Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blog Hop

I was invited to participate in a Blog Hop--a literary chain letter which helps readers discover new authors! I'm supposed to answer ten questions about one of my own novels, but I'll save that for another blog because I want to spotlight my good friend and fellow author Donna Alice Patton, an author of mid-grade books for Catholic students, who has stepped 'outside the box' to write a romantic suspense Roses Are Red, Diamonds Are Blue, scheduled for release this spring. Having read many of Donna's books and short stories, I know this one will will live up to expectations!

So--where's the Anastasia?

It’s been almost a year since Laura Barkley’s husband, a museum curator, was murdered and the fabled Anastasia Diamond stolen. A long year filled with accusations, too many accidents directed toward Laura and her twins, plus plenty of soul searching. How well did she know Peter? Had he planned to steal the diamond himself? Was his murder a double cross or a robbery gone bad?  If he was innocent, what did Peter mean by his cryptic clue? Where is the priceless blue diamond now? Someone is determined to find the diamond no matter the cost...unless Laura can decipher Peter’s last baffling clue and find it first. As the one-year anniversary of the Anastasia’s disappearance draws closer, Laura finds herself caught in a series of snowballing events she can’t control, including the Blizzard of 1978. As the snow deepens, who will survive?
Find Donna at

 Now, according to the rules of the game, I'm supposed to add a list of five more authors I've enjoyed reading, so here they are:

  1. Lorena McCourtney, author of the wonderful Ivy Malone Series--five cozies (I wish there were five times that many!) Read more at
  2. Jana Richards, author of Homefires, Flawless, Burning Love (and many more), the first two dear to my heart because they're set in the WW II era. Visit her at
  3. Linda Black, my good friend and author of endearing stories for children such as Boots and the Giant Snowball and A Porpoise for Cara. Read about what she's working on at 
  4. Patricia Rushford, author of the gritty Angel Delaney Mysteries. You'll enjoy following the adventures of this young police officer. Find out more a
  5. And finally, here's a book ALL authors (traditional, self-pubbed/indie pubbed, want-to-be-pubbed)    should read before they even get started:   77 Ways to Find Readers for Your Self-Published Book by Laura Pepper Wu. Check her out at 
 For those of you old enough to remember what a "hop" is/was--put on those socks, turn up the music, and...oh, this is a blog hop. Okay, okay, fire up those Kindles, log in to Amazon, and start reading!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meet Penelope Pembroke and Company

Meet Penelope Pembroke, owner of the best (only) B&B in Amaryllis AR (pop. 5492) She's
  • flirting with 50 (read 'You're as young as you feel'.)
  •  divorced (read 'Travis Pembroke, cotton entrepreneur, had a wandering eye'.)
  • mother of Detective Bradley Pembroke of the Amaryllis PD (read 'She wishes he understood her as well as she understands him'.)
  • apple of her father Jake Kelley's eye (read 'She wouldn't trade him for two spotted pups.')
  • best friend of Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor's wife (read 'They've known each other since high school and know each other inside out'.)
  • and the only human creature tolerated by Abijah, the 18-pound orange tabby who stalks the family home-turned B&B.
Penelope keeps her ear to the ground, her eyes open, and her battered heart in solitary confinement. Then one night, while having a beer and a Reuben at the seedy-though-popular Sit-n-Swill, she meets Tiny aka Sam who is about as much of a biker as she is a belly dancer.

She insists on dabbling in danger and disaster despite Sam's best efforts to discourage her. The fireworks begin in Book 1, light up the skies in Books 2,3,4, and 5, and end in one spectacularly explosive display in Book 6.

Penelope Pembroke and the Bogus Biker, the first of the cozy mystery series now in revision, is ready for beta readers/reviewers. (Cover is temporary, btw.) The first chapter is posted at my website, so you can see if it's something you'd be interested in reading. FYI: It's approximately 51K words.

HERE'S THE DEAL:  Request a PDF copy of the book by email: judy at judynickles dot com and write an honest review. Send it to the same email address with permission to post it on my website and elsewhere. Then, when I get the book up on Amazon, I'll let you know and ask you to post your review there. Then I'll send you--absolutely free, no strings attached--a PDF of the second book, Penelope Pembroke and the Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit. (Or, if you didn't like Penelope, I'll send you a PDF of any of the novels on my website!) I'd just ask that, if you pass either book on to anyone, you'd mention that I'd appreciate a review--but, of course, that's up to them.

Is that a deal or not? I hope so!

 When Penelope agrees to help Mary Lynn turn the old school into a community center, she isn't counting on what they find at the bottom of the 13 steps leading to the basement!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brick Walls

     The subject of our monthly genealogical society meeting today was "Brick Walls"--you know, those things you can't go through (unless it's the one at Platform 9 1/4, and you're Harry Potter, et al.). In genealogy, a 'brick wall' is one of those points at which you can't find anymore information on your ancestor--or you can't prove with a primary source what you think you've found. It's the point where genealogists gnash their teeth, tear their hair, and wail.

     Let me introduce you to my brick wall:  meet Mr. Jones. Mr. Freeman Jones of Lowndes County AL, born around 1822-23 and died between 1865-1870. I presume he died. He was listed on the state census in 1865 but not the federal census of 1870. I've found no will, no probate papers, no cemetery with his grave, no family stories of his untimely demise--or even a timely one. I don't care. I just want to know what happened to him and who his parents were! There are plenty of Jones families in the vicinity of Lowndes County in the years he lived. Some of them have children with the first name Freeman, so they may be related. But how?

     I know a few things about Mr. Jones (or great-great-grandpa if you will). His brother William married Mary Hanna on January 14, 1844. A year to the day later, Freeman married Mary's sister, Martha Ann.  They had 7 children I can account for. He was a 'small-time' farmer and in 1860 owned four slaves: a woman and three children (likely hers).

     By the time daughter Mary Eliza Jones married, only four children remained, and Freeman was gone. Martha Ann was so distressed at the prospect of her daughter being removed to Texas, that the young bridegroom packed up the entire family and brought them along. However, my grandfather told me that his grandmothers (Martha Ann and Julia Ann) had been 'schoolgirls together' back in SC, so the two families weren't strangers. In fact, Martha Ann's oldest daughter (born circa 1847 but not listed on the 1860 census) was named Julia. 

     So what happened to Freeman? I can't account for any Civil War service, and he was listed on the 1865 state census, so he wasn't a fatality. If he's in a cemetery in the county, his grave isn't marked. Likely he was buried on his own land and is lost to the ages. But he's the 'brick wall' I've been beating my head against for quite some time now. Online records aren't helping. I need to go back to Lowndes County yet again. I understand their old records have been organized and preserved, and I won't be knocking a dirt dauber's nest out of a box (brought down from a high shelf at my own peril) to pick through ancient, crumbling papers.

     Until then, picture me sitting at the foot of the impenetrable wall--looking pitiful.




Monday, January 21, 2013

Coincidence or Miracle?

     This morning I booted up my lappy and set to work. Because I was having trouble printing, I disconnected the printer, hit 'restart' on the computer, plugged in the printer--and nothing. Tried everything I could think of, including taking out the battery twice so the computer would shut down completely. Nothing.
     Packed up and headed for store. Computer person tried to get lappy to boot. Nothing. Said it would cost the price of a new computer to repair. Well, I need the computer, so what could I do but buy a new one?
     At home, I sat down to read a bit, actually procrastinating setting up new computer. Most of my files were recently backed up, but I knew I'd lost my bookmarks. However, I wasn't going to pay for the file transfer, at least not right now.
     A couple of hours later, I decided it was time to bite the bullet, but something nudged me to try my OLD computer one more time. Plugged it in--and it booted right up. Now, what am I supposed to think about THAT?
     A friend texted, "God works in mysterious ways," which made me stop to think about it. I deliberately refrained from getting 'bent out of shape' over having to interrupt my carefully-planned day and drive into town (something I'm working on!) On the way home, I decided to think of the positives: Windows 8, which I liked upon seeing the demo, the purchase of MS Office 2010, whereas I'd been limping along with 2003 for far too long, AND the fact that I got interest-free financing for a nice window of time, even though I knew I'd have it paid for next month, so it wasn't going to mess (too badly) with my meticulously-planned budget.
     With all the positives, despite the necessity to spend money I had better use for, I said, "Thank You," and drove home smiling.
     I had a college professor who liked to say, "Life is just a series of unfortunate coincidences." I rejected it then, and I reject it now. Too many things in my life have been taken care of in ways too wonderful to be coincidental. Even in the really bad times, things have worked themselves out in a better way than I could have imagined. Miracles aren't outdated. Consider: Babies. The changing seasons. Love and laughter. A helping hand at the right time. Waking up every morning.
     So, I sat here and thought about whether or not I'm really 'obligated' to write this blog, and I think I am.
Even if I wind up having to buy a new computer sooner than I'd like, tonight I have my old friend back and was able to back up all the newer files plus my bookmarks without cost. Another positive.
     Thank You.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I Don't Have Time...NOT!

Here's another link--food for thought about traditional publishing vs. indie publishing. After you finish chuckling, read the post again, and think about it.

Also, sign up for (free) Publish Your Own Ebooks Daily Newspaper. Don't be tempted to say all these publications just clutter up your inbox and say the same thing. There's always something new to be found.

Do I hear the familiar wail: I don't have time to read all these blogs, newsletters, etc. I don't either, but I'm making time because I don't think I have time to ignore them if I want to learn the ropes of indie publishing.

Last night I downloaded 24 FREE ebooks, several of them to read to my 5-year-old granddaughter. Yesterday I read, Set Your Boundaries Your Own Way! 7 Easy Ways to Say  NO to Difficult People by Stephanie J. Sterner. Today I'm reading The Stress Free You: How to Live Stress Free and Feel Great Everyday, Starting Today by Elizabeth O'Brien.

I've known for a long time I needed to learn to say YES to myself and reap the benefits. Indie publishing, succeed or fail or somewhere in-between, is one of my affirmatives.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Been There - Done That

Here's a link to a blog with a ton of great ideas. I've bookmarked it also. Lindsay Buroker bills herself as a fantasy author, but her guidelines are based on her own experience and hold true for any genre, I'm thinking.

This blog via Joel Friedlander, whom I mentioned yesterday, shares info from a Yorkshire author, Matthew Turner, on what he's learned about epublishing.

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors stressed the importance of primary sources--that is, on-the-spot witnesses to an event--and that holds true for epublishing/indie publishing, too, I believe. I'm more apt to take advice from someone who's been there-done that than from someone who just tells me their "good ideas". Tried and true is the way to go.

I'll be sharing more good advice based on first-hand experience here at The Word Place, so check back daily.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Getting Started

Almost six years ago when I retired and became interested in trying to get published, I spent hours at the computer learning about the publishing business. It paid off in five book contracts and other paid/unpaid publications in magazines, ezines, and anthologies. Now, I'm interested in giving indie publishing a try, so I'm back at the computer in learning mode.

One good website I've discovered is The Book Designer (Joel Friedlander). Visit the site to download a free copy of Ten Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing. It's 24 pages of good information. He talks about the usual: platform, social media, editing, finding an audience of readers, ISBNs, formats, budgeting, covers, and marketing--but with an eye to 'do-it-yourself'.

I printed out my free copy and put it in a three-prong folder for easy access to make notes and refer back to in the coming months. His site appears to be updated regularly with new articles and archived ones, and I'll be checking back for new ideas.

The concept of 'indie publishing' is new for me, and I haven't even begun to get my venture off the ground. I'm still in the learning process, and I'll share what I learn here at The Word Place on a regular basis.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Taking a stand...or something

I don't know if it's significant that my blog had a rather large number of viewers yesterday and is on its way to duplicating that number today. Last night I told a friend, tongue in cheek, that I was probably being put on that many 'bad lists' for speaking out.

In my lifetime, I've taken a few stands which I don't regret.  In college, I opted out of joining our school's equivalent of a sorority because of some really nasty happenings during "pledge week" which I knew I couldn't imitate the next year--nor would I ever feel quite comfortable with those who perpetrated them against me--all in "fun", of course.The next year, the groups were having a hard time getting new members.

Later, I was the first to resign from a job at a private Christian school when the requirement to keep the job was signing a "statement of agreement" with the pastors' theology AND joining that church. While I didn't disagree with their beliefs per se, I felt the whole situation smacked of a dangerous coercion. All the teachers but one followed suit.

Just recently, I resigned from an organization (which I won't name here because it's a good organization that does a tremendous amount of excellent work) because of its bias against adoption. Therefore, I'd have one granddaughter welcomed with open arms and the other rejected and told, "Sorry, you're not a real member of the family." If I couldn't leave the legacy to both girls (who are both real members of our family), I chose not to leave it at all.

Sometimes you have to take a stand.

I didn't bad-mouth the school club, nor the Christian school, nor the organization. That sort of thing doesn't square with my belief system either. I'm not bad-mouthing authors who choose to write what I don't. Each person has to make a choice about every action she takes in life.

And I'm not patting myself on the back either. When I was a senior in college, I chose to participate in the senior "extravaganza", ignoring the risque (for the time) and suggestive lyrics in many of the songs. I knew it was wrong, but I did so want to be a part of it anyway. When it was over, an underclassman approached me with such hurt in her eyes and said she'd looked up to me and couldn't believe I'd been a part of that kind of thing. It cut me to the heart. She was right, and I was wrong, and almost 50 years later, I've never forgotten it.

The book of my life is 3/4 finished, but I've been given the opportunity to do, in the last quarter, what I've always wanted to do--to write. With opportunity comes responsibility to make a difference. I hope the difference I make will be the right one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Anything Goes!

A friend called tonight to let me know how much she liked the advance copies of some 'tales' I plan to put up when I get my independent publishing venture in gear. She also mentioned how much she'd enjoyed Dancing with Velvet, the WW II romance set in my West Texas hometown. Ditto the response from others she'd loaned it to. All music to my ears, of course, but I had to confide my frustration in finding readers who want what I write--which is, to put it bluntly, clean..which is almost a dirty word these days!

It's sort of like the song, "Anything Goes"--a golden oldie but oh so true today!

Obviously, the definition of clean varies widely, but over the holidays I purged my Kindle of at least half a dozen books which looked good and actually started out that way. It was 10-20 pages into the stories that I gave up after several graphic 'sex scenes' turned me off. Now, I'm not opposed to 'sex' per se, but without love and committment, it falls far short of what I'm interested in reading.

I don't want it on the kitchen table, against the wall, on the desk in the study, half-way to the bed, in places so unbelievable that one has to wonder about the logistics, and ad nauseam. The F-word has long since lost its shock value and is simply annoying and downright boring. Ditto other choice slang expressions which, at one time, weren't found anywhere except written on lavatory walls.

Someone once criticized one of my books because it contained no 'sex scenes'. Actually, it had plenty of them--subtly played out against a backdrop of growing interest and attraction between two people struggling with their needs and desires. I still find the old B&W movies, in which the music swells as the bedroom door swings shut, far more titillating than being right there with a ringside seat for all the 'action'.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, one of my books has one scene I think is the closest thing to 'graphic' that I've ever written in my life. When I told my editor I thought it should be removed, she came back with, "Absolutely not." In retrospect, I wish I'd taken it out or, at least, rewritten it, simply because I think I could have conveyed the same idea in a subtler way. However, it's done. It wasn't offensive, but I wouldn't write it that way again. Live and learn.

I've tried skimming through the graphics which actually interrupt the plot/action of a book, but eventually that gets old. So what do I want to read? A good solid story with realistic characters--vices and virtues alike--a plot that flows along the lines of real life, which isn't always happily ever after in the strictest sense. Sometimes characters (like real people) have to make lemonade out of lemons.

So what to do? Keep on keeping on, I suppose. I can't write 'hot' and wouldn't if I could. I'm not naive or prudish, but I have to be true to my own vision of life. Surely I'm not alone, and 'somewhere...out there...' is a reading audience who just wants a plain old good story minus the scorching embellishments.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So many ideas, so little time...

I usually bring back a story idea from every trip I take, and Hawaii was no exception. After spending all of Christmas Eve Day at Pearl Harbor, I jotted down these notes:

  • Setting:  small town, Texas, 1994
  • Protagonist:  recent nursing graduate, female
  • grandmother was a nurse at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, gives her a piece broken window glass from her living quarters
  • conversation leads to younger woman taking trip to Hawaii before starting first job
  • tours Pearl Harbor, recalls grandmother's memories of death and destruction
  • meets a Japanese American girl  her own age, also a nurse
  • meets the girl's family who was interned on the island after Pearl Harbor because of their Japanese ancestry
  • both fascinated and saddened by the story of their experiences
  • makes impulsive decision to take job opening in local hospital and stay in Hawaii for a year
  • Enter love interest: the Japanese-American girl's older brother, mysteriously estranged from his family, who has come back to Hawaii in search of something...perhaps himself.
So will it fly? Will I even have time to write it? Who knows?

I'll definitely have to work in "eternity beach" which I saw on a bus tour of the island of Oahu--the beach where Burt Lancaster and  Deborah Kerr heated up the sand and sea in From Here to Eternity. It was a spectacular view, even without the movie stars!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Unexpected Treasures

I am home from Hawaii, still impressed by the graciousness and cultural pride exhibited by the people I encountered there. Those qualities are treasures in themselves, but here is a (true) story/real-life experience I must share.

On the day I visited the Iolani Palace in Honolulu (the only royal residence in the United States), I also paused to view the statue of King Kamehameha I (1758-1819) who unified the islands now known as Hawaii. Curious about the building behind the statue, my traveling companion/childhood friend and I walked to the door and questioned the man standing there. Immediately, he invited us in--insisted upon it, in fact--and told us it was the Judiciary Building, home of Hawaii's Supreme Court and also the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center. 

As he began to give us a personal tour (not his job, as it turns out--he is a law enforcement professional now assigned to this building), we were fascinated with the flow of information and personal insight he appeared to delight in sharing. When we reached the part of the museum dealing with wartime life following Pearl Harbor, I mentioned that, as a writer, I'd love to have some of the information describing various exhibits and speculated as to whether it might be found on the web.

It was then he disappeared for a few minutes and, upon returning, escorted us into the office of the Program Specialist and Education Specialist, both of whom enthusiastically shared sources of information as well as handed me two booklets, including one entitled Hawaii Under Martial Law: 1941-1944. But the story doesn't end there. The Program Specialist escorted us to yet another room and turned on a 20-minute film of first-person accounts by those who had experienced the martial law, specifically internment because of ethnicity. When she returned as the film ended, she handed me a sheaf of papers she'd printed for me--"general orders" of the military government which, I just noticed, was headquartered at Iolani Palace.

I boarded the city bus back to the hotel literally clutching these treasures in a death grip!

How many places anywhere could a total stranger/tourist walk into and be treated with such extraordinary graciousness well above and beyond the "job description" of their professional employees? Not many, I'm thinking.

So, of course, I later sat in the lobby of a Waikiki Beach hotel listening to live music and sketched the beginnings of a story based on what I'd learned and will have learned when I finish absorbing all the fascinating information in the booklets and papers. It just doesn't get any better than this--anywhere!

(Note: The picture appears to be public domain. My apologies if I have used a copyrighted image. I am still trying to transfer my personal photos!)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My New Year's Wish for You

I found this piece among some old papers. There is no author, but I remember hearing it recited once on a 78 RPM record belonging to my parents. So, with apologies to the unknown composer whom I am unable to credit, I would like to share this with all of you.

The sun will soon be rising on the morning of another day---
The first day of the New Year.
What can I wish that this day, this year will bring?
Nothing that shall make the world or others poorer,
Nothing at the expense of other men.
But just those few things which, in their coming, do not stop with me,
But touch me rather as they pass and gather strength;
A few friends who understand me and yet remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value, and without which the world would feel the poorer;
A return for such work small enough not to tax unduly anyone who pays.

I wish this New Year to bring me a mind unafraid to travel,
Even though the trail be not blazed;
A heart that understands, and in understanding
Better able to help you carry your load in life.
May I understand the meaning of the tears that sometimes dim your eyes.
May I never be the cause of the deep hurt that I've seen in your eyes.
May the New Year bring sight of the eternal hills and the unresting sea
And of something beautiful the hand of man has made.

Bring me also, and this is important,
A sense of humor and the power to laugh;
A little leisure with nothing to do but spin my dreams
When the day is done, and evening descends
And cloaks us in her robes of deep velvet.

I wish those who are away a speedy and safe return,
And for those who return not,
The reward they sought in the house of Our Father.
I ask also for a few moments of quiet meditation
And the knowledge of the presence of God.
May I never be the cause of one tear to fall,
One heart to ache, one friend to lose.

I ask for the patience to wait for the coming of these things
With the wisdom to know them when they come.
And that is my New Year's wish for you.