Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Evening Ramble

So I'm getting back into writing. It's a hard road, since I have my wine consulting job (pays the bills!) am editing my daughter's book American Woman, and will be formatting it once we get it back from the secondary editor (because it's always best to have more than one opinion and input option). I am also writing my political articles, which some would say isn't very smart, since some people may not share my views and therefore boycott my books. So be it. I figure there are enough liberal readers out there to keep me busy. And besides, I feel strongly about things like climate change, gun laws and women's issues. And if people don't like it, well you know what "they" say you can do with people who can't take a joke! And who the hell are "they" anyway?

I've picked up a short story I wrote a while back and am going to make it into a long story. It's fun getting back in the saddle again. I sat here the other day, hyperventilating, crying and wringing my hands as I wrote a scene from the book. I live my characters in my head, so when they're upset, I'm upset. It's very cathartic.

One of these days I'm going to have to take a break, head down the coast to Monterey and hang out at McFly's, have a few drinks, dance a few dances, meet some cool people and decompress. But for now, it's work, work, work. At least the writing work is fun. Sort of. When I'm not stuck.

Anyway, that's what I'm up to.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thoughts On Having Too Much To Do

It has occurred to me that having too much to do all too often results in getting less done. Have you found that to be true as well? Back in the day, when my life belonged to me and no one else, I got a lot done - stuff that I wanted to do. I wrote several novels. I was active in my community. I had fun. I think the most fun was being able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. How could that not be fun?

Things are different these days. I have to work at a job where someone else hands me a paycheck. True, I only do it three days a week but that's a lot, particularly when you figure that I have always hated working for someone else. It used to be, when I was young, footloose and fancy-free and thought the ride would never end, that I would gauge a job by how long I would have to work before I could chuck it all and take a few months off to go lie on the beach. But now I'm grown up and have responsibilities and my beach days are over. Not just because I'm no longer young, but because I just don't go to the beach anymore!

Don't get me wrong, there are aspects of the job I have that I really like. Well, actually, there is only one aspect I can claim I will miss when I finally get to walk out that door for the last time. I'm a wine consultant and in that capacity, I get to taste about 2,000 wines a year. I taste everyday wines right on up to the pricey stuff like Cristal and Hundred Acre. I get to taste wines that most people aren't aware of and wouldn't know about except for the fact that I am their consultant and they trust my recommendations. I do like that part of the job. I hate having to wake up early in the morning. I hate have having to put up with the bs that is always part and parcel of any job that requires you to work for someone else. And I hate that it takes me away from the stuff that I love to do, which is writing.

I do write. I write for a political blog about things I care about. And I edit. Currently I am editing a book for my daughter that we are going to release this summer. Its title is American Woman. There is a subtitle but we haven't yet figured out what it is. Our designer, Ralph Faust, has once again come up with a killer cover and we are really excited about it. We have a company, ARK Stories, and we publish our books under that umbrella. We're building it but it's a slow process. My fondest wish is that it will get to the point where it provides both of us with a living doing what we want to do and writing what we want to write.

I've got an idea for a novel but I haven't started it yet. Actually, I have ideas for a lot of novels, but at present there is too much on my plate and I need to luxury of time so I can 1) sit down and write for an extended period of time and 2) remember what in the hell I wrote at first so I can keep things straight in my head while writing. That may sound odd but if I'm away from something for too long a stretch - and by that I mean a week or so - I tend to forget what I've written and what I've only thought of. I don't know if other writers have that problem but I do. So I haven't started my new novel. Yet. But I will. I just don't know when. Hopefully before the year is out, because I really do miss being in the thick of a story that is unfolding as I write it. It's the best kind of fun.

Okay! Well at least I've done something just for me today by writing this blog. Tomorrow it's get up early (ugh! - wish I were a morning person, but I'm not!), go taste some wine and sit in front of a computer all day and call my clients and hunt and peck for new business. Not to mention editing American Woman and maybe writing something scathing on the political blog. I like scathing.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Good To Be Back After Such A Long Hiatus

It's been a long time since I've posted to this blog. Been busy. I released two novels: CRAZY and Cooper's Grove. I've been writing for a political blog - two actually - and I'm currently editing a non-fiction book my daughter is writing on women's issues and the importance of voting. Plus I have my Pay The Bills job as a wine consultant. Doesn't leave a lot of time for much else!

Today I got an email from someone who read one of my older entrees on this blog and it came as a pleasant surprise. I didn't think anyone still looked at it and he must have done a search under my name to get here because, to be honest, this isn't one of those wildly popular blogs that everyone shares with everyone they know! So it was cool.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a new novel. Actually, I still have one that I need to rework in a big way if I want to get it released. It's a thriller with a dash of science fiction. I like the story a lot, particularly a character named Henrietta Dowd. Isn't that a great name? She's a little old lady who drives a humungous Cadillac, circa 1960 something. And one of these days, I know I'll get to it. Henrietta isn't the main character, by the way, but she does play a big and important part in the story.

Newsflash: some woman just posted on Facebook that she has a lady boner for my daughter, writer Kimberley A. Johnson. Not that it has anything to do with what I'm writing now, but I thought it was funny and felt compelled to share it with you.

Back to my new novel idea. As much as I like Henrietta and the strange set of circumstances I created in Magic Man, a title that is certain to be changed, should I ever get around to the rewrite, I am drawn to an idea that has been percolating for several years now. It would be based on my mother and father. She was the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants and he the son of a drunk and a mother who deserted him and his sister to run off with some Englishman named Malcolm. My father and his sister were raised by their three well-to-do maiden aunts. Back in the day they were called Old Maids. I can only guess at the misery that was my father's childhood in that house of oh so proper ladies.

I don't know if it will ever get written. But I hope I find the time because I think it will make a great story. It will be a quiet story because my parents were quiet people, but they were salt of the earth people and best friends to each other.

Both of my parents are gone now. My father died a long time ago, when he was 23 days shy of 46 years old. My mother passed away seven years ago, on July 12, 2007. She was 92. I still miss them and I guess I always will.

If I do write the story, it will be titled Mary and Duke.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Buy A Book. Help A Child!

‘Tis the season! No matter who you are or what you believe, the holiday season ushers in a time of giving, a time of sharing, a time to reflect on the old year and the promise of the new.

One of the things I celebrate (and not just during the holiday season) is my love of reading. It has always been one of the greatest joys of my life and is why I am a writer. I am so grateful for the education I have had and now want to be able to share, if only in some small way, the opportunity to learn that so many of us take for granted.

This year, my daughter and partner in ARK Stories, Kimberley Johnson, and I have decided to spread the joy. For every ARK Stories book purchased between now and midnight December 25, our company will donate $1 (one dollar) to the K.I.N.D. Fund. That means Kids In Need of Desks and it was launched by one of our favorite MSNBC hosts, Lawrence O’Donnell, in coordination with UNICEF. Read about it here.

Whether you purchase a paperback or an eBook, we will donate $1 of the proceeds to K.I.N.D. We’ll post the final tally once the figures are in. In the meantime, you’ll get to read some really cool books! Great Christmas presents too!

Visit ARK Stories to read samples of each book.

Or just use these links to go directly to the online venues.

The Virgin Diaries   available only on Amazon

Also available in eBook formats on Smashwords

Also available in eBook formats on Smashwords

CRAZY   available only on Amazon

Happy holidays!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reading and Reviewing Indie Authors

I read a blog the other day about why Indie authors shouldn’t market to other Indie authors. The thrust of the blog was that by reading the works of other Indie authors and then trading reviews was a fruitless endeavor because ordinary consumers (those who aren’t authors) aren’t going to buy the review of one Indie on another Indie’s work.

I disagree. I will admit there are pitfalls there. If you find a novel that really stinks and say so, you stand the very real chance that the author will take it out on you by posting a scurrilous review of your book, even if it’s a great story and a barn burner. There’s a solution to that. If you read a stinker, just don’t review it. Simple!

As an Indie author, I have been reading a lot of books by my fellow Indie authors. I’ve given some great reviews but only when I felt they were deserved. I’ve had other books either sent to me or ones that I’ve downloaded during a promotion that were poorly formatted, poorly written, poorly constructed and those went straight to the dust bin of my Kindle. I did write one review of a book I liked but where the formatting was kind of screwed up and I mentioned that in my review, stating it made me give it 4 stars instead of 5. The person promoting the book thanked me, and the formatting issue was immediately addressed. But in that instance it was ONLY the formatting, and it wasn’t such a problem that it made the book unreadable. The story itself was very good.

Competing for reviews is an arduous task. I’ve sent out requests to a lot of book bloggers and reviewers and many of them will tell you they won’t post a bad review. If they don’t like the book, they will let the author know it didn’t make the grade but they won’t bash the book publicly. There are those who would say that’s unfair. I ask why? 

In this day and age, when you can go to Amazon or Smashwords or just about any online venue and read portions of the book before buying, you can pretty well judge whether or not it’s your type of book. You can see right away if the author has writing skills, whether or not it’s difficult to read due to the formatting of the text and whether it’s worth your time. And if you make a mistake you can get a refund!

I market to everyone who enjoys the types of books I put out there. Writers are generally known to be avid readers. It’s the reason they’re writers! So why shouldn’t I let other writers know about the books I’ve written? Why shouldn’t they let me know about theirs? I love to read and always have a stack (now virtual) in my To Be Read Pile. Being the voracious reader I am, it gets to be a rather expensive habit, so I love the fact that I can gets lots of books for free or pay $5 or less for a book. Plus, there’s the added bonus of finding some real gems.

So I think I’ll go on reading and reviewing other Indie authors and happily having them read and review me. If I get a bad review here and there, I can take it. It’s part of the bargain. Luckily, the reviews of my books from fellow authors, as well as bloggers and people who are total strangers to me have all been good. Except for one. Actually, that review of DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES was my favorite because it was recommended for “A dirty mouthed sailor” and one of the main characters, a criminal named Albert Crawford, was accused of having a “terrible potty mouth.”

So the next time you’re on Amazon or Goodreads or Smashwords and you see a review from me, know that it is sincere and not just a fawning attempt to wring a good review out of that author for one of my books. I only review books I think are worth reading and I leave it to you to discern the ones that aren’t.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Okay, I'm officially excited! Our designer, the incomparable Ralph Faust, has once again worked his magic and the cover for CRAZY is better than I could have imagined! We went through so many iterations, tried so many approaches and finally came up with the absolute BOMB cover! Thank you, Ralph, a thousand times THANK YOU!

I'm now waiting for the proof copy to arrive so I can make sure my newest novel is ready to be unveiled. But in the meantime, you can check out a couple of chapters here: TWO CHAPTERS

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Writing CRAZY

Conjuring a serial killer is an interesting pastime. To make a killer real requires delving into parts of oneself that perhaps one doesn’t wish to examine. Then again…

Who hasn’t given over to a nasty flight of fancy when somebody out there really pissed them off? It isn’t something we necessarily share with others, these evil imaginings, but we’ve all engaged in it at least once and probably more than any of us would care to admit. When writing a killer, especially a seriously deranged killer, those flights of fancy are a mere stepping off point and pretty soon, take on a life of their own upon the page. 

My killer begins slowly, with a nasty little missive sent in the Christmas mail. The serial killer inside hasn’t yet been born, but it is gestating and has been gestating since age ten when my killer squeezed the family pet canary to death and then went to the kitchen for some milk and cookies. Jealousy is the fuel that fires the killer and as my protagonist, Emily Simonson, becomes more and more successful, the killer becomes more and more enraged. Taking the leap from killing a canary to torturing and killing women who look like Emily is a journey that I, as an author, had to imagine, construct and make plausible. So I had to get inside the head of my killer, and let the reader know what is going on inside that head.

For example:

    Let’s see, what kind of message would make a lasting impression on Little Miss I’m So Fucking Special? Or maybe I should amend that to Big Miss. A giggle there. God, she is so... so... large. Big bones, big frame, big fucking head, thinking she’s so much better than anyone else. Miss Look At Me I’m On Television. No, don’t go off on a tangent, just stick to what’s important, and what’s important here is to make her squirm. Like a worm. Squirm like a worm.
    Laughing again. Picking up the telephone and dialing the number and waiting. Waiting to hear that oh so perky greeting. But instead of her annoying voice there’s that chiming noise from the phone company and then a computer-generated message. “We’re sorry but the number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please check your directory and dial again.” Feverishly depressing the hang-up button and redialing only to hear the same message. Slamming down the phone, in a temper now. 
    She changed her number! The fucking bitch changed her number! Thinks she can escape that easy, huh? Well, we’ll just see about that!  But how? What can I do? 
    Pacing back and forth, twirling a lock of hair. Tighter and tighter until the pain comes. Like it’s being pulled out at the roots. Twisting it tighter yet. Trying to think but thought is so difficult under the circumstances. Feeling so all alone and misunderstood. 
    “We’ll have to make quite an impression on her this time.” The voice of the Guardian, so silky smooth and soft, whispering. “You have to let her know she’s dealing with someone who means business.”
    A feeling of relief. No longer alone. Now there’s someone who knows what to do, who can offer advice. Who can plan. Thank God there’s someone who knows.
    What should I do? How can I let her know that?
    “It’s all in the details.”
    What kind of details?
    A moaning sound, almost like an orgasm, an expression of sublime pleasure. “Oh, all sorts of details. Come, learn at the feet of the master.”
    “We are about to change Little Miss Emily’s life.”
    A wince as the hated name scrapes the eardrums much as fingernails drawn across a chalkboard.
   “Are you prepared?”
    “Then let us begin.”

I got about three quarters of the way through writing CRAZY when I thought perhaps I’d better see how my serial killer stood up to the real thing. It was eye opening. So many of the things I had my killer do were the hallmarks of some of the more famous serial killers of our time, even though I hadn’t been aware of their actions. It’s kind of scary in a way, but it’s also exhilarating because it tells me that my imagination is steering me right and ultimately, the story will have the ring of truth, albeit a strange and awful truth. Then it will be up to you, the reader, to decide whether my efforts make the grade.

You can check out my forthcoming novel and read a couple of chapters here: