Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones -- 1 Year Anniversary

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On May 27, a year ago, I published the romantic comedy JANE I'm-Still-Single JONES. Join me in a cyber toast to the 1 year anniversary of this book's digital publication.

Jane, as I fondly call this book, was an immediate hit. It made the Top 100 Paid list faster than its predecessor Just One Look. To date, it has sold about 60,000 copies or more. (I really need to find the time to collate all the sales numbers from the various ebook sites.)

In December, I sold World French Rights for Print and Ebook to Bragelonne. The print book is being publishing this month, and I can hardly wait to see the book in French.

Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones: The Storyline

What could be worse for a former high school beauty queen who never landed the only man she ever loved than attending--alone--a 10-year high school reunion in a small town teetering on the edge of a time warp?At least that's how successful textile designer Jane Louise Jones views her situation and her hometown, just south of nowhere in the rolling hills of Louisiana, where a woman is still looked at as a failure if she isn't married. At least, that's what her grandmother and all the other blue-haired women of the Vernon Ladies Bridge Club would have her believe.

Jane is used to dealing with challenges, but she's decidedly nervous about her reunion. What if Morgan Sherwood, the town boy-wonder who made good in a big way, shows up? Morgan was once her secret love, a geeky teen who stole her heart and then broke it before leaving town forever.

Fortunately, her best friend assures her that Morgan will be a no-show. It's terrible when you can't trust your BFF! Morgan arrives with his entourage in a stretch limo. He's not a geeky kid any more. He's six feet of tanned, rippling muscles, and he plans to focus his high-powered brain and use every masculine charm he possesses to seduce the lovely Miss Jones.

With a former classmate intending to claim him as husband number four, a Hollywood starlet who shows up to party with him, and an old boyfriend intent on stealing Jane's affection, Morgan has more obstacles than he'd expected.Throw in the Ladies of the Bridge Club, lots of southern charm, and a ten-year old betrayal, and you have all the ingredients for a heartwarming, funny, sexy romantic comedy. Can Jane and Morgan get it right this time?

Jane wants to resist. She really does. Her brain says no, but her body says, oh, baby! Yes, yes, yes. Smoldering desire, thwarted for ten years, explodes into passion. Will it burn away their doubts or turn their love into ashes?

Takeaway Truth

Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones is a fun romp of a story. I love this book, and I love being an Indie Author!

Cheryl Bolen: A Stunning Anniversary

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This morning I welcome my friend Cheryl Bolen to SlingWords. Cheryl is celebrating her 1 year anniversary as an Indie Author. Take it away, Cheryl!

A Stunning Anniversary
by Cheryl Bolen


I started my awesome ebook journey the last week of May, 2011, with four full-length Regency historical novels for which I had gotten my rights back after they went out of print. During this first year I have indie published 16 books, have sold 200,000 copies, and have made more money than I made in the past 14 years publishing ten books with New York publishers.

Things Change

Recently I had a long talk with my fabulous agent. Though she wanted very much to sell my humorous Regency romance mystery trilogy, she told me with great honesty she couldn't get me the kind of money I'm making indie publishing. She also said few of her authors can get their publishers to release more than two books a year, and she pointed out the $15,000 advance (per book) she could expect to get me would be split into several payments.

It was a sad decision to make, but most of my books from now on won't be available in book stores — if book stores manage to still be around. (Probably my last New York-published book, Marriage of Inconvenience, will come out in October.)

Ebook Journey

My initial strategy when I went indie was to price one book (A Lady by Chance) at $.99 and the other three (Brides of Bath series) at $3.49 each. My first month I sold a modest 1,000 books. At Joan Reeves' urging, I added my World War II love story, It Had to be You, during that first month.

Things didn't heat up for me until the three-month mark when I published three original Regency historicals, one of which was a novella. My pricing philosophy on these was that since they had — for one reason or another — failed to garner a publishing contract, I would offer them for just $.99. That's when the sales really took off.

One of those ebook originals, My Lord Wicked, went to number 2 in Regency romance on Amazon (of about 6,000 titles), and The Earl's Bargain skyrocketed to number 1 its first week and was my first book to break into the Top 100 sellers in the Kindle Store. The Earl's Bargain stayed at number 1 in Regency (at Amazon) for weeks and in the Top 20 for months. It is still in the Top 40. To date, it has sold 40,000 copies.

Sales & Royalties

Since ebook royalties for indie books at $.99 are only about $.35 a book, you can see I have earned just $14,000 on Earl's Bargain, but these books will stay in cyberspace — and hopefully sell — in perpetuity. Also, having books in the Top 20 gets an author awesome exposure. Between four and five months into my indie publishing I had seven different books in the Regency Top 20. When readers like one of your books, often they will buy all of them. There has not been a single day since August that I haven't had a book in the Top 20 Regency.

I have had two more $.99 titles — ebook originals — capture the number 1 spot on Amazon's Regency bestsellers, my novella Christmas at Farley Manor (which also broke into the Top 100 sellers in the Kindle Store) and my March release, His Lordship's Vow.

Ironically, those three books which hit number 1 were "traditional" Regencies, shorter books with no consummated sex scenes. This is a genre New York abandoned a decade ago, but which my readers love. The best reviews I have ever gotten in my life have been for His Lordship's Vow. Even though it wasn't "hot," readers thanked me for writing a satisfying love story.

My best month I sold 38,000 books. I'm tapering off now between 14,000 and 18,000 sales a month. Half of my 16 indie books are priced $2.99 or above, and on books $2.99 or more, I make a gratifying 70 percent royalty. My New York published books netted me just 6 percent royalties — or less if they was sold through a book club or other distribution channels.

All the previously mentioned bestsellers are from Amazon. While I sell fairly well at the iTunes store and have had several bestsellers there, I have yet to figure out why my books aren't selling like that on Barnes & Noble.

What I've Learned


• Though the $.99 books won't make you rich, they bring you readers, as do free books. I've done very few free days on my books, though I recently moved one of my Regency novellas to free to attract new readers. I'm also going to offer one of my contemporaries free permanently to attract readers to that four-book contemporary series, Texas Heroines in Peril.

• Inventory is important. I've got 11 books in the same genre, the genre which accounts for most of my sales. It's extremely difficult for a person with just one or two books to have the number of sales I've experienced. It's the kiss of death to jump genres with each book.

• It's not easy to get readers to switch genres. More than ninety percent of my sales are in Regency romance, the genre for which I was already established when I began indie publishing. Eleven of my 16 indie books are Regencies (and Harlequin offers a couple more of my Regencies as ebooks). Though my World War II love story has sold steadily, it only accounts for 1 percent of my sales (2,000 copies). Ditto for my four-book romantic suspense series, Texas Heroines in Peril. Most of those who are buying my Heroines in Peril "also bought" my Regencies; so, they followed me. But romantic suspense readers are not finding me.

• I have done almost no promotion and no advertising. I rarely Facebook, rarely visit Goodreads, and I'm not on Twitter. I blog occasionally and maintain a simple website. I do believe social networking can be helpful, but I'm just too busy writing. It took me almost five months to finish Marriage of Inconvenience to fulfill my last New York contract, and I've written several novellas this past year and am finishing up the second book in my Regency mystery series.

• Because of the proliferation of indie authors and indie books, it's almost impossible to get an indie book reviewed through traditional channels.

• Even though I have a degree in English and have massive editing experience, I can't proofread my own books. I pay eBook Editor, run by my journalist son, to find my errors.

Today on Amazon I was pleased to see that first book I put up one year ago, A Lady by Chance, is still in the Top 20 Regency bestsellers. Is this a great business model, or what?

Takeaway Truth

Many of my friends have embraced indie publishing, just as I have, and it's given all of us a new lease on the writing life.

Chris Keeslar & Boroughs Publishing

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Most writers know or know of Chris Keeslar, formerly of Dorchester Publishing. You also know that Dorchester is defunct, but Mr. Keeslar edits on. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of Boroughs Publishing.

Romance Fiction Contest

Boroughs Publishing is sponsoring its First Romance Short Story Contest. (See @ FIRST SIGHT -- remove spaces of course.) No entry fee!

Here's what their newsletter announcement said:

Looking to get noticed? Boroughs is offering a great opportunity for you to show off, whether you’re published or unpublished, whether you’re a first-time author or have a trunk full of novels under your bed. Short fiction is the simplest of all art forms—and the trickiest. With a limited amount of space to show us your world, your characters, their conflict…and then prove why they just have to be together, you have to be smart, be sexy, be different. And it has to happen in the blink of an eye.
Think you can succeed? We know you can.

About The Contest

The contest is open to published and unpublished authors alike. You may enter more than once, but please submit each story separately.

Each story should be self-contained enough to feature a resolution of any inherent conflicts and provide at least a happy-for-now ending. Looking for a place to get started? Here’s a thought: Use side characters of your previously written novels or back story connections of your characters that part and meet again.

Entry Details

1. Contest is now open and closes 11:59 p.m. PST, July 1, 2012.


2. Send your entry to submissions at boroughspublishinggroup.com

3. ROMANCE story of 6,000 to 10,000 words, double spaced, Times New Roman 12 point, with one-inch borders, submitted in MS Word

4. Please put your story title in the header flush right.

5. DO NOT put your name on the body of the story, as the rounds will feature anonymous judging, but in your query letter include your name and contact information, the story title and its suggested sub-genre.

6. In the subject line of your submission email, please put “@FS: [YOUR STORY TITLE]”

7. Include “the pitch”: a 15 to 25 word encapsulation of the story. Be brilliant. You will be judged on this!

How It Works

Phase 1: On July 3, 2012, story titles and pitches will be posted ANONYMOUSLY on our website for open voting. Those that receive the top 25% of the vote in their sub-genre will be selected as SEMI-FINALISTS to go on to…

Phase 2: On July 17, 2012, the story’s first page (or first ~250 words) will be posted ANONYMOUSLY on our website for votes along with the title and pitch. In addition, our Editors will weigh in. The top three stories in each sub-genre will be selected as FINALISTS to go on to…

Phase 3: On July 24, 2012, the first three pages of the story will be posted for voting. Bit by tantalizing bit you’ll see who has what it takes—and so will we. The announcement of the winner of the @ FIRST SIGHT contest will be made at 5:45 p.m., Friday, July 27, 2012, at our Publisher Open House at the RWA convention in Anaheim, California, and the results will be Tweeted and publicized on our website.

How To Vote

Beginning on July 3, 2012, and for each phase of the contest, you and everyone you know should visit www.boroughspublishinggroup.com, find the link to the @ First Sight contest, then cast your votes for stories that tickle your fancy and make you want more. You may vote for every story you like.

Prizes

All Finalists will be offered:
  • A contract to have their story published and sold by Boroughs Publishing Group.
  • A full editorial process to make their story shine.
 The Finalist with the most popular website votes will be offered a critique by an editor of a full-length manuscript submission to Boroughs, with a turn-around time of two weeks.

The Winner, chosen from our Finalists by our editorial staff, will receive:
  •  cover art specifically tailored to the story
  • A critique by our Editor-in-Chief of a full-length manuscript submission to Boroughs, with a turn-around time of two week
  • 75% of the winning story’s net royalties
Takeaway Truth

Someone will be one of the finalists. Someone will win. Maybe it will be you -- but only if you enter.

Honoring Those Who Died

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On this Memorial Day, take a break from the barbeque and games and gatherings of family and friends to remember those who gave all in the name of freedom.

Takeaway Truth

"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" ~ Maya Angelou

The High Cost of Freedom

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Tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day here in the United States. On that day, we honor those who have fallen in too many wars and conflicts.

From The Old Issue by Rudyard Kipling:

"All we have of freedom, all we use or know - This our fathers bought for us long and long ago."

Takeaway Truth

I give my respect, admiration, and heartfelt gratitude to the men and women who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.



3 Sales Rank Tools

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Authors are obsessed with book sales. Many are addicted to the sales numbers published daily by the ebook sellers.

If you want to track your book sales or sales rankings, here are 3 ways to do it:

NovelRank

NovelRank is a free website where you can track your Amazon Sales Rank at all the countries where Amazon has a sales outlet: UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, China, Italy, and Spain. They offer the ability to track print and ebook sales along with charting, RSS feeds, and real-time data.

Book Chart Info

BookChart.info is tracking "180,046 books by 95,133 authors. These books have appeared on the iTunes charts about 15,702,000 times across 54 genres in 6 countries since 1 May, 2011."

This website charts sales at iTunes. Use BookChart for a number functions including viewing past iTunes Book Charts. Use the chart pages to find out which books moved up on a chart, which books have fallen on the charts, and which books are new. BookChart.info is currently tracking 180,046 books by 95,133 authors. These books have appeared on the iTunes charts about 15,702,000 times across 54 genres in 6 countries since 1 May, 2011.

RankForest

Rankforest is another way to monitor market performance and Amazon sales trends. The Basic Account is free. You can change account status at any time. With paid accounts, you can view historical data, export, read reviews, set up alerts, compare multiple titles.

Takeaway Truth

Like it or not, if you want to be successful as a writer, you must also be a good business person. Studying statistics to see what's working and what's not is crucial to long-term success.

Defining A Series

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I've been engaged in a couple of email discussions about series. One is with a writer who's thinking of turning indie, and the others are friends who are print published and indie published. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about series with you since it's occupying my brain at the moment.

(By the way, just in case you're interested, all of my books mentioned in this article are available at all major ebook sellers.)

I have 3 series in progress: Texas One Night Stands; The Good, The Bad, and The Girly; and San Antone Two-Step. When completed the Texas series will have 4 books and so will The Good, The Bad, and The Girly. San Antone Two-Step is, as the name implies, 2 books.

I also have a set of romantic comedies, each with cover art depicting black lingerie. I call these books The Lingerie Covers. Some call them a series, but in actuality the only elements joining the books together are the cover art work and the fact that they are all romantic comedies. I've published three from my backlist with these covers. I'm getting ready to publish the 4th this month and that will be all of The Lingerie Covers.

I'll come back to these series and pseudo-series in a moment.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)


What Constitutes A Series?

A lot of writers want to do series because readers like series books. Witness the popularity of not just mystery series, but fantasy/SF novels and romance novels of every niche sub-genre that contain continuing characters and often "world-building." In fact, some writers want to create series so much that they often take what amounts to stand-alone books and try to group them under some umbrella.

Of course, planning a series and then writing it is the "easy" way to get a series going. However, if you're taking already written books and packaging them as a series, be careful. Not all books co-exist harmoniously unless planned that way in the beginning.

Pointers To Get You Going

Whether you're starting at the beginning or taking already written books, here are some questions to consider to help you focus your ideas.

1. Who is your target audience? Age, gender, and other demographics. This is who you want to sell to so look at other series in your genre that seem to appeal to these same demographics and see how those books are packaged. Don't copy, but learn from what they're doing and model your project in the same way.

2. Do you have a series name? Is the series name reflective of the unifying elements in each book?

3. If you look at all of the books -- written and planned -- what are the unifying concepts that identify  them as a series?

4. Can you write 1 sentence that states what the series is about? Do it now, just as you wrote a 1 sentence (called a logline in screenwriting) for each book in the series. It's important to be able to do this because it shows you have a firm focus on each story and on the series as a whole.

5. Do you have a cover art concept including fonts that visually links each book in the series?

Back To My Series/Pseudo-Series

Texas One Night Stands is set primarily in Alton County, pure fiction, and the characters are linked through Book 4. In Book 1, The Trouble With Love, heroine Susannah Quinn and hero D.E. Hogan are destined to live happily ever after. Susannah's cousin Judy Anne Palmer is mentioned in this first book at the beginning, middle, and end. A secondary character in this book is Allison Platt who will be the heroine of Book 3, Forever Starts Tonight.

If I had been smart, I'd have made cousin Judy Anne Palmer have a more prominent role in the first book. She becomes the heroine of Book 2, Romeo and Judy Anne, along with her hero Roman Carlisle. In this book, she refers to her cousin Susannah, but Susannah doesn't appear "on stage" at all. Not smart. In this book, Judy Anne's best friend Heather and Roman's brother Brian are at crossed swords from the moment they meet each other. Naturally, they're fated to be the stars of Book 4, Crazy For Love.

By the time I finished Book 2, I'd learned my lesson. Everyone will appear in Book 3 and in Book 4.

Moral of this story is to fully use the characters you create. If readers liked them, they want to see them in future books and know that they truly had their happy ending.

When I started my series The Good, The Bad, and The Girly with Book 1, Old Enough To Know Better, I'd learned my lesson. In that book, which is Stormy and Sean's story, I introduce Stormy's daughters who will each be a star of the remaining 3 books.

San Antone Two Step was previously published as a book and its sequel. Both books are set in San Antonio, Texas, with Darcy Benton and Chase Whitaker in Nobody's Cinderella and Darcy's brother Bruce appearing again as the hero in the sequel which I have titled Cinderella Blue to be published in June.


Takeaway Truth

Give a great deal of thought before your get started on writing a series. You can save yourself a lot of backtracking and headaches if you do it right from the beginning.

Lone Star Writing Conference & Contest

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My friends at Northwest Houston Chapter of Romance Writers of America wanted me to remind you about their annual Lone Star Conference and Writing Competition.

This year, the 20TH Annual LONE STAR Conference is slated for October 13 and features James Scott Bell as keynote speaker. Bell's topic is Plot and Structure.


Conference Information

Editors and Agents

Chris Keeslar, Editor-in-Chief, Burroughs Publishing

Liz Pelletier, Entangled Publishing

Agent: Elaine Spencer, The Knight Agency

Location: Houston Marriott North at Greenspoint

Date/Time: October 13, 2012 from 9 am to 5 pm. Registration and breakfast are 8:30 – 9:00 a.m.

Cost: $130

Lone Star Writing Competition


As a part of the conference, the prestigious Lone Star Writing Competition is held each year. That contest for unpublished authors is now open. Clicking the link above will take you to the entry form.

Contest Information

Fee: $25.00 ($20.00 for NWH members).

Payments accepted through Paypal.

Early bird entry: $5 discount on all entries submitted by midnight May 26, 2012.

Category:

Contemporary Series Romance

Single Title Historical or Regency Romance

Romantic Suspense or Romantic Intrigue

Fantasy, Futuristic, Paranormal

Inspirational Romance

Young Adult Romance

Deadline: Midnight CST June 9, 2012

First 150 entries are guaranteed admission. Additional entries accepted subject to judge availability.

Takeaway Truth

The Lone Star Conference is one of the best around. Take advantage of the chance to meet editors, agents, and authors published traditionally and as indies. Writers who win and place in the contest often end up with book contracts so don't hesitate to enter.

The Joy of Coffee

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Some mornings, the only thing that gets me out of the bed is the aroma of brewing coffee floating through the house.One of the best inventions ever? Coffeemakers with timers.

Quick History

The National Coffee Association has a great article on the history of coffee which dates back to the 13th century. Another good article can be found at Wikipedia. Kaldi, a 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder, is credited with the discovery. His story appeared in writing in 1671.

From Ethiopia, coffee spread to Egypt and Yemen, but the earliest stories of brewing the berries as a drink seems to have occurred in the mid-1400's in Yemen, in Sufi monasteries. A 150 years later, coffee had spread to the rest of the Middle Eastern area and into northern Africa. From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to Italy and to the rest of Europe then to Indonesia and finally to the Americas.

Word Derivation

The brewing of coffee has a murkier history with attribution to various sheiks and various tales of how someone came to boil the berries then drink the resulting liquid. The word coffee has a clearer origin. It entered the English language around 1598 from the Dutch word koffie which came from the Turkish word kahve that originated in the Arabic word qahwa, a shortening of the phrase qahhwat al-bun meaning wine of the bean. According to the Wiki on the history of coffee, a "possible origin of the name is the Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant originated; its name there is bunn or bunna"

Coffee had declined in beverage popularity beginning with the Flower Power era. Then in 1971, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle, and the world of coffee changed.

From Then To Now

In 1891, in "Over the Teacups," Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote: "The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce."

I like what Dave Barry had to say about the necessity for the morning cup of joe: "It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles."

As for that abomination called decaf, I agree with A. C. Van Cherub, although who that oft-quoted person is remains a mystery. He/she said: "I don't understand decaf, it's like sex without the sex." Too true.

Takeaway Truth

"Coffee, the finest organic suspension ever devised." ~ Star Trek: Voyager

Review: Sector C by Phoenix Sullivan

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I've set a goal to read more since my TBR stack in print and digital threatens to overwhelm me.

One of the ebooks I read this week on my Kindle was SECTOR C by Phoenix Sullivan.

Sector C opens with an intriguing premise. As with many books, I wish the premise and plot surprises weren't revealed in the book's Product Description. I'd love it if authors could learn the skills of publishing company copywriters so that they could intrigue and hook readers without revealing so much. Readers love to be surprised. We love it when we can say, "Wow. I didn't see that coming."

According to the author's biography on Amazon, Ms. Sullivan was once a registered veterinary technician. Her interest in and obvious love of animals shines through this story and gives resonance to the heroine Dr. Donna Bailey.

Sector C is a good science fiction thriller. Good characters, especially the heroine veterinarian and the CDC investigator, solid storytelling skills, and curiosity about how they're going to save the world will keep you turning the virtual pages.

From the initial hook to the end, the story holds together. Sure, there are a few rough spots, but nothing that will make you regret buying this book. All in all, this was an enjoyable read that will make you look for the author's other books. I know I'll be getting her next book that plays with a similar premise.

Want your own Kindle? Click here.

Takeaway Truth

Reading is one of the best, and least expensive, forms of entertainment. Read a book today.

She Worked Hard For Her Money

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My daughter Adina called me yesterday during her lunch hour. She'd just learned Donna Summer had died. You see, Donna Summer holds a special place in our joint memory.

When my daughter was 3-years-old, she heard the song She Works Hard For Her Money. I can remember she stood still as she listened. Then, when the song ended, she started singing, "She works hard for her money." Just that one line. And she laughed and sang it again.

That was the beginning of the Summer of Donna Summer. She must have sung that one line from the song a million times. Over and over.

One might think that the endless repetition might induce insanity, but that wasn't the case. She smiled and played and occasionally sang that line. It was adorable. She was adorable.

Ever after, I could never think of Donna Summer without thinking of that song. If I heard the song, I flashed back to the summer my now-grown daughter took such delight in the simple pop song with the dance beat. Naturally, I requested it from the DJ for the playlist during her wedding reception in March.

Takeaway Truth

Donna Summer brought joy to my toddler daughter all those years ago. Now her passing brings tears.

R.I.P.




Talk Radio Here I Come

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Tonight I'll be one of the contemporary romance authors on Elaine Raco Chase's blog radio talk show. I'm on at 8 Eastern time, followed by Kelly McClymer, Terry Odell, Lynn Smith, Velda Brotherton, and Trana Mae Simmons.

Tune in to Triangle Variety Radio and click on the Blog Talk Radio silver bar. If you miss the broadcast, you can go in at any time at a later date. Simply find the date of the broadcast, select, and click to listen.

If you want to call in to make a comment or ask a question, use the posted phone number at the radio website.

Takeaway Truth

Writers talking about books -- now that's my idea of fun.


What's In A Fake Name?

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I've been trying to make a dent in my enormous TBR stack. A Kindle has made accumulating new books too easy. Now I have a TBR virtual stack and an equally large TBR stack of print books. Yet, I keep accumulating books.

Yesterday, I cleaned out the bookcases in the living room, dusting everything. I could have planted petunias in the dust covering those books. In cleaning, I couldn't help but pull a few books out and set them aside. These were some I'd accumulated this last year. I had eventually shelved them because I didn't have the time to read them.

With the goal of making a dent in the print books TBR, I started with the one I want to tell you about today.

Pseudonyms: The Names Behind The Names by Joseph F. Clarke

This book was in a throwaway pile at a local school. I rescued it. I'd love to give you a link to a new copy of this book because it's an informative and highly entertaining book. Unfortunately, it has a 1977 Copyright. A quick search online showed a copy at ABE Books as well as an Amazon page that has links to used copies.

Many of the pseudonyms the author discloses are of Hollywood icons of the golden age, well-known politicians, and, of particular interest to writers, famous authors. What's so interesting are the stories of how these famous people ended up with the names by which we know them.

Take Veronica Lake

If you don't recognize the name, Ms. Lake was the actress known for her side-swept blond hair that nearly obscured one side of her face. Here's a pop culture reference to help you place her. In the movie L. A. Confidential starring Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce, Kim Bassinger played a call girl -- and won an Oscar for her portrayal of a blonde -- "cut to look like Veronica Lake."

(Note: The image shown here is from Wikipedia. As stated on Wikipedia, "This is a standard publicity photo taken to promote a film role. As stated by film production expert Eve Light Honathaner in The Complete Film Production Handbook, (Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.): Publicity photos (star headshots) have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary.)

In the preface of the book, which is excerpted from W. H. Allen's Veronica, (Book not found online.) we learn that Veronica Lake was Constance Keane, a perfectly good, even rather elegant sounding name. The problem was that MGM producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. did not like the name. The long and the short of it was that he summoned her to his office and proceeded to talk her through the name-picking process.

"It has to do with images," he told her. Then, he looked at her and said he thought when people looked at her deep, navy-blue eyes, that they would feel calm, like the calm of a lake. Then he decided that he wanted something more normal than the trend to the outlandish like Tab (Hunter) and Rock (Hudson). Because Connie Keane had classic features, he chose Veronica, a classic name.

Thus, Veronica Lake, to her dismay was born. She didn't like the name because her mother, with whom she had a difficult relationship, was often called Veronica. In fact, she cursed and wept, but it did no good.

Takeaway Truth

How wonderful to rescue a book and find it a complete delight.

Pinched Nerves, Rainstorms & Clogged Drains

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We've had a few interesting days here at the hacienda.

Thursday night last week there was so much thunder all night that it sounded like cannon bombardment. I understand Galveston County recorded more than a thousand lightning strikes.

Friday, my new keyboard arrived. I took it out of the box, looked at it, shook my head in dismay, and packaged it back up. This new keyboard was supposed to help my muscle strain and alleviate the pinched nerve problem that has plagued me the last few weeks and has kept me away from the computer.

The new keyboard was advertised as a mini-keyboard. I used to have a similar one that was great until it stopped communicating with the RF receiver and made typing clean copy impossible. That was a nightmare. So I was expecting a similar size keyboard. The one I received should have been advertized as a micro-mini keyboard. I don't think anyone other than a child could successfully type on that tiny rectangle.


Friday night I had connected my old keyboard and was attempting to work on this never-ending book when the weather turned ugly. We had one of those storms that had all the temperament of a hurricane. From about 10:30 at night to 5:00 the next morning, 8 inches of rain fell. The power went on and off with the frequency of a yo yo's up and down movement.

On Saturday, I caught up on my sleep since I'd been awake most of Friday night. Sunday dawned and found me still tired. My husband left for a trip to New York. I read 2 books from my TBR mountain. In the early evening, I decided to have a bowl of cereal for dinner. Yuk! The milk was soured.

Down the cereal went into the garbage disposal. I turned the water on, flipped the garbage disposal switch, and the whole mess churned back up into the sink. Ack! To make a long story short, it's Monday night, and the kitchen sink is still stopped up. I worked on it Sunday night with the plumber's friend, then Drano, then gave up.

Today, I called my friendly plumber only to discover he's busy until later in the week. So, the kitchen is out of commission until my darling husband comes home, takes the pipe apart, and cleans out the mess. Or my plumber shows up.

Seriously. Shredded wheat? Makes me wonder if the flood Friday night did something weird.

Takeaway Truth

An out of commission kitchen, and I'm the only one home! A perfectly good excuse to eat out -- wasted.

Mama Hugs

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"There's nothing like a mama-hug." ~ Terri Guillemets

I miss my Mama, and I miss my mother-in-law and my first husband's mother. I was blessed to have these three amazing women in my life. They helped make me who I am. Oh, how I'd love a hug from each of them. Instead, I have only the memories of their hugs.

Takeaway Truth

Happy Mother's Day! Always remember to show your mother -- and those women who fill a mother's role in your life -- that you love and appreciate them. 

Clarify Viewpoint

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I know I shouldn't be focused on anything except the book I'll be publishing this month, but I'm anxious to get to the next book I plan to write so I was playing around with some new characters -- getting acquainted with them.

One of the most crucial decisions a writer makes is choosing the viewpoint character for a scene.

How do you know who should be the viewpoint character for your story, or for a particular scene? A lot of writers head-hop meaning that they go back and forth, sometimes sentence by sentence, because they have weak viewpoint skills. If you've ever wavered between one or character or another, here are 4 questions to ask to determine which character should be the viewpoint character.

4 Questions To Clarify Viewpoint

1. Who will be at the center of the action?

2. Who will have everything at risk?

3. Whose struggle toward a goal is the fuel driving the story, or that scene?

4. Who will be moved, changed, by the outcome?

Answer those questions, and you have your viewpoint character. Stay faithful to the viewpoint character and let the spotlight shine on him or her. Don't move the spotlight away unless you have very good reasons for doing so.

Back about 20 years ago there was a popular historical romance author who wrote big books. In one book that I remember, I think she was in every character's viewpoint at least once -- including being in a dog's viewpoint!

Takeaway Truth

Don't be a viewpoint slut, sliding into every character's skin. Choose wisely.

Knock On Wood Superstition

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I've been doing research for a new book in which one of the characters is extremely superstitious. So, this past weekend, I researched superstitions.

I'm the least superstitious person in the world, but my mother was extremely superstitious. (Maybe that's why I'm not -- rebellion.) I always found it amusing and curious that my mother, such an intelligent woman, would have a hissy fit if someone put a hat on a bed.

In her memoir, Memory Lane: My Sentimental Journey, I helped her compile a list of superstitions. It's hard to believe intelligent people let their lives be ruled by such ridiculous rules.


I envision my character doing the "knock on wood" thing so here's what I learned from Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati about superstitions. (I've had this book forever and still find things in it to intrigue me.)

Knock Wood

Do you knock wood when you say something like, "I'm going to get that promotion." Or, maybe rather than knock on the nearest piece of wood, you say the phrase, "Knock wood."

Knocking on wood originated with the children's game of tree tag where the tree was safety. Go back about 3,000 years ago, and you find North American Indian tribes doing this. On the other side of the world, just a little later, the Greeks were doing it. In both cases, the theory was pretty much the same.

From North America To Ancient World

Native Americans saw lightning strike oak trees frequently so they believed that the oak was where the sky god lived. From the same occurrence, the early Greeks deduced oak trees were where the god of lightning lived.

Native Americans believed that if a warrior boasted about a future accomplishment that it would not happen so they "knocked wood" of the oak tree to neutralize possible retribution as a result of bragging.

In the first century A.D. in Europe, Christians asserted that "knock wood" referred to the cross on which Christ was crucified, but most scholars have debunked that belief.

Odd how just about every culture had this belief. In North America and ancient Greece, the oak tree was the wood to knock. In Egypt, the tree was the sycamore. For Germanic tribes, it was ash, and for the Dutch, the wood wasn't important as long as it was natural -- no paint, carving, or finish allowed.

Most of you know that tree cults were common throughout history and gave rise to other superstitions.

Takeaway Truth

I plan to finish my work in progress this week -- knock wood -- so I'll have time for more armchair research.

Quiet In the Country

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I'm up in the Hill Country this weekend, and I must say that I'm really enjoying the quiet. Everything here seems more peaceful than at home. Life moves slower. When you shop in small towns, people take time to smile and chat with you even though you're a stranger to them.

When we travel up here, leaving Houston behind, eight lanes of concrete give way to two-lane blacktop roads. Landscaped esplanades carefully planted at precisely spaced intervals with live oaks yield to fields of golden-petaled Black-eyed Susan's and vibrant orange Mexican Sombrero wildflowers.

Country Living's Lack Is Appealing

Don A. Dillman said, "Ironically, rural America has become viewed by a growing number of Americans as having a higher quality of life not because of what it has, but rather because of what it does not have!"

I guess he was right because time spent up here is more relaxed because of the technological aspects of life which are absent -- by our choice -- here.

The air smells differently up here. The sky seems bigger. We look east to the horizon and whirl around to look west and see where the land curves down to the other horizon. Spectacular. At night, there's no light pollution to diminish the light from the heavens. Stars twinkle brightly, and the full moon, at perigee this weekend --the point at which it makes its closest approach to the Earth -- is like a spotlight hanging over the house.

I can feel myself relaxing as if the tension inside were physically manifested as a tightly-wound spring suddenly weakening and uncoiling. As the stress ebbs, I find my imagination stirring. An idea I'd been "playing with" surfaces, just begging to be explored. With no television, video games, or even people except for my husband, I can yield to my creative self and explore all the ideas that pop up.

Albert Einstein said, "I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."

Takeaway Truth

I think Einstein was right. Without other interruptions and disruptions, a quiet life nourishes the imagination. 


Review: Flirting With Death by Heidi Hall

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This week I read a book that's a fun mix of genres -- paranormal, mystery, espionage, a touch of romance, and a big heaping spoon full of black humor. The book? Flirting With Death by Heidi Hall.

I'll confess I totally agree with Kayla McKenna, the heroine of this first book in the Assassins Anonymous series, when it comes to drivers who yak on cell phones, people who abuse animals, anyone who is rude and crude in public, and a whole host of others that find themselves on this former government assassin's black list.

Unlike hit woman McKenna, I don't go around plotting how to whack these annoying humans. Too bad for McKenna that the government has canned her cranky behind and tossed her back into Stepford land aka suburbia. This rip-roaring droll adventure may not appeal to some readers, but I found it a hoot that I couldn't put down.

Tiny Quibble

I have one quibble. No, make that two. First quibble? The non-ending. I'm sorry, but I think even if the book is a lead in to the second book that it should have a firm satisfying ending. That said, don't let that dissuade you from this book. Definite 2 thumbs up.

Second quibble? I desperately want to read book 2, but it's not yet out. I'm just hoping that Kayla decides to go after the bad boy that got away because he turned out to be too gallant for her own good.

(Note to Heidi Hall: send me an advance review copy! Pretty please?)

Takeaway Truth

Like I always say, a good story is a little vacation between the covers of a book.

ISBN Database

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A few years ago, I heard about ISBNdb, a digital database for books.

Just today I checked to see if the ISBNs I had registered for my ebook editions were in the database. A quick search revealed only print books so they still don't index ebooks here as far as I can tell. However, I think the database is still a useful research tool.

Originally, the website said they "archived digital records for 4.2 million books, collected from 10 million different sources. They get their data by scanning libraries worldwide for book information. The scanning is random and similar in a way to how general purpose web search engines scan web sites. Scanned results are parsed and stored in the website's searchable database. They try to cross-index the database by author, publisher, genre... ."

Takeaway Truth 

You never can tell when you might need to find a book's ISBN.

3 Fun Ways To Learn New Words

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Why improve your vocabulary?

There are millions of words available to you. Sometimes, one word provides a better meaning of what you're trying to articulate than another.

Mark Twain said: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is... the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Yet, we often don't bother with finding the perfect word to use in conversation or in writing. Why? Maybe we're lazy and stuck in a verbal rut.  Maybe we haven't expanded our vocabularies since we were in school. Maybe we think others won't understand us if we use a different word.

Words are the tools of our trade. I know when I was a kid and reading voraciously, I learned a lot of new words simply by reading. That's the side effect of reading for entertainment. You can learn new words as well as new facts.

Don't be afraid to educate readers albeit subtly with your choice of words by making what you write organic to the writing. I know, as a reader, I love to see how a writer uses vocabulary.
Benefits Of Increased Vocabulary
  • Better articulate your ideas
  • More effective writing
  • Better reader comprehension
  • Improved conversational skills
  • Improved speaking skills
  • Improved image because you're judged on how you speak and write in the business world--and the social world
All that should result in more success in your professional and personal lives.

3 Fun Ways To Learn Words

Free Rice Game

This online game is addictive, fun, and increases your vocabulary as well as providing food for millions. No kidding! According to the website: "The rice you donate makes a huge difference to the person who receives it. You and the thousands of other Freerice players have fed millions of people since the game launched in October 2007."

I love to play games and find them highly addictive. This is one I don't feel guilty about because every time I play, I'm helping feed a hungry person.

It's easy to play.

1. Click on the right answer in the middle of the page.

2. If you get it right, you get a harder question. If you get it wrong, you get an easier question.

3.For each answer you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.
  
Wordnik Word of the Day

Kim Komando alerted me to Wordnik, an expansive online dictionary and thesaurus that publishes an obscure or archaic word every day. They offer multiple sources of definitions for each word and examples of its use in literature. A feature I really like is the sound file to show you how the word is pronounced.

Vocabulary Building Games

This website is a repository of games from the classics like Hangman, or Hang Mouse, to games designed for specific elements like anagrams, foreign words, homophones, idioms, Latin words, etc. There's truly something here for every taste. You'll be challenged, have fun, and learn a lot.

Takeaway Truth

Words are how we communicate. Learn how to communicate more effectively by increasing your vocabulary.