Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's in Your Notebook?



            An article in the November issue of The Writer, “Have Notebook, Will Travel” by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein prompted me to take a look at the four full notebooks in my desk drawer. (They’re in the drawer awaiting such time as I will pluck out the pages and file in the appropriate folder.) She quotes Henry James who defines a good writer as “one…on whom nothing is lost.”
            I can relate. How many wonderful observations have been lost in the mist of memory because I didn’t write them down? Now I go nowhere without my notebook tucked handily in my purse. So what’s lurking inside these tomes of tidbits?
  • Notes from my February trip to several sites in SW Arkansas, including inscriptions from old tombstones
  • Information on using DNA in genealogy from a speech to a local genealogical society
  • “Revelation in the Woods”—forgotten cemetery in the local national park—from a presentation in town
  • Observations in two airports on the way to a writing conference in NC in May (next week’s blog will be about characters which could be derived from same)
  • More information from a Civil War Sesquicentennial speech at the library
  • Hot Springs in the Civil War—presented at the library by the director of the Arkansas Historical Commission
  • Description of the historic Arlington Hotel during an afternoon sitting in the lobby sipping a soft drink and eating free popcorn
  • Description of the historic Park Hotel while sitting at the BAR with a soft drink
  • Sermon notes
  • Notes from another Civil War presentation—as related to genealogy
  • Notes from a meeting of the local chapter of the Arkansas Archaeological Society
  • Notes from various meetings at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs in October
  • Six pages of notes made in “Dr. Baker’s Bistro” on the fourth floor of the historic (and haunted) Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs—notes for a story I don’t have time to write (right now).
  • Notes from the opening of an arts center in a nearby town—plenty of people-watching possible here!
  • July “people watch” at DFW Airport (see next week’s blog)
  • More “mob info” from a local author who writes about Hot Springs history
  • Reflections on a meeting of a local writers’ group
  • Webinar notes
  • Observations from Thanksgiving trip to Ft. Smith and Van Buren, including a wonderful 50s style diner and an excursion on an historic train
  • Observations from Christmas trip to Little Rock, including historic sites, the trolley, and so much more

There’s much more in the notebooks, both writing-related and not. The point is, if I hadn’t written things down as I saw them, I’d have forgotten 90% of the details.
I buy pretty little journals from the 10 for $10 rack at a local craft store, and I’m always armed with a couple of my favorite pens. (They make nice thinking-of-you gifts, too.)
What’s in YOUR notebook? Leave a comment and follow this blog—and I’ll be your writing friend for life!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is there anything you can't get on Kindle?

Actually, there is...but not much! Here's a link to browse periodicals (newspapers, magazines, blogs)available on Kindle. The prices are given per month, and free 14-day trials are available for some.

Kindle also offers a large number of free books. See what's available here. Warning: It will take you a while to browse 47,000+ books. Some of them are classics, but just as many are contemporary. If you have a Kindle, it's worth checking to see if what you want is a freebie.

Downloading PDFs from an online bookstore? Convert them to Kindle by sending a email to your registered name.free.kindle.com  And don't forget to put "Convert" in the subject line. Then attach the PDF, hit Send, and check your Kindle to see if they're there. Mine usually come pretty quickly, but it could take a while, so be patient. (You can do this with your own documents as well, so long as you've first converted them to PDF.)

Check with your local library to see if they've made the transition to lending Kindle books. Recently I took a free class at our innovative library and learned to download books just like I'd check out a print book. I also love the fact that I can program a large font which is easier on my eyes.

I have the new, less-expensive version of the Kindle which has the keyboard on the screen. If you're all thumbs (as I sometimes am) when you try to type on-screen, I suggest a simply orange stick (the manicure kind--Guys, ask your wife, girlfriend, manicurist, etc.) I keep one in my car to use with my Tom-Tom also. A ballpoint pen will work as well, but remember to keep the point retracted, and don't pound the keyboard!

While I'll always be drawn to bookstores, especially those cozy hole-in-the-wall kind crammed with pre-loved tomes, the Kindle has me firmly hooked. It's light, portable, wipe-offable, and...oh, did I mention how trendy you'll look sitting in a coffee shop reading from it? If you don't have an e-reader, compare the various Kindle models here.

If you don't want to invest in a separate electronic device, you can download a FREE Kindle to your PC. I used that to make sure I'd enjoy using a regular Kindle. I understand there is also a free download for the Nook. 

With more and more small presses leaning strongly to ebooks, the Kindle/Nook/other e-reader is becoming as "necessary" as a cell phone and a computer. You don't have to have any of these devices, but it makes life a lot more convenient!

Speaking of small presses and ebooks, my latest novel The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall will be released on March 28 by Champagne Books. Their policy is to require the sale of 100 ebooks before going to print, so I hope you'll keep the novel and the date in mind. Of course, I'll be sending out a huge announcement at the time, but it never hurts to plant the seed early. I'll have a cover in January, so watch for that, too. Meanwhile, to whet your appetite a bit...

Welcome to Miss Fanny’s Social Club for Gentlemen
You’ve come to the best parlor house in Cedar Bluff AR



Where everyone and everything is first-class and
Miss Fanny knows what goes on upstairs and down.

But nobody knows anything about Miss Fanny…
who she is, where she came from, why she’s here.

And then one day, she’s just a memory
in a museum that was once her home…
until a young woman recognizes a picture on the wall
and determines to discover why her great-grandmother
was one of Miss Fanny’s ladies.

Will the long-buried past give up its secrets…
or will it bury Tessa, too?

The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall
coming in March 2012
from Champagne Books


              www.judynickles.com               judynickles@gmail.com






Sunday, December 11, 2011

In a nutshell...

I am two issues behind with The Writer, but I'll get to every single article sooner or later. However, I did open the January 2012 issue and, within a few pages, garner some things to think about and ideas to use.

First, an article by Chuck Leddy asks, "Can bad reviews be good for book sales?" Yes, no, and maybe. For newer, unknown authors, even a bad review gets the name out there. For best-selling authors, a bad review could bring sales numbers down. (Anticipated disappointment, maybe?) Some say that reviews, bad or good, could balance each other out.

Brandi Reissenweber asks if she is right that characters can indeed act in a surprising way, or if her writing group is correct in saying they shouldn't. She concludes that surprise can indeed work as long as it works together with how the character has been presented up to that point.

Stephanie Dickison asks "Does the changing of the seasons affect your work?" and spells out some interesting circumstances in which a writer could/could not be as productive from one season to the next.

Then I read "DIY Tips for Computer Cleanup" and took it to heart--so the rest of the magazine is as yet unread. I downloaded the free malware remover, Microsoft Safety Scanner, which took over 6 hours to do a deep scan of my computer and removed 5 items. I uninstalled some programs and temporary files. My virus protection program takes care of defragmenting.

One article I'm anxious to get to is "7 Ways to Use Your Website to Sell Books" by Patricia Fry. Hitting the high points I see such suggestions as making your books prominent on the site, posting testimonials and book trailers, using podcasts/webcasts to generate interest, offering useable information to your readers, getting listed in online directories, and setting up a merchant account to take credit cards both online and in person.


.The fine print at the end of the article says that this article is a chapter in her book called (what else?) Promote Your Book, available in bookstores now. I just checked it out at Amazon.com and will be downloading the Kindle edition for $8.99 tonight. Looks like a winner...





Oh, and be sure to check out Dancing with Bear Publishing for their two new holiday anthologies. My story, "A Congo Christmas", is part of The Latke Hound.







AND--The Showboat Affair received a 4-heart review at Sizzling Hot Book Reviews. Scroll down to November 28 to read!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Real Writing for Real Places

"Making Your Fictional Settings Authentic: Fact-Checking Setting and Characterization" by Dennis E. Hensley caught my eye in the November-December issue of Writers' Journal. I love to use real places in my stories, and I always research them as thoroughly as I can. I usually have to do my research online, but Mr. Hensley offers some valuable suggestions if one is able to visit the setting.

Pay attention to:
  • clothing worn
  • food eaten
  • architecture
  • how the people talk, including expressions unique to the area
  • the history found in museums 
For one novel, I carefully researched restaurants (down to their menus), hotels (and their amenties), and points of interest in a specific place. After the book came out, I had more than a few moments of anxiety for reasons I won't go into, but the bottom line was, What if someone reads about a business and, in this age of lawsuit lunacy, decides to sue me for daring to use their name? I did more research and discovered that such a fate wasn't likely--especially if only positive comments are made. I mean, what business wouldn't welcome some great (free!) publicity?

Mr. Hensley goes on to detail how to research a historical setting, including staying true to the customs and mores of the time, the language, and watching out for those pesky anachronisms that tend to crop up. I once used a victrola in a time period when the machine was not yet in use--and had to switch to gramophone instead! (To be completely correct, an anachronism is misplacing something from an earlier time, but it can be used also to indicate general errors in chronology.) Anyway, thank goodness for a sharp editor!

To get the full benefit of the author's advice, you need to read the entire article. It, plus others such as "Creating Round Characters", "Write a Winning Essay," and "Marketing Your Unpublished Book" make this issue of Writers' Journal one to look for in your library, on the newsstand, or even order from the publisher since it's probably already a back issue.

Visit them on the web at http://writersjournal.com or email writersjournal@writersjournal.com








Monday, November 28, 2011

If you're winding down after NaNoWriMo, let me introduce you to some "light" reading: namely, Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse, published by Writer's Digest Books and also available at Amazon.com. I stumbled on to her second volume New Ideas for Writing in a small bookstore called A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book on the main street of Van Buren AR. The first volume is Ideas and Inspiration for Writing. 

I'm not quite 60 pages into Volume #2, a gem of a book just the right size for pocket or purse. It's chock full of words of advice, pithy quotes, striking and thought-provoking B&W pictures, and topics to get you started writing writing writing. It's not your standard "how-to" book with chapters and text. Rather, it's easy on the eyes with information scattered about among pictures and many pages with just ONE sentence, quote, or idea.

You'll find
  • "Notice(s) from the Department of Procrastination Prevention"
  • "A Tip on ______"
  • "Memo(s) from the Department of Just Showing Up"
  • "Write About _________"
  • "Today Only-Writer's Special"
and so much more. It's one of those books that you won't just read and put on the shelf. 

While I'm on the subject of books to get your started--and keep you writing, I'll mention a book I blogged about several years ago: Name the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer edited by Bret Anthony Johnson. Each chapter is followed by a set of writing "exercises" which can be used to spark a story. The final chapter is full of five, ten, and twenty-minute warm-ups which could easily morph into short stories or even longer works.

We all need a good swift kick to restart after NaNoWriMo! These books will do it!

Where do YOU get your inspiration and ideas?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Run, Do Not Walk! (Part 2 of 2)

To clear up any misunderstanding before you read this, I am NOT planning to pay to publish--ever--but that is a choice.

Every aspiring author has heard of/seen ads for are known as 'vanity presses'. These are pay-to-publish presses, and many people use them for many reasons. Yesterday I 'attended' an online webinar sponsored by Writers' Digest and heard what I thought was a very fair and balanced presentation of the advantages/disadvantages of Traditonal (now often called commercial) publishing, Do-It-Yourself Publishing, and Supported Publishing, which is another name for pay-to-publish. Comparisons were made regarding speed to market, control, and investment required.

It's not my purpose here to hold one model up as better than any other. I believe it is a matter of choice. However--it behooves an author to recognize a vanity press masquerading as a small (commercial) press--and know the bottom line BEFORE signing a contract which is legally binding. (And let me state here that there are good pay-to-publish businesses.) Look for
  • fee of any sort
  • pre-purchase or pre-sale requirements
  • withheld royalties
  • promises that your book will be available 'everywhere'
If you are looking for a pay-to-publish business, make sure they are upfront about being what they are. Don't be led in the back door with the 'carrot-on-a-stick' plot and wish you'd taken a better look at the carrot first!

The link I directed you to in Part 1 contains lists and lists of other links to
  • research publishers and check reputations
  • learn about contracts
  • learn about epublishing
  • learn about print-on-demand publishing
  • find other resources to expand your knowledge about publishing
It is NOT trite to say that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. At the very least, knowledge is just plain common sense. And if we are creative enough to write, we are smart enough to know how to get it out there the very best way!The 'best way' may differ from author to author.

My thanks to SFWA--Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America--for their wonderful "Writer Beware Blog" and the Small Press Page (linked above) which inspired the "Run, Don't Walk!" topic. They are a savvy resource for ALL writers! Add their site to your desktop, subscribe to their blog, and stay up on topics important to the writing world.

Disclaimer: This recommendation is made strictly because I believe the information provided by SFWA is valuable.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Run, Do Not Walk! (Part 1 of 2)

The old saying, "There's a sucker born every minute," is an old one and is often spoke in various forms. No one wants to be considered a 'sucker', and we're tempted to say (when reading of a scam), "Oh, that wouldn't/couldn't happen to me." Maybe and maybe not. We are all human, and sometimes we let our feelings get in the way of our common sense. So--my fellow writers and authors--published and unpublished alike--be aware--very aware--there is always someone out there who will make your dreams come true for a price.

 I consider myself blessed to have 'fallen in' with a wonderful small press some four years ago when I decided to get serious about writing and publishing. The Wild Rose Press is an author's dream. Yes, my first submission was rejected, but three subsequent manuscripts saw print, and I have a fourth coming out next year. It is a professional relationship with the added perk of feeling totally at home and safe with the staff and my fellow authors. I may get more rejections from them somewhere down the line--but that will not change my feelings about how fortunate I am to be 'a rose'.

But I digress. In this two-part blog, I want to discuss how even small presses need to be vetted by savvy authors. Here are some things to consider:

  • Exposure, availability, sales
  • stability/longevity
  • competence
  • veracity
  • advances
  • fees
  • complaints
  • credentials of staff
  • website
  • backlist
  • printing technology
  • print returns from bookstores
  • professional production and editing
  • pricing
  • options for distribution
  • marketing
  • communication
  • CONTRACT
Most small presses do not pay advances. If an advance is a must for you, you'll move on. Many small presses are newer to the publishing world. A new press may be right for you if you're willing to share its growing pains. The request for payment FROM the author is, of course, a no-no. If you want to shell out, there are plenty of vanity presses around to take your money. But for everyone, the contract is of prime importance. Read it carefully. Get professional legal advice if you have any questions. But never just sign and return and consider it a done deal. 

For more, go here (and I'd recommend it!) and put a shortcut to this site on your desktop.

Later this week I'll be blogging about pay-to-publish operations and why one may (or may NOT) be good for you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Welcome to The Word Place, Sandra Koehler (writing as Alison Chambers)


 What genre is the primary focus of your writing? Do you write anything else?
I write romantic suspense, but I also write political thrillers with a lot of romance in them.
Where do you publish?
The Wild Rose Press and independently on Amazon.com and Smashwords.
What is your most important and most frequently used resource as you write? (This does not necessarily have to be a print/online resource.) 
I use Roget’s Super Thesaurus.  It has more than 400,000 synonyms and antonyms and I find it the best Thesaurus ever.
What resource has been the least helpful to you? Would you recommend it to another writer with a different focus?
 I am still having difficulty finding the value in Facebook and Twitter, though I know other authors utilize it  a lot. Takes a bit more practice, I guess.  But I do love blogging and find it  helpful  in getting your  message across.
Do you consider a special writing place a resource? Why?
In front of my computer. The words just flow more naturally there.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because they are already in print and it’s easier to visualize them on the page.
Can you share a resource you are using/have used for a specific current/past work?
I utilized the non-fiction book “Rebel Gold” to get the treasure hunt idea for “The Secret Sentinel” published by The Wild Rose Press last year.  It really set my imagination to soaring.  So many non-fiction books or articles, especially those with a historical bent, can help an author dream up good ideas.
Do you have any other resources you would like to share?
When I first started publishing on Amazon, I began to receive some excellent information through a newsletter that is now called Taleist (www.taleist.com).  Other helpful resources (besides your blog, The Word Place, which never fails to teach me something new) include:  Kindle Boards, including the Author Tag Exchange, and Dana Lynn Smith’s The Savvy Book Marketer (which I think I learned about from you).
Do you have a  secret resource that you would never share? (Think chefs and top-secret recipes!)
Yes, the formula for my plotting strategy and how I like to keep readers in suspense (a dash of this, a pinch of that…)

Thank you, Judy, for giving me the opportunity to post on your fantastic blog!

The Secret Sentinel
Three lost keys to untold riches. Three cryptic rhymes. A secret society's deadly plot.  When museum curator Savannah Rutledge steals her father's treasure map to impress her boss, Winston Gale, and his handsome son Eric, she unleashes a Pandora's box of horror. Her father is killed and she is framed for murder. To atone for her father's death, she sets off on a cross-country chase for the treasure that ends with a dangerous showdown in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix. To get there she and a sexy stranger, Antonio Desada, follow a perplexing trail of clues that lead them to the keys that will unlock the mystery. Constantly moving, they must elude the police and the vicious Gales, hot on their trail once they realize they're missing a critical part of the map. Seductive and mysterious, Desada also provides the keys to a treasure of another kind. Will Savannah find the treasure—and love--before it's too late? 
Available from www.thewildrosepress.com
5 Stars-Night Owl Reviews--"Look out Nora Roberts...there's a new author on the horizon."

The Montezuma Secret
Murder and passion meet head-on in the steamy jungles of Belize.  Hunky Trey Zacco, gritty survivalist and host of the Miami-based Holiday Channel’s hit "Wildman" series and glitz and glamour girl, Erica Kingsley, host of the channel’s "Lap of Luxury" show, are thrown together in the steamy jungles of Belize as a publicity stunt. Erica’s father, Arthur Kingsley, the owner of the Holiday Channel, has proposed the angle, not only to boost ratings, but also as a way to toughen up his spoiled daughter. And Kingsley wants them to search for Montezuma’s lost gold, presumably moved to Belize from the Guatemalan jungle. Zacco cannot hide his resentment at having to share the spotlight with the flighty fashionista Erica, and he locks horns with her every step of the way even as both try to ignore the strong physical attraction growing between them. But when Arthur Kingsley’s plane crashes in the jungle, Trey and Erica launch a desperate search to find him. And when, one by one, members of the camera crew are killed and the equipment sabotaged, Trey and Erica find themselves stranded in the middle of the jungle where no rescue crew can reach them. 
Now Available on Amazon and Smashwords! 
Only $.99
  
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004JU0IX6
                http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49140
Five Stars on Amazon and Goodreads—“Exellent writing…the words leapt off the page…a wild, sultry ride.”

And check out my political thrillers on Amazon and Smashwords:  “Stand in for a Dead Man,” and “Time of the Eleven.”



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Welcome to The Word Place, Suzanne G. Rogers

What genre is the primary focus of your writing? Do you write anything else?
I write mostly in the fantasy genre because I enjoy it, but I’ve also written several mainstream short stories.
Where do you publish?
I’m currently published with Astraea Press, but I will shortly have titles at The Wild Rose Press, MuseItUp Publishing and Musa Publishing.   My short stories have also appeared in various online magazines.
What is your most important and most frequently used resource as you write? (This does not necessarily have to be a print/online resource.)
As I’m writing, I frequently pull up an online Thesaurus.  I don’t like to use the same words over and over again.
What resource has been the least helpful to you? Would you recommend it to another writer with a different focus?
At the moment, most of my publications are e-books.  That puts a crimp in my style at Goodreads because they only allow hard copies in their giveaway program.  I wish they would consider e-book giveaways because I think their giveaways are a wonderful resource for authors as well as readers.
Do you consider a special writing place a resource? Why?
I enjoy writing at my desk, which has a view of a beautiful lagoon.  I think I could write anywhere with the proper tools (computer and Internet) as long as I have solitude.  I can’t write very well with anyone else in the room.
Can you share a resource you are using/have used for a specific current/past work?
I frequently use Google or other search engines to pull up photos of locations, people, vehicles or clothing I want to describe in a scene.  It’s easier to be specific that way.
Do you have any other resources you would like to share?
I have a background in acting and Improv.  It’s amazing how often I draw upon the skills I learned from those disciplines in my writing. 
Do you have a secret resource that you would never share? (Think chefs and top-secret recipes!)
I belong to several writers’ loops associated with my publishers.  The writers in these loops have been extremely helpful to me in many ways. 


After his father is kidnapped, sixteen-year-old Jon stumbles across a closely guarded family secret--one that will challenge everything he has ever believed about his father and himself.  A magical ring his father leaves behind unlocks a portal to another dimension, but in using it, Jon unwittingly unchains the forces of evil.  A crisis develops when a malevolent wizard transports to Earth to kidnap one of Jon’s friends.  With the help of some unlikely schoolmates, and a warrior princess from Yden, Jon embarks on a dangerous quest to free his friend and his father from the most vicious wizard the magical world has ever known.  In the end, Jon will be forced to fight for his life as he attempts to rescue the last great wizard of Yden.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Welcome to The Word Place, Jane Toombs

What genre is the primary focus of your writing? Do you write anything else?
At the present time I’m primarily writing paranormal suspense romance.  But I have written in every other genre, including non-fiction and horror.,  But never men’s action and erotica.
Where do  you publish?
In the past: Harlequin, Dell, Berkley and Kensington.  
Now I write exclusively for epubs: Amber Quill Press. Whiskey Creek Press, Champagne Books, Red Rose Publishing, Eternal Press. Zumaya Publications, New Concepts  Publishing, Books We Love and Divine Destinies 
What is your most important and most frequently used resource as you write? 
Online and my local library. And, yes I would recommend both to any writer of any genre because most every resource can now be found in one place or the

other.
Do you consider a special writing place a resource?   
Yes, because privacy helps.  But I have written in dining rooms, beside the cat’s litter box, and in bedrooms. Now that I have my very own writing room I have to admit that’s the best place. 
 Can you share a resource you are using/have used for a specific current/past work? Do you have any other resources you would like to share?
Because I have never used writing books or programs or anything of the sort, I have nothing to recommend  as a resource except a good critique group.  A critique partner is good, but a group is better. 
 Do you have a  secret resource that you would never share? (Think chefs and top-secret recipes!)
Sorry, no secret resource.  But here is a tip:  With every book you finish, you learn something that makes you a better writer when you start next one.  So do try to finish every book you begin. This way you’re creating your own resource.





My most recent book is  Moon Pool ~
 In the center of the maze at an Adirondack resort lies a spring -fed pool . Legend says that if you look into its depths under a full moon, you'll see the face of your true love. In this collection of four novellas, the magic of the Moon Pool touches the lives of eight people for whom love seems to be a dream that can never be reality.  

 All my books can be found at www.JaneToombs.com 



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coming Next Week

So far, three authors have taken the interview challenge at The Word Place.

I will post according to first-come, first-serve in this order:

Monday:  Jane Toombs
Wednesday:  Suzanne G. Rogers
Friday:  Susan M. Koehler

Thanks, ladies!

And to all you other authors out there, it's not too late...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Interviewing--and an Invitation to do Same

The guest speaker at our writers' group this month discussed interviewing and related it to writing, so from my notes--and thoughts--here are a few things to think about.

First of all, WHY do an interview? For information, of course. Asking questions is the best way to learn.

WHERE do you conduct an interview? At one time, the only choice was to do it in person. Now we have a choice of the "live" interview, telephone, live chat, or email. If choosing either of the first two venues, permission to record (mechanically) is important. I was interviewed by someone from the local newspaper a few months ago. When we sat down, she flipped on a hand-held recorder. I liked that, knowing that my exact words would be a matter of record. Also, because she wasn't busy trying to write everything down, the interview was more like a friendly conversation and put me more at ease.

Finally, HOW does one conduct an interview? It's important to know something about the subject beforehand. That means doing your homework with some research. If it's an on-site situation, the interviewer can pick up clues from the surroundings--pictures, knick-knacks, trophies, books, and so on. It's important to have a list of more questions than there is probably time for--but ask the most pertinent questions first.

Always make sure the interview shines with a positive light--that is, the interviewee knows he won't be hit with a hatchet job. And, of course, always respect privacy and confidentiality. Anything said "off the record" stays that way.

In considering how I, as a writer, might use the interview, the blog interview rose to the top of the list. Below is the interview I created, keeping to the theme of the blog which is Resources for Writers. I hope some or all of you who read the blog will choose to be featured here at The Word Place. Email your answers to judy@judynickles.com

~*~
Resource Round-Up Blog

1.  What genre is the primary focus of your writing? Do you write anything else?
2.  Where do you publish?
3.  What is your most important and most frequently used resource as you write? (This does not
     necessarily have to be a print/online resource.)
4.  What resource has been the least helpful to you? Would you recommend it to another writer
     with a different focus?
5.  Do you consider a special writing place a resource? Why?
6.  Can you share a resource you are using/have used for a specific current/past work?
7.  Do you have any other resources you would like to share?
8.  Do you have a  secret resource that you would never share? (Think chefs and top-secret recipes!)

As always, please feel free to post covers and taglines of your books. Covers should be attached as jpegs.

I'll post these interviews as they are received and for as long as they come to my inbox.

8. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marketing Your Book for the Holidays

Janet Elaine Smith writes a regular column in The Writers' Journal on Marketing Helps. She's full of great ideas. Her column in the September-October issue is called "Try Being Crafty" and centers around selling books at holiday craft fairs.

Actually, someone recently suggested the local craft fair to me as a place to get my books out there. It is next month, and I expect it's too late to sign up for a table.However Ms. Smith's column has inspired me to at least go and inquire!

First of all, she reminds authors that books aren't typically sold at craft fairs, so the opportunity for sales is ripe. She suggests displaying articles relating to the subject matter of the book as good eye-catchers. Music works as an attention-getter, she says, as well as regularly-scheduled readings of selected passages throughout the day and perhaps a drawing for a prize at the end of the day.

I recommend buying the magazine for the full article. It's off the stands now, but I'm sure it's available as a back issue. She's multi-published, so take a look at her website. Also check out her Promo Paks: Nearly Free Marketing for Authors at Amazon.com  Unfortunately, it's not available for Kindle, and there are varying opinions as to its usefulness expressed in reviews, but it looks interesting to me.

A while back, a gift store here offered me the opportunity for a book signing during the holidays, so I'm thinking I'll take them up on it, perhaps incorporating some of Ms Smith's ideas.

How do you plan to promote your books during the holidays?

Judy Nickles

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gems from OCW at Eureka Springs

Just spent an enlightening three days at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs where the keynote speaker, award-winning author David Morrell (First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose, and many more), urged writers to find the dominant emotion which has made them what they are: it will become their subject matter. When I jotted down the several recurring themes in  my own writing, his meaning became crystal clear.

He also spoke about being aware of our daydreams, as well as what is happening to us and where it's coming from. Again, our subject matter springs from these understandings: it's where our imagination wants us to go.

He voiced an excellent mantra for writers: "I want to be a first-rate version of myself, not a second-rate version of someone else."

~*~
Gordon Warnock, Senior Agent in the Andrea Hurst Literary Agency, urged writers to actively educate themselves about the industry and their craft by attending conferences, becoming involved in a writers' group which will be honest about what is written and offer suggestions for improvement, reading industy publications and selected blogs, and joining appropriate writer organizations (RWA, Mystery Writers of America, for example). To choose a conference best suited to individual needs, he suggested Shawguides.com 

He shared additional links for finding markets: The Writers Market (updated yearly), Duotrope, and Jeff Herman's Guide.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Promo No-No's

     Read an interesting article recently by a successful author who discussed how she acquired readers for her eBooks. She had some great ideas about being an online presence in as many ways possible, but it was what she didn't do that caught my eye: specifically, no conferences, book signings, or speaking.

     If that works for her, that's the course she should pursue, but I'd like to put in a few plugs for the rejected venues.

     Conferences are islands of opportunity for networking with other writers and learning all kinds of interesting tidbits about writing, publishing, promotion, and marketing. Sometimes you have an opportunity to pitch an agent or a publisher, and that pitch might morph into a contract. The biggest perk for me is the people I meet, whether for the first time or the dozenth. Someone once said/wrote, "I am a part of all that I have met," and it's true. People are our greatest resource. If they buy our books, great. If they tell someone else about our books, terrific. If they do neither, we're both still richer for the interaction.

      Book signings typically don't do well. I say typically, because some of them do net good sales under the right circumstances. But again, it's about people. I did a book signing once where I didn't sell a single book. It was late in the day, and I'd been placed in a rather out-of-the-way corner. But what I did do was have the opportunity to talk writing with a young person still in high school. I hope perhaps I gave her some good advice, but what I know I did was encourage her. She had my undivided attention and my assurance that she was a writer now and could be a writer in the future if that's where her dreams lay.

     As for speaking, I have to go back to that tired old word--people. Who knows if you'll touch a chord with someone? Maybe you'll even get the whole symphony playing in their souls! When I go to hear a speaker, I take out the ever-present notebook and write down all kinds of gems which find their way into my writing notebook.

     We all want to sell books, but there's so much more to being a writer. To trot out another cliche, "No man is an island." No writer is either.







Saturday, September 24, 2011

Books for Dummies

We've all seen them--those yellow and black paperback volumes touting their function as 'a reference for the rest of us'. They're everywhere you turn: brick and mortar stores, online sites such as Amazon, flea markets, garage sales. Here is an official looking site boasting 141 pages of such helpful tomes. And here is THE official site where you can subscribe to an email newsletter, browse among books covering 16 different categories from 'business and careers' to 'travel', shop, and read how it all started.

With over 250 million books of kind in print, I think the 'dummies' books rate standing as a valuable resource for writers.

A good rule of thumb is to check out the credentials of the author(s). Does he have a stellar background in the field? Good enough to explain the topic to the rest of us? Look for information in 'About the Author' at the front of the book.

Next, skim the detailed Table of Contents. It's generally lengthy and perhaps even a bit intimidating. But if you're only looking for certain information, why plow through the entire book?

Before you read, familiarize yourself with the icons used to the left of the text throughout the books. (See Introduction) Be prepared for sidebars, which are chock full of facts, but don't let them distract you. Likewise, be aware of the appendices at the end of the book, as well as the index that follows. And, like any serious researcher, don't sit down to read without your notebook and pen. It's easier to jot down a fact (and a page number) than to go back later and try to find it.

I'm currently reading (parts of) Catholicism for Dummies. No, I'm not planning to convert, although the explanations I've read so far of its various theological tenets go right along with my own Protestant ones. (Yes, really--we're more alike than different, my friends.) My purpose is literary--the heroine of my cozy mystery series (currently in book four of six), Penelope Pembroke, is a practicing Catholic--which the reader needs to know in order to understand and appreciate Penelope as she goes about solving mysteries in the sleepy little town of Amaryllis AR.

What I need to know to make Penelope believable is right here within the pages of the 'dummies' book. (It also helps that I have a writing friend who is Catholic and can explain anything I don't quite understand.) While research ought to be verified with more than one credible source, these books are a good starting point for whatever you've a mind to delve into and import into your writing.

Have you used a 'dummies' book in your writing research? Which one--and what was your experience with it?






Sunday, September 18, 2011

Selling Books on Amazon

Congratulations to Calisa Rhose who won the drawing for a selection of writing journals--and thanks to all of you for your suggestions!

Since beginning to research all things publishing, I've subscribed and unsubscribed to various newsletters and blogs, but one that has become a permanent fixture in my email is Dana Lynn Smith's The Savvy Bookmarketer's Newsletter. It's free, and at the time I signed up, I received a bonus ebook. I notice that she is currently offering 3 bonuses if you sign up now for her newsletter.

Recently I bought her ebook How to Sell More Books on Amazon, downloading it on my handy-dandy free Kindle-on-computer. Reading the book and implementing all possible strategies has been my focus this week. For example, I have
  • updated both Author Central pages (one for Judy Nickles, then other for Gwyneth Greer) with book trailers and edited bios
  • tagged all three books
  • updated my personal profile and created a signature which will appear each time I review a book
Unfortunately, I cannot sign up for Amazon Affiliates because, due to the sales tax issue, my state has been dropped from the program. But I did discover that all three of my books now have the 'Look Inside' feature--which I was going to set up, but it's already been done--automatically, I assume.

Still to be done are:
  • Consider an 'Amazon Bestseller Campaign'
  • Create a 'Listmania' List
  • Check out Amazon Customer Communities
The book has links for each suggested strategy. In addition, I'm planning a future (probably mid-to-late 2012) venture into indie publishing with my Penelope Pembroke cozy mystery series, and I made a note to go back and re-read Chapter 3 when I get to that point.

Do go to Amazon.com and check out How to Sell More Books on Amazon for $8.99. You'll get your money's worth.

Other books by Dana Lynn Smith
  • How to Get Your Book Reviewed
  • Selling Your Books to Libraries
  • Directory of Top U.S. Libraries
  • Facebook Guide for Authors
  • Twitter Guide for Authors
  • Successful Social Marketing



Disclaimer
I share this information with no remuneration of any sort; rather, I'm indebted to Dana Lynn for subject matter for this blog and for all her great marketing ideas.
 



Monday, September 12, 2011

Old Writing Journals Never Die...They Just Pile Up

With apologies to General Douglas MacArthur, I submit these facts:

Old writing journals, well-read, highlighted, underlined, perhaps a big dog-eared, do not fling themselves into their own funeral pyre. Rather, they just pile up on my bookshelves or in the wicker basket beside my recliner. How to send them--honorably and kindly--to their final reward?

Four journals arrive regularly in my mailbox: Poets and Writers, The Writer, Writers' Digest, and Writer' Journal. I make every attempt--and usually succeed--to read each issue from cover to cover. I share them with my critique partner, who reads and returns them. Then what? I have a couple of options, neither of which suits me: I can toss them in the trash, or I can give them to the local library which has a room from which to sell donated books and magazines. I wouldn't mind the latter IF I felt that writers would find the magazines and plunk down their dimes. I suppose that any magazines there too long receive a one-way trip to the dumpster.

One of the magazines, to which I'm less attached (it's thicker and a bit more technical) is available for Kindle. I will go that route when the renewal comes due. Still, three magazines remain to be dealt with in some "green" fashion. I recycle cardboard, glass, plastic, and aluminum cans, so surely I can recycle these writing magazines.

If you do not subscribe to any of these treasures and would like to browse, leave a comment with a suggestion for recirculating them among other writers, and I'll draw a name for the January-March issues of each. I'll even pay the postage!

Think! (I don't have time right now.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing on a Budget Part II

The March-April  edition of Poets and Writers Magazine features "The Spring 2011 Guide to Writing Vacations", complete with listings for and information about conferences and residencies in the United States and abroad. Who wouldn't enjoy four days in the Hyatt-Regency in the Pacific Northwest or studying creative writing in the heart of Rome for a summer or a year? Unfortunately, such dreams aren't in tune with my budget, so I simply look at the pretty pictures and sigh--but not necessarily with regret.

We all live within our budgets (well, with the exception of the Federal Government--sorry, I just had to get in that small snark), so I doubt that many of us waste time longing for what is beyond our means. Such exercises in futility take up valuable writing time. Besides, for every opportunity one can't afford, another is waiting to be seized.

Personally, I can afford only one out-of-town excursion a month--and that within reason. So I plan short trips with an eye to research possibilities and economy. The more economical I am, the longer I can stay. Arkansas is particuarly rich in historical and general tourism sites, and the distances are fairly short (which is good for gas economy). Sometimes I can combine another hobby, genealogical research, with a writing-research trip.

Excellent destinations for day-long 'writing retreats' are state parks. In good (cool) weather,  I keep a bin packed with a supplies such as a tablecloth, hand sanitizer, legal tablet/notebook and pens, and packaged snacks. The night before I leave, I toss in a battery-operated cd player and some music cds, the latest writing journal from my mailbox, and a folding lawn chair. The lappy and a small cooler with water and soft drinks go into the car the next morning--along with the beast, her water bowl, and poop-scooping necessities. (I leave a place as clean or cleaner than I found it!)

Every October, I attend the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs. A writing buddy and I split gas and the cost of the room and come out quite well. I'd like to find one more conference to attend each year, but I want to make sure it's a fit for me--that is, worth the time and money.

Meanwhile, I like to get out of the house at least once a week and find somewhere cozy to 'hole up' and write. (A location with free internet access isn't always conducive to writing productivity!) There are at least half a dozen such places in town, and a change of scenery is good--and a sandwich and drink won't break the bank. Also--the public library is always available and always free! Ours here in Hot Springs is exceptional in many ways, and I always feel my time there has been well spent.

Speaking of Poets and Writers Magazine, it's an excellent resource, but it's very thick and difficult to store. (and I never get rid of my writing journals--just share them out and welcome them home to retire). I just discovered it's available on Kindle, so I'm going that route.when it's time to renew. And speaking of Kindle, that item is on my 'wish list', but meanwhile, I've downloaded one free from Amazon.com and find it meets my needs for now.

So, while I won't be going to Rome, France, Canada, Senegal, or the Czech Republic--nor even to the Pacific Northwest--I'll be writing just as prodigiously in other locations near at hand. It's practical--not Pollyanna-ish--to bloom where you're planted. And when you write that 'great American novel', who cares where you did it?


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Promotion: Playtime or Paytime?

I spent yesterday unsubscribing to a large number of newsletters which, while they looked interesting, have little relevance to what I'm doing. In short, I overextended myself and wore out the delete button. BUT the two newsletters I did NOT chunk and NEVER WILL  are Hope Clark's Funds for Writers/Small Markets and Dana Lynn Smith's Savvy Bookmarketer Newsletter. Both are free. So get over there and sign up for these gems if you haven't already.

But I digress. I recently read an article in the Savvy Bookmarketer by Robin  Hoffman: Using the Calendar to Promote Yourself and Your Book. She finished by saying, "So, do a little research and look up unusual holidays, take note of the ones that you can tie to your message, and brainstorm ideas. Plan the year in advance. You can even write the press releases months before--waiting and ready to send out as the date nears."

I found a recommendation elsewhere for Chase's Calendar of Events, which is apparently updated yearly. The 2012 volume is not yet available on Amazon, but it's too rich for my blood--$70+. Even last year's edition is priced at around $52. So...

Go here for free--"Calendars: A Guide to Locating Events for Each Day of the Year". You'll find links to the following which produce more links, ( ) denotes how many links.

  • Today's Date (15)
  • Historical Events and Birthdays, General(17)
  • Historical Events and Holidays; Regions and Countries(18)
  • Astronomical Events (6)
  • Historical Events and Birthdays: Specific Subject Areas (42)
  • Holidays and Festivals: General (5)
  • On This Day in Military History (5)
  • The Religious Year (13)
  • Timelines (8)
Plus three bonus categories: Timelines (8), The History of the Calendar and Clocks (10) , and Create a Calendar (9)

These links aren't just useful for promotion. In fact, I'd say they were even more useful for researching your next story! Bookmark the site, then print out the lot--7 pages--and file them in a pocket folder. The pockets will be useful for storing related clippings from newspapers and magazines.

I noticed--and should definitely credit--someone named Linda Bertland, a school librarian, who maintains this treasure trove!








Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Marketing Plan: Must or Myth

Actuallly, the title of this blog is a bit misleading. Obviously, if you're going to write a book (and unless you're a best-selling author for one of the mainline publishers), you're going to have to market it. I mean, get out and sell it. And therein lies the problem.

So what have I done? Not as much as I should. I have business cards and brochures which I hand out to almost every contact. I do book signings. I've set up the requisite three social media sites--Facebook, Twitter, and a blog. I've also joined Linked-In, though I'm not sure I'm making the correct use of it.I have a website. I have a website, which I'm pleased to say I keep updated--most of the time.

I have a file drawer full of marketing information--good information. I subscribe to several marketing email newsletters and always find great ideas in them.  Four writing journals arrive in my mailbox throughout every month--more marketing information and great ideas.I have author pages at various sites and, when I think of it, use their free advertising offers.

The thing is--I don't consistently make use of all these resources. Let's face it--for someone who was brought up to keep quiet and in the background, marketing my books--and myself--is a painful process. But it has to be done. Edits have to be done, too. And galleys. Real life has to be dealt with. But the fact remains, marketing is a must if books are going to sell.

 Right now I find myself with edits for two books--obviously, my submission timing was skewed. I'm more than grateful for the contracts, and doing the best job possible on the edits is top priority. I'm also involved in a personal project--getting out a directory/memory book related to the recent church youth group reunion. And, I have another cozy mystery begun, the fourth of six, and if I don't keep up with it, I'll run out of material for my critique partner to read at our weekly meetings. I also keep thinking about the drawer full of short stories which need a home--besides the drawer, that is!

Do I have a marketing problem--or a time-management problem? I suspect it's the latter. Would anybody out there with the same problem like to weigh in?

Meanwhile, here are my link offering for this blog--well-worth checking out and using (do I hear myself?)

Sandra Beckwith--BookBuzz
The Savvy Bookmarketer


UPDATE: Amber Leigh Williams' guest at The Cozy Page today has some great tips on marketing.




Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing on a Budget

Let's face it--writing is an expensive habit/hobby/second career. Royalties are nice, but stack up those payments against the money going out for basic supplies, not to mention marketing. It all adds up. There are, however, a few economic strategies that save a little bit--and these days, every little bit helps. Short of drilling for oil in your backyard, winning the lottery, or receiving an inheritance from a long-lost relative, you might consider these ideas:
  • Buy recycled ink cartridges.
  • Use the front and back of paper when making copies for critiquing, editing, etc.
  • Buy used writing books from Amazon.com or ABE Books--even with shipping, they're considerablly cheaper. Ebooks are a great bargain, too.
  • Send for/stop at visitors centers for free travel brochures from places you'd like to go but can't afford to--they provide great ideas for stories, settings, etc.
  • Watch for special offers for free shipping on office supplies--save the gas you'd spend looking for exactly what you want. I've had a great experience with Staples online.
  • Make your own marketing brochures--even with the cost of a good grade paper and the ink you come out ahead and with exactly what you want. 
  • Check VistaPrint for special FREE offers--postage is negligible. I get all my business cards this way.
  • Consider partnering with a friends to subscribe to one writing journal apiece and exchanging--or see which magazines are available at your local library. Some renewals will come with free gift subscription offers--a nice surprise for any writer.
  • Share gas/room with a friend for that writing conference you really want to attend. It's often a lot more fun that way, too.
  • If you like contests, set a limit for entry fees--mine is $10--and free is better. Make sure the contest is reputable.
  • Subscribe free to the Writer Beware Blog to keep an eye out for scams--seems like there's a new one every week!
  • Visit Michael's to look at their 10/$10 rack--a great way to stock up on gift basket items to use at book signings/sales and also a great source for those handy-dandy notebooks every writer needs to keep handy. 
  • Make your own signs for the windows of stores hosting your book signings. A package of good cardstock will go a long way.
  • Take advantage of every site offering an author page.
  • Watch for good sales on thumb drives--4GB is more than enough--and keep your work backed up in many places! Consider keeping at least one in a fireproof box or safe. Mozy also offers a free (limited) backup, and their paid subscription is reasonable.
  • Take your own pictures--a telephone call to get permission for use, if it's a commercial site, is a nice courtesy and might just net some interest in your writing project. Of course, sites like iStock and Fotolia are reasonable, too.
  • Learn to make your own book trailers. (There are other how-to sites out there, too.)
And, if anyone turns up a nose at your economies and homemade marketing products, just smile all the way to your next writing conference where you'll have some extra pennies in your pocket.

Then, when you become a best-selling author, just write a check and let someone else do the work! (But I think being creatively economic is a lot more satisfying/fun!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journaling, Pen Names, and Contests

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can weave these three topics together into any cohesive post, but I wanted to put in my two cents' worth on all three. Here goes.
~*~
Many (some anyway) writers swear by journaling. It makes sense from the standpoint of having some organized notes from which to pluck a story idea. On the other hand, I don't want to be snatched from the face of the earth and leave behind any personal observations. If I have to write them down, as opposed to sharing them verbally with a friend, perhaps they don't need to be recorded at all. Just my opinion.

I do, however, carry a notebook everywhere and jot down things that interest me. To wit: sitting at DFW airport a couple of weeks ago, I made these three entries:  young guy with cell phone walking round and round seats while talking! non-stop! wish he'd run out of battery! And later, walked almost clear to end of B concourse both ways--guy still pacing/talking. Arghhhhhhhhh. found seat sort of out of gate area with back to him! And still later, okay, so guy apparenty waiting on someone--she arrived--they're gone--9:50-11:15!!!

What, if anything, I'll do with that piece of fascinating information, I have no idea. But if it gets 'left behind', no sweat!
~*~
I'm debating the continued use of the pen name Gwyneth Greer. Don't get me wrong--I love it! Though I've only used it on one book, I'm poised to use it on the book currently in edits. Another Vintage Rose romance will be coming up for edits soon, so do I use my real name on that subgenre and my pen name on the others? I read somewhere that pen names should be fashioned from the first eight letters of the alphabet--mine is--and should be used for reasons other than just being 'flashy'. Of that I'm guilty. Having lived with a very plain name for 60-odd years, Gwyneth Greer is exciting! Could she be my alter-ego?
~*~
Writing contests aren't difficult to find, but the entry fees are often high when measured against the odds of even placing in the contest. I have a $10 limit--which also limits the contests  available. (Free is good.) However, I would like to recommend the contests found in The Writers' Journal. I especially like  'Write-to-Win'. Entry fee: $5 for a chance to win a first prize of $150, a 1-year subscription, and publication at a future date. No 2nd-3rd prizes but four honorable mentions which garner a 1-year subscription. Using a given beginning phrase, you write a maximum of 1,500 words and post it by snail-mail. I've placed once and enjoyed the subscription so much I've renewed it regularly. Go to their website for more information on this and other contests sponsored by the magazine.

~*~
Maybe these three topics do have a strong link--they're all about writing, and we're all writers.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Advantages of a "Small" Press

Despite being woefully behind in reading the various writing journals to which I subscribe (I eventually read each one from cover to cover, I promise!), my interest was piqued by the offerings on the cover of the latest issue of The Writer: 
"Small Press, Big Reward"
"Make a Splash with a Literary Press"
"10 Canadian Publishers Worth a Look"
"100+ Publishers and Self-Publishers Looking for Submissions"

As a writer of multiple genres, I'm always looking for new markets. And, I currently have contracts with two publishers that would be deemed "small" by virtue of not being one of the "big boys". It amazes me that some readers still feel  an author not published by a "big boy" isn't really a published author! Anyway, though I feel I know well the benefits of being associated with a "small" press", I took a quick look at the Editor's Notes (Jeff Reich) "Bigger isn't always better" and found he'd hit the nail squarely on the head.

I hope I'm not violating fair use by quoting a single sentence from among many: Smaller presses are frequently easier to submit to--and to work with--and their focus tends to be on qualilty, not quantity.

My own experience with a small press has been positive:
  • personalized rejections which tend to encourage more submissions
  • straight-forward contracts
  • knowledgeable editors who have a personal interest in working with authors to bring out the best possible product
  • fellow authors who mentor newbies and support/share with their peers
  • sponsored retreats bringing together staff and authors, creating a we're all in this together atmosphere
  • regular communication between administrators, editors, and authors via message boards and chat rooms
  • business decisions made in the best interests of the authors as well as the publisher
Granted, not all small presses get all these kudos, so it's important to do one's homework before submitting.

This issue of The Writer belongs in your files--after you've read it, of course. Don't forget to read all the way to the back where you'll find 7 pages of small presses, as well as a few self-publishers and some upcoming writing conferences.

Here's a link to more complete information about the September 2011 issue of The Writer. Check it out, then get to the newsstand for your own copy--or better still, subscribe. And if the FCC needs a disclaimer, here it is--nobody paid me anything for touting this magazine! (Writers share with other writers.)






Monday, August 1, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of a free copy of the new Silver Boomer Books anthology, The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military, is Arlene Foster. Arlene couldn't post on the blog but did leave a comment on Facebook.

Congratulations to Arlene. Your book will be in the mail as soon as I receive my copies!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Way It Was

     When I was growing up in the late 40s and early 50s--and even later--World War II was not history but rather part of our daily lives, even though it had ended. Our fathers had gone off to war--and some had not returned. I don't remember hearing the war talked about, but it was there. Even if we didn't understand the enormity of it, we all felt its consequences one way or the other.
     Each school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, followed by the Lord's Prayer. Air raid drills, in which we climbed under our desks and hid our faces in our folded arms, occurred as regularly as fire drills. We considered the latter more interesting because we got to go outside.
      We stood for the national anthem, whenever and wherever it was played. The American flag flew over public buildings and not as an advertisement for anything. The Fourth of July meant fireworks in the park and, if we were lucky, a traveling carnival with rides and games.
     It was not questionable to be a patriot in the days before political correctness decreed that school children--and anyone else--could thumb their noses at the idea of respecting the flag and the country it stood for.
     On the heels of World War II came Korea. I remember using my wonderful box of crayons to draw "war maps", although I had no idea what that really meant. But I remember plainly the day that the announcement of the armistice came over the television. My grandparents owned one of the first sets, and I was on my way out the back door when I heard the words. Even almost sixty years later, I can feel myself poised beside that door, head turning towned the black-and-white set, ears alert. I knew something big had happened.
      My generation grew up and went to Viet Nam. The turbulent, devisive era shaped our maturing years. When I taught history in high school, the local VFW acquired speakers for my class, but I always declined a veteran from Viet Nam. Remembering how those gallant men had been treated by their countrymen, I couldn't ask them to relive those days for a generation of students who had no conception of how terrible war really is.
     My generation lost fathers in World War II and Korea--and we lost friends and classmates in Viet Nam.  We are still at war. I cannot see a man or woman in uniform without tearing up. I cannot watch documentaries or fictionalized accounts, especially about World War II, without aching for what so many endured and lost. I grow angry when those who never experienced military service mouth platitudes about those who did.
     So I feel especially gratified to have had my short story, "So Long Ago and Far Away" chosen for the newest Silver Boomers' anthology, The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military. The book will be available in early August, and I would like to give away one copy to someone who visits this blog. Leave a comment between now and August 1 to be entered in the drawing.
     Meanwhile, visit Silver Boomer Books to read more about the anthology and the contributing authors.
May God bless America and those who shed their blood to preserve it!