Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I wish everyone a blessed new year.
I hope 2011 is everything you want it to be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Success for 2011

How many of you list your accomplishments every December to see how successful you were during the year? I do. Usually I'm hit slap-dab in the face with the amount of time I've wasted, but really, we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. We're looking through our own eyes; others may see us in a different light.

You know I've been on a poetry kick lately. I came across the following poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Thought I'd share it with you, give you something to think about as you make your goals for 2011. Maybe you'll want to keep this poem close during the coming year.


To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Below are two great quotes by Emerson.

“No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.”

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."

What would you like to accomplish in 2011? Want to share?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

TANDEM by Tracey Bateman

I just finished reading Tandem by Tracy Bateman. It usually takes me about 100 pages before I’m completely involved in Bateman’s books. Tandem was no different. Still, that doesn’t keep me from reading, reviewing and purchasing them. Bateman is an excellent writer.

I had a problem with the diary entries (or whatever they were) at the beginning of each chapter. I had no idea whose PoV they were in. They confused me until I got to know the characters, and then, I became fascinated by them. By the time I reached the end of the book, I wanted to start over again--at least with the diary entries.

Another thing that put me off was Lauryn, the main character. She had an annoying personality and I never really warmed to her. Even though her father had Alzheimer’s, I never sympathized with her, though Bateman did an excellent job portraying one who has Alzheimer’s.

I've noticed that Bateman has a real talent for making her characters come across incredibly real. She gives them annoying, sometimes hateful traits. Readers will either like them or dislike them, but seldom will a reader toss the book aside because Bateman is definitely a storyteller. Somestimes I wonder why I'm hooked; not because of characters but rather her storytelling skills.

I don’t race out to buy every vampire book that hits the stands, but Bateman’s vampires appealed to me more than her humans did. They had great backstory (history) and were well-rounded characters. Amede was my favorite—along with Amede’s assistant, Juliette. Sheriff Jill Jenkins was a winner too. But hero Billy? I don’t think so. Every time I read the name Billy, I pictured a guy who never quite grew up, a high school kid.

A few years ago I connected with an old school friend. When I called him Ronnie, he told me he’d lived most of his adult life becoming Ron. That’s what I thought of every time I read the name Billy. Writers know that a character’s name is important so I have to wonder why Bateman, an experienced writer/storyteller, chose the name Billy. I kept waiting … hoping … Billy would correct Lauryn, tell her to call him Bill.

But forget my trivial views regarding Tandem. Read it for yourself because regardless of what I liked or didn’t like, Tandem is a thought-provoking story by an exceptional author. There are some interesting themes and surprises that make reading this book worth your time.

Here’s the back cover blurb of TANDEM:
Six months ago, brutal murders shook the small Ozark town called Abbey Hills—murders that stopped after a house fire reportedly claimed the killer’s life. Lauryn McBride's family auction house has taken responsibility for the estate sale of one of the victims—the enigmatic Markus Chisom. Submerging herself in Chisom’s beautiful but strange world, Lauryn welcomes the reprieve from watching Alzheimer’s steal her father from her, piece by piece. She soon realizes that centuries-old secrets tie Abbey Hills to the Chisom estate and a mysterious evil will do anything to make sure those secrets stay hidden. Even the man who grew up loving her may not be able to protect Lauryn from the danger.

When Amede Dastillon receives an unexpected package from Abbey Hills, she hopes it might be the key in tracking down her beloved sister, long estranged from her family. Visiting Abbey Hills seems the logical next step in her search, but Amede is unusually affected by the town, and when mutilated carcasses begin turning up again in the small community, the local law enforcement isn’t sure if they are confronting a familiar evil or a new terror.

Two women brought together by questions that seem to have no answers. Can they overcome the loss and darkness threatening to devour them—or will their own demons condemn them to an emotional wasteland?

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Scam Around Every Corner

Just got a weird phone call. A young Asian voice just called inquiring about my book, The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes. She called on our 'telemarketing' line-the house phone which has forever been defiled by those wanting to sell us everything from light bulbs to Hawaiian vacations. Several times a day we get a call asking for our blood. The last telemarketer calls us around 8:50 p.m. every night, and YES! we are on the DO NOT CALL LIST for all the good it does. If they ever get our cell numbers, we're doomed.

Everyone who matters (family and friends) knows how to reach us, so when the house phone rings, we usually just sit and listen--sometimes hilarious entertainment. Being the packrat that I am, I've saved interesting messages: I have sweet voice of my deceased sister-in-law saying she forgot to tell us something. I have five voicemails from my friend Barbara in Lafayette. She always starts the same way: "Hey, Jess... Hi Jess, Hey Gang, Hi Gang... Hey Jess..." I love hearing her energetic Louisiana accent. Former Prez Bill Clinton is on there too--certainly not because I voted for him but because it's just fun to have his voice on my answering machine. :)

But who is this stranger calling about my book? I investigated and learned it's not just my book she wants so beware!

Now for the record, I don't know if this is a scam or not but just in case . . .

The number she calls from is 877-207-1679 and here's a site you should check out to learn more:

This is exactly why I have a tee-shirt that states: Suspect Everybody. ~Dorothy Sayers

Be safe this Christmas Season. I hope you get exactly what you want under that tree.

Don't fall for any scams. There are a lot of them out there.

Blessings, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wise Words from Elizabeth Berg

I've been searching for Escaping into the Open (the art of writing true) by Elizabeth Berg and finally found it this week. The book interweaves Elizabeth Berg's story of her own writing journey and offers encouraging advice on how to create stories that spring from deep within the heart.

It's wonderful! Let me give you a passage that really speaks to me:

The real problem with talking too much about what you're doing is that you set yourself up for judgment. And if someone sneers at your idea, however subtly they do it, it can cripple you And they don't even have to sneer--someone simply asking too many questions, pushing you too hard to say what something is before you know what it is, can freeze you up.

Amen and Amen!

Of course, many of you out there won't be able to identify with this at all. You can spill your entire story to any stranger on the street before you've written one word and still sit down and write a good novel. I can't. I feel my way along--page by page and chapter by chapter--and I'm never quite sure if I'm on the right path. So you can see that brainstorming with writer friends just doesn't work for me. I've always been somewhat of a loner in my writing. I've been in a million critique groups--compatible with maybe one-third of them.

Believe me, I'd love to have rhino skin. I'd love to be able to take it on the chin when someone sneers in my direction. I'd love to be able to brainstorm and let my stories spew and not be intimidated or shut down when someone with a stronger POV than mine says, "that won't work because of this, this and this and you need to change that to this and this to that and totally remove the ..."

Berg does believe in critique groups, and so do I, but I also agree with Berg when she says:

Just take care in choosing those whom you ask to look at it; and then be careful of what you do with their advice.

I'd really like to learn how to brainstorm with others. I believe if I could master this my stories would be less problematic. I know writers who take off on week long retreats and all they do is toss ideas around, work out their plots, help each other grow them into complete stories. Color me green with envy. Do you think this is something that can be learned? Reckon I could train myself to be that open and trusting?

Do you brainstorm with friends? How often? How many friends? What's your brainstorming procedure? How well does it work for you?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


While surfing the net for anthologies and places to submit some of my shorter works, I came across the following call-outs. Some of you might be interested.

Pill Hill Press is a small, independent publisher based in Nebraska. They have anthology call outs for romantic suspense short stories, The ePocalypse, How the West was Wicked, and some extreme horror. These are only a few.

Stories are to be between 1500 and 15,000 words. They prefer stories in the 4000 to 6000 word range; any setting, any time period.

MAKE NOTE: Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2010.

Check out their submission guidelines for novels too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rejection, etc.

Several weeks ago I submitted a short short (micro-fiction) to Shock Totem, curious tales of the macabre and twisted. As expected, I got a rejection. My piece wasn't really horror and only a little twisted. :)

I've enjoyed sending out my short works--even receiving rejections. Makes me feel I'm accomplishing something even if I'm not. The whole point right now is to just write and accumulate.

E-submitting feels odd. There's such a fast turn-around. I mean, anything under six months is fast to me. I'm used to editors keeping novels for almost a year. A couple I've never heard from. Totally unacceptable but they do it anyway. :) It's interesting how so many ezines require submission through their website. Shock Totem has a 'submission manager' where you sign in, submit, can even go back a week later and withdraw. I'm not used to that but I like it.

Shock Totem guidelines are on their website. Note: they're closed until February. That seems like a long time, doesn't it?

On another note, I got a great surprise the other day. A couple of people suggested I go to Kinkos and ask about OCR scanning, putting my novel into an RTF file. The good news is ... I checked my own printer/copier/scanner and I can do that myself. I experimented and it works. Only thing is--it's incredibly boring and tedious work. Okay...not complaining here. It's certainly cheaper than hiring it done. I know two other authors who don't have their original manuscript files so maybe I'll open up a boring, tedious little side business. Just kidding!

What I'm doing today: I'm writing, reading, sipping a little egg nog (without the kick) and thinking about Christmas shopping, decorating the house and scanning my book. Maybe I'll call Kinkos just to inquire how much and how fast.

What are YOU doing this week?

Just One of Those Moods (5 syllables)

Our neighborhood is two streets--East and West. There's only one way in and out. Walking the complete circle is about a mile. During Halloween, we have approximately 300 kids and families come through. We close our streets to traffic, park cars at the entrance and youngsters walk door to door trick or treating.

The last time I sat in the front yard and handed out candy, a young guy about 10 years old dressed in flashy clothing and gaudy jewelry came by. I asked what he was.

“I’m a pimp,” he answered.

“A what?” I was sure I hadn’t heard right.

“A pimp.”

That was about five years ago. I haven’t participated in our neighborhood trick or treat ritual since. Something about a youngster dressing like a pimp ruined my Halloween spirit. Plus, kids never say trick or treat anymore. They just hold out their open bags and grunt.

This morning I got an email from our neighborhood association with information about our cookie exchange. It states: Please bring 5 dozen of your favorite holiday cookies wrapped in ½ dozen packages and 10 copies of the recipe. In exchange, you will bring home 10 different packages of holiday cookies!

Honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than being in the kitchen, baking and decorating holiday cookies. (Okay, you literalist, I know there are lots of things worse) I was being dramatic.

I guess I’m feeling old today. I still have much shopping to do. We don’t have one Christmas decoration up unless you count the wrinkled wrapping paper and wad of ribbon on the floor from last Saturday’s BWG gifts. {sigh} And I can't figure out why I'm thinking of a 10 year old pimp with a halloween bag. I think I need a good shot of holiday spirit--and I don't mean the liquid kind!

On another note, I’ll share some writing news:

Months and months ago, BWG invited J. Bruce Fuller to speak and I purchased his book of poetry called 28 Blackbirds at the End of the Word. I really liked it, and J’s talk to us was encouraging. In fact, I was so inspired, I started my own book of poetry. About 8 more poems and the manuscript will be complete. Amazing how I can spend hours struggling over 17 syllables. I emailed five poems to an online lit magazine the other day--just test the waters.

Don't you just love playing around with book titles? In my mind, I call it My Life in Haiku but at other times, I call it, Here, Swallow My Soul. I'm sure the title will change a hundred times.

The point is ... when I first started writing, it was so much fun and that's what I'm searching for.-The fun. I've been playing around with flash fiction, short mystery fiction, poetry--just like in the so-called good old days of my writing roots.

But oddly, I've become totally consumed with Haiku. I find myself counting the syllables when I eavesdrop in restaurants (as I'm prone to do) and a particular phrase catches my ear.
Am I losing my mind? Maybe, but it's a heck of a lot more fun than baking cookies.

NOTE: Read my interview with J. Bruce Fuller HERE.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twice-Baked Fiction

Let’s backtrack a little. I had a challenging Thanksgiving—baking. Most of the morning was spent trying to pull together/scrape together some chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. As I was pulling and scraping, it dawned on me that my cooking skills resemble my writing skills. I tend to jump right in with the grain of an idea when, really, I need to outline. In bake-talk (or in the kitchen) that means I need to organize my ingredients before I start. And I need to read the recipe several times. In writing talk, that could mean I should read the publisher’s guidelines before I start, read a copy of the magazine—or I should have a theme solidly in my head. I should know where I’m headed.

Thanksgiving morning I did read the recipe. I did line up all my ingredients. Everything I needed was within reach. Ever notice how you can read something over and over again but one phrase just doesn’t quite sink in? That’s akin to proofing our manuscripts. No matter how often we read a chapter, there are always a few typos, or something screwy we didn’t catch.

Nine times out of ten, in baking, I tend to dump everything together—then and only then does that phrase mix dry and wet ingredients separately jump out at me. Oh well. What can it hurt?
Everything was moving right along. Ingredients were mixed, dropped in muffin papers and placed in the oven. And then husband entered, and opened the microwave to reheat his coffee.

“What’s this melted butter in here?”

“Oh, crap!” Yeah, you heard/read me. That’s exactly what I said. Then I yanked open the oven door and pulled out the 24 muffins. Odd, how fast they cooked.

Now I’m the mom who taught her daughter there’s always, always a way to fix things. There are solutions. There is NOTHING that can’t be undone, rearranged, fixed, mended.

I scraped those muffin papers clean.
Added the butter. Remixed.

The muffins were no longer orange. Because the chocolate chips had melted, mixing them made them chocolate muffins—no more recognizable chocolate chips. I spooned them into clean cupcake papers and shoved them back into the oven.

“Yum,” said hubby, ever the optimist. “Twice-baked muffins.” Yeah, they were actually good.

So, do you have any twice-baked fiction? How often have we been a little light on setting, or added entirely too many adverbs? Left out the butter? How often have we had to scrape our stories out of their present state, added another layer of emotion?

I feel more comfortable at a computer than I do in the kitchen, but creating a dessert or an entire Thanksgiving Dinner isn’t at all unlike creating a novel or a short story or a poem. Each need certain ingredients for success.

Remember, there’s always a fix. Twice baked. The trash is not an option.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hurdles Keep Coming

Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we have Christmas breathing down our necks. Before we know it we’ll be slap dab in the middle of 2011. Sometimes I wish time would stand still and just let me catch my breath.

Before we left town to visit family, I received an email from my former agent telling me the “executed reversion came through” on The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes, and that she will mail it to me. I guess it’s a letter telling me Harlequin released the rights back to me. That’s one hurdle crossed. I’ve been online getting advice and suggestions from other writers about what to do and how to do it. Keep the title? Keep the pen name? Redo both? Should I self pub in book form or go Kindle with an ebook? But I’ve found another hurdle that will require a huge leap. I can’t find my copy of the book on any computer. I have the galleys—all kinds of hard copies. Remember, we’re going back to 1996. I think that computer has long been discarded. I cringe at the very thought of retyping this book so I’m investigating Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech recognition software. Anyone work with it? I know several authors who do. It’s supposed to be new and improved these days.

Would you start typing today or would you opt for reading your book into the program?
Thoughts? Suggestions?
I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving. Let me hear from you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turn Out the Lights - The Party's Over

The conference is over and I can’t think of one thing to blog about. I feel completely drained, sucked-dry from the entire experience. On top of that, for some reason I inherited two bank bags of conference funds. Okay, guys, I know I’m a control freak but this is ridiculous! If only our treasurer knew that I couldn’t count my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it. Seriously. I counted the money over and over and over again before I finally got the same total more than once. Then when I got to the bank, the teller counted and came up with a different total. How on earth could that have happened? When she told me how much I was off, (thankfully in their favor) I realized I’d donated to our scholarship fund and hadn’t counted it. No, I didn’t major in math and if we’d had an exit exam in my day, believe me, I’d still be taking it, trying to graduate. Needless to say, I don’t believe in exit exams but that’s another story. Don’t get me started.

The conference was a success. Our largest yet. We had less than 60 people pre-register. Total head count was 86 I think. Six people who said they were coming, didn’t show. I’m glad. We didn’t have seats for them. We ran out of goody bags too. Five attendees didn’t get one.

Children's book editor Harold Underdown did an excellent job of staying on track with his critiques and was accessible to everyone who wanted to talk with him. We’d gotten word through the proverbial writers’ grapevine that he was a real bear with his critiques but he came across to me as a gentle man with a kind heart. He gave 100% to our conference and our members. I liked him a lot.

Gary Goldstein, senior editor at Kensington, is a real comedian as many of you know. He sat on a stool at the microphone, told stories about publishing, and made people laugh. I wish I wrote westerns. Wouldn’t mind him being my editor just because of his personality.

Chere’ Coen gave an interesting talk on NF writing and ideas for NF books. I’ve had a lot of online dealings with Chere’ but this is the first time we’ve met. She’s a cute lady with a lot of energy. I always enjoy hearing how writers fall into their book deals and how they get the ideas for books that actually come to be. BTW, all you Louisiana authors out there, if you don't know Chere', go to her Louisiana Book News and get your name on her list. You should be contacting her every time you have book news and that includes books going on Kindle. You know who you are. :) All you need to do is send her press releases of happenings in your life.

Our panel—Pam Thibodeaux, Curt Iles, Lesa Boutin and Wendy Lanier talked about small press, POD, Write for Hire and self-publishing. They did a great job. I’m not sure the audience really appreciated just how much experience and know-how these four had to offer. Pam is a White Rose Press author and has recently signed with Five Star. Curt is the most successful self-pubbed author I've ever known. He has an agent shopping his novels. My friend Lesa owns Boot In The Door Publications and has two YA books in print, and Wendy writes for magazines and has a number of books published as a writer for hire. There's not one question they couldn't answer.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was encouraging some of our members to meet with Gary Goldstein to pitch their books. It was good experience for them to sit across from a real editor and answer his questions. I’ve done it a lot and I’m always scared to death, feel like a fool, forget my pitch and … did I say feel like a fool? Every editor is different. While one may encourage dialogue by asking a lot of questions about conflict, characters and plotline, the next editor may sit and stare and never open her mouth. Ouch! That's when it's tough. Gary was one who asked questions—the kind I like. One of our writers got a request for the completed manuscript. Thank the Lord his book is complete and can be sent right away.

Looking at our evaluation forms, I’m dismayed by what people like and dislike, compliments & criticisms: Too many door prizes, not enough door prizes, love the humorous moderator; please less comedy and long-windedness, good food, yucky food, great bookstore, not enough books in the bookstore; Right down to our praying over the food in Jesus' name. Do evaluation sheets help at all? Well, only if we listen to them, I guess.

I know one thing for certain: putting on a conference is hard work, and there’s a lot more to it than one person delegating. Someone has to be on top of things and keep a running tally of what’s being accomplished and what’s left to do. This conference was a challenge for a number of reasons, yet it was one of our best and most successful. We all came together a couple of weeks ago, checklists in hand and got the fine-tuning done. It's over. We were a success. We're still friends. Now it’s time to think about next year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is It Worth It?

This has been a ferocious week. Last minute conference details and then . . . Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s Law kicked in and brought me computer trouble. A quick trip to Matt-my-computer-repair-man, trying hard to keep the panic out of my voice and off my face, a day and a half and 160 bucks later, I’m good to go.

But wait. Not quite.

I have to reinstall all my programs, track down hundreds of passwords, locate my wireless code and what's that activation code all about?

My brain is mush.

Tomorrow we finish stuffing bags, put loving last touches on the conference room, take the speakers out to eat, try to be friendly, interested and interesting, stare at the ceiling all night bug-eyed, and Saturday is the big day. We’ll go with the flow and hopefully, any forgotten detail will go unnoticed. Afterwards, we’ll sigh, tell each other a job well-done, note things we’ll change for next year, go home, go to bed, stare bug-eyed at the ceiling replaying everything … and we’ll be worn out, worn down and good for nothing all next week.


A full report—and pictures—on Monday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Louisiana Saturday Night with Brandon Hebert

It has been awhile since I've introduced a Louisiana author to you. Meet Brandon Hebert. Brandon came to my attention via the Acadiana Book Festival in Lafayette. He sat on a mystery panel with authors June Shaw, D.B. Grady and Barbara Colley. Brandon is the author of My Own Worst Enemy published by Five Star Mystery Series. I hope you'll read his answers to my questions. I particularly like his philosophy that "writing is more of an intuition, a natural knack for the pace of a good story." And yes, I agree. Brandon will be signing his book at our Bayou Writers' Conference Nov. 13th so if you're there, you'll definitely meet him.

1. So, Brandon, have you been writing since you could hold a pen--like all other writers?

I've written since I was a kid, like many others who have come before me. Started out writing adventure stories about secret agents, astronauts, fighter pilots, all things I wanted to be at some point or another. Life eventually got into the way and I ended up in none of those glamorous occupations (although I was in Naval Intelligence for four-plus years, but there were no martinis and I never wore a tuxedo in the line of duty).

Still, I always had a glimmer of hope that I might one day try my hand at writing professionally. I didn’t have any formal training and I don’t know that you can, actually. I mean, I’d be willing to bet Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy never read “How To Write The Blockbuster Novel.” Their work is based on life experience. That said, writing is more of an intuition, a natural knack for the pace of a good story.

2. Tell us about your path to publication.

Long and arduous. Writing is the easy part, the enjoyable part. Getting agents and editors to notice is the rub. I had no credentials to start (as no one does). So, I started writing short stories in crime fiction magazines. There are a handful of them out there, but they die out fast and it’s hard to keep up with the current crop (although I believe the fantastic Plots With Guns is making a comeback). The pulp/mystery/thriller magazine market is not what it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Still, you have to query an agent with something in your back pocket, right?

I could wallpaper my entire house with the rejection letters I’ve amassed over the years. And it’s all so subjective. If you catch the wrong agent on the wrong day (maybe the subway was crowded, maybe their Starbucks was cold, who knows?), your lone shot to grab them may be down the drain. If you’re lucky, you get a personalized note as to why yours is not the next Great American Novel or “doesn’t fit our list.”

Keep plugging away, because eventually every dog has his or her day.

…And then your agent has to deal with acquisition editors. Oh, and you must have an agent.

3. What are some of your writing credits? And we want to know all about your book.

Like I said earlier, I had next to no credentials before my fits book. Fortunately, some kind souls saw fit to publish some short fiction of mine. At least I had something to put in a query letter. Outside of that, the work had to stand on its own. Fortunately, it did.

Making personal connections are important and if I would have won the lottery, I probably would have still traveled around to writer’s conferences all over the country trying to glad-hand as many agents and editors as I could. Alas, I didn’t win the lottery and had to settle for querying.

The title of my novel is My Own Worst Enemy. It's a classic boy-meets-girl-who-helps-him-leave-his-life-of-crime tale.

The hero, Jack Murray, is at a crossroads in his life – he’s decided he wants to leave his old life behind. When he meets federal agent Miranda Mendoza, he’s not sure if anything will come of the relationship. He’s just looking for moments in his life to point to and remember fondly. The only problem, the stakes become high when Miranda risks her reputation and career while his life and newfound freedom are on the line.

At the exact moment he’s going to start over, he gets tempted. Against her better judgment, Miranda finds herself strangely attracted to Jack. The suspense comes from outside forces – both friendly and unfriendly – that don’t want Jack to leave his life. The romance comes from two people risking everything for someone they’d like to spend time with outside of their chosen life paths.

4. Share your writing process: did you plot meticulously or just sit down and begin writing?

I devote two-plus hours a day to writing. I’m not easily distracted and like some white noise going on in the background. Now, if football is on, I may glance at the TV in my home office. Writing is solitary enough, no need to pile on. What I do enjoy is turning on the iTunes and putting some mood music on. I call it “singing to your muse.” Life has a soundtrack and so do characters’ lives. I like obscure 70’s R&B music, none of which I’ll name here for fear of embarrassment.

I write in the evenings, usually 7:30/8 – 10 pm (unfortunately, I still have a day job). I write longhand on legal pads. When I have a dozen or so pages written, I’ll sit down and type it out and, usually, change some things as I go. I never outline anything and don’t know how the story will end when I begin it. The characters take over and tell me where to go. I have an idea of what is supposed to happen but that can – and often does - change. For instance, if a particular character is not working, it’s easy to kill them off.

After I’m done, I’ve been known to read the finished product in character…which has gotten me many a sideways glance over the years.

5. What is your typical day? Do you have a real job?

Is there a typical day? I get real work out of the way as quickly as possible. All I’ll say about my real job is that is has absolutely nothing to do with my night job, which is writing.

Write in the evenings, as mentioned before. Between that, life takes over. I don’t have any children but do have a couple of dogs that think they are children and demand to be treated as such, with the appropriate amount of attention.

Built into that writing time is time spent on social networking sites, returning emails, etc. This is very important and always time well spent. My marketing budget is limited (read: nonexistent), so using resources available to me to promote my book and future endeavors in extremely important. After all, without readers where would writers be?

6. What’s your favorite marketing tip?

Personalize. I was very late to the social networking party. While I won’t say I paid dearly for it in earnings, there has been a bump in sales since I showed up. The idea that a reader has a connection to you is powerful. You can do the conventional bookstore signings (and I recommend them unabashedly) but there are other venues that are even more interactive. For instance, libraries and their associated book clubs have invited me on several occasions for speaking engagements. There’s a reading from the book and a nice Q&A where people get to know you and vice versa. I see the promotional stuff for my appearances in the library lobbies and it says “An Evening With…”. I want to turn around and look for Frank Sinatra in a smoky lounge in Las Vegas. It’s just more intimate.

7. Share a piece of writing advice you’ve been given that you think has really helped you.

If it sounds like writing, rewrite it – Elmore Leonard. Words to live by.

8. Many writers describe themselves as “character” or “plot” writers. Which are you? What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

Definitely a “character” writer. I don’t usually know what the plot will end up being before I write. As mentioned earlier, I have an idea and I know it will be crime fiction. But, if it ends up being a military thriller with guys stationed on a submarine, who knows? Seriously, the characters are the key. Good books, and hopefully mine qualifies, are about relationships. Relationships with real emotions, real pitfalls and all the foibles of the human experience. For me in particular, crime is just the backdrop.

9. What kind of research, if any, went into writing the book? Is the title yours or did it come from your publisher?

Research is an important part of the process and I did mine. Mostly for geography, anyway. I’ve been fortunate to visit Miami and its South Florida environs (where the novel takes place) on several occasions and I took copious notes. When I got a compliment from my agent on my Miami geography (who used to live there), I figured I did something right. And reviews have called the book a “fast-paced South Florida crime caper,” so that was some extra validation. You get a lot of stares when you’re sitting at an outdoor cafĂ© and taking notes on what’s on the menu or your surroundings (but details like that are important). Additionally, I do all kinds of research on the internet for this and that. Typing a word or phrase into a search engine can lead to all sorts of different places. I’m sure my search habits have landed me on a government watch list somewhere.

My Own Worst Enemy was my title choice as submitted and was never changed, although I know that happens - even to the best of them. I was just lucky, I guess. It’s supposed to allude to Jack Murray’s predilection for sabotaging his own good fortune at a critical juncture in his life. Some things are just too good to pass up.

10. If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would offer and what changes would you make?
Good question. I would tell myself to start writing seriously earlier in my life. Everything in this business moves at a glacial pace. The return times on submittals to agents and editors are so long because they are inundated with submissions. You need to be patient. I think more than any other endeavor in the arts, writing takes a certain maturity, discipline and degree of life experiences to fully blossom. That said, if you have the maturity, discipline and degree of life experience at an early age, start putting pen to paper because, eventually, you’ll get old playing the waiting game.

I wouldn’t change anything because I wholeheartedly believe I’ve taken the correct path. I’ve done my research to avoid the agent and vanity press scams that are out there. It’s a lot of work, a lot of waiting, and a lot of wanting, but I don’t regret the way I’ve done things.

11. What has surprised you the most about being an author? What has disappointed you?

The most surprising thing has been the amount of support I’ve received from complete strangers. To come to an event on, say, a Tuesday night and listen to a novice author who may or may not know more than you about the writing and publishing process has been nothing short of astounding to me. I’m forever in readers’ debt because of it.

What has disappointed me? The easy answer would be: the money. But, I knew that going in. I had no delusions of grandeur. Disappoint may be too strong a word but what discourages me the most is the completely subjective nature of the business. Like I said earlier, you almost have to catch the right person on the right day in the right mood. And then you might have a chance at not ending up in the slush pile. Then again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s maddening at times.

12. What do you like to do when you’re not writing – just for fun?

What, writing’s not fun? Seriously, I love to fish. Just spending time on the water with loved ones is special to me. I’m an avid golfer and like to play as long as I can sink putts. I’m a football junkie and that’s where much of my time goes in the fall, especially on college football Saturdays. I squirrel myself away and eat gummi bears while watching all day. My mid-section is being to show for it.

13. Wrap it up. Let us know where we can find you.

Jess, I’m truly honored that you’ve spent time with me today. For those interested, the title of my novel is My Own Worst Enemy. It can be found in your local bookstore (ask them to order you a copy if not in stock!) or any number of online outlets, most notably or Additionally, a Kindle edition is available at for those who prefer the burgeoning electronic book format.

You can visit me at You can get reviews, read about any upcoming appearances I might be making, and use the email feature at the Contact page to get in touch. Please do, I love to get fan mail and make it a point to personally return every one I receive. Any beginning writers out there that have questions, I’m always available to answer. Who knows, we might learn something together.

I’m always looking for new friends on Facebook. Search for me or follow the Facebook icon on my website that links to my profile. Hope to hear from everybody soon!

Thank you, Brandon! We look forward to seeing you in Lake Charles, Louisiana on November 13th at the BWG Conference--A Bridge To Publication. ~jess

A Few Thoughts and More Treasures

A lot of writing going on with my NaNo project but as you see in the right hand corner, only a little more than 6,000 words. Still, that's pretty good for me. I stayed up way too late last night.

Still browsing through boxes in the garage. I'm keeping much more than I'm throwing away. Amazing, the treasures I'm finding. A long letter from Redbook--a rejection, yes--but a rejection defining the why of it. I'm amazed that the Redbook editor traded three long, detailed letters with me. Looking back, I can see how close I was and can't help but feel I've squandered so many opportunities.

The first five pages of a novel (and short synopsis) of an idea for a romantic suspense. And I still like it. :) A completed romantic short story. I don't remember it but the characters have their own novel so maybe this short story was the beginning.

All these findings make me want to race to the BWG meeting on Saturday and tell everyone to find encouragement in every critique, in every rejection they receive; it's there if they look for it. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't recognize the good stuff until 20, 30, 40 years later.

I haven't found what I'm searching for: a huge folder of poems written when I fancied myself a poet. Where can it be? Garage boxes? Office boxes? One of the three file cabinets? Arggg, too much paper!

Good News! Saturday I have another Louisiana Saturday Night for you. An interview with a Louisiana novelist of crime fiction. And it's a good one. See you then.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


NaNoWriMo is amazing. When I imagine writers all over the world pounding keys, working toward the same goal—a completed manuscript—I get chills. We’re more united than the Republicans or the Democrats, that’s for sure. Well, I guess that’s not saying much, is it?

Aren't you glad we're not using the old Underwoods or Royals? I am!

I’m excited about my NaNo novel but I realized almost immediately that it’s garbage. It would take years to make a real novel out of it. The thing is I like it. I like what it’s saying, what it's trying to say, but especially what it could be if I invested years to fixing it. Yes, years. That’s no exaggeration. I love the few nice things in it. The very few sentences that sing—quite by accident, I might add. And I like that those sentences that sing happened by accident. Is that weird? That I didn't purposely construct them makes me think wow! there's a little bit of talent embedded down deep that rears it's creative head. Harness it!

As I pound these HP keys, I’m asking myself if I should be doing something more productive. Probably. Cleaning house, sorting laundry, organizing genealogy, revising one of my other completed novels, even completing one of the other NaNo attempts. There are lots of things I could/should be doing, but none of them give me this kind of pleasure. Racing toward a finish line—whether I make it or not. It doesn't even have to be November for us to get this kind of rush, does it? Any time we have an idea, plot it, write that first chapter, we feel excited, don't we?

I read a really wonderful, wonderful essay this morning, and I want you to read it too. Go HERE.
What you would do if you didn't write? How many novels or short stories do you write a month or a year? Do you have to force yourself to sit down and do it?

Just wondering why I need November.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Whole Lot of Busy Going On

Way too much going on. We're still going through boxes in the garage (most of which are making their way into the house), and trying to prepare for the move to Mississippi. On top of all that, our young worker is installing new doors, new windows, painting, putting up lights and ceiling fans.

Enter 2010 BWG conference, Gator Bites, Swamp Lily Review, NaNoWriMo, and a host of other things.

Our conference is November 13th. You can go HERE to learn more about it.

Gator Bites is a neat little brochure I'm putting together to promote our Bayou Writers. I have to give credit to Peter Cole out of Nashville and his Keyhole Digest for this idea. Brilliant! I hope you'll check out Keyhole Fiction and order some of their work--or even submit something to them. I'm excited about Gator Bites and thrilled that so many of our members contributed. I think it will be a great sampling of the talent we have in BWG. I can see how this tri-fold of micro-fiction and poems could be used to promote authors and writers' groups everywhere. Take a look at Keyhole Digest and what they have going and devise a way to use their ideas to promote yourself.

Now, let me tell you about SLR. Swamp Lily Review is an online literary journal I've started with my friend, Jan Rider Newman. I feel guilty including myself in the "started" thing because Jan is doing all the work. Every now and then I hear a loud boom and I know it's her banging her head against the wall as she works on our website. Who said building websites was easy? You can learn more about Swamp Lily Review HERE. Even though the website is still under construction, you can read our mission statement and our submission guidelines. One day, very soon I hope, we'll have a picture of a Swamp Lily. By the way, read those guidelines carefully. SLR is a lit journal celebrating Louisiana writers and artists who live and breathe in Louisiana.

Add to all of this, National Novel Writing Month. I love it. I look forward to it every year, but I never make 50,000 words. I only make it to 25,000 and stack those unfinished manuscript pages with the rest of my efforts. {deep, heart-rending sigh} I wanna finish--I really do. :-/ I'm honestly giving it my best shot this year. You're my accountability partners. :) Since I totally despise making a fool of myself, maybe I'll try harder if I know you're watching. This year I printed out a calendar and outlined the novel in each square of the entire month so if I follow it and write about 6 1/2 pages a day ... Yeah, sounds easy, doesn't it ... if I just follow it and WRITE only 6 1/2 PAGES A DAY ...

I just finished teaching my NF course for Lamar, and also taking two online courses through RWA: one on the ins and outs of self-publishing and one on short story writing.

Okay. That's what's going on in my life and what I'm doing during the month of November. And you can even add these few things: Need to compose a BWG Voting Ballot since we're voting for new officers on Nov. 6th. Need to create a President's Notebook for the new Prez. And ...Yikes! I need to finish the Prez's Message for the newsletter and get it to VP Jan right now. And hop over to the Bayou Writers' Group blog to post something new.

No wonder my husband says, "When we get to Mississippi, why don't you taker a breather and just read and write."

Sounds good to me--until I'm sitting all alone in an apartment, staring at a blank screen and wondering what my peeps back home are doing. :)

Here's a quote for busy people:

You never saw a very busy person who was unhappy. ~Dorothy Dix

Tell me what you'll be doing during the month of November.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beat To A Pulp: Round 1 -- A Dream Come True

I popped over to Razored Zen the other day--that’s author Charles Gramlich’s blog—and happened onto a great interview. Editor Elaine Ash was answering questions about Beat To A Pulp Round 1 and boy, was there a celebration going on. Elaine told us how this book was a mere gleam in David Cranmer’s eye just a couple of years ago. I love seeing dreams come true like this. (Okay, stop right here and go read the interview. It's too good to miss!)

David Cranmer is editor/publisher of an e-zine called Beat the Pulp. Check it out HERE and take a look at his submission guidelines if you write pulp fiction. David created BTAP as an outlet for writers of hardboiled fiction at a time when a number of e-zines decided to close up shop. He presents stories that run the gamut of genres and provide readers with a sense of pulpy adventure. From what I understand, some of the stories on BTAP made it into this huge collection.

There was so much excitement over at Razored Zen about this anthology, I had to have my own copy. It arrived today so I haven't read it yet. The book is HUGE! And HEAVY! I promise it could be used as a weapon. Wallop someone up side of the head with it, and you could do some serious damage :)

BEAT To A PULP: Round One is a collection of short stories from twenty-seven of today's top writers and emerging talent. It runs the gamut of genres and sub-genres—noir, crime, hardboiled, ghost, western, fantasy, and sci-fi. And it's getting GREAT reviews. Bill Crider wrote the foreward. I remember Bill from the old days when the Golden Triangle Writers’ Guild held its annual conference. Bill Crider was one of our staples—so to speak. Round One cover art is by James O'Barr of The Crow fame.

So here I am holding this super-heavy book in both hands, and what do you think I do first?
I turned to the back and read the author bios, of course. I LOVE author bios. Interesting lot with great credentials, but some new writers too which makes it extra good. I've only read four of these authors: Robert J. Randisi, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider and Patricia Abbott. I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the others.

If you like bloody knuckles and broken bones, have a passion for the hardboiled story, you definitely need to get your hands on a copy of Beat to a Pulp: Round 1. You can order it HERE

NOTE: A warning to some of my followers: Do I have to tell you there is profanity and violence? This definitely isn't Christian fiction. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let The Insanity Stop HERE!

I just found NEW copies of my 14-year old romance on Amazon for $82.42 (3.99 shipping).

Is that crazy or what? Don't panic, they have another copy for only $19.95. And used for a penny. :)

Please, please...let the insanity stop! Don't pay $85+ for my little romance, I'll send you a copy. :-)
(Note: this is not a Christian romance but it's not R-rated either.)

Every now and then I check and this is the first time I've found my book (new or used) on Amazon. Where did it come from? Do used bookstores stockpile? How come mine is just making it out of the pile and onto Amazon? I don't understand how or why this happens. Can someone explain? A friend just bought a copy from another bookseller for a couple of bucks. Why is it I'm not getting any 'bucks' on these sales?

I'm in the process of trying to get the rights back on this book but I've been told it's a slow process. Publishing is a crazy business. About the time I think I understand--everything shifts and I'm back at square one.

When a writer finally sells his or her book, who do you think makes the most money: the author? the agent? the publisher?
Just curious.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just a Hint ... 25 Words or Less

I never thought I’d buy a book of fiction where each story is 25 words or less. But yeah, I ordered it and can hardly wait for it to get here. It’s Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, compiled by Robert Swartwood and published by W.W. Norton & Company. I submitted my own Hint Fiction – after I figured out what hint fiction really is. In a nutshell, it’s the hint of a bigger, more complex story, and other than that, I don’t have a clue because my submissions were rejected.

Hint fiction was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story — “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” —

I suppose the bigger, more complex story can be anything we want it to be—something sad or something happy. Most people read that and think sad, but I’ve been known to purchase things that don't don't work out for one reason or another, and never return them to the store. They end up in a garage sale. And that goes for baby shoes ... I remember. :)

I haven’t read any hint fiction as good as Hemingway’s so how do we know when it’s good? Is there a trick to writing it? What makes it bad? Is 'beauty' in the eye of the beholder?

Here are the two “stories” I submitted to Swartwood’s Hint Fiction anthology. We were supposed to title these stories too, but I'm incredibly horrible at choosing titles.

Mr. Fix-it and The Kindergarten Teacher
She didn't have a headboard in her bedroom. Didn't matter. In high school he'd been elected 'Most Creative Guy.' He grinned. He liked this challenge.

(A hint-crit partner said I was a romantic, but actually, I was thinking of something much more sinister.)

View from a Bridge
The cherry Popsicle dripped down her arm and onto the sleeve of her white blouse. He sucked in his breath, pulled the camera closer. Gotcha.

The story below was written for the Gotham contest but I forgot about it and missed the deadline. Shows how organized I am. I like this one much better than the other two.

I Thee Dead
The groom stood before the wedding guests, knowing the bride wouldn’t show, wondering how long he should wait before he wept.

I like hint fiction. I may not be too good at writing it but it’s fun to try, and I know Swartwood’s anthology will be a good read.

One Reviewer wrote: The stories in Robert Swartwood's Hint Fiction have some serious velocity. Some explode, some needle, some bleed, and some give the reader room to dream. They're fun and addictive, like puzzles or haiku or candy. I've finished mine but I want more. (Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster )

I can't wait! I can't wait!
You can order your copy HERE. Or, Robert is giving away the Ultimate Flash Fiction package

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Lost Manuscript

Hubby and I are cleaning out our garage. That means going through 25 or 30 boxes of stuff that we never went through when we moved here in '95. What a chore. Today we found daughter's lost social security number. No telling how it ended up in a box in the garage but it has since been replaced. We found a letter from son (my stepson) when he was eleven. He's thirty now and answering the same questions from his dad: What are you reading? Are you exercising much? Some things never change. In eleven year old son's sweet little handwriting, he wrote, "I'm not reading much or getting much exercise. Will you sponsor me if I do a read-a-thon?"

We solved the mystery of all hubby's missing black socks. We found them!

It's always fun to go through boxes in the garage. What treasures we come across! Books that should have been in the house, craft supplies that should never have been purchased, magazines and manuscripts.

Yes, manuscripts!

When hubby and I were writing mysteries together, he'd handwrite the stories, then I'd rewrite as I typed them into the computer. Today, we came across some of that work that never made it into the computer. Hubby started reading.

"This is good," he said. "I wonder if I wrote this."

I knew exactly what he meant. I've discovered stories in old notebooks and wondered if I really wrote them. Some of them seem too good for me to have written.

Hubby selected portions to read aloud.

"Yeah, you wrote it," I said. Sounded like his humor, his sarcasm about bad marriages, bad women and love gone wrong.

But the only part of the story I recognized was the name, Joe Mack Crawford, our series character. We wrote two 3,000+ word short stories, several chapters of a novel called Beginner's Luck, and, evidently, this mysterious portion hubby found in a box. It was dated so we pinpointed the time to when we were between jobs: daughter and I were living in Longview in what we called "the cracker box" and hubby was living with his sister in Houston and working at the home office until they could put us on another project. Evidently hubby was doing more writing than I was during that time.

"This is really good, I hope I finished it."

"Turn to the last page and see," I suggested.

"No, I want to read to the end."

Fifteen minutes later: "I can't believe I wrote 23 pages and didn't finish it!"

That manuscript was written in 1987 and hubby was 41. I was 39. Joe Mack was 40. I have a picture of the house he lived in. We knew him very well: Brenda, his ex-wife, Cole, his 17 year old son, and his neighbor Bella Carpenter, who liked to sit in a lawn chair under the trees and drink sweet tea.

How do we finish a book and stories that were written some 23 years ago? We were different people then. We've changed and aged; Joe Mack hasn't. Does age make a difference? What about religious and political beliefs? Who we are today isn't who we were back then, and it all plays a part in our writing. Joe Mack may not want to be cleaned up. :)
What do you think? Suggestions?

Friday, October 15, 2010

999 Ways to Write A Book

Here I am talking about back story again. I know you're sick of it. I am too, but I'm still alittle confused. I'm reading two books and both of them are so sparse that I'm having a difficult time staying interested. There's an art to dropping tidbits of info into our stories. These two authors aren't dropping anything anywhere and I'm finding it annoying.

I don't require a lot of back story to stay interested in a good book, but geeze-louise, give me enough that the chapters make sense!

It's suddenly dawned on me that these days--this modern world of publishing technology, the ebooks/POD publishers/self-pubbing/short story apps, etc ... anything goes.


There must be 999 ways to write a book. With back story or without. With one character or twenty-one. All dialogue or ... all narrative. Or graphics only.

The most important thing we have to do is find an editor that likes our writing. That's the key. That's the answer. Put that on a little yellow sticky note and slap it on your computer. Write your book the way you want to write it then find an editor who loves it. They'll tell you what's wrong and if there's too much back story. Ultimately, the editor is the last word.

Next month I'm going to NaNoWrMo with the rest of the world. My novel is outlined and I plan to sit down and follow that outline. I'll get my usual 100 pages before I experience the Thanksgiving Crash. I'd love to make the 50,000 words goal but it hasn't happened yet. Turkey day always gets in the way. At least I'll have 100 pages of something new.

So, just out of curiosity, are you planning to Nano this year? If so, I'm registered as Jessy. Look me up and let's encourage each other.

BTW, do you know Jane Friedman? She's a columnist for Writer's Digest. Now go HERE and read the dirty secret behind writing advice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Importance of Family

For months, we've been planning to attend a Ferguson Family Reunion in East Texas. We talked the kids into joining us. Yeah... fun for them, huh? Most youngsters don't enjoy sitting around eating unidentifiable casseroles and listening to old people discuss the past. They don't realize they'll be planning their own family reunions before they know it. Oh, how the years fly . . .

We took off on Friday in little Rhonda the Honda. I think I've mentioned that we bought Rhonda for our daughter back in 2001--a graduation present, but a couple of years ago we gave her our CRV, thinking she needed a newer vehicle so I've been driving Rhonda. And she's been great. She has a lot of get up and go which makes me feel energetic. I like being able to wheel into the tiniest of parking spots. Rhonda's nine years old and has around 65,000 miles on her. Yeah, that tells you how much running around daughter did. Good daughter--good Rhonda/Honda.

Well, back to taking off on Friday. We got as far as Iowa (that's Iowa, LA just about 10 miles down the road) and something didn't feel right. I was driving. I'm very in-tune with my vehicles. I can usually tell when something isn't right. I can even feel it when they've been worked on, tuned up... there's just a feeling. Well, long story short as the cliche goes, Rhonda was sick and Rhonda broke.

Press the gas, nothing.
Put her in reverse and press the gas. Nothing.
She just hung there.

We were towed back to Lake Charles by the cutest wrecker driver I've ever seen. He and hubby had great discussion about family values, stuff they learned from their dads, etc. I listened and took notes. This cutie is definitely lodged in my memory as hero material. I've been wondering what kind of heroine would suit him. :)

So... Steve the wrecker driver towed Rhonda to the Honda place where she stayed the weekend. Hubby and I were transported home to get his truck, back to Rhonda to transfer our belongings, then off to get daughter in Lafayette, and pack everything into CRV. Of course, by this time, we'd worked up an appetite so we ate before leaving Lafayette. Who can pass up Coyote Blues and their great tacos? Got to Longview motel at 11:30 pm Friday night, and up early the next morning to head to Mineola, TX.

Daughter and son got to meet cousins they didn't know they had, and visit with cousins they haven't seen in quite awhile. (You can see by the pic that they're all caught up.)

I know this isn't really writing related but it can be because family stories are important. It's easy to gripe about going to family reunions or class reunions--it does take effort. But I think it's important to tell your kids old family stories, even family gossip, stories from your school days and childhood. It's important to give them a sense of belonging to their family name.

The Fergusons have been known as good and godly people. Of course, among all those good people are a few interesting renegades, as in any family. Our kids have heard Ferguson tales for 27 and 30 years. If they listened, paid attention, they'll be able to pass some of these stories on to their own kids. Some of those stories are even written down.
They've heard stories from my side of the family too but the difference is ... there won't be any more family reunions in my family, ever again. My family bit the dust years ago because of words and actions that can't be taken back. Cousins speak with reservation through emails. Aunts and uncles don't speak at all. They're dying off--unforgiving and unforgiven.
Treasure your family--no matter how large or small. Share your history with your children and grandchildren. Write that history.
No matter how far away that family reunion is, no matter the hassle, do it! Go! Putting flowers on a loved one's grave, saying a prayer that our families stay healthy and loving . . . it's all important. Probably one of the most important things we can do is BE with that part of our family that we never get to see.
Are you in touch with your family? Do you see them often? Is there someone in your family you haven't spoken to in years? Think about making contact before it's too late.
NOTE: Hubby and I looked at new vehicles on Monday. I felt guilty. I think I'm a little too attached to Rhonda. She's family.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quotes From Two of the Best

Since we're headed to Mississippi, here are some interesting quotes from Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams. Don't you just love these pictures? I'm excited about moving to Columbus--temporarily, of course--and exploring. For about a year, I'll have no responsibilities except washing, ironing, cooking, reading, writing ... Sounds pretty good to me. :)

Which quote do you like the best and why?

To imagine yourself inside another person... is what a storywriter does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose. ~Eudora Welty

Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer's own life. ~Eudora Welty

Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life. ~Tennessee Williams

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. ~Tennessee Williams

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~Tennessee Williams

Oh, you weak, beautiful people who give up with such grace. What you need is someone to take hold of you - gently, with love, and hand your life back to you. ~Tennessee Williams

Success and failure are equally disastrous. ~Tennessee Williams

Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it... Success is shy - it won't come out while you're watching. ~Tennessee Williams

The future is called 'perhaps,' which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you. ~Tennessee Williams

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino

I used to watch David the Gnome with my daughter. David was the perfect Papaw. He headed a precious family of little people who greeted each other by rubbing noses. I have a lot of good memories and many hours invested in David the Gnome cartoons. That’s why I was very curious about How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino. How dare this Sambuchino guy malign the reputation of my David! So you see, I agreed to review Garden Gnome Attack for a reason; I had my own agenda.

My first thought was, why would I want to survive a garden gnome attack? If those sweet little people attack, it’s probably to shower me with hugs and kisses. I had planned to defend them with such conviction that not one word of Sambuchino’s book would penetrate my soul--or yours.

But . . . when How To Survive a Garden Gnome Attack arrived and I ripped open the package, the cover alone turned my blood to ice. My heart pounded. I felt sick and had to sit down. There was a David look-alike holding an ax. One caption read ‘benign appearance belies murderous intent.’ I flipped to the first page only to read, “Keep reading if you want to live.”

How To Survive a Garden Gnome Attack sounds like a fun book, but really, you shouldn't read it if you're alone in the house ... or if it's dark outside ... or if you're a pack rat with piles of clutter. Gnomes can hide in clutter. I promise you, you'll be only pages into this interesting read before you're lifting your feet off the floor and searching the room for teeny tiny red caps. I've actually found myself glancing across the yard for 'stonescaping' while on the way to the mailbox. Stonescaping (akin to agriglyphs) is the "art of arranging stones to convey intention, a cunning means of nonverbal communication." I asked my husband if we could cap the chimney; we've ordered several motion-activated lights. The electrician comes next week.

This book might look and sound innocent enough, but ... it's the sweetest little horror story you'll ever read; one that will stay with you for the rest of your life. The photography is wonderful, and adds another layer to the goosebumps. Scroll to the bottom and watch the book trailer. You'll know exactly why I'm no longer a David the Gnome fan.

To read a couple of good interviews with Chuck Sambuchino who has to be one of the most talented, imaginative guys in the country, go HERE and HERE. Now read on to learn more about this book ... and how to save yourself from those creepy little garden gnomes.


Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (and They Will)

by Chuck Sambuchino

With an irresistible charm, gnomes seem friendly—even welcoming. By the millions, we brought them into our homes and gardens. And, in so doing, we unwittingly courted this threat. Now we must learn to defend ourselves.
Hiding in plain sight and feigning innocence and merriment, garden gnomes are seeking world domination. THINK ABOUT IT. They have infiltrated every state in America and exist on every continent. Deceptively benign, the common garden gnome has quietly lulled citizens everywhere into a false sense of security. They hide behind their wheel-barrows and disarm unwary suburban dwellers with their rosy cheeks so that no one notices the weaponry they wield. Those rakes, shovels, and pick-axes are not harmless decorations. Alert the Garden Gnome Liberation Front: It is not the gnomes who need saving. Be aware and be afraid. Wake up to the danger.
Chuck Sambuchino is a certified GDE (Gnome Defense Expert) with years of experience in direct combat—guerilla lawnfare style. HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK outlines a proven four-step strategy—Assess, Protect, Defend, Apply—for safeguarding family, pets, and possessions against home gnome invasions. The only published handbook of its kind, this indispensable manual features detailed plans for gnomeproofing dwellings inside and out, instructions for hand-to-hand confrontations, correct gnomenclature, guidelines for compiling an effective arsenal, illuminating case studies of human vs. gnome clashes throughout history, plus ten tips that could save your life.
Would you know how to stop a gnome from tunneling under your house? Would you recognize the signs of suspicious activity or an impending infiltration in your neighborhood? If the answer is ‘no’ then you need to buy this book. The danger is real and it is here. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Chuck Sambuchino lives a guarded life in a heavily fortified residence somewhere in Ohio. He is available for interviews, consultations, and commando missions, via his publicist, Kara Van de Water -

View the book trailer here!

Hardcover $14.99 full-color 112 pages 978-1-58008-463-5
Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Inc.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I thought I'd share one of my favorite blogs. I go there every day, even though the blogger only posts about once a week. I wish he'd pep it up some. :) This anonymous man was an editor for more than two decades in the mystery and suspense genre. He decided to make a change so he and a friend started their own publishing company. They have a staff of five. According to him, "Agents don't bother us much because we don't pay six-figure advances."

I love this guy's voice. He says he's devoted to the field and wants to share what he knows, and boy! does he share. Ive started from the very beginning of his blog and read to the present. He's hilarious. I can tell when he's disgusted, when he's sarcastic, when he's frustrated. He's absolutely wonderful! I hope you think so too.

Mr. Anonymous has chosen the pseudonym "Agatho" in honor of Agatha Christie, "often imitated, never equaled," he says. I don't know who he is, but I've spent a considerable amount of time sleuthing and I think I've found his publishing company. I don't want to rat him out here, so, after studying his blog, his likes and dislikes, if you want to submit to his company--or what I think is his company, email me privately and I'll send you his way.

If it turns out that you don't love this blog as much as I do, at least read his last two posts:
What Mystery Has Taught Me and So, What Do We Learn from Bad Books?

Go to Mysterious Matters: Mystery Publishing Demystified

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?