Posted in books, Career, continuing education, Cozy Cat Press, Destinee Faith Miller Mystery, Explaining the Strange Behavior, School, The Book, Thor, Tiara Trouble, writing

Terrifying Tiara Trouble and Thanks


I have great news!  TIARA TROUBLE, the first in the Destinee Faith Miller Mystery series, will be available for purchase on 10/28/2013.  Eee!

TiaraTroubleEbook

And that’s the cover, right there!  All Destinee’d up with her signature pink and zebra.  You knew Destinee’s signature colors were pink, black, and zebra, right?  Unlike her trampy arch-nemesis, Tishelle Tucker, whose signature colors are red, black, and leopard.

So, now with a release date set, and behind the scenes plans going into action, I will admit to you that I am scared.  What if it flops?  What if people hate it?  Why did I write so many words?  Is anyone going to get my sense of humor?  What if I’m not a good writer?

A lot of what-ifs, people.  Ultimately, if it flops, it flops, and if people hate it, they hate it.  I wrote so many words because they seemed necessary at the time, and if I continued to second guess myself, it would have been whittled down to the length of a magazine article.  If no one gets my sense of humor, that’s fine–like that hasn’t happened before.  I’m okay with the sound of crickets.  And, I know I write well.  Whether, or not other people agree that I write novels well is yet to be seen.

I think I got so used to people telling me that I wasn’t ever living up to my fullest potential that I never think my efforts are my best.  Or, maybe I’m afraid they are.  And if they are, what does that mean?  Does that mean I am not the rare Sparklefly my mother thinks I am?!

I think about that a lot when it comes to how I parent.  I see a lot of myself in Thor.  He is an exceptionally smart child, and he is an exceptionally creative daydreamer–those two things don’t add up to Straight A Student.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t living up to his fullest potential, though.  That means that this is his groove.

Grades don’t show potential.  Grades show self-discipline.  Kind of like being an accomplished musician is different from being a talented musician.  You can be taught to play anything.  You can’t be taught to create.  What is ideal is when you have the self-discipline to make the grades, and the potential to turn that self-discipline/learning into something.

I tell Thor that he must strive for excellence.  I expect him to try his hardest, and not give up.  I don’t expect him to make perfect scores, but I expect him to work toward getting things right–he should want to get things right.  I don’t expect him to be the top of his class, all honors, everybody’s all-American.  I expect him to fully utilize his resources, and do the work.  Where he lands, he lands.*

I have, and will continue to impress upon him that education/school is what gives you the tools to build a future.  Does he want a brain that is like the little pig who built his house out of straw, or does he want a brain that is like the little pig who built his house out of bricks?  Well, he has to have to right tools to build the kind of brain he wants, and the right tools are often heavy and take more effort to lift.

Writing this, I am thinking about the wonderful teachers I had, who outweighed the awful ones.  Good teachers are brain-tool salesmen, who make you think you can’t live without knowing how to parse a sentence, or solve a quadratic equation.  You just have to have that ability to name the colors in the rainbow!  You absolutely MUST get in on that ability to recite the Gettysburg Address!  You cannot possibly go another day without reading The Scarlet Letter!  Because good teachers get you to buy in to the mental body building it takes to wield the tools, and the stamina necessary to keep going.

It isn’t necessary to be a sparklefly.  Sparklefly is only good for so much.  But it is necessary to build a solid foundation and the self-discipline to put that foundation to work.  Enough elbow grease can shine up an ordinary fly to look sparkly.

I worked hard at TIARA TROUBLE, and I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t on the chance that it fails.  You know, so I could say, “Well, it’s not like it was my best effort.”  I honestly don’t know what my best effort looks like.  All I can tell you is that I worked very hard and I am proud of the result, and I really hope you like it.  I hope it makes you laugh.  I like it.  I’ve had to read it about 60 times now, and I still make myself laugh.

So, thank you Mrs. Farr, Mrs. Mendina, Dr. Chaisson, Dr. Morris, Mrs. Monroe, Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Cargile, Mrs. Mack, and Mrs. Barnes.  You were excellent brain-tool salespeople, and the fact that I am a functioning adult, much less a published author at all is a credit to your mad skillz.

 

*There is no Tiger to this Mom.  That might not be something to be proud of, I don’t know.  I guess I’ll find out in about 20 years.

 

 

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Posted in books, Career, Friends of Mine, guest article, Interview

Interview with the Editor: Kendel Flaum of Henery Press


LynDee Walker’s new book, Buried Leads, is due out in October.  I am very excited to start talking about it, but you’re going to have to wait just a little longer–ee!  Meanwhile, I had the great pleasure of meeting LynDee’s editor, Kendel Flaum, and thought you’d enjoy hearing from her.  As the managing editor of Henery Press, she has great insight and is, of course, very interesting.

But don’t just take my word for it.  This is Kendel’s bio:

Kendel Flaum is a Southern California native who now parks her flip flops in Dallas, Texas. Deciding to combine her fifteen years of entrepreneurial savvy and over a decade of designing, writing, and editorial experience, she launched Henery Press, an independent publishing house focused on mystery and suspense. As managing editor, she’s always looking for captivating stories — from cozies and crime capers to paranormals and PIs. She’s got a coop full of award-winners and nominees in the Hen House, and just loves finding a gem in the slush pile.

LYNN-pic

Henery Press is an independent publisher in the mystery/suspense genre focused on engaging stories with sharp twists and lively characters. We want every reader to enjoy a captivating story written by a talented author wrapped in a pretty package.

Q)  I love the story of how Henery Press came to be.  Will you please tell it for our audience?

Let me nutshell it for your readers: It started from a love of writing. Which led me to an amazing organization, Sisters in Crime, and its upstart sub-chapter, the Guppies. I met my mentor there, I met my bff there, and I met 500+ mystery writers looking to be published there. After several years, Diane Vallere, the aforementioned bff, and I decided to create a sub-chapter of the Guppies called called Press Quest where we’d spearhead the efforts to compile information on every mid-to-small-to boutique press open to mystery writers. We researched until our fingers cramped – we detailed lists, facts, databases, interviews, websites, and on-the-ground commentary.

Some of that commentary proved scary: contracts that fell apart, offers to publish in weeks (weeks! oy.), cringe-worthy covers, non-existent support. After years of being in the trenches, writing, editing, designing, I decided there had to be a better way. One with a chicken at the helm. (Side note: In a previous life, I spent over fifteen years building a completely separate business from dollar one into a multi-million dollar company, so I knew what it would take.)

That’s some nutshell.

 

Henery: Where it happens.  And by "it", I mean "great fun."
Henery: Where it happens. And by “it”, I mean “great fun.”

 

Q)  When we met, we talked about how covers sell books. The cover art coming out of Henery is every kind of eye-catching, captivating, and charming.  Who creates the art, and how do you fit the art to the book?

Why, thank you for the kind words! I absolutely believe the cover is essential to the book, everyone likes to see a pretty package. We consult with the author to get their take, then meet with the in-house staff to discuss. Once we have a concept, we’ll either design here or hire freelance – or both.

 

Just a few of the eye catching covers coming out of Henery.
Just a few of the eye catching covers coming out of Henery.

 

Q)  What are the most challenging, and the most delightful aspects of your work?

The nuts and bolts of publishing can be the most challenging, probably because it’s not as much fun as engaging artwork and intriguing editorial. It’s also quite a challenge to find manuscripts – our catalog has limited space (about 2 books per month), and we’re building quite a niche in the mystery market. 

Q)  A good editor can help an author craft a decent manuscript into a great book.  How do help an author on the edge of greatness make that leap?

Agreed, an editor can see things the author can’t. Mostly because the author has read the manuscript about 113 times. I’d say the most useful tool in the box is remembering “less is more.” Truly, tighten, tighten, tighten. Keep the dialog snappy, the scenes vivid, and the narrative on point. And when if your beta readers all love your work, you need new betas.You need the beta who enjoys your writing, but dishes out the sharp critiques. Like you said, it’s turning decent into great.

 

LynDee's new book, due out on October 15, 2013.  In an upcoming interview with the author, LynDee will give you her take on the importance of having a great editor like Kendel.
LynDee’s new book, due out on October 15, 2013. In an upcoming interview with the author, LynDee will give you her take on the importance of having a great editor like Kendel.

 

Q)  How can an author make an editor’s job easier?

Don’t forgo the beta/editor stage when writing the second, third, fourth books. When you wrote your first, it probably went through 57 drafts, plus a multitude of critiques, contests, betas, and revisions. Over and over and over again until that baby sparkled. Now that you’ve sold it, and it’s published, and you’re onto the next, take the same care. Only more. Push yourself to be better, stronger. And that generally means better betas. (I’m sensing a theme…)

Q)  What advice would you give to aspiring editors?  Or people looking to break into publishing on the publishing house side of the industry?

Start freelancing. Even if you don’t get paid in the beginning, just to prove your work. Start with 50 page critiques, and move on from there. Read every writing book you can get your hands on, read lots of genres to understand techniques. Then grab an internship if you can find one. Nothing like learning from the inside.

Q)  What was your favorite book growing up?

Just one? I’m torn between A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, and The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot.

Lane, thank you so much for having me. It was a delight to meet you in person, and an honor to be featured on your blog!

Stay up to date with all the great books coming out of Henery Press.  Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest; add them to your RSS Feed, and connect with them on LinkedIn.

Posted in books, Career, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Friends of Mine

Flat Friends


Did you know that you can track your pizza delivery from Dominos now?  With cute animated pizza guy and everything.  Like I needed something else to distract me!

dominos

Between that and Pottermore…

Some books, I wish I could experience again for the first time.  I wish I could experience all of Narnia again, A Wrinkle In Time, Skinny Legs and All, Tam Lin, and the first Harry Potter book.  And Slummy Mummy, because I laughed out loud at that book more times than you need to know.

Pottermore (and yes, I was sorted into Gryffindor, though I expected Hufflepuff) is bittersweet because even though JK Rowling writes for it, the adventure is over and no matter how many potions you get to make, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine have long left the building.  I like to think we’d all have been friends.  I like to think the Pevensies, the Murrys and I would all have gotten on–I always thought my dearest elementary school friend was exactly like Meg Murry, so I loved Meg Murry all the more. 

Yesterday, I was thinking back to how I got started writing.  I can’t remember a time I wasn’t making up stories for my own entertainment.  When forced to lie down for naps, I would tell myself stories–frequently involving Mr. Spock ending up as my guardian, since he was a favorite.  Then, when I was in 3rd grade, a friend introduced me to fanfiction, and it wasn’t long before I was crossing over Battlestar Galactica with Star Blazers.  –That’s an easy way to go to practice writing.  No character development required.  You only have to work out the plot.  Or, in my case, work out how live action could cross over with anime.

Maybe if I am ever a famous writer, Leonard Nimoy and Dirk Benedict will find out how instrumental they were to my development and–well, that’s not ladylike writing, and Leonard Nimoy might not be limber enough at this stage of the game.

Posted in Advice, Career

I am Interested in This Position Because…


One of the lessons I learned from acting came from the audition process.  That was that no matter how great you are, if you are a blonde who wears a B cup bra, and they are looking for a redhead wearing an A cup actress, you are not getting the gig.  I learned to separate the word “No” from my self-esteem.  Being told no didn’t mean I was a bad actress.  It meant I wasn’t the right good actress for the part. 

That has served me well in job interviews.  I look at them like auditions.  I’m going to go in there, give my all, and hope I am the right height, so-to-speak.  If something is wrong that I can change (or if I can change something semi-permanently, like my hair color) I’ll go out and make sure I have developed the skill for my wheelhouse.  If there is something I can’t change (like how that REM video called for people who could dance…yeah. no.) I let it go.

Two job interview stories:

I really wanted to work for KCM.  At the point that I first interviewed for them, I had everything they wanted, but I was lacking even basic computer skills and my typing was too slow.  They loved me.  They told me how much they loved me.  They wanted to work with me.  They gave me 30 days to get my skills up to par, and I went after it like a madwoman.  When I went back to test again, I passed all the computer skills at a beginner level, but still couldn’t meet the typing minimum speed of 35 wpm.  They called me back in to tell me face-to-face that they couldn’t hire me, and the hiring manager and I both cried.

But I am not one to accept defeat when I can affect the change to get something I really want.  What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in determination.  With a bonus from work that year, I bought myself a computer.  I also made a very purposeful change of job that allowed me access to a full suite of software training.  I worked on my computer skills diligently and I spent hours working on my typing skills in Compuserve’s chat rooms.  (Yeah, I’m calling it time spent building my skills, not time wasted talking to fake British men.)  When another position in my area opened up about a year and a half later, I passed all the computer skills at an advanced level, and was typing at a speed of 70 wpm.  I got the job.

I changed what I could and it paid off.

Many years later, I was up for a promotion there.  Hiring Manager told me I had everything she wanted.  I went through an extensive interview process, which included travel for a 3-day long on-site work audition.  That is, I did the job for three days without any formal training.  Because I had all the skills and knowledge the job required, I knocked it out of the park.  I don’t mind telling you that I was amazing because everyone else involved said I was.  Hiring Manager told me to expect an offer when we got back into the office on Monday.

Monday came and went.  Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I got called up to her office.  She told me I was perfect, that she’d never seen a more capable candidate, a harder worker, or enjoyed an employee’s company so much.  But she had decided not to hire me.  Why?  She reminded me of the story of how David became king of Israel.  How Jesse brought all his perfect sons before Samuel, but none of those perfect boys were quite right.  She said she couldn’t put her finger on it, but there must be something wrong with my heart.  She and I both cried.

Well, clearly there was nothing I could change there.  If she wasn’t even sure why she didn’t want to hire me, I couldn’t work on making myself more hirable.  I was pretty sure that I wasn’t hiding any horrors in my soul.  I won’t lie and tell you that was easy to get over.  It wasn’t.  It was personally (and at that time spiritually) hurtful and disappointing in a way that being told I was too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too shrill, too well spoken ever was. 

The point here is, I couldn’t change it, and I really couldn’t dwell on it.  Now, it’s a funny story.  Sometimes hiring decisions are just completely arbitrary.

I still can’t change whether or not someone has a gut feeling against me, but I will always work to build my repetoire when a hiring manager suggests it.  I’ve ended up with some awesome jobs that way.

That said, here are 4 questions I think are good to ask in an interview situation, and why:

  1. If you don’t already know, ask why the position is open.  This can tell you a lot about the environment.  Was it a promotion?  Was it a firing?  Did the other person leave?  Don’t be shy about asking why either.  The Hiring Manager should be asking you why you want to leave your current job/left your last job.  It’s the mirror image question, and as the potential seat filler, you deserve the heads-up.
  2. Ask what qualities make the person in that position successful.  Jot down notes as the HM answers because you are going to use those notes later to detail how you have every one of those qualities.
  3. Ask how the position fits into the overall success of the company and department, and what you can do to help them achieve it.  This is going to tell you a lot about the company as well, and shows that you are forward thinking.  Take notes here, too. 
  4. Ask if the HM has any hesitations about hiring you.  It’s bold, and you need to be ready to hear the answer, but it also gives you the opportunity to address any questions the HM might have about you.  Better to clear up any misconceptions in the interview and get the job, than miss the chance and never find out what went wrong.
Posted in Beauty, Career, Uncategorized

What Would Happen if my Milkshake DID Bring all the Boys to the Yard?


I was emailing with a friend and wrote, “I want to get paid to just look good.”  And then I had to follow that up with, “Of course, that requires work of its own, and would mean hitting the gym/pavement/pole dancing class, avoiding carbs like my life depended on it, and (let’s face it) botox or bangs.  Bangs are cheaper–but I just grew mine out!”

There really isn’t a free lunch.  Jennifer Anniston works hard to keep it tight, and that’s why people are still interested.    Looking good is her job.  You look good enough (Jessica Alba) and no one even cares if you can’t act–as Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, and Veronica Lake lamented in their smash hit A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang (see? Bangs.)  Looking like Hollywood is a full-time job.

I already have a full-time job, so you won’t catch me looking like Hollywood.  But I wonder what would happen if I treated “Looking Good” like a part-time job?

Part-time work is generally under 20 hours a week, but I am also a parent, so adding 20 hours to my current 40 isn’t feasible.  What if I took a 5 or 7 hour a week “part-time job” at the offices of “Looking Good”?  What would happen?

Conceivably, I would get paid more.  I should see an increase in my incentivized full-time pay based on how much people wanted to look at me (like Jessica Biel does, bless her heart), and the better I look, the more I should see my incentivized pay increase in my full-time work (like how the prettier your leading lady is, the more people go to see the movie.)

But how would I calculate that?  What factors would I need to consider? 

Well, it takes a while to get good at any job, so I shouldn’t expect my work at Looking Good to start making an impact for between 60 to 90 days.  It takes at least a year to be fully grounded in a job, and to have experienced a sampling of the seasonal issues one might encounter, so it would take a 12 month period before I could really start to make calculations.

After a year, though, working at “Looking Good” for 5-7 hours a week, I should start to see enough significant difference that I could account for it in my full-time job, and note the intangibles like better service, free drinks, and getting out of speeding tickets.

However, I have to take into account my age and some factors I cannot manage without paying to have them fixed.  I am always going to be whiter than a Trace Adkins concert–I can’t tan, and my skin is fish-belly white, so my ability to Look Good is relegated to a pasty subgroup.  I am relegated to further subgroup by merit of being (almost) 42-years-old–gravity is doing her work.  There is also the matter of fact that at my thinnest, I’ve still got child-bearing hips, massive thigh and calf muscles, and broad shoulders.  I have freckles, thin hair, and discolored teeth.  Factoring in all that, my Looking Good pay scale goes from, say, $10 an hour, right down to minimum wage of $7.25.  And that’s if, in the course of Looking Good, I drop about 60lbs.

But, the better a job I do at Looking Good, the more my confidence will increase, drawing people to me, and the less I will need to do to maintain it at a certain plateau.  I should be able to divert some of my Looking Good job hours into workarounds for the factors set above, so that after two years of my part-time job, I should see an increase in pay of somewhere around $1.50.  And more offers of free drinks.

Of course, I have no intention of doing this.  I can buy my own drinks.  The most workout I am interested in right now, is the one my fingers get while I’m typing.  It’s just the idea that if I devoted myself to it, as though it were my earning potential, Looking Good would be a lot more important, and perhaps easier to do.