Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Laptop cat says...

Why aren't you writing?

Is it because I'm sitting on your notes?

This is my excuse for not getting much done today. What's yours?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Famous Writers and their Snacks

Some people need to write with music. Some people need candlelight. Some need snacks.

When I saw 12 Great Writers and Their Favorite Snacks I thought I'd talk about snacks today.

I need coffee when I write. I make a pot in the morning and another in the afternoon. Getting up to refill my mug is as much a part of my writing process as hitting "save" at the end of the day.

My afternoon snack is usually a handful of almonds.

But if I need something sweet, this is my go to snack. The flavor is great and lasts FOREVER.                     

What about you? Do you need snacks when you sit down to read, write, or watch TV? What are you favorite snacks??

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Say that again?

The other day, I found myself texting a friend of mine to tell her about a tweet I’d received; I had no idea that texted tweet would lead to today’s blog post. And I bet if I’d read that first sentence twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, I would not have begun to understand what it meant.

I suppose I’m getting old, but lately, I tend to notice that modern conversations, especially those I have with my kids, bear little resemblance to the conversations I had with my parents when I was a teenager. It blows my mind when I think about how much our language has evolved in the past few decades.

Just off the top of my head, I compiled a list of words that are fairly common in everyday conversation these days that not long ago [maybe even as little as a year ago in some cases] would have meant nothing in the same context. How often do you use these?


I also made a short list of words that were definitely around in the good old days, but certainly didn’t mean the same things they mean today. How often do you use any of the following in their original context?

Cell  - to mean anything but the phone in your pocket?
Tweet – to mean something other than what you post on Twitter?
Viral – when not referring to a video on YouTube?
Web – when not talking about the Internet?
Lurker – in the even creepier sense than someone who reads posts but doesn’t comment?
Post – when not referring to a blog or a board or a chat group?

I challenge everyone to give me a sentence you’ve used recently that wouldn’t have made any sense a decade ago.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Got Writing Rituals?

I've got to say that I love the two-part series Courtney Maum did for Tin House on Super Sad True Habits of Highly Effective Writers. It's amusing and enlightening.

It also got me to thinking about my own writing rituals.

In the morning, after I've walked the dog, I go to my desk, an oversized mug of coffee in hand. I sit down to write.

Instead, I open my email.

Then I settle down to write.

But I hop on Twitter instead.

Finally I'm ready.

But then I remember I haven't checked blogs or Facebook.

Once I've done all that, I really am ready to write.

But by then my coffee is empty, so I need to get up and get a refill.

I could squander away the entire day in this cycle.
But eventually I buckle down and actually get to work.

But I usually write at the kitchen table, or maybe in the living room, or on the couch in my office, but rarely, very rarely, do I write at my desk.

Because I tend to write longhand, with purple ink in a spiral notebook.

And yet every morning I show up at my desk with the best of intentions.

Tell me KILLER FRIENDS: What are your rituals?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My next experiment

I've gone to the dark side...I suppose you could say that. After watching and listening to a lot of indie authors weigh in on the pros and cons of Amazon's KDP Select program, I decided to give it a shot with my next release.

KEN'JA is a previously released short story [12,000] words, that I decided to put up at Amazon exclusively for $0.99. Despite hearing a lot of bad press about the $0.99 price point, I didn't really feel right about charging more for such a short story. I know people do, and they get away with it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

So here's the beginning of my experiment. The book went live on the evening of May 14th and as of this writing [24 hours later] I've sold 7 copies with ZERO promo. [No borrows yet].

I'll weigh in over time and let you know how the book is doing. I don't plan any extraordinary promo for this one, just a blog post or two and an announcement on my Yahoo group. The current rank, after one day is 29,450.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The review that caused heart palpitations

I was so excited to learn that Dear Author had reviewed Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman.

And then I read the first paragraph and I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a few beats (and not in a good way). It starts off like this:

Honestly, if someone told me a week ago that I’d be reading a book about a woman with a crappy life who survived a car wreck with only a concussion that now lets her communicate with a pet lizard and that in order to pay the astronomical medical bills pilling up to keep her comatose young niece in a speciality hospital has taken up a mobster’s offer to undertake a hit, I would have told them, “Are you shitting me?!” No, wait that’s not emphatic enough. It would probably have been more like, “Are you shitting me and are you on crack?!”

I was reading the review on my Kindle and I put the blasted thing down at this point. All I could think was, "Oh my god, she hated it. A major review site hates my book." A few moments later, when the overwhelming urge to vomit passed, I picked it back up and forced myself to read on.

The next two sentences were: But here I sit having just finished “Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman” and all I can pant is “Give me more!” And, “What happens next?!”

And all of the sudden I was excited again!  :-)  Thank you, Jayne!   You can read the whole rollicking review here.

That was the most exciting thing that happened to me this weekend. I don't think I could have taken any more, lol.

How did everyone spend Mother's Day weekend? Did anyone receive any heartwarming/interesting/to cool for school gifts?

I received some funny cards, great phone calls, and some lovely gardenia plants! Oh, and that kick-ass review. :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The things I do...

to avoid writing.

You'd think as a writer - someone who's been captivated by the idea of creating stories since I was ten years old [yes, that's a LONG time ago], when given a day relatively free of responsibilities, I would spend it feverishly writing.

You'd think that.

After a particularly grueling week at the day job [why did I go 'back to work' again? I forget], my brain needed some down time, so I conned my dear hubby [affectionately referred to usually as DH] into taking me to the craft store.

Here's what happened.

I started out by making myself a new pencil holder for my desk. I wooden box, some tiny sea shells and some cool fish stickers from the scrapbooking department. [Note: It's not a good idea to varnish over those paper scrapbooking stickers, then tend to curl wickedly when they dry.]

Then this happened:

This is a three-hole shadow box frame which I painted and added a bunch of the cool miniature stuff I've been storing since I used to make doll houses. I hate keeping all these neat little things tucked away in boxes in the closet, so I made myself a vignette. [Note: When affixing very tiny things using hot glue, use tweezers, as hot glue is both HOT and STICKY and not in a sexy way, and when it sticks to your fingers it hurts like HELL.]

Words written: Zero

Stress level: Zero.

What do you do when you should be writing?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Titles and Cover Art -- Oh My!

Last week was the cover meeting for the sequel to CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. This meant that I had to brainstorm titles (all of my suggestions were shot down...proving once again that I'm terrible at coming up with titles, something which is not news to me).

I also had to come up with suggestions of images for the cover. I scoured Amazon and couldn't find one cover that I could say "something like this" which was a bit frustrating but also means it hasn't been done to death.

For the first Hitwoman book I actually did come up with the title CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN and was thrilled (not to mention shocked, in the best possible sense) that it was the name the finished product bore.

I also suggested a skull (with pigtails!) and crossbones with a lizard waving out of one eye of the skull for the cover.  If you've seen the cover, you know they totally ignored my suggestions about that and came up with a totally different, but eye-catching cover.

I admit that I was shocked (not in the best way) the first time I saw the cover art. While I thought it was beautifully executed, I'd had the other picture in my mind for so long, that I was taken aback. Luckily it's a great cover, so it didn't take me too long to get over my trepidation.

Tell me Killer Friends: What are some of your favorite book titles and covers?

Personally I'm a big fan of The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz and love both her titles and covers (and the books are pretty awesome too!)

As soon as the title and cover for the second Hitwoman book are finalized, I'll be sure to share them here!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Rosemary McCracken launches Safe Harbor

Rosemary McCracken, author of Safe Harbor
Rosemary is a freelance journalist and fiction writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Debut Dagger in 2010. It opens when a frightened woman barges into financial planner Pat Tierney’s office with a shocking request: “Look after my boy; he’s your late husband’s son.” The next day the woman is murdered and police say the seven-year-old may be the killer’s next target.
Safe Habor was released by Imajin Books this spring, and is available as an ebook and a paperback on Visit Rosemary on her website and her blog.

When Rosemary and I first discussed her visit to Killer Chicks, she offered a couple of ideas for her post. Having never done a hard copy book launch myself, I jumped at the chance to learn about how she's preparing for the paperback release of her novel, SAFE HARBOR. Here's what she had to say when I asked her to tell us about her launch:

It’s coming up soon – on Saturday May 5 in an English-style pub not far from where I live in mid-city Toronto. I’m really looking forward to it!
            A book launch is my day to celebrate the birth of Safe Harbor, my mystery novel. And, as a first-time author, it’s my coming-out celebration. After years of false starts, writing, rewriting and rejection, I finally have a published book. All the work, frustration and anxiety have paid off.
A launch party can’t be the only way of publicizing Safe Harbor, because a single launch in a single city can only reach a certain number of people. Friends, relatives, colleagues and former colleagues will turn out. And a few local media people may drop by – maybe. But it’s a start. These friends, relatives, colleagues and media types will help build the buzz about the new arrival, and they’ll buy books. The real opportunity for authors today, of course, is the e-book market – readers around the world. And the way to reach them is through social media.
Safe Harbor was released as an e-book by Imajin Books, a small independent publisher, in early March, and as a print-on-demand paperback on April 1. Imajin publisher Cheryl Kaye Tardif warned me not to firm up plans for a book launch until I’d received my first shipment of books. “You don’t want to have a venue booked, word out, food ordered and no books,” she said. Imajin’s paperbacks are printed in the United States and I live in Canada, and there can be delays at the U.S.-Canada border.
Location is the key to a successful launch, so when the paperback became available on Amazon, I started scouting out Toronto locations. “Ask yourself who is your target audience and where they hang out. That’s your venue,” Cheryl said.
I drew up an invitation list. I wrote down the names of 50 people I could count on to be there and another 50 maybes, which meant I needed a venue with capacity for at least 100 people. I came up with five pubs in central Toronto, all within a short walk of subway stations because Torontonians like to travel on public transit within the city. But I still didn’t have a date. Would these pubs be available when I did?
The books arrived on April 10. I picked up a copy of Safe Harbor, inhaled its scent and admired its handsome cover. After a couple of years of writing and revising, and a nine-month production period at Imajin Books, my baby had finally arrived!
I settled on the afternoon of May 5. I decided on a weekend because my husband and several of my friends work weekday afternoons and evenings. And I figured that more people could drop by on a Saturday afternoon than on a Saturday evening.
The Rose and Crown, the top venue on my list, was available on May 5, which I took as auspicious. Now I had a booking and I needed to get the word out.
My husband drew up an e-vite with Safe Harbor’s cover, and the time and place of the launch. I emailed it off to friends and colleagues. I emailed it to fellow members of Sisters in Crime Toronto and Crime Writers of Canada. I wrote about the launch on my personal blog,, as part of the ongoing saga of my journey to getting published. I posted on Facebook. I tweeted about the launch – and Imajin authors’ tweet team kindly re-tweeted my tweets. I sent out invites to my colleagues on LinkedIn – whether they lived in Toronto or not.
I had a little over two weeks from the time I started sending out my invitations until the day of the launch. And this turned out to be perfect timing. I didn’t want to put word out too early because people don’t know what may crop up on their schedules down the road. But I needed to give them some time to plan to be there. I asked for RSVPs so I could get an idea of numbers.
The replies started coming in. I’m up to 80 now. With a few last-minute replies and drop-ins, I may have 100 guests after all.
            And I had to plan the launch itself. Would I provide food and beverages? In Toronto, wine and finger foods are generally served at launches held at bookstores, and this is provided by the authors or the publishers (although few publishers have budgets for book launches these days). Launches held at commercial food and beverage establishments – bars and restaurants – generally serve some food but don’t have an open bar. Because Safe Harbor is available online, with a few copies sold at local bookstores on a consignment basis, I didn’t feel I could ask a bookstore to hold my launch.
Cheryl told me that it’s surprising how much a writer can get for free for a launch. “You are a business approaching another business for assistance, and many will be willing to help you, especially when it helps them too. How do they benefit? From the increased business they’ll get that day. You’ll bring in your potential fans, friends and family. You’ll advertise by posting flyers around the venue area. You’ll blog, Tweet, Facebook the event.”
Excellent advice, but did I follow it? No. Because my launch would be held at a pub, I couldn’t ask the bakery next door to donate pastries or the coffee shop across the street to donate coffee. That would be taking business away from the pub. But one day I will follow Cheryl’s advice. Hopefully, this won’t be my first book launch.
I won’t have an open bar. Guests can purchase their own drinks, but I will provide food. The Rose and Crown does up fabulous food platters: quesadillas, spring rolls, tortilla rolls, mini sandwiches, chicken fingers and veggie plates. I’ve ordered several of these, which I figure will cost me about $600, with tax and gratuities. But it will go down as a business expense at income tax time next year.
I also had to decide what would happen at the launch. I would have loved to hold an action extravaganza like this: But that would mean hiring actors and stuntmen. And convincing the Rose and Crown to get on board. I decided it wasn’t in the cards this time around.
The launch will run two-and-a-half hours. For the first hour, guests can mingle, eat and buy books. My sister-in-law and two friends have agreed to sell books, and I’ll sit with them and sign books as they are purchased.
An hour into the event, around 3 p.m., Catherine Dunphy, a friend and former Toronto Star reporter and a wonderful public speaker, will introduce herself and introduce me. Then we’ll do a short Q&A. She’s already run her questions by me so I’m prepared. They’re a nice mix of the generic such as “How long did it take you to write Safe Harbor?” and a few tailor-made to the novel such as “Why did you make your central character a financial planner?” (Because, as a journalist, I write about personal finance and interview financial planners and investment managers.)
Then I’ll do a short reading from the novel. Short here is key. I want my guests to get back to the food and their friends. And to buy books.
I know I’ll have fun, and I hope everyone else will too.
Then it’s back to social media to reach readers outside my home city.

Thanks, Rosemary, for telling us about your launch. We wish you the best of luck with SAFE HARBOR!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to breathe – and other things I can’t remember

The other day I was writing happily when it happened again. I found myself stumped by one of my grammatical nemeses.

As an editor, you’d think I’d have this stuff under control by now, but there are certain things I just cannot commit to memory no matter how hard I try. I ALWAYS have to look them up.

Case in point: the difference between breath and breathe.

I know, you’re saying to yourself, WTF, girl? Seriously?

Yes. I admit it. I’ve gone over it in my head a million times, but on the fly, I cannot recall that

Breath is a noun.
She held her breath.
After I ran up three flights of stairs I couldn’t catch my breath.


Breathe is a verb
I refuse to breathe in second hand smoke.
When my allergies act up, I can’t breathe.

It’s not that I don’t know which is which – as much as I don’t know how to spell them.

[And yes, I had to look them up in order to write this blog post.]

For some reason, these two words always just LOOK wrong to me, so I have to second guess myself all the time. It’s a thing. I’m not sure what to do about it except maybe keep a cheat sheet next to my computer. [Or keep the URL to this blog post handy as a reference.]

So there you go. In addition to my mental block about how to spell the word ‘because’ – I cannot tell the difference between breath and breathe without looking it up. Every time.

Come on, confess. What simple trick of grammar school English leaves you scratching your head? I can’t be the only one with a breathing problem. Can I?

**** ****

Be sure to visit us this Friday when Canadian author Rosemary McCracken will be here telling us about the ins and outs of arranging a book launch party for her suspense novel, SAFE HARBOR.