Author photos taken by Robert Abrams in Paris, France.



THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY - Rebecca Buckley's Blog
Welcome to my blog. Here I'll talk about almost anything. Depends on the mood of the day. I'll also talk about publishing, writing techniques, and editing ... subjects close to my heart. So today, anytime you feel like it, feel free to jump in ... click on the COMMENTS link at the end of a post and give your opinion. If you sign in "anonymous" to comment, it's easier, just be sure you say who you are in the content of your comment.

Friday, December 17, 2010

TIRED TIRED TIRED!!!!

I got up too early this morning, that's what it is. There is a limit to how early my body clock can handle it and 5:30 a.m. just isn't it. Okay, so now I'm up and I'm grouchy, tired, sleepy, restless, agitated . . . name it, I'm it!

Have you ever felt like you can't find anything you want to do or read or watch, nothing is satisfying? That's what I'm going through right now. I even washed some windows to curb my agitation. lol lol I do have to laugh at that. Washing windows has never been part of my M.O. Whatever possessed me to do that? But now they're clean, so that's a godsend. Guests coming in a few days and I now have clean windows. lol lol lol

Maybe I should just lie down and go back to sleep. Make up for what I lost earlier when my cats so rudely awakened me. Now they're napping while I'm climbing the walls. Maybe I should take their cue since they pulled me onto their schedule before the sun came up.

Well, I don't know what to do. My mind isn't working right to write.

Okay, I'll take a nap.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TIME GOT AWAY FROM ME!

Sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled from every direction at every angle. This is one of those times with two publications coming out this month: 1) a collection of short stories by Edd Voss - RAMBLING, and 2) the launching of a new literary magazine - LITERATI, first issue December 31. Trying to do all the marketing and publicity is taking its toll on my energy ... trying to do it all is next to impossible. But I keep plugging on. I'm looking forward to the day I can hire another person to do the marketing. Oh boy! That will be heaven. Not the right time, yet.

So, my head and heart are racing to meet the deadlines, the pressure is on, and I'm wondering if it all will come down as planned. Gawd, I hope so!

Because of all the travel and activities during the holiday season, and preparation for my blogtalk radio shows, plus the launching of the above two books, I've not worked on my own projects for several weeks. And I miss my writing with a passion, I'm happiest when I write.

My mind's in a whir, however, always writing in my head. That never stops. The changes I'll be making in my mystery novel are spinning around inside my brain, and how I'll hone the action in my latest romantic suspense novel. Both manuscripts waiting on the table. Both to be published in 2011.

You know, I am so enthralled by thillers of late and am feeling the urge to cross over into that genre after I've written my first mystery - working title: SCREAMS. That one may bridge the gap for me from romantic suspense to mystery to thriller. Dean Koontz, David Morrell, Stieg Larrson: at this point in time are my favorite thriller-writers. An upcoming political-thriller writer on my favorites list is David S. Rosenberg, I must mention him too. And my friends Marilyn Meredith (detective mystery) and Vincent Zandri (mystery/thriller). Just Google them all and you'll see what I mean.

My favorite historical fiction writers continue to be Jack Whyte and Philippa Gregory, in case you're interested in that genre. I read all their series and stand alones. I have some novels by Bernard Cornwell that I plan to read, too.

Speaking of Cornwell, Patricia Cornwell is terrific, isn't she? I still love reading her. Medical Examiner protagonist.

Okay, gots to get off of here ... (wrote that sentence in honor of a new writer who has trouble using too many gots and gets and the combination of off of. lol lol Here's to you Edd!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AUTHONOMY - Read and critique books online

This link - http://www.authonomy.com - will take you to a wonderful website that allows you not only the chance to give readers a sample of your novels, but you can exercise your own critiquing ability and pass along what you know about writing to those who are just beginning. And Hey! Isn't that what's it all about? To write your heart out and to share your knowledge with others as we all travel this road to writing success? That's how I feel, anyway. Takes a village.

So, on the Authonomy site, sponsored by HarperCollins Publishing by the way, you upload individual chapters of your novel in hopes that your work will get the attention and make it to the HarperCollins editors' desks. Now who wouldn't want to have their work read by one of HC's editors? You're nuts if you don't. And doing anything I can to get mine there is at the top of my list. That's for sure.

So. I've uploaded all four of my novels, even the work in progress (WIP) - Midnight in Moscow. And if you'd like to read what I've uploaded, you can do that. Just go to the above link and register. You don't even have to upload your books, you can join as a reader. So whether you've written a book or not, you can register and read and critique, if you'd like. And everytime someone puts me on their "bookshelf", my books move closer to being read by the editors. It's a popularity poll, interest being shown, positive critiques.

PLUS it's a great way to read the novels you don't have of mine. For instance, MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW. I know you haven't read any of that one, yet. So take a look. The others are there, too.

AND not only my books, but other novels that are mostly yet to be published ... what a way to learn your craft by reading the critiques the knowledgeable writers have given those less experienced. You'll be astounded at the number of books that are on that site, of ALL genres. Just take your pick, read them chapter by chapter.

Happy reading, guys!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AGENTS, PUBLISHERS, AUTHORS

Continuing on about agents ...

"The large and well-known publishing houses deal almost exclusively with agents, and many simply will not look at a proposal that is not submitted by an agent."

In doing research pertaining to agents, publishers, and unknown authors, I've found some interesting information.

First of all, one of the editor's (at the publishing house) main jobs is keeping in touch with his select group of agents and letting them know what kind of books he wants.  And on the flip side, the agent continually communicates with his list of publishers. 

Large publishing houses will not accept queries or manuscripts directly from the author, they will only talk to an agent.  So regardless ... whether you're a brand new author or otherwise, those publishing houses have to contacted through your agent.  Unless you've written a romance novel.  Most romance novel publishing houses will take queries directly from authors.

And if your manuscript is not sold on the first round, for it must go through a committee of sorts, it could later be dug from the slush pile and reconsidered for purchase and/or publishing.  But of course you wouldn't wait around for that to happen, submit elsewhere in the meantime.

"Ideally, a good agent will help you put the final polish on your proposal, and will get it directly to the editors and publishers most likely to buy your kind of book and most likely to publish such a book successfully."

And then there is always this to consider:

"Many of the best publishers in the business are independent small and mid-sized houses spread throughout the country. These houses are often much more accustomed, and much more amenable, to doing business with unpublished authors. They are often the companies that thrive on finding and nurturing new authors."



A relatively new phonomenon is the eBook and it's here to stay - just take a look at all the new eReaders that are on the market.  Most publishers - from small independents to major houses - are offering eBook versions of their list of books in addition to mass and trade paper and hardcover.  They are covering all the bases by doing so.  For instance, if trade paper sales are slow, maybe eBook sales are up and vice versa.  They're finding that eBook sales supplement the overall picture.  And they are also offering the POD process of their books in some circumstances.  POD - Print on Demand (not to be confused with publish on demand - self publish or vanity houses).  POD is especially to their advantage for short runs.  No sense in investing and  stocking books in their warehouses, when they can print on demand as the book sells.
 
So ... again, you'll know if it's time to get an agent to shop your books to a major publisher.   But if you go with a small to mid-sized independent publisher, you can submit your queries yourself.  Unless you just don't want to deal with it.  And I don't blame you if you feel that way, so do I.   Although, remember ... your agent gets 15% of your royalties ... but if that doesn't matter to you, than go for it!
 
Note: quotes are taken from Caderbooks.com

AGENT OR NOT?

When is the right time to find an agent?  Is there a right time, or should a writer seek out that one special agent-person who will shop and sell his works from the get go?

I don't really have an answer for that one, but I notice that the writers who do go for the agent seem to have less difficulty in finding a publisher who might be interested in their work.  It makes sense to me that an agent would be an asset to a writer. I mean ... it would certainly free up time the writer would spend looking for a publisher, having to send out queries and all that goes along with it.

As a publisher, I receive queries from agents and writers on a daily basis.  I notice the queries from agents consist more of the information I want to see, moreso than the queries from the writers. Of course most agents are professionals and make their living from the polished queries they send out.  The more interesting they make them, the higher the chances that publishers will bite.

So as a writer ... I'm putting on my writer hat now ... as a writer, I'm considering finding an agent. My time is becoming more and more scarce, taken up with writing, editing, and publishing, so there is no time to shop my own books, plays, and screenplays ... IF (big if) that's the route I want to take now.  First, I'm thinking that I'd like to seek out a major publisher for my next novel, which will be a departure from the "Rachel O'Neill" novels, my "Midnight" novels.  Second, my stage and screen plays are just sitting here.  What good is that? 

So, in answer to my own question - AGENT OR NOT? - I guess one knows if and when it's the right time. 

After publishing five books and three stageplays, as well as three screenplays ... I'm thinking NOW is the right time for me.  (I'm writing my sixth book and another stageplay as we speak.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

CREATIVITY INCLUDES MUSIC

I wonder ... what is the connection between music and the writer.  Is there a connection?  Have you noticed that many writers are musicians as well as painters?  It's all the arts, that's what it is.  There is a tremendous connection in my estimation. We're lumped in a pile of creative artists.  Now maybe we aren't as good at music as those who use music as their uppermost talent, but then those individuals aren't as good at writing as we are.  Or maybe we don't paint or draw as well as those who use that talent as their focus, but then they don't write as well as we do either.

Regardless ... it all works hand in hand.  I truly believe that.  Creativity is creativity.  And when we focus on one talent above another, it works, doesn't matter which talent. 

I've spent many years delving in music (singing and piano playing) to no avail, and have also spent many hours painting and selling the paintings, to no avail ... until I arrived at the point where I am today.  I've finally understood and realized that my calling is writing.  So all my focus is on writing (and publishing others).  That's who I am and where I want to be.  It's taken this long to realize that. 

So the singing and piano playing is for relaxation only, of course, for my own enjoyment ... heaven forbid anyone would ever hear any of it ... aside from my son and daughter in law (fellow Karaoke enthusiasts) ... and my paintings adorn my walls only these days.

But my writing ... now that is my prime reason for being.  I do take it seriously, it is my strength, and I do improve on it with each book, I would hope.

Interesting how it all has turned out ...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BOOK BURNING - WHY THE KORAN?

Here is a paragraph from Wikipedia: 

"Some particular cases of book burning are long and traumatically remembered - because the books destroyed were irreplaceable and their loss constituted a severe damage to cultural heritage, and/or because this instance of book burning has become emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime. Such were the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad, the burning of books and burying of scholars under China's Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Mayan codices by Spanish conquistadors and priests, and in more recent times, Nazi book burnings, the burning of Beatles records after a remark by John Lennon concerning Jesus Christ, and the destruction of the Sarajevo National Library."


And now in this present day in our land of inalienable rights we have a pastor of 50 parishioners threatening to burn the Muslim's Koran. What is that all about?  Has he read the Bill of Rights? So is he thinking it is his right to do so while not giving any thought to his infringement upon the rights of others?  

Here's an interesting piece: 

"In his 1821 play, Almansor, the German writer Heinrich Heine — referring to the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, during the Spanish Inquisition — wrote, "Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings." One century later, Heine's books were among the thousands of volumes that were torched by the Nazis in Berlin's Opernplatz."

As a result of the news of late, I purchased a Koran (Quran) and am reading it (84 cents - Kindle version).  So far I see nothing that is offensive, on the contrary, it is not too far from the teachings of the Old Testament in the Bible, although Jesus is depicted same as Moses and other spiritual leaders of the time (so far).  And it also talks about the Muslims who make trouble in the world, and how they are not following the teaching of the Islam religion.

Now I don't present myself  as an expert on religion, far from it, but I'm curious enough to read the books to see for myself what their beliefs are and compare their "Bible" to the "Bible" of others.

I wonder if this Christian pastor, Terry Jones, who plans to burn a pile of Korans on September 11, has read the book?  On CNN he said he's read part of it.  I wonder which part?  I hope to have read it entirely by September 11, and I would urge him to do so.

You know, it's one thing to protest and remember the happenings on September 11, 2001, but keeping it in perspective is of the utmost importance.  Putting the blame where it belongs is also a must.  In all racial, religious, and political bodies there are villains, bad guys ... they're the culprits, not the masses.  They are a small percentage that ruin it for the others.  Target them, not the masses, and definitely not the books - that's insulting to the good guys.

If we are to ever win this war over terrorism, we have to stand together ... all races, all religions, all political arenas.  We have to let them know terrorism will not be tolerated. 

And, Mr. Jones, your actions, although you believe you're doing the right thing, are unacceptable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SO, HOW DO I START WRITING? WHAT DO I DO FIRST?

First thing you do is write the words.  That's it! That's all it takes to start a book. 

If you're going to write your life (autobiography), or a portion of your life (memoirs), or a book of fiction based on your life or someone elses, or a novel from your imagination ... regardless, you must put it on paper. It doesn't write itself out in the blue somewhere.  And this you can start doing right away.  If you have a story to tell, tell it, write it.  (Some do research first, some don't, they fill it in later. Some make outlines first, some don't, they let the characters write the story. Nonfiction needs an outline.)

Once you start writing, write it straight through without editing. Best way is to write it in segments - each segment a story in itself. One of my best-selling mentors sez write five pages at a time without stopping. She writes by hand, pen and paper. Finds that she's more creative that way.  Not me.  So, whichever way you choose, just write five pages a day ... simple.  Some say ten pages a day. But at least set a goal of so many pages a day.

At this point, you needn't be concerned about the spelling, punctuation, and grammar. That will all come later, after you're written the first draft of the manuscript. But do your best as you go along, no need to be sloppy and disjointed. The primary objective is to get your thoughts down on "paper" this go 'round. You can do that without any help from anybody.

Also in your spare time, after you've written your ten pages on a given day, learn about the craft of writing. The magazine "Writers Digest" is one of the best for learning and informing yourself about the technical aspects of writing as well as the business you're entering. Yes, it's a business, whether you like it or not. AND the magazine "The Writer" is also excellent for that purpose. If you buy those two mags a month, and read them from cover to cover, that will be all the homework you need to do right now.


Maeve Binchey writes one chapter a day, by the way. No matter what. A chapter is equivalent to a written scene of a movie to me. So some of my chapters are very short, two to four pages. I can definitely write more than one chapter a day.  Christina Dodd writes ten pages a day, which means that in thirty days a first draft could be finished.
 
Oh, when you write in chapters, you'll want to make sure you have written a complete thought in that chapter, or what I call a mini-story within the overall story. The chapter will have a beginning, middle, and end - just like the entire book. Each chapter will tell a story all of its own. It should end on a high note or shock, a mini-cliff-hanger, that will drive the reader immediately to the next chapter, not wanting to put the book down, which is what you want. So you might want to think in those terms as you write.
 
Either a certain number of pages, or by chapters.
 
Again, nothing happens if you just keep the thoughts in your head.  You have to let them materialize and write them. And that's how you get started.
 
So ... write, write, write.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

HOW DO YOU PUBLISH YOUR BOOK? WHAT DOES IT COST?

Have been asked the questions "How do I publish my book, what does it cost?"  Well, here are FIVE ways to get published ...

1. If you do-it-yourself and self-publish on Createspace.com or Lulu.com, it costs you nothing, basically depending on what kind of distribution you want. You do have to format the book to certain specifications (size) and design your own cover ... then convert them to PDF formats. AND of course it will be produced and printed exactly as you upload it to both websites. So you must know what you're doing as far as design goes, and have flawless edits. If you want it only to appear in Lulu's bookstore (not needing an ISBN number) it will cost you zero. They both have price packages if you wish to have someone else do your covers, however. And to get it on Amazon.com, and in other major bookstores, the book must have an ISBN.  Both will do that for you, but will charge you for the number.  You can also buy your own ISBN at  isbn-us.com or at bowker.com.

2. You can submit your manuscript to PublishAmerica.com for their acceptance, costs you nothing. If they accept it (they usually accept most) they will assign it an ISBN and you're in like flint. One of their editors will do a spell and punctuation check, minor edits, that you will approve. They will also design the cover. All at no cost. If you want more in-depth edits, you'll have to pay for that (which I would encourage). Then after a year, your book will be published, and will be available to all bookstores and online stores. Again, at no cost to you.

3. You can submit your manuscript to either independent publishers or major publishers, or both. These you can find online through publisher searches and you will follow their manuscript submission guidelines. Check out who published other books similar to yours and submit to them. These are traditional publishers when they do not charge you, but they are very selective. Ninrty-nine times out of a hundred you'll be rejected as an unknown writer unless of course you have a product that grabs the editor's attention, is well-written, and guarantees to be a good seller. These are the publishers from which writers talk about getting all the rejection letters, wall-papering their walls with them.

4. You can go to iUniverse, Outskirts Press, Xlibris and other self-publishers who charge you up front to design and print your book for you. Will usually run anywhere from $199 to $4000, depending on who you select. Tons of them out there. You are the publisher of your own book and will be listed as such. They will also get it out there to all the online bookstores. It'll be available to onland bookstores through their distributors, same as all the above.

5. Now if all else fails, find an agent and hand the ball of wax over to him/her.  Let him do all the frustrating legwork.   Then start writing your next book.


Good Luck!


My publishing company (R. J. Buckley Publishing) falls into the third category. During the months of Jan-Mar we accept queries. Submission guidelines are posted on the website www.rjbuckleypublishing.com .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AM I CRAZY, OR WHAT?

I must be possessed!  Whatever gave me the idea that I could broadcast a radio show?  I must be a masochist! Ludicrous!  

What is it that's in me nudging me into these things?  If anyone was ever insecure and full of stage fright when it comes to talking in front of the general public ... THAT'S ME!!!!!  Funny how I can sing before people, but can't talk.  I get tongue-tied and my neck and chest get big red blotches all over.  My brain stops working.  But time and time again, I put myself into this friggin' position.  And here I am, doing it again.

Tomorrow night at 6 p.m. I start a regular show on Blogtalkradio.  And not only one night a week, I've two shows a week ... one every Thursday, one every Sunday.  6 p.m. both days.   I must be mad!

I've spent the past two days trying to figure out how to use a damn headset and mic rather than holding the phone through the entire show.  You see, I dial in and conduct the show in that manner.  Up to five people can call in and join my repartee (dictionary says that's conversation or speech characterized by quick, witty comments - although I'm not very witty on the spot.  So I'll have to depend on callers for the wit), so please please please call in and save me from stammering and stepping all over my words or having dead moments.  Oh gawd!

What I need is a co-host.  Yes, that's what I need.  Any volunteers?

So, tomorrow, on Thursday it's LET'S TALK ABOUT BOOKS.  Just like this blog.  We can talk about my books, your books, anybody's books, I don't care.  And in case no one calls,  I'll just slit my throat and be done with it.  

I know, I'll talk about LITERATI, that's what I'll do.  A magazine I'm launching in December.   Then I'll talk about my novel series - about the settings, about Rachel O'Neill, about New Year's Eves (my favorites).  I could talk about other authors' books I'm publishing at RJBP, authors and the books.  Maybe some will take pity and call in, if I could be so lucky!!!! 

Do I seem a bit nervous about this to you?   Hummmmm.

I remember when I was to give a talk at a book festival, once.  Yes, once.  I was scared out of my ever lovin' pants.  Up on a stage at a podium in front of live people staring at me, wanting to hear something clever or humorous or at least intelligent.  My talk was to be 20 minutes. 

So I prepared and prepared, I rehearsed and rehearsed.  First I made notes, index cards for prompting, which didn't work.  I couldn't remember anything that wasn't written on the cards.  So if I was going to rely on my notes, my talk would have been over in less than a minute, composed of one-line short phrases.

Then I wrote out the entire talk on my laptop, decided to have it up there with me, open and ready to rescue.  I timed the talk - 20 minutes.  Everytime I did it, it came out to 20 minutes exactly.  I drew from past speech class techniques in the composition of it.   I was satisfied, had written all the incredients of an entertaining, enlightening talk - introduction, speech, summation.

When I arrived at the book festival, I was told that I was to be the speaker before the keynote.  So that meant when I was finished, she would be introduced and would come to the stage and give her talk.  J. A. Jance - New York Times best-selling mystery writer.  Know her?  Intimidating.

WELL ... the time came and I began my speech.  Thank god I had the laptop to refer to, what a moment of brilliant decision-making that was!   Soooooo ... I was tooling along, did my introduction, told a little about me, my bio, etc., my personal irregularities with a bit of humor, and began what I call the meat of the meal.  I'm scanning the audience as I was speaking, looking from one side to the other, saw J. A. Jance standing, waiting in line to do her presentation, when I see the host of the event sitting on the first row of bleachers (the event was in a college gym), and he was doing the slice the throat, time's up, cut, kind of gesture.

What?  I knew I couldn't be more than 10 minutes into the thing ... what the hell was he doing?   Then he spoke up, interruped me.

"Uh, Rebecca, I'm sorry, but Ms. Jance is here early and she needs to get on with her segment because she has to leave."

Now.  Tell me.  Could you summate at that point when you hadn't even gone into what you are covering in the summation?   Hell no!   But I did.  Fast-forwarded and did the blasted summation and hurried off the stage.  The talk made no sense at all.

AND ... to add injury to insult ... a man, who had been sitting on the front row near the door, met me half way to my seat and handed me a summons to court in front of all those people.   YES!!!!   I KID YOU NOT!  An old debt from ten years back, a medical debt.

So, even today, the thought of public speaking gives me palpatations, hives, blotches, and diahreahea.  Not a pretty picture.

But, here I am ... still jumping in over my head.  Guess I'll never learn.

Join me if you dare ... http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rebecca-buckley ... on Thursdays and Sundays at 6 p.m.

Or just call in:   (347) 945-7175

Friday, August 20, 2010

QUEEN ELIZABETH THE FIRST

So, I have had an obsession with Queen Elizabeth the First, since I don't know when.  To begin with we share the same Virgo birthday. Secondly I have most of the books written about her and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as all the films made depicting them. To me both are the epitome of a misunderstood, caring, strong-willed woman. Both raised the bar on female intelligence during their time and as far as I'm concerned ... up to the present, barring none.

But it's Elizabeth that astounds and captivates me more.  For a long time during my youth, I felt I was Elizabeth incarnated. I don't know where that came from, call it idiotic wishing if you want, but I can't explain the feeling, it just appeared one day and has been in my mind ever since.  Call it my own childish desire, dreaming, or what have you. Nevertheless, it weighs on my mind. 

All my adult life I've been drawn to England and all it purports to be.  I've studied it, have traveled it, married an Englishman at one point, lived there, have written about it, have intentions of living there again one day - in Cornwall.  In fact all my novels are partially set in England, mostly in Cornwall.  Love British authors, British films, British mini-series. I'm sure my family and friends tire of hearing about it.

But what I've come to believe over the years is that I was there in a past life, maybe more than one, and most likely during the reign of Elizabeth I, which was 1558-1603.  My imagination runs wild at times as I wonder who I could have been.  Was I Elizabeth? (If I'm going to pick and choose, may as well shoot for the moon!)  Was I a lady of the court?  Was I a servant? Was I a man? A cook? A teacher?  Was I a paramour?  Well!  Now that's a fun thought, a paramour?

Regardless of who I was, reaching back to that time in my dreams, thoughts, study, and writing brings me closer to the revelation.  And in all of this, my urge to write the story has begun. 

Yes, I'm writing a half-and-half story, present day and Elizabethan.  Now how exciting is that?  

Friday, August 13, 2010

The N-word and Other Offensive Words

Should we as writers censor our words?  Or do we have a responsibility to our reading public to stay true to our characters? 

In my opinion, I believe it is up to the writer and depends upon his own preferences. 

As for me ... I would never use the N-word in one of my books; haven't and won't.  The word isn't even in my vocabulary or my thoughts. It's offensive to me and offensive to some of my friends. But then I don't write the novels that contain the character who would use the word in his dialog.  If you are writing a crime novel with drug dealers and murderers, or some red-neck SOB and the lot, a southern slave-period tale ... then most likely you will be writing someone who is ignorant and foul enough to use the word.  So in that case, for authenticity, it'll be in your writing and rightly so. 

Now I have written the F word and damn words, and most all the other vile words that low-level crass and evil people use (high-level, too, are just as offensive). But I use them only to show the type of character I'm writing.  If a guy is beating the hell out of his wife or girlfriend, he certainly isn't saying nice things to her.  He's calling her all types of names and using the worst of the worst words, as in real life.

I guess it's because I believe in writing real life that I will allow the character to be true to who he is and say the things I know he would say.

So, again, I feel it's up to the writer, and what he's trying to convey about the scene and the characters in the scene.  I mean there's nothing worse than reading a murder mystery with no offensive language in today's time.  It just doesn't ring true.  You're saying who would even attempt writing such unreal characters?  Well, believe it or not, one such manuscript came across my desk and the writer explained that her beliefs kept her from writing vile words or bloody scenes.  This was a cop novel. I suggested she change her genre.  It wasn't working.

And again, no matter what, I would never use the N-word.  I can't think of any other word I would never use.  Only that one, and maybe other slang insults against a race.  And I will avoid and step away from any person who uses it within my hearing distance.  Just not acceptable. This includes joke tellers.

But ... if a writer has a valid reason to use the offensive words in a character's dialog, well ... just as it's used in songs ... we must take it as it's meant to be taken and if we're to dislike someone, dislike the character rather than the writer. 

Just my take on it ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chapter One of MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW

MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW


Chapter One
Rachel O’Neill swiped the tears from her eyes in protest and blinked back the next wave that threatened to follow. She couldn’t understand why the crying jags kept coming. It had been nearly a year since Pete had been killed. This was ridiculous. She should be able to deal with it by now. The proverbial ‘should vs. would vs. will’. Okay, she would—WILL deal with it.

She grabbed the wad of paper towel she’d used to wipe her mouth after devouring her toast, opened it and blew her nose. She had to stop letting her emotions take over like this.

“That’s it! No more crying! I’m done with it!” She scrunched up the towel again and threw it at the table. It bounced off and landed on the grass. For a moment she stared down at it lying in its spiked green nest. A sigh escaped her lips before she bent over and picked up the towel, placing it on the table.

She drew in a deep breath and inhaled the cool, crisp June morning air that smelled of the sea and flora surrounding her, then leaned back in her garden chair and gazed out across Mount’s Bay towards Saint Michael’s Mount.

Saint Michael’s, sitting majestically atop a rocky mound off the coast of Marazion, was once a Benedictine monastery granted to the famous Mont St. Michel in France. But in all its treasures of its past life, and since the Seventeenth Century, the medieval castle belonged to the St. Aubyn family of Cornwall.

Her thoughts shifted to her friend Margaret St. Aubyn, one of the descendents, who had recently married a Spanish nobleman and who still owned and managed the Godolphin Arms in Marazion where Rachel had first met her. From the Godolphin restaurant the view of Saint Michael’s was perfect across the causeway.

As it turned out Margaret and Rachel shared a belief in reincarnation; they both felt strongly that they were connected in a past life. They both felt they were part of a group traveling together from one lifetime to another, Pete included. When they first met, a strong familiarity existed between them. Rachel had felt the same familiarity with Pete who had also been a believer of the past life theory.

Since she moved to Cornwall, Rachel had spent many hours traveling and visiting the towns and villages in the south of England, from the west to the east coast, meeting the people with whom she felt a previous connection. She truly believed she had lived in Cornwall in the Seventeenth Century. Even her dreams hinted at it, as well as investigations confirming it.

Sounds of a distant car horn broke her train of thought.

She stood and moved to a nearby stone wall where she kept several of her favorite potted plants and lifted a small pot of hyacinths to her nose. A decorative pot she’d forgotten to place on the white wrought-iron table that morning as she had her morning coffee and slices of toast. She was all about setting the scene as beautiful as possible, whether she was alone or had guests.

The sweet aroma of the hyacinths soothed her as usual. Smelling flowers always made her feel better. Lifted her spirits.

When Rachel first traveled to England, she immediately fell in love with the abundant gardens. So she worked diligently to create her own blossom-filled space in her own little corner of England.

Her garden was picturesque with the milky-white magnolia blossoms on the tree branches above her, emerald grass and multi-colored flower beds stretching to the edge of the bluff … the blues of the sea and sky beyond … the fishing boats bobbing in Newlyn Harbor below … her own picture-perfect world. She liked it that way.

Rachel loved Newlyn. It was a charming town at the southwestern tip of Britain claiming to have the largest fishing port in England, where winters are wild and raging, summers are mildly engaging - she’d written the rhyming description of Cornwall in one of her feeble attempts at writing poetry.

She wondered if Birch had ever painted Newlyn Harbor. He must have, he’d painted thousands of pictures of Cornwall. She knew he had been in Newlyn early on in his career when Newlyn was known as an artist colony. His painting of Mount St. Michaels was hanging in her dining room. It had been a priceless find one day as she rummaged through a quasi antique shop that was mostly filled with cast-offs nobody wanted. A view of the Mount from a hill in Marazion. She’d found the exact spot from where he must’ve sketched the scene. She loved his use of muted shades of golds, browns, blues, and greens and often thought if she were a painter she would capture all of Cornwall’s glory on canvas just as he had. Samuel John Lamorna Birch. He’d taken on the name of Lamorna, the village where he lived when he returned to Cornwall after a year of study in Paris. The assumed name was to set himself apart from another painter called Birch. She could understand why he would return to England to live out his life.

It had been seven years when Rachel had first seen Cornwall’s seacoast with her good friend, Ethan Philips. During the Christmas holidays. Several years before his tragic death.

Two deaths in three years.

Dammit! Here it comes again!

She muffled the thoughts in her head by singing at the top of her lungs, “Oh what a beautiful morning … oh what a beautiful day … I’ve got a beautiful feeling … everything’s going my way.”

It worked. She hoped no one had heard her outburst. But it definitely worked this time.

She poured another cup of coffee from the Cafetiere that sat on the table, hoping the coffee would still be warm. While sipping she let memories of that first trip to Cornwall slip back into her conscious mind. The good memories.

She and Ethan had arrived during one of the most violent storms that had hit the region in five years. It pounded the Penzance coastline the entire week before Christmas and continued on through New Year’s Day.

Rachel loved the romance and drama of stormy weather - the high seas, the waves crashing over the granite boulders and pebble-strewn beach up onto the coastal road. Philip hated it. He wanted to go back to London and spend the holidays with his sister and mother.

But Rachel couldn’t pull herself away from the Cornwall coast, she was drawn to it. It felt good. So she remained at the Queen Hotel in Penzance and he returned to London. It had been one of the best Christmas Eve’s as well as New Year’s Eves she’d spent up to that point in her life. Both with the locals at the Ship Inn pub in the tiny village of Mousehole.

Now seven years later she was living just two miles from Mousehole and one mile from Penzance – in between the two towns, in Newlyn. Her dreams had come true, literally. This was where she belonged. She knew it the moment she first arrived seven years ago with Ethan.

Her reverie was momentarily interrupted by sounds of lines beating and clanging against the pleasure boat masts below in Newlyn Harbor. The winds were picking up. Sounds of squawking seagulls as they pillaged for food filled the atmosphere, mingling with the returning memories of that first visit and of Ethan. She didn’t know why she was thinking of him so much lately, but at that moment she could still see his face as he lay in the hospital morgue.

Dammit!

She lifted the bottom edge of her chambray shirt and wiped emerging tears from her eyes.

Stop it now!

Every once in a while voices and laughter would waft up the steep slope to Rachel’s ears, interrupting her daydreams, distracting her. Right now she was grateful for the intrusion.

The voices steered her imagination to visions of the Mayflower pulling into the harbor for fresh water as it had centuries before.

This was how her mind worked … jumping from one topic to another, from one imagination to another. She’d given up trying to tame her fleeting thoughts, it wasn’t conceivable or even plausible.

Again she poured coffee in her cup as she thought about the historic Mayflower when it had anchored in Newlyn to take on water because the supply in Plymouth was contaminated. She’d read that the journey from Plymouth, England to Plymouth in Cape Cod Bay on the eastern coast of North America took two months.

She visualized Captain John Smith and John Alden—of the Priscilla Mullins and Miles Standish love triangle. Alden had been a member of the crew on the Mayflower, a barrel-maker. Priscilla was seventeen years old when she boarded the ship. Being the military advisor of the new colony in Plymouth, it was said that Miles Standish’s unrequited love for Priscilla never came to fruition. According to Longfellow’s famous poem, whether it was true or not, it was Standish who convinced Alden to propose to Priscilla for him, only to have Priscilla tell Alden to speak up for himself. As it turned out, John and Priscilla were the third couple to be married in Plymouth and they had ten children.

In Rachel’s imagination she saw the story and history unfold that had begun right there in the bay below. She saw the men, women, and children on the ship. She saw John Alden and all the eager, hopeful faces starring up at the hills and cliffs of the bay around them, not realizing the dangers ahead on the long and grueling journey they were about to take. They lost two lives at sea and more than half of the remaining settlers that first year while anchored in Cape Cod.

Sighing once again, she set her Lady Carlisle china cup in the saucer and stood up, stretching her arms, reaching for the sky. Then she bent over and touched her toes. She put her hands on her hips and turned from side to side to the count of twenty. One of the hardest things for her was to take time away from writing to do exercises. She loved gardening and walking, but that wasn’t enough to keep her in shape after spending such long hours, thinking and writing. Her thought processes were as much a part of her writing as the actual physical act of putting pen to page. Her imaginings played a big part in the concepts.

She walked to the edge of the cliff and did more stretching and bending.

Because it was a clear day, she could see all the way to the horizon where the sea and the sky merged into one, and she could see the silhouette of a passing ocean liner. She wondered about the stories of the people on the ship, where they were going, who they were.

Might be a good story there.

Her cell phone rang and she hurried back to the table.

“Hello?” She sat in the garden chair.

“Rachel, it’s me, Maxim!”

“Oh my goodness, how are you? What are you doing?”

“I’m calling you, of course.”

Rachel took a deep breath. “So, are you in Brussels or Moscow?”

“I’m in London on business and I thought I might come down to see you afterwards, if you don’t mind? Do you?”

“When?” She stood up and began pacing, running her hand through her hair, panicking.

“I can be there tomorrow, if that is all right with you.”

“Oh. Sure. That’ll be all right.”

“Good! Then I will call you early in the morning to let you know when I will arrive by train.”

“Okay.” This was catching her off guard.

“I’ll call you in the morning then. Bye.”

She couldn’t believe that Maxim Balanchine was coming to Cornwall. They’d met the previous New Year’s Eve in Brussels; Maxim a widower, Rachel in the throes of her own grief. She’d spent the holidays in Brussels with her friends, Mandy and Richard Miller.

She couldn’t believe Maxim was coming to visit.

Oh God! I need to make a list.

She went to the table and picked up her pen and notebook. Quickly she sat and jotted down what she needed from the market and what she needed to do in preparation for his arrival. As soon as the grocery opened that morning, she’d go.

That done she leaned back and closed her eyes, trying to calm herself and relax. Visualizing a color with her eyes closed was a good trick. She’d think of a color until all she saw behind her eyelids was that color, bright and sparkly. The concentration would eradicate all thoughts. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

It wasn’t working.

Sighing, she shielded the ocean’s glare from her eyes as she looked out at the panoramic view of the sea stretching from Mousehole to the right and Saint Micheal’s Mount to the left.

A school of sailing boats were hugging the shore, making their way to the east side of Mount’s Bay, past Penzance towards the Mount.

Again she stood up, this time heading towards her cottage. She stopped and pinched off a few stalks of tiny, pink rose buds from a climbing vine, inhaling the handful of fragrance as she passed through the open French doors that led into the master bedroom of her small, cozy cottage.

It had been four years since Pete had discovered the cottage and told Rachel about it in an email while she was in Montana.

Four years.

She plopped down onto her pink satin bedspread, lying face down, crossways, her nose breathing the bunch of roses. Her bedroom walls were covered with wallpaper of pink and pale yellow rosebuds, chintz draperies to match, lacy curtains covering the window panes. Her room was clad in pink and crème hues. Pete had called it Rachel’s cotton candy world.

Yes, four years since her dear mother had died. Four years since Rachel had gone to the Blackfoot Indian reservation for the service honoring her mother and the contributions she’d made to her native Indian nation.

Rachel was half Blackfoot and half Irish, her father being the O’Neill side of the family which explained her auburn hair. Her olive skin inherited from her mother.

Both of them dead.

Okay, you win!

She yanked the locks of her mind and the thoughts flowed over the dam. There they were, all the loved ones she’d lost in the past eight years: first her father, then her mother, Ethan, and her adorable fiancé Pete Bell. The love of her life. Her soulmate.

Since Pete died, she had the same recurring nightmare of dead bodies piled up in a heap. In the nightmare she would tug and pull at each of them, trying to separate them for proper burial, to no avail.

The nightmare began the night she’d received the news that Pete had been shot and killed in Brazil by poachers. He had been there on assignment to collect plant life for the Eden Project, his dream. He and Rachel were to be married that Christmas in Paris, her dream.

Now it was almost a year after his tragic murder and all the deaths seemed to be tied together; one sparked by the memory of the other, layer upon layer of heart hurt. Dead bodies on a heap.

She squeezed her head with both hands, trying to rid herself of the visuals and emotion, trying to remove it once and for all.

She jumped from the bed and hurried into the dressing room to splash cold water on her face. She stared into the mirror. Who was this haggard, red-eyed, red-nosed, sad-looking creature standing before her? Whatever happened to the happy-go-lucky Rachel, the one who could suppress her feelings, always showing a bright smile and a happy face, no matter what? That had always been her claim to fame. Where was she? She was looking old.

That had to be it. Her age. She was approaching 50.

Maybe her problem was the proverbial change of life, the chemical changes that were going on in her body.

Oh gawd! Get over it, will you?

She wiped her eyes and nose with her shirt tail, grabbed the bunch of roses on the bed, and went into the kitchen to get a vase.

The kitchen wall- phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi. What are you doing?” Belinda Newland asked.

“Taking a break from writing, putting some roses in a vase. How about you?” She sniffed and blotted her nose on her sleeve.

“Are you crying?”

“No, I just had a sneeze attack.”

“Well, I was thinking maybe you’d like to go to an early lunch with us in Penzance? Mama’s visiting, she’s at home with the boys, so we thought we’d take advantage and go into town for some R & R. What do you think?” Belinda grinned at her husband, Paul, who was standing on the bottom stair of their workshop galleries in Mousehole, his gallery upstairs, hers downstairs.

Cradling the phone against her shoulder, Rachel ran water into the vase. “Sure. Sounds good to me. When are you going?”

“We’ll pick you up at half past eleven.”

“Okay, works for me.” Rachel looked at her watch. “I’ll be ready.”

She put the roses in the vase and set them on the country French kitchen table. Resting her hands on the back of a chair, she remembered when she and Pete had found the white-washed table at an antique shop in St. Ives, along with a wall mirror with the same fanciful carvings. Pete had hung it on the wall next to one of the heavy pine ceiling-to-floor bookcases that he had built for her.

Rachel turned and darted to her bedroom.

She changed into a clean pair of faded blue jeans, black sandals and a black T-shirt. Decided that the chambray shirt she had been wearing and had used as a handkerchief all morning just wouldn’t do. She tossed it into the wicker hamper.

After splashing more cool water on her face, she brushed her reddish-brown hair straight back from her face.

I can’t believe Maxim is coming.

She searched through her drawer of scrunchies, grabbed a black and blue plaid one and fastened the pony tail at the nape of her neck.

Maxim is coming tomorrow?

For the final touch she added a touch of orange frost lipstick. It never took her long to get dressed and put on her minimalist makeup.

She went back out to the garden, cleared the table, and grabbed the shopping list she’d made. After plopping the Cafetiere and the dishes into the sink to soak, she headed for her car in the small detached garage near the lane. She drove the walkable distance to the Newlyn market to stock up on the provisions she figured she’d need for the weekend, and then returned to the cottage—total trip thirty minutes.

While she was waiting for her best friends, she straightened the living room, returned books to bookshelves, restacked magazines, and fluffed the pillow cushions on the floral chairs and sofas.

She’d just finished vacuuming when she heard a car coming up the lane, so she grabbed her bag and out the door she flew. She was exhausted. It had been a grueling morning.

What Difference Does it Make?

What difference does it make whether you are a Catholic, a Mormon, a Baptist, a Christian Scientist, a Nazarine, a Presbyterian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or whatever?   What difference does it make to anyone but you?  It doesn't matter to me what organized religion you practice. And it doesn't matter to most others, either.  So what are these advertisements all about on the social networks:   "I am a ......." .  Oh, really!

I feel what happens is when one begins pushing one's beliefs on others, then that's when the trouble starts. When they start getting in your face when you're not the least bit interested, that's a problem.  Do you care if someone is any of the above?  

A problem that I see about organized religion is that the rules are man-made rules and are usually published in a book of some sort for that specific religion, and of course the words are inspired. Of course. But your rules might not be right for someone else, in another culture, another people, another time and place. 

I have my beliefs, was raised a Christian, later became more of a spiritual person, believing that "God" or the "Higher Power" is within me, is me, that I am in charge of my destiny.  However, I enjoy the atmosphere in a Catholic church probably more than any other, get goosebumps when I'm there.  But I was taught in the Baptist church to believe the Catholics were heathen.  Now that's a laugh, isn't it?  Now I know how ignorant that was.  I've learned for myself about the various religions.  I mean at one time or another the churches are in the news for this or that scandal. Not the religion, the human factor. 

All religions are unique unto themselves, set up for the people who believe in them, but none are the one true faith above all others.  But they still have their special places in lives.  A belief in a higher power is better than none.

Now I don't go around pushing my beliefs on anyone else, trying to win them over. It's for me alone to put into practice in my life what I believe.   And that's what I do.

So what does this have to do with anything? 

Just let me say ... the same goes for politics.  One party and one candidate is just as good or bad as the other in our politics.   What good does it do to argue politics with others?   You can read and you can vote, can't you?  That's all you need to be able to do.  But I do understand the process of winning others over to your political views, I do.  It's part of our political agenda, that's how political parties win, so there's no argument there. Politics is a game, unlike religion.  A game, actually, more than anything else. A win or lose proposition.  Strategy as in a chess game or any other game. That's politics.  I don't go there at all.

So what about sexual preference?  Is your choice of sexual preference anybody's business?  Hell no!  It isn't!  And it should not even be brought up in a discussion about you, or be considered as a part of your CV.  Sexual preference is a biological trait, a right, has nothing to do with anything else, not with religion, not with politics. 

So ... your religion, your politics, nor your sexual preference are your nomenclature, are not to be listed next to your name in introduction, discussion, or by association.  They may help to define who you are, but are not designates.  And it's only your business, your choices.

It goes without saying that race and gender are also included in this anti-prejudice semi-rant of mine.

That's all I have to say today ... was provoked ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Holidays in Cape May & a Cook Book

One of the most charming Thanksgivings I ever had was in Philadelphia at Judy's home, followed by the weekend in Cape May at Susan's ... a beautiful Victorian B&B in one quaint seashore village I'll never forget.  Just take a look at the incredible B&B offerings in Cape May, New Jersey ... have you ever seen so many in one locale?  I mean they're all over the neighborhood bidding you to come in.  Here's a link to some of them:  http://www.capemay.com/capemaybedandbreakfasts.html

After our delicious and grandiose Thanksgiving dinner in Philly, and Judy's APPLE PANCAKES the next day and also famous Philly cheese steaks that night, we all drove to Mainstay Inn in Cape May on Saturday.  Here's a link to the Mainstay Inn. http://www.mainstayinn.com/   (Judy gave me the recipe to the yummy Apple Pancakes.)

Now I won't even try to delve into describing the elegant old-world decor of the Mainstay Inn, you can see some of it on the website, but you can bet I loved it as most of you know how much I love all that stuff, and I would go back there in a split second, I would, and I may.  A great place for the holidays. 

And since it was during the holidays the entire town was bedecked in yuletide glory, even a huge Christmas tree in the parlor of the Mainstay with all its Victorian ornaments and lights greeting us. While shopping in the village at one of the unique shops, I found an oversize glass ornament to give to my hosts as a thank you for their gracious hospitality.   Yes, there are tons of shops and boutiques there, too, some terrific restaurants, and even a community theatre.  On Saturday night we dined at the best Italian dinner house and went to the cozy theatre to see a Christmas play.  What a delightful evening!

Now one of the reasons I'm mentioning all this is there is a cook book on the market of favorite recipes from Cape May's Mainstay Inn. And since I'm all about books, I want to tell you about it. It's called "Breakfast at Nine, Tea at Four".  ISBN 978-1-8965110-8-5 .  Our hosts David and Susan McCrae gave me the book that was compiled and written by Sue Carroll, published by Callawind Publications, Inc, Montreal, Canada. http://www.callawind.com/

But first let me say that Cape May is known for its hundreds of restored Victorian houses that are National Historic Landmark designated, the Mainstay being one of them. The Mainstay was built in 1872. First it was a gentlemen's club, catered to gamblers and to gentlemen who wanted to smoke, drink and talk politics. For men only.  Next it was a summer residence of a wealthy Philladelphia family and went through a few more transistions before in 1976 it became the home of Tom and Sue Carroll - our cookbook author - and they converted it into an Inn, completely restoring it to its Victorian hay day.  Now the Inn belongs to Floridians David and Susan McCrae, my grandson Sam's aunt and uncle.

Okay ... the cook book ...

Now just take a look at this list of fruit dishes, you aren't going to believe this ...

Broiled Grapefruit
Hot Fruit Compote
Spiced Fruit Compote
Hot Cranberry-Apple Compote
Baked Bananas
Baked Pineapple
Banana-Pineapple Crisp
Speedy Cranberry Pears
Poached Apples
Poached Pears with Brandied Cranberries
Ginger-Glazed Fruit
Tropical Fruit with Mango Sauce
Frozen Fruit Cup
Fruit Kabobs
Fruit Pizza
Dreamsicle Oranges
Creamy Pineapple
Heavenly Bananas
Banana-Blueberry Delight
Minted Melon
St. Paddy's Day Fruit Medley
Peach and Vanilla Yogurt Parfait

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!! These are but a few of Sue's favorite recipes that she would serve intermittenly over the years at the Inn.  Of course the above fruit list in its entirety is not on the menu every day, heavens no. That would be impossible.  But you will find some of them available when you're there.  And of course, the book is available with all the recipes.  Incredible recipes. 

There are also sections on:

SPECIALTIES OF THE HOUSE
BREADS, BISCUITS & MUFFINS
COFFEE CAKES
SANDWICHES, SAVORIES, & SPREADS
DROP COOKIES & BAR COOKIES
SQUARES & CUPCAKES
SEASONAL & HOLIDAY MENUS
TIPS FOR COOKING & ENTERTAINMENT

This cookbook is putting me in the mood for the holidays, although I've been in the mood for a week or so now. In fact in preparing for the placement of my tall Christmas Tree, I moved furniture yesterday to accommodate it easily when the time comes. 

And I pulled out cookbooks, including this one, to select recipes I'm going to use for my Christmas guests from England while they're here that week.  The EASY MINIATURE CORN MUFFINS are definitely a must:  eggs, vegetable oil, can creamed corn, sour cream, flour, bacon bits, minced dried onion, grated cheddar cheese .... Yum Yum ... very unhealthy, but tasty.  And I already have the miniature muffin pan, so bring 'em on.   The muffins will be perfect to go along with my Christmas Eve Supper.   I love to do either a fish stew or beef stew on Christmas Eve with my own Christmas Salad.  Simple supper.

So you see, I'm already in the spirit, and fond memories of that holiday in Philly and Cape May a few years back have put me in the mood even more.

AND YES!  I'm writing a cookbook, too.  Yes, I am.   Quik Cook  is the working title, putting in all my own recipes and variances on my favorites. 

Have you or are you writing a cook book?  Have you published a cook book?  Who are some cook book publishers?  I've named one above for you ... it's in Canada and New York

Friday, August 6, 2010

Karaoke in Miami?

KARAOKE IN MIAMI! We’re not talkin’ Miami, Florida, folks. We’re talkin’ the other Miami.  The one in Arizona.

Now I know this post isn't about a book ... but this little town of Miami is in my novel MIDNIGHT IN BRUSSELS. So, you see, I was there doing research when I learned all this stuff. 

Located nearly 60 miles east of Phoenix is the copper mining town of Miami, established in the middle to late 1800s. Population 2000, Miami is situated in the Tonto National Forest between the town of Superior and the county seat, Globe. The area is generally referred to as Globe-Miami.

(By the way, Joe Castro, the jazz pianist and the actor Jack Elam were born in this remote Miami no where near the ocean.)

The downtown area consists mostly of boarded up buildings, shacks, and dozens of antique stores. Although a collector’s paradise, Miami is not a culinary haven. In the four-block-square original downtown area, you’ll find an art gallery coffee shop on Sullivan Street, and an outdoor bar crammed between two antique shops on Miami Avenue. Your dining choices are on the two-lane highway (I-60), either Judy’s Cook House nearer Globe, or the Mexican restaurants between Miami and Globe, and a couple of cafes in Globe.

But take heart! There is KARAOKE at the Shamrock Bar & Lounge in Miami - Thu/Fri/Sat. To make it to the Nashville Star annual competition is the dream of most Miami’s karaoke hopefuls. Others warble for fun, others just enjoy.

I love to find fun places to go.  Miami is now on my list.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

STEP ONE: PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK

Hiring a publicist or a publicity agent depends on your wallet, of course.  Your options are to hire one for a certain length of time or per project. John Kremer (1001 Ways to Market Your Book) who also teaches at IBPA Unniversity - excellent workshops, by the way - has an A to Z Listing of Book Publicists on his website ... http://www.bookmarket.com/101pr.htm , making it easier for you to find a publicist. 

However, if your wallet is empty, you can still benefit from publicity you can create. It's imperative you contribute to making yourself and your book known to the public, for no matter how clever and or how good your book is, if you don't make a personal effort to spread the word, too, the book sales will be scant.  And if the book doesn't sell or the numbers are low, the next time you write one and seek a publisher ... well ... one of the first things an editor/publisher does is check out your Internet presence and check the numbers on sales of your previous books through distributors.  Need I say more?  

So, FIRST, after you create your website and join Facebook and Twitter, create a MEDIA KIT to add to your website.   The Media Kit page will have links to:

1. press releases
2. high resolution (dpi) author photos - color and black & white
3. your bio
4. samples of your writing
5. Q & A list for author
6. list of author's articles
7. appearance schedule 

SECOND create your own Media List - newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, etc (be creative).  This will begin with media contacts in your town, then your county, then into further regions.   Other towns you've lived in.  Friends and relatives' towns.  Again, be creative.  And remember this is part of an all out effort to build your base.   Subcribe to Internet media list sources ... they are more up to date than books that have been published with sources.   Be sure you have the contact person's company name, his name and title, address, email address, and phone number. 

THIRD send out a press release to those on your list.  A PRESS RELEASE should be informative, but at the same time attention grabbing enough to get a response.  This may be your only contact with that person, however it would be in your best interest to follow up with a phone call a couple days after you send the PR.

Format for a press release:

1. one page
2. no letterhead or graphics
3. upper left corner write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4. first line, upper right FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT under which you will give your name, phone number, email address.  All upper right.
5. start the body of the release with a catchy headline ... just like the first line of your book it's designed to make the reader keep reading.   If the headline doesn't grab your readers attention, he won't keep reading.

In Frishman & Spizman's AUTHOR 101 Bestselling book Publicity they suggest grabbing the media's attention by linking your headlines to: MONEY, SEX, HEALTH, CONTROVERSY.   The four subjects that are guaranteed to grab a reporter's interest.  Right? 

They also agree that you write your release in 3 parts:

1. introduce your book
2. give your credentials
3. make your request

Okay ... so that's the beginning of starting your own publicity campaign. 


To reiterate:
Create your author's website
Join Facebook and Twitter
Create a Media Kit page on your website
Create a Media List
Send out Press Releases

  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

STIEG LARSSON

Those of you who are included as one of my "friends" on Facebook or a "follower" on Twitter know how much I am captivated by the writing of Stieg Larsson.  The characters this man has written just leap off the pages as you become more and more engrossed and drawn into the story and plot of each novel in his Millennium Trilogy. 

1.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2.  The Girl Who Played with Fire
3.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

From the get-go Larsson's female protagonist Lisbeth Salander is mesmerizing in a most unusual sense.  She isn't like any other protagonist you'll find in thrillers and murder mysteries.  She is beyond unique as you'll discover when you read the novels.  And I do recommend you read them as soon as you can get your hands on them.  They're in ebook form, too.  Paperback, hardcover, and ebook.  Your choice.  They've been heading up all the best-selling lists for weeks now. 

The sad part of it all is that Mr. Larsson died before the novels were published.  He had a heart attack at age 50. When you read his history and his books you'll understand why some say his death wasn't a natural one ... that it was foul play.  But his long-time live-in lover, in interviews (you can see them on U-tube), says his death was by heart attack.  But she does say that for the last two years before he died he'd had numerous death threats, and they lived in constant fear.

Again ... these books are well-worth reading.  It is writing as it should be.  We all can learn from writers of his caliber. 

Jack Whyte comes to mind when I talk about the high caliber writers ... he's another great one!   His 9 novels in The Arthurian Saga as well as The Templars Trilogy are superb!    I'll devote a later post entirely to him ... such a wonderful writer! 

And now I'm reading David Morrell ... his SCAVENGER is incredible, a cleverly-written thriller that is a must read, too.  He's written over 30 books and is still going strong at it; is also the co-founder of the International Thriller Writers Association, or better known as ThrillerFest. 

All three of these men show prime examples of outstanding writing technique and unique voices.  They're all best-selling authors and we can certainly follow their lead by taking heed.

Mustn't forget KEN FOLLETT!  Hell no!   More on him later, too.

But next, I'm going to talk about some of my favorite FEMALE writers ... so watch for that post soon ...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NEED A SHOT IN THE ARM! OR ....

What is this listlessness and wasting of time I'm experiencing the past couple days?   It isn't like me.  I'm usually writing or editing, designing bookcovers, Internet marketing, updating web sites or reading fabulous books from my library.  Am I on burn-out?   Should I just shut down and let it run its course?  But I feel so guilty doing nothing.

The dictionary's definition of listlessness is "Lacking energy or disinclined to exert effort; lethargic."  Miriam Webster sez "Lethargic" is sluggish.  Is also termed as fatigue.   Maybe it's mental fatigue.  That I could believe. 

But I don't know what is exactly occurring with me ... I'm wandering around the house and garden with no purpose, doing a little here and a little there, accomplishing nothing of any consequence. 

Am I bored?  I'm not depressed, I do know that.  No depression, no emotions on my sleeve, no doldrums, no tears. 

I really don't think I'm bored.  I've plenty to occupy myself and my mind, have all my stuff around me ... cats to love, books to read, computer to use, TV and music, piano to play, karaoke machine to test the lack of my singing ability, car to drive wherever I want ... so what the hell?  What is the problem? 

Any suggestions?

Friday, July 9, 2010

WHO NEEDS FAMILY AND FRIENDS?

A question to ponder.  Who needs family and friends?   

I recall as I was going through the elementary grades and then the secondary school years that family was important.  Not only immediate family, but the extended family.  Friends were important, too.  Close friends as well as those not so close - acquaintances.  Family and friends helped form my attitudes and dreams, actually.  Whether they realize it or not, my sisters helped influence the path I took, for one reason or another.  It's all their fault.  ha ha

Seriously though, my father was very influential in my life, eventhough we went at it over "boys" and dating.  But aside from that, I heard what he said, I watched his way of interfacing with friends and family, his perception of the world around him, with his fellow workers and bosses, his church.  He had a gentle way of dealing with people ... except during my desire to date when I was a teenager ... that totally drew him into a different realm of action.  Took him outside himself.  But as I made it past the teen years and into the young adult years, marriage and children - whichever came first - and all that followed, including and regardless of heartbreak and tragedies, in later years he eventually became my confidant, the one I went to for advice. 

My mother was fun, daddy was more serious.  Mother was artistic and talented, moreso than we ever knew.  Mother was of the old school, stayed in Daddy's shadow mostly.  But once in a while she'd step out of it and would let everyone know just what was what.   I smile when I think of those times.  She was a pistol! I see why daddy was attracted to her at the beginning.  I bet all 98 lbs of her was like holding a lit stick of dynamite during their young years.  But as she began having children and dealt with the stress of married life, her health deteriorated. Mother was easy to talk to.  She was never judgemental, but she was forthright and had an opinion about everything. And she was usually right after all was said and done.  She had an uncanny sense of any situation, even in her last years. 

I didn't start appreciating my parents till later in my life.   And it almost came too late.   Thank God, I realized how important they were to me when I did and was able to convey that to them.   Of course it was easier to focus on them then because my children were grown and my husbands were gone.  When we are raising our own families and have spouses we tend to forget about our parents and their needs, or ignore them, becoming caught up in our own situations. 

What has provoked these thoughts in me today is the uncanny closeness between my sister Martha and her married children.  They all have an unbelievable connection to one another.  Right on down to the grandchildren.  Martha had six children with Len, her husband.   He now has Parkinson's and Martha is under threat of more mini-strokes, she's had two.  They are both in their 60s.  But the connection with their offspring isn't because of their health issues, it has been there since day one. 

Martha and Len have always put their children first.  I remember thinking that they did too much for their kids.  Used to say to Martha that she should let them fend for themselves after they left the nest.  Martha would agree and then just turn around and do more for them.  That's the way it always was.  Now her kids have their own children.  Now the kids are doing for Martha and Len.  And it goes beyond that, the closeness between them is incredible.  The good feelings they have for one another.  I see it almost every day on Facebook ... yes, they communicate on Facebook.  And the fun they have with each other on Facebook, is unprecedented.  Their family interaction could easily be a popular reality show.  ha ha

There is ML, oldest daughter in her 40s, an absolutely beautiful housewife, I mean movie star beautiful - who suffered a head injury when a garbage truck didn't see her and dropped it's mechanical arms on her head, she's tiny, was next to the trash barrel.  Caused her to lose some of her ability to process, has memory loss, gets confused, has headaches.  But she has raised four beautiful children in spite of it.  Her husband C is a contractor.

There is A, in his 40s, a sweetheart of a guy, didn't progress past the age of 10, although has savant talents and is able to drive.  He's on medication to curb a violent streak and lives at home with Martha and Len. 

There is G, in her 40s, married to a contractor/musician.  Another beauty of great proportions, and a chip off her mother's block.  She and R have three children ... built their own lakeshore home and have a good life near the Pacific.  G. runs her hubby's construction office.  (I can imagine the men's reaction to the voluptuous, blond, blue-eyed G. when they enter the office the first time.) 

There is J, in his 40s, married to D, with two boys.  J has been active in the military and in private security service to his country his entire adult life.  And although he's in secret forces, he finds time to love his wife and children to the hilt. 

Then there is P, in his 40s, married to lovely M, have three children.  He's in medical real estate in Texas.  Another happy family.

Last is L, the youngest of the tribe. Is a cross between ML and G.  She is single after having a horrible abusive marriage, has two children, is a banker and lives with Martha and Len. 

Sooooooooooooo ... all kinds, all sorts.   And they're all A-1 in my book. 

And in answer to the question ... yes, we all need family! And if we're lucky enough to have close friends, all the better!

By the way, Martha and Len have been on a road trip since last month, spending a week with each of the four kids who live elsewhere.  They're having a ball!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DO AUTHOR'S NEED BOOK TRAILERS?

I'm now caught up in the book trailer phoenomonen.   Yes, I've become one of the trailer techies, although I'm still an infant in creating them.  Above you'll see my first attempt.  A rather amateur production, there's so much more to learn, but it's my first one and I'm proud.  Did it myself, by myself.  And guess what, if I can do it, you can do it.  Some people use the Windows Movie Maker that's already loaded on your system, you'll find it listed in your programs file.  But a few years ago, when I was playing with creating travel logs, I purchased a Pinnacle program - Studio 8, used by the professionals.  Hey, now it might come in handy, me thinks. 

Anyway ... what do you think?  Do you need a book trailer?  Well, why not?  It's one more method to publicize your book. If you hired a publicist that would be one of the first things that would happen - creation of a book trailer.  So take advantage without the expense of a publicist.  And heaven knows  if you're going to build a fan base (which is an all important facet of becoming a best-seller), you have to make your book known to the public far and wide.  Just pushing it in your neighborhood isn't going to do it, although that's a terrific start.   You have to find ways to expand beyond those borders of friends and family to people you don't know, who, if they heard about your book, would want to read it.  

So how do you expand those borders?  Well, one method is through a book trailer.  It can be placed on YouTube, easy to set up, and linked to Facebook and Twitter from there.  You can also put it in your Facebook profile, occasionally sending it out to your friends on Twitter and Facebook.   You can put it on your website and your blog.  You can send it out in an email blitz, in your e-newsletter.  YouTube gives you a link to copy and paste into all your other venues making the trailer easily accessible to your readers.

By now you should have accounts already created in Facebook and Twitter, and a website and a blog, so you are now ready for a book trailer.   Yes!  Another marketing tool.   It's a must. 

Next step is to go to your Windows Movie Maker and play around with it.   Like I've done.  By studying the directions, you can learn how to upload photos, create titles, and add music.   It's that simple for a first book trailer.  You can get more technical and flamboyant as you learn. And it's fun, it really is.  Time-consuming, but fun. 

Okay ... I vote YES! for a book trailer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

SHOULD THERE BE A LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF CHARACTERS IN A NOVEL?

Normally, it is recommended that you limit your main characters to a few, meaning the characters of which you delve deeply into their own stories.  And then your periferal characters that you only touch lightly without getting too much into their backstory, some are only bystanders.

I've been criticised, by only a few by the way - count on one hand, about the number of main characters I write in my novels.  Let me explain ...

1. First, I write protagonist Rachel O'Neill and whoever her significant other is at the time in all the novels. She is the central character in "Trafalgar", the first novel, but takes a second seat in some of the following novels.  But she is still a common thread and an integral part as the saga continues in the planned 12-novel series. 

2. Second, I write a second leading female/protagonist: in Trafalgar, it's Belinda; in Eiffel, it's Shellie; in Brussels, it's Amanda; in Moscow, it's Della ... and so forth.  Also included are the antagonists and love interests of these women. 

In each novel, there is an ensemble cast, so to speak, but that new cast of characters is not limited to only those in that particular novel, some of the previous characters are brought back in for whatever reason, and there is always a good reason.

So that is how I write.

NOW ...

When I read Maeve Benchey, who is among my favorite British novelists (Ken Follett, Jack Whyte, Phillipa Gregory, Catherine Cookson, Thomas Hardy, Bernard Cornwell, etc.) it is incredible to watch how she weaves a tremendous amount of characters in one novel.  It goes against all the so-called rules. But you know what?  It works. It isn't confusing. And she also brings back characters from previous books, I love that.  

Other best-selling authors veer off the "rules", too. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is ... if it works, and doesn't confuse the reader, if you can create a smooth read, no stumbling, then anything goes.  To hell with the rules.  Be innovative, be creative, be brave, be yourself.  It's your own particular style and voice that will set you apart from all the others.

I'm editing and publishing a novel at the moment, to be released in September -  NAKED IN THE TUB WITH VERA - by A. Paul Bergen. This one is exactly what I'm talking about.  He has a very special voice and style and is loaded with talent.  His philosophical education comes into play here, as well as his study of religions.  And a terrific sense of humor tops it all. You'll have to read this one for sure.

Other new authors come to mind who have a unique style and voice and will undoubtedly hit those best-seller lists one of these days. They are Vincent Zandri, E. Don Harpe, Edd Voss, David Rosenberg - the first three are on the RJBP roster. 

1.  Zandri is a terific thriller novelist, RJBP published his MOONLIGHT FALLS, and he is destined to be a well-known writer.
2.  E. Don Harpe's downhome memoir LAST OF THE SOUTH TOWN RINKY DINKS is an incredible write with rave reviews.
3.  We're releasing a collection of short stories RAMBLING by Edd Voss in December, another unique voice.  
4.  David Rosenberg writes political thrillers to be reckoned with (wish we had him on our roster).

SOOOOO ... write write write, try anything.  As long as it is easy to read, has memorable characters and a good story, is a page turner, therefore not confusing, you'll be successful!   You don't have to abide by any other rules. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

HOW DO YOU SCHEDULE YOUR WRITING DAY?

I'm arranging a daily schedule that I can follow, or hope to follow.  Do you ever find yourself doing everything else except what you'd planned to do? 

What happens to me is my mind gets cluttered with my list of things to do and then I go helter skelter, jumping from one thing to another.  Even when I make a list on paper or on the computer.  I don't just go down the list, I choose what I want to do.  I know, I know.  Priortize.  Well, that's all well and good, but doesn't work for me.  I left all that priortizing behind me in corporate America. 

So, I've made a vague schedule for myself. 

8 to 9 a.m.   P.R.
9 to 10  Web Updates
10 to 12  Edit RJBP books
1 to 4 Write

What I do after 4:00 p.m. is my choice - work or play or study (courses on writing and a TESOL course - teaching english as a second language)   Of course I am usually working way into the night most days (3:30 a.m. this morning), but at least this will give me some structure to follow and I'll be relieved in knowing that I am at least doing the list every day, regardless.

Today was my first day to try this.  And so far it's working.  I'm on the 9 to 10 portion and here it is 9:48 a.m.  Perfect.  This is a blog update.  Great!  I'm on schedule.

So how do you schedule your time?   (Of course, I'm lucky.  No one else to try and fit into my life other than myself.  No children, no outside employment.)  Definitely an advantage.

Have a good day ...

Monday, May 31, 2010

UP TO MY EYEBALLS WITH ELECTRONICS

I'm surrounded by electronic equipment - big and small - and I'm not totally convinced it's all good, especially when one of them malfunctions.  I spent most of Saturday rewiring my computer and rearranging the components in order to be able to attach and use my flat screen TV (sitting on top of my desk unit) as a computer monitor whenever I want.  Success!  One of the reasons is that now I can download instant flix from Netflix and watch them on the big screen while lying in bed without purchasing a wii console (but that's coming next for the big screen in the living room - a wii). There is a possibility, however, I can use my mini-notebook to do the same without a wii in the living room, but I haven't tried that, yet.  Depends on the hookups. Another day.

So, here we are ... a wireless module to accommodate Linda's system in the library, a music system, CD/VCR/DVD players attached to all TVs, HP desktop computer, Apple desktop computer, fax/tele, Kindle, Blackberrys, iPods, iTunes, flash drives, portable hard drives, Studio 8 movie-making attachments, digital cameras and digital video cameras, recorders, and the list goes on and on.  Lotsa electronics!

I don't remember my mother and father dealing with all this stuff.  All daddy had was an 8 milimeter movie camera (film), a radio/record playing console, one TV in the den, a manual typewriter, and that was the extent of it.  My sisters and I had the little snapshot cameras - no computers.  We didn't even have disposable cameras then.  So all this electronic stuff has all come about in the past 50 years.

I wonder what the next 50 will bring ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

LAS VEGAS OR BUST!

Or is it busted in Las Vegas?   Or lotsa busts in Vegas?   Or ...

Regardless ... I'll be in Vegas June 17 - 20 for the PSWA Conference (Public Safety Writers Association).  I'll be representing R. J. Buckley Publishing on a publishers' panel, answering questions, etc. from the attendees.  AND will be advising and listening to pitches from writers who are looking for a publisher.  Might pick up one or two novels to publish ... you never know what terrific murder mystery writers will surface at the event, looking for a publisher.  

I also hope to get in some relaxing and fun time while there for three nights.  Vegas is one of my favorite U.S. cities, and I'm truly looking forward to it.   Will drive over, only a six-hour trip, taking books so it'll be easier to drive than fly.     

Friday, February 12, 2010

PIRATING BOOKS?

I opened my new Granta mag last night, came in the mail yesterday, to the first story called "Life Among the Pirates" by Daniel Alarcon, an American author from Lima, Peru.

Here is what HarperCollins sez about him:  "Daniel Alarcon's debut story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award. He has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and has been named by Granta magazine one of the Best American Novelists under thirty-five. He is the associate editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine published in his native Lima, Peru. He lives in Oakland, California."

In the Granta article, the pirates he is referring to are book pirates, not the ones laying in wait on the sea.  What a surprise it is to me that there is such a thing!  Did you know about it, or am I the only uninformed person in the publishing world?  (By the way, if you aren't subscribing to Granta, you certainly must! One of the best literary publications ever! One to which I aspire with the upcoming literary mag that my RJBP company will be launching this year. )

What is and has been happening at an alarming rate in South America are the copy-cat underground publishers that are springing up all over the place.  They steal a best-selling book or a book written by a best-selling author that is already published or soon to be published and quickly produce and print out jillions of imperfect copies.  Then they send out their army of booksellers, street vendors, hawkers, and sell the books  at a cut-rate price on street corners, in buses, in train stations and airports, whereever they can set up a table or spread a blanket or carry an armload.   And as soon as the bogus publishers are located and stopped, they find another production location and do it all over again.  There's no stopping them.  It is incredible!   Some authors are saying it doesn't matter to them, at least the books are getting to people who can't afford the regular publishers' prices, and at least the people are reading.  In a country whose literacy rate has been notoriously low, it can't go without being said that this piracy is upping that rate.  More people than ever are reading and learning to read.  So, who is to say what is good or bad?  Amazing!

Can you imagine if that were to happen in the states?  If it hasn't already.  I sometimes wonder if half the books in the Costcos and Sam's Clubs and the huge discount stores might be selling pirated books.  I'll also wonder from now on when I see street vendors selling books, if they're authentic or not.  But we don't see much of that here, selling books on street corners, at least I haven't.

Are you familiar with how the money is split on, let's say, a book selling at $19 retail?   Well, let's take a look at it.  Right off the top, the bookseller pays 45% off retail.  That's $7.35 off $19.00, leaving $11.65.   They'll sell it for whatever they want within that 45% gap up to $19.00.

Out of that $11.65, comes the cost of the production and distribution & marketing of the book and the royalties.   Higher costs come into play if the publisher has a paid distributor other than the wholesaler/printer company, or publicity and marketing people, those fees will decrease that amount even further.

But let's start at the bottom and work up to the $11.65, the cost of setting up the book and the print cost.  Let's say for figuring purposes, those costs equal 7.65, which is a low figure.  That's the publisher's costs and the printing cost combined.   Okay that leaves a net of $4.00.  Out of that $4.00 comes the author and publisher royalties, and remember we're not including the percentage of promotional, marketing, publicity costs involved with that title. So, the higher price of the book, the higher the net, of course.  

Now how can piracy publishers sell that same book for $3.00 retail?  How do they do that?  Well, they have their own archaic printer machines set up in abandoned buildings, you'll find that some of the pages are crooked, the covers are poor replications, etc etc etc., the authors don't get royalties, the employees work for penny wages, there is next to no overhead. Of course the public couldn't care less if some of the print on the pages is crooked and the covers are up to par, at least they can afford a book to read.  It's crazy, isn't it?

Anyway, you'll have to get the Winter 2009 volume 109 of Granta and read the article.   Other good reading there, as well.   Salmon Rushdie includes a writing called "Notes on Sloth."  I haven't read it yet, next on my list.