My New Best Friends

TelemarketingA recent post on the Jungle Red Writers’ Blog, “On Killing Rachel,” (http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2014/11/on-killing-rachel.html) reminded me of my three new best friends 

No one has been more faithful to me than these three, often calling several times a day. No one shows more friendly enthusiasm and genuine concern for my welfare. Of course, the fact that I’ve never met them is a bit worrisome.

Do you think I’m being stalked?

The first (and most persistent) of my faithful friends is Brigitte from Card Holder Services. She worries that I’m paying too much interest on my credit card. Actually I never pay interest on my credit card, but Brigitte is still concerned–so concerned that sometimes, when Brigitte is busy, she asks her friend Rachel to call me. Now I don’t condone lying, but I must confess I am sorely tempted to give her bogus information. Just to put her mind at rest, you understand.  

Another faithful friend is Richard from India. Sometimes he calls himself by another name, but I know it’s him. He works for “Microsoft Technical Department” (impressive, right?), and he thinks I may have a computer virus. He wonders if I’m online and offers to take control of my system and eliminate a virus infection. I hate to be skeptical, but I sometimes wonder if Richard really has my best interests at heart. Once I told him he sounded like a nice person, but I was pretty sure he was trying to scam me. Was he offended? Not a bit. He was encouraged. 

My third faithful friend (and the newest) is Carla. She thinks I’ve been working too hard and wants to give me a free cruise. I may take her up on it.

Advice for New Writers from Author Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames

Girl Writing

Will Rogers said, “A man learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.”   

When I started planning my first mystery novel three years ago, I should have taken more time to read about the craft of writing first. I would have avoided a ton of mistakes. But one thing I did right was to seek the advice of smarter people and to learn from their experience.  

Avery Aames (Daryl Gerber)Today I have the privilege of featuring Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames. As AVERY AAMES, she pens the Agatha Award-winning, nationally bestselling CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY series. As DARYL WOOD GERBER, she writes A COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERY series. FINAL SENTENCE, the first book in the Cookbook Nook series, debuts on July 2 (Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Books). Avery Aames Final SentenceThe story features Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive, who leaves the corporate world to help her aunt open a culinary bookshop and cafe. Back with her family in Crystal Cove, California, Jenna seems to have all the right ingredients for a fresh start—until someone adds a dash of murder.  

Daryl’s short stories have been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and other awards. As an actress, Daryl has appeared in “Murder, She Wrote” and more. In additional to juggling two mystery series, Daryl also takes time to encourage new writers through the Guppies group of Sisters In Crime. Recently I asked her some questions about her own experience as a mystery writer.  

Q: What is the one thing you wish you had known starting out?

 How long it was going to take. Truly. And how much better prepared I should have been for the business side. I had no idea there would be so much promotion involved. Facebook, Twitter, a website that needs to be constantly updated. I would have liked a shelf filled with how to write books, and I would like to have read them all, front to cover. Check out Chris Roerden’s book, Don’t Murder Your Mystery, and Hallie Ephron’s The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel. I wish I’d been part of a critique group from the beginning so I’d had feedback on my writing. 

Q: What is the most important thing you learned writing and publishing your first book?  

How much I have to balance my time with writing, doing PR, and having a life. I need to be very disciplined to get it all done. 

Q: What is the biggest mistake you made? 

My biggest mistake was sending out material before it was ready. As I wrote above, I should have been in a critique group long before I finally found one. I should have been taking more classes and really polishing my prose. I should have truly understood the hero’s journey. 

Q: What advice would you give to emerging writers? 

  • Read within your genre and without. See what’s selling. Get a list of agents and see what they are selling. Submit to agents who sell your kind of book. Don’t waste your time submitting to agents who do not sell your style.  
  • Go to conferences, if you can afford to, where writers meet agents. Learn how to pitch your book. I have made a YouTube video called The Elevator Pitch [Note: there are a few with that title; this is the one with me in a pink jacket, elevator doors open…]. Take a look. It shows you the bad way and the good way to pitch. Hone your pitch to 30 seconds…with a smile and energy.  
  • Don’t get discouraged with rejection. It happens to all of us. Take in the comments, if they are reasonable, and allow your work to grow. Learn. Listen. 
  • Persevere. Don’t give up. If you give up before you are published, you will never be published. It’s that simple. Believe you can. But realize it might not happen with your first or even your second book.

You can visit Daryl & Avery at www.darylwoodgerber.com and www.averyaames.com (where you can sign up for her newsletter to learn about upcoming events and contests). Check out her fabulous recipes on her blog www.mysteryloverskitchen.com. And friend her on Facebook.

And The Winner Is….

IMG_0006Did you watch the Academy Awards last night? I was on an airplane from Florida after spending nearly a week at a trade show, but I got my update on the morning news. Those who win always claim to be surprised. And those who don’t win always claim to be thrilled anyway, just to be in the running. I always think of the people who weren’t even nominated. Artists pour their hearts and souls into their projects; and even though the public may not agree with the award presenters, it is wonderful to be recognized.

This past week I was honored to receive a “Liebster” award from a fellow blogger, Susan Bahr. Liebsters are an informal way of encouraging fellow bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. It is an encouragement designed to be passed on to others. No, it’s not an academy award. And no, I didn’t walk down the red carpet in a designer dress. Good thing. Jennifer Lawrence tripped–I would have fallen flat on my face. But it is wonderful to be recognized, especially as a newbie. Thank you Susan!

Part of the fun is answering questions that your nominator poses. So here are my slightly expanded answers to Susan’s questions (I posted my answers on her website just before dropping into bed, exhausted):

1. Define your perfect day
It is early May, and I wake up in an historic inn in rural Suffolk, smelling the cool dampness of an English spring. In my purse is my National Trust Pass, which I use to visit a nearby country estate where time came to a screeching halt in the mid-19th century. In the afternoon I take the amazing Bluebell Walk in Brede High Wood, followed by dinner in a local gastro-pub (my table near a blazing log fire, of course). And oh yes, at the next table are a pair of authentic English eccentrics whom I observe closely and who will show up in my next novel, The Curse of Finchley Hall.

2. Tell me about someone you love
The obvious choice is my husband, but I will tell you about my grandmother, Christina Geraldson, who emigrated from Denmark as a child, speaking no English. Her fellow classmates called her “Little Danish Christine.” Grandma’s house was sparkling clean, and every Friday she made a heavenly cardamon bread called Systekage. She loved the color lavender and wore an old-fashioned corset with laces. She smiled a lot and had a way of making me feel that I was her favorite grandchild (I’ve learned since that all her grandchildren felt the same way). She answered my questions like they were really important. My dog Sunny loved her so much, she would run to Grandma’s house and bark at the door. Grandma was always home. She never learned to drive. And there was always something tasty for a hungry dog–or grandchild.

3. Tell me about someone you hate
Honestly, I don’t hate anyone I know.

4. Tell me why you blog.
I love to write. I love to tell stories. Some of the stories will become novels, but most are simply brief reflections that people who share my interests might find worth reading.

5. What is your favorite joke?
I told it tonight to my Norwegian cousin Ellen and her friend Mina. Six sailors were shipwrecked on a deserted island. Two were Germans, two were Italians, and two were Norwegian. Six years later they were rescued. Their rescuers found the two Germans putting the finishing touches on a rescue craft they had fashioned from local materials. The two Italians, having disagreed over the shape of a passing cloud, were feuding. And the two Norwegians were just getting acquainted.

6. Do you like lists?
I make lists of things I’ve already done so I can cross them off.

7. Where would you travel if funds and time were unlimited?
I would travel to Regency England where I would engineer an introduction to Miss Jane Austen. We would become friends, and we would discuss her novels over tea. She would ask my opinion, and I would offer a modest idea from time to time.

8. Who do you wish you could meet (living or dead)?
Miss Jane, of course. Or perhaps Agatha Christie. I would gain Dame Agatha’s confidence, and she would tell me the real story behind her mysterious disappearance and purported amnesia.

9. and 10. Write a poem about Susan

I really don’t know Susan Bahr, except through our websites;

But her heart is generous, and we share similar interests.

And now we are connected (to paraphrase the English poet—was it Pope?),

Not by joining hands, but blogs.

11. (Insert your own question) Connie, what is your unfulfilled dream?
My as yet unfulfilled dream is to be a published author with at least three novels in The Antique Mystery series. You can help me fulfill that dream by clicking on the “Books” tab, where the first 10 pages are now posted at the bottom of the page. Please comment honestly. Flattery isn’t helpful. Would you keep reading?

Check out Susan’s two blogs and the other bloggers whom she nominated at www.susanbahr.com.

 

 

 

What’s Next in Social Media?

Have you ever wondered where social media is taking us as a culture? Can you imagine what the next step in instant connectivity might be? 

In the past people connected face to face. You walked or you took a horse and cart to the nearest village where you learned the news face to face. Most people spent their entire lives within a twenty-mile radius of home. That’s still true in some parts of the world, although even isolated communities are linked in to the outside world. A few years ago my husband and I visited a Roma settlement deep in rural Slovakia. The homes were no more than wood and corrugated metal shacks, but there was a cell phone tower nearby and a generous sprinkling of satellite dishes. This near-universal electronic connectedness is something quite new. 

From ancient times, messages were sent and received by hand-written letters carried overland or across oceans by couriers—or sometimes just a willing traveler. Until the early 17th century, for example, letters from Boston to England (and vice versa) were sent with the captain of a ship about to sail the Atlantic. Then in 1639, “regular” mail service was established when the city of Boston arranged for letters to be dropped off and picked up at Richard Fairbank’s tavern. It wasn’t until the 1890s that most people in the U.S. had home mail delivery. Even then, by the time a letter was received, the news was old.  

Advances in technology changed the speed of communication.  By the end of the 19th century, messages could be sent by telegraph, winging their way across continents and around the world at previously undreamt-of speeds. On June 28, 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo—“the shot heard round the world”—was communicated almost instantly to far-flung capitals by telegraph. A few years later, the telephone was the next new thing. The first coast-to-coast telephone call in the U.S. was made in 1912, but it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that telephones became a fixture in most households. But no matter how urgent the call, someone had to be home to receive it.   

Then we got answering machines. And fax machines. And computers. Email became the fastest way to connect. How quaint. Today email has been eclipsed by newer, faster methods of communication. We now text. We connect via Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter (to name just the “Big Three”). We no longer talk; we blog and micro-blog. A whole new vocabulary is emerging to turn words and ideas into sound bites. This is changing the culture. We don’t have friends. We have “followers” or “peeps.”  

I had lunch with a friend, an administrator with a large community service provider. Her biggest problem in hiring people today, she says, is a lack of social skills. They can text, but they can’t speak clearly. They can tweet, but they can’t write a coherent paragraph. They can tell the world where they are at any given moment of the day, but they lack the skills necessary to work with others or to interact with the public. In response, my friend has developed an in-house program to teach such novel concepts as kindness, integrity, team work, and service. They love it.

So what’s next on the social-networking horizon? Can you imagine a way to connect with others even more quickly and with even less depth? Don’t get me wrong—I love social media, and I use it (although not with the savvy of some). But I’m wondering if we’re headed for something really new. Like spending time with people. Like having a conversation. Like substituting an actual for a virtual relationship. LOL