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There are NO MUFFIN TOPS in Grunge... Bring Back the 90's.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I recently found out that my blog was nominated for a Mobby Award

The Mobby's (pronounced Mob-ee, as in, "The Mob") is The Baltimore Sun's yearly best blog contest. This year, the Mobby's are celebrating the medium's early days - when blog posts were shared without 'share' buttons - and all else '90s.

So, as a condition of being nominated, we're to post on our respective nominated blogs what ONE THING we'd bring back from the 1990's. As I've been thinking about this very thing for months now, I have an answer primed and ready for just this occasion...

What would I bring back from the 90's? 


GRUNGE!


I am a grunge fan from way back. When grunge came out - the fashion 'loose' as apposed to the fashion 'forward' ways - I was in heaven. Finally! Clothing that felt good, looked good - at least to me - and was, above all, honest

And I object to the description that Grunge was all about showing the world that you "just don't care." To me, it's the total opposite. Grunge says, "I care a lot...about MYSELF." 

I'M comfortable.
I'M dressed in what I want to be dressed in.
I'M comfortable. 

Yes, Grunge is, quintessentially, putting on your comfies and hitting the town, although not in the sweat-pants way, or worse, the lame-ass wearing-my-pajamas-out-in-public way. No. Grunge was jeans, jean shorts, t-shirts, flannel. Lots of flannel. 

For us chicas, it was all about looking good with sass, but not in the sexual/sensual way. Grunge isn't about being 'dressed to kill' , looking 'over the top' or 'showing off your assets' to the world. There's no tight shirts paired with tight, skinny jeans in Grunge. 

There are NO MUFFIN TOPS in Grunge.

Muffin tops are proof that whatever you're wearing doesn't fit, and that you're trying to fit into something that's not meant for you - your size, your shape, your life. With Grunge, everything fits - comfortably - and probably because it's a size too big. But who cares?!

The size you wear is NOT who you are!

I feel Grunge allows people to feel happy about themselves and who they are. There's no pressure to make sure your ass-pants fit perfect. You just wear jeans, and preferably jeans that you've loved and worn long enough that the holes and tatters show it. 

And always pair whatever you're wearing with some flannel...

Don't forget the flannel!

I don't necessarily think Grunge came out of the want/desire/need to be comfortable all the time. It just was comfortable in and of itself. And the flannel really helped keep everything cozy :). Wear it tattered and open, or tie it around your waist. I remember raiding my dad's closet, pinching all his flannel and wearing it to school every day. I dated skater boys and  swapped flannels with them. It was kind of like wearing your boyfriend's ring, but instead you got his flannel...or visa-versa. 

Dude, did you see Lia in So-in-so's flannel??? They must be going out! Lol... those were the days...

So I say, without a doubt, hesitation or what have you... 

BRING BACK GRUNGE!

And RAISE your middle finger to the fashion police.

Say FAREWELL to tight jeans, tight shirts, tight everything.

Scream "F-OFF, LOSER!" to muffin tops. 

And just be comfortable, dude. 

Just be. 





Guest Post: Author M.L. Doyle...Things I learned from the Baltimore Book Festival

Friday, October 10, 2014

by guest M. L. Doyle

My writer friends and I have had multiple conversations about book festivals. The bottom line question is, are they worth it? We toss around questions like, can you sell enough books to cover the cost? Is it worth it to invest in banners, posters, cards and other give-aways? Does participation result in readers who look for you later and buy books online?

This is what I learned from participating in the Baltimore Book Festival.

Will I sell enough books to cover the cost?

Most likely, no. The BBF is an expensive one. Even if you share out the cost of your booth with other authors, you’ve got to sell a bunch of books to break even on just the fees for participation. Add the cost of parking ($20 a day depending on where you park) and other expenses (the food trucks sell lemonade at $7 a glass), not to mention whatever you might spend on signage or displays, and you’d have to sell quite a few books to break even. Judging from my sales and the sales of the other authors I knew who participated, none of us broke even.

How many books would I sell at the BBF?

Unfortunately, not many, if any at all. The weekend of the festival this year offered absolutely perfect weather. The new location, at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, meant there were tens of thousands of local visitors as well as thousands of tourists. The event was packed with people. Of those tens of thousands (I heard upward of 50k) who reportedly attended the festival, most are there to browse, listen to author talks and spend an afternoon enjoying the weather, than are there to buy books. There’s a large section devoted to kids and I suppose many parents saw it as a place to keep the little ones entertained for a while. Most people will glance at your wares and keep walking. Far fewer will stop to talk and even fewer will actually pick up a book to page through it. Finally, a minuscule percentage will actually buy something.

I’m not sure if the sales ratios are higher for authors who are featured in an author talk or panel. I don’t know anyone who participated in that way and I don’t even know how one gets invited to do such a thing. I would hope, if you’re one of those lucky ones, that you’d sell far more, but it’s hard to say.

Why do it?

That’s the big question. If you’re likely to end up in the hole financially, why participate at all? Each year, hundreds of booths are manned by indie book store owners, indie published authors, graphic novel artists, book club groups and writer’s groups. There were booths devoted to selling newspaper subscriptions, massage and wellness vendors and one guy selling beautifully crafted, handmade leather journals.  The author readings and panel tents are filled with speakers and panelists, all of which are competitors for your customer’s attention. The crowds are large and it feels as if the potential for customers is right there for the taking. All of that said, I think participation is a personal question and one that goes well beyond anything financial.

I was frankly surprised by how many books I sold and each sale felt particularly special. I spoke to every single person who bought one, I remember their faces and I signed their purchases. That they bought my books out of the thousands on offer, made each sale memorable. Meeting these strangers who would later sit down and read my work is something that can’t be described. I also sold books written by other authors with whom I shared the booth. It felt good to honestly recommend the work of a friend and see the purchase, knowing I helped an author friend and knowing the reader would be rewarded with a great story.

I have seen a couple of new reviews of my books on Amazon but I’m not sure if they were a result of books sold at the festival. And while I handed out a few cards, I didn’t see any spike in sales to indicate that those contacts resulted in sales after the festival.

Would you do it again?

Maybe. It was an exhausting weekend, but it was still a lot of fun. On Saturday of the three-day festival, I thought myself very clever for finding a metered parking spot and saving myself a ton of parking fees. Later, when I discovered the parking ticket on my windshield, I didn’t feel so clever. Evidently, I’d allowed the meter to run out. Boom. $38 to the city of Baltimore.

Also, my feet were killing me. We had chairs but we learned quickly that standing out front and talking to people was the best way to get them to stop and look. We also lured people to our tables by offering a drawing for a stack of books…one from each author. We had hundreds of entries for the drawing. I had the pleasure of delivering the prize to a lucky winner who, turned out to live only a few blocks from me. Small world.

I invested in a four-foot standing banner that I know helped seal at least a couple of sales. The banner (from Vista print) looked professional and very clearly attracted attention. It wasn’t cheap, but I will be using it three times this year alone and if it results in the kind of sales I saw at BBF, it should pay for itself.

The hours of booth watching gave me lots of time to talk to author friends, discuss marketing ideas, to talk about strategies, plans and expectations. Were those discussions enough to justify the money I paid to participate as well as what I invested in signage and the like? Probably not. That said, if asked to participate again, I might. I’m not sure. What I know for sure is that I would never do BBF alone. I would only do it as part of a group and I would know that the best way to sell books is to be there. If you’re absent, you’re unlikely to sell much of anything.

Are all book festivals the same?

Nope, not at all. Last year I participated in the Twin Cities Book Festival in my hometown, and sold enough books to cover the cost and a little extra. I am participating in the same festival again this year, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds. The festival is an excuse to come home to visit family and it’s much cheaper to have a table at the TCBF than at BBF. In comparison however, the TCBF has 3-5k visitors a year. The BBF has that 50k advantage.

That said, the browse/buy ratio for the two festivals is about the same. People want to hear authors speak, check out what is on offer and, occasionally, buy books. Last year, I priced mine right and it resulted in me going home with far fewer books that I had when I arrived. Always a good thing!

All of that said, I would never consider a book festival a place to make money. Since it’s not about making money, I’m not quite sure what it is about. Connecting with readers? Connecting with other authors? The answer to those things is probably up to the individual.

Where else can an Indie author connect with readers?

Believe it or not, I’m told non-book festivals are better places for authors to sell books. I’m participating in the Fort Meade Officer’s Spouses Club Holiday Bazaar this year, November 15-16, at the Fort Meade Pavilion, Fort Meade, MD. I’m sharing a booth with a couple of other authors. Autographed books make great holiday gifts…at least that’s what we’re counting on. I’ll post an AAR (After Action Review for you non-military types) and let you know how it goes.

Guest Author Yona Zeldis McDonough: The Dog and Pony Show of Book Promotion

Friday, October 3, 2014

Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of TWO OF A KIND kindly came by the B&B today to share her good news. She has a new book coming out next week, October 7th! YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME. Isn't that just the cutiest cover ever? 

Yona also left some great information for fellow authors in search of ways to promote and market their books. So, without further aduea, here is...


The Dog and Pony Show of Book Promotion
guest post by Yona Zeldis McDonough

My new novel, You Were Meant for Me, is about to come out from New American Library on October 7, and as I countdown to pub date, I’m excited, happy and proud. I am also as busy as I can possibly be because now that the book is done and ready to make its debut, I can’t simply bask in the warm sun of pride and satisfaction—far from it.  Instead, I now have to help sell the novel with whatever means and methods are at my disposal.  In the dog-and-pony-show of book promotion, authors today are required to be both dog and pony, and so it is with a woof and whinny that I bravely set forth.

First off, I will tell you what I did not do: hire an outside publicist.  Not because I did not want to, but because I could not afford to.  I have a small budget set aside for promotion but it was not enough to cover the cost of a traditional PR campaign, which typically starts at $5000 and can quickly escalate from there.

But before I even considered how to use the money I did have earmarked for this purpose, I explored all the free options available to me, mostly in the form of social media.  I tried Twitter—twice—and could not seem to get into the swing of it, so I let it slide. Interestingly enough, the senior publicist at my publishing house, New American Library, told me that while she used to encourage authors to use all forms of social media, she now felt such an approach was overwhelming and instead advised them to select the platforms that really appealed to them and focus on those. So I took her advice and have focused on Facebook, creating an author page that I try to refresh often.  I also use Pinterest, creating boards for each new book I publish, and Goodreads, though I need to get up to speed on that.  I find each of these platforms different, engaging and fun.  I like the possibilities for connection they offer, and I like how wide a net they allow me to cast.  From my computer in Brooklyn, I can easily communicate with readers in California, South Carolina and Canada—what a privilege, and what an opportunity.  
  
What else have I done?  The money I did not spend on a publicist I used to sign on with Divalysscious Moms (http://divamoms.com/) that is a site geared to mommies.  Because motherhood is a central them in my book—my protagonist, 35 and single, finds a newborn baby in a subway station and ends up trying to adopt said baby—I thought this targeted approach might work well for me.  I also arranged two readings in my home city—New York—and have approached libraries about their author reading program. Many libraries invite authors to give short talks/readings and these programs may actually be easier to arrange than bookstore signings.  I also assisted the in-house publicist with setting up a blog tour, because that is another way to reach new readers.  And I requested that the publisher make bookmarks showing the cover of the book to use as promotional pieces and giveaways; in fact, I will be happy to send a bookmark to any readers of this blog who would like one!

I know many writers who object to this form of self-promotion, finding it uncomfortable and unseemly, and I understand how they feel.  We writers are often solitary souls, and we spend a lot of time sitting alone in a room—or in a crowded cafĂ©—furiously writing down the stuff that comes into our heads.  So getting out there to beat the drum may feel awkward. 

And yet if we don’t do it, our most precious creations are in danger of being unseen, unread, unloved.  I know this would make me deeply unhappy.  First and foremost, I write for myself, because I need this particular form of expression to organize my inner life and give meaning to my days.  But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t care about being published and read, because I do—very much.  Which brings me back to the dog-and-pony-show. Like it or not, we have to participate; to abstain puts us at a serious disadvantage.  Nor is this really a new phenomenon; Dickens went on reading and speaking tours, as did Dylan Thomas and many other respected and revered writers.  It’s just the conventions that have changed. Instead of book tours, there are more apt to be blog tours.  We reach our readers through electronic means, but they are just as passionate as readers of the past have been.   So it is our job, and even our mandate, to find and connect with them before we can truly touch their hearts.



So many authors, so little time! Networking with fellow writers on the web...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

But before I can make my BIG announcement, I had to make a mess of my blog (not on purpose, of course, but that's what happened...I'm fixing it, don't worry...)

The BB B&B Writers Retreat blog used to live on www.LiaMack.com, now it's back to it's original setting of liamack.blogspot.com.  All because I have a BIG announcement! And in being excited about said BIG announcement I didn't realize that most - if not all - of the links on my blog are going to be broken!!!

Ugh...I just like making work for myself, I guess...

So I've been doing some B&B cleaning, like making sure all my guests are informed of the URL change. I don't want anyone's interview or guest blog post to end up as a 404 error. 

Oh, the horror. (no joke)

So I gathered up all my guests in one room (one email, really) and boy oh boy, have I had a lot of guests!

So, before my BIG announcement, I'd like to do a montage of sorts of all my past guests because, ultimately, talking writing with other fellow writers is so much more fun than going it alone.

All My Guests...so far ;)

Sharon Short, author of MY ONE SQUARE INCH OF ALASKA







Gale Deitch also did a guest blog post on "10 Reasons to Self-Publish."








Okay, that's a lot of guests! And a lot of fun getting to know fellow authors and hear about their inner workings. It's been fun, looking forward to a few more appearances before 2014 closes out.

Ciao!

:)

Guest Blogger Kas Thomas asks... "Are You Using the Wrong Strategy on Twitter?"

Monday, September 29, 2014

Good Monday morning, y'all :)

I know, you've got the Monday morning blues and you don't want to hear any chipper voices just yet. But I'm here to tell you, I've got a treat that you're going to like! So, smile :)

Today, we have guest blogger Kas Thomas of Author-Zone.com. And he's here to help you. A Twitter-Guru, Kas has over 275,000 followers and knows how to . This is the PERFECT post for anyone wanting to build a platform and sell their book. We've all been annoyed via Twitter and other social media outlets with over zealous fellow authors selling their books. Only, do any of us really know how to use social media - mainly Twitter - to the best of our advantage? I mean, really, take a moment and ask yourself...

Are You Using the Wrong Strategy on Twitter?
by guest blogger Kas Thomas

The people who write books and blogs about how to market your indie book all say that Twitter and Facebook are important. But they don't provide much in the way of data to back up those assertions. Citing this or that author's success isn't helpful, because what worked for this or that author may not work for you. And anyway, what is the measured cash value of a tweet? What is the value of yea-many-clicks? Where are the numbers? Where are the data?

Unlike certain social media gurus who dispense advice without numbers to back it up, people who make media purchases for a living study numbers intensively. They study click-through rates, conversion percentages, CPM (cost per thousand impressions), analytics of various kinds; it's a science. It all comes down to hard numbers.

I can tell you how Twitter works from a conventional media-purchase standpoint. An ad spend ultimately gets measured in CPM, which is really cost per thousand impressions. An impression, on Twitter, is a delivered tweet, a tweet that was sent in response to an HTTP request and was therefore probably consumed by someone on some device. It's no secret that the CPM for Twitter averages about $3.50.

If you've played around with the Analytics dashboard available to you on Twitter (under Settings and help > Twitter Ads in the Twitter native UI), you may have been shocked to learn that even though you have 10,000 followers, your tweets are reaching only 300 or so people at a time. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. But not all 10,000. Not even close. That's because only two or three percent of your followers are online, actively consuming tweets, at any given moment.

If you tweet something three times and it generates 1,000 impressions, total, in your Twitter Analytics view, congratulations. You achieved the equivalent of a $3.50 ad spend.
So now look in Analytics and see how much engagement you got from those 1,000 impressions. Twitter defines “engagement” as: The total number of times a user has interacted with a tweet. This includes all clicks anywhere in the tweet (including hashtags, links, avatar, username, and tweet expansion), retweets, replies, follows, and favorites.

Odds are, you got from zero to 5% engagement. Anything north of 2% should be considered good. (And by the way, Twitter is known as a high-engagement platform; and yes, 2% is considered high. Click-through rates on Facebook average just 0.12%.)

The way a media buyer would look at all this is something like: Okay, suppose we want to drive potential customers to our web site, where they can buy something (like a book). A Twitter ad spend of $350 will buy around 100K impressions. Out of that, 2% will click through to the web site: that's 2,000 clicks. Those clicks now have to be converted to sales. At a conversion rate of 2%, that's 40 orders. Cost per order: $8.75.

Of course, a media pro would do some testing to validate all of these assumptions. You and I can argue forever about the validity of a 2% conversion rate, but the great thing about marketing is, a test will end every argument. The market will always tell you the answer.

So, but. Is this the type of calculation you should be doing as an indie author?

Yes and no. Yes, if you are using Twitter as a sales channel. No, if you're using it to do something else entirely.

What I've said so far should be enough to put you on guard as to Twitter's actual value as a direct sales vehicle. In all likelihood, you're not going to sell a ton of books with Twitter. Not in a conventional direct marketing sense. Not unless you're delivering hundreds of thousands of impressions a day and can convert walk-ins to paying customers at a high rate. Even then, you might not be able to move the needle. When Guy Kawasaki (a well-known social-media guru) tweeted his free book to his 1.4 million followers in January 2014, it got retweeted a grand total of 13 times. Just 13 times! For a FREE book!

You need to start looking at Twitter a different way; and in fairness, many authors of marketing books do give appropriate advice here. They say to use Twitter as a conversation opener, not a sales channel per se.

That's starting to make sense.

A sale (of a book or anything else) is the end result of a long chain of events. That chain begins with you saying hello to people. Not: "Hello, PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!" Not: "Hello, CAN I SELL YOU SOMETHING?" Just hello.

Walmart hires people who have no job other than to say hello at the front door.

You have a front door, maybe several front doors, with names like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Be there to greet people. Be there to help.

Start with hello.

Kas Thomas has 275,000 followers on Twitter. He operates Author-Zone.com and is writing a novel, B.A.T.T.Y., due out in 2015.

Happy dance... I have a desk ;)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh, happy days. As I sit here, with a breeze to my side and a candle lit in the window, I sigh with a big cheesy grin upon my face.

I have a desk :)

And it's not just any ol'desk. It's mine (spoken like that Irish guy in the movie BRAVE HEART about "his" island of Ireland.) It has a seat and a desk top and drawers... oh, be still my heart.

Why, you might ask, am I being overly dorky about a desk? Well, truth is, I haven't had a desk in over 10 years. My papers, books and whatnot have been strewn throughout the house since babies took over (my office became their playland, as did the rest of the house.) All my books, papers, folders were in the closet, under my bed, on the kitchen table. Pens, markers, envelopes in kitchen drawers. My calendar in the pantry, the printer NEVER plugged in and ready when I need it, and somewhere in the basement...somewhere...

I've been so unorganized for so long, I forgot what it felt like to have EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE.

Oh, the ecstasy...

My kids say it and I'll admit it with pride: I am a dork. I love to be organized!

Funny: After we brought the desk home, I actually had a nightmare where my husband took the desk back to the store, saying our daughter needed the space. Least to say, when I woke up, I ran to see my beautiful desk was still there. True story. 

So, this is my share of the day. My exciting news... I have a desk.

Oh, happy dance ;)




Guest Post: 10 Reasons to Self-Publish, by author Gale Deitch

Monday, September 8, 2014

Good day, y'all ;)

The summer is finally coming to an end...and what a summer it has been. 

Today at my BB Writing Retreat, I have invited Gale Deitch, author of A FINE FIX: A Trudie Fine Mystery Series. I met Gale in a writer's group years ago and I was so delighted to finally read her book A FINE FIX and see her character Trudie Fine - one of my all time favorite characters - come to life.  

I asked Gale to stop by today to talk with us about self-publishing and she had so many good things to share! So, with out further adieu, please welcome author Gale Deitch and her...

10 Reasons to Self-Publish

by guest Gale Deitch, author of A FINE FIX
When I decided to self-publish the first book in my cozy culinary mystery series, yes, there were some drawbacks I had to consider. My book would not be available in most book stores or libraries. Magazines and newspapers often review only books with a traditional publisher. I would have to pay all the publication costs including an editor, a cover designer and someone to do the interior formatting. I would have to do all of my own marketing. I would be facing many who would say, “Oh. You’re self-published.”

Despite all of these doubts, I did self-publish my first book, “A Fine Fix,” as I will with the entire Trudie Fine Mystery series.

I have been nothing but pleased with the outcome.

Here are 10 reasons to self-publish:

1.      Total control over your title and story. I had a vision for my series, and I didn’t want a publisher tampering with it or making major changes.

2.      Choose your own cover designer, cover art, and interior design. Typically, cozy mysteries have cartoon-like cover art. My cover is dramatic and anything but cartoon-like. I still had phenomenal sales by fans of this genre.

3.      Decide your own publication date. I didn’t have to wait a year or more, something very common with traditionally published books. They have to wait in a queue for their turn. When I was ready, I released my book.

4.      Choose the price points for your print and e-book. Publishers hike the retail book price to accommodate their own cut of the pie. These higher prices tend to slow sales.

5.      Purchase copies of your own book at a very low cost. Authors I know who have been traditionally published typically pay at least twice as much as I do to purchase their own book copies.

6.      Enjoy the marketing aspects of self-publishing. Soliciting reviews from bloggers, setting up book giveaways, increasing my social media network, and speaking at local book events all take time, but there are many opportunities out there, and I enjoyed each step forward. I have discovered that authors who have traditional publishers also have to do much of their own marketing anyway.

7.      It costs very little to self-publish. I didn’t use an editor, per se. My book had been through two critique groups, two times each, as well as several trusted beta readers. I traded services with another member of my novel group. I did some editing for her and she formatted my book interiors for my print and eBook. Publishing with Amazon, Create Space and Smashwords was virtually free. My only cost was for the cover art, but even that was surprisingly affordable. Also, there are many websites available with pre-designed covers that can be purchased for as little as $25 or $30.  

8.      It’s easy to self-publish. To be honest, I was scared, worried that the process would be much more than I could handle. I found that Amazon.com and Create Space as well as Smashwords walk you through the process step-by-step, and it wasn’t difficult at all.

9.      You don’t have to share your royalties with anyone. Amazon.com and Create Space take their cut off the top and I get the rest. If your book is priced at $2.99 or higher, print or eBook, you get 70% in royalties. And like clockwork, at the end of every month, my profits are deposited electronically into my bank account. I don’t have to share my royalties with an agent or publisher.

10.  You don’t have to share your royalties with anyone. This is so significant that I have listed it a second time.

Don’t miss “Fine Dining,” the second book in the Trudie Fine Mystery series, coming out this fall in time for the holidays!

Gale Deitch, author of A FINE FIX: A TRUDIE FINE MYSTERY

http://www.amazon.com/Fine-Fix-Trudie-Mystery/dp/0615846645/ref=la_B00E6W9388_1_1/178-9429674-4625340?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410189721&sr=1-1

Just get in the back with Crazy...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crazy. Have you ever met Crazy? I'm sure most, if not all, of you have at one point (or more) in your life have become acquainted. Unfortunately.

Crazy.

I've been all over the place with Crazy this summer, and it looks like our road trip from Insanity just keeps going. One thing after another, I'm to the point where I don't freak out at the next unexpected trip to Nuttso Town - either I'm stunned, numb or both - but now whenever something new jumps out at me and yells, "Surprise! And you thought you were about to get a handle on everything..." I say right back, "Just get in the back with Crazy."

And smile on.

What else can I do? Cry (more) and live my life like it's the end of the world? Nonsense. That is such a waste of time. And if I did, I wouldn't see/notice/realize that there are really good things happening in the midst of my summer with Crazy. Because there are!

So that's what I'd like to compile here - a list of the good in my life even though there's still Crazy.

* For starters, I have fallen in love with my husband all over again. Of course this happens once or twice every year (for the past 20 years) but it's fun and wonderful when it happens. As my readers know, I love Love.

* My book is being published! It's in the editing phase and we're working on various marketing ideas - both online and off - so my debut is the success I need it to be. I'm no one-book-pony show, my friends. I want this venture to continue and last forever (at least my forever ;)... So much work. Who knew writing the damn thing was the easy part?

* My kids amaze me with their growth, humor, style, interests, empathy, understanding, compassion, goofiness and all around awesomeness. I am so lucky and honored to be their mother.

* I've learned to ask for help...and use it! It's one thing to get to that humble playing field where you a) realize you need help, and b) ask for it. But it's a whole new ball of wax to actually USE it. And on a continual basis. Because, let me tell you. You don't know humble until you know you have to rely on others and actually rely on them.

* I met up with a friend I haven't seen in 22 years! I'm a long lost military brat, so I've had to make and let go of countless friends during my childhood. I went to 13 different schools in 5 states and 2 countries. That's a lot of moving around, which I loved. But it's also a lot of saying good bye. It was so great to finally get to say HELLO again :) Social media has afforded us military brats an avenue to reconnect, but nothing is like getting to hug and sit next to your friends again.

* I'm getting to be the crazy Aunt and I love it.

* I'm doing things I only dreamed about last summer. Like walking, standing, talking (and making sense). I had to make drastic changes to my life in order to do it - and it all might become a memoir some day - but I'm doing it. I ain't broke after all and I couldn't be more thankful for it. Now to figure out a way to make it permanent.

* Oh, and I fell in love with a horse. I've ridden horses before and didn't think twice about them. But this one. Oh. My. Horse. Love. I love him! He is 8 years old and has never been ridden, is scared to come out of his stall and has never been trained, taken care of properly or seen a vet. He has basically been abused and mistreated by never being treated at all. I met him, fed him some carrots and pet him on the nose. His owner insisted he never lets anyone touch his face. But I could see how caring this horse could be. So I gave him more carrots, hay, and encouraged him to move out of his stall to reach more carrots. One hoof. Two hooves. He quivered and shook with fear, but he got out of his stall to stand out of it with two hooves in, two hooves out. That's why I call him Two Hooves :) He's a doll and after another half hour of love and attention - the RIGHT kind of attention - he came out all the way and stood beautiful and proud! And got another carrot ;) He is kind, gentle and just needs love and attention. His owner wants to give him away for free, so if you want a horse and can take proper care of it, contact me. Otherwise, I'm trying to come up with a way to do it myself. No animal should be treated - or ignored. Every animal deserves love.

Wow. This list is getting long. And that's a good thing :)

But I think I'll stop here for now. Crazy is asleep and I want to get in a few "Orange is the New Black" episodes before I nod off to bed. Who knows what Crazy will throw at me tomorrow. But who cares, right?

Just get in the back...

10 Books to Read this Summer... part I

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not too long ago, my high school science teacher and friend on Facebook asked that I make her a "Top 10 Summer Reading List." I instantly said yes and then realized: even after 20 years, she's still giving me homework ;)...

Of course, while compiling my list, I realized I have a varied taste in books. And I think it an important part of being a writer: to read widely and out of your genre/comfort zone. So, this is for you, Ms. Pat! A summer reading list just in time for the Summer Solstice, which is a varied list of books that will make your summer interesting, entertaining, and dare I say, educational. 

Here's the first installment - 4 books to get you started.  

10 Books to Read this Summer (part I)... aka, the first 4...


by Wilma Mankiller

by Sharon Short

by Barbara Delinsky

by Oksana Marafioti


If you have any good books you'd like to share, comment below. And especially add a link to your own book if you've got a good one out!

Happy Summer!! :)

BB Interview: Jim Denney, author of the TIMEBENDERS and WRITING IN OVERDRIVE

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TGIF! I couldn't sleep as I had one of the best writing conversations today with Jim Denney. And, of course, I invited him to stay a while longer for a quick interview. (which, if you know anything about writers, nothing is ever quick ;)

Author of the Timebenders, a science fantasy series for young readers and Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly, Jim Denney is one of the greats and has been writing - and intensely committed to it - all his life.

Please help me give a warm BB Writers Retreat welcome to Jim Denney!

Jim Denney (left) with one of his writing heroes, Harlan Ellison, at the Saroyan Writer's Conference where Jim gave a workshop on writing for a living, and Harlan was guest of honor.

Lia Mack: Jim, start us off by saying a little about yourself:

Jim Denney: I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and I've been a full-time self-employed writer since 1989. I don't think I'm defined so much by writing per se as by what I care about and write about—meaning and purpose in life, how the universe and life came to be, how the mind works, the nature of truth and reality, how we achieve our full potential, and how we treat one another as fellow members of the human family.

Lia Mack: That's wonderful that you're able to follow your passion, and successfully! Can you tell us a little about your books?

Jim Denney: I wrote a series of time travel adventures for young readers called the Timebenders series, originally for Thomas Nelson Publishers, and recently reissued in a revised and updated ebook edition by Greenbrier Books. The first book in the series is Battle Before Time. Throughout the series I combined scientific paradoxes with moral paradoxes. I tried to confront my characters with insoluble problems of both science and conscience. For example, I put my protagonist—a boy genius named Max—in an impossible position where he must choose between helping an evil ruler kill thousands of innocent people versus allowing his three closest friends to die. You can't read the story without asking yourself, "What would I do in Max's place?"

I honestly believe young readers are more nimble thinkers than most grownups, because they haven't formed a lot of biases and hard-shell opinions. So I don't write down to kids. I write for middle grade readers using the same vocabulary and concepts I use when writing for adult readers. If anything, I tend to simplify more when writing for adults.

One of the writers who impacted me at an early age was Madeleine L'Engle. I discovered A Wrinkle in Time when I was nine years old. After reading that book, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

A Wrinkle in Time is filled with scientific and moral paradoxes. I remember the pleasure of trying to wrap my brain around the Tesseract, the four-dimensional hypercube in L'Engle's story. I remember the moral and spiritual dilemmas L'Engle threw at her characters. I appreciated it that L'Engle didn't write down to me. She trusted me, the young reader, to keep up. She once said, "Write the book that wants to be written. If it's too difficult for grownups, write it for children." I've always followed that advice.

Lia Mack: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the Timebenders series?

Jim Denney: I suppose the biggest challenge I faced in writing these books was the short deadline. It was a curse that turned out to be a blessing. I asked the publishers to push the deadline out a few months, but they wouldn't budge. So I accepted a challenge I thought was impossible, and I met the challenge. I delivered the books to the publisher on deadline (more or less). And in the process I learned I could write faster than I had ever written before. I also learned that by writing faster, I could write more freely and I was more creative than if I'd had more time to think and plan what I was writing. That was a huge eye-opener to me as a writer.

I learned a lot about the creative process during that experience, and I finally understood what Ray Bradbury meant when he said, "In quickness is truth. The more swiftly you write, the more honest you are." I eventually took the lessons I had learned, combined them with research into the lives and creative processes of other writers, and wrote a nonfiction book for writers, Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. It's a distillation of everything I've discovered about unleashing our creativity.

Lia Mack: Sounds like a book we need on the shelf here at the BB! Now, my ultimate question...Why do you write?

Jim Denney: I write because I can't imagine doing anything else. I was writing as a child, as a teenager, as a college student. My first adult job was writing and editing. What else can I do? What else am I suited for? I'm not qualified for anything else, and I can't imagine doing anything else. My mind is crammed full of stories and ideas I want to express. If I don't write them, my head will explode.

Saul Bellow once said, "A writer is a reader moved to emulation." That's certainly true in my case. My three great writing role models, the writers who most influenced me and motivated me to become a writer, were the ones whose work impacted me in my youth and teenage years—Madeleine L'Engle, Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison.

Lia Mack: Well said. Can you describe a bit how your venture into writing looked like?

Jim Denney: I started out writing nonfiction, working mostly as a writing partner for celebrities and authorities in various fields. I got to work with a lot of fascinating people, and I learned a lot from each of them. I worked with Pat Williams, the founder of the Orlando Magic, on many kinds of books ranging from sports and leadership to a biography of Walt Disney. I worked with Super Bowl champions Reggie White and Bob Griese, and learned a lot about determination, perseverance, and work ethic. I worked with actress Grace Lee Whitney on her Star Trek memoir, with supermodel Kim Alexis, and many others. It's been a fascinating journey. Whether I'm writing fiction or nonfiction, every book I write is a learning and growing experience.

Lia Mack: If you don't mind me asking, what are you working on now?

Jim Denney: I'll just say that my current work-in-progress is science fiction on a grand scale.

Lia Mack: What does your typical writing day look like?

Jim Denney: My typical writing day for the past twenty-five years or so is pretty simple. Get out of bed and start writing. Knock out five hundred words or so first thing, then grab breakfast and coffee. Then it's writing and coffee pretty much all day long, interwoven with my day-to-day "real life"—family time, relaxation, household chores, and so forth. But both consciously and unconsciously, I'm writing all day long. I end the day with a long stretch of uninterrupted writing. Nighttime is prime time for writing, because the phone never rings.

Lia Mack: During your "real life" time, do you read while you write? What are you reading now?

Jim Denney: I have writer friends who say they won't read while they are engaged in a writing project. I suppose that's so that they won't be influenced by what they read. But I'm always writing. If I can't read during a writing project, I'd never get to read—and I can't go a day without reading for pleasure. Currently, I have two books open. I'm reading The Stars My Destination, a classic science fiction novel by Alfred Bester, and the definitive Harlan Ellison collection, The Essential Ellison.

Lia Mack: Seeing you love science fiction... if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself if you could speak to the aspiring writer you once were?

Jim Denney: In my early days, I lacked focus, motivation, and discipline. I thought writing success would come easily. I'd love to go back in time and give my younger self a kick in the pants and a Vince Lombardi-style motivational speech. I'd say, "Writing isn't something you do when you feel like it. Writing is a discipline, a daily habit, an intense commitment. You have to be a writer with every fiber of your being. You have to be intense, focused, and sold out to your work. You have to crave writing. You have to want it so much that you think about writing when you wake up, think about writing throughout the day, think about writing when you go to bed, and dream about writing through the night."

I'd also tell my younger self to get a copy of Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer. If you want to understand the creative process and how to tap into the power of the unconscious mind to unleash your imagination and creativity, you must read that book. I learned much of what Brande teaches through trial and error, but I could have greatly accelerated my growth as a writer if I had discovered that book at an early age. It was written in 1934, but I only read it for the first time within the past few years. Every serious fiction writer should read Becoming a Writer without delay.
  
Lia Mack: Another great book for the shelf. And I'm going to post your spoken advice on the wall of every writer's room here at the BB. And also tattoo it on my arm. 

"Writing isn't something you do when you feel like it. Writing is a discipline, a daily habit, an intense commitment."

You said it perfectly.

Well, Jim...it's been fun! I hope you can stop by the BB again some day. In the meantime, where can BB readers go online to find you and your work?

Jim Denney: My book on writing quickly and freely is called Writing in Overdrive. It's available in trade paperback and as an ebook at Amazon.com. My Timebenders books for young readers are also available at Amazon.com: Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. My two most recent nonfiction books with Pat Williams are Leadership Excellence and The Leadership Excellence Devotional, both from Barbour Books.

Thank you, Lia, for giving me a soapbox to talk about writing. Wishing you and all your readers at the BB B&B an inspired writing adventure!

Lia Mack: It was my pleasure. Come back any time! 

:)


 

Love my Readers!

Hello, I'm Lia Mack...

Hello, I'm Lia Mack...

Welcome :)

Writers, readers and all, welcome to my Writing Retreat, here at the BB B&B - a quaint respite on the web for all things writing.

I'm your host, Lia Mack, fellow author and starving artist. In addition to guest authors and the occasional book review, I blog about writing and all the joys aches and pains that go with.

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In Remembrance 12.14.12



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