Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Hold Charles Dickens Completely Responsible

Decided to share this again. First published last holiday season.
Since I was a child, 
I would watch countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol on TV and
in the movies. I've seen variations of the character of Scrooge played by the likes of Alec Guinness, Susan Lucci, Jim Carrey, Vanessa Williams, and Scrooge McDuck. I even read the novel way back, when I was into a Reading the Classics Phase, which is a great phase to be in, frankly. We learn from the masters.
In 25-words or less, A Christmas Carol is a story of a mean, hard-hearted person who hates Christmas and all it stands for i.e. love, charity, and warm fuzzy slippers. On that fateful Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge could have just as easily uttered, "Cripes! It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. Someone pass me a Tums." Let's face it, if antacids had been around then, it might have been a different story. 
But being a genius writer, Dickens has Scrooge find his inner self, thanks to an unending supply of colorful and inventive ghosts who are out to show he doesn't have to be the rat-fink he thinks himself to be. It is touch and go for awhile, but kindness and mercy win out. Love of fellowman scores a touchdown. And we, the readers, cheer from the sidelines. Yes, you can be a B&BP (bigger and better person) if only you try.
Taking this story to heart since I was around five-years old, I was convinced it was possible to help change a person's character. Yes, enlighten them as to the good in everyone, help them to see the gentler part of humankind, that which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and you've got something. Although, according to Lila Hamilton Alvarez, the matriarch of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize. I should have listened to her.
So, at the ripe old age of 49 and holding, holding, holding, held and strangled, I have come to realize change is not going to happen for some people. They are incapable of change, they don't see the need, or sadly, some people believe they don't deserve happiness, so changing for the better is not an option. For them, a troubled, loveless life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psych 101, folks.
 But because of Charles Dickens, I saw the hope. I saw the possibility. 
Consequently, I spent decades trying to win one or two people over, loving them just a little bit more than the day before, and to hopefully, make them love me. 
Forget it. You can't make anybody do anything. What's the old saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or was it, you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think?
But Dickensian lovers, despair not. I am not slamming a man who knew minutely about humanity's strengths and weaknesses. There is a deeper truth in A Christmas Carol, one I failed to see the first few hundred times of viewing or reading. 
The beauty of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge is not that he changed, but that he wanted to change. He wanted to be a B&BP. It was and is the miracle of inner perspective. And Christmas, after all, is the time of miracles. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. And God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth

I recently saw a production of Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth, given by Mountain View High School students. It was amazing.
First of all, I had forgotten just what a fine play Thornton Wilder had written. As a teen, I had been involved in two productions of it, myself. One in high school and the other in college. I was too young and too inexperienced to understand the complexities held within the manuscript. Wilder winning a Pulitzer Prize for the play should have been my first clue he was on to something, but I can be slow on the uptake.
Wrapped in allegories, anachronisms, humor, dinosaurs, and satire, Wilder exposes social mores, sadly even more relevant today than in 1942. It's about the way society gets caught up in the trappings of male/female roles, the educated vs the uneducated, the haves and the have nots, man's love of creation and need for destruction. The author throws in murder, lust, and betrayal, almost as an afterthought, but then there's a lot of think about in this work. A frightening, but often hilarious play, it is one that asks us to ponder our own lot in life and enforced expectations.
Under the capable direction of Rob Seitelman, Mountain View's drama teacher, a fine production of this play was mounted. To my mind, it was of a higher calibre than one had a right to expect of high school students. But maybe not. Today's children are much more aware and savvy than the youth in my day. And when you have a dedicated, talented director such as Mr. Seitelman, buoyed by healthy school funding, strong parental support, kids who are devoted to the arts, and a beautiful theatre in which to deliver this bundle, a lot can be accomplished. And is.
So, let's give credit where credit is due. Last week Thornton Wilder, Rob Seitelman, and the Mountain View cast and crew delivered the goods in The Skin of Our Teeth. I was privileged to see them strut their stuff.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Michelle K. Pickett Has a New Novel Coming Out

Michelle is an award winning author and is very excited about her new book, Unspeakable, as is everyone else. And the cover is sensational! Just see for yourself. The muted colors are exquisite and there's something about the eyes. They look right at you, promising much...maybe. And what lurks behind the face of this innocent looking girl that can be so 'unspeakable'?

A quote from Goodreads:
 "We are excited to share with you the official cover reveal of UNSPEAKABLE by Michelle K. Pickett. UNSPEAKABLE is a young adult contemporary romance that is scheduled to release in February of 2015. Check out more information below and make sure to add it to your TBR List!" 

Unspeakable Blurb:

“Breathe. No one will break me. I’m strong. Breathe. Just breathe.”

On the outside, Willow appears to have it all. She’s beautiful, smart, from an influential family, and she dates the most popular guy in school—Jaden. But she would walk away from it all in a second. Willow is tormented by lies and suffocating guilt, not the hearts and flowers people believe her life is full of.

She carries a dark secret. Plagued by nightmares and pain, the secret dominates her life. If she hadn’t walked away. If she had just…but she didn’t. And now she has to live with her choice. But when someone uncovers her family’s past, they use it against her, crushing her spirit little by little. She tells herself she just has to make it to graduation. Then she can leave Middleton, and her secret, far behind.

When Brody transfers to Cassidy High, he turns Willow’s life upside down. He shows her what it feels like to live again, really live. And suddenly, she isn’t satisfied with just surviving until graduation. She wants a normal life—with Brody—and he wants her. But the closer they become, the more it threatens to unravel the secret she’s worked so hard to hide.

Willow finds true love with Brody. Will she let his love save her, or walk away from him to keep her secret safe?

About the author:

Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel PODs. She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.

Want to know more about Unspeakable? Then  visit:
Goodreads -

And lastly, here's Michelle's Amazon page, where you can learn more about her and her books:
Amazon -


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heather and Her New BFF, Bookbub

Getting your name out there as a novelist is a lot of work. The good news about being independent is you get to do what you want. You have the power. The bad news is you need to do the promoting, marketing, strategizing yourself. If you don't, your book(s) could sink down in the oblivion of the thousand others coming onto the market each day. It takes time from writing, thinking, researching, etc. So enter Bookbub.
If you have a book that is established, Bookbub sends out emails to readers from across the board to download your work, but only if it is deeply discounted or free.

This is the second time I've used Bookbub to promote one of my books - and it ain't cheap, folks - but I have been very happy with the results. Bookbub probably works best if you have a series, which I do. Two of them, in fact. I have offered the first book of each, The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries and the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, for free. The hope is that if the reader likes the first free book, they will go and buy the others at normal cost.

I've heard of other authors who participate monthly in the free giveaways and have had great success. Some offer their works for free or 99 cents, both for a limited time. I have joined the group. I don't know if I can do it monthly - have I mentioned this ain't cheap? - especially if you do a free mystery. That category is at the top of the pay scale, coming in at my yearly shoe allowance.

With Amazon's Kindle now offering Kindle Unlimited as an option for its readers, I have no idea how it will change the Amazon/Bookbub marriage. Kindle Unlimited, copying Netflix's monthly charge for unlimited DVDs, is now offering free, unlimited book reads for a similar monthly charge. Will that affect the free book promotions? I have no idea. But I'm in it, folks, I'm in it. And I feel like I'm sitting at a blackjack table in Vegas. Winner takes it all. Loser selling small.

Any opinions?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blog Hop - Writers On Writing

I was asked by the gifted writer, Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds, to join a blog hop devoted to how writers go through the process of writing. Before I get into any specifics about me, I would like to state my belief that no matter what the genre, we writers do our best to turn out quality work. Further, none of us knows for sure what it is we're writing until we've written it. This is true even for non-fiction. The insecurity of this is the commonality that binds us together. We know everything. We know nothing. We give birth to and love our characters. We force them to go through turmoil and pain, stripping away self-respect and inner peace. We dream up worlds for them to visit or live; worlds in which we, ourselves, have no intention of being a part. We condense, homogenize, glorify, shame or exemplify facets of the human condition. To wit, we create fiction that shines a light on truth.
From the first Neanderthal who picked up a flint to scratch on the wall of a cave, to Shakespeare, Jane Austin, John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, and all the thousands before and to follow, we are part of a noble profession. Once we get away from the insanity it takes to be a writer, we are left with the simple joy of writing words that impact, share, and illuminate our fellow human beings. As I say, it is a noble profession.

What am I working on/writing?
I am working on what I would like to think is the final draft of the fourth book in the humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, DEAD....If only. But I know it isn't. I have another round of rewrites to make, at least. Then it goes to my friend and editor, Baird Nuckolls, who will find the flaws and weaknesses I can no longer see. After Baird does her thing, and I make those corrections, I will then send it to my beta readers, who will, hopefully, nitpick the hell out of it. How this sucker will ever see the light of day, how any of the six previous novels have ever seen the light of day, is the biggest mystery of them all. Even though I am sick to death of the story by now, hate this part of the process, I will persevere. Not because I am responsible or disciplined, but because there's nothing else to be done for it. It's a writer's lot. Heigh ho.

How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
For the most part, I write humorous mysteries, but the laughs often run parallel with serious matters i.e., hurt, sadness, misunderstandings, disappointments, and so forth. While my characters are flawed, I try to have each of them learn life lessons, and to become B&BP (Bigger and Better People). My personal philosophy is the glass is always half full, and I try to share that through my characters. My protagonists in both mystery series - Lee Alvarez in the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, and Persephone 'Percy' Cole, of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries - have this trait. I don't want them to make the same mistakes again and again, doomed for all eternity to be exactly who they were when they started out. I want them to learn and grow. Not only does it make the characters more interesting, but in my opinion, it's part of real life. Everyday when most of us get up, we discover or learn something new, even if it's don't put leaves from your rosebush in the garbage disposal; it becomes really unhappy. That was my lesson for the day.

Why do I write what I do?
 Frankly, life is tough. Some days it can be overwhelmingly difficult. If I can help someone through a bad day by handing them a laugh, lighten their hearts for just a moment, steal their minds away from their troubles, I'm proud to do it. I remember several years ago when I was at Copperfield's Books in Napa, signing my novels. A woman took her time in choosing which book of the series she wanted, carefully reading all the blurbs on the back covers. She apologized for taking so long, saying it was because she wanted something funny to read aloud during the times her sister was having chemo treatments. The woman teared up and said her sister was having a rough time of it, needed to be brought out of herself, and have a good laugh. Well, I teared up, too. No, I don't have the Great American Novel in me. But what I do have is an understanding of the need for humor in our lives.

How does my writing process work?
Good gawd, who knows? I sit down and write nearly every day for as long as I can. Even when we go on vacation - especially when we go on vacation - I write at least three to five hours a day. Here's a homespun truth: You can't be a writer unless you write. So that's what I do. The upside of this is the more you do it, the better you get. My most creative part of the day is morning. I'm fresh and have a little energy. I usually wake up with a thousand thoughts inside my head and I can't wait to get them down on paper. I grab a quick cup of coffee and run to my desk. I'm followed by my cats, who drape themselves everywhere. It's tradition. I actually don't mind; I like the companionship. I work over, under, or around them, periodically pushing them aside, and get on with it. Wherever I go in my mind, or wherever my fingers go on the keyboard, is a world I love intensely. I am very blessed that Life and my husband allow me to write without a lot of interference. The only caveat are cat treats. Did I mention one of my cats is Siamese? The little darling will bellow until plaster falls off the walls when it's time for his treats. My writing comes to a grinding halt until they are served. Priorities, my friends, priorities.

Next week’s Blog Hop, Monday, June 9thMeet three talented writers who will answer the same questions I did: Cindy Sample, Roseanne Dowell, and Marva Dasef. I hope you will zip on over and visit them. Just click on their names and you're off and away!

Cindy Sample is a former mortgage banking CEO who decided plotting murder was more entertaining than plodding through paperwork. She retired to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a mystery author. Her national bestselling humorous mystery series, set in the gold country of California, features single soccer mom, Laurel McKay.
Dying for a Date, released in 2010, was followed by Dying for a Dance, the winner of the 2011 Northern California Publishers and Authors award for Fiction. Dying for a Daiquiri, a 2014 finalist for the LEFTY Award for Best Humorous Mystery moves the action to Hawaii. It was by far the most fun to research. Cindy is currently working on Dying for a Dude and having a blast. Visit her Amazon webpage at: 

                                        Roseanne Dowell
Roseanne grew up reading first Nancy Drew mysteries and soon moved on to Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. She’s a big fan of Agatha Christie and always loved writing even as a teen, often making up different endings to books she read and writing poems.
While working as a school secretary, she took  a correspondence course, writing for children. It didn’t take long to realize that even though she had six children, it took someone special to write books for them. So, she tried her hand at nonfiction, but didn’t care for that either.  That’s when she moved on to romance novels. But they sat in the attic with her poems and journals.
In 2002 at a Book Club meeting, she confessed regret about not pursuing a career in writing. That’s all it took.  Her friends convinced her it wasn’t too late. After giving it some thought, she decided they were right and took another writing course. Within a few months, her first article was published in Good Old Days Magazine. Since then, she’s had articles published in several magazines.
In 2006, Roseanne’s first book, Satin Sheets, was published and sold over 35,000 copies. Since then, she’s decided to go the way of the future – E-books.  She writes various types of romance – paranormal, contemporary, mystery and women’s fiction. Her heroines range from their early twenties to late seventies. Yes, seniors need love, too.  Her books are available from Amazon.
Roseanne lives with her husband of fifty years, has six grown children, fourteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She spends her time between writing, quilting, and embroidering. She also enjoys blogging, tweeting, facebooking and posting on various writers’ groups. Her favorite time is being with her family.

Born in Eugene, OR and a grad of the UofO, Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, a fat white cat, and a snarky black cat.  Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation.  Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with her stories included in several Best of anthologies. She has several books in many genres already published in all formats. Visit her Amazon webpage at: