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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jane Lindskold's Free E-Book--and What That Means for All of Us

My sister Jane Campbell is a HUGE Jane Lindskold fan...and so today my sis directed me to Tor's new blog where they are offering Lindskold's free e-book. Go here to download the book

This is a grand experiment by Tor (the publisher), and I'm sure many eyes will be on the site to see whether the idea works, but if you've read Predictably Irrational, you have an idea of how powerful a marketing tool the word "free" really is!

Kudos to Tor and to Jane. I believe the SINGLE most important thing we authors can do is introduce new people to our work. I'm sure I'm not the only person who borrows a book from the library FIRST to see if I like an author's style. Once upon a time, I would cringe if you told me you were going to pass one of my books around among your friends. Not any more. I'll cheer you on! In fact, I'll suggest it. (Okay, if any of my author friends are reading this, they're probably rolling around on the floor with their tongues hanging out and their eyes showing white. To them I say, "Wipe that foam off your lips. You look barmy.")

My new attitude is I want you (and your friends and your family and your homies) to read Paper, Scissors, Death. I'm hoping you'll get hooked on my characters, and then my chances will be GREATLY improved that you'll buy a copy or two or THREE of Cut, Crop & Die when it comes out in June.

So, I'm all for Tor sharing books online. In fact, I think that's a great use of new technology. Somedays I find myself thinking that the Age of Paper is truly past, although I must admit I love paper in all its forms: newspapers, magazines, books, and scrapbooking stash. I enjoy drinking coffee and reading the New York Times. I prop open my books and read as I eat lunch. I'm definitely a paper-stroker (that's scrapbook speak for someone who enjoys the feel of paper). But more and more I love being online. I've been writing online for years. In fact, I was taking notes on a Radio Shack personal computer when Madeline L'Engle was teaching a class at a writers' conference I was attending, and the great woman went on a rant about how "soulless" computers are. (I managed to get most of the rant down, although I'd be hard-pressed to find it these days. I just kept banging away and since I can type nearly as fast as most people can talk, I had no trouble keeping up with Madeline.)

But I can't write without a computer. I can scribble on paper, but I always find it a dry-run for putting the words on a screen. Worse yet, I'm addicted to the ease of looking up some stray fact as I write. Which is a really stupid habit, I admit...but I'm enough of a perfectionist that sometimes I get completely flummoxed by a missing tidbit and I simply can't go on.

So is the age of e-books here? Confession: I wrote an e-book years ago called The Scrapbooker's Journaling Companion (it's available through and that little book continues to pay very nice royalties indeed. The purchasers have told me they download the book and ask my 640 questions, using it as a sort of electronic journaling prompt! That was never my intent, but there you go...the technology and all its applications outstripped my imagination.

So here's to Jane Lindskold and the folks at Tor. May their grand experiment open new doors for all of us, both as readers and authors.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ten Honest Scraps about Myself

We'll see if this works. I'm on the computer that hates AOL and likes to freeze up, but here goes...

Gwyn Ramsey sent me this--and challenged me to come up with ten honest "scraps" about myself:

Honest Scrap Award
I've received the Honest Scrap Award from a blogging friend who has asked me to share with you ten honest scraps about myself. My friend, Morgan Mandel has no idea how hard this is for me to share these scraps with you. I have to dig real deep. So as I sit here pondering this assignment, why not visit
Morgan's site by clicking on her name.

So here I am on a rainy (yep, how weird is that?) day-after-day-after Christmas, scratching my head and thinking...thinking...thinking.

Here's my list:

1. I love all sorts of critters. Even most snakes, and amphibians. Certainly anything with fur. And bugs. I think bugs are cool. I even had a bug hospital as a child. (Read Louisa May Alcott's story about a bug hospital, and you'll see where I found the inspiration.)

2. I have all sorts of books mapped out in my head...but more and more I need solitude to write. I used to be okay with folks in the house, but as I've moved from non-fiction to fiction, I absolutely LOATH having people in the house when I write. I feel like I'm being watched. And if they interrupt me while I'm working, I hate it. Ugh. So one of my New Year's Resolutions is to map out the books I want to write and to get cracking.

3. I love to dance. My mother was a professional ballerina, and I grew up taking ballet in our dining room. I even substitute-taught for her when she got bored with plies. I'm very limber, and I can't keep still when I hear music I love. My favorite dancing song is "I Wish I Didn't Need You Anymore." I also like "Don't Jump My Pony." (Ahem. I blush when I hear that one.) I once jumped up and danced with a friend who's a bellydancer and we really had the crowd cheering as we did backbends.

4. I would have made a great actress. Yep. I was involved in theatre in high school, and I'm really very good at mimickry and at reaching deep and finding my emotions. That's what made me a good motivational speaker.

5. I'm learning to draw and I'm becoming more and more artistic. I spend hours working on images, learning to shade and shape and color. I always think of my sister Margaret as the artist in the family, but I'm struggling to be a self-taught artist. (I'll never be as good as she is, but I'm getting better.)

6. I miss England. I really loved living there. I went to as many lectures on history as I could. I like English food, English culture, and I'm a raving Anglophile. I loved collecting "royalty sightings," and I shocked the heck out of a docent at Windsor Castle by repeating verbatim to him the motto of the Order of the Garter. He said, "I've never had anyone who knew it, much less a Yank." (I've known it for years because legend has it that one of my ancestors was a Knight of the's "Honi Sois Qui Mal E Ponce." (Or something like that. "Evil to him who thinks evil of it.")

7. I love traveling although I really miss my home when I'm away. I've been to Egypt, Australia, China, Korea, Japan, Austria, Italy, Germany, France, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, Bermuda, Aruba, the Cayman Islands, St. Thomas, Cozumel, Belize (I forget if those are cities or countries...oops), and Canada. I could easily live in another country, for a while, because I love exploring and I'll eat anything that doesn't move.

8. I'm a horrible packrat. But what would you expect of someone who loves saving memories? Give me a break! That said, this is my year to purge and clean out the closets. It's getting to me. I hate the clutter.

9. I hate being cold. It reminds me of being poor. My skin gets soooo dry that I slather myself with Eucerin. And I hate the darkness of the winter. It depresses me. I try to make myself exercise and go outside, but yuck. I just want to curl up with a book and eat bonbons. (Well, not bonbons. Chocolate gives me a headache.)

10. I have a scar on my face from where Darvin G. through a hunk of concrete through my cheek.

Now I need to nominate friends and family to take up the Ten Scraps Challenge:

I nominate:

Emilie Richards
Camille Minichino
Shirley Damsgaard
Jane Campbell (my sister)
Angie Fox
Doug Brendel
Bill LaDow

Meanwhile, I better get off the computer--there's a horrible storm outside--and if I know Charter, the 'net will go down fast!

And here's the link to Gwyn Ramsey

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Christmas, Another Miracle

On occasion, I must confess that my faith slips a cog, like a car with a bad clutch. When I see good people frightened by a seemingly hopeless future, when I hear bad news crowding out all else in the media, when I look into the faces of strangers and find soul-weary sadness, I wonder, “Is there really a God? A benevolent force in our Universe?” and my belief that we are watched over, cared for, and loved falters—especially in a “season of joy.”

Always, when my spirits hit their lowest ebb, there comes a miracle, a tiny glimmer of hope in response to a need so personal (and usually frivolous) I’d never name it out loud. One year, I longed to see a copy of The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Wiggins, a story that enchanted me as a child. Written 110 or so years ago, it’s a sad story but (if you can get past the melodrama of the times), a reminder of how to live one’s life. What were the chances of seeing a copy, especially late on Christmas Eve? Well, here’s the miracle: I found the book in its entirety on the Internet. Go to

This year, the miracle took another form.

My spirits were sagging in September after we dropped Michael off at college. At a rest stop on our long drive home, I found a chunk of Resurrection Moss lying on the ground. Resurrection Moss, pleopeltis polypodioides, is really a fern and an epiphyte, a type of plant that exists by attaching itself to a host such as a tree. In extreme drought, the pleopeltis polypodioides' fronds shrivel and turn brown, effectively dying. But when the rain comes, the whole plant bursts into a lovely bright green cluster. Read more about it here

I tucked the “moss” I'd found into a ziplock bag and toted it back to Missouri. Once home, I put the plant in an old fishbowl covered with plastic to make a terrarium. There it grew, a cheerful spot of green in my office. All was well until the day I discovered the bark covered in a gooey mold, and the fronds turned to mush.

They say Resurrection Moss can withstand extreme dryness for 100 years, but this was…bad. I once worked in a greenhouse, and my old boss used to say, “The profit is in the hands of the man with the watering can.” More plants die from overwatering than underwatering. I’d let too much moisture build up inside the bowl. I’d drowned my poor plant.

Last weekend I gave my office a pre-Christmas cleaning. The desiccated hunk of bark begged to be tossed out. Hadn’t it died an awful death? But instead of giving it the heave-ho, I soaked the chunk in water.

The next day I was greeted by a happy green frond, and some new baby fronds, too.

So call me silly and sentimental, but something inside me also sprang back to life. Some part of me unfurled and turned a happy green. Even in the worst of times, a simple miracle can do that. Especially one just in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

De-Stress for the Holidays, Part V

Note: Last year I asked my scrapbooking friends to share how they de-stress during the holidays. The responses were AMAZING. This is the fifth and final "de-stress" email for this season. Isn't it lovely?--Joanna

One of the big things my husband and I had in common was our love for Christmas, and we always always ALWAYS celebrated it in a big way.

Back in the days when my husband was in the military, and we lived in Germany, Christmas was fun, but exhausting. I used to bake 100 dozen cookies (3 batches of 10 kinds) and have anywhere from 12 - 30 guys for Christmas dinner and, the last year we did it, made and filled stockings for all of them.

When we got back to the states, we tried to continue our traditions--the monster tree, the cards, the cookies etc. Then about 10 years ago, when I finally finished a degree while working full time, I took myself and a neighbor to Walt Disney World to celebrate during the first week of December, and told my husband he could make Christmas while I was gone. He did. But there were still a LOT of things left in the trunk. Then it dawned on me - he put out the things that were meaningful to HIM and then he stopped. I added the things that were meaningful to me, and then I stopped. The trunk was still half full. There was a huge lesson in that!
It took me a few more years to back off on the cookies. Year after year on January 2, trays of dried out cookies went in the trash. Now, I've seperated the cookies into holidays - snowballs on valentines, ginger cookies on Thanksgiving, etc. Two kinds per holiday at MOST, and only one batch of each. We still get our favorites once a year, just not all at Christmas.

We've passed out of the acquisition phase of our lives. We want less rather than more, we can afford what we want, and what we want is usually experiences rather than things. Our (adult) kids get money, it's both what they want and need. Extended family get photos, in some form or other -- calendars, scrapbooks etc. That's IT. Presto, no shopping. Very little wrapping. That really takes the stress out of it for me - I'd rather have fish hooks driven under my fingernails than go to the mall!

Traditions that remain -
* A simple, artificial 4 ' diameter wreath lit with a spotlight on the end of the house facing the street.
* A tree - artificial now, with our favorite ornaments over 2 inches (all the tiny ones stay in the trunk)
* Swedish Tea Ring for Christmas breakfast - I bake 2 and give one away.
* We save our Christmas cards and open them all at once on Christmas eve or Christmas morning - it's like a party with all our dearest friends - and much more impactful than if we opened one or two a day.
* A few other 'familyless' folks in for a simple dinner on Christmas day
* Sometime that week, we drive round town and look at the holiday lights.

Done. No stress at all.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Handmade Holidays!

1. Personalized Stationery Gift Set—(Not pictured.) Buy a package of six blank cards and envelopes from Wal-Mart (or just buy the envelopes and cut the cards from cardstock). A package is less than $2. Gather six of your desired initial (you can use a die cut such as Sizzix, QuicKutz, Cricket or AccuCut or rub on or sticker lettering). Punch out flowers, small and large. Assemble flowers by stacking several layers of “petals” and securing with brad. (Hide the brad’s splayed “legs” under the petals.) Glue flowers onto the fronts of the cards. Add the initials—a good way to put glue on these is by running them through a Xyron. Add return address stickers to the envelopes and include stamps.

2. Notepad—My friend Ann Farnen of Scrapbook Factory in O’Fallon IL made one for me. Here’s the scoop so you can create one for your friend! Cut a small (5” x 8”) legal notepad in half. (Flip it face-down so that the cardstock side is up. Mark the cardstock down the center, longwise. Using a craft knife slice through the cardstock and through the paper, dividing one notepad into two smaller pads.) Cut a patterned piece of paper 2” by 2 ½”, fold it at the ¾” mark, and add a trinket or brad to the ¾” area. Affix the patterned paper over the selvage, the paper binding edge along the top of the notepad, in order to cover the ugly binding. Emboss another piece of patterned paper (slightly larger than 5” x 8”.) Fold it around your pad like a book cover. Glue it to the back of the notepad. Use a clip to hold it closed.

3. Crocheted Scarf—You’ll need three colors of yarn. A is your base color. B is one stripe. C is another stripe. (I used A = black, B = yellow, and C= white.)
Using a size J hook, chain stitch 18. Starting in the third hole from your hook, single stitch the remaining 15 stitches to form a base. Now
* DS 20 rows of A, chain two and turn
* DS 6 rows of B, chain two and turn
* DS 15 rows of A, chain two and turn
* DS 6 rows of C , chain two and turn
* DS 15 rows of A, chain two and turn
* DS 6 rows of B, chain two and turn
* DS 15 rows of A, chain two and turn
* DS 6 rows of C, chain two and turn
* DS 15 rows of A, chain two and turn
* DS 6 rows of B, chain two and turn
* DS 20 rows of A, end.
With “furry” or “eyelash” yarn, go around the entire scarf twice. (Use a smaller hook and try to space your stitches evenly.

4. I-Pod Purses--From a Goodwill or thrift store buy an all-wool sweater of some lovely color. (Or clean your closet!) Throw it in the washer, soak it in hot water, and run it through the dryer until it becomes a soft and pliant felt. Cut a pattern of newspaper, 14” long and 4 ½” wide. Pin it to your felt and cut. On another piece of paper, draw a letter (the initial of the person for whom you are making the gift), fatten it up, and cut it out of felt. Add stitching with embroidery thread. Sew the initial onto the bag. Add a button and button hole (stitch around it with pink embroidery floss). Blanket stitch the sides together, and blanket stitch the flap. Add ribbon handles.

5. Memory Jar—(Not pictured.) Find an empty jar or plastic canister with a lid. (You can buy an inexpensive jar from Wal-Mart). Create a “label” out of attractive scrapbook paper to wrap around the outside. Add sticker lettering to create your recipient’s name. (You might also add a saying like, “Beautiful Memories.”) On your computer or by hand, write down happy memories. (They’ll read: “Remember the time we took a walk by the beach and saw the turtles hatching? Remember the time we slid down the hill on flattened boxes?”) Put the memory slips in the jar.

ALTERNATIVE IDEA: Journaling Jar--Fill the jar with journaling prompts such as “Journal about what makes the holidays special” or “Journal about a time you received a very special present.” (Thanks to Ann Farnen!)

6. Holiday Cards— CHRISTMAS TREE--Buy a package of six blank cards and envelopes from Wal-Mart (or just buy the envelopes and cut the cards from cardstock). Cut a piece of red paper, ½ inch smaller than the front of your card. Now cut a triangle out of waste paper. Compare this to your red paper (let’s call it your “topper”) and adjust the size of the triangle as necessary so it fits within the topper with at least an inch border. Using a craft knife, cut the triangle out of the center of your topper. On the REVERSE side of the topper, affix double-sided tape all around the triangular negative space. (Negative space is a fancy phrase for “hole.”) Now cut strips of green patterned paper ¼ to 3/8 of an inch wide and 6” long. Starting at the small tip of the “tree,” overlap the strips RIGHT side of the paper showing through the hole. You are creating a chevron or a V-shaped pattern with your green paper, overlapping each new strip. (See the picture for an idea how the RIGHT side will look.) Trim the leftover length of your strip and affix it to the back of your topper by pressing it against the double-stick tape. (You might need to add tape to the whole shooting match as you go to keep pieces from slipping.) Keep overlapping until you’ve filled the hole. Add a punched star or a star sticker to the RIGHT side on top of your tree. Add a short piece of brown paper to RIGHT side at the bottom for a trunk. Affix topper to your card.

MITTENS—Cut a topper out of solid paper ½” smaller than your card front. Cut two mittens out of patterned paper. (No pattern? Go to clip art and find a mitten to download and use.) Color the edges of the mittens by dragging the edge across an ink pad. Glue felt along the bottom and trim to make fur. Add a short piece of white yarn by taping this to the wrong side of the mittens. Glue mittens to your topper and add snowflake punches.
Happy Holidays! Don't forget you can email me at and put HOLIDAY in the subject line and we'll send you a file of hand-drawn, hand-colored holiday art--sleigh, Santa, snowmen, poinsettia, ornaments and "Merry Christmas" title--to download FREE. Our holiday gift to you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

De-Stress for the Holidays, Part IV

Note: Last year I asked my scrapbooking friends to tell me how they de-stress during the holidays. I received some AMAZING responses. Be sure to stop back at this blog on Dec. 23 for the final installment.--Joanna

Stress? Too much to do? You betcha! When things get crazy during the holiday season I remind myself of a couple of lessons I learned, one from my dad who died almost three years ago and one from my daughter, who was 12 at the time when she educated me.

From my Dad : In his last 5 yrs. of his life, dad was oxygen dependent, either tethered by clear tubing to his noisy machine at home or to a tank on a cart when he was out and about. He no longer drove which was a relief to my brother and I, but he missed his daily drives where he wandered the back roads to see if the deer were still hanging out in the patch of woods, if the builders had made much progress on that new house, how high the river was, etc. In his last years, most of his life was spent in the Lazy Boy recliner by the front window napping, staring at the TV, watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood, or listening to music on the radio. I visited Dad as often as I could, given that we lived 650 miles apart and I work full time, have two teens and a husband. During those visits I came to realize how very important it was to Dad any time someone waved, said "hi", came over with a plate of cookies fresh out of the oven, sent him something in the mail, visited him, etc. It didn't matter if they dropped off a container of chicken noodle soup (which by the way, he hated) or a container of mixed nuts that he loved. He was thrilled that someone thought of him and went to the effort to visit or call or write. It didn't matter if their was a gift involved, Dad just really enjoyed the surprise and the human contact. When I am stressing over figuring out or affording the perfect gift for someone, I flash back to Dad and I remind myself that the perfect gift is often times in me, not in the mall or a mega store.

From my Daughter: A few years ago on a mid December evening, my then 12-year-old daughter Angela was in the car with me as I drove home, my head full of thoughts about what was left to do before the big day. Angela asked me what i was thinking about and I told her that this was the time of year that I go a little nuts, worrying about disappointing her and her older sister. In an incredulous voice, Angela asked me how I could possibly disappoint them. I told her that I am not very organized and I start to worry that one of them will get way more gifts than the other or maybe one will get more fun things or I will have forgotten to get a gift that they really want or any of a number of things. Angela turned to me and said with wisdom that surprised me, "You know Mom, Christmas is about more than just getting presents. It's about having everyone over and playing with our cousins too".

So I can think Angela for reminding me that I am not the center of the universe and that the success or failure of Christmas does not rest on my shoulders. How uplifting to let go of that burden! I can thank both my Dad and Angela for pointing out to me and demonstrating that it is human kindness that counts, not how much money I spend or how many times I do the expected thing. When life gets too busy, I remind myself that it is the human touches, the warmth and the caring that matters, not whether I fashion a bread basket out of bread sticks, glaze it with egg whites and bake it until it is shiny and brown. When I feel overwhelmed and stressed, I figure out how much of the things going on really are important from Dad's and Angela's point of view, and let go of the rest.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

De-Stress for the Holidays, Part III

Note: Last year I asked my scrapbooking friends to tell me how they deal with stress during the holidays. I received some amazing emails. So here's Part III in our series. Be sure to join this blog on Dec. 18 for Part IV, and Dec. 23 for Part V.--Joanna

I started scrapbooking about 10 yrs ago after my mother moved to Heaven, my sister to FL. My brother to WA and my daughter to Oregon. My son back to Oregon. I had to find some way to deal with the depression that I was having. Pills made me worse or too happy to deal with life.

So I started an album of loss. Just after my mother a dear friend died, then a policeman I had adopted after being stopped by him, (no ticket) but I waved each day and prayed for him as well.

I saw his bike and the accident on the side of the freeway. On my way home from work that day.

So this album helped me deal with loss and sadness. But in a positive way. That was only the beginning.

Now when I am overwhelmed which at the holidays who isn’t? I go sit in my wonderful scrapbooking room and create something. Be it a album for each of the grandsons, or a card for an upcoming event. Always a thank you card this time of year. Once I get going I can breath again and head back to the tasks at hand. Cleaning, baking, for a house full of people to soon be walking in the door. We are having only 10 this year on Christmas Eve. I tend to bake too much, cook too much, and fluff too much and love every minute of it. I send lots home with family. But I spend the day snapping pictures and will make not only my photo scrapbook, but one for each of the kids. Small ones they can carry around with them.

Stress is just a snip, scrap, and picture away from being gone. Life is good and scrapbooking is my life.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Where an Author Should Sign a Book--and Other Pithy Questions

Bethany Grenald of Bauman’s Rare Books responded to some of my questions about where authors should sign books and what makes a signature of value…

1. Is there a "proper" place for an author to sign a book? We've heard it should be on the same page where both the title and the publisher's imprint are.

There's no proper place to sign a book. Authors are relatively idiosyncratic when it comes to signing books. Some, such as Hemingway, tend to sign on the first page of white paper as you open the book. Some, such as Ian Fleming and Robert F. Kennedy, tend to sign on the endpaper, even if the endpaper is a colored piece of paper and you can't see the signature very well. J.K. Rowling tends to sign on the title page. Some English authors, such as Patrick O'Brian, will cross out their own printed name on the title page, and sign their name below. Some authors will sign on the half title, which is the page before the title page that generally has just the title printed on it. Lately, when I have gone to book signings, there has generally been an assistant there who goes through the line and opens up each book to the preferred page (most commonly the title page) and puts a Post-it there, with any extra info the book owner wants the author to write, to make it easier on the author. Some authors will only sign their name and nothing else. It's all a matter of personal preference. Some writers prefer to use a certain kind of pen. For example, both Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde almost always signed in purple ink.

2. What increases the value of a signature? Does personalization (like writing "To Jennifer") increase or decrease the value? Does adding the date and location of the signing matter?

From the rare book dealer's perspective, the more writing that is in a book, the better it is, because it means the author took a little extra time and care with the book. Signatures that are inscribed to a particular person are desirable as a result (like: "To Jennifer. Best, John Irving"). Even better is if something entertaining has been written. James Ellroy writes shocking and humorous phrases in many of the books he signs ("Slash! Rip! Gouge! Eviscerate! James Ellroy") and some authors include doodles or the date. However, in the past 15 years or so, as the market in very recently published books has increased, many buyers have started to prefer books with NO recipient name, since it becomes obvious to others that it wasn't signed by the author to you personally. So something neutral, like "best wishes" or the date, is better than an inscription that includes a name, from many buyers' perspectives. It probably won't sell for more money than a copy that just has the author's signature, it's just preferred, and therefore might sell more readily. Doodles generally enhance value, while an inscription to someone else makes the book a bit more difficult to sell. The most desirable books have interesting associations, like an inscription to the author's friend, relative, or colleague.

3. Is there any other general information you can give us so that we approach signing in such a way to enhance the value of the book we've signed?

Keep the book, especially the dust jacket, in clean, as-new condition. People don't want to pay a lot of money for a signed book if it's not in good condition. Don't write anything else in the book, like your name or a gift inscription to Aunt Sally.

4. Do only hardback books have value for collectors?

With modern books, generally, only the first printing of the first edition, hardcover, has value to a collector. In very rare cases, if the first printing came out in paperback only, it might have value. But if the author's name isn't James Joyce or Vladimir Nabokov, forget it. If the author is from the United Kingdom and you have bought the first American edition, then that will have lesser value for a collector, because people tend to collect the first edition from the writer's country of origin.

5. If someone were to build a collection of "rare" books, how might he/she start? Do you have any information for a would-be collector?

In building a collection of rare books, I would suggest the novice start with the books he/she loves best, and have fun with it. Every region has a rare book fair at some point, so keep a look out for those and then go and walk around to see what's out there. Pick your category of books you want to collect. Fiction in general? Science fiction? 1930s Detective fiction? Medicine? Nautical fiction? There's a very good book collecting book called ABC for Book Collectors, by John Carter, that I recommend.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Between the Lines

Note: The wonderful Marta Stephens shares her thoughts with us! Aren't we lucky?

Thumb through the pages of your favorite book. Now, look close between the lines. That’s where the author bled onto the pages and wove together a mystic world of fiction fed by life experiences. Every line of narrative and section of dialogue holds a thimbleful of truth.
The second book in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series is no exception. THE DEVIL CAN WAIT was forged from the memory of an unholy event as frightening as it was intriguing. It’s a tale about belief, unholy forces, and one man’s determination to stop an obsessed killer.The story behind the story involved a quarrel and a cursed black pearl ring that nearly killed the object of a jilted young man’s affection. Filled with resentment, he begged her to take the ring as a parting gesture. Within days of accepting his gift, the young woman fell victim to a number of life-threatening accidents that came in quick succession. She survived each incident, but evil remained a constant threat to her life. It was only after she destroyed the black pearl ring that all appeared to return to normal.
Such was the spark behind THE DEVIL CAN WAIT; fiction with a taste of the unexplained. I was an impressionable eight-year-old, unable to distinguish fact from fiction, yet that event seared itself into my mind and eventually gave birth to THE DEVIL CAN WAIT. Can inanimate objects receive and transmit energies through a single touch? Is the good or evil nature of a person a predictor of luck or misfortune?
Years later, I can neither prove nor disprove that curses exist, yet I’m left to wonder what truths have slipped between the pages of this Sam Harper mystery that kept critical e-mails from reaching my editor? What power made manuscript files disappear and Internet connections break off for days at a time without rhyme or reason? Coincidence? I thought it was, until the literary contract sent to my publisher at the same street address I’ve used for several years found its way back into my mailbox three months later marked, “Insufficient address.” Subsequent mailing attempts met the same fate, yet my greeting card arrived at her office without a hitch. I can’t explain these things nor is it clear why the first three artists who were eager to work on the book cover had to stop soon after starting due to … pressing events that forced them to quit.
In THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, the city of Chandler, Massachusetts is plunged into terror when the bodies of three local teenagers wash ashore. While homicide detective Sam Harper hunts down the guilty, a sinister plot emerges overseas. From the Vatican to the jungles of South America, a cursed black pearl ring, the demonic prophecy it represents, and the men who pursue its powers find their unfortunate way into Harper’s turf.
Enthralled by the ring’s story and a front-page spread, newspaper reporter Jennifer Blake agrees to pick up the ring at a local pawnshop for her former college professor. When she does, unforeseen events shoot Blake to the top of Harper's prime suspect lists. Soon, the seemingly unrelated cases converge and the heat is on for Harper to expose the truth behind a Vatican secret and stop the self-righteous man who does the unthinkable in the name of God.
Did the sound of keystrokes tapping life into THE DEVIL CAN WAIT wake a slumbering presence from the depth of obscurity where holiness clashes against the dark and profane? I’ll let you, the reader, be the judge. The only certainty is that THE DEVIL CAN WAIT can wait no more. It’s here, so light a candle, take a sip of your favorite brew, ease into that over-stuffed chair, and immerse yourself in the pages of THE DEVIL CAN WAIT—if you dare.

* * *
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense and is virtually touring with Pump Up Your Book Promotions throughout the month of December. You’ll find all the active links on her website,

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT and SILENCED CRY were published by BeWrite Books (UK) and available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on site. Excerpts from the Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and reviews are also available there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

De-Stress for the Holidays, Part II

Note: This is Part II in a series of posts written by my scrapbooking friends on how they de-stress over the holidays. Be sure to check back on Dec. 15, 18 and 23 for more installments--Joanna

We are big outside light decorators. We have about 15,000 lights. So we enjoy also seeing other's displays. A nice way for us to de-stress is to do dinner out and take a drive looking for Christmas lights. Tonight we did just that and my Mom was with us. I was happy to see how much she enjoyed the other display and then we got back home to ours. This is our first Christmas without my Dad, he went to heaven in June. So she is spending the holidays with me and my sister, some time with both of us. As avid scrapbookers we need to remember to make memories not stress!


How Stephanie Meyer Did It

As many of you know, I've been working every weekend doing signings in local bookstores. Because I'm usually at the front of the store, I get a lot of questions. And the one I get asked most often is, "Where can I find those Twilight books?"

Here's a great article on what Stephanie Meyer did to build her brand. More importantly, notice that she didn't reach a tipping point (see Malcolm Gladwell's book Tipping Point for a better understanding of the term) until Book #3 in the series.,0,7574826.story

And here's the link to an archives of articles by Malcom Gladwell

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

You are a real TWIT.

Well, it used to be a slam, but today it might be a compliment.

As part of my new goal to become more social network savvy, I've been twittering. You can follow me at I think. Who knows how all this works?

Meanwhile, here's an interesting article on using Twitter for business:

How can an author use Twitter?

1. Tell folks about your upcoming signings.
2. Keep fans "in the know" about your progress on your books.
3. Promote other authors--it's the right thing to do.
4. Notify your Tweeties of recent blog posts. (Okay, I need to get into the habit of this.)
5. Beats me...any ideas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

De-Stress for the Holidays, Part I

Note: Last year I asked my scrapbooking friends to tell me how they de-stress during the holidays. I loved their answers so much that I decided to post one every Tuesday and Thursday (Dec. 9, 11, 16, 18 and 23) until Christmas. So be sure you can follow this blog for a very special treat--some welcome ideas for making the holidays a lot BRIGHTER because they aren't powered by STRESS energy!--Joanna

Spending several days away from my home at my parents' home, as much as I love them, can stress me out. Plus, I have a difficult time sitting and doing nothing and my parents need to sit and rest much more than I do and want me sitting with them. So, I've learned to take some sort of craft/activity that I can talk and do at the same time. Gives me something to keep my hands occupied and de-stresses me at the same time. Sometimes, my mother gets involved as well, which is another plus. The crafts/activities? So far, sorting through decades of non-digital prints for scanning onto CDs (and discussing the memories), making button trees with styrofoam trees/buttons/decorative straight pins, painting and decorating a kraft paper house into a Halloween decoration, etc.

Deborah P

Monday, December 8, 2008

He's Joe the PLUMBER, Not Joe the AUTHOR

Here's a great editorial by Timothy Egan.

True, there are all sorts of people whose lives are fascinating, whose thoughts deserved to be shared, and who are NOT by trade writers. But...I seriously take exception with the idea that every book by a minor celebrity deserves to be published. Egan's opinion piece is about Joe the Plumber, and Joe's book. Joe's book! Give me a break! Crikey! Hello! Aren't we teaching our kids that celebrity is more important than substance? Than anyone who stumbles into the limelight deserves a book contract and more attention?

Here's a way to make this stop: Don't buy Joe's book.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter 2008 Ezine Arrives!

If you didn't get your copy, email me at and put EZINE in the subject line. We'll send you your very own FREE copy.

What's in this issue?

* What's Hot and What's Not--A brief look at scrapbook trends.
* Green Scrapbooking--A continuation of our ideas for using recycled and found materials on your pages.
* Contest Announcements
* Freebies--Yes, you can get a free file full of fun (how's that for alliteration?) hand-drawn art to download and use on your pages.

We've already had 20+ requests for the Freebies and the ezine is only just going out now!

Don't forget--You can go to my website and sign up so that you AUTOMATICALLY get your copy. That's a great idea, because we have a special issue going out on December 20, a BONUS issue with all sorts of cool holiday art.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Writer's Journey: From Author to Book Promoter

© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights reserved

Joanna's note: I find Marta to be one of the most savvy book promoters in the known universe, so I've asked her to share some of her wisdom here. Consider it an early holiday present! Enjoy! Oh, and you might want to make sure you're following this blog through your RSS feed or whatever so you don't miss a posting by this incredible talent.

Whether we have taken formal writing courses or went the self-help route, the need to create is what nudged us forward and to heck with the sacrifices and rejections we’ve endured on the road to getting published. The problem is, during the years we studied plot and character development, imagery and all the other critical components of fiction writing, most of us neglected to consider one of the most important pieces of the puzzle—book promotions.

One misconception about book promotion is that the publisher will handle all of it. The fact is, campaigns will vary from one publisher to another, but regardless of the size of the publishing house, the bulk of the responsibility will fall squarely on the author’s shoulders.

The narrowest definition of the role of a publisher is that they make information available for public view. A reputable publisher will assign an editor to work with the author and provide copyediting, graphic design, and will initiate production – printing. In some cases the publisher will make the book available in print and in electronic media. They will also secure the legal rights of the author and purchase the ISBN.

Several months before a novel is released, the publisher will send out advanced review copies (ARC) and will continue to submit the book for reviews throughout the contracted period of time. Most publishers will spotlight their authors on their website, they may promote their books at key events that attract book sellers, will seek out interview opportunities, will submit the books to writing contests, and will make them available to the public via online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million and other traditional bookstores. The publisher may also sell the international rights to the book (have the book translated) and assist with film rights if it comes to that.

These are the building blocks to a book’s success in today’s market, but they don’t address the issue of book promotion. That’s where you, the author, come in and take charge and the best place to start is by developing an Internet presence.

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a 5-circle bull’s eye.

1) That inner circle is you; who you are, your experiences, and what you know. It also includes your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Anyone you come in contact with on a regular basis.

2) The next circle includes potential readers within your community who you may know, but with whom you’re not in contact with on a regular basis. It also includes people who don’t know about you or your book. The hometown advantage is on your side though. With word of mouth endorsements from those within your inner circle, local press about your book, and book signings or other events, you have a good chance to reach a portion of the population.

3) The third circle from the center includes individuals you have contact with on a professional basis. These are more than likely other authors; members of author groups and organizations where you self-promote on a regular basis.

4) The fourth circle includes people who have bought your book.

5) The outer fifth circle represents potential readers in a global market. That’s your goal -- to take your promotional campaign from your inner circle to the outer circle. The only way to get there is by having an Internet presence. It will draw readers, but more important, the publishing world demands it. The good news is that the Internet provides authors with unlimited ways to promote their books and most offer free or low cost options.

Ironically, the key to a successful promotions campaign is not to discuss your book. Instead, allow potential readers to get to know you. Through your communications, readers will acquire an interest in you and your books. Post a variety of information about yourself and your writing on several sites. Take every opportunity to expand your network of contacts. Cross promote with other authors so you can all benefit by reaching new readers on each other’s blogs. Eventually, you will gain a following. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Develop a brand identity. What makes you, you? What is it about your writing that sets you apart from other authors? Can you tie your writing to a charitable cause? What are you known for outside your writer’s life? Does your expertise have any connection with your writing? Pinpoint what it is about your story that readers seem to identify with and develop it. For an example of this, check out the Nero Wolfe website: Include that branding in all your communications, printed material, the design of your website, blogs, etc.
Think about your strength(s) as a writer. Are you particularly good at writing dialogue, plot development, or characterization? If so, write a “how-to” article about it.
Write a piece about your writing journey; where you’ve been, what you’re doing, and where you’re going.

What’s the story behind the story? I’m always fascinated to learn the origin of story ideas.

Develop a boilerplate and tack it to the end of every article you write and add it to your e-mail signature so readers and e-mail recipients will have easy access to your website and a way to learn more about you. Here’s my boilerplate:
Marta Stephens, author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK).THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), SILENCED CRY (2007)Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Send queries to interviewers and ask if they would be willing to send you some questions and post the interview on their site. Not sure where to find interviewers? Study fellow authors’ websites and make a note of who has interviewed them then contact those sites. Ask fellow authors if they would be willing to interview you and post it on their website, blog, or a social network you have in common. Some review sites offer interviews as well. Make sure you read and follow the sites’ submission guidelines before you contact them.

Study the interview questions you’ve received. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to write entire articles based on your responses to some of the more thought-provoking questions. Don’t stop there though. If you read an interesting interview, consider how you would answer one of the more difficult questions and develop your answer into an article.

Post links on your website to the articles you’ve written, your interviews, and reviews you’ve received that are published on other blogs or sites.

Consider the various sites you belong to. Develop an announcement about your published works mentioned above to post on these sites as well but be sure to tweak your post to fit your readership in each group.

The consequences of becoming a public figure is something most writers don’t fully consider when choosing this career path. Whether on the Internet or in person, how an author breaks out of his or her shyness will of course depend on their comfort level. But at some point the author will need to break out of that shell if he or she expects to sell books.

Regardless of your goals; to reach that small target audience within the two inner circles of your bull’s eye or to connect with a global market, make yourself accessible to the public. Remember that no one knows your story and characters better than you so who better to promote them? If you love what you do, it will show and your enthusiasm will spark a desire and spread like wildfire.

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK).THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jumping Off the Facebook Cliff


I was nagged into it.

When my husband started bragging about all his Facebook friends, and how he communicated with our son through Facebook, I caved.

So I spent this morning trying to woo friends. Turns out, I have very little IDEA how to get more friends...especially on Facebook.

I know social marketing is important. I keep buying books and reading articles, and you know what? It's all GREEK to me.

But I'll keep trying.

So if you aren't my friend, won't you be my friend? PUH-leeze!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shhh! How I Handsell Books

Don't tell anyone, okay?

I've found standing in front of the table is best. I think if you read about body language, behind a table or desk is always considered more intimidating. I hold my book up in front of me like the perfume salesladies do--that sort of warns folks that I'm hawking my book. So they know I'm not trying to get their cell phone biz. Then I say, "May I tell you about my book?" Or better yet, "I'm a local author signing here today. May I tell you about my book?"

Usually, they hesitate, then say, "Uh, okay." If they say, "No." I thank them politely and step away. Often they come back by. The trick is to be friendly and CALM. I've found that sounding very, oh, confident but not excited works best. (It's hard because your heart is pounding.)

If they have a child with them, I ask the child, "Can you guess how many words are in this book?" They never can, but I give them a bookmark for trying. Parents appreciate anyone being nice to their kids, and they love the fact you are giving their child something to keep him/her occupied while the parent shops.

I'm averaging selling 8-10 books an hour this way. I keep refining my pitch. This is the best training for getting to know your audience ever. And the booksellers start to get really excited when they see how your book is coming through the check out line.

One of my friends said, "I could NEVER do this."

Yes, you can. If you believe your work has value, you can do it. In the beginning, you'll feel absolutely sick at your stomach with terror. You'll search their faces and see NOTHING and think, "Oh, my God, why did I ever sign up for this? They HATE me. They think I'm stupid." Then to your surprise they'll say, "Could you sign that?"

It's just amazing. I figure I sell one out of four or five people I approach. It's strictly a numbers game. But one I'm willing to play to move my books.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Here are the winners of the contest in the back of Paper, Scissors, Death:

* Stacy C. of Minnesota won the Grand Prize of a Scrapper’s Dream Vacation including dinner with me! (I promise to use my company manners, Stacey.)

* Debbie F. of Tennessee won the Second Prize, the Snapfish Premium Photo Album.

* Molly F. of Minnesota won the Third Prize, the Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Pack.

And here are the winners of the Best of British Scrapbooking Contest 2008:

* Overall Winner is Kim Tomlinson

* Best New Talent Winners are Jane Knight and Sarah Bond
* Best of British Winners are Jo-Anne Cavanagh, Julie Kirk and Michelle Jackson-Mogford. Below is First Noel by Jo-Anne Cavanagh.