ARE YOU ADVENTUROUS?

 

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I am an advocate of Mom & Pop Shops. Small business. Joe’s Shoe Repair. Sally’s Nail Haven. Johnson Jewelers. They keep a town alive, give it charm, provide essential needs.

But wait… big businesses provide needs. Walmart. Target. Arby’s. Menards. Costco.

Why support small businesses? Why care about mom and pop and their little old shop? Let’s use restaurants as an example. Think about chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Olive Garden, etc. I know exactly what I’m going to have when I go there. It’s almost like home cooking in that I know what it will taste like, and I crave the flavors. Chain sit-down style restaurants provide a nice meal and familiar food. People like familiarity. We’re not always up for an adventure.

But, if we are looking for an adventure, and want to try something new or cultural to an area, it’s fun to check out little family owned restaurants. The local bar and grills, diners, bakeries, and steak houses. This is where you get a real feel for the locals. And more fun yet is, when you find great food at a little eatery, you then get to tell people about it like it’s your own personal discovery. You sort of claim it… own it in a sense. You bring your friends from out-of-town. You say, “I know about this little off the map place!”

Now let’s compare this idea to books.

There are big name authors who write under traditional publishing labels. These publishing houses have big marketing capabilities, just like the Applebee’s or Cheesecake Factory Restaurants. They have market research professionals who can say, “No… people don’t want to read about vampires anymore.” Kind of like Applebee’s chain restaurants follow the trends and provide health conscious meals on their menus now. The marketing experts ask the question, “What do the people want?” The answer they give is, “Whatever it is, let’s give it to them so we can make money.”

But does everyone really want the same thing? Don’t we appreciate innovative new business? We like authenticity, don’t we? We applaud creativity, right? After all, before KFC was a chain of restaurants across the globe, it was first an old dude with a good chicken recipe. First, McDonald’s had one store. These places were all originally Mom & Pop Shops. They didn’t start out with big marketing divisions behind them. They just started out with a passion to do something they loved.

I can walk through the art section of every Hobby Lobby or Home Goods and find very similar paintings for sale at affordable prices. Splashy floral scenes, or cityscapes, images of Paris life. And they usually have a few of each kind, so you know… at least a few other people will have the same picture on their walls, too. That’s safe, right? Everyone likes that picture, that’s why they sell so many. It must be acceptable. It must be cool. The cool kids are always who we want to follow. We’ll all just do what they do, and that will make us cool, too.

Right? Scratches head. Wait a minute. Is that right? Do we really just want to mimic what’s trending? Apparently so, for a great many, or we wouldn’t have Hobby Lobby with shelves and shelves of look-alike art and decor items. We wouldn’t have chain eateries so we could make sure we were going to the same place everyone else likes.

But truthfully, I’ve never been cool. I love to see people out there just doing their own thing. I’ve been a lemming most of my life. Following everyone else, trying not to step too far out of boundaries, but deep inside, I really want to get a tattoo, color my hair hot pink and wear crazy fashions. I’ve just never had the guts. But when I see that person, I think, wow… that’s confidence.

Back to books. So yeah, we have the big publishers and big names and that’s cool. It really is. Agents and editors and marketers all wave the big flags and the fans come running. But then there are us little Indie Authors. I suppose the arguments could be the same as restaurants. There will always be those who prefer to eat somewhere that’s cool, proven, accepted; just like there will always be those who prefer to read whatever the literary powers that be tell them is good. No thinking involved. Set your free will aside, folks. THIS is what we are all gaga about this year. Whole towns read the same book. Whatever Oprah tells us. And no doubt! These will be good meals to feast on. (Some better than others, but probably all quite digestible.)

But then there are those of us who like to discover things on our own. We liked the B side of the album better than the hits. (remember records?) Not everyone knew how awesome those songs were. When you could find that other person who also loved the B side, then you knew you’d found someone else who didn’t necessarily follow the beaten path.

I think there are definitely people out there who enjoy discovering new authors. And with Indie’s, like diners, not every diner wants to become a national chain. Some just want to do what they love and make a living. I guess that’s the kind of Indie I am. I don’t need to have the whole world looking my direction and throwing money at me, but I’d like to make a decent living and I get closer to it every year.

So, I hope you’ll take a chance and adventure into Indie books. I’ll tell you right now that it’s just like with any new restaurant. There may be some places you like okay, some you won’t revisit, but maybe you’ll find that hidden gem. You’ll be like the Magellan of Indie books. A discoverer. And when you find it, spread the news. Help a Mom & Pop out. They’ll appreciate it.

WHERE DID I PUT MY GLASSES?!!

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Oatmeal. It’s what’s for breakfast for this girl. After all, I’m 53 now. Yup. Today’s the anniversary of my escape from the womb.
My body seems to be rebelling the aging process. More days than not, I walk around wondering why my hips hurt? Where did I put my glasses? Why is everyone around me mumbling? Is this some kind of gas-light situation? Are they trying to make me cranky? What in the hell did I eat that gave me this heartburn? Then I stand up or sit down and my knee pops so loudly it wakes my dog. “Sorry,” I mumble. He can’t hear me. He’s old, too.
I know getting older is a gift, but it’s like the gift you got from that one aunt when you were five. You really wanted a cool toy, but she gave you a new pillow. It was good to have a new pillow, but shoot, you’d sure rather have had a toy!!! Nonetheless, you still have to say thanks for the pillow.
So, I’ll give my thanks today. I’m thankful for having a body to complain about. Hearing enough my whole life to know it’s getting weaker. I’m grateful for being born with good eyesight, and now I’m glad for reading glasses. I’ll get a magnifying glass if I have to, because dog gone it, I’m not going to stop reading! And boy I’ve seen some awesome things with these eyes. My children’s birth, my husband’s love, my family’s smiles and support, so many friends, so many beautiful skies and sunsets, rivers, oceans, lakes, mountains, desserts and worldly things, too. I am blessed.
Beneath my complaints, I really do have a thankful heart.
What a gift life is. The good and the bad. Maybe I’ll get another year for which to be thankful. But for now, I’m pretty fond of today—oatmeal and all.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

I will have the opportunity to see Paul Simon in concert this Thursday evening.

Simon and Garfunkel weren’t really my era of music. But I’m a fan of music from many genres and time periods. Good music is good music. Just because I cut my teeth on Bob Seger and John Cougar Mellencamp doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate The Moody Blues, Cheap Trick, or Twenty One Pilots.

It would be hard to be any kind of connoisseur of music and not know who Paul Simon is. So many of his songs are classics. Don’t most of us, when we think of herbs, think, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme? Thank you, Paul Simon!

I was young when I first heard his music. It blasted from my teenage sister’s record player and vibrated the walls of my bedroom next to hers. I remember sitting outside her bedroom just waiting for the door to open so I could see whatever nirvana existed in there. Being almost ten years younger than her, I wasn’t often allowed into her inner-sanctum. But the music seeped through. Maybe that’s why I have such an affinity for sounds from the sixties.

When I was a kid, my favorite form of entertainment was drawing. Mom could not keep enough scrap paper and pencils in the house. And thanks to Simon & Garfunkel, one of my favorite scenes to draw was a bridge over troubled waters. Who knows why that spoke to me so, but I still pause to listen whenever I have an opportunity to hear it.

I have a feeling I won’t hear it at the concert because although it’s written by Simon, it’s almost entirely sun by Garfunkel. The research I’ve done says Simon was motivated to write the song because of a song by Carl Jeter in the Swan Silvertones called Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep. The line is at the end: I’ll be your bridge over deep water and of course, it is what Jesus tells us. Maybe that’s why I liked the song; it really did speak to my heart.

I’ve listened to this Gospel group video twice now and love the song! Once again, we see Gospel influencing rock in the best of ways. Oh, and wish me luck at the concert. It’s going to be outside and the temperature will be in the 50s. But I’m sure I’ll be standing and clapping in my row.

Beanie Baby Meetings

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In the picture above you see a treasure trove of Beanie Babies I found a couple days ago. When I opened a box in the garage, they were all looking up at me. They’d been sitting there for years, frozen in time, just waiting.
When our kids were little, if they were well behaved when we went shopping, they would each get to pick out a Beanie Baby. These little stuffed animals made by a company called Ty, were popular then, and always near the check-out counter. The notion was that they’d be collectible some day. Right. They’re worth about what we paid for them, I suspect.
So, what were the boxed up Beanie Babies waiting for? Well, when we bought our kids a new Beanie Baby, the second they arrived home they ran to the bedroom and had a Beanie Baby Meeting to introduce the new ones to the old ones.
My daughter ran these meetings like the little drill sergeant she was, is, and always will be. I will have to ask her if there was a hierarchy among the babies. Probably. I’m really mad at myself for not taking a picture of these meetings. That would be a treasure, too. A video of them would be like gold to me now. I’m pretty sure my son, a few years younger than his sister, was probably only there because he was at my daughter’s mercy. Bless his heart, he did what she told him to do like the good soul he was, is, and ever shall be.
It makes me smile to think that my daughter is still running meetings, and I suspect my son is still going to them because someone makes him. And me? I’m just enjoying a memory, frozen in time, waiting for me to open the lid, like the box of Beanie Babies in the garage.

Casting Stones

cross coverBack in 2009 I decided I’d try my hand at writing. This is how addictions begin, folks. Some things dare not be tasted.
My first book, like a first love, is a wonderful memory. I dove into it like a wild child into a dark blue lake, without a worry if the water was deep enough, or even if I could swim. There’s something to be said for that kind of naïveté. It’s a thrill ride—a new discovery at every turn; every sentence surprised and delighted me. Commas be damned.
I’ve now written eight books and my writing has become a whole different animal. It’s no longer a kitten, springing from couch to chair, pouncing on every loose speck of fuzz. It’s now a cat who saunters into a room and sits down in a pool of sunshine to groom.
And it’s this constant grooming that takes a little something away from the sparkle of writing. Still addictive, yet now it comes with a hangover, perhaps. The sentence, first written with relish, is then dissected and fussed over until it’s finally cut completely from the page. Those ideas, first thought to be golden, ultimately deemed useless.
But it’s all good. Casting Stones began as a wild fling. After I’d had my way with it, I shoved it out the door like we’d broken up. Not everyone loved the story and I began to second guess my desire to write about emotions and ideas. Who did I think I was, playing with literary fiction? A novelist?
I slipped on something more comfortable. Thrillers and mysteries. Some say anyone can write these, but I disagree. A good story can’t be yesterday’s supper regurgitated. The line cook who griddles a great burger is just as knowing about creating that meal as a skilled French chef who makes a fine Coq au Vin.
I made Coq au Vin once. Took two days. My husband and son picked at it. They’d have rather had a burger.
Having said that, Casting Stones is still my favorite book. I like what it has to say. I like that it offers the reader something to think about. Although the message is simple… don’t judge… it’s also complicated… if you loathe me for being judgmental, which of us is standing in the deeper mud? And, of course, the underlying theme asks who is the real sinner? The character who is so easy to hate—the obvious villain? Are you sure? Could it be you?
It’s for the reader to decide. The book provokes thoughts, but doesn’t hand out answers. I’ve always liked that kind of story. I’m not one who enjoys being spoon fed. So, although it was the first book I wrote, it’s still my favorite.
Have you read it? Would you please? I’d love to know what you think.

Heads Up, Indie Authors!

Are you an Author? An Indie Author? Then this blog post may interest you.

At the lower end of your Amazon Author Page, you’ll see an offer saying, “Set up an Amazon Giveaway.” You click the tab and it takes you to this page: Amazon Giveaway Details. You can, by following the steps provided, create a book giveaway.

The reason for doing this is to create buzz, reward your audience, and grow your followers and customers. From what I can tell, you can give away anything sold on Amazon. A free Kindle. A gourmet food basket. Whatever you want to give your customers. For me, I want to give away my book in hopes of more sales, more reviews, and more readers knowing who I am.

CoverThe process walks you through setting up your giveaway. You get to choose how many books you want to give away (I chose 20). You get to choose how the winners are selected (every 3rd, or every 20th). Then, Amazon takes care of everything. They put the deal up. They monitor the entrants. They pick the winners. They notify the winners. They give the winners the prize. They notify you. And you say, “WOW. That was easy!!” You may also say, “Wow, that was fast!” My book giveaway had 100 entrants within a half an hour. I didn’t even finish writing the email to go out to notify my email list! So, congratulations to anyone who snagged the free book.

When I do this promotion again, there are a couple of things I’ll think through a bit more. First of all, I will drop the price of my book, or even set it to go free. No reason I should have paid for it! That was silly, and I should have done some more reading before I jumped in the pool. But, my mistake can be your lesson. It still only cost my $39, and I’ve spent that much on a mediocre meal.

The next thing I’ll do differently is to put URLs for my website and Facebook pages on the ad. I’m not sure any of these things will really make a difference, but I will try it and let you know if I see any positive results. I do know the giveaways did show up as purchases on my sales charts. It’s not enough to change rankings on my books, though, so that fact may not be significant.

I decided to offer Dark Works free starting tomorrow through KDP Select since the people who won the book were not people I know and came to the giveaway from the far reaches of Amazon. (which is cool.) But I also wanted to make the book available to friends, family and followers. So, starting tomorrow, anyone can snag the book for free. Click this link tomorrow.

In a delightfully perfect world, everyone who picks up the book for free, including the twenty out of one hundred who picked it up from the Amazon Giveaway today, will consider leaving a positive review. Maybe even checking out my other books and buying one. We’ll see. Advertising is just another form of gambling, I guess. They key is not to play more than you can pay.

Have you done this promotion with Amazon? What were your results? Share the knowledge if you’ve got it.

 

 

Welcome to Catching

So, I’m writing a new book. The title is, Welcome to Catching. Maybe if I can get my act together, it will be done by the end of the year, and I’ll be ready to publish next spring. We’ll see. I’m not going to rush it.
Thanks to a workshop I took on how to structure a novel, I am writing this book differently than I have done in the past. My usual modus-operandi is what writers call “Pantsing.” Writing by the seat of your pants. Just let it rip. That’s kind of my general personality, so it’s really no wonder I lean that direction.
Some very fun things happen when you just write and let the characters go where they want to go and say what they want to say, but to make that work, I really need to get deep into the story and characters—absorb them and become them. So, yeah… that’s a little weird, right? But it is cool. Because people who are avid readers know they get lost in a really good book and even mourn when characters die or the story ends. It’s why some people love to read long-running series; the places and people can stay in their lives and the reader can live in that world.
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When structuring a novel, though, we look at things like plot points, midpoint, inciting incidents, points of no return, dark moments, and climax. We write the story to get to those places. And if a writer is really good (my constant goal) a writer does this at very specific points in the story. See the picture at the top of the page.
So, with this new book, I’ve plotted it out. I’ve created the three act structure and know what my first plot point is, where the midpoint is and what the second plot point is. I know what’s going to happen at the climax and how it will end. This is really kind of new for me. I visited with a book club last night and told them that when I wrote Thorns of Rosewood, I didn’t know the very ending until the fourth rewrite and about three chapters prior to writing the last chapter. I actually discover the story as I’m writing it.
So, we’ll see if this works, this organization thing. Hey, Aristotle invented it. It’s withstood the test of time. What’s not good about that, right?
Oh, what’s Welcome to Catching about? It’s about the relationship of a father and daughter, and their fight to save a small town that’s dying. Why is it dying? Because the town’s young people go off to college and then move away to live in bigger cities. A town needs young blood to keep it alive? And Catching is way past due for a meal.
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The Internet is Awesome?

145Have you ever checked your search history? Last Saturday night it occurred to me that I had really crammed a lot of information into my brain over the weekend, so I checked to see exactly what I’d researched.

Here was one weird afternoon and evening for me: I looked up the lyrics of several songs by Meatloaf. Not a singer I enjoy, but we have been invited to go to the concert coming up on April 1st, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with the songs. Check and see if maybe I could find a new appreciation for them. Nope. But, I’m still really looking forward to going. (I’ll take earplugs.)

Somehow that led me to a youtube video of Iggy Pop. He has a new song out called Gardenia. Watched that. Thought it stunk. I then searched what in the world he sang back in the day. Wild One, Passenger... songs I’m familiar with and don’t mind. But oh, the videos of him performing live. Yikes. Yikes and Ew. He really doesn’t like clothing.

Then I stumbled onto Jim Morrison. Must have been on Youtube. I enjoyed remembering how handsome he was and listening to Doors songs. I really like the Doors. Their music IS that era. But again, the videos—I didn’t love those. I watched him doing what he called Shaman dancing, and oddly enough, it was pretty darned reminiscent of what Iggy Pop did. Thought that was weird. I figure they maybe did some of the same kinds of drugs. I ended up watching a documentary about Morrison. He was a case of being a creative genius. He couldn’t get out of his own head. Drugs killed him, but I think the darkness in his mind led him to that end.

I searched the Zika virus and it has me troubled. Mosquitos, the filthy little blood suckers, are once again spreading disease. I looked at how to make a facebook page serve as a website. Felt fairly apathetic about what I found there. Researched the movie, The Revenant. The meaning of the word Revenant. The actual history of Hugh Glass, the man the movie is about. Tried to figure out how to create a Wikipedia page. Decided that was a project I’d have to save for when I had more time. Stumbled on an essay by an author I’ve heard of. Read it. It was nasty. Tried to wash it off my eyeballs, but it’s stuck in my brain. Very unfortunate. For Lord knows what reason, I looked up Dutch names and found some to be pretty likable. Might have to call one of my cats Coen or Hans. Read about the differences between Indo-European and Germanic languages. Tried once again to commit to memory all of the countries in Asia. Didn’t work…once again.

AND after I crammed all of that additional knowledge into my brain, I ended up liking stuff on Facebook, watching a few cat videos, and playing solitaire. All the wisdom of the world at my fingertips, and that’s what I do with my down time. And now I can’t figure out which of the opposite ends of the spectrum were actually a bigger waste of my time! Oh, and here is my very favorite cat video. Makes me laugh every time.

Resolution

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On New Years Eve, we were with a group of friends playing the game, Apples to Apples. The game involves cards with a word, and below the word, there are examples of the word’s meaning. This game made me think about how many nuances a word can have in its meaning.

For instance, the word Resolution, by one of its definitions, means to decide to do, or not do something. This is the kind of resolution many of us are making now that it’s the beginning of a new year.

Resolution can also mean, the action of solving a problem—similar to the first meaning, yet a little different.  In Physics, resolution can mean the conversion of something abstract into another form. Yet another definition for resolution is, the degree of detail visible in a photographic or television image.

That last definition is the one I think of, because as a kid when the TV screen went wonky, it was always me who sat in front of it, turning the different knobs for color, contrast, or tint. The various knobs controlled the ultimate resolution of the picture we saw. How clear or steady it was.

In the end, it’s how I adjust my picture that will truly improve the show that is my life. True, first I need to say, “Hey… I want a clearer picture!” But before I can resolve my static, I have to figure out what knobs to adjust. So it’s ineffective to just focus on the end result I want to achieve. I need to figure out how to come to the solution. I need to adjust my set.

I think I’m going to fuss with the knob to adjust for more time writing and less time talking about it. The one for more time cleaning and less time complaining about my house being dirty. And especially, I want to adjust the knob for more time thinking about others instead of myself. Yes. That’s the one I need to fiddle with the most.

There is an awful lot of static out there in the world right now. I can’t fix all of that… but I can certainly adjust my own set.

FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOURS

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Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, I worked very hard to get everything done at work, home, and for the holiday. Food is prepared, two houses are ready, and even the animals seem to know it’s a special time.

Thanks to help from the hubs and Ibuprofen for my aching back, this morning I have had the luxury of sleeping in, then sitting quietly in my clean living room, cats on my lap, and dog under my chair, while I swoon over a cup of hot coffee with real cream — a Christmas treat. (1% can wait. This is the time for little indulgences!)

As I listen to the scrapes of the shovel clearing the patio and sidewalks – Thanks again to my glorious and manly husband – and gaze out the window at the frosted yard dotted with those little red sheds, I thank God for all of the blessings I have and which are coming.

My daughter is home from St. Louis and snoozing in her room. It warms my heart to know when she wakes up, I get to hug her and hear her sleepy voice. My son and his special girl will be here later today and then I’ll get to enjoy the sounds of people chattering and laughing. Church tonight, presents tomorrow, plenty of food and love.

I wish the same for all of you. Merry Christmas from our house to yours. Enjoy the blessings of the season. Give someone the gift of your smile and a kind word. It’s something everyone can give.