Don’t Mess With My Books

April 17, 2014

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On the Road Again…

April 16, 2014

moving beagles

We just can’t stay put, it seems. After 1.5 years in beautiful Pittsburgh, we’re off to Burlington, Iowa. This gadding about the US is exciting, but I wish we could bypass the whole “move” part. The Rescues seem to have weathered it all, and love the fact that they have a big house and a yard with which to hide bones and bodies.

The hubs had told me ‘way back, “Stick with me, kid, and you’ll see the world.” Not sure he had Iowa in mind, but it’s very cool being a Mid-Westie in a small town where people only lock their doors at night, and no one’s in a rush and stop to welcome the new-comers.

So please excuse the boxes and packing paper. I’m getting organized as fast as I can!


Spring = New Stuff

April 14, 2014

KeepingYourHeadloresSpring is currently in a fight-to-the-death battle with Winter, which wreaks havoc with my sinuses and wardrobe. Looking out the window is a joke because big fat icky clouds might be loitering just beyond the horizon, waiting to pounce on me after I’ve decided on shorts. So I really wish these two seasons would come to some understanding…like, hello, Winter…it’s freaking April, so do I really need snow flurries and the heater?

Hell no.

But Winter realizes that we’ve just moved to Burlington, Iowa, and she wants to prove that the heater in this grand, stately 1890s brick gorgeosity of a house really does work. Yah. Okay, I got that, now please bring back the 80 degrees we had over the weekend.

Even Mother Nature was fooled, because she managed to wake up the flowers and blossoms. This grand, stately bloom-y tree outside my grand, stately house is trying to figure out if it’s really okay to bloom its pretty pink things, or whether it should close up shop and wait it out. Same for the purple flower-y things in the backyard. They’re freaked.

Spring really is representative of new stuff. New house, new town, new state, LOTS OF BOXES, and deciding where to put all our stuff.  And for a lot of people – sadly – that new stuff may include unemployment. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been touched by unemployment, especially over the past few years. It feels like an epidemic. When Robert Leahy’s (author of THE WORRY CURE) agent sent me KEEPING YOUR HEAD AFTER LOSING YOUR JOB, I knew I had to publish.

This isn’t your typical unemployment book that helps you write a better resume, or look for the perfect job, blah, blah, blah. Dr. Leahy’s book is about helping you not freak out and toss yourself under a bus. He gives important tools to change your life during this time of change – new stuff, stuff you’ll keep for the rest of your life. This is the unemployed person’s bible that keeps you from sinking into the blame game, sleepless nights, binge eating, and worse, family issues…because, hey, unemployment doesn’t happen to just YOU, but the entire family.

As a cognitive therapist, Dr. Leahy gives fabulous examples of how to take charge at a time when you feel most helpless and powerless and vulnerable, and  build up your self esteem.

We’ve always been about publishing books that make people think, invite change, and help, and KEEPING YOUR HEAD AFTER LOSING YOUR JOB is one of our shining stars. So here’s to new stuff, be it waiting out snowflakes or waiting out unemployment. Go out there and be fabulous!

Here is a wonderful review of KEEPING YOUR HEAD AFTER LOSING YOUR JOB by Barton Career Advisers’ career transition coach, Ed Weirauch.


Making the Most of Your Book Event

March 27, 2014

booksigning

Book events are enough to give the heartiest of writers the heebie jeebies, and it’s because few know the mixin’s of a successful event, so I thought I’d share some of the foolproof goodies.

But before I get into that, it’s vital to decide whether you can pull off a book signing. This isn’t a case of “If you schedule it, they will come.” This is about showcasing you and your book, so an event will only be successful if a lot of people know you, or you have a compelling reason for people to attend. For example, when I wrote The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, I alerted writers groups in the cities where I was planning a book event. I sent out a TIP sheet that talked about the book, and what I’d be talking about at the event. I never had an audience under 50 people.

In another example, my bud, Annette Dashofy – author of the wonderful CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE – knows everyone in Pittsburgh. Or it just seems that way…and they all came to her author event at Mystery Lover’s Bookshop. We were crammed in like little sardines, and we had a blast. Since so many people know her – and adore her – they were eager to come support her on her big day. Predictably, the store sold out, and Annette had to fork over two cartons of her own stash. Huzzah!

Now, you could be like my friend Jim Misko, who is the most outgoing, I-love-ya-man author I’ve ever seen. He goes into Costco and sells a ton of books to total strangers because he’s just so damned friendly and fun to hang around.

Wherever you fit, you need to plan your book event thoughtfully.

  • Be a big mouth. I’ve gone to book events where 3 people showed up. It’s painful and depressing.  They won’t come if they don’t know about it.
  • Give ‘em a compelling reason for coming to your signing. Whether they’ll learn how to cure cancer or make really good homemade wine, capturing someone’s imagination is a powerful tool. When I did events for my novel, DONOVAN’S PARADIGM, I tossed out the whole, “Have you ever considered if your doctor’s belief system can impact the way he/she treats you?” Hmm.
  • Read from your book. You want to give the audience a sense of your story, but keep it short and sweet. Audiences can doze off fairly fast, so choose a scene that sparks controversy or demonstrates an emotional impact—this gets the audience slobbery for more. Be sure to set up the scene.
  • Talk about how you came to write the book. It’s fun to hear the “story behind the story.” Was there a particular person or incident that inspired your book?
  • Do a Q&A. I know this can be scary…”What if no one asks a question?” Pah, don’t worry about it. Mix this in when you’re talking about how you came to write your story. And be sure to repeat the question before you answer it. Not everyone will hear it, so repeating it is good manners.
  • Figure out how and when to end the Q&A. It sounds simple, but this can go on for too long, and you won’t have time to sign books. Most events last about 2 hours, so plan accordingly. Decide who’ll be the bad guy – you or the bookstore.
  • Always thank the bookstore! They worked hard on your event, setting up chairs, advertising, ordering books, so be sure to thank them in front of your audience. And bring them something yummy. Back when I was doing personal book events, I always brought goodies for the bookstore workers – cookies or cupcakes. They loved it.
  • Bring food and drinks for your audience. Food is a great ice-breaker. People attending your event may not know each other, but munching on a few pretzels or cookies, while sipping a pouty white wine or mineral water relaxes your audience. For example, I always do a book cover cake for our authors’ first book events. If you enlist some good buds to cut up the cake and pass plates out while you’re busy signing books, your audience will stick around…and invariably buy more books, which makes the bookstore love you.
  • Bring extra books. This is key. If you have a big turnout, you’ll sell out because attendees tend to buy more than one book to give as gifts and such. If you have an extra box or two of books in your trunk, you’ll satisfy all your readers and make the bookstore very happy. WARNING: It’s common for bookstores to order around 30 books because they don’t want to have any extra stock that they may have to return. Be a good Girl Scout and be prepared!
  • Relax, breathe, and have fun. Book signings can be a lot of fun if you’re prepared.

How ’bout you book signing event veterans? Do you have anything to add to the list?


Letting Go – Tossing Out

March 25, 2014

trashThe packers come in two days to pack up our stuff for our move to the cow-tipping capital of the world – Burlington, Iowa – so I’ve dedicated this week to tossing stuff out. Today was tackling the fridge and freezer.

My freezer represents my good intentions. Those siu gau wrappers I bought several months ago represented my aspiration to become more proficient in the kitchen. I have a fabulous recipe for siu gau, and thought it’d be a hoot to surprise the hubs.

Well, make that I had a great recipe for siu gau. Last time I made it was about thirty years ago, so it’s possible it got lost. I’d spent about an hour online looking for a suitable replacement recipe, but gave up. Who am I kidding? Me and grease? Really? We do have two fire extinguishers, but I don’t think I could survive the humiliation.

Out they went.

The sausages were a sentimental favorite, and much harder to toss. The hubs bought them at this great little shop in the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh that makes the best designer sausages. I don’t know why we never got around to making them. I suppose life just got in the way. We’ve stuffed in a lot of happy memories of The Strip and its eclectic shops and street food vendors.

Out they went. Sadly.

Same goes for the pasta. Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in The Strip has the best homemade pasta – in every flavor imaginable – and we bought all kinds. And didn’t finish them in time.

Out they went…with a tear.

Other stuff was much easier to toss. The frozen bananas weren’t an emotional dilemma. Neither was the half-full bag of peas.

I’ll miss the chocolate wine because, well, it’s chocolate and wine. Need I say more?

Out it went.

Letting go is what we do during the writing process. We have scenes we adore – they’re our “Strip District” goodies that are filled with love and gooey fabulosity. But as delicious as they are, they simply won’t survive the move to finished product because they may derail the plot or be completely irrelevant.

These freezer/fridge items only have specialness to us because they represent something from our heart…which is why it’s hard for us to let go and toss ‘em out. It’s why black-hearted, soulless editors are your best friend. They don’t have the sweet memories of buying those marvelous Italian pastries while waltzing down the Strip District streets, stopping in at Rolands for a quick drinkie on the upstairs patio, where I’ve watched more than one person lose his drink overboard and land on someone’s parked car. Editors weren’t with you on your trip, so they will rip the guts out of anything that doesn’t support the plot.

Many of my authors have wept croc tears when I’ve red-lined a scene or three. “Really? THAT one? But I love that scene.” I can almost see the collective chin quiver and thoughts of hiring a hit team.

I’ll share here what I share with my authors. Ask yourself why that scene needs to be in the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best writing you’ve ever done, it has to make sense to the plot. If you take it out, will the story still stand and be just as rich? If you can justify that scene, then perhaps it needs to be tweaked in order to make it relevant.

During your editing process, there will be things that will be easy to let go, like butter. Can’t pack butter. Others, you’ll moan and groan, like my chocolate wine – because I’m cheap and hate to waste good choccie wine. The idea is to stand one or two degrees away from your story – where you can be the objective observer who can clinically agree that as much as you love a scene, it doesn’t belong in the book.

As for me, it’s back to the freezer. Frozen string beans? I hate string beans…what the hell was I thinking?


Ah, Spring

March 21, 2014
price fam in pitts

The Price Clan attempting to stay warm. Pure folly.

As a So Cal gal, Spring came with my having never really paid much attention because all the seasons are pretty much the same. Oh, we may have the occasional rain or wind, but for the most part, our seasons pass without fanfare. “

“Duuude, the waves are gnarly, wanna hit the beach?” That’s when we know it’s Summer. Or Fall. Or Spring.

“Duuude, had to put on a hoodie over my t-shirt and shorts.” That’s when we know it’s Winter.

My trial by fire in Pittsburgh has been a delicious ride. Snow! Rain! Weather! Hell yes, baby! No more getting away with a hoodie over my t-shirt and shorts. No, siree. I’m thinking in layers these days. Sweatshirt, jacket, scarf, hat, hood, mittens…in between mutters of “holy grits and weenies, it’s cold outside!” Takes me a half hour to get dressed, only to remember that I need to go pee.

So the arrival of Spring yesterday brought promise of warmer weather. Tossing off the coats. Skipping through the yard with sandals. Um. Yeah. Got 1.5 inches of snow, instead.

Looking outside, the snow has all but melted, and replaced it with a sense of renewal. I know those little flower buds are eager to belt their bad selves out of the ground and make the world all gorgeous. Even the Rescue Beagles seem more eager to sing the song of their people by baying at every moving particle that floats past their window.

So it’s with that sense of renewal  that we bid adieu to our beloved Pittsburgh and head for our next adventure in…Burlington, Iowa. Where, you say, scratching your head as you google Mapquest. Yah, it’s right on the Mississippi River. In the middle of nowhere. It’s a quaint little town that’s home to some burgeoning new projects, one of which the hubs is on for the next couple of years. Wow. We’ve been Westies, then Easties. Now we’re going to be Mid-Westies. There’s symmetry in being a part of all the major food groups.

It’s funny in a way. Most of my friends are looking at retirement in the somewhat-near future, settling down, looking at ocean cruises to Mexico and Alaska, yet the hubs and I feel like we’re just getting warmed up. Oh, we’ll return to California when we retire, and the kids start sprouting grandkids. But for now, it’s fun to see new things, and meet new people. So I guess you could say my life is stuck in Spring mode – even in the dead of December…or end of March.

Spring is about newness and getting all twitterpated about wonderful possibilities. So it’s no small wonder that I’m editing two fabulous new books that are scheduled to come out in the Fall. Hoo boy, talk about excited.

FSO - lo RESAmy Biancolli’s sense of humor is so deliciously dry and witty, that I find myself routinely gasping for air in between gusts of laughter. FIGURING SHIT OUT: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival is destined to be one of those books that people talk about in the grocery line, or the bank (does anyone go to the bank anymore?), where someone is guffawing, “I’m telling you, this book is hysterical.”

The inciting moment is anything but funny, but Amy looks at life through a different lens, and it’s refreshing and honest. We aren’t issued a set of Life Instructions when we’re born. The Cosmic Muffin sits back and pats us on the head and says, “Sorry, but you’re gonna have to figure Life out on your own.” Amy’s take on life is like putting a sprig of mint in my tea.

 

Finding Dad- loresConnecticut is lucky because they have Kara Sundlun as their morning wake-up call on her show Better Connecticut. But we’re all lucky because in November, we’ll have her fascinating book FINDING DAD: Love Child to Daughter. Kara discovered she was the love child of her mother and Rhode Island’s governor, Bruce Sundlun, and made the tough decision to meet him…even though he didn’t want to. And it all played out in the media. And you thought you had it tough?

In so many ways, Kara had to be the bigger person and meet her father nearly 80% of the way. But what happened because of her decisions is what makes me believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, and unicorns. Human nature is a funny thing, and where I would have tossed in my towel and punched out, Kara hung in there, and ended up with exactly what she’d always dreamed of.

So happy Spring to y’all. Hope it doesn’t snow on your parade. But if it does, go read a good book. A Behler book. I guarantee that you’ll walk away muttering, “I wish it’d snow, so I can read more.”


FANCY FEET – Motherhood and Disabilities, Saying Yes to Life

March 19, 2014

FancyFeet-smOnce again, our talented author, Heidi Cave, knocks it out of the park with a wonderful article in the Orange County Register about motherhood and disabilities.

Let’s face it, being a mom is hard work – the hardest job I know I’ll ever posses, because, for starters, it’s a job that never ends, and the pay sucks. You can’t wake up one morning and give notice. “Sorry, gang, I quit. Go ahead and eat Twinkies for breakfast.” Nope, it’s a lifer job. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But to perform this commanding job with a major disability? This is what puts Heidi at the top of my You Rock list.

Heidi’s life was forever changed when a brain-dead asswipe of a kid drag raced himself into Heidi’s car at high speed, careening her car clear across the street and down an embankment, where the car burst into flames and killed her best friend. Doctors worried Heidi wouldn’t make it, either, and were forced to put her into an induced coma.

Heidi spent over a year dealing with major skin grafts from burns suffered over 51% of her body, and the loss of both her legs. At 23. Can you imagine your entire life going hideously wrong at the tender age of 23? That’s the heart and soul of FANCY FEET.

Now, compound the demands of motherhood. I remember countless nights of walking the floor with a colicky baby, chasing after tiny feet in order to tape up the other side of a diaper, swinging happy-squealing little bodies at the park, baby wrangling at Costco…all these things I took for granted because my life was hideously uncomplicated.

Heidi is my reminder that life can go to shit in the blink of an eye, and it’s our resilience, our conscious decisions that determine whether we’re going to deflate like my attempts at baking, or facing the onslaught with a raised fist that says, “Screw you, shitstorm, I’m made of better stuff than that.”

Click on the link and read Heidi’s article because it’s representative of a lot more than mothering while disabled. Face it, we’re all disabled to some degree – whether it’s a physical injury, or the injuries that tattoo themselves on our hearts. Heidi said “hell yes!” to life, and reading her article put the jam in my jelly doughnut.

Go Heidi! Your babies are achingly adorable, and I know you approach motherhood the same way you do your writing – with intent and passion.


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