The Writer’s Gift: Guest appearance by author Mary Cunningham

I still remember my third grade teacher giving me one last piece of advice before summer vacation. “Mary, whatever you do, don’t stop writing.” I wasn’t sure, then, what she meant. Had I been writing in third grade? What made her think I should keep writing?

Finally it hit me, and sure enough, forty-some-odd years later, my first book was published. I’m a slow learner.

During those “between” years I read and I read. I’ll never forget the summer I discovered sports biographies. A whole set of them! Probably due to my yet-to-be-discovered OCD, I read them in order – A-Z.

I tore through the biographies in record time. Patty Berg, Jim Brown, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzales, Byron Nelson, Warren Spahn. Each book put me into the game, the match, the tournament. I was there swinging a golf club with Patty Berg or running for a touchdown with Jim Brown. Then, the unbelievable happened. I finished Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Finished. Caput. A through Z. There were no more. I was crushed.

I muddled along reading Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and then got bored with the writing and storylines I considered beneath my reading and comprehension level.

As luck would have it, around that time my aunt replaced the ancient librarian (Miss Georgia Stockslaver – yes, that was her real name!) who had been in her position for, oh, around 108 years, give or take a few. What a refreshing change! Nothing against Miss Georgia, but she single-handedly destroyed my older brother’s love of reading. It was the summer after his fourth-grade school year. He took “The Bears of Blue River” to the front desk to check it out. Miss Georgia wouldn’t let him read it. “This is a Fifth Grade book. You’ll have to wait until you’re in the fifth grade!” It was late July, just over a month away from the start of his fifth-grade year. My brother, who had a bit of a stubborn streak, left the library and to my knowledge, never returned.

Back to my reading boredom. Between my eight grade and freshman year, the new librarian, my beloved Aunt Gertrude, began setting books aside she thought I’d enjoy reading. Knowing my love of time travel and science fiction, she suggested H. G. Wells. I imagined flying on rocket ships to the moon and, especially, taking a time machine that could send me any place my heart desired in history or the future. This book, no doubt, led to my 5-book middle-grade time-travel series, Cynthia’s Attic.

Slowly, but surely, my love of reading gravitated to writing, thanks to my dad. My first appreciation for his writing began to grow when I’d go with him to do interviews for his daily human interest column for the Courier-Journal. I’d listen to his subjects talk about their lives, their work, their interests and they didn’t seem all that interesting to me. The questions and, especially, the long-drawn out answers made no sense. How could anyone put a cohesive story together from this mish-mash of material.

But as Dad formed stories from information he’d gathered on his notepad, (That was before tape recorders became small and manageable), then spend hours editing before he submitted it to the newspaper editor, I discovered a writer’s true gift: To pull out words, sentences, and paragraphs from rambling statements and situations, and make them interesting and exciting. My dad had that ability to write characters and scenes that just jumped off the page and grabbed the reader. I aspire to that.

As writers, we love our writing, don’t we? Nothing makes us happier than to write a line of poetry or prose, sit back and say, “Wow! That’s good!” A few years back I had the honor of listening to Georgia author, Terry Kay, give a keynote address and something he said has stayed with me ever since. I’m paraphrasing here. He might’ve used a bit saltier language: “I don’t care how your writing makes you feel. All that matters is how it makes the reader feel.”

If you’re a writer and would like to be remembered, the most important advice is to make your readers feel something.

 

MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER: Mayhem & Murder: Synopsis

Andi’s step-mother is a real piece of work! But is Ruby a murderer?

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manual Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.

In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.

 

REVIEW BLURBS FOR MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER!  

“If Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum were a travel agent, she’d fit right in working this case alongside Andi, a wanna-be detective readers are sure to love.” —Regan Black, USA Today bestselling author of the Escape Club Heroes and Knight Traveler novels.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder...WOW. Snappy dialog, quirky characters, opens with a curious bang and yanked me through the pages. A fun, fantastic read. “—Jean Rabe, USA Today Bestselling author, Piper Blackwell Mysteries.

“Grab a margarita and hold on tight; you’re in for a wild ride.” —Karen MacInerney, Agatha Award nominee and author of the Dewberry Farms Mysteries

“Charming, lively, and unpredictable, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder excels in a vivid story mystery fans will relish.”—Diane Donovan, Senior Editor Midwest Book Review

 

PURCHASE MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER: 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076N6KBM3

B & N Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/margaritas-mayhem-murder-mary-cunningham/1127355519?type=eBook

 

FIND MARY ON SOCIAL MEDIA: 

MARY CUNNINGHAM – Author Bio 

Author, Mary Cunningham, grew on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn.”

Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for her award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic. The setting is in her childhood home in Southern Indiana. Family stories and ancestors comprise the storylines. There are currently five books in the series: The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, The Magician’s Castle, and Legend of Lupin Woods.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, she received inspiration for the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, Mary’s latest adult mystery series. She’s currently writing Book # 2 of the series, along with another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, an historical time-travel, and a biography about a former Army brat/University of Connecticut women’s basketball player who started a non-profit foundation to create scholarships for children of deployed veterans.

Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

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The Thrill of Writing About Love

By Khaled Talib, author of thrillers

In my newly released thriller, Gun Kiss, the protagonist falls in love with the co-protagonist, a common occurrence in books of all genres. As I sought reviews for the novel, I queried a book blogger who agreed to read it, but it didn’t turn out well for me. The blogger was abusive in her review of my book, highlighting nothing positive about it. In fact, she even went so far to say it wasn’t a book she would recommend to anyone. Yet she cared enough to publish the review on her blog, book cover and all. Why bother if she hated it that much?

That blogger was just one of the many reviewers I had contacted. Of course, I didn’t agree with the reviewer’s unsubstantiated comments. Like other authors, I have enjoyed my fair share of positive reviews. Gun Kiss was no exception as it also received praise from some renowned critics.

I could have responded to all her nitpicking, but I didn’t see the need because other reviewers and readers didn’t have problems with them. However, the blogger complained that “like instantly” after seeing her once. She added: “Had seen her once, when he rescued her and now he [sic] in love.”

It seemed to me the reviewer’s closer attention to my words would have revealed the depth of the story. I had explained the protagonist’s reaction when he first sees the co-protagonist, a famous Hollywood movie star, despite the circumstances in which they were both embroiled. I explained his excitement and infatuation amidst chaos, then later some reflection of thoughts when the protagonist was in a better situation.

But really, why shouldn’t a character in a book fall in love instantly? It’s not unnatural. I knew someone who fell in love with his wife in a heartbeat at university, then proposed to her after two weeks. I also know cases of men who got married within a day’s notice. Some people might surrender to love slowly, but others experience it at lightning speed. What has time got to do with the human heart?

An important realization for authors in order to reach readers is that the story must sound believable. It must sound authentic. To do that, all writers know that they must control their imagination while infusing information or facts that sound realistic, albeit in the realm of fiction. While writing Gun Kiss, I didn’t stray from the lessons I’ve learned. I did no wrong in creating scenes where the protagonist expressed his love for the co-protagonist. In fact, I wrote those scenes reinforced by fact.

ABOUT GUN KISS: A Hollywood movie star is abducted by an obsessed drug lord. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake Deco, a former US soldier, mounts a daring rescue across the border. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for the actress—or that a killer is hunting them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former magazine journalist and public relations practitioner, Khaled lives in Singapore. His journalism stint included a three-year stay in Egypt. The author is a member of the International Thriller Writers. Gun Kiss is his third novel.

Official Website: www.khaledtalibthriller.com

Amazon: http://getbook.at/GunKiss

(Also available on Kindle Unlimited)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khaled.talib/

(This piece is based on an article that originally appeared in Marie Lavender’s I Love Romance Blog, https://iloveromanceblog.wordpress.com)

The Power of the Mind

In my paranormal suspense novel, A Human Element, Laura Armstrong can perform telekinesis. What exactly is telekinesis? It’s the action of mind on matter, in which objects are caused to move as a result of mental concentration upon them. Is it science or fraud? Akin to seeing spirits or not? And if one believes in ghosts, are they inclined to believe in other paranormal phenomenon too, like telekinesis?

Another term grew from telekinesis: psychokinesis. PK, as it’s known, encompasses a wider group of mental force phenomena that telekinesis now falls under. Did you know that PK Parties were a cultural fad in the 1980s? Groups of people were guided through rituals and chants to awaken metal-bending powers, or perhaps it was just another excuse for a party! Either way, you can read about it from PK party founder, Jack Houck. Real or fake? You decide.

The psychokinesis phenomenon dates back to early history though. In The Bible, for example, Jesus is described as creating water into wine, healing the sick, and multiplying food. Let’s not forget it’s also in pop fiction today, like Stephen King’s Carrie. Hollywood gives us Poltergeist.

Ouija boards were also a PK fad. I had a frightening experience with one when I was eleven years old. A friend and I channeled an “evil spirit” through the board who levitated the Ouija’s movable indicator. The spirit told us to find a boulder in the woods with an “X” on it. That would be where we would find hidden green treasure. We found the boulder but the only green treasure we found was the angry, green icy flow of the raging creek that nearly swept us away that February day. That was my last attempt to play with a Ouija board. It scared the Devil out of me, literally it seemed!

Most scientists believe that the existence of telekinesis has not been convincingly demonstrated. I’m not sure what I believe, but I do think there are amazing discoveries about how the brain works to still be found. I do know I will never touch a Ouija board again.

My experience and my fascination with mental powers fueled the writing of my character of Laura Armstrong who can move objects with her mind.

I believe we can do so much more with our brain powers.
What do you believe?

P.S. I’m also giving away a $25 Amazon gift card below!

by Donna Galanti

 

About A Human Element:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Praise for A Human Element:
A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

Praise for A Hidden Element:
“Fascinating…a haunting story about just how far parents will go to protect, or destroy, their children in the name of love.”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times best-selling author

Purchase A Human Element here: On sale for just $0.99 10/27 – 11/2! http://mybook.to/AHumanElement

Purchase A Hidden Element here: On sale for FREE 10/27 – 10/31!
http://myBook.to/AHiddenElement

Donna Galanti Bio:
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at http://www.elementtrilogy.com and http://www.donnagalanti.com. She also loves building writer community. See how at http://www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com

Connect with Donna:
Twitter https://twitter.com/DonnaGalanti
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767306.Donna_Galanti

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card:
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Beating Time At Its Own Game: Life Begins At Sixty

Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease, or death. Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place. We don’t know they are there; if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them.

When I applied for a job as a writer at Hearst Corporation in New York in 1961, I was required to take a typing test. “No typing test, no interview.” I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could type 70 a minute. All the while, I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised.

In college, I took sound advice and studied education. I began to pay for my schooling by working as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune – at 75 cents an hour. That I was making a living writing didn’t occur to me.

Something similar was at work when I married. My husband’s career took precedence; that was how it was done. Then there were two children, carefully planned, because that was how it was done. I happily accepted a new direction to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. I left my writing with hardly a backward look.

Writing as a career was not a consideration. It didn’t fit any of the requirements of the time. So when I gave it up, it didn’t feel like I was giving up much. But I was. My dream of sitting in an office, a newsroom with a pencil in my hand was a victim of the status quo. It never occurred to me to just strike out in my own direction – my husband and children needed me. My husband and I built a business. We raised a lawyer and a mathematician, grew in joy with a grandson, lived through floods and moves, enjoyed  travel. I didn’t write for forty years.

In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been. The hole was more vast than the space vacated by offspring. I knew I not only would be able to write, but also I would need to write. After all, I dreamed writing, lived writing, loved writing.

One day, I read that those who live until they are fifty may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me – plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life because they don’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.

So I sat down and began to write the “Great Utah Novel.” I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. After all, I had majored in English Lit. Writing a novel should be pretty much second nature. It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t as easy as writing the news stories I had written as a young woman. There were certain skills I didn’t have; there was plenty I didn’t know about writing.

After writing about 400 pages (easily a year’s work), I knew something major was wrong. I took writing classes at UCLA. I attended writers’ conferences. I read up on marketing. I updated computer skills. All the while I wrote and revised and listened and revised again.

This Is The Place (http://bit.ly/ThisIsthePlace) finally emerged, about a young woman, Skylar Eccles, a half-breed in Utah where she was born and raised. Half Mormon and half another religion. Skylar considers marrying a Mormon man in spite of her internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history (several generations of women who entered into “mixed marriages”) and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north.

Much of what I wrote about is my own story. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. I believe that forty years brought insight and a unique vision to the story in terms of the obstacles that women faced in those days. I really like being proof that a new life can start late – or that it is never too late to revive a dream.

# # # # # #

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a novelist and poet, brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her “How To Do It Frugally” series of books for writers and the many classes she taught as instructor for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. The books in her “How To Do It Frugally” series of books for writers have won multiple awards. She is also the recipient of a number of community awards. The author loves to travel and has visited eighty-nine countries. She has studied writing abroad. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Special Sales, The Buck Starts Here

(In this guest blog by Brian Jud, learn some marketing tips that apply to many products and services in addition to the book business.)

The term special sales is commonly used to describe sales opportunities outside of bookstores. Also referred to as non-bookstore (or non-traditional) marketing, it can be a profitable source of new revenue.

The best way to exploit this opportunity is to divide it into two segments. One is retail in which you reach buyers using a network of middlemen. The other segment is comprised of direct sales to non-retailers that use books as marketing tools.

1) Selling to retailers. You are already familiar with this sector. You find distributors or wholesalers to get your books into retail outlets where they are sold off the shelf to consumers. Payments are made in two or three months and unsold books are returned.

* Discount stores and warehouse clubs. Books are discounted heavily and do not offer the same margins of some larger-ticket products. Therefore, these retailers limit shelf space to the “brand-name” authors and top-selling books.

* Airport stores. Books on management, investment, economics, business biography, personal finance and health sell well among business travelers. Books for children also tend to do well in these outlets, especially children’s “activity books.” Popular fiction always sells in this environment.

* Supermarkets and pharmacies. Cookbooks, travel books and regional titles move in supermarkets, but health-related topics sell better in drugstores. Children’s titles also seem to do well in supermarkets, but fiction remains the mainstay there.

* Museums, zoos and national parks. Most of these have a gift shop, and to get in them you must demonstrate how your books can educate and entertain their guests.

* Gift shops. This category includes large chains such as Pottery Barn, Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, Pier One and Crate & Barrel, Hallmark Stores and Spencer Gifts. It also includes hotel and hospital gift shops.

* Specialty stores. You could sell your “expert” books in home-improvement centers, pet shops, auto-supply stores, camera shops, toy stores or business-supply stores – retailers that serve identifiable groups of people with a common interest in your content.

2) Non-retail sales. Corporations, associations, schools and the armed services buy books directly from publishers. You sell directly to buyers in these organizations. Sales are typically made in large quantities, returns are rare and payment is received more quickly.

* Businesses. Call on product or brand mangers who may use your books to introduce new products, to reward buyers for making a purchase or as a gift to customers.

* Associations. There are over 135,000 nonprofit membership organizations worldwide. Consider donating a percentage of each sale to a charitable, non-profit organization to help finance their cause.

* Schools. The academic marketplace is an opportune segment for publishers, one using books as a foundation for its existence. It impacts people of all ages, from pre-school through graduate school and adult education courses.

* Military. You can sell books domestically or overseas, to military exchanges and libraries, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, onboard ships, to retired military personnel and to the families of military personnel.

Special-sales marketing is not a separate way of doing business. It is not even a new way of doing business. It is an integral part of overall marketing strategy. Simply divide non-bookstore marketing into its two component parts and you may find hundreds, if not thousands of prospective customers for your titles.

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Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – http://www.bookapss.org – formerly SPAN) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at brianjud@bookmarketing.com or http://www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing