Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Have You Helped A Writer Today?

I picked up a copy of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen and David L. Hancock. I haven't started reading yet because I'm bogged down with other things, but every now and then I pick it up and skim. It looks really good. Just from browsing through it I'll say it's a book every author should have. Lots of ideas and encouragement between the covers and I venture to say that reading this book will stimulate more ideas. Okay, okay, I know the reviews on Amazon are mixed. The fiction writers think it's mainly for NF writers, but I believe we can take most of the suggestions in this book, put our own twist on them and make them work for us one way or another. What have we got to lose? About twenty bucks and some time. And speaking of time ...

Most writers have full time jobs. With all the signings, speaking engagements, tweeting, facebooking, blogging, writing and rewriting, editing, etc. ... My head spins! I have to wonder, where does family come in?

Here's a tip I learned from a selling mystery writer I know: Not one piece of mail leaves her house without having some kind of promotional item inside it. On the outside of the envelope, she has a return address stamp with the cover of her book. So yeah, tuck a bookmark in with your water bill or leave it with a tip in a restaurant. Get a rubber stamp made that has your website or blog address on it. It could look like this or be more creative:


I think one of the best ways to get known and sell books is to speak at conferences and to writers' groups. Speakers always sell books--on the spot. It's a bird-in-the-hand-get-'em-while they're-hot thing. If a speaker doesn't have books on hand to sell, he's missing a huge opportunity; most people won't go home and order it.

Don't like speaking? Not good at it? Scared? Join Toastmasters. You can't get out of promoting yourself and your writing so don't try. Pick up Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. Read it with a highlighter. Write new ideas in the margins.

I used to think the only people buying books were writers. :) It seems that way sometimes. But honestly, what it amounts to is this: authors can't do it alone. We all need each other. We have to help promote each other. It's as simple as that.

Have you helped/promoted a writer today? How?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Aren't They In The Stores? she screamed.

Writers face a lot of challenges. One is getting their books in bookstores. That hit home with me these past few weeks when I searched for two authors I want to read. I’ve searched three stores in downtown Houston, and five bookstores in Lake Charles and Lafayette. It’s downright hair-pulling for me when I want a book immediately and can’t find it, so I know it has to be frustrating for all you authors who are trying to gain name recognition. I recently read a quote by a very wise person called Anonymous: Beauty is in the eye of the sales rep. Keep up the hard promo work, gang. A lot isn't nearly enough.

And I guess that's what bothers me about small publishing houses. Yet, today, this day and time, it's not only the authors from small publishing houses that struggle to get their books in stores. What's the answer? How do we let readers know we're alive and well and living/writing/selling our books in Louisiana ... or Alabama ... or Mississippi ... or any other state? How do we get our books in stores? I know bookstores don't want to order anything they can't return. I don't even have a book to promote so I'm taking it on myself to worry for the rest of you. :) Actually, I got quite discouraged on your behalf searching for the four books I want to read. I wanted to tear my hair and scream:


I know I can order from Amazon or from the publisher, but I like walking into bookstores and finding what I want. I used to love sales racks but now they look threatening. I look at the huge bins of half-price books and feel scared about the future of publishing as well as the future of our bookstores. I went to our local library today and saw books less than three years old being purged from the shelves to make room for new purchases. Something about that seems ridiculous to me. It's like we're on speed dial. We may run out of shelf space but what happens when we run out of trees. These purged hardbacks are being sold for fifty cents or three for a buck. What's happening? And when's it going to end?

I don't like it. It doesn't make me want to sit down to write a 75,000 word book. It brought back memories of how my little category romance hit the shelves and within a blink of an eye disappeared, never to be mentioned again.

So, what's your answer. Beef up promotion? How? Take publishing into your own hands? And then what? Is there any money to be made in writing any more? How? Should we even worry about getting our books in bookstores?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions but no answers. And it's possible I know just enough to be dangerous. :) I do know that for the past two weeks, I've searched for a couple of award winning books by a small press and couldn't find them anywhere. I also searched for a couple of mysteries by a traditional publisher and they weren't in bookstores either.

I guess the big lesson here is that a writer really has to have a love for writing to keep at it, huh?
And I don't like speed dial.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writers Writers Everywhere but ...

Every time husband gets a job transfer, I always get online and start tracking down writers. I suppose the normal wife would take a look at housing and shopping, but I check writers and bookstores first, and the front page of the newspaper. Only after exhausting every writing rabbit trail, do I take a look at apartments and malls. See where my priorities are?

Do you know any writers in Mississippi? Specifically, Columbus? You will. Click on the map and to the far east, fourth county down, you'll see Loundes. That will be us.
From checking the yahoo maps, we'll be about two hours from Birmingham where the Southern Magic RWA chapter is. Two hours and 51 minutes from Cullman, Alabama where the Heart of Dixie RWA chapter is. There's also the Magnolia State RWA chapter in Jackson--two hours and 42 minutes away.

We'll be almost 8 hours away from Lake Charles. No running back and forth--the way we do now. We have a lot of decisions to make.

If you know any writers in Columbus, Mississippi or somewhere in that vicinity, share them with me. I'm all ready feeling a little lonely.

I haven't told anyone yet. Guess this might be the official announcement, though everyone knows when you work construction, assignments can change at the drop of a hat. All I really know is ... I'll be almost five hours from Nashville and I WILL be attending the Killer Nashville conference next year. Can't wait! In the meantime, I'm stilll checking out my Sisters In Crime and Kiss of Death chapters. Who knows? I might find a writer-friend yet.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's A Hero ... In Today's World?

Last week I hurt my back. Not bad—just a tiny pull that I felt for a few days. Don’t tell hubby.

I was showing off. Or proving a point. I’m bad that way. I felt like Spenser in The Professional by Robert B. Parker. In chapter 11, Parker writes: I tailed him for the next couple of days. I thought it might make some sense to see if I could learn anything. And in truth, I was probably showing off a little. When he’d try to tail me, I spotted him at once. I was behind him for the rest of the week and he never knew it.

No, I wasn’t tailing anyone. I went to Target to buy a bookcase for my office. One of those fold in things so if I ever get tired of it, I can fold the sides in and shove it beneath a bed. The day before I scouted it out—there were two of them—and they were on sale. When I went back, there was only one. Good thing, too. If there had been two, I might be under the knife right now.

I parked at the side of Target away from all cars. I knew I needed ample space to manipulate the thing into Rhonda, my little Honda. 2001-Rhonda actually belongs to daughter who became the proud owner of Lee, the much newer CRV. We did a trade—but that’s another story. The things we do for our kids, huh?

First glitch in the back was when I couldn’t find anyone in Target to help me. There was a little gizmo near the shelving that instructed me to push the button for help. I think it was a pretend button. I pushed—it resisted. No one came. In a hurry to get home, I picked up the boxed book case myself and positioned it in the too small buggy. Paid. Got out of the store.

I wondered how in the world I was going to get the bookcase in Rhonda—especially when I saw there were cars on both sides and a truck in front of her. I barely had room to maneuver. But I was in luck. A stout, nice-looking hero type was making his way to the truck. I shot him a glance through my dark glasses. Should I ask for help? Probably not. He looked the type who would surely offer.

He climbed in his truck without a glance in my direction. I unlocked Rhonda. I walked from one side to the other, assessing the situation. Hero wasn't making any offers. Finally decided that when Hunky Hero cranked up and drove away, I’d pull Rhonda into his space to have more room to manipulate my parcel.

I waited.
He waited.

What on earth was he doing—plotting a book? When I realized he wasn’t going to budge, I opened the passenger door, laid the seat back as far as it would go, picked up the book case as if I was Wonder Woman only disguised as an old woman, and heaved it inside. This is where I was showing off. It was lopsided.

Pretend Hero watched as I wrestled with the crate.
Pretend Hero watched as I tried to close Rhonda’s door ... and couldn’t.
Pretend Hero watched as I went to the other side, and yanked the boxed book case further into the pretend car. Poor Rhonda!

I stood straight and tall and in pain as I marched the buggy to the cart corral. Guess I showed him, I thought.

But all the time I was showing him I didn’t need his help, I wondered: What is a hero? Someone who would offer to help an old lady? Or someone who would wait for an old lady to ask for help? Got answers? Who do you visualize when you're creating heroes? What are the top five traits of a modern day hero?

Hey, put John Wayne, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Clint Walker and Roy Rogers completely out of your mind. Those guys don’t exist anymore!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Aren't You Writing?

In one of my writing communities, some of the writers are making lists of why they aren’t writing. It caused me to look at my own reasons. It’s easy to let other things get in the way. You know, really there’s always a ten minute stretch of time we can use to jot a few words or a couple of paragraphs, or ideas about stories we’re working on. Flash Fiction can be pretty short. Hint Fiction, even shorter. So, realistically, there’s isn’t a good reason not to write a little something.

This week I had good intentions, and in all fairness to me, I did do a little writing. Revised and expanded a short story then sent it for critique. Got some excellent feedback for layering it even more which is what I wanted to do but didn't know how. I’m so bad at description. Probably because I often skip over it when I read; I go straight to the dialogue.

Got my ten pages put together to send to Harold Underdown for critique at our BWG conference. This is a story near and dear to my heart. Trouble is … it has been near and dear to my heart for 40+ years. That’s gotta hurt it. There’s still interest in the subject matter because I’ve Googled and researched it. What I’m worried about is that I can’t capture the right voice. This is a young adult novel and I’ve never had a YA voice. Considering another birthday has passed … well, you see where I’m going with this. I've heard Mr. Underdown is pretty straightforward so I'm sure I'll come away knowing exactly what to do with this piece. I just hope it isn't too painful. :)

I have several personal projects I’m involved in that take time and thought. Also I’m teaching my NF online class, doing some critiquing and contest judging for other writers’ groups, plus keeping up with some of my favorite TV shows. (I'm so 'into' Project Runway' this year. I can only imagine the stress!)

Our BWG conference, upcoming officer elections, putting Gator Bites pamphlets together, arranging and keeping tally of the BWG blog, contest judges and scores, and just preparing for the monthly meeting takes its toll. Yes, we do have competent officers, board members, conference coordinators, but I’m the prez. I figure the buck stops with me. Regardless.

I’m not whining. I’m musing. I’m assessing my writing life and projects. I have way too many things going. I’m about to add a few more.

Hey, you people out there who work full time jobs and write, and accomplish your goals consistently: you have my utmost respect and admiration. I honestly don’t know how you do it. Want to tell us?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Showers of Grace by Della Melton

My sweet friend, Della Melton, passed away last week. Her funeral was Friday morning. She was 95 years old.

During the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of praying for Della--especially when she’d break her bones. She told me she was born with brittle bones, and through the years osteoporosis set in. I think every bone in her body has been broken at one time or another.

Often I’d call Della while I was out and about and ask if she needed anything from the store.
“Buttermilk,” she’d say. “And not that fat free stuff, I want the real thing. And cheese puffs.” She loved cheese puffs. She asked me once how cheese puffs could be bad for her when they were nothing but puff.

Do you know how much we can learn from a person as old as Della? She had hundreds and hundreds of stories to tell. I think I heard all of them And recorded several.

Della and I talked about writing her life story but by the time she got ready to actually do it, I was involved in another project and couldn’t help much more than proof and edit. It turned into quite a challenge, but eventually “hit the Lake Charles bookstands” under her title of Showers of Grace. You can find a copy at the Christian Book Store on Prien Lake Road.

Della gave me my first ghost writing opportunity. She called me once and told me she needed to write a devotional and didn’t know how. She asked if I’d do it for her. I didn’t want to “do it”—I wanted it to be 100% hers so we talked it through. I asked what her favorite scripture was, what it meant to her and how she prayed it? I just wrote down her words, tweaked them and she had a devo for the Women’s Ministry devotional book. She was proud of it.

Her favorite scripture was 2 Corinthians 12:9 – God’s grace. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." She always told me if a person really wants peace and happiness at any age, He’ll give it. His grace is sufficient.

One day Della met some friends at the mall for lunch and while paying for her meal, she started talking to the young Taiwanese woman who was the cashier. The woman's name is Li and Della asked how long she’d been in this country. Li answered 14 years. Della, always blunt and to the point, asked, “Well are you ready to become an American?” Li said yes but that she didn’t speak English very well. Della made arrangements to meet with the young woman weekly and help her with her English. When Li and her two children moved to another apartment, Della made note of how broken down her sofa was. She went home, looked at her own nice sofa on her sun porch and thought, “I don’t need that.” She got some friends to load it up and take it to Li, and made certain the old sofa hit the dumpster. :)

Some days I’d go over and she’d say, “I spent time crying this afternoon. It’s not hard for me to cry. There are a number of things that make me cry.”

Della Melton was a force to reckon with. She was head strong with a generous heart. She had lots of stories and books in her that were shared with many of us, but never written... except for her autobiography. And there's only so much you can "afford" to put in an autobiography.

Do you know how much we can learn from a 95 year old person? From our grandparents or our own parents. We’re losing stories. We’re losing history.

We’re losing.

I'm incredibly blessed to have known Della Melton.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bayou Writers' Group Conference: A Bridge to Publication

Our conference brochure has been printed and will hit the post office on Tuesday, September 7th. Getting the brochure on our website has been a challenge. Rocky, our BWG webmaster along with others have put forth much effort to figure out the bugs. Finally, the bugs have been exterminated; the brochure is HERE. But you should find everything you need to register for our conference posted right here. If you have any problems or something isn't clear, don't hesitate to leave a message for me or email bayouwritersgroup (at) gmail (dot) com. We have this same info posted on our BWG BLOG.

Writer's Conference
November 13, 2010
Location: University Methodist Church
2401 Patrick Street
Lake Charles, Louisiana 70601

Speaker Bios:

Harold Underdown is a children’s book editor/freelance editorial consultant, and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing. He has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing. He founded and runs "The Purple Crayon," a web site about the children's publishing world at Critiques/consultations are available for $35 - Scroll down for details.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is an author and award-winning journalist. Her fiction includes Kensington historical romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her nonfiction books include the cookbook travelogue Cooking in Cajun Country (2009) and the upcoming Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris and Sachets (2010).

Gary Goldstein, Senior Editor, Kensington, acquires and edits both non-fiction for Kensington’s Citadel Press imprint and fiction (military and political thrillers, westerns, suspense), among them NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and Michael Walsh.

Self/E/Small Press Published Author Panel

Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006, followed by the release of her YA novels, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire in 2007, and Amanda Noble, Special Agent in 2008. Lesa is a writer with Writers in the Schools Houston.

Author Wendy Lanier will share her Write for Hire experience. Her writing experience includes titles for Lerner Books, Capstone Press, Lucent Books, KidHaven Press, and contributions to such publications as Focus on the Family's Clubhouse,,,, and The Amazing Bible Factbook for Kids (a publication of Time Inc. Home Entertainment and the Livingstone Corp.). Her educational and professional background includes a B.S. in Speech Communication Disorders and a M.Ed. in Elementary Education followed by over 18 years of service in Texas public and private schools. She is a member of SCBWI and the Bayou Writers' Group.

Curt Iles is a Southern writer and speaker with seven books to his credit. His recent release is A Good Place. Curt’s mission in life is “to walk closely with Jesus, be a man God can use, and be respected by my wife and family.” His life verse: the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Pamela S. Thibodeaux is a multi-published author in creative non-fiction and romantic fiction. Her novels and short stories are available in ebook & print from White Rose Publishing and Com Star Media. Pam has numerous articles, essays, & devotions to her credit. Her writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”


8:00-8:45 - Registration
Continental Breakfast
Read Contest entries

8:45-9:00 - Welcome & Announcements

Harold Underdown – Preparing your children’s or young adult book for publication

10:00-10:315: Break

Chere’ Coen – Developing the nonfiction book proposal/Selling your ideas to the nonfiction market

11:15-12:45 - Lunch

12:45 -1:45
Gary Goldstein: What Editors and Kensington expect from Authors

1:45-2:00- Break

Panel Discussion: Lesa Boutin, Curt Iles, Pamela Thibodeaux, Wendy Lanier

3:00 - 4:30 Door prizes; On the Wall contest winner announced, Reception and author signings

Our bookstore will be open all day.

(Please Print)






PUBLISHED__________ UNPUBLISHED_________

________$40.00 MEMBERS/$45.00 non-member

________$50.00 AT DOOR

________$25.00 STUDENTS (Full Time)

________First Page Contest Entry-FREE

Please note: No refunds after November 6, 2010

On The Wall
First Page Contest
(Win Free 2011 Conference Registration)

You have to grab an editor or reader’s attention on your first page. Send us your best first page (250 words max, double-spaced). Put your name on the back. Conferees will vote on their favorite. Mail your first page with your registration and conference fee to by November 6, 2010 to:

Bayou Writers’ Group
P.O. 1402
Lake Charles, LA 70602

Harold Underdown will meet with writers about their manuscripts for 15 minutes. You may submit one picture book manuscript or up to ten standard pages of a longer manuscript, along with a cover letter written as if you were submitting the manuscript to a publisher, but including notes on its revision or submission history as well. Include a one-page synopsis of the entire manuscript if submitting part of a long manuscript.

Harold will look at any material, from picture book to YA, either fiction or nonfiction.

PLEASE NOTE: Manuscripts must be received no later than three weeks before the conference. Your $35.00 critique and conference registration fee must be received by October 13th by BWG Conference Coordinator. Only the first 20 entries will be accepted. When sending the manuscript, please specify: a critique or a consultation.

Critique: Manuscripts for critiques can be rough or unfinished drafts, or something you believe is ready to send out. In his meeting with you, Harold will focus on ways to improve the manuscript and will give you written comments as well.

Consultation: Manuscripts for consultations should be polished manuscripts, perhaps one already sent out to a publisher, which you believe have no significant writing problems. Harold will focus on "marketing" issues in his meeting with you; possible publishers and how to approach them.

If a manuscript submitted for one option needs the other, in Harold's opinion, that is what he will provide.

Mail to:
Bayou Writers’ Group
P.O. Box 1402
Lake Charles, LA 70602


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Description, Dialogue and Painting the House

The time has come to paint the house—again! We’ve changed the original siding to a stucco look. The stucco comes in gold--I got so used it it, I thought about painting it gold. :) I love the New Orleans mix of French, Spanish, African, Haitian but I have no idea how to achieve that with what we have to work with here.

Choosing colors to paint the outside of the house is beyond me. My daughter says I try to match and blend way too much. Maybe she’s right. I was raised by a mother who insisted I dress to the nines even on jeans day; and she was fond of saying, “Greens don’t clash.” Of course, she also said, “Redheads don’t wear red.” And returned everything my dad bought her that didn’t fit her idea of what redheads DO wear. Okay, that’s all another story.

I’ve been totally confused about painting for one reason: the roof. My question is do we match the roof or do we match the brick? Because what matches the brick will not match the roof. It all goes back to Hurricane Rita and the damage she left behind. Some Texans came through with great roof bargains and I chose a very dark color. Unfortunately, they didn’t have that color when the day came to put the new roof on. Did we really want to live under blue tarp awhile longer? No! We took what they had and I’ve regretted it ever since.

Husband and I have driven through many neighborhoods peering at people’s homes. The main thing we've learned is that I’m not the only one who has problems with exterior house colors. Have you ever noticed how no matter what you're discussing, we writers usually apply it to writing in some way? We either use it in our writing or compare it. Here's a dialogue husband and I had while driving around:

Jess: Romance writers look at paint colors to use in their descriptive writing, like, "His eyes were poppy seed brown."
Jim: What color are we getting for the trim?
Jess: It’s called Basketry. I guess I could write, “His eyes were the color of a basket soaked by the rain.”
Jim: Straw doesn’t absorb water.
Jess: It could still have a wet look, couldn’t it?
Jim: Shrugs.

The next day we’re heading to Home Depot for the third time. It's raining. We pass road construction, deep holes in the ground filled with bales of hay.

Jess: Why are they using hay bales in those holes?
Jim: Absorb the rain, I guess.
We looked at each other. Remembering the previous day's dialogue, I'm sure.
Basketry. Poppy Seed Brown.
Jim: I wish they gave these paint samples real names.
I totally agree.

By the way, we painted our stucco . . . Chocolate Swirl. Yum!