"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, March 25, 2012


Am I the only one who has categories of friends? You know, you really like A and you really like B, but you know if you ever get A and B together, fur will fly, heads will roll and the countdown to world destruction has started.

Tameri Etherton is not one of those friends. I could get her together with anyone else I know and not worry about the outcome. She's hysterically funny and smart as a whip and honestly true and will suck you into her funny-smart-cool-honest universe in the best possible way.

This is her birthday week, and this is her blog: A Cup of Tea and Sorcery. She's playing a game of Get-To-Know-Me and has tagged everyone who tunes into her blog. Here are the rules:

  1. You must post the rules. (check)
  2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged. (kind of check, I’m using the same questions)
  3. Tag eleven people and link to them. (again, kind of check. I’m opening this to everyone. It’s Tameri's birthday week, so I'm following her lead.)
  4. Let them know you’ve tagged them. (consider yourself tagged!)
If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
Probably Alice's Wonderland. When I was a kid, I enjoyed thinking about what life would be like on the other side of the mirror, or if the house was upside-down. As much as I am organized and logical, I romanticize the topsy-turvy life.
Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
I can read anywhere, as long as people leave me alone to do it. Yes, that includes noisy places, and even while I'm watching TV. The worst place for me to read is actually in bed. I can't concentrate for some reason.
What was the first book you ever read?
I'm sure I don't remember - my mom used to buy me these weird books about children and young animals (puppies and colts) where the moral of the story was always about being happy that you're normal. Gah, who wants to be a happy normal? The first book I REMEMBER and took to heart was Call of the Wild by Jack London. Even though it ended sadly, the adventure was worth it.
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Waaaa! Don't make me choose! Can I have The Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Favorite author?
Difficult choice. I'm all over the map, stylistically, from Willa Cather to Dean Koontz to James Thurber. And then there's Ray Bradbury and Erma Bombeck and Raymond Chandler and... forget it. I don't play favorites with my children either - oh, wait, I only have one of those.
Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
Only if they are in-depth examinations of what worked and what didn't.
Fiction or Non fiction?
Have you ever met your favorite author?
I've met Ray Bradbury, which was a real treat. And, upon meeting Val McDermid, I blurted, "I love you!" Which is awkward, since she's gay and I didn't mean that kind of love.
Kindle or Paperbacks?
Either. I don't care about the delivery mode, just the words.
Classic or Modern Novels?
Classics - if you include pulp fiction as "classic."
Book Groups or Solitary Reading?
Believe it or not, I've never been in a book club. I'd like to try it someday. In the meantime, I'm a solitary gal.
OKAY, it's your turn, if you want. I'd love for everyone to play along, because I'm uber-curious about everyone. If you do this, leave me a comment with a pointer to your blog, so I can go find out what makes you tick.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a Merrie Melody about books.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do not adjust your TV*

*For you young'uns, this was a line from the TV show "Outer Limits", which claimed to take over your TV set for an hour every week. If I could only have that power...

What I mean to say is "Calm down everyone. Everything's fine."

You may notice, to the right of the page, there is something missing. Freezer Burn is no longer advertised. If you go to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, you will not be able to order it in e-book form. It looks like it's still available in paperback, but I think you may only be able to get it from third-party vendors before too long.

It's okay.

My contract with the publisher for the rights to Freezer Burn ended this summer, so I sent her a little "head's up" email that I planned to take my rights back. Not because I was horribly unhappy and trying to gnaw my foot off to escape, but because I have found, even with all the work I'm doing to promote and market all my books, I just like having the control. It makes it easier. Mostly, I like being able to fiddle with the price and offer freebies and do things that I don't need anyone else's consent to do.

I sent the early email primarily so I could buy up any leftover stock of my books. I figured, if she had cases and cases of my books laying around, I'd need to know now so I could start saving my pennies to purchase them all. She's a busy publisher, and I thought I'd hear from her eventually and we'd work it all out and I might have Freezer Burn republished by the fall.

Imagine my surprise when she sent me a very cordial email, granting my request early. As in, that day. Turns out, she only had 26 copies of my book left, so that was an easy purchase. And just like that, with a snap of the fingers and a letter via email, my rights to Freezer Burn reverted back to me.

This means, instead of working on the third mystery and the Snoopy memoir, and even the horse show mystery, I am frantically digging out my final draft of Freezer Burn, commissioning my cover designer to put something together and trying to get my first book back on the e-shelves.

Stay tuned - I'll definitely keep you all posted. While you're waiting, here's a little craziness for you to watch over and over again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What should be the writer's goal?

I've been trying for years to find a critique group that works for me. I admit, I may not have been trying as hard as I could. After all, I get a lot of mileage out of my two yearly writer's conferences, and I have writer friends who like being my beta readers. Still, I keep hearing of people who are in these fabulous writing groups and I can't help but long for that sense of cameraderie.

This week, I saw a meeting advertised in my Meetup.com group - I don't know why I'd never seen it before, but it struck me that it was a good time and good night for my schedule. I printed off copies of my first chapter and headed to the coffee house.

One aside before I get into the story I'm telling: I've been losing a little more weight and feeling a little happier about my size, so I wore a silk blouse I haven't worn in a long time because it fit so nicely. When I got to the coffee house, I found it has two rooms, the small room where you order stuff, then the big room with lots of tables that's kind of an enclosed patio. The order room was so insanely hot that by the time I got my tea, let's just say I was moist. I quickly moved into the bigger, cooler room, met the people in the group, sat down at the table and - suddenly smelled an odor. A human odor. The garlicky smell of body odor. So my first thought is, OMG-IS-THAT-ME? Did I somehow wear a silently stinky blouse to this gig, a blouse whose odor was released as soon as heat hit it? Not a good first impression. I'm OH-SO-HAPPY to report it wasn't me, but I spent most of the evening sitting as quietly and as downwind as possible.

Now that I've given you TMI, here's what I really wanted to talk about: I mostly liked this group. They had a lot of good writing, some good critiques, and were very welcoming. Then something happened that, while it didn't turn me off, left me with some serious headscratching.

A couple of the women at the table shared the same ethnic background. As one of the women passed around her work to be read, she apologized for the cultural bent of the piece and told all the newcomers that the rest of the group "puts up with her" cultural references. Here's the thing - I didn't find any of her references particularly obtuse or confusing. I understood it, to the point of asking if I had missed something.

"Well, they have *this style furnishings* in their home," the other woman replied. "And the way the mother said *that line of dialogue*." (I'm using the *'d phrases to avoid discussing the exact ethnicity.)

Um, okay. The decor was cultural. But the mother sounded like almost any mother I know, even me. The theme she had written about was universal. I felt like I got it, got what the piece was saying, and they were trying to tell me I couldn't have gotten it because I wasn't of that culture.

So my question is this: should a writer invite all readers into their cultural world and investigate issues that are common to everyone, or should a writer limit their work to readers who know their culture and can step in line with the characters?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pinterest, shminterest.

Everybody and their dog have been singing the praises of Pinterest. I'm not a lemming, so I listened politely for awhile, until a bunch of my author friends began using it. Then I decided maybe I should check it out and see how it could be useful to me.

For about a week after I got my Pinterest account, I would log on, look at how to "pin" things and create "boards", then get exhausted thinking about it and log off. After awhile, I was getting a lot of followers and feeling badly, because what were they following? A user with no content? Really?

Over the past couple of days, guilt overwhelmed me and I started a couple of boards with a couple of pix. I've got "Peri's Haunts" with pictures of places I use in Freezer Burn and Hit or Missus (and the 3rd book, soon), and "My Horses" with pictures of Frostie and Snoopy.

Today, I know how this Pinterest thing can be useful. I posted a picture of Snoopy the night he was born with a quote from the memoir I'm writing. People I've never heard of are "re-pinning" the picture. (P.S. Re-pinning is when other people pin your picture to other places and kind of pass it around.) I could let these people know when Snoopy's memoir gets published and who knows?

What do you think? Oh, my Pinterest link is http://pinterest.com/gaylecarline, if you're p-interested.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How's the writing coming along?

People ask me that all the time. I don't know the answer. As a matter of fact, when I typed the words, they actually don't make any sense. How is the writing... progressing?

One word at a time.

When I first got serious about writing and wanted to write an entire novel, I didn't know what kind of story I wanted to tell. It was disturbing, let me tell you, to feel like I had this ability to put some pretty nifty words together and yet couldn't think of a damn thing to say. As a last resort, I took a short story I had been fiddling with for years, and made turned it into a novel. A really bad one. A really bad novel that taught me so many things:

1. Sometimes short stories are short for a reason.
2. It may have been bad, but I was capable of writing 90,000 words that had a beginning, a middle, and an end (more or less).
3. Clever writers might be able to bend the rules, but people learning to write a novel should listen to the experts.

When I got the idea for Freezer Burn, I made sure I was writing an active, perky-paced mystery. I fell in love with the characters and the plot and tried to make my readers love them, too. After I had finished (and edited, etc.) it, I got a publisher's interest so quickly that I didn't have to split my time between writing the next story and trying to push this one out of the nest.

This was a good thing, because I didn't have a next story. I knew I needed to write another Peri mystery, but I had no idea what kind of story to plop her into next.

Slowly, painfully, Hit or Missus took shape. It was a difficult child, but I finally wrestled it into a book I was finally proud to put my name on. In many ways, I love it as much, if not more, than Freezer Burn.

As soon as it was published, I knew the kind of story I wanted to tell. The third mystery, which is half-way written, deals with murder and arson. I'm burning Benny's house. He loses at least some of his Dino memorabilia, and of course, there's a stray body in the house when the fire is doused. I'm on the back nine, so to speak, of the mystery. It should be a breeze from here. Except...

I've been thinking of what to write after this book. I'll return to Peri, but first I want to write a mystery set in the AQHA horse show arena. The idea came to me one weekend when I was showing my horse, Snoopy. One still-yet-dark morning, I walked down the barn aisles at the L.A. Equestrian Center, passing by the mounds of used shavings that are dumped at the end of each aisle, to be picked up by a tractor once or twice a day. I suddenly imagined a pair of boots sticking out of the shavings, and a worker, thinking someone had thrown them away, trying to pick them up, only to find feet still in them.

And here we go, into a strange new world of trainers and riders and show promoters, all with their own motives and agendas.

So when I'm not writing the book I'm on, I'm thinking of my cast for the new book. Except...

While I was at the Southern California Writer's Conference, two interesting things happened. The first is, I sat in on a workshop given by Charmaine Hammond, author of On Toby's Terms, a book about their rambunctious Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She is a dynamite speaker, full of ideas on marketing and promotion, and I couldn't write fast enough.

The second thing that happened was that I met a lady I have been conversing with through Facebook, Debbie Emerson Echelberger Haas (tell me I'm not the only one who sings "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" when I read her name). She told me she's from San Marcos, which is where Snoopy went to meet Dr. Martinelli. Naturally, I had to prattle on a bit about why Snoopy had gone to see him, and Debbie said, "You should write a book about his experience, for kids who have accidents and injuries."

I don't think I'm ready to write a kid's book. I know they are the hardest, not the easiest, books to write, and I know how flooded the market is. However, the two interesting things collided in my brain to produce a desire to write Snoopy's memoir, from his perspective.

Fortunately for me, there was a workshop that day where you could pitch your book to an editor and a publisher and they would tell you whether you were being clear, telling too much/too little, or even had something marketable. I sat down and wrote and rewrote (and rewrote) furiously, then walked into the workshop and rewrote a little more. This is what I pitched:

"A young horse tells his story of becoming a champion, breaking his leg, then fighting to return to the show arena, to prove he's the same horse, only different."

The publisher, Jennifer Silva Redmond, said, "First of all, I'm your audience. I was a horse crazy girl and you've plugged in to that part of me that still wants to read a good horse story." She looked around the room and continued, "And I think there are probably more women in this room who were horse crazy girls and would read a good horse story."

Almost every woman in the room raised their hand.

So now I'm about 10,000 words into Snoopy's story. It's fun to get into his voice and see the world from his view. At the ranch, we tease that Snoopy is our four-legged Forrest Gump, so interpreting life for him is both a writer's challenge and dream.

From not knowing what to write about, I'm now juggling three completely different stories. Each day, a different one tugs at my sleeve, wanting my attention. How is my writing coming along?

One word at a time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Avert your eyes

I run a pretty PG-rated blog here. If you don't count mammograms, I write pretty clean stuff, and truly, having your girls molded like Silly Putty before being flattened in a George Foreman Grill is not exactly stimulating, if you know what I mean. I don't want to put one of those "Are you 18?" filters on my blog because that's not what I'm about.

So I'm going to tell you a story today, but I'm going to use a few word substitutions in order to keep it clean. Think of it as the same way TV blurs certain body parts.

Back in February, I went to the Southern California Writer's Conference and had a whale of a good time. I hung out with friends, I learned a lot in workshops, and I even got an idea for a new book.

I also took a field trip. My friend, Tameri Etherton, has described this trip in her blog, but she left out a few things that I need to mention. Because the whole story is funny - but I'll keep it clean, I promise. Wink, wink, nod, nod.

Tameri writes fantasy. On Friday evening, she was talking about this evil character she is writing, one who is a Lipizzan but might be Bi-Coastal. This character uses Socks as a weapon, and is into Bandaids and Shadow Mannequins. Since Tameri is not a Bi-Coastal woman into Bandaids and Shadow Mannequins, she thought maybe she should visit a prone shop to get some information on the subject.

The bookseller  at the conference was happy to provide us with the name of a shop and general directions, so Tameri and I, along with our friend Linda made plans. As we left, Michael asked if we'd be at the bar later.

"Yes, we just have to visit the prone shop first," I told him.

"Can you pick me up some of those things that do this and that and play a little song?" he asked.

"Sure." I'm always happy to do a favor for a friend.

We spent a little time driving around blocks, looking for the shop. At one point, Tameri asked me to use my SmartPhone to find it. I tried, but finally had to admit my phone does not have a category for what we were looking for.

Finally we found it, then found a parking space, then entered The Store. I noticed on the way in, how jaunty and well-lit it looked from the street, and how covered and shady it was up close. Once inside, the lights were harshly bright. I guess they did not want any dark corners for anyone to do anything, um, unseemly.

As we first walked in, there was an entire wall to our right of DVDs for happy men. Very. Happy. Men. We were, thankfully, the only ones in the store, although I suppose the entire staff can now watch us on the security tapes and laugh at the three middle-aged gals with wide, Bambi-eyes, wandering around.

Tameri went immediately to the clerk, who was trying out for the role of Lisbeth Salamander's younger sister, and explained exactly what she wanted and exactly why she wanted it. ("I'm a writer. I'm doing research" - yeah, like they haven't heard that one before.)

Linda and I wandered, separately. I'm not certain what Linda was shopping for, but I was trying to read labels to figure out what things were used for, without looking like I was reading labels to figure out... Oh, well, you know. I don't know why I would want to appear hip and knowledgable in a prone shop, but there you go.

Sooner or later, Lisbeth Junior found a couple of Lipizzan DVDs for Tameri. As Tameri turned around to go to the counter and pay, she came face to face with an entire wall of the largest Waldos she (or I and possibly Linda) had ever seen. Her face looked just like this:

Of course, she screamed like a girl.

We had decided earlier that we must also get something for Michael, but what? It had to be funny without being crude. Not easy in this store. Tameri spotted the perfect thing at the counter. A box of Gummi candy, in the shape of... Globes, yes, that's it. Gummi Globes.

As the clerk processed Tameri's purchases, she asked, "Need lube?"

Tameri, of course, did not need her oil changed, so she declined. After one more query about a small pink octopus on the counter ("It's Very Vibrant," explained the clerk), we left.

Michael enjoyed his Globes, more than Tameri enjoyed her DVDs. But at least she learned something.

We all did. So many people wanted to come with us, next year, we're getting a bus.

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