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.