Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

17 December 2014

Any Flat Surface




by Robert Lopresti

Still thinking about Bouchercon.  (When you only blog every other week this kind of postmortum can take time.)

Attached you will find a photo of Catherine Dilts, standing in front of a mountain of carrier bags.  This picture was taken at Bouchercon, and is used by her gracious permission.

You see, upon arriving at one of these hootenannies you receive a specially made goody bag (just like the Oscars!) containing information and a whole bunch of free books.  Different bags get different books, all random. Inevitably some of the books will not match up perfectly with your reading preferences.

I heard one conference-goer asking: "Will there be a swap table for books?"

The volunteer replied: "Any flat surface."

Which brings up the odd phenomena of the book as physical object at these events.  Upstairs there is the Dealers' Room, filled with wonderful people who have traveled, in some cases, thousands of miles for the chance to sell you books. At least one had a long, lovely display of old and rare volumes. 

But all around the hotel there are publishers eagerly giving away books, in the hopes of getting you to read the rest of a series. 

Many years ago I visited a publisher's office and an editor asked "Have you read so-and-so?"  He took me into a little storeroom and started piling books into my arms, like I had won the grand prize on some quiz show.  I was flabbergasted.  Weren't they supposed to be trying to sell the things?

Back to the recent Bouchercon.  Someone did set up a few swap tables and, to my astonishment they did not fill up.  A dozen books would appear and then, a few minutes later most would be gone.  I expected that on Sunday, the last day of the fest, there would be a stack-up as people decided which books fit in their luggage for the plane.  But it hadn't happened by the time I left.  I am guessing that this conference (in Long Beach, an hour from L.A.) had a higher than usual percentage of attendees traveling by car.  So they had plenty of room for another dozen or so extra titles.

There was a mailing service there, as well, happy to box up your books and ship them home.  I took advantage of that. All the illustrations in the blog today are books that were giveaways - except one gift -- Thanks, Kate Thornton!

Last time I went to a Bouchercon the swap table was piled with tomes on the last day.  As I was shuffling through them I found an ARC (advance reader copy) of the new unpublished Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block.  As I grabbed it up I remember thinking: 1) who didn't want a copy of that? and 2) where the hell was I when they were giving them out?

It's weird how we feel about these remnants of dead trees.  Almost every day I bring one to put on the freebie pile in my library, hoping some college student will enjoy it.  Others I cherish and have carried along with me since high school.  And some books I am happy to read on my tablet and never own in a tangible form.

Back when I was even younger than I am now I remember buying a hardcover book at an event and taking it to the author to be signed.  His proud publisher was standing next to him.   "Oh, you'll enjoy that one!" said the publisher. 

"I know," I said.  "I already read it."

They stared at me. 


"I don't buy a hardcover unless I know I want to keep it."

Well, money was tight in those days.  And by God, I still have that book.

How about you?  Which ones do you keep and which do you give away?



01 December 2014

Holiday Blues


Jan Grape
My good friend, Harlan Coben had an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times on Thursday and he graciously gave me permission to quote from it. I'll actually take advantage and use the whole article and  along the way make comments.
RIDGEWOOD, NJ - THANKSGIVING weekend in1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist  -- the book signing table at a Waldenbook in a suburban New Jersey mall.

[Have any of you had this experience?]

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling.

[If I had know Harlan back then, I would have advised him to try his best to speak to people as they walked by. It's not easy if you're shy, but you just have to push yourself. Think of yourself as an actor playing the part of a well-known author signing books.]

I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can't teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime,

[Maybe offer to give each one walking by a free bookmark and sign it for them. One of my big show stoppers is to ask someone, "Do you read mysteries?" If they say yes, then I point to my book. If they say no, then I say, I'll bet you know someone who does. This will take care of your Christmas list or their birthday list or Father's, Mother's Day? You know, improvise your holiday.]

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new-first novel -- Waldenbooks knew not to order too many -- stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbook lights, the early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child -- "you could buy his book or you could turn the page."

Time didn't just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home., an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where's-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man's gaze drifted over my shoulder, "What's that like?"

"Excuse me."

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

"Right," I said.

He shook his head in awe. "That's my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore." He lowered his gaze and met my eye. "So what's that like?"

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled and shook his head again. "Lucky," he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn't buy a book. He didn't have to.
 [Harlan Coben is the NY Times best-selling author of   MISSING YOU, TELL NO ONE and the forthcoming title THE STRANGER]

And I know for a fact that Harlan doesn't sit unnoticed anymore at any book signing. When you feel alone at a book signing, think about what you MUST do to make it a fun experience. Bring along a bowl of chocolate kisses or some peppermint candy. Have some ball point pens made with your name and book title printed on them and hand those out when you catch someone's eye. You don't have to give out everyone of them but one every ten or fifteen minutes or so won't wreck your pocketbook.
Have some free bookmarks or postcards to give to everyone. You have to do more to promote yourself than just sit there like a bump on a log. Get creative. If you can't think of anything ask a friend or relative who is a craft person. You know...sell your book.

That's my best advice for the moment. See you next time.

[Harlan's article used with permission from Mr. Coben.]

26 November 2014

Tinker Tailor, Soldier Sailor


Musings, perhaps, less than a coherent whole, but bear with me.
I was a big fan of LeCarre's from the get-go, with THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, although I remember throwing the book across the room when I finished it. I later liked A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY a lot, because by then I was familiar with the turf, both physical and internal, but I didn't much care for THE LOOKING GLASS WAR, and actually for similar reasons - I knew sources and methods, and I found the tradecraft in the book unconvincing. Then came TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY, and SMILEY'S PEOPLE (collectively, the Quest for Karla), and next, my own personal favorite, THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL. "Sooner or later, they say in the trade, a man will sign his name."

LeCarre's been well-served, by and large, by movie and television adaptions.  THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, with Richard Burton and Oskar Werner, is bracing and intelligent. THE DEADLY AFFAIR (adapted from CALL FOR THE DEAD) is even better - James Mason as George Smiley, although the character's given a different name. LOOKING GLASS WAR? Well, okay, it's got Tony Hopkins, but I think it's a dud. LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, the movie? Not a failure, by any means, just a little out of focus, and abbreviated, of necessity, with a 130-minute runtime. Which brings us to the two back-to-back triumphs, Alex Guinness playing Smiley in the BBC miniseries, first TINKER TAILOR and then SMILEY'S PEOPLE.

What did I think of the more recent feature version of TINKER TAILOR, with Gary Oldman? I have two contradictory reactions. If you didn't know the story, you'd get lost in the thickets. On the other hand, not knowing the story, you wouldn't realize what you're missing. Having read the book more than once, and seen Guinness more than once, I kept noticing holes in the plot - how did Smiley get from Point A to Point B, when they left out the roadmap? But again, if you came to the movie without preconceptions, it might slide right by, nothing in your peripheral vision. The biggest weakness of the Oldman feature isn't Oldman, of course: he's terrific. And the compression, eh, you can't do much about that. The real weakness is in the supporting characters, not the actors, but the parts they play.




Maybe it's comparing apples and oranges. Let's face it, if you give yourself two hours (the movie version), vice five (the BBC version), a lot of stuff is bound to fall by the wayside, but in the TV production, you get a very strong sense of Toby Esterhase and Bill Haydon and Roy Bland, and each of them seem solid, probable suspects - each of them having something to hide, of course - not to mention what a snake Percy Alleline is. That's really what I missed most in the picture, not the careful chess game Smiley plays, but the feeling he's up against a real adversary, or several of them, conspiring.

Obviously, it's easy to take shots at a movie when you don't think it measures up to the book, and there's the obverse, that you can make a better picture out of a generic potboiler than you can from a more heavyweight source. They're two very different mediums, anyway. If you've ever tried to do a screen treatment (I've done a couple), you find out first thing that you're in a foreign country, the environment is at right angles to a novel or a short story. But in either case, it seems to me that it's about gaining the confidence of the audience - maybe with a movie, the audience is more passive than a reader is, if your ideal reader is engaged, but you can't let them slip through your fingers, either way. They surrender their trust, and you have a responsibility to play fair, and give as good as you got.


I'm not, in this sense, complaining. I respected the Gary Oldman picture of TINKER TAILOR - I just wasn't invested in it.  It's likely I was just too ready to find it wanting, compared to the longer Guinness version, which has a lot of room to breathe. And maybe that's the issue. It's the difference between total immersion and a quick, chilly dip in the pool. Both have their virtues. In the case of TINKER TAILOR (and SMILEY'S PEOPLE, as well), I think the stories are better served by a circular, more ambiguous method. It's a matter of pacing. Not the shortest distance between two points, or the most direct, but the long way around, a different rhythm, where time is elastic, and memory an unreliable witness.

DavidEdgerleyGates.com

05 November 2014

Sinking in the Amazon


by Robert Lopresti

About a bad habit (one of many) new authors can get into.  For a tune: think sea chantey.

I'm so proud I can hardly speak
My new novel came out last week
At the web I took a peek
To see how the sales went on
    They were low but began to rise
    I thought I was in for a sweet surprise
    All of a sudden, right before my eyes
    I was sinking in the Amazon
  
Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Where have all my readers gone?
I was sinking in the Amazon

My friends swore they would buy my book
Critics said it was worth a look
These sales figures have got me shook
This duckling should be a swan
    Some bad novels are doing well
    But my little masterpiece does not sell
    And while it drops toward the pits of hell
    I am sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Fiction should outsell non-
I am sinking in the Amazon

I stared so hard I began to squint
I wished these numbers would take a hint
I act like the sales race is a sprint
When I know it's a marathon
    Buy my book and the numbers lift
    Pass me by and the patterns drift
    Maybe my Uncle Ed needs a gift!
    I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Is my career a con?
I am sinking in the Amazon

I know that I should be writing more
But now I really can't tell what for
If my books just squat in the big e-store
When they ought to fly hither and yon
    How can I make  my brain gears mesh?
    The spirit's weak and so's the flesh
    I slip to that site and I hit refresh
    And I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Deader than Babylon
Sinking in the Amazon


25 October 2014

The HIGHS and Lows of being an Author


(This was the second half of my Mattress of Ceremonies (MC) address at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference Gala in Toronto this June.  Which was a blast and a half.  I even have a photo of me giving this address.  It actually looks like me, which will be explained below. The Spanish Flamenco outfit cannot be explained.)

We all know the highs.  Those delirious times when you win awards and/or get a royalty cheque that takes you and your family to Europe rather than McDonalds.

I’ve had a few highs this year, winning the Derringer Award and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada.  And I’m exceedingly grateful for them.

Because - thing is - authors get a lot of lows.  It's not just the bad reviews and rejection slips.  For some reason, most of my lows seem to cluster around that scariest of all activities: the book signing.

Some people think the worst thing that can happen is nobody shows up.  Or when you’re on a panel of 4 authors, and only three people show up.

But that’s not the worst.

1.     Worse is when five people show up for your reading.  And they’re all pushing walkers. And half way through, when you’re right in the middle of reading a compelling scene, one of them interrupts, shouting, “When does the movie start?”

Sometimes, even large crowds don’t help.

2.     I did an event this year with two hundred people in the audience.  I was doing some of my standup schtick, and it went over really well.  Lots of applause, and I was really pumped.  I mean, two hundred people were applauding me and my books!  A bunch of hands shot up for questions.  I picked the first one and a sweet young thing popped up from her seat and asked in a voice filled with awe, “Do you actually know Linwood Barclay?”

3.    Another ego-crusher:  I was reading in front of another large crowd last year.  Same great attention, lots of applause.  I was revved.  Only one hand up this time, and she said, in a clearly disappointed voice:

“You don’t look anything like your protagonist.”

So I said, “Sweetheart, not only that, I don’t look anything like my author photo.”

4.     One of the best things about being a writer is getting together with other writers to whine about the industry.  I was at The Drake in Toronto this year with a bunch of other Canadian crime writers, Howard Shrier, Robbie Rotenberg, Dorothy McIntosh, Rob Brunet… who am I missing?

We were whooping it up in the bar, moaning about the book trade.  Someone bought a round.  And another.  And then I bought a round.  And soon, it became necessary to offload some of the product, so I went looking for a place to piddle.  You have to go upstairs in the Drake to find washrooms, so I gamely toddled up the stairs, realizing that I couldn’t actually see the steps.  I was probably not at my best. 

I made it to the landing at the top and scanned a door in front of me.  It had a big “W” on it. That seemed sort of familiar, but fuzzy, you know?  Then I saw the door to my left.  It had an “M” on it.  So I thought, ‘M for Melodie!’ and walked right in.

Howard, I think you had probably gone by then, but the guy at the urinal asked for my number.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, like The Artful Goddaughter. You should probably buy it because she, like, writes about the mob.

08 September 2014

Introducing Callie Parrish


Last Monday, Jan Grape wrote about the Meet My Character Blog Tour.  Tagged authors write about their main characters by answering questions on their blogs.  The writers then invite one to five other authors to join. Jan tagged me, so here goes:
1.  What is the name of your character?  Is he or she fictional or a historic person?
At the launch for TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR,
THERE'S A BODY IN THE CAR, these Callie fans showed
up dressed as Callie on the left and Jane on the right. They
definitely matched the way I see these characters as I write
about them although Callie is known to dye her hair 
frequently so is occasionally blond.
The main character of my first six books is fictional Callie Parrish. Her full name is Calamine Lotion Parrish.  When her mother died giving birth to their sixth child, Callie's father got drunk--really drunk. This was his first daughter and the only thing female he could think of was the color pink.  The only pink that came to mind was Calamine Lotion.  Callie frequently thanks heaven that Pa didn't think of Pepto Bismol.  If you don't recognize the particular shade of pink in front of me in the above picture, it's a Victoria's Secret pink bag which contained a gift from Jane.  

2.  When and where is the story set? 

Callie's adventures are set in contemporary times and primarily in the fictional town of St. Mary located near coastal Beaufort, SC. In the series, Callie and her BFF, visually handicapped Jane Baker, have encountered murders in other places such as a bluegrass festival on Surcie Island and a casket manufacturer in North Carolina.

4.  What should we know about him/her?

Callie works as a cosmetician/Girl Friday at Middleton's Mortuary for her twin bosses, Otis and Odell Middleton.  After graduating from St. Mary High School, she left St. Mary to attend the university in Columbia, SC, where she married and worked for several years as a kindergarten teacher. After her husband "did what he did" to make her divorce him, she returned to St. Mary where she spends time with Jane, her daddy, her five brothers, and whoever she's dating. She likes working at the funeral home better than teaching kindergarten because the people she works with at Middleton's lie still instead of jumping around all the time, don't yell or cry, and don't have to tee-tee every five minutes.

Callie's time teaching five-year-olds led her to stop using some of the language she grew up with living in a house with only her father and five older brothers.  Instead, she "kindergarten cusses," which consists of "Dalmation!" when she's irritated and "Shih tzu!" when she's extremely annoyed. She has a Harlequin Great Dane dog who's named Big Boy though he acts more like a girl dog. Callie is a talented banjo player and vocalist, but she's not perfect. She can't cook, and she's flat-chested which led her to wear inflatable bras because she's scared of breast-augmentation surgery.

5.  What is the personal goal of this character?

In the first books, Callie's goals (besides solving murders and her own personal survival as well as Jane's) were to convince Jane to stop shoplifting and to comfort families by providing peaceful memory pictures of their deceased relatives. She also wanted a closer relationship with her redneck father and to meet a romantic interest as unlike her ex-husband as possible.  She achieved these goals except finding the right romantic interest, but she's still looking.

6.  Can we read about this character yet? 


The top three Callies were published by Berkley Prime Crime, and the
first three on the bottom row were published by Bella Rosa Books.  
 Kudzu River is not a Callie Parrish mystery.  In fact, it's as far from cozy
as possible.  Kudzu River is a novel of abuse, murder, and retribution 
that's scheduled for release by Odyssey South Publishing in November.  
The six Callie Parrish mysteries are all available electronically. The first three are out-of-print, but used copies can sometimes be found on Amazon.  Callie books four through six are available in print and electronically from Bella Rosa Books and on Amazon.

7.  Who do you tag?

I've tagged Janice Law, and her Character Blog will appear right here on Monday, September 22, 2014.  A surprise Character Blog is scheduled for my first Monday in November.  If you're interested in participating in the Meet Your Character Blog Tour, let me know. 

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you. 

04 August 2014

Outside the Box… umm… the Store


Jan GrapeWhen it comes time to set up a signing for your new book, your first book or your latest book. Why not try some creative thinking?

There's no set rule that you MUST do a signing in a bookstore.  Of course, I'm not saying to leave your favorite mystery bookstore or even your favorite big box bookstore. Just wanting you to think a little outside the box for extras.

When we owned Mysteries & More, I had several signings there for my anthologies and for my non-fiction edited books, The Art of Murder and Deadly Women. I enjoyed signing at my own store and I also signed in Houston at Murder by the Book. I signed at mystery bookstores in Dallas, San Diego, Kansas City, Scottsdale, Bethesda, St. Louis,  and New York City. I was determined to help my fellow writers and my fellow independent bookstore owners sell a few books even if I didn't have a novel published. I'd set up signings with other anthology authors, authors who did have a novel out, and my co-editors. Usually we did panels talking about writing. By having three or four authors, the crowd will grow larger because of each person's fan following.

I tried to come up with promotional items to give to customers and bookstore owners for myself and others. When we operated the store we got many, many promo items. There were writing pens and pencils, key chains, postcards, bookmarks, caps, t-shirts, coozies, little pins to wear that had the book covers on it.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the little rubber jar opener promoting Deadly Women that I came up with and it was a hit. Eileen Dreyer gave away a ball point pen that looked like an actual hypodermic syringe filled with medicine, which was the blue ink. Promotions are good ideas to give away but how about where you hold a signing?

My first book came out and I decided to have a launch party at the bowling center where I'd bowled in leagues for years. They had a party room and we sent out invitations and an awesome crowd showed up… about sixty people, I think.

The beauty salon where I had my hair done wanted to host a book signing party for me. I said, sure, why not? Three years later when my second book came out, we had moved into our RV full time and traveled in the summer, but came back to the Hill Country in the fall and winter. Once again, I did a signing at a bowling center where we now bowled.

When we still owned the bookstore, a writer friend, the late Nancy Bell, was the house mother of a sorority house at the University of Texas for ten years. When her first book came out, we had her launch party for her first book at the sorority house.

Another creative place I had a signing was at the SPA Yoga center where I go. I once also signed on the patio of a restaurant and inside the same restaurant when the next book came out.

I've signed four years at a music festival that a singer/songwriter hosted several years and always invited book writers along with the musicians he invited.

Guess you get the idea that you can do book signings almost anywhere. All you need is a willing host,  a rather busy location and someone to sell the books for you. If you don't have a local indie bookstore who will order books for you, last resort order them from your publisher yourself. But you usually don't get credit for books sold if you, the author buys from the publisher. Just think outside the box… uh store and sell those books.

Groaner of the day: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, —  one to screw it almost all the way and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

26 May 2014

The End


Jan Grape
The beginning of your book is where your ending starts.  Yes, class, I know that sounds weird but think about it for a minute. I hope that you have your main character find a body or get notified there's a body. Someone likely needs to be killed in the first chapter or at least in the first fifty pages of your book. Of course, maybe your mystery isn't a murder mystery but a kidnapping or a bank robbery or a thriller where someone important is about to be killed.  If so, that's fine. Whatever your book is, and it might even been a romantic suspense or a futuristic suspense, the beginning of your book is where your ending starts.
The first chapter or chapters presents the problem. Something bad has happened or is going to happen and your main character is going to have to take care of the problem. Solve the murder, find the robbers, win the girl or the guy, whatever. Your book is going to open with the main character having a vested interest somehow, come hell or high water, making sure he or she wins the day. That's what I mean by saying your ending starts with the beginning.

Immediately you want to give your main character an emotional reason to solve the case or in the case of a police character or a private eye, it's the job and they won't get paid unless the case is solved. It's more meaningful to the reader,, however even if the investigator gets paid, that the main reason to go all out is somehow there's emotional involvement. The victim is someone known to the main character or to another character who is close to the main character. Or the baby kidnapped belongs to the sister of the protagonist. Or the bank robbery is taking place where the main character's mother works. Something that makes it important to the main character.

The way you get from the beginning to the ending is by writing an exciting and intriguing middle. And I won't spend much time talking about that because that's your story.  I just thought I'd tell you a little bit that I've learned about endings.

Honestly, I think most of you know how to write great endings. I have read two or three best-selling authors who, in my opinion, never learned how to end a book. And no, I'm not going to name names because that's not what this article is about. Maybe one day later I'll do an article on that… NOT.

So, you've got your great beginning and you've told your reader why this mystery must be solved.  Once you've built intrigue and peopled your book with dynamic characters and led them through great scenery and intrigues for the middle portion of your story. You've thrown one complication after another at your main character, it's time to build the final climax and end the book.

You've led your reader down one path and then another and you finally know whodunit you must remember this is the make or break point. You want your readers to feel satisfied, that justice prevailed. My all time belief is that one reason mysteries are so popular is because the bad guy or gal loses. Good guy or gal wins the day and that doesn't happen often enough in real life. We want to see justice.

So bring your main character to the point of no return. The last complication paints your protagonist into a corner where it looks like there is absolutely no way out. The tension and suspense need to build to the highest ever. He or she knows it's time to face the bad guy, but do you go the easy way or the hard way. You'd likely be better off to choose the hard way because your reader is going to throw your book across the room when they read that last line if not. They have been with you all the way and they want a satisfying ending. They don't want the case handed to the protagonist on a silver platter. But somehow the right solution is there for the main character to show the reader and to stop a miscarriage of justice. You don't necessarily have to kill the bad guy although there is a lot of satisfaction in that, especially if the bad guy is really evil. But stopping the villain from leaving by tackling and handcuffing and calling for police can also be satisfying.

Be sure you've covered the motivation of the villain. Most bad guys aren't one hundred percent bad. A redeeming quality makes them more real. You might even feel a little sorry as you put on the handcuffs but then again, maybe not. The villain may not need to tell the main character why they killed the victim but somewhere along the line that motivation came up. Maybe in a diary or journal or on the personal computer your main character found and read before the villain caught your main character.

Be sure you cover the motivation of your main character. Their emotional involvement has been there all throughout the book, even if just to get a big payday or a big promotion or win the love of a lifetime. Don't forget to tie up loose ends. You may have to do this with the main characters side-kick or best pal or love interest. Mainly remember you only want this final bit to be short and sweet, only a few pages long. You want to let the reader know that the main character gets the big payday or promotion or the love of a lifetime.

Then the last line or paragraph can be the pat on the back or the check to put in the bank or the main character gets a kiss and loving embrace. It's always nice if your last line can have a touch of humor.
Thanks for listening, class, now let's all go have a glass of wine.

09 March 2014

Book Posters


by Leigh Lundin

Once again, today’s article was suggested by a note from a reader: What if book blurbs read like movie posters?

The idea grew out of a web page which poses such teasers as: “This Guy Didn’t Tell His New Governess About His Secret Wife In The Attic. What Happened Next Really Burned Him Up,” and “A Guy With Two First Names Proves ‘Nymphet’ Is The Grossest Word In English.” (Don't want to guess? Here's the full list.)

Since my colleagues are all Very Serious Writers who’d never stoop to such shenanigans, I began to ponder. Yes, I think I can really help the publishing industry.



Alice would eat and drink anything, especially anything psychedelic. It would become her undoing. Alice
Cinderella She took her secret shoe fetish a step too far.
A boy with a shadowy past, no future, and a mean right Hook, meets Wendy, the girl of his dreams. Peter Pan
Star Wars You’ve devoted your entire life to consolidating your rule over the universe, only to be thwarted by your own son. Kids!
A teenage angst-ridden rebel-with-a-cause finds his dad is a real pain in the a––… Arm? Star Wars
Harry Potter A British Lord one step from conquering the world has to handle one small boy with an unusual birthmark. How hard could it be?
Political advisors both heartless and brainless guide one girl onto a bloody path of destruction. Wizard of Oz
Snow White Seven men couldn’t satisfy one white girl’s unnatural cravings; it would take an eighth.


What would your ads look like?

03 March 2014

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire


Some of the fiction writers I know claim that we are "licensed to lie."  Today I'm giving you the opportunity to tell when I'm fibbing and when I'm not.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read the following accounts of four events that happened at my book signings and choose the one that did not happen.  Three of them are true.  The first person to correctly identify the false event will receive a copy of Callie's latest: A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree.

THE MINK COAT

At a book signing for Callie's Christmas book last November, I looked up and saw the retired secretary from a school where I taught over twenty-five years ago.  I immediately jumped up and hugged her before I saw that her son stood behind her with a garment bag.  I had lent the mink coat my mother-in-law gave me to the secretary.  I transferred schools and the years passed.  The secretary (now retired) said she saw an interview with me in Free Times that gave info about the signing so she wanted to buy the new book, have her copies of the others autographed, and return my coat. The owner of the book store said that's the first time ever that a fan brought an author a mink coat to a signing in that store.  The only problem is that I'm afraid if I wear it anywhere, the PETA people will get me!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?      

I decided to share this with you after reading Rob's column on February 19th about carrying the same characters into a new work. Recently, a Callie fan approached me at a signing and wanted to know why that same Free Times interview mentioned above said that I was working on something very different and would not be writing another Callie anytime soon, if ever.  This writer wanted to know if I would be okay with his writing a Callie following the Christmas story, using the same characters, setting, and hopefully voice.  I would, of course, have the option of Callicizing the voice where necessary and nixing anything that went against the established personalities and habits of the characters. Feeling a little like James Patterson (a very little), I said, "Yes."  

MY YOUNGEST FUTURE FAN



Same book signing:  My orthopedic surgeon's nurse showed up with a beautiful little girl.  Linda introduced the child as her ten-year-old grand-daughter Abigail who was visiting her and wanted to come with her to meet "a real author."  Abigail loves to read and likes to write stories.  To make a long story short, Linda bought Abigail a Callie book with the stipulation that they give it to Abigail's mother to determine when she will be allowed to read it.  The next time I saw Linda at the doctor's office, she told me that Abigail took a picture of her with me to "Show and Tell." The youngest readers before Abigail have been thirteen-year-olds. 

SOMEONE ELSE' S STORY

A red-haired woman approached me at a book-signing a year ago.  I expected her to ask me to autograph a Callie book.  Instead, she asked me to write a book for her.  I went into my usual spiel that she would do a better job of putting her story on paper than I would, but we agreed to meet in the coffee shop after the signing.  Writers are frequently approached to write or co-write someone else's story.  Most of the time, we decline politely, but there was something about this woman that made me hesitate to dismiss her so quickly

Upon a Midnight is Julie Bates's story, and it's like nothing I've written before.  Julie and I wound up together many days as I made notes and recordings, and since then I've spent countless nights alone with my computer, scaring myself as I wrote Julie's story from her point of view.  It's scheduled for release in about twelve months. 


Okay, dear readers, cast your vote for the false anecdote in the comments section.  I'll notify the winner how to send me a mailing address for your prize.


Until we meet again, take care of… you!

22 July 2013

Books On Writing


Jan Grape
I've often found that books that talk about how to write are useful. Through the years I've bought quite a few of them. I honestly don't use them much anymore, but they sit there on my bookshelf and make my office look writerly.
To name a few: Writing the Novel, From Plot to Print and Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, both books are by Award winning author, Lawrence Block; From Printout to Published, by Michael Seidman; Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain; How to Write a Mystery by Larry Beinhart; Break Writer's Block NOW, by Jerrold Mundis, Writing the Thriller by T. Macdonald Skillman.  Then I have The Crime Writers' Practical Handbook of Technical Information, Edited by John Kennedy Melling.  There's also The Courage to Write by Ralph Keys, Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico and Stephen King's book, On Writing.

All of these books are 12-15 years old but the information is still excellent. I'll admit I don't look at any of them very often, however, if I do feel stuck when starting a new book and I'm trying to work out characters or plot, I'll pull out one of these oldies but goodies and see what I can relearn.

I think it's satisfying to pull out a book like Block's book on novel writing and reading what he says on building characters. The main reason readers keep turning pages of a book is to see what happens next, and the main reason a reader cares what happens next is because they like the characters or a least the main character and they care what happens to that character. It's not easy to make your characters real or as editors often say three-dimensional. Your  characters must have something about them that a reader can relate to, or understand, or laugh with or at least care about.

We all know that we draw from real people we know. A certain look, a mannerism, a gesture yet we seldom incorporate a real person into a character. We could be sued for something like that. I once had an author tell me he's used a mannerism of mine for a character in his book. This was back when I used to smoke (20 years ago) I would set my elbow on a table with a cigarette in my hand. It was a small thing that I didn't realize that I did but I obviously did it often enough that the writer noticed it and used it. Of course, I had to buy the novel when it came out just to real that tidbit.

I like to people watch and used to go to big shopping malls to watch. One day, I noticed a man who kept rubbing his hands, both of them, over his almost bald head. I don't know if he was checking to see if he still had hair there or if it just felt good to feel his head. It was a gesture I used in a story I was writing at the time. If I remember correctly it was a minor character but I think it added to that character becoming more real.

Some times you write about a small town where people know just about everyone and although you are NOT writing about any town you where you may have lived, you'll probably be asked if Jane Doe is really Jane Smith that everyone know is a gossip. Or they'll say your town is really Georgetown or Johnson City or Kingsland isn't it?  And no, you really made up the whole town. Or someone will ask, where is Pioneer City and like my late friend, Barbara Burnett Smith used to say, I just smile and say it's about forty miles west of Austin.

Time is running out and I need to sign off as I can't sit still too long. I'm on my new computer and it has Windows 8 but since I'm only writing on our blog site, I'm not having any big trouble. And class if you ever have any doubts when starting a new book or a new story, look  on your bookshelf  or look online and see if you can find a good book on writing to download. I'll bet you get some great ideas. Until next time. Keep Writing.



08 July 2013

Computer in a Box


Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Do you over research things? I do. Especially when I'm going to spend some money. I've been trying to decide on what computer to buy for over two months. Okay, I haven't spent everyday on it, but every few days and at least twice a week. Do you have any idea how many different laptops there are? Seems every company in the electronic businesss makes a laptop. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Panasonic, Lovoto, Lenovo, Toshiba, Samsung, and of course Apple's MacBooks and their iMac. I'm sure I've left out a half dozen more. There are laptops and notebooks and Idea Books and something called Twist and Shout, I kid you not.

So my idea was to find a lightweight machine with a bit of fast power, a fair amount of HD memory and a price I could handle. I determined a reasonable amount that I could afford and my top figure was five hundred dollars. I knew when I added tax and product insurance protection and perhaps some tech support insurance, that $500 would quickly run up to seven, eight hundred. And I'd still have to get software programs. Most don't come with software installed anymore, except perhaps anti-virus.

Now there're things like i3, i5 and i7 Intel processors. There's 5 GB this and 740 GB that and touch and no-touch and other things with strings of letters and numbers for CDs and DVD and ways you can burn those and USB ports galore and gaming whatevers and HD webcams with dual tone microphones. Not to even mention Windows 8 which people say is so hard to use and a few computer which still use Windows 7.

Before long my head was spinning like that girl in The Exorcist. Surely you can understand why I couldn't research every day because it was absolutely confusing, One day this past week, I managed to chat with a Question and Answer person at Dell who after two hours helped me decide which of their laptop would be just exactly what I needed. I then tried to order it and had trouble getting shipping address set up. One of the main reasons I thought I'd go with Dell is I've had 3 Dell laptops and before that a Dell desktop. I've had excellent luck with all of them and the tech support has been wonderful. But after another hour online and I couldn't get a laptop ordered I got tired of the whole thing and gave up for that session.

Then a funny thing happened this morning after a late night conversation with my Nashville daughter, and she kept bragging about her Toshiba laptop, I got an e-mail from one of those big box stores, telling about a sale they were having. As luck would a very nice Toshiba laptop that fit all my criteria was on sale within my price range. Even better we have one of those stores in our town of Marble Falls which made their geek guys readily available. I drove over there about 5 pm and about an hour later I drove back home with a computer in a fairly small box.

I'm excited although I know the learning curve will take me twice as long since I'm computer challenged. Yet soon I will be ankle deep in Windows 8 alligators trying to understand exactly what to do.

To make this all more or less on topic of writing, I'll have you know that I've got the third in my Zoe Barrow policewoman series about half-way through its first draft and I came up with an idea for a short story this week and was just waiting for the new laptop to get involved with either project.

It's probably okay to research like crazy if you're planning to spend a chunk of money, but when you're researching for your book or story, don't get too carried away. If you fall in love with your research you'll have a hard time going cold turkey. And if you use too much of your research in your story you can get bogged down. Just do the necessary research and then use it sparingly.

Now off to open this new computer in a box.

03 July 2013

Nine lives of the catalog


by Robert Lopresti


I seldom write here about being a librarian because I hate to brag, but  I recently attended a lecture that seems relevant to us as readers and writers.  Lori Robare of the University of Oregon spoke on "RDA for Non-Catalogers."

RDA is Resource Description and Analysis, a new set of rules for cataloging library material.  (And here I should hasten to say I was at that meeting because I am not a cataloger, so I may be about to get a lot wrong.  Don't blame Lori!)  Until RDA arrived in 2010 library books were cataloged under Anglo-American Catalog Rules (AACR2), which was (were?) created in the 1970s.

Now, think about what libraries were like back then.  The purpose of AACR2 was to cram as much relevant information about a book as possible onto a small card which would go into a cabinet and probably never be seen by anyone outside that library.

How many of the words in that last sentence are still true today?  "Relevant information" is probably about it.  You don't have to cram information into a card because today's catalogs consist of computer records which can be as long as necessary.  So RDA says forget about using abbreviations.  (And while we're at it, throw out Latin.  Few users understood it back in the seventies.)

And why assume you are cataloging a book?  Maybe you are trying to catalog a DVD, a software program, a website, or realia, which in my library could be a jigsaw puzzle, a figurine, or lord knows what else.

Of course, the fact that the catalog is on a computer means that readers -- and librarians -- all over the world can see it, as opposed to that hermetically sealed wooden case that existed in each individual library back in the seventies, so consistency suddenly becomes much more important.

It was in response to changes like this that catalogers decided not to keep revising AACR2, but to try a whole different approach: RDA, which uses a system called FRBR--

Okay, don't sweat it.  I'll make this easy.  Let's say you want to find a book: Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  In FRBR that would be called the work.

So I hand you a copy of the work.  It is titled Män som hatar kvinnor, Men Who Hate Women.  Oh, you didn't want it in the original Swedish?  You would prefer English?  No problem!  But which translation do you prefer:  the English English or the American English?  In FRBR each of these versions is called an expression.  For another example of expressions, think of different recordings of the same song.

You've decided on the popular American translation.  Great!  Hardcover or paperback?  Maybe large-print?  By now you know FRBR has a name for this: it's the manifestation.

Good news!  The library has two copies of the version you want.  And in FRBR each of these is an item.

And somehow  the cataloger has to indicate in the catalog record the work, expression, manifestation and item under discussion.

Easy peasy, no?  What about the movie version of Larsson's book? Is that an expression or a different work?  How about an illustrated edition?  A graphic novel version?

And this brings me to the main reason I am inflicting all this on you.  Lori showed us a diagram made by Barbara Tillett who was, at that time, at the Library of Congress.  She attempted to capture on one page everything that can happen to one little piece of writing.  See if it doesn't blow your mind.


I suppose the only works that have most, much less all of the above, are a small number of  literary classics.  Something we can aspire to, anyway.

30 June 2013

A Totally Digital Library


by Louis Willis

I think I’ve written at least two posts on libraries. I’ll probably write a few more before I am able to give it up because each time I read an article about a library closing or trying to change to keep up with the digital age, I worry. The thought of not being able to hold a paper book unsettles my mind. Of course, a world in which there are no paper books and in which a library goes completely paperless is not likely to happen in my time, but I still worry because I’m a natural worrier. I worry despite the good news that libraries are trying to remain relevant in the coming digital age. One is in fact trying to be the first to go completely digital.

Image courtesy of adamr
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
County leaders in Bexar County Texas are planning to launch the first completely digital public library system called BiblioTech (from Spanish biblioteca). While other libraries have tried to go totally digital, none has succeeded because the users complained about not having access to paper books. Many libraries now lend both paper and ebooks.

BiblioTech will lend ereaders so that users will be able to download the book they want to checkout. They will be allowed to borrow only one book at a time. If they fail to return the ereader, the book will be deleted and the ereader will become just another piece of electronic junk. And, as a county leader noted, the library will have the resident’s name, phone number, and address. Imagine the library police showing up at his or her home to retrieve the purloined ereader. Good luck to Bexar County.

I can’t imagine not being able to hold a paper book in my hands and marking passages I admire. Yet, experience with my nine-year-old grandson tells me paper books might become a thing of the past in a few years. He uses his iPad to read, play games, and do research on animals because he wants to be a zoologist. I sometimes imagine my great grandkids going to a museum to see what a book looked like back in the golden age of paper books.

Two Interesting Library Tidbits 

While reading about libraries, I came across an article on the NPR website about a unique way the town of Basalt, Colorado is trying to save its public library. In addition to books, residents can check out seeds, yep, seeds.

Here in Knox County our public library is battling an interesting problem. Recently a reader found a bedbug in a book, prompting library officials to take action to have the main and all branch libraries inspected to make sure they are free of the little bloodsuckers. Such an extensive inspection will be expensive, so, to save money, they plan to contract with a “canine pest detection service.” Yep, they’ll use dogs to sniff out those little varmints.

Maybe a digital library will not be so bad. No bedbugs. And the books last forever in cyberspace.

07 January 2013

New Project For a New Year





 

We are seven days into the new year, so a blog about resolutions is not really timely, and besides, other SSers have  addressed that issue.  Aside from the moment having passed for my resolutions, most of mine never lasted a full week anyway.

So...why am I going to tell you what I am resolved to do in the next six months?
Probably for two reasons.  First, because I'm excited about it, and second, because I don't really have anything I'd rather share today.

On December 18, 2012, Dale's post "Christmas Stories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" set me thinking.  Why haven't I ever written a Christmas story?  I decided it wasn't too late to remedy that situation, but first, I had to consider whether to write a Callie Christmas story or a pen-name Christmas story. I chose Callie although there's already a Callie book coming out in 2013 --Mother Hubbard Has A CORPSE IN THE CUPBOARD.  

Would Bella Rosa Books publish two Callies in one year?  After all,  the publishing big dogs didn't think Stephen King's readers would want two novels in less than twelve months.    Get real, Fran, I said to myself, you're not a female Stephen King-----damn it!  I called my publisher and explained the situation. 

His response: "We'll do it if you have the completed manuscript to me by June."  That wasn't disturbing  because I wrote my second and third Callies in six months each. It did mean setting aside a half-written project, but it will be there when this is finished. My next concern was a title because while titles of pen-name books usually come to me during the writing and are frequently changed often during the process, I always want a title before beginning a Callie mystery.

Out came the Mother Goose book.  The only rhyme that lent itself to a Christmas theme was "Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie." Nothing there.  Discussing it in the car, Aeden came up with On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me A DEAD MAN UNDER A CHRISTMAS TREE.  My titles have been long in the past, but nothing that long.  Then we got the idea of incorporating the opening words into a visual that might be a cover idea which would get the message across yet diminish the effect of the length of the opening clause.


ON
THE
FIRST
DAY OF
CHRISTMAS MY
TRUE LOVE GAVE
TO
  ME  

A DEAD MAN UNDER
A CHRISTMAS TREE
A Callie Parrish Mystery

I envision the above on a white background with author's name in black Edwardian script at the bottom and a chalk outline of Santa with A DEAD MAN UNDER A CHRISTMAS TREE superimposed over him.  One of the many things I like about Bella Rosa Books is that they give me far more input on production than my previous publishers, while their art department can take an idea and create a professional version of it.


  
Ten axes grinding instead of
ten lords a leapin.'
Seven guns a smokin'
instead of seven
swans a swimmin.'
Singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" all the way to Jacksonville resulted in exchanging the gifts.
Nine doggies howling instead of
nine ladies dancing.
We have substituted mystery/murder presents for each line of the song, and I'm using the new lines as chapter headings.  I won't share them all with you, but the plot and chapter headings are working well together.

What about you?  Did you make resolutions?  Do you have a new project for the new year?


Until we meet again. . . take care of you!

03 December 2012

Cure the Common Cold??


Jan Grape
Okay, I guess I really can't complain, I haven't had a cold in ages. Don't even remember the last time. I've made up for it by having a doozy. On Thanksgiving Day I went to the University of Texas football game where there were thousands and thousands of people. However, my interacting with people was limited to the people in the UT Club, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law who are members. Then it was even more limited to the people who were partaking of the fabulous buffet. But there were still a large number of people any number of whom could have been sharing their cold germs. By last Saturday night, less than 48 hours later my throat was getting sore. Just a little mind you but by Sunday night the throat was raw and the head was stopped up. I had a couple of degrees of fever and felt what could only be described as yucky.
I doctored myself with all my home remedies, Airborne drinks, salt water gargle, sinus medicine, extra vitamin C and by Wednesday the fever was gone and the throat was better and I was on the recovery road. I didn't go out of the house for anything or anyone. Just rested and took care of me. On Thursday evening I needed to go help decorate for a charity event that I'd been involved in since last July. The event was scheduled for Friday, Nov. 30th and was to raise money for the Andy Roddick Foundation. Yes, that super tennis player who lives in Austin. His foundation is building tennis centers for school children and one of the locations is in a small town a few miles down the road from me, but it includes all the small towns and elementary schools in the Hill Country area. Our committee was decorating for a Casino Night Gala to be held in the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls only five miles from my house.

We all worked Thursday evening and knew we need to be back at the pavilion by noon on Friday. On Thursday night late, I realized my cold had moved down to my chest. I wasn't coughing much but just enough to know I probably was losing ground. I ignored it all, could NOT not go help finish the decorations...this was a huge project. And we only had a small number of worker bees. On Friday afternoon I worked as late as I could then rushed home to rest for 15 minutes, then hopped up and dressed in my thirties gun moll best and head over to the gala. It looked fabulous.

We had hired a company who brings roulette, poker and blackjack tables, slot machines and a craps table with all the equipment and dealers and pit bosses needed. We had a silent auction going on with some wonderful items donated for people to bid on and door prizes and donated food and drinks including alcohol. One of our major features besides the gambling was the wonderful musician/singer/songwriter john Arthur martinez and his fantastic Tex-Americana-Mexican-Bluegrass Band. john came in second at the Nashville Star TV show a few years ago. Miranda Lambert, a big country star married recently to another big star, Blake Shelton, came in third. So that lets you know what good company he was in. The winner was a guy named Buddy Jewel.

I helped at the sign-in table taking tickets, greeting the close to two hundred people who attended the $100 per ticket crowd. The tickets included a gaming chip worth $10,000 (only at this event not at any place else.) Then the chips you won you traded in at the end of the evening for tickets which  then were drawn for prizes. The ticket also included all the food and drink, you could also dance or listen to the music, visit with people and bid on the silent auction items, all of which were great items. I made two lovely baskets with copies of my books, 2 small bottles of wine, a package of hot chocolate, a sack of chocolate gold coins and a purple Christmas ornament and donated those for the auction. I also did something this group had never heard of, but authors do it a mystery conventions all the time. I auctioned the right to be named a character in my work in progress. It was a hit and we got a nice price for it.

By the end of the night however I was exhausted and my cold was dragging me down. Still no fever or cough so am hoping I didn't share. I stayed afterwards, helping clean up for as long as I could, and happy because our event was a success and everyone had a good time. Got home and went to bed and stayed there for twelve hours. Didn't sleep solid that  time but slept as much as I could and got some needed rest.

Yet my cold is still with me, I tried not to share it with anyone all week so am still hoping I'll get better soon. I got some new medicine and a refill of another one today. BUT why oh why can't someone come up with a cure for the common cold? Maybe some company needs to offer a ten million dollar prize to the person who cures the cold. If I were rich I'd offer it. If I were a scientist I'd go for it. Until then, try to stay away from germs...they are unhealthy.



ONE FINAL BIG NOTE: Congratulations to our own Robert Lopresti for winning the 2012 Black Orchid's Novella award. Way to go, Rob!!

26 November 2012

Write Your Name Right Here


Shannon as Callie, Fran as Fran, Barbie as Jane        
Several people inquired about the picture of Callie used in my guest blogger post four weeks ago. The young lady shown as the face of Callie Parrish is actually named Shannon.   As John and several other SS'ers have mentioned, one of the fun things about having a book published is book signings.  My first one was at a local Walden's, where I sat at a very small table in the doorway.  Customers couldn't miss me because I blocked the entrance to the store.  The staff treated me great, and we sold all the copies of my first book that they'd ordered.  I also gave away a Moon Pie with each book.

Since that first one in 2007, I've enjoyed signings in lots of places.  They were all fun and they all  gave me the opportunity to visit with some wonderful people.  Today I want to share just a few of those events.

The Callielac
Most of you are familiar with my friend Linda (yes, she's the one who was murdered in 2009).  Memorable book signings in 2007 and 2008 featured Linda with the Fran Rizer Fan Club who carried signs that said, "We Love Callie."  They would show up wearing black sequined funeral veils outside the B&N or BaM before I arrived in the "Callielac," which is actually a souped up Corvette driven by my friend Chuck.  I wrote Chuck and that Corvette into the fourth book.

My first book was written after I retired from teaching.  At a signing at The Happy Bookseller (an indie that has closed and is dearly missed) a group of my former colleagues attended as a group.  That was a special treat for me.

So booksignings were always fun experiences, but as the cliche goes, you ain't seen nothing yet! The McCormick, SC, Friends of the Library invited me to speak and sign books with a reception following the talk.  Imagine my surprise when I stepped into the auditorium and saw a closed casket, complete with casket spray, in front of the podium!  My protagonist, Callie Parrish, works  as a cosmetician for Middleton's Mortuary.   Friends of the Library were stationed around the room role-playing characters from the Callie Parrish mysteries.

The lady who portrayed Jane was sitting at a desk with a telephone.  Of course she wore a red wig and dark glasses.  A Victoria's Secret bag by her side spilled out all kinds of lingerie, especially Dixon's favorite color--sheer. Jane is Callie's BFF.  She's visually impaired, or as Callie says, "to call a spade a flippin' shovel, she's totally blind."  Leigh, you'll be glad to know that Jane gives up her wicked ways in the fifth book due out in spring, 2013.  No, she hasn't quit her job as a telephone "fantasy actress," but she does stop shoplifting at Victoria's Secret and promise the sheriff she's quit for good.

Another great thing about book signings is
meeting fantastic young authors like
Heidi W. Durrow, winner of many prizes
including Amazon Best Book of the Month
in February,2010, for her first novel,
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.
No, Liz, there are no recipes in the Callie books, but recipes for foods mentioned in each book are shown on the website.  The Friends of the Library had adapted those recipes to finger foods which were served at the reception including little one-inch squares of sweet potato pone and Jane's "Killer Meatballs."  Character Tyrone Profit's favorite low country Fresh Tomato Pie consists of fresh red tomatoes (Not all southerners like their tomatoes green and fried.) with a little salt, pepper, and tarragon. The tomatos are layered in a pie shell, topped with a parmesan cheese mixture, and baked to scrumptious deliciousness.  A great dish, but not exactly finger foods-----unless, like those ladies in McCormick, the pie was made in petite tart shells.  I've been serving those individual bite-sized tomato pies at parties ever since then.

My number one fan who is
always at my signings is
my grandson, Aeden.
The photo at the top was taken at a Book Launch in 2011, which was held at Jamestown Coffee Company. The late Leonard Jolley and I launched his coming of age novel Soul of Clay (available at Amazon.com) and my fourth Callie Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, THERE'S A BODY IN THE CAR together on a Sunday afternoon with Ray Wade doing readings from both books, lots of splendid coffees, plenty of food, and over one hundred, fifty people.  Among the guests were my friends Shannon as Callie. Barbie as Jane, and Chuck as, you guessed it, Chuck.  It was a wonderful event, and there's no way to top that for the fifth book due out in 2013.

When I used to book rock 'n roll bands, we joked about someday being so famous that fans asked them to sign various body parts.  I've been told, "Write your name right here," by folks who handed me a cocktail napkin, but not on any body parts (yet!)

What about you?  Got any stories to share about book signings or launch parties?  Or any ideas for my next one?

Until we meet again...take care of you!