Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog

Holy cow, I almost blew it! Oh, maybe I did. Well, better to be late than never. My good buddy, Blaze McRob talked me into doing this Next Big Thing blog post. It's supposed to be part of a series from various authors in various genres. What the heck, I said, I'll give it a try. You are given a set of 10 questions about a recently released book or a current work in progress. I decided on The Hall, since it was my newest release, and I'm kind of in between things right now.

So, without further adieu, here are the 10 questions and my answers below. 

1) What is the working title of your next book? (or it can be your latest release):
My most recent book release was “The Hall,” about a wealthy Memphis book publisher buys an old castle-like mansion and ends up doing battle with a love-struck ghost he doesn’t believe exists.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I lived in Memphis for a little while and used to pass Ashlar Hall on the way to work. I always thought it would make a great setting for a horror novel.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Supernatural thriller/horror

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh God, you had to ask that one! I guess for the lead of Marcus Bishop, my heart would lean toward Karl Urban. Despite being a Kiwi, he’s got just the right look and personality for the part. And after seeing him in RED and Star Trek, I know he can lose the accent. Not to mention he looks dashing in a suit!

As for Prince Mongo, he can play himself- no one could do it any better! 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A man’s home is his castle, or could it be his crypt?

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
100% self-published. I only employed my editor and an artist to do some work for me.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About 6 months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'm not exactly sure. It really is a very different kind of book, and I’m proud of that.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Ashlar Hall which is located at the juncture of Lamar and Central Avenues in Memphis. The old building is built like a castle. It even has gargoyles jutting from the roof.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It is unique in that there are several threads in the story, and I also have Prince Mongo, who is a very REAL person involved. I asked permission to use him as a character, and he gladly agreed. Each chapter I wrote, I sent to him for approval. He was extremely pleased with the finished product and how his character came across. The Prince is a fantastic person all on his own, and it has been a real pleasure to work with him. 

Right, I've said my peace, and I hoped you enjoyed the glimpse into my contorted little mind.

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


 The North Porch
 Inspiration for Khyripzhus

 Prince Mongo, the one and only!

You can find The Hall at the following links:

(Smashwords supports ALL ereader platforms!)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

How "Breaking Bad" made me a better writer

This post originally appeared on Indies Unlimited website.


As I’ve said before, I live in the middle of nowhere. We don’t even have cable TV. In order to get any TV, you need satellite. Well, our phone company about a year or so ago promised us we would have cable this year (2012). Umm, yeah, didn’t happen. So, since we have lovely DSL internet, we decided to do Netflix.
I normally don’t like shows like Breaking Bad, it’s not my normal viewing fare. My hubby got me into watching it—we watch 1 episode every morning as we eat breakfast. At first I didn’t like it, it was drama, drug-related, and in general, rather crude. But something happened after the first few episodes: I found myself looking forward to the next episode. Why? Suspense.
Each episode starts with a short trailer before the credits. You get a glimpse of things to come. My writer’s mind immediately clicked into this teaser. I wanted to solve the mystery of the trailer. And you know what? Those wonderfully sneaky writers usually threw me for a loop. I became intrigued. I wanted to watch more. Breaking Bad became my writer’s meth. I was addicted. I had to find out what happened to Walt and Jesse.
How did this make me a better writer? I began to understand how they manipulated time and scenes to increase the level of tension. Most episodes ended with a “cliff hanger,” making you tune in to see what happens. There are so many “that was close” moments, and “wow, those guys are idiots, and somehow they lucked out.” You can’t help but get tangled up in the story. Even the little things like Walt being related to a DEA agent (by marriage) adds to the tension of the story. Will Hank catch him? Can Walt pull this off?
My current WIP is a contemporary romance. It centers around a horse racing dynasty in the Lexington, KY area. As I re-read my initial draft, I realized there wasn’t enough drama. Not enough “OMG” situations that readers would get sucked into. There had to be more to the story. Despite it being a romance, there needed to be a serious ramping up of the events in the book. Horse racing is a dangerous business; I needed to make that more of a part of the story. The characters needed to better understand the consequences of their choices.
We’ve just finished season 2 of Breaking Bad, and I finally got to see how the charred pink teddy bear ended up in Walt’s pool. Oh, that was driving me crazy! And how it got there was a total shock—nope, didn’t see that coming. The writers have skillfully woven the characters together and events that change their lives.
I don’t consider myself a TV junkie, but this show has taught me some of the finer points of building tension, creating chaos, and bringing characters to the brink and back all while comfortably seated on my sofa. Now I need to apply what I’ve learned and fix up this romance so it will be like riding a wild race horse down the home stretch in a huge stakes race. I want you to wince, squirm, and cheer for the characters. And of course, I want a happy ending!

Until next time my creatively obsessed friends,



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Autograph your Kindle? Sure!

An author friend of mine, Jack London—no, not the dead guy— Jack Woodville London came up with a unique idea: if you can show him that you have his books your Kindle, he’ll autograph a cute little cotton bag silkscreened with his books on it. Adorable, and just the right size for a Kindle or smaller tablet. But I asked him what he did when someone in another part of the country or world wanted his autograph. His reply: “Come see me!”

Not all of us can afford to hop a private jet somewhere to do a signing. So for those of us who can’t just be everywhere at once, here’s a neat idea: Kindlegraph. It’s a FREE service offered that allows readers to connect with their favorite authors and get an “autograph” for their Kindle books. How does this work?

1.       Go to and get an account. If you have Twitter, it’s dirt easy. Once you do that, go in and list all your books (must be on and have an AISN) There’s a link at the bottom of the page for:  “Authors sign up here.”

2.       Once your page is done, you can broadcast the link to the world through social media and the what-not.

3.       Once a reader finds you and wants a Kindlegraph, all they have to do is click on the “Request Kindlegraph” button. Oh, By the way, the book icons are also buy links directly to Amazon. How nice is that?
4.       They will fill out the required information on the shaded form below.

5.       An email will be generated to you for the request.

6.       There is a link in the email that takes you to your login page and then right to your “Dashboard” of pending requests.

7.       Just click on the Kindlegraph It! Button and away you go. The next screen you see will be like this:

8.       You can select “Handwriting” or “Typewriter” for your font.
9.       Then you get a blank area to do the inscription. Type away!

10.   Once done, just hit the “Send Kindlegraph” button at the bottom, and you’re done! An email will be sent to the reader informing them that they have a PDF sent to their Kindle.
11.   The only possible tiny downside: Amazon can charge a small “delivery” fee for sending the Kindlegraph. If it is along their normal delivery fees, it’s maybe less than 10 cents. When asking my #1 fan (who willingly agreed to help me on this article) if Amazon charged him for the Kindlegraph, he said they didn’t. So in most cases, it’s FREE to authors and readers!

So there you have it. Now you can autograph a Kindle anywhere in the world. Cool huh?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lessons Learned About Screen Writing

OK, I blame my best friend, Jessica, for getting me hooked on the notion that I could write a screenplay. We were kids—high-schoolers, and we liked to write. Fast forward over 20 years and here I am, still writing. Although I changed my goals from screenplays to novels and short stories, but the thought of seeing something I wrote on the big screen still hung in the back of my mind. So I decided to adapt a novel I'd published and give it a try.

First of all, if you have any aspirations of playing in Hollywood, you have to go by THEIR rules. They are picky—very picky. I did some research and found that the software most commonly used was Final Draft (version 8 right now). I ponied up the $$ and bought it, $250 of download—ouch! Then I played around with it until I felt reasonably comfortable using it.

Second, you need books—several books on screen writing. The two best are: Screenplay by Syd Field, and The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier. I also picked up Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger, and How to Adapt Anything Into a Screenplay by Richard Krevolin. You MUST be armed and ready to do battle. Hollywood is unforgiving.

Once armed, it was off and running to write the script. Yeah, that’s not so simple. As I learned more about adapting novels to screenplays, I realized I may have created a monster. My novel was only 148 pages printed (8.5 x 11, 1.5 line spacing) but to now have to take all those words—over 81K, and turn them into a 120 page screenplay that must be mostly white on the page; that was a challenge.

I like challenges, so after nearly a year, I had my 120 pages—actually 119—I was very pleased with myself. I was ready to send it to Hollywood—or was I? Now the lessons really began. I submitted it to a screenplay contest and didn't even make it to the quarterfinals. I submitted to another, same thing. And two more competitions later, I wasn't getting anywhere. Why? I had a darn good story, the length, format, plot arc, characters, and pretty much everything I could think of was by the book. So what was I doing wrong?

At one of the competitions, they offered 100% feedback on every script they got. The cost of the competition was reasonable, so I entered. I got feedback, all right. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. I didn't let that stop me. I now realized I had some problems to correct. Unfortunately it had cost me well over $150 to find this out. It was recommended that I seek coverage for my script so that I could fine tune it and hopefully have a chance later on.

Script coverage is a fancy name for someone who takes the script (normally someone who has experience in the movie business) and reads over it and makes suggestions on where to fix things. Is coverage cheap? Nope! I opted for the regular package and then added on some additional services which brought the total up to $250. Some coverage agencies will, if they like your script, get it in front of agents and producers—another plus to consider.

How could I have done this differently? Well, I'd still have to get the software, since it is industry standard. I'd write my screenplay, have my editor check for spelling/grammar/punctuation, and then send it off to a coverage service before I sent it off to any competitions. I'd have saved myself close to $200 and would have had a more marketable script to put in front of the judges. Yes, lesson learned. But, the good thing about coverage services: you can take what they said and apply it to subsequent screenplays, and hopefully in time, not require their services anymore.

Writing is an ever evolving, ever growing art form. If you're smart enough to learn from your mistakes, in time, you should know success. I am still learning...

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


Friday, July 6, 2012

The triumphs and headaches of a book launch

OK, yes, I've been amiss about blogging again lately. Bite me! June was basically insane. I had to get the final edits done on Space Junk for a 4 July release, and we had 700 bales of hay that were harvested from our fields. Not to mention record breaking heat that left us all wilted after only a few hours in the sun. It was a rough month. July has only been slightly better. Case in point- launching a book.

Some folks are superstitious, some are sentimental. I'm a little of both. If you read any of my books, you will always see I end on an even numbered chapter. It's not superstition, just a personal quirk. I also like to occasionally publish on relevant days- like Christmas, my birthday, and my latest attempt was 4 July. Good intentions never seem to work, especially when you are working with other companies in this venture. There are also the time zone issues- where are the company servers? 

After deciding that I wanted to launch Space Junk on the 4th, I set in motion everything I needed to do in order to make that possible. I loaded everything into my accounts on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I knew Smashwords was an immediate upload and would be done as soon as I hit the publish button and it ran through the "meat grinder." But I didn't take into consideration that SW is a west coat company. I stayed up well past midnight (EST) to get all my books with a 4 July publication date. Yeah, right! I guess I should've stuck to my other plan: getting up about 4 a.m. to do the deed on the 4th. 

Each company has different time lags to publish your book. If you upload at Amazon KDP or BN, your title may take 12-24 hours to go live. CreateSpace is supposed to be instant upon approving your proof copy (digital or hard copy) But the paper copy showed up a day later. And SW is live ASAP, so I knew I needed to wait. Everything was a crap-shoot, and I rolled a 7.

The result of this whole well-thought plan: I ended up with having all versions (except BN) with a 3 July publication date. Was I mad? Yup. Email to the companies didn't produce anything, and I didn't have the time to be able to unpublish and fix everything and have it come out right. Lesson learned. 

My next book, The Hall, I'm aiming for a release on Halloween. Therein lies another problem. If I want to release the book on 31 Oct, and I actually might be holding a signing event, then I need some copies beforehand to have available. Now I'm asking myself how can I pull that one off? Maybe I'll just have to suck up the fact that maybe the print version will come out a little earlier so I can get copies. It's always something!

Enough of my grumbling. Here's an update on the farm: Flynn (the wayward Weimariner) is now living with us. If you haven't seen my FB posts, the injured bunny was released with no problems. My baby bat is getting quite enthusiastic about eating--just wish it would be more enthusiastic about flying! My corn is about knee-high and has 20+ more days before we're supposed to be eating it--if the deer don't get to it first. All the baby barn swallows died- mites drove them crazy and they jumped out of the nest and mommy wouldn't care for them anymore. Plans are to put cedar chips under the hay loft stairs for next year and hope that keeps the mites down. Have another nest of some small birds in the wash stall. They seem to be doing fine.

Farm life and self-publishing both have their headaches and heartaches. Neither of them pay particularly well. But I love both and keep at them.

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,



 Bales waiting to be picked up
 The wood rabbit that got caught in a fence
"Bitey" having a mealworm for dinner