Monday, February 27, 2017

Wherever the road leads

Where you find the entertainment

Tourist meccas are fun, no doubt about it. Two of my favorite places are Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Branson, Missouri. I’m definitely not finished visiting either fascinating destination. Lots to do, lots of people, lots of history…both towns have a real attraction for me. When I’m in tourist mode, off I go.

Where you find the stories

But when it comes to author mode--that’s me, an author, a writer, a spinner of tales--small towns off the beaten path never fail to disappoint me. Whether it’s a day trip or an impulsive I’ll pack for a couple of nights and see what happens excursion, I’m never disappointed.

Welcome to Paris--leave the passport at home (borrowed)

Last week I packed for a couple of nights plus an extra just in case and took off on a rainy morning for points north. First stop, Paris, Arkansas, population 3,495, and lunch at The Grapevine, tucked away just off the square. I sat at the counter/aka bar so I could enjoy the view of hometown people coming and going during the lunch hour. Up from the restaurant is an interesting wall mural touting the town.


Like most small towns, empty buildings dot what was probably a thriving business community at one time. But the Logan County Courthouse clock still chimes the half-hour, and an empty lot across the street has been turned into a lovely park-like hour complete with its own Eiffel Tower! If it hadn’t been spitting rain, I’d have sat awhile and enjoyed the water fountain.



Small towns have their own unique history. Note that in 1914, Paris was the site of the last public hanging in Arkansas. (The electric chair in Little Rock took over the somber duty after that.) You can scroll through here to read about the young man convicted of murdering the girl he was courting. The jail in which he no doubt spent his final days is now the Logan County Museum. I missed seeing it, so, of course, I’ll have to return.

There’s a charm to small towns--friendly people who cheerfully give directions, make suggestions, and appear genuinely glad you’ve stopped in their little corner of the world. If you really appreciate what the town has to offer, it gets even better.

Wednesday: Ozark, AR--where a picture caught my eye, and a story began to twinkle!


Visit Someday Is Here--where most pages have been updated--
and if you need a lunch hour read, 
"Meadowland" is still available by clicking I'll tell you a story.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Romancing the (tortilla) chip...

Today is..

Today, February 24, is National Tortilla Chip Day. A standard on every supermarket shelf and the appetizer of choice at many restaurants, tortilla chips could almost be classed as an American institution. I remembered using them in a scene from The Showboat Affair, so in honor of the day, I’m sharing the scene here.

Video for Background


Excerpt

Jean was eating her dinner in front of the television in the sunroom when Nick Cameron called.
“Are you still busy with your granddaughter”    
“Everyone’s gone.” 
“Then I’m not interrupting anything.”
 “Not at all.”
“I know this is short notice, but I was wondering if we could have dinner tonight.”
“I’m eating mine now. I’m sorry.”
“Oh. Well, it is short notice.”
 “I’m really sorry. Maybe…” She hesitated. I don’t want him to think I’m so desperate I’m throwing myself at him.
“Maybe we could meet for a drink?” he finished for her. “Yes.” “That would be nice. I’m in Bellaire. Where are you?”
“River Oaks.” “Do you know Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub on West Gray?”
“Yes. What time?”
“Eight? Eight-thirty?”
 “Eight-thirty, if that’s not too late.”
“It’s perfect. So I’ll see you in a bit.” Suddenly she wasn’t hungry anymore, just excited. She took her plate into the kitchen and covered the unfinished dinner with plastic wrap before putting it into the refrigerator. Then she ran up the back stairs to get ready.
****
Jean cleaned her face and started from scratch with her makeup. From her decimated closet, she chose a casual beige linen dress, which she brightened with a cream and yellow floral scarf. Switching her essentials into a purse matching her dress, and adding medium-heeled sandals for a bit of height, she took one last look at herself in the mirror. “Not bad,” she said aloud. “Not too shabby at all.”
 She smoothed the dress over her slender hips, turned to glance at her appealingly flat profile, and took a cream-colored sweater from a drawer in case the bar had its air conditioning going full blast.
 She saw Nick, wearing pressed khakis and a blue oxford cloth shirt, open at the neck, standing by the door of Sherlock’s as she pulled into the half-empty parking lot. He hurried to open the door of her car.
“It’s not too busy on a Sunday night.”
“No, there wasn’t much traffic either.”
 “I’m glad you came.” She couldn’t look at him and didn’t reply. He asked the waiter for a table toward the back and held her chair as she sat down. “What do you like?” “A Cosmopolitan.”
“A Cosmopolitan and a Tom Collins,” he said to the waiter. “And some tortilla chips—the Triple Dipper.” He leaned toward Jean. “They’re not something to indulge in regularly if you’re watching your waistline.” Then he frowned. “Not that I meant…”
Jean laughed. “I know what you meant. I’ve always been able to eat anything and never gain an ounce, although I’ve heard that can change as one gets older.”
“Maybe not. So I guess you enjoyed your weekend with your granddaughter.”
“She enjoyed it most of all. A fourth-floor terrace is no place for a child to play.”
“No, children need a yard. Charlie stayed outside more than he stayed in.” Nick bit his lip. Charlie had preferred the yard over the house as his mother got sicker. “I don’t have time to keep up a yard now. I really need to sell the house and move closer downtown.”
“That’s where your office is?”
“Here on West Gray.”
“So you have quite a commute.”
“It’s not so bad.” He paused. “But I really should move.”
“You’re still in the same house you shared with your wife.”
“How did you know that?” he asked, frowning.
Jean smiled. “That’s why you haven’t moved, isn’t it?”
“I guess it is.”
“Well, that’s all right if you’re happy there.”
“What about you?” he interrupted. “Are you going to stay where you are?”
“After the divorce? No. I have an appointment with a realtor tomorrow. As soon as Rand puts the house in my name, I’m going to sell it.” She took a chip from the basket the waiter brought and selected the artichoke dip. “My daughter came back from her weekend jaunt with the idea she and her husband would move in with me.”
Nick’s eyebrows went up. “I take it you don’t like the idea.”
“I told Juliana I’d sell her the house at market  value. Her idea might be better for Claire, of course, but not for me. Certainly not for me.” She plunged another chip into the cheese dip.
“That seems a reasonable offer.”
“Juliana didn’t think so. She walked out and left me with the entire pan of chicken Alfredo my housekeeper made. That’s what I was working on when you called.”
“Living with your children isn’t always a good thing for anyone concerned.”
“How close to you does your son live?”
“He and Dixie have a house in West University. They’d like me to buy near them, but…” He nodded at the waiter who stopped to check on them. “We’re fine, thank you.” A tortilla chip dangled from his fingers as he considered his choice of dipping sauces. “I bought the house in Bellaire when I finished law school. It’s small, but it was enough for the three of us then, and I don’t really need more space for myself.”
“It holds a lot of memories for you.”
“Yes, it does, and maybe I’ve lived with memories too long. My daughter-in-law, Dixie, thinks so.”   
“Well, when you’re ready to move on, you will.”
His mouth twisted slightly. “I should do it.” He decided on the spinach dip. “What about you? Where will you go?”
“I was thinking of a condo somewhere convenient to town but not right in it.”
 “You should be able to find that.”
“With a room for Claire. I need to spend more time with her.”
“Maybe a patio with some landscaping and a patch of grass.”
“Yes.”
“So you’ll move and get settled in a new home. Then what?”
 “Then I don’t know. I have a degree in interior design, but I’ve never used it, and it seems rather late to start.”
“It’s never too late.”
“I’m fifty-three years old, and I only did a short internship after I finished college.”
“You got married.”
“Right. So I’m not really employable.”
“You might be surprised.”
“I’d be very surprised.”
They sat sipping their drinks, refreshed once, and eating chips until the waiter approached their table with the unasked-for check. Jean looked around.
“The place is empty.” Nick appeared surprised. “I guess we closed them down.” He took out his wallet, tossed a couple of bills on the table, and stood up. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”
Outside, they stood for a moment in the dimmed lights. “I’m glad you called, Nick.”
 He smiled. “I’m glad I called, too.”
“Just out of curiosity, why did you? I mean, we were hardly introduced in Greg’s office.”
“There was our time at the Galleria.” “Yes, but what made you even ask me to sit at the ice rink with you?”
He hesitated. “I…maybe you looked as lonely as I felt.”
The words, almost lost in the wail of a police siren, hit Jean like a fist. For a moment, a very brief moment, her anger flared but burned out quickly in Nick’s steady gaze. “I see.” She knew her reply was trite, but it was all she could manage.
“You’re starting over. I should have done it years ago.”
Jean nodded. “I don’t even know who I am after all these years. I have to find out.”
“You will.” He touched her elbow and guided her to her car. “May I call you again?”
“I hope you will.”
“Are you…that is, am I cutting in on Greg Thorne?”
“Greg’s a good friend, that’s all.” She put out her hand, and when he took it, her stomach churned in a way she’d forgotten. “Goodnight, Nick.”
“Goodnight.” He waited until she slid into her car and locked the door before he turned toward his own.




Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Humble Character...a man to love forever...

A Little Background
Today is National Be Humble Day. A definition of being humble--or having humility--is having a modest view of one’s own importance. (I can think of a few public figures on which I’d love to confer instant humility--and silence!)
In my newest release from The Wild Rose Press, Ruthann’s War, the male protagonist isn’t the typical young ‘hunky’ love interest but rather a mature man, one of whose outstanding qualities is humility. He’s approaching 50, a widowed school superintendent, a man still dealing with a debilitating injury incurred in France during the first World War. In fact, he’s lived most of his life believing that he really isn’t anyone’s Mr. Right and that the time for falling in love has long since passed him by.
Until he meets the new third-grade teacher in September of 1945.
He falls hard.
But what about Ruthann?

Here’s a scene from his first clumsy attempt to get back into the courting game:

Drew Mallory, man extraordinaire

Ruthann kept her eyes down. “I should go home. I have some letters to write, and…”
Drew chuckled. “And a few things to wash out? Come now, Miss Cooper, it’s Saturday evening.”
Kay’s foot made contact with Ruthann’s under the table. “You mustn’t miss the quilts,” she said. “And John and I will save you a seat near the stage.”
Panic, like she’d felt all her life when unwanted attention came her way, set her heart pounding. There’s no way I can get out of this without being rude, and he’s my boss, after all. Just please don’t let me run into Gwen or the Fulton.
“All right,” she said finally. She slid off the picnic bench. “My grandmother used to quilt. I have one she made for me.”
“Do you?” Drew asked as he fell into step beside her. She noticed he didn’t seem to be leaning so heavily on his cane tonight. “I didn’t bring it with me, but it’s across the foot of my bed at home.”
“A true family heirloom, then. I don’t have any of those to pass down to Gwen. My parents died of diphtheria within weeks of each other when I was ten. I have no idea what happened to any of their things. A welfare worker took my younger brother and me to an orphanage right after the funeral.”
 “Oh, I see. I’m sorry.”
“Yes, so am I, but that’s just the way things happened.”
“How…how did you get into education?”
“Not easily. I ran away from the orphanage when I was sixteen, lied about my age, and joined the army. It was a good life, but then there was the war. I soon found myself in France, in a trench, with mud up to my ears.” He tapped his leg with the cane. “That’s how I got this, which I’m sure you’ve already heard.”

Ruthann didn’t reply.
“What I really wanted to do was stay in the army. Make a career of it, you know. But they didn’t want me, so I mustered out. I took odd jobs along, but I wasn’t going anywhere with those.” He stopped walking and faced her. “Sorry. I’m sure you’re not interested in my life history.”
“Oh, yes, I…but I didn’t mean to be nosy.”
“Just making conversation?” He grinned at her.
“Not really, but…of course, I’m interested.” She gritted her teeth at the words. Would he consider them impertinent—or worse, an attempt to flirt with him?
“Well, then, to make a long story short, someone I worked for encouraged me to go to college—or at least go for a teaching certificate—so I did. I liked teaching and kept going back to school during the summer terms until I’d gotten enough credentials to be an administrator. The future’s in our young people, you know, more now than ever. We’ve lost too many of a generation during this last war, so it’s doubly important to nurture the ones we have left.” He stopped again. “I know your fiancĂ© died in the war.”
Ruthann nodded. “He flew B-17s out of England.
He didn’t come back from his ninth mission.” She watched honest sorrow fill his blue eyes.
“Daylight bombing. It was the only way to get the job done, but our losses were tremendous.”
“Jack’s whole crew was lost.”
“I’m very sorry about that, Miss Cooper. After the first war, President Wilson said we’d set ourselves up for another one. I remember hearing him on the radio and hoping he was wrong, but it happened just as he said.”
Ruthann couldn’t speak past the lump in her throat, but she knew the memory of Jack didn’t put it there. Rather, something in Drew Mallory’s earnest words made her feel small and inadequate. It occurred to her he was passionate about his work. Education was his life, but she realized with a jolt she was only passing time no matter how much she enjoyed teaching.
He touched her elbow. “We can’t change what happened,” he said. “But we can’t forget, either.” A few more steps brought them to the quilt exhibit.
After the quilts, they spent a quarter of an hour admiring a large assortment of handcrafted linens. Ruthann couldn’t resist a lace-edged dresser scarf embroidered in shades of lilac, deep purple, and green. “I don’t need it,” she said as she paid the seller, “but it’s beautiful.”
“Don’t you remember what Sara Teasdale wrote about spending all you have for loveliness?” Drew asked as she completed the transaction.
“Oh, yes, the poem’s one of my favorites.” Ruthann smoothed the folds of the tissue paper in which the woman had wrapped the scarf and tucked it into her purse. “And I’m afraid I didn’t count the cost.”
Drew smiled and motioned her away from the booth. “Would it surprise you to know I own a large collection of poetry books? I’ve always loved poetry.”
“Some of our most famous poets have been men.”
“That’s true, but when you’re a boy of twelve caught reading poetry…” His smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Let’s just say the other boys make you question whether or not you’ll become a man in the long run.”
She stared at him a moment, disarmed by his raw honesty. At the same time, a warning bell rang in her brain.
“But I kept reading anyway. Poetry has always touched something deep inside me. My books are dog-eared, and my daughter calls my library my folly. I see people heading toward the stage. You are staying for the music, aren’t you? I can promise you a treat.”
As they passed the next booth, her eye caught a display of watercolors and pen-and-ink sketches. “Oh, they’re lovely,” she said.
“A local artist,” the woman in the booth said with a smile. “And they’re all one of a kind.”
Ruthann leaned in to see the signature A.M. on one sketch of two schoolchildren on the swings. “He or she lives in Camden?”
Before the woman could reply, Drew said, “Oh, yes, but he’s quite the recluse.” He touched her elbow and urged her forward. The electricity which shot through her body provoked another panicky urge to flee, and she thought she heard the woman laughing behind them.
~~~~
On Monday morning, Ruthann found a package filling most of her school mailbox.
“Uh-huh,” Rena said.
“What does that mean?”
“What’s in the package?”
“I’ll open it in my classroom.”
 Rena laughed. “I expect you have a not-so-secret admirer.”
“Oh, stop it, Rena!” Annoyance replaced anticipation in Ruthann’s soul. She edged past Rena and headed for her classroom, where she wasted no time untying the string and peeling away the brown paper. A miniature watercolor of the Camden School sprang out from a gold wood frame. Her eyes searched the lower corner for the initials: A.M.

“Quite the recluse!” Ruthann repeated the words Drew Mallory had spoken. “Why, that…” She stopped and laughed softly. Then she returned the painting to its protective wrappings and slipped it into a drawer in her desk. 


Monday, February 20, 2017

Website Woes--Is is worth it?



You gotta have one…

So “they” say a website is a MUST for an author. Okay, I’ve got that, and I’ve got a website. Unfortunately, websites must be maintained, and there’s the rub…

Lying Links

Deciding to give mine a new, fresh look while I updated information, I toiled early and late this week. Am I finished? Not yet. A major glitch occurred when I discovered none of the links were working. Do you know how much I HATE making links? Especially twice in one day.

Who am I?

The “About Me” page was another problem. “Let people get to know you,” is the advice of most website gurus. Okay, they can get to know me--but I’m not adding all the recommended, boring credentials--nor am I tooting the proverbial horn. Hey--look at my home page. I write for the joy of writing, and I do hope I write what people like to read. (They buy my books anyway.) That’s enough.

Working

There are a few more pages which need to be added--mainly the video trailer page-but I need to make two new trailers and re-make trailers I paid to have done but want to freshen up.

Free is good..

But the page I really hope you’ll visit--like NOW--is I’ll tell you a story. Every week or two, I’ll be putting up a new short story. It’s FREE, and there’s even a handy little button for your feedback. Can’t beat those perks! This week’s story is called Meadowland. It’s the story of a young woman who comes face to face with the realization that her mother’s past is a complete mystery to her. Because it’s her own past, too, she feels she has to delve deeper… So hope on over to Someday Is Here and do some delving yourself!

So Someday IS Here

Actually, I kind of enjoy working on my website. It’s a creative outlet, and I feel so smug when I learn to do something new. But it’s one of those things I put off until there’s no longer a valid excuse to delay. I’m on a roll now, as they say, so it’ll get done…someday.


Visit me at Someday Is Here.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Once and only once...




Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?
~J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)

Today is “Random Acts of Kindness” Day. Kindness is in short supply these days of shouting down people with whom one doesn’t agree, destroying and looting property in the name of ‘protest’, burning our country’s flag, and a Congress which seems bent on spending the next four years furthering their own agenda rather than taking care of America and the rest of us who live here.

Meanness has always existed, but once upon a time it really was the exception rather than the rule. Now children are regularly bullied in schools, and the children of public figures are fair game for some of the vilest comments ever spoken/written. Celebrities use their positions (created by the public) to pound the bully pulpit against those on the opposite side of the political aisle. Retailers only stock “politically correct” merchandise.

If I don’t agree with you, I’m some sort of -ist or -phobe. If I’m a Christian, I’m attacked as ‘un-Christian’ if I don’t celebrate the current agendas regarding abortion and same-sex marriage. 

In this world, you must be a bit too kind in order to be kind enough.
~Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763)


I don’t often use The Word Place to speak my heart, but right now it’s overflowing.



Once the little saying “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” was taught to children who, believe it or not, sometimes thought about it before they spoke. Now they hear filthy things said and wild accusations made by the media and elected officials, even by their teachers, and think, “They said it, so I can, too.”

I’m just one person with no public standing--the same as some of you reading now. It’s tempting to believe all is lost and give up. I think of the character Nellie Forbush in Rogers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” telling another character, “I just can’t work myself up to getting that low!” And, neither can I.

One of the prayers I read every morning says, “...You have brought us safely to the beginning of this day. Defend us today by your mighty power, so that we may not fall into any sin, and that all our words may so proceed and all our thoughts and actions be so directed as to be always just in your sight.”

Kindness begets kindness.
~Swedish Saying

I can’t direct the thoughts of actions except anyone except myself, but if I don’t do that, I’ve failed to appreciate the life I’ve been given. So when I leave the house, I paste on a smile whether I feel like it or not. People smile back. Maybe it’s the only smile they’ll see all day. Coming out of a store the other day, a total stranger said to me, “That’s a nice smile.” His words warmed my heart. Leaving an eating establishment another day recently, I held the heavy door for a woman using a walker. She thanked me and said, “There are still nice people in the world.” The sad thing is, something like that should be automatic and not require more than a simple “Thank you”. I guess she’s had different experiences, and I’m sorry.

Supposedly this quote was found scrawled on a cellar wall in Germany after World War II and the Holocaust:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

Anne Frank’s famous words echo the same sentiment:

I believe that people are really good at heart after all.

I’m not going to turn The Word Place into a bully pulpit for my own beliefs, but sometimes one has to speak out. I know I’ll lose readers. I may even get some nasty comments, and if that makes someone feel better, I’m sorry that’s what it takes for you to be happy. But it’s been on my heart lately that it begin with one person speaking out. Maybe only a few hear. That’s okay--a few is better than none.

A few smiles can turn into many. A few people who think twice before speaking negative words can create a positive atmosphere. A few people can make a difference.

I want to be one of them. All I can do is try. 

 Throughout this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass;
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I may do
To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can.
No delay, for it is plain,
I shall not pass this way again.
~Anonymous


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Although St. Valentine is most closely associated with Valentine’s Day, St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of lovers, at least in Wales. Several stories are told about this 5th century saint. Sam tells it best to Penelope. . .
          
    

      “You didn’t have to get me anything.”
       “You knew I would.”
       “I guess I did.”
       “Close your eyes, and hold out both hands.”
       Penelope did both, then closed her fingers around a small box. A jeweler’s box. A ring? Surely not. He’s never even said he loves me.
       “You can open your eyes now.”
Add caption
       She looked at the small box, wrapped in some of the red paper she’d used for Bradley’s and Rosabel’s gifts. “Sam, I…”
       “Just open it.”
       Her hands shook as she untied the ribbon and peeled away the paper, revealing not a ring case but a box bearing the name of a jewelry store in Little Rock. When she fumbled with the lid, Sam lifted it off, pushed aside the layer of cotton, and took out a flat silver heart etched with something she couldn’t read.
       “It’s beautiful, Sam,” she murmured.
       He picked it up. “Mae hyn yn fy annwyl.” He showed her the inscription. “It’s Welsh.”
       “What does it mean?”
            He took her hand and led her to the sofa. “First let me tell you a story. Do you know who St. Dwynwen is?”
       “I’ve never heard of him.”
       “Her. She lived in Wales in the 5th century. According to some sources, she was the daughter of a king who forbade her to marry the man she loved. Other sources say the man betrayed her. Whichever happened, she never married and became a nun, but because she prayed for God to give happiness to all lovers, she—not St. Valentine—is the patron saint of lovers.”
       Penelope’s eyes blurred with tears. She wondered if Sam could see her heart beating beneath her red sweater. “That’s a beautiful story, but I still don’t know what the inscription says.”
       Sam fastened the thin chain around her neck. “The inscription is Welsh, and it’s from the Song of Solomon. Mae hyn yn fy annwyl means ‘This is my beloved.’”
       Her tears spilled over. “Oh, Sam.”
       He tipped her chin and extracted a handkerchief to blot her cheeks. “It’s a promise, Nell, the only one I can make right now.”
       She laid her forehead against his chest and felt him rest his chin on her hair. “It’s enough. It really is.”

. . .from book 4 of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series: The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo

Book 1:  TheBogus Biker

Book 6:  Sam’s Last Stand

What’s a toe-the-line type like Penelope Pembroke doing with a mystery man who comes and goes from Amaryllis, Arkansas, usually leaving murder and mayhem in his wake? You’ll never believe how it all started in The Bogus Biker.


Penelope's cat Abijah says, "Keep me in cat treats! Get Book 1 for only 99 cents every day!"



Monday, February 13, 2017

A Place to Write...




Of which there are some around here but not a lot of them fit my agenda!

What I need:

No cable news blaring.
Lake Ouachita
High energy people doing their own thing
An out-of-the-way table/booth
Good lighting
Availability of drink refills
Food (optional)
Parking without a time limit
Plug-in for Penelope (optional--have mini-charger)
Clean ladies room (and I do mean LADIES--not those who think they are that day!)
Safety--having to look over my shoulder isn’t fun.

Places I’ve Written:

Writing with "Al" at the Ohio Club
Fast-food eating establishments
Coffee shops
State parks
Local Parks
Poolside at hotels
The Writers Colony
Patios at hotels
Cubicle in public library
In car at Sonic (of course!)
In airports and on planes



Inside/outside at home   


Lake Catherine State Park
Denton Digs
The Writers Colony - Eureka Springs        

Pros and Cons

At coffee shops and fast food places, people tend to hang around with their phones-, tablets, and laptops. I don’t feel management is wanting me to move along.
Parks are good if the weather is nice--but a shady table is sometimes difficult to stake claim to--and you have to be aware of who’s strolling by. Isolated spots aren’t a good idea these days.
Hotel pool areas/patios are a nice break from your room. You want to sit far enough away from the pool so the lappy doesn’t get showered, but looking up to think and watching kids playing is relaxing. (Adults acting like kids not so much.)
A library cubicle is good for editing and/or reading galleys when you don’t need to be distracted, but it’s not the place to feel creative.
Longer layovers at airports and longer flights make for an hour or two of good writing time. However, airports are best for people-watching. Who knows when you’ll meet your next novel character?
There’s no place like home on cold winter days and also any season’s raining-cats-and-dogs days. If I need to access the internet, I work at home--not convinced public Wi-Fi is a safe bet.

My All-Time Favorite--300 Miles Away!

I usually visit Denton, Texas, at least once a year. Fours years as a student at Texas Woman’s University and good memories draw me back. The downtown square has reinvented itself despite the expansion of shopping centers and malls. Two universities (TWU and The University of North Texas) provide the high energy environment I find motivational.
When I went back for a longer stay several years ago, it was my intention to write the Square one coffee shop at a time. I’d researched all of them. But then, on my first day, I walked into Jupiter House  and never looked back.  

I can’t explain how or why it hooked me. Maybe it’s the lack of a blaring television. Maybe it’s the people of all ages and walks of life constantly coming and going, filling the single somewhat cavernous area with a certain electricity. The walls have been stripped down to the outer brick of the building and are lined with local art.  Low tables, high tables, sofas, and chairs provide a choice of seating, but I always set up shop at the same soda-fountain height table toward the back where I have a view of the entire place and the street outside.
A nice touch is being remembered from year to year. “You’ve been here before. You’re a writer.” Lovely!
I’m totally spoiled--nothing measures up to Jupiter House--but it’s 300 miles away.
I search this area in vain and make do with two or three places…but my heart turns to Jupiter House…and I know I’ll return.


Friday, February 10, 2017

When the light bulb goes on...



The question

How many times have you needed a book cover image, blurb, link, tagline, headshot, etc. for a posting on social media, a blog, or because someone asked for it? How much time have you spent searching various folders for each of the above-mentioned items? If you haven’t spent any time at all, I congratulate you. If you have…

The reaction

Well, I was turning into a perpetual search engine and often coming up empty. I got darn tired of it, let me tell you. Then…duh!...the lightbulb!

The answer

So now on my desktop I have this lovely little folder called Sales Copy. Inside are subfolders, to wit:
·        Ads (created, of course, with Canva)
·        Bios
·        Book trailer pictures
·        Brand graphic (Get hooked on a good clean read!)
·        Headshots
·        One-sheets
·        PDFs (of books)
·        Pinterest (book-related)
·        Press releases
·        Stats, links, taglines, blurbs, excerpts
Stats include book length, ASIN, ISBN, links to Amazon, links to publisher, taglines, brief book blurb usually taken from back cover, and several selected excerpts to ‘hook’ potential readers.
·        Each book has its own folder with covers and extra specific info.
·        Optional: a few lines from those 4 and 5-star reviews!

The bottom line

While it takes a while to create such a folder, it’s worth its weight in gold--which for me is time, my most precious commodity. Like anything else, the folder needs to be updated regularly, but that’s only a small investment of time. It pays off in the long run--and why I didn’t do it sooner, I have no idea!



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mission Impossible: Organization

Staying organized - - ha!

I spent years teaching school, and my lesson plans were an organizational masterpiece. No, really they were. But it was like after I retired that the ability hadn’t carried over into making writing plans. Of course, I didn’t start doing that right away. Rather, I started organizing my household for the first time in years (a) because it was high time and (b) I was possessed with a driving need to be able to put my hands on what I wanted when I wanted it without having to mount a search. After years of single parenthood and full-time employment, the time had come. My nest was empty, and I was—hallelujah!--r-e-t-i-r-e-d!

So now it’s time to move on - - yes!

I wrote my first three published novels while providing (unplanned!) care three days a week for my first grandchild. Grabbing thirty minutes here while she entertained herself and maybe an hour while she napped got the job done, but then I came face to face with the next hurdle: marketing and promotion. Blogging and social media, new concepts to my aging brain, reared their ugly hydra-head. Clearly, like my closets and garage and (more or less) my filing cabinet, I needed a plan to arrange things and keep them at hand.

No overnight solutions - - grrrr!

I won’t tell you the first plan of attack worked. Nor the second nor even the third. But eventually I got things boiled down to two—only two—notebooks. This is how it shakes out:

Notebook One

  • School calendar—ten years later I still pick up TWO grandchildren from school two days a week and also provide refuge on holidays.
  • Personal calendar—a cheapo from Dollar Tree, ripped from its vinyl cover and three-hole punched keeps track of appointments and extra times I’m needed as the ‘sitter’. It’s a must.
  • Brain Dump—several pages on which I chart short and long-term projects—i.e.major/minor projects, marketing, freelance, personal business, travel, and holidays among others.
  • First tab: daily to-do arranged by week
  • Second tab: typed list of projects by season, not necessarily writing-related
  • Third tab: writing/marketing related information—lists, articles (keep these cleaned out!)
  • Fourth tab: Columnar pad sheets on which I do my budgeting/banking business

Notebook Two

  • First Tab: Information relating to current work in progress and articles to be read (again, keep these cleaned out!)
  • Second Tab: Blog Calendar—another cheapo from the Dollar Tree on which I schedule by month the general idea of each blog. You can make this as detailed as you wish (or don’t wish), but I find being able to turn to this calendar each week and have an overall view of my blog goals is very helpful.
  • Third Tab: (1) Blog-related information. I print out the monthly calendars for Bizarre and Unique Holidays where you’ll find a wealth of ideas/information to turn on the light in an otherwise dark mind when you’ve run out of your own ideas. (2) A running list, copied and pasted from my blog dashboard, of all the blogs I’ve written and the dates they ran. Re-purposing/rewriting blogs is another terrific resource—just don’t do it the same year!
  • Fourth Tab: Basic marketing information I want to have at hand plus templates for charts, graphs, etc. to help me get even MORE organized (someday)

So how does it work out?

About as well as you are motivated to make it work. Two notebooks are about all I want to juggle. I don’t want to be searching online for basic information, nor do I want to be rummaging through my file cabinet half a dozen times a day! Your notebook(s) won’t look like mine, but that’s the beauty of it—a visit to Dollar Tree, a couple of three-ring notebooks and a hole-punch, several sets of dividers, and the copier which is standard with most printers today, and you’re in business!
I’d love to know how you stay organized—and if you’d like to guest blog about your brilliant strategies, contact me judyatjudynicklesdot com!


Friday: How I keep all my book(s) info organized in a Sales Copy folder on my desktop




Monday, February 6, 2017

Trailing Along...or, Yes! You Can!


Not my cup of tea...


The first time I encountered a “book trailer” I immediately cast aside the idea as being something I could do—and, indeed, paid for three to be made for me. I have a tendency to do that—believe something is beyond my ability. At my age, trying to go back in time and discover how that belief ingrained itself into my personality is a useless waste of time. The point is, over the years, what I’ve timidly approached...tried...failed...and tried again...has encouraged me to view my abilities differently.

I know what I can’t do...what’s beyond me. No one can do everything. But it’s sort of like the afternoon one of my sons had a soccer game, and I discovered my car had a flat tire. I telephone my father to ask where to call for help, but he wasn’t home. Frustrated, I said, “Well, I’ll just do it myself!”

My mother’s immediate response was, “Oh, you can’t do that!”

That got my back up—so I did it.

Learning to love that cup of tea...



So now we come to book trailers (among other things such as indie publishing). Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. You need pictures to which you have the right to use publicly. Stock photos abound. I find most of what I need on Fotolia.
2. You need music which fits the theme of your story and which doesn’t infringe copyright. A great site is Music2Hues. Their selection is wide, their prices reasonable, they have good support, and sometimes they have great sales—a good time to stock up! (There are other sources—just search for ‘royalty free music’.)
3. You need Windows Movie Maker. It’s a free download. I lost mine when I changed computers and couldn’t get it back until I upgraded to Windows 8.1 The backup computer has Windows 10—a dream to use.
4. And, of you have a local computer club, take a class. I did, learned the basics, and have been learning more ever since.
5. Finally, you need the determination to just do it. If I can, so can you!

Brewed to share...



Here’s a very short video I made this afternoon just to get my hand back into the process. Visit my YouTube Channel to view others.







The Showboat Reunion

Col. Sid “Bull” Bullington (USMC, ret.) is twenty-five years and two lifetimes older than Gail Callaway, While his struggle is carefully masked, hers is obvious--the cane she uses because of a worsening congenital neuromuscular disorder. His gut tells him to back off, but her childlike joy and simple trust in the goodness of others draws him into a relationship he knows they may both regret. When her unscrupulous brother complicates the mix, Sid feels he has no choice but to back off. Then on 9-11, the country and everyone in it is forever changed. For the first time, Sid wants to fight the demons of war and move on. Does he dare ask Gail to do battle with him?





Friday, February 3, 2017

Too many tips to take in!

Deluged with advice

Do-it-yourself addicts, dieters, cooks, decorators, and travelers (just to mention a few) find themselves with more advice than they can possibly use. Writers are no exception. If you’re a writer, you want to run screaming from the tidal wave of “how-to” flooding your inbox and abounding on social media.



I plead guilty to being at least a drop of water in said tidal wave. I tweet links to these articles and also post them on my Facebook author page. Why? Well,, because writers—myself included—are always looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: sales, sales, and more sales. If someone points out the path, why not follow it and see what happens?


What works for one…

But all advice is not equal. It may be very good advice—just not for everyone. The key is emerging from the tidal wave to sift through the sand. A trillion grains...one worth taking to the bank...or rather to heart as you tackle the never-ending task of marketing and promotion for your independently-published or traditionally-published babies.

The basics

These work: a blog, a website, an author page on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter (@BigChiefTablet). But social media is a many-headed monster, so those four are just the tip of the iceberg. However, they’re the ones I’ve chosen to run with because multi-tasking can become overwhelming.
My schedule looks something like this:
         M-W-F blog
         M-W-F post four scheduled tweets using Buffer—one about my blog and 3 others with links to—what else?--writing tips.
         M – post the four tweet links to my Facebook author page.
         Every two weeks—update website.
         Play with Pinterest when I have time.
         Make promotional “ads” using Canva at a scheduled time and save for later use.

Does it work?

Well, as “they” say, the proof is in the pudding. My independently published cozy mystery series went viral without any promotion at all. Other books have limped along despite prodigious marketing efforts.  So who knows?
Some weeks I maintain a regular schedule better than other weeks. I’ve learned not to beat myself up when I miss a blog day (although missing too many isn’t a good idea) or don’t do something which could actually be termed promotion. It’s like anything else—when you stumble, keep going.



So what’s new with me these days?

I didn’t plan two new releases almost back to back, but it worked out that way. Ruthann’s War, my 5th book with The Wild Rose Press, and The Showboat Reunion, my 2nd ‘short’ for Solstice Publishing, released without a month of each other. What author doesn’t enjoy writing more than marketing? Unfortunately, it has to be done.


World War II has ended, but now Ruthann faces a fight for her future with a man she never meant to love.


 Two people whose chances slipped away...can they find a second chance with each other?