Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ghosts of Christmases Past

It's been a lot of years since this, my first Christmas. I do look rather wide-eyed and even skeptical about it all. And are those some scary-looking dolls, or what? Well, perhaps that early trauma built character. I can only hope. I was taking some time today to think about so many Christmases past. Perhaps I've watched one too many Hallmark Christmas movies set in small towns with perfect little decorated houses and festive shops, the narrow streets lined with banks of pure snow. But that is the town of my childhood and these movies take me back there. They are, in some ways, the conjuring of my own ghosts of Christmases past.

I loved the live trees filled with all sorts of ornaments, large and small, in every color, and draped in yards of silver tinsel. The lights weren't the tiny things we see today, but huge lightbulbs that got hot to the touch (and we thought they were perfectly safe) and, if one burned out, the entire string of lights went with it. In a more philosophical moment, I considered how that might represent us--humanity--and reflect our need to be more supportive and understanding of one another. Keep each other's light burning bright.

Christmas morning was always an event to behold. Not because we were wealthy, but because my paternal grandparents had only two grandchildren and the inability to say 'no.' It was as if FAO Schwartz sent a truck our way. Perhaps that why, to this day, I cannot imagine a child not having gifts at Christmas, and that participating in our Angel Tree at work is my favorite thing to do.

I remember, too, when I was older, going to midnight mass in the Historic Church of St. Peter in my hometown of Brownsville, PA. The old stone church with its high-beamed ceiling looked to be an ancient castle to me. The stone held the winter chill. The dim lighting added a certain mystique as Christmas carols lifted and echoed. Even as a child, I thought it to be a magical experience. That was back when midnight mass actually took place at midnight, and we'd take a nap after dinner so we could stay awake.

Then it was home and right to bed so Santa could come. I recall the first time I questioned Santa Claus's existence. I think I was eight years old. My sister and I were tucked together in our one bed. My mother came in with a red plastic telephone and said, "It's Santa Claus. He wants to talk to you." I took the phone and listened, then said, "That isn't Santa Claus. It's Daddy." That's when my father stepped around the corner. Enough to say I was stunned to silence and once again a believer--for at least one more year. (The phones turned out to be fancy walkie-talkies. And my father's friend was on the other end downstairs.) I think we adults who enjoy movies like The Polar Express are actually those children on the cusp of disbelieving and wanting so badly to hold onto those beliefs for one more year. Do it. Believe!

There was the year I got a toy trumpet for Christmas. I practiced all day on that thing and, the next morning at around 5 a.m., donned my dad's Army reserve hat and blew Reveille at his bedside. That's not a good thing to do to a former soldier. It could have ended my musical career.

I remember keeping the tree up and alive with mere determination and gallons of water until after New Year's. Sometimes watching the needles shimmer to the floor, hitting the carpet in silence.

What I most remember, though, is the wonder, the expectation and anticipation, the gathering of family, the stories that were told in front of the fire, and the dinner shared by family and friends on Christmas Day. I don't put up a lot of decorations these days. Some folks ask me why not. I usally say it's because I'm the only one here who will see them, and then I just have the hassle of putting them away after the holiday is over. I'm content to spend the day with myself, usually working on a book.

Truth is--I have the very best memories of Christmas in my heart, and nothing I can do will replicate that. I enjoy being visited by the Ghosts of my Christmases Past.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you have time to revel in joyous memories of your own Christmases past and those with whom you shared them.

Merry Christmas to all.


You can find these Christmas stories on Amazon:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

So two exciting things happened today.


The Game won the cover contest with Las Vegas Romance Writers
I Heart Indie Constest.
Thanks and congrats to Shardel at SelfPubBookCovers for this cover design.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Publishing Today—Like Swimming in Muddy, Shark-infested Water

For new writers, in particular, navigating the often murky and sometimes turbulent waters of the publishing world can be bewildering. It’s an ever-changing environment riddled with sharks and land mines. Where do you set your foot down? What step is safe to take?
Some of the confusion has to do with the language of publishing these days: traditional, indie/small-press, vanity, and self-publishing. What do they all mean? Let me try to clear the waters a bit.
Traditional publishing: We think of ‘traditional’ publishers as those who buy a book from an author, pay an advance royalty, and assume all costs of producing that book. Generally the list has included long-standing trade book publishing houses such as: Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and MacMillan Publishers. Today there are smaller publishing houses that fit the ‘traditional’ definition and contract the book, pay a small advance, and cover all production costs for the book. You may or may not need an agent to submit your book to traditional publishers. Many of the ‘Big Five’ now have lines that do not require agent submission and accept submissions directly from the author. I should note here that advances are not ‘free money.’ They are an advance royalty that will be earned out on book sales. They show confidence in the book and its ability to sell.
Indie publishing: With the advent of e-book technology in the 1990’s, e-publishers began to pop up. Initially, some required a set-up fee to publish your book, dancing them close to the ‘vanity press’ definition. However, as ebooks grew in popularity, so did e-publishers. Some began to offer small ($25) advances on books, drawing them closer to the more traditional publishing model. The small independent publishing house, by and large, staffed their own cover artists and editors. The writer contracted for two or three years for their book. However, fees were covered in the gross income from the book and writers paid about 30% of the ‘net’. In essence, the author still shares in the cost of book production. Here is a link to an excellent blog post on Writers in the Storm that better details the ins and outs of royalties.
Some of the small indie publishers initially offered books in e-book formats only. Many expanded to offering both e-book and trade paperback. And some now have expanded into audio books. The term ‘indie publisher’ simply means the publisher stands apart from the larger ‘traditional’ publishing houses. These are smaller sometimes ‘boutique’ publishers. Many are built on a solid business model, while others employ questionable practices. It’s always best for a writer to research the publisher, their contract stipulations, and even talk to a few of their authors.
More and more self-publishing writers are now referring to themselves as ‘indie’ published because they are the sole publisher of their work. That doesn’t make them a publishing house, but many have established themselves under a publishing name rather than using their own name. For example, I independently publish my books under the name of 3rd Act Books.
Self-Publishing: Many more writers are now self-publishing. This has proven to have an upside and a downside, both for the writer and for the reader. Self-publishing, by definition, means the writer assumes all responsibility for publication of the book. This can be done in one of two ways: the writer contracts an artist for cover art and an editor for editing. The other option is that the writer purchases services with a publishing services company. Here’s where the true minefield exists for writers.
A common mistake in self-publishing is believing you can do it all yourself. If you peruse books on an online site like Amazon, you will see beautiful, engaging covers. And then you’ll see the ones that look like third-grader art. Use the ‘look inside’ feature. It won’t take long to distinguish those books that were self-published with the services of an editor/proofreader and those that were not. Some of the books I’ve seen listed are true train wrecks.
Self-publishing writers often cut corners with both cover art and editing. Professional editing services are not cheap, but editing is essential, as is proofreading. We writers tend to read over mistakes because our minds are already set on what is supposed to be there. The writer also needs to be prepared to learn about formatting for a variety of vendors. It’s not that difficult, but it is a learning experience at first. There are legitimate companies out there that offer formatting services for a fee.
Vanity presses: There are also companies out there that call themselves publishers, but are what we know to be ‘vanity’ presses. These are companies that contract with the writer to produce their book, most often with a fee running into a thousand dollars or more. They offer ‘packages.’ Let’s be clear about one thing: These are NOT publishers. They are companies offering publishing services—editing, cover art, listings on vendor sites, and promotion. Most are, in my opinion, scammers feeding off the desire of new writers to become published, many of whom don’t have the patience to take their time and do it the right way. There are a few companies that appear to offer legitimate for-fee services. Writers must be vigilant and do their homework. Ask questions, not just of the company, but of other writers and authors. Learn from the mistakes and experiences of others.
The general rule of thumb is this: The money should flow from the publisher to the author, not the other way around.
The exception may be if you are contracting with a company or individual for certain book services—cover art, editing, distribution, and marketing. Know what you are buying. The self-described ‘publishers’ who offer you a ‘book contract’ to publish your books for only $1295 up front is likely a vanity press. Called ‘vanity’ because they are appealing to the vanity of the writer who wants to get their book in print at any and all cost. The companies that offer services for a fee and not an inclusive contract may be legitimate, but check the prices, search the history of the company—be wary. Do your homework.
Those of us who are driven to write and have a desire to have our work published are like lambs among the wolves when it comes to vanity presses. Many new writers see the end result as the prize and feel that purchasing the vehicle to get there is the only way to go. It’s one way and, in my opinion, not the best way. I’ve talked to many writers who have expressed remorse at spending thousands to have their book produced only to find themselves garnering little to nothing from sales and unable to get back the rights to their work. Most of these vanity presses overprice the book to the point it cannot compete in the commercial market. They also tend to charge the author exorbitant fees to purchase their own books for sale.
Don’t sell yourself and your book short. Don’t take short-cuts and end up with a book that’s poorly edited (if edited at all), cheaply covered, and only promoted in places where you could promote the book yourself. Don’t be taken in by empty promises. Basically, don’t sell your soul to the devil.

Most published authors like myself are more than willing to answer questions and offer guidance based upon our own experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask an author when you’re unsure of which way to go. We’re all in this together.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Don't You Just Love A Sale?

It's summer. Time to prepare for vacation. Whether you're a beach bum, a city explorer, or prefer the rustic wilderness, it's always good to have a book or two along for those lazy days or rainy nights. You can benefit from my overzealous ordering. I'm drowning in paperbacks, so I'm having a summer sale. These prices are only available directly from me, not at online retailers. If you belong to a book club and want to make one of my books your read of the month, this is a great time to get multiple copies with FREE shipping. You can view the books and read a description of them on my page at

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Book is a Book is a Book

Rescued...Too is available in ebook, trade paperback, and audio formats.


Okay, let me get my pet peeve and rant out of the way first. I often hear people talk about books and say, "I don't like ebooks. I prefer real books." Hearing that statement is like having someone shove cactus needles under my fingernails. News flash: ebooks are REAL books. So are audiobooks. A book is a book is a book.

Ebook technology has been around since 1971 and Project Gutenberg. Early books were available on floppy disks. (If you're old enough to know what that means, well, you're old, like me.) The first e-readers--devices designed for downloading and reading books produced in digital format--appeared in 1998. Prior to that, digital book files had to be read on the internet, on your home computer.

But my point here is not to provide a history of ebooks and reading devices. Rather, my point is to stress that books--regardless of format--are real books.

The difference is the format. I have twenty-seven novels and novellas along with several short stories available in ebook format. Twenty-five of those novels are available in trade paperback. You know---real books (wink, wink). And five of those are available as audiobooks.

I don't know about you, but I love having options. I spend a fair amount of time in any given week in the car. Audiobooks are my salvation during my long drives to and from the day job. And those books are very real. I know there are those who prefer a hard copy of a book in their hands, enjoy turning the pages. I do, too, sometimes. But the ability to carry my entire library with me for travel or to listen to a book being read to me while I drive is invaluable.

If you look at Amazon book listings, they will tell you all the formats in which any given book is available. There's no right or wrong in preference. Trust me, we authors appreciate our readers regardless of the format they prefer. That's why so many of us strive to make our books available in a variety of formats.

But I beg you, please don't refer to hardback or paperback books as the only 'real' books. I will thank you as will many of my author friends.

Have a beautiful weekend and take time to curl up with a good book---on your phone, your Kindle, your mp3---or a paperback. Keep it real!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mini-Con for New and Emerging Writers: A Hit!

Saturday, May 6, marked the first in what is planned to be a series of events for writers, sponsored by the Desoto Writers Alliance and the M.R. Davis Public Library in Southaven, MS. It was a great day for all. The focus of this event was: Writing Your First Novel: A Min-Conference for New and Emerging Writers. And it was FREE!

I kicked it off with introductions, then a conversation with Kim Smith about ideas, beginning, starting your book. Helen Henderson picked it up with a great presentation on plotting--taking that idea and fleshing it out. Kimberely Koz showed us how to created well-developed characters.

A fabulous lunch was provided by Texas Roadhouse, Dale's Family Restaurant, and with snacks from American Wholesale Grocers (all donated). Our presenters joined the attendees for lunch and a discussion about writing groups and critique groups, where we were also joined by Vanessa VanDenBlaze.

The afternoon resumed with Wendy Strain, who talked about editing and ghostwriting. We wrapped up with a panel discussion will all the presenters, fielding questions from genre to marketing to finding a publisher.

River City Romance Writers were present to share information about their Romance Writers of America Memphis chapter, and a few participants who belong to Malice in Memphis talked about their local writers group. Writers groups are important, especially for new writers who benefit from the expertise and support of more experienced writers.

Someone asked me why we authors would volunteer to put our time and effort into a day-long event like this for free. I think I speak for my fellow authors here. A lot of people gave me a hand-up and helped me when I first started writing. They pulled me back from the ledge and steered me around many pitfalls. This is paying it forward, helping others who are starting out in their writing careers, sharing our learnings and experience and, yes, some expertise.

I want to especially thank Caroline Barnett and Zachary Clemmer from the M.R. Davis Library (part of the First Regional Library system), the Friends of the M.R. Davis Library and the volunteers, as well as the local businesses mentioned above who made the fantastic lunch possible. It was truly a collaboration and community effort. The First Regional Libraries and, especially, the M.R. Davis Southaven branch has always been welcoming and supportive to writers. They even have a special Local Authors section among their shelves. Libraries offer so much to the community, so please support your local library in any way you can.

I'm eager to review the evaluations and see where we go from here. There will be more to come.

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Release - THE GAME

J.C. Wylde--The Wylde Man--was on top of the game as a World Series winning pitcher for the Long Beach Herons until a devastating injury sidelined him and just may end his career. Caroline Cleary, a nurse practitioner who grew up competing with two older brothers, is the star quarterback for the Sandusky She-Devils women's football team. When J.C. returns home to Lakeport, Ohio to recuperate, he and Caro are thrown into an entirely new game that neither one is prepared to play.

Now Available at these retailers:

          AMAZON.COM           SMASHWORDS             B&                 CREATESPACE

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Game - Coming April 1 (No foolin')

A few years ago while visiting Pittsburgh, I got to see the Pittsburgh Passion--a women's football league team--play. I loved that women were playing what had been traditionally considered a man's game and playing it so well. I knew that one day I'd write a book featuring a heroine who played women's football.

That day has come. THE GAME features heroine, Caroline Cleary, who is a nurse practitioner by day and the quarterback for the Sandusky She-Devils on the weekend. The hero of the story, J.C. Wylde--the Wylde Man--is a star pitcher for the Long Beach Herons professional baseball team. J.C. is sidelined by a serious injury that could be the end of his career.

When J.C. returns home to Lakeport, Ohio to recuperate, he and Caro are thrown into an entirely new game that neither one is prepared to play.

THE GAME will be released on April 1, but is available for pre-order now at: