Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

How do you celebrate New Year's Eve?

Over the years I've celebrated in many different ways. When hubby was overseas the kids and I celebrated alone, toasting each other with root beer floats. Together, we attended many gala celebrations in different places from the Seabee base to various private parties.

For twenty-three years we had our own residential care home and we celebrated with special treats and sparkling cider with the women who lived with us. Hubby and I would rent movies to watch.

Once again we're by ourselves (more or less, since we have relatives living next door)but we have no desire to party. We'll watch a movie and sleep through the end of 2009.

Neither of us make resolutions anymore, though we always hope to achieve certain things--of course I want to write a new book for each of my series, and I'll be busy promoting those that come out.

We hope to stay healthy and enjoy 2010.

Happy New Year!

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When Your Book is Done, How to Choose a Publisher

My advice here will probably surprise some and dismay others.

First, make sure you have a book someone would want to publish. Is it error free? No typos or grammar problems?

If you want to be published by a New York house you will first have to find an agent. Do some research, find an agent who represents the kind of book you have written. Actually, you probably need to find many agents who represent the kind of book you've written. Send exactly what each one asks for in a query--make sure it is the best query ever written. Again, no typos or grammar problems.

If you're older like me, forget that process, it takes too long. There are many good small independent publishers out there looking for good books. Usually, they are more willing to look at books of different lengths and those that mix genres. (Genres are the type of books: mystery, suspense, romance, crime novels, erotica, science fiction, horror, fantasy--and there are many sub-genres.

You don't need an agent to contact these smaller publishers, but you do need to pay attention to what kind of books they are interested in and exactly how they want you to submit. Then do exactly what each publisher's guidelines say to do. And no, they aren't all the same. This takes some work, but if you really want to get published, you'll do it.

Most publishers also want to know how you plan to market (promote) your book, so you should be thinking about that too.

That's enough to get you started. Good luck!

Marilyn

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And Now Back to Writing Tips

Today I'm going to talk about the difference as I see between published writers and those who would just like to be.

1. Actually sitting down and writing every single day--or at least a schedule of writing so many hours on so many days.

The published writers that I know do that. One of my favorite writers is up at 4 a.m. so she can put in 6 to 8 hours a day. Another one works a full time job and still manages to write three series--which means three books a year.

2. Once the book is done making sure it is really ready to send out to an agent or publisher. (Has to be an agent if you are seeking a major publishing house--smaller, independent publishers can be contacted without an agent.)

Belonging to a critique group can help a lot. My critique group is my first editor. They hear/read every single chapter that I write and make lots of great suggestions and catch mistakes I didn't even see. I often hire and editor for the second run through. I have a couple that I really trust. Then, of course, the publisher has an editor who goes over the manuscript.

3. Be willing to accept rejection--because unless you are mighty lucky, you will receive rejections. Keep sending the book out. If anyone gives you constructive criticism that makes sense, pay attention to it and make changes in the book.

4. While that book is making the rounds, start another. Repeat. Never stop.

5. Keep learning. Go to writers' conferences, read writer magazines.

(Speaking of writers' conferences, if you're writing mysteries, a good one to try that covers beginning, middle, and advanced writing topics is http://www.publicsafetywriter.com

6. Don't ever give up.

7. If you really want to be a published writer, you need to do all of the above.

That's a start.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

God Knew What He was Doing




God knew what He was doing when he made moms young.

I raised five babies and lived through it. Saturday morning, my middle daughter and I drove three and a half hours to visit and babysit for my youngest great-grandaughter. I wanted to see her and my granddaughter again and because my daughter often makes this trek, I went along this time.

As you can see by the photos, my granddaughter and great-granddaughter are both beautiful. We had fun playing with the baby and things went well for awhile, even after mom went off to work. But--when she realized mom was really gone and only grandma and great-grandma were left to tend to her needs--she was not happy. In fact, she became quite angry and let us know--did she ever let us know.

Grandma--my middle daughter--is still young--compared to me--and she quite expertly fixed bottles, changed diapers, played and cajoled and calmed baby down--for awhile.

Then, baby began experiencing the pain of teething. We'd been warned this was a possibility but we hadn't received any instructions. The crying intensified. Mom was called at work and gave us some tips--and where to find some medicinal remedies. (I had some suggestions from years ago, but they weren't acceptable.) Grandma took completely over and things quieted a bit. Grandma put baby into p.j.s and we got into ours. The three of us climbed into the guest King-size bed. Baby decided she didn't want to sleep anywhere near me. Crying again. Grandma got her up and walked her around until she finally fell asleep. Back to bed they came.

We slept--for awhile. Baby woke and cried. Grandma got her settled and we slept again. Then somewhere in the wee hours, mom came home from work. She took over. We slept until the alarm rang at 4:45 a.m. We had to dress quickly, mom got up to hug and kiss us goodbye and we were back on the road at 5:15 a.m.

It was raining. We drove the 3 1/2 hours home because we needed to be back in time for my daughter's duties as the praise team leader at church and mine as Sunday School teacher. We made it in the nick of time.

Not sure how much sleep we had--maybe 3 hours putting all the snatches of shut-eye together. I'm glad I went though. I helped my daughter when she needed more than two hands, I got to see my granddaughter and great granddaughter and I'm happy I did. And this is the biggie--I kept daughter awake on the long drive home.

And yes, God knew what he was doing when he made mothers young.

Marilyn

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dinner at Our Church






Our church's invitation was to anyone who didn't have a place to go for Christmas dinner, we also offered to take dinners to those who couldn't come out and pick up anyone. The invitation appeared in the morning newspaper Christmas day and we had a big sign out of the highway.

Eight people called for dinners to be brought to them, one family asked for a ride. Others came, not in big rushes but in small groups. We also fed all those who came to help--and we had lots of helpers.

One thing that was very noticeable, those who came who were not members of our church really looked as though they needed a meal and they truly seemed to enjoy it.
I think they all had a great time.

But those who helped probably enjoyed it the most. We took turns at the food table dishing up the turkey, ham, mashed and sweet potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, dressing and rolls. And we had quite an array of homemade desserts, plus coffee, punch and hot cider.

My daughter-in-law helped at the food table and she said she had a wonderful time. One of my grown grandkids also did a turn--and he too seemed to really enjoy the job.

Usually we have Christmas dinner at my house, but this year I told them if they wanted to eat with me and grandpa, they had to do it at the church. They all came and worked. My granddaughter put name tags on people so we could call them by name when we sat and visited with folks.

It was a great way to spend Christmas--and we had more than enough food.

Marilyn

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And This is What it Looked Like At Our House Christmas Eve






Just a peek at the madness and fun of Christmas Eve. This year we had more kids around than usual. Son and his wife were here, plus there three grown grandkids, a friend with a baby, and three great-grand kids.

We ate pizza, drank sodas, and opened gifts.

Nice evening, but grandpa was glad when the kids went home. The noise gets to him after awhile.

Marilyn

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas



Remember, Jesus in the reason for the season.

Here's wishing you all a blessed Christmas Day. Enjoy the time with friends and family.

Merry Christmas and may your New Year be all that you hope for.

Marilyn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas





Again, I thought these photos made for a grand Christmas greeting especially on Christmas Eve. In this blog you can see photos of my daughter,her hubby, and her other two grandkids, Peyton and Garrett. Oh, and I must not forget Archie, the dog. The dog belongs to my daughter and her husband, but Archie loves kids, any kids, and they feel the same about him.

These kids also live down in the southern part of California quite near their cousins which makes it nice for my daughter and her husband when it comes time to visit.

The occasions for these photos were Peyton had a violin recital and Garrett had a gymastics exhibition.

I think the photographs convey the Christmas spirit, so once again, Merry Christmas.

Marilyn

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Pageant






Because it's getting so close to Christmas I thought these pictures were definitely appropriate. My eldest daughter's grandchildren participated in a Christmas pageant at their church. It was an original play, and Ethan was a drummer boy and in one picture is holding an injured sheep. He had lines and a lot of action in the play.

His two older sisters, Emily, the eldest, and Olivia were shepherdess.

We don't get to see these great-grandkids often as they live at the southern end of California, but this past year we were fortunate to be with them twice--at our family reunion and when we went to the Erle Stanley Gardner Mystery Festival.

This is one of my Christmas cards to all who take the time to read my blog.

Merry Christmas

Marilyn

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Travails of Country Living

Last week while taking my morning shower, the water barely trickled out. I complained to hubby, of course, and he went out an tinkered with the well. Son, who lives next door and uses the same well, mentioned he'd been doing his wash. We thought that was the reason for the poor water flow.

However, things worsened--soon no water came out at all. A well-man was called, but he didn't stop by until the next day. We were managing on containers hubby had filled with water at the church. (One of the good things about being a deacon and the preacher's son-in-law.)

While all this was going on a feral cat managed to sneak into the house. Once he got inside, he was not happy and meowed his displeasure loudly. We tried to get him out. What this entailed was chasing him around, trying to move him in the direction of the outside door. We couldn't just leave it open because the inside cats would go out and no telling how many more outside cats would come in.

We tried off and one for two days to maneuver the cat toward the door while someone stood there to open it. We'd almost make it, and the dear animal would veer off in another direction.

We finally managed it the same day the well was being fixed--an all day process which entailed a new pump and pipes. Of course by this time the cat had left hidden treasures for us to smell, find and clean-up.

We had water for showers, finally, and doing dishes and the laundry. We took our showers, started the dishwasher and were supposed to go to a party. We both decided we'd had too much stress to enjoy ourselves and would be much happier staying home. So we did.

We watched the last episode of the Ladies #1 Detective Agency and loved it.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Monday, December 21, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

The house does look like Christmas despite the fact we didn't bother to haul out our big artificial tree to decorate. There was a good reasons for that, the last time we did it, the cats thought we'd given them a new toy and they knocked off all the ornaments, breaking all the glass ones. At the time we had two cats, now there are three.

Instead we bought a small pre-decorated and lighted tree and it adds festivities to the part of the room it's in. We also decorated the mantle with three manger scenes, put our Christmas stuffed animals on the hearth, and the ceramic carolers I made years ago on the coffee table despite the fact one of them has a chip in it.

Christmas cards add a lot. As they come in I tape them on the book shelves.

We don't put out the gifts until the afternoon of Christmas Eve--again the reason is the cats.

It'll be fun this Christmas Eve, besides the two grandsons (grown-up)and the granddaughter (also grown), son and his wife, we'll also have the other granddaughter and her two little ones. Husband and father is overseas serving in the Army and that's why she's spending Christmas here, her home is on an Army base in Georgia.

I am ready. Wrapped my last two gifts yesterday.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Running a Contest on Another Blog

Yep, that's what I'm doing. On Mysterious People, http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com
I have an interview up and if you leave a comment you'll be entered into a contest for my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Dispel the Mist.

I've never even had a contest on my own blog, but when I was asked if I'd like to do this on the Mysterious People Blog of course I said yes.

The blog will be up until December 26th, and then I'll draw two of the names to see who will receive the books.

This is fun and I love reading the comments.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anyone Else Having Problems Understanding Our Government?

Blizzard expected in the middle west and Atlantic states--our government is overseas where the temperature is about 25 degrees and they are promising big bucks to other underdeveloped countries for help solve the global warming problem. We're going to give money to countries where the leadership is totally corrupt? Does anyone with any sense think the money will go for what it is supposed to?

And we're doing this while getting farther and father in debt? Frankly, I do not get it.

I really hoped things would change for the better, but that clearly is not happening.

Until our government actually goes back to what our founding fathers spelled out I'm afraid we're going to be the laughing-stock of the world, if we're not already.

Heaven help our grandchildren, because it looks like that is all that can possibly help.

I don't usually write anything political, but I just can't believe what's happening.

Marilyn

Friday, December 18, 2009

Expiration Date Indefinite

My husband was in the Seabees for 20 years. We were poor--but we always had good health care mainly because we lived about two blocks from the base and the Navy Hospital. My second child was born there back when it was merely a dispensary. Her first baby was born there when it was called a hospital--but it looked exactly the same. (Her husband was in the Army at the time and I had the privilege of being her birth coach--that was a wonderful experience.)

But I digress. Having a Navy Hospital so close was terrific, though the next three of my children were born at the Catholic Hospital in town and I paid the fee of $25 for the privilege and had a civilian doctor to deliver them. (A true blessing and well worth the $25.) After the children were born, then we returned to the Navy base for subsequent care--sickness, broken bones, stitches. Since all together we had five children (first child was born on the East Coast, also in civilian hospital, can't remember what that cost, but since we didn't have much money it couldn't have cost much) we used the Navy facility often.

When we moved out of the area to where we live now, the closest Navy Hospital was about a two hour drive away--much too far to rely on for medical care. So we purchased medical insurance but could pick the doctor of our choice.

Then things changed for the better, for retired service men and their families something called Tri-Care. It works like medical insurance, paying part of whatever the needed treatment cost and because we are also on Medicare usually that takes care of the rest. And we could keep on using our doctor.

The only concession is that I must have a military ID as a dependent. I've always had one, but every three years it had to be renewed. They want to make sure the spouse doesn't divorce the retiree and continue to get medical care.

My ID card was due to expire January 2010, so hubby and I made the trek out to the nearest military base, two hours away. When we got there we learned we should have gotten an appointment, but now we'd have to wait our turn. That turned out to be an hour and a half.

My name was called. My information was pulled up on the computer, papers were filled out, hubby showed his ID card, I turned over mine, my photo was taken. I was about to ask what I should do in the event my spouse was no longer around--when the young Navy man who took care of us said, "Oh, you won't have to come back anymore because the expiration date is now indefinite."

Seems that the new rule is when you're over 65 they don't expect you to get divorced and you can keep the card until you expire.

Needless to say I'm quite happy to have and ID card with an indefinite expiration date.

Marilyn

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proud Grandmother



The photo is of my granddaughter, Genie (pronounced Jenny), and her family. Genie was a fun kid--she played soccer and did shotput and discus in high school. School didn't come easy for her, she worked hard to get decent grades. She got her first job as a hostess in a restaurant--and of course we had to go there and eat.

She went to the local community college at first and this is where she met her husband-to-be, Mark. She continued her education at Northridge, where she majored in Speech Therapy (actually had a much longer title, but can't remember exactly) and received her Bachelor's Degree. We proudly attended the graduation with her parents and other members of the family.

Genie and Mark's wedding was beautiful. They moved to Fullerton where Genie became a speech therapist at a local grammar school and Mark started his career as a deputy sheriff. While there she began work on her Master's Degree.

They now have two children, Peyton and Garrett and they now have their own home. Genie teaches speech in a nearby grammar school and she is really busy with all of her children's activities.

Yesterday, Genie learned she'd been chosen as teacher of the year for her school! One more reasons to be proud of this wonderful young woman who is my granddaughter.

Grandma Marilyn

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Front Page News!

What a surprise to open up the local newspaper today and find a headline that said, "Marilyn Meredith authors new mystery novel." I knew there'd be an article, but I certainly didn't expect it to be on the front page.

The story reported my two day stay at the Art Gallery with my books, a lot about my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Dispel the Mist, and a mention of No Sanctuary being a finalist in the mystery category of the Epic E-book awards.

Not everything was accurate about the book, but sometimes reviewers who actually have read the book don't get everything right. Again, this is one of those things that may arouse enough interest for someone to buy a book. You never know.

No matter, I'm delighted and must let the young reporter who interviewed me and read the piece how much I appreciated it.

Again, never ever think that not selling a lot of books at an appearance is all there is to this promotion game.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmases Past

Got a sweet email from my eldest daughter who said she'd seen a list of popular toys from the past and remembered all of them--and had gotten most of them. She let me know she appreciated the wonderful Christmases we managed to have despite the fact when our kids were still kids we had very little money.

Hubby was in the Navy (Seabees) and we made so little money we qualified for welfare though we never signed up for it.

I bought Christmas presents all year long and hid them where I was sure they'd never be found. (Learned in later years that the kids did manage to locate some of my hiding spots.) Hubby and I made some gifts too, the one I remember most is a Barbie house that he built and I made the furnishings and decor. Eldest daughter got that one and was thrilled. Of course she got a Barbie to go with it.

Often we got toys that had to be put together after the children went to bed on Christmas Eve--sometimes meaning that we stayed up all night to do it. When hubby was overseas on Christmas, we'd spend Christmas at my parents' and my father had this lovely chore.

One Christmas I had to work and missed the whole Christmas opening procedure. I was not happy. We even ate Christmas dinner out--and I think that's the only time in my entire life that I didn't have Christmas dinner at home.

Our children were always given money to go buy presents for their siblings. That was back when $5 would actually buy three of four gifts at the five and dime store. Today, you might be able to do it at one of the dollar stores.

Of course we always had a tree, though it depended upon how much money we happened to have how big that tree might be. For a couple of years we had an aluminum tree. No one really liked it.

It was a lot more fun to decorate a tree when a bunch of kids helped. We would put each strand of tinsel on one by one. We also popped popcorn to string and loop on the tree branches. More popcorn was eaten than strung.

Sometimes we went Christmas caroling--often with a church group. Does anyone go caroling anymore?

Those long ago Christmases with five children were wonderful--and it didn't matter that we didn't have much money--we had a wonderful time.

Merry Christmas.

Marilyn

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Can Happen After an Appearance



Friday and Saturday I spent the full day at the Porterville Art Gallery with my books. I was near the back by the Christmas Tree. That had no effect on who came by to see me though as there were refreshments in the back room so I had the opportunity to speak with everyone. Those who were interested in books stopped by and took a look, and some bought. One man bought four books in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series as he likes Native American mysteries.

One of the stringers for the local newspaper stopped by both days and asked me lots and lots of questions. She's interviewed me at various places I've been selling my books--and I think she'd like to be a novelists one day. I know that there will be something in the paper about me because the new managing editor emailed me to ask questions about the article the young reporter had written.

So selling books isn't all that making an appearance is about. I once had a publisher tell me that even if you didn't sell one book, those who saw you and your name, would recognize it the next time they saw it.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Being the Only Author in an Art Gallery Boutique Sale

Friday and Saturday I spent the full day from 9 to 5 in the Porterville Art Gallery along with artists and artisans selling their wares. Two tables had gorgeous handmade jewelry--and I bought some for Christmas presents. A potter with gorgeous pots, several artist with miniatures, gift cards, handpainted Christmas ornaments, and many beautiful paintings were among the group.

Everyone else was a member of the Art Association, my only requirement was to bring cookies both days.

Just like last year, it rained. Despite that some adventurous souls wandered into the gallery and purchased gifts, including my books. No, I didn't sell a lot, but I did sell more than I have a some places where I paid to have a table.

Like with any of these ventures, I had an enjoyable time meeting new people and hearing lots of stories that may one day become a part of a book. Yep, it's dangerous to tell me your innermost secrets because I may use them someday. However, you'll never recognize it.

That was my last appearance anywhere until next year. I think my hubby is sad because we just got a new GPS. I hope he likes the voice on this one as well as the one on the last.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Needs to Happen Before a New Book Comes Out?

Most authors know they must have a strategy to promote a book before it comes out. In fact, many publishers are asking for your marketing plan at the same time that you send in a synopsis and a few chapters.

Because I've done several marketing plans for publishers I usually build on one of those as I'm working on the plan.

Because I'm with a small, independent press I won't have books to send out for review until the book has gone to press and is available for purchase. But once I get books I'll be asking reviewers if they'd be willing to review it.

I'm already planning to go on another virtual book tour in March. If anyone would like me to visit their blog let me know.

I'll have a book launch and I've already been told I can have it the same place I had my last one, a combination bakery and gift shop in town. I'm planning to approach the new book store in Porterville too and see if she's willing to do one too.

Of course I'll update my website to include the new book and submit the first chapter for people to sample.

Because I work on promotion all year I already have several months of appearances scheduled on my 2010 calendar:

Conferences and Conventions: Epicon in New Orleans, Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha, Public Safety Writers in Las Vegas, Bouchercon in San Francisco.

Speaking engagements: Clovis Library Book Club, Ridgewriters in Ridgecrest, Visalia Library, Hanford Library

Book Fairs and Craft Festivals: Celebration of the Whales in Oxnard, Jane Austen Fair in Fresno.

Group Author Signing: Coalesce Book Store, Morro Bay

In November, I'm going on a mystery cruise and you can be sure I'll be promoting like crazy there.

Of course I'll be writing blogs, posting on Facebook, Twitter and all the other places I'm on.

At the moment I'm fairly open from July on. But guess what, in September I'll have a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and it'll all start over again.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soon to Have New Book Out

Checking out the cover to An Axe to Grind one can immediately make some valid assumptions. There will be a murder. The victim may or may not be headless. Noticing the badge, you know it'll be a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.

And with all of the Rocky Bluff P.D. novels, the characters who've been there since the beginning, the police officers and their wives, will all be there. In this one, Detective Doug Milligan and Vice Officer Stacey Wilbur are the main players and yes, their romance does move ahead.

You will get to peek into the lives of Ryan and Barbara Strickland again and see how the free boys are faring in their relationship with their step-father. Probably the character who has grown the most throughout the books is Ryan. His transition from a publicity hound and skirt chaser to a good husband and father has been remarkable.

Most of the earlier books you can find on Amazon's Kindle.

And of course, I must once more mention that the one right before this one, , is a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the Epic awards.

While you are reading this, I'll be sitting in the Porterville Art Gallery on Main Street hoping that someone will come and take a look at my books.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Organization--or Lack There Of

Once I was truly a well-organized person. When I was the most organized I ran and lived in a licensed facility for 6 developmentally disabled women. I cooked and served three nutritious meals a day and snacks (did all the grocery shopping) and did all the laundry, but I paid someone to do the housework, though I did do touch ups. I planned activities and executed them. I did all the paperwork connected to this job (much of it unnecessary but required), planned and gave approved training to other providers. And of course I took each one of the women to regular doctor visits and any emergency, and kept track of their medications.

I also put out a state-wide newspaper (still do) for other administrators of licensed facilities about new regulations and other news.

Believe it or not I managed to write nearly every day for at least three hours.

When my mom lived next door, we walked three miles every day--looking back, not sure how I fit that in, I sure don't walk three miles anymore.

I've always attended several mystery or writing conferences every year. BAck when we had the facility, I often did this by myself and my husband held down the fort--or when he did go, we hired staff to take care of things.

I'm still writing every day--most days--and I hire someone to do the main part of the house and I do our bedroom, bath and my office. I'm still the chief cook and bottle washer, but I like to cook and I always wash the pots and pans as I dirty them. We almost always eat on paper plates so I don't have to run the dishwasher too often.

One thing that has really changed is how much promotion I do on the Internet. That's can be a real time suck with writing a blog every day and the two I do for other blogs on a regular basis. And then of course there's Facebook, Twitter and all those other things. I also write a monthly newsletter for people who have willing signed up for it.

One of the writing organizations I belong to is Public Safety Writers Association. I'm on the board of directors and my job is organizing the program for the annual conference. It's fun, but also time consuming. I'm also the editor of their quarterly newsletter. The hard part is getting people to write articles for it.

I've confessed before about liking reality shows on TV--but I'm not much good for anything after supper anyway. I've gone like a house afire all day and need some down time and I'm usually asleep by 9 or so.

I'm active in my church, though I don't do nearly as much as I used to. I teach Sunday School and I'm the church clerk which means taking minutes at their bi-monthly council meetings, not difficult.

But I did all these things and more before--now I can't seem to cram quite as much in as I used to. I guess I'll blame it all on getting old--as good an excuse as any.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Shopping

I don't do a whole lot of it anymore--we have far too many in our family. Four living children, plus eighteen grandkids and eleven great-grands. My sister and I no longer give gifts to one another, because she has nearly the same situation too--although she gives one present to each of her offspring and most of them show up at her house on Christmas day to receive it.

We've chosen to mostly give money--money to our two girls who live far away, gift certificates to their spouses for a favorite restaurant. For the ones that are here, one I take shopping because she is such a generous person if I gave her money she'd use it to buy gifts for someone else. I give her husband movie tickets as they, like us, love to go to the movies. Son, I give money and gift certificates because he's at our house for the gift opening. In case you think that's unfair, it adds up to the same as I gave the girls.

For the grandkids with their families, I give them money, the amount depending upon how many are in the family. I also send English muffins to each family to arrive sometime close to Christmas.

I'm not that fond of shopping anyway and this is much, much easier.

My mom was a master shopper back in the day and probably why I don't like it much as she used to take me along with her on her expeditions when I was little. We'd ride the streetcar to downtown L.A. always to go to a sale in the Broadway basement. We'd be among the huge throng of women waiting for the doors to be opened, then dash down the stairs to the basement where piles and piles of goods awaited. The women would grab stuff up, fight over things, and all I remember is legs and rear ends. More than once I got lost. Sales in the Broadway basement were far worse than what happens on Black Friday--at least they seemed so to a little girl.

Merry Christmas,

Marilyn

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Over the years we've made had traditions and made new ones.

When our children were small, we stayed up half the night putting together toys we'd purchased, one time we had just finished by the time the kids were awake on Chirtmas Day. We insisted the children open one gift at a time so we could see everything that was received. They always got lots of present from my parents too and they needed to be able to thank them.

When my sister and her family all lived here in Springville, we also had a Christmas gift exchange and party usually at my house, though when the family got too big, we went to a recreation room at a mobile home park. That tradition ended when my sister and her whole family moved to Las Vegas.

Once the kids all grew up, we changed our Christmas gift opening to Christmas Eve. We soon realized that it was much easier to have something simple to eat before hand and have the big meal on Christmas Day when that's all we had to concentrate on.

Our church always has a Christmas party for the adults, finger foods and an exchange of Christmas ornaments.

My writing critique group gets together with spouses and significant others for a dinner out.

This year we're adding something new. Our church is going to provide Christmas dinner for anyone who doesn't have a place to go--not just church members but anyone in the community. It's been publicized in the paper and posters have been put up around town. Our church is small--it's a great day if 30 show up on a Sunday morning. No telling how many will show up for the dinner, but many have promised to bring turkey and ham and various side dishes. If it turns out well, I suspect it'll become another tradition.

Our town is more of a village than town. We have lots of wealthy retirees, but there is also a large low-income housing unit that once was a TB sanitarium for seniors and the handicapped. We also have some down-and-outers of all ages who might like to have a home-cooked Christmas dinner.

Once thing that I've learned over the years, change is inevitable. This one sounds like it will be a wonderful change no matter how it turns out and I'm looking forward to it.

What are your Christmas traditions?

Marilyn

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Tours--Do you Do Them?

Today I read about an author who was disappointed to find out that her publisher no longer paid for book tours and that was something she had been looking forward to. So instead of forgetting her dream, she and her father put out a call to everyone they knew through various means to see if they could interest people in having her come to universities, libraries, whatever venue they had some influence with. Actually it seemed to work pretty well.

I've never gone on a book tour, though I must confess I've felt a tad bit of envy when reading or hearing about someone's successful book tour. One author I've met and admire is Michael Orenduff (The Pot Thief series) who toured from his hometown to Las Vegas where he attended the Public Safety Writers Association's conference. http://www.publicsafetywriter.com
Imagine what a task the arranging for that must have been! He also reported have a wonderfully successful book launch for his second book with people lining up waiting for his signature.

Though I have had this envy, I never felt inclined to cold call bookstores to arrange book signings. I do email the ones that I know when I have a new book coming, though not so much anymore. The idea of planning a tour cross-country or even around the state doesn't appeal. When doing a book tour like that you've got to spend money staying in motels or find friends who live in the area who will let you sleep on their couch. I might have considered that a few years ago, but now I prefer the comfort of a bed.

The last few years I've been quite happy to be doing more unconventional promotions such as book and craft fairs, county fairs, art galleries, coffee, sandwich, and gift shops, book clubs, service and social clubs. Of course I've never had a long line waiting to buy and have me sign a book, and I would like to have that experience, but if I never do I've still managed to meet a lot of great people and collect a few fans.

Marilyn
http;//fictionforyou.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spreading Holiday Cheer

On another blog that I post on weekly, one of the bloggers was talking about how people are no longer polite or even nice to one another. Certainly we've all see this.

One way to counteract it and spread holiday cheer is to smile at everyone and say a kind word. It can really be fun. If you smile at someone with a grim expression they'll probably smile back.

I also like to compliment strangers and pick up on something that I like--such as "I really like the way you've done your hair." Or, "Wow, that color looks great on you."
I've even told someone how much I liked their tattoo. Tattoos don't really thrill me (even though my husband has three) but some of them truly are quite artistic.

If you come upon a scary looking individual who is trying to intimidate you, smiling at them and giving a compliment can really disarm them.

You may have guessed, I like to talk to strangers and I hope that maybe I've brought a bit of happiness into their lives or at least surprise.

Because I'm what might be termed "a little old lady", once I know this tactic probably saved me from having my purse stolen. As a very suspicious young man came toward me at a fast pace and I had that feeling I was going to be a victim, I made eye-contact, flashed a huge smile, and asked him where on earth he was going at such a speed. He stopped abruptly, blinked, turned and ran the other way.

Anyway, try it. Tell people how cute their baby is, anything you can find to say. It's fun and it works.

Marilyn

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bad Things Happening at this Time of Year

Just now heard about a friend learning her job was terminated at the end of the month. Crummy timing. I know that's it's happened to more than just her--in fact my son was terminated after working for the same company for five years.

One of my daughters cleans for a family whose house burned down yesterday evening. It's a total loss, all their possessions including the Christmas gifts they'd already bought. The only one home was a grown son who managed to get all their animals out.

Losing your home would be devastating at any time of year--hard to imagine having to start all over.

Over the years I've been terminated a couple of times. Once I taught in a school I loved for ten years. The director and I had a falling out and I had to leave. From there I went to day care center. The woman who hired me moved to another center and the new man hired in her place quickly displayed that he had no heart for the children or his staff. When the school secretary pointed out that he was being dishonest with things like charging the corporation for his wife's services as a translator when we didn't need a translator and we never saw her on the premises, for supplies that weren't there, $200 for a staff party--when the party was at my home and pot luck--and it was obvious something had to be done, but the secretary feared losing her job. I became the whistle blower and lost my job immediately. However, the woman who hired me in the first place, rehired me at her new school.

My point here is something one job loss can lead to another, better position. If I hadn't lost the job at the first school, I would never have moved to the place we live now. When we bought the house we now live in, it was a licensed facility for six developmentally disabled women. We took over the facility, lived in the home, and cared for the women who became like family to us. Along with this new profession I was afforded the time to write. As time went on and regulations required all administrators of facilities to have more training, I organized and taught that training in the area I lived in. My new job brought many new challenges and helped me grow as a person.

Recovering from the loss of a home would be difficult. But my belief is that things happen for a reason. Whether you believe in God or not, my faith tells me that God is in control and if we trust in Him, thinks will eventually work out--and often in a way we could never imagine.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who may be experiencing a loss of any kind at this time of year. May God bless you and watch over you and guide you to the next step in your life.

Marilyn

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On Selling Books

Just received a monthly royalty break-down from one of my publishers for the month of September. Though books and e-books were sold at different sources, my royalty came to $17 plus a few cents. My percentage, of course, was the least. The bookstores keep the most, then the publisher, then my cut. And in case you aren't knowledgeable about the publishing business--that's how it goes.

This particular publisher is good about letting the author know which books were sold as e-books and which as trade paperback, whether they were sold through Ingram (which means a bookstore ordered them and they were sold), or Fictionwise (an e-book distributor) or purchased directly from the publisher. I like knowing, because it gives me some idea of how my promotion is working. The royalties were all for previous books, none for Dispel the Mist, as yet. I'm anxious to see how that will play out and if my blog tour helped.

To be perfectly frank, I sell far more books myself at book and craft fairs, library and bookstore talks. I buy the books at a discount directly from the publisher which means a bigger cut--for both of us.

Anyway, that's the bitter truth about the publishing business and being published by a small press. However, the plus side is, they continue to publish my books. If I were with a big New York publisher, I'd probably be terminated. Midlist authors who are friends of mine and write great books have not had their contracts renewed because the sales numbers were not what the publisher wanted.

Hooray for small, independent publishers!

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflecting on Childhood Christmases

A great deal of my childhood happened during the 2nd World War. There were shortages on many things, not just food items.

Our church always had a wonderful Christmas program with beautiful music, carol singing, and the first Christmas acted out. The finale was always Santa coming to hand out candy to all of us kids.

My father was the head plumber at Paramount Studio and the studio put on a Christmas program for all the kids of the employees. I don't remember everything about the, what I do remember was that several were at Ebell Theater in Hollywood, and one was held way out in the country on a wonderful ranch--which is now in the heart of Studio City. Every child received a wonderful age-appropriate gift from Santa.

Our Christmases at home were wonderful--filled with anticipation the night before. Of course we hung our stocking on the mantel. And it was extremely hard to sleep and we often woke up around 4 a.m. We were not allowed to go into the living room until our parents were up because they always too movie of us opening our presents.

The presents I remember best were these. A beautiful doll with a China head and hands and a baby carriage to push her in. (I was not to take her outside and of course I did one day and I hit bump while pusher her and broke her beautiful head to pieces.)

My dad built me a two-story doll house and my aunt who was an artist made all the furniture to go in it. It was absolutely wonderful. I have no idea where it ended up.

Usually I received one Story Book doll at Christmas and one on my birthday. After I was married and had kids, I let my girls play with them and they are long gone. My sister hung on to hers and still has them.

During the war no one could buy a bicycle. My father made my cousin (who is only 11 months younger than me) two-wheel bicycles for both of us. They were wonderful bikes.

When I got older of course I received a lot of clothes, but I don't remember what any of them looked like, what I do remember the the Nancy Drew books I received. And of course that's where my love of mysteries began.

Our family really didn't have much money. Mom didn't work and my dad's job as a plumber paid the bills, but my mother was a genius at stretching a dollar. Though I had friends who received more expensive gifts and more of them, my Christmases were magical.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Month of 2009

Can you believe it? It's December already. The holiday season is upon us as they say.

Looking back over the last eleven months, it's hard to believe all that's happened. I've had two of my books published, No Sanctuary under the name F. M. Meredith by Oak Tree Press and Dispel the Mist by Mundania Press. And I've written two books in both those series which are were sent off to the publishers.

I've given talks to the Porterville Women's Club, to a writers group at a book store in the mountains, talks at libraries, to the Yosemite Romance Writers, to my own Sisters in Crime, to the Porterville Rotary Club, attended the Springville Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, had two book launches, attended two writers conferences, and a mystery con, and spoke at the Crime Writers Conference about electronic publishing.

Had a couple of radio interviews, got a scary letter from the IRS that I owed $8000--yep, that much, but after sending in lots of paperwork proved that I didn't own anything, had two blog tours, tried to write my own blog everyday--mostly did it, blogged every Tuesday on the Stiletto Gang and twice a month on Make Mine Mystery.

Attended the Los Angeles Time Book Festival on the UCLA campus and had signing times in two booths as well as two book fests and several craft fairs where I had my books on display.

Wrote my monthly newsletter for those who signed up for it. Also wrote put together the quarterly on-line PSWA newsletter and the monthly newsletter for California Residential Services Association, and attended their business meetings and annual meeting.

Planned the program for the Public Safety Writers Conference and was thrilled by the caliber of speakers and the great comradery among everyone who attended.

Went to my ex-daughter-in-law's wedding and was thrilled to see my two grandson escort the bride and my great-granddaughter as the flower girl.

Taught Sunday School and went to church, brought food and ate at potlucks, helped at Vacation Bible School.

Spent three days with my books at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria.

Had regular doctor visits, icky procedures, had an eye exam, went to visit daughters in Ventura County, attended a friend's book launch, traveled to Dana Point to help with another friend's book launch and had a great time, traveled to Ridgecrest to speak to the Ridgewriters, went to Barstow for the Mitchell family reunion and had a book signing there at the motel.

Thanksgiving came and went and now we're in December. Probably I forgot something, but those are the highlights. If you've been following my blog you know about most of it anyway.

Marilyn