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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Positive Feedback Feels So Nice

My newspaper column ran on Saturday. This title was "sKumquats and InYourFace vs My www." I occasionally write funny entries, and this was one of them.

A few months ago, I started putting my email address at the end of the column, and yesterday I received an email from a total stranger. She says, "I just wanted to tell you that I am a lady 67 years old and I totally agree with your artical [sic]." She asked me to help her find some people to hike and paddle with. I can do that!

Later in the day I had to go grocery shopping. Not my favorite activity. As I was returning the cart, a man in a truck called out, "Hey, are you Joan-Get-Off-The-Couch?" I said, "yup, I suppose I should recognize you." He went on to say that he just reads the column and likes it a lot. He recognized me from the picture of me they run with the column each time.

There is nothing more pleasing to the ears of an author than to be told that people like your writing!

See Ludington Daily News Column- July 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Product Review at Shared Reviews

I managed to get two new reviews written for Shared Reviews this week. They are:
Detroit Electric Scheme- Mystery, History, Action which is a book review of a really good new mystery, and
Your Best Look Modest Swimsuit Fits Well, Looks Nice, reviewing a swim suit I snagged on an end-of-season closeout.

Shared Reviews has now pushed their site overhaul off by another month to September 1, but there is a sneak preview on one of those corner peel tabs anywhere on their site. There is more detail presented in their blog, at The Official-Official, Really Official, Absolutely Official New SR Launch Date.

Use this link if you would like to sign up at Shared Reviews. I made $42 last month. Admittedly, I am one of the highest earners due to having a lot of content, and achieving a high rank. Nevertheless it is a legitimate place to write online. Almost all kinds of content are welcome.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Program Scheduled in October

I'll be giving the program "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink" in Irons, Michigan on October 15. This is for the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA Annual Meeting.

Sharing my adventures with friends is always fun, and this should be a little bit different crowd than the other local showings. If you are in north-central Michigan on that date, feel free to come. There will be a short hike, picnic dinner, short meeting, and the program-- all for free.

Book sales and signing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Casual West Side Gang

We had a small group last night- some of our folks were away or had company. The Arts Center also forgot to open the building for us, so we went to the cottage of the facilitator. It made for a nice cozy setting and was a fun change of pace, I thought.

There were just six of us, all "girls." One person was new. She is enthusiastic about our group and seems as if she will fit right in.

I read chapter 13 of News from Dead Mule Swamp. I always get suggestions for how to make it a bit better. The biggest frustration is that it's hard for people who haven't heard all the chapters to understand what has gone on before and to know if more explanation is needed on certain points, or if they are just lost because of missing chapters, or the two week time gap between readings.

Everyone else had poetry. We do have some very good poets.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Editing News from Dead Mule Swamp

I worked on chapter 13 of News from Dead Mule Swamp. I added some description that anchors the scene in reality a bit better. West Side Gang writers' group meets tonight, so I wanted to have a chapter ready to go.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ludington Daily News Column- July 2011

Turned in my monthly "Get Off The Couch" column to the paper this morning. Every so often I do one that is supposed to be funny, and this is one of them. It's really hard to write humor. I know that probably sounds odd, but it is. You have to be outrageous enough that people know it's supposed to be funny, without crossing the line into just being ridiculous with no point.

This month's title is "sKumquats and InYourFace vs My WWW." I spun the idea off the TV ad for some car (I never remember what the ads are really for-- oh, there it is, right on the video title, haha), where the cute teenager is bemoaning the fact that her parents only have 19 FB friends, while she has 687. Of course, they are off riding bikes instead of staring at a computer screen. I tied that with an attempt I made to download a nature guide app to a newly acquired (used) iTouch.

Here's an excerpt:
Now I was in! It only took three attempts and nine hours to download the tree identification app. I was all set to go outdoors and try it. But wait... it was only going to work where there’s WiFi. Dang! Most of the trees hang out in the woods– they’re funny that way.
I came back at the end to the fact that some of us would rather be playing outside than accumulating virtual social currency.

These columns are not available on-line, unless you subscribe to the Ludington Daily News. One collection of columns is currently available as an e-book, called Get Off the Couch with Joan, at Smashwords. Use coupon code JX87H to buy it for only 99 cents!

I'm nearly ready to format a second volume. This one will be humorous essays entitled Fall Off the Couch Laughing. In fact, this column gives me ten funny (I hope) essays, which means that as soon as I can make the time to set it up, I can offer this one as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stories on Stage and Nothing More to Tell

Friday night was the fourth edition of the quarterly event in Ludington called Story on Stage. These are hosted by the Ludington Visiting Writers and Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

Three short stories were read, with musical numbers by local artists in between.

The stories were "The Day Before Easter" by Liesel Litzenburger, "Gar Fishing," by Sarah Jane Smith, and "My Urologist, My Psychologist," by George Dila.

The last one was of great interest to the West Side Gang (our local writer support group), because George is a regular member and one of our facilitators. His story is from his recently published anthology, called Nothing More to Tell. As you can see, the theme of the refreshments carried out the celebration of George's publication. The book is published by Mayapple Press. That's George in the picture, with his book and his cake, which was exceedingly yummy!

We were all really happy to see one of our own be published. It's his second collection of short stories, The End of the World was published by Pure Heart Press in 2008.

How do I feel about Story on Stage? The readers do an excellent job, and it's fun being part of something live such as this. This time, in fact, two of the readers, Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante, are "Earphone" award-winning readers who are probably familiar to audiobook listeners.

The stories were well-written, with lots of great imagery and taking us inside the narrator-character.

However, I wish the story selection was more diverse. So far, all ten stories I've heard at these events are of the "life is a sad enigma" genre. I get plenty of that in real life, and long for some variety in the presentations. I'm not sure I can take many more of this style without a break.

George Dila website

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cover Art for "Toby & Harry"

Getting ever closer to having a short story available for sale. The cover design is now set, and I'm only waiting for the final edits and for Twin Trinity Books to make it live on the web site.

Of all my stories that will be featured at TTM, this is probably my least favorite, so in one way I'm nervous that it's the first up. It was written for the theme of "Anger," and I took a tack that is rather out of the ordinary for me. I hope readers who don't find this story appealing won't just decide that they don't want to read other stories of mine.

Of course, perhaps when the rest of the anthologies are out, readers will get a better idea of what I can do. The best stories go in the books.

Hopefully, you will soon be able to purchase "Toby & Harry," the story of a very angry little boy. Do you believe that all small children are sweet and innocent, that they are all naturally loving and kind unless treated badly? I don't. Some who have read this story as beta readers or editors have thought it was a tale of child abuse. Not so...

I'll post more of a teaser when the story is actually available for download.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chapter 13 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Things are starting to happen with a bit more speed now. Of course, chapters 6-12 are all on the same day, a very busy day for protagonist Ana Raven.

This chapter seems to be almost all dialogue. I hope that's ok. One problem with taking a chapter at a time to the writing group is that it chops up the flow of the whole story a bit. I just re-read chapters 11-13 all together though, and the conversation doesn't seem out of place.

Here's an excerpt:
Tracy’s tone changed. “I like you, Ana. I think you fit in well, here in Cherry Hill, but you can’t rock the boat. Small towns have long memories. Take care of yourself. "

See Chapter 12 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Evening with Michigan Author D.E. Johnson

Last night, Michigan mystery writer, D.E. (Dan) Johnson read from his first book, Detroit Electric Scheme, and shared tips with the West Side Gang. The Gang is a group of local writers, some published, others not, who meet twice a month for mutual critiquing and support. This was a special session, and the turnout was good (for us) with about 20 people attending.

First, Dan read the first few pages of Detroit Electric Scheme, a real attention grabber. It's set in 1910 Detroit, with a murder against the background of the electric car industry. It's not only a fast-paced mystery, but serves up a good dose of history without being pushy about it.

He also outlined some tips for getting published:

1. Make sure your first sentence can command attention. Most agents don't read past the first few when receiving queries.

2. Get feedback about your work. Join a writers' group, find "alpha readers," etc. If one person feels that some section or sentence doesn't work, it may not be a big deal, but if multiple people tell you that something needs changing, no matter how much you like it, you can pretty much count on the fact that it needs changing.

3. Maximize your opportunities to get noticed:
• cultivate interactions with published authors- they can give you suggestions for agents, help you make connections, etc
• send lots of queries- he sent over 100
• find the right niche- if you write a successful mystery, your publisher isn't going to let you switch to a thriller for your next book
• put yourself in the right place at the right time- this is like networking, only smarter.

Since I'm a big mystery fan anyway, of course I bought the book. That isn't me in the picture, but it's another satisfied mystery customer.

Another tip he gave, that I've tried to follow, is to send copies of your book to influential people who may actually read it. One person Dan sent a copy to is Jay Leno, because of his large car collection. This gesture landed him a segment on Leno's web site. Great publicity!

I have to confess that I almost didn't go because I'd never heard of D.E. Johnson, but I'm really glad I did. He's a newly published author who is going places.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Too Hot Too Busy

Sometimes you just have to accept what you can/can't accomplish. We have now joined the heat wave section of the country. It was over 80 degrees before 9 am. Too hot for me.

We have company- all fun- but I'm only getting the barest requirements completed.

I also seem to have a higher than usual count of activities and commitments at the moment.

On the writing side of the ledger, I did get the idea for my next Get Off the Couch column, so I'm working on that.

Meanwhile, turn on the fan and pass the ice tea!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Progress Toward Digital Downloads on TTM

My story "Toby and Harry" will be the next one up for sale at Twin Trinity Media. But there are things that have to happen first, and they are finally beginning to move.

The cover is being designed. I had proposed one but they didn't like the dark color of my background, so it's being redone subject to my approval, and that's in the works.

I'm also supposed to receive the final edit copy for my approval as well sometime today.

It looks like there will be a story of mine available very, very soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chapter 12 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I really struggled with this one, even though I knew what had to occur in it.

Because it was so hot and humid yesterday, I didn't do much except sit and read a book. It was a silly mystery- the kind I like- but it had a lot more action in it than News from Dead Mule Swamp does. That was bothering me, and I wanted to make something more interesting happen in this chapter.

I think I finally managed to make it suspenseful. Here's an excerpt
...when the phone rang. I reached for it with a sigh.

“Ana Raven here.” There was a pause, then a long raspy breath. “Who’s there, please?” I thought I was simply annoyed, but I heard a ragged edge to my voice.

“Old news... should be left... in the swamp, or you may find yourself... in too deep;” the voice was a genderless harsh whisper.

“Who is this? What old news? Do you have my newspaper?” I demanded. After two more slow raspy breaths the caller hung up quietly— the effect was more eerie than an angry click.

The microwave dinged and I jerked so hard that beer slopped all down the front of my jumper. I checked the caller ID— there was the number, with the local exchange. How could anyone in this day and age think they could make an anonymous call? An involuntary shiver ran up my spine. Perhaps he or she thought it wouldn’t matter if I could find out who they were later on. Was it someone on a cell phone...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chapter 11 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I went back and edited that really long chapter in News from Dead Mule Swamp. It was easily broken into two chapters of a better length.

Also, I added in something that is important to the story later on, which I had forgotten to introduce. Then I made some changes that the writers' group members suggested, and now I'm all set to begin chapter 12.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Finding "Old" Writings

Yesterday, my new printer came, and although it's about the same size as the previous one, it's got the trays and things arranged differently. This meant that I had to do a little shifting of things in that section of my office, which precipitated my checking the last (one can always hope) of the 3.5 inch floppy disks I still have to make sure I have everything off them.

Found a few things that had not been previously backed up, including a nearly finished essay about when Chips was a puppy. He was such a special dog, I'm really glad I didn't lose this piece of writing. Here's a sample:

At two weeks of age, puppies really do look like their plush counterparts, the Pound Puppies." He was a fat little ball with legs splayed out sideways, and a stub of a tail that oscillated allegro. His nose was flat and wrinkled. But his color was fascinating. You could never say that he was white, because he wasn't. You could certainly never say that he was yellow; that wasn't right either. The closest way to describe it would be to imagine swirling a little bit of coffee into a cup of milk until it was almost, but not quite, mixed. When the light hit his fur, though, he shone, like the color of fresh-split wood chips in the sunshine. His ears were short, his eyes were dark buttons, and he had one smudge of brown from his nose to his chin, as if he had just tried to lick a chocolate pudding pop, and missed. Instead, he licked my face. I knew I was hooked.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Succinctly Yours- Flash Fiction

Grandma's Goulash regularly runs a Flash Fiction challenge. Here's my next installment of 140 words. The extra credit word is "expedient." Here's the picture that is to be the inspiration:

Here's my story:

Ralph basked in the late afternoon sun. His future was an open door! It would be so expedient to enter- the odor of slightly spoiled warm bologna wafted past. He allowed his mind to drift–to become one with the enticing aroma in which he was now bathed. Eugene and Tyson had long since flown through that portal into the heavenly realm beyond. Ralph hesitated for only one reason; his scouts had not returned. It was so unlike them to selfishly sate their own appetites without returning with bits of the treat stuck to their feet to present to him, the Fly King.

What could be the cause of their delay? Ralph knew that it was not prudent to follow without the report from Eugene and Tyson, but, overwhelmed by the temptation, he raised his wings and buzzed into the kitchen.


To see other entries visit Grandma's Goulash

Not Much Writing Happening

Not much writing has been happening here lately. I've been swamped with other responsibilities, and I just got two new short term contracts for other service work. Money is really good! But there is little time left for thinking creatively and writing.

I have selected my new printer and ordered it. This is the direct result of the pay for writing the article in Your National Forests magazine.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thinking About Short Story Options

Most of us are still waiting for our digital short stories that were winners to appear on the Twin Trinity Media site. It just takes a long time for all the mechanics to happen. Eventually, I will have three stories there, in addition to six that were good enough to be chosen for books.

Meanwhile, there is one lonely story that didn't make the cut for an award. Of course, I think it's a fine story... just didn't appeal to the judges that month for one reason or another. One possibility is that it's pretty straightforward and has a happy ending. The theme was "hope," and I didn't try to twist that in any way.

I've looked up lists of the seven virtues, and found: four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, restraint or temperance, and courage or fortitude, and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. So, this makes me think about ideas like a group of seven stories based on these themes. These stories would be uplifting, no nasty twists or angst-laden endings. Hopefully, however, they would not be trite.

Not all of my stories have happy endings. In fact the two first stories that will be up on Twin Trinity are darker. But recently, I seem to be inundated with stories with more questions than answers, bleak endings, and tragedy. Maybe I'm just ready for some positive input.

Of course, the question is, would anyone buy these? I'm not sure how much credibility I have as a short story author until some of them actually come out on TTM.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ivy and Midge Recommend North Country Cache

One of the prizes for a contest on my other blog, My Quality Day, was a copy of North Country Cache. It was won by Ivy in the Philippines, and after 5 weeks in the mail, she finally received it!

The fact that she likes the book means a lot to me, since I have come to count her among my friends, and sure would hope to meet her in person some day. Here is part of what she says:
I got the parcel notice from the post office on Monday, so Marguerite and I went there on Tuesday to claim it. I started reading it right away and couldn't put it down. My initial plan was to get my writing assignments out of the way first before I settled down to enjoy the book, but I made the mistake of sampling just one essay and got hooked.
Her daughter Marguerite (Midge) is posing with the book-- it's quite an adorable picture, don't you think? And she's allowing me to use it for publicity. Hop over to Spinning Lovely Days and see what else Ivy has to say.