Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Strong Women

I’ve been remiss. March was Women’s History Month, and there are so many amazing women. Inspiring. So many to remember and celebrate, worthy of teaching our daughters about their accomplishments.

Celebration - and recognition - begins at home. My mom had seven kids, me the youngest. These days, an unimaginable feat (the cost alone is staggering) but when I was growing up, not a huge deal. Other families in our town outnumbered ours by at least twice as many kids.

Mom was a pioneer in her own right, a frustrated artist too dedicated to her family to put herself first. In her youth, she drew some wonderful illustrations, but never did anything with them. Decades before composting was a popular “green” activity, she practiced it. I can still recall the vivid colors in her flower garden.

I didn’t learn until the day of her funeral that she was also a writer. My dad often wrote – sometimes town history, sometimes little essays, but most often for his duties as a deacon in our church. But I had no idea my Mom won an honorable mention for a story she’d submitted to a national contest.

Her love of the piano was unfailing. She took on sheet music like MalagueƱa, a complicated piece. When she played, it didn’t sound like this. But she played it because she loved it. And she inspired me to teach myself piano. I wish I’d kept at it.


I wish, too, that she’d taken more time for herself. Channeled her creativity into the things she loved. Instead, she sewed clothes for us. And for herself, when she wasn’t filling a bag at the second-hand store. She was a whiz at stretching a buck. And she put together fantastic outfits. Her shoe collection rivaled that of Imelda Marcos’.

She may have even made the PBS list of people who define cool. Some of her outfits were downright bohemian for the times.

But she was not one who sought fame. She was a wife and mother, first and foremost. Not a saint, but none of us are.

So many women are deserving of recognition and accolades for all they do, and most do it as a matter of course. 

Kudos to you, Mom, for all of your achievements. You were one of the strongest females I knew. My earliest inspiration for my fictional heroines, determined, fierce and a force to reckon with.

“an originality of artistic vision as established through a signature style, which is to say their artistic vision cannot be separate from their personality. Second, that in a given historical moment, they were perceived as a cultural rebel. Third, that they have high profile recognition. Fourth, that they have a recognized cultural legacy.”
Something tells me you didn’t look hard enough to balance out that list. Thank goodness Georgia O’Keefe made the list. Patti Smith and Bonnie Raitt? Excellent. Joan Didion and Lauren Bacall. Wonderful.

But where’s Frida Kahlo?
Helen Mirren?
Katharine Hepburn?
Tina Fey?
Maya Angelou?
Diane Arbus?
Gloria Steinem?

You done our gender wrong. All you had to do was thumb through a copy of Ladies First. Easily enough women to make a separate top 100 list.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, I highly recommend it. Full of amazing tales of female pioneers and groundbreakers from every walk of life.

Happy (belated) Women’s History Month. I hope you celebrate the women who’ve made an impact in your life.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dealing with Writing Deadlines

Cyber Self Defense book cover
 ISBN: 978-1-4930-0569-7
Release Date: October 7, 2014
 Globe Pequot/Lyons Press
The publisher gave us a choice of three awesome covers. It was a difficult decision, but we went with this one.

Now all I have to do is get the book written. The book sold on a proposal, which was the exciting part. So was getting the first part of the advance. But the proposal only had one of the sixteen chapters, so I'm still writing the others. That's the hard part. So is the tight deadline.

We wanted an October release to coincide with Domestic Violence Month, because many of the scenarios in the book are about relationships gone bad. Relationships that move from love to hate, or from friends to enemies. And when those relationships end, people can do all kinds of cruel things to get revenge. There are other scenarios in there too: teen bullies, coworker sabotage, and even cyber danger from strangers.

But to make an October release meant only a few months to write the book. And even worse, I had two other book deadlines between January and March. So I've been writing and writing and writing. That's the not-so-glamorous part of being an author. Working when you'd rather be playing. Editing when you'd rather be reading. Researching when you'd rather be sleeping.

So many people dream of being authors. They think it would be exciting to see their name on the cover of a book. And it certainly is. But most people don't think about the long hours of learning the craft, or of forcing yourself to write to make an approaching deadline, or of learning to take criticism so you can improve.

I belong to an online group of writers who all hope to be published someday. Some have succeeded, but others are newbies or working hard to get there. In December when I mentioned a tight deadline for some articles I was writing, one wanna-be author wrote: "I could never write anything under that kind of pressure."

I was tempted to write back that she should quit now, because if she reached her goal of getting an agent or editor, she'd find her whole life revolving around deadlines. Submission deadlines, editing deadlines, marketing deadlines... And if she sold more than one book, those deadlines might even overlap. Agents and editors don't want a one-book wonder. They want authors who will keep writing. Many authors sign a 2- or 3-book contract, which means even more deadlines, because usually book two is being written as book one is edited. Meanwhile book three is in the planning/outline stage. Once your book is accepted, there's no getting away from deadlines. So be sure that you really want to be published.

If you can't handle deadlines and pressure, you can still write. Write for yourself, for your family, for magazines that take completed articles. Write blogs, write for pleasure, write when the muse strikes. All of these are valid ways to enjoy your passion.

But when you long to see your byline on a book cover, be sure you understand the reality of getting to that point. Long hours of work and dedication to your craft. Participation in critique groups, attending writers conferences, submitting and getting rejected. And deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

If you're willing to endure all of that, then you have what it takes to succeed. You will get there.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The lesson of the boot print

One morning this winter, I came in the house after some mundane chore and bent to remove my boots. Afterward, this was what was left on the floor.

An antlered deer! Or maybe a chupacabra? With a saddle? (Don't ask me what that ball-shaped thing is behind him, lol)

In any event, I thought it looked pretty cool. So I grabbed my camera because I knew it wouldn't last long.

Sometimes like story ideas. They flash through my head. Sometimes, I'll write them down while they're fresh and capture them. Other times (if I'm somewhere I can't jot notes), I'll keep repeating it in my head in hopes I don't lose it.

Sometimes, though, like the deer/chupacabra, it melts away. *poof* Gone, and once that happens, it can be gone for good.

Another lesson to apply to writing - get it down while it's fresh, and the image is clear.

A deeper lesson is to stop and look in the first place. There's so much we miss on a daily basis because we rush, rush, rush. It's worthwhile to stand still and look around. Take in all those details that might otherwise be a blur, or fade before we can admire them.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter blahs got you down?

Ashcombe's has the cure! On Saturday, Feb. 8, join 14 local authors at Ashcombe's from noon to 3:00 p.m.

All the authors are putting together a special gift basket to give away. Ashcombe's will give away a gift card, too! And you don't want to miss their lunch special - buy one, get one half price. Mm, and chocolate covered strawberries, and heart-shaped sugar cookies.

And, of course, tempting offerings from the 14 authors! Say 'no way' to Old Man Winter and cozy up with a heart-warming read. There's nothing better to cure those winter blahs.

Find the complete list of participating authors here.

Find directions here.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 31, 2014

It's Both

Eight or nine or years ago a few 'book' people predicted the eventual demise of traditional books. They expected in a few short years that everyone would do all their reading on an eReader or a computer. No one would be buying paper books.

During a few years from 2008 onward, it seemed it might actually come true. With the introduction of such devices as the Kindle and the Nook, ebook sales shot upward but not quite to infinity and beyond. Those sales did cut into the sales of physical books but they didn't push them into extinction. Predictions now are that they probably never will.

Like many authors in today's world, I sell many more ebooks than I do print books. My publishers pay me a higher percentage of the profits for ebooks also since their overhead is less. I'm glad ebooks are having their time in the sun. But as a long time lover of books, I'm also thrilled that traditional book formats are still among us.

According to this 2013 report from BEA and shared in Publisher's Weekly, traditional books and ebooks can coexist but what share of the market each will share is still and evolving numbers game. 

I still like having book signings and spend many hours in bookstores shopping, but how long will that last? I'm amongst the group of readers who still enjoy some paper books but also do lots of digital reading. My children in college have classes and textbooks online. My one son, a voracious reader, does most of his reading on his Kindle. As the generations who grew up reading traditional books ages and slowly disappear, will books become all digital? Will that pleasant, slightly dusty scent of paper books be gone forever?

Do you think the ebook versus traditional book competition has evened out? Are any members of your family in school and using digital textbooks? Do you still feel the same away about ebooks as you did a few years ago?

Please check out my latest ebook release, The Marine's Heiress, now available at a very reasonable price from New Concepts Publishing. It's formatted for any digital device.

Susan Gourley writes romance as Susan Kelley. You can find her at her blog, Susan Says.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The lesson of the sled

This is my sled. Sure, it's a holiday decoration *now*.  When I was a kid, it was my ticket to ride. To fly.

My sisters and brothers and I would drag our sleds about a quarter mile from our house to sled down a steep hill. Mini-mountain might better describe it. Sometimes at the bottom, we'd build a snow ramp so we'd catch some air (though we didn't call it that in those days, the term wouldn't be invented for decades to come).

We'd sled for HOURS. Pull the sled uphill, legs burning, until we reached the top. Take a moment to survey the slope, then position ourselves on the sled and *whoosh*. Down in much less time than it took to climb that hill.

But we kept doing it over and over and over. Because view from the top was so spectacular, made even better because we knew the thrill was coming. The trip down gave us such a rush. We didn't complain about the hill being too steep because that was the point of it - the higher the hill, the better the ride.

Nor did we complain about our sleds being too heavy - about 25 pounds by my husband's estimate. It must have been taller than I was. It stands up to my shoulder now. These days when I pull it out of the basement to set it outside, I always think 'Wow, this is heavy. How the heck did I manage to use it when I was a girl?'

For one, in the Sixties, the Flexible Flyer sled was probably state of the art, lol. And because when we're kids, there's a clearer goal ahead - the fun. Words like "impossible" held no place in our worlds because we challenged everything and turned impossible on its head.

And it was so worth it.

I admit, at some point years later, we traded in these heavy runner sleds for the plastic saucer-type. But it wasn't quite the same. Maybe I'd outgrown the whole thing, or thought I did.

Not hard to guess how this applies to writing. Just do the work for the prize at the end, and because you love it - ups and downs alike.

I put the sled back in the basement until next winter, but I'll try to keep the lesson fresh all year.

The best part is, I'll never stop writing.

How about you?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coming Soon....

Earlier this week, I read about Cate Masters' launch day jitters and wondered if that was what I had to look forward to. I'm in the final countdown (15 days!!) for the launch of my first novel, Casting the First Stone, and I feel as though everything else in my life is simply an obstacle I need to clear before I get back to focusing on this large event that is occupying the center of my universe. A bit self-centered?

Perhaps a tad.

The thing is, unless an author is famous (and sometimes, even if she is), the bulk of the promoting and cheerleading lands squarely in her lap. So, just in case the writing and editing and proof-reading and cover selection and all the other events that seem to pick up speed as we careen toward launch day aren't enough to make a writer feel as though world events are merely a backdrop, the crush of promotional stuff seals the deal.

But I'm having fun. It came as a surprise to me, but there are parts of the promotional process that I enjoy. Writing blogs, for example and finding fun places to have parties and sign books -- places that matter to me for reasons besides the fact that they'll let me bring my book and have a party. The Starbucks where I wrote many chapters. The library I've patronized for over a decade. The restaurant where my family and I have dinner at least once a month.

So, as I move toward this milestone that is both personal and professional, I hope you'll join me. Come to my Facebook Book Launch Party on January 27. Read about my characters and upcoming events on my blog. Take a peek at my book on Amazon and see if it's something you might want to read. (While you're there, check out Cate's too).

We Susquehanna Writers are a diverse group. While you're here, take a moment to check out our covers or our blogs to see what we have to offer. I think I can safely say we've got something for everyone who likes to read.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Writing judges needed

The South Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Writing Awards needs judges for The Scholastic Writing Awards, the nation’s largest, longest running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers. This opportunity is opened to students in grades 7th through 12th living in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lebanon, Perry, and York.

Judging will take place from January 8th until the end of the 27th. The process will be quite flexible as the judging is done online and can be completed as your schedule allows.

By participating as a judge, you will be enriching the lives of hundreds of ambitious young writers from South Central Pennsylvania.

If you're interested or have questions, please contact Brock Shelley, Affiliate Director of the South Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Writing Awards, at

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"River Path," a short story by T. M. Crone

Announcing the publication of my short story "River Path."

What do all avid bike riders have in common? The love of the road and the solitude that comes along with the long miles. Nothing is better than the feel of the wind caressing your face, or the smooth shift of the gears during a downhill run. And every once and a while you find the perfect path.

Ah, solitude. But sometimes the path is more than you bargain for and you have trouble finding your way home. That's what happens to Hanna Blake. Twenty years and counting and her husband James is still waiting for her.

"River Path" can be found in the inaugural issue of Phobos Magazine, Phobos One: Zugzwang, at  edited by Robert Corry, Luke St. Germaine, and Adam Guy Halterman. It is currently available in Kindle format at a special price with book form coming out soon!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Goldilocks Goes to the Library

I retired a year and a half ago, but it didn't stick. Although I never expected to be fully retired quite this early, the speed at which new pursuits have taken over my life has left me a little breathless. I thought I'd have lots of time to write -- to revive my freelancing, work on all those works-in-progress that had  become stalled for lack of time and attention -- but many days, I find myself back in the "too much to write, not enough time" boat that was sinking when I worked full-time.

This new version of an old state of affairs sometimes relegates writing to the nooks and crannies of my day. Fortunately, I learned how to use that approach successfully over the last decade, so although it's disappointing, it's not unworkable.
And so it was that I found myself in the college library on Friday morning. I had made plans to meet a student and after our business was complete, I had about an hour before my next appointment. Anticipating this (as all good writers on the run do), I had tucked hard copies of the chapters I was working on into my bag. Now all that remained was to find a place to work.

I love settling into a comfy chair and digging into the pages, but on Friday, I felt a little like Goldilocks. The same chairs that were typically unoccupied when I stopped in after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays were occupied by students  -- some alone, some in groups and one asleep, stretched out on a sofa on the second floor. There were still chairs available in these groupings, and while I wouldn't have hesitated to sit right down if I'd been at Starbucks, I felt a little creepy doing so as a fifty-two-year old adjunct in a library full of college students. These chairs were too full, so I moved on.

There were chairs available in the lobby, but in addition to the noise factor (minimal though it was in a library), these chairs were placed beside heating vents pumping out warm air. After spending 30 minutes or so traipsing around campus, the last thing this middle-aged woman needed was hot air blowing down her neck. These chairs were too hot, so I moved on.

I finally landed at a study carrel in the quiet zone. Wait. There was a quiet zone? Well, of course there was -- I was in a library! Although I hadn't used a study carrel in more than 30 years, I needed a quiet place to work, and this was what was available, so I took it. Oddly enough, this chair was just right.

I'd like to conclude by saying that I got a pile of work done, but between the time it took to settle into a work space, my upcoming appointment and the fact that my daughter and I ended up in a text discussion (with my phone on silent, of course -- I was in the quiet zone after all), there was more ambiance than work involved in my trip to the library.

But I've discovered a new work space, one that a friend in my writers' group swears by. And I think perhaps it's time I took better advantage of it.