Typed Tales

Friday, October 17, 2014

I've been there-done that, and maybe that helps Trixie out

   My amazing Macy. She beat a congenital heart condition which doctors warned would kill her before she was a year old. In the end, one night on a rain-slick highway, I killed her instead. She was my life, my best friend, my hero. From the night it happened, I’ve always believed I should be dead, and maybe I am.
   My name is Mitch Langworth, and I’m an attorney specializing in real estate law. It wasn’t easy growing up with a father like Guy who had his hands in every dirty little pie that came along. I didn’t like him, but the night he told my mother he was glad she was dying of cancer, I started to hate him. He remarried when I was thirteen, but that didn’t last long. I still have a relationship with my former stepmother and stepsister though.
    I also keep in touch with Macy’s parents. Linc and Rose never blamed me for the accident. They said Macy had thirty happy years, a lot of them because of me. But I blame myself and always will.
   When Rudy James introduced me to an old high school classmate, I couldn’t believe I actually felt some interest in her. Trixie Blake is cute and feisty, but she’s also still grieving the loss of her husband in an aircraft accident. Ned was career Air Force. Like me, Trixie didn’t even have a child to help keep the memories alive.
   Trixie needed a friend who’d been there-done that, and I have. So we’ve gotten to be a regular at Rudy’s place, the Twilight Bar and Grill. And I’ve gotten sucked into the on-going drama between my father and her over her refusal to sell the Quimby Building and move on. I don’t like to see anybody bullied, and she’s getting more than her share right now and doesn’t deserve it.
Dreamland used to be a nice little town, and some people think it still is. After I lost Macy, I didn’t care where I lived. One place was as good as another. But now I’m beginning to wonder if this town isn’t worth salvaging. Rudy and some others want to try, and now Trixie’s dug in her heels, too.
   The Drummond sisters, who rent the downstairs of Trixie’s building swear Al Capone still haunts the upstairs—which is just where Trixie wants to put in a tea room and boutique. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll admit there’s a lot going on I can’t explain. The police chief, Doug Everton, seems to have it in for Trixie and is telling her to get out of town. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s not a good idea, at least for right now.
   But Trixie says she’s not going anywhere. So when she asked me about buying a gun and applying for a concealed carry license in Arkansas, I helped her do both. Against my better judgment, you understand, but I did it.
   I don’t know what’s going to happen next—but I’m betting it won’t be good. 

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, Book 1 of The Dreamland Series would love to find a home on your Kindle!

Find out more at Someday Is Here.

Get hooked on a good clean read!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What is your brand?

I confess to closing the barn door after the horses have all escaped. When I decided to start writing for publication, I spent a year learning everything I could about the subject. But writing was writing. Marketing? It never entered my mind. Seven years later, I’m still out looking for the missing equines!
There’s a lot of information in the writing world, and it can be overwhelming. Taking things one step at a time is always a good ploy, so that’s what I’m doing:  reading widely, making notes, formulating/adding to a detailed marketing plan, and implementing one strategy before moving on to another.
I’ll admit my ‘author platform’ isn’t as sturdy as it ought to be, but after reading several articles, one of the planks—namely branding—isn’t as wobbly as before. Ranching was an integral part of the culture and the economy of the West Texas town where I grew up. So when I thought ‘brand’, I thought of a bawling calf being roped and thrown and having a red-hot iron plunged onto his flank, marking him as the property of his owner.
Most people think of ‘brand’ as a certain kind of product—shampoo, paper towels, canned vegetables, cars, and so on. We usually visualize a picture—a logo—differentiating said product from its competition.
So what about an author brand? Do we own it? Does it set one author apart from another? And last but not least, is it really necessary?
Most writing gurus agree that a brand is necessary. As a recipient of their combined wisdom, I’ve also found the process of branding myself almost as painful as the calf probably finds his branding experience. However, one pearl of wisdom stood out:  your brand is who you are and what your writing is. So I thought about it.
Not writing in one narrow genre made the journey a bit more difficult. I write ‘vintage’ romance, contemporary romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, and short stories which likely defy genre pigeonholing. But one thread ran through the lot:  they’re clean. And, yes, there is a reading audience out there who looks for and enjoys a good clean read.
Eureka! I found it! A good clean read—that’s me. I added that to my email signature, ordered a banner for my table at book events, and finally found the perfect ‘logo’ in the form of a graphic on Fotolia, which I added to my blog and website.
You can read a lot more about branding here and here and here—and I’d recommend these articles. But when I finally realized that branding is just figuring out who you are and who you want other people to know you are, it got a whole lot easier.
I’d love to hear from any other writers who have made this journey to self-proclamation!
Meanwhile, visit me at Someday Is Here,  and follow me on Twitter.

And don’t forget to get hooked on a good clean read!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Move over, Al Capone!

Trixie Collier Blake of The Dreamland Series

     It’s all Ned’s fault. He died, and he shouldn’t have. I get so mad at him sometimes for leaving me alone. Twenty-eight is too young to have the moniker ‘widow’ hung on you. I don’t even have his child to keep his memory alive.
     So when I found out about the building my grandfather left me in Dreamland, I thought, “What the heck?” and drove back to my hometown to check it out. I never saw John Quimby Lloyd again after my mother took my older brother and me away when she divorced my father. I was only five, so my memories of Dreamland were pretty sketchy, too. But back I went, and all you-know-what broke loose.
     It was nice to find two old high school classmates living there—Rudy James and Delores Jefferson James. Rudy was the class clown and everybody’s pal. Delores lived with her widowed mother and younger brother Danny who has Down syndrome. But when Rudy decided to settle down in Dreamland, he brought the whole family along.
     Rudy introduced me to Mitch Langworth, an attorney, who married his high school sweetheart and then lost her in a car accident. He blames himself because he was driving. Rudy also made sure I met Candace King, the town’s self-appointed historian. She was married to Mitch’s father for a while, which makes her Mitch’s ex-stepmother. It’s sort of a tangled mess. And, it turns out Guy Langworth is having an affair with my mother Lucy! A mess indeed.
     My grandfather’s lawyer tried to convince me to sell the building, take the money, and run with it. Currently, two sisters, Miss Stella and Miss Letha Drummond, lease the first floor for their dress shop. They're feisty older ladies, and it seems a shame to displace them. But the whole town is being turned upside down by some shadowy development company who’s trying to buy up the whole square for unknown reasons.  And, oh, yes, Guy Langworth has his hand in that, too.
     Miss Stella and Miss Letha are convinced the ghost of Al Capone haunts the Quimby Building because they smell cigar smoke several times a day. According to Candace, Al and my great-grandfather were pretty tight back in the day. There was even a gambling casino on the second floor and a place for Al to park himself on the third floor.
     Al’s ghost may be the figment of the Drummond sisters’ imaginations, but the threats I’m getting are real—and scary. All the police chief does when I report them is glare at me and tell me to get out of town. I don’t think so. I’m not going to be scared off, and the building has possibilities.
Dreamland is a nice town—or was until outside people weaseled their way in—and some people believe it’s still a good place to live: Rudy, Mitch, Candace, Mayor Ellard, Miss Hetty Green, the Drummonds—and now I believe it. I’m staying around to open a tea room and gift shop on the second floor, so move over, Al.
     As for Guy and my mother, Chief Doug Everton, and anyone else out there who thinks they can push me out…think again. Not even murder is going to make me move on. At least, as long as I’m not the one who gets murdered!

 Read about Trixie, Mitch, Candace, Miss Hetty, Danny, and the Drummond Sisters in Book 1 of The Dreamland Series. Available in print or for Kindle at Amazon.com

Visit Someday is Here for more information about author Judy Nickles. Don't forget: It's a good clean read!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Look up! The art's on the ceiling.

     The fictional town of Amaryllis, Arkansas, setting for the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, had its beginning in the post-Civil War era. Among the places showcased in the books, buildings like the old feed store and possibly the first school—at least its additions—featured pressed tin ceilings similar to those you can see when visiting restored historic buildings in any real town. (See images here.)
     Though these decorative ceilings peaked in popularity at the turn of the twentieth century, they graced many commercial buildings and homes constructed between 1880 and 1930. Today, they’re being replicated by many companies, and original ceilings, covered by dropped acoustic ceilings and drywall are being uncovered and restored.
     So why were these metal ceilings used? First of all, they were readily available. The ornate plaster used by wealthy Europeans had the disadvantages of being expensive and time-consuming to mold, difficult to ship, and a real pain to install. So North Americans (with a few Australians and South Africans thrown in) turned to pressed tin.
     Tin was a generic name for sheet metal, so the ‘pressed tin’ ceilings were actually tin coated with steel (think tin cans). Also these decorative squares were durable, lightweight, fireproof, soundproofing, moisture and mildew resistant, and pretty easy to install. (They still are!)
     These sheets of metal were pressed one at a time with a variety of designs and often painted white to look as if they were hand carved or like molded plaster. You can see a picture of a press here.
In a sense, the ceilings were like artwork which had heretofore hung on the walls of a room. Check out images of pressed tin ceilings both old and new here.
     Of course, styles change, and desirable home d├ęcor changed around the 1930s. Now new owners of historic buildings and homes are busy restoring the original architectural vision of their edifices. One roadblock is getting rid of the lead-based paint commonly used in earlier eras. Damaged squares must be removed and repaired or replaced. Many companies manufacture these ‘old’ ceilings.
     Growing up in a town which sprang up around a West Texas military fort, these pressed tin ceilings were commonplace. Now I have a new appreciation of them and, whenever I visit an older building, I automatically look up. Sometimes I’m gratified by a glimpse of the real thing.


©Judy Nickles

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Ten "Commandments" of Writing

Disclaimer:  Satire, not sacrilege, intended.

1.  Thou shalt carry a notebook in thy pocket or purse. Thee never knoweth when a good idea for a story will presenteth itself.

2.  Thou shalt doest careful research when writing about a subject thou knowest naught about or a time period in which thee hast not actually lived. (Thou canst not fool the savvy reader!)

3.  Thou shalt write by the seat of thy pants if it worketh well for thee--or planneth much or little--thee knoweth how thee writeth best.

4.  Thou shalt not utter vain and foolish words like, "My muse hath deserted me" or "Yay, I am not inspired" or "Writers Block hath crept in to torment me." (Getteth over it.)

5.  Thou shalt not write that with which thee is not comfortable but rather be true to thyself.

6.  Thou shalt not fear hitting the delete key on that which is not working.

7.  Thou shalt understand that a first draft stinketh.

8.  Thou shalt not search vainly for 'voice'. Dost thou not speak in thine own voice? Dost it not follow that thee shalt write in the same?

9.  Thou shalt takest all writing advice with a grain of salt--preferably two grains.

10. Thou shalt understand that rules are madest to be broken, not to stunteth a writer's progress.
Keepth these commandments and findeth joy in all thy writing undertakings!

AND—getteth thyself to Someday Is Here for a look at what resulted in following these commandments, especially the latest offering…which is also found here.

First posted December 5, 2012.
©Judy Nickles