Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mother of the Bride Resists

Mother of the Bride Resists
by Nancy Martin      Go to fullsize image

The dress I chose to wear to my daughter’s wedding is the reason I have doubts about ever self-publishing my work. Here’s why:

There are 500 websites devoted to Mother of the Bride dresses, and I should have taken the time to search a few of them, but last fall I was writing two books and re-vamping my website and planning a wedding that would take place over the holidays--which is nuts, I admit, but my theory was that as long as I was already busy, I might as well be crazy busy. Emphasis on crazy.

I was too busy to worry about what I’d look like in photographs that will last forever. Instead of shopping for a great Mother of the Bride gown, I decided to recycle the dress I’d worn to my other daughter’s wedding a couple of years ago. It was black, and I know I look half dead in black, but at the time it seemed like an easy solution. So I took the old dress to a seamstress. She made a few alterations and added a ruffled collar. I tried it on in her dim bedroom, glanced into the mirror and said:

“Looks fine.”
Boy, was I wrong. When the pictures arrived, I took a good look at myself in that dress and groaned. What was I thinking? In the black dress with the ruffled collar, I look like a dog ordered not to chew her itchy patches.
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Generally when I look in a mirror, I have no sense of what other people see. Maybe it’s hysterical blindness. I much prefer photos of myself that have been liberally doctored by a kind photographer with Photoshop.

I fear I’m equally blind to the flaws in my writing. Even though I was an English teacher once. Even though I’ve written nearly 50 books. I still send every manuscript to critique partners and a ruthless alpha reader and an eagle-eyed beta reader before it goes to my editor and at least one professional copyeditor. Even with all those backups, there’s never been one of my books published that doesn’t cause a reader to write me a note within the first week of release to point out a mistake.

Hell, when I received my author copies of STICKY FINGERS last week, I opened the book, and right there in the opening pages is a missing comma. I mean, it was there the last time I read the chapter, honest, and now it’s gone!

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If you’re an author, you know readers love to play Gotcha! Even now, after 30 years of writing books, there are still people who send me long emails with lists—lists!—of mistakes they’ve found in my books.

“Nancy,” a perfectly nice lady said to me at a book festival, “would it bother you if I told you about a mistake I noticed in your last book?”

“Would it bother me?” I said. “Of course not. I’m used to it. But I guarantee you won’t be the first to have mentioned it. In fact, you’re probably not going to be the tenth. Even if it was a tiny little blunder, I’ve been told over and over, and although I’m powerless to fix it now, I am perfectly happy to listen to your complaints about the book I worked for a year to write, then spent months double-checking with editors and copyeditors. Please, tell me about the mistake you found. I’m listening.”

Maybe that speech landed a little spittle on her nice sweater, I’m not sure. She backed off.

Yes, I have peeked at some self-published novels for sale on Amazon, and I cringe at the quality of the writing. How do some of those writers have the courage to self-promote the way they do? Maybe I’m fussier than most readers, but spelling and punctuation matter to me. A story that makes sense is vital. Little inconsistencies bother me a lot. Plot threads left dangling? They annoy the hell out of me. Themes that never quite come together? What’s the point of a book like that?

Yes, there are some excellent self-published books out there.  The best one feature strong storytelling---an immediately engaging voice, characters plunged into peril and emotionally bound together. It seems that e-book writers have best learned the lesson of starting a story fast.

It's the bad grammar I can't get past.
Yes, I recognize fussbudgets like me are in the minority now. Maybe most books are written for readers who haven’t made it past 8th grade and wouldn’t recognize a split infinitive or a dangling modifier if it bit them in the butt.

Maybe I'm the dinosaur.

This month, a lot of big changes have shaken the publishing industry. At least one well-established, successful writer has decided to forgo a major advance from an established publisher to publish his own work. Maybe he’ll make a fortune. I hope he does. He has certainly changed the business, and I applaud him for that. And one plucky self-published author has been snatched up by a "traditional" publishing house for her ability to tell a great story.

But . . . me? Self-pub? I take one look at those awful wedding photos and think I’m not ready.

STICKY FINGERS, the 2nd book in Nancy's rock 'em, sock 'em Roxy Abruzzo series, is available now at bookstores everywhere.  Or here, if you'd like to order an autographed copy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Might of the Pen (or Word Processor, Whatever)

Working Stiffs welcomes guest blogger Kate Gallison.

Thanks for the guest spot on your blog, far from New Jersey. It gives me the chance to sneak away from my parochial little hometown and talk about stuff I don't usually discuss with my closest associates, for fear of scaring them to death. You all know what I'm talking about, you who are writers. The might of the pen. That moment when you tell an acquaintance you're working on a book, and he or she turns pale and says, "I'm not in it, am I?"

One evening many years ago Harold and I went to dinner at the home of friends. The husband was a writer who had been married to another writer. They had broken up unpleasantly. The ex-wife had written a book, which was a tremendous critical and financial success, as sometimes happens. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate. Of course Harold and I had found a copy and read it from cover to cover. He recognized nobody in it. I had never met the woman.

We arrived to find our friend Bob (let us call him) sitting at the dining room table, his face ashen, holding his head in his hands. "Have you read it?" he said.

"Read what?"

"My ex-wife's book."


"No, no."  

"Oh, no."

"The portrait of a marriage," he moaned.

Well, poor fellow, I was sorry for him,  he was clearly suffering, although having read the book I wasn't quite sure why. Maybe it was the scene with the roaches. But suddenly I realized that this same power was mine, not the tremendous critical and financial success part, alas, but the power to cause my ex-husband suffering. I, too, was a veteran of an unpleasant breakup. I could get him back for some of the unpleasantness he had heaped on me, maybe even cause him to sit at his dining room table groaning, ashen-faced, holding his head. The prospect was delicious.

But I stayed my hand. Ten published works later, I have never yet put the first husband in a book. (Notice I say "yet".) I discovered that each time I published a novel he ran out and bought it. I imagine him paging through, searching for insults to himself.  As long as he does this, I have at least one sale guaranteed. And the suspense! Think of it. Hanging around for thirty years, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I spent an evening Googling myself last week. You should try it sometime. It's refreshing, if you ignore the bad reviews. Along about page 34 there was a link to the Rutgers Alumni Bulletin from 2009. Thumbnail biographies had been sent in by members of the class of 1959. My ex mentioned me by name and class (Douglass '61), and claimed that after we broke up I wrote a series of murder mysteries in which he figured as the villain.  

Well, that's just not true. I guess he was being funny. But you do want to watch out how you offend a writer. Or anyone who might secretly be a writer.  I know of a janitor in a small town not far from here who was fired by the city clerk, for reasons of mutual personal antipathy. He was quite cross. He is also a brilliant writer.  From his irritation came the following pearl. Read it and tremble.

--Kate Gallison

Born in Philadelphia, Kate Gallison has been at various times a store clerk, a bill collector, a computer programmer, a technical writer, and a museum docent. As Kate Gallison, her writing credits include three private eye novels and five traditional mysteries. Under the name of Irene Fleming, she writes a series about silent movie production in the early twentieth century. The first of these, The Edge of Ruin, came out at the end of April 2010. The critics were pleased with it. The second, The Brink of Fame, will be released in August of 2011.

Kate has three grown sons and a bachelor's degree from Thomas Edison College. She lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, with her librarian husband and their cat. There she divides her time among her family, her writing, and various civic pursuits. She is a member of the Author's Guild, the MWA, Sisters in Crime, and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. She is descended from a convicted Salem witch.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Anyone seen my mojo?

by Susan Helene Gottfried

I'd like to thank Joyce and all the regular Working Stiffs for having me over today. This like a homecoming for me -- I used to be a regular here, a number of years ago. It's nice to be back among friends, even those of you I'd never met before. 

So where've I been? What have I been up to?

Well, I've put out a few books. I've become a Boy Scout when I answered an e-mail one day. "Do you need a writer?" I asked. They said, "Yes, we do."

Okay, they all but yelled, they were so excited to have me along.

It's a super job. I get to sit here behind my computer, where it's safe, and write up articles that are, hopefully, destined to appear in a local newspaper or magazine. The coolest part is that my name never shows up on any of it. Instead, my boss (wow! I have a boss!) gets the credit.

I am more than cool with that. I'm excited about it. This couldn't be a better set-up if I'd planned it out. I get to wrestle with lead sentences and search for fresh ways to interest newspaper editors -- a sadly dying breed.

And in there, I hope to recapture my mojo.

I don't know where it went. I have a vague idea when it started to steal away, and I have a better idea of what chased it off.

I've been casting about, here and there, for the solution. Nothing's worked. For all I know, this new gig won't be any better. But there's good synergy among the people I've met so far (who'd have thought? The Boy Scouts???) and even better energy. The men and women I get to work with are a total pleasure. And man, am I learning things. Good things. Big, worldly things that a girl otherwise wouldn't get to see from the seat at her desk. You know: the one facing a glowing computer screen.

Maybe my mojo will come back. If it doesn't, maybe I'll find a new one. A better one.

But in the meantime, if you guys have any advice or suggestions, I'm all ears. A fresh perspective, a fresh set of eyes, even an infusion of optimism. It's all welcomed over here. 

Monday, March 28, 2011


   by Gina Sestak

I'm coming up short on both time and ideas today.  Life has gotten hectic and I have to be in court at 9:00, so I'm just going to throw out a question:  In your opinion, what is the most frequently misspelled word in the English language?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who is the Coolest Reader you know?

Who is the coolest reader you know?

Tim O'Reilly from O'Reilly Publishing asked this question at SXSW.  For the non-geeks out there, Tim built a huge publishing empire by writing technical documentation the way computer users wanted it.  His company wrote the Missing Manual series, as well as many other books.

He actually didn't ask this question - not precisely in this way, but I took his thought and mashed it up with the idea of being an indie author.  Readers are your consumers.  Tim asked, who is the coolest consumer/customer - I ask, who is the coolest reader you know?

What makes that reader so passionate about reading?  How do they read?  How do they find the books they read?  Where do they hang out on-line, or do they?  Where do they buy their books?  What or who influences their purchase decisions?

And finally, what do your readers love?

Join the fun and write down answers to these questions.  Imagine what we might learn from each other as we peer into the world of a reader.  Are you a reader?   Does being a reader change who you are as a writer?  Does being a writer change how you read?

Tell me more.  I am keenly interested in what you think and believe about readers.

The coolest reader I know is my dear friend MK.  She's a kick-ass head nurse.  She reads to forget about a stressful day at the hospital.  She reads to experiences places or times in history that she can't reach due to the laws of physics and finances.  She's passionate about strong characters, people she'd like to know in real life, share a beer, or maybe even bring into her family.  Last year she recommended the Outlander series by Diana Galbanon to me.  Her words, "You simply MUST read this book.  Don't call me again until you do."  Now there's a convincing recommendation.  What makes MK passionate about a book?  The emotional story - the struggles, the interplay between the characters, and most of all, their moral dilemmas.

She reminds me what matters in storytelling, the choices our characters make.  And she loves a good belly laugh.  The kind you get when the hero does something completely silly or inexplicable.  Totally human.  Her laughter washes away the tension from a hard day at work.

As a writer, there's no greater honor in my mind that providing that moment to a reader.

MK used to hang out at the Library bookstore in Clayton, Missouri, but that establishment is long gone, morphed into a big box bookstore.  Now she wanders through a small shop in Kirkwood.  She hasn't gone digital yet because she's one of those people that loves the feel of a good book in her hands.  She likes Goodreads, but she's not very active in the boards.  Maybe later when she has more time.  She finds her books from staff recommendations, can can be found in the stacks after a hard day.
MK changed how I write.  She makes me take my responsibilities more serious.  Her time is precious and I respect what she brings to the reader-book-author triad.  Three distinct personalities, all giving something to each other.

Who is the coolest reader you know?  Share what they've taught you as a writer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Intentions

by Joyce

Every time it's my day to post, I start out with the intention of writing the best kick-ass-post ever. Then reality intervenes. As I'm typing right now part of me is thinking, Ack, I don't have time to write this! But that's not entirely true.

I may not have time. But I can make time.

Isn't that true with a lot of things?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I do a lot of complaining to myself about not having enough time to do everything I want to do. Every once in awhile I ask myself, Why not? I have a tendency to put off what I really want to do in favor of the things I think I should be doing. After I finish the so-called important things, I try to fit in the other stuff, then get annoyed and frustrated because I run out of time.

Right now we're remodeling our bathroom. We've been in our house for 30 years and this is the third and LAST time we're doing this. For the last several months, I've been shopping for porcelain/ceramic tile. Do you know how many kinds of tiles and how many colors there are to choose from? Having all those choices just confuses the crap out of me. When I was on the verge of tearing my hair out, I finally chose what I wanted. I think the people who work in Lowe's were relieved. I'm pretty sure they were tired of seeing me. I didn't tell them I'll be back. I still have to pick a toilet. Do you know how many different commodes there are???

Back to the tiles. I picked three different tiles--13 x 13 tiles that are ivory and kind of marble-y looking, plain 6 x 6 ivory tiles, and 6 x6 ivory tiles that have a decoration in the center. I figure they should match just about any shower curtain, etc. that I put up. I'm thinking something bright and colorful for the inaugural shower curtain. Maybe red?

Hubby installed a new and bigger skylight and hung new drywall. He removed the fifty year old cast iron bathtub that we never used (he had to cut it up and burned out his Roto-zip) in favor of a 30 x 60 shower pan that can be tiled over. So now the ceiling and walls are sanded (I discovered I'm really good at sanding drywall) and primed and ready for tile and paint.

Bored yet? I did warn you this wasn't going to be the best kick-ass-post-ever.

So that's the big important thing I've been doing lately. I'm really not complaining because it's been fun (and we still have a long way to go). I just don't like the fact that I don't have all the time I want to spend on my book. I've even put aside most of my blog reading, I haven't looked at any of the listservs I belong to, haven't read many blogs, spent minimal time on Twitter. See how deprived I am? But I'll have a really nice bathroom in few more weeks.

You're probably asking yourself what my point is. If you're still reading, that is. My point is that priorities change and we need to learn to "go with the flow." A cliche, I know, but it fits. In a perfect world we'd all have all the time we want to spend on the things we love instead of the things we have to do.

But here's a question for you: Wouldn't it be better to learn to love the things we have to do?

I'm working on it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Making of Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys Book Trailer--Part 2

by Mike Snyder

“First there was the word – not CLOSE UP.”

Hello! I represent the second half of Pamela DuMond’s ‘process’ (re yesterday’s blog) putting together Cupcakes, Lies And Dead Guys: I was responsible for creating her book trailer. My company, The Trailer Guys, had great fun bringing Pam’s novel to a screen near you.

And lest you haven’t seen the trailer yet:

A screenwriter by trade, I’ve also produced a variety of features, TV series and reality shows, as well as directed and shot 2nd unit action sequences. And I teach screenwriting through a Canadian web site. I love this form of art, as I imagine you love hunkering over a keyboard for long hours, hoping to create a world never seen before, one people will want to enter and stay a while. It’s the most fun we can have with our clothes on!

A book trailer, like any form of filmmaking, is divided into 3 main elements: Concept/Pre-Production, Production and Post.

Conceiving a ‘filmic’ book trailer differs from the usual “pan-and’scan” trailers – the one’s using lots of push-ins and scans across still pictures, with a sentence or two superimposed beneath. We use action and a Narrator to encapsulate the novel, complicating things. A lot.

When Pam approached me about her novel being released soon, I quickly read a galley proof to familiarize myself with her heroine, Annie Graceland, and Annie’s escapades. Next I started imagining how to condense all the shenanigans into 1½ minutes of screen time. I sat and thought about it a very long time – one of my favorite past times!

Many drafts and virtual balls of paper thrown at onscreen trash cans later, I had something worth showing Pam. As a writer I hate having people mess with my words, but as a realist I know we almost never work in a vacuum. IMO, more than any other medium, filmmaking is a collaborative art. The skill is to pick your battles and let the rest go.

If you’ve read Cupcakes you’ll know we had to leave out much more than we put in: Annie’s mom, her best friend, bums, renegade nurses, wayward husbands, etc. Anyone who’s loved a book, then gone to the movie, will know only about 10% of the ‘grist’ ever gets past the mill.

I think Pam and I went through 5 or 6 revisions; everything from character assassinations and twisting plot points to nit-picky wording. Luckily, having started as a screenwriter herself, Pam understood the process and neither of us lost any major body parts.

As I write a script I also begin imagining the accompanying action. I always admonish my students that filmmaking is a visual medium. More so with book trailers, as there’s no dialogue. Narration, yes, but that just exemplifies what’s going on.

BTW, I use a two-column layout in Word, similar to any A/V script whether it’s film, tape or radio. One side has NARRATION, the other ACTION.

This is actually the fun part. At this stage I let my mind run free (no comments!). Hmmm … I could write Annie in a fighter jet or storming a Libyan beach.

My partner, Harry (a brilliant-but-cantankerous British filmmaker who’s cameraman and editor for our trailers) and I decided early on we’d need Special Visual Effects to marry Annie with ghostly Derrick Fuller and decided on green screen -- a computer process whereby actors are magically transported to remote locations. Your local weatherman uses one. With this process we can put actors in 14th century Scottish castles, on the moon … or in a Thai massage parlor.

After locking the script and deciding on a course of action for visuals, the next hurdle was casting. Harry and I enjoy this part a lot. When doing a film we like to see many actors, and love what each brings to the reading. As Annie was our central character, the actress playing her was especially important and we blocked out a day to audition hopefuls for her character alone.

Except Pam had already told someone she could have the role …!

Hmmm. This wasn’t a situation I was fond of, and Harry really got his back up (cantankerous, remember?); but in the spirit of fair play we met Aurora deBlas, Pam’s first and only choice. Neither Harry and I were convinced, but it was early morning and none of us had had our requisite amounts of coffee yet. Besides … “pick your battles,” remember? It was still a great book, a good script, Pam was adamant … and we thought we could work with Aurora.

It must be said here and now that Aurora’s wonderful! She was great to work with: Funny, intuitive, talented and willing to try anything. We loved her, so good on Pam. And Aurora!

A blessing about book trailers, vis-á-vis regular filmmaking is, they’re akin to silent movies. We cast Valentinos, not James Earl Joneses. How a character looks and acts goes more to verisimilitude than how they speak. The only exception is the Narrator, which we’re very particular about. At the moment I’m in discussions with an author who’s written a  light mystery noir about a guy who sounds like Humphrey Bogart. That will be fun casting a voice actor for…!

Another suggestion of Pam’s was Darren, a friend of hers living in San Diego, to play the errant husband, Mike. Darren drove all the way from San Diego to spend an hour and a half filming with us, and was also excellent. I was beginning to hate Pam…

Then Aurora recommended Bill, who turned out to be perfect for the sleezy boss. So much for Harry and I being sole doyens of good taste. But the other roles went to actors we’d worked with previously; a tight little cast, willing to put in long hours for little pay and cold pizza. Things will improve in the future, guys, I promise!

Two other integral members of our merry band are Cynthia, makeup & hair, and Cara, special makeup and tattoos. Their efforts can be seen more fully in our first trailer, JT Ellison’s Taylor Jackson novel, The Immortals: They had a lot of fun flaying, filleting and generally wreaking havoc on a variety of young actors in that one.

In the future Harry and I also hope to add a wardrobe designer and all-around knowledgeable PA (preferably a film student) to speed the proceedings along. But for the time being we get by…

Locations were scouted and locked (cemetery, Annie’s house, beach, yoga studio, etc.) and at the same time Harry and I began discussing a “look.” We decided, given its light nature and fun elements, to make Cupcakes as lush as possible, using oversaturated colors throughout. Sort of a 60’s, Todd A-O/Technicolor version of reality, as compared to digital harshness.

We also chose camera setups that would help sell the fun of the book: “Dutched” (skewed) angles, low angles up, high angles down, etc. All the bits & pieces that go into making any film.

Soon it was Shoot Day One. We all met at the Annie’s House location, and from there a splinter unit consisting of Harry, Cynthia, Aurora and me took off for the beach and a quick ‘pop’ of Annie in her cheese hat. 3 - 4 quick takes later we piled back in the car and returned to Santa Monica. We shot Exteriors at the house first, as Darren was under a time constraint, then moved Interior for the kitchen scene. By then it was lunch, and while pizzas were ordered Harry, Aurora and I scooted over to the cemetery and shot her ‘grave stomping’ scene.

Oh, we taped other stuff that never ended up in the trailer, but that’s par for the course…

And if you’ve been paying attention to the shooting schedule -- yes, it was still daylight at the cemetery. Making the scene transpire at midnight was up to Harry in editing.

After a hurried lunch we all piled in our cars again and caravaned out to The Valley and our gym location at California Fitness Center. We shot the scene with Troy and a heavily-disguised Annie in the owner, Steve Balalian’s, office, then moved to a separate exercise studio for the scene with Annie and Ginger. Finally, in a breezeway between the gym and exercise studio, after “losing the light,” we shot the stalking scene for the end of the trailer. All-in-all a good first day!

Day Two arrived way too bright and early as everyone congregated at Harry’s house-cum-studio. We started with driving shots of Bill, then moved indoors for the green screened Thai Massage Parlor. Inbetween all this, Cynthia is frantically changing makeup designs and hair styles!

Vic (Derrick) had arrived by then and we shot his bedroom and bathroom scenes (again, green screen), then shot Aurora’s side of things in the real bed- and bathrooms. Difficult to set proper aspect angles for the actors, but luckily we’re able to run playback and see if we goofed up.

Next we shot the Malibu Beach Café scene on green screen in two passes, first with Aurora and the table, then with Vic and nothing. Then the tag, where Derrick The Ghost is applying suntan lotion to Annie on the grass. That was also green screen, tho we ran out and shot a bit of lawn.

We bid Aurora adieu and thanked her for an amazing two days, then finished up with Derrick on the sun deck eating poisoned doughnuts (BTW, the stalker was played by Pam The Ham…).

That was it for Production. I left it to Harry to download all the tape into the computer and put a rough cut together. Some producers like to micro-manage their editors but from my experience editors in general, and Harry in particular, are proficient enough thankyouverymuch, and don’t require a lot of input during the opening game.

Several days later I visited Harry and we looked at a ‘rough cut.’ The elements were all there, so it was time to refine, massage and begin playing with color and SpFX – which we did ad infinitum (did I mention we’re both perfectionists?). While I’m usually concerned about timing of lines and action and which are the best angles to use of our actors, Harry was worrying over which effects to add to each scene, including color and sound.

Like Vic popping up out of the ground at the cemetery, or lying on Annie’s bed. Tough stuff.

In the meantime, we began auditioning voice actors for the Narrator. Thanks to the wonders of computers and digital blah-blah-blah, they were able to email us samples of their work, which we could listen to at our liesure. Also, we were thinking about music. Harry trained as a concert pianist when he was a wee lad in England (his grand piano takes up 9/10s of his living room), but we needed something a little sprightlier than Penderecki.

We finally settled on a great vocal actor and nice, light music, Harry finalized the cut and we uploaded it to YouTube For Pam’s Eye’s Only. She had a few notes and requested some changes, which were right on and not out of the ordinary. We don’t make a habit of staying in post any longer than necessary, so we ask our clients get their ducks lined up as quickly as possible once script or cut have been sent to them for review. After that, we make the changes or argue, er—debate, their efficacy and make a final copy in whatever form the client requests. Usually it’s a high-def YouTube version they can upload/download and pass around, but sometimes they want it on DVD. We use a very high-end HD camera and Harry is a whiz at uploading in proper formats for any given platform, so the finished product is always just right for its intended use.

And that’s how it’s done. Well … that’s how we do it. It’s a great way to exercise our jones for creativity and be challenged at the same time (most filmmakers hate to repeat themselves). Honestly, I enjoy the Conceptual stage most, before all the craziness happens, as it’s most in my control; but Production and Post have their own rewards, including the chance to mold, refine and (in some cases) correct things that pop up on set or afterward (there’s nothing worse than getting into a scene only to discover your immortal words just ain’t working!)

It’s art and industry at the same time, two parts creativity and one part technical skill. It’s fun, fast and furious and a joy to do.

BTW, we’re looking for a Romance (modern or historical) or Sci-Fi novel to tackle next, plus I have that noir Bogey mystery to script as well as begin considering a book of poetry to ‘trailerize,’ which should offer its own special challenges…



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Making of Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys Book Trailer! (The Agony, The Ecstasy, The submarine sandwiches…)

by Pamela DuMond

Hello Working Stiffs and Readers!

My name’s Pamela DuMond. I’m happy Ramona DeFelice Long asked me to share my inside scoop on how the book trailer for my debut novel, Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys came to be.

Here’s the link for my book trailer:

After you read my post, you’ll get to read Mike Snyder’s version tomorrow. He’s the mastermind producer/writer/film-maker from The Trailer Guys who created my trailer.

When I signed my contract with Krill Press for my novel, Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys, in July 2010, I knew I wanted a book trailer. I heard they were gaining in popularity and could help market a book. However, I was confused on where to begin this process.

Lucky for me, Mike Snyder and I have been ‘buds’ on a writers’ group for years. (Advice: Take the time to make connections with other writerly, creative people.)

In some great timing, Mike and his friends had started a company called The Trailer Guys specifically designed to create high quality book trailers.

I chatted Mike up (begged), discussed my book’s esteemed future (slipped him a mickey), and he agreed to make my trailer. With Mike Snyder and his crew’s credentials, I relaxed and decided to let them hold, burp and even change my baby. I knew my debut novel was in great hands.

I sent Mike and his peeps MS word copies of the book. We met over lunch and discussed my novel’s tone, key colorful characters, and the ‘look’ of the book. How the story could translate to the ‘small screen’. Mike’s biz partner, Harry, a brilliant curmudgeonly bloke, described Cupcakes as a farcical romp. Bingo. Mike started throwing out ideas for scenes right there at the lunch table.

Being that I live and work in L.A., I know a lot of actors. Before I handed Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys novel to The Trailer Guys I already promised the lead role to a client/friend of mine, Aurora de Blas. (For future reference – let The Trailer Guys do the casting.)

They were a little nervous, (eyebrows raised, hands thrown in the air and Harry kept  mopping his face and huffing,) I had given the lead to an actress who might not have comedic chops. Trust me, they were thrilled when they discovered that not only could Aurora do comedy, but she was flippin’ fearless. Pratfalls, stomping on graves, freezing in the early morning on the ocean’s beach, hiking her skirt up to yeah, there, to play a sexy temptress. Aurora was simply the best. (She recently raised enough money to film her own sexy cool short film called Incredible Girl. I’m including the links to her project if you’d like to follow her progress.)

I lucked out when a friend of some friends heard we were casting and offered to play a cop. After I got a look at Darren Snapper, I said, "Oh no mister. You’re far too cute and how’d you like to play the juicier role of the husband?"

The night before the shoot, October 30th, I worked late and then had to hunt down a variety of props including Valentine’s Day balloons. Try finding Valentine’s balloons the night before Halloween. I was so nervous that night I barely slept.

October 31st, the first shoot day, everyone started converging at my place around 7 am. Cynthia Ann Richards was the super cool make up girl, in charge of props, and every director’s dream assistant. She set up her makeup station on my back porch. (Can I adopt you, Cynthia?) Thank God Mike brought a tub of coffee. We used my kitchen, living room, front yard and sidewalk for film locations.

In between fetching necessary things: pillows for Aurora to fall back on when she fainted, pizza, etc., I used my Flip Camera to film behind-the-scenes footage of the Making of the Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys Book Trailer. Those little videos became an invaluable marketing tool for the book. (If you want to see some of these vids, go to the book’s FB page: )

We hightailed out to Northridge to film more scenes at the California Fitness Center, owned by Steve Balalian who generously gave us the location.

Mike enlisted Riley, his son to play ‘Troy’ the assistant. For J.T. Ellison’s trailer Riley was hung upside down from an outdoor balcony in the foothills of the desert. For Cupcakes, Riley got to be seduced by Aurora’s character, Annie, who dressed up like a trollop. Hmm. Wonder which role Riley liked better? (Riley was awesome!)

Then there was Deb Whitcas, the hardest working woman in Hollywood. She played super fit trainer Ginger just perfectly. 

Like any shoot, there was a little drama, mama. My biggest meltdown happened when Mike requested a briefcase for the husband character to carry. I dug around in a closet and found a black bag that I couldn’t even remember buying. They told me to stuff it with books or pages. For good luck, I filled it with pages from a draft of Cupcakes. That’s when I found a business card in the side pocket.

I looked at it and realized it was my dad’s business card. He died in 1993, and my book is dedicated to him. I burst out crying as I realized he’d be so proud and encouraging. So in a way, he was there for the shoot.

Has this book trailer made a difference in sales? I can’t say for sure. But what I can say is that Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys has already beaten the odds for an Indie published novel. It made it to #2 on Kindle’s Hot New Releases under “Ghosts” and is still currently selling like, well, cupcakes on e-readers.

Here’s the Amazon link for the book:

Thanks Mike Snyder and his crew at The Trailer Guys for creating a trailer for my debut novel that a girl could only dream about. Mwah to all of you! Now, go read a book and tell someone you love about it!


Pamela DuMond

Monday, March 21, 2011

Upcoming Guest Bloggers

No post today, so we thought we'd let everyone know about our fantastic line up of guest bloggers in the coming months. We still have open spots, so let us know if you're interested in joining us as a guest. You can email us at workingstiffspgh at yahoo dot com.

Our upcoming guests:

3/22  Pam DuMond and 3/23 Mike Snyder--all about book trailers.
3/29  Susan Helene Gottfried
3/30  Kate Gallison
3/31  Nancy Martin
4/7    Alan Orloff
4/22  P.M. Terrell
4/29  Steve Ulfelder--a review of his book.
5/12  Steve Ulfelder--an interview.
6/28  Aimee Dyer
6/30  Angela Verdenius

Friday, March 18, 2011

Catastrophe while you are traveling

by Pat Gulley

Catastrophe while you are traveling.

I read a blog recently about an author who went off to a foreign country to do research and fell and broke an ankle. That did not deter her one bit, and she stayed on her touring and researching course. It reminded me of all the stalwart clients I had, who never allowed anything like broken bones, asthma attacks or diarrhea interfere with their travels. Yes, some of them had to delay a bit to spend unwanted time in a hospital. The average war story here was with the American attitude towards what was expected of them, and what they expected from the provider. They were exasperated, appalled, delighted and surprised finding they wished they had that service in the US opposed to being scared out of their minds because they equated the treatments to something a witch doctor would prescribe. Their travel agent always had a chuckle after they left, but I always got my two cents in with “Aren’t you glad you took the travel insurance I arm wrestled you into buying?” I always liked to remind them who the expert was.

The terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan brings up the worst case scenario of being trapped in a country when a catastrophe happens, whether a person is hurt or not. Granted the insurance does not cover catastrophe evacuation, but if you had a medical emergency, it would. A fellow TA had a client recently who was going on an Adventure Cruise to Antarctica, all expenses except airfare paid by a company she was doing photography work for. No it wasn’t an assignment from a magazine. Anyway, trying to step off the tender, Miss Clumsy, missed her footing, did some fancy somersaulting, which resulted in several breaks to one leg. Now she had gone to see my friend because she wanted a good deal on an air ticket. My friend could offer her wholesale rates, but the traveler also needed help with all the necessary travel documentation and equipment movement. Needless to say, there was a major battle of wills over buying a $98.00 trip cancellation police for this trip to protect her from all sorts of things she was sure she didn’t need. She was sure her own medical insurance would cover her, but had never checked to see if it did outside the USA. Most don’t ya’know. Miss Clumsy grumbled over the fact that She would Never cancel a trip like this and the wholesale ticket only had cancel fees, not totally non-refundable, that she could handle. Yes, but what about after you start travel? The fare rules have change fees and travel minimum restrictions that could raise fare substantially to go home early. So, eventually my friend won, and the lady bought the insurance.

Well, her little ‘trip’ required helicopter service to get her off the ship, hospital emergency room fees, air ticket change fees and the added upgrading costs to first class because she required stretcher service due to the size of the cast on her leg. The cheapy little policy she bought contained $100,000 worth of emergency medical evacuation coverage, and she used darn near every penny of the hundred grand to return home.

Bad things happen. And what about the horrors of death while traveling. Death abroad can be more that a sad thing, it can be an emotionally stressful trying to get the dearly departed back home. Even friendly countries have rules and regulations that can delay the return and interfere with all sorts of family religious rituals. The paperwork is monstrous, and asking for a cremation to make things easier is almost always out of the question. And we are not going to discuss here on this nice little blog how awful some bodies arrive home. The emergency evacuation insurance can handle a major portion of this for people and a lot of the costs. And where it helps considerably, is when under major emotional stress people make statements and agree to things that might bankrupt them. The insurance help cover some of those bad decisions.

With the situation in Japan, many Americans we heard about were there on business, so I’m sure they expect their companies to pay for everything. However, leisure travelers trapped there will have to foot all the bills themselves, and if they did buy some insurance, they have some financial compensation available to them with their return home. Think about the other tourist destinations like Tunis and Egypt during the protests.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome Hallie Ephron!

 One of our favorite people stopped by! Hallie, thanks for being here today. Hallie's new book, COME AND FIND ME will be available on March 22.
Visit Hallie's Web site here to pre-order!

Thanks so much for having me on Working Stiffs! 

The most terrifying time for me, as a writer, aside from the weeks of ominous silence before the first reviews come in, are when I've finished one book and haven't yet started the next. Now I know there are writers with ideas, stacked up like planes at LaGuardia. For whom it's a matter of WHICH one to tackle next. But for me the question is: will I ever again come up with an good idea enough to sustain a 300-page novel.

I was in just such a funk, sure that I'd never be inspired as I was (at a yard sale) for "Never Tell a Lie," and wasting my time shopping on the Internet. There I tripped over an ad for a year supply of dehydrated and freeze-dried food. 5,011 total servings. 84 gallon-sized cans with a shelf life of up to 25 years. The photo showed a pyramid of cans in lovely pastel colors.

The chirpy ad copy explained: "...this package will give you variety, nutrition, and peace of mind."

Now maybe if I lived on the San Andreas fault or on a flood plain I might have sent in my check for $999.99. Instead I sat there scratching my head, trying to imagine who in the world would buy it.

The answer was someone like Diana Highsmith in "Come and Find Me" -- she's a recluse, afraid to leave her own house, traumatized by the sudden death of her lover and best friend in a climbing accident in the Swiss Alps. When she returns home alone, she barricades herself behind locked doors with video surveillance, security alarms, and electronic fire walls to protect her--though even she isn't sure from what. She "lives" on the Internet in a virtual world where she conducts business meetings, investigates security breaches, hangs out with avatar friends, and "climbs" Alpine mountains without ever leaving home.

Of course the challenge in writing a high-tech virtual world is to make it seem uncomplicated. To do that, I needed to research Second Life, the real virtual world like the fictional Other World I created in the book. So, armed with enough information to be dangerous, I created an account in Second Life. Then I created an avatar me: young, brunette, skinny jeans. Hey, why not?

So far so good. But I'm so not a gamer. The mouse and arrow keys are not my friends. So even though I knew my avatar should be able to walk, run, fly, sit, and teleport, I couldn't keep her from bumping into furniture. When I finally got her aloft, it was exhilarating, watching like I was perched on her shoulders (think Harry Potter on riding Buckbeak the hippogriff) as she soared over the island at the entrance to Second Life. Not so exhilarating, seconds later, was when she plunged into the blue (very blue) ocean. I actually found myself gasping for breath, then panicking when I couldn't figure out how to get her out.

So, most of what I learned about Second Life was gleaned by riding shotgun beside a few generous souls who let me watch as they went about their business in virtual reality. I learned that even bucolic corners of the virtual world can be infested by "griefers," mischief-makers who enjoy raining down toasters or flying phalluses or dropping cages to trap the avatars of unsuspecting players. It can turn from safe to scary in a heartbeat, which was perfect for the book. And, of course you never know who you're dealing with. Just for example, it turns out that a good percentage of the female avatars in Second Life have been created by male players. My favorite story about Second Life is that although avatars are designed to be virtually indestructible, a woman somewhere managed to kill her ex-husband's avatar.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My New Toy

by Annette Dashofy

As last summer drew to a close, I swore I would own a new laptop before the 2011 camping season. My old one was sluggish and temperamental. Even Microsoft Word didn’t work right on it. Since I spend a lot of time at our camp writing while Hubby fishes, I really need a fully functioning laptop.

Last Friday, I did it. I ordered my new HP laptop online after falling in love with the in-store display model (which, alas, was the only one left). It wasn’t due to arrive until today. So I planned to blog about how eager I was to get my hands on my new computer.

But to my surprise—and delight—it arrived a day early! It’s like Santa showing up on the morning of Christmas Eve.

I wonder if Daylight Saving Time and setting our clocks ahead had anything to do with it. Hmm.

Anyway, what follows is a diary of my first day with my new toy

10:15AM. Mr. UPS arrives with my package. Squeee! With Kensi kitten eagerly watching (new toy for me means new box for her), I very carefully slice through the tape and try to determine out how to get the thing open. The fact that I can’t figure which tab is in which slot of the cardboard box doesn’t bode well for the rest of the learning curve.

10:30AM Read the START HERE instruction sheet. Step One: Unpack the Box. If I hadn’t already managed that much, I wouldn’t have found the instruction sheet. Doesn’t bode well for the level of help I’ll get from these instructions.

10:45AM Have managed Steps Two and Three: insert battery and plug it in. On a roll.

Except the next step involves turning it on and going through the on-screen set up. Being not entirely a novice with new computers and electronics, I suspect this may take considerable time. And I have to take my mother to her tax lady for a noon appointment. So I decide to wait until I return home to continue. I satisfy myself by admiring how pretty the new case is (it’s GOLD) and by threatening Kensi to keep her little kitty paws off it. (She’s already lost interest in the box.)

2:00PM Mom’s taxes are done. Hubby has headed off to work. Time to play.

2:30PM Set up has gone remarkably well. Now comes the first big test. Software installation. Namely Microsoft Office. I’ve been using Office 2003 for quite a while now and really don’t want to have to “upgrade” to the 2010 version. I’ve heard nothing good about it. The question is will I be able to use my old software on my new computer?

4:30PM It would appear the answer is YES! Now I’m happy. I’ve updated everything that seems to need updating at the moment. I’ve transferred home movies from my desktop to the new computer and even learned how to burn a DVD. Neither my desktop, nor my old laptop, had a DVD burner, so I couldn’t do much with the home movies I’d made with my Flip Camera. Now I can! Oh, and I’ve copied my current work in progress onto the new computer, so I can work as well as watch movies.

5:00PM I’m exhausted. Just for fun, I sent my first email from the new computer, tweeted to Twitter on it, and tested out Hulu. The picture and sound quality is exceptional.

And with that, I decided to shut it down. I still have plenty to do. I can access my Yahoo mail, but I still need to set up Outlook. There are plenty of files to copy over to it yet. However, the major hurdles have been crossed.

It’s been a good day. No disasters. Everything works the way it’s supposed to. I may have had to search for a few things that weren’t where they used to be. But all in all, I’d say I’m ready to hit the road. Let camping season begin!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gazing into the Future

By Martha Reed

As I get closer to finishing my manuscript, I’m starting to move my focus toward selling it. This presents some new ground to cover since the publishing business is in such turmoil lately. I’m not even sure which business model to follow since I’m not sure which one is going to survive.

Being a writer nowadays is a little like living in a contested village during a civil war when neither army is particularly friendly. I’m in the middle still trying to feed the chickens and milk the cow while praying the soldiers don’t burn down the barn.

All around me I see bricks and mortar bookstores closing at both the national and local independent level. I read of traditional publishing house editors getting down-sized to become agents and of agents transitioning to become freelance editors. I even know of one editor who became a writer who is now an agent. Shazooey! No wonder I’m confused.

I think the trick here, as I gaze into my crystal ball, is to keep your eye on the technology. Technology will tell us which direction “progress” is going to go. It’s an historic pattern: faster, cheaper, easier, successful. The younger generation has already adapted to it; quite possibly the Baby Boomers may be the Last Generation of paper book readers.

But that doesn’t mean doom and gloom.

I like to think publishers may migrate back to an older business model my grandfather knew: quality acid-free paper versions of books with marvelous engravings and fine bindings. I think there will always be a market for the reader connoisseur who wants a fine copy of a favorite novel. Illustrators have been starving for more than fifty years. Maybe this is their turn to re-enter the book-making marketplace?

So what do I see? Ebooks, trade paperbacks for under $15 and luxury bookmaking. That’s my best guess.

Monday, March 14, 2011


by Gina Sestak

A question that came up in my Saturday critique group meeting got me thinking.  One of the newer members posed it, asking about the writing process.  What do you actually do when you write?

That's a good question, and one we writers rarely seem to discuss.

We spend a lot of time talking about what we've written.  We point out spelling and grammar gaffs and note the logical disconnects.  We count pages and words.  We brainstorm about agents, publishers, marketing.   We compare technology and software.  But how do we write?

Personally, I tend to do the first draft almost as if I'm watching a movie and jotting down what's happening on the screen - I fall into what seems to be an altered state of consciousness and lose track of time.  Sometimes it feels as if I'm just describing something that's already there, bringing a pre-existing story into concrete form.  As the story progresses, I get to know the characters better - not because I'm purposely making them up but as if they, like newly-met friends, are becoming comfortable enough to reveal more about themselves to me.   And yet, I stop and edit as I go, jump back a page or two or twelve to change a prior passage so it leads into the part I'm writing now, restructure.  I fix the grammar and spelling, jump out of the document to google a date or other fact.  I don't outline, but I usually have an end in mind from the beginning - a final scene or two - and, like watching a movie, I get caught up in all the interesting things that happen to my characters along the way, from their first venture out onto a page to the (I hope) satisfying conclusion of their saga.

Other people do it completely differently.   Some people start with detailed outlines.  I know one writer who works through his outline several times, expanding it and fleshing it out, until that outline turns into a book.  I know someone else who painstakingly crafts each chapter, trying for perfection before moving on to the next.   There are probably as many ways of writing as there are writers.

So here's the question for today:  How do you write?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Paging The Lorax

by Ramona DeFelice Long

2011 is off to a bad start for trees.

Just after New Year’s, I caught a news article about a 70 foot cottonwood growing on a lonely stretch of Highway 50 in Nevada. The tree was a local landmark because someone, at some time, for some reason, threw a pair of shoes up into its branches. Someone else threw their shoes into the tree, and someone else and on and on, until the tree held hundreds of pairs of shoes. It became known as the Highway 50 Shoe Tree.

This is quirky, loveable Americana. In the middle of nowhere is a bigazz tree with shoes hanging from it. Who could hate a tree like this? Or any tree, for that matter? Someone did, apparently, because in early January, vandals cut down the Highway 50 Shoe Tree.

When you write mysteries, you try to understand the criminal mind. Whoever committed this act must have had a reason. Did they hate shoes? Trees? Have a grudge against Highway 50? Were they experimenting with mind-altering substances and woke up the next morning full of regret--or from a blackout, staring at the chain saw in the corner, wondering WTF did I do last night? Were they just bored?

I never said it had to be a good reason.

The murder of the Shoe Tree intrigued me, in part because I wanted to know the why, even if it was a stupid why. But then came another tree felony, and this one had a why, and the why stumps me even more.

If you are from the South, you know that the universities of Alabama and Auburn share one of the most intense rivalries in college football. Their yearly match-up is called the Iron Bowl. Last year, both teams were ranked in the Top 10 and Auburn was undefeated. Halfway through the Iron Bowl, Auburn trailed, 24-0. Then they made one of the biggest comebacks in their team’s history to defeat Alabama, 28-27. The Auburn Tigers won the SEC Championship and then the BCS National Championship. Undefeated.

(I got all that from Wikipedia, BTW, because I am not a football fan. Plus, I went to LSU, so I am required to hate all teams from Alabama. It’s a condition of graduation. Seriously… almost.)

But back to the story. After the whooping of Alabama, Auburn students celebrated by toilet papering a set of century old oak trees at a spot called Toomer’s Corner. Rolling the Toomer’s Corner spirit trees was a beloved Auburn tradition that endured for generations, and would have endured for generations more if someone had not killed the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner.

And by someone, I mean an Alabama football fan. There is no mystery about this. After Auburn won the national championship, a man called a local radio program and proudly announced when, and how, he’d put poison in the ground around the oaks.

That’s right. He broadcast his confession on live radio. As you can tell, the host didn’t believe the man’s claim. Sadly, he wasn’t lying.

His motive? The radio host also didn’t buy that Auburn students had celebrated Bear Bryant’s death by rolling the spirit trees; but as he put it, that was 28 years ago. The caller’s more current motive was that Auburn students dressed Bama’s statute of Bear Bryant in the Auburn quarterback’s jersey.

Was that such a heinous act? I don’t think so, but this guy thought an appropriate response to the “desecration” of a statue with an article of clothing was the murder of two living trees.

Over this, my mind is boggled. Here’s a case where the motive makes less sense than no motive. To make it even more perplexing, the tree poisoner is a retired Texas State Trooper!

So now he is charged with first degree criminal mischief and could face ten years in prison.

Is this appropriate? I keep thinking of those trees, and wishing his punishment held more than jail time. In addition to that and financial restitution and, hopefully, lots of mandatory therapy, should this guy be banned from attending all future Iron Bowl games? Sentenced to planting and maintaining trees on state parkland? Should he get a talking-to and a couple of round-house kicks from Walker, Texas Ranger for besmirching the agency’s good name? Because, if you notice, Mr. Tough Guy didn’t sneak into Baton Rouge and take on LSU’s mascot, Mike the Tiger.

No, he cowardly attacked two old trees. They couldn’t fight back, or even cry out for help.

If you could speak for the trees, what do you think should happen?

A side note: Administrators and students of the University of Alabama expressed their outrage and horror at the actions of this man. Every effort is being made to save the trees, but the outlook is grim. Students at Auburn University have mourned the trees with candlelight vigils. No other violence, on either campus, has occurred.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Interview with Bill Tanner, a Character in Deadly Currents

Working Stiffs welcomes guest blogger, Beth Groundwater.

Deadly Currents, the first book in Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series features the sport of whitewater rafting. The sleuth, Mandy Tanner, is a whitewater river ranger on the upper Arkansas River of Colorado, the most commercially rafted river in the United States. Her uncle, Bill Tanner, is the owner of a whitewater rafting outfitting company in Salida, Colorado. He's the most important person in Mandy's life. Let's find out why.

1. What's your relationship with Mandy Tanner?

I'm her uncle, her foster parent, her former employer, and her life coach—who she sometimes listens to. Let me explain.

Mandy's parents, my brother and his wife, died in a horrific car crash in Colorado Springs two months before Mandy was due to start her senior year of high school. She was 17 and living with me that summer, the second summer she'd done so. She was working for my outfitting company, doing odd jobs and learning as much as she could about guiding whitewater rafting trips. Mandy's a natural river rat who fell in love with riding the rapids the first time her parents brought her out to take one of my rafting trips.

After Mandy's parents passed, her brother David couldn't really be her legal guardian because he was just a college student, only 20 himself. Since she was already staying with me, it just made a lot of sense for me to become her guardian until she turned eighteen. We already got along real well, and I think we helped each other get through the grieving period.

You see, I'm a widower with no kids of my own, so I doted on my niece and nephew, especially Mandy. I loved spoiling them both when they were young. And it was real nice having another person living in that big old empty house, especially one as lively as Mandy. I call her my baby girl and she calls me her old grouchy bear. It’s all in fun, because I’m really not that grouchy. Mandy took care of me, too, especially when my gout flared up and all I could do was hobble from bed to chair. And she nagged me about my diet. But she's not around anymore to do that.

2. Why not?

You know, I kinda thought she would be. After Mandy graduated from the local high school, she stayed at my house and started working for me as a rafting guide in the summers and as a ski patroller on Monarch Mountain in the winters. I helped pay for her courses at Colorado Mountain College in Buena Vista until she earned an associate’s degree in Outdoor Education. I always assumed I'd leave my business to her when I passed. I still hope to.

But just like her daddy—and me, I guess, Mandy's got a stubborn, independent streak. A few years back, she moved into a small rental place of own, even though she could have continued to live rent-free at my place. Supposedly, it was because of that dog of hers that she adopted and named Lucky. You see, I'm allergic. But I think she would have found some other excuse to move out. She'd started dating and wanted her privacy. I really couldn't blame her, I guess.

But, when she applied for the seasonal river ranger position, that threw me for a loop. I thought she liked being a rafting guide, liked working for me. She said she wanted to try something I've never done, sort of prove herself. I hope that's all it is. I hope once she's tired of being a ranger, she'll take over for me in a few years so I can retire. In the meantime, I’ll be manning the reservation desk, shuffling the paperwork, and driving the shuttle vehicles until she comes back.

3. How has Tom King's death affected you and your business?

Frankly, I'm more worried about how it's affecting my baby girl. The man died in her arms, after all. That's got to have been hard.

But it hasn't been easy around here, either. Once word got out that Tom King fell out of one of my rafts, people have been calling and canceling their reservations. The fools don't realize that no matter which outfitter you use, whitewater rafting is an inherently risky activity. This isn’t Disneyland. We can’t make guarantees about anyone's safety because we don’t control the river.

This hit at a bad time, too, when the economy and tourism are already down. I'm afraid my business is in for a rough patch. I just hope I can ride it out. It's kind of touch and go now, if you know what I mean.

4. How did Beth Groundwater, the author of Deadly Currents, develop your character?

She interviewed Darren Olson, owner of Whitewater Encounters in Salida, and toured his premises to get an idea of how an outfitter business works. I run my business out of my house, much like he does, and the layout is similar. I know Darren fairly well. We both belong to the Arkansas River Outfitter Association. He's a good guy. Like me, he runs one of the smaller outfitting businesses along the Arkansas. We've both got to be smarter and faster than the big guys if we're going to survive.

My personality is different from Darren's though. Beth says I'm a mixture of different people she knows. Men in their fifties with barrel shapes and iffy health, most likely. And men with a blue-collar background who worked hard to scrape together their own small business. Men with a big heart. I can tell you, nothing feels better than getting a big hug from my baby girl.

There you have it, folks. Do you have any questions for Bill Tanner? What would you like to know about him? And feel free to ask a question of author Beth Groundwater, too. She’ll be monitoring the comments along with Bill. Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents.

If you’d like to see what the other stops are on Beth Groundwater’s virtual book tour and what other topics are covered, go to: . If you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books ( and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.

Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket, 2009) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, Deadly Currents, will be released March 8th. Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, too, and not just for the gossip and wine! Please visit her website at and her blog at

The Arkansas River, heart and soul of Salida, Colorado, fuels the small town’s economy and thrums in the blood of river ranger Mandy Tanner. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. Turns out, it wasn’t the rapids that killed him—it was murder. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy’s world is upended again when tragedy strikes closer to home. Suspicious that the most recent death is connected to Tom King’s murder, she goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Books as Art

By Pat Remick

After investing so much time thinking about how to construct books, it's fascinating to see how some creative people are deconstructing them in the name of art.

Like all writers, I love books -- to read them, hold them, admire their covers, collect them, discuss them and write them. I have hundreds of books in my home but can't resist adding more or searching for new ones in bookstores.

I consider myself a true bibliophile and as such, I've been concerned this whole e-book phenomena means it won't be long before books as most of us know them will be found only in libraries, yard sales and antique shops. Or in expensive homes, all with color-coordinated redone covers, as I read about in a recent New York Times article about using books in decorating.

I recently stumbled into a handicrafts shop that displayed amazing art creations from recycled books and it was comforting to see that even if e-books are taking over the world, there are those who still appreciate the beauty of books in their traditional form.

There were purses made from book covers selling at more than $100 each, but I suspect many female mystery fans would die to own a Nancy Drew handbag like these.

Another artist turned book covers into small and large wallets, such as the Robin Hood one to the left.

There also were garlands made from creative cutouts of book pages. And a clever crafter fond of the phrases used in the Romance novel genre turned some of them into pins called "The Naughty Bits," such as "He Wanted to Punish." (I am reluctant to share the others, but suffice it to say they were titillating enough to make me blush.)

But my favorite reuse of books involved the creations of a woman identifying herself as "The Naughty Librarian" who "lives out every librarian's evil fantasy; taking paint, glue and even (gasp) A KNIFE to the precious books."

Artist and librarian Robn Delaloyle rescues and recycles unwanted books, sculpting them "into beautiful and unusual works of art" such as the three on the shelves to the left (one of which is now on my own bookshelf) and the crazy one below.

It had never occurred to me that a literary work of art could become a visual one, as well. Can anyone say the same about an e-book?

To see more examples of the creative recycling of touchable books, visit

What's the most imaginative use of a book you've seen?