Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Robin Gets the (Book) Worm

When last I wrote to you, it was to tell you that I was participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, from November 1 to November 30.  Writing a 50,000 word book in a month was destined to keep me too busy to work on a blog. Now that November is over, I am here to tell you that I received a badge for starting, then a 5,000 word badge, then 10,000 word badge, then 25,000, and a 40,000 word badge.  I did not, however, receive the 50,000 word badge. By November 30, I was at the 45,200 word mark. I might have stayed up until midnight writing babble to get to the coveted 50,000 word count, but my sleep and my integrity meant more to me! As far as I’m concerned, I did pretty darn good to write 45,200 words in one month. My book is nearly done. The trouble lies in the fact that I have no clue at the moment how the blasted book is going to end. The last 5,000 words are proving to be the hardest. My thanks to all of you who encouraged me in November.  Don’t stop now, I still need you.

I trust you all had a nice Thanksgiving, I certainly did. Being with family is the whole reason I’m on the East Coast. We (Cyndi and Bill) had thirteen people for dinner with enough food for fifty. We had enough pies for everyone to have half a pie! If we walked away from the table hungry, it certainly wasn’t Cyndi’s fault.
And now we look forward to Christmas. I am more ready than I have ever been in my life. Maybe getting productive on my book helped me get productive in all other areas. Indoor and outdoor decorating is done, gifts are bought, cards are sent, and I’m ready to do a little baking.


Last week Cyndi, Bill, and I went to Raleigh
to a Donald Trump rally. It was electric and
standing room only. I took a selfie while we
were waiting.


The robins are back with their little suitcases and maps of North Carolina. I still can’t get over seeing robins in the winter. When I lived in New England, a robin sighting meant the arrival of spring. So Happy Spring, everyone!

Quote of the Day: Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight! Clement Clarke Moore


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo Rhymes with Oh No! Now What Do I Do

It’s November. Do you know what that means?
No, it doesn’t mean too much leftover candy from Halloween.
It doesn’t mean colorful leaves floating down
It doesn’t mean Thanksgiving turkey
Okay, it does mean all these, BUT it also means, NaNoWriMo!

That’s right – National Novel Writing Month is here!  What the heck is that, you say. I say it’s where participants commit to writing a novel in a month, from November 1 to November 30. For a 50,000 word novel, that means writing 1667 words a day. Every day. For thirty days.
I’d heard about this in past years and brushed off the idea as being way too far-fetched. But when my girlfriend suggested we do it this year, and considering I’d already started on a new novel, I said, “Sure, why not.” She and I are writing buddies in this project, meaning we hold each other accountable and encourage each other’s progress. Here we are, ten days into the month and as of yesterday I’ve written 18,549 words.

I just may make it!!
I need you to also be my accountable person and my encourager. I’d love to know you’re on my side, pushing me to accomplish this goal. Granted, I’m not out there running a marathon, or swimming the English Channel, but for a writer, the accomplishment is just as awesome.

Here’s a quick excerpt of my as yet untitled work in progress. It’s 1961 and thirteen-year-old Gary Haywood is in the hospital after slitting his wrist.
    The man came closer to Gary and scowled. “I hope you’re happy, boy. We’ve had the police at our house investigating us. Us! You go do some dumb thing like that and we’re the ones they come pester. If you thought you had it hard before, boy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
   Marty stepped closer to Mr. Haywood. “Sir, your son is hurting and . . . .”
    “Who the hell are you and what business is this of yours? This is a family matter.”
    “I am well aware of that, sir. My name is Marty Collins and I’ve been appointed by the court to be Gary’s counselor. I’m here to help him, as well as the family, heal.”
    Mr. Haywood jabbed a fat nicotine-stained finger at Marty’s chest. “Well, we don’t need you, we can handle this ourselves. Can’t we boy?”
    Gary stammered, “I think . . . I . . . I’d like to have Mr. Collins help us . . . uh, me.”
    “Boy, you bring the world into our private family matters and you’re gonna need a whole lotta help, y’hear me?”
    Marty walked over to Mrs. Haywood. “Ma’am, what your son did Sunday night was a cry for help and the court has appointed me help him. No matter what your husband says, I’m going to see Gary every day and be available to him day and night. The next time he tries this, he might not be so lucky. Now, will you allow me to see him, without interference” Marty glanced over at her husband, “or would you rather go to your son’s funeral one of these days?”
    Mrs. Haywood grabbed a tissue from a box beside the bed and wiped her eyes. Lowering her voice and looking away from her husband, she said, “You won’t have any problem with me.”
    “Thank you,” said Marty. “Gary is being released tomorrow morning in your care,” he looked at Mr. Haywood, “and I’ll be by at two to visit with him. And, if there are any marks on this young man that aren’t there now, the court will know about it and if you thought the police were pestering you before, Mr. Haywood, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

  Quote of the Day: No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. Robert Frost


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Books Flying Through the Air

Do you remember how amazed we all were when we sent our first fax to someone? Knowing that somehow that piece of paper was floating through space to get to its destination.  Another office received our document while our original document remained steadfast in the fax in our office. We didn’t have to physically put it in an envelope and send it through the mail, yet somehow it got there.

That was the beginning of a whole new age of productless products.  Sending something to someone without actually sending anything.

Nowadays, we buy things that no one had to pack and ship to us – online music, ebooks, webinars, etc.  They ship nothing and we receive nothing, at least nothing we can actually hold in our hands. Then, we pay for it without any actual currency exchanging hands.
The computer age has done more than open up our world and broaden our horizons. It has enabled us to buy and sell productless products. We buy products with no actual money and receive in return a two dimensional nontangible item that we can’t touch, smell, or taste. And the demand for these phantom items is growing.  Amazon says eBooks are bigger sellers than print books. I don’t believe iTunes would stay in business if they weren’t so popular with people who want music piped in to them (without pipes, by the way).

I first appreciated this paradigm in selling when I wanted to make my song “Mary’s Christmas” available to the public but didn’t want to have to cut a lot of records, store them, and ship them out to buyers.  (Full disclosure: since I have no musical ability whatsoever, the song is performed by my very talented son-in-law, Curtis Willey.) By offering the song on iTunes, I could sell the song without having to ship anything. What a concept!
Now, my book, Stop Procrastinating – Get Published! is available through this phantom method of commerce. You gotta love it!  Of course, people can buy the print version and hold the book in their hands, but they can also get the eBook version that will arrive instantly on their Kindle or computer with just a few clicks on Amazon. Oh look, it's flying through the air to you!

To continue this subject of productless products, if you would like me to send you a free book (of course, without MY actually having to send it to you), go to Amazon and click on Waterbeds and Wedding Vows. The eBook will be sent to you immediately. And when you get it, you will find inside that book a place to click and get the second book in the Cranky Seniors Series, Hamburgers and Headaches, for free. They can both be read on computer, Kindle, Nook, and ePub. I can send it to you while I sip coffee in my robe, unaware that I'm sending it. What a life!
One can only guess what the future holds. It could be just a click away.

Quote of the Day: ". . . Striding the blast . . .upon the sightless couriers of the air." William Shakespeare

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Stopped Procrastinating

This has been a very wet week in North Carolina—eight inches of rain in one week!  Sorry, California, wish I could send you some of it.

Because I didn’t feel like going outside and getting wet, I spent my time this last week at my computer finalizing my latest book, Stop Procrastinating – Get Published!: A Helpful Guide for the Beginning Writer.  I’m happy to say it has now been published through CreateSpace.  I’d been putting it off since the cruise, not ready to get back into tackling the cover and polishing up the interior. In other words, I was procrastinating. Ironic, isn’t it?
I finally decided to keep my desk chair warm until it was done.  No matter how sore my butt got!

This is a how-to book written as fiction and it’s for those who’ve thought of writing a book, writing a memoir to leave for their future generations, a collection of poems, whatever suits their fancy. This book will take your hand and lead you through the process, right up to the point of getting published. No longer do we have to beg for crumbs from publishers in hopes they’ll deem our words worthy of their time. We now have the option of self-publishing what we write. So there, big publishing houses!
The book is available on Amazon for $8.50 and on Kindle for $3.99. Think Christmas gift for the writer on your list or for yourself.  It’s a short book, packed full of information and writers’ resources.  I notice Amazon only shows the Kindle version at the moment; however, the print version should be available momentarily.

On a separate note, I’ve been having trouble with my Yahoo email so I’m changing to Gmail. Please make a note that my email address is no longer noirons@yahoo.com, but rather lindaloegel@gmail.com. Thank you for making that change in your contact list.

Quote of the Day: Procrastination is the thief of time.  Edward Young




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Her Deadly Little Secrets

Hello. Today I have with me a very talented writer, Marcia Buompensiero.  You may remember I interviewed her some time ago after publication of her book, Dirty Little Murders.  Marcia has a new book out now, keeping with the theme, called Deadly Little Secrets. Marcia writes under the pen name of Loren Zahn. 
I have read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since Marcia is a resident of San Diego, California, her books are set in that locale and I can relate to such things as the I-5 and 805 merging traffic. She writes like she knows what she's talking about, which she does. 
Marcia, please tell us how long you've been writing?
Seems like all my life! I wasn’t able to devote the time needed until I retired about nine years ago. Since then I’ve published two books.

What type of writing do you normally do?
Since I first read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in high school, I’ve been drawn to the “coming of age” stories, particularly those with a central mystery to solve with a touch of the supernatural element thrown in for fun. My Theo Hunter Mystery series introduces a heroine who is continually growing and learning. Whether she faces a moral dilemma or a ruthless killer, she must always decide just how far she will go to find the truth. Just as many young people today (and throughout the ages) have had to hone their moral compass, Theo is continually polishing her own compass and forever evolving.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book.
All HELL just broke loose in San Diego— and investigative reporter Theo Hunter is caught in the middle of it. The slaying of a retired priest is shrouded in secrets, lies and cover-up. Was the old man the innocent victim of a deranged killer—or a pervert who deserved what he got? Theo is hell-bent to find out. But when her prime suspects are murdered, only one fact is clear … the killer will strike again. Armed with nothing but a madman’s cryptic notes, Theo scrambles to decipher the clues while the killer lurks in the shadows, poised to silence her for good.

What prompted you to write it?
 It’s that “coming of age” issue that resonates with me. Whether it is the result of forces of nature, technology, world events, or personal triumphs or tragedies, we are constantly evolving. Henry James once said about a character of limited sensitivities and insight: “He simply doesn’t have a window that looks out on that side of life.” Creating a character whose life is continually opening new “windows” by which she may view a different side of the life experience resonates with me. That’s the fun of it!

How long did it take to write it?
The concept for Deadly Little Secrets developed over a five-year period. Once I honed the plot in my mind, it really only took a few months to flesh it out.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
Theo explains a valuable lesson she learned about a failed romance:  “Life went on and, amazingly, so did I. No one’s obliged to give us what we expect. At some point I figured that out. I got better.”

 Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
I published the novel through CreateSpace, the publishing subsidiary of Amazon.com in August. It was a finalist in the 2015 Annual San Diego Book Awards Competition and called a “Highly recommended good read” by the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild.

How can my readers get a copy?
Deadly Little Secrets is available at www.amazon.com under my pen name, Loren Zahn. I would appreciate any reviews placed on Amazon about the book.  It is also available in the Kindle version.

What do you do besides write?
I'm a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and am the lead editor on their anthology publication, The Guilded Pen. The anthology was created as a fundraiser for the guild and it has been a success since day one. All funds raised go to sustain the Guild’s mission which is to support the writing arts in our community. I also co-chair a fundraiser for San Diego's Little Italy.

What is your advice to would-be writers?
Keep writing—relentlessly! As frustrating as writing can be at times, there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than to see your words in print. Don’t give up.  That said, finding the right/write support group is a valuable component of helping you to understand the business of writing. I have discovered that nearly every community has at least one writing support group. Try them out. It may take a few tries to find the right fit, but when you do you might think it was a match made in heaven!

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
That I would be my own publicist. Publishers expect that of you. Whether you Indie publish (self-publish) or go the traditional route, you will need to learn how to sell yourself and your work. The San Diego Writers/Editors Guild has started a marketing program where members can learn from the pros what works and what might be a waste of time and resources. I recommend visiting the website: www.sdwritersguild.org and viewing the page on marketing for helpful suggestions

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a family history couched in a ghost story which I hope to complete and publish in 2016. I am also working on the next novel in the Theo Hunter Series. In Fatal Little Lies, Theo will solve the decades-old murder of a prominent social reformer, learn the reason for her mother’s desertion, and face the killer who must protect the secret, even it means silencing Theo for good. Fatal Little Lies will be out in the spring of 2016.

Thank you, Marcia. It's been a pleasure!

Folks, get this book and read it. You won't be sorry.

Quote of the Day: A secret's safe 'twixt you, me, and the gatepost! Robert Browning

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Here’s the Scoop – Chocolate Ice Cream but no Mints

I’m back from a two-week vacation and almost ready to be part of the world again. Not quite, but almost. I’m finding it difficult to make my own bed, cook my own meals, and, worst of all, not be entertained hourly.  A cruise can do that to you. I must say though, not once did I find mints on my pillow for the entire seven days. I guess cruises just aren’t what they used to be.  J

The Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Prior to the cruise, I drove to Florida and spent two days with my girlfriend Sue.  She took me to St. Augustine and we took a trolley tour of the city. I saw the entrance to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. I didn’t go in, I don’t want to be young again and live life all over again! But I surely did enjoy my visit with Sue. 

The Fountain of Youth
Then I drove to Ft. Lauderdale and, with my son Mike and his family, boarded the Royal Caribbean for a cruise to the West Indies, aka, Eastern Caribbean. We just missed Tropical Storm Erika and had smooth sailing for a week. Our first port was San Juan, Puerto Rico where I took a trolley tour of that city.  I learned there are six bioluminescent pools in the world and three of them are in San Juan.  How about that? At a stand near the dock I purchased the first of jewelry I’d be buying, a beautiful locally-made necklace.

The next day we arrived in St. Maarten. My sixteen-year-old grandson, Monterey, and I took a water taxi to the shopping area and had a good time walking from stall to stall looking for jewelry. He wanted to get a ring at every port stop and I wanted whatever I could find that caught my eye. As soon as we got off the water taxi, people loaded us down with flyers telling us to stop in and get free jewelry at the various shops. So we did. I got a free ring, pendant, cubic zirconium gem; then I bought a bracelet for a whopping $10 and got two more free rings. It was fun.
Monterey and Me


The next day we arrived in St. Kitts and Mike, Monterey, and I walked around town, picking up more free jewelry. Jewelry definitely appears to be the biggest business in the West Indies, by far. Before we got far off the ship, men were waiting for us with little monkeys wearing diapers wanting to know if we’d like to hold them. We certainly did and our cameras got a workout. We paid the men a tip for giving us the pleasure of these little guys for a few minutes.
Monkeying around at St.Kitts


Carved Fruit
The next two days were at sea days where I played Bingo and lost, watched napkin folding and fruit carving demonstrations, and finished the Lee Child book I’d borrowed from the ship’s library. I also participated in a Wii tennis tournament. I won the first round but lost the second round by a mile. For my efforts I won a key chain and a pen. I did relax at the spa for an hour’s massage, facial, and back exfoliation. Ooh, what a life!

Getting ready to splash!
There were a lot of activities on board during the week. Mike was in the belly flop contest and fared no better than I did at Wii. Mike and I played their nine-hole miniature golf course and he ended up beating me two games out of three. The shows at night were good and made me forget I was incommunicado for a week—no cell phone service and no internet. Good gracious! Mike beat me at Skee Ball, but I beat Monterey. Things do even out.

Baked Alaska and chocolate ice cream
Towel Elephant
And, of course the food was excellent, as were our servers. A double scoop of chocolate ice cream was waiting for me every night once I asked for ice cream the first night out.
Me and Lollie


After saying adios to the cruise and to my son and his family, I spent a wonderful two days visiting another girlfriend and her husband. I hadn’t seen them for thirty-three years; when we last saw each other, we were parents, now we’re great grandparents. Where has the time gone!?

I drove back to North Carolina with a smile on my face for all the good memories of the last two weeks.

Quote of the Day:  Precious memories, how they linger. Old Hymn.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aren't We All Kids at Heart?

I truly hope you are all having a good summer. Relaxing, playing, and enjoying the fresh air and more carefree lifestyle. And maybe even catching up on reading those books you’ve set aside.

I have to tell you, I had a wonderful summer, all wrapped up in one week--last week. My daughter and son-in-law, Tammy and Curtis, came down from Connecticut to stay with me for a week. Since my other daughter and son-in-law, Cyndi and Bill, live fifty minutes south of me, the road between here and Lillington got quite a workout.  The four of them love being together.

Curtis, Tammy, Cyndi, Bill

One morning we went to Raleigh to have breakfast at Big Ed’s with a bunch of family. There were ten of us and it was a great way to start the week.  One other day, the four kids and I (I say kids even though none of them will ever see fifty again, but they'll always be kids to me) drove down to Wilmington, NC, an hour plus drive south of Lillington. We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant called the Copper Penny. Unbeknownst to me, it turned out to be an early 75 birthday celebration for me, since the kids won’t be together in November. Then we walked along the boardwalk and read about the ships coming into Fear River (Cape Fear Basin) during the Civil War to get supplies. We had ice cream and enjoyed it like the kids we all are.

Then we dove a little farther south where we got out and enjoyed the white sand beach with the Atlantic Ocean rolling in wave after wave. The sky was blue, the water was blue, and white caps matched the white sand. Just a beautiful experience.

Then, back in the car and on to miniature golf. Since I play golf on my Wii a few times a week, there was no contest as to who the winner was. I showed those young whippersnappers a thing or two!

We didn’t get home until late, but it was a real fun day. It seemed like all week it was get up early and go to bed late and by the time Tammy and Curtis left, I was bushed. Plum worn out. Exhausted.

However, while they were still here, on Saturday Tammy came to my writers group with me, and Cyndi drove up from Lillington to be with me, too! I was so proud to have my daughters there and to have them both participate with something they’d written. It was certainly a dream come true. We memorialized the moment with our picture taken outside after the meeting.

I only cooked one meal all week; however, Cyndi cooked her little heart out all week keeping up with the horde that continually invaded her Lillington home.

For now I have a respite. Time to think, dream, write, and get ready for next week!  I’ll let you know more after the cruise!

Today’s Quote:  …wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland.  Alfred Noyes.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mining for Input

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re having a good summer, getting to do the things you can’t do during the winter months.

This has been a busy two-week learning spree for me. I was immersed in twenty-three hours of webinars by writers on the subject of writing and marketing. The time was certainly not a waste, I mined some gold nuggets for my efforts.

For one thing, I learned there’s a site called www.acx.com. This site lets you upload your book and have it turned into an audio book. It costs nothing to get the process started; they have readers who will audition for me so I can pick the voice I want, and they then get half of any royalties my audio book receives. I have already uploaded Willard Manor for them to turn into an audio book. You may say, why would I give up half of my royalties? Because, I say, half of royalties beats no royalties.  This is an unexpected extra stream of income without my having to do anything. It then gets distributed through Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.com.

Another nugget I mined is a way of increasing my book sales by offering two free digital books. You read that right—I increase sales by offering two books free.  In exchange for the free books, I obtain email addresses. The reader wins/I win. I’ll be giving away as free books the first two books in my Cranky Seniors Series.  The readers will then be introduced to Willard Manor and Leaving Mark that are for sale.  I’m still working out the technical logistics of how all this works.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I experimented with how to make a video, either through YouTube or on a site on my computer. I did a trial run but realized I have to get much better at being “on camera” in order to make a polished video. One problem I have is that I have no one to talk to all day so when I open my mouth to talk on camera, it comes out as a squeak! My vocal chords get rusty from non-use (a problem Fred never would have thought I’d have!).

Now I need your help. I’m redoing my guide for beginning writers and I’ve been experimenting with various covers and titles. Please tell me if seeing one of these covers would prompt you to buy the book if you were a new writer and if so, which one.  Which one relates to the title better.  Realize, they can both be tweaked for the final cover. I’ll let you know in the next post what the consensus was. Thank you in advance for your input.
Have a good summer!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Have a Cigar!!

Pass out the cigars! We’re celebrating! Celebrating what?  The birth of a new book!

What book? My second novel, Leaving Mark.
I have spent the last three days formatting, editing, reviewing, editing, reviewing, editing, until there can’t possibly be a typo anywhere in the text. In fact, I’m so sure of it, I’ll send $15 to anyone who finds a typo.

Leaving Mark has been a fun book to write. Like its cohort, Willard Manor (of which this is a spinoff) there was a lot of fact checking to do. Granted, I lived in the fifties and sixties but I still had to double check such facts as when Carvel Ice Cream started its first store, or Howard Johnson’s. I couldn’t have my characters going to a store that didn’t yet exist, now could I?

President Kennedy’s assassination is burned in my mind—day, date, time (I was folding diapers and watching Gale Storm on an ancient black and white console TV when the news broke), but I had to check other events like when the Titanic sank (no, I wasn't around then!) and when Sputnik was launched. I further had to check the distance between New Haven, Connecticut and Sturgis, South Dakota, to see how long it would take two guys on motorcycles to get from one place to the other, without today’s highways. Thank heavens for MapQuest!

If you read Willard Manor (and if you didn’t, you should, it's a fun and painless way to learn US history through the generations of the Willard family), you know that a young couple, Tony and Shelley McGuire buy an old house and renovate it to make a home for them and their future children.  Shelley’s father is Mark Fortier. Leaving Mark is her father’s story, moving forward from catastrophe as a young boy to discovering who he is and what it means to be a man (with a few more good history lessons thrown in).

Leaving Mark is self-published through CreateSpace and will be available in a few days on Amazon, in both print and ebook.
Quote of the Day:  Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.  Francis Bacon

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When Two Loves Collide

 Folks, you know how much I enjoy seeing the deer in our yard. They are so beautiful and graceful. 

And you know, too, how much I’ve been enjoying my roses. The red rose trees were in bloom and looking lovely and one of the yellow rose bushes had a bud about to burst open. 

Then it happened. I went outside one morning to smile at and talk to my flowers as I always do, and lo and behold, there were no flowers! All I had were bare stems, every bud and blossom, every single bloom, had been chewed off by my formerly beloved deer.  I was not happy. And may I say these roses were in my front yard, not the back yard next to the woods where I normally see the deer.


I heard that deer won’t go near rosemary, so I put pots of rosemary near the roses. Then a neighbor said they don’t like cayenne pepper, so I sprinkled an entire bottle of cayenne pepper all around my roses. The deer haven’t come back to them, but that’s probably because there’s nothing left for them to eat.

I started getting new growth on the roses which thrilled me no end, except we then had a beetle invasion.  The beetles are eating my roses to death, leaving nothing but skeleton leaves.   


For the beetles, I was told to get Bag-A-Bug

and hang it away from the plants. I did, and it is truly attracting and catching beetles, but there are still enough on my rose trees to do considerable damage. I was told the beetle season only lasts about six weeks so I’m hoping they’re close to going away.  

If nothing else comes along, I just may get to enjoy my roses yet this summer.

And my birds. 


And my porch. 


One can only hope.

Quote of the Day: Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow; Gather the roses of life today. Pierre de Ronsard

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing: A Positive Influence

I am participating in a writing contest that wants to know "How writing has positively influenced my life," by Positive Writer. Wow!  For me, the biggest influence writing has had on my life is certainly not the money, it is the community of fellow writers.
For twenty years after I moved to San Diego I had church friends and one very close friend. Then I joined a read and critique group and my life changed forever. The friends I made in that group are as close to me as my own family. I also joined the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and met even more writers, all of us with the commonality of trying to fit a noun against a verb and write something of interest, one word at a time.

Getting to know my fellow writers has provided a veritable feast of life lessons.

Compassion. Through our writings we got to know one another better. Hearing one person’s memoir or another’s poem, we often found ourselves in tears over what we heard because the writer dared to bare her soul and leave herself vulnerable. Through the written word we came to know that person on a much deeper level than could ever have happened in a casual friendship
Confidence. We learned to trust one another, knowing we would get good feedback on what we’d written and that no one responded out of malice, but rather with the intent to help each of us better our craft. We learned to give and to accept honest criticism.

Joyfulness. When members read chapters of their novels in progress each month, the rest of us made sure to come back to hear what happened next. It may have been Ms. X’s novel, but we all felt we had ownership of a little piece of it. When the novel was finished, we were all midwives at its birth, rejoicing and celebrating its arrival.
Self-Assurance. At my first read and critique meeting, I listened to what others read and wondered why on earth I thought I could be a writer. Then, tentatively I read, through tears, the piece I had brought. When I finished, I expected to be told “That’s nice, now sit down and shut up and let the real authors read.” Or something to that effect. Instead, after writing alone at home and not knowing if I should bother to continue, I was hearing people say “That’s really good” or “What you wrote moved me.” That did more for my self-doubts and lack of self-esteem than all the chocolate in the world could ever do. By continuing to grow through the group, I learned to reach out to others who battled their own demons of self-doubt.

Courage. Over the years, I have tried my hand at new skills related to writing such as self-publishing, uploading my book to Kindle, publishing on Smashwords, and writing an effective query letter,  Best of all, I learned not to feel the world was ending when I received a rejection letter. I know I’m in good company with my pile of rejection slips when I consider that the first Chicken Soup for the Soul Book was rejected 144 times. I’ve still got a long way to go to top that.

I am now on the opposite coast from San Diego but the friendships I made there continue as strong as ever. We may not be able to hug in person, but we can use today’s technology to get feedback on our stories, keep in touch, commiserate, and rejoice with one another. Through writing, I have made other friends across the country that are very dear to me, yet we’ve never met in person. Our passion for writing has brought us together and formed a strong unbroken bond.  I couldn't ask for a more positive influence on my life.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Warm and Cozy Author

Today I have with me Ellen Kennedy, a writer I met recently at a Raleigh event.
Ellen is the author of Murder in the Past Tense as well as other grammar-related murder mysteries.
Good morning, Ellen. Before we get into your book, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m married, we celebrated our 40th anniversary last summer. We have two grown daughters and five utterly loveable grandchildren who live just close enough to let us spoil them.
How long have you been writing?
I used to be a copywriter, turning out commercials for TV and radio, as well as print ads. I used to joke that my attention span was only 30 seconds. Apparently, as time went by, my attention span increased to the length of a novel! (About 75,000 words.) I started writing mysteries about 15 years ago, squeezing them in between episodes of real life: putting daughters through college, planning weddings, taking care of elderly relatives, etc.  My recent mystery series with Sheaf House Publishers was begun in 2012.

What type of writing do you normally do?
I specialize in "cozy" mysteries, along the lines of Agatha Christie. They combine character development, humor, romance, local color and mystery. It's the kind of book I like to read. I started writing because I had read everything Agatha Christie had written. I try to write what I'd like to read. My Miss Prentice series is about a high school English teacher and the titles reflect that: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle and Murder in the Past Tense.

Give us a brief synopsis of your latest book.
Murder in the Past Tense, the third in the Miss Prentice series, was released last fall. Here's a description:
"It's summer, and Amelia is a lady in waiting. When she happens on a familiar face in a tabloid newspaper, she and Gil reminisce about another summer, long ago when they were teens, working in a summer stock company. There was drama that summer, along with romance and danger. Though much has changed over the years, the danger still lurks. Who killed Danny? Did they also kill Janey? What does it all have to do with an Adirondack hermit? And will Amelia uncover the killer's identity before she finds herself playing a death scene?"

What prompted you to write this book?
Some years ago, while I was waiting for my daughter to finish her piano lesson, I was bored, so I began reading a National Enquirer that the teacher had in her living room. It had an article about an actor who had been murdered and I realized that I knew him and had worked with him in summer stock theater when I was a teenager. I decided to solve the mystery, if only in my imagination.  This is almost exactly what happens to my character, Amelia.
How long did it take you to write this book?
These days, each book in the series takes approximately one year to complete.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
To tell the truth, it's not so much a single line as several. In the story, the stock company puts on a musical comedy.  Rather than risk copyright issues, I made up my own musical comedy based on a short story by O. Henry, "The Last Leaf," that is in public domain. I also made up all the lyrics to the songs. I'm rather proud of that accomplishment.

I would say so!  Is the book published and, if so, when and by whom?
It was published by Sheaf House Publishers in the fall of 2014. I use my pen name, E.E. Kennedy to differentiate myself from a rather well-known book editor in New York.

How can my readers get a copy of Murder in the Past Tense?
It's available from Christianbook.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble in either paperback or e-book.

What’s next for you?
Currently, I'm editing book #4 in the series which will be released in the spring next year, Incomplete Sentence, about a vicious killer who eludes punishment. And I'm working on the plot of a new book, to be #5. I'm struggling with an English-teacher related title. It's about a poem and a toy and a patent. I can't wait to see what happens in it!

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?
Don't just think about it. Get started and write. Take courses. Read, read and read some more. Read in your favorite genre and read the classics. Learn to use words correctly. (Now I'm starting to sound like my character, Amelia, the English teacher!)

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
I wish I had had the confidence to start earlier. I wish I knew how hard it is to be published and how hard it is to promote your work. But I love writing and concocting wacky and tricky plots and funny dialogue and I plan to keep on keepin' on as long as possible!

Thank you, Ellen. I encourage my readers to get Murder in the Past Tense for some enjoyable summer reading.

Quote of the Day: There will be a time to murder and create.  Thomas Stearns Eliot.