22 December 2015

Winter Solstice 2015

     People who know me might assume that since today is the first day of winter, I might be headed fast for bummer's-ville. Not in the least. The winter solstice is quite a significant day for me. I figure that if I can make it until today - the darkest, gloomiest, day of the year - everything will be uphill from here on in.
     Starting tomorrow, the sun will begin to rise a few minutes earlier with each passing day. In just a few months it will once again be birds chirping and sun rays streaming in at 6am. And that is how the world should be all year round. I am ruled by the sun and like to be up at the crack of dawn. Especially when that's 5:30 in the morning. I would also prefer sunlight late into the night but, if I had to choose, I'd take early sunrise over anything else. 
     So even though it's the first day of my least-liked season, I feel as if the worst is over and hot sunny days are on the horizon. (and I refuse to ponder the reality that in the San Francisco area hot & sunny are not part of the normal weather parlance.) I'll deal with finding that local in a few months.


      Happy Solstice, (be it winter or summer)
Peace on Earth, God Will Towards Men


13 October 2015

Waiting for a Bestseller Listing

The books are all in print and now it's just a matter of selling a few. My attempts at marketing are in full swing, and time will tell how successful I have been at it this time around.
     I now have another reason to hope for best-in-book sales other than just paying the bills and buying a bit of food. I need a comfortable place to sit and read and watch TV.
     As the years go by, I find that I can no longer sit on the floor with a pillow and be content. All those younger years of having no furniture and making do with a beach chair in the living room and a blanket on the floor, just don't do it anymore. Presently, I do have furniture but it's quite ancient. I had thought that my constant discomfort and fidgeting to try and get into a halfway decent position, was a matter of age. It wasn't. Or at least not 100% of the problem.
     Driving by a La-Z-Boy store last week, I thought I'd drop in to try out some recliner chairs. All they seemed to have on the floor were rocking-recliners which I don't care for. Then I asked about sofas with recliners and was led over to another section of the massive store. The sales manager left me to look over the extensive selection.
     The first one I saw was dead ugly, but I took a seat. I raised the foot rest. I leaned back. And that's when I realized that it actually was possible to sit comfortably. My neck didn't hurt, my knees felt great, and I felt like I was in the arms of a giant teddy bear. I swear I could have closed my eyes and gone to sleep in three seconds flat. I would never have thought all the discomfort I associated with sitting in a chair or on a sofa was just because I wasn't in the proper piece of furniture.  
     I am so tempted to drop by again to make sure the comfort I felt was real. But I know I can't do that again until I can afford to buy one. Ever since my outing, I have realized just how uncomfortable I am when trying to sit and relax. I hope, as the days go by, that I return to the thought process of it's just an older body....deal with it.     
     Some people dream of buying Ferraris or yachts or a house in Beverly Hills. I dream of a La-Z-Boy Lancer sofa.

10 September 2015

Paperback Editions Coming Soon

     Back in 2009, after searching around quite a bit, I found that I could publish  Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, for a reasonable price using BookSurge, which would later become Create Space. In 2011, I used them again for The Curse Breaker of Cairo.
     I had another book or two ready for press, but simply could not afford the price to publish in paperback. And then Amazon KDP came along and I was saved. At least my books would be available in ebook form.
     I have received monthly newsletters from Create Space for years. Often, they carried useful articles about self publishing and stories about other independent authors. So how is that until less than a week ago, I had not realized that one could now publish a paperback edition for free?
     Soon - within hours of finding this out -  I got to work converting my word doc for Costa Contente into a submissible format. Between the information available on Create Space, their Community help, and good old fashioned trial and error, I did it.
     It took me around thirty hours to get it totally sorted out, but I do like figuring out things by myself. More than a few times I questioned if I could do it. And although the cost of having Create Space format a book is less than half of what it was in 2009, it was still more than I could afford.
    Then, having the skills fresh in my mind, I quickly formatted Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem, and Bad Accounts.

I am now awaiting proofs of the three books to see if I actually did do it right.
Providing I did so, the books should be available in a week or two.

I'm still sort of kicking myself for now knowing about the free-paperback-publishing thing, but "publishing" three books in one week sounds mighty impressive.

And, as always, I highly recommend Create Space. They have some of the best customer service reps you could ever hope to talk to; they reply immediately to emails, and answer all the stupid questions you might have without making you feel like a complete idiot.

18 August 2015

The Berkeley Barb, People's Park, & Four Teenagers

This week the long-gone Berkeley Barb commemorated 50 years since its first publication. For those who have never heard of the newspaper:

“The Berkeley Barb was launched by Max Scherr on August 13, 1965, and was one of the earliest underground newspapers to serve the civil rights, anti-war, and countercultural movements in the Sixties. For 15 years, from 1965 to 1980, the Barb was a voice for a generation looking to change the world.

The Barb mixed radical politics with psychedelic art, guerrilla comics, local happenings, opinions, reviews, advice, personal ads, and frequent calls to protest. It offered its readers an unabashed alternative to the conformist mainstream press. At a nexus between Free Speech and the Sexual Revolution, the Barb trumpeted the irrepressible passions of the American counterculture.” Berkeley Barb
A request was sent out for reminiscences. The following is a bit of back story to the article, V-Sign Downs Rifles, in the May 28-29, 1969 issue.

     May 1969 – People’s Park protests are in full swing. Tanks roll up University Avenue and Berkeley is occupied by the National Guard.  Guardsmen line the streets of downtown and the UC campus. Berkeley High School students walk by the jeeps and tanks and troops to get to classes. After school, many walk the few blocks up to Cal to participate in the protests. 
rt-lft: singing-Danza, (Marcus' hand on shoulder),kat,?
Danza, Marcus, Kat, and Candy, 15 and 16-year-olds from BHS, head up to the chancellor’s house to join in a peaceful protest against the occupation of Berkeley and the People’s Park situation. They are some of the first to arrive.
     The National Guard are already staged in front of the chancellor’s residence, equipped in full riot gear: bayonets, gas masks, and helmets. There are a lot of them.   
     Soon many more Cal students and others begin to gather on the lawn in front of the house. Many hold signs and chant. As the crowd grows, the four BHS students at the front began to feel the bumps and jostling, and the tension increases.  The National Guardsmen are given orders to form a solid line, don their gas masks, hold their bayonets at the ready.
      The Berkeley High kids are well-versed in protests. They have participated in them since 7th grade. They know the risk of being on the front line. There is always someone in the very back who decides to throw a brick, or a bottle or a rock. And then the folks in the front get clobbered, and tear gas is thrown, and mayhem takes over. And there goes the peaceful protest.

      One of the BHS kids looks around at the growing tension and has an idea. Let’s start singing patriotic songs. The friends agree. The choice for the first is The Star Spangled Banner, Followed by My Country ’Tis of Thee, America, This Land is Your Land, and others.

     Soon, the entire group of protesters are singing along. The BHS students have another idea: Let’s sit down. And then the whole crowd sits down. 
     The National Guard guys start to relax. First one takes off his gasmask and helmet and backs away. Then another, and another. Their lines loosen up. A mellow mood envelops the crowd. After a few more songs, the protest crowd begins to dissipate, everyone in a good mood.

Candy,Kat,Danza,(Daily Cal photo)
    The BHS students are elated. They actually prevented heads from being cracked, tear gas from being thrown, and arrests from being made. Only those four knew that they were the ones who had done it; and that was enough. That’s just what teenagers did in Berkeley in the 60’s.

The Berkeley Barb reporter who wrote about the incident didn’t know about the high school students part in preventing another bloody incident. But the photographer, Alan Copeland, managed to get their picture. Should anyone know if Mr. Copeland is still around, please drop me a line.




18 June 2015

David Blatt Might Like "Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem"

The NBA Finals are over, the local guys won, so I'm quite pleased. I do love sports, but never have watched a lot of professional basketball. Golden State being so hot this year, I became a rabid fan during the playoffs.

But it wasn't until the finals came on that I heard about Coach David Blatt. Heck, he was in Israel when I was living there and I'm sure he knew my basketball player friends.  And it wasn't until just a few days ago that I thought, now here's someone who might like my book.

Let me be clear, Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem is fiction. But it does take place in Tel Aviv and it does involve fictional Israeli basketball players. I think it's quite funny - which is not to say that Mr. Blatt will find the escapades of an American trying to find her way in Israel to be quite so hilarious. But he just might.

So if any of you out there know Mr. Blatt, would you please let him know about my book?

09 June 2015

Bay Area Book Festival

Berkeley, CA June 6 & 7

Eco Alley
How could it be that I hadn’t even heard of the Bay Area Book Festival until two weeks before it happened? After all, I live quite close by and yet the first time I read about it was in a pop-up ad on Goodreads. Apparently, it had been well publicized in the SF Chronicle, but who even reads that paper anymore? And even they only started carrying information about it less than a month ago. I must not be hanging out with the right crowd….the festival was quite well attended.
The book festival website boasted hundreds of authors and a ton of free talks about everything you could imagine: current affairs, culture, entertainment, memoirs, tech, spirituality, writing, publishing, and more. There were areas for children’s books, teen books, radical writers, and environmental warriors. Even after carefully going through the website program, and noting the talks I wanted to attend, I had no idea just how large and comprehensive it was to be.

Downtown Berkeley is relatively small but always crowded and a general mess to get around. And it isn’t what I would call a pleasant place to take a stroll – too grungy for my taste, especially when I recall years gone by when it was rather lovely. Having said that, with several blocks cordoned off for pedestrian traffic, thereby not having to dodge all the hazards that are generally present, it was quite enjoyable.

And here is where I found out just how cool the whole deal was. I turned the corner at Shattuck, onto Addison, (renamed Literary Lane for the weekend), surprised to see the street lined with booths of booksellers and authors. The first few booths held places like The University of California Press, and other small publishing houses. But just a few steps further along and I ran smack dab into a couple of ladies that sure looked like fellow independent authors.

sidewalk poetry downtown Berkeley
Lori Hart Beninger and SabrinaRawson stood side by side, books on the table, business cards out front. I quickly ascertained that they were in fact fellow members of the Tribe of Struggling Authors.

Huh? I could have had a booth at the Fair? I had thought it was just for the Big Guys and not folks like me. Suddenly, I no longer felt the pangs of intimidation I had experienced while reading about all the known authors and deep thinkers who were to be featured at the festival. All those self-doubts that had surfaced telling me things like who do you think you’re kidding….real authors actually get invited to give talks, quickly vanished. These women were definitely real authors and they were part of the Book Festival! It was absolutely wonderful to exchange thoughts, ideas, marketing tips, and experience with others like myself.
Maybe it was better that I hadn’t known of the possibility of having a stand at the fair because I now had the leisure to cruise around and talk to lots of other indie authors. I met Kristin Fulton, Barbara Hawkins, James Robinson, Alina Sayre, and Mandy Rowe, all of whom had wonderful books just waiting to be discovered by the world at large.

The plan had been to attend a bunch of the talks, but I soon realized it would be more of a hassle than I was willing to put up with. First, one had to stand in a block-long line to pick up the free tickets to a lecture. Then one would have to stand in a long line outside of a venue. Crowds, and the subsequent florescent lighting, sealed the deal; I stowed my list of events and simply continued to walk the circuit. 
Literary Lane
While walking down Literary Lane, I noticed a man with an official author’s badge around his neck, seated in front of a booth, holding a book. I glanced more closely and saw that it was John Scalzi, the science fiction author whose lecture I had wanted to attend.

In my younger years, sci fi was my preferred genre. I dreamed of being a spacer although, realistically, I knew that that could only really take place a few centuries after my expiration date. The next best thing was reading it, and I had big dreams of writing it. Somewhere along the way, reading sci fi got lost. Maybe it was because the books I picked up didn’t appeal to me, or maybe it was because no one I knew read it so recommendations were scarce. Whatever the reason, my sci fi fix turned to tv and movies.
I approached Mr. Scalzi and mentioned how I had hoped to attend his talk but would probably pass on it due to the long lines. He wasn’t bothered in the least. I told him of my love for sci fi books, but that I just hadn’t read anything in quite a while, and asked about his latest book, Lock In. As he began to tell me about it, I remembered why I love science fiction. I will be reading his work very soon. Someone that pleasant, who takes the time to talk to an unknown like me, (the lady who couldn't be bothered with waiting for his talk), has to be a good author. He also told me a little about his life as a writer which gave me hope for my own career.  What a very pleasant man! Heck, he was even kind enough to take my card.

Maybe next year, if I am still in the area, I’ll be on a panel….though I can’t imagine what panel….local girl makes good? I actually think I’d prefer to do what I did this weekend, just walk around and talk to authors and enjoy being surrounded by books, thoughts, and happy people.

26 May 2015

The Joy of Reading Indie Authors

  Now that I have a kindle, I'm having the best time finding and reading other independent authors.
     Once or twice a week I peruse the kindle lists of top 100 free books. I search through mystery, thriller, sci fi, literature, and anything else that might catch my fancy that day. I've found one amazing book and several very good books. I've also downloaded several that weren't so wonderful, but still gave them a try.
     If I like the book, I rate/review it on Goodreads and, if I remember, on Amazon. If I don't like it, I don't do anything. (I'll leave that to others.)
     I will be sure to at least start every free book I download and finish it if it appeals to me. And I will promise to rate it and at least write a few words about any book I finish.
     I'm sure there are books out there by known authors, published by someone other than themselves, that I would really enjoy. But for now, I'm doing my part to support my fellow independent writers who need readers and reviews to get their writing careers off to a blazing start. After all, if I'm expecting people to take a chance with my writing, I should at least return the favor.
     Any independent author's who may be running some promo days and want me to read your book, let me know. I can assure you I'll look at it.

19 April 2015

I Have Made the Leap to kindle

I now own a kindle. I've already read one book and started two others.
My resistance in purchasing one is a result of several factors. Firstly, I have sensitive eyes that do not like things such as florescent lighting. I was scared that reading on a kindle would bother me. And it did for the first two days when my eyes felt all wonky and I got massive headaches. Then I looked online to see if others had had the same problem. A few suggestions, like closing my eyes on page turns to not catch the flash, and waiting it out until my eyes adjusted to the new format, did the trick.

I also could not see how reading on a kindle would ever even approach the feeling of holding a book. After checking with everyone I knew who had a kindle, and stopping people at caf├ęs to get their opinion, I surmised that it just might be ok. And after reading on it for a few days, I think all will be right.

The cost was the last barrier, so I waited for the tax return, then waited for the kindle sale, then hit buy.

There is also the fact that many books, including several of my own, are only available in e format. I have tried to read books on my laptop but anything more than a short story is very uncomfortable. If I expect others to read my works as an ebook, I could at least do the same.

I am already starting to see the advantages. As I said, I do not tolerate florescent lighting. Entering a library or bookstore is a sort of hell for me. I might survive without a migraine, but not without disorientation and other problems. I miss spending time in a library, scouring the bookshelves for things to read and learn about. But since I haven't really been able to do that since the last time a public library had incandescent lighting, it's only a distant memory. Eventually, all the fluorescents will be replaced with LED lights, and I will again be able to peruse library shelves. Realistically, that may not happen in my lifetime, so kindle reading it is.

24 March 2015

The Many Wonders of Costa Contente - FREE DOWNLOAD

I will be running a free download promo of my book, The Many Wonders of Costa Contente, on April 10th & 11th.

One reviewer on Amazon had this to say:

"This is a book of stories, woven into the tapestry of a different community, but one similar to where I once lived in and called home. This theme should be familiar to anyone who lived somewhere outside of their community or familiarity where they where raised. I loved reading this. The author paints with her words the folklore of a small town. As I read the stories, I saw the community that had been there for generations, rich in its history. It took me back to when I lived in a small village in Brazil, every one knew a common but embellished history. But in this book you see history as it happens, it becomes real. One line I could particularly relate to was about some past experiences of a character named Zequinho, relating to memories, "that was so long ago that it now felt like something he had read in a book, not really experienced". I was caught in that place, between reality and imagination, and had the feeling of "yes"... it did happened. I could feel, see, and smell it as if it was only yesterday. Beautifully written, words painting new, but somewhat familiar images, giving life to faded memories."
I really want more people to read it, and am happy to give away copies. This time I hope people really are interested in reading it rather than simply downloading a copy because it is there.
And if you'd like to post a short review, it would be greatly appreciated.

26 February 2015

Happy Year of the Ram

The Year of the Ram is off to a good start. For reasons unknown to me, my books are selling. Not only my Kindle editions, but also paperback copies. It's not quite enough to pay the bills, but it's more than I've ever made in any previous month. The books are being bought in the US and the UK, so now I can really say that I am an internationally known author.

Tet 2011 HCMC
It's hard to really appreciate the Lunar New Year when you live outside of Asia, but if my sales keep increasing, I might just be celebrating the Year of the Monkey in Vietnam or Malaysia.

11 February 2015

Great Reads for the Commute

I hear my books are great for reading while traveling on trains, planes, boats and buses. With this in mind, I thought that maybe that is how I should promote my work. Instead of Mystery, Paranormal, or Literary Fiction,  I should simply list my books as "Commute Reading".

My latest, Bad Accounts, and my two Jaz mysteries, would be good choices for a  tedious ride. Easy, fast, funny, and if the bus bounces or the train screeches, you can easily climb right back into the story.

I'm not so sure that my paranormal romances would fall into the category of public reading. Or maybe it would be for some, but I personally would not feel comfortable reading hot and heavy romance scenes in public. Although one reader did report reading  Nha Trang Haunted while running on a treadmill in a war zone.

If anyone knows of place to list Great Commute Reads, please let me know.

27 January 2015

Back to Shevled Projects

Now that BAD ACCOUNTS has been published, it's time to get on to writing something new.
I dream of living among the iguanas

I always have story ideas floating around in my head, but I also have a couple of projects that I simply can't decide about. One, a dark paranormal/sci-fi-ish tale, got put in a box over a year ago. After all the work I put into it, I can't see tossing it out. I've spent the past month re-reading and editing. I go between thinking it's good to thinking it's garbage. I have no idea why I can't get a real feel about this this one. I can't decide if I really like it or not.

So I went back to a novella that will be part of my Vietnam trilogy.....can't decide about that one either.

Therefore, I started the third novella.

I never, ever have more than one writing project going at the same time, so am very surprised by this. I'll work on one, then flip to the other, then think maybe I should simply start something brand new.

I suppose it has something to do with putting out a  new book. Every time I have published a new work I say to myself, THIS is the one that will get noticed!  .....and then it doesn't.....and then I think, OK, maybe the next one will do the trick. 

It's only been a month since Bad Accounts came out, so perhaps I should give it some more time. Or perhaps I should follow the advice of a friend who, noting that the story takes place in the Carmel/Monterey area of California, suggested I contact Clint Eastwood about using it for his next film project. 

Time to get back to whatever it is I'm working on this hour.

19 January 2015

Reviews are Coming In

Pia often visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium
I released my latest book, Bad Accounts, at the end of December. Soon after, I ran a five day giveaway.

And then the waiting began....maybe someone will really read my book and then maybe they will rate or review it.

I am thrilled that in less than a month since it was put up on Amazon, I have both. Even better, both readers gave Bad Accounts 5 stars. What a wonderful start to 2015.

10 January 2015

Free Download Update

My latest book, BAD ACCOUNTS was available for free download 30 Dec - Jan 2.
I had some takers, but not nearly as many as I have had with my other books in the past. I do think it has to do with genre. People look for Paranormal Romance, or Mystery, or Chic lit. The only category I could figure out for my new book was "humor".

In my experience, number of downloads has nothing whatsoever with actual readers or ratings or reviews. Maybe it is a good thing that I had less people interested in Bad Accounts. Maybe the folks who download humor might just read it.

I still think it is a good way to publicize my work....possibly the only way.
Once again, I singed up for a Facebook account, and once again I deleted it in under 5 minutes. All I did was submit my name and suddenly there was a list of very, very, scary looking folks who I "might know" and would I like to add them as friends? Where did they get these people from? Why might I know them? I know people swear by Facebook but it still scares the dickens out of me. So I will stick to my blogs, Goodreads, and the kindness of strangers.