First Book Signing Event

The Winter Haven Public Library is hosting my first EVER book signing event on Saturday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The library is at 325 Avenue A NW, Winter Haven, Florida. Author pals have tried to gently warn me to set low expectations as a newbie author, an unknown. Okay, so I didn’t order THAT many books. Handsome didn’t get a hernia hauling them in after the UPS man stacked the boxes by the front door and ran.

The UPS man ran because he probably realized he was at the house where the crazy newbie author squealed and hugged him when that first box of books arrived for the reviewers. Fair warning. My enthusiasm has not abated.

open book emitting lightsOne box is for the Goodreads Giveaway winners. The other two are for the signing. If the books don’t all sell at the signing, stop me for a copy. I’ll have the leftovers in my trunk. I’ve bought books from Author Frank Stunk from the back of his car. Like contraband for a reading addict. I’ll bet Author John Foxjohn always has copies of his books in his vehicle. He’s a marketing wizard and a mighty fine author of crime fiction and non-fiction.

I even bought a SQUARE. That white square thingy that reads credit cards when attached to a smart phone. It sends money to my checking account. Tested it with a dollar. Works fine. My friend, Delta Ryan, who runs a non-profit mission told me about it.

Sunday night in the church lobby, I squealed when a friend said she had ordered a book. Handsome gave me a look over the rim of his glasses then shook his head. Another friend mentioned that she was reading a copy. I don’t think I’ll EVER get tired of hearing that. I tried to walk with decorum to the car, but I was cartwheeling on the inside.

I will also be speaking with two local book clubs. And book signings in Orlando and Albuquerque. SQUEAL. I also peeked at my book’s Amazon ranking for 5-15-16 and it was ranked 11,871 out of 8,000,000 books. SQUEAL. Amen and amen.

Ahem. Okay, yeah. Time to get back to work to send the next book off for cover art and editing and formatting…to meet the October publication deadline. Back to the writing cave!

I will try to behave at my book signing. I might hug a few readers. No telling if I will be able to contain my joy. All the years of writing and editing will be worth it if readers enjoy the story.

Between New Grandchild and My First Book

So consider yourself warned, if you casually ask, “How are you?” I will answer. Between a new grandchild due any minute and the upcoming publication of my first book, South of Justice, I will tell you with supernatural enthusiasm how I am. There might be hopping up and down and squealing involved. And props. Can’t seem to let go of an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) since a few boxes of them arrived this week. Pity the poor UPS delivery man. He was the first victim of my unbridled joy. Guess he doesn’t get many hugs at work?

South of Justice - 3DThen Handsome came home and caught me tenderly carrying around a copy and squealing, “It’s so PRETTY!” He had not watched Despicable Me with the grand kids, so he didn’t appreciate my pseudo-imitation of little Agnes after she gets a giant stuffed unicorn at the fair. He just grinned and shook his head.

Ah, well. Joy is unstoppable. I also posted a photo of an open box of the books on Facebook. Hey, other authors do this. Maybe not Nora Roberts. I guess the thrill wears off after the first 200 titles. Or maybe she doesn’t have time for Facebook…yeah, that must be it. Can’t imagine the excitement diminishes. Sure would like to make it a familiar feeling. The world needs more good news and enthusiasm, especially during a contentious election cycle. Yeesh.

And a book signing is oddly like a baby shower in that eager faces want to see the new addition and hold it. But then everyone else takes the ‘baby’ home. I have to say it feels wonderful to have a “child” at my age, especially one that doesn’t require feeding and diaper changes. This 344-page offspring had a looooong gestation period and a technically complex delivery–don’t get me started on the topic of metadata–and at last South of Justice is birthed. Brace yourselves, the next offspring in the four-book Compass Crimes Series is due in October. There will be more hopping and squealing and carrying it around. I will probably be insufferable.

Handsome says it will take a tranquilizer dart to calm me down. Yeah, yeah, just wait until you hold your new grandchild and refuse to hand him back. We’ll see who needs the tranquilizer dart then.

Oh, and then this happened…a review by SeriousReading.com showed up in my email. I read this and made high-pitched sounds only dogs can hear. Click here to read the review.

Thank you, God, for a joyous spring. Bring on the grandbaby!

 

 

 

Love an Author

 open book emitting lights

Authors feel loved when people buy and enjoy their books enough to post reviews. Being appreciated for one’s hard work makes all the years of hunching over a laptop and gathering research worthwhile. I have a book coming out in May, so over the weekend my beloved manuscript rode off by email to the formatter and the cover artist. Sure, I’m so excited I want to tell strangers, but other than enthusiasm, well, marketing is not my strength.

For lack of a fairy godmother to make marketing happen with a wave of her wand, I must slog on to gain knowledge about the process and the best practices of marketing in the publishing world. Okay, so more hunching over a laptop, lots of reading, and a willingness to fling one’s soul into the abyss of a rapidly changing industry will be my lot. And then there is the fear factor.

Sending one’s book into the world feels like watching a toddler run across an icy lake. In a snowstorm.

I feel out of my depth. Writers by nature can be introverts and marketing skills come more naturally to extroverts. Nonetheless, I forge ahead in baby steps. Part of the marketing process involves finding comparables–books similar to mine in style, content, subject matter, or genre. Style is the toughest to identify. If a newbie author claims to write like Lee Child, or John Grisham, the claim comes off as hubris. I know which authors I would LOVE to be compared to, but that’s for readers and reviewers to decide, right? Then I found a website that samples a person’s writing and identifies which famous author has a similar style. It seemed an objective, outside opinion based on linguistic analysis, so I gave it a shot.

From a two-chapter sample of my upcoming book South of Justice came this assessment:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!


Wait. What? WOW. Yeah, baby! 

Who am I to disagree with their fancy programming? I can live with that. My mother might even agree. For grins, I then submitted a three-chapter sample of my next book, North of the Killing Hand, and this is what the analyzer came up with:

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I could boost my ego all day with that kind of thing. Another of my favorite authors! Vonnegut’s lean sarcastic prose and quirky characters kept me up many happy nights. As much as I would be thrilled to have my style compared to Vonnegut or King, will the similarities boost my sales into the stratosphere alongside Cat’s Cradle, or The Stand? Please, oh, please!

A blog is the only forum I feel comfortable sharing the computer analysis of my style. Back in the real world, perhaps I should stick to finding works similar in theme, content, and genre. A much easier task. The hearty Beta readers and critique partners who patiently endured drafts of South of Justice identified my works as suspense with elements of romance, crime/redemption theme, and a strong female protagonist.

So as I lurch through the process of preparing this paper-and-electronic offspring to face the big world, know that all prayers are greatly appreciated. In the long run, readers like you will decide the value of a book, because no matter what the reviewers from lofty, high-brow media report, readers rule the industry.

In all the marketing information I’ve read, the most powerful marketing engine is word of mouth. My prayer is that my writing moves hearts, souls, minds, and mouths in a positive direction. Readers rule!

If you would like to read the first chapters of my books, click on the BOOKS tab above and choose a title from the drop down menu. Please leave a comment too, to start that word of mouth rolling. Feel free to share on Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, and tweet away, because the next book in the series is on the way.

Bear with me as I await that first look at the cover art. This is kind of like giving birth and counting the newborn’s fingers and toes. Will it be amazing? Will the cover reflect all the beauty and potential inside?

If you would like to be notified when the next book is published, add your email to my newsletter form on the bottom of the page. Expect to be notified:

  • To ask for your help in choosing cover art from artist’s drafts
  • To announce when the pre-buy link for a book is available, because the bigger the volume of sales that first week, the higher the book will rank. (High rankings influence buyers to take a chance on new authors like me!),
  • To get notice when a pre-publication discount is available, and
  • To notify you when a book is published.

Spread the love, spread the word, and this newbie author will keep writing the rest of the 4-part series. I’d so much rather write than market, but I will market with the resources and skills I can muster. Wave if you see me wearing a sandwich board at a major intersection.

Thrill Ride of Parenting Teenagers

thrill ride of parenting teensPlace every thrill ride in Florida end to end as one long ride and they still could not scare, shake, rattle and roll, nauseate, induce screaming panic, disorient or to give that negative-G, freefall-in-the-dark experience like parenting teenagers. As a writer, I try to learn from my life experiences so I can portray my characters with more depth. Sometimes my life is so odd I don’t think readers will believe such experiences. Raising a teenager falls into that category of too weird to be true. The following comes from my journal.

Once my daughter was safely out of my sight in college, I staggered away from the recent years in search of a solid, level place to recover. I was reminded of a curse: May you live in interesting times. This essay is about one interesting event in that thrill ride known as parenting a teenage daughter.

My daughter’s freshman year of high school was marked as the time we most often denied ownership of Jessica, whose name means Gift of God. Conversations often began with “that child you wanted to have” or “your daughter” and followed with the shocking news of what she did. If she put off studying for an exam until the night before the exam, she was “her mother’s daughter.” Her struggles in math were attributed to my genetic influence. Her need to have the last word in an argument was chalked up to Hubby’s genetics even though his mother, father, sister, and grandmother were always gracious, patient endearing people as far as I could tell. Both Hubby and our daughter possessed a seriously dangerous belief that they could be right despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. As much as we tried to deny her, she was thoroughly a product of our genetics and our parenting, but other outside influences gradually took control of her. Forces of peer pressure and hormonal impulsiveness struck us like rogue tidal waves. We were at the mercy of forces greater than us and we sought refuge and peace in tiny increments to keep going.

We previously dreaded phone calls from telemarketers, but that year we welcomed them as a chance to chat with someone who wasn’t bringing us bad news about our daughter. We subscribed to twelve magazines and two newspapers that year through telemarketers. We didn’t have time to read them all. We were too busy separating truth from the lies we wanted to believe.

Like the time the little darling at fifteen years old started receiving calls from a friend of a friend whom she described as someone who “likes” her. She strategically omitted that this someone who likes her was twenty years old. Of course, she was flattered by the attention of an older man and never stopped to consider why a twenty-year-old man would pay attention to a minor. She lived in a world where she knew everything and adults were marginally functional idiots. We were kept around, tolerated I suppose, simply to tend to her needs.

By the grace of God, my husband and I discovered this 20-year-old someone’s identity and age before the relationship moved beyond kissing. The joker called our house at 11 p.m. on a school night and asked to speak with Jessica. Well, since her well-bred friends from grade school knew better than to call after 10 p.m. I assumed it was one of her new public high-school friends, the kind whose parents gave them the freedom to run the streets until 2 a.m.

“Who is this?”

“I am [name changed to protect his identity] Doofus, Jessica’s boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend? And how is it that we haven’t met you?”

“Well, we haven’t really been on a date yet, but we’re talking.”

In teen-speak, ‘talking’ didn’t mean talking like people do in conversation. It was the equivalent of having his posse talk to her posse in preparation for actually talking to one another. Consider “talking” as a meeting of the tribes. Once the couple actually met face to face on a date, the term changed to “hooking up” which could also mean that they were engaging in sex, but at this point in the conversation and Doofus’s relationship with Jessica I was not compelled to dump his bloody corpse at the police station.

“And which school do you attend?” I asked.

“I’m not in school.”

Silly me and my assumptions. “What does that mean, exactly?” Jail? Dropout?

“I’m twenty.”

“Well, Doofus, Jessica is fifteen. She might have told you she was older, but she’s fifteen.”

“She told me you were cool with our age difference.”

“She lied. Until a few moments ago, I didn’t know you existed, so how could I possibly be cool with an adult dating my minor daughter?” At this point in the conversation, my husband sat bolt upright in bed and held his hand out for the phone. I held up my palm to signal that I would take care of this.

“Oh, that’s too bad.”

“Yeah, you must know that you’re looking for trouble by fishing in the kiddie pool. I may be cool about not judging people, but honestly, as an adult, I have to tell you that you need to protect yourself. Parents will wonder why a twenty-year-old isn’t dating other twenty-year-olds.”

“Oh, Jessica’s real mature for her age.”

“Or you’re just immature for your age.”

“Why are you being mean to me?”

“I am treating you like an adult. Let me explain it in terms you can understand. My daughter is a minor and you are legally an adult. If you give my child a beer, a cigarette or have sex with her, then I will make sure you go to jail or the hospital and then to jail.”

“But she likes me.”

“Of course she likes you. Teenage girls are awed by the attention of adult males. But tomorrow you will call Jessica to break off this relationship.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“That’s true. Listen. If you were twenty-five and Jessica was twenty, I would have no business getting between you two because you would both be adults. So if this is real love, it can wait until Jessica grows up. Then she can make decisions like an adult. Until then, I am in charge of her welfare. And don’t assume that you can sneak around to see her even if she suggests it. This is a small town and news gets around eventually. If you continue to see her, then I will get a restraining order. Is that clear?”

“Yeah.”

“Goodbye.”

The next morning Doofus, the 20-year-old coward, called Jessica and blamed me for making him break up with her. Very mature. Jessica labeled me a hateful person and accused me of ruining her life. She really said those words just like a soap opera actress. Fortunately, Hubby was foraging in the fridge when Jessica stormed into the room.

“But I looooooove him,” she wailed.

“Perhaps you do. And when you’re a legal adult you two can run off to China if you want, but for now, you are a minor and he’s an adult. He could go to jail for dating you, so think of breaking up as a way of keeping him out of jail.”

“You just don’t understand.” She searched for support. “Dad?”

He shrugged out of the fight since I had volunteered to handle it.

“What is it exactly that I don’t understand?” I asked.

“We’re only five years apart.” She then pointed out two May/December marriages of our friends.

“That’s an excellent argument. Yes, sometimes people of different ages fall in love. However, they are all adults.”

“So? Five years doesn’t make a difference!”

“At your age five years is a huge difference.”

“Prove it.”

“Okay.” I held up my hands.

Hubby spewed cookie crumbs. “NO!”

“Honey, I got this,” I said.

parenting teensHubby stood by eager to countermand my decision if he disagreed with it. As the head of household, he had the right and duty to make executive decisions. This was one of the few times I wanted to assert my authority as Queen of the castle, to figuratively throw down my scepter to challenge the upstart princess.

I told Jessica, “You can prove that a five-year age difference doesn’t matter. You can date any ten-year-old you want.”

Her face contorted into gasping disgust as if she had found half a worm in her apple. Words swam in her head. Finally, she shuddered and spat out, “Oh, my God, mom. I could never date a boy in grade school.”

“That,” I said in a soft voice, “Is a five-year age difference.”

The realization struck her like a slap. She looked to Hubby for support and found him suppressing a grin. She took a deep breath and spun on a heel in retreat. She slammed every door she passed on the way to her room.

Hubby mimed applause while I took a bow.

To all my friends with teenagers, take heart. When you are in the midst of an estrogen or testosterone storm with your teenager, remind yourself that this time with them will pass. Perhaps like gallstones, but they shall pass. Keep your seatbelt securely fastened for the ride.

Postscript: This article was originally published in 2006. Today my daughter is married with children of her own and I get to enjoy a front-row seat as she and her hubby face the thrill ride of parenting.

Love Letter to a Teacher

I see youlove letter to a teacherWhen Mr. Weagan walked into my sixth grade class at Cherokee Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, my brain checked out like a library book. Immediately, the girls in my class developed such a fierce rivalry for his attention that the average collective IQ of the class dropped twenty points. Everyone wanted his personal help on every subject. For all previous teachers–all women–we struggled to be the smartest, the star, the pet.

I had not experienced envy like that since my brother refused to loan me his G.I. Joe doll. I had Barbie dolls aplenty and only one wimpy Ken doll who couldn’t even bend his legs.

Mr. Weagan, in his previous career, was a volunteer fireman. He looked like a life-size G.I. Joe doll. With our blooming hormones, we all wanted to bask in his attention.

At recess, when our teacher organized a game of touch football even the girls were all in. At that age I was profoundly nearsighted, but a fast runner, so when Mr. Weagan drilled the football at me, I caught it with my chest before my hands clamped together. Flat on my back, struggling for air, I had somehow fallen into the end zone while maintaining possession of the ball. My teammates gathered around to cheer. Growing up with two brothers, I could take a hit. Our motto was, “no blood, no foul,” but this hit knocked me down.

It was Mr. Weagan who realized I wasn’t breathing normally. He lifted me to my feet and ordered two boys to take me to the school nurse. Wheezing like an old bellows, I grinned the whole way to the nurse’s office. Bruised sternum, she diagnosed.

Though I ached for weeks, it was worth it.

I was sent to the optometrist who fitted me with glasses. The whole world came into focus. It had been years since I saw individual leaves on trees instead of green blobs. My grades improved because I could read the board from the back of the class. Sure, a few insensitive brats called me four-eyes, but Mr. Weagan looked even dreamier in focus.

Mr. Weagan, wherever you are, thank you for knocking me off my feet.

Small Town Thrills

A cow face up closeAfter nine years of living in New Orleans, we moved to Auburndale, Florida, (population 11,000) and immediately suffered culture shock. The most famous restaurant in the small town of Auburndale was Allen’s Restaurant, also known as the Roadkill Café for its main dishes featuring snake, armadillo, alligator and various rodents. The most popular local sports consisted of hog hunting, fishing, auto racing and watching high school football games.

I was regretting the move until a neighbor boy knocked on the door to raise money for the Auburndale High School Band. Forget about wrapping paper, cookies, or a magazine subscription. This boy wanted to sell a Cow Bingo Deed. Reciting his sales pitch, he explained that a deed would entitle me to stake a claim by placing a small numbered stick on the football field. BBQ dinners were also for sale. Having survived nine Mardi Gras celebrations, I was game for something new.

“And why would I want to stake a claim on the football field?” Rumor was apparently circulating that the new family in the neighborhood would buy anything.

He smiled and patiently described how a cow is led onto the field while everyone sits in the stands until the cow deposits ‘chips.’ If this had been an adult, I would have laughed and shut the door, but this was the mayor’s son. It didn’t make sense that this child would risk his parent’s wrath for such a bizarre joke. He held out a sample deed. Printed under rule # 2 was “the claim closest to the largest chip will be awarded the grand prize.” The young man seemed amused to have to explain this social event.

“Let me guess, the grand prize is a hefty supply of fertilizer?”

“Oh, no ma’am.” the child said, “Last year someone won a thousand dollars.”

Hmmmm. A cow-chip lottery? It was too strange to be a lie. I bought two deeds and four BBQ dinners so I could drag an unsuspecting couple along. For my safety’s sake, let’s call them Anne and David. My friends were somewhat adventurous people and we owed them for recommending Allen’s Restaurant. Payback time.

The evening turned cold as we waited through the football game. After the game we collected our numbered sticks from a lady seated behind a folding table near the restrooms. When we returned to the stands a group of muscular, broad-shouldered men dashed onto the field and erected temporary fencing in the center of the field. We were then allowed to plant our sticks within the fenced area. A gentleman wearing a band booster polo shirt hollered instructions through a megaphone. Only the new folks like us paid him any attention.

“Please plant your markers with the numbers down so we can read the numbers later. Keep your markers a foot away from the other markers. Place your markers inside the fenced area.”

We strode onto the field. My husband handed me our stick and nudged his way back through the crowd against the flow of traffic. He was clearly not into the spirit of the evening.

“Remember, people, plant your markers so the numbers are in the dirt. Numbers down. Numbers down.” Mr. Band Booster blared.

Our guests shook their heads and jammed their marker in the turf near the 50-yard line. I followed suit, numbers down, near the 40-yard line. I picked up our boxed dinners and returned to the stands. The cow was coaxed into the fenced area and gated in.

“When you called I suspected you were kidding,” Anne said. She traditionally spent Friday nights at the Winter Haven Country Club enjoying real food in air-conditioned comfort. She hadn’t been to a high school football game in years, possibly decades. Ivy-league college games were more her style.

Anne and David had moved to a nearby town a year earlier, yet somehow they had not even heard of Cow Bingo. Imagine that. This couple preferred restaurants with tablecloths and had tried most of them in the county in their first year in town. They liked to tease us about living in a smaller town than they did, but the difference was marginal at best. Despite their serious exploration of the county’s social treasures, they had not found all the fun spots. Would you believe they had not yet discovered the monster truck rally, the local speedway or the paintball games? It became my civic duty to broaden their world of experiences one event at a time. So there we were to watch a cow fertilize a field.

I swatted at mosquitoes and handed Anne a boxed dinner. “White meat?”

“Thank you.” She said it, but I knew she didn’t mean it.

“So when do you plan to trade in your car?” David said. He opened his boxed dinner and pried his plastic silverware packet off a pile of baked beans. A grease stain formed on his perfectly creased chinos where the box rested on his thighs.

“Haven’t thought about it,” I said while tucking a napkin under my boxed dinner.

David smirked and spoke in a whisper, “To really fit in, you might consider purchasing a raised pickup truck with a gun rack.”

“Give her time, dear,” Anne said, “she’ll be using ‘y’all’ for the second person plural soon enough.”

“And,” David said, glancing around, “don’t admit you read for pleasure.”

The couple solemnly shook their heads then burst into laughter. I held up my plastic knife threateningly, but it only fueled their amusement. A group in front of us passed a lunch bag around, pouring brown liquid from the bag into their sodas. They were clearly here for the duration and planned to enjoy it. My husband stared at a bug in his drink and then gave me an accusing look. Yes, this evening was my idea. I just had to know about Cow Bingo.

After an hour of small talk and fending off insects, my guests begged to go to a movie, any movie. We abandoned the excitement of live three-dimensional cow watching for two-dimensional simulated car chases.

A few days later an envelope arrived from the Band Booster’s Club. Apparently, in the wee hours of the night, my claim stick was rescued from a poop pile to win me a chicken dinner at Hardees. Thank you. Thank you very much. I now feel part of the community. In New Orleans, we measured the success of a Mardi Gras by the tonnage of trash removed from the streets. In Auburndale, we measure the success of the annual community-wide event by the shovel load.

__________

Tampa Bay Sounding is a publication within the high-IQ organization Mensa. For a while, I had a column in it. This humor essay depicts the culture shock of a big-city couple after they move to a rural town. This essay was nominated for the national Mensa Publications Recognition Program in the humor category. I didn’t win, but hey, competition gets fierce among geniuses. In this otherwise true story, I changed the names of two friends so they wouldn’t hurt me when this reached publication.

To read or to receive similar articles, go to: www.jonimfisher.com.