Monday, May 30, 2011

How to conduct a signing

I got a good lesson in how a signing ought to go today from Janice Hamrick, a fellow mystery writer I met at Malice Domestic this year. She's the winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books competition for 2010, which means she got her book published by Minotaur! Which means it's an awesome book. I'm not very far into it, having just purchased it a few hours ago, but the beginning drew me right in. It's called DEATH ON TOUR and links can be found on her webpage,

Some of the readers here may be giving talks at signings, but some may be wondering how in the heck they'll do it when the time comes. I'm one of the latter.

What I'm going to hold up as an example here is her presentation. Her launch party was at Book People at noon on Sunday, the 29th. Crackers and cheese, cookies, and wine were on a sideboard, which was a nice touch. They were convenient to munch on while we waited in the signing line at the end.

Here's how it should be done! Janice ignored the podium and came to stand directly in front of the audience, who filled the folding chairs, some having to stand in the back. She has a friendly, relaxed way of speaking and doesn't use any notes.

She started off telling about herself, a bit about her childhood in Kansas and some funny tornado stories (yes, that can be done). She related moving from Kansas to Austin, working as a technical writer, and her love of travel. Then she got to the trip she took to Egypt and how the tour gave her so many ideas for a mystery. She came home bursting with them and began to write immediately, finishing in nine months. Then she told about submitting, rejections, and winning the contest that got her published. Smooth transitions and smooth delivery. She connects with the audience, smiles at them, and gets smiles back.

That's the way to do it, folks! I wish I'd taped it. Here's a picture I took the other night of Janice with her display at the same bookstore.

Of course, much as I study her, I don't think I can speak without notes in a million years. Will have to take drugs to relax enough to stand up without shaking, and will probably need to prop myself with a podium. And I hope, when the time comes, I can think of as many witty and engaging things to say as Janice did, but I wouldn't put real money on that bet. I have something to aim for, though.

I'm having a signing, by the way, this Friday, June 3rd, at Hill Country Bookstore on the square in Georgetown, 719 South Main Street, during the First Friday (shops open late, music, food, etc.) My signing is a drop in/drop out thing from 5-8, so I don't have to give a speech. (whew). Wine and beer are furnished by the store, but I'm going to add chocolate. Cookies if I get a chance. But at least chocolate!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in Your Closet?

Do writers get depressed more than--other people? I was going to say--normal people, but who's normal? A writer on one of the lists I'm on recently sounded depressed and we all jumped in with our remedies. Is there a writer who doesn't have his own closet of depression aids?

Maybe it goes with the territory. After all, the reason I write is to stave off depression. It's one of the tools in my closet. It just dawned on me, while reading the aforementioned online list, that maybe the reason I'm writing humor is because of the value of funny books for me.

Here are the weapons in my anti-depression closet.

(1) Writing. It doesn't matter what kind. Any kind. A therapist once asked me what I'd be doing if I could do anything I want. Without hesitation, I told her I'd write. She ordered me to carve out at least an hour every week to write, with the door shut, not answer the phone or doorbell, tell hubby to tend the kids--and write. It was pure heaven and saved my sanity!

(2) Reading funny books. I keep funny books together on a shelf. I used to use James Thurber exclusively. Then I added the Jeeves books by P. G. Wodehouse. Then I discovered David Sedaris. Any of these will have me laughing out loud eventually, no matter how far down I've gone. When I was a young child, a doctor had a column in the local paper (although maybe it was a national column). People wrote in with health problems. Most of the time, the recommended cure was "belly breathing", whatever that is. (NOTE: I LIKE the punctuation outside the comma--so shoot me.) Well, my recommended cure is belly laughing.

(3) 250 mgs. of magnesium daily. Don't ask me why, but this seems to help. A lot.

(4) My Attagirl list. I keep this on the computer. I label emails with this and keep them in a folder. Whenever someone says something nice about my writing I put it there. So when I'm having those days when I KNOW my writing sucks and no one would ever want to read such sludge, I can pull those emails up and re-read them. Know what? I never do. But I know they're there, and that's a help.

(4) Therapy, of course. When I go over the edge, that's what I know I have to do. I'll share a funny "depressed writer" story about therapy. My therapist asked me to write a piece personifying my depression and bring it to our next session. My depression turned out to be an adult male (who knows?) who was constantly beside me telling me those things depression tells a person. About how I'm useless, don't bother, no one cares about me, why should they, I'm not worth it, etc. I was driving and he was in the passenger seat berating me. I knew I had to murder him (I'm a mystery writer, after all). So I drove onto a high overpass and went over the rail. As the car plunged down, carrying both of us with it, I knew he'd be dead at the bottom. It was a good feeling. My therapist was a little alarmed, but I assured her I wasn't suicidal at the moment. I'd just killed off my depression. I, as the writer, survived.

Are you a writer? Do you get depressed? What's in your closet?

The image is owned by Simon Palmer and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where in the World Could Mary Ann Be?

It's been a crazy couple of weeks! You may have noticed I didn't update my blog at all last week. Don't worry faithful friends, I didn't fall off the face of the earth--at least not yet. It's just that life has been hectic. School is wrapping up with only three weeks till summer and I have a major project going on with my fourth graders right now. We are tackling Shakespeare in the Courtyard and while the kids are ready, the tech end is still kind of a nightmare. So my thoughts have been occupied with ironing out the kinks.

The other thing that has occupied my time is freelance writing. I try to limit my projects so that I'm not overwhelmed, taking a few clients at a time. But July is fast approaching, and since that is Nephilim's release date, the marketing fever has begun to take hold. It's time to buy ads, to promote, to shout from the roof tops that my book is coming out, that you must buy it, that reading it will make you smarter, younger, sexier, and somehow richer. But in order to market effectively, it takes more than pretty words.

It takes money.

I have a love /hate thing going on with the money. I love it. It hates me. I know it hates me because it slips through my fingers like water, drifting away to things like food and bills before I truly have a chance to love it. So I've been forced to work harder for it! I've taken on extra writing jobs so I can pay for an ad in Woman's Day or pay for smaller ads in various places.

So to make a long story short (too late), that's why I've been out of pocket. However, the madness will end next week and I will being anew.

If I haven't made myself sick from lack of rest or pulled my hair out from frustration!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Blogger took a little break last week, I noticed. I was unable to post comments on other blogs, but that was the extent of the effect on me.

Other outages affect me lots more! (Though I missed commenting, of course.) But when the AC goes out in July or August, or the heat goes out in January, those are bad times. I feel like a whiny sniveler when I complain about that stuff, though, knowing that many people deal with being too hot or too cold a lot more than I do. Homeless, for example. People who can't manage to pay their bills every month, for example. People who've lost their homes to floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters, for example.

We haven't lost our electricity yet this year, but it happens with regularity in the summer in this part of Texas. Last year there were unannounced rolling blackouts. I think they called them brownouts, but they looked pretty black to me. The electricity was dead, cut off, kaput.

Maybe I should prepare for that this year. Save up some projects for the times when I can't be on the computer.

Let's see, I can write on my AlphaSmart. I could clean off my desk. I could clean house. I could weed the garden (unless it's too hot, then I can't do that). Maybe I could get on the elliptical. Haven't done that in awhile. Cook, shop, even sew. Play my violin if I'm not sweating too much (sweat is bad for the wood, you understand) or write some music.

The only problem with the above list is that it will be on the inaccessible electronic device when the power goes out--unless I print it out. But then it'll get lost with the other papers on my desk and I won't be able to find it!

What modern advantage would most disconvenience you if you lost it?

PS. Please be aware that May is Zombie Awareness Month. Maybe I should have blogged about this?

Chiaroscuro painting by Georges de la Tour is in the public domain

Monday, May 9, 2011

Magic Numbers

They say three is a magic number. I guess that worked for me.

I tried to write who I know. I'm a classically-trained violinist and I like to arrange and compose, so my sleuth was a musician. I made her a composer and conductor with thoughts of injecting my own compositions into the mix somewhere--mixed media and all that. The brilliance amazed me. She could travel the world guest conducting and thus avoid Cabot Cove Syndrome. I envisioned this as a cozyish series and wrote two novels which got rejected, over and over.

Next, I followed a passion of mine, archeology and human origins. New discoveries are still being made almost weekly about Neanderthals, so I created a tribe and a sleuth and labored long and hard on one and a half mysteries for them. The first was well received by almost everyone except the agents, some of whom liked the manuscript, but said they didn't know how to sell it. Since I consider that their job, I couldn't scream: Send it to Scholastic!!! (Rowling's publisher)

Third, comedy. I've always considered writing comedy a cop-out because it's so easy. I found out that it's not easy for everyone, which was really a surprise. So I ran with it--past the boundaries of where I thought I should go, over the top with characters and situations, and--behold!--got it published!

If only they sold lotto tickets where all the numbers were three!

Do you have a magic number? If so, what's it done for you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

7 Unusual Reasons Why You Should Blog

As writers, we all know the importance of blogging. There must be a zillion books and websites dedicated to this type of social media. I won't rehash the things we already know. Instead, my goal this week was to think of some often over looked reasons to be blogging.

1. It gets you out of your shy shell. Are you worried about putting your words out there? Afraid that your bare thoughts may show what a freak of nature you are? Blogging helps you get past that. That's actually a perk of blogging! People like to embrace other's freak flag and then fly their own. Just write down some thoughts and stick em' out there. Don't worry what others think. The first few times you blog, heck maybe even longer, people probably won't comment anyway. That's your chance to build up your courage.

2. You can meet the other freaks. Let's just piggyback off of reason #1. Once people do start commenting, you will notice the wide variety of people online. And I mean wide!

3. Blogging is good for goal setting. If your goal is to write something every day, then there you go. A short blog once a day can help you achieve that.

4. Blogging can jog your creative juices. Once you start writing, all sorts of ideas pop into your head. Write them down so that if you get stuck on what to blog about, you'll have a list for inspiration.

5. You could be a Twitter Trend. Who knows? Anything is possible.

6. Discover the joy of Stat Counter. Want to know how many people are watching your freak flag fly? Install Stat Counter on your blog and check out your numbers. Some days it's enough to make you crazy.

7. Learn the art of accepting criticism. Yep, sometimes the comments are critical. Deal with it. Writing is subjective, and if you are going to do it for a living, you might as well get some tough writer's skin now. Besides, on a blog you can always delete your critics!

Have some other unusual reasons to be blogging? Drop a comment! I'd love to hear from you! Need more blogging tips? Check out this fun site called Morgen Bailey's Blog.