A Trip to the Library

library

I’ve been looking for a change of scenery for writing.

I considered a few of the coffee shops in the area, but I can see an additional ten pounds in my future if I go that route, because, you know, they sell treats to go along with their highly sugared cold coffee drinks, and sometimes, resistance is futile.

Rich and I recently went to our county library to check it out. I thought it would be a good place to take my laptop and write for a few hours several times a week. There is a large room with a half dozen tables, a sofa, and two chairs. The magazines and newspapers are in this room. There are loads of windows, and the room is bright. It seemed perfect.

The following Monday, I packed up my things, and off to the library I went.

I arrived at 11:00. I dropped some notes to myself throughout my work. I thought I’d log some thoughts of my first day at the library. Here’s the first note:

Forgot the damn book.

Forgive my French. I was all set up and ready to write only to realize I forgot to grab the most current version of my book from my laptop upstairs and transfer it to my traveling laptop downstairs. I was soooo frustrated. I picked a future scene out of my mind and began writing.

Here’s the next note to myself:

11:30 – yawning, looking at clock, wondering if I can go home yet. Feel lost without book to look back on. 223 words so far – that’s 446 per hour  – 2 ½ hours to get to 1,000 words. That’s crap. Could use some M&M’s, but there’s no food allowed in library. Chair is really hard and cuts into the back of my legs.

Whine, whine, whine. And, for the record, it’s been FOR.EV.ER since I’ve grazed on M&M’s while writing.

I had my iPad with me. Fifteen minutes later, I sent this message to Rich:

45 minutes and I’m already ready to come home. I forgot to bring my current book with me. I’m struggling to remember where I left off and what to write next. Washed the car on the way down here – ha! – the trunk lid wasn’t latched. You thought it was wet in there before. And I forgot my mouse! I hate using this pad thingy. If there’s any good news, it’s that I have almost 500 words done so far. I’m making progress.

He ignores me. Several minutes later, I send this message to him:

If you whine in the forest and there’s no one to hear, is it audible?

Still no response. I buckle down and do some writing. At 12:30, this message goes his way:

1,131 words. I’m leaving at 1:00. I have to stop at the store and pick up a few things on the way home.

He still ignores me. I continue writing … and I’m on a roll.

Final note to myself:

1,857 words. The end of first day writing and two hours in the library.

Not great, but not bad. The drawbacks to writing at this library were that every time I coughed, it sounded three times as loud because of the echo effect. My clacking keyboard keys weren’t that loud, but they sure sounded loud in that room. And, I was surprised by how many people talked loudly on cell phones or just talked loudly to each other in the room. Using earbuds to listen to music on my iPad helped but didn’t quite drown everyone out. Even the library workers made a lot of noise using a microfiche machine.

I’m going to try a different library. There’s a library closer to us that isn’t quite as large. I won’t have to deal with an echo, and I think the workers are stricter when it comes to talking.

Do you have a favorite place to write? Have you tried writing outside your home? I’d love some new ideas.

Oh! And Rich wasn’t ignoring me. He was visiting with his brother-in-law and left his phone in the den. I guess my whining wasn’t audible after all.

Sailing Bravely Into the Unknown

dontstarvesailing

I’ve been pretty quiet for well over a year now – not only with my blog but also with my writing. It’s hard to write humor when you feel like your world is falling apart.

I’ll spare you the details, but with my mother’s diminishing health, Rich’s allergic reactions to medications, and my own blood pressure problems, it’s been pretty rough at times.

It all came to a head last week when Rich had no other choice than to quit his job of thirteen years. It’ll be a few months before the adverse effects of the medications are gone, and then we’ll see how he feels.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. We are in unknown territory. It was terrifying to think of no more job security, but I’m calm about it – for now. With Rich finally making the decision to stay home and get well, my stress level has reduced greatly. That’s good for my blood pressure and my heart.

What’s also good for my blood pressure and my heart is that I’ve lost twenty-seven pounds since Thanksgiving. After a particularly rough day of heart palpitations, I went cold turkey off added salt, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. I’m eating mostly fruit, vegetables, nuts, and protein.

Do I miss pizza, Taco Bell, M&M’s, and junk food in general? You bet I do, but fear is a great motivator, and I’m too afraid to eat that crap. It’s a good thing I like to cook, because there’s a whole lotta cookin’ goin’ on here. I even make my own spice mixes and salad dressings. It would be nice to have a sous chef.

souschef

The stress reduction was so immediate after Rich quit his job that I’ve been able to work again – with joy. I’d almost forgotten that he was an audiophile, and he has music blaring from the den for a big part of the day. I actually enjoy this. It’s conducive to his healing and spurs my creativity. I’m happy to say, I finally banged out the ending of the seventh book in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series. I even have the main plot and the beginning of the next book mapped out. Onward and upward! This year can only be better than last year, and I’m expecting great things.

I’ll have the cover to Murder Wears a Veil soon. I’ll post it here with an approximate date of publication. And then I’ll get cracking on those Appleseed cozy mysteries.

In other news …

I think I have my Don’t Starve video game addiction under control. … I think I do. … Maybe I do.

And last but not least, or as Word wants me say, finally yet importantly, my friend Tim Dittmer published his second book this week. Five-Toed Tigress. I enjoyed his first book, The Valley Walker, and I’m looking forward to reading his new work. Take a look and grab a copy for yourself! (Click the cover to go to Amazon.)

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Bathroom Humor and a Free Book

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My mother is a good sport. I’ve used and abused her in my books but always with a loving heart and with her knowledge and support.

My mother and father were the inspiration behind Susan Hunter’s mother and father. When physically describing Susan’s father, and her close relationship with him, I may as well have been talking about my own late father. Susan’s mother doesn’t resemble my mother in appearance, but many of her characteristics and her love of laughter do. Mom loved reading my Susan Hunter books, and I know she enjoyed knowing so much of her personality went into Susan’s mother.

My mother is now eighty-five years old. A few years back, she proclaimed she didn’t care what people thought any longer. She said she’s lived long enough to say and do what she wants. That made it easy to base Mama in my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series on my own mother in her later years.

I grew up with three brothers who thought they were comedians. I can’t tell you how many whoopee cushions, fart machines, farts recorded on cassettes, belching contests, and just about any other manner of PG-13-rated potty humor went on in our house. I won’t say which brother, but one of them had so much gas one summer, he kept a notebook and logged each one as it passed.

My mother laughed at those boys until she cried. We all did.

If you don’t know by now, my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” books have bathroom humor in them. With the popularity of Melissa McCarthy and over-the-top humor in movies, I decided to go this route with the series. Where Susan Hunter wouldn’t pass gas in front of herself, Jo Ravens and her family are less couth. There are a few incidences of minor swear words (four in my new book), but they are used as humor rather than as angry swearing.

In Murder Under Construction, Jo laments the fact that her mother passes gas while shopping and then walks away, allowing Jo to come around the corner and walk into the gas cloud. Anyone coming near Jo would assume she was the offender. True story. I told my mother if she didn’t quit doing that to me, I wasn’t taking her shopping any more.

My sister called one day to tell me she picked Mom up to take her to the grocery store, and as Mom walked across the back porch, every step produced a puff of smoke. Upon further inspection, she realized Mom had put foot powder in her sandals. She was laughing so hard, she could barely tell me about it. In Murder Welcomes You to Buxley, Mama has an incident with baby powder in her shoes at the bowling alley.

One of my nieces read Murder Under Construction and asked her mother, “Has Grandma read this? Does she know she’s in here?” The false teeth incident gave it away for her.

My mother has threatened my siblings on occasion. She’ll tell them not to tell me about something she did, because it will end up in one of my books. She’s right, but she always laughs when it does. I know she secretly loves it.

Just last week, I published book number six in the “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series: Murder – A Chummy Affair. Mama is her usual inappropriate and silly self, but her bowling crony Lucille, who was mentioned in a previous book, has a bigger role this time, and she has chronic flatulence.

My mother loved the book and thought Lucille was hilarious. Of course she did! My mother’s middle name is Lucille.

I’m in the mood to give books away today. If you would like a copy of Murder – A Chummy Affair, let me know in the comments section below, and I’ll send a book to you from Amazon. If you need a copy for a different format, I’ll send a code for a free book at Smashwords, and you can choose the file that’s right for your eReader. Just make sure you let me know which venue – Amazon or Smashwords. If you prefer to write and ask me personally, my email is on my About page.

Finally, I was going through old pictures for a family member last week, and I came across pictures of my mother and father. I forgot how attractive my dad was when he was young. He could have been in the movie Grease!

Dad_50s

A Few Reading Recommendations

policeAre there blog police?

If there are, they will be coming to my blog any day now to shut me down for dust, cobwebs, and lack of content.

I love blogging and reading blogs, but I’ve been on a tear writing. This past Wednesday, I published book number four in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series – Murder Wins the Game.

I’m also over fifty percent finished with book number five – Murder Between the Covers. I’m hoping to have the book published by Thanksgiving.

A new series snuck up on me, and I have three chapters finished of Delicious Death. I’m choosing to be optimistic and say the book will be published in time for Christmas. I’ll save the details of that series for later.

A character by the name of Stanley Pearl has been tormenting me since April. He’s not a priority for 2015, but he’s still managed to get me to write three chapters of his story. I expect to finish the book next year.

To top everything off, a reader recently convinced me to write another Susan Hunter book!

I’m sure I’ll be around a little here and there, but for now, let me clear out some of the dust and cobwebs and show you the new book.

Murder_Wins_the_Game_Final_Oct_20152

Murder_Wins_the_Game_Card2

I also want to share some books by my friends and fellow bloggers.

Jackie Phillips at To Breathe is to Write has written and published two books! The Canine Caper is a short story introducing her main character, DeeDee Watson. A Case of Deceit is a full-length novel. The books are fun, cozy mysteries featuring a Papillion. A Case of Deceit was just released this week.

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Carrie Rubin has a new book – Eating Bull. I was honored to read the book ahead of publication, and it’s a great thriller. Not only does Carrie address topics pertinent to many people today – fat shaming, obesity, and bullying – but she writes about the topics in such a way that you will be thinking about the book long after you’ve finished reading. The paperback is available now; the eBook may be pre-ordered for release on November 12.

Eating_Bull

And last but not least, Valerie Clarizio has a new release coming out next Tuesday, November 3 – Plan Interrupted. I’ve read other books by Valerie, and I enjoy her writing style. Her books are a mix of romance and suspense, and I’m always entertained.

plan_interrupted

Happy reading!

Feel free to add your own new releases and recommendations in the comments below.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I must be having fun, because I can’t believe I haven’t been here since June.

In July, I flew to Texas to pick up Princess Pancake and bring her to Ohio. What a whirlwind of playing with dolls, playing games, drawing pictures … and being loud just because we could. Everything in my life took a back seat while I played for five weeks.

CutiepieShortly before she left, Rich dug a hole in our old garden and made a fire pit. Not only did we have fun roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with our granddaughter, but we also spent a few Friday nights around the fire with our neighbors – the ones who moved into the house with the stairway to nowhere. I’m not much of a camper or the outdoorsy type, and I had no idea I would enjoy sitting around a fire so much.

firepitWe took a ride on the motorcycle. Yes, only one ride for me this year, and it was to visit with our friends at the horse manure ice cream stand. I have a knee acting up, so I haven’t been so keen to ride this year, but it sure was nice to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair again. We have a few ninety-degree days coming up, so maybe I’ll try to ride again.

In book news, I have a few things to share.

5,000_WordsI read this book – 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox – and found the information to be helpful. By putting Chris’ ideas into practice, I’ve been able to quit procrastinating and make steady progress on Murder Wins the Game. Not only will I be able to finish the book soon, but I’ll be able to complete another book I started this year. The $2.99 price for the Kindle edition of 5,000 Words Per Hour is definitely worth it, and if the iphone I have wasn’t a dinosaur, I would have purchased the app he wrote to go along with it.

Speaking of Chris Fox … when I was searching for information on his book, I stumbled upon his WordPress blog – Chris Fox Writes. One of his more recent posts is an inspiring post about time and how his attitude toward time affected his life. It’s very motivating. Give it a read.

bookreportFor those of you who are authors with a book(s) at Amazon, if you haven’t yet seen the BookReport tool – try it out. It’s colorful, accurate, and the ka-ching sound when you sell a book is a pretty cool. BOOKREPORT (click the Learn more link.) The program is free unless you have over $1,000 in sales during the month. The cost is then ten dollars for that month.

bookbubBookBub. Ahh, BookBub. BookBub is frustrating and awesome. I tried for six months to get an ad spot with them. I was turned down every month – once within two hours. I was thrilled when I received word in July that Murder Under Construction was chosen for a feature to run on August 15. The ad would run on a Saturday, and I didn’t know if that was good or bad, but I didn’t care. It was BookBub!

I’ve been blown away by the results. Since the ad ran eleven days ago, there have been over 100,000 downloads of the book (105,555 to be exact). Within twenty-four hours, the book reached #1 in the Amazon Free Store, #1 in Cozy Mysteries, and #1 in Women Sleuths. The book is still holding in the top 100 in the Free Store and remains in the top ten in the two sub-categories (as I type this). Out of thirty new reviews, twelve are five stars and twelve are four stars. This thrills me! I’ve had requests from several people to be added to my mailing list, and I’ve had more interaction with people who have enjoyed the books than ever before – many of them going on to read the Susan Hunter series. It’s been quite a ride.

Photo_Substitution_June2015

Now it’s time to get my head out of the clouds and get back to work. As with any good ad, downloads and sales will taper off, so it’s best to keep moving forward and write the next book.

That’s where I’m headed this evening – off to the pink room for some “writing sprints” ala Chris Fox. I’d like to knock out another scene or two today.

I’ll be back soon with my report on the second half of James Patterson’s lessons on writing.

How has your summer been going so far?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch …

But there is a free book!

I was thrilled to receive a notice from Amazon over the weekend that they have agreed to set Murder Under Construction to permanently free. They made the price change today.

Knowing I was ready to set this first-in-series book to free, I pondered the simple cover I had originally devised. With two more books in the series now, the first cover was too plain, and the title wasn’t in the same style as the others. I asked my cover artist to make some changes. With my bare bones idea, and her creative enhancements, I’m thrilled with the new cover.

Murder_Under_Construction_blog_4-2015I’ve mentioned before that my cover artist is my niece. She’s a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. It’s wonderful having an art major in the family, and I love working with her.

I’m busy with an editing project, and I continue to move forward with writing my new book. I may only write a few paragraphs each day, but I am writing!

If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of Murder Under Construction, a humorous mystery, you can find it free at all major online eBook retailers. Links are conveniently grouped at my website: Breezy Books

I now have two books that are permanently free. Tell your friends!

photo_substitute_4-2015Update 03/24/2015 – 8:30 p.m.Murder Under Construction has broken into the top 100 free books in the Kindle Store at #97. It’s also #5 in Cozy Mysteries and #6 in Women Sleuths. I’m excited!!

Info Dump

springflowersRich usually reads my blog posts before I submit them. He will occasionally talk me out of one – like the last one I wanted to post. He said it seemed more a mishmash of information rather than a cohesive post. He was right, and I nixed it.

However, that gave me the idea to do a post consisting of random thoughts, so here we go …

The first item is a tough one: My brother passed away unexpectedly last week. He was a kind man who loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh. I considered doing a post about him. There are many funny stories to tell, but you didn’t know him, and you sort of had to be there for the funny, so I just want to put it out into the universe that he was a good man, and he will be missed. He was only sixty-one.

Age: In April, I am going to be sixty. I haven’t been shy about saying our son is now twenty-eight, and I am a grandmother, but I never mentioned that I didn’t have him until I was thirty-one. I think using Susan Hunter for my avatar may have given the wrong impression about the person behind the image. It wasn’t intentional. I simply didn’t have a current photo when I first began blogging, and I didn’t want to have one taken. I still don’t. Besides, I like the overall branding that came about for my books by using “everything Susan” and everything pink.

A public service announcement: When you are self-employed, be sure to watch your taxes. (Sad story deleted here.) The bottom line – just make sure you hold enough money back – and stop blaming your accountant for missing the big picture even though you told him last fall what your totals for the year would be.

Weather: Can we be done with winter now? I nearly fell on ice again yesterday. I’m ready for spring flowers, and I’m ready to start writing out on our deck again.

Books: I can’t stop reading. I’m sort of out of control. I finally read Creativity For Sale by Jason Surfrapp. This is the book in which I sponsored page 105. Remember? “Two sassy women from Ohio. One finds criminals. One finds dead bodies. They should meet. Books by Maddie Cochere – www.breezybooks.com

I’m still satisfied with the wording I chose, and I’m especially pleased that I was able to write the books and have the two women meet, thereby giving the ad substance. If you’re an entrepreneur, or looking to launch a business or website, or simply want to be motivated to work harder within your business, this is a great book to read. Jason has an engaging writing style, and I appreciated his willingness to share what worked and what didn’t as he embarked on his own creative endeavors.

Creativity_For-Sale1_smYes, that is a pathetic excuse for a snowman, but that is what Ohio is right now. Sloppy and messy, and we need more sunshine. Most people take a picture of the book on the beach or some other lovely locale. I’ve got nothing but the poor snowman with dog biscuit eyes.

Miscellaneous: I haven’t won the lottery yet, I think I’ve turned the corner on a bout of bronchitis, and I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight. I’m going to start spring cleaning soon. The spring cleaning might be a post of its own. I have a feeling it could turn into an adventure.

End Info Dump

Feel free to dump some info of your own into the comments!

A Tribute to Bo

Bo_LumpkinBo Lumpkin has been on my mind lately, and I’d like to tell you about him.

I first knew of Bo from following MsKatykins’ Spineless Wonders cartoon blog. I don’t remember if she pointed me to him, or if I began following him because I liked his comments to her. He seemed like a right nice fella.

Bo hosted two WordPress blogs: I’ve Been Thinkin’ -and- Gatorhead Comics. On I’ve Been Thinkin’, he posted his humorous stories and sayings, cartoons, and some of the beautiful copper jewelry he made. Gatorhead Comics was his cartoon site where I became familiar with Hank the Handyman, Kurt and Burt, Mildred and Aunt Edna, and Chester and Phil – both buzzards. His Geezerhood comics were some of my favorites.

His love of laughter and love of life came through in everything he wrote.

At first, I read and “liked” several of his posts. My first comment to him was after he made one small post: “I am writing this from a touch screen pad in St. Dominic hospital in Jackson. I came in by helicopter. Last. Night. It seems that so far I have survived another heart attack. I will try to keep you updated. :-)”

A smiley face! That was Bo. He put a smiley face after his news about having a heart attack – and obviously not his first one.

That was November 18, 2012. Over the next year, a friendship was formed. You couldn’t visit Bo’s blog without getting to know him and becoming friends. He was outgoing and caring. He was supportive, and he left great comments everywhere.

When I posted my story about ants, Bo commented: “Once I was standing outside the church when I noticed fire ants on my hands. I Buzzards_Bo_Lumpkinwas covered. I had to run inside to an empty room and take my suit off. I couldn’t get nekkid right there in the parkin’ lot full of people but I did think about it.”

When I posted about losing weight, he commented: “Way to go. Good luck with it. I have finally got my weight down to what I didn’t want it to get up to.”

When I was so stressed about writing and riding the roller coaster, he wrote a poem for me:

This roller coaster of which you mention,
Should never be a source of tension,
It is the ups and downs you see,
That fill our life with joy and glee,

Sometimes the train climbs with stress,
And the sudden drop is none the less,
But as we breathlessly dismount the train,
We look back with a sigh, “Let’s go again”

Some upside down twists and turns,
And oh, how our stomach burns,
We stretch and grow from all the strife,
On this roller coaster we call Life.
-Bo

When I gave away free copies of Windy City Hunter, Bo requested a copy – and read it! He delighted me to no end when he commented: “I finished “Windy City Hunter” last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great read and knowing that you wrote it in a month made it that much more fascinating. Thanks for the copy.”

He wrote a private email to me later telling me more reasons why he enjoyed the book so much and encouraged me to look for a print publisher. He was always incredibly supportive.

On November 1, 2013, I left a comment on his blog, but then I became busy with National Novel Writing Month and didn’t go back until December 12. I was absolutely heartbroken to find he had passed away shortly before Thanksgiving. I never met the man in person, but he was my friend, and I cried for days. I think it especially hurt my heart that I had no way to say goodbye to him.

I was writing Maple Leaf Hunter at the time. Susan, Mick, and friends were going to a hunting/fishing lodge in Canada. The owner was a friend of Mick’s from college. On the porch, sitting in a rocker, wearing a fisherman’s hat and overalls was the father of the owner’s wife – Beau.

Bo knew I was going to use him as inspiration for the Beau character in my book. He had already approved the idea that my character would tell anyone who would listen to him some of Bo’s sayings and stories.

I went forward and wrote Bo into my book as an elderly man (Bo was only 63), but I didn’t use any of his writings. I wasn’t comfortable to do so without him helping me choose which ones to use. The Beau in the book has a few humorous moments and a small part in the ending. I think Bo would have been pleased with how it turned out.

If you’ve read Maple Leaf Hunter, or if you read it at a future date, you now know that the Beau in the rocker on the porch was inspired by my dearly missed friend, Bo Lumpkin.

I’ll leave you with a few of Bo’s words that he wrote about his own life. It’s really everything you need to know about the man:

“Sometimes we can get caught up in life and make it a whole lot more complex than it really has to be. I consider myself one of the richest men in the world. I have a decent place to live. I eat way too much. I have two automobiles and both are runnin’ at this time. I have two great kids, three grandkids, the best wife in the world, and Molly (the super energized wiener dog). If I had to settle up financially tonight I would still have some of my stuff left because what I have is worth more than I owe. My health might be a little sub par but so far I have woke up every day for over 62 years. I don’t even have to wonder if there is a possum at the crossroads because I’ve got stuff in the freezer. Yep, all in all, I reckon Bill Gates and Donald Trump ain’t got it much better than I have it.” –Bo Lumpkin, February 20, 2013

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An Anniversary and Free Books

February8My anniversary is here again.

Three years ago today, I sat down and began writing my first book.

It’s been a wild ride. The ups are full of laughter, and I have a ball while I write. The downs have been rough, and I’ve wanted to quit several times. However, the downs fade away, and I always come back to writing with a renewed sense of joy and enthusiasm.

But enough about me. Here are some other things that also share the date of February 8:

Who can forget that “I’m Too Sexy (for my shirt)” by Right Said Fred peaked at #1 in 1992. (Oh, wait. We all can – and did.)

James Dean was born on this day in 1931. (I’ve never seen a James Dean movie.)

February 8 is National Laugh and Get Rich Day (Buy your lottery tickets!)

If you are an Aquarius, here is part of your horoscope for today. … aquarius“Just when you thought something was going your way, you realize it’s not going your way at all.” (Glad I’m not an Aquarius today.)

In 1994, Jack Nicholson used a golf club to attack a car. (The driver laughed and got rich to the tune of half a million dollars.)

On television tonight: The premier of Better Call Saul – a spinoff of Breaking Bad. Casablanca is on TCM. CBS has The Grammy Awards with host James Todd Smith. (I’ll be reading with The Grammys on in the background, because The Good Wife has been preempted – again.)

Finally, to celebrate my anniversary, let’s give away some books! There are ten books to choose from. You can see them all on my Breezy Books website. When you leave a comment here, tell me which one you’d like, and I’ll email a code to you from Smashwords. You can grab the book in the format of your choice for free! If you prefer to email your request to me, my email address is on my About page.

Have a great February 8. I am definitely going to do some writing!

BreezyBooks

Good Things Come in Threes

With little fanfare, I released my three new books into the wild yesterday. Within hours, they were in the premium catalog at Smashwords and available at Apple iBooks. Amazon was quick to review and make available the Two Sisters and a Journalist books, but Buckeye Hunter has been stuck in review for over twenty-seven hours now. Hopefully, they will release the book soon.

Murder_Is_Where_the_Heart_Is_blog
Amateur private investigator, Jo Ravens, is the only common link in the murder of three people and the abduction of a cab driver. While police are busy building a case against her, Jo races to prove her innocence. Her sister Pepper and journalist friend Jackie are on hand to assist in catching the real killer. The antics of her ex-husband and eccentric Mama add to this humorous mystery.

 
Murder_Welcomes_You_blog

Jo Ravens is busy trying to locate a stolen car, find a missing teen, and catch a philandering husband in the act. She already has more work than she can handle when she finds a murdered girl leaning against a dumpster. Jo also meets Susan Hunter when Susan comes to town to assist in the opening of a Slimmers Weight Loss center.

 

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Susan travels to Southeast Ohio to assist in the grand opening of a Slimmers Weight Loss center. There she meets Jo, Pepper, and Jackie – local sleuths from Two Sisters and a Journalist . When a murder is committed on Susan’s doorstep, Jo is the one to find the body. Susan can’t believe the trouble swirling around her even though she is only two hours from home. She makes a life-changing decision in this final book of the Susan Hunter series.

 

That’s all for today. In my efforts to continue chronicling my writing efforts via my blog, I wanted to post the new releases.

I’m going to eat some chocolate now.

Free Advice

FreeAdviceNot free advice for you. Free advice for me!

We’ve had some fun in the past trying to figure out a book cover or title. Let’s do it again.

In my Two Sisters and a Journalist series, all of the titles begin with the word Murder. The book I’m currently writing will have a lottery theme running throughout as Mama goes overboard buying scratch-off tickets. A murder will be connected to the lottery as well. There won’t be any jackpot drawings; everything revolves around scratch-off tickets. I prefer to keep the word Lottery out of the title.

So far, I’ve come up with these titles:

Murder Is A Numbers Game (However, I don’t really want another title that begins with “Murder Is.”)
Murder Unlucky
Murder Wins the Game
Murder Scratches the Game
Murder by Chance
Murder by Scratch

I’m leaning toward Murder Wins the Game or Murder Scratches the Game. Scratch is a term also used to cancel, eliminate, dismiss, etc., so I think it works physically and figuratively … but I’m not 100% sold on it. Which do you prefer? Or did you think of something else?

As for the cover … There are no people on the covers in this series. The backgrounds are less vibrant colors. I’m leaning toward a dusky green on this one simply because of the money/greed aspect of the story. (You can see all the covers for the series in the right sidebar of my home page.)

I’ve ruled out lottery balls with numbers. Mama has a lucky scratcher with a four-leaf clover in it, so I tried several four-leaf clovers on the lottery_ticket_bloodcover with a lottery ticket that has blood dripping from the top. Even with the blood, it’s cheesy enough to impart a “lighter mystery” feel, which is what I want. We all know I love cheesy!

However, I think I like the idea of a vault in the morgue, with the body pulled out feet first, and a lottery ticket hanging as the toe tag.

It’s hard to know what works until you see it. If you have any ideas, please share!

My standard disclaimer is to ask that you not be offended if I don’t use your idea(s), and please don’t expect anything other than a free book if I do use your idea(s).

Thanks for brainstorming with me!

P.S. – For all the friendly wisenheimers out there, whom I’ve come to know and love, Hunter will not be part of the title. Nor will any body parts. Thank you very much.

fourleafclovers

Dipping My Toe in the Pool

Princess_Pancake_BeachI’ve been thinking about coming back to blogging on a regular basis.

My “few months” of hiatus turned into just over nine months of disappearance. Stepping away for a while was a good move for me, but I miss reading blogs and the friends I’ve made here.

I made two main goals for myself this year. One is to read every day, and one is to write every day.

I started my year of reading with Janet Evanovich’s book, Top Secret Twenty-One. I enjoyed the book, and I especially enjoyed seeing how many exclamation points she uses in her writing.

I’m currently reading two books – A Hardboiled Murder by Michelle Ann Hollstein and an autobiography, Dick Van Dyke. Both are good reads.

My writing goal is coming along just fine, and I think I’m in a groove now. My current work in progress is book number four in my Two Sisters and a Journalist series. I started it last week. Here’s the opening line: In exactly one minute, I was going to be a millionaire and quit my job as a private investigator.

I suppose Jo may be overly optimistic with that statement.

There isn’t much to tell about my hiatus, but here are a few highlights:

Our six-year-old granddaughter stayed with us again for six weeks over the summer. It was very fun … and very exhausting. That’s her in the beach picture above.

I managed to go nine months without a dryer. That’s right. My dryer laundryburned up last March, and I insisted I could hang laundry just fine. Rich bought a dryer last month. He finally had enough of jeans stiff enough to stand on their own and towels so rough, you could exfoliate your skin when you dried with them.

I power-watched all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls – late at night – under the covers – on my Kindle – twice. How did I not know about this show?

I changed my spot in the house for writing. After our granddaughter left, I claimed a nook in her room upstairs, so I could sit near a window and have a view of the center of town while I write. I’m surrounded by pink walls and pink Minnie Mouse curtains. It has been a productive move.

I cleaned up the mess I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in 2013 and wrangled it into a book – Murder Is Where the Heart Is.

I fulfilled the goal of having the two main characters in my two series meet. Buckeye Hunter is the seventh (and final) book in the Susan Hunter series. Murder Welcomes You to Buxley is the third book in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series.

All three books are currently in various stages of editing.

Three_BooksMost recently, I was getting out of our truck with my arms full of grocery bags, and I slipped on ice and fell. The only thing that broke was a box of tissues. I crushed it with my … er, never mind.

I hope to see you soon. I’m sure I’ll come and go, but I’m optimistic I can add blogging to my goals for the year.

What have I missed while I was gone? What’s new with you?

On Hiatus

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A girl can dream.

Rather than to simply disappear for weeks on end, as I am wont to do, I thought I’d leave a note that I am taking a leave from blogging for a while.

The house needs a good spring cleaning, and I’m trying to write two books at once. April also brings our 25th wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Easter. It will be a busy month.

I may check in with your blogs now and then, but I hope to buckle down to writing and stop allowing myself to be so distracted.

Comments are closed. I’ll be starting today to sneak a few M&M’s, crank up the music, and write. See you in a few months!

Oh, Look! A Squirrel!

There are always fun lists around WordPress. A couple with irrationally-loved things caught my attention lately. I thought I’d share one thing I irrationally love:ImageEver since we bought our first computer nineteen years ago, I’ve been in love with fonts. When we homeschooled, we put out a monthly newsletter for the grandparents and spiced it up with fonts. I would peruse them for hours at a time, searching for just the right ones.

ImageImageImageLast evening, I was searching for a font, and I looked at all of them on Font Squirrel. I loved the test drive feature and took several of them out for a ride.

ImageImageImageThe font in my blog header is Parisian. I specifically chose it because of my French heritage, but I also liked the clean lines and couldn’t resist the curl on the Rs.

ImageImageImageI tend to like and use fonts that are on the frilly side, but I appreciate all types.

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What about you? Do you like fonts? Are you as obsessed with them as I am?

By the way, the samples I included – they make a list of ten simple things I love.

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I caught up with a few blogs recently, but it will be a while before I’m on a regular blogging schedule again. If I haven’t been by to see you lately, I will soon. I’m still trying to rebuild my follow list. I had quite a few blogs disappear, and my reader is acting squirrelly lately and not showing all posts.

Creating Characters

ImageMany of the characters in my books were created from people I know or have known in real life. My mother recently commented that the characters in my new series remind her of our family. There’s a good reason for that, Mom.  Image

A few bloggers have made their way into my books in one fashion or another. The latest is my friend Jackie at To Breathe is to Write.

Last year, I was having a hard time completing Maple Leaf Hunter. I was afraid when it was finished, my writing days would be over. However, my blog post of May 15 tells how the idea for my new series came about. Here is part of Jackie’s comment that day:

“I TOLD YOU SO!!! I TOLD YOU YOU HAD MORE BOOKS IN YOU AND ONE DAY IT WOULD JUST POP OUT!!! … I am volunteering to be one of the sisters!!! or, one of the characters. hehehe. I just love the concept and can’t wait for the first book. Big hugs!!”

I responded:

“I can put you in the book as a character. A famous writer friend in the neighborhood!”

When I started writing the book, the new character was quick to surface. In the first chapter, Jackie rushed onto the scene as the town’s star journalist. A short time later, she muscled her way into the series title: Two Sisters and a Journalist. That wasn’t planned, but it works, and it still makes me laugh.

Real life Jackie portrays herself as a redhead in cartoons on her blog, she loves to cook, and Imageshe’s writing a novel. These same three things also describe the voluptuous Jackie character in my new series.

Here’s another snippet from my work in progress. This one highlights Jackie.

– – –

Before he could respond and defend Officer Collins further, Jackie rushed in like a whirlwind. She glanced around the room. I knew she was taking stock of our appearance and demeanor.

It was obvious she had dashed right over. Usually impeccably dressed, she was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, with a sweater thrown on for warmth. Blessed with boobs, curves, and flowing red hair, Jackie was a siren. Howard’s eyes were shining and bulging as he unabashedly looked her up and down before noticing the blue pie box in her hands.

She moved to the table to look the girl over, sidled up to the coroner, and said, “It’s been a while, Howard. I thought you might like an apple pie since you’ll be working late tonight.” Her voice was sexy. I bit my lip again. She knew exactly how to play the man.

“My favorite,” he said. His eyes returned to her chest. “I can’t believe you remembered.”

She looked over at me and winked. I was going to have a hole in my lip if I bit any harder. She pointed to the body and asked, “Was this you?”

I shook my head. “Not this time. She fell out of the trunk of her cab over by the railroad tracks on Maple.”

Image– – –

Jackie has interviewed me for her blog post today. I hope you’ll pop on over to say hello and read the interview. It was fun answering her questions.

Before you go, leave a comment and tell me how you come up with your characters.

Let’s Chat about Writing Dialogue

Not surprisingly, I’ve drifted away from blogs and social media lately. I’m determined to buckle down and finish Murder Is Where the Heart Is.

Because I wrote the book so quickly during National Novel Writing Month, over five thousand words have been tossed. There is a ton of rewriting yet to do. I’ll get there. I simply need to focus.

However, there is a special reason for posting to my blog today.

I originally started blogging to chronicle my writing experiences. For that reason, I want to mark another milestone. Today is my two-year anniversary of becoming a writer.

Woo-hoo! Break out the M&M’s!

I thought it fitting to pick a writing topic for this post.

I chose dialogue for two reasons. First, I enjoy writing dialogue. Second, my blog post of September 18, 2012 has page views every day. Is Your book Dialogue Heavy has been visited more times than any of my other posts.

In that post, I expressed my discontent with a book I had read that was packed full of dialogue. I wrote: I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it being told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made.

I still feel the same way, but I also still believe that enjoyment or dissatisfaction with the amount of dialogue in a book is ultimately the personal preference of the reader.

Let’s move on today to writing dialogue. I have a few things to share.

When I first began writing, I realized the story was playing in my mind like a movie. It was easy to write what I was seeing and hearing. It’s still like that for me most of the time.

I read several articles about dialogue, and two simple things helped me the most.
– People don’t use perfect grammar when they speak.
– People usually use contractions when they speak.

Reading my dialogue aloud helps tremendously to hear if it sounds realistic or not.

I often envision favorite television or movie actors playing out scenes. My Jo Ravens character isn’t blonde, but at times, I envision her facial expressions, manner of speaking, and even her laughter, as that of Katherine Heigl’s. It worked perfectly as I wrote the following short scene from my work in progress.

– – –

(Quick setup: Jo is at a wedding reception. The adults are avoiding her.)

I sat at a table where two young boys were playing with handheld video games. The boys were oblivious to my presence until I popped the second meatball into my mouth. One of them scowled at me.

“Hey, you got me in trouble.”

My eyes widened. I held back a smile. “I did not,” I said.

“Did too,” he said.

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

I leaned forward, stared the kid down, and asked, “How did I get you in trouble?”

“Geez, lady, once you started laughing, I started laughing, too.”

The second boy finally looked up from his game and said, “Me, too.”

The first boy finished his tale of woe. “My mom pinched me to make me stop laughing. It hurt like crazy.” He lifted his shirtsleeve to show a small bruise.

I gave him a look of sympathy and mouthed a silent, “Wow.”

“My mom gave me the death stare,” the second boy said. “That kept me from laughing.”

I pulled my lips in between my teeth and bit down, struggling to hold back laughter. I finally said, “Well, you have to admit, the helicopter was pretty funny. So was the preacher taking a dive.” I raised one eyebrow, smiled at the boys, and nodded my head to encourage them to agree with me.

The second boy laughed and said, “I know! I’ve never seen a preacher move so fast.”

The first boy put his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle a laugh, but a sourpuss woman quickly extinguished it for him when she tugged his arm hard enough to lift him out of his chair and whisk him away. The second boy might as well have been tugged, too, because he was gone in a flash.

– – – Image

Dialogue. It’s my favorite part of writing.

Share your best tips. What helps you write dialogue?

Help Me Write 140 Characters

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November 26, 2013 was an unusual day for me. I did something outside the box.

I know I was running on about three hours of sleep. A snowstorm was on its way. My email to Rich that morning was whiny.

It was two days before Thanksgiving, and I was supposed to be writing my book for National Novel Writing Month. Instead, I was over at the Kindle Boards, where I am a serial lurker in the Writer’s Café.

On this day, Jim Kukral started a new thread: Creative book funding: Sponsormybook.com  He commented, “If you haven’t seen how this guy is funding his book, you should.”

The first thought that ran through my head was, “Fund a book? Why would you need funding for your book?” There were no replies to Jim’s thread, and I almost went my semi-merry way.

Almost.

Jim also commented, “Get creative people!”

That’s what pulled me in.

I followed the link to the website. Some guy in a t-shirt was selling advertising on every page of his book about creativity. I watched his video. I liked him.

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(slightly cropped) Photo by Laura Evans Photography

I deduced he was a marketing genius. I thought it would be great to buy an ad in his book, but I knew his readers wouldn’t likely be my audience, so I clicked away to read other items of interest.

It wasn’t long before I was back at Jim’s post. This time, I watched the interview between t-shirt guy (Jason SurfrApp) and Jim Kukral. They talked about Jason wearing t-shirts for marketing, selling his last name to the highest bidder, and about success and failure. It was all very interesting, but two specific things stood out for me.

At the 22:18 mark, Jim mentions the ton of media coverage Jason has enjoyed, and they talk about how he will tap into that once again when he releases his book. Jason has been featured on/in The Today Show, CNN, The New York Times, and USA Today. He has written for Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur.

His book will likely be a best seller.

At the 25:00 mark, Jason talks about the ads at the bottom of each page. He indicates that everyone who buys an ad will have a feature on the bookmarking website next year.

I knew right then I wanted in. I can’t even wrap my head around what kind of exposure the ad plus the feature might mean for my books. Or not. But I had to try this unusual method of marketing.

It took a while to choose a page to sponsor. The front of the book was too pricey for me; the back of the book was taken. I opted for a page near the middle. Assuming the book will be traditionally printed, the odd-numbered pages will be on the right. I chose page 105. I’m excited to see what information lands on that particular page. (Jason, if it’s a blank page or the end of a chapter, please place a fun picture on the page. My books are fun!)

My ad can only be 140 characters to include my URL. How about giving me a hand?

I want to link to my website for my books. I think I should continue with my branding of easy-breezy reading, and I suppose I should mention my name in addition to the website.

ImageShort and sweet? Less is more? This might stand out in a sea of “larger” ads:

Breezy Books. Humorous mysteries by Maddie Cochere. www.breezybooks.com

Or something longer. I’m going round in circles with these phrases:

Easy-breezy reading from Breezy Books.
Do you enjoy humorous mysteries? Try books by Maddie Cochere.
Easy-breezy reading from Breezy Books and Maddie Cochere.
Light mysteries with romance and humor.

How would you put it all together? Did something else pop into your mind? I have a bit of brain lock on this.

There are still pages available in Jason’s book, Creativity for Sale. If you want to try some unique marketing for your book, product, or project, check out SponsorMyBook.

A New Book for a New Year

I’m celebrating the New Year with a book!

I’m excited to announce Murder Under Construction, the first book in my new series, Two Sisters and a Journalist, is published and available at Smashwords and will be available in a few hours at Amazon. It will become available at other outlets as Smashwords distributes the book.

ImageThis is the book that came to me out of the blue one day. While my sister was in the doctor’s office, I waited for her in my car. I found a little notebook in my purse, and I started scribbling. By the time she came out, I had scribbled almost 1300 words.

You won’t find pink on the covers of the new series. The main character, Jo Ravens, isn’t a girly girl. In fact, at times, she doesn’t act very lady-like. She’s not a shopaholic, men don’t swoon over her, and she’s not a crier.

The new series will be more true mystery than the Susan Hunter books, but don’t worry – they’ll still have my own brand of silliness in them. I enjoy writing lighter fare, and the genre for this new series will be humorous mystery.

Four people have read the book so far.

My mother loved the book. She said she liked it better than my Susan Hunter books.

My sister enjoyed the book and said she couldn’t put it down until she finished it; however, she said she likes the Susan Hunter books more. Secretly, I think she loves Mick. That’s what’s going on there.

My dear friend over there in Australia, David Harding, read the book and gave me a wonderful surprise one day by sending this email to me:

Hi Maddie!
Sorry I took so long but I finished your lovely new book and it is great!!!!
I’m so torn – do I like this better than Susan H? I don’t know! It’s so amazing both of these worlds came out of your head! Wow!
And how in the world do you go about writing a mystery that makes sense and is exciting (and funny). I don’t know that either!
So good!
David

His email put me on top of the world. (Of course! Because he’s Down Under!)

And last but not least, my sweet friend, Jackie, wrote a review for the book for my post today. Oh, did I mention the journalist in the book is named Jackie?  Yep! Once again, a blogger provides inspiration for one of my characters.

“Maddie’s new book is a funny, feel good cozy mystery. Even though it has a dead body (I mean a good mystery has to have a dead body!), the dialog between the two sisters and the journalist (which is my favorite, but I am a bit prejudiced) is filled with laughter and love. The secondary characters are believable and round out the book in a great way! I found myself laughing out loud in places and cheering the ladies on! If you want a great read, go get this Imagebook and see what Maddie does so well – write good, fun books!” ~Jackie

I love my early readers!

And yes, I allowed the first line to stand. It was, after all, what started the series.  I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it.

So let’s give some books away to start the New Year!

If you would like an eBook copy of Murder Under Construction, leave a comment and tell me how you would like to receive the book – through Amazon or via a coupon code at Smashwords. I’m offering a limited number of books, but at least thirty, so don’t be shy about asking!

If you are shy (cough, cough, men who like my books but don’t want others to know), feel free to ask for the book through email. My email address is on my About page.         smiley

You can leave comments about other things, too.

Onward and upward! The second book in this new series is the book I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in November – Murder Is Where the Heart Is. Hopefully, I’ll get that book under control and publish it soon, too!

A Last-Minute Gift

ImageI’m delighted to have this post up before midnight on Christmas Day. I hope your holidays have been lovely so far.

But first things first … Baseball bet. Me loser. Mention Adam Sendek. Yada yada yada.

With that out of the way, I’m doubly delighted to show you the cover for my new Susan Hunter book. You will be happy to see I restrained myself – a Sasquatch does not appear on the cover.

ImageI’m triply delighted to tell you I have a holiday gift for you. Head on over to Smashwords, and use the following coupon code at checkout to grab the book for free. The coupon is good for at least 48 hours, so there’s plenty of time to get yours.

Coupon Code:

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And finally, lest you think I was unkind to Adam up above, the post about his Great-Grandmother was originally intended to be the Christmas Day post, but he requested it be shared on the 19th. If you haven’t yet read his tribute to his grandmother, it’s lovely. You can read it here.

Family Game Night

ImageOne sister + three brothers + two parents + me = game night every night.

Growing up in a household of game lovers was a blast. There was always someone to play with, and we had everything going from board games to card games to ping pong and shooting pool in the basement.

Mom and Dad loved to play games. I have warm, fuzzy memories of my dad laughing like Muttley the dog as we played games around the kitchen table. My brothers thought they were comedians, so there was no expectation of calm or lack of nonsense when we played. In our house, we rushed to finish homework – not to watch television – but to play games.

One of the best parts of Christmas Day was playing the new games. Mom always ordered a few from Christmas catalogs. Thanks to eBay, I was able to buy many of my old favorites to play with our son when he was a little guy – Camp Granada, Park and Shop, Lie Detector, Go For Broke, Careers, and many more. I recently bought a vintage Barbie Queen of the Prom to play with our granddaughter.

That brings me to a new game I’m excited to get my hands on.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I think David Harding is a great guy – Imagea super great guy! It was his fault we were calling pizza shops last December and asking the employees to draw pictures of gorillas throwing dice under the box lids.

I knew David was working on an actual gorilla dice game, but then this happened:ImageA new idea fell out of his head and onto a little piece of paper.

David Harding has devised a wonderful card game. Elevenses – The Card Game of Morning Tea. In case you’re wondering, elevenses is a real event. “In the United Kingdom and Ireland, elevenses is a snack that is similar to afternoon tea, but eaten in the morning.”

I’m impressed David knew this. I’m more impressed that his game has come to fruition and will be coming to market soon. The game has been fully funded on Kickstarter and is in the last few days of raising money for “overfunding” goals.ImageI’m proud to have had the opportunity to help fund David’s game, and I can’t wait to play Elevenses. Congratulations, my friend. I wish you many more successes in the future! xoxoxo

There is still time to support the game: KICKSTARTER

The gorgeous artwork is done by the lovely T. J. Lubrano.

This is a fun video review of the game by a man who enjoyed pretending he was a lady while playing the game: UNDEAD VIKING

Another video review of the game from a charming couple: COUPLE vs CARDBOARD

DAVID HARDING ♥

Are you a game player? Do you have a favorite board game? Do you like morning tea? I actually like tea quite a bit!

Chasing Caviar with a Double Shot of Gin Killed My Stomach

National Novel Writing Month last year was a hoot.

I remember the experience being frustrating, but I had a blast. I wrote Christopher De Voss into my book as zombie actor, Chris De Floss. When Susan and Darby ordered a pizza, they asked for the toppings from one of David Harding’s real-life pizzas. Two photographs of a fellow blogger were described as paintings in the book. They are hanging in a fictional gallery on Rush Street in Chicago. I used elements from a pulp fiction story in the book, and the cover is fabulously cheesy with a man in a gorilla head mask. I think it all turned out great. Image

National Novel Writing Month this year? Blech.

Before I could start my new book, I simply had to finish Maple Leaf Hunter. I wrote over 27,000 words from the first of the month to the tenth. After that, I did a little editing, suffered distractions from family members, and finally started writing for NaNo on the 18th.

The new book is a humorous murder mystery. I love my opening line:
Chasing caviar with a double shot of gin killed my stomach.

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You can’t beat a murder in the first sentence, and I was off and running. I raced the clock for the next thirteen days and finished with only a few hours to spare at 52,677 words.

For the first time ever, I wrote without editing, and the book is a mess! There are a ton of crossed out words and sentences that need rewritten. I didn’t research as I wrote, and there are numerous details to look up and fill in.

I generally do most of my writing after 7:00 at night. In the morning, I read what I wrote the night before and clean it up. By the time I’m writing again, I know my book is in pretty good shape, and I’m in the right mindset for going forward.

I took the time to edit the first chapter of my new NaNo book. The word count went down by 735 words! Yikes!

So how are things in your neck of the woods?

Shopping for Houses When You Write

Spanish_HomeMy father and my uncles worked together to help each other build their houses. It’s too long ago to remember the details, but I recall each of them being skilled at one particular thing, and all of them able to do a little bit of everything.

I was three years old when Dad built our house, so I don’t have memories of the construction, but I do remember years later when my uncle built a duplex next door to us. The framework was up, and there were planks over cement block footers until the stoops were poured.

One day I angered my brother, and the chase was on. I was running to find Dad to save me, and I jumped onto the boards over one of the holes. The next thing I knew, I was bleeding in the basement. Once Dad knew I hadn’t broken anything in the fall, I got a whippin’ for the disruption to the work process. Ahhh … good memories.

But the best thing about those men building houses was the books. The books with drawings of houses and their floor plans. I spent hours poring over those books and dreaming about the house I would one day live in.

I still love floor plans, and I use them when I write.

When writing Windy City Hunter, I looked at condo floor plans before settling on one from a building I stayed in when visiting the city.

For my new book, Murder Under Construction, I chose a simple two-story home for my main character. I copied the floor plan and added my own information. It was a big help when I needed to reference direction, and it also helped me to remember what I had already written about the house.

Floor_Plan_MUCFor the book I’m writing now, I’ve been searching for Spanish-style homes. Floor plans are certainly more attractive than they were years ago.

color_plan

I find it helps quite a bit to have actual houses and floor plans when I’m writing. It’s easier to envision my characters moving around in their homes. I’ve even printed hotel room layouts when my characters have stayed in hotels.

I’ve always used calendars, timelines, and maps when planning my books, but until I was searching for floor plans again, I didn’t realize how much I rely on them.

What about you? Do you make up your houses and floor plans in your head? Or do you go shopping for houses as I do?

Just do it.

ImageIt feels good to dive back into writing full time, and I recently completed the first book of my new series.

As I quickly moved on toward completion of the next Susan Hunter book, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a few months ago but never published. It is the advice I give to myself all the time when I think I can’t do it, when I have a hard time keeping at it, or even when I feel like quitting. It’s good for me to read this again today as I forge ahead with the hopes of writing two books in two months. I’ll share it with you, too.

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Just do it.

Everyone is familiar with the famous Nike slogan. It has seeped into many aspects of our lives. I think of the saying when I have chores to do, when I don’t want to exercise or eat healthy, and most definitely with writing.

I wasn’t a writer. I was a wife, a mother, a seller of used children’s books. I love books, but other than a couple of ideas for children’s picture books, the thought never entered my mind to write a fiction novel.

Until it did.

Just do it.

Late in the day, on a cold evening in February of 2012, it popped into my mind that I should write a story. It popped into my mind because I was surfing the Smashwords site, and I was amazed that people were writing stories and books and publishing them on their own. That’s when I thought I would try, too.

I didn’t do any preliminary outlining or give any serious thought to who the characters would be or where they would go. I simply started typing and kept at it for a couple of hours. It was fun, and the story made me smile. I went to bed laughing at myself that I might actually be writing a book.

I added to the story the next day, but I was already waning. I am sometimes my own worst enemy. I can be flighty. I talk myself out of things. Writing a book would be a lot of work, and I was already busy enough. I set the writing aside and went about my normal business for a few days.

But now that the story was started, it kept calling to me. I didn’t really want to, but I found myself adding to the story late at night after everyone was in bed. My book was finished within the month.
I wrote a second book. I wrote a third. I was too afraid to publish them.

Until I wasn’t.

Just do it.

In May of 2012, I published all three books at Smashwords and Amazon. I freaked out shortly after over the fact that I had put my work up at Amazon, but it was done, and I let it be.

Now I couldn’t stop writing. I started a fourth book, and then a blog. I didn’t want to start a blog, but the thought wouldn’t leave me alone Imageuntil I did. It seemed a good idea to keep a chronicle of my writing and self-publishing journey. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know any of the finer points of writing or marketing. I was doing everything wrong, but I was oblivious, and there was no one to tell me otherwise, so I simply kept going forward.

Just do it.

I’ve made wonderful friends through blogging, and I’ve learned a lot about writing, self-publishing, and marketing from other bloggers. If I would have had all of this “new” information before I started writing, I probably would have never written my first book. It would have been too daunting.

I didn’t have money for professional editing or expensive marketing, but that didn’t stop me. I’ve kept my sense of humor throughout most of my trials and tribulations. There have been times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and quit, but those feelings passed fairly quickly, and, for the most part, I continue to have fun writing and self-publishing. I’ve made corrections, republished a couple of my titles (numerous times), and I believe my writing has become stronger. There is still a lot to learn.

Will I ever write the great American novel? No. I enjoy my silly fare too much. But I’m happy I followed my instincts and the little voice inside my head that continually says …

Just do it.

Today, I want to encourage you, too – especially new writers. Whether you are toying with the idea of writing a book, or finally on your way and writing, don’t listen to the naysayers, not even the ones in your own mind. Learn what you can when you can, but don’t be afraid to go forward with what you know now and the tools you have on hand. I was as green as they come when I first started.

Just do it.

~ ~ ~

Write. Write for fun. Write to entertain yourself. Write because you can. Then publish. It’s a wonderful world that has opened up to us because we can publish our own works.

What about you? What do you tell yourself to keep going forward?

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Back at the keyboard when the rain passes.

 

Charm Me

Saturday
June 22, 2013
2:30 p.m.

It’s 86° in the shade, and 81° in the house. The central air isn’t working.

Rich brings the motorcycle up to the house, and we get ready to go. I further insulate an Imageinsulated cup filled with ice water, grab my mp3 player and my sunglasses, and we’re out the door.

“Where to?” Rich asks.

“Take me to Charm,” I tell him. “I’ve never been to Charm.”

Charm is a small Amish town, and as this is my first time out on the motorcycle this year, I want to ride through some of my favorite country.

It feels wonderful to have the hot sun on my face and the wind whipping through my hair again. Traffic isn’t heavy, and we take our time enjoying the beautiful scenery.

After riding for about an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrive in Charm. We stop and get off the bike at Guggisberg Cheese. We don’t go in to see if there are cheese samples, but we do take a couple of pictures. Rich is armed with an iPhone. I have a little Bloggie in my hand.

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Enter here for cheese!

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The mailbox for the cheese plant.

My hair isn’t terribly tangled, and I silently thank my cream rinse for doing its job.

A group of motorcycle riders passes us. Not a single person is wearing a helmet. We’ve probably seen over one hundred riders today, and maybe six people were wearing helmets. If we ever have an accident and die because we weren’t wearing ours, you must write in your blogs, “Well, at least they died doing something they loved.”

The Amish are friendly. When we drive through the area in a car, they never look at us or wave. However, when we are on the motorcycle, men nod, boys wave, little girls smile, and even women relaxing in chairs under the shade of a tree will wave and smile as we go by. I wonder why that is? I find it incredibly enjoyable.

ImageThere are no ice cream cones or sundaes today, but that doesn’t keep us from having to watch where we step. Horse manure is plentiful in parking lots and along roadways.

By the time we get home, my bum is numb. Maybe we stayed out a little too long on my first day, but it was worth it.

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How’s your summer going so far? We’ve had rain, rain, and more rain. Some of it has been in the kitchen and in the basement. A nice man sledgehammered our old cement porch at the back door and hauled it away. Rich is now building a deck for me. A new place to write! I’m woefully behind with reading blogs, but I have been productive by trying to write two books at once: Susan Hunter and her misadventures in Canada – as well as the two sisters and their efforts to solve a murder. Despite the rain, I think summer is coming along just fine.

Avoiding the Circus -and- A Breakthrough

ImageDo you have a mundane daily routine? Does every day seem like the previous one? Do things never change?

That’s certainly not my life, but I sometimes pine for that level of “normal” – if only for a week or two. How in the world do you ever write with consistency when you have no routine?

When there were four dogs, a son, and a husband in the house with me, it was a three-ring circus every day. With three of the dogs and the son now gone (I kept one beagle and the husband), we are still having at least two-ring circuses.

Where is the time to write?

Yesterday was “the day.” I was determined to get down to it, and nothing was going to get in my way of writing.

Then my sister called. She needed a ride to the hospital for a CT scan. No problem. ImageThe trip to the hospital turned into two trips to the hospital, an Arby’s lunch run for a Reuben sandwich for me, one trip to her surgeon’s office, and then a third trip back to the hospital where she was admitted for emergency surgery. I arrived home late in the evening. She had her surgery today, and she came through it just fine. She’ll soon be as good as new. Yay for great surgeons!

But something happened while I was waiting for her at the doctor’s office. I thought he would see her right away, so I opted to wait in the truck and listen to the radio. Earlier in the day, in an effort to keep her distracted and make her laugh, I told her I was going to write my next series of books about a couple of weight-challenged sisters who solve crimes in their community. We laughed, but the idea intrigued me, and I thought about it again while I waited for her.

I found a little notebook in my purse. I started jotting down ideas for characters. Names, ages, married or not, kids, jobs, community, etc., and a first line that will never stand: I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it.

I began scribbling as fast as I could. I managed just under 1300 words before my sister Imagecame out. At home, I hurried to type the words before I would forget and could no longer read what I had scribbled.  The last line on this page is: “Sorry, Sergeant. She’s got a knife in her.”

This was huge for me! I’ve been afraid to complete the Susan Hunter series for fear there wouldn’t be anything else. I kept thinking Susan was a fluke, a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder. Ha! No longer! Make way for a couple of fun sisters.

I’m not going to finish this first chapter just yet. I’m going to get back to Maple Leaf Hunter and enjoy writing the story. I’m going to keep an open mind that Susan just might show up again in the future – somewhere deep in a new series where she meets a couple of sisters via a Slimmers Weight Loss center.

Oh my gosh! Writing is crazy fun, and I continue to be amazed at how ideas pop up, rush in, and come together. Now, if I could just get my daily routine under control to make it all happen.

ImageEdited to add: Chinese was for dinner again tonight. I opened my fortune cookie a few minutes ago, and this one popped out!!  🙂

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When Blogging Takes a Back Seat

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Just kidding!

It was a big job to pack and ship over 1,000 books, but they were finally shipped last week. I am officially out of the used book business.

I know I’ve missed a ton of great posts, and I know I can’t catch up with all of them, but I have started to read blogs again and will try to go forward with some regularity of stopping by to see what you all are up to. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks:

~ We finally have new neighbors. I’ve been keeping an eye onImage the Stairway to Nowhere to see what they do with it, but there is nothing to report yet. The family has a well-behaved dog who looks like Carl, so I’m assuming (based on the dog) that they will be good neighbors.

~ I’ve rediscovered glass in our house. I’ve enjoyed reading Dianne Gray’s adventures as her family has moved a rugby club onto their property and is now restoring it into a beautiful home. It has been lovingly dubbed The RUC, and it has some wonderful features including some vintage windows. Rich finally convinced me that the window in the upstairs bathroom is an oldie but goodie, and there is not a plastic laminate over it; it’s 100% glass:

ImageAnd this window hides behind a shade in a spare room that is only accessible through the bathroom, so I rarely remember the window is even there:

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It’s double-paned glass with glass slats running up and down between the panes.

Image~ I read Carrie Rubin’s book, The Seneca Scourge. I enjoyed it very much. I stayed up until after 3:30 a.m. to finish it one night. I haven’t read a medical thriller in ages, and I had a hard time putting it down. Carrie, you made me cry in chapter six, and I had to grab a tissue while reading a few subsequent chapters, too. The funny thing was that no matter how many times the main character’s blonde hair was mentioned, I could only picture Sydney as Carrie! And Sydney/Carrie, you rock!

Image~ I read Matthew Iden’s book, A Reason to Live. I read it in two days, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, too. This style of book (murder, crime, suspense) is probably my number one genre to read, and Matthew didn’t disappoint. His main character of Marty Singer is likeable and easy to root for. A couple of events at the end of the book took me by surprise. I’m definitely reading the next two books in this series.

~ I’ve been cleaning and throwing things out. The room I work/write in has an echo now. I kind of like that. Most of the shipping boxes are gone from the house, but I still have to deal with packing peanuts and a few other packing materials.

ImageImage~ My hardcover books are finally on my bookshelves. The plastic shelving on the right holds the overflow. I’ve started reading A Decadent Way to Die by G. A. McKevett. She’s not a WordPress author, but I couldn’t resist the cheesecake on the cover of this one, and I want to hold a hardcover in my hands for a change. This book is in the Savannah Reid series of books. I’m only two chapters in, but so far so good.

Image~ I watched a marathon of Bar Rescue on Spike TV. It’s a bit like a train wreck, but I couldn’t look away.

~ I found a blog I must tell you about. Mr P’s Adventures. Mr P is a potato head! He has some Imagetype of adventure every day. The first time I saw one of his blog posts – happily orchestrated by Ohiophotogrl – I laughed out loud. I took the time to go back through the archives and look at every post from the beginning of the year. I was wonderfully entertained. The posts are usually short, and you can click an archived month and simply scroll down to see all the pictures and posts. You don’t have to click through to the actual post unless you want to leave a like or comment (which you will want to do as something will likely tickle your funny bone). The blog is family friendly, and your kids will enjoy seeing what each day holds for Mr P as well as to read his final daily comment: “Wonder what we are going to do tomorrow?” Please check it out!

~ I caught up with all of my business paperwork.

~ I’m nearly finished with an editing pass on Big Apple Hunter. I wanted to do this before Imagerepublishing with the new cover, and I’m happy that some small errors will now be fixed. But most of all, I’m finally ready to buckle down to continue writing Maple Leaf Hunter. My family is giving me pointers on Bigfoot creatures. Yes, that’s right. My two brothers believe in Bigfoot, and I’m putting one (or more) in my new book. Ghosts, a gorilla head, zombies, and now a Bigfoot. I’m still out of control!

Do you believe in Bigfoot? What do you do when your blogging takes a back seat?

The End of an Era

When I look back on my life, I see blocks of years.

There was the silly, somewhat gawky girl in school who was everybody’s buddy. School was fun and not taken nearly as seriously as it should have been.

Later came a block of years where working for a large music distributor brought about a more confident young woman who met musicians and was on the receiving end of some very cool swag and a ton of fun.

That lifestyle was set aside, and an athlete appeared in the new block of years. Racquetball, Imagesoftball, and bowling filled the spaces between work and sleep.

Climbing the corporate ladder eventually replaced sports, and the fast-paced world of decision-making, advertising, brainstorming, and training filled nearly every waking minute of every day.

Marriage and a little boy who needed his mommy brought it all to a screeching halt, and a new block emerged.

Deciding to homeschool our son was a big decision, and I went from the boardroom to the schoolroom. A five-year-old became the person I conversed with most. I traded suits and heels for jeans and tennis shoes. I became a kid again.

A few years later, we bought a computer. We were on the internet. We found eBay! Our home business was born.

We started traveling all over NE Ohio to library book sales where we purchased used children’s books for resale on our own website and on eBay. eBay was in its infancy, and you could see all of the books for sale, in all genres, on just a page or two. Today, there are over one million books for sale on eBay.

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Our living room when it was full of industrial shelves and books.

For sixteen years, we’ve shopped, we’ve sold, we’ve packed, and we’ve hauled heavy boxes of books to the post office. It has been worth it, but it’s been harder work than you might think. I’ve often thought I needed to quit because the heavy lifting is taking such a toll on my back and arms.

Two weeks ago, I was working on an update to our site by adding another 400 books to the pages. I was looking forward to the income an update would generate, but I was not looking forward to pulling orders and packing boxes.

Before I was finished with the typing, an email arrived from a family who was placing an order for 135 books already listed on the site. Rich came home from work the next day while I was pulling the order. When I told him about it, he asked, “Why don’t you make her an offer to buy all of your inventory, and then you can finally be done with book selling?”

Really? Was he serious?

We estimated the number of boxes and the weight to ship everything at once, and then he checked shipping quotes. I sent an email back to her with an offer she couldn’t refuse, and she didn’t!

So now we are in the process of packing for the last time. We’ll take all of the boxes to Rich’s work where they will be put on a pallet, wrapped, and shipped across the country.

I am so excited to rid my house of boxes, styrofoam peanuts, packing material, tape, and paperwork! My bookshelves will once again hold my hardcover books. The kitchen table won’t be stacked sky high with books. We will no longer be walking around stacks of books on the floor. Our house will be a home again.

Now that our son is moved out and on his own, and now that my used book business will soon be shipped out of my life, and with only one Susan Hunter book left to write … I can’t help but wonder what the next block of years will bring.

Maybe I should buy a Harley.

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The Ants Go Marching One by One

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Ant cookie from The bearfoot Baker.

This blog needs a good airing. Let me set aside all things books, open the window, and allow some fresh air and sunshine to come in. Yes, the sun is shining today. It will be raining and snowing again tomorrow, but for today, there is a glimpse of spring, and I’m pretending it’s much warmer than the 40 degrees on the thermometer.

So what shall we talk about?

I choose insects as the topic for today, because I seem to have a history with ants. It all started when I was a child, and a Saturday morning rolled around. My mother came into the room I shared with my older sister. She had called for us to wake up a few times, but we had ignored her, and by coming into the room, we knew she meant business. There were chores to be done before we could take off on our bikes for the day.

I remember Mom standing there staring at me with her mouth open and a deep frown on her face. What? What did I do now? I wasn’t even out of bed yet.

“What do you have all over you?” she asked.

I sat up, focused on my bed, and promptly bolted up into a standing position and started jumping and hopping on my bed, while screaming and writhing with the heebie-jeebies. My bed, and therefore me, too, was covered with ants!

The source was soon discovered. Before going to bed, I had tossed my sneakers into the nearby closet, and they had something sweet on them. Whether it was something I had stepped in, or something I had climbed into via a tree, there were a million ants in my closet, and they had come up onto and into my bed.

Thankfully, they were the garden variety ant and not the biting kind.

Moving on.

When I was nineteen, I moved into my first apartment. It was a basement apartment in a large complex, and it was basically one big room with one door leading into a small bathroom. There was very little counter space, so when I wanted to make sugar cookie cutouts at Christmas, there wasn’t room to cool the massive amount of cookies I was baking. I spread a clean tablecloth out on the living room floor, and as the cookies came out of the oven, I transferred them from the cookie sheets to the tablecloth.

Imagine my surprise when after a time, the cookies appeared to be decorating themselves.  Yep, an army of ants had invaded and covered nearly half of the cookies. It was winter for crying out loud!

Some of you know we homeschooled our son. Rather than to give in to the recommendations of Imageour local school and medicate the hyper boy, I quit my job to stay home and school him myself. I didn’t have a clue how to start, but I figured it out, and we had a blast. A lot of our studies were done by focusing on one thing at a time – unit studies.

One summer, we did a unit study on ants. We started by setting up an ant farm in the house. Those kits are actually very cool. We started a war in our ant farm by putting a couple of big black ants in with the smaller common ants. We didn’t know they weren’t compatible, and the little ants attacked the big ants, overtook them in quick order, and threw their dead bodies onto the garbage heap at the side of the farm. It was somewhat horrifying to me, but the boy loved it.

One day we went sugaring for ants. We made ant bait by mashing a banana and stirring in a good amount of sugar. We smeared the bait onto the base of a tree trunk, and then we settled into lawn chairs to watch and wait for the ants to come. It took an hour before we noticed a steady stream of ants marching to the banana mash and then back to their anthill. There appeared to be more than one colony coming from different directions, and they truly did march single file, one by one. It was amazing.

ImageSo, ants and I share a long history.

How about you? Tell me your best insect story? Have you ever had ants in your pants?

Please Remain Seated Until the Ride Comes to a Complete Stop

I hate roller coasters. They scare me like crazy, and I’m lucky I was never sick on one.Image

Many years ago, I went to Myrtle Beach with three of my girlfriends. We ended up at an amusement park. I didn’t want to ride the roller coaster, but I also didn’t want them to know I was afraid, so, of course, I hopped on.

The first turn was made at the top, and as we leveled out, all I could see was the ocean ahead of me. The feeling of flying down the first hill was that of plunging into the ocean. I don’t remember much else other than a sick feeling. I was so relieved to get off of that roller coaster.

I’ve said before that if I only ever wrote my books to entertain my mother and my sister, it would have been worth it. Although I’ve hoped for more, that statement has always been true. I’ve been wondering why I’ve had so much unease lately. Last Saturday night, I had a light bulb moment. I realized the unease was coming from the emotional roller coaster I was still riding – and I wanted off!

Downloads, no downloads. Sales, no sales. Reviews, no reviews. Up and down and up and down and up and down. Whether I realized it or not, the ride was constantly running in the back of my mind.

I allowed the car to pull into the station, come to a complete stop … and I got off.

Last July, when I realized I had made total royalties of $74.72, Rich said to me, “Honey, $74.72 is more than you ever thought you’d make. You’re way ahead of the game.” He was right then, and he’s still right now.

I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed I would when I sat down to write my first story. I’m happy with the success I’ve achieved, and I’m not getting back on that roller coaster.

We will soon be out riding the motorcycle again, and I’m relieved I’ll be riding without nagging worries riding along with me. I already feel lighter, and I’ll be sure to report all of the crazy things Rich and I get into this summer while we’re out. In the meantime, I’m going to set my mind to working harder on Maple Leaf Hunter. I have a few fans waiting for it.

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The Voices in My Head

The voices aren’t really in my head. They’re in the head of Marcus Matherne (pronounced ImageSmith).

Marcus is an author who has a blog here at WordPress, and in my effort to support WordPress authors this year, I recently read Marcus’ book, My Status Update Journey.

I wasn’t going to read it just yet. I’m in the middle of another book, and I’m chomping at the bit to get to the next one on my list. I wonder where Marcus’ book is on my list. Let me check and see.

Ok, I’m back. A lot of you have written books, you know. My list is quite long, and to be fair, I’ve already read Marcus’ picture book for children going to school for the first time, Big Yellow School Bus, so, hopefully, he won’t be offended when he reads this and finds out he was number fourteen on my list.

But then the power went out last Monday night. I finished reading a book on my Nook, and I played “Where’s My Water” until my Nook died. Now what?

My new Kindle Paperwhite was charged, but that meant starting a new book. I didn’t want to get Imageinto something deep, so I started flipping through my library and spotted Marcus’ book. Why not? I’d give it a shot.

Oh my gosh! This book is funny!

I rarely laugh out loud when I’m by myself, and I suppose I didn’t laugh out loud when reading this, but I did chuckle out loud quite a few times. COL!

Marcus downloaded his Facebook status comments from a span of about three years, and pulled out the best of them. His commentary around these “status update” comments is worthy of a stand-up comic with perfect timing. His stories are entertaining, and some are downright hilarious, with most revolving around his wife and two sons.

Can you imagine a grown man driving his two boys all around town so they could find every bench in town. The boys would hop out, sit on the bench, Marcus would take a picture of them sitting on the bench, and off they would go to the next bench where they would do it again. This still tickles my funny bone.

His blog post here was inspired by my telling my mother his story from the book about children needing their behinds wiped. She laughed as hard as if I had told her a great joke.

Then there was the clapping of hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. He writes: The next time I am in an important meeting or in a crowd of strangers, I’m going to start clapping like crazy. When people start to stare, I’ll just say, “I’m happy and I know it.”

I muffled a laugh so I wouldn’t wake Rich up when I read, “There was one time that I saw a half of a jelly doughnut lying there spilling its guts out. I felt like I was at a crime scene and almost called 911.”

There are even a few pictures in his book. I especially liked the one where his face was pressed against a flatbed scanner – and his eyes were open!

I enjoyed My Status Update Journey and a look into the life of Marcus and his family. The man Imagestill loves Froot Loops. What’s not to love!

This is a perfect read for when you want something to fill the gap. Read it on an airplane, or read it at the beach. Read it over a few lunches or while waiting for an appointment. It’s a great palate cleanser, so to speak, between other reads.

I hope you, too, will consider supporting WordPress authors this year, and add Marcus Matherne (pronounced Smith) to your list of authors to read. I know you will laugh.

In case anyone wonders … I purchased my copy of My Status Update Journey. Marcus did not ask for a review, and my review today is based solely on the fact that I enjoyed his book enough to recommend it to my friends. Check out his reviews at Amazon; I’m not the only one!

What is it with Men and Bacon?

I came downstairs last Sunday morning, and Rich was watching United States of Bacon on Discovery Channel. People were eating 5-ounce chunks of thick, hickory-smoked bacon-on-a-stick, and my husband was drooling.

“Honey,” he said. “I swear this is just like watching porn.”

Not that he watches porn.

I laughed, shook my head, and asked him what was the deal with men and bacon? Women like bacon, but they don’t turn into idiots when it’s on television, or when they’re cooking it, or even when they see it in the grocery store. Bacon awakens something deep inside of men.

He recently did some computer work for a friend. It took a couple of trips and several hours to complete the work. HE TOOK PAYMENT FOR HIS SERVICES IN BACON. Seven pounds to be exact.

We’ve joked about bacon here before, and some of you may remember his bacon poem. He wrote it for me to enter into another blogger’s poetry contest, but I refused:

Slice it, smoke it, fry it up quick.
Make sure it’s done, or it might make you sick.
Splattering grease burn, it looks like a freckle.
An apron protects you, especially your schmekel.

(Yes, we’re really twelve years old, and the poem still makes me laugh.)

When I make potato soup, he wants bacon in it. Fried cabbage? Only with bacon. Bacon on Imagepizza. Bacon-wrapped steaks. Bacon on baked chicken. Bacon on burgers. Bacon in baked beans. Bacon and eggs, of course. It never ends, and just the smell of it as it cooks reduces him to the grinning village idiot.

A 2009 study in Britain showed men to prefer the smell of bacon over babies. Why am I not surprised? When I told this to Rich, he replied, “Well, that makes sense.”

Bacon is addictive. Per wikipedia: bacon possesses six ingredient types of umami, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response.  … “the chain lards on bacon” create a one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute.

You can’t help it if you love bacon: “Bacon makes you feel happy, satisfied, blissful, which greatly reduces stress in our lives and effectively relieves the negative effects of frustration, self deprivation and sense of lack in ones existence.” Bacon is nature’s candy.

I’ll close with some final thoughts from my husband:

– Bacon is like fine wine, except you fry it.

– There is nothing better than bacon and eggs – minus the eggs.

– There is no proper way to prepare bacon.  Whether it’s almost burnt, or fried just enough, it’s perfect every time.

– Kevin is one of the luckiest guys on earth!

– Just because there are no bacon paintings by van Gogh doesn’t mean he didn’t paint one.

– Did you know that no matter what you type into Google Images after the word bacon, you will get legitimate results?  From bacon automobiles to bacon zombies, you’ll get real bacon results.  Try it.  ImageDo you love bacon? When was the last time you ate bacon? What’s your favorite way to eat bacon?

Is Your Book Cover A Stinker?

I know I’ve had a lot of posts lately about my books, but I promise I have a bacon post coming up.

*** BACON ***

If you are a man reading this, please comment as to if that word caused some type of reaction within you. I’d like to know for my research.

Today, I want to talk about book covers. I’m not an expert, and for as many times as I’ve Imagechanged my covers, I am definitely not the person to be giving you advice.

The look of a cover is not a deal breaker for me, but some definitely pull me in more than others. I do like when a cover gives me an idea about the book – at least the genre. I saw a lovely cover recently that gave the impression of being a memoir, both via the title and the soft abstract style of the design. I was surprised to read the blurb and discover it was a romantic comedy.

I know my covers don’t follow the rules of the experts. They wouldn’t like the font, the placement of my name, or the fact that they are on the “busy” side. They would be critical of my using a clichéd pink theme for chick lit. I don’t care. I wanted pink covers, and I was going to have them.

It was my idea to have Susan in gym clothes with a racquet in Florida. I thought racquetball would play a strong role in all of the books, but it doesn’t. It isn’t even the main theme of Sunshine Hunter.

After the fifth book was published, I knew it was time to make the first one free. Then it hit me – change the cover again! I sent this note to my niece: “You won’t believe this, but I want to go back to Sunshine Hunter. I think the sports theme is keeping people from giving the book a chance.”

The book is chick lit first. There is a mystery, a little romance, and some humor. Having a Imageracquet on the cover was definitely giving the wrong impression. I think I realized this several months back, but I didn’t act on the nagging feelings.

The book went free at Barnes & Noble on February 20. The cover change showed up the next morning. I saw later that the book was promptly listed by two Nook Facebook sites, and the downloads at Barnes & Noble started right away. I didn’t know it at the time, but sales of the other books in the series started the very next day.

I truly believe that changing the cover on Sunshine Hunter to a cuter, more girly cover representing Chick Lit made a huge difference in people choosing to download the book or not. To all of the over 20,000 people who have downloaded the book so far – thank you! Thank you to everyone who has read their download, and another big thank you if you have chosen to read more of Susan’s (mis)adventures. I’m grateful and appreciative.

bacon

Bacon post coming up. I promise!

Have you always loved your book cover? Have you had any nagging feelings about it? Have you changed your cover, and if so, how many times? I know I’m not alone in this.

OH MY GOSH!

Hello, my lovely blogging friends!

It is very hard for me to step out of the blogosphere, but I have been on a self-imposed two-week blog hiatus, because I simply must take care of my work-from-home business and a few other important things. I’ll be taking time this weekend to park myself at your blogs to see what I’ve missed … but I do know that Zen is giving up chocolate. 🙂Image

However, I had to drop everything and pop in today, because I’m squealing, and excited, and if I don’t share this with someone other than my dog, I will burst!

Amazon was fantastic to work with when I asked to have the price of Sunshine Hunter set to free. I wrote directly to KDP and pleaded my case. We had a short series of emails back and forth, and the price was lowered to permanently free this past Monday night – only four days after my initial inquiry.

Sometimes it takes me a little while to figure things out. I looked at my Amazon sales figures yesterday and a few sales for Sunshine Hunter trickled in. I checked this morning, and the numbers were the same. I wondered if I would see any bump due to free downloads. Well, silly me! About an hour ago, I finally realized if I scrolled to the right while looking at my sales report, I would see the free downloads in the very last column. LOL! They are already in the thousands!

The next thought bubble above my head was, “I wonder if this affects my ranking?”

Oh my gosh!! It does! ImageBut I had to look at it a couple of times. Was that my book? #1 under Women Sleuths? Susan isn’t a very good sleuth, but until chick-lit/mystery is a first choice, she ends up where the book sites want her.  And #45 under romance!

Here, I’ll click the link and show you what you’ll see (at least as of noon today):

ImageSquee!! Next to J.D. Robb!!  LOL!!

Thanks for letting me gush. I have no idea what will ever happen with these crazy Susan Hunter books, but today is a day that makes me want to run outside and yell as loud as I can to anyone who will listen, “I’m number one on Amazon!”

When a Comment Becomes a Review

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Sometimes a comment comes along, and it’s just too good to let it slide off into the sunset. That happened last Friday night in the wee hours of the morning.

Piper George’s blog Talk About Cheesecake is noted as “Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.” I enjoy Piper and her variety of blog topics. She’s married with two young children, three chickens, one cat, one puppy, and a varying number of fish. She has a lot of material to work with, and she’s writing.

It was nearly 3:30 a.m. when I was closing things up for night before heading on up to bed. I checked my notifications one last time and saw a comment from Piper on my post about the new cover for Sunshine Hunter. I’m pretty sure I squealed when I finished reading it:

“I finally got around to reading your books. Yes, all of them. I downloaded one to read last week and went on to buy them all.

This is not my usual style of book, there were no vampires or werewolves and I don’t do mystery. I would never have picked them up if I had not read your blog and been nosy.

But, I have to say thank you. Brilliant, funny light hearted reading – perfect for a weekend chill. I really enjoyed them.

I also like your character. Susan is girly, again, not my usual read. But also kick arse. Good to know that you can be both – I think more girls out there should learn that. I like that she is a normal human, she makes mistakes, she gets moody, she is funny. One of the things that struck me the most was that she had fallings out with people. You know, like normal people do and book heroines normally don’t. Shouting at the nosy old lady in the supermarket for spreading rumours of an orgy – very funny.

Thanks for the great read. I’m sorry you are only doing 6 books, but start working your next theme please because I want to read them all. Expectations are high now.

I am so appreciative Piper took the time to tell me what she thought about the books, and why she liked them. I had no idea she was reading even one book, let alone all five. It is a writer’s dream – that a reader will read the first book and keep on going until they’ve read them all. I’m still smiling a big smile over her comment/review. Thank you again, Piper.

There are a few more ladies here at WordPress who have read all of my books, and a couple who are in the process of reading all. A huge thank you to them as well.

I’ve been cleaning up, tweaking, and adding to my website for my books. I’m pretty tickled here, too. Take a look! Breezy Books

It’s All Good News!

The cover for Sunshine Hunter has been updated. Hurray for no more gym clothes! Image

We’ve come a long way from the first cover:

ImageMy niece has done a wonderful job for me. I was delighted with my first Susan Hunter cover, and I’ve been delighted with every cover in between. I think we’re both getting better at what we do. 🙂

My next big news is that I’ve decided to make Sunshine Hunter a FREE book – permanently.  Now that there are five books, with a sixth on the way, I think having the first book in the series for free is a good move. I’m finding that many people who have read the first book have gone on to read more (if not all) of the books in the series.

ImageI’ve already made the cover change and the price change at Smashwords. You can go there and download the book for any eReader (to be sideloaded) – or to read on your PC. When the book is approved for their premium catalog in a few days, it will be distributed with the new cover and pricing to all of their outlets – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Diesel Books.

Amazon doesn’t allow me to list the price as free, but they will match the price when the other outlets have updated to free. When the changes have been made everywhere, I hope to do some fun marketing.

I’m looking forward to a good year!

Edited to add: A few minutes before 6:00 p.m. today (15th), the changes to Sunshine Hunter were approved for the premium catalog at Smashwords. Less than 24 hours! That was so fast! It will be going out to major outlets soon.

I Adore My Husband (Part Three)

smoochesHappy Valentine’s Day!

This is the perfect day for the next installment of I Adore My Husband.

In Part One, I told how my husband is usually the adult in this relationship, and in Part Two, I shared how fantastic he is as a person. However, when it comes to our banter back and forth via email and text, there is little maturity from either of us, and we are many times out of control. He makes me laugh every day.

Without further ado, here are the sweet and loving comments that have come to me via email or text from my husband over the past few months. Notes in parenthesis are mine.

The morning greeting is always tender:

Good morning, sweetie pie. Happy November!

What time did you roll out of bed?

I hope you slept well last night.  You were making noises like a caged gorilla.

Sometimes there are comments about our Dr. Mario marathons:

I hope you got some good rest last night.  You should be sleeping quite well lately since you are going to bed the victor every night.

Christmas brought some fun notes:

I’m bringing home an imported bottle of gin and some chocolate.

I had a bite of chocolate today that cost $250k per pound.

There’s a box of meat on our porch!

Of course, there are food related notes:

I just had some pizza, chicken and jo jo’s, a coke, and a lap dance from a midget stripper.  What an awesome Friday.

No more Healthy Choice Chicken Florence and the Machine for me!  Yech.

I’ll make something special for us to snack on tonight.  Pickled heart, tongue, jerky… something.

I’m telling you, that darn stuffed cabbage and taters are the cat’s ass for lunches.  250 calories, 50 fat calories, protein AND carbs all in a lovely little package.  I darn near licked the dish out.

I put two piles of M&M’s on my desk; a pile for you and a pile for me.green_m&ms1  I’d eat some out of my pile, then eat some out of your pile then wash it down with a slug of coffee and a slug of Coke. You should have no cravings now.

He gets bored on the way home from work:

Who’s your daddy? That’s right, I AM you boiling cauldron of passion you!
(Followed immediately by):  Oops, wrong number. So sorry.

There’s an accident on 77 North, north of Rt 62, which has traffic backed up to the hospital. There’s one accident on the West side of 62 right at the 77 on ramp, and also an accident on the West side around the 30th street area.  What.The.Hell.  Roads are dry; no black ice, no nothing.  People are just insane!  Like how I used the word “just” there?

When we up in the club, all eyes on us.  (♫ ♪ ♫)

Texts from the den to my office – in the same house:

Wanna watch some Family Guy?
Wanna go upstairs and play Family Guy?
Wanna play Dr?
Wanna play any Nintendo?

You ready to vote and then come home and have a nice romantic Cheerios supper?

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Johnny Depp doesn’t always go to the Grammys, but when he does, he drinks Dos Equis.

Our son drives a 1984 Chevy Caprice. It needed new tires. Rich traded cars with him in anticipation of a snow storm:

I survived another ride in the pimp mobile this morning.  We thought he had girls hanging all over him because he’s a young and good-looking kid.  Boy have we been wrong!  There are still ladies outside around the car waiting to see if the driver is going to come back out any time soon.

Of course, I never tell you the things I say to him, but I’ve received these responses to a few of my texts:

I’m filing harassment charges. You’re making me uncomfortable.

You need to straighten up or I’ll be forced to put you in a home.

We were trying to determine my next hair color:

ImageHow about a really dark red?  In a French maid’s uniform with a skirt that just stops one inch below your butt.

I’m thinking you should try coal black. That would be very sexy against your fair skin.

There are random thoughts:

I bit my cheek yesterday. Bit it two more times today. Ouch.

Now that I know my vacation is officially official, I’m excited.  I think we need to fix the shower.

I used acetone to remove lines off of my white board in my office and I feel like I’ve had a beer or two.  It’s an early Super Bowl Celebration!

He still gives me a hard time about my perceived boyfriends:

Oh, I see how it is.  All your boyfriends on your blog must be busy, so now you have time for me.  Well sissy, I suggest going elsewhere.  — (I waited until very late in the day to respond to his morning email.)

Well, well, well, if you aren’t super talkative today.  Must be lip-locked with the neighbor again. — (I never responded to any of his emails on this day.)

I didn’t get cigars today and haven’t had any since this morning.  I’m ready to kill somebody.  As soon as I get home, I’m walking over to Bill’s house and punching him in the face.

Of course, his closings are always sweet:Image

I love you sweetie pah-tootie.  I hope you have a good day.

I love you, and I know you look beautiful today!

Huggs ‘n smooches!

Hugs and smooches to all of my blogger friends, too!! Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Oh, My Aching Back!

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Here’s something different today. Let’s talk about PAIN.

I’ve mentioned it a few times. I have two depleted disks in my lower back and nerve damage in my right shoulder. Playing sports hard for more than a decade can do a lot of damage to your body.

When I go over to the den to sit and read, I can’t stay in the chair for more than an hour at a time. A recliner naturally puts your weight on your tailbone, and the pain builds. We have to take frequent breaks when we’re out on the motorcycle to give my tailbone some relief. After playing a few hours of Dr. Mario, my right arm feels like it wants to fall off. Lying in bed at night is when I feel all of the pain everywhere at one time. Sometimes I can’t sleep because of pain and turning over is a killer.

What to do?

I don’t take anything for pain during the day. My aches and pains are bearable, and because I sit in an office chair at my desk, I can lean forward a bit and stay off of my tailbone. However, every night before bed, I take four ibuprofen. Without them, it’s nearly impossible to sleep.

An article on pain caught my eye last year. It extolled the benefits of Imagecurcumin, which is the major component of the spice tumeric. Curcumin is supposed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties. I didn’t really care about anything but the pain claims.

I read quite a bit of information about curcumin before I ordered a bottle. It was being touted as a miracle cure for all manner of ailments, and I’m sure some of it was hype, but if it could give me any relief from pain, I was in.

At first, I took it as recommended, but gradually upped my pills to take two in the morning and two at night – four grams per day. I had no side effects whatsoever.

One night it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken any ibuprofen for a few days. I hadn’t been having any pain that would send me to the IB bottle, and I was sleeping through the night. I realized my pain level had gone down dramatically. By month’s end, my arm wasn’t bothering me, and I was comfortable in bed at night. Riding the motorcycle this past summer was much easier, and I could ride for an hour before wanting to take a short break.

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The Longaberger Basket building. An hour and fifteen minutes from our home, and we made the trip down without stopping for my back.

The day-to-day pain associated with my arms and back was completely gone!

I thought about this today, because in my complacency, I haven’t ordered any curcumin for several months, and I’ve become a miserable wreck with pain again. After I took four ibuprofen last night before bed, I knew I needed to order another bottle, and I did that first thing this morning.

For me, it works for pain, and it works great.

If you’re curious, I take Doctor’s Best Curcumin C3 Complex with Bioperine (1000 mg tablets). I order it from Amazon. I am not a paid or unpaid spokesperson.

Disclaimer: If you take blood thinners, this isn’t for you. As with any supplement, check with your doctor before taking.

Have any of you tried curcumin for pain? What do you take for pain?

Happy Anniversary!

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Today is my one year anniversary of becoming a writer. On February 8, 2012, at 11:00 p.m., I used Microsoft Word for the first time in my life and decided to write a story. Susan Hunter and M&M’s showed up.

To this day, I still wonder where all of this came from. I had no burning desire to write a book, and I wasn’t even reading very much at the time. I’m sure I was quite bored – in addition to having the winter blues. I suppose most of it came from Rich giving me a Nook Tablet for Christmas. It opened my eyes to the number of indie works out there, and I simply thought, “I’ll give it a go, too.”

And go I did.

Five books in one year. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around this. Maple Leaf Hunter is the sixth book, and the story is underway. I think I have a solid first line this time:

The hot, sweaty man lying on top of me was dead.

Pretty good, eh? (Eh? I’m already practicing my Canadian for the book.) Here’s the rough draft of the first paragraph:

The hot, sweaty man lying on top of me was dead. At least I think he was dead. He didn’t appear to be breathing, while I, on the other hand, was gasping for air from his dead weight on my chest.

We’re off to a good start! And no, for all you pervy types, this isn’t something tawdry. Susan is with Samantha at the food court in the mall.

I’m having fun writing again. I keep reading that we should write to entertain ourselves, and I have that down pat. Already events are taking unexpected twists, and I can’t wait to start writing every day to see what’s going to happen next.

I want to do more marketing this year. With six books in the series, I think I’ll be able to find more creative ways to get Susan Hunter out there than I have in the past. Before I go gung-ho though … please control the shocked look on your face when I tell you …  I’m messing with covers again.

I know!!

We’re supposed to leave the covers alone, but I can’t. Not yet. As much I love the cover of ImageSunshine Hunter, I’m taking Susan’s racquet and gym clothes away from her, and putting her in a sundress. She’ll be walking barefoot on the beach with shoes in hand. I think the look will be more cohesive with the other covers, and it won’t impart such a strong sports theme, which is not the main theme of the book in the first place.

The cover for Big Apple Hunter is then going to be polished and given a more realistic, detailed skyline in the background. I’m one hundred percent happy with the remaining covers. Once the covers are completed and distributed to all sales outlets, I’m going to do my best to try some different avenues for marketing. I’ll keep you posted.Image

 

But for now, champagne for everyone!

Reclaiming My Life

ImageMy mother has been under the weather quite a bit lately, and I spent a chunk of the day on Saturday helping/visiting with her. When I came home, I was simply too tired to read blogs.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the den with Rich. I ignored him for the most part as I finished reading Gordon Kessler’s Knight’s Big Easy. I’m liking my new Kindle Paperwhite quite a bit and appreciate that it is four ounces lighter than my Nook Tablet. That lousy quarter of a pound on the Nook definitely starts to feel heavy after a few hours.

Monday morning, I slipped out to grab a new notebook. Blogs were calling to me, but I refused to allow myself to be sucked into the blogosphere. I started filling my new notebook with ideas and Imageinformation for Maple Leaf Hunter. This book will take place three years after Windy City Hunter, so there are some big changes. I had to double check the ages and hair color of everyone in the book, and when I wasn’t looking, some of the characters changed their residence. Mick’s son, Alex, will, for the first time, play a prominent role, and Nate will be back. There are no ghosts to torment Nate in this book, but I think the Sasquatch could have a bit of fun with him.

It truly is enjoyable to write lighthearted fare, and I found myself smiling quite a bit as I worked on my notes.

The next thing I want to do is set a loose schedule for my day. There have been days when I started my day by reading blogs, and I kept reading all day long! It’s hard to tear yourself away when everyone you enjoy has a new post up on the same day. And just when you think you’re caught up, your WP Reader informs you there are nineteen new posts. Crikey! The entire Imageblogging experience – reading, writing, commenting – was nearing full-time job status for me.

I’m going to work with blocks of time. I know I would never adhere to a strict schedule, but I can work with blocks of time. Two hours at a time to mess with blogs. Three to four hours to write. An hour at a time to do whatever needs done around the house. I want to take the time to start cooking again. We are not doing the Chinese/fast food thing this year just because I want to write and blog. Instead of reading blogs late into the night, I want to read books.

Finally, I think Rich would appreciate it if I would start carrying my weight around here and get back to my work-from-home business.

So, I’m reclaiming my life and am going to attempt to find a balance.Image I still intend to read all the blogs I am currently following, but I may not see or be able to read every post. I’ll probably leave more likes than I used to – as opposed to like then comment on every blog, but if I leave a like somewhere, I will have definitely read the post.

I intend to do a some catching up with blogs today, but I’m going to start writing tomorrow. I am really, really tempted to start my new book with dialogue. I have my own drum, you know.

Susan Hunter and Pearson Sharp

ImageHockey is on again. Rich is a big hockey fan, and I recently asked him what type of symbol or nickname is synonymous with Canada. His first response was “the maple leaf.” Duh. Of course.

Maple Leaf Hunter

The cover will most likely have a wilderness setting – complete with moose, bear, and/or beaver – and the Canadian flag with maple leaf will have prominence. I’m ready to start writing this sixth book in the series, but something is holding me back.

I think it’s loose ends. I want to have most of my research completed before I start writing, but before I do that, I want my office to be organized. It’s hard to write with clutter around me, and how did this big room get so messy anyway? I also want to have the sugar monster tamed, because I am not eating four pounds of M&M’s this go-round. I blame NaNoWriMo for driving me to that with the last book.

Maple Leaf Hunter is likely to be the last Susan Hunter book, and I can’t help but wonder what I will do after that. It might not be writing. Maybe I’m hesitant to start writing, because it will signal the end. I suppose I will have all of my answers soon enough.

~~~~~

Pearson Sharp. Isn’t that a great name! It’s the perfect name for a main character in a book, but it’s already taken. Pearson Sharp is a WordPress blogger. He’s writing a novel, and he shares hisImage experiences and thoughts as he hones his craft. He quotes Hemingway and Frank Herbert on his blog.

I once quoted Tim Allen as Commander Jason Nesmith in Galaxy Quest.

Pearson and I talked recently about the possibility of him writing something for my blog, and in return, I would write something for his. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he is too mature and cerebral for the pink nonsense that goes on here, and I truly doubted that I had anything to add to his exceptional and more serious blog.

However, I wanted to mention him today, because many of my followers are writers, and I know you will enjoy Pearson’s posts. He’s very welcoming. When you visit his blog, don’t leave until you read his poem, A River Fay. You may want to listen to “My Jolly Sailor Bold” as you read. Pearson recommends the song, and it’s perfect.

(He could play the part of Mick in the movie version of my Susan Hunter books. Too bad he is not an actor.)

Hop on over to Pearson’s blog and say hello. Be sure to follow if you’re interested in his excellent posts as he writes his novel.

Computer? eReader? Hardcover Book?

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I’ve set my reading goals for 2013.

This year, I’m going to try to read more WordPress authors. I presently have twenty-four books on my computer that have been written by WP bloggers. I haven’t read sixteen of them.

Do you fine folks know that I have a Nook Tablet? I’m not the only one. Over five million Nooks Imagehave been sold now. I get pretty frustrated with the fact that many titles are only available through Amazon and their Kindle. Even after some authors go through a 90-day exclusivity with Amazon, their books are only at Barnes & Noble via paperback or hardcover – or not at all. My Susan Hunter books are only in eBook format, but they are everywhere, and twenty-five percent of my sales are occurring outside of Amazon. I’m just sayin’.

Not one to be thwarted, I downloaded Kindle for PC, so I could read Kindle books on my computer. In all fairness to Carrie Rubin, it became such a habit to run to Amazon to purchase WP-authored books, I forgot to look at Barnes & Noble first when buying The Seneca ImageScourge, and it was available for the Nook.

I can read blogs all day long. Truly. But reading blogs is interactive. Read, comment, follow links, watch videos, etc.  Reading a book on the computer is not conducive to my personality, and I find it more difficult to “get lost in a book” on the computer.

When I read Tim Dittmer’s The Valley Walker on my computer, I felt terrible that it took me a couple of months to read it. His book is unique in that it has 93 short chapters, and I admit to reading only a few at a time before my hyper personality would send me somewhere else. His book is no longer exclusive to Amazon and is now available for Nook, too.

I just finished Valerie Clarizio’s Cookies for Santa this weekend. I started it at Christmas, and what should have taken me a day or two took a month. The delay in reading was mostly because I was reading it on my computer (where the blogs live and clamor for attention).

You may be wondering by now how I’m going to read sixteen books this year if it takes me Imageso long to read just one. Well, my new Kindle Paperwhite (no ads, thank you) has been ordered and will be here this coming Friday, that’s how. And I’m excited!

What am I going to read first? I’m going to finish two books I started far too long ago. The first is Gordon Kessler’s Knight’s Big Easy. I was enjoying this book, but for some reason, I stopped reading on the computer and never went back to it. The same with Anne Mitchell’s Happy Hour.

Saturday night, I sat down in the easy chair in Rich’s den, threw a blanket over my lap, and started reading Janet Evanovich’s most Imagerecent book, Notorious Nineteen. A hardcover book with a dustjacket, a new book smell, and pages to turn … it was heaven!

I LOVE HARDCOVER BOOKS.

Reading in the easy chair, or even in bed, with an eReader is just fine, and that is what I’ll be doing for most of my reading this year. I’ll be ecstatic to say good-bye to Kindle for PC, and I’ll grab a hardcover book to read when I need a “real book” fix every now and then.

What about you? Any thoughts on who or what you will be reading this year? How many formats do you use for reading? If you read on your computer, does it bother you as much as it bothers me?

Miracles and Clean Underwear

We had a lovely awards ceremony here at the end of the year, and a good time was had by all.

At that time, I skipped answering the questions for the awards and threatened promised to answer them in a later post. That later post is today.

I’ll start with the standard “seven things” about me, but I’ll share seven things I’ve never done before:
1. I’ve never broken a bone.
2. I’ve never snow skied.Image
3. I’ve never traveled overseas.
4. I’ve never bungee jumped.
5. I’ve never acted in a play.
6. I’ve never eaten sushi.
7. I’ve never used power tools.

~~~~~

Here are seven more to go with the other awards. There are life lessons included:

1) I met my husband on a blind date. At the end of the evening, I told him I didn’t want to see him again. The next day, he told his friends at work that he had met his future wife the night before. Don’t automatically count out the blinding white, cute, blonde guy because he wore white shoes and a white tie.

2) With influentially bad friends, I sneaked into Everglades National Park at midnight, walked out onto a boardwalk, and threw pennies at the alligators.  I found out later we were lucky we weren’t eaten by them. Don’t let your friends try to lead you to your death.

3) I lost control of a car on an icy bridge once. Thankfully, I was in the third lane and the car went left onto the berm instead of right and under the semi next to me. Don’t brake on an icy bridge – even if you don’t know it’s icy.

4) I currently drive a navy blue Ford F150 truck. I never thought I would enjoy driving a truck so much.  Don’t tell your husband “no” when he wants you to drive a truck.

5) I locked myself out of my truck once with only a t-shirt and thin jacket on (and pants for all you wisenheimers). It was during a brutal winter storm, and I had to wait an hour for the tow truck. Don’t wear lightweight clothing in winter, even if you think you are going to be warm in your vehicle.

6) I once lost control of my car (yes, I know!) and ended up in a Imagesnow bank very late at night. I walked two miles home in the snow. My neighbor was a State Highway Patrolman, and I knocked at his door for help. He had the car towed home for me. My brothers saw my tracks in the snow the next day and laughed their butts off. They refused to believe it was me and not some drunk. Don’t drive in bad snow conditions late at night when you’re tired.

7) I once made a grand entrance into a company Christmas party. I was the last person to arrive, and I had to walk down a long staircase into the room. I used my best staircase walk to try to be elegant as I made my way down. My heel caught in the back of my dress and I pitched down several steps on my knees before I could catch myself. When you fall down in front of 300 people, just remember, they can’t help it that they laugh; it’s instinctive.

~~~~~

Moving on to the Super Sweet Blog Award, here are my answers. (I was awarded this again last week by Card Castles in the Sky; thank you so much!)
Cookies or Cake?  Cake
Chocolate or Vanilla?  What is this thing you call vanilla?
What is your favorite sweet treat? Chocolate brownies – hold the nuts.
When do you crave sweet things the most?  Evenings
If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? Sweetie Pie

~~~~~

The Liebster Award was recently awarded to me by Card Castles in the Sky; thank you again! I have questions to answer from Malinka of Malinka’s Studio, and also from Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right???  This would be a lot of questions, so I’ve narrowed it down to several from each list:

What is the exact time and date that you were born?  I was born at 8:00 p.m. on April 20.

What do you believe in?  I believe in miracles and clean underwear.

If someone would write a book upon your life, it would be named?  Sunshine Hunter

Tell us a dear childhood memory that you still cherish.  Playing kick-the-can late at night with siblings, neighbors, and my aunt. Image

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?  Starbuck’s Java Chip

If you could meet anyone in the whole of time and space, who would it be?  I know most people would be philosophical here, but I want to meet Frank Sinatra. I’d tell Frank that I think we would have had a good time cruising around Las Vegas together, and please sing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to me.

Why did chicken cross the street? Because Susan Hunter was over there with chicken feed. 🙂

What got you into blogging? I wanted to chronicle the writing of my books.

When you aren’t blogging what do you do? I don’t remember what I used to do in my spare time. Image

What’s your greatest vice? Playing the lottery.

What was your favorite moment of 2012?  Seeing my first book published on Amazon.

Your next dream travel destination?  The grocery store. Our refrigerator is empty.

A few simple things you love in life?  Listening to sappy, romantic music. Standing outside late at night and listening to the quiet.

What musical instrument have you tried to learn to play? I tried to teach myself to play piano. My left hand refused to cooperate.

Do you like shopping? I like grocery shopping. I hate shopping for clothes. I really, really, hate having to slog through a Gander Mountain or some other manly store.

A wish for this year? To win the blasted lottery! (and world peace)

Phew! But you probably already knew all of these things.

~~~~~

ImageTo tie up some loose ends, I want to thank Pam Tanzey for giving me my sixth Blog of the Year 2012 star to fill my card. Thank you, Pam! I also received a bonus star this week from Jae at Scatterbrain. Thank you, Jae!

~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

I also want to acknowledge Piper George at Talk About Cheesecake and Chelsea Brown at The Jenny Mac Book Blog for recent nominations for The Versatile Blogger Award. I nominate these versatile folks for this award:

Amber at The Smile Scavenger
Pauline at Gypsy Life
Julie Browning – The Cheeky Diva
Connie at The Sunny Side
Brooke at Wrecking Routine

~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

Passing on the Super Sweet Blog Award, I choose these super sweet people:

Paula at stuff i tell my sister
Becca at 25ToFly
Kenny
Dianne – Dianne Gray author
Janice a.k.a Café at Your Daily Dose
Carolyn at ABC of Spirit Talk

~~~~~

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Click on the award for the rules for this award.

For The Liebster Award, I choose these dear people:

Brother Jon
So I Went Undercover
The Hook
Crazy Train to Tinky Town
Browsing the Atlas
Lovin the Trip

I hope you will check out some of the people who are linked. As I add and subtract people from my follow list, these fine folks are here to stay.

Meatmobile I and Meatmobile II

This is Meatmobile II. It’s supposed to be in the garage, but Rich parked it on the street last night, so it’s the first thing I saw today when I opened the back door.

ImageThis is the kitchen table. As I came back through the door, it was the first thing I saw.

ImageThe connection between these two objects is one word: GENEROSITY

Rich’s parents haven’t been with us for several years now, and not a day goes by that they aren’t thought of in some way. They were two of the most generous people I have ever known. Mom would give you the coat off of her back if you needed it, and dad would probably give you everything down to his underwear, and maybe even that if you truly needed it.

Our house was a lot of space to fill when we were first married. Over the years, Rich’s mom and dad helped us fill the empty spaces. They gave us their sofa, coffee table, and end tables when they purchased new. A refrigerator, an upright freezer, dressers, and book shelves came our way – even a furnace when they bought a new one.

We had a scary, behemoth of a furnace in the basement, and it was very cool having a “spare furnace” on hand when it finally died.

They gave us a beautiful, pecan wood dining table with matching chairs. We used it for many years, but we gave it away to a family of ten when Dad gave us the smaller kitchen table and chairs you see in the picture.

Vehicles were another story. After Mom passed, Dad eventually dated another woman and Imagespent several years with her. When our son needed a car, Dad bought this woman’s car and gave it to our son. It always had a faint smell of meat. I don’t know what kind of meat. It was as though an old salami had gone under the back seat to die at some time. I nicknamed the car the Meatmobile, and it stuck.

After Dad passed, he left his car to us. It’s the car in the picture above. I don’t know if it came to us with a missing hubcap or if Rich lost it somewhere along the way. It vaguely smelled like meat, too, and I can’t help but wonder what perfume Dad’s friend wore, or if she made it herself from essence of salami. I deemed the car Meatmobile II.

My mother used to love going on one day bus trips. It had been quite a while since she had been on one, so Rich and I made up a flyer for Meatmobile Tours, and we planned our own day trip using Meat Mobile II. It was a Saturday in December a few years ago, and we took my Imagemother to the A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, followed by a late lunch at a café/pub in Peninsula. We shopped at several of the town’s small shops, and finished our day trip at Blossom Music Center for their drive-thru Christmas light display. It was a fantastic day.

I haven’t participated in the WordPress Daily Challenges for a while, but when I saw this one, I knew I wanted to tell this story. Mom and Dad were wonderful people, and their generosity knew no bounds.

Before I close, I want to share one more story of generosity that happened just a few hours ago. Rita Kay at Teaching David to Cook gives helpful cooking and gardening tips on her blog. She has been reading my books, and she delights me so much as she finishes one and tells me how much she enjoyed the story. She has generously taken time from her usual blogging topics to devote a post to my books and my blog. I am truly honored, and I’m still smiling. If you would drop by her blog, read what she wrote, and leave a like, I would be appreciative, and I’m sure she would, too. Please consider following Rita Kay while you are there. She is one of the kindest people I have met since blogging, she is generous, and her comments always make me smile.

Leave a comment before you go! Share a generosity story of your own – or a meatmobile story.

(WordPress Daily Prompt: Take Two – Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes.)

Comments, Embarrassment, and Free Books

ImageI’ve been blogging for seven months now, and on most days, it no longer freaks me out. I’m more comfortable with people coming to my blog, and I’m more comfortable visiting blogs.

When I was Freshly Pressed in October, I only mentioned it as an afterthought about a week Imagelater. It was a fun post (Stairway to Heaven), but I tried to fly under the radar with it. I love how my friends have celebrated and enjoyed their Freshly Pressed fame, but my heart sank when I received the notification email. I wasn’t ready for that many people to see my blog.

The notice and the link on the Freshly Pressed site came on the same day – the day my new post was titled Blogging Freaks Me Out (Part Three). Being Freshly Pressed was overwhelming and time consuming, but it ended up being a good experience, and I made some pretty great new friends because of it – but I still hyperventilated through the entire thing.

Now that blogging in itself is more comfortable, I have certainly been getting around and leaving comments and unintentional typos all over the place.

Some of my comments are pithy; a couple have been mini-blog posts of their own. I’ve somewhat regretted a few comments I’ve left.

When I find myself being early to a new post, and I have something to say, I don’t want to be the first person to leave a comment for fear of looking too eager, yet when I put a new post up, I hold my breath and worry that it’s a dud until someone pushes the like button and leaves a comment.

When someone replies to my comment on their blog, and then they finish with “thanks for stopping by” or “have a good day,” is that a dismissal? Were they done with me, and I shouldn’t say anything more? It feels like it, but I do this on my own blog all the time! I thank a lot of people for stopping by, but I don’t mean for them to leave. They can stay and chat if they want.

I’ve read a few articles giving advice on commenting. One said you should visit only three blogs per day for commenting. Read more blogs, but only leave comments on three. It has something to do with saturating the blogosphere with your voice. A couple of things come to mind:Image– Hello! Susan Hunter and Maddie Cochere. I’m definitely trying to saturate the blogosphere with a couple of names.
– I’m following 183 blogs at the present time, and if they all post something interesting on the same day, I want to comment on all of them. I hate it when I fall behind like I have lately (because of taxes!).

I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have to comment on everything. I’ve typed out comments, and just before hitting the post button, I tell myself that this person isn’t really interested in what I have to say, and I delete.  

I forget to Imageleave a like at times. I want to push the like button to help with stats, so I try not to forget. But then, it becomes a habit, and when someone posts about an illness in their family, I sometimes accidentally push the like button. Arrgh!

I’ve read where some people delete “simple” comments. One man deletes all one-liners. If all you are going to say is, “I really like your thoughts on this, Johnny,” he’s going to delete your comment. That’s ok; it’s his blog and his rules. Sometimes, I just want to tell someone that even though I have nothing to add, I really like what they wrote. I know that’s what the like button is for, but sometimes I want to say it.

Have you ever followed and commented on someone’s brand new blog only to have them never post again, and you feel like you scared them away?

Have you ever had someone respond to every comment on their post but yours?

Have you ever been lead down the wrong path when someone invited you to a “really fun” pity Imageparty, so you go there and leave a stupid humorous comment about your childhood only to find out it was a serious party, and you are an idiot?

Have you ever read blogs in the middle of the night, when you’re kind of punchy, and some of your comments are just too silly, but you can’t make yourself stop?

Have you ever proofread your comment, deemed it just fine, and then saw the typo wave at you the second you pushed the post reply button? I’ve even quickly closed a browser to stop it, but once that button is pushed, the typo refuses to die.

I like it when there are a lot of comments on a post. My comment will likely be at the bottom of the page, so if I say something goofy, it’s buried down there. Then I hit the post reply button and it sails to the top of the comments.

Your turn! Leave a comment! Tell me some of your fun (or not so fun) experiences when leaving comments.

I feel like giving away more books. I’ll choose five people from the comments section to receive a Susan Hunter book – winner’s choice, and the winners will be chosen next week.

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Drink Up!

ImageThere is always a glass of something to drink at my desk.

I usually work or write late into the night. On hot summer nights, a Tanqueray and Tonic is refreshing, while cold winter nights lend themselves to Drambuie over cracked ice. Bloody Marys work any time. However, most of the time, I don’t think about an alcoholic drink, and I’m in the refrigerator grabbing another Coke.Image

What I drink has become a problem this past year, and although I’m not a resolution maker, this is one area where I intend to make some big changes.

Not too long ago, I saw a post about writers and their drinking habits. After reading several online articles, I was left with the impression that writers have a reputation for imbibing. Some say alcohol lubes and liberates the mind for writing. Others say it breaks down inhibitions which enhances creativity. My one little drink every now and then neither adds nor detracts from my writing.

Then there are the caffeine drinkers. Some of these writers say caffeine helps them meet deadlines and that it extends times of productivity

I don’t need to drink anything to be able to write, but I do think having something to drink while writing is a crutch for me (much like grazing on M&M’s).

That brings me to The Coffee Quiz. This is a new quiz brainstormed by BTW – Ben Trube, Writer.  Paula Acton tagged me to answer the questions, and I think my answers will clearly show my drinking problem.

The Coffee Quiz!

1) How many cups of coffee per day? 
None. I’m not a coffee drinker. At least that’s what I tell people; otherwise, I suppose I have one cup a day.

2) What is your favorite caffeine delivery system? Image
Starbucks Frappuccino
Homemade frappuccino
Gas station cappuccino
Coca Cola
(in that order)

3) What was your best cup of coffee?
The one that I made/make myself.  About 6 oz. of cold coffee go into a tall glass, followed by too much sugar or sweetener, a squirt of chocolate syrup, followed by 2% milk to fill the glass. Throw in ice cubes, and it almost like having the Starbuck’s Frappuccino. … What? That’s not a cup of coffee?

4) What was your worst cup of coffee?
Every sip of coffee I ever took from a cup of coffee was the worst.

5) What does your favorite mug say?
My favorite mug is a large Sakura mug with a flag on it. I bought it at a garage sale for fifty cents, and even though I chipped it, I refuse to give it up because it holds two packages of hot Imagecocoa at a time. I make it on cold mornings, and I put a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in with the cocoa – and some caramel creamer. It sits on my desk for several hours, and I just keep drinking it even after it’s cold.  Oh, the mug I do have with a saying on it reads, “Friends of Main Library.” Yep, that’s me – one of the friends.

6) How do you take your coffee?
With all of the crap listed in #3.

7) When was your first cup?
I don’t have a clue. I may have sipped Mom or Dad’s coffee at one time and declared it the most vile liquid ever. Every time I’ve tried it since, my opinion has never changed. But I do love the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

8) Have you ever gone on a coffee date?
No. Boo-hoo. No one ever asked me out on a coffee date. Not that I would have wanted to go.

So, you can see … I have a real problem with the junk I am drinking at my desk all day long. The coffee isn’t the problem; it’s all the sugar I’m dumping into it! And even though I’ll drink Coke Zero for weeks at a time, I really don’t want the chemicals.

My goal this year is to drink more water. I like water with ice. A slice of fresh lemon or lime in it isImage good, too.

What about you? What do you drink while you write or blog?

To keep Ben’s quiz alive and moving along, I’m tagging a few people to take the coffee quiz. Now, Tim Dittmer, I know you are contrary and don’t do these things, but you are a self-confessed coffee addict, so you may want to consider this one. Tag!

I’ll also nudge these fun bloggers to answer the quiz: Zen Scribbles, Carrie Rubin, Marcus Matherne, Piper George, Jackie Roeder, Dallas (that Crazy Train to Tinky Town), and my buddy Mike Akin.

Title for My Next Book?

ImageNew Year’s Eve was quiet this year. Rich was recovering from a nasty bug, so we didn’t visit with friends or family. We played some Dr. Mario, and I kicked him to the curb as I won nearly every game. I realize I should have gone easy on him as he wasn’t at his best, but my competitive nature Imagewouldn’t allow it, and I gloated and taunted him, and I let him know definitively that I was the champion of 2012!

With all of that winning adrenaline coursing through my veins, I sat down at my desk and gave some thought to the next Susan Hunter book. I was surprised at how many ideas came to mind, so I started mapping out scenes.

With 26 seconds remaining until the ball dropped in Times Square, I dashed over to the den, stood behind Rich’s chair, and kissed him on the top of his head at midnight. I love him, but I didn’t want his germs. I told him I would see him later, and dashed back to my desk. Aren’t I romantic?

At 2:30 a.m., I had my notes finished, and I realized I could start writing the book. I had most of the pieces.

I promise I won’t torture you by babbling about this book all the time, but I need some help. The titles of the books have all had a theme. Sushine Hunter referenced the nickname of the state of Florida; all of the other titles had city nicknames.

This book will start in fictional Carbide City, Ohio, move to Niagara Falls, then to Toronto, farther north to a hunting/fishing lodge, and finally back to Niagara Falls.

I don’t have a title. There are no nicknames that work for Niagara Falls or Toronto. I don’t think I like Niagara Falls Hunter – or Niagara Hunter, or Falls Hunter, or Falling Hunter. Sheesh.

There may be treasure in this book. Treasure Hunter Hunter. Oh, yeah, that’s good. /sarcasmImage

Oooh! I think there will be a Bigfoot in this book. Bigfoot Hunter. Sasquatch Hunter. Cue the Fonzie music.

There may be a rare coin(s), mules (like drug mules, but no drugs), muskie, sturgeon, bear, and frogs.

Susan will be meeting with an editor in Toronto to publish a children’s picture book entitled, Stuck in the Bushes.

I think that’s all I have to share at this time. Any ideas for a title?

Disclaimer: If you offer an idea that I like and decide to use, by offering it, you agree there will be no payment to you other than a free book when it is finished. If you offer an idea, and it doesn’t quite do it for me, please don’t be offended. Silliness is always appreciated here, but no vulgarity please. Also, remember that Zombie Hunter, Rat Hunter, Gorilla Hunter, and Flushing Hunter have all been suggested at other times and rejected. Thanks again for those suggestions, guys.

Good-bye PizzaBoxDrawcember

ImageNew Year’s Resolution #1 – Quit asking pizza workers to draw pictures of gorillas throwing dice.

New Year’s Resolution #2 – Quit eating pizza for at least three months.

I need the next three months to work off the amount of pizza I’ve eaten in December alone. Getting that first picture under the pizza box lid was like being on crack (not that I’ve ever been on crack), but I needed more, more, more!

The second time we ordered pizza and requested a drawing, Rich used a Pizza Hut app to order. The request was ignored. The pizza didn’t taste quite as good as one with a gorilla drawing in it.

The third time, he asked for a drawing over the phone, and there must have been an artist on staff at this pizza shop, because we got a killer gorilla with dice! Eat your heart out over this gorilla, David Harding!

(Cue heavenly music as you view the drawing.)ImageImageThree days before Christmas, I drove up north to meet our son and do a little Christmas shopping with him. We stopped at a pizza shop next door to his apartment building to place an order for delivery before heading back to his apartment. There was a young girl behind the register. I told her I wanted double cheese, pepperoni, and jalapenos. She asked, “Those are green peppers, right?” I told her they were green, but not “green peppers.” No green peppers for me! I wanted hot jalapeno peppers. Once she had our order in the system, I asked her to have someone draw a gorilla throwing dice under the lid. After I repeated the request a few times, and she fully understood what I was asking, she smiled and said, “Ok.” Our son gave her $5.00 and said half was for the delivery guy and to give the other half to whoever draws the gorilla. As we were walking out the door, I heard her ask, “Jim, what’s half of $5.00?”

It’s no wonder this is what was in our pizza box:Image ImageIf you look closely, you’ll see yellow banana peppers and not jalapenos. We still thought it tasted awesome, but what a freaky little dinosaur with tiny little hands that couldn’t even hold the dice if he tried. Hahahahaha!

Here is our last pizza of the year. This was when we knew we had a problem and needed to stop. Don’t feel sorry for us. We learned our lesson. We won’t let David Harding lead us down the primrose pizza path again. Image ImageWhat about you? Did you get pulled in by the seductive lure of PizzaBoxDrawcember? Will you next year?

Overture, Curtains, Lights!

ImageThis is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart
Overture, curtains, lights
This is it, you’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it

It’s that time again. Time to acknowledge some really great bloggers who have passed out awards, and time to pass out some awards from here as well.

I’ve come to appreciate the awards. I’m honored when someone has thought enough of me and/or my silly blog to send an award my way, and I like how the awards give us an opportunity to point others in the direction of bloggers we enjoy and think others would, too.

We may run over time with today’s awards, so I’m going to list the award winners first. They are more important than any babbling I may do, so here we go …

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 13, recently published author Tessa Sheppard honored me with the Reader Appreciation Award. I am passing this award on to three good men who you might appreciate reading:
vinnylanni – Live the Dream. He’s a dreamer, he still watches cartoons, and I like his outlook.
Simplicity Lane – Steven writes some beautiful pieces and poetry. I like his “building blocks.”
tincantheory – I love Jerron Tables. He writes things that I can’t make heads or tails of, and then he writes something that has me tapping my toes. I find him hugely entertaining (even though he can be quite serious at times), and he has the best tags out there.

 ~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 28, Zen of Zen Scribbles awarded to me the Super Sweet Blog Award. I choose these super sweet women to accept this award. They have wonderful blogs, and I think of each of them as friends:
Dianne Gray author
Michelle Proulx Official
retiredruth Life in the 50’s and beyond
stuff i tell my sister
Maggie Myklebust

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Click the award for the rules for this award

The One Lovely Blog Award came to me from Chelsea Brown of The Jenny Mac Book Blog on September 14. I nominate these lovely ladies – and two lovely critters – for this award:
Valerie Clarizio – I’m reading her lovely book right now. It’s really good!
Tales of a Charm City Chick – La La is lovely and fun. I enjoy her sense of humor.
Scatterbrain – I enjoy reading about Jae’s lovely life and family.
Seriously Seeking Grannies – Mary is a favorite blogger of mine. She has a lovely spirit, and I enjoy reading her musings.
Teaching David to Cook – Rita Kay is as lovely as they come. She is sweet, full of life, and I always enjoy a visit with her.
Deep in the Heart of Textiles – Textile Ranger has wonderful, lovely photos of textiles treasures. I always enjoy a visit to her blog.
Spineless Wonders – Cyrus and Willy. A snail and a worm. They are lovely together. You just have to go see.

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The Liebster Blog Award came twice. Once from Malinka of Malinka’s Studio on October 9, and one from Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? This award comes with questions to be answered, and I choose these two authors for this award:
Keri Peardon
That Girl Who Reads Books

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

Three Very Inspiring Blogger Award(s) came my way from Chelsea Brown (11/16), Marie at good morning, joe (12/4), and from Claire at LilyPetal (12/16).  This nice mix of bloggers will inspire you in their own unique way.
Brother Jon
Daniel Koeker
Bo Lumpkin at Gatorhead Comics
Rachelle at A Rich, Full Life in Spite of It
Kris at vikingessa

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

I was very honored to receive five stars for the Blog of the Year 2012 Award. They came from Maggie, Chelsea, Mary, Carolyn, and Paula. I think these bloggers deserve Blog of the Year 2012 awards:
Tessa Sheppard – One of the hardest working writers I know.
The Cheeky Diva – Julie! Cheeky and fun!
Pam Tanzey, Artist – Her artwork is fantastic, and she even does it for Trader Joe’s.
Before I Forget – Katykins! Kate! Creator of Cyrus and Willy. You never know what you’ll get here, and it’s always fun!
Michelle at Play – Probably one of the nicest people I’ve run across in the blogosphere. She makes great lists, and she has wonderful bits of wisdom to share.
Kat at Travel Garden Eat – Kat is inviting, and her blog is a visual delight in addition to giving us wonderful words to read.

 

The music is playing. They’re telling me to hurry up.

 

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The final award is humbly and graciously accepted. I was amongst a fine group of people chosen to receive the first ever Cheeky Diva Award on October 7. She is so cheeky, she made her own award. What do you have to do to accept the award? In her own words, “Not a damn thing.” I think these fine folks would love a Cheeky Diva Award, too:
Kate at Let’s Get Milkshakes! – If nothing else, read about her fabulous vacation to Fiji.
Marcus at Voices in His Head – You get fabulous humor here.
The Famous David Harding – He’s just fabulous. Period.
Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? – She posts fabulous recipes, her fabulous comments are witty, and her writing is fabulous.
john the aussie – There’s always a laugh at his blog, and his Murphy’s Road Rules posts are fabulous!

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I simply cannot make this post any longer. I will do a separate post with answers to questions and some fascinating to me, boring to you, tidbits about me to go along with these awards.

Please do check out some of these fine blogs. There is something for everyone here, and it took a couple of hours to assemble all of the links, so please click some or all!

Finally, I wish I had my own award to give. I’m not quite as cheeky as Julie, but if I did have my own award, I would give one to everyone who follows me, and one to everyone I follow. I’ve only been blogging for seven months, and it has been a great experience. It’s been wonderful getting to know so many nice people.

If you stop by and see your award, please let me know. I’m afraid it will take days for me to notify everyone.  If you haven’t clicked on the award for your rules, click here for all of the award rules.

There’s A Bloody Mary at the End of the Mayan Calendar

ImageMy new book is published! I’m celebrating with a Bloody Mary that has been spiced up with jalapeno dust.

This is the book I wrote in November for National Novel Writing Month. Start to finish, November 3 to December 21, and I squeaked in under the end-of-the-world deadline. I hit the publish button at Smashwords at 8:00 p.m. and at Amazon at 9:27 p.m.

Windy City Hunter is live at Smashwords, and will go live at Amazon, hopefully, by morning. It will be at Barnes & Noble and other outlets as Smashwords distributes and retailers update their inventory.

I want to share some fun things with you about the book:

– One of my favorite bloggers is a genuinely nice guy with a great sense of humor – Christopher De Voss. His blog posts, and his one-liners in blog comments, tickle my funny bone. Chris is a Imagepoker player and a zombie expert, and he recently had a story published in Undead Uncensored, an anthology from the Zombie Survival Crew.

I asked him for permission to use his name for a cameo appearance in my book under the name of Chris/Christopher De Floss. He was a peach to say yes, and he promised not to sue me. After the initial scene with Chris in chapter three, he’s mentioned six more times throughout the book, and that includes prominence in the ending. It’s pretty cool, and if you don’t think you want to wade through all of the Susan Hunter books, read this one. It stands alone just fine, and I think it will even entertain the guys.

ImageGlenno at Erehwon, a.k.a Arnold the Armadillo, enjoys photography. I took a fancy to one of his photos, and he sent the original to me. Rich printed it, framed it, and it now hangs above my desk. I described this photo and one other (b/w with red door) as paintings in the book. They are now hanging in a fictitious art gallery on Rush Street in Chicago.

Image– At the last minute (truly, just a couple of hours ago), I made two small changes in the book as shout-outs to David Harding. I won’t say what they are at this time, but will wait for him to read and see if he finds them. Don’t shake your head like that. He will read the book.

I want to thank all of you, my blogging friends, who have been helpful, encouraging, and supportive while I was writing this year. It’s truly appreciated. I still can’t believe I started writing and actually published these books; it’s quite surreal. I say it all the time, because it is true: my books aren’t perfect, but they are entertaining.

Also, I do apologize for not visiting your blogs this past week. Editing has been a priority for quite a while now. I promise to be by soon to catch up with all of you. I know I missed some great posts as I watched them scroll by in my reader.

It will likely be a while before I write the next Susan Hunter book, so I want to do a little babbling about the books in general.

I like the way they have progressed. Susan manages a weight loss center by day and works and plays at a racquetball club in the evenings and on weekends. I tried to mix up the locations, characters, and stories between the books.

New_Sunshine_Hunter_386Sunshine Hunter – The story starts in a racquetball club in Carbide City, Ohio. The book basically starts out as chick-lit. Susan and her best friend, Darby, go to Florida, and this is where the mystery starts. There is a bit of romance, humor, and some action. The ending is back home in Carbide City at the racquetball club.

 

Final_Big_Apple_Hunter1Big Apple Hunter – The pace is slower in this book. It starts as chick-lit with the setting in the weight loss center this time. There are some flashbacks in this story. I didn’t know you shouldn’t do that, but I’m a rookie author, and I’m sticking with it. Susan accompanies Darby to New York City for a weekend, and this is where the mystery starts. It is then brought back home to Carbide City and the weight loss center for the climax. Once again, there is a bit of humor, some romance, and action.

 

ImageSin City Hunter – This book moves faster, and I finally had clarity on the use of “which” vs “that” in writing. 🙂 Susan is in Las Vegas for a week of work at the corporate offices of the weight loss company. She flies out a few days early for some fun and relaxation. Her parents join her, and there is a new character introduced. Once again, we have chick-lit, a (murder) mystery, some romance, action, and I think the humor worked well in this book.

 

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Big Easy Hunter – The book starts on a racquetball court in Carbide City, and two mysteries are quickly introduced. A character only mentioned before has a main role in this book. Susan, Darby, and the new character go to New Orleans for a wedding, where there is yet another mystery. The book ends back in Carbide City with a big climax. Chick-lit, romance, humor, action – and dogs! I love this book.

 

ImageWindy City Hunter – This is the first book that has no racquetball playing in it, and there aren’t any scenes at the weight loss center. It takes place entirely in Chicago. The tone of this book is different. It’s more “pure mystery” than the others. There is a flicker of romance (hard to have romance when Mick is in England), and some humor. A new character joins the fray near the end.

I don’t know what’s next for Susan. I have an idea for one more book, but even though I feel quite certain number six will be the end, I’m learning to never say never. I also know that I may not have the final say in the matter. I’ve been to Los Angeles, and Susan just might want to go there, too.

Comment! I’m giving away five copies of Windy City Hunter and will draw the winners from the comments section! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this. I didn’t pony up the money to be able to post this little video wherever I want, but clicking the picture will take you to YouTube where you can see a little promo I put together for Windy City Hunter.

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Editing Your Own Work

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When in the midst of writing a book, I like to go back and read what I’ve already written. I usually do this at the beginning of each writing session. I read the previous chapter or two to set the stage again in my mind, and it allows me to do some early proofreading.

Here are my next steps:

1. Read the book on my computer from chapter one to the end. This is my first full pass, and I’ll usually catch typos and missing words/commas/quotation marks. Sentences are sometimes reworked. Details might be wrong from one part of the book to the next, and I try to fix all of this on the first pass.

2. Wait a day or two and read it again. I still read the book on my computer, but I read out loud this time. I read as if I’m reading for the audio book version. Laugh if you must, but I pay closer attention when I read as if someone is listening. Reading out loud is a good way to find all of the things that sound “clunky” or don’t portray normal speech patterns.

3. Notebook time. I make a list of unnecessary/overused words and the number of times I used them. Here are a few that are troublesome for me in my current project: that (343), just (78), very (101); the list is long. Other words are: fact, quite, truly, try to, shocked, surprised, a lot, really, pretty, put, place, suddenly, took, looked, time, walked, and there are more.

This is the step that takes the longest. I look at every use of each word. Most of the usage is fine in its context, but if I can eliminate or trade out the word, I do. I write with simple words, and if I change a word, it is usually to another simple word. It is during this step that I am most likely to rewrite a sentence.

4. Print a hard copy. When I go back to editing in a few minutes, this is where I am in my current project. The book is printed, and I will now read it as if I had purchased it and am reading for my own enjoyment. Errors, poor sentence structure, and lack of commas seem to jump off the page at this stage.

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Sneak peek of my new cover!

When I reach the end of the book, this is when I’m usually surprised and think, “If someone else had written this, and I had bought it, I would have really liked it.” And I think that’s important! I’ve read that we should write to please ourselves, and our work is more likely then to be pleasing to others.

5. Two more copies are printed – this time for my beta readers. Both copies come back fairly quickly with changes, but there usually aren’t too many. I try to leave the book alone while they read, and then I make their corrections on my master – or do some rewriting based on their suggestions.

6.  Time to print one last copy and read the book backwards one page at a time. This way, I don’t get caught up in the story, and I tend to read individual sentences and paragraphs with an eye for anything we may have missed.

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It’s almost as good as “maroon.”

When I’m satisfied we’ve done the best we could, and the words aren’t macaronic, my book is ready to publish.

Do you do your own editing? Is your process similar? Am I missing any important steps?

macaronic: muddled or mixed up
A challenge from Zen.

Edited to add reader tips from comments below:

From Book Writing Tips: “If it is possible and you can, after your 1st step which is to read the book in your computer from chapter one to the end, why not leave it for a much longer time like 15 days or a month perhaps? In this way, you get a clear head and you get to read the book as if you’re not the one who wrote it.”

From Dianne Gray: “When you read it on your computer can I suggest you change the font. Enlarge it and change it to something you’re not used to looking at – I find I pick up a lot of mistakes this way.”

Pro Writing Aid

Grammarly

SmartEdit

 

No More Cranky Interviewer

ImageZen at Zen Scribbles has reviewed my first book, Sunshine Hunter, and graciously interviewed me as well. It’s my first interview by a genuinely nice person.

Hop on over and take a look. There’s chocolate cake, and we’re giving away free books!

http://zenscribbles.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/a-review-a-giveaway-and-a-chat-with-maddie-cochere-on-everything-from-writing-to-cake/

Susan Hunter Gangnam Style

All Susan Hunter needs is for someone in one country, like India, to fall in love with her, spread the love around, Imageand before you know it, she will be the next big thing (like PSY’s Gangnam Style), and the entire country will be buying the books and making fabulous Bollywood movies about Susan and Darby and their adventures.

Hey! A girl can dream, can’t she?

In October, Paula Acton tagged me for The Next Big Thing, but I didn’t realize at the time it had an expiration date. You can see Paula’s answers to her next big thing here: Voices Across The Void, A Collection of Ghostly Tales

Recently, Valerie Clarizio wanted to tag me for this, but as I was still writing for NaNo, I declined. You can read about her next big thing here: Cookies for Santa

When Chelsea Brown tagged me last Wednesday for The Next Big Thing, I thought it must be time to answer the questions. You can read about Chelsea’s next big thing here: Jenny Mac and the Man of Secrets

There are ten questions to answer. I’m sorry if I’ve been babbling for so long about this book that you already know the answers, but here we go …

1. What is the working title of your book?

Windy City Hunter

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Susan has been to Florida, New York, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. It was simply time to go to Chicago. My husband helped me with plot ideas in July.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

My books are all noted as mystery, but this is the first book in the series that is a true mystery throughout.

4. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I enjoy mystery books with an element of fun and even silliness. Gemma Halliday comes to mind, Laura Levine, and dare I say, Janet Evanovich.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have an image of Susan and Darby in my mind, so it’s hard to think of someone playing them. I will leave that to the casting director, but here are a couple of looks (not necessarily the right people) which are close:

Image6. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Susan and Darby bite off more than they can chew when they go to Chicago for a cooking competition and become embroiled in a murder. (Nicely cliched, eh?)

7. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published – before Christmas I hope!

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Twenty-four days. This is my National Novel Writing Month book. I started on November 3 and finished on November 26.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I had the storyline in mind, and it was simply time for the next book in the series. NaNo lit the fire under me to start writing.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

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The book is typical Susan Hunter. She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, readers will laugh with her, and if they don’t cry with her, they will
 certainly feel sorry for her at times. There are pink shoelaces on one man, a gorilla head on another, and a wise-guy investigator involved with both.

All of my books stand alone with individual story content, but the books are chronological with respect to Susan’s relationship:

#1 – Sunshine Hunter
#2 – Big Apple Hunter
#3 – Sin City Hunter
#4 – Big Easy Hunter
#5 – Windy City Hunter – due out this month!

Just in case Susan is not The Next Big Thing, here are a couple of authors whose books just might be. I tag these two fine Michaels to answer the same questions next Wednesday:

Michael (Mike) Akin – author of The Distorted Trail
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Mike’s answers to The Next Big Thing.

Michael Fedison – author of young adult sci-fi/fantasy, The Eye Dancers
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Michael’s answers to The Next Big Thing.

When Your Life Is a Video Game

ImageFor a break from the usual, I thought I would share a couple of Christmas memories today.

This will be our first Christmas since our son moved out on his own, and Rich and I don’t really care if we have any hoopla around us or not. Christmas with family will be at our nephew’s house this year, so we’ll enjoy the decorations, food, and festivities there.

Our son has had some pretty memorable Christmases. I was always like a kid at Christmas, so in essence, we were like two kids, and Rich had to be the adult.

The first memory comes from when Rich used to work afternoons, and for several years, he worked on Christmas Eve, which took away that evening and also the next morning.

Our son was twelve at the time, and, of course, he played NintendoImage quite a bit. We were all enjoying a goofy old game called Snake, Rattle, and Roll. One of the best parts of the game was warping to other levels. If you have never warped to another level, it’s basically finding a secret place on one level (like level three) that will automatically send you up to another level (like level six), so you can bypass some of the game.

This particular year, our son also bowled in a league on Saturday mornings. Two weekends before Christmas, I took him to the bowling alley as I always did. I told him I would pick him up in three hours, and if he was done early to stay inside and wait for me. I usually stayed to watch.

The minute I left the house, Rich put a ham in the oven and started decorating. The tree went up and presents were loaded beneath. Other decorations were placed around the house. Christmas music was turned on. The minute I came home from dropping the boy off, I started fixing Christmas dinner. Rich made a banner for across the wall in the kitchen.

When it was time to pick him up, Rich drove down to the bowling alley. He probably told our son something lame like Mom wasn’t Imagefeeling good. When they walked through the door, a huge Christmas dinner was on the table, the house was decorated, gifts were under the tree, and along the wall was a banner which read:
WARP TO CHRISTMAS DAY.

The boy couldn’t believe it. He was living a video game. He kept asking, “Is this for real?” He had two full days that weekend to play with Dad, the neighbor kids thought he was the coolest thing ever, and it made Christmas that year so much nicer for all of us.

The second memory is from a couple years later when our son and I were sitting in a Starbucks late one afternoon. Once again it was about two weeks before Christmas. I asked him if I was getting something in particular, but I can’t remember now what it was. He said, “I’ll tell you if you tell me something I’m getting.”

Well, there we were, not one kid and one adult, but two kids. Before you knew it, we were telling Imageeach other everything. Rich was at work, and we dashed back to the house and dragged all of the boy’s gifts out from their hiding places and looked at everything. There was a Sega Game Gear in the lot, and we played with it for the rest of the day. We messed with and/or played with his gifts every day after Dad left for work – right up until I had to wrap the stuff on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas day, our son acted wonderfully surprised with everything he opened – as did I. It was months – as many as eight or nine – before we confessed to Rich what we had done. We confessed in front of Grandma and Grandpa. They thought it was hilarious, but Rich absolutely couldn’t believe that I would have done such a thing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The boy and I had a blast.

So even if my house isn’t decorated this year, or Rich and I don’t have any hoopla, I still have a ton of fun memories.

I know I’m not the only one to mess with Christmas. Tell me what you’ve done!

Book Covers and The Public Domain

ImageNow that National Novel Writing Month is over, I have a book in hand. I didn’t take the advice of experienced NaNo participants, and I did some editing as I went along – at least on the first half of the book. I finished writing last Monday, and since then, I’ve made a pass on the second half of the book.

My mother has finished reading it, and she has proclaimed it entertaining and a winner. That’s what mother’s are for, but she really did like it. We laughed over a few scenes, and she approved a few minor swear words that worked well in their context. My books really are pretty squeaky clean.

I usually cut out pictures, use glue, crayons, and markers to cobble together ideas for covers. I used the cover from Big Apple Hunter and started playing around with that yesterday.  Here was my first attempt. It is only being shown for humor purposes:

ImageThis is what I sent to my niece and asked her to work a miracle for me: ImageI want a Christmas tree that is mostly white -or- one that is very colorful; whichever looks best. I’m leaning toward a colorful tree. If I’m going Christmas on the cover, I may as well go all the way. I want a Chicago skyline, Susan in an apron while holding a cake, and I need a gorilla head! She also needs longer hair because Mick doesn’t want her to cut it. Men! It will be fun to see what Gillian comes up with based on the mess I sent to her. I gave her free rein to discard my ideas and go with something completely different if she wanted to.

This morning (Saturday), I double-checked the story I “used” in my book to be certain it was in the public domain. I spent most of my day reading about public domain works, and how they can be used for inspiration, or in your writing itself.

You may remember that I wanted to put Susan into a situation where she was seeing events unfold in the apartment building of Stephanie Plum. I wouldn’t mention any names from the Evanovich book, simply references of hearing gunshots, seeing a redhead lying in the hallway, men in black at her door, etc.  But, I soon found out that even if names are not mentioned, if a scene is recognizable, it is copyrighted.

I started reading books and stories in the public domain. I had the main storyline for my book mapped out, but I still wanted a sub-plot in the condo. I wanted Susan and Darby to have a parallel view of Imagesomething happening in another book. I finally found a short story in an old pulp fiction magazine.

It started out perfectly. The two of them saw the body, and they were questioned when the police arrived. It was all downhill from there. I only meant for them to observe and comment, but Susan can’t keep her nose out of anything, and she ended up smack dab in the middle of everything. I actually felt as though I had no control of the story at times. Writing still surprises me so much.

My book turned out better than I could have hoped by taking some elements of the public domain story and turning them into something completely different. I didn’t use any of the same names, nor did I use any text from the original story. Once Susan started snooping around the building, there were actually only a few original elements that remained.

That brings me to some of the things I’ve read as I’ve searched public domain books and articles over the past two months. It’s been fascinating!

Public domain is massive. There are more than 85 million books and stories in the public domain. In a nutshell, that means you can pretty much do anything you want with them.

If I wanted to write a book about Cinderella (the original Cinderella) traveling in H. G. Wells’ time machine to obtain some advice from Romeo and Juliet, I could do so. My new, original story would be copyrighted, but the characters would not. The characters will always remain in the public domain for others to use.

Many old fairy tales have been rewritten into modern day tales. Beauty and the Beast didn’t originate as a Disney movie. Look no further than Once Upon A Time on television, and you will see very creative use of public domain works.

You can borrow ideas, concepts, plots, and characters, and do Imagewhatever you want with them as you write them into your new work. Numerous beloved stories have been adapted. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a New York Times bestseller, a creation from the public domain, and it’s being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman.

My husband and I spent nearly an hour this morning chatting about the public domain, and discussing how so many books, movies, television shows, and music have used work from public domain sources to create wildly popular spinoffs, mashups, and new works.

Because there is still at least one Sherlock Holmes work of Sir ImageArthur Conan Doyle that is under copyright, the character of Sherlock Holmes won’t be released into the public domain until 2022. Start working on your zombie and vampire books now. The Sherlock Holmes fans will be gobbling them up.

Have you ever written a story, book, or song based on something that was in the public domain?

P.S. – The little cutie pie at the top of this post? She’s there because the first picture posted in the reader is the *BIG* one, and I couldn’t let that goofy cover with the gorilla head behind the Christmas tree be it, so you get to look at a little cutie pie.

He’s Baaack!

ImageNational Novel Writing Month, you have been conquered. My book is finished, and I’m four days early. Whoo-hoo! I finished at 8:42 p.m., and the final word count is 52,452.

Considering I’m easily distracted, I’m proud of my achievement, and the book is quite entertaining, if I do say so myself. I think this calls for a celebratory interview about the book. My favorite interviewer just happened to be nearby when I stuck my head out the back door and whistled down the street. He’s settled at the kitchen table with me now.

Cranky Interviewer:  I thought I told you not to call me when you finished this book.

Me:  There was no one else available, and I’m excited to get the news out.

C.I.:  Just so we’re clear, I want cash this time. … The title is Windy ImageCity Hunter, right? Was it windy?

Me:  Yes, Windy City Hunter, because the setting is Chicago, and of course it was windy. Chicago in December two weeks before Christmas? It was near-blizzard conditions at times.

C.I.:  Well, let’s cover the important stuff first. How many bags of m&m’s did you go through?

Me:  Two and three quarters.

C.I.  You’re kidding, right? That’s nearly 400 m&m’s!

Me:  They inspire me.

C.I.  How many beginnings, middles, and endings are in this tripe, er, I mean this stunning masterpiece of fiction?

Me:  Why do you always have to be such a wise guy? You know my writing is light, breezy, and easy to read. My books are entertaining and a good escape for a day or two. You should try one. To answer your question, there are three beginnings, three middles, and three endings.

C.I.:  You’re kidding, right? You convoluted this book, too?

Me:  It’s not convoluted. There’s a murder, a mystery, and a sort of mystery/puzzle thing going on. I gave that a beginning, middle, and ending, too. I didn’t want to leave any loose ends.

C.I.:  I hate to ask the next question, but everyone is going to want to know. How many exclamation points?

Me:  You will be happy to know there are only 83 exclamation points in this book.

C.I.:  Jeez Louise, will you never learn? … What’s this I hear about zombies? How could you possibly incorporate zombies into one of your fluffy books?

Me:  They were on television. Susan was greatly affected.

C.I.:  Oh, for crying out loud. You’ve been hyping zombies for weeks, and now you’re telling me they were on television. You’re killing me here! … Does Susan cry very much in this book? Why does she cry so much?

Me:  Of course she cries a lot in this book. She’s sensitive and emotional, but she laughs a lot, too.

C.I.:  How about a quick synopsis?

Me:  Sure. Susan and Darby are in Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. They stay in ImageDarby’s Uncle’s condo, and shortly after they arrive, a tenant is murdered. One of them, Darby or Susan, I’m not telling you which, is eventually suspected of the murder and ends up in jail. So, you see, it doesn’t matter which side of the bars Susan ends up on, she’s upset and crying.

C.I.:  Where’s Mick during this crisis.

Me:  He’s in England. He doesn’t have much of a role in this book.

C.I.:  There are rumors that your blogging has seeped into your writing. Are some of your blogging buddies going to be embarrassed by what you’ve done to them?

Me:  Oh, you bet! There will be acknowledgements in the back to thank one awesome guy for allowing me to seriously abuse him, and I described the photos of another blogger as artworks in a gallery. That was very cool.

C.I.:  You’re going to get sued, you know. … When are you going to publish Windy City Hunter?

Me:  I’m not going to rush it. I want to be careful with the editing, and I have to give my niece time to do the cover, so I’ll probably publish in January. It would have been a neat accomplishment to publish five books in one year, but I’ll settle for having written five in one year.

C.I.:  Yeah, whatever. … Last question. Will there be another Susan Hunter book after this one?

Me:  Of course! I don’t have a working title yet, but I know Susan is going to be writing children’s picture books in the next book. I’ve had a few suggestions so far: Zombie Hunter, Flushing Hunter, and Rat Hunter (thanks, guys!).

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Cranky Interviewer Dude

C.I.:  I’m outta here. Good job on that NaNoRhinoceros thing or whatever it was you just did. I’m not interested in your next book at all. I hate kids. Please don’t call me.

Me:  Ok. Toodles!

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Take NaNo and Stuff Your Chicken With It

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First things first. My husband’s name is Rich. I’m tired of calling him hubby, and I have no pet nicknames for him, so there you go.

Next, I was thankful on Thanksgiving Day. I’m always thankful. I say that upfront lest you think I am ungrateful as this post continues.

Rich and I were in the kitchen Thursday morning as we prepared our Thanksgiving dinner to take to my mother’s house. Music was playing, and we enjoyed the time cooking together. But every time something would go into the oven, I would run to my computer to type a few sentences, and then back to the kitchen, I’d go.

It was time to throw together the corn bake. My family calls it corn shit. “Hey, Maddie! Are you Imagebringing that corn shit again?” Anyway, the corn bake was popped into the oven, and I was off running to my computer to type a few more sentences. … In a nutshell, National Novel Writing Month was a terrible idea. Who thought doing this in November was optimal?

My mother doesn’t care for turkey, and we don’t care what we eat, so I stuffed two chickens instead. Imagine my surprise when it was time to leave, the oven door was opened, and the chickens weren’t done. Neither was the corn bake. I can only assume the oven decided to be persnickety about cooking chickens instead of turkey.

We dragged it all out anyway, and we took off for Mom’s. I called ahead and told her to turn her oven on, and we would finish cooking everything there. Well, that was just fine with her because she wanted to go to the grocery store and stop off at the drug store to pick up her prescriptions. On Thanksgiving.

Mom and I left Rich in charge of the food, and off we went. Having a husband with a strong feminine side is wonderful. He browned the chickens, finished the corn bake, and heated the noodles, sweet potatoes and extra dressing. When we came home forty-five minutes later, he had the meat off the chickens and onto a platter. Our son had arrived, it was just the four of us for dinner, and it was very nice. … Until several hours later when NaNo raised its ugly head inside my brain. I had to go home right then. I had to work on my book.

I did write for a few hours that evening. I was even a teeny bit cranky about it. Ok, I was a lot cranky about it. I would have much preferred to visit blogs and see how everyone’s ImageThanksgiving turned out. When I finally gave up and went to bed, I had crossed 30,000 words – still 6500 words behind. Sigh.

By the end of the day Friday, I was at 33,710 words – still 4600 words behind. On one hand, I wanted to throw in the towel. The book would get done eventually, and I’d rather blog than write. But my mother has been reading the book a few chapters at a time as I get them done. I gave her two more chapters on Thanksgiving. She called Friday evening and told me to hurry up and finish the book. She said she loves it, and can’t wait to find out what happens next. She went so far as to say that this one might be her favorite. Hmmm … I was partial to the ghosts in New Orleans; she must like the zombies in Chicago.

So here I am on Saturday evening at midnight. I was tempted to visit blogs today, but I restrained myself, and it turned out to be a good writing day. Rich and I played a little Dr. Mario when I needed a break, but for the most part, I started writing around 2:00 and kept at it for the day. Word count at midnight: 41,188. The finish line is in sight. Today, I was a writing goddess.

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Click for a closer look and to see what Susan is doing now.

It’s World Toilet Day

ImageI hate toilets.

Yes, I know we need them. Yes, I know how to use one. Yes, I’ve hugged a few in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a century home. That means it’s over 100 years old, and the plumbing is probably original to the house. When we bought the house, it came with two evil toilets.

The upstairs toilet was the worse. Oh, it had us fooled with its pretty blue color, but I eventually caught on. You didn’t dare get up and go in the dark in the middle of the night, or the seat Imagewould be mysteriously up, and you’d take a water plunge. No one in this house leaves the seat up. No one. It was the evil toilet slipping its seat up in the night.

Then it took a lean. Literally. There is wallpaper in the bathroom with a tiny flower pattern in straight rows. The back of the toilet was lined up perfectly with a row of flowers. One day I noticed the toilet was a little lower than the flowers on the right side. Over the course of a year, the toilet leaned more and more until it was two rows of flowers lower on the right side than the left. You had to sit sideways to use it.

Thank goodness my husband is a man who can do anything … when he’s good and ready. The evil toilet was removed, floor boards replaced, and a brand spanking new white model that could flush a sweater arrived. It has a magical seat that closes hydraulically in an ever-so-quiet motion. No more catching the back of your pajamas on the seat and having it bang in the middle of the night.

However, the evil spirit from the upstairs toilet moved into the downstairs toilet. Go ahead, give it a flush. Works perfectly, doesn’t it? That’s what it wants you to think. The next guy who goes Imagein there and flushes runs the risk of the toilet overflowing. The second guy must always be prepared to be the plunger guy. Run the washing machine? Oh yeah, the downstairs toilet has a fit, and the water does freaky things and sometimes looks like it’s boiling. Go back in there and flush it again just for kicks. The kitchen sink gurgles. That’s cute.

Want to come to our house to visit? We’d love to have you, but if you have to use the toilet, please run down the street to the McDonald’s.

Hubby and I were lying in bed the other night. It was that really quiet time just before you drop off to sleep. But then there was a noise that was killing me. I had to get up, close the bathroom door, and turn on a fan in the bedroom so there would be ambient noise to drown out the offending noise.

The faucet in the bathtub was dripping.

http://www.worldtoilet.org/wto/
Even though I hate toilets, I have done my part today to promote awareness for all of the people in the world who don’t have toilets.

ImageQ: How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper?
A: We have no idea. It never happens.

My blog is rated PG. Add your own love/hate toilet story … or add some toilet humor!

Vacation, Writing, and An Aussie

My husband says his vacation is technically over, but I still consider this weekend to be the last two days of his vacation.

I thought about doing a Christmas song post like this: On the First Day of Vacation, My True ImageLove Gave to Me … a rude awakening to the sound of a saw. Not a manly man chainsaw like a burly woodcutter in plaid would use in the forest, but a Sawzall with its weenie little sound. He was outside and finally cleaning up the large tree branches from the wind storm a few weeks back. I made my way downstairs, opened the back door, leaned out to give him a thumbs-up and said, “You go girl!”

But the rest of the days sort of blur together, and I don’t remember what day he slept on the sofa all day so I could write. Or what day he went to the grocery store for me so I could write. Or when he cleaned the kitchen and then cleaned out the junk drawers. He ground up dried jalapeno peppers in the coffee grinder and filled a spice jar for me with “jalapeno dust.” I also noticed the fried microwave disappeared. He kept me supplied with chocolate.

On Wednesday, he took a drive up north and picked up my mother. Then he came back for me (because I am not riding 60 minutes round trip listening to those two moan andImage complain!). We went to Warther’s Museum to see the Christmas tree displays. Local businesses set up trees, sell them, and the proceeds support the local hospital. Mooney Warther was “the world’s master carver,” and we always enjoy the time spent in the museum – Christmas trees or not.  Afterward, the three of us had lunch together. It was a nice day.

I’m still slogging away at writing my book for National Novel Writing Month, but I’m woefully behind. I’ve broken the rules of the experts, and I’ve taken the time to read what I’ve already written. I’ve also done some editing, and I’ve rewritten a few passages. Sue me. As of this post, I’m at 20,894 words. Unbeknownst to my husband, I’m going to continue to slip Nyquil to him so he’ll sleep all weekend so I can write.

I haven’t been able to keep up with blogs very well, but I will catch up soon. There is one blog I must point out to you today. David Harding is a teacher and an author of children’s books. He lives in Australia, and he recently had a blog post entitled, How to Talk Like Me. It was a hoot, and I suggested he do a video explaining the rules Imageto his favorite game, Gorilla Dice, so we could actually hear him speak … and he did! He titled it, Me Talking Like Me. I’ve watched this thing at least a half dozen times already, and I still laugh when I watch it. There isn’t sound for a few seconds, so be patient and watch with amazement as he affixes a moustache to his face for Movember. If you haven’t already clicked one of the links for him, click this one and go see David and follow him. 🙂

Blogging, Blah Blah Blah, NaNoWriMo

ImageWell, obviously, I can’t do two things at once. My brain can either produce the writing for my book, or it can produce something for my blog, but not both.

It took me over four hours last night to go back and read blogs from the week, drop likes, and leave embarrassing comments. Even though I was late to everything, I did find that being the last one to leave a comment can be a good thing. Fewer people are likely to read the crazy things that come out of your brain at 2:00 in the morning.

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My cousin sent a link to me this week. It was for some old pictures of our grandmother, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. I have to show you one photo that I just love. My aunt and uncle (brother and sister) look like they came right out of a Mad Men episode. They both have drinks and cigarettes in hand, and the furniture was fab.

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Of course, I saw my mother this week. She doesn’t have a computer, but she does have a Presto machine. It’s a printer for receiving emails. Before I went up to see her, I sent the first chapter of my book to her. We were waiting in line at the drive-thru at the bank, and she said, “I don’t like your book.” My heart sank. If my mother didn’t like the first chapter, I was in trouble. There was no way I was starting over, and I didn’t have another idea. I said, “Aww, really? What didn’t you like?”  She tried, but she couldn’t hold back a smile, and she said, “Oh, I’m just teasing you. I loved it. I can picture everything, and it’s really good. I didn’t like that you left me hanging.” Grr! Mothers! She took a week off the life of my heart.

—–

NaNo is a bit of a pain. When I wrote my other books, I just wrote when I felt like it. Some days produced a lot of words, other days a few or none. This is Day 10, and I’m supposed to be at 16,667 words by the end of the day. That’s not going to happen. The story went completely cattywompus in the condo, and I have no idea how it got out of control. But it’s making me laugh, and I’m going to go with it and see what happens. It’s as though all of those ideas and notes I made before November have Imageflown out the window. The detective in the Santa suit – out. The major mystery at the cooking competition – out. A man wearing a gorilla head – in. Susan and zombies – in. It’s as though I’m possessed. Oh, and we’re only at 11,627 words.

Hubby is on vacation next week. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of writing done then. /sarcasm

So, what’s shakin’ in your neck of the woods?

Let’s Talk about Author Interviews

You may remember that cranky interviewer who was here a while back. He conducted my first book Imageinterview, and I thought it went well. I was able to get the message out about my newest book with its 101 exclamation points, but I haven’t sought any other interviews. I’ve been torn between my thoughts as a consumer and those as a writer.

When I was a consumer only, here is what I thought about author interviews: I don’t care. It wasn’t personal; I simply didn’t care about the author. I never read the jacket flap information about an author. I skipped over author interviews in magazines, and I didn’t read about the author at Amazon or B&N when I bought books.

Janet Evanovich is a favorite author or mine. As a consumer, I don’t care about her writing process or her personal life. I care about Stephanie Plum, and I’m rooting for Ranger, but I’m thinking it will be Morelli, because he is most likely to offer the happily ever after to the series.

But now that I am an author, my mindset is changing. Here at WordPress, I’ve come to know some really great people, and I’m building personal relationships with other authors. How cool is that! A few have been interviewed by other bloggers, and I loved their interviews.

I kind of still don’t want to read about Janet Evanovich, but I do want to read about my friends and other aspiring authors here at WP. The interviews put an author’s name and their book(s) out there for more people to see. In turn, more followers may be gained, more relationships built, and along the line, some sales of books will be made.

All interviews aren’t created equal, and based on my own feelings, past and present, I think it’s important to appeal to the consumer first, so if the reader doesn’t stick around long enough for the personal information, they at least have the information about the book.

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Valerie Clarizio

For an example, I chose fellow WordPress author, Valerie Clarizio to interview. Her book, Cookies for Santa, debuts tomorrow, November 5 at Melange Books (also Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

I already know I like Valerie, but before I decide to buy her book, there are some things I want to know, because no matter how much I like Valerie, I’m not buying gruesome horror and lying awake at night with the lights on for a month. These are basically the same things I want to know before I see a movie, and here are her responses:

Genre / Audience: Romantic Suspense / Adult female. Heroine is 28. Hero is 32.

Content Warning: Cookies for Santa does contain some adult content. There is some minor swearing and a consummated love scene that is both sensual and emotionally satisfying.

Synopsis: Detective Spinelli’s life is tossed sideways when he is reassigned from the Homicide Division to assist in the Child Services Division of the Social Services Department for the holiday season. From the beginning, Spinelli and caseworker Shannon O’Hara generate their own kind of fireworks, causing more than the normal workplace stress. … Shannon moonlights as Santa Claus’ little helper at the mall, and when Santa and an elf turn up dead, Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli is placed back on homicide and goes undercover as Santa to help capture the killer. He catches a great deal of grief along the way, but will he capture the heart of his little Santa’s helper as well?

Book Length: 38,000 words / 130 pages

The above information is all I need to know to make a decision to buy or not. I don’t need to read a Imagesample, and I don’t need to read anything about Valerie. She has a great cover, and that would draw me in as well, but a cover is never a deal breaker for me. The consumer side of me is now satisfied.

But let’s move on to some questions I would like to have answered from my standpoint as a writer as well as in my effort to continue a personal relationship with Valerie. There could be many questions, but I’ve chosen just a few.

Because of some of my own experiences when writing, I was curious to know Valerie’s answers to the following three questions:

What prompted you to sit down and start writing your book? I had just finished reading the most recent novel of my favorite author and was waiting impatiently for her next one to come out. In the meantime, I had a dream about Spinelli, and I woke up thinking, Wow, my favorite novelist should write this story. After giving it more consideration, I thought to myself, Wow, I should write this story.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences, or is it purely imagination? It’s all purely imagination. Though I wouldn’t mind if a couple of the scenes actually would happen in real life. 🙂

What was your favorite chapter to write? I especially liked writing chapter twelve. The chapter contains another scene of Spinelli playing Santa Claus at the mall. In this scene, Spinelli/Santa is visited by a couple of kids that he and Shannon had previously removed from their home and placed in foster care. The oldest child’s Christmas wish really got to Spinelli, and you can see this tough homicide detective soften before your eyes.

As an author, I wanted to know the answers to the following two questions:

How long did it take to write Cookies for Santa? It took me about five months to write Cookies for Santa, and about eighteen months to finally get it in print.

Why did you choose traditional publishing over self-publishing? How many queries? I was afraid to self-publish. I wanted someone experienced in the business to do things such as edit, design the cover, and help market the book. I’m a newbie, still trying to figure this all out. … I sent out six queries, and of the six, two publishers took a serious look at the MS.

The next three questions are in the fun category and give me a little more insight into Valerie as a person and a friend:

Who would play Shannon and Spinelli in the movie version? Molly Quinn would play Shannon, and Anson Mount would play Spinelli.

What does your family think of your writing? Since I write outside of my day job, I spend many evenings in the home office. That said, my husband has washed more dishes in the past year and a half than he did in our first 20 years of marriage, and he has sole control of the TV remote. J Seriously though, he’s been very supportive. Each of my brothers think they are the hero…they are mistaken, and as for my cat, as long as her food dish is full, she doesn’t care what I do.Image

What is your favorite cookie? White chocolate macadamia nut!

Of course I had to ask her favorite cookie, and if chocolate wasn’t in the answer (even though it’s white chocolate), I would have had to find another person to interview. And look! She used an exclamation point at the end of her answer.

There you have it. A little information to help you get to know Valerie if you would like to follow her here at WP, and enough information about her book to make a decision to buy when it comes out tomorrow. A big thank you to Valerie for being a good sport and allowing me to do a less-than-typical interview.

As for the rest of you, do you read about the author before making a decision to buy a book? Do you read about the author after you know you like their work? Or were you like me and ignored them completely while simply throwing money their way and devouring their books?

If you have any questions or comments for Valerie, feel free to leave them for her in the comments section.

National Novel Writing Month – Day One

Thursday, November 1, 2012

9:00 a.m. – Drag myself out of bed after six and a half hours of sleep. Brrr. It’s cold. Remind myself to find the time to work on clothes warming invention before it gets really cold.Image

9:30 a.m. – Take out dog. Make a cup of cocoa. Clean off my desk in preparation for big writing day.

10:00 a.m. – Show up at a blog and drop a haiku. Mess around reading blogs for a while, write and send an email.

12:00 – Surf websites looking for floor map of condo in Chicago. Walk around the streets of Chicago with Google Street View. Oh, look! A squirrel! Make myself stop surfing clothing stores and go back to condos. Zillow sucks me in, and I shop for my own condo.

1:30 p.m. – Finally have floor plan, room samples, and list of condo amenities. Crap! There’s no paper in the printer and none in the house.

1:45 p.m. – Play a few rounds of computer game.

3:00 p.m. – Drop a comment on a blog and leave a typo. It’s a curse. Read more blogs.

4:00 p.m. – Take out dog again. Did he really wait this long to ask to go out? Converse with hubby about dinner. Leftover spaghetti?

4:15 p.m. – Microwave still dead. Pile leftover spaghetti and sauce in baking dish, top with Parmesan cheese, and plop into the oven.

4:30 p.m. – Run to store for chocolate. Pat myself on back for remembering to buy paper.Image

5:15 p.m. – Hubby home. Dinner is good. Spaghetti is always better the next day – or was it from last week?

6:15 p.m. – Crash on sofa in den and play Dr. Mario with hubby. Crank up music and realize Pitbull and Flo Rida both have new songs out. Hubby loving and singing along with new Rihanna tune; I’m not so sure I like it. I am tonight’s champion. Yay!

8:00 p.m. – Back at my desk. Ok, I’m ready to write. Ready, set … oh, look! A squirrel!  Country Music Awards are on.

8:25 p.m. – Text from son; he works afternoons. Haven’t seen him for a while. Decide to run up and see him over his lunch break.

9:30 p.m. – Back home. Country Music Awards are still on. Fast forward to catch up live. Motorboatin’!

11:00 p.m. – Awards over. I can write for a couple of hours now. That’s plenty of time to crank out more than 2,000 words. Commercial comes on for Nashville with that cute girl from Heroes, Hayden Panettiere. Hey, I missed that last night. Find it online to watch missed episode.

Midnight – Nashville over. Take out dog again. Dog goes to bed. Hubby sleeping on sofa. Now I can write!Image

12:10 a.m. – Grab notebook and start handwriting notes for first scene. No actual manuscript writing, but look at me! I’m accomplishing something!

12:15 a.m. – Oh, look! A squirrel! My dvr is recording something. What am I recording now? Check the listing and see Project Runway is recording. Well, I’m not waiting to watch that! It’s the All Stars.

12:30 a.m. – Give up on writing and put together a blog post chronicling first day of NaNoWriMo while I watch Project Runway. After all, this blog was originally intended to track my writing journey.

National Novel Writing Month – Day 1 – Number of words written: ZERO

Blasted squirrels.Image

I Wish I Were a Hero

ImageNot a hero like someone who puts their own life in danger to rescue their fellow man (although I would hope I would do that if the occasion presented itself). No, I wish I were a hero like the heroes in the television show, Heroes. You know, the one that ran for four years, and I stopped watching after the first year because I was no longer into it. “They thought they were like everyone else … until they woke with incredible abilities.

I want the ability to resist fire.

I’m fascinated by fire. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not a pyromaniac. But staring into a fire is hypnotic, and it’s warm, and I like the way fire crackles and sounds.

ImageLook at that picture. It has not been photoshopped, and I swear there is a hero at the arrow. Or a monster.

Two doors down from us, a house caught fire. Everyone got out, and firefighters were quick to arrive, so the house was saved, but I was fascinated watching the flames try to claim the house for their own.

Last year, an old warehouse-type building caught fire in our town, and I couldn’t leave the scene. I’ve never seen such a large fire. The heat was intense, and the amount of noise surprised me. Noise from the fire as well as the building falling apart. It was mesmerizing.

I wish I were a hero with the ability to resist fire and some day walk through it unscathed.

Ideally, I would find out about my powers gradually. If a mean boy in high school reached across the table at a hamburger joint, and held a lit cigarette over my hand, I wouldn’t pull away. I would let him put it on the top of my hand, and I would look him in the eye until he chickened out and pulled back. I wouldn’t utter a sound, I would simply grab a sliver of ice from my coke and put it on the hole.

If I loaded wood into the wood burner, and my hand or arm banged the side of the hot burner and left a white hot mark (just about every freakin’ time), I wouldn’t flinch.

If smoking hot oil flew out of the pan when I dropped a beef roast into it, and it melted a hole in the carpet, I wouldn’t cry or fuss when the hot oil also landed on a wide area of my arm.

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Joe and his screaming chicken.

If I put chicken under the broiler in the oven, and my hand accidentally hit the heating element, I would just sigh and run it under cold water.

In our house, I’m the one who can wash dishes in the hottest of water. I’m the one with white marks on hands and arms from what should have been nasty burns and scars, but the incidents only appear to have taken the pigment out of the skin. I’m the one who can’t seem to stop burning herself with little to no pain or aftermath, and I just look at the menfolk and say, “I’m a hero.”

What hero quality do you possess?

(Carrie Rubin! You better not tell me that I have some terrible neurological disease, and I need to see a doctor right away. Don’t take my hero dream away from me. I’m going to be a firewalker some day! :-))

Weekly Writing Challenge:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/weekly-writing-challenge-i-wish-i-were/

Thank you to my friend, Charlie, who put me onto this remix video. As of this date, it’s coming up on eight million hits

Image(This is a fun lady, and she’s adjusting to her new-found fame well!)

P.S. – When you publish your post about fire, don’t forget about your ham and cheese sandwich in the skillet in the kitchen, or the bottom piece of bread will look like this:

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National Novel Writing Month – Why?

ImageAfter a beautiful week of near 80-degree temperatures, we dropped into the forties with rain all weekend. That kept us from doing yard work, but we managed to accomplish a few other tasks.

It was good to take the weekend away from the blogosphere. I watched a few movies, hubby and I dusted off the Nintendo 64 and played a few rounds of Dr. Mario, and I made some preparations for NaNo – as well as a pot of chili. Yum.

I wasn’t going to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I didn’t really see the point. All four of my books are in the 50k to 57k range, and the first three were all written in a three week period of time (with editing after, of course). House guests and a few other projects cropped up in the middle of book number four, but the actual writing was about four weeks with one day producing 7100 words. I didn’t feel the need to challenge myself by participating.

I’ve been enjoying reading about what others are doing to prepare. Some have everything planned down to the number of hours to write in a day, food choices, number of words to write daily, housekeeping schedules, etc.  I’m highly competitive, and the thought of being a “winner” is enticing, but that wasn’t a strong enough motive to participate.

The reason I finally decided to sign up is that I’ve been dragging my feet about writing at all. I only want to write two more Susan Hunter books, and I just haven’t been able to get started on the next book other than the first two paragraphs. I’m thinking NaNo is the kick in the pants I need.

But there are other things happening behind the scenes. Writing came out of nowhere for me this year. After seeing other people sell short stories for a dollar on Smashwords, I just wanted to see if I could write a story, too. The fact that a book – let alone four – came out still astounds me. I’ve said it a million times, my books aren’t extraordinary with fantastic plots, but they are entertaining, which is all I ever hoped for.

If this next book goes well, and I enjoy writing it as much as I did the others, I’ll keep writing. (I’m kind of afraid it will all disappear as fast as it showed up. Or my shades of ADD will kick it to the curb for something else.)

I did manage quite a bit of research and preparation over the weekend for the official start on Thursday: ImageFrom right to left:

-My notebook with my original thoughts on scenes, characters, and how I want the story to unfold.

-More scribble notes with a scribble map of where I want events to take place.

– Printout of a Google street map in Chicago. I’m having Susan and Darby stay in a condo where I once stayed. The building and the surroundings are familiar to me and will make writing the story easier.

– Notes from a pulp fiction story that is in the public domain. It has the elements I want to use for a sub-plot in the condo.

– Another map outlining crime areas in Chicago. I can’t very well have Susan walking around in areas that are noted as high crime areas.

– Scribble notes with research needed for Susan personally, and I also jotted down some things that came to me for the opening scene at a gas station.

-Obligatory dish of m&m’s for research and writing.

– The typed pages atop my scanner are other details I previously worked out for the book, as well as all of my research into cooking contests.

I still need to do a bit more research based on the criminal element of the story, and then I’ll be ready to start writing. If I don’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the November, that’s ok. If I do, I’ll be editing like crazy around the clock so I can publish right away. It would be awesome to have a book with a Christmas theme published in time for Christmas.

I wish everyone good luck and joy as they write during National Novel Writing Month.

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Step Away From the Blog

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Do people from the blogosphere infiltrate your day? Not while you’re online and actually reading blogs, but as you go about your daily routine?

I’m on the interstate quite a bit. It’s easy access to the few towns near us as well as to civilization north of us. Today, instead of taking the back roads, I hopped onto the interstate to run to the bank one town over.

As I neared the end of the on ramp, I checked my mirrors once more before merging into traffic, and someone popped into my head – John the Aussie.

A man in Australia is suddenly with me on my little stretch of road in Ohio, and it’s not the first time. I see his smiling face in my mind, and I quickly check to be sure I’ve flipped my turn signal off. Crikey and blimey, is this a forever thing? Is this one of those things that you never shake – like the time a truck full of guys from school drove by and threw tomatoes at you when you were mowing the grass? I haven’t mowed grass since then, and I still see those guys standing in the bed of the truck whipping their tomatoes at me when I see someone else mowing grass. For crying out loud, I have three brothers, why was I mowing the grass in the first place? I blame my dad for that, but maybe he was the one laughing the hardest. Focus, Maddie. Get back on topic.

Yesterday, I ran through a Steak ‘N Shake to grab a quick sandwich while I was out. Of course, I saw Imagethe milkshakes on the menu, and I thought, “Kate would have a caramel one.” A fabulously funny girl in New Zealand is causing me to think about milkshakes!  For the record, I didn’t get one.

I turned my television on two nights ago, and it came on to the World Series. The announcer said, “Detroit,” and my mind instantly thought, “I bet Tim is all hunkered down to watch this.”

Plus, there are the blog things I have to share with my husband. Because I go to bed so late, I usually wake him on the sofa, and by the time we get settled into bed, we’re usually awake, talking, and laughing about something. At 2:00 a.m. one night, we were giggling like little school girls when I told him something Ruth said about her husband that was so sweet, and we could relate, but it struck our funny bones.

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Embellishment includes lighted appendage. Cartoon: http://holleygerth.com

Christopher is known to my mother, our friends, and my sister because of his fireflies story, and the embellishments my husband has added after we tell the original version. We should probably pay Christopher some royalties.

So, when I walk into the bathroom the other day, and I see an empty roll of toilet paper sitting on the counter, and I remember a blog post about empty rolls of toilet paper, I think I might need to step away for a bit and give my mind a breather.

The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is: Foreign. The very first thing that popped into my head was CLEANING SUPPLIES (see photo submission above). No kidding! These objects are completely foreign to me these days. This blogging gig has left our home woefully unkempt. To clear my mind from the blogs and bloggers who are continually running around in it, flicking at my synapses, I’m going to take the weekend off and step away from the blog.

NaNoWriMo starts next Thursday, and I’m going to take some time this weekend to put some thought into how I want to approach my writing. Hubby and I still have to clean up the tree mess from the storm, and someone really needs to buy some proper groceries. But mostly, I want to use some of those foreign products and do some cleaning. I don’t even know where the vacuum cleaner is.

Now, don’t leave me hanging out here like a freak. Bloggers get into your brain, too, don’t they?

Pass the Tissues, She’s Crying Again

ImagePinocchio saved Geppetto from the whale, Monstro. When they washed up on shore, and it appeared Pinocchio had died, I cried. I was an adult.

When my husband told me of seeing an old man crying as he took his dog into the vet to be euthanized, I cried.

When our son broke up with a girlfriend, I saw her face as she left our home. It was the right decision, but I felt her pain, and I cried.

I remember feeling things deeply as a child. I laughed hard; I cried hard. When I would read books, I felt what the characters were feeling, and it was not unusual to find me crying over a book. I still cry when I read books. Even my own, silly as that may seem.

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Buddy

I cry watching movies and television shows. I cry at weddings. I cry in church, especially from the music. I can’t watch those heart-wrenching commercials on television about dogs that need help, because they’ll turn me into a blubbering mess.

When I see someone who is hurting, I know how they feel. It’s painful at times.

This isn’t something I can control. I’ve tried. I fight tears. I try to think of something else, but the feelings are too strong.

Most people can sympathize with others and situations, but empathy is a feeling of another’s true emotions. An empath will deeply feel the emotions of others. It is suspected to be genetic and in our DNA – something passed from generation to generation.

There have been times when I wished this would go away, but I think I’m much more forgiving and understanding of people because of empathy.

I hope no one would ever say I am uncaring.
What’s the one thing you hope other people never say about you?
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/daily-prompt/

Q: Why Was the Photographer Arrested?

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ImageThis is a picture I took of my mother in the A Christmas Story house in Cleveland, Ohio. She is standing next to the famous leg lamp. You can see I have a talent for photography. /sarcasm

I’ve always had a fascination with cameras. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic, and I went through flash cubes like some people I know go through chocolate (you know who you are). There was great anticipation as I waited for the prints to come back from wherever they were sent. I think I was always a little disappointed in the final results, but there were usually enough pictures to delight me to make it worthwhile.

In my early twenties, I finally bought a 35 mm camera. I forgot to change a setting once, and my one and only trip to Disneyworld was forever overexposed. The camera certainly wasn’t as easy to use as an Instamatic, and my picture taking dropped dramatically.

I finally took a continuing education class in basic photography. I learned how to use my camera, and we even did some developing in a darkroom.

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The McKinley Monument has 108 steps. You run to the top and act like Rocky.

We were eventually sent out to shoot pictures, and we had to bring ten slides with us the following week to share with the class. I picked out my favorites. As more and more slides were shown that evening, I slid down in my chair hoping to go unnoticed. Most of the pictures were of the well-known landmarks  around the area (they all seemed to have the McKinley Monument) or beautiful pictures of flower gardens and streams.

I almost got away with it, but the teacher spotted me just before he went to turn on the lights. There were some chuckles and snickers as they viewed my picture of cows on a steep incline, slivers of the last rays of sunshine slipping between black trunks of skinny trees onto an even blacker swamp, and a sunset behind a dilapidated barn which was set to the left of my frame rather than the right. I don’t remember my other pictures, but they were equally odd and different from all of the others.

I’m sure my face and neck were red when the lights came back on.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher used my slides to show/tell everyone why their pictures were boring and uncreative while mine were not. After class, he suggested I sign up for the next, more advanced class. He thought I had an “eye” for photography and could do something with it someday. I didn’t pursue it. I just wanted to learn how to use my camera. It was stolen within the year when my apartment was broken into. I never replaced it.

I find myself following quite a few photographers here at WordPress. My love for photography has definitely surfaced again, but I don’t have a camera. Well, I do have a digital Sony Mavica, but it’s not what I want.

Yesterday was a pretty, sunny day. I charged the Mavica and asked hubby to take me for a drive, so I could take some pictures. I told him I’d make a great blog post with my photographic skills. We both laughed.

We weren’t very far from home when he saw two horses, a white fence, and a barn. Not what I was looking for, but he whipped off the road and pulled out his camera phone. He was shooting pictures so fast you would have thought there was an underwear model out there. I looked around. We were next to a dried up corn field. I spotted one yellow ear peeking out. I snapped a picture – just to get started as this wasn’t what I had in mind. The sky above the field was a beautiful blue, and although not special, I snapped the picture anyway.

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Then my camera died. Two freakin’ crappy pictures and my camera died. My enthusiasm was gone just like that. But not hubby. Oh, no. He drove on down the road to the winery and took a million pictures there with his phone. I whined and dragged my feet as I watched him be the photographer. Sigh.

Here are a few photographers I have more recently followed and have really been enjoying:

http://pamtanzey.wordpress.com/ – Pam is an artist, and I love her artwork. She frequently posts photos, and her close-ups of her horses are wonderful. Her recent dog photos made me want more dogs.

http://arnoldthearmadillo.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/leafy-drive/ – Glenno has a new blog, and this link will take you directly to one of his photographs that I just love.

http://disperser.wordpress.com/ – Emilio’s shots of bird, bugs, flowers, and much more are wonderful. His recent post of tree swallows feeding was great.

http://barrycreative.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/a-shore-thing/  – I first found Barry with the post at this link. I was hooked by his visuals and his stories.

And here are some of hubby’s camera phone pictures so he doesn’t feel left out:

ImageImageImageImageAnswer to the title of this post: Because he shot people.

Do you have an interest in photography? Do you share your photos on your blog?

I Adore My Husband (Part Two)

ImageMost people would say their husband is their best friend. I would say that, too, but my husband is my best friend and best girlfriend all rolled into one.

We chat about everything. He has been known to crimp my hair and enhance the color. He proudly wears pink and yellow. He shops. We were in a fabric store not too long ago, and he was oohing and aahing over fabrics while I was whining, dragging my feet, and wanting to go home. He sings the female backup parts to songs. He sheds tears when something touches his heart.

The flip side is that he is a manly man and is comfortable in flannel. He can fix anything, build anything, and solve any problem – at least in my world. He used an employment service the last time he looked for work. He had to take a test so they could pigeon-hole him into a few types of jobs. The workers said the test results showed he was one of the rare people who could literally do anything. I believe it.

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Single malt, no rocks for hubby.

I don’t mind that he smokes cigars and drinks an occasional Scotch. There’s something about those skinny cigars and a glass of Scotch neat that makes him too sexy for his pink shirt.

Women love him; men appropriately like him (although I recall a few men who would have liked to have loved him). He has a wonderful sense of humor, and not a day goes by without him making me laugh in some way.

Which brings me to today. Today I decided to delete old email and text messages on my computer and my phone. Of course, I first had to look for the gems he has sent to me since the last time I did this and embarrassed him back in August. Here we go …

There are still sweet greetings:

Good morning, honey pie.

Good morning, princess.

As well as some news from the overnight, and before he actually starts work:

Did you have fun punching me in the face last night?  What did I do to you?

Pete had a three-pooper this morning. Yippie.  He was a proud beagle.Image

I love you. I hope you’re still snoring and making spit bubbles.

Comments regarding his day at work:

Everyone who comes into my office today has commented on my banana.  They want to touch it.  I understand Debbie and Sue wanting to, but Steve and Bob?  Not so much.

Sometimes a random thought comes through:

Humpty says “Grab ‘em in the biscuits.”

We frequently talk about food as we try to eat healthier:

I’m starving. I’ll have bread and water for supper.

I want to run uptown and have a margarita, chips and salsa. Then go Imageto Wendy’s for a large chili and a single with everything but cheese, and wash it down with a large frosty. Then swing over to Taco Bell for an enchirito and a couple choco-taco’s. On the way home, stop at the gas station and pick up chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream for a light snack.

 

After I asked what he wanted from the Chinese place:

I guess the chicken with the big black snotty fungus flaps.

Some days he’s in a hurry to come home:

Just over an hour before I can leave to come home to my bride. I CAN’T WAIT.

Papa’s comin’ home, and he’s NAKED. I hope I don’t get pulled over along the way.

After I sent him the video of Greenback Boogie, which I liked:

Now there’s five minutes of my life that I’ll NEVER get back.

When I asked him to help me with the bacon limericks:

You want a dirty or a clean limerick? Dirty I can do in a flash. Clean may take me a few weeks.

Bacon peppered, smoky and thick,
Frying it fast is part of the trick.
Along with some eggs,
Or eaten alone,
Rub on your ears and use as cologne.

The day he needed to get something off his chest:

Our town’s finest was out in front of the house last weekend talking to the “Kettle Kids.” I figured he told them to stay away from the road and not play there. You know, doing his civil duty. I just mowed the grass, and I now know why the cop stopped. The Kettle’s were out there busting hell out of our slate sidewalk. There are enough slate chips out there to arm the entire Sioux Tribe with arrowheads for the next friggin’ ten years.

Just this week, after a wind storm ripped the power lines away from our house, and the surge fried our microwave:

I’m taking my dish of leftover spaghetti to the Circle-K. They have microwaves over there.Image

There are still sweet closings:

Hugs ‘n smooches

I love you, my princess.

I Adore My Husband (Part One)

♫ Tan Shoes with Pink Shoelaces ♫

We’re singing again. Dodie Stevens this time, because the song crossed my mind while writing this post.

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Steve Harvey of Family Feud

One day each week, I head thirty miles north to visit with my mother. I take her to the grocery store, shopping, for occasional doctor visits, and four times a year, we gripe and complain on the way to our accountant for our quarterly taxes. We generally have dinner before heading back to her house to gossip visit some more and watch the Game Show Network. I run up and down the stairs during commercials to do her laundry.

Yesterday, I was treated to a gorgeous drive on the way up. The fall colors are nearly at their peak now, and with the sun shining, it was miles upon miles of aurulent, melichrous, coccineous, vitellary, badious, and rubious leaves.

The color show reminded me that the Weekly Writing Challenge this week was to incorporate a splash of color into your post. I thought of my favorite color, yellow. It’s a cheerful color. We live in a yellow house, but I don’t want to write about my house. I’m mad at it right now because it allowed a power surge to wipe out my microwave and a television this week. (Public Service Announcement: Buy good Imagepower strips. Most of our electronics were plugged into heavy-duty power strips, and although four of them were fried and off to a dumpster today, the items plugged into them survived.)

I do have this love affair with pink. I have a fabulous, double breasted, pink jacket with a high collar. It’s quite retro. Pink shoelaces show up in my books.

Aha! That’s it! Color in writing.

Do you give a lot of thought to color when you write? Beyond the fact that a room was blue, the tablecloth was white, or the villain was wearing all black? Do you use color stereotypically?

This is something that probably comes up in Writing 101, but we all know I didn’t take that class. I searched one of my books and found references to colors that work just fine in their context, but had I given more thought to color specifically, I may have tried some other words and descriptions.

As my mother was TWO HOURS in the eye doctor’s office yesterday, I spent the time searching and reading on my Nook about using color in your writing. That explains the obscure color words I used above to describe the leaves. I was surprised to find that these words are also considered obscure:
Chartreuse – Humph! I put a guy in a chartreuse thong in one of my books.
Beige – What? Surely you’ve owned a pair of beige pants.
Hoary – I’ve heard my husband use this word. Oh, wait. Maybe not in reference to a color.
Indigo – Everyone knows this color, don’t they?
Khaki – More pants, usually with too many pockets.
Maroon – Come on. Obscure? Bugs Bunny uses this color word often. Image
Violet – Didn’t your grandmother have a little pot of violets in her house? You know this color.

Colors can show mood in your writing. Every color suggests a feeling. Red denotes passion and action; blue is trust and peace; yellow for wisdom and happiness; green for balance, growth, and nature. There are many sites that will give you a wide range of colors and their meaning/perception.

Colors can help to set the tone of your scene, and by adding strong adjectives, you can set a powerful stage with wonderful imagery.

There are thousands of colors across the spectrum for you to choose from when describing objects. Once you’ve decided upon your base color, change it to a color from the same family that will give your writing more vigor. Instead of a red sweater, choose a scarlet sweater, or even a ruby red sweater.

Many writers use similes and metaphors with color. The walls were a putrid green like a zombie Imageskateboarding toward me to devour my flesh.  They can be a great way to convey color images.

I’ve finally thrown my hat into the ring for NaNoWriMo. I think it will be a good kick in the pants to get me going strong. I only have two paragraphs written so far for my new book, and I don’t have to use them at all toward my novel/word count in November. As my setting will be Chicago at Christmas, I’m going to pay more attention to color in my writing this time.

Do you use color in your writing? Do you rely on it to set mood, tone, and feel?

P.S. – If you missed it, that crazy Stairway to Heaven post last week was Freshly Pressed. A lot of people stopped by to leave creative poetry and/or fun comments if you’d like to take a look.

A Male Perspective

More than ever, I’m convinced I have a genre problem. My books aren’t sophisticated with enough romance to satisfy chick-lit lovers, and the mystery element isn’t a murder to be solved from chapter one throughout, so hardcore mystery lovers may also not be satisfied, but those are the two genres available for my type of book.

Truly, I have to start a campaign for a fluffy, pink-with-a-hint-of-silliness genre. I market under Breezy Books. I promote my books as fun, easy, breezy reading with nothing to make you blush. I think there are still women who appreciate a book that is pretty squeaky clean. Tell your mothers and grandmothers about my books. They are suitable for young adults, but there is no fantasy or vampires, and I haven’t tested the YA market.

But … it was especially fun when fellow WordPress blogger, Mike Akin of sumthissumthat, decided to read my first book. Mike is working on his first novel, and I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading some of the beginning of his work, and it’s shaping up into a great story.

He is my first male reader (that I’m aware of) other than my husband. I have been tickled pink about this, and I want to share some of his email messages with you. The messages are sent to me from his phone, so there is no expectation of perfect punctuation or grammar.  We just go with it and laugh.

These are all separate emails – some days with more than one. Many of the smiley faces have been removed. We smile at each other a lot. His words are in bold, and we start with this note:

9/26I just saw your books on my iBooks app!! That is so freaking cool!! I’m corresponding with a famous person. I’ll be buying the first one later today!! This is so exciting lol

After I assured him my books were no great works of art, but they were fun, he replied:
I’m just tickled to death  lol  have a great day my friend … I love that he gets “tickled,” too.

I’ll kick your butt in racquetball   … Oops, not a comment about the book. We were one-upping each other in sports.


10/01
Bought your first book 🙂 how can I get it autographed? Lol

I’m reading it and like it!!


10/02
I love the description of play on the racquetball court in the scene where she first met mick

I replied to him:  Squee!!  Thank you.

He immediately wrote back: What was that sound? Image

I replied: That was me being excited and happy.  Kind of like a pig squeal.

In reference to one of the scenes in the book: Two aces to finish a match! I did that once or twice 🙂

Love it! That meeting in the pub, the harmless flirting lol I hope I’m reading the first one, sunshine hunter is the first right? Or does it matter? I’m sure it does. Again, I guess I’m hooked 🙂


10/3 –
(paraphrase from a line in the book) “He held my arms it’s a good thing cause I might have fallen down” … That’s good lol

wow I’m breezing right thru it. I think Susan needs to hook up with Darby

A side note about Susan and Darby after I showed him my two opening paragraphs for my fifth book I just started writing:
Wow Bonnie and Clyde lol GREAT

wow Darby is still around in next book I’m so looking forward to reading more


10/4 –
(paraphrase) “Susan you know I love you, and would love to date you, but (removed spoiler text).”  Great great

After I told him that the guy across the hall from Susan’s apartment opened his door, and the character was created just like that with no planning:
That’s cool about Darby. So he just appeared as a character and you went with it? I think I did that with Nancy’s sister Grace. Lol She will be in the story line thru out, but I don’t know how much 🙂


10/5 –
Food channel is referenced a lot in your book
I promptly responded: I like to cook. And eat.

Loved reading about the matches Susan had at that club in Florida. It brings back memories

Lol that is funny! Loudermilk for a last name 🙂


10/09 –
I loved the way (chapter) 9 ended! Shocker


10/11 –
I really like how your story took that twist with Susan and the (spoiler text removed) character 🙂 kudos to you

He’s so deep into the book, there would be too many spoilers now, so that’s all I’m sharing, but this has been a real hoot for me that a grown manly man is reading my book and enjoying it. It’s a real morale booster, and the rest of you men out there should take note and give my book a try. Sunshine Hunter – only 99 cents at fine ebook sellers online.

And below the fold is this bit of news I promised I’d share. My 50-book sale to ONE person at Smashwords has finally been reversed. The announcement was posted on their site that there were fraudulent credit card sales and all have been reversed this month. The secret admirer angle was a little too good to be true. ImageI have no questions to draw you in today, so we lapse into an awkward pause.

Ooh – or you can tell me what question(s) I should have asked. Or you can go over to Mike’s blog and have a look around. He has some of his wife’s art there, and he even has some manly recipes.

Blogging Freaks Me Out (Part Three)

ImageBlogging etiquette was the intended topic for today.

I’ve been blogging for three months now, and some things still confuse me. After scanning 40+ articles about blogging etiquette, I had a considerable amount of information to share, but, truthfully, it was kind of boring, and I found myself disagreeing with some points … and … I realized that blogging still freaks me out at times.

What should you do when you leave a comment and realize you’ve stuck your foot in your mouth? Please give me a delete button for my own comments! Commenter’s remorse is a real thing and will cause you to break out in a cold sweat.

As I compiled blogging etiquette information, I went back to some of my older posts and made some minor changes. When I checked my email later, there were notifications of new comments to those posts. OH MY GOSH! It never dawned on me that some people get alerts whenever I send up a post, and updating these older posts spammed the people who get the alerts. I’M SO SORRY! I spent 20 minutes under my desk until the red drained from face.

An unfamiliar author with an unfamiliar book left a comment and asked me to interview her on my blog. She wanted to connect with my followers. I was kind of freaked at her cheekiness and deleted. Should I have done that? Maybe her etiquette was good and mine was bad?

The fishermen bloggers confuse me. They will hit my like button daily for many days, so I finally go to their blogs, and if I like what I see, I follow. They hooked me, and I never see them at my blog again. Not that they need to come back, and it’s not really a thing to freak out about, but it adds to the confusion of blogging etiquette.

So that all of my research doesn’t go to waste, let me share some of the blogging etiquette items that I couldn’t wholly agree with:

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Blogging Etiquette Expert “You must credit everyone.”

 

– Give Credit.  I have a wee problem with the credit thing. You are asked to credit everyone about EVERYTHING. I counted as many as 30 links peppered throughout one article, with very few of them being relevant. These people would want me to link/credit all 40+ articles I encountered to cobble an etiquette post together.

When Morgan Le Fables posted the link to Anne Rice’s video talk to aspiring writers, and he gave his opinion about the video, you bet I credited him when I used his blog post as a stepping stone to make my own post about the video.

But according to the experts, that’s a no-no. You should come up with your own original ideas and not use the ideas of others. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be posting.

I don’t agree. Plagiarism is one thing, but reading a post about keeping track of the little things in your writing gave me an idea to show how I’ve done this in my own writing. If I publish, I’ll credit the author’s blog for the idea. I get a lot of inspiration from reading other blogs.

Image– Use correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization when commenting. I can see trying to have your actual blog post cleaned up as much as possible, but I’m not one to do a lot of proofreading and editing for a comment. Plus, I spilled a Starbucks Frappuccino on my keyboard, and some of my keys still stick. You won’t always get a capital *i* from me. I think we should be a little more forgiving in the comments section.

This is when I gave up working so hard on the etiquette post:
– Respond to all comments.
– Don’t respond to all comments.
– Leave a comment if only to say you liked the post.
– Don’t leave a comment if you aren’t contributing to the conversation.

Oh my gosh! Who doesn’t want a comment? I would assume if someone didn’t want comments, they would turn them off – or at least say, “serious comments only.” If someone simply slapped a smiley face in my comments section, I would be happy they took an extra moment of their time to let me know they read my post and found it enjoyable.

For me, everyday good manners and common sense go a long way in blogging. Be nice, have fun, be Imageyourself. Hide under your desk for twenty minutes if you commit a faux pas.

By the way, Part One is kind of funny, because I was still pretty shy and really freaked out when more than 20 people showed up to my blog one day. Part Two was when I unfollowed blogs because I was afraid they would think I was trolling for Likes/Follows.

What are your thoughts on blogging etiquette? Does blogging ever freak you out?

Call me Susan.

ImageFirst lines. How important are they? According to a huge number of online articles, your first line is everything.

I have four self-published books. Take a look at these first lines:

My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. ~Sunshine Hunter

“Susan, Mrs. Colter peed on the floor again.” ~Big Apple Hunter

“Hey, beautiful, do you have any blue underwear?” ~Sin City Hunter

“Stop it!” I whispered.” ~Big Easy Hunter

Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he paced the hallway of the unfamiliar police station. ~Windy City Hunter (not yet published, still messing around with the first line)

I think I swerved into a fairly decent first line for the first book, and now that I’m learning more about writing, I think the last one is pretty good, too. First lines good or bad, I think all of my books are entertaining.

While reading about first lines, I came across this site which lists 100 Best First Lines from Novels. I enjoyed reading it, and I was surprised so many were quite lengthy.

It was a dark and stormy night continues for another 51 words.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times continues for another 48 words.Image

It was love at first sight.  Joseph Heller started Catch-22 with a cliché.

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.  Dodie Smith wrote this first line to I Capture the Castle. I thought it was funny. I wonder if she sat in the bathtub when she wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Only three of the 100 started with a sentence of dialogue. A few weeks back, I learned this is something taught in classes – do not start your book with dialogue. I did it anyway.

I did shrink the information I gleaned down to a few tips for the first line of a story:
– You want to grab your reader’s attention.
– Your first line should be interesting by asking a spoken or unspoken question, promising something, or offering an unproven idea.
– Show your main character in your first line.
– Show your setting or give a sense of your setting.
– Your style of writing should shine through. Your voice should be identified.

Well, no wonder writing is so hard. That’s a lot to lay on one sentence.

I also read that first sentences are rarely memorable. You are more likely to remember a last line or a last scene. Yet, it is, of course, the first that is used to hook a reader.

As I read the articles, I also read the comments. There were some interesting comments about so much weight being applied to one sentence. Many people responded:

– The first few lines are important, not the first sentence.
– The first few paragraphs will set the tone and writing style.
– The first chapter is the beginning, but it’s not necessarily the beginning of the entire story.

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You take over. What do aspiring writers really need to know about first lines? Does the first line truly do the heavy lifting ascribed to it?

Stairway to Heaven

I’m a fiction writer. Poetry is not my thing. I tried to write a poem for this post, and my husband said, Image“You didn’t rhyme the last two lines.” Of course I did. I’m not an idiot. I went back and read them. Hmmm … I guess “come” doesn’t rhyme with “done.” Crap!

But, in an effort to post outside of my comfort zone, I am forging ahead with poetry. I even have a picture to use for inspiration. Also outside of my comfort zone is to ask for participation. I can barely squeak out a question at the end of my posts, so this is definitely outside of my comfort zone. (I just used the words “comfort zone” three times in one paragraph. Now four.) So, here we go …

Sing with me. Led Zepplin. Stairway to Heaven. Do you have it in your head? Good.

Thanks to my husband, whenever I go out into our backyard, the song rolls around in my head. There isn’t a stairway to heaven out there, there’s a stairway to nowhere. Now sing the song using the words “buying a stairway to nowhere.”

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Click for a closer view.

This summer, the house next door to ours was gutted and completely renovated. The stairway in question used to go to the door to the kitchen. As you can see, they made a new entrance with new stairs. They didn’t remove the old stairs; they simply painted them brown. What were they thinking? For me personally, the stairs to nowhere would be a deal breaker.

Rather than try to understand the logic, let us pay homage to the stairs to nowhere today. Leave a poem, limerick, haiku, or simply your comment about the stairs to nowhere – or anything else for that matter. I’ll walk over, sit on the stairs, and read your work or comment aloud. Maybe. I might pay a neighbor kid to do it.

We’ll start. Here’s hubby’s limerick because he is a fountain when it comes to limericks:

There once were some steps, a total of four,
That led from the ground up to the door.
The door went away,
An improvement some say.
Now they lead to a door that’s no more.

Good, but BORING. His bacon/schmeckel limerick was so much better. If he hadn’t mowed the grass this past weekend and used up all of his energy, I’m sure he would have given us better.

Here’s my poem:

Oh stairs once gray,
I feel your dismay.
Slathered in brown,
The bane of the town.

You went to the kitchen,
You used to be bitchin’.
Now useless to all,
There is only a wall.

That is why I don’t do poetry.

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Let me try a haiku:

Gray happy stairway
Leaves fall on distressing brown
Renovation sucks

I’m supposed to take a moment to reflect on the experience of this new type of blog post for me. It only took a nanosecond to have my thought: Poetry is hard. I’m stickin’ with fiction.

Your turn.
Just go with it.

Imagehttp://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/weekly-writing-challenge-and-now-for-something-completely-different/

Six Sentence Sunday

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After taking a break for several weeks, I’m ready to start writing again. If I’m diligent, I might be able to have my fifth book published just after Thanksgiving. It has a Christmas theme, and I would love to have it out for Christmas.

I’ve rewritten the first two paragraphs five or six times already, but this is what I have now. My books are first person POV, but I’m going to start my new book a bit differently. Here are the first six sentences of Windy City Hunter:

————

Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he sat down hard on the cold steel bench in the police station. Chicago was the last place he wanted to be two weeks before Christmas. He had no clout here, and his demands for answers had only served to further aggravate the officers on duty. Six hours had passed, and he still didn’t know where Susan and Darby were being held. Worse, he didn’t know which one of them was being charged with murder.

He rubbed his temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing.

————

Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site: http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

Are You An Audiophile?

ImageThere is often music in our home. My husband might be blaring something from the den, while I have music competing for airspace from my computer.

When we married and merged our belongings, he brought a stereo system with a set of speakers that were taller than me. They could rock the house – literally. He had a fidelity demo cd with a multitude of sounds ranging from a soft breeze rustling prairie grasses to the deep thud and whirring of helicopter blades. It also had a 747 flyby. Our son used to beg Dad to make the airplane fly in the house – with the volume turned up. It’s a wonder we didn’t break the windows.

Last weekend, I went over to the den, flopped into a chair, and asked hubby, “What is it with guys and music?”

He gave me the usual blank stare.

Unthwarted, I pressed on. “Well, I like music. But I don’t listen to it like you do. There are plenty of girls on WordPress who post music, but guys seem to *really* get into music. Is it a guy thing?”

“It’s not a guy thing. They’re probably audiophiles.”

“Huh?”

The next twenty minutes presented a husband before me who was animated and passionate about music. Not that I didn’t know this, but we haven’t talked about it for years.

He explained that a good sound system will not allow you to hear violins moving from one speaker to Imagethe next, it will allow you to hear the violins in their proper section in the orchestra. He went on to say that when he bought expensive sound equipment, he could finally hear *all* of the music in a song.

I told him that my mp3 player surprised me by how good it sounded as the sounds separated and ran around the back of my head.

“They’re supposed to fill your head.”

“They run around the back of my head,” I told him.

“Some people might hear the sounds in the front.”

“My frontal lobe is probably damaged,” I said.

“Well, your mp3 player should sound better because the music has nowhere else to go. It can’t bounce off of walls or be diffused by the carpet or furniture.”

Image“Cool,” I said with a smile. My ADD was kicking in, and I was done listening. “Thanks. I have to go. I have blogs to read. See you at supper.”

Audiophile: A person having an ardent interest in stereo or high-fidelity sound reproduction.

Music soothes my soul. Music is emotional for me. I am not an audiophile.

Are you an audiophile? How do you view and/or listen to music?

Slowly I Turned

ImageJuly 2, 1984. We cross the Peace Bridge into Canada, and I start rubbernecking like a kid in F.A.O. Schwarz.

The view along the Niagara Parkway as we make our way to the falls is lovely. The Niagara River is to my right, well-maintained homes and parks are to my left, while trees line the parkway on both sides. I attempt to take in every detail and make a mental memory for all time.

My heart quickens in anticipation of my upcoming encounter once again with the thunderous monster at the end of the river. Every few seconds I peer down the ribbon of water, hoping for a glimpse of white spray signaling our arrival.

A gorgeous home comes into view. I want to live here on the parkway. An audible sigh escapes my lips; envy surrounds the soft sound.

The drive is taking longer than I remember. We come to a small, quaint town and run into a bank to convert our American dollars to Canadian. Our math skills are as good as those of a beaver who chiseled a pencil or three (see Mark Armstrong), and we know it will be easier to use the more colorful bills than worry about conversion rates for our greenbacks.

We encounter a kerfuffle alongside the parkway. People are moving quickly. We slow our pace, and myImage rubbernecking increases as we drive by. A man is shooting video of others as they shove a barrel into the water. They race to their vehicles, quickly overtake us, and speed toward the falls.

I am soon squealing like a teacup pig enjoying her new red rain boots (see La La). The spray above the falls is now in my line of sight. It only takes a few minutes before we are turning into a parking lot.

There are police cars, ambuli (the plural of ambulance), ok, ambulances, and security personnel rushing around. Tourists are excited and curious about the disruption to their day. I know what has happened. My rubberneck saw the barrel go into the river – a lapping, growing monster as it carried its victim away to certain death. I’m strangely unconcerned as I rush to my spot.ImageI lean over the rail at the edge of the falls and breathe deeply as I absorb every bit of the experience with all of my senses. I am mesmerized and enchanted by the thunderous monster that is Niagara Falls. There are no words to describe this particular spot at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. You have to hear it, see it, feel it, to truly understand.

I am unaware of how long I stand in this one spot. Others may have wanted to stand here, but I am Imagegreedy this day. Slowly I turned … in time to see policemen and rescue workers whisk away a man with a blanket around his shoulders. Onlookers applaud. Good for him. He lived. I turn back to my spot and allow the monster to envelop me once more.

WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Easy As Pie

♫ Wouldn’t You Like to Be A Genius, Too ♫

ImageSometimes I have ideas, and I think I’m a genius. Within a week, I see my genius advertised on television for $19.95. Someone beat me to it.

I have two genius ideas right now:

Genius Idea #1- I think every automobile should have a light bar running from left to right across the back of the car. It will show you the degree to which the driver has applied the brakes. Is Grandpa riding the brake and thereby applying only a little pressure? Just a few lights of the bar will light. Is the driver braking rationally in preparation for a stop? Possibly half of the lights will light. Or has the driver slammed on the brakes because a squirrel darted into the middle of the road and held up a stop sign? All of the lights across the rear end will blind you with their redness. Rear end collisions would be eliminated with my light bar, which is a way better idea than that goofy additional red light in the back window. … The Big Three have ignored my emails.

Genius Idea #2 – We don’t heat our upstairs in the winter. It’s great for sleeping, and with plenty of blankets, it’s always warm and toasty in the bed. Getting out is manageable, but taking off warm pajamas to put on frozen clothing is brutal! This year, I’m putting my clothes for the next day into a box with an electric heating pad hooked up to a timer set to turn on an hour before I get up. I’ll let you know how that invention works out and if the guys at the Shark Tank go for it.

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When I came up with an idea for my next book, I thought I’d hit upon genius again!

I’m a Janet Evanovich fan. In 2008, I picked up the first book in her Stephanie Plum series, and I read it in one sitting. I laughed out loud – something I rarely do when I’m by myself. I read the next thirteen books in the series, plus the in-betweens, in just two weeks.

In Explosive Eighteen, there is quite a bit of action at Stephanie’s apartment in New Jersey. I thought it would be awesome to have Susan and Darby go to New Jersey, stay with his uncle in Stephanie’s apartment building, and their story would run parallel to hers for one weekend. Darby would comment on the passed-out redhead in the hallway, or they would be awakened by multiple gunshots in the middle of the night, and the uncle would bark, “Go back to bed. It’s just the bounty hunter across the hall.”

Genius I tell you! There would be no mention of any names whatsoever. Only an Evanovich fan would catch the references.

But I do my homework. Research and a quick online consultation Imagewith a copyright attorney quickly exposed my folly. Even though no names would be referenced, characters and locations are by design copyrighted. If fictitious characters and locations can be recognized, you cannot use them.

It would have been fun to write, and I was disappointed. This idea came to me out of nowhere. I was working on something else at the time. Why was it dumped into my head by the universe?

Ha! I don’t give up that easily. It’s still a good idea. In my next book, Windy City Hunter, coming to an eReader near you in 2013, I have Susan and Darby staying in a condo in Chicago. I know I want a subplot in the condo, and I still want to use my idea of these two looking in on events from another book.

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Not the book I have in mind.

I’ve been speed-reading Public Domain Books! I’ve already found two possibilities. I’m pretty sure this isn’t an original idea, and when someone reads my book they will likely have no idea what I’ve done, but I’m pleased that an idea fell into my head, and I figured out a way to make it work.

Have you ever used a public domain book when writing? Tell me about your inventions!

C is for Cookie

ImageThese crazy special days tickle my funny bone. Who came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day? National Lumpy Rug Day? Do A Grouch a Favor Day?

Well, John Baur and Mark Summers came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day while playing racquetball. Men after my own heart!

Ever since I discovered Hallmark’s The Ultimate Holiday Site, I check it every day. Some days I smile and shake my head.

Today is Homemade Cookie Day. Here is how the Hallmark site describes it: “This is the one day of the year when you can legally stuff your face with the chewy, gooey goodness that is the cookie. The catch? You have to make them yourself! You don’t want to be caught walking out of the market with cookies wrapped in packaging, do you? The cookie police will not take kindly to that on this sacred day. But you might be able to bribe them with snicker-doodles.”

Snickerdoodles! We are pros at making snickerdoodles here. Our son was taught to bake them at an Imageearly age. He would pack them in empty ice-cream buckets and take them around to the neighbors.

My grandmother made the most amazing sugar cookies. The cookie jar at her house was always full for the grandchildren. We could only have one per visit, and what a special cookie it was! They were big, round, super soft, and always iced with PINK icing.

Grandma eventually gave her recipe to me. I’m a good baker, but I could never get my cookies to come out exactly like hers. She used to laugh when I would question her about leaving out an ingredient. I think the missing ingredient was nothing more than Grandma’s loving hands.

When our son was thrown out of daycare at the tender age of three (he led the charge, opened the door to the outside, and all of the children followed him), I quit my job to stay home and take care of the boy myself. As Christmas neared that first year, I decided to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies for some extra money. Of course the cookies were in Christmas shapes, iced, and decorated.

ImageAll of the girls from the weight loss company were my first customers. I baked for days on end to fill their orders. Word of mouth brought more orders. My sister and I went to craft shows, and I took cookies. They always sold out.

It was an astounding amount of work, and it was exhausting. Our neighbor hadn’t seen me come or go for many days, so he came over and knocked on the door. I was covered from head to toe with flour as I opened the door, and all I said to him was, “Welcome to hell.” He laughed and went home with a dozen cookies.

We burned wood in the fireplace at that time, and the main floor of the house was too warm to store the cookie orders, so I kept them in an unheated room upstairs. I was rushing one day to bring orders down, and I had boxes in both hands. I lost my footing and took a ride down the steps on my rump. I didn’t dare drop the cookies. The cookies survived; I ended up at the chiropractor.

I baked and sold cookies for three Christmases before I hung up my apron. I was sick of Christmas sugar cookies by then, and I don’t eat them anymore. Give me a good homemade snickerdoodle any day!ImageWhat’s your favorite homemade cookie? Do you have a cookie story? Or better yet, a falling down the stairs story?

About You, About Me, About Everyone Else

ImageWhen I land on an interesting blog site, I always look for the About link – and I click it. Rather than to read several blog posts to find out about the blogger, I hope to find some insight on their About page. If the blogger is friendly and appears approachable, I’m more likely to read some posts and follow.

Ruth Ann Nordin recently posted a link to an article entitled, Top 10 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes of Author-Bloggers. I was sure I would find ten more things I wasn’t doing right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Other than no twitter handle, because I don’t tweet, my biggest mistake was my About page. I had nothing on it other than one lousy sentence. I should have known better from my own blog-hopping habits.

In addition to the tips and information the article put forth, I did a little research on how to make the best of your About page. As with many blogging topics, the viewpoints can be subjective, and the pointers for a commercial business vary quite a bit from what I’m putting forth here. My comments are in parenthesis:

Per Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most highly-trafficked pages.

People can’t resist clicking the About page. They want to know who you are and what you are about.

It’s ok to have fun on your page.

Keep your first paragraph short. One to two lines – lines, not sentences.

Tell a good story. A good story hooks them every time.

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Hubby used to pass this picture around and say it was his wife!

Use a good photo of yourself.  (I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t need to see what someone looks like to want to follow their blog or read their books. There are a couple of not-so-good photos of me floating around out there, but I’ll wait until I really need author headshots to post a good photo to my page. … A little positive thinking there!)

Post contact information.  If you’re not including a way for people to contact you outside of the comments section, you may be missing opportunities. (In an effort to keep spam down, I’ve avoided putting my email address out there. I’ve probably kept questions and fan mail down, too.)

Your About page can bring more readers AND more sales.  (I’ll take both, please.)

Write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a press release.

Be consistent with your voice. Being upbeat and witty on your blog will have been for naught when someone clicks on your About page and finds it crumbly-dry and boring.

Tell why you are blogging. Do you specialize in a particular subject, or do you cover a variety of topics? Who are you hoping to reach? Your blog will be defined here as one of primarily offering information, help, or a more personal blogging experience.

Show your books. Include a synopsis for each, and have a link for purchase.  Viewpoints vary for this suggestion. Some say your books and links should be visible with every post, others say they should be on your About page, while even others suggest a separate page for your books. (My books are on my home page, and they are now on my About page. I don’t want them showing up in every post; my header makes it pretty clear I have books.) You should, of course, choose what feels right for your blog.

Don’t post your resume. Keep your bio short utilizing one focused paragraph. It is ok, however, to additionally talk about achievements and publications.

Make sure your About link has prominence on your main page.  Preferably at the top of your Imageblog. It’s one of the first places many visitors to a blog go, so make it easy to find.

Backlink. If you have posts you’re particularly proud of because they’ve received tons of comments, or they are just plain wonderful, list them on your About page. (This is a good idea, especially for your Freshly Pressed posts.)

When someone leaves, they should have an idea as to who you are as a person.

I now have a squeaky new About page. I tried to follow some of the pointers – two lines to start, tell a story, why I’m blogging, about my family, contact email, and I shared enough about my books to, hopefully, entice a few new readers.

Let me know if there was anything helpful to you here. Will you be making changes to your About page? Or will you be making your first About page? Was I the only person at WordPress who didn’t utilize the About page?

The Power of Positive Thinking

ImageThere are a multitude of items you can order online nowadays, but I remember something I sent for via our good old postal system before the convenience of the internet. Something that was guaranteed to change my life. I would have love, wealth, and happiness – all of my dreams come true.

I’m an upbeat person. I always look for the good side of everyone and every situation. It can get annoying to others at times. Even our son has told me to back off when he didn’t want to feel better about what was making him blue. I get that. Sometimes, you just have to feel it.

I must have been at a low point about something those many years ago. I really don’t remember; I don’t hang on to negativity very well. But when I saw the ad in the magazine, I simply had to have this miracle, whatever it was. I don’t remember the cost, but I wanted all of the promises. I waited the appropriate six to eight weeks for arrival. On the day it came, I literally tore the box apart to get the magic out.

I sat stunned for a moment.

Inside was a little soapstone dish with a lid. I could hold it in the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it. I removed the lid, and inside was a polished stone. That’s all. I looked in the box to see if Imagethere were instructions. Sure enough, there were. Three times every day, I was to remove the stone, hold it in my hand, and repeat the enclosed mantra. I don’t remember the words, but they were nothing more than a series of positive affirmations for believing in yourself. I remember flopping back on the sofa and laughing at my folly.

But I got a lot of mileage out of that little dish and stone. I used it several years later when I conducted training classes. I shared the story, and I passed the dish and stone around as I gave a quick talk on being positive and believing in yourself whether personally or in your job.

That’s a bit of long story to get to my main topic today, but I appreciate positivity. I appreciate someone who encourages you, instead of someone who drags you down, or makes you feel inadequate, or tells you that you can’t do something.

On Monday, writer Morgan Le Fables posted a link to an almost 13-minute video from Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire. I’ve never heard her speak before. She is charming, sincere, passionate, and very giving with her encouragement and advice.

I took notes.

Here is the link so you can view the video when you have time – Anne Gives Writing Advice, September 18, 2012.  Here are my quick notes:

  • Write every day.
  • Keep what you write. Even if you decide not to use what you write, put it away – keep it.
  • There are no rules in our profession.
  • All you need is a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil, and you can turn out a War and Peace or an Old Man and the Sea.
  • Write anywhere. In a café, at the kitchen table, in a garage office.
  • People say you can’t break in. That’s not true. Every year people on the outside break in.
  • It’s no harder to get published today than it ever was. New authors come out of nowhere every year.
  • Interview with the Vampire was rejected five times. Don’t give up. Anne was at a writer’s conference when she asked someone to read her manuscript. The woman did, and Anne was off and running.
  • Publishing is crying for new voices, new visions, new stories, new characters.
  • Her friend, author Floyd Salas, said to her, “Go where the pain is. Write about what hurts.”
  • Anne expands to, “Go where the pleasure is.”
  • Write what is exciting to you. Interesting to you. Be excited to want to find out what happens next.
  • Every one of her books has had bad reviews – worst book ever. You can’t win them all, so be sure to turn out what you like.
  • Don’t revise your book because of rejection from an editor. Any editor who rejects your book doesn’t get it.
  • When they love your book and ask for changes, now you can listen.Image
  • Lots of rejections? Do not give up! Self publish! It’s never been easier.
  • There are stories every few weeks of self-published authors being discovered by big publishing houses.
  • You need stubbornness. You need courage. You need faith in yourself.
  • Don’t be cynical. When a New York editor opens your manuscript, they want it to be good.
  • Believe in yourself! Be brave!
  • Nobody can tell you that you can’t do that! Realize your dreams.

Truly, all of this is so much better in Anne’s passionate voice. And there is more than what is in my notes. She is motivating and will give you a lift.

As I run down this crooked road of writing and self-publishing, Anne Rice gave me a bit more confidence that my stubbornness, bravery, and writing because the stories excite and delight me, is the crooked road in the right direction.

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Leave Them Kids Alone

ImagePink Floyd. I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan. Hubby is a mega-fan, and it’s not unusual to hear Floyd blaring from the den. I’ve had a Pink Floyd lyric running through my head this past week: “Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” Leave them kids alone. The words shift; the tune remains, “Hey! Maddie! Leave them covers alone!” I’m not making this up. It’s in my head, and it’s annoying.

This evening, I approved the final artwork for the rework of my first cover. I’ve read plenty of articles about covers, and thought I had everything under control. A little more research tonight turned up some interesting tidbits, as there is a plethora of articles related to the mistakes of indie authors.  Ha! Here we go again. I compared my covers to the tips. All of these helpful hints appeared in more than one article:

1. Do not use a family member or relative to do your artwork.  – FAIL

2. Sexy covers are hot right now.  – FAIL

3. Do not put your name in small type in the lower right or left corner.  – FAIL

4. Do not clutter your cover. Design around one element.  – FAIL

5. Quit messing with your cover. Pick a design and stick with it.  – FAIL

6. Changing the cover art can attract new buyers.  – PASS  – Yeah! I passed one! Oh, wait. Basically the change was from one of a boring cover to one of the steamy sex god and goddess covers. – FAIL

I’m happy with my covers. They certainly portray the pink, fluffy, fun, not-too-serious, theme of the books. I think I’ll keep them.

After watching the Emmys …

ImageI was inspired to have an awards ceremony. Some very special bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for awards. I’ve always been a little shy about this award thing, as I don’t feel I’ve done anything here to warrant any type of award, but I realize we nominate the bloggers we enjoy, and we help bring attention to other blogs as well. I’ve found some wonderful people by following the recommendations of those who have nominated others. So without further ado, let me catch up with awards today.

On June 18, Lightningpen nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

July 31 brought a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from The Living Notebook.

On August 3, T.W. Dittmer grouped his nominees together for the Very Inspiring Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. My name was on his list.

On August 7, Zen Scribbles nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

August 12, I was nominated for the Family of Bloggers Award by Paula Acton.

August 18 brought One Lovely Blog Award from The Cheeky Diva.

A great big “thank you” to all of you who nominated me. If you aren’t presently following any of the above people, please check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Most of these awards require you to tell seven things about yourself and then nominate other bloggers for the same award. There is no way you want to hear that many things about me, so I’ll just do one set of seven for the lot:

1. My highest bowling score was 245. I was chatting with a girlfriend about her wedding, and having to get up to bowl was a distraction. When someone pointed out to me that I had rolled seven strikes in a row, the spell was broken.

2. The movie Camelot reduces me to a crying, blubbering mess – every time.

2. I love playing Scrabble.

4. My first car was a used, orange Ford Maverick with a black stripe from front to back over the hood Imageand top. My first new car was a GREMLIN! I “designed” it myself with chocolate brown paint, white stripes down both sides, slightly wider wheels with awesome hubcabs, and an automatic on the floor. It was a fantastic car, it never embarrassed me, and I had it for over ten years.

5. I was Track Queen in high school. Not Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen – track queen.

6. The first year I played racquetball, I won our state’s tournament as a novice.

7. When going out to eat, the first thing I look for on the menu is a Reuben sandwich.

For the Family of Bloggers Award, you tell what attributes you bring to the family, using an anagram of the word FAMILY:

F – flexible (in my reactions to people and situations)
A- affable
M – merciful
I – imaginative
L – loyal
Y – youthful (in spirit)

On to the Nominations!!

ImageBeautiful Blogger Award – I chose these people because their blogs are visually appealing:
Canadian Hiking Photography
Richert Images
Mark Armstrong Illustration
Charlie’s Photo Blog
The Way I See

ImageVery Inspiring Blogger Award -Inspiration comes in many forms. I nominate this fine mix of blogs for this award:
Nicolette Reed
Human Nature and Superpowers
Daniel Koeker
The Word by Mike Ballenger
Gas Station Gastronomy

ImageOne Lovely Blog – There are lovely people, things, and sentiments at all of these blogs:
Simplicity Lane
In a Grand Fashion
The Bookstore Lady
Retired Ruth
Sumthissumthat (especially his wife’s artwork)

ImageSisterhood of the World Bloggers – Ladies you will enjoy:
Rendevous with Renee
Keri Peardon
Michelle Proulx Official
That Girl Who Reads Books
The Jenny Mac Book Blog

ImageFamily of Bloggers – These people are like family to me and are listed in the order that I met them:
Zen Scribbles
Tessa Sheppard
T.W. Dittmer
Robin Coyle
Cheeky Diva

Phew! Thank you all so much!

12 Tips – How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

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I get a kick out of everyone who stresses over their stats and checks them many times throughout the day – if not the hour. I often forget to check my stats. Better stats still scare me. I liken it to being on a stage while an audience watches and listens. Will they get up and walk out? Will they laugh at the humor moments? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they throw tomatoes?Image

Even on days when my post might be a stinker, I’m grateful for the people who come by and push the Like button. A comment is icing on the cake, and because I know how both make me feel, I try to be supportive of the blogs I follow and comment when I can without saying something too stupid (and oh, yeah, I have done that). I even click many of the links on blog posts. I’ve found some interesting people and things on the other side of those clicks.

I noticed a few minutes ago that the next comment to my blog will be the 600th comment. Here are a few more of my stats:

  • My total views doubled from July to August.
  • The highest number of views I’ve had on any one day was 74. That’s fine with me (see paragraph one again).
  • I have 153 followers. My husband was surprised I had that many. Me, too.
  • The dog Muttley was #2 on my list of most hits through search engines, with “horse poo” being in the top ten.
  • I’ve never been, and I never want to be Freshly Pressed. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but not for a long time, that’s for sure.

So, why have I had the recent urge to search for ways to get better stats?

Because having people visit my blog, if only for a moment or two, puts my name and Susan Hunter’s Imagename out there. And someone who likes pink or mysteries might stay around a little longer to see what we’re about.

By the time I was done wading through articles and blogs, I actually had a lot of information about getting more blog visitors. Some of it was technical and pertained more to a business than a personal blog. A lot of it was what most people already know – visit other blogs, leave comments and likes, respond to comments on your own blog, add graphics, shorter is better than longer … but the following are some additional suggestions. I’m not attributing them to any one person or article, because they are fairly generic, and I encountered them in multiple places. Some of the information came from the gurus right here at WordPress.

#1 – Your blog should express what you’re most passionate about. I definitely see this on many blogs, but if someone had said this to me before I started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even tried. I’m supposed to be, and am mostly, chronicling my writing journey, which is not yet a passion as much as it is a wonderment.

#2 – Are you blogging to help people, be a resource, and make a difference? Or to make you famous? Well, let’s be honest.  I’m not doing much here to help people. I’m definitely not a resource. And nothing I write will make a difference in the world. I’m sort of leaning to the famous side – you know, the book thing. Everyone says if that’s the case, then you should quit now. So, if you don’t see me after today, I took their advice and packed it in.

#3 – Post only one post per week.

#4 – Post Often.  Obviously, there was a mix of advice as to how often to post. Some say multiple times per day, others say writing and posting too often leads to weak writing, but the majority thought posting often would lead to the best results – every day or every other day would keep the search engines happy, too.

#5 – Analyze your blog’s competition.  What?! We are in competition with each other? I had no idea, and I refuse to play along.

#5 – Don’t blog about your pet, your boyfriend, husband, or your kids. I’m already turning people away. I probably had 1,000 followers and they are dropping like flies. My husband and our dead dogs come up often. My kid is not yet off the hook, and I don’t agree with this. There are loads of blogs with families at the heart of them, and frankly, I like them.

#6 – People want you to talk about them, not you. -and- Write in the second person.  I generally want to visit my favorite blogs to see what each person is up to. I like it when they talk about what they’re doing or accomplishing. And what’s with writing in the second person? You. Your. Yours. I always thought second person was best used for e-mail, presentations, and professional writing. I can see this on a more information driven blog than a personal blog.

#7 – Tell stories. -and- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.  I’ve got that covered – sort of. Book stuff, stories, bits of information. There are different topics simply because I have no idea where I’m going here.

#8 – Guest post on other blogs. Crikey, this is good advice, and for most of you, it would work, but I have enough trouble finding something to say here without getting on someone else’s stage, too.

#9 – Use numbers in your title to indicate lists, and the words “how to.” These are highly searched key Imagewords, and we are a list-making society, as well as a people who want to know how to do things. Got that covered today!

#10 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts.  I think there is a lot to be said for keyword search. I simply haven’t taken the time to put enough thought to it yet. But using keywords in your title and in your post will definitely bring more hits, and hopefully, more readers to your blog. There are entire sites devoted to keywords. Working a high-ranking keyword or two into every post can be extremely beneficial. I came across an article from a blogger who had passed the million hit mark. He swears by keyword search – even writing entire articles about random topics just so he could include high-value keywords.

#11 – Turn your articles and blog posts into PDFs, then submit your PDFs to document sharing sites like Scribd.  “Scribd is the world’s largest online library, making it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.” This is perfect for bloggers who share great information, but there are also books, recipes, and other interesting writing here. Hold your cursor over the word “explore” at the top to see the numerous categories. And there are some awesome Geek types on the About page.

#12 – Start using Pinterest to post pictures from your blog.  I did this as soon as I found the tip. It takes a little time, but you’ll want to go to the actual blog post to grab your image to pin. That way, each picture will link back to the post where it was used. Ideally, you should label your picture with a bit of information about the blog post. I may do that later. I knew I was putting goofy pictures out there last night. There are usually lovely pictures flowing across the Pinterest landscape, and I dropped goofiness on it. I didn’t care; I did it anyway. My Pinterest page. My whopping two followers haven’t ditched me yet.Image

This was a long one today, but I hope it was helpful.

As I started this post a couple of days ago, my 600th comment came and went. It was from Jennings Wright who is amazing and has written four books – in different genres! Please check out her blog – and consider buying one of her books.

Peddling Wares – An Idea

ImageOn my recent trip home from the grocery store, I drove past our in-progress county fair. The rides and food booths were situated along the chain link fence running along the road. As I tried to quickly take in the sights, a light bulb went off over my head.

We haven’t been to the fair since our son was young, but I enjoy the fair. I love the animals – all of them – even the smelly ones. Ahh! I almost forgot! We got our beloved dog, Joe, at the fair! Well, sort of. The people from the dog pound were there with dogs for adoption. All three of us decided that our shepherd at home needed a brother, so we picked out a black and tan coon hound with red ticking on his chest. Our son was excited and named him Ticker. When we went to the pound to get him the next day, there was a mix-up, and Ticker wasn’t there, he was back at the fair. But his brother was at the pound. He looked like Ticker, he seemed to like us, so we went with him. I named him Joe.

Back to the subject of the fair. The rides are ok, but we really like fair food, and one of my favorite thingsImage to do is walk through the commercial buildings where everyone peddles their wares. All of the home improvement gurus are there, the hot tub people, local businesses, craft people … there’s a lot going on. And we go through collecting cards, pens, advertising pieces, etc.  Some of it is useful; some of it is junk.

The light bulb over my head was a flash of an idea. A flash of a booth at the fair with posters of each of my book covers on the walls, print on demand copies of my books for sale on the table, bookmarks, and lots and lots of cards with my website for eReaders. I love this idea!

Of course, I had to tell hubby as soon as he came home from work. He didn’t share my enthusiasm. With a sideways glance and a frown he said, “It sounds like work.” A trade show. It sounded like working a trade show to him. Well, duh.

ImageI assured him it would be fun; it was the fair! And we would have fun together schmoozing with the locals. And the fair is full of old people during the day, and he LOVES old people (I’m six years older than he is), and old people love him, and old people would like my books.

I think I saw his shoulders slump.

“Next year, honey. Not this year. Next year. We’ll have fun,” I said as I walked out of the den. I think I heard a choice word under his breath. I’ll post pictures of him having fun in my booth next year when we go to the fair.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea. I’d like to know if any of you have done this or something equivalent, and how did it go for you? I think it’s a good chance to get in front of a lot of people who read – both young and old. Someone tagged one of my books at Amazon as young adult. I never really thought about it, but the books are certainly not objectionable, and a young adult reader might enjoy them.

Also, about print on demand. When you want one copy of your book, or just a few, or quite a few for the fair, who do you use? I may want to print a few copies for Christmas gifts this year, but am uncertain where to turn. Recommendations are appreciated.

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Baby Joe – home from the fair.

The Bag Sucker 100

National Talk About Your Book Day was a success, so I’m moving on to something new. A product endorsement!

After a trip to the grocery store today, and after the groceries were put away, I was left with all of the meat on the counter. It needed to be repackaged for the freezer. It used to be a daunting task, especially when wrapping multiple times in an effort to keep freezer burn at bay.

ImageI longed for a bag-sucker. A vacuum sealer for food. I fondly referred to the popular, expensive machine as the Bag Sucker 9000. I was jealous when my sister got one. She rubbed it in my nose how fantastic it was. I pleaded with my family for a Bag Sucker 9000 multiple years for Christmas, but to no avail.

Imagine my delight when I was cruising the Walmart aisles one day and found the Reynolds Handi-Vac. A Bag Sucker 5000! How cool was this! Forget the shape. Forget that it needed a dozen batteries to Imageoperate. Well, five. But it was sooo cool! Just put the food in the bag, place the bag sucker over the hole, cross your eyes and hold your mouth just right, and it would take all the air out of the bag. Sometimes holding it up against the kitchen cabinet helped to seal it, too. The food was freezer-burn free, and I think I started with the Bag Sucker 5000 for under $20 – or maybe $30. I was pretty happy. I even rubbed my sister’s nose in it as to how much cheaper I could seal meat than she could.

For a while.

The Reynolds people stopped servicing their product. The bags were no longer available unless you bought them from HSN (at that time), and they only came in one size. What?! I wasn’t jumping through hoops just to get the bags, and the batteries were almost dead anyway, so I chucked it into the kitchen junk drawer. Sigh. Thanks a lot, Reynolds.

At least a year later, I’m cruising the Walmart aisles again, and I spot the Ziploc Vacuum Pump. Oh, this is swell. Hand operated, and I have to pump it? The Bag Sucker 100. I got started for under $10.00.

ImageThis cheap plastic gizmo is fantastic! I give it 5-stars, and it works even when there are no batteries or electricity in the house. It’s easy, it’s fast, the bags stay sealed, and I don’t have to cross my legs or stand on my head to get it to work. There are never any freezer burns. Seriously, if you don’t have a Bag Sucker 100, you must run out and get one.

My sister had surgery last Christmas Eve. My husband and I ran down to the hospital again on Christmas morning to see her. I gave my gift to her there at the hospital. It was a cruel thing to do because it made her laugh, which, in turn, made her hurt. It was a Bag Sucker 100. I found out later she gave her expensive Bag Sucker 9000 to her daughter, and she only uses the cheap plastic Ziploc sealer now,

Take a look at lovely Melanie here as she demonstrates the ease of use of the Bag Sucker 100. She even freezes meat for seven weeks (or months, I don’t remember), and then she shows you the end result. Pretty impressive, and she gives the product an A.

You’re welcome.

It’s National Talk About Your Book Day

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OK, I made that up, but feel free to use it. Someone has to make up these national days. We’ll be sharing this day with punch, because it really is National Punch Day. As in fruit punch.

Anyway, I try to talk with my mother often, and she wears the hat of proofreader and editor for me. Two days ago, her eyes were bothering her, and she was having trouble seeing. Yesterday, she was reading a book. Fickle eyes. She was reading a murder mystery with an Amish setting. Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron? Our local paper isn’t filled with accounts of murders at the cheese factory. She told me this book was from a store, she paid almost $13 for it, it has a publisher – and she found a mistake! I laughed out loud. She said there was one sentence where the word “that” was printed in error twice – “that that.” That is hilarious because “that” is my nemesis in my writing, and this lady got away with it twice.

My mother has given me great encouragement with my books, and she is my biggest fan. She turned 81 this year, and I’m grateful we’ve been able to share this ray of sunshine in our lives together.

So, here are some of the things Mom and I have been talking about this week.

Sunshine Hunter – More copies are selling now that the price has been reduced to 99 cents. I took the plunge and picked up yet more advertising from September through December, with this book being highlighted the week of December 16-22.

Big Apple Hunter and Sin City Hunter – Both appear to occasionally be purchased as individual titles, but most of the sales seem to come in clusters, as though someone read the first book and came back for the next two.

Big Easy Hunter – This is my new release this month. The fifty sales are still standing at Smashwords. I promise I’ll let you know if they are taken back, but in the meantime, these fifty put me in the top ten of their bestsellers if you sort by bestseller/full/$2.99 or less. The first time I noticed this, my book was in the #7 spot; today it is #8. I hope this, too, will help with sales. I’m still waiting for the book to get to B&N, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, etc.  I’m actually in a bit of a panic for it to show up at B&N, because this is the book I chose for my advertising next week, and if it’s not there, I can’t use it.

I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to tell people about my books. Last week, I finally told some ladies, who I’ve been on a book list with for years, about the series. They were surprised I kept my writing a secret for so long. Several of them bought books right away, and one woman wrote to tell me that she finished Sunshine Hunter in two days and loved it. I stuck one of my Sunshine Hunter cards up on the bulletin board at the grocery store that day.

I also think something cool might have happened today. I’m not sure. An email from Amazon showed up in an email account that is not associated with my books. It suggested books I might be interested Imagein. Sunshine Hunter was in the subject line, and was first on the list at 99 cents with the following books higher in price. The cynic in me thought it was something bogus. I risked viruses and clicked on every link in the email; they were all good. I’m hoping this, too, is legitimate, and maybe my book is being promoted on some of Amazon’s spammy lists.

It’s a good day to talk about your book.

Formatting for Smashwords

ImageFormatting your book before sending it up to be chewed and spit out by the meatgrinder at Smashwords takes time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

I’m new at writing, editing, and formatting, and I freely admit to making sensational mistakes as I try to figure everything out, but as my last three books went up without a hitch, I’m simply going to try to show/tell you what I do that makes surviving the meatgrinder and passing the AutoVetter easy.

The information is only 1300 words, but with the illustrations, it’s quite long, so I didn’t want to put the entire thing in a blog post. It’s in a .pdf file.

If you are formatting a simple book with front matter, a linked table of contents, text with nothing more than bold, italics, underline, etc., and back matter – a simple, straightforward book – then you can use this guide for formatting:

Easy Formatting for Smashwords

You might wonder why I put the time into this. Well, it will make it easier for me in the future. I do get tired of scrolling through the Style Guide on my Nook to find the sections that pertain to formatting my book(s).

Also, my new friend, a fellow Ohioan, Marcus Matherne at Voices in His Head blog, wrote a funny book and paid someone to format it for him. He asked if I had any tips, and I told him I had been thinking about a blog post pertaining to formatting.

So there you have it. Boring blog post, but maybe it will help someone.

Disclaimer: If you follow my formatting instructions and you didn’t back up a copy of your book first, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Is Your Book Dialogue Heavy?

ImageIt was a busy weekend that included a trip to a library book sale and a stop at a Barnes & Noble to replace my defective Nook Tablet. I then spent a considerable amount of time working with all of the children’s books piling up around here. I’ll be busy this week until I catch up.

I also took some time to do some reading. I have a couple of hardcover books that I started quite a while ago, and I wanted to finish them. One was a mystery; the other was chick-lit.  Both were good stories, but I found myself feeling irritated with the latter. There was too much dialogue, and I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made. There were entire chapters, albeit short, consisting entirely of dialogue. I forced myself forward to the predictable ending.

Have you ever had ice cream that seemed whipped, full of air, and not satisfying? ImageThat’s what this book was like – full of air. The actual story itself seemed small. The book was by a well-known author who has published many books. This is their style.

I did a few online searches, and there are articles, blog posts, and opinions that are as numerous as the stars about dialogue. Some say there is no such thing as too much dialogue, and others say there is. Many of the comments fell into two camps:

Pro: Many new writers have too much exposition in their writing and not enough dialogue.
Con: Characters are loud when they talk too much, and they need to shut up so the story can move forward.

Writing style is subjective. What one person enjoys, another may dislike. I found this heavy use of dialogue interesting. I don’t recall it from my past years of being a voracious reader. Is this a fairly new thing?

I grabbed a couple of books from my bookcase. One from the 50’s, and one from the 60’s. The book from the 50’s has a style I enjoy. There is plenty of dialogue, but everything in the scene isn’t explained in dialogue. Perusing one chapter, I find a nice mix of dialogue and paragraphs which show and/or tell.  Instead of two characters talking about something that happened previously, it’s more enjoyable to read about the experience – which is more detailed with descriptions and feelings than their conversation would convey. The book from the 60’s seems to have a ratio of 40:60 with dialogue being the former. This book, too, was more enjoyable to me than the current book.

I checked several vintage books that are in the public domain. Three that I looked through were similar with pages and pages without dialogue, but when dialogue was used, one person might talk for a full one to two pages on my Nook. There were some long-winded people back in the day. One of the books seemed to have a nice balance between dialogue and exposition, but none were dialogue heavy.

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Just because I like giraffes.

As a reader, I know what I like. I know I’ve read dialogue heavy books before and haven’t always enjoyed them, but I didn’t realize why. As a new writer, I tend to look at styles more closely now, and am more aware of why I like or dislike a style.

This isn’t a case for or against heavy dialogue. I was simply aware of why I found reading one particular book more irritating than enjoyable.

Have you noticed if there are styles of writing that aren’t as enjoyable to you as others?

Don’t Play the Lottery? Maybe You Should

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There is no talk of writing, book sales, or marketing today. We are playing the lottery today, and I’m going to share with you how I win.

The lottery commercials in our state always proclaim, “Odds are, you’ll have fun!” Obviously, they can’t say, “Odds are, you’ll win!” because the odds are definitely against you.

Do you know someone who has won the lottery?

A friend of my husband’s was in a big pool at his place of work. When they won, fifty people shared 75 million. After the first wave of taxes, they each had about $450,000.

A girlfriend of mine has a best friend (obviously, I’m not her best friend) who won several million dollars in the Massachusetts lottery. She moved away, and my friend never heard from her best friend again.

A man in our town is an acquaintance of mine, and this year, he won $10,000 on scratch-off tickets – TWICE. His wins were one week apart.

People do win.

I remember when the lottery started in our state. On that first day, I stopped on my way home from work and spent about $50 on scratch-off tickets. I took them back to my apartment and spread them out on the kitchen table. I knew I was going to be a BIG winner. I wasn’t. I never played the lottery again.

Until a few years ago.

I’d take $10 and go buy five $2 tickets. I was surprised at how often one of them was a $20 winner. I thought if moved on to $5 tickets, I could win more money. Yep. I occasionally won $50 or $100. Hmm … how about $10 tickets? Oh, boy! There were $500 tickets in there!

I figured out that you needed to buy more than one ticket, and rather than to buy several different games, you needed to stick with just one or two.

ImageOf course, I worked my way up to $20 tickets. You have to be brave to scratch off $20 tickets, because when they’re losers, it’s just like standing over the toilet and flushing a $20 bill down while you wave buh-bye.

However, if you’re going to play the lottery, do your homework.

Every so often, I check online to see which $20 tickets still have large prize amounts available and how many are left. I compare each ticket side by side until I’ve chosen the top two with the best odds and the best prizes remaining. I only play the top ticket. If the store I’m in doesn’t have it, I’ll go with the second best, but I don’t allow myself to be tempted by anything else.

I don’t play scratch-off tickets every day. Many times, I only buy one ticket a month. If I hit a winner of $100 or more, I use 70% for whatever we want or need at the time, and I reinvest 30% (if I want to).

I’ve scratched off many, many $100 winners. Last summer, we had guests coming for two weeks, and I was wishing I had extra money. The next time I was at the grocery store, I slipped two twenty-dollar bills into the lottery machine and bought two of my top game. The first ticket was a $500 winner; the ticket behind it was $100. The next day, I went to my mother’s. I ran to the store to get something for her, and I bought just one more of my top game. It was another $500 winner. I set aside the thousand and reinvested the rest; I scratched yet another $500 ticket. Within a week and a half, I had $1500 set aside for nothing more than having a good time with our guests.

We have repaired vehicles, gone out to dinner, bought things we wanted – I PAID FOR MY FIRST BOOK COVER – all with lottery money. There were many times I would throw $50 at our son, smile, and simply say, “lottery.”

As for the bigger games … I don’t play them. Oh, sometimes we’ll grab one ticket when a pot gets obscenely big, but I really don’t want to win a massive amount of money. I can tell myself all day long it wouldn’t change me – but I’m afraid it would. I’ve seen firsthand how money changes people.

I play our state’s Rolling Cash 5. The pot is usually $100,000 before taxes, and someone wins it all the time. I pay my $1.00 a day for my chance to win just enough money to make things interesting around here.

I’ve been playing the Rolling Cash 5 for three years. I’ve won $300 four times; I’ve had numerous $10 winners, and several times each month, I get my lousy dollar back. I’m ahead of the game, so I bide my time until it’s my turn to win.

Some people sew, scrapbook, garden, or have any number of hobbies. Me? I play the lottery. The ads are right – I do have fun. Do you play the lottery? If so, what’s your biggest win so far?

Oh! I almost forgot! Here are my two biggest wins. They were each $1,000 winners. The first in January of 2010 when I bought two tickets. The second in February of 2010 when I bought just one ticket. They are both the same game – my top game pick at the time. ImageImageDisclaimer #1: If you have a gambling problem, if your budget is stretched to the limit, or if you think the lottery is only for poor, dumb people, please disregard everything I have written in this post.

Disclaimer #2: The information/comments in this post are my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone who does or does not know me.

The Fortune Cookie Writer Was High

Promotion:

The suspicious book sales at Smashwords remain, but things seem to be normal at Amazon. My book went live early Monday evening, and in the first twenty-four hours, nine copies were sold.

I’m happy with that number. Obviously, my six known fans showed up to buy the book. Other than the yammering I do here, and to my Imagefriends and relatives, no one knows about my books. I haven’t promoted them anywhere.

The one-day promo for this newest book is scheduled for the end-of-the month, but after that, I really should put more thought into how I want to get the word out. With Christmas right around the corner, and a new Kindle coming out, it would be foolish to do nothing and simply hope for the best.

The Next Book:

I transferred my handwritten notes for Windy City Hunter to a word.doc today (Tuesday). I tried to put them in some type of order, so I could see how the story would progress.

I love the idea of Susan and her friend going to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. I begged my brother for one of his pizza recipes. They are unique, and definitely prize-worthy, but he still has hopes of opening his own pizza shop one day, so I received a resounding “NO.”

The idea of something happening at the condo where they’ll be staying is one I want to keep. A nosy doorman, something happening across the hall from them – there are good possibilities there.

Then there’s the Santa with his kettle outside the cooking contest. He’s really a detective and keeping an eye on the comings and goings of one of the contestants.

I can’t wait to start writing again!

But I’ll have to.

After reading and editing all four books in a little over a month, I am really tired of these people and need a break. They’ve overstayed their welcome at my house. Go home, Susan, and just stay out of trouble for a while. Eat a Reuben sandwich.

ImageFortune:

It was a bit of an under-the-weather day for me today (Tuesday). Mostly fatigue, and I didn’t feel like cooking supper for hubby. I ran down the street and grabbed Chinese for us. We split a Moo Goo Gai Pan, because I didn’t want anything spicy. I wanted bland.

Hours later, the lone fortune cookie remained on the counter. Whose fortune was it? His or mine?

I took the dog out for a short walk, and when I came back, the cookie was gone; the fortune lie on the counter. It belongs to him now. I say he’s screwed.

Interpretations appreciated.Image

I’ll Be Rich in No Time

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That snarky interviewer I had around here the other day jinxed me. I didn’t even have my newest book up at Smashwords for twenty-four hours, and I found an error. But it’s not glaring, it would likely pass you by (it would!), and I fixed it before I published at Amazon. So, if you entered the betting pool for republishing, there are still no winners.

But something really cool happened after I published at Smashwords Sunday night. Within the hour. Did you catch that? WITHIN THE HOUR, I sold 50 books. Fifty. Fitty. Yep. Do the math. 50 books at $2.99 each before fees. At that hourly rate, I’ll be a millionaire within a year! (Click the graphic for a closer look.)

ImageAre you ready to leave comments and congratulate me for writing such an awesome book, that I sold FIFTY copies within the first hour?

Yeah, don’t bother.

I’m a realist. There’s no way 50 copies of my book sold within the first hour – especially at Smashwords. So what happened? I have a few theories.

– It’s a glitch.

– It’s someone using a credit card fraudulently as they try to amass money through affiliate programs. This happened last month at Smashwords, and they eventually reversed the fraudulent sales. I’m expecting this to happen to me in the coming weeks.

But let’s pretend it wasn’t a glitch or fraud! Play along now. What could it be?

– Someone who works for a library saw the book go up as newly published, and they needed more chick-lit, because the patrons can never get enough chick-lit. They bought FIFTY copies for eBook distribution.

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Louie B. and Piglet are today’s Ray of Sunshine to entice Secret Admirer to buy more books.

Or my favorite theory …

– I have a secret admirer who reads my blog and is so happy with the ray of sunshine I bring to his/her life every day, that he/she bought FIFTY copies just to throw some money my way.

That’s the one I’m going with until Smashwords reverses the sale(s).

What? Do you have a better theory?

Do You Want to Kill Your Blog Posts?

And now for something completely different. This will be an educational post!

I was doing a simple search for a problem I was having with my WordPress reader. An unrelated link Imageshowed up, but the title was interesting, so I clicked it. If you would like to bypass my babbling altogether, go straightaway here and get the professional’s original version:

12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time by Neil Patel at SEOmoz

Before I share the highlights of the article and my thoughts, you should know that I had to do another search to find out what SEO meant. Search Engine Optimization. Oh, I see. That makes sense. So here we go …

1. Crafting cute, clever or confusing headlines (or really bad ones)

Patel says, “The goal of the headline is to stop readers cold and draw them into your post. You can’t do that if you use cute, clever or confusing headlines.”

Strike one against me. I never craft my title with search engines in mind, but maybe you should if you want people to come to your blog. He goes on to say, “You can stop readers cold, however, if you write headlines that are unique, ultra-specific, useful or urgent.”

2. Never linking to old posts

What?! I didn’t know this was a good idea. In that case, read these posts:

Erotica (Blush) – where I freak out about today’s romance books. I had no idea mainstream romance novels had moved into the porn arena.

Always Check for One in the Chamber – where I tell the tale of the day my husband shot himself. In our house, it’s considered humor.

3. Never linking to other bloggers

I’m getting better at this now that I have some relationships with other bloggers. Here is a link to a blogImage I found 45 seconds ago. I typed the word pizza into the WP search engine, and scrolled through the posted links with pictures. I was stopped by this cute guy and his master making pizza. Stop by and take a look – This Little Italian Cooks. I am now a follower.

4. Forgetting to fill out your page title and description fields

Yeah. Ok. I don’t have a clue. I’ll need to do more research on this. Patel talks about plug-ins and Nutella.

5. Creating clunky URLs

Patel says, “If you want to give your post a fighting chance in the SEO landscape, then you have to include recognizable words in your URL. This means keywords, too.”

Ooh, I never thought about this. And I’ve had a website for sixteen years. I’m a moron.

6. Plagiarizing other bloggers

I’m not guilty of this! But I’ve seen some nasty comments between bloggers when one quotes another without credit. Don’t do that!

I don’t believe I am plagerizing Neil Patel because I’m admitting all of the intelligent stuff in this post belongs to him. Neil Patel. From a post on SEOmoz.

7. Publishing less than one post per month

There are bloggers who I wish would post more often. I enjoy their posts. But even if they only posted once a month, I would still be happy to see them in my Reader. I do understand that the search spiders won’t be kind to you though.

8. Writing big blocks of copy

Patel says, “Writing short paragraphs is a basic blog post writing law. Just like simple words and short sentences. Resort to long blocks of copy and you are stacking the deck against your blog post.” He goes on to point out that people will only stick around and read until they’re bored.

I’ve found this to be true. Sometimes, I read a blog post, and it’s good, and I think I’m at the end, but it goes on and on for as long or longer than what I’ve already read. I’m easily distracted. I sometimes leave.

P.S. – I love Patel. He just gave credence to my use of simple words and short sentences.

9. Zero presence on any social media platforms

In addition to your blog, he recommends Twitter, Facebook, and especially Google+.

Me = FAIL

I have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but they scare me too much to use them.

10. Never inviting readers to leave comments

I’m hesitant to do this. It feels like begging for comments. I hope I will come across as approachable, and people will feel comfortable to leave comments, yet I appreciate the bloggers who ask a question, because I’m more likely to respond.

ImageFor example, Sarah at Earful of Cider is running a poetry contest about BACON until Monday night at midnight. The prize is a nifty mug. Sarah says, “Lay your bacon poetry on me – bacon haiku, sonnets, limericks, couplets, spectrism, reverse verse, Purple Cows Sows, nursery rhymes, cinquains, whatever.” She is friendly and inviting – and she’s a librarian. Hubby and I both entered her contest. Here is the poem I would not allow hubby to submit:

Slice it, smoke it, fry it up quick.
Make sure it’s done, or it might make you sick.
Splattering grease burn, it looks like a freckle.
An apron protects you, especially your schmekel.

I’ve admitted to Sarah that we are really twelve year olds.

11. Writing about a topic nobody cares about

Been there. Done that. Some days, it’s a crapshoot.

12. Giving up

Patel says some successful blogs didn’t take off until they were two years in, and most people quit by nine months.

Never give up! Never surrender! ~Commander Jason Nesmith

Seriously …

Neil Patel wrote a great article complete with graphics and loads of links to even more information. It’s extremely helpful, especially to a new blogger. There are 130 comments, and some of the information in the comments section is as good as the article itself. So, if you haven’t already done so, hop on over to read Neil Patel’s 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time.

What do you think will kill a blog post? Should I teach more often? Will you be entering the bacon contest?

(Look at me! Asking questions!)

My First Book Interview

ImageI’m finally finished with the editing for my newest book, Big Easy Hunter.

I think the occasion calls for an interview to promote the book. There weren’t any good interviewers around, so I had to go with who was available, and he asked begged to remain anonymous.

Q. Oh, come on. Is the editing really finished?
A. It’s as finished as it’s going to be.

Q. Let the betting pool begin! How many days will elapse before she republishes the book because of errors?
A. Smartass. I’m expecting there will be no republishing of Big Easy Hunter.

Q. Did you get rid of all 144 exclamation points?Image
A. Well … not really.

Q. How many did you keep?
A. (gulp) 101

Q. You’re kidding! Oh my gosh! How could you keep 101?!!
A.  My characters are easily excited – like you, obviously.

Q. Is someone wearing a hat and following her in this book, too? What is it with you and hats?
A. Hats are back in fashion. Don’t you watch television? That sexy Matt Bomer on White Collar looks really great in a hat. And, no, there’s no one following Susan in this book. She turns the tables and follows someone else for a change.

Q. In one of your whiny blog posts, you said this book had two beginnings, one middle, and two ends. How can you possibly justify or even explain that? Who does that?
A. It’s easy, and it makes perfect sense. After the opening make-out scene, the reader soon learns there is a rapist over by the mall. If that isn’t enough excitement for you, Susan has been spotted breaking into houses in the middle of the night. That’s a pretty good beginning, wouldn’t you say?

Q. Middle. What’s the middle?
A. Well, we have to leave the beginning, because Susan goes to New Orleans to attend a wedding. There isn’t a middle yet, because we need another beginning.

Q. Maddie, you’re embarrassing yourself.
A. No. Pay attention. This works. Susan can’t help herself. She does something that sets into motion a whole heap of trouble for her while she’s in New Orleans. That’s the second beginning! She does something with a dog in some bushes, and –

Q. Stop! Aren’t your books supposed to be rated G. Or maybe PG?
A. You’re a bit pervy, aren’t you? The dog steals things from the house, and he shows them to Susan. What she does next is the beginning. See? We have a new mystery here in New Orleans. That’s three great mysteries in one book. Pretty clever, huh?

Q. Middle. Is there a middle somewhere in this book?Image
A. Well, if the middle is supposed to be the action, then what happens in New Orleans is the middle. There’s a lot of action – Susan steals something, there are threats, there’s an explosion, an abduction, lots of knives –

Q. Ok, we get the picture. End? Is there an end to this?
A. Of course. The first ending is in New Orleans. There’s a great climax in a cemetery, and Mick is there, and there is crying … and it’s really good.

Q. After that?
A. After that, she goes back home and has an ending to the mysteries there.

Q. But the story at home has to have a middle. What’s the middle?
A. I told you. There is no middle. Everything happens off camera until the second ending.

Q. Oh my gosh! This is painful. What’s the second ending?
A. I can’t tell you. But my dearly departed dead dog is in the ending. Only he’s not dead in the book. He’s alive. And he belongs to a neighbor. He’s part of the climax, and next week, for $2.99 at Amazon.com, you can find out what he does that’s so great.

Q. I can’t take any more. I’m done. I have to ask the obligatory final question. Will there be another ImageSusan Hunter book?
A. Oh, you bet! Susan and Darby are headed to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. The book will be titled, Windy City Hunter. I haven’t figured out yet how many beginnings, middles, and endings to have.

Q. I’m exhausted. Don’t call me when you’re done writing that one. Find someone else for your interview.
A. Ok. Toodles!!

Reading Your Fellow Bloggers

One hundred thirty-two.

I was surprised to see I was following 132 blogs. Thankfully, some of the bloggers don’t post very often, and one hasn’t posted a single word yet, but I’m waiting. That seems kind of stalkerish, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, I like the mix of people I follow. There are wonderful photographers, and I enjoy seeing their work show up in my reader. I lean heavily toward the humor blogs. I do enjoy a good laugh, and it’s fun to interact with witty people. (Christopher De Voss, I’m looking at you. I can’t even begin to tell you how much mileage my husband and I have gotten out of the fireflies story.)

But I enjoy the writers as well. I learn some things from them when I want to, I enjoy their posts, whether personal or about writing, and some of them have published books. And that’s where I want to go today. Even though I’ve only known the following people a short time, I consider them friends, or at least acquaintances whom I enjoy. I want to show you their books. I like the idea of supporting other WordPress authors, and I hope you’ll consider reading one or more of the following books.

I’m not giving reviews, because even though I own four of the noted books, I haven’t finished any of them yet. Read the shortened blurbs and choose a book of interest to you. You’ll be able to read the full descriptions when you click on the book cover.

Image The Valley Walker by T. W. Dittmer  – Special Investigator Teri Altro is a hard-driving member of the new Drug Interdiction Task Force. … When Altro first notices the man staring at her, he doesn’t seem like anything special… just some guy in the drugstore. But when three men walk in the door to assasinate her, he kills them all with fluid ease, and so quickly that she doesn’t even have time to pull her own gun. The confrontation is so eerily violent that it leaves Altro wondering just who… or what… the man is. (This is an amazing scene in the book.)
T.W. Dittmer’s Blog

Image Puppet Parade by Zeinab Alayan – The life of a puppet master is never ordinary. Oliver Deere knew this when he ran away from home to take up the trade of puppetry, but he had no idea just how much his life would change. After his puppets come to life and flee town, Oliver meets up with a masked girl who hides a mysterious past. … As they travel together in search for Oliver’s lost puppets, they find that the line between puppet and master is becoming much less clear – and much more deadly.
Zen Scribbles

ImageThe Ohgood Caristic by Lightning Pen aka John Buckley – A coup is nearly successful leaving ruler Dr. Famaron Venge to deciver what went wrong. He also has the added charge of taking care of his friend’s kids, as they are besieged on all sides by murderers. And his world of Parscan suddenly has all the trappings of an all out civil war, with rival factions fighting for control. (John has several books available.)
Lightningpen’s Blog

ImageZippin Pippin, Elvis Has A Son by Benjamin Grant Mitchell – After moving from Memphis to Melbourne as a seven-year-old boy, Angus Flynn quickly got used to being invisible. Growing up, he kept to life out of the spotlight, working backstage for his father, the once mega successful country singer, Finn ‘Killer’ Flynn. … But when the stage-shy roadie learns his ageing dad is in debt to a gang of bikers, he reluctantly agrees to perform in a one-off tribute show as ‘Killer’ Junior, in order to save the family home. However, before he leaves for his Hollywood debut Angus’s world is turned upside down when an ailing Finn makes a confession that, although difficult to believe, rings strangely true: Elvis Presley was Angus’s real father.
Indie Thinkin’ – B.G. Mitchell

ImageAcceptance by Keri M. Peardon – For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. … When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. … But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities – or get a date – her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.
Vampires, Ladies, and Potpourri

ImageKnight’s Big Easy (The E-Z Knight Reports) by Gordon A. Kessler – Voodoo, hoodoo and a girl named Poodoo make this year’s Mardi Gras the most fun but also the most dangerous party of all for E Z Knight! … Knight goes to New Orleans to find Parole Officer Tamara White Cloud’s AWOL USMC son, and finds out L/Cpl Billy White Cloud isn’t the only one who’s gone missing. … He uncovers the largest human trafficking organization since the US slave emancipation. Led by a Voodoo King named Papa Legba, the slave ring preys not only on young runaways and homeless children, but also kidnaps them from their own homes, and then sells them into prostitution and sweat-shop labor.
(Gordon has a lot of books. This is the one I’m reading, and it’s quite a ride!)
Gordon A. Kessler – blog

ImageFae Hunter (Soulstealer Trilogy #1) by Nicolette Reed – Valora Delos is a Hunter, charged with tracking the treacherous Soulstealers and bringing them to justice. She descends to Earth and finds herself trapped in suburban Seattle after the portal to her world closes. Uncovering who the Soulstealers are and who is behind the destruction of Dell’Aria brings Valora a truth she may not be able to handle.
Nicolette Reed

 

ImageBetween Fear and Love SELF-WORTH: The Tie that Binds by Lauren Cropper – The book chronicles the author’s journey as she learns to survive and overcome the world of fear she’s been living in. After the murder of a family member, fear became the deciding factor in her everyday lifestyle. The pursuit of a life-change ensued. After ending up broke, alone, and a single-mother, the author finally came face-to-face with the source of her problems, as well as the solution. And it came in the form of self-worth.
(Lauren was an early follower to my blog, and I have appreciated her Likes over the past two months.)
Between Fear and Love

And last, but not least, is a children’s author. We’ve haven’t chatted much, but I already know I like him, and his book is wonderful:
ImageSarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Mike Allegra – This story depicts how Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a holiday in the 1800s.
heylookawriterfellow

 

There you have it! At least nine books from fellow WordPress bloggers. If you’re looking for a tenth, just click on my home page. In preparation for my release of Big Easy Hunter next week, I’ve priced the first book in the series, Sunshine Hunter, at 99 cents (Amazon and Smashwords; other outlets will follow soon).

Happy reading!

Ack! D’oh! Yikes!

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I’ve always believed my books were entertaining, and I’m grateful to the few people who read and enjoyed them before I signed up for Robin Coyle’s blog class – Strong Words vs Weak Words. Robin has a wonderful way of taking mundane, lackluster, weak words and rewriting them into expressive, action-oriented sentences. Her examples are usually tongue-in-cheek and entertaining. Here’s an example of her elimination of the weak word “put.”

I put my fingers in my ears to drown out Robin’s yammering. 

Have you tried earplugs? Better yet, try noise-canceling headphones.

Even with my fingers shoved in my ears, I could hear Robin’s incessant screeching.

She threw a curveball at me recently. She wanted me to look at exclamation points. What?! I love exclamation points! To be fair, so does she, and she uses them liberally in her blog, but not in her book. Sigh. I’ve been on board for the entire ride, but I got off at the exclamation point station to see what I could find out about this.

When did people start hating the exclamation point? So many questions are asked in my books, and they all end in question marks. Why aren’t question marks hated when their rounded little shapes are peppered all over the page? Because we have to use them, you say? Well, I have to use exclamation points.

I started searching and reading articles and blog posts that were written entirely about author and editor hatred of the exclamation point. A children’s book editor said any picture book showing up with exclamation points all over the place is immediately dismissed. I’ll concede that point. A picture book has both words and pictures to show excitement. But let’s take a look at what else I found.

“It pains me when I see them.”
“They take away from the message.”
“An exclamation point is the cheap whore of punctuation.”
“I can barely stand reading sentences that have this mark at their end.”
“Exclamation points, you see, are evil.”

Wow! That’s some pretty strong emotion against a proper piece of punctuation.

ImageHere are the standard uses of an exclamation point:
– an exclamation (“Wow!”)
– an imperative (“Stop!”)
– to indicate astonishment (“They were the footprints of a bigfoot!”).
– The exclamation point is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment (“The bigfoot did what?!”)

I used the “?!” combination four times in book number two, and seven times in book number three. I didn’t even know it was an acceptable use. The double punctuation simply conveyed the emotion of the sentence, so I used it.

I haven’t read The Bonfire of the Vanities, but I do believe the book is still a hit with its 2,343 exclamation points. The book debuted in 1987. Maybe people didn’t hate the exclamation point so much back then.

I will not give up my exclamation points. Well, in my soon-to-be released book, I did throw out 29% of them – thanks to Robin – but I’m keeping the rest. Here is just one example of a keeper exclamation point:

“What’s this I hear about a secret passageway?” asked Larry before calling, “Trump!” and slamming his last card onto the table.

Without the exclamation point, Larry remains fairly calm and seated while slamming the card onto the table. With the exclamation point, he goes from talking calmly, to half-standing from his chair as he suddenly yells and is overly excited about winning the points.

ImageShould I have written all of that in the book? Should I have shown Larry getting all worked up in his seat over a card game? The exclamation point did the work for me, and the scene isn’t Larry’s anyway. I don’t want a lot of descriptive writing in my books. I want just enough to show the scene and allow my reader to take it from there. Exclamation points alleviate a lot of explaining and describing.

But I will also be the first to say I’m not giving advice to anyone. I’m just showing my stubbornness. Maybe when I’m a veteran writer, I’ll write a blog post laughing at my folly as a novice, and I’ll write about my naiveté and how much I now despise exclamation points. (But I doubt it.)

Big Easy Hunter is probably my favorite of the four books. It not only starts with dialogue (another perceived no-no), but the first sentence has an exclamation point:

“Stop it!” I whispered.

So there.

What? There are Parts of a Story?

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To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence. ~Mark Twain

If I had a tagline on my blog, it would be this quote from Mark Twain. I am both ignorant and confident when it comes to my writing. I guess I can look forward to becoming a success.

Now that I’ve been blogging for a couple of months, and hanging with some pretty awesome writers, I’ve been learning about some of the finer points of writing.

I admit, I haven’t really cared about some of the advice and topics of discussion I’ve encountered, but others have definitely sparked my interest. Of particular note lately is the fact that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, duh! I started my story on page one, I wrote stuff, and it ended on page 200. I haven’t yet grasped why this is a topic that’s so widely written about, and as of this blog post, I still don’t fully understand.

Here, let me give away all of the good stuff in Sunshine Hunter, my first book:

Beginning – Susan finds out boyfriend is married.

Middle – Susan runs off to Florida with neighbor, so she can weep and gnash her teeth at the beach.

End – Susan forgives soon-to-be divorced boyfriend.

That’s a chick flick. Or more appropriately – chick lit.

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So, what about the dead guy at the racquetball club? What about the guy stalking Susan and her friend in Florida? Are the conga line dancers really necessary? What’s the big deal about snickerdoodle cookies?

Did I write this story the correct way? I don’t know. The book takes place over the course of a week. I simply started at the beginning of a day in Susan’s life and went from there. And I think I even did that all wrong because she wasn’t strong enough to be her own heroine. I’ve read that your main character should show growth and strength over the course of your story, and they should find their own solutions. Ha! Not Susan.

I’m finding as I read articles about beginning, middle, and end, that they’re not clear. As a new writer, they haven’t helped me understand the concept – other than the obvious. The articles are complicated, discussing plot points, arcs, inverted checkmarks.  Climax. There is a climax in all of my books. I do have that right.

Shortly after the beginning of my book, Susan reminisces in her own mind about the day she met her boyfriend, and how their relationship progressed until the day she found out he was married – which is the beginning of the book! Ack! But I didn’t want to start at the beginning of the relationship; I wanted to start with the drama. So, I did a little time traveling, which I suspect is another blow to beginning, middle, and end in my book.

Before I leave this topic, at least for the time being, let me tell you what I did in my newest book, Big Easy Hunter. I have two beginnings, one middle, and two ends – complete with two climaxes. How do you like them apples?

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Sentimental Journey

ImageMost people are born with a few prominent genes.

Some of my friends have the nurturing gene and are wonderful at taking care of their children and/or their fellow man. Others have the sewing gene and make beautiful clothing. I envy people who have the artistic gene and can paint beautiful portraits, landscapes, and everything in between, while even my stick figures are cringe-worthy.

I was probably off running in circles on a cloud when genes were passed out, because I missed out on most of them – especially the sentimental gene. I am not a sentimental person.

The weekly writing challenge at The Daily Post at WordPress is: “Tell us about your most meaningful possession.”

I don’t have one. Writing exercise over. I don’t win.

Many years ago, my husband endured several back injuries at work. We sold our wedding rings to make ends meet until worker’s compensation kicked in. I never batted an eye. My wedding ring was gone, and I didn’t feel anything about it other than I was glad we could pay the bills.

My father died in his early fifties. My mother gave his pocket watch to me. I felt nothing when I looked at the watch. I knew my dad didn’t want to wear a wristwatch, and that’s the only reason he carried the pocket watch. I sold it at a garage sale.

ImageIn my twenties, I opened a box from storage. It held books from my teen years – Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, and many more. Looking at them made me feel warm and fuzzy inside – for a couple of minutes. I promptly resealed the box and gave it to a woman I worked with, so her daughter could read them. I remember the woman being flabbergasted that I would give away something precious from my childhood. She said I would regret it. I didn’t.

It boils down to “things” and “possessions.” I don’t care about either. Our house could burn down tomorrow, and I would only hope the dog got out, and that I had already checked the lottery ticket in my desk.

What I do care about are memories. We’ve had our ups and downs financially over the years, but we rarely spend much money on anniversary, birthday, or holiday gifts. Instead, we make memories.

A family outing to dinner and then to the local theater to see A Christmas Carol makes a wonderful memory.

Hauling your ten-year-old kid along on tons of old-folks bus tours, so that your lonely mother is entertained, makes for fabulous, and sometimes fabulously funny, memories.

ImageRemembering that my father laughed like Muttley when he pulled a fast one on us kids is a memory I’ll have forever.

The memory lane is a long one. I have four siblings, and we grew up in a simpler time where we spent entire summer afternoons forty-feet high in the air as we dangled from trees. My older brother fell out once and lived to tell about it. We made our own haunted house in the basement and charged the neighbor kids a dime to come through. We later spent Monday nights on the living room floor with cousins and friends as we watched Laugh-In, while Dad sat in his recliner unable to control his Muttley laugh.

There are many more memories, but they are mine and would likely bore you. So, my answer to the writing challenge this week isn’t exactly what they were asking for, but my memories are my most meaningful possession.

A Fine Place for Writing

We live in a century home. It was built in 1903.

We knew the house needed work when we bought it, but other than necessary repairs, we haven’t yet been able to do the remodeling we originally planned. I don’t care. I love our old house with its two staircases and creepy basement.

I’ve claimed the dining room for my office and my used book business. This year it has also become a fine place for writing. Allow me to show you around my room: Image1 – Crazy patterned wallpaper which was here when we bought the house. It has a “magic eye” effect. I can do the eye thingy and get the design to “pop out,” but there’s nothing in there.

2 – A really great wood desk weighing a million pounds. We paid $35 for it at a local thrift shop.

3 – Candy dish with m&m’s for editing.

4 – Sticky note left by 25-year-son. It reads, “I love you!” He left it on my desk one day when I wasn’t home, and I couldn’t make myself throw it away, so it’s taped to my computer.

5 – Pink mp3 player with pink earbuds. I truly am a pink girl at heart.

Yes, my vhs/dvd player is up on blocks. Hubby rigged it for me so the stupid cable box could have air flowing around it.

On the wall behind my desk are bookshelves holding what’s left of my used book business. It wasn’t too long ago, I had over 5,000 books in inventory, but I’ve downsized. I’d rather write than sell used children’s books, and I’m tired of carrying heavy boxes to the post office. The books in cloth bags on the floor are waiting to be processed. I might get around to them one day. ImageTo the right of my desk is the shipping department. It’s obvious my table is in front of the old fireplace, but we haven’t used it for many years. I cropped the picture because the ugly brown box of packing peanuts under the table made the whole thing look worse than it already does.

ImageWhat you don’t see is the sofa along the bay window directly behind my chair. It was never for guests; it was always for dogs. There were days when all four of them would sleep on the sofa while I worked. Today, it seems silly to have a full-sized piece of furniture for just a beagle, but he does seem to enjoy it.

I like having this spacious room to work in every day. I can open the window beside my desk for lovely breezes and plenty of sunshine comes into the room. I can see into the kitchen while writing, and it’s easy to yammer at hubby when he’s out there foraging for a snack or taking a quick puff on a cigar.

Thank you for taking this little tour of my fine place for writing. It’s time to get back to that nifty notebook on my desk which is harping at me, because I’ve used the word “shocked” a dozen times in my current work in progress, and no one can be shocked that much in one book.

Let me know what your fine place for writing is like. Or better yet, do a blog post and show me.

Buying Influence

ImageReviews are on my mind today.

I’m irritated with my Readers Favorite review. They corrected the spelling and most of the grammar/sentence structure on their site, but the original review stands at Barnes & Noble – where the reviewer, an ex-teacher no less, appears to have had trouble with the English language, and where racquetball is spelled racket ball. RF would be happy to post the edited review, but only an author can request the removal of their first one. Good luck with that. It’s irritating, but not worth losing time or sleep over. I’ve made the request to B&N twice, and if they ever remove it, I’ll the RF people know.

It’s hard for a new author to get reviews. I wrote to an online friend of many years and asked if she would have time to read my book. I told her I would send a gift card through Amazon, and all I wanted was an honest review. She was excited for me and said yes. Three months later she is sheepish, but she simply hasn’t had time to read the book with summer, kids, back-to-school, etc.  I told her I completely understood, and I wouldn’t be offended if she never read it.

Now I’m reading across many forums that it was unethical for me to ask for the review in the first place. Giving a book away for free in return for a review, or paying someone to read your book then leave a review, is a shunning offense as an author.

The payment to Readers Favorite was to have someone read the book and post the review within two weeks – nothing more. There was no guarantee of a positive review. They will review any book for free if you are willing to wait three months or more. But with five stars across the board in all categories, and then the racket ball misspelling; well, I can’t help but to wonder if the payment had a bearing on the review.

Charlie, thatgirlwhoreadsbooks, posted this article in a reply to one of my posts. It’s from the New York Times and is an article about book reviewers for hire. By the way, I enjoy Charlie’s blog immensely as she attempts to read every book in her house. You should check it out.

The entire article was interesting, but I found the mention of John Locke to be especially noteworthy. Everyone who self publishes knows who John Locke is. He is the first self-published author to sell more than a million eBooks through Amazon. I would love to know his true sales numbers, as I believe even his free downloads were considered a “sale.” Oh, I’m not taking anything away from the amount of money he’s made; I’ve contributed! A quick check of my Nook shows 13 John Locke books which I purchased at 99 cents each.

What interested me so much about the article was that Mr. Locke “commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledgling service’s best customers.” Mr. Locke went on to say “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

It reminded me of the disc jockey scandal of the 60’s. Disc jockeys took payment in return for playing certain music tracks more frequently on the radio. Just as hearing a song over and over again can run it up the charts, seeing a book with hundreds of positive reviews can bring more and more buyers.

I’ve set aside a budget for advertising. When I originally set my budget, I allowed for free books in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only done that with my friend who doesn’t have the time, but I’m wondering if I should even consider this given the current review climate – especially at Amazon. I received a glowing review for one of my books, and it has disappeared. It was a verified purchase, I didn’t know the person, and I have no idea why the review is gone. Do I really want to pay for reviews via free books when they could disappear at any time anyway? I think not.

Having at least one positive review on each book right now is just fine (none were paid for!). I can live with that.

But I am curious … have you had any experience with offering a book in exchange for a review? Or have you paid for a review? Did you change your mind about the practice after you did? What does Scrooge McDuck have to do with any of this?

Ice Cream and Horse Manure – Yum!

Since I seem to be determined to post a fair amount of silliness on my blog, I thought this would be a good topic for a Saturday when nobody is supposed to be reading blogs anyway.

My husband has a guyfriend who would be his girlfriend if he wasn’t a guy. I’ve never seen two men who have so much in common. They text each other during the day and make each other laugh with their own brand of humor. The funny thing is, his wife and I are quite alike as well.

On Friday evenings, after dinner, we hop on the motorcycle, as do they, and we meet up out in a little town in the heart of Amish country.

ImageI don’t even know the name of the place we go to every week. It looks like a house that was converted to a business. It’s a little general store where they also serve pizza, chicken, sandwiches, and they have soft-serve ice cream.

We walk up to the outside window to place our order, and it takes for-ev-er for someone to come to the window. Then it takes for-ev-er to get your order. Hubby and the other couple always order tall cones, but I’m a hot fudge sundae kind of girl. I like eating with a spoon rather than chasing ice cream around in a circle before it melts all over my hand in the 80 degree heat.

There’s a round wooden picnic table next to the building. It kills my back to sit on it for a couple of hours, but the company and the conversation are so good, it’s worth it.

ImageRight behind my spot at the picnic table is a hitching post. There are always horses. Lots of horses and horse crap. Today we were in luck. There was only one horse and less manure than usual.

Depending upon how the wind is blowing, the delicious smell of pizza wafts over our ice cream, or the stench of the horse manure. Tonight we had an added treat. A tanker truck, fresh from picking up a load of some god-forsaken chicken mash from the local chicken processing plant, parked across the street from us. The driver ran into the store for some tasty treat before heading on down the road. The smell was enough to make you gag, and I longed for the horse manure smell.

Besides our normal visiting chatter, there is usually a story or two for the evening’s entertainment, and they usually come from my husband. Tonight was no exception. He shared his one and only experience when he went frog gigging . . .

One of his friends, along with his sixteen-year-old son, took hubby out one dark night in a canoe. Hubby was wearing a new pair of shoes and a new pair of jeans. It took a while, but they finally heard a cacophony of croaking frogs – in a swampy area where the canoe couldn’t go. If we were going to feast on frog legs, the men were going to have to go on foot. It was nearly midnight, and no one was around, so hubby whipped off the new tennis shoes and jeans and hopped into the water with the other two guys and the frogs. Burlap sacks were rapidly being filled until a flashlight was directed at them through the weeds. Uh-oh. Hubby was standing there in his underwear – not boxers to give the effect of shorts – but good old tighty whiteys. It was the game warden. The man never batted an eye. All he wanted to know was how many frogs were in the sacks. I bet he had a story to tell the next day at work about the bonehead in the swamp in his underwear. But we had a frog leg feast.

You don’t get this kind of lifestyle in the big city. Good friends, ice cream, and horse manure. Yum!