Inspiration For Mondays-Elizabeth Lyon

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon is a treasure trove. It’s a rare week when I haven’t cracked it open a number of times.

On “Deep Listening”:

“The ear rarely deceives. You can see–read–your story and not catch many errors. However, if you listen to your story, you’ll hear clunks, hisses, and coughs. Yet, there is listening and there is listening. As you know, it is possible to hear without really listening, either to oneself or to others. Developing the perspective of inside-out revision means tuning inward, trusting your own sense and intuition as you read your story silently or aloud.”

What do you hear when you listen?
What do you hear when you listen?
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Expert On Social Media Speaks! Welcome Timothy Smith

TimothyHeadshot

This is going to be a long read, but trust me when I say it is SO WORTH IT. Timothy Smith is one of the brightest, most intelligent people I know. He’s been around the social media block since the early days of the Internet, and he knows whereof he speaks. Want to sell more books? Need to get a handle on this social media monster? Tim is The Man.

I also want to thank the brilliant Mr. Smith for taking the time to write this up for my humble blog. He and his Most Amazing Partner, Shannon Smith, are neck deep in their own hair-raising adventure, and I deeply appreciate the time and care he took in writing this valuable piece. Read, my poppets, and take notes. This is information which can really help you.

TimothyHeadshot

Hello everyone.

For some reason (I am thinking probably either a pharmaceutically or alcohol induced psychosis) the lovely and talented Annetta Ribken has permitted me to take over her blog as a guest writer. She said I could post about any ol’ subject I desired (even though she rejected out of hand my suggestion of Deep Space 9 porno fan fiction) so I thought I would talk to you all about Internet marketing for writers instead. I am assuming most of you are writers, editors, or publishers in one form or another. My hope is that I can possibly suggest some things you may not know when it comes to social media and using various sites, apps, software, and tools to promote your words to a larger audience—more effectively and affordably.

How I Know All This Stuff

First, a little background… I have been making my living off the Internet (more or less) since its widespread popularization in 1992-ish. In 2000 I started my own Internet development, hosting, and marketing consultant group here in North Carolina. Before I started AASB Productions, I spent too many years working for various businesses and dot.com startups who were riding the wave of selling any small to medium-sized business owner with a credit card the latest and greatest “trend” online—databasing, Flash design, SEO placement, Adword strategies, etc. Most people, back then, would throw pounds of money to anyone who had the knowledge and skills necessary for them to cash in on a new form of media. It was, I suppose, a lot like what it must have been in the early days of radio, movies, or television.

So yes… I am old school. Yes, I have seen trends on the Internet come and go. There have been a lot of passing fads with lots of promise, yet no real longevity. But before I get into how best to take advantage of today’s Internet I should probably give you a sort of short, historical perspective of the medium. Most people tend to think of the Internet as essentially being the same today as it was 20-years ago, I can tell you that there have already been three distinct “ages” of the Internet and how people use it… and we’re quickly approaching the fourth.

The Ages Of The Internet

First, in the days of the early Net, it was all about information presentation. You had a website with a set number of static pages, some drop-shadowed pictures, a couple of animated gifs, and those pages promoted or presented information from provider to consumer. Creating a website at this time was a very expensive proposition for many small businesses and individuals, but the benefit was being able to sell to just about anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world. There was a lot of potential, lots of expense, and for a select few of early adopters… huge rewards for those offering their products or information to a global audience. It was a digital gold rush of sorts.

The second era was the age of information collection. It started a few years later when obtaining data about your web visitors became as equally important as presenting information about yourself. Somewhere, sometime, someone—selling a massive amount of product online—said, “Hey, we should look to see if there’s a pattern with those purchasing our product and visiting our site.” This led to a period when every website had a form to fill out or some sort of a membership process successfully completed before access to the desired information was made available. Essentially, website owner evolved from wanting you to know who they were, to them wanting to know who you were. This led to things like databasing, data mining, spam, and search engines that used algorithms (Google) to produce highly individualized results as opposed to directory driven results (Yahoo). Amazon could now make suggestions as to what you should (statistically) be interested in based upon your prior purchases. “Cookies” now tracked which pages of a site you visited and how often. Amazing amounts of information were being collected, parsed, and sold without you even knowing.

The third age is what we’re in now; the age of information subscription & promotion. You have a product, skill, or possess a personality which other individuals want to know or learn more about. The act of “friending” or “liking” or “following” is now a euphemistic endorsement which can be a bajillion times more valuable that an actual purchase of whatever product you’re selling. We have all entered a sort of digital high school where your social status enjoys a meteoric boost by the mere wink of the prom king or queen. The apparent value of who you are and what you’re selling depends greatly on how many people link to, share, follow, and recommend what you do and say on social media sites. Politics, religion, activism, consumerism, artistry, government, and generational identification are all now, at least in part, only as successful as the potential outreach a single individual can attain with a serendipitous post of a Youtube video, Tweet hashtag, Tumblr repost, or promoted Facebook status update.

The fourth age of the Internet, which we’re just now starting to skirt the event horizon, is the age of information augmentation and man-oh-man, it’s gonna be a doozy.

But Let’s Not Jump Ahead

Let’s stay focused on where we are now; the third age of information subscription & promotion. Ironically, it has only been around a relatively short time, but it’s completely altered how we communicate, interact, derive information, and sell our products on the Web. Social media sites have transformed the art of self-promotion every bit as much as Yahoo transformed search, Amazon redefined media distribution, and WordPress revolutionized website development.

There are many reasons why social media caught on as well as it did, but perhaps the most significant boon to social media came from the proliferation of mobile devices and tablet computers. What once would have been information only found on a website via a search engine suddenly became an “app” that could be taken with you wherever you go on your phone, tablet, or even your car. Hell, toaster ovens now have an operating system capable of allowing you to play Angry Birds while your bagel browns and post a status update about it in real time!

There’s still a one caveat which cannot be ignored:

You must create quality content.

This will probably sound very familiar to you writers out there. I cannot begin to tell you how many established writers and publishers I have heard who pound the simple rule of “write more, write better, write often”. It seems simple enough, but for many, it is hard to put into practice. As a writer, you cannot measure your success or failure on the number of units your book sells. The same is true in Internet marketing. You cannot measure the success of your social media efforts solely on the number of “likes” you get on a single status update or visitors to your website in a single day, or retweets on your cleverly composed hashtag. You have to “post more, post better, post often”.

So with this somewhat long introduction, what follows are some things to consider and implement when delving into social media and marketing yourself online.

1. Be honest, be interesting, be yourself.

15 years ago no one knew jack squat about George Takei other than the Mr. Sulu thing (and his embarrassing stint as a prostitution kingpin who put a pimp-smackin’ down on Melanie Griffith in that one Miami Vice episode). But today, nearly every person on Facebook has either seen or heard about one of his posts. It’s not his celebrity from Star Trek that made him famous on Facebook, but his social activism, his philanthropic efforts, and his humorous good nature about all things science fiction. He posts his own statuses, he isn’t afraid to take a stand, he apologizes sincerely and quickly if he feels he’s made a mistake. But most importantly, his feed isn’t ego driven. In other words, it’s not all about him so much as what he believes to be important and making the world a better place. Contrast this to Shatner’s or Nimoy’s Facebook presence (which are infrequent, self-promoting, and un-entertaining) and you’ll see that Sulu had the last laugh.

2. Don’t be a “one-trick” poster or a “one-issue” poster.

Remember, Facebook allows you to create different kinds of posts, i.e. pictures, text, pictures with text, links, links with text, events, polls, etc, take advantage of them all. Don’t “just” make text posts and don’t “only” post pictures. Diversify your feeds, change your timeline photo frequently, conduct polls… these different methods each represent a specific tool of engaging your audience. Additionally, there is no one mistake you can make, regardless of social media site you’re using, than this one. If all you post about is how great pineapple on your pizza is, the only audience you’re going to end up with is people whom either one, agree with you, or two, don’t agree with you. Eventually, many of the people who agree with you will feel like a choir being preached to. When your face or name appears in their feed, they’ll start to move past your posts without really paying attention to what information you’re providing (probably because they’ve already seen it elsewhere) and eventually lose interest to some degree. This will leave you, mostly, with the people who think you and your children are atheistic communists who hate America and worship the devil because of your outspoken support of tropical fruit on an Italian staple food.

3. Pace yourself.

Don’t forget the world is a big place—many, many time zones and days of the week in which your post may or may not be seen. It is best to post your updates according to whom and when you’re trying to reach. Don’t post fourteen pictures in a row of Grumpy Cat at 8:00 AM EST when no one on the West Coast is even awake and wonder why no one is commenting on them. A great tool you can invest in is a service like Hootsuite which allows you to schedule and pre-compose your posts and tweets to your various social media sites at a pre-arranged time. (*Editor’s note: I also like Buffer.)

4. Focus.

Another mistake often made is people attempting to post too much on too many different social media sites. It is not always a good idea to set up a Facebook “Fan” Page, a Facebook user page, a Twitter feed, a Tumblr site, a GoodReads profile, a WordPress site, a StumbleUpon profile, a Reddit account, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile… blah, blah, blah. Focus on building an audience on one or two of these—at first. Then, as you build success, branch into the others as it is appropriate to what you’re promoting and the demographic to whom you are selling. Each one of these sites is utilized and frequented by a particular type of audience in a specific kind of way. The audience you can build on LinkedIn is going to be very different than the audience you build on Tumblr.

5. Cross-posting.

If you have a new book to sell or site to promote and you want to announce it to the world, announce it! But “roll out” your announcement with different verbiage, at different times, on different days, and in creative ways, to your various social media profiles. Nothing speeds up the process of people passing by your face in their feed than seeing the exact same post on seven different social media sites all within an hour of each other… and then again the next hour… and then again the next hour… and again the next hour.

6. Promote the work of others.

Interact with others in your industry; post links to their work, give them attention, compliment their efforts. Altruism in promoting the work of others accomplishes two things; it makes people like you, and it makes others want to be liked by you.

7. Know when to engage and when to walk away.

This is a no-brainer. There is no need to respond to every compliment, engage in every argument, moderate every discussion, or lay down laws of behavior. Let the Internet do what it does best on your feeds; create discussion. Don’t take sides in flame wars, etc. It is a wise and successful practice to know when to say when and when to say nothing.

8. Pithy posting paints prolific pictures

I think the worst thing Facebook ever did was remove the 420-character limit on status updates. If you’re like me, you know pith and creativity make for awesome bedfellows and can provide awesome challenges to any writer. Don’t say in 500 words what can be said in 20.

9. Steal what works.

This medium of social media is meme driven. If you have someone you follow religiously online, there’s a reason why. Discover what that reason is, define how they’re doing it, modify it to fit what you do, and make it your own. Be original, but don’t be afraid to emulate what works. Don’t “copy” what others are doing, rather, study it, dissect it, then innovate it into something that is distinctly yours.

10. Study your metrics.

Nearly every social media site you use offers some means of plotting and parsing the effectiveness and outreach of its users. Take the time to learn how to access them, understand what they’re telling you, and make adjustments to how, when, and what you’re posting. A great service which consolidates this information for you is Klout. Give it access to your various social media profiles and it will track on a scale how effective your online presence is and the outreach you’ve obtained (it’s free and fairly easy to understand its interface). I can always tell when I am slacking on my posting when my number starts to slip.

So, I hope you all found something in here you can find useful. And a thanks to Annetta for allowing me to write a 2500-word article on how to be pithy and succinctly creative with social media! As I am sure many of you already know much of what I have written about (and I am sure there are plenty out there that might disagree or suggest better alternatives). Regardless, thanks for reading… now go share this article on your feed!

Timothy Smith is a professional Internet marketing consultant and owner of AASB Productions. With a 20-year background in computer sciences, Timothy has been helping individuals, non-profits and small-businesses understand how to use computers and the Internet to succeed and better communicate with the world. His recent focus is teaching and instructing others with the best practices of integrating social networking, blogging, and Web 2.0 with existing Web technologies.

He currently resides near Pinehurst, North Carolina with his wife and two dogs, Pepper & Kona.

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Bits and Pieces

Ah, Friday. Although Fridays don’t have the same connotation to someone self-employed as they do “normal” people who work a five-day work week, I don’t think I will ever lose my affection for the day. People seem to lighten up a bit in anticipation of the weekend, and that’s always fun.

It’s been another busy week, but I kicked Monday dead in the taco and punched the guacamole out of Wednesday, so I call that a win. Of course, I could just have a craving for Mexican food.

Mmmm. TACOS!
Mmmm. TACOS!

*Photo courtesy of jdurham from morguefile.com

On Tuesday, I was very happy to be the first guest poster on Patti Larsen’s new “Who’s That?” feature on her blog. I’m really looking forward to reading about the fascinating people Patti will have featured in the coming weeks.

Also on Tuesday, my own designated guest post day, I was thrilled to present an outstanding copy editor, Jennifer Wingard. I’m also firming up February’s lineup, and that’s exciting for me. I love giving people full reign and seeing what they offer. If you’re interested in guest posting for me or having me guest post for you, give me a holler and we’ll see what kind of trouble we can cause.

Wednesday I guest posted for Catie Rhodes on her Blue Light Special. Catie and I share a love for music, and when she asked me to post a playlist for Pallas, the main character in Athena’s Promise, I was all over it. What fun! It was a blast to finally put together the videos and songs which have inspired me along Pallas’s journey.

Speaking of Pallas, I have slowly but surely made significant progress on Athena’s Chains, the next book in the trilogy. And Athena’s Release is all outlined—an amazing feat for a dedicated pantser. I’m hoping to have Chains out as a summer release, and then I’ll get right on Athena’s Release, the final book and work on having that out by the end of the year. In the meantime, I plan on finishing up the second novella in the Sally Mae Riddley series, with two more to go. I also have a working outline for Broken Arrows. So many delightful words!

Now all I have to do is write them and keep them in order!
Now all I have to do is write them and keep them in order!

*Photo courtesy of dhester at morguefile.com

I realize this is a pretty ambitious production schedule for me, especially since I’m also juggling production schedules for other writers, but I’d rather shoot for the stars and end up on the moon than just running in place.

And, just to keep things interesting, I’ve signed up for a couple of online courses through Coursera, a site which offers free classes. ERMEGERD! I first learned of this educational candy store through Billie Sue Mosiman, and let me tell you, I had to physically restrain myself from signing up for more. I mean, it’s like crack for the terminally curious. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! I signed up for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World to start the end of January and The Ancient Greeks to start in March.

This is what my brain feels like right now. Including the fork.
This is what my brain feels like right now. Including the fork.

*Photo courtesy of MaxStraeten of morguefile.com

In the meantime the works schedule remains heavy and I love busy. Now tell me what you’ve been up to in the last week!

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Inspiration For Mondays-William Zinsser

On Writing Well by William Zinsser is a book about writing non-fiction. Even still, there are many, many principles on writing well which apply not only to non-fiction, but to fiction as well. This book was first published in 1976, and was revised and expanded on its 30th anniversary. It has sold over one million copies. That might not seem like much to some these days, but it’s another one of my staples in my book arsenal which has taught me a lot.

You can find it here on Amazon.

On rewriting:

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t. Most writers don’t initially say what they want to say, or say it as well as they could. The newly hatched sentence almost always has something wrong with it. It’s not clear. It’s not logical. It’s verbose. It’s clunky. It’s pretentious. It’s boring. It’s full of clutter. It’s full of cliches. It lacks rhythm. It can be read in several different ways. It doesn’t lead out of the previous sentence. It doesn’t…The point is that clear writing is the result of a lot of tinkering.”

Of course, there is such a thing as too MUCH tinkering. But that’s a subject for another day. The point is, writing your story/book/article is just the beginning. :)

On Writing Well

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Guest Post Tuesday – Patti Larsen

I am really excited to present to you a video by the awesome Patti Larsen for my first Guest Post Tuesday. We’ve worked together on many projects, and I can tell you she is one amazing person. Prolific, generous, and always upbeat, I’m fairly certain there is no demon contract involved in her achievements. Pretty sure. Just a lot of old-fashioned hard work.

Patti is a phenom. There’s really no other way to describe her. She has ridden the wave of indie publishing to great success. Not only is she mad talented, she’s sharp as a tack and really knows her business. Make no mistake–writing is a business as much as it is art. In this video, Patti talks about quality and quantity.

About the Author: Patti Larsen is an award-winning middle grade and young adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, is available now. Book one of that series, RUN, is a recent recipient of the 2012 PEI Book Awards for Fiction. Twelve books of her very popular Hayle Coven Novels, beginning with FAMILY MAGIC, are also on hand. Her YA steampunk series, Blood and Gold, can be found on Amazon and all other fine e-retailers, along with her YA paranormal novel, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, The Diamond City Trilogy and the Clone Chronicles. Her middle grade novel, THE GHOST BOY OF MACKENZIE HOUSE (Acorn Press), is also available. She is a full time writer and a part time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. Patti lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.

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Many thanks to Patti for taking the time to make a guest appearance! *MWAH*

You can find her:

On her website: Patti Larsen
On Facebook:Patti Larsen, Author
On Twitter: Patti Larsen
On Amazon.com and Goodreads

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Inspiration For Monday-Scott Meredith

I have a number of writing and editing books, like most editors and writers. Each one has given me a different perspective and support when I seem to need it most. The trick is to take what speaks to you and chuck the rest. Not everyone writes the same nor should they. Just use what works for you. Because let’s face it, this writing gig is not the easiest job in the world. Oh, it’s not digging ditches, don’t get me wrong, but there are times when it seems like it.

One of the best books on writing I’ve read is Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith. You can find it here on Amazon. It was first published in 1950, and recommended to me by author Peter V. Brett, and considering his success, it has been one of the best book recommendations on writing I’ve received.

Here is a quote from the book I think is great for inspiration on a Monday: (on procrastination)

“If you will force yourself to work out those book ideas without waiting for inspiration to slosh you across the back of the head, and if you will force yourself to write one sentence after another despite the fact that the picture is awry, and the pencils are blunt, and your family is making an awful racket, and you’re writing in one corner of a bedroom instead of in a big soundproof study, and you had a big night with the boys last night, and the stuff looks awful as you write it–you will find, when you examine it a day or two later, that the material you’ve produced is exactly as good or bad as the material you normally produce, or would produce under the ideal conditions.”

In other words, get your head out of your ass and just do it.

Writing To Sell

What are some books you have found to be helpful in the writing process?

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Anything Goes Friday–Nominations And Awards For The Best of 2012

Well, all I can say is 2013 has started with a bang. HUZZAH!

Hang on, poppets. Shit's about to get REAL.
Hang on, poppets. Shit’s about to get REAL.

*Photo courtesy of xandert via morguefile.com

But we’re not done with 2012 just yet, even though January is looking really busy, and busy is good. Everyone I know seems caught up in productivity and it’s a glorious thing to behold. It’s also that time of year for awards and nominations, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your busy day to nominate and/or vote for your favorite independent authors and artists. Next to word-of-mouth, it’s one of the most supportive things you can do for someone whose work you have enjoyed or admired in 2012.

Personally, I’ve been nominated for Best Editor in the annual Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll. I’m really honored to be nominated, but I’d be a damned liar if I said I wouldn’t love to win. But even if there’s an editor you love more than me, you really ought to show your support and nominate and vote for your favorites in all categories. These awards really do help your beloved creatives continue to do what they do best. Support, support!

And while you’re at it (it really only takes a couple of minutes, promise) the eFestival of Words Awards are open for nominations as well for the Best of 2012. Every category you can imagine regarding independent publishing is represented in both polls, from cover artists to editors to writers. As I said, this support can really make a huge difference in the career of any of the people working their heinies off to bring you the absolute best for your reading pleasure.

Gratuitous butt shot. We're working them off, people. FOR YOU.
Gratuitous butt shot. We’re working them off, people. FOR YOU.

*Photo courtesy of carygrant from morguefile.com

Not only is this a chance for you to acknowledge your favorite author, but also the artists behind the scenes. If you are a book lover, forget about the Oscars, the Grammys, the AMAs or CMAs or Kanye West’s “I’mma let you talk”. THESE are the award ceremonies for book nerds to cast their votes and have them count.

Yes, I’d love it if you voted for me as Best Editor. Yes, I’d love to have Sally Mae nominated as Best Novella or Best Short Story. But honestly, most of all I’d love it if you showed your support to ANYONE who has brought you pleasure through the written word. They deserve a nod, they deserve to be acknowledged for their passion, dedication, and talent. It only takes a few moments of your day to vote, nominate, and spread the word. Not only is it appreciated wholeheartedly, it is motivating, validating, and just plain COOL.

Our hearts beat for YOU! Because we love our readers and supporters. Please love us back!
Our hearts beat for YOU! Because we love our readers and supporters. Please love us back!

*Photo courtesy of imelenchon of morguefile.com

It’s a hard row to hoe on your own, and easy to take the work for granted. Many, many thanks to all of you out there who know what a difference fiction can make in someone’s life. Here’s a chance for you to say thank you for the indie books of 2012 that made you laugh, cry, scream, sigh over the cover, or appreciate good grammar and a strong story line. Go forth, ye book lovers! Nominate and vote, Tweet, Facebook, G+, call your mother. The more the merrier, and I bet she has her favorites, too :)

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Happy New Year, 2013!

And so goes another revolution around the sun and here comes another one.

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2012 was quite a year. And while I look forward to what 2013 has in store, I can’t help but think back to the past year and take stock of the things I was able to accomplish.

I drove 1800 miles in 4 days to see my kid graduate Cum Laude from college.

I published a novella in a new series called “The Adventures of Sally Mae Riddley” titled The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident, and am halfway done with the next one.

I lost 22 pounds.

I edited over 30 books and many short fiction pieces which have been published.

I wrote over 30k on “Athena’s Chains”, sequel to Athena’s Promise.

I changed the cover and format of AP.

I baked a dozen cookies in my car.

I worked out in an actual gym with a trainer six times.

I have survived 365 days with a psycho cat.

I saved two puppies from death’s clutches.

I taught my first editing class via Skype to a lovely group of writers from PEI.

I published The Fantasy and The Heart, two collections of short fiction.

That’s only a small part of my year, but all in all, I’m satisfied with the way it played out. There were a lot of bumps and potholes in the road, but I managed to stay on course and Take Care of Business. So I will call 2012 a Win, but I plan to blow 2013 off the map. Because that’s just how I roll.

Right off the map, baby!
Right off the map, baby!

One of the casualties in such a busy year was my poor blog. I used to be much better about updating here regularly; in the past I had a private blog in which I blogged daily for six years. I think of that now and I’m astounded. But then, things change and life moves on, and while it was a fabulous habit in which to develop discipline for writing every day (plus a measure of catharsis yet unmatched) I’d rather put my energy now toward fiction and editing. Words. Lots and lots of lovely words.

But even so, I want to get back to keeping the blog alive and well, and to this end I’ve tapped into my Mad Organizational Skillz. So what you can find here will be a new schedule of postings.

Mondays will feature inspirational posts from writers, works of fiction and non-fiction, and various other tidbits to help get rid of the Monday blahs and the work week off to a good start. Probably not as good as a double-shot of expresso, but every little bit counts, right?

Tuesdays I plan on presenting guest posts from other authors in the indie field, the movers and shakers who have something to say. But not just authors and writers–oh no! You’ll be hearing from a wide variety of people, people who do business and create art and live life. I have left the format completely open to participants, so I’m not sure what we’re going to see here, but I’m sure it will be fun to find out! If you’re interested in guest posting, give me a shout. Next Tuesday’s guest will be the fabulous Patti Larsen, so make sure to check back and see what she’s got to share. I’m sure it will be FAB.

Wednesdays will be wordless with a picture or photograph that moves me. It might give you inspiration for a short story, poem, or spark off a novel idea.

Thursdays are reserved for editing tips, tricks, and observations. Here I’ll share what I know and what might help you through the experience of editing and what it entails.

Fridays–anything goes! New releases, helpful links, or maybe more car baking. Who knows?

And finally, this was my favorite video and song of 2012. It was not an easy year, but none of them are. I will mark 2012 as the year I finally lived my life as it was meant to be. I will mark 2012 as the year I heard my name–something I have not heard in too many years. Good bye, 2012. I ain’t mad, because in many ways you were good to me and taught me many lessons I needed to learn. But I am looking forward to 2013, overcoming challenges and taking my life to the next level.

Come on, 2013! I have plans, and lots of them. Bring it on, and let’s see what you got!

Woohoo! Let's get it on!
Woohoo! Let’s get it on!
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New Release-The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident

And so the first adventure of Sally Mae Riddley has hit the ground running!

The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident
That face cracks me up every time I see it!

The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident is the first in a series of novellas about the adventures of Sally Mae Riddley, and hoo doggy, she’s a hoot! This story was so much fun to write–I giggled through the entire thing. It started off as a joke between a few friends, and eventually Sally Mae’s voice became so loud in my head she just busted out all over. Take a look at this excerpt:

The thing you gotta remember is the Queen of the Trailer Park title has been held by the womenfolk of my family for three decades. So for me, Sally Mae Riddley, the pressure was on. And I was really motivated, see, because of the goat.

I’ll get to that.

My nemesis was Mabelline Townsend. She had bigger boobs, true, but most people knew they was totally fake. You can’t hide nothing in a trailer park, ’less you’re real clever, and people called Mabelline a lot of things but clever warn’t on the list. Of course, fake or not, that kind of thing don’t matter to boys. If it’s got mammary glands, they’re going for it. Just look at my cousin Jimmy, stuck in the County Jail for the next six months on account of the cow problem he had.

Don’t act like no one in your family never got in trouble over something stupid.

Anyway, Mabelline had the boobs. She’s right pretty, too, if you squint your eyes and dim the lights. To, like, full dark. Other girls in the trailer park thought they had the title sewed up this year for sure, seeing as my older sister, Sue Ann, was out of the running since she won last year. Sue Ann’s a real beauty, with long golden hair just the right shade of yellow–thanks to the bottle of peroxide under her bed no one knew about but me. And a nice tan with no tan lines anyone could see. Never mind the orange look to her, it was real complimentary to the yellow of her hair. And pretty, painted nails, thanks to the fine people at Lee Press-on Nails from Walgreen’s.

I could hardly compete with that package, what with my red hair the color of carrots, gangly legs and big feet. Mama just loved to remind me of my god-awful looks, compared to Sue Ann, every chance she got while Sue Ann pranced around the trailer in her coveted beer-can tiara. “Sally Mae,” she’d say, “I afeared you got out of the wrong end of the gene pool. If I din’t birth you myself, I’d swear you weren’t any o’mine.” Then she’d get this funny look on her face like she knew something she warn’t telling and she’d grab for the whiskey bottle and turn the tee-vee to Maury.

Ever since Daddy disappeared, she ain’t been right in the head. Rumor had it he ran off with DeeDee Townsend, Mabelline’s older sister. Truth is, a few of the town boys on vacation found DeeDee on the strip in Vegas, and never found Daddy. If anybody knew something about my daddy, nobody was telling. Mama din’t talk about it, but I sure did miss my daddy fierce.
So, Sue Ann won fair and square last year, and what she did with her moonshine prize was her business. But, here’s this year’s Trailer Park Pageant coming up, with my family’s reputation on the line and competition stiff. To be honest, I din’t really care too much for the reputation part, in spite of Mama’s harping–I only cared about the prize. Oh, the prize. When I say “moonshine” you probably think of some ass-kicking hooch from an illegal still in the woods. You’d be wrong. I needed that prize. For the goat.

I’ll get to it.

I knew for a fact Mabelline was taking pole dancing lessons for the talent part of the show, and it was going to be hard to beat. Not that she needed lessons, mind, she had more than enough experience dancing around poles, if you catch my meaning. Me dancing around a pole would be like looking at a grasshopper having an epileptic fit, so it was out. I couldn’t sing to save my life. I din’t have many options other than to figure out some way to beat Mabelline.

I thought about going to the swamp witch, Mad Hattie, for some advice, but since it was her what caused the problem with the goat in the first place, I figured I’d better come up with something on my own. Besides, I planned on visiting Mad Hattie when I won the competition, and it was going to be a one-time visit. Nobody wants to see Mad Hattie more than once.
So, I did the only thing I could think of. I went to my big sister to ask her advice. After all, she’d won the competition last year with a spectacular fire baton twirling routine. Sure, she set the honorable Mayor Tim Smith on fire, but she put him right out and that was pretty impressive. He was out of Intensive Care in a week, and nobody noticed the scars anymore. I figured she could help me out. After all, the family reputation was on the line.

“Sally Mae, I don’t know what to tell you,” she said, sitting on her bed, which was covered with the pink satin spread Mama got for her at the flea market with some of the prize money from Sue Ann’s big win, and wearing her tiara. She barely took it off since she won it.

She hardly paid me any attention, she was so focused on filing her nails to a sharp point in anticipation for her big date with Roscoe Diesel. He had a reputation and I guess Sue Ann wasn’t going to give it up that easy, which made me feel right proud. “It took me weeks to get that routine just right, and you don’t have weeks. The pageant’s tomorrow.” She looked up and gave me the once-over. “You know, even though Mabelline has bigger boobs, she ain’t no prettier than you. Especially if you do something with that hair.”

I smoothed my hands over my curls, quite aware Sue Ann was probably just being nice since last I saw in the mirror, my hair looked like the patch of spleenwort over yonder. “That ain’t my problem, Sue Ann. I can stuff my bra, but I heard tell Mabelline was going to do one of them pole dances for the talent part. I can’t do that, not in a million years.” I flopped on the bed next to Sue Ann and heaved a long sigh. “I have to win this thing. First of all, Mama will kill me if’n I don’t, and second…”

Sue Ann nodded. She knew. At least, she din’t know about the goat but she knew how valuable the moonshine was. I never asked her what she did with hers, and she din’t ask me what I was going to do with mine, if I won. When I won, I told myself.

“Well, you can’t sing, you can’t dance, and you can’t twirl a baton.”

“I already know what I can’t do,” I snapped. “You ain’t helping me much.”

Finally satisfied with her wickedly pointed nails and sticking the file back in her makeup bag, Sue Ann said, “Oh, don’t be getting your panties all in a bunch, sweet pea.” She turned back to me and smiled. “You can’t twirl a baton, but you can still do the fire thing.”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t. The last time I played with fire I set the outhouse to burning, remember that? Mama made me promise not to do it again.” I looked at my hands and wriggled my fingers. All us Riddley women had an affinity to fire; mine happened to be stronger than most. For instance, Sue Ann was pretty impressive with the fire batons, but I din’t need them to handle fire. Plus, I could make a lot more fire than what it took for two puny batons.

Sue Ann sighed. “Girl, if’n you don’t win that tiara, Mama will set your ass on fire herself, trust that. It’s been in the hands of Riddley women for decades. She’ll be mighty ticked if’n you don’t take it this year.” She stretched out on her bed. “Besides, you ain’t got boobs, so unless you plan on flashing your panties, the only thing that can compete with Mabelline is fire. Men love fire.” She grinned.

***

And that’s just the start of Sally Mae’s hilarious adventure. What starts out as a simple task ends up as complicated as it gets. Sally Mae and her best friend, Becky Jo, end up in a heap more trouble than they counted on, with a most unusual goat and a trip to visit the swamp witch, Mad Hattie.

As an added bonus, the first part of Sally Mae’s next wild ride is included, titled “You Ain’t the Boss of Me”.

“I promise you, you will laugh until you’re able to sit in the kid’s chairs. When you finish this book, you may have to worry about falling into the toilet when you sit down because YOUR ASS! IT WILL BE GONE FROM LAUGHING!” ~Joseph Paul Haines, author of Marooned and Ten With a Flag.

Disclaimer: Author shall be held harmless in any injuries resulting in the loss of asses or any toilet accidents.

You can also find The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident on Smashwords. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

VIVA LA GOAT! :)

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