What They Are Saying...

"This book was a fast easy read, and a fun romp. All in all, the book charmed me."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

She's a Writer???

[repost from Leasspell.net/blog]

Moreover, how did she get published? Keep in mind that I majored in math for two reasons. The first was it was fun. It’s okay…I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Really. I’m serious. I enjoyed it. I’m a puzzle person, and most mathematics is solving puzzles, which appealed to me.

But I confess that a part of me majored in math because it wasn’t English. It didn’t involve English. To get my degree I needed little more than English 101 to graduate, and that sounded like a good deal. In fact, I put it off until my senior year—yes, I hated English that much. The whole “writing papers” thing…what a waste of time! And the reading! Bah! However, there was this other part of me that daydreamed. A lot. A lot, a lot. I’ve been guilty of that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Music, TV, movies, all of these generated a constant stream of playmates, friends, and distractions. As I got older, these “phantoms” had adventures.

I decided to write these down.

Oh, they were horrible! I really needed to learn how to write. Yes, I could see these people and describe what they did and said, but reading it was more like a data stream of animated robots. The writing was lifeless, colorless, and cumbersome.

Wow. I should have taken more English.

One day, waaaaaay back in 2002, I met a woman (oddly through a stained glass class) who was an editor. She and a friend were writers, and—and I’m not sure why I confessed this to her—I mentioned that I’d dabbled at it myself. She offered to organize a small writers group, just the three of us. We could get together once a week, read each other’s stuff, have some dinner, more of a social thing. I scoffed at the idea. She was an editor! Her friend had some success in minor publications. And I…I was a math major!

“She” was Jennifer Carson, the head blogger at Leasspell. Her “friend” was Denise Robarge Tanaka, a fellow blogger.

If you’ve never been in a writers group (and prior I HAD NOT), it is daunting. You see your works as an extension of yourself. You liken its creation to birthing, giving life to something that didn’t previously exist. It is glorious. It is good. Then these interlopers come along and rip it to shreds! The first time you experience this you’re left almost bleeding. It isn’t good. You failed.

Once the frustration passes, however, you can reflect on what was said, what they suggested, what they saw lacking, where they saw room for improvement. They were professionals in this craft, after all.

I moved out of the Bay Area and our little group dissolved, but I always recalled their words and points. And the stories kept coming in my wacky head, so I kept writing.

If you’ve read Jennifer’s blog on Laura Granger, our UK representative, then you’re aware that Laura sparked the desire to rekindle a writers group. But gone were the days sitting around a dining room table, swapping copies of chapters written while eating Indian food. Undaunted Jennifer called me with a “Hey, let’s get the band back together!”, and with a little ingenuity and Google Docs (now Drive), we laid down some basic rules for who posts what and when and how long and how to comment. And viola! Leasspell was born.

The timing was perfect for me. I had just finished a book I called “The Trek of the Trio,” which is what I had reviewed in those Leasspell formative years. Again the comments could be harsh, but I’d learned how to make these insights useful for me; take what I needed, and disregard the rest.

While driving across the country one day I heard Tom Petty host a satellite radio show. He talked about a song of his, “Good Love Is Hard To Find,” and when he first wrote it, he played it for his friend, George Harrison. George frowned as said, “You can do better than that.” He was reacting to a particular line in the song, which Tom replaced with the line “you got lucky, babe, when I found you,” an integral part of the song’s color and tone.

Here’s the bottom line for me: These people are reading my stuff. I’m writing to connect with an audience. If the people who know me best aren’t getting it, then I don’t stand much of a chance with anyone else.

Out of nowhere I’m slammed with some inspiration. I feverishly write down this work in a matter of days. I arranged for Jennifer to edit it, thinking I’d pass it onto a publisher. Her reaction?

You need to turn your hero into a heroine. Doh! I was so close!

…Sigh… I thought, I stewed, I chewed my nails, but I took a deep breath and tried again.

The result was released from Assent Publishing on August 12, 2014. It’s called The Dead Man’s Deal, and it kicks off a series, The Witherspoon Mansion Mysteries.

So, how did a math major write a fantasy novel? Practice, a bit of a thick skin, and a really good writers group.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oh, What A Night!

On September 16, 2014, the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans saw the official launch of The Dead Man's Deal. We enjoyed food, refreshments, give-a-ways, beads, and books.
Setting up the PRC hall with music, food, and balloons.
Mardi Gras colors, of course!

The signing table, with me and my husband, Russ.
The Preservation Resource Center was perfect for the event. A small museum with lots to look at and alcoves for conversation allowed everyone to hang around, mill about, and chat.

 Time flew by. The two hours we set for the party seemed like two minutes. 
The catering table, with hummus, tomato basil tarts, chicken skewers, and cookies!

My many and humble thanks to those who could join me. I'm overwhelmed -- no words can truly represent my gratitude.

Also, my thanks to those who purchased the book online, who joined me in spirit.

You are all excellent! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When treading about NOLA: Watch Your Step! (Repost)

[Given I'm having a party in September to celebrate the launch of The Dead Man's Deal I thought I'd repost a couple blogs about traveling here in New Orleans. -jax]

Once the plane touches down in NOLA, once you’ve gotten into the taxi and headed to your hotel, just as soon as your foot hits the pavement you need to know one thing. Watch your step.

You might have notice the taxi ride was a bit bumpy, but you passed that off as “bad shocks”. But I’m tellin’ ya, it’s the roads. Somewhere deep in the New Orleans culture is a love for pot holes. It’s right there, nestled in between our love for hot and spicy crawfish and the Saints (WHO DAT!). As a transplant myself, that’s just a guess; I’ve noticed we don’t seem to make fixing potholes a priority.

Odds are you’re going to take a walk somewhere. Most folks would recommend the Garden District, Audubon Park, Uptown, or around the quarter, which are all fabulous hoofs. But let me say again. Watch. Your. Step.

Sidewalks here are a kind of afterthought to urban living. We have them. Mostly. But they’re not exactly pedestrian friendly. Like our potholes, broken stretches of sidewalks are just our way. A NOLA local who recently moved to California marveled at the flat and even sidewalks of San Jose! That possibility had never occurred to her.

Where'd it go?

Here in New Orleans sidewalks are not the responsibility of the city; they are the responsibility of the home owner or business. It’s their land, they can do what they want. Which means they can simply not have sidewalks at all. If they do they can be cement, blacktop, paving stones, stepping stones, or a little trail through the grass. It’s not uncommon that along a smaller street you’ll trend upon an assortment of textures.

The city has the final say, of course. If your sidewalk is a particular problem or danger they can fine you. Having spent many hours stepping over an array of sink holes, concrete chunks, and bumptious roots I shudder to imagine what might be finable.

Remember, too, we’re in the deep south. Which means warm climbs. Which means lush greenery. Which means things grow faster here than and angry bees zips along in July. Our neighborhoods are bursting — literally — with awesome trees. And big, healthy trees come with big, healthy roots that have no issues about breaking up concrete and mangling sidewalks. They can turn up a sidewalk more quickly and efficiently than the homeowners can repair them.

The city of New Orleans was established in 1714, which makes it older than the United States. Most of the buildings within the French Quarter are younger than that, thanks to the fire of 1788 which destroyed all but two buildings (a convent, spared due to it’s large courtyard which separated it from other burning buildings, and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, saved by it’s slate roof). Even in the reconstruction safety regulations were a bit more lax then than now. For instance, stairways may be narrower and steeper than any in modern buildings you’re used to. This is in my own home. Notice the first step?

Walk around, enjoy the gorgeous gardens and flowers and buildings and bars, and all the while remember our matras:

“Laissez les bons temps rouler”, “Who Dat!”, and “WATCH YOUR STEP”.