Friday, May 29, 2009

The easy button

There is no nice way to say this, writing takes time, focus, and dedication honing the skills of the craft. There is no easy button.

The publishing industry looks at its indie cousin and laughs. Why? Because we have earned a shoddy reputation. Often beginning writers slop through the first draft of their manuscript and call it done, if they are dedicated enough to finish it.

Then that 'masterpiece' gets sent to three agents or three publishers and the wantabe author quits because rejection letters don't feel good. Don't come crying to me about rejection letters. I have had 216 rejection letters over my career and I'm sure there will be many, many more because I won't quit writing.

There are and always have been fantastic indie books. If you choose to be an indie author, at least do it with some style. Do it with determination to make it the best book you can for your readers, they deserve nothing less.

So? Keep improving. Keep focused. Keep writing. Write your best book. Write to your readers, not the industry or your ego. Write to tell your readers an honest story and you will have done a good day's work.

Look who's laughing now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


BREAKAWAY by Nadia Sahari is a memoir that delivers for those who love real life stories. Nadia means 'Hope,' and Breakaway is the story of how Nadia survived a lifetime of multiple abuses and abusers. Nadia said, "No more abuse" and meant it and set about to make a good life for herself and her boys. Nadia is an engaging writer with a wonderful style of story telling.

At the end of the book is a list of resources. As a former child abuse investigator, what I know for certain is that everyone needs awareness of the reality of child abuse or we will never stop it. And it should be stopped, it must be stopped. As Nadia's name is Hope, this is a book of hope. This is a book worth reading. Thank you, Nadia, for sharing your life and hope in Breakaway.

Nadia's website:

Book video:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More lizard stuff

My friend, Inez, called for our usual girly chat. Inez is a Pueblo Indian in New Mexico. Once again she invited me to come and we would go up into the mountains and have some girl time without all our guys.

After we finished with all the important stuff (kids, husbands, making pickles, books, visiting each other), I told her about DG. Inez told me a similar story about a lizard and her sister, so I guess the lizard-up-your-pant-leg isn't all that unusual.

In her story, her sister was dancing around a lot more than I was and the lizard was hanging onto her leg (hanging on for dear life?). Being a loving sister, Inez removed the lizard and they killed him. That led to her story about how she doesn't care for bugs, insects, and small cold-blooded desert creatures that like to venture inside our Southwestern homes.

Now try to picture this. I'm girly, nail polish and all that stuff, from the second largest city in the United States - Los Angeles. She is an Indian who doesn't like creepy-crawly things in her house...and we are going to go into the mountains alone and camp for a couple of days. Yeah right.

I'm thinking, "day trip." Maybe we'll go on horseback, that much farther removed from the ground where creepy-crawly things live.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Desert Ghost

One of my English friends tells me, quite seriously, about the ghost that lives in her house with her family. When something can't be found, like her webcam, I blame Maurice, her ghost.

While I joke about it, I have apparently unwittingly begun to believe in ghosts. The other morning I was sitting at my computer, and I felt a hand on my thigh. I kid you not. I nearly jumped out of my chair. It was so real. And for a moment, I thought it was a ghost. Seriously.

I caught my breath and got back to work, when there it was again only a lighter touch this time. I put my hand on the ghost's hand and didn't feel anything. I decided it wasn't a ghost, but didn't really come up with a reasonable explanation of what it was, if not a ghost.

Then I felt it move. I KNOW I felt it. I grabbed at my jeans' pocket and pinched lightly. OMGosh! There WAS something there. Something real. I was out of my chair. I don't remember undoing the button and zipper to my jeans. I hastily rolled my waist band outward and kept going until something flipped out and to the floor.

My first thought with seeing the tan creature was it was a scorpion and I was lucky he hadn't stung me. I moved back quickly, just to stay safe. The thing was three and a half inches long...not counting the tail, which was laying nearby twitching to beat all get-out.

His tail was wagging more than a waggy dog. My heart was racing. I cannot believe I hadn't screamed like bloody murder. It wasn't moving, so I moved a bit closer to get a look. It just laid there, lifeless. His eyes were open - kind of bugged-out. He was tan with a couple of small spots on him, maybe bruises I had caused. I just kept saying, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry."

Poor thing, it was a desert lizard. They are very good in the yard; no need to kill him. One of my Indian friends says they are a 'good spirit.' This is Indian Country, they ought to know, right?

I called my youngest to remove the creature, which I usually do and he doesn't. But my heart was beating hard and I was still pulling up my jeans, so I was in no state to deal with a dead thing on the floor of my office. (We have a swimming pool, it isn't like he hasn't seen my legs before.) I have no idea why I put those jeans back on. Sheesh.

Anyway, being a pacifist, I suggested that I would get the patio door and my kid would scoop up the poor thing in the dust pan. We would put him on the ground under a nice plant rather than throw him in the trash.

I'm by the patio door. From my office, I hear, "Mom, he is STILL ALIVE." So we find something better to capture him. When we returned, you guessed it, only the wiggly tail was out in the open. To make a long story short, he lead us on a chase through the books on the bookshelf but we caught this tailless guy and let him lose under a plant near the wall, in the shade. He took off like a rocket.

I named him, DG (Desert Ghost) and until his tail grows back, we'll know if we spot him again.

If you are interested in what started this ghost business, you need to buy my friend's audio book, "Ghost Sniffer." These aren't scary stories. They are believable stories. They left me wondering, is this real? She ought to know, she has a ghost in her house. Right? Even their cat sees Maurice.

Email me [NadineLaman@aol(dot)com] and I'll forward it to her. The book is Ghost Sniffer.
OR try this:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Write your own review campaign, part II

Necessity is the mother of invention -- Oh so true! One great idea results in the NEED for several other great ideas to make the first idea work.

I have software to make my own cover art. I'm not going to say 'design' because I am not a graphic designer. I think graphic designers are brilliantly talented and wouldn't want to mislead anyone about my skills.

As I've said, I decided to put the reader in charge of the review section on the back of the book for Storm Surge. It seems like a brilliant idea, but really it was simple. I want to know what readers think of my books. That is the only way I can deliver best to my audience. It is that simple.

I'm even giving away the Sharpie(tm) marker to write the review. No big deal to toss a pen into the mailer, right? That seems simple enough, but of course, I have the bright idea to attach the marker SOMEHOW to the book. That is where the ideas fly. Oh my...what ideas I had about how to attach the marker. Goodness.

What I am starting with at the moment is a DIY invention. I won't go into all the ideas, but in the end I have a 6" x 4" note card with a pitch/hook and instructions on one side (side A) and a reorder form on the back (side B).

I simply set up the copy in WordPerfect (my all time favorite software) and ran them through my laser printer. Then, (get this) I used rubber cement to attach the marker to side A of the card on the far right edge. I laid out the number of cards with pens that I needed to fill orders and let the rubber cement dry over night.

Then, I slid the card into the book somewhere in the middle so the pen was below the level of the front cover, tossed in my other marketing materials and it was good to go!

I won't be doing it that way once I'm getting hundreds of orders a day, but it isn't too bad to do for now, and it was fun in an 'arts and craft' sort of way.

So for those who have asked, that is how it is for now. Order my book and you can see it for yourself.

Remember to send me your reviews, I'd love to hear them.

The first post on Write Your Own Review Campaign:

Friday, May 22, 2009


Now the fun begins. For a long time in the POD/indie world the term distribution was blurred to mean listing a title online in as many places as possible. That is really a fulfillment outlet or at best some sort of passive distribution. It sounds good, "World wide distribution," except it should read, "World wide listing."

The next learning curve. Distribution. Real distribution. The kind that has sales reps going places and shopping books to book buyers (retailer's buyers). I think many indie writers are chasing traditional publishing, but the thing to chase is distribution.

Once again, I'm faced with a list of company names (small press distributors) that I don't recognize. First cut, google each one with "+ complaint" to see what is out there about them that THEY didn't write. Lots of results to sift through and consider. Cut the list.

Smaller list. Now the process really begins - read every one of the remaining "candidate's" websites. Ignore the pitch words and look for facts. Too vague, crossed off the list. Homemade websites, questionable seriousness. Client lists and online and hard copy catalogues get noted. Up front "processing fees of a vague nature." Cut from the list. If they make the short list, those will be checked out further.

OMG! OMGosh, and this is just the beginning of the process. I want to get back to writing. I don't want to be a grown-up business person. Writers, write. *sigh*

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trilogy Trivia

The hardest thing about writing Kathryn's Beach was keeping Kathryn reclusive. It helped that I never mentioned her last name until High Tide. It helped that her world was five miles of beach.

In High Tide the secondary characters really pop. Not only do these 'people' enhanse her life, they complicate it.

Storm Surge is more calculating and driven than the other two books. The writing is more evolved too, which probably helps.

It is funny how each of the books have a different personality. I use lots of 'almost' lines from movies as a nod to Katey's love of old movies. Plus the metaphors, the key/lock is one of the strongest, but there are others - like the weather as a mirror of Kathryn's emotions. I've thought of doing a trivia book on all the hidden elements in the stories.

Then there is that strange style I have. Someone commented on it again. People either like it because it is different or don't like it for the same reason. But like a dialect, I don't notice it any more than I think I have a spoken accent.

I will stop before I ruin it for you by dissecting it as if we were in a lit class.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It is YOU.

In the short time I've been blogging, the literary device I've written about the most is character development. The interesting stories throughout history have been about people. Whether fiction or not, the character has to have attributes that cause, as we say in social work, transference.

In film, a great actor can relate to their audience through facial expressions, gestures, interaction with their environment (throwing things works!), interaction with others, etc. To a certain extent all that is true of the stage actor too, only limited by the set and props. Well, and there's no CGI effects.

In novels, the character relies on the writer to use WORDS that triggers a UNIVERSAL RESPONSE. The setting, other characters, internal dialogue, and conversations all come into play in the building of a character. The key is the reader. If they are willing to be taken into the story so that story telling becomes story experiencing, characters become alive in a Velveteen Rabbit way.

I admit to deriving a great deal of satisfaction from being told that Kathryn is me. Actually, I'm probably more like Maggie, if you want to know the truth. Someone who grew up in Seal Beach accidentally called it Kathryn's Beach -- "We had the annual Kathryn's Beach parade last weekend." I smiled.

When my boss was reading KB, she kept calling me Kathryn. That was kind of funny. People do that all the time, if they really get into the story. Someone I've known for four months is certain, Kathryn is me. My sister-in-law thinks so too, but she has known me twenty-three years. I assure you, no one would want me to mix them a drink. OMG! They'd want their money back PDQ.

And so it goes, I've been successful with developing Kathryn into a 'real' person. I'm glad she is believable. I think the first person present tense is what gives people the sense that the story is real. I call it a faux memoir.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Amazon (dot) com

Someone recently said to me, "I know you hate Amazon..." Well no, I don't hate Amazon.

Here's my take on Amazon. Of course, like anything else, it is just my opinion and I could be all wrong.

I think Amazon has some very creative and, in a way, genius people over there. A motivated MBA student would do well to spend time studying Amazon's business model.

I think they have positioned themselves as a leader (mover and shaker?) in the book industry. I like to read the trade industry news about Amazon. Sometimes I roll my eyes and think, well that is self-serving. You know what, that is exactly how most successful businesses are.

Good press or bad press, they are in the forefront of most writers' and publishers' trade thoughts. And they have earned that position rightfully. They are impersonal and automated, and that is a result of their size and what the internet community expects.

So, hate them -- no. Love them -- no. But only a Village Idiot wouldn't pay attention to what they are doing.

Monday, May 18, 2009


This is too funny for comment. Go look.

or this one:


Ah the goddess Muse! I've often said Muse is YOU when writers lay at her feet their inability to produce. (Before someone leaves leaflets on my door, I am monotheistic.)

Regardless of theology, the trilogy is finished. It began with an unpremeditated short story email for a friend in January 2000, and grew into three books. That was quite an unexpected feat for this dyslexic short story writer.

I emailed a chapter a night to my friend Terrie Berg. In all, Kathryn's Beach took about 40 hours to write the first draft, and that was all I intended to do with it until Terrie printed it and shared it with people. Then out of embarrassment, I thought I'd edit it for her. I knew nothing about novel writing or the novel publishing industry -- and until then, gave no thought to either.

I write, as I have said many times, stream of consciousness style. I may have developed that style out of necessity in my writing classes in High School (UK college) and University because I worked full time and didn't have the luxury to spend weeks ticking at assignments.

Several house moves, children raising, two computers (I cracked, physically cracked, one hard drive) and the other stuff I do, along with different publishers or printers, here we are.

I looked with amazement at Storm Surge, not only required to be a story in its own right, but the completion of the trilogy. It was today that I noticed the symmetry of the story come full circle. The excerpt of Kathryn's Beach on my website is the scene where a mysterious letter is revealed that has been waiting for Kathryn. I just noticed that about the same distance from the end as that is from the beginning, another mysterious letter is waiting for Kathryn.

I've been harmlessly irreverent of the industry at times, but I revere my readers. There is no question I can write and I say that quite humbly because I come from a family of poets, writers and storytellers (liars), and I have my writing professor, Mr. Norlan, to thank -- though it began with Miss Barbee. I admit for the first time ever, that I believe there is Muse within a writer's spirit.

This isn't the end, I hope to have at least one more book out this year -- now that I have taken on the whole process myself, but for today I have let the ironing pile up and should give that some attention. I thank my husband for ironing his own shirts and my three sons for not being too picky about theirs. To all who have helped me, and there are many, I thank you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Whoopiee -- new newsletter

My mid-May Newsletter is now posted on my website.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free books! The value of literature as art

From what I glean from the trade news, there doesn't seem to be any sustainable negative impact on book sales from giving away free books. Of course, free books aren't free to the person giving them away. I've witnessed varying reactions to giving away my books, and sometimes I think the person would have appreciated it more if they bought the book. So I think the whole concept is individual in nature.

I was looking up something about Ayn Rand and saw a website listed that posted her book, Anthem, free on their site. I found that very disturbing. It wasn't the Ayn Rand Institute site and I didn't go look to see if it was done with permission or not, because I didn't want to increase their web traffic by as much as one visitor.

What bothered me, as best as I can tell at the moment, is that I enjoyed reading Anthem. I found value in it. Ayn's writing style, as with most great writers, is uniquely hers. I thought it was well worth the money to buy it. And in the end, I found posting it free somehow disrespectful of its value, perhaps even devaluing it.

Obviously someone devoting a website to Ayn Rand must be a fan of her or her works. Still I took it as an assault that they had given her art for nothing (and sincerely suspect it wasn't theirs to give). As hard as I try to spin it some other way, and as obviously wrong as I am, sitting here I still have the feeling that in their enthusiasm, they had something of valuable that they didn't respect.

I felt the same thing when I learned Ted de Grazia took his paintings into the Tucson desert and burned them in protest to the inheritance tax his children would have to pay for having them upon his death. The odd thing about such concern for his lost paintings is that I am not a huge de Grazia fan. But I'm not fond of Rembrandt's Night Watch either, so what do I know?

Most writers cannot support themselves by writing fiction. Ayn Rand took seven years to write one of her books. Sure the payoff was worth it. So why did it bother me to see that posting of her book for free? It isn't a rights issue. Perhaps for the same reason I am bothered to see books for a dime at garage sales. As radical as I am about pirating books (or music, or movies), at least the thieves realize there is value to them. (Not a value that is rightfully theirs.)

Even though the US schools are defunding arts programs, performing arts and fine arts, (while the UK is increasing subsidizing to their arts education), I still think we value the art of storytelling. So why did this bother me enough to table my scheduled post and write this one?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

eBooks: A return to the Dark Ages

What? How can that be a true statement? eBooks are digital. They are SoOooOOoooOo StarTrek.

The technology to pdf a file has been around for decades. Because the Kindle I and II and to infinity, Sony Reader, and tons of lesser known digital readers (and the 'widgets' to make your cell phone a book reader) are new, doesn't mean book readers are new. There have been text-to-speech (and speech-to-text) software around for a long time for visually impaired persons. (Kindle II can 'read' aloud, but some publishers disable that feature for their books.)

There are arguments (and fears) the eBook will replace printed books (yet we are thrilled with an archeological find of a Sanskrit tablet - not a worry). There are the green arguments of saving trees, a renewable resource (the chemicals and waste products of printing are much more the worry). There is the gray area of pulping books. Certainly that is better than burning them. It is recycling in a sense. The bigger mantle of pulping is it is a tribute to someone who made a bad business decision (maybe we should toss them some stimulus money for their creative greed). Printed books (fiction) can have a bookstore shelf life of only six weeks. Digital books will be around long after we are bored with them.

Why do you think the six largest publishers in New York City were not the first to go digital with their books en masse? It wasn't fear of losing printed books and it wasn't lack of funds or digital readers. Rupert Murdoch may annoy some, but he is not a fool. These publishers learned from the pirating of digital music and digital movies. Pirating books is big business in some counties - a business ignored by their governments (I have two theories for that - never mind).

I'm not in a rush to digitalize my books into eBooks. I'm not afraid of technology. I had a digital business card a few years ago and NO ONE knew what to do with it, so don't call me old school - I'm way ahead of most people.

Here is why I think eBooks are (currently) a return to the Dark Ages. Think for a moment about the skill of reading in the Dark Ages. Do you think Irish peasants were huddled around the night fire reading after a long day of tilling the rocky fields for the landowner? Where does illiteracy stand in the world today? What about today's poor?

eBooks are elitist. I don't mind that the wealthy have tons of things that I do not. But I do not have Alan Greenspan's belief in the Reaganomic trickle-down theory (crumbs are not a meal). I have yet to hear of one person donating lots of NEW computers or eBook readers (both with eBooks) to homeless shelters, much less hand one to someone who lives on the street because there are NOT enough beds in all the shelters combined to house all the people without a bed tonight.

For those who wish to replace print books with digital books it is a warp-drive reversion to the Dark Ages where only the rich could read and only the rich had access to books. It is a reversal of what Johannes Gutenberg gave civilization in 1440. Civilized society extends further than individual wealth.

Will I ever convert my books to a digital format? Yes. There is already something in the works on that. But it is not elitist. While I am a writer, and make no mistake about that, I am a social worker and see things from a 'people' perspective outside of how inexpensive it is to make eBooks and cash-in more than with printed books. I am a writer, and writers are storytellers. The audience's access should exclude no one.

Anyone (seriously) willing to pay my patent expenses may contact me, then you will see my books in digital form sooner. Until then, buy my printed books - so I can afford the patent and fund the R&D.

StarTrek, Kindle, Sony Reader are all trademarked. I don't know how to put the symbol into blogger posts.

If you have even slightly paid attention to the publishing industry news during the last decade, you know this stuff. If you have no clue what I'm talking about (where have you been???) start here: and here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

View The Back Of The Book Feature

What is inevitable when someone picks up a book? They eventually look at the back cover. Since the ONLY place to buy my books is on my website, we added a VIEW THE BACK OF THE BOOK FEATURE.

My web designer, Joyce, used the same process to create this SUPER FANTASTIC idea as she used on my photo page.

On my website homepage is the front covers of each book in the trilogy, Kathryn's Beach, High Tide, and Storm Surge. Want to see the back cover? Click on the book. Ta-da! There it is. And it is a readable size.

Click on the link to my website on the sidebar to the left of this post. (This feature is also on the books page...go check that out!)

Just another innovative idea from Nadine Laman Books, LLC. How about that? Personally, I don't know any other writer who has the real back of the book on their website. If you do, leave a link in the comments section.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Character development through dialogue

Actions speak louder than words, the saying goes. In writing the words have to create the visual experience for the reader. Characters can't run from point A to point B to...Z endlessly.

A writer has to give a voice to the characters. Their voice has to be realistic (no one speaks grammatically correct ALL THE TIME) as well as match the character. Each of my beta readers caught Shasta using a double negative. (Can't not, no nothing...) I wrote it that way because six year old kids, especially those who have lived on the street, aren't going to have perfect grammar.

The dialogue has to have the tone of the character and situation. A couple of years ago, my friend Jen Garsee wrote a great blog entry where she had different characters say the same thing. (If I find the specific link, I'll edit it into this post.)

There are rules to dialogue too. In the UK, for example, the ending punctuation is outside the quote mark. In the US, the ending punctuation is inside the final quote mark. There are rules about when to use single and double quote marks. There are format rules requiring each speaker to begin a new paragraph, indented, even if they speak only one word.

There is the endless argument about the dialogue tag -- he said -- part of the formula. One that always gets someone riled up on a writing forum is whether the tag for a question is 'said' or not. If I use a tag, I use 'asked' when it is a question. Technically, I've been convinced that 'said' could be correct. Even if it is, it reads silly. Anything that doesn't read right, even if it is correct, pulls the reader out of the story. Not good.

I attribute deep emotions to my characters. Written dialogue doesn't show when someone's voice drops to a whisper. So I tag it that way. This isn't correct either, but I used it in Storm Surge: “Be careful, don’t cut yourself,” I warn. Maybe it is just me but when I warn someone, I say it different from asking what time it is.

Excessive tagging is boring reading. If it is clear who is speaking, drop the tags. If more than two people are talking, it is unlikely they are going to take turns, 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3, so the unruly characters need their lines tagged.

The fastest way to get me to throw a book in the recycling bin is to make me stop and count down to see who said what when the conversation is long-ish and sentences could be said by anyone in the room. Sometimes this can be fixed with direct address rather than tagging, for example, "Yes Sister, blah-blah-blah." That clearly indicates the speaker is not the nun, but you're screwed if both speakers are nuns. heh heh heh

There are some of the basics about dialogue. A good writer develops a feel for when dialogue is needed to advance the story, to set the pace, to give information, to develop a character.

Do I always get it right? No. Mark Twain had dialogue mastered. Jen Garsee is great with dialogue writing. You don't have to take my word for it, Jen has two YA (young adult) books published by a big publisher.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Extra characters

There are primary characters, the protagonist and antagonist. Secondary characters are their friends, family, and colleagues. That is about the extent of most stage scripts. But in fiction (and screen plays) depth is added with background characters who are essentially 'extras' to the cast. Without these extras, there would be two people eating in an empty restaurant, walking empty streets, no taxi cabs in New York get the idea.

Sometimes they are anonymous extras like in this airport scene from High Tide (the passenger with the bag).

I walk back down the concourse in a daze. People with bulging carry-on luggage come from another gate and overtake me. One woman mutters, “Excuse me,” when she bumps me hard with her bag as she tries to squeeze between another person and me.

Sometimes an extra is implied. When a phone rings in the background (for whatever reason - maybe part of noise so your character can't hear something said) the phone call doesn't involve the active character in the scene, it is part of dressing the set. It is implied there is someone on the other end of the line making the call. This is unimportant and the reader will easily make that assumption and move on with the action.

Other times, an extra needs more prominence because of a bit part he or she will play later. They get introduced in a way that the reader will recall them later when they return. The gardener in Storm Surge is an example of this type of extra. See his introduction below.

In the distance, a dark figure is slowly moving across the landscape. The figure has tall, spindly appendages that angle toward its back. As it advances, I see a small person with a rake and hoe over his shoulder. Methodically, the figure moves closer.
We rendezvous in the rose garden.
"Good morning, Miss," the figure says and half-bows quickly three times.
"Good morning, I am Kathryn," I answer and offer a handshake.
The little Chinese man removes his gardening gloves and shuffles the weight of his hoe and rake, bringing them down to lean against his body.
Extending his hand, "Juan, I am Juan." He smiles.
"Huang. Mr. Huang, it is nice to meet you." We shake hands. "The gardens are beautiful." I gesture at the rose garden, figuring he is responsible for the beauty.
"I am Juan, no Mister, just Juan."
"Yes, Huang like the Yellow River – Huang He. Right?"
"No, no. Juan Garcia Li." He smiles, revealing a missing tooth from his upper jaw.
"Juan Garcia?" I ask trying to force my mind to make the connection with the Mexican name and the little Chinese man.
He grins again. "My mother gave me American name."

The connection is not as clear to me as it seems to be to him. I nod in agreement, returning his smile.
He smiles again, then starts raking around the base of a rose bush.

Note, each speaker should be indented at the beginning of a paragraph. I haven't found how to do that on blogger yet.

So, if you're interested in writing, there is a bit more about character development. If you're interested in my writing, there is a peek at Storm Surge.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Writing forums, newsletters, links...

I've been asked lots writing questions in the last two weeks. There is no particular reason for that, as far as I can tell. is some information.

I know there are a lot of non-writing readers on my list. Please send this blog link to the people on your email list - you may have friends and family who are closet writers, thinking about writing, or openly writing. Let's get them connected to the good stuff in this industry and help them avoid some of the scams. No one has money to waste. Friends look out for their friends.

Forums: I only recommend two writer's forums. There are other good forums, but here are my picks: Backspace ( which has a small fee (Well worth it. Lots of serious -- and successful writers here), and My Writers Circle ( a less formal, very international free forum. (And sometimes a wild free-for-all in the coffee shop.) This is the one I helped moderate at one time.

Newsletters: I support many fellow writers' newsletters, so don't be upset if I don't list yours at this time. I'm keeping the list short for now, and going specifically for those newsletters geared toward information beginning writers will find useful. If you are looking for newsletters geared for publishing or promoting, or basic BS (but good BS), email me and I'll give you those links.

How to tell a great story: In the latest issue is a link to an interview of ME! Whaa-hoo! and info about the eight types of pronouns. (Personally, I'm a fan of the 48 prepositions, but pronouns are nice too.)

Wow! Women On Writing (Okay, this one even looks girly, but there is info guy writers can use too)

Learn the industry: This is from the UK and covers US trade too. Less biased than many US industry newsletters. I read this daily.

This one is US info; good stuff:

Blogs: Gosh, I love mine. Since it seems I'm still mentoring or coaching...(I wanta coach's whistle! - no, don't dare send me one, I'm being funny.) I add to my blog at MN Arizona time, 8 AM GMT (M-F). I've decided to post these sorts of informational blog posts periodically.

Watch this space. I'd like to get away from mailing out bulk notices. Subscribe to my newsletter and follow my blog M-F, and you will periodically find info about writing or publishing, or perhaps get some ideas from the stuff I'm doing. I've never charged a fee for consulting. This seems the best way to provide and store the information online. Email me or leave a comment on my blog, if you have something to say about this.

I do not allow people to solicit my endorsements. My endorsement is earned. Sometimes, I change my mind and withdraw my endorsement. If you have any problems with anyone I recommend, let me know. Rant all you want. I want to know.

As I said in the beginning, pass this link to your email list and ask them to pass it on. Why? Because it might help an aspiring writer out there who is secretly struggling. This is a hard row to hoe at times, especially alone at the beginning.

Don't come crying to me if someone you know gets scammed and taken to the cleaners when you could have simply forwarded this link. Lend a hand. Friends look out for each other.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's the purpose?

The first week of this blog, my friend, Jean, wrote to me and said, "I've read your blog. What is the purpose? Seems like random thoughts."

Jean is more than a friend, if there is something more. She has been my mentor for thirty years. Two of the best things about Jean are her honesty and her way of framing a question to make me think rather than give me the answer.

It is true, most of the blogs are the writer's thoughts and opinions. Everyone who knows me, knows I had zero interest in blogging; no, make that 'absolute zero' interest, until I had a concept in mind.

This blog is an augmentation of information, opinions, and excerpts related to my writing, and sometimes the fiction publishing industry; things that don't quite fit my newsletter or my website.

This is a tough industry and the economic 'downturn' has made it worse. So I'd like to be encouraging, entertaining, and a bit more relaxed than writers get (sometimes) when pushing their wares.

In the past few months my website and newsletter have gone through a transformation and found a specific identity apart from where they started several years ago. As my friend Judith would probably say, this is a bit more like our over-the-garden-wall chats.

I would like this to become more of a dialogue forum. As I noted before, I've opened the comment section (I think) so anyone can comment. You don't even have to agree with me. This isn't intended to be an 'atta girl' situation.

Who knows, I might even write a novel on here one day. It would most certainly be the first draft, but if you'd like that, I'll consider it. Kathryn's Beach was written in three weeks in emails, a couple of hours a night. Granted it was rough, but if you're game, I might be too. But I won't know, if you don't comment.

So that's the purpose, a scratch pad...minus the doodling I often do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Storytelling interview

What's the likelihood of someone in Malaysia interviewing me? Slim.

Years ago when I was a moderator on a writer's forum, I helped a writer in Las Vegas, Fred Aguilar. Fred went to the London Book Fair (I think it was 2006???) and met Tan May Lee from Malaysia. Tan introduced Fred and Aneeta Sandararaj. Recently, Fred introduced Aneeta and me.

Thus the interview with Aneeta came to be. This industry is quite the thing, isn't it?

Read the interview here:

Get to know Fred here:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Character development #1

Look back over the last few posts and you'll get a feel for some of the characters I write. Character development is something that happens gradually as the story progresses. Little snippets of their personalities come to light as they interact, like Mr. Goldstein's walk on the beach or little Shasta stopping dead in her tracks to scold Kathryn. As a counterbalance to Mr. Goldstein is Grandfather McKenzie, the cold, calculating business man.

Not withstanding, you've come to know a bit about me as a (real life) character from Jerry Simmon's comment and my own dialogue with you. Probably the most telling thing you learned is my opinion of the underdog and the bully. I hope so, anyway.

One significant way writers make their characters come to life is to boldly point out (exaggerate) personality traits. The way to do that is to pay attention to real people and see what stands out about them, the things that make them interesting.

I went to the market last Thursday night. There were only a handful of shoppers in the store, but we kept running into each other as if drawn together by a geomagnetic force.

There was another woman about my age who was dutiful to her list -- just like me. There were two teen girls. And there were two men, older than me, who seemed new to the food shopping game. We had crossed paths several time. They were a bit loud, in an attention seeking way. But what really got my attention was when they were in the salad dressing section, selecting dressings by the shape of the bottle. The dark hair one said to look for a designer looking bottle.

I have no idea what their real story is, but I'd write them as two guys back in the dating game after years of sofa-loafing. It would be easy to write a comical piece about their efforts to attract the interest of their dates with the fabulous meal they planned. Of course, the meal doesn't go according to plan and they are not nearly as 'desirable' as they think they are.

That's how people watching turns into characters. Take an unsuspecting person and attribute a storyline to them. Got it?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Write Your Own Review Campaign

As we sat in a west valley coffee shop, Jerry Simmons reminded me that I break the rules in this publishing industry game. Honestly, I hadn't realized how often I do things my way, and how much worse (driven, focused) I am now that I'm totally Indie.

I've been at this gig for nine years now, so it isn't that I'm ignorant of the rules. It certainly isn't a masked (or outright) rebellion.

My focus is on my audience. I want to deliver a stellar performance to my readers with everything I do. It has been a long journey to get to this point, but I'm pleased-as-punch to be here now.

When it came time to put together the cover art for Storm Surge, I decided to replace the usual review quotes on the back with a white box for the reader to write their own review. Read that again. I put in a white space for the reader to write their own review of the book. (There is a screenshot of it in the current newsletter posted on my website.)

As soon as I had the proof book in hand, I tested the notion with a marker and was thrilled that it dried quickly and did NOT smear.

So the WRITE YOUR OWN REVIEW CAMPAIGN was born. With every purchase of Storm Surge comes a free Sharpie ultra fine tip marker. Check the prices on my books...Storm Surge lists at the same low price as the first two books in the trilogy. The marker really is FREE.

So there you go, you're in charge of the reviews. Betcha never saw that before. I know this isn't going to catch on with any other writer or publisher, but someone please cue the music for 'Ol Blue Eyes to sing My Way!

The story isn't complete until you listen to Frank Sinatra (here):

Newsletter pdf, be patient while it loads:

Jerry Simmons: