“MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS” –May11, 2019

I WRITE ROMANCE
SUSPENSE, MURDER AND MYSTERIES
BUT
“MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS”

By GeorgeAnn Jansson

    I know we’ve all heard that before thanks to Willie Nelson. It is “Oh” so true with me! Why? Because when I was young, I spent each Saturday afternoon in the movie theater. My eyes were glued to the big screen watching every macho cowboy come blazing from the background, riding a powerfully swift horse to save the damsel in distress. He never lost his Stetson on that ride and could shoot straight and deadly as he rode at breakneck speed.

When the wagons circled, defending the settlers against the Indian attack, the women would be beside their men loading their weapons. In my stories the heroines are bolder, more able to defend themselves, not always dependent on their man. The bond between them became so evident as they worked through the fear together. Then, from over the hill, came the sound of the bugle declaring “Charge” and the cavalry swarmed like so many vultures to a carcass. They saved the day!

Better than that came the real cowboys in my life. My son wanted to ride horses. We found a stable nearby and became involved in rodeo, trail rides, camping overnight with a real chuckwagon and pup tents. We tethered the horses, sat around a large fire and told stories. Stories about bravery and legends of the old west. My son and I became a part of the factual cowboy life. The men involved with the stable are today’s cowboys. They can still defend a life, shoot a gun and save anyone from distress…traits they are born with.

Thumbs — April 13, 2019

Thumbs by Judith Campbell

It’s all about the thumbs. In the past thumbs were the thing that separated us from the lower animals. We and monkeys were prehensile. We could grasp things. That gave us lots of advantages. It’s so much classier to grasp a fork instead of bending over a, like a dog, to lap up our food. That good old thumb gave us lots of advantages, too numerous to bore you with. I’m sure you get it.

Enter the 21st century. The thumb has assumed immeasurable importance, far surpassing just grasping. Now those little appendages enable us to text, (at least some of us.) My thumbs have not caught up; their major function is that prehensile thing. They are text-inept. Maybe they are too fat, or maybe my nails are too long. Whatever the reason, my thumb texting yields unintelligible messages and a lot of frustration. I have to use a stylus when it would be so cool to thumb away in high-speed cadence on my smart phone like everyone else. I sit in awe watching the dexterity with which my children and grandchildren create readable messages. The English teacher in me has an issue with the abbreviated text of these messages and I fear for the future of the language. But maybe it’s just sour grapes. I can’t do it. My messages are very brief, unlike my writing and speaking style. I suspect people are insulted by the terseness of many of my messages. I even have trouble with the stylus. It could be that I have some kind of nervous condition that has never cropped up before. Or, maybe I am just an anachronism. I don’t belong in this century.

I don’t like this anachronism theory. Some of my friends have text-operable thumbs, love the computer, and even understand their phones. I’m beginning to feel slightly retarded. My new smart phone is waaaay smarter than I . It took me weeks to figure out how to answer a call. I didn’t know you had to slide your finger over the screen. I was used to just yelling into my old phone. Somehow I just don’t think like computers and smart phones. My old brain was not trained that way. Again, I can’t really blame the age thing. My older brother is a “techie”. He gets it, and spends half his life playing on his computer. And we came from the same gene pool. I probably need some kind of brain readjustment to help me. I forget lots of stuff these days, but I rationalize that there’s too much in my brain after all these years and it’s gotten crowded. Sometimes those synapses miss each other. I need to be de-fragged, like my computer.

Back to the thumbs… I can start simply and cut my nails. That’s easier than a lobotomy. Maybe the computer thing will come, if I live long enough.

Am I There Yet? — February 2, 2019

Am I There Yet?

You’ve written a novel or short story. You’ve had it edited. However, you keep making changes because each time you ask another author or critique partner to read it they make a suggestion. And you think you HAVE to incorporate those suggestions. No you don’t!

Everyone will have their own opinion about how to write any one sentence. If you include all those changes two things happen. One, your voice is lost amongst all the others. Two, you never finish so two years later you are still making changes.

Finding the moment when your project turns from complete to ready for publication isn’t easy. It’s your baby and you want everyone to think you have the most beautiful and perfect child. It’s hard to let it go – to publication. Just do it already!

Need more words of encouragement? How to decide if it’s REALLY time? Come listen to Wendy Perry, Author/Motivational Leader at the Pathways to Publishing and Beyond Conference February 19 – 21, 2019. Registration ends February 4, 2019. Click on the Conference Information/Registration tab on this website for details.

Gearing up for Book Promotions — January 26, 2019

So you’ve written a book. Now what? Whether you are traditionally or independently published you will need a method to tell people about your books. I don’t pretend to be an expert by any means. However, I’ve attend many workshops, conferences, seen webinars and heard speakers discuss this important topic.

I’d like to share a few basic pieces of information I’ve gleaned from smarter folks than me.

Create a website to promote your books. Don’t have a book yet? That’s okay, set one up at least a year before your first book is published so you have a following ready to read it. Most people can’t afford a fancy web service, at least initially. If you are technologically savvy you can create your own with free website builders such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly and others. Investigate what each offers. Talk to your friends and fellow authors to see which ones they recommend. Not tech savvy? Barter with another author to assist. Perhaps you have a service they need – like editing or photography.

Now you have a website. Create a blog to attach to that website. Or at least some way to tell people who you are and what you are about. If you are not yet published talk about subjects similar to your future books. Are you a mystery writer? If so, tell them how much you like a TV show that is similar to what you write. Create a social media platform (i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Discuss topics closely related to those in your books. This creates a connection between you and your fan base.

Once you have a book available avoid “buy my book”, “buy my book”, constant ads. Instead give them a “sneak peek” at your cover, perhaps an excerpt from your book, tell them how you were inspired to write the story. All these things you write on your blog or other social media sites will draw them to your book. They’ll be begging for information on how to purchase it when it becomes available. Make a separate page they can click if they choose to purchase your book. And they will because you’ve enticed them with all your posts.

When you set up your website, email, and social media accounts be sure to be consistent. Don’t have an email called JerseyGirl@downtown.com and a website called http://www.wrestlersanonymous.com because neither one says this is an author’s email or website. Use something like mynameauthor@gmail.com with a matching website of http://www.mynameauthor.com. Or booksbymyname@gmail.com and website http://www.booksbymyname.com. Both of these examples indicate the person is an author and if they know your name it will make it much easier to find your website. That’s what you want – easy accessibility.

While you’re writing posts for your blog or social media account ask people to send their email addresses to you via private messaging if they want to become a recipient of your newsletter. Newsletters don’t have to be monthly so don’t panic. They can be quarterly or only sent out a few weeks prior to your publication date. This lets them be the “first” person to know about your upcoming publication date. Consider sending them something special for signing up. Perhaps an excerpt from your book only people on your newsletter list have access to. Or a deleted scene from your book. Something that makes it special to be on the list. People enjoy being special! Use the email list for promotional events or giveaways. Going on a trip – send a lucky person from your list a postcard. Ask them to take a selfie with it and post on social media.

These are only a few examples of the many I’ve heard from experts. If you want to learn more then listen to Gracin Johnson and other workshop leaders at the Pathways to Independent Publishing conference February 19-21, 2019. For more information about the conference click on the tab “Conference Information/Registration” on this website.

THOUGHTS OF A WANNA BE… — January 19, 2019

THOUGHTS OF A WANNA BE…

I throw the clock out the window. My how time flies. Could it be that at least fifteen years have passed since I began writing my first book? Why so long? A combination of life, excuses, procrastination, maybe intimidation, the AWOL nature of Muse…a list too lengthy to mention. Although I have had articles published in corporate newsletters and Grand Strand Magazine, there has been no book to hold in my hands or to read electronically.

My original intent was to produce a private record of my early life in the event (unlikely though that might be) current and future generations of my family should give a hoot.

So, why get back to work on this unfinished project now? The increased amount of post-retirement hours, my participation in a creative writing class through Coastal Carolina University’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI), my having become a member of the Coastal Authors Network (CAN), the adventure of trying to “find my voice,” have been factors. In addition, and most compelling, has been a recent unexpected health event which has been a stark reminder of life’s uncertainties and the need to “make hay while the sun shines.”

The constructive criticism of the other CAN members has been…and continues to be… invaluable. I know my writing is better as a result. My fellow writers (most of whom have published books) have encouraged me to write for a broader audience than family. Furthermore, they have concurred that the book should be a three-part memoir OR become a trilogy.

Part/Book One is about my first decade of life in North Carolina. Part/Book Two is about my parents’ assignment (and therefore my family’s) to the island of Barbados. The final Part/Book Three covers our move to the jungles of South America’s British Guiana before the country’s name change to “Guyana,” a place unknown by a large segment of the world’s population. Unknown, that is, until Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple murders and mass suicides put Jonestown, Guyana, on the international stage.

So where am I now? I’m reviewing/revising/creating additional manuscript chapters of Part/Book One. I have found this step to be at times exhausting, challenging, revitalizing. There have been those “why am I doing this” moments (if not days). Feelings of being overwhelmed have occasionally meandered through my mind, threatening to take up residence. And to think I haven’t even begun the printing or marketing efforts cause me to realize I’m with Frost…there are “miles to go before I sleep.”

IF I were in a position to give advice, I’d say:

If you’re wanting to write a book, or if you’re hoping to write another…start…NOW.

Join a writers group composed of members who care more about each other than their own egos. Individuals who are quick to provide direct, honest, constructive criticisms. Take the criticisms to heart.

Discover your own “voice.” My high school English teacher would be mortified to see that all my writing is not diagrammable. I have come to believe that written beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve been a long-time fan of the late Pat Conroy. Yet, I know folks who don’t care for his style of writing, considering him too verbose. Readers will either like or dislike what you write.

In addition to developing your own “voice,” determine writing approaches which work best for YOU. Some authors advise writing “something” every day regardless of whether or not the “something” is related to your “work in progress.” I have not been disciplined enough to adopt such advice. What times of your day are the most creative ones and does your life schedule afford you the opportunity to write during those creative hours? If not, what alternatives exist?

Do not be deterred by those “WHY AM I DOING THIS” episodes. Carry on.

Decide when it’s time to say “enough, already.” No more revisions. Repeated polishings have given this manuscript as much sheen as is necessary, if not ideal.

Depending on your plans for the book, learn what’s required to make the book a reality. Will you engage an editor? What is involved in publishing? Do you want to independently publish or use a traditional publisher? What about cover design, pictures, illustrations? How will you go about marketing? What resources are available to accomplish all the necessary steps? How much will all of this cost and what financial resources are available?

Grab opportunities to participate in events designed to aid aspiring and repeat authors as well as provide book-selling venues. One such occasion, sponsored by CAN, is planned for February 19-21, 2019 (check Coastal Authors Network website http://www.coastalauthorsnetwork.com for details).

Since I don’t believe I’m in a position to give advice, I’m simply sharing my thoughts as a wanna be book author whose journey has been…and continues to be…my own. A trip along what does indeed appear to be by a road less traveled.

I’ve said nothing in this blog which is profound or hasn’t been already said better by successful writers of multiple genres and generations.

Oh, please excuse me. I need to get back to the manuscript before the Muse departs.

Junkyard Perseus — January 14, 2019

I was working on writing a poem about my hometown junkyard and the yard owner’s daughter – a beautiful girl. The only roadblock was meshing the two. Then, while watching a documentary on Greek mythology one evening, up pops the statue of Perseus and Medusa. Subsequently, up pops an idea: converting a junkyard character into Perseus and the owner’s daughter into a goddess. The only problem: how do I keep to the Perseus/Medusa myth and adapt the myth to a poem about a junkyard? The answer: spare parts.

Junkyard Perseus

Is the widow, Rosalee Tait,
Still selling her husband’s tired iron?
Rows and rows of iron
Side by side
Front to back
Stacked one on top of the other

Exteriors of blistered paint, rust, broken glass.
Interiors occupied by mother nature’s creatures.
Black snake, field mouse, and cricket
Seek shelter in stained, torn and battered upholstery.
Thistle, briar, and nettle fence in
Bumper, fender and door.

Tired iron holds treasure, also,
In the form of parts.
Rosalee has and sells these…
Used of course.
Her son, Ransom, is employed for
The search and taking of this treasure.

A call comes in.
Someone’s restoring a Buick.
A carburetor is needed for an old Roadmaster.
Taits have an aging Roadmaster – a ‘48
Ransom prepares for battle.
Tired iron does not surrender its treasure easily.

A greasy ‘Mets’ baseball cap
Is Ransom’s helmet.
His Tunic: a sweat-stained cotton undershirt
Footwear: cracked, black leather combat boots
Leggings: jungle camo fatigues
Breast Plate: a mechanic’s shop apron

Ransom girds his loins with a leather belt
And the tools of his trade.
Pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers,
Mallet, wire cutter, are but a few.
A can of WD-40 goes into his pocket.
A warrior ready to go forth.

He surveys the field before him:
A skirmish line of Plymouth and Dodge mask
A phalanx of Ford and Chevys
Protecting motor world’s royalty…
Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler and their princes
Buick, Mercury and DeSoto.

Ransom locates the ‘48’s position.
He strides forward,
Into the skirmish line,
Through the Ford and Chevy line of battle,
Pushing aside briar and thistle,
Until he stands before the Roadmaster.

He accepts the “waterfall” grille’s
Leering challenge.
Forces open the hood.
A Black snake races off the straight eight
Engine block and escapes through
A hole in the firewall.

A rusted-bent air intake
And filter assembly
Sit on top of an engine
What was once painted Buick blue.
Underneath lies the object
Of Ransom’s mission.

With a blow from his mallet
He dispatches the offending air assembly
Exposing the ‘48’s carburetor.
A generous application of the WD-40
Persuades rusted machine screws
To release their hold.

With his task completed,
Ransom emerges from under the hood.
His right hand hangs at his side
Holding a flat-blade screwdriver.
From his shoulder, his left arm and hand
Stretch out holding the carburetor
Still dripping WD-40.
Decapitation complete,
Ransom stands victorious.

Gary Williams, January 2019

 

Writing Children’s Picture Books — January 4, 2019

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS

When I first started writing Children’s Picture Books, I thought it would be reasonably easy. After all, I had seven children and many a night I told them stories and kept them entertained before bed. Little did I know how wrong I was. It will take many hours, lots of hard work and a good imagination. I hope this blog will help you get started because the end product is well worth the effort. Just imagine the smile on a little five-year old’s face when you read the story to them, and show how they can be a hero and make people happy. With that in mind, I will now tell you how I constructed my stories for children.

The first thing I needed to do was determine the age bracket for which I wanted to make my stories. That was not easy. Do you write for the age bracket of 1 to 4 which would be Alphabet books, Animal books, books about babies, etc. Or, do you pick an age group of 4 to 8 or older. This age group is more interested in having their heroes go on adventures, learn about the world and explore not only the world around them, but also the world of your imagination. I chose the age group 4 to 8. Once I had picked this group, I had to choose a hero for my stories. In my first book, I decided to make my hero a young boy in the same age group as the group I was writing for. I also had to decide what he would look like. I visited book stores and libraries and looked through many books to see what other authors had done when picking their heroes. After many hours and many trips, to the stores and libraries, I determined that I wanted my hero to look as realistic as possible. Now, since I am not an illustrator/artist, I had to find a person who would illustrate my books and also who was affordable. So, I went to the Internet. I looked up illustrators. I found quite a few, but all were too expensive. Then I heard about a website called “www.fiverr.com”. I looked up illustrators and graphic artists and found page after page of samples of their work. I spent weeks going through this site and after looking at almost 1000 illustrators’ drawings, I finally found one I thought could do the job I wanted. My illustrator is located in the Philippines.

I then had to explain to him what I wanted my hero to look like and also give my hero a name. Prior to all of this work, I had already written my story. I now had to determine what I wanted my cover to look like and what my hero should look like. Since I have 22 grandchildren, I thought it would be a good idea to have my hero look like one of them. I looked through some old pictures and found several, of my oldest grandson when he was between the age of 3 and 5. I chose several pictures of him and sent them to my illustrator. My grandson’s name is Sam. Thus, the name of my hero became Sam. When I sent my illustrator the pictures, I also indicated what I would like on the cover (the title, Sam walking down a path, etc.). My illustrator was a little different in that he did not want to see my story before he did any of the illustrations. All he needed was a list of illustrations and what I wanted on them. In another blog, I will give some samples of what I sent him. Below you will see the results of how the illustrator interpreted the photos and the final results of the cover. I was very pleased with the cover.

Grandson Sam

Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can go into a lot more detail about what I had to do to negotiate price for each illustration, but I will leave that for another blog. Just let me say it was interesting and beneficial for both the illustrator and me. After I got all of the illustrations completed, I had to lay the book out and send it to the publishing company. I will cover what it took to layout the book and get it published in my next blog. It was a very interesting experience since the publishing company I chose did not have a template for children’s picture books. I now have one for all of the books I have produced. Because of the problems my wife and I have encountered in getting our books published, we have created a Publishing Company (COT Publishing.com) to help other authors get their books formatted and printed. I hope this blog has helped you aspiring authors of children’s picture books in looking at and thinking about what it takes to put a book together. It’s a lot of work but the end result is always well worth it. I have enjoyed my story time with the little kids and as I said in the beginning of this blog, “There is nothing like the smile on a little five-year old child’s face as you read them your story.”

One last thing. In February, we are having a Writers Conference called “Pathways to Independent Publishing.” We hope you can attend. Please go to our website, coastalauthorsnetwork.com and sign up for a great time and fantastic education.