How Many “Do-Overs” Do You Have?

How many “do-overs” do you have in your life?

How many of us would choose a “do-over” if the Genie got out of the bottle?

Incredibly lucky, I seemed to have gotten the right life partner right out of the chute–luck–and guidance from above–as I really wasn’t that smart. I met him when I was 17 and only knew what I didn’t want. My first and best decision.

However, when I think of do-overs, mine would be incredibly miniscule compared to the big picture. And mine would mainly have to do with money. Growing up in poverty, I learned to be very careful with money early and, for the most part, guided our family budget. That isn’t to say my hubby didn’t make some of his own grand decisions, leading to several extremely poor financial choices. Do-Over–don’t give away the store!


So I thought in the do-over world, money might be right up there at the top.  I was wrong. It goes much deeper.

What about completely changing your destiny?* Wait to get married. Finish school. Choose a different career. We are certainly not the first to want a second chance–the chance to do it “right.” How many books have been written about the subject? Too numerous to count. One of the final works by Jane Austen, “Persuasion,” might be an excellent example.

A quick look into a short poll regarding regrets (not necessarily in order):

  1. Too shy about taking risks (squandering opportunity).
  2. Not having married the right person.
  3. Not having children.
  4. Not keeping your mouth shut about something.
  5. Drugs and/or alcohol.

And the good news about several regrets–some things are never too late to change:

  1. Education–go back to school.
  2. Leaving the downers–you’ve heard the song, “Don’t Bring Me Down”
  3. Standing up for yourself.

We all need and deserve a second chance, a do-over, from time to time.

Carpe Diem

*When further asked if the do-over would change who they are–would they still do-over? The answer was no.

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The Mynah Birds Are Mocking Me

Good Grief! Those sounds–what are they?

Every day that I walk my dog, I am greeted with myriad sounds of birds that are way beyond my ability to identify. Every area has it’s contingent of indigenous birds–but in Goodyear, Arizona, what would they be? Guess I’d have to bring in an avian expert as even perusing the web for some idea, I’ve still come up with no clue.

Because of the water features associated with the golf courses, I see a number of water related birds, but these don’t have the call I’d like to identify. I’ve confronted a pair of ornery (burrowing?) owls on more than Burrowing owlone occasion. They became rather aggressive when they spied Frosty from aloft, but circling and landing just feet away apparently decided against tackling her as she came with strings attached (me).

Perhaps if I could catch a glimpse of them, it would help to identify if they have a squatty body with short tail, or slim body with long tail, short beak, long beak, colorful body or black. They make a dreadful mess of the sidewalks, but trying to spy them in the branches has been futile. Of course, we have our sizeable population roadrunnerof doves, pigeons, quail, hawks, killdeer, hummingbirds, mocking birds, mud hens, widgeons, blackbirds, sparrows, finches, and even roadrunners. cactus wren

The cactus wren is the state bird of Arizona. That certainly makes sense, but what sound do they make and are they actually in the neighborhood next door where the cacophony near evening is almost deafening?

Which bird is it that is making me wonder if I’ve teleported to Africa? The only bird I can imagine making all those sounds might be a mynah bird. But is that even possible? Surely they aren’t common or wild around town. Or are they?

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Exclusive Content Management Classes

I’ve mentioned before my love of reading, including historical fiction, but then I enjoy most books except porn and vampire–or are those pretty much the same genre these days–not sure. I’m also one who enjoys taking an occasional class, customarily at my local community college where generally the fees are quite reasonable and the courses widely varied and JUST what I’m looking for in an effort to further whatever interest is being pursued at that moment. I usually do quite well in them–except for that JavaScript class previously noted in which my grade of B (not A) was deserved. I struggled with that one! If they awarded  graduate-hat2“Miscellaneous Degrees,” I’d have won one long ago, taking everything from real estate classes to computer and graphics classes, though it’s become obvious I need to update my graphics programs which would necessitate new classes. It’s a never-ending cycle, this life-long education.

So it was determined recently I needed a few more classes–this time in Content Management, SEO, and Marketing and Social Networking. Mercy! These in addition to the aforesaid graphics programs would set me up fairly well with this blog, as well as give me additional background for the copywriting I’ve tackled on the side, along with the regular promotion of my grandfather’s books which have now been published.

I’ve never had time to get bored–there is always plenty to do!

I popped on the Estrella Mountain Community College website and found that I’d missed enrollment for the Fall Semester, but Spring Semester would be opening in October. Super! Estrella Mtn Comm College

I set up an account, checked for classes and found the perfect two, one online, to begin and added them to my “wishlist”. Of course, then I had to wait until payday to complete admissions and registration.

Online registration is as complicated as at the physical location, however, there is no one to advise you with the proper answers (online) and so began a convoluted effort at filing the appropriate paperwork in which at one point I realized needed to be a year-long Arizona resident to qualify. Additionally, they required you to verify you’d be an Arizona resident through the end of the class. Well, no problem (I thought), as we were living in Yuma in our RV prior to moving here and eventually leasing this apartment for a year, which will be next July. I had to go in to present the appropriate documents.

First, these days you must verify you are a U.S. citizen. That done, I armed myself with lease papers, receipts from our RV rental lot in Yuma, and the U.S. Post Office transfer of permanent resident address to Maricopa County. None of that mattered, however, when they asked for my ID. I presented my driver’s license, which is from Idaho and is valid through March of 2017. On that basis, I was denied the class as an in-state resident ($35.00); but could pay the out-of-state resident fee ($387.00). On Social Security, I had waited until I could pay the $35–but $387? That’s probably our food budget for the month. I’m disappointed and needed to vent. Thank you for listening!

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Writing Dialogue That’s Natural

Talking just seems to come naturally–long conversations–no problem. There is the usual he said/she said argument about who talks the most, but I’ve heard men on the phone long enough for it to take root and grow (not that women don’t converse just as long–just that it seems more of a tie).

So what is it about writing dialogue that gets us typewriter-tied?

The problem seems to be one of making it flow naturally or come off as contrived. We’ve all read books in which the dialogue just isn’t believable–others where you might be a fly on the wall listening in to the Conversationconversation.

It was suggested that one of the ways to really get into writing dialogue is to go to a very busy place and politely eavesdrop (a shopping mall or Starbucks?). The suggestion was to take down some of the dialogue or create “prompts” to help you remember the conversation. Perhaps in my world, I’d have to take a recorder (the cell phone would do nicely), and just hit the record button. Who knows the tidbits you’d get if you weren’t caught and busted for being a weirdo.

We all have “self-talk” and usually have no problem with the running dialogue. I can carry on a real conversation and answer quite naturally when I’m on my walks with the dog. But to remember it and write it down later; again, just won’t happen. I’ve tried the cell phone thing and recorded dialogue thoughts, plot thoughts, and ideas to research and verify or clarify. Well, admittedly, the latter worked as, again, it would have been forgotten otherwise by the time I got home to pencil and paper or keyboard.

The nice thing about going to a very busy venue is that along with the bits of conversation you’ll catch the accompanying accents, facial expressions, and body language. Those are wonderful to help add real, engaging dialogue. The quiet groans, giggles, hand waving gestures and head shaking, head nodding, eyes closing. The expressions all go a long way in authenticating the dialogue.

There’s an art to painting the picture and creating that conversation. Add the nuances and you have completed the scene in the mind of the reader. It’s about more than just the words. It’s a stage and the characters, the actors. Set them free.

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You Won’t Believe Who Is Starring in This Movie!

DAY 30 PROMPT: If a Hollywood agent were to come knocking on your door with an offer to turn your book into a movie and told you that you could call all the shots, who would you have direct and star in it? Write the first paragraph of a glowing Rotten Tomatoes review of your film.

Who stars in the movie of your book?

First, and of paramount importance, would be the heart attack I’d have to survive after the man explained why he was there!

But if we are talking fantasy, then the next question would be “which book?” Since I’d have to assume one of the sailing adventures, I might well imagine that the same actor might be more than capable of making lead character in any of the three. Or….

Harrison FordSO! If I were to save some money (titter titter–in Hollywood–right!), might I combine an actor and producer in one fell swoop with either Clint EastwoodHarrison Ford or Clint Eastwood? (Well, you didn’t say it had to be a present day actor and this is my fantasy–right?) The free-wheeling Ford would make a fine Captain Dan McChesney (Cocos Island Treasure); strong, vigorous, with  fair-minded intelligence in his soft doe eyes. At the same time, Ford might have to find another island, as Cocos Island is uninhabitable, thus forcing the search for a more equitable location. (Maybe the insurance wouldn’t be as high on, say, Tonga, which appears to share many of the same attributes as Cocos Island.)

Clint baby, of course, brings that fierce presence to the screen, creating a no-nonsense compliment of men, capable and strong, but still willing to jump when Clint yells “Frog!” Yes, he could work as well……but maybe not for “Lucky Joe.”

“Lucky Joe” would require a separate producer–perhaps George Lucas–and actor. I like Johnny Depp. depp Depp, of course, would have to have his stowaway mate, Joe, who could be played by a much easier going Brad Pitt. Then the problem might be the continual fights between Depp and Pitt–but perhaps Lucas could keep them separate for the duration of the film–set to be a short one.

Sean ConneryDid I miss Sean Connery? Oh my no! Connery would make the protagonist in “Sons of the Sea,” Captain Beasley (he even has the beard!). Not sure that Connery would want to double duty as producer for this, though I know he is quite capable. The love interest (and yes, McShane did manage to include a love interest; whether or not he knew what to do with it is another question), Edith, Natalie Portmanmight be played by Natalie Portman. Why not, you ask, Jennifer Anniston? Oh, puleese, the over-used Anniston couldn’t make it more than one day in that bug and snake infested environment and in that heat her make-up would be a nightmare. No, I think we’ll stay with Portman. She might be able to pull off innocence a little better as well. Connery might be a tad old for Portman, but they are ACTORS–right?

Rotten TomatoesRotten Tomatoes says of the new film just out, Lucky Joe, “Depp does it again with quiet intensity, saving a weak rewrite of the original historic adventure by Stanley McShane. However, with Brad Pitt serving up redemption with the assurance that he is being guided by a force stronger than he, together all will survive whaling in the Bering Sea in 1901. Whether or not his angel saves his dopey ass in the wilderness of the Sierra’s is another question. You’ll have to see this whole thing to believe it. And you might! If Lucky Joe can bend a bawdy band of seasoned seamen to his will, nothing is impossible.”

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These Books Designed Their Own Book Covers

These Books Designed Their Own Book Covers

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

It’s assumed there is a process for designing book covers and I must admit to being a bit behind the times as at my age, sensibilities were formed a long time ago and things have changed. My process began by studying book covers–LOTS of book covers. What did I like–what didn’t I like?

I like colorful covers and those that hint at what the book is about.

Book Covers

Out of the six covers under the author name Stanley McShane, it may be obvious that none are particularly heavy in romance. That alone may limit interest, but not everyone is a millennial. Urged to seek the help of my cousin’s daughter, three of the covers were designed by Christine Armstrong. Two of the covers feature ships painted by McShane for his manuscripts and the western uses part of another painting. My Titles

I particularly enjoyed the story that Cliff Johnson, retired Idaho Chief of Police, told regarding the cover he hadWrong Side of the River in mind and went about utilizing the son of a friend for his cover knowing exactly where and what he wanted the cover shot. The problem is, it took forever, and it was only after the boy became so tired and bored with the whole thing the picture was made perfect–just what he wanted–and doesn’t it speak volumes!

I love the cover Christine made for “Sons of the Sea”. I’d noticed a statue the town of Grimsby installed to honor their fisherman–and sent that to her. She incorporated it beautifully and I was thrilled with it. Most of the other covers have been changed at least once, several at the suggestion of veteran Quartzsite AZ naked bookstore owner, Paul WinerPaul Winer (who bought several), at the Reader’s Oasis Bookstore. The man knows his music AND his books!! Talk about an unusual venue!

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Promotion Through Social Media

The Day 28 prompt is: How are you using social media to promote your book? What aspect of social media would you like to learn more about? What are your next steps? Social Media

Since I’m currently using nine of the ten pictured in Laura’s example, I guess I’m not doing too badly. Probably won’t be doing Instagram and use several of the others to a more or lesser extent.

Really, I’m not sure whether the reach through these social media outlets is successful, though I do believe the name of Stanley McShane is getting out there.

Familiar with the term, “Jack of all trades, Master of none?” Guess that’d be me or more appropriately put, “Mistress of None.” I’ve taught myself Word (and a very old version at that), and opened accounts in Facebook as well as the other media platforms, but have only a basic knowledge; none of manipulation in any of those programs. I know the associated access of personal info by Facebook and try not to “give away the store”, though it’s obvious now that ANY information whatsoever can lead to further denigration of personal information.

Spoon-Feeding PublicI have a major problem with Google+ and given it’s greater participation on the “Richter” scale of social media standings should be doing more there, though it’s feared the same relinquishment of personal information as Facebook. I’m being blackmailed on a larger, more grander scale than ever before, and it’s all legal!!

Given all that–I’d love to be able to use both Facebook and Google+ to gain better name recognition and sales advantage. For that matter, I’ve barely tapped LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ve enrolled in an SEO class, but where are the classes in reversing the information highway through FB and Google+? I’m not interested in paying for ads (Social Security doesn’t allow for more than a few meds). I need common practices and tips that most under the age of 40 freely peruse.

I’ll continue to read, read, read–but the time to write is being consumed by the time required to read, interpret, and digest and I’m no longer blond. OH! The next step then would be the “how to” CD’s. Yes?

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Building the Platform

The Day 27 prompt is: What are the three most important things you are doing to grow your platform?

Having started this process with NaNoWriMo in 2011, I’ve been through the gamut of ideas, following rules and advice, and letting the creative juices flow until they became a trickle.

Several initial ideas were dumped: Garbage

1) Forget salt-water taffy at book signings. The kids grabbed a handful and the adults weren’t into taffy.

2) Started with inventories of flyers, bookmarks, postcards, and business cards. It was a toss up how many were found floating around the store, left quietly on a display shelf, or at the check-out. I’ll finish out the current stores, then redesign the business cards.

3) Laminated posters–found difficult to display without investing further in an easel (and I found irritating those authors who had as they captured the eye and blocked the traffic).

What were the three suggestions acted upon and still being implemented? Branding

1) Reading about the idea of “branding”, I went back to my book covers and changed the author’s name font so they were all consistent.

2) I’d established a blog and paid for custom domain. I’d created several very simple websites (including one for my Women On Wheels® chapter and this would presumably involve a shopping cart).

  1. A) Decided instead to create an Etsy and Pinterest account.
  2. B) Opened a separate Facebook account for Stanley McShane with a Rosepoint Publishing page and a Stanley McShane page on my personal FB account.
  3. C) Opened a Goodreads account in the name of Stanley McShane.

Would a database or email marketing list be effective? Possibly, but difficult  for me to consider or implement. I haven’t wanted to muddle a book sale with further requests assuming my ever-growing twitter followers and blog subscribers have first shown the interest and made the contact.

Other than the above, the current push for promotion and marketing strategy will have to solidify the platform, one which is hoped sufficient to provide a solid base for the current launch: “Sole Survivor-A Fiction Adventure Anthology” (released Monday).

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The Dark Art of SEO

Excellent, relevent, and extremely timely content since I just signed up for an SEO class at my local community college!

Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion

The Dark Art of SEO

SEO - Search Concept.If you’ve studied online marketing, you’ve most likely come across the acronym SEO. But what is it and how does it help?

What is SEO?

SEO is short for search engine optimization, which is the process of optimizing a website so that it ranks well in search results on Google and other search engines. The idea is that the higher your site ranks in the search engine results, the more traffic your website will get and the more sales you will make.

There is some truth to that thinking. If someone searches for your name, your company name, a book your wrote, or a product you sell, you want your website to be at the top of the list, or at least on the first page of results.

But if your name is Betty Jones or you wrote a memoir titled My…

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If I Had The Money, I Could Sell More Books

If I Had The Money, I Could Sell More Books

DAY 26 PROMPT: What would be the ideal NON-bookstore venue for selling your book? Why? What is your plan to reach out to such a venue to ask about having them carry your book?

As with most things in life, if I had the money, I could sell more books!

Three of the manuscripts I’ve published have dealt with sailing–stowing away, being shanghaied on a whaler, accounts of carrying cargo around the Horn. They would certainly appeal to a particular crowd, and it occurred to me years ago that one good venue might be a boat show. Looking into that, however, quickly discerned the cost was prohibitive. And the logistics–aye–don’t get me started! Boat ShowJack SparrowOne of the MOST fun festivals attended, if not successful or lucrative, was the Pirate Festival in Rockaway  Beach, Oregon (although there are many, including a larger one in Portland). I suspect, depending on the year, and the rain, it would have been an excellent venue given two of his sailing adventures involve pirates.

There is a large tourist market in Seattle called Pike’s Market that given enough time I’d have gladly hunted for appropriate mom and pop shops who would have been interested in the historical fiction books. There was Godfather’s Books and Espresso Bar in Astoria, and I noticed the “bar” had all the accoutrements of a Starbucks–comfortable social seating, wifi availability, affable sea-going crowd, and enough books to surf through 60 cups of Java. I’ve tried libraries, including the one in Cannon Beach, Oregon, where I’ve mentioned before the jewelry shop called Cannon Beach Treasure Company that featured treasures from the deep as well as videos of his dives.

Except that the Maritime History Museum was closed and we couldn’t alter our timing or route, it had sounded promising when I spoke to the manager. Gray’s Harbor in Aberdeen has a wealth of history and maritime related establishments. Aberdeen has also claimed notoriety as the home port of the tall ship Lady Washington, a reproduction of a smaller vessel used by the explorer Captain Robert Gray, featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean film The Curse of the Black Pearl. Obviously, the best venue for his sailing adventures is the coast–either left OR right.

As far as his mining and penny stock certificate tale, in addition to bookstores, there are a number of historical societies, including the one in Tonopah, Nevada, and the library in Pahrump. I suspect the anthology would also be an appropriate addition to those locations as well.

All to say, if I had the money, I’d sweep the Pacific Coast shoreline north and south and every old mining town with a bar and restaurant in Nevada. I don’t. What’s that old saying, “It takes money to make money?”Resource Box

Betwixt and Between Books-Freelancing

The Day 25 prompt is: If your goal is to sell books, you must view your book as a business. In what ways do you treat your book as a business? Where could you improve? What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?

Okay, the gig is up–I’ve been caught betwixt and between!

While the original goal of publishing my grandfather’s manuscripts was simply a means to share that inheritance with the other members of the family (his daughters now too old to care) and that side of the family also too few to provide any kind of significant remuneration, the promise I’d made was being fulfilled.

Since writing has always been something I enjoyed, and the collateral education (Word, graphics, semi-limited internet) also of major interest, flights of fancy took wing into realms of independent freelancing–providing commercial reward. In order to have enough time to go back to school for a few of those classes (Front Page, Photoshop, JavaScript), I had to quit my day job. No loss there. After 17 years with no particular reward, either monetary or personal gratification, it was not a difficult decision.

cameraWhat followed were years of non-compensatory writing–the clear definition of writing for fun. At some point, that style of writing was going to require my also taking photography classes and getting a bigger, badder, better, faster, more Camera on Biketechnical camera than the Minolta I’d been packing on my bike. And I couldn’t see where that would lead into a rewarding and high-paying second career.

Then the effort of publishing his manuscripts through Create Space steered me into a much more commercial enterprise. It was time to get serious about writing, as now sales were going to be the result of direct and concerted effort of marketing and promotion, which coincidentally requires a great deal of copywriting–for social media, web writing, content, and emails. In part, to that end, being a participant in an educational Meetup is well worth the time and an education in itself. Getting feet wet with a copywriting broker, albeit crappy pay, is another recent vehicle for learning the craft.

AH! I see where this is going! It’s that old ring-road!

Living is a life-long learning and educational process. I’m not in the middle of a new novel, but I’ll be writing–a lot. Therefore, I’ve enrolled in my local community college. There is always room for improvement and the business is growing.

See how other Author Blog Challenge participants are growing.

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No. 2 On The Fear List

DAY 24 PROMPT: Describe your first book signing – real or imagined.

No. 2 On The Fear List

Depending which list you’ve read lately, you can find fear of public speaking on all of them, arguably number 1 or 2. I’d always heard public speaking had a pretty good hold on #2, right behind death, and the first book signing could qualify.

There are those “innate” fears, the ones that are instinctive from birth that including falling (or heights) and loud noises. Then there are the fears we gain as we progress through life and associated experiences. One list of 3,000 people surveyed ranked public speaking as #1 and then according to rank percentage:

  1. Public speaking 2. Heights 3. Insects and bugs 4. Financial problems 5. Deep water 6. Sickness 7. Death (Huh?)

Behind the fear of public speaking, of course, are additional fears:

  • Fear of Being Noticeably Nervous
  • Defensive Thinking & Behavior
  • Loss of Confidence

Hastings Book SigningI prepared for my first book signing by researching the internet, reading as much as I could, and following all the advice that made sense to me including sending out all the notices to the local papers, notifying the social media, preparing hand-outs, creating business cards, postcards, and bookmarks. Additionally, I found a source for salt-water taffy. Checked with the Hastings book manager regarding what would be available and what additional supplies I’d need including tablecloth (clearly forgotten) and props or posters. Also, I supplied her with flyers to post on her windows announcing my book signing date.

Putting on a brave smile and emulating a Wal-Mart greeter, I was first they saw through the door and they were handed postcards and then an effort to engage–but showing no interest–backed off. It was when the local newspaper people showed up that I first started to unhinge and the resulting picture in the paper was embarrassing.

Selling one of the first books I published, “Cocos Island Treasure”, the potential buyer thumbed through and spot read. I mentioned Grandpa’s painting of the Bessie did not show the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gatewhereupon he pointed to the first sentence and asked if I changed his words. When I replied no, he read, “The schooner Bessie headed in through the Golden Gate at San Francisco……” Stammering out an incoherent reply, it was only later I remembered that the entrance to the bay had been called the Golden Gate long before the bridge was built.

As much as I’d toiled over the manuscript, the time spent gathering appropriate paintings, and feeling ready for meeting the public, found no come-back or simple explanation to his query. (Note the 2nd and 3rd item in the last list above.) You could probably add “Loss of Face” to that list, or is that understood?

The fourth time our little group performed Diana Ross and the Supreme’s (I was a “Supreme”), I began just having fun with it and the crowd, but I left being “Diana” to our beautiful and talented leader, Geneva, and never did learn to solo with my gospel group either.

I suspect it’s a gift; one I do not possess, and that I’ll leave to others.

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Grandpa May Have Lied

DAY 23 PROMPT: If you could meet one of your main characters or ideal reader anywhere in the world for coffee, drinks, dinner, or a caramel, who would it be, where would you meet them, and why?

It was actually my son who took the genealogy study so much farther than I had. Hitting those walls almost immediately, I had no clue how or where to proceed, and pretty much shut down. Mark, on the other hand, joined and used the resources to their fullest extent including the offer of a DNA test for $99.

My paternal grandmother was born on the Chippewa reservation leased from Cherokee land in the midwest. Told all my life that part was handed down along with French/German (which made sense) and Swedish and Irish on my maternal side, I was shocked when the test revealed no such results.

Would you rather know where you came from or stay in blissful ignorance?

(Ever seen the show “Who Do You Think You Are?”) British Isles

Those of us old enough to remember Kirk Douglas as the fearsome Einar in the 1958 movie “The Vikings” (also known as Norsemen) perhaps received a romantic message about these fierce, seafaring warriors. They surfaced approximately AD 800 and for more than three centuries went about conquering most of the then known (and unknown) world, including the British Isles, and much of the European continent as well as Greenland and Newfoundland.

Vineland (Old Norse Vínland) is the name of coastal North America explored by Norse Vikings, where Leif Erikson first landed in ca. 1000, approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus! An “Irish Viking”–yes, I could go for that! Not a specific “race”, most were more collectively known as coming from the areas now known as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. AH!

And ergo the problem.

Liverpool DocksMy son had no problem tracing the paternal side back on U.S. soil practically to the first ship arriving after the Mayflower. We know they fought in the Revolutionary as well as the Civil War. Grandma Rose–100% Swedish–we know exactly from where she hailed and have contacts there! But Grandpa Rose, Patrick John Rose, J. Wesley Rose, Stanley McShane? No clue.

If I could, I’d pin him down right there in Long Beach near the ocean he loved; perhaps in the park where we took bread crumbs to feed the pigeons that last time I saw him and I’d start asking questions–explain the contradictions in your manuscripts! His real name might answer a few questions and from there, where he was actually born–really. He had an Irish brogue that never waivered, wasn’t faked. But my DNA doesn’t lie.

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“James Michener Protagonist”–Stanley McShane

DAY 22 PROMPT: If you could ask anyone in the world to write a blurb for your book, who would it be? Why that person/people?

From Michael Reisig, author of the acclaimed “Caribbean Gold” series including “The Treasure of Tortuga” and “The Treasure of Time”, and numerous additional adventure thrillers in his “Road To Key West” series, comes this description of the …works of Stanley McShane.

“Stanley McShane… the epitome of a James Michener protagonist.

Caribbean GoldI’ve written before of Michael Reisig after reading his Caribbean Gold series. Reisig descriptively penned the exploits of swashbuckling heroes in the year of 1668 as it follows Englishman Trevor Holte and the audacious freebooter Clevin Greymore in their Caribbean adventures. His “Caribbean Gold – The Treasure of Tortuga has been a No. 1 best seller in Amazon’s sea adventures, romance adventure, men’s adventure, and historical Caribbean since it’s release January, 2015 by Clear Creek Press. His works have been optioned for motion pictures, sold to overseas publishers, and produced for ebooks as well as audio.

Humbled and thrilled by his generous praise for the anthology “Sole Survivor” by Stanley McShane due to be released tomorrow, Reisig wrote a stunning Foreword after reading a pre-release copy. Michael Reisig has been writing professionally for fifteen years, as a former newspaper editor and publisher, an award-winning columnist, and a best-selling novelist.Michael Reisig A true adventurer, Michener protagonist himself, he relocated to the Florida Keys after graduating college to establish a commercial diving business, got his pilot’s license, and traveled extensively throughout the southern hemisphere, diving, treasure hunting, adventuring, and writing about his travels. He knows of which he writes!

It is that adventurous spirit, keen eye to detail, and the humorous twist of life that he captures in the heart and soul of his characters deftly brought to life with an intense but compassionate empathy. You can’t help but love his heroes; their strong moral character, as they triumph through the odds.

Yes, it’s truly an honor to have Michael create a blurb for this book–one to which I’m deeply indebted.

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Just Enjoy Reading or Bibliophile Qualified?

Just Enjoy Reading or Bibliophile Qualified?

There are usually one or more bibliophiles in your life–besides yourself! Whether they are out having fun, reading, or just too busy for interviews is another whole subject.Roberta

However, I did get a response from my former Yuma RV lot-mate, retired librarian, Roberta, who wrote, “I do love books, but I’m not a voracious reader. I probably read a few books a month on average.  I belong to a book group, so I read what we’ll be discussing each month.  Depending on how long that takes me, I’ll read one or two books that I want to read.  I listen regularly to NPR & it’s a great source of recommended books for me.”

Roberta enjoys her book group and actively participates at times leading a book discussion. As part of that responsibility, she admits to doing quite a bit of research on the author and topic. RobertaReading for her own enjoyment, she gleans books from all the major sources: public library, Kindle and Barnes and Noble online, although she admits to be more kinesthetic, as she prefers the “real books”, soft or hard cover to digital or eBooks. Roberta

Not wedded to any one genre, Roberta enjoys historical fiction, mysteries, family sagas and psychological fiction as well as travel. Extending into non-fiction, topics that hold her interest are history, biography, and the arts, and that incorporates many of her favorite authors, including Ivan Doig. She will follow some contemporary authors on Facebook, but does not join e-mail lists and although aware of Goodreads, doesn’t use it. The librarian in her still makes notes to herself about books that she’s read, although she does not rate or review them publicly.

Roberta is married, has grandkids in another state and enjoys an active life outdoors including traveling, hiking, cycling, Jeeping, cooking, writing in her journal and keeping up with personal letters. While she is not sure she qualifies as a true bibliophile, I’m not sure there is an absolute number that would elevate you to the category. However–three or four books a month?? There are people who haven’t read anything since high school! I’d say she does very well!Virginia WilliamsResource Box


Books Are Books?

Books Are Books?

DAY 20 PROMPT: Did you publish your book as a traditionally printed book, an eBook, an audiobook, or all three? How did you come to your decision?

When I worked in graphics creating flyers for gospel concerts, I had a boss whose mantra was “they don’t know what they are doing.” That went for some of the most successful acts he engaged as well as anyone in his band who displeased him in rehearsal and upon occasion included myself (still don’t).

I certainly had my share of bluffing my way into jobs or events, his position being one, but probably the biggest and most recent was the publishing of my grandfathers manuscripts. Talk about clueless….

It wasn’t like I came to a decision whether or not to create a printed book, eBook, or audiobook as much as I was steered into making a simple stock print book, soft cover, 6 x 9. Biggest decision there was glossy or matt cover. It was only with the fifth book that I chose not to do a print book as the total word count created a novella and I saw no reason to go to the expense of creating a formally printed book.

Also, having no other experience than the one NaNoWriMo steered me into–CreateSpace–I came to appreciate the quality of their binding, if not the cover paper (which tends to curl at the corner slightly) and the speed with which they completed orders. CreateSpace also steers you into distribution, so there again it’s not as if you are making a big decision.

After having created those print books, it was (again) a natural progression to find the road into “Kindle” and from there eBook formatting, becoming ever more complicated entering the world of Smashwords. While it was felt Smashwords gave me a far greater reach for the eBook version than did Kindle, I’ve yet to see a big sales advantage.Large Print Book

One of the first notices I had of the choice of eBooks over print books is that I’d used the stock format for CreateSpace which used a font less friendly to older folks. The common complaint until I got that first book into the second edition with larger print was that the font was too small and difficult to read. I suspect as we see the progression of the aging population the push to eBooks will become ever more popular as they discover the option to make the print as large as needed for comfortable reading.eBook Storage Rather than getting bigger and better bookcases, we’ll be looking for ever larger eBook storage capacity or flash storage. Perhaps the bookcases will hold thousands of books–but on Kindles, Cruzer’s or SanDisks?

                    Virginia Williams

          Resource Box

Walking Is Good For The Mind

Walking Is Good For The Mind

Really, I miss riding. You could get in the breeze with nothing but the sound of the rushing air and the occasional major diesel engine whizzing by. It was the solitude, with nothing but your mind generating random thoughts–which was great until you had something you really wanted to remember–but couldn’t stop to write it down. Palm Valley Golf Course

So now, I’ve substituted walking my 12 lb Bichon Frise–that fluffy little white faced dog with the black eyes that look up and grin at me. I can see she is enjoying the air as well–never mind smelling every bush, shrub, or tree.

Interesting how other dog walkers approach you–either knowing their dog will behave or won’t–and tugging them tightly to the side. My little girl, Frosty (actually Frosty Dancer Nampa Dandy–Frost for short), exhibits a mild interest unless the opposing dog becomes aggressive. On the walk today, I was struck by how many little white tailed bunnies were about–noteworthy because one block away my little dog and I met with a coyote just a few days before. No, we aren’t out in the country–merely greenbelts and golf courses. Resident coyote

The walks give me the same pleasant drop in blood pressure, leaving the cares of the world back home, and while not “in the wind” at 75 mph, still the quiet privacy of alone time. Thinking; making those mental lists, generating ideas, blog prompts, and snapping those mental pictures of scenes to be remembered.

Well, that is, until the advent of the smart phone. Damn.

Isn’t modern technology grand? To aid in my walking goals, I discovered the sport apps. Two in particular, because I couldn’t find one to do everything I wanted. Mind you, both are multi-purposed and will calculate everything except your decreasing checkbook balance. They will monitor your heart rate, total your miles, check your weight loss, scrutinize your running, accumulate your burned calories, keep the history, suggest exercise partners, and propose challenges. However, the “S Health” app on my Galaxy 5 won’t chart my route. Rats! The purpose was to walk 10,000 steps per day–that would equate to approximately five miles. Sure it became too much in the oppressive heat of Phoenix. So I revised that to 7,000; also a bit much. EndomondoEndomondo will do much of the same, including the benefits of calculating your average speed, duration, and distance AND follow you via GPS on your route. Great! You can even note your favorite routes and “share”. (uh oh) Here’s the rub–even set to walking–Endomondo won’t calculate the steps. If I have a monumental thought, it can be recorded on that whiz-bang machine. Or, if I really don’t want to think, I can have music the entire route with both apps. What??!

No! I was seeking quiet, thinking time.

And, I think the walk was doing the dog some good, too!

Virginia Williams

Music Evokes Emotion

Day 18 of the Author Blog Challenge: Which song evokes the feeling/subject of your book? Music evokes memories, emotions, and can instantly transport us to another place.

AH! Transport us to another place–that’s it exactly! While there seems very little romance included in my grandfather’s books, except for hints of attraction, eyes that linger a little too long, hands that accidentally touch, the dialogue that is arrested, he does exude a manner of romance more common of a century ago.

I like to think these were all included in his manuscripts though it’s difficult to think of my grandfather as being a romantic. So I reached through to his proclaimed origins, the mysterious and powerful Celts, as he claimed Irish ancestors.

Talk about a rich history of music!  While the English word “Celt” is fairly modern, and “Celtic” actually refers to a family of languages, the Celts were well established a century before Christ. The music can cover a wide variation of distinctive styles including the melding of Folk, Bluegrass and Country because of the impact of the English-speaking world.

Seeking to find music that would complement the book trailer I created for Cocos Island Treasure, I received license from Marc Gunn, my favorite Celtic musician and self-proclaimed “Celtic geek” and “Celtfather” who produces award-winning free podcasts. His Irish and Celtic Music Podcast is one of the top music downloads on iTunes. In that broad range of accepted Celtic music, he includes Irish drinking songs (you knew that though, I’m sure), bagpipes, and indie musicians from around the world. Irish Celtic Music PodcastI used music licensed under Creative Commons by Kevin MacLeod for the book trailer “Lucky Joe”. Fortunately, Kevin has some great pieces and it is not difficult to find something powerful that is easily included background. While it doesn’t as closely identify the sailing origin as that of Marc Gunn’s music, it does evoke emotion, energy, and the spirit of the book. While “Take A Chance” and “Showdown” are not easily recognizable, it definitely gets the point across.

Music “takes us there” and sets the stage.

Virginia Williams

The Happy Surprises in Publishing

Day 17 Prompt: What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

What has been the biggest surprise? Way too easy! As most people know by now, I’ve published my grandfather’s manuscripts who wrote under the pen name of Stanley McShane. He also painted and sold various paintings with some dubious success under both his pen name and that of J. Wesley Rose. The paintings I have on little pasteboard 8″ x 10’s” were meant to illustrate his books.

  1. Discovering that my mother really knew little about her father’s life; nor had been sufficiently interested enough to ask or get some of the most basic facts.
  2. Reading and writing his manuscripts, discovering the tale we grew up with (that of his being born on board his father’s ship the “Marguerite” off the coast of New York) may not have been wholly true. MargueriteIndeed, in succeeding manuscripts, he offers two additional accounts of his birth–including the one of his birth in a maternity home in New York while his father’s ship was being loaded as it was mentioned more than once that his mother always sailed on the Marguerite (which was named after her) with her husband, the captain. There are no birth records.
  3. Stumbling over 90 year old English common of the day and sailing jargon also common during the turn of the 20th Century as he claimed to have sailed into the early 1900’s.
  4. Walking in his shoes through streets still dusty from the choking red clay powder surrounding ghost and near-ghost towns where he sought riches. Rhyolite Casino
  5. Among the most enjoyable or memorable aspects would have to be the people; those who’ve bought and shared their stories; authors with whom I’ve created a rapport. Among the latter, I would have to note Michael Reisig, who wrote the Road to Key West series as well as my favorite historical swashbuckling, page-turning adventure, the Caribbean Gold series.

But the most amazing and happy surprise?

Sole SurvivorThe discovery of a fella named Gary Long, coincidentally from Idaho where I published the books; claimed he had been in the possession of a McShane painting with one of his poems on the back. The poem stuck with him the rest of his life, although unfortunately the painting went missing. He had apparently been researching the name on the internet and wrote me. I was totally astonished and asked if I could use some of his story in the anthology I’ve been working on. I’ll be sending him a copy that includes his story when I complete and release Sole Survivor“, due out in a few days.

This writing thing–sure opens up the world to you–doesn’t it.

Virginia Williams

Launch That Baby!

Launch That Baby!

Day 16-Author Blog Challenge: What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you’d known before you began?

So it took 6 months, a year, 4 years to write the book–all that time, effort, sweat. Finally, the baby is born, but so new, so fresh, so full of undiagnosed problems and ca-ca. Then it’s the editing portion Booksof the manuscript–ripping and tearing. Whether you go through the book the prescribed 4 or 5 times yourself, or you are able to pay for the sharp, professional eyes of an editor, this entity almost becomes akin to that of a teenager. Are you really sure you birthed this thing??! Is it beginning to wear on you?

Well, get used to it, as in this analogy, you’re literally responsible for this baby until one of you perishes, and it’s not supposed to be the baby! It really is up to you to mold and Book Releaseshape what happens next–hopefully–to maturity.

The mature creation stands ready to be released into the world. Then the fun begins! No one mentions that marketing will be a life long journey. The learning curve is steep and too easy to make mistakes. Missteps can literally set you back in marketing, making sales more difficult. Marketing begins to take on monumental proportions. The snowball effect kicks in as you realize you must first master the elementary task to proceed to the next level and this adventure is multi-layered, each getting successively more difficult. Can you actually present a live presentation? Publishing doesn’t necessarily equate success.

Whether self-published or through one of the big six, you’ll be responsible for promoting and marketing–Book Fairnurturing and cajoling. Marketing demands education beyond those creative writing classes or the employment of a cadre of professionals. Fortunately, as with parenthood, there are those who have been there/done that and can lend a detached and unemotional but firm and guiding hand. Thank heaven, as there are times when I feel like the babe here and I can use all the help proffered.

Virginia Williams

Seeds for NaNoWriMo

An author preparing for NaNoWriMo and a few of her exercises! Super!

Keeping Procrastination at Bay


Writing a novel is a daunting task, even when one is not trying to write it in a month. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sit down and immediately start writing it. Planning out a story beforehand, in broad measures or tiny details, can make all the difference to how well NaNoWriMo will go.

With just over six weeks until November, this is the perfect time to start generating ideas. That gives us plenty of time to come up with a lot of seeds from which to pick. Over the next several days, I’m going to post a series of images, prompts, word lists, and other such things that are meant to inspire ideas. I’m going to try to include a variety of stimuli, because everyone’s brain works differently. Some may be more visual, while others work well with words.

Below are today’s ideas to…

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NaNo What?

NANO What?

It is said that everyone has at least one book in them and it seems now with the heightened awareness and climbing popularity of self-publishing, most would-be writers are trying their hand at it.

Indeed, November was designated, “National Novel Writing Month” to take advantage of dreary winter days with forced indoor occupation and came to be known as “NaNoWriMo“. Nano Crest

The project was originated by freelance writer Chris Baty of the San Francisco bay area  in 1999 with the help of a friend who developed a website to accommodate 140 participants including several internationally. The idea is to push 50,000 words in 30 days, which would average 1,667 words per day. The website’s motto is “No Plot? No Problem!” Quality is not the issue, plot is not the issue, characterization is not the issue. The issue is the uninhibited flurry of getting words on the (figuratively speaking) paper. There is always time after November during the succeeding winter months to develop the characters and plot more fully and/or expand the manuscript to 70k+ words. While there is no fee involved, registration is required in order to verify word count, award winners, and they do solicit and happily receive donations.

While Baty hoped his idea would grow, he was not prepared for the onslaught of eager writers who registered in subsequent years, which he credited to word-of-mouth bloggers and, of course, the event being picked up and reported by news agencies including the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

Given the wild growth of the event, Baty found himself launching an organized panel setting out rules and by 2003 a NaNoWriMo team began sending out pep talk emails, writing hints, and opened socialization between NaNo Participantparticipants. By 2011 the website had undergone some major improvements in handling registrations, word count updates, and winner verifications. The following January found Baty stepping down to pursue a full time writing career with the installation of a new Executive Director, Grant Faulkner, and by 2013 claimed over 400,000 participants.

It was in 2011 that one of my motobuddies casually noted she’d be registering NaNo Winnerfor NaNoWriMo and that she hoped to finally complete her first novel. That got my attention and researching the website quickly signed up myself! Finally, a way to begin! AND to boot, if the 50,000 words were completed and declared a winner, the participant would be eligible to receive five (yay!! Perfect! One for my daughter, son, cousin, sister, and myself) free (YEAH–free!) printed paperback copies of their books through CreateSpace, providing a natural feed into CreateSpace 

Whoa! Was I really ready for Amazon?

 No! But the happy answer was that they were ready for me–from format templates to free cover (template) ideas. The rest is–as they say–history. In this case, historical fiction actually. There’s a learning curve here, no question, but one that leads to success and it began for me with one simple facebook post: “I’m going to register for NaNoWriMo”. If you’re new to the game, check it out. It works.

Virginia Williams

Book Trailers Are Way Too Much Fun!

Book Trailers Are Way Too Much Fun!

            Book Trailers–I love them! Like Movie Trailers, they can take myriad forms and while many are professionally created by artisans who know their craft, many others are created by you and me on a PC with little more than Power Point,  Movie Maker, or other program such as Animoto (the latter of which is limited to 30 seconds. Consensus steers towards the shorter trailers, usually 1-2 minutes.

When I began researching book trailers, most have the caveat that they are best left to the professional as a poorly produced trailer can illicit the opposite effect desired. I’ve seen many a really remarkable book trailer that catches the attention, fires the imagination, and stirs the desire to see, read, and know more! WOW is that hard to achieve! But beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. Most artists love their work and it’s extremely difficult to step back and view your baby with an objective eye, or for that matter, even know how the current public taste runs. Award winning book trailers have been produced by middle schoolers–and that’s some pretty stiff competition! Book Trailers 101

Since we’re talking about a simple D-I-Y project, this article will focus on Power Point Presentations. Your subject matter will no doubt dictate your target audience and that narrows somewhat the target age. There are simple book trailers that merely include text along with a slide presentation. Other movie trailers include video, fireworks, and fast action. You may include your own narration with or without a sound track behind it that you’ll verify is free through public domain (cannot use copyrighted material) or that you’ve properly licensed.

You create a storyboard by using your own photos or video clips or those free (or licensed) you’ve gleaned from appropriate public domain. Edit each slide individually adding text and timing (approximately 4 seconds per slide–keeping your text to the minimum). You may include transitions between slides, artful effects, or graphics. View lots of book trailers–tons of them on YouTube–get some ideas, decide what will appeal for your book, style, and timing.

Convert the presentation to video format and upload to your host, either your website or YouTube. YouTube is arguably among the top ranked social media sites (depending which ranking list you prefer). As with the description of your books, you’ll need a brief but powerful book trailer description as well as appropriate keywords.

Virginia Williams

Coastal Book Tour

Coastal Book Tour

If your book is about sailing or the ocean, doing a coastal tour might be a good idea. Long before you start logging miles, however, you’ll want to pave the road with book store destinations. Hopefully, you’ll find a number of agreeable mom and pop operations along your route where you can stop and actually do a guest book signing. If not, I discovered it can be quite rewarding to cold call appropriate locations and simply ask for the manager. As difficult as cold-calling may be for you (and was for me!), it actually proved quite successful.

In Washington state, Hastings Book Stores support their authors and are always willing to host, though these do require some time to set up preparation. After securing a date with a particular location, you’ll need to forward press releases to local newspapers, as well as flyers and posters to the store.

Besides your generous book inventory, you’ll need to offer peripheral hand-outs, whichever your preference, from book marks to postcards or author/book flyers.

Owner Mark Wilson of the Puyallup Book Mark was very accommodating, and it was obvious his delightful store and assistant had a strong client base.

From Puyallup, south to Long Beach and Ilwaco; a delightful port city where Carla of Time Enough Books had told me, “stop by!” Carla has a beautiful spot right on the bay with picturesque fishing boats moored just outside her front window.

You can get a real taste of the coastal book market for historical sea adventures in Cannon Beach where we were referred to the Cannon Beach Treasure Company. Owner Robert Knecht has a gorgeous, upscale shop! Check out his website, browse his treasures, and watch his videos on YouTube–a real treasure trove! Country Roads RV Park, Yuma AZ

The lesson learned here is to find your target audience! Go where your book has interest. Find the area, the people, the subject–you won’t have to “sell” it. The venue may even be as simple as a Gun and Doll Show or perhaps a boat show. Winter doesn’t have to be a down time–seek out winter havens such as Yuma, Arizona, and you’ll find lots of locations for craft fair shows. The cost is very nominal and can be quite successful.

Consider the location or subject of your book and you’ll find the interest!

Virginia Williams

Writing-The Short Of It

Writing-The Short of It

Every occupation has it’s own buzz words, general or common to the specific endeavor and writing is no different. Whether writing for fun or profit, fiction or non, there are terms–probably too many to try and cover here–that pertain to the profession.

The subject of this particular article is the word length given to those published documents that denote the specific type of creation. It used to be anything that was not a book or full-blown novel was a short story. Not any more!Keyboard

Now we have:

  1. Flash Fiction
  2. Short Story
  3. Novelette
  4. Digital Novel
  5. Novella
  6. Book

They break down roughly as follows:

Word Count

The format that holds the fascination for me is “flash fiction.” Just the word “flash” immediately conjures the imagination. The internet is so full of flash these days, why not coin a new term to apply to that little story which is generally thought to be a minimum of 100 words but no longer than 1,000.

Flash FictionGee, seems deceptively simply, huh? But you know in your heart nothing is simple. This must be as a novel with plot, characters, dialogue, and climax. It has to contain a complete story: a beginning, a middle, and the end.

It is said that the story should be contained within the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. WOW! The possibilities! Read a flash fiction story on the elevator, before your next stop off the subway or bus, or in a bank line; not while waiting for the doctor.

There are contests now for flash fiction such as WOW! Women on Writing. The entry fee is only $10 and you could win as much as $350.00. Also, they offer the option of a critique. There are whole books containing flash fiction or very short-short stories on–what they are, how to write them, or anthologies of the best.

We’re in an age of instant. It has to be fast to hold our attention, keep us in a movie, riveted to a book. Does it get any faster than FLASH? Virginia Williams