Monday, February 20, 2017

Website Woes--Is is worth it?

You gotta have one…

So “they” say a website is a MUST for an author. Okay, I’ve got that, and I’ve got a website. Unfortunately, websites must be maintained, and there’s the rub…

Lying Links

Deciding to give mine a new, fresh look while I updated information, I toiled early and late this week. Am I finished? Not yet. A major glitch occurred when I discovered none of the links were working. Do you know how much I HATE making links? Especially twice in one day.

Who am I?

The “About Me” page was another problem. “Let people get to know you,” is the advice of most website gurus. Okay, they can get to know me--but I’m not adding all the recommended, boring credentials--nor am I tooting the proverbial horn. Hey--look at my home page. I write for the joy of writing, and I do hope I write what people like to read. (They buy my books anyway.) That’s enough.


There are a few more pages which need to be added--mainly the video trailer page-but I need to make two new trailers and re-make trailers I paid to have done but want to freshen up.

Free is good..

But the page I really hope you’ll visit--like NOW--is I’ll tell you a story. Every week or two, I’ll be putting up a new short story. It’s FREE, and there’s even a handy little button for your feedback. Can’t beat those perks! This week’s story is called Meadowland. It’s the story of a young woman who comes face to face with the realization that her mother’s past is a complete mystery to her. Because it’s her own past, too, she feels she has to delve deeper… So hope on over to Someday Is Here and do some delving yourself!

So Someday IS Here

Actually, I kind of enjoy working on my website. It’s a creative outlet, and I feel so smug when I learn to do something new. But it’s one of those things I put off until there’s no longer a valid excuse to delay. I’m on a roll now, as they say, so it’ll get done…someday.

Visit me at Someday Is Here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Once and only once...

Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?
~J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)

Today is “Random Acts of Kindness” Day. Kindness is in short supply these days of shouting down people with whom one doesn’t agree, destroying and looting property in the name of ‘protest’, burning our country’s flag, and a Congress which seems bent on spending the next four years furthering their own agenda rather than taking care of America and the rest of us who live here.

Meanness has always existed, but once upon a time it really was the exception rather than the rule. Now children are regularly bullied in schools, and the children of public figures are fair game for some of the vilest comments ever spoken/written. Celebrities use their positions (created by the public) to pound the bully pulpit against those on the opposite side of the political aisle. Retailers only stock “politically correct” merchandise.

If I don’t agree with you, I’m some sort of -ist or -phobe. If I’m a Christian, I’m attacked as ‘un-Christian’ if I don’t celebrate the current agendas regarding abortion and same-sex marriage. 

In this world, you must be a bit too kind in order to be kind enough.
~Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763)

I don’t often use The Word Place to speak my heart, but right now it’s overflowing.

Once the little saying “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” was taught to children who, believe it or not, sometimes thought about it before they spoke. Now they hear filthy things said and wild accusations made by the media and elected officials, even by their teachers, and think, “They said it, so I can, too.”

I’m just one person with no public standing--the same as some of you reading now. It’s tempting to believe all is lost and give up. I think of the character Nellie Forbush in Rogers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” telling another character, “I just can’t work myself up to getting that low!” And, neither can I.

One of the prayers I read every morning says, “...You have brought us safely to the beginning of this day. Defend us today by your mighty power, so that we may not fall into any sin, and that all our words may so proceed and all our thoughts and actions be so directed as to be always just in your sight.”

Kindness begets kindness.
~Swedish Saying

I can’t direct the thoughts of actions except anyone except myself, but if I don’t do that, I’ve failed to appreciate the life I’ve been given. So when I leave the house, I paste on a smile whether I feel like it or not. People smile back. Maybe it’s the only smile they’ll see all day. Coming out of a store the other day, a total stranger said to me, “That’s a nice smile.” His words warmed my heart. Leaving an eating establishment another day recently, I held the heavy door for a woman using a walker. She thanked me and said, “There are still nice people in the world.” The sad thing is, something like that should be automatic and not require more than a simple “Thank you”. I guess she’s had different experiences, and I’m sorry.

Supposedly this quote was found scrawled on a cellar wall in Germany after World War II and the Holocaust:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

Anne Frank’s famous words echo the same sentiment:

I believe that people are really good at heart after all.

I’m not going to turn The Word Place into a bully pulpit for my own beliefs, but sometimes one has to speak out. I know I’ll lose readers. I may even get some nasty comments, and if that makes someone feel better, I’m sorry that’s what it takes for you to be happy. But it’s been on my heart lately that it begin with one person speaking out. Maybe only a few hear. That’s okay--a few is better than none.

A few smiles can turn into many. A few people who think twice before speaking negative words can create a positive atmosphere. A few people can make a difference.

I want to be one of them. All I can do is try. 

 Throughout this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass;
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I may do
To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can.
No delay, for it is plain,
I shall not pass this way again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Although St. Valentine is most closely associated with Valentine’s Day, St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of lovers, at least in Wales. Several stories are told about this 5th century saint. Sam tells it best to Penelope. . .

      “You didn’t have to get me anything.”
       “You knew I would.”
       “I guess I did.”
       “Close your eyes, and hold out both hands.”
       Penelope did both, then closed her fingers around a small box. A jeweler’s box. A ring? Surely not. He’s never even said he loves me.
       “You can open your eyes now.”
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       She looked at the small box, wrapped in some of the red paper she’d used for Bradley’s and Rosabel’s gifts. “Sam, I…”
       “Just open it.”
       Her hands shook as she untied the ribbon and peeled away the paper, revealing not a ring case but a box bearing the name of a jewelry store in Little Rock. When she fumbled with the lid, Sam lifted it off, pushed aside the layer of cotton, and took out a flat silver heart etched with something she couldn’t read.
       “It’s beautiful, Sam,” she murmured.
       He picked it up. “Mae hyn yn fy annwyl.” He showed her the inscription. “It’s Welsh.”
       “What does it mean?”
            He took her hand and led her to the sofa. “First let me tell you a story. Do you know who St. Dwynwen is?”
       “I’ve never heard of him.”
       “Her. She lived in Wales in the 5th century. According to some sources, she was the daughter of a king who forbade her to marry the man she loved. Other sources say the man betrayed her. Whichever happened, she never married and became a nun, but because she prayed for God to give happiness to all lovers, she—not St. Valentine—is the patron saint of lovers.”
       Penelope’s eyes blurred with tears. She wondered if Sam could see her heart beating beneath her red sweater. “That’s a beautiful story, but I still don’t know what the inscription says.”
       Sam fastened the thin chain around her neck. “The inscription is Welsh, and it’s from the Song of Solomon. Mae hyn yn fy annwyl means ‘This is my beloved.’”
       Her tears spilled over. “Oh, Sam.”
       He tipped her chin and extracted a handkerchief to blot her cheeks. “It’s a promise, Nell, the only one I can make right now.”
       She laid her forehead against his chest and felt him rest his chin on her hair. “It’s enough. It really is.”

. . .from book 4 of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series: The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo

Book 1:  TheBogus Biker

Book 6:  Sam’s Last Stand

What’s a toe-the-line type like Penelope Pembroke doing with a mystery man who comes and goes from Amaryllis, Arkansas, usually leaving murder and mayhem in his wake? You’ll never believe how it all started in The Bogus Biker.

Penelope's cat Abijah says, "Keep me in cat treats! Get Book 1 for only 99 cents every day!"

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Place to Write...

Of which there are some around here but not a lot of them fit my agenda!

What I need:

No cable news blaring.
Lake Ouachita
High energy people doing their own thing
An out-of-the-way table/booth
Good lighting
Availability of drink refills
Food (optional)
Parking without a time limit
Plug-in for Penelope (optional--have mini-charger)
Clean ladies room (and I do mean LADIES--not those who think they are that day!)
Safety--having to look over my shoulder isn’t fun.

Places I’ve Written:

Writing with "Al" at the Ohio Club
Fast-food eating establishments
Coffee shops
State parks
Local Parks
Poolside at hotels
The Writers Colony
Patios at hotels
Cubicle in public library
In car at Sonic (of course!)
In airports and on planes

Inside/outside at home   

Lake Catherine State Park
Denton Digs
The Writers Colony - Eureka Springs        

Pros and Cons

At coffee shops and fast food places, people tend to hang around with their phones-, tablets, and laptops. I don’t feel management is wanting me to move along.
Parks are good if the weather is nice--but a shady table is sometimes difficult to stake claim to--and you have to be aware of who’s strolling by. Isolated spots aren’t a good idea these days.
Hotel pool areas/patios are a nice break from your room. You want to sit far enough away from the pool so the lappy doesn’t get showered, but looking up to think and watching kids playing is relaxing. (Adults acting like kids not so much.)
A library cubicle is good for editing and/or reading galleys when you don’t need to be distracted, but it’s not the place to feel creative.
Longer layovers at airports and longer flights make for an hour or two of good writing time. However, airports are best for people-watching. Who knows when you’ll meet your next novel character?
There’s no place like home on cold winter days and also any season’s raining-cats-and-dogs days. If I need to access the internet, I work at home--not convinced public Wi-Fi is a safe bet.

My All-Time Favorite--300 Miles Away!

I usually visit Denton, Texas, at least once a year. Fours years as a student at Texas Woman’s University and good memories draw me back. The downtown square has reinvented itself despite the expansion of shopping centers and malls. Two universities (TWU and The University of North Texas) provide the high energy environment I find motivational.
When I went back for a longer stay several years ago, it was my intention to write the Square one coffee shop at a time. I’d researched all of them. But then, on my first day, I walked into Jupiter House  and never looked back.  

I can’t explain how or why it hooked me. Maybe it’s the lack of a blaring television. Maybe it’s the people of all ages and walks of life constantly coming and going, filling the single somewhat cavernous area with a certain electricity. The walls have been stripped down to the outer brick of the building and are lined with local art.  Low tables, high tables, sofas, and chairs provide a choice of seating, but I always set up shop at the same soda-fountain height table toward the back where I have a view of the entire place and the street outside.
A nice touch is being remembered from year to year. “You’ve been here before. You’re a writer.” Lovely!
I’m totally spoiled--nothing measures up to Jupiter House--but it’s 300 miles away.
I search this area in vain and make do with two or three places…but my heart turns to Jupiter House…and I know I’ll return.

Friday, February 10, 2017

When the light bulb goes on...

The question

How many times have you needed a book cover image, blurb, link, tagline, headshot, etc. for a posting on social media, a blog, or because someone asked for it? How much time have you spent searching various folders for each of the above-mentioned items? If you haven’t spent any time at all, I congratulate you. If you have…

The reaction

Well, I was turning into a perpetual search engine and often coming up empty. I got darn tired of it, let me tell you. Then…duh!...the lightbulb!

The answer

So now on my desktop I have this lovely little folder called Sales Copy. Inside are subfolders, to wit:
·        Ads (created, of course, with Canva)
·        Bios
·        Book trailer pictures
·        Brand graphic (Get hooked on a good clean read!)
·        Headshots
·        One-sheets
·        PDFs (of books)
·        Pinterest (book-related)
·        Press releases
·        Stats, links, taglines, blurbs, excerpts
Stats include book length, ASIN, ISBN, links to Amazon, links to publisher, taglines, brief book blurb usually taken from back cover, and several selected excerpts to ‘hook’ potential readers.
·        Each book has its own folder with covers and extra specific info.
·        Optional: a few lines from those 4 and 5-star reviews!

The bottom line

While it takes a while to create such a folder, it’s worth its weight in gold--which for me is time, my most precious commodity. Like anything else, the folder needs to be updated regularly, but that’s only a small investment of time. It pays off in the long run--and why I didn’t do it sooner, I have no idea!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mission Impossible: Organization

Staying organized - - ha!

I spent years teaching school, and my lesson plans were an organizational masterpiece. No, really they were. But it was like after I retired that the ability hadn’t carried over into making writing plans. Of course, I didn’t start doing that right away. Rather, I started organizing my household for the first time in years (a) because it was high time and (b) I was possessed with a driving need to be able to put my hands on what I wanted when I wanted it without having to mount a search. After years of single parenthood and full-time employment, the time had come. My nest was empty, and I was—hallelujah!--r-e-t-i-r-e-d!

So now it’s time to move on - - yes!

I wrote my first three published novels while providing (unplanned!) care three days a week for my first grandchild. Grabbing thirty minutes here while she entertained herself and maybe an hour while she napped got the job done, but then I came face to face with the next hurdle: marketing and promotion. Blogging and social media, new concepts to my aging brain, reared their ugly hydra-head. Clearly, like my closets and garage and (more or less) my filing cabinet, I needed a plan to arrange things and keep them at hand.

No overnight solutions - - grrrr!

I won’t tell you the first plan of attack worked. Nor the second nor even the third. But eventually I got things boiled down to two—only two—notebooks. This is how it shakes out:

Notebook One

  • School calendar—ten years later I still pick up TWO grandchildren from school two days a week and also provide refuge on holidays.
  • Personal calendar—a cheapo from Dollar Tree, ripped from its vinyl cover and three-hole punched keeps track of appointments and extra times I’m needed as the ‘sitter’. It’s a must.
  • Brain Dump—several pages on which I chart short and long-term projects—i.e.major/minor projects, marketing, freelance, personal business, travel, and holidays among others.
  • First tab: daily to-do arranged by week
  • Second tab: typed list of projects by season, not necessarily writing-related
  • Third tab: writing/marketing related information—lists, articles (keep these cleaned out!)
  • Fourth tab: Columnar pad sheets on which I do my budgeting/banking business

Notebook Two

  • First Tab: Information relating to current work in progress and articles to be read (again, keep these cleaned out!)
  • Second Tab: Blog Calendar—another cheapo from the Dollar Tree on which I schedule by month the general idea of each blog. You can make this as detailed as you wish (or don’t wish), but I find being able to turn to this calendar each week and have an overall view of my blog goals is very helpful.
  • Third Tab: (1) Blog-related information. I print out the monthly calendars for Bizarre and Unique Holidays where you’ll find a wealth of ideas/information to turn on the light in an otherwise dark mind when you’ve run out of your own ideas. (2) A running list, copied and pasted from my blog dashboard, of all the blogs I’ve written and the dates they ran. Re-purposing/rewriting blogs is another terrific resource—just don’t do it the same year!
  • Fourth Tab: Basic marketing information I want to have at hand plus templates for charts, graphs, etc. to help me get even MORE organized (someday)

So how does it work out?

About as well as you are motivated to make it work. Two notebooks are about all I want to juggle. I don’t want to be searching online for basic information, nor do I want to be rummaging through my file cabinet half a dozen times a day! Your notebook(s) won’t look like mine, but that’s the beauty of it—a visit to Dollar Tree, a couple of three-ring notebooks and a hole-punch, several sets of dividers, and the copier which is standard with most printers today, and you’re in business!
I’d love to know how you stay organized—and if you’d like to guest blog about your brilliant strategies, contact me judyatjudynicklesdot com!

Friday: How I keep all my book(s) info organized in a Sales Copy folder on my desktop

Monday, February 6, 2017

Trailing Along...or, Yes! You Can!

Not my cup of tea...

The first time I encountered a “book trailer” I immediately cast aside the idea as being something I could do—and, indeed, paid for three to be made for me. I have a tendency to do that—believe something is beyond my ability. At my age, trying to go back in time and discover how that belief ingrained itself into my personality is a useless waste of time. The point is, over the years, what I’ve timidly approached...tried...failed...and tried again...has encouraged me to view my abilities differently.

I know what I can’t do...what’s beyond me. No one can do everything. But it’s sort of like the afternoon one of my sons had a soccer game, and I discovered my car had a flat tire. I telephone my father to ask where to call for help, but he wasn’t home. Frustrated, I said, “Well, I’ll just do it myself!”

My mother’s immediate response was, “Oh, you can’t do that!”

That got my back up—so I did it.

Learning to love that cup of tea...

So now we come to book trailers (among other things such as indie publishing). Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. You need pictures to which you have the right to use publicly. Stock photos abound. I find most of what I need on Fotolia.
2. You need music which fits the theme of your story and which doesn’t infringe copyright. A great site is Music2Hues. Their selection is wide, their prices reasonable, they have good support, and sometimes they have great sales—a good time to stock up! (There are other sources—just search for ‘royalty free music’.)
3. You need Windows Movie Maker. It’s a free download. I lost mine when I changed computers and couldn’t get it back until I upgraded to Windows 8.1 The backup computer has Windows 10—a dream to use.
4. And, of you have a local computer club, take a class. I did, learned the basics, and have been learning more ever since.
5. Finally, you need the determination to just do it. If I can, so can you!

Brewed to share...

Here’s a very short video I made this afternoon just to get my hand back into the process. Visit my YouTube Channel to view others.

The Showboat Reunion

Col. Sid “Bull” Bullington (USMC, ret.) is twenty-five years and two lifetimes older than Gail Callaway, While his struggle is carefully masked, hers is obvious--the cane she uses because of a worsening congenital neuromuscular disorder. His gut tells him to back off, but her childlike joy and simple trust in the goodness of others draws him into a relationship he knows they may both regret. When her unscrupulous brother complicates the mix, Sid feels he has no choice but to back off. Then on 9-11, the country and everyone in it is forever changed. For the first time, Sid wants to fight the demons of war and move on. Does he dare ask Gail to do battle with him?