Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sam had a use for black walnuts..and it wasn't in a cake!

I was first introduced to the Black Walnut tree during a genealogical trip to northern Arkansas. The name caught my imagination, and I used it in the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series. The small town of Amaryllis AR, struggling to stay alive after its main industry pulled out, holds various festivals throughout the year and depends on tourists to keep the economy afloat. One of the events is the Black Walnut Cake Festival. If you’re interested in baking your own, here is a recipe.

Black Walnut trees are among the 100 most common species of North American trees. The average height is about 70 feet, but they can grow as tall as 150 feet and have a spread of 60-80 feet.
Since their native habitat is the eastern and central parts of the United States, they are found in Arkansas. Because the wood is fine and straight-grained, it’s often used for gun stocks and furniture.

Visit my Pinterest board for pictures of the tree and the nut it produces.

Here’s a teaser from Book 1 of the series, The Bogus Biker, in which black walnuts play a pivotal role that has nothing to do with the stomach!

When the man stopped behind the waist high marker, Penelope could see it clearly. When the small weeping angel on top had broken off years ago, Travis’s mother had done what she could to mend it with mortar she’d mixed herself. It perched there still, slightly askew. Was it loose? Penelope extended her fingers to touch it.
I have to use both hands, and I can’t hit him in the…I can’t hit him there. I have to get it over my head into his face, and I have to do it hard enough to startle him into letting me go. Then I’ll run into the woods, to the ruins of the old cabin. Maybe I can find the root cellar and…
“Come on, Bart, let me see you.”
Something flew toward them, landing to the right. Another missile landed on the left. Penelope could feel the man moving his head from side to side.
Black walnuts. Sam’s throwing black walnuts. I know where he is now.
Left, right, left right, the nuts continued to fly, some landing with no sound on the grass, but others pinging against the tombstones.
Keep on, Sam. You’ve got him spooked now. He’s not holding onto me so tight. Crossing herself mentally and uttering a prayer to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, Penelope lunged for the weeping angel and felt it fall away from the stone into her waiting hands. Raising it over her head, she thrust it backward in one swift motion. The man howled in pain. She was free.
Penelope began to sprint toward the fence. I can make the hurdle. I can do it. Daddy’s watching. He took off from work just to make this track meet. He’ll be so proud of me if I just make this last hurdle. She fell to her knees as she vaulted across the fence, but she was up and running again before she took time to catch her breath. The tennis shoes flopped but held to her feet. She’d twisted her left knee, but she was alive. If she had any chance to stay that way, she had to keep going. She heard the gunshot behind her, but she didn’t look back.

The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series is available for Kindle and in print from Amazon as individual books and as a boxed set.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ilona Fridel reflects on the summer of '67 in her new romance, IRIS RAINBOW

For anyone who remembers what it meant to be young in the troubled sixties, Ilona Fridl has written a book just for you. 

 Thank you, Judy, for hosting me today.

1. If you had to classify yourself as an “era”, which one would it be?(e.g. WWI, II, Depression, 50s, etc.)
            Being a teenager in the 60s, that revolutionary era left an impression on me. So much happening   at one time. I guess you could say it was the best of times, it was the worst of times to paraphrase Dickens.

2. Do your books reflect that era?

Iris Rainbow is the first book I've set in the 60s. I must confess, I did a lot less research on it, because I lived through that era.

3. How much research is required for your books? Is it mostly from primary or secondary sources?
            Most of it, I do online. In some cases, I have non-fiction books that are a source for me. I always check my facts in a couple of places.

4. Do any of the stories/conversations you heard growing up figure in your books?

            Yes. Especially in this one. Many of the characters are composites of people I knew or heard about in that time and place. I tried to keep the language true to the period, but understandable to the modern reader.

5. Do you have a favorite writing that reflects your theme(s)?

            The theme for Iris Rainbow and the inspiration came from the song, “Your Wildest Dreams”, by The Moody Blues. I remember seeing the video of it and thought it would make a great story.

6. Do you have a long list of “to writes”? Can you give us a hint?

            Right now, I'm working on a western set in 1883 Tombstone, Arizona. I've had thoughts on doing a Civil War story, but I haven't formulated it yet.

7. Tell us about your latest book, Iris Rainbow.

            Rebellious teen Teri Darden comes of age in the Summer of Love, 1967, falling hard for Tim Olson, who plays bass guitar in a soon-to-be-famous rock band called Virgin Ram. When the band goes on a lengthy tour, Tim and Teri not only lose touch with each other but the lies of his spiteful ex-girlfriend push Teri into the dark side of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in the San Francisco of the 1960s. As his year-long tour comes to a close, Tim realizes how much he has missed Teri, but his efforts to find her again are futile. He goes from one bad marriage to another yet is always searching for Teri, until they meet again thirty years later. Neither could quite forget the other, but can they rekindle what was lost?


       The four friends squeezed onto the dance floor to get a good view. Bud Tyler, the owner, walked on stage. David chuckled. “That guy really looks out of place in his own club, with that dark gray suit and his hair in an out-of-style pompadour.” Bud looked at the anxious crowd through his black horn-rimmed glasses.
       Ken put his arm around Evie. “He may be out of date, but he sure knows how to find talent.”
      “We are pleased to have with us this evening,” Bud said with a flourish, “a new group from Encino that has caused a stir around the area. We will have them here once a month at the Scene, and I hope you will welcome them. Here is John Simon on drums.” Coming out to cheers, John settled on the stool behind the drum set, waving to the crowd. “On the keyboard, Roy Gardner.” The cheering continued as Roy stood behind the electric keyboard, bowing. “On the bass guitar, Tim Olson.” Tim came out, picked up his bass, and smiled at the audience, while Teri felt her heart skip. What a dreamboat! “And lead guitar and singer, the most popular, Luke Knoll.”
When Luke came out into the spotlight with his guitar, the girls in the club went crazy. Evie’s eyes grew large. “Wow! He is every inch a rock star. See how tight his clothes are? He just oozes sex.”
      Bud yelled out, “Let’s hear an Alhambra welcome for Virgin Ram!” Everyone went wild as the group launched into “Shout.”
    When the band took a break, Teri and Evie went into the restroom. When she heard the heavy green door shut with a thump, Teri grabbed Evie’s hand. “Did you see him?” Teri fanned herself.
     Evie grinned. “You mean Luke? Isn’t he fabulous? She leaned toward the large mirror behind the white porcelain sinks to check her make-up, then smoothed out her shoulder-length brown hair.
     “No, I meant Tim, the bass guitarist. The one with the smile that just melts me.” Both jumped as three more girls came in.
     Pulling out a folded piece of paper from her purse, Evie waved it under Teri’s nose. “I found these fliers about the group on a table in the front lobby, and it says here that a fan club is forming. This will be the first one we’ve joined for a local group.”
     “I’m with you.” Going into the small lobby, Teri took one of the fliers off the table and put it in her purse.
     Their boyfriends were waiting for them on the dance floor, and David grabbed Teri’s arm. “We have time for one more set before we have to go.”
      Teri pointed to the stage. “They’re coming back!” Almost breathless, she watched the group ready their instruments.
      The next set started with a slow tune. David and Teri danced, and she discreetly maneuvered toward the stage, getting a good look at Tim. He had dark thick hair that was a little past the nape of his neck and a handsome face with very striking green eyes. She judged his height at about six feet, and he looked well built. He wore the same outfit as the rest of the group: a red shirt with white collar and cuffs, open to his mid-chest, and silver herringbone hip-huggers with a white belt. Black boots completed the uniform. Tim looked very―was sexy the right word?
      All of a sudden, she heard, “Teri―TERI! Are you listening to me? The music stopped.”
      She stared at David and felt her face go warm. “I―I’m sorry, David. I was daydreaming. What did you say?”
      Watching her, he sighed, then laughed, and repeated, “I said, let’s go sit with Ken and Evie for a couple of numbers.”
      Teri followed him to one of the tables on the side of the dance floor. Evie giggled as she dug her elbow into Teri’s side. “Your next crush?”
      Teri stuck her tongue out. “Shut up!” she hissed, but her face burned again. She absentmindedly traced the wood grain in the old table with her fingernail.
      During every dance after that, Teri snuck peeks at Tim over David’s shoulder. She couldn't remember ever being this flustered before. A couple of times, Tim looked like he was watching her and smiling.

                             A Wild Rose Press release. 
          Available in print and also for Kindle from Amazon

Out now!-Iris Rainbow
Released-Prime Catch
Out now - Dangerous Times boxed series through www.thewildrosepress.com
Silver Screen Heroes, Golden North, Bronze Skies

Visit me at- http://www.ilonafridl.com
On Facebook and Goodreads


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recycling and Reaching Out

     So what's in this handy dandy black "leather" notebook that's been hanging around taking up space for over ten years? Besides the general marketing plan information/mission statement, you'll find these sections:

  • Sales and Distribution Channels/Retailers (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords, etc.)
  • Book Description (See Sales Copy), Competition (Actually, I don't have any competitors listed here-we're all in this together, and I know what's out there in the same genres.)
  • Target Audience (e.g. cozy mystery/romantic suspense fans, history buffs, women over 30, etc.)
  • Book Promotion Tactics (e.g. Keep track of strategies to determine which have an effective return.) Under this section I have lists of FB promotion sites, Twitter hashtags, writing groups, and much more.)
  • Media Venues/Press Kit (e.g. contents of an actual press kit, email marketers, internet radio, podcast venues, etc.)
  • Individual Internet Activities (e.g. free days on Amazon, auxiliary writing)
  • General (e.g. timeline)
  • Review and Measure Success (e.g. strategies, tweaks, discards, etc.)
  • Budget (e.g. promotional copies, paid advertising, paid writing sites)
  • Sales Copy (e.g. book descriptions, blurbs, taglines, links)
  • Books Info (e.g. links, ASINs, etc.)
  • Author Bio (e.g. several for various venues)
  • KDP Select (because I use this for now
  • Handbook from Southern Authors,  an online writers' site I belong to
  • File articles (various articles I have made notes from but want to retain, such as Authors Publish, Authors' Den, Authors' Marketing Club, How to Create a Podcast, etc._
     In the front and back pockets, I tucked a small notepad and some of the promotional business cards I carry.

     It's a work in progress--and it's flexible. Yes, I have copies of all this information saved to my computer, but I'm old enough to remember when all we had were print copies--and I like them. I'd rather grab my notebook than search my documents no matter how well they're organized.

     I'd enjoy hearing from other writers how they organize their promotional strategies, and I'll go into more detail on any of the above if you ask! 

And, of course, since we're talking about promotion...

  Trixie's road ends in Dreamland...but what's waiting for her there, and does she even want to know?

available at Amazon.com
as individual books 
as a boxed set 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Problem of Promotion: A Shared Dilemma

     Authors understand--or should understand--they are on the front line in the quest to sell books. No one wants to do it, not really. For the less outgoing, it is a tedious, often painful process. First comes the learning how, and then comes putting what one has learned into practice.

     Forget the previously-mentioned front line. The bottom line is, it's not a choice!

     As I write this, my friendly little hummingbird--who returns yearly or at least tells a buddy about the full feeder on the window ledge outside my study--is fluttering about with purpose. Sometimes I feel like that little hummer--fluttering about--when it comes to promotion. Alas, no flutter, no food--in the author's case, no sales.

     I've been at this for seven years now, and I'm no closer to feeling as if I know what I'm doing--much less being proficient at it. Still, I press on. This year I actually wrote out a marketing plan, using points from The Savvy Book Marketer. I'd recommend this site-several sites, actually, and the free newsletter. I've learned a lot.

     First, I determined what I wanted from this book writing/publishing venture--besides just enjoying myself and having the satisfaction of seeing my books in print. Let's face it--we all want to earn a little money. The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series earned me a lot of money--at least, it was a lot to me. Maybe it will happen again, but maybe not. However, I needed to write down the earnings I considered "successful". That means I have to do something to reach that dollar amount--and even then, it's not guaranteed!

     Then I needed to be sure I understood that promotion is part of marketing. You need to have a product (book) and then you need to get it out there. Getting the product in front of the people you hope may buy it--that's promotion. Publicity is how you do it. Advertising is paying for getting yourself and your product in front of the intended consumer group. (Credit the Savvy Book Marketer, Dana Lynn Smith, for these pearls of wisdom!)

      Using her downloadable Create a Book Marketing Plan That Sells Books, I proceeded through a number of points, some of which didn't apply to me as much as others did. Budgeting, tactics, timeline development, and measuring my self-stated 'success' did apply.

       Speaking of budgeting, let me recommend Lisa Miller's Market Your Book without Going Broke. It's an excellent way to spent 99 cents at Amazon.

        Tomorrow I'll talk about how I organized the nice black notebook which had been taking up space in the study closet for years. 

        Meanwhile, I would be remiss in grabbing this opportunity to promote my new series!

Available at Amazon as a boxed set ($4.99)
 or in single titles  ($1.99)

View the video trailer on YouTube

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trixie's Friend "George"

     When things got hot in Dreamland, Trixie Collier Blake decided to cool them down by stacking the deck in her favor, so she bought a gun. She also applied for and received a concealed carry license. Until it arrived, poor George had to languish in the drawer of her night stand.
     All states have their own laws regulating firearms. Many states extend reciprocal rights to gun owners to carry within their borders, but it's always best to check the reciprocity status when traveling outside one's own state. For example, if you have a CCL in Arkansas, you may be welcome in California, but your gun is not. Unlicensed firearms are subjected to a wide range of laws such as being carried concealed or in plan sight. And, of course, even with a license, there are some places where "George" just simply cannot go--schools, federal properties, and so on. Usually signs designating gun-free zones are displayed prominently.
     Concealed carry classes are popular--and often required--for a license. Background checks and fingerprinting are all part of the procedure. Of course, teaching safety is the number one priority.
     People have many reasons for obtaining a CCL and owning a firearm. For Trixie, the reason was personal protection after so many threatening incidents occurred within days of her return to Dreamland. Her husband Ned, a career Air Force officer, insisted she learn to shoot and bought her a gun so she wouldn't be left totally alone whenever he was posted where she couldn't accompany him.

     "...Also, your father threatened to get this building condemned, so I called my father who called someone he knew in Little Rock, and he came over this morning. In his words, the old lady was built to last.”

     “Who was he?”

     “Paul Perry.”

     “He’s the best. I’ve had some dealings with him in a couple of real estate cases.”

     “He also told me where to buy a gun.”

     Mitch took a step back. “What do you want a gun for?”

     “I’m good,” Trixie said. “My husband taught me. Unfortunately, my concealed carry license has expired, and I left my personal firearm in North Carolina, but I’m going to get another one to keep by my bed at night.”

     Mitch shook his head. “I’d never have pegged you as a pistol-packin’ mamma.” Then he laughed. “You’re going to do this, huh?”

     “I’m going to do it.”

     “Then I’ll drive you to Little Rock. I need to drop some papers off at the office there anyway.”

     Read more about Trixie and "George" 
in the Dreamland Series.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Long Dry Years: Prohibition


 Prohibition, the legal end to alcohol manufacture, consumption in the United States, also known as the Volstead Act, came into play as the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution  in 1920. For years prior to the enactment of the law, the temperance movement had pushed forward under the auspices of such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Prohibition Party, and the Anti-Saloon League. Several attempts to bring about the end of “demon rum” had failed, but on October 28, 1919, the National Prohibition Act became the rule of law.
     Of course, people found many ways to get around the law, including the sale of malt extract syrup for ‘baking purposes’. Bathtub gin kept the home fires cozy. And, people like Al Capone took advantage of the illicit demand for alcohol to make a killing—sometimes quite literally. Capone controlled the flow of liquor from Canada to Florida and its sale in over 10,000 speakeasies to the tune of $60 million per year.
     Despite the upswing of violent crime, Prohibition continued as the law of the land into the thirties and the Depression but met its end with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. States became the authority in setting regulations regarding the sale of alcohol.
     The Roaring Twenties provided fodder for song, dance, stories, and other entertainment. Flappers, speakeasies, and gangster activity pervaded everything. The Prohibition Era lasted only thirteen years, but the changes it wrought have become part of the fabric of the country’s history.
      Al Capone is featured as a (fictional and ghostly) character in the Dreamland Series. A former colleague of Trixie's great-grandfather--whose penchant for illicit dealings trickled down to the second generation--the smoke from Al's cigar wafts through Trixie's legacy, the Quimby Building, and heralds trouble with every breath.