Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

It’s been very quiet here on the blog in recent weeks and and it’s blessedly quiet here at the Writing Castle right now.  I had some construction going on for the past couple of weeks, which means the daylight hours have been filled with the sounds of sawing, hammering, and workers talking back and forth.  The results have been worth it, but I’m definitely enjoying the sounds of silence for now.

The other Eight Ladies have been busily writing away during the blog’s quiet period and you can see the results of those efforts on their author pages out on Amazon.   I just picked up Kay’s latest book–Ms. Trust (A Venus and Mars Affair)–the other day and am looking forward to reading it this weekend.  If the cover is any indication, it will be a fun story.

If you are reading this on October 15th, it’s “National Mammography Day”.  Consider this a friendly reminder to make sure to get your regularly scheduled mammograms.  Early detection can truly be a life saver.

Every year on the third Friday in October, National Mammography Day joins in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This day serves as a reminder to all women that the best defense is early detection. A mammogram can often detect a problem before there is any outward physical sign. Visit your doctor and set up a mammogram.

Encourage loved ones in your life to also schedule a mammogram. Know your family history and share it with your physician. Some with high risk will need to have their first mammography sooner. Use #NationalMammographyDay to post on social media.

For the next few days I’ll be celebrating a few days off of work.  With no on-going construction distractions and some lovely weather in the forecast, I’ll be heading outside for a little mental and physical recharging.  And then there are those new books just clamoring for my attention.  Decisions, decisions.

Whatever I wind up doing with my time off, I plan to pour myself a glass of homemade lemonade and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

If you are reading this on October 8th, can you believe there are only 84 days left in the year?

That has to be a mistake, because I’ve got a 2021 ToDo list that has far too many unfinished items remaining for it to be anything other than June . . . or maybe March.

I think I’ll distract myself with “National Fluffernutter Day”.  Although I can’t say I’ve ever tried a marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich, I guess there is always a first time.  Right?

In 1917, Archibald Query of Somerville, Massachusetts invented a sweet marshmallow-like spread called Marshmallow Creme. Before that, in 1913 during World War I, Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts invented Snowflake Marshmallow Creme. And then they published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich, the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter.  Where did the term “Fluffernutter” come from? Well, the advertising agency for Durkee-Mower created it in 1960 in an attempt to effectively market the peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I’ll just celebrate regular old peanut butter and jelly sandwich day.  I’m not sure I’m adventurous enough for the addition of Marshmallow Creme.

Whatever I wind up celebrating today, I plan to make myself a warm beverage (it’s gotten quite chilly here) and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy Friday and “National Homemade Cookies Day” (if you’re reading this on October 1st).

Can you smell them now?  Will it be peanut butter, chocolate chip, or snickerdoodle? Whatever the recipe you mix up, enjoying them fresh from the oven with a cold glass of milk and family will make National Homemade Cookies Day even better.  Experiment by trying a new recipe or maybe an old one to share fond memories with the next generation.  If you are looking for an excuse to bake some homemade cookies, look no further. Package them up and share them with neighbors, co-workers, and friends!  

I’ve always been a fan of cookies though I generally only bake them around the holidays.  If I baked more often then that there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for me to work them off on the elliptical machine.  Peanut butter cookies are my favorites.  Or maybe thumbprints with jam.  Shortbread is right up there too.

Perhaps it would be better for me to celebrate “World Smile Day.”  I’m pretty sure that is calorie-free.

Currently I’m celebrating “The Sound of Silence” — I’m having some house repair work done and it seems to involve a lot of loud pounding as well as a plethora of power tools.  The end result will no doubt be delightful, but the path to get there is quite distracting.

Perhaps after my work day is over and the crew has gone home, I’ll pour myself a refreshing G&T and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Celebrate Banned Books Week!

This word cloud shows the issues most usually targeted in the challenged books of 2021

Well, friends, here in the good ol’ USA it’s Banned Books Week this week! Here’s to…not reading something challenging!

Founded in 1982 by the American Library Association (ALA), the Banned Books project was started to raise awareness of attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Events this year include a virtual Banned Books Trivia Night and Banned Books Virtual Quiz, as well as more serious lectures and panel discussions.

According to the ALA, the most common book challenges in the decade leading up to 2016 deemed texts to be “sexually explicit,” containing “offensive language,” or as being “unsuited for a certain age group.” Books today are increasingly challenged for allegedly promoting religious or political viewpoints, particularly in relation to racial inequity and injustice and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. The graphic for this post shows the issues most commonly raised. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Can you believe summer is over already?  At least that’s what the calendar says.  The weather report begs to differ.  It definitely still feels like weather for shorts, bare feet, and a refreshing beverage.

Anyway, Happy Friday and Happy “National Punctuation Day” (if you’re reading this on September 24th).  Punctuation seems like a good thing for writers to celebrate.  You can completely change the meaning of a sentence by just playing with the punctuation.

National Punctuation Day commemorates all punctuation on September 24th. A period, a comma, a semicolon, a question mark and an exclamation point are examples of some of the punctuation used in writing. They separate sentences and their elements to clarify meaning.  Without them, meaning would be lost or up for interpretation.

I found a website that had a variety of suggestions for how to celebrate the day.  My favorite is:

“Determine which of your contracts for insurance, warranties, or service have a misplaced comma that might be to your benefit.”

If punctuation is not your area of interest, it’s also “National Cherries Jubilee Day”.  If you decide to give that a try, just be careful not to set the house on fire when setting the brandy aflame.

That would totally ruin dessert.

I’ll be spending the day at work and, if all goes well, seeing if I can get the paint sprayer that has been stored in the garage for decades to work.  I’m hoping for success, since house-painting with a roller is a very slow process.

Or maybe I’ll just read the new book that just popped up in my library queue.  Whatever I wind up doing, I’ll make sure to take a break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Jeanne: Food for Thought

The September 6th issue of The New Yorker featured a reprint of a 2007 essay by Adam Gopnik, titled Cooked Books, on the uses of food in fiction. According to Gopnik

There are four kinds of food in books: food that is served by the author to characters who are not expected to taste it; food that is served by an author to characters in order to show who they are; food that an author cooks for characters in order to eat it with them; and, last (and most recent), food that an author cooks for characters but actually serves to the reader.

Gopnik cites examples of each of these types of food use from literature:

  1. Trollope uses food strictly as a way to keep his narrative flowing through his characters’ days by way of their meals in much the same way that Tony Hillerman’s Navajo cops seem to spend a lot of time in coffee shops without ever actually drinking any coffee.
  2. Proust and James use food to illustrate his characters’ status in life–they eat lobster and veal and crushed strawberries and madelines. Similarly, romance novelists who are fond of the “Billionaire” trope find things like caviar and champagne to be short-hand for fabulous wealth.
  3. Fleming’s iconic character, James Bond, is food-obsessed, advising his Bond girls and his co-workers about what to eat. Romances about heroines who open bakeries, restaurants and B&B’s use food in a similar manner. It tells us more than what economic strata the character inhabits, which is almost always “hanging on by a thread.” It also demonstrates their level of social and environmental consciousness—vegetarian? fair trade? In the romance world, it’s not uncommon for such books to contain actual recipes.
  4. Robert B. Parker’s novels feature Spenser, a detective with no first name, who spends approximately one-third of every book in the kitchen, whipping up gourmet meals for his girlfriend, Susan. Susan then delicately munches a single lettuce leaf, thus demonstrating how self-disciplined she is. (Susan grates on my last nerve—can you tell?)

In my novels, I use food primarily for the first two purposes–to create a sense of time passing (breakfast, lunch and dinnertime speak to us all) and to demonstrate what kind of lives my characters live. In The Demon Always Wins, there’s a scene in a grocery store where, after my nurse-heroine, has banished the sexy demon from her clinic, he runs into (okay, stalks) her in the grocery store and proceeds to critique her admittedly terrible food choices.

In The Demon’s in the Details, Ronobe, the Hangel (half-Hade, half-angel) butler who has proven weirdly popular with my readers, prepares delicious meals for artist Keeffe and demon Bad to enjoy without their having to put any effort into meal prep. Keeffe also frequents a little hole-in-the-wall diner owned by a Hispanic family. Again, great food with no effort.

(Perhaps Gopnik should add a fifth category—the fantasy food life of the author.)

In The Demon’s Secret Baby, my work-in-progress, the hero lunches with a co-worker at an outdoor restaurant called Bel’s Bistro on the Third Ring of Hell where, unfortunately, snow and freezing rain fall constantly and the stink of the garbage dump at the center of the ring makes it impossible to enjoy your meal. On the other hand, your fart-prone camel is welcome there.

(Okay, again food with no cooking required for the diner, but definitely not my fantasy food life.)

If you’re a reader, what kind of food use in novels tickles your fancy? If you’re a writer, how do you use food in your books?

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Apple Dumpling Day” (if you’re reading this on September 17th) or maybe just Happy Friday.

There is a local apple fair that’s held north of here every year and the apple dumpling stall is always packed with happy customers.  I’ve missed going to that fair during this endless time of Covid.  Perhaps next year we’ll all be able to enjoy apple dumplings, fresh pressed apple cider, and all the other delightful apple goodies once again.

For now, maybe it’s safer to celebrate “National Professional House Cleaners Day” instead.

This day of recognition celebrates a career many overlook or take for granted. While not everyone hires a Professional Cleaner, they do impact our lives in some way. Nearly every business we frequent and apartment building rented hires professional cleaners. The industry also employs approximately 3.25 million people creating a positive economic impact on the marketplace.

I may not be celebrating house cleaners today, but I may very well celebrate “house siding repair people”–well, maybe I’ll hold off celebrating until they finish their work.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my own work today and then getting started on the prep work so I can re-paint my front porch.  Having a house is a wonderful thing, but it does require a bit of maintenance now and again.  With the season starting to take a turn for the chillier, it’s time start taking care of all the outside jobs that need doing.

Somewhere along the line I’ll make sure to take a break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Hey, Kid, Wanna Buy a Book?

We all know that writing books is a lot different than selling them. The activity of it, as well as the mindset. When you write a book, you sit somewhere, stare at a blank screen, then open a vein and bleed on the keyboard. When you (try to) sell a book, you bang your head against a wall, sometimes accompanied by throwing money out the window.

The world of the author. Simple.

I’d decided at the beginning of the year that I’d take this time to try to straighten out my writing drawers, so to speak. I have a bunch of manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that needed revamping. And I haven’t sold more than a few copies of any of the books I did publish in years. It’s been all about the writing, right? That’s what I like to do. Writing is creative. It’s Andy Warhol, Beyonce, and Louise Penny all rolled into one. It’s where the magic lies. Selling… that’s for Willy Loman.

But Covid-19 gave me a lot of extra time, so I thought I must as well use it to fix up the languishing manuscripts, get new covers for everything, and do a few things to sell a few copies. Clean out the drawers!

I know you’re all wondering how that’s going so far. The mostly good news is: So far, so good. I got a couple books out, and the new covers are happening. But the sales effort! Friends, I am clueless.

What I have learned from Mark Dawson, David Gaughran, Ricardo Fayet at Reedsy, and a host of others, is that advertising pays. And based on their advice, I’ve thrown a bunch of money at Amazon and BookBub in an effort to increase sales. And it’s paying off! Sort of. That is, I’m breaking even or a little better, making back in sales what I’m putting out in costs.

But the mystery of it. Who’s buying my books? On Amazon and BookBub both, you can choose—within a range—where your ad shows up. You pick authors who you think are roughly like you, and your ad will show up when someone searches for that author. (All those irritating “sponsored” things you see on all the pages? That’s where I am. Maybe you’ve seen me there.)

I thought Janet Evanovich would be a lock for me. Turns out, no. Nothing like. But why the heck not? Her Stephanie Plum is a lot like my Phoebe Renfrew. My books are screwball comedies, like hers. Janet Evanovich readers should love my book.

And maybe they would, if they ever bought it. Maybe Janet Evanovich readers get their books from the library? Maybe that’s why I sold two copies to OverDrive? I have no clue.

Who was a lock? Jana DeLeon, an author I was unfamiliar with. I got her name by going to Janet Evanovich’s profile page on Amazon and seeing what her buyers also bought. And it turns out Janet Evanovich authors also buy Jana DeLeon. So I tried that, and then for a month I watched as readers who searched for books by Jana DeLeon saw my ad and bought my book. For more than a month, more than half my sales came through Jana DeLeon.

In the last couple of weeks, she’s fallen off precipitously. I guess that means that people who read Jana DeLeon who might be interested in my book already bought it, right? I think so. But I’m not sure. She’s got a huge audience. Surely I have not exhausted those folks yet.

And now, what else I don’t get? I bought an ad for the second book of the series. And it’s getting no traction whatsoever. I’m talking flatline. Book One, however, still is going gangbusters. “Gangbusters” by my standards, anyway.

So it’s all a mystery to me. What experience do you guys have with marketing? Any clues for the hapless?

And now, back to something easy. Like bleeding on the keyboard.

(P.S.: Which cover do you like?)

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National TV Dinner Day” (if you’re reading this on September 10th) or maybe just Happy Friday.

I remember eating Swanson TV Dinners as a kid, mostly their pot pies, since those had the best low-cost to fill-you-up ratio.  Looking back, they were probably loaded with calories and salt, but at the time they were a bit of a treat.

It’s also “National Swap Ideas Day”, which sounds a bit more appropriate for a writing blog.

National Swap Ideas Day, which is observed annually on September 10th, encourages us to share a creative or helpful idea with someone and trade them for their thoughts in return.  This observance urges sharing concepts and sparking ideas. Many of us are passionate about our careers, hobbies, or special projects. However, sometimes, we require the additional magic that happens when a community of people joins forces to bring a plan to fruition.

Sounds like a good excuse to call or visit a friend and “swap ideas” over some snacks and a nice refreshing beverage.

I’ll be at work all day, so not much opportunity for idea swapping, but maybe something will turn up unexpectedly.  Otherwise, once I finish with work, I’ll be out in the backyard disassembling the portion of my deck that seems to be attempting to disassemble itself. Or maybe I’ll just skip that, pour a glass of fresh-made lemonade (I’ve perfected my recipe), and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

If you’re reading this on Friday (September 3rd) then happy “National Welsh Rarebit Day”.  Growing up, I always read that as “Welsh Rabbit”, though I wasn’t too far off base.

On September 3rd, National Welsh Rarebit Day whips up a tasty and satisfying snack. What is a rarebit? The cheesy toast was originally called Rabbit in a tongue-in-cheek way in the Welsh language because there is no rabbit in the meal. Similar to mock turtle soup having no turtle in it, Welsh rarebit does not contain rabbit. Instead, this dish is made with toast that has hot cheese poured over it. Over time, the dish became known as Welsh Rarebit – a nod to the inside joke.

If you’re not a fan of bread and cheese–crazy as that may be–you could do a good turn for someone in need and celebrate “National Food Bank Day” instead.  Whichever you choose to do, someone will get a meal out of it.

Unless I get distracted by something bright and shiny, I’ll be spending at least part of my day building a rolling garden cart for the yard so that I have a place to store flower pots, garden tools, and assorted other gardening stuff.  I’m re-purposing a bunch of random wood and some wheels from my dad’s old workshop–fingers crossed that it all works out for the best and no injuries ensue.

There’s always a first time.

Assuming I still have all ten-fingers in prime working condition after my building project, I’ll be pouring a glass of fresh-made lemonade (I’m still working on perfecting my recipe) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading