Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again--The Top Ten (Nine?) Pet Peeves of 2014

I don't do New Year's Resolutions. I never keep any of them anyway. Instead, this year there will be two posts--this one, on my top pet peeves for the year, and one on Thursday of a more serious nature: reflections on the things I've been most grateful for and what I've learned in the past year.


As usual, occupying the number one spot--public restrooms. I'm still amazed--or maybe that should be dismayed--by how filthy people can be when they don't have to clean up their own mess. Real pigs, most of them. Scratch that last part. Pigs are cleaner.

At number two, we have booth hogs. What are booth hogs? you ask. They can be found in their natural habitat, any fast food restaurant, at the busiest times of the day. They're easy to spot--one person in each of the largest booths, reading their newspapers or working on their laptops, while parties of four and five people are forced to crowd around the smaller tables and booths. Memo to restaurant managers: Do something, for crying out loud! Years ago, I heard a McDonalds manager tell a man he'd have to surrender the booth in which he was working on his photo portfolio when the lunch rush started. That's just fair. Restaurants lose business if their customers can't find a place to sit. 


Number three is a four-way tie: annoying TV ads. The winners are:

1. A local used car dealer with multiple locations and (apparently) money to spend. They buy five-minute blocks of time to push their vehicles. Judging by the reviews on their Facebook page, they don't have too many happy customers. And the guy who does the sales pitch in those TV ads has to be the owner. No business would hire somebody with that monotone to do their ads. He could prove to be our country's new secret weapon. Put him on the air for hours at a time and he'll put an entire nation to sleep simultaneously.

2. The furniture store ads featuring a woman rolling around on a chaise lounge, repeating the word "chaise" over and over in a voice that sounds like she's doing phone sex. Watching this one brings me closer to God. I always say a prayer of thanks for the mute button on my remote control!

3. I'm also grateful that someone must have convinced the "Granite Daddy" that sleazy is NOT the way to go to get people to spend a lot of money on granite countertops. "Who's your Granite Daddy?" Seriously? Who writes this crap, anyway?

4. Last but not least, the nationwide carpet cleaning company that features the CEO and his wife in some of their ads. I used to think the ads were perfectly understated and genuine--until the wife seemed to disappear, replaced by a woman who, at first glance, looked much younger, with long, blonde hair and trendier clothes. Did ol' Phil trade the wife in for a younger model? Nope. Business must have been good to pay for all that upgrade work the sixtysomething wife had done. After everyone had already seen her on TV, it was a little late to try to convince us she's a thirtysomething.That ship had already sailed, hit the iceberg and sunk!


In the number four position: spammers and trolls. Is an explanation really needed here? Sadly, morons will never be an endangered species. For the record, idiots, I don't care what Nigerian royal family you belong to, I'm not sending you money! (Does anybody really fall for this BS?)

As for trolls, they only do what they do because they can spew their hate while hiding behind their computers, tablets and smartphones. Face to face, most of them would keep their mouths shut--and those who didn't would be knocked on their butts. This is one of the reasons I left Goodreads. The Goodreads Bullies are well known, and while I never had any problems with them, I figured it was just a matter of time before somebody took a shot in my direction. I don't have the time or the patience to deal with that sort of juvenile behavior and would probably have said something  that would have gotten me permanently banned from the site. Call my departure a preemptive strike.


Number five: my neighbors. I was in favor of immigration reform until I got acquainted (sort of) with the people next door and their kids. The kids have no regard for anyone else and don't respect the rules of the apartment complex. In short, they're a nuisance. But then, I'm guessing they don't have the best role models in parents who entered this country illegally. Obeying the law obviously isn't high on their list of priorities.

Number six is a longtime peeve: traditional publishing. Every time I hear a horror story from an author who's been screwed over by his or her publisher, I'm more convinced than ever that self-publishing is the way to go. Years ago, when my agent and I parted company and I was talking with other agents, I got myself into a bind with an agent of dubious character. I should have known better, but I was in a bad place at the time (long story, one I'll save for my memoir). I was rescued--literally--by a group of writers I only knew online. I promised myself then that I would do the same for any writer who needs help. 

Traditional publishing would do well to remember that they can't survive without writers, but we can survive--and thrive--without them.  *raspberry*

Number seven: soap operas. Where do I start? Recycled plotlines...revolving door actors...making one female character the object of every man's lust (Brooke Logan of The Bold and the Beautiful, I'm looking at you! You're a grandma, stop behaving like you're still a hot young babe! When they did the rape storyline I was scratching my head and thinking, "She actually said no to someone?")

Number eight: pro-wrestling. See number seven--I think they use the same writers. And they spend more time on wrestlers and their loudmouthed managers with microphones in their hands than they do in the ring actually wrestling. What's wrong with that picture?

Number nine: Stephen Colbert. I used to be a fan until he got involved in the Amazon-Hachette dispute. Then I lost respect for him. The man is rich, and about to get even richer as Letterman's replacement, yet he was urging everyone to boycott Amazon when he felt the dispute was costing him money. Nevermind that Amazon is the only source of income for a lot of self-published authors. It was all about him. *raspberry for you, Colbert!*

Number ten: I actually don't have a number ten this year. Is this a good thing? Oh, I hope so!



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas! Is It Tomorrow...Or Was It Yesterday?

I was going to write a Christmas letter this year. I thought I had enough news to (maybe) make it entertaining. I had the special printer paper for it--white, with a beautiful border featuring a church and an angel (which actually didn't fit the content I was planning to write). But as usual, I'm running late--too late to mail a letter to those few friends who don't have internet access. I could have emailed it to most of the people on my list, is suppose...but I figured I'd just post it here. I took the lazy way out!



It's been a mostly good year for Collin and me. Arthritis still has me walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame most of the time, but I'm no longer in need of a wheelchair or walker (Carolyn, thanks for the loan of both!). I can make do with a cane, mostly for stepping up and down from curbs and using those infernal public restrooms. (They're still at the top of my annual Pet Peeves list.) In September, my new neurologist ordered a sleep-deprived EEG and an MRI for me, which not only proved I do indeed have a brain, but the stroke my previous neurologist suspected didn't happen. There's no permanent brain damage from the epilepsy and it would seem I only have abnormal brain activity when I'm actually having a seizure--which, thanks to the new medication she gave me, happens less and less often. She still hasn't lifted the list of restrictions: no going out alone, no cooking except when Collin is home (like I'm going to fight that one!), no tub baths, showers only (if I got into the tub, Collin would have to call Greenpeace to get me out, anyway), no swimming alone. That one bites. I love the water, even though I swim like a rock. That will probably change when I go back for my follow-up appointment in April. I hope. The restrictions part, I mean, not the swimming like a rock part. At this point in my life, I don't see myself suddenly becoming a good swimmer.

I wanted to do Christmas cards with one of my MRI images wearing a Santa hat. Would that have been too gross?

Collin is still working at IHOP. This is his third IHOP, actually. In the fifteen years he's been in the workforce, he's had five jobs--three IHOPs, almost eight months at Sam's Club, and his first job, at Grone's Cafeteria in Webster Groves. In that time, he's only spent two months unemployed--in 2004, when Grone's closed without warning and went bankrupt.

Last week, he got an unexpected windfall from a class-action suit filed against IHOP #2. One of the restaurant's former employees initiated the suit, and he got a check for his share. Nice! And just in time for Christmas shopping--online, of course. I've taken a vow to never set foot in any mall or store other than those right here in our neighborhood from Thanksgiving until early January.

Collin has decided to go back to school and take up accounting. He's really good at it. This is progress, my friends--it wasn't too many years ago that this young man who doesn't even make his own sandwiches was determined to become a chef! He's tried his hand at designing book covers--and is quite good at it. The problem there is in finding paying customers. Most indie authors can't afford a cover artist, and he's made too much of an investment in both money and time to do it for free. This latest choice could work, though. He's great with numbers and math and is a whiz at budgeting. And this time, he's taking his courses online. When he tried to work full time and take a full class schedule at the community college, it just didn't work. I thought I was living with a zombie for a while there!

I can't believe he wants a job that involves wearing a suit. I'm having a hard time picturing him in a suit. The last time Collin wore a suit of any kind, he was four years old and the "suit" was a duplicate of the one worn by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I'm fine with him becoming an accountant, as long as he promises to never, ever work for the IRS. It would be too humiliating! I'd have to wear a bag over my head if I ever did leave the apartment again!

On the writing front, those of you who have been following this blog or are one of my Facebook friends already know I've made some changes. One of the many things I love about self-publishing is that I can make those changes without consulting with agents and/or publishers. I call all of my shots, and I like it that way. If something isn't working, try something different. The options are almost limitless. I'm trying my hand at nonfiction, something I thought I'd never even want to do--a memoir of the worst period in our lives. There are people who think telling my story might help others in such circumstances. We'll see.

Because Collin has to work today and tomorrow, we decided to have our Christmas yesterday. I wanted us to have something as close to our family's traditional Christmases as possible--dinner, gifts, watching all of our favorite holiday movies... That meant a lot of last-minute shopping on Monday, but we did it! 

I had one last gift to buy for Collin. Something just for fun. My dad was the king of gag gifts, and that's one of the many things I miss about having him and Mom here with us. One year, I bought Collin a deck of Star Trek customizable playing cards. They were in a small package, of course--but I put them in a huge package under the tree to fool him. He loved it--and ended up collecting the cards. This year, I found a Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord action figure at Walgreens. Collin was up at the photo counter buying memory cards, so I headed back to the toy department. I found the action figure and spent fifteen minutes trying to give him the slip in the store long enough to pay for it. I never thought I'd be so grateful for those huge mirrors on the back wall used to watch for shoplifters! I could see him moving from photos to candy to...toys? I headed for the pharmacy, hoping to check out there. Too many people waiting in line...and he was coming that way! Run! I headed for the other side of the store, ending up in cosmetics. The woman at the checkout there took care of my purchase quickly--good thing so many of the people who work there know us! She put the box in three plastic bags.

"I've been trying to get this without him seeing it," I told her.

She grinned. "He's right behind you."

"Did he see it?"

She shook her head. "No."

It was a nice Christmas--quieter than the ones we had with Mom and Dad, but I've finally accepted that nothing will ever stay the same. Change is a part of life. I gave Collin a video game, the action figure (I believe this is about to become the start of a new collection) and scratch-off lottery tickets (he won $12.00 on $10.00 in tickets). He gave me a handheld scanner and a Minion blanket. Collin normally won't give what he refers to as "practical" gifts, but he knew I needed a new blanket (I have a quilt that Mom gave me twenty years ago, and it's literally falling apart--being as sentimental as I am, I refused to get rid of it) and he knows I love all things Minion.

And speaking of sentimentality, this is the twentieth year for our little Christmas tree. If that tree could talk, it would have some stories to tell! Collin and I have agreed to never replace it. I still have the first ornament bought for it. Mom gave me a little wooden pig ornament to represent my pet pig, Iggy--just before she was killed and our nightmare began.

I don't know if Santa had anything to do with this or not, but falling stucco from the top of our building damaged one of our patio chairs. Good thing they're old. Good thing it wasn't one of us in the line of fire....

Here's wishing all of you--except you spammers, of course--a merry Christmas and a happy and successful 2015!

12/26/14: By popular demand (I'm still trying to figure out how to set it to music)....












Sunday, December 21, 2014

"And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor...."

We usually don't get that kind of warning when watching TV these days. The Today show does lead into commercials with the phrase, "But first, this is Today..." I can't figure it out. It doesn't really make sense. Shouldn't they say, "But first, a word from the companies who pay our bills?"

Anyway...I got an idea last night. Don't know if it's going to work or not--I guess that will depend on how many people get ereaders, tablets and smartphones for Christmas. I had Collin put together three online-only ads for my three most popular novels, promoting ebooks as a good option for a last-minute Christmas gift. Tune in tomorrow (or rather the day after Christmas)  to see how it goes!




Merry Christmas, everyone!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Superhero in Training: There's a Funeral...But Nobody Died!

I had something else planned for this week--Collin and I went to the Cans Film Festival last Saturday and saw Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and I was going to post my review, but I still haven't written it!  I did, however, do a post over at my Beishir Books Word Press blog, so I'll repost it here....

I'm a huge fan of superhero movies and TV shows--The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Arrow, The Flash and Agents of SHIELD. I love them all. I grew up with them in the comic books--my mother collected them. I'll never forget the day we were packing to move and Dad threw out what he thought was "just a bunch of old comic books." What he had discarded was actually some very valuable first editions. I don't know who was more likely to kill him for that--Mom or Dad himself!

Around that same time, they owned a small grocery store in a neighborhood full of quirky characters--including a dog who liked beer just a little too much. One day, when I was telling a friend about the "old neighborhood," I came up with an idea that became the plot for Superhero in Training. There would be three protagonists: Charlie (Charlotte), a girl from an abusive home who escaped through the superhero comic books sold in her grandfather's store; Will, a graduate student with a secret identity of sorts; and Tuffy, a boozing pitbull who sees his human killed by a mugger and is out for blood. Strange trio, aren't they?

Now to see if it works....







Chapter One: There's a Funeral...But Nobody Died!

Charlie


I'm surrounded by superheroes. I like it that way. They make me feel safe. The Avengers...the Fantastic Four...the Justice League...the X-Men...they're all old friends to me. Does that sound odd, coming from a girl? I guess that's about as odd as a girl named Charlotte wanting to be called Charlie, right? For as long as I can remember, they've all been there for me. They've made me feel safe. When my stepfather was beating my mom to a bloody pulp, I'd be here, protected by my friends...and by my number one hero, my grandpa. He'd tell me about my dad, who died in Desert Storm when I was a baby. I was too young to remember him, but my dad was a hero like Captain America. I wish he'd been a supersoldier, too...then he'd still be alive and Mom would never have married Jerry the Jackass.

But she did marry him, and when he started beating her, I'd run. I tried to fight him, once—he backhanded me across the room and broke my arm. I was seven at the time. I never stood up to him again. I was always ashamed of that, of my inability to fight back. I was ashamed of him for being a bully and of her for being too weak to leave him. The Black Widow would have stood up to him. She would have beat the crap out of him, maybe even killed him. When I was twelve, I got a black catsuit and a red wig and tried to learn to fight. The Stepmonster made fun of me.

I discouraged friendships when I was growing up, because when you had friends, you had sleepovers. Sleepovers were reciprocal. If I stayed at a friend's house, much as I would have liked to, it meant I would have had to invite them to my house, too. They might have seen the Stepmonster on a bad night, which was just about every night. Then everyone would know my secret. I didn't want that, so I spent my nights with the only friends with whom I could dare share my shameful secrets...my heroes.

Then one night when I was fourteen, the Stepmonster went too far and Mom didn't survive the beating. Jerry went off to prison and I went to live with Grandpa. I missed my mom, but eventually life changed for the better. By that time, the comic book store Grandpa owned had already become my second home, and those superheroes who'd protected me from my psycho Stepmonster were my family in a sense I could never explain to anyone...so I kept on keeping to myself.

I never dated. Sure, I would have loved to meet a man like Steve Rogers, but men like him only existed in comic books. I was afraid I'd only end up meeting guys like Jerry the Jackass. Better to be alone than be a punching bag, and so I was. Alone, I mean. Just me and Grandpa, and my secret friends. I spent hours reading the comics or drawing my favorite superheroes. Sometimes I drew them doing battle with—and defeating—the evil Stepmonster. I was actually pretty good at it, but I never showed those sketches to anybody. I did other stuff for my art classes in school, and it was there that I was encouraged, that I was told how good I was—how good I could be.

Grandpa insisted I go to college in spite of my protests. I graduated two weeks before he died with a degree in graphic arts that I'll probably never use, but I'll never forget the look on Grandpa's face at my graduation. He looked so proud, it made everything worthwhile for me. Now the comic book store is mine. He didn't want me to keep it, but it means too much to me to ever sell it. This place was my lifeline, my sanctuary, for most of my life. It was my safehouse through the darkest times of my childhood. The comic book superheroes were my heroes, my best friends. I could never abandon them.

"I expect better of you, Charlie," Grandpa told me after graduation.

It doesn't get any better than this, Grandpa. The true measure of success is making a living doing what you love. I'm doing it.

***        

The funeral procession had begun.The funny part was that nobody had died.

Brenda Walker, who lived down the street, had just found out she was pregnant. Okay, in 2013 that's not exactly the big deal it was in 1953, but Brenda's ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Republican parents would have disowned her seven ways to Sunday if she'd publicly embarrassed them with an out-of-wedlock baby—so Brenda's hero of a hubby, who married her in a quickie ceremony the day before he got shipped off to Afghanistan, was conveniently killed in action. Now, she was mourning the death of her hero, who had given his life to save his fellow soldiers.  She looked good in black. She'd probably wear it until the baby was born. She'd play the grieving widow to the hilt.

"Who died?"

"Nobody," I said without thinking. Then I turned around. The guy standing behind me wasn't too bad looking. Not the geeky sort I was used to seeing in the store. Too good-looking. No thick-glasses, no pocket-protector, none of the usual awkwardness. He was tall, smiling, wearing a leather jacket and a baseball cap. He had a backpack that looked to be filled to capacity. Nobody filled their backpacks anymore, I observed. Everybody used tablets or e-readers. I silently hoped he wasn't a mad bomber or something. I didn't know what to do if he was. Tony Stark would know what to do. Bruce Wayne would know what to do. Me? I'd just panic and open the cash register. And then he'd probably kill me for not having much in the way of cash.

"Are you lost?" I asked without thinking.

He looked puzzled by the question. "I don't think so," he said slowly. "But maybe they

are...if nobody actually died...."

"It's a long story. A long, boring story." I decided to spare him.

"I see."

I could tell by the expression on his face that he really didn't,  but he changed the

subject then. "I'm looking for the new Marvel editions—Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, whatever you've got." He was still looking past me, through the window toward the faux funeral procession in the street.

“The widow there—she's the one in black—her parents are very strict, very religious,” I attempted to explain. “She, on the other hand, is, well, a tramp.”

He looked at me and tried not to grin. Tried. But failed.

“She got sort of...knocked up.”

He gave me an odd glance. “How does one get 'sort of' knocked up?” he wanted to know.

He could tell I was embarrassed. I could tell he was enjoying it. I wanted to kick his ass, but I had a feeling he could become a regular customer. I was hoping, anyway. I could use all the business I could get. Bite your tongue, Charlie, I told myself.  “She was playing Vatican Roulette with the local boys.”

“Boys? Plural?”

“Oh, great. An English major?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “Psychology.”

I rolled my eyes. “It figures.”

“So...Trudy the Tramp is pregnant,” he said, guiding the conversation back to the mock funeral. “Her parents think she was married?”

“No. They just want everyone else to think she was,” I said, searching for the comic books he'd requested. “They'd be content at this point if she could just tell them who the father is.”

He shook his head and chuckled softly. “This looks to be an interesting neighborhood, at the very least,” he decided.

“The girls are all in mourning,” I attempted to explain. “Her dead husband gave his life for our country, you know. He was a hero.”

“Was he rich?”

I looked at him. “I don't think so. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “If she's going to fabricate a husband, she might as well go all the way,” he suggested.

“Nah,” I disagreed. “Easy to fake a dead husband, but if he's a rich dead husband and her car gets repossessed, that's going to be hard to explain.”

He laughed. “You have a point.”

I handed him the comic books. He looked them over and nodded with satisfaction, then reached into his pocket for his wallet. He gave me his credit card. I looked at it. William T. Harwood. “New to the neighborhood, Mr. Harwood?” I asked, trying to keep my tone casual. I ran the card through the reader and received a quick approval.

He smiled and nodded. “Call me Will.”

“I'm Charlie.”

He grinned. “You don't look like a Charlie.”

“Charlotte.”

“You don't look like a Charlotte, either.”

I hesitated. “What do I look like, then?” I wanted to know.

He studied me for a moment. “An Annie, maybe. A Dorothy, possibly.”

“A Toto?” I asked.

He shook his head, grinning. “Your ears aren't long enough.”

“Thank Heaven for that,” I said. “Let me guess. You just blew in from Kansas.”

“I had that coming, didn't I?” he asked. “No, actually, I'm from Vermont.”

“Ah, I should have realized—the New England accent.”

“I just moved here last week. I'm postgrad at the university. I'm just getting acclimated before classes start,” he said. “One of the first things on my list was to find a good comic book store.”

“You're a fan,” I guessed. Lame, Charlie, I thought.

“For most of my life.” He took the credit card I returned to him and put it back in his wallet.

“Me too,” I said. “I inherited this place from my grandfather. I grew up here—literally.”

He looked back toward the window again as the funeral procession returned. “Does this sort of thing happen around here often?” he wanted to know.

I laughed. “Better get used to it,” I advised. “It's a community of oddballs.”

He grinned. “The perfect place for a writer.”

“You're a writer?”

“Aspiring,” he said.

“Have you published anything?”

“I haven't finished anything yet.” He was looking toward the bar across the street. “What the—” he started.

I looked, too. One of the regulars was attempting to enter. Tuffy, a pit bull belonging to one of the neighbors, was, as usual, blocking his path. “Tuffy won't let Fred in until Fred buys him a beer,” I explained.

“The dog drinks beer?” Will asked, surprised.

“He's got a bit of a drinking problem,” I confided. “He hits all the guys up for a beer.”

“And they buy them for him?”

“If they want to get into the bar, they do.”

“And if they don't?”

“Depends on how much beer he's already had,” I said. “Tuffy's a mean drunk.”

Will looked at me. “Does he...bite?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. "Tuffy knows where to bite to inflict the most pain."

He winced. "Ouch."

"I've been thinking of hiring him as my night watchdog," I said then.

"Good call. He'd work cheap. Get him a six pack and he's happy."

I gave him my business card. "Hope your introduction to our more--interesting--residents hasn't scared you off coming back here," I told him.

He grinned. "Quite the contrary, Charlotte. I think I'm going to like it here."

Charlotte? He was going to call me Charlotte?

"Come back soon, Sir Will," I told him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

First, Second and Third Signs of the Apocalypse?

Something major happened yesterday, though most of you aren't aware of it: a manuscript was completed and two new covers began to take form.

Not a big deal, you say? Happens every day? Sure...but not for me. I can admit it now--I hadn't finished a book since 2009, and wasn't sure I ever would again. Though I don't have grand mal seizures, what I do have has been enough of a headache (literally) to make me wonder if I'd ever publish another book. I could get started, sure--but nothing ever got finished. My brain just wouldn't cooperate for very long. On the good days, I could write a grocery list if it wasn't a long one. I might be able to churn out a short letter or write a blog post or do Facebook posts...but nothing that required any serious degree of thought. It just wasn't there. My muse, like Elvis, had left the building.

I've been praying a lot. I knew God could fix me, and if He didn't, it would be because this wasn't the route He wanted me to take. I struggled. Then, yesterday, a miracle happened (at least it was a miracle to me). I realized I was really, really close to completing Sam's Story and at least halfway through Riding Out the Storm. I had outlined three books in the Unicorn's Daughter series and had a good grip on Superhero in Training. How had this happened without me realizing it?

I was so close, no way was I going to stop now. I put everything else aside and kept writing until I made it to that last page of Sam's Story. Okay, there was a little bit of cheating involved there--the last scene was written months ago. I write like I'm assembling a patchwork quilt. I do it in pieces, and not always in order. Anyway, I was finished! Sure, there's a good degree of fine-tuning to be done, but I finished an entire manuscript!

Then I realized I needed covers and I needed them pronto. I want to post the first few chapters of the second Unicorn's Daughter book and Superhero in Training at Wattpad to (hopefully) generate reader interest. Getting Collin to do that was going to take some major nagging. He once wanted to start a business in creating covers and advertising materials for authors, and he got off to a great start. He was even a semi-finalist in a cover design contest. The problem is that most indie authors can't afford a professional cover artist, and he couldn't do it for free. He'd spent a lot of money on the programs and tools he uses to create those covers, and it's also time consuming. He still does my covers, of course, but his heart's not in it anymore. He has to be pushed.

I pushed. And the result? They, like my manuscript, still need some tweaking, but here they are!



Back Cover Blurb:

She is her father's daughter.

Living up to a legend isn't easy. Sometimes, it's impossible. Jaime Lynde rejected all attempts to recruit her to fill her late father's spy shoes--until 9/11. Realizing the world was now at war with an enemy who fought not on the battlefield, but in our own backyards, on our own streets, she joined the fight--even though the personal cost would be the one thing that mattered most to her. Finally, she understands the sacrifice her father had made so many years ago....

As a rookie intelligence operative, she makes a startling discovery in a chance conversation with a longtime colleague. Is it possible someone within our own government is plotting to kill the President of the United States?




Back Cover Blurb:



Charlie's a talented artist running a comic book store--and running away from her troubled past....


Will is about to get his PhD in psychology but secretly wants to be a comic book writer--if he can find an artist....


And then there's Tuffy.... 


Tuffy's a pitbull with a drinking problem. Most weekends, he ends up sleeping it off at the local pound--but when his human is killed by a mugger, he becomes the unlikely sidekick of a mysterious vigilante who's come to watch over the quirky residents of the small Midwestern college town....


If only AA would accept him, maybe Tuffy could clean up his act....

And then there's Sam's Story--the finished manuscript. The book could be available as early as Christmas. We'll see. That would be nice, but I'm not rushing it. Better to do it right than to do it fast....



Back Cover Blurb:

Hi--my name is Sam. This is my story. Not that the title doesn't make that obvious.

Actually, there are two of us. The first Sam came to my rescue when, alone and frightened in a pet shop, I didn't know where I was going or if I'd be happy and cared for when I got there. He's been my spirit guide through good times and bad in my twenty-one years in this world, after leading me to my human family. Well, some of them are human. One is a potbellied pig with an attitude. Two are dogs, one a bit of a curmudgeon, the other good-hearted but not always the sharpest tool in the shed. There are rabbits--four in all.

I'm telling my story in the hope that it will help you humans out there understand how we--birds, dogs, cats, pigs, and other critters--think feel and love. Mostly, I want to make those of you who think we're disposable to think twice before abandoning us or leaving us at shelters where we will almost certainly die alone and sad. We feel, we love, just like you do. We want to be part of your family....

So...what do y'all think?





Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Dysfunctional Family War Zone Day!

I'm guessing not many of you will be hanging around online today, but for those who do, Happy Thanksgiving!









Friday, November 21, 2014

Okay, Maybe This is a Good Idea After All....

When I started this blog (first over at MySpace and later moving it here to Blogger) some years ago, I wasn't looking for a following. I was just keeping an online journal for myself and for Collin. I'd never been good at that sort of thing, but after watching my mother slip away from us, the result of multiple strokes, watching her memory deteriorate until she no longer recognized either of us, I suddenly wanted to record my memories in case I ended up the same way--unable to remember important things from my life, from my parents' lives. I wanted Collin to be able to come here and share those memories, if he chose.

I do have an author blog over at Wordpress--I didn't want a website, just something simple I could do myself to post information about upcoming books and other author-related stuff. Check out Beishir Books sometime, if you haven't already.

When I started having memory issues, I was convinced I was headed down the road to dementia...or Alzheimers. It was a relief when my neurologist, after ordering an EEG and an MRI, assured me that I'm not even close to that.



My brain--please, no jokes about that wide, vacant space inside my skull. I'm told that's "normal."




My EEG--William (Kendall) says it looks like a seismograph of the San Andreas faultline!

Nor did I intend to do a "writer blog." Yes, I have almost thirty years of experience as a published author, but I'm not quick to give advice to other writers these days for three reasons: 1. There's no one size fits all formula for writing and marketing a book, no guaranteed formula for success. 2. I don't believe writing can be taught. At least not fiction writing. Either you're a storyteller or you're not, and you can learn more by reading your favorite authors than you'll ever get from any class. 3. Patience isn't my strong suit. I've encountered aspiring writers who think they already know all there is to know about writing an publishing a book because they read a lot of how to books on writing or they've taken an online course. If they're not willing to take advice, I'm not going to waste my time giving it...though I am more than willing to issue the "I-told-you-sos" when they screw up. (Yep, I'm bad.)

However, in the past couple of weeks, I've done two posts that were writing-related, and the responses have been overwhelming. So I'm thinking, maybe I do have something to say that might matter to someone. Maybe a weekly writing-related post here and at Beishir Books might prove informative (or at the very least, give you all a good laugh!). If it's helpful to even one person, I'm good with that. Because of my brain issues, I've had to make some adjustments in the way I work. It takes longer. I have to use an outline now. I can't set deadlines for myself. There are good days and bad days. But I'm still in the game, and if anyone else has these issues, maybe I can help there as well. 

But I don't want to just impart my own advice and experiences. I'll be spotlighting my fellow authors and bloggers as well--in profiles, interviews or guest posts. I'm sure it will surprise no one that my first spotlight writer/blogger will be my partner in crime for the past five years, William Kendall....


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Unwritten Rules of the Game (Seriously. There Are Rules!)

I love writers.

Seriously. Nobody understands a writer like other writers. Creative people don't think like normal people. (Stop snickering!) Our brains are wired differently. Don't believe me? It's been researched by psychologists, neurologists, and probably a lot of other disciplines I'm currently unaware of. But that's another topic for another time. Maybe.


Writers support each other. We listen to each other whine and complain when things aren't going well. We celebrate each others' successes. We promote each others' books. We follow each others' blogs and like each others' Facebook pages. We retweet each others' Tweets. Sure, there are always a few rotten apples, even in the literary barrel--those who give nothing but expect everything--but for the most part, we're there for each other. Years ago, when I was starting out, a group of us got together once a month for dinner, during which we'd share publishing info and bounce ideas off each other. We traveled to writers conferences together. 

One of the best bits of advice my agent gave me shortly after the sale of my first novel was to join a local writers group. She stressed the importance of networking, of getting to know other writers. She was so right. No one, not even a writer, is an island. The more writers I got to know, the more I realized how much I didn't know about "the business."



I've been fortunate to have had good friends in the writers community throughout the almost thirty years I've been in the business, first in traditional publishing, then as a self-published author. And I've learned a great deal from each of them....

1. Read each others' books--and review them! If you expect other authors to review your book, you'd better be reviewing theirs, too. (And if you're reviewing books in your genre, readers will see those reviews and be more likely to buy yours, so think about that. When I post a review, my name is always followed  by "author, The Unicorn's Daughter" since that book is now the first in an upcoming series.)


2. Same goes for blogs. If you're not reading and commenting on others' blogs, yours is going to be a pretty lonely place. Again, when you're seen making clever comments on other bloggers' blogs, their followers are likely to check out yours. That's how I found some of my favorite bloggers.

3. Promote each others' books. Invite other authors to guest post on your blog--or interview them. For my Amazon author page, I used an interview my partner in crime, William Kendall, did with me. It was a lot more interesting than the standard author bio!


4. Invite other authors to join you in promotions.  Example: Hilary Grossman, author of Dangled Carat (which, by the way, is now on sale at Amazon!). Hilary is an inspiration. She was working on her book when a rather nasty hurricane named Sandy hit the east coast. I remember Hilary's struggles in the aftermath of Sandy's devastation--but she finished her book, published it, and went on to arrange a couple of successful book giveaways--not only to promote her own book, but those of her friends as well. I was honored to be asked to participate--and pleased with the boost in sales I got each time.


A few years back, William Kendall, Mike Saxton, Beth Muscat, Krisztina Williams, Eve Gaal, Shelly Arkon, Mark Richard Hunter, April Morone, Lena Winfrey Seder and I formed Writers of Mass Distraction in the Writers Digest online community, a group where we could laugh, bitch and moan, whatever was needed, and have friendly ears listening and providing sympathy, advice and a few cyberhugs as needed. When the WD community went extinct, we moved the group to Facebook, adding a second group, Writers Mayhem, which we opened to a larger membership than the original group. We've had to boot a few bad apples from that group, but overall, it's been a success.


Get a bunch of writers together and we'll put a Shriners convention to shame. After being alone with our own thoughts and a cast of uncooperative characters for days on end, we need the release. Be patient with us. Sanity doesn't come easily to writers!