "And the older I get, the younger Dottie seemed."

They sat, entwined, for awhile, listening to the music from the stereo. Peri had put on Joe Sample, and the strains of smooth jazz piano floated through the room like a grown-up lullaby.

She reached for his beer. "What's for dinner?"

He glanced at his watch. "It's pretty early. We could go for sushi."

Peri caught his wrist and checked the time. "Five on a Tuesday. Hmm, I guess Fish in a Bottle won't be that busy."

Their heads bent together towards the watch, his upper lip close enough to brush her lower one. In less than a second, they were kissing, losing themselves in the moment while they tried not to spill the beer.

"How hungry are you?" He nuzzled her neck. "Could we get something a little later?"

"Mmm, sounds tempting, but I could eat shoe leather right now. The damn cat spilled my lunch."

He kissed her again. "Here one day and he's already ruining our love life."

She stroked his cheek. "Well, feed me and we can get back to business."

* * * * * * *

No RSVP is needed, for the radio show or the launch party. Just show up and have fun!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Take the rest of the day off

I know I'm supposed to be hawking the new book at every turn, and I do love this new one and am probably spending unhealthy amounts of time looking at my Amazon rankings.

But this is Friday and I'm sick of saying, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Look over here! New book! Over here!"

So here are a couple of videos. One is my friend Marla Miller, doing a Quick Query Critique. Subscribe to her and learn, Grasshoppers:

The other one is just for fun. I've posted this before, but it makes me laugh until I weep EVERY time I watch it. Laughter is good for you:

Keep reading and writing, Peeps.

Proud Member of ALA!

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