Lost in the Digital Age

I was lost on a long, unending road somewhere between Bossier City, Louisiana and Hot Springs, Arkansas. My atlas was falling apart, plus it was hard to read while driving, my gas gauge had already passed E, and my pre-paid phone had less than a minute remaining.

By this point, many of my friends had cell phones with service. I stubbornly resisted. Until that day. Then, I wallowed in regret, promising myself I’d follow the technology trend as soon as I returned home.

I remembered that afternoon as I read, with a chuckle, Pegg’s post below.

Lost in the Digital Age

by Pegg Thomas

I was born in the wrong century. I think I’ve known this since the cradle, if I’d had a cradle instead of the plastic crib my parents stuffed me in. I’ve always liked to do things by hand, to make things from scratch, to labor outdoors and feel the sun on my back.

Many years ago – for reasons too diabolical to imagine – I set a goal for myself to write a book. Mind you, this was back when one wrote a book. With a pen, or maybe a typewriter. I envisioned myself surrounded by stacks of paper, wastebasket overflowing, candle flickering on my desk making shadows dance across the dark-paneled walls of my office. If I had an office. Which I never did.

Lo and behold, then cometh the empty nest years.

That fateful day arrived. I picked up pen and put it to paper. Within moments I’d fully displayed my complete and total ignorance of all things literary upon that sorry tablet.

Instigate Plan B.

I fired up my desktop computer and started researching what it took to write the All American Novel. Several hours and countless cups of coffee later, I concluded that I needed to rethink this whole writing gig. Out went the pen and paper. Forget the typewriter and flickering candle. What I needed was social media and voice-activated software!

I took to social media like a pig to a frozen pond. When I came out of the spin, I realized that social media is – in point of fact – a large time sink invented to keep people from writing anything over 140 characters. I landed, with a bit of a plop, on Facebook, which seemed the most user-friendly, at least until someone invented sarcastic memes with pudgy little yellow people in them.

Now to the voice-activated software. Whoever invented this knew nothing – and I do mean nothing – about the vocabulary and speech patterns of the United States’ northern border. There was no way to get the blasted thing to stop correcting every “eh?” with “hey.” These are not the same thing!

Now I had a social presence and a software program that hated me, but I still didn’t have a clue what it took to write a book. Until one little nugget of information fell from the sky.

A book is a story.

There was no greater storyteller than my granddad. I spent most Sunday afternoons of my growing up years listening to him tell his stories. Good stories. Funny stories. Mostly true stories, although he’d been known to pull the truth out a little from time to time.

I picked up my pen. I found my tablet. I envisioned my granddad in his lawn chair with the frayed nylon webbing … and I wrote. I did it without social media. I did it without voice-activated software. I told a story. And I did it without a single gigabyte or hyperlink or spam blocker.

***

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” Pegg’s debut story will be published by Barbour in April of 2017. When not working on her latest novel, Pegg can be found in her garden, in her kitchen, or on her trusty old horse, Trooper.

 

The Pony Express Romance Collection:

Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express.

Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials?

A Place to Belong by Barbara Tifft Blakey
An Express rider promises to help fulfill Abigail’s dream to return to her childhood home. Jacob doesn’t trust him, but what other option does she have?

An Unlikely Hero by Mary Davis
BethAnn along with her little sister are running from a mistake and find security at a Pony Express station and love in the quiet affection of a shy Pony Express rider.

The Gambler’s Daughter by Darlene Franklin
Gambling debts drive Caroline Adams’s estranged father away from the Chelan Swing Station before her arrival. Can his replacement conquer the temptations goading them both to prove himself worthy of Caroline’s love?

Her Lonely Heart by Cynthia Hickey
Widow Sadie Mathewson wants to find love again. But when an injured pony express rider shows up at her station, love finds her in an unexpected way.

My Dear Adora by Maureen Lang
Chip Nolan must dispatch the letters his brother can’t after being left for dead on the Pony Express trail. One letter stands out, addressed to “My Dear Adora”— stirring Chip’s heart before he even meets its recipient.

Ride into My Heart by Debby Lee
Kimimela works at a Pony Express station where she struggles to cope with the death of her sister. When she’s kidnapped by gun smugglers, can her friend, Pony Express rider Gabe, rescue her in time?

Echoes of the Heart by Donna Schlachter
A mail order bride. A crippled stationmaster. No way out for either of them—except with each other. Can they surrender their hearts and find true love?

Abundance of the Heart by Connie Stevens
Unfulfilled goals haunt Fletcher and Mercy at a remote Nebraska outpost, but unexpected circumstances may offer a last-chance opportunity to pursue the dream of riding for the Pony Express.

Embattled Hearts by Pegg Thomas
Alannah Fagan escaped from a battle she wouldn’t survive. Stewart McCann left behind a battle he couldn’t face. Thrown together at Horseshoe Station, can they find something worth fighting for?

Contacts Pegg by email at twinwillowsfarm(at)gmail(dot)com, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, visit her on her website, or at QuidProQuills and ColonialQuills

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You Can Stop Wondering

As a reader, do you ever wonder if the hilarious antics you’ve just read about actually happened? Well, I’m here to say yes! While there’s definitely some imagination that goes into those scenes, there’s no doubt that a writer’s life is full of adventure–and embarrassment. Just read Leeann’s moments…

Embarrassing Moments that Make Good Reading
by Leeann Betts

I love the coffee mug that says, “Be nice to me, or I will put you in my next book.”

boy-666803_640But I think an even better one would be, “Wanted: fools that make characters of themselves.”

Because we all have those moments we hope nobody else saw.

Which are priceless tidbits for our stories.

You know what I’m talking about. Those things that nobody would believe.

Except they really happened.

Like the time I walked through the halls of my middle school with my uniform skirt up around my backside as my entire eighth grade class watched. A dog had wandered into the classroom, and I’d scooped him up and marched him to the door where I released him.

Took me about three years to live that one down.

Or the time I was singing along to a Christian song on my Walkman as I took my daily girl-15754_640walk. At the top of my lungs. Then I stopped to tie my shoelace and discovered two boys walking behind me who’d heard every off-key word. Because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Then there was the time when I was about four and a neighbor boy took my bicycle. I asked my dad to get my bike back, but he said I needed to do it for myself. So I marched down there, pushed the boy off, and got my bike back. Then the boy ran to his father who came to complain about me being a bully.

Embarrassing, yes, but great fodder for your stories.

So the next time something happens to you or somebody else, consider how you might write that into a story, or even into a character’s backstory. Knowing my character went through this bicycle incident reveals to me their profound sense of justice, their desire for all to be right with their world, and the courage to be the change they want to see.

***

broke-busted-disgusted-cover-finalWherever you find Carly Turnquist, trouble is sure to follow.

At least, that’s what her husband Mike says.

Back in Bear Cove, Carly’s best friend is being courted by a smarmy stranger, and Mike’s latest client is unhappy with him.

When the client turns up dead and Mike is nowhere to be found, the police suspect him, and the video and paperwork they have that shows someone matching Mike’s description maxed out their credit cards and cleaned out their bank accounts is compelling.

But Carly knows her husband couldn’t kill anybody.

Could he?

***

aaaleeann-betts_02-croppedLeeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released four titles in her By the Numbers series, with Broke, Busted, and Disgusted releasing November 2016. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com. All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print.

Connect with Leeann on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

 

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Are You Emily Dickinson? (And a Giveaway!)

Who wouldn’t swoon over a man who invented over 1,700 words? Seriously–1,700. Do a fact check on that one.

When I was in high school, I had a strange obsession with Shakespeare. I knew he was completely messed up in his personal life, but man could he write. Not to mention his nearly 2,000 word contribution to modern language. But alas, my obsession didn’t amount to much. You’ll likely never see a thee or thou in any of my books, nor have I shaken our literary world with linguistic contributions. But if I could write like Emily Dickinson …

Just for fun, my guest, Tessa Emily Hall, put together some a list that might indicate if you’re the next Emily Dickinson. But don’t forget to read through the entire post because there’s a giveaway at the end!

Five Signs You Might Be the Next Emily Dickinson
by Tessa Emily Hall

You don’t have to write hard-to-interpret poetry in order to become the next Emily Dickinson. This poet is known for far more than just the thousands of poetry of hers that’s in print.

How can you know if you’re the next Emily Dickinson? Check for these signs…

  1. You don’t abide by all of the writing rules and trends.

unwritten-melody-quote01Dickinson’s poetry went against what was considered norm back then. This is why most of her poetry wasn’t published until after her death.

  1. You don’t leave the house.

Dickinson stayed in her bedroom and wrote poetry for days on end. When someone visited the house, she would speak to them from the other side of the door. Although she was rarely seen in the public, she communicated frequently to friends via snail mail (AKA today’s version of social media and email). Sound familiar?

  1. You store your writing in a private file on your computer.

After Dickinson passed, her sister discovered thousands of un-published poetry. Only twelve of her poems were published during her lifetime. How crazy would it be if most of your home-1822424_640un-published manuscripts weren’t published until after your death?

  1. Your write for yourself first rather than the approval of others.

It’s obvious Dickinson wasn’t motivated to write by the idea of publication or applause; rather, she wrote for herself. She didn’t want publication so badly that she changed her style into one that would have more favor with publishers. Writing was her way of expressing her thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I don’t doubt that she used it as a form of therapy. (Which she could’ve probably benefitted greatly from, based on how many hours she spent in her bedroom by herself!)

  1. Your writing tends to reflect the dark side of life.

Many people believe Dickinson struggled with bipolar disorder. Traces of her depression are reflected in much of her poetry. Does your writing reflect optimism or pessimism?

In my upcoming YA fiction novel, water-1245677_640Unwritten Melody, my protagonist, Cassie—who is also a sheltered poet—believes she has many of the “symptoms” on this list. (She might have a little obsession with Dickinson, too, for obvious reasons.) When Cassie realizes this, she becomes determined to live life to the fullest and strives to avoid following Dickinson’s footsteps.

If you, too, possess many of the above signs, then it might be time to evaluate your writing life and keep yourself from becoming the next Dickinson. How?

Here are a few quick tips that might help you lead a more balanced (and productive) writing life:

  1. Get some fresh air. Take a walk. Change locations and work from a coffee shop, library, or bookstore.
  2. (Yes, with actual people, not just the writing community on Twitter.)
  3. Leave it to your siblings to publish your writing. (Kidding, of course.)
  4. Stay passionate about writing, but don’t allow it to become an obsession.
  5. Keep your family first.
  6. Don’t be afraid to release your work to the public.
  7. Make sure your health is in balance. If you find that your physical or mental state of being is headed off track, seek help.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

How many of these signs did you possess? Have you ever been intrigued by the life of Emily Dickinson as well?

***

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

unwritten-melody_webCassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and B&N.com

***

Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize Pack! Two winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email.

unwritten-melody-giveaway

This prize pack includes…

  • E-copy of Unwritten Melody
  • Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon
  • Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies
  • Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster
  • Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee
  • Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF
  • Handmade journal
  • Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only.

Enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

***

tessa-emily-hall_headshot3Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, Purple Moon (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, Unwritten Melody, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of PursueMagazine.net, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website.

Connect with Tessa on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Cats vs. Dogs

fish-1755473_1280If I had to choose … I’d get a fish. They’re relatively easy to care for, don’t die when you forget about them for a few days, and won’t make my nose tickle.

Though I wouldn’t mind a hedgehog … I think. Kelly’s got one of those–seriously, ask her about it, and it’s adorable. She should probably write a book about it. Oh! Imagine if Zula got one of those prickly pets! What would Fern say? If you read Out of the Frying Pan, let me know your thoughts on that one. Fan fiction–go! 😉

Cats and Dogs

by Kelly Klepfer

I used to be a cat person. Dogs just weren’t on my radar. They were okay, especially if they cat-1551783_640kept their distance. But hands down, cats were where it was at.

Slowly, over the years I’ve grown more accepting of dogs. We had sweet Bear who was my husbands, but I liked him none the less. Plus I never had to clean up after him or feed him.

Then came my daughter’s twins, Lily and Lola. I helped with them, the potty training, the love, the cuddling, yeah, they became partially mine. When she moved out and took her girls I still had my cat, but sometimes I missed the open acceptance of a dog. While the girls lived with us I really began to enjoy the uniqueness of catishness and doggishness. The cartoons, jokes and the videos celebrating the differences cracked me up, Spiritually, I saw some comparisons, too.

When I got my twin set of Beagle babies I fell head over heels in love with dogs. I am obnoxious enough to approach strangers with dogs to converse or pet the dog. I’m that person.

My girls, Gladys and Gertrude, have taught me a little bit more about what kind of person I beagle-547865_640want to be toward God.

A dog doesn’t generally have guile or suspicion. Not that a cat does, necessarily, but a cat aloofly plays it’s cards close to it’s chest while a dog generally lays all the cards out on the table and just takes it at face value. I want to be the kind of Christian that believes that Jesus in us can change us and give us hope. Since we’re all works-in-progress let’s just take it one day at a time. Play?

A dog knows how to worship. A cat will sit with an unblinking stare while its master (oxymoron) walks through the door. Sunshine and catnip seem to be some of the only things most cats will worship. A dog, whew, a dog will thank the Creator in squeals and thundering paws and leaping for the simple reappearance of the human at the end of the day. “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, you came back. I have so much to tell you.”

(Insert from Jen here–in his excitement, he might also share a tinkle offering.)

You guessed it. I want to be a “Praise the Lord, thank you for that last breath and this one, too, Awesome God” Christ follower.

Cats will shred or create other three-dimensional statements and stare with barely a tail switch in response to questioning or admonishment. A dog is very sorry. Boot-licking, tail-curling, belly-crawling sorry. They know they are incapable of cleaning it up and that they really did it this time. They also know they are prone to doing it again and are very sorry for that, too.

But in that moment there is nothing on earth more repentant than that dog. I’m prone to indifferent cat masking dog-833957_640while knowing full well I’ve really done it this time. Dog gone it, I want to be really aware of how awful my sins are and crawl on my belly for forgiveness and remember the process of sorrow and repentance so I knock it off.

My dogs want to be close to me. Cats, too, let’s be honest. Especially in the winter a warm human is a lovely thing. But there’s a difference. My dogs don’t bite me for petting them where a cat, no matter how much they writhe and ask for a belly pat, will eventually bloody stumpify a finger or hand that keeps it up past their hair trigger tolerance level.

Dogs. I could pet them all day and they’d never tire. If they could tandem breath with me they would. When I’ve been on the computer too long my cuddliest pup will push herself onto my lap, press in and eventually work her way into my arms for a snuggle time. What if I did that more with God? And He’s not even distracted like I am, He’s beckoning me to crawl into His lap and take my place as His special daughter.

dog-867236_640Gratitude. Give a cat a carrot and the cat is just going to glare. Maybe sniff, turn it’s back and walk away, tail swishing it’s displeasure. Most likely, maybe there’s carrot loving cats out there, but just work with me here.

A dog. Well mine anyway, will tear into the kitchen, snatch it out of my hand and scurry away to devour it in their nests. Tails wagging the whole way. Apple bacon treats? Tricks? Jumps? Whatever you want, Mom, I’ll do it. And THANK YOU SO MUCH. YOU ARE AMAZING FOR BUYING THESE! THANKS. Crunch. THANKS. Crunch. THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!! God lavishes me with blessings. And I often either tail twitch or shrug at His bounty. Don’t want to be that person anymore.

Do you need a few more dog tricks in your Christian walk? Join me. The treats are amazing.

***

unnamed-1Out of the Frying Pan:

When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.

Purchase Out of the Frying Pan on Amazon.

***

unnamedKelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite a while ago, but alas…she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer, where you always get more than you bargained for.

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Acronyms and Other Weird Language

yada-yada-1430679_1920Wouldn’t it be fun to invent your own language? Can you imagine all the drama you could avoid? What better way to avoid conflict.

Husband: Did you really back out of the garage … with the door still down?

Me: Yucka-doodle-dun iddy-bun.

Can you imagine the amusement you’d have–at other people’s expense.

The grocery cashier: How’s your day?

Me: Ivickity-plickety-mon.

The coffeehouse barista: What can I get for you?

Me: Mistificiticita doplarning.

Hm … Now that last one might be dangerous. Don’t mess with my coffee, y’all.

My guest today is having some fun with words, but then she ruins it all by translating. Just kidding. Sort of.

You Might Be A Writer If….
by Barbara Britton

Writers are a unique bunch of people. Imaginary characters have conversations in our brains, we wake up with scenes playing in our head, and we have a lingo all our own. Can e-learning-1367416_640you pass this writer’s quiz?

~Does the acronym BICHOK motivate you?

~You know that a TP in your story doesn’t refer to toilet paper.

~Your query letter explains the book, the cook, and the ­­­­____?

Behind In Chair, Hands On Keyboard is the position writers are in when they type their manuscripts. I also use this acronym to inspire my children to finish their homework. When I hear complaints about the length of the papers my kids have to write, I encourage them with the adage, you can’t fix a blank page. Writers use these phrases to keep on track with their stories, but they also work well with anxious teens. Some days it is hard to write when it’s just you alone with your keyboard. Remembering to start—anywhere—gets me going.

Every story has turning points (TPs). A turning point can be a new clue that is found in a mystery; a secret revealed by a character, bad guys showing up at the wrong time (I guess there is no good time for bad guys to show up). Turning points are essential to build typewriter-1248089_640conflict into a story. They are just as essential as the real TP. Without conflict and tension, a storyline drags, and readers become bored. Characters that change and discover new things about themselves and the world are intriguing.

Query letters are referred to as a book resume. The query should reveal the title of your book, information about the author (the cook), and share the hook to your story. A unique premise is more likely to pique the interest of an editor, literary agent, and ultimately the reader. In a query letter, the writer must condense the story into two or three catchy paragraphs. The query will read like the back cover copy of your novel. Writing an amazing query letter takes practice, but take heart, it is shorter to write than a manuscript.

How did you do on the quiz? I am constantly learning new terms as I read writing blogs and craft books. Are you a writer? What are some acronyms or writing specific words you use?

***

When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own.

As the sole daughter of the chief priest, Hannah is publicly providence_h12055_300shamed when the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her.

Determined to restore her family’s honor, Hannah escapes Jerusalem in hopes of finding the prophet and convincing him to heal her deformities. Gilead, a young Hebrew guard sympathetic to her plight, willingly accompanies her. On their way, they are captured by a band of raiders.

Hannah is forced to serve in the household of the commander of the Aramean army, an officer who is in need of healing himself. Meanwhile Gilead is being used as sword practice for the Aramean soldiers.

Hannah must act fast to save Gilead and herself. But survival means coaxing the prophet of Israel to heal an enemy commander.

Buy Providence: Hannah’s Journey on Amazon, B&N, PelicanBookGroup, and Walmart.

***

britt-068aBarbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb kicks off her Tribes of Israel series in October with the release of Providence: Hannah’s Journey. Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Barbara on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Book Trailer.

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Marketing Blunders

forehead-65059_1280Comparing someone’s son to a fictional serial killer might not be the best way to gain a sale, but it certainly makes for an interesting story. Today my guest James Callan shares his less than effective sales tactics, because well, if at first you don’t succeed, you may as well laugh about it. For those in sales, don’t do as he did unless you want to end up here. 😉 For everyone else, still don’t do as he did.

Marketing 001 by James Callan

I’ve never been a good salesman. In grade school when they had those contests to sell magazine subscriptions, I couldn’t sell one to my mother. Years later when I had a summer job delivering milk, the dairy held a contest to see who could sell the most of a particular ice cream product during July. I almost won that contest. Not because I sold any – except to myself. But I bought enough to place third. However, selling to yourself is not the best marketing ploy.

So, it’s no surprise that I didn’t do well at personally selling my books. Not only did I have to “sell,” but I had to do so by telling people what a great writer I was. I found that difficult, even though down deep, I did – sort of – believe it. Well, maybe not great, but at least very good.

One day, I was visiting with a successful writer who sold a lot of books. When I questioned her about where she sold, she said, “I sell everywhere.” She went on to mention a few expected places, and then she said, “I once sold three copies as I was being wheeled in for a minor surgery.”

When I asked how, she stared at me like I had the brains of a brass doorknocker. “Nurses and doctors read. And my insurance company and I were certainly paying them enough that they could afford my books.”

I decided I had to give it a try.

The next day, I was at a basketball game. The referee called a foul on a basketball-1565404_1920player who looked mean enough to kill small animals. So I took the opportunity and turned to the man next to me. “That guy looks like the killer in my latest mystery book.” I was ready to launch into my elevator pitch.

The man glared at me as if he might kill me. “That’s my son. And he’s a very nice young man.” With that, he got up and moved a couple of rows away from me.

That discouraged me. It was obvious I needed to work on my approach.

The following week, I had a dental appointment. I was sitting in the chair, telling the nurse about my latest book. The doctor came in, so I immediately began to give him a quick sales pitch. After thirty seconds, he said, “If you would stop talking, I could fill that cavity.”

I shut up. But before leaving, I handed the nurse and the doctor my card which contained an image of the cover of my book and a buy link on it.

There. I was marketing.

James R. Callan, 2016

jim-color-formal-smallJames R. Callan is a writer of mysteries and suspense novels who comes from a varied background. He has taught at the high school and college level. He has worked in a research center in the field of mathematics. He served as the vice-president of technology for a database company. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans. He has written and had published eleven books. In addition to writing, Callan loves to travel. He and his wife have visited all fifty of the United States and six of the seven continents. They divide their time between homes in Texas and Mexico. They have four children and six grandchildren.

cover-a-silver-medallionA Silver Medallion:

“… a gripping, action-packed adventure from talented author James Callan.  Crystal Moore is a tough and savvy heroine …”

New York Times Bestselling Author Bobbi Smith

In 2015, young, naive Crystal Moore encounters a slave in Dallas, Texas — a slave held not by chains, but by threats her two girls held hostage in the jungles of Mexico will be killed if she escapes.

To Crystal, it’s clear. The children must be rescued first, or the mother will never escape.

Crystal will need the help of mysterious Juan Grande. If she succeeds, mother and children will be free. But Crystal will have two powerful and ruthless men, one in Texas, one in Mexico, who will want her dead.

 

 

 

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The Joys and Pains of Research Trips

accidental-slip-542551_1920Whatever doesn’t kill you … will likely humiliate, challenge and confound you, and eventually, if your’e a writer, end up in a story.

I start every research trip with grand ideas, usually triggered by my rather explosive imagination: I’ll visit fun and ecclectic places (usually coffeehouses–lots and lots of coffeehouses, unique neighborhoods, and hidden-away restaurants), talk to all sorts of experts, and basically become a modern day, urbanized, Lewis and Clark.

This past April, I did all that and more, and brought my dad along for the ride. Our destination? Austin, Texas, not because the city really fit the tone of my story. But rather, due to popular request. (Seems y’all love this unique and diverse area!)

So, to Austin we went. And had a fabulous, discombobulated time. If I were to share it all, you’d either think I was completely dizzy or wouldn’t believe 2016-04-02-12-16-56me. Or both. So how about I share “a day in the life”?

To provide the backdrop, one of my biggest goals was to find a perfect, “everyone knows your name” neighborhood to set my story in. Mid-week, having visited numerous pockets in the Metro without landing any closer to my goal, I decided to shift my big-picture scouting aside and move to local setting locations, primarily places frequented in the novel. With this in mind, my dad and I revisited the downtown area.

You know I had to go dressed all cutesy, right? I mean, I’d be talking to restaurant owners, potentially asking for research help. And besides, it was spring in Austin. 😉

So there I was, wearing white capris, my favorite, rust colored, two-layered blouse, and a pair of cute yet comfy wedge sandals. It’s getting near dinner time, and my dad and I are walking up Fifth, when all of a sudden, he pushes me.

I stare at him, thinking he’s making fun of how I’m walking (like, seeing if I can remain upright when knocked off balance). (You read about how graceful I am in raised shoes, right?)

Nope. He was shoving me aside so I didn’t step in … a mess. I’m trying to think of a tactful way to share exactly what type of mess this was. The smelly kind.

Did you know I’m a germaphobe? Picture me grimacing, fighting off a gag reflex, while scraping my left sandal with every step. I beeline for a patch of grass and do my best to get the gunk out of all the grooves lining the bottom of my sandal.

I’m pretty sure all I did was embed it in further.

But determined not to let a little … ick … ruin our evening, I put on my happy face, and we 2016-04-05-17-49-46resume our trek in search of a nice yet unique restaurant. Of which Austin has plenty! And they all smelled fabulous–thankfully overpowering any scent that may have been wafting from my left foot.

After having passed at least five restaurants but no closer at reaching a decision, we stand on a street corner beneath a nice, green tree.

You know where this is going, right?

Splat!

Something hit the sidewalk in front of me and splashed back onto my foot–the other foot–and my leg. I didn’t know what it was, so I glance around. And up.

 

Then came round two.

Ugh. 

Our restaurant search ended then and there as we made dashed into the nearest facility, heading straight for their bathroom where we got cleaned up as best we could.

I was oh, so tempted to toss those shoes.

What we writers must endure in order to capture that perfect setting!

What about you? Do you have any travel horrors to share? Tell us about them in the comments below. Who knows, I just might use your example in my next novel. 😉

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