Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Has Come - Time for a New Resolution by Debra H. Goldstein

SRING HAS COME – TIME FOR A NEW RESOLUTION by Debra H. Goldstein

The snow is melting!  The snow is melting! Spring is here!  There’s actually a jonquil popping its head up in my yard (sorry guys, we’ve had some 60-70 degree days).  As a writer, I am reborn when the sun comes out.

With rebirth comes a new sense of responsibility.  It is one that I have been sorely lacking since I stepped down from the bench.  It is the willingness to commit my time and energies where my mouth has claimed to be.  Sure, I’ve produced one sold book (Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery coming from Five Star Publications in 2016) and ten published short stories in the past sixteen months, but I’ve done that writing in spurts.  I’ve repeatedly said, I can’t discipline myself enough to write daily but I write up a storm when the mood moves me.  In the meantime, I’ve organized and executed a wedding for 326 people, gotten into a regular mah jongg game, been active on many civic boards, taken on numerous isolated projects, traveled for pleasure and writing, and been hit by the biggest continuing wallop when I lost my mother in November.

People tell me they’re amazed at what I’ve accomplished and I smile and accept their nice words, but deep down, I know I am a fraud.  Secretly, I watch with envy and astonishment the accomplishments of three somewhat early in their career authors whose work I enjoy and who I greatly admire as people – Edith Maxwell, Leslie Budewitz, and Terry Shames.  Each has produced multiple books and in Edith and Leslie’s cases, multiple series, in the same time period.  They also do a million things outside of their writing.  What’s the difference?

Don’t even go there with the obvious answer – their talent, writing skills, and wonderful characterizations.  Leaving those givens aside for a moment, it is their discipline.  Each sets a daily or weekly word goal and they reach it.  They set further goals for revisions.  Their results speak for themselves – well written, well-edited books they can be proud to put their names on and which fans, including me, can’t wait to read.

Many of us can string words together, but without self-discipline we are condemned to be writers of excuses instead of multiple works.  Spring is here and with the rebirth of the year, we all have an opportunity to start anew.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Story Starts Here

by Bethany Maines

One of the most common question a writer gets asked is "Where do your ideas come from?"

Once my brother made me lay on his floor so he could tape outlines of me all over his bedroom carpet as though his room had been the site of a mass murder; we found it was surprisingly difficult to get just the right pose so that all the limbs were showing and you didn't just have weird potato shaped outlines. (Yes, I know that was an odd transition, but I'll circle back I promise.) When was 12, I told my Dad I had a stove box to make a Halloween costume out of he got out the black and white spray paint and turned my best friend and I into Two Fools in Pair-o-Dice; our heads came out the one dots - naturally. My mom's friend once had eye surgery and had a rather large bandage, so my mom painted on an eye over the bandage and added a great set of false lashes. Why did we do these things? Honestly, the question never occurred to us. Had you asked at the time we probably would have said, "Why not?" My family has a culture of creativity and odd projects from passing thoughts are the norm not the exception. And as is often the case with cultures, I didn't think to question it until someone from a different culture asked, "So why don't you put mayo on fries?"  Or in the case of my writing, "How do you come up with your ideas?"

The people asking don't mean anything by the question, they are genuinely interested. The problem is that at any given time I'm vacillating between two of my personalities, Helpful Instructor Bethany and Diva Artiste Bethany. Helpful Instructor is usually nice, but Diva Artiste is kind of... well, I won't use the B-word as we are in a family friendly forum, but you get the idea, and sometimes it's a struggle to rein Diva Wench back in. Helpful Instructor realizes that the questioner was not raised in a culture of creativity and they are asking for help understanding the creative process. Diva Artiste imperiously demands how anyone cannot have ideas. Ideas are literally littered on the sidewalk, in the newspaper, on the radio, sleeting through the universe like a tiny meteorite looking for a receptive brain (Terry Pratchett, you are missed) and all you really have to do to have an idea is make your brain receptive. It's easy to do - read blogs by creative people (thanks), buy creative people presents (ok, maybe not really on that one, but I like books, you know, just in case), try new things. But the number one tip that Helpful Instructor or Diva Artiste both agree on, is to ask "What if?"

Any topic can work. Earlier this week there was a news story about a man who ran from the police and got stuck in mud.  What if you had been that man - up to your knees in river mud, unable to move, sinking slowly? What would you do?


What if I... What if you... What if they... The story starts there and you can decide the ending - just answer the question.



Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and the forthcoming An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Buying Books—Or Not

By Linda Rodriguez

A reader recently wrote to me to praise my most recent book, Every Hidden Fear, and apologized for having checked the book out of the library. I reassured her that there was no need to apologize, but I know why these readers and others have felt this way. A few authors have been very vocal on Facebook and other places about their disgust at people using the library rather than purchasing their books. When you add in the justifiable distress that most authors feel and express about actual book piracy, which is usually of e-books, it might seem to readers that there are a lot of angry authors out there. I don’t believe that’s the case, at all.

I’m always happy to have readers check out my books from their local libraries, and most authors I know feel the same way. I think the authors who’ve exploded online about library copies cutting into their sales numbers are few—and mostly new to the business. For many of us midlist authors, library sales are quite an important part of our book-sale figures. Besides, most of us were at one time nerdy kids who adored and made great use of their libraries. Many of us are still big library users. Authors tend to love libraries.

I have known experienced authors who became upset at signings when presented with books that were purchased in used-book stores. They usually are gracious to the reader, but complain about it to their fellow authors later. And they have a point. The author and publisher receive nothing from that used-book sale after the initial sale. Some readers are not aware of this. Some are, but can’t afford to buy all of their books new, especially if the book is only available in hardcover.

None of this behavior mentioned so far is piracy. Libraries and used-book stores are legitimate outlets. Piracy, which usually involves e-books, is when copies of a book are made available for free in the millions on sites usually called torrent sites. These sites violate the copyright laws and basically allow people to steal books. Aside from the damage this does to publishers and authors, which can be substantial, it is fundamentally unethical and dishonest behavior.

I don’t want my books pirated, and I don’t care how many people tell me “all content should be free” or “it’s good exposure.” People can die from exposure. My attitude is Don’t steal my books. But used-book sales are not piracy. Those books were purchased once, much as library books are, and with physical books, certainly, there’s a limit on how many times that book can be checked out or sold before it gets ragged and must be discarded and a new one bought. In the meanwhile, people are reading my books and enjoying them and recommending them to friends and eventually, I hope, buying them new. My books are only available in hardcover and e-book at the moment, and I know the hardcover’s a big expense for students and folks on fixed incomes. Libraries and used-book stores make it possible for them to find my books and read them anyway.

However, I do think readers should be aware that used-book store sales count nothing at all for the writer. Library sales do count, though they are not figured in for the bestseller lists. And the way publishing works right now, if a writer’s sales don’t continually climb—at a fairly steep rate—that author will be dropped by the publisher after three to six books. Even if all those books earned out their advances. Even if all those books had stellar reviews and were nominated for awards. So if too many of an author’s readers use libraries only and/or, especially, used-book stores to access their books, that author and that series of books will disappear. The author may be able to start a different series at a different publisher, but usually s/he will have to take a pen name, making it difficult for fans to follow. Publishers today seem to think every author should become a bestseller eventually—and remember, neither library nor used-book sales count for that—and if s/he doesn’t, the publishers lose interest in that author.

So, like the inimitable Neil Gaiman, I’ll happily sign anything from anywhere. But I’d like readers to be aware that their choices will affect whether or not their favorite authors are able to continue writing their favorite books—or at all. But if, like my correspondents, you feel bad because you simply can’t afford to buy a new book by a favorite author, don’t. Just write a brief, thoughtful  review and post it on Amazon or Good Reads or other reading community. That will mean a great deal to the author and cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time.

What are your thoughts on this thorny issue?

*******
Linda Rodriguez’s third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s Press), was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received an ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second novel featuring the Cherokee campus police chief, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press), was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlan Literary Award. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and an International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, was featured by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
  
Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/, Writers Who Kill http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/, and her own bloghttp://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me, and even though I managed to comment from another browser twice, now it won't let me comment even that way--huge sigh):  Gee, Ritter, thanks! I don't think I've been anyone's hero in a while. :-)



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Maybe It’s Normal, but I Don’t Have to Like It

By Kay Kendall

This month I’m putting final touches on my second mystery, rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline and trying to make up for time lost with my spouse’s recent illness. The waiting period before my editor’s comments arrived was agonizing. That was when I drummed my fingers on the table instead of pounding keys on my PC.

What will my editor say? Is my second book junk compared to my first one? Is it a hopeless mess? Have I lost my touch—that is, any talent that I had to begin with? The days passed. The clock ticked. I chewed my cuticles. I waited. 

All authors who address the agonies of the writing and publishing process
mention that there are always down periods when they doubt themselves. Even those who routinely issue bestselling novels confess to having these feelings.

Okay, so misery loves company. I admit that their angst makes mine lighter by seeming normal. Usually that kind of reasoning works for me.

However! This week while I waited for my editor’s next round of revisions, I decided this was no fun at all. I didn’t care if it was normal. I didn’t care if others felt the same way. I didn’t feel good about anything, and my nerves were shredded.

Yesterday when the long-awaited documents hit my inbox, I opened them immediately, read through the general comments, and scanned the three-hundred-page manuscript that will become RAINY DAY WOMEN, the further exploits of my intrepid amateur sleuth Austin Starr.

After thirty minutes of reading, I realized I had slid into a comfortable groove. I’d been here before with mystery number one, DESOLATION ROW. I recalled enjoying this part of the process—the to and fro with my editor. She’s a good fit with me. We happily spend time choosing the right synonym or arguing about the proper way to spell whiskey. Or whisky, depending what country it comes from. Yes, I had worked through this once with the first book. You bet I could do it again. 

Since I have persevered, not given up, not thrown in the towel, I have moved on to this delicious stage of preparing my manuscript for publication. If it weren’t for the too-tight deadline, I would be having a blast. I cannot burn the midnight oil as I once did—never mind at 30. How about back when I could really tear up the track—when I was 50? <Note to Editor Beth: Yes, I've indulged my flaw--a fondness for cliches--but I usually mean them tongue-in-cheek. I'll enjoy them here all the better to rip them from the ms.>

And so it goes, as my manuscript, my editor, my publisher Stairway Press, and I tramp ever onward to that hallowed publication date. Please mark your calendars, my friends. RAINY  DAY WOMEN sees the light of day—despite its title—on Tuesday, July 7.

                                                        *******

Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW--AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel RAINY DAY WOMEN shows her amateur sleuth Austin Starr proving her best friend didn't murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay does for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 1930s–present atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. She is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.