Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Where Do Readers Buy Books?

Not Your Mother's Book On Being a Mom
A Perfect Gift For Mother's Day

Where do you buy your books? Strictly at the local bookshop? Or online? Or at secondhand bookstores? Or at big box discount retailers? There are differences in prices, ambience and appeal, as well as your views on publishers.

I received a notice yesterday that Not Your Mother's Book On Being A Mom is no longer just a pre-order status on Amazon You can order it for immediate shipping at a 10% discount on the retail price. At Barnes and Noble, you can order this anthology as an ebook for close to half off the retail price of the print copy. I checked the Walmart booksite and did not find the book there. However, there was another title in the Not Your Mother's Book On... series and it was priced at about 1/3 off the retail price.

The bookstore that you physically walk into, stop and soak up the atmosphere, is more than likely going to sell at full retail price. I don't have a problem with that because that bookstore is offering me an experience along with the ability to purchase a book. Or two! The chain stores offer volume while the local bookseller has far fewer books but they might be high up on the atmosphere scale. Anyone who is a true reader benefits a great deal from a visit to a bookstore.

You're not going to find a recently released book in a secondhand store or your annual library book sale, so don't bother checking those places.

I buy books at different places. Sometimes, it's easier to order online so I do. Sometimes I am traveling and find a large retail bookseller and purchase books there. Sometimes, I go to my local bookstore and look for a title. If they don't have it on the shelf, I'm always offered the option of letting them order it for me.

If I'm in Kansas City and shopping at Costco, I always take time to browse the open bin book area. Good selections, good prices. Besides that, browsing through a whole lot of books is satisfying to my soul!

Book prices go up just like everything else in our world. It happens for good reasons. Publishers costs go up and must be passed on to the customer or the publishing house will soon be out of business. Those who self-publish print books also have costs which increase over time, as well. It's one reason that publishing as an ebook has become so attractive. The costs are lower and the author can set the selling price lower but still make a profit.

The next time you grumble about the price of a book, give consideration to all that goes into it. I hated to see the jump in prices of children's picture books. I understand full well why they had to go up but I also felt bad that it meant many children would have fewer books to call their own.

Where do you buy your books? Or are you a library user instead? How do you feel about paying full reatil price versus a discount seller? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Write About The Place Where You Live

The Flint Hills

We spent last week in the Hill Country of Texas. In some ways, it reminded me of the scenery where I live. There are probably more trees and bushes in the Texas area that what we have here in the Flint Hills of Kansas. We're known for being tallgrass prairie. 

You often hear about Montana being referred to as the Big Sky country. That's true, but the term applies to this area of Kansas, too. As we drive the four lane road the nine miles out to the interstate, we're surrounded by the prairie grasses, the hills, and the amazing sky. It always makes me wish I could reach out and graps a handful of the sky. Occasionally, there are cattle close enough to see but usually, it's the natural scenery that makes my heart soar. The vastness alone makes me feel so very small and inconsequential. 

The prairie grasses change with the seasons, a glorious green now after the spring burning. Yes, they burn in early spring to allow the tender new grass to emerge. I've read that this new grass will add extra pounds to the cattle that graze on it. As long as it's a controlled burn, there is great beauty in the blazes. The charred earth left afterward lets those who pass by know that the new grass will be coming up soon. In the fall, the grass gets dry and has a rust-hued tinge to it. 

National Geographic has featured this area as have TV shows and other magazines and books. Artists and photographers spend hours painting or snapping pictures. Ours is the largest stand of tallgrass prairie left. That fact alone brings biologists and paleontologists here to study. 

One day, when we were driving through the Flint Hills on our way to Topeka, I felt so overcome by all that surrounded me that I wrote a poem, submitted to a state contest and won first place. 

A Heavenly Gift

One calm and peaceful day
the hand of God
passed over the land
we know as Kansas,
this place where the
hills meet the plains,
where sweet prairie grasses
bend and sway
like ballerinas amidst
soft and gentle breezes,
then dance wildly
when furious winds blow.

The Lord God pulled the vast
skies close to the ground, like
a soft coverlet of blue.
He gave us air to breathe
so clear the stars can do
no less than shine in
glorious reply
through velvet nights.

Over these hills and
across these plains,
the Creator scattered
many-hued wildflowers
and treasured trees in
all the right places.
His mighty hand
carved brooks and
streams alike.

With grateful heart
my prayer of thanks
soars Heavenward from
this very special place
that I call home.
The point of all this talk about where I live is that each one of you lives somewhere that has something unique about it. Look around you. What is your area noted for? Write about it. Let others know what it is about the placewhere you live that warms your heart and makes you proud. It may be more concrete than grass but that's alright. There is beauty of different kinds in different places. There is something that says home to you. 

Make this your writing exercise one day this week. Share it here with me and other readers if you like. Make us want to come and visit the place where you live.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Memories

Bunny Hopping

Have you written Easter memories for your Family Memory Book? This is one I wrote a few years ago. 

I’ve been thinking about the Easter celebrations of my childhood years in the Chicago area during the 1940’s. When Easter fell in March or early April, we donned colorful spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.

On one of those bitter cold Easter mornings, I had a new aqua-blue spring coat and hat that I’d looked forward to wearing. Mother told me it was much too cold to wear it. “You have too far to walk to church. You’ll freeze,” she said.

I begged and begged. “Please let me wear it. I’ll wear a sweater underneath.” Tears slipped from my eyes as I waited for her to give in. They were genuine, not a ploy. Wearing that new coat was a monumental need at that moment at age eight.

Mother relented, but I did have to wear the sweater I’d proposed underneath my lightweight, pastel-colored coat. I think I was very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again. My parents never attended church
with us. Theirs was a mixed marriage—Dad was Catholic and Mother Methodist, and neither ever gave in to the other. But we kids all attended the Methodist church and Sunday School. Dad polished our shoes every Saturday night so we’d look our best on Sunday mornings. He buffed them to a high shine and lined them up in the living room.

The day before Easter, we dyed eggs in glorious colors. Coffee cups filled with hot water, a dye tablet and a splash of vinegar covered the kitchen table. We arranged the eggs on a big platter with artificial grass as a nest. The Easter Bunny would hide them while we slept that night.

The Easter Bunny usually brought us a few chocolates, jelly beans and a new comic book. He also hid the brightly colored eggs in our living and dining rooms. What fun it was to discover the decorated eggs, one or two of which we always found in Dad’s shoes left out overnight.

Later in the day, aunts, uncles and cousins joined us for a special dinner. Mother usually fixed a leg of lamb or a big ham, glazed with brown sugar and mustard, cloves inserted in the scored top. Many side dishes weighed down the dining room table-- scalloped or mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, a jello salad, homemade rolls, pickles, olives and pickled beets, and a springtime dessert of some kind, cream pies, berry pies, or a cake with whipped cream frosting. The aroma of all these good things filled our small apartment.

When we were all too full to move, it was time to do dishes. No dishwashers, but all the women pitched in and they were finished in no time. Maybe not all the women. I had one aunt who always announced she needed to use the bathroom as soon as the cleaning up began. Off she went, and she never appeared in the kitchen again! The clatter of dishes and the chatter of women filled the tiny kitchen. My cousin, Carol, and I were drafted at an early age to dry the silverware, a job neither of us liked. We hurried through our task so we could walk to the park to play the rest of the afternoon.  Occasionally, we finished our Easter celebration by going to the movies. We sat transfixed at the fabulous musicals starring Betty Grable or some other glamorous star.
The rebirth of springtime flowers, trees and bushes still symbolizes the meaning of Easter for me. Christ’s resurrection created a rebirth for all Christians, and as He taught us to love one another, I also think of the love of family as part of our Easter celebrations. It isn’t only the ones of my childhood but for today, as well. We will be spending this Easter holiday with our daughter’s family, going to church, having a celebration dinner, and being together. Not so very different than all those years ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Start With A Dream and Move On From There

I hardly need to add anything to this poster with its wise words. Note that my two keywords for those in the writing world are both in this poster quote. Patience and Perseverance are words that I cannot say often enough to those who are writers or want to be writers. 

Writers do begin with a dream. Then they must believe in that dream--so much so that it becomes a part of who they are. Next, add the perseverance and the patience and you may have a dream which comes true. Of course, that isn't going to happen without a lot of hard work. Yours!

You can't only dream, have faith, perseverance and patience. A big part of that dream coming true depends on your action. It's what you do with that dream and the belief in yourself that matters. 

I've seen writers who give up because success didn't happen in the amount of time they thought it should. It always makes me feel bad because some of these people were truly fine writers. They gave up too soon. If only they'd have kept moving on the path to publication a little longer, they may have had a totally different outcome. 

Nothing worthwhile happens in a very short time. Be patient. Be persistent. Continue to dream and be hopeful. I did, and you can, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Story About Being A Mom

The big announcement for today is that I am published in a brand new anthology which has just been released on Amazon. It says you can pre-order but regular orders should be forthcoming any day now.

Publishing Syndicate is the publisher of the book, along with several others in the Not Your Mother's Book on... series. I'm also in the Travel book in this series.

The mom book should have all mothers who read it nodding their heads as they relate to various stories. There are 64 stories in the book, some about things that happened with adult kids and others about when moms were raising kids.

My story took place when my son was in the middle grades in school. An incident one morning made me aware that my little boy was growing up. He cared about what girls thought about him. Oh-oh! Time to have 'the talk' with him. But who would do it? Me or his dad? And what would he say, or me for that matter? How much did we need to tell this child? The problem was solved in a way that let both my husband and me off the hook. Thus, the story title--Off The Hook.

I'm proud to be a part of this new series. Each book is edited by very qualified writers along with Ken and Dahlynn McKowen who are the publishers. If you would like to submit a story for one of the future titles, check the guidelines page.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Importance of Your Opening Pragraphs

National Museum of the Pacific War
Fredericksburg, Texas

You can visit a Peace Garden given by the people of Japan to the National Museum of the Pacific War. This fine museum is located in Fredericksburg, Texas, which also happens to be the hometown of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz of WWII fame. 

Fredericksburg has many other draws that bring tourists from near and far. Shopping, dining of all kinds, lovely old homes and the scenic Hill Country all around it. This is, I believe, our fourth trip to this Texas community settled long ago by hardworking German immigrants.

I hope my opening of this post drew your interest because today's topic is actually openings of your stories, essays, and articles. 

When I was in high school and college, English teachers pushed writing the introductory paragraph to let readers know what the piece would be about. In that paragraph, the all-important topic sentence was to be the highlight. Sometimes those paragraphs were eternally long. And boring! They didn't really draw the reader in. So what should you do?

Start immediately with action in a fiction piece. Make it visual, bring your reader into the story as quickly as you can. A mystery might start with the actual murder, not the hours leading up to it. A love story could begin with the kiss at the wedding altar, not the courtship, proposal and bridal showers. Pull your reader in immediately. If you don't, they're going to move on to something else. 

If you're writing a memoir or a personal essay, begin with the most important part. Don't take pages or mulitple paragraphs to lead up to the 'good part.' Nope. Give the reader the good part right away. Later you can show them what led up to this.

What about a nonfiction article? Perhaps it's a how-to article on fixing a holiday dinner. Jump right in on the Easter, Passover or Thanksgiving Day meal prep in the kitchen. Show the hostess cooking and setting the table. Then bring in how she planned the meal, shopped for the meal and more. 

What about poetry? I am drawn in by first lines that show me something special. Or I'm turned off by the first lines that tell me nothing, show me nothing. You know the ones that try to set a scene and then get to what the poem is really about three verses later.

In today's world, time is Public Enemy #1. People are feeling constantly pushed for time. It's up to the writer to draw in the reader immediately. If you don't, they'll move on faster than a jackrabbit crosses the Arizona desert. 

Did I pique your interest with my opening in this post? That depends on whether you are a person interested in history, museums and famous people. Or like visiting interesting towns. My aim with this post was to make writers aware of the need of a good opening in whatever you're writing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bluebonnets and Inspiration

We're in Texas on our way to spend a few days in the Hill Country west of San Antonio where the bluebonnets are blooming. The Texas state flower can put on a spectacular show.

April is National Poetry month. Now, who wouldn't want to write a poem about something this beautiful? The best time to do it is when the inspiration hits. That means I should have pad and pen while traveling in the car. The emotion is not the same sitting in a hotel room later. That old adage Strike while the  iron's hot applies here.

It's why you should write a story about your favorite holiday when that holiday is upon us, not six months later while you're just thinking about it. It's why you write the best travel stories when you're traveling, not two weeks after you return home. Oh sure, you can do it but it's so much better to write at the time you're in a new place.

What if inspiration hits when you have a long list of other things to do first? Those of us who are sometime writers run into this situation many times. If you can't delay the other things, at least make some notes about what inspired you and what you want to include in your writing. Then, get to it as soon as you can.

I've told you about the poet who suggested writing a poem from a dream but do it immediately upon waking. If you wake in the night after dreaming, that's the time to write. I know, I know--who wants to get out of a warm, cozy bed, pad barefoot in a possibly cold house to write? You might be very happy you did so. The best poem I ever wrote came that way, although I didn't get up in the middle of the night, I started writing immediately upon waking in the morning.

If you're inspired to write, do it as fast as possible. We're moving deeper into the Hill Country today and I'm hoping for more inspiration. Today, I'll have my pad and pen right next to me in the car. Come back tomorrow to see what our travels brought us on this Monday in April.