Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, September 17, 2018

Author Interview: Carla Williams

Today I’m sitting down with newly published author Carla Williams to talk about her book, Wildcat Women: Narratives of Women Breaking Ground in Alaska’s Oil and Gas Industry. That’s quite a mouthful and very intriguing. Let’s find out more about it.

MJB: Can you give us a brief overview of the book?

CW: Thank you, Melissa, for interviewing me about my book. It’s an honor. The book includes narratives of fourteen women who worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and satellite oilfields in Alaska in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and even in recent years. My own recollections are also discussed. It is the first book written about oilfield women in Alaska.

MJB: It sounds fascinating. What prompted you to write about such an obscure and unknown part of our history? What was the inspiration behind it? And do you have any connection to any of these women?

CW: Yes, it was super fascinating to interview the women and hear their stories. I also worked on Alaska’s North Slope oil fields, and even though my camp durations were shorter than the fourteen women, I could relate to what they said. Male authors who have books about Alaska’s oil and gas industry did not understand what women went through day-to-day, so, of course, the female experience was represented differently in their books. I wanted to add more detail to what these male authors wrote about.

I worked with five of the women, but the others I knew only slightly or had never met.

MJB: What kind of research did you have to do?

CW: I gathered information from the University of Alaska library in Fairbanks where I rummaged through boxes of archived materials that had not been cataloged yet. I had some of my own reference materials, but I also found information on the internet, even though a lot of that information never made it into the book. I would read something, then try to figure out if the material was relevant to my book and if it was interesting enough. I went down a lot of rabbit holes, but I enjoyed the research. I didn’t want to bore people before they got to the book’s interview section, yet I thought it was important for people to understand the background of Alaska’s oil development, so I researched the accuracy of those sections as thoroughly as possible.

Photo by Mary Katzke, Affinity Films

MJB:  I think that's very often the case with research: we may do more than we need, but even if it's not used directly in the writing, it still informs the writing. 

With the #MeToo movement that’s currently going on, did you find any parallels with these women fighting for a place in a “man’s world”? Were there instances of discrimination, bullying, abuse?

CW: Yes, there are parallels, but there are also differences. For example, women working through the unions earned the same wages as the men, so many women working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline received equal pay for equal work. Discrimination occurred by withholding promotions and stereotyping physical abilities. Bullying and abuse were not tolerated. Managers had hard deadlines and to meet those deadlines everyone had to work as efficiently as possible and that meant working together. Managers in that environment were often union guys that made people toe-the-line with just their presence. The oilfield land back then was private property and still is today, so managers could send a person on the first plane out and ban them from setting foot on the property again. People respected that authority. People didn’t want to lose their lucrative paying jobs.

MJB:  Aside from the gender issue, what kind of dangers and challenges did these woman face just in the normal course of their work?

CW: Most dangers were no different from what the men faced. There was the extremely cold weather and the entire area was under constant construction, so workers looked after each other. Since people worked so many weeks together in close quarters, they became more like a family, so they treated each other like family. However, some women who arrived early in the 70s faced remarkable challenges. When one woman asked where she could go to the bathroom, her foreman handed her a bucket with a lid and it was no joke. She carried the bucket back to camp on the bus to empty. It was obviously humiliating, but if she wanted to continue working, that’s what she had to do. Women improvised and just muscled their way through the obstacles.

MJB:  I recently vacationed in Alaska and the landscape is monumental. What extra challenges did these women have to deal with in this remote location?

CW: Loneliness was a challenge for some women, especially supervisors and managers who couldn’t fraternize with the crews. In the book, it’s mentioned a couple time where women did not feel comfortable going to the dining room to eat. If they walked into the dining room, 300 to 400 men would turn their heads in unison to stare. The first time it happened to me, I felt uncomfortable, but I kept going to the dining room and they eventually got used to me showing up. So, some women ate in their rooms and thus missed the camaraderie at meals. Privacy was another challenge. Having different roommates was disorienting. Some were respectful of space and some were tolerable. Camp bathrooms didn’t provide much privacy. Construction camp rooms were sometimes extremely hot or cold and so sleeping was a challenge. Ice and wind-blown snow blocked the small windows most of the year, but it really didn’t matter, because the North Slope is dark for six months a year, which is rough on the spirit. For many years, women’s Arctic clothing was nonexistent, so we wore boy sizes or just walked around in oversized clothing that we duct-taped to fit.

MJB:  I think of myself as being fairly adventurous, yet I don’t think I could ever have taken on a career like this. What might prompt a woman to do this sort of work? 

CW: I think once the book is read in its entirety, a person understands the motivation for women. Yes, money was a huge motivator, but there were other reasons.

MJB:  Do you have a favorite story out of all of those in your book?

CW: One of the reasons why I finished the book (it took eighteen years) and didn’t just remain sitting in my closet forever was because the stories are all interesting. I know how difficult it was for the women to talk about their experiences. It’s so personal and sharing with the world is not easy. Each interview has a different personality. I’ve read them many times, and I still love to read them. They make me laugh and make me proud. Of course, I edited ad nauseum for redundancy, but the final versions I think are fresh and unique.

I always laugh when I read Katie Cotten’s interview. Her written voice sparkles and vivid images pop out of her words. And, I am always amazed at Irene Bartee and how she manipulated the most powerful men in Alaska…she chewed them up and had them for dinner. For a short time, I worked with Irene on the North Slope Contractor’s Association, and I thought she was one of the most interesting people I had met in my life, so confident and intelligent. Her smoky voice was mesmerizing, like hypnotism. The final interview of Samantha George, which occurred in 2015, is interesting because of the dichotomy of her not really having many obstacles, but at the same time, she had met only one female electrician on the North Slope working in her field. How could that be…in 2015? Debora Strutz’s interview pulls at the heartstrings. Readers feel her emotion and the way she intertwines Alaska Native Inupiat culture into her piece is fascinating. I could say something unique about each of the interviews.

MJB:  What kind of inspiration are these stories to you? Did writing this book, and getting intimately involved in the stories, change your own perspective or world view?

CW: When I interviewed the women, many over 18 years ago, I immediately recognized the interviewees were special. I knew I had a solid book, even back then. However, as time passed, the inspiration grew even stronger. Many women I interviewed felt their story was not worth telling at the time and asked me why I wanted to interview them for a book. Most started the interview saying they really didn’t have much to talk about…they just worked on the North Slope and that was it. In the book, I quote Velma Wallis, an Athabascan author, who says in her book, Raising Ourselves, “How can you write about the storm if you are still in it?” Maybe the women felt they were still recovering from the storm and needed more years to reflect. My goal was to get their stories on tape before they passed away or forgot over time. Two of the women passed away just a few years after my interview, Irene Bartee and Norma Smith, so I was happy I got their recollections.   

Nobody back in the early days thought they were breaking norms or were special. We were all trying to survive and make money. In Alaska, at that time, a person could be a bank president if they wanted. Old money in Alaska really didn’t exist like it did in the Lower 48. There were a couple of old families around, but opportunities seemed limitless. It was very inspiring to people who maybe didn’t have a college education or grew up in poverty. They saw the opportunities and grabbed them. It wasn’t that hard, so it seemed normal.

Today, with the #MeToo movement, I think both women and men have different perspectives on pioneering women, whether it’s in the movie business or the oil and gas industry. Spoken words from women are important to a civil society and the words we use to describe experiences can spark not only our own inspiration, but others as well. The ordinary woman has had centuries of having her voice shut down or belittled. I wanted to celebrate the woman’s voice. I wanted to tell about how women worked in 50 below zero weather and about how they thought of themselves and what made them laugh inside. I wanted young women to understand that equal pay for equal work could be the norm today and it’s worth fighting for.

MJB: If readers want to find out more about you, how can they do that?

CW: There are two pages about me in the “About the Author” section of the book.

MJB: And if readers want to contact you, how do they do that?

CW: People can contact me through my publisher, the University of Alaska Press.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New Release - Revenge Walk

I'm very pleased to announce the release of the latest Sam and Lacey book, Revenge Walk. This is Book 13 of the paranormal mystery series, and continues the adventures of the two investigators as they work to solve crimes and free tortured souls from their earthly prisons. Here's the description of Revenge Walk:

Paranormal investigators Sam Firecloud and Lacey Fitzpatrick are preparing for a new venture—launching Sam’s ceramic art studio with an open house. Their plans are suddenly derailed when someone targets Sam with deadly intent. The LAPD are on it, but leads are slim, and meanwhile they have a new haunting to research, one that is threatening small children. Neither investigation gives up clues easily, but Sam and Lacey have to keep working both before someone ends up dead.

To celebrate the new book, it's now priced at only 99 cents through September 16, 2018. If you've been keeping up with Sam and Lacey, you'll want to add this to your collection. If you're not familiar, you can get introduced to them through the first book in the series, Ghost Walk, which is always priced at only 99 cents. 

Meanwhile, the reviews keep coming: 

If you like paranormal elements in your mysteries, you really need to check this series out.

A great mix of paranormal and sleuthing.

Highly Recommend!!!

This Unlikely Team is Fantastic.

I loved this book.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Author Interview – William Munns

Today I’m sitting down with William “Bill” Munns to talk about his latest release, The Life of One with Three Names. This is a special book in several different ways. For one thing, it addresses the enduring mystery behind the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. For another, Munns not only wrote the book but illustrated it as well with a rendering software that creates unbelievably lush and detailed scenes. The story and the images combine to create a complete visual experience for the reader. So let’s find out more about it.

MJB: Can you tell us briefly the history behind the Hanging Gardens, the mystery that inspired this book?

WM: The Hanging Gardens were one of seven magnificent constructions of human endeavor listed by the Greek historians Herodotus (484-425 BC) and Callimachus of Cyrene (305-240 BC). Of the seven, two were tombs for kings, three were tributes to Gods, one was a utilitarian lighthouse, and only one, the Gardens, was inspired by a mortal woman loved by the king who built it. Many of the cultures which possessed these wonders were proud of their accomplishment, but the Babylonians were curiously (or mysteriously) unwilling to even acknowledge that the famous Gardens of Babylon even existed. Virtually nothing of the extensive cuneiform documents (surviving today) from the 5 decade reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II documents, describes or acknowledges that this splendid royal garden ever existed in Babylon. This total denial of Babylon’s most famous feature is the mystery historical scholars today have struggled to explain. My book offers a unique and somewhat unorthodox explanation, but one which actually explains the matter more logically than any prior scholarly effort.

MJB: What came first, the desire to tell the story, or the need to show it in the stunning images you create? Did you find the story to inspire the images, or vice-versa? Or did it all evolve as a whole?

WM: The origin of the story actually was derived from the artwork effort. I was commissioned by a 3D graphics software company to create the Seven Ancient Wonders in their software for an advertising campaign, showing the software’s remarkable capacity to visualize wondrous 3D worlds. And in the course of my research on all seven, the mysteries of the Hanging Gardens were revealed. After I finished my graphics contract, I continued to research the Gardens and look for solutions to the mystery of why the Babylonians deny their empire’s most legendary accomplishment. Finally, an idea struck me, one that explained perfectly why the Babylonians would deny the existence of the Garden and also deny the existence of the woman who inspired them, and that idea became the genesis of the book.

MJB: Obviously you’ve done a ton of research on the Gardens? Is your depiction of them accurate in terms of what we know about them?

WM: There are many vague and conflicting descriptions of the Gardens, some suggesting a ziggurat (a sort of stepped pyramid, essentially) covered with terraced planters, trees, vines and flowers; others suggesting a garden area enclosed by high walls. I personally felt that the ziggurat design was incorrect because the view from any terrace was mostly the city around it, and then, what was the point? So I chose a garden area surrounded by fabricated mountains and lush garden plants, so the view in any direction was that of a splendid garden set amid mountain scenery. If one searches for imagery associated with the gardens, you will find many fanciful depictions, which verifies the vague and inconclusive documentation as to their design and appearance.

MJB: I’m curious; have you ever talked with any experts about your theory of the Gardens? Historians, archaeologists? And if so, what kind of response did you get?

WM: I did accumulate all the published scholarly works on the Seven Wonders and the Gardens specifically, and found one of the most popular scholarly theories was that the gardens weren’t in Babylon, but rather were the royal Gardens of Nineveh in Assyria, built by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. I found it hard to believe that the historians who wrote about the gardens could name the wrong city, the wrong king who built them, and name the wrong woman to inspire them. So while I understood the scholarly approach, that the gardens of Nineveh were in fact documented by the Assyrians, while no Babylonian Garden was similarly documented by the Babylonians of Nebuchadnezzar’s time, I still found it too big a leap of faith to assume the historians could get every fact wrong, and that no one would make an effort to correct them. But once my story crystallized, I realized any scholarly opinion would simply label the idea “pure speculation” and wouldn’t likely embrace it with any enthusiasm.

MJB: You’ve categorized this book as a Young Adult novel, but also say it can appeal to all ages. What would YA readers be drawn to? What would mature adults enjoy about the book?

WM: The central character is a young woman, born of common heritage, but married to a King when she is 15, and becomes the Queen of Babylon. In a way, it’s the Cinderella fantasy, an eternal young adult theme, especially for girls. Because the story is her first person account of her life; her thoughts, dreams, opinions and decisions might have particular meaning for young girls growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. But equally she thinks about issues and ideas of human culture that are eternal and ageless, and more mature readers may still ponder these matters as they sort out their lives. So in that sense, it should appeal to all ages.

MJB: What do you think readers will take away from the book? What conclusions might they draw from the story?

WM: I would hope that the foremost take-away readers might appreciate is the discussion of what constitutes greatness in a person, because our world today seems to be lacking in people of true greatness and is the poorer for that void. Our literature and media today is awash with “flawed heroes”, people who fall far short of any altruistic ideal, but I think we long for an occasional heroic person who is simply and unequivocally great, magnificent, and inspirational without reservation. I chose to offer my idea of one such truly great person. I’d like to believe such people can exist.

MJB: A wish I think most of us share.
Did any parts of the story surprise you? Did any of the characters? I find my characters often take on a life of their own and surprise me by doing or saying things I never planned. Did you find that also?

WM: Once I found the story concept, things unfolded in a fairly predictable way. What surprised me was that when I was writing the first person passages of my heroine, I lost all sense I was writing, and it felt like she was actually alive, dictating, and I was merely transcribing what she said. I still feel that way when I read the text. I don’t pat myself on the back for my writing. I feel she told the story and I merely transcribed it. I don’t recall such a powerful feeling with any of my other books or characters.

MJB: I’ve had very similar experiences with some of my characters. That’s when we know that we’re really “in the zone,” and the magic is happening. Great stuff.
Why is this book different than other historical fiction? Why is this book special to you?

WM: This book differs from most historical fiction in the level of speculation, but that was necessitated by the very nature of the mystery and my premise of a solution. I offer the opinion that the Babylonians deliberately erased or destroyed all records of the Garden and the woman who inspired them. And if I am correct, then only speculation can restore the idea.

The book is special to me because of the incredible investment in time, effort, artistry, and contemplation to bring it to reality. The artwork was a true labor of love, for 6 years. The artwork shown in this edition is actually a mere fraction of the total effort, but the remainder of artworks weren’t sufficiently finished to be included. I finally chose to release the book with the finished artwork examples, rather than risk passing away with it unpublished. But the book is also special because the idea has been continually expanding and I see many more volumes expanding the story and the philosophy the story embraces.

MJB: I’m sure readers will be anxious to see the future stories.
You’ve done image recreations of other Wonders of the World as well; where can readers see those?

WM: I included in the book a portfolio of the Seven Wonders artwork I did, from a printing in Computer Graphics World magazine, April 2000 edition. My online website with my digital art is in flux right now, needing to be revised and restored to online access, but it’s on a very long “To Do” list.

MJB: If readers want to read more of your work, how can they do that?

WM: now has four of my books listed. The others are: When Roger Met Patty (a scientific study of the famous Patterson-Gimlin “Bigfoot” film of 1967), Hopeless (a novel about a quirky racehorse who does runs on his terms only), and The Therapeutic Zoo (a novel about a foster home which adopts some exotic animals and discovers the power of animal therapy to heal humans damaged by the trials of life).

MJB: See all his books on his Amazon Author Page.
And if readers want to contact you, how do they do that?

WM: I always welcome contact from interested people. Email is best, as I am not active in social media.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Writing Process/The Field Where I Died

Recently I went on a local TV show to talk about my latest book, The Field Where I Died, and the host, Sandy Moss, wanted to know more about my writing process. It was a fun subject and I thought more people might be interested in the "behind the scenes" peek at how I craft a book.

Usually I will get the kernel of an idea and let it roll around in my head for a few days. Sometimes they dissipate, but sometimes they begin to grow, like a snowball rolling downhill. If they do that, before long I have to start writing. Generally I'll jot down about 5 main plot points, then just start in.

Unlike (I think) most writers, I write in longhand. I find the physical action to be soothing and helpful; I don't think I could ever quantify how it keeps me inspired, but I am convinced it does. If I sit at a keyboard, I don't feel near the satisfaction, nor have near the output. At left is a sample page from my latest book.

As you can see, I do a bit of editing as I go, changing or adding words. Often I'll add a sentence or two in the margin, or make notes to myself about something I need to do or remember. 

One tool that's imperative is the Story Bible. This is where I keep track of who's who--my characters' names, descriptions, ages, personality quirks. I'll often list several possible names to start, then narrow it down as I go and as the character becomes more solid. I also keep a timeline of events so I know what has to happen in what order to get the story where it needs to go.

What still amazes me is how a story--and a character--can end up very different than I originally imagine them. In this particular book, The Field Where I Died, I had an idea for a plot twist involving the main character, Devon Muir, from the very beginning. When I finally reached that point in the latter part of the book, imagine my surprise when Devon refused! Try as I might to force him to do my original bidding, he would not, and I finally had to let him have his way. I think it's very important to allow the characters to be true to themselves; if they do something that's not authentic to them, the readers will know. And that casts a shadow over the authenticity of the entire story.

When the book is done, then I start thinking about the cover. If I already have some idea about what I want, I will search royalty-free image sites like to see what I can find. In this case, I found this image of the Gettysburg battlefield and I thought it was a good fit for the story. I made my own mock-up of a cover and sent that to my cover designer so she could see what I was visualizing.

Then the real work began. My cover designer read the book and made some alterations to my mock-up. The one thing I wanted was a female face in the clouds above the battlefield, as that is an important element in the story. The first woman that my cover designer put in seemed a little too modern, so we looked for other possibilities. I had an idea of having just the eyes in the clouds, but as you can see by the second attempt (below), that didn't work well at all. 

We went back to the original image of the woman in the clouds, but then I was afraid the cover looked too much like a romance. Although there are relationships in the story, it is not a romance in the general sense, and I did not want to mislead my readers. There's nothing worse than buying a book you think is one genre, only to find it's something completely different. The story has some rather dark turns to it, so instead of the light blue sky, I chose a stormier, moodier sky. We also went through several iterations of fonts and finally came back to my original choice. All in all, I was happy with the cover.

Here is a link to the video of the segment from the TV show.

So there you have it. How to write a book in a few easy steps! 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Rush to Publish

Rush to Publish
We’ve all heard the old maxim, “Act in haste; repent at leisure.” This is true in a lot of things, most especially in publishing. Why more so in publishing? Because when we authors act in haste, we’re not just saying something inappropriate that will be forgotten in time; we’re not just acting badly in one instance that eventually will be forgiven. We’re putting our words out there on paper (or on screen) forever.
This issue has cropped up fairly often lately. I do beta-reading, formatting, and editing for quite a few authors, and I see the result of this rush to publish more than I like. I read one friend’s story that, for the first 80% of it, had nice pacing and flowed along fairly well. Then, as if a switch was flipped, the last little bit of it suddenly turned into “telling, not showing,” more like an epilogue than the natural ending of the story. I told the author I could not, in all honesty, give his story a decent review because it seemed unfinished, as if he had just quit on it. He confessed that he knew he needed to flesh out the ending more, just hadn’t gotten around to it.
Then why publish?
I helped another author format a book for paperback via CreateSpace. Once we uploaded the file to CreateSpace and had the online proof reviewer available, she perused that for a few pages and called it good. She was ready to hit the publish button without even taking the time to check through the entire book or order a print proof to review. I cautioned her on this and luckily, she listened. Once she had the physical proof in her hands, she realized the book was anything but ready. We went through another major read-through and edit, then still found a few scattered typos even after she published.
One more author asked me to take a look at his newly-published eBook and gifted it to me for that purpose. I was shocked to see an error on the cover, no front matter at all, no copyright or publication data, and too many formatting errors to count. I understand doing a soft launch, publishing and then asking trusted friends to read and comment before the full-blown official launch, but even for that, the book should be as good as the author feels s/he can make it. Sure, we can always tweak it, but at least get it as close to a finished product as possible.
The problem with the rush to publish is not just that readers will see an unpolished “not ready for prime time” effort, but that this unprofessional version could be floating out there in the ether for a long, long time. Whether readers have bought a paperback or an eBook, if the first version was so glaringly unfinished, how likely are they to try the next (hopefully perfect) version? How many of those paperbacks will get recycled at the local used bookstore, and how many of those eBooks will lie fallow on Kindles or iPads, forever unedited? These ghosts of impatience and incaution could be in circulation for a long time, reminding readers of the author’s lack of professionalism. Like duck-face Facebook pictures, these unpolished embarrassments can come back to haunt the author again and again for years.
Believe me, I know well the urge to finish up a book and call it done. The very first book I sold to a publisher was one I worked on tirelessly for the better part of a year. It was an historical romance (western) about a half-breed trying to find her place in the world. Born of a Cheyenne warrior and his captive white wife, the girl was raised on the Great Plains as a Cheyenne. When, at the age of thirteen, she and her mother were recaptured by the US Cavalry and sent to New York to live with the girl’s grandparents, where she was forced into the new and alien culture, reconditioned and disguised as a young, well-bred white woman. At the age of twenty, she fled the white world for the unsettled West once more, searching for her Cheyenne family and hoping to find the one place in the world where she could finally call home.
My original plan had been to be as authentic as possible in the representation of the Cheyenne culture of the time. I had a pile of books on the Cheyenne and had copious notes on the structure and organization of a Cheyenne village. However, by the time I got to that part of the story, I was so sick of it all that instead of writing the detailed experience I had planned, I settled for a truncated version that skipped most of the essence of the Cheyenne culture. I rushed to finish the book and start sending it off to publishers.
Luckily for me, the publisher that bought the book wasn’t happy with the final page count. After they’d accepted the book and sent me my advance, I got a brief and unapologetic letter saying I needed to add 70 pages to the book. More luckily for me, this was a few years after I’d finished the book, so I was able to go back with a fresh view and add all the detail in the experience in the Cheyenne village that I’d left out before. Seventy pages later, the book was complete, and was finally the book that I had originally wanted it to be.
The rush to publish is something most of us have to grapple with at some point or another. K.S. Brooks talked about her own experience with this in a post called Letting a Manuscript Sit. It’s nothing new, but the problem is that it’s seductive. We get tired. We get bored. Maybe we already have an idea for a new story brewing, and we want to get on with it. We want to finish the one we’re working on and check it off our list. Don’t do it. Readers can tell. I had one friend tell me that he read a book where he could tell just about every time the author reached the end of his day, because the quality of the writing fell off appreciably. At the start of the next chapter, it would come back fresh and alive, but later on would flag again. Readers can tell.
If you’re tired, bored, or have less than full commitment to your story, don’t rush to finish it. Put it aside and do something else. Come back when you’re fresh. And whatever you do, don’t publish if you have any niggling thoughts about, “I can fix that later.” Don’t do it.
Think about those duck-face Facebook photos.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on December 30, 2014

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Release: The Field Where I Died

Have you been fascinated with a place you've never visited? Or with a historical event that happened well before you were born? Many of us have, but what does that mean? Could the reason be more than simple curiosity?

I'm pleased to announce the release of my latest book, The Field Where I Died, a novel that examines these questions and more. Here's a brief summary of the story.

Devon Muir has always been fascinated with the Civil War.  When he discovers that his fourth great-grandfather fought at pivotal battles like Antietam and Gettysburg, he is compelled to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps and experience the battlefields on his own. What he doesn’t count on is dreaming about a battle every night—and being killed every time. Now his exploration of battlefields becomes a different kind of quest as he struggles to understand who is the soldier he becomes in his dream, and who is the woman whose face he sees as he lays dying.

Sound intriguing? If so, you're in luck because The Field Where I Died is only 99 cents through June 17, 2018. Here's a great chance to add it to your summer reading queue (or, for my Aussie friends, sitting cozy beside the fireplace) at a bargain price. After that, it will revert to its normal price, $4.99.

For those of you waiting on a new book in the Lacey and Sam series, I'm working on Book 13 as we speak. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Cover Marketing Ideas

Once you’re got your excellent kick-ass book cover, what do you do with it beside plaster it all over your blog and Facebook page? Believe me, there are plenty of fun ways to use it for promotion, marketing, and just plain getting attention.
book cover e-magnetsMagnets
Make business card-sized magnets and give them away at your next function. You can buy sticky-backed magnets from Amazon or any office store, print your book covers on card stock and stick them on. (Or Avery makes printable pre-scored business card sized magnets.) You can also buy full-sized sheets of thin magnet “paper” (available from Avery, Staples, and other manufacturers) that will go through your printer. You can make the magnets any size you wish, then just cut them out with scissors. The strength of this magnet paper is not as strong as the business card model, but it will definitely stick to a refrigerator. In the picture at left, the larger ones are business card-sized while the smaller ones are cut from the full sheet.
If you’re not into DIY, you can also have custom magnets made up by many online companies like Vistaprint. (See the IU Book Cover Resource page for links to all these items.)
e-bookmarksBookmarks are always an excellent way to get your books out to the public. Include one in every book you sell and give them away at book fairs and book signings. As with the magnets, you can do it yourself or have them made custom by online companies like Zazzle or If you’ve got more than one book out, you can put two or three book covers on one bookmark, or you can highlight a single book by including the blurb or good reviews.
Other Items and places like also offer all sorts of promotional items like mugs, buttons, bumper stickers, mouse pads, clothing, water bottles, clocks and tablet cases. You can really run wild with all of this, but of course there’s a price. Most of these things would be too pricey for giveaways, but they could come in handy for contests, raffles, and book launch prizes.
book cover charms and pendantsBook Charms
I found these little book charms and love them. They don’t work for every book, however, just because of the size. If your book cover has a lot of complex images or a lot of text, they will probably not translate well to this size. But if your book has a simple design and very sharp, clear text, it will work. These from Etsy come with a bail (your choice of styles) for hanging on a chain or a thin ribbon bookmark.
3D book covers3D Images
Finally, get attention with your book cover by doing something different. Ninety-nine percent of the book covers you see online are just flat rectangles. Good-looking, informative, yes, but not exactly standing out from the crowd. Several software products will allow you to turn your ordinary flat cover into a stunning 3D book. Cover Action Pro is an add-on to PhotoShop and is pricey, but the result definitely pulls your book out of the sea of rectangles. As always, you can do it yourself if you’re up for that, or contact a good cover designer or digital artist.
Book Cover Contests
If you think your book cover is really special, there are several book cover contests, but they may be less productive than authors might like. For most of the ones I found, the prizes are recognition only, no real monetary value.
The Book Designer holds a monthly e-book cover design contest. They remind entrants that this contest is primarily educational, and that by submitting your covers, you are agreeing to invite comments, commendations, and constructive criticism. The covers submitted are featured on the website along with the opinions about the designs.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts holds a yearly book and book cover contest called 50 Books/50 Covers Competition. Again, you must be a member in order to enter your book or cover for consideration. There is an entry fee of $45 per book. Finalists will have their entries published in AIGA’s Design Observer.
What other uses for your book covers have you found? What have you tried, and what worked and what didn’t?
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on January 13, 2015

Monday, May 21, 2018

Double Trouble: Two New Releases!

The first long weekend of summer is coming up soon--Memorial Day weekend. Are you ready? Got your beach towel, your sunscreen and your summer reading list? Now you can add two books to that list for just 99 cents each.

If you've been following the adventures of paranormal investigators Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud, you know they get the weirdest, most convoluted cases of ghostly manifestations. In the first ten books in the series, they went from Catalina Island to San Clemente, from Los Angeles to Ireland in their quest to free tortured souls. Now, in Books 11 and 12, they continue their mission as implored by their clients.

Book 11: Spirit Walk--On the Navajo reservation, a man is found dead at the bottom of a canyon. The tribal police have ruled it an accident. People close to the man don’t believe it, so medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, are called in to investigate. When Sam’s psychic “walk” confirms the worst fears, the clues lead him and Lacey forward, but the twisted path to the truth turns deadly when it seems the earth itself is trying to kill them. 

Book 12: Fire Walk--A property in the town of Meadeview, Massachusetts has a problem with fire. Anything that is built there burns to the ground. Medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, are called to the small town to investigate the strange physical haunting, and their research leads them deeper into the dark underbelly of the tight knit community. The more they uncover, however, the more the townspeople are threatened by the old secrets—secrets the locals would much rather remain buried.

Sound intriguing? They are, and only 99 cents through 5/27/18. 

Now, if you're not familiar with Sam and Lacey, this week is also a good time to get introduced. The first book in the series, Ghost Walk, will be FREE from 5/23 thru 5/27/18. Yup, you read that right: FREE. 

Lacey Fitzpatrick is an ex-LAPD detective with an axe to grind. Tainted by the betrayal of her drug-dealing cop boyfriend, she’s on a quest to prove to herself—and the world—that she’s still a competent crime-fighter. In order to do that, she teams up with Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts. With his talent and her research, they tackle troubling unsolved crimes, but their latest case is the toughest. They have to solve a murder—where no record of a murder even exists. Can Sam glean enough information from the victim’s ghost to unravel the mystery, and can Lacey convince the authorities that the murder actually happened? 

Come on along and follow Sam and Lacey as they unravel the mysteries! 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Settings

One thing we writers mostly strive for is authenticity. That's at the basis of the old cliche, "write what you know." If we know about something, we can describe it authentically. Of course that doesn't mean we can't write about things beyond our experience, or make up some of our own, but having some firsthand knowledge is definitely helpful.

I'm about ready to release a new book, Book 11 of my Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series. It's called Spirit Walk, and it takes place on the Navajo Reservation, Sam's home territory, and involves a slot canyon. 

What the heck's a slot canyon?

If you're not familiar, it's a very narrow, twisty canyon carved through sandstone by ferocious flash flooding during the Southwest's monsoon season. Yes, we do have a monsoon in the Southwest. We actually have two summers, one dry (May, June) and one wet (July, August, September). During the monsoon months, we can easily get a thunderstorm that drops several inches of rain in minutes. 

Now imagine all that water gushing down narrow canyons of grainy sandstone. It's sudden, violent, and dangerous. 

Luckily, the result is beautiful and awe-inspiring. 

Recently my husband and I visited one of these slot canyons near Kanab, Utah. It's called Peek-a-Boo Canyon, and it was wonderful. I thought I would share with you some pictures of our adventure, so when you read Spirit Walk, you will be able to "see" the places Sam and Lacey go.

Above, the narrow confines of Peek-a-Boo Canyon beckon at the same time that they challenge. 

Left, the author's husband shows the scale of the canyon.

Below, the author hides behind swirls of sandstone.

Does it help to know the places you're describing in a book? I think so. Having experienced slot canyons, I can convey to the reader the colors, the tactile sensations, the awe and the power of the place. 

Now it's up to you to read Spirit Walk and see if I got it right.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Verbs: The Core of Every Sentence

Ok, I admit it; I’m a word geek. I love words. I love the way they come together and combine to create images, the pictures they paint. My father was an artist and I’m sad to say I did not inherit his gift for drawing and painting, but I did learn to paint with words.
My pallet is alive with colors. Nouns are my white, the basic foundations of all sentences whether subjects, objects, or extraneous things thrown in to widen the base. Adverbs are black, adding dark contrast, and must be used sparingly. Adjectives are purple where a little goes a long way, and too much simply obliterates the subtler shades. Conjunctions and prepositions are the primary colors, tossed in here and there to combine with the other words, to create the final hues and tones.
But verbs … Verbs shimmer like a rainbow. They can be dull, brown, non-descript, or they can be radiant and glowing, changing color like a hummingbird that flits in and out of the sunlight. Verbs can drive a sentence headlong, or cradle it in a gloved hand. Verbs are the very core of the sentence.
This was all brought back to me in the most wonderful way: reading — of course — a new book. A friend had told me about House of Rain by Craig Childs. The subtitle reads: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, and it is a travelogue of sorts detailing Childs’ journey in the footsteps of the Anasazi. I was actually expecting a rather dry treatment of archaeology and was absolutely enchanted when I found writing in its most delicate and image-studded form.  Here are a handful of the colorful gems he tosses down as he goes, leaving them to wink and glitter in the dust behind him.
Sage folded and recoiled in the wind.
As the sun set, I could not help staring directly at it, the remaining half circle burning into my eyes, an apricot welding itself onto the earth.
Cold water burped up from beneath my feet.
The ceiling was made of wooden beams corbelled across each other, and they dripped with the dark syrup of rodent urine.
After a few hundred years little if anything was left on the surface, the wind having sewn the earth back together, closing over the wound of humanity.
Sycamore trees burst into maniacal white branches crawling all over the sky.
Sunrise was falling through holes in the forest, long dashes of light touching the ground.
Black fists of smoke wrenched up from orange fronts of flame…
Bedrock appeared from under the sand, whales of reddish stone barely breaching the surface.
I found myself reading with two minds: with one, I followed the story, but with the other, I paid explicit attention to his use of words, and verbs especially. As a writer, I delighted in this treasure trove of literary imagery. It’s very much like prowling a jewelry store, my eyes sliding across the glass-fronted cases until they catch on a pale shimmer of amethyst, noticing without seeing the hundreds of ordinary rings until one unique creation of precious metal and stone stops me in my tracks. Finding that one sublime melding of color and shape amid the dross of the ordinary gives a sense not only of profound appreciation but also of satisfaction for having noticed it.
Reading writing like this inspires me; it calls to me to put my own best efforts down on paper. I know that if someone else can write with such heartbreaking delicacy, I can, too. It inspires me to handle my sentences with great care, most especially my verbs. They can mire a sentence in mediocrity or they can lift it like a song. Choose wisely.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on December 9, 2014.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

New Release: Murder Walk

If you haven't caught up on the adventures of Sam and Lacey, you've got more reading to do. These books are a lot of fun to write and the ideas keep coming. I'm very pleased to announce the release of Book 10 of the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series, Murder Walk. Here's what people are saying about the series:

--I don’t normally gravitate toward mysteries but Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts, hooked me.

--If you like paranormal elements in your mysteries, you really need to check this series out.

--This is one of my favourite paranormal mysteries. 

And now, Murder Walk:
The best friend of Sam Firecloud’s son, Daniel, has been murdered. The boy is having a hard enough time dealing with the loss but then discovers that he’s inherited his father’s mediumistic “gift” for communicating with the dead, a gift he doesn’t want. Lacey Fitzpatrick, Sam’s wife and partner, wants to start their own investigation into the murder, Sam is more worried about his son than the unsolved case, and Daniel just wants all ghosts to leave him alone. The family is being torn in three separate directions, but the murderer is still on the loose and may come after Daniel next, because the ghost is talking. 

To celebrate the release, ALL books in the series are just 99 cents now through April 22, 2018.