Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest author Nerissa Golden: Honouring My Words

The beauty of being an author is that within the pages of your book you can become whoever you choose to be. In one book, you get to be the hero, the villain, the victim and the victor. It’s a place where you have permission to tell a lie for the purpose of creating tension and developing your story around how the characters deal with it.

In real life however, I’m a believer that truth always trumps lies.

Time is moving rapidly. Back in December when I agreed to do this guest post, I selected the end of March as it seemed far enough away. Surely by then I would have my act together and my writing mojo would be going at Mach 5.

Life happened and is happening. I’ve spent more time wishing I had the energy to write than writing. I’d somehow lost track of the simple promise to myself to have a book published by April. Still possible in the world of rushed eBooks but that is not what I’m after.

I thought having friends hold me accountable would help to keep me on track but it’s amazing the fabulous excuses you can find to explain away why your book draft hasn’t been looked at since late January. Yes, I have some great ones and all legit but none of them bring me any closer to completing a book. What it has also done is pushed me further from my friends, not because they are staying away but because of my own shame that I’ve been unable to keep my word.

My word. How do I write if I can’t honour my own word?

My not taking the time to write and share the ideas that have been on my heart for quite some time was keeping me away from my friends. I can see it and feel it.

Just as my own spirit craves the release of words on a page for me to feel free, alive and purposed, so I need to write to maintain my own integrity and to keep the promise I made to friends that I would deliver a new book. After all, I’ve filled their heads with ideas for characters, plots for a romantic story and thoughts for a self-help book but without movement on my part those discussions amount to time shooting the breeze. I don’t want it to be so.

This is my struggle. To keep promises to myself and to my friends that I will write. To not be filled with shame that I pull myself away from the relationships that matter. To write because when I do, I can feel a heavy burden lift regardless of what I’m writing about.

How do your relationships support your need to write?

P.S. I’ll be happy to send a free copy (e-version where applicable) of one of my books to the first person to request one in the comments below.

As the CEO of goldenmedia, Nerissa develops cutting edge communications strategies for her clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She was an Associate Producer for The Skin by HAMAFilms, managing its international publicity campaign, garnering it access to film festivals around the Caribbean and North America. She also works with emerging artists to develop a brand strategy which positions them to make an impact across multiple platforms simultaneously.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest author D.R. Ransdell: More Than a Lifeguard

D.R. Ransdell
While I realize that what you’re supposed to do as an author is to sell books, I wind up giving quite a few away. Sometimes I need reviews. Sometimes I owe people favors. Sometimes I need unusual Christmas presents! But there’s another category of reasons I sometimes give away a book—I just have to.

Here’s why: sometimes the connections between the people in my life and the characters in my book are so extreme that even I can’t believe the coincidences. A case in point is what happened with Mariachi Murder. The protagonist is a mariachi player. He has a brother who’s named Joey.

Joey only plays a small role in this first novel, but in the second novel he’s going to play a bigger role. So he’s been on my mind a lot. His brother gets him into all kinds of trouble, as mariachi players sometimes do. This is all well and good except for one thing: the Recreational Center where I swim hired a lifeguard named Joey.

I didn’t think about this the first time I met Joey. I didn’t even think about it the second time I spoke with him. But then one afternoon as I was swimming I realized, oh, yes, that’s Andy’s brother’s name. And Joey the lifeguard, though a bit younger, looks quite a bit like Joey the character. How very odd.

I would forget about this fact from time to time, and then I would run into Joey the lifeguard again and not be able to get the character/person connection out of my head. Finally I told him that I could remember his name because I had used the same name for a character in my book. The “real” Joey laughed. In the meantime I started obsessing about the situation. “I really ought to bring Joey a copy of that book,” I thought to myself. “He’ll think I’m really weird,” I also thought.

Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer and brought Joey a copy of the book. He was both pleased and flattered! He hasn’t started reading it yet, but I’m sure he’ll get to it eventually. The funny thing is that Joey the lifeguard would have never in a million years imagined that the writing teacher who swims at his pool writes murder mysteries! More amusingly still, Joey the lifeguard hasn’t ever read a murder mystery before. This will be his very first one. Naturally, I’m hoping it will be the first of many and that he wants all his friends to read all about “him.”

I’m waiting to see how Joey reacts to this novel, but I know already that I’ll have to give him a copy of the next one as well. It’s even more dramatic. In the sequel his brother accidentally causes him to suffer. It’s never good to have a brother who’s a fictional detective, but I’m hoping it’s quite amusing to have a fictional counterpart.

In another couple of months, I’ll ask Joey.

P.S. I’ll be happy to send a free e-version of Mariachi Murder to the first person named Joey who asks for one!

D.R. Ransdell is an author in Tucson, Arizona where she can enjoy good weather most of the year. She loves to travel, so travel is often a feature in her writing. She plays the violin in a mariachi band, which led to Mariachi Murder. D.R. lives with several lively cats who give her plenty of reasons to procrastinate. So far the felines have brought in plenty of dead lizards, but no dead bodies—yet. Please visit her at or watch her author videos at

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Author Says... I hear

 I Recently accompanied a group of fifth graders on their field trip to the Statue of Liberty.  While walking into the Pedestal of the impressive statue we stopped in the museum.  Depicted were many of the ways the Statue of Liberty was exploited in advertising.  We saw Lady Liberty eating hamburgers, with sun glasses advertising travel and in weird pants advertising something that I just don’t remember.
One advertisement stood out.  On it was picture of lady liberty pointing her index finger over the waters.  The caption read, “If you want to make America better, leave the country!”

The kids I was chaperoning gasped.  One of them said to me, “That is mean!”

And I agreed.  I thought they were telling immigrants to go back to their countries.  Until I read the rest of the advertisement.

It was an advertisement for the Peace Corps.  The message was, if you want to make America better, leave the country, go to developing countries to serve and come back with your new experiences to contribute to the building of America.  The message was quite the opposite of our interpretation.
Now enlightened I explained to the kid, “It’s not mean at all.  It’s just a clever way to advertise service in the Peace Corps.”

She replied, “Well they didn’t have to phrase it that way.”

So I used it as an opportunity to discuss with them about saying things that may be perceived differently to what you mean.

This is also true of writing.  Many times we writers pen words with a certain message we would like to convey.  However, sometimes those same words are interpreted differently, even in cases opposite to the message we are trying to convey.  Unfortunately it is inescapable.  However with good editing we may be able to minimize it so that we convey the message we want.

I recall a conversation I had in one of my manuscripts submitted for publishing.  In it the lead character asks a child she was babysitting if he wanted to bake cookies.  He responded that cooking was for girls after which she said she would have to have a talk with his father.  When she told his father his son was baking cookies his response was to suggest she was making a sissy out of him.  He went on to give his very strong opinion of kids making decisions about sexual orientation before they are old enough to even understand the meanings. She sarcastically warned that with that attitude he was raising a homophobic male chauvinist.   My editor called me and told me to strike that conversation.
I asked her why.  She said it could be perceived that the author is homophobic and it is best not to alienate any social group or potential readers.  I didn’t see it that way.  I thought I was being open-minded and the conversation was balanced featuring opposing opinions on the issue.  I modified it anyway.

Good editing does not mean people will not interpret what you write in their very own way.  It just means you will have a clearer message that reduces the misinterpretations.  Whether in speech or in writing there are always two interpretations to the message: the one that the writer/speaker intends to convey and the one that the reader/listener hears.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Give Me the Night

This post is not about my preference for the late hours, though they don't call me The Owl around here for nothing. Five years after Café au Lait hit the shelves, another novel bearing the Liane Spicer brand is about to be released on an unsuspecting reading public.

Why the long gap, you may well ask. All I'll say in my defense is that I haven't exactly been idle. In the interim I've put ten titles in the Kindle stores, in various genres and under various pen names. I've had one short story published in a literary journal and my little collection of similar short stories is growing slowly but surely; three are ready for submission. I've also racked up a few other achievements, both literary and non-literary, that I'll share some other time.

But this, this Give Me the Night, this complicated second child—oops, novel—was the option book with my first publisher, Dorchester. It got stuck in the infamous meltdown and disappearance of that house, just for starters. It has also been a victim of my inaction and indecision, hesitation and procrastination, distraction and much else, but here it is at last, ready to try out its fledgling wings.

In stores March 23. Wish it well. :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fog and Dreams

Back when I lived in the mountains above Los Angeles, I used to walk Archie, my dog, to the rim just about every day where I could look out over the city, and the dog could pad around, sniffing and exploring, chasing a lizard or squirrel. I loved looking down like that on the city I commuted to every day, but I liked it so much more when the hikes were foggy.

There’s something about walking in fog in the middle of a forest. Someone told me once that one of the effects of playing the didgeridoo is that the player is in a kind of trance dream state. It’s an interesting feeling and a little of what the forest fog walks are like. We’d be out there in the middle of the woods listening to the slow drips of dew, lost in our own world of thought, and then a bear would come ambling by. Neither I nor Archie would be surprised. The bear wouldn’t be either. She’d just move on her way.

There were other things that might have seemed surprising too, cars abandoned where there were no roads, a coyote who thought he was alone and playing with an old rag like a pup, stones stacked as monuments by local kids. Nothing was surprising here, and it felt like everything was as it should be out in the cool, nearly silent morning air.

The only thing that’s ever been comparable is that willing suspension of disbelief when I’m reading. It’s dreamtime same as the didgeridoo, same as fog walks. I love a writer who can drag me out into the fogscape and make me believe that not only do I belong there but so does everything else I’m seeing. Pat Barker’s been taking me back to World War One lately. Bonnie Hearn Hill took me on an adventure the other day.

Even better than that though is when I do it to myself. When I get into that space in my own stories, that’s a magic that I haven’t felt since I was ten years old and my conservative teacher forbid me from reading J. R. R. Tolkien. That was the best gift that person could have ever given to me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Finding the Spark.

I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in “writer’s block.” What I mean by that is that I generally don’t like to use it as an excuse for not writing. What I do firmly believe in is, “I so totally don’t want to be sitting here writing right now. I’d rather be doing almost anything, including tasks or chores I normally wouldn’t do with a gun to my head.”

Usually, this feeling grabs me whenever I’ve failed to do my upfront homework while preparing to write a new story. Maybe I didn’t take the time to properly explore an idea that sounded neat at the outset, and instead started writing just to see where the notion took me. Sometimes that works, and it can be hugely fun and satisfying when everything falls into place. However, there also are those occasions where I end up like Wile E. Coyote, slamming face-first into the proverbial canyon wall.

Yep, we all know there are going to be days when the words just don’t want to spill forth, no matter how long you sit in front of your computer, or how hard you stare at your screen. You can feel them; they’re a jumble up in your head, but they’re fighting amongst themselves and really have no need for you to be bugging them right now. You can usually coax them out sooner or later, and every writer has their trick for doing just that. For me? My usual method is to just walk away from the whole thing.

Sort of.

Over the years, I’ve found that focusing on some completely unrelated activity is one of the best ways for me to work the knots out of a story that’s giving me fits. I go for the mundane sorts of tasks, like working in the yard, washing the car, folding laundry, cooking dinner, or just taking a shower. My mind is free to wander during these times, and as often as not I’ll have to stop whatever I’m doing so I can run back to my desk and jot down a bunch of notes.

The other night, I was shaving when—at long last—something sparked in my little monkey brain as I let it bounce around the room a bit. The kinks in the story I’ve been plotting for the past week or so just straightened themselves out as I was staring at myself in the mirror. It all happened in the space of less than thirty seconds. Hell, I nearly cut my own throat in my excitement, because I could feel right then that this was the answer! Thankfully, I survived the incident and was able to transcribe my nonsensical ramblings to the page, small globs of shaving cream dangling from my ears and everything.

Oh, and it offered me the idea for this month’s post. So, you know…a two-fer!

(Meanwhile, my wife just shakes her head as she watches all of this unfold.)

How about you? What do you do when the words don’t want to play? How do you go about finding that spark?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's Not Your Job

Source Unknown
I do my best to support my fellow Caribbean authors, so when I came across a new book by an author from the region I looked for it on Amazon and took a "Look Inside". I did this because although I am a self-published author and wholly support self-publishing, I am painfully aware of the wide variety in quality that is out there.

So I looked inside and the first sentence of the first chapter went something like this:

"They soon discovered how similar their life experiences were when their eyes collided ..."

Now, if you are a writer and you don't know the main thing that's wrong with that sentence (because there is more than one issue), it's quite okay. It's not your job to know. It's your job to send your manuscript to someone who knows that eyes shouldn't collide unless it's a science fiction novel or your protagonists have just undergone a very unusual and unimaginably painful surgical procedure.

It's not enough for your subjects and verbs to agree. Hire a good editor to find the fine points, the run-on sentences, the subtle errors, the inconsistencies and it will pay off in the end. Even if you're trained in editing, hire someone because you are probably too close to your work to edit it objectively.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dealing with Rejection

Today it is my pleasure to host author and screenwriter Bob Bernstein who is going to discuss dealing with rejection or “Thank You for Completely Trashing My Work You No-Nothing Piece of...”

Bob Bernstein is a former executive fundraiser turned professional boat captain. He has worked as a commercial fisherman, charter boat skipper, captain-for-hire, camera boat operator, and boat wrangler for Hollywood. His technical marine articles, columns, short stories and features have appeared in magazines and books since 1987. The novellas, Beneath Cold Seas and Mother Lode - first serialized in Offshore Magazine in 1992 - are available at Amazon's Kindle Store, as is Bernstein's memoir, What They Don't Tell You About Alzheimer's, an informative story about taking care of a mother with Alzheimer's Disease. What They Don't Tell You About Alzheimer's held the top two spots on Amazon's Top 100 Kindle Books on Aging for over seven weeks and rose to the top 25 on Amazon's Top Ten 100 Memoirs.
Stowaway, the sequel to Bernstein's debut mystery novel, Calamity, is due out in late 2014, as is his science fiction thriller, The Ring Shepherd.
Are We Sinking Or Are My Legs Getting Shorter is a "light read" collection of instructional articles and anecdotes for new and novice boat enthusiasts, while the experienced vessel or fleet owner will find a more thorough examination of boat systems, equipment, and gear in Boat Tech.
Bernstein continues to work on the waters of Penobscot Bay, Maine. He writes from his home in Tenants Harbor. For more information visit him at
Ninety-nine percent of all critiques or rejections have the word “but” in the very first sentence. I got one once from the Scott Meredith Agency. It was beautiful. Five pages long. The opening was something like, “This impressive, ambitious work moves like a runaway freight train, catapults the reader into a phantasmagorical world of outlandish visions and scenery, but is ultimately flawed and will never go anywhere.”
Another rejection letter started out: “Your manuscript was exactly what I was looking for, and I argued strongly for it to be added to our book list, but my editorial staff thought otherwise.”
My favorite came from Tom DeFalco, at the time, Editor-in Chief of Marvel Comics. It was on his personalized business stationary, the one with Spider Man web-slinging up the left side. Typical letter. Dear Mr. Bernstein, and then under that the word Huh in quotes. Hand signed, Tom DeFalco.
I love that letter, even though it doesn’t have the word “but” in it, and I will cherish it as long as I live. Granted, it lacks a certain detail. But consider the refined brevity. The nuance. The pure, unadulterated passion. Obviously, I had really hit a nerve.
These days, with self- and indy publishing, the rejection letter isn’t as commonplace, unless you send one to yourself.
Dear Mr. Bernstein,
Your recent manuscript reads like a cross between Sons and Lovers and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. All of us here at Bernstein and Bernstein Publishing loved it. BUT, unfortunately, we just accepted a similar book titled, Honey, I Shrunk Tolstoy. So, sorry. Good luck placing your work elsewhere.
Bob Bernstein

Oh, well. Back to the drawing board.
Also, just in time for St. Patrick's Day, you can pick up your free copy of The Cannibals of Madison County by clicking HERE.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Special guest author Melodie Campbell: Why Book Tours Are Expensive

Melodie got her start writing comedy. In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. She has over 200 publications including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and has won 9 awards for short fiction. Her fifth novel, a mob caper, is entitled The Goddaughter's Revenge (Orca Books). Melodie was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer, and both the 2012 and 2013 Arthur Ellis Awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Catch Melodie's humour column for The Sage, Canada's magazine of satire and opinion.

I’ve recently been on a book tour for my latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge.  Book tours are expensive.  You travel around to independent book stores and you sell some books and sign them.  It’s fun.  You meet a lot of great people.  But it’s expensive.  And I’m not talking about the hotel tab and the bar bill.

I should have just stayed in the bar.  It was leaving the bar that become expensive.

Nice night.  We decided to go for a walk.  It was dark, but I had on my brand new expensive progressive eye-glasses, so not a problem, right?

One second I was walking and talking.  The next, I was flying through the air.

Someone screamed.

WHOMP.  (That was me, doing a face plant.)

“OHMYGOD! Are you okay?”  said my colleague.

I was clearly not okay.  In fact, I was splat on the sidewalk and could not move.

“Fine!” I yelled into the flagstone.  “I’m Fine!”

I tried to lift my head.  Ouch.

“That must have hurt,” said someone helpfully.

I write mob comedies.  So I know a bit about mob assassins.  It may come in handy.

A crowd had gathered.  Not the sort of crowd that gently lifts you off the ground.  More the sort of crowd that gawks.

“Couldn’t figure out why you were running ahead of us.” My colleague shook his head.

I wasn’t running.  I was tripping and falling.

“That sidewalk is uneven.  Your foot must have caught on it.”

No shit, Sherlock.

By now I had tested various body parts.  Knees were numb.  Hands, scraped.  Chin, a little sore.

But here’s the thing.  I hit in this order: knees, tummy, boobs, palms.  My tummy and boobs cushioned the fall and saved my face.

 Yes, this was going through my mind as I pushed back with my tender palms to balance on my bloody knees.

“Ouch!”  I said.  No, that’s a lie.  I said something else.

I stood up.  Surveyed the damage.  My knees were a bloody mess, but the dress survived without a scratch.  It was made in China, of course.  Of plastic.

The crowd was dispersing.  But the pain wasn’t over.

Next day, I hobbled to the clinic.  The doctor, who probably isn’t old enough to drive a car, shook his head.  “Progressive glasses are the number one reason seniors fall.  They are looking through the reading part of their glasses when they walk, and can’t see the ground properly.”

Seniors?  I’ve still got my baby fat.

“Get some distance-only glasses,” he advised.

So I did.  Another 350 bucks later, I have a third pair of glasses to carry around in my purse.

Which means my purse isn’t big enough.

So I need to buy a new purse.

And that’s why book tours are so expensive.

You can follow Melodie’s comic blog at