What's in Store

Meet the Authors, Writers Doing Right, Book Reviews and More!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Mystery About Manners

From http://fearlessmen.com/opening-a-door-for-a-woman/
Manners. They are little actions that seem so small they can hardly be expected to make a difference. Some are simple niceties, such as a man opening the car door for a woman, and some are signs of respect, such as when a man removes his hat as a funeral procession passes. Actually, most acts attributed to  manners and etiquette are born out of a respect for others.

Women don't wear white to weddings so as not to draw attention from the bride. We dress nicely for church out of respect for God.  

These days, manners are considered old-fashioned. Stand when a lady enters the room? First, you've got to find a lady. But manners - or the lack of them - are the driving force behind Edward Harlow in Civility Rules.

Edward writes advice books on etiquette under the pseudonym Aunt Civility. He limits his public appearances to groups of like-minded people, because he thinks that the average person is a cretin. There are times when I'm inclined to agree. Somewhere along the line, society decided that manners were pretentious. Fake.

Not so. Not only are they necessary for civil discourse, they raise the image of the person using them.
That's why parents teach their children manners on a daily basis. They have hopes that their precious pearls won't turn out to be slobs. Don't chew with your mouth open. Don't swear. Wait your turn. The payoff is an adult whose company others are happy to share.

Nicholas, Edward's brother and the more cynical of the two, believes that Edward is fighting a losing battle. People have become crass and lazy. They are more interested in self-satisfaction than in any discomfort they may cause others. However, he does admit that manners, when they are present, are contagious.

Think about it. If  you are conversing with someone who is polite and keeps foul language out of the conversation, sooner or later you're going to catch on and do the same. If you've ever dressed up for the opera or a play or even dinner, don't you find your that your behavior rises to the occasion?

Of course, when Edward's routine is disrupted by murder, he's stymied. Etiquette experts never addressed sudden and violent death.

Who is the rudest person you've ever encountered? Did you respond civilly? I'd love to hear about your triumph!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Reward Card for Readers?

Most of the grocery stores in my area have gotten rid of their customer rewards programs. In some socialistic venture, they've decided that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who enters the store deserves the same great prices as someone who returns week after week, struggling to find where they've moved the bar soap this week.

Ralphs (Kroger) still has their rewards program, and I have to admit to a certain childish anticipation as I wait for my **special** discount to be deducted from my total. I feel, somehow, that I've earned it. It's my prize for not driving to Vons for cheaper grapes.

And why shouldn't I reap the benefits of a loyal customer?  Why should the weaker members of the herd, the ones who aren't bold enough to spill their personal information in exchange for that coveted card, receive the same perks?

I think loyal readers would like the same treatment, but what kind of rewards program could a writer come up with?  If my books are sold on Amazon (and they are) I can only discount the price for everybody, and where's the fun in that?

It appears that the only reward a writer can give are extras. Right now, I am giving away a behind-the-scenes look at the real animals that inspired the characters in my pet psychic mysteries. Instead of a lengthy application, readers give me their email address as they sign up for my newsletter and updates. Not just anybody can get a copy.

If you're a reader, what else would you like to get from the writers whose books you patronize? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Frustrating Facebook Dilemma and Split Personalities

A few years back, I innocently started a Facebook page. If I'm honest, I think a friend told me about Farmville, and it was the only way I could play along with her. It was also a convenient place to catch up with my extended family and my writer friends, but soon there were too many posts to keep up with,

Then I got the bright idea to start the Jacqueline Vick - Author page, I'd be able to post updates to my writing and keep it separate from the social news coming from family and friends. I delved in without proper research, so I wound up with another page, not a fan page, that required a separate sign in.

Fast forward to the day I became an administrator on the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church Facebook page. I had to connect with an invite in order to be an administrator, Since it wouldn't work with my personal page,  I connected with my author page. For months, I was terrified to post anything on my own page for fear it would show up in St. Kateri's feed. And, as it took a different sign in, I stopped going to my personal page, which was where most of my contacts were.

I recently started a page for Walking Rosary Designs, my jewelry site. I discovered I could attach it to my author page and go back and forth between them. How cool! Except now I have too many pages to keep up with.

Do I annoy my friends and family by inviting them to my author page, where they will see posts about my writing? Or do I lump everyone into my personal page, and share my  attempts to make pretzels with my writing associates (some of whom are friends.)

Does anyone else have multiple pages? Have you figured out how to run the gauntlet without a complete meltdown?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why a Cockatoo Almost Didn't Make it into the Second Pet Psychic

If you've seen the cover of "A Bird's Eye View of Murder", the second Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, mystery, you can't miss the cockatoo on the cover, but he almost didn't make it into the book.

Frankie Chandler doesn't like birds, and that may have been a spillover of my own feelings about winged creatures. It's not that I wish them any harm. They're just...creepy.

Puppies are cute. Baby birds are hairless, scrawny creatures with gigantic eyes (and no discernible eyelashes.)  My earliest memory of a baby bird was a fairly newborn robin who had fallen out of the nest and was being attacked by ants. A friend and I (after we finished screaming) moved the bird to the top of something, where I'm sure the ants finished it off later. Not a pleasant memory.

And I know, chicks are fluffy, but they're not especially cuddly. And they poop constantly.

Grown birds? Again, not cuddly. I can respect the hunting skills of a red-shouldered hawk, and it was a thrilling moment the first time I saw a  bald eagle in the wild. Birds can be beautiful and even admirable, but I can't really connect with them. (Though a cousin told me a story about chickens that makes them a shoe-in for a future Pet Psychic mystery.)  So how did a bird character even make it to my radar?

Pet Supply, a local store, has a very large cage with one such bird in it (and sometimes out of it), and the air is usually filled with sharp squawks. It is an ear-piercing sound that has me wondering if the bird would taste like chicken.

One day, I was talking to Zack, one of the store's experts, and he explained a few of the bird's quirks, They sounded annoying enough to be funny. So the cockatoo got his chance.

Tell me. Am I off-base about birds?  I admit that I've changed my mind about cats over the years. Do birds have redeeming qualities that make them wonderful companions?

Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm Not Dead. Really.

I've been caught up in a few projects, including getting the latest Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, novel out in both Kindle and Paperback formats, but I had no idea it had been so long!  June 2014 was the date of my last post.

Isn't it amazing how time flies?  And for all of you young 'uns out there,
it does seem to pick up speed the older you get. I think that's because as
we get older and wiser, we get braver. I could come up with a zillion
possibilities when I was in my early twenties, but only when I moved into middle-age did I stop listening to the naysayers and get bold enough to try them.

So, what's been going on?

I've been coordinating the resurrection of the group blog, Writers in Residence, for a group of lovely authors. That meant learning my way around some of the glitches of blogger. I haven't conquered them all yet.

I just finished Civility Rules, my Harlow Brothers mystery. It's now "resting". The hubby came up with a very cool cover idea, and now I have to find someone who can pull it off.

My priest mystery is back in the forefront. He's an exorcist who is on a leave of absence. His new punishment   assignment is religious education instructor at an all-girl high school. Sounds like a nightmare to me.

And I'm trying to clean up my digital profile. I hadn't even put any information in my Google profile, but then I saw that it had been viewed by over 60,000 people. (Or else my mother clicked on it 60,000 times.) Time to reward their efforts with some information, because I know it's frustrating to me when I try to look someone up and get nothing buy that shadowy avatar.

So, what has been going on with you? 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Free Business Resources for Writers and Entrepreneurs (Which You Are, Dear Writer)

Writing is a business, and anyone who hasn't run into that aspect yet will do themselves a favor to get prepared now. I've run into many authors and entrepreneurs (which authors are, essentially) who are frustrated with finding helpful information about marketing, social networking, and growing their business. Fortunately, there are many free resources out there, from blogs to webinars to email classes that can help you hit the ground running.  

The thing is, most of these folks know each other, so once you touch base with one email list, you'll find out about the others.  Many of them cross-promote each other, which has introduced me to so many great resources.  Here they are, in no particular order.

Remember football player and sports commentator Fran Tarkenton?  Well he's all about helping entrepreneurs.  At Go Small Biz  there are  free guides you can download.  And that's not all. He teamed up with Office Depot for the Small Biz Club , which is chock full of  free resources, including videos from business leaders. Subjects include  Leadership, Technology, Finance, Sales and Marketing, and Run and Grow (growing your business).  Who knew?

Nathalie Lussier    She's upbeat. She's fun. She knows we don't have a lot of time. Her videos and podcast
(available free on iTunes) are short and sweet. Her 30 day list building challenge is the bomb and taught me many things about creating landing pages etc.  (And her information, information I had paid for through other classes, was free!) I will go through the material again.  Nathalie is good at explaining technical stuff in very easy to understand terms.

Firepole Marketing   Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing has a LOT to say, and he is uber-connected to other like minds in the industry. If you sign up for emails, you will be inundated. A lot of it is great stuff, but it can be hard to keep up with.

I actually paid for the ABM class. There was a lot of useful information, but I do wish I had discovered some of these other resources first.

Laura Leigh Clarke   If you you sign up for her list, you will get a lot of good information.  She does giggle during interviews, but you absolutely won't mind, because she's talking to the movers and shakers who make things happen. That's her strength. And she gets points for being happy and having a lovely accent.

Michael Hyatt  Great information about building a platform. Sign up for his email list to get the What's in My Toolbox download and learn about some nice programs (some free, some not)  that will make your life easier.

Business Success Cafe   Weekly 20 minute classes on Thursdays (they are available for one day afterwards if you can't make it)  about lots of topics important to entrepreneurs. Pick and choose what you want to watch, but I'll tell you. I had no desire to teach an online class, watched the video anyway, and learned about Udemy. Now I might try it myself.

Here is the link to Udemy.  It's an easy way to hold an online class. I haven't check the prices out, but I'm sure there is some cost involved.  If you get a lot of attendees, you can make it back!

If you are interested in learning more about web design, the Skillcrush Bootcamp is a 10 day email course for free.  It's geared toward designers, but it's always handy to understand a little more about HTML code.

Build a Business With Your Book  D'vorah Lansky has a 30 day book marketing challenge. I joined it but couldn't keep up. I'll try again. Also, articles about book marketing. 

60 Day MBA   A couple of guys without MBAs figured out everything valuable you need to know, and then they put together a program.   I'm not suggesting you buy the program unless you're motivated, but once you get on their email list, they have some great free webinars. And there are articles on the site.  

Out:Think  This is a business for marketing and launching authors. They owner, Tim Grahl, wrote a book "How to Sell 1,000 copies" and then, when he sold 10,000 copies, gave a valuable seminar. His emails have always been valuable so far, so I would sign up.

Sophie Lizard  She has a blog on freelance blogging (she's a freelance copywriter) and she's the one who started the chain reaction of discovering great marketing/business/writing gurus by introducing me to Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing. And they told two friends... .  She is a smarty-pants and does throw in a few swear words, so be warned.

And because I like to see my taxes at work:

SCORE  is supported by the Small Business Association (SBA).  Tons of free and low cost information, from mentors to webinars to articles. A great resource.  

And don't forget the SBA.  Lots of articles and webinars, and if you locate their affiliate college (it's COC out here) or local office,  you can take live classes--many for free, some at low cost.

That's enough to get you started, I think!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with "Mending Dreams"

Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the 5th grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing fiction full-time and also volunteered for the Glendale-Crescenta Valley Red Cross, writing their e-newsletter. Mending Dreams is her first published novel, but she has more in the pipeline.
And that is very good news for us!  Bonnie's writing style is beautiful, real, and a pleasure to read. 
Bonnie, I love your success story!  Can you tell us about how you came to be a writer, and then an author?
I owe it all to my fifth grade teacher, Miss Annabel Doss, to whom Mending Dreams is dedicated. I always had a wild imagination and told exaggerated stories that didn’t have much basis in truth. Miss Doss found a way to put my imagination to constructive use. In her class I wrote a story about a cow that wanted to be a horse, and my classmates liked it! I got my first taste of storytelling as entertainment and was hooked from then on.
To me, a mystery is easy to plot. You need a murder, some clues, some suspects.  There's almost a ready-made blueprint.  Not so with a literary novel. How did you plot out  Mending Dreams?   Did you know the end when you began?  Did you follow an outline?
I wish I was smart enough to write mysteries. I love to read them!!
Mending Dreams started with a situation: I knew a woman whose husband, several years into the marriage, informed her that he was gay and wanted a divorce. Since I’m always thinking “what if?” about unusual situations, I wondered: what if that had happened to me? How would I feel? How would I cope?
And I started to write that horribly messy first draft. I sort of outlined, in that I knew a few things had to happen, but it pretty much evolved into something way different from my original concept. Characters came and went; they changed names and professions and even gender.
Click Here to Buy
I had no clue how I was going to end it, either, which was really uncomfortable. I knew that my main character, Susan, had to outgrow her self-defeating attitude about how and why her marriage ended; she had to claim her self-esteem and give up her rage.
I also knew there had to be a health crisis of some kind with her ex-husband Frank, and I wanted him to have a non-clichéd disease. When a gay man gets sick, people assume it’s AIDS, and that’s not always true. Then my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and chose to go into a hospice program instead of enduring chemotherapy. So, I decided to work that into the story—not to capitalize on her suffering and death but to acknowledge the courage she displayed in facing this terrible test at the end of her life.
One funny/weird thing about the writing process: I’d heard writers talk about how one of their characters seems to come alive for them and hijack their story, and I never believed that really happened. And then: I created the character of Grandpa K, Frank’s paternal grandfather, more as a story device than anything else. But that guy refused to take a bit part! He really did figuratively jump off the page and suggest all kinds of ideas to me, most of which I used. And he helped me work out the ending to the novel, too.
Much of the story more or less materialized as I wrote. I had a lot of help crafting the novel, too, with my critique groups, which leads into your next question.
You've belonged to several critique groups over the years.  Do you have any advice for writers on what to look for in a critique group?  And how did you find yours?
Critique groups are essential to my writing process. Writing is lonely work, and at some point I need feedback. I’m too close to the material, and I need someone to tell me, “yes that works” or “maybe you should re-think that part.”
I’ll tackle your last question first: I found my first critique group through a writing class at L.A. City College, over 20 years ago. We had a good run, but eventually we all moved on, physically or mentally. Then I connected up with another group through a screenwriting class at UCLA Extension, and those folks helped me develop the initial draft of Mending Dreams (which was called Remember to Breathe back then.) When that group quit meeting, I joined the Alameda Writers Group and was able to participate in their critique groups (the Special Interest Groups—aka SIGs) where I met some amazing writers with whom I still work (and play) today.
Eventually, the AWG group morphed into an independent, online group that has lasted the longest of all, and I think the format is a key to its survival. We email our pages to the other members and can do our feedback whenever it’s convenient, 3 PM or 3 AM. With busy lives, jobs, and families, this formula has really worked for us.
As far as what to look for in a group, two words: honesty and compassion. I don’t want a group that tells me, “Your writing’s perfect; don’t change a word.” Nor do I want to hear, “This really sucks; what makes you think you’re a writer?” 
Most of the groups in which I’ve participated follow the “sandwich technique” of first telling the writer what you like about their writing. Then bring up a few things that didn’t work for you—such as plot holes or inconsistencies, slow passages—and your suggestions for fixing them without rewriting their entire story. Then wrap it up with some general words of encouragement. That’s the magic formula.
A group that follows this practice can lead you to your highest and best writing.
Why this story?  What about it needed to be told?
One of my mottos in life, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, is this: Life doesn't always send you what you think you want, but if you’re lucky, it sends you what you need. I believe that with all my heart, and I like to think that Mending Dreams expresses that premise in story format.
Thank you, Bonnie! 
Thanks for letting me visit your blog, Jackie! You were among my critique group readers, and I’ve used a lot of your suggestions in Mending Dreams. Writers rule!
Bloggers note:  I actually stepped into the critique process when the book was just about finished, but her kind words are just another example of how generous Bonnie Schroeder is, and she's just as generous with her reading audience. She doesn't hold back on the characters or the turbulent emotions they experience as they deal with life's challenges. And she has a beautiful writing style! I'm not usually a reader of women's fiction, but I couldn't put "Mending Dreams" down. I highly recommend it. Here's a quick blurb for the book:
Mending Dreams is a contemporary story about a young woman’s journey to find herself as she struggles to forgive her gay, dying ex-husband before anger ruins her life.