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  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


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 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.

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