Saturday, January 24, 2015


Sorry this is late - Saturday instead of my usual Wednesday - and it’s also not about writing. Unless you clever authors find a way to put what I’m going to tell you in one of your books. Perhaps a historical romance. It’s about a fact which, like me, you probably didn’t know. Fact: no skyscrapers were built in American cities before the 1850s.

Well, maybe you did know that, but did you know why? It wasn’t because architects and engineers didn’t have the means to build them, but rather because people who lived in cities were deathly afraid of them. Back then, elevator accidents were an all-too-common problem, and every time an elevator cable broke and people plunged to their deaths, it was reported in the newspapers.

Then, in 1854, an inventor named Elisha Otis did something ”crazy” at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York City. Otis built a very tall tower with no sides so that an audience could see in from all angles. Then he put an elevator inside it, gathered an audience and grabbed an axe. The Crystal Palace exhibition was a kind of World’s Fair and thousands of people watched Otis get hoisted to the top of the tower in an elevator car. When he reached the top, he waved to the crowd and chopped at the elevator cable with his axe. When the first cable snapped, the audience gasped, but he didn’t stop.

He yelled to the crowd, “You haven’t seen anything yet,” and chopped at the second cable. The second cable snapped and the elevator car began to fall. But then something remarkable happened. After falling only a few feet, the car stopped and just hung there in mid air.

Safely on the ground again, Otis told the audience, “This is what I have invented, an automatic elevator brake. As long as you see the name ‘Otis’ in the compartment, you need never be afraid to use an elevator again.” Cities all over the world began building skyscrapers, and you see the Otis name in elevators everywhere. Now you know why.

I hope you enjoyed my little history lesson. Alas, my husband's uncle died in an elevator accident, but not because a cable broke. No one knows why, but the elevator door opened, and he stepped in, but there was no car there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Many of you may know that this book, THE GREEN BOUGH, which is a memoir I wrote about my husband’s aunt, is one of my most popular. I don’t sell thousands, or even hundreds a month, but it’s always on the list of my books sold through Amazon or Smashwords, and definitely a top seller at the two Arts & Crafts Fairs I attend every year. When I ran out of copies at the November show two months ago, people actually stopped at our club table and asked me for it.

Aside from the writing, which I think is some of my best, perhaps the reason is that it’s a true story and the book contains pictures of her school and her first pupils, taken by Aunt Gladys herself.  Or perhaps it’s because of the title.

Some years ago, when I was attending a writers conference, I became friendly with another writer whose first name was Phyllis. Only her name tag spelled it “Phylis,” one “L” instead of two, and she told me her mother had spelled it that way. Since we live in a time when “Alice” is often “Alyce,” and “Larry” might be “Lary,” that’s not surprising. In fact I have a long list of names that didn’t exist when I was a child. (But I digress.)

Phylis asked me if I knew what the name meant and when I admitted I didn’t, she told me it means “The Green Bough.” What she didn’t know was that I had just finished writing Aunt Gladys’s memoir and I titled it THE GREEN BOUGH. Shortly after that I purchased a book of baby names and, sure enough, it was there. A good omen.

In one of his blog posts, Joe Konrath, an early self-publisher, and one who admits he makes a good income selling his books, wrote something interesting, which I plan to emulate. Joe has far more published books than I do, and he pointed out that he revisits his older ones from time to time. He might lower the book price temporarily, or give it a new cover, or update the back cover blurb. After all, e-books never go out of print, and new readers come along regularly. Plus, in the case of THE GREEN BOUGH, Aunt Gladys’s year of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in an Oregon logging camp is historical. It took place in 1913.

So... within the next week or two, I plan to lower the price and get the word out. Check back here from time to time so you won’t miss the announcement for when it goes on sale. Stock up for gifts to your friends and relatives who are schoolteachers. I think they’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


You no doubt recognize my post title today as a popular saying when life throws you a curve and your best-laid plans need a drastic revision. Along with a popular joke that represents the pain and frustration that accompanies the discovery of the glitch that drives you back there. The joke is this: “If you want to see God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

My now-rejected plans are the result of good news, which is  ironic to say the least. And the good news is that I came close to having the book I entered in Amazon’s Kindle Scout program accepted for publication.

For any of you not familiar with Kindle Scout, Amazon started it a few months ago and, like many Amazon programs, it’s free to authors. All a writer must do is submit a never-before-published novel in one of three genres: Romance, Mystery or Science Fiction. Details can be found by Googling Kindle Scout. Submit your entire novel, along with a brief summary, a very short Blurb, and your Bio, your picture and your book cover image. That information goes on the site and readers, who are the Scouts looking for books they’d like to see published, have thirty days in which to nominate their favorites.

When my thirty days were up, Amazon notified me that my submission was being considered for publication, which would make me eligible for a $1500 advance. I was on Cloud Nine. That was Day One. On Day Two another message arrived, saying in effect, “Sorry, your book is not being considered after all.”

But I wasn’t ready to give up. The novel I entered was the first of a proposed mystery series and Book Two was already written. All I had to do was submit it. And if their judges liked it as much as my first one, they might consider one or both.

Well, not quite. Here’s where my plan fell apart. Book Two needed a lot of work. I’d originally written both books a long time ago and, when they didn’t sell, I put them away and forgot about them. Luckily, I have a pen-pal who’s a lawyer and she spotted all the things I didn’t know about the law when I wrote the second book and that I’d got wrong.

Therefore, instead of spending a few days to prepare and send my submission, I’m faced with a few weeks of work to rewrite and get my facts straight. Would I have spent all those hours researching facts about Titanic while writing COLD APRIL if I were willing to permit mistakes in this mystery novel?

Every writer needs a lawyer (or other professional) to call on at times like this, and I’m grateful my friend came through for me. As I’ve said before, writers with friends are the luckiest people in the world.” (Or maybe Barbra Streisand said that.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Resolution

Happy New Year.

If you’re like me, or many of my writer friends, New Year’s Day makes you think of New Year’s Resolutions. Do you make some every year? I do. That is, I make the same one - only one, mind you - every year. It’s to write a new book. Naturally, the book is different every time, but the resolution is the same.

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group which required its members to write down between one and five New Year’s Resolutions, tell no one what they were, and seal them in an envelope. The envelopes were kept by the woman who hosted the meetings. Then, at our first critique meeting of the new year, she’d pull out the envelopes, hand them to the writers whose names were on the outside, and ask us to read what we’d written inside. Usually, we had forgotten what we wrote, especially since an entire year had gone by since writing it. So the reading provoked a lot of gasping or laughter. Plus a few sad sighs.

I soon learned that some resolutions, most of them, actually, were more wishful thinking than genuine resolutions. A resolution should be a Goal, not a fantasy. For instance, how can you resolve to sell a book to a publisher? You have no control over what any publisher will do. That’s a dream, a wish or a fantasy. Especially if the mythical sale involves a major book publisher and you add that your book becomes a New York Times Best Seller or wins the Pulitzer Prize.

No. You can’t control what others do. However, you could write that you intend to query a certain number of publishers or agents. Plus, in these days of self-publishing, you can have a goal of putting a particular book that you’ve written up for sale on Amazon and maybe a reader or two will buy a copy.

Depending on where you are in your writing career, you can make other goals into resolutions. For instance, if you haven’t finished your first novel yet, that could be your resolution. When that’s done, you might make resolutions such as, “Hire an editor to improve my book,” or “Hire a proofreader to go over my manuscript.” Or “Hire a cover artist to design my book cover.” Those are all within your power.

So my one and only resolution for 2015 is going to be “Finish writing A DEATH IN PHOENIX and send it to a Beta Reader to get some feedback.” I think I can do that.