Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Tragedy of the Oldest Profession

      Bordello, bawdy house, brothel, whorehouse, house of ill repute, red light district. All the words conjure up the same image: a place where women sold themselves.
      A friend once observed (with a wink) that I seemed to have an inordinate interest in the subject. I do, but it's not the obvious--whatever that is. I grew up in a town once so notorious for the wild and wooly life centered around its saloons (and what was upstairs) that the frontier fort commander often forbade the men to cross the river to vsit it when on leave. As late as the 1930s, my father had an office in a hotel where everyone knew the business that flourished on a higher floor. In the auto finance business at the time, he and his father loaned money to one of the "girls" who promptly disappeared with the car. The madam came to see Daddy and suggested that, in the future, he should check with her before financing a vehicle for anyone in her employ. And, the next morning, he found the missing car parked at the curb. Daddy told the story tongue-in-cheek and with a rueful chuckle from the hindsight of age and experience. But he didn't really think it was funny.
      One of my mother's bridge buddies opened an antique store on the historic 'old town' street and conducted tours upstairs to where a bordello allegedly flourished until being shut down by law enforcement in the late 40s. Along the hall leading to a back door 'escape' over the roof of another building, hung bells to be rung when a raid was eminent. Growing up after WW II, I became familiar with the old homes, now boarding houses, which had been part of the 'red light district' serving the men from two bases located in the town.
      I knew the stories in general, but it wasn't until much later that I consider the 'actors' in those long-ago and not-so-long-ago dramas. Only seeing their faces--some young and vulnerable, some old and hardened--in books and framed in tourist attractions, did I come to understand the human drama which took place in those establishments devoted to pleasure for some and perhaps a living hell for others.
      My soon-to-be-released novel, The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall, sprang from such an encounter and light-bulb moment. It is a romantic suspense which in no way glorifies those days. I struggled with bringing it to life and, in some ways, did a bit of 'preaching and pontificating' about the subject--though not, I hope, to the detriment of the story.
     I suppose I tried to incorporate sayings (There but for the grace of God...) and scripture (Judge not...) while building a story around historical fact. You can decide for yourself when you read the first chapter and view the trailer. Come March 6, I hope you'll be intrigued enough to buy the book for your Kindle/Nook library.
     Meanwhile, I checked on Amazon to find titles with similar subject matter. Surprisingly, there were many, but I'm listing only the non-fiction links here. Miss Fanny is a story as old as time and as current as this morning's police files.

Available on Amazon: (Links included)


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Endings, Beginnings, and Keeping on

My heart sank when I received the mailing this week that The Writer's Journal is closing its doors. Of all the writing-related magazines to which I subscribed, it was my favorite, because it imparted valuable information in short, quick-read chunks. I loved the Write-to-Win Contests and the winning stories published each month.

On the upside, I finished a book and a review for Romancing the Book, a terrific site for catching up on the latest novels/novellas in several genres. I have another review due the 7th of March, and the book is promising to be a real thriller. Being a reviewer is a real learning experience. It will make you a better writer, AND it helps out other writers who need exposure.

Speaking of reviews, I'm looking for at least one pre-release review of The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall, which will be released by Champagne Books on March 6. I've put out feelers on different sites, but I'm just one of many authors requesting a review. If you are a reviewer--or you know someone you would recommend to give an honest assessment of the story--contact me:

I subscribe to Sandra Beckwith's newsletter from which this article was taken. She give permission to reprint this article with the following credit:
Sandra Beckwith offers a free book publicity and promotion e-zine at and teaches the “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” e-course.

I always learn something new from her weekly updates.

6 Surefire Ways to Promote Your Novel
by Sandra Beckwith
The biggest mistake most novelists make when promoting their books is believing that it's all about book reviews. Wrong. Book reviews are valuable and securing them should be on any author or publisher's book promotion to-do list, but your novel deserves more widespread, long-term, and ongoing exposure than it can get through reviews alone. It deserves to be talked about month after month - as long as the book is available for purchase. Here are six tips for helping you see the publicity and promotion value in your fiction so that
you generate the ongoing buzz your book deserves:

1. Find the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript and use them to create newsworthy material for relevant media outlets. Is your heroine a jilted wife starting over in the workforce as - let's say - an account executive at a high-flying packaging design firm who finds love with her client at a consumer products company? You've got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. Is she a radio jock? The female morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone. What about locations, products, or services in your novel? A story set in a national park or a convenience store gives you news pegs for exposure in the relevant trade magazines. A character's obsession with a little known beverage brand could get your book into that company's employee newsletter. If you're writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later.

2. Use your content to identify promotion allies. Is your protagonist an athlete in a wheelchair? Connect with groups such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association or the National Wheelchair Softball Association. What about the professions of the people in your book? Does it feature a secretary? Contact the Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals. There's an association for just about every profession. But don't just send them a note that says, “I've written a book your members will love.” Send a
copy of the book with a letter outlining promotional possibilities and what's in it for them. You might offer to speak at their national meeting, do a Q&A for their member publication, or offer a discount to members.

3. Leverage what you uncovered while writing your book. Did you learn about a period in history or a specific region? Use this knowledge as a springboard for publicity. The author of a historical romance novel set in New York's Hudson River Valley, for example, can write and distribute a news release announcing the top romantic and historical attractions in that region or pitch a local newspaper or regional magazine on an article about the area's most romantic date destinations. Your goal is to be quoted as an expert source because this would require using your book title as one of your credentials.

4. Support your book with a good Web site designed by a professional. Your Web site has to be as good as your writing. It also has to contain information that convinces us that your books are worth buying and reading. It doesn't have to be slick, but it does need to be very well-written, attractive, useful, and enticing. We will assess your ability to tell a good story by your ability to communicate on your Web site, so the writing is crucial.

5. Get social. Focus on one or two social networking sites - Facebook now has more users than MySpace - and master the most effective and appropriate ways to use them to promote your book before spreading yourself too thin on several sites. Once you understand how the process works, expand to others and use new technology tools and resources such as those at TweetDeck and to streamline your information sharing across your networks.

6. Share the love. Help us connect with you by blogging about your writing process and experiences. Get excerpts up on your Web site and read portions to us via podcasts so we can get a feel for your writing and decide if the story is appealing. Give us enough online - on your Web site, blog, and through podcast download sites such as iTunes - to convince us we'd like your book. There's no question that promoting fiction is harder than promoting nonfiction - but because of that, it's also more rewarding.
Don't just say "Oh, I've heard all this before." Go back and read carefully. I did--and the light bulbs flashed!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Unwept, Unhonored, and Unsung

I posted this blog in 2008 and was recently reminded of it through an email from someone who commented on my regular second-Saturday post at Sandra Sookoos Front Porch Saturday." At the end of this blog are some links to related stories--all so very poignant.


 In 1975, the award-winning film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was filmed at Oregon State Hospital. The mental institution, now 125 years old, will be torn and replaced down beginning this fall. Remaining to serve as a museum on the history of mental health care will be the front section of the building with a cupola.

Inside the crumbling lead-and-asbestos-contaminated walls are preserved, in copper cannisters neatly lining rows of shelves, the unclaimed remains of 3,600 former patients who died from the late 1800s to the mid-1970s. They were discovered in 2004 by a group of legislators taking a tour with the view to replacing the building. Apparently they'd been forgotten or were, at least, unmentioned.

I cut the article written by Brad Cain of the AP from today's edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It is now taped into my story idea notebook. The article doesn't say--but one would assume--that the cannisters are labeled with at least a name and date of death and that some records are to be found somewhere.

Nearly four thousands souls lost in time! There's a story there, a character to be invented, circumstances to be created, emotions to be called up. The idea of their so-called final repose certainly calls up my feelings, somewhat akin to what stirred in me as I passed the silent, grass-covered graves in the concentration camp Dachau. Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

The mass graves held the remains of many, and it was difficult to comprehend the individuality of the souls within. But the picture of the cannisters reminds me that each one was truly an individual who lived and breathed, laughed, cried, loved, and succumbed to the loss of themselves long before their hearts ceased to beat.

I find it commendable that the remains were preserved. Was there hope that someone somewhere would come and take them home?

Near my hometown is a former tuberculosis sanitarium that housed many people in a time when the disease was prevalent. Genealogists have been refused permission to survey the cemetery and publish the information because, at the time, I suppose, TB was considered a frightening, even shameful affliction, and relatives did not want their family members to be associated with it. At least, that's the explanation I was given.

It's not difficult, given the era, to figure out why these 3,600 people were left where they passed the final years of their lives. It's time, I think, to bring one of them back to life in a story, fictional though it may be, so that the other 3,559 can proclaim, "We, though shut in by walls, were here among you!

Links to related stories--must reads!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Links Alive!

Thought I'd pass on some great links I've come across in the past few weeks. Hope someone out there can use them!

  If you've ever considered writing for a writer's magazine:

Writer's Digest 

The Writer Magazine 

The Writer's Chronicle

Poetry Magazine

Writers' Journal

Writing That Works

If you're thinking of writing a detective-type mystery:

How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths
 (Kindle $4.99)

If you need to get your book reviewed

How to Get Your Book Reviewed
 (Kindle $8.99)

If you just need an added boost to get out there and promote:

 Novel Ways to Promote Your Novel (online article)

 And if you don't subscribe to Hope Clark's Small Markets and Funds for Writers AND
Dana Lynn Smith's Savvy Bookmarketer, you're missing out on tons of great FREE information every week!

Any links you'd like to share?