Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: Spoilers, Said River Song

What do you do when a project flops? If you're a masochist like me, you move on to the next thing. While I await the fate of my most recent story submission, I've started a new story and new direction. This will be more romantic and less mysterious. It also means, sadly, I have decided to cancel any remaining Lerxst Johnston stories I had planned.

Hurts to do it, but when something doesn't stick to the wall you need to reach for a better glue. I enjoyed writing Rock Deadly and Rock Til You Drop - I don't think I ever had as much fun with a character as I did with Lerxst. I don't have a son, but I would definitely have welcomed a young man like him into my family. Would I want Lerxst to one day date my daughter? Well...

Anyway, for those of you who did read the first two books - thanks for taking the time. Hope you enjoyed them. I'm sorry to disappoint anybody who hoped for a longer series, but the sales history doesn't support a third book. If a miracle happens, maybe I'll revisit Lerxst at a later time, like Agatha Christie did with Tommy and Tuppence.

If you're curious, I had planned to set the third story in Central Virginia, in wine country. I never detailed the actual mystery, but the story would have involved the family of Lerxst's late mother - and this grandmother is the complete opposite of Grandma Johnston, perhaps the one person in Albemarle County who doesn't approve of the Commonwealth's agri-tourism efforts, to say nothing of Chad Johnston's personal life.

Normally Lerxst wouldn't visit his other relatives, but their desire to meet granddaughter Jules brings them into the story. They would have been like the Westboro Phelpses, only a tad lovable. Lerxst's aunt, disapproving of her sister's choice of husband, would have scoffed at her nephews, particularly Lerxst's long hair. Her son, affectionately nicknamed "Sling Blade" by Lerxst and Chad, is the apple of her eye and can do no wrong, so naturally Lerxst will assume he's the bad guy. Lerxst's father would be deep in a relationship with the lady detective (now leaving the force to pursue her dream of owning a bakery) from the second book, something that irks his younger son.

Grandma Johnston's friend owns a winery and is co-hosting a festival similar to the popular Floyd Fest, which would explain Lerxst, Diane, and Jules performing there. I hadn't decided who would die - it wouldn't be anyone in the family, but Grandma's friend would have been held under suspicion by local authorities.

I had jotted down some sample dialogue to use early on in the book:

"Chad," I said, "if you let me tell Grandma Swathmore that you're gay I will give you one thousand dollars."

"What, and cancel the flash mob musical number I've been planning all year?"

It would have read funnier in the final draft. I had envisioned the opening scene to mirror some part of my own life:

"Just to warn you," I told Diane as I slipped the ring on her finger, "I don't intend to retire."

My new fiancee fanned her hand out in front of her face, admiring the bright yet small sparkle of the green stone that once belonged to my mother. "That's perfectly fine. I'll Skype you from Hawaii."

"I'm serious. Retirement equals death. Look at Charles Schultz."

She glanced over her shoulder. "Is he here, too? I figured he'd be haunting some golf course in Pebble Beach."

"The day his final comic runs, he drops dead." Seriously, look it up. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, good grief. Missed that last football and kicked a damn cloud.

There's more, but I forgot it.

So, puritanical grandparents, a goofball cousin or two, a murder, and a wedding at the end. I won't detail too much, because I may go back one day and weave some of this into flashbacks for a book. For the most part, everybody is happy and healthy.

I can't say much for the characters in my next book, though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: A Nun and a Beatle Walk Into a Bar...

Can I just say...Kirk Cameron doesn't speak for all of us.

I don't mean to pick on him in particular. The paranoid Catholic in me is tempted to snark that a guy like Cameron might think I'm doomed along with you non-Fundamentalist / non-Protestant folks. I can't speak to his beliefs on that, though, and he's not the official spokesperson of All Things in Christendom. I only mention him here because he's flooded one of my social timelines by saying something outrageous or whatever, and it was shared by a number of ath/ag friends pulling a Nelson Muntz taunt. "Ha-hah! Christian guy said something dumb. Don't they all?"

Really. I don't concern myself with where others go to church, if you go to church, if you worship a tree or nothing at all. If you don't like/participate in a certain faith, don't assume all the people there are the same. I know people are sick of the "Not All Men" defense when it comes to general boorish behavior, but I consider myself a person who strives to live by example. I'm no saint...oh, boy am I no saint, but I won't think less of you if you aren't, either. Unless, maybe, if you kick puppies for fun or do something equally loathsome.

Some of my books touch on faith, but I don't typically discuss mine in social media. When I do, it seems to invite debate, which I'd rather avoid.
  • People have accused me of being too Catholic.
  • People have accused me of not being Catholic enough.
If I've learned anything discussing religion, it's that asshats exist in every sect. Christians, Jews, atheists...they're everywhere, and they insist they are right and everybody else is an idiot. I don't like stagnancy. You may live your entire life as a believer or not, that's fine, but leave room to grow.

I've acted like a bitch in my youth, and now I'm an old lady seeking a blissful afterlife. I can't count on sainthood yet, but I'm happy for the freedom to seek it. Purportedly, George Harrison's last words were, "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot...love one another." I've read that Mother Teresa, one person you'd never think wavered in faith, experienced dark nights of the soul. I've had my share, and sometimes I've turned to saints like Teresa of Avila for inspiration. The bookmark above, I had kept for years. I should go look for it.

Time, though, is better spent in other pursuits. You can snark another person's faith or lack thereof, or you could help somebody. Feed the poor, clothe the shivering, shelter the homeless.

The first commandment of any faith ought to be: don't be a jackass. The second: do something constructive and beneficial.

Be excellent to one another. Bill and Ted 3:16.

This is probably all you'll get out of me with regards to religion and faith.


The more I give thought to it, I'm inclined to write something for free. I need to write fiction as a mental exercise and as a healing process. My romance novella remains in limbo - I'm tempted to do more with it, but it's still out somewhere so I will wait. I found a fan artist and would like to offer commission work for graphics.

For now, just need to think about what to write.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: Postcards From the Curb

I feel twenty pounds lighter. I just sent a shit-ton of expired book promo to the trash. Yessir, yessir, three bags full.

When I attended my first book festival about ten years ago, people told me, "Oh, you have to have promo." You have to print postcards, make key fobs with your book cover, hand out pens with your URL engraved on them. You have to spend all this money to produce crap that a person might look at once before tossing in the garbage - just like I did today.

I don't want to know how much money I've spent in the last decade on promotional items for my books. I definitely know I didn't see a good return on investment. Over the years, too, I've had to throw out much of it because the postcards had book covers I no longer use, or had URLs that no longer exist, or promoted books now out of print. Also, I tossed out a bag of promo from other authors, collected at the last book con I attend. Barely looked at most of it. Sorry, guys.

You're asking, "Why did you take it if you were going to throw it out anyway?" Well, much of it came in the registration bag, and often I'll give away a con bag with goodies as part of a contest. What I had here, mainly leftovers.

It occurred to me that I have yet to buy a book based on the blurb found on a keychain or emery board. What are the odds somebody has done differently for me?

See the pic? That's all the promo I took to the last event I attended. I hope some people kept my stuff and have remembered my name. At least I get to write it all off on this year's taxes.

Now, some authors may feel the opposite about promo, and perhaps some saw a good ROI on postcards and buttons and whatnot. I've bought ads in magazines, bought into group promotions, printed sample booklets. People have snatched up stuff at my book tables in the past, but I can't say it's translated well into sales. Somebody told me once a person has to see a brand or product 5-7 times before they decide to buy. I guess one ad once in a blue moon doesn't cut it, but I don't have the budget for that kind of promotion.

Hell, I can't afford the Pure Buttons anymore, with the discount code.

I can tell you, though, what I will keep. Pens. We don't throw out pens in this house. I always have pens in the car, in my purse, at my desk. I may not follow through on buying a book because of a pen, but I'll see your name on it.

Lip balm. Again, tubes in the car and purse. Lip balm costs money, especially the expensive Burt's Bees stuff. I'm cheap. If you're giving me lip balm I'm keeping it.

Mini hand sanitizers. The world is full of germs. My husband sneezes a lot. I coat myself in this stuff.

That's pretty much it. I don't know if I'll buy promo again, but eventually some site will send me a sample and a good deal, and I'll auto-click. I don't want to discourage you authors from buying promo if you have an event coming up. I can only offer you my experience with it. Some authors don't do the bulk items, but maybe order one awesome thing - like a few etched shot glasses or a blanket with an embroidered logo - and win fans one at a time. It sounds like a good way to build up a street team, if there's value in one.

Me, I'll spend the money on wine. And chocolate.

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