August 30, 2011

Good Reviews, Bad Reviews and the Occasional Chocolate Chip Cookie

I have a special treat for you today. I’ve invited L. Carroll over to do a little writing at my place. I already had the chance to post my scribblings in her living room. Keep reading when she’s finished, and I’ll tell you a little about who she is, and what her books are about.


I used to manage a retail home décor store in a shopping mall. While this fascinating bit of information is likely to captivate and enthrall audiences for years to come, it's a particular incident that took place while I was engaged in this profession that I'm compelled to share now.

One lovely afternoon, a customer stormed through the doors and demanded to speak to the manager. While the rest of my crew showed support for their leader from behind an armoire, I -- armed with a sympathetic expression -- approached the lady to ascertain the nature of her obvious agitation.

Fast forward eleven years to the present day. I don't remember what this customer was upset over; I don't remember how the issue was resolved. I only recall what happened afterward.

There was a larger piece of furniture involved that I was to take out the back door of the store and load into the lady's car, but she asked me to give her a few minutes before meeting her there, as she had one last quick stop to make in the mall. When she arrived to pick up her piece, she had with her a bag containing a warm, gooey, jumbo chocolate chip cookie that she had just purchased from the bakery in the mall. Smiling, she handed me the cookie and thanked me profusely for helping her that day. Her gesture overwhelmed me, and (apparently) made an indelible impression on my memory.

So, what does this story have to do with books and writing, you may ask. Well, allow me to explain. Coming from a non-literary background, I was quickly humbled by what it takes to write a book. I was further humbled by the emotionally fatiguing, and oft times downright depressing process of querying agents and publishers. And, as if that wasn't enough, my pride sustained further injury when I realized that eighty percent of my time as an author would not be spent writing, but would be spent marketing, networking, begging and pleading.

The point is that independent authors work hard! They work long! They dump all of their selves -- heart and soul -- into their books. They don't have teams of editors, marketers and PR people escorting them around. They do it all themselves.

This singular shouldering of responsibility makes feedback so much more impactful on the indie author. Negative reviews are devastating, positive ones, invigorating. Lack of reviews? Well, let's just say that it takes a while to recover from that accompanying spiral of self-doubt.

Am I saying that you should jump on to Amazon and write gushingly, glowing critiques of every self-published book you read? Absolutely not! I know from experience that there are a lot of sub-par books out there -- both indie and traditionally published. What I am saying is that if you read an indie book you really enjoy, make sure that you let the author and others know. Gush on Amazon; shout it out to your networking buds; buy copies of the book to give as gifts; OR, if you're so inclined, send the author a warm, gooey, jumbo chocolate chip cookie.


About the Author:

L. Carroll is a wife and a mom of five who writes because she's found that if she pretends to travel to magical worlds, makes up wild tales, and carries on conversations with the voices in her head, it's considered mental illness; but if she pretends to travel to magical worlds, makes up wild tales, carries on conversations with the voices in her head and writes it all down; it's a perfectly normal "author" thing to do.

 About the Books:

Destruction from Twins

When an enchantress steals mystical powers from her twin sister, she sentences the world of Lor Mandela to an untimely death. Only one can save it; a Child of Balance named Audril Borloc. All hope seems lost when four-year-old Audril disappears.

Desperate to save their world, spies travel to Earth looking for the girl with black hair and bright blue eyes. Instead, they find sixteen-year-old Maggie Baker.

Maggie's existence is launched into a roller coaster ride of twists and turns as she bounces back and forth between her home in Glenhill, Iowa and the mysterious land of Lor Mandela. She must learn who to trust and who to fear. More importantly, she must find a way to convince the Lor Mandelans she is not their missing "Child of Balance", and her family and friends in Iowa that she's not going insane.

Could Maggie’s reality be the real fantasy, and does the fate of an entire world actually depend on her?

Destruction from Twins is available in print at CreateSpace, in ebook at Smashwords,  or your choice of format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s free at Smashwords until the end of the month, so you only have two days to run over there and get it.

Four Hundred Days

When the heiress to the Lor Mandelan throne sneaks away to Earth to save one of her dearest friends, she finds that a power hungry tyrant from her own world has begun systematically obliterating towns and cities to get her to turn herself over to him.

On Earth, she meets a wildly eccentric old lady named Teedee Venilworth, whose imaginary butler/fiance supposedly holds the key to her success. But how can someone help if he doesn't exist? Could it be that creatures who dwell in shadow are not exclusive to Lor Mandela?

The second book in the Lor Mandela Series, "Four Hundred Days", is an action-packed whirlwind of intrigue and fantasy. Join the extraordinary characters from "Destruction from Twins" as they traverse the haunted corridors of Alcatraz Penitentiary; travel via portal to an ancient castle on the cliff shores of Ireland; and meet a race of mystic warriors known as the Solom.

Soar on the back of a large, horse-like creature to the Northern High Forests and discover that, on the picturesque world of Lor Mandela, your friends can become foes, your enemies your allies, and just because someone dies it doesn't always mean that they're dead.

Four Hundred Days is available in print at CreateSpace, in ebook at Smashwords, and in your choice of format from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

August 23, 2011

Brace Me Up

I'm going to be learning a lot as I provide these for you. I had no idea how many definitions there were for "brace". Apparently I'm a bit behind the times, I like it in the archaic usage of two, a pair, as in "He walked into the kitchen and set a brace of wildfowl on the table." had a lot more definitions than I ever thought of.



1. something that holds parts together or in place, as a clasp or clamp.
2. anything that imparts rigidity or steadiness.
3. Also called bitbrace, bitstock. Machinery . a device for holding and turning a bit for boring or drilling.
4. Building Trades . a piece of timber, metal, etc., for supporting or positioning another piece or portion of a framework.
5. Nautical . (on a square-rigged ship) a rope by which a yard is swung about and secured horizontally.
6. Music . leather loops sliding upon the tightening cords of a drum to change their tension and the drum's pitch.
7. Often, braces. Dentistry . a round or flat metal wire placed against the surfaces of the teeth for straightening irregularly arranged teeth.
8. Medicine/Medical . an appliance for supporting a weak joint or joints.
9. braces, Chiefly British . suspender ( def. 1 ) .
10. a pair; couple: a brace of grouse.
11. Printing .
a. one of two characters { or } used to enclose words or lines to be considered together.
b. bracket ( def. 7 ) .
12. Music . connected staves.
13. a protective band covering the wrist or lower part of the arm, especially a bracer.
14. Military . a position of attention with exaggeratedly stiff posture.

–verb (used with object)

15. to furnish, fasten, or strengthen with or as if with a brace.
16. to fix firmly; make steady; secure against pressure or impact: He braces himself when the ship rolls. Brace yourself for some bad news.
17. to make tight; increase the tension of.
18. to act as a stimulant to.
19. Nautical . to swing or turn around (the yards of a ship) by means of the braces.
20. Military . to order (a subordinate) to assume and maintain a brace.

–verb (used without object)

21. Military . to assume a brace.

—Verb phrase

22. brace in, Nautical . to brace (the yards of a square-rigged vessel) more nearly athwartships, as for running free.


23. brace up, Informal . to summon up one's courage; become resolute: She choked back her tears and braced up.

1300–50; (noun) Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French: pair of arms < Latin brā ( c ) chia plural (taken as feminine singular) of brā ( c ) chium arm (< Greek; see brachium); (v.) in part Middle English bracen (< Anglo-French bracier, derivative of brace; compare embrace), in participle derivative of the noun

August 21, 2011

What is a Sampler?

In embroidery, a sampler is a wall hanging that shows off many different styles of stitching and usually contains an alphabet, some small pictures, and a saying. Young girls would stitch the sampler while still at home so they would have the patterns of the stitches after they married and had their own establishment.

In confections, a sampler is a single container with several different sorts of candy that showcase the manufacturer's abilities and hopefully lead to sales of other containers dedicated to your favorite flavors.

My newest book, Reading Sampler, is made in the same tradition. There are excerpts from six novels in three categories: Assignment to Earth (Science Fiction); Tanella's Flight and Fabric of the World (Fantasy); Deadly Gamble, A Heart Full of Diamonds, and Inherit my Heart (Suspense). The intent is to allow readers to try my books and see if they'd like to read more.

Reading Sampler is available on paper for $12.99 – a full 320 pages of enjoyment, complete with a free autographed bookplate. I expect more people will grab the free ebook.

Yes, you read that right. I'm so confident I can "hook" you on my writing that I'm willing to give away a free ebook as "bait". Go ahead. I dare you. Download it. Share it with your friends. I'm betting that when you get to the end of the sampler, you'll do whatever it takes to find out what happens next.


August 19, 2011

Blog Tour Guest Post

Lor Mandela Blog
L. Carroll is celebrating the release of her new book, Lor Mandela - Four Hundred Days, and as part of that celebration, she organized a blog tour. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the "stops" on her tour. My guest post is over here on her blog today, and she will be contributing a post on my blog on August 30.

I have no idea what she will be writing about, but then, she had no idea what I was going to write, either. If you comment on my post on her blog, you will be entered into a drawing to win any one of my ebooks. You choose the book, and I will email it to you.

Happy blog-hopping!


August 16, 2011

Wholly Cow

Homonym is a fancy word that means two or more other words have the same sound, but different meanings and, most often, different spellings. An a-moo-sing exchange on the message boards at my favorite online hang-out got me thinking about this week's homonym pair "hole" and "whole" and the related trio, "holey", "holy", and "wholly".

A hole is an empty space in what should otherwise be a solid surface. A hole in a wall, a hole in the ground, a hole in the head; oh wait, that's another matter altogether.

If something is whole, it is complete and not broken; you are referring to the entirety of the object in question.

A whole hole would be the complete empty space.

Holey means that the object in question has a lot of separate empty spaces. Think Swiss cheese.

Holy (without the "e") is something which is held to be sacred to a group of people. It is usually used in terms of religion, although different religious groups hold different things to be sacred.

Wholly means completely.

Therefore, "Holy Cow" would refer to a sacred bovine; "Wholly Cow" means 100% beef; and "Holey Cow" means you ought to call the veterinarian.


August 09, 2011

The Need for a Good Vocabulary

Here's an experience a friend of mine had:

"I was sitting on some concrete steps involved in an art project. A couple of 'gentlemen' who were under the influence of some mind-altering substance came over to me and started chatting. They were basically friendly and harmless, if somewhat inappropriate, so I kept working and tried to ignore them. One of them sat down right next to me, and as he moved closer, I said, "You don't want to do that. I'm very contentious." I doubt he knew what contentious meant, but I bet he thought it was the same as contagious, because they immediately stopped trying to schmooze me, and picked up and left!"

While it was probably fortunate for her that the "gentlemen" in question didn't have a better understanding of the English language, think of the other things they might be missing.

We communicate through the use of language, and those who don't have a good, working vocabulary miss out on things they need to understand. In the future, I will be posting some lesser-used words along with their definitions and examples, so you can avoid missing out on the fun and interesting parts of life. Feel free to suggest some of your favorite obscure words. If it's not already on my list, I'll even give you credit for the suggestion.

I'm taking my definitions from, though if they give other sources, I will show those. The usage sentences are my own creations.


- row, disturbance, c.1930, first in Canadian English, ult. from Scot. curfuffle.
(Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper)

She left the restaurant, oblivious to the kerfluffle happening on the balcony above her until the potted plant, nudged by one of the combatants, crashed to the sidewalk at her feet.


vulgar or indecent in speech, language, etc.; coarsely mocking, abusive, or irreverent; scurrilous.

a ribald person.

1200–50; Middle English ribald, ribaud (noun) < Old French ribau ( l ) d, equivalent to rib ( er ) to be licentious (< Old High German rīben to copulate, be in heat, literally, rub) + -au ( l ) d, -alt < Frankish *-wald a suffix in personal names, derivative of *walden to rule; compare parallel development of -ard

She blushed as the minstrel strummed the opening bars of a popular and slightly ribald song. He ought to know better than to sing such a scurrilous thing in the presence of ladies.

August 07, 2011

Wow! What a week!

First off, and most exciting, my book A Heart Full of Diamonds has finally been published in print and ebook! Some of my fans have been waiting ten years for this event, so I'm understandably excited. I love the new cover, too. It's been a lot of fun learning to make my own covers, and with this one, I'm feeling confident that I finally know what I'm doing.

What's this one about? Here's what's on the back cover.

Once she saw the diamonds, she was out of options.

A wig, a change of clothes, and nerves of steel freed Marilee from her diamond-stealing husband, but Tony has too many friends in too many places for her to trust anyone.

A thousand miles away, she's fashioned a new life in a safe haven. Her brawny neighbor Richard and his engaging son Derreck would do anything to help her, but she keeps her past a secret until two of Tony's goons kidnap her in broad daylight.

The race is on, and Marilee's life hangs in the balance!

A Heart Full of Diamonds is available in print here, and in ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

In other news, the renovations have been finished on the older books. Clues to Food and Fabric of the World have new covers and lower prices.

Due to requests from blog readers, I'm working on preparing Assignment to Earth and Inherit my Heart for publication in print and ebook. I'm also putting together a short story collection and a sampler book, which should be out shortly. I expect that The Siege of Kwennjurat will be coming out sometime this winter. It needed more work than I had time to complete during summer break.

School starts again in two weeks and I've got a very full schedule this fall, so if you think I've dropped off the face of the planet, you'll know where I am. In the mean time, I can promise there will be a new blog post every Tuesday on something related to writing.


August 02, 2011

Cultural References

Last week I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise crew meets a people whose entire language is based on cultural references. In the episode, Captain Picard must learn their language or be killed by a wild animal. In explaining how their language worked, the example of Romeo and Juliet was cited.

Mention Juliet on her balcony, and those familiar with the play understand the mutual attraction, romantic love, and insurmountable obstacles - least of which is the distance to the balcony. If you don't know Juliet's story, understanding escapes you.

People dismiss ancient Greek and Roman civilization as out-dated, outmoded, and "dead"; not true. More of the culture in the modern world stems from these ancient cultures than we know.

Many scientific words have Latin or Greek roots; but so do many other words we call "English". I don't speak either language, but can often tear apart unfamiliar words to get a vague understanding, because of similarity to a word I already know.

Much of our architecture comes from Greek and Roman sources. I don't mean only buildings with fancy columns and sculpted frieze work on the facade. I was talking to someone recently about a "Spanish style" house, featuring a courtyard full of plants, breezeways, graceful arches, and thick, white outer walls. The Conquistadores brought this architecture with them as they built in the Central and North American deserts. They knew it was the best design for guarding against the heat. It's the type of home built in southern Spain and along the Mediterranean coast. The design is older than we think; it was used in Greece and Rome on the same coast.

Reading includes many references to history, culture, and literature; some more veiled than others. In my youth, "Greek" mythology was popular. I learned the Roman names first, probably because they're easier for English-speakers to pronounce. I loved the old stories, and tried to interest my daughter in them. She couldn't be bothered until she started reading the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books. Suddenly mythology was fun and exciting; not just the gods, but the creatures, heroes, history, language, and culture. She learned in a fun way, and I'm grateful to J K Rowling and Rick Riordan for making her learning fun. She now reads "docudrama" books based on medieval and renaissance royalty. I smile as I think of the history she is soaking up in her pleasure reading. Now if I could just get her to put the book down long enough to clean her room….