Sunday, May 25, 2014

MY BOOK BLOG TOUR IS HERE, FINALLY

I don’t know why I have a problem following orders or rules of law…never actually served time but I attribute that little fact to my overworked, chain-smoking guardian angels.  Even when I volunteer for something, I take forever to actually get around to doing it.  Like doing this book blog tour with Allen Eskens, an exciting new voice in the world of mystery fiction. Allen is the author of the much-awaited The Life We Bury. Fortunately Eskins doesn’t seem to be like me. He’s a pro at everything he attempts, from graduating with a degree in journalism of the U of M, to getting his juris doctorate from Hamline University. Visit him at www.alleneskens.com

With this particular tour authors are asked to answer the following questions…

What am I working on?  Currently I am working very, very slowly on two projects. One is the second book in the Buffet Betty series (Murder by Chance was the debut novel).  I am also finishing up a YA novel.  In my day-to day-life I no longer walk, but shuffle along in house slippers.  My brain appears to be doing the same. If someone could invent a walker for the brain to speed it up, I’d buy it in a minute.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I don’t know that it does…except perhaps my humor is a bit twisted and dark, sort of like the author herself.

Why do I write what I do?  I seem to only write when I like an idea...no matter what the genre. I have written mainstream fiction, children’s, young adult, romance, poetry and mysteries.

How does your writing process work?  When I am producing I try to write 1000 words a day but will not quit until I have 800 words. I may take breaks, watch a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, etc., but I try to reach my word count by noon. That way I can live the afternoon and evening as a guilt-free normal person.  (If you a writer, unless you have written for the day, you always, always feel guilty.)

What authors have I tagged to follow me?  Lovely authors who sent lovely pictures, not realizing I could never figure out how to insert them into this blog..so make sure you go to their website to see their smiling and appealing faces.

JOEL ARNOLD’S writing has appeared in dozens of publications, ranging from Weird Tales and American Road Magazine to the anthologies Resort to Murder and Shivers VII. He's received a Minnesota Artists Initiative Grant, the Speculative Literature Foundation's Gulliver Travel & Research Grant, and his young adult historical novel Ox Cart Angel received a Midwest Book Award in 2012. He also makes a mean coffee cake.  Catch him at http://authorjoelarnold.blogspot.com

TODD JAY has enjoyed a career creating comedy in a variety of venues including Theater, Improvisation, Stand Up and Writing. He has performed in theaters, cabarets and comedy clubs nationwide appearing with notables such as Judy Tenuta and Lily Tomlin. He was in the film Beautiful Girls from Miramax Films (but don't blink too much). Dead End Boss is his first novel. Check him out at http://toddjay.com


SHEYNA GALYAN is the author of the Rabbi David Cohen suspense series, set in the Twin Cities. She holds graduate degrees in counseling psychology and education. Sheyna has worked as a counselor, consultant, lecturer, journalist, and Jewish educator. Fascinated by the intersection of tradition and technology, her favorite questions are Why? and Why not? She lives with her husband and children in the Twin Cities, where she is at work on the next Rabbi David Cohen novel. Find out more about her and her books at http://booksandbeliefs.blogspot.com


MARILYN VICTOR has been an animal lover since she could walk and was thrilled to be able to pair that love with her love of mysteries to co-author Death Roll and Killer Instinct. Right now she is obsessed with creating a butterfly garden in her backyard to attract monarch butterflies. She has already rescued three caterpillars and is looking forward to watching them change into beautiful butterflies. She’s wondering if her next book should revolve around butterflies. Visit her and her view from her backyard at  http://mjvictor.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014

TAG! You're it!!!

I am on a blog tour...which means an author lists my bio pic on his blog and then the next week I choose three other authors to put on my blog...but I forgot one thing...even as a kid I was never a team player, never chosen to play on a team, and basically was the clumsy introvert fat kid who sat in the corner reading...Sorry Allen Eskens..you are a great mystery writer and deserve a better person to tag..so please, everyone..share his blog for me..he's fun and I will lose a bit of this coat of shame I seem to carry around with me everywhere!

http://allen-eskens.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A TALE OF TWO AGENTS

A year or so ago, clicking on the desktop folder that housed my manuscript  THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM released a few personal demons I was still battling. The book itself was finished, but the disappointing attempts at getting the book published, and then failing utterly, was not yet laid to rest. I was still choking  and sputtering about the “what could have been” in my life.
Great expectations, when not met, will do you in…but mediocre expectations when not met destroy you even quicker.

I originally wrote the tweener’s novel (age 10 and up) in 2006, over 6 years ago. I asked a friend to read it,  now a New York Times bestselling author, to read it. Not only did this author read my unpublished tome but suggested it to their own personal agent, something he rarely did. I was thrilled, humbled and speechless to the point of immobility. All I could do was to sit around and wait  for his agent’s response.
It would surely be positive, wouldn’t it? After all, this was of the agencies bestselling clients who praised my work. The agency was bound to say yes.

I began to daydream, and soon fantasies of success enveloped my every day. To be honest, daydreaming is something I never allow myself to do, to feel good about my future. I am usually consumed on a daily basis by the failures of my past.

Color me doom and gloom because any fantasy of mine is likely a nightmare of the inevitable personal destruction. And I have a lifetime of observation to prove it (as Abed so wisely pointed out about himself on the television show Community.)

So, thinking about the possibility of being successful was new to me. Although I do well in corporate comedy, I don’t actually work a lot…usually my agent has to track me down and ask me a few times if I’d like to do a show. I either have my head in the clouds, in a book, or sometimes, up my ass. But if THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM sold to a major publisher, I could finally pay off my car and be debt-free. It took me to my mid-forties to pay off my student loans. Why not be able to pay off a car in my late fifties? Wait a minute! Maybe it would even sell to the movies! (By the way, this thinking positive thing is very addictive and likely dangerous). Or maybe I could prove everyone single person who had said I had no talent or told me “to be quiet and not talk about my writing” even at family events, was wrong. Maybe I would finally look good in their eye. Maybe I would …

How na├»ve I was. Most authors are. It’s why we writers are able to write stories in the first place. We unconditionally believe in happy endings.

Around a year after I submitted it (it took that long for the agent to finally tell me her agency was not going to sign me) I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Supposedly, it took that long because the agent was dealing with business issues, reduced staff, etc. My manuscript was at the end of a long list of To Do’s. But the real reason, in my opinion, I was dropped? I was asked if I would change it to third person in case a publisher asked for that to be done. Foolishly, I said no.

I wrote it in First Person for a reason.  I couldn’t see it in another voiced than the one it is and I had all these books planned. I know realize how pathetic that made me look. Here I was, an unknown writer saying no to a suggestion.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have said yes, and prayed that the publisher would even think to ask something so stupid. And if they did, I would have rewritten in third person until I was so famous I could tell publishers everywhere to go do to themselves what many couples do for pleasure.

But I didn’t say yes, I said no. The relationship with the agency ended and that was that.

But my pity party doesn’t end there. Almost immediately I signed with a very large New York agency. I was assigned a young agent, around 23 or so I think by the sound of her voice who called me and thanked me for writing such a ‘brilliant book’. She said they never get ‘books like the one you sent.’ I truly believe she was convinced that the book would be snapped up almost immediately, maybe even go into auction.

Actually, it didn't go anywhere except to a few publishers. When it was rejected by 5 or 6 of the top publishers my agent, who was younger than many of my shoes, immediately dropped it and refused to send it smaller publishers, or even to the other larger ones. In my opinion, she was more devastated than I was. If I remember correctly. I had to console her on the phone after each rejection…or that may be just the memory this aging brain has created. All I know is that I didn't feel consoled, at all.

Finally, I received an email stating she felt it wouldn't be worth it to continue to try to sell the book.
I never heard from the young  “agent” again until a few years later when out the blue, I received what I was assumed was a mass emailing to all of her email contacts in her online address book, informing anyone who might be interested that she was now working as a freelance editor.

I wasn't interested, at all.

At this point, I didn't know what to do.  So I did what I normally do, nothing. And yes, I know now that even a mistake is better than no action. Just like I know that it would have been better to say yes to the third person rewrite. And I should have knocked on every door out there. Instead, I put the folder into another folder on my computer and didn’t look at the manuscript again. I didn't want to self-publish it, not this book. Not after all the hopes and dreams I had had for it. Now self-publishing has been very good to me, especially my book HOTDISH TO DIE FOR, but, like a lot of authors, I wanted the big guns behind me. Maybe if for nothing else than the bragging rights that come along with saying, “Why yes, I've been published.”

And finally, years later, I am publishing the book on my own. With the help of Marilyn Victor who did the incredible cover illustration on THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM, and Donna Seline, who formatted the book, THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM is now for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in one book store in the United States, actually the best bookstore in the entire world, Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis.

Maybe it’s because of my pesky brain tumor that was discovered this spring, or that the fact that I survived a mild stroke, that I have this urgency for this book to be out there is the universe, not just sitting in a file on the computer. I want this sweet and funny story .to be a legacy of sorts. It really is a good book,  and would make a terrific gift (insert smiley face here)…but by getting it out there it allows me to not only bury my past, but to begin to believe again in possibilities and happy endings.

I need to let it be the book it was meant to be, a pretty darn good tale that will entertain and daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers and grandmothers…something I have been trying to do all my life.


I published “The Witches of Dorkdom”  under the pen name Nora England, a combination of my grandmothers’ names. If I can’t make me almost famous, maybe I can make them.

And in case you're interested.....




Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Stroke of Luck



A bad heart, a stroke, and a brain tumor walk into a …..the beginning of a really bad joke?  You betcha, especially when it happens to you. 

I’ve had mild congestive heart failure for quite a few years. It was a direct result of my sleep apnea, which in my case, was  a result of my weight. A friend’s husband however, who is as slim as a Jim, has sleep apnea as well. But, I am a gambler and I always go with the odds. Odds are, being morbidly obese  is at the root of all my evils.

As many of you know, I’ve  struggled with weight for most of my life. It’s amazing how someone can be totally aware of a situation, yet bathe themselves in the river of denial at the same time. Unlike many of my fellow chubbettes, who rage against anyone who brings their weight up including their doctors, I agree when my critics. Yes it is bad, I mumble as I start to drown in guilt and shame. And then, like any good backslidden, former Fundamentalist Christian, I trudge home, feeling worthless as I beat myself up with a Krispy Kreme.

But to me, there was a silver lining of sorts, to having CHF. It meant I would probably die quickly from a heart attack. Here one minute and gone the next, sort of like a bad sitcom on NBC.

I had no idea a bad ticker could lead to a stroke, which was the biggest fear of my life. Like most fat girls, all I had was my brain – take that away and  no one will invite me to the prom and no one will want to hold my hand, kiss me, and no one will especially want to....wait a minute, I don’t have to worry that anymore. I keep forgetting. Twenty-eight years ago I married a gorgeous man who is madly in love with me to this day.  So I should stop complaining about  my high school woes and get right to the point. 

On May 9th I suffered a mild stroke. A pain shot into my head, clinching it tightly and then disappeared. Then it did it again. The vision on my left side was also gone. Suddenly, the world became pixilated. Did I call the ambulance like I should have? Of course not, because I could see out of my right eye enough to Google Web MD. According to my virtual doctor, I suffered a stroke on the right side of my brain.
After lecturing me on calling an ambulance immediately, my real doctor verified the stroke with an MRI. She also verified, something else, something I expecting. She discovered a brain tumor, benign. It is a slow growing meningioma that is attached to the membrane that covers the brain. But, even though it is benign, there is only so much room up there. If it keeps growing, it will have to be removed.
So here I am, at what should be the happiest time in my life;  my first novel, Murder by Chance, published by a wonderful publisher (Forty Press) ,  basking in the glow of extraordinary reviews from strangers, relived to know that Forty Press wants another Betty Chance book,  ­­­and well, now this. 
I have to admit, the totality of it all stopped me in my tracks for a bit.  I’ve always been used to struggling against the odds, but this seemed monumental even to me. But then, as happens in life, I adjusted to my new reality, and started to count my blessings.
I didn’t die of a heart attack. My stroke was mild, and on the right side. None of my motor skills were affected. My vision has mostly returned.  And although it was the right side, my creativity seems fine.  The brain tumor is benign.  And I may out live the slow growing thing anyway. I’ve managed to get Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein out of my mind, and realize modern brain surgery is state of the art. There are even surgeries being performed by a virtual scalpel on an outpatient basis.
But more than anything, I am grateful I am still alive.  Before my stroke, I  normally wallowed in suicidal thoughts and depression, only emerging to make other people laugh or take care of them. Now suddenly, I realize I do want to live. Suicide is not even an option or a want.  For the first time in years, I actually wake up happy with a smile.  Yesterday a store clerk called  me a ray of sunshine. Do you know how many times that has happened to me before?  Ah, like never.
So, because I am on such an upswing, in what could be considered a bad time, I decided to blog about what I will be struggling against, and hopefully conquering over the next few years.  Reading other people’s blogs and books, have helped me so much during this time. I am hoping to do the same for others who might be facing what I am facing… bad heart, recovery after a stroke, a brain tumor that has to be checked every six months, and maybe the hardest of it all, losing the 85 pounds because I promised my doctor I would.  Please feel free to share this post, and others, with someone you know who might be dealing with any of these issues.
I won’t be blogging every day. Just a couple of times a week.  For a while I will writing about some of the procedures I’ve had to endure, like having an MRI and then having a camera meander down the inside of my throat into the cavities of my heart while I was still conscious. Or I will be writing about writing, and tackling creative projects against all odds. And, as per my nature, all of my reporting will undoubtedly have my rather twisted and screwy perspective on things…but hey, that’s one of the good things about having a stroke. Like Sophia, from Golden Girls, I get to play the stroke card. No matter what I say, or write, you can’t hold it against me.  After all, I had a stroke. I don’t know what I am saying, or writing.  :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012





The Next Big Thing

My good friend Lois Greiman asked me a few questions about the Next Big Thing in my life. It's a popular interview going around the blogoshere with authors. It's kind of like a promotional pyramid scheme for authors. It's fun, and basically, we're hoping to entice you to buy our books. So here goes.

What is the Working Title of Your Book? Murder by Chance (actually that’s the title. I am currently not working on a project I’d like to announce. But the publication of my next novel is a big deal, to me.) 

Where did the idea come from?  For several years I worked as an entertainer on tour busses heading to casinos in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Approximately thirty minutes before the bus arrived at its destination, the tour host would introduce me. I’d stand up at the front of the bus, microphone in hand.  I’d do my stand-up comedy routine until we arrived at the casino.  Truthfully, they were some of my best shows.  Comedy is meant to be intimate and the smaller the room, the better the performance. You can’t get too much closer to an audience than being in an interior of a bus. On the way to the casino, everyone was in a great mood.  Happy, chatty, hopeful, all of them convinced they would hit the jackpot.  On the way back, not so much. The mood was much different and as an entertainer you learned to sit at the back of the bus, hidden behind a newspaper.  Although some folks did come out a winner, most did not.  Still, time and again I’d see the same people riding the bus, hoping to make their dreams come true. I too am a gambler and usually lost most of my comedy salary at whatever casino we landed at. Still, I look back at those days as some of the best days of my life. And because I always thought it would be fun to be a tour host, I eventually became one via my book. My main character is Betty Chance, whose husband left her for an older, fatter woman.   She’s broke, unemployed but a strong believer in Oprah’s “do what you love and the money will follow” philosophy.  Because Betty loves to both gamble and eat, she opens not only a tour business that specializes in casino junkets, but reviews casino buffets on her blog.

What genre best defines this book? This is a traditional mystery with a touch of culinary mystery to spice it up.

Which Actors would play roles? Cathy Bates, Camryn Manheim, or Octavia Spencer as Betty.  For the role of the mind reader/ casino entertainer Boris? I’d choose Daniel Craig. Of course the character looks nothing like Daniel Craig or even remotely acts like him. That casting and it’s subsequent fantasy casting couch is just for me and me alone. Sigh.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book? Know what? I haven’t even thought about how to condense it…so I won’t. But it’s about being left in your fifties, reclaiming yourself, the importance of friendship, gambling,losses, murder, and of course, all-you-can eat buffets. 

Will it be self-published or represented by a traditional agent? It is being published by Forty Press. I submitted to them directly, via a recommendation that I do so by Once Upon A Crime’s Pat Frovarp.
How long did it take to write the first draft? Probably around a year.

Who or what inspired writing the book? I have no idea why I keep on writing books that until now did now sell. I have had very little success commercially, a few short stories here and there. Oh, and HOTDISH TO DIE FOR which has sold a remarkable 25,000 copies…pretty good for a self-published collection of short stories. I earned way more with comedy than I ever did with writing.  And according to my husband,  I would have earned way a regular, 9 to 5 job.  But, being a writer is just what I am.  It’s in my DNA, and though I have fought it all my life by not doing it, the urge to scribble pops up every now and then. It’s kind of like this creative virus that lives on its own, saying “look at me” every once in a while.

Side Note:  I couldn’t convince any of my friends to do The Next Big Thing interview, not one. Why?  I found out they’ve already been asked by other writers to do it, and most of them did.  Once again, I was the last girl to be invited to the prom. Still, you may want to read their entertaining blogs.  Anne Frasier Aka Theresa Weir’s Monkey with A Pen, Marilyn Victor’s Backyard Views, Sujata Massey’s blog, and Barbara Lindquist Schlichting’s First Lady Blog