I’m nervous; it’s my first time.

Did that get your attention? How’s that for an opening line? Teasing, tantalizing, enticing, maybe a little salacious? Well, relax. Those were the words I said to the author next to me at Book ‘Em North Carolina 2015 Writers’ Conference and Book Fair this past Saturday. What I was admitting to was Book ‘Em North Carolina was my first ever book conference and I was nervous because I was also sitting on a panel called Books with a Social Conscience. And I may have been nervous, but excited and happy, too!

Book ‘Em is a one day event held every year during the last weekend of February. This year over 80 authors gathered to present their written works, meet other authors and greet readers. It was a very cool schmooze-fest.” People strolled by and asked questions about your books. They picked up some of your “swag” (if you had any like bookmarks, pens, buttons, etc.) and if they wanted a book, they picked one up, you signed it for them and they paid when they left the show. The wonderful thing about Book ‘Em is that authors agree to give 40% (or more) of the price of their book to the “cause” which are a variety of very worthwhile literacy campaigns. I’m a big supporter of those, so I was delighted to sign up for this.

As I said, this was my first event, ever. Therefore, I was uncertain how many books to bring, how much swag I would need (everyone has different stuff), how to decorate my table. But I checked out pictures from last year’s event, and came up with my look. I was showing my two books of poetry, but some authors had 8, 15, or even 25 books!

my author table

my author table

While there, I introduced myself to the authors next to me on both sides. Linda Vigen Phillips, author of the traditionally published and highly acclaimed non-fiction novel, Crazy (which I purchased), brought her computer to play her book trailer. I forgot about bringing my portable DVD player. It would have been very cool to run my trailer for By Light Betrayed (next time. Thanks, Linda!).  Very cool idea because a sharp trailer can draw a crowd and entice others to buy right there on the spot. Lesson learned for next year!

Linda's author table

Linda’s author table

On the other side of me, Gretchen Griffith was showing at least four books, both self-published and traditionally published. I bought her Wheels and Moonshine, an award-winning historical non-fiction biography. She brought two other historical non-fiction novels but also had an illustrated children’s picture book.

Gretchen's author table

Gretchen’s author table

Linda and Gretchen sat on a panel together (the hour before my panel) and discussed writing memoirs. Panels give general information and allow questions from writers and guests in all levels of expertise and experience. Sort of gave me some idea of what to expect when my panel came along.

Writing Memoirs

Writing Memoirs

My panel had five members but two panelists didn’t make it. So there I was with bestselling authors Dr. Patrice Carter and E. Marie Sanders. Dr. Carter writes spiritual self-healing and Ms. Sanders writes Christian Romantic Fiction. We three talked about our writing and how it provided a societal “conscience,” or if indeed it did. We spoke about moral and social obligations and how we see our role as writers. It was a surprisingly dynamic topic. Our audience was small but intimate and the questions were intriguing.

Books with a Social Conscience

Books with a Social Conscience

I met others during the day that brought smiles. A mutual acquaintance (friend of my best friend) popped by my table and I returned the favor. Book sharing goes on everywhere, but no one expects anyone to give them a book. Afterall, we are there to make a donation to the cause, right? So this was my meeting with multi book author H.V. Purvis. I purchased his newer book, Death in a Small Town.

H.V. Purvis and me

H.V. Purvis and me

And I have to mention the fabulous author on the other side of Linda, Jan McCanless. I bought her Tire Patch Cookies are Good For the Soul. Jan described herself as a little like Irma Bombeck, only prettier. Jan’s the author of the Beryl’s Cove Mysteries, seven of them so far. She claims that she writes “happy murders.”  And her focus is a presentation with humor. The book I bought is her second compilation of her newspaper and magazine articles.

Jan's author table

Jan’s author table

And before I go, I need to say I had to stop by and pick up Scott Mason’s book, Tar Heel Traveler. You’ve probably seen Scott on TV if you live in the tri-state area. He’s the reporter for WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler show, with over 100 journalism awards, 14 regional Emmys and three National Edward R. Murrow Awards. Yup, that Scott Mason. And such a warm and sweet guy he was, too!

Next to his table was another very popular and best-selling author Christie Silvers, author of the Amazon best-selling Liz Baker series. I bought book one (I had seen book four on Amazon and admired the cover, so I had to buy the first volume and get her to sign it). And need I tell you that the book, Time for Death, is a vampire tale? Oh yes. But wait! Guess what she did! After I bought her book, she sent two folks to see me to pick up a little vampire poetry. Was I surprised!? So my first two sales of By Light Betrayed were because of Christie. Blown. Away. She was amazing. And me a stranger.

my Book 'Em purchases

my Book ‘Em purchases

The whole day was  extra special because I had my husband there to share it all (he’s never seen me “be the author me” like this, so this was a first for him too). My first conference experience was positive and invaluable and I’m ready to get back to writing and to go to the next event that I can, soon as I can. I like making contact with the people. And what they will tell you is priceless.

Linda, Gretchen and me

Linda, Gretchen and me

Everyone has to have a first time. My first time was delightful, informative, rewarding. As every first time should be, right?

Next time, I have ideas for my table and more books to write!

If you have questions about preparing for your book fair, drop me a note via the Contact Me page and I’ll be happy to answer them.

*****

Before I go, I want to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Valentine Day and Chinese New Year.

But don’t think I’m going to let all you leprechauns get away. I’m sticking around. More on the search for the pot o’ gold next time!

Vanity? Thy name is NOT “Writer”

Today was the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! That means for the next 30 days I will pursue, with single-mindedness, a goal of 50,000 words and the completion of a book. Or something passing for a book, anyway.

Now, to achieve this, some sacrifices will be made. Friends and family will understand if I don’t chat as much, text as much, email, call or otherwise am seen beyond the library and coffee houses or wherever my computer and I happen to plant ourselves.

But mostly, I have to tell you, I’ve discovered a little known fact about NaNoWriMo and the writers – the WriMos. We are not vain. Nope, there’s not a whit of vanity hovering about us. Know how I know?

Take a look at the writer in the coffeehouse. Massed over the hair is a pair of headphones. Music and noise cancelling are more important than the latest coiffure. If no headphones, then a headband to hold the hair back so the earphones are unobstructed. And in many cases, the writer sports a ball cap. Oh not to go all Greta Garbo (we wish we had such fame)! No, this is to shade our eyes from the ugly florescent lights so that we might focus on the shiny computer screen or, in some cases, to take the glare off the writing tablet (you know the one with paper, right?).

So here we have the headphones and ball cap — Voila! Hat hair. Maybe that hat is also hiding something else…the dry skin from either the dry air of the coffee shops or the air conditioner or the heat. Writers invest heavily in moisturizers because, well, we need them! But it doesn’t diminish the fact that we have “computer skin.” That’s why we try to write outside when we can but there again is the hat, ball cap, or we end up in the shade…ah, moisturizer.

Next, let’s examine what else the writer must sacrifice for the craft. How about the cold fingers or arms. Yes those busy fingers must be kept warm and those lower arms must not suffer in the drafts. So you’ll see fingerless gloves and arm warmers. Not the most attractive things but ask the writer who feels relief if he or she cares?? The arm warmers are a lot like leg warmers of the 70’s. Oh, wait…those pesky leg warmers ARE BACK! You’ll see writers wearing those too. Even ugly UGGs. Yup, a writer will place comfort and warmth above all sense of style.

Finally, the writer who finds a comfortable corner at home in front of the fireplace will most likely be in sweats or jammies, and the fuzziest of slippers or mules or socks. Yes, comfort. The long hours in early mornings or late nights require that thinking of cold or uncomfortable body part not be a distraction. Terrycloth robes, ratty sweaters, all are included in the “I’m too comfortable for my shoes” writer.

And then let’s consider nails. Now, I’m not going to tell you that all writers have short nails because they don’t. But I will tell you that serious typists keep their nails short and don’t’ worry about whether or not their polish is the trending shade. Not for next 30 days anyway. Nope, those nails are going to be short so the fingers (in the fingerless gloves) can hit those typewriter keys with wild abandon! Long nails make me miss the keys and are a blooming nuisance!

Let us not forget diet. Ah WriMos have to have their inspiration. Chocolate, cookies, chips, gum, chocolate (did I say that?), coffee, coffee, coffee. Tea, water, coffee. You get the idea. Things that taste good, are quick and easy and some thing that we can reach for in the drawer. And then there is wine, and some prefer that glass of whiskey or scotch and we know what alcohol does to you (why moisturizer is important!). WriMos have to have their snacks. These sustain us in the tense word count moments. Not good nutrition but who’s worried about that right now?

Hair, skin, warmth, comfort, nails. clothes…all are sacrificed for the goal of 50,000 in 30 days.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s to Armani, Valentino, Donna Karen, Louis Louboutin, Bob Mackie and all the other famous designers dressing people around the world who do care about how they look and how tight their Spanx are. Bravo to them all. Just remember, none of them are doing 50,000 words.

And if they are doing it in designer duds, then they probably don’t care if they complete the goal or not. They can afford to be vain. And hey, after all that who gives a crap what you look like?? You’ve written a book!

But we writers on the street….let’s see…that’s 688 words and counting…pass the hot coffee and the blankie, on your way out, won’t you? I need to heat my mac and cheese and then I’ve got a chapter to finish.

Oh and hey, I’m not saying that the NaNoWriMo writers don’t care about being presentable.

Just don’t bother them – me – with such trivia for the next 29 days. Pass the chocolate.

Don’t Most Writers Love Halloween?

Just a week and a day until All Hallows Eve, the most magical time for the imagination. I love Halloween, always have. Nothing pleasures me like a good thrill, a creepy chill, a scary goose bump, a stray scream, a suspenseful tale. As a child, I loved to dress up and become someone new. I think this carries over into today’s world, right? We have Cosplay and LARPing, we have card games where we “battle” one another, or we roll the dice to see what power we will exert over another player who is a druid, a thief, a knight, a magician….or how much blood you will drink from your victim.

These games and dress ups of today are like blossoms of Halloween, to me. I remember the Fall Harvest at the school, where old-fashioned carnival games were played while consuming cotton candy, candied apples, or soft serve ice cream. There would be pumpkin carving competitions, baked goodies bought in the name of the PTA, and a dunking booth. But at the end of the afternoon, as twilight would tickle the sky into shades of mauve and indigo, we would race home to put on our costumes!  The time for haunting the neighborhood had arrived!

And then we would meet up in the street, a gaggle of friends, with parents watching from front windows and wood porches up and down the street. We were so safe and yet we felt so free and unencumbered. It was a glorious night for treats and tricks and giggling good fun.

We became princesses and pirates, superheroes and super villains. We had Mighty Mouse (more than Mickey) and Huckleberry Hound, a multitude of Dracula’s, Frankenstein’s and Mummy’s (the cool, foot dragging one). The object of Halloween was to scare and be scared in character. It was a real, true Halloween. This was the kind where when the Hound of the Baskervilles howled, you were quivering and turning on the light.

Ah, Halloween and the characters we played! But think on this a moment. What are writers but creators of Halloween? Maybe you don’t write frightening creatures like the Fly. Perhaps you write of fairies and princesses, of mothers or dancers. Weren’t there ballet dancers and baby dolls in Halloween too? I was once a blue fairy.  I was once a military member and a prairie girl. And then I was a queen, a tap dancer, a witch and eventually, a vampire (that one seems to have stuck).

So we all grew up and instead of dressing up all year long (the Dragon/Comic/Trek cons are all a new phenomenon), we turned our love of characters into stories. And then we could play act any time we wished, live any fantasy, be anyone we wanted, anytime we pleased.

Yes, Halloween is the imagination’s wild ride, the magical playground. But really, weren’t we – the ones who ran down the street, screaming like banshees – the ones destined to live out our characters all the days of our lives? We  became the keeper of characters!

We became writers.

It’s almost Halloween. Actually, it’s always Halloween for writers. Get ready!

Trick.

Or.

Treat.

BOO!

BOO!

 

Die Vampires, Die! (NaNo Here I Come!)

You are a writer. Say it with me, “I am a writer.” At least you want to be, right? You think you are? You sometimes are. You used to be? You thought you were? But….but…but…

And as a writer, you want to become a novelist and then, an Author. (ooh did you hear the angel choir and the epic soundtrack when I said that word?)

What’s that??

Did I hear you say you CAN’T do it? That you’re AFRAID? You don’t have TIME? It’s too hard? Life happens? There’s the kids…you don’t know what to say…you tried before and failed….no one wants to hear what you have to say…blah, blah, blah (oh yeah, I’ve heard ALL the excuses!).

Uh-oh. You’ve got vampires! And believe you me, I know vampires!

Every year about this time, I have to drag out my favorite Broadway tune just for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) people and any of my friends who try to tell me that they have Writer’s Block or don’t “feel” the muse or some other excuse that is holding them back from taking pen in hand and putting down all those words that have been pestering them for months. Years. If this is you (and it’s okay to admit it), then you have vampires and I have the stake cure for you!

slayer

Oh and this isn’t just for writers either!  If you are any kind of an artist – sketcher, painter, sculptor, musician, poet, actor, singer, dancer, anything creative – then this little bit of inspiration is FOR YOU. Time to slay the vampires in your heart, mind and soul. Those spirit suckers are going down!

Go get all your buddies and friends, spread the word, bring your tools of the trade and settle in. It’s time to kill some vampires!

First, deep breath. Now close your eyes. Now, believe. In yourself. In your stories. In the possibility of fun. Just believe.

Next, trust that belief. TRUST in yourself. You are a writer. Trust this instinct.

Then, stop saying why you can’t and start listing ways you CAN. (belief).

Now, what would you like to write about? Write that down. Now, name the three characters you just have to have. Write that down. Now what is the reason for the story? Write that down. See? You can do this. Now make a bare bones outline of what all you want to cover. Then spend the next two weeks filling in the blanks with all the delicious moments you want in your book. Go wild and crazy! This is NaNo time!

There, look at that! You are now in possession with the first stake against those vampires. Do more. And believe in yourself. This can be fun.

Most of all. This CAN BE. (belief).

All right, my little vampire slayer. Go forth and prepare to write! Sign up for NaNoWriMo and join people from AROUND THE WORLD who are going to take that leap of faith and exercise their need to write down the stories aching to be told.  I believe in YOU.

So, November and the rest of our lives, here we come!  Here’s a little gift for all you Vampire Killers while you make more vampire killing stakes and stock up on ink pens, tablets, printer paper, notecards, chocolate, tea, coffee and music. Make this your top song! Go get ‘em!

 

 

Where are the professionals?

I’ll be blunt. I’m disgusted.  I’ll explain.

When I was growing up and learning life lessons, I was given some basic rules of behavior that I was told would carry me through my life and subsequent career(s). These rules, if consistently adhered to, would protect my reputation and mark me as a person of honorable character.

1. Your word is your bond. When you say you will do something, you don’t have to promise. If you say it, that IS a promise. If you say it, then you must follow through. That is integrity.

2. If you tell someone you will be at a place at a certain time, then be there. Don’t show up after the time. Don’t assume that not being on time will be acceptable. Be. On. Time. Be early. Ten minutes early is so much better than ten minutes late. When you are late, you are saying that you have no respect for the person who waits. You are saying that your time is more important than the person’s who waits. They have to give up their time for you, but you are saying you don’t honor them enough to give your best effort and be on time. Again, it shows a lack of integrity.

3. Change is inevitable. Remember that people do not like change and worse, don’t like to be surprised with it. If something is expected of you and you decide to change without telling anyone, people will give you attitude and negativity (in most cases). Be understanding of others and tell others when change is happening. This is respect.

4. There are two kinds of professionals. The first is one who earns money at a job comprised of a majority of amateurs (those not making money). The second is an expert in a particular field. Don’t presume because you earn a dollar that you are more of the second kind of professional than the first.  And remember that a true professional, doesn’t need to remind others. Others will naturally gravitate to a professional. This is trust and respect.

5. If you make a mistake, apologize. Do what you can to make it right. Accept that mistakes will happen and be honest and up front about them. Do not lie. Ever. EVER. Once a lie has broken free, others tend to follow. Honesty is a a mark of character and shows respect. Lies cheapen your integrity and ruin your reputation.

6. Use manners. A professional knows that behavior matters. Don’t assume things about people. We all learned what we need to know by first grade: Please. Thank you. Yes/No sir/ma’am (especially to those in positions of authority, elders and customers). How you treat people speaks volumes about you as an individual. You do not have the right to be rude. Not if you are attempting to be professional. You do not have the right to say whatever you feel, however you wish, if those words are vulgar and denigrating. Courtesy is respect. You don’t have to “like” someone to give respect. Civility and respect are twins.

7. Emails do not replace letters unless specified. Even then, bad language and poor grammar show a lack of professionalism. Use your words, not your abbreviations. No one speaks that way in “the real world” (unless you are planning to work on skates or in headphones). Again, show your character, not your ass.

8.  As above, so likewise go phone manners. Remember that half of what is conveyed over the phone is tone. Much can be endured if spoken clearly, honestly and with courtesy.  Use words like “yes” instead of “yeah,” and demonstrate an ability to use the words you claim to love. Be professional.  Respect for others, patience and positivity, will demonstrate your professionalism and leave a marked impression long remembered after the call is finished. That is perception and true or not, you are the way you are perceived to be. That is reputation.

9. Attitude is everything. If you are surly, disingenuous, apathetic or angry, the negativity will eat into your contact with others. It will brand you as someone with whom dealing is undesirable. You will lose your value, and your reputation will tarnish. Once tarnished, forever tarnished. Practice being positive. Smile. This is strength of character and people naturally gravitate to strength

10.  Most of all, above all, and always, do the right thing. Do the Right Thing. When the moral dilemma bars your way and you are tempted to take the road around, make a shortcut, go cheap, tell that little white lie or turn a blind eye — don’t. Just Do the Right Thing. It’s like stopping at the red light in the middle of the night with no one around. Integrity is doing the right thing especially when no one is watching. That’s strength of character.

These 10 tenants are what it means to be professional. Take them to heart. Make them a part of you. As a writer, attempting to be seen and valued as a professional, you’ve got to BE professional. Whether writing letters, making phone calls, going to conferences,  appearing at book signings, doing a one-on-one consultation, be professional.

Unlike the termite inspector who shows up an hour late, or the food delivery truck that just doesn’t show up at all, or the person on the phone who is unable to speak for popping gum, or the surly customer service rep who is annoyed that I bothered to call, or the shoe salesman who is aggravated because I want to try on more than one shoe, or the email from the customer service rep who wants to ” <3 my order bcuz she’d B cray not to”…unlike any of these so-called professionals, I want you to truly BE professional. Because you can.

Before I go I need to add one more tenant.

11. A real professional is always learning and improving. No one knows it all. No craft remains static. You continue to learn and grow or get left behind. A real pro studies and grows within the profession.  A real pro is open and receptive to new ideas. A real pro listens and learns. Never be so smart that you forget you don’t know it all. This is wisdom.

Where are all the professionals? It seems that they are missing. Sadly, I find them drifting, or disappearing. It angers me. I’m tired of dealing with unprofessional people. Insist on professionalism. Give it. Command it. Demand it. Live it. Raise the bar. Be the bar. Set a standard. Maintain it. Represent it. Become it. Whatever it takes.  That’s being professional.

Then hopefully, we won’t ever ask “where are the professionals” again.

Professionalism

 

New Book is LIVE!

I’m so pleased to announce that my new book, By Light Betrayed, is now live! Bookstand Publishing, my publisher, has listed me in their New and Notable area as a new release (I’m also listed in the Poetry bookstore). You can view the new listing and make your order here.  Amazon has the hardback listed but not the paperback at this writing. Things take time to show up.  The ebook will come in about two weeks. When it is released, you can get it on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and other digital readers. The problem is, if you don’t have a color reader, you won’t see my luscious color photographs!

There’s a bonus in this book, too. A fiction excerpt from next year’s novella! So you get a triple whammy of dark, vampire poetry, color photographs, and some fiction. I wanted to give you more than “normal” because this is my last book of poetry.

So, to give you a taste (oh I did just say that!) of the book’s flavor, here’s a link to my You Tube chanel and the book trailer. Stop by and be seduced!

And thank you for your support. Without it, there wouldn’t be this second book.

All right, this is October, time for a few scares and thrills. By Light Betrayed is your ticket to the secret heart of the vampire. Come with me into forever….

New Release!

New Release!

Summer’s Last Days

There are eight more days until the Autumnal Equinox. Eight more days before summer picks up her green dress and slips into tomorrow’s fog, her prickly heat becoming a memory, her summer revelries leaving behind empty ice cream cones, torn movie tickets, and frayed beach towels. Ah, Summer you have been a she-beast for some with your brutal heat, vicious storms and shaking, boiling, trembling in the Earth. You’ve been cursed and praised, celebrated and bemoaned. However, Summer, your official days are numbered!

Already Autumn’s shadow peeps around the corner. Dried leaves skitter across the driveway. Squirrels scurry to hide and store with an unconscious urgency. The air tingles with delicious hints of something sweet and cool, whispering to the trees of the upcoming Harvest Ball. The “dog of summer” begins its transformation into the “wolf of the mystical.” Autumn, with all her gloriously rich earthy gown, is lurking.

Just a taste of autumn on the wind and my heart races. This is what spring fever is for many, only my spring comes in the twisting umber, crimson, and gold of fall. I am a creature with the blood of ancient druids singing in my veins – or so it must seem as I begin to suffer the insomnia of a changing season, sensing the teasing wisps of cool nights and heavy morning fog. I suffer palpitations of eagerness, welcoming the dry crackle of autumn’s majesty. I bow to her as her lady-in-waiting.

Eight days. Time to lick that last ice cream while slouching on the back porch or deck. See that summer blockbuster. Take a final walk in the park in your short sleeves. Enjoy your sandals. Summer deserves to be enjoyed and then remembered. Take a few more photos. Tell each other what you did on your summer vacation again. Laugh and wince about the sunburn at the pool party. Have one more slice of watermelon.

For me, the sweaters are unpacked and cleaned. Soup stock waits in the freezer. Halloween beckons. Leaves dance! Owls and bats replace the lightning bugs and butterflies. Ice tea fades (though it rarely crosses these lips) in favor of hot chocolate and pumpkin spice. Soon the scents of apples and cinnamon will tantalize the senses.

I hope you had a memorable summer filled with laughter and memories. Speak of them to one another and make the moments indelible. Tick tock. Time is short. I may have one last root beer float just because it reminds me of the summers in my youth.

And then, I’m going to watch the lengthening days turn to early twilight, grab a mug of some apple cider, maybe do one more binge watch of last season’s favorite TV show.

Eight days of Summer’s last hurrah. Have a Coke. Look, there she goes, Miss Lazy Days, sultry and hot. Until next year, my lady.

I’m so excited! Queen Autumn approaches!

pre-autumnsm

 

 (For those who live in the more Southern climes, I realize that the change of season may not appear to you as it does to me. I trust the sentiment of a “virtual season” will resonate with you, instead)