Saturday, December 5, 2015

A craft fair and a book club...and me, basking in the glow.

Good morning!

It's been far too long since I've greeted you, but November wound up being wildly busy and then I got sick and then I traveled to research my next book.

But I'm here now and I have to share with you a highlight in my writing career.  See, I've never been one to do things in a normal way.  I decided at 13 I was going to be a world famous novelist.  Back in in a time when most kids wanted to be in a rock band or a professional Pac-Man player, I was sitting at my manual typewriter (Yep. no computers back then.  No spell check.  No delete button. Just a manual typewriter, a ream of paper, and a bucket of white-out.) tapping out what would eventually become my second novel, Lies in Chance. (Available in print or kindle on Amazon or for other e-reading formats at Smashwords.com)  I don't know about world famous, but since that beautiful day in 2010
when my first novel, Dream in Color, (also available in print and kindle format or for any e-reader platform at Smashwords.com) was published by the Wild Rose Press, I've managed to put out four romance novels, three novellas, two creative nonfiction humor books (under my pen name Sarah Jayne Brewester), and now, my newest, an inspirational cozy mystery, Missing in Manitowoc. (And you know where you can find it!)  

That brings my total publications to ten since 2010.  And what's in store for 2016?  At least one more Nora Hill Mystery (Superhero in Superior) and I may, I MAY start work on another Rock Harbor novel...we'll see.

The point I'm making is that in the last five or so years I've been busy doing what I always thought I'd do.  I don't know how world famous I've become, my fantasy of book signings around the world hasn't exactly happened, but I'm finding none of that matters. My stories are in print, people are reading them and the people who are reading them are enjoying them. For an author who does everything for her book, including cover art, that's a big thing to know.  

What it comes to marketing my work, however, I've found I'm taking a bit of a different road.  This past summer my mother and I worked Farmer's Markets with some success.  And this winter, a couple weeks ago, I had a booth at a craft fair. Most fellow writers and authors, when I tell them I'm doing a marker or craft fair, look at me with some disdain, as if this is the wrong way to go.  Well, when you're a self published author and you're doing your own promotion, there is no wrong way to go if where you're going is to a place where people are.  I may not have made a profit this summer, but I got my name out there and not just to people in my community, but to people all over the place.  My books are now in the suitcases and purses of people all over the US.  Isn't that what we writers want, is for our stories to be in the world?  (If you're doing it for the money and the awards, you may want to considered a job in another line of work. Sure, we all want to be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, for the money, or some great literary person who wins the National Book Award every year, but honestly, a writer is a storyteller and we're poor story tellers if we aren't willing to share our stories with everyone in every way.)

So a couple weeks ago I was working a craft fair because they let

me have a table.  And it was the first time "Missing in Manitowoc"  was available for purchase.  I was excited. There's nothing like talking about your books to someone and there's really nothing like talking about a new book.  The first woman who came to our table listened to me talk about Nora Hill and the book and tell her everything I could about why she should buy and read this book.  She was quite excited and she told me she was the head of her church's book club. She then sent over four other members of the club to purchase "Missing" and, at the end of the day, she told me she'd be contacting me to speak at their club in September.  Now, I know September is a long time away, but I am stoked. I am jazzed, I am beyond the moon excited about this new opportunity.  I've never spoken to a book club before, and I would love to do so.  Thus, taking an unconventional route to marketing brought me to a big gold star most authors recognize as a good thing:  Book clubs, big or small, can help to make a book. Even the most skeptical of my fellow author friends had to admit, this was a big positive.

Truly, a high in my career in terms of marketing.

Anyway, now is the time of year when people go out and buy gifts for each other. No matter what you are celebrating this holiday season, chances are you have a long shopping list and you are clueless about where to start. Let me help you:  Books.  Especially books by local authors.  Especially books by authors who are willing to meet you at a coffee shop and autograph books for everyone on your gift list.  

I won't be doing any more shows this year, but I have a website which will take you where you need to go for book purchases.  And also, yes, if you contact me I would be thrilled to meet you someplace and autograph your gifts. (Provided you want to meet someplace in SE Wisconsin.)  Also, if you want to bypass the website just type my name into the search on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and pretty much any other place that sells books. You'll find me.

Oh and yes, if you are in a book club, contact me.  I'd love to speak to your group!

One more time:  Books make great gifts!  

Happy Holidays all!  Let's be safe this season, and let's make 2016 joyful and bright!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sneak Peek Week! MISSING IN MANITOWOC #2

Hello all!  

I know on Tuesday that I promised you five days of previews of my new novel, which will be available on Amazon.com TOMORROW, November 1, and is available in print for in the Create space store RIGHT NOW BY CLICKING HERE.  Unfortunately, my beloved grandmother passed
away yesterday.  Thursday I was able to go see her one last time and she had a most amazing last day with family all around her. Her mind, though she was weeks away from her 99th birthday, was sharp.  Finally it was her body that wore out. She was actually a little miffed, I think, at God for not taking her on Wednesday when she collapsed in the bathroom, but God knew her family needed one more day with her. So tomorrow, Sunday, we put her to rest next to her husband of nearly 70 years.

That said, I am managing to give you a few more pages of MISSING IN MANITOWOC right now. I'm so excited to start on this journey with Nora Hill, a woman who has been tested by God in so many ways.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Again, this book will be available for kindle on Amazon tomorrow. I'm hoping all other digital platforms will also be ready to go today or tomorrow, and that includes Nook, Apple, Kobo...all of those.

Meanwhile, here's another few pages to whet your appetite!  Enjoy!

“Is that your Subaru?”
            I look at the mechanic in his coveralls. I wonder if his wife even attempts to wash the grease and oil stains out of the heavy denim union suit. Maybe she makes him leave it outside on the back porch.
            That’s what my mother would do. “Germaphobic” is a huge understatement for her dedication to avoiding all things filthy. Probably why she married a minister, thinking he’d never come home with anything worse than maybe a small purple stain from serving Communion too vigorously.
            She lived in a very tidy world, my mother did, until I came along. My two older sisters, born in her own image, never gave her a minute of grief. I swear, if you believe anything those three tell you, they were toilet trained immediately upon exiting the womb and never left a trace of themselves anyplace in the house.    Call it my creativity, call it a willful streak, call it Original Sin…I was that kid in every family who was always three degrees off. You know, the kid who always had a scraped knee. The kid who always spilled something at a family reunion or church pot luck. The kid who was always tearing a hole in her ‘Sunday best.”
 I never felt like I was born into the right family, you know?  At  my eight Christmas during the big family dinner with all the relatives there as witnesses, I asked if I was adopted. I mean, it’s a logical question. My sisters are seven and nine years older than I am. They are both tall and well built women. I’m short and frail looking. Kinda like one of those kids on those Christian Children’s Network commercials, the ones where kids are starving and have no clean water to drink, but a buck a week will keep them fed for a year.
So I asked the question. By the time I was eight I knew there was definitely something different about me that had little to do with my physical looks. It was clear, from the shocked reaction of those around the table, I’d struck an uncomfortable chord. True to my nature, however, I managed to spill an entire bowl of black olives on myself. So before anyone could think of a good answer to my question, the tension melted into laughter. Well, except for my mother. She dragged me into the bathroom to wipe the black, oily, juice off my Christmas dress.
My questions about why I’m so different from the rest of my tribe never have been answered. I dropped the adoption question that Christmas Day when Mom growled at me, “Don’t be ridiculous, Nora.” Some time ago I just accepted it. I’m that dirty kid every family has, the kid that is just never quite clean.          Or normal.
Since then I’ve put distance between my family and me. It’s better this way. At first, sure, they protested. I shouldn’t be traveling alone. I might get hurt. I wasn’t being safe. I would one day be found dead in a ditch.
“Dead in a ditch.” That’s my mother’s biggest worry for all of us. Didn’t return a phone call? “You might have been dead in a ditch for all we knew!” Came in late after curfew? “You had us so worried that you were dead in a ditch!” When I started traveling for work, that was her biggest, and only, concern. “Nora, you have to promise you won’t camp out in your car. I couldn’t bear it if you were found dead in a ditch.”
I promised her I wouldn’t camp in my car anywhere near a ditch. She didn’t see the humor in that.
 Sure she protested. I mean, I’m her kid, right? Of course she loves me. I’ve noticed, she has returned to her tidy way of life now that I’m not living there full time. She’s as happy as a clam. I don’t go home often. I don’t like to wreck her bliss.
            Wow, I’m off track. Now is not the time for these sorts of thoughts. Now is the time to get my car out of this garage and get out of this town before anyone recognizes me. Over the years I’ve changed my look, what woman hasn’t?  But I’m still me…no matter how hard I try to change the fact.
            “Yes, that’s my car.”
            The mechanic wipes his hands on his coveralls and stares at my car as if seeing something rare and strange. While Subaru Foresters aren’t that uncommon in most of the world, around here it is. It’s not a pick-up truck, and there isn’t a boat hitched to the back of it. I don’t have to dig too far in my memory bank to recall my high school days when everyone drove a pick-up truck. Everyone, of course, except for me. Back then, the Forrester was new, a gift from my parents for my sixteenth birthday. While not wealthy, my father was one of those rare people who just knew how to save a dollar and turn it into five dollars. Each of us girls, first Rose, then Lily, then me, got a new car on our sixteenth birthdays. Rose and Lily have long since traded their cars in for an upgrade, of course, but I’m still driving mine. Some call it loyal, some call it cheap. I call it not wanting to clean out the car and put my stuff in a new one.
            “Haven’t seen a Surbaru in a long time. Most people around here drive pick-ups and minivans. I do remember this one girl in high school…”  With that, the mechanic’s voice drifts off and he turns his attention back to me. He stares at me. Hard.
            I feel the start of a headache…the kind I get when I know something I don’t want to happen is about to happen.
            “Do I know you?”
            And that thing I didn’t want to happen is now starting. My headache is getting worse. We are about to get into an uncomfortable spot here. He’s recognized me.
            “Nora?”
            That’s it. I officially want to fall through the floor. I want to hide away and not continue this conversation. I’ve had this dialogue a hundred times with people who knew me growing up, but I have absolutely no recollection of them. I remember places, experiences, and feelings with super high-def clarity. I can recall names, lists and lists of names. But faces, faces I can’t remember at all.
            It’s not laziness on my part or a quirk I have. It’s not like those funny mental ticks we all live with, like how my brother-in-law never knows where his glasses are or how my oldest sister goes through the names of all of her kids before hitting the one she wants to yell at. It’s a medical thing. I have something.
My “something” has a name that’s a mile long: prosopagnosia. That’s what they call it on the health channel. Most people call it face blindness. Simply put, I don’t remember faces, even those of people close to me. If I see someone, and then they leave the room for five minutes or so, I completely forget their face.
            This includes my mother’s face and my father’s, when he was alive, my sisters’ faces, too.  Plus, while I can differentiate between male and female voices, I have trouble sorting out specific voices. Not uncommon to us face blindness folks.  Most of us have some other “thing” along with the prosopagnosia.  It’s like God sent us through the neurological cafeteria before we were born and wasn’t just happy with us having the main course.  I’m “face blind with a side order of distorted hearing.”  Others might have Asperger’s or autism.  There’s no end to the fun combo packs available.
            When I’m home, I’m able to sort out my mom and sisters out, so long as they’re sitting in a certain spot. It has nothing to do with their faces, but rather whether or not they’re  in their favorite chairs. Lily likes the green love seat. Rose curls up in my father’s brown recliner. Mother seats herself in the white wing backed chair, a chair so pure white only she could sit in it, by the way.
If my mother ever gets new furniture, I’m doomed.
As you can imagine, this causes problems at family gatherings and whatnot. I can’t count the number of times I hear the whispers, “Oh, that’s Nora…she’s terrible with people.”
I’m not terrible with people. I’m terrible with faces.
Then again, it’s almost better to be thought of as careless and rude, as some of my relatives do, than to be thought of as mentally deficient, as some of my other relatives do. Seriously, I think everyone in my extended family would just feel more at ease with me if I got a seeing-eye dog or a helper monkey or something. I know, ridiculous. But still, it’s family, right?
            “Nora Hill, is that you?”
            The mechanic is still looking at me and I really, really want to run away. I have nothing to say to this person who may be a friend, but right now is a stranger to me.  And since he recognizes me and knows my name, I’m already at a huge disadvantage.

            This is why I don’t like being around people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sneak peak week! MISSING IN MANITOWOC! Part 1

Good evening!

Here we are, first snippet of my new novel, due for release on Sunday, November 1.  

Enjoy!


FRIDAY 5 PM
            If it’s true what they say, that God has a sense of humor, then He’s having a huge laugh at my expense right now.
            Fifteen years ago I swore I would never come back to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, so the fact that I’m standing here in an auto repair shop can only be attributed to some kind of twisted Divine sense of humor. That’s what my father would probably say, anyway. My mother…well, my mother would probably scold me for thinking blasphemous thoughts. She didn’t exactly share Dad’s more lighthearted approach to the Almighty, which is odd, since he was a minister. You’d think the opposite would be true.
            Meanwhile, I’ve been here for an hour. There’s no Wifi, which isn’t quite the big deal for me as it is for most people. It’s not like I spend a ton of time on social media. I’m not that social. But I could be doing some online research for work. Work would help pass the time I’m forced to spend sitting on an orange molded plastic chair circa 1977.
Oh sure, I could access the Internet with my phone’s data plan, but my phone is dead. I haven’t been able to find my charger. This, again, is not the disaster it might be for most people. It’s not like I’m going to miss some life or death text if I don’t have a charged phone for a couple days. My mother and sisters are used to not hearing from me every day. My agent is really the only person who gets frantic when she can’t reach me.
            No, my biggest problem at this moment, other than not being able to escape Manitowoc before anyone manages to recognize me, is that I’m bored.
            I’m not bored often. When you’re in my line of work, if you get bored, you get up, walk around a bit, or maybe get in your car and drive some place. Do something to change the scenery, and
then get back to work. And when I’m really into it, if I’m really in the writing zone, boredom is the least of my problems. Remembering to eat is usually a bigger issue.
Besides, I’m not built to be bored. If you’re a person who believes in Divine Intervention, you’d know what I’m talking about. God saw to it when He made me, He made a person who simply had zero chance of finding the world dull or tedious. Terrifying, yes. Bewildering, absolutely. Never boring.
            And yet, here I am. Maybe it’s some sort of evil spell that hangs over this city on Lake Michigan.
            No, that’s not the case. I don’t have to go back too far in my memory to realize that ‘terrified’ and ‘isolated’ are really the only two things I took away from my time in this burg. I was too busy being tormented to feel anything other than those two emotions. So, hey, there’s that silver lining my sisters are always telling me to look for.

Right now the one thing that’s saving me from sliding into a brain dead coma is the television in the corner of the waiting room. Granted, it’s tuned to local news and the local anchor, complete with that North Eastern Wisconsin accent, is telling us all a delightful little story about some seventh-grade school group having an exciting day at all the tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore. The story is pure fluff and I have zero interest in local news, school groups, or Lake Michigan while my vehicle is being poked by strangers.  But TV noise is better than the sound of a mechanic telling me my beloved Forester is dead.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sneak Peak Week! "MISSING IN MANITOWOC!"

Good evening all!

Some of you know I've been working on the first novel in a series and that I'd hoped to have the first book out earlier this year.  Well, my friends, as a self published author, I have a team of critique partners, line editors, and beta readers (most of whom are close friends and even closer family) who help me make sure my book is interesting and readable and free of most spelling and grammar errors.

What my team can't help me do is get it right.  That's true for anyone who writes something.  The only person who can get it right is the writer.  And when it comes to my character, Nora Hill, it's got to be right, because I have a feeling Nora is going to be in my brain for a pretty decent amount of time.

That said, I'm so pleased to announce that the first book, "Missing in Manitowoc" will be available on November 1st.  (If it kills me or not.  And it might. But this can't bleed into National Novel Writing Month  ((Nanowrimo)) because I'm using November to get a solid start on the SECOND book in the series, "Superhero in Superior" which I hope to have out late Spring 2016.)

This week I want to give you all a five day sneak peek at Nora Hill and her world.  Each day this week I'll share and excerpt from the book in the hope that by Sunday you'll be so geeked out to find out what happens you won't be able to contain yourself, you'll just HAVE to buy it!

Nora and "Missing" is a big step aside from what I've done in the past, and so I'll be writing under a slightly different author name.  This isn't a romance, and this isn't humor, although those elements are present in the book, albeit faintly, in the case of romance.  No, the most concise definition I can put on this book series is that it will be Christian Cozy Mystery Series.

I've wanted to write in Christian/Inspirational fiction for many years, but I never landed on quite the right concept.  Three years ago I scanned the shelves of Christian Contemporary/Inspirational fiction and I saw a lot of Pioneers and Amish novels.

Nothing against those authors, but I don't write historicals (mostly because the research would kill me) and if I'm looking for something to inspire me spiritually, it's not going to be from the days of a bygone era.  I felt there was a gap for readers who wanted something compelling to read that was also Christian/Inspirational in nature, but was also current.  I found a few authors who fit the bill and I read their work.  The novels I read were compelling, and current, but again I felt like the character's ability to go to God in prayer was just too easy, too normal.

I teach a Bible study to junior high students.  These are not people for whom the concept of prayer comes easily.  They are on the cusp of the eight years of their lives where they will make some of the biggest decisions they will ever make, and many of them will make those decisions largely without even thinking about prayer.  They will muddle through, some will go to church and go through the motions, but few will give religion deep thought.  I know I didn't, during my high school and college years. So my focus during this Bible study is not how great the people of the Bible were and how faithful, but really how flawed those heroes of faith were.  Think about it:  Adam, a weakling who tried to blame sin on his wife.  Noah, drunkard.  Abraham...bigamist.  Isaac...Dad picked his wife, but he picked his favorite child.  Jacob...ah, Jacob.  Jacob who wrestled with God.  Jacob who had a temper, made mistakes, had a favorite wife, but wasn't above begetting children with four women...this is the type of guy I love to highlight in Bible study with my junior high students.

My own children are pretty much grown up but they are in those frightening years and they are wrestling with God in their own ways, just as I did at their age.  And I look at their friends, and I see a generation of younger adults who are searching for something beyond the black and white judgement of a CHURCH. They are looking for a God who loves them as they are, flaws and all and they aren't satisfied with "Just believe."  They are searching for the face of God.

It was that idea, a believer wrestling with God to see Him and gain His acceptance that brought me to Nora.  Nora Hill is a woman in her early 30's.  She is a successful young adult fiction author.  Her father, now deceased, was a minister. She has a mother and two sisters who are several years older than she is.  

She also has prosopagnosia, which you might know as face blindness. She was born with it, but was not diagnosed until she was late in her junior high years. Her parents thought she was autistic or just a naughty girl, and her childhood was less than ideal because she never felt like she measured up to her sisters or belonged.  Even as an adult she isn't comfortable with her family and she has few friends because face blindness is a disorder that isolates people. Without the ability to recognize and remember faces, how can we make social contacts?

Nora is a woman who is searching.  She is searching for a place to lay her share of her father's ashes to rest. She is searching for a church home where she feels comfortable and accepted.  She is searching for the face of God, a face she prays she can recognize.

She is also always searching for lost children.  Where ever her travels take her there seems to be a child who is not only missing, but is also in grave peril for one reason or another.  Finding such children has been a talent, a gift, or a burden for Nora since she was very young.  She cannot explain how she knows where the children are, she just does.  And because such an ability tends to throw her into a very bright spotlight, she is uncomfortable with it and wishes she didn't have to be the one who finds the children.

Starting tomorrow and through the week I will share excepts of the first book in the series, "Missing in Manitowoc."  I hope you enjoy sharing this adventure with me.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Here's what I did this summer...how about you?

Hello everyone!

So this year I decided to do something a little different with my marketing.  Rather than just blog about writing, and put notices out on Face Book I decided to actually get out there and SELL my books.  Okay, it was mostly my mom's idea because she's got this hobby where she takes old costume jewelry and breaks it down and then frames it. She started with grandmother's stuff (my grandmother was one of those grand ladies who got a new necklace/earring/broach set every time she got a new blouse.) and she made framed art for everyone in the family. That branched out to something even bigger and now she trolls Good wills in the area for costume jewelry and shadow box frames.  (She also does custom orders. If you're interested, contact me here and I'll be happy to give you her info.)  

Anyway, Mom came up with this idea that we should sell her art and my books at a booth in a couple Farmer's Markets in the area.  So, the first weekend in May, we showed up at 5 AM (really 4:45, we got to watch the City of Waukesha police department remove cars from the Market site.) to get our first crack at selling our artistic expressions to the public.

Our booth at City of Brookfield.
Since then we've been to the Waukesha Farmer's Market seven times and the City of Brookfield will be five once we hit it next weekend, which will be our last weekend of the year.

It's been fun. It's been a lot of work, but we've learned so much about what we should do when selling and what's not a good idea.  If you look at the picture, you see we were using big buckets of cat litter to weight down our shelter. We don't do that anymore.  They are bulky, they take up a ton of room in my car and little kids put their snacks on them.

I've loved this summer, meeting readers, talking about my craft, getting to know what people say when faced with a real live author.  Hint:  Some of it is not so polite.  Mostly I've loved sharing my stories with people who, if I hadn't been out there at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, probably would never know my name.

It's not about name recognition, not for me really. It's about sharing my passion.  I have a passion for story telling, a passion for sharing those stories with others.  I may never be a New York Times best selling author. Doesn't matter so much as the woman who was one of the first to buy "Dream in Color" and every time I saw her this summer she'd yell, "I LOVE THAT BOOK!"

It's October now and the summer is long gone.  If today is any indication of what we're in for next weekend, I'm going to need
 mittens and thicker socks.  Next week at City of Brookfield (2000 Calhoun Road, Brookfield, WI) will be our last of the season. We have a craft fair planned in November and a church event in the spring.  I plan to release the first two Nora Hill Mysteries by then ("Missing in Manitowoc" will be out in a few weeks. "Superhero in
Superior" will be out closer to Easter as we have it planned now.)  But I've enjoyed my time on the road with readers...and non readers who were quite blunt about how they felt about reading and books and authors...I'm definitely going to do it again next year because it's a blast and I've had fun with my parents in a way I probably would not have.


So that's what I've been doing all summer.  How about you?  Read any good books?  Like maybe the ones there on the right?  Go ahead, click on the links...it won't hurt!  


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You can be many writers in the same body. May explain my weight problem!

Good evening!

Earlier this year I embarked on a writing project that was unlike anything else I'd undertaken and yet felt very much like home.  Those of you who have read my work know I write romantic suspense and creative nonfiction humor.  I use two different author names to differentiate between the two lines just so those looking for a slice of life humor collection don't suddenly stumble into characters battling alcohol and sex addictions or mental health issues.  (Makes you wanna head on over to my Amazon author page and check out my books, doesn't it?)

Anyway, I mentioned earlier this year I began a series of books based on one character. The books were going to be cozy mysteries with an inspirational nature and most of them would be set in the towns and cities of Wisconsin, although some might be in Michigan, Minnesota, or any other town where I've been and had dinner in a funky diner.  (That's a long list.)

As writers and authors, it's not uncommon to write different types of stories for different audiences.  Authors have been doing it for eons.  I was at a conference where Romance Author  (who has been, for some time, writing a series of romances based on characters involved in mixed martial arts) Lori Foster talked about an upcoming series she was writing under the name L. L. Foster, an post apocalyptic set of novels with a killer heroin and a lot more darkness.  She told us, all those years ago, that she didn't want her readers to be confused. She wanted them to know, if you're reading Lori Foster, this is what you're going to get.  If you're reading LL Foster, this is what you're going to get."

Awesome.  That speech meant a lot to me.  

I've always been rather whimsical with my writing.  I fell into the romance genre mostly because I had friends who were involved in Wisconsin Romance Writers  (WisRWA) and Romance Writers of America (RWA.)  I found myself listening to how to structure a romance novel, how to pitch it, how to sell it.  And boom, Dream in Color, my first novel, was born and sold to The Wild Rose Press, a romance novel publishing house.  

Since then I've been told I don't write romance, and yet my readers mostly read romance.  I tried submitting "Lies in Chance" to Wild Rose Press. They told me it wasn't a romance. 

They were probably right.  I mean, I really never wrote that book to be a boy meets girl romance.  I wrote it more as an homage to those prime time TV soap operas like Dallas and Falcon Crest and Knots Landing.  Lots of characters, lots of stories.

Since then I've been fairly focused on romance, albeit very dark romance novels.  I've been wrestling with some stuff in my own life and that's bled out onto the pages of both "Fresh Ice" and "A Hero's Spark." 

My point is, as authors, we get to write whatever story we have inside of us.  Remember, being a writer, being an author, is being a story teller.  There's no big science to writing a short story, a novella, or a novel.  You are telling a story. You are telling a story that has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it probably should make sense.  

You may tell a story that appeals to one audience while another prefers a different story you tell.  My Sunday School students LOVE the story I tell about getting a spanking with a hymnal from my uncle when I dumped a baked potato into a glass of milk. (Yeah, I was a rotten child, but I have some GOOD stories.)

Adults do not love that story.  Adults love the stories I tell about the woman I lovingly call "Elsie W." (Okay, My Sunday School students love those stories, too.  Basically anything that gets me off topic of the lesson is something they love.)

I have stories I tell when I'm around kids, stories I tell when I'm around MY kids (who are adults, but not yet ready to hear about some of their mother's more colorful escapades), and stories I tell in polite or semi polite company. It depends on the audience and what mood I'm in.

Same with writing.  And of late, I'm in a mood to have Nora Hill solve missing children cases using nothing but her knowledge of her own childhood and her constant rage against a God that gave her some special talents and very special challenges.  I've finished the first book, "Missing in Manitowoc" soon to be released, and I'm starting on "Superhero in Superior" which I hope to have done early 2016.

Some authors, some writers, work with one genre, master one audience and hold them forever.  I'd be down right gobsmacked if Stephen King popped up with a light humor women's fiction book.  Then again, if he did, why not?

Writers may be many people in one body.  Why not tell many stories to many people?

Go forth and WRITE! 



Friday, August 14, 2015

A Review you can use: Ricki and the Flash - Rick Springfield fans may not love me...and then again, maybe they will.

Good evening all!

I am a Rick Springfield fan.  

That's nothing new most of you know that about me.  I mean, seriously, have you read my first novel, Dream in Color?  It's all about a middle aged woman in love with a slightly more than middle aged rock star.  Yeah, do the math.  If X equals the middle aged woman being me, and Y equals the rock star being Rick Springfield, then there you go.

Anyway, with that in mind, it should surprise no one that I went to see Rick's latest foray into acting, with a supporting role in Meryl Streep's new movie, "Ricki and the Flash."

I am a Rick, Springfield fan, but I 'm not a a fan of his acting.  Sure, I loved Dr. Noah Drake.  But then he did "Hard to Hold" which, if I'm being totally honest, is a bad movie. (I've called it "Hard to Hold Down.)  A bad movie supported by excellent music and one seriously steamy love scene that's beautifully shot, but it's a bad movie.  And since "Hard to Hold" I've followed Rick's acting.  He's been in some really bad movies, and some mediocre tv shows.  He's not bad, it's just that music is his first, and strongest talent.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself.  Springfield is not the star of "Ricki and the Flash."  Meryl Streep stars in the story of a middle aged mom who has tried (and failed) to make it big as a rocker in L.A. with her band while her way upper middle class ex husband (Kevin Kline) thrives with his new wife and their three children, all of whom are now grown.

Ricki (Streep) is called back to Indiana when her daughter, Julie, falls into deep depression after her husband leaves her.  Ricki spends times living in her husband's palatial home, trying to mend fences with her adult children, but managing to break even bigger fences with Maureen, the step mother.

If I'm going to be honest, and I think I've proved I can be by the previous paragraphs, this movie is a yawner until about halfway through when someone remembers, "Hey, we have Rick Springfield in the cast maybe we should give him some lines."

I can't put my finger on it.  I like Meryl Streep, I love Kevin Kline and Maimie Gummer, as Julie, says all the right words with all the right inflections and yet everything seems flat and disjointed.  Given that Diablo Cody ("JUNO") wrote the screenplay and Jonathan Demme ("SILENCE OF THE LAMBS") directed, this surprised me. flat, boring, blah.

And then...and then something happens.  Ricki goes back to L.A., dispirited and down on herself and
convinced she's the worst mother to ever live.  (She is, sort of.  I mean, come on.  She's a disaster in leggings.)  And then there's this incandescent conversation/argument between Ricki and Greg (Springfield) about parenting and how your kids hate you and...well, you've seen most of that scene because they put it in the trailer.

Springfield saves this movie.  I am a fan, but I never thought I'd say this about his acting, but Rick Springfield saves this movie from being a waste of time.  From the moment he gives the speech about being a parent, everything livens up. Yes, there's a love scene, and some touching moments and some legitimately good rock and roll, and I pretty much love everything that happens in the Salt Well (the bar where Ricki and her band play).  

Oh sure, the second half of the movie reads like a complete John Hughes rip off.  (If you see the film you'll know what I mean.  There's a big "Pretty in Pink" vibe going on here.)  But at that point you're sold. The good news is other than Springfield and Streep, the other characters get very little to say in the rest of the movie.  And there's some good, old fashioned rock and roll.

Yes, Streep played and sang and yes, she's decent.

But the bigger surprise here is Rick Springfield made this movie and thanks to his efforts, I'm giving this one a 3.5 stars out of 5.  Decent escape from the summer heat. 




Friday, July 31, 2015

5 things you should not say to an author who is selling books at a Farmer's Market.

Good afternoon!

Recently I ran across a really good list "Ten things you should never say to a writer."  Among them were such classics as, "I thought you were dead, " or "I wish I could just stay home and write all day and do nothing," or my favorite, "Why don't you write children's books?  There's lots of money in that."

We writers and authors get this all time. Writing is not like knitting or counted cross stitch. We don't hang our works in progress on a wall. We rarely give them as presents.  So it's hard for people to talk to us about writing because to most people it's a mysterious thing.  Still, there are some things you just shouldn't say out loud to someone who is trying to make a little bit of a living.

Well, as many of you know I've been working some of the local Farmer's Markets this summer, getting my name out there, selling some of my books.  I've been sharing a booth with my mom, who does great framed art made out of costume jewelry.  You should check us out!

Anyway, in the weeks I've been sitting under a tent, trying to sell books among stalls off organic beets and home made soaps, I've heard a few not so fantastic reasons for people to not buy my books.

Let's be up front:  I get it.  Books can be expensive and if buying books or reading isn't your thing, I get that, too.  I'm not knocking your reasons for not buying my books at a Farmer's Market.  I'm knocking you for SAYING THEM OUT LOUD TO MY FACE.

I don't buy clothes every time I go to Kohls...okay maybe I do...and when I'm out and about I browse more than I buy.  I don't explain, I simply say, "Wow you have some lovely things. Thank you."  And I move on.

So I've narrowed it down to five things people have said to me that have made me laugh the hardest
or made me grumble the most.   Seriously, actual people have said this to my face and then walked away, never understanding the destruction they've just done.


5)  I don't...read.

Now like with most things it's not what these two separate women at two separate times said to me. It's how they said it. As if somehow reading was akin to selling drugs or prostitution.  These two women, again, two women who came up at different times, looked through my books, and said this, spoke with horror laced with condescension. And also, this attitude horrifies me as a former teacher, a parent, and human being.


4)  I'll wait until your book is in the library.

Okay, I love libraries.  As a person I love libraries.  As an independent writer who doesn't have a publisher to put my books everywhere, I don't care for libraries, second hand book stores, or yard sales. I don't make a dime off any of those.  And also, with the exception of the West Allis WI Public Library, I haven't been able to get my books in any place. I know not everyone buys books. I get that.  But telling me, the author, when I'm actively selling books right in front of your face that you're going to wait until they are free...well, why don't you just hit me with something large and pointy?


3) I'm writing a book too.  Here's the plot.

Most of the time the plot is terrible, involving family violence, space aliens, and some sort of time travel, medical emergencies, and oh yes, graphic sex.  

I really, really enjoy listening to you relate your graphic sex scenes to me in front of my booth at a Farmer's Market when there are lots of kids around.  Really helps my business when you're yelling things like, "HEAVING BREASTS" in front of the mom with eight year old twin boys.


2)  Wow, this is really great. I have some shopping to do and I'll come back.

This is just a lie.  Don't bother saying it.  We all know you're never coming back.


1)  Oh, so you're self published. How did you do that?  Can I do it?  Write the instructions down in detail.  For free.

I think I answered this several times before I realized something: Hey, I spent YEARS figuring out how to do this.  I went to classes. I went to conferences.  I paid many dollars to learn how to do it. I spent hours making mistakes and trying again.  I'm not saying I did it alone, I had help along the way and since I had help, yes I'm going to give you a couple websites to check out.  But don't sit there and spend an hour asking me how to publish your family-sex-space-alien-time-travel-medical-sex-drama because I'm not going to go into great detail. Unless you're a kid.  A serious kid, like the girl I met a couple weeks ago who is 13 and has finished two books.  I was that kid a hundred years ago, and I didn't know where to begin.  Kids I'll help out.  Adults, I'll tell you three things:  Smashwords, Amazon, and Createspace.

No go away, make room for serious customers!

Oh, by the way, if you're in the area, TOMORROW, Saturday, August 1, I will be at the City of Waukesha WI Farmer's Market from 8-12.  We between Madison and Barstow in the downtown area. come on over and say hi, and buy a book!  I can take credit cards now!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sneak Peak Saturday: Dream in Color

Good afternoon!

It's been some time since I've released a bit of my very first novel, Dream in Color, so I thought, since it's summer and much of the novel takes place in the summer, this would be a great time to share. And what better place to start than right at the beginning?

For those of you not aware, Dream is a sort of take on the Cinderella fairy tale, only our Cinderella is a single woman in her late 30's who has a crush on an aging, retired, teen idol.  

If you've ever had a crush on a celebrity, this is the book for you!

Enjoy!

            “Good morning beautiful, beautiful, Ramona.”
              Ramona keeps her eyes closed.  This is her favorite part of the day, when Jesse wakes her.  She curls her toes between the satin sheets and waits for him to touch her.
            “I brought you something special this morning.”
            Eyes still closed, Ramona stretches her arms over her head and sinks deeper into the pile of goose down pillows.  “What did you bring me?”
            “See if you can tell.”  He passes something beneath her nose. Ramona closes her eyes tightly, fighting the urge to peak and ruin the surprise.  No easy feat, because she loves Jesse’s cooking and something smells too tempting to resist.  He hasn’t touched her, but it’s all part of their ritual, a ritual they’d started the first morning after they were married.
            “Hmm.  Bacon?”
            “Not even close.”
            She sniffs a little.  “I don’t know.  Bring it closer.”
            “I’ll give you a hint.  It’s always been your favorite.” 
            The smell grows stronger and Ramona lets herself sink into the lazy loveliness of it all.  Jesse waves the plate of wonderful smells closer now, and something wet touches her cheek.
            “I’m not sure, Jesse.  What is it?”
            “It’s deep fried cheese curds my love.  Your favorite.  And it’s seven forty three on a snowy, blowy Monday morning. If you’re supposed to be at work at eight, and you’re still in bed, you’re probably going to be late.”
            Ramona Simms snapped one eye open and then another.  Gone was Jesse Alexander, former teen pop star, her Prince Charming, her ultimate dream date.  In his place was Leo, her eleven-year-old poodle/bulldog mutt, licking her face as the clock radio blared the morning weather report and, worst of all, the time.  She squinted at the blurry red numbers while slapping her hand on the nightstand vainly searching for her glasses.  The numbers on the clock confirmed her worst fears.
            “Shit!” She flung back the tattered quilt on her bed, shoving Leo off her in the process.  “Leo, I’m
late, again!  Celia’s going to be seriously pissed this time!”  She staggered to the kitchen and let Leo out the back door.
            Her next stop was the bathroom, where she evaluated her reflection in the mirror.  “Aren’t I a vision?”  She yanked three silvery strands of hair away from her shoulder length brunette locks.  “It may be time for hair color.  Unless I can pass these off as blonde highlights?”  Grinning at the thought, Ramona jerked a brush through her hair and brushed her teeth.  “That’s going to have to do this morning.” She gave the air a sniff.  “Eww. Deodorant isn’t going to be enough today.  Must have perfume!”
 She rummaged in the vanity drawer in vain for something resembling perfume.  “Oh screw it!”  She ran back to her bedroom and dragged the first dress that came to her hand out of the closet.
            Simultaneously kicking off her ratty sweat shorts and pulling on a blue dress that hadn’t been in style for more than ten years, and hadn’t fit her properly in five, Ramona caught a glance of herself in the full-length mirror. “Cellulite.  Never leave home without it.”  She flung the shorts off the end of her toes and flung her hair out of her eyes. “Well, there’s not much I can do about that now, is there?  I’m over thirty-five, I’m overweight, and I’m going to be over late if I don’t get a move on.”  She gave her control top pantyhose a short, ferocious yank and let the skirt drop past her waist.  It got stuck around her hips, of course. Ramona wiggled her size sixteen rear at the mirror and the skirt fell into place.
She stomped through the living room back into the kitchen and jerked open the door. Leo skittered in, shaking snowflakes off his curly brown coat. “Leo, I gotta run.  You sure you’re done outside?”  She gave her dog a stern look.  “I don’t want the house stinking when I get home.” 
            Leo, named after Ramona’s favorite Jesse Alexander song, gave her a solemn, brown-eyed look that melted her heart every time.  As much as the furry, lumpy dog’s furious flatulence annoyed her, she adored him.  He was really her one true love, farts and all. 
            “I’m going to Mom’s for dinner tonight.”  Ramona smiled when Leo licked his nose with his ample tongue and whined.  “So you won’t be coming with me?”  Ramona rubbed Leo’s broad head, setting in motion several rolls of fur-covered skin.  “Be good.”
            She grabbed her coat and boots out of the front closet, and paused, as she did every day, in front of the autographed picture sitting on the piano.  “Well Jesse, I’m off for another glamorous day at work.” She touched the smiling face with her index finger.  “Unless you’re standing next to my car, in which case I’ll be jetting off someplace with you.”
            One last touch to the picture and she whipped through the kitchen, grabbing the keys that hung on the hook next to the door.  Jesse Alexander was not standing in her driveway, so, resigned to another day of life as a normal person, Ramona slammed the rusty door of her longsuffering Ford Tempo and turned up the car stereo, the first strains of “Leo” crackling out of the protesting speakers as the windshield wipers creaked in protest against the blustery, snow-laden wind.
            As she drove slowly on the tree-lined roads of Cobia, Wisconsin, Ramona reminded herself that the town itself wasn’t so bad.  What started out as a booming submarine-building city on Lake Michigan during World War II mellowed nicely into a collection of  thirty-thousand souls, all fighting the inevitable march towards becoming a sleepy tourist town for harried executives from Chicago.  Forever frozen in the 1940’s, downtown Cobia looked more like a movie set and less like place where actual people lived real lives every day.  Maybe because of the aura of the past that clung to Cobia, the whole town seemed far smaller than most cities of the same size.  Ramona didn’t mind the feeling that everyone knew her business.  She had no business to know.
No, it was the job.  Ramona tried to keep her mind off L.M.I., where she’d worked for nearly a decade, tapping out data entry numbers like some frantic distress signal to anyone bored enough to approach her tiny, corner cubicle. She parked her rusted vehicle in the only parking space left, the one furthest from the door. In spite of the snow, as she walked toward the building, Ramona’s pace grew slower and more measured, as if even her feet were dreading another day at L. M. I. International.
            “Who the hell moved my headset?”  Bonnie, the long time receptionist, had a phone voice that sounded like smooth jazz, but that’s where the charm ended.  Her regular voice matched her worn out, cigarette smoking, teased hair persona much better, and she wasn’t nearly as polite to the office personnel as she was on the phone.  “If that headset isn’t on my desk in ten seconds I swear I will find out who took it and I will take great pleasure in drowning them in packing peanuts back in shipping!”  She looked up at Ramona.  “Hey there Sunshine.  Good of you to join us today.  And if you’re planning on taking the tour to your desk, might I suggest taking the roundabout way, through production and past the restrooms?  I told Celia it was your time of the month and you were probably in one of the restrooms not feeling well.”  Bonnie looked Ramona up and down.  “And that shouldn’t be a hard fib to pull off since you look like hell.”
            Ramona shook the last snowflakes off her coat and hung it in the front closet.  “Thanks for the vote of confidence.  I overslept and I’m parked in outer Siberia.”
            Bonnie raised an over-plucked eyebrow at her.  “And yet, you’re not looking pissed.  Which means something good happened to you last night.  Get lucky?”
            Ramona looked over her shoulder in case her supervisor was near. Celia Yasher was a cold woman, eternally clad in severe business suits with a hairstyle and personality to match. Worse for Ramona, Celia seemed to have a perverse delight in scolding her, especially, for any minor infraction. 
            Certain the hall was clear, Ramona leaned over the counter. “I got ‘Reflections in Blue.’”
            “You didn’t!”  Bonnie softened and looked impressed.  “That disk was like forty bucks or something, right?”
            “Yeah, it went to fifty, and I’ll be eating ramen noodles for a week, but I don’t care. It’s Jesse’s last recording before he retired. I just had to have it.”
            “You are the girl who makes eBay go ‘round.  Aha!” Bonnie uncovered her headset from a pile of FedEx envelopes.  “It figures.  I’m gone one afternoon and that temp shoves my headset in the mailers.”  She squashed it down over her hopelessly stiff bouffant. “Doll, if you’re not his truest fan, then I don’t know who is.”  Bonnie let loose a smoky cough.  “I always liked that Jesse Alexander.  He was an easy one to look at.”
            Short clicks on the resilient tile announced the arrival of Celia to the office, and Ramona skittered around the receptionist’s desk.  “I totally agree.”  She grinned at Bonnie before slipping down the hall to the poolroom.
            The “poolroom” was a large warehouse-sized room filled with endless cubicles from which rose the rhythmic sound of clacking as rows and rows of data entry specialists, secretaries, and filing clerks tracked every item shipped to and from L.M.I.  Ramona’s cube was in the farthest corner, a space cut off from the rest of the pool by a support column, and mostly unheated, but Ramona rarely complained.  Very few people passed by her desk, and even fewer bothered her.  Her job as the Quality Control Records Clerk was dull and uninspiring, but it did nothing to invade her eight-hour-long daydreams of Jesse.  Just the way Ramona liked it.
            Just ahead of Celia, Ramona dashed to her desk and tossed her lunch bag into the bottom drawer.  With practiced accuracy, she slipped her feet out of the battered sneakers she wore to work and into the pinching pumps she kept under her desk for those multiple moments in the day when Celia, the office cop, inspected each and every clicking clacking cubicle for company policy outlaws.
            “Good morning, Ramona.  Just getting in?”
            Ramona looked up from her stack of shipping orders and gave her supervisor a look of vacant innocence.  “I’ve been here for ten minutes, Celia.  Got in at eight on the dot, like always.  Just not feeling well,” she lowered her voice, “it’s that time, you know, and the ladies room is out of personal items. So I went back to the production rest room.”
            “Out of personal items?  That cleaning crew!  That’s it!  I will be calling their manager today and I’ll have three new companies tour the place by the end of the week.”
            “Oh, wait Celia, maybe the machine was just jammed or something.  You don’t have to-”
            Celia turned icy eyes on her.  “You really shouldn’t defend shoddy workmanship, Ramona. If we are willing to accept substandard workmanship in others, then it’s not a long fall to substandard performances on our own part.  Wouldn’t you agree, Ramona?”
            Ramona cringed at the way Celia dragged out her name.  “I’m just saying that before you go firing anyone, maybe you should double check.  I could have made a mistake, or the machine could be jammed or something.”  She swallowed and tried to look pathetic and weak.  “I’m not feeling at all well today.”
            “Fine, I will check the machine myself.” Celia sniffed and looked hard at Ramona’s outfit. “What are we wearing today?” Celia raised a sharp, drawn-in eyebrow at her.
            Ramona’s shoulders tensed.  Every morning the same question, the same inspection, the same erosion of self-esteem spewed from Celia’s mouth and covered Ramona like hot, sticky lava. “I can’t speak for you, but let’s see, I’m wearing uncomfortable shoes, circulation-stifling pantyhose, itchy skirt, and lung crushing foundation garments. Do I pass muster?”
            “You know,” Celia poked a long, well-manicured nail at her, “that smart mouth has no place here.  It’s bad for morale.”
            Well, you’re the expert on being bad for morale.” Ramona started shuffling papers and looking generally busy.
            Celia blinked, analyzing Ramona‘s comment but apparently did not find the insult. “Filing needs the Bio-West order by noon.”
            “Filing shall have the Bio-West order by noon.  I have it right here.”  Ramona held up a thick stack of flimsy green shipping orders.  “It’s my first order of business.”
            “It should be.”  Celia’s eyes, restrained by enormous horn-rimmed glasses, stopped their search as they fell on the small personal CD player on Ramona’s desk.  “We’re still listening to our own music, I see.”
            Ramona sighed.  Celia was never quite satisfied until she’d sucked every bit joy from the person to whom she was speaking.  “Yes, Celia, we are.  You know it helps me concentrate, and I don’t disturb a soul.”
            “I don’t like it.”  Celia sniffed the air as if sensing another infraction in a cubicle far, far away.  “It doesn’t look professional.”
            Ramona looked around her tiny space and shook her head.  “Well, besides you and the guy from shipping who drops off the shipping orders, who sees me?”
            “Just don’t ever let Mr. Anderson catch you with them on.” Celia brushed her hands against each other, as if washing them of all guilt for such a transgression.  “Just because you’ve been an employee here longer than any of the other girls in this department, that doesn’t guarantee you any special treatment from him.”
            “I wouldn’t think of it.” Ramona kept a pleasant look on her face, praying Celia would leave. Sniffing one more time, Celia left the cubicle without another word.  Ramona reached into her bottom drawer where she kept her CD’s, and thumbed through the collection. 
            “Did Vampira draw any blood this morning?”
            Ramona looked up and into the plain, honest face of Neil Horton.  Neil, like Ramona, had grown up in Cobia and now worked as head of the accounting department for L.M.I.  He was the perfect stereotype for his position, from his thinning, dull brown hair to his long, narrow nose to the squinty, near-sighted way he studied anyone to whom he spoke.  The joke around the office was that no one needed a weatherman.  Anyone who wanted to know what the weather was going to be just had to see what Neil Horton was wearing.  If it was a bland button-down oxford shirt, it was a warm day.  If he had a sweater vest over the oxford, it was a touch chilly.  If Neil wore a cardigan sweater, it was a brutally cold day. The closer he got to his fortieth birthday, the more predictable his wardrobe was.
            High school pals, Ramona and Neil had gone to separate colleges, and had lost touch as Neil started his career with L.M.I. and Ramona attempted a life away from Cobia.  It was Neil who got her a job when she came back home and it was Neil who stopped by her workstation every day with a smile and a candy bar.  It was a friendship that Ramona simultaneously treasured and took for granted.
            “You know, whenever she drops by, it’s the only time I ever admit maybe my mother was right.”  Ramona pulled an industrial sized bottle of hand lotion out of her middle desk drawer and began her morning ritual of limbering her fingers for another brutal day on the computer. Taking good care of her hands was the only carry-over habit from her years, in the very distant past, of chasing a career as a musician.
            “How’s that?”  Neil perched on the edge of her desk.
“If I’d gotten an accounting degree, you’d be my supervisor, I would be in an office where the heat and air conditioning actually reach the desks, and I wouldn’t have to squeeze my ever widening rear end into these ridiculous clothes. I could wear jeans and comfortable shoes just like all the guys in your office do.”
            “Well, we’d welcome you, that’s for sure.  And your rear end is just fine.”
            A rare awkward silence hung between them as Ramona looked at him in surprise. 
            “I mean, I mean you’d be fine in whatever you wanted to wear.”  Neil ran a hand through his perfectly straight hair and blushed beneath the wire-rimmed glasses balanced on his long, bony nose.
            “Well, thanks Neil.”
            “Oh, hey, here you go.  Thought I’d bring you a snack.”  He handed her a Kit-Kat bar, her favorite.
            “Neil.  Thanks.”  She smiled at him and set the candy bar next to her keyboard.  “It’s nice to know I’ve got you anyway.”
            “Of course you do...have me.  As a friend, I mean.” He pushed up his glasses on his nose, something he did whenever embarrassed.
            “Well, I gotta get at it.”  Ramona put away the hand lotion and reached for her headphones. Chatting with Neil was nice, but she did have work to do. “That’ll taste good when I finish the Bio-West shipping order.  Celia will have me in a headlock if I don’t get these to Filing by noon.”
            “Okay, I’m going to let you get to work, then.  See you at lunch?”
            “If Celia doesn’t somehow find a way to make me work through it.”

            Neil gave her a wave and left the tiny space.  Now alone and facing a full day of flying fingered data entry, Ramona put on her headphones, selected Jesse Alexander’s third album to kick off her day, and turned up the volume.