Saturday, April 30, 2011

#SampleSunday: How to Plan a Murder from "Killing Julie Morris"

An excerpt from my short story  "Killing Julie Morris" which is one of the stories in my collection, love, murder, etc.. When rich Julie Morris complains about the ice fountain designed for her kid's birthday party, a driver for the ice company starts thinking about things....

from Killing Julie Morris

I meant what I said,” he calls to me. “You don’t have to take the long run every time.”
I turn and shade my eyes looking up at him. “I know that. I like it.”
He shakes his head, jumps down, and walks closer. “Look, just because you’re my sister doesn’t mean you have to keep proving yourself to these guys here. We all know you’re tougher than the rest of us.” He’s grinning but his eyes are serious. “Manny said you haven’t been getting back until after dark every night. That’s nuts. The other drivers can swap off, no need for you to always be the last one in. Give yourself a break. Have some fun.”
I look down at our work boots. Toe to toe Vinnie isn’t much taller than me. Being big and muscular and tough is good in a man. He’s never realized it’s not the same for a woman. Vinnie has a wife and four kids. My last tank of fish died from neglect. He doesn’t see the difference.
I like driving up the coast,” I say. “I never get tired of it. I’ll try to go a little faster and get back earlier.”
Vinnie puts his hand on my shoulder. “That’s not the point. I don’t care when you get back. I just hate seeing you work longer hours than the rest of us.”
You work all the time, you just do it at home. Josephine said you were working on plans for that fountain all weekend.”
Vinnie sighs. “Yeah, well, that was a waste of time. Looks like I’ll be working on it again tonight.”
When’s the party?”
Not until June but you know Julie Morris — you can’t start too early to make plans for one of her parties.”
Why baseball bats?”
He laughs. “She said it’s her kid’s birthday and she’s inviting his Midget League team but I think she’s just sucking up to Henry Crane.”
Henry Crane?” I stare at him.
Yeah.” Vinnie taps the toe of his workboot with the ice bat, keeping his eyes lowered. “He’s the coach this year and she wants to make sure her kid gets to play a lot.” He shakes his head.
I take a deep breath. “You could tell her to get lost.”
He nods. ”Yeah, I could.”
But he won’t. That’s how Vinnie is.
I take the ice bat from him and, with a grin, pretend to swing it toward his head. “Well, the party isn’t until June. Maybe you’ll get lucky and somebody’ll shoot her and put her out of her misery.”
He laughs out loud. “We can only hope.”
He is still laughing as he turns and walks back to his ice plant. He got a kick out of the idea of Julie Morris being put out of her misery. Good. Because I’ve been thinking about ways to do that for years.

I’ve been driving this ice truck since high school and I’ve learned some real useful stuff. One is that you can watch what is going on all over the place. You drive the same roads every day and you have plenty of opportunity to watch people - it’s amazing how predictable most folks are. The other thing is you become invisible. I bet it’s the same for all delivery people but folks get so used to seeing you and your truck making your rounds they stop seeing you altogether. I like that.
I don’t remember when exactly I started thinking about killing Julie Morris. I’ve known her since first grade and until about sixth she was alright. Back then she was Julie Kaplanski and nothing special until we got into junior high and Julie got popular. She and her crowd tormented anyone who wasn’t in their group. I never knew why Julie singled me out for an added dose of torment. Maybe because I was tall and awkward and not much interested in girl things. But I think it had a lot to do with Vinnie, too. Vinnie is two years older and girls started fluttering around him from the time he was a Midget League baseball player himself which is really funny because Vinnie has never had eyes for anyone but Josephine. They’ve been together forever.
Even if it wasn’t for Josephine, Julie never would have been happy with Vinnie. Norwood Morris is her type. A big money guy, some kind of Washington lobbyist character, with lots of dough for buying lots of stuff. He travels, she spends. Perfect. In more ways than one.
That’s the thing about my work, I see everything. And I see Julie Morris when she doesn’t want to be seen. Like when her car is at fleabags, parked around back out of sight, in the afternoons when the kid’s at school and the nanny is available to pick him up. Julie Morris wouldn’t want folks to know what a slut she is. I don’t count of course. That’s what pisses me off the most. She knows I drive my ice truck. She’s even given me one of her phony little condescending smiles when she drives past me as I’m filling the ice machines outside those motels. But I don’t count to Julie Morris. Julie Morris doesn’t have to worry about a homely, gawky old maid who works for her brother’s ice company — not beautiful, rich, perfect Julie Morris, even when she’s riding her latest baloney pony at some fleabag motel on Route 1A. Why would someone like Julie Morris care if someone like me knows what she’s up to? Julie Morris is too far above me.
She thinks.
There are places you shouldn’t let your mind go to. When it starts you think you are just entertaining yourself, having a little bit of harmless fun. But then you start thinking about how you could actually do this thing, that’s when the real trouble starts. Continued...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kelvin's World: A Special Post Featuring the author of Each Angel ...

Kelvin's World: A special post featuring the author of Each Angel ...: "Title: Each Angel Burns Author: Kathleen Valentine Genre: Contemporary

Questions:

What inspired you to become a writer?
I don't think I ever even thought about it, I just started writing. I grew up with two parents who were avid readers an from the time I was little I thouht books were the most magical things in the world. Writing was just a normal progression from reading.

Why should people read your book?
I think it is a beautiful story about three people at a place in their lives where they are questioning all the sacrifices made to be good people. Gabe has devoted his life to being a good husband and father. Maggie has been a good wife, Peter has been a good priest. Now the circumstances in their lives are changing and they suddenly begin to wonder if their sacrifices have been worth it – and whether they want to live with them for the rest of their lives. It is something I think a lot of people can relate to.

Can you relate to any of the characters and why? Read the rest on Kelvin's World

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tutorial: Selling eBooks Directly from Your Site or Blog

Selling books for e-readers through Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, etc. is easier than ever but, with a little bit of work, you can also sell your eBooks directly from your own web site or blog. You can set your own price and the only cost to you will be what Paypal deducts for their services. I have sold hundreds of books and knitting patterns in PDF format this way. Below I'll walk you through the steps you'll need to take to do this. All the images below can be enlarged by clicking on them. What you will need are:
  1. Your manuscript in e-book format – PDF, HTML, TXT, DOC, EPUB or any other.
  2. An online storage site. If you have your own web hosting site that will work. If not you will need an online storage service like Dropbox, LiveDrive, etc. If you do a search for “online file storage” you can find one that will work for you.
  3. A Paypal account that is upgraded to a Merchant Account. If you already have Paypal you can use that by just upgrading the account. It's free.
  4. A web site or blog where you plan to sell your books.

That's it.

You can sell your book in any format that you have the capability of converting your book. Almost every word processing program (Word, Open Office, etc.) has the capability of exporting your file to a PDF (especially good for image/graphic rich books) and HTML. You can also Save As in TXT, RTF and DOC format. Once you have created your e-book and saved it to the format you wish to sell it in, follow these steps.

First: Upload your file(s) to your online storage site or server. Remember the URL of your file once it is on your server. For this demonstration we are going to call it: http://storagesite.com/mybook.pdf.


Second: Go to PayPal and login. Select the Merchant Services tab from the top tab bar. Under Create Button select “Buy Now”. Fill in the form as indicated in Figure 1(above).
  1. Select the Buy Now button.
  2. Give the item a name.
  3. Set your price.
  4. Now Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Step 3: Customize Advanced Features.

Third: Once you are in the Customize Advanced Features screen check “No” for the first three items. Scroll down and follow the directions in Figure 2 (above). Check the box as indicated and then put your book's URL in the blank as shown. Scroll down and click “Create Button”.


Fourth: You will now be directed to the screen that gives you the code for your button as shown in Figure 3 (above).  Click “Select Code” and use Control+C or Edit>Copy to copy the code. You are now ready to insert the code into your web page or blog.


Fifth: If you have your own web page you will go to the place on your page where you wish to insert the Paypal button. Insert the HTML code in to the appropriate place using Control+V or Edit>Paste.

In order to add the button to your blog you will need an area that accepts HTML code. I am using Blogger for this demonstration but other blog sites should offer similar possibilities. 


For Blogger, log in to your Dashboard and select the Design tab (above). And do the following:
  1. Select Add A Gadget
  2. From the pop-up box select Add HTML/Java Script.


Once the HTML box popup apprears do the following (above):
  1. Give the box a title
  2. Make sure the “Rich Text” option is showing, this means you are in the HTML screen.
  3. Paste the Paypal code into the body of the box using Control+V or Edit>Paste.
  4. Click Save. (Before you click Save you might want to add information about the book, a picture of its cover, price, etc.)

That's all there is to it. I find that it is a good idea to include directions on my site advising people to wait until the link appears after they click the Paypal button but a lot of people do not. I get emails almost every day asking me to send the link which I email out promptly.

You can set up as many buttons as you like for different books and different versions of books (PDF, HTML, etc.) but you can only set up one automatic download per button. There are a number of services that offer secure storage for online files but they charge a fee so you have to decide if you think it is worth paying that. Check our E-Junkie.

So that is it. Please let me know if something is unclear or if I forgot something.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indie Author Jane Ward's “The Mosaic Artist”

Because I am a fan of Jane Ward's Food & Fiction Blog I was eager to read her new novel, The Mosaic Artist. It arrived last week and, despite being 356 pages long, it took me less than a week to read it. I had to pace myself because it is the sort of novel that is so compulsively readable that it would be easy to devour it without allowing spaces in which to think and dream. This story is worthy of much thinking and dreaming.

The story seems basic on its surface, Jack is married to Kay and is the father of Shelley and Mark. All appears to be going reasonably well until along comes Sylvie, a much younger, very attractive unattached young woman who applies for a job in Jack's company and promptly decides that Jack is quite desirable -- his wife and children not withstanding. For a couple years Jack and Sylvie carry on a highly romantic affair and then one day Jack realizes that he can no longer bear leaving Sylvie at the end of one of their trysts and he makes the decision to leave his family to be with her. He even manages to convince himself that everyone will be happier – in his arrogance and self-delusion he cannot imagine that his wife and children will not be happy for him that he has finally found true love.

When the story begins it is twenty-three years later and Jack is dying with Sylvie by his side. The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Jack, Sylvie, Shelley, and Mark. Kay died earlier after many years of mental illness and decline. Shelley is really the heartbeat of the tale, now a married woman with two daughters, a loving husband, a teaching career and a beautiful home. Shelley holds everyone together, most especially her younger brother Mark who was 12 when their father left and has never forgiven him. Mark is now an artist of considerable talent but little focus. He has a girlfriend who tries to support him in his career but he is so mired in anger and bitterness toward his father he can't get on with it.

There is an old axiom that literary fiction refers to novels in which not much happens but that is a facile description. The Mosaic Artist is a fine example of the best of literary fiction for, though on the surface it is the tale of a divorce, a re-marriage, and a death, underneath the currents of emotional turmoil, longing, heartbreak, and love are powerfully revealed with elegance and depth. All four of the main characters lead lives that have been permanently altered because of Jack's decision to leave his family.

Mark is probably the easiest to understand. At times I felt like he needed a good swat and some Twelve Step meetings but his pain is right there on the surface and, though he knows he is hurting no one but himself, he doesn't care. His only refuge from the storm of his anger is his sister Shelley who has always cared for him. Shelley is a lovely, kind, patient woman who has tried to live a life of balance and forgiveness. She long ago made amends with her father and now, at his passing, reaches out to Sylvie, too. One almost wonders how long Shelley can go on being so good, but her children and her husband are her support.

Personally, I had difficulty with the character of Sylvie. It is tempting to think of her as a self-centered brat only interested in getting what she wants, namely Jack. But her devotion to her husband through his life, his dying and even beyond his death is heart-wrenching. Toward the end of the story, after the funeral one of her co-workers says to her, “You shouldn't be alone.” To which she replies, “No, I shouldn't be. But I am.” Therein seems to lie the cost of her greediness in pursuing a married man older than herself. But somehow we get the feeling she will survive just fine and it won't be long until she finds new consolation.

And then there is Jack, the man who thought that gratifying his desire was more important and worthy than his children. In Sylvie he found passion, desire, devotion and true love all of which he claims with little regard for the cost.

The Mosaic Artist is a gorgeously crafted story told in a measured, elegant style. The writing is beautiful and plumbs the depths of four peoples' experiences. It is a book to be savored, that will linger in the mind long after the story is concluded.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Joel Arnold

Joel Arnold’s short stories and travel articles have appeared in dozens of publications. Most of his short stories, along with three novels – Northwoods Deep, Death Rhythm, and Snow Burn – are currently available in ebook format for the Kindle and other erreaders. A Minnesota native, he recently won a 2010 Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant, as well as a 2010 Gulliver Travel & Research Grant. He also collects old typewriters and makes a mean coffee cake.

Advice:


  • Read. Read indie authors, read traditionally published authors, read not only those who write within your genre, but also those who write outside your genre. Read contemporary works as well as classics. Read for pleasure and also read to learn. If you come across a passage or a bit of dialogue that just blows you away, mark it and come back to it later to find out why it blew you away. How did the author construct that particular sentence or paragraph? What made it work? Store this info in your mind (or in a notebook!) so that you can pull it up when you wish to produce a similar effect in your own work.
  • Patience; being an indie author is (and yes, you’ve probably heard it before, so let’s all say it together!) a marathon, not a sprint. While there are some phenomenal successes in the indie world, those successes didn’t happen overnight. My guess is that those fine folks had the patience to make sure their work was the best it could be before unleashing it on the world. They made sure they had quality, eye-catching covers. They took the time to learn the ropes of social networking (yet at the same time, didn’t let this get in the way of them producing even more quality work.)
  • Write. What? We still have to write? What’s up with that? Yep, we’re still writers, right? Writing is like any other skill in that the more you do it, the better you get at it. Also the more you write, the more books or stories you’ll produce, and that means more work for readers to potentially see and buy and read. Right? Write.
Links:
Northwoods Deep
Death Rhythm
Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse
My blog

Monday, April 25, 2011

From Penelope Fletcher's Fierce Fiction Blog: Author Interview with Kathleen Valentine

Penelope Fletcher did an interview with me on her blog, Fierce Fiction. Thanks so much, Miss Fletcher!
It's time to swoon! Romance. *lusty sigh* I have a great guest for you today. Here is my interview with Kathleen Valentine author of Each Angel Burns;

Hello Kathleen, can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in central Pennsylvania and both of my parents were avid readers. From the time I was a kid I thought writing books had to be the most important thing that anyone could do just because my parents were such book lovers. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in art and spent most of my working life as a graphic artist. I did a lot of commercial writing but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I started writing fiction. Most of my career I worked in the advertising and marketing departments of large corporations but in 2002 my brother died and I realized that I wasn't going to live forever. I left my job in an engineering firm and started a small graphic design business -- and I started writing. It's been a very good way of life for me, not as lucrative as the corporate world but much happier.

What are your thoughts on the saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? As a writer do you agree with this?
That's an interesting question and, of course, it is true. But what you have to remember is that with a picture those thousand words will describe what is going on in the imagination of the viewer. In writing, those thousand words belong to you. Actually, it would be rather an interesting exercise to write a thousand words describing a picture and then ask an artist to paint what your words evoked. It would be fascinating to compare what they paint to the painting that you described, wouldn't it?

If you could collaborate with another author, who would you choose and why? Continue reading at Fierce Fiction

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#SampleSunday: Mom's Homemade Easter Eggs

In honor of Easter I am posting this from my memoir/cookbook about growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, Fry Bacon. Add Onions. Hope everyone has a lovely Easter.



Mom’s Home-made Easter Eggs
My mother made these for years and they were so delicious. She made them in different flavors but the peanut butter were always the most popular.
Cook 2 potatoes and mash them with a little butter and no milk. Add 1 tbsp. vanilla and 4 tbsp. chunky peanut butter. Work in powdered sugar until a ball holds together (about 3-4 lbs. of sugar). Roll into egg shapes and place on wax paper. In the top of a double boiler (or the microwave) melt 2 package chocolate chips and a small amount of pure paraffin as needed to give a good, firm coat. Mom always dipped the eggs in one at a time and rolled them around in the chocolate adding more chocolate or more paraffin as needed. Place on wax paper to cool and dry.
Variations: For the peanut butter substitute:
½ c. shredded coconut
¼ c. chopped nuts and ¼ c. candied fruit
¼ c. chopped nuts and ¼ c. chopped cherries
½ c. chopped walnuts and use maple flavor instead of vanilla

Happy Easter everyone! Have a lovely day!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hark! A New Babson Boulder Is Discovered!

Deep in the deepest part of Dogtown, hidden back among the trees and covered in the soot left by countless campfires, a new Babson Boulder has been uncovered. Its message is one I agree with whole-heartedly and urge all of my friends and their friends to follow:


Okay, okay, maybe I helped it out a bit but it's a pretty cool ad, isn't it? Have lovely, peaceful, sweet Easter weekend and find some time to "Read A Book".


Thanks for reading and Happy Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tradition Meets Technology

Knitting has been around at least since the 11th century though it probably evolved long before that. The earliest examples of knitting that we have come, not from the British Isles as most people think, but from the Mediterranean trade routes where Muslim knitters traded hand-knit items. We also have remnants of Roman "toe socks" that date back to the 3rd century. So knitting has been with us for a very long time. Right now there are probably as many active knitters as have lived during the history of the world. Ravelry, the on-line knitting community, currently boasts over a million  members. Knitting is ancient, ubiquitous and hot.


The Kindle has only been around a couple years. Like its fellow eReaders, Nook, Sony, etc. and now the much coveted I-Pad, Kindles have exploded in popularity and knitters, like many other book lovers have embraced them for their convenience and usefulness in carrying many books around at the same time.


In 2009 when I introduced The Mermaid Shawl and other Beauties: Shawls, Cocoons and Wraps, I offered it first in PDF format as an instant download. I was stunned by how many copies it sold in the first few weeks. Subsequently I offered it as a paperback and then for Kindle and it has continued to sell very well. Knitters tell me it is one of the most useful books in their knitting library because it explains a lot of techniques and adaptations books that are just full of patterns do not offer.


Subsequently I offered some individual patterns through Ravelry under the series title Knit Your Tail Off. These booklets could be downloaded and they, too, have been very popular. When the eReader explosion hit the market just before Christmas this year, I decided to release The Pooling-On-Purpose Project for Kindle and then this week I released a second Knit Your Tail Off booklet on Kindle Sumptuous Silk Bags: Learn Entrelac and More (Knit Your Tail Off, Vol. 2). It has already been downloaded a few times. Volume 2 is an expanded version of my Entrelac Silk Bag pattern and includes a section on the different types of silk yarns and how to work with them, plus two additional patterns, the Recycled Sari Silk Bag (above) and the Gold Basketweave Bag (below). 




In the coming weeks I plan to offer both of those in PDF format also. Knitters with IPads tell me they love having their patterns in PDF of their IPads. Plus I have at least two more volumes of patterns available in the Knit Your Tail Off series. Volume 3 will be called Learn-To-Lace Marketing Bags and it offers patterns for 5 easy to knit marketing bags and 1 beach bag all made in very simple knitted lace patterns that help the entry-level lace knitter understand lace knitting while making some quick and easy projects. 


Volume 4 will probably be Seaman's Scarves: Sculptural Knitting which will introduce knitters to knitting with texture from stitch texture and lace to cables. I have several of the pieces finished and am working on more.


This is an exciting time to be a knitter! Modern technology has created endless possibilities for an ancient craft. Please check back for new patterns and formats.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Jeanne Tomlin

J. R. (Jeanne) Tomlin and C. R. (Clem) Daems have published three fantasy novels together. Wings of Evil is their first Indie published novel. Many people find it strange that not only do they live a thousand miles apart, they have never met although they've worked together for more than three years. Clem lives in Arizona while Jeanne resides in the rather rainier clime of the Pacific Northwest.


Advice:

  • Follow these three blogs--religiously: Joe Konrath -- http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/Kristine Katherine Rusch -- http://kriswrites.com/ (especially her Business Rusch) and Dean Wesley Smith -- http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ (especially be sure to read his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing) These are, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone planning or hoping to be published.
  • Join a critique group and learn to use the critiques you receive. Even when they're not 'right' or suggesting changes you want to make, you can learn from what other writers tell you.
  • Get advice from people with experience on your proposed cover and blurb. Those are specialty areas which have considerations most of us don't realize. But our success or failure largely depends on having them right.


Links:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hold Your Tongue...er...Fingers!

Interactivity is not always a good thing. The internet has contributed an incredible degree of interactivity to our days but just because you can interact doesn't mean you always should interact. This can be a tough lesson to learn – especially for people who wish to be viewed as professional at whatever they do – authors among them.

Recently on an internet discussion group for writers that I am active in, there was a long discussion about authors responding to reviews of their books on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. The general concensus is that you shouldn't. Period. This was prompted by a situation I mentioned here before on Big Al's Books and Pals review site where an author disagreed with Al's review, posted an angry retort, and the entire episode escalated into a ridiculous exchanged that resulted in people bombarding her book's Amazon page with negative comments. However it also boosted her sales – at least for awhile. But this is not a good way to sell books.

Let's face it, our books are our babies. We labor over them in most cases longer than a pregnancy and when we finally birth them in to the world we want every one to love them – often they don't. So how does an author cope with being slammed with negative reviews? It's painful to do but sometimes you just have to bite your tongue, grit your teeth, do some yoga, or have a few martinis. But DO NOT REPLY! I learned this the hard way when I made the mistake of responding to a negative review on Amazon. Someone posted a 2-star review of Fry Bacon. Add Onions, my memoir/cookbook of growing up in a Pennsylvania Dutch town. The review made a comment about the “deep-friend gopher guts” recipe and I responded to point out there was no such recipe in the book. I was less concerned with his criticism of my book than I was with, what appeared to be, a snide aspersion cast upon my heritage. But, of course, my comment drew an even more snide comment from the reviewer. Thank God I had the brains to leave it alone.

In the discussion someone brought up author Anne Rice's 2004 “meltdown” on Amazon over the negative reviews of her book, Blood Canticle and the nasty rebuttal she posted in which she made reference to the “sheer, outrageous stupidity” of some of the comments and told those readers that they were “projecting your own limitations” on her book. I was unaware of this but someone posted a link to a blog that had re-posted her remarks. The thing is, Amazon had removed Ms. Rice's remarks – I don't know whether it was at her request or not – but this is the thing about the internet: Once it is out there, it is out there. There is no taking it back. Posting on the internet, especially if you are famous or want to be famous, is like climbing a tower, splitting open a feather pillow and shaking it out to the winds. Then, when you regret having done that, trying to gather up all those feathers. Except it is worse – the feathers propagate.

When I was reading Ms. Rice's rant it reminded me, quite painfully, of many of her recent rants against the Catholic Church. I do not take issue with her right to criticize the Church – I do the same thing. But when she started pontificating [forgive the pun] about the “rank and file” Catholics, that was over the top and she lost me. I stopped following and participating in her Amazon threads about it. The grandiosity, judgmentalism and intolerance is much too close to the symptoms of “dry” addiction and, frankly, frightens me. Reading her 2004 rant against the people who failed to appreciate her book was highly instructive. All those things are there, too, and suggest a crisis in the making.

And that, dear readers, is the point – once we embark on internet discourse we never know where it will lead and we can't take back or undo what we have said.

Throughout this series on Indie Authors on my blog, I read over and over authors saying “Act professionally” and that is very, very good advice. When someone criticizes your darlings, hold your tongue and your fingers. If you wish to become politically involved (God knows, I have) temper your defense of your cause with an eye to how your remarks will read a few years down the road. If you must err, err on the side of restraint. You never know who might be reading.


And, for the record, I read Blood Canticle and liked it.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beautiful Video of Our Beloved Gloucester

This is a great little mini-documentary about Gloucester. Enjoy:

For/From Indie Authors: Beth Orsoff

Beth Orsoff is the author of humorous fiction including the novels "Romantically Challenged," "Honeymoon for One," and "How I Learned to Love the Walrus." She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and Elmo (yeah, the red guy from Sesame Street). For more information about Beth and her celebrity sightings (George Clooney anyone?) check out her website. 

Advice:
  • You absolutely, positively must have a professional looking cover.  If you cannot create one yourself (and most of us can’t) then hire a graphic designer/cover artist to create one for you.
  •  Do not publish before you’re ready.  Just because you can publish your first draft, doesn’t mean you should.  After you’ve revised and polished to the point where you just can’t stand to look at it anymore, give it to someone else (preferably multiple people) to read.  Not your best friend, not your mother, someone who is going to be honest with you.  You want to make sure that when you publish your work it’s as good as it can possibly be.
  • Be professional.  Once you’ve published, everything you say is a reflection of you as an author.  Keep that in mind when you’re posting on Facebook, Twitter, and in any public forum.  Everyone needs to vent sometimes.  But vent in private, not on the internet!

Links:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Assorted Excitement

Every once in awhile some very cool things happen all at once. This morning I discovered a couple things that made me happy.


No 1 - I'm #1!!!
My book The Mermaid Shawl & other beauties was the #1 BestSELLING Lace knitting book for Kindle this morning:
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Lifestyle & Home > Crafts & Hobbies > Lace & Tatting
#6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Lifestyle & Home > Crafts & Hobbies > Needlework
#10 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Lifestyle & Home > Crafts & Hobbies > Knitting

No. 2 - I'm in a Gift Basket!
This showed up on a web site promoting Mother's Day gift ideas:


Angel-Themed Relaxation Basket

  • A mother with a busy schedule will appreciate a relaxation gift basket with an angel theme. Plush washcloths and hand towels embroidered with angels in the metallic shade she likes best, along with a novel about angels like Kathleen Valentine's "Each Angel Burns" can grace the white basket you've selected, along with potpourri in soothing scents like lavender and vanilla and fragrant candles in the shape of angels. Include a greeting card in the basket, letting your mom know how much of an angel she's been in your life and wishing her a happy Mother's Day.
    No. 3 - I Was on Good Morning Gloucester Yesterday
    Any time I get to be on Good Morning Gloucester, I am happy. Joe has done such a fabulous job with his blog -- I'm so thrilled for him. And I'm happy when he posts stuff about my work. Thanks, Joe!

My Guest Interview on Scribbles and Tunes

I got to do a guest interview with Christopher Bunn on his Scribbles and Tunes Site:

Kathleen Valentine

Kathleen Valentine is visiting the blog today, all the way from across the continent in Massachusetts. Did you know, in the ye olden days, it would take around seven months traveling by wagon to get from Boston to California? Of course, you also stood a good chance of dying en route. Please keep that in mind, the next time any of you are stuck on the 405 during rush hour in Los Angeles. Anyway, the show must go on, even if the freeway won’t. Without further ado, here’s Kathleen…
Hi, Kathleen. Thanks for stopping by. Before we get into writing and books, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in a small Pennsylvania Dutch community in north central Pennsylvania and one of the things I realize now is that the people there were great storytellers. Ever since I was little I can remember people sitting around — on porches, or at picnics (my family loved picnics), or just sitting around the kitchen table — and they would always be telling stories. Most of my great aunts and uncles were first generation Americans and they brought the Old World tradition of telling stories with them. I can remember parties when I was little when there would be a hundred people there and every room that you went in to was full of people sitting around, drinking beer and telling stories. I loved listening to those stories so I guess it is natural that eventually I would become a storyteller, too.


I went to Penn State and graduated with a degree in The Arts. Most of my life I’ve been a graphic artist but I’ve had a lot of jobs from tending-bar to driving a limo and from being a belly dancer to being a therapist. I currently live in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Read the rest here. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#SampleSunday: Beginning of the new novel "Depraved Heart"

Romance, murder, witchcraft, art, and football are the themes for the novel I spent all winter working on. The first draft is done and it is a long way from publication but the opening is pretty close to finished. Enjoy:


from "Depraved Heart":


Legal Definitions: 
Depraved Heart Murder n. A murder resulting from an act of reckless disregard for the safety of others. Also known as Depraved Indifference Murder.  Depraved-heart murder is recognized in the Model Penal Code § 210.2(1)(b).  The Model Penal Code considers unintentional killing to constitute murder when the conduct of the defendant manifests "extreme indifference to the value of human life." 


          It was the kind of murder that drove the tabloids wild. They couldn’t get enough of it. Syd Jupiter had been one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of American football. The six foot six, two-hundred-fifty pound Creole from Texas A&M was the darling of the tabloids from the time he was a first round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through every Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, his was the face that the newspapers loved. It was a striking face to begin with and his dry humor and ease in interviews just made him more appealing.
        During the first years of his career his name was linked with half the beauties in Hollywood including a tempestuous romance with a distinguished Academy Award winning actress who was twenty years his senior. Just about the time the public was convinced that Syd Jupiter was becoming a disreputable womanizer, he thrilled them by falling in love with the ballerina, Rachel Silver. The media loved it.
          Rachel Silver was an enigma. If Syd Jupiter was a tabloid darling, Rachel and her twin brother, Raven, were American ballet lovers’ dreams come true.
          Born on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts, Rachel and Raven were the great-grandchildren of W.Q. and Lisette Ravenscroft, the legendary patrons of such artists as John Singer Sargeant, Robert Vonnah, Charles Grafly, and Winslow Homer. Ravenscroft made his fortune in the Boston banking industry while Lisette, a famous beauty and bosom companion of Isabella Stewart Gardner, elevated entertaining in Boston to an art form. While the most fashionable artists and patrons of the arts summered in Manchester-by-the-Sea and Gloucester’s Eastern Point, Ravenscroft purchased half of a two hundred acre island southwest of Cape Ann and spent two decades building an estate so lavish it rivaled the castles built by the Hammonds across the water. He named it Hathor after the Egyptian goddess of pleasure.
            The first time the public saw the Silver twins perform with American Ballet Theater they believed they were witnessing magic. So perfectly did the two, beautiful dancers move together, with such grace and symmetry and fluidity of motion it was impossible to believe there were two individuals performing. Rather, it seemed, that a single, perfect creature had manifested itself. They were so alike in appearance and so attuned in motion as they floated through the pas de deux in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet that the ballet critic for the New York Times declared that they had rendered further interpretations of that ballet superfluous and a well-known fundamentalist preacher who happened to attend the performance called for a boycott of such blatant sensuality.
           Rachel Silver married Syd Jupiter on the wisteria covered terrace of Hathor while photographers with telephoto lenses hung out of helicopters and balanced in the towers of tuna boats trying to achieve the definitive photo of the event. The photographs taken that day filled the tabloids. During the weeks that followed, while the newlyweds remained secluded at Hathor, the paparazzi kept watch.


         Three years later Hathor was again the focal point of tabloid fascination. Raven Silver, the captivating, ethereal, fascinating twin and dance partner of Rachel Jupiter was dead — shot through the heart outside his great-grandfather’s Roman Temple on the edge of a swimming pool in which Rudolph Valentino once swam naked. Syd Jupiter was arrested and taken into custody. The press went wild.
   After a brief trial during which the beautiful Rachel, now pregnant with their first child, stayed faithfully by her husband’s side, Syd Jupiter was found guilty of second degree depraved heart murder and his twenty-five year jail sentence began.


To be continued....

For/From Indie Authors: C.J. Archer

C.J. lives in Australia with her husband, 2 kids and a kitten who thinks she owns the keyboard.  C.J. has been writing for 15 years while holding down boring day jobs and raising a family.  She loves writing, reading and consuming good food and wine.  When she's not doing any of these things she's catching up on the latest episodes of The Tudors, Dr Who and other great British shows.  


Advice:

  • When you think your book is finished, let it sit for 6 months or more.  Forget about it.  Write another book or two in the meantime.  Then get it out again and be honest with yourself as you re-read.  Ask other people to read it, people you trust to tell you straight if it's any good (this is probably not your parents).  I know it's frustrating to wait but putting a good product out there is important to your long term success.   
  • Don't be nice to your protagonist.  Find out what her worst fear is then inflict it upon her.  
  • Never, ever stop striving to improve your writing.


Links:
My blog
Amazon page for The Adventures of Miss Upton and the Sky Pirate 

Smashwords page for The Adventures of Miss Upton and the Sky Pirate
Amazon page for The Mercenary's Price
Smashword page for The Mercenary's Price 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gothic Deliciousness: Megan Chance's The Spiritualist

Despite being set in 1850's New York City, Megan Chance's novel The Spiritualist has a delicious gothic atmosphere that draws the reader in right from the beginning and doesn't let go until the very satisfying end. Evelyn Atherton, the intelligent daughter of a New York detective, shocks society by marrying into The Ten, one of the Knickerbocker families that dominate New York society, with her marriage to handsome lawyer Peter Atherton. But the marriage soon proves disappointing. Peter is away from home a lot both for business, he tells Evie, and in pursuit of his fascination with spiritualism.

Spiritualism was a popular Victorian-era pastime among New York Society and the most fashionable social events often featured mediums and mesmerists who acquired a celebrity status and were much coveted by fashionable people. Michel Jourdain was one of these, a dashingly handsome Creole medium/mesmerist he was quickly “acquired” by Dorothy Bennett, one of society's grande dames, who was famous for her “circles” starring her pet medium. Evie, desperate to understand her distant husband, attends a circle with him one night and the story takes off from there. A bullet is fired, chaos ensues, and Peter sends Evie home assuring her he will get to the bottom of this. What he gets to the bottom of is the river, stripped of his jewelry and stabbed many times.

The Atherton family promptly descends on Evie, has her arrested for her husband's murder, and gets her out of the family home which they intend to reclaim along with Peter's very significant inheritance. Evie, after a wretched stay in The Tombs, is given refuge by Dorothy Bennett where she intends to spy on Michel, who, Peter's law partner Benjamin assures her, is a mountebank and most likely Peter's murder. Evie is caught in an increasingly complicated web in the rarefied air of the mansion belonging to elderly, ailing Mrs. Bennett who is, quite obviously, in love with Michel -- whom she plans to adopt.

I have to say I was as bad as Dorothy and Evie – I fell under Michel's spell, too, and was absolutely mesmerized (pun intended) by this sexy, dark, mysterious mesmerist. The entire story of Evie's attempts to find the truth about her husband's murder and unravel the complicated and perverse relationships of the society into which she married is told with both elegance and grit. The gothic settings – from spiritualist circles in Upper East Side mansions to the seedy, dark back alleys of the forbidden parts of the city – lend an atmosphere of evil and perversity that had me enthralled.

I had previously read and loved Ms. Chance's novels Susannah Morrow and An Inconvenient Wife and loved both of them so I'm pleased to say The Spiritualist is every bit as delicious. The characters are well-developed, the language lovely. and the plot filled with twists and turns. Plus Michele Jourdain is just plain hot. His seduction of Evie is both diabolical and erotic – and ultimately completely tantalizing. Loved the book and highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading.

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