Archive for November, 2012


November 29, 2012

How many of you have attended a book signing?  Most authors have, of course — their own at least.  And others? It depends on your interest in the author and book on display.  Right?

What did you enjoy about the signings you have either attended or participated in?  If you are an author, what went well and what went terribly wrong?  Have you had signings like many of us where few or (shudder) NO books sold and you just sat there grinning and grinning through the deadly allotted time.

Well now, let’s see if we can brighten things up.

Of course the first problem for an author is booking a signing.  These days many bookstores are reluctant to hold them.  Why? Takes too much time to plan, and publicity can be costly. Then, at the scheduled time, nobody comes.

Is there any way around this number one problem?  I do have some ideas after years of experience, and a couple of those deadly nobody came events.

How do I make myself appealing as a special event for any bookstore, Barnes & Noble or Indie? Here’s one way I got into a B&N for a very successful book event only a few months after I’d been featured in the same store.  June was coming up. One of my novels is A WEDDING TO DIE FOR.  I approached the store manager about a wedding special, suggesting we feature my novel and a display of all the bridal magazines and wedding planning books the store stocks. He bought the idea and ordered my books.  I got out some lace yardage left from a niece’s wedding reception table covers, and made a cover to fit one of the bookstore tables.  Day of event I dressed in my frilliest suit, fancy white blouse, and a big white straw hat floating with net and lace for the occasion.  I did not sit (never do at signings), but stood, book in hand, welcoming all who came in the store, pointing out books available, and showcasing my own novel.  (Can a shooting, a bombing, and the murder of a florist stop a wedding?)  And I sold a lot of books, mostly my own novel.

You get the picture.  Don’t offer a signing, offer an event!  At other events I have talked, taught, and explained. For my newest novel, A FAIR TO DIE FOR, a bookstore held a mini-craft fair to accompany sales of my book.  At a library several staff members brought in their own craft projects to display, and I took the “Fold ‘n Go” dollhouse I have been creating furnishings for. (Did you know that, in some Cheerios packages, there are a few smaller, browner, Cheerios?  Those became donuts on my dollhouse breakfast table.  Used dryer sheets were sewn into curtains hung on popsicle sticks –and so on.  The dollhouse was, by the way, given to me by a bookstore owner after she’d used it in her Christmas window.)

During a city-wide festival I have mugged at passing crowds from a huge bookstore window while surrounded by posters for my books and the books themselves.

In gift shops and bookstores I try to learn as much about the stock as I can before time to sign, so I can answer questions beyond “Where are the restrooms?”  My work background is in retail sales, so I know how to wait on customers when staff is short.  I also know how to straighten stock when that fits the venue.

In essence, I am ready for whatever it takes.  And all my signings are fun–especially for me.

Tomorrow I begin a series of sales and signings (books for Christmas gifts)  in several stores that are part of a grocery chain in my area.  These last all day, and, I admit, are hard work since again, I rarely sit. I talk to a lot of people, many of them obviously lonely and eager for someone to chat with. And, y’know, after I have heard about grandchildren, upcoming plans, current problems, my new friends frequently think of someone they’d like to give a book to!

I have appeared in all the places I mentioned here more than once — some of them several times, often by invitation. So, as you can see, the “How can I help you?” approach works well for everyone.

Readers, what kind of events are authors in your area planning?


I’m a crime writer, so . . .

November 9, 2012

Recently an interviewer asked me, “Do you ever get revenge on those who have wronged you by killing them off in a novel?”

I said, “No,” immediately, which, I suspect, makes people wonder if I’m either lying or missing a lot of good opportunities for vicarious revenge.

I suspect it also makes me different from quite a few other female crime writers, many of whom do say they accomplish revenge in just that way.  I’ve read or heard how mystery writers cast former husbands, boy friends, and bosses as murder victims. I recall that one “snotty” grocery store manager was shot behind his store . . .  in fiction. ( I suppose the victims are disguised well enough that no one can threaten retaliation or a law suit.)   In truth, I simply can’t think of anyone I’d want to “do in”  like that.  Oh, I admit there have been a few who . . . well, there was that home ec teacher who held up my horrible sewing project as a bad example for the class. OOO, I would have loved revenge. But my mother took care of that.  Though she was deeply introverted and rarely left our house, we lived only three blocks from the school.  Mama grabbed her coat and marched down the blocks to attack the teacher with words.  I wasn’t there, so have never known what was said.  But, Miss ———— was v e r y polite to me after that.

I can’t recall a single male writer who has said he gets revenge in his fiction.  I wonder — do we often less powerful females find satisfaction by killing annoying and even dangerous or harmful men in fiction, when the male of our species finds other ways to get even or (quite probably) isn’t a victim of a similar type of harassment?

Something to think about.  But it still hasn’t occurred to me yet to kill–in my novels–anyone remotely like a person I’ve met in real life.

Another thing female crime writers say at times is that, since beginning their careers, they are more alert to the possibility of crime around them, and very often become wary of the actions and possible motivation of people they see when out in public.  Again, that hasn’t happened to me yet.  I admit to a long-going tendency to take precautions against theft and some other crimes.  For example, I leave all the good jewelry I’m not wearing in my safe deposit box–which is a nuisance, since I  often, when getting dressed in a hurry, wish I had a certain piece of jewelry in hand.  But that precaution and a few others began long before I started writing my mystery series.  (And saved my jewelry to be passed down in my family during a recent home burglary.)

Maybe I can’t figure me out.  But, I do know I look at the world around me differently than many others.   What makes sense and works well for others isn’t part of my writing or my life.  And, I’m okay with that.



November 3, 2012

“Non-fiction writing offers information and enlightenment.  It contains the results of sometimes lengthy research and contemplation and presents it in organized fashion to the reading public.  Whether biography, memoir,  or scientific treatise, non-fiction writing shares real value.   College textbooks are an example of  non-fiction.”

Wait a minute!  Memoir? One person’s undoubtedly flawed memory of life events? Is that open to discussion?  

On the other hand:

“Fiction writing is a product of the imagination. It presents escape from reality, and entertainment.  Romance novels and western adventure stories are examples of fiction.”

Do you agree with these definitions?

Might you think, as I do, that they are at best very limited definitions, and, in the bare presentation above, narrow to the point of being open to attack as . . . well,  fiction?

Dare I say here that a lot of non-fiction is not, (in the strictest sense of the term), true?   A result of research or not, it can be opinion. And, even if true at the time it’s written, continuing research and revelation might reverse that truth. Furthermore, prejudice, even if based on supposedly true information supporting one point of view, will blur lines between fact and fiction.  (It’s true if you agree, false if you don’t.  Right?)  What’s more, since it is often presented as fact to be trusted, some non-fiction writing it can be downright dangerous to the public good.

How about fiction? I agree with the general dictionary definition of fiction as “something invented by the imagination.”  But how about this, further on in the same definition: “an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth.”

Stretches thinking, doesn’t it? And, speaking for myself only, it’s how I think of fiction. I’ve never discussed this with any group of fiction readers or writers, but I sure would like to.  As it is, I can only speak for myself and for what I observe in the fiction I write and in what I read–which is mostly in the mystery genre of one type or another.

Oh, I have written “fact” and had it published in articles and one book.  I have been a broadcast journalist.  I have written essays and had them published individually and in a book.  I have written and sold poetry.  So–is an essay fact or fiction?  I consider it at least a blending, perhaps bare fact painted over with a colored brush in and in musical  words.  The same is true for poetry, which can be fact so wound with color, emotion, and introspection that it dances on a border called “faction.”

Which brings up a question–can fact make us feel anything?   Should it?  One could talk about that all day.

And how about fiction?  Who says it can’t teach? Open up understanding? We know it makes us feel.  A popular writing teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, frequently quotes a fiction editor’s remark, “Make me cry and I’ll buy.” I can speak only for myself, but I trust my fiction characters to teach me, and my readers, something new, something expanding  about life, as well as ideas about interaction with fellow humans, and, of course, about problem-solving and fortitude in the face of adversity.

My writing also teaches about actual places and helps readers see and feel what they’re like, but that’s secondary in my mission.  I want to teach about living.

Entertainment, yes.  Escape from reality?  Maybe, though I see my own mystery fiction as research into the depths of real humanity rather than escape from anything.  Is that too broad a definition for you?  I doubt it.  It isn’t for me.

I wish we could sit down together and talk about TRUTH AND FICTION.