Sunday, September 23, 2012

If you haven't heard the Laughing Bird...

     Okay, all you indie authors out there, if you haven't heard the Laughing Bird, you ain't heard nuthin' yet!
Let me explain. Rather, let me illustrate.

     Here is the new front cover for the first book of the new Penelope Pembroke cozy mystery series coming soon to a variety of eBook sites. I created it. Me, the one who always dreaded 'art day' at school, when my snowflakes were lopsided, my jack-o-lanterns grotesque, and my Christmas trees crooked. It took me half a lifetime to develop a decent cursive handwriting. In short, I am artistically challenged, and that's being kind.

     But I created this, just like I'm going to create covers for the other five books in the series. And, I enjoyed doing it! Now, this isn't my first try, nor even my sixth, but with perseverance, I got the cover the way I wanted it.

     And here is the back cover, since I plan on doing some print copies also. (The website URL will have to be added once I publish the website, but that's coming up!)

     So how did I create these masterpieces? (All you professional graphic designers out there are disqualified from commenting...hey, I know I'm an amateur.) I used a software I'd seen demonstrated during a free webinar on epublishing about a month ago.  Tight-fisted as I am, it took until yesterday to turn loose of the $37, the price of The Logo Creator V. 6. And then--horror of horrors!--though I watched the tutorial, I decided I'd downloaded the wrong software, not what I'd seen demonstrated!

     I fired off a pitiful email to the contact person, Marc Sylvester, and lo and behold, I had a reply in an hour or less. Yes, it was Saturday afternoon, but there was his patient reply in my inbox. I had not downloaded the wrong software and yes, I could create wonderful eBook covers with what I had. Even before I found his reply, I had discovered my error--so I emailed back apologizing profusely and explaining that I was a LOL--a little old lady self-taught in all things technological. He emailed again, glad I was happy, and signing himself ACD--Awesome Computer Dude.

     I have been happily creating ever since! And you can, too. Just check out Laughing Bird Software and scroll down to The Logo Creator V. 6. Listen, if I can do it, anybody can!
     While I'm at it, let me give a two-thumbs up to another cozy mystery series I just finished reading yesterday. In fact, I whizzed through it and finished Book #4 with total disappointment that there was no Book #5. Lorena McCourtney appears to be a prolific writer, and her Ivy Malone Series is not to be missed! She's my kind of writer--not a blush nor a gulp to be had anywhere in her fast-paced narratives. Check out her books at Amazon. 
     DO read the books  IN ORDER. The first, Invisible, is available free for a limited time. That's how I acquired it and quickly returned to download the other three to my Kindle for just under $17. Good reading--go get 'em!

PS I "borrowed" the LOL--Little Old Lady--from Ms. McCourtney. Ivy Malone is a hoot!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You don't have to hunt for buried treasure...

Having decided to cut back on a few writing-related pursuits in order to enjoy some long-neglected activities (like genealogy), I've uncovered some real treasures.

First, while unpacking some stored genealogy forms, I found the ISBN (numbers) I'd purchased about a dozen years ago when you had to buy them in batches--and they weren't cheap! I'd been quietly sick for years over their loss--but five moves and many real life events almost justified my disorganization. But there they were--fresh as the day they were purchased (and still good), nestled among a ton of blank genealogy forms to be sorted. So the question of whether or not to use ISBN (numbers) as I go 'indie' is now moot.

Second, I attended a meeting of the local genealogical society recently and came away with a whole new concept of incorporating writing into genealogy and preserving my memories and tons of family history for my children and grandchildren. Rather than explaining it here, I'll direct you to Legacy Stories where you can read about it for yourself. You won't regret it. Even if you're not in to genealogy, you still have stories to tell and pictures to share, and someday, a great-great-grandchild will bless you for it! Besides, that's what writers do, don't they? Write?

Third, at the same meeting, the speaker mentioned a ring belonging to her mother and how she wore it daily. When she explained how her mother came by the ring, I felt the stirrings of another short story. It just goes to prove ideas are everywhere. Jot them down in that notebook all writers keep DO keep one in your purse or tote, don't you?

Amid all the uncovering of treasures, I've had time to think about myself as a writer, and perhaps the revelation which has come to me is the greatest treasure of all. Growing up and through young adulthood and middle age, and now in my 'golden years',  I've always wanted to write--and so I have. The thought of being published crossed my mind occasionally, but it was never the reason I wrote. So, now that I have five novels and assorted 'shorts' in print (one in ebook), I still want to write for the same reason--because I love it. Publication is, as it's always been, just an afterthought. I'll still pursue it, though not tenaciously, and it won't be the reason I turn on the computer and pull up a blank page.

Writing is a way to express my feelings, to preserve the past, to meet like-minded people, to experience the world more fully. What more can I ask from something that gives me pleasure?

I can't close this blog without mentioning that yesterday I strolled in to Best Buy to inquire about the new Kindle Fire HD, expecting to be told it must be preordered. Instead, I danced out of the store in possession of that very item AND all my books transferred from Kindle #1! Did I need it? Well, not really. My "old" Kindle hasn't reached its first birthday and is sufficient for the basics. Did I want it? YES. It's a new frontier to explore, and I always wanted to live in 'pioneer days'.

For someone who is approaching the milestone of seven decades on this earth--who grew up in an era of clunky typewriters, ten-key adding machines, Saturday morning radio programs, boxy telephones which could be moved no further than the cord would reach, clotheslines instead of dryers, evaporative coolers in summer and gas space heaters in winter, three-cent stamps and air mail or special delivery for a bit more, record players (78rpm, 45rpm, 33rpm) and cool, quiet libraries--the advent of the cell phone, the internet, e-readers, calculators, and all other technology has gifted me with my dream.

Though not trudging along behind a covered wagon pulled by oxen, I am still traveling to the new and unknown, and it is a true adventure!
 PS Watch for the new Penelope Pembroke website coming soon! And she may have her own blog, too!
PS PS My website has had a facelift--per the advice I passed on in a recent blog. Check it out! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What's in Your Fiction Besides Characters, Plot, and Conflict?

Reading an article, "Put Objects to Work in Your Fiction", in the September 2012 issue of The Writer, caused me to reflect on my own fiction.

In Where Is Papa's Shining Star? and its sequel, Finding Papa's Shining Star, I used a china doll as a shadowy but pivotal object in the plot. 'Alberta', named for Bobbie's father Albert who gave the doll to her, wasn't just a toy but rather...well, of course, I won't tell you what she really was! Suffice it to say she survived a lifetime's odyssey of intrigue, finally giving up her secret in FPSS.

The Showboat Affair uses a costumed teddy bear as a symbol of committment and also an emotional catharsis for one of the main characters. 

In The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall, an old photograph on the wall of a bordello-turned-museum sets off a dangerous journey into the past for Tessa Steele.

Dancing with Velvet uses a blue velvet dress which the protagonist, Celeste, believes symbolizes a turning point in her life.

In each case, something drives the plot and ultimate resolution of the story.

The article's author, Paola Corso (author of seven books of fiction and poetry), discusses objects of interest used by several well-known writers:
  • Alice Walker uses quilts in In Love and Trouble, Stories of Black Women.
  • Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes actually names the object in the title of the book.
  • Hat, fruit, dresses, everyday objects found on a dressing table--all have found their way into pieces of writing.
I had to smile a bit as I read, deciding that with my use of dolls, dresses, and old photographs, I was in good company. And a new idea is already percolating since the speaker at a meeting I attended recently mentioned an object sewn into the lining of an old silver chest, the provenance of which is still unknown. But won't it make a good story?

Do buy the latest issue of The Writer and get more information for yourself. And if any of the above-mentioned novels catch your interest, you can preview them at my


Writing as Judy Nickles:
Where Is Papa’s Shining Star?
Finding Papa’s Shining Star
Dancing with Velvet
Writing as Gwyneth Greer:
The Showboat Affair
The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What Should Your Website Really Do?

From the September 2012 issue of The Writer, another terrific and timely article:  "Make Your Home Page Pop" by Karen M. Rider. I'm making some changes to my website based on her advice. And, as I set up the new website for my Penelope Pembroke cozy mystery series, I'm finding the whole process much simpler because of her great ideas.

Her first pearl of wisdom is to have a strategy and make that the focus of your home page. What do we as authors want? To sell books, of course! Then give viewers an easily-discernible reason to buy, and don't make them plow through a lot of 'busy' copy to find what and how!

Of course, we have to connect with people right off the bat and give them something for the trouble they took to click through to our website.

Boring not allowed!

Hook those readers. Excerpts are good.

Your website isn't your social media site. Make it professional is what I took from this part of the article.

Hyperlinks are a must--both for anything you have to sell or to offer to your reading public.

Finally, the usual social media venues apply if you want the content of your website to get 'out there'.

Get this issue and read the whole two-page article, especially if you are a novice in the website arena. You won't regret it!

Karen offers more advice on the blog, 'Soul of a Writer' and at her own website