Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm Home!

"There's no place like home" especially when the wifi in the hotel kept going out at 7:30 PM. Jeepers! That was frustrating.

Curving down the mountain yesterday, one wouldn't even need a motor in their car. Easily the group of us were going 75 mph (the posted speed limit) and I wasn't even touching the gas pedal.

I have to roll my eyes at these people with large SUVs that drive on the bumper of the car in front of them. Not only is it very unlikely that they actually take that big SUV off road, there is almost always only one person in them. One thing for sure, they certainly couldn't stop safely, if they had to. They need that huge gas guzzler like I need a root canal. I like to slow down just enough to let them pass me.

Just south of Black Canyon City, I was at the back of the pack of cars hurling down the mountain. The car ahead of me changed lanes and cut off the car in the other lane. She lost control of her car when the front wheel went off the left side of the road while trying to avoid being hit by him.

I slowed a bit more as she pulled back onto the road, she went all over both lanes, still moving mostly forward, smoke coming in blankets toward me. I could smell the burnt rubber from her tires from her car spinning sideways as we continued down the mountain. The way her car rocked from side to side as it spun, I honestly thought she would roll over any minute.

As soon as she lost control I turned on my warning flashers and slowed more. As I watched her continue back and forth across the lanes trying to gain control of her car, I came to a stop on the shoulder. I thought she was going to roll over a couple of times, then she spun around, came toward me, then headed backwards toward the guard rail on the outside of my lane (the 'slow' lane).

She came to a stop partly in my lane, facing the wrong direction, with her back bumper inches from the guard rail - keeping her from the canyon below. We were close enough that I could see the panic on her young face.

Another pack of cars was approaching from behind (one way, two lane road). They weren't switching lanes to avoid hitting her until the last minute. Somehow, she managed to pull around through that traffic and get back on the road without getting hit, then pulled to the shoulder.

I pulled up closer, but not so close that if someone hit me, I couldn't keep from hitting her. After all the cars had passed, I got out to check on her and she got out thinking she had hit my car (we were that close, I just stopped fast enough to stay clear).

Poor thing was shaking so much she could hardly walk. I had her sit on the guard rail and chatted with her until her adrenalin rush passed. She kept covering her mouth with her hand and I could tell she was trying not to cry.

That guy that cut her off didn't stop. No one else stopped. She is a young mom and without her quick reaction, could have been badly hurt.

We had both seen that he kept changing lanes without signaling. She hoped to get ahead of him, I had fallen back to let him go. I figured Phoenix would still be there when I arrived. I didn't have to be the first one down the mountain. (That's the beauty of age, a bit of reason sets in.)

She is fine. I followed her until she got off at the next exit.

The point is, life is precious. As Susan put in her blog yesterday...see my post, there is only one of each of us. Not only do each of us have a story to tell, we have a reason for being here that is lost if we are gone too soon.

Let's look out for each other a little better than we usually do.

Mother Elizabeth said in Storm Surge: "Each person is a unique, irreplaceable representation of their Creator. We’re each one ray of sunshine, one drop of rain, one song on the wind. All of us come together to make a symphony that brings joy to our Father."

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Last day in Prescott for a while. Nice town. The people are very friendly. Seems genuine too.

Check this out:

Catch ya when I get back to the valley. Love ya guys!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lizard Tail

I forgot to mention there was a lizard in my hotel room. I don't know what it is with lizards and me.

When we moved to Arizona, we had three weeks to pack and arrive for hubby's job. We bought a house we hadn't seen. One of my cousins checked it out for us, and (once again) things just fell together. I lived here before. My mom used to live in Scottsdale, but for the family this was a first time adventure.

We arrive at the house and start moving things in from where they had been unloaded in the garage. The living room was one of those living-dining room combinations, but the kitchen-family room had plenty of room for a dining room table between the two rooms. So the actual dining room became where the baby grand piano was to go when it arrived. Wouldn't you know, we left the door open and lizard had come in and gone all the way to the music room. There he was about eye level on the wall. We put him out.

There have been a few other times lizards have made attempts to enter via the back door like the last time I mentioned DG.

So here I am in a hotel, one hundred miles from home, and there is a baby lizard (smaller in total length than my index finger) on the wall. He wasn't there at first, and when I came back, he was gone. (By the way, to me all lizards are 'he' like ships are 'she').

I woke Tuesday morning and there the little guy was sitting on my shoe - facing me. I got up, put him in the empty waste basket, dressed and took him outside. I figured there was no food or water for him in the room and the next guest might not be so tolerant of lizards.

One of my English friends asked if maybe lizards were my spirit animal, spirit guide. She suggested I should ask Inez, (a Pueblo Indian) who is a close friend. Asking about spirit guides isn't the kind of thing one just walks up to an Indian and asks about, so the only person I could ask would be Inez. But we know what Inez thinks about creepy-crawly things indoors, right?

My English friend and I are both Star Trek fans. We didn't get the spirit guide idea from scholarly research. The idea came from Star Trek: Voyager. But I don't care if it is real or not, I like mysterious things with a positive twist to them. So, I'm going to say that this is a good omen. That things will work out as they should.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have arrived!

The trip up the mountain to Prescott was easy. I kept the music off and enjoyed watching the scenery change from valley cacti to mountain cacti, then to mountain scrubs. Prescott is at 5300 feet, so not as high as Flagstaff with the tall pines.

It is an old town, established toward the end of the Civil War (1864). I can hear my British friends laughing because that isn't OLD, but for the west, it is. I noticed that the store fronts didn't look like they had done a revitalization project, looks like things were just kept up as they needed it, rather than restored. That seems nice.

I went and found the office and looked at a couple of rentals I found online, then tracked down the rental agency.

Then settled in my room to hem my slacks - I don't want to hear one word about being height challenged.

Tuesday, I went to check out the town a bit more. It is a mountain town and I was beginning to worry there was a city ordnance requiring 4x4 vehicles, but have seen some cars today.

One thing for sure, everything is built on hills. I'm not sure there is one traffic light at a level intersection. It does seem everyone drives a standard up here. When the light changes, the whole line of cars rolls back in unison, then we go forward. It is a bit strange, since I don't normally do that unless the car in font of me is doing that. But I got into the idea and so far no problems.

Like I said, everything is built on a hill. When I went to Target, there was a shopping cart escaping. It was going down hill faster than I was going up. At the bottom of the drive is the highway, so I don't know how that worked out. It wasn't there when I left the store - maybe it is half way to Phoenix by now.

I walked around downtown and in about 6 blocks, my legs and seat were feeling the inclines. I'll have to do that more often, seems to work for getting this writer in shape. (hope I'm not limping tomorrow for my interview). I still remember when I started ballet lessons I could hardly walk for a week. That is an imprinted memory, I assure you.

So I have the stuff to press the new hems and have my fingers crossed for tomorrow. I'm staying an extra day to look at houses on Thursday. The guys seem just fine without me.
Internet is on and off here at the hotel. I'll try to post something later. All is well and Prescott is nice, but humid.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Hey, I'm a fiction writer -- we're supposed to be dramatic! Yep, going to Prescott and check out the town for a couple of days. The guys are in charge of the house here in the Valley of the Sun. Not to worry, they are self-sufficient.

Seriously, today I've been unemployed for a year - a very long and wearing year. No kidding. Trust me, unemployment is not a pretty thing. I couldn't have been more happy to see 2008 hit the door and not come back.

So anyway, I have a job interview with the state on Wednesday. That's right, good old government and I couldn't be more thrilled. I'll tell you what, no matter what you think about government, I like doing social work for the gov.

This job is perfect in every way. Child abuse investigations was the hardest job I ever did (unfortunately, someone has to do it). This job puts me back into my other speciality, developmentally disabled. Talk about a special population, this is the ultimate! I love these guys.

Things have been (otherwise) going well for me lately, then to top it off, I stumbled upon this job listing. Sure I've never been to Prescott, but I often take jobs in places I've never been before and it always works out fine.

The pieces are coming together, I found a new suit at Dillards - was $320.00 for $60.00 - how's that for a good deal? Perfect fit. A size smaller than I thought would fit (whoo-hoo! guess that swimming is paying off) and its the color I went to find.

Wish me luck. I have my fingers crossed. I'm so excited!,_Arizona

Friday, July 24, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

I can see the headlines now, writer haunted by unfinished manuscript goes crazy on I-17! I don't know what it is with me and Red Planet Revolt. No matter what I'm doing, something about that book comes up.

I was driving down I-17 the other day, windows open (significant because it is usually too hot for that at this time of year), just watching the madness that occurs near the Durango Curve, minding my own business, trying not to be run over by someone in a vehicle larger than mine (which is almost everyone), and there is that story going around in my mind - relentless.

If you're a fan of personification, that ms could have been sitting in the passenger seat just talking itself blue in the face. If I had a tape recorder handy, I could have dictated the whole manuscript right then and there.

The thing is, that is not the ms I'm working on, nor is it the one I'm supposed to be working on.

Today I went online to check my email, which I do about four times a day. There it is on the opening screen of AOL (America On Line), yep as big as life - a science article that fits perfectly with the gum drop shaped aliens from the red planet.

I think I'll go to Prescott next week to hide from this Red Planet Revolt ms and write on Act Like You Mean It, like I'm suppose to be doing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All that Jazz!

There are some movies that I think should be viewed again and again, they are just that good. Chicago is one of them. Great dancing. You can't beat the gangster years in Shy Town for a setting. Costume makers have a field day. And -- all that jazz!

Most writers are diehard readers. I do a lot of reading, but mostly business related. Movies, that's my thing. Everyone craves stories and since I was a functional illiterate for a long time, I turned to movies to satisfy that need.

Back to the movie, Chicago. Have you ever noticed how Renee Zellweger purses her mouth, squints her eyes, and her nose turns pink like she is about to cry? And they don't switch the camera shot, so it seems to me that somehow she does that pink nose thing for real.

I study film. I look at props, how long prior to the realization of their importance was the prop introduced by a simple gesture or even a camera shot. I run the film slow (sometimes a frame at a time) forward and backward during key scenes, scenes with emotions I want to learn to capture in words. I freeze the screen at the precise moment the emotion is launched and there is no option for the viewer, other than being hooked.

I study certain actors, watch the flick of their eyes or the turn of the corner of their mouth with the sound off and the closed captions on. I pull another film with the same emotion and watch how another actor (and director) capture it. Then I close my eyes and imagine a scene and begin to type, just like Jamal did with Mr. Forrester in Finding Forrester, straight through, no rewrites, no edits - eyes closed, typing as the scene plays out in my mind.

I don't know if that is normal or just my dyslexic way of doing things. As in the Hunt for Red October, "There is no going back," move the story forward -edit when the draft is finished.

Goodness, I just put myself in a writing mood. See ya later - and all. that. Jaaaaaaaazz!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A day in the life...

It totally slipped my mind that I needed to write a blog tonight (to post at MN my time). I often write several ahead just so this doesn't happen. Now I'm trying to be creative on a deadline, self-imposed, but still a deadline.

Forget all the glam and bling of being a writer. I spent the day on four publishing projects, not on writing. One took me to Phoenix to visit the printer guy. I left with a proof book and was delighted not to hit rush hour traffic for the 52 mile trek back to north Glendale. There is nothing in this industry like seeing the first proof book to come off the press.

Since I'm working on four projects in different stages of publishing, it made me think (as I talked with the printer, another publisher, and drove home) just how much there is to know about this business and how it works.

The other day a kid (who does not belong to me) and his girlfriend came over to see one of my kids.

She, being an avid reader, excitedly said, "When are you going to be on Oprah?"
Me: "Um, never?"

Before all you seasoned writers bust a gut, think about how many times you've been asked that. I've heard it quite a few times from 'civilians'.

In practical terms, there isn't enough time in a day to have every writer on her show. Personally, I think it would be pretty boring to run show after show of writers, 24 hours a day. Besides even if she had the stamina to tape that many shows a day, the woman has a life too.

Let's say she doesn't interview every author. What is the likelihood that I would be one of them she does do? Zero. First of all, I don't write the kinds of books that get sensationalized. Second, as far as I know, and I think I would have heard about it, there are NO plans for a movie deal. And most importantly, being on television just isn't me, no offense to Ms. Winfrey.

Another hidden truth about this business that every starry-eyed beginning writer doesn't know about is that royalties only get paid on the first sale of a book. That is after the advance has been recouped, if there is an advance. So, nope, no royalties on used books, shared books, library books. The trick is to sell lots of books because the pittance made on each book does add up.

Here's another little dirty secret to this business, the first draft is not ready for publishing - not in a long shot. It feels so nice to get the thing written that it seems done, but it is not finished. There are a couple of rewrites, beta readers, editor's notes, proof reading, designing cover art, assigning ISBN, pre-publishing marketing -- then the proof book, which must be read in detail as well as viewed for formatting issues. Oh and did I mention [in the US] that Library of Congress catalog number thingy and registering the copyright. Just think, I've got four of these projects going and I didn't have time to write today.

Whew, I just made myself tired.

There is a glimpse of a writer's life, an Indie writer at least. I think I'll take a nap!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's a boat!

The topic of judging a book by its cover has come up several unrelated times lately. I won't go into the theory that the first line of marketing a book is to have a good cover. That is pretty obvious. That's not where I'm going with this.

As our world view expands - thanks to the internet - we try to be open minded, but we still slip and judge people by appearance. Biases learned from our parents are challenged or affirmed. It is easy to be dismissive. I'm always teasing that I'm smarter than I look. (There is no good way to respond to that without getting into trouble.)

There is a joke about a guy who hears a report that the river is rising. His neighbors evacuate and urge him to come. He says he is a Christian and God will take care of him. Later, as the waters rise, a rescue team comes through his neighborhood in a boat - looking for people who did not leave. He sends them off ... Christian ... God ... Later, the waters rise so much he is forced onto the roof of his house. A rescue helicopter comes. He sends them away...

The guy drowns, goes to heaven, and God says, "What are you doing here!?"
The man complains, I have been a good Christian, I thought you would take care of me."
God says, "I sent a warning, I sent your neighbors, I sent a boat...."

Lately, I have tried to pay more attention to the people who come my way and ask, "Is this person a boat?"

And the best question, "Am I their boat?"

A book cover is just a book cover. Be a boat.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Blog Award!

My new friend, Ivy, from Croatia gave me a blogger award, Kreativ Blogger. Now I must list seven of my favorite things before I pass this award on. See the beautiful new award on the left side.

1) My Boys, yes even the big one. They have changed my life in ways I could not have imagined. I'm very proud of you guys.

2) My family, the ones I gave to Kathryn in Kathryn's Beach, but they are even more awesome than I made them sound in the book. This includes my sister-in-law Jan who is wonderful.

3) My friends, old and new. The adventures of friendship have brought a richness to my life, and hopefully to them too.

4) California, my home. The beaches, memories, and desert.

5) Arizona, my second home. Big city life and Native American culture.

6) Midnight swims in the summer and lots of blankets (on my side of the bed) in winter. Things that flower, hummingbirds, and garden herbs.

7) Hopes and dreams, not yet realized. Leaves something to strive for.

There are so many creative people in my life, but not all of them have blogs.

Jen Garsee: My oldest writer friend, very successful YA writer ~ we go way back to the days we only had a rough draft of our mss. Please say I am one of your trusted betas!

Ivy and Ella: Two young writers just starting out, you are our future, the pen bearer to convey writing to yet another generation when we are gone.

Ella in Argentina:
Ivy in Croatia:

Carrie, June, Joy, Anita, Susan, Irene, Carol Anne, Carolyn, and Barbara: The women who inspire and stretch me.

Carrie in England:
June in England:
Joy in USA:
Anita in England:
Susan in USA:
Irene in USA:
Carol Anne in England: (ck out her crop circle post - amazing)
Carolyn in USA:
Barbara in USA:

Wow! All women? Sorry guys, since Michael Allen quit the Grumpy Old Bookman, no other guy has stolen my heart quite the same. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone, but I probably have. Seems everyone I know is special in so many ways.

Congratulations. Post your award.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Winds of Change

Yesterday, I announced the price change on my books. Like it or not, I have to do that to take my business to the next level.

What is the next level? Distribution.

There are loads of claims of distribution, but they are often illusions. What happens is the books are made available for order. That doesn't mean that anyone will order them.

Real distribution is handled by a distributor who has sales reps who go out and make sales and take orders for the books. They have a seasonal catalog carrying all the publishers they distribute for, listing every book each publisher has coming out AND their back list.

This distribution talk is like the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy.

I have had my eye on an US distributor for several years now. They do NOT distribute POD books - thus the move to the black hole and eventually to where I am today. I am one step closer to being eligible to contract with them by doing my Totally Indie thing. I just need to build up my back list. So I'm hoping to produce two more books this year.

The really, really, really BIG news is that I'm in talks with a Middle East Distributor. I have no idea where this is going, but I certainly like the idea of my books being distributed to the countries who have made them popular.

There is talk of both an American English edition and a Formal Arabic translated edition of each book. I am so honored and humbled by this, I can't express it adequately.

After that, I'm considering a Spanish translation. And later an American English version distribution in the UK. But I'm open to other avenues.

Some of these things are down the road. All I know is once I said, "Yes" to being Totally Indie, the Universe has taken me seriously.

So maybe, my dear Ivy, you will get my books distributed in Croatia one day.

(Update: Kathryn's Beach is in the process of being published in UAE with extended distribution into the region, including Egypt.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tempus Fugit

Business is a learning curve. The one regret I have in all of this is listening to advice to lower my book price to be competitive with NY publisher's books. I've never given a flip what everyone was doing, so I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea. I don't have the budget they do to print thousands of books, nor the distribution or marketing departments they have. If they are so smart, why are they in financial troublet? What WAS I thinking? The lower price made no difference in sales from before. If people want a book they buy it, if they don't -- you can't give it away.

What it did do was exclude distribution. There wasn't enough profit margin to tolerate a split with a distributor and the wholesale price required by retailers.

My books still aren't on Amazon. Nothing wrong with Amazon, I just haven't bothered to read the instructions for how to do it. Besides, I'm well convinced that all my sales from third party and online retailers in the past, I drove there.

To correct that lapse in judgement, the prices of my books are on the rise. New covers have been submitted to my printer. The suggested retail price change has been submitted to the powers that be. Frankly, I don't care what their opinion is, books get discounted all the time. So this is nothing all that different, other than I'm not placing stickers over the old price and bar scan. I think that would just look way too hinky.

So you've been warned. If you have put off buying my books for whatever reason, once the lower price books are gone, they are gone. Until then, I will give the low price on all three books even though some of them will have the higher price on the cover. If that doesn't make sense, let me say, I have ordered another run of Storm Surge, with the new price. But until all the KB and HT with the low price are gone, the price will not change.

You might have noticed the free stuff icon on the left side of my blog. Follow that link to see the special on the trilogy. For a limited time, you get a free journal when you buy the whole trilogy at once. If you know anything about Kathryn's story, you know why you get a journal. I designed it to match the books.

The final change in operation is likely to be shipping. As it stands now, out of country shipping has been charged at the lower US shipping rate. We noticed that right off, but ignored it. Most of my fans are outside the US and I have a fondness for you for giving me my start in all of this, but the rates will have to adjust.

Tempus Fugit.


The final big piece of news comes tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Totally Indie

Continued from yesterday.

I worked on Storm Surge, which is its new title. The working title had to be abandoned. Changing the title was one of the hardest things I've done so far. Several of my cherished readers and I bounced around idea after idea. Nothing fit. Finally we came upon Storm Surge and the story lent itself to rewrites. When I look back at early drafts of this book, I realize how far off the plan it went ... in a good way.

During the last nine years I have read every book, internet site, and industry news item I could find about this business. I joined a couple writing forums and ended up being a moderator on one of them.

When the black hole occurred, I took the bull by the horns and decided to self-publish totally on my own. I must have coined the phrase "Totally Indie" because it doesn't seem to be out there anywhere. Four years ago, I switched from the high brow Scottsdale web company to Joyce who was and is, the perfect web designer. I already had my LLC (limited liability company) for 4 years.

I bought software to design my own book covers. Registered with the state and city as a retailer. Joyce redesigned my website. I bought a lot of 10 ISBNs and opened shop. My books came off of amazon during the black hole and were out of print. I didn't have time to waste to get all three books out or the people who had waited for Storm Surge would have killed me - they said so.

I have a real printer. They don't take a cut of my books, I pay them to print and they give me books. I use WordPerfect to do the interior of my books. It is far superior to using Word, IMO, because it does not anticipate (wrongly) but can do amazing things. It used to be the choice of most American lawyers - that's how I started using it.

I'm not hiding that I'm self-published. I've used my name as the publisher, so it is totally clear. As the saying goes, "The Buck Stops Here!" (Translation: Buck means American dollar.)

'Black hole' reference from yesterday. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The road to publication

Back to writing a continuation of what Ivy's question started. I got side tracked with mushy stuff, kid stuff, and goodness-knows-what stuff.

I'm not sure why anyone seems interested in what I've done. Lots of detours along the way, that's for sure. But I'm always asked about this and am going to lunch with a writer and his wife to discuss publishing, specifically Indie publishing.

Soooo anyway, High Tide followed Kathryn's Beach. I really had no clue why Terrie cared one flip whether Joseph came back from Ireland. He is/was a minor character who never really developed and as far as I was (and still am) concerned, he was little more than a stage prop.

From there, Storm Surge came about as a peace offering for what I had done in High Tide. I had most of the draft done when the agent query took over.

I was researching agents while I wrote SS. But the querying process was a full time job. It really is true that you must send exactly what the submissions require. So every letter and sometimes sample had to be tailored to the target.

I should add though, their replies were anything but real. Some had made up generic rejection post cards. Some printed four rejection slips per page and cut them apart. A couple of people wrote on my query letter, "Not for me" and sent it back. The agent I really wanted wrote back a nice letter that she wished she had seen this a couple of years ago. Her health was forcing her to retire. She gave me useful feedback and I will love her forever.

One day three rejection letters came the same day. I had sent the usual SASE with each query as is proper manners. I let the envelops lay on my desk for a week, totally tired of rejection letters. When I finally opened them, there was one from an agent requesting the full manuscript and a six week exclusive. Of course, I didn't pull my other queries that were floating around. I figured I'd deal with that when I had a contract in my hands.

Long story shortened, I liked my agent. He was totally unorganized and eventually I decided it was best to end things between us.

Almost as spite, I POD'd Kathryn's Beach. I was going broke printing mss for everyone. I liked the company I went with, but in the end, there just isn't much money in that if you can figure out a better way to go.

I'm going to leave out the next part of the story because of an agreement not to mention it. We'll just call this part the "black hole."

Tomorrow I'll get into the Indie stuff.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the clock

Two weeks ago the notice arrived that one of my favorite charities was going to be in our neighborhood collecting clothing. I notified the household of the date.

Since the boys are stair steps, they usually hand down to each other. This really works well with suits, dress shirts, and tuxedoes. Most of their jeans, shorts, Tees, and shoes are used up by the original owner. So really all we have to donate of their things are outgrown toys, games, and clothing the younger brother(s) don't like, but are still in good shape.

I usually spend a few hours in my closet and try on things I haven't worn in a while. It was an easy task the first year we were back in Arizona. All the cold weather stuff, snow boots, heavy coats and gloves went in the boxes along with big bulky sweaters (jumpers in the UK). I did hate to see the sweaters go because the boys look so nice in them, but they aren't practical in Phoenix and this charity has a sister operation in Flagstaff where all of those things could be useful.

Last night I didn't remember this little ritual until after hubby was asleep. So I set my alarm early to get the deed done. Me and the voice of reason went through my closet in record time. I kept hearing, "Don't even try that on. Your big toe hasn't fit into those slacks (trousers in the UK) for two years. It ain't going to happen in the next two years either -- out they go."

True enough, there was no time to be sentimental about when I wore something last. In 45 minutes I had laid everything on the bed, hung back the clothes I actually do wear, and neatly folded the ones off to find a new home. My side of the closet looks great and I feel amazing having less stuff. So from now on, I'm going to procrastinate - it is much more efficient.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I believe...

I had a boss who used to say, "You just couldn't make this stuff up," as he marveled at the stupidity of the directives from his boss. (None of us disagreed with his assessment.) Twice this week something happened that was so odd that it was followed by, "If you wrote that, no one would believe it."

What is it that writers do to make fiction seem real? Is it the characters, the setting, the story, or all of those combined? Or do different things convince different readers to dispense with reality and enter the reality of the story?

Do readers watch for that one piece of them or someone they know in a character before the character takes on life-like qualities? Is it the little detail in the setting that makes it come to life, like the mist that blows inland from the waves at the beach?

When I read a story, I try to watch for that point when I become committed to read on because I can't not read it. The trouble is, I realize I'm committed long after it has happened.

Think of your favorite book, the one you've read more times than other book. What is it that the author did that connected with you to make you read it again?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sappy stuff

I started a blog piece on writing. But what I'm really thinking about is mushy stuff. Going public with my writing has had an added benefit beyond putting words to paper and gluing them into a cover.

I'm missing my friend Ursula and don't know where she has gone. She is the reason I chose Saint Ursula in High Tide.

Then I started thinking about the other people's names I used in the stories, not necessarily to represent them, but as an homage to our friendship.

That led to thinking about the people I've met because of these little books, and how much knowing them has made my life richer. As odd as that sounds, it is true, though I haven't met some of them in person. It's funny how over years quite a closeness can develop through emails ... and sometimes by reading each other's books or manuscripts. As my friend Asmaa once said, you can see into each other's soul.

Even the friendships with people I have known most of my life has added a new dimension because of the books. In discussing Kathryn and her misadventures we have learned new things about each other that never came up before.

All I can say is that being a writer is a great honor. And your friendship is the greatest honor.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Up, up and .......... away?

Imagine for a second sending a kid to summer camp. How hard can it be? Packing is a no brainer, he is old enough to do his own packing.

Get your map of the US states, this is a lesson in US geography. (Get your markers out and draw this - capital city to capital city is close enough.)

Hypothetically, of course, the child in question is going to a week long internationally sponsored summer camp in the state of Nebraska. 1) fly round trip from Arizona to Nebraska; 2) first hiccup in the schedule, kid has to return a day early to fly out to Maine that evening; 3) arrange flight home, and no, the other return flight can't be used in any way to supplement the early return.

Are you with me so far? We have two round trip tickets: Arizona/Nebraska and Arizona/Maine PLUS a one way ticket from Nebraska to Arizona. Three flights, how hard can that be? Just watch what happens when we wave the Laman magic wand.

Kid lands in Omaha, goes to Lincoln, spends week in Nebraska. Whoops, overslept, missed the taxi to the airport and missed the early return flight by seconds. This is rural America, there are no staff around except for the gate staff.

An hour later when the airport begins to officially open (you know what I mean if you've flown into Kansas City late at night - there is no one there - the staff vanish), kid gets on standby to return to Arizona on a later flight. Kid sends an "I'm okay" photo to mom's cell phone. (Good kid!)

Several hours later, kid calls from Minnesota, no room to fly standby on flight to Arizona. Now check your map, Minnesota is no where near Arizona. Ah, only seat left on plane is first class. Dad to the rescue. (In a way, this is the third ticket purchased to get him from Nebraska to Arizona.) Kid on the way to Arizona. Kid sends an "I'm okay" photo to mom's cell phone. (Good kid!)

Next flight out (from Arizona) is in a few hours. Laundry. Should have done the load of jeans first, they get packed in a 'dampish' state. Kid leaves Arizona for Maine. Remember he has already been in Nebraska and Minnesota this same day.

Kid arrives in North Carolina without incident. Sends mom photo of self at airport. Kid arrives in Maine, phones for the shuttle phone number. There is a four hour time difference between us. It was before the crack of dawn here. I was asleep.

Several days later, kid calls from Maine airport. Flight delayed due to weather at the airport in Pennsylvania. Next text, "flight canceled. Returning to dorm" (not in this town, of course). No picture.

Hours later, text, "I'm on a boat."

I'm thinking there is a nor'easter and the planes are grounded, so seems to me it's not the best thing to be on a boat in the Atlantic, right?

I really am trying to be brave. I send back text, "Cool! Send pic." Smart kid. Picture shows him dressed warmly and wearing a life jacket. (I thought the water looked a bit rough, but he was smiling happily.) I can breathe again.

The next day, flies from Maine to Pennsylvania, then home.

So despite 4 time zones and 7 flights I was brave and he was okay. The staff at the University and all the airlines were fantastic. There are lots of nice people in this world.

I'm okay too.

Did I mention he left early this morning to drive up the mountain to another summer camp? His first road trip as the driver. His first road trip in a jeep that is older than dirt and cost $800.

I'm okay?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


by Carolyn Sheppard, guest blogger.

The Kathryn’s Beach Trilogy by Nadine Laman

I’m an avid reader and I read all genres, from sci-fi to biography, novels to history. I love to read and the key to me is a great story and ‘engagement’. Even if you don’t like the characters, you have to engage with them.

That’s what I loved about Nadine’s trilogy – I read Kathryn’s Beach and I felt that the active, first person style was very engaging. You are right there, in the moment, seeing the world through her eyes. The upsets, the challenges and the drama all feel very real when you are reading from the first person point of view, even though it is not that common a form. The story in Kathryn’s Beach is also one that engages – you understand the distress she feels and why she had to ‘run’, the curiosity as strange events unfold, and grief and joy as different action takes place in Kathryn’s life.

Once I’d read Kathryn’s Beach, I just had to read the others. High Tide, the second book, still used the ‘drag you along’ style and the shocking events that happened, and how Kathryn handled them, still felt personal. Though maybe you don’t agree, as a reader, with everything she says or does, you are taken along by the story and follow her life changing encounters with a family that you kind of wish you had, and are very glad you don’t have.

The final book, which we had to wait a bit for (keeping us in suspense! Everyone I know who read the other two books was dying to find out what happened in Storm Surge) kept the character strong – you knew it was Kathryn (like recognising an old friend) and wanted to find out how she coped with a complete life style change and some quite tragic, and heart-warming events.

From start to finish, I wanted to know what happens, I wanted to follow Kathryn on her journey and I enjoyed meeting the people she interacted with along the way. The reader gets comfy with people like Mr Goldstein, the elderly and kindly neighbour, Karen, the ex-boss who is a bit of a fixer, the demure Mother Elizabeth (I never met any nuns, but I believe this one) and the close companion Maggie, who is lost so early on.

All I can say is buy Kathryn’s Beach – and you will want to read the whole trilogy.

Carolyn Sheppard is a marketing director of The Complete Trainer in Ware, England.

Listen to HER music (she was the lead singer, songwriter, and one of the musicians for the well known band - Shave The Monkey)
(I think it has been way too long since Carolyn cut her last CD - hint, hint).

Visit her blog and find her audio book here:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Turning Point: Writing Kathryn's Beach

This is actually a continuation from Friday.

During an ice storm, my reading maniac friend, Terrie, called with a bad case of cabin fever. She had nothing in the house to read and couldn't get out to get a 'fix.'

I told her to check her email in an hour and I'd give her something to read. She had no idea I wrote - no one did. So I banged out a short story, the first chapter (basically) of Kathryn's Beach.

She emailed back, "Then what happened?"

I replied, "It is a short story, you make up the rest. Either she goes and it works or doesn't, or she stays and it works or it doesn't."

She writes back, "NO! I want to KNOW what happens."

Well sheesh, I didn't know what happened, it was a short story. What was wrong with her? Short stories are -- SHORT!

She won. I wrote an hour or two a night and emailed it to her. In three weeks, I had the first draft of Kathryn's Beach written. I'm done!

Nope, not only was she printing off the email manuscript and giving to people to read (un-edited), she was hounding me about what happened NEXT!

You get the picture - I'm doomed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The $64 question

Over on my wall at, Ivy asked a big question in one little line. I thought I'd answer it here and on my wall.

Ivy: I wanted to ask you about your experiences in publishing, with agents, query letters etc. How did you start?

Goodness Ivy, Good question. That one line could take days to answer.

Since I am dyslexic, I never imagined being an author. Never even occurred to me. Writing was just something I naturally did, after I finally learned to read and write. I never wanted to be a writer, I just wrote.

My writing career 'officially' started when I needed to fill a class in high school. I looked at the list of options and thought, "Creative Writing - I can do that." I kept taking writing classes and took more at university.

Still no, I had no desire to be a professional writer or published. I was headed for nursing school. I would have liked to have been a doctor, but knew I couldn't afford it. (My senior year of nursing school, I switched to social work - and I really like it.)

I'm not a television person. I wrote short stories at night when the house was quiet. Still no interest in publishing. I think we were married 10 years before my husband knew I wrote. It just wasn't a big deal to me. It was like breathing, not something one thinks about or talks about, I just did it. It is just my 'normal'.

Coming next, the turning point: Kathryn's Beach.

My filedby page and wall:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Will you go public for a cap?

Okay all you shy darlings. How 'bout a bit of bribery to get a book review?

I have three white ball caps that say, "Nadine Laman Books" with a stylized wave, in blue of course. They are pretty cool looking. I'll give one to the FIRST person who writes a short book review on my filedby page.

You can write on one or all of the books you have read. The first different person to write a review on each book's page gets a ball cap - FREE.

Send me an email when you've written the review.

What you do:

* Read my books
* Go to
* Sign-in as a reader (FREE)
* Search for me by name
* Click on a book cover
* Write a short review
* Email me when you're done - TaDa!

(If you want to see a review I wrote, search Susan Gabriel on

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

OMG! OMG! Oh My Gosh!

Joyce and I are on a roll again. We are adding audio to my website. Check it out! There is a welcome message on the home page, and two messages on the 'meet Nadine' page. One is me talking about bio stuff, where I grew up and all that. The other is about being a writer with dyslexia.

Unlike the off-the-cuff audio messages I sometimes send out with my newsletter notice, these are scripted. It is an experiment and still a work in progress - I might need to purchase better recording equipment. The plan is to add audio to each of the excerpt pages. Those will be about writing the books, not readings from the books.

Go, check them out.

Oh and the July newsletter is posted on my website. The website link is on the sidebar to the left.

Here is the link to the waaaay best website designer ever!