Count Basie and Sisyphus walk into a bar…

Sometimes art can be found in the most unexpected places.

Sometimes help can be found in the most unexpected places.

Question: what do Count Basie and the mythical trouble-maker Sisyphus have to do with my writing?

More on that question in just a bit. First – some good news. I have just received some awesome feedback from Henery Press about my first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi. No, it’s not quite ready for publication, but major strides will be made thanks in large part to the personal comments from the staff readers at Henery. You can’t buy this kind of assistance. Well, maybe you could. But it would cost a lot more money than I have in my pocket right now. And who would have thought a literary press would take the time to do this? It was as unexpected as finding a big band in the desert.

Not familiar with Henery Press? Based in the greater Plano / Frisco area just north of Dallas, Texas, Henery focuses much of their attention on bringing cozy mysteries to the market. And I must say, their book covers are awesome. Every so often, the good people at Henery sponsor what they call a Sub-Spree. They choose a sub-genre (oh, say culinary cozy, for example) and then open a separate mailbox for those submissions – for one week and one week only.

You don’t know what genre they will choose next, so it would be near impossible to read the announcement and then write a novel to fit. Your best course of action is write your novel, and if it fits the sub-spree requirements, fine. Otherwise, you can always submit the traditional way to Henery.

What’s the difference? Neither sub-spree nor regular submissions require agents. As long as you fit their genre and style requirements, you are cleared hot to submit. But here’s the inside scoop: sub-spree submissions will be read within 10 days or so – and personal comments from the editors and staff will be sent to the author. It’s like getting 10 minutes with an agent at a writer’s conference, except there is more than one agent, and you get more than ten minutes, and you find out not only what they dislike, but also what they like. No form letter at all; just help from an unexpected source.

Henery Press. Not my publisher – yet. But still, a group you should take a minute to check out if you write cozy mysteries. If you like reading cozy mysteries? Take two minutes. Maybe three. Plenty of great stuff to peruse.

Now, after I take the next few weeks to finish the recipes for The Milk Chocolate Murders, I will return to the first novel and see how I can employ the suggestions from Henery. Who knows? By the time I finish the draft of book 3, working title The Wedding Cake Witness, I may have a published book on my shelf!

The answer to the question about how Count Basie and Sisyphus are related to my writing? That’s an easy one. It may be April, but this ain’t Paris, so it’s back to the depths of revision hell – “one more time.”

Too many books? Puh-shaw!

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

“Book Blogging” seems to be a popular topic now, which means I’ll probably try it in a few years. I may be an early adopter as far as tech toys go, but when it comes to other trends, I am usually a day behind and often a dollar (or more) short. Case in point: I only recently started to tweet here. Still getting the hang of that one. Pinterest? Fairly new, but on there here. As for Instagram? So far, not enough days in the week left open. But I digress from the original thought – what is this book blogging anyway and should I do it?

Simply put, book blogging is where you read a book and then post a review. Sounds easy enough. Of course, as my old marketing professor would say, it’s always about dollars and cents. True, many book bloggers, once they reach a certain level of readership, will start to receive ARCs, or advanced reader’s copies from publishers. The idea is you get a free book before the general public can purchase one, and the publisher and author get free and early advertising which, in a perfect world, increases sales.

There is a dark side, however. Maybe not exactly dark. More like a dim side, I guess. Depends on your point of view. Affiliate sales are the little links and ads the reader might select after reading the review. Click on the link enough times and the blogger receives a few pennies. Click on the link and then actually buy a book? The blogger gets a small percentage of the sale. The more popular the book blog, the more likely you will see these affiliate sales links.

Is this bad? Not really. For some bloggers, this is necessary income. The rub comes in when a blogger pushes a mediocre book as “a must read” in hopes of gaining those affiliated sales. Should this happen? No. Do most book bloggers participate in such deception? No. But does it happen? Well, as one man once told me – if you can think of it, then someone on the Internet is doing it and making money by doing it.

As for me? I would love free books. Who wouldn’t? But until I get through my “just had to buy this book and I’ll get to it soon, really, I promise” pile, I’ll need to beg off this book blogging trend. As they used to say – ain’t got time for that. See how timely I am with the popular catch phrases? Told you.

Any way, if book blogging is your thing, more power to you. I’ll try to stop by and read a few of your reviews. Put a link to your site in the comment section and I’ll help spread the love.

Until then, in between writing recipes for The Milk Chocolate Murders, and outlining the follow-on book – The Wedding Cake Witness, I will stick to reducing my collection of BTRs – books to read. The photo at the top should tell you how long this may take. And that photo doesn’t include the books I have stashed at work to be read at lunch. Or the other books sitting in the bedroom. Or the unabridged volume of work by some guy named Poe.

As soon as I get through these books, I’ll consider acquiring more. Unless I find myself in a bookstore, in which case all bets are off.

Don’t wait up. This could take a while…

It’s Always About “Time”

"Cover" of a narrated 2005 eBook of ...

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I have always had admiration for professional writers (both writers of words and writers of music) since they have risked it all, trying to make a living, and subsequently getting to eat, by creating a finished product deemed valuable enough to pay for, by a deadline. Write more, eat more. Write less, well they could always visit my other blog, Exploding Potatoes, where there are some good tasting, economical dishes. The point is: writing is easy, until you have to do it by a deadline.

And the deadline can be self-imposed, too. Ever say something like “I’m going to write a short story every week!” I did. Then I ran across a blog where the author is trying to write a short story every day. He’s actually doing well, and the quality of his work seems to be consistently high. There’s a curve buster in every class, I guess. Most of us aren’t so talented. Kudos to you, sir!

So today is Wednesday and by my own proclamation, I need to post a short story on Friday. Last night, I sat down and said with true Marine determination “Okay, time to write.” And that I did…probably the worst story I have ever written. This isn’t modesty speaking, the story was awful. You’ll never see it.

I fell into one of the most common novice-writer traps there is – the old “I can write a great story about anything at any time…with one hand behind my back, using a quill and India ink even.” Uh…right.

Crafting a well written novel (or a symphony for that matter) takes time and a lot of effort, but the story concept, the melody of your book, will just flow when it is time. So many songs were written in just minutes, because it was the right time. The muse was there, as they sometimes say. Kinda like the old wine commercial…serve no short story before its’ time.

So this Friday, you will not be reading a sequel to Grandma’s Cooking. No, you will see something else, a story that just took about twenty minutes to write today at lunch. Will it win a Pulitzer? Of course not.

But it doesn’t suck. After all, it’s a story that was ready to be written.

See you Friday. Until then, keep writing…but only when the story says “It is time!”