Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Bar, the Notebook, and Me

From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, Hot Springs AR hosted such forms of organized crime as gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging. Now it's a tourist town where one can stroll down Central Avenue, visit the Gangster Museum, explore Bath House Row, and imagine how things used to be when the likes of Al Capone wasn't an unfamiliar face in the city.

The Ohio Club (est. 1905) is the oldest and last of the saloon/bar/casinos which operated in the Spa City. I don't go downtown very often, so I suppose it's not too surprising that I missed this fascinating spot until recently. As soon as I poked my nose through the door for a quick peek, I knew I'd be back. The opportunity arrived last week, and I spent a delightful hour sitting at a table upstairs overlooking the bar. A perfect spot to observe the interior of the building, quiet in the mid-afternoon hours, I startled more than once when I glanced up to see the almost life-sized cut-out of Al Capone against the brick wall. Grinning, gun drawn, cigar clamped in his teeth, he added a certain flair to the atmosphere.

In the ever-present notebook, I jotted down information from the menu which the waiter kindly left behind for me after I'd ordered a Coke and a plate of chips and salsa. (I understand their burgers are delicious, but I'd already had lunch. However, now there's a good reason to return.) Above me, old-fashioned ceiling fans hanging from a silver pressed-tin ceiling droned above the massive hand-carved mahogany bar on the first floor. The story is that the bar was built in Ohio between 1870-1880 and came down the Mississippi River to Arkansas where it had to be partially disassembled and brought to Hot Springs in horse-drawn wagons.

In the 'gangster era' of the 20s and 30s, Al Capone, Bugs Moran, Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, and other less-than-stellar characters frequented the city and its hotspots of drinking and gambling. The second floor of the Ohio Club hosted a casino.

I came away with a new idea for The Dreamland Series. In Book One, Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland (the first draft of which I posted here at The Word Place, I have the main character, Trixie Collier Blake, a thirty-ish widow, returning to her hometown of Dreamland to investigate the building left to her by her late grandfather. Then she discovers that he was actually her great-grandfather and a contemporary of Al Capone! Quimby Lloyd left Trixie more than just an empty building, and the secret is cleverly hidden somewhere within its walls.

I've been debating exactly what that secret is. Now I know, and I'll tell all in Book Two, Under the Sil'vry Moon.

Will the lappy and I become a familiar presence at the Ohio Club? What better place to write this tale!

And I'll try one of their famous burgers while I'm being creative.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My guest author today is The Small Person

The Birthday Unicorn Named Magic

     Once there was a little unicorn named Magic. She had three fairy godmothers. They protected her because this witch was always trying to get her. So then when it was her birthday when she was turning one, that was the day that she had to prick her horn on a spinning wheel, and she did. And she died after she did that. 
     But then the fairy godmothers cast a spell on everybody to go to sleep until they found a spell for Magic to wake up. So Magic awoke.
     So then she somehow climbed up a tree so no one could find her. She fell off of the tree. She made herself invisible wings, and then she flew around the kingdom. Then she went into a different kingdom, and she got lost. She could not find her way back to her kingdom. The queen and the king were worried.
      Magic found her way through a big cave. A lion was in the cave, and it ate her. She used her magic to get out. Then she saw her castle after she left the cave.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Stuff of Which Stories Are Made

Deep inside the heavy leather bound books where marriages are recorded in county courthouses all over the United States lie a myriad of unfinished stories. Somehow, researching my family roots within the limited confines of one or two names, I've overlooked the budding mysteries.

This year, as the new editor for our genealogical society's yearly publication, it fell to me to visit the local courthouse and get copies of all the 'K' marriages--'J' was published last year--and transcribe them into an Excel document. The earliest date from the forties, and the latest from the early 1960s.

Ponder with me:
  • a heavy preponderance of unions in 1943 and 1944 and consider that the grooms were likely bound to Europe or the Pacific. Ask yourself how many of the brides received telegrams beginning, "We regret to inform you..."
  • the large number of 16-year-old girls who left behind their youth forever. Ask yourself how many of them--if any--had regrets too late.
  • the men in their late 60s and early 70s who married women close to their own age. Ask yourself how many married for love--how many for companionship--how many for convenience/
  • the women in their 20s and 30s who married much older men, usually after the war. Ask yourselves if they'd received those telegrams and had to provide somehow for themselves and their children.
Consider the following:
  • the man who apparently married twice within an 18-month span
  • the number of brides and grooms with the same surname, indicating perhaps a prior divorce and reconciliation
  • the licenses unreturned after the wedding to prove one had actually taken place. Did they just forget to bring it back--or did they change their minds?
  • the eager young couples of 18 and 19, perhaps giggling nervously as they gave their information to the clerk before rushing our of the courthouse with license in hand, eager for the adventure to begin
  • these same couples celebrating (we hope) their golden wedding anniversary
It's history.
It's real life.
It's the eternal story, and it's all there--the names of the characters, the setting, clues to the plot.
And now the writer must weave the strands into a tapestry of fiction, because that's the stuff of which stories are made.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Check out this indie author promotional site...

If you are an indie author, you should definitely check out the World Literary Cafe. In fact, click on the name/link right now and read their mission statement which pretty much covers everything they do--and it's a lot.

I'm still learning, but it seems they have many paid/free promotional offers, as well as the opportunity to connect with other authors on various forums. Yes, yes, I're thinking, "NOT another forum! I don't have time for the ones I already know about!" But at least check out this link on HOW to use WLC.

Though I'll admit to not having checked out every facet of the site, I did register on one of the forums where there are bloggers offering to host writers of various genres. It seemed a good place to start and, hopefully, when the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series is ready to go 'live', I'll have some blog spots lined up for a Launch Day Blowout.

So give it a look and see if WLC is a fit for you.  I've signed up with several similar sites and will be spotlighting them in days to come. 

Speaking of Penelope, she's chomping at the bit to get out there. Two books and two covers down, four of each to go. I'm taking a break today and will go at it again on Monday. It's tedious work, as those of you know who have already taken that route. If I had a money tree in the back yard, I'd go for the paid formatting. As it is, I'm plugging along, learning a lot, and getting a great deal of satisfaction out of what goes right.

Meanwhile, as Penelope would say, "You just blessed better get it done!" And I'm trying...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Perils of Publishing--OR, Persistence Pays Off

I began writing on my father's heavy-as-lead upright Underwood like the one pictured below, churning out poems, stories, and even essays for English classes in school. Then, when I was a sophomore in high school,

I received a Remington Quiet-Riter for Christmas, complete with carry-case. It saw me through college. It even traveled in a 100-gallon steel barrel across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa where I taught two years in the capital of Zaire ((now the Democratic Republic of the Congo AGAIN). It went with me again when I traveled upriver to the Kasai Province to marry and live for another two years. And, it came home again with me to the United States.

Sometime thereafter, my husband gave me an electric typewriter, which nearly drove me crazy until I learned to disregard the ringing bell everytime the carriage returned. But, I did some serious writing on it in between being a wife and mother.

Eventually, I graduated to a word processor and went through a couple of those. And, then came the computer, which brings me to the subject of today's blog.

I'm self-taught on the computer, but my ears are always open for new information. I'm both a visual and an auditory learner--and I don't mind confessing to what I don't know. As I've written about, I'm getting my Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series ready to go up on Kindle--and that means formatting issues, and I've had many.

But once again, I met the right person at the right time, explained my problems, and listened attentively as she explained how to solve them. Today, I'm doing the Happy Dance. There will be no more long, frustrating hours trying to get just one of the books ready for upload. One is up. I'm going to re-do the second, and the third is ready to go.

I have two things going for me--one I am patient, and the other is, I am determined. My motto is "I will NOT be beaten!" Like the little engine, I always think I can! And, I do!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Perils of (Self) Publishing OR I Think I'll Throw Myself on the RR Tracks...

Do I appreciate all the editors and others who labored over my traditionally-published books? Oh, yes! A thousand times, yes! I think of them longingly as I sit here hunched over my computer, working with margins, uploading documents, reading the dreaded message, "There are___ issue with your document."

I have wrestled with pagination and headers...and believe me, there is a trick to it all! I wouldn't have said so before this, but I say it now.

Section breaks, while a must, are also a headache, but I did learn how to remove them if necessary.

A "minimum" gutter of 0.75 may well work in ONE formatted document but may have to be upped to 0.95 in another.

There are free photo converters out there to help with the sizing and resolution of cover pics. I get the skinny on them, thanks to membership in the local computer club.

But the saving grace of it all is patience and believing you WILL figure it out sooner or later.

I've decided to release the six Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mysteries at intervals of a week to ten days. Keep watching this blog for the announcement of the "free" days on KDP. They'll also be available in print just because I like a print book.

Meanwhile, don't forget you can read the first chapters of The Bogus Biker and The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit FREE at

Maybe I'll just let that train pass me by for now. There's no hero waiting in the wings to rescue me, alas. Besides, I have four more books to format!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The time has come, the walrus said...OR...The perils of publishing...

With the writing conference and other responsibilities behind me, I awoke on Monday morning knowing the time had come...time to get the first two Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mysteries formatted and uploaded to Kindle. It has not been a fun time. Finally, last night, I uploaded the file and received the wonderful message of ZERO problems found! Time to celebrate, right?

Not. On review, I found two problems:  blank pages where there should have been none and chapter headings starting too far down the page. Fixed those. Still have a page number problem to work out. It seems if I have alternating headers on odd and even pages, the page numbers want to alternate, too. However, a friend sent me some info which, at a quick glance, seems to address the problem, and I'll be tackling it today.

My first task everyday (for a while) is typing 28 pages of the "K" marriages of the county which will go in this year's genealogical society book of which I am the new editor. I figure one page a day will get the task done, and someone has already offered to proof the records. It takes about an hour per page, entering the information into an Excel spreadsheet, not an onerous task by any means, but deciphering some of the handwriting as far as name spellings requires a magnifying glass--and will require discussion/opinion during the proofreading process.

I digress. My goal is to launch the first two books of the Penelope Pembroke series around the 17th of June. During formatting breaks, I'm working on the social media angle for publicizing said launch, but I have plans for something a bit more "out there" for launch day. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, visit my website to read the first chapter of Book 1 The Bogus Biker and also the first chapter of Book 2 The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit. Both books will be available free at one time or another and, I believe, available for lending. Books 3 and 4 are scheduled for July, followed by Books 5 and 6 in August.

After that, plans are to launch The Dreamland Series. Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland  was a free read for 30 days here at The Word Place. It will be followed by Under the Sil'vry Moon  and Come with the Love Light Gleaming.  

And, as I settle in for the winter, The Kate Chronicles will become available in short volumes of 6-8 stories with appropriate pricing.

Busy is a good thing to be. Besides, I'm having the time of my life!