Cover Launch: Rings of Trust by Kittie Howard

I normally only post one blog a day–on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays–but today I have something very special to share! My blogging friend Kittie Howard is revealing the very stunning cover for her upcoming novel, Rings of Trust! Isn’t it gorgeous? For more about Rings of Trust and its author, check out her blog….

Interval Training for Writers?

Before I start, I’d like to direct you to my partner in crime William Kendall’s blog. If you want to know the answer to that a-few-years-old question, “Who let the dogs out?” William has the answer!

I’d planned to write about something completely different today…but as I was attempting to catch up on reading the blogs I follow, I came across a post on Talli Roland’s blog that caught my attention (something not easily accomplished these days).

Talli, about to publish yet another wonderful novel, blogged about a post on literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Interval training for writers? It was intriguing enough for me to check it out.

As anyone who’s been following this blog with any regularity knows, my inability to actually finish a book in the past four years has been a source of major frustration for me. It’s bothered me that the things that once came easily are now a constant struggle. It goes with aging for most of us–or so I’ve been telling myself. I’m easily distracted. I have the attention span of a gnat. I’m desperate at this point. I’ll try anything.

In the past year, the only “new” releases I’ve had are actually reissues of my old Berkley books in ebook format. I have several works in progress, but nothing completed. Anything longer than a blog post is a challenge equal to climbing Mount Everest!

It took me ten years to complete Chasing the Wind. I’ve been working on the sequel, An Army of Angels, since 2008. I’ve considered switching genres. Romantic comedy is easier to write and usually of a shorter length. I’ve gone back to writing first drafts in longhand. I’ve even done a bit of research on circadian rhythms.

And I’ve wondered if I should just give up. Retire.

But this just might work. Even my wandering brain could probably manage two or three 90-minute sessions daily. I might even turn out something good….

On Being Thankful….


Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US–a time, presumably, to reflect on what we have, what we’re thankful for. After a huge meal, thought and reflection are often all I’m capable of.

I’m thankful for cheesecake. I’m thankful for technology, for devices that are smarter than I am and tell me what to do and when to do it. I’m thankful for my Kindle and ebooks because I like being able to take my library wherever I go…and I always hated having to dust bookshelves. I’m thankful for big box stores that carry jumbo jars of Nutella. I’m really thankful for the big screen TV we’ve decided to adopt…and I’m really, really, REALLY thankful to not be part of the crowd waiting in front of one local retailer for their Black Friday special. 1200 men are waiting for 600 envelopes, one of which will get one lucky shopper a free rifle. I wouldn’t want to end up in the middle of that fight…..

(These guys really were among those waiting for the doors to open….)

But seriously….

I’m thankful that there is a higher power who created us…and that for whatever reason, He’s always been watching over me. Whenever anyone tells me, “You need to be looked after,” I know they mean it literally!

I’m thankful that among the blessings God gave me is my son, Collin. He’s patient, kind, gentle…everything I’m not. And he’s done an impressive job of raising me. Who would have thought being given the wrong baby at the hospital could be a blessing? (Just kidding, T-Bird!)

I’m thankful for my partner in crime, William Kendall, aka James Morgan. Collaborations aren’t always easy, but I’ve been lucky to have found someone I’m so in sync with, personally and creatively. Like Collin, he’s far more kind, patient and giving than I am….

I’m thankful for good friends. I have the best in Carolyn, Kathie, and Pearl. “Fair weather friends” are plentiful–but those who are there for you in your darkest moments are a gift from God.

Some of those friends are also fellow writers, and they’re the ones who get the ups and downs of this insane business. Mike, Shelly, Eve, April, Lena, Nicole, Cathy, Kyle, Karla, Linton, EJ, Lucy, Lorelei, Glynis and other members of the Writers of Mass Distraction, this is my shout-out to all of you!

I’m thankful for my other online friends, too. Mets, Gayle and the Square Ones top this list. We may never have met, but sometimes I feel like I know you better than a lot of people I have met!

I’m thankful for my church family. Pastor John, Carole–this one applies especially to the two of you! South Side really is a place to call home….

I’m also thankful for those loved ones who are no longer with me except in my heart: Mom, Dad, Sam, Iggy, Schatzi, Sandy, Scamp, Trouble, Bugsy, Babs and all the rest of my extended family…I love you and I miss you, always….

What Are They Thinking???

In the past couple of weeks, there’s been a bit of an uproar over Amazon’s decision to ban authors’ reviews of other authors’ books. I recently commented on an article on Forbes‘ website that was critical of the ban.

I can see both sides of this issue. As an author who’s reviewed several other authors’ books (and had my own books reviewed by other authors), I believe we’re more than qualified to evaluate a book’s merits. Don’t we beta-read for each other? Don’t we support each other by offering support and advice for our peers’ works in progress? Who’s better qualified to make a recommendation–as long as the review is an honest one?

Sadly, however, the reviews posted at Amazon are not always honest. And I’m not only talking about authors reviewing authors. There are also the usual five-star reviews posted by family and friends for amateurish, poorly-written novels–I’ve mentioned such a review in a previous post. The review was almost illiterate. Reading it, I had to wonder if that reviewer was even capable of reading a book.

Then there’s the “sock puppet” reviews by people setting up fake accounts for the sole purpose of giving themselves rave reviews and/or attacking other authors (yes, “Doc,” I’m talking about you; I’ve known all along who you are). 

The Forbes article cites attacks on authors that began at the Goodreads site. This is one reason I no longer spend any time at Goodreads. Patience is not one of my strengths. I saw too much whining and backstabbing in my years in conventional publishing…and not only among authors (but that’s another story for another time).

I don’t buy reviews, nor would I accept payment for reviewing anyone else’s. I don’t even ask anyone to review my books. If they do, great; if not, I’m okay with that, too. I know one author who was deeply bothered by another author’s refusal to review her book. Realistically, even among friends, not everyone is going to love our books. My circle of friends in conventional publishing, like my self-published friends, was a diverse group. Different genres, different tastes. We’d buy each others’ books–but some of them were given as gifts. 

I came to self-publishing so I could write what I want to write and not have to live up to someone else’s expectations. I stopped caring about advances or promotional budgets or bestseller lists. I guess with age and life experience, my priorities are finally in the right place…or getting there anyway.

So why do I feel like I’m in high school again?

As self-published authors, we still have a long way to go. The good news is also the bad news: anyone can publish a book. And the petty, childish behavior of some self-pubbed authors does nothing to improve our image. If we’re to ever be taken seriously, we’re going to have to present a professional attitude. We’re going to have to put out only our best work. 

We’re going to have to grow up.

So That’s Why This Isn’t Working?

I’m a creature of habit. 

I recently came across an article at Media Bistro that claimed writers do better when writing first drafts in longhand. I used to write everything in longhand. First draft or fourth, I wrote it in longhand. Even though I bought a computer when I sold my first novel, I never could get creative sitting at a desk. I was used to writing wherever I happened to be. I’d usually write parked in front of the TV. 

Years ago, when Collin was working on Sundays, back before I went to church, I’d take my yellow legal pad and my notes to the Long John Silvers two blocks from our place and, parked in a booth by the windows, I’d  write while eating lunch. I’d go early, before the majority of the lunch crowd arrived. It was quiet, the food was good and the view wasn’t too bad–but not so great that it would distract me. I loved it.

Then I convinced myself I could compose on a computer…on my phone…and finally, on my Kindle. And I did compose…a scene here, there, an occasional chapter…I just never finished anything.

I haven’t finished a book in four years. Everything after Final Hours in 2009 was a reissue of one of my previously-published novels.

Thursday, I decided to put the article’s theory to the test. I went back to the storeroom and unearthed some yellow legal pads and black Flair pens. Then I settled down on the couch and started to work on one of my current works in progress. It proved to be an eye-opening experience.

Now I know why I haven’t finished a book in four years….

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Recently, one of my friends posting on this blog commented that she especially enjoyed my reviews of “movies with hunky men in them.” As it happens, I’ve seen a couple of those lately! So…here’s the review I posted at Amazon of Snow White and the Huntsman, starring that hunk among hunks, Chris Hemsworth, as the Huntsman….

Customer Review


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two out of Three Gave a Good Performance!, November 12, 2012
This review is from: Snow White and the Huntsman (Extended Edition) (DVD)

I didn’t see this movie in the theaters. I didn’t buy the DVD. I rented it. With Kristen Stewart in one of the lead roles, I was skeptical as to how good it could possibly be. I guess a pretty face is enough for a few moviegoers, but most of us expect more.

So many reviewers have already gone into the details of the story here, I won’t add to that. Instead, I’ll stick to what I think works and doesn’t work about the film overall.

What works: Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. Both are outstanding actors portraying complex, interesting characters–but their talents are wasted here. Stewart is an albatross around their necks–as one reviewer here noted, Hemsworth seemed to be pleading in his scenes with her for something, anything for him to work with. Both he and Theron have to carry her in every scene they share.

Stewart has one facial expression, even in her “death” scene. She always looks constipated. Acting must be a painful process for her. I can only hope if there’s a sequel, it will be focused on the Huntsman, as has been rumored. I could also see a film delving into Ravenna’s past–the glimpses of her childhood in the film were intriguing.

Confessions of a Pack Rat

Hi. My name is Norma and I’m a recovering pack rat. 

I started thinking about this yesterday. A friend drove me to an appointment with my neurologist, and I chided her a bit about the large pile of books, magazines and other paperwork in the back seat of her Prius. She is not a pack rat–just very, very busy. She’s always running from one meeting to another, from one friend or another in need of her help, and rarely finds the time to organize everything. 

I come from a long line of pack rats. Mom was a pack rat. Dad used to threaten to replace all of our tables with large standing funnels so she couldn’t pile stuff on them. She’d go to yard sales and bring home a lot of crap she’d never actually use. The next time she left the house, he’d carry it all out to the dumpster, and the cycle would begin again.

My maternal grandparents were also pack rats. I won’t go into detail here. Let’s just say Indiana Jones wouldn’t have gone looking for anything in their house. 

Collin is a fourth-generation pack rat. He never gets rid of anything, no matter how much I beg. I refer to his bedroom as The Landfill. Our dog, a rather large German shepherd, wouldn’t go in there. Our pig, however, didn’t mind it at all. Enough said.

He’s trying. He did buy the shredder….

As for me…I’ve always had a tendency to let mail pile up. I’d fill shopping bags with mail, magazines, and assorted crap that I knew should really be given away or thrown away. I’d have five or six bags full before I finally forced myself to sort them. One month, none of our bills got paid because I lost them. Our birth certificates were also lost. (I suspect they ended up in the recycling, but it’s never been proven.)  
 
Now, documents will occasionally pile up, waiting for me to scan them into the computer. There will be stuff piled up in the storeroom when I’m weeding out, finding things to donate to the annual church sale. Old clothes might pile up until I get around to cutting them up for cleaning cloths. But I’m making progress…really, I am!

I wonder when A&E will decide to do a series on pack rats? 
 

Spammers R Us

A few months ago, I discovered a spammer using the name “Desi Jumiati” had taken my registered domain name as a blog address and was setting up camp at Blogger, padding that blog and fifty-four others with posts stolen from other bloggers. After weeks of several of us making complaints to Google, the blogs specifically mentioned in those complaints were removed.

But now there’s a new spammer on the block.

Yesterday, William emailed me with an unpleasant discovery. Another spammer was using two of my book titles for his (her?) blogs. These were blogs I had originated but later deleted, realizing it was impossible (not to mention stupid) to try to maintain a blog for each book.
Upon investigation, I found that one of the spam blogs, http://finalhours2009.blogspot.com, had already been deleted. I immediately reclaimed the URL, along with some of my other titles. Only http://chasingthewind2008.blogspot.ca, remains in spammer hands.

Do I plan to start posting on all of these blogs? No. This was action I took solely to make sure I don’t end up being blamed for people following these blogs getting hit with a spam surge. I’ve marked all of them as “No Readers.”

Translate: NO SPAMMERS ALLOWED.

With my website almost ready to debut (don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles, I’m a firm believer in the KISS–Keep It Simple, Stupid–formula), I’m also resetting my Beishir Books blog to Private, along with Sam’s Story. I’m actually going to be down to one blog, posted in two locations: here and WordPress.

I suggested to William that someone should sell spammer insurance. He said it would probably end up being sold by a spammer…. 

Postscript: PLEASE show your support for those victims of Superstorm Sandy still without power: http://www.change.org/petitions/investigate-and-hold-lipa-long-island-power-authority-accountable

It’s the Happiest Time of the Year (Getting There, Anyway)

I decided to start my Christmas shopping early. I hate shopping…the crowds, the long lines, the screaming, temper-tantrum-throwing brats, the rudeness of some salespeople and shoppers, the insanity of the holiday. But this year, I think I’ve discovered gifts that are sure to please everyone.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to draft my letter to the big guy up north….

Dear Santa:

I haven’t been good this year…but come on, did you really expect me to change this late in the game? Do you think you could overlook it just this once? I’ve already accumulated enough coal to start my own energy co-op. (Hey, President Obama got re-elected…maybe I’ll qualify for one of those government bailouts!)  

I’m really not asking for much–just this:

Think about it, okay? It would keep me off the streets…most of the time. And I won’t be putting out cookies and milk like the kids do. Bring me the TV and you’ll find rum balls…and peppermint schnapps. Christmas can’t get merrier than that! Just watch out for the cop who lives down the street.

By the way, who was the blonde chick in the Victoria’s Secret getup? She sure didn’t look like Mrs. Claus. What’s that you say? Blackmail is such an ugly word….

When Bosses Go Too Far and the Voodoo Doll Ain’t Working….

When my close friend William’s nephew passed away a few months ago, the restaurant where he worked as a server closed for his funeral. When they reopened afterward, everyone ate free. It was a thoughtful gesture made by an employer who obviously valued their employee. Knowing this, this is a restaurant where I would dine regularly if I lived in that area. If the owners think so highly of their employees, they must also think highly of their customers.

By contrast, my son also works in a restaurant. His employers do not care about their employees. He works hard. He rarely calls in sick and he’s almost never late. He insists upon getting up at four in the morning to take three buses that get him there an hour and a half early rather than clock in ten minutes late as he would have to by taking a later bus from home. 

If it were me, I would take the later bus. I wouldn’t give them any better than they give. It’s bad enough that servers don’t even get minimum wage because employers are allowed to include the servers’ tips as part of their wages. (Whatever happened to tips being a customer’s way of rewarding good service, anyway?)

 
My son’s employer requires servers to find their own replacement if they want or need a day off, no matter what the reason. He actually went to work sick one day because he couldn’t find a replacement. He got to the restaurant and started vomiting…and was sent home.

If they ended up shorthanded, it was their own fault.

A few days ago, we discovered that my son’s blood pressure is dangerously high–185/111, which falls into the category of hypertensive crisis. I urged him to take a day off and see the doctor immediately. He isn’t sure his boss will allow him a day off. Won’t allow it? 

What happens if he has a stroke? If he’s unable to make calls to find a replacement, what then? I guess he’d be fired, right?

I’ve envisioned the scenario in such an event: him on a stretcher, being taken to a waiting ambulance. He’s clutching his cellphone. “Wait,” he pleads with the EMTs. “I can’t go yet!”

“You’re having a stroke, sir,” they tell him.

“I’m supposed to be at work today.”

“You’re having a  stroke, sir. You have to go to the hospital now.”

“If I don’t find someone to fill in for me, I’ll get fired!”

“Sir–” 

“Just one more call.” He enters a number. No answer. He tries another. Voicemail. Another. The person he’s called can’t do it. He has a soccer game that day.

He’s losing control of his hand. His speech is slurred. “We have to go now,” the EMTs tell him. He finally surrenders, trying to mentally calculate what his weekly unemployment checks will be….