Thorns and Flames

Thorns-smallerSo, I wrote Thorns of Rosewood and published it in March 2014. I’ve gotten some nice reviews. Even Publishers Weekly has chimed in with a decent review. I’ve sold a few thousand books. I’m a happy little writer.

I am diligently working on book 2 in the series and it’s developing right before my very eyes. I love it when that happens. A writer starts with a plan and then the characters take off at a run and steal the show away from you. I love it when those little buggers do that.

Recently in book 2, I found that the nasty woman, Naomi, from book 1 just kept rearing her ugly head. That woman just won’t go away! I knew book 2 would be about fire, and it is, but somewhere along the line my characters just couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. The story has turned into various forms of fire… playing with fire, setting fire, putting fires out, and particularly, old flames.

So there ya have it. I’ve been struggling over the book’s title for about five months. Rosewood on Fire. Embers of Rosewood. Burning Rosewood. All interesting ideas. But the winner is:


It fits. I like it. And I can almost see the cover.

I’m getting excited about this story! Even I don’t quite know how it’s going to end. Yup. It’s always a surprise to me, too. I have a sloppy outline, but by golly, if my characters get a better idea, I’m behind them 100%.

Oh, and by the way… Thorns of Rosewood just happens to be .99 now and will only be that price for a short while longer. Buy it now so you’ll be ready for Old Flames of Rosewood in March, 2015!

One more thing. Thank you Deb Carlin for promoting my book this past week. Such a cool website you have over at!

Critique Groups and Character

If you’ve read my book Build a Writing Team, you know I’m a proponent of critique groups. I’m also a fan of people with good character. There are quite a few out there in this world and I’m happy to say I know many people with ethics, compassion, and a decent sense of right and wrong.

Unfortunately, we must be careful not to cast our pearls before swine. I know plenty of people without character, too. And I know to avoid them and smile. Be nice to them… they bite. Don’t taunt a junk yard dog on a chain and expect it to act like a sweet little lap-dog.

I want to address something here on my blog about an unfortunate lesson I learned this past week. I am a part of a group of great folks in Omaha who have a critique group. Nice people. Smart people. Intelligent people. And the group’s leader is one of those wonderful examples of a person with character and integrity. So, for the most part, this is a lovely group of folks.

badappleExcept for that one bad apple. I won’t name him, that’s not the point, but I do want to share my story so others can learn from it. There is a lesson here for those who run open critique groups, and for individual writers as well.

In this writing group, we send in our submissions via email to the group leader. Then he sends them via email to everyone in the group. The people who receive the chapters to be critiqued, read through them, critique them on paper, and come to the meeting prepared to tell the author what they liked and what they would change. They give the author the critiqued paper to keep and use as they wish. (I am in another critique group that does it differently. Every critique group will have their own methods.)

COVERAgain, if you’ve read my book, you know I believe in honest critiques. When I ask for a critique, I’m not looking for compliments, but suggestions for what doesn’t work in the piece, and ideas about how to make the piece better. That is the entire point of critique. Not everyone understands that. They are looking for compliments, and you know, I’ll go to my best friends for that. In a critique group, I need keen eyes and honesty to help me see the problems I’m too close to the writing to see.

Here’s where we come to the part about character… or unfortunately, the lack thereof.

The bad apple of the Omaha group, unbeknown to the other members, had been taking the emails of our submitted chapters, converting them to PDF’s, and putting them on his website with his critique at the end.

He was publishing our work without our knowledge or permission. Our rough draft work. Our unedited, unpolished, work. And even more audaciously, he was including his critiques. For anyone in the world to see.

As I said, I want the critiques. But when one asks another to critique their work, it is a private matter. Neither party should make the information public without the other’s permission. I no more have the right to publish his comments without his permission, than he does to publish my writing. Fair is fair, after all.

The group leader and the members whose chapters he’d put on his website all asked him, very nicely, to please take down the chapters.

His response was that he would do so, but he was insistent that it was just a mistake, he was under the impression the website was private. As a writer, that comment is what I would call a plot hole! He had developed his own website. He had a privacy statement of his own on his website. But that this man crossed a line is not the point.

The point is, as writing critique groups, it should be noted to any and all, especially new group members, that it would be a breach of trust and possibly, depending on the situation, breaking copyright laws, to ever publish another author’s work without their permission. An author worth their salt doesn’t publish work until it’s been thoroughly critiqued and professionally edited. It’s coal and has a lot of chiseling and buffing to be done to it before it becomes a diamond. Then, ultimately, only the author of a work has the right to first publication unless they give signed permission to copy, print or transfer in any way before someone other than the author can publish it.


So, what is the solution?

In my situation, the offender has been removed from the group. Kicked out. Eliminated. “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, bud!” That’s good swift decision-making and leadership of a man with character!

My personal solution is that now, on every document I send out for critique, I will be putting this notice near the top of the document:

© 2014 G. M. Barlean. All rights reserved. This document and the information it contains is a work in progress and is the property of Gina M. Barlean. It shall not be copied, reproduced, or published in whole or in part without written permission from Gina M. Barlean.

Will it stop someone who is unprofessional and of poor character from using it inappropriately? Of course not. That would be called crime, often done by criminals. Bad people exist. Shit happens. Life isn’t always fair. Worse things happen. You’ve read the news. But it’s one more little step I, as an individual, can take to protect myself.

I sincerely hope this never happens to you. You may want to consider implementing these ideas in your own critique group or the work you forward digitally for critique. You may also want to share this information with other writers you know. I present it only in the name of helping out other writers to protect themselves and to be aware. Don’t get mad… get smarter, because there are some real idiots out there and they know how to work computers, too.

My Little Stories

CoverIt’s been suggested I compile the stories here in my blog and put them in a book. Seemed like an easy enough little project.

One year later, I finally have it done! The book will be novella sized and in a few years, I may have enough new stories to make another book—provided people actually buy the first one! We soon shall see.

I will order the proof to the book today and by next week I’ll have it in my hot little hands, then I’ll be able to decide if it’s up to snuff. Then I’ll continue to that nasty process of formatting for ebooks and promotion and so on and so forth.

While this process takes its course, I am looking for someone to write a nice little recommendation or review for the back cover. If you’re interested in doing so… say if you’ve been a follower of my blog and want to give me some help… please let me know. I’ll make sure you get a free signed print copy, and of course my undying gratitude.

Here’s the cover. Hopefully by October the book will be ready to buy, and I think it would make a great Christmas present for anyone who grew up in the ’60s, ’70s, or comes from a rural or small-town background—or just enjoys positive stories about family.


San Francisco Solitude

As I write this, a street band is blasting Foxy Lady, and the corned beef and cabbage I had for dinner at Lefty O’Doul’s is grumbling in my stomach, so I’m not sure I can capture the personality of San Francisco. I think a good vacation deserves at least a little waxing poetic, so I will do my best. And our trip to San Francisco has been, most definitely, good.

I’ve often thought I’d enjoy city life—especially when I was young. I can’t say I still feel that way. Maybe if I were wealthy enough to live on the outskirts or in a quiet gated community off the beaten path. But, living in the heart of Union Square would not be my notion of an ideal existence. (We’ve been told the cost of an apartment per month is several thousand.) Yet, this amazing city has offered us some wonderful memories.

One memory I’ll keep was standing at the fore of a catamaran—ocean breeze making my hair a frightening sight, and salty spray in my face as we sailed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The sway of the boat, the sight of other ships sailing, and the sound of the many languages spoken by other visitors. Dolphins leapt from the water. Ever-present seagulls flew above us as though their job was to make sure we got exactly where we were to go. How wonderful those final moments of solitude we seafarers shared near the end of the trip. We collectively quieted, staring out at the water and approaching city skyline, glad we spent one hour on the sea.

I most enjoyed the quiet moments in the midst of all the noise of the city. Music blaring, (Play That Funky Music is seeping into our window on the 12th floor as I type.) taxi cabs honking, and the cable cars ding-a-linging right past our corner here on Powell and Geary is constant. Yet, for about forty-five minutes yesterday we sat in front of a fountain in Golden Gate Park and enjoyed a lovely young woman with long dark hair as she played her harp. Such peace and gentleness in the middle of so much bustle. A slice of solitude.

The people are a delight. Lombard street zig-zagging like a crazy dream made by a maniacal street crew. There’s enough sour-dough bread here to strengthen the weakest jaw. The sound and smell of sea lions at Pier 39 will make you smile as you cover your nose.

Yes, I like it here just fine.

But I must leave. And as I review what I’ve typed, it seems obvious to me, I love solitude more than excitement. So, good-bye San Francisco. You are an amazing place. Loved the Dim Sum in China Town. Loved the seafood and even those constant hills and jabbering taxi drivers. I’d certainly return, but my home is now calling me.

I will leave you with some pictures, and a few quotes about this amazing place.

“The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I’m here.” (Billy Graham)

“Now there’s a grown-up swinging town.”  (Frank Sinatra)

“One day if I go to heaven…..I’ll look around and say ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco’.” (Herb Caen)

“San Franciscans are very proud of their city, and they should be.  It’s the most beautiful place in the world.”  (Robert Redford)


There are just a few too many things on my mind this week and I am feeling both sentimental and cynical… which is a fair description of my general personality if you add in sassy and smart-assy. But, it’s not about me.

EmilyFirst and most importantly today is a shout out to my daughter who is enjoying a week of exploration in Maine. My husband, son and I visited the great state a few years ago and had our fill of lobster, steamed then wrapped in newspaper to be eaten outside at a picnic table at a roadside stand. Lobster Pounds or Shacks, they call them. Sweetest meat you’ll ever eat. But then again, what isn’t good if dipped in butter?

My daughter is turning the ripe old age of 27 on the 17th. Still young enough to do most IMG_1225everything and get away with it, and yet old enough to know better. I remember when she was a tiny tot, her most oft’ used line was, “I will do it by my own-self!” That scrunched up determined little face told me to back off Mamma. This kid’s got this. Independent? Uh… yeah. She’s been kicking butt and taking names since she shot out of the womb. (Labor time from 10:30 at night to 1:30 in the morning.) Little speed-ball took me and then the world by storm and we all just wait to see what in the world she’ll do next.

But then, there is sadness in life, that is the end of it. Robin Williams was a loss to everyone who enjoyed his humor and acting. I’m sure a huge loss to his family and friends. And a wake up call, once again, to our country. We must take depression seriously. But here in small-town America, we have our own losses. Our county sheriff is being mourned this week, and rightly so. He was a good man and a young man, which makes the whole loss so much more difficult. Yet, he used the life he was given to do good things. He was a big part of his children’s lives and he was an integral part of our community and county. To say he will be missed would be quite an understatement.

Yet we all must go at some point. And we all do. Considering the short amount of time we’re allotted here on this earth, do any of us really grasp how important it is to make good use of this time? Are we all being as kind and helpful as we can? Are we spending more time making others feel better about themselves? Or are we just thinking of ourselves?

Keeping in mind we are all human, of course we don’t walk the straight and narrow path every day. Or even most Dalai-Lama-on-Helping-Others1of every day. We get lost in our own little thoughts and issues. We stumble and veer away from common sense and kindness and simple good manners. All of us do it. And it’s exhausting when we are subjected to a person who is being ugly—the kind of people who only consider themselves, not others around them.

If you can, I hope you walk away from people who make us feel bad. And walk away with clean hands. You won’t feel better for scolding or giving a dose of their own medicine. They’re immune. Leave them be. Take the high road. Integrity is something you own and it can’t be taken away from you without your permission. Be better than that… it’s hard but it’s worth it.

As the Dalai Lama says, “…if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  Once we lose respect for someone, it is so difficult to get back. Just be nice or be quiet. Seriously. It’s not all about you. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

041004-050.And so I want a break. I will board a plane on Monday to fly off to San Francisco. I’ve never been. Don’t like flying, but I do want to get away. Just me and the hubs. We’ll explore and see what we can see. I’ve reached a point where travel isn’t something I need quite as much. I’m fairly content at home. I like my life just fine and don’t need to get out and do anything too interesting to keep me amused. But it will be great to see new things and learn what the west side of the country is like. Maybe I’ll buy some good Napa Valley Wine, and I hear it’s very interesting to visit Alcatraz. Knowing me, I’ll just want to sit and watch the seals on Pier 39 all day.

While I’m gone, everyone stay safe, and play nice. We get such a short amount of time here… do good things with yours.

COMMUNICATION TIPS—Timing is Everything

logoDo you want people to actually read your emails, newsletters, or posts? Yeah. Me too! But how can we do a better job at sharing news on all the social networks in our platform? Here are some tips I picked up in a class, Email Marketing For Success taught by Matt Plapp of Constant Contact.


  • Don’t flood social networks with the same piece of information all at once“I have a book for sale at a discounted price!!” Don’t send that message out on your blog, Facebook pages, Twitter, Tumbler, LinkedIn and by Email, all at the same time. Do the blog page one day, FB a different time of day, Twitter maybe the next day, etc. Odds are many of the same people get all the same information. It’s best to give repeat feeds at different times so they remind readers, not irritate them.
  • Send out emails when you actually want people to read them and when your target readers are ready to read them. If you write and publish your blog at two a.m., not many people are awake to read it. By the time they are, maybe four in the afternoon for example, your blog post is buried and will have many other posts or emails to compete with. Write your post or email whenever you want, but send it when your target audience is ready to read it. By the way, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays after 9 a.m. is the best time to send emails and newsletters.
  • Make sure the subject lines of your emails get the readers attention. Remember, you may be competing with dozens of other emails for a Attention_Grabbing_Ways_to_Open_Blog_Postssmall amount of the reader’s time. They have twenty emails to read in 10 minutes. Your email subject line says, August Newsletter. The reader thinks, I will read this later because it will take a long time. Guess what. They never read it because when they get home they have to eat supper, take the kids to a ballgame, clean the garage, etc… by nine o’clock when they are ready to look at your newsletter, they have thirty more emails to look at and one of them is about fantasy football and another is a joke… your August Newsletter loses again. Free Book Today ONLY!! might be a better subject line, or whatever call to action your clever brain can come up with.
  • Keep all emails short. Like—very short. No more than three short paragraphs. If you have more information about the topics in each paragraph, add a link the reader can go to for more information. Oh, and put hyperlink to the actual link title instead of a picture. Matt’s studies showed people were more likely to click a hyperlink of a title instead of a picture. Also, don’t forget to put your main points above the scroll line. Remember, people are reading this information on their phones as likely as they are on full screens.

So there ya go—just a few tips I learned about Email Marketing. Thought I’d share them with you!

Publishers Weekly Reviewed My Book!

I attended and was a presenter at the Business of Writing Summit in Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend. As one does at conferences, I met many people and sat in on many classes where I learned a great deal. My brain overfloweth with information! One little piece of info I picked up was to explain writing terms or references to blog readers. This is my goal today. I want to tell you about something positive about my book, Thorns of Rosewood, and explain what it means.

logo-transOn Thursday night I searched the internet for any new activity about my books. I stumbled upon a web-link to Publishers Weekly which noted the magazine had reviewed my book, Thorns of Rosewood. After screaming and jumping up and down with glee, I became completely horrified at what I would find. This iconic writing magazine does not blow smoke and it does not review every book submitted. PW knows books—and they have since 1872. But what is this magazine about, anyway?

Here is the first paragraph from the “about us” tab in Publishers Weekly.

“Publishers Weekly, familiarly known in the book world as PW and “the bible of the book business,” is a weekly news magazine focused on the international book publishing business. It is targeted at publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary agents, authors and the media. It offers feature articles and news on all aspects of the book business, bestsellers lists in a number of categories, and industry statistics, but its best known service is pre-publication book reviews, publishing some 8,000 per year.”

Further reading about PW led me to information about how in the ’60s, PW and other reviewers would not review paperback books. They weren’t “real,” I guess. Seems like the argument is as never-ending as, “kids these days,” was about Elvis and the Beetles. Now we argue the validity of digital books, and Indie Publishers. I shrug and sing Doris Day’s, Kay Sera Sera.

“For most of its life, the reviews section did not review books that were self-published, but in 2010, PW introduced a regular supplement called PW Select. The supplement includes book listings, book reviews, author profiles, and news and feature coverage of the self-publishing industry.”

Lucky for me!

I submitted my book for review and actually got one, and it was pretty good. Here it is in itsThorns-smaller entirety:

“In 1974, four women suspected of killing a judge’s wife in the small town of Rosewood, Neb., were set free—but did they get away with murder? Years later, Gloria Larson, editor of the local paper in Rosewood, is curious about what happened to the women—dubbed the “Thorns of Rosewood”—after their release. Gloria becomes more interested in the case when her adoptive parents reveal that her birth mother was from Rosewood and was suspected of murder in 1974. Gloria tracks the four women down, finding them at an assisted-living facility in Lincoln, where she convinces them to tell their story. Despite some plot points that strain credulity, this is an enjoyable and compelling novel. Barlean skillfully renders the book’s small town setting, while the companionship of the women is believable. Gloria and the four Thorns of Rosewood are well-developed characters—and readers will find themselves eager to learn their story.” Review from Publishers Weekly, July, 2014

So, that’s my big news this week, and if you are an Indie author, you may want to consider submitting your book to PW Select for review. It is free to submit, but I do subscribe to the online newsletter as well. Check the links to find out more information about this topic.