Friday, June 24, 2016

What are the aliens up to now?

Hi, I’m Curtis. Mrs. Jones—that’s her on the camel—put me in one of her books called EMBRACED. Sounds pretty mushy to me. Anyway, she says I have to tell you a little about the story.

Miss D, my school principal came to me one day with this page of scribbles. She thought it was some kind of code and she wanted me and my buddies to try to figure it out. I like Miss D and all. She’s not bad for an adult. You can talk to her and she doesn’t make fun. But, sheesh, a code from aliens? Anyway, to keep her happy, I said I’d help.

Thing is, once I started studying the scribbles, I could see messages. I told Miss D that Coder Guy (that’s the name Miss D gave to whoever was sending the messages) wanted her to fix things. Of course she asked what things? I didn’t know so I made up some stuff. Miss D wrote letters to newspapers using my ideas and the things she asked for started to come true.

She even let our class write letters on this fancy paper she had and the things we asked for came true too. Kinda spooky, eh? But fun. Secretly I wished Coder Guy could get rid of my zits and help me lose weight so I wouldn’t be such a geek. I didn’t tell Miss D that, but Coder Guy must have read my mind or something cause now I’m taller and better looking and the girls are starting to talk to me. Miss D says everyone changes, but for me it happened awfully fast so I think Coder Guy did it.

Now Miss D is in the hospital. She’s all screwed up by the messages and the letters and this guy named Sam. I think she really liked him, but he dumped her or something and that sent her over the edge. I’m going up to the hospital to see her now.

Oops, Mrs. Jones just told me not to say too much. Doesn’t want any spoilers for her book so you’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But she did tell me I could let you read an excerpt so here’s one for you.

Gotta go see Miss D now. Hope you like the book.


“More drawings?” Curtis gestured at the papers she held.

Abby looked down at the pages and willed her hand to stop trembling. The three pages of code drawings seemed to shimmer and shiver with a life of their own. “Yes. Three pages. From Friday, Saturday, and last night. They’re pretty … they’re … pretty well done, I’d say.”
But Curtis was no longer listening.  He waved the papers she’d just handed him and almost shouted with excitement. “These are amazing. Way better than the first drawing you brought us.”

Abby stifled a small grin, but she had to agree. The drawings outclassed her scratches a million times over. “My friend developed instant artistic talent.”
“I’ll say.” Curtis shuffled the pages back and forth. He shook his head slowly and muttered “wow” over and over. Finally he looked up at her. “Miss D, thanks for getting so many. Now we have four to compare. We’ll see if there are any repeated patterns or sequences of symbols. Your friend is great to share these with us.”

“No problem.” Oh God, I’m such a liar. Of course there was a problem, and not just because she was lying to Curtis. My friend. How lame was that? The mere existence of the pages was the real problem. Some nights the clickings chattered incessantly in her fillings, almost driving her crazy.
Those were the nights of very little sleep. The weekend had been eerily silent. That was a new phenomenon since Friday, no clickings, instead Coder Guy had begun leaving the pages filled with drawings. Either way—no escaping the code.

A while back, she’d grown tired of sharpening the pencil she used each night and replaced it with a pen, which was now almost out of ink. She’d have to remember to get out a new one tonight. Or maybe not? What would happen if there was no writing utensil?

“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked. Abby hadn’t realized she’d laughed out loud. The lack of pen wouldn’t stop her night visitor. She stifled another burst of laughter she knew bordered on hysteria. Truth was, much as the pages of code scared her, she’d be devastated if no more came. The person—being, alien, Coder Guy—was an integral part of her life now; his existence had established a rhythm that kept her balanced. Or so she thought. Maybe she was completely off her rocker.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Reality of Writer's Lives

Writers’ lives often seem exotic and mysterious. Growing up, we read about the eccentricities of Hemingway, the excessive drinking of James Joyce, the desperate days of Jack London…. Artists in any genre are often seen as exceptional characters. They starve, cut off their ears, have several lovers, engage in dramatic fights, drink, and drink some more.

The days of big thinkers were never ordinary. They partied all night and slept all day.

How much of those stories are pure myth? What do modern day authors really do?

It’s likely that authors aren’t unlike anyone else. They get up, have breakfast, go to work, make dinner, spend time with their families, read, watch TV, sleep. Perhaps there’s a glass of wine with dinner, a night out with family or friends, a trip or two, a bit of body boarding at the beach. Nothing to make them stand out.
For a look at the day of a few famous authors see

Friday, June 10, 2016

Self-Publishing—who’s making the money now?

In the early days (2010) John Locke loomed large on the horizon as the first self-published author to sell one million books. Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey were not far behind. We did the math 1,000,000 X $0.35—and jumped on the band wagon. We all thought we too could be as successful as these pioneers. 
   Phase 2 of self-publishing saw the emergence of a plethora of “how to”—how to write, edit, publish.
-       Want to write a book? Get out of your own way.
-       The Snowflake Method
-       The Layered Writing Method

Many blog posts one could read for free, but how did we know the blogger had any real expertise? We turned to books instead, however a large number of these books are also penned by unknowns, so we had to pick wisely. It quickly became almost compulsory to attend writing conferences as we hoped to find expert advice from the pros.

Phase 3 carried formatters, editors, and cover artists along for the ride. And those of us who were smart hired them to have our books be as professional as possible. If the big publishers wouldn’t take the time to look at us, we’d do it ourselves, and we’d do it right.

Phase 4? Ah, yes, another plethora, this time of advice on how to use social media to promote your books and the great debate about pricing and the wisdom or stupidity of making your books free;  all of this along with numerous book marketing sites. Some listed your book for free, others charged a fee. The problem of course was determining which were most effective, which really had the following to get your book “out there.” BookBub rose to the top charging what are exorbitant rates for most struggling authors, yet it is the one we all aspire to be on.

And, Phase 5? Perhaps the cleverest of all—“How to Market” courses with lovely videos, webinars, and supplementary materials, seemingly (from what one sees on the screen) prepared in the comfort of one’s own home. For the mere sum of $500, $600, $700 or more, you’ll receive the magic answers. Many of the presenters are Indie authors themselves. These “experts” promote strategies they claim worked wonders for their own sales, which makes one question why they are doing all the work necessary to create and present these courses instead of writing more books.

As we wade our way through the phases, weaving back and forth in an effort to produce the best possible book and find the elusive magical hook that will reel in readers, it’s phase 5 that intrigues the most. Convince 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 authors eager for sales to buy your course and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Going to Heaven One Day?

Tell us about your most recent release.
EMBROILED is the fourth, and last, of my Em and Yves series. And when I started I only intended to write one book. I guess I write like I talk. The books can be read as “stand alone,” but probably are more enjoyable if read in order.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
I read once that readers of fiction like best the books from which they learn something. I hope I’ve accomplished that with my books. The story line takes the reader to many parts of the world that I’ve had a chance to visit or live in; Mali being the most significant for me. The poverty was heartbreaking. I didn’t have a magic wand so I wrote the books as a way to wave that magic wand and make things better for the world. Too bad it’s all fiction.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
When I first started writing a member of my critiquing group told me I couldn’t learn. I know I’ve proven her wrong.

How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
If there are constructive comments, I take heed and try to incorporate that into future writings. If it’s an “I don’t like it” kind of comment I shrug it off. Reading tastes are unique to the individual. If it’s mean, I do what my mother said, “consider the source.”

When are you going to write your autobiography?
My daughter was reading my first book and said, “I hate it. I’m reading and enjoying and all of a sudden I see you.” So perhaps parts of these books are my autobiography. Em loves the Sahara. I do too. Em goes to Egypt. So did I. Jasmine works in Mali. I lived in Mali for a time. Abby goes to Paris. I love Paris and have been several times. Emily goes “up there” and who knows, maybe there really is a heaven and I’ll see it one day.  

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Addiction to the computer! I go through withdrawal if my access is cut off for some reason.
How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?
Four and you have to read the books to see who and why.

Ever dispatched someone and then regretted it?
Nope. Although my husband is ticked off with me for dispatching a couple of the characters in the last book.

Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?
NO!!!!!!!! That would drive me crazy.

Do you believe in a deity?
I took four books to answer this. I consider myself an atheist, but some readers of my books think the heroine is God. Others accuse me of being anti-Christian. I’d like to think there is something up there.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Have a life away from the computer and work out which I do regularly.
Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie?
I’d love to be Em. She has great adventures.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing novel?
Marketing! It’s worse than writing. It’s time consuming and discouraging. The people who have read my books and taken the time to review them have been very positive. The trick is to get more readers to give them a try.

How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Tons. I was an only child on a farm with no television. Books were the most important thing in my life then (still are) and there were precious few of them available to me. I read the same ones over and over. I still read books I really like more than once.

Why do you think what you do matters?
You know, maybe it doesn’t, but I’ll always believe books are the soul of our society.