Monday, June 30, 2014

If I Could be a Spy....

This past weekend my family and I watched the newest installment of the Jack Ryan story: Shadow Recruit. I love a good spy story and this one didn’t disappoint me. Then the thought came to me….how would it be if I was a spy?

All those cool cars I would get to drive in shifting high and low through the mountains of Russia. All the beautiful clothes I would get to wear for my chic, sophisticated attitude.  All the places I would visit playing the undercover, “no one would ever discover my true identity” mind set in beautiful places like Europe, Hong Kong, or Australia. What an interesting life.

I would find the intel (short for intelligence) info to stop those mad men from destroying the world and come home a hero…in secret, of course. I would be like a ninja, getting in and out of places quickly and quietly. I could resist any tall, dark and handsome enemy spy and deliver the important directives to the right person.

But then reality set in. Me a spy??? There is no way.  I don’t have a very good memory for names. I would forget who I was pretending to be and then get caught. Not only that, I’m not observant at all anywhere and I wouldn’t be paying attention in my daily spying tasks. Anyone trying to get details of who was where would be very disappointed. I’m completely oblivious.

I’m not good with numbers either. I hate math. Once for a summer job between semesters, I was hired as a temp worker to count inventory in a clothing store.  I kept losing count of the women’s underwear and had to go to the store manager to sign my sheet for the corrections. He finally got so aggravated, he paid me to stop counting.

I’m a little slow at taking hints. Whoever my contact person is on the other side would have to tell me several times what I needed to remember. I have the worst sense of direction and would definitely get lost.  If dressed in formal wear to impress those unsuspecting innocent bystanders, my walk up the stairs would find me tripping and falling down the stairs. There goes my cover.  

What was I thinking? I can barely remember my own passwords for emails, how would I remember pass codes to get secret information? Writing them down would be out of the question. My little notebook of secret codes would be discovered and I would actually be helping the enemy instead of stopping them. Those other spies would make me nervous too and I would mess up.

I am the worst liar too. They would see how nervous I was in two seconds and then I would be in trouble. I remember back in the late 70’s when gas was being rationed and my friends and I were driving across country to get to school. I had to distract the gas attendant while the others were getting gas so he wouldn’t see our license plate and realize were weren’t allowed to fill up.  I was a nervous wreck. We made it through but I almost had to trip the guy so I could keep talking to him while they were pumping.  Kind of like the scene from What’s Up Doc where the hotel “detective” chases the woman with the diamonds to distract her from her diamonds. Not a good idea.

I’m a bit loud too. I wouldn’t be able to sneak up on anyone or get in anywhere without someone hearing me. Besides falling down the stairs, I would talk too loudly even in a whisper.  I’m a little too obvious even for a normal citizen.

 Nope. The spy life is not for me. I just love watching them in the movies.  Much safer too and the world of spies would be a whole lot happier with me out of their way.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


As mothers we hit many benchmarks: pregnancy, birth, first time you get peed on, pooped on, or thrown up on. First steps, first solid food, waving hi or good bye. First time your child says dada, mama, no, I love you, I hate you. Then there's the first day of preschool, of Kindergarten, first soccer game, dance recital, etc. 

I think you get the idea. There are a lot of firsts. 

There are benchmarks for authors too.

When you write the first word of your first manuscript. When you type 'The End'. Your first critique group meeting. Your first writer's conference. Your first query letter, rejection letter (You should know that I actually cheered and celebrated when I got mine. Yes, I'm a little quirky that way.), acceptance letter. Your first NaNoWriMo or writers' retreat. The moment when your labor of love, blood, and tears finally launches into the world of publishing. The moment you hold your book for the first time and feel its weight in your hands.Signing your name on your book. Your first glowing review. Your first not-so-glowing review. 

The last one happened to me just this month. 

And I didn't bat an eyelash. 

Would you like to know why? 

It's just another benchmark in the journey of being a published author. I knew getting into this business that not every one would like my books. That's okay. We all have different tastes, love different genres, and/or enjoy various writing styles. 

I recently followed a conversation between authors of all genres about this very topic: less than glowing reviews and found their responses to be very similar to mine. We'd all love to have nothing but glowing reviews, but on the flip side when that's all a potential reader sees in regards to our books they may dismiss it as a bunch of friends and family who reviewed it and not put much stock in what was said. But an honest opinion given by a reader who didn't gush about the book gives the potential reader a more rounded view of the work itself. (I'm not talking about mean girl type reviews, although sadly there are those out there.) So, honest glowing reviews are needed and appreciated, but an occasional grumpy one won't cause the end of the world. 

So, to the reader who didn't love my book, I express my gratitude for his/her honesty and hope they found another book they enjoyed and fit their taste better. Perhaps from one of the other authors on this blog, or an Indie author, or a best seller. Doesn't matter. Thanks for helping me achieve another benchmark on my journey. 

What benchmark should I be on the lookout for next? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Shameless Self-promotion

We've all heard the term "shameless self-promotion."  I've used it myself quite a bit.  Today I want to get on my soap box a little bit.  You don't mind, right?  

Self-promotion is absolutely crucial to every form of business.  It doesn't matter if you're a car salesman, or if you work in a clothing store, or if you are a make-up girl, or if you are a construction worker.  In each of those jobs, you are selling yourself - your skills, your experience, your know-how.  You are presenting yourself in such a way that your employer and your customer can feel confident in you and the job you are going to do.  Filling out resumes, going for interviews, meeting with prospective clients - these are nothing more than selling yourself and your abilities.

When you write a book and enter the big, bad world of marketing, you're doing exactly the same thing you've done every time you've entered the work force.  You're informing people of a skill or ability you possess. 

Let me ask you a question.  Say you're in the middle of a job interview, and you are asked, "So, I hear you're good at typing."  Would you answer, "Oh, I don't know about that.  That other applicant you just had in here is a lot faster."  Or would you say, "Yes, I'm pretty fast." It's a pretty simple choice to make, isn't it?

So why do we downplay our writing?  Why do we feel that we need to apologize when it comes to talking about our books?  We say "shameless self-promotion" as though perhaps, at some point, we might have felt the need to feel ashamed, but we're going to shake that off for a second.  There is no need to ever be ashamed of the product you have produced as long as you know you did your very best on it.  If you turned out something you know wasn't up to your potential, then you can make a decision to do better next time.  But "shame" is not something that should ever be associated with something you created that came from your gut. If you really, really are ashamed to admit that you did it, then ... why did you do it? 

Now that we've talked about the "shame," let's talk about the "self-promotion."  Go back to the analogy of the shoe salesman.  A woman walks into his shop and says, "Hi, I need a pair of shoes."  He pauses.  Should he say something?  What if he shows her a pair and she says she doesn't want them?  He would be crushed.  Humiliated.  Rejected. 

Um ... no, he's going start showing her shoes, right?  Of course.  That's his job.  And it's your job as a new author to talk about your books.  He has shoes to sell, you have books to sell.  If someone doesn't buy your book, it doesn't have to be a devastating thing - it just means that those shoes didn't fit.  Someone else with feet of a different size will soon come into your life, or your shoe store, and you'll be able to make that sale. 

So, let's encapsulate my little lecture.

1.  Stop being ashamed to talk about your books!
2.  Stop feeling as though you have to apologize!
3.  Get some confidence - talk about your book in an upbeat, positive way.  Let other people know it exists. 
4. Never downplay your accomplishments.  Don't say, "Well, it's just a little story about ..." No!  Smile and say, "It's a great story about ..."

Self-promotion is hard.  It's hard to get up the courage, it's hard to know what to say, it's hard to find that balance between talking about yourself and coming on too strong, and it's also hard to know when you shouldn't bring up your books (and yes, there are times when you don't want to promote, generally in times of social politics, but that would be a blog for another day).  You can learn how to master all of these skills, but you've got to practice them, and regularly.  Hiding behind pillars and potted plants will not make you a master of self-promotion - you've got to get out there and do it, and you'll find your own stride and what works for you.  And if you're interested, here's another post I wrote on this very same topic.

All right, then!  Go promote yourself, and let me see you stop saying the word "shameless!"  It should all be shameless!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Sale

by H. Linn Murphy

It's going to be a quiet summer. My sister is borrowing two of my kids, leaving the grumpiest home with me. (The other three are out of the house.)

I'm kind of freaking.

I told my son it's the only 15th summer he's got. I wanted him to stop spending so much time playing video games. But in reality it's also the only B's 15th summer I've got too. What am I doing with my time? I should be taking my own advice. I've been working on my soon-to-be-published book (SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO), true. But there are other things I've let steal our time away--stupid things. I have to say that Facebook, solitaire, books,
Only without the coffee
and watching movies on TV are getting more of my time than he is.

And now he'll be gone for half of it. True he's doing a much-needed service, but he won't be here. I won't get to enjoy his rapier wit or his giggles or his sweet glances or his willingness to help. He won't be here to hog all the milk or leave his filthy socks on the floor. Why have I sold this half of the summer for ether? I have nothing much to show for it, other than friendships (which of course are fabulous).

I suppose part of it is hooking up with friends and reading about their lives. Being entertained when I can't afford to go to the movies. Part of it is networking for my writing career. And part of it is just plain silliness.

It's like I'm caught in a bog. When it comes time to write, I can write like a freak. But when it comes time to figuring out fun things to do with my son that don't involve going outside into the blazing hot oven, I'm caught stiff-legged. I need to figure out some things to do in the waning hours of our summer together.

My older daughter (who is at work, and thus out of range) is hardly here anyway. I've been saying good-bye to her since she met her boyfriend. I should be just as sad about this summer for her, since it might be the last she'll spend as a single maiden, but I feel I've already sold it too.

Maybe I'll just grab this one single grain of sand from the hourglass and not let it fall. I'll turn off the computer and take him swimming. Or play something with him. Or wash the dishes. Or make something. Or just hold him in my arms and try not to cry like a stinkin' baby.

And maybe it's time to reconnect with the only one that'll be here this summer. I don't know whether it'll be great reforming a bond that has grown crabbed and decrepit, or she'll become even more of a honey badger at heart. I can at least try.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stand for the Family

Valerie J. Steimle

Every so often there comes along a cause which writers feel so much passion they become a spokesperson for that cause. They promote it in their writings and on their blogs. Some writers will write about illnesses or the trials of their family members. Others will write about injustices in the world. My passion is about the family and the downward spiral of what the world will be like without the family as its nucleus.

Stand For The Family

A few years ago, one of my writer friends asked me if I would read a book to review.  She owns her own publishing company and she found an author with an incredible story.  Sharon Slater had been asked to attend a UN conference as a family advocate and walked into a meeting that attacked and undermined the family unit. This is her story and an eye-opening one at that.

Sharon Slater
If you are pro-family and know the importance of keeping the family together then this book will help you to understand why we as parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, need to keep an eye on what is really going on at the UN.


Family Watch has identified the CEDAW treaty as one of the greatest threats to families in the United States because it seeks to establish by force of law “a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family.”

The CEDAWThe Senate Judiciary Subcommi treaty constitutes an assault on marriage, life, motherhood and religious and cultural values that support the family.

Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law has scheduled a hearing on Thursday, November 18th on “Women's Rights Are Human Rights: U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

 My book review:  Stand For the Family   by Sharon Slater

           Everyone who was born on this planet has lived in one kind of family or another.  The family is the basic unit of our society and after reading Sharon Slater’s book Stand for the Family, I am in fear that the family as we know it, will disintegrate starting at the international level.

            The story of Slater attending several UN conferences is scary and a great eye-opener to anyone who is concerned with the welfare of the family.  Her book takes you through many controversial topics of the day and answers many questions we as parents have been struggling with for the past decade.  Why is the world so obsessed with homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and assaulting motherhood? Mrs. Slater answers these questions and provides a way to join her team of pro-family advocates to safe-guard family rights for the future.

            This book is a must read for everyone concerned with the assault we have seen on the traditional family.  If our family life is weakened, then our country is weakened and if our country is weakened then we as Americans will be taken over by outside and inside forces.

From Mrs. Slater’s own words on the three main goals accomplished in writing this book.
“I felt compelled to make people aware of what is happening behind closed doors at the UN and in their own countries to undermine the family.
I wanted to equip legislators, policymakers, educators and responsible citizens with the knowledge and tools they need to defend the family, and third, it was designed to be a gathering tool to bring together good people throughout the world to stand for the family.”
Thanks to a short run that came off the press just hours before she left, Sharon was able to take some copies to the World Congress of Families in Amsterdam in August.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to the book. People flocked to our booth and many stated that the book was sorely needed,” she says.

Read Stand for the Family by Sharon Slater and be informed.

You can buy her book in three places:


2: http://


3:  --- Stay updated with what is happening in the world through United Nations treaties and what we should know about to protect the family


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Leaving the Nest

The time is finally here. My eldest child has graduated from High School and is preparing to head off to college. I can't believe this time is here. My baby all grown and setting off into the world. I think I'm more excited than she is. I look through the course catalog thinking of all the cool classes to take. I signed her up for her dorm right at midnight when registration opened. I even took her clothes shopping for 3 hours for new outfits. I had the best time. She just rolls her eyes at me when I tell her she is going to have the best time of her life.

I'm trying not to think what life will be like with my big girl is out-of-state and far away, but somehow I think it will come crashing into reality the day she head off. Those of you who have gone through letting the first child out into the world, do you have any advice?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Things Learned While Spying On the Cat

by Suzanne Warr

Our daughter is very fond of dragonflies, so when the cat went after a big gorgeous blue one she grabbed Apricot (that's kitty) and stuck her in a chicken cage while she carried the dragonfly off to our pond.
I, of course, grabbed my camera and hid behind a tree.  Past experience had shown me that the flimsy cage couldn't hold Apricot, but I'd never caught her in the act of escaping and I was curious how she did it.
First she just looked at me (in my hiding place, with only the camera and my hand showing) as if to ask if I really thought a queen of the jungle could be so easily fooled as to my whereabouts, and would I care to take lessons in hiding?  Clearly I needed instruction.
When I didn't move to let her out--and, worse, the chickens stood staring as if she was some strange new bird--she decided to bust free of her prison.  I was guessing she'd go over the top, cause the 'roof' of the cage is hinged and easy to open.  Instead she started exploring around the bottom, looking for spots where the ground gave the cage a small lift.  She had one small mishap with the obstinate little bars...
but in no time she'd recovered--and pushed free!
Now that she'd reclaimed her wild state I thought she'd be off to conquer the kitty world or at least catch another dragonfly.  But, no.  It seems I was entirely missing the point.
Escaping our fetters and conquering the world is really about having the freedom to sit awhile, which is just what a cat does best.

Here' to being at peace wherever we may 'sit' in our writing, and in life!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Floodgate of Ideas

A couple years ago I finished my first novel about a leprechaun who stole a sixteen-year-old girl's luck. I was very proud of myself, knowing I'd finished my first book.

And then panic hit. I'd gone to a writing conference and one of the classes was about finding ideas for books. We did a few exercises where we looked at pictures or read articles and came up with what-ifs and I had nothing.

All these writers around me came up with fantastic story ideas and I couldn't think of anything and it was terrible and I just wanted to run out of the building and never ever write again.

BUT. I went home and I realized just how often I came up with a what if and run with it in my mind. So I took a daydream I'd had growing up and twisted it. I'd wonder what it would be like if I suddenly woke up to find out that I was really a princess. But I didn't know what to do with it until I went to a few classes and came up with a twist on Sleeping Beauty.

Still, I was scared. Would I have any other ideas come? What if I was a one hit wonder as a writer? 

And now I laugh. Because those what-ifs that seemed to hide from me suddenly jump out at every opportunity. Instead of having nothing to write, I have a pile of ideas that I want to get to and only so much time to actually do it.

It's gotten to the point where I'll be minding my own business at church or watching my children play sports and BAM an idea will hit me—and not a small idea. We're talking full-on outlines for books. I have to write it down right then or it will disappear.

Don't stress. Those ideas will come. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a story to write.